Saturday, March 31, 2012

Are you ready to read the New Testament?!

Tomorrow is the start of my "New Testament in a Week" challenge or event. If I'd been paying closer attention, I would have reminded everyone last weekend that it was almost here. (I did link to it in my Spring Reading Thing post though.)

The 'challenge' or 'event' is from April 1 to April 8. Though if you want to start this evening, I don't mind.

Does it have to be the whole New Testament?

My goal is to read the entire New Testament this week. But that does NOT have to be your goal. You can set your own goals. Your goal might be to read one gospel and a letter or two. Read 27 books, read 3 books. Just read something. Again, this is all about YOU setting your own goals. If you want to read 1 John seven times, then go for it. If you want to read Luke and Acts, go for it. 

  • 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 isone 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.

I do ask that if you participate this week that you comment to let me know. I would like to know how many participate.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

2012 Bibles, part 2

The Mission of God Study Bible, Holman Bible Publishers, presumably HCSB, June 2012

From the publisher:

The Mission of God Study Bible encourages followers of Jesus Christ to see their everyday life from God’s perspective and have His heart for people. It’s a reminder that we live around people in desperate need of redemption and reconciliation with God, which can only be found in Jesus. The mission of God has never been just for specialists; it is for all believers to live out through their daily lives and by sharing the good news of what God has done through the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus. Wherever you are, you are on mission. In The Mission of God Study Bible, you will hear from today’s top thinkers, theologians, and leading voices in the church about what it means to live in the mission of God. Essay contributors include Matt Chandler, Tullian Tchividjian, Ed Stetzer, Matthew Barnett, Andrea Mullins, Dave Ferguson, Christopher J.H. Wright, and many others. You will also discover “Letters to the Church” from elder statesmen that speak to the grand narrative of God’s mission in Scripture. These words from Billy Graham, Jack Hayford, R. T. Kendall, Erwin Lutzer, Calvin Miller, and R.C. Sproul will inspire you to live God’s mission daily. Includes QR code links to over 45 personalized videos from Ed Stetzer and Philip Nation. Each video summarizes a key essay found in the Mission of God Study Bible.

KJV Study Bible, Holman Bible Publishers, September 2012.

From the publisher:

2011 marked the 400th anniversary of the King James Version of the Bible, a landmark that gained worldwide media attention and researched estimates that more than one billion copies of KJV editions have been sold to date. Indeed, the beloved, historically rich rendering of Scripture is an ongoing favorite among Bible readers. Holman Bible Publishers is excited to present the KJV Study Bible, a new edition modeled after its own 2011 ECPA Christian Book Award-winning HCSB Study Bible, where every well-conceived study help is practically placed on the same page spread as the related biblical text. It also features 15,000 study notes, 141 photos, 62 timelines, 59 maps, 40-page concordance, 20 articles and essays, 16 illustrations and reconstructions, 15 charts, and a helpful glossary of 17th century expressions relative to the KJV’s signature phrasing. Other details of the KJV Study Bible include a two-column text setting, center-column cross references, the words of Christ in red, one- and three-year Bible reading plans, and a notes section.

And not to be confused with the above,

KJV Study Bible, published by Barbour, July 2012

From the publisher:
These brand-new study Bibles introduce the beloved King James Version to a new generation—featuring beautiful covers, easy-to-understand notes, and other helps. More than 5,000 brand-new notes, from Barbour's QuickNotes Simplified Bible Commentary series, provide greater understanding of the KJV, still among the most beloved and trusted translations available. It also features introductions for each Bible book, color maps of biblical lands, a dictionary/concordance of key Bible names and terms, and the words of Christ in red. The KJV Study Bible is an excellent resource for personal study, Sunday school, and small group preparation—for those who are already fans of the King James Version or others who've been reading more modern Bible translations.

KJV The Woman's Study Bible, published by Thomas Nelson, 2012

From the publisher:
Now with a fresh, new look and available in the King James Version (KJV) for the first time, The Woman's Study Bible is more relevant to today's women than ever before!
Now with a fresh, new look and available in the King James Version (KJV) for the first time, The Woman's Study Bible is more relevant to today's women than ever before!
Features include:
* Inspiring articles by Anne Graham Lotz, Nancy Leigh DeMoss, Roberta Hromas, Linda Dillow, Kathy Troccoli, and more
* More than 100 character portraits of women in the Bible
* More than 300 articles on topics for women
* Hundreds of insightful quotes by inspiring women throughout history
* Topical index to Scriptures and special features
* 8.5-point type size
* Silver page edges
And though I would probably never, ever consider this one, I share with you all the same,

The Message Study Bible, Eugene H. Peterson, Navpress, 2012

From the publisher:
When author and pastor Eugene H. Peterson created The Message, he took the colloquial quality of the ancient Hebrew and Greek originals and put it into the American English that people use in their workplaces and around the house. What makes The Message a unique translation of choice is it is written in verse-numbered paragraphs in a single-column format, making it like a novel. The Message Study Bible combines this best-selling contemporary translation with personal insights from Peterson's lifetime of studying the Word.
  • 640 notes from the writings and sermons of Eugene H. Peterson
  • Contemplative readings and prayers throughout the text
    Peterson's introductory essay "Reading the Scriptures"
  • A comprehensive bibliography of Peterson’s writings
    Peterson's biography and the complete list of translation consultants for The Message
  • Blank pages for personal notes and reflections
  • Written in American English
  • Verse-numbered, single-column format, making The Message a true reading Bible
I couldn't find much information on this ESV Lutheran Study Bible published by Concordia in May 2012.

Fire Bible, KJV Version, Hendrickson Publishers, July 2012, a new Pentecostal study Bible

ESV Global Study Bible, Crossway, October 2012

From the publisher:
The ESV Global Study Bible is a one-volume study resource for globally minded Christians everywhere. It has been designed from beginning to end to be highly accessible and value priced for distribution on a global scale.
The Global Study Bible features a fresh design, with a wide range of new features. Each book begins with an introduction, followed by a unique, insightful description of the global message of the book. Likewise, a set of new articles by global Christian leaders apply the Bible to global issues, such as the role of government, the nature of the church, world religions, social ethics, and missions and evangelism.
Each print copy comes with free access to the online Global Study Bible, available anywhere worldwide with an Internet connection.
The Global Study Bible’s notes and maps were adapted from the best-selling ESV Study Bible and contain a wealth of information about the biblical text, history, and geography. With overviews of each Bible book, special facts, and character profiles, the Global Study Bible is an outstanding resource for Christians everywhere who seek to know and understand the truth of the Bible and its global meaning.
  • Book introductions
  • Maps
  • Illustrations
  • Concordance
  • Cross-references
  • Double column page layout
  • Durable sewn binding
  • Type Size: Bible text: 7.5-point; Study notes: 6.5-point 
NIV Coffeehouse Bible, May 2012

From the publisher:
This espresso and caramel Italian Duo-Tone Bible has 52 short studies designed to help you and your friends discuss things that matter in this hectic world. For many of us, the coffee shop has become our "third space"—the place we go to share life with our friends and family. It’s the place where we meet to discuss things that matter—life, love, politics, religion—and everything in between. The NIV CoffeeHouse Bible is topically divided into distinct study areas, each allowing you and your friends to consider the place of God and his Word in your life today. Studies on key life issues and important topics will engage your coffee group gatherings for an entire year and get you thinking about things that matter in this hectic world. Each of the 52 studies is broken into sections to fit the amount of time you have. You can use these 'short', 'tall', and 'grande' sections by yourself or with your friends.
The Voice, Thomas Nelson, April 2012.
The Voice is a faithful dynamic equivalent translation that reads like a story with all the truth and wisdom of God’s Word.

Through compelling narratives, poetry, and teaching, The Voice invites readers to enter into the whole story of God with their heart, soul, and mind, enabling them to hear God speaking and to experience His presence in their lives. Through a collaboration of more than 120 biblical scholars, pastors, writers, musicians, poets, and artists, The Voice recaptures the passion, grit, humor, and beauty that is often lost in the translation process. The result is a retelling of the story of the Bible in a form as fluid as modern literary works, yet remaining painstakingly true to the original manuscripts.

Features include:

* Italicized information added to help contemporary readers understand what the original readers would have known intuitively
* In-text commentary notes include cultural, historical, theological, or devotional thoughts
* Screenplay format, ideal for public readings and group studies
* Book introductions
Pray the Scriptures Bible, ed. Kevin Johnson. God's Word Translation, Bethany House. November 2012.

From the publisher:
For those interested in centering their prayers on the foundation of Scripture, this Bible will be an encouraging companion to daily Bible reading and prayer. Bestselling author Kevin Johnson presents an approach to the power of biblical prayer by offering Scripture-specific prayers written to be read and prayed alongside the Scriptures that inspired them. Readers will pray with more confidence, learning to apply Scripture to their lives and pray words they know God will hear.
Ideal for anyone looking to grow closer to God through their prayers, Pray the Scriptures Bible includes these special features:
  • more than 4,500 new Scripture-specific prayers
  • a guide to praying the Scriptures
  • introductions for each book of the Bible
  • articles based on major categories of prayer
  • index of prayers that appear in Scripture
  • topical prayer guide

Pray the Scriptures Bible opens an avenue of conversation with God as he speaks to us through his Word, the Bible. 
NKJV Gaither Homecoming Bible, Thomas Nelson, September 2012.

From the publisher:
The Gaither Homecoming Bible makes the Bible come alive for those seeking truth in the twenty-first century—even for those who think they already know it.

For years, Bill and Gloria Gaither have reached millions of people across generations with the Good News of Jesus Christ. Their music of joy, thanksgiving, and praise ushers people into the presence of God so that He can do His wondrous work in their lives. This beautiful Bible featuring the New King James Version (NKJV) is one that you will treasure for years to come.

Features include:

* Inspirational and insightful Scripture devotions by the Gaithers and other favorite Homecoming artists
* Articles on beloved hymns, gospel songs, and Gaither classics and the inspiration behind them
* Original poetry by Gloria Gaither to enlighten and inspire
* Quotes by greats of the faith, reflecting on the importance of music in the life of believers
* Words of Jesus in red text
The Love Languages Devotional Bible, NLT Translation, October 2012

From the publisher
Dr. Gary Chapman has become a trusted expert on relationships. His teaching is based on the timeless wisdom of God's Word. Gary has been described by his readers and listeners as passionate, relevant, hopeful, effective, and practical. He brings this expertise and style to The Love Languages Devotional Bible. Its straightforward approach to reading through Scripture, complemented by brief devotional readings that apply the text to real-life relationships, will deepen couples' understanding of God and of each other. This Bible gathers together in one powerful, life-changing resource all the best of Gary's decades of counseling experience.

The Love Languages Devotional Bible covers numerous topics, including: communication, expectations, roles, sex, conflict, money, children, in-laws, and more.

Key features include:

* New Living Translation, clear and elegant, ideal for reading aloud
* Scripture reading plan, makes it easy to read through the entire Bible in a year
* 260 daily devotions, one for each weekday
* 52 feature articles, one for each weekend
* Prayer guides, reduce awkwardness by providing specific cues
* Select readings address a wide variety of couple-oriented topics
* Bible book introductions provide context and essential background information

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

ESV Grow! Bible

Earlier today I "shared" two recent NIV publications. One Bible "for girls" and another Bible "for boys." Honestly, I believe that boys AND girls don't need separate Bibles. I believe that what is good for one, is good for the other. That what BOTH genders need is a clear, inviting Bible that focuses on what is really important: God. A Bible that clearly, accurately, substantively presents the Word of God in a reader-friendly way. (You can preview the book of Genesis for free.)

ESV Grow Bible
Crossway Publishers
Age Range: 8 to 12
1600 pages


  • 775 "W Questions" answering the who, what, where, when or why of a text.
  • 90 "4U" boxes explaining a text and how to apply it to a child's life
  • 45 "Cross Connections" helping readers see how the whole Bible points to Jesus
  • The complete ESV Text
  • Introductions to each book of the Bible AND introductions to each section of the Bible
  • Topical articles prepared especially for children with subjects including the Ten Commandments, the Lord's Prayer, and the Gospel
  • Full color maps showing locations such as the lands of the Patriarchs, the city of Jerusalem, and the places Paul visited
  • Glossary
  • God's Word for Me When...
  • God's Word for Me About...
  • Timelines
  • Maps
  • Weights and Measures

My thoughts:

I loved this one. I just LOVED, LOVED, LOVED, LOVED, LOVED this one. Perhaps because it was the perfect Bible for me to discover at this time. Here is a children's Bible that is both reader-friendly and substantive. The "W Questions" are anything but shallow. In fact, I believe that MOST adults would benefit from using this Bible, from reading the Q's and A's found in this Bible. I think it fills a very-real need we have for a Bible of the highest quality. You're never to young to love God, to want to know God, to start seeking God. You can start learning, start studying, start meditating NOW. This is not a Bible that condescends to children. It's approach isn't "Well, kids don't need to know that now, they're kids, they have plenty of time to learn...." or "Well, kids probably couldn't understand this, ha! half the church doesn't understand this, we don't need to go there here."

A sampling of the "W Questions"

From Romans

  • What does Paul mean when he says that through the law comes knowledge of sin?
  • What is propitiation?
  • What is the righteousness of God?
  • What does it mean to be justified by faith?
  • Why would anyone rejoice in suffering?
  • What is the free gift?
  • What does it mean to be baptized into Christ?
  • What was slavery like during Bible times?
  • What are the wages of sin?
  • Why do I keep sinning?
  • What does it mean to say God is for us?
  • Why does faith come from hearing?
  • What is a living sacrifice?
  • Why is the church called the body of Christ?  

From 1 John

  • Who is the word of life?
  • What is sin?
  • What is meant by antichrist?
  • What does by water and blood mean?

These are good questions. Each and every book asks really, really good questions. And more importantly, they provide the answers. Now when it comes to Revelation, the Q's and A's might not satisfy every reader, after all, there are hundreds of ways to interpret passages in that book of prophecy. But. For the most part, the questions cover the basics and then some. The essentials of the faith, the gospel, are covered in these "W Questions." And IF it's not addressed in this feature, chances are it will show up in either the Cross Connections or "4U" feature. Or in one of the articles or the book/section introductions.

A Sampling of the Articles, Charts, and Maps

  • About the Bible
  • Cross Connections 
  • Days of Creation
  • God's Family Tree
  • Ten Commandments
  • What is the Law?
  • What is the Gospel?
  • Categories of Psalms
  • The Lord's Prayer
  • Who are the Fools in Proverbs?
  • Words of the Prophets
  • Ezekiel's Temple Vision
  • The Persian Empire
  • How God Told His Old Testament About Jesus, Part One
  • How God Told His Old Testament About Jesus, Part Two
  • Bible Verses You May Hear On Sunday
  • The Christian Church Year
  • The Time Between the Testaments
  • Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus
  • Who is Jesus?
  • The Parables of Jesus
  • Events of the Last Week
  • The Miracles of Jesus
  • Our Savior's Last Words
  • The Risen Christ!
  • Where Did We Get The Apostles' Creed?
  • The Lord's Supper
  • Baptism
  • The Whole Bible Is Really About Jesus

This is definitely a Bible I'd recommend for private and public use. (Meaning for private Bible reading at home, family Bible reading/worship AND for use in Sunday Schools, home schools, and Christian schools.) I think the questions asked/answered are important and relevant. The kinds of questions that would naturally come up. And now both children and parents can find the answers quickly!

The Bible is designed, perhaps, for those in the 8 to 12 range. BUT. Honestly, I think there are plenty of adults that would benefit from reading this one. Why? The questions and answers cover the essentials, and they may answer some questions that people genuinely don't know and may be embarrassed to ask. Whether we like it or not, whether we acknowledge it or not, we have a problem inside and outside our churches with Bible illiteracy. People just don't know that much about the Bible. People aren't reading it at home and may not be hearing all that much of it inside their churches. This Bible could help a new generation avoid this problem altogether. If we can inspire a new generation to READ AND STUDY the Bible with passion, to have a HEART FOR GOD, that would be an amazing, amazing thing, a true blessing.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

NIV Offerings: FaithGirlz; Boys Bible

This spring, Zondervan has published and republished two children's Bibles. One is the NIV FaithGirlz Bible. This one was originally published in 2007, I believe. It has been republished with the NIV 2011 text. The NIV Boys Bible appears to be a brand-new Bible.

You should probably know that I am NOT one of those who think boys need "boy" bibles and girls need "girl" bibles. Neither am I one to think that women need "women's" bibles and men need "men's" bibles. Yes, the differences between the two can seem minuscule and harmless. If a person wants a purple bible or a pink bible or a flower-y bible, why shouldn't one be available? But it is all too easy to start making assumptions and stereotypes. Women are all about emotions, feelings, sharing stories and experiences, devotions, with a tendency on "how does this make you feel?" Men are all about straight-forward facts and information. No nonsense, no frills. Everything has a point.

NIV Faithgirlz! Bible
Zondervan (Zonderkidz), Faithgirlz! notes by Nancy Rue
Age Range 9-12
1504 pages

The basics:

* Book introductions---Read about the who, when, where, and what of each book.
* Dream Girl---Use your imagination to put yourself in the story.
* Bring It On!---Take quizzes to really get to know yourself.
* Is There a Little (Eve, Ruth, Isaiah) in You?---See for yourself what you have in common.
* Words to Live By---Check out these Bible verses that are great for memorizing.
* What Happens Next?---Create a list of events to tell a Bible story in your own words.
* Oh, I Get It!---Find answers to Bible questions you've wondered about.
* The complete NIV translation
* Features written by bestselling author Nancy Rue


  • It's the NIV translation, the NIV 2011 translation to be precise. Many people do love the NIV. 
  • It's very pink and very purple. It's very cute. It's very flowery. You almost expect glitter and confetti to pop out when you open it up. (Could a Bible try any harder than this one does?)
  • It has a handful of features that make it unique. 


  • It's the NIV translation. Not every person is a fan of dynamic equivalence. BUT. I must say this, if you're going to have a children's Bible in a dynamic-equivalence translation, you could do a LOT worse than the NIV translation.        
  • It's very pink and very purple. The design choices can seem a bit excessive at times. Not every girl out there LOVES pink and purple to such extremes. Not every girl is about flowers and swirls and cutesy-cute art. Take as an example the title of this one. I could do without the "z" and the exclamation point! 
  • I was unimpressed with the features. At best, I found the features to be shallow with not as much depth as I'd like. Yes, the features are "cute" and add to the design of the Bible. But some of the features don't add to the quality of the Bible. They do vary in usefulness. From the nice and mildly challenging to the shallow and mildly offensive. And then there's the busy work of "What Happens Next?" 

NIV Boys Bible
Zondervan (Zonderkidz)
Age Range: 9 to 12
1504 Pages

The basics:

* What's the Big Deal?---Need-to-know biblical stories and people
* Check It Out---Interesting and funny facts about Bible times and characters
* Grossology---Gross and gory stuff you never knew was in the Bible
* Makin' It Real---Help for applying Bible stories to your everyday life
* Hundreds of highlighted verses worth memorizing
* Introductions to each book of the Bible
* Presentation page
* Complete NIV text


  • It's the NIV translation, the NIV 2011 translation to be precise. Many people do love the NIV. 
  • The design is simple and generically masculine; nice blues and oranges. There is nothing over-the-top about the design.
  • The features, for the most part, are of high quality. There's nothing silly or excessively shallow about the notes or features. The features are informative, straight-forward, more relevant. The book introductions, for example, seem to offer SO MUCH MORE than the ones shared in the "faithgirlz" bible. And the "Oh I Get It!" feature of the girls bible doesn't even come close to the "What's the Big Deal?" feature of the boys bible. The difference is night and day in terms of quality content and actual substance. Now, I am not saying the notes and features of this one are perfectly-perfectly perfect, that there isn't room for even more improvement. But. Comparing these two next to one another, the "Boys Bible" is the clear winner. 


  • It's the NIV translation. Not every person is a fan of dynamic equivalence. BUT. I must say this, if you're going to have a children's Bible in a dynamic-equivalence translation, you could do a LOT worse than the NIV translation.      
  • Not everyone loves orange and blue. (What is wrong with keeping a black font color after all? Are readers really so shallow that they are more likely to read a Bible if it is in blue or purple than if it is in black?) 
  • The features do show traces of stereotypes. (The "gross" feature, anyone?!) And there are fewer features overall. For example, any time a publisher has to list "presentation page" as a feature, there's a hint of desperation. Both the girls bible and the boys bible feature bible reading plans, bible promises, plans of salvation, etc. 

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

March 2012 Bible-Reading Records

Written by Moses

1. Genesis (NIV)
2. Exodus (NIV)
3. Leviticus
4. Numbers
5. Deuteronomy

OT Narratives

6. Joshua
7. Judges
8. Ruth (NIV, ESV)
9. 1 Samuel (NIV)
10. 2 Samuel
11. 1 Kings
12. 2 Kings
13. 1 Chronicles (ESV)
14. 2 Chronicles
15. Ezra (ESV)
16. Nehemiah
17. Esther

Wisdom Literature

18. Job (NIV)
19. Psalms (NIV, ESV)
20. Proverbs (NIV, ESV)
21. Ecclesiastes (ESV)
22. Song of Songs (ESV)

Major Prophets

23. Isaiah (NIV)
24. Jeremiah
25. Lamentations
26. Ezekiel
27. Daniel (ESV)

Minor Prophets

28. Hosea (ESV)
29. Joel (ESV)
30. Amos (ESV)
31. Obadiah (NIV, ESV)
32. Jonah (ESV)
33. Micah (ESV)
34. Nahum (ESV)
35. Habakkuk (ESV)
36. Zephaniah (ESV)
37. Haggai (ESV)
38. Zechariah (ESV)
39. Malachi (ESV)

