Posted in Around The Church, On The Reading Chair

ESV Illuminated Scripture Journal Old Testament Review

At the end of last year, I was able to review Crossway’s Illuminated Scripture Journal New Testament set. It is such a beautiful set and I have enjoyed it this year. Crossway released the Illuminated Scripture Journal Old Testament set earlier this year, and I knew it’d be just as lovely as the New Testament set. What I was not expecting was the sheer size of the thing.

I mean, clearly, I was aware that the Old Testament is larger than the New Testament. But seeing it like this made it very vividly clear just how much bigger the Old Testament really is.

Looking at them side-by-side is a bit mind blowing.

Clearly, some of the books are massively thick and others are pretty thin. The thinner books have some extra blank pages in the back of them.

The minor prophets are combined, so there isn’t a book for each one. Additionally, books with a first and second (Kings, Chronicles) are combined.

Just like the New Testament set, you have the words of Scripture on the left hand page and a faint dot grid on the right hand page.

Illustrations appear throughout. If they take up an entire page, they are on the left side. If they are small, they are on the right hand dot grid page.

If you’re curious how different media work with the paper, here are some examples from my Romans book. Our church had a small group on Romans, so I used my Illuminated Scripture Journal for that small group. The left page (above) has been watercolored on the back side of the page. There is some wrinkling, but no bleed through. The right illustration is watercolor colored pencil and micron pen, neither of which showed through or warped the paper much.

This page has Stabilo marker and Micron pens and it didn’t bleed through or warp the paper at all. The paper is much thicker than a standard Bible paper. It feels more like a Moleskin Cahier paper.

The entire set is just beautiful and well-worth the buy, in my opinion. I really enjoyed using these for Bible study. It was super convenient to be able to throw my Bible study book and the book of the Bible we were studying in my purse to read whenever I had the chance. I also really enjoyed taking notes and illustrating throughout the book. These are very much like my favorite journaling Bible, the Crossway Interleaved Journaling Bible. The paper is much thicker, and it isn’t quite interleaved, but the effect is very similar.

It is very large and takes up quite a bit of shelf space. I happen to think it is beautiful and looks lovely set out, so I don’t mind the size so much. I like both sets so much and am very glad to have both.

Crossway sent me this set free to review. I am in no way obligated to leave a positive review. All opinions are my own.

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Posted in Around The Church, On The Reading Chair

Preaching Bible Review

Crossway was awesome enough to send me this beautiful preaching Bible to review. This Bible is only available in premium black goatskin leather. Seriously, listen to me when I say, if you know someone who is going into full-time ministry and you want to buy them a Bible– do not waste your time on some bonded leather “looks nice” Bible. Buy them a premium leather, love the goatskin, Bible that will last their entire ministry. It was so sad when the bonded leather Bible The Pastor was given at the beginning of his ministry started to completely fall to pieces after less than two decades of use. He really did take care of it and hoped it would be used for his entire ministry– unfortunately, it wasn’t made to last. This Preaching Bible by Crossway is not only built to last, but has a lifetime guarantee.

This Bible is so beautiful. I’m told by The Pastor and several of his preaching friends that it has the right feel in hand. You can hold it in one hand with the Bible closed and use it to point at people, which I am told is necessary in a preaching Bible. It is very structured feeling in the spine while the pages still feel nice and floppy. You can see the beautiful ridge detailing on the spine.

The leather is soft and supple. It actually feels a bit squishy in hand.

It lays completely flat. So you can set it down and not loose your place. It does loose a bit of flatness at the very front and very back, but overall, it is a pretty flat lying Bible.

The only complaint I actually have with this Bible is that there are only TWO markers. Now, for my personal Bible, two would be acceptable. But for a preaching Bible, where you’ll have four passages to read each week, two just isn’t enough.

The print is slightly larger and single column. The numbers, both chapter and verse, are clearly visible to help guide the way as you’re reading in public. In a study Bible, this would be distracting. In a public reading Bible, this is necessary. It also has slightly wider than normal margins. There are no cross-references or distractions of any kind on the pages. The paper is a brighter white and isn’t too very see through for thin Bible paper. The edges are gold, but look reddish when the Bible is open.

A few maps in the back and a table of weights and measures are all you’ll get in terms of extras with this Bible. Even those seem a little superfluous to the point of this particular Bible. They are large or splashy or a distraction from the words on the page.

