Non-Coincidental

I started reading Scott and Kimberly Hahn’s conversion story Rome Sweet Home: Our Journey to Catholicism and in the opening chapter Scott tells a story in which he stopped by to see an old friend at random and caught his friend on the way out of the house. After a few hours of catching up Scott said that he noticed he had his jacket on and was leaving when he walked up to the house and asked him where he was going. His friend pulled out some rope from his jacket and said that he was on his way to hang himself. Scott’s visit had saved his friend’s life. What seemed like a random visit was divinely orchestrated.

This story is actually a familiar one. I manage a barbershop; my pastor owns it. A guy came in for a cut one day and as he sat in my pastor’s chair they got to talking and he basically said that doesn’t believe in religion and that he’s heard all the arguments for God and doesn’t find them convincing. He asked my pastor to make his case. His case basically went like this: “I know God.” The guy said something and my pastor’s response was, “I’m not telling you what I believe; I’m telling you that I know him.” He proceeded to give his testimony, which opened the door for him to minister to the guy concerning different things in his life.

When it was all said and done the gentleman paid and then asked to speak to my pastor outside. He broke down in tears and told him that this was actually the haircut was getting for his funeral. He was planning on killing himself. He’s now been a regular customer for nearly a year and he’s not talking about how he doesn’t buy into religion anymore. Again, what seemed like a random encounter was divinely orchestrated. He could have gotten his hair cut anywhere. He could have sat down with another barber that day. But God, who knows the end from the beginning, knew just where to put him and just what he needed to hear.

To God be the glory!

B”H

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On Enduring Beliefs

God saved me nearly 16 years ago and in nearly 16 years of salvation my beliefs haven’t shifted a whole lot. Over the course of time I’ve been able to chip away some of the rough edges of certain things and a periphery doctrine or two may have changed but the core is the same. I’d attribute this to my formative years as a believer, which were spent reading the Scriptures for countless hours.

I didn’t come into the faith with all of my beliefs worked out. I came in knowing that I was guilty of sinning against God, that God provided the pardon for my guilt in Christ, and that I didn’t want to serve the devil any more. So as I read, and prayed, and fasted I came to believe what I understood the text to be saying. It didn’t happen over night. These beliefs weren’t the result of me parroting what my pastor said or jumping on the latest televangelist bandwagon. They were hard-earned beliefs.

Eventually I’d branch out and start to look at websites and books and I got interested in scholarship both ancient and modern. Some of that served to correct misunderstandings. Some of it caused a bit of confusion. Some of it was easily rejected because it was contrary to what was clear from Scripture. But that foundation laid for me in the Bible was always there.

Paul wrote to the Ephesians and spoke to them about moving onto maturity so that they’d no longer be tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine. I’m all for the spirit of semper reformanda but some folks take it a little too far and reform their beliefs and practices with the discovery of every new thinker. At a certain point we have to know what we believe and why we believe it. So when I hear people talk about how much their beliefs have changed over time I inevitably wonder how much time went into formulating those beliefs in the first place.

B”H

Answering Common Questions About My Library

Why do you have so many books?

There are a few ways to address this. First of all, I don’t. My library is rather small compared to some others so “so many” is relative. Secondly, I have as many as I do because I got them. It’s the same reason I have anything that I have. I got it so I have it. Make sense?

Have you read all of those books?

The typical response is some of all and all of some. This is nearly true as I generally tend to at least read the table of contents or glance at a bibliography but there are definitely some that I haven’t even cracked the cover on. There are some that I may never get around to.

You couldn’t possibly read all those books, could you?

With God all things are possible (Matt 19:26). Theoretically, I could read them all. It’s not an impossible task. There are dozens of short volumes in my library that could be read in a matter of hours. There are plenty of classics that I could get rapt up in and lose all sense of time so that no matter how long it took to read I’d do it in a single sitting. But all of these books aren’t meant to be read in their entirety. Some are reference works that will be referenced only as needed. Most importantly, however, is my attitude towards unread volumes, which is that they represent potential. It would be a sad thing if I had read all of the books I own.

How much money are all of those books worth?

I couldn’t even begin to tell you. Years ago I used to track what I spent on books. I did this for a few reasons. The first was budgetary. When I began to do that I was working at a job where I was an independent contractor. That meant that I received a 1099 and no taxes were taken out of my check. I was responsible for paying the IRS come tax time. I needed to know where all my money was going.

After that I wasn’t working but I was blogging all the time and receiving review copies of a lot of books so I didn’t have to pay for a good majority of what I was reading. I was also earning gift certificates to various bookseller websites through affiliate programs. I began to challenge myself to spend as little as possible out of pocket and while that was a fun exercise for a few years, I gave up on it as I became busy with other things.

Now I’ve been gainfully employed for a number of years and since all of my bills are taken care of I can buy all of the books I want when I want them without having to worry very much about what’s being spent. So I said all this to say that I don’t know the actual value of my library. To me it’s priceless, but I’d estimate its worth in the tens of thousands just based on retail prices.

Don’t you think you have enough books?

No. And I never will. There’s always more to learn.

Why do you have so many books on the same subjects?

I’ll answer this with a proverb: “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him” (Prov 18:17). Reasonable minds differ. I like to weigh arguments and come to my own conclusions.

Why not just use a public library?

I don’t like to give books back. The thought actually makes me ill.

Why do you need so many books?

To be honest, I don’t. But that really depends on what we mean by “need” doesn’t it? Do books fit in on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs? Maybe on the self-actualization tier but that can be argued. I won’t die without them. At least not physically. But I have an addictive personality and hobbies or habits easily become compulsions for me so in a sense I do have a need to keep growing my library. But the fact is that I’d be just fine with a single Bible. My library started with a single Bible. Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD (Deut 8:3).

Why do you have so many Bibles?

Aside from the fact that I want them, they all have a purpose. First of all, there are a variety of translations. So having different translations is necessary if I want to compare translations. But why have multiples copies of any one translation? Some are to study, some are to read, some are to mark up, some are to preach from, and some are to just enjoy because I like how they look on my desk or a shelf. Also, I can’t bring myself to throw Bibles away. Unless I’ve given them away I have every Bible I’ve ever gotten.

And that’ll do it for the most common questions I get asked about my library.

B”H

Just Ordered, In the Mail, and Other Miscellany

So first off, my big CBD order that I mentioned a couple of weeks ago is pretty much all here. I’m just waiting on Scott Hahn’s The Fourth Cup to arrive but that should be either today or tomorrow. I got 20 books and they were sent in various shipments. Hahn’s commentary on Romans in the CCSS series arrived damaged and the fine folks at CBD were good enough to replace it without requiring me to send them back the damaged copy.

In addition to those 20 books I also received the 4 used copies of various Hahn books that I ordered from different Amazon sellers. They’re all in good shape, thank God! And the free book that Hahn was giving away through the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology arrived as well.

My old friend Bryan L. made note of this year’s Fortress Press/Givingtons sale on Twitter and I took full advantage. Some might remember the trouble I went through last year with the sale when trying to acquire David Congdon’s big book on Bultmann. I went ahead and ordered a dozen books, namely:

The Gospel on the Margins: The Reception of Mark in the Second Century by Michael J. Kok

Deviant Calvinism: Broadening Reformed Theology by Oliver Crisp

Paul and the Stories of Israel: Grand Thematic Narratives in Galatians by A. Andrew Das

The Gospel of John and Christian Origins by John Ashton

Johannes Bugenhagen: Selected Writings, Volume I and Volume II

Irenaeus: Life, Scripture, Legacy edited by Paul Foster & Sarah Parvis

Persons in Relation: An Essay on the Trinity and Ontology by Najib George Awad

The Holy One in Our Midst: An Essay on the Flesh of Christ by James R. Gordon

Election of the Lesser Son: Paul’s Lament-Midrash in Romans 9-11 by David B. Wallace

The Holy Spirit and Ethics in Paul: Transformation and Empowering for Religious-Ethical Life, Second Revised Edition by Volker Rabens

What Is the Bible?: The Patristic Doctrine of Scripture edited by Matthew Baker & Mark Mourachian

The So-Called Jew in Paul’s Letter to the Romans edited by Rafael Rodríguez & and Matthew Thiessen

Chris Tilling raved about Rabens’ book so I’m sure it’s good since Chris would never lie. I’ve had my eye on Gordon’s book since it was published but it was always too pricey. I meant to get the 2 volume set by Bugenhagen last year after my brother from another mother Esteban Vázquez mentioned it but the whole fiasco caused me to be a bit gun-shy with ordering more than the two books I got. Hopefully I won’t have any issues with this order!

In other ordering news, I’ve had my eye on the ESV Scripture Journal New Testament set for a few weeks now. It was finally released yesterday and I proceeded to promptly order a copy from WTS Books. You can see a nice little promo video for the set on CBD’s website.

In addition to these items I got a copy of Gordon Fee’s Jesus the Lord According to Paul the Apostle: A Concise Introduction, which is a distillation of his larger Pauline Christology. Aside from my love for all things Fee, I ordered this volume in order to get free same day shipping on a book stand (pictured below) and some 005 Pigma Micron pens. I had originally gotten 01 Pigma Microns for marking up my Bible but I found them to be slightly thicker than I wanted. So I went a size down. I much prefer the 005.

And that just about does it.

B”H

ESV Heirloom Single Column Legacy Edition (Blue Goatskin): Some Preliminary Remarks

Nearly two weeks ago I mentioned that I had ordered a premium ESV from evangelicalbible.com. I went with the Ocean Blue goatskin ESV Heirloom Single Column Legacy Bible after more than a week of research. My research included watching video reviews, reading written reviews, and looking at as many pictures as I could find. This was, after all, a pretty big purchase. I got my copy for $155 marked down from $275.

Now this isn’t the first premium Bible I’ve ever owned. In point of fact, some years back Zondervan sent me a Premium single column NIV reference Bible for review. It’s really a beautiful Bible but it’s not one I’ve found myself using frequently over the years. I think the main reason has been that the type is on the small side and I have a double column NIV reference Bible with large print that I prefer to read and preach from.

But my friend Michael Burgos put the bug in my ear when he started talking about getting a new preaching Bible. I’m going to be leading a Bible study series at church in the near future and I’ll be starting up a Bible study at my job after work on Tuesdays so I figured that I’d get a nice preaching/teaching Bible as well. I had a short list of things I was looking for:

First, I wanted an ESV. I love the NIV and it’s almost always the translation I preach from, and I love the KJV because it’s the translation I was raised with, but the ESV strikes the right balance between the two for me and it’s the one I read most of the time. At this point it’s the translation I’m most familiar with.

Second, I wanted something with wide margins so I could take notes. I haven’t written in a Bible in years but I wanted to go back to my roots and really mark this thing up. For months I had my first KJV on my desk and I’d revisit it from time to time and look at my markings with fondness.

Third, I wanted a single column because I just find them easier for reading. Over the last couple of years I’ve been reading the various versions of the ESV Reader’s Bibles. It’s hard to go back. 

Lastly, I wanted something that was manageable in terms of size. A thinline would have been preferable but not absolutely necessary. I just don’t like unwieldy Bibles and this one will be traveling with me rather than positioned permanently on a pulpit.

So with this in mind I went searching evangelicalbible.com and I immediately fell in love with their selection of blue Bibles. Something about the blue gilding jumped out and grabbed my attention. They had a few to choose from but the Heirloom Legacy was the only one that met my criteria.

Technically it’s not a wide margin but because it’s a reader type of text there isn’t really anything extra on the page. I think they said its layout is based on the concept of “the perfect page.” This leaves plenty of room in the margins and page footers.

It’s also not a thinline. I had a Legacy when Crossway first published it and I hated it for its size. From my research I discovered that this one wasn’t as thick. I couldn’t be sure exactly how thick it was though as I hadn’t seen too much to establish a scale by which to judge it. I could just tell that it was thinner than the one I owned a few years back.

But it was an ESV and it was single column and that blue… So I ordered it and eagerly awaited its arrival. Well, it came in more than a week ago and it’s glorious! Below are some pictures showing just how nice the blue is, how flexible and soft the goatskin is, and how thin it actually is (take note of the last three photos; which include the original Legacy compared to my thinline NIV reference Bible and the new Heirloom Legacy compared to the same Bible).

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 In another post I’ll say some more about how I’ve been marking this Bible up and the pens I’m using to do so. Until then, enjoy the pictures, which really don’t do the reality any justice.

B”H

Just Ordered (Yes, Again…)

So I had to add a few more Scott Hahn books to my library. I took advantage of some used copies with free shipping on Amazon. I got the following:

Understanding “Our Father”: Biblical Reflections on the Lord’s Prayer

A Father Who Keeps His Promises: God’s Covenant Love in Scripture

Rome Sweet Home: Our Journey to Catholicism

Reasons to Believe: How to Understand, Explain, and Defend the Catholic Faith

I was also able to take advantage of something that Hahn mentioned on Twitter, namely that Aleteia has partnered with the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology in offering Hahn’s latest book The First Society: The Sacrament of Matrimony and the Restoration of the Social Order for free (as a promotional paperback) to the first 20,000 people to take advantage. I jumped all over that! They just ask that you pay for shipping.

I also spent 45 minutes of my day going to 3 different stores in search of Pigma Micron pens to write in my new Bible. Michaels had some but not the ones I needed. Target and Walmart didn’t have any. So I ordered a 4 pack from Amazon containing black, red, blue, and green pens. These have archival ink that won’t smudge or bleed through and that’s extremely important to me since I plan to write quite a bit in my premium Bible, which arrived yesterday. I plan to post some photos soon and I might even write a review. We’ll see.

B”H