Review: The Thomas Nelson NKJV Ultra Thinline Bible

As part of the Thomas Nelson Bibles blogger program, I have received a copy of the Thomas Nelson NKJV Ultra Thinline Bible published by Thomas Nelson Bibles/Harper Collins Publishers at no cost to me in exchange for an honest review here on the Adonai Shalom USA blog.

Thomas Nelson NKJV Ultra Thinline Bible Book Review & Description

The NKJV Ultra Thinline Bible features the thinnest edition of the Biblical text available from Thomas Nelson. Pictured is the Thomas Nelson NKJV Bonded Leather edition, available in Burgundy with gold gilded page edging. This Bible utilizes Smyth-sewn binding, making it a Bible that will last for a long time. In fact, I found out that Thomas Nelson has a lifetime guarantee on this Bible, so if you do invest in one, be sure to register your purchase using this link on the Thomas Nelson website!

I love the fact that this NKJV Bible is very lightweight. I often carry a Bible with me because there is just something special about having a printed copy of the Scriptures in hand rather than only relying on Bible apps. This Bible would be useful in any ministry setting.

This Bible provides the simple Bible text (in this case, the New King James Version) without the weight that would be added with study guides, commentaries, or concordances. The Thomas Nelson NKJV Ultra Thinline Bible includes a satin ribbon marker, a presentation page, and the words of Christ are in red.

“Comfort Print” in the Thomas Nelson NKJV Ultra Thinline Bible 

This NKJV Bible uses an 8-point font, called “Comfort Print” by Thomas Nelson Bibles. It is clear and readable as advertised, but for those of us over 40 who have worn glasses since childhood . . . this Thomas Nelson NKJV Bible might remind a few of us that it is time to update that prescription! If you have excellent vision, you will love the font size because it enables this Bible to be as thin as it is.

There is ample margin space for a Bible of this size if you do enjoy adding short notes during a Bible study or sermon. The paper quality is exceptional – what one would expect with a high quality Bible.

Maps in the Thomas Nelson NKJV Ultra Thinline Bible 

The back of the Thomas Nelson NKJV Ultra Thinline Bible contains beautiful full-color maps of sites in ancient Israel:

as well as maps of the time of Jesus and the apostles:

This is a Bible that would make a beautiful gift for anyone in your life.

Coming up:

Stay tuned! Next week, I will be reviewing the value edition of the Thomas Nelson Ultra Thinline Bibles. I will share with you the unique differences between these editions. It can be so much easier to choose when you can see some pictures and read a description about them!

My recommendation:

★★★★★

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Thomas Nelson NKJV Ultra Thinline Bible deserves a 5 out of 5.

This beautifully constructed leather edition of God’s Holy Word in the New King James Version will last for years. If you are looking for a simple, no frills, lightweight, high-quality edition of the Bible, look no further! This Bible will bless anyone, of all ages.

Rev. Jennifer Mieliulis Fuentes, M.Div., Duke University

Book details

Title: NKJV Ultra Thinline Bible
Author: 
Publisher: Thomas Nelson Bibles
Release Date: 
2024
Genre: BIBLES/New King James Version/Text

ISBN-13: 978-1400338436

PURCHASE LINKS:  Amazon | Christianbook




16 Fundamental Truths for Understanding the Bible and reaching the world with the Gospel

The Assemblies of God: 85 Million adherents strong

I love being a part of a movement of God that is so large and diverse.

The Assemblies of God (AG) has over 85 million (yes, MILLION) adherents worldwide and continues to grow and flourish because of the ongoing ministry of the Holy Spirit through Jesus’ servants all over the world. 85 million is a glorious testimony of the wonderful work pastors and missionaries are doing to reach the lost for the sake of the Gospel.

The Assemblies of God operates under the anointing of the Holy Spirit and a firm understanding of 16 Fundamental Truths that are entirely Biblical based.

These 16 Fundamental Truths unite believers all around the world.

More on that in a moment. First, let me tell you a funny story.

The Assemblies of God and church planting (a humorous story!)

I had a humorous conversation the other day when I took my sons to their swimming lessons.

A fellow homeschool mom found out that I had graduated from Divinity School and eagerly asked me to consider planting a church in her area. She said there was only one evangelical church near her rural home and felt another was needed.

The humorous part of this occurred when she went on to describe that evangelical church:

“It’s Assembly of God.”

I chucked. “Oh, you’re not into the Assemblies of God?”

She looked at me with wide eyes and shook her head, vehemently, “no.”

“They are the crazy ones, right?”

She started to backpedal. “Well, um, yeah, kinda. Well, I don’t mean they are that bad…”

I smiled and told her very matter-of-factly, “I’m an Assembly of God pastor! Nice to meet you!”

I went on to gently tell her that not all of us are crazy:

Pentecostal churches can get a bad rap. So much so that even Pentecostals tend to describe themselves as simply, “Spirit-filled” to distance themselves from 1) the true crazies and 2) oneness sects. I am adamant that we need to reclaim the term because there is absolutely nothing wrong with being 100% Trinitarian Pentecostal.

There are healthy Pentecostal churches just as there are unhealthy ones.

I know plenty about it because I just spent a full year in a declining church that refuses to acknowledge its pending demise. It is like a hospice for churches, and that is just plain sad. Churches should be full of life, intergenerational, and reaching the community. Churches should be teaching sound doctrine (such as these 16 Fundamental Truths) and reminding people of why they believe as they do so that they will be encouraged and equipped to reach more people in the community with the Good News.

I encouraged this mom to try another AG church sometime. I also invited her to our church plant which is launching soon.

The Assemblies of God is very intentional about church planting because it is a Biblical model that works. People get excited about being part of something new.

16 Fundamental Truths based entirely on Biblical Principles

Many many years ago, the Spirit of the LORD inspired our forefathers and foremothers to write down 16 Fundamental Truths – quite nearly non-negotiables about the Scriptures. There are 4 Cardinal Doctrines which are absolutely non-negotiable. Those include Salvation, the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, Divine Healing, and the Second Coming of Christ because they are essential to the core of the Gospel and the church’s mission.

Anyone who learns these basic 16 fundamental principles will acquire at least a basic understanding of the overall picture of God’s plan for the salvation of humanity for those who will believe and trust in His Son Jesus (Messiah Yeshua).

The AG’s 16 Fundamental Truths are considered non-negotiable because each of them are completely and firmly rooted in Scriptural evidence, and Scriptural verses are provided with each one.

I caution seekers to always check an organization’s list of doctrine and ensure that it is entirely Scriptural because otherwise it is very easy for people to be taught incorrectly and led astray by the winds of false doctrine and heresy.

If a church (even an AG one!) falls into the “crazy” category, they may need to be reminded of the Biblical Fundamental Truths because the Bible will not lead us astray, but man’s emotions sure can. We must pray for all Christian churches (both AG and non-AG), that they will follow sound Biblical doctrine.

I invite you to read the Assemblies of God Statement of 16 Fundamental Truths for yourself.

Then you will see, we are not so crazy after all! 😉

And if you really love them, there’s even a song! (Hint: its extremely useful if you are studying for AG credential exams!)

I also have a free PDF printable for Bible memory verses for children based on these 16 Fundamental Truths. You can find that here.

ASSEMBLIES OF GOD STATEMENT OF 16 FUNDAMENTAL TRUTHS

16 Fundamental Truths of the Assemblies of God AG

The Bible is our all-sufficient rule for faith and practice. This Statement of 16 Fundamental Truths is intended simply as a basis of fellowship among us (i.e., that we all speak the same thing, 1 Corinthians 1:10 [KJV/NIV]; Acts 2:42 [KJV/NIV]). The phraseology employed in this Statement is not inspired nor contended for, but the truth set forth is held to be essential to a full-gospel ministry. No claim is made that it covers all Biblical truth, only that it covers our need as to these fundamental doctrines.

  1. The Scriptures Inspired
  2. The One True God
  3. The Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ
  4. The Fall of Man
  5. The Salvation of Man
  6. The Ordinances of the Church
  7. The Baptism in the Holy Spirit
  8. The Initial Physical Evidence of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit
  9. Sanctification
  10. The Church and Its Mission
  11. The Ministry
  12. Divine Healing
  13. The Blessed Hope
  14. The Millennial Reign of Christ
  15. The Final Judgment
  16. The New Heavens and the New Earth

1. THE SCRIPTURES INSPIRED

The Scriptures, both the Old and New Testaments, are verbally inspired of God and are the revelation of God to man, the infallible, authoritative rule of faith and conduct.

#16 Fundamental Truths


2. THE ONE TRUE GOD

The one true God has revealed Himself as the eternally self-existent “I AM,” the Creator of heaven and earth and the Redeemer of mankind. He has further revealed Himself as embodying the principles of relationship and association as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

#16 Fundamental Truths

THE ADORABLE GODHEAD

a. Terms Defined
The terms “Trinity” and “persons” as related to the Godhead, while not found in the Scriptures, are words in harmony with Scripture, whereby we may convey to others our immediate understanding of the doctrine of Christ respecting the Being of God, as distinguished from “gods many and lords many.” We therefore may speak with propriety of the Lord our God who is One Lord, as a trinity or as one Being of three persons, and still be absolutely scriptural.

b. Distinction and Relationship in the Godhead
Christ taught a distinction of Persons in the Godhead which He expressed in specific terms of relationship, as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but that this distinction and relationship, as to its mode is inscrutable and incomprehensible, because unexplained.

c. Unity of the One Being of Father, Son and Holy Spirit
Accordingly, therefore, there is that in the Father which constitutes him the Father and not the Son; there is that in the Son which constitutes Him the Son and not the Father; and there is that in the Holy Spirit which constitutes Him the Holy Spirit and not either the Father or the Son. Wherefore the Father is the Begetter, the Son is the Begotten, and the Holy Spirit is the one proceeding from the Father and the Son. Therefore, because these three persons in the Godhead are in a state of unity, there is but one Lord God Almighty and His name one.

d. Identity and Cooperation in the Godhead
The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are never identical as to Person; nor confused as to relation; nor divided in respect to the Godhead; nor opposed as to cooperation.

The Son is in the Father and the Father is in the Son as to relationship.

The Son is with the Father and the Father is with the Son, as to fellowship. The Father is not from the Son, but the Son is from the Father, as to authority.

The Holy Spirit is from the Father and the Son proceeding, as to nature, relationship, cooperation and authority. Hence, neither Person in the Godhead either exists or works separately or independently of the others.

#16 Fundamental Truths

e. The Title, Lord Jesus Christ
The appellation, “Lord Jesus Christ,” is a proper name. It is never applied in the New Testament, either to the Father or to the Holy Spirit. It therefore belongs exclusively to the Son of God.

f. The Lord Jesus Christ, God with Us
The Lord Jesus Christ, as to His divine and eternal nature, is the proper and only Begotten of the Father, but as to His human nature, He is the proper Son of Man. He is therefore, acknowledged to be both God and man; who because He is God and man is “Immanuel,” God with us.

g. The Title, Son of God
Since the name “Immanuel” embraces both God and man in the one Person, our Lord Jesus Christ, it follows that the title, Son of God, describes His proper deity, and the title, Son of Man, His proper humanity. Therefore, the title Son of God, belongs to the order of eternity, and the title, Son of Man, to the order of time.

h. Transgression of the Doctrine of Christ
Wherefore, it is a transgression of the Doctrine of Christ to say that Jesus Christ derived the title, Son of God, solely from the fact of the incarnation, or because of His relation to the economy of redemption.

Therefore, to deny that the Father is a real and eternal Father, and that the Son is a real and eternal Son, is a denial of the distinction and relationship in the Being of God; a denial of the Father, and the Son; and a displacement of the truth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh.

i. Exaltation of Jesus Christ as Lord
The Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, having by Himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; angels and principalities and powers having been made subject unto Him.

And having been made both Lord and Christ, He sent the Holy Spirit that we, in the name of Jesus, might bow our knees and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father until the end, when the Son shall become subject to the Father that God may be all in all.

j. Equal Honor to the Father and to the Son
Wherefore, since the Father has delivered all judgment unto the Son,

it is not only the express duty of all in heaven and on earth to bow the knee,

but it is an unspeakable joy in the Holy Spirit to ascribe unto the Son all the attributes of Deity, and to give Him all honor and the glory contained in all the names and titles of the Godhead except those which express relationship

(see Distinction and Relationship in the Godhead, Unity of the One Being of Father, Son and Holy Spirit , and Identity and Cooperation in the Godhead) and thus honor the Son even as we honor the Father.

#16 Fundamental Truths


3. THE DEITY OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

The Lord Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God. The Scriptures declare:

His virgin birth,

His sinless life,

His miracles,

His substitutionary work on the cross,

  • 1 Corinthians 15:3 [KJV/NIV
  • 2 Corinthians 5:21 [KJV/NIV

His bodily resurrection from the dead,

His exaltation to the right hand of God.

#16 Fundamental Truths


4. THE FALL OF MAN

Man was created good and upright; for God said, “Let us make man in our own image, after our likeness.” However, man by voluntary transgression fell and thereby incurred not only physical death but also spiritual death, which is separation from God.

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5. THE SALVATION OF MAN

Man’s only hope of redemption is through the shed blood of Jesus Christ the Son of God.

Conditions to Salvation

Salvation is received through repentance toward God and faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ. By the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, being justified by grace through faith, man becomes an heir of God, according to the hope of eternal life.

The Evidence of Salvation

The inward evidence of salvation is the direct witness of the Spirit.

The outward evidence to all men is a life of righteousness and true holiness.

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16 Fundamental Truths:

6. THE ORDINANCES OF THE CHURCH

BAPTISM IN WATER

The ordinance of baptism by immersion is commanded by the Scriptures. All who repent and believe on Christ as Saviour and Lord are to be baptized. Thus they declare to the world that they have died with Christ and that they also have been raised with Him to walk in newness of life.

HOLY COMMUNION

The Lord’s Supper, consisting of the elements –bread and the fruit of the vine– is the symbol expressing our sharing the divine nature of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:4 [KJV/NIV]), a memorial of his suffering and death (1 Corinthians 11:26 [KJV/NIV]), and a prophecy of His second coming (1 Corinthians 11:26 [KJV/NIV]), and is enjoined on all believers “till He come!”

#16 Fundamental Truths


7. THE BAPTISM IN THE HOLY SPIRIT

All believers are entitled to and should ardently expect and earnestly seek the promise of the Father, the baptism in the Holy Spirit and fire, according to the command of our Lord Jesus Christ.

This was the normal experience of all in the early Christian Church. With it comes the enduement of power for life and service, the bestowment of the gifts and their uses in the work of the ministry.

This experience is distinct from and subsequent to the experience of the new birth.

With the baptism in the Holy Spirit come such experiences as:

  • an overflowing fullness of the Spirit, John 7:37-39 [KJV/NIV], Acts 4:8 [KJV/NIV]
  • a deepened reverence for God, Acts 2:43 [KJV/NIV], Hebrews 12:28 [KJV/NIV]
  • an intensified consecration to God and dedication to His work, Acts 2:42 [KJV/NIV]
  • and a more active love for Christ, for His Word and for the lost, Mark 16:20 [KJV/NIV]

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8. THE INITIAL PHYSICAL EVIDENCE OF THE BAPTISM IN THE HOLY SPIRIT

The baptism of believers in the Holy Spirit is witnessed by the initial physical sign of speaking with other tongues as the Spirit of God gives them utterance.

The speaking in tongues in this instance is the same in essence as the gift of tongues, but is different in purpose and use.

  • 1 Corinthians 12:4-10 [KJV/NIV
  • 1 Corinthians 12:28 [KJV/NIV]

#16 Fundamental Truths


9. SANCTIFICATION

Sanctification is an act of separation from that which is evil, and of dedication unto God.

The Scriptures teach a life of “holiness without which no man shall see the Lord.”

By the power of the Holy Spirit we are able to obey the command: “Be ye holy, for I am holy.”

Sanctification is realized in the believer by recognizing his identification with Christ in His death and resurrection, and by the faith reckoning daily upon the fact of that union, and by offering every faculty continually to the dominion of the Holy Spirit.

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10. THE CHURCH AND ITS MISSION

The Church is the Body of Christ, the habitation of God through the Spirit, with divine appointments for the fulfillment of her great commission. Each believer, born of the Spirit, is an integral part of the General Assembly and Church of the Firstborn, which are written in heaven.

Since God’s purpose concerning man is to seek and to save that which is lost, to be worshipped by man, to build a body of believers in the image of His Son, and to demonstrate His love and compassion for all the world, the priority reason for being of the Assemblies of God as part of the Church is:

  1. To be an agency of God for evangelizing the world.
  2. To be a corporate body in which man may worship God.
  3. To be a channel of God’s purpose to build a body of saints being perfected in the image of His Son.
  4. To be a people who demonstrate God’s love and compassion for all the world.

The Assemblies of God exists expressly to give continuing emphasis to this reason for being in the New Testament apostolic pattern by teaching and encouraging believers to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. This experience:

  1. Enables them to evangelize in the power of the Spirit with accompanying supernatural signs.
  2. Adds a necessary dimension to worshipful relationship with God.
  3. Enables them to respond to the full working of the Holy Spirit in expression of fruit and gifts and ministries as in New Testament times for the edifying of the body of Christ and care for the poor and needy of the world.

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11. THE MINISTRY

A divinely called and scripturally ordained ministry has been provided by our Lord for the fourfold purpose of leading the Church in:

Evangelization of the world.

Worship of God.

Building a body of saints being perfected in the image of His Son.

Meeting human need with ministries of love and compassion.

#16 Fundamental Truths


12. DIVINE HEALING

Divine healing is an integral part of the gospel. Deliverance from sickness is provided for in the atonement, and is the privilege of all believers.

#16 Fundamental Truths


13. THE BLESSED HOPE

The resurrection of those who have fallen asleep in Christ and their translation together with those who are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord is the imminent and blessed hope of the church.

#16 Fundamental Truths


14. THE MILLENNIAL REIGN OF CHRIST

The second coming of Christ includes the rapture of the saints, which is our blessed hope, followed by the visible return of Christ with His saints to reign on earth for one thousand years.

This millennial reign will bring the salvation of national Israel,

and the establishment of universal peace.

#16 Fundamental Truths


15. THE FINAL JUDGMENT

There will be a final judgment in which the wicked dead will be raised and judged according to their works. Whosoever is not found written in the Book of Life, together with the devil and his angels, the beast and the false prophet, will be consigned to the everlasting punishment in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.

#16 Fundamental Truths


16. THE NEW HEAVENS AND THE NEW EARTH

“We, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness.”

#16 Fundamental Truths

Praying for a continued outpouring of the Holy Spirit as missionaries and pastors reach people around the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ

If you are a follower of Jesus, we pray for you and ask that you would pray for us and the continued work that God is doing. We must pray with urgency in these last days, that many more would come into a saving relationship with our LORD and Savior Jesus Christ (Yeshua haMashiach), the King of Israel and the King of the Universe.

The 16 Fundamental Truths are one way that God has united the Pentecostal movement of the Assemblies of God fellowship. We are excited about the future and all God will continue to do using men and women who are willing to step out in faith and preach the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

If you will join us in this effort, to pray continually, please leave a comment!

We love to hear from you and pray for you!




The 5 R’s of Church Revitalization

20 Tevet 5784, B”H

The Need for Church Revitalization & Revival

Many churches today are in great need of spiritual revitalization.

Extensive programming, elegant building layouts, and cinematic lighting will never bring revival to the church.

Some churches have become like the Church at Sardis, spoken of in the book of Revelation:

“And to the angel of the church in Sardis write, ‘These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.” Revelation 3:1 (NKJV) (emphasis added)

Is there hope for a church like this?

Can a church that believes it is alive, but is actually dead, experience spiritual renewal, revival, and revitalization?

The answer is: yes!

There is always hope in Jesus our Messiah!

Let’s examine some ways that established assemblies of believers can experience true church revitalization.

1. Revival Requires Repentance

Revival requires repentance – hungering hearts who long for a true, personal, and meaningful relationship with the Creator – with our Father who loves us and gave His Son to die on the cross for our sins.

I like the translation found in the NIV version of Habakkuk 3:2. Here, the Prophet Habakkuk expresses a longing for revival:

“LORD, I have heard of your fame;
    I stand in awe of your deeds, LORD.
Repeat them in our day,
    in our time make them known;
    in wrath remember mercy.”

Habakkuk 3:2 (NIV)

If a church genuinely wants to experience growth and a spiritual (and often, numerical!) turnaround, that entire congregation needs to get on its knees.

Remember all that God has done in the past! Give thanks for the history of that church!

I always remind church leaders that they must be cautious to entrust the future of their church to God’s Almighty plan, not to their own personal plans.

If we are sincere in our prayers that God will repeat in our day His awesome deeds, we must be willing to do things the way He leads us, not our own ways. When we are willing to obey Him and follow His leadership, we can experience a dramatic turnaround leading to noticeable church revitalization.

2. Revitalization is Restorative

Consider the etymology of the term, “revitalization.”

See the “vital” in there.

Have you checked your spiritual vitals? How is your spiritual pulse doing? Is your church or spiritual life’s heartbeat strong and life-giving?

To “re-vitalize” is “to give new life to” something again. Revitalization is life-giving.

Too many churches have settled in with their routine or their membership numbers. They are content because they make their budget every week, but is there truly “life?”

Life reproduces life. A healthy, life-giving church is full of people who have hearts for evangelism – reaching out to others in their community with the Gospel. Church revitalization occurs when a healthy church begins to see visitor numbers increase and overall enthusiasm increases among the church membership. This is very restorative and provides new hope across generations.

3. Recognition of what remains

Some churches will be beyond repair, in a sense.

Sometimes years of poor leadership, bad financial decisions, or a local crisis can cause a church to make the difficult decision to close its doors.

It can be quite the challenge to experience true church revitalization in a church that has become overly comfortable or unwilling to accept change. Nonetheless, restoration should always be the initial goal, with the acknowledgement/recognition that churches are imperfect human institutions that are not always ultimately viable despite our best efforts.

There are times when planting a new church altogether is a much better option.

The freshness of a new, exciting work led by the Holy Spirit can draw many new souls into a saving relationship with the LORD. Church planting can revitalize a community. If your church leadership is unsure whether or not to work toward church revitalization or scrap it and support the planting of a new church instead, there are church consultants who can help you discern some next steps.

Sometimes it seems we give up too soon on some of the established congregations. Seeking revival and revitalization in an already established church can also bring greater vitality to the surrounding community. However, this requires a great deal of patience and prayer so that the leadership as a whole will be open to the changes necessary to get back on track with outreach and ministry.

“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” Galatians 6:9

Working toward church revitalization is a process that requires patience and endurance.

A closer look at the Church in Sardis

Consider the passage from Revelation 3:1-6:

 “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write, ‘These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.  

Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God. Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you. 

You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy.  He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” ’ Revelation 3:1-6

The command here is to “be watchful” (v.2).

Observation and Caring Analysis

Sometimes the first step is to simply observe what is going on in a congregation that needs revival. What has caused the lackluster feeling that seems to abound? Did the congregation abandon key components of a healthy doctrine? Did a tragedy occur that damaged the health of the church or community?

Be watchful, in love.

Check out the next part of that same verse. “Strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die…” (Rev.3:2).

“Strengthen what remains.”

The Word of God doesn’t say, “abandon the things which remain” nor does it say “quit now.”

But the Word of God does acknowledge the life-cycle. That certain things are “ready to die.”

Maybe a devotion to certain carpet colors needs to die.

Maybe an obsession with certain music styles needs to die.

Maybe an overall mindset within the church that is hindering the work also needs to die.

Strengthening what remains

Strengthen what remains – make sure there is sound doctrine being preached and love being demonstrated. Make sure that what remains is so very strengthened that it has the capacity to receive newcomers and reach out to the community to invite them into the church.

“Remember therefore how you have received and heard . . .” Revelation 3:3

In order for a ministry to feel refreshed and truly become resurrected, that ministry needs to be standing on the firm foundation of the Word of God. Any deviation from that, and it will fall (and, in that case, probably should because any disinterest in sound doctrine is disinterest in remaining a truly Biblical work). Slick marketing campaigns can’t save a church, but God’s Word sure can.

Doctrinal soundness and purpose

Remember therefore, how you have received and heard. The congregation must be reminded of all that is their legacy. They have received the inheritance of the Gospel and must once again find purpose in that. Intentional church revitalization is not only possible, but it is something that should be sought.

Reminder: repentance is key

Hold fast and repent.” Revelation 3:3

See, there it is. Repentance really is key. In a declining church, something happened at some point that caused the downward turn. Without repentance and a renewed vision, the work cannot be restored. But with repentance and obedience to God’s will and way, church revitalization is absolutely possible.

4. Reassurance for the Remnant

“You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.” Revelation 3:4-5

There often remains a remnant of faithful believers who find themselves attending a struggling church. These brothers and sisters in the LORD are charged with praying for church revitalization and remaining faithful wherever God has them.

God’s Word is ever filled with comforting reassurances for those who are truly a part of the remnant:

“They shall walk with Me in white.” Revelation 3:4

We shall walk with Jesus! Wearing white – blameless, for those who love the LORD have been declared worthy (Rev.3:4). Jesus (Yeshua) says that those who have been deemed faithful will not be blotted out from the Book of Life and He will confess our names before His Father and His angels (Rev.3:5).

Church leaders responsible to help an assembly in need of church revitalization should identify the true remnant in that place who have persisted faithfully. Establish consistent prayer meetings and pursue God for help in increasing the spiritual vitality of that local church body.

Signs of church revitalization

A church that is beginning to experience church revitalization will begin to reflect greater love toward one another and neighbors. It is important to pray against the spirit of spiritual apathy. A church that is making a positive turnaround will begin to truly love the community around them. You will notice greater warmth among the believers and heightened enthusiasm.

A healthy church is also multigenerational. If a church has become stagnant, this is often related to a lack of age diversity among the regular attendees. A sign that a church is experiencing revival or revitalization is the presence of many generations, worshipping together in unity. A vibrant church experiencing revival will naturally reach out to the wider community around them.

Churches experiencing revitalization will naturally grow. People will be attracted to the presence of the Spirit of the LORD among the people.

If your church is in need of restoration and revitalization, please let us know so we can be praying for you! Pray for the leaders involved with plans to revitalize ministries – for steadfastness and wisdom! It is exciting to walk with the LORD, and so rewarding as we see churches revitalized and restored!

But always remember – it is not we ourselves who can make these changes – we need the LORD who touches hearts and brings about the healing and restoration our churches need!




Review: The New Testament for Everyone by N.T. Wright

I am a member of the Bible Gateway Blogger Grid (BG2). As a #BibleGatewayPartner, I have received a copy of the The New Testament for Everyone published by Zondervan Bibles at no cost to me in exchange for an honest review here on the Adonai Shalom USA blog. #BG2 #BGBG

The New Testament for Everyone (3rd edition) Book Review & Description

The New Testament for Everyone by N.T. Wright is a beautiful book with quality binding. The hardcover edition of the New Testament for Everyone by N.T. Wright comes with a sturdy book box sleeve and has the feel of a coffee table book. It is definitely a book worth leaving out for your houseguests to peruse!

N.T. Wright: A Reliable Scholar

Professor N.T. Wright has earned a solid reputation as one of the foremost Biblical scholars of our day. He serves on the faculty of theology and religion at Oxford University and has also taught at Cambridge.

I have long respected N.T. Wright’s ability to defend the historicity of Jesus against some of the popular resurrection deniers like Marcus Borg and John Spong. I was raised indoctrinated in the Borg/Jesus Seminar camp, but I was moved by Wright’s conviction that Jesus did indeed live, die, and rise again in power. I read many books by N.T. Wright before converting to Bible-believing Christianity.

The evangelical church as a whole has been blessed by N.T. Wright’s scholarship because he has been willing to engage in respectful debate concerning the Historical Jesus and provide a wealth of commentary and study materials on various New Testament topics. Wright’s dedication to searching the riches of Scripture proves that it is absolutely possible to remain a person of faith in the academy. Because of people like N.T. Wright, Bible-believing Christians need not become disproportionately distrustful of or shun academic pursuit. We may not agree on everything, but N.T. Wright definitely brings thoughtfulness and a wealth of knowledge to theological study and discussion.

N.T. Wright has chosen to work to help ordinary people understand deep theological concepts and he doesn’t just hide away in an ivory tower, but rather uses his scholastic aptitude for the sake of the Gospel.

Knowing that N.T. Wright values the Bible as the Word of God and is not a deconstructionist theologian trying to disprove or devalue the Word of God makes the New Testament for Everyone all the more appealing.

I never thought of this before, but Wright’s given name is Nicholas Thomas – he goes by his initials N.T. And he is a New Testament (N.T.) scholar! How providential! :). Next time you need a commentary on the New Testament, check out a book by Professor N.T.!

The New Testament for Everyone: A Fresh Translation

The title and tagline immediately grasped my attention: a New Testament translation completed by an eminent theologian who wants “everyone” to be able to understand it. Amazing!

I spent enough time in Divinity School to know that not every professor/theologian cared if the general public could understand their posturing and pontificating.

In contrast, Professor N.T. Wright is using his God-given intellectual abilities to share the Gospel in a way that modern readers can truly understand. This is a gift!

From the back of the book jacket: “If the Bible cannot be understood by everyone, then it is not good news. From the very first days of the church at Pentecost, the good news of Jesus was translated into languages of everyday people through the power of the Holy Spirit, spreading like wildfire to the ends of the earth.”

The Pentecostal minister in me says, “Amen!”

Also, “The language used in this translation seeks to convey the meaning of the original Greek while also being accessible to the modern reader, making it a valuable resources for scholars, pastors, and . . . everyone!”

I believe the New Testament for Everyone translation will become very useful for church Bible studies and pastoral sermon preparation.

Deity Pronouns

“Religious” words such as the “Holy Spirit” and deity pronouns such as “He” when referring to Jesus are traditionally capitalized in Bible translations. It is becoming more common for these words to be printed in lowercase, with academics citing no distinction in the original languages. The New Testament for Everyone follows this custom and I noticed it fairly quickly when I began reading through some of the first pages of the Gospel of Matthew.

This editorial practice concerns me; however, because we live in a day and age in which respect is lacking. The utilization of lowercase text for the third Person of the Trinity simply makes me uncomfortable, but that is just my personal preference.

But speaking of pronoun debates, at least we can all agree here that Jesus was a man. 😂😇

Translation, Updated Language, and the Power of Pentecost

The English language is malleable and has changed over time. Certainly, as a British scholar, N.T. Wright knows this because even his Canadian and American colleagues do not use the queen’s (now king’s!) English.

I was struck by the New Testament for Everyone translation’s rendering of the interaction between John the Baptist and Jesus in Matthew 3:

John tried to stop him. “I ought to be baptized by you,” he said, “and are you going to come to me?” This is how it’s got to be right now,” said Jesus, “This is the right way for us to complete God’s whole saving plan.”

Matthew 3:14-15, New Testament for Everyone by N.T. Wright

Upon reflection, it is so very true that this is the way most of us talk nowadays. It is quite different from the New King James Version’s:

And John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?”
But Jesus answered and said to him, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed Him.

Matthew 3:14-15, NKJV

I really like how N.T. Wright communicates that “fulfilling all righteousness” is “completing God’s whole saving plan.” My only concern would be if this translation is veering far from a literal understanding/translation of the original Greek, but it seems that Wright (accomplished in Greek) is doing his best to express the original in terms we understand today. Indeed, in the preface, Wright shares that he does not intend to paraphrase, but instead to translate as closely as possible while recognizing that there are certain words or phrases that are virtually untranslatable from one language to another. He writes, “all translation is risky, but it’s a risk we have to take.” (Wright, vii).

Returning to the example of Pentecost, N.T. Wright, powerfully points out, “The first thing that happened in the life of the church was translation. On the Day of Pentecost, God’s powerful wind swept through Jesus’ followers, filling them, like the sails of a great ocean-going sailing ship, so that they could take God’s good news to the ends of the earth. And they found themselves speaking other languages, so that everyone in the crowd could understand.” (Wright, vii).

Wright continues his preface in a highly accessible, attention-grabbing writing style. I am looking forward to reading through this entire translation this winter, snuggled under a blanket by the fireplace.

Book Contents

As promoted by the title, this book contains all of the writings of the New Testament Scriptures translated in a way that makes sense to English-speakers today. In the New Testament for Everyone, each of the books is named using the traditional names except for the letter of Jude: N.T. Wright helps readers understand that this letter was written by “Judah,” important for contextualizing the Hebraic nature of much of the writings even of the New Testament.

The New Testament for Everyone also contains maps and a glossary.

Jesus, Messiah

If you know me well, you will notice that I often prefer to write Jesus the Messiah as opposed to Jesus Christ. This is because I feel that “Christ” has become a title almost like a last name but one that, due again to our language, does not carry the original meaning of Messiah/Anointed One that Middle Eastern Jews would have recognized in their language. Using the terminology of “Christ” repeatedly cements the Greek mindset primordially into a text that was intended to reach the Jew first and then the Greek.

Jesus came to be our Messiah and I was pleasantly surprised to discover that linguistically N.T. Wright agrees with me! He has favored the term “Messiah” throughout the New Testament for Everyone which is fairly groundbreaking since this translation is intended for a wide audience!

A sample to give you the idea:

The well known verses from the New King James translation of Philippians 2:9-11:

“Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name,  that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (emphasis added)

Notice how N.T. Wright has translated these same verses:

“And so God has greatly exalted him, and to him in his favor has given the name which is over all names: That now at the name of Jesus every knee within heaven shall bow – on earth, too, and under the earth; and every tongue shall confess that Jesus, Messiah, is Lord, to the glory of God, the father.” Philippians 2:9-11, New Testament for Everyone by N.T. Wright, emphasis added

This discovery has really convinced me that I am going to greatly enjoy this new resource and I believe you will, too!

My recommendation:

★★★★★

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The New Testament for Everyone deserves a 5 out of 5.

N.T. Wright exhibits remarkable humility and dedication to the furtherance of the Gospel mission in his New Testament for Everyone. His lifetime of study and teaching has inspired him to translate the New Testament in a fresh manner that will bless laity, students, scholars, pastors, and teachers all over the English-speaking world. I highly recommend this resource to everyone who loves the Word of God.

Rev. Jennifer Mieliulis Fuentes, M.Div., Duke University

Book details

Title: The New Testament for Everyone
Author: N.T. Wright
Publisher: Zondervan Bibles
Release Date: 
2023
Genre: BIBLES/Other English Translations/Text

ISBN-13: 978-0-7852-2771-7

PURCHASE LINKS:  Amazon | FaithGateway Store

#BibleGatewayPartner




A young Israelite slave girl’s great faith and love + check out my Guest Post at A Child Shall Lead Them blog

5784 B”H

About two weeks ago, I was so blessed to be invited to Guest Post for the A Child Shall Lead Them blog about the Israelite slave girl mentioned in 2 Kings 5. You can find that post at this link.

Children in the Bible series

It was a neat challenge for me because I am not typically very involved in “children’s ministry” per se.

But I do have children, so I do know that sometimes we need to break the Scriptures down into manageable segments for the youngest among us!

And sometimes, even we adults need the same.

Analyzing small segments of Scripture

Breaking down a passage into manageable segments does not have to mean missing out on the incredible depth and richness of Scripture!

In fact, analyzing small segments of the Scriptures is actually a marker of careful study, and provides such impactful results in the life of any follower of our Savior and Messiah Jesus.

If your schedule is super busy and you feel frazzled, this is great news for you! You don’t have to read pages and pages of the Bible to learn and to study (although I will never discourage anyone from doing so!). Often, one single verse is enough to meditate on for days, even weeks when you invite the Holy Spirit (Ruach haKodesh) to illumine your mind and heart to the multifaceted meaning of the Word of God.

Scripture was written for you and for me. Those who were inspired by the Holy Spirit to record what they had seen and heard, like Dr.Luke the physician who authored the Gospel bearing his name, wrote so that you and I “may know for sure the Truth of the words you have been taught.” (Luke 1:4 TLV). Every single Word of the Bible is absolutely 100% inspired and perfect and without error.

It is a privilege to be able to access the Scriptures in so many translations, so we should respond in great gratitude by studying and learning every day so we can continually grow in our relationship with God.

Like I said in that guest post, I love to learn about some of the lesser-known figures in the Bible. Though mentioned only in a single verse or two, their story and legacy is important enough they still made it into the pages of the sacred Scriptures!

One such individual is the young Israelite slave girl mentioned in 2 Kings 5:2-4. She only gets two verses! But two are at least two!

Don’t ever think you are insignificant.

You might think you are making a very small difference, either in the life of your family or in your community, but if you are a person who seeks the LORD with all your heart and desire to serve Him each and every day, you are much more significant than you realize.

Naaman and a young Israelite slave girl’s faith

Now Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great and honorable man in the eyes of his master, because by him the LORD had given victory to Syria. He was also a mighty man of valor, but a leper.

And the Syrians had gone out on raids, and had brought back captive a young girl from the land of Israel. She waited on Naaman’s wife.

Then she said to her mistress, “If only my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria! For he would heal him of his leprosy.” And Naaman went in and told his master, saying, “Thus and thus said the girl who is from the land of Israel.”  2 Kings 5:1-5, NKJV, emphases added

As I wrote in my guest post, Naaman the Syrian was a decorated soldier who served as the commander of the Syrian king’s army.

We see in the Scripture passage that the king of Syria revered him, calling him “great and honorable” and the LORD even gave Naaman’s country victory in battle.

I also pointed out that even the bravest and strongest of men can endure the greatest of difficulties: in this case, Naaman was suffering from leprosy.

At that time, leprosy was truly an isolating and painful condition, a disease seen as without remedy.

Yet the Bible shows us that when find ourselves quarantined and isolated, fearful and rejected, we are never without hope.

I imagine that Naaman was going through a dark time in his life. He was a conqueror, but now he probably felt like the disease was conquering him. It was something that would have damaged his reputation and his future goals. It was something that would have damaged his marital life. Perhaps Naaman had had to move out.

The Syrians had captured and enslaved the young Israelite girl mentioned in the passage, but surprisingly this sweet girl does not demonstrate any resentment. Instead, she chooses to be a witness in faith – she shows genuine concern for her master, Naaman!

The “If” of Faith

“If only my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria! For he would heal him of his leprosy.”  2 Kings 5:3

The Israelite slave girl in 2 Kings 5

If.

If only.

“If” is such a short word, but it can change an entire outcome and outlook.

“If” is a word for people who know how to dream, to look beyond what our natural eyes can see. “If only” there could be a change. “If only” I believe! “If only” our God will work on our behalf!

He will!

He absolutely will!

“If” becomes “Yes and Amen” when we believe.

“If” we dare to seek God’s vision in our lives, we will see results of our faith – we will being to see healings and miracles and walk in victory.

The Israelite slave girl knew that if a true prophet of God were around, surely Naaman could be healed. She didn’t doubt – and did you notice? There’s no “maybe” in that verse. It is a verse of faith. This young captive girl knew there existed hope for her master.

She was able to find love in her heart to care enough that her master receive a healing miracle.

Elisha the Prophet and Miracle-Worker

I mentioned in my post for the children’s blog that the Bible indicates that Elijah’s successor, Elisha, was gaining quite a reputation in Israel – both as a prophet and miracle-worker. This Israelite slave girl had somehow either heard about or seen firsthand the wonders occurring in Israel through Elisha’s ministry prior to becoming enslaved.

The sons of the prophets had witnessed Elisha’s early miracle-working power.

Well, many of those sons would have had wives and children and so word would have quickly gotten around. Israel wasn’t a huge place, after all. You know how fast rumors spread, and this rumor just happened to be true!

“Now when the sons of the prophets who were from Jericho saw [Elisha], they said, “The spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha.” And they came to meet him, and bowed to the ground before him.” 2 Kings 2:15

Israel has always been such a unique place. Miracles were occurring, people were talking, and even a child like this slave girl had seen or witnessed the power of God.

It amazes me . . . no, more like “dismays me”! that there are many people who do not believe God is still working miracles today.

If He was willing to work in Israel in a miraculous way before the redemption won on the cross of Calvary by our Lord Jesus (Yeshua haMashiach), surely He is willing to work in miraculous ways today!

The slave girl may or may not have seen a miracle first hand, but she absolutely believed in miracles.

She knew a miracle could be waiting, even for her foreign master.

Do you have confident faith?

I love how this passage, short as it is, proves that the Israelite slave girl had confident faith.  

It may be redundant to say “confident faith” because true faith must be confident!

But I urge you: be confident in the One in whom you have placed your trust!

Have great confidence in all of the promises that He has given you!

Trust and be confident – have a righteous certainty that the LORD God Almighty absolutely can and will work in your life and use you for His glory!

Be confident that even if you find yourself feeling bound or enslaved, He has the power to set you free and help you to love even those who have persecuted you.

What a mighty God we serve!

When you learn to love others, your own faith will grow, and like the servant girl, you will see the hand of God work in your life.

Love others today!

The Israelite slave girl concerned herself for the need of her master rather than her own predicament.

If I can give you one challenge today it is: love others. Be intentional. When someone crosses your path … and maybe it’s on the highway and you’re upset about it, pray for them.

There may be someone who you would never expect to follow God or love Him, but maybe, just maybe, they will see the love of God in you, and want to follow after Him, too.




Sweetness amid the sounding shofar: the prophetic significance of Rosh HaShanah

Elul 5783, B”H

Rosh HaShanah/Yom Teruah

Rosh HaShanah will begin at sundown on Friday, September 15 this year. This Biblical holiday lasts through sundown on Sunday, September 17. Rosh HaShanah is also known as “Yom Teruah,” literally the “Day of the Shout.” Yom Teruah is a more correct name, Biblically, for this feast. Many refer to it in English as the Day of Trumpets, or the Day of the Shofar.

Scriptural precedence for the Biblical feast can be found in Numbers as well as in the Psalms which we will look at in a moment.

 “And in the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a holy convocation. You shall do no customary work. For you it is a day of blowing the trumpets.” Numbers 29:1, emphasis added

Have you ever heard the sounding of the shofar?

The tone is so profound. To celebrate this holiday, the shofar is sounded:

“Sing aloud to God our strength;
Make a joyful shout to the God of Jacob.
Raise a song and strike the timbrel,
The pleasant harp with the lute.

Blow the trumpet at the time of the New Moon,
At the full moon, on our solemn feast day.
For this is a statute for Israel,
A law of the God of Jacob.” Psalm 81:1-4
, emphases added

There is a solemnity, calling all hearers to humble themselves before the King of all kings. There is also joy, for we know that one day the shofar will sound and the dead in Messiah will rise and those who are still alive will meet the LORD in the air:

“For the Lord Himself shall come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the blast of God’s shofar,and the dead in Messiah shall rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left behind, will be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air—and so we shall always be with the Lord.” 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, TLV

Inherent and Inerrant Cohesiveness of the Biblical Narrative

Our Savior and Messiah Yeshua (Jesus) fulfilled the prophetic meaning of each Biblical feast found within the pages of Scripture.

I view so much of this as a “lost history” because so many believers have not been taught about our collective history as the people of God: native and grafted in members of the house of Israel.

The Biblical holidays (particularly the Fall Feasts) are eschatologically significant, pointing us to the end of days and affirming the inherent and inerrant cohesiveness of the Biblical narrative.

The Hebrew Scriptures form the foundation for the New Testament and all of the Scriptures are without error. The entirety of the Word of God is valuable and we must treat it as such!

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17

The Prophetic and Eschatological Significance of Rosh HaShanah/Yom Teruah

The Bible exhorts us to “Make a joyful shout to God, all the earth!” Psalm 66:1

Yom Teruah/Rosh HaShanah provides occasion for such shouting, though we should not limit our praise to just one time of year. If we look to the Scriptures, we will see that every aspect of the Feast days points to Jesus (Yeshua).

During the Hebrew month of Elul, spiritual preparation is made because it is known that soon the Bridegroom will come. You may be interested in my recent post explaining a bit about the month of Elul and preparations for Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur (the High Holidays).

When the shofar is sounded on Rosh HaShanah, we are reminded of the coronation of our King. He has sought us in the field, we are beloved and betrothed, and we await the Marriage supper of the Lamb.

“‘Then he said to me, ‘Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’” And he said to me, “These are the true sayings of God.”'” Revelation 19:9

Each Rosh Hashanah is sort of like a divine dress rehearsal. Some believe that the final shofar will indeed sound on Rosh Hashanah, but I am cognizant of the Word of God which says no one knows the day nor hour.

“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” Matthew 24:36

That said, Yeshua (Jesus) may have been alluding to Rosh HaShanah when He said this because “no one knows the day nor hour” had connotations as a wedding idiom at that time. “No one knows the day or hour, but we know those two are getting married!” Also, the Jewish community did not know the exact date or time for Yom Teruah, and it had become commonplace to describe Rosh HaShanah as the feast of which “no one knows the day nor hour!”

Word to the wise: always be ready.

The King is coming.

The Sweetness of a New Year

In Hebrew, Rosh HaShanah means “Head of the year.” It is the start of the Biblical new year and is a time of repentance as well as rejoicing.

I love how Rosh HaShanah occurs always just after the start of the school year. My children are homeschooled and we enjoy incorporating aspects of the Biblical Feasts into our studies of history and Biblical studies. It is customary on Rosh HaShanah to eat apples and honey and to pray for a sweet new year.

In our household, this means praying we will each demonstrate sweetness of character and be kind to one another.

Sweet and Sour: Sweetness amid the Sound of the Shofar

For those of us who are counted among the saved, sanctified, and sealed in the Book of Life, the New Year is very sweet.

But we must also be cognizant of the dichotomy between that which is sweet and that which is not-so-sweet.

If we are honest, Yom Teruah (Rosh HaShanah) reminds us of the sour reality that not everyone will be saved.

Not everyone will heed the warning blast.

Not everyone will repent.

We will find perfect relief of our burden to preach at the end of days, but until then, we must continue to introduce our loving and merciful Savior to a lost and dying world.

To me, it is a bittersweet reality.

We truly must do more to reach the unreached.

So great is ADONAI’s mercy, so sweet and so generous.

We have been commissioned to share that Good News, and we must. Before it is too late.

Wake up sleeper, open your eyes!

Have you heard the song by Austin French, “Wake up Sleeper, Open your eyes”?

“Wake up sleeper
Open your eyes
Oh sinner, arise
Leave your past at the door
Wake up sleeper
Come to the light
Christ is alive
Death don’t live here anymore
Death don’t live here anymore”

These lyrics are so appropriate for Rosh HaShanah/Yom Teruah because the sounding of the shofar is intended to wake up sinners out of their slumber so there will be repentance before it is too late!

As followers of Messiah Yeshua (Jesus Christ), we, too, need to be awakened once again. There is so much apathy in the church today and we must repent of our complacency. We must awake from our slumber! Like the Prophet Joel said, we must sound the alarm on God’s holy mountain!

Looking forward to things yet to come

This Rosh HaShanah/Yom Teruah, let us look forward to all that the LORD has in store for those who love Him:

“But as it is written:

“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9

Here is a wonderful worship song that contains that verse:

God’s plans for your life are so great! Keep your eyes on Jesus (Yeshua) and always be ready!

“And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.” Revelation 22:17

Sweetness at the mercy seat

Brooke Fraser’s recent song, “Honey in the Rock” also has such beautiful lyrics and it brought me some inspiration today.

Sweetness at the mercy seat
Now I’ve tasted, it’s not hard to see
Only You can satisfy

This Rosh HaShanah, may you experience the sweetness of salvation at the mercy seat of the LORD Most High. Once you have tasted and seen, you will know that our God is so very good and His love endures forever.

Shana tova! Happy New Year!




Elul: repent and rejoice! the King is in the field

Elul 3, B”H 5783

The Hebrew month of Elul

You may recall my post from July about Tisha b’Av. In that post, I introduced the Hebrew months of the year to help ubicate us in understanding the significance of certain dates on the Biblical calendar.

One of those months is called “Elul.”

Elul (Heb. אלול) comes from the root word “to search.”

This is the time of year when we are reminded that the LORD searches our hearts and knows us and we repent for those things which we continue to struggle with in our ongoing journey in holiness.

We are to search inside of ourselves and turn away from that which harms our relationship with the LORD Most High as we enter a new Biblical year.

Psalm 139:23-24

“Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me, and know my anxieties;
And see if there is any wicked way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23-24

Medieval Jewish sages realized that each letter of the word “Elul” in Hebrew can serve as an acronym for the well-known phrase from Song of Solomon 6:3 “Ani l’dodi, v’dodi li” (Hebrew for “I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine”).

Song of Solomon 6:3

When we reflect on this time of preparation, we see that Elul is a time of preparation for the Bride, for truly the Bridegroom is coming. This is a time of self-examination as we prepare to meet our Coming King. He accepts us with the deepest of love when we come before Him with a pure and contrite heart, made beautiful by our relationship with Him.

Elul, the High Holy Days, and the Coming of the Bridegroom

The month of Elul precedes what are known as the High Holy Days. These days include Yom Teruah (also known as Rosh Hashanah) and Yom Kippur. Yom Teruah occurs on the first day of the next month which is known as Tishrei. The High Holy Days are customarily a time of introspection as Yom Kippur serves as the yearly day of atonement. Israel pleads to be written in the Book of Life, and sealed for another year.

Now that our Messiah and Almighty Savior Yeshua (Jesus Christ) has come, those who have confessed Him as LORD and King have the assurance that the names of the saved are written in the Book of Life, never to be blotted out.

Elul is like the month before the wedding. Preparation is made because soon the Bridegroom will come. The Bride may prepare for the Coming Bridegroom with grace, dignity, and confidence because she has been set apart, consecrated, made ready for the moment when her King comes.

Repentance and Holiness

As saved and sanctified children of God, we continue to pursue holiness and the path of righteousness.

Hebrews 12:14 exhorts us to “Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.”

Though we may not experience all that which tremendously occurred at Mount Sinai, we now spiritually experience the glory of Mount Zion.

The writer of Hebrews continues: For you have not come to the mountain that may be touched and that burned with fire, and to blackness and darkness and tempest, and the sound of a trumpet and the voice of words, so that those who heard it begged that the word should not be spoken to them anymore.  (For they could not endure what was commanded: “And if so much as a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned or shot with an arrow.” 

And so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I am exceedingly afraid and trembling.”)

But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.”

See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven . . . ” Hebrew 12:18-25, emphases added.

We are to live our lives with quiet and holy fear (reverence).

To do this fully, a true believer and follower of the LORD will very obviously seek to live in humility, all too aware of our faults and failings, but awesomely and intimately aware that He is perfecting us each and every day. We live with an attitude of repentance, thankful that His mercy blots out a multitude of sins. We do the work of ministry, always seeking to share the Word with those who do not yet know Him – not to gain a place in heaven, but to demonstrate our heavenly citizenship! The world glorifies sin. We glorify only Jesus (Yeshua), the One who died to take away our sins and the One who will return for us!

James 5:20

“. . . let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.” James 5:20

On the Day of Shavu’ot (Pentecost), Peter urged his listeners to repent:

“Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began.  

For Moses truly said to the fathers, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear in all things, whatever He says to you. And it shall be that every soul who will not hear that Prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.’

Yes, and all the prophets, from Samuel and those who follow, as many as have spoken, have also foretold these days.  You are sons of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ To you first, God, having raised up His Servant Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from your iniquities.” Acts 3:19-26.

Teshuvah: Biblical Repentance

The Jewish understanding of the concept of “teshuvah” is slightly different than the traditional Christian interpretation of repentance.

Standard Christian repentance is about simply turning away from sin. There is nothing wrong with that. But teshuvah, true Biblical repentance, goes deeper than that.

Teshuvah is a “return.” More specifically, a return to our first love after being astray.

Inherent in teshuvah is the acknowledgement that we have sinned, but this is more about returning to the Way of the LORD than about guilt: it requires an action on our part to strive to right the wrong.

“Teshuvah” is seen as an action. It is often said one is “doing teshuvah.”

Teshuvah means the individual identifies the wrongs they have committed and actively works toward a behavioral change “to right the wrong.” The sinner confesses to God, but also goes back to the one he or she has wronged to ask for forgiveness and attempt to right the wrong.

Christians know that we cannot earn our salvation, so the concept of “teshuvah” gets a bit difficult for many Christians to understand. I have even found that some Christians simply do not want to understand because they would rather remain complacent. Some use texts about grace to shirk any semblance of responsibility, which is a truly irresponsible way to view YHVH’s immense and perfect grace. I believe in grace. I also believe in doing what is right.

Teshuvah is something the Christian can do in gratitude for salvation. Any decent person of faith ought strive to right their wrongs, right? The difference is, we know that we will never be able to erase the evil we have done to another so we cannot completely right our wrongs and we know that. We trust in our Merciful LORD, the Righter of Wrongs to bring healing, restoration, and ultimately wholeness.

Elul is the time of year when teshuvah is emphasized. Hosea uses the term “teshuvah” in admonishing the people of Israel to return to the LORD.

Hosea 14:2

“Take words with you,
And return to the LORD.
Say to Him,
“Take away all iniquity;
Receive us graciously,
For we will offer the sacrifices of our lips.” Hosea 14:2
, emphasis added

Biblical repentance is about returning to the LORD with nothing hindering our relationship. We are cleansed and made new by the blood of the Lamb and we are victorious by the word of our testimony.

We are ready to meet our Beloved.

“Hatred stirs up strife,
But love covers all sins.” Proverbs 10:12

Proverbs 10:12

40 Days of Repentance: Elul or Lent?

The time of repentance observed in the month of Elul is set by Biblical precedent.

It sounds very much like a Hebrew “Lent” for those familiar with Lenten practices.

I will be controversial here, but I’m not one to shy from that . . .

Lent is a manmade invention championed by the liturgical world. It is not Biblical.

Historically, significant efforts were made to distance the “church” from its Jewish (and Biblical, mind you) history. It is no secret that Catholic and Lutheran churches alike were plagued with antiSemitism for many many years.

Those who invented Lent took the concept of Elul (a 40 day time of prayer and fasting lasting from 1 Elul to 10 Tishrei) and “Christianized” it, citing a time to prepare to honor the death and resurrection of Christ. Sadly, the Western inventions of things like Advent and Lent have served to confuse the body of Christ and isolate us from the true Biblical feast days and their significance.

Elul is about returning. Let us return to the basic (Hebraic!) tenets of our faith – to seek to walk on the path of righteousness, guided by the LORD Himself as written in His Holy Word.

From Genesis to Revelation, the Word of God is available to us and if we are not spending time in the Word, that is another reason for repentance.

Collectively, we should repent that the church has strayed so far and has actually contributed to the unbelief of the Jewish people as they observe the glaring discrepancies of many unBiblical “Christian” practices.

May we return to the essence of Elul.

Cheshbon haNefesh: The accounting for the soul

Cheshbon haNefesh is a Hebrew term used frequently throughout the month of Elul. “Cheshbon” is used in modern Hebrew to describe an invoice or bill, such as at a café. Cheshbon: what is owed, what must be paid, the account. Nefesh refers to the soul or what makes you you – it is a word that is also translated as “life” or “being.” Nefesh is the life force within you.

During Elul, we are reminded of His gracious gift. We fall on our knees in the humblest of gratitude, thankful that Yeshua (Jesus) shed His precious blood in payment to redeem our souls.

We owe everything to our Savior yet we know our account has been paid in full.

Elul is a time to reflect on how we are using our nefesh – how are we using the life that is within us to advance the Kingdom of God? It is a time to take ourselves to account.

This is a time to realize where we truly fall short in our relationship with our Creator. In what ways do we fail to love? Do we truly love Him with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our mind?

HaMelech ba’sadeh: The King is in the field

It is often said during Elul that “the King is in the field.”

The King of all kings, who may seem unapproachable, who is far in His heavenly palace seated on His throne is the same King who reaches out His scepter even when we are unworthy of His mercy. The King of all kings is the same King who comes to our level – He humbled Himself and walked in those fields ripe for harvest.

The Chassidic interpretation is that the King comes when the laborers are in the field – meeting His workers where they are. Surprising them with His presence. Demonstrating kindness.

The King is coming.

The King is in the field.

The King of all kings is approachable and He loves you.

You can go to Him and He will receive you with open arms.

And you will be raptured away in love together.

Personal Prayer and Devotional Time during the month of Elul

It is traditional to read Psalm 27 daily during the month of Elul.

The LORD is my light and my salvation;
Whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the strength of my life;
Of whom shall I be afraid?
When the wicked came against me
To eat up my flesh,
My enemies and foes,
They stumbled and fell.
Though an army may encamp against me,
My heart shall not fear;
Though war may rise against me,
In this I will be confident.

One thing I have desired of the LORD,
That will I seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the LORD
All the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the LORD,
And to inquire in His temple.
For in the time of trouble
He shall hide me in His pavilion;
In the secret place of His tabernacle
He shall hide me;
He shall set me high upon a rock.

And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me;
Therefore I will offer sacrifices of joy in His tabernacle;
I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the 
LORD.

Psalm 27:8

Hear, O LORD, when I cry with my voice!
Have mercy also upon me, and answer me.
When You said, “Seek My face,”
My heart said to You, “Your face, LORD, I will seek.”
Do not hide Your face from me;
Do not turn Your servant away in anger;
You have been my help;
Do not leave me nor forsake me,
O God of my salvation.
When my father and my mother forsake me,
Then the LORD will take care of me.

Teach me Your way, O LORD,
And lead me in a smooth path, because of my enemies.
Do not deliver me to the will of my adversaries;
For false witnesses have risen against me,
And such as breathe out violence.
I would have lost heart, unless I had believed
That I would see the goodness of the LORD
In the land of the living.

Wait on the LORD;
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the Lord!

Perhaps you would like to reflect on this passage during this time, as well. This Psalm truly speaks to the relationship aspect of our faith: that we call upon Him and He answers and we are to seek His face.

The King is in the field and the harvest is ready but the workers are few.

Will you meet Him in the field?

Will you share the Good News that the King is coming back again!?

Repent and Rejoice!

Our King is coming for us!

Please comment below! I’d love to hear your thoughts about the month of Elul and the coming of our Almighty King!




7 Biblical responses for when your child experiences racism for the first time

Our family bubble

I like my faith-filled bubble.

Our family prays together and we read the LORD’s Word together and we worship together.

We love to share our faith with those who do not know the LORD and all of us are pretty resilient in the face of argumentation and those who refuse to accept the Truth.

My children are homeschooled and sometimes I forget that we live in this joyful little bubble!

The enemy wants to burst your bubble

And I was taken off guard yesterday.

My son had gone outside to walk our German Shepherd, Canelo, on a small dead-end road that borders one edge of our corner lot house. Our family has walked that way many times because there is rarely a car and we often see beautiful wildlife including deer and sandhill cranes. I often try to get a close-up picture, but the creatures prove elusive.

Canelo

An evening walk has become a new summertime routine for my son. He started taking the dog all by himself about a week or two ago and I believe it is a quiet time for him. I have noticed an improvement in his snarky-young-teenager remarks and so I was very happy that he had learned to get some fresh air and exercise.

The road seems like a peaceful one, with just four houses on the short northwoods street.

The end of the road

Last year, the houses on that road held a little community rummage sale, so we stopped by and met the neighbors. They were all fairly friendly, but the couple living at one of the houses seemed less so . . . and overly interested in detailing the alcohol flask collection they were trying to sell.

We assumed from their demeanor and manner of conversation that they perhaps struggle with drinking.

I hadn’t seen or heard from them since.

Until last night.

My son came home and he had a look of disbelief on his face.

I asked him what had happened.

When loving thy neighbor is put to the test

“The neighbor lady yelled at me.”

I couldn’t imagine this, so I asked for details.

He recounted: “She came out on her porch and yelled out, ‘. . . You need to go use a different path. Can’t you see you’re making my dog bark? Go on.’ Then she just stood there and stared at me until I left.”

I asked him if he replied to her spitefully (which would not have necessarily surprised me).

He said, “No, I just said ‘Ok, I’m sorry’ and came home. I had a million bad things I wanted to say to her, but I didn’t because I know I’m supposed to be Christian.”

Well, there’s a proud mom moment. My child is trying to act like a follower of our Messiah ought to act.

Trying to give the neighbor lady the benefit of the doubt, I asked if she perhaps was kidding? Maybe she had a twinge of humor, “look, kid, you make my dog bark and it drives me crazy…”

“No. She was not joking one bit.”

So the mama bear in me was incensed that our very neighbor could be so mean to a child! Especially my child! My son’s mere presence in the road in front of her house caused her an issue? Our dog wasn’t barking at her dog. I have heard her dog on other occasions. I believe he looks out their front window and barks every time a dog passes. But that is her issue, not mine. And most certainly not my son’s issue.

I want to tell her that the road is public land and my child has the right to walk his doggie wherever he so pleases. And I want to shout right back at her. How dare she hurt my son’s feelings! But alas. I am a Christian. I am a pastor! I have to be “Midwest nice” at the least, right? I have to love my neighbor!?

Ugh. No one said following Yeshua (Jesus) would be easy.

Perceived Racism

But there was something else that my son said that really hurt my mama heart. He said that the woman had muttered something before yelling and he thought it sounded like “you ill . . . ”

I said maybe she meant, “you ill-mannered….”

I asked if he did anything that seemed disrespectful, such as allowing the dog onto her grass.

He said, “no, more like ‘you illegal’ . . . “

I paused and took a deep breath.

My husband is a legal U.S. citizen. But that doesn’t mean everyone knows or believes that about him. Quite honestly, I wish it didn’t matter. My husband is caramel-skinned and was born in Mexico. My son is handsomely half Hispanic with beautiful tan skin, mocha eyes, and dark curly hair.

Whether or not my neighbor said something that horrible or not, my son perceived it that way.

My son felt like a target of racism.

This sweet boy who has grown up fairly sheltered from the ugliness of the world’s ways says he no longer feels safe walking down this small countryish road right next to our own house.

Addressing Fear

He told me not to worry, that he would use the other roads in front of the house instead.

But you see, that requires crossing a much busier road. And it is not fair that my son would have to change where he enjoys walking in nature just to please an angry (and possibly inebriated) lady who isn’t interested in dealing with her own dog.

I have never felt unwelcome or unsafe in this community. But then again, I am white and I grew up just over an hour from where we currently live.

My son said he observed that the woman’s garage was open with two rifles on display.

Now, my son is known to have an active imagination, so I do not know if this is true or not, though it would not surprise me. It doesn’t help that we just watched the movie “Till” the night before.

What saddens me is that my son is now scared.

He said he’s seen the videos where angry people shoot kids who just ring a doorbell or just because of the shade of their suntan.

I told him that he cannot live in fear. We will still walk on that road with our heads held high. I am blessed because my son knows much of the Word of God, so I reminded him of 2 Timothy 1:7:

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

I guess I knew we would confront issues of race eventually, but it was so unexpected, right here just a few houses up the road.

That said, I do want to be clear. My neighbor may not have said anything racially charged at all. I am focused on what my child perceived. Racially-motivated or not, the outburst was still unprovoked and unsettling.

So how do you help a child who has encountered real racism OR perceived racism for the first time?

I’m not sure I have all the answers to that one, but I do know that we should turn to the Word of God.

He comforts us because our identity is found in Him alone, not in what the world has to say. I am writing this because it is therapeutic to me today.

I am searching the Scriptures, too, to be able to minister to my son’s little heart and I am hopeful this can help someone else somewhere, too, because our world is full of division and unkindness.

1. Remind your child that all of us were created in the image of God. Race is a social construct and racism is sin.

“So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” Genesis 1:27

“And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings.” Acts 17:26

Acts 17:26

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28

There is no place for racism when living in holiness.

2. If your child has accepted the free gift of salvation that is given to us by putting our faith and trust in Messiah Yeshua (Jesus Christ), he or she is part of a holy, set apart and chosen generation and God calls us “special.” We don’t need to rely on anyone else to validate our existence or our skin color.

“But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” 1 Peter 2:9

3. Encourage your child to turn to the LORD when feeling scared, discriminated against, alone, or unsafe. He is our Stronghold, our Fortress, and our Deliverer.

“I will love You, O LORD, my strength.
The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer;
My God, my strength, in whom I will trust;
My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised;
So shall I be saved from my enemies.” Psalm 18:1-3

4. Emphasize the Biblical mandate to remain peaceful. Always seek shalom: wholeness and peace.

Blessed are the peacemakers,
For they shall be called sons of God.” Matthew 5:9

Matthew 5:9

5. Hear out your child. Allow him or her to express their emotions about racism.

I sat down with my son and I commended his recent progress on working hard and improving his early teenage years attitude. (We had some rough moments a few months ago with this too-big-for-his-britches young fellow!) He acknowledged his improvements, but also admitted having some pretty ugly thoughts about the neighbor. I believe it is so important to allow my son to have space to talk about how he was feeling and even explore this early introduction to racism. He knew that he could trust me to support him and love him through this. I’m grateful he has time to work through this as he matures and potentially encounters something far more direct or offensive.

I told him: you are acting like a child of God.

You have a tender heart and you are seeking to do what is right.

But whether that woman knows it or not, she is serving the devil. As harsh as this sounds, that makes her a child of the devil.

And the devil uses people like that to try to unnerve the children of God.

I told him, clearly, son, you’re doing something right if the devil has to take the time to come out and bother you like that using a daughter of the devil.

The best thing we can do is pray for her to come to understanding and repent and that she would, by God’s grace and abundant mercy, become a daughter of God one day.

“Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5:11-12

Our Savior told us to rejoice and not just be glad: “be exceedingly glad!”

We can confront anything with exceeding gladness because we know our journey doesn’t end here. One day we will rejoice in heaven, rewarded for remaining faithful to our LORD.

6. Exhort your child to be an overcomer despite any circumstance.

I told my son that while you pray for those who persecute you or revile you, your duty is to guard your heart and your mind with the Word of God.

“Keep your heart with all diligence,
For out of it spring the issues of life.” Proverbs 4:23

He is your Protector and Defender, and you shall not fear walking down the road.

“The LORD will give strength to His people;
The LORD will bless His people with peace.” Psalm 29:11

Realize that the Scriptures serve for exhortation: we know who God is and we know that He cares for us, therefore we make a conscious choice. We will.not.fear.