This is a lovely Bible. It is absolutely perfect for preaching. Of course, it is English Standard Version, so that may not be what everyone wants for preaching. I find it poetic enough of a translation that is sounds nice when read aloud but the language is updated enough to be more understandable.

This Bible is perfect for anyone reading from the Bible in a public setting. It is simple and not distracting. It is easy to find and keep your place while reading. It would be an excellent gift for anyone who may be going into the ministry.

** I received this Bible free for review. I am in no way obligated to give it anything other than an honest review.**

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Posted in Around The Church, From The Altar, On The Reading Chair

Crossway Heirloom Study Bible Review

The pictures of this Bible aren’t going to do it justice. You really have to hold this Bible in your hands to appreciate it fully. I’m pretty much going to let the photos do most of the talking. This is the ESV Heirloom Bible by Crossway. The cover is goatskin. It has four (!) ribbon markers. There are so many extras in this Bible. It is pretty big. This is not a compact Bible by any means. This is the big, fat Bible of your grandparents. And this one will last that long, too.

This is a study Bible. It has so many maps, charts, articles, and features. It is amazingly packed full of anything they could think of that would help you better understand the Word of God. The articles and insights are thoroughly Biblical. If you’re more liberal leaning, this will likely not make you very happy.

When I said packed with extras, I really meant it. It is PACKED with extras. The Pastor has been using this Bible as a preaching Bible for a few months now. (His preaching Bible fell apart at the end of last year. He preached the cover right off!) While this Bible is a bit large and weighty for a preaching Bible, I highly recommend anyone in the ministry to get a high-quality Bible like this one that won’t fall apart on you with excessive use.

** I was sent this Bible for no cost. I do use affiliate links to help support this blog.**

Posted in Around The Church, From The Altar, On The Reading Chair

Crossway Single-Column Journaling Bible Review

I’m sure you know by now how much I love my Interleaved Journaling Bible from Crossway. I love having every other page fully blank to create without worrying about obstructing the Word. Most people use the side column journaling Bible, so I figured I would check that out.

I am going back to school (if you’ve been wondering where I’ve been, that is your answer). So, I thought it might be nice to keep a Journaling Bible for my studies.

This Bible comes in a variety of covers. There are so many beautiful options, it is hard to choose. You can even buy a customizable cover version! They also have a two-column version. It only has a single ribbon, which is what most Bibles have, but I am getting spoiled with some of my multi-ribbon Bibles.

The text is in a single column and then the margins are lightly lined with dots. The lines are light, but definitely noticeable. If you’re more into sketching, these lines might be problematic. For my purposes, I was just writing in the margins and not doing any type of art, so it worked fine for me. It would also make a nice Bible to take sermon notes in the margins. If you’re doing artwork in the margins, you may want to prep the margins before beginning.

As you can see from my pen test, the pages are pretty thin. Everything shadows through and some things will bleed to the next page. Again, prepping the page with gesso before beginning your art will help this problem significantly. It also helps to keep a blank piece of paper under the page you are currently working on so it won’t bleed to the next. (And my Mildliner was dying. Don’t worry– it has been replaced.)

You can see how the Pigma Microns that I use show through the page a bit. It isn’t enough to really bother me when taking notes in the margins. I still feel like both sides are legible.

This Bible is very light on extras. There is a reading plan to read the Bible in one year. No index. No maps. Pretty simple.

Overall, it is a beautiful Bible. Now, will it fit your needs? I don’t know. If you’re wanting a Bible for art, I highly recommend the Interleaved version. If you’re wanting a Bible to take notes in the margins– this Bible is likely perfect. I’ve really been enjoying using it for school. I have a highlighter color for each class that I am taking. During my weekly reading, I highlight the applicable verses and write quotes I come across that I want to save in the margins. I’m looking forward to seeing what it looks like at the end of my degree program. I use a similar Bible for church on Sundays to keep sermon notes, and I think this Bible would be perfect for that. If you use a more scrapbook style of journaling or don’t mind gesso prepping the margins, this Bible can be used for art, as well.

I typically purchase Bibles from Christian Books Distributors. They typically have the best price. Amazon, however, will get it to you faster and if you are shipping internationally, will be overall cheaper because of shipping.

