The TEXT Bible: A Review and a Chance to Receive a Giveaway Copy

The front cover of Thomas Nelson’s just released The TEXT Bible.

Thomas Nelson just put a new Bible on the shelves: The TEXT Bible [Amazon Affiliate Link]. I received a copy for review. I’ll share what The TEXT is, some key features, and a few images from my copy highlighting what you can find inside. Keep reading. If you like what you see, leave a comment to be entered in a giveaway. One winner will be selected to receive a copy of The TEXT Bible on Friday, January 20, 2023.

The TEXT Bible was created by Michael and Haley DiMarco (Own It, God Guy, God Girl) and provides every reader with a method for Bible study consisting of four steps:

  • Talk to God, praying and thanking him for his Word and that it’s true; ask the Holy Spirit to help us see the truth.
  • Encounter God and humanity as you read and reflect on two simple questions: 1) What do these verses say about God, and 2) What do they say about humanity?
  • eXamine your heart. As we reflect on the text, we ask what needs to be confessed, added, taken away, or maintained as a follower of Jesus.
  • Talk to others. We thank God for revealing these life changing truths and ask who needs to hear them too.

Simple, straightforward, and helpful for those who have never read the Bible with a method to aid in reading for understanding.

Questions for reflection are found in the margins.

The TEXT method is paired with the New English Translation (NET) version of the Bible. This is an accessible, readable translation. The “TEXT THE TEXT” box seen above shows you how a passage of Scripture is explored by using one step in the TEXT method, inviting further reflection.

The introduction to Ephesians.

Each book of the Bible is introduced with an overview, background information, and identification of key themes. Above, you see that Paul is identified as the author of Ephesians, a dating of the letter, a key verse, and a summation of this book’s purpose, or why it was written.

TEXT Threads are key ideas you can trace through a letter.

Each introduction also includes TEXT Threads, which are key ideas you can trace through a book. These threads are reminiscent of what you find in the Thompson Chain-Reference Bible, a Bible designed to assist the reader in making broader connections as they move through the Scriptures.

The TEXT Bible has other features as well. There are about 100 short devotionals throughout which follow the TEXT method and answer, “Who is God?” These devotionals often teach a core Christian doctrinal idea (i. e., “There is Only One God” in the exploration of Deuteronomy 6:4). There is instruction on how to pray the Scriptures. There is short commentary on people and places in the Bible. There are descriptions of the different literary genres found in the Bible and definitions of key terms.

The TEXT Bible also features wide margins that are dot lined, which is great! It’s my favorite thing about the layout.

Lastly, this Bible includes a list of prophecies fulfilled at the cross, a catalog of spiritual gifts (with corresponding references), an index of passages for “Praying the TEXT,” Bible reading plans, a concordance, maps, and two ribbon bookmarks.

While this Bible could be used by anyone, it is designed for an emerging generation of readers. It plays on idioms and concepts commonly encountered while using digital media or digital devices, particularly social media and the cell phone. It is not an academic or scholarly Bible, filled with commentary or extensive background notes. Rather, it is suited to those who are new to the Bible and learning the Christian story of salvation. I can see this Bible on the lap of a teenager, reading, thinking, and jotting an occasional note.

I’ve handled countless Bibles. I’ve come to see that every Bible translation has shortcomings, some far more than others. And every “version” of the Bible has strengths and weaknesses. Scholarly, academic Bibles can be impenetrable for some lay readers; popular paraphrase translations can seem too flippant or too lacking in detail for serious readers. Bibles with commentary always represent one theological vantage point or stream over another, and word counts limit what goes in and what stay out in the introductory material, backgrounds, or notes.

This Bible has an intended audience. And I think it can connect with that intended audience. I think The TEXT is a timely presentation of God’s Word for an emerging generation. It could help a young reader get their feet under them as they explore and consider the Christian message.

If you’re interested in receiving a copy of The TEXT Bible, comment with your name and a valid email address and share the Bible translation/edition you most often read or study. One winner among the commenters will be chosen at random at the end of the week and I will contact you via email to receive your address. Your copy will be sent from the publisher.

Thanks for reading, and for those entering the giveaway good luck!

Think Before You Read

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Alan Jacobs, in a recent edition of his newsletter, quotes Oscar Wilde on choosing what to read (and what to recommend):

Books, I fancy, may be conveniently divided into three classes:

  1. Books to read, such as Cicero’s Letters, Suetonius, Vasari’s Lives of the Painters, the Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini, Sir John Mandeville, Marco Polo, St. Simon’s Memoirs, Mommsen, and (till we get a better one) Grote’s History of Greece.
  2. Books to re-read, such as Plato and Keats: in the sphere of poetry, the masters not the minstrels; in the sphere of philosophy, the seers not the savants.
  3. Books not to read at all, such as Thomson’s Seasons, Rogers’s Italy, Paley’s Evidences, all the Fathers except St. Augustine, all John Stuart Mill except the essay on Liberty, all Voltaire’s plays without any exception, Butler’s Analogy, Grant’s Aristotle, Hume’s England, Lewes’s History of Philosophy, all argumentative books and all books that try to prove anything.

The third class is by far the most important. To tell people what to read is, as a rule, either useless or harmful; for, the appreciation of literature is a question of temperament not of teaching; to Parnassus there is no primer and nothing that one can learn is ever worth learning. But to tell people what not to read is a very different matter, and I venture to recommend it as a mission to the University Extension Scheme.

Pall Mall Gazette (1886)

I am occasionally asked for reading recommendations, and I tend to share what I have read, or what I have seen, or what I am confident rests along the lines of interest of the inquirer. And I occasionally have people ask me if a book is worth reading. That is an entirely different question. When that is the question, more often than not I answer, “no.”

Ecclesiastes 12:12 reads, in part, “Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body.” That verse came up repeatedly during my days in seminary, and I think of it from time to time. There are more books in print than any one person would every have time to read. More and more books are published each day. Not every concern that rises to the level of public debate is worth addressing. Not every question is worth the time and effort it would take to research. While it is delightful to learn new things and to explore new frontiers, conceding that others have more knowledge in a given area and admitting that you do not know is perfectly okay. Some books are not ours to read; some topics are not ours to master.

My advice to aspiring readers is to ask those who are well read what they are reading, to build lists, and to diligently and patiently chase authors and interests. I’ll add an admonition to pray and bring to one’s reading a faith that God is with us in our studies. We do not always appoint or choose our influences, rather, they find and grip us. This can be interpreted as a sign of divine providence. I have often heard it said, or testified, that the right books seem to find us at the right time. (Do the wrong books ever find us at the right time, or at the wrong time? Lord only knows how often we’ve been spared!)

We should not put aside our responsibility to seek faithfulness, to be discerning and discriminating with regard to what is ours to read and what is ours to set aside. We should also seek wisdom, and choose reading material that is timely and profitable for the season of life in which we find ourselves, or the line of inquiry that has been appointed for us to pursue. We should also choose that which is true and edifying, rather than trash. More reasons to be prayerful, all. In all things, desire that the Lord directs your steps.

We take one ride on this rock we call Earth. If you’re going to spend time with books, think before you read.

Summer Reading List for Kids

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This summer I’m asking my kids to read. I’m also incentivizing the program. For every book on this list my kid reads, they earn a little money. Not only must they read the book, they have to write three sentences in response to this question: “What’s the book about?” That way, they’re not only reading, but they are reading toward the aim of writing. They’re thinking about how they’d introduce or explain the book to someone else. That’s higher level stuff.

In order for me to pull together a list of books they could choose from, Molly and I asked friends and acquaintances to share titles, series, and authors we should consider. If you are someone who recommended a book, thanks! We appreciate your help. I did not include every book that was suggested. If you see something missing, and you’d like others to know about it, leave a comment on this blog post.

For the sake of parents out there, I’ve linked to Common Sense Media reviews for these titles, where available. I haven’t read all of these books. I couldn’t offer a definitively judgment on many of these titles. Some of these books are more appropriate for my preteen daughter than for my elementary age son. At home, I screen accordingly, and if you are a parent I trust you to do the same. You’re responsible for your children; I’m responsible for mine.

Also, the links below are to Amazon. If you click and purchase, a small credit returns to me. It’s not necessary or even expected. You can search the title on your own! Or, if you live in Waco, you can shop locally at Fabled, and if you live elsewhere, you can buy books at your favorite bookstore. Most of these titles are likely available as well at your local library.

Happy reading!

Baptist Identity: An Interminable Dilemma

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In authority and power in the free church tradition, Paul Harrison observed, ‘It is clear that Baptist history is freighted with ambiguity, and those who strive to establish the singularity of the tradition are on a weak foundation.’ Any attempt to write a history of Baptists must begin with such an admonition. From their beginnings in seventeenth-century Europe, Baptists have demonstrated beliefs and practices so diverse as to make it difficult to compile a consistent list of distinctives applicable to all segments of the movement at all times. Brief examples illustrate an interminable dilemma.

Bill J. Leonard, Baptist Ways: A History, p. 1

Is this a strength, or a weakness?

Leonard goes on to list various Baptist compilations of those characteristics that make Baptists, Baptists. In the 1640s, Anglican Daniel Featley said the “Dippers” “dipt,” and I don’t mean snuff. The immersed people all the way into the water. No pouring or sprinkling. The didn’t baptize children, they didn’t follow a Prayer Book or set liturgical form, but worshiped God “onely by the Spirit.” They refused to take oaths under any circumstance, and they thought no Christian could, in good conscience, “execute the office of civil magistrate.” Baptists were antiestablishment. Maybe they are still. Depends on the Baptist.

A list familiar to me, written by Robert Torbet, claims the Baptists distinctives include: “(1) the authority of Holy Scripture; (2) regenerate church membership; (3) baptism by immersion as the sign of new life in Christ and membership in the church; (4) the autonomy of the local congregation; (5) the priesthood of all believers; and (6) religious liberty.”

That leaves room for a lot of nuance, and a great deal of quibbling.

If you asked me for a seventh Baptist distinctive, it would be quibbling. I prefer it when the arguments are edifying. But I guess that, too, is something to argue about.

Seeking Silence

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A friend of mine sent along a newsletter written by Tish Harrison Warren, published in The New York Times. The article is titled “How Silence Became a Luxury Product.” The article is behind a paywall. If you subscribe to paper, you can read it in full. Here’s a section that caught my eye:

In his book “The World Outside Your Head,” Matthew Crawford advocates for what he calls an “attentional commons.” We as a society hold certain resources in common, like air and water. These vital resources are available to everyone as part of the common good. Crawford says that the “absence of noise” — auditory silence but also freedom from things like advertisements that intrude on our attention — should be seen as just such a resource. He writes, “As clean air makes respiration possible, silence, in this broader sense, is what makes it possible to think.” He argues that we all need access to quiet, undistracting spaces.

Crawford brings up the pricey quietude of the business class lounge at Charles De Gaulle Airport. I have only been in an exclusive airport lounge once (a friend got me in), but the sheer decadence of silence there — with its soundproof doors and walls — compared to the beeping, dinging, blaring in the rest of the airport was both delicious and disturbing. The silence was worth every penny, but why did only those who could pay those many pennies (or have friends who could) deserve it?

On weekdays in cities, churches sometimes keep their doors unlocked to provide a literal sanctuary from noise. This is an unsung kindness to the public, and every church who can do this, should. Still, not many can and this practice is more difficult now due to Covid precautions. As churches in urban areas close and are remade into trendy condos or restaurant space, we don’t just lose a worshiping congregation. We lose one more silent space.

It all leaves us asking, where can we go to find silence? There is an increasing need to preserve and protect publicly accessible silent spaces.

Where do you go to find silence?

Keep Browsing

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As more and more collections go digital and bookstores switch to on-demand models, we will have to deal with what is lost when browsing is lost.

Austin Kleon, “Spontaneity is Learning and Browsing is Research

Sometimes, what you’re looking for isn’t what you’re actually looking for. It’s the next book, the next record, the next image. The one you weren’t searching for, but instead found you.

Reading to Love

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We might think that simply reading more would lead to informed discourse, a more educated populace, and more effective conversation. Alas, the counter examples are rife. Some of the most egregious tweeters are plenty well educated, products of the best schools, even voracious readers. Our society has often defaulted to the idea that we can educate ourselves out of sin (and make no mistake – much online behavior today is quite simply sin), but we rarely sin because we are dumb. We sin because we want to, because we find it, at least in the moment, gratifying and fun. In fact, reading on its own fixes nothing.

Echo chambers and tribalism are real. Whether our media are written – books, blogs, articles – or video – cable news, online videos, film – our society has quickly embraced separate self-referential echo chambers. As has regularly been noted in the past months, it is as if Americans are living not simply with political divisions, but with two separate epistemic realities, two opposite conceptions of even basic facts, the products of two entirely separate media ecosystems. Simply diving into a good book, with “good” being defined as one that supports everything I already want to believe, only deepens the self-referential hole.

We need to read the other, the author who comes from an entirely different cultural, political, and economic background, the author who has looked deeply at the issue in question and has concluded the opposite of what we are attuned to believe. We need to avoid not simply political tribalism but also religious, economic, and social tribalism. The beginning of the question is to read broadly, including those we find to be way “out there.”

Bill Fullilove, “Reading to Be Wrong

Fullilove argues that we should read “the other,” doing so with humility. Humility is a nice starting point. Hold a position on a given point of inquiry doesn’t mean that your position is right or that it is adequately supported by sound reasons. It is always possibly that “the other” is right, even if you doubt it. By reading someone with a different viewpoint, your position could be sharpened, or nuanced, and, as a result, strengthened.

Reading charitably requires a constellation of virtues. There is a temptation to read those of other viewpoints not in pursuit of understanding but with the a priori goal of ferreting out the ways that the other person’s viewpoint is wrong. Humility is a good place to start, but it might be helpful to think further of reading as an exercise in love. The loving person seeks truth not for the sake of winning an argument, but for the good of all parties involved. It can be fun to dunk on your opponents, and sometimes dunking on your opponents can even be easy, but that is not always the most loving action. While slamming a point home may energize your crowd, it might not be so compelling to the unconvinced.

A strong argument and a gentle answer can be had together, one and the same.

The “For the Safety of Everyone” Shibboleth

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Last week my family went on vacation, and upon return endured the safety protocols mandated by federal law that have been imposed on travelers in airports and on airplanes. Vaccinated or not, masks are required of everyone.

From the jump, it was clear the flight crew on the first leg of our return was vigilant about masking. One of the crew, let’s call her O., awakened me from slumber with an exhortation to another passenger to pull their mask above their nose. Her words were the polite ones, but her tone was the condescending one.

Later, O. told another passenger to mask between sips and bites. She was clearly agitated.

And finally, with about twenty minutes left on our flight, O. took to the intercom system and scolded all passengers about masking, declaring we had all agreed to mask when we purchased our tickets, that masking was federally mandated, that the flight crew was only allowed to warn us “so many times,” and that if we were eating, we should take a bite, replace our mask, or if we were drinking, we should do the same. Off. On. Off. On. If your mask is off, no respiration allowed. Only expose your mouth to nibble or sip.

I thought of elementary school, those moments when the teacher unleashed a tirade against the class when the intolerable offense was committed by one student. This was like one of those moments. We were collectively guilty, and thus collectively shamed, though we all knew who was at fault, that the treatment we received was unfair, and that this matter should have been handled one to one, in a more mature, just manner.

If a passenger refused to mask according to the crew’s liking, I wondered what would come next. Would they turn the plane around? Would they eject the offending passenger? Shove them down a garbage chute, and activate the compactor? Would they issue an arbitrary flight ban? Withdraw future flight snacking privileges? What would be the consequence?

And if a passenger objected to the collective scolding, what would happen to that individual?

The justification for our scolding was that these practices are “for the safety of everyone” and, therefore, must be observed.

That is simply not true. At this stage, these practices are for the relatively safety of some, not all. The vaccines have been available for months. Anyone choosing to travel without the vaccine has had ample opportunity to receive it and should be held responsible for their choices.

O.’s tone, in addition to the phrasing of her message, were meant to convey that vigilant maskers, like herself, are good. Those who do not comply to the crew’s satisfaction are bad.

Policy makers have asked the public to take specific actions because they think the benefits will outweigh the costs. But the reasons given for the rules have to make sense. It would have been better to say these measures are prescribed to help minimize the spread of the delta variant, to keep the airlines operative, and to prevent the cabin from becoming an incubator of contagion.

Back in 1994, Delta’s slogan was “You’ll Love the Way We Fly.” Not on this flight.

Thankfully, on the second leg of our flight, we didn’t have another O. I can put up with the mitigation policies. But the condescension I can do without.