Showing posts with label The Message. Show all posts
Showing posts with label The Message. Show all posts

April 21, 2017

more on The Message

The more I get to know The Message, the more I encourage you to check it out! As you might recall, I’ve previously reviewed a Catholic/ Ecumenical edition, which includes (as the original King James Version of the Bible did) the books often referred to as the Apocrypha. We’ve also talked about a special edition of The Message 100, which arranges the books of the Bible by the dates they were most likely written, rather than the sequence typically found in a Protestant Bible.

Instead of hoping for a review copy this time, I bought myself a present to read during Lent – a large print, reader edition of The Message in a premium leather cover as shown below.

Why leather? I want a reader edition that’s comfortable and pleasant to hold, which hardbacks just aren’t. However, I prefer hardback study Bibles on my desk to do the research needed for writing projects and to find the background information and insights that enliven a weekly Bible study discussion group.

When I’m just reading cover to cover, my Bibles and I often have conversations in the margins and, more important, develop a relationship that’s like the tangible presence of a spiritual being. Since John 1 tells us that Jesus Christ IS The Word, a huggable Bible is the closest I can come to a physical touch or embrace.

If that seems foreign to you, it's possible The Message will too! i.e., It’s not a word-for-word translation in heightened vocabulary and Shakespearean tempos (aka iambic pentameter.) It’s everyday language with rhythms that convey the inspiration, passion, and conversational tones of Bible times yet keep current readers reading and relating.

It’s real. It’s huggable.

To give you an example fresh from Lent, consider the opening lines of this penitential psalms:

Psalm 51
“Generous in love – God, give grace!
Huge in mercy – wipe out my bad record.
Scrub away my guilt,
soak out my sins in your laundry.
I know how bad I’ve been;
my sins are staring me down.
You’re the One I’ve violated, and you’ve seen
it all, seen the full extent of my evil.
You have all the facts before you;
whatever you decide about me is fair.
I’ve been out of step with you for a long time,
in the wrong since before I was born.
What you’re after is truth from the inside out.
Enter me, then; conceive a new, true life.
Soak me in your laundry and I’ll come out clean,
scrub me and I’ll have a snow-white life.”

Long before reading those lines – or any other in The Message – I felt God leading me to prayerfully paraphrase scripture (prayer-a-phrases.) For decades I’ve been studying the Bible at home and in almost every church denomination, but I don’t have the advantage of knowing the original languages in which the Bible was written.

Dr. Eugene Peterson does. Not only did he study Hebrew and Greek, he taught those languages on a university level for several years. In addition, he pastored a church for decades where he brought members of his congregation into the life and heart of the Bible. Once I learned of those qualifications and saw Holy Spirit inspiration in his work, The Message became a totally unexpected favorite.

It’s real. It’s huggable.

Since Lent has now ended in Easter, let’s look at the resurrection story in John 20:19-23 to give you an idea of the language:

“Jesus entered, stood among them, and said, ‘Peace to you.’ Then he showed them his hands and side.

The disciples, seeing the Master with their own eyes, were exuberant. Jesus repeated his greeting: ‘Peace to you. Just as the Father sent me, I send you.’

Then he took a deep breath and breathed into them. ‘Receive the Holy Spirit,’ he said. ‘If you forgive someone’s sins, they’re gone for good. If you don’t forgive sins, what are you going to do with them?’”

Good question! Frankly, I’d rather let the forgiveness found in Christ Jesus take care of me and those I need to pardon! Otherwise, I have no good place to stack and store my lack of forgiveness.

The Bible is all about the forgiveness, restoration, and redemption culminating in Christ. To clarify this, my copy of The Message has an article in the back matter on “The Story of the Bible in Five Acts,” which includes Creation, The Fall, Israel, Jesus, and The New People of God.

Another unique feature of this Bible comes in the Introductions, which introduce us to the spirit of the message in each book. Take, for example, this intro to Philippians:

“This is Paul’s happiest letter. And the happiness is infectious. Before we’ve read a dozen lines, we begin to feel the joy ourselves – the dance of words and the exclamations of delight have a way of getting inside us.”

Then in verses 9-11 of the first chapter, we read:

“So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that yu will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush. Live a lover’s life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of: bountiful in fruits from the soul, making Jesus Christ attractive to all, getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God.”

May the grace of God be with us to do exactly that!

Mary Harwell Sayler, © 2017, poet-writer reviewer

genuine leather, large print

November 4, 2015

My First Message Bible Search: Discovering Answers in God's Word

Instead of a Bible storybook, The My First Message Bible Search: Discovering Answers in God's Word by Jon Nappa brings, as the sturdy cover states, “Guidance for 40 real life situations” that children six to ten are likely to encounter.

Published by NavPress, who kindly sent me a free copy for my review, this hardback book has slick pages, colorful artwork, and a lively layout to encourage children to interact with God’s Word.

Although the book includes verses from The Message in each section, the Introduction tells young readers, “…we want you to use this book with your Bible. This book will show you how to find help in your Bible for lots of the things you’ll deal with as you grow up. It’ll help you figure out what some grown-up words mean too,” particularly through the kid-friendly concordance and dictionary within the pages.

For example, the two-page Concordance shows topics such as these:

When I’m Discouraged
When I Feel Sad
When I Say Things I Shouldn’t
When I Get Really Mad
When I Get Stressed
When I’m Afraid
When I Don’t Want to Help Others
When I Make Excuses
When I Don’t Know What to Do

Besides addressing very real situations faced by most children of elementary school age, a two-page layout for each topic provides “Bible Help for Daily Experiences.”

For example, the double-page spread for “When I Don’t Want to Obey,” asks “Are you trying to be the boss?” followed by a brief discussion then closing with the Bible verse in Deuteronomy 7:9, “It’s good to obey God.”

Various perspectives presented in colorful columns help children to get real with themselves about themselves before going to the adjacent page where they’re asked to look up a key verse in the Bible then write what they think it said in the lined spaces provided.

Similar interactions are encouraged in the Bible Dictionary portion of the book where readers learn more about abstract ideas and words they hear at home, church, or school but don’t always have explained to them! Some of these discuss:

What The Bible Is All About
What Character Is All About
What Church Is All About
What Courage Is All About
What Eternal Life Is All About
What Friendship Is All About
What Trust Is All About
What Truth Is All About

For example, the Bible Dictionary page on “What Forgiveness Is All About,” explains it like this:

“Has someone ever owned you something? When you forgive, it’s like saying that person doesn’t owe you anything anymore. You don’t hold anything against them. God gives us forgiveness and doesn’t ask for anything in return. It’s free. All you have to do is ask for it. You can give forgiveness to others too.”

The text then headlines, “Look at what the Bible has to say about forgiveness,” with several Bible verses followed by these suggestions:

“Get a pencil and a piece of paper. Write down the things you’d like God to forgive you for. They can be little or big things. Then talk to God and ask him to forgive you. Erase each of the things on your list. That’s what God does when you ask for forgiveness.”

What a blessing for children and people of all ages to know: God does not use permanent markers against us!

©2015, Mary Harwell Sayler, reviewer, is a poet, writer, and lifelong lover of Christ, the Bible, and the Church in all its parts. Recently she began writing and posting Praise Poems.

The My First Message Bible Search: Discovering Answers in God's Word, hardback

October 10, 2015

The Message 100

Unlike chronological Bibles that divide up the chapters of each book, The Message 100 Bible keeps the books intact but arranged in the most likely time sequence then divides them into 100 sections to help us get grounded in each biblical time, place, and culture. Or, as the cover explains, this edition gives us “the story of God in sequence.”

Published by Tyndale House, who kindly sent me a free copy for review, this edition provides an excellent option for youth and people somewhat interested in the Bible, but also Bible students who want to feel themselves as present and part of God’s Word. Not only do the 100 sections aid that experience, so does the highly accessible text, paraphrased by Bible teacher-pastor-author Eugene H. Peterson.

In the interesting Foreword by Bono, the musician says he “discovered Eugene Peterson’s The Message through the Psalms. In the dressing room before a show, we would read them as a band, then walk out into areas and stadiums, the words igniting us, inspiring us,” which is exactly the effect we pray the Bible has on each of us as we read.

In his “Preface to the Reader,” Rev. Peterson says, “The Message is a reading Bible. It is not intended to replace the excellent study Bibles that are available. My intent here… is simply to get people reading it who don’t know that the Bible is read-able at all, at least by them, and to get people who long ago lost interest in the Bible to read it again.”

Before we study, before we write sermons or devotionals, before we even try to live in a manner fitting for God’s people, we first must know what the Bible says. As the “Introduction to the Message” puts it:

“There will be time enough for study later on. But first, it is important simply to read, leisurely and thoughtfully. We need to get a feel for the way these stories and songs, these prayers and conversations, these sermons and visions, invite us into this large, large world in which the invisible God is behind and involved in everything visible and illuminates what it means to live here – really live, not just get across the street.”

Lord willing, regularly reading the Bible will help us to do that and more in Jesus’ Name.

© 2015, Mary Harwell Sayler, reviewer and lifelong lover of the Bible, is also a poet-author of Bible-based poems and books in all genres.

The Message 100, paperback

November 10, 2014

The Message, Catholic/ Ecumenical Edition

If you want to see your friends and family who have fallen away from the church, non-readers of the Bible, and/or unchurched people get the message, The Message Catholic/Ecumenical Edition gets God’s Word across in an up-to-date, heaven-sent, down-to-earth style.

Not merely a paraphrase, as I’d thought, The Message renders the original languages of the Bible into a contemporary translation by pastor-poet-writer and Bible scholar Eugene H. Peterson. A team of Bible scholars, representing most of the mainline churches, then proofed the text and “ensured that it is accurate as well as faithful to the original languages.”

When I learned that Acta Publications now publishes an edition that includes the deuterocanonical books (aka Apocrypha) translated by Catholic scholar-writer-translator William Griffin, I requested a review copy, which they kindly sent.

Interestingly, my copy arrived right when my discussion group began a study of Revelation – a book that most people, including those of us who are lifelong lovers of the Bible, find difficult. Often, however, the difficulty comes in the approach.

In its Introduction to Revelation, The Message emphasizes the poetic vision John received as he worshiped God on the Lord’s day, giving us this to consider:

“The Bible ends with a flourish: vision and song, doom and deliverance, terror and triumph. The rush of color and sound, image and energy, leaves us reeling. But if we persist through the initial confusion and read on, we begin to pick up the rhythms, realize the connections, and find ourselves enlisted as participants in a multidimensional act of Christian worship.”

As letters to a group of mainland churches on John’s pastoral circuit, “Revelation is not easy reading. Besides being a pastor, John is a poet, fond of metaphor and symbol, image and allusion, passionate in his desire to bring us into the presence of Jesus believing and adoring. But the demands he makes on our intelligence and imagination are well rewarded, for in keeping company with John, our worship of God will almost certainly deepen in urgency and joy.”

Presumably, this Introduction can be found in every edition of The Message since New Testament books are the same, regardless of church affiliation. In every edition of the Bible (Protestant, Catholic, or Jewish), the Torah also remains the same with each of those first five books or Pentateuch including Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. However, the books of history, wisdom, and prophecy vary.

For example, the Catholic/ Ecumenical Edition includes such deuterocanonical books as Sirach among the other wisdom books of the Bible, offering such wise sayings as: “Child, look closely at your soul. Examine your life. If you come across something obnoxious, stop doing it,” 37:30.

And, speaking of wisdom, Sirach 38:25 also says, “Wisdom in the life of a scribe comes from quiet time. Writers who down-size their workload upsize their wisdom output.”

In the writings of the prophets, we find the deuterocanonical book of Baruch, placed after Jeremiah and Lamentations since the author might have been Jeremiah's scribe -- or not. Regardless, chapter 5 prophesied the return of the exiles, saying: "Jerusalem, get rid of the dull clothes of grief and put on your best dress, the clothes of glory meant for you from all eternity. Wrap yourself in a lovely layered cloak; pick one from the justice collection. On your head put a crown in honor of the Eternal One." Then, "At the command of God, forests and fragrant woods will spring up to provide shade for the returning pilgrims. God will lead Israel home with joy, lighting the way with the majesty, mercy, and justice only he can command."

In the historical writings, we discover a variety of histories from the deuterocanonical books. For example, The Message Catholic/ Ecumenical Edition includes 1 and 2 Maccabees in the books of history, giving us texts about what went on during the time between testaments.

As the Introduction to 1 Maccabees tells us, somewhere around 167 B.C., “one of the Gentiles who’d won a previous battle against Israel approached a Jewish priest named Mattathias and politely demanded that he sacrifice to Zeus right there on the street in front of everyone. In a calm but firm way, the king’s agent explained the options: Sacrifice to Zeus or die. Overhearing the conversation and judging where the power currently resided, one Jew walked right in front of everyone and began to worship Zeus. Without a second thought but energized by a lifetime of fidelity to God’s word, Mattathias drew his sword and whacked both the gentlemanly agent and the idolatrous Jew to death.” As you might imagine, the story doesn't end there but continues throughout both books of the Maccabees.

From Genesis to Revelation, however, the whole biblical adventure continues in exciting, everyday language that clearly shows the Bible as it's meant to be known: THE message of our ongoing adventure with God.

©2014, Mary Harwell Sayler, reviewer, is a lifelong lover of Christ, the Bible, and the church in all its parts. She’s the traditionally published author of 27 books in all genres, including the Bible-based poetry book Outside Eden.

The Message, Catholic/ Ecumenical Edition, paperback