Monday, December 22, 2014

Book Review: For Such A Time As This (2014)

For Such A Time As This. Angie Smith. Illustrated by Breezy Brookshire. 2014. B&H. 256 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I loved, loved, LOVED Angie Smith's For Such A Time As This. I really did. What did I love about it? I loved the balance of text and illustration. The stories felt full, or, I suppose a better word might be rich. Some story books are so concise that all stories are made to fit on a two-page spread. The stories feel complete, whole. Each one just the right length. And the illustrations, well, I think I loved them!!! Breezy Brookshire's illustrations may be my favorite out of the story book bibles I've read the past few years. At first, I wasn't sure if I "liked" how some of the illustrations are done in black and white and some are in color. But. After reading and rereading, I think I like it just how it is.

What else did I love about For Such A Time As This? Well, I loved the format itself.

  • Story and illustrations. 
  • He (The "He" section focuses on God and highlights a facet of His character)
  • Me (The "Me" section focuses on the reader)
  • She (The "She" section offers parents a Scripture-based prayer to pray over their child/daughter)
  • Hebrew/Greek Word to share with family
  • Memory Verse to share with family

I loved, loved, loved the "He" sections. By reading the book in its entirety, readers learn:

  • God is sovereign
  • God is judge, and his judgment is righteous
  • God has established a covenant; he is a God who keeps his promises
  • God is omnipresent
  • God is always just
  • the providence of God
  • God is love
  • God is majestic
  • God loves redemption
  • God is dependable
  • God is truth
  • The Lord is our Provider
  • God is the only true source of peace
  • The Lord is wise
  • God is self-sufficient
  • God is knowledge
  • The Lord is slow to anger
  • God is unchanging
  • God is omnipotent
  • God is faithful
  • God is perfect
  • God is gracious
  • God has never made a promise that He won't keep
  • The Lord is near
  • The Lord is a healer
  • God is a miracle-maker
  • God is our great Defender
  • God is incomprehensible
  • God is merciful
  • God is worthy
  • God is transcendent
  • God is jealous
  • God is good
  • God is holy, holy, holy
  • God is our Comforter
  • God is omniscient
  • God is righteous
  • There is only one God
  • God is eternal
  • God is made up of three persons: Father, Son, and Spirit

I loved, loved, loved the prayers!!! I love how Scriptural they are. I love how practical they are.
Lord, help ________________ to sense Your presence in the times that she feels alone. Remind her in those moments that Your watchful eye is upon her and that she can call out to You from whatever desert she feels lost in. Speak courage and hope to her when she worries that she has been forgotten. Your Word declares this, "Be strong and courageous; don't be terrified or afraid of them. For it is the LORD your God who goes with you; He will not leave you or forsake you" (Deuteronomy 31:6). May I walk in the light of this promise and teach her to as well. (27)
Lord, help ___________ to be obedient in all things. When she is tempted to disobey, remind her that there is a better way that will lead to righteousness (Romans 6:16) and the purification of her soul (1 Peter 1:22). Give her the strength to stand firm when she sees others being disobedient and the courage to make the right decisions based on what she knows of You. Father, I come to You because  I know how fickle my own heart is and how easily my thoughts wander from You. Remind me to set my mind on Your Spirit instead of my own flesh so that I will have peace and will please You by submitting to Your law (Romans 8:5-8). And help me to delight in Your law in my inner being (Romans 7:22) so that I may lead her in a way that models obedience. (9)
And did I mention I love, love, love the storytelling? Angie Smith is a gifted writer. She has a way with words. She pulls out the importance and significance from the passages, always helping readers see the big picture. It was just a joy and a delight to read her stories.

From "The Garden"
Can you imagine? One moment. One decision. It changed everything. And there was no going back now.
God sent Adam and Eve out of the place that had always been home. As they wandered far from the garden, I wonder if they could hear the anguish in God's voice: This wasn't what I wanted for you…
Her mistake was too big to be fixed by human hands, but many years later, another Man would be wounded for her and for all of those who believe in Him. If God had wanted to, He could have separated Himself from them (and us) forever, but He didn't.
Even as He sent Adam and Eve away, God knew that one day He would make a way to bring them back to Him. (8)
From "Window of Heaven"
She had heard Noah warning the people for years that a great flood was coming to tear their homes apart and destroy them, but they wouldn't listen. They chose death instead of life over and over again, and it grieved God terribly.
She could still hear the echo in her mind.
Thud. Thud. Thud.
Every day she had listened to the sound of hammers pounding, shaping the boat that would rescue them from death. And now they were actually inside the boat, the "ark" Noah had built, trusting that the Lord would keep them safe. God told them that He would send the rain in seven days, and in seven days He did exactly that.
Drop, drop, drop…
The fountains of the great deep burst forth, the window of heaven opened, and the rain poured down. (13)
Many, many years later, the sound of a hammer pounding would pierce the silence again, driving nails into the wood of a cross.
Thud. Thud. Thud.
While the crowds mocked Him, there would be women who knew what He was doing for God--what He was doing for them. Standing high above the ground, the cross would bring life instead of death. The window of heaven would open again, and scarlet-colored droplets would rain from high above. Jesus Himself would be hung to cleanse us, and the flood of mercy would make us right with Him forever.
Drop, drop, drop… (14)
Which stories are included? Twenty from the Old Testament. Twenty from the New Testament.

  • The Garden (Eve)
  • Window of Heaven (Noah's wife)
  • Stars and Sons (Sarai)
  • The Well (Hagar)
  • Pillar (Lot's wife)
  • Steadfast Love (Rebekah)
  • The Veil (Rebekah, Rachel, Leah)
  • The Women and the Water (women in the life of Moses)
  • The Scarlet Cord (Rahab)
  • Covering (Deborah and Jael)
  • Pieces of Silver (Delilah)
  • Redeemer (Naomi and Ruth)
  • The Needle (Hannah)
  • Swords and Stones (Abigail)
  • Clean (Bathsheba)
  • Anything (Queen of Sheba)
  • Painting Her Face (Jezebel)
  • Flour and Faith (widow of Zarephath)
  • For Such A Time (Esther)
  • A Love Like This (Gomer)
  • Just A Girl (Mary and Elizabeth, both with child)
  • The Sacred Ordinary (Mary and the birth of Christ)
  • The Lamb (Anna)
  • An Empty Pitcher (woman at the well)
  • The Hem (woman with an illness)
  • Arise (Jairus's daughter)
  • Platter (Salome and Herodias)
  • Crumbs (Gentile mother)
  • The First Stone (adulterous woman)
  • Two Mites (widow with two mites)
  • The One Thing (Mary and Martha and the dinner)
  • Four Days (Mary and Martha and the death of Lazarus)
  • Beautiful (Mary of Bethany)
  • Cross (Salome at the cross)
  • Alive (Mary the Magdalene and the Resurrection)
  • The Price (Sapphira)
  • Another Breath (Tabitha)
  • Purple Cloth (Lydia)
  • Speak (Priscilla)

For Such A Time As This is perfect for mothers and daughters to read together. (Though dads and daughters could read as well!!!) The book is subtitled "Stories of Women from the Bible, Retold for Girls." But honestly, I think parents could read it/share it with sons and daughters.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Book Review: From Pearl Harbor to Calvary

From Pearl Harbor to Calvary. Mitsuo Fuchida. 1953/2011. eChristian. 96 pages. [Source: Bought]

After reading Wounded Tiger earlier this year, I've wanted to read this book. (I've also wanted to read more about Jake DeShazer. But I happened to find From Pearl Harbor To Calvary for $1.) This is a short autobiography. Mitsuo Fuchida concisely relates for readers his experiences during World War II; his restlessness after the war, and his quest for answers; and ultimately his conversation to Christ, and his subsequent evangelical work for the Lord. It may be short, but, it is nevertheless compelling.

In chapter one, the author recalls bombing Pearl Harbor.

In chapter two, the author relates his further experiences during the war itself.

In chapter three, the author writes of his experiences after the war, his longing for peace, and his quest for answers.

In chapter four, the author writes of his conversion and shares his testimony.

The final chapters (chapter five through chapter seven), readers learn of his evangelical work, his work for the Lord, how he shared his testimony with others, and how his focus changed so completely, his work to spread the gospel.

I would definitely recommend From Pearl Harbor to Calvary.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Week in Review: December 14-20


Reformation Heritage -- KJV

  • Ezra
  • Nehemiah
  • Esther

RSV

  • Psalms 90-150
  • Revelation

Living

  • 1 Corinthians
  • 2 Corinthians
  • Ephesians
  • Philippians
  • Colossians
  • 1 Timothy
  • 2 Timothy
  • Titus
  • Philemon
  • Revelation

NKJV

  • Revelation

Revised English Bible (REB)

  • Revelation

MEV

  • Numbers

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Book Review: The Christmas Bus

The Christmas Bus. Melody Carlson. 2006. Revell. 176 pages. [Source: Bought]

I enjoyed reading Melody Carlson's The Christmas Bus. I found it to be a quick and mostly satisfying read.

The Christmas Bus is set in Christmas Valley. The main characters are the pastor and his wife, Edith. They run a bed and breakfast called Shepherds Inn. After listening to her husband's sermon, the wife decides to open up the inn for the month of December, even offering some discounts. She wants to be hospitable and gracious. She was initially disappointed that her children and grandchildren won't be coming for Christmas this year. She has five rooms available…

Readers get a chance to know her and her husband better through this experiment of sorts in hospitality. One of the guests is SOMETHING. Her name is Myrtle. And she shakes up the entire town! Wherever she goes, she makes her presence felt. So she might  look like a small, delicate old lady, but, she's fierce. Though a guest, she ends up "helping" the woman in charge of the nativity play. That is funny in itself because she is bossy herself. So Myrtle gives her a taste of her own medicine.

Myrtle, of course, isn't the only guest. By the end of the novella, all five rooms are full…and that doesn't include the bus parked outside. A man (Collin) and his oh-so-pregnant wife (Amy). They are on their way to California. But their bus breaks down. They don't have money or a place to stay. They have so little. Will the town come together to show them grace and love?!

There were plenty of comical moments in The Christmas Bus. There were also plenty of sweet moments.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

My Year with Spurgeon #50

Love's Commendation
Charles Spurgeon
1856
“But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”—Romans 5:8.
I shall have nothing new to tell you; it will be as old as the everlasting hills, and so simple that a child may understand it. Love’s commendation. “God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” God’s commendation of himself and of his love is not in words, but in deeds. When the Almighty God would commend his love to poor man, it is not written, “God commendeth his love towards us in an eloquent oration”; it is not written that he commendeth his love by winning professions; but he commendeth his love toward us by an act, by a deed; a surprising deed, the unutterable grace of which eternity itself shall scarce discover. He “commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Let us learn, then upon the threshold of our text, that if we would commend ourselves it must be by deeds, and not by words.
If we would commend our religion to mankind, we cannot do it by mere formalities, but by gracious acts of integrity, charity and forgiveness, which are the proper discoveries of grace within. “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” “Let your conversation be such as becometh the gospel of Christ;” and so shall you honour him, and “adorn the doctrine” which you profess.
The first commendation of love, then, is this—that “CHRIST DIED FOR US”; and as the whole text is double, so this sentence also contains a twofold commendation There is a commendation of love in the person who died—Christ; and then in the act which he performed—“Christ died for us.”
When sinful man erred from his Maker, it was necessary that God should punish his sin. He had sworn by himself, “The soul that sinneth it shall die;” and God—with reverence to his all-holy name be it spoken—could not swerve from what he had said. He had declared on Sinai that he would by no means clear the guilty; but inasmuch as he desired to pardon the offending, it was necessary that some one else should bear the sufferings which the guilty ought to have endured, that so by the vicarious substitution of another, God might be “just, and yet the justifier of the ungodly.” Now, the question might have arisen, “Who is he that shall be the scapegoat for man’s offence? Who is he that shall bear his transgressions and take away his sins?”
The second part of the first commendation lieth here, that Christ died for us. It was much love when Christ became man for us, when he stripped himself of the glories of his Godhead for awhile, to become an infant of a span long, slumbering in the manger of Bethlehem. It was no little condescension when he divested himself of all his glories, hung his mantle on the sky, gave up his diadem and the pleasures of his throne, and stooped to become flesh. It was moreover, no small love when he lived a holy and a suffering life for us; it was love amazing, when God with feet of flesh did tread the earth, and teach his own creatures how to live, all the while bearing their scoffs and jests with cool unangered endurance. It was no little favour of him that he should condescend to give us a perfect example by his spotless life; but the commendation of love lieth here—not that Christ lived for us, but that Christ died for us. Come, dear hearers, for a moment weigh those words. “Christ died for us!”
Consider the circumstances which attended his death. It was no common death he died; it was a death of ignominy, for he was put to death by a legal slaughter; it was a death of unutterable pain, for he was crucified; and what more painful fate than to die nailed to a cross? It was a long protracted death, for he hung for hours, with only his hands and his feet pierced—parts which are far away from the seat of life, but in which are situated the most tender nerves, full of sensibility. He suffered a death which for its circumstances still remain unparalleled. It was no speedy blow which crushed the life out of the body, and ended it; but it was a lingering, long, and doleful death, attended with no comforts and no sympathy, but surrounded with scorn and contempt. Picture him! They have hurled him on his back; they have driven nails through his hands and his feet; they have lifted him up. See! They have dashed the cross into its place. It is fixed. And now behold him! Mark his eyes, all full of tears; behold his head, hanging on his breast. Ah! mark him, he seems all silently to say, “I am poured out like water; all my bones are out of joint; I am brought into the dust of death.” Hear him, when he groans, “I thirst.” Above all, listen to him, whilst he cries, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” My words cannot picture him; my thoughts fail to express it. No painter ever accomplished it, nor shall any speaker be able to perform it. Yet I beseech you regard the Royal Sufferer. See him, with the eye of your faith, hanging on the bloody tree. Hear him cry, before he dies, “It is finished!”
Our second point was this: “God commendeth his love towards us,” not only because Christ died for us, but that CHRIST DIED FOR US WHILE WE WERE YET SINNERS.”
Consider how many of us have been continual sinners. We have not sinned once, nor twice, but ten thousand times. Our life, however upright and moral it has been, is stained by a succession of sins. If we have not revolted against God in the outward acts which proclaim the profligate to be a great sinner, yet the thoughts of our heart and the words of our lips are swift witnesses against us that we have continually transgressed.
Men, brethren, and fathers, he did not die for you as those who have committed but one fault, but as those who were emphatically “sinners;” sinners of years’ standing; some of you sinners with grey heads; sinners who have persevered in a constant course of iniquity.
Note again, he has died for us, although our sins were aggravated. Oh! there are some of us here who are great sinners—not so much in the acts we have performed, as in the aggravation of our guilt. I reckon that when I sin, I sin worse than many of you, because I sin against better training than many of my hearers received in their youth. Many of you, when you sin, sin against faithful ministers, and against the most earnest warnings.
When you sin against the convictions of your consciences, against the solemn monitions of your pastors, you sin more grossly than others do.
When we were sinners, we were sinners against the very person who died for us. “Tis strange, ‘tis passing strange, ‘tis wonderful,” that the very Christ against whom we have sinned died for us. If a man should be injured in the street, if a punishment should be demanded of the person who attacked him, it would be passing strange if the injured man should for love’s sake bear the penalty, that the other might go free; but ‘twas so with Christ. He had been injured, yet he suffers for the very injury that others did to him. He dies for his enemies—dies for the men that hate and scorn him. There is an old tradition, that the very man who pierced Christ’s side was converted; and I sometimes think that peradventure in heaven we shall meet with those very men who drove the nails into his hands and pierced his side. Love is a mighty thing; it can forgive great transgressors.
Further, to illustrate my text, let me remark again, that inasmuch as Christ died for sinners, it is a special commendation of his love for the following reasons:—It is quite certain that God did not consider man’s merit when Christ died; in fact, no merit could have deserved the death of Jesus. Though we had been holy as Adam, we could never have deserved a sacrifice like that of Jesus for us. But inasmuch as it says, “He died for sinners,” we are thereby taught that God considered our sin, and not our righteousness. When Christ died, he died for men as black, as wicked, as abominable, not as good and excellent. Christ did not shed his blood for us as saints, but as sinners. He considered us in our loathsomeness, in our low estate and misery—not in that high estate to which grace afterwards elevates us, but in all the decay into which we had fallen by our sin. There could have been no merit in us; and therefore, God commendeth his love by our ill desert.
Christ died for me when I had no power nor will to lift my voice in prayer to him. It was entirely unasked.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, December 15, 2014

Book Review: Revolutionary (2014)

Revolutionary (Anomaly #3) Krista McGee. 336 pages. [Source: Review copy]

The first book in the series is Anomaly. The second book in the series is Luminary. The third book in the series, the one I'll be reviewing today, is Revolutionary.

I thought I would start by sharing my thoughts on the series as a whole. I really enjoyed the series. I enjoyed the premise of it and the world-building. Dystopias seem to be ever-trendy in the field of YA fiction. But there just aren't many YA dystopias being published in the Christian market. So I was very excited to see this trilogy published by Thomas Nelson. It follows the crowd in some ways: heroine who doesn't know her own strength and/or worth, strong romantic elements including a love triangle, a corrupt government or power-system that needs to be opposed/overthrown. But it's also distinct in that it includes spiritual themes. Thalli and most of her friends come through the series to know--in part due to the strong witness and testimony of John Turner--the Designer.

What did I think of the last book in the series? Well, I enjoyed it very much! I think I enjoyed it more than the second book. That could be because it's the last in the series and it brings the series to a good, solid conclusion. (Cliff-hanger endings, while understandable, can be frustrating!) Though it had been a few months since I read the second book, I soon found myself hooked and connected right back into the story.

The third book, as you might expect, is the book where readers finally get answers and then some! The book is very intense and there really isn't a calm moment where all the characters are safe and happy and out of danger. The threat is felt on nearly every page. And just when the threat seems manageable, something happens to change all that. (I wouldn't say it is as bloody as say Hamlet or MacBeth, but, do expect loss.)

I wanted to keep reading because I had to know how it all ended.

But. I must admit that love triangles don't really thrill me. There are exceptions to the rule, I suppose, but I never "like" or "love" a book more because of the presence of a love triangle. If anything, I like or love a book in spite of the fact that it includes a pesky love triangle. The love triangle in Revolutionary seems more dramatic, more life-and-death, than in other series I've read. I thought the characterization was nicely done. I came to care for many if not all of the characters--though not the villain: boo, hiss--I just wish they'd been less romance and more friendship.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Week in Review: December 7-13

Reformation Heritage KJV

  • Ephesians
  • Philippians 

KJV (Rainbow Study Bible)

  • Revelation

ASV

  • Revelation

RSV

  • Psalm 42-89
  • Revelation

Living

  • Acts

NLT

  • Revelation

HCSB
  • Revelation
NASB

  • Revelation

NIV

  • Revelation

NIV-UK (Audio Bible)

  • Revelation
  • Genesis 1-11


© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible