Monthly Archives: December 2012

Bibles Review

Published at Youthworker Journal

The Way: Mark Oestreicher-editor

The Way is in the New Living Translation and is geared towards youth. This Bible includes a wide variety of tools from a long list of thoughtful contributors. Most of the contributors are youth workers or those who teach youth workers. The tools included with this Bible are introductions to the various books of the Bible, a topic and verse finder, a helpful index of the tools and great and unique photos. Also included in this Bible are devotions, justice and service moments, testimonies and challenge sections that help the reader apply Biblical truth. The tools and resources offered in this Bible are very well done. They are practical, accessible and reasonably sound theologically. There is a great diversity of tools offered in this Bible and great diversity within the individual tools. The photos are very interesting and add a depth to this Bible. I think the combinations of tools work very well together and that this Bible is a great asset, especially to adolescents, parents and youth workers. It is very missional in nature and would be a great tool or gift as a part of a mission trip or mission team. It is probably best suited for high school youth, especially those who desire depth and have a passion for service. It would be a great Bible to use as a part of a high school or college age small group or Bible study. Its more missional tone is especially relevant to a postmodern culture. Its depth and its discipleship tone could help the Bible come alive for many teenagers and young adults. It is clear that a lot of thought and effort went into the tools offered here. Youth workers may benefit from using some of the tools in their own lesson planning and study. I would consider using this most in preparing some of the lessons for youth mission teams. My only disappointment is that this Bible is only offered in the New Living Translation. I would love to see a Bible like this in other translations, especially the NIV.

Deep Blue Kids Bible

This children’s Bible is in the Common English Translation, which is often used for children’s Bibles. It’s colorful, easy to read and very kid friendly without being childish. This Bible is geared primarily for children age 8-12 and after reviewing it, I would say this age range is accurate although it would be most helpful to children ages 7-11, depending on their reading level. This Bible includes devotions, cool facts, memory verse suggestions, key faith concepts, challenges for the readers based on the scriptures, key points and themes as well as key Biblical traits and other helpful information for children. It is very attractive and offers great introductions to each book of the Bible. While the translation is often used for children’s Bibles, it is not as helpful, approachable, readable, accurate or child-friendly as other translations. The simplicity of the tools in this Bible is especially helpful, especially for children, parents and families. It could be a good Bible to give to children grades 3-5 if that is a part of your church’s tradition or practice. This Bible could be used in Sunday School classes, although the translation may be a challenge for some of the children in the younger range of the age target. It’s a solid Bible with solid tools worth having in your library. It would best be used by families that have children age 12 and under for family devotionals, reading and discussion. There are some great tools and information pieces in this Bible that would create great family conversation at the dinner table, in the car or as a part of a family devotional time. The tools included in this Bible could help parents to talk about the scriptures with their children and give them the confidence and tools to discuss God’s word as a family.

One Impact Bible

The NIV One Impact Bible by Zondervan is more than a Bible as it offers a variety of tools for its users. This Bible includes various elements at the start of each book of the Bible rather than spreading these pieces throughout the text. I found this to be helpful and certainly less distracting than many of the in-text pieces found in other Bibles. The elements offered as an introduction to each book of the Bible vary by the book, but I found each to be helpful. Some of the elements include verse highlights from the book, a devotion, prayers and introductions to the book that included some background information and history. Each of these elements are helpful, easy to read and thoughtful.  Throughout the Bible there are also mini-devotionals that include some of the same elements found at the start of the books of the Bible at a page in length. Again these include history, background, prayers, scriptures and a devotional. There are not an overwhelming number of these mini-devotionals, which is helpful. There is simplicity to this Bible that is very accessible, as it is not overdone like many Bibles that include devotionals. This extra material is well done, thoughtful and theologically sound. I would recommend this Bible more for personal use and personal devotion than anything else. In a ministry setting, this Bible is a good resource to have on your shelf as it does have some good ideas and thoughts that could be used in a lesson. The devotionals could be used in a variety of contexts as well. It could be a good Bible to give youth who are looking to read through the Bible and have some extra information as they go.

NIV Quick View Bible

The NIV Quick View Bible looks much like a bright, bold newspaper or magazine. This Bible has very easy to read text, is colorful and visually appealing. It includes a lot of full color graphics that are not for appearance; rather it offers great information including main points, highlights, facts and other interesting information. These information pieces provide great information and would be a very helpful resource when preparing a lesson. This Bible could also serve as a great additional study tool for the information that it provides. In a ministry setting, this might best be used with middle school youth as a classroom set for Sunday School or for a confirmation group because it does provide some interesting information and is easy to read. There are many good Bibles available today, and this would be a good resource to have in your library.

Rev. Marcus J Carlson has worked with children and youth for over 14 years and is a spiritual director. He current serves as Associate Pastor at Bethel Lutheran Church in Colorado Springs, CO. (

The Return of Adult Relationships: A Simple but Revolutionary Resolution

Published in Connections Magazine (Jan/Feb 2013)

Learn about Connections here

The Return of Adult Relationships: A Simple but Revolutionary Resolution

by Marcus J. Carlson

I have always struggled with New Year’s resolutions. My struggle is not so much the decision to make a resolution for the New Year, nor is it a struggle to keep the resolutions I have made (I think it goes without saying that all struggle with this). My frustration with making resolutions on January 1 each year is not rooted in how crowded the health club is every January and February. It is not an issue of the superficial and selfish nature of many of the resolutions we make. It lies in the nature of discipleship and what it means to be a follow of Jesus Christ.

As followers of Christ, we recognize that until we come face to face with Jesus, we have not yet arrived. Our journey of growth is not finished; God has more for us than can be found in our present reality. To be a disciple means to be one who learns and follows, and requires a willingness to grow and to change. It is my belief that as disciples we should be a people who make resolutions to change, rooted in Christ and not our own desires. If there is something in our lives we believe God is calling us to change, then we should begin our work right away—and not be dictated by the calendar.

Though I recognize that resolutions can have their place in our lives as we seek redemption and transformation in Jesus Christ, I also believe resolutions can be a communal act not limited to individuals. Communities, churches and families can make resolutions to be more like Christ as well. In 2013, I would like to offer a suggestion for a resolution you can begin right now.

The world around us continues to experience dramatic change. The world is perhaps more complex than it has ever been—and in many ways, everything is different. Yet some things have not changed since the beginning of time. While the problems of the world are complicated, I would argue that most of the solutions to these new problems are not new at all, nor are they complicated. However, they certainly are difficult in application.

Recently I was asked to identify the most significant problem our children and youth are facing today. Without hesitation, I said, “the lack of significant, invested, authentic, Christ- following adults in their lives.” The greatest challenge facing our children and youth today is not any of the hot buttons we target to solve our problems and address our fears, such as the economy, the media, the national debt, the lack of prayer in school, divorce, video games, social media, or gay marriage. Yes, the world has changed—and in many ways our children live in a significantly more broken world than those before them.

While the world is a very different place today than it even was in 2000, there is something that has not and will not ever change: the Gospel. In a time where everything is new, nothing has changed. Since the beginning of the world we were created to be in relationship with God, with each other and with the world. The Great Commandment still applies: our greatest call is to love God, love others and love ourselves. This one simple yet difficult call covers every problem, challenge, culture and generation.

Our children and youth do not need a culture war. They do not need more technology. The solution to their (and our) brokenness is not found in government, political parties, personal freedom, capitalism or consumerism. What our children and youth need are more adults in their lives. Not just any adults either, but adults who love them, accept them and seek the needs of the children and youth above their own.

As adults, we have abdicated our responsibility to the children and youth in our homes, churches and communities. The only reason our culture is raising our children is that we have allowed it. We do not have to be more entertaining, relevant or attractive than popular culture. We already have access to a much better story—the Gospel—than the story the world is telling our children and youth. As human beings we are always attracted to the better story, and so the great news is we do not have to tell a new story. Rather we need to get back to telling the oldest and best story that has and ever will exist: God’s story.

The biggest difference between American culture now (as opposed to the past) is that adults are no longer invested in the lives of the children and youth in our homes, churches and communities. At a time when our children and youth are exposed to more harmful realities—and during an age where the world expects more, offers less and crushes our children and youth—we as adults have walked away from our responsibility to care for, walk with and be in relationship with the children and youth around us.

My doctoral supervisor, Dr. Chap Clark, states we need to reverse the ratio of youth to adults. For many years, youth ministries have utilized a ratio of one adult for every five youth in our youth ministries. Chap suggests we need to reverse this and every youth (and child) needs to have at least five Christ-following adults in their lives besides their parents.

In fact, there are even intentional movements and ideas to put this structure into place. The church I currently serve has decided to engage with this initiative. We are working on casting the vision, supporting parents in this endeavor and thinking about how best to live in this vision in our church and community. Perhaps now more than ever, our children and youth need adults in their lives who love them in the name of Jesus.

Rather than set another New Year’s resolution to lose weight that we will abandon before Valentineʼs Day, let us make a resolution to commit to rise up and be the church God has called us to be. Let us see that every child and every youth in our families, our churches and our communities has at least five adults besides their parents investing in their lives. What would our families, our churches and our communities begin to look like if this were a reality? Instead of embracing a new ministry or church program or finding the best new Christian book for a great new sermon series, why don’t we commit once again to facilitating Christ-centered relationships?

Perhaps instead of leaving the ministry to children and youth to parents, young adults and those who can help our children “behave,” why don’t we as the church commit to investing in the lives of children and youth? Doing so would not only change the lives of our children and youth, it would change our lives, the church and the world.

It is a simple resolution to understand, and yet very difficult to live. If we want things to be different in this world, if we want our children and youth to have the abundant life that God has promised them, then we must be different. May we choose this year—and every year after— to return to investing our adult lives in the children and youth around us so that we may live out this simple and revolutionary resolution that will change the world.

Marcus J. Carlson

is a pastor and spiritual director who has worked in youth and children’s ministry for over 13 years. He serves as Associate Pastor of Bethel Lutheran Church, Colorado Springs, CO. Marcus and his wife, Jessica, have two children.