The Illustrated NIrV for Kids: a book review

Zondervan and The International Bible Society (aka Biblica) have just published The Illustrated NIrV Holy Bible for Kids. Created “for children who want to read on their own or with an adult nearby,” this latest daughter of the NIV is child-friendly in many ways (though not all). But its value for your family will depend on how it’s used.

The NIrV first appeared in 1994 as a spin-off of the New International Version (NIV), the most popular modern translation of the Bible. Editors of the NIrV replaced longer words and phrases with simpler language at a 3rd-grade reading level. This style is called a thought-for-thought translation rather than word-for-word. Since 1994, Zondervan has updated and republished the NIrV in multiple formats, including a children’s version featuring The Berenstain Bears. So, what is different about this new edition?

What You Might Like

The adorable illustrations by Bible Story Map (contributing editor, Stephanie Holleman), are worth the $29.99 cover price alone. Holleman’s studio produces attractive and helpful Bible posters for sale online, some of which have been reproduced in this volume. They also designed new illustrations for the text, approximately one for every two-page spread. And a two-sided poster comes tucked into the back cover with the Holy Land on one side and a genealogy of Bible characters on the other.

I also particularly liked the parenthetical chapter and verse references for quotes from another part of Scripture. However, the editors’ decision not to number each verse in the text greatly reduces their usefulness. These references and the division of chapters into smaller sections with added titles constitute the only extra-Biblical material. No other introductory or explanatory study notes are included because they “can be very distracting for kids.”

What You Might Not Like

Besides the lack of verse numbers, another problem for new readers and children (not to mention the over-50 crowd, like me) is the very small, 9-point font. Zondervan advertises an “easy-to-read” typeface for this edition, but only twenty-somethings are likely to find it so easy. I used to buy large-print Bibles for my early-reading children (12-point font or higher), and I still think that is preferable.

Sample text (enlarged). See parenthetical note and lack of verse numbers.

Should You Buy It?

When I was a fresh-faced, home-schooling mom, I naively believed my young children were going to read their Bibles. This new edition would be really nice for that purpose. In reality, my kids only used their Bibles to complete assignments at home and at church. If that is true for your young readers, then a Bible with larger print and verse numbers might be a better choice. How do you look up John 3:16 when there is no “16” in your book?

And for reading to a child, I prefer Sally Lloyd-Jones’ The Jesus Storybook Bible, with its Christ-centered approach and full-page illustrations. I’m also looking forward to the Laugh and Learn Bible for Kids by Veggie Tales creator, Phil Vischer, due out Sept. 10th. Neither of these books contain the complete text of Scripture as does the The NIrV Illustrated Holy Bible for Kids, but let’s face it – you probably aren’t going to read much of Deuteronomy or Lamentations to your first-grader anyway.

I think my children liked having their own Bibles, and the grown-ups around them liked it, too. It was the start of a good, life-long habit, even if it was a bit more symbolic than practical. Gift-buying grandparents will be attracted to this new edition, and the illustrations are probably your best hope that kids might open it up on their own. So, whether you want to purchase this new Bible depends largely on how you believe it will be used. I can honestly say it is the most attractive, complete children’s version of Scripture that I’ve seen. But, please, Zondervan! Put the verse numbers back!


As a member of the Bible Gateway Blogger Grid, I was given a promotional copy of the book in exchange for this review.

Suffering, a Book Review

Dr. Paul Tripp, pastor, counselor, conference speaker and author of at least 21 books, kept up his hectic schedule because he was disciplined about diet, exercise and health. So it was a bolt from the blue when a mysterious illness put him in the hospital with spasms so intense he screamed in pain and fear for thirty-six hours straight. That wasn’t the end of his suffering, either, but you will have to read his latest book to find out more.

A New Book

You may know Tripp for his parenting videos aimed at the heart or his books on human relationships, such as How People Change. Or perhaps you get his weekly devotional in your email inbox. If so, then you are familiar with his casual style, mixing Scriptural truths with clarifying anecdotes in a way that generally hits a bulls-eye but occasionally seems too formulaic. Well, Dr. Tripp has been prolific of late, publishing three new volumes in 2018 despite his major health issues. Because of those health issues I wanted to include a review of his latest book, Suffering: Gospel Hope When Life Doesn’t Make Sense in this blog series on pain. 

I’ve read virtually every book on suffering and theodicy in the popular, conservative, Christian market (and a few that aren’t), so I didn’t expect to be surprised by Tripp’s entry in the genre. But I was surprised by two things: the transparency of his story and the fact that he brought one excellent new idea to the theology of suffering.

Self-Disclosure

Paul Tripp often includes his family problems as illustrations in his work, so it wouldn’t be fair to say he has concealed his mistakes. But he has seemed to maintain a certain distance. I had the privilege of lunching with him at a small, post-conference gathering, and I have to say, he did not leave me with warm fuzzies there, either. (Now that I’ve read about his recent illness, I wonder what he might have been going through at the time.) His descriptions in Suffering are not vastly different from his self-disclosure in other works, but I was able to empathize with his struggles in a deeper way. Tripp speaks of his new-found dependence, saying, “Honestly, I didn’t suffer just physical pain, but also the even more profound pain of the death of my delusion of invincibility and the pride of productivity.”

His descriptions of physical pain are heart-rending, too. Now he knows; now we are connected. I want to say, “Welcome to the fellowship of His sufferings,” (Phil. 3:10), because I think there is a promise in that verse. When you enter into suffering, you enter into a hidden room where Christ has lived and died; you enter into His fellowship in a new way, and the Gospel becomes so much dearer.

Suffering as a Canvas

That said, I’m not sure feeling closer to Paul Tripp is enough reason to spend $17 on another book about suffering. What I will really take away with me is the idea that our lives are shaped not just by what we suffer but by what we bring to our suffering (p. 27). If we bring doubt or fear or pride or resentment or self-hatred into our suffering, then we will suffer that way. Our suffering is like a canvas upon which each one of us paints his own picture. For some, the experience is colored with envy or depression, while for others, suffering is a place of focus and reflection. I would add that each bout and each type of suffering is going to be a little different, too. God is at work in different ways in all our lives at all times, and if we will seek Him within our suffering we will find out what has been hiding in our hearts all along. That is a good thing.

The first two-thirds of the book exposes some of the common problems that we bring into our experience of suffering, while the last third enumerates some of the sources of comfort God offers for our suffering. These later chapters offer practical steps, applicable Scripture and the power of telling yourself the truths you have trouble believing. I found them a good reminder in a time of my own suffering. There are questions at the back of each chapter, so the book could easily be used for a group study.

Conclusion

In all, I would say that the profundity of this book can be summed up in just one sentence: you never just suffer the thing that you’re suffering, but you always also suffer the way that you’re suffering that thing (p. 27). Other books which try to put all suffering into one basket miss the deep truth that everything God makes is unique – unique in its flaws and unique in its gifts – and those unique qualities (good and bad) are often revealed by suffering. Realizing that will help me as I reflect upon my own experiences of suffering. It might help you, too.


Everything Happens to Everyone

Duke Divinity Professor and public Christian, Kate Bowler, was only thirty-five years old and a new mother when doctors made the terrifying discovery that she had Stage IV colon cancer spreading through her abdomen. When she published an account of her faith and ongoing medical battles in The New York Times, she received responses telling her, among other things, that her cancer was caused by unconfessed sin or that acai berries would cure her. Her book, Everything Happens for a Reason and Other Lies I Have Loved, is her attempt to answer those well-meaning critics, to answer that universal, human question when faced with tragedy: Why? Kate Bowler’s answer is that there is no why, there is no order or reason, and we had better put our energies toward enjoying the good we have today.

While I sympathize with her response, and I agree with her outlook on present blessings, I have another perspective, forged in a similar fire: everything happens to everyone, and it happens for a reason.

No, I don’t mean every tragedy and every blessing possible happens to each and every person on the planet. What I mean is that you cannot single out Christians and say they get more blessings (or curses) in their lives than the average Joe. Just look around you. Christians and non-Christians get cancer in the same proportion as everyone else (though outcomes may be slightly better). They lose children in the same proportion as everyone else. They get divorced in the same proportion as everyone else, and that’s a behavior-related problem! If they didn’t then someone would have noticed, and surely everyone on the planet would be calling themselves a true believer. Christians also get rich, attain their dreams and live long lives in approximately the same proportions as everyone else. You cannot look at a person or their beliefs and predict or explain what happens to them. Everything happens to everyone. 

In contrast to Dr. Bowler, however, I believe these statistically random events do happen for a reason. I can’t tell you that reason, not beyond a generic response such as, “for God’s glory.” And I suspect the individual reasons may be many and varied. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t one. We can examine any story in the Bible and find there are reasons for the tragedies therein. Joseph was sold into slavery and accused of a crime he did not commit so as to put him in the right place at the right time. Jonah was nearly drowned because of his disobedience (there’s a behavior-related problem for you). Mary and Martha grieved the death of their brother so the faith of many, including Mary and Martha, would be supernaturally strengthened. Paul and Barnabas had a bitter fight so that many more churches could be planted and discipled. Jesus died on the cross, an innocent man crucified like the lowest of criminals, so that all His brothers and sisters could live forever.

To all who struggle and hurt, who crave answers, who might even be willing to suffer if you knew it meant something, here is what Scripture says to you:

  1. God is in control. I am the LORD, and there is no other. I form light and create darkness; I make well-being and create calamity; I am the LORD, who does all these things (Is. 45:6,7).
  2. God has His purposes. I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose, calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.’ (Is. 46:9-11) 
  3. For you who love the Lord, those purposes are good. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose (Rom. 8:28).

Because we can’t, at times, understand the last point, we tend to doubt the others. Some might even call it heresy, profaning God, to say that a young mother with cancer could, in any sense, be good. I don’t pretend to understand it, either, and I am not trying to give you the answer. I am just repeating God’s assertion that there IS an answer. If God could take the greatest disaster that ever occurred (the murder of His only Son) and turn it into the greatest good that ever happened (the eternal salvation of all who believe), then, surely, He can do that for our little tragedies, too.

Most of the time we must wait our turn for a personal audience before we can “know as we are known,” but occasionally, we do get glimpses of God’s glory shining through the darkness. In my own case, if I had to do it all again, to live through years of cancerous gloom in order to get to the place of faith and ministry where He has brought me today, I would do it willingly, gladly. I truly believe there is a similar happy ending to all the stories, even the ones where young mothers aren’t healed, but faith means believing that without seeing it.

We serve a God who does not discriminate in the gifts and catastrophes He allows upon the earth during our era of brokenness. But we also serve a God who controls the sparrow in the sky and the hairs on our head with love and with purpose. Everything happens to everyone – and it happens for a reason.


Related Material:

Why Me? – Dear Christian Counselor
When God’s Sovereignty Scares You – The Gospel Coalition
On God’s Sovereignty in Painful Times – John Piper
A Few Examples of Reasons We Suffer – Focus on the Family
Kate Bowler’s Original Article – New York Times