Wednesday, July 23, 2014
Burning Sky won a Christy award for First Novel, a Christy award for historical novel, and their book of the year award. So my guess was that it would be a good, very good, read. I was not disappointed.
After the loss of her husband and children, Burning Sky, returns to her home in the white community from which she was stolen as a child. Willa Obenchain did not know if her parents would still be there or not. Nearing her land--or her parents' land--she comes across an injured man, Neil MacGregor. The two have a chance to become good friends as he heals in her cabin. He helps her as much as he can, for she has a lot of work ahead of her. Her home has been abandoned, her parents long gone. She'll need to work the fields and plant crops if she's to make it on her own. Some in the community welcome her back. But those that welcome her back are relatively few in number. Most are a little unsure about her return. It's not that they blame her exactly for getting kidnapped twelve or so years ago. But. They don't exactly trust her or respect her. They view her as if she's been contaminated by close contact with the enemy. She knows this, she sees this. And in all honesty, she knows that if her husband had not died, if her kids had not died, that she probably would have never come back.
The land. I would say a large portion of this novel is focused on her land. There are those in the community that WANT her land, that want to see her off the land for good. It so happens that she returns just months before her land is to be auctioned off. Her return doesn't automatically mean she gets to keep the land. But it does mean that she gets to fight to keep her land. If and only if she can prove that her parents were American patriots during the war can she keep her land. But proving such a thing may be extremely difficult.
Of course, that's just part of the story. Relationships matter in Burning Sky. And Willa has so much healing to do! But she won't be alone. Benton did a great job with her characters. The relationships are developed quite well. I especially loved the hero!!! And everything has a just right feel to it. If I'm honest, it is a bit more INTENSE than I usually like in my romance, but, overall it proved a satisfying read.
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible
Tuesday, July 22, 2014
“Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.”—2 Timothy 1:13.
If the gospel be worth your hearing, and if it be a true gospel, it is worth your holding.
No system can be a form of sound words unless it is perfectly scriptural.
But since it is said that texts may be found to prove almost everything, we must remark, that a form of sound words must be one that exalts God and puts down man. We dare not for a moment think that any doctrine is sound that does not put the crown upon the head of Jesus, and does not exalt the Almighty. If we see a doctrine which exalts the creature, we do not care one fig about what arguments may be brought to support it; we know that it is a lie, unless it lays the creature in the very dust of abasement, and exalts the Creator. If it does not do this, it is nothing but a rotten doctrine of pride; it may dazzle us with the brilliant malaria rising from its marshes, but it never can shed a true and healthful light into the soul; it is a rotten doctrine, not fit to be builded on the gospel, unless it exalts Jehovah Jesus, Jehovah the Father, and Jehovah the Holy Spirit.
We can never think a doctrine sound, when we see plainly upon its very surface that it has a tendency to create sin in men. Unless it be a doctrine according to godliness, we cannot conceive it to be a doctrine of God.
We shall, perhaps, be asked what we do regard as a form of sound words, and what those doctrines are which are scriptural, which at the same time are healthful to the spirit and exalting to God. We answer, we believe a form of sound words must embrace, first of all, the doctrine of God’s being and nature, we must have the Trinity in Unity, and the Unity in Trinity. Any doctrine, which hath not the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, as equal persons in one undivided essence, we cast aside as being unsound, for we are sure that such doctrines must be derogatory to God’s glory; and if they be so it is enough for us. If any man despise either Father, Son, or Holy Ghost, we despise him, and despise his teachings, and cannot even say to him, “I wish you God speed.” Now, we hold, that a form of sound words must look upon man aright as well as upon God aright; it must teach that man is utterly fallen, that he is sinful, and for his sin condemned, and in himself altogether hopeless of salvation. If it exalts man by giving him a character which is not a true one, and clothing him with a spurious robe of righteousness, woven by his own fingers, we reject and discard it utterly. And next, we think that a doctrine that is sound must have right views of salvation, as being of the Lord alone; unless we find in it everlasting, unchanging love, working out a salvation for a people “who were not a people,” but were made a people by special grace; unless we find discriminating love, others may say what they will—we cannot consider such a creed to be a form of sound words, unless we discern redeeming mercy openly and boldly taught; unless we see final perseverance, and all those great and glorious truths which are the very bulwarks of our religion, others may embrace the doctrine as being a form of sound words; but we cannot, and we dare not. We love the old system of our forefathers; we love the old truths of Scripture, not because they are old, but because we cannot consider anything to be truth which doth not hold the scriptural view of salvation. Methinks Paul himself, in this very chapter, gives us a form of sound words, where he speaks of “God who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.” I need not stop this morning to prove to you that which I have briefly hinted at as a form of sound words, because you believe it, and believe it firmly. I am not about to urge you to receive it, because I know you have already received it; but what I have to say is, “Hold fast,” I beseech you, “the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.”
When at any time I am cast down and dejected, I always find comfort in reading books which are strong on the doctrines of the faith of the gospel; if I turn to some of them that treat of God’s eternal love, revealed to his chosen people in the person of Christ; and if I remember some of the exceeding great and precious promises made to the elect in their covenant head, my faith at once becomes strong, and my soul, with wings sublime, mounts upwards towards its God. You cannot tell, beloved, if you have never tasted, how sweet is the peace which the doctrines of grace will give to the soul; there is nothing like them.
In the first place, every deviation from truth is a sin. It is not simply a sin for me to do a wrong act, but it is a sin for me to believe a wrong doctrine. Lately our ministers have absolved us all from obeying God in our judgments; they have told us point blank, many of them, in their drawing-rooms, and some of them in the pulpit, that we shall never be asked in the day of judgment what we believed. We have been told that for our acts we shall be responsible, but for our faith we shall be irresponsible, or something very much like it; they have told us plainly, that the God who made us, although he has authority over our hands, our feet, our eyes and our lips, hath but little authority over our judgments; they have told us, that if we make ever such blunders in divinity, they are no sins, so long as we can live right lives. But is that true? No; the whole man is bound to serve God; and if God gives me a judgment, I am bound to employ that judgment in his service; and if that judgment receive an untruth, it has received stolen goods, and I have sinned as much as if I put forth my hand to take my neighbour’s goods. There may be degrees in the sin. If it be a sin of ignorance, it is nevertheless a sin; but it is not so heinous as a sin of negligence, which I fear it is with many.
We want you to understand things, to get a true knowledge of them. The reason why men forsake truth for error is, that they have not really understood that truth; in nine cases out of ten they have not embraced it with enlightened minds. Let me exhort you, parents, as much as lieth in you, to give your children sound instruction in the great doctrines of the gospel of Christ.
Any father or mother who entirely gives up a child to the teaching of another has made a mistake.
That which a man learns on his knees, with his Bible open, he will never forget.
Believe the truth. Do not pretend to believe it, but believe it thoroughly. And he who does believe it, and fixes his faith first in Christ, and then in all Christ says, will not be likely to let it go.
Love Christ and love Christ’s truth because it is Christ’s truth, for Christ’s sake, and if you love the truth you will not let it go. It is very hard to turn a man away from the truth he loves.
That is the best thing to do, to believe the Word, to have so full a belief in it, that the enemy cannot pull you away.© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible
Monday, July 21, 2014
This Bible opens with a bright and bold spread called How to Use the Bible. I can appreciate that. It is important for readers of all ages--young and not-so-young--to know how to use a particular Bible. This makes sense especially for early readers who are just beginning to make sense of how books work. Readers learn about what a table of contents is, what a dictionary is, how to read the Bible text (name of the book, chapter numbers, verse numbers, subject headings, etc). I admit most of this stuff older readers probably take for granted. But we all have to start somewhere, sometime.
Since this was my first time reading the NIrV, I took time to read "A Word About the New International Reader's Version." I am glad I read it. Probably my favorite thing that I learned was this:
We decided to give you a lot of other help too. For example, sometimes a verse is quoted from another place in the Bible. When it is, we tell you the Bible book, chapter and verse it comes from. We put that information right after the verse that quotes from another place.At the time I received this review copy, I was reading Hebrews 30 days in a row. Hebrews quotes from the Old Testament a LOT. And I was finding it interesting to see how different translations handled it. For example, the NASB, uses ALL CAPS, and the HCSB--or at least some editions of the HCSB--go bold. ESV, at least at first glance, appears to use block quotes. I appreciated how the NIrV handled the quotes. I did. I really appreciated the clarity of it. (Hebrews 1, Bible Gateway)
Since the NIrV uses simpler vocabulary and shorter sentences, I wanted to try the translation out in some of the harder books, the more intimidating books. I chose to read Jeremiah and Ezekiel! I definitely noticed the shorter sentence length, that's for sure. Overall, I liked the translation, at least in these books. I still haven't read the gospels in the NIrV.
Now that I've talked about the translation, I'll spend some time talking about features of this particular bible.
Book introductions. I want to say these book introductions are similar to others that I've seen recently in NIV children's bibles. Very simple and straightforward in a question and answer format.
GenesisI do like the book introductions. They are simple and informative. They provide a foundation for continued learning.
Who wrote this book? Moses wrote this book
Why was this book written? This book tells how God created the world. It also tells about the special promises God made to Abraham.
What do we learn about God in this book? God created all things. God loves people. But God wants people to obey him. God promises to save people who trust him.
Who is important in this book? Important people in this book are Adam, Eve, and Noah. Abraham and Sarah are also important. Isaac, Jacob and Joseph are important too.
When did this happen? No one knows when the creation or the flood happened. Abraham was born about 2,000 years before Jesus was born.
Where did this happen? The first part of Genesis happened somewhere in the Middle East. Many people think that the Garden of Eden was in the country we now call Iraq. The rest of Genesis takes place in Egypt and Canaan.
What are some stories in this book?
God creates the world -- Genesis 1
God creates Adam and Eve -- Genesis 2
Adam and Eve sin -- Genesis 3
God saves Noah and the animals -- Genesis 6-8
God gives Abram a promise -- Genesis 12
Jacob steals Esau's blessing -- Genesis 27
Joseph's brothers sell him -- Genesis 37
Joseph becomes a ruler -- Genesis 39-41
Other features. This bible offers plenty of bold and colorful features. Words to Treasure. Did You Know? Live It! People in Bible Times, Life in Bible Times, etc. To name just a few. They certainly add visual appeal to the text, excuses for color. But I must admit that after reading and LOVING the Jesus Bible earlier this year, that I was disappointed. The Live It! sections probably disappointed me more than the rest. But everything is subjective. You may appreciate them more.
How to Stop Family Fights
Abram and Lot's shepherds were fighting. They fought about who would get to use the best land. They fought about who would get to use the water for their animals. There just wasn't enough room for both groups to live. Abram decided to stop the fight. Read Genesis 13:1-18 to find out how he did it.
Most brothers and sisters fight at times. Here's how your family can stop the fighting:
From the story of Abram, make up family rules, like: Give the other person first choice. Be content with what is left.
Make a tag with Abram's name on it. When you have a family fight, choose a person to wear the "Abram" tag. Let him or her use the rules you have made to stop the fight.
You can take turns being Abram. Then you each can learn how to please God as Abram did. (16)
Praying In Your HeartThe New International Reader's Version was revised in 2014. This is the newest revision of the Adventure Bible for Early Readers.
Praying in your heart means praying to God without saying anything out loud. In Genesis 24:1-21 Abraham's servant may have prayed in his heart.
Here are some times when you might want to pray in your heart:
1. In school when you are about to take a test.
2. When you are about to cross a busy street.
3. On the school bus if bigger kids tease you.
Draw pictures of three other places where you might want to pray in your heart. (27)
I am glad I read from this Bible. I am. I had never read from the NIrV before. And while it won't become my new translation of choice, I am very glad that there is a Bible written simply enough for children newly learning to read to understand. And I am glad that this edition is reader-friendly, very bright and colorful, lots of pictures.
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible
Sunday, July 20, 2014
Friday, July 18, 2014
This is a sixty-day devotional by Randy Alcorn. Each devotion has a focus or subject. Each devotion includes two Scripture verses and two quotes from famous Christians. Subjects include humility, forgiveness, stewardship, repentance, holiness, prayer, the Bible, etc. The book includes quotes from A.W. Tozer, C.S. Lewis, Augustine, J.C. Ryle, John Stott, R.C. Sproul, Oswald Chambers, Charles Spurgeon, John Bunyan, Martin Luther, etc.
I liked the length of this one. Year-long devotionals require commitment. (Perhaps you too have devotionals that have bookmarks in March or April?) But 60 days is much more manageable! Each devotional takes just minutes to read. I do believe that daily devotions should never take the place of actual Bible reading. But. I have nothing against the concept of daily devotional. (Especially if the focus remains on God and not on people the author has met or known.)
The Bible tells us we are pilgrims, strangers, aliens and ambassadors working far from home. Our citizenship is in Heaven. But we’ve become so attached to this world that we live for the wrong kingdom. We forget our true home, built for us by our Bridegroom. Nothing is more often misdiagnosed than our homesickness for Heaven. We think that what we want is money, sex, drugs, alcohol, a new job, a raise, a doctorate, a spouse, a large-screen television, a new car, a vacation. What we really want is the Person we were made for, Jesus, and the place we were made for, Heaven. Nothing less can satisfy us. (day 10)
The more I learn about God, the more excited I get about Heaven. The more I learn about Heaven, the more excited I get about God. Jesus said, “I am going there to prepare a place for you...I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:2–3, NIV). Hope is the light at the end of life’s tunnel. It not only makes the tunnel endurable, it fills the heart with anticipation of the world into which we will one day emerge. Not just a better world, but a new and perfect world. A world alive, fresh, beautiful, devoid of pain, suffering, and war, a world without earthquakes, without tsunamis, without tragedy. A world ruled by the only One worthy of ruling. (day 13)
If we want our words to have lasting value and impact, they need to be touched and shaped by God’s words. That will happen as we make an ongoing daily choice to expose our minds to Scripture, to meet with Christ, and let Him rub off on us. (day 15)
Genuine repentance is utterly vulnerable. It confesses more than has been found out. It never withholds information in the hope of preserving an image or a reputation. It puts itself at the mercy of others; it does not presume to direct or control them...To be repentant means to be committed to doing whatever is necessary to keep from falling back into sin…The sincerity of your repentance is demonstrated by how willing you are to take the steps necessary to nourish your soul and reprogram your mind from the Scriptures, so that you can draw on Christ’s power to be righteous. (day 20)
Truth hates sin. Grace loves sinners. Those full of grace and truth—those full of Jesus—do both… Attempts to “soften” the gospel by minimizing truth keep people from Jesus. Attempts to “toughen” the gospel by minimizing grace keep people from Jesus. It’s not enough for us to offer grace or truth. We must offer both. When we offend everybody, we’ve declared truth without grace. When we offend nobody, we’ve watered down truth in the name of grace. John 1:14 tells us Jesus came full of grace AND truth. Let’s not choose between them, but be characterized by both. (day 24)
The greatest kindness we can offer each other is the truth. Our job is not just to help each other feel good but to help each other be good. We often seem to think that our only options are to: 1) speak the truth hurtfully; or 2) remain silent in the name of grace. Both are lies. Jesus came full of grace AND truth (John 1:14). We should not choose between them, but do both. (day 54)
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible
Thursday, July 17, 2014
Luminary is the sequel to Anomaly, a lovely little dystopian novel I read and reviewed last summer. The third novel, Revolutionary, was just released. Luminary is very much the middle book, for better or worse. While I can definitely keep spoilers for this book out of this review, I can't promise that there won't be spoilers for the first book, Anomaly.
Luminary opens with Thalli and three of her friends escaping State. John is the father of one of the Scientists. He is the one whose ideas are deemed to dangerous to allow him access to the rest of the underground community. He believes in a Designer. Berk is Thalli's love interest. He's smart and brave too; he was on his way to becoming a scientist. He isn't just a love interest. Rhen, I wish I could say that she plays an actual part in this one. But she doesn't. She really doesn't. Thalli sees Berk and Rhen talking and assumes that they are falling in love behind her back. And that's it. Thalli sees her as a potential threat and starts treating her accordingly…at least in her private thought life. These four are escaping State, but, their get-away is a little too easy.
So Luminary is about two survivor settlements that they discover. One is New Hope. The other is Athens. Readers spend time learning about the two very different settlements. New characters are introduced. Almost all of the new characters play a bigger role than poor Rhen! One of the main characters we spend time with is a young man named Alex. He is prince of Athens.
Luminary is about community and government. When the incident happened, when nuclear war happened, those that survived tended to have definite opinions on how to rebuild. Readers will see three different perspectives on rebuilding.
If Luminary has a weakness as a novel, it is that it has no real ending! It is one of those frustrating books that just stops.
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible
Wednesday, July 16, 2014
I really loved this collection of essays. These essays or speeches were originally given at the Gospel Coalition 2012 National Women's Conference. The theme of the conference was "Here Is Our God." Speakers were "looking into passages where God reveals himself in spectacular ways to his people."
The overall goal for these talks was to gain from God’s Word a renewed vision of God and his sweeping purposes of redemption, as he shows himself to us through his revelation.Table of contents:
- On the Mountain: The Terrifying and Beckoning God (Exodus 19) Tim Keller
- In the Temple: The Glorious and Forgiving God (1 Kings 8) Paige Brown
- In the Throne Room: The God of Holiness and Hope (Isaiah 6) John Piper
- From a Miry Swamp: The God Who Comes and Delivers (Psalm 40) Carrie Sandom
- On Another Mountain: The God Who Points To His Son (Matthew 17:1-15) Nancy Leigh DeMoss
- In the Third Heaven: The God Who Can't by Talked About (2 Corinthians 12) Jenny Salt
- Through the Open Door: The Transcendent and Redeeming God (Revelation 4-5) Kathleen Nielson
- Home at Last: The Spectacular God at the Center (Revelation 21-22) D.A. Carson
From "On The Mountain"
John Newton, the great hymn writer, wrote in a letter, “Nobody ever learned they were a sinner by being told. They have to be shown.”
John Newton said, “Everything is needful that he sends. Nothing can be needful that he withholds.”
An Israelite could have said this: I was in bondage under penalty of death. I was a slave in a foreign land. But I took shelter under the blood of the lamb. And I was led out and saved by the mighty arm of God. I did nothing at all to accomplish it. The Lord did it all for us his people. He saved us by his sheer grace. Then we came to the place where God showed us how to begin to live out our salvation. He gave us the law. And now we haven’t reached the Promised Land yet, and we often fail and fall; we certainly aren’t perfect. But we even have a way of constantly dealing with our sins through the atoning sacrifice, through the blood. And we’ll eventually get to the Promised Land. That’s what an Israelite could have said during this period of time. And a Christian can say every one of those things, too.
You’ll never understand the whole Bible unless you understand the order: (1) grace, (2) obedience, (3) blessing. It’s not (1) grace, (2) blessing, (3) obedience. Nor is it (1) obedience, (2) grace, (3) blessing. If it was law then deliverance, we would say, “You obey; therefore God accepts you.” But since it’s deliverance (the exodus) and then law (the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai), the gospel is this: “God accepts you; therefore, you obey.” A Christian says, “I’m accepted because of the blood of Jesus Christ; therefore, I obey.” There is nothing more important to understand.
The gospel shuts up your ego and gets it all sorted out so that you’re not constantly whiplashing between (a) thinking too much of yourself and (b) being down on yourself. The gospel does this by (a) humbling your ego into the dust with knowledge that you’re a sinner and (b) affirming it to the sky by telling you rightly that you’re now a son or daughter of the king and that you can’t lose that status. As C. S. Lewis taught, you don’t think less of yourself or more of yourself; you just think of yourself less.
When we hear the Bible as it is, it’s terrifying. I think it was Dr. Lloyd-Jones who said, “If anyone has ever read the Sermon on the Mount with an open mind, they would fall down and cry out, ‘God, save me from the Sermon on the Mount.’” Because what they are experiencing in a little way without the thunder and lightning and special effects is the holiness of God.From "In The Temple"
Jesus was not taken to the cross. Jesus went to the cross. His life was not stolen from him. He laid down his life. The glory of the God who was willing to ordain and institute atonement became the glory of the God who will provide atonement. The glory of the God who is the atonement. John Stott says that we should never ever wonder why forgiveness is so difficult but rather how is it possible! God does not forgive sin. I hope you know that. He can’t. He forgives sinners. But sin has to be paid for. Who knew that this is what our sin costs? Jesus knew. He knew it, even as he echoed Solomon’s prayer and said, “Father, forgive them.” And he knew, because he himself was the answer to that prayer, that the Father would turn away from the next prayer in abandonment, which was required for that forgiveness. The unthinkable extravagance of Jesus the temple! The unimaginable cost to the heart of the Father! This is the temple dedication. It is his dedication, not ours. Glory and forgiveness can be combined only because here they are exchanged. The essence of sin is that I put myself in the place of God, so God put his Son in the place of me. Even as I have taken glory that is not mine, he has taken sin that is not his. Because we have put ourselves where only God deserves to be, he has put himself where only we deserve to be. How in is he? He left his rightful throne to take my rightful cross. His is the abandonment, and ours is the embrace. His is the price, and ours is the wealth. “Where is God?” He is on that cross. And, oh, the tear-down! Curtain temple torn from top to bottom. In this culmination there is full cancellation.
We love to camp out on the wonderful truth that we have the fullness of him. But we need to move the campsite to the truth that he is therefore to have the fullness of us.From "In The Throne Room"
We do not give God authority over our lives. He has it, whether we like it or not. What utter folly to act as though we had any rights to call God into question! Few things are more humbling, few things give us that sense of raw majesty, as does the truth that God is utterly authoritative. He is the Supreme Court, the Legislature, and the Chief Executive. After him, there is no appeal.From "On Another Mountain"
Through the course of the Christian life, there will be seasons of glory and seasons of gore. Our souls will be strengthened as we remember that Christ has been through both and that he goes with us through both of those seasons.From "In The Third Heaven"
With gospel eyes we will delight in weakness, not because it’s a comfortable place to be but because it is the showcase of God’s power.From "Through the Open Door"
The book of Revelation lets us see God in a way that’s meant to light up our whole lives to the end. It’s not a new seeing; Revelation is the culmination of all the other visions of God throughout Scripture. But it’s a big vision— a vision that encompasses the panorama of human history.
We call Revelation the consummation of the Bible’s story line: it’s the coming together of all the threads that wind around one another from Genesis on, in this big story of God’s redeeming a people for himself through his Son. Maybe one reason Revelation is such a hard book for us is that we don’t know well enough the whole rest of the Bible.From "Home At Last"
The book of Revelation rarely quotes the Old Testament, but almost every verse alludes to it and nowhere more abundantly than in Revelation 21– 22. The biblical allusions are so rich and intricate that they almost trip over themselves. These chapters serve as a kind of review of the whole Bible. But these chapters provide a review in another sense: inevitably, I will allude to many things that others have already introduced in earlier chapters of this book. When we survey some of the great texts that tell us how God disclosed himself in spectacular theophanies in the past, we quickly discover that these ideas and revelations culminate here. Do you want to hear the Bible’s final word about the holiness of God or the temple or the Lamb or the throne? It is all here. Those trajectories culminate here.
One reason that Scripture uses so much symbolism in its disclosures of God is that we are so dead to God, so blind, so unable to understand, so without categories, so without vocabulary, that when someone like Paul is caught up into the third heaven, the things he sees he is not allowed to describe, but in addition these things are also properly inexpressible because we haven’t been there.
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible