Five finalists for the “Blank Valley of Vision”

Five finalists for the “Blank Valley of Vision”

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Scott on The Reformed Pastor by Richard Baxter

It was my first year in ministry. Three years of formal study and two year-long internships seemed scant preparation as I undertook the pastorate of a church in the plains of South Dakota.

Sure of my calling, yet unsure of myself, I was looking for guidance and I found it in the words of Richard Baxter. At the time my knowledge of the puritans was limited – stereotypical. A friend suggested that I pick up a copy of The Reformed Pastor. It became my constant companion through my first year in ministry.

Literally from the opening page, my eyes were opened to a depth of truth and purpose that were sadly neglected in my seminary education. The chapter on the character of a pastor was one of the most humbling, yet exhilarating moments of illumination. Here was what I was called not merely to do, but to be.

At times challenging, at other times comforting, I found Baxter’s instructions to be what I needed to hear at just the time I needed it. His admonition to watch over myself has served as a corrective to the times when was tempted to take shortcuts or compromise the care of the flock entrusted to me. It’s marked up pages standing as testimony to the struggles and triumphs of my first pastorate.

Now almost 15 years into the ministry it still convicts and corrects me. It lessons on self-examination still drive me to my knees in repentance. His insights into the character and condition of God’s people are as fresh today as they were nearly three hundred years ago. His reminder of the motive for ministry have many times kept me from despair in the face of the pressures of contemporary pastoring. His example drives me to become more the man of God than I presently am. I can honestly say that were it not for this book, I am not sure whether I would have survived my first years in the ministry. And I am sure that it will continue to guide me, Lord willing, for many fruitful years to come.

Pastor Scott N.
Midland Park, NJ

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Bill on The Life and Diary of David Brainerd by Jonathan Edwards

It was 1976 that my wife Colleen called and told me to come back home. She said on the phone that she was a changed person and wanted to make our marriage work. A friend had given her a Bible and told her about His grace. She was now a Christian.

I can still remember coming home that week and seeing a different person. So for three years I watched a beautiful Christian young lady trying desperately to show me the love of Jesus despite my wickedness. In January 1979 (I was 32) God softened my heart and after the 5th rendition of “Just As I am”, I walked forward and accepted Christ.

During the following ten years I received a bachelors and masters degree in theology. Here’s the problem, it was all head knowledge from an Arminian perspective. In other words, “I am glad I found you Lord, now what can you do for Me?” A completely self-centered Christian.

During the 1990’s I started drifting away from God. Sure, I still went to church on Sundays but that was it. People served me, I was not interested in serving anyone. Life became increasingly unhappy and unfulfilled; seemingly there was no purpose to it. It was time to reassess why my relationship with Christ was so stale. My pastor had given me a book edited by Jonathan Edwards, “The Life and Diary of David Brainerd.” a few years before and I had just shelved it. In my despair I pulled the book off the shelf in 2002 and started reading.

As I started reading it my eyes were opened to a brand new dimension of Christianity. David Brainerd was serving a sovereign God. God used the book to convict me in such a way that I would almost cry myself to sleep thinking of the kind of courage and sacrifice that this young man endured because of Christ while I was living in the Kingdom like a fat cat proud that I had chosen Him, but not making any sacrifice.

Here is a taste from the book: “May I always remember that all I have comes from God…When I return home and give myself to mediation, prayer and fasting, a new scene opens to my mind and my soul longs for mortification, self-denial, humility and divorcement from all the things of the world” (p. 147). “I delighted to lean on God and put my whole trust in Him. My soul was exceedingly grieved for sin, and prized, and longed after holiness….Yet this was my greatest happiness, never more to dishonor, but always to glorify, the blessed God” (p. 180).

I learned of a Sovereign God. One who loves and sustains my every thought and action. “Faith without works is dead” suddenly meant something to me. God had reached down from heaven and adopted me into His family simply because of His grace and mercy. I had not accepted Him, He chose me. It is not about me, it is all about Him. This understanding hit me like a lightening bolt. It has changed my life. Can one possibly be born again, again? That is what it seems like. I have not been the same since. The last four years has been such a joy in serving others. I am currently on a small team starting a new Sovereign Grace church. God willing, and God providing, I will do whatever is necessary in order for God to receive all the glory. God is good, 38 years of marriage, 6 children, 7 grandchildren, I have never been more satisfied in all my life.

Bill W.
Laguna Niguel, CA

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Philip on a sermon by Jonathan Edwards

The Puritan work that most profoundly changed me is the sermon “Ministers Need the Power of God” from 2 Corinthians 4:7 delivered by Jonathan Edwards at his installation as pastor of the Northampton Church in 1729. It was published in Salvation of Souls in 2002. The book is a collection of previously unpublished sermons by Edwards about the call to ministry and most are ordination sermons. The sermon set the tone for following Stoddard’s 57-year ministry and Edwards’ years as a pastor. In classic style, Edwards began with the grandness of God, moves to the insufficiency of men, encourages men to submit, and communicates the great joy that comes from being a weak vessel in the hands of our Lord.

At the time I read the sermon, I was serving as an associate pastor on a mega-church with 7,000 members and it was very easy to rely on the staff and programs we had in place to keep everything going and growing. I had begun using the book as part of my daily devotions before the Lord. On the day I read it, I was sitting in my safe office surrounded by all the trappings of successful ministry. It was a devastating experience. At one point, Edwards said, “Ministers are not only creatures, but very feeble and infirm, partakers of the same infirmities as their hearers.” I pushed back from my desk, sat back in my chair and wept. I’m not sure for how long I cried but it was a sorrow of soul from which change would spring forth. I renewed my commitment to Christ at the time he called me to the ministry. Then, I was a shy, frightened 17 year old. I had become a hardened, hard-pressing 36 year old. I renewed the beggar’s spirit that leads to understanding our position as an heir to the ministry of the new covenant. It was a day that reset the tone for my ministry – I hope until my last breath.

Since then, the Lord called me to leave mega-world to plant a new church. From the message of Edwards, I learned that relying only upon the power of God is the only manner in which I can properly plant, lead, and glorify my Lord.

Pastor Philip N.
Cumming, GA

[note: this sermon upon 2 Cor. 4:7 was originally titled: “God is pleased to make his own power appear by carrying on the work of his grace by such instruments as men, that in themselves are utterly insufficient for it.” Apparently it’s only published one time: Ministers Need the Power of God, in Bailey and Wills, eds., The Salvation of Souls, pp. 41-56. – Tony]

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Allen on a sermon by Thomas Wilson

As a blossoming church historian, I have taken it upon myself to start reading more of those who have gone before us. I happened across an article that got me interested in reading about the subject more. The article was about Thomas Wilson (1601-1653). He was a pastor at Otham, Kent and was one of the Westminster divines. In the article it focused on the idea of zeal. As one who has also served in the ministry, more zeal is always a good thing! So this summer I took it upon myself to read a sermon that Wilson had preached before the House of Commons called ‘David’s Zeal for Zion.’ In it he wrote a number of things that really hit me about my attitude toward God. He defined zeal as “the earnestness and increase of all the affections, liking or disliking, as love and hatred, grief and joy, desires, delights, fears, and anger, boiled to the highest degree, and to the hottest temper and intention.” I had realized my ministry was often mediocre and lacked the intensity for the glory of God as it should. I was resolved to, in the words of Wilson, “Let zeal eat up all corrupt affections in us, consume our sins, and inflame our hearts toward him.” Since then, even though I am not currently serving in a formal ministry, I have striven to absolutely flood my soul with the grandeur and greatness of God and allow my zeal to grow and display itself in my love and service to God. I hope the copy of the Valley of Vision will allow me to glean from other Puritan writers and allow their godly zeal to continue to influence my personal and public life in such a way that people know my zeal as a fire that “should never go out, but from a spark increase to a most vehement flame.”

God bless,

Allen M.
Amherstburg, Ontario (Canada)

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Jeff on Heaven On Earth by Thomas Brooks

Heaven On Earth by Thomas Brooks has made a difference in my thinking and in my life.

I temporarily relocated to a spiritually dry country, Japan, to teach English. I had much time to read and think about eternity. I brought with me The Pligrim’s Progress, which I consumed quickly. One early morning, I woke up, in fright, from a dream where I was killed in war. I was afraid because I wasn’t sure whether I would be going to Hell or Heaven. I was relieved it was only a dream, but it confirmed to me that such an important issue ought not to be put off any longer.

Some time after this dream, I finished listening to a taped sermon titled “What a Comfort” (based on Question 1 in the Heidelberg Catechism). “How can I be sure that when I die, I will go to Heaven?” was asked. How can anyone rest, believer or unbeliever, until he knows the answer to that question? It isn’t enough to know that God sent Jesus to save His people from their sins. We need to know, Did God send Jesus for me? Do I really believe in Him? The sermon expounded 2 Tim 4: 6-8, wherein the apostle Paul wrote of how he looked forward, with certainty, to Heaven, and some grounds of assurance that we can share with Paul.

“Make your calling and election sure” was ringing in my ears and heart.

