Thursday, January 6, 2011

Review: The Lucado Life Lessons Study Bible

The Lucado Life Lessons Study Bible is a new resource published by Thomas Nelson in the NKJV, featuring study notes drawn from Max Lucado's many bestselling books. Lucado's long popularity and the range of topics covered in his writing results in a body of work which is well suited to the creation of a devotional Bible or study text. Lucado's writings are considered highly inspirational and it is doubtful that he would be accused of intellectualism or even advanced scholarship, making this a study Bible that focuses on material that reaches the heart rather than textual or interpretative information. I have actually never read a book by Max Lucado, though I have read a few articles etc., and though Lucado has a reputation for a soft message in stauncher circles, this Bible showcases the breadth of his work and subject matter, though also clearly displays a counseling, comforting, inspirational perspective.

The Bible's binding is reasonably attractive with a solid hardcover and a size that's comparable to a hardback book. It also features a two color layout which I'm somewhat ambivalent about, although it does help divide the content. Unfortunately one of the first things I noticed about this Bible is the poor quality of the paper, which is thin and fragile. Regular use would probably produce a large amount of wrinkles and perhaps a few tears. In addition, the "ghosting" or bleed through in this Bible is the worst I have ever seen. I rarely notice or care about ghosting, but it is quite noticeable in this Bible. The publisher should have opted for a thicker paper and a thicker spine, especially considering the two color format. Because this Bible has little room for margin notes, the paper would not usually be a major concern, but with paper this thin, damage to the pages seems inevitable.

The page layout of the Bible is greatly successful though somewhat inconsistent. The text is given a wide central column with the "Life Lessons" or inspirational notes falling to the edge of the margin. When the notes are longer the layout falls back on a more traditional study Bible organization with the notes falling beneath the Bible text. This layout allows the text to fall into a very readable single column (black letter) with an 8/9 font while the notes fall on the side in a sans serif 6/7 font. This layout is highly advantageous to the Bible's readability, but it's only possible because of the nature of the "Life Lessons" which tend to be short notes focusing on large portions of scripture.

One of the biggest factors in my evaluation of a study Bible is the nature and comprehensiveness of the notes. The Lucado Life Lessons Study Bible falls into an odd category because its material is highly inspirational or devotional and designed to draw the reader into meditation, worship or devotion rather than textual revelation or interpretation. Therefore the notes also tend to be shorter and cover main sections of text rather than detailing information and interpretation of difficult or more obscure passages. Usually the Bible contains about one note per two full pages of text, and some pages contain no notes at all, making this Bible hit or miss as a reference or study tool. The notes are not nearly comprehensive enough to make it a ready resource, but it will function well as a regular reading Bible with additional content for study and contemplation.

The following "Life Lesson" comes from Joshua 1:1-2:24 and I felt was pertinent to the theme of this blog:

SITUATION: The story of Joshua begins after the death of Moses. God appointed Joshua to lead the Israelites across the Jordan river into the land of Canaan. 
OBSERVATION: The Lord instructed Joshua to remember what was written in the Book of the Law. Wisdom and success came from obeying its commands. 
INSPIRATION: We go to the Word of God for comfort, and when we do, the words pierce like a surgeon's scalpel, both cutting and healing. The Word of God cuts to the very place where thoughts and attitudes come together, at the junction of soul and spirit, providing a healing that can be obtained in no other way on earth.
The Bible was provided for us as a vehicle to carry us so that we might be able to see Jesus Christ.
If you want to grow in the Word of God, become a person with a chisel and quarry the Word -- look, explore, seek. Let the Word become your Word, and you will grow. 
I challenge you to rediscover the Bible in your own life . . . to regain the same hunger and enthusiasm you felt when you first heard the name of Jesus! (From The Inspirational Bible, "Bible") 
APPLICATION: Knowing Studying, and meditating on the Word of God is critical if you are to grow in your relationship with Jesus Christ. If you are not spending regular time in the Bible, ask yourself what changes you can make to your schedule to make that time a priority.
EXPLORATION: Importance of the Scriptures--Psalm 119:1-8; John 10:35; Acts 18:24; Romans 15:4; Hebrews 4:12; 1 Peter 1:23-25

In addition to the "Life Lessons" the Bible is interspersed with pages on study topics which continue through the Bible, such as the anger of God which has a page in Romans 1. These studies are short expositions of the theme followed by response and application questions. Supplementing the notes and these devotional studies are "Christ Through the Bible" articles, "New Life in Christ" articles, two indexes of verses on "He Did This Just for You" and "Spiritual Growth," 30 One Page Studies on basic topics for new believers, and a 30 day reading plan designed to give an overview of the New Testament. The front of the Bible also includes an inspiring (though not entirely informative) essay on how to study the Bible, a topical Devotional Index, and a Two Year Devotional Reading Plan, all valuable and somewhat rare resources for personal study and devotion. Oddly enough this Bible does not include either maps or a concordance, two features which are staples for any study Bible.

The Lucado Life Lessons Study Bible definitely falls short as a study Bible. Its resources are too limited and its scope is insufficient to fill the task of a reference or study tool. However, its content makes it an ideal devotional Bible, and the study resources, indexes etc. are excellent tools for daily aid and inspiration in walking with Jesus in prayer, worship and devotion. Many of the resources in this edition would be fine additions to any Bible and the notes and studies would greatly aid new believers and provide encouragement to seasoned saints. While the quality of the paper, the absence of maps or a concordance and the sparseness of the notes detract from this edition and specifically in its use as a study Bible, the excellence of the content and the nature of the helps make it well suited to daily reading, meditation and devotion.

More resources from Max Lucado and Thomas Nelson on the Lucado Life Lessons Study Bible

Look Inside for yourself.

Thanks to Thomas Nelson who provided this free review copy. I was not required to give a positive review. I have given an honest review.


  1. Excellent review, as always. This Bible seems to follow the general pattern of Lucado's work: it's devotional, personal, and far more milk than meat. I agree that it might make a good devotional resource, but I think it's more than a little misleading to call it a "study bible".

  2. I agree that Lucado's theology can be imbalanced. He tends to have a strong focus on individual humanity and God's words of love, blessing and encouragement. That said, he's been an encouragement and a blessing to vast numbers of Christians and I know a missionary who was radically saved in part by reading one of his books.

  3. Hello Jonathan.

    1.- Excellent review.
    2.- Instead of a Study Bible perhaphs Thomas Nelson should've published Mr. Lucado's complete works and inserted the relevant Bible passages where appropiate. Somehow, reading from your review it seems that Mr. Lucado's material has been streched far too thing to create an "artificial" product.
    3.- Someone at Thomas Nelson's should look into the quality department of his products. Last year I bought together Crossway's ESV Study Bible and NASB Macarthur's Study Bible and though I love both resources, the workmanship of the later leaves a lot to be desired.I'm buying the HSCB Study Bible in a couple of months, perhaps Crossway's quality has set the bar too high.

  4. Ah, I would love to look at an HCSB Study Bible. I will have to pray against covetousness. I have heard that Nelson's workmanship as far as binding etc. has greatly declined. Owners of their Signature Series Bibles state that the quality has greatly changed in the last 10-20 years and cite a difference in the country of production. Bible Design Blog has some discussions on the topic.

  5. unfortunately, publishers are using the term "study bible" as a selling point, not as a description of the book they are producing. it suddenly became vogue to have a study bible, so now everyone is producing "study bibles" so they can cash in. unfortunately i think most people are misled into believing they are actually study bibles because so few people know what true study is. unfortunately i think they are also trying to cash in on max lucado's popularity to sell a bible.

  6. I have the original edition of this Bible from back in the 1990's and have ordered this new one, I have always held the perspective that it is far more a devotional Bible than a study Bible. Which would be inline with Max Lucado's very poetic style, for a great study Bible the Charles F Stanley Life Principles Bible (NKJ & NASB translations) is totally amazing.