NIV Essentials Bible cover (Zondervan, 2013)

A New NIV Study Bible {Book Review – NIV Essentials Study Bible}

With commentaries, concordances, devotions, and more, we have numerous resources available to study deeper into God’s Word.

But, sometimes it’s helpful to have one main resource to use while reading. If you’re looking for a tool that combines the definitions found within a typical study Bible with information found in a concordance, a Bible dictionary, and a devotional, take a look at the new NIV Essentials Study Bible (Zondervan, 2013).

A Comprehensive Bible Study Tool

This Study Bible has nine main kinds of tools (taken from 6 others popular Bibles) incorporated through its pages:

  • Each book begins with a “spotlight” page that identifies key concepts, information about the book itself, key verses, key teachings, key terms (and defintions), key people, a timeline, and map of the surround area. An amazing introduction!
  • The Dig Deep, Look Closer sections offer historical information on one of five aspects of the time and culture: people, history, archeology, artifacts, and reliability. These sections greatly appeal to readers ready to learn more about the historical influences behind biblical customs and events.
  • The Guided Tour sections describe biblical events in more detail, highlighting that event’s overall importance in the Bible and faith. Each section then ends with a “life question” to reflect upon. NIV Essentials Bible cover (Zondervan, 2013)
  • The Insight lenses also provide more detail on a person or event and include reflective “life questions.”
  • Each book also includes many of the study notes the original NIV Study Bible has at the bottom of the page. In this Bible, these study notes are considered the unpack lens.
  • Various verses are highlighted in small sidebars to draw attention to a particular truth or interesting fact about a verse.
  • The People in Focus sections offer more information on various people within the Bible, plus a “life question” to apply what that person learned (or didn’t learn) to your own life. (I particularly love the insights to the disciples Thomas and John on pages 1350 and 1351.)
  • The Q&A sections address factual topics (“when are rest and sleep okay?”) as well as reflective questions (“does God expect me to forgive someone who keeps hurting me?”). I love the Q&A on the Christian church in John 14.
  • The Reflect and Respond sections provide the devotional part of this Bible. Each R&R has a 2-3 paragraph devotion related to the Scripture you just read, a few sentences to think about, a few thoughts on how to apply what you’ve read to your life, and a “next level” question to spur you into action.

The language in this Bible reads like magazine articles, devotions, and educational resources, depending on the section, but all are in an understandable and insightful tone. The reflection questions included in many “lenses” apply to men or women, young or older.

You’ll find numerous other study tools throughout this Bible and in the back, including a timeline and map of the Passion Week, a “harmony of the gospels” chart, reading plans, a subject index, concordance, and much more.

As with any study Bible, the editors of this Bible recommend always reading the Scripture first, then diving into the additional resources, as they expand on the verses you just read.

With so many resources, this Bible may overwhelm a very new believer or “deeper study” student. However, even for those new students, this Bible will become an extremely useful tool. For any Bible reader, this comprehensive tool provides many useful insights in interesting and applicable ways.

What tools do you look for within a Study Bible?

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this Bible from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own. I was not compensated in any other way.

Disclosure: I am an affiliate for Signing Time and Amazon Associates. If you click on a Signing Time link or Amazon and then make a purchase, I receive a small commission. This does not affect your final cost at all. Thank you for supporting this blog and my family!

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7 books to take on hospital visits

A Picture Book List for Hospital Trips

Have your kids ever been to the hospital for an overnight stay (or longer)?

With one child with special needs, we’re familiar with hospital stays. One thing that helps? Good books! 7 books to take on hospital visits

Come visit The Library Adventure today for a list of 7 books to take on hospital visits. Some of these books help prep for the visit, and some are just fun and encouraging. Please share your own favorites in the comments at The Library Adventure!

Resources for Purity in Today's World

A Tough Subject in Today’s World

Purity is a tough subject in today’s world.

Some think it’s “outdated.” Some consider it to only mean physical purity. Others may value purity but don’t feel they can “regain” it after choices they may regret.

This month at Do Not Depart, we’ve been discussing the topic of purity in today’s culture.

Before you read my post there today, I suggest read the following two articles:

  • This article at A Deeper Story discusses purity’s relevance in today’s world and how purity extends beyond the physical. I love many articles at A Deeper Story because they are written for many kinds of people, and they certainly don’t shy away from tough subjects.
  • This post from Lisa is one of the most non-judgmental and welcoming posts I’ve read on the topic of purity. We have dirt and chipped pieces, but God still loves us. “Grace, dished out even on chipped china, is an irresistible meal.”

After you’ve read those, head over to Do Not Depart today for my post with over 10 resources for purity in today’s world. This list includes books, websites, review sites, and articles to encourage you both as an adult and in guiding your family. Resources for Purity in Today's World

Let me know about your favorite resources in the comments at Do Not Depart.

The Butterfly and the Violin by Kristy Cambron

Trusting Beyond the Past {Book Review – The Butterfly and the Violin by Kristy Cambron}

Manhattan art dealer Sera James watched her world crumble at
 the altar two years ago, and her heart is still fragile. Her desire for
distraction reignites a passion for a mysterious portrait she first saw as a young 
girl—a painting of a young violinist with piercing blue eyes.

In her search for the painting, Sera crosses paths with
 William Hanover—the grandson of a wealthy California real estate mogul—who may
be the key to uncovering the hidden masterpiece. Together Sera and William
 slowly unravel the story behind the painting’s subject: Austrian violinist 
Adele Von Bron.

A darling of the Austrian aristocracy of 1942, talented
 violinist, and daughter to a high-ranking member of the Third Reich, Adele risks
 everything when she begins smuggling Jews out of Vienna. In a heartbeat, her
life of prosperity and privilege dissolves into a world of starvation and
barbed wire.

As Sera untangles the secrets behind the painting, she finds 
beauty in the most unlikely of places: the grim camps of Auschwitz and the inner
recesses of her own troubled heart.

-from the back cover of The Butterfly and the Violin

I’ve now read two WWII novels in the last two weeks, both by debut authors.

And both good reads.

The Butterfly and the Violin by Kristy Cambron (Thomas Nelson, 2014) beautifully and powerfully covers deep emotions felt among possible prisoners of WWII and blends it with identifiable relationship and faith struggles in common day. The Butterfly and the Violin by Kristy Cambron

The author writes this book from Adele’s point of view in the early 1940s and from Sera’s point of view in current day Manhattan. The author offers a strong, distinguished voice in each period allowing the reader to easily tell which time period is being read, as well as glimpses into that particular culture. Sera’s story is almost as much as about Adele’s story, but I enjoyed the way the author shows Sera learning from history to grow in her current life.

I felt the first two chapters are a bit obvious in telling backstory, but future chapters revealed smaller bits of backstory slower and in intriguing ways. I was also somewhat surprised at Adele’s boldness in a conversation with her mother in an early chapter. It seemed uncharacteristic considering the dangers Adele and Vladimir had just discussed and the stifling society presented to that point. Even with these small issues in the early chapters, the actions and emotions portrayed are so powerful and interesting, the reader won’t want to put this book down.

This book also asks reasonable questions about faith within unreasonable circumstances.

“Where is He? Why does He not answer the prayers of the many here?” – p. 175

The supporting characters, particularly Penny, Omara, and William, are strong and defined. They greatly add to the story in events, intrigue, and relatability.

This book tackles heart-penetrating themes, including living beyond our past mistakes, believing in God even when we only see evil surrounding us, and opening our eyes to God’s presence and beauty everywhere. As a huge fan of historical fiction, I love the author’s note at the end of the book and find this subculture of Holocaust art extremely interesting (and something I’d like to read about more).

“This, child, is our worship. To live and survive and play to God from the depths of our souls. This is the call that binds us. When we worship in the good times, it brings God joy. But worship in the midst of agony? That is authentic adoration of our Creator.” – p. 235

What period of historical fiction do you find most interesting?

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own. I was not compensated in any other way.

Disclosure: I am an affiliate for Signing Time and Bundle of the Week. If you click on a Signing Time link or Bundle of the Week and then make a purchase, I receive a small commission. This does not affect your final cost at all. Thank you for supporting this blog and my family!

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For Such a Time by Kate Breslin (Bethany House, 2014)

Building Resiliency {Book Review – For Such a Time by Kate Breslin}

In 1944, blonde and blue-eyed Jewess Hadassah Benjamin feels abandoned by God when she is saved from a firing squad only to be handed over to a new enemy. Pressed into service by SS-Kommandant Colonel Aric von Schmidt at the transit camp of Theresienstadt in Czechoslovakia, she is able to hide behind the false identity of Stella Muller. However, in order to survive and maintain her cover as Aric’s secretary, she is forced to stand by as her own people are sent to Auschwitz.

Suspecting her employer is a man of hidden depths and sympathies, Stella cautiously appeals to him on behalf of those in the camp. Aric’s compassion gives her hope, and she finds herself battling a growing attraction for this man she knows she should despise as an enemy. Stella pours herself into her efforts to keep even some of the camp’s prisoners safe, but she risks the revelation of her true identity with every attempt. When her bravery brings her to the point of the ultimate sacrifice, she has only her faith to lean upon. Perhaps God has placed her there for such a time as this, but how can she save her people when she is unable to save herself?

-from the back cover of For Such a Time by Kate Breslin

Wow. This book.

For Such a Time (Bethany House, 2014) is Kate Breslin’s debut novel, and it’s an amazing debut. For Such a Time by Kate Breslin (Bethany House, 2014)

The book is a retelling of the story of Esther, set in Nazi-occupied Europe (particularly what was then Czechoslovakia). The main character, Stella Muller/Hadassah Benjamin, is Esther. Her Uncle Morty takes Mordecai’s role.

Chapter one draws you immediately in with its intensity. The reader is as unsure about Stella’s future as she is, which is a testament to the author’s writing. This author conveys intense and varied emotion well. This book is definitely not a light “beach read,” but so rewarding.

Each chapter begins with one verse from the book of Esther that foreshadowed the chapter’s events. I found this tactic interesting, and it didn’t detract from what I was about to read.

The author writes from multiple points of views, though mainly from Stella and Aric’s views. Though she uses over five different characters’ voices, each character’s voice is fairly solid and the various points of view are not confusing for the reader.

The events of this book span over less than a month’s time, which seems a little rushed for some of the character relationships. (As I was reading, I felt a few weeks had passed in a couple of spots when it had only been a couple of days.) But, with the extreme circumstances of WWII and the solid characterization in this novel, the reader easily follows along with the story. As with any historical fiction, I love finding out what’s “real” and modified in the author’s note in the back.

“A strong belief in God is like forging steal; it must be repeatedly tested in fire, then cooled in the waters of His mercy before becoming resilient enough to withstand evil.” – p. 307, For Such a Time

This novel respects the biblical story of Esther, but still provides a unique look and new characters. An incredibly interesting read that kept me turning the pages and thinking about the characters.

What major historical event do you want to read new stories about?

Disclosure: I received a free copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own. I was not compensated in any other way.