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Archive for August, 2014

The Biblical Foundation for Church Partnerships

guest post

This is a guest post by Chris Bruno. He is the coauthor (with Matt Dirks) of Churches Partnering Together: Biblical Strategies for Fellowship, Evangelism, and Compassion.


A Challenging Prospect

Every Christian understands that the world will know we are Christ’s disciples by our love, so you probably have a desire to display Christ’s love by connecting with other churches in your community. So you plan a park cleanup day together. Or a pastors prayer gathering. Maybe, if you’re daring, a joint Easter sunrise service. But to go beyond that, into long-term committed partnership? There are a hundred reasons why that wouldn’t work.

You have a limited amount of time, resources, and people in your church. Isn’t it possible to overcommit these God-given gifts by deploying them in ways God doesn’t intend? Your church has a unique theological and philosophical identity. What if you wake up and find yourself unequally yoked to another church that believes and behaves differently? You have a deep desire to reach people and influence them to see God the way you see him. Won’t there be people who are reached by your partnership ministry who decide to go to other churches or denominations? After all, you’re only half-joking when you call other churches “the competition.”

Learning from Paul

To answer those questions, we need to start by looking at Paul’s missionary strategies and practices. Once he had evangelized a city, established a Christian community, strengthened the saints in the church, and raised up leaders to guide the church, he called the church toward partnership in God’s greater kingdom. And there was one major task he recruited each of the churches he planted to carry out: collecting money for the poor in Jerusalem.

After spending ten years planting churches, strengthening churches, connecting churches, and collecting from churches, Paul finally decided it was time to deliver the big gift. This obviously wasn’t an impulsive effort. He traveled one thousand miles to take the collection to the church in Jerusalem (Acts 21:17–20; 24:17), bringing with him representatives from at least three of the four regions where he had planted churches. The saints in Jerusalem received the gift with great joy and gratitude, but as Paul expected, he was arrested by unbelieving Jews soon after the gift was delivered.

What drove Paul to strive and strain toward a partnership of wildly different churches? What motivated him to risk his life delivering their gift? There are at least three key reasons that propelled Paul, and these still inspire most partnerships today:

1. Compassion

When Paul wrote to the Galatians, possibly with the goal of recruiting them into the partnership, he said, “As we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10). Compassion toward the poor and suffering is natural for people who have experienced Gods compassion. As Paul said to the Corinthians, “[God] comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Cor. 1:4).

2. Evangelism

When Paul delivered the Jerusalem collection, there’s a strong possibility that he was blessing not only needy Christians but also needy unbelievers. After he was arrested in Jerusalem, he testified before the Roman governor, Felix, and said: “I came to bring alms to my nation and to present offerings. While I was doing this, they found me purified in the temple, without any crowd or tumult” (Acts 24:17–18). Paul may have given most of the collection to the church in Jerusalem, but he probably gave a portion of it to the temple for distribution to needy unbelieving Jews. Why did he do this? “Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for [the Jews] is that they may be saved” (Rom. 10:1).

3. Fellowship and Unity

When Paul described the Jerusalem collection, he used many words. Service. Gift. Privilege. But one of the most powerful is the Greek word koinonia (Rom. 15:26). Literally meaning “sharing,” this word is often translated as “fellowship.” Paul saw the collection as a unique way to draw churches together and display the unity of the Spirit.

This wasn’t natural, especially in the racially charged church of the first century. Paul continually challenged churches to pursue gospel unity among all Christians, both Jew and Gentile (Galatians 3; Ephesians 2), but the Jerusalem collection partnership was a powerfully tangible demonstration of how the gospel transcends race, culture, and tradition. Paul made this purpose clear: “For if the Gentiles have come to share in [the Jews’] spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material blessings” (Rom. 15:27).

And not only did the collection unite Gentiles and Jews, it also bonded Gentile churches to one another. When Paul wrote to the Corinthian church about the collection, he told the story of the churches in Macedonia: “For in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord” (2 Cor. 8:2–3). This “reminded the members of these congregations that they were partners in the gospel with one another, no less than with the poor among the saints in Jerusalem.”When churches work side by side with one another, they are reminded of their union with one another in Christ.

