Interview With The Founder & Editor Of Grace Gems!

I recently had the opportunity to do an email interview with the
founder and editor of the very useful and profitable website Grace

If you do any Googling whatsoever for quotes and books of the reformed
faith, there is no doubt you have been directed to this treasure trove
of freely offered books, quotes, sermons, and excerpts.

For me personally, 99% of the material I use on The Octavius Winslow
comes from this wonderful storehouse. Without Grace Gems, the
daily Morning and Evening Thoughts would have never left the starting
gates. I am deeply thankful for the time and energy that has been
devoted to the mission at Grace Gems.

1) Can you tell us a little about Grace Gems?

The Lord was graciously pleased to save me in 1975 through the reading
of Arthur Pink’s “Sovereignty of God” and “Attributes of God”. Since
that time, the Lord has given me a voracious appetite for the best
devotional writings. Grace Gems is my feeble attempt to serve God and
His people, by freely publishing these choice materials on the
internet. My objective is to set before the Christian pilgrim — some
reflections which may prove challenging, consolatory and encouraging —
as he journeys up from this bleak, arid, wilderness world, leaning on
his Beloved.

My purpose has been the same since the start:

To humble the pride of man,
to exalt the grace of God in salvation
and to promote real holiness in heart and life.

This ministry actually started as “Grace Quotes” back in 1997. At that
time I bought my first computer, and started to send quotes to the 6
Christian people I knew who had email.

In 2002, I started a website, changed the ministry name to “Grace
Gems” — and began publishing out of print books and sermons, along
with the daily quotes.

In 2007, I added choice audio recordings.

Recently, one of my subscribers (Daniel Weiss from Victoria, BC) has
graciously started adding video to my audio recordings — and then
posting them on YouTube.

2) Over the years you have amassed quite a library of digital content!
What process do you use or how do you go about adding and seeking out
new content to put on the site?

I am very selective in what I publish. The most important thing is to
find choice materials. Everything must be Scriptural, devotional and
well written. I never publish anything I would consider as mediocre —
everything must be bona fide “gem quality”.

All of the authors I publish are noted for their sound, rich theology
— their deep devotion — their extensive knowledge of Scripture — and
their constant aim to improve the heart, to guide the conscience, and
to sanctify the life.

Most of the materials I publish have been scanned in from old books
printed in the 1800’s. It is quite a challenge correcting all the
thousands of scanning errors from these old books, most of which are
falling apart.

3) Are there any authors you have not currently touched on yet that
you hope to in the future?

Yes, but they would be too many to enumerate. I have some 20 years of
materials remaining on my “to publish list” — though it is unlikely
that my 59 year old body and mind will hold out that long.

4) With the explosion in what has become know as “The New Calvinism”,
how do you feel Grace Gems can or has played a role in rooting
believers squarely in the Reformed faith and doctrine?

First of all, I am very encouraged by this increase in interest in the
Doctrines of Grace. It is precisely to this new generation of
Calvinists, that Grace Gems is most beneficial. Everything I post is
updated to modern English — making it readable and accessible to young
Christians who would have difficulty understanding these classic older

5) Whenever I do a Google search on a particular puritan or writer of
yesteryear, it seems that Grace Gems always comes up within the top 3
hits. How many authors and how much content do you currently have?

Many of the 80 plus authors I publish, are virtually unknown in our modern era.

I have published over 300 full length books, myriad sermons and
articles, some 850 audio files, and nearly 5,000 daily devotional

6) Please tell us a bit about Grace Audio Treasures.

For years I had wanted to put some of these choice writings into audio
format, but could never find the right “reader”. In 2007, I
providentially came across the perfect person — a professional
Christian reader who agreed to do my recordings for a fraction of the
price that he normally charged.

Then, over a year ago, one of my subscribers (Ruben Sarrion from
Spain) sent me a recording he had done of one of my daily gems. It was
fabulous — and he even graciously offered to do them for free. He also
is a professional reader — and puts his heart into everything that he

Really, the audio recordings are the best thing on Grace Gems, as I
always select my favorite quotes to be recorded. I recently spent many
hours doing my fall yard work, while listening to these gems on my MP3
player. It was perhaps the most delightful work I have ever done! One
day I was raking leaves for a full 8 hours — and didn’t even get

7) I love to receive my daily email devotions from Grace Gems. Tell us
a bit about this service you offer.

These free daily email devotionals are the heart of this ministry.
This has grown from my original 6 — to over 12,000 daily subscribers.
This never ceases to amaze me, as the growth comes by word of mouth
alone — that is, from people forwarding a favorite quote to a friend,

J. R. Miller was right when he said, “Nothing is more helpful and
practical in Christian living — than the habit of getting a verse or
phrase of Scripture into the mind and heart in the morning. Its
influence stays through the day, weaving itself into all the day’s
thoughts and words and experiences.”

I normally choose my daily quote from the material I have been reading
earlier in that day. For example, I have been going through the works
of James Smith — so virtually every recent quote, has been from James
Smith’s writings.

I normally publish things that powerfully affect my own heart —
usually something very challenging, or helpful, or uplifting. I reason
that if something is very edifying to myself — that it may have the
same effect on others.

8) What vision do you have for Grace Gems in the coming future?

My goal has always been to freely provide a treasury of ageless,
Sovereign Grace, devotional writings. I really have no plans for doing
anything additionally, or differently. I have always focused on
faithfulness — and left the results up to God. My wife and I are
currently working on updating John Bunyan’s classic, “Pilgrim’s
Progress”, and hope to publish a professional audio recording of it as

9) Lastly, what else would you like your readers to know about Grace Gems?

There are several things:

Though this ministry is a full time job — it really is the passion of
my heart. There is nothing I enjoy better, than feasting my soul on
these gospel gems.

I have a very liberal “copyright policy” which essentially allows
anyone to use anything they like — in any way they desire.

Everything is free. I do not accept donations.

I answer all email.

And lastly,

“Remember that it is not hasty reading, but serious
meditation on holy and heavenly truths — which makes them prove sweet
and profitable to the soul. It is not the mere touching of the flower
by the bee, which gathers honey — but her abiding for a time on the
flower, which draws out the sweet. It is not he who reads most, but he
who meditates most — who will prove to be the choicest, sweetest,
wisest and strongest Christian!”

Thomas Brooks

Please stop in to the Grace Gems website and browse their virtual bookshelves or drop them an email at

Posted in devotions, interview | Tagged | 1 Comment

Blog Recommendation For Fighting Legalism

If you have enjoyed my posts here concerning putting to death the black dog of legalism and trusting wholly on the Saviour’s gospel, please check out Terry Rayburn’s blog Grace For Life.

I have benefited from his work greatly. You can also follow him on Twitter.

If you are mp3 nerd like me, check out his weekly radio program too!

Posted in blog, legalism | Leave a comment

The Drug of Self Pity

“Feeling sorry for yourself is one of the strongest, most addictive narcotics known to man. It feels so good to feel so bad. Self-pity arises so easily, seems so plausible, and proves so hard to shake off.”

