ESV Family Devotional Bible Review

The last few months, I have been using this Family Devotional Bible from Crossway. I wanted to use it for a little while before I gave my review of it. So, I’ve been pulling it out during family devotion time. I have the hardcover edition, but it is also available in blue or brown imitation leather.

Now, when I think of a family Bible, I think of an heirloom quality Bible. Something pretty and significant. I don’t think of a picture Bible. But this is not necessarily intended to be that stately family Bible. This is far more practical. It is a Bible a younger family can walk through together during family devotion time. I’m not sure if you’ve gathered this or not, but I am a very big advocate for family devotions.

This Bible has plenty of full color pictures. Now, the colored ink on the Bible paper does wrinkle the page a little bit. I’m not sure if you can tell from this picture, but there is a rippled texture throughout the picture pages. While the paper is thicker than standard Bible paper, it still didn’t hold up perfectly with the ink. But the pictures are beautiful.

They aren’t childish cartoons, you have these beautiful illustrations throughout. They do remind me a little of the Bible storybooks in doctor’s office waiting rooms, but I love the illustrations in those, so it works out.

There is a small amount of ghosting on the backs of picture pages, but they don’t interfere with being able to see the pages. It is very light on footnotes.

The devotions are the real highlight of this Bible. It has these interspersed throughout Scripture. They are with the Scripture you are talking about. I really like the questions they give. They are directed enough to stay on topic, but open ended enough to give real thoughtful discussion. Smaller kids won’t benefit from the questions as much as older kids, tweens, teens, and you will. I think that makes these devotions great for a family with a wide age range. While I wouldn’t say this devotion would be ideal for families with only teens in the house, it becomes ideal for those who may have a teen or two along with a younger kid. With the younger kids, the story and illustrations are going to be where they gain the most. For older kids, tweens, teens, and parents- the discussion is where you gain the most. If you have younger kids, you may want to skip the discussion or go light on it. But if you have kids who are older, definitely make sure you leave time for the discussion questions.

The devotions focus on the hero type stories in the Bible. You won’t find a single devotion in the book of Psalms, for example. They are Biblically based and don’t really veer into any specific theology. They stay focused on the Bible stories.

30 devotions are in the Pentateuch. (None in Leviticus.)

24 devotions through the historical books.

0 devotions through the books of wisdom.

2 devotions in the major prophets.

1 devotion in the minor prophets.

56 devotions are in the Gospels.

14 devotions in the book of Acts.

1 devotion in Philemon.

1 devotion in Revelation.

(For a total of 130 devotions.)

It is reasonable to think you could go through all these devotions in one year. And you can go through them in any order you wish. You could start at the beginning. Or, if you’re starting later in the year, start with the Gospels to get further into the life of Jesus around Advent time. You can go straight through or jump around. They do tell you what page the next devotion can be found at the end of each devotion, but there is also an index in the back where you could pick the devotion that best fits you right now. (Either fits what your preacher talked about this week, fits where you are in the liturgical year, fits what you are studying in school, or just fits where your mind and interests are right now.)

I love the ESV version for kids. It is on a 10th grade reading level, so it still has a poetic, non-childish feel. But when read aloud, it is easy for them to understand in modern language.

There are 8 really nice maps at the end of this Bible. I like how they illustrated them. They are very interesting for kids, but also easy for them to understand.

Overall, I have really enjoyed this Bible. I think the devotions are excellent for a wide range of ages. The illustrations are beautiful. The Scripture is right there with each devotion so you’re not flipping around to find what you’re reading. The ESV version is a great read aloud version of the Bible for kids. I think this is an excellent resource for families. I wouldn’t say this Bible is a good Bible for kids, but rather as a family resource.

**I received this Bible for free in exchange for my honest review. I am in no way obligated to review it favorably. **

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The Complete Jewish Study Bible Review

I have been very into various Bibles lately. There are just so many different study Bibles that capture my attention. Some capture my attention in a negative way. “Why would anyone make that study Bible?!” But most capture my attention in a positive way. So, I’ve been picking up a few here and there to read through, use in my own personal devotion time, and see what my thoughts are on these various study Bibles.

The Complete Jewish Study Bible caught my attention. I grabbed a copy of the hardcover edition, but there are fancierleatherversions. This hardcover is a shiny, glossy cover, but it is really good quality. Just for aesthetics, I like the color and the intricate stained glass patterns they use throughout.

And guys- two sewn in bookmarks! That makes me really happy. I’m still waiting for a Bible to come with three. One for the Old Testament reading, one for the Psalms, and one for the New Testament reading. The Pastor wants 4- Old Testament, Psalms, Gospel, and Letters. The font is easy to read and in single column format. The margins are very narrow and not really suitable for writing in.

This Study Bible is packed full of useful study tools and information. I’m not the intended audience for this Bible. However, I have really liked this Bible. It has helped me see God’s Word in a new light. It has given more life and deeper meaning to things I’ve been reading my entire life. It has been a challenge to use, but it has made me slow down and really study the Word and not just breeze right through it. This won’t be the Bible for everyone, and I will get to that later, but it is an excellent study Bible.

The first issue to note is that this Bible is not in our typical English order. It still begins with Genesis and ends with Revelation, but it is not in the same order in between. You have the Torah first (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy). Then you have all the prophets together (Joshua, Judges, Ruth, Samuel [1st and 2nd], Kings [1st and 2nd], Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi). Followed by the Writings (Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra-Nehemiah, Chronicles [1st and 2nd]). In the New Testament, you have the Gospel first (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John), followed by Acts, then you have the letters broken into three categories; Letters to Communities (Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians), Pastoral Letters (1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon), and Messianic Letters (Hebrews, James, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, Jude). And then you end with Revelation. If you’re not used to this, you’ll have to just use the table of contents as you acclimate to the order of the books.

Next, you’ll likely notice that you don’t recognize the names of the Bible. The aim of this particular translation was to restore the Jewishness of the Bible. So the names of the books have been taken back to their Hebrew names. No worries, though. The English names appear on the right hand pages with the Jewish names on the left.

I also found I didn’t know any of the people or places in the Bible! Those got put in Hebrew, as well. I actually really appreciated this. It made me read it a little outside of my language. It also had me noticing who was doing what a little bit more. And fortunately, they included a handy Glossary of Hebrew (with pronunciations!) to English. So, I could look them up as much as I needed to.

Each book of the Bible has a great introduction to bring you into the book, including an outline. It also goes ahead and tells you the main names and places in English so you don’t have to look them all up straight out of the gate.

The Complete Jewish Bible also contains a great amount of introductory material. It tells why they translated it the way they did. It goes into translation issues. It brings up the vision and potential audience of the translation. They go into detail on why the Bible is God’s Word to humanity. It explains poetry, law, legalism, and more. It fully outlines the prophesy of the Messiah and how Jesus is the fulfillment of that prophesy. The introduction is almost a full book of great information to help as you study God’s word.

Now, this Bible is not going to be for everyone. There are plenty of people who are about calf-deep in their walk into the river of God’s Word and this will just make them almost drown. If you were just stepping in and knew nothing of the Bible, this would be a fine place to start. No worries there at all. But there are people who are not yet fluent in the Bible but are getting there. This is going to overwhelm those people. People completely non-fluent in Scripture and people very fluent in Scripture will find something amazing here. But those middle people may need to get a little more comfortable with The Word before diving into something like this. I’d hate for anything meant for good to be a stumbling block. This Bible is very much of the scholarly side of things. This is not about life application or practical application of doctrine. This Bible helps you understand the world into which Jesus came into and the world the Jewish people came from. It brings you back into those Hebrew roots so you are better able to read the stories and the words more in their context. It is an extremely eye opening experience.

This Bible is packed full of even more features than I’ve listed. Articles from Jewish scholars. Information of Jewish customs. There is just so much here. It also has footnotes that describe the culture of what is going on within the Scriptures.

I will definitely be hanging onto this Bible. It makes the Scripture new and fresh. It brings to life deeper meanings. It brings more understanding of Jewish faith and culture. And all along the way, you can see Jesus woven throughout. It just highlights those threads of grace so we see the shadow of the cross stretching across the entire span of man’s history.

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Lent 2018

If you’re looking for my annual Lent family devotions, they are in book form this year! I was coming up with a way to make the family devotional more user-friendly. Scrolling through an entire week of blog posts is a bit messy. It is free, but it is messy. Then, I had this idea to add a personal devotional for moms to the front. In pitching the idea to The Pastor, we kind of thought, “Why just moms?” So, I enlisted his help in getting both a full 40-day devotional for all people and a 40-day family devotional written. We then put it on Kindle for ease-of-use. (It is also available in paperback if you’re not a digital person.)

The entire thing is really cohesive: The personal devotions and family devotions tie into each other, so you’ll all be walking the same spiritual path together. And as usual, the family devotional includes activities to do! Fun!

The theme of this year’s Lenten devotional is Refocus. Lent is a great time to look over everything and evaluate if you’re living the way you think you should be living. “Does my life reflect Christ?” It’ll challenge you to reevaluate where you put your time and money. It will ask you to reevaluate your priorities and commitments. Basically, it is going to step all over your toes and probably make you uncomfortable and you might even hate me for it. Or… you might refocus your life on the cross and do big Jesus-work this coming year. I think it’s worth the risk.

If you want a free devotional, all my previous years of Lent family devotions are still available here on the blog. Since Lent is always 40 days, always starting on Ash Wednesday and always ending on Easter, any of these can be used any year.

Lent Family Devotional 2017 – This family devotional looks into the life and ministry of Jesus.

40 Holy People – This is a Lenten devotional looking at the lives of those who have followed Christ with great courage and wisdom.

Fruit of the Spirit Family Devotional – This is not a Lenten devotional, but you can use it during Lent if you’d like. It is 9 weeks, so it is a little longer than Lent.

Click here to buy this year’s Lent devotional on Amazon.  My hope and prayer is for families to come together around a table and talk about Jesus. So, whatever you chose to do this Lent, be it using Refocus, using one of the free devotions on my blog, using another devotional book, or just reading through a book of the Bible together after dinner— make sure that you don’t miss Jesus during this season. Let the season bring you closer to Him and closer to your family.

ESV Illuminated Bible Review

I might be a little bit of a Bible fanatic. I am always looking at the new Bibles coming out soon and admiring them. When I saw that Crossway was releasing the ESV Illuminated Journaling Bible, I was immediately obsessed. All the pictures just looked so beautiful! I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it.

Just know the pictures don’t even come close to capturing the beauty of this Bible! Crossway made this Bible in 4 editions. This is the green hardcover version. You can also get a burgundy imitation leather or navy blue cloth bound hardcover. They also had a black topgrain leather version that is no longer available. And yes, they all feature the beautiful gold patterns on the cover. The green hardcover, this one, has a book jacket. The other three have a slipcase box. I’m honestly never a fan of either and both end up getting tossed in my house.

Each book of the Bible has a beautifully illustrated title page. Every illustration in this Bible is shiny gold. It is a best of both worlds kind of journaling Bible. It already has beautiful, finished illustrations. But it also has plenty of room to add your own illustrations or notes.

As you can see, there is a bit of ghosting in the margins. The paper is thick for Bible paper, but it is still Bible paper. It is thick enough that you don’t have to be precious about which highlighters you use. I find Crossway journaling Bibles to be thick enough to color and even paint on. It just takes a little practice getting your paint thin enough or your paper prepped so it won’t bleed.

There are small illustrations in the margins throughout the Bible. They are all so pretty. You could leave this Bible on your coffee table just to flip through, it is so lovely.

You can see that even though it is full of beautiful gold illustrations, there is still room to add your own doodles, art, and notes. The margins are completely blank, but I still think this would make an excellent Bible for someone who wants a beautifully illustrated Bible, but is more of a note taker. You can also see that the pages lay pretty flat.

Really, the only “extras” in this Bible are these pages at the end (there are more than pictured) that have pictures of each book’s cover page and a brief explanation of the art you see there. I would absolutely love to have these as art prints to frame on the wall, but there are so many! But they are so beautiful! I just want them out where I can see them all the time. But there are no maps, no concordance, no topical studies. This is just a single column ESV Bible text with wide margins and lovely gold illustrations throughout. Very simple. Very beautiful.

This Bible ended up being so much more beautiful in person than I imagined, which was a difficult task because everything I had seen was amazingly beautiful. The Illuminated Journaling Bible is just so beautiful and such high quality. This is just another great way to fall in love with God’s Word.

**This Bible was sent to me from Crossway Bibles free for review. I am in no way obligated to give a favorable review. Because I received this item free for review, none of the links in this post are affiliate links.**

Word Before World

I’m scrolling through Instagram when I wake up this morning and come across a hashtag that gets my mind rolling. #wordbeforeworld . Now, this isn’t the first time I had seen the hashtag. I have seen @wellwateredwomen posting it for several days now. But it was the first time I stopped and took note.

What is the first thing I do when I wake up? Usually grumble about the kids already being awake and lament how late I stayed up the night before. But the first thing I usually choose to do after pulling myself out of bed and getting ready for the day is grab my iPad and start checking social media. I choose to plunge into the world first. Always. The Word part normally comes when I’ve done everything else I need to do for the day. Sure, we get into the Word every morning during Morning Basket time, so I guess I could count that. But before I even do morning basket, I’m checking my social media accounts.

Of course, my mind went to Deuteronomy chapter 6. The people of God are being told not to forget who they are and what God has done for them. They are to teach their children, talk of them in their house, talk of God’s commands walking around going about their day. They are to write them on the doorposts of their houses. And they are to think of them when they lie down and when they rise up.

It got me thinking of the giving of the first fruits, something we remind ourselves when we tithe. We give God the first of what he has given to us. So, what is more valuable than our time? The days, hours, and minutes we have? Why wouldn’t we give the first of our time each day, too?

Essentially, when I choose social media before getting into the Word of God, I’m stating my priorities for the day. Connection, news, self-image- all those things we tie up in social media- I’m saying those are the most important for me. I’m saying that my FOMO (fear of missing out) on the world is more important than my FOMO on God.

I’m not saying there is anything wrong with social media. I think we, as Christians, need to remain engaged in social media as a way to influence our culture. But as all our youth pastor’s warned us, we need to be careful of how we let it shape us. So, I’m not saying we should all pull away from social media. I think a host of evangelism can be done through a screen in our culture.

I am saying that I found myself guilty this morning. I realized I’ve not been putting first things first. I’ve been putting them last. When there is time. At the bottom of the to-do list. And those priorities will never stand. The Word will never shape me because I’m not letting it take the rightful place in my life. That is not anyone’s fault but mine.

I had thought of New Year’s Resolutions in abstract terms. I knew I needed more discipline in my spiritual life and my physical life, so I was just going to abstractly focus on discipline. I now realize an abstract one word focus isn’t going to get me where I need to be. Sure, it will help me think of where I need to be. But I need action steps. I need firm commitments to being disciplined.

So, with discipline as my word of the year, my first practical step is going to be Word before World. That is my first firm commitment to the process of being disciplined. Word before World. I will seek Him first.

Lenten Devotional Week Four

This week you will need: 
Day Nineteen: Art supplies

Day Twenty: Foot washing supplies OR bubble bath supplies

Day Twenty-one: clear bottle or jar with lid, vegetable oil, food coloring, glitter(optional)

Day Twenty-two: pink square paper (for origami)

Day Twenty-three: fish & bread for dinner, construction paper, glue, and glitter

Day Twenty-four: blue Jello cups or mix, whip cream, teddy grahams


Day Nineteen: Monday: Boy Alive!

Read Luke 7:11-17

Discussion:

– What significance would it have been to the widow if her son had not been raised? Think about the culture at the time. Who would she have had to care for her?

– Would you have been afraid to see someone sit up out of a coffin?

Activity:

– Paint a picture of the story. Add this to your Lenten artwork.

Day Twenty: Tuesday: Alabaster Box

Read Luke 7:36-50

OR

Washed With Tears, p.280-285 in The Jesus Storybook Bible

Discussion:

– What did the story of the debtors have to do with the woman and the Pharisee?

– Was there significance in the act of washing Jesus’s feet?

– Who can forgive sins?

Activity:

– Foot Washin’! Gather your supplies. If you have one of those pedicure tubs, pull it out! Or just grab a basin and some water. Grab some oils, lotions, whatever you have. Spare no expense. Wash the feet of those in your family. You can either do all of them. Mom and Dad can wash all feet together. Or you can all take turns.

– Alternatively: Make a luxurious bubble bath for each member of the family. Go overboard on bubbles, lotions, and fabulous bath goodness. The goal is to make everyone feel loved through pampering.

Day Tweny-One: Wednesday: Calming A Storm

Read Mark 4:35-41

OR

The Captain of The Storm, p.236- 243 in The Jesus Storybook Bible

OR

Jesus Works Miracles: The Storm, p.178-179 in Jesus Calling Storybook Bible

Discussion:

– Have you ever said to God, “Do you not even care that I am perishing?”

– Do you find that faith calms your fears?

– Have you ever felt the awe the disciples felt in your walk with Jesus? That “who is this that the wind and sea obey him” kind of feeling?

Activities:

– Storm in A Bottle: You’ll need a clear bottler jar, water, vegetable oil, food coloring (blue is the most “sea” like, but you could do any color), glitter is optional.

Fill your water or jar half way with oil. Drop in a few drops of food coloring. Add glitter if you are adding it. Fill the rest of the way with water. Add lid. Shake it around to mix the water and food coloring. Now, you can make a storm in the bottle! Rock it back and forth to make waves. Spin it in circles to make whirlwinds.

Day Twenty-Two: Thursday: Demons Into Pigs

Read Matthew 8:28-34

Discussion:

– Do you find it interesting that the demons recognized Jesus as the Son of God?

– We see demon possession in the Bible, yet we don’t hear much about it today. Do you think this is still something that happens? Does this give a new real ness to the term “spiritual warfare”?

– Jesus did something good for these men. Why do the people in the city beg Jesus to leave?

Activity:

– Make an Origami Pig! Origami is paper folding. It may take some practice to get the shapes right, but I am sure you’ll get it with practice.


Day Twenty-Three: Friday: Jesus Feeds 5,000

Read Matthew 14:13-21

OR

Jesus Works Miracles: The Fishes & The Loaves, p.180-181 in Jesus Calling Bible Storybook

OR

Filled Full!, p.244-249 in The Jesus Storybook Bible

Discussion:

– Do you think Jesus was tempted to be mad that all these people were following Him when He was trying to be alone?

– How many people would you guess were really there?

– What do you think they did with the leftovers?

– Do you think anyone in the crowd said, “No thanks. I’m on a low carb, mercury free diet?”

Activity:

– What’s for Dinner? Fish & Bread! Yep. Put that one the menu for dinner tonight. See what they think.

– Fish and Loaves Craft: You will need construction paper, glue, and glitter. Each person will need to cut out 5 loaves of bread from brown construction paper. With another color construction paper, you’ll cut out two fish. Use the glue to draw some lovely scales on the fish. Sprinkle with glitter. Glue all to a backdrop piece of construction paper. Add to Lenten artwork!

Day Twenty-Four: Saturday: Walking on Water

Read Matthew 14: 22-33

OR

Jesus Works Miracles: Jesus Walks on Water p.182-183 in Jesus Calling Bible Storybook

Discussion:

– The disciples had seen many miracles, why would they think “ghost” before “Jesus”?

– Discuss the boldness of Peter to even think to step out of the boat.

– Why did none of the other disciples try to walk on water?

– Do you ever feel like you are sinking and need to focus your eyes back on Jesus?

Activity:

– Walking on Water Snack: You’ll need blue jello, whip cream (or cool whip), and teddy Grahams (or Annie Bunny, whatever you use in your house). Make everyone a cup of blue Jello. Let it sit. Before you serve, add whip cream to the top, prop up two teddy grahams on the top of the whip cream! Enjoy.

How Else Will They Know?

no neutral

My brother and I used to do these goofy plays. Don’t think Shakespeare in the living room. This was more like SNL. Anyway, the big ending to one of our plays was, “Somebody must tell them!” said very dramatically to the audience with great pause. (Then my brother would say, “The Meme!” which we thought was oh so hilarious, but no one else got, which was what made it so funny! Note, this was not yet a thing, since this was 1996. Nonsense was the name of our game. But that bit doesn’t pertain to this right now.) We find ourselves at a place in our culture where we all yell, “Somebody must tell them!” We neglect to see that *we* are telling *them* every single day with every single interaction.

Have you ever thought about the above quote? That you will either build someone up or tear them down in each exchange you have with them? That is some heavy weight. That burden is not feeling light about now. But you know you’ve been there.

Sitting in a waiting room trying to wrangle all six kids to be quiet, don’t touch the fake plants, do not tear out all the cards from the magazines, don’t put their feet on the couches, dear Lord stay off the ground! A woman looks over and says not to you, but to the air, “Some people should not have kids!” And just like that- pfft. Punched in the gut. All your air is gone. Your struggle just ended in defeat. You’ll question what you could have done better. Then your humiliation will turn to anger. And you’ll be mad at that idiot. Mad at the world. Mad at your culture.

Sitting in a waiting room trying to wrangle all six kids to be quiet, don’t touch the fake plants, do not tear out all the cards from the magazines, don’t put their feet on the couches, dear Lord stay off the ground! A woman looks over and says, “You are doing a good job. They are well behaved and lucky to have you to teach them.” And just like that- you feel lighter. All that work and someone noticed! She said you’re doing a good job! She knows you are trying. She sees the kids really are trying and doing a really great job considered how long you’ve all been sitting here. You are happy. You are doing this hard work well! What a great community to build one another up.

I have literally had both of those things happen to me. Not on the same day, mind you. Different days. Different people. Different waiting room. Same me. Same kids. Same eternal struggle. And there were some people who said nothing, but gave me that judgy look. That unhappy to be sharing the same space with you look. And others that give you the “been there, done that” smile and nod. They’re with you. They understand.

We all have this power. Every day. Every interaction. I can build this person up. I can make their day a little brighter. I can be a little bit of sunshine. OR I can tear them down. I can make their day a little darker. I can be the rain on their parade. That is a lot of power. A lot of power in the small things.

John 13:34-35 I give you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other. This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other.

I have a funny t-shirt that I still wear that was The Pastor’s in college. It says, “They will know we are Christians by our t-shirts.” And it was funny tongue-in-cheek poking fun at the Christian culture of the day. Wear your Jesus shirt, slap an ichthus on your car, burn your secular CDs and we all know you love Jesus, right? I don’t know what our modern equivalent is. Maybe tell everyone how perfectly broken you are, Instagram your devo time, and talk about how authentic you are? Maybe that isn’t fair. The point is, the WAY to know we are Christians is by our LOVE for each other. So simple. We haven’t grown past this. This is basic. God loves us. He LOVES us. Like, love loves us. We are loved. And what do we do? We love!

This common courtesy is honey. It draws people in. It builds them up. It plants seeds in their life that will grow when the soil is ready.

“Healing becomes the opportunity to pass off to another human being what I have received from the Lord Jesus.” -Brennan Manning, The Furious Longing of God.

But WHY? I don’t have time. I am busy. Can’t I just ignore everyone and keep my head down and get through? (1) Where is the victory in that? (2) No. Sorry. This isn’t about you. If you are too busy to show some common courtesy, you need to reevaluate your calendar. If you are too busy to be kind, you need to evaluate your priorities. If you need more reason…

“According to that mysterious substitution of Christ for the Christian, what we do to one another we do to Jesus.” -Brennan Manning, The Furious Longing of God.

 Galatians 5:13 You were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only don’t let this freedom be an opportunity to indulge your selfish impulses, but serve each other through love.

“Lodged in your heart is the power to walk into somebody’s life and give him or her what the bright Paul Tillich called “the courage to be.” Can you fathom that? You have the power to give someone the courage to be simply by the touch of your affirmation.” – Brennan Manning, The Furious Longing of God.

I’d like to leave you with the following challenge. go in love