Friday, April 29, 2011

Review: The Take Action Bible

Put the Word of God into action. The Take ActionTM Bible features real-life stories and full-color photos of people who are putting their faith into action. Actions range from raising money with a lemonade stand to relocating on the mission field. Read their inspiring stories, and follow their examples with 52 ideas for you to put God's Word into action.Features include: 
  • 48 full-color pages 
  • 15 real-life stories show how to take action with God's Word 
  • 52 Take ActionTM ideas 
  • Personal Take ActionTM note pages
  • New King James VersionR (NKJV) UltraSlim Bible text
  • Translation and text notes
  • Words of Jesus in red
  • Concordance
  • Bible reading plan

Thomas Nelson's Take Action Bible is a themed edition of a fairly straight-forward mass market paperback edition. The two column text block features a 7pt font printed on thin paper, which makes the Bible fairly thin with the spine measuring less than an inch thick. The whole Bible is squeezed fairly well into this package and interspersed with full color inserts that challenge the reader to Go, Serve, Give, Heal, and Teach.

While this Bible does not bring much new material or ideas to the market, it is tied into an important campaign to spread God's Word, reach the lost and serve the poor. The devotional content inspires the reader to pursue practical applications of the gospel. The poor quality of the paper makes this less than ideal for highlighting projects, but still a good paperback Bible to read thematically with highlighters or other marking schemes. It is also part of an admirable marketing campaign for World Vision.

My thanks to Thomas Nelson for providing this complimentary review copy. I was not required to give a positive review but an honest review.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Christ's Last Commands to the Church and Amplified Highlighting

One of my earliest projects as a young believer started when I decided to take a departure from my trusted KJV and venture into the Amplified Bible. The Amplified is still one of my favorite translations and, in my humble opinion, undervalued, although I have heard that it can be misleading at times.

This Bible holds my first venture into highlighting and I used Bic Brite Liners rather than Bible highlighters and didn't think to use a ruler. The pages in the hardback Amplified are fairly thick and held up well to the highlighting. 

The project didn't start out with a complex color scheme, but grew from the desire to focus on a single subject. Jesus makes an unequivocal statement in John 14:15 that constantly challenged me as a young believer and continues to stir me and burn me today: "If you love me you will keep my commandments." As a new believer, I desperately wanted to love the Lord Jesus. He died for me. I started a rampage through the Bible armed with a pink highlighter intent on discovering the commandments of Jesus. What did Jesus want me to do? How do I love Him? I highlighted every relevant imperative I could.

My approach was probably a little legalistic, but it was born out of a genuine and burning love for Jesus, and He led me through a refining, conviction and empowering process as the study went on and I found myself falling shorter and shorter of Christ's call. The desperation this experience led me to eventually led to the eclipsing revelation that Jesus Christ Himself is our life and our new nature and that He Himself will live His resurrection life in me and fulfill the commandments in His strength. I don't have to strive and work to fulfill Christ's call. He will live out His call in me. He will overcome.

Out of these revelations came the expanded color scheme which focused on the identity of Jesus in orange, our identity in Christ in green, prayer and intercession in yellow and blue for special interest.

I recently revisited this project because of a quote from Leonard Ravenhill that occasionally echoes in my mind: "The last words of Jesus to the Church were 'repent'!" Ravenhill pointed out that the Great Commission was not Jesus's last great command to the Church, but instead that Christ commands the church in Revelation to repent and become over-comers.

I went back to the amplified and took the final words to the seven Churches in Revelation and rephrased both the imperatives and the commendations into twenty commands to meditate on and digest.




3.      Remember then from what heights you have fallen. Repent (change the inner man to meet God's will) and do the works you did previously [when first you knew the Lord]. REV. 2:5

4.      hate the works of the Nicolaitans [what they are doing as corrupters of the people], which I Myself also detest. REV. 2:6


6.      Fear nothing that you are about to suffer. [Dismiss your dread and your fears!] REV. 2:10


8.      Be loyally faithful unto death [even if you must die for it], and I will give you the crown of life. REV. 2:10


10.    Repent [then]! Or else I will come to you quickly and fight against them with the sword of My mouth. REV. 2:16



13.  Rouse yourselves and keep awake, and strengthen and invigorate what remains and is on the point of dying; for I have not found a thing that you have done [any work of yours] meeting the requirements of My God or perfect in His sight. REV. 3:2

14.  call to mind the lessons you received and heard; continually lay them to heart and obey them, and repent. REV. 3:3




18.  hold fast what you have, so that no one may rob you and deprive you of your crown. REV. 3:11

19.  purchase from Me gold refined and tested by fire, that you may be [truly] wealthy, and white clothes to clothe you and to keep the shame of your nudity from being seen, and salve to put on your eyes, that you may see. REV. 3:18

20.  So be enthusiastic and in earnest and burning with zeal and repent [changing your mind and attitude]. REV. 3:19

 In the same way I took Christ's exhortations to conquer and broke them into eight promises. These meditations feature some of the hardest commands and some of the most precious promises of our Savior. They are an exhortation to practical love and worship. They are the attributes of sons and daughters of God here on the earth.


1.      To him who overcomes (is victorious), I will grant to eat [of the fruit] of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God. REV. 2:7

2.      He who overcomes (is victorious) shall in no way be injured by the second death. REV. 2:11

3.      To him who overcomes (conquers), I will give to eat of the manna that is hidden, and I will give him a white stone with a new name engraved on the stone, which no one knows or understands except he who receives it. REV. 2:17

4.      And he who overcomes (is victorious) and who obeys My commands to the [very] end [doing the works that please Me], I will give him authority and power over the nations; And he shall rule them with a sceptre (rod) of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, and [his power over them shall be] like that which I Myself have received from My Father; And I will give him the Morning Star. REV. 2:26-28

5.      Yet you still have a few [persons'] names in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes, and they shall walk with Me in white, because they are worthy and deserving.

6.      Thus shall he who conquers (is victorious) be clad in white garments, and I will not erase or blot out his name from the Book of Life; I will acknowledge him [as Mine] and I will confess his name openly before My Father and before His angels. REV 3:4-5

7.      He who overcomes (is victorious), I will make him a pillar in the sanctuary of My God; he shall never be put out of it or go out of it, and I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which descends from My God out of heaven, and My own new name. REV. 3:12

8.      He who overcomes (is victorious), I will grant him to sit beside Me on My throne, as I Myself overcame (was victorious) and sat down beside My Father on His throne. REV. 3:21

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Resurrection Day! 2011

May the Lord bless you and keep you and make His face to shine upon you and give you peace this resurrection day.

May you experience the resurrection life of Jesus Christ in your heart and your soul and in your spirit, waiting expectantly for the resurrection of your body. Today you have Christ's life in you. Toss your own away and let Him be Himself in you with all His love and grace and holiness and miraculous resurrection power.

He is risen and so are you.

Image courtesy of CreationSwap

Friday, April 22, 2011

Meditation on the Work of the Cross

  So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha.  There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews." Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek. So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, "Do not write, 'The King of the Jews,' but rather, 'This man said, I am King of the Jews.'" Pilate answered, "What I have written I have written."

  When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom, so they said to one another, "Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be." This was to fulfill the Scripture which says,

    "They divided my garments among them,
   and for my clothing they cast lots."

   So the soldiers did these things,  but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother andthe disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Woman, behold, your son!" Then he said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother!" And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.
 After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said ( to fulfill the Scripture), "I thirst." A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, "It is finished," and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but in dealing with you we will live with him by the power of God.

 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world- that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

(John 19:17-30, Romans 6:6-11, 2 Corinthians 13:4, Galatians 2:20, Galatians 6:14, Philippians 3:10, 1 John 4:10) 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Update: Jesus He Lived Among Us

My previous post on the Voice of the Martyrs upcoming Jesus film project came out before VOM's completion of press development for the project (yes, I am that cutting edge). VOM just launched a website for the project with online giving options and new information. I highly recommend stopping by and supporting the project.

One of the reasons I'm so excited about this project is because two of the languages they are working on apply to major ethnic groups within my 2 square mile city, and I'm excited at the potential to use the film. I also know that the nations this film will enter are restricted, and this project is moving forward with the knowledge that those who bring the film into these nations are making a great sacrifice and risking persecution and even martyrdom while serving those living out the same sacrifice. Read my original post and jump over to

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Review: The Action Bible

David C. Cook's new Action Bible stands out as the best comic presentation of the Bible I have ever seen and as a brilliant example of Bible Storytelling that builds on rich comic book history while appealing to contemporary aesthetics. Much like eastern and developing cultures, children learn and grow primarily through inductive reasoning, learning general principles through specific instances and experiences. One could argue that this is the most natural way to learn, accumulating experience that form a world view. Illustration and narrative win over abstraction and argument. Sunday school classes and children's ministry thrive on illustration, narrative, storying; it is vital to bring the children into the experience of the story in order for them to grasp the truth. This is the power of art and literature: the ability to bring someone into a visceral experience that brings revelation. This is also why the Holy Spirit must be integrally involved in our digestion of scripture, because words on a page can only become internalized by an experience, both internal and external, that testifies and confirms the truth. Without the Holy Spirit there is only an intellectual comprehension. With the Holy Spirit there is a holistic confirmation that bears witness with our spirit, touches our soul, which in turn can be manifested through any number of physical expressions. Combined media and illustration has the opportunity to access the senses and the heart in a powerful experience that draws into the story and makes us aware of the Spirit's presence.

Jesus approached His audiences with parables and illustrations; he occasionally used props and He always spoke from a powerful anointing, bringing His audience into a visceral experience and revelation of the the truth. The Action Bible brings visceral art and creative storytelling to the foreground by telling an impressive range of Biblical narrative in a succinct and well executed comic book format.

The visual storytelling uses an almost cinematic approach to track the action of the stories across pages of panels and keep steady movement through the Biblical paraphrase paired with the artwork. Sergio Cariello executed the artwork with faithfulness, imagination and a bold willingness to tackle the text in a visual form. The 750 page graphic novel of the Bible presents a nearly comprehensive overview of Biblical narrative and includes substantial summaries of the wisdom, poetic and prophetic books of the Old Testament as well as the epistles of the New Testament. The stories are presented in chronological order and my guess is that most adults and even those highly familiar with their Bible will be impressed at how The Action Bible presents the ins and outs of the history of Israel and the history of salvation.

All the major and familiar stories of the Bible are told with comic book flair, but a high standard of faithfulness and verisimilitude are present, which rarely breaks away from literal faithfulness to the text or ascends into mythic exaggeration of the events.

One of the Action Bible's most impressive attributes is its ability to succinctly render difficult passages of prophecy and poetry by presenting significant images and highlighting the historical context, without attempting to summarize or interpret the whole book.

The presentation of history in a pictorial format is astoundingly helpful in understanding the journey of Israel as a nation especially through the kings and prophets. The Action Bible's chronological telling of the journey to Babylon and back to Jerusalem and into the inter-testamental period can give a valuable education to most.

The presentation of the gospel is given some of the most iconic and stunning graphics.

The comic book format allows the dialogue to carry most of the story, which gives the opportunity for parents to explain the stories to their children and apply the literal story of the gospel in a personal way.

The visual component and the paraphrase of scripture necessitates a certain amount of interpretation, which may not always be ideal, but the content of the Bible remains powerful and impacting. The artistic storytelling is relevant, inspiring and exciting. The Action Bible excels as a comic book in its own right, featuring brilliant art that actively tells a story while remaining subdued enough to move with the text rather than superseding it as so many graphic novels do. Sergio Cariello is to be commended for truly beautiful renderings of biblical imagery that are dynamic but not exaggerated, detailed but still emphasizing movement.

The Action Bible is a phenomenal Bible storytelling tool for both kids and adults. It has the potential to educate in biblical history and narrative in a visceral and active way without taking away from the Word of God, and references the Bible text at the beginning of each story and in a thorough index in the back, lead the reader to seek the details of the story out for themselves. While reviewing this book, I found myself eagerly flipping through the pages with two fellow missionaries discussing the pictorial interpretation of each story and discussing the progression of Israel's history. We could have spent hours in the book. I wish I could buy a copy for each kid I know, and its possible that I'll purchase more copies for future use in discipleship and children's ministry. I am highly impressed and wholeheartedly recommend The Action Bible.

For more information on The Action Bible view the links and the videos below.

Sergio Cariello describes his experience in creating the art for The Action Bible and tells the story of one of the colorists coming to Christ through the project:

My thanks to David C. Cook for providing this complimentary review copy. I was not required to give a positive review, but an honest review.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Bible Storytelling: Voice of the Martyrs-Jesus He Lived Among Us


Voice of the Martyrs is currently creating an evangelical animated film designed to be distributed around the world and, as always with VOM, as a service to the persecuted church.

Jesus: He Lived Among Us is an animated film based on the life of Christ, as told through the eyes of his last surviving disciple. It is a film created with the persecuted church in mind.
The Voice of the Martyrs is seeking partners who will help us distribute and translate the film into multiple languages — with a particular focus on the languages of restricted and hostile nations.
All translations will be made available for free distribution around the world — a vital new tool for gospel workers, including those in the world’s most difficult places.

 The intro to the film can be watched here, where the script is also available. VOM is accepting donations to the project, and if you have a burden to see the film in a certain language, you can donate towards the translation and distribution of the film in that language through their newsletter (hopefully they'll have a portal to donating to the project through the internet soon).

Animated films and children's Bibles are good witnessing tools in hostile cultures and restricted nations because they are non-threatening and people do not feel that they are betraying their religion or culture by watching them. The film is designed to be culturally neutral, although the depiction of Jesus and some is fairly Anglo-Saxon. Preaching the gospel through a film narrative makes effective use of storytelling to teach the gospel, but also leaves room for missionaries and preachers to explain the doctrine behind the story. Gospel films have been effectively used by missionaries for a decade or so, and their effectiveness is increasing as projectors become cheaper and more portable.

The principles behind Bible Storytelling can have an acute effect on the presentation of the gospel. Are we assenting to doctrine or are we engaged in the narrative of the life of Christ? The gospel is the story of our salvation and our continuing life in Christ through His resurrection. We are renewed and regenerated, converted and changed, empowered and compelled by the life of Christ which was exchanged for ours, not only in death, but in a continuing life that will never cease. Living within this narrative and story is living within the reality of scripture.

And The Anniversary Giveaway Winner is. . .

The Winner of the Bible Reading Project Anniversary Giveaway is Randy Brown. God willing his KJV TakeNote Bible will be in the mail today. Thanks for all who participated. Keep your eyes peeled for more giveaways in the future.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Review: New Spirit-Filled Life Bible

Thomas Nelson's New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, prepared by executive editor Jack Hayford, presents dynamic and extensive study tools within the New King James Version text and seeks to equip believers to build the kingdom of God through the Word. Though the label "study Bible" is not in the title, this edition of the Spirit-Filled Life Bible includes a wealth of biblical study tools in a unique format. The "Spirit-Filled" or Pentecostal and Charismatic focus has been integrated with a firm set of scholarly foundations and thorough study principles. These tools are given a presentation designed to inspire and equip the believer for practical living as well as deep biblical analysis. Hayford's grounded approach presents a study Bible that emphasizes the continuing work of the Holy Spirit within a balanced presentation of biblical interpretation.


This edition is available in a number of bindings and its continued popularity prompted last year's release of a new imitation leather edition. The genuine leather edition possesses a glossy finish and a fine grain. Most genuine leather is pigskin and this edition's binding is comparable to the other genuine leather editions on the market. Its thickness and softness are about average for genuine leather; however its flexibility is above average. While it does not compare to calfskin or cowhide, the price is far less and this remains one of the most competitively priced study Bibles on the market.

The flexibility out of the box is impressive, considering the fact that this is neither calfskin or goatskin. The spine remains very tight and stiff, which may be a sign of endurance. The binding itself is glued, not sewn, and the stiffness should give it a longer life. Glue degrades as it flexes and breaks, releasing pages, so a tight binding is a good sign with glued bindings. Glued bindings last when a Bible is subjected to light or very careful use, but normal use will probably mean that the maps section of the Bible will begin to get loose or fall out after a few years.

The slimness and size of the volume is impressive. The width of the spine is about one-half the size of the ESV Study Bible and is manageable within the hand. At nearly 2000 pages this Bible packs a lot of information into a small space and remains highly portable.

The grain on the genuine leather is fine and though probably stamped and simulated, gives a nice appearance to the leather.


The layout of the New Spirit-Filled Life Bible is something of an anomaly, mixing symbols, notes, references and different features on the page. The nature of the notes and the various categories of information presented make the layout at times confusing to navigate and seriously hampers readability. The Kingdom Dynamics and Word Wealth notes sit in gray boxes and actually interrupt the text of the Bible. This is a grievous blow to readability and may offend some readers. The significant interruptions to the text was obviously a deliberate choice and may promote space and readability in some areas, but I struggle to see the advantages to this layout beyond placing the relevant notes as close to the verses they connect to as possible. This may improve the visibility of the notes and the reference material, but greatly reduces the prominence of the Bible text itself, making this a Bible specifically for study and probably not for simple reading.

The double column, verse per line format divided by a center column of references retains traditional sensibilities and continues to promote a reference-ready format versus a general reading layout. The font of the text is a serif 8/9 pt font, which is fairly readable but somewhat narrow compared to other fonts of the same size. The references are quite readable in a sans serif font and the study notes at the bottom have the same clear type. The paper in this edition is fairly thin, which allows for the portability and light weight of the Bible, but promotes some significant ghosting and wrinkling. 


The New Spirit-Filled Life Bible features one the most dynamic, varied and complex note schemes I've seen, using various features and designs to present varied information in a number of ways. At the bottom of the page are traditional study notes, which give relevant information and interpretation of various passages. The study notes tend to be pithy and relevant. They are not comprehensive but cover needed information and troublesome phrases or passages. In addition to basic information, they often present in-text maps, charts and graphs which cover ancient life, creation science and a number of other academic and informational concerns.

The basic notes are preceded by thorough book introductions which cover the context in which the book was written, the genre, content, application, structure and context within the work of the Holy Spirit and the revelation of Christ. These introductions vary according to each book, highlighting the unique features of each work and introducing a number of approaches to the scripture. 

A Truth-in-Action chart follows each book tracking themes and highlighting verses which should be directly applied in a practical way within the subject. These charts tend to be topical studies narrowed down to a single book and focused on texts with a strictly direct application.

The main meat of the study notes are the WORD WEALTH and KINGDOM DYNAMICS notes, which are featured within the text of the Bible and feature direct studies focusing on words or themes.

The Word Wealth notes feature Strong's numbers and present 550 Hebrew and Greek word studies, illuminating the meaning of the specific word across scripture and then applying it within a specific verse.

WORD WEALTH Zechariah 8:2 zealous, qanah (kah-nah); Strong's #7065: To be zealous, filled with zeal, full of emotion; to be passionate; also to be jealous or envious; to be highly possessive of something. Qanah and its derivatives appear approximately 90 times in the OT, often in the context of the Lord's becoming provoked to jealousy by the flirtations of His people with false gods. This is not a negative word, though, as it is the zeal of the Lord that will bring about the Messiah's eternal reign (Is. 9:7). In the present reference, God is either zealous with burning zeal for Zion, or jealous with burning jealousy, or perhaps, fanatic over His Jerusalem. Every nation has its plans for Jerusalem; God, too, has His plans (vv. 3--15), which must overrule all human schemes.

Kingdom Dynamics notes feature studies across 41 themes, focusing on building the kingdom of God through the work of the Spirit and the spread of the gospel.
KINGDOM DYNAMICS Zechariah 8:18-23 Four Key Ingredients of Any Prayer Movement, PRAYER. In 1748, Jonathan Edwards called for "concerts of prayer" based on this passage. Edwards's lengthy title after 18th century fashion, summarizes Zechariah's vision for any prayer movement: "A humble attempt to promote the agreement and union of God's People throughout the world in extraordinary prayer for a revival of religion and the advancement of God's kingdom on earth, according to Scriptural promises and prophecies of the last time." First, the prophet Zechariah called for a spirit of hope and urgency to prevail. The remnant was told to quit fasting and start feasting, in celebration and anticipation of how God would act on their behalf (v. 19). Second, he called for continual prayer with a correct agenda. They were to "seek the LORD" (the literal Hebrew translates "seek the face of the Lord"). Third, they were to encourage one another to join in prayer--"one city shall go to another" (v.21)--as God's people united in the work of prayer for revival; and fourth, they were to expect an impact through their prayers, so that many would come to seek God's manifest presence in their lives as He moved among His own (v. 23). Such developments are to be expected in any generation, as prayer movements awaken the church to seek God.
(Joel 2:12-17/Eph. 3:14-21)
Though the New Spirit-Filled Life Bible comes from predominately charismatic/pentecostal leaders and academics the notes are well-balanced, and while they emphasize the Holy Spirit, they do not over-emphasize or push the practice of spiritual gifts or popular manifestations associated with the Charismatic movement. Unlike the Fire Bible the New Spirit-Filled Life Bible does specify its own position of interpretation and presents it within the context of traditional or mainstream interpretation. In difficult passages and the book of Revelation as a whole, the notes carefully explain the differences of interpretations and present a balanced approach to the text.

Overall the notes present sound scholarship with passionate faith in the supernatural. They promote ideals of faith and experience within the pentecostal/charismatic movement, but also draw from a rich Christian tradition to reveal the work of God through the scripture as in the note on Zechariah 8:18-23 above. The solid scholarship and passionate focus on faith in God should make the study helps valuable aids and inoffensive to all but staunch cessationists.


The Bible features eight pages of colorful maps detailing the movement of the patriarchs and the church throughout the Scripture, an impressive three column 125 page concordance and 39 pages of articles on numerous topics of discipleship, ministry and evangelism. The maps are preceded by ten pages of lined pages for notes.

 The New Spirit-Filled Life Bible presents valuable and unique study aids in a dynamic presentation, providing a full scope of aids, helps and notes to aid in interpreting and specifically applying the Word. The binding, layout and packaging has flaws and compromises as all editions do, but the content remains the most valuable piece of any Bible. The content presented and applied within this text has great potential to equip and inspire believers from all walks and faith traditions. Jack Hayford has created a resource that has great potential for bringing solid, scriptural and faith-filled strengths from Charismatic/Pentecostal theology to the mainstream.

My thanks to Thomas Nelson for providing this complimentary review copy. I was not required to give a positive review, but an honest review.