NT Narratives

40. Matthew (NIV, ESV)
41. Mark (NIV, ESV)
42. Luke (NIV, ESV)
43. John (NIV, ESV)
44. Acts (NIV, ESV)

Epistles by Paul

45. Romans (NIV, ESV)
46. 1 Corinthians (NIV, ESV)
47. 2 Corinthians (NIV, ESV)
48. Galatians (NIV, ESV)
49. Ephesians (NIV, ESV)
50. Philippians (NIV, ESV, NKJV, NASB)
51. Colossians (NIV, ESV)
52. 1 Thessalonians (NIV, ESV)
53. 2 Thessalonians (NIV, ESV)
54. 1 Timothy (NIV, ESV)
55. 2 Timothy (NIV, ESV)
56. Titus (NIV, ESV)
57. Philemon (NIV, ESV)

General Epistles

58. Hebrews (NIV, ESV)
59. James (NIV, ESV)
60. 1 Peter (NIV, ESV)
61. 2 Peter (NIV, ESV)
62. 1 John (NIV, ESV)
63. 2 John (NIV, ESV)
64. 3 John (NIV, ESV)
65. Jude (NIV, ESV)

Apocalyptic Epistle by John

66. Revelation (NIV, ESV)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Kroll Method, Week of March 24-30

ESV Reformation Bible

  • Psalms 119-150
  • Colossians
  • 1 Timothy
  • 2 Timothy

ESV Study Bible (not reading notes)

  • 1 John (3)
  • 2 John (3)
  • 3 John (3)
  • Jude (3)
  • Revelation 
  • John 1-8
  • Psalms 1-20
  • Proverbs 1-15

ESV Grow Bible

  • Romans
  • Psalms 20-31
  • Proverbs 16-21

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, March 30, 2012

Book Review: Gospel Centered Discipleship

Gospel Centered Discipleship. Jonathan K. Dodson. Foreword by Matt Chandler. 2012. Crossway Books. 176 pages.

The premise of this one is simple: the gospel is something every believer needs in their lives: day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year. As long as we're breathing, we're in need of constant reminders of the gospel message. Any time we shift our focus to ourselves, to our efforts, to our successes, to our failures, to our goals, to our accomplishments, to our strengths, to our weaknesses, we begin to sink like Peter when attempting to walk on the water. If we focus on our successes, then we become arrogant and proud thinking that God is lucky to have us on his side. If we focus on our failures, then we're overwhelmed by guilt and shame. OR we turn from God altogether and wait for that magic day when we can get it all together and face him again. So Dodson's recommendation for churches is to form "fight clubs." Two or three men--at most--meeting together outside the church at least two or three times a month. (Or two or three women--at most--meeting together.) While confession plays a role in these "fight clubs" the emphasis remains on the gospel. The meetings should be gospel-centered, bible-centered, grace-and-encouragement-centered.

I can't bring myself to gush about this one. I can't deny that it has its decidedly practical side to it. Dodson wants pastors to form fight clubs, to model fight clubs for their congregations. He wants to see churches transformed, believers transformed. But the fight clubs sounded risky to me. They might work in some churches, in some congregations. But I'm not convinced that every church needs to adopt this model. (How do you make people feel comfortable confessing to others? You can't *make* anyone feel comfortable or safe automatically. And how do you keep the sessions from becoming gossip sessions?)

There were good ideas in this book, of course, like the believers need to be aware of their sin, to pray about their sins, and "fight" temptations. To identify the specifics of their biggest temptations, etc. And it was nice to have a reminder that Christians are not ever, ever to be thought perfect.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Book Review: The Knowledge of the Holy

Knowledge of the Holy. A.W. Tozer. 1961/1978. HarperCollins. 128 pages.

From the preface: True religion confronts earth with heaven and brings eternity to bear upon time.

From chapter one: What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. 

Can a book be both theological and devotional? It's a tricky combination to pull off, I think. But A.W. Tozer's classic Knowledge of the Holy is one of the best examples I've ever read. It is both theological--of substance and depth--and devotional--written with the pure intent to make your heart love and love greatly your Lord and Savior. Why learn more about God? So you can love him more, so you can worship him in spirit and truth. Tozer is urging readers to meditate on God, to meditate on God's glory--his majesty. He's saying DELIGHT IN GOD.  His zeal shines through on this one just as it did in his book, Jesus, Our Man in Glory. It is a short book that I'd recommend to just about anyone. It is a book EVERY Christian needs to consider picking up. Even if you're not typically a reader of theology.

Knowledge of the Holy is very reader-friendly. Each chapter is short--just three or four pages, which is why I think it would be a great choice for a devotional. The content has weight to it--it is a book ABOUT God how could it be anything else? Yet. At the same time, it is written in a style that is simple and straight-forward. His message is significant--of much worth--and it's completely relevant. And I imagine this is a book that you could read again and again and still benefit from.

My favorite quotes:

What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. The history of mankind will probably show that no people has ever risen above its religion, and man's spiritual history will positively demonstrate that no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God. Worship is pure or base as the worshipper entertains high or low thoughts of God. For this reason the gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like. We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God. This is true not only of the individual Christian, but of the company of Christians that composes the Church. Always the most revealing thing about the Church is her idea of God, just as her most significant message is what she says about Him or leaves unsaid, for her silence is often more eloquent than her speech. She can never escape the self-disclosure of her witness concerning God. (1)

That our idea of God correspond as nearly as possible to the true being of God is of immense importance to us. Compared with our actual thoughts about Him, our creedal statements are of little consequence. (2)
What is God like? What kind of God is He? How may we expect Him to act toward us and toward all created things? Such questions are not merely academic. They touch the far-in reaches of the human spirit, and their answers affect life and character and destiny. When asked in reverence and their answers sought in humility, these are questions that cannot but be pleasing to our Father which are in heaven. (13)
To be right we must think rightly of God. It is morally imperative that we purge from our minds all ignoble concepts of the Deity and let Him be the God in our minds that He is in His universe. The Christian religion has to do with God and man, but its focal point is God, not man. (35)
I think it might be demonstrated that almost every heresy that has afflicted the church through the years has arisen from believing about God things that are not true, or from overemphasizing certain true things so as to obscure other things equally true. To magnify any attribute to the exclusion of another is to head straight for one of the dismal swamps of theology; and yet we are all constantly tempted to do just that. (79)
We can hold a correct view of truth only by daring to believe everything God has said about Himself. It is a grave responsibility that a man takes upon himself when he seeks to edit out of God's self-revelation such features as he in his ignorance deems objectionable. (80)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Kroll Method, Week of March 18-23

ESV Reformation Study Bible

  • Psalms 73-118
  • Ephesians
  • Acts
  • Philippians

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Journaling The Knowledge of the Holy #3

Well, I finished the book today! It was such a short read--in a way. Yet it definitely had depth and substance. If you're worried that you won't get your money's worth out of this one because it is so short, so slim, don't worry. It is definitely worth it!

The chapters I read today included, "The Immutability of God," "The Divine Omniscience," "The Wisdom of God," "The Omnipotence of God," "The Divine Transcendence," "God's Omnipresence," "The Faithfulness of God," "The Goodness of God," "The Justice of God," "The Mercy of God," "The Grace of God," "The Love of God," "The Holiness of God," "The Sovereignty of God," "The Open Secret."

From "The Wisdom of God"
The idea of God as infinitely wise is at the root of all truth. (60)
From "The Faithfulness of God"
All that God does agrees with all that God is, and being and doing are one in Him. (79)
I think it might be demonstrated that almost every heresy that has afflicted the church through the years has arisen from believing about God things that are not true, or from overemphasizing certain true things so as to obscure other things equally true. To magnify any attribute to the exclusion of another is to head straight for one of the dismal swamps of theology; and yet we are all constantly tempted to do just that. (79)
We can hold a correct view of truth only by daring to believe everything God has said about Himself. It is a grave responsibility that a man takes upon himself when he seeks to edit out of God's self-revelation such features as he in his ignorance deems objectionable. (80)
From "The Goodness of God"
The whole outlook of mankind might be changed if we could all believe that we dwell under a friendly sky and that the God of heaven, though exalted in power and majesty, is eager to be friends with us. (83)
From "The Grace of God"
We benefit eternally by God's being just what He is. Because He is what He is, He lifts up our heads out of the prison house, changes our prison garments for royal robes, and makes us to eat bread continually before Him all the days of our lives. Grace takes its rise far back in the heart of God, in the awful and incomprehensible abyss of His holy being; but the channel through which it flows out to men is Jesus Christ, crucified and risen. (93)
From "The Love of God"
The love of God is one of the great realities of the universe, a pillar upon which the hope of the world rests. but it is a personal, intimate thing, too. God does not love populations, He loves people. He loves not masses, but men. He loves us all with a mighty love that has no beginning and can have no end. (102)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, March 23, 2012

Journaling The Knowledge of the Holy #2

I was able to read through chapter eight today. The chapters I read included: "A Divine Attribute: Something True About God," "The Holy Trinity," "The Self-Existence of God," "The Self-Sufficiency of God," "The Eternity of God," and "God's Infinitude."

I am still enjoying this one. I'm not sure exactly how to try to pace myself. If it's better to read this oh-so-short book quickly. Or if I should give myself time to let what I read sink in.

From "A Divine Attribute, Something True About God"

What is God like? What kind of God is He? How may we expect Him to act toward us and toward all created things? Such questions are not merely academic. They touch the far-in reaches of the human spirit, and their answers affect life and character and destiny. When asked in reverence and their answers sought in humility, these are questions that cannot but be pleasing to our Father which are in heaven. (13)

An attribute of God is whatever God has in any way revealed as being true of Himself. (12)

The divine attributes are what we know to be true of God. He does not possess them as qualities; they are how God is as He reveals Himself to His creatures. Love, for instance, is not something God has and which may grow or diminish or cease to be. His love is the way God is, and when He loves He is simply being Himself. And so with the other attributes. (16)

From "The Self-Existence of God"

We can never know who or what we are till we know at least something of what God is. (28)

From "The Self-Sufficiency of God"

To be right we must think rightly of God. It is morally imperative that we purge from our minds all ignoble concepts of the Deity and let Him be the God in our minds that He is in His universe. The Christian religion has to do with God and man, but its focal point is God, not man. (35)

From "The Eternity of God"

God's eternity and man's mortality join to persuade us that faith in Jesus Christ is not optional. For every man it must be Christ or eternal tragedy. Out of eternity our Lord came into time to rescue His human brethren whose moral folly had made them not only fools of the passing world but slaves of sin and death as well. (42)

My thoughts: I am really enjoying reading this one!!! Each chapter is great. Some are more quotable than others. But each offers food for thought.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Journaling The Knowledge of the Holy #1

Would you like to join me in reading A.W. Tozer's The Knowledge of the Holy? I would love to have some company! I thought I would approach this book a little differently. I thought I would give myself an opportunity to 'share' my favorite quotes and perhaps reflect on what I'm reading, and ask some questions.

Today, I'll be sharing my thoughts on the preface and the first two chapters.

From the preface

True religion confronts earth with heaven and brings eternity to bear upon time. The messenger of Christ, though he speaks from God, must also, as the Quakers used to say, "speak to the condition" of his hearers; otherwise he will speak a language known only to himself. His message must be not only timeless but timely. He must speak to his own generation.
The message of this book does not grow out of these times but it is appropriate to them. It is called forth by a condition which has existed in the Church for some years and is steadily growing worse. I refer to the loss of the concept of majesty from the popular religious mind. The Church has surrendered her once lofty concept of God and has substituted for it one so low, so ignoble, as to be utterly unworthy of thinking, worshiping men. This she has done not deliberately, but little by little and without her knowledge; and her very unawareness only makes her situation all the more tragic. (vii)

It continues,

Modern Christianity is simply not producing the kind of Christian who can appreciate or experience the life in the Spirit. The words "Be still, and know that I am God," means next to nothing to the self-confident, bustling worshiper in this middle period of the twentieth century. (vii)

He concludes,

It is impossible to keep our moral practices sounds and our inward attitudes right while our idea of God is erroneous or inadequate. If we would bring back spiritual power to our lives, we must begin to think of God more nearly as He is. (viii)

From chapter one, "Why We Must Think Rightly About God"

What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. The history of mankind will probably show that no people has ever risen above its religion, and man's spiritual history will positively demonstrate that no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God. Worship is pure or base as the worshipper entertains high or low thoughts of God.
For this reason the gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like. We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God. This is true not only of the individual Christian, but of the company of Christians that composes the Church. Always the most revealing thing about the Church is her idea of God, just as her most significant message is what she says about Him or leaves unsaid, for her silence is often more eloquent than her speech. She can never escape the self-disclosure of her witness concerning God. (1)
That our idea of God correspond as nearly as possible to the true being of God is of immense importance to us. Compared with our actual thoughts about Him, our creedal statements are of little consequence. (2)
A right conception of God is basic not only to systematic theology but to practical Christian living as well. (2)
But unless the weight of the burden [our realization of sin, of our separation from God, our lostness, our need, our filthiness, our lowness] is felt the gospel can mean nothing to the man; and until he sees a vision of God high and lifted up, there will be no woe and no burden. (3)
The essence of idolatry is the entertainment of thoughts about God that are unworthy of Him. It begins in the mind and may be present where no overt act of worship has taken place. (3)
Perverted notions about God soon rot the religion in which they appear. (4)

From chapter two, "God is Incomprehensible"

The child, the philosopher, and the religionist have all one question: "What is God like?" (6)
The yearning to know What cannot be known, to comprehend the Incomprehensible, to touch and taste the Unapproachable, arises from the image of God in the nature of man. Deep calleth unto deep, and though polluted and landlocked by the mighty disaster theologians call the Fall, the soul senses its origin and longs to return to its Source. How can this be realized?
The answer of the Bible is simply "through Jesus Christ our Lord." In Christ and by Christ, God effects complete self-disclosure, although He shows Himself not to reason but to faith and love. God came to us in the incarnation; in atonement He reconciled us to Himself, and by faith and love we enter and lay hold on Him. (9)
For while the name of God is secret and His essential nature incomprehensible, He in condescending love has by revelation declared certain things to be true of Himself. These we call His attributes. (11)
My thoughts:

Essentially, what he's saying is that it is VERY, VERY, VERY important that we think rightly of God, that we think right things about God, true things about God. That we just can't let ourselves imagine God any which way we want. The more we make God into our image, the more we make God reflect ourselves--our wants, our desires, our needs, our ideas, etc. The more trouble we're in.
We need to KNOW God--as God is revealed in the Bible, as God has revealed himself through the Bible, through Christ. In other words, what we think about God matters. It MATTERS because it is the foundation--though we may not realize it--of how we live our lives. What we believe about God, the thoughts we think about God, are reflected in our actions. So we could be saying all the right things, joining in community responses in our liturgies and creeds, but unless our true thoughts about God are worthy and right, then we need help. We need to stop and think, to repent, to turn to God in our need. We need to KNOW God. How do we come to know God, how do we come to know who God is? We can know only through God's revelation to us. We can't come to right ideas about God on our own. We can think and think and think and think and think all we want--but apart from God's revelation to us--through Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit, through the revealed Word of God, through the spoken and written Word of God as it read and proclaimed--our thoughts won't get us any closer to the truth. God can be known, but only through HIS revelation to us. We can't climb up to God, but he can reach down to us.

