The Bookshelf: CSB Notetaking Bible

With Bible art journaling being all the rage, this may be an unpopular opinion.

I don’t like it.

It might be more accurate to say that I don’t like much of what I see posted online. It’s not the art itself. Much of what I have seen online is beautiful. I just don’t like that the words – the Word of God – is obscured by watercolors and markers that must bleed through to the opposite side of the page to create rather a mess of the text on the other side.

Bibles like the CSB Notetaking Bible may be one way to avoid this pet peeve of mine.

The Bible comes with a cloth over board cover featuring a flowery design that is repeated on the inside front and back covers. It is also available in a brown color with a diamond pattern and in genuine leather.

Inside, wide margins are lined at intervals that may be too small for people with larger handwriting. An additional lined page is included at the end of each book to allow for more space on which to write notes.

The text itself  is in a small font, but is clear and easy to read on cream-colored pages.

I particularly liked the reading plan included in the CSB Notetaking Bible. The plan includes a reading from the Psalms each Sunday with daily readings from the Old and New Testaments and special readings for the days prior to Easter and Christmas. It’s a plan designed to take the reader through the entire Bible in a year.

The concordance seems sizeable for a Bible of this size, and the colorful maps illustrate significant episodes including the travels of Abraham, the Exodus, the journeys of Paul and more.

Overall, this is a beautifully designed Bible, but it’s impractical for me, however, since I take copious notes during sermons and study times and would quickly run out of space in the lined margins.

If, however, you are interested in a Bible with wide margins to give you the space you need to be able to do artwork or to take notes during devotions or sermons, the CSB Notetaking Bible is an excellent choice.


Disclaimer: Thank you to B&H Publishing for providing me with a copy of the CSB Notetaking Bible in exchange for my unbiased review.



The Bookshelf: The Lost Sermons of C.H. Spurgeon

Unlike perhaps many of the people who will flock to this book, I am a relative novice in the world of famed 19th century preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon. I know of his revered Morning and Evening devotion book, but little of the prolific writer and speaker behind it.

Yet, even to a such a novice, The Lost Sermons of C.H. Spurgeon there was much to appreciate about the volume.

As beautiful as it is with full color reproductions of Spurgeon’s actual notebooks, it is not conducive to reading through from cover to cover. It is precisely as it states, “outlines and sermons.” Some of these outlines are more complete than others, but there are many that contain incomplete thoughts that would have been filled in during the actual delivery of the message.

Edited by Christian T. George, the volume contains plenty of footnotes to help guide the reader to other materials – such as Spurgeon’s autobiography and collections of his lectures and sermons – that help fill in the blanks left by the outline format. The notes also help to guide readers through the potential thought process of the great preacher as it notes places where words were added to the outline or where words and phrases were stricken.

The introduction to the book is truly an asset in establishing the setting into which Spurgeon was writing and delivering the sermons he outlined. It also contains colorful charts, graphs and even a word cloud to illustrate the content on which Spurgeon concentrated during this season of his ministry.

While beautifully presented, this book is best considered as a reference work for scholars, pastors and students looking for more insight into the world of Spurgeon. Casual readers or newcomers to Spurgeon’s writing may be better served by starting with one of his more accessible volumes.

Disclosure: I was provided with a complimentary copy of The Lost Sermons of C.H. Spurgeon: His Earliest Outlines and Sermons Between 1851 and 1854 in exchange for my unbiased review.

The Bookshelf: The CSB Reader’s Bible

So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the message about Christ. (Romans 10:17)

Our faith grows as we read and study Scriptures but a recent study shows that only 37 percent of Americans read the Bible once a week or more.

How can we grow that number?

No one translation or edition of the Bible will capture the attention of a public that appears to be at least somewhat resistant to reading the Scripture, but the CSB Readers Bible offers an engaging format that puts a quality translation onto a reader-friendly page.

Chapter markings, verses and text headers have been eliminated from this edition as have footnotes, study guides, photos, devotions, and all of those other “helps” that have crept into a myriad of other editions of the Bible. As a result, any given page looks like the page of any book with single-column, left-justified print that focuses reader attention where it should be – on the words of the Scriptures.

I had never thought the headings, chapters and verse numbers made a difference in how I read the Bible. I learned differently when I settled in to read the book of Ruth. Without the visual cues to which I have been accustomed, I read the book’s four chapters much faster than I ever had before. It never occurred to me that all the “page furniture” could be a distraction – but it clearly was.

The CSB Reader’s Bible doesn’t leave the reader totally without guidance, however. Chapter beginnings are subtly marked with a blue capital letter, as can be seen on the photo on this page. Quotations from the Old Testament are also presented in bold, which is helpful for identifying those occasions in which the gospel writers referred to the prophets.

That’s where the purpose of this edition of the Bible runs up against its usefulness for deep study. Without a footnote, the reader has to consult other sources to find out what Old Testament texts those bold-faced quotations come from. It’s also hard to use this edition in a small group setting due to the lack of verse numbers.

But, that’s OK. That’s not the purpose of this particular edition. This edition is meant to connect the reader directly with God’s word, allowing an immersive experience without the clutter. And that’s just what it does.

If you get distracted while reading, or find yourself bogged down in a plan to read through the Bible, consider the CSB Reader’s Bible. I know that, for me, this will not be an edition of the Bible that just sits on the shelf to collect dust. It will be the go-to version when I want to read a few pages before bed or the entirety of one of Paul’s letters during breakfast.

Additional thoughts

Why chose the CSB version? The translation philosophy for the team that created the CSB version strove to balances literal translation with readability in the English that we speak today. As a result, the translators use literal translation when the word-for-word translation is understandable, and a more dynamic – or thought for thought – translation for other areas. The result is a translation that is both understandable and accurate to the original texts.

When did verses get added to the Bible anyway? The chapters we use today were first added to the Scriptures in the 12th century by Stephen Langton though some form of chapter divisions can be found in manuscripts dating to the fourth century. Verse divisions were added by Robert Estienne in 1551.


Disclaimer: B&H Publishing provided me with a free copy of the CSB Reader’s Bible in exchange for my unbiased review.

The Bookshelf: Under the Overpass by Mike Yankoski

I had the privilege of talking to Mike when he visited Safe Harbour, a local ministry for the homeless and potentially homeless, for a fundraiser. He was easily one of the more intriguing interviews I’ve had in some time. When the book came up on sale at Amazon, I had to get it. The book was just as good as the interview. He offers first-hand insights from life on the street, freely admitting that his experience was different from others because he knew for certain that he would be leaving the situation. Mike offered keen spiritual insights as well as practical (and welcome) advice for connecting with the homeless in your town.

The Bookshelf: Love Lives Here by Maria Goff

When B&H Publishing offered the chance to read an advance copy of Maria Goff’s first book, I jumped.

That was back in March.

Looking back, I can’t say exactly what got in the way of reading the book as I had promised. Family. Work. Going through a running program. Whatever it was, it was bringing me closer to my family and co-workers as I made new friends with my running buddies.

Now that I’ve read the book, I’m pretty sure Maria would approve.

The books features a series of vignettes ranging from the early days of Maria’s relationship with Bob, extending through raising their children and all of the adventures they had in between as Maria provided the anchor to a home in which love was the primary language. Each story is told with simplicity and vulnerability, and is ultimately connected to the teachings of Jesus or to other stories and letters of the Bible.

And that is the note on which I very nearly stumbled hard not three pages into the introduction. Maria writes, “Paul said in one of his letters to a friend named James that sometimes life is like looking in a mirror and then forgetting our appearance.”

The verse to which I believe she is referring is James 1:23-24:

For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.

That letter wasn’t written by Paul. It was written by James. And I can’t think of a different reference – nor could I find another reference – that came close to what Maria wrote.

Certainly some may call that nitpicking over a single sentence, but I was worried for a bit about how accurately Scripture would be used, and – to be honest – I wondered about the editing. It seemed odd that I would have caught something like that immediately when editors did not.

Those worries and concerns dissipated somewhat as I quickly read through the first chapters of Maria’s story, and finding myself in agreement that life – and love – isn’t always about the big moments and the extraordinary experiences. It’s found in the small encounters we have daily.

The more I read, though, the slower it went. To some extent, it seemed like the stories were covering the same ground.

Would I recommend it? I know others absolutely raved about it, but I just never got there. Don’t get me wrong. It is a good read, and I think many people would enjoy it. So, yes, do read it if it sounds like your cup of tea!


Wednesday Selah: Song of My Father by Urban Rescue



We’ve all heard the voices. Those voices in our head that sometimes whisper and sometimes scream that we don’t measure up.

  • “I need to do it all.”
  • “My life doesn’t have a purpose.”
  • “I don’t belong.”
  • “I don’t have much to offer.”
  • “I’m not smart enough.”

But, to each of these lies, God speaks the truth. Holley Gerth explores these truths in her new devotional, Do You Know You Are Already Amazing? Holley pairs the lie with a passage from Scripture that reflects God’s truth as it was revealed in the life of one woman.

  • “I only need to give Jesus my all.”
  • “I’m here for such a time as this.”
  • “God has a place for me.”
  • “God can use whatever I have to give.”
  • “God makes me wise.”

Each day’s reading ends with questions to help the reader explore the lies that shape their own life. Honest reflection ultimately tunes us in to the voice of God rather than the voices in our heads, and Holley does a superb job of gently guiding the reader to hearing the Father’s voice.

The message of hearing God’s voice of truth over the noisy lies of the world reminded me of a song from one of my new favorite bands, Urban Rescue. The chorus is not only a declaration of where I am in my life, but it’s also a prayer that I will always remember that I am loved no matter what my circumstances or what lies I am hearing.

In the middle of the night
I look up to the sky
I can hear You singing over me
Through the fire and the flood I know that I am loved
I can hear You singing over me

I encourage you to listen to this song as you reflect on the truth Holley shared for whatever day you happen to stumble upon this post.

And know always that only God can show us who we really are.

Disclosure: Holley Gerth was gracious enough to provide me with a copy of her devotional in exchange for an honest review.