Thursday, December 30, 2010

Top Ten Christian Fiction

10.She Walks In Beauty by Siri Mitchell. 2010. April 2010. Bethany House. 400 pages.
9. Heart of Stone. Jill Marie Landis. 2010. [February 2010] Zondervan. 320 pages.
8. Touching the Clouds. Bonnie Leon. 2010. July 2010. Revell. 320 pages.
7. Courting Morrow Little by Laura Frantz. 2010. Revell. 368 pages.
6. Maid to Match. Deeanne Gist. 2010. June 2010. Bethany House. 368 pages.
5. Wildflowers of Terezin. Robert Elmer. Abingdon Press. 352 pages.
4. While We're Far Apart. Lynn Austin. 2010. October 2010. Bethany House. 416 pages.
3. Hearts Awakening. Delia Parr. 2010. [March 2010] Bethany House. 352 pages.
2. A Lady Like Sarah. By Margaret Brownley. (A Rocky Creek Romance). 2009. Thomas Nelson. 320 pages.
1. Sixteen Brides. Stephanie Grace Whitson. 2010. April 2010. Bethany House. 352 pages.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Top Ten Christian Books for Children and Families

Board Books:

Rise and Shine. Illustrated by Tim Warnes. (Song is in the public domain.) 2010. February 2010. Board Book. Simon & Schuster. 26 pages. My review. What I said:
If there was an award for adorableness, I would so give it to Rise and Shine! What we have is the traditional song published with oh-so-clever and oh-so-cute illustrations. The details! Oh the details! I love this bear family. I do. I love this bear child. There's just something so joyful, so right about this one. 
All God's Creatures. Karen Hill. Illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher. 2010. Simon & Schuster. 16 pages. My review. What I said:
There are plenty of touch-and-feel books that celebrate animals. You'll find board books on farm animals, and pets--on cats, dogs, and bunnies, especially. What makes this one a little different is the emphasis on God, on creation. 
Picture Books:

Sunday Is For God. By Michael McGowan. Illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher. 2010. January 2010. Random House. 40 pages. My review. What I said:
A sweet story focused on faith and family. A story about making God and family a priority in our lives. Our narrator is a young boy with a big heart. He may not love getting dressed up, wearing clothes that make him uncomfortable, but he does love God. This is a picture book that is rich in detail. I was surprised actually to see just how much detail is incorporated into this one.

Music From Our Lord's Holy Heaven. Gathered and Sung by Gloria Jean Pinkney. Art by Jerry Pinkney, Brian Pinkney, and Myles C. Pinkney. Prelude by Troy Pinkney-Ragsdale. 2005. HarperCollins. 48 pages. My review. What I said:
I loved this one. I just LOVED it. There are three sections in the book, "Adoration," "Spiritual Wayfarers," and "The Good Shepherd." Each section has seven to eight songs. Some of the songs included: "Old-Time Religion," "This Is My Father's World," "Glory, Glory, Hallelujah," "Go Down, Moses," "We Are Climbing Jacob's Ladder," "Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho," "Go Tell It On the Mountain," "Tell Me The Stories of Jesus," "He's Got The Whole World In His Hands," and "This Little Light of Mine."
All Things Bright and Beautiful. Based on Work by Cecil F. Alexander. Illustrated by Ashley Bryan. 2010. January 2010. Simon & Schuster. 40 pages. My review. What I said:
You may be familiar with the words of this new picture book. But Ashley Bryan has provided new illustrations to this familiar song. His illustrations are bright, bold, colorful. Very expressive. I can't promise you that you'll love all the spreads equally, but I think you'll find it an interesting read all the same!
Bible Storybooks:

My First Read-Aloud Bible. Retold by Mary Batchelor & Penny Boshoff. 2010. February 2010. Scholastic. 256 pages. My review. What I said:
While it doesn't have every story in it, it has a good variety of stories. By reading this book cover-to-cover, you get a good idea as to what the Bible is all about. You can see how the stories are interconnected. You can see how the pieces of the puzzle fit together. I thought they did a great job in choosing what to include. There were some stories that I was surprised but quite happy to see represented! I expected to see some of the usual stories--Daniel in the Lion's Den, Jonah, David and Goliath, Noah, etc. But I wasn't expecting to see stories about Elijah, Elisha, Joash, Jeremiah, Ezra and Nehemiah. Some of these are among my favorites. I also loved how they covered the New Testament. I loved how they included so many stories from the book of Acts. How they showed that God kept working in people's lives--in believers' lives--after Christ ascended. I also loved the balance of stories from the gospels. How they included stories covering Jesus' teachings, his miracles, his parables, and, of course, his life story.  
The Jesus Storybook Bible: Deluxe Edition. Sally Lloyd-Jones. 2009. Zonderkidz. 352 pages. My review. What I said:
So what makes this one special? I think what makes this one work--really work--is how Sally Lloyd-Jones has every story whisper His name. Her ability to connect each story with the Big Story, keeps everything in perspective, keeps everything connected and relevant. It also helps that she's a good storyteller! She has a definite way with words! She keeps the stories on a child's level, but yet, the stories are beautifully and compellingly told. 
Mighty Acts of God: A Family Bible Story Book. Written by Starr Meade. Illustrated by Tim O'Connor. 2010. Crossway. 288 pages. My review. What I said:
What did I like about Mighty Acts of God? I liked the theology. I really liked the complexity of it. Some children's bible books are simple--really simple. And that does serve a purpose. I think with really young ones especially. This book offers a more challenging--and yes in some ways more biblical--approach to the concept of a bible story book. It doesn't stay away from doctrine, from theology, from defining faith essentials. It has a way of making you think--which in my opinion is a good thing. It is much more than a story. 
Novel for Children:

The Road to Paris. Nikki Grimes. 2006. Penguin. 160 pages. My review. What I said:
I loved this one. I just LOVED it. It's one of those oh-so-magical books for me. Proof that an author can weave faith into fiction. 
Devotional for Families:

God's Mighty Acts in Salvation. Starr Meade. 2010. August 2010. Crossway. 87 pages. My review. What I said:
Looking for a book of family devotions? You should definitely consider Starr Meade's God's Mighty Acts in Salvation. It's designed for use with children--aged 8 to 12. Forty messages that provide deeper insights (though still incredibly kid-friendly) into the book of Galatians. Why Galatians? Well it's an important letter that is all about getting the gospel right. It focuses on what the true gospel is, gives warnings about listening to false gospels, and highlights the fruit of the Spirit. I loved this book. I loved the subject, the focus. Loved hearing these kid-friendly definitions of grace, love, and justification. Loved the depth of it.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Top Ten Christian Nonfiction

My top ten list of Christian nonfiction read in 2010:

10. A Sweet and Bitter Providence: Sex, Race, and The Sovereignty of God. John Piper. 2010. Crossway. 160 pages. My review. What I said:
The book does stress the sovereignty of God. And I loved it for that reason. I did. I think there aren't enough books--can't be enough books--telling modern readers this absolute truth, this very fundamental, very biblical truth. What did I appreciate in this one? How rich it is in Scripture! In truth! I also loved how accessible it is to readers.
9. Choosing to SEE: A Journey of Struggle and Hope. Mary Beth Chapman. With Ellen Vaughn. 2010. Revell. 288 pages. My review. What I said:
This memoir by Mary Beth Chapman--wife of Steven Curtis Chapman--is more than just an accounting of what happened "the day the world went wrong." Yes, the book is about Maria--the (adopted) daughter she loved and lost. Yes, this book is about the grieving process--the healing process. But Mary Beth is sharing her life, her story. Some chapters of her life are not ones she'd have written for herself. Even before the tragic accident that changed her family forever. But God has written the story of her life. The book is about her personal journey to SEE God working for good in her life. To see God's blessing, his grace, mercy, and love.
8. What is the Gospel? by Greg Gilbert. Foreword by D.A. Carson. Crossway. 127 pages. My review. What I said:
Gilbert insists that for the good news to be the good news, you need to present the full picture. A full picture that includes plenty of bad news. The good news isn't good if you don't view it within the correct framework. For people to accept Jesus as their Savior--as their Lord--they need to know that God has authority over them--over the world, over creation; they need to realize that they are sinners, that God is a God who hates sin, a God who judges sinners; they need to know what they're being saved from. Only if they recognize that they are in need of a Savior, can the good news have power, have relevance. The good news about the "bad news" is that there is a but.
7. Scandalous: The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus. D.A. Carson. 2010. February 2010. Crossway Publishers. 173 pages. My review. What I said:
Scandalous: The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus is a collection of five messages from D.A. Carson. The five messages are: The Ironies of the Cross (which focuses on Matthew 27:27-51a), The Center of the Whole Bible (which focuses on Romans 3:21-26), The Strange Triumph of a Slaughtered Lamb (which focuses on Revelation 12), A Miracle Full of Surprises (which focuses on John 11:1-53), Doubting the Resurrection of Jesus (which focuses on John 20:24-31). I would definitely recommend this one. I thought each message was well written and quite relevant. I especially enjoyed The Center of the Whole Bible and A Miracle Full of Surprises.
6. Raised With Christ: How The Resurrection Changes Everything by Adrian Warnock. 2010. January 2010. Crossway. 272 pages. My review. What I said:
I loved, loved, loved this book. For me, it was an amazing read. It reminded me of why I read Christian nonfiction in the first place. I feel I learned so much--so very, very much--by reading this one. I can honestly say this one made me think. In a good way. It made me pray. The way Adrian Warnock presented his message, well, it worked for me. The way he incorporated the Bible, how he relied on Scripture, that's what I'm looking for. Always. I don't want anyone telling me what to think, what to believe, what's right and what's wrong...if they can't back it up. I want to encounter the Word of God when I read Christian nonfiction. I also appreciated Warnock's use of quotes from Christians (preachers, theologians, writers, etc.) throughout the centuries. Some of these quotes were oh-so-amazing.
5. Dig Deeper: Tools for Understanding God's Word. By Nigel Beynon and Andrew Sach. 2010. Crossway. 160 pages. My review. What I said:
Dig Deeper is a practical book. It gives you the tools. It walks you through using the tools by providing several examples for each one. It gives you homework if you choose to indeed dig deeper. It urges you to implement these tools in your own life, in your own studies.
4. The Gospel In Genesis: From Fig Leaves to Faith by Martin Lloyd-Jones. 2009. Crossway. 160 pages. My review. What I said:
What did I love about this one? (And I did love it, by the way!) How accessible it was. It wasn't dry, it wasn't boring. It was real, it was down-to-earth. I felt like I was listening to a man preach, really preach from the Word of God. It wasn't about how many big words he could use, it was about reaching people--real, every day people--right where they are with a message that is ever-relevant. Though many decades have passed since these sermons were originally preached, the message remains timeless.
3. Be Still, My Soul: Embracing God's Purpose & Provision in Suffering. Edited by Nancy Guthrie. 2010. February 2010. Crossway Books. 176 pages. My review. What I said:
This is such a great book! I absolutely love it and I definitely recommend it! It is a book of 25 readings (classic and contemporary) about suffering and "the problem of pain."
2. The Evangelicals: What They Believe, Where They Are, And Their Politics. Christopher Catherwood. 2010. August 2010. Crossway. 168 pages. My review. What I said:
I loved this one. I just loved it. It was such a fascinating read. Why? Because it was so much more than theology. Yes, there are a couple of chapters on what evangelicals believe. But. What makes this book so much more than just another theological book is what comes next. For the first time perhaps, you'll think about the who and the where. Chances are you'll be surprised--maybe even really surprised--at what you learn in the following chapters! These chapters are very informative. Very thought-provoking. Think sociology and statistics. What we learn is that evangelical Christianity is thriving. Not just surviving--but flourishing in astonishing numbers. In countries where it is dangerous to be a Christian.
1. The Bookends of the Christian Life. Jerry Bridges and Bob Bevington. 2009. March 2009. Crossway Publishers. 160 pages. My review. What I said:
Bridges and Bevington argue that there are two bookends of the Christian life. The first bookend is the Righteousness of Christ. The second bookend is the Power of the Holy Spirit. (In a way, you could say this book was all about justification and sanctification.) By understanding these two bookends, these two concepts, readers will get a very good picture of the gospel, a good idea of what it means to be a Christian. The book also addresses three gospel enemies: self-righteousness, persistent guilt, and self-reliance. I can't say how much these three chapters helped me! I am so thankful that this book was written.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, December 27, 2010

Things to Consider

I found Semicolon's post on "52 Ways To Read and Study the Bible in 2011" and I definitely wanted to share that with you.

Through that list, I discovered this project. Mom's Toolbox's READ THE BIBLE IN 90 DAYS. It starts January 3rd, ends April 2nd. Essentially, you read twelve or so pages a day for eighty-eight days.

I personally am not a big fan of Bible Reading Plans. Not because I have anything against people who are more organized than I am. But because I am not  rigid methodical in my reading.

If you are looking for a "plan" to read the Bible, I'd suggest a chronological one. Reading the bible this way, helps the bible 'make sense' as a whole, as a big picture. It helps you see how the prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Jonah, Obadiah, etc.) fit in with the Kings and Chronicles. Knowing how a book fits into the "big picture" can help in your understanding.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Sunday Salon: Week In Review December 19-25

This week I

read Psalms 50 in the ESV MacArthur Bible
finished Revelation in the ESV MacArthur Bible

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas! Have you read the nativity story today? I'd like to encourage you to read my favorite--the opening paragraphs of the Gospel of John. For me, this is what Christmas is ALL about! Jesus being the Light of the World.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Image from Gospel Gifs.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Operation Deepen Faith

This challenge has two parts. (You wouldn't necessarily *have* to do both parts. I could make exceptions. But. Ideally, participants would be interested in both!) Both will be for all of 2011.

I. Choose one book of the Bible to "study" over a period of time. (I'd probably recommend a book from the New Testament). Read this one book in multiple translations. Level one might be to commit to reading it in three different translations. Level two might be to commit to reading it in six different translations. Level three might be to commit to reading it in ten different translations. Level four--if anyone is that committed--might be to read it in fourteen translations. There are so MANY places to find the Bible online, that you wouldn't even have to *own* that many different translations.

  • English Standard Version (ESV) (2001)
  • Holman Christian Standard Bible (2004)
  • New International Version  (1984), NIV (2010), TNIV (2005)
  • New King James Version (1982)
  • New American Standard Bible Update (1995) (Original NASB 1971)
  • New Living Translation (1996) New Living Translation, Second Edition (2004)
  • King James Version 
  • Contemporary English Version (1995)
  • New Revised Standard Version (1990)
  • Revised English Bible (1989)
  • The Message (2002)
  • Revised Standard Version (1946-1977)
  • Good News Bible/Today's English Version (1976)
  • The Living Bible (1971)
  • New Century Version (1987)
  • Geneva Bible 
  • Tyndale New Testament
  • Wycliffe New Testament

You might find this site to be of use. Bible Gateway offers twenty-five versions in English. Bible.Logos offers quite a few as well. Including the Lexham English Bible and the NET Bible. And then there is this Online Parallel Bible.

II. Read some theology. Level one: you might commit to reading two theological books. (I'll give a list of suggested topics below.) Level two: you might commit to reading four theological books. Level three: you might commit to reading six theological books. Level four: you might commit to reading ten theological books.

  • books about God
  • books about the birth, life, death, resurrection of Jesus
  • books about the Bible 
  • books about prayer
  • books about worship
  • books about church life 
  • books about missions
  • sermon collections (sermon note collections), essay collections
  • biographies/memoirs of theologians, preachers, missionaries, etc.
  • books about pain, suffering
  • books about apologetics
  • books about evangelism
  • books about end times

Did I leave out a category you think 'fits' for the challenge? Ask me about it, and it might just fit.

Want to sign up for this one? Leave a comment. (It will probably go to comment moderation. But I will approve comments as I have the time.) You don't have to stay committed to a level. (You can read more or less.) Those are just general guidelines.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Sunday Salon: Week In Review December 12-18

This week I...

finished John in the ESV MacArthur Study Bible
read Revelation 1-2 in the ESV MacArthur Study Bible
read Psalms 33-49 in the ESV MacArthur Study Bible

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

January 2011 Releases, Part Three

Slave: The Hidden Truth About Your Identity in Christ. John MacArthur. Thomas Nelson.

From the publisher:
Throughout the Bible, followers of Jesus are commanded to submit to Him as their King. They are told to obey and follow, faithfully and without hesitation. Every time Christians utter the word Lord, they make a subtle yet profound declaration-that God is their Master and that they belong to Him. In fact, the Bible describes believers as His slaves. They have been bought with a price and now live for Christ as a people for His own possession.
But go into most churches today, even flip through most Bible translations, and you won't see or hear the word slave anywhere. That's because it has been lost in translation. In this gripping book, Dr. John MacArthur uses deep Bible teaching and historical evaluation to expertly uncover the one forgotten word that restores the Bible's definition of true Christian freedom. 

Defiant Joy: The Remarkable Life & Impact of G.K. Chesterton. Kevin Belmonte. Thomas Nelson.

From the publisher:
Amid currents of modernity that sought to displace the Christian faith, Chesterton challenged thought leaders of his day with civility, erudition, and wit, contending that faith is the central piece of our humanity. C. S. Lewis credits The Everlasting Man for his Christian vision, while Heretics and Orthodoxy are still considered pillars of Christian thought.
But Chesterton wasn't just an apologist. He wrote literary criticisms of Dickens and Chaucer still revered as seminal works. He wrote long-form epic poetry, widely-published articles, and lectured on art, politics, and history. Defiant Joy reveals a larger-than-life thinker and cultural giant-showing his utmost relevance for us today, and how a vibrant Christian witness can display the merits, joy, and sanity of a faith many wish to discredit.

Invasion (A C.H.A.O.S. Novel) Jon S. Lewis. Thomas Nelson

From the publisher:

Colt McAlister is drawn into a war against things he thought only existed in comic books.
After a car wreck takes the lives of his parents, Colt moves to Arizona to stay with his grandfather. There, an informant tells him that his parents were actually murdered because his mom, a journalist, was getting ready to write a story exposing Trident Industries.
Along with Oz and Danielle, his new comrades at Chandler High, Colt vows to uncover the truth. But the more they learn, the more bizarre reality becomes. Mind control, jet packs, and flying motorcycles only scratch the surface of what they discover.
Colt is recruited by a secret organization called the Central Headquarters Against the Occult and Supernatural. But the battle isn't just against an out-of-control giant corporation. A gateway to another world is opening, and the invasion has already begun.

Surrender Bay (A Nantucket Love Story) Denise Hunter. Thomas Nelson

From the publisher:

Once childhood friends, Samantha and Landon are now separated by distance and secrets. Will Samantha's return to Nantucket bring her the peace she longs for?
Samantha Owen's estranged stepfather has died, leaving her his cottage in Nantucket--a place she left years ago, never planning to return. As a single mom, Samantha can't afford to pass up on a financial windfall like ocean-front property. So she travels home to fix up the house and sell it . . . never suspecting that Landon Reed still lives two doors down.
As their long-dormant romance begins to bud again, Samantha must face a past that left her with a fear of abandonment and the fact that Landon still doesn't know why she left the island.
Will Sam finally find the God who never abandoned her? The secrets she's hidden all these years could tear her and Landon apart . . . unless his love is really as unconditional as he claims.
A heart-tugging tale of shattered trust and enduring love . . . all in a romantic, seaside setting.

Softly and Tenderly (A Songbird Novel). Sara Evans and Rachel Hauck. Thomas Nelson

From the publisher:
Maybe out there in the country she could catch her breath, learn to breathe again…
Happily married, and owner of two successful boutiques, Jade longs to begin a family with her husband, Max. But when she discovers that Max has an illegitimate son - who he wants her to help raise - Jade's life is turned upside down.
She flees to her childhood home, a rambling Iowa farmhouse, with enough room to breathe. There - while her mother's health grows fragile, and the tug of her first love grows stronger - Jade begins to question everything she thought she knew about family, love, and motherhood.
In the wide-open landscape, Jade begins to see a future that doesn't rest on the power of her past, but in the goodness of God's tender mercies.

An Amish Love: Healing Hearts/What The Heart Sees/A Marriage of the Heart. Beth Wiseman, Kathleen Fuller, Kelly Long. Thomas Nelson.

From the publisher:

Romance is in the air, old-fashioned courtship is alive and well, and love is an eternal promise.
Healing Hearts by Beth Wiseman
He left to find himself. She found her way without him. Now Levina and Naaman Lapp are together again, feeling miles apart. Although coming home was the right thing to do, Naaman must regain the trust and respect of his wife who, in his absence, has learned to trust God like never before. Could it be that their prior years together have simply been a preface to a greater love than they have ever known?
A Marriage of the Heart by Kelly Long
Abigail Kauffman is looking for a way out; Joseph Lambert is seeking a way in. Since her mother's death, Abby has lived alone with her father and longs to escape the emptiness of the farmhouse that has never felt like home. Joseph Lambert is a newcomer in their close-knit community. Only after they find themselves suddenly married to each other do they begin to understand the tender truths of life-long love.
What the Heart Sees by Kathleen Fuller
When Ellie Chupp loses her sight in an accident--and then her boyfriend shortly after that--she believes love will never be in her future. But Christopher Miller has returned home, five years after fleeing from the tragedy that broke his heart. When Ellie and Chris meet again, sparks fly. Could true love be a matter of seeing with new eyes?

Love On Assignment (Ladies of Summerhill) Cara Lynn James. Thomas Nelson.

From the publisher:

While Charlotte is focusing on uncovering sordid information on columnist Daniel Wilmot, her heart leads her into uncharted territory.
During the summer of 1900 Charlotte Hale, a native Newporter and secretary for the Rhode Island Reporter, accepts an undercover assignment as temporary governess to Daniel Wilmont's children in order to secretly gather evidence against him. As he helps her rediscover God, Charlotte learns that Daniel is an honorable man. They unexpectedly fall in love despite their different backgrounds and social positions. Charlotte soon realizes she must defend Daniel against the forces set against him—a willful student with a romantic crush and the newspaper editor determined to destroy his reputation. 

Book of Days. James L. Rubart. B&H.

From the publisher:
"… in Your book all my days were recorded, even those which were purposed before they had come into being." —Psalm 139:16 Young Cameron Vaux’s mind is slipping. Memories of his wife, killed two years earlier in a car accident, are vanishing just as his dad predicted they would. Memories he knows he has to remember. His father tells Cameron that to save his mind he must find "the book with all days in it" —the past and future record of every soul on earth. When an obscure clue leads Cameron to a small central Oregon town, he meets enigmatic Taylor Stone, a possible guide to finding the book who seems to carry secrets far deeper than anyone imagines. Local hotshot TV personality Ann Bannister thinks the legend of the book is a farce, but she has her reasons to join Cameron’s search anyway. Finally, there is fanatical New Age guru Jason Judah, who will stop at nothing to find the book of days before Cameron does.

Read the Bible for Life. George Guthrie. B&H.

From the publisher:
The Bible may be the most-purchased book in the world, but it is often the least read and least applied due to a basic lack of understanding and motivation on the part of readers. Read the Bible for Life aims to improve biblical literacy in the culture and the church by simultaneously moving readers toward greater skill in reading the Bible well and toward a deeper commitment to applying Scripture to everyday life. Through a series of down-to-earth conversations with some of today’s brightest scholars, author George Guthrie discusses the basic tools and attitudes needed to read the Bible more effectively. Chapters focus on the various types of literature in Scripture and how to read them well. For instance, how should we read a psalm differently than we read a parable? How should we read a story of the Old Testament differently than we read a letter from Paul? How can we engage these various parts of Scripture in a way that is truly life-changing? The book also discusses issues such as reading the Bible in context, choosing and reading a Bible translation, reading in times of sorrow or suffering, and reading the Bible with your family. As we better understand how to read the Bible skillfully, we begin to see how every person of the Bible, every psalm, and every teaching fits into the Bible’s powerful, overarching story, and we begin to realize our place in the story God is still writing in the world.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

January 2011 Releases, Part Two

Don't Call It A Comeback: The Old Faith for a New Day. Foreword by D. A. Carson
Edited by Kevin DeYoung, Foreword by D. A. Carson, Contributions by Ted Kluck, Russell D. Moore, Tullian Tchividjian, Tim Challies, Justin Taylor, Collin Hansen, Jonathan Leeman, Greg Gilbert, Owen Strachan, Thabiti M. Anyabwile, Denny Burk, Jay Harvey, David Mathis, Andrew David Naselli, Darrin Patrick, Ben Peays, Eric C. Redmond. CROSSWAY.

From the publisher:
Recent cultural interest in evangelicalism has led to considerable confusion about what the term actually means. Many young Christians are tempted to discard the label altogether. But evangelicalism is not merely a political movement in decline or a sociological phenomenon on the rise, as it has sometimes been portrayed. It is, in fact, a helpful theological profile that manifests itself in beliefs, ethics, and church life.
DeYoung and other key twenty- and thirty-something evangelical Christian leaders present Don’t Call It a Comeback: The Same Evangelical Faith for a New Day to assert the stability, relevance, and necessity of Christian orthodoxy today. This book introduces young, new, and under-discipled Christians to the most essential and basic issues of faith in general and of evangelicalism in particular.
Kevin DeYoung and contributors like Russell Moore, Tullian Tchividjian, Darrin Patrick, Justin Taylor, Thabiti Anyabwile, and Tim Challies examine what evangelical Christianity is and does within the broad categories of history, theology, and practice. They demonstrate that evangelicalism is still biblically and historically rooted and remains the same framework for faith that we need today.                                                       

Redemption: Freed by Jesus from the Idols We Worship and the Wounds We Carry. Mike Wilkerson. Foreword by Mark Driscoll. CROSSWAY.

From the publisher: 
Exodus is a real story about God redeeming his people from the bondage of slavery and how their difficult journey home exposed their loyalties—though wounded by Egypt, they had come to worship its gods. Most Christians don’t make golden idols like the Israelites in the wilderness, but we do set up idols on our own desert road—idols like substance abuse, pornography, gluttony, and rage. And even those who don’t know the pain of actual slavery can feel enslaved to the fear and shame that follow sexual abuse or betrayal by a spouse, for we suffer at the hands of our idols as well as those created by others. We need more than self-improvement or comfort—we need redemption.
Redemption is not a step-oriented recovery book; it’s story-oriented and Bible-anchored. It unfolds the back-story of redemption in Exodus to help Christians better understand how Christ redeems us from the slavery of abuse, addiction and assorted trouble and restores us to our created purpose, the worship of God. Readers will discover that the reward of freedom is more than victory over a habitual sin or release from shame; it is satisfaction and rest in God himself. Part of the Re:Lit series.

No Other Gospel: 31 Reasons From Galatians Why Justification By Faith Alone is the Only Gospel. Josh Moody. CROSSWAY.

From the publisher:
As fallen human beings we are quick to deviate from the true gospel, for, as Pastor Josh Moody writes, “we tend toward human gospels.” Believers must constantly battle to maintain the purity and simplicity of the gospel. Paul was acutely aware of this as he wrote his letter to the Galatians. He was writing to an established church—experienced believers who had started to slip in their gospel witness.
Moody finds in Galatians particular relevance and parallels to many churches today. Stemming from a series of sermons delivered to his church, he examines thirty-one reasons Paul gives for this gospel. Moody writes this book with a pastor’s heart, addressing important topics such as “The Gospel Not Moralism” and “The Use of Gospel Freedom.” Paul’s message is foundational to the Christian faith, and thoughtful readers will benefit from Moody’s exposition.

The Legacy of the King James Bible: Celebrating 400 Years of the Most Influential English Translation. Leland Ryken. CROSSWAY.

From the publisher:

Originally published in 1611, the King James Bible (KJB) remains the most recognizable piece of literature in the English-speaking world today. For over three centuries, it served as the standard English Bible and has, as such, exerted unparalleled influence on English and American culture in nearly every sphere—including education, law, literature, government, art, science, and religion.
The Legacy of the King James Bible honors the 400th anniversary of the KJB’s publication by telling its story—a drama that starts with the pioneering work of William Tyndale and progresses through half a dozen other popular translations. Leland Ryken, an expert on the Bible as literature, explores the excellence of the King James Bible by examining its status as the climax of a century of English Bible translations, its impression on the subsequent history of Bible translation, its inherent literary excellence, and its overall impact on English and American literature and culture. The Legacy of the King James Bible will shed new light on the depth of the translation’s merit and influence and offer insight as to what its role may be in the next 400 years.

Amazing Grace: God's Pursuit, Our Response. (Second Edition). Timothy George. CROSSWAY.

From the publisher:

The doctrine of God’s grace has sparked some heated controversies in the history of the Christian church. What are dispensations of grace? Is grace really irresistible? In Amazing Grace noted theologian Timothy George looks at some of these debated questions. Grounded in Scripture, his insights continually draw the reader back to the fundamental truth of God’s free and sovereign favor to ill-deserving sinners.
Originally written to address the “Calvinism controversy” brewing within the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), this study was used in thousands of churches and study groups throughout the SBC and beyond. Now this popular primer on the basic themes of Reformed theology has been updated and expanded. Though written from George's Southern Baptist perspective, the book’s irenic tone appeals to a wide audience and shows how sound Reformed theology has taken root within several Reformation traditions.

Rid of My Disgrace: Hope and Healing for Victims of Sexual Assault by Justin S. Holcomb, Lindsey A. Holcomb. CROSSWAY.

From the publisher:

The statistics are jarring. One in four women and one in six men have been sexually assaulted. But as sobering as these statistics are, they can’t begin to speak to the darkness and grief experienced by the victims. The church needs compassionate and wise resources to care for those living in the wake of this evil. Other books attempt to address the journey from shame to healing for victims of sexual abuse, but few are from a Christian perspective and written for both child and adult victims. In Rid of My Disgrace, a couple experienced in counseling and care for victims of sexual assault present the gospel in its power to heal the broken and restore the disgraced.
Justin and Lindsey Holcomb present a clear definition of sexual assault and outline a biblical approach for moving from destruction to redemption. Rid of My Disgrace applies a theology of redemption to the grief, shame, and sense of defilement victims experience. This book is primarily written for them, but can also equip pastors, ministry staff, and others to respond compassionately to those who have been assaulted. Part of the Re:Lit series.

Soulprint: Discovering Your Divine Destiny. Mark Batterson. WATERBROOK MULTNOMAH.

From the publisher:

There never has been and never will be anyone like you. But that isn’t a testament to you. It’s a testament to the God who created you. The problem? Few people discover the God-given identity that makes them unlike anyone else. Mark Batterson calls this divine distinction our soulprint.

God would like to introduce you to yourself.

 In Soulprint, Mark pours the contagious energy he’s known for into helping you experience the joy of discovering who you are and the freedom of discovering who you’re not. The wonderful fact is that your uniqueness is God’s gift to you—and it’s also your gift to God.
 A “self-help” book that puts God at the center rather than self, Soulprint encourages you to recognize and explore the moments of your life that determine your future. Along the way, you’ll find that you’re not just turning the pages of a book. You’re turning the pages of your remarkable, God-shaped, world-changing life.

Secure Daughters, Confident Sons: How Parents Guide Their Children Into Authentic Masculinity and Femininity. WATERBROOK MULTNOMAH.

From the publisher:

From the moment someone first asked “Boy or girl?” every child’s identity is tied to his or her gender. But how that identity fully takes shape depends greatly on the influence of their parents and what they teach their children about the innate value of being male or female.
In this eye-opening book, family researcher Glenn T. Stanton offers a clear vision for why gender matters in how we raise our children. His thought-provoking insights expose the problems with stifling stereotypes and damaging cultural assumptions, then highlight a practical pathway for guiding children into healthy manhood and womanhood.
 You’ll discover…
   ·  what gender-appropriate behavior looks like at various ages—and why you shouldn’t panic if your toddler boy plays with his sister’s dolls. 
   ·  how to help your daughter become secure in her sense of significance—whether she prefers chasing butterflies or shooting hoops.
   ·  how to inspire your son to compete and take healthy risks—in ways that fit his unique personality.
   ·  how moms and dads complement one another as they discipline differently, comfort differently, and influence differently.
   ·  what you can do on a daily basis to nurture your children’s God-given design and help them resist the pressure to conform to arbitrary cultural rules. 
With practical tools, well-researched insights, and real-life scenarios, this book equips parents to launch daughters who are secure in the power of their femininity and sons who are confident in their strength to make a difference in the world.

God Gave Us The World. Lisa T. Bergren. WATERBROOK MULTNOMAH.

From the publisher:
Little Cub’s trip to a special museum exhibit, “Bears Around the World,” sparks a flurry of questions from the young polar bear who is just beginning to learn about life beyond her North Pole home.  
 As Mama Bear shares with her about the different types of places that God has put the various types of bears, with their different kinds of fur and eating habits, Little Cub begins to wonder: Why didn’t God make us all the same?
 With Mama’s loving guidance, Little Cub is taught to see the vastness of God’s wonderful creation, his abilities as an amazing, inventive Creator, his desire for us to care for our world, and especially the important lesson that…
 “Every bear has a special place in God’s great, big world.”
 This adorable story offers young children who are discovering their place in God’s big world an opportunity to learn about the wonder of diversity, the gift of creativity, the importance of caring for His gifts, and how each child, each creation, is special to God. 

The Dragon and the Turtle Go On Safari. Donita K. Paul and Evangeline Denmark. WATERBROOK MULTNOMAH.

From the publisher:
Padraig the dragon and his best friend, Roger the turtle are determined to spend the whole night outside. As brave explorers at the base of Mount Sillymanborrow, the boys use their imaginations to have fun while munching on crunchy baked bugs and toasting s’mores over their campfire. But when the sky gets dark and the sounds of strange animals fill the forest outside their tent, their safari gets scary. This adventure is just what the boys need to discover that the dark might be frightening, but their friendship is stronger than fear.

Passport Through Darkness. Kimberly Smith. DAVID C. COOK.

Soul Shaping. Stephen W. Smith. DAVID C. COOK

From the publisher:
Soul Shaping is a guide to the amazing journey of spiritual transformation. It is anchored in Scripture and filled with practical exercises designed for individual, small group or class use. These pages contain the challenge to look backward and forward, inward and outward, remember the past and dream for the future. Soul Shaping is an invitation to see yourself as you really are and imagine who you can become, an opportunity to explore the very hands of God that have and are shaping your one wild and precious life.

Jesus in the Present Tense. Warren W. Wiersbe. DAVID C. COOK.

From the publisher:

In Jesus in the Present Tense, Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe explores the "I AM" statements of God-from His burning bush conversation with Moses, to His powerful reassurances to the Israelites, to Jesus's startling claim to be the Light of the World.
Many Christians find themselves mired in past regrets or future fears, but the name of God itself reminds readers that God wants them to live in the present. The more readers understand and apply God's I AM statements from the Old and New Testaments, the more they will realize God's peace and joy. Then they will be free to live, serve, and know God more richly in the present tense-which is just where He wants them to be.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Saturday, December 18, 2010

January 2011 Releases, Part One

The Purpose of Passion by Kurt Bruner and Jim Ware. TYNDALE.

From the publisherHave you ever wondered if you’re following God’s plan for your love life? Whether single or married, you ache for a deep, satisfying, romantic connection—but aren’t always sure how to handle the heartache and pain that come along the way. If love is truly a gift from God, why does it sometimes lead to the heights of heaven and other times to the depths of despair?
One of the world’s greatest love stories holds the answer. In The Purpose of Passion, best-selling authors Kurt Bruner and Jim Ware journey through The Divine Comedy to discover what Dante, one of the most influential Christian writers of all time, reveals about love in his literary masterpiece. Discover the secrets that it contains about passion, romance, and spirituality—and how they are all connected. Whether you’ve found true love or ache from its absence, your love life is always driving you closer to or away from God. No matter where you find yourself on love’s path, The Purpose of Passion will lead you on a spiritual adventure through the underworld of Inferno, on a purifying trek up mount Purgatory, and into the ultimate bliss of Paradise—revealing God’s ultimate desire for your heart.

Unstuff by Hayley and Michael DiMarco. TYNDALE.

From the publisherGod . . . and stuff. Everything in the universe falls into one of these two categories. Which is more important to you? (It’s not a trick question.) In Unstuff: Making Room in Your Life for What Really Matters, popular authors Hayley and Michael DiMarco take a close look at what’s in your wallet, your heart, your house, and your mind to reveal the pleasures and perils of stuff—and the joy, peace, and freedom that comes from learning to live with less. 
In this real-life look at “how it’s done,” the DiMarcos take an uncomfortably close look at the cost of their love affair with stuff. They start by Unstuffing their house—getting rid of anything they don’t need by giving away, selling, or throwing out items that only add to their love for more. Then, kicking it up a notch, this family of three travels across the country with nothing more than they can fit in a motor home . . . and discovers that the really important stuff goes with them.

Unplanned by Abby Johnson. TYNDALE.

From the publisherAbby Johnson quit her job in October 2009. That simple act became a national news story because Abby was the director of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Texas who, after participating in her first actual abortion procedure, walked across the road to join the Coalition for Life. 
Unplanned is a heartstopping personal drama of life-and-death encounters, a courtroom battle, and spiritual transformation that speaks hope and compassion into the political controversy that surrounds this issue. Telling Abby’s story from both sides of the abortion clinic property line, this book is a must-read for anyone who cares about the life versus rights debate and helping women who face crisis pregnancies.

Three New Testaments (with Psalms and Proverbs) from TYNDALE. Faith, Hope, and Love. 

From the publisher: The appeal of the vintage style is beautifully captured in the Faith, Hope, and Love purse-sized Devotional New Testaments. Each book features unique devotional content in the front—30 days on the topic of faith, hope, or love. Each New Testament has unique interior colors with endsheets and ribbons to match. This faith-themed New Testament includes the Psalms and Proverbs, and verses on faith are highlighted throughout. It will make a great gift for a friend or family member, especially on Mother's Day and Valentine’s Day.

Possession by Rene Gutteridge. TYNDALE. 

From the publisher: In the aftermath of investigating the D.C. sniper case, police detective Vance Graegan is burned out on life and love. Hoping to save his marriage, he quits the force and moves his wife and son to the other side of the country. But when the movers decide to hold his belongings for ransom, Vance is determined to ensure that his family’s new beginning is not ruined. Soon, though, losing his possessions becomes the least of his problems as everything they are fighting for begins to unravel in the hands of Vance’s past. In an unforgettable climax, a little boy’s innocent faith brings a group of desperate people to their knees. What is at stake counts for everything, but nothing can prepare Vance for who is behind it.

Christian Writers' Market Guide 2011. TYNDALE.

From the publisherFor more than 25 years, the Christian Writers’ Market Guide has been the most comprehensive and highly recommended resource for Christian writers, agents, editors, publishers, publicists, and writing teachers on the market. 
In addition to providing a wealth of ideas and tips for publishing in the Christian industry, the CWMG also includes up-to-date information on more than 400 book publishers, more than 600 periodicals, and hundreds of agents, contests, conferences, editorial services, niche markets, self-publishing services, and more.
This is the ultimate reference tool for Christian writers.

Courting Miss Amsel by Kim Vogel Sawyer. BETHANY HOUSE.

From the publisherEdythe Amsel is delighted with her first teaching assignment: a one-room schoolhouse in Walnut Hill, Nebraska. Independent, headstrong, and a firm believer in a well-rounded education, Edythe is ready to open the world to the students in this tiny community. But is Walnut Hill ready for her?

Having raised his nephews since their parents' untimely deaths, Joel Townsend is thrilled to learn the town council has hired a female teacher. His sons could use a woman's influence. But he sure didn't bargain on a woman like Miss Amsel. Within the first week, she has the entire town up in arms over her outlandish teaching methods. Of course, Joel can't help but notice that she's also mighty pretty—and just might make a good mother for his boys.

When Edythe decides to take her pupils to hear Miss Susan Anthony speak on the women's suffrage amendment, the town's outcry reaches new heights. Even Joel isn't sure he can support her newfangled ideas any longer. And if he can't trust her to teach the boys, how can he trust her with his heart? 

The Damascus Way. Janette Oke and Davis Bunn. BETHANY HOUSE.

From the publisher:  Young Julia has everything money can buy—except for acceptance by either Gentiles or Judeans in Tiberias. When she discovers the secret her beloved Greek father has kept all these years, she is devastated. Julia and her Hebrew mother are indeed less than second-class citizens. Her future is dark with clouds of uncertainty.

Jacob, Abigail's brother, is now a young man attempting to find his own place among the community of believers. Does it mean trading away the exhilaration and adventure of his current profession as a caravan guard? Hired by Julia's father to protect a wealthy merchant's caravans on the secretive "Frankincense Trail," Jacob also reluctantly takes on the perilous responsibility of passing letters and messages between communities of believers now dispersed across the land. He is alarmed to discover that Julia, hardly more than a girl, is also a courier. Can their initial mistrust be put aside to accomplish their mission?

Girl in the Gatehouse. Julie Klassen. BETHANY HOUSE.

From the publisherBanished from the only home she's ever known, Mariah Aubrey hides herself away in an abandoned gatehouse on a distant relative's estate. There she supports herself and her loyal servant the only way she knows how—by writing novels in secret.

When Captain Matthew Bryant leases the estate, he is intrigued by the beautiful girl in the gatehouse. But there are many things he doesn't know about this beguiling outcast. Will he risk his plans—and his heart—for a woman shadowed by scandal?

Intriguing, mysterious, and romantic, The Girl in the Gatehouse takes readers inside the life of a secret authoress at a time when novel-writing was considered improper for ladies and the smallest hint of impropriety could change a woman's life forever.

The Daughters of Caleb Bender: Paradise Valley. Dale Cramer. BETHANY HOUSE. 

From the publisher: "I would do a great many things for you." Even at sixteen, Jake's handsome features hold the calm certainty and patient confidence of a man, and Rachel Bender knows—Jake Weaver is the one.
Rachel will grow into a strong young woman with powerful gifts—but in a faraway country, without her Jake. In 1921, Ohio;s new law forces Caleb Bender's family to seek sanctuary in the wilds of Mexico where the government will not interfere with their Amish way of life, or take their children from them. Nor will it protect them from the bandits terrorizing the countryside.
In an unfamiliar land where no one speaks their language or knows their ways, the Benders establish a homestead in exile. Sisters Emma, Rachel, and Miriam find strengths unimagined, gifts unexpected, and yearning beyond their deepest dreams. Even steadfast Caleb is compelled to wrestle with the demands of faith, only to discover that love has its own demands.

Serendipity by Cathy Marie Hake. BETHANY HOUSE.

From the publisherThe only remaining woman in Carver's Hollow, Maggie Rose has cared for a ragtag of old men for years, bartering for a living and making soaps, lotions, and perfumes from a special rose recipe passed down for generations. She hasn't wanted to marry at least that's what she thought. But when a strapping young man arrives on Maggie's doorstep, searching for a doctor for his ailing mother, life suddenly changes for the dark-haired beauty.
Todd Valmer is in a desperate situation. His mother needs a caretaker, and he's barely hanging on to his Texas farm. Maggie seems to be the obvious solution. She can cook, care for Ma, tend his house while he works the fields and she's comely, as well.

But instant attraction does not a marriage make. As a clash of cultures and a battle of wills ensues, is there any hope that true love will blossom between a free-spirited woman and her uncompromising husband?

Never Been Kissed. Melody Carlson. REVELL.

From the publisher: Summer is ending, and for once that doesn't seem like such a bad thing to Elise. She's hoping that starting fresh at a new high school will turn her first-kiss prospects around. New guys, new friends, and a new lease on life.
What she wasn't counting on was all the new pressure--to hang with the right crowd, wear the right clothes, and date the right guy. Just when it seems she's on top of the world, everything comes crashing down. Could one bad choice derail her future?

Raising Kids with Character That Lasts. John Yates and Susan Alexander Yates. REVELL.

From the publisherStrong character that stands the test of time and circumstances does not develop automatically in children. It happens each day, a little bit at a time. Raising Kids with Character That Lasts shows you how to set and achieve the goals necessary for developing eight essential character traits in your children: 

  • integrity
  • faith
  • a teachable spirit
  • a servant
  • self-discipline
  • joy
  • compassion
  • courage
With refreshing honesty, true stories, and practical examples, John and Susan Yates share how to use your everyday circumstances as opportunities for character development when raising kids. 

The Search. Suzanne Woods Fisher. REVELL.

Stars Collide by Janice Thompson. REVELL

From the publisherKat Jennings and Scott Murphy don't just play two people who are secretly in love on a television sitcom--they are actually head over heels for each other in real life. When the lines between reality and TV land blur, they hope they can keep their relationship under wraps. But when Kat's grandmother, an eccentric star from Hollywood's golden age, mistakes their on-screen wedding proposal for the real deal, things begin to spiral out of control. Will their secret be front-page news in the tabloids? And can their budding romance survive the onslaught of paparazzi, wedding preparations, and misinformed family members?
From the soundstage to a Beverly Hills mansion to the gleaming Pacific Ocean, Stars Collide takes you on a roller-coaster tour of Hollywood, packing both comedic punch and tender emotion.

Is God a Moral Monster: Making Sense of the Old Testament God. Paul Copan. BAKER HOUSE.

From the publisherIs the God of the Old Testament nothing but a bully, a murderer, and an oppressor?
Many today--even within the church--seem to think so. How are Christians to respond to such accusations? And how are we to reconcile the seemingly disconnected natures of God portrayed in the two testaments?
In this timely and readable book, apologist Paul Copan takes on some of the most vexing accusations of our time, including:
  • God is arrogant and jealous
  • God punishes people too harshly
  • God is guilty of ethnic cleansing
  • God oppresses women
  • God endorses slavery
  • Christianity causes violence
Copan not only answers the critics, he also shows how to read both the Old and New Testaments faithfully, seeing an unchanging, righteous, and loving God in both.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Fall into Reading 2010 Challenge Completed

Did you finish reading all the books on your fall reading list? If not, why not?

I listed nine books for this challenge. I read fourteen. However, I made *some* substitutions! I did NOT read The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything by Fred Sanders OR Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery by Eric Metaxas.

1. In Every Heartbeat by Kim Vogel Sawyer
2. Love's First Bloom by Delia Parr
3. A Hope Undaunted by Julie Lessman
4. Dark Sons. Nikki Grimes.
5. God's Mighty Acts in Creation by Starr Meade
7. A Girl Named Mister by Nikki Grimes
8. Embers of Love by Tracie Peterson
9. The Evangelicals: What They Believe, Where They Are, And Their Politics. Christopher Catherwood.
10. While We're Far Apart. Lynn Austin.
11. Snow Day. Billy Coffey.
12. The Road to Paris. Nikki Grimes.
13. What Good is God? In Search of A Faith That Matters. Philip Yancey.
14. Cottonwood Whispers. Jennifer Erin Valent.    

I read ten fiction, four nonfiction.

Did you stick to your original goals or did you change your list as you went along?

I added a few books as I went along.

What was your favorite book that you read this fall? Least favorite? Why?

My favorite book was, without a doubt, The Evangelicals: What They Believe, Where They Are, And Their Politics. Christopher Catherwood. It was an AMAZING book. I can't recommend it enough!!! When it comes to fiction, I loved While We're Far Apart by Lynn Austin.

My least favorite book was definitely Snow Day by Billy Coffey. In my review, I mention just why this one rubbed me the wrong way. It made me cry--but probably not in the way intended. It made me so incredibly thankful that my father was not like the main character. (He was meant to be likable. Also wise.) 

Did you discover a new author or genre this fall? 

I "discovered" the verse novels of Nikki Grimes. I wasn't aware that she was writing faith-friendly YA verse novels. The two I read were inspired by two biblical characters--Ishmael and Mary.

Wrap-up questions.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, December 17, 2010

Book Review: Miracle of Christmas (God With Us)

Miracle of Christmas: God With Us. John MacArthur. 1993. Zondervan. 144 pages.

We're in danger of losing Christmas. It may now be the biggest and most popular of all our holidays, but Christmas is in jeopardy just the same. A subtle but sure erosion is eating away the season's true significance. 

I would definitely recommend this one. (In case you were wondering, this is one of the more accessible of John MacArthur's books.) The message is VERY relevant. And it is one that I hold dear. You can't celebrate Christmas--without a touch of Easter. (Just like you can't celebrate Easter--without a touch of Christmas.) In other words, people need to focus on JESUS as Lord and Savior. Not just on baby Jesus, but the Jesus who died on the cross, the Jesus who rose from the dead. The Jesus who is able to save sinners like you and me.

In "A Christmas Prophecy," he focuses on the Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah's birth. In particular Isaiah 9:6:
For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us, and the government will be on His shoulders. He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. (HCSB)
In "Knots on the Family Tree," he focuses on the genealogy of Christ. Specifically, the women mentioned in Matthew's genealogy. How the inclusion of each woman--Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba--show God's grace at work.

It is obvious what this next chapter is about. "Is the Virgin Birth Really Essential?" His answer? Yes!
If we deny that Jesus is God, we have denied the very essence of Christianity. Everything else the Bible teaches about Christ hinges on the truth we celebrate at Christmas--that Jesus is God in human flesh...The virgin birth is as crucial as the resurrection in substantiating His deity. It is not an optional truth. Anyone who rejects Christ's deity rejects Christ absolutely--even if he pretends otherwise. (46)
"Joseph and Mary" focuses on Mary and Joseph.

"The People Who Missed Christmas" focuses on the people who missed out on that first opportunity to worship and embrace the Savior. It includes both the high and low and everyone in between. (The innkeeper, King Herod, religious leaders, inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Romans, the people of Nazareth. Some of these are obvious choices for inclusion, others take a bit of argument.)

"God in a Manger" discusses how many "don't mind celebrating the birth of a baby, but they don't want to hear about the Lord of lords. They sing of his nativity but brazenly reject His authority. They adore him as an infant but will not pay homage to Him as the God-man. They can tolerate the trappings of Christmas--a manger, shepherds, wise men, and Joseph and Mary--but they cannot bear the advent of God in human flesh." (84) This chapter focuses on Jesus' deity.

"Who Were The Wise Men" focuses on the Wise Men, the Magi. It tries to separate truth from fiction where these "wise men" are concerned.

"Born to Die" is perhaps my favorite of them all for it reveals the reason for the season. It focuses on the fact that Jesus was born to die.
Here's a side to the Christmas story that isn't often told: those soft little hands, fashioned by the Holy Spirit in Mary's womb, were made so that nails might be driven through them. Those baby feet, pink and unable to walk, would one day walk up a dusty hill to be nailed to a cross. That sweet infant's head with sparkling eyes and eager mouth was formed so that someday men might force a crown of thorns onto it. That tender body, warm and soft, wrapped in swaddling clothes, would one day be ripped open by a spear. Jesus was born to die. (116)
It focuses on how Christ is our substitute, how he pioneered our salvation, how his death sanctifies believers, how he became our High Priest. Good, good stuff.

The final chapter, "O Come Let Us Adore Him," focuses on our response. "Worship is the missing element in the monstrosity that Christmas has become." (132)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Book Review: To Whom The Angel Spoke

To Whom the Angel Spoke: A Story of the Christmas. Terry Kay. 2009. Peachtree. 32 pages.

Once, there were three shepherds who lived together while keeping watch over their sheep. 
Oh, there might have been more than three of them, but that doesn't matter. Three is a good number. Not too few. Not too many.
What does matter is that the three shepherds were good at their work, and their work was not easy. They had to protect their flocks from wild animals, and they had to know where to find fields of deep, thick grass and pools of clean, clear water. They had to know when their sheep were restless and wanted to move about, or when they wanted to rest.
Certainly, the three shepherds knew about sheep.
Still, as people living together, they were different, as all people everywhere are different.
What a strange little book this is. It certainly wasn't anything like I was expecting: a traditional story focused on the nativity. The nativity story is there, in a way, but this shepherd-focused story is more oriented towards the you-can-be-different-and-still-be-united-when-it-counts message. It read a little didactically for me--at least the first two times, and, if you have to read a book more than two times to see if it is really-really didactic, or if you're just imagining it, well, then that's a problem. A subjective problem, perhaps, but it shouldn't be such work to "like" a picture book.

One of the reasons I thought this one was strange is that while it clearly uses the word Angel in the title--"To Whom the Angel Spoke," in the text of this one, the angel, the messenger, becomes the WindVoice.
The shepherds do not see an Angel of the Lord, do not see the heavenly host praising God. While the message is generally speaking similar to the biblical message (see Luke 2:8-15). I thought it strange to replace the angel(s) with this "Windvoice." Especially since the word angel is in the title!

I didn't like this one. It felt a little too different. It felt a little too strange.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Poetry Friday: Next Time It Will Be Different

From John MacArthur's The Miracle of Christmas. (Previously Published as God With Us). 1993/1995. Zondervan. Page 135.

The First Time Jesus Came:

He came veiled in the form of a child.
A star marked His arrival.
Wise men brought Him gifts.
There was no room for Him.
Only a few attended His arrival.
He came as a baby.

The Next Time Jesus Comes:

He will be recognized by all.
Heaven will be lit by His glory.
He will bring rewards for His own.
The world won't be able to contain His glory.
Every eye shall see Him.
He will come as Sovereign King and Lord of all.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible