A blog on Translations in Devotional Reading

Because this blog covers more topics than just Bible translations, I have decided to start a new blog, specifically for looking at translations for use in devotional study.

The blog: Devotional Reading of the Bible

Here is the first post: Why a blog on translations and devotional use?

May you enjoy 2013 in reading the Bible!


Devotional Reading: HCSB

Until now, my examination of the HCSB has involved selected texts, which I compared to the Hebrew OT and Greek NT. In many ways, the HCSB is better than NIV and ESV. Also, I evaluated HCSB as an oral translation to be used in worship services. While it is adequate there were a few passages that did not read well orally.

Note: I will use a term or terms that refer to an emotional response to reading that may seem out of place in Bible reading. However, I think there is an emotional component of reading the Bible, especially devotional reading. Thus, I use words like “feel,” “comfortable,” etc.

Devotional Reading

My examination of HCSB takes a different turn beginning January 1, 2013. I will begin using it as my daily devotional reading, reading through the Bible in one year. I have waited a few months since my last review of HCSB because I didn’t want this to be only a comparison with the original language texts. Rather, I wanted to “feel” the translation as I gained a broader understanding of the entirety of the translation.

HCSB Ultrathin Bible, Black/Gray Duotone Simulated Leather
HCSB Ultrathin Bible, Black/Gray Duotone Simulated Leather

Over the years I have used other translations this way. Perhaps the longest was NAS, which I used every day from 1978 to 2005. I memorized many passages in NAS in that same time frame. Thus, today, if I refer to a Bible verse, it will most likely come out as NAS.

During that same time, I used NIV from 1986-1999 devotionally as well. Primarily I did that because I was serving congregations that used the NIV. Overall, it served well, but of course, it didn’t feel the same as NAS. <smile>

When the ESV came out in 2001 I tried it devotionally but never for a full year. The awkwardness of the phrasing was at times jarring to my reading sense and caused me to revert to NAS. Some of those initial problems were corrected in the 2007 revision. I have read it for a few months at a time, but never felt “comfortable” as a daily Bible.

The past five months I have been using GW translation as the daily reading Bible. In some ways it was the hardest transition to make. I had served as pastor of three different congregations which were test congregations from 1987-2005 for the predecessor of GW. The dramatic changes from 1992-1995 caused me to rethink whether the congregation at that time would use GW. Basically from 1995-2011 I had occasionally looked at GW, but never considered it as a daily reading Bible. But this time I found that it was better as an oral translation than any other. But even devotionally it has proven to be a good choice.

So begins the journey…

I will be using the one-year reading plan that is included in the GW translation Bibles. Ironic, GW includes a yearly and 100 day overview reading plans. For the Old Testament, that means an average of three chapters/day, for the New Testament it varies from three chapters/day to one chapter/day.

So, HCSB comes on the devotional scene!

False prophets/teachers: now what?

Who’s Sleeping?

In my devotional reading a couple days ago I read 2 Peter 2, which I have read many, many times over the past 37 years. Reading this time, specifically vs. 3 stood out; and then 2 Peter 3:18 makes even more sense. Perhaps the events in Connecticut last week heighten the awareness of this text for me. We have many false prophets and teachers—even in our own midst! They may use “right words” but their hearts are far from God, leading people away from God’s grace in Jesus Christ. So what can we do?

2 Peter 2:3

NAS:  and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.

GW: In their greed they will use good-sounding arguments to exploit you. The verdict against them from long ago is still in force, and their destruction is not asleep.

HCSB: They will exploit you in their greed with deceptive words. Their condemnation, pronounced long ago, is not idle, and their destruction does not sleep.

REB: destruction waits for them with unsleeping eyes.

Despite the wide spectrum on translation approaches, all three translations provide the same translation of the last phrase. In fact, almost every translation I have looked at has essentially the same phrasing; I particularly like the REB on this. In addition to the above, I looked at NKJV, KJV, NET, NABRE, RSV, NRSV, NIV84, NIV 2011, CEB, and a few others. The exceptions:

NCV “and their ruin is certain.”

CEV “God doesn’t sleep.”

NLT: “And their destruction will not be delayed.”


And then I began to ponder that phrase: and their destruction does not sleep. First, “their” refers back to the false prophets/teachers 2:1) who work in the church to disrupt and discourage and lead people astray. Second, God’s judgment on them comes not in individual increments, but rather from long ago. The false teachers of the Old Testament stand in that line, condemned because they presumed to speak for God but did not know God.

I think of Jeremiah’s time:

“Behold, you are trusting in deceptive words to no avail. Will you steal, murder, and commit adultery and swear falsely, and offer sacrifices to Baal and walk after other gods that you have not known, then come and stand before Me in this house, which is called by My name, and say, ‘We are delivered!’ — that you may do all these abominations?” (Jeremiah 7:8-10 NAS)

God’s judgment has always been against the false prophets and false teachers. That will not change, regardless of what happens in the present world. If a specific false prophet/teacher does repent and confesses Christ, then the judgment has passed (John 5:24), because Christ died for that sin, as well.

Sometimes it seems that false prophets/teachers go about unhindered in their deception, oblivious of any kind of problem they are causing. They leave in their wake, wounded, broken, hurting people. These people recognize something is wrong, but become withdrawn, resentful, and untrusting. (There are books written about this problem.)

But now, this text in 2 Peter 2:3 offers another perspective. In the immediate, it may seem as if the false prophet/teacher has escaped any kind of judgment. Peter tells us otherwise, and in rather oblique language: “and their destruction does not sleep.” We may not see the consequences of their false teachings, their seeming indifference to what is happening. Yet, this phrase lurks in the background as an encouragement to Christians. From our perspective, destruction may be delayed, may not be imminent, may even suggest God is nowhere in sight. Peter offers hope: “and their destruction does not sleep.”

Grace and Knowledge

If you have lived in the shadows of false prophets/teachers, then flee from the false prophet/teacher! If you have left that environment, good for you. God’s truth is there in his Word. He has not abandoned you, he has not turned a blind eye. And he has not forgotten his judgment of false prophets/teachers. Peter writes that to reassure you.

In contrast to that, Peter points to this:

but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. (2 Peter 3:18 NAS)

Notice he does not say: “Go on a campaign to get that false prophet/teacher.” Rather, the key is to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Two aspects of the false prophet/teacher are noticeable:  changing grace into works and perverting the knowledge.

Grace is entirely a characteristic of God. The minute we read or hear someone talk about “our role in salvation” then we know that the person has moved away from grace. There are no “doctrines of grace,” only the grace of God in Jesus Christ. God has promised his grace through Baptism, Lord’s Supper, Confession/Absolution, and the hearing/reading of His Word.

Paul put it this way:

I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. (Galatians 1:6-7 NAS)

Many years ago, I remember a woman who struggled with grace and the corresponding forgiveness of her sins. She had been taught for decades that only as she did something could she receive grace. “How can it be free?” she often lamented. Months went on, as we studied together, and she worshiped and participated in Bible study. One day as she entered the church building for Bible study, she shouted (very loudly!!): “I’m free! I get it, Pastor, I’m really free!” It was life changing for her.

By studying Scripture, not commentaries, not the latest fads, etc. but studying Scripture itself, we can gain true knowledge of who Jesus is and what He has done. It is not enough to turn from one teacher to another, believing everything or discounting everything the person says. Rather, we study the Word and check out whatever a teacher says:

The people of Berea were more open-minded than the people of Thessalonica. They were very willing to receive God’s message, and every day they carefully examined the Scriptures to see if what Paul said was true. (Acts 17:11 GW)

If it is good enough for the Apostle Paul to be examined like this, so it is for everyone who claims to speak for God.

Many years ago, a person visited out worship services. I couldn’t help but notice that she began crying during the service: Scripture readings, sermon; and when she came forward for communion the tears were streaming. After service she agreed to meet with me. Her first comment was: “I suppose you were wondering about my tears on Sunday.” She told me that while she grew up in another church body, she began reading the Bible every day beginning at the age of 19. For the next 17 years she read, visited churches, and read. The reason for her tears: “I have finally found a church that really teaches what the Bible says.”

Now what?

I think Peter says two important things: God’s judgment has been set against false prophets/teachers. Let God handle the when and how of that judgment: “and their destruction does not sleep.” God does speak to you through His Word. His grace is pure, free and entirely God’s. Receive what he gives in Jesus Christ.

Further reflecting: Now, not yet

Ann Voskamp reflects: The Truth about Sandy Hook: Where is God when Bad Things Happen?

Dustin Parker provides perspective: Can Life Return to Normal?

Emily Cook, a mother of six, reflects: Brain fog and a tired heart

Yesterday in morning worship we heard Isaiah 11:1-11 and what the Anointed comes to do. The hope for those in captivity in Babylon was a temporary solution. God had much more in store. The Anointed comes and fulfills the promise (Luke 4:16-21), far greater than anyone could imagine. He lives that perfect life, and then God credits the righteousness of the Anointed to our account (2 Corinthians 5:21). Further, Jesus overcomes sin by taking it upon himself, dying as the truly innocent One (Hebrews 4:15) and paying the payment for all sins of all time (1 John 2:2). And then Jesus rises from the dead, overcoming even death itself (1 Corinthians 15:51-57).

Paul put it this way:

The one who loves us gives us an overwhelming victory in all these difficulties. I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love which Christ Jesus our Lord shows us. We can’t be separated by death or life, by angels or rulers, by anything in the present or anything in the future, by forces or powers in the world above or in the world below, or by anything else in creation. (Romans 8:37-39 GW)

Ultimately our hope is exactly that, not a temporary fix, not a band-aid, but complete healing of all that tears us apart. This is ours by faith; we don’t see the completion in its fullness yet. But it is real, it is ours, and nothing can change that. We live in the now-not yet, already done by Christ, not yet realized in this world.

I saw a new heaven and a new earth, because the first heaven and earth had disappeared, and the sea was gone. Then I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, dressed like a bride ready for her husband. I heard a loud voice from the throne say, “God lives with humans! God will make his home with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There won’t be any more death. There won’t be any grief, crying, or pain, because the first things have disappeared.”

The one sitting on the throne said, “I am making everything new.” He said, “Write this: ‘These words are faithful and true.’” He said to me, “It has happened! I am the A and the Z,[Alpha and Omega] the beginning and the end. I will give a drink from the fountain filled with the water of life to anyone who is thirsty. It won’t cost anything. Everyone who wins the victory will inherit these things. I will be their God, and they will be my children.  (Revelation 21:1-7 GW)

That’s the promise, that‘s the future, that’s the hope in Jesus Christ!

tenderhearted in turmoil

I’m not going to comment directly on the events of the last 24 hours—much has been written, some very good, and some unhelpful at best. I don’t have a direct connection with anyone from the events yesterday. But in a way, I have much in common with them. Today I look at myself, my heart, my vulnerability. I have no answers apart from my Savior— everything else fails.

Shock, numb, angered, frustrated, and yes, even fearful. That may surprise some; after all, can Christians be fearful? Life is fragile; yesterday’s event could have involved my son or daughter-in-law, or grandkids.

As I experience all this, I find that my heart is tender—to all that can happen and does happen. My heart goes out to all the families who lost loved ones. As the hours have passed, I realize that my primary sense is one of tenderheartedness. My heart is tender right now; I’m emotional—for them. The media may drift off after a few days to another topic, but that won’t happen for these people. We will hear stories of heroism (like Victoria, the teacher who protected many children, but died in the process) and give thanks—and still grieve.

My heart also is tender for the care-givers. That part has really only begun. They need strength, encouragement, support, an outlet. Well done to all who came alongside the hurting. God’s blessings to them as they continue.

While we as a group of people grieve for all who suffer because of this, I also realize that grief is personal. And yet, there is a shared-ness of grief that is critical. In Psalm 34:18 we read:

The LORD is near to the brokenhearted
And saves those who are crushed in spirit.

God is not indifferent to those who are crushed in spirit. It may not seem like it for some right now. But I cling to what my God has said and demonstrated.

In Isaiah 53:4 we read:

He certainly has taken upon himself our suffering and carried our sorrows,

God is not indifferent to suffering, to our suffering, to our sorrows, our pains, our heartaches. His Servant, His Son, Jesus, shared in that suffering and sorrows. He even took them upon himself. In the process He truly understands the burdens, the heartache, the agony. And thus, Jesus is the premier person who is tenderhearted.

As a believer in Jesus Christ, this is where I come to being tenderhearted at this moment. And I realize I have to also guard my heart, guard what I say, guard what I think. This does not mean I am indifferent, rather the opposite. I know what I have experienced in the past and how that shapes me, how that has brought me to brokenness, failure, disappointment, despair. But I know the God who was there when it seemed like I was alone, abandoned, in agony.

My tenderheartedness is entirely through God’s grace. Today I need that most of all. Maybe you do as well? Tomorrow I will hear God’s Word spoken to me, I receive the body and blood of Jesus Christ, who in tenderheartedness died that I might live. I pray in response to that kind of God, who loves, who is tenderhearted, who surrounds me with love when I most desperately need it. There is my hope, my strength, and my life.

time of prayer

O Lord, our hearts are heavy because of the violence and deaths in Connecticut. This is beyond our capacity to fully understand. But more importantly, Lord, there are many families who need support, love, comfort, in the midst of their tears, unanswered questions, heartaches, fears, doubts, anger. We humbly lift them to Your throne of grace so that they may receive Your care, love, compassion, mercy, and comfort. We pray for the care-givers in that community. Give them strength, patience, and encouragement as they minister to the families; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever. Amen

HCSB and GW: What’s missing?

Worship/Lectionary Bible

In September 2012 we began using the Narrative Lectionary. My plan was to use HCSB and GW as the translations printed in the bulletin and read orally in worship. I used one translation for one month, then the other for the next month. In one case the Sunday reading for Jonah, was extended (chap. 1, 3, 4). I had planned to use HCSB. But its inconsistent movement between Yahweh and LORD in the same verses did not help in an oral environment, and so I switched to GW for that Sunday. As it turned out, I continued to use GW through December (they are already completed).

Bible Study

We have a wide variety of translations used in Bible study. NAS, NKJV, ESV, HCSB, and GW are the most common.

This fall something interesting has happened in Bible study (I am using Sunday morning experiences, not the midweek studies). Several people who had used formal equivalence translations (i.e. NAS or ESV) had begun using GW translation and found it very refreshing and helpful. Others who had used NLT began using HCSB and found it much better for their use.

One Bible student who went from NAS to GW, and now uses the combination, commented last week that the further study of the text reveals how hard it is for translators to communicate adequately. And thus, the two translations are almost a “must-have” environment for study. I thought that was very perceptive.

What is missing?

With both HCSB and GW, we have noticed a major problem in using these translations; they both have limited varieties for Bibles. Neither has an adequate pew Bible, and large/giant print options are very limited. Study Bibles are also limited in HCSB and non-existent in GW.

One negative (or limitation) of the HCSB has been the “Plan of Salvation” page found in every edition of the HCSB. While that might work in a Baptist situation, that causes some issues within a Lutheran context. Note: This is not to say we have a problem with salvation! On the contrary, salvation is so important, that the HCSB presentation skews the salvation message. I would rather not have that page included and use references to a broader and more fully developed understanding of salvation.


Just a note on all HCSB editions: be sure to check the printing date of the edition. If it is prior to 2010, then it will use the 2004 translation; if it is 2010 or newer, then it is “normally” the 2009 edition. Make sure to purchase the 2009 revision.

Study editions:

The HCSB Study Bible and The Apologetics Study Bible. Unfortunately I have not had time to check out either one. My guess is that the notes in the HCSB Study Bible would reflect more of the generic Protestant view on Baptism, Lord’s Supper, etc. rather than giving the options (Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Lutheran positions on these topics). I briefly glanced at the Apologetics Study Bible and it looks interesting. I may be examining that one in the coming months. Another available edition is the HCSB Minister’s Bible. I have not examined it yet, but I like the fact that it is single column. For oral reading and teaching purposes, single column works best for me.


The Ultrathin and Ultrathin Large Print editions of HCSB (genuine leather and duo-tone available for both) seem to be the best options for general use, along with the same in Reference editions. Straight text bibles work well for reading and devotional reading. For my teaching purposes, the Reference editions of most translations is the most useful. Sometimes I just need a quick look at the maps or specific cross-references while teaching in class. Study Bibles can be overwhelming in that context.

There are hardcover Pew Bibles available. It is critical to check the text date, for even some sold in 2011 used the 2004 text, not the 2009 text. One advantage of the Pew Bibles is the continuous text without section headings. I did not find a font size mentioned for any of the Pew Bibles. That could be a limiting factor.

The Super Giant Print Thinline is a large Bible with truly large-sized font (16 or 18 pt). This satisfies those with the needs for easier reading fonts. One of our members uses it and finds it ideal for reading and study purposes.


HCSB offers a Kindle edition and special children’s editions.


The choices for GW are even more limited. There are no study Bibles available. My guess is that unless a major denomination or parachurch organization backs this translation, there may never be a study edition using this translation. Also, the single column format requires more space, which may limit how much study material could be offered.

GW seems to focus on “Speciality Bibles,” such as Promises from God’s Word, God’s Word for Girls (Boys), God Girl Bible/God Guy Bible, and then some selected topics, one which is excellent is: Hope for Today: John’s Account of the Life of Jesus; we use this for giving out to people. Simply Jesus His Life and Teachings in Historical Order, works well for an overview of the Bible, and I have used the passion portion of this for Holy Week readings. Finally, The Names of God Bible Black, Hebrew Name Design, which I reviewed, and am currently using for my daily devotional reading, using the reading guide in the back.

Focus on speciality Bibles can be both good and bad. The good is that what Baker has already published meets a specific need. The Hope for Today booklet has proven to be an ideal tool for outreach in our community. I have not seen the Promises from God’s Word Bible, but my guess is that it will be equally valuable in specific contexts.

The bad part is that these Bibles are complementary to the main work in the church with regard to Bibles. That is, I have not found an adequate Bible with GW that meets the three prime uses of a Bible:

1. Text Bible:

The thinline Bibles are nice, but the print is too small.

Thinline GW
Thinline GW

I realize that the single column format (for the poetic sections) takes more space than double column, and thus increases the size of the Bible. But there is considerable room for improvement. Even the Large Print GW is not a handy size.

What I have in mind is the size and font used for the NIV Thinline Large Print Bible. I have a 2011 edition of it, and our congregation had used the 1984 edition until this fall. It was an ideal size for carrying: 10.1 x 6.9 x 1.6 inches and weighs less than 2 lbs, with 11 point font. It made an excellent teaching tool, easy to read, hold for long periods of time, etc. I kept several copies in the office for counseling—an ideal resource. I think Baker is missing the mark by not publishing a similar GW Bible like this.

2. Reference Bible:

Sadly there is no reference Bible available for GW. Textual notes, substantial cross-references, and maps would be sufficient to make this an ideal combination. Again, NIV is available in this combination.

3. Study Bible:

It would be good to have at least one study Bible with GW. Obviously I would prefer one not slanted toward Reformed theology. But timelines, maps, charts, cross-references, can be a valuable tool.

Of these three, I think the first two are doable and very necessary for GW to be considered as more than a peripheral Bible. We are using GW printed in the bulletin and it works well for worship. But for study and general purpose use, then #1 and 2 have to be seriously considered and offered. The study Bible option may not happen until a major denomination or parachurch organization moves to use GW as a primary translation.