Thursday, November 4, 2010

In His Image: Devotional Bible

In His Image Devotional Bible. New Living Translation (Second Edition). Tyndale. 2010. October 2010. 1398 pages.

I received a review copy of In His Image from the Tyndale Blog Network. This will NOT be a review of the Bible--or even a review of this translation of the Bible. It will be a "review" of the features of this Bible. I will try to look at what makes this Bible different from others.

I love the Bible. I do. And while the New Living Translation does not make my top five list--in translations--it is a translation I enjoy reading on occasion. (I definitely enjoy it more than The Message, CEV, NCV, NRSV, etc.)

I like many types of Bibles: text only bibles (because sometimes I am in that mood; I'm craving the Word of God and I don't want to be distracted with extras), study bibles (because sometimes I'm in that mood; I'm wanting to know more, learn more, I'm wanting to intensify the experience of reading the Bible. Plus, I like to have a study bible in hand for Sunday School). Then there are devotional Bibles. I've read some in the Max Lucado Devotional Bible--the New King James version from a decade ago. I've also read the Women's Devotional Bible in the New International Version. (If you're looking for a devotional bible, you might try the new Max Lucado Bible.)

So what are the features of the In His Image Bible?

  • Prayerful Readings
  • Response to God Articles
  • God's Names and Titles
  • Book Introductions
  • Character of God Articles

Many (if not all) focus on God's attributes. This is how the features are structured. This is how they are tied together.

Prayerful Readings
The Prayerful Readings may be different from other devotionals you have read. Their primary purpose is not to give you ideas to think about. They, instead, provide a context for you to quiet your heart and listen to what God is saying to you--right now--through his Word and by the power of his Spirit. (A17)
Since the Prayerful Readings are not information-oriented devotionals, it is important that you understand how to use them. They are designed to create a context for you to listen prayerfully to God through his Word. (A17-A18)
Essentially readers are told they need to find a quiet place for a quiet time. They need to find a place where they're comfortable--but not too comfortable--so they can commune with God in prayer and bible reading. Readers are encouraged to have a moment or two of silence to prepare themselves, to quiet their minds. Readers are encouraged to listen and read. To not be in a hurry to get their quiet time over and done with.

Each begins with this prayer.
Father, I come before you now, longing to know you better. As I read your Word today, as I approach you in prayer, reveal not just your truth to me, but tune my heart to beat with yours. Draw me close and make me more like you. Help me to see through your eyes, to think your thoughts, to act according to your wisdom, compelled by your call to love. Amen.
Five sample "reflections"

Because God is all-powerful, I can do anything with his help.
Because God is righteous, I will seek to live by his standards.
Because God is just, I can trust him to treat me fairly in the end.
Because God is holy, I will devote myself to him in purity, worship, and service.
Because God is love, I know he is unconditionally committed to my well-being.

Following a brief reflection affirmation (because one sentence reflections are brief), readers are given a bible verse--along with a scripture reference for a longer message to read if they have time. This is followed by an invitation for further reflection in the "What are you saying to me, Lord?" portion of the Prayerful Reading.
I reflect on God's perfect love and what that means for me. I imagine Jesus himself sitting with me and share my thoughts and feelings with him.
I reflect on God's holiness and what that means for me. I imagine Jesus himself sitting with me and share my thoughts and feelings with him.
I reflect on God's amazing power and what that means for me. I imagine Jesus himself sitting with me and share my thoughts and feelings with him.
This is followed by a closing prayer.

Response to God Articles 
The Response to God articles each look at one of God's attributes and then reflect on how we should live in response to it. These articles seek to apply the truth about God to how we live in the community of believers and how we should reflect his character in our own lives. (A18)
These are sprinkled throughout the Bible. And are linked--in the daily readings--with the Prayerful Readings. They have a bit more substance--information, if you will--than the Prayerful Readings.

God's Names and Titles

These are sprinkled throughout the Bible. They're short and simple. Just a bold declaration--of sorts--sharing with readers a title or name of God. (Because God is called El Shaddai...I will rely on his strength. Exodus 6:3. El Shaddai means "God Almighty.")

Book Introductions

One page book introductions. There's a purpose statement. A paragraph on meeting God in whatever book it is. And a section highlighting verses that reveal God's character in that particular book.

Character of God Articles

These are in the back of the Bible. (If you didn't read the user's guide properly, you might have trouble finding these.) They've chosen fifteen of God's attributes to highlight. Each attribute is given a few paragraphs (half a page or so). These articles don't necessarily define that attribute. These sometimes begin with a story-focus or a sermon-illustration. At least these articles have some information. But for being so short, you'd think they'd be a little more focused! How they present each attribute is not how I'd present each attribute.

  • God is All-Powerful
  • God is Faithful
  • God is Righteous
  • God is Just
  • God is Holy
  • God is Truth
  • God is Ever-Present
  • God is Creator
  • God is Merciful
  • God is All-Knowing
  • God is Good
  • God is Unchanging
  • God is Sovereign
  • God is A Personal Spirit
  • God is Love

These are the same fifteen attributes that the Response to God and Prayerful Readings are built upon. These are the foundation of the In His Image Bible. (Which makes me curious. If they're so important--why are they in the back of the Bible?!)

My thoughts on the features of the In His Image Devotional Bible

I'm a little disappointed with the "devotional" aspect of this one.

The choice to NOT be information-oriented and to NOT give you ideas to think about.

The Prayerful Readings seem repetitive in nature. The opening prayer is a good prayer--not objectionable to me at all--but each prayerful reading begins with this same prayer. And the fact that many of the reflections repeat as well. And the fact that the "What are you saying to me Lord?" segments are very strict in pattern--in wording. Well, it just seems very repetitive. Now is repetitive bad? Not for every reader.

Most Bibles depend on the user. That is for the Bible "to do any good" it requires that the user commit to reading it, studying it, making use of the features, in a regular way. It doesn't matter if it is study bible or a devotional bible. If you don't "use" the features of the Bible. If you don't read the text of the Bible--let alone the notes or devotions, the book introductions, the charts or maps--then you don't get the benefits. Many Bibles give you what you need, what you're looking for. A few make you work for it, dig for it. (I've heard the Inductive Study Bible is like this.)

The In His Image Devotional Bible makes you work for your own devotion. Unlike, a traditional book (or magazine) of devotional readings, unlike a traditional devotional study Bible, you're not going to be given a few paragraphs to read related to the bible verse of the day. You're not given stories or sermon illustrations--within the Prayerful Readings. (The devotional elements of this one intentionally lack substance.)

I've tried to show you what this one is and isn't. Is it worth buying a devotional bible if there are not any devotions? Could you do the same thing with a text-only bible in any translation? Could you incorporate prayer and listening time into your life--into your quiet time--without this bible providing the context?  You'll have to decide that for yourself.

I would recommend Every Name of God in the Bible by Larry Richards, Knowing God by J.I. Packer, and Practicing the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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