This Bible was sent to me free for review. I am not obligated to review it positively. This blog contains affiliate links. Using affiliate links from your favorite bloggers is a great way to show them a little love. Affiliate links do not cost your more to use but do give a small portion of any sales to the affiliate.

Posted in Around The Church, On The Reading Chair

The Story of Redemption Bible Review

Crossway sent me this beautiful Bible. Pictures do it justice much better than words can. And I will attempt both. This white cover is just the dust cover on the hardback version of this Bible. Under the dust cover, the hardback version is solid black with a gold foil spine. There are also imitation leather and top grain leather versions available. 

This Bible has commentary alongside the Scripture to help you see the unfolding story of redemption throughout every page. You’ll see how God is working and shaping the world and His people toward Christ. 

This Bible has beautiful gold accents. The beginning of each chapter has a small illustration to begin. There are also some lovely simplified maps throughout. 

I love the single column layout. It makes it so easy to read. The commentary is just interspersed throughout where needed. 

You’ll also notice the timeline fold out in the back of the Bible. This is a lovely detail. It is more of a general overview, but it is lovely and will help you wrap your mind around the Biblical timeline. 

This Bible would be lovely for gifting. And stick around the blog and website, because there someone will be getting this Bible as a gift. Also, at the time of writing this, Christian Book has these on sale! And I do recommend you use Christian Book for all Bible purchases. They tend to have the lowest prices and the best selection. And they’ll personalize them for a small fee if you’re interested in that aspect. Links in this post are affiliate links. 

Posted in Around The Church, From The Altar, On The Reading Chair

Crossway Scripture Journal Review

I had the opportunity to review Crossway’s Scripture Journal a few months ago. Then Crossway gave me the opportunity to review their new Illuminated Scripture Journals. Both are amazing. Want to know which one is for you? Read on.

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First, let’s look at the Illuminated Scripture Journals, since they have a little more going on.

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If you get the entire set, they come in this nice box. The top lifts straight up and reveals a nice box set of books inside.

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I really appreciate the effort they put into the set. See the nice gradient they have going on? It is so aesthetically pleasing.

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They are made like the Illuminated Journaling Bible. If you haven’t read my review on that beauty, you can check it out here. The Scripture Journal paper is much thicker than Bible paper, so you’re going to find writing, drawing, and even painting on it will be a little easier than in a Journaling Bible.

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They currently only have the Scripture Journals for the New Testament. I am looking forward to the Old Testament sets coming in January. Each book of the New Testament is in its own book. The book is similar in size and feel to a Moleskin Cahier.

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The Illuminated Scripture Journal is on top here, and the regular Scripture Journal is on bottom. They are excellent for inductive Bible study, or any Bible study really. They are also great for daily prayer journaling, reading through a specific book. And they would be awesome for Bible journaling, since you can really add a lot into these without them getting too bulky or crazy.

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They are extremely similar in layout. You have the Scriptures on the left hand side of the page and a blank space to write on the right hand side of the page. The Illuminated version does have multiple colors in the fonts (black and gold), where the regular version is all black text.

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The Illuminated Scripture Journals have a dot grid on the blank writing page. The Scripture Journals have these dotted lined pages.

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The Illuminated version does have some images on some of the right hand pages. They also add in bigger images of text.

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They both end up with the same text on the left pages, the Illuminated version just has extra pages for the larger images. But if you were doing a Bible study with multiple people using whichever they prefer, your Biblical text will match up, it just may be a page off.

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As for which is better, it is entirely personal preference. While The Pastor appreciates the look of the Illuminated Scripture Journals, he’ll pick the simplicity of the standard Scripture Journal. He also tends to prefer lines and I tend to prefer a dot grid. The Illuminated version does add some emphasis through the artwork which might distract when doing an Inductive Bible Study, but nothing that I would think is too detrimental. It is really just going to come down to preference.

Y’all, do you see how beautiful these are?! They are absolutely stunning.

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The Illuminated Scripture Journal and the Scripture Journals are available in a boxed set, which is lovely, or individually. If your small group is studying Romans, you can buy just Romans for everyone. If you want the whole set so you can stare at it, that is available too. They are really affordable, too. (Affordable enough to buy each person in your small group a copy of Romans.)