This coming from someone who battles anxiety! But I know deep in my heart the Truth that whenever I, with faith and conviction, truly hold onto the hem of His garment, my fear is lost and He makes me brave. I seek to instill this understanding in my children so they, too, will always rely on our Father’s goodness, provision, and security.

Whether confronting racism, sexism, religious discrimination, anti-Semitism, classism, or any other -ism, if we remember that the LORD is on our side, we can and will walk in victory.

7. Pray together in the Spirit.

There is no substitute for prayer.

Pray with your child.

Model a life of faith for your child.

And pray for your neighbors and anyone else who would cause you distress.

Trust that the LORD will work everything out.

Remind your child to wear the armor that God has provided and pray together with your child in the Spirit.

“And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.” Ephesians 6:17-18

Walk in Faith, no matter what and refuse to be intimidated

This afternoon, my husband and I told our son we were all going to take a family walk.

He looked panicked.

“Can I stay home?”

My husband gently told him in Spanish: “no, m’ijo, pero estaremos contigo.”

“No, my son, but we will be with you.”

Just like the LORD is always with us.

We had our son grab a hold of Canelo’s leash and walk him just like he had the night before. On the very same path.

He learned one step at a time not to be afraid.

Because children of the Most High God shall refuse to be intimidated.




Ethan the Ezrahite: Praise strongly “breaking forth!”

In leading worship this weekend, I thought about the text in Psalm 89 because we were singing “Stand up and Give Him the Praise,” a song you may know! This song incorprates some of Psalm 89.

Did you know that a man named Ethan wrote Psalm 89?

Today, we will take a look at Ethan the Ezrahite.

Who is like You, LORD God Almighty: Mi chamocha Adonai Elohei Tzva’ot

Ethan the Ezrahite wrote:

“O LORD God of hosts,
Who is mighty like You, O LORD?
Your faithfulness also surrounds You.
You rule the raging of the sea;
When its waves rise, You still them.” Psalm 89:8-9

Psalm 89 8 9 Ethan

Stand up and Give Him the Praise

Do you know this praise song?

Who is like the LORD?

There is no one!

Who is like the LORD, He is strong and mighty!

Who is like the LORD?

He is worthy!

Stand up and give Him the praise!

Praise the LORD, Praise the LORD, our God is worthy of glory! From the rising of the sun, to its going down, the Name of the LORD is to be praised!

Here is a recording of it by Paul Wilbur from his Shalom Jerusalem album:

“Stand up and Give Him the Praise” by Paul Wilbur

Ethan the Ezrahite

Many Psalms are attributed to King David, but this particular Psalm was written by a much lesser known Levite, a man named Ethan the Ezrahite.

Ever heard of him?

Ethan as an Ezrahite comes from a Hebrew root word “zerah” meaning “arising” or “breaking out.” It has the connotation of strength: “strongly breaking forth.” It is thought the Psalmist Ethan is of the lineage of Zerah, dating back to the second son of Judah and Tamar as recorded in Parashat Vayeshev: Genesis (Bereshit) 38:27-30. His name is also mentioned in the Chronicles:

“The sons of Zerah were Zimri, Ethan, Heman, Calcol, and Dara—five of them in all.” 1 Chronicles 2:6, emphasis added

Ethan: A Wise Man

The Bible does not give us very many clues about Ethan’s life, but there are just enough to give us a picture of a wise man. King Solomon was granted wisdom, but King Solomon was compared to Ethan the Ezrahite in wisdom. This paints the picture that Ethan was certainly ranked among the wisest in the land, just a little beneath Solomon.

“And God gave Solomon wisdom and exceedingly great understanding, and largeness of heart like the sand on the seashore. Thus Solomon’s wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the men of the East and all the wisdom of Egypt. For he was wiser than all men—than Ethan the Ezrahite, and Heman, Chalcol, and Darda, the sons of Mahol; and his fame was in all the surrounding nations.” 1 Kings 4:29-31, emphasis added

Ethan had a reputation. He was known as a wise man, and as a psalmist, he would have been poetic and quite possibly a musician. He was passionate about the God of Israel and his Psalm resounds with exalting praise for the Creator of the heavens and the earth. Ethan emphasizes YHVH’s matchless strength and the enormity of His reign. Intriguingly, Ethan was inspired to write prophetically as Psalm 89 also has messianic tones. The psalmist is not afraid to addresses life’s difficulties: Ethan is secure knowing that the LORD is Almighty and unrivaled, but he is not afraid to ask those questions:

“How long, LORD?
Will You hide Yourself forever?” Psalm 89:46

The power of language

Ethan the Ezrahite used language to bring glory to God.

Do you write for His glory?

Do you use your speech and your language to find ways to exalt His name and testify of His goodness?

Words are so incredibly powerful: so much so, that by the Word spoken, the world came into existence.

We must allow the Holy Spirit to influence our speech and writing and all levels of communication so that we, like Ethan, can bring enduring glory to our King.

May praise break forth!

Ethan called upon the Name of the LORD to praise Him for all He has done! The very meaning of Ethan’s name invites us to allow praise to break forth from our lips! May we be inspired today to praise the Most High God, the King of all kings, the LORD God Almighty – ADONAI ELOHEI TZVA’OT without reservations, without anything coming between our worship.

Be set free from your apprehensions.

Don’t worry about what others will say.

Your job, follower of Messiah, is to worship in Spirit and in Truth, with all you have in your being. As other psalmists once wrote:

“My heart is overflowing with a good theme;
I recite my composition concerning the King;
My tongue is the pen of a ready writer.” Psalm 45:1

Maybe God has called you to be a sanctified songwriter.

May He wants you to engage in demonstrative praise – to help others also experience freedom in worship.

Whatever ministry is bubbling up inside of you, whatever the Holy Spirit (Ruach haKodesh) is bringing out to your attention, pursue God passionately!

Let praises ring!




Review: Evangelical Study Bible

I am a member of the Bible Gateway Blogger Grid (BG2). As a #BibleGatewayPartner, I have received a copy of the New King James Version Evangelical Study Bible published by Zondervan Bibles at no cost to me in exchange for an honest review here on the Adonai Shalom USA blog. #BG2

Evangelical Study Bible (NKJV) Book Review & Description

The new Evangelical Study Bible published by Thomas Nelson is immediately appealing! The design on the hardcover edition is very inviting: it features a lovely tree branch design with modern coloration and reminds us that the Bible is truly life-giving:

New King James Version Evangelical Study Bible

Evangelical: Reaching the world around us

I particularly liked what is printed on the front inside of the book jacket: a short admonition to be bearers of Truth: to use this Bible to become firmly “grounded in the truth” in order to reach the world around us. The book jacket challenges the societal norms of today which falsely posit that “truth is just a perspective . . . . always changing, shifting, and transforming to conform to the standards of the world around us.”

Given that the book jacket is indeed the first impression most of us would get from a hardcover book, I believe this was tastefully and wisely done.

We are blessed to have so many different study editions of the Scriptures available to us in the English language. This particular study Bible emphasizes the importance of living out an evangelical faith. I would not be surprised if the Evangelical Study Bible becomes a very popular edition for Bible study groups throughout the English-speaking evangelical world. The articles and in-text resources are very accessible for new as well as more mature Christians, making this an excellent choice for anyone looking for a general evangelical study resource.

Use of color in the Evangelical Study Bible

The Evangelical Study Bible contains what the editors call “special helps” which are “unique to this Bible.” These include doctrinal footnotes, personality profiles, information of archaeological sites with full-color photos, apologetics articles, and in-text full-color maps. There is an introductory page for each book of the Bible complete with a full color image.

The use of color throughout makes this Bible particularly eye-catching. Today’s social media savvy youngsters use photos and images constantly. Likewise, this Bible grabs one’s attention through the use of full color images, a wise choice to meet the goal of making this an evangelical-friendly Bible. There are additional full-color maps in the back that offer additional eye-catching material and useful tools for personal study and even apologetics.

This Evangelical Study Bible follows the custom of using red lettering for the words of Jesus. I am such a fan of red letter Bibles. I love to clearly see what Jesus said!

This Bible also features verse-by-verse commentary, short articles and background notes on Christian teachings and doctrine, cultural and archeological notes, word studies, and other helpful indices. The text is a very readable 10.5 point font, slightly larger than the 9.5 point font in the Thompson Chain-Reference Bible that I also recently reviewed.

The NKJV Evangelical Study Bible lives up to the slogan printed on the cover: “Christ-centered, Faith-Building, Mission-Focused.”

Contributing Editors

An impressive list of contributing editors can be found in the early pages of the Evangelical Study Bible. These Biblical scholars have received degrees from reputable universities and theological schools including Dallas Theological Seminary, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Regent University, Liberty University, Hebrew Union College, and Westminster Theological Seminary. The commentary throughout the Evangelical Study Bible appears to be dependable and fairly interdenominational. The editors profess faith in our LORD:

“We believe that the Bible is God’s message to men and women of all time – that it presents His plan for salvation and daily Christian living. We pray that this new edition of the Evangelical Study Bible will increase your understanding of that message and will richly bless your spiritual life and growth for years to come.”

“Dear Reader,” Evangelical Study Bible, viii.

My recommendation:

★★★★★

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Evangelical Study Bible deserves a 5 out of 5.

This is an excellent evangelical resource for anyone who takes their faith seriously and wants to enhance their personal study and devotional time with in-text study resources and verse-by-verse commentary.

Pastora Jennifer Mieliulis Fuentes, M.Div., Duke University

Book details

Title: Evangelical Study Bible
Author: 
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Release Date: 
2023
Genre: BIBLES/New King James Version/Study

ISBN-13: 978-0-7852-2771-7

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Evangelical Study Bible