Read the Bible.

I was recently sent the NIrV Illustrated Holy Bible for Kids for free as a member of the Bible Gateway Blogger Grid. So far out of this Bible, I’ve only read a few stories out of Genesis with my family. My honest review is that it’s not my favorite children’s Bible, but it’ll do.

I’ll start with my main critique: the words are insanely small. Two of my kids are visually impaired, and there’s no way they could read from this Bible. Granted, this isn’t marketed as a large print Bible, so it may be unfair of me to hold it to that standard, but the text seems even smaller than those tiny pocket New Testaments. I’ve never really needed glasses to read before, but the tiny text in this Bible makes me want to grab my son’s bifocals just to see if they’ll help.

One more minor critique is that the NIrV doesn’t seem to fully commit to the paraphrase model. It’s not verse by verse, and yet still seems kind of wooden at times. I prefer verse by verse, honestly, but if I’m going to read a paraphrase, I think it should take full advantage of that kind of format, so that the stories read more like stories. The Message, for all its flaws, gets this right.

Now that that’s out of the way, on to the positives.

First, it’s illustrated well. The pictures are colorful, and there are lots of them. Just flipping through, it looks like almost every page has some kind of illustration, if not multiple illustrations. I’m sure small children will appreciate that.

Second, it’s the Bible. Seriously, this is a major positive! When it comes down to it, I don’t care what version of the Bible people read. Just pick one up and start reading it. It’s the gospel that saves, and the gospel is clear in every version of the Bible I’ve ever read.

But if you do decide to buy this one, you might consider buying a pair of bifocals at the same time.

I’m not great

And I don’t need to be.

I’m not saying I should not strive for excellence. I should certainly desire to glorify God in everything I do.

And certainly we should want to impact our community, and reach people with the Gospel.

But I’ve often thought that success meant being well known, or pastoring a growing church, or at least having some kind of thriving ministry.

But even if I fail at all of these things, I’m just as much accepted by God as I would be if I were to succeed at them all. God accepts me not on the basis of my works, but on the basis of Christ’s work.

This is great news, because no matter how great I try to be, I never seem to get it right. And I’ve noticed that when I think I do get it right, it’s usually because I’m grading according to the wrong scale.

In fact, I’m learning that it’s better not to grade myself or my ministry at all, but rather simply to rest in the grade that God has already given me through Christ. Though Jesus, I am 100% forgiven and accepted.

And when I do that, I begin to strive to glorify God not to earn anything, but simply rejoicing in the God who loves me, despite my lack of greatness.

I haven’t blogged much lately…

…but I want to start back up.

Sometimes I feel like I need to write about what’s going on in my church’s life, or the life of my denomination, or even in terms of my own personal pastoral growth. Although I’ll soon be starting my tenth year as a pastor, I still have a lot of growing to do.

So I hope to write more soon. But knowing myself, this might be my last post for awhile.

They didn’t sing my favorite song.

As a part of the youth conference that I’m at this week, I got to hear Tenth Avenue North. Not only did they put on a great concert, they led us in worship in such a way that made me cry. It was beautiful. But I was disappointed in one aspect of their concert.

They didn’t sing my favorite song.

I’ve heard Tenth Avenue North in concert at least twice before, and both times they sang their song, “You Don’t Owe Me.” It’s a great song about how God doesn’t owe us anything.

But they didn’t sing it this time.

In fact, they didn’t sing a single song that I knew. At least not any that I knew well. I think I knew one line of one of the choruses they sang.

And yet I still was able to worship and enjoyed the time of worship. Why? Because worship isn’t about me. It’s not about my favorite songs, my favorite genre, or even whether they sing any songs I even know at all.

You see, God doesn’t owe us anything. When we get entitled about our worship preferences, we make worship more about us than about God.

But this only scratches the surface of the conversation that springs from this topic. Because this applies not only to what we sing, but to every aspect of our churches and every aspect of our lives. God doesn’t owe us anything.

And yet, God gives us everything good we could ever need and desire in Jesus. It’s true. Hebrews 13:21. James 1:17. Matthew 7:11. 2 Peter 1:3. Look ’em up. Believe it, and worship.

Teens are not the future of the church.

I’m spending a few days this week at a youth conference. I brought three teenagers with me who are eager to worship and grow in their faith. As I write this post, they are standing and listening to Lacrae, a well-known Christian rapper. And they’re with a couple thousand more teenagers who are shouting and praising Jesus. It’s awesome.

I just came back to my seat a little bit ago. I was in a room full of teens who were giving their lives to Christ. I got to pray with a couple teens who were rededicating their lives to Jesus. It was awesome.

It reminded me once again that we have and lot of hope for the future of the church. God is still in the business of calling out a people for Himself, including the next generation. And that’s awesome.

It sure seems like a lot of teens are taking their faith seriously. They’re taking worship seriously. And I bet if we give them the opportunity, they’ll take service seriously.

The preacher tonight said something I’ve heard before, known for awhile, and firmly believe. He said that youth are not the church of tomorrow. They’re the church of today.