In thousands of cities across the globe, churches large and small haven’t considered the amazing things God could do through them in partnership with others. He used kingdom churches to turn the first-century world upside down (Acts 17:6).

What will he do in the twenty-first?


Chris Bruno (PhD, Wheaton College) is the executive director of the Antioch School Hawai‘i and pastor for discipleship and training at Harbor Church. He spends most of his time leading a church partnership for theological education and church planting. He has written numerous articles and reviews and is the author of The Whole Story of the Bible in 16 Verses and the coauthor (with Matt Dirks) of Churches Partnering Together.

 

Looking for a Large Print Bible?

ESV Bible headerFor many of us, a major concern when choosing a Bible is the size of the text. Regardless of age, having a text size and layout that’s easy on the eyes can vastly improve our overall Bible reading experience.

To learn more about what it takes to design and produce a large print Bible, I sat down with Brian Martin (Bible Production Manager) and A.J. Penney (Bible Typesetting Manager), both members of Crossway’s Bible Production team. Here is what Brian and A.J. had to say about the main goals for producing a large print edition and also the major challenges to the process:

Goals for a Large Print Edition:

We want to make the edition as helpful as possible to those who need larger print while maintaining a reasonable size and cost. So, to put it simply, readable text and feasible cost are the main goals for a large print edition.

Challenges to Producing a Large Print Edition:

We typically face three main challenges:

1. Readability:

The challenge of Bible typesetting is to take a very long document (the full Bible text) and present it as a normal-sized book. Because of the vast amount of content, the book you end up with has encyclopedic font size and layout. This is not conducive to casual reading or in-depth study.

With many large print editions that are on the market today you’ll notice that the font looks squeezed, as if you took a picture of a normal Bible page and pushed in the sides. And often that’s exactly what happened: as a solution to the encyclopedic font size and layout, a normal Bible has been enlarged and squished to fit on the page. The overall result is a crowded layout.

Therefore, the number that is reported as the font size doesn’t necessarily tell you whether a Bible is easier to read. Rather, a good large print Bible’s typesetting is intentionally designed to be large print, as opposed to being a “blow up” of a normal Bible.

2. Size:

It is almost always necessary to sacrifice portability. For example, there are a lot of variations on large print-wide margin-compact Bibles that are physically possible, but while some readers would be willing to carry around an extremely heavy Bible if it meant 12pt font and generous wide margins, this isn’t the ideal edition for the majority of people. (Have you ever seen someone toting their 10-pound personal ESV Pulpit Bible to church?) For us to offer such limited specialty editions, people would have to pay four to five times what they are accustomed to paying for Bibles. So it’s likely that the size, weight, and price of the edition would deter people from purchasing such an edition.

3. Cost:

Another challenge is that it’s impossible to make a large print edition that doesn’t cost a lot more than the average edition. A large print Bible is usually going to be larger in size and have a higher page count. The extra cost accumulates quickly not only from using more paper, but also printing smaller quantities than a normal Bible. This means that we’re always trying to find the right balance. We truly want it to be easier to read but, at the same time, use space economically on the page so that it isn’t excessively lengthy or large. We want the paper to have a high opacity, but more opacity means thicker paper, and a bulkier book block. Increasing trim size and page count also increase expense and will mean a higher retail price. It is a balancing act.

Thank you, Brian and A.J., for giving us a glimpse of the complexities of Bible production!


ESV Large Print Editions:

 

Large Print Personal Size Bible

Actual Type Size:

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  • 12-point type
  • 1,952 pages

 

ESV Study Bible, Large Print

Actual Type Size:

original_LPStudyBible_TypeSample

  • 11-point type
  • 3,008 pages

 

Large Print Thinline Reference Bible

Actual Type Size:

original_LargePrintThinline_TypeSample

  • 10.5-point type
  • 1,248 pages

 

Large Print Compact Bible

Actual Type Size:

original_LargePrintCompact_TypeSample

  • 8-point type
  • 1,376 pages

 

Large Print Bible

Actual Type Size:

original_LargePrint_TypeSample

  • 12.5-point type
  • 1,408 pages

 

Giant Print Bible

Actual Type Size:

original_GiantPrint TypeSample

  • 14-point type
  • 2,000 pages

 

August 28, 2014 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Bible News | Author: Lizzy Jeffers @ 8:44 am | 0 Comments »

Midweek Roundup – 8/27/14

Each Wednesday we share some recent links that we found informative, insightful, or helpful. These are often related to Crossway books, Bibles, or authors—but not always. We hope this list is an interesting and encouraging break for the middle of your week.


1. Gloria Furman on looking for bread in all the wrong places

Sadly, we can even mindlessly feed junk food to our soul. A lot of times we hardly ever notice that we’re doing this until a friend mercifully points it out. Those can be awkward conversations, but we all need people in our life who are willing to step into the awkward fray and bring out Isaiah 55:2 for our consideration. Friend, why are you spending your money on things that aren’t bread, and working for things that don’t satisfy? Eat what is good instead!

2. Reformation21 reviews Calvin on the Christian Life by Michael Horton

The latest volume in the series, Calvin on the Christian Life, is not, however, a volume to induce guilt or despair but rather a sparkling presentation of the world as the theater of God’s glory, gathered worship as a celestial theater of grace, and the shape our lives must take when performed on these stages (which overlap but are not identical). This is a book to inspire and encourage, and it is one of the finest introductions to Calvin I have read, one to recommend to those in the early stages of discovering the Genevan Reformer.

3. Kevin DeYoung offers four theses on suicide

1. The subject of suicide should be approached sensitively and compassionately.

We need to know the time and the place. This is a blog post addressed to a general audience, so I don’t believe it’s insensitive to step back and parse out “four theses” on suicide. But I would not present four points like this to someone mourning the death of a friend or to someone contemplating suicide. Those situations call for hugs, tears, questions, listening, personal contact, and prayer–all things that are impossible or nearly impossible in a general blog post.

4. Sam Storms on glorifying God in your suffering

If you rejoice in suffering for his sake, you show that he is gloriously more valuable than the pleasures and approval of man. If you do good to your persecutors instead of retaliating, you show that he is gloriously sufficient to satisfy your longings. The one all-consuming desire of true Christians is that Christ be glorified in their bodies whether by life or death.

The greatest way to show that someone satisfies your heart is to keep on rejoicing in them when all other supports for your satisfaction are falling away. When you keep rejoicing in God in the midst of suffering, it shows that God, and not other things, is the great source of your joy.

5. Jared Wilson on rainbows

The rainbow, then, is a sign of God’s promise that he has hung up his bow, and it’s a reminder to himself of his grace toward the earth, and in the same way, the cross is a sign of God’s promise that he has hung his Son up to die and it’s a reminder of his grace toward you that because Christ has taken the wrath, the wrath is taken. It is over, done, finished, removed, satisfied, propitiated.

At the cross of Christ, the wrath of God owed to sinners is absorbed, satisfied, set aside for all eternity. Dead and done with. His anger is gone, his love remains and it endures. The lovingkindness of our Lord is everlasting. The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies are new every morning.

August 27, 2014 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Book News,Midweek Roundup,News | Author: Matt Tully @ 8:15 am | 0 Comments »

5 Things Jonathan Edwards Teaches Us about the Christian Life

guest post

This is a guest post by Dane Ortlund. He is the author of Edwards on the Christian Life: Alive to the Beauty of God.


Jonathan Edwards for the Rest of Us

For many of us, Jonathan Edwards is a skinny white guy who never smiled, except when talking about hell. If we know anything more, it’s:

  • that he wrote a lot of really dense books
  • that he talked a lot about the glory of God
  • that he was part of the Great Awakening
  • that John Piper likes him a lot

And that’s about it.