David Powlison

HT: JollyBlogger

Posted in sin | 5 Comments

Interview With Nicholas Gray of R.L. Allan’s Bibles

Installment three of my bible interviews now moves onto Nicholas Gray of R.L. Allen’s Bibles of Glasgow, Scotland. Allan’s has been producing extremely high quality bible editions for almost 150 years now and are the industry leader in quality and excellence of binding.

1) Can you tell us a little bit more about R. L. Allan’s?

R.L.Allan is almost 150 years old and Robert Allan published John Nelson Darby in the 1870s, the father of dispensationalism. Darby’s Bible translation came out in the 1890s. The Allan family were active in evangelistic work in Glasgow and I am a trustee of the Gospel Mission they founded in a needy part of this city. It’s still going after 120 years.

Allan’s have been publishing Bibles for most of this time and built their reputation on publishing fine quality traditionally bound  KJV Bibles.

My own Gray family have been publishing Bibles since 1906 under the Pickering & Inglis name and then from 1970 under the Allan name, when my father bought the business from the Allan family.

So we have always been a family-run business. The Allan company had a bookstore in Sauchiehall Street for many years, and our oldest ex-employee is now 95 years young. She runs the Mission!

2) You’ve made a ton of people happy by finally agreeing to produce NASB editions and we thank you wholeheartedly for doing so. Here in America it is a very popular translation. Can you give us a glimpse into how you produce a new translation edition series like this?

Our reputation is built on our fine bindings mostly. Until recent years we stuck with the KJV translation because that was what we knew our customers wanted. But since I took over the company in 1989, we’ve expanded into NIV, NRSV and ESV. We plan to make NASB and NLT editions this year too.

Sometimes we’ll print an edition for ourselves such as the KJV and the ESV. We took over Oxford’s KJV range of settings and we work with HarperCollins and Crossway with the ESV. Sometimes we buy printed and folded sheets from our partner publishers.

I’ve been in Christian publishing for over 35 years, working for such publishers as Collins in the UK and Zondervan in the States, and now with Allans. So I’ve been able to develop close working relationships with many Bible publishers. That established trust is what enables us to be partners with Lockman and Tyndale House and Hodder and the others I’ve mentioned.

All these relationships are personal, rather than formal and commercial. A metaphorical handshake is all it takes to seal the matter.

3) Can you share with us your relationship with and Mark Bertrand?

Basically it’s based on friendship, or really fellowship. Paul at simply asked to distribute our Bibles and Mark seems to like Allan Bibles. So our online friendships have grown through our mutual love of fine Bibles. Mark has no link to Allan’s and we don’t pay him to say nice things about what we do! But we love it when he does.

4) What was your first bible?

My first Bible was a lovely red French Morocco KJV Bible published by Eyre and Spottiswoode, Her Majesty’s Printers.It was given to me by my parents and was inscribed with my date of conversion when I was four years old

5) What is you favorite bible?

My favourite Bible is dated 12th November 1922 and is inscribed with the name Helen Mair. It measures 1 3/4 inches high, 1 1 /4 inch wide and 1/2 inch thick! It has a magnifying glass which is hidden in a pocket at the front of this tiny KJV Bible and with this the Bible is perfectly readable. This little Bible is bound in brown calfskin and was printed here in Glasgow by David Bryce and Son. It carries the Royal Licence.

6) I notice that your editions are often said to be “bound in England”. Can you expand on that a bit?

As publishers we don’t print or bind the Bibles ourselves. We seek out the best printers and binders around the world, and because our aims are not foremostly commercial, quality always surpasses cost in this quest.

Our best editions are bound near London at a craft bindery whose owners have royal warrants from the Queen for their fine work.   These volumes are each hand-finished on the bench and are not mass produced in any way.

7) As you most assuredly know, there has been a tremendous boom in high end bible editions such as yours which is mostly attributed to places like the Bible Design Blog and Can you tell us your thoughts on this new reconnaissance of bible edition interest?

Fine Bibles are things of beauty, no doubt, and we are stimulated by our customers’ encouragement for us to do better. Bur our passion is to produce beautiful bibles that will last for many years and be read for spiritual profit and growth. After all, its what is inside the covers which is eternally important.

R.L.Allan is unique in that we don’t really sell through bookstores. That allows us to draw very close to our customers and each one is a personal contact. We listen to them and try to respond to their wishes, if we can.  Much of the new ideas come from customer suggestions. Being a small company we can be flexible and responsive.

8) On your website, it says:

“R L Allan have recently been granted the Queen’s Royal Licence under Letters Patent to publish the Authorized King James Version Bible in Scotland.  Queen Elizabeth still holds the copyright to the KJV Bible in the UK.”

Can you expand a bit on that?

Being granted the Queen’s Royal Licence for Scotland is an honour more than anything else. Queen Victoria set up the Bible Board in 1839 to police unauthorized editions of ‘her’ Bible. We stand in that tradition. I had to post a bail of £500 in case I misbehaved. Back in 1839, that must have been a fortune!

Cambridge are Her Majesty’s Bible Publishers for England. So we have a friendly arrangement that their Bibles can circulate in Scotland and ours can go into England, and everyone’s happy.

9) Could you share with us the process of art gilding and how it is accomplished?

The page edges are gilded with gold foil using heat and intense pressure. Then the red dye is sprayed by hand onto the gilded edges and the colour appears under the gilding. Hence ‘red under gold’ or art gilt edges. You see the red as you flex the pages and it adds lustre.

10) Are you able to give us a glimpse into the near future for R.L. Allan’s?

We sometimes surprise ourselves. Paul at is close to our US customers and, sensing that there was a read desire for a top quality reference NASB, suggested we approach Lockman. They were about to reprint their side column reference edition and so we agreed to take some sheets for an Allan edition of this very attractive setting of the NASB.

2011 is an important year for the KJV Bible as we celebrate 400 years of this venerable translation. Allan’s will have some special editions of the Longprimer edition to mark the occasion.

The NIV will also have its first full revision since the mid 1980s and that will be an important milestone. We’ll have a new setting of the revised NIV, working with our good friends at UK publishers Hodder & Stoughton. As it happens, my nephew is the Bible Director there!

11) How have both bibles and the process of publishing bibles changed in the past 50 or so years?

The technological shifts in printing from letterpress to web offset and from film to digital imaging have revolutionized the processes.  With the introduction of the new translations from the 1960s on and with modern fliexible technologies, the Bible text has become in flux as the translators continually seek for more and more accuracy in transcribing from the original manuscripts and our understandings of them. This is unsettling for many Bible readers of course, and the KJV remains a bulwark for many against that tide of change.

12) From Jonathan Ammon, would you consider producing a lower priced, entry level edition so others who might be able to afford a few of your editions can get started with a high quality Allan’s edition at a lower price point?

We do this already and generally we provide a cheaper but very good quality edition in French Morocco leather.

13) From Brian Damaged Davis, how do you determine how many of a particular edition to produce at any given time?

