Review: ESV Journaling Bible

I love the English Standard Version Bible. In my personal reading and study and in my preaching and other ministry, this is the primary version I use. I’m thankful to God for such a literal yet readable translation. So I was happy to receive a free copy of the ESV Journaling Bible published by Crossway to review.

I’m not reviewing the text of Scripture, here, but let me offer some brief thoughts on why the ESV is a worthy translation. It’s not a perfect translation. You should consult other trusted translations (e.g. NIV, NASB, HCSB). We are spoiled with how many good translations we have in English. But to me, the ESV is head and shoulders above the rest. Here are a few thoughts, which I can thank Kevin DeYoung for. The ESV uses an “essentially literal” philosophy, which makes it more transparent of an translation than other options. Embedded into this philosophy is, what I call, the ambiguity principle (this is a good thing!). In other words, the reader must wrestle with the text because the ESV translators translate not interpret. This means that the ESV does less “over-translation” (trying to communicate more than what was intended) and less “under-translation” (watering down words with deep meanings) than other versions.

The ESV also seeks to keep translation of a word in context the same throughout a passage a book. First John 2:10, 24, for example translates the same Greek word (menō) as “abide,” whereas the NIV translates it as “lives” and “remain(s).”

Finally, the ESV retains more of the literary qualities of the Bible. The Bible is a divine book, but also a human one. Figures of speech are less likely to be removed of their earthiness or tangibility in the ESV. Again, the ambiguity principle! Compare Ps. 35:10, 73:10; 78:33; and Pr. 27:6 in the ESV and NIV for examples.

Now let me offer some bullet-point thoughts on the layout and aesthetics of the Journaling Bible.

  • It comes in a beautifully designed cardboard case for safe keeping.
  • The cover is hardboard with a cloth overlay. There are nine different design options.
  • Other than the ESV text, this edition includes articles on why to read the Bible, what the Bible says about certain topics, God’s plan of salvation, introductions to each of the 66 biblical books, and a one-year Bible reading plan.
  • There are no cross references in the ESV text, but there are footnotes which point out textual variants or alternative meanings of various Hebrew/Greek words.
  • The point size of the Scripture text is a fairly small. This would be my only negative critique. I would suppose this is inevitable because, of course, room needs to be made for the 2-inch ruled margins for journaling. If your eyes are growing ever less dependable, this might not be the Bible edition for you.

Simply put: it’s another wonderful, beautiful, helpful Bible edition from Crossway.

The good news is you can get in on this! I’m giving away a FREE copy of the ESV Journaling Bible (in the blue flora design). Here’s how you can win. You get one “entry” for each thing you do:

  1. “Like” this post below.
  2. Link back to this post on your blog.
  3. Share this post on Facebook.
  4. Share this post on Twitter.
  5. Subscribe to my blog (you can do that here or click “Follow” at the bottom of this page). If you already do, let me know if your comment below.
  6. Follow me on Twitter. If you already do, let me know in your comment below.
  7. Comment on this post and 1) tell me why you could use a free journaling Bible, and 2) which of the above entries you did.

You have until Friday, November 13 at 5pm to enter. A winner will be announced on Monday, November 16. Good luck!

Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

 Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.

Ministry Theology

Review: Preaching: A Biblical Theology

Jason Meyer. Preaching: A Biblical Theology. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013. $16.73 (Amazon). 368 pp.

Some of the best books on preaching contribute to the larger conversation with one or two insights that no other book seems to make. That’s why most preachers have several books on preaching on their shelves.

Those who are familiar with evangelical preaching know that there is a “crisis” in preaching today. Preaching often looks like a collection of random Bible verses, some self-help advice, and cute stories. Jason Meyer, lead pastor for preaching and vision at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, has written a new book to fortify the evangelical church against this kind of preaching. In Preaching: A Biblical TheologyMeyer has provided a wonderful addition to the preaching conversation.

As the title indicates, the book is a biblical theology of preaching, or more broadly, of the ministry of the word. A “biblical theology” means that Meyer analyzes what the Bible teaches about Scripture as redemptive history progresses (e.g. the ministry of the word will look different in Genesis than in does in Isaiah or John). This is the vital insight Meyer adds to the preaching conversation. He knows this book is different. Appendix 2 was written to tell the reader why his book is different.

