Review of ‘ESV Reader’s Bible’

ESV Reader’s Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2014). TruTone Leather| Hardcover | Kindle This year, my church is promoting a Bible reading and prayer initiative called “20•15 in 2015.” Every day, we read the Bible for 20 minutes then engage in prayer and solitude for 15 minutes. (These are minimums.) The congregation is using the One Year Bible reading plan on, which includes a daily reading from the Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs. Rather than using this plan, I decided to read the Bible straight through instead. As a Christian minister, I have read the Bible cover to … Continue reading Review of ‘ESV Reader’s Bible’

The Whole Duty of Man (Ecclesiastes 12:9–14)

Today, we conclude our study of Ecclesiastes with, fittingly, a meditation on “the whole duty of man.” Ecclesiastes 12:9–14 is a summary of all that the Preacher has tried to teach us in the previous eleven-and-a-half chapters. His lessons can be summed up simply enough: “Fear God and keep his commandments.” By what authority does the Preacher sum up our whole duty in this way? It is not by means of prophetic authority, for the Preacher does not claim to be a prophet. It is not by means of priestly interpretation of the Law, for the Preacher is not a … Continue reading The Whole Duty of Man (Ecclesiastes 12:9–14)

Are You Prepared for Death—and Life? (Ecclesiastes 12:1–8)

In Ecclesiastes 12:1–8, the Preacher calls you to worship God now, while you can, before advancing age and declining ability rob you of the power to do so. He does this by painting a vivid portrait of the negative aspects of aging. (We should always remember, of course, that aging has many pluses: the joy of a life well lived; the wisdom of experience; the pleasures of a lifelong companion, children, and grandchildren, to name just a few. But the Preacher’s focus does not fall on the positives, in this passage, only the negatives.) Consider the images: Aging is a … Continue reading Are You Prepared for Death—and Life? (Ecclesiastes 12:1–8)

Young at Heart (Ecclesiastes 11:7–10)

Several years ago, I taught the Open Bible Class, a Sunday school class for senior citizens. Now, I must admit that I had a few preconceptions about seniors when I first began teaching them. I thought they were, like, you know, “old.” And they were. The class has its fair share of eighty- and ninety-year-olds. What I did not expect, however, was the lesson I learned from close contact with those wonderful people: Just because you are old does not mean you have to act like it. A few of those eighty- and ninety-year-olds led a more active life than … Continue reading Young at Heart (Ecclesiastes 11:7–10)

The Abundance Mentality (Ecclesiastes 11:1–6)

God wants you to develop an abundance mentality. In the early nineteenth century, the Rev. Thomas Malthus argued that “population tends to increase faster than the supply of food available for its needs.” Consequently, human beings face a perpetual shortfall of necessities and must act with a scarcity mentality, focusing on how to increase their slice of a limited pie. Malthus’s argument influenced Charles Darwin and his followers, the latter of whom especially saw life as a struggle between species over limited resources in which only the fittest survived. The abundance mentality is the exact opposite of this scarcity mentality. … Continue reading The Abundance Mentality (Ecclesiastes 11:1–6)

Government, Good and Bad (Ecclesiastes 10:16–20)

We recently held a national election, which gets me thinking about politics. Does the Bible have anything useful to say about government or citizenship? Absolutely! But it usually speaks in general principles rather than offering detailed policy guidelines. Take, for example, what we read in Ecclesiastes 10:16–20. The Preacher begins by noting how unpleasant it is for citizens to live under a bad regime. More precisely, he points out how cursed it is for “the land” to live under the unwise (child kings) and self-indulgent (feasting princes). Obviously, the land includes all the people who live on it, and so … Continue reading Government, Good and Bad (Ecclesiastes 10:16–20)

No Duh! (Ecclesiastes 10:8–15)

Much of the Bible, and most of its so-called “wisdom literature,” is common sense. Wisdom literature—a few Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Job, Song of Songs, James—is known for its simplicity and practicality. When you read it, you are more apt to say, “No duh!” than you are to say, “Huh, I never thought of that.” The genius of wisdom literature lies in its ability to remind us of truths that we already know—or should know—and to encourage us to take appropriate action. Take, for example, the little proverbs the Preacher tells us in Ecclesiastes 10:8–15. The first two concern the risks … Continue reading No Duh! (Ecclesiastes 10:8–15)

A Little Idiocy Goes a Long Way (Ecclesiastes 10:1–7)

As a minister, I work hard to keep politics out of the pulpit. Of course, like most Americans, I have more than my fair share of strong opinions about what happens in my state capital and Washington DC, but it’s wrong for me—or any other pastor—to use my church position as a platform for launching partisan rants at you. Politics is neither my vocation nor my area of expertise. Now, don’t worry, I do not intend to rant today, either, but I want to use a political example from a few years ago without implying some hidden partisan intent. So, … Continue reading A Little Idiocy Goes a Long Way (Ecclesiastes 10:1–7)

Auto Mechanics in Hell (Ecclesiastes 9:11–18)

One of the best books in my library is a little collection of proverbs by Peter Kreeft entitled A Turn of the Clock. Do you want some samples? Under the title, “The New Cosmological Argument for the Existence of God,” Kreeft writes: “If there’s a Big Bang, there must be a Big Banger.” Then there’s this one, under the heading, “The World’s Worst Smell”: “Bodies stink after they die; dead souls, before.” (Think about that!) Or how about this contrast between heaven and hell: “Hell is an unending church service without God. Heaven is God without a church service.” The … Continue reading Auto Mechanics in Hell (Ecclesiastes 9:11–18)

Christian Hedonism (Ecclesiastes 9:7–10)

God filled this world with many pleasures; it is your religious duty to enjoy them. Now, I suppose that such an idea strikes some of you as slightly off kilter, as the kind of thing a Christian ought not to say. In 1 John 2:16 we read, “For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world.” Aren’t we supposed to avoid worldly pleasures? Yes and no. Yes, we ought to avoid pleasures that cause us to love anything more … Continue reading Christian Hedonism (Ecclesiastes 9:7–10)