We don’t make many at any one time.  When we print we have to lay down sheets for many years’ use,  but we bind in small numbers in batches. They are all hand-finished and that means that we can’t rush it.  We think in hundreds rather than thousands.  As good stewards, we have to husband our resources because we are not a big or wealthy outfit and each Bible is expensive to make.

14) How long would it take to bind a typical Allan’s bible such as the Longprimer?

It takes about three months from taking the folded sheets through to a bound Bible. The sheets have to be collated, then sewn, then endpapered with leather or other material.

Meanwhile leather has been selected and ordered from the tannery, then cut to shape. The covers are made by hand and stamped with gold foil. The trimmed text block and covers are married up and bound by hand on the bench, before inspection and boxing. It’s a long and labour-intensive operation.

15) Finally, please share with us anything else you would like us to know about R.L. Allan’s.

It was the internet which brought us to the attention of the wider world. We had been a ‘best kept’ secret until that new era. We had long served a particular market of KJV readers who knew what an Allan Bible meant. So the world wide web has transformed our small business, not into a big business, but we remain a small business with a growing and loyal customer base who drive us on to aim for perfection in Bible production.

Of course, we’ll only get perfection in heaven, but we do try very hard to serve our customers and listen attentively to their needs. They are most generous to us.  I want to thank all our Allan Bible readers who are so gracious and encouraging to us in our ministry.

Posted in bible, interview | 5 Comments

Interview With Paul Cline of

A few months ago I was able to ask Mark Bertrand of the Bible Design Blog a few questions regarding his opinions on the topic of bible design and binding.

Now, this month I was able to interview Paul Cline of I asked him his thoughts on the same subject, as well as some personal questions regarding himself as the owner of

1) Tell us a little bit about yourself personally.

I was raised in Southern Africa (my parents are missionaries) until I returned to the US for university.  I went to William & Mary in VA for undergrad and Duke for graduate school.  I have 4 children.  I am an adjunct professor at our local community college.  I am an ordained SBC pastor and am a church planter.  I am also the founder and owner of (Does it sound like I have time for hobbies?)  I am an avid reader and student of world history.

2) How did come to be? came into existence for 2 reasons.

First, as a church planter with 4 kids living in the San Francisco area one always needs supplemental income.

Second, Bibles and Bible translation has always been of keen interest to me.  I started selling books on marketplace, but realized we could do a lot better with our own website.  I was immediately drawn to the ESV translation because it represented the “RSV with a faith lift.”  The RSV had been my favorite translation previous to the ESV because of its accuracy and poetic rhythm.

3) What is your personal all time favorite bible?

Good Question.  Though I don’t use either Bible, my 2 favorites are the Allan Longprimer 53 and the Cambridge Concord Ref. Goatskin.  Both of these Bibles are about as well built as can be expected.

4) I understand you have worked side by side with Allan’s to produce the Allan’s Reader. Can you share what your relationship is with Allan’s? and R.L. Allan and Sons are partners, not competitors.  We were contacted about 4 years ago by Allan who asked us if we would consider stocking their ESV line.  After a few attempts we decided to give it a try.  Since then, has become the official US distributor of the Allan Bible.  The owner of Allan, Nicholas Gray and myself share a lot in common beyond Bibles.  Nicholas has lived in South Africa and Zimbabwe and we actually have mutual missionary friends who live in that area.  That shared African experience goes a long way.

One of the unique aspects of Allan is that we are truly customer driven.  The upcoming NASB is a perfect example.  Our customers continually asked us to have Allan bind the NASB.  We had a conference call with Allan who approved the plan.  We then went back to our customers and asked for their favorite typeface.  After our survey we went to Lockman (publisher of the NASB) who sold us the relevant Bible sheets.

As for the Reader’s…It was actually in some aspects a resurrection of the former ESV Deluxe Reference Bible.  We thought that the ESV would benefit from a bit more legible typeface. Allan agreed with our insight and decided to obtain the sheets…The same will be done with the Oxford Brevier Wide Margin…..

5) What is your best selling bible of all time?

In terms of sheer volume we sell more ESV pew Bibles than any other Bible.  After pew Bibles-the Allan ESV1 has been our best seller for the past 3 years.  It will be back in print this September.  The Allan Goatskin Longprimer comes in close 2nd followed by the Cambridge Pitt Minions.

6) What changes would you like to see take place in the actual production of bibles today?

First, I am always concerned that not take on a ‘snobby’ image of ‘Bibles for the elite.’ As a church planter and street evangelist, I proudly hand out 100’s of 25c NT paperbacks (though I prefer paperbacks with the OT as well)…and proud of it. Having said that, the Bible is a special book for Christians.  A cheaply bound novel may not be a bad investment if it is only read once or twice.  Our customers are people who study and use their Bibles daily. It therefore makes sense to have a Bible that is legible, durable, practical, and elegant (to some degree).  Many publishers seem more focused on the design of the Bible cover than the integrity of the paper, and the binding in general.  I wish more publishers were concerned about binding integrity than ‘glow in the dark’ covers.  Allan publishers are an exception here.

Their goal is truly to give you a Bible that will truly allow you to use it without it disintegrating over time.  I have also been impressed with the Bible manager at Cambridge UK, Chris Wright.  He has come out with many innovative and durable Bibles-they have in many ways pioneered the Single Column typeface which show up in more translations than the NIV.   Cambridge truly spends a lot of time examining every detail of Bible manufacturing before they bind one.  Cambridge went through a challenging period with some poor quality binding material a few years ago, but we recommend their current line without reservation.

7) Do you find that bible publishers are now listening to people like yourself and Mark Bertrand and implementing your suggestions and ideas?

Ironically it is the higher end Bible publishers that are the most willing to listen to new ideas and suggestions.  Even though Allan and Cambridge are 2 of the oldest and most prestigious of Bible publishers, they are the most willing to hear new ideas.  Since we partner with Allan, we literally have a ‘team’ spirit when discussing future editions.

8) If you could change one thing about, what would it be?

I wish we had the resources to answer phones.  We will likely add this feature to our store soon.  I also wish British Bible publishing was a bit more reliable….I know it’s difficult for our customers to see their favorite Bible go out of stock for 6 months at a time.

9) How many bibles do you personally own?

I own about 6 Bibles, 5 of which were gifts.  I bought an ESV Large Print Bible, which is the one I use daily.  It is both legible and doesn’t have ref’s-which are a distraction for me.

10) What advice would you give to someone purchasing their first high end bible who is new to this area?

Research before you purchase!


1. Translation

2. References or not

3. Legibility

4. Paper Quality

5. Binding, ie. Pigskin, Calfskin, Goatskin…

6. Size, etc.

It is important to realize that all Bibles have their strengths and weaknesses.  The customer needs to find the Bible that best suits his needs in a Bible, understanding that there is no Bible that can meet all of your needs at the same time., ie. “I want a Large Print, compact, light in weight, wide margin, opaque paper, thinline Bible that can fit into my coat pocket!” All Bibles have ‘trade-offs.’  Please take time and research the Bible that best suits your particular needs.

