Don’t just read the Word; Apply it.

Bible Gateway just keeps sending me Bibles to review! This month, I received a free copy of the NIV Life Application Study Bible, Third Edition.

I like it. There’s really not much to say besides that. While the version itself has its downsides (as really every version does), the “life application” aspect of this Bible is great.

At first, it might appear to be just another study Bible that contains a lot of commentary throughout its pages. And while that’s certainly true, it appears that most of the included notes (or at least a good chunk of them) have the aim of being immediately applicable to the reader. Many commentaries provide knowledge; the NIV Life Application Study Bible provides action steps.

I would highly recommend this study Bible to believers who are eager to obey God’s word, but have struggled to understand what God would have them to do. Obeying God’s word is an act of worship, to be done as we rejoice in what God has already done for us. Since Jesus died and rose again, we are given abundant life in Him. So this Bible directs us to worship God in practical ways, for who He is and what He’s done.

The Study Bible You May Be Looking For

Like last month, I recently got the opportunity to review another Bible for free by being a member of the Bible Gateway Blogger Grid. This month, I received a copy of the NIV Quest Study Bible, and I’ve got to say, I’ve got mixed feelings about it.

The current revision of the NIV, in my opinion, is decent. It’s understandable throughout, but it’s not one that I would recommend over the many other excellent translations available today (such as the ESV or HCSB). The original NIV from 1984 was great! It was basically the standard among non-“King James only” evangelicals for many years. But the gender-neutral language of the 2011 NIV caused it to lose many of the clear allusions to Jesus in the Old Testament. And since the Old Testament’s whole purpose is to bear witness to Him, that’s kind of a big deal (John 5:39).

On the other hand, this “Study Bible” is packed with a great question and answer format that appears very useful. Although it would be difficult to go into considerable depth on any one question because of the space they have conform to, the questions and answers do seem to give a fair jumping off point for readers to do further study if they so desire. Many answers quickly present two sides of the issue, and leave the reader to contemplate them. So in a way, this can lead to even more questions rather than answers, but I also think struggling through the questions can be a good thing for your faith.

Content aside, this Bible just isn’t formatted the best to be used as a Bible to carry around and reference. The book names and chapter numbers are not in the top right or left corners of the pages as they are in every other Bible I’ve ever used. Because of the questions and answers taking up the left and right margins of each page, the creators of this Bible chose to move the book and chapter indicators closer to the middle of each page. So finding the reference in the Bible that you’re looking for isn’t as easy as simply thumbing through the corner of the page in order to find the right book. You almost have to open the whole Bible up each time to approximately where you think you want to go, and then flip whole pages/sections over and over until you get to the reference you’re looking for.

So all in all, the NIV Quest Study Bible isn’t bad, but it’s not great either. I can see how it could be useful as a daily devotional Bible, but I wouldn’t try to use it for any in-depth study. Nor would I even recommend it to be used as the Bible that you bring to church, simply because it’s not the easiest to find references in it.

But, hey, if the question and answer format appeals to you, I don’t at all want to hinder you from picking up a copy of the NIV Quest Study Bible. The best Bible is the one that you actually read. This one is definitely readable, so it might just be the one for you!

Read the Bible.

I was recently sent the NIrV Illustrated Holy Bible for Kids for free as a member of the Bible Gateway Blogger Grid. So far out of this Bible, I’ve only read a few stories out of Genesis with my family. My honest review is that it’s not my favorite children’s Bible, but it’ll do.

I’ll start with my main critique: the words are insanely small. Two of my kids are visually impaired, and there’s no way they could read from this Bible. Granted, this isn’t marketed as a large print Bible, so it may be unfair of me to hold it to that standard, but the text seems even smaller than those tiny pocket New Testaments. I’ve never really needed glasses to read before, but the tiny text in this Bible makes me want to grab my son’s bifocals just to see if they’ll help.

One more minor critique is that the NIrV doesn’t seem to fully commit to the paraphrase model. It’s not verse by verse, and yet still seems kind of wooden at times. I prefer verse by verse, honestly, but if I’m going to read a paraphrase, I think it should take full advantage of that kind of format, so that the stories read more like stories. The Message, for all its flaws, gets this right.

Now that that’s out of the way, on to the positives.

First, it’s illustrated well. The pictures are colorful, and there are lots of them. Just flipping through, it looks like almost every page has some kind of illustration, if not multiple illustrations. I’m sure small children will appreciate that.

Second, it’s the Bible. Seriously, this is a major positive! When it comes down to it, I don’t care what version of the Bible people read. Just pick one up and start reading it. It’s the gospel that saves, and the gospel is clear in every version of the Bible I’ve ever read.

But if you do decide to buy this one, you might consider buying a pair of bifocals at the same time.

I’m not great

And I don’t need to be.

I’m not saying I should not strive for excellence. I should certainly desire to glorify God in everything I do.

And certainly we should want to impact our community, and reach people with the Gospel.

But I’ve often thought that success meant being well known, or pastoring a growing church, or at least having some kind of thriving ministry.

But even if I fail at all of these things, I’m just as much accepted by God as I would be if I were to succeed at them all. God accepts me not on the basis of my works, but on the basis of Christ’s work.

This is great news, because no matter how great I try to be, I never seem to get it right. And I’ve noticed that when I think I do get it right, it’s usually because I’m grading according to the wrong scale.

In fact, I’m learning that it’s better not to grade myself or my ministry at all, but rather simply to rest in the grade that God has already given me through Christ. Though Jesus, I am 100% forgiven and accepted.

And when I do that, I begin to strive to glorify God not to earn anything, but simply rejoicing in the God who loves me, despite my lack of greatness.

I haven’t blogged much lately…

…but I want to start back up.

Sometimes I feel like I need to write about what’s going on in my church’s life, or the life of my denomination, or even in terms of my own personal pastoral growth. Although I’ll soon be starting my tenth year as a pastor, I still have a lot of growing to do.

So I hope to write more soon. But knowing myself, this might be my last post for awhile.