What’s the best Bible? (Plus a Christmas Giveaway!)

Note: I’m writing this post from the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C. It’s a bucket-list place, filled with ancient history, modern technology, and more than a few breath-taking encounters with the written and living Word. I first wrote about the museum several years ago, right after it opened. For my “top five” reasons to visit, click hereAnd if you want a chance to win a copy of my favorite Bible, keep reading!

What’s the best Bible?

I guess everyone has their favorite version or style, and if you visit the Museum of the Bible, you can see what lots of kings liked, from James to Elvis to the great-grandma of Henry V:

King James Bible

Elvis Presley's Bible

King Henry V's great-grandma's Bible

I respect their picks. But for me, it’s the Thompson Chain Reference Bible. Back before there was Google—before anyone had ever heard of a search engine—this workhorse got the job done.

The book was chock full of tools like a concordance for finding specific words, colored maps to get the lay of the land in the ancient world, book-by-book outlines, and character studies. All super engaging and helpful.

Concordance

Colored map in Bible

Bible Character Studies

But what made this particular Bible so very special was the chain reference system. I have no idea how they did it, but a bunch of brainiacs put their heads together and came up with a way to let regular folks navigate Scripture and discover what God had to say about more than 8,000 different topics, from sibling relationships to handling money to what our heavenly home will really be like.

Chain Reference Bible System: Home

With the Thompson Chain Reference Bible, you didn’t need a seminary degree or even a commentary to understand Scripture, as valuable as those things may be. Instead, you could open to any page in the Bible, follow the links, and let God’s Word reveal and interpret itself.

Alert readers will note that I’m writing in the past tense. It’s true. I loved my old chain reference Bible, and I used it to help me write all my books. I used it so much, in fact, that after more than 30 years it started falling apart.

Not even duct tape could help anymore.

Duct tape Bible

Which is why I was so very excited to get my hands on the brand new, UPDATED edition of the Thompson Chain Reference Bible. It’s available in several translations, with different cover styles, sizes, and fonts (hello, Comfort Print!). To celebrate its release, I am GIVING AWAY a copy of the MacDaddy version: Genuine goatskin leather, gilded page edges, ribbon markers—the works! 

Thompson Chain Reference Premiere Edition Bible

Bible interior pages

This particular style costs almost as much as my first car, but you can access the entire collection, with all the different price points and features, by clicking here. (And heads up: All the versions are on sale at FaithGateway between now and the new year!)

Chain reference topic: Cares of Motherhood

Thompson Chain Reference Bible

Am I grateful for Google, and for online resources like BibleGateway? Of course I am. But for anyone who wants to discover God’s heart as it’s revealed in the actual pages of Scripture—whether you’re doing a topical study, preparing a talk, or just enjoying a quiet morning with God—I don’t think you’ll find a better study Bible than this.

Old Testament Prophecies

Want to win the leather Bible? Head on over to my Instagram or Facebook and “like” the post with this picture…

Me with the Thompson Chain Reference Bible at the Museum of the Bible

…and then drop a comment letting me know your favorite Bible story/verse/character and tag someone who’s helped cultivate your love for God’s Word.

Speaking of loving God’s Word…

Do you have a reading plan for 2023?

Not to get all judge-y about it, but as one of my mentors used to say, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” If you want a Bible reading plan for the new year, here are two of my favorites:

The Bible in One Year. Whether you prefer your daily readings delivered via email, phone app, or podcast, this step-by-step tour takes you through every chapter and verse in the Bible, with reflections and prayer prompts from the always engaging Nicky and Pippa Gumbel. Robbie and I have “done” this reading plan several times; it never gets old—plus, it’s kinda cool to know that you’re reading the same parts of God’s Word with over a million people, worldwide, every day! Click here to learn more or to access your free subscription.

Search the Scriptures. If you’re looking for a slightly slower pace, you might enjoy Alan Stibb’s book, Search the Scriptures. It takes you through the entire Bible in three years, not one, and Stibbs offers questions for reflection and biblical cross-references for deeper study. I’m wrapping up Year One of this book and I love it, but I do have three caveats:

First, the book isn’t cheap. It’s nearly $34 on Amazon. But if you break that down into three years (or get it for Christmas!), it becomes almost a bargain. 🙂

Search the scriptures

Second, the thing is a doorstop, heavy and thick. I took my copy to Kinkos and had it chopped into three parts (one per year) and spiral bound, which provides the added benefit of giving you something that will lay flat as you read.

Search the Scriptures Spiral bound

Third, Stibbs provides thoughtful questions—but he doesn’t give us the answers. Consider “doing” the book with a friend or two, and compare notes. I’m super grateful to my pal Margaret for her spiritual insights (and for the fact that she almost never misses a day, which is more than I can say for myself). Click here if you’d like to try Search the Scriptures yourself.

Okay, enough pictures of Bibles. I know you’ve got wrapping and baking to do. But don’t forget the Bible giveaway—which, by the way, is exclusive to our email friend group; it’s my Christmas present to one of you! 😊 We’ll pick the winner on Sunday 12/18 and announce in my stories that afternoon. That way, I can head to the post office on Monday, with all of the last minute gift-mailers, and send the book on it’s way!

❤️🎄

 

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Prayer Journal Giveaway (just for my email friends)

Friends, the new Praying the Scriptures Journal released this week!

Prayer Journal giveaway

To celebrate, I’m sliding into your inbox with a mid-week prayer journal GIVEAWAY exclusively for my email subscribers. We’ll be picking THREE winners to receive signed copies, hot off the press! Details below, but first here’s a question we tossed out earlier this week over at Club31Women.com

“Do you think most moms know how to pray for their kids?”

It was a fair question. A group of us were talking about how we approach God, and our hang-ups seemed to outnumber our how-tos. One mom said she wanted to pray for her children, but she worried she’d ask for the wrong thing. Another said she wasn’t sure where to begin or how to stay focused. (“I feel like I just sit there and ramble,” was how she put it.) And a third gal confessed to not being sure God was listening. “I’ve had prayers go unanswered before,” she said. “I’m not sure I have enough faith.”

Me, I spent a lot of years thinking that prayer was basically a one-way conversation where I would ask God for what I thought would be good and then see what happened. If my relationships or my circumstances lined up with my requests, I would know that God said “yes.” And if not, he said “no.” I didn’t begrudge God when he turned me down—I knew verses like Isaiah 55:9 and that God’s ways are higher than ours—but I much preferred it when I’d put in a prayer and get the answer I wanted.

I liked it when prayer worked like a vending machine.

But that’s not how Jesus sees prayer.

Christ’s model for prayer is based on connection. On relationship. On the promise that if we lean into him and allow his words to soak into our soul—not just shaping our desires but even creating them—we can pray with the full and wholehearted expectation that God will answer. “If you remain in me,” he says in John 15:7, “and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be given to you.”

Christ's model for prayer quote

That’s an incredible promise. But how, practically speaking, do we take Jesus up on his offer? How do we throw off the things that hinder our prayers—our uncertainty, our tendency toward distraction, our past disappointment—and really lean into God? How can we know how to pray?

That’s a mouthful of questions—more than this space can answer—but two bite-sized answers can help.

An animated conversation with God

The first answer is to use Scripture a springboard for prayer. Instead of just reading the Bible, consider it a conversation starter. For instance, if you read a verse like Ephesians 4:2“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love”—you can turn it around, making it not just a directive from God, but a request from your own heart: “Help me…” you might say, or “Help my children be completely humble, gentle, and patient, bearing with each other in love.” When you pray like this, letting God’s word animate your perspective, you don’t need to worry about finding the words or doing it “wrong.” You can be confident that your prayers will line up with God’s plans.

The second strategy is to use a prayer journal as an anchor. Whether you write long paragraphs, short sentences, or just bullet points, having a record of your conversations with God comes with at least three benefits: It helps you stay focused. It gives you space to write what the Holy Spirit reveals in the pages of Scripture. And it allows you to stay alert to the ways you see God’s hand at work in your life and in the lives of the people you love.

prayer journal for the people you love

A tether for your trust

In Bible times, people often built altars as a way to remind them of God’s promises and of what he had done. Noah built one after the flood; Abraham built one after God said he would bless the whole earth through him; Moses built one after God took the Israelites safely through the Red Sea. In each of these instances—and in numerous others—the altar signified the time and place where God showed up and proved his love.

We can do the same thing with a journal. We can tether our trust to God’s promises, letting the words we read in the Bible give shape to our prayers. And, over time, we can go back and see what God has done: The places where we’ve seen spiritual, physical, or emotional growth in our children. The friendships forged or restored. The challenging circumstances where God is proving his love through his presence—even if the answer to prayer has not yet appeared, or it doesn’t look anything like what we expected.

A prayer journal doesn’t have to be fancy (I used a spiral notebook for years), but if you’d like help getting started, or you just need some fresh encouragement or inspiration, the new Praying the Scriptures Journal can help. The book offers journaling prompts, biblical insights, and specific prayers you can use to talk with God about your child’s faith, character, relationships, decisions, and more. (Plus, with a linen cover, elegantly designed pages, and a satin ribbon to mark your place, it’s really pretty 😊).

Journal cover

We might think we don’t know how to pray. But as we turn our hearts toward God, telling him our needs and thanking him for what he has done, our prayers release his provision. We find freedom from things like worry and fear in our parenting. And, as Philippians 4:6-7 promises, we experience his peace, knowing that no matter how far away our children may be, they are never out of God’s reach.

❤️

The Giveaway Scoop:  Email subscribers can enter to win a copy of the journal on Instagram or Facebook. All you have to do is “like” the post and tag a friend in the comments. (And psst…if you win and you want me to sign the book for your friend as a gift, just let me know–this prayer journal is my new go-to for baby showers, birthdays, and the moms & grandmoms on my Christmas list! 😊)

We’ll announce the winner in my Stories on Sunday (and we’ll DM you to let you know if it’s you!). In the meantime, here’s a quick peek at the prayer journal and why I think you’ll like it!

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How has your mother shaped your life?

If you’ve been around this blog for awhile, you’ve met my mother. You’ve read about the gorilla who came to her wedding (a story that comes with a side dose of hope for those who’ve lost spouses they love); you know she goes boogie-boarding in the snow (because age is a number, not a lifestyle); and you’ll remember how she helped save the day when the bus we’d hired to transport Annesley’s wedding party left the bride and groom at the church.

IMG_8916

And in a brand new book called Faithful Daughter:  True, Inspiring Stories Celebrating a Mother’s Legacy and Love, I’m telling the story of how Mom taught me to get back at people who hurt me.

Mother-Daughter Book

Faithful Daughter is the brainchild of noted writer and editor Ami McConnell. Ami asked 35 of her friends (award-wining novelists, best-selling authors, and gals who just love a good story) to write about how their mothers’ lives had shaped theirs. The compilation of essays–some marked by joy, others by searing pain–is as varied as the women themselves. But there is one common theme:  Namely, that there is no such thing as a perfect mother. And no perfect daughters, either. We’re all just women, daughters of God.

Who loves us just as we are.

If you want a chance to win a free copy of Faithful Daughter, pop on over to Instagram (@jodie_berndt) or Facebook (@jodieberndtwrites) and leave a comment about your own mom. I’d love to hear how her life, or her faith, left its mark on yours. And in the meantime, here’s my story…

An Inheritance of Blessing

I could hear him back there, bouncing his basketball. We were on our way home from elementary school, together and yet not. Thomas, the coolest boy in the whole third grade, walked twenty feet behind me. I didn’t look back.

Suddenly, the bouncing stopped. A split-second later, I felt the breath leave my body. Thomas had thrown his ball and—since he was also the most athletic boy in third grade—it had hit me, square in the back.

I took off running.

Three blocks later, I burst through my front door. “Mom!” I cried through my tears, “Thomas Mayfield [not his real name] just hit me in the back. With his basketball!”

My mother has never been known for her nurturing personality. She could tell I wasn’t seriously hurt and so, rather than letting me wallow, she pointed me toward the door.

“Jodie,” she said, “Thomas will be walking past our house in about one minute, and when he goes by I want you to say, ‘Have a nice day, Thomas.’

“And then I want you to curtsy.”

I know what you are thinking. You are thinking that my mom sounds a little bit crazy. And she is, in a mostly good kind of way.

Like, when my sixty-one-year-old dad was battling brain cancer and lacked the strength to get from the car to their condo, and my mom told him to sit on the sidewalk. “Stay right there,” she said (as if my father had another option), and then she disappeared into the building. Five minutes later she returned, carrying the cushions from their lanai, a bottle of Pepsi, and a bag of Doritos.

Which is how my parents wound up spending an entire afternoon sunning themselves in a parking lot until my dad found the strength to begin again. Crazy right? Yeah. Crazy good.

Repaying Insults with Kindness

But back to Thomas.

Per Mom’s instructions, I went out to the street and saw him coming my way. Thomas didn’t acknowledge me but, as he drew abreast of our house, I spoke up:  “Have a nice day, Thomas.” And I curtsied.

(Having seen The Sound of Music at least three times before I turned eight, I knew how.)

If Thomas was surprised, he didn’t show it. If anything, he looked a bit worried. He probably figured my mother had called his—and that he’d have to face the music when he got home. That’s what most moms would have done, back in the day:  called and tattled. But not mine.

Claire Rundle may have been short on maternal sympathy, but she was long on the Bible. She knew what it said. And whenever anyone tried to hurt her or one of her kids, she always found a way to pay them back.

With a blessing.

“Do not repay evil with evil,” the Bible says, “or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.”

That’s 1 Peter 3:9. And it worked. Thomas never bothered me after that day; in fact, we became friends. And my mom’s crazy counsel—to repay insults with blessings—has stood me in good stead, over the years. Because what I’ve found is that the more I try to extend kindness to people who hurt or offend me, the better life gets. It’s like grace finds a way to get rid of the sting.

“That’s the ugliest thing I have ever seen.”

I have four children. They’re all grown up now, but I tried to raise them in the spirit of 1 Peter 3:9. I’m sure there were times when they thought I was as crazy as I thought my mom was. I’m sure there were days when they thought I was worse. One year, for instance, they gave me a homemade Mother’s Day card where they’d picked a word to go with each letter in the word MOTHER. Next to the e they wrote EMBARRASSING.

Honestly, though? I didn’t care if they thought I was nuts. I just didn’t want them to miss out on a blessing. And so I encouraged them to invite the mean girl to their party. To bake cookies for our grumpy neighbor when he complained about the noise they made. To pray God’s richest favor over the middle school bully.

I did not, however, ever ask them to curtsy. So there’s that.

But here’s the thing:  Repaying meanness with kindness almost never makes sense, nor is it usually easy. Yet it opens the door to a life full of freedom and blessing—one that refuses to take up an offense—and for that wisdom nugget, I will be forever grateful to my mother.

She and my dad enjoyed their last parking lot picnic back in 2001, the year that my father went to be with the Lord. Mom got remarried several years later—her name is Claire Gilman now—and I love my stepdad. John is just as generous and crazy as she is.

They downsized recently, moving from a big house to a small condo, taking only their most beloved possessions. As John pushed his favorite stone bench into place outside their new front door, a neighbor approached.

“That is the ugliest thing I have ever seen,” the neighbor said, inclining his head toward the bench. “Where do you plan to put it?”

John straightened up. “Well I guess I will put it wherever you like,” he said with a smile. And then he invited the man and his wife over for dinner.

Which is not, to be perfectly frank, what I would have done. But it’s the sort of thing I want to do when someone gets under my skin. And so, even as I ask God to help my children “repay evil with blessing,” I pray that 1 Peter 3:9 prayer for myself:

Lord, make me willing to return kindness for cruelty. Let me meet meanness with love.

Lord, make me more like my mom.

Mother-Daughter Book Quote

 

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Why does God allow suffering?

Robbie and I were in Colorado last week. We had a blast hiking with friends and taping a couple of shows (Focus on the Family and Rebel Parenting; I’ll keep you posted on air dates in case you want to tune in), but there were at least two other highlights on our trip.

The first was that we did not get eaten by a bear. (There’s a story there, but it will keep. Maybe next week.)

The second big plus was seeing our friends, Ann and Ty Saltzgiver. Ann’s the one on the left in this pic…

…and Ty, as you know, is our featured author this month. We spent some time catching up, the way that friends do, and as we looked back on the peaks and valleys of our lives, Ty made an interesting observation:

“If I graphed my life by the times I was experiencing more of Jesus,” he said, “and then overlaid that graph with another graph of the difficult times in my life, the lines would match up. The graphs would be nearly the same.”

That was both a sobering and an encouraging thought. I mean, given the choice, I’m pretty sure I’d “just say no” to pain…but if difficulty or suffering serves as a kind of conduit to Christ, I want to at least be open to experiencing it. Or rather, to experiencing him.

Ty writes about suffering in his book, Longing to Experience More of Jesus“Suffering, pain, trouble, and affliction happen to each one of us,” he says, but it’s never “all right.” It’s a mess. It is crushing. And it can sometimes lead to despair.

And also to questions.

A lot of people, Ty says, find it difficult to trust God in the face of their hurt, or someone else’s. “How could God allow pain and suffering, when he could so easily fix it?”

There are, of course, no easy answers. We may find it hard to read Scripture in the midst of our pain, and our prayers can seem pointless or empty. We long for God’s presence, for some reassurance, but when we feel like we need God the most, we don’t sense that he is anywhere near. Ty quotes St. Teresa of Avila, who once said to God, “It’s not at all surprising You have so few friends, considering how You treat the friends you have.”

We get that.

But we also, if we are honest, get what Ty means about graphing his life. Pain has an uncanny way of making us realize that we are not in control. And in our desperation (marked, as it often is, by a diminishing sense of independence), we may find ourselves moving closer to God.

And when we come near to him, he comes near to us, enfolding us in his embrace.

In writing about the place suffering has in our lives, Ty says he is not trying to “put a smiley face” on our pain. Rather, his aim seems to be to remind us that Jesus took on the crush of our hurt (Isaiah 53:4) and that he understands exactly how we feel. After all, he he has been there before (Hebrews 4:15-16).

Suffering is just one of 30 sometimes-challenging topics Ty covers in Longing to Experience. There’s also stuff about trusting God, going deeper in prayer, discovering your true identity, and much more. None of the chapters are long–they’re designed for use as a daily devotion–but they’re rich.

And if you’d like to win a copy…

…hop on over to Instagram (@jodie_berndt) or Facebook (@JodieBerndtWrites) and leave a comment. Or tag a friend who might want to experience more of the Lord.

Which is what I want to do.

Even (and I’m struggling to type this next part) if it means also experiencing pain. I think it was maybe Joyce Meyer who said that, having tasted the incredible blessing of God’s comfort, she found herself almost hoping she’d need it. As in, she was open to the hurt because the hug was just so much more.

Yeah. I’m not quite there yet. But…I want to be.

Heavenly Father,

You are close to the brokenhearted, you comfort us in all our troubles, and you know exactly how it feels to be despised, rejected, and familiar with pain. (Psalm 34:18, 2 Corinthians 1:4, Isaiah 53:4)

Come near to us as we come near to you. Draw us into your loving arms, and may we take refuge in your embrace. (James 4:8, Song of Songs 2:6)

Amen

❤️

P.S. This post marks the end of our September with Saltzgiver…but there’s more to come! In fact, Ty has a brand new book that’s set to release on November 1. Designed especially for families, Ready or Not (clever title, eh?) is an Advent devotional that will help prepare our hearts and our homes for Christmas. You can’t pre-order the book, but jot yourself a note to visit SaltResources.com in early November and pick up a copy for everyone on your “nice” list! 🙂

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