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I highly recommend these. They will have you interacting with Scripture in new ways. You can Bible journal without feeling like you’re going to mess the whole thing up. You can write Scripture study notes right next to the Scripture and have plenty of room. The Scripture Journals have a sleek simplicity that everyone can love. The Illuminated Scripture Journals are gorgeous! Whichever you choose, you’ll love them.

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**I was sent both of these products free for review. I am under no obligation to give them a good review.**

Posted in Around The Church, On The Reading Chair

Pastor’s Bible Review

I received The Pastor’s Bible from Crossway in order to review it. I thrust it upon The Pastor after I had a chance to use it a bit and asked his opinion, as well. So this is our review, not just my review.

I received the cloth over board cover. Though it also comes in imitation leather and genuine leather. While it may seem like something a pastor has to have, honestly, it was a miss for us. I’ll tell you why.

First, the good parts! The English Standard Version is an excellent translation. The Pastor doesn’t like to preach from this translation, he has always only preached from the New King James. I like it as a preaching Bible and have used it in that capacity. The translation is going to amount to personal preference. I also like the cross references and the foot notes in this particular Bible. I find those very helpful and they don’t scream for your attention as your eyes run over the text.

The extras in this Bible are what I just don’t like. You should also note, there are no maps. There are some instructional throughout. I say instructional, because they are all leadership oriented and not exactly Scripturally based. Like bits and pieces of a hermeneutics book got stuck into a Bible.

These seem like a nice touch, but the reality is that you’ll fill all these spots up pretty quickly. Unless your ministry duration is less than five years, you’ll definitely run out of room for births, deaths, and marriages. Also, since this is a Pastor’s Bible- I’d expect the list to be marriages, baptisms, and funerals.

I couldn’t figure out where on earth they were getting the supplemental resources. Found out in the front on the Bible. It being from a Reformed tradition is probably what bothered me most. We are Methodists, so our liturgy and flow is a bit different- in addition to the obvious doctrinal differences.

The reading plans were troublesome for me. The four part mimics the Lectionary, but isn’t the Lectionary. It has four parts, but instead of an OT Reading, Psalm Reading, Gospel Reading, and Epistle Reading this Bible sets 2 OT Readings, a Psalm Reading, and 1 NT Reading. Essentially both plans are to read the Bible in a year, which is fine, but the close to Lectionary format just doesn’t make sense to me.

The resources also don’t make sense to me. It is like having the Book of Common Prayer in your Bible, only it isn’t the Book of Common Prayer. In our particular denomination, we have the outlines for weddings, funerals, baptisms, etc. in our handbook- as I imagine most church organizations do. So this seemed a lot like reinventing the wheel. Also, putting it into the Bible gave me quite a bit of pause and reflection on if we should even be adding these resources into our Bibles in the first place. It seems to elevate the resources above what they might deserve. It made me question if we were adding authority equal to the Scripture in and making the Word profane. I haven’t sorted through all of that in my mind, but having things in my Bible that I disagreed with made me question adding those sorts of things, even those I agree with, to Bibles in the first place.

It has two bookmarks, which is becoming more standard with Bibles. I personally think a Pastor’s Bible should have 4 bookmarks- one for each Lectionary Reading.

So, overall, we didn’t find this Bible helpful or useful. We have so many resources that provide better resources than are found here. Also, don’t buy your pastor a Bible- unless you’re buying them a super fancy calf skin covered one or something.

Someone from a Reformed tradition might like this Bible more, but I found most of the information was redundant and something every pastor already has access to. I love the version. I like the format. I just didn’t like any of the extras.

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Posted in Around The Church, From The Altar, With The Kids

Lent 2018

If you’re looking for my annual Lent family devotions, they are in book form this year! I was coming up with a way to make the family devotional more user-friendly. Scrolling through an entire week of blog posts is a bit messy. It is free, but it is messy. Then, I had this idea to add a personal devotional for moms to the front. In pitching the idea to The Pastor, we kind of thought, “Why just moms?” So, I enlisted his help in getting both a full 40-day devotional for all people and a 40-day family devotional written. We then put it on Kindle for ease-of-use. (It is also available in paperback if you’re not a digital person.)

The entire thing is really cohesive: The personal devotions and family devotions tie into each other, so you’ll all be walking the same spiritual path together. And as usual, the family devotional includes activities to do! Fun!

The theme of this year’s Lenten devotional is Refocus. Lent is a great time to look over everything and evaluate if you’re living the way you think you should be living. “Does my life reflect Christ?” It’ll challenge you to reevaluate where you put your time and money. It will ask you to reevaluate your priorities and commitments. Basically, it is going to step all over your toes and probably make you uncomfortable and you might even hate me for it. Or… you might refocus your life on the cross and do big Jesus-work this coming year. I think it’s worth the risk.

If you want a free devotional, all my previous years of Lent family devotions are still available here on the blog. Since Lent is always 40 days, always starting on Ash Wednesday and always ending on Easter, any of these can be used any year.

Lent Family Devotional 2017 – This family devotional looks into the life and ministry of Jesus.

40 Holy People – This is a Lenten devotional looking at the lives of those who have followed Christ with great courage and wisdom.

Fruit of the Spirit Family Devotional – This is not a Lenten devotional, but you can use it during Lent if you’d like. It is 9 weeks, so it is a little longer than Lent.

Click here to buy this year’s Lent devotional on Amazon.  My hope and prayer is for families to come together around a table and talk about Jesus. So, whatever you chose to do this Lent, be it using Refocus, using one of the free devotions on my blog, using another devotional book, or just reading through a book of the Bible together after dinner— make sure that you don’t miss Jesus during this season. Let the season bring you closer to Him and closer to your family.

Posted in Around The Church, From The Altar, On The Reading Chair

Choosing A Bible Translation

We have a huge blessing available to us in modern Bible translations. Not only do we have the Bible translated into our language, but we have multiple translations that are great for various walks of life and situations. We are abundantly blessed. So, don’t get yourself worked into a tizzy over which translation is the right translation. They’re all translations. You may prefer one, but our preference does not equal rightness. You may find yourself in a spiritual drought at some point, needing the Word to be fresh for you. A different translation can be all it takes to make the Word come alive again. You may find yourself discipling a child and need something on their level, but not a Bible storybook level either. You may find yourself reading the minor prophets in a new translation that makes it sound so poetic and beautiful and you experience Scripture in beauty for the first time. You may be helping a new Christian and need something readable for someone with no personal Christian history. Read on and find the translation for you now.

Translations are made one of two ways. Well, that simplifies it a little too much, but for the sake of this conversation, we’ll go with it. If you’re looking at a foreign language and you’re going to translate it, you can either translate each individual word or you can translate the whole thought. Translating word for word can lead to some things that just don’t make a lot of sense, since we arrange our words in English very specifically. (Did you know we even have a specific order for arranging adjectives?) So, in translating word for word, you can see you’ll run into problems. However, when translating thought for thought, you may not accurately convey the right word or the right emphasis. You find people complaining about the exact accuracy of thought for thought translations. But all translations will fall somewhere between an exact word for word translation and a thought for thought translation.

Each translation also comes in at a different grade reading level. Lower grade levels are typically going to have a less expansive vocabulary used.

King James Version (KJV)

This translation is a word for word translation with a very high reading level. (12th grade) While many people that grew up in a conservative church find this to be the Bible translation they are most familiar with, new Christians typically struggle to make sense of this translation. It is more like reading Shakespeare. It is incredibly beautiful in its language, but can be difficult to understand or get to the point. This translation is often a good one for memorizing Scripture because the poetic language is easier for some people to memorize. The flow just lends itself to getting lodged in the brain. However, for new Christians, people feeling spiritual draught, and younger Christians, the reading level is just too high and they have trouble making sense of the Word. This translation was published in 1611. This is a very common choice for a family Bible because it feels and reads like an old classic.

I John 1:9 “ If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Psalm 40:2 “He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.”

New King James Version (NKJV)

This translation is still a word for word translation. Modernized a little and the reading level brought down to a much more readable 8th grade level. It still has a lot of the poetic feel of the King James, but makes a little more sense and is easier for most people to study. This is often the choice of pastors for their preaching Bible translation. Again, Scripture memorization may be easier with this version as it is more poetic and sticks in your head like a song. This translation was published in 1982. It is a classic, conservative feel that is understandable by more people. I use this translation as our homeschool Bible. This is the translation my kids learn their memory verses from and we do our group reading from.

1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Psalm 40:2 “ He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, Out of the miry clay, And set my feet upon a rock, And established my steps.”

New International Version (NIV)

This is a mixture of word for word and thought for thought translation. A little of both has made this a pretty standard choice. It is just below an 8th grade reading level, so it is pretty well understood by most people. This was published in 1978 and is now the most read and the most trusted translation choice.

1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

Psalm 40:2 “He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.”

New Living Translation (NLT)

Like the NIV, the New Living Translation is a balance between word for word and thought for thought translation. The reading level is just above a 6th grade level, so this is a very understandable translation for most people. This was not a translation of a translation, but a brand new translation undertaking by 90 Biblical scholars. This translation flows smoothly and makes a lot of sense. It is less poetic, but much more readable and understandable. This is an excellent translation for new Christians. Published in 1996.

1 John 1:9 “But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.”

Psalm 40:2 “He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along.”

English Standard Version (ESV)

This is a word for word translation in a little above a 7th grade reading level. This is the most popular choice for Bible Journaling. It is very readable. It isn’t unnecessarily wordy and makes a great modern choice for Scripture memorization. Publish in 2001, it is an updated version of the Revised Standard Version. This makes an excellent family Bible. I use this translation in my Bible Journaling and we have a family Bible in this translation. This also makes a great gift Bible.

1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Psalm 40:2 “He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.”

New American Standard Bible (NASB)

This is a modern word for word translation at a higher reading level, 11th grade. It has a more formal feel than most of the other modern translations. Published in 1971, updated in 1995. This is very readable, but also more of a scholarly translation. This is a great choice for a preaching Bible or a Christian ready for deeper Bible study. Not always the best for Scripture memorization as it does get a little wordy. This also makes an excellent family Bible.

1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Psalm 40:2 “He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm.”

Christian Standard Bible (CSB)

This is more of a word for word translation. It has a 7th grade reading level. This version is clear and concise. It is excellent for Bible study. It can also be a great translation for New Christians. I think my primary recommendation is for Christians experience spiritual dryness in their life and need the Word to come alive again. This is the translation that you can read the stories you’ve heard your whole life and see something completely new and shocking in it that has always been there, but you are just seeing it. It is a good eye opening translation for personal study. I think it would make a great preaching Bible, as well, but I don’t know many pastors who actually use it for that. This is the Bible I use as my church Bible and for personal Bible Study.

1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Psalm 40:2 “He brought me up from a desolate pit, out of the muddy clay, and set my feet on a rock, making my steps secure.”

International Children’s Bible (ICB)

This is a thought for thought translation in a third grade reading level. This is a translation meant for children. If you’re a children’s pastor, this would be a good preaching and teaching Bible for you. This is a good choice for a first Bible for a child. It is very easily understood. Published in 1982. This can be difficult for kids to follow along in service or Bible study if the leader isn’t using this version.

1 John 1:9 “But if we confess our sins, he will forgive our sins. We can trust God. He does what is right. He will make us clean from all the wrongs we have done.”

Psalm 40:2 “ He lifted me out of the pit of destruction, out of the sticky mud. He stood me on a rock. He made my feet steady.“

The Message (MSG)

This is a thought for thought, paraphrase version. A lot of hate out there for this version, but I think it definitely has its place. This translation is excellent for seekers who have no Christian back ground or experience. It was published in 2002, and can sometimes seem too flippant for many conservative Christians. But a teen who has never read the Bible will find this an invaluable source of God’s Word. And not just teens. The reading level varies with the passage, but it is about a middle school average. This can also be a good version for those experiencing spiritual aridity, but it doesn’t make for a very good study Bible. You will hear and notice things you didn’t before, but not in the same way you will with the CSB. This is a difficult version to follow along with in service or Bible study because of the paraphrasing.

1 John 1:9 “ On the other hand, if we admit our sins—make a clean breast of them—he won’t let us down; he’ll be true to himself. He’ll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing.“

Psalm 40:2 “ He lifted me out of the ditch, pulled me from deep mud. He stood me up on a solid rock to make sure I wouldn’t slip.“

New International Reader’s Version (NIrV)

This is a blend of word for word and thought for thought. This has the lowest reading level of any of the translations, just below 3rd grade. This is a translation for very young children. This was published in 1994 and updated in 1998. It is a beginner’s Bible. Excellent choice for a first Bible for brand new readers. This is a good resource for homeschooling parents to use to teach young kids to read or write using the Bible. This is the translation I usually buy my kids as they are learning to read.

1 John 1:9 “But God is faithful and fair. If we confess our sins, he will forgive our sins. He will forgive every wrong thing we have done. He will make us pure.”

Psalm 40:2 “I was sliding down into the pit of death, and he pulled me out. He brought me up out of the mud and dirt. He set my feet on a rock. He gave me a firm place to stand on.”

This isn’t all the Bible translations available to you. Check out biblegateway.com if you want to compare more translations. These are just a few that I hope might help you in choosing the Bible that is right for your situation.

Another note: I used to find myself feeling bad for owning multiple copies of the Bible. That was surely a luxury many in this world do not have. And that is correct. There are many who don’t have the luxury of owning one single full copy of God’s Word. So, it often felt very first world of me to own many copies. However, I have come to accept that a Bible used in my house by me or my children is to God’s glory. No matter how many Bibles we have- if we are using them, it is for His glory. Also, supporting Bible publishers is supporting Bible translators. These companies can do good around the world with my support. Supporting them is supporting the work of furthering the spread of the Gospel. Choosing to put my money in their pockets is better than what I would have spent it on elsewhere. Also, I am always willing to give my Bible away. Whatever copy I may have in my hand at the moment, if someone else has no copy- I’m always ready to give mine away. I am not hoarding Bibles, though it may seem that way.

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Posted in Around The Church, Out Of My Head

What Does A Pastor Do?

Last month was Pastor Appreciation Month. During that month, you’ll have a handful of people share on social media a little peek into the difficult life of being a pastor. But for the most part, most people sit around and wonder what a pastor actually does. You hear a statistic that pastor’s routinely work 60-70 hours a week, and most people wonder, “Doing what?” More than one person has responded to hearing my husband is a pastor with something along the lines of, “Must be nice to only work two hours a week.” They mean it as a joke, but the fact is, most people don’t have any idea what a pastor does all week. So, I figured I’d shed a little light on that. Not all pastors do all these things. Some pastors are bivocational, meaning they work more than one job, and cannot do all these things. Some churches have more staff than just the pastor to help with some of these things. But any given week, this is what pastors across your community are doing.

You see them preaching on Sunday morning. That sermon usually takes around 10 hours to write and get ready to deliver. That doesn’t include all the other prep for Sunday morning, like typing up and printing bulletins, getting ready to teach a Sunday School class, choosing music or approving music for the service, picking up the coffee and tea, and making sure all volunteers will actually be showing up on Sunday. Then after church, they are putting things away, cleaning up, and getting the list of thing they need to remember for the next week going. (Remember to go pick up more pens. Get more giving envelopes printed. The nursery is out of wet wipes, pick some up. Etc.) Sunday morning takes a team of people to pull off, but the pastor has the bulk of the work, usually spending 18 hours or more each week just making Sunday morning happen at all.

The pastor is also responsible for making small groups, midweek meetings, and/or Sunday School happen. Even when there are other people to help lead these group meetings, the responsibility to choose curriculum or books still falls on the pastor. Every study done in a small group is usually read by the pastor first, to make sure it fits with their congregation and isn’t heresy. (Pastors, if you don’t already do this, you should.) They are also responsible for teaching those that are teaching how to teach and lead. They are checking in with them, seeing how things are going, and keeping up to date on the group’s progress. Just because they may not be at every small group meeting does not mean they aren’t actively involved in every small group.

The Pastor is on call all the time. Not just for church members, but for anyone in the community. He is called in for counseling on a regular basis. Some of those, he’ll refer to a counseling professional after an initial meeting. Some, he’ll continue to meet with on a regular basis. He is always there when people need to talk, not just people who give or contribute to the church. It may simply be a phone call. Or he may have to leave before dinner and head out to pick someone up that needs a friend right now. Sometimes it is people just needed a place to vent. Life is stressful. Sometimes he may need to mediate a family conflict. Sometimes he may need to pick someone’s teenager up and try to be a voice of reason when they aren’t listening to much of anyone lately. Whatever it may be, it can take hours of his day or week, even in a small congregation. And he can’t just turn off his phone, ever. Because people need him.

The Pastor is often just the guy people call when they need someone. Emergency childcare, emergency transportation, house work, yard work, moving- he’s just the guy you call because he is dependable. When a single mother of four is evicted from her apartment, he’s the guy people call to help her figure out temporary and permanent housing. When she needs a sitter for a job interview, he’s the guy called to babysit. When someone locks their keys in their car, he’s the guy to call to drive them across town and back with the spare key. He’s just the reliable guy that will drop anything he can to help anyone he can.

The Pastor is visiting people often. This is something people in the church should be doing as well, but the pastor is making it a point to see the elderly, sick, and shut-ins in his care often. Taking them flowers to brighten their room. Delivering cards from the kids’ Sunday School class, so they know they are missed and still feel like part of the church. Taking them communion when they can’t make it to church because no one should have to miss the sacraments. He’s visiting strangers in the hospital, because someone called and said there is someone in a local hospital that needs someone to talk to. He’s also visiting with those in the church outside of a church setting. Getting together for coffee to catch up on life. Grabbing a quick lunch on someone’s lunch break with them just to be able to chat. He is staying connected constantly, which takes face to face time.

The Pastor is out there in the community doing the work of Jesus. Yes, he is coordinating volunteers to do this work as well. Yes, he is harassing and dragging those in the church along with him at times. But he knows from the example of Jesus to be a servant leader, to get out there and do the work himself, hoping you’ll follow his example. Often, he’s going at this alone, unable to convince anyone to join him. But he’s out there getting his hands dirty for Jesus, caring for the least of these.

The Pastor is constantly reading and trying to stay “in the know” on both or culture and the Christian culture. He’s reading through the top books at the Christian book store so he can know what you’re hearing. He’s staying up to date on current events so he can know where people are. He’s challenging himself by reading theology, counseling, and leadership books so he can be the best he can be for you. He’s also doing his own daily Bible study, and studying the Bible with his family. He’ll also, likely, be heading to conferences and meetings to stay “up on his trade”, like continuing education. And he’s likely listening to the sermons of other pastors throughout the week.

The Pastor also has to do work that just needs to be done. Keeping up the church website, making sure it stays current and relevant. He has to send out the same information in a half dozen different ways to make sure everyone is informed. He can’t just send an email about an upcoming event because half the church will say they don’t check their emails. He’ll have to put it on the website, knowing only 3 or 4 people even check that on a regular basis; make a Facebook event and personally invite every person in the church and share it on the church’s group page; share it on Twitter; send half the church a text about it, because that is the only mode of communication they use; and then call people every few days to make sure everyone knows what is going on. This is all in addition to the ad on Sunday morning and the reminder in the bulletin. He has to upload the sermon each Sunday and make sure he shares it on every available social media platform. It may look like he is always promoting himself, but really, he has to share things that many times to make sure everyone in the church even knows the thing exists. He’ll also have to type up and send prayer request emails through the week as people call or send those to him.

The Pastor may also have other ministries that he is involved in. Our pastor is on the board for our association, so any given week, he has several hours of work to help them out as a volunteer. They are also contacted by all manner of non-profit ministries and organizations to try to solicit the congregation on their behalf. They have to wade through each request and determine if the non-profit is in line with the values and mission of their church and what their involvement should be, if any.

There are also the services a pastor performs. Weddings and funerals both take considerable time and often, pastors aren’t paid for either. A wedding usually takes about 30 hours of work from the Pastor. (10 hours of counseling, 5 hours to write the service, 5 hours for the rehearsal, 10 hours the day of the wedding from pre and post wedding duties.) A funeral usually takes about 20 hours of work from the Pastor. (10 hours meeting with the family and writing the service. 6 hours of visitation. 4 hours for the actual service and after.) Keep in mind, in both scenarios, the Pastor is first there and usually last to leave. And a pastor isn’t guaranteed to make any money from either, even if travel and hotel expenses are involved.

There are also other speaking engagements a pastor may be asked to do. A youth camp, a retreat, a service at a Christian school. Those are often unpaid, as well.

The majority of a pastor’s work is secret, unseen, so it is easy to see where the misconception comes from that they don’t do that much. But when you are going through a crisis, you know who you can call. When you are in need of guidance, you know who you can call. We know they do things other than just preach on Sunday morning, but we often don’t think about just how much they are doing.