Showing posts with label Bible study. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bible study. Show all posts

December 11, 2018

Compact but Info-packed Bible Commentary


I love my study Bibles, and Lord knows, I have a bunch! Sometimes, though, I just want a trustworthy commentary packed with information and insights that might not otherwise come up in my Bible study group. So when I saw that Thomas Nelson still published the Nelson’s Quick Reference: Chapter-By-Chapter Bible Commentary by pastor and Bible teacher Warren W. Wiersbe, I ordered a copy.

The contents of this fat little 4x5.5” book do not disappoint. However, the chunky size seems apt to come apart, even though the pages appear to be sewn into the coated paper cover. Despite my wish for a more manageable size that would easily stay open on a desk, you can carry this edition in a purse or book bag.

Since my Sunday School class is studying 1 Samuel, I turned to the comments on chapter 12:

“Samuel’s message was the combination of a coronation address, a revival sermon, and a farewell speech. He pointed out the greatness of their sin in asking for a king and then called for new dedication. A key theme in the address is witness (vv. 3,5).”

The author goes on to list and define:

“The witness of a godly leader (1-5).
The witness of history (6-15).
The witness of God’s power (16-18).
The witness of the covenant (19-25).”


In expounding on the latter, Rev. Wiersbe says:

“The people had forsaken God, but He would not forsake them, for He is true to His Word. They had the assurance of God’s faithfulness as well as the prayers and ministry of Samuel. Had the king maintained his friendship with Samuel and obeyed the Word, he would have led the nation to victory.”

That did not happen, of course, until David replaced King Saul as leader of the nation. Centuries later, King David’s descendant Jesus began His kingly reign over us, as we reside in the ever-present Kingdom of God.

The beloved Apostle John beautifully speaks to the reign of Christ throughout his gospel, but since my Wednesday morning Bible study group is on chapter 20 this week, I’ll focus on that commentary.

John 20

Confusion (1-10). Mary jumped to conclusions and soon had Peter and John on the run. They were busy, but they had nothing to say and were accomplishing little. They saw the evidence for the Resurrection, but it did not change their lives. They needed a meeting with the living Christ.

Love (11-18). Unbelief blinds our eyes to the Lord’s presence. When He speaks His word to us, faith and love are rekindled. Mary was changed from a mourner to a missionary when she met the living Lord.

Peace (19-23). Locked doors will not give you peace, nor will they keep out your loving Savior. He comes with the message of peace based on His sacrifice on the cross (v. 20, Rom. 5:1).

Faith (24-31). The Lord tenderly deals with our doubts and unbelief. We today cannot see Him or feel His wounds, but we have the Word of God to assure us (vv. 9, 30-31). When your faith falters, do not ask for signs. Open His Word and let Him reassure you.”


Besides ordering this recommended commentary for deeper study of God’s Word, search through the posts on this blog to find THE edition of the Bible that best suits your present needs and those of the people on your Christmas list.

Mary Harwell Sayler, ©2018, poet-writer and Bible Reviewer


Nelson's Quick Reference Chapter-by-Chapter Bible Commentary: Nelson's Quick Reference Series
, paperback




May 26, 2018

CSB Worldview Study Bible


When I requested the CSB Worldview Study Bible from BHBloggers, I wasn’t sure how the worldview theme/ focus would be handled. After receiving my copy, which Lifeway kindly sent me to review, I still wasn’t sure. The articles seem to go on a bit, but I did find helpful clues.

The Introduction, for example, offered this insight:

“In the book of Job, we see how a false worldview results in false comfort." As Job went through terrible trials and suffering, his well-meaning friends “accused Job of having sinned. The friends shared a worldview that said, ‘Everything happens because of cause and effect. Do bad things, and bad things will happen to you. Do good things, and good things will happen to you.’ This worldview was the lens through which they viewed Job’s suffering. The book of Job challenges this perspective in light of an all-powerful, all-wise God who permits things to happen that are beyond our understanding.”

Another helpful example of intent in the Introduction considers Ecclesiastes where the worldview was “a life without meaning and purpose in the face of death.” And so the author “wrote a book that helps us understand the mind-set and worldview of someone who lives as though this life is all there is.”

Scanning the articles interspersed throughout this edition reveals theological and philosophical views expressed over the ages. The content of those articles and their placement between portions of scripture make the book most appropriate for reading and studying alone, unless, of course, your group aims to discuss religion and philosophy from a world view. For those of you who live in cosmopolitan areas where people come from all sorts of cultural and religious backgrounds, this edition should be well-suited to your goal of reaching others for Christ.

For example, the article “Speaking To A Non-Christian About Jesus” says,

“Knowledge of the background, culture, and worldview of one’s audience assists Christians in meaningfully sharing about Christ. Demographics are changing and peoples from all over the world are now neighbors to evangelical churches across America, especially in the larger urban centers. Christians, therefore, must increase their ‘CIQ’ - Cultural Intelligence Quotient - in order to successfully and meaningfully share Jesus with others.”

The article goes on to say, “Paul adapted his method of sharing Christ with unbelievers based on the audience.” Furthermore, “Sharing Christ in today’s world involves understanding the worldview of the people we are seeking to reach.”

Knowing scripture and what we believe are prerequisites for comfortably and accurately talking to others about Christ. If you haven’t yet read the Christian Standard Bible (CSB) text chosen for this edition, I highly recommend it. In fact, the CSB Study Bible is one of my all-time favorite study Bibles.

To give you a glimpse of its readable, accurate text, let’s look at Psalm 1, which could become a motif for this present edition:

“How happy is the one who does not
walk in the advice of the wicked
or stand in the pathway with sinners
or sit in the company of mockers!
Instead, his delight is in the
Lord’s instruction,
and he meditates on it day and night.”

May God help us to receive His Word, instruction, and love more fully and show us how to extend that forgiving, redeeming love to others in Jesus’ Name.

Mary Harwell Sayler, ©2018

CSB Worldview Study Bible, leatherflex


July 8, 2014

Psalms and The Wisdom of God


We’ve talked about the Psalms before in The One Year Book of Psalms, a daily devotional from Tyndale, highly recommended for individual use. Recently, Crossway sent me review copies of the Psalms: A 12-Week Study and also The Wisdom of God, a 10-week study which includes 5 weeks on the Psalms. Whether for personal use or group study, I highly recommend both books.

As previously mentioned, studying psalms and wisdom books of the Bible gives an excellent foundation for prayer, poetry, and biblical insights into the people of God, who have turned to these books over the centuries for guidance. More importantly, both books from Crossway show how Psalms provide insight into the mind of Christ as they repeatedly point to Him, prophetically and poetically.

From Crossway’s Knowing the Bible series, Psalms: A 12-Week Study coordinates somewhat with the ESV Study Bible, but any translation you or your Bible study group chooses will, of course, be fine as you proceed numerically through the Psalms.

Beginning with the “Week 1: Overview,” the text offers a helpful outline of the five “books” within the book of Psalms. For instance, Book 1 includes Psalm 1-41, many of which were written by King David where “Prayers issuing from a situation of distress dominate” and are “punctuated by statements of confidence in the God who alone can save.”

In Book 2, Psalms 42-72 present the Korah collection where “Once again, lament and distress dominate the content of these prayers, which now also include a communal voice.” In Book 3, the “tone darkens” as it brings “most of the psalms of Asaph (Psalms 73-83), as well as another set or Korah psalms (Psalm 84-85; 87-88).” However, Book 4 (Psalms 90-106) “may be seen as the first response to the problems raised by the third book.” Then Book 5 (Psalms 107-150) “declares that God does answer prayer (Psalm 107) and concludes with five Hallelujah psalms….”

In addition, a footnote in this Overview tells us “the basic type of psalms can be summarized as laments (presenting a trouble situation to the Lord), hymns of praise (calling believers to admire God’s attributes) and hymns of thanksgiving (thanking God for an answered prayer). There are also hymns celebrating God’s law…, wisdom psalms…, songs of confidence…, historical psalms…, and prophetic hymns (echoing themes found in the Prophets, especially calling God’s people to covenant faithfulness).”

Throughout the study guide, a consistent format considers the setting, glimpses of the Gospel, theological terms, and personal implications with ample room for writing responses in “Reflection and Discussion.” Besides the high quality of information provided, Bible students and discussion groups will appreciate the high quality of the paper, cover, and print in this well-done series.

In the Seeing Jesus in the Old Testament series, previously included in a review of Bible Study Resources, Nancy Guthrie gives us insight in studying The Wisdom of God: Seeing Jesus in the Psalms and Wisdom Books.

As a 10-week study that also includes the books of Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon, five of those weeks focus on the Psalms. Instead of a sequential study, however, the author groups the psalms, not by book, but by divisions of “Psalms: The Songs of Jesus,” “Blessing and Perishing in the Psalms,” “The Royal Psalms,” “Repentance in the Psalms,” and “The Suffering and Glory of Messiah in the Psalms.” The wise insights and personable writing style make you feel as though you’re having a deep conversation with Nancy about the scriptures, but this series works well in group study too.

If you’re as interested in the psalms and wisdom books of the Bible as I am, you might decide to do what I did: Soak up both of these excellent resources from Crossway.

© 2014, Mary Harwell Sayler, reviewer, is a lifelong lover of the Bible, writer in all genres, and poet-author of the Bible-based book of poetry Outside Eden


Psalms: A 12-Week Study from the Knowing the Bible series, paperback



The Wisdom of God (A 10-week Bible Study): Seeing Jesus in the Psalms and Wisdom Book, paperback



Outside Eden,paperback


May 27, 2014

Bible study resources


When several job transfers necessitated a number of moves around the country, my family and I had the opportunity to become active members of many church denominations. In each, a sweet spirit, strong faith, and love for Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior quickly became apparent, and we also discovered excellent Bible study resources throughout the Body of Christ.

For instance, in a Southern Baptist Church, our pastor led a Bible study class with materials from the forerunner of the Explore the Bible Series now published by Lifeway Christian Resources.

In the Roman Catholic Church, we discovered the Little Rock Scripture Study series published in partnership with Liturgical Press that allowed round table discussions with video accompaniment.

When I began to lead Bible studies, I wanted to encourage lots of group discussion, so I found materials on all sorts of Bible topics in the LifeGuide ® Bible Studies produced by Intervarsity Press and various Bible Study Guides published by Abington.

I highly recommend all of those materials and now want to add to the list a new series of five books by Nancy Guthrie: Seeing Jesus in the Old Testament, published by Crossway.

Lord willing, this summer I’ll be studying in depth two of the topics I need to absorb slowly: the wisdom books of the Bible and the biblical books of prophecy. But, for now, I’ll give you an idea of the first three books in this series, which cover the Pentateuch aka first five books of the Torah.

Looking through each of the books in this series, Nancy Guthrie consistently uses an engaging style, fresh insight, and a flexible format that can be adapted to your specific needs. For instance, if you want to study the Bible in-depth by yourself, this series makes an excellent choice. Or, if you want to do a Bible lecture class with material provided for you, this works very well for that too, with or without supplemental DVDs you can purchase from the publisher or Amazon. If you want a family study at home or a Bible study discussion group, the series will also accommodate those needs.

As you’ve surely surmised from the title, the purpose of this study is to help you see Jesus in the Bible from Genesis through Revelation and beyond. For example, when you think of the story of Noah and the ark, you’ll begin to see the ark as foreshadowing the grace and refuge found in Jesus Christ. You’ll also see how the reference to Noah in Matthew 24:39 shows that the next coming of Christ won’t necessarily cause believers to suddenly disappear as often thought but that unbelievers may be swept away, as they were in the days of Noah. Also, in book one, The Promised One, you’ll hear how God promised Abraham a great nation and a great name, but “he was not told to do something to earn this. God’s promise of blessing was a sheer gift of grace.”

In book 2, The Lamb of God: Seeing Jesus in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers & Deuteronomy, the author’s relevant examples and personal style encourage study and clearly show what Jesus meant in John 5, when He said, “If you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me.” The Exodus from Egypt, the Passover, the sacrificial lamb, and even the Ten Commandments take on even more depth and meaning when seen in Christ.

For example, the commandment to have no graven images reflects new light when we see Jesus as the “image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15.) And, keeping the Sabbath holy “points us to Christ in whom we find ultimate and eternal rest.”

Similarly, book 3, The Son of David: Seeing Jesus in the Historical Books, shows that “The kingdom established in the Promised Land of Canaan has much to reveal to us in shadow form about the larger kingdom that God is bringing and the greater king who sits on its throne.” For example, “In Joshua, as we witness Moses’s successor lead the people of God into rest in the land that God gave to them, we’ll see how the greater Joshua, Jesus, leads his people into rest.”

How? “Jesus came telling us exactly how we should respond to his kingdom at hand.” And, as the historical books of the Bible remind us, “There is only one kingdom that proves true, one kingdom that will last forever, one kingdom with a King on the throne worthy of worship and able to reign over this world and to reign in our hearts in true righteousness.” That King, of course, is Jesus Christ to Whom the entire Bible points as this series beautifully shows.

© 2014, Mary Sayler, reviewer


The Promised One: Seeing Jesus in Genesis, paperback



The Lamb of God: Seeing Jesus in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, & Deuteronomy, paperback



The Son of David: Seeing Jesus in the Historical Books, paperback





August 9, 2013

NIV Study Bible

As a lifelong student of the Bible I’m blessed to have study editions in most of the major English translations. When I begin to research a topic or background material for a book, blog, or discussion in my Bible study group, I gather my favorites around me, look up what’s needed, find all sorts of insightful information, then go borrow my husband’s NIV Study Bible!

For decades I borrowed, and he carried around the first study edition of the New International Version (NIV) until the bonded leather began to split around the edges like chapped fingertips. So I bought him an updated edition, covered in genuine leather, and promptly began to borrow it too.

Almost without fail, the footnotes in the NIV Study Bible gave me something I hadn’t found anywhere else, so why not just get my own copy? Besides not wanting another big, bulky Bible, I objected to being called a “son of God.” If you say “hey, man!” I might turn around, but call me “son,” and I probably won’t respond and definitely will not connect well or identify with what’s said.

The King James Version (KJV) can get away with a heavy male orientation as age and poetic beauty bring special entitlement. The wordplay on “man” includes both male and female anyway, so no problem there, and, if the Bible refers to males only, that’s fine too. In fact, a verse can specify “sonship,” and we daughters of God can see how that legal reference gave optimal rights during Bible days.

Then, everything changed.

The new NIV came out.

Lovers of the 1984 version might object to not finding everything they’re used to reading, but guess what I found in Romans 8:14: “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.” Yes! That’s my italics, and that’s me - one of God's countless children.

That wasn’t the only change though. The new NIV Study Bible comes in a compact edition. Since the extensive study aids and color photographs carry more weight, this option still has heft and bulk but fits into one hand. To be more specific, the stats for the compact NIV edition shown below state the size as 2.3 x 5.2 x 8 inches and shipping weight at 2.8 pounds.

Binding: Listed as “leather,” Zondervan has a trademark on this Italian Duo-Tone cover with attractive stitching that also reinforces the edges of the compact edition. When closed, the cover pops up slightly, but opened on your lap or desk, the Bible nicely lays flat.

Font: If you have difficulty reading small print, the text may be a strain, especially because of the light ink. Although the font used for the footnotes is even smaller than the text, the darker ink makes it readable, so the biggest challenge, visually, may be the tiny, light ink font used for cross-referencing. In case that’s a concern for you, I’ll post a link to a large print edition in hardback, which will be bigger (2.2 x 7.3 x 10.3 inches) and heavier (4.8 pounds) and not as prettily bound as the compact version shown but should include the same study aids.

Study Material: In the front matter of the NIV Study Bible, Compact Edition, you’ll find a three-page layout briefly describing “Ancient Texts Relating to the Old Testament” such as Sennacherib’s description of the siege of Jerusalem in 701 B.C. when Hezekiah became a prisoner in the city where he once reigned. A chart of “Old Testament Chronology” follows with time periods and approximate dates to set each Bible era within the context of world history. Similarly, the chart “From Malachi to Christ” and article “The Time Between The Testaments” also help to show the Bible as part of the ongoing history of mankind. Then, at the back of the book, you’ll find “Index to Topics,” “Index to Notes,” an extensive concordance, and maps of Bible terrains.

Notes: Besides notes to introduce you to the “Author, Date and Sources,” “Purpose and Themes,” “Outline,” and other information relevant to each book of the Bible, footnotes flower and flourish at the bottom of each page but pruned from overgrowth into actual scriptures. (If you have ever seen a Bible with only a verse or two squeezed up top and the rest of the page overrun with elucidation, you know what I mean.) This page-by-page layout also deserves additional accolades because the footnotes have been exceptionally well-packed with information to set the verses in context, aid reader-comprehension, and present different views in the balanced perspective and soothing voice of a respected peacemaker.

Long before the NIV Study Bible contained the present updates and expansions, those impressive footnotes kept me grabbing my husband’s Bible to gain more light on a subject or more insight into a difficult passage. Lord willing, I won’t ever need to do that again. For my birthday last month, he gave me my very own NIV Study Bible in the compact edition like the one described above and shown below and open now beside me for keeps.

©2013, Mary Harwell Sayler

NIV Study Bible, Compact Edition, indexed


NIV Study Bible, Large Print, Hardback edition


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May 31, 2012

Four Bibles in one: The Complete Parallel Bible


If you like to compare translations as you study the Bible but don’t like to juggle several books at once, The Complete Parallel Bible by Oxford provides an ideal solution for Catholic, Episcopal, and other Christian readers or poetry lovers who also want the deuterocanonical books often referred to as the Apocrypha.

This 1993 edition may not be super easy to find in the bonded leather cover mine has, but I suggest a stout hardback cover for this thick book anyway. Otherwise, the wobbly spine on the cumbersome cover will eventually morph into a “V.” (The fat Bible on the far right of the photo should show you what I mean.)

The Amazon ad posted below for your convenience and my teeny “commission” will lead you to options for a less expensive used copy in good condition. (Yeah, I know some people do not like books other people have sneezed on while reading but just put a little vinegar on a paper towel and wipe those worries away.)

If you get this particular edition, you’ll find a small font in four side-by-side columns with footnotes only as essential for clarification. Bleary-eyed readers might need a magnifying glass, but it’s worth it. Why?

This edition gives you two of the most reliable English translations closest to word-for-word (New American Bible and New Revised Standard Version) in addition to two rather lively and very readable versions (New English Bible and New Jerusalem Bible.) If a verse doesn’t grab you in one translation, another of these choices surely will. By comparing all four versions of a verse along with the surrounding context, you’ll get a broader picture and deeper insight into biblical truths.

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© 2012, Mary Sayler. Thanks for letting your church, Bible study, or other group know where you found this information.

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