December 12, 2017

FIREBIBLE from Hendrickson Bibles in large print

When Hendrickson Bibles kindly sent me a review copy of the Fire Bible, my first impression was, “Huge!”

At 9” wide, over 11” long, and over 2” deep, this large print hardback study edition of the English Standard Version (ESV) should work exceptionally well on a pulpit or a study desk. Despite the unlikelihood of our carrying it to our Bible study groups or sit around reading it on our laps, it’s what I’ve been looking for – a large print Bible with large print footnotes, which require ample space.

Originally known as the Full Life Study Bible, this expanded edition includes study notes from the late Donald C. Stamps, a pastor and prolific writer who had a vision of a study Bible that would especially appeal to Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians. Although he did not live to see his work in print, the Fire Bible accomplishes his goal with study notes and articles of interest to most students of the Bible.

Those study helps include “Contents: Articles,” “God’s Plan of Salvation,” a cross-reference system, book introductions, theme finders, subject index, concordance, and more.

To give you an example of the articles, the one on “The Fear of the Lord” says, “By fearing God, we can avoid being trapped by the natural pull toward going our own way, defying God and giving in to the inviting ways of immoral behavior.”

But what does that fear mean? The article goes on to explain that the fear of the Lord “involves understanding several things about a believer’s relationship with God.” For instance, “we must recognize that God is loving, merciful and forgiving; but he also is holy, just and righteous.” Therefore, we’re “to be in awe of his holiness, to give him complete reverence and to honor him as the God of great glory, majesty, purity and power.”

Such high regard shows we can trust God to be wholly free of pettiness, mean-spiritedness, or any kind of evil. Nevertheless, “It is a sobering and absolute truth that God is constantly aware of our actions and motives, both good and bad, and that we will be held accountable for those actions….”

Thankfully, the Bible gives us the guidance needed to keep our actions in line with God’s will. Consider, for instance, Psalm 1:2, which tells us the “blessed” person meditates on God’s law days and night. As the footnote for that verse explains, “Those who desire to live with God’s blessing and favor meditate on God’s law (i.e., his Word) in order to shape their thinking, attitudes and actions in a positive way.” Yes!

As we read the Bible, again and again, God’s Word corrects and perfects our way of looking at things, freeing us from misconceptions and the darkened thoughts most of us receive from bad experiences. Although we can do nothing to change the past, we can ask for God’s healing over our memories and hurts, and we can re-form our skewed thinking by meditating on God’s Word.

How? The footnote on Psalm 1:2 goes on to suggest we consider the following questions:

“How might God’s Spirit be applying this verse to my present situation?
What is this passage teaching me about God’s character?
Is there a promise here for me to recognize and claim?
Is this passage revealing a particular sin I must try to avoid?
Is God giving a command I must obey?
How should this truth affect my relationship with other people?
Is my spirit in hamony with what the Holy Spirit is saying?
Is the passage expressing a truth about God, salvation, sin, the word or my personal behavior that I need to understand better with the Holy Spirit’s help?
Is there something in this passage I can thank or praise God for?
How can I grow closer to God in light of what he is showing me through his Word?


In the New Testament, the first words in the Gospel of John let us know that God’s Word comes to us, fully embodied in Christ Jesus. “Also, the Word describes Jesus as the perfect revelation and representation of the Father’s nature and character…. That is to say, he is God in human form.”

By living among us and being part of our everyday lives, Jesus showed us The Way to the Father and The Way to live on earth. And, amazingly, Jesus showed His trust – God’s trust in us! In Matthew 5:13, for example, we are called “the salt of the earth.” Those words aren’t calling us to become the salt of the earth, but to accept the fact as Jesus sees it: “You are the salt of the earth.”

As we meditate on that verse and what it means in our lives, the footnotes provide these insights:

“Salt seasons and flavors food, just as Christians should enhance and favorably influence the people and society around them. Salt is a preservative, just as Christians and the church should resist moral corruption and decay, preserving a godly influence on the culture. In addition, salt has healing properties, just as Christ’s followers must help bring healing to people who are hurting physically, emotionally and spiritually. Salt also creates thirst, just as Christians – through their good example – should create spiritual thirst or desire in others to know more about God.”

May we, too, know more about God as we let God’s Word reshape our thoughts and lives.

