"ESV Bible with Creeds and Confessions" (book review)

I’ve had an awesome opportunity to review the new .  I think this was a marvelous idea to put this resource into print in one location.  I fount it beneficial!

Cover: My copy arrived encased in a fairly sturdy sleeve-style box cover.  The Bible itself is covered with a beautiful bound leather and is outfitted in your choice of black or brown. Attached to the spine are two ribbon markers.

Type/Font: Now that I’m getting a little older, I require reading glasses for just about everything.  I found this Bible’s 10-point Lexicon in 2-column format to be easy to read.  Of course I had readers on, but the print is not so small so as to make it more difficult.

Intro: The introductory pages provide a preface to the Bible, an explanation of the ESV translation philosophy, etc.  While I suspect these pages are often passed over by many readers, I find them to be helpful because they help me learn just a little bit more about what literary scholars do for the Church.

There is also an “Explanation of Features” article which includes how to use a cross-referencing and footnoted Bible.  This is something that can be taken for granted.  As a community group leader, I know there are new/young/unaware Christians who don’t know how to use a study and/or cross-refence Bible.  I often will incorporate bite-size snippets in our studies to help explain all the features little-by-little…and they’ve proven helpful.  So this article is truly a nice feature.

Content: So is this one a “Study Bible” per se? No. It is a cross-referenced Bible that will help you study, but it is not one that contains myriad explanations and/or interpretations.  The reader would need other study helps for those.  So if you’re looking for a study Bible, this is not what you’ll want. Instead, its main highlighted feature is the complete creeds and confessions following the final Biblical book of Revelation (more to follow on that shortly).

The Concordance is a decent 60 pages long.  Obviously, that doesn’t cover every possible word-search, but it gets the reader headed in the right direction. Following the creeds and confessions, a typical appendix map section can be found that is common to just about every Bible on the shelf these days.

Creeds & Confessions: Finally, to the main thrust of this Bible.  Before the individual creeds and confessions begin, there is a quality article explaining the value and purpose behind the C&C’s.  I like one suggestion in the introduction that “confessions used in corporate worship are good for informing and encouraging our prayer and study of the Bible.  I have found this to be true of C&C’s, as well as other passages within God’s word, namely many of the Psalms.  Many church attenders are unaware of Christian history (there are myriad reasons why), and learning…or at least being exposed to…the C&C’s will help form the understanding of good theology, as well as an understanding of our history.

Each specific Creed or Confession is preceded by a short history of why that particular document was written.  These introductions were written by Rev. Dr.Chad Van Dixhoorn, and copyrighted in 2019.

Rating: 5 stars

Disclaimer: I received the ESV Bible with Creeds and Confessions free of charge from Crossway publishers in exchange for my unbiased opinion of it.  All opinions are mine and are freely given.  I was  not required to provide a positive review of it.


"Love Changes Everything", by Micah Berteau (book review)

Because I have so many areas I want to touch on with this review, I'm not really sure where to begin…so I will simply start from the dust cover and work my way in.

The back cover informs readers that Love Changes Everything is an unpacking of the powerful love story from the Old Testament: Hosea.  Reader be advised, though, this is definitely not an exposition of Hosea, but a rather shallow use of Hosea’s book to support what Micah Berteau likely already had intended to write.  How might we know this? Of the 15 chapters contained in this 195 page book, a full six chapters never even mention or refer to the story of Hosea and Gomer! For a modern book based upon a biblical one, I guess I would expect every chapter to dig into it.

References and Referrals:
I tend to judge whether I’m going to read any particular author by the people who they request to endorse their books.  Authors request endorsements from other people they know and/or trust…so the selection process is no accident.  I also tend to judge a book by the people the author quotes within.  I couldn’t help but notice the very first endorsement for “Love Changes Everything” was written by none other than Brian Houston, a pastor with a troubling theology. This raised a yellow flag before I dug further into the rest of the book, but I wanted to give Berteau a fair shake.  Unfortunately, I noticed some of his go-to authors also included questionable teachers/authors such as Christine Caine, Craig Groeschel, Rick Warren, and Dale Bronner.  To be fair, Berteau quoted Augustine, A.W. Tozer, and C.S. Lewis, but to quote dangerous teachers truly concerns me.  Two yellow flags now.

Nevertheless, I was still willing to give Micah Berteau a chance to prove himself on his own merits. I’ll say this right up front: To his credit, he never once called God's love reckless, as does the unfortunately popular song that has been sung in so many churches.  Thankfully, Berteau points his readers to the powerful, gracious, eternal love of God.  

Who is Worthy?
However, from the earliest pages, Micah Berteau explains Jesus died because of our worth.  He writes, “Jesus spread his arms on the cross to show you your value.  God gave his only Son to show you your worth.  Value is not birthed from what you do but the position you are in.  Your position as a son or daughter of God is your worth…When you know your value, you walk and talk differently.  Your value is not measured by…Your life is worth so much…” (p. 30).

The problem is that we are indeed born in sin, even conceived in sin (Psalm 139).  That means from day one of our conception we are sinners in need of a savior.  Sadly, Berteau’s starting point is in placing great value and worth on humanity, rather than on Jesus Christ; Berteau tells the reader s/he is valuable, not that his/her sin is great.  God Himself declared we are sinners with wicked, deceitful hearts (Jeremiah 17:9), and outside Christ we are worthy only of condemnation.  Sadly, the unrepentant sinner reading this book will not learn that message from Berteau; s/he’ll not learn of the need for Jesus in their depravity.  You see, Jesus died because our sin is so great to a perfectly holy God; our sin is so damning to us that we needed a perfectly sinless savior who is worthy, who is of highest value – Jesus Christ.  Jesus died because perfection is what it took to save fallen sinners!  His worth, His value; not ours.

Message Translation
Another issue that raises flags is when pastors and authors cite the questionable Message translation of the Bible. It is a dangerous and misleading translation and should be avoided, but so many pastors these days seem to want to dumb down the scriptures for some reason (maybe for softer, easier swallowing by their hearers), but this translation changes the meaning of so many passages that it’s just not worth it to read from it.   

Sadly, in the copyright section of this book, Berteau states “Unless otherwise indicated, scripture quotations are from THE MESSAGE” translation of the Bible. Other translations include the Amplified Bible, the Berean Study Bible, the English Standard Version, The New International Version, the New King James Version, and the New Living Translation.  Starting at page 1 I decided to count just how many direct quotations were taken from each of these translations. Surprisingly, there were actually more quotations from the New Living Translation (18 on my count), with only 13 quotations coming from the Message. Shouldn’t he have stated “Unless otherwise indicated, scripture quotations are from the New Living Translation”?  As a side note, I did not include any general citations where scripture was only referred to in thought, but not actually directly quoted.

Anything Good?
I don't only want to take this space only knock this book, as there are obviously some good things in it.  First, his style of writing is highly encouraging to the reader.  He reminds the reader to remember God’s love.  “We are called to look to the goodness of God…It is God’s goodness that has spared you in those moments you were about to go off the rails.  God’s goodness came through for you every time, and yet you wonder whether his goodness has departed from you because of how you are living” (p.141). For a reader battling against depression or doubt, Berteau is indeed encouraging! 

I would also like to offer Berteau kudos for one chapter in particular, chapter 8: “Highest Bidder”.  In that chapter, Berteau discusses how Hosea went to the public auction to bid on Gomer, who was already his wife. Students of scripture understand that Hosea's book is not only a true account of Hosea and his pursuit of Gomer, but is a parallel of sorts of God's dealings with his adulterous, unfaithful people.  While it was written about the ancient Israelites, it remains true today that God continues to pursue and ransom those who are His. I think this was Berteau’s best chapter, as it most clearly laid out the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

End Notes:
To put the nail in the coffin on this book, Berteau included just six end notes/citations.  Did he not research what those who have gone before us have studied and written?  A mere six notes was pretty lame, in my estimation.

I thought the overall punch of this book was not very strong, and it’s reaches were not very deep.  It lists for $15.99, according to the cover.  Regardless of the price, I just cannot recommend purchasing this book.  Too many flags.

Rating: I give “Love Changes Everything” just 2 out of 5 stars.

Disclaimer: I received this book free of charge from Handlebar Publishing in exchange for my unbiased review of it. All opinions are mine and I was not required to provide a positive review.


"Spiritual Discipleship", by J. Oswald Sanders (book review)

Spiritual Discipleship” is my third read in the “Spiritual” books by the late J. Oswald Sanders, and I have to say this has been an enlightening, inspirational, and challenging series of books that hit home on so many fronts. If you want to see my previous reviews of “SpiritualMaturity” and “Spiritual Leadership” you can click here and here.  I highly recommend all three!

But, here I must talk about “Spiritual Discipleship”, as it is the focus of this review.  If you’ve read any of the other books, then the size, length, and layout will all be very similar as they’ve been reprinted by Moody Publisher.

The thrust of the book is what a disciple of Christ looks like in patterns of life conduct, rather than about how to disciple new believers.  Twenty relatively short chapters handle such topics as evidences of discipleship, tests of discipleship, maturity of the disciple, exemplary discipleship, the disciple’s hope, etc.

Because there are just so many good things to talk about in this book, I will talk about the single chapter that had the most impact on me: chapter 18, “The Disciple’s Renewed Commission”. Drawing from a real life example and applying it to the reader, Sanders asserts that believers could potentially be preoccupied with the intellectual side of the Christian faith, yet be in danger of losing zeal for God and love for our fellow man.  Drawing mostly from the account of Joshua the priest as recorded by the prophet, Zechariah, Sanders draws many parallels to the Christian who is robed in the righteousness of Christ, although accused by the devil of our sin and failures.

I mentioned earlier that this chapter impacted me most, and the reason is because I feel the heavy burden of my own sin and failures. As I desire to draw closer to Christ, I am more and more keenly aware of my sin and unworthiness, which, in turn, does make me cherish the righteousness of Christ that much more! However, I cannot ignore the fact that reflections of my life and rebellious sins shows a picture that is an ugly sight to behold.  And for the time being, rather than create in me more joy for Christ's glorious work, the devil's accusations and blows have hit their target with ferocity.  I am thankful, however, that Sanders draws my attention back to the faithful love of God the Father.  He reminded me that only God himself has the right to bring any accusation against anyone since He is the One against whom we have sinned. Conversely, the devil has no right to accuse, yet he does it so skillfully. That is why it is such a pleasure to read Sanders words that reminds the reader of the glory and beauty of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I’m reminded of David’s words in Psalm 51: “Create in me a clean heart, oh God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me…restore to me the joy of Your salvation.”

Rating: I give Spiritual Discipleship 5 out of 5 stars.

Disclaimer: I received this book free of charge from Moody Publishers in exchange for my unbiased review of it. All opinions are mine, and I was not required to provide a positive review.


"ESV Prayer Bible", by Crossway (book review)

I truly appreciate the intent Crossway had in putting this Bible together.  Sadly, however, I think it kinda missed the mark.  Rather than providing a host of insightful prayers inspired by following the text of scripture that teach people how to pray scripture, it mostly contained numerous prayers that simply seemed to fit a particular text of scripture.  That said, there are still good things to take away from this Bible.

First and foremost of helpfulness is the short section in the introduction that discuss “The Problem with Prayer”, “The Solution”, “How to Pray the Bible”, and “Who Has Prayed the Bible?”  I learned years ago from Dr. Charles Swindoll how to pray the Bible and make it personal, and that’s what the short section, “How to Pray the Bible”, addresses.

Next in helpfulness is the “Author Index”.  If you have a particular theologian you’re looking for, or a favorite perhaps, this is a helpful section that directs the reader to the prayers written/spoken by those persons.

Another helpful section is the “Prayer Index”.  Basically, this is the converse of the Author Index in that if you’re looking for a prayer for a particular passage of scripture, not concerned who the author of the prayer is, then this section will fly you right in.

Finally, the prayers contained within this Bible are truly rich in depth, and many believers would do well to learn how great leaders of the faith have prayed in ages past.  It seems too often prayer times are saturated with requests for Aunt Betty’s big toe or Uncle Joe’s persistent cough.  I’m being facetious, but I think you get the point 😉.  These great leaders of the faith have prayed prayers than span the ages.

Overall, I guess I expected more from this Bible.  I fully hope to use it in developing liturgies and prayers for our Sunday morning worship gatherings, but I can still say I was slightly disappointed with it.

Rating: I give the Prayer Bible just 3 stars out of 5.

Disclaimer:  I received this Bible free of charge from Crossway in exchange for my unbiased review of it.  All opinions are mine, and I was not required to provide a positive review of it.


"Discerning Your Call to Ministry", by Jason K. Allen (book review)

Christian men who aspire to be -- and have the desire -- an Overseer in the church seek a noble calling. But how can one be sure that his desires are truly a calling from God, or simply a fanciful wish?
In this little book, Jason K. Allen asks 10 questions to help the reader determine if he is indeed called by God into the ministry. Just in case you might already be thinking, "Aren't we all called into the ministry?" I'll explain Allen's point of reference.  At the outset, Allen categorizes ministry into three parts. First, all Christians are ministers: Because we follow Christ as Lord, we are called to share the gospel and make disciples.  Second, all Christians are all called to ministry: We minister in our homes, in our work, and in our play.  Finally, there is THE ministry, the pursuit of pastoral Ministry: not all Christians are called to this office.  This is the ministry office that is the focus of the following 10 questions contained within its 150 pages:

1) Do You DESIRE the Ministry?

2) Does Your Character Meet God's Expectations?

3) Is Your Household in Order?

4) Has God Gifted You to Preach and Teach His Word?

5) Does Your Church Affirm Your Calling?

6) Do You Love the People of God?

7) Are You Passionate about the Gospel and the Great Commission?

8) Are You Engaged in Fruitful Ministry?

9) Are You Ready to Defend the Faith?

10) Are You Willing to Surrender?

The conclusion closes the book with an encouraging reminder that a man who has just examined his life answering these questions may very well feel as though he's just endured surgery. However, he encourages the man who still believes he is called to THE ministry to speak with his pastors and elders about it. Conversely, he also encourages the man who may no longer believe he is called to continue faithfully serving his church, because he is not, after all, a second-rate Christian.

This is a truly practical book that serves the church well by helping men ask (and answer) crucial questions before excessive time and money are invested into a fruitless pursuit.

I give this book five stars for its solid theology and useful practicality.

Disclaimer: I received this book free of charge from Moody press in exchange for my unbiased review of it. All opinions are mine. I was not required to provide a positive review of it.


"Gospel Transformation Study Bible (ESV)" by Crossway (book review)

I’ll put it right out there: I love love love this study Bible!  It has officially replaced the Bible I’ve been using the past couple years that just wasn’t quite what I wanted.  I think I finally found it!  Here’s why:

First, I highly prefer the English Standard Version (ESV) and New King James Versions (NKJV).  This one is the ESV, so it meets the first criteria.

Second, the page layout is single column format, rather than double column.  I don’t recall reading any other book that has a double column layout except for a study Bible.  I simply think it breaks up the text too much for my tastes.

Third, the comments in the footers pertain to the overarching gospel story the Bible proclaims, rather than how a single editor interprets passages.  Therefore, most footer comments don’t handle just single verses, but larger passages that support the Bible’s story of the gospel.

Fourth, the outside margins are quite large, right around an inch wide!  The inside margin is rather narrow, however.  But there is ample space to write notes, which is a big deal for me.  In this picture, I've placed a standard size mechanical pencil in the binding for reference.  Passages with large amounts of poetry (such as Psalms and other locations) provide ample room for lengthy notes!

Fifth, the concordance is relatively large.  It’s obviously not huge like a stand-alone concordance, but for a Bible it is satisfactory.  There’s also a quality topical reference section adjacent to the concordance that is also satisfactory.

Sixth, many of the names of the general editors and staff are recognizable: Brian Chapell and Dane Ortlund are the general editors.  Other contributors of commentaries include Michael Horton, Kevin DeYoung, Jared C. Wilson, David Helm, Greg Gilbert, and Mike Bullmore, just to name a handful.

Finally, the page thickness is sufficient for writing in it with a sharpened pencil without the pencil cutting/tearing through.  A huge pet peeve of mine is super thin Bible pages.  The pages in this Bible are not ultra thick (which would make for an even thicker overall Bible), but they are also not onion skin thin!

Rating: I definitely give this Bible 5 stars!

Disclaimer:  I received this Bible free of charge from Crossway in exchange for my unbiased review of it.  All opinions are mine, and I was not required to provide a positive review of it.


“Why I Love the Apostle Paul: 30 Reasons”, by John Piper (book review)

In this 208-page book, John Piper offers his reasons for being so fond of the Apostle Paul.  Obviously, these are his opinions, and you or I may be drawn to other notable figures in scripture.  However, it is good to slow down and dig deeply into the reasons why we are so fond of such people.  While there are 30 chapters – reasons – each chapter really goes much deeper than one mere reason, as we all know one thought certainly leads to another. 

In 2019, I decided to dedicate a considerable part of my reading time to one man: John Owen.  I’ve begun with “Mortification of Sin in Believers”, and have been challenged much!  I say that because I found chapter 10 of “Why I Love the Apostle Paul” to be most interesting, most insightful: “Learning Lat in Life to Know and Kill My Most Besetting Sins”.  That’s not because the other 29 chapters are no good, but simply because my mind is presently fixed on the theme of killing sin.  In that chapter, Pipers writing supports and even clarifies some thoughts Owen wrote…not because Owen did not say it well, but because another vantage point is worthwhile when it opens a door just a little wider, allowing light to shine on a thought.

Years ago, Piper said something like this: It’s not usually entire books that change people; not even entire chapters; but paragraphs change people.  The thoughts in chapter 10 truly were worth the time of reading this book, so I included a few of his clarifications in my “Mortification” book study journal.

I give the book 4 stars.  It certainly isn’t on my favorites shelf at home (especially since I read the Kindle version), but it is truly worth reading.

Disclaimer: I received this book free of charge from Crossway in exchange for my unbiased review of it.  All opinions are mine, and I was not required to provide a positive review of it.