Review: Gideons Brown Leather Personal Bible (KJV)

As a member of the Gideons International, there are numerous types of Scriptures which I can order. The vast majority of these Scriptures are intended for evangelism purposes. There are a handful of Bibles, however, which are for personal use. One of these is a brown leather Bible which, according to the website, is carried by many Gideons. I purchased one of them late last year and I decided to write a review of it.

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When I use the word “leather,” I really mean it. The color is a “chocolate brown” with gold fringe on the pages. When most people receive a Gideon-produced copy of the Scriptures, it’s usually made of the imitation leather material used in their evangelistic copies. The reason for this is cost. A Personal Workers Testament (PWT) in the KJV only costs $1.35 for this reason. That’s great if you’re handing out PWTs on a college campus or something like that, but not for a personal Bible. That’s why I was so pleased to see this particular copy they produced was made of genuine leather.

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Note the phrase, “personal Bible.” It’s size is decent, but it’s definitely not the size of a family Bible or even a “preaching Bible.” I believe it was designed mainly for devotional use or just general reading. True to this point, there are no marginal notes or cross references within the text. Its approximate size is 5.5″ x 8.25″ x 1.25″ to be specific. No font size is listed either on the website or within the Bible itself, but my guess is that it’s roughly 10-point. For some people this may not be adequate, but I think this is a decent font size given the relatively compact nature of the Bible itself.

Pros:

Cost – At $24 per copy, that’s a price that can’t be beat for a medium-sized leather Bible.

Quality – I’ve been using it almost exclusively for over six months now and I have yet to see any kind of serious wear or tear. Granted, that’s certainly not long-term use, but it definitely seems to be well made.

Simplicity – Some people will object that there are no notes or cross references, but I think that’s part of this Bible’s strength. There are times when study notes and things like that tend to get in the way of a good, devotional reading.

Cons:

“Floppage” – In terms of “floppage” (I didn’t coin that term), it tends to rank very poorly. If you’re not familiar with that term, a Bible’s “floppage” refers to its ability to lay flat when opened to a given page. With this particular Bible, you’ll have to use both hands to hold it open unless you happen to be reading through the Psalms or some other section in the middle.

Exclusivity – Unfortunately, only members of the Gideons International are able to order this Bible (and that’s true of all their other materials). Even so, you can still obtain a copy if you happen to know a Gideons member (more on this below).

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Outside of the positives and negatives, there’s not much else which can be said. There’s a golden Gideons emblem stamped on the lower right corner of the front cover. Inside the Bible, you’ll find the usual things you’d expect to find in a Gideon Bible: a basic Gospel message with Scripture proofs, John 3:16 printed in various languages, and various Scripture helps. It also comes with a yellow ribbon to mark your page.

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I recommend this Bible for use as a simple, devotional copy of the Scriptures. It makes a great gift as well, especially for someone who has never had a nice Bible before. As a service to my readers, I’m willing to purchase a copy on your behalf should you desire it. So please contact me if you’d like a buy a copy. I won’t be making any profit on this whatsoever. My desire is simply to meet the needs of those who are without a quality Bible. Hope you were blessed by this review!

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Posted in books, reviews, Scripture | 5 Comments

God’s Grace for Blended Families

Last year was an especially blessed year for our family.  By the grace of God, our oldest daughter Emma was brought to a saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  This in and of itself was worth rejoicing many times over.  She was baptized in November and then had her first communion the following Lord’s Day.  As parents, it’s a joy for us to see our child receive the visible signs and seals of the New Covenant–the result of being adopted into God’s family.  Through this adoption she went from being a child of wrath to being a child of God.  This is the beginning of the Christian life.

When Hollie and I were married in 2011, Emma and Rylee became my de facto adopted children.  Everyone had to adjust to the new situation.  There was more adjustment to come after Titus was born the following year.  We are a blended family.  This is who we are.  Blended families are very common today and there are many such families within the church.  Yet blended families are not seen as the ideal Christian family–because they aren’t.  The fact is, many blended families are the result of sin (e.g., divorce) and so they aren’t prominently displayed.  Yet at the same time, I think blended families offer a metaphor of God’s grace to us.

As is the case with many blended families, conflicts often arise and personalities clash.  The girls weren’t happy about moving away from Ohio and were very vocal in letting us know that.  They were out of their “comfort zone,” in a foreign place, and had a new authority figure (me) whom they had to obey.  They missed their Mamaw and Papaw.  What was once familiar was now gone.  Needless to say, conflicts happened.  Tempers flared at times.  Emma especially would talk often about how she missed Ohio.  These were some of the pains and challenges virtually all blended families face.

Continue reading

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Book Review: “Apostate”

We live in interesting times to say the least.  Many within the church struggle to make sense of what we now call the “post-Christian era” in which civilization itself appears to be falling apart.  Many Christians are wondering just how Western society got to this point.  In the midst of this searching for answers, Kevin Swanson presents his arguments in his new book, Apostate: The Men Who Destroyed the Christian West.  While anyone can easily lament the decline we see before our eyes, Swanson takes the reader on a historical and biographical journey to demonstrate where things went wrong.  His analysis is sure to be controversial, even within Reformed circles.  Those who know Swanson (and particularly his eschatological viewpoints) won’t be surprised by what they’ll find in this book.

This might be a crude comparison to make, but Swanson’s book is basically the Calvinist equivalent of Pat Buchanan’s The Death of the West.  Whereas the trajectory of Buchanan’s book is more political in nature and focuses more on demography, Swanson’s writings are far more theological in nature and focus on the toxic philosophies of unbelieving humanists.  My overall impression of Apostate is generally good, but this book is definitely not without its flaws.  While some reviewers have chosen to attack the text because they disagree with Swanson’s eschatology and his views on theonomy, I’m not going to take that approach.  While I certainly have theological differences with Swanson here and there, I aim to judge the book based upon its own merits.

In chapter after chapter, Swanson gives a biographical overview of those “big name” apostates in Western history.  Each biographical sketch is designed to fit into the larger narrative of societal decline.  All of these men added their own fuel to the fires of apostasy.  Perhaps the most controversial name given in the list of apostates is that of Thomas Aquinas.  While Swanson admits that he is hesitant to call Aquinas an apostate, he sees the 13th century theologian as the starting point for a centuries-long decline in the West.  I’ll be the first to say that I’m not crazy about much of what Aquinas taught, but I would probably fall short of actually labeling him an apostate.  So far as we know, he did not depart from the Christian faith.  There’s certainly a broader discussion to be had about the legacy of Aquinas, but I’ll save that for another time. Continue reading

Posted in books, civil government, culture, history | 2 Comments

The Gideons and the ESV

As I noted in this blog about a month ago, I officially joined the Gideons International.  They have a solid reputation for worldwide Bible distribution and I’ve heard plenty of people say that the Gideons are responsible for giving them the first Scriptures they’ve ever had.  To date, the Gideons have distributed complete Bibles and New Testaments to the tune of 1.7 billion in over 190 countries.  As we ponder over that, we must praise God for this ministry and their efforts to bring the Word to so many people.  With a legacy such as this, I can say that I’m proud to be a part of this organization.

Yet with such a high volume of Bible distribution, shouldn’t it matter which translation(s) the Gideons are using?  Most people who have any degree of familiarity with the organization know that the Gideons have been handing out the King James Version (KJV) since the ministry was founded.  Even today, the KJV is the rock-solid standard of the organization.  However, the Gideons also pass out a modern English version as an alternative.  The version used for the modern translation has changed over the years.  I’m told that the New International Version (NIV) was used at one point but later abandoned, probably because of the cost of the royalties (all modern translations have copyrights).  After that, they switched to the New King James Version (NKJV).

Setting the NKJV as their choice for a modern translation was probably one of the best decisions the Gideons ever made.  I say that because, in my humble opinion, the NKJV is the best modern translation available.  While I won’t go into all of the reasons why I say that, suffice the say that I believe the textual basis is superior, the translation itself is trustworthy, and it is very readable.  This year, however, the Gideons International decided to drop the NKJV.  I was taken aback by this, especially since their usage of the NKJV as a modern translation was one of the main reasons I joined the organization.  I was very much looking forward to ordering cases full of Personal Workers Testaments in the NKJV.  No more. Continue reading

Posted in evangelism, Scripture | 38 Comments

Not One Word?

This past week saw yet another public controversy erupt regarding a Christian pastor and matters pertaining to sexual ethics.  Most of you are aware of President Barack Obama’s first choice of Pastor Louie Giglio to give the benediction at the upcoming second inauguration.  As the story goes, Giglio was effectively canned because he preached a sermon years ago in which he affirmed biblical teaching that homosexuality is sin.  Needless to say, this was too much to bear for an administration devoted to “tolerance” and “diversity” (whatever those terms mean these days).  The homosexual activists who supported the President’s re-election got what they wanted and so the pastor will not give the benediction after all.

But the controversy didn’t end there.  It only escalated to a rather absurd level.  This week, MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell gave his take on the matter along with an interesting commentary on using the Bible in the swearing-in ceremony:

This time, as it was last time for the first time in history, the book will be held by a First Lady who is a descendent of slaves. But the holy book she will be holding does not contain one word of God condemning slavery. Not one word. But that same book, which spends hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of pages condemning all sorts of things and couldn’t find one sentence to condemn slavery, does indeed find the space to repeatedly condemn gay people, as the now banished Louie Giglio said it does. And as the First Lady is holding that book for the President, sitting someone near them will be a pastor who the Inauguration Committee will make sure is much more adept at hiding what that book actually says than Louie Giglio was.

First, let’s give credit where credit is due.  We need to thank O’Donnell for at least having the honesty to admit that the Bible does indeed teach that homosexual behavior is a sin, although he couches this teaching in emotionally-dripping language of “condemning gay people” (echoing the culture’s attempt to make one’s perverse behavior into a personal identity).  It’s a subtle attack on Christian orthodoxy to be sure, but the acknowledgement of what the Scriptures teach on that subject is duly noted and appreciated.  Yet the same can’t be said regarding his statements on slavery. Continue reading

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Richard Baxter on Library Essentials

If you had to pick but a few essential items to have in your theological library–yes, a few bare bones essentials–then what would they be?  The Puritan Richard Baxter once asked such a question: “What books, especially of theology, should one choose who for want of money or time can read but few?”  He asked this in his work, A Christian Directory, in a section entitled “Ecclesiastical Cases of Conscience.”  Here’s the list Baxter came up with:

* The Bible

* A concordance

* Commentaries

* Catechisms

* A work on the doctrines of the Gospel

* “…as many affectionate practical English writers as you can get.”

This is what Baxter called “the poorest or smallest library that is tolerable.”  The aforementioned list was summarized on p. 39 of J.I. Packer’s book, A Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life.  So far it’s an excellent read and it’s great to find little gems like this.

Posted in books, education, exhortation, history, theology | 1 Comment

John Calvin on Lent

This week I was pleasantly surprised to see the Reformed Baptist Fellowship blog re-post my article on Lent.  It’s not an issue quite like justification or the Trinity, but it’s important nonetheless for a variety of reasons.  In some sense it is indeed connected to justification, particularly how we view our own actions before God.  Rather than go on about this again, I’d much rather quote someone whose theological knowledge dwarfs my own.

In the Institutes of the Christian Religion (4.12.20), John Calvin had this to say about the practice of Lent:

Then the superstitious observance of Lent had everywhere prevailed: for both the vulgar imagined that they thereby perform some excellent service to God, and pastors commended it as a holy imitation of Christ; though it is plain that Christ did not fast to set an example to others, but, by thus commencing the preaching of the gospel, meant to prove that his doctrine was not of men, but had come from heaven.

And it is strange how men of acute judgment could fall into this gross delusion, which so many clear reasons refute: for Christ did not fast repeatedly (which he must have done had he meant to lay down a law for an anniversary fast), but once only, when preparing for the promulgation of the gospel. Nor does he fast after the manner of men, as he would have done had he meant to invite men to imitation; he rather gives an example, by which he may raise all to admire rather than study to imitate him.

In short, the nature of his fast is not different from that which Moses observed when he received the law at the hand of the Lord (Exod. 24:18; 34:28). For, seeing that that miracle was performed in Moses to establish the law, it behoved not to be omitted in Christ, lest the gospel should seem inferior to the law. But from that day, it never occurred to any one, under pretence of imitating Moses, to set up a similar form of fast among the Israelites.

Nor did any of the holy prophets and fathers follow it, though they had inclination and zeal enough for all pious exercises; for though it is said of Elijah that he passed forty days without meat and drink (1 Kings 19:8), this was merely in order that the people might recognise that he was raised up to maintain the law, from which almost the whole of Israel had revolted.

It was therefore merely false zeal, replete with superstition, which set up a fast under the title and pretext of imitating Christ; although there was then a strange diversity in the mode of the fast, as is related by Cassiodorus in the ninth book of the History of Socrates: “The Romans,” says he, “had only three weeks, but their fast was continuous, except on the Lord”s day and the Sabbath. The Greeks and Illyrians had, some six, others seven, but the fast was at intervals. Nor did they differ less in the kind of food: some used only bread and water, others added vegetables; others had no objection to fish and fowls; others made no difference in their food.” Augustine also makes mention of this difference in his latter epistle to Januarius.

It’s clear that the human condition is indeed universal.  There’s always a tendency to want to “do something.”  To add something to the Gospel.  To craft something of our own in order to please God.  This is especially appealing to the uniquely American philosophy of pragmatism.  Praise God that He is pleased with His people only because He is pleased with the person and work of His Son, our only Mediator.

Posted in apologetics, culture, teaching, theology | 4 Comments