Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Bible Review #2 ESV Creeds

ESV Bible with Creeds and Confessions. Crossway. 2020. 1424 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

How do I feel about the newly published ESV Bible with Creeds and Confessions?! I absolutely love, love, love, love, love, crazy love and adore this one.

I read the TruTone edition of the ESV Creeds Bible. It was without a doubt the best FEELING Tru-Tone I've ever held in my hands. It is LOVELY. I typically make covers for my Bibles--this one won't be getting one. I love the feel of it too much.

It is the text of the ESV translation. I do love the ESV. It is in my top three definitely. I love, love, love the ESV, the NASB, and the KJV. Those are my top three--have been for the past decade--and they take turns being the top. A little friendly competition between translations, I suppose!

Font size vs. Weight. I thought this was PERFECTLY BALANCED. The weight of the overall bible is just about perfect. The font size is 10.5. That is so much larger than the average Bible being printed nowadays. (The ESV Prayer Bible is 9.25; the ESV Study Bible is 9 point; ESV Student Study Bible is 8 point; The ESV Reformation Study Bible is 9 point.) It's light enough that you can hold the Bible and read--as opposed to a Bible you HAVE to read at a table because it's too heavy for the lap to sustain. Because it's light weight, the font size was very manageable even though my vision is poor.

Double column. The ESV Creeds Bible is double column. The bleed-through was on the minimal side. I didn't need to use black construction paper. I think the text was blocked in such a way that it helped prevent bleed-through.

Black letter. The ESV Creeds Bible is a black letter Bible. The words of Christ are not printed in red. I am thankful for this!

The Creeds and Confessions were found in the back of the Bible. They include the Apostles Creed (ca. 200-400), the Nicene Creed (325), the Athanasian Creed (381), the Chalcedonian Definition (451), the Augsburg Confession (1530), the Belgic Confession (1561), the Articles of Religion (1563), the Canons of Dort (1618-19), the Westminster Confession (1646), the London Baptist Confession (1689), the Heidelberg Catechism (1563), the Westminster Larger Catechism (1647), and the Westminster Shorter Catechism (1647).

I loved the variety of what they included. Some were familiar to me; others were new-to-me. They didn't include every single creed, confession, or catechism. One they did leave out was the Scots Confession (1560). Another was the Second Helvetic Confession (1566). 

It does include more creeds than the ESV Reformation Study Bible which only includes the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, the Definition of Chalcedon, the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession, the Canons of Dort, the Westminster Confession, the Westminster Larger Catechism, the Westminster Shorter Catechism, and the 1689 London Baptist Confession. 

It also has more creeds than the KJV Reformation Heritage Bible which only includes the Apostles' Creed, Nicene Creed, Athanasian Creed, Belgic Confession, Heidelberg Catechism, Canons of Dort, Westminster Confession, Westminster Shorter Confession, Westminster Larger Catechism.

I think the ESV Creeds Bible would make a great Bible to carry to church. It would be a great only Bible as well.

I think ESV should publish a Bible perhaps with families in mind and include the full text of the NEW CITY CATECHISM.
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, March 27, 2020

29. Discover Jesus

Discover Jesus: An Illustrated Adventure for Kids. Tracy M. Sumner. 2020. 160 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Children's Book; Christian Nonfiction]

First sentence: If someone were to ask you what you know about Jesus, what would you say? You probably know that Jesus was born a little over two thousand years ago in the land of Israel in a town called Bethlehem. And you probably know that He died on a cross so that people could be forgiven for their sins. Maybe you’ve heard some great stories about the miracles He performed, or even the important things He taught about loving God and other people. That’s a good start. But with this book, you have the opportunity to learn a lot more.

This one is written for children as an introduction to the basics of the Christian faith, an introduction to Jesus Christ.  It gives an overview of the Bible and how Jesus Christ fits into that big picture of the Bible. Jesus' story did not start in Bethlehem--far from it! Jesus has always existed and participated in the creation. Through the chapters one does get an appreciation for the big picture and what it all means. The language is very basic--which is probably kid-appropriate and only fitting.

The main audience of this one is 8 to 12 years old. I'd say that is about right. It could be used by families with young children in that age group or even in a classroom library at a church or private school.

I reviewed an advanced reader copy in e-book format. As an adult I didn't find the illustrations--photographs of the Holy Land plus Christian art drawn throughout the histories--particularly necessary. They do not add to the 'adventure' of the story. That could just be me--I find the gospel ADVENTURE enough without adding anything to it--even something as harmless as art.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, March 23, 2020

Bible Review #1 ESV MacArthur Study Bible

ESV MacArthur Study Bible. John F. MacArthur. 2010. Crossway. 2144 pages. [Source: Bought] [Bible, Study Bible]

First sentence: In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

I'm just a girl who can't say no when it comes to buying MacArthur Study Bibles. But I finally, finally finished one cover to cover.

I chose to read the ESV MacArthur Study Bible for the Bible in 90 Days project. I started reading December 25, 2019. I finished March 23, 2020. For those reading this in the future, the world has changed in that short length of time.

I chose to read the kindle version of the book. Mainly I chose the e-book version--even though I own both print and ebook--because the font size in the print is super-tiny for my eyes.

I loved the ability to highlight! I never, ever, ever do this in print Bibles. So that was a nice surprise bonus to using the e-book.

I mainly read in the evening--though sometimes the afternoon--with my tea time.

I would like at some point to see Crossway publish a large print edition of this. Though at this time it's been so many years since this was first released, I find that a bit unlikely!!! If they do make it large print. I would like to see the font size of the text be at least 11 to 12 point font and and the study note font size be at least 9 to 10. That's a laughable dream since most large print bibles--even large print study bibles--feature the "large font" text size about 9.5 to 10 and the study note size at 8 or 8.5. Laying flat is a must. I do have the NASB MacArthur large print--the text runs hard and fast into the margins. There is no place that it actually opens and lays flat where you can read the inner column of text.

So I would recommend this one to those looking for a study Bible. If you have bad eyesight, I'd recommend the e-book version.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

14 Day Reading Plan

This reading plan will see you through the New Testament and Psalms and Proverbs in 14 days.

Old TestamentNew Testament
Day 1Proverbs 1-31Matthew 1-7
Day 2Matthew 8-28; James
Day 3Psalm 1-18Mark, 1 Peter, 2 Peter
Day 4Psalm 19-29Romans, Galatians
Day 5Psalm 30-51Hebrews, 
Day 6Luke 1-9, 1 Corinthians
Day 7Luke 10-24, 2 Corinthians
Day 8Psalm 52-72Acts 1-15, Ephesians
Day 9Psalm 73-89Acts 16-28, Philippians, Colossians
Day 10Psalm 90-1071 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 
Day 11Psalm 108-1181 Timothy, 2 Timothy
Day 12Psalm 119Titus, Philemon, Jude
Day 13Psalm 120-138John 1-21, 
Day 14Psalm 139-1501 John, 2 John, 3 John, Revelation

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

28. Stand Firm

Stand Firm: Living in a Post-Christian Culture. John MacArthur. 2020. [April] 152 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Christian living; Christian Nonfiction; theology]

First sentence: The New Testament resounds with calls to holiness.

It continues, "We are told to abstain from fleshly lusts (1 Peter 2:11), mortify the deeds of the body (Rom. 8:13), love not the world (1 John 2:15), flee immorality (1 Cor. 6:18), put off the old man (Eph. 4:22), and think on what is true (Phil. 4:8). We read commands to let the Word of Christ dwell in us richly (Col. 3:16), to put on the breastplate of righteousness (Eph. 6:14), to buffet our bodies to bring them into subjection (1 Cor. 9:27), and to present our bodies as living sacrifices (Rom. 12:1). We hear the call of the Apostle Paul to cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh (2 Cor. 7:1), walk in the Spirit (Gal. 5:16), and lay aside all bitterness, anger, and malice (Eph. 4:31). Peter quoted from Leviticus in his charge to live disciplined, godly lives: “Like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:15–16). Most Christians are well versed in those commands—we know them and we believe them. However, familiarity and mental assent are not enough to produce righteous results. In fact, the church seems to be rapidly losing the battle for holiness and purity. Consider the worldliness that pervades the church today. Some congregations are virtually indistinguishable from the world; many more are moving fast on a similar trajectory. Others don’t necessarily wear their worldly affections on their sleeves, but their outward acts of piety and devotion cannot conceal the corruption within. The reason is simple. The battle for holiness is not primarily about public professions and external displays. Rather, if God’s people are going to be holy, we must first win the battle on the inside."

John MacArthur's newest book is essentially a primer on the Christian life. It covers a wide range of subjects essential to living out the Christian life.

Chapter One: The Christian Life Means Being Called to Holiness
Chapter Two: The Christian Life Means Loving Your Neighbor and Your Enemy
Chapter Three: The Christian Life Means Loving Until It Hurts
Chapter Four: The Christian Life Means Engaging In Prayer
Chapter Five: The Christian Life Means Repudiating the Myth of Influence
Chapter Six: The Christian Life Means Persevering to the End

If there is a common thread to these chapters--to these subjects--it's that Christians are called out ones. No matter if we live in a so-called "Christian" culture or the worldly-world, we are called out by God, commanded to live not for the world, not for ourselves, but for Him and Him alone. Often this means countering culture and society, choosing to follow and believe what God has said.

I love short books. (Of course, I also love long books--but that is besides the point!) There is something oh-so-satisfying about sitting down with a little book and reading it in a day--or two or three. If it is super-relevant and packed with truths--both familiar and new--so much the better. I would definitely recommend this one.

  • A properly functioning conscience is fully informed by the truth of Scripture. When David said, “Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You” (Ps. 119:11), he was confessing his desire for a fully informed conscience. Christ prayed for the same thing for His disciples: “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth” (John 17:17). Holiness comes as a result of the Word of God informing the conscience and the conscience informing the person.
  • God’s people must not buy in to the demonic lie that God is only concerned with the exterior—that sins of the heart and mind are acceptable as long as they remain secret. 
  • In truth, there is no such thing as a private, secret sin. The wicked imagination is merely the seedbed of external sin. No one “falls into” immorality or adultery—the sinner indulged those lustful desires internally long before he ever acted on them. In the same way, the thief ’s heart was corrupted by covetousness long before he ever stole anything. Wickedly toying with sin internally is the best way to guarantee that it will eventually manifest itself externally. And in the meantime, the conscience is battered and defiled while its cries fall on deaf ears.
  • We cannot afford the occasional dalliance with sins of the mind. We cannot indulge our sinful imaginations with impunity. If we think the sins of our imagination are truly secret, we’re lying to ourselves. There is no corner of our hearts or minds that is hidden from the Lord.
  • The fact is that it isn’t easy for any of us to love someone else as thoroughly as we love ourselves. Our love for ourselves is unfeigned, fervent, habitual, and permanent. It generally respects and prioritizes all our needs, wants, desires, hopes, and ambitions. It consistently promotes our well-being. It does everything possible to secure our own happiness and satisfaction, protect our own welfare, produce our own comfort, and meet all our own interests. It seeks our own pleasure and fulfillment, and it knows no limit of effort to secure all of these things. Scripture says that is exactly how we are to love our neighbor. But Israel’s religious elite left that out, reducing “love your neighbor” to something less than such consummate devotion. Worse still, the rabbis and scribes had narrowed the definition of “neighbor” to exclude virtually everyone but themselves.
  • if we are going to be known as our Father’s children, we need to manifest that same kind of love for the lost. He demonstrates His love to sinners through general goodness, pity, warning, admonition, real grief over their plight, and a pleading offer of the saving gospel. We must love our neighbors—including our enemies—in the same way. We need to prioritize their general welfare. If that means a meal, clothing, money, or some other kind of assistance, we give it freely, out of a sincere desire for their good. More than that, we show them pity, compassion, and grief over their slavery to sin and the consequences that await if they do not repent. Loving our enemies also means warning them of God’s judgment and faithfully, lovingly admonishing them to repent and believe while there is still time. That is loving our neighbors the way God loves.
  • The world talks a lot about love. But the more people talk about it, the less it seems as if they actually know what they’re talking about. They certainly don’t seem to understand what divine love is or how it functions. Worse still, the same kind of confusion is creeping into the church. For example, you have probably heard some pastor or some church describe their desire to “just love on people.” That sounds good, but often it doesn’t actually mean anything beyond the superficial. Increasingly, what it actually means is, “We don’t want to make people uncomfortable.” Churches like that routinely settle for a vague sense of acceptance that’s not grounded in any biblical truth. They inevitably skirt the difficult topics and the penetrating and convicting truths, instead planting their flags in whatever inoffensive common ground they can identify. They’ve mastered the technique of sounding loving without having to say anything of substance.
  • I want to see the lost redeemed and the slaves of sin set free. I want to see society changed and righteousness prevail. But the only way it can be changed is through the power of the Spirit and the truth of the gospel. There is no other hope for the spiritually dead, no other means by which the Holy Spirit makes dead sinners alive in Christ.
  • The gospel produces hostility. It is popular to attempt to alter it, not only to make it easier for people to believe but to take some of the heat off themselves for presenting it. In fact, the word of the cross is so shameful and antagonizing that even faithful Christians struggle to proclaim the true gospel, afraid of the rejection, ridicule, and embarrassment it will bring. That’s why it is hard for even some Christian leaders, when they get on television in secular settings, to speak the gospel with honesty and clarity. Sometimes they can’t even seem to get the name “Jesus” out of their mouths.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, March 12, 2020

27. Finding the Right Hills to Die On

Finding the Right Hills to Die On: The Case for Theological Triage. Gavin Ortlund. 2020. [April] 176 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Christian nonfiction; theology; christian living]

First sentence: There’s an old saying (I can’t remember where I heard it): “There is no doctrine a fundamentalist won’t fight over, and no doctrine a liberal will fight over.” Strictly speaking, that’s not quite fair to thoughtful liberals and fundamentalists. But we can probably recognize these two instincts. Most of us have a tendency in one direction or the other—to fight over doctrine too much or too little.

I loved, loved, loved FINDING THE RIGHT HILLS TO DIE ON by Gavin Ortlund. The premise is simple: Are there theological doctrines worth fighting for? (Yes) Are all theological doctrines worth fighting for or fighting over? (No.) How does one distinguish between the doctrines worth fighting for and the ones not worth fighting for? How does one discern which doctrines are so fundamental and essential to understanding, proclaiming, and believing the gospel...that they must be fought for and preserved...and which doctrines are secondary or even tertiary? Theological triage is the practice of discerning and deciding these matters.

"Ortlund usefully develops four tiers in his theological-triage system: (1) doctrines that are essential to the gospel; (2) doctrines that are urgent for the health and practice of the church, such that Christians commonly divide denominationally over them; (3) doctrines that are important for one branch of theology or another, but not such that they should lead to separation; (4) doctrines that are unimportant to gospel witness and ministry collaboration."

There are dangers in the two extremes: The first extreme being people who refuse to fight for (stand up for, defend, protect) ANY doctrine; unity must be preserved no matter what. The only absolute perhaps being UNITY AT ALL COSTS. All other absolutes can be whittled down, thrown out, reinterpreted, given a new spin. The weakness of the first extreme, in my opinion, is that every opinion counts or matters--except the Voice of God. The Bible has lost authority, lost status, lost a place. Perhaps that is the extreme of that extreme. Perhaps that is the worst case scenario of that extreme. But certainly when a denomination values being in step with the times, with the culture, with the world, with unbelievers and sinners, with majority-voted morals and virtues, rejecting the idea of absolute truth, etc., they are essentially throwing out the Word of God and saying we know better than God.

The second extreme being people who are willing to fight for (stand up for, defend, protect) ALL doctrines. It doesn't matter the doctrine, if you don't agree with me--then we're at odds and can't work together or be unified. You're my enemy and Christ's enemy if we're not 100% in sync with one another. Neither extreme is healthy or ideal. The second extreme has SO MANY PERCEIVED ENEMIES that their focus tends towards being right, being proved right, getting the best of others. Little room for love, lots of room for hate. The weakness of the second extreme Ortlund writes, "If our identity is riding on our differences with other believers, we will tend to major in the study of differences. We may even find ourselves looking for faults in others in order to define ourselves."

As Christians live their lives--during the week and on Sunday--they will encounter those who disagree with them. How does one react? How does one live peacefully? How does one come to terms? Which disagreements are worth speaking up about, fighting about, fighting for, defending. And which ones are best avoided and pushed aside? He writes, "Most of the battles you could fight, you shouldn’t. And I’d go so far as to say that the majority of doctrinal fights Christians have today tend to be over third-rank issues—or fourth. We deeply need to cultivate greater doctrinal forbearance, composure, and resilience."

Ortlund quotes from others who have written about this subject. (It hasn't always been called triage, but Christians have been calling for discernment and defense for centuries.)

"Erik Thoennes offers a helpful list of criteria: 1. Biblical clarity 2. Relevance to the character of God 3. Relevance to the essence of the gospel 4. Biblical frequency and significance (how often in Scripture it is taught, and what weight Scripture places upon it) 5. Effect on other doctrines 6. Consensus among Christians (past and present) 7. Effect on personal and church life 8. Current cultural pressure to deny a teaching of Scripture."

"Wayne Grudem provides a list of questions that churches and organizations should ask when considering whether to draw a new theological boundary: 1. Certainty: How sure are we that the teaching is wrong? 2. Effect on other doctrines: Will this teaching likely lead to significant erosion in other doctrines? 3. Effect on personal and church life: Will this false teaching bring significant harm to people’s Christian lives, or to the work of the church? 4. Historical precedent: Is this teaching contrary to what the vast majority of the Bible-believing church has held throughout history? 5. Perception of importance among God’s people: Is there increasing consensus . . . that this matter is important enough that the false teaching should be explicitly denied in a doctrinal statement? 6. Purposes of the organization: Is the teaching a significant threat to the nature and purposes of the organization? 7. Motivations of advocates: Does it seem that the advocates of this teaching hold it because of a fundamental refusal to be subject to the authority of God’s Word, rather than because of sincerely held differences of interpretation based on accepted hermeneutical standards? 8. Methods of advocates: Do the advocates of this teaching frequently manifest arrogance, deception, unrighteous anger, slander, and falsehood rather than humility, openness to correction and reason, kindness, and absolute truthfulness?"

I would say primarily this book might be best suited for pastors, elders, church leaders, teachers. But I think all Christians could benefit from reading this one.

  • Do we have a “warm corner in our hearts” for every single true Christian, even if we strongly disagree with him or her on various issues?
  • A good prayer to pray is this: Lord, give me a “warm corner in my heart” for other Christians, especially those I am tempted to reject or despise. I know that I cannot solve all the divisions in your church, but show me what the next step might be for me personally to pursue and cultivate and honor the unity of your bride.
  • The Bible itself commends an attitude of eager responsiveness to God’s word in its entirety.
  • Confusion may be an understandable response to some passages, and grief to others; but indifference should not be our response. A casual, take-it-or-leave-it attitude about theology is totally incompatible with how we are to receive the word of God. Its contents may call for trembling and tearing of clothes, but never shrugging.
  • The truth is unchanging, but culture is constantly changing; so there will always be points of friction between truth and culture.
  • The gospel is simply too controversial, too disruptive, not to be attacked. Therefore, there can be no effective, long-term ministry of the gospel without a corresponding willingness to engage in its defense.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Testimony of A (Bible) Glutton

Reading Ron Horton's Alive To The Purpose got me to thinking about how I've approached Bible reading in the past. I realized that I've gone through several stages.

Pre-1986. I'd say I was big into stories--all kinds of stories. I loved to be read to, loved to read. I was familiar with certain Bible verses because of memorization--I went to a Christian school, where memory verses were expected of all grade levels and abilities. But there wasn't so much a Bible presence as a Bible Story Book one. I remember reading The Book for Children cover to cover multiple times. I'd also say that I had a super-super-super-super wonderful teacher who retold Bible stories drawing stick figures on the blackboard.

1986-1989. I started reading the Bible--the Living Bible--on my own, with great eagerness and curiosity. I mainly stuck with what I knew from Bible stories--Genesis and Exodus; Ruth, 1 Samuel through 2 Kings, Jonah; all the New Testament. (Probably Psalms and Proverbs?)

1989-1996. I would still say I was a bit of a picky reader. But the summer before sixth grade I started reading more of the Bible. I remember reading Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, etc. for the first time. In high school, I started venturing into the major and minor prophets. I still wasn't reading the whole Bible. I still had spots I avoided. My translation of choice these days was the NIV 1984.

1996-1998. I graduated from high school, started college, and actually read the Bible cover to cover. In a relatively quick amount of time. I started to realize the JOY that came from reading large chunks of Scripture and seeing the big picture. I know one of the Bibles I read during this time was the Narrated Bible--a chronological Bible. I read it through in three weeks.

1998-2008. These were my famine and feast days. I had two settings it seemed. I was either all in--and reading the Bible two to five hours a day. Reading through the Bible multiple times in a year. Reading with gusto and passion and zeal. Or I was all out--going months, and perhaps even years without any personal Bible reading. I was STARVING myself. I'd feel the lack, but love of sin, love, love, love of sin was keeping me from going to where I could feast. I had moments of guilt and shame. But I seemed unable to break the pattern-hold. When I was on, I was a theological zealot. Love for God, love for the Word consumed me--filled my days and nights. When I was off, I was a HUGE mess. And yes, a BIG, BIG, BIG hypocrite.

2008-present. Around the time I started the Operation Actually Read Bible blog, I started tithing my time. I thought it was all kinds of wrong to claim that I DIDN'T HAVE TIME TO READ THE BIBLE when I was spending four or five hours a day reading every book but the Bible. (And also having time to BLOG reviews of what I was reading.) I didn't have "time" and I didn't have "energy" were just excuses, bad excuses at that. I also started reading the Bible first--before picking up any other book for the day.

Also around this time--either 2008 or 2009--I participated in my first (but not my last) Bible in 90 Days challenge. That really taught me two things 1) I definitely DID have the time (and also energy), 2) the Bible was the absolute best for feasting. After this I was not satisfied with ten minutes a day. I did not feel full. I still felt hungry. My spiritual stomach had been stretched. I'd become a GLUTTON. It left me with a HUGE spiritual appetite, but also the pattern or habit of setting aside hour(s) each day to feast. Supposedly, it only takes three to four weeks to establish a new habit or break out of an old habit. 90 days was more than sufficient to start a "habit" or "pattern" that was life-changing. My favorite translation these days: KJV, NASB, ESV.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible