Kindle Oasis Review – Sticking with My Voyage

Oasis

I have owned just about every edition of the Kindle since the first one was released. As far as I can recall, this is the first strictly e-reader I have decided to return. I did return the Kindle Fire for Kids, too, but I am talking about a dedicated e-reader.

It’s not that the Kindle Oasis is horrible. It’s not. I just had a few issues that kept me from liking it more than the Voyage I already own.

Let me start with the positives.

As advertised, it is light. It is comfortable to hold in the hand. I do like the physical buttons to turn pages. The screen is very bright with the 4 new LED lights added. The cover is very nice. I like that the cover charges it.

I won’t go on with the positives, as the 4 and 5 star reviews on Amazon’s Web site and many of the reviews online and on YouTube all go into great detail about them. I read quite a few before deciding to try the Oasis.

So why did I decide to return it? There were a few reasons.

First, when I compared the text next to my Voyage, I actually noticed that the text was darker on my Voyage than it was on the Oasis. I asked my wife her opinion to double check, as she normally does not notice differences in resolution in most screens. She noticed the difference immediately. The text on the Oasis was a little lighter. I made sure the fonts were the same and the same size when I checked this. Personally, I want my e-reader to have dark text while I am reading. Especially with the price of the Oasis, I at least wanted the text to be the same (some had said it seemed clearer to them; perhaps their reader looked different than mine).

Second, the battery life was not great when separated from the case. I read it for 10 minutes with wireless turned off and the light all the way up. Even with wireless off, it drained the battery 8% in 10 minutes. At that rate, I would have a little over 2 hours of reading before the Kindle itself would need to be charged. Granted, once you attach the case, the case charges the Kindle back up quickly, and if you leave it in the case, the case battery will be drained first, and it takes longer to drain that one. But the selling point of this Kindle, as I understood it, was the form factor when reading it out of the cover: the ergonomic design and weight of the Oasis. If I am having to frequently return it to the case, it seems that it is undercutting the main selling point of the device. Granted, I don’t often get 2 hours of uninterrupted reading time, but I do on occasion. My Voyage can go much longer before I have to charge it again. It may not last as long as the Oasis and case combined, but whether I have the Voyage in the case or out, it has a long enough charge.

Third, the design and weight of the Oasis, while nice, is not as drastic of an improvement over the Voyage as I thought it might be. I have been reading with the Voyage out of the case lately, and I have managed to find a way to hold it where it feels very comfortable in my hand. Again, the Oasis is nice, but for the price tag, I am not sure it is nice enough.

Part of the design is the ability to switch hands by rotating the Oasis; the screen now flips when you flip the Kindle. As I was reading, I found myself wanting to switch hands. I rotated the Oasis, and it was okay. But then I realized that while I switch hands a lot when using my Voyage, I never thought about it, since it has buttons on both sides for turning pages. Honestly, the Voyage was just more convenient in terms of switching hands.

Fourth, the lighting. I did not really notice the scalloping effect some have mentioned, but I did notice a few things. When I first got the Oasis, I tilted it so I could look at the side where the lights are. I immediately noticed that from some angles, the darker fonts and pictures seemed to have white flecks in them (almost sparkly, I suppose). I couldn’t see it all the time, but from some angles it was very obvious. The most noticeable thing with the lighting was that the screen started less white on the left and ended up more white on the right. I understand the lights are on that side, and I suppose the Voyage I have does something similar from top to bottom (although not nearly as noticeable), but it was more distracting, as I read left to right a lot more frequently and more quickly than I do top to bottom. In other words, on my Voyage, the screen may change shade, but it takes so long to go from the top of a page to the bottom of a page that it is a gradual change my eyes don’t notice. On the Oasis, however, each line takes you back from the left to the right, so you see it quicker and more frequently, making it more noticeable.

Fifth, the cover. It is a nice leather, but it is a softer leather. I have some Bibles with leather covers like this one, and I have seen them scratch a little easier than some tougher leathers. I am afraid that it would not take much to scratch the leather on this cover, although only time would tell.

If I were upgrading from a Kindle with no lighting or an earlier, and much heavier, Kindle, I think the Oasis could be a great investment. In my case, going from the Voyage (the previous top-of-the-line Kindle) to this one was not as advantageous. I always like having 3G, and I decided to try going ad-free this time, so after tax the total was just over $400. There aren’t enough new features to make it worth that price to me, and in some ways the Voyage I already owned was even better than the Oasis. If the Oasis weren’t so high priced, perhaps it would be better, but for me, my Voyage works great, and I can use the $400 for more books or something else. Or better yet, since I have been working on minimalizing, I could just save the money!

Book Review – “A Peculiar Glory” by John Piper

peculiar

After reading several books by John Piper (as well as reading articles by him and hearing him talk about a few things), I have discovered that Piper seems to be hit or miss.  Some of his books I really love, while others I truly find myself struggling through.  A Peculiar Glory falls into the latter category, and it is primarily the writing style that got me this time.

This book is Piper’s defense and explanation of the way we know the Bible is the word of God.  It takes a very Reformed stance, arguing primarily from an internal witness perspective rather than from an evidential perspective.  For some this is a great thing, and I definitely think that the Spirit must help us believe, as do most evidentialists.  I cannot put my finger on it, but I just felt something was missing in Piper’s working it out.

Piper starts by explaining how he feels the Bible held on to him, rather than the other way around.  I love reading biographical information about people, so this was a great part. He then moves on in Part 2 to explaining how we know what books and words make up the Bible.  This was a pretty common explanation.  Part 3 examines what the Bible claims about itself.  To some, this will seem circular; but I think we have to take into account what a book says about itself.  This may not be the only thing we rely on, but it must be considered.

Parts 4 and 5 are where the book takes a turn, in my opinion.  These parts deal with how we can know the Bible is true and how they are confirmed to be true.  The basic argument, as I understand it, is that we primarily know the Bible is true by the confirmation of the glory of the gospel of Christ throughout the text and as it comes alive in our lives.  That is, we mainly know that it is true by the revelation of the Holy Spirit in our lives as we read and are transformed by the word.  Ultimately, then, it is not about the proofs (although they may come, and Piper does not totally discount evidentialist proofs), but it is about the Spirit of God causing people dead in sin to come alive to the truth of the gospel in the word.  If anyone is convinced of the veracity of the Scriptures, it is because God caused them to believe it through exposure to it.

While I believe there is some truth here, it seems to me that it doesn’t put enough weight on evidence.  True, we don’t want to elevate evidence above the Scriptures themselves, but neither do we want to border on ignoring it.  Again, Piper does not argue for ignoring evidence; throughout he talks about using it.  It’s just that external evidences (history, archaeology, etc.) seem very minimally considered.

Piper’s goal is noble.  He wants to know how someone in a culture very distanced from all the information we have access to could come to know the Scriptures are God’s revelation.  If they don’t know about the textual evidences in manuscripts, the historical reliability of the text, etc., how could those people know that the Bible is God’s word?  Piper writes:

“What turned my focus (not my approval or my interest) away from historical reasoning as a support for faith was the realization that most people in the world–especially in the less-educated, developing world–have neither the training nor the time to pursue such detailed arguments in support of their faith. And yet the Bible assumes that those who hear the gospel may know the truth of it and may stake their lives on it–indeed must stake their lives on it.” (Kindle location 2196)

Piper’s answer certainly alleviates that problem.  I credit him greatly for showing us that we do not have to have knowledge of those other areas to know the Bible is God’s word.  But as a lay apologist, I struggle with minimizing so much great knowledge that we have.

Let me state clearly that I read this book a little along, as the style just seemed harder for me to get into this time, and I struggled reading it for long stretches at once.  So I may have spaced it out too far and missed something that would make it all click better.  I may have to read it again sometime and see if it flows better the second time around.  So if I have misrepresented Piper above, it is unintentional.

It is a good book, and I would recommend it to others, with the head’s up that if they are not Reformed/Calvinist, there may be things here they disagree with.  If you are an apologist looking for detailed arguments in favor of the word of God along the lines of McDowell, Craig, Koukl, or others, this book is not that kind of apologetic.  If you are looking for a way to see how to defend the word of God using the Scripture itself, I think you will find this a valuable book.

*I was provided with a complimentary copy of this book from Crossway in exchange for my honest review.  

Book Review – ESV Family Devotional Bible

ESV family devo

I am always trying to find ways to make the Bible accessible for my children.  I have also been trying to find ways to do family devotions with more fidelity in my household.  I requested to review the ESV Family Devotional Bible as a way to find more tools to help with that.

I received the hardcover edition from Crossway.  It measures about 5.4 inches wide by 8.6 inches high.  It has a sewn binding, which enables it to lay flat from beginning to end, with one brown ribbon bookmark.

The text itself is in black 9-point font.  Section headings, chapter numbers, page numbers, and scripture references at the top corners of each page are in a blue font.  The words of Christ are in black.  The pages are about normal thickness for most Bibles, meaning there is some ghosting of text.  If you were to write in it, it would probably show through at least a little.

Devo 6

Throughout the Family Devotional Bible, you will find 130 stories from the Bible, retold in an easy-to-understand way.  I read through all the entries from Genesis and Matthew and found them faithful to the text.  Each story includes a beautifully illustrated picture to go with the story, as well as the text reference the story is based off of.  There are three “Questions for the Family” with every story.  Usually, two questions are text related, to guide readers through thinking about the stories themselves, and one question is more application driven, helping readers to apply God’s word to their lives.  This can vary occasionally, but that is the overall pattern.  There is also a key verse that could be used as a memory verse for each story.  (I apologize for the blurry pictures.  I am still working with my phone camera to get things clearer.)

Devo 2

 

Devo 3

Devo 4

The Bible includes an Index of Devotions in the back, to help locate the devotions throughout.  It should be noted that while the devotions cover the big picture of the Bible, quite a bit is left out, as it is not narrative.  The following books have devotions in them, with some having more than others: Genesis (20 devotions), Exodus (8 devotions), Numbers (2 devotions), Joshua (3 devotions), Judges (3 devotions), Ruth (1 devotion), 1 Samuel (6 devotions), 2 Samuel (2 devotions), 1 Kings (4 devotions), 2 Kings (3 devotions), 2 Chronicles (1 devotion), Esther (1 devotion), Jeremiah (1 devotion), Daniel (2 devotions), Jonah (1 devotion), Matthew (13 devotions), Mark (10 devotions), Luke (20 devotions), John (13 devotions), Acts (14 devotions), Philemon (1 devotion), and Revelation (1 devotion).

Obviously, if a family plans on just reading the devotions and not the text of Scripture, most of the New Testament will not be covered, and quite a bit of the Old Testament.  I do understand that the epistles, being letters and not narrative, would be very difficult to cover.  I wonder if they could have had various pictures of Paul or Peter writing with a summary of main points of the epistles and questions to ask?  True, it wouldn’t hold a child’s attention like a story, but even as an adult I find myself having to reread the epistles multiple times to understand where they are coming from.  I wonder if they had been introduced to me in summary form as a child if I would have had a better grasp on them as I grew into adulthood?

There are 9 maps included in the back.  One distinct feature of these maps is the inclusion of icons to represent small cities, large cities, springs, mountains, and ports.

Devo 5

There is no concordance or dictionary in the back, nor is there a reading plan that I could find.  This is interesting since the flyleaf that came with the Bible says the goal of this Bible is “guiding your family through the entirely of God’s Word.”  The Crossway page for this item goes even further saying that it does so “over the course of a year.”  Usually, if something is geared toward guiding a reader through the Bible in a set time, some type of reading plan to break it down and keep readers on track is included.  I think it could have been helpful to have that in this Bible.

As I was looking at the pictures and reading through some of the devotions, I kept feeling like it was familiar to me.  I remembered that my young daughter bought an ESV Seek and Find Bible for her children’s church.  I pulled it out and looked and, sure enough, the pictures are identical from the ones I looked at (one was flipped, however).  The devotional writing was nearly identical, with a few changes here and there, and the questions were also nearly identical, with some replaced with new questions.  The Seek and Find Bible, however, also included “Related Bible Readings” with each devotion, something the Family Devotional Bible does not do, although the product page states that it includes “suggestions for additional reading.”  It does tell readers where to find the next devotional reading, but that doesn’t seem to fit the description.

Overall, I do like the Family Devotional Bible.  I can definitely see using its devotions as a way of helping my children understand key Bible stories.  I really like the questions that are included with each reading.  I wish I had questions like that for every chapter of the Bible (or nearly every chapter).

If you are looking for a Bible to help break down key stories to relate to your family, this is a great choice.  If you already have the Seek and Find Bible, however, you  may want to pass on this one, as there are very few differences between the two.

*I was provided with a complimentary copy of this Bible from Crossway in exchange for my honest review.

Embarrassment of Riches

riches

My wife and I have been growing in our desire to minimalize. We want our lives to be neater, more orderly, less cluttered, and more freeing. We want this in terms of items in our house and in our time and schedules; really, we want it in our lives as a whole.

As I have been working on paring back my books (I’ve managed to avoid needing therapy for this so far), I cannot help but thinking about how many riches surround us. I am sure I have more books than I could read in my lifetime as it is. In terms of information, I am rich. Since books are my main struggle, I chose to use that as a picture for this post to represent the riches we have. But we have other riches as well.

I have thought the same thing about the clothes I have. I have clothes in my closet and drawers that I am sure I have never worn. If I have, I cannot remember it. Some people struggle to find clothing to wear, yet I have more than I actually wear. In terms of clothing, I am rich.

We are the same with anything I can think about. Food. Money. (My friends just returned from Uganda, and talking with them always reminds me just how rich we truly are in comparison to many parts of the world.) You name it.

This got me thinking in spiritual terms as well. Looking at books to get rid of, I realize just how many Bibles I actually own. Do I read them all? No. I have a select few that I return to time and again. But I keep the others just in case. But that got me thinking. What about my spiritual riches?

I have all these Bibles. Some people have none or only one or two to share in a village. I can read mine whenever I want. I am rich indeed. But am I wasting these riches? Do I neglect my Bible more than I should? Even when I read it, am I reading for information only, am I reading to check off some spiritual to-do list, or am I really reading to know the God of the universe through His Son Jesus Christ? Am I memorizing passages to know them, or so that they will sink down deep into my heart to enact lasting change by applying it to my life?

What about time? I have more than enough time (even though I may complain that I don’t). I don’t often work 12-hour days, much less working my entire waking moments. I have free time. Some people don’t have that free time. I am rich. But am I using that time wisely, making the most of the time? Or am I wasting what time I do have? John Piper has said that the greatest use of various forms of social media will be to prove on the last day that we really did have time for prayer.  Ouch.

I could go on. When we think of riches, most of us truly have an embarrassment of them. We will be held accountable as stewards of what God has given us. What will the outcome be for us in terms of rewards?

Let us realize the riches we have, and let us steward them wisely for God’s glory.

Book Review – “Saving the Bible from Ourselves” by Glenn R. Paauw

saving the bible

Mark Twain has been quoted as saying “A classic is a book that everybody praises and nobody reads.”  It seems that this is true for the Bible in many cases as well.  Someone has said the Bible is the “most owned, least read book in history.”  Sadly, this is the case among Christians too.

One of the reasons many fail to read the Bible is that it seems too daunting.  It is one volume made up of 66 separate books (by the Protestant count).  These books span several hundred years of history, and were written to a time and people far different from ours.  Glenn Paauw, in his book Saving the Bible from Ourselves, suggests that there are other issues as well, problems that we have introduced ourselves.  But don’t fear, he proposes solutions throughout.

According to Paauw, one of the biggest problems with our Bible reading is that we have complicated the Bible over time.  It started with the addition of chapter numbers.  Then verse numbers came along.  The decision was then made to separate each verse out into its own paragraph. To save space and for ease of printing, the text was then separated into two columns.  Along the way various notes were added (textual variations, study helps, cross references) and then section headings were put in to make things easier to find.  In some cases, when all is said and done a page may have more study helps and notes than it does the actual text of Scripture.  Needless to say, all of these additions that were intended to help may have actually done more harm than good.  While they were meant to help, they ended up making the text itself harder to read and follow.  We took a book that was meant to be read and turned it into a reference book.

There were benefits to some of these decisions.  Chapter and verse numbers make it easy to reference information.  But, as Paauw points out, it also makes it so much easier to take verses out of context and make them say whatever we want.  I think of a boxer I heard about one time who had Philippians 4:13 emblazoned on his robe.  I’m relatively certain that when Paul wrote “I can do all things through him who strengthens me,” he didn’t have in mind knocking an opponent unconscious in a boxing match.  But without context, who’s to say?

In the book, Paauw calls for a return to actually reading the Bible.  Not just reading a verse or two every day or jumping around and reading various portions out of context, but to slow, determined, deep reading of the text itself.  Reading whole books at one time (or over only a few readings), reading books in order for flow (there is a definite plot to Genesis through Judges, for example), and remembering that we are reading a story that must hang together.  While Paauw is not the first or the only author to call for this kind of reading (I think of James Gray, for example, among many others), he does a great job of presenting an ideal type of Bible reading.

The main way Paauw does this is by calling for a return to seven aspects of Bible reading we need to recover: Elegance (in design), Feasting (reading large portions in order), History (remember the Bible was written for us, but not to us), Story-Turned-Drama (there is a narrative, and we are part of it), Creation (the Bible was written to show how God is working to redeem and restore all of His original creation), Community (the Bible is not merely a book we read by ourselves for independent life change; it is a book we read together to grow as a community called by God), and Beauty (paying attention to the flow and writing of the authors themselves). (Taken from p.213 and summarized from ideas throughout.)  There is no question that reading the Bible in this way would be revolutionary (and I don’t use that word all too often) for our growth and understanding of God’s plan and our place in it as His people.

Anyone who is familiar with N.T. Wright (especially) and Dallas Willard (in part) will sense certain similarities of ideas that they write about throughout this book.  That is really the only possible weakness I saw.  In an effort to restore a communal mindset to salvation, that it is not merely about individual salvation from sin and Hell, but that it is about creating a community of people who follow the Messiah and help inaugurate God’s plan of redemption for all of creation, I feel that Paauw occasionally overlooks the individual aspect that is there, as well.  To me, it is not either/or, but both/and.  It seems that authors tend to overemphasize one or the other.  To be fair, the individual aspect has been emphasized so much that we probably do need a correction the other way, but if we aren’t careful, the communal will be overemphasized to the opposite extreme over time.  We need both in tension.

There are parts of the book that people, such as myself, who have been raised in churches with a heavy emphasis on individual salvation from sin and its consequences will struggle through (but in a good way, I think).  For example, on pp. 138-139, Paauw gives an overview of Creation/Fall/Redemption/Restoration that is very standard.  I read it a few times while wondering what was wrong with it.  As I kept in mind Paauw’s overall argument, I started to see what he was getting at, but we are truly so taken by the common explanation that it is hard to see past it to anything else.  This issue does not detract from the main impact of the book, however, and the main idea is still a much-needed insight.

One of the Bible’s Paauw mentions as an elegant Bible is Biblica’s Books of the Bible edition of the NIV, as Paauw had a hand in its development.  I do have to say that Biblica had it right in redividing the text based on actual breaks in thought and intention, and while Crossway has been doing a lot in their “Reader’s” editions, I hope they may consider it in the next release of their 6-volume set.

Overall, if you are looking for a book to help you understand where we may have gone wrong in our Bible reading and what we can do to correct it, I highly recommend Saving the Bible from Ourselves.

*I edited the original review.  When I first wrote it, I mentioned the one-sided aspect of mentioning only the Biblica reader edition as being a negative.  Mr. Paauw very graciously explained in a comment on my Amazon review that he only mentioned that one as others, such as Crossway’s, had not been published at the time he wrote his manuscript.  I apologize for any confusion.

*Note: I received a complimentary copy of the book from InterVarsity Press in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review – “Blotch” by Andy Addis

Blotch

Trying to determine the best way to explain the gospel to my children has been an ongoing question for me.  I want to be sure that they are accurately understanding what happened when Christ died on the cross for their sins, especially if it seems they are wanting to give their lives to Him.

That is why I was excited when I heard about Blotch: A Tale of Forgiveness and Grace by Andy Addis from B&H Publishing Group.

The book traces the story of Blotch, a boy who has spots on his skin, as does everyone around him.  The spots increase as people do more things they shouldn’t.  He goes on mini quest to try to determine how to get rid of the spots.  In the process,  he meets several different groups of people: the Hiders try to cover up their spots, the Pretenders act as if the spots do not exist, and the Pointers blame others for their spots.  Obviously, none of these groups help Blotch get rid of his spots.  Finally, he meets the King, who explains that he is able to take away the spots if only Blotch will acknowledge his wrong and believe that the King can help him.  He does, his spots appear on the King while disappearing from himself, and he goes on to tell others that their spots can be taken away if the go to the King in belief. As he is leaving, he looks back and the spots that were on the King are now gone as well.

I thought it was a great story, and a great way to present substitutionary atonement in a way young children can understand.

The back of the book has a recommended family discussion guide.  It recommends taking 5 days to read the book (one chapter a day).  Each day’s discussion includes an activity to make the meaning of the story stand out to children, as well as questions to discuss with them.  For example, the first day it has the family crumple paper into balls to throw at a basket, yelling “hit” or sadly saying “miss” depending on whether someone makes it or not.  This is then tied into the idea of sin meaning to “miss the mark” of God’s standards.  There is a section on “A Parent’s Guide for Leading a Child to Christ,” to walk them through the gospel and pray a sample prayer, if your child decides he or she is ready to turn to Jesus.  It also includes follow up items for after a child decides to repent and trust Jesus.

There are great illustrations by Tatio Viana throughout this 64-page hardcover book.

While I have not read the book yet with my children, I look forward to doing so.  If you are looking for a book to help explain the meaning forgiveness through Christ’s sacrifice, I strongly suggest you consider Blotch.

*Note:  I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.