Mary Harwell Sayler, ©2017, poet-writer and lifelong student of God’s Word

Fire Bible, large print, hardcover
9781683070900






November 2, 2017

God’s Word Through African Eyes

A little over a year ago, I had the joy of reviewing one of the books in the forthcoming Africa Study Bible, which numerous companies and organizations such as Oasis International partnered to produce. I’m happy to say the publisher, Tyndale House, has now kindly sent me a review copy of the full text of the NLT (New Living Translation) with footnotes and articles presenting “God’s Word Through African Eyes.”

This amazing study edition received the input of 350 contributors from 50 countries, who provided Touch Points that “reveal uniquely African perspectives” and Proverbs and Stories that “relate Scripture with wisdom from Africa.” Articles applying biblical counsel to our lives and copious notes on Christian values have been included, too, along with a timeline that “highlights God’s work in Africa.”

Does that matter to anyone other than African-American Christians? Most definitely! The places, perspectives, and cultures highlighted in this highly recommended study Bible help our understanding of scriptures that might otherwise perplex readers who only have a typical Eureopean-American view.

Equally important is our recognition and embrace of the heritage we share in such early Christian leaders and theologians as St. Augustine, Athanasius, Cyril, and Origen – each of whom came from Africa.

But, did you know that Joseph, Moses, and Solomon married African women, and the famed Queen of Sheba probably came from the region now known as Ethiopia? Jesus spent His early childhood in Africa, which, at the time, was under Roman rule.

As Jesus stumbled on the way to crucifixion, Simon of Cyrene, an area now known as Libya, lifted the heavy load of the cross. After Jesus’ resurrection from death and ascension into heaven, Acts 2:9 tells us that the Holy Spirit poured onto the crowds of people gathered in Jerusalem for Pentecost, including disciples from Egypt and areas of Libya. Later, the Apostle Philip led to Christ an official of the royal court in what’s most likely the Sudan. According to Acts 11, believers from Libya preached the gospel to Gentiles, then leaders from the area commissioned Paul and Barnabas to be missionaries. By the second century A.D., at least 3 Bishops of Rome (Popes) came from North Africa, and shortly thereafter (before the invention of English!) the Bible was translated into an African language.

The list goes on and on, as does Christianity in Africa, but I want to get back to the unique and highly relevant perspective of the articles and footnotes in this edition. For example, the article “Land, Labour, and Inheritance” points out that, in Israel, “Land was not to be sold permanently to ensure that the rich would not use it to take advantage of the poor.”

The article also reports that “Today there is tension over land between local people and foreigners. Non-African multinational companies are buying huge pieces of land to meet their business needs.”

Unfortunately, land “becomes practically useless if people do not work the land to provide for themselves, their families, and the poor in the community.” Also, “In Africa, land is the basic asset for human flourishing. Ideally, it should be owned by families and passed on from generation to generation, much like land ownership in biblical Israel.”

Bible people passed along important histories and stories too, and, even today, “Storytelling is common in Africa. Elders use stories to pass on lessons and values to their community…. Many Christians tell their stories in testimonies that show how gracious God has been to them. Such testimonies help others to learn about God…. We must be careful, however, not to dwell on stories of wrongs done to us. Such stories have been used to fuel conflict among ethnic groups. By telling stories of God’s care for us, we preserve our cultural heritage and also spread the news about the goodness of God. Telling the stories of God’s work and blessings in our lives is certainly a part of what Jesus meant when he said, ‘And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere’ (Acts 1:8).”

God’s Word brings salvation to all people everywhere. In the Name of Jesus, we become one family in Christ through communion – our common union. This vital part of our spiritual health and spiritual empowerment brings us together as one in the Body of Christ.

“Most African cultures and ethnic groups also emphasize the importance of community: A Zulu proverb says, ‘Umuntu ngumubntu mgamuntu,’ which means ‘I am what I am because of who we all are.’ This expresses the concept of Ubuntu, a principle of caring for each other’s well-being.”


May God uses this excellent study Bible to draw us into a close, caring relationship with one another and God’s Word in the family of Christ.

by Mary Harwell Sayler, ©2017, poet-writer reviewer

Africa Study Bible, hardcover




October 27, 2017

What the Bible Says about the Bible

Every morning, Bible Gateway emails me a Bible verse for the day. Today’s scripture reminded me of the power we have when we see and believe what the Bible has to say about the Bible:

“God’s word is living, active, and sharper than any two-edged sword. It penetrates to the point that it separates the soul from the spirit and the joints from the marrow. It’s able to judge the heart’s thoughts and intentions,” Hebrews 4:12, Common English Bible (CEB.)

