Category Archives: Bible Review

ESV Devotional Psalter

ESV Devotional Psalter. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2017. 464 pp. $29.99. Purchase at Westminster Books for less.

Introduction

From Crossway’s website:

The Psalms are the only extended portion of Scripture written to God—they are prayers. As such, the Psalms are uniquely suited to foster communication with God, which is the purpose of this edition. The ESV Devotional Psalter pairs each of the 150 psalms with brand-new devotional content, guiding readers to thoughtfully interact with and pray through the Scriptures.

You can find more information at Crossway.com.

Summary

There are many features to this Psalter. To begin with, the font is a larger 11-point type that offers easier readability. Each Psalm is arranged in a single-column format on a thicker, cream-colored paper that is ideal for writing in without concern of bleed-through.

Complete with a ribbon marker, the reader can readily find where he or she left off the last time. The devotional content offers explanation and application of the particular Psalm being read.

Review

One might ask why do we need another Psalter and that would be a fair question. The ESV Devotional Psalter is meant to enable you to engage God through His Word guided by a little explanation. Whereas most niche Bibles are edited by a particular person or a team of people, the ESV Devotional Psalter offers anonymous devotionals. From what I have been able to find, there is no information available as to who wrote the devotional content. Personally, I find this to be of greater benefit as we often run the risk of being devoted to the person who wrote the notes or content instead of the Word of God and what the devotional content points us to.

Furthermore, the devotional content is written to offer a quick understanding of the historical context of the Psalm and what was taking place biblically as well as how it applies to the Christian today. By being “generic” in audience, the reader of the ESV Devotional Psalter will find specific application to his or her own life.

I also found the thicker paper to be ideal for writing my own thoughts next to both the Psalm and the devotional content. Due to the thickness of this paper, this psalter is about the same size as Crossway’s thinline series of Bibles.

Recommendation

For those who are looking to improve their devotional time, you truly cannot start with a better resource. It is just you, the Psalms, and a devotional that will keep you focused on the Psalm. What a way to facilitate your prayer life with laser focus. I love my copy and highly recommend the ESV Devotional Psalter to any Christian.

ESV Pastor’s Bible

ESV Pastor’s Bible. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2017. 1,360 pp. $39.99. Purchase at Westminster Books for much less.

Introduction

It is no secret that I prefer the English Standard Translation of the Bible as evidenced by the number of reviews I have written on this particular translation. It is no secret that I am a study Bible junkie. This Bible, however, is not a study Bible per se.

Summary

From Crossway:

A pastor depends on the wisdom of Scripture for all aspects of ministry. What truths can be relied upon in seasons of celebration and in those of sorrow? What does the Bible have to say to us about marriage, sickness, and death? The ESV Pastor’s Bible was designed to help pastors draw wisdom from God’s Word for specific situations requiring pastoral care, such as baptisms, weddings, hospital visits, or funerals. In the front matter, back matter, and throughout the text, the Pastor’s Bible contains articles written by pastors offering practical help for crafting a sermon, planning a special service, leading congregational prayer, conducting premarital counseling, visiting the sick, and resolving conflict within the church. Compiled under the guidance of seasoned pastors R. Kent Hughes and Douglas Sean O’Donnell, this substantial but portable edition is a great all-in-one resource for the on-the-ground pastor.

Review

Obviously, this Bible is not going to be one every Christian will want to purchase for themselves as it is designed to be a resource for the pastor.

Unlike many Bibles today, there are a few pages in the front to keep record of marriages, births/adoptions, and deaths. The contents include the 2016 text edition of the ESV Bible in addition to a number of articles and guidelines for various services that a pastor may be asked to officiate.

One of the lead articles is from Kent Hughes, one of the two editors of this Bible along with Douglas Sean O’Donnel, about the disciplines of a godly pastor. This was adapted from his seminal work, 10 Disciplines of a Godly Man. This article is definitely worth the consideration of the man of God who has been called and set apart to shepherd the people of God.

Between the two testaments, the editors have included some 40 pages worth of outlines for various services like weddings and funerals as well as elements of the usual worship service like invocations, communion, benedictions, baptisms (both infant and believer’s), and benedictions.

