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Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

The Trail of Blood: Following the Christians Down Through the Centuries

Posted on: September 15th, 2013 by Craig Rairdin No Comments

Back when I was at Parsons Technology in the late 80’s and 90’s I was attending a Baptist church. Somewhere along the way I picked up a copy of this little booklet — probably at a Jack Hyles or Curtis Hudson revival meeting. The Trail of Blood is a history of the church starting with the church in Jerusalem through the present day (well, through the early 1930’s, which is when it was written). What’s interesting about it is that it lays out ten or twelve distinctive doctrines that the author identifies as characteristic of Bible-believing Christianity and follows those doctrines — not the dominant churches of the day.

Whether you attend a Baptist church, consider yourself basically “baptistic” in doctrine, or are just interested in church history, this is an interesting book. I happened to think of it the other day, contacted the copyright owner, and discovered that it has recently passed into the public domain. So I quickly tagged it for PocketBible.

The Trail of Blood suggests that it was the Catholic church that split from the “true church” and points out that Protestant churches didn’t so much rise out of traditional Christian doctrine but rather Catholic doctrine, and that Catholics and Protestants together persecuted those who held to the doctrines that the author believes Paul and the early church would be most comfortable with.

Admittedly, this is a controversial title. (That’s why we didn’t make it free — so it wouldn’t show up automatically in everyone’s download account.) Obviously by suggesting that Catholics and Protestants are branches of the same, doctrinally flawed stock, he will offend most of Christendom. And contemporary scholars with access to more recent archaeological discoveries and historical documents would challenge his characterizations of some early groups of Christians. But the concept is an interesting one to consider and certainly worth dropping a dollar on to learn more. The historical chart it includes, showing the “trail of blood” through the centuries, is worth at least that much.

If it bothers you, skip it. But I think many of you would find it fascinating. In my case, while I no longer fellowship with a Baptist church, it was very formative of my understanding of the transmission of truth through the centuries.

Study Bible or Commentary – which is better?

Posted on: January 17th, 2013 by Michelle Stramel 5 Comments

Study Bibles have become very popular over the last few decades. Today they come in many sizes and flavors with some even targeted at specific groups (i.e. women, grandmothers, teens) or purposes (i.e. apologetics, archaeology, recovery). Study Bibles offer a combination of Bible text, brief commentary and extra study helps such as maps, tables, and explanatory or introductory articles. With PocketBible, we provide the study part separately from the Bible text so you can mix and match (with the exception of the ESV Study Bible which includes the Bible text). By “mix and match”, we mean you could use the NIV Study Bible Notes side-by-side with your NKJV Bible or your NLT Study Bible Notes with your ESV Bible.

Think of study Bibles as the Swiss army knife of Bible learning. You get a little bit of everything but you sacrifice depth for breadth as compared to a single purpose tool like a commentary or Bible atlas. For example, the notes or commentary part of a study Bible are designed for quick insight into the Bible. There simply isn’t room for lengthy arguments about what everyone thinks a passage means as is done with multi-volume commentaries.

It’s easy to see the benefit of having a multi-volume commentary on your phone but what about a study Bible? There is still a weight factor to consider even with study Bibles! Wouldn’t you rather have a study Bible on your phone than carry around a mammoth book (even if it is only one volume)? Plus, study Bibles offer extensive cross-references which are more convenient to check with PocketBible.

One of the frustrations I have with study Bibles in general is that they don’t always have a comment on the verse I am interested in. Unfortunately, for brevity’s sake, most study Bibles won’t comment on every verse in the Bible. Thus, it is a good idea to have at least one verse-by-verse commentary in your PocketBible library. On the positive side, if you just want a quick understanding of what a verse means, study Bibles are ideal. You can check there first and move to a commentary for more information. In this way, your study Bible and commentary can work hand-in-hand.

We often get asked “which study Bible is best?” Rather than say one is better than the other, we suggest you consider things like the Bible translation it is based on, any unique helps it offers and how much of the Bible it covers. Here is a comparison chart of the study Bibles we currently offer that can help you make a decision based on those features.

  Based on Bible Translation Study Notes Maps Charts Illustrations Unique Features Price
ESV Study Bible ESV (included) 20,000 200 200 40 80,000 cross-refs; 50 articles $34.99
NIV Study Bible Notes NIV 1984 Ed. 20,000 16+ 24 10 Topical and Note Index $14.99
NLT Study Bible Notes NLT 2nd Ed. 20,900 Yes Yes Yes Personality Profiles, Book Themes $14.99
Life Application NA 10,000 NA 200 NA Personality Profiles, TouchPoint Topics $14.99
MacArthur’s Study Bible Notes NKJV 20,000 35 100 10 Overview of Theology, Harmony of Gospels $39.99
Dake’s Study Bible Notes KJV 35,000 NA NA NA 500,000 cross-refs, Pentecostal, Dispensational $39.99
Women’s Study Bible Notes NA Hundreds NA Yes NA Topical Articles, Character Portraits, Quotes $29.99
Spirit of the Reformation NIV 1984 Ed. 20,000 NA NA NA Catechisms and Creeds, Reformed Theology Articles $14.99

8 Ways to Read through the Bible with PocketBible

Posted on: December 11th, 2012 by Michelle Stramel 14 Comments

My philosophy on Bible reading plans is similar to exercise: find what works for you and do it. We offer a variety of Bible reading plans you can use in PocketBible to get you in the Scriptures on a daily basis. And for those times when life interferes, PocketBible has easy-to-use tools to help you catch up, start over and keep going.

Which PocketBible Bible reading plan is best for you?

  1. M’Cheyne’s One Year Bible Reading Plan (free) was originally designed by the 19th century Scottish minister, Rev. Robert Murray M’Cheyne to encourage his congregation to read their Bibles. Each day offers two Family readings to be read during family devotions and two Secret readings to be read during personal devotions. At the end of 365 days, you’ll have gone through the New Testament and the Psalms twice and the rest of the Bible once. Since M’Cheyne recommends reading or singing through the Metrical Psalms at least once a year, we have published Scottish Metrical Psalms with Notes by John Brown for use with the reading plan (sold separately for $1.99).
  2. Professor Grant Horner’s Bible Reading System (free) is a unique Bible reading plan. Each day you will read one chapter from each of ten lists for a total of ten chapters per day from the Bible. Since the lists vary in length, the readings begin interweaving in constantly changing ways. You will NEVER read the same set of ten chapters together again and you will experience the Bible commenting on itself in constantly changing ways.
  3. Laridian Reading Plans (free) is a collection of 7 Bible reading plans. We often get requests for a plan that includes a selection from the Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs for each day. That type of plan is included in this set.
  4. The One Year Chronological Bible Reading Plan ($7.99) provides a reading plan for the entire Bible–books, chapters, and even verses–arranged in the order the events actually happened.
  5. One Year Through The Bible Devotional ($9.99) guides you through the entire Bible in a year with commentary. Each day includes a Bible passage to read with a practical and helpful devotional written by one of the authors of the Life Application Study Bible.
  6. The Daily Walk Devotional ($9.99) is a publication of Walk thru the Bible Ministries. It too is a reading plan plus devotional. Along with your assigned reading for the day you get a related overview, application and insight for the passage.
  7. One Year Bible Companion ($9.99) offers a daily reading assignment with verses taken from the Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs for each day. This plan offers variety in what you read plus key questions and answers to enhance your daily Bible reading.
  8. OT/NT in 3 Months (free) – tackle this 90 day Bible reading plan any time of the year. Each day offers a selection from the Old Testament and New Testament.

The Bible reading plans mentioned above simply list the verses you are to read each day. You can then link from the verses to any of your Bibles in PocketBible to read the assigned verses in a translation you like. The devotionals mentioned above offer similar verse links but add devotional comments to the verses you have been assigned to read for the day.

If you have a Bible reading plan but want to start over read our tips on Starting your Bible Reading Plan or Devotional Over for a New Year.

New Devotionals for 2010

Posted on: December 29th, 2009 by Michelle Stramel 2 Comments

2010 is just around the corner.  A new year.  New beginnings.  A fresh start.  There are so many opportunities with a new year.  To begin again . . . or just begin.  And if one of your beginnings is a desire to start your new year drawing closer to God, what a great time to begin a new daily devotional.  In the month of December, Laridian has released 5 new devotional titles: two from popular preacher and teacher John MacArthur, a new devotional for women, written by women of faith, a heart challenging compilation of select readings from John Calvin’s Commentary of the Psalms and Daily with the King: A Devotional for Self-Discipleship

To me, you can’t go wrong with John MacArthur.  His teaching is always sound, insightful and purposeful.  And these two volumes of Daily Readings from the Life of Christ are no exception.  Daily Readings from the Life of Christ, Vol. 1 follows Jesus’ first year of ministry.  From his public baptism and start of his ministry, through His teaching with parables, John MacArthur walks us daily through the first 13 chapters of Matthew and Jesus’ earthly ministry.  I can’t think of a better teacher in the ways of God and the Christian life than our Savior.  Even though many entries are stories Christians know by heart, there is new learning and revelation each time we meditate and study God’s word.  Circumstances of life change, and though God’s word never does; how God uses His word to touch us and teach us in those circumstances is always new and refreshing.

Daily Readings from the Life of Christ, Vol. 2 goes deeper into the miracles of Jesus and his confrontations with the Jewish leaders by focusing on the Gospels of Matthew and John.  I especially enjoyed the days covering the calling of the Disciples and their commission.  MacArthur gives at least one day to each disciple, giving insight into who each man was and how each man’s character traits were chosen and used by Jesus.  It is interesting to see how Jesus used men with characteristics just like mine and people I know, both good and “bad”, to bring about the spreading of his gospel and the furthering of his kingdom.  For example, my 10 year old son can inundate me with questions.  Sometimes I think he spends his day trying to think of questions to ask me, but when I read the account of Jesus’ calling of Peter, I realized in reading that paragraph, that Peter was a lot like my son.  He is described as “constantly asking questions . . . and though many were superficial and immature . . . self-centered and off the mark . . . .”Jesus used Peter’s questioning as opportunities to train him in leadership.  To be the leader of the apostles he intended Peter to be.  As a parent, I have learned, that reacted to in the proper manner, my son’s questions can be an opportunity for me to mold him into a proper leader (a character trait he naturally exhibits).  Will he be a Peter?  Only the God who has called him to himself can answer that, but I now better understand how my reactions to his questions can train him, having either a positive or negative impact on the man he will become.

I can’t leave this review without touching for just a moment on Daily Seeds from Women Who Walk in Faith.  As I skimmed through the pages while preparing this for PocketBible, I was drawn to the stories of the women in this devotional.  As a daughter, wife, mother and friend, there is much I can learn from these women who have experienced life’s trials and joys and the lessons they have to share. 

As this new year approaches, there are many ways we can begin anew.  No beginning will enrich your life more than a new beginning with the Savior.  So whether you have resolved to begin a daily quiet time with God, or are looking for a new devotional to continue your existing quiet times, I highly encourage you to take a look at what’s new from Laridian.

Book Review: Word Study Titles

Posted on: October 27th, 2009 by Michelle Stramel 5 Comments

When it comes to “Word Study” as it relates to the Bible, I consider myself a lightweight. But what I lack in expert opinion I hope to make up for by simply opening each of the word study tools we offer and telling you what they can do for you. Trust me, it won’t be too technical!

My Word Study “go-to” book is the Amplified Bible. I always have a copy of it installed on my current device, along with my preferred English translation. I don’t normally use the Amplified for devotional reading but it is great for comparing with another translation and the place I start when I want to understand a verse better, even before I consult a commentary.

The Amplified uses a unique system of brackets, parantheses and italics to define and expand key words and phrases right in the Bible text. For example, John 3:3 in the Amplified says: “Jesus answered him, I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, that unless a person is born again (anew, from above), he cannot ever see (know, be acquainted with, and experience) the kingdom of God.” The key words here are expanded in such a way that you come away with a fuller understanding of what Jesus was saying to Nicodemus without having to consult a dictionary.

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Book Review: MacArthur Study Bible

Posted on: September 22nd, 2009 by Michelle Stramel 4 Comments

When I lived in Virginia, I was blessed to be in a church and under the tutelage of a man on fire for God. He remains to this day my favorite Pastor and as I have moved and traveled in the years since, I still miss being taught by him. His style of breaking down scripture, verse-by-verse and phrase-by-phrase—really dissecting God’s word and all its meaning helped me to grow more than I had before in my Christian walk. His style is a lot like that of pastor and author, John MacArthur. And though I can’t hear the pastor that I love, I can continue my study of the Bible in the same manner through MacArthur’s Study Bible Notes.

MacArthur’s verse-by-verse dissection of Scripture lets me study the Bible the way I want to—in-depth, serious study. From the beginning with an article on “How to Study Your Bible,” through the use of over 50 Bible maps, charts and diagrams, book introductions and outlines and, of course, MacArthur’s own words giving detailed descriptions and explanations of each verse in every book, I can truly dig deep and understand the context of God’s Word. To me, studying God’s word is much more than a morality speech, or a feel good sermon. To study God’s word is to truly seek out the meanings and truth behind it, to help me grow—closer to the Author of Scripture and stronger in my Christian walk. MacArthur’s Study Bible Notes is an excellent text that is everything needed to dig deep into God’s word in one complete volume and is probably (in my opinion) one of the best study Bibles out there.

Laridian offers nine study Bibles ranging in price from $14.99 to $39.99. Here is some key information on our top-selling study Bibles to help you in choosing the one that is right for you:

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Book Review: Bible Knowledge Commentary

Posted on: August 12th, 2009 by Michelle Stramel 6 Comments

As you spend quiet time with God, studying His Word, do you ever wish for a better understanding? Seek to really KNOW what God is saying in the passage, and how you can better apply it to your life? I do. I am often not satisfied with merely reading, but need to truly understand what is being said. This can mean not only finding out the original Greek or Hebrew of the text, but also understanding in what context it was originally written, who it was originally written to, and in what circumstance the receivers were in that they needed those particular words at that particular moment in time. Incorporating the Bible Knowledge Commentary into my study times; gives answers into the background information of a book or passage and insight into the original text.

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A good Bible dictionary

Posted on: July 28th, 2009 by Michelle Stramel 3 Comments

A good Bible dictionary is a foundational tool in every Bible study library. But how do you know a good Bible dictionary when you see one?

If your idea of good is thorough, detailed articles, that may lead to a different conclusion than someone who prefers a dictionary that is brief and to-the-point. There is also publication date to consider in choosing a dictionary. Because of recent archaeological discoveries, “older” is not always “better” when it comes to Bible dictionaries.

Laridian offers five Bible dictionaries ranging in price from free to $39.99. Here is some key information on each to help you in choosing the dictionary that is right for you:

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Book Review: The One Year Walk with God

Posted on: July 8th, 2009 by Michelle Stramel 3 Comments

One Year Walk with God CoverI’ve read through the entire Bible in a year (more than once, in case you’re wondering ☺). It is a life-changing habit. But sometimes I feel rushed. I want depth. God’s Word is so rich, I’ve often thought of picking out a verse and pondering it for a long time…like a year. That’s the idea of The One Year Walk with God Devotional. Author Chris Tiegreen focuses in on Romans 12:2 where Paul challenges us to “be transformed by the renewing of our mind.” And then uses other key passages of Scripture to encourage us to want to be transformed and to show us how.

Tiegreen suggests that “being transformed” requires that we leave behind our faulty human reasoning – how we naturally think, feel and make decisions. And learn to think God’s way. It is a process. A process that is expedited with a daily dose of God’s Word: to remind us of the results of trying to do things our way and to encourage us to seek and follow the wisdom of God instead. That’s where The One Year Walk with God excels.

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Book Review – A Godward Life and Taste & See

Posted on: December 19th, 2006 by Craig Rairdin 4 Comments
A Godward Life and Taste and See
Timeless Truths on the Contemporary Christian Life

We are releasing two new devotionals for the beginning of the new year. I’m excited about these because they are two of my recent favorite devotionals. Both A Godward Life and Taste and See are written by John Piper. Unlike most of the devotionals that we publish, these are not 365 day devotionals. A Godward Life is 120 readings and Taste and See is 140. Together they get you most of the way through the year.

A word of warning: don’t read these devotionals if you are comfortable being comfortable. One of my favorite most annoying reads was another book by John Piper titled Don’t Waste Your Life. Piper has a penchant for challenging me most where I least wish to be challenged. These two devotionals are more of the same, only in smaller, daily doses.

From day one Piper presents the premise which runs through every devotional, “God is most glorified in me when I am most satisfied in Him.”   

In two to five minutes Piper will challenge you toward a Godward life. From “abortion” to “zeal” every aspect of your walk with God will be challenged. How much of the world have you accepted into your daily life? Are you bothered by the sin that you see around you? If so, what are you doing to show a gracious Savior to those with whom you come in contact? Does it bother you that there are an estimated 12 million homeless children on the streets of Brazil? Are you prepared to be challenged to do something about it? If not, don’t read these devotionals.

Piper overlays timeless truths on contemporary issues in a way that makes you sit up and take notice…and hopefully ask yourself what you can do. Piper doesn’t just present you with injustices brought into the world by sin, but confronts you with practical opportunities for believers.

He also shows by various examples what we as believers in 2007 can do to take a stand for the Savior who took the cross for us. Piper looks honestly at some of the hardships that we face from children being still-born to the challenges of not having prayers answered. From struggling to stay pure before marriage to struggling to not become grumpy as we get older. All with Biblical foundations.

Each devotional is like reading a blog by one of the most thoughtful practical theologians of our day. Not since My Utmost for His Highest have I read a devotional that so challenged me to rethink my perspective on a daily basis. I encourage you to pick these devotionals up and prepare to make 2007 a year during which you are challenged to live a more Godward life.

To purchase either of these titles or to find out more information, click the appropriate link: Godward Life (Palm|PocketPC) or Taste and See (Palm|PocketPC).

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