Friday, November 28, 2014

Bible Review: ESV Women's Devotional Bible

ESV Women's Devotional Bible. 2014. Crossway. 1664 pages. [Source: Bought]

In September, I bought a copy of the ESV Women's Devotional Bible. My goal was to use this bible to read the Bible in 90 days. For the record, I'm not sure a devotional bible was the best choice for this goal of mine. It is one thing to read one devotional or two devotionals per day. It's quite another to read six to eight! But most readers, I'm guessing, will not be buying the Women's Devotional Bible with that goal in mind.

Devotionals. Devotional Bibles. Some people are "devotional" people. Others are not. Meaning that some people seem to really benefit from a daily devotional reading, and, it is just part of their daily routine--how they connect spirituality to their daily lives. To those who don't see much benefit to typical devotional readings, it can be really easy to dismiss them all as fluff, lacking substance and depth. IF I read a devotional, it has to have substance, depth, weight. I'm looking for more than a story to relate to. I'm looking for insight and knowledge and TRUTH. For the most part, I was pleased with the offerings in the Women's Devotional Bible. Some devotionals are written by women; some devotionals are written by men.

How Does God Show His Love? by Heather House
John 3:16, perhaps the most famous summary of the gospel in the Bible, seems simple enough. After all, this is one of the first verses children memorize. People paint the reference on signs and hold them up at sporting events, implying someone could understand the gospel from reading the verse.
And yet, like much in John’s Gospel, this verse is straightforward in concept but incredibly deep in application. It plainly describes both God’s love and humanity’s need to accept that love as the solution to their separation from him. For all people in all times, our eternal destiny rests in either believing or rejecting these unadorned words.
This verse is part of Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader. In John 3:1–15, Jesus offers a changed life through a new spiritual birth, but Nicodemus is unsure how this could be true. Verses 16–21, then, show how it is that one can be born again and have eternal life.
By providing a way for us to have eternal life, God demonstrates his devotion to the people he created (John 3:16–18). This eternal life manifests itself through abundant joy and blessing on this earth, but it also goes beyond this material world by guaranteeing believers a place in God’s presence forever. Living with a holy God is not possible for those who have sinned, and all humans have (Rom. 3:23). Therefore God sent his own Son to provide the means by which anyone can be justified (Rom. 5:15–21). Jesus accomplished this through his own death when he took on the guilt of his people (1 Cor. 15:3). Through the sacrifice of his only, innocent Son, God has given everything needed for us to be saved from the punishment we deserve (Isa. 52:13–53:12).
Sadly, people can and do reject Jesus’ work. Those who refuse to recognize him for who he is remain separated from God and will face judgment (John 3:19–20). Knowledge of God (“light”) arrives in Jesus, but many prefer the darkness because they want their evil actions to remain hidden. They would rather continue on the path they have chosen than admit that God created them and therefore has a rightful claim on the way they live. Others are appalled by the notion that they cannot make themselves right with God through their own effort. Whoever recognizes what God offers through Jesus comes to the light because God gives him or her faith to believe (v. 21).
God loves us so much that he offered a solution, at great cost to himself and his Son, to the problem of sin that humanity had created. How will you respond to this truth? How will you share it with others? 
He Loved Us Then; He'll Love Us Now by Dane C. Ortlund
It is not hard for many of us to believe God has put away all our failures that occurred before our conversion. Sure, maybe we lived a particularly rebellious life before new birth—but that was, after all, before we had heard the gospel. We did not know of God’s love. Of course we screwed up a lot then.
What is hard is to believe that God continues to put away all my present failures, now that I am supposedly “better.” We so easily view the Father looking down with raised eyebrows. “How are they still such failures after all I have done for them?” we see him wondering. After all, a Christian conscience is a re-sensitized conscience. New birth makes us feel more deeply than ever the ugliness of sin. Failure makes the soul cringe like never before.
That’s why Romans 5:1–11 is in the Bible.
After exulting in the peace we now enjoy because of the gospel (vv. 1–5), Paul says roughly the same thing three times over. “While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (v. 6). “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (v. 8). “If while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life” (v. 10). Three times Paul says that God did something to save us when we hated him. Weak. Sinners. Enemies. We didn’t have to clean ourselves up first. He didn’t meet us halfway. He himself pulled us up into peace.
That’s great news. But that’s not even Paul’s main point in these verses. He’s after something else.
What’s the ultimate point Paul is driving at in Romans 5:6–11? Not God’s past work, mainly. Paul’s burden is our present security, given that past work. He raises Christ’s past work to drive home this point: If God did that back then, when you had zero interest in him, then what are you worried about now? The whole point of Romans 5:6–11 is captured in the “since” of verse 9: “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, . . .”
This really calms us down. He drew near to us when we hated him. Will he remain distant now that we want to please him? He suffered for us when we were failing, as orphans. Will he sternly cross his arms over our failures now that we are his adopted children? His heart was gentle and lowly toward us when we were lost. Will his heart be anything different toward us now that we are found?
“While we were still. . .” He loved us in our mess then. He’ll love us in our mess now. Our very agony in sinning is the fruit of our adoption. A cold heart would not be bothered. We are not who we were.
I think you'll agree that the devotionals in this Bible do have substance.

So. If you're a woman looking for a devotional bible, I'd recommend the ESV Women's Devotional Bible. Even if you are not a "devotional person." I would say browse it at the store or sample it online. (The kindle sample includes Genesis and Exodus). Read three or four devotionals yourself and just try it. (Link to pdf sampler from Crossway, it also has two videos about the Bible).

In addition to the devotionals, the Bible features many articles:

  • The Bible & The Grace of God by Bryan Chapell
  • Why Is Doctrine Important by Kathleen Nielson
  • How To Make the Most of Your Bible Study by Jen Wilkin
  • Learning to Pray the Psalms by Paul E. Miller
  • Missional Living by Gloria Furman
  • Evangelism by Leeann Stiles
  • A Woman's Identity in Christ by Luma Simms
  • Singleness: A Privileged Calling by Lydia Brownback
  • The Godly Wife by Jani Ortlund
  • Nurturing Children to Love and Follow God by Ebeth Dennis
  • Adoption: God's Gift and Our Responsibility by Donna Thoennes
  • Caring for Children with Disabilities by Joni Eareckson Tada
  • Emotional Healthy by Brian Borgman
  • Eating Disorders & Other Self-Destructive Behaviors by Kimm Crandall
  • Forgiveness, Healing, and Shame by John Ensor
  • The Church and Women at Risk by Lindsey Holcomb

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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