All of the articles interspersed throughout the text of the Bible are drawn from previously written material from the likes of Charles Spurgon and John Piper, Sinclair Ferguson and J.C. Ryle. These all serve as excellent reminders and great resources of encouragement for the pastor.

Recommendation

If you are a pastor, especially, a young pastor, I would highly recommend you consider this particular Bible whether you use the ESV translation or not. If you know someone who will be ordained, this would make a perfect gift for his ordination. The Smyth-Sewn binding makes this a Bible that will stand the test of time.

The Lost Sermons of C.H. Spurgeon, Volume 1 edited by Christian T. George

The Lost Sermons of C. H. Spurgeon, Volume 1. His Earliest Outlines and Sermons Between 1851 and 1854. Edited by Christian George. Nashville: Broadman and Holman Academic, 2016. 560 pp. $59.99. Purchase at Amazon for less.

Introduction

I have reviewed one other book, way back in 2009, by Christian George entitled GodologySince that time, George has become a renowned Spurgeon scholar and serves as the curator of The Spurgeon Library as well as assistant professor of historical theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, MO. You can read more at Spurgeon.org.

Summary

Divided into 2 parts over 560 pages, the first part offers an introduction to the book as well as the larger proposed 10-volume series. Here, the reader learns that though the sermons were never lost to history, they were lost to publishing history. In essence, George has set out to see the completion of what Spurgeon himself desired to accomplish though he had to abandon that attempt for reasons explained in his autobiography.

The second part which comprises the overwhelming majority of the text shares the sermons from notebook 1. This notebook contained some 77 sermons ranging from 85 words to 571 words. These were not the complete sermons as much as they were the outlines for the sermons preached between 1851-1854.

Review

These notes and outlines are heavily annotated with remarks by Christian George that offer insight and explanations into what he was saying or why he corrected a text. Each sermon shows a facsimile on the facing page that shows precisely what Spurgeon wrote in his own hand with his own dip pen. George has done the reader the service of transcribing (and in some cases translating!) what Spurgeon wrote.

A definite modern adaptation to this resource is found on pages 34-45 offering pie charts and graphs and word clouds that break down all of the information found within the 77 sermons. From word counts to percentages of sermons found in various testaments and books of the Bible to the distances Spurgeon would travel in order to preach.

All of this adds another layer to those interested in the Prince of Preachers. My one contention is the use of the glossy paper as it makes writing your own notes nearly impossible (and certainly impossible with a dip or a fountain pen of which Spurgeon would be appalled 🙂 ).

Recommendation

My hope is this new publication, and the yet to be published remaining 9 volumes will introduce a new generation to the power of the preached word through one of the greatest pastors of any generation. This first volume deserves a wide readership and a prominent place in any pastor’s library. My prayer is that the Lord would use this series to raise up a new generation of preachers passionate for God’s glory as revealed in His Word specifically through the proclamation of it in the local pulpit.

Durable ESV New Testament

Durable ESV New Testament. Wheaton: Crossway, 2016. 256 pp. $24.99. Purchase at Westminster Books for $14.99.

Summary/Review

The Bible needs no introduction or summary. It is the Word of God and it will change your life. This particular edition of the New Testament is durable for a reason. It is meant to be used in the harshest ministerial conditions.

It is both water proof and tear-proof because it is made of synthetic paper. Interestingly enough, you can still write in it and highlight though you want to be careful with the ink you use as it could bleed and smear on the page if it were to get wet. Even though it is tear proof, you can cut a page with a knife or scissors and destroy the integrity of that page which may lead to tears. But, you cannot tear the pages just by ripping them.

The binding is a bit of overkill in order to keep everything together and to maintain structural integrity while using this New Testament in harsh conditions. They not only bound it with adhesives, but they also used a waterproof thread that will hold up to the rain and such.

I had intended on taking a second Durable New Testament and putting it through a test by leaving it out in the rain and such, but, too be honest, I could not bring myself to do it!

It is probably the heaviest New Testament you will own weighing in at 10 oz. In all honesty, it feels heavier than that and whenever anyone picks it up for the first time, they comment on the weight.

