Author: Matt Sherro

Christ’s Message to the 7 Churches in Asia Minor (from the Full Life Study Bible)

Christ’s Message to the 7 Churches in Asia Minor (from the Full Life Study Bible)

The goal of the messages of Christ to seven first-century local churches existing in western Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey; see Rev 1:4, note) was to challenge, encourage, warn and build up believers and churches throughout church history, even to this day (cf. 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22). The value of these messages for churches today includes: (1) a revelation of what Jesus Christ himself loves and values in his churches as well as what he hates and condemns; (2) a clear statement from Christ about (a) the consequences of disobedience and spiritual neglect and (b) the rewards for spiritual alertness, diligence and faithfulness to Christ; (3) a standard by which any church or individual may judge their true spiritual condition in relation to God; and (4) an example of Satan’s methods for attacking and working against the church or individual Christian (see also Jdg 3:7, note). Using a question and answer format, this article examines each of these aspects of Christ’s messages to his churches.

(1) What does Christ praise or commend? Christ commends a church for (a) not tolerating wicked individuals whose aim is to undermine or weaken the congregation’s loyalty to God and its effectiveness in ministry (Rev 2:2); (b) evaluating the life, teaching and claims of Christian leaders before accepting what they teach (2:2); (c) persevering in faith, love, witness, service and suffering for Christ (2:3, 10, 13, 19, 26); (d) hating what God hates (2:6); (e) overcoming sin, Satan and the corruption of the world (2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21); (f) refusing to conform to immoral beliefs and behaviors that are common in the world and refusing to accept worldliness in the church (2:24; 3:4); and (g) honoring and following God’s Word (3:8, 10).

(2) How does Christ reward churches that persevere through challenges and remain loyal to him and his Word? He rewards such churches (a) by rescuing them from the time of ultimate tribulation and judgment that will come upon the whole world in the last days (3:10); (b) by blessing them with his love, presence and close companionship (3:20); and (c) by ultimately giving them eternal life with God (2:11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12; 21:7).

(3) What does Christ condemn? Christ condemns a church for (a) weakening, abandoning or rejecting intimate personal devotion to himself and to God the Father (2:4); (b) neglecting or abandoning true Biblical faith (2:14-15; 3:1-3); (c) tolerating immoral church leaders, teachers or laypersons (2:14-15, 20); (d) becoming spiritually dead (3:1) or lukewarm (i.e., complacent, apathetic, halfhearted; 3:15-16); and (e) substituting outward success and prosperity (3:17) for real inner spirituality (i.e., devotion to God, moral purity, spiritual wisdom and right conduct by God’s standard; 3:18).

(4) How does Christ punish churches that decline spiritually and tolerate immoral beliefs and behaviors? He punishes such churches (a) by removing them from their place in God’s kingdom (2:5; 3:16); (b) by withdrawing his special favor, his guiding presence, the power of the Holy Spirit and the protection of their members from Satan’s destruction (2:5, 16, 22-23; 3:4, 16; see Mt 13, notes); and (c) by placing their leaders under God’s judgment (2:20-23).

(5) What does Christ’s message reveal about the natural drift of careless churches toward spiritual stagnation (i.e., emptiness, laziness, lack of growth and progress), decline, loss of faith and outright rebellion against God? (a) The seven letters suggest that without proper precaution, churches will slowly go their own way, accept false teaching and adapt to the evil practices and anti-God elements of the world (see Gal 5:17, note). (b) In addition, we see that churches can often be negatively affected by false Christians and by other wicked and unfaithful people (2:2, 14-15, 20). For this reason, a church must never take its spiritual condition for granted. A seemingly right relationship with God at the present time is never a valid test or guarantee that the church is fulfilling God’s highest purposes or that their beliefs and teaching are absolutely accurate. The original message and teaching of Christ and those he authorized to deliver his message as we have it today in his written Word (i.e., the Bible) are the highest and final authority by which to measure truth and falsehood.

(6) How can churches avoid spiritual decline and the resulting judgment by Christ? These letters offer several ways. (a) First and most importantly, churches must be willing to “hear what the Spirit says” (2:5-7, 16-17, 21), which means they must listen and respond with obedience to God’s direct message. The Word of Jesus Christ must always be the church’s guide (1:1-5). His Word, as revealed to his NT messengers through the Holy Spirit, is the measure by which churches must examine their beliefs and activities and constantly renew their spiritual lives (2:7, 11, 17, 29). (b) Churches must continually examine their spiritual condition in relation to God and his standards. If necessary, they must correct their actions and their degree of toleration of worldly and immoral beliefs and behaviors among their members (2:4, 14-15, 20; 3:1-2, 14-17). (c) Spiritual decline can be stopped and corrected in any church or group only if there is sincere repentance (see Mt 3:2, note on repentance) and a sincere return to the original love, truth, purity and power of Jesus Christ and his original Biblical revelation (2:5-7, 16-17; 3:1-3, 15-22).

On Suffering

On Suffering

Almost every one of us knows someone who is suffering or are suffering ourselves. What does the Bible have to say about suffering? We are answering that question in this QSRG.

  • We should encourage the suffering (Job 16:1-6)
  • All of Christ’s followers will face suffering (Matthew 16:21-26)
  • Our suffering helps us to empathize and comfort others who are suffering (2 Corinthains 1:3-7)
  • Our suffering ends in glory (2 Corinthians 4:17-18)
  • Jesus can help us through our suffering (Hebrews 2:11-18)
  • Christ taught us how to handle suffering (1 Peter 2:21-24)
  • There is NO suffering in Christ’s kingdom (Revelation 21:4)
On Trials

On Trials

Many Chirsitans are currently going through trials or are soon to be going through them. In light of that, we offer this Qucik Scripture Reference Guide on trials.

  • Christ promises us rest from our trials (Matthew 11:28-30)
  • Jesus understands our struggles (John 15:18)
  • Trials are guaranteed but Jesus has overcome and we will overcom in Him (John 16:33)
  • Trials help us build endurance (Romans 5:1-5)
  • God knows the plan He has for our life (Romans 8:28)
  • Believers can expect to suffer for our faith (2 Corinthians 6:3-13)
  • Present troubles do not compare to the joy we have in Christ (Philippians 3:-11)
  • God expects that we will grow through our trials (James 2:2-4)

 

NRSV Large Print Thinline Review

NRSV Large Print Thinline Review

In this review we are looking at the new Comfort Print Edition of the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible ant the Large Print Thin-line Edition.

Note: Zondervan provided this Bible free of charge in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to give positive feedback and my opinions are my own.

Comfort Print Font:

The new font style from Zondervan and 2k/Denmark is really the stand out feature of this Bible. It is an 11-point font, very similar to its NIV cousin. It is extremely easy to read in any light setting, which is very helpful for me. I frequently reference the NRSV Old Testament and t

Find this format much easier to read than other editions of the NRSV. Most of the editions that are on the market, today, have rather smallish font size, usually 8-point, so the Comfort print makes it far superior to other editions that are available

Cover and Binding

The edition that I am reviewing Is a black leathersoft, which is an imitation leather. Imitation leathers have come quite far thanks to Tyndale and Crossway and Zondervan has really capitalized on the product evolution to bring us an excellent cover. I would estimate that this cover will last probably 10 years without needing a re-bind. It is a very convincing imitation leather and many will not even know that it is an imitation unless you tell them.

The Binding is sewn, which is a major step up in quality for Zondervan as many of their Bibles have an adhesive binding. The sewn binding allows this Bible to lay flat at any section of the Bible. It also makes the Bible flexible enough to be held one handed.

Format/Page Layout and Paper

We are given a double column paragraph format in a text only style. Translator’s footnotes have been placed at the bottom of the page  for easy access. The text-only format clearly marks this out as a reading Bible as opposed to a study-reference edition.

The paper is soft white but fairly opaque. There is very minimal see through or ghosting as it is commonly called. Outside in direct sunlight there is a bit of glare but in normal lighting you don’t have this issue. The paper is heavy enough that you will be able to mark the text; if you do mark I recommend a colored pencil or ball point pen.

As a Teaching Bible

Overall, if NRSV is your translation of choice, this is the Bible you want to take into your pulpit. It is a black letter text with no distractions on the page. Verse numbers are well marked out  for you to have an easy time finding your place in the text.

The Thin-line format is about 1-inch thick so that it will fit nicely in most laptop bags or briefcases.

Final Thoughts

I really appreciate this edition. I like to reference the NRSV Old Testament and this edition is my favorite NRSV that is available. I would like to see this arrive in the Premier Collection butt I am not sure how practical that might be for Zondervan as I am not sure how many use the NRSV as the main Bible.

This is the best edition of the NRSV currently available. If NRSV is your translation of choice, this is the Bible you need to own.

 

 

 

 

 

Some Musings on the King James Bible

Some Musings on the King James Bible

Perhaps one of the most elegant and majestic works of art in the English speaking world is the King James Version (hereafter KJV) of the Bible, which celebrated its 400th anniversary in the not too distant past. In the last 60 or so years, though, the KJV has become somewhat of a stumbling block due to the rise of a position suggesting that the KJV is the only “real/true” English translation of the Bible. This position is horribly incorrect but it is not my intention to refute that position in this article. Rather I wanted to share some of the reasons why I love the KJV and, even though it will not be a main translation for my, why it will always have a place in my studies.

  1. When I learned to read, I learned using my grandmother’s large print KJV Bible. You could say that the KJV played a foundational role in my education.
  2. Reading the KJV can, at times, feel more reverent. All too often in out fast paces culture, we rush through our devotions just so we can check off a box on the To-Do List. When reading the KJV, the Elizabethan English’s formal sound reminds us that we need to pause to not only reverence the Lord God but also reverence the Scriptures through which He has elected to make Himself known.
  3. The KJV forces a slow down, at least in my case. Since I do not usually read the KJV aloud, i find myself needing to slow down, sometimes adding additional pauses,  and take my time to get trhough the text. This slow down also allows for reflection on the text itself. Simple reflection on the Scripture can, at times, bring a new appreciation for the message that the Holy Spirit speaks throught he words of Scripture.
  4. KJV is reliably conservative. When you step into the pulpit and open a KJV, there is usually little question as to whether or not you have a high view of the Scripture.

These are just a few of the reasons why I thoroughly love and enjoy the KJV. In 32 years, while owning multiple translations of the Bible, there has never been a time when I have not had a King James Bible in my possession . In all of my lesson prep, I camp-are the translation from which I will preach with the KJV. It has become like consulting a wise old friend on the text of the Scripture.

Some of you, dear readers, have not had much experience with the King James Bible; I would encourage you to rectify that. If nothing else, it should give you a new appreciation for the beauty and majesty of the Bible.

Returning to the Uniform Series

Returning to the Uniform Series

This past year, our ministry has had some growing pains as we have sought the Lord for direction as to how best to serve Him and His children. Our goal, as it should be for any ministry, is to provide you with resources to understand the Scripture (Scripture is the truth referenced in the Truth portion of our name) so that you might have a vital and growing relationship with the God who redeemed you from your sin and unto yourself. Over the course of the last two and a half months, during a recovery from surgery, it became necessary to further dig into what resources we are offering and how we are ministering to you.

One tool which I keep returning to is the material from Standard Lesson, material which makes up part of what is called the Uniform Series. I keep returning to this material because it forces me to remain simple, but not simplistic, and easy to understand. It does this because it is designed to be deployed across the entire spectrum of your church, cradle to grave as it were, so that the entire fellowship is uniform (go figure) in the text being studied for the week.

Picking up with that last thought, I want to explain why I am returning to the Uniform Series and how and why it should be able to help you.

  1. The Uniform Series is designed for use across the entire Church; every grade level discusses the same text for the week and learns good theology while they go. Naturally, it is adaptable based on the level of material so that you are going more in-depth with your high school students or adults than you would with your 1st graders. For some reason, it had never dawned on me, until discussing with a friend back east that his church was doing a series on a particular book but his children were hearing the same stories that they had heard in kindergarten, 1st grade, and now 2nd grade and a realized that a uniformity of text across your church not only ensures that you learn the whole Bible but it also translates into family worship.
  2. The Uniform Series is ideal for family worship. If everyone has studied the same text, you can return to it in your family worship time. You will be able to utilize it to go deeper in your study, exploring related topics or go back and address questions that members of your household have. You’re able to gather your resources and explore the text in whole new ways as the Spirit leads you.
  3. The Uniform Series is used globally. Chances are, at some point during the year you will travel and many churches across the globe follow the parent of the Uniform Series, the International Sunday School Lesson Series. In so doing we are able to ensure that Christians still get a steady diet of the Word of God even if we are travelling.
  4. As a bi-vocational minister, the Uniform Series helps to serve as a set of guiderails from week to week. The lesson plans are laid out a year in advance so that you know exactly what you are teaching on any given Sunday and then it is simply a matter of spending time in preparation.

 

I also want to address an objection or two…

Objection 1: The Standard Lesson Commentary eliminates the need to do the work of preparing a lesson. Yes and no. There is sufficient material provided so that if a person has never taught a Bible study before, they will be able to step into the role quickly and have sufficient material for a basic understanding of the text. No true pastor would take a pre-packaged lesson and make it his entire sermon but it does make for a solid platform upon which to build a lesson.

Objection 2: The Uniform Series is not used by my denomination. I suppose that could be a problem if your main focus is what is happening at denominational headquarters. IF your main concern is helping your people understand the Word of God, this objection is irrelevant.

Objection 3: We do not use KJV or NIV. Ok. Since you should not be simply opening the annual commentary and reading to your audience, you can adapt the text to your translation of choice, it’s all a matter of doing the appropriate work.

Objection 4 (This is the one I hear most so I am addressing it last): The Uniform series does not go straight through the Bible book by book and verse by verse. Again, yes and no. The Uniform Series does not go directly through a single book in a verse by verse manner. It does cover all 66 books across the six year cycle and you can learn more about that on the Standard Lesson website. There is verse by verse study in each section of the particular book being taught but if you are looking, for example, to pick up 1 Thessalonians and go through every chapter one at a time, this is not the format that you want to use.

Ultimately, the Uniform Series will not be the only lessons offered through our ministry but they will provide a core for us as we grow together.

Until next time, grace to you.

Why 2 Translations

Why 2 Translations

On Sundays, you will always hear the main sermon text in 2 English Translations, one that is essentially literal or word-based and one that is thought for thought or meaning based. I am very frequently aske why we do this.

I use an essentially literal text to be as close to word for word from the original languages as possible. Sometimes we do word studies and these stem from the literal translation. I follow up with a meaning based translation to help us get as close as possible to how the original audience would have heard and understood the text.

The meaning based translation is a critical component of our lesson prep for one major reason: we are looking for Original Authorial Intent; what did the Holy Spirit, by way of the human author, intend to communicate to the audience and what was the expected response? We need to always remember that when we come to a text, a response is expected: repentance, praise, or telling others and a meaning based translation helps us get to that faster.

Ultimately, my goal is two-fold: I want you to understand the text better and I want you to help others understand the text better as well.

Until next time…

Grace to you

ESV Gospel Transformation Study Bible Review

ESV Gospel Transformation Study Bible Review

 

Crossway has updated one of their most unique products, the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible, making in a full-fledged study Bible and sent us a copy of the new version for review. (This Bible was sent free of charge in exchange for an honest review.)

 

From Crossway

Product Description

Discover how the truths of God’s Word apply to your daily life with the ESV Gospel Transformation Study Bible. This Bible provides informative book introductions, application-centered study notes, and a series of all-new articles by a team of over 50 pastors and scholars. Let the ESV Gospel Transformation Study Bible challenge you to think about how the timeless truths of the gospel apply to your life today.

 

Features Include:

  • Informative book introductions
  • Gospel-centered study notes
  • New content includes 5 articles on topics such as The Relationship Between the Old and New Testaments, The Gospel in the Old Testament, The Covenants, and more.
  • Concordance
  • Topical Index
  • 8 Full-Color Maps
  • 80,000 cross-references
  • Ribbon marker
  • Smyth-sewn binding
  • 9-point Bible text, 8-point study notes

Based on the original Gospel Transformation Bible released in 2013. Updates include design, typesetting, and new articles.

 

In this review we are going to look at both the physical form of the book and the content of the helps. Let’s begin

 

Page Layout

Crossway has developed a signature look by putting nearly all of their new Bibles into a single column paragraph format for the actual Scripture text. As was explained to me, this is done so that we have a more natural reading experience; I do agree that it does feel more like reading any other book. The study notes are in a double column format at the bottom of the page. A column of cross-references can be found in the gutter area. There are subject headings provided as well. Overall, the layout feels kind of like a textbook.

 

Paper and Font

Crossway tends to use Thinopaque paper and that seems to be the case here as well. I would guess maybe 32-34GSM on the paper. Use of ball point pens or colored pencils for underlining and annotations should be no issue.

 

We have Crossway’s usual Lexicon font for easy readability. The text of Scripture is in a 9-point font with the study notes being in an 8-point font.

 

Helps

 

5 Articles

There are 5 articles provided as study helps.

  • Biblical Theology
  • Covenants
  • The Gospel in the Old Testament
  • The Gospel in the New Testament
  • The Relation of the Old Testament to the New Testament

 

These articles are very helpful and I want to like them. The problem is that they perpetuate the fiction that Covenant Theology is the only/most accurate way to view the Scriptures which is incorrect.

 

Study Notes

There are around 10,000 study notes which are designed to showcase the message of Gospel and its life-changing power.

 

Topical Index plus Concordance

The Topical Index is keyed to subjects that are addressed in the study notes while the concordance is Crossway’s typical ESV Concordance. It is not an exhaustive concordance but will certainly prove useful for in-depth study.

 

Overall Impression

The ESV Gospel Transformation Study Bible is a worthy choice for anyone wanting to get a better understanding of how the Gospel message is woven throughout the Bible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The NKJV Open Bible Review

The NKJV Open Bible Review

2019 sees the relaunch of what the late Dr. Jerry Falwell called the best study-reference Bible in existence, the Open Bible. The Open Bible has been a perennial favorite for me and I think it is one that you will enjoy it as well. 

Disclaimer:  Thomas Nelson sent two copies, one brown imitation leather and one black imitation leather free of charge in exchange for an honest review. My opinions are my own.

Some information from Thomas Nelson

Product Description

The Open Bible (NKJV) is a great way to explore Scripture with the tools and helpful information that you need to understand it better. It features an easy-to-use topical index of over 8,000 names, places, concepts, events and doctrines. It also includes book introductions and outlines to with information on the historical context and themes of each book in the Bible. The Open Bible (NKJV) is sure to help you glean more from God’s Word.

Features include:

  • Topical index with 8,000 plus names, places, concepts, events, and doctrines
  • Book introductions and outlines provide historical context and themes of each book in the Bible
  • References include both verse and page number
  • Visual Survey of the Bible
  • 9-point print size

 

Layout

We will start with the biggest change first…The layout has always been a double column verse by verse format and that has not changed. What has changed, though, is the referencing. They are now center column and feature all 72,000 of Nelson’s references. Candidly, I don’t like the new format. The end of verse references that we had before were, to me, quite sufficient. I find that the new format looks just a little busy for my taste.

 

Cover, Ribbons and Binding

I’m reviewing the imitation leather ones but there are also genuine leather and hardcover versions available as well. The binding appears to be sewn as the Bible does not have any issues lying flat where I open it. There is some cockling (that popcorn sound) when you open the book. The cockling sound is a little irritating but it is not overly terrible. We receive two ribbon markers for your daily OT and NT reading.

Font

We have Nelson’s Comfort Print series in 9-point font. The Open Bible is a red-letter edition and the red is really well done. Different publishers will often have trouble with the red lettering but Nelson executed quite nicely; The red letters are deep and rich.  Overall the font is very easy to read.

 

Biblical Cyclopedic Index

This is the standout feature of the Open Bible but it has been renamed for 2019 and is now called the Topical Index. There are 8000 entries cataloguing various topics in scripture. I have always found this to be most useful. It is very similar to the indexing that Kirkbride does with the Thompson but its keyed to the Nelson Referencing System.

 

Paper

The paper is surprising. It is fairly heavy (maybe 30-34 gsms) and quite opaque. This would work really well with colored pencils or with very fine tipped liquid highlighters.

 

Overall Thoughts

The Open Bible is a Bible which I have enjoyed regularly in the past. Overall it will be something I will continue to enjoy. I confess that I do not care for the center column references but overall it is a very worthwhile Bible to own.