August 30, 2014

My all-time favorite Bible


I began reviewing Bibles on the Bible Reviewer blog because I had so many. As word got around that I'm a Bible nut, people began asking my advice on which translation and/or study edition to get. Before responding, I tried to find out what each person wanted and needed as individual preferences make a huge difference in whether we actually read God's Word, which is, after all, the point.

Most Christians already have a favorite Bible, but having none myself, I read almost every English version, including footnotes from a variety of excellent study editions. Many aspects of each word-for-word, thought-for-thought, contemporary, or scholarly translation appealed to me for various reasons, and I'm happy to report that I discovered something unique in each - something insightful, something that helped me to take notice and really hear.

Then, finally.... Finally! After years of searching, I found "my" Bible: this one – The New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha: New Revised Standard Version, edited by Michael D. Coogan and published by Oxford in March, 2010.

The accuracy, the poetically graceful yet clear language, the unbiased footnotes and study aids, the "extra" books I did not even know about as a child – all of these features came together in a soft leather cover I'm sorry to say I couldn't find on Amazon. Before posting this, however, I made sure the paperback edition I did find is the exact Bible that has now become "my" Bible, my all-time favorite Bible, and The Bible I most highly recommend for drawing me closer to The Most High.

© 2014, Mary Harwell Sayler, reviewer, is a traditionally published author of 26 books, including the poetry book Living in the Nature Poem and Bible-based book of poems Outside Eden.

The New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha: New Revised Standard Version, paperback

August 26, 2014

Reviewing The Life


At first glance, my review copy of The Life, kindly sent to me by its publisher Tyndale House, appears to be just another magazine in a handy size for carrying. Inside, however, most of the slick pages have been filled with Holy Scriptures from the Gospels of the New Living Translation (NLT) to reveal the life we’re to live in Christ.

The table of contents summarizes “The Life: What’s Inside.”

Surprising Encounters with Jesus
Jesus’ Message Isn’t about Easy Religion
Death Is No Match for Jesus
What Does It Mean to “Remain” in Jesus?
Ordinary People Given God’s Power
The Choice


With colorful illustrations, wise words from “Youth For Christ,” and the highly readable NLT text, young people and new readers of the Bible receive a warm “Welcome to The Life,” where they “begin to get acquainted with God’s story through reading the story of the life of Jesus and his earliest followers straight from the Bible – or at least part of the Bible” and begin to see “there’s plenty more where this came from.”

Staying strongly focused on the person and power of Jesus, a brief magazine-type article challenges readers to remain in Christ then asks “What Does Remain Mean In John 15?” A sidebar beside the biblical answer adds illustrative examples such as:

• In order for a lamp to shine, the light bulb must remain in the fixture.

Remain within coverage areas to use cell phones.

• A fish that wants to breathe must remain underwater.


As we remain in Christ, we're alive in Him and can live NOW in the power of His Spirit, knowing, “Jesus is able to fight his own battles. He specializes in reversing the course of enemies so that they become dedicated followers.”

And as they believe, as I believe, as you believe and choose to remain in Christ and The Life, “Jesus will work miraculously within you to help you become more and more like him.”


© 2014, Mary Harwell Sayler, reviewer, is a traditionally published author of 26 books, including the Bible-based book of poems Outside Eden and poetry book Living in the Nature Poem.


The Life, paperback





August 22, 2014

The Case For Christ Study Bible


Lee Strobel, the general editor of The Case For Christ Study Bible: Investigating The Evidence For Belief, is an award-winning Christian writer and Zondervan a well-respected publisher of Bibles, but I might not have gotten this edition if it were not for a great sale! Having grown up in The Body of Christ, which is comprised of many denominational parts that I have had the privilege of trying on from time to time, I felt no need for evidence to support my life-long belief in Christ or my conviction of biblical truths or my love for the church.

Almost immediately, however, I realized how much I appreciated the attitude expressed on the welcome page, which said this Bible “doesn’t instruct you regarding what you should or should not believe. Instead, its goal is to help you solidify your confidence in the Bible and its message by providing well-researched information that allows you to investigate the evidence for yourself and come to your own conclusions.” Yes!

Since that’s what I initially sought years ago when I began buying and devouring Bibles like someone starving, I must admit those words piqued my interest. But how would a new reader of God’s Word discover such claims to be true? Case by case, of course! And so, this unique study Bible includes relevant case histories in sidebars throughout the book as highlighted by these headings:

The Case For A Creator highlights God's intricate plans and the wonders of creation.

The Case For The Bible responds to questions about Bible people and stories.

The Case For Christ considers prophecies from the Hebrew Bible and also statements Jesus made about Himself.

The Case For Faith addresses troubling concerns such as why there’s so much suffering in the world.

The Verdict gives summations from distinguished biblical scholars and renowned Christians who have given much prayer and thought to such matters. And, oh, did I mention that Lee Strobel was once an atheist, whose research not only convinced him of Christ but turned him into an outstanding spokesperson for Christ and Christianity?

Looking for examples to show you, I saw “The Case For A Creator” addressing the question: “How do the sun and moon facilitate life?” With the sun the ideal distance from the earth, we learn that, if the sun “were much smaller, its luminosity would not allow high efficiency photosynthesis in plants; if it were much closer, the water would boil away from the planet’s surface. Similarly, our moon is just far enough away and just the right size to stabilize Earth’s tilt. Without the moon’s stabilizing presence, Earth would experience wild temperature swings, with devastating consequences for life.”

In another sidebar, we find examples of “The Case For The Bible” with such facts as “Over 5,700 of these old manuscripts have been found, compared with fewer than 700 copies of Homer’s Iliad and only 9 copies of the historian Josephus’s Jewish Wars.” Interesting!

Elsewhere, “The Case For Christ” asked, “What Is A Theophany?” then said that in this “visible manifestation, or appearance, of God… the forms in which God appears vary greatly, from the burning bush seen by Moses in Exodus 3:2 to the pillar of cloud and pillar of fire in Exodus 13:21-22.” With examples given of additional physical manifestations, the text ultimately explained, “when Jesus lived on Earth, people saw and interacted with God through him.”

Toward the back of the book, before the concordance and a series of colorful maps, other features address “Creeds And Hymns Of The Early Church,” which the Apostle Paul quoted in Romans 1:3-4, 10:9-10, I Timothy 3:16, and other places in the New Testament. We find, too, a list of “Claims Jesus Made About Himself,” which features His avowals to fulfill the law, establish the Kingdom of God, and be the light of the world.

With this recommended edition of the original New International Version (NIV) 1984 to enlighten us, we, too, can bring light to others as we present a convincing case for our faith and show wondrous reasons for believing in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

...

© 2014, Mary Harwell Sayler, reviewer, is the author of numerous books in all genres, including the poetry book Living in the Nature Poem, published by Hiraeth Press in 2012 with an e-book version released in 2014 and a book of Bible-based poems Outside Eden, published this year by Kelsay Books.

To find reviews of other editions on this blog, type the title of the Bible in the Search box. If you don't find a discussion of an edition you're interested in, contact Mary through her website.


The Case For Christ Study Bible, hardback





August 7, 2014

Thompson Chain Reference Bible update


If you’ve read my earlier review of the Thompson Chain Reference Bible published by Kirkbride, you know it’s not only one of my favorites, but it’s been a highly favored edition of Bible readers, students, and scholars for more than five generations! Why? The unique chain reference system takes your topical search from its first entry in the Bible to the last, giving you a full biblical view of the subject you want to investigate.

Instead of offering footnotes and commentary throughout the text as most study Bibles do, the chain reference system lets the Bible speak for itself with each new passage shedding light on prior verses and those yet to come. Nevertheless, the back matter of this edition includes such helpful resources as outline studies of each book, character studies of Bible people, a thorough concordance, maps, and an “Archaeological Supplement “from 4320 – Abel-Beth-Maachah to 4450 – Zoan.

Those numbers can seem intimidating at first, but the “Alphabetical Index” breaks the code. Say, for instance, you want to look up Bible prayers as I often do for my blog by that name. To find the first link in the chain, you would go to “Prayer” in the alphabetical list and see 2816 as the place to start a search of general references, beginning with Genesis. Also, under the main heading, you’ll find subheadings such as “Intercessory” to lead you to a particular aspect of prayer.

These features occur in every Thompson Chain Reference Bible in your choice of several translations, all of which I have. However, this last edition in the New King James Version (NKJV) came to me as a free review copy kindly sent to me by Kirkbride in a nice quality bonded leather. Lord willing, I’ll provide an Amazon link below to the exact copy I’m looking at along with my highest recommendation.

Comparing this edition to the one published earlier and previously discussed, I find the text easier to read because of extra white space allotted in the layout. Also, the addition of subheadings in each chapter helps me to locate a passage more readily, especially when I know the book but am not sure of the chapter or verse.

Other updates in the Thompson NKJV include clearer photographs in the “Archaeological Supplement” – perhaps, not with as many pictures, but with the addition of new information or revisions of the text. For example, when Rev. Dennis W. Cheek revised “G. Frederick Owen’s Archaeological Supplement,” he began by defining archaeology and adding a word about its value in biblical research – an important word as people occasionally have strong views on this topic without adequate knowledge. As Rev. Cheek explains, however:

“Archaeology is a human science that attempts to uncover and interpret remnants from the past in order to gain insights into historical cultures and peoples. These remains, or archaeological artifacts, include buildings, city walls, pottery, metal objects, and records written on stone, clay, paper, and other materials.// For the Christian, archaeological discoveries in the ancient Near East make two main valuable contributions. They illuminate everyday life in biblical times, and they provide extrabiblical information that helps the modern Christian better understand the Bible.”

If better understanding of biblical topics is your goal, too, this encyclopedic edition will help you to dig into far more than archaeology and, for me anyway, provide a real “find.”


© 2014, Mary Harwell Sayler, reviewer, is a traditionally published author of 26 books in all genres, including two poetry books: the Bible-basedOutside Eden and the environmentally-oriented Living in the Nature Poem.


Thompson Chain Reference Bible, NKJV, bonded leather




August 2, 2014

Bible prophecy: past, present, future


To understand current events in the world, a newscast won’t be as enlightening as the book of Genesis! Whether shaken or fruitful, the beginning of each family tree follows a foreseeable trajectory from ancient times into today. So, instead of fretting about what’s happening or asking, “Where will it all end?” we might look at where it all began. At least, that’s what I wanted to do when I requested review copies of these two books:

The Word of the Lord: Seeing Jesus in the Prophets by Nancy Guthrie, published and given to me for review by Crossway

The Holy Land Key: Unlocking End-Times Prophecy Through the Lives Of God’s People in Israel by Ray Bentley with Genevieve Gillespie, published by Waterbrook Press and sent to me by Blogging For Books

Hopefully, you recall I’ve mentioned Nancy Guthrie’s 10-week Bible study before and highly recommend her series of “Seeing Jesus in the Old Testament,” especially the study of Psalms and other wisdom books and, now, this book on the words of the Lord through the prophets.

As p. 19 explains, “The prophets did not communicate their own ideas or agenda. They were called by God to be spokesmen for God.// And, amazingly, though the books by the prophets were God’s message to his people in their day, they are no less God’s message for you and me today.” The author goes on to discuss “The Problems with the Prophets We Must Overcome,” for example, “First, we’re unfamiliar with the history and geography.”

Maps and a Bible atlas will help, but “another obstacle we have to overcome to study the Prophetic Books” is that they’re not placed in chronological order. Although this study does not have space to discuss all sixteen of those books, it covers nine in the order in which they occurred.

As the series title of “Seeing Jesus in the Old Testament” suggests, the author focuses on the foreshadowing of Christ with a list on pages 30-31 that gives us a helpful overview:

• In Jonah we’ll see by contrast the compassion of Jesus, who ran toward those under judgment rather than away from them.

• In Hosea we’ll see Jesus as our faithful bridegroom, who paid the price of his own blood to redeem us, his unfaithful bride, from our slavery to sin.

• In Micah we’ll see the humble justice and mercy of Jesus as the one whose life and death answers Micah’s difficult question: ‘What does the LORD require?’ (6:8.)

• In Isaiah we’ll see Jesus as the divine King seated on the throne Isaiah saw in the year King Uzziah died, as the suffering servant who will be punished in place of his people, and as the coming conqueror who will put an end to evil.

• In Habakkuk we’ll see that Jesus is the one by whom sinful, faithless people are credited the righteousness needed to live by faith.

• In Jeremiah we’ll see Jesus finally fulfilling God’s promise of a new covenant that will implant in us a heart that wants to obey.

• In Daniel we’ll see Jesus as the glorious Son of Man who has received from the Ancient of Days a kingdom that will never oppress and never pass away.

• In Ezekiel we’ll see the promised presence of Jesus with us, never to leave us, in a new city called ‘The LORD is There’ (48:35).

• And, finally, in Malachi…we’ll see Jesus, who makes it possible for us to say with confidence, ‘I will be able to stand when he appears – not because I am clean or good or worthy in myself, but because the Word of the Lord who came has come to me and made me his own.’

When Christ comes again, “The Lamb of God will have taken away the sin of the world. The Son of David will be seated on David’s throne. The Wisdom of God will have overcome the foolishness of the world. The Word of the Lord who came will come again. This time,” however, “instead of coming to die for us, he will come to live with us.”

Until then, The Holy Land Key gives us a way of “unlocking end-times prophecy through the lives of God’s people in Israel.” How would the author know this? As the back jacket blurb tells us, “For decades, author and pastor Ray Bentley has partnered with God’s people in Israel, including Judea and Samaria, the area known as the West Bank. There, he witnesses the fulfillment of prophecy firsthand.”

Far beyond giving us his personal experience, Pastor Bentley calls us from page 1 to “look at certain passages of Scripture from a Hebrew perspective.” And, from the start, he makes his intentions clear: “We also will study what God has written in the heavens and what the Bible says about these heavenly revelations. We will look at the testimony of history, we will study the Jewish calendar and the biblical feasts, and we will even find startling insights based on research done by NASA on blood moons.”

The author also reminds us that “One of the clearest and most enduring signs is God’s unbroken relationship with the Jewish people." And so, “When we look at Israel, we see God’s intentions for the world.” Whether “Jewish or Gentile, Christian or otherwise,” Pastor Bentley acknowledges modern-day Israelis as “answering the call of God on their lives.”

In Part 2, “How Prophecy Is Being Revealed Today,” Rev. Bentley shows how “Ruth personifies the Gentiles” then goes on to discuss what he’s been “Learning from the Descendants of Ishmael.” As this compelling book goes back and forth in time, interweaving biblical prophecies, historical events, and modern stories, the theme generally clarifies and occasionally muddles but continues to grip and challenge us as readers and peoples of God.

On the last page, for example, the author clearly states: “We have an opportunity to replace centuries of replacement theology, persecution, neglect, and ignorance – and to do this with love and gratitude…. The gospel was born in Jerusalem. Now it is time to bring it home.”

Admittedly, I do not fully understand all this book presents, but I know it’s an important and timely “read” I recommend. More importantly – and timely too, I recommend we pray the Lord’s Prayer/ Our Father with a fuller conscientiousness of Jesus' words: “Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done.” And as Psalm 122:6 continues to ask of the people of God: “Pray for peace in Jerusalem.”


© 2014, Mary Harwell Sayler, reviewer, is a traditionally published author of 26 books in all genres, including two poetry books: the Bible-basedOutside Eden and the environmentally-oriented Living in the Nature Poem.


The Holy Land Key: Unlocking End-Times Prophecy Through the Lives Of God’s People in Israel, paperback



The Word of the Lord: Seeing Jesus in the Prophets, paperback, single copy



The Word of the Lord: Seeing Jesus in the Prophets, paperback, 10 copies at a nice discount as of this writing





July 31, 2014

New Bible storybooks bring parables of Jesus and Christmas in July


Did you know the ever-popular Arch ® Books for children have been around since 1965? I didn’t! To celebrate their 50th anniversary, Concordia Publishing House released some of these favorite Bible storybooks as the Best-Loved Christmas Stories and the Best-Loved Parables of Jesus, both of which the publisher kindly sent me to review.

Each book contains six of the previously published Arch ® Books in a sturdy, lightly padded hardback cover with the original or revised text and accompanying artwork inside. Each book also offers the work of a variety of talented artists and writers, who present Bible stories from various perspectives.

In the Best-Loved Christmas Stories, for example, “Mary’s Christmas Story” gives her view of that first Christmas while “Joseph’s Christmas Story” gives his. Other stories follow the star, shepherds, and wise men until the last story ends with the special joy and celebration found in the homes of young readers on Christmas morning.

You needn’t wait until Christmas, however, to read this book with your kids or grandchildren! As young children often say, “Tell me about when I was born,” they can readily connect, year-round, with stories about Jesus’ birth too.

Children also relate to the parables of Jesus, which give them a good story to remember even if it takes time for the full meaning to unfold. Most likely, that’s what Jesus expected when He first told the stories to grown-ups, who just didn’t get what He was saying! Maybe the meaning would “suddenly” come to them that night or the next morning or weeks later as they turned the stories over and over in their minds.

With the Best-Loved Parables of Jesus, children can do this too. The colorful artwork and poetic texts will help them to envision and recall “The Wise and Foolish Builders” as well as the Good Samaritan, lost sheep, lost coin, and lost son (aka Prodigal.)

The remaining story of “The Parable of the Talents” illustrates the talent from the Master as gold coins put to good use, but….

But Servant Three made a foolish choice:
He went home and dug a hole!
“I’ll put this deep into the ground
And keep his talent whole.”


After the parable has ended, the story goes on to ask young readers about the special gifts and abilities they have been given before closing with this good word:

Whatever our gifts that Jesus has given
Here’s what He has in store:
When we use our talents to honor Him,
He will bless them and give us more.



© 2014, Mary Harwell Sayler, reviewer, is a traditionally published author of 26 books in all genres, including two poetry books: the Bible-basedOutside Eden and the environmentally-oriented Living in the Nature Poem, which encourages readers to reconnect with nature and be good caretakers of the earth.


Best-Loved Christmas Stories, hardback



Best-Loved Parables of Jesus, hardback















July 19, 2014

Today’s Light Devotional Bible


As a lifelong lover of the Bible, I’ve read many reader’s editions and many, many study Bibles that helped me to learn a lot about God and God’s Family. Thankfully, that family includes me – and you. However, on the “Welcome” page of Today’s Light Devotional Bible, Jane Fryar reminds us that God is “not so much interested in your learning facts about Him, though that’s certainly part of the process. The holy, all-powerful, infinitely gracious God of the universe wants to reveal Himself to you. To you!”

Isn’t that awesome! Okay, so we live in an era where people call almost everything “awesome,” but God’s Word of love to us truly is!

As I read the review copy of this edition of the English Standard Version (ESV) that Concordia published and kindly sent to me, I wished I'd had it when I first began reading and studying the Bible as a preteen with little clue about what I was reading! Insightful comments by Jane Fryar remedy that situation by providing brief commentaries to help us “Get the Big Picture” then “Sharpen the Focus” for each book and most of the chapters in the Bible.

Those ongoing insights make this edition especially recommended for teens, young adults, and newcomers to the Bible. And, all of us will find a helpful layout throughout the text that correlates with the three checklists at the back of the book meant to guide our choices of a one-year reading plan, a two-year plan, or (what I'd like to try next) a plan to read the Bible chronologically.

But, what about the welcoming word that says the “God of the universe wants to reveal Himself to you”? How does Jane Fryar go about getting this across?

The examples extend beyond the space I have here, but to start at the beginning, “Get the Big Picture” says: “Genesis records many firsts – the first people, the first family, the first sin, the first city, the first musician, and more first besides. Today’s reading [One Year (Week 1, Monday) Genesis 1:1-3:24; Two Year (Week 1, Monday) Genesis 1:1-2:25] zeroes in on the first week of our world’s existence and on the first home God gave His human creatures. As you read, note the care God took as He made this home for us – the first paradise.”

Think about it! God gave everything we needed to live in paradise from the beginning of time, rather than the end. Knowing this about God is good to know, of course, but more importantly, good to ponder and sink into our spirits. Then, as this edition encourages us to do, we, too, can "...see God’s power, creativity, wisdom, and tender concern for His human creatures – His children.” Yes, that’s you; yes, me.


© 2014, Mary Harwell Sayler, reviewer, is a traditionally published author of 26 books in all genres, including two poetry books, the Bible-basedOutside Eden and environmentally-oriented Living in the Nature Poem that encourages us to be good caretakers of the earth as God intended.


Today’s Light Devotional Bible, hardcover