Sunday, May 29, 2011

Checking In on Operation Deepen Faith

It's almost June! Can you believe it? How are you doing on Operation Deepen Faith? I'd love to hear how you're doing on the challenge. I'd love to know what books of the Bible you've selected for deeper study. Has reading the book in multiple translations helped you understand it better? Or appreciate it more? Have you found a new translation you like? Are you surprised by how similar or how different the translations are from one another?

If you're participating in the second half of the challenge, I'd love to hear what books you've been reading! How many books have you read so far? Are there any you'd recommend? Are there any you wouldn't recommend? Have you learned anything about yourself? Have you learned anything about God? Are you glad you've taken the time to read some nonfiction?

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Planning Ahead

At the beginning of the year--well, technically, at the end of 2010, I made some goals for the year. I wanted to read the bible, read 100 books, listen to a 100 sermons, read more Christian nonfiction, and read a theological chunkster. How am I doing? Well...

Even though I'm not exactly reading in the translations I thought I would be reading, even though I'm not reading the study bibles I thought I would be reading, I must say that this year is going beautifully. I've spent considerable time in the King James Version, the New American Standard Bible, and the English Standard Version. In addition, I've spent some time reading the American Standard Version (1901), the New Living Translation, the Revised Standard Version, and the New English Bible.

While I've been trying to read both the Old Testament and the New Testament, I've been indulgent in my New Testament reading. For example, I've read the gospel of John nine times this year! (It is my favorite book!) And some of the letters, well, I've read Philippians thirteen times! It is my hope to come to know--really know--the Word of God. And spending time in the New Testament, well, it's incredibly wonderful, and incredibly rich!

In the next month, I hope to finish the Bible in the King James Version and the New American Standard Bible. In the KJV, I need to finish Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther. In the NASB, I need to finish Job, Psalms, Jeremiah, Lamentations, and Ezekiel. After I finish in those two translations, I suppose I'll need to choose which to focus on next! Will it be the English Standard Version? The Holman Christian Standard Bible? The New English Bible? The New King James? The Revised Standard Version? The American Standard Version? I just haven't decided yet.

I am considering officially-unofficially participating in Mom's Toolbox's next Bible in 90 Days challenge. If I'm reading the page correctly, there's one that begins in July--July 11th to be exact. (I couldn't find a date as to when the page was last edited. And they don't give a year.) Why unofficial? Well. I know that I cannot check back and leave comments on the blog every Monday. And since that is a requirement--I think a strict one--I suppose it's best to keep things unofficial. I'm not quite sure I can say I successfully completed the earlier challenge. I started on January 1st instead of January 3rd. I changed up the schedule a bit so that there wouldn't be odd start/stops. I didn't use the "recommended" NIV translation, or the official Bible in 90 Days Bible. I switched from the NLT to the KJV when I got to Ezekiel. Which may seem like a really crazy thing to do. Since Ezekiel is difficult anyway. And I started reading the New Testament about that same time. So instead of finishing around April 2nd, I finished by March 12th.

If you judge success by how I felt about it? Well, it was a definite success! It took me a little under a year to finish the Bible last year. And to know that I could finish it in ten or eleven weeks? It was a bit of a wow moment. I found it empowering as well. To know that I could spend an hour in the Word almost every day. To come to a place where I WANTED to spend at least that long in the Word each day. To NOT be satisfied with less?! To have finished the Bible and want to start it all over again and experience it again and again and again. That is success! And it definitely inspired me to host my own New-Testament-in-a-Week reading challenge/read-a-long in the Lent season. (I do hope to do this again next year. So if you missed it this time, there will be another opportunity.)

ETA: I just learned that there is a Summer Reading Challenge (June 1 - August 29) to read the Bible in 90 Days.

How am I coming in reading 100 books? Well. I think I am a little behind where I should be. I've read 42 books so far. May was my slowest month. I missed the deadline for signing up for CFBA books--something I hope doesn't happen again!--and without the pressure of reading Christian fiction books by an assigned day, well I just stuck to reading my nonfiction. And I find a book a week about all I can handle when it comes to Christian nonfiction. (But I've definitely met my ten nonfiction books goal.)

