#InfluencePodcast with Hal Donaldson

Over at InfluenceMagazine.com, my Influence Podcast with Hal Donaldson is up. Hal is cofounder and president of Convoy of Hope and a friend. He’s also author, with Kirk Noonan, of Your Next 24 Hours, just out from Baker Books. We talk about why America needs more kindness and how the Church can take the lead in being kind.

Take a listen to the podcast! My review of the book is here.

Review of ‘NIV Single-Column Bible’

A few years ago, Adam Lewis Greene launched a Kickstarter campaign for Bibliotheca, which aimed to produce a Bible that looked like a regular book. Whereas most Bibles have two columns per page, Bibliotheca would have one. Whereas many Bibles have chapter and verse numbers, section headers, footnotes with alternate readings, and cross-references, Bibliotheca would have none. Like I said, it would look like a regular book. In the end, Greene’s Kickstarter campaign garnered support of 14,884 backers who pledged $1,440,345.

I wanted to purchase Bibliotheca until I found it used the American Standard Version as its base text. The ASV, which was first published in 1901, is a bit too woodenly literal for my taste. So, I passed on Bibliotheca. A few months later, however, I discovered the ESV Reader’s Bible. Like Bibliotheca, it presents the biblical text on a single column per page and strips out chapter and verse numbers, section headers, footnotes and cross-references. Unlike Bibliotheca, the ESV Reader’s Bible is relatively inexpensive. I thoroughly enjoyed using it, as I made clear in my review of it.

The ESV, for English Standard Version, is not my go-to translation, however. I have used the NIV for most of my life, and when NIV 2011 hit the market, I purchased a new Bible. The problem was that I now wanted a single-column NIV that, like Bibliotheca and the ESV Reader’s Bible, stripped out all the textual paraphernalia that accompanies most Bibles. So, I finally settled for the NIV Single-Column Bible.

On the plus, side, the NIV Single-Column Bible is easy to read. I have read it from cover to cover once, and I try to read through the New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs monthly. I find it as easy and enjoying to read as my ESV Reader’s Bible, which I attribute to the single-column format. I am amazed at how distracting double-column pages, and I don’t think I’ll ever use one for devotional reading, preaching, or teaching again. (I have several double-column study Bibles that I use for sermon preparation and writing, but with those, I’m not reading the biblical text as much as I’m reading the comments about specific verses.)

Furthermore, the NIV Single-Column Bible retains chapter and verse numbers, headers, and footnotes, but thankfully it keeps cross-references to a minimum, placing them with the footnotes at the bottom of the page. I wish Zondervan would publish an NIV Reader’s Bible that stripped all those things out. Even so, I did not find the textual paraphernalia overly distracting. One other benefit is a 30,000-word concordance for help finding passages that use specific terms.

Here’s a picture of how the NIV Single-Column Bible presents poetic books, in this case, Psalms:


Here’s a picture of how it presents narrative books, in this case, Mark:


Now for the downsides. First, compared to the ESV Reader’s Bible, it is big and heavy. It measures 7 x 1.8 x 10.2 inches and weighs 3 lbs. with 1,440 pages. The ESV Reader’s Bible has 1,840 pages, but measures 5.25 x 7.75 inches and weighs 2 lbs. 5 oz. It’s not noticeably thicker than the NIV Single-Column Bible.

Here’s a picture comparing the size of the two Bibles:


And here are pictures comparing how they present Psalms and Mark:



The other thing I don’t like about the NIV Single-Column Bible is the cover. I don’t mind imitation leather covers, since they bring down the overall cost of the Bible considerably. However, this one is engraved (I think that’s the right term), but it looks dated. Here’s a picture.


So, while I will continue to use the NIV Single-Column Bible for devotional reading, preaching, and teaching, I really would like to encourage Zondervan to cast a sidelong glance at what Crossway is doing with its ESV Reader’s Bible and try to imitate it. Specifically, can I please have a smaller, lighter NIV without all the textual paraphernalia?

P.S. If you found my review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.



Review of ‘Your Next 24 Hours’ by Hal Donaldson

Kathleen Connors unwittingly started a chain reaction of kindness when she paid for a family’s meal at the L&M Diner in Barre, Vermont. Over the next 24 hours, 46 other patrons paid it forward and purchased meals anonymously for other customers. Connors found out that “kindness is seldom followed by a period,” Hal Donaldson writes. “One act of kindness can be the opening sentence in a volume of goodwill.”

Donaldson is president of Convoy of Hope, which he cofounded with his siblings in 1994. Since then, Convoy has distributed $1 billion of food and emergency supplies to 80 million people in the U.S. and around the world. He and his siblings were the beneficiaries of the kindness of church folk who took them in when their dad was killed and their mom seriously injured in a drunk-driving accident. “Out of anger and bitterness,” he writes, “we could have chosen a life of crime or greed.” Instead, out of thankful hearts, a charity was founded that has brought help and hope to millions.”

We often hear stories of random acts of kindness. The challenge Donaldson poses in Your Next 24 Hours is to make the day before you “day one of a more rewarding life” (emphasis in original). To help you do that, he offers 22 short chapters about how kindness can make a lasting difference in your home, workplace, school, and community. Each chapter ends with “Kind Ways,” action steps to put kindness in action. The book is written winsomely, with stories from popular culture illustrating biblical principles about kindness, gratitude, and the power of hope.

I’m a friend of Hal’s and a fan of Convoy of Hope, so I’m happy to recommend both him and the organization he leads. But I also thoroughly enjoyed this book and the advice it offers about how to make acts of kindness a nonrandom part of each day.

P.S. If you found my book review helpful, please vote “Yes” on my Amazon.com review page.

P.P.S. This review originally appeared at InfluenceMagazine.com and it is republished with permission.

Lincoln’s Creed

In 1920, William E. Barton published The Soul of Abraham Lincoln, a now classic study of the development of Lincoln’s faith. “Lincoln’s religious was an evolution,” Barton wrote, “both in its intellectual and spiritual qualities.”

Lincoln’s religious identity seems to have moved through three stages: (1) a Calvinist Baptist in childhood; (2) a skeptical, freethinker in young adulthood; and (3) and a not-altogether-orthodox Christian in mature adulthood.

“Too much of the effort to prove that Abraham Lincoln was a Christian,” Barton wrote, “has begun and ended in the effort to show that on certain theological opinions he cherished correct opinions.” Lincoln didn’t. For example, he evidently believe in evolution and universal salvation, and he had doubts about Christ’s virgin birth.

“Abraham Lincoln was not a theologian,” Barton went on to say, “and several of his theological opinions may have been incorrect; but there is good reason to believe that he was a true Christian.” By this, Barton meant that Lincoln had “a right attitude toward spiritual realities and practical duties.” (In my opinion, Lincoln was neither an infidel nor an orthodox Christian, but something in between.)

Barton concluded his study with “a series of short quotations [of Lincoln’s] from documents, letters, and addresses, certified authentic and touching directly upon points of Christian doctrine.” He organized these quotations into what he called “The Creed of Abraham Lincoln in His Own Words.”

In honor of Lincoln’s birthday—he was born on February 12, 1809—I’ve posted that creed below, adding footnotes that link individual phrases to their sources in The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. This is the online version of Roy P. Bassler’s authoritative series of the same name.


The Creed of Abraham Lincoln in His Own Words[1]

I believe in God, the Almighty Ruler of Nations,[2] our great and good and merciful Maker,[3] our Father in Heaven, who notes the fall of a sparrow, and numbers the hairs of our heads.[4]

I believe in His eternal truth and justice.[5]

I recognize the sublime truth announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history that those nations only are blest whose God is the Lord.[6]

I believe that it is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, and to invoke the influence of His Holy Spirit; to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon.[7]

I believe that it is meet and right to recognize and confess the presence of the Almighty Father equally in our triumphs and in those sorrows[8] which we may justly fear are a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins to the needful end of our reformation.[9]

I believe that the Bible is the best gift which God has ever given to men. All the good from the Saviour of the world is communicated to us through this book.[10]

I believe the will of God prevails.[11] Without Him all human reliance is vain.[12] Without the assistance of that Divine Being, I cannot succeed. With that assistance I cannot fail.[13]

Being a humble instrument in the hands of our Heavenly Father, I desire that all my works and acts may be according to His will; and that it may be so, I give thanks to the Almighty, and seek His aid.[14]

I have a solemn oath registered in heaven[15] to finish the work I am in,[16] in full view of my responsibility to my God,[17] with malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right as God gives me to see the right.[18] Commending those who love me to His care, as I hope in their prayers they will commend me,[19] I look through the help of God to a joyous meeting with many loved ones gone before.[20]



[1] William E. Barton, The Soul of Abraham Lincoln (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2005), 300. This book is a reprint of the 1920 first edition published by George H. Doran Co. Chapter XXIII is titled, “The Creed of Abraham Lincoln.”

[2] “First Inaugural Address—Final Text,” March 4, 1861.

[3] “To John D. Johnston,” January 12, 1851.

[4] Ibid.

[5] “First Inaugural Address.”

[6] “Proclamation Appointing a National Fast Day,” March 30, 1863.

[7] Ibid.

[8] “Proclamation of Thanksgiving,” July 15, 1863.

[9] “Proclamation Appointing a National Fast Day.”

[10] “Reply to Loyal Colored People of Baltimore upon Presentation of a Bible,” September 7, 1864.

[11] “Meditation on the Divine Will,” [September 2, 1862?].

[12] “To the Friends of Union and Liberty,” May 9, 1864.

[13] “Farewell Address at Springfield, Illinois,” February 11, 1861.

[14] “Reply to Eliza P. Gurney,” October 26, 1862.

[15] “First Inaugural Address.”

[16] “Second Inaugural Address,” March 4, 1865.

[17] “Message to Congress,” March 6, 1862.

[18] “Second Inaugural Address.”

[19] “Farewell Address at Springfield, Illinois.”

[20] “To John D. Johnston.”

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