Thursday, December 18, 2008

Toy Packaging

As we were wrapping up toys for Christmas, I heard a great song that is just so fitting in this Christmas season. It's called Toy Packaging. It's by Sara Groves on her album "O Holy Night"

(It's available for free download courtesy of INO records)

Review - NKJV Chronological Study Bible

The Chronological Study Bible (New King James Version) by Thomas Nelson Publishers is an outstanding resource for those who want to explore the Bible in a fresh and novel way. A chronological Bible arranges chapters and passages of the Bible in chronological order (rather than canonical order), which at times presents quite a challenge for the authors. This particular chronological Bible does a very good job at arranging the Bible in historical order and in providing a great wealth of supplemental material about the historical and cultural contexts. It earns the title of a study Bible due to a variety of notes, charts, pictures, and maps. While it does not replace a traditional Bible or study Bible (e.g. one with extensive cross-references and grammatical notes), it provides an excellent supplement for the reader who wishes to better see the dynamic landscape of scripture from creation to the end times.

How are the materials arranged? The study Bible starts with a number of introductory notes about the chronology and about the NKJV, then the text itself is broken down into nine epochs: Before the Patriarchs, Time of the Patriarchs, Rise of a Unified People, From Tribes to a Nation, The Fall of Two Nations, Exile and Return, Between the Two Testaments, The Coming of the Messiah, and The Church Age. At the end are several nice articles on historical and cultural topics, a generous concordance, and a (very important) index of scripture passages which is needed to find where a given verse is located in the book.

The quality of the book and of the notes is really quite good. The paper is extremely thin, but durable, and the book is well bound. The format of short articles with relevant historical and cultural info right alongside the biblical text is not only useful, but highly engaging. At each point where there is a change of book or other break in the narrative, the study Bible has a "Transition" section that I found very helpful in keeping the narrative flowing, as well as in alerting the reader that they're entering a new book of the Bible. That sounds trivial for a regular Bible but it's important for a chronological ordering which might go back and forth between two or more books of the Bible. Some other highlights I enjoyed: Historical Charts on other Kingdoms (like the Timeline of Persian Kings), frequent Time Capsules of key historical events, the use of a large number of small maps directly on the pages next to scripture rather than a small number of large reference maps in an appendix, and a lot of material on the influence of Greek and Roman culture. It was particularly interesting to read through New Testament books and missionary journeys via the interspersing of chapters of Acts along with Galatians, James, Thessalonians and others.

For in-depth understanding of the meaning of the text and for discipleship Bible study there are better tools available, but this book serves its purpose well in helping us understand the historical flow of the events of scripture, and in given us a better understanding of the cultural background present in the lives of biblical characters. As supplemental study material, or for those looking to read through the Bible in a year, this NKJV Chronological Study Bible is an excellent and enjoyable resource. The retail price is $44.99 (Hardcover), and is available at places like Amazon for $29.69.

(Disclaimer: As a blogger I received a free review copy - no requirement to give it a positive review, just for the reviewer to call it like they see it. It took a while to get to get through the bulk of it!)

Friday, December 12, 2008

Simple Steps

Two things stuck out for me in Tony Morgan's Webcast on Ministry Strategy, and they both describe aspects of keeping things simple when it comes to helping people to connect and grow.

First, a listener asked how they manage complexity as the church and ministry grows. The answer was that they really don't get more complex, they try hard to keep things as simple as possible. Wondering what they meant by that, I looked at their web site - New Spring Church at Hmmm, pretty simple actually. I was curious about their approach to discipleship: how do you help someone go from a new believer to a fully-devoted follower of Christ? The key items on the home page were the worship service video, "New Here?", "Next Steps" and "Connect." Following the "Next Steps" link brings up a page with a small number of steps that describe their development process.

Jesus - Baptism - Commit - Volunteer - Groups - Care

The order here was the second point of interest - they view serving as a volunteer as a primary vehicle for growing in your faith. If you think about the times in your life you were most stretched, it was probably when you were serving others and doing something beyond yourself. After deciding to follow Christ and making this public, they place a high importance on membership so that everyone knows and understands the vision and direction of the church. Groups are promoted as the best way to find community, to stay connected to God and other people. (By a group they're referring to a small group, most often meeting in a home, for fellowship, bible study, prayer and accountability.) The volunteer ministries are under six umbrellas: guest services, creative and technical arts, care and outreach, membership and groups, children's ministry, student ministry.

Make the steps clear. Make it easy to take the next step.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Marketing and Ministry

"The only problem with marketing your ministry is that it might work. People might actually show up and see that it's a sucky ministry. Don't focus on the marketing. Focus on improving the ministry, making sure it actually adds value to the lives of those it is supposed to reach."

The above is a loose quote from Tony Morgan on his Ministry Strategy webcast today on Mogulus. Way to cut to the chase! On his blog Tony has been discussing the role of marketing for churches, and why churches should stop focusing on marketing. The bottom line with both the quote above and the articles is that we need to focus on helping making our ministries more effective in touching people's lives, helping them to take one step closer to Christ, something they want to go and tell their friends about.

Monday, December 8, 2008

A Couple of Compelling Videos to Share

Two videos really caught my attention today. The first is about a nasty virus (worm actually) that targets Facebook users. You get an email from a Facebook friend along the lines of "I can't believe I saw you in this video!" or "Wow! You look awesome in this picture!" with a link. The web site it leads to says that you need to download the latest version of flash to view the movie. Beware - that link won't install flash but will download the trojan and you won't like the results. In general be cautious about these types of links and "updates". I've gotten such an email linking to the worm, so be careful! For info see the story on CNN: CNN video clip on the Koobworm.

The second video that I thought was neat was Brian "Head" Welch, former member of the band Korn, telling his story about what turned his life around. It's from a series by Granger called "I Am Second." Check it out below...