How am I coming in listening to 100 sermons? Well. I am pleased with my progress!  I've listened to 67 sermons this year!!! What has worked for me is not stressing about this project--trying to do a certain number per week or per month. I might have a good weekend or a good week and listen to five or ten sermons all at once. And I might go a week or two without listening to any at all. I've started in on the 2003 sermons at Bethlehem Bible Church having completed my 1999-2002 playlist!

As for theological chunksters, I haven't read a one. Let alone one of the three I named in the post! Maybe I'll have time this summer? If I don't get it done in the summer, chances are I won't get this goal met this year.

So what are my plans for the rest of the year? Or should that be plans for the summer?!

  • I want to finish the King James Version (Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther)
  • I want to finish the New American Standard Bible (Job, Psalms, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel)
  • I want to choose a translation of the Bible for my semi-official Bible-in-90-Days (give or take a few) project.
  • I want to keep reading Christian fiction.
  • I want to keep reading Christian nonfiction.
  • I want to tackle a theological chunkster.
  • I would *love* to do a buddy read or two with a blogging friend!
  • I want to write more "Taste and See" posts. 

Do you have plans for the summer? plans for the rest of the year? Would you be interested in joining another Bible-based/Bible-focused challenge or mini-challenge this summer if I were to host it? I've got a few ideas of what I'd like to do. But I'm not sure I'm ready to share quite yet.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday Salon: Week In Review: May 22-28

This week I was able to read...

Old Testament

2 Samuel in the KJV
1 Kings in the KJV
2 Kings in the KJV
1 Chronicles in the KJV
Job 1-14 in the American Standard Version, 1901
Proverbs in the NASB
Ecclesiastes in the NASB
Daniel in the NASB
Hosea in the NASB
Amos in the NASB
Obadiah in the NASB
Jonah in the NASB
Micah in the NASB
Nahum in the NASB
Habakkuk in the NASB
Zephaniah in the NASB
Zechariah in the NASB
Malachi in the NASB

New Testament

1 Thessalonians in the American Standard Version, 1901
2 Thessalonians in the American Standard Version, 1901
Revelation in the NASB

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Book Review: Our Awesome God

Our Awesome God. John MacArthur. 1993/2001. Crossway Books. 176 pages.

Who is God? In his book, The Future of an Illusion, Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, said God is an invention of man. We desperately need security, he wrote, because we have deep-seated fears of living in a threatening world in which we have little control over our circumstances. Freud claimed that we invent God as a protective father, and he suggested three reasons for our doing so.

His first reason is that we fear nature--we fear its unpredictability, impersonality, and ruthlessness. Because we all see the frightful reality of disease, famine, and disasters against which we have only a nominal defense, Freud assumed that we postulate a supernatural being who can deliver us...

Another reason for inventing God, Freud claimed, is our fear of relationships. Because people often feel used by others, Freud assumed it was natural to conjure up a divine umpire--a cosmic God with a super-whistle who ultimately stops play and penalizes people for what they have done. He made the commonsense observation that we all want someone who can right the wrongs of injustice. Freud also attributed this supposed invention of God to the fear of death. He claimed that we want a heavenly Father who will take us to a happy place, which we call heaven. It's hard to face the fact that we might cease to exist forever.

What about Freud's claims? What are we to think of them? To begin with, his view of religion is rather simplistic. It's human nature to prefer that God not exist. The first thing Adam and Eve did after they sinned was to hide from God. To be free from the God who calls sinners into accountability has been a constant goal of humanity throughout history...This knowledge of God is planted within each person, and the fact of God's existence is abundantly evident in creation.

However, even though every man and woman on earth knows of God's existence, they "do not see fit to acknowledge God any longer" (Romans 1:28). They reject God's self-revelation and refuse to acknowledge His glorious attributes. Freud had it wrong: People do not wish to invent the true God; instead they wish to deny His existence...

I enjoyed reading Our Awesome God. I found it well-written and reader-friendly. It is one of those straight-forward, commonsense books. Essentially what you see is what you get. Here are the chapter titles: Our Triune God; Our Faithful, Unchanging God; Our Holy God; Our Omniscient God; Our Omnipresent God; Our Omnipotent God; The Wrath of Our God; The Goodness of Our God; Our Sovereign God; Our Father God; The Glory of Our God; The Worship of Our God. I like the focus on the Bible. I like the focus on truth.

It is easy, perhaps, to create God in our image. To rely on how we ourselves imagine God to be. To rely on our feelings and perhaps even our experiences. We find it easier to believe that God is who we imagine him to be. We put words into his mouth. We rewrite the rules. We "fix" it so that our God does not conflict with our selfishness, or conflict with our culture. Perhaps because we want to make God easy to understand, easy to accept. We want to erase the so-called "hard truths" or "hard sayings" of the Bible. We want to have the freedom to delete at will those things that make us squirm, those things that make us uncomfortable, those things that leave us with questions.

In his introduction, MacArthur writes,
Believing the wrong thing about God is a serious matter because it is idolatry. Does that surprise you? Contrary to popular belief, idolatry is more than bowing down to a small figure or worshiping in a pagan temple. According to the Bible, it is thinking anything about God that isn't true or attempting to transform Him into something He isn't.

God Himself pointed out the fallacy of idolatry, saying of man, "You thought that I was just like you" (Ps. 50:21). We must be careful not to think of God in our terms or entertain thoughts that are unworthy of Him. It is perilously easy to do both. (7)
He further writes,
We tend to let our culture instead of our Creator determine what we value. Those values influence our thoughts about God and shape the way we relate to Him in our daily experience.

The only way to know what God is like is to discover what He has revealed about Himself in Scripture. The revelation of God's nature falls into different categories of attributes, which in their totality define His character. (8)
And then goes on to say,
It involves more than just believing there is a God. It means believing in the only true God as revealed in Scripture.

Having faith is believing that what God says is true. The content of the Christian faith is God's revealed Word. (13)
Because this book relies on the Bible, because its intent is to share the essential truths of who God is as revealed by the Bible and nothing but the Bible, it is a valuable book for readers. It is rich in truth. It is practical. Perhaps readers are skeptical that any theological book could really be practical. But I believe--strongly believe--that without sound doctrine, without sound teaching, without being well-grounded in the Bible, in essential Bible-truths, one's faith is at the very least weaker than it should be. I believe we're called to stand firm in our faith, and we're called to grow in truth. Readers need foundational truths and reading theology--so long as the theology you're reading is Bible-based, Bible-focused--can prove beneficial.

Knowing who God is? Well, it doesn't get more essential, more foundational than that. It is critical for believers to know who God is; it is critical for readers to know how God has revealed Himself to us in His Word. For our worship to mean something--or something more--we need to be worshipping the one, true God. Not the God that we create in our own image. Not the God we have fuzzy feelings about--and by fuzzy I mean vague not warm and fuzzy--no, we're called to worship God in spirit and truth.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Sunday Salon: Week In Review May 15-21

This week I read...

Old Testament

Judges in the KJV
1 Samuel in the KJV
Proverbs in the American Standard Version 1901
Song of Solomon in the American Standard Version 1901

New Testament

Mark in the American Standard Version 1901
John in the NASB
Acts in the NASB
Galatians in the New English Bible
Ephesians in the Revised English Bible, New English Bible, KJV, English Revised Version 1881, American Standard 1901, ESV,
Philippians in the New English Bible
Hebrews in the New English Bible
James in the New English Bible, American Standard Version 1901,
Jude in the NASB
Revelation in the KJV

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Book Review: Joni

Joni. Joni Eareckson Tada. 1976. 224 pages.

The hot July sun was setting low in the west and gave the waters of Chesapeake Bay a warm red glow. The water was murky, and as my body broke the surface in a dive, its cold cleanness doused my skin.

I am so glad I decided to read this autobiography. The edition I read is actually a three-in-one called Joni Eareckson Tada: Her Story. It collects three of her autobiographies into one edition. The other two books (which I haven't read yet, but will hopefully some day) are A Step Further and Choices Changes.

The book begins with her memory of the diving accident that changed her life forever. And I must admit it's off to a great start. The beginning is quite compelling--in those horrible moments when she's in the water and unable to move. Of course, readers know that she was found in time. But still those minutes feel very tense--or maybe intense is the right word?
After briefly describing her home life, her family, readers journey with her through her extended stay at the hospital. Those dark days of uncertainty and depression. The days when she did not know--could not know--what the future held for her. The days when doctors and nurses weren't exactly reassuring her that her life would soon return to normal. For after that diving accident, Joni has to discover a new normal. And that is something that is never easy to do. Joni's story is inspiring and compelling and relevant. The lessons she comes to learn through her experiences. The truths she learn about God, about faith and hope and love, the truths she learns about what it means to serve Jesus, the truths she learns about relationships--these are truths that I need, that you need, which is one reason why I think you should read this book for yourself. It's just so good.

I was angry that my life had been reduced to the basics of eating, breathing, and sleeping--day in and day out. But what I discovered was that the rest of the human race was in the same boat. Their lives revolved around the same meaningless cycle--except with them, it wasn't as obvious. Peripheral things distracted them from the fact that they were caught on the same treadmill. (60)

I told Diana of my thoughts. "Nothing is really making any sense yet, Diana. I don't know what God is doing--but I believe He is real and that somehow He knows--and understands. There's a positive aspect to my thoughts now. I'm still confused, but before, my confusion leaned toward doubt. Now it leans toward trust."

"Maybe it has something to do with your prayer before the accident," Diana suggested.

"What prayer?"

"Remember? You told me that shortly before your accident, you prayed, "Lord, do something in my life to change me and turn me around." Maybe this is God's way of answering that prayer." (60)

We aren't always responsible for the circumstances in which we find ourselves. However, we are responsible for the way we respond to them. We can give up in depression and suicidal despair. Or, we can look to a sovereign God who has everything under control, who can use the experiences for our ultimate good by transforming us to the image of Christ. (101)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Sunday Salon: Week in Review: May 8-14

This week I read...

Old Testament

Deuteronomy in the KJV
Joshua in the KJV
Ezra in the NASB
Nehemiah in the NASB
Esther in the NASB
Psalms in the American Standard Version 1901
Proverbs 1-4 in the American Standard Version 1901
Haggai in the NASB

New Testament

Matthew in the American Standard Version 1901
Mark in the New English Bible
John in the New English Bible
Acts 1-8 in the NASB
Colossians in the American Standard 1901, New English Bible, NIV, RSV, NASB, ESV, KJV
1 Thessalonians in the RSV
2 Thessalonians in the RSV
1 Peter in the New English Bible, American Standard 1901
2 Peter in the New English Bible, American Standard 1901
1 John in the New English Bible
2 John in the New English Bible
3 John in the New English Bible
Jude in the New English Bible
Revelation in the New English Bible

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Book Review: Why One Way?

Why One Way?: Defending an Exclusive Claim in an Inclusive World. John MacArthur. 2002. Thomas Nelson. 96 pages.

Why do evangelicals try so desperately to court the world's favor? Churches plan their worship services to cater to the "unchurched." Christian performers ape every worldly fad in music and entertainment. Preachers are terrified that the offense of the gospel might turn someone against them; so they deliberately omit the parts of the message the world might not like. Evangelicalism seems to have been hijacked by legions of carnal spin-doctors, who are trying their best to convince the world that the church can be just as inclusive, pluralistic, and broad-minded as the most politically-correct worldling. The quest for the world's approval is nothing less than spiritual harlotry. 

I love this book. I just LOVE this book. It's a book that is always relevant. Perhaps because there are always believers trying to compromise God's revealed truth in order to fit in with the world, in order to make the message more friendly to unbelievers, in order to blend in and avoid unpleasantness. Some perhaps are just weak and fearful. Some perhaps are just following others blindly. Assuming that the trust they've placed in others is well-founded. That surely these scholars, these teachers, these preachers, these authors, these experts know best. Others may be a bit more deliberate in thinking that they know better than God. That what they think about God--how they feel God is, how they imagine him to be--is more important than what the Bible says about God. 2 Timothy 4:3-4, for example, reads, "For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths." (ESV)

I think this book is important for many reasons. One, to help readers understand that the truth is important. That it is necessary, it is wise, to be able to discern truth from error; fact from fiction. Two, it is grounded in the Bible. In each and every chapter the Bible is affirmed--it's true and authoritative--which serves as a reminder that believers should be reading and studying the Word, for how else can they be discerning? How can you know if that preacher or author is teaching the truth or a clever lie unless you're willing to investigate it yourself. Unless you hold the Bible to be absolute, the measure by which you judge or discern everything. You just can't say, well, that sounds good to me. Three, it helps challenge readers in their faith. Do you know the truth? Are you bold in proclaiming the truth? Or are you all too willing to make compromises? Are you serving the world more than you're serving Christ?

It's a short book; it's also reader-friendly. Even if the message itself isn't necessarily reader-friendly to every reader. Does this book have the potential to be offensive? I suppose. I mean it's proclaiming that the Bible is absolute truth, that what you believe does matter, that Jesus is the ONLY way, that all roads do NOT lead to God, that religions aren't equally true.

So the purpose of this one is to be "a reminder of the gospel's distinctiveness. That very narrowness sets Christianity apart from every other worldview. After all, the whole point of Jesus' best known sermon was to declare that the way to destruction is broad and well traveled, while the way of life is so narrow that few find it. (Matthew 7:14). Our task as ambassadors of God is to point to that very narrow way. Christ Himself is the one way to God, and to obscure that fact is, in effect, to deny Christ and to disavow the gospel itself." (x-xi)

My favorite quotes:

It is ironic that so many who are downplaying the exclusivity of Christ are doing it because they believe it is a barrier to relevance. Actually, Christianity is not relevant at all if it is merely one of many possible paths to God. The relevance of the gospel has always been its absolute exclusivity, summed up in the truth that Christ alone has atoned for sin and therefore Christ alone can provide reconciliation with God for those who believe only in Him. (ix-x)

Genuine faith in Christ entails a denial of every worldly value. Biblical truth contradicts all the world's religions. (2)

The word [tolerance] once meant respecting people and treating them kindly even when we believe they are wrong. The postmodern notion of tolerance means we must never regard anyone else's opinions as wrong. Biblical tolerance is for people; postmodern tolerance is for ideas. (14)

It is OK for postmodernists to be intolerant of those who claim they know the truth, particularly biblical Christians. In fact, those who fancy themselves the leading advocates of tolerance today are often the most outspoken opponents of evangelical Christianity. (15)

Authentic Christianity starts with the premise that there is a source of truth outside of us. Specifically, God's Word is truth. (Psalm 119:151; John 17:17). It is objectively true--meaning it is true whether it speaks subjectively to any given individual or not; it is true regardless of how anyone feels about it; it is true for everyone universally and without exception; it is absolutely true. (19)

Attend the typical evangelical home Bible study meeting and you will probably be invited to share your opinion about "what this verse means to me," as if the message of Scripture were unique to every individual. Rare is the teacher who is concerned with what Scripture means to God. (24)

Since His Word is objectively true and perfectly reliable in everything it teaches, Scripture should be both the starting point and the final test of truth in all our thinking. If Scripture is wholly true, then anything that contradicts Scripture is simply false, even if we're talking about the fundamental beliefs upon which the world's most popular ideologies are based. (31)

It's not as if we can make the words mean anything we want them to mean, so that whatever connotation we impose on the words becomes the Word of God. Only the true interpretation of the text is the authentic Word of God, and any other interpretation is simply not what God is saying. (34)

To speak boldly and declare that God has spoken with finality is neither stylish nor politically correct. But if we truly believe the Bible is the Word of God, how can we handle it any other way? (50)

Truth and error cannot be combined to yield something beneficial. They are as incompatible as light and darkness. (60)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Taste and See: Jeremiah 29:11-13

It's getting to be graduation season again. And it seems at least to me that there is one passage that gets used--or misused--every year. That passage would be Jeremiah 29:11-13:

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." (NIV)

I think superficially you can read that passage and get the warm and fuzzies. Oh how lovely, oh how wonderful. What a great passage to share with those getting a fresh start in life. Appropriate for those graduating high school or college--undergraduate or graduate. What a great verse to give to those looking for a new job. But. It's not always quoted in enough context--at least enough context to suit me. Sometimes we just see Jeremiah 29:11: "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

Context matters. Trust me. Who was the original audience? Jeremiah was writing to the Jewish exiles in Babylon. They'd been taken from their homes. They were in a strange land, a foreign land. Perhaps they weren't sure why God had allowed them to be taken captive. Perhaps they hadn't given much thought to God and his commandments before captivity. Perhaps they weren't even turning their hearts towards God at the time Jeremiah was writing. At least not yet. And Jeremiah wasn't promising them an immediate deliverance either. He was telling them--you'll be there seventy years! But it's okay because those years are part of God's plan for you. The situation may seem dark to you, you may not see much hope in being where you are right now. But God does have a plan for you. You have not been forgotten.

Also, you should probably know that there had been a false prophet writing to the exiles. A so-called prophet promising the captives quick freedom. A prophet going around contradicting everything the LORD had been telling Jeremiah. So Jeremiah was writing them the truth, telling them to believe and trust in God.

There were two groups of people Jeremiah was addressing. He was addressing those still in the land--those that had NOT gone into exile. And this was a rebellious, sinful, stubborn group of people let me tell you. And he was addressing those that had gone into exile. These two groups are best seen in contrast. God had told Jeremiah that one group would be destroyed, one group would be saved. One group receives mercy, the other group receives justice.

Jeremiah 29:15-19:
You may say, "The LORD has raised up prophets for us in Babylon," but this is what the LORD says about the king who sits on David's throne and all the people who remain in this city, your fellow citizens who did not go with you into exile--yes, this is what the LORD Almighty says, "I will send the sword, famine and plague against them and I will make them like figs that are so bad they cannot be eaten. I will pursue them with the sword, famine and plague and will make them abhorrent to all the kingdoms of the earth, a curse and an object of horror, of scorn and reproach, among all the nations where I drive them. For they have not listened to my words," declares the LORD, "words that I sent to them again and again by my servants the prophets. And you exiles have not listened either," declares the LORD. (NIV)
Chances are that at some point in you've life you've encountered Jeremiah 29:11! But how many are equally familiar with God's wrath on display just a few verses down? In fact just one verse separates the two.

If you read Jeremiah 1-29, you'll get the big picture. Or most of it at least. If this is your first time through Jeremiah, then maybe you'll need some encouragement to keep going. It isn't exactly easy to love Jeremiah.

There are a few things more I'd like to say. First, this one verse shouldn't be seen as a generic come-one-come-all promise. Can God use this verse to work in the lives of believers? Yes! Absolutely. Second, I'd be careful of where you place your focus. If your focus is on the first half then there may be a problem. Specifically--as the NIV phrases it--plans to prosper and plans for hope and a future. Because if you're thinking in terms of wealth and prosperity, in terms of having a good life, a great life, a perfect life where you get exactly what you want when you want it, a problem-free life where everything always goes your way, then I'm not sure what to say. For God did not promise us an easy life. God never promised that we'd always be happy and comfortable. God wants to shape us, transform us, make us holy. He wants obedience. He wants our hearts and minds and lives.

I feel the better focus of this promise--of this passage--is on the second half. "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." Let that passage move you--inspire you--to seek God with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your understanding. Let seeking God come first in your life. Let God be your priority.

So is there a passage I'd recommend instead? Perhaps Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. (NIV)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Sunday Salon: Week In Review: May 1-7

This week I read...

Old Testament

Exodus in the KJV
Leviticus in the KJV
Numbers in the KJV
Psalms 42-89 in the American Standard 1901
Jeremiah in the KJV
Lamentations in the KJV

New Testament

Matthew 1-21 in the American Standard 1901
John in the NKJV Soulcare Bible
John 1-4 in the New English Bible
Ephesians in the RSV
Philippians in the American Standard 1901, NASB, KJV, RSV, ESV, NIV, NKJV, English Revised Version 1881
Jude in the American Standard 1901

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Taste and See: Deuteronomy 6:4-9

In Sunday School, we're reading the book of Deuteronomy. Now I've mentioned this once or twice before, but I just LOVE the book of Deuteronomy. I find it a fascinating book--a book with great significance in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. One of the most important passages is Deuteronomy 6:4-9.

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (ESV)

Several translations (NLT, NKJV, HCSB) translate it in this way: You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.

Moses writes, "These words that I command you today shall be on your heart." Now I'm not a big fan of the New Living Translation--but I think it helps clarify this text a little. It reads,

"And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up." 

We find in Matthew 22, in Mark 12, in Luke 10 this command repeated as the GREAT commandment.

Matthew 22:34-40 reads,
"But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets." (ESV)

Mark 12:28-34 reads,
"And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, "Which commandment is the most important of all?" Jesus answered, "The most important is 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these." And the scribe said to him, "You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one's neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices." And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions. (ESV)

Luke 10:25-37 reads,
"And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" He said to him, "What is written in the Law? How do you read it?" And he answered, "You shall love your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind and your neighbor as yourself." And he said to him, "You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live." But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" Jesus replied, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance, a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, 'Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.' Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?" He said, "The one who showed him mercy. And Jesus said to him, "You go, and do likewise." (ESV)
So these two commandments are the MOST important lessons to learn for ourselves--no matter our age. And the MOST important lessons to pass on to others--those of all ages. The original passage stressed the importance of passing down faith--passing down belief in the LORD, in the Lord's commandments, in the Lord's ways--to children. Faith is to be a FAMILY thing. Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, cousins-- everyone--is to be involved in teaching little ones to follow God. How can we do this? Can we do this? Is there a reason that there are few *good* examples of parenthood in the Bible? What do you think? What are some ways parents can teach their children about God? About how to WALK with God and TALK with God?

I think the first step is that you have to have it yourself. You've got to have a personal faith in Jesus Christ. You've got to have a relationship with Him yourself before you can pass along lessons to your children that will be of spiritual worth. You've got to be abiding in Him, walking with Him, growing in truth and grace yourself.

The Bible has to have a place in your life before it can have much of a place in your family life or in your children's lives. Little ones have to see their parents (or parent) reading the Bible, praying to God, praising God. God has to be real to you before He can become real to them.

Don't underestimate the power of prayer, the power of God. God wants you to know Him, to seek Him, to love Him. He wants you to delight in Him. So pray for yourself--for grace, for love, for wisdom and understanding. Pray to know Him better, to love Him better. Pray for wisdom and guidance and strength. And pray for others too. Pray for your family members, for your friends. Pray that they will come to faith. Pray that they will come to love the LORD with all their hearts, minds, and souls. Pray for your little ones--pray that they will grow in grace and truth. Pray that they will love God. Pray that they will love the Bible. Pray that they will seek him always and delight in Him.

Note, I'm not saying you have to be perfect before you can start sharing with your children or grandchildren, the little ones--and not so little ones--in your life. You don't have to reach a state of holiness, of sinlessness, before you can become a role model, an example. We all make mistakes. We all stumble. We all sin. No one is perfect but Christ. There's no hiding imperfections from those that love us, that know us. No, God uses us where we are.

Don't have kids yourself? Consider becoming involved in children's ministry. You may find that there is a child that does need you in their life. You may have a lot to give, to share.

Do you love the Lord with all your heart with all your soul and with all your mind? Do you want to? What would loving God that much look like? If your heart and mind and soul were full of love for God how would you live life? If you truly loved your neighbor as yourself what would that look like? How different would your life be if you gave love as freely to others as God gives to you?

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Focus on Philippians 4

This week I spent time studying Philippians. I read it in multiple translations. In most translations I read it at least twice. And what I noticed almost from the start where the differences in word choice among the translations. In just a handful of places, for the most part. I'm choosing to focus on Philippians 4:4-7.

Since I have to start somewhere, I'll use the ESV translation to introduce the passage to you.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

The NASB reads: Let your gentle spirit be known to all men.
The Holman Christian Standard Bible reads: Let your graciousness be known to everyone.
The NIV (2011) reads: Let your gentleness be evident to all.
The KJV reads: Let your moderation be known unto all men.
The NLT reads: Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do.
The NKJV reads: Let your gentleness be known to all men.
The CEB (Common English Bible) reads: Let your gentleness show in your treatment of all people.
The American Standard Version reads: Let your forbearance be known unto all men.
The GNT (Good News Translation) reads: Show a gentle attitude toward everyone.
The Message reads: Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you're on their side, working with them and not against them.
The Contemporary English Version reads: Always be gentle with others.
The New Century Version reads: Let everyone see that you are gentle and kind.
The English Revised Version 1881 reads: Let your forbearance be known unto all men.
The Revised Standard Version reads: Let all men know your forbearance.
J.B. Phillips reads: Have a reputation for gentleness...
William Beck reads: Everybody should know how gentle you can be.
The New English Bible reads: Let your magnanimity be manifest to all.
The Tyndale reads: Let your softness be known unto all men.
Lexham English Bible: Let your gentleness be made known to all people.
The NET Bible reads: Let everyone see your gentleness.

According to the resources at, the Greek word transliterated is epieikēs.

from (epi) and (eiko); appropriate, i.e. (by implication) mild :- gentle, moderation, patient.

I'm not exactly sure why I became fascinated with how this verse was translated. It just felt like there is a difference--at least in initial perception--between these words. Forbearance, for example, which might be defined as "patient endurance" or "self-control" brings to mind something different from gentleness, which might be defined as "not severe" or "kindly." And moderation--well--that's something more I think of as restraint--NOT doing something--at least not doing something too much. Don't you perceive graciousness as something (slightly) different (at the very least) from moderation or reasonableness?!

Perhaps this verse should be read alongside Ephesians 4.

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:1-3, ESV)


Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32, ESV)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Book Review: The Holiness of God

The Holiness of God. R.C. Spoul. 1985. Tyndale. 280 pages.

I would definitely recommend The Holiness of God. I found it to be rich in truth, full of treasure. The focus is on God--on God's holiness. On what God's holiness means to humanity. How God's holiness is tied in closely with God's justice and God's wrath--but also his mercy and love. Much of the book is spent on sin, focusing on how humans are captive to sin, on how our sin keeps us separated from God, how sin makes us all deserving of eternal punishment, how sin hurts and angers God, how God's holiness demands that someone pay the price for the sin in the world. But it isn't only about "the bad news." It isn't all sin, sin, sin, sin. It is also about God's mercy and grace. How grace is completely, absolutely undeserved. How grace should not be taken lightly, taken for granted. So other topics covered include justification and sanctification. (It's also about Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer and Lord.)

Sproul relies on the Bible throughout each of his chapters to illustrate his argument. He shines the spotlight on a handful of characters including Peter and Saul/Paul and Isaiah. (There are really too many to list them all). He uses both Old Testament and New Testament examples. One of his chapters focuses on Martin Luther, another on Jonathan Edwards. I found the book getting better with each chapter.

The most brutal act of divine vengeance ever recorded in Scripture is not found in the Old Testament but in the New Testament. The most violent expression of God's wrath and justice is seen in the cross. If ever a person had room to complain of injustice it was Jesus. He was the only innocent man ever to be punished by God. If we stagger at the wrath of God, let us stagger at the cross. Here is where our astonishment should be focused. If we have cause for moral outrage, let it be directed at Golgotha.
The cross was at once the most horrible and the most beautiful example of God's wrath. It was the most just and the most gracious act in history. (185)

There are only two things I ever receive from God--justice or mercy. I never receive injustice from His hand. (196)

The struggle we have with a holy God is rooted in the conflict between God's righteousness and our unrighteousness. He is just and we are unjust. This tension creates fear, hostility, and anger within us toward God. The unjust person does not desire the company of a just judge. We become fugitives fleeing from the presence of One whose glory can blind us and whose justice can condemn us. We are at war with Him unless or until we are justified. Only the justified person can be comfortable in the presence of a holy God. (224)

*The book was revised and expanded in 1997. I read the older edition, so I'm not sure how much of a difference there is between the two.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Sunday Salon: Week In Review: April 24-April 30

This week I read...

Old Testament:

Genesis in the KJV (Single Column)
Exodus 1-9 in the KJV (Single Column)
Ruth in the American Standard 1901, KJV (Single Column)
2 Chronicles in the NASB Thinline

Psalms 21-41 in the American Standard  1901
Psalms 17-41 in the ESV Classic Reference Bible

Ecclesiastes in the American Standard 1901
Song of Solomon in the American Standard 1901
Jeremiah 1-13 in the KJV (Single Column)
Joel in the NASB Thinline

New Testament:

Luke in the NASB Thinline
John in the KJV (Single Column), English Revised Version 1881, American Standard 1901,
John 1-7 NKJV Soul Care Bible
Romans in the American Standard  1901
1 Corinthians in the American Standard  1901
2 Corinthians in the American Standard  1901
Galatians in the NIV Student Bible
Ephesians in the American Standard 1901
1 John in the KJV (Single Column), American Standard 1901
2 John in the KJV(Single Column) American Standard 1901
3 John in the KJV (Single Column), American Standard 1901
Revelation in the American Standard 1901

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible