Showing posts with label God’s Word. Show all posts
Showing posts with label God’s Word. Show all posts

April 21, 2020

Literary Study Bible, ESV


As a poet and writer, I’m just naturally interested in the effects literary forms have on readers. For instance, narratives draw us into stories with which we can relate, while poetry expresses for us the praise, laments, thoughts, and feelings we have in common.

In other words, poems and stories help us to connect with God, one another, and ourselves. It’s not surprising then that the Bible consists primarily of two main genres or types of literature: narratives and poetry.

In the Introduction to the Literary Study Bible, which Crossway kindly sent me to review, we learn that biblical narratives come in sub-types such as the “hero story, Gospel, epic, tragedy, comedy (a U-shaped plot with a happy ending), and parable. Specific poetic genres keep multiplying as well: lyric, lament psalm, praise psalm, love poem, nature poem, epithalamion (wedding poem) and many others.”

The Introduction goes on to say, “In addition to narrative and poetry, we find prophecy, visionary writing, apocalypse, pastoral, encomium, oratory, drama (the book of Job), satire, and epistle. Then if we start adding more specific forms like travel story, dramatic monologue, doom song, and Christ hymn, the number of literary genres in the Bible readily exceeds one hundred.

Since we might not be familiar with all of these literary terms, the publisher included a Glossary in the back of the book, explaining, for example, that encomium is “A work of literature that praises either a general character type (e.g., Psalm 1 on the godly person and Prov. 31:10-31 on the virtuous wife) or abstract quality (e.g., 1 Corinthians 13 on love and Hebrews 11 on faith).”

Does any of this matter? I think so. For example, if you know I’m a fairly well-traveled Southerner who grew up believing in God’s love for all people, in Jesus as the full embodiment of God’s Word, and in Christian fellowship as vital for up-building the church, you’ll have a better idea of where I’m coming from and, therefore, more likely to connect. Similarly, the literary forms in the Bible help us to know where the writers were coming from and what they hoped we, the readers, would relate to, hear, and heed as they bring us God’s message in a particular way. Or, as the Introduction puts it:

Whereas history and the daily news tell us what happened, literature tells us what happens – what is true for all people in all places and times…. The goal of literature is to prompt a reader to share or relive an experience. The truth that literature imparts is not simply ideas that are true but truthfulness to human experience.”

To give you a better idea of the features in this edition, let’s begin in the beginning with Genesis, “The Book at a Glance.”

As its title signals, the book of Genesis is the Bible’s book of beginnings. It is a foundational book that informs us about the first principles of the biblical faith – such first principles as how the world came into being, how sin entered the world, how God began to unfold his plan of salvation, and what people and human institutions (especially the family) are like. Although Genesis is a history book, its history is packed in highly literary forms, the most dominant of which is hero story. Because the history that is recounted in the book of Genesis reaches back to the primitive origins of the human race, it is particularly rich in universal, elemental human experience. Despite the seeming remoteness of the world of Genesis, the experiences are actually very close to our everyday lives.”

In one example of the timelessness of these experiences, we read how the serpent in the Garden of Eden cast doubt on whether God meant what He said – a question that troubles many people today. (Unnecessarily, I must add! If God said it, God means it!)  Another example of a common experience is the sibling rivalry Cain felt for Able (though we pray it doesn’t have the same tragic ending in our families!) Or what about Abraham’s lying to protect himself or Jacob’s learning the hard way that deceitfulness is apt to boomerang?

“The Book at a Glance” for Job has its own theme and purpose as “It raises the question not simply of why people in general suffer but specifically of why the righteous suffer. Philosophers and theologians call this ‘the problem of evil’ and the attempt to offer a satisfactory solution to the problem is called theodicy.”

Regarding the genres used in Job, “The story begins and ends with a narrative frame in which the author tells the story of the fall and restoration of the protagonist Job. Within these bookends, though, the primary form is drama, as we are presented with the speeches and dialogues of the actors in the story. The form in which these speeches are cast is poetry.”