The book separates into five parts. Part one covers a brief summary of the ministry of the word in Scripture. Part two digs into more detail and covers each epoch of biblical history. Part three addresses expository preaching today. Part four seeks to synthesize biblical theology with three elements of systematic theology. Part five closes the book with some applications for today. From start to finish, here’s what Meyer wants to accomplish: he wants to prove that “the ministry of the word in Scripture is stewarding and heralding God’s word in such a way that people encounter God through his word” (21, his emphasis).  This is also Meyer’s definition of preaching. The “encountering” piece may either bring a sweet aroma of life or a stench of death. I think preaching can be defined many ways, and I find Meyer’s definition very helpful, particularly for my preaching ministry, for it encapsulates its primary components: faithfully handling the word of truth (stewarding) in order to passionately and appropriately communicate it (heralding) so that hearers come face-to-face with the living God (encountering).

It’s these three “suitcases” that Meyer unpacks throughout the book. As Meyer moves through the history of redemption, he reflects upon each of the main stewards of God’s word, how they heralded the word, and what happened after the word was preached (or what happened after it was not preached rightly). Embedded in this reflection is a look at the call and fall narratives for the respective preachers. Meyer does this to reveal the biblical expectation of a true steward and herald will climax in Jesus Christ.

Section three on expository preaching is perhaps the most immediately practical portion for the preacher/reader. Here Meyer discusses the what, how, and why of expository preaching. For those more inclined to topical preaching, I highly encouraging you to ponder chapter 19 on “Why Expository Preaching?” He argues that it is thoroughly and demonstrably biblical and he provides six arguments to prove it. Perhaps his greatest argument is that “God did not give us a topical [Bible]. He gave us specific books, such as Isaiah and Romans. We must give the a voice, not compile them into topics or ten-step plans” (279).

For those who are already convinced of expository preaching, the what and how chapters will be helpful. What expository preaching should be is God-centered and gospel-saturated (251ff). In other words, preachers must exalt the glory and grace of God and always draw a line to the redemptive work of Christ from any text. How does expository preaching work? The preacher shares the point of the passage, shows why that is the point, and shepherds the flock to wherever the text leads (258ff).

Finally, let me say that this is not just a good preaching book, it’s a good theology book. Section two on the paradigm shifts in the ministry of the word is theological gold. Meyer writes in the introduction that he knows pastors are busy, therefore he encourages readers to “choose their own adventure” by either reading or skipping over section two (14-15). You may skip it initially, but come back to it. This section, in particular, will not only help preachers get better; it will sharpen their theology (namely, their biblical theology). And that’s always a good thing for preachers.

I plan on turning to this book for years to come, and I highly recommend it to you if you are a preacher or even if you are a curious sermon-hearer.

Life Theology

John Wesley: What is a Methodist?

John Wesley

Things have been quiet on the blog since our move to New York. After our third weekend, we are in a slightly better rhythm, but adjustment takes time. It’s going to be a while before we are fully settled in.

Hopefully later this month I’ll start posting more regularly. Today, however, I wanted to share a paragraph from a new book just published by Crossway which I will review later this week. The book is called Wesley on the Christian Life: THe Heart Renewed in Love by Fred Sanders. Three chapters in, the book is fantastic–I have already been challenged and inspired by Wesley (though I am not a Wesleyan or Methodist).

So here’s the quote. In it, Wesley himself describes the character of a Methodist.

A Methodist is one who has “the love of God shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost given unto him”; one who “loves the Lord his God with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his mind, and with all his strength.” God is the joy of his heart, and the desire of his soul; which is constantly crying out, “Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee! My God and my all! Thou art the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever!” (86)

If that’s Methodism, count me in! In fact, it sounds a lot like Christian Hedonism, if you ask me. Let’s pray for this to characterize Methodist and Wesleyan churches today. And for those of us who have perhaps been turned off by Wesley in the past (I’ll be the first to raise my hand), let’s repent and ask God to teach us something through him.