But there are riches to be mined in Jonathan Edwards far beyond what you may have been exposed to. Reading Jonathan Edwards is not for historians and professors mainly, but for the rest of us.

Here are five things Edwards teaches us about the Christian life—your Christian life.

1. If you’re a Christian, you don’t realize how radically different and freshly empowered you now are.

When sinners repent and believe for the first time, it often feels as if nothing much has happened, and it often looks as if nothing much has happened. Our wrinkles don’t go away. Our Myers-Briggs personality profile doesn’t change. Our IQ isn’t improved. Our driver’s license photo looks the same after conversion as before, just a few years older and grayer.

Similarly, a foreigner who has just attained citizenship in their country of residence will not feel or look much different, upon receiving formal declaration of citizenship. Yet they now belong to an entirely new nation. More than this, they now have all the rights and privileges that belong to citizens of that nation.

Edwards teaches us that the quiet, seemingly innocuous change that takes place in the new birth is of eternal—even cosmic—significance. A fallen sinner has just become an invincible heir of the universe. The Holy Spirit has just taken up permanent residence in the temple of this soul. In new birth, Edwards writes, the Christian “is a new creature, he is just as if he were not the same, but were born again, created over a second time.”

For a Christian to wallow in sin and misery is for a butterfly to crawl miserably along the branch as if it were still a caterpillar.

2. Even if you’re a Christian, you don’t realize how radically fallen and blindly dysfunctional you remain.

If we understate the positive change in new birth, we also tend to understate the fallenness that remains. But Edwards knew of the strange dysfunctions that remain among all of us, including true believers. He saw it in himself.

Edwards spoke frequently, for example, of the lurking dangers of pride: “It is a sin that has, as it were, many lives. If you kill it, it will live still. If you suppress it in one shape, it rises in another. If you think it is all gone, it is there still. Like the coats of an onion, if you pull one form of it off, there is another underneath.”

We often don’t feel the weight of our sin. Why? Because of our sin. The disease is itself what prevents us from detecting the disease.

How do we get out? One answer is: read Jonathan Edwards. His sermons will do wonders to re-sharpen your blunted conscience and re-sensitize your heart to its fallenness.

3. Authentic discipleship to Jesus Christ calms and gentle-izes (not radicalizes and excites) Christians.

Edwards is famous for his hellfire sermons, but it is striking to trace the evolution of his preaching over his three decades in the pulpit. Scholars point out that the hellfire sermons were more typical of the young Edwards and gradually decreased over his career, while other themes grew increasingly strong: the beauty of Christ, the loveliness of holiness, the calmness of a justified life, the gentleness of God.

A sermon that nicely sums up the core of Edwards’ ministry is “The Spirit of the True Saints Is a Spirit of Divine Love,” based on 1 John 4:16. There we read statements like:

  • “The very nature of God is love. If it should be enquired what God is, it might be answered that he is an infinite and incomprehensible fountain of love.”
  • “He who has divine love in him has a wellspring of true happiness that he carries about in his own breast, a fountain of sweetness, a spring of the water of life. There is a pleasant calmness and serenity and brightness in the soul that accompanies the exercises of this holy affection.”
  • “God in Christ allows such little, poor creatures as you are to come to him, to love communion with him, and to maintain a communication of love with him. You may go to God and tell him how you love him and open your heart and he will accept of it.”

That, more than anything else, is the pulsating core of Edwards’ ministry. Radical godliness is not obnoxious, showy, or boisterous. It is quiet, gentle, and serene.

4. Christianity is gain, and only gain.

Toward the end of his life, Edwards was kicked out of his church by a vote of ten to one—by professing Christians, upstanding church members. This, and other trials he encountered during his life, lead me to conclude that the lofty vision of Christian living that he has left to us is not naïve idealism. He felt the pain not only of rejection, but of rejection by close friends and family members who were part of his church. And yet, having his eyes opened to present pain did not close his eyes to future glory.

Why? Because we will have God, in heaven, unfiltered, forever. Consider the following breathtaking statement:

The glorious excellencies and beauty of God will be what will forever entertain the minds of the saints, and the love of God will be their everlasting feast. The redeemed will indeed enjoy other things; they will enjoy the angels, and will enjoy one another: but that which they shall enjoy in the angels, or in each other, or in any thing else whatsoever that will yield them delight and happiness, will be what shall be seen of God in them.

Christians leave nothing behind when they die. All is gain.

5. Revival is not what you think it is.

When evangelicals today hear the word “revival,” we generally picture tears, loudness, animated preaching, exuberance, humiliating confession of sin, and so on. Some of these things may be present in revival, perhaps, but Edwards came to long for revival because he saw that it is not a move from the ordinary to the extraordinary so much as a move from the sub-ordinary to the ordinary. We become human again. We breathe once more.

Edwards witnessed two revivals. One was local, contained to New England, in the mid-1730s. The other, six years later, was transatlantic and became known as the Great Awakening. Edwards made the fascinating observation that, in the first revival, God’s people tended “to talk with too much of an air of lightness, and something of laughter,” whereas in the second revival “they seem to have no disposition to it, but rejoice with a more solemn, reverential, humble joy.” The first revival’s joy was real but frothy. The second revival’s joy was deeper and more calm.

Simply put, revival isn’t weird. True revival is rehumanizing. It re-centralizes not the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit so much as the ordinary fruit of the Spirit.


Dane C. Ortlund (PhD, Wheaton College) is Senior Vice President for Bible Publishing at Crossway. He is the author of several books, including Edwards on the Christian Life: Alive to the Beauty of God, and serves as an editor for the Knowing the Bible study series. He lives with his wife, Stacey, and their four kids in Wheaton.

 

August 26, 2014 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Church History,Life / Doctrine,The Christian Life | Author: Matt Tully @ 8:15 am | 1 Comment »

Christ in All of Scripture – Nehemiah 9

 

Nehemiah 9

“Then the Levites, Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabneiah, Sherebiah, Hodiah, Shebaniah, and Pethahiah, said, ‘Stand up and bless the LORD your God from everlasting to everlasting. Blessed be your glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise.
You are the LORD, you alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and you preserve all of them; and the host of heaven worships you. You are the LORD, the God who chose Abram and brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans and gave him the name Abraham. You found his heart faithful before you, and made with him the covenant to give to his offspring the land of the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Amorite, the Perizzite, the Jebusite, and the Girgashite. And you have kept your promise, for you are righteous.’”


Nehemiah chapter 9 is the longest recorded prayer in the Bible. It confesses before a faithful God the history of a faithless people.

As Christ’s followers we are grafted into this family (Gal. 3:7–9), and we can share in this prayer for mercy from our covenant-keeping God. The prayer unfolds history as God’s acts of grace and mercy—from creation (Neh. 9:6), to the Abrahamic covenant (Neh. 9:7–8), to the deliverance from Egypt (Neh. 9:9–11), to God’s wilderness provisions (including the law [Neh. 9:12–15]), to a kingdom in a rich land (Neh. 9:22–25). This outpouring of God’s faithfulness is interrupted by two sections which confess the people’s rebellion against him (Neh. 9:16–21, 26–31). But there are repeated appeals to a merciful God, “abounding in steadfast love” (Neh. 9:17; see also Ex. 34:6; Deut. 7:9). The focus is on God’s “covenant and steadfast love” (Neh. 9:32), ever the basis on which his people approach him.

Praise God. We can know and name the Christ in whom all the promises of God are “yes” and “Amen” (2 Cor. 1:20). The Old Testament people of God knew that God was full of grace and truth. We today see grace and truth itself embodied in Jesus Christ (John 1:14–18).


This series of posts pairs a brief passage of Scripture with associated study notes drawn from the Gospel Transformation Bible. For more information about the Gospel Transformation Bible, please visit GospelTransformationBible.org.

 

August 25, 2014 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Gospel Transformation Bible,The Christian Life | Author: Lizzy Jeffers @ 8:32 am | 0 Comments »