Breathing in the Big Picture: (Reviewing The Jesus Bible – ESV)

“The Bible is the cradle wherein Christ is laid.”
– Martin Luther

As a seminary student, I am neck deep in Greek, theology classes, hermeneutics, exposition training, and other technical classes. Every week I am going back and forth with the biblical languages, thick commentaries, and technical works.

There are some days the Bible seems like any other textbook I open. Yet, I know it is more.

It is easy for me for to lose sight of the big picture of the Bible: Jesus.

It is good to step back, and open a Bible without all the technical notes. It is refreshing to breathe in the big picture of the Bible: Jesus.

The Jesus Bible

Starting our day in the Word and listening to God speak through his Word is critical. The Jesus Bible is a great resource to get back to that big picture.

Remember when you first received Christ as your savior? You were in love with your savior. However, as you went to church you began to lose sight of him among the “rules,” the doctrine training, and other good things for Christians.

The Jesus Bible guides us back to the big picture. Each book of the Bible comes with a title page revealing how Christ is seen in each book. Therefore, we are led back to the realization that Jesus is the central figure of all of Scripture.

Second, the side notes are devotional. Instead of deep study notes, The Jesus Bible notes how the reader can continually see Christ in the individual passages. There are not many notes, but I find that helpful. You do not become overwhelmed with too many notes. Also, the margins are nice and wide to journal and insert your own notes as you see Jesus throughout the Old and New Testaments. The Jesus Bible is set up to be a great guide as well as an interactive tool.

Third, throughout this Bible, the reader will engage with various articles. These articles encourage a deeper understanding of Christ in Scripture and the themes of Christ’s work, death, and resurrection which affect our lives. Technical language does not crowd out the messages of these articles. Practically, these encourage us to return to our salvation and see the richness in the work Jesus did for us in reconciling us to himself.

However, there is one set back. The font size of the Scripture text is smaller than the side notes. I would like to see the Scripture font increased in order to have ease in reading. But, it is not a reason I would not buy this Bible.

Breathing In

With all the studying I do as a seminary student, it is good to step back and breathe in the big picture of Jesus. This is the biggest aspect of The Jesus Bible I enjoy. We need to keep Jesus as the focus of our Bible study. When we lose the sight of him, we lose sight of the author of our faith and salvation.

The Bible is the cradle which displays the promise of Jesus, the incarnation of Jesus, and the majesty of his kingship. I am grateful for another tool I can use in my life to keep my focus on Jesus.

I recommend this Bible as a great devotional Bible to refocus.

Breathing in the big story of redemption leads us to see Christ as our center of everything we do.

Purchase The Jesus Bible Here

*I received a free copy of this study Bible from BibleGateway to review as I am a member of their Blogger Grid

The Life Application Study Bible (3rd Edition): Answering the So What Question

“Faith is not an achievement, it is a gift. Yet it comes only through the hearing and study of the Word.” – Martin Luther

In teaching public speaking, I tend to reiterate one question to my students: “So why should we listen to you? So what about your topic?” This question gets to the heart of their speeches. It informs the audience why it is important to listen, to interact, and to use the information that is being presented.

Studying the Bible is exactly the same. We can listen to a sermon, read a devotional, and read the Bible, but our hearts ask one question: “So what?” Answering this question is key for growing as a Christian. We can know the “whats” of the Bible, but we go deeper when we know the “whys.”

This is where The Life Application Study Bible (3rd Edition) can help.

Clarity in Language

In dealing with the “why,” we need to be able to understand the Bible in order to answer that question. The Life Application Study Bible has taken on the task to make every verse, note, and application understandable. The theology is beautifully woven into simple notes. You do not need a theology degree to understand this study Bible. What you do need is an open heart to read the Bible and be changed by it.

Clarity for understanding and application can only come from when the language of the material is comprehensible. This study Bible (in all its aspects) makes that possible.

Guiding Us to the Heart

One of the best features of The Life Application Study Bible are the many opportunities to get to the heart of every passage. The notes and character sketches guide us to answering the “so what” that plagues our minds. It isn’t enough just to know a passage in-depth. There has to be application. These features point us in that direction.

Guidance in Bible study is beneficial as we wade the waters of life with the Word as our guide. The Life Application Study Bible is an excellent guide into knowing, interacting, and living out God’s Word.

Make Sure to Check the Back

One thing that sets this study Bible apart from the others, is what can be found in the back. Not only are the notes and other features inside the Bible helpful, but the items found in the back are a gem. We can study and apply the Bible to our lives; however, being a disciple of Jesus does not end there. We need to know how to make disciples of all nations; as Jesus commanded us in Matthew 28:19-20. If we did not make disciples, our faith and Christian life would be like the Dead Sea. It does not go anywhere. It does not pour into another body of water. A good body of water feeds into another.

The articles in the back of The Life Application Study Bible put us on a good course for fulfilling the Great Commission. “How to become a Christian,” “How to Follow Up with a New Believer,” and “So You’ve Been Asked to Speak…” are some of the articles found in the back. Each of these can develop the skills to make disciples. This does not say church and the fellowship of the believers are not important. But, these tools can help in this process.

Check the back. There are great articles and tools to help you individually, and help others know Jesus and grow in their relationship with Him.

So What’s the Difference?

There are many changes to The Life Application Study Bible. Has the Scripture itself changed? No. What has changed is the culture in which we live. The first edition came out in the 1980’s. Today, in 2019, there have been many changes culturally, linguistically, and societally. This study Bible has done a great job of updating the user friendliness of the Bible, as well as the notes to reflect a Biblically-based way of applying the Bible to our lives today. Some of the issues that we face are wrote about more and provide better answers to walk with.

Here is a short video to help you understand the changes in this edition:
The Life Application Study Bible – 3rd Edition Changes

Studying the Bible and Applying to Life

The Life Application Study Bible is one I have used for many years. I go back to it with every project, paper, sermon, or lesson I am working on. The third edition has helped me in applying the Bible to issues around us that were not around or as prevalent compared to ten years ago. This study Bible is a tool that should be on your shelf. Studying the Bible is how we grow in Christ. Living out the Bible is how faith is put into practice. The Life Application Study Bible helps us walk each step in that process as we navigate each issue from a Biblical worldview.

Purchase The Life Application Study Bible here

*I received a free copy of this study Bible from BibleGateway to review as I am a member of their Blogger Grid

Getting into the Water: A Review of a Study Bible for New Believers

“In the divine Scriptures, there are shallows and there are deeps; shallows where the lamb may wade, and deeps where the elephant may swim.” – John Owen

I remember sitting in French class in college not knowing what I got myself into. I felt lost and confused. I needed lots of help at the beginning while adjusting to this new study.

We all have been there. A new phase of life begins and we feel lost or confused and need help as we get started.

The new life in Christ can be overwhelming at the start. You gave your life to Christ. You are forgiven of your sins. You are now apart of the Body of Christ, the Church.

And, as the story goes… As soon as you make a profession of faith, someone hands you a large book called the Bible. You are told this is your guide to life. Read it, and study it with care. This is how you get to know Jesus and understand how to live your new life in Him.

Getting a Bible when starting your new life with Christ can feel daunting. The book is larger than most books you have read. There are many books within the Bible. The language may seem archaic and strange. How in the world are you supposed to study and understand everything in this book?

A Study Bible to Start Your Quest

Zondervan recently rereleased the NIV Quest Study Bible. This Study Bible is a great tool to start your new journey as a Christian.

The contributors on the Quest Study Bible have taken the task to create a study Bible that is understandable, easy to access, and easy to use for those who are new to the faith as they seek to know God through His Word.

I have personally used this study Bible in the past and have found it helpful in my Christian walk with God. There are so many aspects of this Bible that are beneficial to new believer that I would like to walk through a few of them as you consider this Bible as a tool to start your walk with Christ.

A Study Bible that is Easy to Understand

The NIV translation is a great place to start when studying the Bible. The language of the NIV is easy to comprehend as one makes their way through some of the tougher passages and long paragraphs. Paul can be confusing sometimes, but the language of the NIV can clear some of the confusion up.

Also, many of the other study Bibles have notes that involve Greek and Hebrew key words, deep theological notations, and other such things. The study notes in the Quest Study Bible are set up as questions. These are quite helpful when studying the Bible for the first time. Not only are the notes at a good level to understand the Bible, but the questions help the reader begin to ask questions of the Bible. This is a great way to begin studying the Bible with some depth. The questions are found on the side margins of each page and are linked with the passages next to it.

When one feels lost or confused with a passage, just look to the side and a question will help you on your way. The language of the study notes help clear the confusion, and at the end of the note are references to other passages and notes to help with clarity.

The study features in the Quest Study Bible aid new believers in the ability to study the Bible for themselves. Taking Bible classes or attending Sunday School classes on how to the study the Bible is great. However, the ability to study the Bible on one’s own time is a crucial skill for the believer. The Quest Study Bible‘s question format helps develop the individual’s skill of studying the Bible with clarity.

A Study Bible to Guide your Quest

When approaching Bible reading and study, many believers take a Bible reading plan, and by about the second month the feeling of being overwhelmed can easily set in. This can happen to new believers, and can cause great discouragement when starting out.

Those who put together the Quest Study Bible thought up a brilliant solution to this issue. In the front of the Bible (as opposed to in the back like many other study Bibles), the reader will find three different “courses” of Bible reading. Course 1 is an “Introduction to the Bible”. Course 2 is a “Guided Tour of the Bible.” Course 3 is “Every Word in the Bible.” Each course takes a different amount of time to complete. The Quest Study Bible‘s reading plans start with a good survey of the Bible and end with reading through the entire Bible. This is a brilliant pathway to work your way from the shallow end of Bible study and into the deep end.

Another helpful tool, that is found in the front of the Bible, is an overview of each of the books of the Bible. Understanding a brief statement of the contents of each book helps the reader develop a map to navigating each book.

A Study Bible to Keep the Motivation of the Quest Going

Lastly, a good study Bible will help the reader stay motivated throughout their study. Even though knowing God deeper and living His calling out to the fullest is the ultimate motivation for studying the Bible, a new believer has a different perspective. A new believer has just had their world turned upside down and needs help staying motivated in their pursuit of knowing God.

This is a great feature of the Quest Study Bible. When one begins a book, the first thing to notice that, instead of seeing who wrote the book, the question of why should I read this book is answered. Knowing the why can help motivate one to read each book of the bible – even the so called “boring” books of the Bible (i.e. Leviticus).

Also, sprinkled throughout like a trail of bread crumbs are the numerous vignettes of special notes (i.e. Top 100 Questions, maps, charts, and other articles). These help a reader dive deeper into the depths of God’s Word and interact with Scripture through the maps and charts. All of this helps keep the motivation throughout the quest to study the Bible.

Come on in, the Water is Great

New life in Christ is an adventure from salvation till we see our Savior face to face. Getting to know our Creator and Savior by studying the Bible can be overwhelming and daunting for new believers. The Quest Study Bible is a great way to start and a great tool to have on your shelf and on your lap.

Making God’s Word understandable, accessible, and usable is a challenge, and the contributors of the Quest Study Bible have done an excellent job. I highly recommend this study Bible to new believers as you start your walk with Christ. This study Bible will help you learn how to study on your own, and study deeper without the discouragement that can come as one begins to study the Bible.

II Timothy 2:15 says to do your best to handle the Word of God. This is a great study Bible to start just that.

The quest may seem overwhelming and wonderful starting out. Yet, the Quest Study Bible can help you take those first steps in Bible study.

Purchase the Quest Study Bible Here

*I received a free copy of this study Bible from BibleGateway to review as I am a member of their Blogger Grid

More than a Pep Talk with Jesus…

“Give yourself to prayer, to reading on divine truths: strive to penetrate to the bottom of them and never be content with a superficial knowledge.” – David Brainerd

“The Lord is my shepherd; I have what I need.”

These words start one of the most beautiful and most quoted biblical poems (Psalm 23). The Psalms are one of the most quoted books of the Bible because they speak to our emotions and connect immediately to our lives. When we read them, we tend to picture in our minds the image above: reading our Bible at the lake and letting the truths of God penetrate our hearts so we can make it through the day.

It is common for many of us to view our daily Bible reading, devotional time, etc. as that image. We sit there with our coffee, open our Bible, and listen to those encouraging words from God. Our Bible reading begins to sound like a “pep talk with Jesus.”

There are times in our lives we need those encouraging words and promises of God. He tells us to cling to those promises and remember them (1 Chronicles 16:12; Psalm 13:5-6). It is from these promises that we move forward trusting God each step of the way.

However… A leg brace is more than a pretty color that decorates it. It has structure. It has a purpose. It has everything it needs to support an individual and make that individual mobile.

This is the same with our Bible time and Bible reading. It is more than a “pep talk with Jesus.” Our emotions do need help on a daily basis, but the Scriptures gives us a command and two other reason for doing our Bible reading.

The Command

II Timothy 2:15 states, “Be diligent to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.”

Paul is writing Timothy to be diligent in handling God’s Word: through studying and through preaching. Even though II Timothy is known as a “pastoral epistle,” it can be applied to our lives. A mature believer is one who follows the principle in II Timothy 2:15 – being diligent with God’s Word. Diligent means, “characterized by steady, earnest, and energetic effort: painstaking.” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

We have a command. We are to diligently study the Bible and handle it in a right manner. It means hard work for us; like being back in school. It will take time. Studying the Bible means that it is more than our “pep talk with Jesus.” Studying the Bible means pouring ourselves over it with “steady, earnest, and energetic effort.”

But why take this effort and time to study the Bible? Two reasons…

Knowing God, Knowing Me

“For this reason also, since the day we heard this, we haven’t stopped praying for you. We are asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, so that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God.” – Colossians 1:9-10

Why should we view our Bible reading as more than a “pep talk with Jesus?” Because, we need to be filled with the knowledge of God in order to know ourselves and live.

In this passage, we see that we need to be filled with the knowledge of God and his will. This is not a “fuzzy feeling” type of reading of the Bible. We need to know everything we can learn about God and his will from his Word. This means we will need to read and study out the love of God, the holiness of God, the righteous wrath of God, and what he expects from us as our Creator, Redeemer, and Lord. Reading about God’s wrath is uncomfortable, but is shows us who God is. Reading about God’s mercy and grace shows us who God is. These pictures may seem to contradict each other and be portraying two different “Gods.” But the beauty of the Bible is that it is one God. He is all these things and more. Our Bible studying should be done in order to know God in all his facets. We can wrestle with the apparent “contradictory truths” about God and study to know how they work together in the person our awesome Creator.

Braces have many parts to them. You need bolts, screws, plastic, etc. They all have to be there to keep individuals up. Not one person is only loving, or only gracious. God is the same. There are multiple facets that make up who God is that are found in his Word. You don’t really see them when you view your Bible study as a “pep talk with Jesus.” It is ok to wrestle through the passages to know God. Because, when we know God and see him for who he is, we are changed into his image more and more (II Corinthians 3:18). By knowing God, we know his will and how we are to live a life pleasing to him. He came to this earth, took on a human body, died, and rose again for us to have life. Why not get to know this God in all his amazing facets?

Dan Brown and Bible Reading

“Holding to the faithful message as taught, so that he will be able both to encourage with sound teaching and to refute those who contradict it.”
– Titus 1:9

Before continuing, please watch this clip: (You may need to copy and past the link in your browser)

How uncomfortable do you feel? Did something not sit right with you?
Was what was said true or false?

Think about it. Was what you saw true or false? But do not stop with just saying, “The Da Vinci Code is false.” Can you defend your answer Scripturally? Can you prove out of the Bible that what was said in the clip is false?

This is the second reason why we need to study the Bible. A “pep talk with Jesus” cannot help you defend your faith and answer such concerns as like the clip you saw. Dan Brown’s novels and other novels, movies, and media are taking Scripture and twisting it. This breeds confusion and lies about what the Bible truly says. It prevalent in our culture. Most people have a skewed view of the Bible because of these things.

However, Titus 1:9 commands us that we need to not only encourage people with the truths found in God’s Word, but we need to biblically refute those who contradict and twist the Bible. Our faith is sure because of who God is. But, we need to be ready to handle the confusion, the twisting, and the lying about the Bible. The only way that is going to happen is if we are digging deep and studying the Bible. It will take work and it will take time. But, making disciples of all nations requires us to answer questions they have and be able to stand up for the truth. Deep Bible studying is our path.

How do you view your Bible reading? Is it a time for a “pep talk with Jesus?” Again, there is nothing wrong with allowing our emotions to align with God’s thoughts and promises. But, our Bible reading is supposed to be more than that. Are we getting to know God and growing in that knowledge of God so we can live out his will for our lives? Are we studying the Bible in order to answer the questions and confusion around us?

Are you comfortable with only having a superficial knowledge of the Bible? Or are you ready to study the Bible and make it more than a pep talk with Jesus.