Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sunday Salon: Week In Review: March 20-26

Reminder: I am hosting a New Testament read-a-long/read-a-thon April 11 - April 17! I'd love for you to join me!!!

This week I finished...

Genesis in the NASB Thinline Bible
Exodus in the NASB Thinline Bible
Leviticus in the NASB Thinline Bible
Numbers in the NASB Thinline Bible
Deuteronomy in the NASB Thinline Bible
Isaiah in the NASB Thinline Bible
1 Thessalonians in the NASB Thinline Bible
2 Thessalonians in the NASB Thinline Bible
Galatians in the NASB Thinline Bible
Ephesians in the NASB Thinline Bible
Philippians in the NASB Thinline Bible
Colossians in the NASB Thinline Bible
Hebrews in the NASB Thinline Bible
James in the NASB Thinline Bible
John in the KJV Bible
Galatians in the NKJV Bible
Matthew in the ESV Seek and Find Bible

I also read...

Isaiah 5-39 in the KJV

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Book Review: The Big Picture Story Bible

The Big Picture Story Bible. David R. Helm. 2004/2010. Crossway Publishers. 456 pages.

The Bible is God's story, and it begins with these big words: "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." Do you know how God created everything? Simply by speaking words. Imagine, making the world with words! Strong words. Powerful words. With words God created everything! He made the stars, the sun, and the moon. He made the animals, the fish, the trees, and flowers too. Everything! And then after all these things, God created... People!

Can you see Adam and Eve? God put his people in the Garden of Eden. They were made in the image of God. They were to be the rulers of God's place.
Adam and Eve were very special to God. Did you know that you are also very special to God? You are special because you are made in his image too! Being created in the image of God must have made Adam and Eve very, very happy. God was happy too. He was pleased with his world and his people because he saw that they were very good. Nothing was wrong. Nothing was bad. Nobody disobeyed God. In the very beginning, everything and everyone knew how good God was. God gave Adam and Eve good words to obey. He told them not to eat from a special tree. You see, God was teaching Adam and Eve that he was their king, that people were to obey God's word. God also said that if Adam and Eve disobeyed his word, they would surely die. So God's people, Adam and Eve, lived in God's place, the Garden of Eden. And they ruled God's world by obeying his good word. Do you know what happened next?

I loved this one. I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED this one! It was MUCH bigger than I was expecting! You might think a book with four-hundred pages would be text-heavy. That even if the book was written with young children in mind, that the text would overwhelm the book. But that isn't the case at all. It's filled with illustrations by Gail Schoonmaker. And the illustrations are great--very bold, vibrant. But not in an overwhelming way. Not in a glittery way. They worked really well! The little details were great!

The text is simple and direct--without much fuss and nonsense--yet it is profound too. (I liked how the narrator speaks directly to readers. Asking them to participate in the story. I thought that was a great touch.) I liked the stories Helm included. I liked how the stories were presented. How they all tied together. I also liked the balance between text and illustration.

I think this would be a great book for parents and grandparents to share with the children in their lives. I think this book would make a great read-aloud. And if your child is already reading, perhaps, you can take turns reading to one another. I think there's enough in the stories to lead to  good discussion!

There is a definite theme to this bible storybook collection. Dare I say it? It's evangelical! I remember Mike Abendroth of Bethlehem Bible Church preaching a sermon called "The Gospel in Twelve Words." (The LINK is to an mp3 of the sermon.) These are twelve key words--organized under four questions--that can "help" you spread the gospel.
Who is God? Creator. Judge. Savior.
Who is Man? Fallen. Sinful. Foolish.
What Did Jesus Do? Redeemed. Reconciled. Resurrected.
What Did Jesus Command? Believe. Repent. Follow. 
Reading The Big Picture Story Bible, I was reminded of this sermon, of this outline. For in this book, we see a clear presentation of man and God. Of man's need for a Savior. Of God's loving care and provision. Of the BIG PICTURE of the Bible. So the stories are presented as being part of one BIG story. Everything is connected. Yet it isn't forced.

I would recommend this one to children. But I would also recommend it to adults. It's a clear overview of the entire Bible practically--and it can be read in one sitting. The language is clear, concise. If you're not sure what the "big picture" of the Bible is--how these 66 books act as one big story--then this is the book for you.

There are eleven stories from the Old Testament: "The Very Good Beginning," "A Very Sad Day," "Life Outside the Garden," "God's Big Promise," "God's People Grow," "God's People Become Great," "God's Great Sign," "Going Into God's Place," "God's Blessings Grow," "Another Very Sad Day," and "God's Promise Remains."

There are fifteen stories from the New Testament: "Many Silent Years," "God's Promised One is Born," "God's Promised One is Announced," "God's New People Are Called," "Jesus Restores God's Place," "Jesus Reveals God's Kingdom," "A Blind Man Sees," "A Dead Man is Raised to Life," "Jesus Wears God's Kingly Crown," "Jesus' Followers Are in the Dark," "A Brand-New Day," "God's Promise is Explained," "God's New Kingdom Spreads," "Letters to Live By," and "The Very Good Ending."

The newest publication of The Big Picture Story Bible includes an audio book version of this one read by the author. (It's a little over 90 minutes in length.)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Book Review: The World Jesus Knew

The World Jesus Knew. Anne Punton. 2003. Moody Publishers. 192 pages.

I found this to be a great read! I loved the design and layout. I loved the organization. I found it informative. I found it to be filled with information, perhaps this information won't dramatically change the way we live our day-to-day lives, but I do think it's information that can inform how we read Scripture, how we think about Jesus, how we think about the Bible. And that in and of itself might be reason enough to give this one a chance. 

