Life Essentials Study Bible Review

Life Essentials Study Bible - HCSB Book Cover Life Essentials Study Bible - HCSB
Study Bible

B&H Publishing were nice enough to send me a review copy of the Life Essentials Study Bible. Now, I had already owned one--bought it myself, a hard copy. But again, they were nice enough to send me an updated copy of the Bonded Leather edition for review.

Just a little insight into my fleshly nature... I was a bit bummed when my free Bible showed up. I know... I know... You don't have to preach to me.

I was bummed because I thought I was receiving the blue/tan leather-like Leather-Touch binding. (I really like those, by the way, when I can't afford genuine leather.) But they sent bonded leather, which I have never been a fan of. Bonded leather is most often more like plastic than the minute leather fibers being bonded by the plastic.

But bummed or not, the disappointment didn't last long. It's a quality finish, and the bonded leather is remarkably more leather-like than any bonded leather I've ever owned. If you're suspicious of bonded leather, go to a book store and give this one a feel. I think you'll be surprised, and I think you'll find this a good alternative to more expensive genuine leather.

Now on to the content...

Buy this Bible. Buy it and use it.  It's a good translation. It's a great and accessible study Bible.

Unlike most study Bibles, it doesn't have verse by verse commentary, whether interspersed or in the footer of the Bible. Instead, it breaks the entire Bible text (from Genesis to Revelation) down and gives Life Essential Principles based on the text. The pertinent verses in the text are highlighted in blue, and a small article gives the principle, with application.

I find that the principles are solid, scriptural, indexed, and applicable. To make it better, each article/principle has a code that you can scan with your smart phone that will take you out to a multi-minute video that expounds the principle and text.

It really is great. Note: I haven't read/watched every principle, so I'm not ready to put my entire reputation behind a blind blanket endorsement, but what I've seen has been quality.

Look up Gene Getz's credentials for yourself and make your own conclusions.

In conclusion: It's a great Bible. It's quality in both materials and contents--which is no surprise coming from B&H. It will be applicable, studious, and the video may make it more accessible to many than other study Bibles (i.e. ESV Study Bible--I love mine, but it's a lot to gnaw on!).

Buy it. I would buy this particular one again if I B&H hadn't sent it to me.



A Pastor’s Justification — Book Review

The Pastor's Justification--Applying the Work of Christ in Your Life and Ministry
Jared C. Wilson
July 31, 2013

Great, easy, Biblical read that will benefit those in ministry, and those who know someone in ministry.

OK… The legalese stuff up front… This e-book was given free of charge by the publisher in exchange for a book review. There is and was no expectation from either party that the complimentary material would be exchanged for a positive review–just and honest one. And that’s exactly what this review will be.

Now, with all of that said… Buy this book. If you are a pastor, in Christian leadership, have a pastor, know a pastor, want to become a pastor… If you are a Christian, you should have a pastor in your life, so you should read this book.

This book will probably be most beneficial to pastors. It’s basically a dissection of 1 Peter 5, and the qualifications of a pastor/elder.  As such, it is very Biblical. Very. The author doesn’t stay constrained to 1 Peter 5, though. It carries a heavy dose of Biblical instruction and encouragement.

The book’s major premise is to lay the freedom of the pastorate singly on the gospel of Jesus Christ, just as our salvation and all blessings are. Pastors should know this. We really should. But the statistics in the introduction indicate that many of us don’t. The sense of burden that can so often become synonimous with ministry indicates that we forget. The sense of isolation and loneliness, depression, fatigue… The unBiblical sense that the health and success of the church depends on us… The unhealthy and detrimental feelings that those in the congregation are problems to be fixed, as opposed to people whom Jesus loves enough to have died for…

Yah. If you’re not a pastor, you’re shocked that pastors could feel any of this. If you are a pastor, you feel convicted that you’ve fallen into this at times and in seasons.

But we’re flawed people, members of that same congregation, who have been given the great privilege to under-shepherd a portion of Jesus flock. As members of that congregation, with one job among many to be done in that congregation, the same gospel applies to us. And that gospel is so momentous, so grand, so perfect and complete–it’s big enough even to cover the role, office and person of the pastor.

Praise God!

This book convicted me. It encouraged me. It reminded me and informed me. It was quite powerful, and I suspect that it will be again upon a planned reread.

So again… If you’re a pastor–especially a pastor who is dealing with any of the symptoms listed above–read this book. If you are on a support staff for pastors, please read this book. If you have a pastor, please read this book. If you are frustrated with your pastor, please read this book. He’s going through things that you have no idea about, and you’re probably giving him the short stick with all of your judgments.

If you don’t have a pastor, get one. Then read this book. Then buy it for him, tell him how much you appreciate him, and give it to him.

Ephesians says that pastor-teachers are a gift to the church. I am convinced this book is a gift to pastors.

Bible Review: HCSB Large Print Ultrathin Reference Bible, Brown Genuine Cowhide

HCSB Large Print Ultrathin Reference Bible, Brown Genuine Cowhide Book Cover HCSB Large Print Ultrathin Reference Bible, Brown Genuine Cowhide
Holman Bible Staff
B&H Publishers
September 1, 2014

A great translation, wrapped in a quality, smith-sewn leather cowhide.

A word of transparency to start… This Bible was presented to me by the publishers, free of charge, as a review copy. They did not ask for a good review, only an honest one–which it will be.

Those who know me know that I’m a Bible collector. It’s become a bit of an inside joke in our family. We’ve literally had to buy more bookshelves to house my extensive library of books, many of which are various Bibles. But ‘collector’ is a misnomer. They get used. They get marked up. They get worn, bent, crinkled, creased and cross-referenced from use. Each Bible has a specific purpose. Some of them are journaling Bibles with wide margins, so that I can mark them up and journal as I study. Some of them are various study Bibles, with commentary built in. Some are devotional Bibles. Others were found at a reduced price at a used book store and were just too pretty to leave there, sitting lonely on the shelf. (Hey, I’m a sucker for a leather binding; sue me.) It’s this latter category that are generally given away as encouragement to others to get into the Word and allow it to transform them.

This Bible will not be given away. It will definitely become my main Bible for both daily reading, carrying with me to church and Bible studies, as well as teaching from on Sunday mornings. Let’s discuss why–as well as a few nits to pick about it.

(1) It’s beautiful.

The photo doesn’t do it justice.

I’ve already admitted that I’m a sucker for a nice leather bound Bible, and this is definitely a nice leather bound Bible. The cowhide is soft and supple. B&H has always done well with leather bindings, and I’ve found that they use quality materials in their covers. I have the HCSB Minister’s Bible in black leather binding. This one is softer and prettier.

It bends easily in the hand without being so malleable that it becomes a hindrance. It’s just firm enough that it sits well in one hand to stand and read from, as I do every week at church.

The edges are standard gold. The indexes are easily accessed, but not intruding. The OT books are indexed in black, while the NT books are indexed in red–which makes them easily identifiable.

(OK… I know where the books of the Bible are, but if you have never taught–i.e. public speaking–you don’t know the horror of your mind going blank in front of expectant faces for no other reason than the fact that you’re in front of expectant faces…)

A small nit to pick, per the indexes… I wonder at the durability of the pages at the point of index. The indexed are cut out of each page as curved rectangles, as opposed to the oblong circular cut-outs in other indexed Bibles I’ve seen and owned. I actually like the visual aspect of the rectangles better, but as my wife thumbed through the Bible last night, I noticed that the stark edges of the rectangular indexes could tend to tears and folds more-so than curved indexes. But that’s a small gripe and just a suspicion. I’ll be interested if it actually presents a problem with extended use.

The nicest indexing I’ve seen on a Bible.

(2) Durability

Despite the suspicion mentioned above, I expect this Bible to wear well. The leather is hardy and well-bound. But it also appears to be smith-sewn. In other words, the pages aren’t just glued into the binding, they’re sewn in. My Minister’s Bible is smith-sewn, and it’s proven very durable. If you like the leather binding on this Bible, you should expect it to last.


(3) Readability

As the name implies, the print is large. The pages are a bright white, but aren’t shiny, so the contrast is very good. I can read it well in both bright lighting and not-so-bright. I’m not always the biggest fan of red-letter editions though I like idea of being able to easily spot the words of Christ. The reason is that red lettering can often hurt contrast and make it harder to read them. I like the red lettering in this Bible because it’s bold and legible–almost maroon as opposed to red.

Easy to read. Note the less than literal translation in Psalm 1. This would worry me more if not for the excellent footnoting (photo below).

I really like the font used. Really. Although I can imagine traditionalists hating it. I’m not sure of the font, but it’s not the traditional ‘Biblical’ type font. It is contemporary, clean, and in my opinion, actually easier to read.

I mentioned in my HCSB translation overview that the translation is well footnoted. The footnotes in this edition are easy to read, without becoming intruding on the page.

For the serious Bible student, the footnotes retain the importance of the original. Without them, one would miss the progression implied in walk, stand, sit…

A special note on readability… They decided to put the Book/Chapter/Page Numbers on the bottom of the page. I’m not sure why. Perhaps there’s some printsetting science behind it that I don’t know about, but it just seems weird. It doesn’t seem to be any harder to find them when I am flipping for a specific book and verse. I just have to ‘flip’ the bottom corners instead of the top. It’s just odd after 35 years of Bible-reading.

I’m sure I’ll deal with it and it will become second nature.

The pages are thick enough to feel substantial, but still thin enough to allow minor bleed-through from the printing on the opposite side. It doesn’t severely affect readability, but I would have sacrificed a little of the “thinline” of the Bible for a little thicker paper.

(4) Size

Whichever Bible you prefer, this is what yours should look like… Open in front of you. 🙂

It’s a very good size for a personal and teaching Bible. Having been known to carry large study Bibles around with me, this thing is a dream.

Final review:

It’s a great translation. It’s a great Bible that does everything it’s designed to do very well. It is worth the list price and I highly recommend it to someone looking for a trustworthy, modern English Bible. It’s great for everyday use in both devotional reading and studying.

The Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) translation…

I posted last week about the need to pick one translation of the Bible to teach with, and thought this would be a good time to do so, in accordance with the need to get a large print Bible for teaching purposes. I polled the congregation to get an idea as to what most people use when they follow along with me, and got mixed results. But also playing largely in the decision was my thoughts on the best translation for both study and public reading purposes (Note, I’ve been using HCSB all along for sermon prep, along with several other translations.). I started this post as an actual Bible review for my new teaching Bible (coming soon), but thought the translation talk would bloat that review, since it’ll be a review of an actual Bible and not the HCSB translation itself. So, here’s my thoughts on the HCSB and why I decided to return to it for public teaching…

(1) It’s a translation.

That may seem like a bit of needless or redundant information, but it’s pertinent. Almost all of the new ‘translations’ in the past 30 years or so have been revision of older (some quality) translations. The NKJV, ESV, NRSV, NLT while great translation which I highly respect and actually use for both study and devotional reading, are all revisions–not new translations.

Now, there is nothing wrong with revisions. There are good points to a revision, but a new translation that uses the latest in discoveries per manuscripts, ancient languages, ancient cultures, etc, is a good thing if the translators use proper translation principles. The HCSB does, as we’ll discuss.

(2) It’s a trustworthy translation.

The translation philosophy was to be as literal as possible, while expressing the thoughts and intents of the author in a way that we can best understand them. In other words, it’s not a paraphrase. The translators tried to be as literal as possible, but they made allowances for such things as literal word order, and translated cultural idioms (which would have been lost on us) into phrases that get the point across.

To be honest, I’ve always been a little conflicted about the two translation philosophies. Is it better to translate literally what they wrote, and leave interpretation to the reader? One would think so. Especially if the reader has the technical knowledge to correctly interpret. (But how many do? How many know that the phrase “I gave you whiteness of teeth”, in OT Israel, was a bad thing? How many know that it’s a description of starvation?)

Or is it best to translate something into a less literal format that is more comprehensible to the reader?  I’m conflicted, except for the fact that I’m realizing that the purpose of language is to get the thought across in such a way that the reader can comprehend. I may use technical language to a fellow System’s Analyst and non-technical language to my wife, who just recently broke down and accepted a smart phone. Either is appropriate, and either is inappropriate, depending on who the audience is, and whether they can understand what I’m saying. That’s what I’ve come to.

I think the HCSB, of the translations available to us today, does the best job of walking the line of literal but understandable. It’s made only better by the fact that it is better ‘footnoted’ than any translation I have ever come across. If they make a decision between different manuscript evidences, they give alternates in the footnote. If they make a decision to not translate something literally, they offer a footnote offering the literal translation.

So… It’s trustworthy, yet easy to read. It’s perfect for my study and teaching Bible.

For more detail than you probably want on translation philosophy, go here.

(3) As mentioned above, it’s easy to read.

The language is concise and natural, which lends itself well to public reading. This is a big deal for me. As mentioned in my other post, there are a couple of decisions that have made it a bit harder at times to read aloud–like the use of “Messiah” when the traditions in my brain are expecting “Christ”. But in researching their motives in making such changes, it makes sense, I’ll deal with it, and I can defend their decisions if anyone ever asks me about it. It’s not a deal-breaker.

(4) I had gotten lots of folks in our congregation hooked on the HCSB, then quit teaching from it for a while.

I have no good reason for not using it on Sunday mornings. I have a lot of good reasons to use it. I have always loved it. And I have to look people that I love in the face every week.  (OK… This wasn’t really the big reason, but it looks good on the blog.)

So, that was the translation decision, if not a full translation review.



Book Review: ‘The Crucified Life’ by AW Tozer

The Crucified Life: How To Live Out A Deeper Christian Experience Book Cover The Crucified Life: How To Live Out A Deeper Christian Experience
AW Tozer

This is actually a compilation of Tozer's unpublished writings.  It details the look, feel, heart and practical application of a life submitted to Christ-- the life of a discipleship

Let me tell you a secret about my Bible teaching.  Sometimes I feel self conscious about something that I shouldn’t feel self conscious about– the fact that, thematically, my sermons can be a little repetitive.  It seems, as I teach book by book, chapter by chapter, verse by verse, the subject of discipleship is always front and center.

I have so much respect for those in our church who return week after week, Sunday after Sunday, Wednesday after Wednesday, to sit and partake of this scriptural instruction.  They don’t come to hear that a relationship with Jesus will be the answer to all of their problems.  They don’t come to hear that Jesus wants to make them rich, heal their hangnails, and make their spouse prettier and handsomer.  They come, intent and taking notes, hearing the message of scripture that He is God and we are not.  They come, seeking to digest and apply the fact that Jesus calls us to leave our boats and follow Him– leave our tax booths at His call– follow the cloud and fire through the wilderness.

They come with the realization that the Christian life is a life transformed, because it is a life submitted to the original Transformer.

Now, that’s not all that my teaching is.  It’s not all about our actions.  Far from it.  It’s a continued message of unrestrained grace.  It’s a message about all that He has and will do for us.  It’s a message of His faithfulness, loving-kindness, extravagant care, comfort, attention and intention.  It’s a message of His power on our behalf, and not ours on His.  But hidden in every message that I can remember, for as long as I can remember, is the subtle and blatant reminder that to call ourselves His is to be His— because I am yet to find a section of scripture that doesn’t contain that subtle or blatant truth.

‘The Crucified Life’ by AW Tozer is the work of a man who saw this theme in scripture, selflessly applied it to his own life, and shares the scriptural intricacies of that life with his readers.  I heartily recommend it to every Christian reader, as well as every seeker who wants to know this ‘God’, Who He is, and what He can mean to the individual life.

The book takes its name from the repeated calls from Christ and the apostles to take our cross and follow Him.  As Paul wrote in Philippians 3:8-11– that his greatest desire was to know Christ by sharing in his sufferings, become like Him by experiencing His death, and thus live with changed priorities because his citizenship is eternal.

We all want to know Christ more intimately.  We all want to be more like Him.  But we don’t want to suffer and die.

That’s the general outlook of the book.  However, if that was all that it is, it would be a short read, and (to be frank), it would leave a pretty grim outlook.  This, thankfully, is not a treatise on the ‘Theology of Suffering’.  Far from it.  It is a balanced collection of essays on the powerful life of one submitted to God and living completely in His care.  Grace shouts from every page.  It waves its arms and demands attention.  It nestles in closely and narrates the text for the reader.

Tozer brilliantly balances the message of selfless devotion to Christ and His selfless devotion to us.  He assures us that it’s safe to give up control because of Who then takes control.  He weaves scripture and experience to assure us of the fulfillment we find in dying to self, that we may live in Christ.

Sprinkled among the scriptural and theological gems, you’ll find very practical and applicable instruction.  At times, he goes as far as to give us step by step instruction and point by point principles to put into practice.  It is a very ‘livable’ book.  I also found that the more general sections were very applicable.  As is so often the case with Tozer’s writings, he had a way of presenting well-worn truths, which I had known forever it seems, in such a new way that my mind and spirit would take flight with possibilities, and I would create application of my own.  In my opinion, this is the true genius of Tozer’s style.  The truths are Biblical, thus they are Gods.  The application comes from the truth, and not necessarily the author’s instruction.  For lack of a better term, you ‘own’ the application because you were led there, not spoon fed.

If you liked Francis Chan’s ‘Crazy Love’…  If you liked Platt’s ‘Radical’…  Actually, no; even if you didn’t…  Buy this book.  Pray for a softened heart.  Crack your Bible along side it and dig into the continual theme of scripture.

Allow your walk to be enlightened and changed by what God would seek to reveal to you.

I give it 5 stars and a very, very high recommendation.  I also seek your feedback through the comments below.  If you’ve read it, let me know what you think!  If you read it based on this review, let me know.