Yes!

100 Days With Jesus by Diann Cotton really is a beautiful little book. It is a series of 100 daily devotions entirely centered around the names of Jesus as written in the Scriptures.

The idea of the book is that each day you focus on one name given to Christ, understand what that word or name means, and then read a short devotion that helps you connect to Jesus in a very specific way based on the meaning of that name.

100 DaysEvery devotion presents the gospel; every devotion focuses specifically on what the Word says about Jesus; every devotion recognizes our unworthiness and His Worthiness and the Mystery that is our salvation. The devotional entries are very personal, as if you, yourself were saying them out loud, and I would use this book in precisely that way! I would, quite literally, read the entire devotion out loud as a statement or prayer directly to Christ, praying, in part, the Father’s Words right back to Him. Understand that this is NOT a reconfiguration of the Scriptures as if God is talking to you (you may know what book I’m thinking of). No… you are praying to Him! For example, “Jesus, HOLY AND RIGHTEOUS ONE! You are exalted, divine, and worthy of complete devotion! You are completely without guilt or sin – honest, honorable, just and upright! Jesus, You who are perfect in every way, were betrayed and denied before Pontius Pilate. They set free a murderer and you died in his place. You who were the HOLY AND RIGHTEOUS ONE, were raised from the dead! Jesus, I often don’t see you for who you really are – I deny you like they did. I think you are small and incapable, when you are really exalted and perfect, true and upright. You have power over death… You are worthy of my complete devotion. I worship you today as the HOLY AND RIGHTEOUS ONE!!”

This book is solid. But beyond that, it is a beautiful presentation as a hardcover book with gold embossing on the front. The pages are heavy duty glossy paper. The right-hand page presents the day’s devotion, and the left-hand page shows a beautiful photo of something in His creation that just helps you to further connect with and adore your Redeemer. 100 Days With Jesus is a keeper… I will use it again and again and could not recommend it more highly!

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More Pros than Cons

The 365-Day Storybook Bible by B&H Kids is a decent entry into the world of Children’s Bibles. Please understand right off the top, this is not an entire Bible. It is, instead, a significant book containing 365 separate Bible stories, presented in the order in which they appear in the Bible. Not every book of the Bible is represented, but the “major” stories are covered. The book itself is fairly substantial, as the pages are thick glossy paper with vividly detailed illustrations on every page. The initial concept for the book comes from a Scandinavian publishing house in Denmark, and the book has now been released by B&H Kids with the text copyrighted to the initial publishing author.

365 Day BibleFirst, the pros… Even with the limitations of a book like this, the book manages to highlight the overarching story of the Bible quite well. Many of the kids’ favorite Bible characters are included, but I was particularly happy to see some minor characters included as well: characters like Gideon, Hannah, and Deborah. I also really appreciated that book did not end at the Ascension. This is a common downside of other Children’s Bibles. This book includes many of the notable activities of the disciples as recorded Acts. Without stories like Paul and Silas singing in prison, Paul’s famous apologetic in Acts 17, and the story of Stephen’s bravery and hope, kids really miss out on learning about important events in early Church history. Each day’s entry includes the Scripture reference for that story. The entries can be quickly read to kids by their parents in the matter of a minute, leaving time for discussion between parent and child, while still being able to fit this devotional time into about 5 minutes.

Now for the cons… This heavy book is too cumbersome for our youngest readers to easily manage. The illustrations, while colorful, have a bit of a “grittier” tone to them than I would have liked. My thoughts were that boys might prefer them over girls. My test-case was my 50+ husband who thought the illustrations were great. Take that for what it’s worth. As previously mentioned, this book includes some minor characters you won’t find in other Children’s Bibles, but sometimes it seems that this is done at the expense of other important Bible stories. For example, Day 121 is devoted to Jotham’s curse from Judges 9, yet not a single day’s entry is dedicated to anything that happens after the narrative of Acts. Also, the text is not any particular translation, it is merely the wording of an author named Joy Melissa Jensen. I appreciate that the publisher includes the Scripture references, but with translations like the NiRV available, many parents might rather stick with Children’s translation of the entire Word, instead of teaching their children Jensen’s words.