Reading the Bible brings into focus the relationship God developed with His people – an ongoing relationship that wasn’t just for a particular time and place, but for all times, all places, and all of us – here and now.

In Deuteronomy 12:28, for example, Moses received God’s Word, which said:

Observe and obey these words I’m commanding you, so things will go well for you and your children because you followed what was good and right in the eyes of the Lord your God.

Psalm 106:12 tells us, Our ancestors trusted God’s Word and praised God in song.

The whole earth may do the same! As Psalm 147:15 says, God gives a command to the earth, and whatever God says is quickly done!

When we don’t know what to do or are feeling vulnerable, we can take comfort in Proverbs 30:5: Every word of God is tried and true – protective armor for those who take refuge in Him.

This source of care and comfort isn’t only for a troubling moment though. As Isaiah 40:8 tells us, The grass dries up. The flowers wither. But the word of our God will last forever.

The same can be said for every word Jesus gave. Even before His crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension into heaven, Jesus was known for speaking truth from God’s perspective. As Luke 5:1 reports: One day as Jesus was standing by Lake Gennesaret, crowds of people pressed around Him to hear God’s word.

In Luke 11:28, Jesus told us to expect to be blessed when we hear God’s word and put it into practice.

After He ascended into heaven, His followers came together to pray. Then, after they prayed, the place where they’d gathered began to shake! And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit! And they began speaking God’s word with confidence, Acts 4:31.

As people listened to those early believers, they, too, began to believe, and the church grew. In Acts 12:24, however, the Bible doesn’t mention the growth of the church or of Christianity. Instead, it says, The word of God continued to grow, spread, and increase.

That’s what it’s about! Our faith isn’t about the size of our church membership or our church buildings or number of denominations. It’s about letting the Word of God grow strong in us and spreading that Word to others.

What power we have in God’s Word!

What power we have when we believe the Bible means what it says about the Bible!

As Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3:15-17: Ever since you were a babe in Christ, you have learned Holy Scriptures that helped you to be wise in a way that led to salvation through your faith in Christ Jesus. Every scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, training, showing mistakes, improving, and exercising character, so those who belong to God will be equipped to do everything good.


Mary Harwell Sayler, ©2017, poet-writer and author of the new book, What the Bible Says About Love.


September 25, 2017

Bible Promises to Live By for Women

In Bible Promises to Live By for Women, which Tyndale House kindly sent me to review, Katherine J. Butler has collected and grouped relevant scriptures from “Abandonment” to “Worship” into one small book you can easily carry with you for a quick burst of spiritual energy from God’s Word.

As the “Introduction” tells us, “God knows the immense power a promise holds and has filled his Word with promises for his people. Some of God’s promises provide us with strength, perseverance, and encouragement to guide us through everyday life. Others speak to the deep desires inside each of us as we long to know that our future holds joy, security, purpose, value, and companionship. And because God has declared that his Word will last forever, we can trust him to keep…every promise.”

Using the alphabetically arranged table of contents as your guide, you’ll find over 500 verses on topics that mean the most to you at any particular moment. In addition, a brief word of encouragement provides a preface to the Bible verses chosen for this little edition.

And small it is! In about 4.5 x 5.5 inches, the linen-textured gray cover, featured as imitation leather, envelopes the pale blue-green pages with the font in a medium shade of blue-green. Although very attractive, this presentation might be harder for some to read. Also, the book does not lay flat when opened, but it should slip nicely into most purses or shoulder bags to give you a timely word from God’s Word.

Mary Harwell Sayler, ©2017

Bible Promises to Live By for Women, linen-look gray cover




August 30, 2017

Understanding the Holy Temple Jesus Knew

Understanding the Holy Temple Jesus Knew by Leen and Kathleen Ritmeyer helps us to envision the place where Jesus worshiped with other Jewish leaders and families, giving us a better feeling for being part of the biblical story. For instance, as our thoughts join Jesus on The Temple Porch, we might experience what He felt as a child or young man, looking up to see the gold-covered entrance with its shine rising to the height of an 18-story building.

Using realistic models, drawings, photographs, and descriptive passages to recapture the feel of the magnificent building, the authors show Jesus’ movements as He encountered various people and situations in the Temple complex. For example, as an 8-day-old infant, Jesus would have visited The Court of the Women in His mother’s arms as Mary came for the purification rite required 41 days after her Son’s birth. Then, as the authors point out, “Some thirty years later, Jesus was teaching here as an adult.”

In that same expansive open area, Jesus would also have met the woman accused of adultery, stooping down to write her name in the dust (as the law required some kind of notation) before wiping away all traces of condemnation.

In the back pages of this large, thin paperback, which Hendrickson Publishers kindly sent me to review, a “List of New Testament Links To The Temple” provides numbered headings for locations followed by bullet-pointed references to their corresponding scriptural events. For example, “11. Solomon’s Porch” includes references to Jesus’ walking in Solomon’s Colonade during Hanukkah as noted in John 10:23, and, by Acts 2, the same area had become a “Regular meeting place for believers.” Such details and an abundance of visuals help us to “be there” too.

Mary Harwell Sayler, ©2017, poet-writer reviewer


Understanding the Holy Temple Jesus Knew
, paperback





August 8, 2017

The King James Study Bible


Produced by Liberty University and edited by Dr. Edward Hindson, The King James Study Bible, which the publisher Thomas Nelson kindly sent me to review, now comes in a hefty full-color edition with maps, illustrations, and photos of biblical sites.

Other features of this impressive work include highlighted center-column references, book introductions, book outlines, personality profiles, and well over 5,000 study notes with 100 archaeological summaries.

Evangelical Christians will welcome the “Introduction to Doctrinal Footnotes” for a conservative view of theological issues, and almost every reader will wecome the page “God’s Answers to Our Concerns” with scriptural references to God’s Word on a particular subject.

Besides the easy-to-read fonts, which I greatly appreciate throughout the text and footnotes, my favorite parts can be found in the back of the book.

• “Topical Index to Christ and the Gospels” – with key words from “Abide” to “Zacchaeus” and what Jesus had to say to or about that person or subject

• “Teachings and Illustrations of Christ” – with topics alphabetized for a quick search

• “Prophecies of The Messiah Fulfilled in Christ” – with charts showing the prophecy and the fulfillment of God’s Word in The Word

• “Concordance with Word Studies” – a unique list that includes over 200 words followed by discussions of their meanings in the original Hebrew or Greek language.

Slick color maps in the back matter help Bible students get grounded in time and place, but I wish this edition (and every other study Bible) would include a present-day map of the Holy Lands for those of us who want to follow the biblical history of a place throughout all of history. (Does anyone do that?)

However, so many other valuable study aids have been included, I suspect this edition will be one of the first I grab from my desk when researching a biblical topic I feel led to write about or when getting ready for my Bible study discussion group.

Mary Harwell Sayler, ©2017

The King James Study Bible, hardback, cloth over board




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July 8, 2017

How To Read & Understand The Biblical Prophets

In his new book How To Read & Understand The Biblical Prophets, author and OT professor Peter J. Gentry discusses the many literary styles Bible prophets used to wake people up to God’s ways and calling on their lives – so many in fact, he suggests “We might well ask if the literature of the biblical prophets actually constitutes its own genre or type of literature.”

For example, “a Hebrew author begins a discourse on a particular topic, develops it from a particular perspective, and then concludes his conversation. Then he begins another conversation, taking up the same topic again from a different point of view.”

In general, the Old Testament prophets reiterated what God had already said or revealed then showed how that word applied to a situation in their era in hopes of encouraging faith and obedience to God.

The prophets also exhorted the people to seek God’s will and rely on God to help them find it. In Deuteronomy 18, for example, Moses strongly warned against contacting mediums, fortune-tellers, sorcerers, witches, or the dead as other nations had done when wanting to know about or, perhaps, control future events. Such control and oversight belong only to God.

Therefore, biblical prophets often gave predictions “to demonstrate publicly that only Yahweh knows and determines future events.”

In addition, “prediction of the future was necessary to explain the exile.” Also, the prophets wanted to reassure God’s people that deliverance takes time, but God can be trusted – not only by them but by everyone. For example, a message “not only announces future judgment for a particular nation but also indicates how it may find deliverance by seeking refuge in Zion.”

With world events worrying many of us, this book from Crossway, who kindly sent me a copy to review, will help us better understand the God’s prophetic word, which speaks to us even now.

Mary Harwell Sayler
, ©2017, poet-writer and Bible reviewer

How To Read & Understand The Biblical Prophets, paperback