Tag Archives: Crossway Books

The New City Catechism Edited by The Gospel Coalition

The New City Catechism: 52 Questions & Answers for Our Hearts & Minds. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2017. 128 pp. $7.99. Purchase at Amazon.

Introduction

Catechisms are making a comeback and The Gospel Coalition is helping in this endeavor. You can find out much more at newcitycatechism.com.

Summary/Review

Divided into three parts and 52 questions, this catechism is a simple as ask a question and give the answer. Part 1 looks at God, Creation & Fall, Law. Part 2 is dedicated to Christ, Redemption, Grace. Part 3 looks to the Spirit, Restoration, Growing in Grace. Each part has its own dedicated color: red, blue, and green respectively.

This little book is meant for family or personal devotions and can be used by any believing Christian regardless of denominational affiliation. Personally, I find the flow of the catechism to be well thought out as the writers assume unbelief of the reader and progresses toward belief and growing in Christ. Very simple in design, the questions are on the left page while the answers and biblical support are on the right page.

Also, they offer memorization tips (hint: consistent repetition) as well as some reasons as to why catechizing your children (and maybe yourself) will benefit them over the course of their lives. Overall, this little catechism is well designed and will easily slip into your Bible case or on your coffee table for ready access.

Recommendation

We have used other catechisms with our children which have proven extremely helpful. The New City Catechism offers an excellent family devotional resource. Its simple design makes this resource an excellent addition to any Christian family’s library and family worship time.

God at Work by Gene Edward Vieth, Jr.

Vieth, Jr., Gene Edward. God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2002. 176 pp. $15.99. Purchase at Westminster Books for less or for Kindle.

Note: This review first appeared in The Pathway.

Gary L. Shultz, Jr., Reviewer

Work is hard. Although God originally created us to live with him in a perfect world, fulfilling our tasks in flawless harmony with him, one another, and the creation, we now live in a sin-cursed world where we make our ways by the sweat of our brows, with thorns and thistles frustrating our harvests. Work is often monotonous, boring, and thankless, something to endure rather than a blessing to celebrate. Even jobs that make a real difference in peoples’ lives, that come with high pay and an enhanced reputation, wear people down. Despite the amount of time we all spend working, whether paid or not, we often struggle to see the purpose of our work, or how we can possibly do our work to the glory of God.

Historically, the doctrine of vocation was meant to address these concerns. While we typically use the term “vocation” today as just a fancy word for “job,” the term comes from the Latin word for “calling,” and originally meant much more than just a “job.” We are called to salvation through the word of the gospel (2 Thess 2:14), we are called to a particular act of service in the church (1 Cor 1:1-2), and we are called to be married or single (1 Cor 7:15-20). The doctrine of vocation helps us understand that our careers, along with our callings in the family, the church, and the community, are God-given. It also gives us insight into why God has us work and how we are supposed to work.

Gene Vieth’s purpose behind God At Work is to help us recover the doctrine of vocation and the practical difference it makes in living for God. He begins by exploring the purpose of vocations, discovering your vocations, and how God works in and through vocations. He then examines the various vocations to which every person is called, and finishes the book by addressing some common questions and problems with the doctrine.

All people, believers and unbelievers, have multiple callings. Every person is called to live as a citizen of a particular community and country, with the attendant responsibilities that entails (Rom 13:1-7). Every person is called to serve other people with their unique gifts and abilities, whether in the home or in the workplace. All people are called to be in families, and might even have several vocations in their families, such as father, son, and husband. There is one key vocational difference between believers and unbelievers, however, as believers are called through the gospel unto salvation and then called to live and serve in the church, the people of God (1 Pet 2:9-10).

God’s purpose in our vocations is for us to honor him by fulfilling our callings among the people he has put in our lives. I am supposed to serve others through my vocations, and you are supposed to serve others through your vocations. When this is happening as it should, everyone is constantly giving and receiving. Concerning work, I didn’t harvest the grain that went into my biscuit for breakfast, and I didn’t bake it either; others did this on my behalf through their vocations of farmer and baker, even if they didn’t do so consciously. In exchange, I pastor, preach, teach and write. Behind all of this is God, who works through both believers and unbelievers. The difference for us as believers is that we are to live out our vocations by faith, as followers of Jesus Christ. God calls us to work, in all the areas of our lives, in order to bless us and bless others through us, for his glory and for our good.

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 Gospel by Ray Ortlund

Ortlund, Ray. The Gospel: How the Church Portrays the Beauty of Christ. Wheaton: Crossway, 2014. 136 pages. $14.99. Purchase at Westminster Books for less or on Kindle for $9.99.

Note: This review was first written for The Pathway, the newspaper for the Missouri Baptist Convention.

The gospel is the good news that God the Father sent God the Son, Jesus Christ, to live a perfect life, die on the cross in our place, and rise from the dead so that we can have life. Jesus rescues us from the judgment we deserve for breaking God’s laws, brings us into the kingdom of God, and grants us eternal life. This message of salvation through grace is the defining truth of Christianity and the point of the entire Bible. The gospel is what we must believe in order to be Christians, and it is the message we must proclaim to a lost world so others might come to know Christ. The gospel is the center of any church that brings any glory to God.

But these truths raise an obvious question. If the gospel is the heart of our faith, than why do we not always see its saving power when we look at our families, our churches, or ourselves? Why is it that instead of experiencing the good news of great joy in our lives and our churches that people sometimes experience cries of distress or complaints or gossip or bitterness or mocking laughter or even hate? Unfortunately it is all too possible for us to believe and teach the truth of the gospel but not actually practice it.

This is why Ray Ortlund, Pastor of Immanuel Church in Nashville, TN, wrote The Gospel: How the Church Portrays the Beauty of Christ. If we are to be people and churches that please God and make a difference for him we must not only believe the gospel (though we must do that), but we must live out the gospel. The gospel must be our doctrine and our culture. This means constantly examining ourselves to make sure the gospel is our center, because it doesn’t happen automatically. This book helps us to do just that.
The first three chapters explain the depth and breadth of the gospel.

We must resist the tendency to reduce the gospel to our own individual relationships with God. While all people must believe the gospel for themselves, God does not just save us individually. He saves us to be part of a church. But even here we have to be careful, because if we think of the gospel only in terms of ourselves or even our churches, we are still missing the big picture of what God is doing in this world. We must believe and live out the gospel so people can see a glimpse of heaven on earth through us, and put their faith in Jesus Christ now, while they still have a chance. The gospel is as big as the universe.

Once we understand the gospel we are able to live out the gospel, and Ortlund gives practical advice on how to do that in the last four chapters of the book. The gospel leads us to invest in each other, offering an alternative to the isolation and competition of this world. The gospel leads us to forsake self-assurance and hypocrisy and exult in Christ together. The gospel gives us power, courage, and love necessary to bear witness to Christ no matter what, so we can be the “fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing” (2 Cor 2:15).

Ultimately, through the gospel God makes us beautiful, so that the beauty of Jesus Christ could be seen in us. Every Christian and every church I know could look more like Jesus and have a deeper grasp of his gospel message. Therefore every Christian and every church I know would benefit from reading and doing the things in this book.

Preaching by Jason C. Meyer

Preaching: A Biblical Theology by Jason C. Meyer. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2013, 368 pp. $22.99. Purchase for less at Westminster Books. Purchase on Kindle for $12.99.

This review first appeared in the Journal of the Evangelical Homiletics Society – 2014.

Jason Meyer’s goal in writing Preaching is to answer the question, what is preaching? While many books currently flooding the market offer answers to this question, Meyer’s book is stands out for three reasons. First, Meyer provides a detailed survey of what the entire Bible says about the ministry of the word and preaching, giving us his definition of preaching at the beginning of the book and then exhaustively demonstrating how Scripture led him to his definition.

Second, Meyer carefully distinguishes between preaching in Scripture and today’s preaching from Scripture, showing us how these two types of preaching relate and how they are different. Third, Meyer explicitly bases all of his instruction of what expository preaching is and how it should be done on the biblical theology of preaching he develops.

Meyer follows Peter Adam’s Speaking God’s Words in treating preaching as a ministry of the word, though his focus is on preaching and everything he says about the ministry of the word he applies to preaching. He defines the ministry of the word as “stewarding and heralding God’s word in such a way that people encounter God through his word” (21). Stewarding God’s Word focuses on the content of preaching, which is the stewarded word of God, the words with which God has entrusted his servants. Heralding God’s Word emphasizes the tone of delivery, or how the stewarded word should be preaching. Stewarding and heralding are closely related because the herald’s authoritative tone is only legitimate as he faithfully stewards the word given to him. Leading people to encounter God through his word stresses the fact that preaching leads to a moment of decision for its hearers. Once the preacher has stewarded God’s Word by heralding it, the listeners are now called to steward God’s Word. When they do this they encounter life and blessing from God, when they do not do this they encounter death and curse.

Preaching contains five parts, and after reading the first part the latter three can profitably be read in any order (I read Part One first, then Part Five, Part Three, Part Four, and finally Part Two). Part One offers a big picture biblical theology of the ministry of the word, including definitions of what preaching is and how it should be done as well as broad overviews of the Bible’s structure, its storyline, and the role God’s Word plays in the drama of Scripture. The last chapter in Part One outlines ten paradigms of how God’s Word is stewarded throughout the entire Bible, from the covenant of creation to the stewardship of the word today by pastors in local churches. Part Two then offers a detailed look at each one of these paradigms of stewardship, with helpful application for today’s preachers in each chapter. Part Three applies the findings of the first two parts to expository preaching today, explaining what it is, how it should be done, and why it should be done. Part Four of the book examines the relationship between the doctrines of Scripture and sin and preaching and explores the validity and place of topical preaching. Part Five is the conclusion, offering some big-picture applications to the preacher.

Meyer has written a book on the theology of preaching that should be a standard for years to come. Graeme Goldsworthy and Edmund Clowneys’ books on preaching and biblical theology offer some similar findings, but neither one is as comprehensive or detailed as Preaching. Meyer is careful to continually draw applications from the theology he writes, and the book keeps the local church pastor in mind from start to finish. While his biblical survey of the ministry of the word is comprehensive, Meyer never gets too technical for the average pastor or bogged down in details that distract from his purpose. He consistently keeps the big picture in mind and incorporates everything into the purpose of his book, which is to help busy pastors understand what the Bible says preaching is and what that means for preaching today. He is readable, relatable, and shares his own experiences when appropriate, always for the reader’s benefit. I would recommend this book to any preacher, especially students and those who are beginning their ministries, as it provides a strong foundation and justification for what we are called to do in proclaiming God’s Word.

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.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Second Take: Praying the Bible by Donald S. Whitney

Praying the BibleWhitney, Donald S. Praying the Bible. Wheaton, IL: Crossway. 112 pages. $13.99. Purchase at Westminster Books for less or on Kindle.

Prayer is talking with God, and as Christians we have the unimaginable privilege of talking with God whenever we want to because Jesus Christ has granted us access to the Father. The Holy Spirit continually moves us to pray and grants us the assurance that our Heavenly Father wants to hear from us. As those in Christ we get to experience the joy, peace, and glory that come with prayer. We get to experience the grace of answered prayer and the wonder of seeing God work in us and around us as we communicate with him.

Yet almost every Christian struggles to consistently pray. We don’t always feel like praying, and even when we do it’s easy to bore ourselves after a few minutes, to find our mind wandering, or just not know what to say after awhile. Then we get discouraged about feeling this way, begin to wonder if God really wants to hear from us, and start to think there must be something wrong in our relationship with God. Don Whitney, Professor of Biblical Spirituality at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote Praying the Bible to help Christians overcome this struggle and the guilt that comes with it.

Whitney maintains that the reason so many Christians get bored or discouraged when they pray is not because there is something wrong with them, but because there is something wrong with their method. We tend to pray the most about the most important things in our lives, such as our families, future, finances, work, Christians concerns such as our church or ministry involvement, and current crises in our lives. According to Whitney that is normal and good, we are called to pray about our lives, and our lives are made up of those things. The problem is not that we pray for the same old things, but that we pray for the same old things in the same old way. We pray the same things over and over, leaving us bored, frustrated, and feeling like there is something wrong.

The solution to praying the same prayers over and over is to instead pray through the Bible. You choose a passage of Scripture and “simply go through the passage line by line, talking to God about whatever comes to mind as you read the text” (33). If you don’t understand a particular verse, or nothing comes to mind when you read it, you simply move on to the next one. As you read the Word, you talk to God about everything and anything that comes to mind. Whitney explains that this works particularly well with the Psalms, which were designed to be prayed, but can work with any passage of Scripture.

The most helpful thing about Praying Through the Bible is that it doesn’t just explain and defend this method of prayer, but actually helps you do it. Chapter Seven is entitled “The Most Important Part of This Book.” In this chapter Whitney tells you to stop reading the book, pick up a Bible, and pray through a psalm, because this book won’t be of any help unless you actually apply its teachings to your life. The next chapter then helps you to evaluate your experience once you have actually done it. The book even ends with an appendix that explains how this method can be practiced in a group or at church.

As we begin a new year and commit to improving our lives, it’s an appropriate time to consider how we can pray better. Whitney’s method will help you do that. To anyone looking to strengthen his or her relationship with God, I recommend giving it a serious try.

Gary L. Shultz Jr. (Ph.D. The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church in Fulton, MO. He also serves as Assistant Professor of Religion at Liberty University and Adjunct Professor of Theology and Church History at Baptist Bible Theological Seminary. He writes a monthly book review column for The Pathway and is the author of A Multi-Intentioned View of the Extent of the Atonement (Wipf & Stock).

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.