These two things above led me to “Heaven on Earth”. Before reading Brooks, I had a very crude understanding of religious experience: “If you feel far away from God, guess who moved?” There is some truth in that, but Brooks opens up the Bible in more depth. This Puritan has a pastoral heart. Brooks writes, “You [Christian] have the next place to Christ in my heart” (9).

Chapter 1 gives proofs that believers can attain a well-grounded assurance of their salvation. For example, as my pastor mentioned, if Paul can attain assurance, we can too. Paul was inspired, but he attained his assurance in an ordinary way. In Chapter 2, Brooks communicates “weighty propositions concerning assurance”. One proposition explains that though salvation is a sure thing (once saved, always saved), assurance is not (one can be assured one day, and lose that assurance the next). Chapter 3 teaches the reader of things that keep someone from enjoying assurance. If ever someone doesn’t enjoy assurance, or (temporarily) loses this joy of assurance, he can know why. Chapter 4 presents reasons why one should make his election sure. Christ’s elect does not need to have nightmares of uncertainty, because assurance will prepare him for death. He will have something to look forward to with great certainty, an eternity with God. Chapter 5 gives instructions on how to build assurance. Chapter 6 is gives the differences between a true and counterfeit assurance.

Reading Brooks motivated me to live carefully, in holiness, in order that I may not quench the Spirit, and so that I may know blessed assurance.

We deprive God of His glory, and ourselves of His comfort, if we neglect to make our calling and election sure. The joy of knowing Him, and the joy of knowing that you are known by Him, is a sweet thing.

This treatise was published because “little well-grounded assurance is to be found among most Christians” (11). This was true in the 1600s, and it is true in this millennium. Dear reader, are you struggling to know whether you are really right with God? Then I gently urge you to read this book.

Jeff C.
Sumas, WA

Free Blank Books contest

Free Blank Books contest

Here are the long-awaited contests. You have from now (noon Friday) until Midnight on Tuesday (December 5th) to get your responses back. We are asking you to write a 300-400 word essay answering the following questions. Best essay gets the prize.

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To win the ESV Blank Reverse Interlinear:

Answer this very general question: “How would this blank interlinear help you in your study of the New Testament?”

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To win the Blank Valley of Vision:

Answer this very detailed question: “Explain a time in your life when you read a Puritan work that gave you better understanding of the Christian life and caused permanent life change as a result. Explain the situation, the book and author, the moment of illumination and the permanent fruit of that change.”

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Rules:

1. We are limiting this contest to adult residents of the continental United States. Okay, okay, we will broaden it to both the continental U.S. and Canada.

2. You can only enter one of the two contests.

3. You must email your response to me by Tuesday night at 11:59 PM CST (tony AT tonyreinke DOT com). Please put “VoV” or “Interlinear” in the subject line depending upon which contest you enter.

4. You must include your full name and mailing address in the email so we can mail the books to the winning entry (though only your first name, city and state will be published).

5. Winners will be announced on Wednesday afternoon.

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Thank you for taking part in this exciting contest!

To read more about how we made them (and how you can make them yourselves) check out The Shepherd’s Scrapbook index of “Blank” projects.

TSS Blank Bible Index

“Such industry! Economy! Edwards would surely approve.”

Jonathan Edwards Center, Yale University

This blog is noted for a geeky series on making your own Jonathan Edwards Blank Bible. The goal is to disassemble a Bible, add blank pages for notes and then rebind it all together. It’s relatively cheap, fun and taking the world by storm. So grab a Bible, gather the family and dust off the table saw.

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Blank Bible Project #1 (August, 2006)

Our first successful blank Bible was built from an ESV Classic Center-Reference. The final product was an excellent 3-volume set that is now my primary Bible for personal study and reflection. The comments on these posts contain some very helpful input from others.

– Building a Blank Bible (part 1): Intro
– Building a Blank Bible (part 2): The Failure
– Building a Blank Bible (part 3): The Blank Bible

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Blank Bible Project #2 (November, 2006)

Using the ESV Reverse Interlinear New Testament, we created a 2,700 page, 4-volume New Testament for serious students.

“It is awesome to know that God, through His Spirit, can fill every blank page through humble meditation as the “living and active” Word of God comes alive. Each blank page represents our anticipation that God will open up His Word to reveal more of the width and height and depth and length of God’s love in the Cross!”

– DIY: Blank Bible (part 1): Intro
– DIY: Blank Bible (part 2): Cut, Rip, Clamp, Saw
– DIY: Blank Bible (part 3): Slice and Stuff
– DIY: Blank Bible (part 4): Punch and Bind

We ran a contest to win this Bible and you can read the finalist essays here and meet the winners here.

“Your website article on constructing an interlinear note-taking bible is an incredible adaptation designed specifically with the busy pastor in mind. Not only would this allow me to retain some semblance of Greek proficiency, but would also allow the great advantage being able to record my thoughts on Scripture while occupied with various pastoral tasks (sitting in the hospital waiting rooms, waiting in the prison/jail visitor lobby, or stealing an extra 15 minutes in the local diner after a pastoral care lunch appointment). It has the potential of being a portable, conveniently-sized, and organized record of years of reflection on the Holy Word.” – Pastor Joshua G. (Indian River, MI)

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Blank Valley of Vision (November, 2006)

The same principles can be used to turn any book into a journal. We did this very thing recently with The Valley of Vision from Banner of Truth. You can see photographs of the project here. We ran a contest to win this book and you can read the finalist essays here and meet the winner here.

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Spiral binding books

Even if you don’t add blank pages, spiral binding makes any book easier to read. I spiral bind important books that I want to lay flat on cardio machines at the gym.

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What are you working on?

Enough about us. What creative projects are you working on? Readers have been hacking apart Bibles and books and creating some unique blank projects of their own. Care to share photos of your project? Please email us and let us know what you are working on.

– Stephen followed our instructions perfectly and created a pair of nice Blank ESVs. See his blog for the entire series, The Blank Bible Chronicles for more info (and nice pics to boot).

– Justin built a 4-volume “Blank ESV.” Looks like he used 3:1 spirals as opposed to the common 4:1 spirals. Very nice work! See pics here.

Marcia built an 11-volume Blank ESV Reformation Study Bible. See pics here.

DIY: Blank Bible (part 4) Punching and Binding

DIY: Blank Bible (part 4) Punching and Binding

So you have survived the first 6 steps! Pat yourself on the back. From the woman who accidentally dropped her cut bible pages into a pile of chaos on the floor: “Good job.” And from the man whose bible got caught in the table saw and thrown into the air like a snow globe: “Congratulations.” You stand among the world’s elite to make it this far.

Only two steps separate you from a pile of loose pages and a priceless bible.

Punching

Right now your bible is a pile of pages with the right number of blank pages inserted exactly where you want them. For the Interlinear, I put one blank page between each bible page.

It’s time to get the pages punched using a spiral binding puncher. This punch is usually electric and can punch about 20-30 pages at a time. It punches several little holes (4 per inch).

I prefer to punch the pages myself. I go to a smaller office supply store where they let me back behind the counter to do this step myself. I like doing this step on my own because it gives me a little time to make certain all the pages are aligned at the binding edge. I do this by taking 20-30 pages at a time and tapping the binding edge on a table. Sometimes the blank pages and bible pages are slightly different widths. We want to make certain that all pages are aligned on the binding edge. A few simple taps on the table does the trick.

Failure to be careful here could give you a page where the binding holes are aligned on the edge of the paper and that page will easily tear or fall out. The minor addition of time makes a big difference in quality.

For our Interlinear blank bible of 2,700 pages (1,350 sheets), it only took about 40 minutes to punch all the holes. It goes quickly.

Before you leave the office supply store you will need a few things. First, it’s important to separate your bible into volumes. The largest standard spiral binding coil is 1-1/4” and so I usually separate my bibles into 1” to 1-1/8” piles. The first ESV blank bible was separated into three volumes, this Interlinear (being a total of 4-1/4” tall) will be separated into four volumes (Matthew-Mark; Luke-John; Acts-Galatians; Ephesians-Revelation).

If you want vinyl covers you will need these cut and punched before you leave the office supply store. Two vinyl covers per volume. They are cut and punched exactly to the size of the bible pages.

Then you need to purchase binding coils. I like the 1-1/4.” The larger the coil; the more flexible the bible. For this 4-volume project I will need 4 coils. Now you can return home. The final step can be done from your kitchen table.

Binding

I usually do the spiral binding myself at home. Align the pages for the first volume, place the covers on, and begin screwing the binding coil into the first hole. The first hole takes a minute to align all the pages correctly, but once you move on to the second the holes begin automatically lining up on their own. Just keep spinning the coils in. Once you are done, cut the coil off. Leave one full circle of visible spiral on the top and bottom.

I bound all four volumes of the Interlinear in about 25 minutes.

And you are done. That’s it!

Pen

I recommend using a Pigma Micron 005 pen available at most scrapbook or art stores for under $3.00. It’s a super fine point that allows me to write very tiny and maximize each page (don’t mistake this with the 05 which is much thicker).

Conclusion

I recently read this about our project at a blog called OldTruth.com:

“It says something about you, if you are willing to cut, rip, clamp, saw, slice, stuff, punch, and bind your own bible, just so you can squeeze a blank notes sheet in between every page of scripture. Perhaps it says that you are a really serious student of the bible.”

Yes, indeed. If you are tackling this project it already shows your heart. You will take sacrifices to improve your opportunities to grow in God’s Word. Praise God!

So if you happen to be the man standing over the table saw, whose bible explodes into the air into a blizzard of paper, use this moment to raise your hands and celebrate. God is at work giving you the desire to read, study and know Him more. Let the confetti rain down in praise of His grace!

The Blank Valley of Vision

Hello, everyone. We are in the process of completing our second “blank bible.” At the same time it was proposed that we should try building a “Blank Valley of Vision” (a wonderful book of Puritan prayers). And so we did. There are few details I can add to the blank bible posts so I’ve decided to post a photo gallery of the process taken to create the “Blank Valley of Vision” (here).

[Tim Challies has recently, and accurately, poked fun at my photo-nerdiness =) ]

Next Tuesday we will be giving away one “Blank Valley of Vision” to one of you (Sorry, those who have publicly pointed out my nerdiness do not qualify). You can buy the Valley of Vision in paperback, leather or in audio CD format from The Banner of Truth. In my opinion, it’s one of the most edifying and most versatile Christmas presents available!

DIY: Blank Bible (part 3) Slicing and Stuffing

DIY: Blank Bible (part 3) Slicing and Stuffing

[read parts 1 and 2 here]

By this point you have cut the binding off your bible. It now sits in a pile of loose pages. The next two steps are slicing and stuffing.

Slicing

We need to get blank pages cut exactly to fit our bibles. So measure the size of your loose pages. A good and accurate dimension is essential for the office supply store to cut blank pages. For the interlinear, I will need paper cut exactly 6-5/16” by 9-5/16.” If you are unsure how to measure (or if you are not skilled in fractions) you can take your bible into the store and let the friendly associate take the measurements.

If your bible is 1,000 pages long (and double-sided) there are 500 individual sheets of paper. You will need 500 blank sheets if you insert a blank page between each bible page. The total size of the bible would be 2,000 pages. Don’t even try carrying that to church!

On to paper… I am not too picky on the paper I use. Just make certain it’s acid-free. The thinnest paper I can easily access is 20 lb, and the ream comes in 500 sheets. Brightness does not matter because most bibles are off-white anyways.

Now to the office supply store. If your blank pages are less than half the size of a sheet of paper (8-1/2”x11”) you can get 1,000 sheets out of one ream. The classic reference ESV in the first project was like this. However, the interlinear pages are larger. I will need 550 blank sheets and so I will need to purchase two reams.

Using a paper cutter, the office supply store can cut the ream of paper down to your exact dimensions. Once you have them cut, it’s time to return home.

Stuffing

It’s time to assemble your blank bible. For the first blank bible I did not put a blank page in every page of the Old Testament narratives, and I put 2 blank pages in the books of Romans, Galatians and Ephesians. It just depends upon the density of note taking you are going to need. For the interlinear I will be inserting one blank page between every bible page.

I usually set up something like this…

As you can see I have coffee and iTunes (these help deaden the painful shoulder cramps). To the back-center I place my stack of blank pages from the office supply store.

Closest to me I make three piles. To the right are the bible pages themselves. The middle pile is where I bring the blank pages and the bible pages together. With my left hand I pull down a blank page onto the pile and simultaneously with my right hand I flip a bible page from the right stack down on top of the blank page. When I’ve stacked 40-50 pages I neatly align them and stack them (without flipping them) to the pile on the far left. Because the bible paper is thinner than the blank pages, its necessary to occasionally take time to carefully align the pages together.

It’s important to always be aware of the binding edge of the bible pages. In the far right the binding edge is on the left. The middle pile its on the right. And on the far left stack its also on the right. The bible pages flow from right to left. From the first stack they are turned (like a book) onto the middle pile. But the stacks are not turned again when going from the middle to the left piles. In other words, page one of the bible would be on the top of the right pile, but the bottom of the middle and left piles. Make sense? Good.

As you can see, the interlinear bible is going to be much larger than the 3 volume blank bible we made earlier. This will be a New Testament for the serious bible student!

It is awesome to know that God, through His Spirit, can fill every blank page through humble meditation as the “living and active” Word of God comes alive. Each blank page represents our anticipation that God will open up His Word to reveal more of the width and height and depth and length of God’s love in the Cross!

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Coming up next, the conclusion … DIY: Blank Bible (part 4) Punching and Binding