Showing posts with label New International Version. Show all posts
Showing posts with label New International Version. Show all posts

March 9, 2017

NIV Faithlife Study Bible

When Zondervan announced the new NIV Faithlife Study Bible (FSB), I wondered if this would be a repackaging of the ever-popular NIV Study Bible or the more recent NIV Zondervan Study Bible, both of which I’ve previously reviewed. However, as I look at the complimentary copy of the NIV Faithlife Study Bible Zondervan kindly sent me to review, I see a new study edition, edited by John D. Barry, whose preface says: “Our ultimate goal is to help you engage with God’s Word – and with God himself.”

With that goal in mind, Editor Barry explains, “we have curated the most relevant data to illuminate the biblical text, from archaeological findings to manuscript research. Historical, cultural and linguistic details help you understand the background of the Bible so you can interpret its significance.” In addition, the FSB “looks at the Bible as a work of literature, explaining how different genres, narrative structures and literary devices shape the text.”

Readers who want to know if the FSB focuses on a particular Christian perspective will be interested to hear that the “FSB stands in the Christian tradition summarized by the ancient Apostles’ Creed and Nicene Creed. It is committed both to the authority of Scripture and to the challenge of wrestling with its full meaning.”

In the article “How To Study The Bible” at the beginning of the book, Douglas Stuart reminds us “There are several different ways to look at any piece of literature.” He then goes on to list “11 such angles, or steps, in the study process,” including a closer look at “the correct meaning of individual words and phrases found in a passage” and “the literary category and the characteristics that make any passage special.” Most important is the application by which readers “Act on what the Bible says.”

Additional articles discuss the formation of both testaments and introduce each book with in-depth information about the background, structure, outline, and themes on which the writer(s) focused. To further aid our understanding of the context, this edition includes timelines, illustrations, charts, maps, and verse-by-verse notes – so many, in fact, that the Bible text may take up only a third of the page!

Although jam-packed with information, this edition is not as bulky or weighty as some, which makes it an excellent choice to carry to a Bible study discussion group for adults of all ages – from teens to elderly readers – and all levels of study – from beginners to long-time students of God’s Word.

In the latter group, I turned to the FSB as I prepared for the mid-week study group I lead. Looking up Mark 6 (our next lesson as we make our way through the New Testament), I saw the most helpful treatment of “Coins of the Gospels” I’ve ever seen. In addition to illustrating the size of the coins commonly used, the notes explained that a silver denarius “was considered a fair day’s pay for a common laborer in the first century” and went on to say that one denarius could buy 15 lbs. of wheat.

Similarly, the information on a silver shekel says: “Minted in Tyre, the shekel and half-shekel were the only coins accepted for the temple tax in Jesus’ time because of the high purity of the silver.” A half-shekel paid an individual’s temple tax for the year, while a whole shekel could buy “A tunic, a liter of olive oil, two 1 lb. loaves of bread, and a half-liter of cheap wine.” By contrast, the widow’s mite (a small bronze lepton) could only pay for “A bath at the public bathhouse.”

The same chapter of Mark my group will be studying this week includes the story of Jesus walking on water. Although very familiar with that event, I’ve often wondered why Jesus intended to pass by the disciples. It just didn’t make sense to me – until now! In explaining “pass by,” the FSB footnote note says: “The same expression appears in the OT when God displays his glory to people,” for instance as recorded in Exodus 33:17-34:8 and 1 Kings 19:11-13.

As you’ll recall, the passage in 1 Kings relays the story of Elijah on the mountain where God passed by – not in the wind or earthquake or fire, but in that still, soft voice that speaks to each of us who want to hear.

And the scriptures in Exodus 33? As God-incidence would have it, that’s the very chapter the Sunday School class I attend will be discussing this week! It's the passage where God passes His glory by Moses -- and us, even now, as we read.

Bible Review by poet-author and lifelong Bible student, Mary Harwell Sayler, © 2017


NIV Faithlife Study Bible, hardback



Media link to the FSB



January 13, 2017

Standard Lesson Study Bible, NIV


Unlike most study Bibles with small fonts and footnotes, the Standard Lesson Study Bible has a pleasant-to-the-eyes 10-point font in a two-column format with the NIV (New International Version of the Bible) alongside the best of Standard Publishing’s best-selling Bible study lessons. As soon as I heard about it, I immediately requested a review copy, which David C. Cook Publishing kindly sent.

To give you an idea of the type of study helps this edition has, I turned to Genesis 1, which appears in the left-hand column of the page and, to the right, notes such as ”The Bible does not attempt to prove God’s existence. God simply is…” and “The earth was… formless, or unfinished,”and:

“1:3-5 On the first day of creation, God spoke: Let there be light. Light is essential for life. God separated light from darkness, which has no real existence but is simply an absence of light, a ‘without.’ Thus darkness serves as an apt metaphor for the chaos of moral evil and sin – living ‘without God,’ our moral light…”

At the bottom of the right-hand commentary, this edition provides questions for discussion:

“WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Why are the aspects of creation important in understanding both God and our world?

Talking Points for Your Discussion
. Orderliness/design
. Creative power of God
. A world created to be good”


With that same format running consistently throughout, the lessons alongside the “love chapter” of 1 Corinthians 13 have this to say:

“13:4-7 Paul defined love by what it was and was not. Obviously thinking of the pride the Corinthians were taking in their spiritual gifts, Paul warned that love doesn’t boast about what one has or envy what someone else has received. Furthermore, love does not lead us to desire, to do, to celebrate, or even to think about anything that dishonor(s) others. Instead love is centered in truth, protecting everything one values, trusts in, and hopes for while awaiting a brighter future.”

In addition to the information and insights in commentary immediately adjacent to the scripture readings, this edition include book introductions to review before beginning the study of a book. For example, part of the introduction to Revelation reads:

“Although separated by 15 centuries, Moses and John faced similar situations. Both dealt with rulers who demanded worship. The plagues of Egypt are best understood not as plagues against people, but against the gods worshipped by them. The Pharaoh saw himself as the chief of these. When we recall stories of Pharaoh’s hardened heart, we gain insight to the similar personality of Domitian Caesar.”

Other unique study aids include a pronunciation guide in the front pages to help Bible teachers pronounce unfamiliar names easily.

In the back matter, I particularly enjoyed “Everyday Expressions That Come from the Bible” such as “apple of my eye,” “drop in a bucket,” “a little bird told me,” and “let justice roll down like water.”

Other articles in the back pages help to teach teachers how to teach more effectively and students at all levels to learn more about God’s Word.

If you love a good laugh, as the Creator of Wit does, you’ll also enjoy the collage of stories expressing “Humor in the Bible.”

Throughout the commentary alongside the scriptures, the question “What do you think?” evokes discussion and reflection, reminding me now to say, I think very highly of this unique study Bible.

Review by poet-writer Mary Harwell Sayler, © 2017

Standard Lesson Study Bible, NIV, hardcover


Standard Lesson Study Bible, NIV, imitation leath, duotone




August 29, 2016

NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible

If you time-traveled 4,000 years into the past, how would you explain cameras, movies, telephones, moon landings, race cars, popsicles, or even the idea of voting for the leaders of a country? How hard would it be to explain our mechanized, technologically-minded culture to a people who speak another language, travel by donkey, and live in a rural environment with no electricity or easily accessible water? Reverse this situation, and you’ll see why the new NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, which Zondervan kindly sent me to review, is such an excellent idea for helping us to “be there” in Bible days.

As the “Author Introduction” explains:

1. “We study the history of the Bible world as a means of recovering knowledge of the events that shaped the lives of people in the ancient world.
2. We study
archaeology as a means of recovering the lifestyle reflected in the material culture of the ancient world.
3. We study the
literature of the ancient world as a means of penetrating the heart and soul of the people who inhabited that world.”

In the front matter of this edition, “Major Background Issues From The Ancient Near East” offers a sweeping view of the prevalent beliefs during Bible times. For instance, under “Creation and Order,” we’re made aware that, “In the ancient world people were much more inclined to think of creation not so much as manufacturing the material cosmos, but of establishing order in the cosmos and making it function with a particular purpose in mind.”

The sidebar “Creation And Existence” develops this idea by saying: “…in the ancient world something existed when it had a function – a role to play.” For example, we read in Genesis 2:5, “there was no one to work the ground,” but, as Genesis 2:7 tells us, “Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being,” NIV.

Genesis 2:8 goes on to say, “Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed,” showing how God prepared everything we need before we existed then initiated work for us to be caretakers of creation. Working with God and nature became a privilege and an honor.

Throughout this edition, footnotes, sidebars, photographs, and maps keep us immersed in each biblical era, making familiar stories come to life. For example, those of whose who grew up in a church, most likely learned the song lyrics, “We are climbing Jacob’s ladder,” which came about from the Bible story told in Genesis 28.

As the story goes, Jacob had left his home to escape the wrath of his brother Esau, go to his mother’s native land, and find a wife. After stopping that first night, “He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.There above it stood the Lord, and he said: ‘I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac’,” Genesis 28:12-13, NIV.

The sidebar “Stairway To Heaven” offers an interesting cultural insight into Genesis 28 by referring to “the ziggurats of ancient Mesopotamia, which were built to provide the stairway for the gods to come down and be worshiped in their temples. Jacob did not see a ziggurat, but the stairway portal between heaven and earth that ziggurats were designed to provide.”

As the sidebar further explains: “There is a continuum in space between the heavenly dwelling and the earthly one such that they are not simply considered mirror images or paired structures, but in the sense that they are more like the upstairs and downstairs of the same building. Yet it is even more than that as the earthly temple can be thought of as actually exisiting in the heavenly realm.” Therefore, “We should not imagine that the angels Jacob saw were marching in procession down and up the stairway as often pictured in art. Rather he saw messengers (= angels) going off on missions and returning from delivering their messages.”

How much more sense this makes than images of angels holding a ladder to a heavenly loft for no apparent purpose than to show they had the right-of-way!

My only regret is the difficulty I had in reading that and other insightful notes because of the light ink in the thin font the publisher often uses. Nevertheless, I plan to refer regularly to this excellent resource in researching Bible background for my books or study group.

If you want to know more about this new study edition of the New International Version, visit Zondervan’s site. Or, if you’re eager to get your copy, I highly recommend the hardcover edition shown below as it’s ideal for keeping handy on a desk.

Those of you who have been following the reviews posted on this blog (thank you!) know how much I prefer fine leather as I’m reading, not only because of the durability but because such editions are pleasant to hold on my lap as I curl up in my favorite chair. However, this and other hefty editions work best as desk copies for reference, rather than straight reading, because of the weight and bulk. Also, the hardcover copy I received for review rests flat on my desktop, even if opened only to the first page. In addition, its very thickness makes this a “stand-up” edition with no need for bookends but a Bible that’s readily available to grab, open, and reveal God’s Word in its original context.

Mary Harwell Sayler, © 2016, poet-writer reviewer


NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, hardcover



NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, bonded leather



January 11, 2016

Big Dreams Big Prayers Bible For Kids, NIV


If you’ve been following these Bible reviews for a while, you know that ZonderKidz has kindly sent me review copies of several children’s editions of the Bible with a different emphasis for each. Now, in the Big Dreams Big Prayers Bible For Kids, NIV, the focus is on describing prayer and encouraging young readers to develop lifelong patterns of prayer.

For example, the first page, “What Is Prayer?” answers by saying, “Prayer is simply being in a conversation with God – talking and listening – so you can build a relationship with him and get to know his ways.” The page then encourages readers to notice these features:

Highlighted verses to memorize from the New International Version (NIV) text
Conversation with God devotions
Reading plans, offering three options
Prayer Journal with pages in the back of the book to record prayers and responses

Besides the emphasis on prayer, this children’s edition prefaces each book of the Bible with key questions regarding the Who, Why, What, When, and Where of each book. Those brief introductions also list key people in the adjacent chapters and some of the Bible stories to explore, such as “Noah builds an ark” in Genesis 6 and “Joseph becomes a ruler” in Genesis 39-41.

Young readers will also find pages of “Big dreams, Big prayers” interspersed throughout the book. For example, in Numbers a page insert highlights verse 12:13 with Moses’ prayer for his sister Miriam to be healed followed by a contemporary devotional.

Nice, thick, slick inserts can be found, too, with excellent information but, unfortunately, placed randomly, rather than beside the chapters to which they refer. For example, “10 commandments for kids” beautifully explains those important words from God, but the page is placed toward the end of Psalms, rather than in Exodus or Deuteronomy. On the flipside of that page, the Lord’s Prayer can be found, instead of in Matthew.

Despite that perplexing choice, the inserts speak to young readers about deep truths of Christianity in ways they can understand. For example, the insert “The ABCs of becoming a Christian,” shows:

Admit
Believe
Confess


Beneath each of those words, readers will find a clear explanation and relevant Bible verses to encourage them to consider what God has to say and then pray. May we do the same in Jesus’ Name.


©2016, Mary Harwell Sayler, reviewer, is a poet, writer, and lifelong lover of Christ, the Bible, and the Church. Recently she began writing praise poetry posted on PraisePoems.us.

Big Dreams Big Prayers Bible For Kids, NIV, hardback




April 13, 2015

Holman Rainbow Study Bible


Do you ever underline a favorite Bible verse or color-code passages you want to highlight? Holman Bible Publishers spent 16 years doing this and more for us in the new Holman Rainbow Study Bible, available now in the New International Version (NIV) with two other translations (NKJV and HCSB) in the works.

When I first opened the review copy Holman kindly sent in the edition shown below, I wondered if the quilted look of the colorful pages would befuddle my eyes! As it turned out, the muted colors actually helped to hold my eyes steadily on the passage being read, reminding me of the early school years when we followed words with an index finger to keep our eyes aligned and pointed in the right direction.

Besides holding my attention, the rainbow-colored text felt unexpectedly soothing to read. The idea behind this, however, is to show the major themes of the Bible clearly through thoughtfully-selected color-coding. For example, a soft shade of purple has been “assigned to God because it is a color of royalty” with “Blue assigned to Salvation because it has a heavenly or eternal connotation,” and “Silver assigned to History because it signifies age or experience.”

All total, you’ll find 12 major themes color-coded in the text with a colored decoder strip along the bottom of each page, indicating Discipleship, Outreach, God, Salvation, Love, Commandments, Family, Faith, Prophecy, Evil, Sin, History.

In addition to this unique feature, the edition includes a Bold Line® System with the Words of God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) underlined, regardless of the surrounding theme. This system replaces the need for the words of Christ to be further enhanced, as typically done in red letter editions.

The overall effect of these features is not only pleasing to the eye, they ease reading, accentuate themes, and enhance memorization. To further encourage readers to memorize key scriptures, another help comes with the inclusion of “365 Popular Bible quotations for Memorization and Meditation.”

The edition also provides introductions to each book with a list of the “Books Of The Bible in Biblical Order” and “Books Of The Bible in Alphabetical Order” in the front matter to help students new to the Bible to become acquainted with the arrangement of the books. Also, this particular edition has indexed tabs to help you find a book quickly in your Bible study group. Such study aids, along with maps in the back matter and cross-referencing throughout the text, make this an excellent choice for Bible students of all ages.


©2015, Mary Harwell Sayler, poet, writer, and reviewer, is a lifelong lover of Christ, the Bible, and the church in all its parts.


Holman Rainbow Study Bible, NIV, hardcover, indexed edition




April 2, 2015

NIV Proclamation Bible

When I received my review copy of the NIV Proclamation Bible from BookLook Bloggers, the attractive book jacket made me bristle! I later discovered that some reviewers objected to the quotation at the top of the cover where the well-respected Rev. Timothy Keller says, “There are many Study Bibles, but none better.”

Interestingly, the classic and highly acclaimed NIV Study Bible – also from Zondervan – is done as well as any study Bible from any publisher anywhere because of balanced, intuitive footnotes that answer the very questions I look to the bottom of the page to resolve. But, none of this had anything to do with what made me so reactive! What I objected to was the bold declaration in all caps directly below the title:

CORRECTLY HANDLING
THE WORD OF TRUTH

As a long-time writer for Christian and educational markets, my timbers shiver at such a statement. No matter how much we research or how much we know or how inclusive we aim to be, we just might miss something. Therefore, the very best of intentions, which I’m certain Zondervan has, does not necessarily guarantee success in “correctly handling” anything!

Having noted that objection, I removed the attractive book jacket and discovered a nice navy hardback beneath. So, even if company nail biting results in cost biting, I recommend redesigning the jacket or at least taking off this particular jacket in the present heat!

Immediately below the afore-mentioned capital letters, a modest note quietly announces in smaller caps, “With Cross-References And Concordance.” Paradoxically, that concordance includes far more entries than I have found in most Bibles published by most companies, so this addition alone gives a good aid for study.

Other additions add to this edition’s usefulness for group or private study, but my favorite is the attention given to the “melodic line,” a term I previously equated only with poetry. in this context, however, the phrase refers to “the overarching coherence of a particular book,” (italics, theirs.) “Therefore,” the idea involves “thinking in terms of identifying ‘the melodic line’ of a Bible book (as) an encouragement to us to see how the key themes and purposes of a book develop at its argument or narrative unfolds.”

As the article goes on to say, “Very often the key to finding some specific thing is to ask the right questions.” For example, “Why does the writer say the things he does? Why does he express himself in the way he does? Why is the book put together in the way it is? What is the overall purpose of this book? What impact was the writer intending to have on his readers/ hearers? What was he communicating to them? What overall purpose is served by each of the different elements of which the books is comprised?” Such attentive probing will surely result in well-researched sermons, books, poems, church curriculum, and other writings.

The next article, “From Text To Doctrine: The Bible And Theology,” reminds us that, as Christians and students of the Bible, we’re automatically theologians. This means we not only need to know what the Bible says and how we respond to that information, but “We must also be aware of our subculture or tribe, which brings its own set of values and practices into our lives.” Most of us realize that our culture influences us in various ways. More than this, “Our cultures not only shape us as individuals, but also shape our churches, our patterns of relating, and our shared values.”

In the article, “From Text To Life: Applying The Old Testament,” we consider how, “The more we read, mark, learn and inwardly digest the wonderful teaching of the Old Testament, the more we shall revel in the glories of Christ to whom it all points.” And, as we consider how to apply the New Testament to our lives and churches, we’re reminded of the cultural changes which continue to occur.

“From Text To Sermon: Preaching The Bible” emphasizes the importance of “Getting the text right” and paying attention to the context. Identifying the literary genre (poetry, narrative, historical highlight, etc.) and the primary theme and purpose of each book are crucial considerations, too, as we aim to handle God’s Word correctly – which brings me back to my first reaction but now with a willingness to revise and respond to say:

The questions and pointers in this edition can help us – as readers, pastors, poets, Bible teachers, and other communicators for Christ – to handle the Word of Truth as correctly as possible, despite tendencies to react (okay, overreact) and interpret information through our own expectations, interpretations, or bias.

Just as I was starting to feel somewhat sage for (finally!) realizing the study aids in this edition are intended to help us – you and me and other readers – to handle the Word of Truth correctly as we speak, preach, or write in Jesus’ Name, I flipped to the “Editor’s Preface,” which I’d obviously skipped earlier, and saw the very first sentence, which says: “The apostle Paul encouraged Timothy to do his best ‘to present [himself] to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the world of truth’ [2 Tim. 2:15].”

Oh, Lord! Sometimes it’s hard to see the truth, much less handle it! But thankfully, You send us lots of help!


©2015, Mary Harwell Sayler, poet, writer, and reviewer, is a lifelong lover of Christ, the Bible, and the church in all its parts.


NIV Proclamation Bible, hardcover





I review for BookLook Bloggers


August 22, 2014

The Case For Christ Study Bible


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

...

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

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


The Case For Christ Study Bible, hardback





July 14, 2014

NIV Life Journey Bible


If you’ve ever read the bestselling book Boundaries, you’ll know why I was glad to get a review copy of the NIV Life Journey Bible from Zondervan. In addition to providing the revised text of the super-bestselling NIV (New International Version) Bible, this edition includes 20 essays and 300 “Insights” by Boundaries authors, Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. What a combination!

According to our Jewish ancestry, which came to all Christians through Christ, a person’s faith in God involves the body, mind, and spirit. In Luke 10:26-28 and Matthew 22:37, for example, Jesus tells us to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your strength and all your mind.”

Most of us “get” the spiritual side of believing, the physical side of putting those beliefs into practice, and the mental side of opening our minds to the mind of Christ through prayerful Bible reading. In worship services, we also hear sermons or homilies on spiritual growth and the various ministries requiring our physical presence and, perhaps, a little grease from our elbows.

Many Bible resources have been developed to help us draw closer to God spiritually and materially or tangibly, but articles and notes in this edition help us to draw closer to God mentally too. As explained in the front matter, “The Insights feature will give you an inside track on tips for emotional and relationship health, including where signs of emotional health and maturity, or their absence, occur in various stories, teachings and events found in Scripture.”

When it comes to dealing with problems, the Book of Job has much to say! For example, “God’s Right: Saying No” gives us this “Insight” on Job 2:9-10, where “Job did not ‘make God bad’ in his own mind. In all of his complaining, he did not end his relationship with God. Job didn’t understand God, but he allowed God to be himself. Job never withdrew his love from God, even when he was angry with him. This is a real relationship, and he was rewarded for his faithfulness, honesty and devotion to God, even when God did not do what he (Job) wanted.”

Another “Insight” pertains to “Sharing All Our Feelings With God,” where “Job wanted to fully express his protest to God (see Job 13:3).” However, Christians “often fear being honest with God because it has not been safe to express honesty in our earthly relationships. Like Job we fear both abandonment and retaliation. ...Rest assured, however, that God desires truth….(and) seeks people who will have a real relationship with him.”

Nevertheless, suffering can be expected, and so the “Insight” on Job 42:1-17 addresses “Suffering of Different Kinds,” where, “One is suffering as a result of working on our character, and the other is suffering that happens as a result of being in a fallen world. The key is to be able to tell the difference between the two and apply the right kind of experience to each. Too often in the church those who have been victims of destructive events are told that God is trying to teach them a lesson or that what they are going through is a result of their own sin or a part of the growth process.” But as happened with Job, “In reality, they are innocently suffering.”

Either way, disappointment will most likely occur – in God, in ourselves, or in other people, and so, an essay in this well-done edition offers thoughtful responses to the important question: “How Should We Respond to Disappointment With God?”

We do, of course, have choices as the “Insight” for Revelation 3:20 reminds us saying: “God has no interest in violating our boundaries so that he can relate to us. He wants us to love him freely, not because he controls us into it…. Intimacy with God is based on freedom, as are all good choices.”

When we think of “trespassing” as over-stepping the boundaries, we can choose to trust God not to trespass against us! The more we recognize God as loving, trustworthy, and true, the more we want to remove the obstacles, misunderstandings, and other boundaries between us. This edition can help to show us how.

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


NIV, Life Journey Bible, hardcover




I review for BookLook Bloggers

June 19, 2014

NIV Teen Study Bible


Lauded as the “Bestselling Bible for Teens,” the NIV Teen Study Bible published by Zondervan comes in a variety of cover choices, ranging from my paperback review copy to the attractive leather-like cover in the compact edition shown below. Regardless of the appearance outside, the inside includes helpful sidebars and interesting inserts by Larry and Sue Richards, who obviously had teens in mind in this updated version of the reader-friendly New International Version (NIV)of the Bible.

For example, the front matter provides The Apostles Creed, used by many denominations as a clear statement of faith. Then, a “We Believe” page lists, verse-by-verse, relevant biblical references throughout the text, so young people can see how the creed came about and what each phrase means.

In Genesis, for instance, a “We Believe” page addresses the belief that “God is ‘the Maker of Heaven and Earth’,” then goes on to explain how “Genesis 1 teaches that God created the universe. Life didn’t ‘just happen’ as molecules bumped into each other. How do you know? Psalm 19:1 and Romans 1:18-20 suggest that you look around. If you saw a shiny new Mustang in a junkyard, would you think it ‘evolved’ from the junkyard parts?” With the universe far “more complex than a Mustang,” we can be sure of God’s good work and, more importantly, know “that the heavenly Father who loves you is the all-powerful creator of the universe.”

Scattered throughout this highly recommended edition, you’ll also find Introductions to each book of the Bible, Q&As of Bible trivia, teen-friendly side bars, and article inserts such as “Dear Jordan.” For instance, a “Dear Jordan” question in Genesis asks why it’s so hard to resist temptation, while a question in Job wants to know why God didn’t heal a friend who died. In Romans, another teen asks about her relationship with her parents, and in each case, “Jordan” provides a biblically sound response.

Christian teens will also appreciate the additional helps in the back matter such as the “Bible Truth Index” and “Teen Life Index,” each of which addresses subjects young people wonder about -- alcohol, anger, dating, swearing, and even zits! Odd, perhaps, but God cares about every aspect of us and our lives as this teen-loving edition clearly shows.

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


NIV Teen Study Bible, paperback




NIV Teen Study Bible, compact edition, leather-look cover




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February 11, 2014

The Jesus Bible for children


An eye-appealing format and two-color sidebars that interact with young readers make this edition of the New International Version (NIV) a good choice for children 8 and up to read by themselves but also for teachers to use in small churches where Sunday School classes cover a range of ages or varying number of children. The color maps and thorough concordance will aid learning too. More exceptional though, The Jesus Bible from ZonderKidz includes an “Index of Hints of the Savior/ Jesus Revealed,” which marks the theme of this edition that highlights the many references to Christ throughout the Bible.

Other unique features include glossy insert pages that nicely highlight key concepts in the Christian faith. For example, “The ‘I Am’ Statements of Jesus” help young readers begin to see Christ as the Good Shepherd, Who guides them, and The Way, The Truth, and The Life to call upon in their own lives. However, I wish that important page had been placed in the Gospel of John, rather than the book of Daniel. Similarly, “Jesus in the Psalms” might be placed more effectively in the book of Psalms, rather than the OT book of Second Chronicles.

Hopefully, such publishing matters can be addressed in future editions and possible errors corrected, such as one found on page 28. In the sidebar to a story in Genesis 20, Abraham made the mistake of tricking King Abimelek, but the “Live Like Jesus” insert mistakenly says Moses did the trickery.

Therefore, in reviewing this review copy which Zondervan kindly sent, I’m a little concerned about the publisher's effort to do too much or hurry to publication, but I’m also greatly impressed by the earnest desire to find ways to reach people of all ages and backgrounds for Jesus Christ. That’s what the Gospel should do – must do to reach the ends of the earth as the Lord commands.

Clearly and correctly, this edition demonstrates we can and will “Discover Jesus in Every Book of the Bible.” Amen! Yes, for in every page of God's Word, Jesus Christ is there, and, as we read the Bible, Jesus is here. Wherever we are, Jesus Is God with us.

©2014, Mary Sayler, reviewer


The Jesus Bible, hardcover




December 24, 2013

NIV Essentials Study Bible

For many years Christians from almost every denomination have lauded the ecumenically-minded NIV Study Bible for its well-balanced notes, comments, and study aids, and some, like me, have dug into the Archaeological Study Bible with its “finds” and “tells” uncovered by archaeologists, who gave us deeper insights into Bible places, times, cultures, and events. Also, new Christians seem to appreciate especially the NIV Quest Study Bible with questions from over 1,000 readers and responses from biblical scholars who provide no easy answers but fair-minded feedback and multiple perspectives whenever additional views exists.

Zondervan has produced other fine study Bibles, too, so when I requested a review copy of the new NIV Essentials Study Bible from BookSneeze, I mainly wanted to know what this edition might have that all the others didn’t. Well, I won’t keep you waiting! The answer is – nothing and everything!

As the name implies, the NIV Essentials Study Bible contains the essentials, the highlights, and, dare I say, the best of the sidebars, footnotes, and study aids from each of the other NIV offerings from Zondervan.

Besides my preference for the most recent 2011 revision of the NIV (New International Version), I like the lighter weight of this hardback edition and the easier-to-read font with a bit more ink than the text and footnotes often have in other Zondervan Bibles. I also like the blue headings inserted into the text as a visual reminder of the primary topics for each chapter or passage.

Maybe that medium shade of blue ink helped. I don’t know. I just know I’m somewhat dyslexic, so if a page's format has too much going on, my eyes are apt to blip out in an effort to quieten the chaos. But this Bible evoked none of that! Despite the wealth of notes and information packed onto almost every page, I found the format reader-friendly, visually pleasing, and easy to use.

My only lament, therefore, is a wish – that the NIV Essentials Study Bible will be released in a leather cover as genuine and long-lasting as this essential book.

©2013, Mary Harwell Sayler


NIV Essentials Study Bible, hardback




I review for BookSneeze®


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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June 20, 2013

Life Application Study Bible

For about 30 years at least one person in every Bible study group I’ve participated in has brought a Life Application Study Bible (LASB.) Sometimes we met in church fellowship or parish halls, but often we met in homes where members of most denominations came together regularly to study the word of God.

What first impressed me was how people almost always found something helpful or interesting to add to our discussions, thanks to the extensive footnotes in the LASB. What did not impress me was how the notes sometimes went a bit far in telling readers what to think or how to act with each “must” or “should.”

So while I kept looking for a study Bible that might better suit my needs or preferences, I couldn’t help but notice that Christian friends were buying new editions of the LASB when theirs fell apart from heavy use. Or they began buying editions of the Life Application Study Bible in additional translations -- and there are many!

A quick search on Amazon, for example, shows that the LASB comes in the New Living Translation (NLT), New American Standard Bible (NASB), King James Version (KJV), New King James Version (NKJV), New International Version (1984 NIV), and the newer NIV that, yes, I finally bought. Other versions may exist, but you get the picture. The LASB comes in many translations for one reason. People like it! And it helps.

Although I really do not want anyone to tell me how to think, I do want to know what other people think, and the LASB helps me to hear those voices and hopefully respond to those needs in my writing. For example, those of us who heard “Jesus Love Me” in early childhood have probably responded to that song from our earliest memories. So when we study Matthew and read the LASB footnotes, we’re reminded that everyone has not had our blessed experience. Some children grow up hearing nothing about God or only hear of Jesus as a baby born at Christmas, and so they may need to hear the footnote for Matthew 21:44, which explains what Jesus meant when He applied to Himself the metaphor about “the stone the builders rejected,” then ends by saying, “He offers mercy and forgiveness now and promises judgment later. We should choose him now!” True, and perhaps a reminder to us lifelong Christians to choose Christ again in the now of every day.

As I became familiar with what the LASB actually says instead of staying locked into first impressions, I discovered a spiritual depth rarely found in study editions of the Bible. Since childhood, for example, I’d loved the Bible story about Solomon and even thought it’d be cool to be wise, which led to a lifelong love for the Bible that I’ve continued, now hoping to get into the mind of Christ. I don’t recall ever having this discussion with anyone before, so I’m doing some soul-baring here, but I cannot tell you what comfort and blessing I found in the LASB note on Ecclesiastes 1:16-18: “The more you understand, the more pain and difficulty you experience. For example, the more you know, the more imperfection you see around you; and the more you observe, the more evil becomes evident. As you set out with Solomon to find the meaning of life, you must be ready to feel more, think more, question more, hurt more, and do more. Are you ready to pay the price for wisdom?” Wow!

No matter what level you’ve reached in your life in Christ, the LASB helps each reader get closer to God. Sometimes, then, the footnotes won’t be for you but for the person next to you or, perhaps, a means of better understanding Christians still new to the faith. Most of the time, though, the footnotes make me feel as if a dear, wise, spiritually mature, well-informed, older friend is responding, explaining, and encouraging me as we read the Bible together.

Special Features: In addition to the extensive footnotes in this hefty edition, each book has an overview or Introduction with a timeline across the top of the page to get you into the era or historical setting. The sidebar, “Vital Statistics,” lists the purpose for each book, the most likely author and date, and the audience first intended. An outline of each book and list of “Megathemes” aid study, too, as do clear black and white maps that show the places mentioned as they're mentioned throughout the text.

Other special features include “A Christian Worker’s Resource,” which provides a teacher’s guide or a way to instruct and edify new Christians. For topical research or Bible studies, an extensive Dictionary/ Concordance helps you find biblical references to a particular subject.

Covers: The quality or type of cover depends on your choice of translations. Most LASB editions come in paperback, hardback, and colorful covers that feel like real leather but may be apt to curl and wear out sooner. However, with the newer NIV available in LASB, you may still be able to find a huge discount on high quality leather covers in the original NIV (1984.)

With copies of the other translations already on my bookshelves, I ordered my LASB in a large print edition of the newer NIV, which I’ll refer to here and feature in the ad below. Instead of the typical leather Bible with one color or piece, this one has a two-tone cover with saddle stitching all around the outer edges and down inner margins, attractively reinforcing areas where hands hit and wear typically occurs.

Format, Font: With its ample size and ink, the large font feels easy on the eyes, but footnotes have a readable font, too, in about the size normally used for the main body of a text. I especially liked the bold type for the chapter and verses to which each footnote refers, making a note quick to find during a discussion. Added subheadings also provide a quick way to scan for information and keep track of where we are as we get closer to God and each other in our search for an ever-deepening life in Christ.

©2013, Mary Harwell Sayler

Life Application Study Bible in the new NIV


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