Before reading The Psalms, its “Theological Themes” introduce us to “(1) The nature of God: no book of the Bible offers a more comprehensive survey of the acts and attributes of God. (2) The nature of people: because every psalm is at some level a personal statement by a poet. Psalms is also an index to what people are like, both good and bad. (3) Nature and the physical creation: the psalms say and imply many things about the external world that God made and sustains. (4) Worship: the psalms are used in worship, and many of them talk about worship. (5) Suffering: the many lament psalms yield a theology of suffering.

Skipping ahead to the New Testament, a footnote on Matthew 5 points out that Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount “has the nature of an inauguration speech.”

The footnote goes on to say, “The beatitudes are one of the most patterned passages in the entire New Testament. They follow the Hebrew verse form of parallelism: In each beatitude, Jesus (a) pronounces a blessing on a group of people, (b) names the group according to their essential trait, and (c) offers a reason (which is at the same time a promise) for their condition of blessedness.”

A distinctive feature in the Gospel of John “is the linking of a sign or other great symbol with a corresponding statement made by Jesus in the form of either a conversation or a full-fledged discourse. For example, Jesus asks the Samaritan woman for a drink from the well (4:7-8) and then pursues a conversation with the woman about water that climaxes in Jesus’ claim to be the source of living water that wells up to eternal life (4:9-15). To cite another example, Jesus feeds five thousand (6:1-14), and a few verses later we read his discourse on Jesus’ being the bread of life (6:25-40).”

Symbolism reaches great height in the book of Revelation as the author uses narrative story and poetic imagery, metaphor, and simile in presenting its “pageant of visions.”

With these unique aids and insights into studying the highly acclaimed English Standard Version (ESV) of the Bible,I look forward to sharing this excellent resource in my Sunday School and mid-week Bible discussion groups, which, Lord willing, will begin again soon, even if we need masks to accompany our prayers.







March 31, 2020

God’s promises in God’s Word reveal God’s will


As you have surely heard – and, hopefully, sung – the hymn “Standing on the Promises” of God encourages us to stand firm in our faith as we live our lives and interact with the world. But what if we kneel on those promises?

Claiming God’s promises and praying in agreement with God's vows to us ensures that we’re praying in God’s will.

Regardless of the translation we choose from the many editions reviewed on this blog over the years, our belief in the Bible as God’s Word lets us know we have God’s word on matters crucial to our lives! By claiming those promises, we strengthen our faith and empower our prayers.

As God-incidence would have it, the Lord put this timely subject on my mind months ago! And thankfully, the Bible Gateway blog eased the research, enabling me to collect and paraphrase over 250 of countless Bible promises into the new book, Kneeling on the Promises of God.

Each page begins with the next timely promise, found according to the typical arrangement of the books of the Bible then divided into two sections of Old Testament Promises and New. (Interestingly, those turned out to be about the same length!)

A conversational prayer in everyday language follows each Bible verse with space at the bottom of the page for you to write down prayers that come to you as you claim God’s word and agree with God’s will in prayer.

To give you an example, here's the first page:


Genesis 28:15 – “Look! I Am with you. I watch over you as you come and go. I will not leave you before I have done everything I promised.”

What joy we have in Your presence, Lord! What empowering promises You have given us to claim!

You, our Heavenly Father, our Loving God, and the Creator of all life in heaven and on earth, have given Your word to be with us. No matter where we are, You are there.

We need You now, Lord.

We need You now.



At present the Corona Virus (COVID-19) pandemic has slowed shipping of nonessential items, but Kneeling on thePromises of God is essential! Therefore, you can also find it in an  e-book. Whether you prefer electronic or snail mail, there’s rarely been a more crucial time for the whole world to pray with power and conviction.

Seriously! Let’s take God at His Word!



©2020, MaryHarwell Sayler, poet-writer, and lifelong believer in the Bible and prayer


March 14, 2020

ESV Seek and Find Bible


When Crossway kindly sent me a review copy of the ESV Seek and Find Bible for children, its many features made me regret the categorization for kids 5-9. This hardback edition of the English Standard Version is so sturdy and well-done, older kids might want to read it -- and I do too!

Consider these features listed on the inside fold of the slick, attractive cover:

The complete ESV Bible text
provides a reliable translation in a readable font.

130 full-page, full-color illustrations
depict Bible people and scenes realistically in full color.

A simplified Bible story retelling for each illustration
For example, “Deborah’s Message from God” depicts the story found in Judges 4-5, with an era-friendly illustration and the words in this excerpt:

After twenty years of living under the mean King Jabin, the people of Israel cried out to God for help. God listened to their prayers and sent them help through a judge named Deborah. Every day Deborah sat near a palm tree in the desert and helped the people of Israel with their problems.
God told Deborah exactly what to do.”

Reflection questions for each story to help kids understand and apply God’s Word
In the story “Jesus Calms the Storm” from Mark 4:35-41, “Key Questions” include:

Why were the disciples afraid when the storm was raging?
What did Jesus say, and what happened when he said it?
Why should Jesus’ miracles fill us with faith?

Related Bible readings for each of the 130 stories
For the story of Jesus’ calming the storm, readers are encouraged to look up relevant scriptures in Luke 8:22-25 and John 6:16-21.

50+ illustrated profiles of major Bible characters from Adam and Eve to Timothy
For example, a side bar in the Gospel of John introduces readers to Andrew:

“Andrew was a fisherman who listened eagerly to the teaching of John the Baptist. John told people that they must repent and get ready for the promised Messiah. When John called Jesus the Lamb of God, Andrew knew that he must now follow Jesus the Messiah. Andrew found his brother, Simon Peter, and brought him to Jesus, too. So Andrew and his brother Simon Peter became two of the 12 disciples, who were Jesus’ closest friends and helpers.”

Introductions to each book of the Bible
The Introduction to Psalms, for example, lets readers know the book, “written by different authors over a period of centuries” became the hymnal of God’s people.

“…Some psalms praise God with great joy for victory (Psalm 18); others for his acts of creation (Psalm 104) or for his provision and care ((Psalm 105). Others are laments, songs of mourning that praise God by bringing to him deep feelings of sadness (Psalm 88). Many psalms are cries for protection against persecuting enemies (Psalm 7). Other psalms confess sin and pray for forgiveness (Psalm 51). Still others express deep longings to know God better and follow him more closely (Psalm 27). The longest psalm praises the Word of God from many different perspective (Psalm 119). Several psalms look ahead to the Messiah in his sufferings (Psalm 22) and in his glory (Psalm 110). The book of Psalms is one of the best loved books of the entire Bible, having something for every believer, no matter what their specific circumstances or feelings.

Alongside that Introduction (as with all the others intros), each page briefly includes information on:

  • Author(s)
  • Date
  • People
  • Purpose
  • Central Themes
  • Memory Verses


20+ illustrated facts about Bible objects, structures, and places
including the Jerusalem Temple, its main contents, and the city at various times. As children see what these look like, the Bible text becomes more real to them. One picture, for example, is of a “Galilean Fishing Boat” with these words beside the illustration:

“Jesus and his disciples probably used a boat like this one that fishermen typically used. It could have held 15 men and was 26.5 feet long, 7.5 feet wide, and 4.5 feet high.

Key verses to memorize
has a little key drawn within a circle and placed next to verses such as this one from John 8:12:

…Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.

A few pages later, the Bible story of “Jesus Heals the Blind Man” includes that verse, so the above key verse shows the page number to that event. The problem I had, however, was finding that and other pages by number – ironically because the generous illustrations and other fine features utilize the same space in this highly recommended edition of God’s Word.


Reviewed by Mary Harwell Sayler, ©2020.



March 3, 2020

Conversing with God’s Word


We’ve talked about the God’s Word (GW) translation of the Bible before, but recently God’s Word to the Nations Mission Society sent me two newer editions attractively covered in flexible Duravella – one a two-tone gray and the other a two-tone burgundy and gray.

Both editions have large print, but the latter also has wide margins, which encourage us to respond to God’s Word with whatever thoughts or prayers come to mind. This “conversation” becomes a spiritual diary of sorts as we claim a Bible verse or prayer, especially if we add the date as a reminder. And, it can become a private study edition as we jot down insights and relevant notes, making this a priceless heirloom to hand down to the next generation.

The most important feature of the GW translation, however, is its readability. In an accompanying brochure, the “Word Choice” column says: “The translation team chose words that were natural in context and as easily understood as possible without sacrificing accuracy or faithfulness to the original Hebrew and Greek texts of the Bible.”

When it comes to “Gender References,” the brochure explains that “GW avoids using words like man and he if the Hebrew of Greek is speaking about people regardless of gender.” If, however, the text refers to a specific group such as the Jewish council, which consisted exclusively of men, the text will reflect that.

As a poet and writer, I particularly appreciate GW's “Translation Philosophy,” which does not “attempt to make all books or passages function on the same level. The more difficult books of the Bible are translated to the same level of difficulty as the original languages. In addition, abstract concepts in Greek and Hebrew are translated into abstract concepts in English, and concrete concepts remain concrete in translation.

Both of these editions include an A to Z topical reference to scriptures on “The Teachings of Jesus,” providing an excellent resource for Bible study. Both also contain A to Z topics with their biblical references for “Life Applications.”

If you consider the Lenten season leading up to Easter as a time of intense reflection, you might turn to Psalm 51 as a memory-booster prior to corporate or private confession. Many churches refer to that psalm during Lent, but one of my favorite guides into reflection or meditation is The Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, which helps to align our attitudes with the ones the Lord wants us to have. Thanks to the high readable GW translation, the Beatitudes become even more accessible:

Blessed are those who recognize they are
spiritually helpless.

The kingdom of heaven belongs to them.
Blesses are those who mourn.
They will be comforted.

Blessed are those who are gentle.
They will inherit the earth.

Blesses are those who hunger and thirst for
God’s approval.
They will be satisfied.

Blessed are those who show mercy.
They will be treated mercifully.

Blessed are those whose thoughts are pure.
They will see God.

Blessed are those who make peace.
They will be called God’s children.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for doing
what God approves of.
The kingdom of heaven belongs to them.

Blessed are you when people insult you,
persecute you,
lie, and say all kinds of evil things about you
because of me.
Rejoice and be glad because you have a great reward
in heaven!
The prophets who lived before you were persecuted
in these ways,” (Matthew 5:3-12.)


May God help us to take God’s Word to heart, soul, mind, and spirit in Jesus’ Name.

Mary Sayler, ©2020




February 10, 2020

My Favorite Study Bibles

Whenever I prepare for the Bible discussion groups I lead, I turn to the footnotes and articles from several study editions lining my desk, especially:

Amplified Study Bible from Zondervan
The NIV Study Bible from Zondervan
NKJV Study Bible published by Thomas Nelson
ESV Study Bible published by Crossway
Thompson Chain Reference Bible from Kirkbride

However, I'm sad to say I gave away the HCSB Study Bible from Holman to another Bible discussion leader, who needed one reliable resource instead of the many I prefer.

Each of those excellent editions gives a broad understanding of Bible people and their religious views, cultures, and geographical locations. But almost every time, I discover a little something more in my all-time favorite Bible - The New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha in the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), which I just learned has been released in a 5th edition in a leather cover currently on Amazon at half-price! 


Mary Sayler, ©2020



January 17, 2020

Bible Gateway: opening the gate to God’s Word


Bible Gateway has been my “go to” Internet resource for years, so it finally occurred to me to review the site that includes blog posts, podcasts, study notes, articles, and more. Most impressive, though,  is its being, as it says, “A searchable online Bible in over 150 versions and 50 languages.” 

Since I regularly receive review copies of new editions of God’s Word, my bookshelves are piled high with Bibles, but I certainly don’t have all 150 versions! So I often click onto the Bible Gateway site to compare translations and, especially, to research a biblical topic.

For example, when I felt urged to see what the Bible says about love, I readily found over 600 references simply by typing the word “love” in the Search box provided at the top of the main page. Then I added brief devotionals and published the book by that name.

That same Search box let me type in the Bible book, chapter, and verse(s) of the actual prayers in the Bible then compare numerous translations before paraphrasing them for the prayer book I've always wanted, the Book of Bible Prayers. Shortly thereafter, I published the Book of KJV Prayers with the same scriptures but from the King James Version only.

Instead of having to retype each prayer for the latter, I was able to copy/paste the KJV text directly from the Bible Gateway site into a word processing file then remove verse numbers and break lines into a more contemporary rhythm of speaking.

The site’s features also work wonderfully well in preparing sermons and Bible lessons. Not only does it take less time to look up topics and key scriptures, the site offers a wealth of translations for comparison. A quick click onto the version in place lets you immediately change to another.

If you look up a single verse, you can also see numerous versions of that same verse on a single page. By comparing the words chosen to translate the original Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic texts into English, we get a broader perspective of biblical truths, and we see that God’s Word truly is living, constantly speaking to us, and moving us closer and closer to the Lord.



January 3, 2020

The Enduring Word Bible: ESV


The Enduring Word Bible, which Concordia kindly sent me to review, makes a blessed beginning for the New Year or any time. 

This edition of the highly acclaimed ESV (English Standard Version) of the Bible invites you to make God’s Word your own as you color memory verses and pencil in prayers, insights, and other responses in the wide margins provided alongside the readable 9.5-point text.

Besides the 350 line-art illustrations in the margins of the book, this edition includes ten full-page illustrations for you to color, preferably with colored pencils or other medium that won’t smear or bleed through the thin pages.

Since the idea is to encourage you to meditate on God’s Word and use the margins to remind yourself of those close encounters with the Lord, you might want to add a date each time you jot down whatever comes to mind. Those reminders can continue to be a blessing in years to come as you recall your unique relationship with the Lord and pass along to loved ones this ongoing evidence of faith  and devotion to God.


Mary Harwell Sayler, ©2020, poet-writer, reviewer




December 16, 2019

The Growing in Faith Bible for children and beyond


Does it seem strange to you to call a Bible “delightful”? But that’s the word that came to mind when Concordia Publishing House sent me a review copy of  The Growing in Faith Bible for children in the highly accurate ESV (English Standard Version) which says:

 Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them,” Psalm 111:2.

As caretakers of the earth blessed by vital waterways and vivid sunsets, we study those delightful works of the Lord in nature. However, the Bible itself is a work of God to be studied and to fill us with delight.

In this edition for children and (my assessment) beyond, the colorful artwork and unique features will surely help readers to find God Himself delightful. One such feature, the “Verse for Life,” highlights Bible verses for children to memorize and recall throughout their lives. For example:

“Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart,” Psalm 37:4.

The front pages of the book list the features with an explanation for each, starting with “Parent Connections,” which could also be applied to teachers and other caretakers and says:

“Teach your children the important message and theme in each book of the Bible, raising them to be a child of Jesus Christ, their Savior.”

As the heading implies, “Bible Narratives” give important Bible stories to show “how God loves, forgives, guides, and protects us in our everyday lives.” Then “Christ Connections” reveal “places in the Old Testament that point ahead to Jesus….” while another feature, “Big Questions and Answers,” reflects on things children wonder about and want to know.

To help readers find these features, numerous pages in the back of the book provide lists and related page numbers as well as a concordance and maps.

In addition to relevant prayers at the end of each Bible story scattered throughout the book, the “Topical Prayers in the back matter also have children and young people in mind. Those prayers include the reader’s church, pastor, family, and enemies! And the section “For My Needs” reminds readers to pray for themselves too. For instance, “When I’m Scared” says:

“Lord God, heavenly Father, please help
me; I’m scared. Remind me that You
are stronger than anything You created –
and You control everything that happens.
Take away my fear for Jesus’ sake, and
give me quiet trust in You; through
Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.”

Not only does this prayer give a frightened person an appropriate prayer to pray, the words themselves are comforting, faith-building, and filled with delight!

Although there's no Lutheran Church in my small town, and I attend a non-denominational church accepting of all parts of the Body of Christ, I was happy to see the addition of “Martin Luther’s Small Catechism,” which brings up important points for every Christian to consider. Regardless of our age or denominational preferences, we need to know what we believe and why, and this excellent word will help us to do just that.  For example, we receive this word of advice:

…with young people, keep to a single, fixed, and permanent form and wording, and teach them first of all the Ten Commandments, the Creeds, the Lord’s Prayer, etc., according to the text, word for word, so that they can repeat it after you and commit it to memory. 

The brief catechism goes on to explain each aspect of those faith-building tools from God’s word. 

With this and other unique features meant to meet a child’s spiritual needs throughout childhood and beyond, this edition comes in a sturdy hardback that should last for many decades of delightful use.




April 16, 2019

Amplified Study Bible, large print


If you’ve been following the Bible Reviewer blog for a while, you might wonder why I’m reviewing yet another edition of the Amplified Bible. Besides the fact I love it, each copy I’ve received to review has had unique features discussed in these posts:





So what’s different this time? Well, I gave the first review copy (reader edition) to a family member who prefers this translation and the second to a friend who suffers from anxiety. The hardback copy of The Amplified Study Bible remains on my desk as a stand-up resource I use regularly in preparing for Bible study classes, but when it comes to just sitting down and reading the Bible cover to cover, I don’t like hardbacks. I prefer quality leather or paperback, but since I couldn’t find the study edition in either, I bought a leatherlike Amplified Study Bible to read from my favorite cushy chair.

This edition has all the features of The Amplified Study Bible reviewed a couple of years ago, but this time I ordered thumb-indexing, which I don’t usually have. Most of the time, I don’t need those little indented tabs that take me to the book I’m looking for, but I’ve been especially interested in the books of the minor prophets, who are “minor” only because they didn’t go on as long as, say, Jeremiah. With the small pages hard to find and my recall unreliable on who goes before whom in the arrangement of these books, I wanted index tabs to quicken the search.

Besides tabs and the lap-reading-comfort of the softer-than-hardback cover, I bought this edition because of the large print in the text AND in the footnotes. That’s unusual. And, since the text itself includes alternate words choices, the informative footnotes can be concise. For example, in Genesis 1:1, this brief footnote says volumes:

God. This standard Hebrew term for deity Elohim is in the form called the plural of majesty or plural of intensity. In contrast to the ordinary plural (gods), this plural means ‘the fullness of deity’ or ‘God – very God’. Furthermore, the use of the plural allows for later revelation of the Trinity (see 11:7; Mt 28:19, Jn 1:1-3).”

My only regret in ordering this excellent edition of God’s Word is that I didn’t get to review it sooner, but if you hurry, you might be able to get your copy – or a gift or both – during Easter week!

Mary Sayler, ©2019, poet-writer, reviewer


To order the purple leathersoft large print edition I have, click here. Or click on the picture ad in the left-hand column of this page.



January 7, 2019

NKJV Premier Collection


As a Bible reviewer on this blog for a while now, I regularly receive free copies of new editions, which keeps me surrounded by God's Word - literally!

I love these versatile voices and choices in translations, each of which says the same truths but in a unique way that helps us to see different aspects of scripture we might not otherwise notice.  Nevertheless, I have continued to look for THE Bible that suits my particular needs and preferences, and so I bought the NKJV (New King James Version) single-column reference Bible from Thomas Nelson’s “Premier Collection.”

Since I use my favorite Bibles a lot, my needs and preferences include:  at least a 10-point font to ease eye strain; a poetic translation that's easy to understand but also known for its accuracy; and an edition that shows the publisher's  respectful handling of the Bible through such features as Smyth-sewn pages of good quality paper, bound in a soft, flexible, yummy-to-the-touch premium leather. 

As a Bible discussion leader in our Christian community, I also value the addition of references showing alternate translations of a word or phrase and, especially, showing the dialogue in God’s Word between the prophets and the Person of Jesus as prophecy after prophecy is fulfilled in His life, death, and resurrection. And, because of the placement of the biblical references alongside the single-column text, I now have room  in this edition for my own conversations  with God’s Word as I write down the prayers and insights the Lord inevitably brings to me - and to those who ask.

Mary Harwell Sayler, ©2019, poet-writer and reviewer


July 30, 2018

God’s Word: The Apocrypha


Using natural English and the closest equivalent to the primary languages of the Bible, God’s Word to the Nations Mission Society has provided a contemporary version of The Apocrypha, which they kindly sent me to review.

The word “apocrypha” means “hidden” or “secret,” but the books really weren’t. They first gave hope and inspiration to God’s people during their exile from Jerusalem to Babylon, where the people learned to speak, think, and read in Greek, rather than Hebrew. However, Jewish scholars decided not to include the books written in Greek when they canonized the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) many centuries later.

Nevertheless, during the time of Jesus most people - both Jews and early Christians - accepted the books as inspired, and New Testament writers even quoted them. Many more centuries later, the King James Version (KJV) of an English translation of the Bible included the books, where they remained until the Reformation.

Happily, these “deuterocanonical” books are now being returned to many English versions, giving us a clearer view of biblical times and situations that occurred between the old and new testaments. In addition to those historical texts, such as 1 and 2 Maccabees, the apocryphal books include wisdom writings relevant to today. Consider, for example, this passage from the God's Word translation of the Book of Wisdom, Chapter 1:

Verse 1. “Love justice, you rulers of the world.
Consider that the Lord is good.
Be sincere in your search for him.
Verse 2. Those who don’t test him will find him.
He will reveal himself to those who obey him
.”

Verses 6b-7. “God is a witness to people’s hidden feelings.
He has keen insight into what they think,
and he listens to what they say.
The Lord’s Spirit fills the world.
The Spirit holds everything together
and understands everything people say.


For another example, Wisdom 3 begins, “People who worship the true God are in God’s hands.” And verse 9:

Those who trust the Lord will understand what truth is.
Those who are faithful will live in a loving relationship with him,
because he is kind and merciful to the people he has chosen.


Another spiritually insightful book, Sirach, (one of my favorites) has this to say in Chapter 1, verse 13:

Everything will end well for people who fear the Lord.
They will be blessed on the day of their death
.”

Or Chapter 4:20 & 21:

“Don’t be ashamed to be yourself.”
“Don’t remain silent when one word could make things right.”


Or Chapter 10:11:

“All authority on earth is in the Lord’s hands.
He will appoint the right leader for the right time."

Amen!

Mary Sayler, ©2018, poet-writer, reviewer

God’s Word: The Apocrypha





June 23, 2018

God’s Word: The Bible in clear, natural English


Translated directly from Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts, GOD’S WORD Translation Large Print Bible: The Bible in Clear, Natural English comes to us as CNE:

Clear, Natural English

and

Closest Natural Equivalent


Even the title of this translation is clear, natural, and the closest equivalent to the anthology of books we call the Bible -- God’s Word (GW.)

To produce the fresh, reliable, relevant translation aimed for, biblical scholars and reviewers followed these guidelines established by God’s Word to the Nations Mission Society:

“The first consideration for the translators of GW was to find equivalent English ways of expressing the meaning of the original text, ensuring that the translation is faithful to the meaning of the source text. The next consideration was readability; the meaning expressed in natural English by using common English punctuation, capitalization, grammar, and vocabulary. The third consideration was to choose the natural equivalent that most closely reflects the style of the Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek text.”


What more could we ask?

And yet, there is more! Not only does this quality paperback use a 12-point font that aids our eyes and understanding, the single-column format provides the natural flow of text with which we’re familiar as we read any book in English. Chapter headings and sub-headings then help us to locate a passage easily and keep our place as we read privately or study with a discussion group. The book lays flat when opened too.

Free of distracting footnotes, the “Bible Study Helps” in the back of this reader edition offer such unique features as an A to Z topical guide with scriptural references on “The Teachings of Jesus” followed by an “Application Index” of Bible verses and the topics to which they refer.

But it’s the translation itself I love and appreciate. For example, Jeremiah 17:14-15 says:

“Heal me, O LORD, and I will be healed.
Rescue me, and I will be rescued.
You are the one I praise.
People keep asking me,
‘Where is the LORD’s word?’
Let it come’.”


Yes! Let it come! And, as it does, may we truly listen and readily understand what God is saying to us.

Mary Sayler, ©2018, poet-writer, reviewer

God’s Word: The Bible in clear, natural English, paperback




May 3, 2018

God’s Book of Proverbs


God’s Book of Proverbs,
which LifeWay Christian Resources kindly sent me to review, provides “Biblical Wisdom Arranged by Topic” in order to “give you God’s guidance in matters related to everyday life.”

Using biblical text from the Christian Standard Bible (CSB) published by Holman, the book groups topics alphabetically in the Table of Contents followed by headings ranging from “Anger,” “Beauty,” “Calamity” to “Wealth,” “Wickedness,” “Wisdom,” and “Wonder.”

Slightly larger than a typical paperback, this cloth-covered hardback edition makes an attractive, nicely sized book to give as a gift and/or keep in a purse or side pocket of a car, which is where my copy will most likely reside after this review, so I’ll have insightful, meditative-type reading material handy whenever I’ll be in a waiting room or any waiting mode.

To give you a few examples, I turned to “Discernment,” which lists 16 Proverbs such as:

The one who understands a matter finds success,
and the one who trusts in the LORD will be happy
.”
Proverbs 16:20

Counsel in a person’s heart is deep water,
but a person of understanding draws it out
.”
Proverbs 20:5

Under “Guidance,” you’ll find 43 Proverbs to guide your decisions, while “Happiness” has a couple of pages with such insights as:

Bright eyes cheer the heart;
good new strengthens the bones
.”
Proverbs 15:30

"The one who understands a matter finds success,
and the one who trusts in the LORD will be happy
.”
Proverbs 16:20

A joyful heart is good medicine,
but a broken spirit dries up the bones
.”
Proverbs 17:22

Those verses might especially speak to people with achy joints, arthritis, or aging bones! However, all of us can deepen our trust in the LORD with prayer, praise, regular Bible study, and these faith-building Proverbs that not only show us how God can be trusted, but that God knows our human nature and our spiritual needs.

Mary Harwell Sayler, ©2018, poet-writer, reviewer

God’s Book of Proverbs, hardback




March 5, 2018

The #Bible: Reading is Believing


God's love seems like an abstract concept, but reading the Bible makes it real. Through God’s Word to us, we can feel the Holy Presence with us. We can discover the way to love God, other people, and ourselves. We can learn what true love is and how we can become part of that Eternal Life of Love.

As we read the whole Bible, cover to cover, we can also see how the Law, Prophets, and Wisdom books point to Christ. Jesus Himself confirms this when “beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures,” Luke 24:27, New American Standard Bible (NASB.)

In Luke 24:44-46, the risen Christ also said, “'These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.”

If we don't understand what we're reading or we feel confused about the character, will, and purposes of God, we can pray for the Lord to guide us and give us insight. “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope,” Romans 15:4 (NASB.)

In an encouraging letter to Timothy, the Apostle Paul wrote, “you have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work,” 2 Timothy 3:15-17, New Living Translation (NLT.)

Another word on the Word comes in Psalm 119, which I encourage you to read in the many translations presented by Bible Gateway. Or read my favorite renderings of Psalm 119, also found on Bible Gateway.

Comparing various translations will let you know which ones you prefer. If you don’t have a copy of that particular one, type the name of the translation into the Search box on this page to read reviews of Bibles translated from the original languages into your favorite English version.

May the Lord continue to bless your continual reading of God's Word.

Mary Harwell Sayler, ©2018

...

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.