It must be noted that this New Testament is not indestructible. It can be torn if cut. It could get so water-logged that it is virtually unreadable. It can’t take a bullet, but it can change your life and the lives of whom you share the message of hope found in Christ with.

Recommendation

If you are an avid traveler or missionary who uses an English Bible, I highly recommend the ESV Durable New Testament. It makes a great addition as an everyday carry Bible in a briefcase or backpack and will stand up to the rigors of travel and being thrown about. Keep in mind, however, this is not for everyone as not everyone will have a need for a New Testament that needs to withstand many elements.

 

Four Views on the Role of Works at the Final Judgment edited by Alan Stanley and Stanley Gundry

four-rolesFour Views on the Role of Works at the Final Judgment. Stanley, Alan P., and Stanley M. Gundry, eds. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013. 234 pp. $19.99. Purchase new at Westminster Books for $13.46. Purchased used on Amazon or for Kindle.

 

All Christians believe that there will be a final judgment of believers and unbelievers, with Jesus Christ presiding as the faithful judge of humanity.  Yet beyond this basic agreement about the reality of judgment and the identity of the judge there are a number of disagreements about the coming judgment.  Debates abound concerning the purpose of the judgment, the number of judgments, the timing of the judgment(s), and particularly the relationship between faith and works at the final judgment.  This last debate is the focus of this new book in Zondervan’s Counterpoint Series on Bible and Theology, which presents four prominent views on the role of works at the final judgment. These different views exist because the Bible itself clearly teaches two things: that people are justified by grace through faith in Jesus Christ (e.g., John 5:24; Gal 2:16; Eph 2:8-9), and that people will be judged according to our works (e.g., Matt 25:31-46; 2 Cor 5:10; Rev 20:11-15).  Different ways of reconciling these two truths have led to a number of different views on the subject, of which the four in this book are representative.  As with all the books in this series, a proponent of one view explains and defends his understanding, and each of the other authors responds, raising objections and questions, with the goal of making the subject more accessible to the wider church public.

Robert N. Wilkin, the Executive Director of the Grace Evangelical Society, presents the first view, which is that Christians will be judged according to their works at the rewards judgment, but not at the final judgment.  Wilkin operates from a dispensationalist paradigm (though as Schreiner notes in his response to Wilkin, dispensationalism does not require Wilkin’s position) that recognizes the Judgment Seat of Christ (2 Cor 5:10), the Judgment of the Sheep and the Goats (Matt 25:31-46), and the Great White Throne Judgment (Rev 20:11-15), as distinct in both time and purpose.  Christians will be judged by their works at the Judgment Seat of Christ, but what is at stake is their eternal reward and position in the kingdom, not eternal salvation.  Christians can be unfaithful and not be rewarded, but they will still be saved (e.g., Luke 19:11-27). Unbelievers will be judged by their works at the final judgment, the Great White Throne Judgment, and eternal salvation is at stake for them.  One of the key points Wilkins makes is that entering the kingdom means gaining eternal life, but inheriting the kingdom refers to the benefits and experience of reigning with Christ (e.g., Gal 6:7-9; Rev 3:5).  Wilkin stresses that once a person believes she has eternal life once and for all, and therefore perseverance in the faith can have nothing to do with eternal salvation.  Christians’ salvation cannot in any way be related to their works or that contradicts salvation by grace through faith.

Thomas Schreiner, Professor of New Testament at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, is the author of the second view, which is that works will confirm salvation at the final judgment.  Schreiner agrees with Wilkin that salvation is completely by grace through faith, but disagrees in that he believes the New Testament also teaches justification by works.  Schreiner sees a coherent blend between these two truths because under the New Covenant, the Holy Spirit empowers God’s people to obey him (e.g., Rom 2:26-29).  Therefore works are necessary for salvation because they are the necessary evidence of salvation, but still wholly of grace.  Works will be put forward as evidence at the final judgment as the necessary outworking of faith (e.g., Eph 2:8-10).  Works are not meritorious, but they demonstrate the reality of faith.  Schreiner, in contrast to Wilkin, understands salvation as a process and not limited to a point in time, and believes all who are justified by faith in the present will certainly be justified by faith in the future, because God will equip them to perform the necessary good works.

The third view, that salvation at the final judgment will depend to some extent on works, is written by James Dunn, Emeritus Professor of Theology at the University of Durham.  In contrast to the other three views in the book, Dunn doesn’t believe it is necessary to reconcile justification by faith with judgment by works, but to simply accept both as true.  Dunn is hesitant to systematize writings that arose out of different contexts and address different problems amidst different circumstances.  Focusing mainly on Paul, he insists that Paul emphasizes one truth when necessary and the other truth when necessary, and so should we.  Agreeing with Schreiner that salvation is a process, Dunn disagrees that is a certain one, teaching instead that apostasy is a real danger for converts, and that beginning in faith does not necessarily entail finishing in faith (e.g., 1 Cor 9:27; Gal 3:3).  Because obedience is a necessary condition for continuing in the faith while on earth, it follows that it is a necessary condition for receiving eternal life at the final judgment.

Michael Barber, Professor of Theology, Scripture, and Catholic Thought at the Great Catholic University, present the final view, that our works are meritorious at the final judgment because of our union with Christ.  He explains the traditional Catholic position, and stresses throughout his essay that believers’ works are only meritorious because they are the result of Christ’s work.  Barber agrees with Schreiner and Dunn that salvation is by grace and judgment is by works, but goes beyond both of them to affirm that salvation is also by works, because salvation is a process that is not confirmed until the final judgment.  He does clarify that works do not get one converted, but rather that it is through works, performed by the grace of God working in the believer, that is one is saved (e.g., Matt 25:31-46).

Each presenter is a knowledgeable proponent of their position, and their responses clarify what they see as the strengths and weaknesses of the other positions.  Alan Stanley, the general editor, offers a useful introduction to the debate, giving some brief historical and contemporary context, and also helpfully summarizes and contrasts all four positions in the conclusion. The format of the Counterpoints books does not allow for in-depth treatment of the issues or rejoinders to the responses, but footnotes in all four essays direct interested readers to further resources.  The book serves as a strong introduction to the topic and would most profit scholars, pastors, and students unfamiliar with the subject.  It would also function as a good supplemental textbook in a class on salvation or eschatology.  Most importantly, the book will help readers to see how each position understands the Scriptures in the debate, and will capably equip them to understand the full breadth of what the Bible says the role of works in the final judgment.

Gary L. Shultz Jr.

First Baptist Church

Fulton, MO

ESV Reader’s Bible 6-Volume Set

esv-readers-bible-6ESV Reader’s Bible 6-Volume Set. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2016. 3,364 pp. $199.99. Purchase at Westminster Books for much less.

Introduction/Summary

From the publisher:

The ESV Reader’s Bible, Six-Volume Set stems from the conviction that the Bible is of immeasurable value and should therefore be treasured–and read in the most seamless way possible. Constructed with materials carefully selected to reflect the beauty of God’s Word, the ESV Reader’s Bible, Six-Volume Set is a unique collection designed for those desiring a cleaner, simpler Bible-reading experience. Printed on European book paper with smyth-sewn binding and packaged in an elegant slipcase, this edition features single column text that is free of all verse numbers, chapter numbers, and footnotes, as well as most section headings–resulting in a unique Bible-reading experience that helps readers encounter and delight in the beauty of God’s Word.

Check out this video for a great introduction and summary of this massive 6-volume reader’s edition Bible.

Introducing the ‘ESV Reader’s Bible, Six-Volume Set’ from Crossway on Vimeo.

Review

My goal with this review is to offer an argument as to why you would do well to spend $100-$200 on a Bible.

1)  I reviewed the first Reader’s Bible Crossway published back in 2014. In that review, I did criticize the use of chapter numbers, though small, embedded in the text and offset by color as well as the use of chapter and verse numbers as reference guides at the top of each page. Those are completely missing from this 6-volume set leaving behind just the text.

There are, however, simple section headings that do help to break up the reading. For example, a long book like Jeremiah there are 7 section headings: Israel’s Faithlessness, Jeremiah Struggles with God and Judah, Jeremiah’s Confrontations, Consoling Promises of Restoration, God Judges Judah, God Judges the Nations, and The Fall of Jerusalem. These become the reference points whereas in the single-volume edition it was the chapters and verses.

2) The font size has been enlarged to a 12 point Trinite No. 2 Roman font rather than the 9-10 used in the original reader’s edition. This is, in some instances, twice as large as the 6-8 size font used in most Bibles.

3) The pages are thicker than most any other Bible. While not necessarily a big deal for most, I have found that the pages in other Bibles tend to tear easily from over use in sections where I am either preaching an extended series or have written quite a bit in the margins.

Granted, I do not see myself writing in this Bible, but if I ever did, I       am confident of no bleeding or smearing. I typically enjoy writing         with fountain pens and the 80 gsm weight paper is the perfect               paper upon which to write.

4) The single column format along with the 12-point font makes for easy reading. Since there are no chapter or verse numbers along the way, it is easy to get lost in the story line of the Bible. As a matter of fact, the aforementioned reference points at the top of each page serve the reader by orienting him or her in the big story of the particular book of the Bible being read. Before you know it, you have read more than you intended to read and you almost can’t put the book down.

This has become extremely important to me as I am prone to get lost in cross references and even myopic in the individual verses. I tend to lose the forest for the individual trees. Also, I have been searching for a Bible that I could read purely for my own  edification that is not by sermon preparation Bible. I have found that Bible.

5) Because of the six volumes, you can either read straight through from Genesis to Revelation or you can pick and choose to read specific volumes whenever you want. I read the original 1-volume reader’s edition straight through this past year. Since acquiring this 6-volume set, I have settled on my own reading plan which I read from one volume each day and then choose another volume to read on day 7 which for me, is Sunday.

For example, I read Volume 5-the Gospels/Acts on Monday; Volume 1-the Pentateuch on Tuesday; Volume 2-the Historical Books on Wednesday; Volume 6-Epistles and Revelation on Thursday; Volume 3-Poetry on Friday; and Volume 6-Prophets on Saturday. By doing this, it allows me to saturate myself in Scripture in different places each day of the week. When I finish each book, I will simply start over. This is akin to Dr. Grant Horner’s Ten List Bible Reading Plan. The best part about having the six volumes is each volume has its own ribbon thus there is no searching a reading plan or having an over abundance of book marks in one Bible.

6) Finally, as a pastor, I will confess that it is tough to read my Bible without thinking about a future sermon or someone in my congregation. Whether it is my personality or my calling, I have increasingly found it more difficult to read my Bible for simple communion with God. This 6-volume reader’s Bible has enabled me to do just that. It has truly made my Bible reading time more about soaking in the Word of God for my personal sanctification. I find that I am not “studying” for any other purpose than what God is revealing to me about Himself.

While this this is perhaps more true for the pastor or the Bible teacher, I cannot express how important reading for communion with God is for all Christians. I do not know if I am ashamed or amazed at how this particular reading Bible has transformed my Bible reading, but I can say that I am thoroughly enjoying just reading the Bible.

Recommendation

I honestly asked to review this 6-volume set because of all the publicity it was receiving. I know Crossway is one of the best companies when it comes to publicizing their resources, but I was hearing more than the usual buzz for this particular resource. I say this to say that I approached this review with skepticism but have been extremely impressed with this reader’s Bible.

Study Bibles have their place and function in a Christian’s library. There are many reasons to have cross-references and footnotes and wide margins and journal pages as well. There remains, however, much to be said for getting along with God. By alone, I mean you and the Word of God with nothing to distract you on the page.

I realize most would balk at the MSRP of $200, but I will be honest, I do not think I cannot have this Bible now that I have experienced it first hand. The 6-Volume Reader’s Bible strips away every distraction except the Word of God by itself. That alone is worth the price of the Bible. I heartily recommend this 6-volume reader’s Bible to every Christian who wants to simply get alone with God and commune with Him.

I am sure there will come along another Bible that will be the “gotta have” Bible and I will (hopefully) review it and tell you I recommend it, but I can also tell you that this particular Bible is worth every penny you will pay. As you read it, you will find the truth that “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

 

 

 

 

NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible – Zondervan Publishing

Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible: Bringing to Life the Ancient World of Scripture. Craig S. Keener, John H. Walton, editors. Nashville: Zondervan Publishing: 2016. 2,400 pp. Hardback – $49.99; Imitation Leather – $79.95. Purchase at Amazon for much less or on Kindle for an even greater savings.

Introduction

I have reviewed and even given away a number of various study Bibles (you can read these here) and while I typically do not care for niche Bibles, I am becoming a collector of study Bibles. This particular study Bible is published by Zondervan and uses the New International Version translation.

Check out this video for an introduction from the editor of The Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible.

Summary

While including the entire text of the New International Version (2011), this study Bible is full of many additional features. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Targeted book introductions explain the context in which each book of the Bible was written
  • Insightful and informative verse-by-verse study notes reveal new dimensions of insight to even the most familiar passages
  • Key Old Testament (Hebrew) and New Testament terms are explained and expanded upon in two helpful reference features
  • Over 300 in-depth articles on key contextual topics
  • 375 full-color photos, illustrations, and images from around the world
  • Dozens of charts, maps, and diagrams in vivid color
  • Additional study Bible tools: cross references, a concordance, indexes and other helps

The edition I have is also a red-letter edition meaning the words of Jesus Christ are in red.

Review

First, while I prefer the ESV translation personally, I will not comment on the NIV translation in this particular review.  This review will look at what separates this study Bible from the others.

First, one of the most striking aspects of this study Bible that is noticeable the moment you open it and flip through its pages are the full-color pictures, timelines, maps, and even the beige coloring of the center-column cross references. Also, each chapter and subject heading is set apart in color and quickly helps the reader to scan for a particular section or passage of Scripture.

Second, the study notes do not offer any theological insight or information because, quite frankly, that is not the nature of this particular study Bible. Rather, it offers the cultural insight of the time and place from when the particular text was written. For example, when Israel first took over the Promised Land to when Christ walked the streets of Jerusalem, there was much change in the culture and that is highlighted throughout this study Bible.

The reader will see how Israel functioned as a theocracy (during the time of Moses and the Judges) became a monarchy ruled by kings and later became a conquered nation ruled by many different nations through the years. What is more, the study notes bring this history to life and offer deeper understanding for the events taking place.

Third, the Hebrew to English and translation chart and Key New Testament Terms dictionary prove invaluable to the reader as not many will ever take a Biblical languages course or seek to read technical commentaries. Having these key resources at your fingertips proves to be a great aid in understanding the original meaning and intention of the authors.

Fourth, this one study Bible replaces two other resources by John Walton and Craig Keener: The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament and The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament. It is my understanding that the New Testament volume, originally published in 1994 is no longer in print though it can still be purchased on Kindle or Amazon.

Personally, these two resources are indispensable to my sermon preparation each week and consequently are placed on a shelf immediately behind where I stand at my desk. Even though I will keep both of the aforementioned resources in my library, I will also keep this study Bible readily available as I am sure it will be used as frequently as the other two.

Finally, the tag-line in much of the advertising by Zondervan is “Context changes everything.” While I do not think that a student of Scripture will have any doctrinal beliefs radically changed by understanding the cultural background (I may be wrong on this), I do believe that learning this information will take one’s faith to a much deeper level as they strive to understand how the Bible is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16-17) even today across time and cultural boundaries.

Recommendation

If you are a student of Scripture and want to learn more about the authorial intent of a passage in order to better understand its intended purpose for your life in the 21st century, then you can not do much better than owning a copy of The Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible. Remember, this is not theological insight (though a case can be made that all Bible study is theological); rather, it is cultural information meant to help the reader better understand what was taking place when the text was written. I highly recommend this resource to every Christian.

ESV Family Devotional Bible

ESV Family Devotional Bible. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2016. 1,408 pp. $29.99. Purchase at:
Westminster Books for $19.49.
Amazon for $21.97.
*Prices are subject to change.

Introduction

ESV continues its growing tradition of quality niche Bibles. While I understand some argue against this concept, I have found that they are extremely helpful for various seasons in life. I have reviewed a number of ESV Bibles. You can read those reviews here.