11) What was your first bible?

A dark brown hardback NIV.

12)  If you could say one thing to bible publishers today, what would it be?

I’ve said a lot above.

13) Share with us anything else you would like us to know about eb! is devoted to bringing the message of faith and repentance to our desperately lost world.  Please remember that we have an apologetics aspect to our business.

Posted in Uncategorized | 9 Comments

Presten ESV Compact Deluxe

Thanks to places like the Bible Design Blog and, many of us have gained quite an education on the ins and outs of high end bible bindings. Never have so many been able to identify the difference between  full and semi yapp covers or have been able to distinguish between goat and calf skin. It’s been a tremendous honor to be here in a time where so many are calling for more bindings from publishing houses to break outside of the bonded leather status quo that has encapsulated many a believers bookshelf.

The one problem that has risen from this education (as I humbly see it) is that the more we know, the more we demand. It’s human nature really. We get A, we want B. We get B, then suddenly C looks so darn appealing. To that end, it seems that no sooner than a publishing house or binding house releases a new edition that there are the select few that begin to find it’s faults and wish that it just wasn’t so.

Let’s face it, a producer of bibles cannot exactly stop on a dime when it come to halting a production run mid stream to insert 2 more ribbons or add 1/8 of an inch to its front and back covers.

Finally, however, there is an alternative on the horizon. An alternative that strives to compete with those big houses to produce a much smaller production run of high end bibles that are 100% custom and designed by the customer and for the customer.

Paul Presten of is now offering all of the popular text blocks in his own custom top quality bindings. Bindings that can be hand selected by the customer just as you would build your own teddy bear at your local Build A Bear.

You want 4 ribbons? He can do it. You want Goatskin in red? He can do it. You want a custom color no one else offers to match an existing edition you already own? Paul is your guy.

About 2 months ago now, Paul approached me via email asking me to help him gather ideas and thoughts for a burning desire of his to offer Allan’s quality bindings  in a more custom fashion. After about 150 emails (literally), the first edition of those discussions is this one. I’m calling it the Presten ESV Deluxe Compact and it is based on a Crossway Deluxe Compact in blue with silver gilding. I chose silver for this edition solely because it was different. I have yet to see a high end bible with a silver text block, so I though this would be a good time to see what one would look like.

Since none of the other producers of quality bindings currently offers a compact, I knew Paul would be the guy to do it. But to go one step further, I wanted it in full yapp goatskin. None of that sissy semi yapp, mind you. We’re talking full yapp cover-touches-cover kinda’ yapp here. I know of only a few full yapp bindings there are out there, but none in a compact form. And why not for Pete’s sake? The compact form is the perfect place to institute a full yapp because it is these little books that take the greatest beatings. They are thrown in bags, slipped into back pockets, and tossed into glove compartments. The full yapp protects the text block from accidental damage and water stains all the while forming a sort of casing to hold those beautiful pages.

Next I knew I wanted spine bands. Again, the big guys don’t do it. Crossway does, of course, but again, they do not offer a compact in a premium binding. So I asked Paul if he could do it. “No problem” was his reply.

Finally, I knew I wanted 3 red ribbons for following along with a reading plan. Again, not a problem for Paul.

I chose black goatskin because I’m a traditionalist of sorts. I like simple and I like tradition. Most colors will in some shape, form, or fashion grow old over the years and red on black is as classy and high end as you can get. The look never grows old. As I later found out, the goatskin Paul uses comes from the exact same region as Allan’s goatskin! Way cool!

So after a few months of going back and forth via email, this little edition is the end result and I must say, Allan’s better watch out because Paul means business. I say that tongue in cheek of course because Paul is a one man band offering his years of experience to produce a limited amount of custom high end bibles to those of us who are picky about our bibles and who want more than what the current offerings can offer.

He assures me he can make just about anything you can think of.  How about a red PSR with full yapp? Maybe a SCR in tan or cordovan? Got a favorite edition you would like to have a companion for in the same color? Why not get it in another version with identical finish and color?

The possibilities are limitless.

Sure there are binders out there that can offer custom work. But you will not likely find one with such a burning passion for Gods word who will do what the others will not, such as full yapp covers (most binders shy away from them) and custom colors on unique text blocks. He can even take one of your existing favorites that has seen better days and rebind it in high end goatskin and make it better than when it was new. If you want an edition that isn’t cookie cutter and looks like the rest of the pack, maybe it’s time to consider a handmade edition crafted by a skilled artist.

In conclusion, if you want customization in your bibles and want to support a fellow believer with years of book binding experience, you really need to give Paul Presten a call or drop him an email. He will work with you to build that perfect edition you have floating around in your imagination…even if it takes 150 emails.

Go To Photo Set

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

My New Website!

For the faithful few of you who have stuck by my endeavours here at The Foolish Galatian, I have a big announcement to make!

As of this morning, I have launched a new website dedicated to the writings and life of Octavius Winslow!

I have quoted often here from his writings, but it wasn’t until recently that I realized how much I truly appreciate his writings. Sadly, little work has been done on Winslow as far as gathering his work and life into one place, so I have taken it upon myself to begin what I hope will be a constructive and helpful site to expose Christians to what a true gem he is.

I invite you to click on over and have a glance around and maybe even subscribe through your feed reader or email.

Thanks for stopping in!

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Interview with J. Mark Bertrand of Bible Design Blog

I recently sat down with author and blogger J. Mark Bertrand (well, not really, I sent him an email while in bed the other night) to interview him about his efforts at the Bible Design Blog. This blog is devoted to showcasing and reviewing  innovative design and quality Bible bindings. From the Bible Design Blog Facebook fanpage, he describes his blog as:

Bible Design Blog is a site dedicated to the physical form of the Good Book. Author J. Mark Bertrand channels his interests in the Bible, typography, and publishing into a wide-ranging consideration of Bible design and publishing.

Bible Design Blog is … A source for in-depth writing about the state of Bible design and production … Host to a global conversation about past and present Bible editions … A community of bibliophiles.

So with no further a due, here we go…

1) What got you into Bible design and binding? What was it that fueled this interest?

Because I grew up in church, I grew up looking at the Bible without actually seeing it. Seeing the physical form, I mean. The design. Only after college did it even occur to me you could choose your own edition. I’d always used whatever I’d been given.

By the time I was ready to make my own choice, the typography bug had already bitten—I came of age around the same time desktop publishing did, so I worked an old-fashioned Linotype machine out of high school and by the time I graduated there was Quark Xpress.

So I wasn’t just choosing, I was choosy. And I didn’t like most of what I saw. Like a lot of my readers, I “collected” a lot of Bibles, not because I wanted a bunch, but because I kept finding them unsatisfactory. As a typographer, I had the tools to understand why. It wasn’t until much later, though, that I started writing about it.

2) If you had to keep only one Bible in your collection, what would it be and why?

People ask me this question all the time, and I don’t have an answer. The one edition I’d prefer above all others doesn’t exist yet. Nobody has published it. When they do, I won’t keep it a secret, but until then I’m not going to crown any substitutes.

But since you asked so nicely, I will say this. There’s only one edition I currently have four copies of and worry it’s not enough, and that’s the single column REB New Testament. No, make that five copies. I wasn’t counting the glued flex cover one. Sadly, I only have one in red calf, the others are the ugly burgundy, which means more often than not I use the ugly burgundy out of fear of losing or damaging the irreplaceable red. If anybody has the red and wants to trade for a goatskin something or other, let me know. So I’m guessing that if they rounded me up at midnight, put a gun to my head, and said “Herr Bertrand, you are going to a wery nasty place for a wery long time, pick vun Bible to bring along,” I’d reach for the red calf REB New Testament (in the slipcase, naturally, since you need the extra protection during indefinite detention).

If somebody did a full Bible in a similarly readable single column setting (hint) it would be a big help.

3) Tell us a bit about yourself on a personal level. Aside from writing, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

Bible Design Blog is what I do in my spare time, and the fact I don’t update as frequently as people would like is a testament to how little of it I have. Right now, I have a new novel out, which I’m promoting, and I’m also writing a novel. The one I’m writing is the second in a series. The first in that series comes out in July. So I’ll finish Book 2 and start doing promotion for Book 1. On top of that, in June and July I’ll be traveling on the West Coast teaching for Worldview Academy. When none of that is going on, I like to read, and sometimes to sleep.

There are a couple of things I wish I had more time for. One is theological reading. I’m one of those strange people who finds it satisfying. I don’t try to stay current, and I’m not particularly interested in a lot of academic theology, which is a little too culturally conditioned for my taste. But I latch onto things and wish I had more time to do them justice. I’m always a few centuries behind. The same goes for literature. So many books, too little time.

I’m one of those people who picks up an interest, focuses on it exclusively, then exhausts the subject. One of my history teachers told me the problem with King Philip was that he sweated the small stuff, dispatching bizarrely detailed instructions about every little thing to the limits of his kingdom. He sounds like my kind of guy, as anyone who’s every written me asking for advice on leather goods will know.

My most recent fixation has been cycling. Naturally, I don’t have much interest in the lycra outfits and the helmets that make you look like one of Godzilla’s sparring partners, but I like vintage bikes and ended up getting a new one fitted out in the classic style, with hammered fenders, a front light, and a little bell. We live in a very bike friendly town (when it isn’t polar bear friendly), so this is a worthwhile obsession to have.  I’d ride it more, only I don’t have the matching tweed outfit. BDB readers won’t be surprised to hear that I was able to find a real vintage bike for my wife that’s nicer than mine (lugged steel frame) for 1/20th of the cost. The subject may change, but the logic remains the same.

But if you’ll allow me, I want to circle back to the writing. I know a lot of BDB readers are active in ministry, and many are influential in other ways, and I desperately want them to check out my books and even to recommend them. You can think of it as a public radio thing, where buying the books is how you do your part to support the programming. But the thing is, if you like BDB, there’s a good chance you might actually like my books, too. The same mind’s behind them, after all. I try to keep the shameless self-promotion to a minimum on the site, but since I believe in what I do, I like to share it. So please … buy my books!

4) How many Bibles do you currently own?

At the risk of sounding like a hipster—or worse, a hipster wannabe—I like to think of myself as “curating” them, not owning them. I have no idea how many are on my shelves. I don’t keep a running count, and even if I wanted to, they’re spread out all over the place. And people keep sending me more! I get a lot of review copies these days—not as many as I’d like, and not from as many different sources, but that’s improving—and I end up giving some of the nicer ones away. (One of the reasons I don’t do destructive testing on review copies or use Sharpies on the paper to see if they show through is that nobody likes to visit Aladdin’s Cave, pick out a treasure, and find out somebody’s already written all over it.)

5) How has the BDB impacted the bible publishing community? Are you able to communicate with them to offer opinions and critiques and are they responsive?

Let me answer the second question first. Am I able to communicate with them? Absolutely. A lot of people in the industry read my blog. Some of them get in touch directly. I’ve done some actual consulting work, which has been fantastic. I’ve offered feedback, solicited and not. The challenge is, as a “reviewer,” by the time I give my input it’s usually too late. So I’m always trying to make the pitch for an earlier involvement.

What hasn’t happen is, nobody’s come to me and said: “Tell us what to do and we’ll do it.” I dream about that. And when it happens, I’ll be ready. So far, though, no one has had a sufficient quantity of BDB Kool-Aid to think you can’t go wrong financially by giving Bertrand a free hand. All in good time.

As far as impact goes … I want to be realistic. I’ve helped a few projects be better than they otherwise would have been. But I haven’t changed the world or anything. Hopefully the ideals I’ve tried to argue for will have an influence over time.

In terms of impact that has been felt (as opposed to my future hopes), I’ll throw three things out there. First, I think Bible Design Blog has made readers more conscious of the decisions that go into their Bibles, so they have informed opinions about things they otherwise wouldn’t have noticed. Second, I’ve been able to introduce a wider audience to higher quality editions, and that’s helped sustain and expand their market. Lastly, I’d like to believe that people’s reaction to the blog has helped convince publishing executives that there’s a real desire for good design and quality out there.

6) The BDB has gathered quite a little community. Were you aware that there were so many others that shared your passion and concerns for Bible design and bindings?

I’ve been corresponding with people about the subject far longer than Bible Design Blog has been around, so yes, I knew there were passionate folks out there. The surprise has been that so many non-antiquarian, non-book people have hopped on board. The logic has always been that only a small minority of Bible readers are really concerned about production quality and good design, but the success of the site suggests that when they’re clued into the issues, a lot of people who aren’t otherwise interested in book design or publishing become passionate about this subject. That’s what gets me excited.

Of course, some of you guys are crazy. If you’ve ever taken calipers to a Bible, reported the result on the site, and then tried to get everyone else to take calipers to every other Bible out there so you can plug the results into a spreadsheet … well, you’re crazy. But I’m glad you’re out there. Just stop sending me calipers in the mail!

7) What is the one Bible you would love to see published?

The one I’ve been advocating for so long, namely a hand-sized single-column text setting with classic typography, modern punctuation, and superb production standards. With section headings and chapter numbers, but probably not verse numbers. Something like the NEB layout come of age. And I’d love to see a variety of translations using the same format, so that more of us could have that “one Bible” experience.

But it wouldn’t be one Bible. See, the beautiful thing is that an elegant single column text setting would lend itself to a whole range of editions. Enlarge it for a nice, reader-friendly volume, Shrink it for a portable. Add extra space for a wide margin. Really, that’s the ideal. Three editions, one for the pocket, one for the hand, one for study, each with the same layout and page numbering, available in a variety of bindings from quality hardback to fine leather.

8) You seem to have had an influence in the Bibles being produced at Allan’s and those being offered at Can you explain a little your history with these two companies?

Obviously, I’ve written a lot about Allan’s editions. My first one was the Brevier Blackface in Cape Levant goatskin, which I ordered sight unseen from Canada. The price tag is still on the box, and it says $215.95, which I assume was in Canadian dollars. I loved the cover, but wasn’t crazy about the Oxford text block. I don’t remember which ones I tried next, but I ended up with a few. And then Allan’s did the ESV1, which I pre-ordered. Eventually, as I wrote about them more, I corresponded with Nicholas Gray, shared some thoughts. He was the first publisher to send me a review copy, which was a good thing, because I couldn’t have kept the site going otherwise. So Allan’s has a special place in my heart. Some people might think I focus on them too much, but I don’t think that’s possible. is a distributor of Allan’s editions in the US. I don’t know that I’ve had influence on what they carry (apart from the NIV Pocket Cross Reference). I do know that I always badmouth the atrocious Single Column Reference ESV when I talk to Paul, and he keeps pretending it’s a great edition.

I should probably point out that I don’t have a business relationship with either Allan’s or, any more than with the other publishers whose editions I write about. I do have friendly relations with them, though. I like what they’re doing. In a lot of ways, the reviewing side of BDB can be boiled down to that. I’m writing about stuff I like, stuff I wish there was more of, people who’re getting some part of the puzzle right. Of course, there are more out there, and I’m looking for them.

9) What is the worst bible you have ever handled/owned?

The competition here is fierce! My apologies for those about to be roasted. I’m sure the intentions were good. And I’m not going to single out the Single Column Reference ESV, even though its existence pains me (mainly because of what it could have been). It’s nicely made, I just don’t think the way the verse-per-line/single-column combo butchers the text is very attractive.

My biggest disappointment was probably the first edition of the NET Bible, because I love the translation notes and wish everybody would follow their lead on that—but the first time I opened it, I was incredulous. It doesn’t just insert the verse numbers into the text, it gives the chapter numbers, too. So in chapter three of a particular book, you get 3:1, 3:2, 3:3, etc., like the text was copied and pasted from the web without anyone noticing. I wept. I’d love to have a printed edition of the NET Bible’s translation notes, similar to the companion volumes you can get for the Greek NT. I could use it pretty much with any version when I wanted some insight into the translation issues.

There’s a thing called the Kwikscan Bible that puts the important stuff in bold, so you can skip over the rest. They’re real clever about it, too. The bold text actually reads in complete sentences. They might as well have cut the rest out. Whenever people get flustered at my criticism of red letter editions (a late nineteenth century innovation), I always think of the Kwikscan Bible. Because the same arrogance that led someone to think they could improve the Bible by boldfacing the essential bits motivated someone else to think they could improve it by putting Christ’s words in red. (A better idea would have been to put them in quotation marks, but that would be meddling with the text.)

Along similar lines, there’s this terrible edition out there called the Defined King James Bible. It repeats a limited number of vocabulary words in the margin so that modern readers can check words that have changed meaning over time. Unfortunately, the editors seemed to think only a handful of words had, and no expressions of speech, so it’s not especially helpful. This could have been a great idea—for example, if they’d looked at a critical edition of Chaucer or Shakespeare and seen how that kind of apparatus can work—but instead it’s an utter flop. And yes, I have one.

I could go on. The point is, what these all have in common is they make an idiosyncratic departure from the norm which fails utterly. But I passionately want designers and publishers to depart from the norm. The innovations need to be beneficial, though, and well executed. Most of these failures could probably be traced back to a creative process that didn’t take usage into consideration.

10) Do you have any concerns or words of wisdom for Bible publishers today?

This is roundabout, but if you bear with me it’ll make sense. Sometime in the late nineties, somebody in my office came back from Europe with a magazine about cell phones. At the time, the way the American market worked, every carrier had a different network, and offered one or two phones to go with it. If those phones had any features, they weren’t enabled. But in Europe there was this incredible diversity. I was shocked how far ahead of us they were. The difference was, they had a standardized network, so the competition was all about handsets and features. Things have changed somewhat in the last decade, but we still don’t have a standard network here, and it shows.

When there were one or two translations in use out there, and the only specialty study Bible was the reprehensible Scofield, how did publishers compete? They made better Bibles. No, the design wasn’t particularly innovative (leaving out the NEB), but you had a variety of colors, materials, and sizes on offer. The advertising actually gave you the product specs, told you the kind of paper, the type of leather, the way it was bound—information that’s treated today like a trade secret. There were real benefits to deliver. Once every carrier started running its own network, that started to change.

I’m not saying we need to get back to just one translation, but we haven’t seemed to learn how to handle ourselves in a world of options. New translations come out now, and they’re available in a variety of speciality formats (this guy’s study notes, that guy’s better living mantra, this organization’s logo) long before anyone thinks, “Hey, if this translation’s going to last, people might want to write notes in the margin.” Some thought needs to go into how a book is used, especially one that’s used as often and in as many different contexts as the Bible.

What I’ve tried to do at Bible Design Blog is showcase examples of where a designer or producer does seem to have engaged in that process. A lot of people think of BDB as a review site, and me as a reviewer, but to be honest, reviewing is just a means to an end. I’m trying to foster a conversation that will support design innovation in the field, not by promoting one rigid orthodoxy (though I have one, the single-column cult), but by getting people to think differently about the physical form of the Good Book.

11) If someone is new to the high end, quality Bible market, how would you advise them for their first purchase?

If you’re just starting out, you’ve got is so good! When I got into this, you paid your money based on a text description and a few weeks or maybe months later, you got your first look at the edition. Now there are photos to look at, reviews to read, opinions to compare. My advice is to take your time and think about what you really want. You can spend a lot of money fast, but you’re better off doing your due diligence. Go back through the archive at Bible Design Blog, back to the beginning, and start reading. There’s a huge amount of information. Don’t just look at reviews of particular translations, check out everything. It’ll help you get up to speed.

For the person looking to make one purchase, there are some obvious choices. If you can live with a two-column text setting, the Cambridge Pitt Minion is available in a variety of translations. Get one bound in goatskin and live with it awhile. That might be the last edition you ever need. If you want the single column experience, there’s the Cambridge Single Column NIV and the Personal Size Reference ESV (and I’d recommend the Allan’s edition of that for obvious reasons). Wide margins? Go with Cambridge. The Nelson Signature line doesn’t seem to be current anymore, which is a shame. A few publisher offer similar editions. If you want the floppy, matte calfskin experience, check those out.

The main thing is this: do a lot of thinking up front, make a choice, and then live with it for awhile. I was really disappointed with my Cambridge Pitt Minion ESV at first because the cover was too stiff, but a couple of months in, it was perfect. That happens. You may not feel a year from now the way you do when you open the box.