From chapter eight:
We are all children of our own age and place and, unless we are taught differently, we will view the Bible from our own cultural perspective. Jesus, too, was thoroughly a child of his times, but how different they are from ours. How exciting and rewarding it is, therefore, to explore the common, daily life of the society in which he lived. (87)
Topics explored in this one:

  • The Home Jesus Entered
  • The Education Jesus Received
  • The Clothes Jesus Wore
  • The Language Jesus Spoke
  • The Countryside Jesus Crossed
  • Agricultural Methods Jesus Observed
  • Cultural Ways Jesus Followed
  • Religious Customs Jesus Kept
  • Festivals Jesus Celebrated
  • The Temple Jesus Loved
  • Prayers Jesus Prayed
  • The Synagogue Jesus Attended
  • The Scriptures Jesus Read
  • The Opposition Jesus Faced
  • Groups Jesus Knew

I would definitely recommend this one. I think it's a great resource for those interested in reading and studying the Bible. And I do think it's a GREAT resource for Sunday School teachers. 

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Book Review: Knowing Scripture

Knowing Scripture. R.C. Sproul. 1977/2009. IVP. 152 pages. 

Why study the Bible? It may seem odd and foolish to raise this question since you probably would not be reading this book unless you were already convinced that Bible study is necessary. Our best intentions, however, are often weakened by our moods and caprice. Bible study often falls by the way. 

R.C. Sproul makes a good argument for bible reading and bible study in Knowing Scripture. It is divided into six sections: Why Study the Bible, Personal Bible Study & Private Interpretation, Hermeneutics: The Science of Interpretation, Practical Rules for Biblical Interpretation, Culture & The Bible, and Practical Tools for Bible Study. I found the book interesting and informative, for the most part. I especially loved the first chapter:

If you have read the whole Bible, you are in a small minority of Christian people. If you have studied the Bible, you are in an even smaller minority. (18)

The issues for Christians is not whether we are going to be theologians but whether we are going to be good theologians or bad ones. A good theologian is one who is instructed by God. (22)

We fail in our duty to study God's Word not so much because it is difficult to understand, not so much because it is dull and boring, but because it is work. Our problem is not a lack of intelligence or a lack of passion. Our problem is that we are lazy. (17)

But what happens when there is a conflict between what God says and what I feel? We must do what God says, like it or not. That is what Christianity is all about. (29)

To be sure knowledge of God's Word does not guarantee that we will do what it says, but at least we will know what we are supposed to be doing in our quest for human fulfillment. The issue of faith is not so much whether we believe in God, but whether we believe the God we believe in. (30)
More food for thought:

Why have Christians been so derelict when it comes to biblical study? Is it merely a lack of discipline or devotion? That may be part of the problem and consequently produces much guilt among Christians for leaving undone those things that should have been done. I think, however, that more than a problem of discipline, it is a problem of method. 
We begin our Bible reading in a spirit of grim determination and diligently read the book of Genesis. Genesis provides important information about the foundations of biblical history and moves smoothly through the narrative history of the patriarchs. So far so good. Exodus is full of drama with the exploits of Moses and the liberation of Israel from the tyranny of the Egyptians. Cecil B. DeMille and Charlton Heston have given millions of us a sense of familiarity with these events. Then comes Leviticus. Here the attrition rate of interested readers begins to accelerate. Many of us who wade through Leviticus are finished off by Numbers. A few die-hards make it through Deuteronomy, and even a persevering few make it through the whole New Testament. 
Actually I have discovered that the majority of people who read the first five books of the Old Testament will make it through the whole Bible. Most people fail to read the Old Testament by getting bogged down in Leviticus and Numbers. The reasons are obvious. These books deal with detailed matters of the organization of Israel including lengthy lists of case law. So much of the material is foreign to us and makes difficult reading.
Yet, the information contained in these books is of crucial importance for understanding the scope of redemptive history. An accurate understanding of the New Testament depends on an understanding of these books. In fact, once a person acquires a general understanding of the whole scope of Scripture, he usually discovers that Leviticus and Numbers are fascinating and delightfully interesting. But without the general understanding the details seem somewhat unrelated. 
To overcome the problems so many people have with reading the Bible I suggest an alternate route to our goal. Read the biblical books in the following order:
  • Genesis
  • Exodus
  • Joshua
  • Judges
  • 1 Samuel
  • 2 Samuel
  • 1 Kings
  • 2 Kings
  • Ezra
  • Nehemiah
  • Amos
  • Hosea
  • Jeremiah
  • Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon
  • Psalms and Proverbs.
This list of readings gives an overview of the Old Testament and provides the framework for understanding it. (121-22)

Do I agree with Sproul's skeleton? I wouldn't go that far. I mean I can't imagine not including Deuteronomy and Isaiah. I mean I think Deuteronomy is essential for understanding ALL the history books. Moses essentially predicted everything that would happen from Joshua to the Exile. It's all in the blessings and curses. It's all in the commandments and laws. And Isaiah, well, Isaiah is just about the most important Old Testament book there is with the possible exception of Genesis and Psalms. Read Isaiah 6. Read Isaiah 25. Read Isaiah 40-66. How could anyone not think it's the best of the best? I'm not so sure that I'd ever include Song of Solomon on my skeleton list. It's short, true, perhaps that's why he chose it. But critical to understanding anything else? Not so much. 

I do think the Old Testament is VERY important. And I couldn't imagine not including it in my reading life. 

You don't want my opinion on Sproul's skeleton New Testament list--found in the 1977 edition on page 123. Not include John????? Really?????? And 1 John????? I'm not convinced the New Testament 'needs' a skeleton. But that's a whole other matter! 

Would I recommend this one? Yes. I'm not sure it is the absolute best book on the Bible ever written. I've got a few more on this subject that I haven't read yet. But I found it informative and practical. Perhaps not as practical as Dig Deeper: Tools for Understanding God's Word by Nigel Beynon and Andrew Sach. But still, a good book that I'm happy to recommend.

I read the 1977 edition of this R.C. Sproul book. I would have loved to have read the newer edition--to read his thoughts on ALL the bible translations that have been published since 1977, which would include the New King James, the New International Version, the New Living Translation, New American Standard Update, English Standard Version, the Holman Christian Standard Bible, etc.--but not enough to buy a new copy! 

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sunday Salon: Week in Review: March 13-19

This week I finished...

Ruth in the Matthew Henry Study Bible (KJV)
Jonah in the Matthew Henry Study Bible (KJV)
Romans in the Matthew Henry Study Bible (KJV)
1 John in the KJV
2 John in the KJV
3 John in the KJV
Jude in the KJV
Song of Solomon in the KJV
Ecclesiastes in the KJV

And I read...

Genesis 1-9 in the Matthew Henry Study Bible
Isaiah 1-4 in the KJV
John 1-16 in the KJV

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Spring Reading Thing 2011 -- The List

Spring Reading Thing 2011
Hosted by Callapidder Days: (Sign Up Post), (Announcement Post), (How-To Post)
Dates: March 20, 2011 - June 20, 2011

I'm hoping to read eight to twelve books.

1. Knowing Scripture. R.C. Sproul. 1977/2009. IVP. 152 pages.
2. The World Jesus Knew. Anne Punton. 2003. Moody Publishers. 192 pages.
3. The Big Picture Story Bible. David R. Helm. 2004/2010. Crossway Publishers. 456 pages.
4. The Practice of the Presence of God. Brother Lawrence. Joseph de Beaufort. 1982. Whitaker House. 96 pages.
5. How To Get The Most From God's Word. John MacArthur. 1997. Thomas Nelson. 168 pages.
6. God is Great: A Toddlers Bible Storybook by Carolyn Larsen. Illustrated by Caron Turk. 2011. Crossway Publishers. 44 pages.
7. No Other Gospel: 31 Reasons From Galatians Why Justification by Faith Alone is the Only Gospel. Josh Moody. 2011. Crossway. 288 pages.
8. Discovering Jesus: Why Four Gospels to Portray One Person? T.D. Alexander. 2010. Crossway Publishers. 144 pages.
9. Through Gates of Splendor. Elisabeth Elliot. 1956/2005. Tyndale. 296 pages.
10. Cries From the Cross: A Journey Into the Heart of Jesus. Erwin Lutzer. 2002. Moody. 170 pages.
11. In Grandma's Attic. Arleta Richardson. 1974/2011. David C. Cook. 144 pages.
12. More Stories from Grandma's Attic. Arleta Richardson. 1979/2011. David C. Cook. 144 pages.
13. The Judgment. Beverly Lewis. 2011. Bethany House. 336 pages.
14. How To Study The Bible. R.A. Torrey. 1896. Hendrickson Publishers. 90 pages.
15. How to Pray. R.A. Torrey. 1900. Hendrickson Publishers. 82 pages.
16. The Holiness of God. R.C. Spoul. 1985. Tyndale. 280 pages.
17. Why One Way?: Defending an Exclusive Claim in an Inclusive World. John MacArthur. 2002. Thomas Nelson. 96 pages.
18. Joni. Joni Eareckson Tada. 1976. 224 pages.
19. Our Awesome God. John MacArthur. 1993/2001. Crossway Books. 176 pages.

The Big Picture Story Bible. David R. Helm. 2004/2010. Crossway Publishers. 456 pages.

The Child's Story Bible. Catherine F. Vos. (1938, 1949, 1958,) 1969. Eerdman's Publishing Company. 733 pages. 

The World Jesus Knew. Anne Punton. 2003. Moody Publishers. 192 pages. 

Discovering Jesus: Why Four Gospels to Portray One Person? T.D. Alexander. 2010. Crossway Publishers. 144 pages. 

Redemption: Freed by Jesus from the Idols We Worship and the Wounds We Carry. Mike Wilkerson. 2011. Crossway Publishers. 208 pages. 

No Other Gospel: 31 Reasons From Galatians Why Justification by Faith Alone is the Only Gospel. Josh Moody. 2011. Crossway. 288 pages. 

How To Get The Most From God's Word. John MacArthur. 1997. Thomas Nelson. 168 pages. 

Knowing Scripture. R.C. Sproul. 1977/2009. IVP. 152 pages. 

Truth and Power: The Place of Scripture in the Christian Life. J.I. Packer. 1999. IVP. 191 pages. 

Knowing Christianity. J.I. Packer. 1999. IVP. 191 pages. 

Knowing God. J.I. Packer. 1993. IVP. 286 pages. 

The Nature of God. Arthur W. Pink. 1999. Moody Publishers. 347 pages. (Formerly Gleanings in the Godhead.)

Our Accountability to God. Arthur W. Pink. 1999. Moody Publishers. 478 pages. (Formerly Gleanings in the Scriptures.) 

What the Bible Teaches. R.A. Torrey. 2004. Whitaker House. 639 pages. 

The Radical Cross. A.W. Tozer. 2006. Wingspread. 148 pages. 

Spurgeon's Sermons On the Death and Resurrection of Jesus. C.H. Spurgeion. 2005. Hendrickson Publishers. 597 pages.

Great Doctrines of the Bible: Three Volumes In One: God The Father, God The Son; God the Holy Spirit; The Church and the Last Things. Martyn Lloyd Jones. 2003. Good News Publishers. 928 pages.

The Reformation. Diarmaid MacCulloch. 2005. Penguin. 864 pages.

Mine is the Night. Liz Curtis Higgs. 2011. Waterbrook. 464 pages.

Thorn in My Heart. Liz Curtis Higgs. 2003. Waterbrook. 496 pages.

Fair is the Rose. Liz Curtis Higgs. 2004. Waterbrook.  480pages.

Whence Came A Prince. Liz Curtis Higgs. 2005. Waterbrook. 560 pages.

Grace In Thine Eyes. Liz Curtis Higgs. 2006. Waterbrook. 464 pages.

Bookends. Liz Curtis Higgs. 2005. Waterbrook. 352 pages.

Mixed Signals. Liz Curtis Higgs. 2005. Waterbrook. 384 pages.

Words. Ginny Yttrup. 2011. B&H Books. 352 pages.

Redeeming Love. Francine Rivers. 2005. Waterbrook. 480 pages.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Spread the Word! I'm Hosting A Read-a-thon (of sorts)

If you're interested in reading the New Testament during Lent, I invite you to join me the week of April 11 through April 17th. At first, I thought of hosting a 48 hour read-a-thon. A how-much-of-the-New-Testament-can-you-read-in-48-hours challenge. (Not that we'd be competing with each other, but that would be the personal aspect of the challenge, to try to finish the New Testament.) But then I changed my mind. And I think it will be for the better, perhaps. It will still focus on reading the New Testament within a short period of time--a week, seven days. It will still celebrate the Word of God. And I think it will be challenging enough! Doable? Perhaps! But requiring commitment, definitely!

I am looking for people to join me. You don't have to be a blogger to join. You can invite your own family and friends to join too. But if you are a blogger, I ask you to consider blogging about this challenge, this event. Or tweeting about it, if twitter is your preferred way of spreading the word. Even if you're not planning on participating yourself, if you can help spread the word, I'd appreciate it!

If you think you might be interested in participating, leave a comment. You can change your mind if something comes up. And you can always join at the last minute. But I'd like to have some idea on how many will be joining me.

You may read from any translation of the Bible.
You may switch translations throughout the week, if you want.
You may use a text-only Bible, or a study Bible.
You may use an audio bible, an e-Bible, or an online Bible.
You may read the books in ANY order.
If you would like to follow an exact plan, you may. Here is one I found to do the New Testament in a week.
You may reread certain books if you would like to take some time to meditate on what you're reading.
If you finish reading the New Testament early, consider reading Psalm 119, Psalm 22, Psalms 113-118, Exodus 12, Isaiah 40-66.
No blog is required, but you may blog your progress if you like.

God's word is treasure enough, so there will be no prizes for participating/completing. But I would ask you to consider giving away a Bible or New Testament, or making a donation to a worthy cause like the American Bible Society, or the Wycliffe Bible Translators. (Mardel has a "Beautiful Everyday" Bible you can buy which they'll donate to a local pregnancy resource center.) I'm sure there are other ways as well to help spread the Word of God.

*The image of the New Testament, I found on this site.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Book Review: Love Amid the Ashes

Love Amid the Ashes. Mesu Andrews. 2011. Revell. 411 pages.

Dinah's leaden feet left no print in the sun-baked soil of Grandfather Isaac's Hebron camp. He had fought death's pale rider for many days, but his aging lungs finally lost the battle for breath. He was gone. Her sun and moon and stars, the only man who had seen beyond Dinah's shame and loved her after Shechem. Her heart felt as desolate as the dwindling wadi, where she knelt to rinse the rags with which she'd washed and anointed Grandfather's body

I didn't like this one. But I am going to do my best to be fair and honest. Because reading is completely subjective. Just because I didn't like it doesn't mean that you won't like it.

Love Amid the Ashes is the romance between Job and Dinah. Inspired--to some degree at least--by the latter part of Genesis and Job. It makes Job contemporaries with Jacob, Esau, Isaac, Dinah, and Joseph. (I'd always thought of Job as being after the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11) but slightly before Abraham (Genesis 12-25). Or perhaps overlapping the earlier years of Abram/Abraham and Sarai/Sarah.)

In the book of Job, readers are let in on a little secret in chapter one.
 6Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them.
 7And the LORD said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.
 8And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?
 9Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought?
 10Hast not thou made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land.
 11But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face.
 12And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD. (Job 1:6-12, King James Version)
And again in chapter two:
 1Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them to present himself before the LORD.
 2And the LORD said unto Satan, From whence comest thou? And Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.
 3And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? and still he holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movedst me against him, to destroy him without cause.
 4And Satan answered the LORD, and said, Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life.
 5But put forth thine hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse thee to thy face.
 6And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, he is in thine hand; but save his life.
 7So went Satan forth from the presence of the LORD, and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown.
 8And he took him a potsherd to scrape himself withal; and he sat down among the ashes.
 9Then said his wife unto him, Dost thou still retain thine integrity? curse God, and die.
 10But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips. (Job 2:1-10, King James Version)
These chapters provide a crucial framework for understanding--comprehending, appreciating--the book of Job. God is testing Job, and making a point with Satan. Readers know something that Job doesn't. Readers know something that Job's three friends' don't know. (Their names are Bildad, Zophar, Eliphaz.) Readers know something that that windbag Elihu doesn't. Readers know why Job's life is seemingly falling apart.

This framework, from my perspective, is missing in Love Amid the Ashes. Now I am NOT saying that God isn't present in Mesu Andrews' work. Job believes in God. He worships God. God is everything to him. And Job is always, always ready to talk about God with any one in his life. But we don't hear from God until "God's speech" in the last part of the philosophizing or debating (Job 38-41).

One big difference between the biblical narrative and this fictional account is in perspective, in cause and effect. (Though I'm not completely comfortable with those terms.) The novel sees things humanly. Job's downfall, his destruction, his fall from riches to rags comes from human hands. There is an evil, sinister, vicious, cruel man, Sayyid, who is the cause of Job's trials and tribulations. (Sayyid reminded me very much of Jafar.) Likewise, Job's restoration, Job's happily ever after, his rise from rags to riches, is seen as coming from human hands--from Dinah's brother, Joseph, who has come to power and wealth and prestige in Egypt. In the bible, both are seen as coming straight from God. It may seem like a small thing, and maybe it is a small thing to you, but for me it was a big thing.

Let's talk characters. Dinah, when we first meet her, is bitter and angry and grieving. After being cast out by her family (her father and brothers) after her disgrace of being "raped," she took refuge with Grandfather Isaac who was able to look past her shame and forgive her. In this version, Dinah was an all too willing participant. She knew that she should get her father's permission before acting as a wife, but she felt married in that moment. There is a ceremony with Shechem, it's just not recognized as being valid by her father and brothers. There is much BLOOD shed. And Dinah is someone considered repulsive and horrid. She disgusts people. Her very presence angers people. (Of course, all this is fictional speculation. We have no idea how Dinah was treated by her father, by her mother, by her brothers, by her cousins, by her former friends and acquaintances, by the surrounding communities and regions. We have no idea how far widespread this "scandal" really was.) But the bigger the disgrace, the more dramatic the story.

But now that Isaac has died, Dinah's future is uncertain. Her Grandfather was arranging a marriage with an Edomite, Job's oldest son. (Job is doing the arranging on his son's behalf.) Job and Isaac strongly believe in this connection, this alliance. They see it as a way to bring Esau's descendants into "the promise" or "the covenant." (Because Jacob is the chosen one (chosen over Esau), and Dinah is Jacob's daughter.) Think that's confusing? Job's son is part Ishmaelite, and the Ishmaelites are trying to work their way back into the promised line as well.

Job sees Dinah as someone in need of love and kindness and a new beginning. He sees her as someone that God loves. He sees the pain in her life. He knows that there is one to heal, one to forgive, one to restore. He knows that Dinah needs to meet God. That Dinah needs to be in right relationship with God. So Job teaches her about sacrifices, about atonement, about prayer, about fellowship. And Job does his best to show her that forgiveness is the only right way to live life.

So Job takes Dinah with him to be his son's wife. But there is a BIG problem! Before he can even have the servants begin to unpack, Job begins to receive horrible messages announcing one calamity after another. He's lost his sons and daughters. He's lost his animals, his herds and flocks, his "wealth." He's lost almost all of his servants. Dinah's future husband is lost to her before they could ever meet. What is to become of her now? Job, her host, is kind but broken. He's afflicted physically, mentally, emotionally. And Job's wife, Sitis, well she's got BIG, BIG issues of her own. (So big, I'm not even sure I should try to explain!)

Most of Love Amid Ashes occurs in the one week of silence, the gap between Job 2 and 3. And it's filled with drama and action. Mainly centered on Job's wife and the evil, evil man Sayyid. Dinah spends her time caring for Job, for seeing to his wounds, to nursing him the best she can. But it's also a waiting time. They are waiting to see what Job's "friends" will do, waiting for them to arrive, waiting to see if Sayyid can be brought to justice. Once they arrive, once the discussions begin, the plot turns a bit more familiar.

There is much drama and conflict and action. Much more than what is in the actual book of Job. But I could see why it would be hard to turn four or five men sitting around talking into a novel, into a romance at that. After all, Job already has a wife. She may be only someone Job could love. But she's got to be done away with somehow for Dinah to get her happily ever after.

By combining Dinah's story with Job's story, a few complications arise in my opinion. It just felt a bit messy to me. I liked Job's strength, his relationship with God, his perseverance. And I could appreciate Dinah's newfound faith. She's a woman just discovering for the first time perhaps that God is a forgiving God. That there is life free from shame, from guilt. She's a woman discovering hope after years of bitter despair. So there's a raw beauty in that which I could appreciate to a certain degree. But. I would have liked it more, perhaps, if Dinah's story had been Dinah's story and Job's story had been Job's story. I hope that makes sense.

© 2011 Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Loving the Matthew Henry Bible -- Jonah Edition

This week I got the Matthew Henry Study Bible. And I am LOVING it. I thought I would 'journal' my favorite quotes from the notes on the book of Jonah. (KJV) (NASB) (ESV)

On Jonah 1:4. "This wind was sent after Jonah, to fetch him back again to God and to his duty; and it is a great mercy to be reclaimed and called home when we go astray, though it be by a tempest."

On Jonah 1:5. "Many will not be brought to prayer till they are frightened to it; he that would learn to pray, let him go to sea."

On Jonah 1:7. "We may suppose there were those in the ship who were greater sinners than Jonah and yet he is the man that the tempest pursues. The storm is sent after Jonah because God has work for him to do, and it is sent to fetch him back to it."

On Jonah 2:1. "No place is amiss for prayer."

On Jonah 2:3. "If ever any man's case was singular, surely Jonah's was; and yet, to his great satisfaction, he finds even the man after God's own heart making the same complaint of God's waves and billows going over him. Our path of trouble is no untrodden path."

On Jonah 3:1. "But the word of the Lord comes to him again to show that when God forgives He forgets, and whom he forgives He receives into His family again and restores them to their former estate. God's making use of us is the best evidence of His being at peace with us."

On Jonah 4:1. "Whatever pleases God should please us, and though we cannot account for it, yet we must acquiesce in it."

On Jonah 4:2. "But it is a very awkward prayer. Being in discontent, his corruptions got head of his graces..." and "What a strange sort of man was Jonah, to dread the success of his ministry! It is unaccountable that which all the saints had made the matter of their joy and praise Jonah should make the matter of reflection upon God, as if that were an imperfection of the divine nature which is indeed the greatest glory of it--that God is gracious and merciful."

On Jonah 4:6. "A gourd in the right place may do us more service than a cedar. A small toy will serve sometimes to pacify a cross child, as the gourd did Jonah."

Matthew Henry's Complete Bible Commentary can also be found online. (Here are the links for Jonah 1, 2, 3, 4.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Let's Talk More...

So, I am tentatively planning my first read-a-thon. (Still the how-much-of-the-new-testament-can-you-read-in-48-hours-readathon in my head.) I may have found two people to join me. (More are always, always welcome to join in!) I want it to be during Lent. Which means there is this weekend--very, very short notice! (March 18-20). Or April 15 - 17. Or April 22-24, the last being the weekend of Easter itself. Which of these work best for you? 

Now, you may have noticed that I'm choosing three days for a 48 hour readathon. It's not that I can't do math. It's that I like giving people flexibility on when their 48 hour begins. So you could choose Friday/Saturday. Or Saturday/Sunday. You could start in the morning or afternoon or evening.

The rules, if there were to be rules, would be something like this:

Any translation of the New Testament is fine to use.
You may switch translations throughout the 48 hours if you want.
You may read the books in ANY order. You don't have to read Matthew through Revelation.
You may reread books if you want to take some time to meditate on one of the books.
You may listen to the New Testament in audio form.
You may use online Bibles or e-Bibles.
You may blog about your progress if you'd like.
You do NOT have to blog about your progress though.
You can recruit friends and family to join you.
God's word is treasure enough, so there will be no prizes for participating/completing. But I would ask you to consider giving away a Bible or New Testament, or making a donation to a worthy cause like the American Bible Society, or the Wycliffe Bible Translators. (Mardel has a "Beautiful Everyday" Bible you can buy which they'll donate to a local pregnancy resource center.) I'm sure there are other ways as well to help spread the Word of God.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Book Review: The Everlasting Tradition

The Everlasting Tradition: Jewish Customs, Holidays, and Historical Events That Reveal Biblical Truth. Galen Peterson. 1995. Kregel Publications. 160 pages.

The purpose of the book: There is a Hebrew folk expression that says more or less, "The apple does not fall far from the tree." This saying conveys the idea that we tend to stay close to our comfort zone, whatever it may be. But when it comes to the Bible, how many of us truly understand the cultural practices and traditions that formed the context of what we believe? These are the roots of our tree of faith. It can be said that, in many ways, our "apples" have rolled a long way down the hill from the tree which bore our fruit. We have lost track of our biblical heritage. This book unwraps many of those mysteries. It draws upon the specific features of both everyday and holiday customs of the Bible. It zeroes in on those elements which have either been misunderstood or have great underlying meaning. It also brings in some intriguing but little-known historical events which have profoundly shaped our perception of the message of the Bible. (9)

 I loved this book. I just LOVED it. It was informative. It was fascinating. It was straightforward. It was accessible. (Meaning, it was written to be read, to be understood. Read by people like you and me.)

It's divided into four parts with four chapters apiece: Tradition: So What's A Good Tradition?, A Little Box and a Cord of Blue, Do You Really Love God?, Written On Your Heart; Blessing: Blessings, Blessings, Everywhere, Messiah Was Not Born on Christmas, The Day the Rabbis Blinked, Some of That Old-Time Jewish Religion; Redemption: The Politically Incorrect Doctrine, A Place in the Book of Life, Who's To Blame?, More Than Just Dessert; Celebration: A Tale of Two Temples, When is the Church Not the Church?, A Marriage Made In Heaven and On Earth, A Visit to the Musuem.

I found all of it good. But there were two chapters in particular that I just loved. One was "A Little Box and a Cord of Blue." In which Galen Peterson examines in great detail, in great richness the Shema, which consists of three portions Deuteronomy 6:4-9; Deuteronomy 11:13-21; and Numbers 15:37-41.
Peterson writes, "The Shema declares some simple, yet important principles for spiritual living. It tells us who God is, what our response to that understanding should be, and about some practical reminders for those principles. It was given because of one of our major weaknesses: it is human nature to forget." (20) You might be thinking how can learning about tefilin, mezuzah, and tzitziot, for example, help me in my faith? You might just be surprised! For these rituals serve as reminders to live for God, to make God first in your life. You might think of a consistent prayer life, daily Bible readings, and Christian fellowship as modern-day equivalents.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9
 4Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD:
 5And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.
 6And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:
 7And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
 8And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes.
 9And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9, King James Version)

Deuteronomy 11:13-21
 13And it shall come to pass, if ye shall hearken diligently unto my commandments which I command you this day, to love the LORD your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul,
 14That I will give you the rain of your land in his due season, the first rain and the latter rain, that thou mayest gather in thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil.
 15And I will send grass in thy fields for thy cattle, that thou mayest eat and be full.
 16Take heed to yourselves, that your heart be not deceived, and ye turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them;
 17And then the LORD's wrath be kindled against you, and he shut up the heaven, that there be no rain, and that the land yield not her fruit; and lest ye perish quickly from off the good land which the LORD giveth you.
 18Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes.
 19And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
 20And thou shalt write them upon the door posts of thine house, and upon thy gates:
 21That your days may be multiplied, and the days of your children, in the land which the LORD sware unto your fathers to give them, as the days of heaven upon the earth. (Deuteronomy 11:13-21, King James Version)

Numbers 15:37-41
 37And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
 38Speak unto the children of Israel, and bid them that they make them fringes in the borders of their garments throughout their generations, and that they put upon the fringe of the borders a ribband of blue:
 39And it shall be unto you for a fringe, that ye may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the LORD, and do them ; and that ye seek not after your own heart and your own eyes, after which ye use to go a whoring:
 40That ye may remember, and do all my commandments, and be holy unto your God.
 41I am the LORD your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: I am the LORD your God. (Numbers 15:37-41, King James Version)
The second chapter that I just loved was "A Marriage Made in Heaven and on Earth." In that chapter, Peterson examines Jewish marriage phase by phase: the match, the betrothal period, the culmination. He discusses what each phase meant in ancient times. And notes if tradition has since changed. (Sometimes it has, sometimes it hasn't.) He then presents the rich parallels between biblical marriage and God's plan for redemption. There are three charts--one for each phase--and he has Scripture proofs for each statement on God's side. This chapter was just so rich, so wonderful!

Of course, the book offers so much more! There are chapters devoted to the Passover, to the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost), to the Feast of Tabernacles.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, March 14, 2011

An Idea

I have been considering a personal challenge, a personal bible-reading challenge, a personal read-a-thon. I have read in several places that the New Testament can be read within 24 hours. I've got the New Testament on audio in two different editions--one a little over 17 hours, one a little over 20 hours. (But I am  NOT planning on listening.) But that seems a little too much, so I was thinking of a "how-much-of-the-New-Testament-can-you-read-in-48-hours challenge". (I've not thought of a good name for it yet. And if it remains a personal challenge, if I can't persuade anyone to join me, it doesn't need a better name.) My question to you is this, is ANYONE interested in joining me? And if you are, would you be interested in doing this challenge before Easter? If this is something you'd seriously consider participating in, then let me know what times/what weekends work best for you. If there's enough interest, I'll see if I can make this happen.

The rules, if there were to be rules, would be something like this:

Any translation of the New Testament is fine to use.
You may switch translations throughout the 48 hours if you want.
You may read the books in ANY order. You don't have to read Matthew through Revelation.
You may reread books if you want to take some time to meditate on one of the books.
You may listen to the New Testament in audio form.
You may use online Bibles or e-Bibles.
You may blog about your progress if you'd like.
You do NOT have to blog about your progress though.
You can recruit friends and family to join you.
God's word is treasure enough, so there will be no prizes for participating/completing. But I would ask you to consider giving away a Bible or New Testament, or making a donation to a worthy cause like the American Bible Society, or the Wycliffe Bible Translators. (Mardel has a "Beautiful Everyday" Bible you can buy which they'll donate to a local pregnancy resource center.) I'm sure there are other ways as well to help spread the Word of God.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, March 13, 2011

5 Gift Ideas for Kids for Easter

Bibles & Bible Storybooks for Children

ESV Seek and Find Bible. Crossway Publishing. 2010. 1888 pages.

Published in partnership with Concordia Publishing House, this new full-color children’s Bible combines the complete ESV Bible text with more than 120 new, vibrant illustrations of major Bible stories.  Accompanying each full-page illustration is the Bible story itself, clearly and accurately retold for young readers—and for the parents, grandparents, and teachers who read to them.  Each story includes a Key Bible Verse to memorize, Additional Readings for discovering more of the story throughout the Bible, and simple Reflection Questions to help children begin to understand and apply God’s Word.  Colorful icons make it easy for young readers to see where each story is found in the Bible text and to locate the illustration that goes with it. 

In addition, dozens of Bible characters are profiled throughout the pages, and color call-out sections provide illustrated facts about important Bible objects, structures, and places. Each Bible book begins with a child-friendly introduction, highlighting the important characters and themes found in it.
The ESV Seek and Find Bible is the ideal first “real” Bible for pre-readers and young readers, ages 5 to 9, to grow up with. It is also a wonderful resource for parents to use in family Bible reading and for teachers who teach the Bible to young children.
  • More than 130 full-page, full-color illustrations
  • Simple Bible story retellings for each illustration
  • Age-appropriate introductions to each Bible book
  • Key Verses to memorize
  • Illustrated profiles of more than 50 major Bible characters
  • Illustrated facts about Bible objects, structures, and places
  • Reflections Questions for children, parents and teachers

    God is Great: A Toddlers Bible Storybook by Carolyn Larsen. Illustrated by Caron Turk. 2011. Crossway Publishers. 44 pages.

    In God Is Great, Carolyn Larsen and illustrator Caron Turk provide a wonderful resource for children ages five and under by presenting seventeen Bible stories in an understandable and fun way. In simple language, Larsen describes what God has done in the story of our world, beginning with the creation account and moving through the Great Commission. As children learn about the ways in which God has shown his greatness in the past, they will also learn about his character and how he is still great today.
    “God Makes Everything,” “God Protects Daniel,” “Jesus Feeds the 5,000,” and “Jesus Dies, But Not Forever!” are only a few of the stories that will captivate young readers. Beautiful illustrations by veteran illustrator Caron Turk accompany each story. Parents, grandparents, and teachers will find God Is Great to be a valuable tool for teaching young children.

    The Big Picture Story Bible. David R. Helm. 2004/2010. Crossway Publishers. 456 pages.

    No child is too young to begin learning about the greatest love story of all—God’s love for his people, as portrayed in the Bible. David Helm and Gail Schoonmaker have together created a colorful book of Bible stories written especially for children ages 2–7. Rather than simply retelling portions of the Bible, this book presents the big picture—the unified story running through the Old and New Testaments. Twenty-six stories together form parts of this big picture.
    Simply written and beautifully illustrated, this book teaches children the Bible’s whole story so they can begin to appreciate the fulfillment of God’s promise to his people. The Big Picture Story Bible is perfect for parents to read to their children and for older children to read on their own.
    First published in 2004, The Big Picture Story Bible has been widely praised and used by parents. It now comes with an audio recording of the book, read by the author and presented on two CDs, one each for the Old and New Testaments. Great for Sunday school classes and trips in the car, children can listen to the text and follow along in the book.

    Mighty Acts of God: A Family Bible Story Book. Starr Meade. 2010. 288 pages.

    In Mighty Acts of God Starr Meade takes a new approach to teaching the Bible to elementary school aged children: she focuses not on characters in Scripture, but on God. Each of the ninety Bible stories included focus on a particular character trait or truth about God, emphasizing that God is the main character in every Bible story.
    Each story in Mighty Acts of God is retold in lively, modern-day language from a Reformed perspective, and is followed by an application section with several discussion-sparking questions and prayer points. By moving chronologically through both the Old and New Testaments, parents and children glimpse the person of God as one of consistency, vibrancy, passion, and love.

    The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name. Sally Lloyd-Jones. 2009. ZonderKidz. 352 pages.

    The Jesus Storybook Bible tells the Story beneath all the stories of the Bible. It takes the whole Bible to tell the Story. And at the center of the Story, there is a baby, the Child upon whom everything would depend. From Noah to Moses to King David, every story whispers his name. He is like the missing piece in a puzzle--the piece that makes all the other pieces fit together.
    Beautifully written and illustrated, The Jesus Storybook Bible invites children to discover for themselves that Jesus is at the center of God's great story of salvation--and at the center of their story, too.      

    © Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

    Sunday Salon: Week In Review: March 6-12

    I was able to finish the New Testament this week, which means I've finished the whole Bible! For those that are curious, I read Genesis - Lamentations in the New Living Translation. And I read Ezekiel - Revelation in the King James Version.

    From the Old Testament:

    Job in the King James Version
    Psalms in the King James Version
    Proverbs in the King James Version

    From the New Testament:

    Luke in the King James
    Acts in the King James
    1 Thessalonians in the King James
    2 Thessalonians in the King James
    1 Timothy in the King James
    2 Timothy in the King James
    Titus in the King James
    Philemon in the King James
    1 Peter in the King James
    2 Peter in the King James
    Romans  in the King James
    Galatians in the King James
    1 John in the Revised Version (1881)

    © Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

    Saturday, March 12, 2011

    Book Review: Bathsheba

    Bathsheba. (The Wives of King David #3) Jill Eileen Smith. 2011. Revell. 350 pages.

    Jerusalem, 994 BC
    Darkness curtained the sky, hiding the stars, sheltering Bathsheba in the inner courtyard of her home. She clutched the soft linen towel to her chest, shivering, while Uriah stood with his back to her, a sentry guarding her privacy.

    I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED this one. It is one of the best Christian fiction books that I've read this year. And one of the best examples of biblical fiction that I've ever read. That doesn't really surprise me. After all, I loved Abigail and enjoyed Michal--the first two books in the series. All three chronicle the life of King David, though each is written from a different perspective. Michal chronicles David's rise to fame and his struggles with King Saul. Abigail continues that struggle, for the most part, and establishes David on the throne. But it is Bathsheba that shows the king's strengths and weaknesses. For it is when he has the good life that he succumbs to temptation--adultery and ultimately murder. But David's story is ultimately one of grace and redemption. A story of second chances. Of a God that heals and restores. A God that uses people even in their weaknesses, even in their darkest moments, to accomplish his purposes. Yes, David was sinful--he was human--but he knew that God could cleanse him from the deepest, darkest stains of sin.

    This novel is told primarily from two perspectives: Bathsheba and David. Readers catch a glimpse of their personal lives. Of Bathsheba's marriage to Uriah. Of her loneliness and frustration. Of being the wife left behind as her husband goes off to fight for the King again and again and again. It seems that he's away more than he's home. And while he's home, she loves him. And she doesn't want to nag about how much she hates wars and fighting and such. But oh how she longs to be understood. How she wishes she could keep her husband with her all the time. It also speaks of her depression. How she longs for a child, wants a houseful of children. But after several years of marriage--interrupted marriage--she fears she may be barren. And there is much shame in that--if it is true. Readers also see a grieving David. After Abigail's death, David is hurting. He wants to find the one wife that will be to him 'the one.' He wants a deeper connection, but that is something you just can't rush. And being king, well, it complicates matters. Then again, he has the power to call any woman to him. Bathsheba, for the most part, lives a separate life from the king. When she sees him--when she hears him--it is from afar, usually in a big crowd. Yet, there are a few moments when they take notice of each other. Which ultimately leads to one night when her husband is far away from home--fighting the king's battles--a night they both regret, a night that results in the conception of a child. A sin that cannot be hidden away. A sin that leads to one of the greatest psalms of repentance, Psalm 51. But though this relationship may not have had the purest of starts, that doesn't mean that their relationship didn't blossom into something greater, something richer. Bathsheba would be the mother of the son that would be king, the son that would build God's temple in Jerusalem. A son that would play a role in fulfilling God's promise.

    What did I love about this one? Just about everything! The writing, the pacing, the characterization. Even though I was familiar with the story, I found it incredibly compelling. I didn't want to put this one down. And I couldn't stop talking about it either! It had me hooked. It had me excited.
    Psalm 51
     1Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.
     2Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
     3For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.
     4Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.
     5Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.
     6Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.
     7Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
     8Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.
     9Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities.
     10Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.
     11Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.
     12Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.
     13Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.
     14Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness.
     15O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise.
     16For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering.
     17The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.
     18Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion: build thou the walls of Jerusalem.
     19Then shalt thou be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole burnt offering: then shall they offer bullocks upon thine altar. (Psalm 51, King James Version)

    © 2011 Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible