Marinate This Summer: Beach Bag Books!

In theory, we ought to have more time to read in the summer. Whether that actually turns out to be the case or not, we should at least be prepared with a book or two just  in case all the planets and stars align and we find ourselves laying by the pool sipping an ice cold glass of sweet tea with nothing but time to kill. Sounds nice, doesn’t it?

Those moments are few and far between and when they happen most of us reach for our favorite fiction. As long as you can read the fiction of your choice to the glory of God, that’s great! (Excuse me for a second while I interject that you CANNOT read any titles that start with the word “Fifty” and end with the word “Grey” to the glory of God! Absolutely inappropriate literature for a professing Christian! Great article about it here. Okay, rant officially over.)

Enjoy your fiction, but I want to challenge you to read at least one spiritually enriching non-fiction book this summer. Or at least buy one, put it on your night stand, look at it every day, and think about how great it would be to actually read it. (I am absolutely NOT speaking from personal experience. 🙂 ) Up for the challenge? Here are some suggestions:

 

Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will by Kevin DeYoung

 

 

 

Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy by Nancy Leigh DeMoss (I highly recommend starting this right after you shop for a bathing suit. If ever there’s a time we have to CHOOSE gratitude . . .)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Girls Gone Wise in a World Gone Wild by Mary Kassian (Great for women of ALL ages!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trusting God Even When Life Hurts by Jerry Bridges

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sacred Parenting: How Raising Children Shapes our Souls by Gary Thomas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer (If you read one classic this summer, this should be it!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Faithful Women and Their Extraordinary God by Noel Piper (Contains  powerful biographical sketches of godly women who have gone before us.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are so many more I could suggest, but these are some of my favorites right now.

What’s on your summer reading list? Any suggestions? I’d love to hear from you!

 

Help For Recovering Beth Mooreaholics

My name is Aprile. I am a Beth Mooreaholic. Well, I used to be. But the addictive tendencies still remain.

Sadly, there was a time in my life when my spiritual well-being was pretty much traceable by the release dates of Beth’s studies. (Yes, I will call her Beth. I have an entire shelf full of her studies. I have done a few of them twice. So, for all practical purposes, we are best friends.) In those days, completing one of her studies came with a mixed bag of emotions which included a profound sense of accomplishment and a decent amount anxiety. Accomplishment, because I had made it through the 5,000+ hours it takes to fill in every blank of a Beth Moore study. Anxiety, because I was pretty much convinced that I could not enjoy the Scriptures without her.

Oh she would just HATE that!

Fast forward to the present. I’m still a big fan. I still look forward to each study she puts out. I am still deeply grateful for how her teaching impacts my life. And, for the record, I still don’t get a lot of her questions and word studies. (The “huh?” factor is part of her appeal, I suppose.) But the older and wiser “me” has realized that there is life and learning beyond Beth Moore. Lots of it! There’s a whole world of Bible study resources just waiting to be discovered. And while they don’t come with that charming Arkansas twang and cute Texas hair, they are just as good (if not better) at helping you to engage your heart and mind in the study of God’s Word. I’m pretty sure Beth would be the first to tell you that.

So let’s say you’re fresh out of Beth Moore studies and/or ready to branch out. Or, maybe she’s not your cup of tea. Perhaps you’ve never even heard of her, but you’re in the market for something to help you focus in and “marinate” on the Scriptures. Here’s a list of some of my favorites:

Navigator’s Life-Change Series

From the publisher: “LIFECHANGE Bible studies allow the Bible to speak for itself. You’ll see for yourself what it says—not what someone else thinks it says—and develop the skills and desire to dig even deeper into God’s Word.”

There is a “Life-Change” workbook for most, if not all of the books of the Bible. They are inductive studies, which mean they required a lot of self-discovery. You will do a lot of your own word studies, cross referencing, etc. While this type of Bible study can be a bit tedious, there is NO BETTER WAY to learn the Bible! I love, love, love these books!

Kay Arthur’s “Lord” Series

From the publisher: “The ‘Lord Series’ by Kay Arthur is an insightful, warm-hearted Bible-study series designed to meet you where you are – and to help you discover God’s answers to your deepest needs.”

Each book in this series is essentially a  hybrid of an inductive Bible study workbook and devotional book. Kay supplies a little bit of her own personal insight and stories, but the bulk of these books are designed to make the reader work through the passages on her own.  I like that these books are divided into days. Some of the workbooks are topical, while others cover books of the Bible (you have to read the descriptions to find out). My personal favorite is Lord, I Want to Know You which is a study on the names of God.

John MacArthur Bible Studies

From the publisher: “John MacArthur takes readers on a journey through biblical texts to discover what lies beneath the surface, focusing on meaning and context, and then reflecting on the explored passage or concept. With probing questions that guide the reader toward application, as well as ample space for journaling, The MacArthur Bible Studies are an invaluable tool for Bible students of all ages.”

If you want a no-fluff resource that cuts to the chase and guides you in understanding the meaning of a passage and how to apply it, you will love these workbooks!

Mary Kassian’s Topical Studies

It’s a shame that I meet so many women who have never heard of Mary Kassian. She is without a doubt my absolute favorite author/speaker/teacher in the world of women’s ministry today. She is a fierce defender of God’s design for men and women and an incredible communicator of God’s truth as it relate’s to all things female. She has authored several books, but she has also put out a few topical Bible study workbooks you must check out sometime. Here they are with the publisher’s descriptions. All of these can be used for small group OR individual study.

Conversation Peace: The Power Of Transformed Speech – “Here’s a women’s study that really hits home. Mary Kassian masterfully presents the biblical principles to help women revolutionize their speech habits and improve their relationships by focusing on ways to positively avoid sharing gossip, throwing negative barbs, or snapping sarcastic replies throughout everyday life. Includes leader helps.”

Knowing God by Name: A Personal Encounter – “In Knowing God by Name: A Personal Encounter, author Mary Kassian focuses on 35 Hebrew names of God that describe His character, His relationships, and His purpose. As you learn the significance of each ancient word, you’ll be awestruck by the Lord’s magnificence and your heart compelled to worship and praise Him.
The Member Book includes brief daily study with fun and engaging learning activities. Saturated in Scripture and words from ancient hymns, Knowing God by Name is a rich, meaningful study for any woman desiring to know God better.”

Vertically Inclined: Climbing Higher with God – “Most believers experience a life with a few highs and lows, ups and downs, and maybe an occasional mountaintop experience. But this exciting, seven-session, video-based study is especially designed to show Christian women how, by tethering themselves more securely to Him, they can climb to greater spiritual heights. As a resident of the Canadian Rockies and experienced climber herself, author Mary Kassian brings a unique understanding of the difficulties and dangers that await on any journey and offers fascinating insights on how that parallels our spiritual path. Along the way, participants will be challenged to: develop an increased loyalty to Christ and His work; to examine their values and renew their determination; to take steps to increase their love for Christ, and to enjoy Him more. And each week’s lessons will equip women to safely and successfully ascend the peaks of the Christian life. Help the women in your church gain a different perspective with this exhilarating, video-enhanced study, they’ll experience the thrill of following Christ to new places!”

In My Father’s House: Women Relating to God as Father – “This study explores how a woman’s image of God the Father is often based on her experiences (or lack of experiences) with her earthly father. Examines these attitudes/experiences with her earthly father in light of what the Word says about the fatherhood of God. Can be studied in weekly meetings or during personal devotional time for 30 days. 6 sessions. Includes leader helps at back of book for small-group discussion.

And set to release next month (March 2012): Divine Design, An Eight Week Study in Biblical Womanhood (co-authored with Nancy Leigh DeMoss). I literally shouted out loud when I heard this was in this works!!! Here’s the description: “What does it mean to be a woman’ The current cultural ideal for womanhood encourages women to be strident, sexual, self-centered, independent — and above all — powerful and in control. But sadly, this model of womanhood hasn’t delivered the happiness and fulfillment it promised. The Bible teaches that it’s not up to us to decide what womanhood is all about. God created male and female for a very specific purpose. His design isn’t arbitrary or unimportant. It is very intentional and He wants women to discover, embrace, and delight in the beauty of His design. He’s looking for True Women!Bible teachers Mary A. Kassian and Nancy Leigh DeMoss share the key fundamentals of biblical womanhood in this eight week study. Each week includes five daily individual lessons leading to a group time of sharing and digging deeper into God’s Word. And to enhance this time of learning together, on-line videos are available featuring Mary and Nancy as they encourage women to discover and embrace God’s design and mission for their lives.”

What are you waiting for? Get yourself one of these fabulous study guides and start “marinating!” Who knows, you might just discover that having a blast in God’s Word never had anything to do with Beth in the first place.

Bible Shopping 101

You walk into your local Christian bookstore on a mission: to find a new Bible. Sounds easy enough, right? Um, not quite.  Have you seen the ginormous Bible section lately? It makes choosing ONE pair of shoes at your local DSW (an incredibly agonizing experience for me) look like a cake walk! Turns out, choosing a Bible requires a litany of other choices as well:

  • What translation? NIV, TNIV, KJV, NKJV, NASB, ESV, GNT, HCS, NLT, RSV, TLB – one enormous bowl of alphabet soup!
  • What type of Bible? Study, Devotional, One-Year, Women’s, Chronological, Archeology, Couples, Student, Recovery, etc.? Shopping for a Bible these days is a lot like going to Baskin Robbins – whatever your “flavor,” some publisher somewhere has produced a Bible just for you. There are literally thousands of Bibles to choose from!
  • What kind of cover? Okay, so, we’re women, which means we certainly don’t mind sporting a super-cute Bible. And there are some really cute ones out there!  But do we want to sacrifice practicality and good content for the cute factor? Are we shopping for shoes or Bibles here? Oh yeah, Bibles. Yet another painful decision to make!
  • What kind of layout/graphics/size? Margins, red letter, cross references, maps, charts, graphs, notes, thin line, large print etc. [Sigh.] Now you’re ready to just walk out of the store.

But wait.

Don’t go.

I’m here to help you navigate through those 1,000 plus Bibles and find the one that is just right for you!

Of course, I will unashamedly promote my favorite. For an unbiased, totally neutral, not-in-the-slightest-bit-madly-in-love-with-a-particular-Bible opinion . . . well . . . I suppose you should Google it.

But I will do my best to educate you so that you can make a good choice that suits your needs. Again, we’re shopping for Bibles, not shoes. You MUST keep that in mind!

Translation

The Bible was not originally written in English, so in order for us to read it, we have to get a translation. What we want is a translation that is going to get us as close to the original language as possible. In a nutshell, there are three categories of Bible translations:

  • Literal translations, or what I like to call “word for word” translations. These attempt to keep the exact words and phrases of the ancient manuscripts. The KJV, NKJV, NASB, and ESV fall under this category. The only drawback is that sometimes the word-for-word translation of the Hebrew or Greek doesn’t flow really well in English. It’s just not how we talk. That is why a lot of people prefer . . .
  • Dynamic equivalent translations, or what I call “phrase for phrase” translations. These, too, closely reflect the original, but by translating phrase-by-phrase rather than word-for-word, the translators are able to make it sound a bit more modern, yet keep the historical accuracy. These kinds of translations can be a little easier to understand. The NIV is the most popular dynamic equivalent translation.
  • Free translations, or paraphrases. These translations express the ideas of the original text, but not the exact words or phrases. The point of the Bibles in this category is to close the historical gap between us and the original, making them the most modern translations available. Very readable, but not the most precise. Examples include The Message and The Living Bible (TLB)

For in-depth Bible study, you need a literal, word-for-word translation. (The NASB or ESV are my favorites.)

For new believers or those who are just starting to read the Bible, I always recommend a dynamic equivalent, phrase-for-phrase translation. (The NIV is the best. Stay away from the TNIV – it’s on a slippery slope toward gender neutral translations, which doesn’t sit too well with me.)

In my opinion, the only purpose a paraphrase should serve is to help us understand a passage a little better after we’ve read/studied it in a real, historically accurate translation. They are great “tools” to have in your Bible study tool box, but should NEVER, EVER be your main Bible. If you really want to know what Shakespeare wrote, you don’t just read the Cliff’s Notes! Same goes with the Scriptures. With that said, I refer to my copy of The Message quite often and find it very helpful.

You should feel really smart now. Most people don’t know why in the heck they use a particular translation. But not you. Not anymore.

Okay, moving on . . .

Style or Type

This is where it can get complicated. This is also where I am going to tell you that there is a certain Bible that I am head-over-heels in love with. Like, I will never own another kind. It’s my (non-human) pride and joy, love of my life, thrill of my heart, makes-me-smile-every-time- I-look-at-it, BEST . . . BIBLE . . . EVER.

Are you ready for it?

Your life is about to change . . .

It’s the unveiling of the century . . .

Drum roll please . . . .

And the title of “best Bible ever” goes to – the RYRIE STUDY BIBLE in the NASB or ESV translations (NIV is probably best for a newbie), published by Moody. Last time a checked, no cute cover available, but the AMAZING study notes and tools more than compensate for the lack of trendy, my-Bible-is-cooler-than-your-Bible style.

Remember, we’re not shopping for shoes.

What I love about this Bible is the layout and the fact that it has just the right amount of study notes. Charles Ryrie is a solid, revered theologian and scholar whose insights are right on the money. This Bible will NOT disappoint.

I think Moody should pay for this advertising. I would use the money for a new pair of shoes. Boots, actually. Or a really cute pair of red ballet flats.

But that’s beside the point.

Cover

When it comes to Bibles, cute isn’t always best. You may want to pick up a small Bible with a cool cover to keep in your purse or back pack. But for your heavy-duty Bible study, you need a heavy-duty Bible girlfriend!

I recommend splurging for the highest quality leather you can find, which the stores don’t usually keep in stock. The sales clerk should be able to help you order one though.

Layout/Graphics/Size

Whatever you choose, IT MUST HAVE ROOM TO WRITE NOTES IN THE MARGINS!!!!

Did you get that?

It’s VERY important!

A Bible with no room to write is like, well, I can’t think of an analogy right now. But it’s bad. Real bad.

So put down that cute Bible with no margins and step away slowly. It’s not for you sweetie. You have years and years of Spirit-led insights to record on those precious pages. You need space. Lots and lots of space.

So what if the best study Bible in the store [insert another shameless plug for the Ryrie Study Bible here] is a little bit, um, “big boned.” It’s okay – you can handle it. Girls with big Bibles rock! Hmmm, a new t-shirt idea???

The Bottom Line

Go buy a NASB or ESV Ryrie Study Bible.

To put it another way, go buy a NASB or ESV Ryrie Study Bible.

To make it even simpler – go buy a NASB or ESV Ryrie Study Bible.

And then go buy shoes.

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