The Book of Bible Stories by Amy Welborn is one of the most unusual and helpful presentation I’ve seen among the many editions for children. Published by Loyola Press, who kindly sent me a copy to review, this collection opens with stories relevant to Advent – the beginning of the liturgical church year – and ends with stories of Christ’s resurrection, Saul’s conversion, and “The Life of the Early Christians” while including Old Testament stories that foreshadow Easter in the redemptive tales of Noah, Moses and the Exodus, and “Ezekiel and the Dry Bones.”
Not only does this unique presentation of Bible stories give readers a clearer living portrait of God’s people – from Genesis through now, the author skillfully weaves in “various aspects of Catholic life that are informed by (the) Scripture passage: prayers, devotions, sacraments, teachings, and the lives of the saints.”
The opening section “Advent,” for example, begins with good news as “Prophets Say That A Messiah Is Coming.” Reading their Old Testament stories, “we join them on their journey. When God’s people of the old days are sad, we are sad. When they hope, we hope too.” And, “we pray about our journey right now,” then “we prepare for the future. The time of peace and harmony that God shows us in Isaiah’s vision is not here yet, but it will be. Listening to Isaiah, we hear of God’s power to bring all people together. We learn to see the world not with despair, but with hope!”
With Christmas, we’re reminded of “Isaiah’s Prophecies about the Messiah”:
“For a child is born to us, a son is given us;
upon his shoulder dominion rests.
They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero,
Father-Forever, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:5)”
As the church enters “Ordinary Time,” stories of Old Testament Patriarchs and Kings abound as do the “Parables of Seeds and Other Growing Thing.”
“Jesus knew that stories are the best way to teach. Jesus used a kind of story called a parable. A parable is a story that helps us understand one thing by comparing it to another….”
“When Jesus preached and taught, he was talking to ordinary people who lived in a certain time and place: first-century Israel. So his stories were about things those people would understand. The characters are farmers, travelers, judges and widows, brothers and businessmen, rich and poor. In Jesus’ parables, people are planting, cleaning, building, feasting, spending money, going to court, building houses, and managing businesses.
“Jesus’ parables remind us to look for signs of God in every part of life….”
To further aid readers of all ages in doing this, the author includes a “Think Quietly” challenge and an opportunity to “Pray Together” at the conclusion of each story. For example, in the Easter story where “The Risen Jesus Appears To His Friends,” the author reminds us that Jesus comes to us in communion, reconciliation, and service, then concludes the story with this call:
“Think Quietly: How did the Apostles experience Jesus after he rose from the dead? How is this similar to how we experience Jesus in the Church today?
“Pray Together: Risen Jesus, we believe in you and rejoice in the life you share with us.”
Obviously, I recommend this book highly for children growing up in the Catholic Church, but also people of all ages who want to know more about Catholicism and its strong biblical connections with God’s people and God’s Word. The more we listen to the Bible and each other, the more loving and receptive we are to each vital part of the Body of Christ.
Reviewed by Mary Harwell Sayler, ©2018
Book of Bible Stories: 60 Scripture Stories Every Catholic Child Should Know
January 4, 2018
January 16, 2016
After a few years of trying to maintain several blogs with regular posts on Blogger, I saw a need to simplify! So a new umbrella blog has been set up for The Word Center on WordPress.
Lord willing, the blog will include Bible prayers, Bible poetry, devotionals, articles on writing, biblical principles of Christian healing, and reviews of new editions or translations of the Bible.
If you're a worker of words or a minister of The Word, I pray you will Follow the blog and find what you need. If not, please leave a question, helpful comment, or suggestion for future posts.
Thanks and blessings.
Mary Harwell Sayler, © 2016
January 2, 2016
Christians from almost every church denomination have loved the King James Version of the Bible (KJV) for centuries. Our hearts beat to its iambic rhythms. Our breath holds its pentameter when we read the words aloud, and when we memorize a favorite verse or passage of scripture, the KJV is the default setting we often seek for familiarity and a lift of poetic beauty.
The vocabulary in the KJV inevitably lifts us too! Translated in the time of Shakespeare, one can readily speculate on the identities of the members of the translation committee, but regardless of who helped, the English language itself was still in the making, which contributed to the KJV as surely as the KJV has influenced poetry and the English vocabulary ever since. Thus, hence, and therefore, every English-speaking poet, writer, and all-around Christian doth well to hath a KJV.
The vital next step, though, is reading it! And here’s where many have fallen away, thinking they’ll never get what it says. True, you will find most contemporary versions to be an easier read. Without the fullness of vocabulary, though, readers may miss the deeper meanings subtly packed into a Bible verse or story.
So, what’s the solution? If you want it all, the Holman KJV Study Bible has it.
The full-page color illustrations, photographs, and maps ground you in Bible times, places, and original intent, while a “King’s English” glossary defines words that might otherwise be unclear.
With the same outstanding features found in the award-winning Holman Christian Study Bible that I previously reviewed, this edition is one to turn to for in-depth study, Bible research, and the pure joy of reading God’s Word, silently or aloud.
As the only full-color KJV study Bible out there, you can expect to use this edition for many years, so a genuine leather cover makes a wise choice. But, since Holman Bible Publishers kindly sent me a free copy to review, I didn’t have that option. In case that’s your preference, too, I’ll include a link below to the leather, indexed option I normally consider the ideal. However, my review copy of the Holman’s LeatherTouch™ far exceeded my poor expectations for imitation leather. In other words, I like it!
The LeatherTouch™ feels sturdy yet silken to the fingertips. More importantly, unlike every other “fake leather” cover I’ve received, this one lays wide open on my desk or one my lap – the place this excellent edition is very likely to be.
©2016, Mary Harwell Sayler, reviewer, is a poet, writer, and lifelong lover of Christ, the Bible, and the Church in all its parts.
Holman KJV Study Bible, leathertouch
Holman KJV Study Bible, genuine leather, indexed
August 26, 2014
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
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
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