Book Review — Simple Faith Bible, Zondervan

A few months ago I purchased the Tony Evans Study Bible (CSB) because I wanted to gain more insight from a great African American pastor I’ve admired for decades. It was wonderful to have a study Bible with his personal notes, reflecting so many years of pastoral and teaching ministry.

When the offer came to review the Simple Faith Bible (NRSV) with notes from President Jimmy Carter, I was intrigued. Carter has famously taught Sunday School in his Baptist church for over 65 years. This Bible draws on his notes, insights, and principles from those years of teaching.

Continue reading “Book Review — Simple Faith Bible, Zondervan”

Bible Study Tools

I am using more digital sources than ever in my study. It is interesting to me that the MORE I have paid for something… the higher the level of aggravation.

First of all, Biblegateway is free. It’s beauty is I can look up Scripture quick, it has a huge number of translations, and it could be utilized to store online study notes. I have already done study notes elsewhere, so I don’t use that resource, but it’s a nice tool if you haven’t connected with any way to keep your notes and thoughts.

Then there is Olive Tree. This is the one I use the most. It syncs across all platforms and is BEST on mobile apps. It’s terrible on the desktop. It’s not agreeing with Windows 8.1… but then again, what does? For mobile, it’s huge. I can store all my notes, utilize study tools that are very affordable, and, best of all for me, I can sync all my notes to Evernote, which is my catch all notetaking systems. Olive Tree has a ton of free stuff, so it costs very little to get into some decent study materials.

There is also Logos. It is a huge software package system meant for the desktop. It is GREAT with desktop computers. The sources are immense. While it is somewhat better in the mobile application, it is still lousy. Just one small frustration: If I put a note into a verse using NIV, it only saves that note in the NIV. If I switch to ESV, CEB, NET, ANY other translation… the note disappears. That is just dumb. Olive Tree keeps the note in the verse, regardless of the translation.

I paid a LOT of money for Logos, so, as I said, the desktop application is the best. Except for one thing: constant updates. I don’t open Logos EVERY day, so that may be my problem. (But it’s not MY problem. It’s the designer’s problem. I want to use Logos when I want to, not every time the designer says I should use it. If I get to it every other day, I should be able to without this issue.) The issue is this: IT IS ALWAYS UPDATING. It takes forever to load up, which is understandable to a point. Then, when I am ready to get into the study notes, it says, “OH! You have an update! We are now going to update it! And then we’re going to shut it down and restart!”

Which is why I leave the “Porsche” parked in the garage most of the time and utilize the Ford and the Dodge much more often.

Digital is just plain useful, and far more useful now since I can have huge libraries sitting on my cell phone instead of lugging around big books. But when one would normally think, “You get what you pay for” is a nice mantra… in this case it doesn’t compute.


Paper or… digital?

A recent BibleGateway poll found that people still like taking a physical Bible to church. Overwhelmingly.

I haven’t found that percentage to be SO high in our church. There are a good number of people using their phones or tablets now. But we still have a majority using physical Bibles.

While I am getting more adapted to putting notes into a digital format Bible, I still love holding a physical Bible when I teach and preach.

What has been your experience?

Online Bible Resources

Occasionally when I add in a text reference I link the text to I am part of their “blog gridder” team, which means… well… I have no idea what it means. Just a badge to put on my blog and make me look cool.

But Biblegateway is an excellent tool for online Bible resources. I use it to compare translations often. It is the place I go to cut and paste Scripture for my sermons and our Sunday readings.

They are getting ready to launch their new look and have given permission to spread the word.


I think it’s a nice upgrade.

Some nice touches:

  • Bible annotation and personalization built around user accounts
  • Seamless cross-platform syncing of user-created content
  • Responsive design that adapts to any screen size or viewing device
  • Clean, clutter-free presentation of Bible, devotional, and reference content

While I use another resource for inline notetaking, the Biblegateway feature of inline notetaking is truly nice. Adding in highlights is great.

Check out the resources and enjoy a wonderful (and FREE) site.

Clarity and accuracy in translation are helpful

Over the years I have done a very bad thing in the eyes of scholars. I have drifted more toward translations that work to make the text more readable. For ESV, NASB, NRSV, and RSV lovers… I am a heretic. For KJV only people, I’ve been apostate for years.

I still use “word for word” translations, but for preaching and group study, I look more toward less formal and more readable. I still want “accurate.” But in translation, that is simply a moving target. I just don’t want someone who is fairly new in the faith to try to have to “translate” an English word or phrase!

In my Lenten reading this morning, there is this verse in Gen. 42:

12 He said to them, “No, it is the nakedness of the land that you have come to see.” (ESV)

The “nakedness of the land?” What? They came to hit the strip clubs?

One great function of BibleGateway is the parallel translation feature. I put three translation options HERE.

The beauty of several translations is realizing we can have accuracy AND clarity. It’s not always “word for word,” but it WILL communicate the truth of the passage.

Using online Bible tools

One of my favorite “go-to” sites for quickly accessing translations is BibleGateway. They also have apps for your smartphone.

I like it on my computer because when I need a quick reference to view a verse in several different translations, this site is the easiest for me. I can type in the reference and go to it, then add parallel passages easily. They have an incredibly thorough list of English translations. They were also one of the first to utilize the Common English Bible, which is one of my favorite newer translations.

They also have decent study aides. One of my favorites is the IVP series. It’s nice to have a quick synopsis of what is going on in the passage.

BibleGateway is the busiest site for Bible reading for a reason. For me, it’s because it offers the quickest access to a wide range of translations.

Happy browsing!


Happy New Year!

It’s the first Sunday of Advent, so for the church… HAPPY NEW YEAR!

The Church has been on a different calendar for centuries, but evangelicals and Pentecostals don’t always recognize it. It’s too much of a “dead ritual,” or some such thing. I’ve learned to appreciate these seasons, especially Advent and Lent, helping us prepare for Christmas and Easter then leading us to Pentecost. These are healthy rhythms.

There are a couple of good resources to follow for the season. If you want to read Scripture every day in relationship to Advent, THIS SITE is always a good one.

Biblegateway also has devotional readings you can sign up for as well.

Take this season to anticipate the coming of our Lord! Remember his first Advent. Long for his coming again!

Black Friday, Good Friday, and Anticipation

Tons of deals to be had on Black Friday… which has successfully leaked (in the view of retailers, anyway) into Thanksgiving.

I’m not here to mourn the loss of Thanksgiving. We’re a culture bent on compulsive actions and I’m not going to cure that in one season… or twenty. We want to shop for good deals and we are a nation of consumers… so, there you go.

But in the Church we are called to a different calendar… a different rhythm. Over the past few years as I have tried to learn more about the calendar the Church has been on for two thousand years. It doesn’t always set well within my “tribe” of Pentecostals or evangelicals, but I am finding it embraced more as we realize it’s a rhythm not a dead ritual.

We should march to the beat of a different drum. Our “counter-culture” desire doesn’t have to be in how we dress. But we should follow the beat of the One who reigns in our lives. His rhythm should matter. Over the centuries the Church has marked that rhythm so we are constantly reminded of the story of Christ, then the story of the Church.

While we are in November and ready to open up December, we think on the cultural calendar’s term. It’s the end of the year.

But on the church calendar, this Sunday marks the BEGINNING of the year.

Our march now is toward a different Friday… Good Friday.

For the next four weeks we focus on the season called Advent. It is a time of anticipation. I have grown to love this season because it not only remembers the first coming of Christ, but it also calls us to reflect on his Second Coming.

As a Pentecostal who grew up with A Thief in the Night, A Distant Thunder, etc., and a movement that spawned the Left Behind series, how could I ignore a season that calls me to focus on the Second Coming? It’s an open invitation!

This season, let’s truly be different. That may be a harsh thought. But it’s the call of our King.

I invite us to reflect differently. Let us come back to a season of anticipation. Let us long for our King’s coming again.

Biblegateway has some great resources where you can reflect on the season. There are other excellent resources as well.

Let’s pick up the rhythm of our King this season. You can even wait until after your Black Friday shopping and get to it this Sunday.


Dreaming about what IS possible

2 In the days to come
the mountain of the Lord’s house
will be the highest of the mountains.
It will be lifted above the hills;
peoples will stream to it.
3 Many nations will go and say,
“Come, let’s go up to the Lord’s mountain,
to the house of Jacob’s God
so that he may teach us his ways
and we may walk in God’s paths.”
Instruction will come from Zion;
the Lord’s word from Jerusalem.
4 God will judge between the nations,
and settle disputes of mighty nations.
Then they will beat their swords into iron plows
and their spears into pruning tools.
Nation will not take up sword against nation;
they will no longer learn how to make war.

5 Come, house of Jacob,
let’s walk by the Lord’s light. (Isa. 2:2-5)

This is a day of thanks. This is also the week leading us into the first Sunday of Advent. The Old Testament text is the one above from Isaiah.

As I meditate on these verses, and look back at Isaiah 1, I am mindful that in our day we can focus too closely on Isaiah 1 and the current headlines. There is MUCH to be upset about.

But Isaiah chose to SEE something different. He saw what was POSSIBLE. On this day I am so thankful for what I do have in my life that God has brought. I am content. He is so incredibly gracious to me.

And on this day I want to also continue dreaming about what IS possible. I don’t want to dream my own dreams. I want to dream God’s dreams. Isaiah SAW what God could do. This wasn’t HIS dream. It was GOD’S dream.

Dreaming God’s dream today. And being thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Ancient Paths are So Cutting Edge

The Lord proclaims:
Stop at the crossroads and look around;
    ask for the ancient paths.
    Where is the good way?
Then walk in it
    and find a resting place for yourselves.
        But you said, “We won’t go!” (Jer. 6:16)

Ancient paths really aren’t so “cutting edge.” It’s the invitation of God. When someone under 40 mentions them, then they seem so “cutting edge,” but the realization is those paths have been there. 

They don’t “shout out” to us. They are there with the invitation from God. 

It is a call to return. It’s not that hard. It’s rather simple. 

We just want our “own path.” We want our “own rhythm.” 

What we need is the rhythm of the Kingdom. We need to quit being stubborn and refusing the ancient path marked out for us.