NLT Discover God Study Bible by Tyndale

Thanks to Laura Bartlett of Tyndale House Publishers for sending me this hardcover edition of this wonderful study bible.

The Discover God Study Bible was released a while back but it doesn’t seem to have a big readership because when I checked the local Christian bookstore, I noticed only a few copies on the shelf. It doesn’t seem to be as nearly as popular as the NLT Life Application Study Bible or NLT Study Bible, which are great bibles; but I think this study bible deserves more recognition because of its helpfulness within its pages of study notes.

This bible is a devotional study bible and is unlike many other study bibles out there because it is full of good advice and wisdom for living a holy and devoted Christian life. It is unlike the NLT Study Bible, the NIV Study Bible or most any other study bibles I’ve seen. If I had to compare this, it might be a little like the NLT Life Application Study Bible because it gives the reader advice practical ways to live a pious Christian life. I have also seen other study bibles like the NRSV Renovare Bible and NRSV Discipleship Study Bible but this one seems to go deeper in its appreciation of Christian piety and is like “highly-caffeinated” training in godly living and deepening our knowledge in the living God (…I’m sitting here at Starbucks writing this).

In my devotional reading this morning, I read gospel-oriented study notes from Jeremiah 29: 11 that came under the topic of God:

29:11 Hope for the future….The Bible’s version is a hope that’s grounded in what God has promised to do in the future. Our great expectations of God and his promises will always fall short of His grand plans (Romans 5:5) because He loves us—and just like us, God never wants to disappoint those He loves. Put your hope in God and be prepared for Him to go beyond everything you can hope and pray for (Ephesians 1:19-23). (See God> Salvation> Holy Spirit> Comforts, TopicGuide page A15.)

There are over 9,000 wonderful study notes like this. They are drawn from the well of wisdom and deep devotional life of Dr. Bill Bright. The notes were organized by a team of bible scholars and teachers into the ten core topics in the TopicGuide found in the beginning of the bible.

The topic guide gives us some ideas on what is covered:

Holiness: living for God
The Bible: trusting God’s word and its authority in your life
God’s Purpose: embracing God’s will and master plan
Worship: giving God the praise and glory He is due
Spiritual warfare: resisting temptation and Satan’s schemes
God: cultivating your relationship with God
God’s Salvation: appreciating redemption from sin and death
Adoption: finding your identity in Christ
Church: joining with God’s people
Ministry: becoming an agent of change

These topics are then subdivided into two more levels of subtopics so this natural organization and division makes it easier to find what you are looking for.

People struggle to know God in a more personal way and understand him. We know that this is best achieved by attending church, reading our bible regularly and prayer; however, the purpose of this study bible is to give us a tool to help us along in this journey.

I like the theology of worship written as an introduction to the Discover Worship TopicGuide:

“We don’t come to God offering up our obedience, as if He needed our help with anything. True worship, and this outline, begins with awestruck reverence for who God is and what He has done for us….He could have left us in the dark, groping around for the right things to be, say, and do to please Him. But He gave clear instructions in the Bible for how He did (and didn’t) want to be worshiped. This section of the outline lays out God’s preferences for how He wants us to show our love for Him.” (p. A25).

In the topical section of Holiness, there is a subtopic called Law and Grace, which I found contained a theologically sound understanding of law and gospel:

The graciousness of the Law: How do grace and law work in the Christian life?
Law: We do not reject the law….
Grace: We do not reject grace….

I also like the study notes approach to the sacraments of Holy Communion:

…Make sure you know when your church will be celebrating the Lord’s Supper and examine your heat beforehand—do not simply show up as if it is an ordinary day. Prepare by reflecting on the meaning of the sacrament, your repentance from sin, your love for God and others, and your desire for new obedience to Christ. (See Worship> NT> Our Role> Mind and Heart> Lord’s Supper to be taken in a worthy manner, TopicGuide page A32).

This is good teaching because we don’t seem to hear this kind of teaching in our churches anymore. Furthermore, I noticed there were two sections in the TopicGuide recognizing Baptism and Holy Communion as Sacraments and labelled it as such (p. A34).

I don’t think I overstated this bible as a “highly-caffeinated” study bible because I can feel a very strong sense of encouragement toward godly living in almost every single study note. If you want to grow in your faith and knowledge of God, the Discover God Study Bible will be an invaluable resource for you in your daily devotional reading of the bible. I will use this as a devotional resource.

How do you listen to your Christian music?

I recently bought a WOW Hits 1 CD from 2008 and found a few artists and groups with some really awesome songs, e.g., Jeremy Camp (“Give You Glory”), Newsboys (“In Wonder”), Point of Grace (“All the World”)and Third Day (“Tunnel”). Okay, I’m not on the cutting edge music scene. I’ve discovered that getting the WOW #1s CDs are a good way to go if you don’t have the bucks to spend on to collect all your favourite Christian artists. I don’t know why I didn’t start doing this sooner. My next one will probably be Wow Hits 1 2009.

Anyways, I realize that listening to Christian music over the radio is good too but the problem is that Christian radio doesn’t necessary play all the good stuff. So I was wondering why radio didn’t play all these new good stuff. I’ve learned that the Canadian regulatory agency CRTC restricts how much non-Canadian content can be played on the radio. I don’t like this kind of over-regulation.

I’ve been thinking of Internet radio would would be a good option to get around this regulation but I can’t really get Internet radio in my car when I travel, which is when I usually listen to Christian music. This exists now but I would have to subscribe to this service.

How do you listen to your Christian music?

I’m singing liturgical music by Marty Haugen


When you think of liturgical music, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Slow? Chanting in the monastery? Boring? Not necessarily because there is Marty Haugen’s liturgical music will transform your image of monastery music into modern and contemporary flavor. It’s published by GIA.

Marty Haugen is a composer of liturgical music but not like the type we would imagine being sung in 16th century monasteries. He composes the best liturgical music because it sounds modern and is beautiful enough to make a grown man cry.

Previously, I wasn’t into this liturgical music but since I’ve encountered this stuff, I’ve grown to like it. I first encountered Haugen’s Holden Evening Prayer and Beneath the Tree of Life while attending seminary.

Recently, I’ve been learning the Holden Evening Prayer and getting ready to lead it during a Lenten service. It will be my first time singing in public and I hope I won’t flop on Wednesday. Well, it’s the Lord’s service anyway… not mine.

Do you have any experience with Marty Haugen’s music or liturgical stuff? What do you think of liturgical music vs. contemporary worship?

Tsunami tidal wave in the worldwide Anglican Communion

It is like as if several tectonic plates around the Anglican world are shifting; and this shift is about to trigger a huge tsunami tidal wave in the great big sea of Anglicanism. This has been happening for quite a while now and is nothing new but I am just starting to listen in on this conversation (or rather, dispute) to learn about what is going on.

For those who do not know anything about what the Anglican Communion is about, it is like a big umbrella that holds all Anglicans around the world together, and this umbrella feels like it is about to split at the seams.

For traditional Anglicans, it seems that the Anglican provinces of Canada and the United States within this Communion are desiring to move away from its traditional Christian beliefs regarding same-sex marriage. For traditional Anglicans, they claim that it is not only about same-sex marriage but also about the way Christians should view scripture.

Many traditional Anglicans do not approve of this revisionist agenda because they feel that its leaders are trying to move the Anglican Church of Canada and the Episcopal Church into uncharted unorthodox waters. The “revisionist agenda” is a label pinned on the liberal movement to “unorthodoxy” (which can also be a loaded term to those on the liberal side of Anglicanism).

Note: A conservative site to peruse through is at the Anglican Network website of video on YouTube, and documents and PowerPoints from the natonal conference). It gives you a sense of what is happening from a traditionalist point of view.

Jer. 31:32 – Jeremiah’s play on words: Baal and husband

“not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD” (Jeremiah 31:32, ESV).

בעלתי (husband, master): The verb form of “husband” means to “marry.” This is meant to emphasize the idea of the rights of the husband in the context of marriage (e.g., Gen. 20:3; Deut. 21:13; 22:22; 24:1). Does this mean that God has a right to exercise rights over his people in a religious covenant? I would think so, especially when this is placed in the context of covenant. The writer is trying to emphasize the seriousness of their covenant by making a comparison between a marriage covenant and a religious covenant.

God was calling his covenant people on violating their religious covenantal agreement. However, the writer of Jeremiah also added a play on words only noticeable in the Hebrew language. He points out the people’s adulterous worship of Baal with a pun. I am not a Hebrew scholar so I’d appreciate it someone will correct me if I’m wrong. It is interesting to note that there is an intended pun with the name Baal (בעל), which in the original Hebrew, rhymes with the word “husband” (בעלתי). To serve בעל, “Baal,” was to abandon the LORD who had “mastered” or “married” them as a בעל, “husband.”

Why did the writer use this marriage analogy? It was to teach the people that a covenant made with God was to be taken as serious as a marital covenant. God demands loyalty and purity within a relationship with him.

However, since we have failed in keeping the old covenant of the law, God decided to give us a “new covenant” that is to be written on the tablets of our hearts. This is where we can find the gospel of the messiah in this Old Testament text.

Next post: Sexual imagery in Revelation

A new wave of the Holy Spirit’s work in the church has emerged

This is my response to the recent posts at InternetMonk.com on the “Coming Evangelical Collapse” (Part 1 and Part 2) and comes as my personal response just after I made my first post (here). I’m sitting here on Sunday night thinking: “Okay, the church seems to be waning” but I ask myself if Christ is still the lord of the church? I believe he is. Michael Spencer may be pessimistic (and perhaps also realistic) about the old-school evangelical church in North America, but I think he may be missing what God is doing around the world. Sorry Michael… but with all this bad news in the decline in evangelicalism, I do not think God is done with the evangelical churches, or even the mainline churches. In fact, I dare say that God will revive the evangelical churches and mainline churches.

Jesus is the Lord of the church and will always be the lord of the church. We humans may try to usurp God but think we can figure him out but God is going to confound us intelligent humans by doing something unintelligible. God will transform his church. Who is to say that the evangelical church that iMonk is speaking of will not change? I believe the Holy Spirit will do his work and move in a new and sovereign way to renew Christ’s church. It will look radically different from the old form. It may be scary to us but not to the new generations of new Christians who will enter this new church that will emerge.

Let’s never forget what God has done throughout the recent history of the church. God used Martin Luther and John Calvin to give birth to the churches of the Reformation (i.e., Lutheran and Reformed). The Holy Spirit used Luther and Calvin because the Pope, and those high up in the ecclesiastical ranks of the Roman Catholic Church, denied certain evangelical truths. (Note: let’s not get hung up on theology at this point, which can be debated until kingdom come). Later, God used evangelical revivalists such as John Wesley, George Whitefield, and Charles Finney to give birth to the evangelical churches because the churches of the Reformation became complacent. Then God used Charles Parham and William J. Seymour to give birth to the pentecostal churches because evangelical churches became complacent. Now God is using new generations of charismatics to give birth to third and fourth generations of Pentecostal-charismatic churches because the first wave of Pentecostalism has become complacent. Each generation of churches have neglected an important aspect of God’s truth and reality so the Holy Spirit has raised up a new generation to include important aspects of God’s truth in his church today. Today, a new wave that has emerged in the charismatic movement is spreading like wildfire around the world. However, God is not ignoring the older church denominations either. I believe God is merciful and will revive the older mainline and evangelical churches. I do not believe that God wants to throw out the old for the new.

While we are seeing a decline in attendance and memberships in many all of the mainline protestant denominations in North America and Europe, the charismatic movement is spreading very rapidly around the world. In fact, it is spreading so fast that we in the western world cannot even begin to keep track of what is happening in the new church around the world. That is where the bulk of the growth is. In fact, the charismatic movement is even giving a re-birth to the old mainline denominations in the developing world (e.g., Lutheran, Reformed-Presbyterian, Methodist, including the Roman Catholic Church). It is through this charismatic revival that the old mainline and evangelical churches are being revived in the developing world through. (Old school theologians may not want to admit to the huge contribution of the charismatic movement but it’s true).

Furthermore, evangelical churches around the world are not dying; they are actually also growing very rapidly. This charismatic revival is reviving the evangelical churches around the world too. Baptist churches around the world are also growing. In fact the number of denominations around the world are increasing every day.

So even though the mainline denominations seem to be in the latter stages of life, and the old-old school evangelical churches (e.g., Baptists) are just entering the latter stage of life, God is reshaping and recreating a new church that will take the place of the old. I am not at all afraid of the future because Jesus Christ is still the lord of the church. Just as old wine is meant to be stored in old wineskins, and new wine is meant to be stored in new wineskins, Christ’s new emerging church will take a new shape and form that we will not recognize. We might be wise to put on our seatbelts and take hold of the handle bars, because God is birthing his church around the world that will surprise the old former Christian world.

The coming evangelical collapse

I have been reading some recent blog posts about the “Coming Evangelical Collapse” at InternetMonk.com (Part 1 and Part 2) and was also produced in the Christian Science Monitor. It predicts that there will be an evangelical collapse in the near future, and that in the next few generations in the life of evangelical churches will be devasting. I have to admit that after reading it, I was stunned for a few days because I was left wondering if he was right or was he just blowing smoke and just trying to stir the pot of negativity. Are you stunned or unmoved by this? It was an interesting read and it is reproduced below.

We are on the verge – within 10 years – of a major collapse of evangelical Christianity. This breakdown will follow the deterioration of the mainline Protestant world and it will fundamentally alter the religious and cultural environment in the West.

Within two generations, evangelicalism will be a house deserted of half its occupants. (Between 25 and 35 percent of Americans today are Evangelicals.) In the “Protestant” 20th century, Evangelicals flourished. But they will soon be living in a very secular and religiously antagonistic 21st century.

This collapse will herald the arrival of an anti-Christian chapter of the post-Christian West. Intolerance of Christianity will rise to levels many of us have not believed possible in our lifetimes, and public policy will become hostile toward evangelical Christianity, seeing it as the opponent of the common good.

Millions of Evangelicals will quit. Thousands of ministries will end. Christian media will be reduced, if not eliminated. Many Christian schools will go into rapid decline. I’m convinced the grace and mission of God will reach to the ends of the earth. But the end of evangelicalism as we know it is close.

Why is this going to happen?

1. Evangelicals have identified their movement with the culture war and with political conservatism. This will prove to be a very costly mistake. Evangelicals will increasingly be seen as a threat to cultural progress. Public leaders will consider us bad for America, bad for education, bad for children, and bad for society.

The evangelical investment in moral, social, and political issues has depleted our resources and exposed our weaknesses. Being against gay marriage and being rhetorically pro-life will not make up for the fact that massive majorities of Evangelicals can’t articulate the Gospel with any coherence. We fell for the trap of believing in a cause more than a faith.

2. We Evangelicals have failed to pass on to our young people an orthodox form of faith that can take root and survive the secular onslaught. Ironically, the billions of dollars we’ve spent on youth ministers, Christian music, publishing, and media has produced a culture of young Christians who know next to nothing about their own faith except how they feel about it. Our young people have deep beliefs about the culture war, but do not know why they should obey scripture, the essentials of theology, or the experience of spiritual discipline and community. Coming generations of Christians are going to be monumentally ignorant and unprepared for culture-wide pressures.

3. There are three kinds of evangelical churches today: consumer-driven megachurches, dying churches, and new churches whose future is fragile. Denominations will shrink, even vanish, while fewer and fewer evangelical churches will survive and thrive.

4. Despite some very successful developments in the past 25 years, Christian education has not produced a product that can withstand the rising tide of secularism. Evangelicalism has used its educational system primarily to staff its own needs and talk to itself.

5. The confrontation between cultural secularism and the faith at the core of evangelical efforts to “do good” is rapidly approaching. We will soon see that the good Evangelicals want to do will be viewed as bad by so many, and much of that work will not be done. Look for ministries to take on a less and less distinctively Christian face in order to survive.

6. Even in areas where Evangelicals imagine themselves strong (like the Bible Belt), we will find a great inability to pass on to our children a vital evangelical confidence in the Bible and the importance of the faith.

7. The money will dry up.

What will be left?

•Expect evangelicalism to look more like the pragmatic, therapeutic, church-growth oriented megachurches that have defined success. Emphasis will shift from doctrine to relevance, motivation, and personal success – resulting in churches further compromised and weakened in their ability to pass on the faith.

•Two of the beneficiaries will be the Roman Catholic and Orthodox communions. Evangelicals have been entering these churches in recent decades and that trend will continue, with more efforts aimed at the “conversion” of Evangelicals to the Catholic and Orthodox traditions.

•A small band will work hard to rescue the movement from its demise through theological renewal. This is an attractive, innovative, and tireless community with outstanding media, publishing, and leadership development. Nonetheless, I believe the coming evangelical collapse will not result in a second reformation, though it may result in benefits for many churches and the beginnings of new churches.

•The emerging church will largely vanish from the evangelical landscape, becoming part of the small segment of progressive mainline Protestants that remain true to the liberal vision.

•Aggressively evangelistic fundamentalist churches will begin to disappear.

•Charismatic-Pentecostal Christianity will become the majority report in evangelicalism. Can this community withstand heresy, relativism, and confusion? To do so, it must make a priority of biblical authority, responsible leadership, and a reemergence of orthodoxy.

•Evangelicalism needs a “rescue mission” from the world Christian community. It is time for missionaries to come to America from Asia and Africa. Will they come? Will they be able to bring to our culture a more vital form of Christianity?

•Expect a fragmented response to the culture war. Some Evangelicals will work to create their own countercultures, rather than try to change the culture at large. Some will continue to see conservatism and Christianity through one lens and will engage the culture war much as before – a status quo the media will be all too happy to perpetuate. A significant number, however, may give up political engagement for a discipleship of deeper impact.

Is all of this a bad thing?

Evangelicalism doesn’t need a bailout. Much of it needs a funeral. But what about what remains?

Is it a good thing that denominations are going to become largely irrelevant? Only if the networks that replace them are able to marshal resources, training, and vision to the mission field and into the planting and equipping of churches.

Is it a good thing that many marginal believers will depart? Possibly, if churches begin and continue the work of renewing serious church membership. We must change the conversation from the maintenance of traditional churches to developing new and culturally appropriate ones.

The ascendency of Charismatic-Pentecostal-influenced worship around the world can be a major positive for the evangelical movement if reformation can reach those churches and if it is joined with the calling, training, and mentoring of leaders. If American churches come under more of the influence of the movement of the Holy Spirit in Africa and Asia, this will be a good thing.

Will the evangelicalizing of Catholic and Orthodox communions be a good development? One can hope for greater unity and appreciation, but the history of these developments seems to be much more about a renewed vigor to “evangelize” Protestantism in the name of unity.

Will the coming collapse get Evangelicals past the pragmatism and shallowness that has brought about the loss of substance and power? Probably not. The purveyors of the evangelical circus will be in fine form, selling their wares as the promised solution to every church’s problems. I expect the landscape of megachurch vacuity to be around for a very long time.

Will it shake lose the prosperity Gospel from its parasitical place on the evangelical body of Christ? Evidence from similar periods is not encouraging. American Christians seldom seem to be able to separate their theology from an overall idea of personal affluence and success.

The loss of their political clout may impel many Evangelicals to reconsider the wisdom of trying to create a “godly society.” That doesn’t mean they’ll focus solely on saving souls, but the increasing concern will be how to keep secularism out of church, not stop it altogether. The integrity of the church as a countercultural movement with a message of “empire subversion” will increasingly replace a message of cultural and political entitlement.

Despite all of these challenges, it is impossible not to be hopeful. As one commenter has already said, “Christianity loves a crumbling empire.”

We can rejoice that in the ruins, new forms of Christian vitality and ministry will be born. I expect to see a vital and growing house church movement. This cannot help but be good for an evangelicalism that has made buildings, numbers, and paid staff its drugs for half a century.

We need new evangelicalism that learns from the past and listens more carefully to what God says about being His people in the midst of a powerful, idolatrous culture.

I’m not a prophet. My view of evangelicalism is not authoritative or infallible. I am certainly wrong in some of these predictions. But is there anyone who is observing evangelicalism in these times who does not sense that the future of our movement holds many dangers and much potential?

Michael Spencer is a writer and communicator living and working in a Christian community in Kentucky. He describes himself as “a postevangelical reformation Christian in search of a Jesus-shaped spirituality.” This essay is adapted from a series on his blog, InternetMonk.com .

Public outrage against greedy AIG executives

What has outraged me and millions of people this week was the greed that was unashamedly displayed by AIG’s corporate executives. They took $165 million in bonuses. It was a company that received $170 billion in taxpayer money as part of the stimulus package from President Obama’s administration. This not only has angered liberals but also populist conservatives.

Money like this should be used to keep the jobs of AIG employees who are on lower incomes—not to line the pockets of corporate executives who already make nice salaries. What’s happening is that taxpayers are helping to keep the company above water and at the same time, the executives get rewarded for it by accepting $165 million? It really doesn’t make any sense to me.

If they had any decency at all, they should be the first to be receiving a pay cut. If they had any honor at all, they should resign from their positions and free up their own salaries to help the company stay afloat. That would be an honorable thing to do but I don’t think this kind of honor exists anymore.

This display of corporate greed will undoubted hurt the image of AIG. At the same time, it will give reason for people to bash capitalism. This greed will give capitalism a bad name and it reinforces the image that corporations are greedy. If there is a better time for proletariats to reinforce to negative image of the: “Capitalist pigs!” it’s now. Personally, I wouldn’t hesitate at all to raise the corporate taxes on AIG. In fact, I wouldn’t hesitate to pull the plug on AIG and them go down with the rest of the insurance companies. But the one thing holding me back from this are the honest hard working insurance holders who invested their savings into purchasing insurance from AIG. It would be disastrous for the economy if this major insurer went under. A public bailout for all the insured would be far worse.

There are enough insurance companies and financial institutions that went under that this kind of money could have gone to help them. But “no”, it went to AIG. This was why some conservatives and Republicans were so hesitant to see this stimulus package go through Congress. It’s corporate welfare and I don’t agree with corporate welfare at all except with cases of uncontrollable circumstances.

I hope this administration can turn this around and get the money back out from the pockets of those greedy executives. I would also encourage everyone to boycott this company’s insurance products. Don’t buy AIG in the future.

Have you heard a good sermon lately?

Have you heard sermons that are so good that after you leave the service, you feel encouraged that you have heard the Word of God speak clearly and directly to you? It is most likely the case that the pastor has invested time in prayer with God, the indwelling Spirit; in study and deep reflection of the scriptures; and plain hard work into the writing of the sermon—either all three or some of these.

Are you one of those people, after hearing a sermon, know that your pastor has not invested any deep thought and hard work into sermon preparation? This can be somewhat disappointing for people who walk into a church expecting to hear a good word of encouragement but end up receiving nothing from the word except for some good feeling from the beautiful worship songs. As a layperson, I have experience this and asked myself: “Why do I want to come back to this church?” So I can relate to people who have been disappointed with church.

Lawrence W. Farris says that one temptation for some pastors is to go into the old barrel to pull out some old sermons because it saves time in preparation. One of the ten “commandments” that Farris, from his book Ten Commandments for Pastors New to a Congregation, brings up is: “Thou shalt attend to thy preaching.”

I haven’t been in the ministry for very long and am just barely getting started. I hope to be ordained in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada in the very near future. Anyway, I try to put in a lot of time into sermon preparation because the spoken word of God brings encouragement and life into people’s lives. People generally do not know how much time goes into a well-crafted sermon but from what I’ve read, some suggest an hour of preparation for each minute of sermon preached. Yikes!! That’s a lot.
__________________________

Farris, Lawrence W. Ten Commandments for Pastors New to a Congregation. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2003. pp. 94. This a nice easy read and is full of practical information for a pastor moving to a new congregation. It’s dated but it was required reading for me in seminary. It’s useful for seminary students ready to leave the student desk for the church office.

Another very useful (but dated) book I’ve recently finished reading is:
Moore, Christopher C. Opening the Clergy Parachute: Soft Landings for Church Leaders who are seeking a Change. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1995. pp. 190. This one is excellent for pastors heading into an interview situation.

A most recent, and new, book I’ve finished reading, and blogged on here, is:
Carl, William J., editor. Best Advice: Wisdom on Ministry from 30 Leading Pastors and Preachers. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009. pp. 190.

If anyone else out there knows of any good books in this same genre, feel free to share them here. I’m sure I or anyone else in ministry would be interested in hearing about them.