Here’s one more thing I’d say to a newcomer. You’re going to get this in life, and you’ll see it from time to time on the blog. Someone will come along, puff himself up, and say, “It’s not the outside that matters, it’s the inside!” Like he’s telling us something we don’t know. Some people get off on stating the obvious. They’re the same ones who snigger at seminary education and say “loving Jesus is what’s really important,” as if people upend their lives and go to seminary because they think otherwise. The point is, if you’re frustrated with crappy editions, if you’re insulted by them even, and you decide it’s time to invest in a quality one, don’t let some well-meaning idiot come along and make you feel bad about it. My favorite verse to twist is from the KJV: “Happy is the man that condemneth himself not for that thing which he alloweth.” In other words, you don’t have to answer to the nitwit who thinks it’s a sin to spend more the $50, or $25, or whatever sum he happened to spend last on a Bible. And I mean nitwit in the uplifting, non-pejorative sense, naturally.

12) Would you please explain your process for choosing a Bible to review and your methods you employ in the actual reviewing process?

Words like “process” and “method” make it sound more intelligent than it is. For better or worse, here’s how it works. Publishers send review copies. Typically, they’ll get in touch with me and say they have something I might be interested in. I rarely solicit things from them, but it happens occasionally.

The ESV Study Bible is a good example. Originally I wanted to a side-by-side comparison of every option, but Crossway had already worked out a promotional plan, which involved sending black TruTones out to all the blogger/reviewers. So I ended up with one of those. I liked the ESV SB a lot, but not in that format, and ended up not writing about it … or rather, I ended up posting pictures of Olive Tree’s great ESV SB app for the iPhone instead. But some time passed and I started wondering if I was wrong to advise people to go either for the hardback or the software. So I got in touch with them again, and they sent a brown cordovan calfskin. I’ve mentioned it on the site, and will probably do a write-up.

Okay, this is a sidebar, but let me add something. People will e-mail me and say, “Why don’t you write about this edition or that one?” The answer is usually that I don’t have one. Maybe I’ve never heard of it. The best way to get that edition reviewed is for them to contact that publisher and say: “Send one to Bertrand.” I wish they would. Publishers sending review copies is no big deal. My publisher will send out quite a few when I have a book coming out. That’s the only way to get them in reviewers hands. But sometimes smaller publishers, especially if they aren’t doing other books, don’t know that. If somebody does a short run facsimile of the Geneva Bible bound in tan pigskin, for example, the odds are they aren’t going to send me one. And it’s a shame, because I have a tan pigskin theme room in my house.

Anyway, the stuff arrives and I try to live with it awhile. Sometimes I’ll write about an edition quickly, sometimes I take more time. I have to think about what to say, form an opinion, make some comparisons. Read it. Carry it. The process varies. Although the site seems to attract a lot of engineer types, I’m not one of them, so I don’t have a standard method I run through in every case. I let each edition dictate the kind of coverage I should give it.

I’m also looking for non-review ways to incorporate things. My goal really isn’t to create some kind of Buyer’s Guide to Bibles. The site can function that way, and I’m comfortable with that, but as I said before, it’s really about the conversation between design and production. People think I want them to buy this or that. I don’t care what they buy. I just happen to like certain things, and I’m passionate about them. So I’m looking for ways to showcase more editions, different kinds, things that don’t necessarily fit into the framework I’ve established. It’s all very fluid.

There are a few things I don’t write about. I try to be careful with what influence I have, which makes it hard for me to hype organizations I really have concerns about. While I try to be broadly ecumenical as far as my writing goes, covering a wide spectrum, and I’m not averse to an even broader scope, encompassing Catholic and Jewish editions (I’ve done a little Eastern Orthodox, but would love to do more), there are some sites I don’t feel comfortable pointing people to. Extreme KJV Only stuff, for example. If you’re to the right of the Trinitarian Bible Society … if you’d burn most of the KJV translators at the metaphorical stake if you realized who they were … then you could print Bibles on 100% opaque paper, bind them in leviathan-print unicorn skin, and give them away for a buck apiece, and I’d have a hard time recommending you. But that’s probably because I love the KJV so much, and thanks to the fringe, if you’re not KJV Only you have to be KJV But. As in, I live the KJV, but I’m not going to verbally assault you.

That was a sidebar, too. At some point, I feel like I have something to say about a particular edition, so I grab my camera and start taking pictures. People ask what the secret is to photos like mine, and it’s taking a bunch of them. I’m not a good photographer, technically speaking. My pictures aren’t always lit well or focused right. What I’m trying to do is capture a feel. I want images that speak to the experience of handing, that give you an idea of touch and texture. While there are a few standard shots that I do, there’s no check list. Some Bibles lend themselves to manipulation is certain ways, and some don’t.

The famous “yoga” shots deserve some explanation. I don’t suggest that the first thing you do when you get a new Bible is roll it up into a ball. But I think it’s a good way to visually suggest the flexibility of a cover. If you just look at one of these pictures, it might not communicate much, but looking at a number of them will. Really limp Bibles, heavy and limp like the Cambridge wide margins, they won’t form a nice circle for you. The cover won’t support the text block’s weight, so you get a flattened, butterfly-like look, small in the middle and full on the sides. A more structured Bible, or one with less weigh to the paper, will stand up more, like that St. Louis monument. They’re flexible, but not limp. Before I started curling the covers over and playing with them, I didn’t have a good way to suggest these things, and now I do.

Ever since the ESV Pitt Minions, maybe before, I’ve been incorporating more staged shots, instead of the clinical white background (which given my poor skills are often grayish anyway). I’m especially fond of doing whole range reviews — all the Pitt Minions, all the Allan’s PSRs — and when I have a group, I like to put them on the book shelves with other leather volumes. Again, it’s an effort to find an visual metaphor that communicates the feel of the book.

I could go on, but this probably way more detail than anyone wants to read!

13)   Could you share with us a glimpse into your own devotional time in Gods word?

First off, I really like the One Year Bible for daily reading and recommend it as a great first step to everyone. What I’m about to get into is more byzantine in complexity. Since the ESV Daily Reading Bible came out, I’ve been hooked on that reading plan. It can be adapted to any translation. The reason I push so hard for a minimum of three ribbons in a Bible is so that a plan like this can be easily followed.

So that’s the one I use, with one exception. My wife and I are on-again, off-again users of the Book of Common Prayer’s daily office, and when we’re on again I use the lectionary readings that go along with it. I wish I was a sufficiently talented liturgist to adapt the form better to my own practice, in which case I’d integrate the reading plan more effectively instead of going back and forth.

I’m a confessional Presbyterian, so my theology differs a bit from that of the prayer book, but until some enterprising soul comes up with a new Reformed Prayer Book, that’s what I’m using. (I keep trying to entice people into this project: you start with the Anglican Breviary, adapt the services where necessary, add readings from the Reformed tradition to the early fathers, and so on. No one listens.)

Devotional pamphlets of the Daily Bread variety don’t appeal to me. I get impatient with that kind of reading. So I spend my time reading the Bible, doing prayer, and dipping into a theological text. I’m not systematic about it. A lot of Herman Bavinck recently. I do have one devotional book. It’s called something like Day by Day with John Calvin, and it has about the most irenic portrait Calvin possible on the cover, but he still doesn’t look like warm sunsets and clip-art flowers are what inspires him to worship.

14) What was your first Bible?

I still have it, a massive golden hardback of illustrated Bible stories. Still in great shape, all the pages intact, which is a testament to quality manufacture because this thing was not coddled. The pictures I remember so vividly aren’t the actual illustrations, but more the daydreams those illustrations inspired. There was a prophet sprinting between some trees with a palace in the background, some gold-armored soldiers in pursuit, and I can remember so much detail that isn’t really there! That’s the beauty of a illustrated editions, I guess. They capture the imagination. In comparison to this, the modern ones I’ve seen don’t hold a candle. Maybe it’s the scenes they choose the interpret, I don’t know. You’ve gotta have some chariot action. I’m sure my children’s Bible didn’t really have a painting of Samuel hacking Agag to death, but that was the spirit of the thing. If I dig it out and check though, it’s going to be all lions and lambs.

15) On behalf of the community, thanks for what you do! We really do appreciate not only your efforts, but your love for the physical book as well.

I’m grateful. I know I’m opinionated and inconsistent, and I don’t always measure things out, and my reviews can be shockingly inconsistent from one example to the next. So I do appreciate how people get involved, making up for my blind spots, supplying all kinds of information and expertise. The blog is a labor of love, as I’m always saying, but the same is true for the community that surrounds it. As a writer, it’s nice to have an audience that shares the same interests. So thanks!

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He Will Not Lose One. No Not One

Thus does the Lord lead His people. He leads them through
the wilderness, up the steep ascent, and down into the low valley,
through water and fire, cloud and storm, thorn-brake and desert,
watching them with an eye that never slumbers, keeping them by
a hand that never wearies, and encircling them with a love that
never chills. Thus, step by step He leads them on, from grace to
glory, from earth to heaven, from the wilderness below to the paradise
above. Not one of that flock, thus led, thus guarded, thus
loved, shall be missing when the Shepherd folds them on high. His
“rod and His staff ” will be found to have restored them, guided
them, comforted them, and at last to have brought them home—
little faith, and fickle love, and weak grace, and limited experi-ence,
and defective knowledge, and faltering steps, finding their
way, through trial and temptation and suffering, home to God—
not one “vessel of mercy” missing.

Octavius Winslow “Help Heavenward”

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The Scriptures Point To Me!

The Scriptures point to Me!
(Octavius Winslow, “Morning Thoughts”)

“But the Scriptures point to Me!” John 5:39

Search the Scriptures, my reader, with a
view of seeing and knowing more of your
Redeemer, compared with whom nothing
else is worth knowing or making known.

Love your Bible, because it testifies of Jesus;
because it unfolds a great Savior, an almighty
Redeemer; because it reveals the glory of a
sin pardoning God, in the person of Jesus Christ.

Aim to unravel Jesus in the types, to grasp
Him amid the shadows, to trace Him through
the predictions of the prophet, the records of
the evangelist, and the letters of the apostles.

All speak of, and all lead to, Jesus!

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Review of the Zondervan NASB Compact Reference Bible

This is a review of one of my favorite little bibles in my collection, the Zondervan NASB Compact Reference Bible (CRB). While it isn’t exactly a high end edition or bound in silky goatskin, it’s one of the most pleasurable and comfortable bibles to read. First, let’s talk stats. Here are the specifications from Zondervan:

– Center-Column Reference System

– Portable Size.  Two-Column Text in Paragraph Format for easy reading and comprehension

– Clear, Readable Type

– Full-Color Maps, Study Helps, Book Introductions, and Concordance

– Words of Christ in Red

-Page Count: 1824

Paper Edge Description: Gold Gild

Type Point Size: 6

Size: 4.8 wide x 6.3 high x 1.9 deep in. | 122 wide x 160 high x deep 48 mm

Weight: 1.115 lb | 505 gms

Continue reading

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Three Books

There are three books which, if a man will read and study, he can dispense with most others.

1. The book of Providence—and this he reads to good purpose, when he sees written down line by line the providential dealings of God with him, and a ray of Divine light gilds every line.

2. The Word of God—and this he reads to profit, when the blessed Spirit applies it with power to his soul.

3. The book of his own heart—and this he studies with advantage, when he reads in the new man of grace the blessed dealings of God with his soul, and in the old man of sin and death, enough to fill him with shame and confusion of face, and make him loathe and abhor himself in dust and ashes.

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In You I Take Delight

(HT: Dawn Scaroni)

I think too often I think we settle for the fact God just puts up His children.

“Have you heard God’s blessing in your inmost being? Are the words “You are my beloved child, in whom I delight” an endless source of joy and strength?

Have you sensed, through the Holy Spirit, God speaking them to you? That blessing – the blessing through the Spirit that is ours through Christ – is what Jacob received, and it is the only remedy against idolatry. Only that blessing makes idols unneccesary.

As with Jacob, we usually discover this only after a life of ‘looking for blessing in all the wrong places.’It often takes an experience of crippling weakness for us to finally discover it. That is why so many of the most God-blessed people limp as they dance for joy.”

– Timothy Keller,Counterfeit Gods (New York, NY: Penguin Group, 2009), 164.

Posted in belief, depression, gospel, justification | Tagged | 1 Comment

The Value of Choice Devotional Reading

Nothing is more helpful and practical in
Christian living than the habit of getting
a verse or phrase of Scripture into the mind
and heart in the morning. Its influence stays
through the day, weaving itself into all the
day’s thoughts and words and experiences.

Every verse in the Bible is meant to help us
to live—and a good devotional book opens
up the precious teachings which are folded
up in Scripture.

A devotional book, which takes a Scripture
text, and so opens it for us in the morning—
that all day long it helps us to live, becoming
a true lamp for our feet, and a staff to lean
upon when the way is rough—is the very best
help we can possibly have. What we need in
a devotional book which will bless our lives—
is the application of the great teachings of
—to common, daily, practical life.

J. R. Miller

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Private Devotions

You are retired for your private devotions; you
have opened the Bible, and you begin to read.

Now, do not be satisfied with merely reading
through a chapter. Some people thoughtlessly
read through two or three chapters- stupid
people for doing such a thing!

It is always better to read a little and digest
it, than it is to read much and then think you
have done a good thing by merely reading the
letter of the word.

For you might as well read the alphabet
backwards and forwards, as read a chapter
of Scripture, unless you meditate upon it,
and seek to comprehend its meaning.

Merely to read words is nothing: the letter kills.

The business of the believer with his Bible
open is to pray, “Lord, give me the meaning
and spirit of your word, while it lies open
before me; apply your word with power to
my soul, threatening or promise, doctrine
or precept, whatever it may be; lead me
into the soul and marrow of your word.”

Also, it is not the form of prayer, but the spirit
of prayer that shall truly benefit your souls.

That prayer has not benefited you,
which is not the prayer of the soul.

You have need to say, “Lord, give me the
spirit of prayer; now help me to feel my
need deeply, to perceive your promises
clearly, and to exercise faith upon them.”

In your private devotions, strive after vital
godliness, real soul-work, the life-giving
operation of the Spirit of God in your hearts.

Charles Spurgeon

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