I love books! I delight in their look, feel and smell. Each new book is not only a reading pleasure but a tactile one as well. Since becoming a Christian, Bibles now rank at the top of my favorites. Joyfully, Bibles come in all manner of sizes, shapes, covers and styles. My copies are dominating my book shelves. And just when I assumed I would not be adding to my collection in the near future, I am offered a free HCSB Illustrator’s Notetaking Bible in return for an unbiased review. Imagine a very broad smile across my face! Out of the blue comes a unique, well-planned Bible with a modern translation, artwork for those who love coloring in designs and lined sections throughout the Bible for taking notes. My copy is a Tan, bonded leather one, easy to carry.
In case you were not aware, Holman Bible Publishers are the oldest Bible publishers in America! Surprised? I was. Not only that, they are also part of LifeWay Christian Stores who are their publishers.
The HCSB Notetaking Bible begins with “God’s Plan of Salvation” on the first page, clearly showing their vision for redemption of all readers. Throughout the Bible, which is printed on cream colored pages, the reader will find alternating columns of designs for coloring and lined spaces for taking notes. Either this will appeal to you or not. However, many people will be attracted to the clever designs and various font-verses that need colored pens or pencils to fill them in. As for the notetaking columns, they are perfect for ideas, highlights and reference points. Although the font is 8 point, it is cleanly laid out and easy to read.
For continuity, Holman has included bold-faced section headings from Genesis to Revelation. These headings provide continuity for the reader which, in some cases, may help clarify the message of that section. Following Revelation is a Daily Bible Reading Plan laid out by weeks. The plan alternates back and forth from the Old to New Testaments. To help remember what you’ve read, there are check boxes to mark.
Surprisingly, the HCSB Notetaking Bible did not leave out a Concordance, which many Bible readers consider essential. Lastly, the publishers have included a few beautifully designed Bible maps which divide equally between the Old and New Testaments.
Coming in two colors, black and tan, I highly recommend this Bible for anyone who can’t resist taking notes and/or coloring in their Bibles but don’t want to carry around a heavy cumbersome version which is better suited for the desk at home.
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” Matthew 7:1
I consider myself a non-judgmental person, willing to give everyone the benefit of the doubt…in most cases. So, patting myself on the back, I leave my home to run errands, meet with friends and head to the library. Willing to share the Lord or offer help to people, I confidently amble onwards. Parking the car I walk toward the library as I see several teens with shaggy hair and pants, spitting on the sidewalk, talking loudly and either ignoring or sneering at me.
“Do you know Jesus?” I say. No. I did not say that or anything close to it. As a matter of fact, I did not speak but gave them a cold (or worse, judgmental) stare as I passed by, clearly showing my irritation with them!
Once inside, I was friendly and chatty with the person checking out my books and DVD’s (Yes, David is really a nice man. So friendly and well versed.)
Back in my car it hit me. The Holy Spirit opened my eyes and I saw how superficial my friendliness and congeniality were, how judgmental I was; willing to make judgments on people without knowing them or their life. I was not, as Jesus commands, loving them. Instead, I was condemning them. My thoughts were not about their immortal souls or their eternal destination. My attitude was not Christ-like…not even a little (Luke 6:32-35). Oh Lord, thank you for your forgiveness, for giving me a clean slate as I cry out in repentance.
Luke 6:37-38 “Don’t judge, and you won’t be judged. Don’t condemn, and you won’t be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good portion—packed down, firmly shaken, and overflowing—will fall into your lap. The portion you give will determine the portion you receive in return.” See Matt. 6:14 on forgiveness.
Romans 14:10-13 “So why do you condemn another believer? Why do you look down on another believer? Remember, we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For the Scriptures say, ‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bend to me, and every tongue will confess and give praise to God.’ See Isaiah 45:23
1Corinthians 4:5 “So don’t make judgments about anyone ahead of time—before the Lord returns. For he will bring our darkest secrets to light and will reveal our private motives. Then God will give to each one whatever praise is due.”
James 4:11-12 “Don’t speak evil against each other, dear brothers and sisters. If you criticize and judge each other, then you are criticizing and judging God’s law. But your job is to obey the law, not to judge whether it applies to you. God alone, who gave the law, is the Judge. He alone has the power to save or to destroy. So what right do you have to judge your neighbor?”
Simply put: Who am I to judge? Judging is God’s job and He will take care of it. My job is to love my neighbor and help those in need. I am also commanded to forgive…everyone! See Matthew 6:14-15
“It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). As Scripture testifies, our lives here on earth are like grass (see Psalm 102:11). One day we’re here, growing and thriving, and the next day we’re fading away with the season. We’re like the vapor of breath we see on a frosty day: here one moment and gone the next. And I’m convinced that just one moment into eternity, we’ll realize how unimportant and fleeting our present fears and trials have been. We’ll also see just how present the Lord has been with us the whole time, watching over us with His saving and keeping power.
I bring you good news—glorious news—that will help combat all the bad news you’ve been hearing. I believe this news will keep your heart and spirit peaceful, even joyful, through all that’s coming upon the earth. Here is that good news:
If you have repented of any and all sins and you are trusting Jesus—believing in His cleansing blood, submitting daily to His lordship—you’re going to stand before His throne without fault or fear. In fact, you’re going to be acknowledged before everyone present—every human, every angel, every demon in hell—as the precious Bride of Christ.
You will not have to face even a single sin against you, nor be exposed for any failure, but you will be able to stand without blemish.
Not a single sin of yours will be mentioned. Instead, only your good works—including your faith in Jesus Christ—will be expressed to the multitudes gathered.
In our fast-paced, electronically stimulated world, we seldom see a Bible story book that will stimulate and capture the imagination of children as well as adults. We’ve seen one now from B&H Publishing Group. The Big Picture Interactive 52-Week Bible Story Devotional stands out as a gem in the publishing industry.
Not only is the book beautiful and filled with incredible illustrations and well-written and thought provoking stories but…with each new story a QR code is included and various icons too. B&H has included a free app for android and iPhones to facilitate scanning the codes and activating the icons. Even young children find such procedures simple today.
These codes lead the reader to a video of the story for that day. These videos are amazing! A narrator guides the viewer as the characters play it out. The costumes, artwork and camerawork are all excellent. They are compelling while accurately based on the Bible. Children will be enthralled and so will adults. I was.
Who are church elders? – June 2, 2016
My wife and I were new to the area and looking for a church. We happened on one of medium size and lots of friendly people at first glance. After a few weeks, we were having lunch with one of the established couples. They were sharing the many attributes of their church including the fact they had Elder Couples! I was mid-drink but maintained my composure.
“Perhaps you can explain to us what an Elder Couple is, folks,” I asked, very curious.
“Well, it’s simple,” the wife said. “Instead of just men taking the positions of elders, in our church we select married couples as elders. That way the women can minister to women and men with men. You have probably noticed that after the service, the couples wait up front for counseling and prayer.”
“What brought this about?” I asked.
“We like to think of our church as a forward thinking, non-discriminatory church,” the husband replied. “I’m sure you agree that many churches don’t allow women many opportunities to reveal their gifts during the services. Our wives got together and thought of the idea. Then they asked for a special meeting with the Pastor and elders. At first the men balked,” he grinned sheepishly but as the women stood their ground we ultimately gave in their reasoning. I’ve got to say Pastor Bob held out to the last before he finally caved.”
“Oh Bill, you make it sound like we beat you guys up to get our way,” Susie said, rubbing Bill’s hand on the table. Bill reddened and fumbled with his silverware.
My wife looked at me with that special look husbands and wives have. This look said, “You know you have to address this issue.” So I did.
I finished my coffee and then said to Bill and Susie, “Do you both believe that the Bible is the absolute word of God?”
“Absolutely,” they replied together.
“Then how can you agree to change the Bible to go along with your church’s plans? The Bible says nothing about elder couples. Quite the contrary, the instructions say, Elder, singular. And that “he” is assigned specific duties. Let’s read an example in 1 Timothy 3:1-7
“It is a true statement that anyone whose goal is to serve as an elder has his heart set on a good work. An elder must be such a good man that no one can rightly criticize him. He must be faithful to his wife. He must have self-control and be wise. He must be respected by others. He must be ready to help people by welcoming them into his home. He must be a good teacher. He must not drink too much, and he must not be someone who likes to fight. He must be gentle and peaceful. He must not be someone who loves money. He must be a good leader of his own family. This means that his children obey him with full respect. If a man does not know how to lead his own family, he will not be able to take care of God’s church.
An elder must not be a new believer. It might make him too proud of himself. Then he would be condemned for his pride the same as the devil was. An elder must also have the respect of people who are not part of the church. Then he will not be criticized by others and be caught in the devil’s trap.”
The silence was palpable. Bill and Susie wished the ground would open up and swallow them. “Uh, well. . .” Bill muttered.
“Listen folks, we have to go now so you two can think this over together and look up the verses in the Bible to satisfy yourselves what God says regarding this issue. Whether or not your church chooses to grapple with this deviation is up to them. As for me and my wife, we will not return to your church. We find it rather scary to see how easily your leaders twisted God’s Word to satisfy a few people. Thanks for lunch.
We know that all that happens to us is working for our good if we love God ~Rom. 8:28
Many days we struggle with our Christian behavior and attitude. Am I measuring up to God’s standard today? Did I blow it with my rude, selfish attitude with my next-door-neighbor last night? And what about my anger with my best friend over something so petty, was I displaying God’s love?
Questions like these are all answered in the Bible. God knows our weaknesses, He created us! He established our salvation through the sacrifice of His own Son and then filled all Christians with the Holy Spirit, a direct link to Almighty God.
In the eighth chapter of the Book of Romans, as seen below, God has given us incredible hope and assurance of His love and support no matter the circumstance. Not only that but He has also reminded us that NOTHING will ever separate us from His love!
Romans 8:28-39 ~And we know that all that happens to us is working for our good if we love God and are fitting into his plans.
29 For from the very beginning God decided that those who came to him—and all along he knew who would—should become like his Son, so that his Son would be the First, with many brothers. 30 And having chosen us, he called us to come to him; and when we came, he declared us “not guilty,” filled us with Christ’s goodness, gave us right standing with himself, and promised us his glory.
31 What can we ever say to such wonderful things as these? If God is on our side, who can ever be against us? 32 Since he did not spare even his own Son for us but gave him up for us all, won’t he also surely give us everything else?
33 Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? Will God? No! He is the one who has forgiven us and given us right standing with himself.
34 Who then will condemn us? Will Christ? No! For he is the one who died for us and came back to life again for us and is sitting at the place of highest honor next to God, pleading for us there in heaven.
35 Who then can ever keep Christ’s love from us? When we have trouble or calamity, when we are hunted down or destroyed, is it because he doesn’t love us anymore? And if we are hungry or penniless or in danger or threatened with death, has God deserted us?
36 No, for the Scriptures tell us that for his sake we must be ready to face death at every moment of the day—we are like sheep awaiting slaughter;37 but despite all this, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ who loved us enough to die for us. 38 For I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from his love. Death can’t, and life can’t. The angels won’t, and all the powers of hell itself cannot keep God’s love away. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, 39 or where we are—high above the sky, or in the deepest ocean—nothing will ever be able to separate us from the love of God demonstrated by our Lord Jesus Christ when he died for us.
We must engrave these words of God on our minds. Call upon them during times of fear, depression, anxiety, frustration, doubt and failure. God’s words never fail or lose their power.
Proverbs 30:5 ~Every word of God is flawless; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.
Psalms 12:6 ~And the words of the Lord are flawless, like silver refined in a furnace. . .purified seven times.
Men are God’s method. The church is looking for better methods; God is looking for better men. . . . What the church needs today is not more machinery or better, not new organizations, not more methods, but men whom the Holy Ghost can use—men of prayer, men mighty in prayer. The Holy Ghost does not come on machinery, but on men. He does not anoint plans, but men—men of prayer . . . The training of the Twelve was the great, difficult and enduring work of Christ. . . . It is not great talents or great learning or great preachers that God needs, but men great in holiness, great in faith, great in love, great in fidelity, great for God—men always preaching by holy sermons in the pulpit, by holy lives out of it. These can mold a generation for God.
~E. M. Bounds