Summary

In addition to the full text of the ESV Bible (2011 text edition), The ESV Family Devotional Bible also features 130 retellings of particular Bible stories that are not only illustrated with full-color pictures, they are gospel-centered in such a way that the one leading the devotional need only read the story and the questions. Also, the maps were formatted in such a way that they are extremely child-friendly.

Review

While the text of the Bible is of the utmost importance, children do not always understand what is being said. Even though parents may read the text and strive to explain the story to their children, the kids still give you that deer in the headlights look. This is where the retelling of key Bible stories comes into play. I have included an example below to show you what I am talking about.

esv fdb back coverAs you can readily see, the retelling is faithful to the Biblical account and is done in such a way that the parent or leader need only read it. Next, you simply follow up with the questions provided. If you want to be more prepared, you can read the story a few times before and then provide different voices for the characters or even possibly act out some of the more familiar stories form Scripture.

If you only use the questions provided, you will do well. Typically, however, what will happen is the child will have more questions. Next thing you know, 30 minutes have passed and your family just talked about the things of God.

Finally, the “Key Verse” feature can be used in any number of ways. Some families may want to memorize these. Other families may want to make a list for future study. Still others may find them as an invaluable cross-reference (the Bible itself does not have any cross-references) to answering some of the children’s questions.

Quite frankly that is all there is to this particular niche Bible except for the kid-friendly maps of which I could not find a decent available image.

Recommendation

I am often asked if we need another niche Bible. In all honesty, I have waffled on this particular question. As my children have grown, we have taken turns reading the Bible out loud. We have used many resources to aid in family worship through the years. Unfortunately, our schedule is so crazy right now that we honestly struggle to carve out time for nightly family worship. We do say prayers together but we are not always in the Word together. As their father, this is my fault. Fortunately, the ESV Family Devotional Bible makes family worship extremely easy. With over 130 faithful retellings of familiar (and no so familiar) Bible stories, there is enough to kick-start a family in the direction of family worship.

If you are looking for a solid resource centered on Scripture for family worship, then I highly recommend the ESV Family Devotional Bible. The importance of having the full text of the Bible right there in your hands as you seek to raise your children in the Lord cannot be overstated.

The Works of John Newton Volume 2

Works of John NewtonNew Edition – The Works of John Newton: Volume 2. Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2015. 766 pp. 4-Volume set – $150.00 Purchase the entire set from The Banner of Truth Trust for much less.

Introduction

You can read the review of Volume 1 here. You can read the review of Volume 3 here. You can read the review of volume 4 here.

From the dust jacket:

When John Newton, ex-sea captain and, as yet, unsuccessful candidate for the Church of England ministry, finished his first book (an autobiography) in 1762 there was no ready publisher. Any thought that he was destined to become one of the best known authors of his age would have been as fantastic as the last 37 years of his life. But in both cases the improbable came about. Becoming curate of Olney, a small village in the south of England, in 1764, Newton there laid his reputation as an evangelical writer, pre-eminently by his published letters and by the Olney Hymns (including ‘How Great the Name of Jesus Sounds, ‘Glorious things of Thee are spoken’ and ‘Amazing grace’). Before the end of his subsequent pastorate at St. Mary Woolnoth, London (1780-1807), his writings were prized around the world from America to Australia.

Newton has a firm place in the classics of Christian literature. While his style is strong and clear, it is the spiritual attractiveness and importance of his main themes which secure the permanent value of his writings. Most of his books came, unpremeditated, out of a need to help his congregation or individual hearers, and it is in practical helpfulness towards Christian living that he excels. If he is loved rather than admired, it is for this reason. Conformity to Christ is the one subject upon which his themes finally focus (‘It will not be a burden to me at the hour of death that I have thought too highly of Jesus, expected too much from Him myself, or laboured too much in commending and setting Him forth to others’). Not surprisingly, Alexander Whyte could write, ‘For myself, I keep John Newton on my selectest shelf of spiritual books: by far the best kind of books in the whole world of books.’

The text of this new four-volume edition of The Works of John Newton has been entirely reformatted, producing a clear and easily navigable set of documents for today’s reader.

Summary

Volume 2 continues where volume 1 left off with more letters followed by an appendix for all the letters.

Next, in this volume is six sermons Newton intended for the pulpit. These include a look at the deceitfulness of the heart (Jeremiah 17:9-10) and all things being given to us with Christ (Romans 8:32). The third section is comprised of twenty sermons delivered at his church in Olney. Part of the allure here is also the addition of the hymns sung at Olney that conclude this particular volume.

Also included is a two-part “review of ecclesiastical history” that is more than 200 of the over 750 pages of the book.

Review

This particular volume introduces the reader to the Pastor Newton who preached in the pulpit. With over 26 sermons, you will be able to see what made John Newton tick. His proclamation of the gospel as a pastor is, in my estimation, one of the most lacking areas of information the church has today on this giant of the faith. He is known primarily as a hymn-writer with a wonderful gospel testimony.

While his letters are of inestimable value, I have found his sermons to be of even greater value. This may be due to my being a pastor, but it helps to explain a lot of the theology behind the hymns and such. Also, it shows that a pastor who loves his congregation (and Newton certainly did if the letters are any indication) is able to speak with great boldness in the pulpit. This is to be emulated today though it is too much work for too many pastors…unfortunately.

Recommendation

As the larger portrait of John Newton unfolds in these 4 volumes of works, I am finding each particular volume is excellent in its own right. Yet, when you bring them all together, you have one excellent picture of a godly man who loved His Lord more than anything else. I highly recommend this 4-volume set to all Christians.

ESV Men’s Devotional Bible

ESV Men's Devotional BibleESV Men’s Devotional Bible. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2015. 1616 pp. $34.99. Purchase at Westminster Book for less or on Kindle for under $10.00.

Introduction

From the dust jacket:

Our world presents daily distractions that can easily displace Christ as the center of a man’s heart and life. The goal of the ESV Men’s Devotional Bible is to strengthen and encourage men through the life-giving Word of God and sound devotional content aimed at nurturing godliness.

With 365 theologically rich and gospel-centered devotions drawn directly from the Bible, this all-new resource was created under the editorial oversight of Dr. Sam Storms with contributions from over fifty Christian leaders. Introductions orient men to each book of the Bible, exploring its unique contribution to a man’s walk with God. Thoughtful and instructive articles address the importance of sound doctrine, life in the local church, leadership, the heart, calling, and a host of other relevant issues for today.

The Men’s Devotional Bible will strengthen men in their walk with Christ, helping them apply the gospel and the truth of God’s Word in their homes, churches, and workplaces.

Summary/Review

Sam Storms serves as the general editor of this devotional Bible. The primary difference between this particular Bible and a Bible with only the text is the daily devotionals interspersed throughout the text.

I have reviewed a few of Crossway’s various ESV Bibles and have found them all to be worthwhile resources in addition to the actual text of the Bible. What sets this Bible apart from others is that it is not a study Bible. Rather, it is the complete text of the Bible that includes a daily devotional that is rooted in the surrounding text.

In other words, instead of having two books on your nightstand or desk (one a Bible and the other a devotional), you have only one that includes both. Furthermore, instead of most devotionals that are based on a phrase or two of Scripture followed by a page of the devotional writer’s meditation, these devotionals are based on chapters or large sections of Scripture and are obviously meant to be a servant to the text rather than the replacing of the Word of God. This is an important distinction that I fear is often lost in today’s publishing world of numerous devotionals.

There are two elements that would have made the ESV Men’s Devotional Bible absolutely perfect. First, a simply yearly reading plan to follow. While these are readily found almost anywhere these days, there is not one included in this particular Bible.

Second, and this could have been accomplished with or without the reading plan, would have been to include the devotionals within the context of a daily reading plan. I realize, however, that this would have been difficult given the layout of the daily devotionals as near the featured text as possible. In other words, not every devotional will be in conjunction with the day’s reading according to even a generic canonical reading plan.

Recommendation

Regardless of the two “negatives” this is one of the best devotionals I have come across. It serves the purpose of getting the Bible in the hands of men while engaging them with problems and biblical truths that are needed in today’s culture seemingly more than ever.

I highly recommend the ESV Men’s Devotional Bible to all men as it will afford them the opportunity to learn from godly men on a daily basis.