Ultimately, I believe that the more frequently we can keep our children learning Bible stories, the better it is for them, fostering in them a love for the Word of God, with the hope that they will accept the gospel message for themselves, personally, when they can understand it’s significance.

One other point to note: The back cover indicates that it has bonus content parents. While this is a true statement, the bonus content consists of one page that includes John 3:16, encouragement to read Romans 8:31-39, five questions to “think about” and 1 activity to do with the kids. All of this information is great, but I think it is a bit misleading to say there is bonus content inside, when in fact this “content” is quite limited.

As the headline of this review states, the pros certainly outweigh the cons of the 365-Day Storybook Bible, but parents are probably either going to love it or pass altogether.

Fun, well-executed, and substantial – every child should have one!

I can’t believe I have the super-fun opportunity to write a review of a coloring and activity book! How great is my life?!?Bible coloring book

The Bible Story Coloring & Activity Book published by B&H Kids is an enormous book filled with coloring pages suitable for all ages (some pages have simple images to color, others more detailed). Additionally, there are TONS of different activities for kids to enjoy — think mazes, fill-in-the-blanks, hidden images, word searches, matching, tic-tac-toe, secret codes, hidden messages, connecting Scripture to images, patterns, counting and more!

The format of this book is just like that of any other coloring and activity book, except this book is HUGE…384 pages! Yes, you read that right…384 pages! It is broken into two sections, naturally, the Old and New Testaments, and the activities, stories, and pages are chronologically arranged as they appear in the Bible. Best of all, the note to parents in the front explains that a strong foundation in the Word of God is the most important thing you can leave your kids. It goes on to explain that many children’s Bible stories communicate the primary message of the Bible as “be good.” However “be good” is not the message of the Bible. “Be saved” is! The goal of The Bible Story Coloring & Activity Book is to help children understand and engage with the Bible story through carefully crafted activities so that they can see the big picture of the Bible. With the chronological arrangement, parents can quickly locate activities and pages related to the story they are teaching. This book would also be a fantastic resource for Sunday school teachers. I can envision a Sunday school class having enough copies of the book for every student so they can work their way through the activities as they align with their Sunday school curriculum.

I do not have a single negative thing to say about this book, except that I wish this existed when I was a child!

 

Yes!

Theology, Church, and Ministry, edited by David Dockery is a profound entry into a category of books in which I see very few. For that reason alone, it is a treasure. This significant book is divided into three well-executed sections, each section with a handful of chapters each authored by different contributors. Dockery is the editor of these contributions, writes the overall introduction, and authors a chapter on theological education.theology church ministry

The first section is dedicated to the “whys” of theological education and would be extremely useful for those considering a call to Seminary or anyone preparing for an education that will lead them into ministry. In my experience, there are very few books written for this small subset of readers, and yet I can think of almost no other group of Christians who need experienced teachers, leaders, and theologians to help guide them in their initial decisions on embarking on a journey to theological education.

The second section is almost a small theology text on its own, handling subjects like biblical inspiration, theology of the Old and New Testaments, apologetics, and church history. The aim here is that the potential Seminary candidate or theological student might begin to understand the curriculum they will experience throughout their education. This portion of the book could also be helpful for those who support Seminary students, such as family, churches, and donors. Understand that the second section is in no way comprehensive or exhaustive. Even the best theology textbooks require thousands of pages to expound on some of these topics (e.g., Geisler’s Systematic Theology). There are other theological topics not covered by this second section, and this is not meant as a criticism but merely an informative observation. Some of the “missing” topics might be worship, counseling, demographically-based ministries, and world religions.

The third and final section is a beautiful attempt to merge or blend theology with the global church, specifically hitting on topics like preaching, evangelism, missions, and worldview.

A book of this nature is essential, if for no other reason than to instruct the church in how to arm those who are called into ministry with as much knowledge and preparation as possible before they step into a theological education. Preparing these leaders is just as important as supporting them during their training and as they enter the ministry. For that reason alone, I would give this book five stars. Additionally, the list of contributors is impressive, and the reader learns from authors like Mark L. Bailey, Daniel L. Akin, D. Jeffrey Bingham, Chuck Lawless, and Eric J. Tully, among others.

Even if you are not personally considering a theological education and do not have a personal or familial relationship with someone who is, I would still highly recommend this book. Any church member who wants to learn more about how they can support their pastors, and participate in bringing theology to life in the church, in evangelism, and in missions will be well served by this text. Thomas Aquinas is quoted in this book saying “Theology is taught by God, teaches God, and takes us to God.” Not only does Theology, Church, and Ministry accomplish this, but it leads the reader on a journey toward achieving this within their church as well.

New edition resolves many problems!

This new printing of the Apologetics Study Bible, a CSB translation published by Holman, has made only minor changes from the previous edition released 10 years ago. apologetics study bibleHowever, these minor changes are most welcome! Specifically, this new edition has significantly improved printing of the best features of the Apologetics Study Bible: the articles, apologist biographies, and “Twisted Scripture” notes. In the 2007 edition, these entries were printed on a page that had an extremely busy, dark pattern in the background which in some cases made the text almost unreadable! In this new edition, these elements are superbly clean, clear, and comfortable to read. Additionally, the font in these features has been changed to more readily differentiate them from the biblical text, another downfall of the old edition that was just unacceptable.

Unfortunately, the CSB translation is simply not my favorite. Although I have addressed this in previous posts, the short of it is that the CSB has adopted, or you might even say created, an alternative translation philosophy to the standard philosophies: formal equivalence and functional equivalence. The CSB philosophy is what they call “optimal equivalence” which is their desire to stick to the original text on a word-for-word basis as much as possible, except when a word-for-word translation undermined the clarity of the text, at which point a thought-for-thought translation is used. In my opinion (and I am certainly no expert), it is this “flip-flopping” that, for me, makes the CSB translation clunky. I advise anyone who is considering a CSB translation to read Psalm 23 to see an illustration of my point.

If you enjoy the CSB translation and have an interest in apologetics, or perhaps are considering a student who is beginning to biblical studies and learn to defend their faith, the Apologetics Study Bible with the new and improved presentation, is a beautiful choice!

Different and Attention-getting

Christ Chronological by Holman is essentially a chronological harmonization of the Gospels. christ chronologicalMake no mistake, Christ Chronological is not an academic book, nor does it pretend to be. What Holman has done, is present, side-by-side, what they have identified as “slightly over 100 places” in the Gospels where the authors wrote about the same events in Christ’s birth, life, ministry, death, and resurrection. In other words, Christ Chronological does not include every word written in the four Gospels, only places where the Gospels appear to intersect. Holman has constructed Christ Chronological in such a way that each of the Gospels is assigned a color: Matthew is blue, Mark is green, etc. Then, the writers’ accounts of a particular story are presented either in two-, three, or four-column format, as needed, with Scripture references appearing at the top of each section.christ chronological 2 Holman has also used black text to include short narratives that transition the reader from story to story and in some cases make an attempt to explain the differences between accounts. This “black text” is not nearly as expansive as the editorial content you will find in a book like The Story (Randy Frazee). Instead, it simply transitions the reader from story to story. It is important to remember that Christ Chronological does not include every word of all four Gospels. Therefore, this “black text” is essential.

I do have a few issues with this book. First, the introduction to the book seems to imply that variations between the written accounts of Christ’s story are confusing and cause for anxiety. I think that Holman is under-estimating their (potential) reader. I imagine the target audience for this book would be one who has moved beyond any initial confusion about the differences between the four Gospels. Because of that, I also think that Holman has underserved the audience for Christ Chronological by not including more information in the black text between pericopes. I understand that Holman was attempting to create a book that was easily digestible, and they did. I would simply have liked to see the overall “difficulty level” of the black text pushed up a bit higher. For example, I think that the black text is lacking in the treatment of the different genealogies in Matthew 1 and Luke 3. Finally, as I have written about in the past, the CSB is not my preferred translation. I will not expound on this further as I have written about this in several posts in the past.

There were several things I appreciated and enjoyed about Christ Chronological. First, the overall presentation of the book is exemplary, including the feel, paper, size, ink color, and font. Nothing is lacking in the physical presentation of this book! Importantly, I do commend Holman for the expert handling of some of the most challenging areas of the Gospels to harmonize, specifically the multiplicity of events that occurred in a very brief period of time immediately following the resurrection of Christ. Christ Chronological does not pretend to be something it is not in these instances. In this example, it is happy to recognize that “other commentaries have satisfactorily addressed the timeline of Jesus’s post-resurrection appearances.”

If you are satisfied with the CSB translation, I would undoubtedly recommend Christ Chronological for anyone who is interested in taking that next step of digging into the Gospel accounts, comparing and contrasting the authors’ writing, and having a source that can get you started in a study of differences between the Gospels. This would also be a great resource to keep on-hand in a Bible study group. Overall, this is a different idea and will be enjoyed by many.

Excellent and much-needed!

Jews Don’t Need Jesus & Other Misconceptions by Avi Snyder jewsis a book that approaches a people group that Christians typically fail to evangelize perhaps more than any other. This book is written so tenderly, yet with unwavering determination and commitment to truth, and as such, is a superb tool for outreach, apologetic, and evangelistic purposes. John Piper writes the forward and agrees that Snyder has written a scripturally-based book to help Jews consider the truths of Christianity, and he handles common objections with ease and forthrightness. Responding to misconceptions like “all Israel will be saved eventually” and “the church needs to repent, not proclaim” Jews Don’t Need Jesus & Other Misconceptions is a much needed, long-awaited entry into an area of evangelism, in which the Church needs to consider doing more, or at a minimum, educating their congregations and leaders. I highly encourage you to read Snyder’s book as his knowledge comes from both his conservative Jewish upbringing and his Christian education from Fuller Theological Seminary.

Disappointing

Devotions for the Hungry Heart by Shellie Rushing Tomlinson is one of those books that looks so promising from the outside you immediately want to love it. I suppose that’s why they say you should never judge a book by its cover! The overall execution is a real mess. The dark grey paper seems recycled, which in itself is not a problem. However, the two ink colors used for the text of the devotional are pale teal and dull mustard. Combine with the dark paper, this makes the text almost entirely unreadable if the reader is not in bright lighting.hungry heart

The content is also less than desirable. With six devotions each week, the reader is encouraged to “chase Jesus” through different states that are said to exist within a “hungry heart:” surrender, intentionality, prayer, celebration, need, and sharing. Despite the odd terms for these different states of the heart, my main issue is actually the contents of each day’s entry. For a devotional to be meaningful or useful in my daily spiritual walk, it needs to include Scripture, and be followed by commentary about that Scripture. This devotional contains short stories (think 4-5 paragraphs) about the author’s life or experiences as it relates to one of the six key heart states (from above) for the week. The devotional ends with a verse that usually contains one word that is repeated from the devotional content. There is a term for this…It’s called proof-texting!

To add insult to injury, the center of the devotional contains recipes. Yes, recipes. I suppose it relates to the devotional because of the word hungry in the title? Bizarre…

I am a huge advocate of finding a daily devotional that helps guide you through Scripture and leads you toward Christ. This time of year the market is flooded with new devotionals to grab your attention. Please don’t let this be one of them. With just a quick search, you can find hundreds of devotionals, both new and time-tested classics, that will help you grow spiritually and guide you through meaningful daily Scripture readings that can and will change your life. If you need suggestions, I’d be happy to give you one!

Where has this book been all my life?!?

Loving My Actual Christmas by Alexandra Kuykendall is the book I never knew I always needed! As I read through this book just a few days before Christmas, my only complaint is that I hadn’t picked it up sooner. Alexandra uses an experimental style to determine those things that she feels are her absolute priorities during the Christmas season and then establishes her weeks leading up to Christmas around those priorities and nothing else. In this way, her goal is to “love her actual Christmas.”loving christmas

As I read this book, I considered that there were certainly ways I could adapt what I learned from Loving My Actual Christmas to my everyday life, and then I noticed that Loving My Actual Christmas is a “spin-off” of Alexandra’s earlier book, Loving My Actual Life. An unexpected result of reading Loving My Actual Christmas is that I am now very interested in reading Loving My Actual Life. Until I do, I have taken some of the basic premises in this book and applied them to my goals for the new year. I also plan to re-read this book in November, to help plan for a Christmas that is focused around hope, love, joy, and peace throughout the Advent season, and avoids stress, obligations, exhaustion, and stretched finances!

I highly encourage everyone to journey with Alexandra Kuykendall through her experiment next Christmas, and learn how to relish the Season better!