I liked how he says that the message "must be not only timeless but timely." That is how I feel about the Bible. I feel it is both timeless and timely. It is not irrelevant. It is not outdated. It does not need help from people to make it "be" relevant to this generation. I think this is because no matter what generation we're in--the same problems confront us all. And the biggest problem for humanity remains sin. Which is what the Bible addresses.

The first two chapters stress that it is a) important to know the one, true God and b) the one, true God has revealed Himself to us in His Word. Both chapters, of course, serve as an introduction to a study of God's attributes.

What do you think? Do you think the church--generally speaking--has adopted a lower form of God? Do you think we've repackaged God and made him smaller and more understandable? Has the church become a bit lazy when it comes to contemplating God's majesty and glory? When was the last time you thought about how wondrous and amazing it is that God has revealed himself to us, that God wants to be known by us, that he has made a way for us to know Him through His son?! Do you think God is worth studying and contemplating?

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Book Review: Jesus, Our Man in Glory

Jesus, Our Man in Glory: 12 Messages from the Book of Hebrews. A.W. Tozer and Gerald B. Smith. 1987. Christian Publications. 136 pages.

Have you heard any sermons lately on the Bible truth that our risen Savior and Lord is now our glorified Man and Mediator? That He is seated at the right hand of the Majesty in the heavenlies? 

Jesus, Our Man In Glory is my first Tozer book, but it won't be my last. I already have plans to read at least two others. The book is a collection of Tozer sermons compiled and edited by Gerald B. Smith. (A.W. Tozer died in 1963.) These twelve sermons come from Tozer's teachings on the book of Hebrews. (Since finishing this one, I've learned that there are two more Tozer books about the book of Hebrews. One is Jesus, Author of Our Faith. The second is Experiencing the Presence of God.)

While I know not every reader will care to sneak a peek at the table of contents, I am not every reader. I find the table of contents of Christian nonfiction books very interesting. They often help me make a decision about a book.

  • Jesus, Our Man in Glory
  • Jesus, God's Final Revelation
  • Jesus, Heir of All Things
  • Jesus, God's Express Image
  • Jesus, Lord of the Angels
  • Jesus, Standard of Righteousness
  • Jesus, the Eternal Word
  • Jesus, Keeper of God's Promises
  • Jesus, Like Unto Melchizedek
  • Jesus, One Face of One God
  • Jesus, Mediator of the New Will
  • Jesus, Fulfillment of the Shadow

I found this to be a rich and insightful book. Tozer's style is passionate and straight-forward. His enthusiasm for the Lord, his enthusiasm for the Word of God, is contagious. His message is straight-forward and relevant. His urgings to the readers is heartfelt. He wants his readers to get it, he really wants his readers to understand what the Bible is all about. In this case, he wants readers to get Hebrews, to really, truly understand what this book of the Bible is saying. And since Hebrews is one of the most difficult books of the New Testament to understand--at least casually reading it without much attention or much study--this book is very needed. (What do you think? Do you find Hebrews harder to understand than most of the other books in the New Testament?)

The good news: I found so many passages that are quote-worthy! I found so many passages that spoke to me.

The bad news: There were a handful of passages that concerned me. Just a few paragraphs sprinkled here and there that made me question his theology a little bit. The passage that concerns me most is in the  last few pages. It sounds as if he's mistaken justification and sanctification. But these are doctrinal issues that divide denomination from denomination, not issues that divide Christian from non-Christian.

Here's the passage in question:
In many church circles today we are hearing about the "automatic" qualities attached to Christianity. A whole generation is being taught that a profession of faith in Christ brings automatic righteousness, automatic standing with God, automatic pardon and automatic eternal life. "Jesus has done everything that needs to be done," goes the argument, "all you have to do is say you believe. Believe and be justified! Believe and be accepted as righteous!"
This idea of automatically transferring the sinner's guilt to Christ is a little too pat to please my heart. The commonly held idea seems to be that I can be as vile as the inside of a green, mucky sewer, but if and when I believe, the Lord drops a mantle of judicial righteousness upon me and immediately I am accepted by God as perfectly pure. It is my conclusion that a holy God would have to contradict Himself to perform a transaction like that.
How does God justify a sinful person? He does so by taking the sinner's nature into Christ, who is the perfect, righteous One. His righteousness, in turn, goes to the sinner. Some teachers will argue for the judicial impartation of righteousness alone. But when by faith the sinner's nature is taken into the very nature of Christ, His righteousness becomes a part of the former sinner's nature.
Let me say it another way. I doubt very much that there is any such thing in the mind of God as justification without regeneration- new God-life imparted to the sinner. It is regeneration that unites us to the nature of Jesus. Jesus being righteous imparts new God-life from His own nature to us, and God is satisfied.
In that sense, the idea of the transfer of guilt is accurate. But we carry the concept too far until it becomes a plainly mechanical thing, like a commercial transaction. There must be a vital, living commitment. Righteousness is imparted to the believing sinner who is united to Christ. It is not imparted to the sinner who simply stands outside and receives a judicial notification that he has been "made righteous."
This adds some important light. As believers, we are accepted in the beloved Son. We can never be accepted out of the beloved Son. (133-134)
Giving him the benefit of the doubt, he could merely be saying that faith without works is dead, that if someone who has at one time or another professed the faith fails to live a new life, fails to live a Spirit-filled life, a life committed to following God and doing God's work in the world, then that profession is not a saving one. That people should not assume that they are saved because they prayed a little prayer back in the day. That you should examine yourself to see if you are in fact in the faith. If he's merely warning against "easy believism" as MacArthur would say decades later, then perhaps those statements aren't so dangerous after all. Of course, if you don't give Tozer the benefit of the doubt, then who knows exactly what he's saying or not saying.

For the record, I believe that regeneration and justification are instantaneous at the moment of belief. When we first look to Jesus, we are saved, we are both justified and made new. We've been given a new Spirit, a new life. We've been "born again" or "born in the Spirit." And living by the Spirit and through the Spirit, our lives will change. Our lives and loves will change. Justification isn't a process or a journey. Justification is not the process by which we are made holy. That is sanctification. The process of being made holy, being remade by God, through God, day by day, week by week, month by month, year by year, decade by decade. Sanctification is an ongoing, never-ending process that does not stop until the grave. We will always be "in the process" of being transformed and renewed by God. We will always be "working" on being made holy. Because this is a struggle, this isn't instantaneous. Justification, on the other hand, is us being declared righteous by God because he is crediting Christ's righteousness to us. It is Christ's righteousness that saves us, that justifies us. God is not waiting for us to earn our own righteousness, to work out our own righteousness. Our good works cannot save us. No "good work" that we do can add to Christ's perfection. Christ's work done on our behalf is enough. In that sense, "it is finished." But that doesn't mean that God doesn't call us to do good works of our own. It doesn't mean that we're not to obey Christ. It doesn't mean that we're not to try to be holy because he is holy. We're told to be holy, to strive to have the mind of Christ, to bear fruit, to do the work of Christ on this earth. But it isn't our striving to attain perfection that saves us.

Conclusion: Like with ANY christian nonfiction book, it's best to read everything in light of Scripture, and to judge passages individually for soundness. Be discerning. But don't be too quick to judge either. It may be a matter that could easily be cleared up if you were just able to sit down and talk with a person and find out what they really meant. Of course, that won't always be the case, and won't always be possible!

My favorite quotes:

We must acknowledge that God's concept of the priesthood arose from man's alienation from God. It is based on the fact that man has strayed from God and is lost. This is a fundamental part of truth, just as surely as hydrogen is a part of water. You cannot have water without hydrogen. Just as surely, you cannot have Bible truth without the teaching that mankind has broken with God and fallen from his first created estate, where he was made in God's image.
God's concept and instructions are very plain. There has been a moral breach. Sinning man has violated the laws of God. In other words, man is a moral criminal before the bar of God. It is clear from the Bible that a sinful man or woman cannot return to God's favor and fellowship until justice is satisfied, until the breach is healed.
In an effort to heal the breach, man has used many subtleties and rationalizations. But if he rejects the cross of Christ, if he rejects God's plan of salvation, if he rejects Christ's death and resurrection as the basis for atonement, there is no remaining ground for redemption. Reconciliation is an impossibility. (7)

I have always felt that when we read and study the Word of God we should have great expectations. We should ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the Person, the glory and the eternal ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ. Perhaps our problem is in our approach. Perhaps we have simply read our Bibles as we might read a piece of literature or a textbook. (17)

In Jesus' death for our sins, God is offering far more than escape from a much-deserved hell. God is promising us an amazing future, an eternal future. We do not see it and understand it as we should because so much is wrong with our world. The effects of sin are all around us. The eternal purposes of God lie out yonder. I often wonder if we are making it plain enough to our generation that there will be no other revelation from God except as He speaks it through our Lord Jesus Christ. If we have ever confessed that we need a Savior, this letter to the Hebrews should be an arresting, compelling book for us. It is a great book of redemption with an emphasis that all things in our lives must begin and end in God. (18)

There is not a man or woman anywhere who can hold an adequate view of our human nature until he or she accepts the fact that we came from God and that we shall return to God again. (24)

Jesus Christ is God creating. Jesus Christ is God redeeming. Jesus Christ is God completing and harmonizing. Jesus Christ is God bringing together all things after the counsel of His own will. (29)

It is the character of God that is the glory of God. God is not glorified until men and women think gloriously of Him. Yet it is not what people think of God that matters. God once dwelt in light which no one could approach. But He desired to speak, to express Himself. So He created the heavens and the earth, filling earth with His creatures, including mankind. He expected man to respond to that in Him which is glorious, admirable, and excellent.
That response from His creation in love and worship is His glory. When we say that Christ is the radiance of God's glory, we are saying that Christ is the shining forth of all that God is. Yes, He is the shining forth, the effulgence. When God expressed Himself, it was in Christ Jesus. Christ was all and in all. He is the exact representation of God's person. (39)

I am convinced that a committed Christian will show a zealous concern for the cause of Christ. He or she will live daily with a set of spiritual convictions taken from the Bible. He or she will be one of the toughest to move--along with a God-given humility--in his or her stand for Christ. Why, then, have Christian ministers so largely departed from exhortations to love righteousness with a great overwhelming love, and to hate iniquity with a deep, compelling revulsion? (66)

People remark how favored the church is in this country. It does not have to face persecution and rejection. If the truth were known, our freedom from persecution is because we have taken the easy, the popular way. If we would love righteousness until it became an overpowering passion, if we would renounce everything that is evil, our day of popularity and pleasantness would quickly end. The world would turn on us. (66)

Go to God's Word and you will find that sin is the most pressing, the most compelling, the most imperative problem in human life and society. The most pressing problem is not sickness. It is not war. It is not poverty. Sin is the basic problem because sin has to do with a person's soul. Sin does not relate merely to a person's short years on this earth. It involves that person's eternal future and the world to come. (74)

It is Christ's unfailing intercession that makes it possible for us to tell each other that we believe in the security of the saints of God. No matter how weak we may be, we are kept because Jesus Christ is our eternal High Priest in the heavens. (99)

A person cannot be a Christian and deny that the living God has revealed Himself to our sinful race as the sovereign Father, the eternal Son, and the faithful Spirit. (103)

None of us can ever be fully pleasing to God if we are not willing to be well taught in His Word. (104)

Christ, being God, is for us. The Father, being God, is for us. The Holy Spirit, being God, is for us! That is one of the greatest thoughts we can ever hope to think. That is why the Son came to die for us. That is why the risen Son, our great High Priest, is at the right hand of the Majesty on high, praying for us. Christ is our advocate above. The Holy Spirit dwelling in our hearts is the advocate within. There is no disagreement between Father, Son, and Spirit about the church, the body of Christ. (108)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Book Review: The ESV and the English Bible Legacy

The ESV and the English Bible Legacy. Leland Ryken. 2011. Crossway. 183 pages.

From the preface: The purpose of this book is to keep the nature and excellence of the English Standard Version (ESV) of the Bible in public view. The ESV was published in 2001 and has grown in influence ever since. But the crosswinds of Bible translation controversy that swirl around us make it continuously necessary to explain why the ESV deserves to be the Bible of choice.

I admit it. I didn't need a horrible amount of convincing from Leland Ryken that the ESV Bible is the translation that deserves "to be the Bible of choice." (Not that I don't read in other translations occasionally, but, for the most part, I have a decided preference to Bibles that align themselves within the Tyndale-King James tradition.)

This is the third Leland Ryken book I've read on the Bible and Bible translations. And it may just be my favorite, or, my favorite to recommend. I do think, to a certain degree, that it is his easiest to understand. Or perhaps by the third book I've just gotten familiar enough with his logic, his vocabulary, his style that it just makes sense to me now.

Part One: The Classic Mainstream of English Bible Translation

1. The Translations That Make Up The Tradition
2. How the Bible Was Viewed
3. Principles of Translation
4. Language and Style
5. Rhythm and Oral Effects
6. A Literary Bible
7. A Unified Tradition

Part Two: Modern Bible Translation in Its Context

8. Modern Translation at the Crossroads
9. What Reviewers Say About Modernizing Translations

Part Three: The English Standard Version: Heir to the Great Tradition

10. What the Preface to the English Standard Version Tells Us
11. The Content of the English Standard Version
12. The Language and Style of the English Standard Version
13. Rhythm and Fluency in the English Standard Version
14. The English Standard Version as a Literary Bible

Conclusion: Why You Can Trust the English Standard Version

I enjoyed this one because it was thought-provoking. It challenges you to think about the Bible, the Word of God. How do you view the Bible? Do you see it as the Word of God? Do you see it as the inspired, infallible Word of God? Do you really think that the authors-as-inspired-by-the-Spirit need "help" from modern writers in how to share with believers what their words "really mean." Should the Bible be a book that challenges you to think? Should it be a book that requires you to think?  It challenges you to assess what is important to you in a translation. I think he does a great job at illustrating why translation philosophies matter. 

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Book Review: Faith: Five Religions and What They Share

Faith: Five Religions and What They Share. Dr. Richard Steckel and Michele Steckel. 2012. KidsCan Press. 36 pages.

I've debated with myself on if I should even try to talk about this one because I've certainly got opinions on it. For better or worse. I think the premise is flawed, to a certain degree.

This nonfiction picture book seeks to teach kids about five religions: Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism. I would say the focus is almost exclusively on what 'they all have in common' and 'how they are all essentially more alike than different'. Differences between the five faiths are not explored at all. Explanations on why each views the others as being different or in opposition to the others is not explored at all. The book does not point you as to what makes each unique--truly unique--from the others.

I'll share with you the table of contents so you'll see what this one has to offer:

  • What is faith?
  • Understanding religions
  • Five major religions
  • Buddhism
  • Christianity
  • Hinduism
  • Islam
  • Judaism
  • Many religions, one golden rule
  • Spiritual leaders
  • Sacred texts
  • Clothing
  • Symbols
  • Places of worship
  • Common acts of worship
  • Acts during prayer
  • Charity
  • Cherishing children
  • A note to parents and teachers
  • Glossary

I'll try to keep this to two main points.

First: A Matter of Trust

I know little (or in some cases, very little) about Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, and Judaism. (What I know about Judaism, I've learned from the Old Testament, Messianic Jewish writers, and the dozens of Holocaust books I've read where faith or worship wasn't exactly the primary focus.) But what I do know is Christianity. Perhaps not all denominations of Christianity equally. But some about Catholicism, and a lot about Protestantism. (I do know what makes these two different from one another. I've done a good bit of reading on the Reformation.) And what this book doesn't say about Christianity could fill libraries. Seriously.
Christianity began 2000 years ago with the teachings of Jesus. Jesus was born a Jew in what is now the Palestinian Territories. His followers believed him to be the Messiah, the savior whom God had promised to send to the Jewish people. Jesus preached that people should love one another as God loved them. His popularity made Jesus a threat to politicians, and they had him crucified (nailed up on a cross). The Christian scriptures say that, days after his crucifixion, Jesus was resurrected (rose from the dead). He met with his disciples before going up to heaven to be with God. Christians believe that Jesus' death and resurrection help them to forgive and be forgiven, and that it offers the promise of eternal life. Christianity spread and became the world's largest religion. As it grew, it split into different branches. The largest branches are the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant churches. (11)
It isn't exactly what is said that is problematic. It is what is NOT being said. And to a certain degree, the same could be said about the "explanation" for Judaism:
Judaism began about 4000 years ago among the Hebrew (or Israelite) people in the Middle East. According to the Hebrew Bible, God promised a man named Abraham that he would take care of Abraham's people forever, if they would obey his laws. This agreement, or covenant, is the basis of Judaism. Later, God spoke to Moses and gave him commandments, including the Ten Commandments, which are laws and guiding principles for how to live as a Jew. For Jewish people, Judaism is not only their religion, it's their way of life. The main branches of Judaism are Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionist, and each has different principles that guide the way their followers live and worship. But all promote a belief in one God and uphold Jewish law, which sets out how a person should behave toward others. (13)
Both lack an obvious big picture or context. Who is God? Who is Man? [What did Jesus Do? What Did Jesus Command?] Both the Judaism and Christianity entries fail to focus on God. (Is this surprising? I'm not sure. I don't know that they even tried.) A good place to start is by looking at who God is and how he relates to us, how he has revealed himself to us. He is Creator. He is Judge. He is Savior. Why Judge and Savior? One little three-letter-word. SIN. What is missing from both entries is the mention of sin. And how sin SEPARATES or DIVIDES or PUTS UP BARRIERS between God and humanity. Sin doesn't only effect our relationship with God. It effects our relationships with others too. The consequences of sin effect every aspect of our lives, our cultures, our societies. When we sin, we need forgiveness. We need to make things right. How do we do that? How do we make things right with God? Can we make things right with God? How do we make things right with others? It is hard--really, really hard to forgive others sometimes. The more we've been hurt, the easier it is to be stubborn and not forgive. Even when we know forgiveness is the best way to live. So you and I have a sin problem. We do. Sins complicate things in this life, but the consequences of sin aren't just in this life alone. It's a matter of eternity. It is essential, absolutely FUNDAMENTAL that sin not be left out of any discussions about Christianity. Christianity cannot be (rightly) understood unless you know what a person is being saved from. Jesus was not crucified because he was popular or because he was good. He was crucified because he was claiming to be the Son of God, he was claiming to have a message direct from God, he was claiming to have the ability and authority to forgive sins, he was doing things only God could do. He was doing more than healing--though healing is miraculous enough. He was doing more than teaching--though his teaching was powerful and compelling. He was raising the dead, he was proclaiming that he could give people eternal life. He was claiming to be the light of the world, the one, true way to God. He was light and life. He was the WORD. He was God-made-flesh. He was God-Manifested. He offered SALVATION from sins and restoration with the Father. He was telling people how they could be adopted into God's family. Jesus came in the world to save sinners. He came to make peace between God and sinners. Through his life, death, and resurrection he provided the way for sinful people like you and me to be justified (declared righteous) with the Father. His fulfillment of the covenant offered us a new and living way. He is the much-needed Savior.

While I can't offer much light on Judaism and sin. I do know that much of the Old Testament is about sin and how sin divided the Israelites from God. They were given commandments, told not to sin, but a way was provided to cover that sin. The sacrificial system was put in place. They were told how to worship, why to worship, when to worship, how often to worship, and WHERE to worship. They were given hundreds if not thousands of detailed commandments on how to live rightly before a righteous God. You can't read any of the law or the prophets without seeing the impact of sin, the devastation of it. It just matters too much to be excluded from discussion.

So my conclusion is, if what the book says about Christianity fails to capture the essence of the faith, can I trust it to rightly, authentically tell me the truth about the other three religions that I know essentially nothing about. How do I know that the other entries aren't flawed and one-dimensional? What would be the benefit of using this book as a resource for other religions?

Second: Flawed Premise/Flawed Logic

Essentially the premise of this one is that ALL five religions have similarities, that the similarities between these religions outweigh many of the differences they might have. That by focusing only on what they have in common and completely ignoring their differences, world peace can be achieved. But ignoring differences because you don't want there to be differences does not mean that the differences are erased. You can't just say "all religions are the same" and have it be true in reality. Well, I suppose you can say it and repeat it. But you have to make sacrifices and compromises. You have to make your own faith weaker to supposedly make your tolerance stronger. And while I know tolerance is for some the most absolute important thing ever, I can't believe it. As I read once, Christians used to tolerate people with whom they disagreed, now Christians are being "encouraged" to tolerate ideas--any ideas, all ideas, no matter what.

Flipping through this one you'll see dozens of examples of the kinds of things they have in common. Some are legitimate, completely legitimate. Loving others, forgiving others, being generous with others in need, valuing family, having special holidays or observances, etc. But some similarities are a bit of a stretch. For example, arguing that the five faiths are "so alike" because each uses candles. (I honestly don't remember if it was all five that used candles, or just some that used candles). If you fill your argument with examples like those, it loses something, in my opinion. Would anyone really argue that because bathrooms and kitchens both have sinks that they fulfill the same purpose in a house? Wouldn't the presence of the stove and refrigerator and the toilet and tub mean more than the similarities? My point is that no matter how many similarities you can find, the differences are still significant.

Conclusion: To be valuable as a resource, I believe that any book that seeks to teach others about different religions should present the whole truth of any religion. That is, don't just give me what they have in common. Give me the basics. Give me the facts. Show me what makes that faith different and unique. Show me how that faith is lived out. Show me what doctrines and beliefs it holds. Teach me about the special days, the ceremonies, the worship, the prayer. Discuss how this faith is supposed to be lived out in the daily life of the believers. True, there may be details with the potential to offend someone, if someone is looking to be offended. Give me enough that I can make my own conclusions. Let me decide for myself how much or how little these religions have in common. Let me participate in the process.

IF anyone is looking for a kid-friendly way to talk about Christianity, what Christians believe, I'd recommend The Big Picture Storybook Bible by David R. Helm.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible