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.

Fake It ‘Til You Make It

I hate that expression. I only use it when I’m discouraged. I only hear it from people who are depressed. When you don’t feel like obeying or being happy or maintaining belief, just fake it ’til you make it. Put on a mask so that other people think you are kind or joyful or faithful. That doesn’t ever solve my problems. And it makes you wonder why Jesus wasted all that time talking about the inner man if He just wanted us to fake it. No, I don’t think the man who called Himself “The Truth” wants His disciples to put on an act.

On the other hand, there are times when our minds, our bodies or our circumstances simply can’t reach a place of peace or joy. Pretending isn’t a good solution, and giving in to rage, terror or hopelessness isn’t either. Thank God there is another way of being.

God gave us each a mind (the thinking part of the brain), a heart (the seat of emotions) and a will (for choices and actions). Various translations of Deuteronomy 6:5 and Mark 12:30 express this trinity: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your mind and with all your strength. God created each part of the human spirit to seek Him and to reflect His image in the world. God Himself provides what we need to keep those parts operational. He feeds us truth for our minds, His great love for our hearts and a wise and measured discipline for our wills (both in the limits He gives us and in the strength He offers us to stay within those limits). It is surprising how often you find all three of these concepts addressed in short passages of Scripture, for example Psalm 119:41-44 or Phil 4:7-9.

Now, for the bad news. All three of these parts are fallen. Our minds have the tendency to believe lies, our hearts have a tendency to fear, and our will has a tendency toward rebellion. Scripture tells us that our idols speak deceit (Zech. 10:2), our hearts do not fear God alone (Is. 8:12, 13), and we are inclined toward evil in our habits and choices (Gen. 6:5).

It is God’s grace that when one part fails, we have the others to pull us upward. There are Scriptural examples for each. We are to be transformed through the renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:2). But sometimes it is the heart which leads with love (Ruth 1:16). And our will must be conformed to the image of Christ, even when we don’t really want to go there (James 1:22). In the case of those who talk about faking it, I think they are actually saying their mind or their will is leading them toward God while their heart feels far from Him. The will, acting upon truth rather than feelings, is in no way a pretense − any more than the widow’s mite is a pretense (her will acted from feelings of worship and compassion rather than logic).

In God’s original plan, heart, mind and will were perfectly aligned in the image of our Maker. There is no longer perfection or harmony between souls or inside of them, but just as we have the community of God to help us when we are weak, so we have three means of approaching God from within. It is important for us to use whatever godly impulse we have in our heart, mind or will to reach for the empowering Spirit who enables us to approach the throne of grace from many angles. That struggle is very human, very valuable and very real.

This essay was first posted here in June of 2012.

The Mother-Love of God

When my grandfather was a grown man, he experienced a toothache so painful that he tried to climb into his mother’s lap. While that wouldn’t have made the pain go away, he knew that it would bring him another sort of comfort. It seems we never completely lose the desire to be embraced by a mother’s love.

My grandfather had grown too big for climbing into laps. Sometimes, we have the same problem seeking comfort from God. Our thoughts concern our problems – how to fix them or avoid them. Psalm 131 can teach us another way.

It bears King David’s name, and we know him as a man of action but not in this poem. This psalm appears in the middle of the Psalms of Ascent, the songs of a long pilgrimage toward Zion. In the midst of the journey, we may need to stop and rest as David did. We could imagine him alone in the wilderness, done with fighting and fleeing, seeking only the peace of God’s company.  To that end he writes of a return to dependence, a return to stillness, a return to childhood.

In distressing circumstances adults tend to cast about anxiously for a solution or look for someone else to blame. Psalm 131:1 teaches us to set aside these prideful thoughts, acknowledging that solutions are beyond us and that we are as fallen as the next sinner. A child is content to simply be held. A “weaned child,” as described in verse 2, might be three or four years old, still small but also independent. Such a child would no longer cry and look for milk from her mother’s breast, but she would be satisfied with the warmth of her arms and the protection of her presence as she sings her baby to sleep. That is the aspect of God which David wants us to experience, the encircling, restful and gentle mother-love of God.

We can only experience that stillness if we deliberately set aside the cares of the day and our attempts to fix them. We can only do that in a quiet space where nothing else intrudes. We can only do that when God alone is all we want, not the things He might give us. The Lord of the universe gave us birth and nurture and sustenance. He proved His incredible love for us once and for all on the cross. He has all the time in the world to sit and hold us in His arms. Let us not wait until pain finally drives us there. Climb up into His lap in humble dependence and enjoy His love today.


  1. What present circumstance makes you most long for a mother’s loving comfort?
  2. Take five minutes right now to meditate on this psalm. Try to sit quietly in God’s lap, resting in His arms and His love. If you find yourself climbing down again, don’t be frustrated; just notice it, and go back to sit with Him a little longer.

This post was first published in 2013.