Sunday, November 30, 2014

My advent plans

Last advent season, I read Luke. This advent season, I think I'll focus not on Christ's first advent--but his second. My goal is to read Revelation several times per week throughout the month of December. Why Revelation? Well:
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:1-4)
Not to mention: Romans 8:18-23, Philippians 3:20-21, 1 Peter 1:3-5, 2 Peter 3:13)

(I'd love to read it once a day, but, that goal may be unrealistic!!!) I'm sure I'll also be reading in Psalms. (I can't seem to stay away from Psalms for long! I think I've already read it over twelve times this year!!! But what can I really say? It's a favorite!)

How do you prepare your heart for Christmas?  What do you plan to read in December? Anything special? I'd love to hear where you're reading!

From Living Hope for the End of Days: 365 Days of Devotions from the Book of The Revelation by Dr. John S. Barnett

One clear way God invites our worship is by revealing Himself through His divine names. Since Revelation is a revelation of Jesus and His person, its twenty-two chapters are a gold mine as the Lord unveils His deity through more than sixty-seven names and titles. The greatest insight into adoring the Lord comes by way of His names and titles in His Word. They are real treasures to find!

Chapter 1: He is the Faithful Witness, the Firstborn from the Dead, Ruler over the Kings of the Earth, the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the Almighty, the First and the Last, the Son of Man, the Living One!

Chapter 2: He is the administrator of the church who has the sharp two-edged sword, eyes like a flame of fire, and feet like fine brass!

Chapter 3: He is the One who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars, who is holy and true, who has the key of David, who is the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the Creation of God!

Chapter 4: He is the One who sits on the throne in heaven!

Chapter 5: He is the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, and the Lamb who was slain—who lives forever and ever!

Chapter 6: He is the wrathful Lamb!

Chapter 7: He is the redeeming Lamb and the providing Lamb!

Chapter 8: He is the patient collector of our prayers!

Chapter 9: He holds back the monsters from the abyss!

Chapter 10: He is the Creator of heaven and earth and sea!

Chapter 11: He is Christ, the Lord God Almighty!

Chapter 12: He is the Christ, the Lamb, Jesus!

Chapter 13: He is the Lamb, whose is the Book of Life!

Chapter 14: He is the Lamb on Mount Zion, Jesus, the Lord, the Son of Man!

Chapter 15: He is again the Lamb, the Lord God Almighty, the King of Saints, the Lord!

Chapter 16: He is the One Who was and is and is to be, the Lord God Almighty!

Chapter 17: He is Jesus, the Lamb—Lord of Lords and King of Kings!

Chapter 18: He is the Lord God!

Chapter 19: He is the Lord our God, the Lord God, the Lamb, Jesus, the Faithful and True, the Word of God, Almighty God, King of Kings and Lord of Lords!

Chapter 20: He is Jesus, the Christ!

Chapter 21: He is the Alpha and Omega, the Lamb, the Lord God Almighty!

Chapter 22: He is the Lamb, the Lord God, the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last, Jesus, the Root and Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star, the Lord Jesus—our Lord Jesus!

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Week in Review: November 23-30

From the Reformation Heritage Bible, "Reading the Bible Experientially":
To read the Bible experientially simply means to read it with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. That is how the Bible is intended to be read. The reason we even have to use the word "experientially" is simply because people imagine they are reading the Bible when they are only reading the Bible in a superficial way…
A test as to whether you are reading the Bible experientially is whether in the process of reading the Bible, the Bible reads you. No doubt, this will sound like a peculiar way of thinking. "How can a passage read me?" you might wonder. "Words on a page have neither eyes nor a mind that they could read me. Besides, I am not a book full of pages to be read."
Admittedly, we do not typically think or talk like this. Yet, we miss something important as a result. Think of what happened when the prophet Nathan came to David the king with the parable of the young lamb (2 Sam. 12:1-6). It ended up revealing the sin in David's life that, until that point, he had not seen as he should have. Nathan's parable acted as a searchlight on David's heart and uncovered something that David had been concealing beneath layers of excuses and attempts to suppress his guilt. David grasped the Word of God that day. But, more importantly, the Word of God grasped him. Without a doubt, the Holy Spirit was working in David to produce accurate self-knowledge. But the word that Nathan brought was the means God used to that end. It should be not surprise that the Spirit loves to use the Word that way. After all, He has inspired it (2 Peter 1:21). He is pleased to use it to bring sinners to a true and saving knowledge of themselves and of God (John 16:8-14).
Yet, many today are content to read the Bible in a way in which the Word of God is subject to them, rather than they are subject to the Word. They study the Bible--so they think--but do not realize that the Bible needs to study us. We need to search the Scriptures, but it is a blessing when we discover the Scriptures are searching us, teaching us both how matters should go in our lives and how they often do go, which always falls short of how they should go (Romans 7:14-25).
 When God uses his Word to search and change us, we have what theologians have called the experiential approach to the Scriptures. In fact, when you come to Scripture truly believing it to be what it claims to be--the Word of God--and submitting to its scrutiny of all of your life, then you are reading the Word experientially. In its entirety Psalm 119 is one glorious expression of experiential reading, and verse 130 states it succinctly: "The entrance of they words giveth light; it giveth understanding to the simple."
Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible
  • Matthew 1-22
KJV Names of God Bible
  • Genesis

  • Colossians
  • 1 Thessalonians
  • 2 Thessalonians

English Revised Version, 1885

  • Revelation

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Quoting Martyn Lloyd-Jones #11

One of the devotionals I am using this year is Walking with God Day by Day by Martyn Lloyd-Jones. I thought I would share some of my favorite passages month by month. (January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October).
From November 10
“God is love.” No one can answer against that; one trembles even to handle it; it cannot be analyzed. I simply want to point out that John does not say merely that God loves us or that God is loving. He goes beyond that. He says, “God is love.” God essentially is love; God’s nature is love; you cannot think of God without love. Of course he has already told us that God is light in exactly the same way—that was the first pronouncement. “This then is the message... God is light” (1 John 1:5); and in exactly the same way “God is love” and God is spirit. This battles the imagination; it is something that is altogether beyond our comprehension, and yet we start with it. Augustine and others deduce from this the doctrine of the Trinity. I think there may be a great deal in that; the very fact that God is love declares the Trinity—God the Father loves the Son, and the link is the person of the Holy Spirit. Ah! this high doctrine; it is beyond us. All I know is that God, in the very essence of His nature and being, is love, and you cannot think of God and must not think of Him except in terms of love. Everything that God is and does is colored by this; all God’s actions have this aspect of love in them and the aspect of light in the same way. That is how God always manifests Himself—light and love. “Therefore, because that is the fundamental postulate, because that is so true of God,” John is saying, “that works itself out for us like this: Because God is love, we ought to love one another. For ‘love is of God.’” In other words, love is from God, love flows from God. It is as if John were turning to these people and saying, “God loves, and this love I am talking about is something that only comes from God—it is derived from Him.”
From November 11
The more I study the New Testament and live the Christian life, the more convinced I am that our fundamental difficulty, our fundamental lack, is the lack of seeing the love of God. It is not so much our knowledge that is defective but our vision of the love of God. Thus our greatest object and endeavor should be to know Him better, and thus we will love Him more truly.
From November 25
We are all guilty before God and before His holy law. We are guilty in His presence; so the first thing I need is to be saved from the guilt of my sin. I need a Savior in that respect apart from anything else. I have broken the law of God, and I am under the condemnation of that holy law; so before I can talk about salvation or about being saved, I must be perfectly clear that I am delivered from the guilt of my sin. That is the glorious message that the New Testament Gospel brings to me. In Christ my guilt is removed. It is no use my facing the future and proposing to live a better life. I am confronted by my own past—I cannot avoid it, I cannot escape it. I have broken the law—I must deal with the problem of my guilt—and I cannot do so. I cannot undo my past; I cannot make atonement for my misdeeds and for everything I have done against God. I must be delivered from the guilt of my sin, and Christ—and Christ alone—can so deliver me. But having thus had the assurance that the guilt of my sin has been dealt with, I am still confronted by the power of sin. I battle the world and the flesh and the devil; forces and factors outside me are trying to drag me down, and I am aware of their terrible power. The man or woman who has not realized the power of sin all around him or her is a novice in these matters. There is only One who has conquered Satan, there is only One who has defeated the world, and that is this Son whom the Father sent into the world to be our Savior. Jesus Christ can deliver me from the power of sin as well as from the guilt of sin.
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, November 28, 2014

Bible Review: ESV Women's Devotional Bible

ESV Women's Devotional Bible. 2014. Crossway. 1664 pages. [Source: Bought]

In September, I bought a copy of the ESV Women's Devotional Bible. My goal was to use this bible to read the Bible in 90 days. For the record, I'm not sure a devotional bible was the best choice for this goal of mine. It is one thing to read one devotional or two devotionals per day. It's quite another to read six to eight! But most readers, I'm guessing, will not be buying the Women's Devotional Bible with that goal in mind.

Devotionals. Devotional Bibles. Some people are "devotional" people. Others are not. Meaning that some people seem to really benefit from a daily devotional reading, and, it is just part of their daily routine--how they connect spirituality to their daily lives. To those who don't see much benefit to typical devotional readings, it can be really easy to dismiss them all as fluff, lacking substance and depth. IF I read a devotional, it has to have substance, depth, weight. I'm looking for more than a story to relate to. I'm looking for insight and knowledge and TRUTH. For the most part, I was pleased with the offerings in the Women's Devotional Bible. Some devotionals are written by women; some devotionals are written by men.

How Does God Show His Love? by Heather House
John 3:16, perhaps the most famous summary of the gospel in the Bible, seems simple enough. After all, this is one of the first verses children memorize. People paint the reference on signs and hold them up at sporting events, implying someone could understand the gospel from reading the verse.
And yet, like much in John’s Gospel, this verse is straightforward in concept but incredibly deep in application. It plainly describes both God’s love and humanity’s need to accept that love as the solution to their separation from him. For all people in all times, our eternal destiny rests in either believing or rejecting these unadorned words.
This verse is part of Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader. In John 3:1–15, Jesus offers a changed life through a new spiritual birth, but Nicodemus is unsure how this could be true. Verses 16–21, then, show how it is that one can be born again and have eternal life.
By providing a way for us to have eternal life, God demonstrates his devotion to the people he created (John 3:16–18). This eternal life manifests itself through abundant joy and blessing on this earth, but it also goes beyond this material world by guaranteeing believers a place in God’s presence forever. Living with a holy God is not possible for those who have sinned, and all humans have (Rom. 3:23). Therefore God sent his own Son to provide the means by which anyone can be justified (Rom. 5:15–21). Jesus accomplished this through his own death when he took on the guilt of his people (1 Cor. 15:3). Through the sacrifice of his only, innocent Son, God has given everything needed for us to be saved from the punishment we deserve (Isa. 52:13–53:12).
Sadly, people can and do reject Jesus’ work. Those who refuse to recognize him for who he is remain separated from God and will face judgment (John 3:19–20). Knowledge of God (“light”) arrives in Jesus, but many prefer the darkness because they want their evil actions to remain hidden. They would rather continue on the path they have chosen than admit that God created them and therefore has a rightful claim on the way they live. Others are appalled by the notion that they cannot make themselves right with God through their own effort. Whoever recognizes what God offers through Jesus comes to the light because God gives him or her faith to believe (v. 21).
God loves us so much that he offered a solution, at great cost to himself and his Son, to the problem of sin that humanity had created. How will you respond to this truth? How will you share it with others? 
He Loved Us Then; He'll Love Us Now by Dane C. Ortlund
It is not hard for many of us to believe God has put away all our failures that occurred before our conversion. Sure, maybe we lived a particularly rebellious life before new birth—but that was, after all, before we had heard the gospel. We did not know of God’s love. Of course we screwed up a lot then.
What is hard is to believe that God continues to put away all my present failures, now that I am supposedly “better.” We so easily view the Father looking down with raised eyebrows. “How are they still such failures after all I have done for them?” we see him wondering. After all, a Christian conscience is a re-sensitized conscience. New birth makes us feel more deeply than ever the ugliness of sin. Failure makes the soul cringe like never before.
That’s why Romans 5:1–11 is in the Bible.
After exulting in the peace we now enjoy because of the gospel (vv. 1–5), Paul says roughly the same thing three times over. “While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (v. 6). “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (v. 8). “If while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life” (v. 10). Three times Paul says that God did something to save us when we hated him. Weak. Sinners. Enemies. We didn’t have to clean ourselves up first. He didn’t meet us halfway. He himself pulled us up into peace.
That’s great news. But that’s not even Paul’s main point in these verses. He’s after something else.
What’s the ultimate point Paul is driving at in Romans 5:6–11? Not God’s past work, mainly. Paul’s burden is our present security, given that past work. He raises Christ’s past work to drive home this point: If God did that back then, when you had zero interest in him, then what are you worried about now? The whole point of Romans 5:6–11 is captured in the “since” of verse 9: “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, . . .”
This really calms us down. He drew near to us when we hated him. Will he remain distant now that we want to please him? He suffered for us when we were failing, as orphans. Will he sternly cross his arms over our failures now that we are his adopted children? His heart was gentle and lowly toward us when we were lost. Will his heart be anything different toward us now that we are found?
“While we were still. . .” He loved us in our mess then. He’ll love us in our mess now. Our very agony in sinning is the fruit of our adoption. A cold heart would not be bothered. We are not who we were.
I think you'll agree that the devotionals in this Bible do have substance.

So. If you're a woman looking for a devotional bible, I'd recommend the ESV Women's Devotional Bible. Even if you are not a "devotional person." I would say browse it at the store or sample it online. (The kindle sample includes Genesis and Exodus). Read three or four devotionals yourself and just try it. (Link to pdf sampler from Crossway, it also has two videos about the Bible).

In addition to the devotionals, the Bible features many articles:

  • The Bible & The Grace of God by Bryan Chapell
  • Why Is Doctrine Important by Kathleen Nielson
  • How To Make the Most of Your Bible Study by Jen Wilkin
  • Learning to Pray the Psalms by Paul E. Miller
  • Missional Living by Gloria Furman
  • Evangelism by Leeann Stiles
  • A Woman's Identity in Christ by Luma Simms
  • Singleness: A Privileged Calling by Lydia Brownback
  • The Godly Wife by Jani Ortlund
  • Nurturing Children to Love and Follow God by Ebeth Dennis
  • Adoption: God's Gift and Our Responsibility by Donna Thoennes
  • Caring for Children with Disabilities by Joni Eareckson Tada
  • Emotional Healthy by Brian Borgman
  • Eating Disorders & Other Self-Destructive Behaviors by Kimm Crandall
  • Forgiveness, Healing, and Shame by John Ensor
  • The Church and Women at Risk by Lindsey Holcomb

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, November 27, 2014

19 Christmas Sermons by Charles Spurgeon

The Incarnation and Birth of Christ
Going Home
The First Christmas Carol
A Christmas Question
A Merry Christmas
The Two Advents of Christ
No Room for Christ At the Inn
The Holy Child, Jesus
Mary's Song
Holy Work for Christmas
God Incarnate, the End of Fear
Good Cheer for Christmas
The Sages, The Star, and the Savior
Joy Born at Bethlehem
Jesus, the King of Truth
"God With Us"
The Great Birthday
The Great Birthday and Our Coming of Age
The Birth of Christ
A Visit to Bethlehem

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Bible Review: NKJV Adventure Bible

NKJV Adventure Bible. Lawrence O. Richards, ed. 2014. 1568 pages. [Source: Review copy]

The Adventure Bible is available in at least three translations: the New International Version (NIV), the New International Reader's Version (NIrV), and the New King James Version (NKJV). The NKJV is the latest in the series to release.

Earlier this year, I reviewed the NIRV Adventure Bible for Early Readers. It was my first time reading the NIRV translation, and, my review focused just as much on the translation as the special features of this children's Bible.

I will not be spending much time--if any--commenting on the translation. I've spent almost two decades reading this translation off and on.

Some of the special features of this children's Bible:
Articles, Charts, How-Tos, etc.:

  • How To Use this Bible
  • How To Know You Are a Christian
  • Ten Commandments for Kids
  • Bible Verses To Read When You Feel…
  • Famous Old Testament Prophets
  • Love Passage for Kids
  • Two Week Reading Plan on Jesus' Life
  • What Jesus Taught About…
  • Famous Children of the Bible
  • How to Pray
  • Getting to Know Jesus
  • The Life of Jesus Christ
  • The Lord's Prayer
  • Famous People of the Bible
  • The 12 Disciples
  • Subject Index
  • Concordance
  • Maps

Recurring Features

  • Book Introductions
  • "Words to Treasure"
  • "Did You Know?"
  • "Life in Bible Times"
  • "People in Bible Times"
  • "Live It!"

From Ten Commandments for Kids (Based on Exodus 20:1-17 and Deuteronomy 5:7-21)
1. You may not love anyone or anything more than you love God.
2. You may not worship, or put more importance on any person or thing, other than God. You must worship only the Lord, not a friend, not a movie star or sports hero, not a car or skateboard. Nothing.
3. You may not swear. Use God's holy name in a loving way, never to express anger or frustration.
4. One day of your week should be set aside for resting and worshipping God.
5. Respect your parents. Love them, and the Lord will reward you in your life.
From Love Passage for Kids (Based on 1 Corinthians 13)
Love will stand in line and wait its turn.
Love looks for the good in others.
Love doesn't always want what others have, and it doesn't brag about what it does have.
Love is polite, even when the other person is rude.
Love doesn't have to be first.
Love doesn't get angry over small things, and it doesn't remember one reason after another to be hurt.
Like all the new editions of the Adventure Bible, this one is in full color. It is brightly illustrated throughout.

Example of book introduction:
The Gospel According to Matthew
Who wrote this book? Matthew, one of Jesus' 12 disciples, wrote this book.
Why was this book written? Matthew shows the Jews that Jesus is the Messiah promised in the Old Testament
For whom was this book written? Matthew was written for the Jewish people.
What happens in this book? This book tells about Jesus' birth, His life as an adult, His teaching, death, and resurrection.
Who is the key person in this book? Jesus is the most important person in this book
When did this happen? These events took place between 6 B.C. and A.D. 30.
Where did this happen? Most events took place in towns in Gailillee.
What are some of the stories in this book?
Wise men visit Jesus (Matthew 2:1-23), How to be blessed (Matthew 5:1-12), The Lord's Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13), Jesus feeds 5,000 people (Matthew 14:13-21), Jesus walks on water (Matthew 14:22-33), Lost sheep (Matthew 18:10-14), Jesus enters Jerusalem (Matthew 21:1-11), Jesus is crucified (Matthew 27:32-56), Jesus returns to life (Matthew 28:1-10), Jesus' Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20).
Is it heavy or light on notes and features? I'd say it offers a good amount for the age group. Here is a sampling from Matthew:

  • Did You Know? Why is this genealogy in Matthew?
  • Live It! A Jesus Baby Book
  • Did You Know? What does "repent" mean?
  • Live It! Fighting Temptation
  • Did You Know? What are the beatitudes?
  • Words to Treasure: Matthew 5:44
  • Life in Bible Times: Giving to the Needy
  • Live It! Look in the Mirror
  • People in Bible Times: The Centurion
  • People in Bible Times: Tax Collectors
  • Did You Know? What did Jesus' disciples do?
  • Live It! A Family Fun Night
  • Life in Bible Times: Yokes
  • Did You Know? Who was Beelzebub?
  • Did You Know? What is the parable of the tares about?
  • Live It! Appreciation Night
  • Life in Bible Times: Baskets
  • Did You Know? On what rock will Jesus build His church?
  • Live It! God's Not Mad at Me!
  • Live It! Jesus Loves the Children
  • Life in Bible Times: The Denarius
  • Did You Know? What is "authority"?
  • Words to Treasure: Matthew 22:37, 39
  • Life in Bible Times: Phylacteries
  • Did you know? What are "woes"?
  • Live It! Be Ready When Jesus Comes
  • People in Bible Times: Judas
  • Did You Know? What was the Sanhedrin?
  • Live It! Sorry After Doing Wrong
  • People In Bible Times: Pontius Pilate
  • Life in Bible Times: Jesus' Tomb
  • Words to Treasure: Matthew 28:19-20

It would be easy to recommend this one to parents and grandparents looking for a Bible to give their children or grandchildren.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Book Review: Tolkien (2014)

Tolkien: How An Obscure Oxford Professor Wrote the Hobbit and Became the Most Beloved Author of the Century. Devin Brown. Abingdon Press. [Source: Review copy]

Devin Brown's biography of J.R.R. Tolkien may be relatively short, but, it is packed with information. It's lively too. I loved the tone and the approach. Brown writes with much passion for the subject!

Readers learn about his life. (Tolkien as a son, student, husband, soldier, professor, writer, father, friend, etc.)  Readers learn about his works (The Silmarillion, The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings). Brown's presentation is anything but dry and boring. It is lively, fact-filled, fascinating. I had read an edition of The Annotated Hobbit, so, I was familiar with a few things. But I learned so much by reading this short biography!

I love that the focus is both on him as a person (his family life, his faith, his teaching career, etc.) and as a writer, on specific works. I love learning about his writing process, his rough drafts, his editing, his determination, his frustrations, his dealings with publishers, etc. I loved the journey: seeing the books evolve over decades. These books weren't quickly written!

One of the things I love most of all is the inclusion of direct quotes and primary sources. It seems like a little thing, perhaps, but these glimpses where we get to know Tolkien in his own words, do make the book worth reading. Earlier in the fall, I reviewed a children's biography on Tolkien by Anne E. Neimark. It was okay. But it didn't really do Tolkien justice in my opinion. This one does.

It's an accessible biography. It isn't intimidating. I would definitely recommend this one. It was wonderful. I LOVED it.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Book Review: The Advent Bride

The Advent Bride. Mary Connealy. 2014. Barbour. 88 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I enjoyed reading the Advent Bride. Melanie Douglas, the heroine, is a teacher at a one-room school in Nebraska. The student that gives her the MOST trouble is a boy named Simon. When he's in her classroom, she has trouble managing all her students. For better or worse, she sees the potential in Simon. He is smart, very bright. If he behaved, he might even be her best student academically. She tries to talk to his father, Henry O'Keeffe, with mixed results. She worries about the boy's home life. She decides she'd rather have him with her after school, than to send him home alone. So she has a clever idea or two on how to keep him engaged after school. And that is where the advent box enters into the story!

I enjoyed this one. This one is short. It is a novella. It is a very light, Christmas-themed historical romance. It was satisfying enough for what it is.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

10 Sermons on the Bible by Charles Spurgeon

The Bible
Search the Scriptures
The Talking Book
The Form of Sound Words
Christ's Indwelling Word
The Bible Tried and Proved
Understandest Thou What Thou Readest
How To Read the Bible (1879)
How to Read the Bible (1912)
The Sunday School and the Scriptures

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

My Year With Spurgeon #47

The Duty of Remembering the Poor
Charles Spurgeon
“Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do.” Galatians 2:10
POVERTY is no virtue; wealth is no sin. On the other hand, wealth is not morally good, and poverty is not morally evil. A man may be a good man and a rich man; it is quite certain that very frequently good men are poor men. Virtue is a plant which depends not upon the atmosphere which surrounds it, but upon the hand which waters it, and upon the grace which sustains it. We draw no support for grace from our circumstances whether they be good or evil.
Grace is a plant which draws no nourishment from the wilderness in which it grows; it finds nothing to feed upon in the heart of man; all it lives upon it receives supernaturally. It sends all its roots upwards, none downwards; it draws no support from poverty, and none from riches. Gold cannot sustain grace; on the other hand, rags cannot make it flourish. Grace is a plant which derives the whole of its support from God the Holy Spirit, and is therefore entirely independent of the circumstances of man.
The Comer's Conflict with Satan
Charles Spurgeon
“And as he was yet a coming, the devil threw him down, and tare him. And Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, and healed the child, and delivered him again to his father.” Luke 9:42
Never creature possessed with evil spirit was in a worse plight than the man who is without God, without Christ, and without hope in the world. The casting out of the unclean spirit was moreover a thing that was impossible to man and only possible to God; and so is the conversion of an ungodly sinner a thing beyond the reach of human ability, and only to be accomplished by the might of the Most High. The dreadful bellowings, foamings, and tearings caused in this unhappy child by the unclean spirit, are a picture of the sins, iniquities, and vices into which ungodly men are continually and impetuously hurried; and a type of that sad and terrible suffering which remorse will by-and-bye bring to their conscience, and which the vengeance of God will soon cause to occupy their hearts. The bringing of this child to the Saviour by his parents teaches us a lesson, that those of us to whom the care of youth is entrusted, either as parents or teachers, should be anxious to bring our children to Jesus Christ, that he may graciously save them.
There are four points for our consideration this morning. That you may easily remember them I have made them alliterative: the devil’s doings, designs, discovery, and defeat.
1. First of all he does this by perverting the truth of God for the destruction of the soul’s hope and comfort. The devil is very sound in divinity. I never suspected him of heterodoxy yet. I believe him to be one of the most orthodox individuals in creation. Other people may disbelieve the doctrines of revelation, but the devil cannot, for he knows the truth, and though he will belie it often, he is so crafty that he understand that with the soul convinced of sin his best method is not to contradict the truth, but to pervert it. But Satan is not very scrupulous, and he sometimes throws the coming sinner down and tears him by telling horrible falsehoods. Then if the devil cannot overcome you there, he tries another method; he takes all the threatening passages out of God’s Word, and says they all apply to you.
Let me dwell for a moment or two upon the second point—the DEVIL’S DESIGN. Why does he throw the coming soul down and tear it? First, because he does not like to lose it. Sometimes, I believe, he has the vile design of inducing poor souls to make away with themselves before they have faith in Christ. Then Satan has another motive. When the soul is coming to Christ he tries, out of spite, to worry that soul.
In the third place, there is the DEVIL’S DISCOVERY. I do not think the devil would be able to throw one poor sinner to the ground if he came as the devil; but it is seldom he does that. He presents himself as an angel of light, or even as the Holy Spirit. He knows that the Holy Spirit does all the work of salvation, and therefore he tries to counterfeit the operations of the Holy Ghost. He knows it is the Holy Spirit’s work to take away pride from man, and to humble the soul. Well, Satan counterfeits that blessed work, and takes away hope from man as well as pride. It is my firm belief that very much of the experience of a Christian is not Christian experience. Many Christians experience things that have nothing to do with Christianity, but more to do with demonology. When you read the convictions of John Bunyan, you may think that all that terror was the fruit of the Holy Spirit; but be assured it was the fruit of Satanic influence. You may think it is God’s Holy Spirit that drives sinners to despair and keeps them shut up in the iron cage so long. Not at all. There was God’s Holy Spirit, and then Satan came in to mar the work if he could. In the first, place, you may be always sure that that which comes from the devil will make you look at yourselves and not at Christ. The Holy Spirit’s work is to turn our eyes from ourselves to Jesus Christ, but the enemy’s work is the very opposite. Nine out of ten of the insinuations of the devil have to do with ourselves. “You are guilty,” says the devil—that is self. “You have not faith”—that is self. “You do not repent enough”—that is self. “You have got such a wavering hold of Christ”—that is self. “You have none of the joy of the spirit, and therefore cannot be one of his”—that is self. Thus the devil begins picking holes in us; whereas the Holy Spirit takes self entirely away, and tells us that we are “nothing at all,” but that “Jesus Christ is all in all.”
But remember, sinner, it is not thy hold of Christ that saves thee—it is Christ; it is not thy joy in Christ that saves thee—it is Christ; it is not even faith in Christ, though that is the instrument—it is Christ’s blood and merits; therefore, look not so much to thy hand with which thou art grasping Christ, as to Christ; look not to thy hope, but to Christ, the source of thy hope; look not to thy faith, but to Christ, the author and finisher of thy faith; and if thou dost that, ten thousand devils cannot throw thee down, but as long as thou lookest at thyself, the meanest of those evil spirits may tread thee beneath his feet.
Now, in the last place, we have to consider the DEVIL’S DEFEAT. How was he defeated? Jesus rebuked him. Beloved, there is no other way for us to be saved from the castings down of Satan but the rebuke of Jesus.
There is one thing which we all of us too much becloud in our preaching, though I believe we do it very unintentionally—namely, the great truth that it is not prayer, it is not faith, it is not our doings, it is not our feelings upon which we must rest, but upon Christ, and on Christ alone.
We are apt to think that we are not in a right state, that we do not feel enough, instead of remembering that our business is not with self, but Christ. Our business is only with Christ. O soul, if thou couldst fix thy soul on Jesus, and neglect everything else—if thou couldst but despise good works, and aught else, so far as they relate to thy salvation, and look wholly, simply on Christ, I tell thee Satan would soon give up throwing thee down, he would find it would not answer his purpose, for thou wouldst fall on Christ, and like the giant who fell upon his mother, the earth, thou wouldst rise up each time stronger than before.
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, November 24, 2014

Book Review: Beside Bethesda

Beside Bethesda: 31 Days Toward Deeper Healing. Joni Eareckson Tada. 2014. NavPress. 176 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Beside Bethesda is a 31 day devotional written by Joni Eareckson Tada. It is concerned with pain and suffering and "deeper healing." Within the devotional, she shares personal stories and insights. Several times she's mentions within the text that she has been in her wheelchair for 47 years. She reflects a bit on what she's learned in those decades. It's honest reflecting. Her desire for physical healing, but, her ever-increasing joy in the spiritual healing that God has blessed her with instead. In addition to telling her personal story, which, some readers might already be familiar with, she shares more about her recent battle with cancer.

There were a few things that stood out to me as I was reading. One thing is her memorization of Scripture. She tells of how memory work has helped her tremendously through the years. How foundational it was to her clinging to hope and joy and peace. She shares several verses that have been a big help to her. Romans 15:4, in part, reads "whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope." It's something to keep in mind always. The Bible is a Christian's treasure. God speaks to us through his Word. His promises to us are within the Word. And it is our privilege, our joy to find those promises, to cling to them, to treasure them. Scriptures should be influencing our prayers and our lives. The other thing that stood out to me was the struggle--the fight--against depression and for contentment. She writes about how discouraging thoughts, depression, and boredom can weigh you down, can strip you of joy and peace. Go to God with how you feel, but, don't hold onto those negative feelings, don't meditate on them, dwell on them. Feed instead on the word of God. Let his promises have a place in your heart and mind.

I would definitely recommend this little devotional to believers that enjoy reading devotions.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

2015 Operation Deepen Faith

This challenge has multiple parts. (You wouldn't have to sign up for 
each part. But. Ideally participants would be interested in doing more than just one.) The challenge is from January 2015 through December 2015.

I. Wonderful Words of Life. Goal: Read the Bible. Usually I add the phrase "using a Bible Plan." But. The point is READING the Bible. Not on a specific plan. 

Some people just are plan people. They like having a list or plan to refer to on a daily/weekly basis. They like knowing exactly what to read next. Other people just are not plan people. That doesn't mean they don't read the Bible, or read the Bible through in a year. It just means that they like to choose what they read and how much they read. If you're completely new to reading the Bible--and I do hope that some participants are new!--try a reading plan. See if it works for you. But know that if it doesn't, that doesn't mean the Bible isn't right for you. Reading does take commitment, but, it doesn't have to be commitment to a specific plan. (I've indicated which plans might be great for new believers or those struggling with reading the Bible.)

  • Back to the Bible's 21 Day Bible Reading Challenge (John only)*
  • Back to the Bible's 90 Day Bible Reading Challenge (Genesis, Matthew, Mark, Luke only) (link to pdf file)*
  • Back to the Bible's 6 Month Bible Reading Challenge (Acts through Revelation, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes only) (link to pdf file)*
  • 5X5X5 Bible Reading Plan (New Testament Only, 5 Days A Week, 5 Minutes a Day) (link to pdf file)*
  • Discipleship Journal Bible Reading Plan (25 readings per month) (link to pdf file)
  • Discipleship Journal Bible Reading Plan (Book-at-a-Time) (25 readings per month) (link to pdf file)
  • (Whole) Bible in 90 Days Plan (link to pdf file)
  • John MacArthur's NT Plan (read a book 30 days in a row)
  • Woodrow Kroll's Plan (read whole books at a time; read a whole book of the Bible in one sitting)
  • Professor Horner's Bible Reading Plan (link to pdf file)
  • M'Cheyne Bible Reading Plan (link to pdf file)
  • 52 Week Bible Reading Plan, Different Genre Every Day (link to pdf file)
  • Legacy Reading Plan (No set daily readings, but, set monthly readings) (link to pdf file)
  • Back to the Bible's Chronological Plan (lists readings month by month, the link to January)

II How Firm A Foundation. Goal: STUDY (Meditate too!) one book of the Bible throughout the year. Read it at least four times. (You might even challenge yourself to read it twelve times--one each month.) If possible, read the notes in a study Bible, or, read a commentary book about your book, or, read and listen to sermons on your book, or, doing an inductive (manuscript) study of your book. Consider reading it in different translations. Get to know that one book well. Let God speak to you through it. Online commentaries are available. Classic Bible Commentaries. Bible Gateway offers several as well: IVP New Testament Commentary SeriesReformation Study BibleAsbury Bible Commentary. List of commentaries available through J. Vernon McGee's Thru the Bible sermons are also available. (Listen online through Oneplace.)

III. Deep and Wide; Goal: read multiple books of the bible in multiple translations.

For example that might mean reading four to six books of the Bible (OT or NT, whatever you prefer) in four to six different translations. The books wouldn't have to be long books. You might choose Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians, etc. Or you might choose  John, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, Revelation. Or Luke, Acts, Romans, Hebrews. You can choose a group of books that makes sense to you. Books that you want to explore further. You choose the books, you choose the translations. You choose the pace. 

IV.  Meditate or Memorize. Note the OR! Not everyone is comfortable committing to memorize Scripture. (I'm one of them!) Goal: Choose about a verse a week--or a verse every other week--to reflect and meditate on. It might mean memorizing it. It might mean writing or journaling about it. (Or blogging about it if you like.) It might mean praying it. Or studying it. It's taking the reading of Scripture into something a little more--worship. These verses would not (have to) be chosen ahead of time. I'm not asking for a list. This is all about choosing-as-you-go, choosing as you read, let Scripture speak to you.

V. Christian Nonfiction. Don't be afraid to give it a try. Read some theology. You choose the number of books to aim for. A beginner might not feel comfortable committing to more than one book. And that's fine. I want to challenge you to start somewhere. This challenge is for everyone. Not just for people who want to commit to reading twenty! 
  • books about God (his attributes, his character, his names, etc.)
  • books about the birth, life, death, resurrection of Jesus; the person and work of Christ
  • books about the Bible (how to read, how to study, why it's reliable, how it is translated, etc.)
  • books about Bible characters (Moses, David, Solomon, Abraham, Jesus, Peter, etc.)
  • books about prayer, fasting
  • books about worship or worship music 
  • books about church life or church growth or church leadership 
  • books about missions (evangelism, outreach, service)
  • sermon collections (sermon note collections), essay collections
  • biographies/memoirs of theologians, preachers, missionaries, etc.
  • books about pain, suffering, tough questions, etc.
  • books about apologetics
  • books about end times
Sign up by leaving a comment. Be sure to let me know which of the six you're interested in joining. You don't have to commit to specifics. (You don't have to tell me which one book you're going to study. Or how many books/how many translations you're going to read. Or the number of theology books you're wanting to commit to.) Though if you have decided, then feel free to share! But you don't have to have it all exactly planned out in order to join!

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Book Review: Look and Live

Look and Live. Matt Papa. 2014. Bethany House. 256 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Matt Papa's Look and Live is a book about the glory of God. It is a book about worship. About what we may falsely be worshipping--perhaps without even realizing it. About what we should be worshipping instead. It is about about the greatness and goodness of God. It is a book that challenges readers to seek to know God more and more, and in response to that seeking and knowing and growing and loving to worship him more fully. It isn't just a book about worship. It's a book about how to live for the glory of God; how seeing God's glory changes you and changes how you want to live.

Table of contents:

  • Glory and Worship
  • The Glory of God
  • Bad Aim (Glory and Sin)
  • The Blazing Center
  • Let My Eyes Adjust
  • Scattered Beams
  • Glory and Mission
  • Glory and Suffering
  • Show Me Your Glory

It is a book that is easy to recommend. There were two chapters that were just my favorite and best. I loved, loved, loved "The Blazing Center" and "Let My Eyes Adjust." The whole book is good, mind you, but those two chapters were GREAT.

Why does Jesus, after rising from the dead, still bear His scars? It can't be for no reason. It has to be because God wanted every eternal sight of Him to be filled with the memory of His love. In Revelation 5 we are told that this is exactly where all of history is heading. Time will culminate and all eternity will commemorate a Lamb that has been slaughtered, "who purchased…men for God from every tribe and tongue" (Rev. 5:9). In Revelation 13 we are told that this was God's design--that before the dawn of time there was a book, and the book was called "the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain" (Rev 13:8). God designed the slaughter of His Son before the world so that His goodness might be eternally adored. Throughout eternity, we will still be peering at the cross. With awe, wonder, and surprise. (89)
Worship is war. The call is to behold the Son of God, not merely look at Him. It is to gaze deep into the gospel, not merely pray some prayer and then move on. We must linger. Christianity is the hard, joyful journey of beholding Jesus by faith until the day you behold Him by sight. (119)
This word meditate is the Hebrew word for a cow chewing its cud. The cow chews the grass, it goes down into the cow's stomach, and then comes back up again. It chews some more, swallows, then it comes back up again. Sounds gross, right? But this is how we grow in Christ and how we see His glory. We wrestle with the Bible. We chew and swallow and chew and swallow and think and apply. We let our eyes adjust. (127)
We read the Bible to see Glory. We read the Bible to gaze deeper into the story of the gospel. We read the Bible to behold Jesus. (127)
Legalism is when I feel that I am more loved by God when I obey Him. It is not legalism to obey God even when it's hard because I want to see Him. It's not legalism when you spend time in the Word even when it feels temporarily fruitless when you're doing it with a heart that cries out, "God, I want more of You" instead of "All right, I've done my time for the day. Check." (132)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Celebrate the Bible, Week Four

Join me this November to celebrate the Bible. I would encourage you to read and meditate and study Psalm 119 with me. I would encourage you to pick up your Bible and read something. Even if you choose not to dedicate the month to the longest Psalm in the Bible!!! My goal is not to have you fall in love with Psalm 119. My goal is to have you fall in love with God's Word. I want you to "taste and see that the LORD is good!" I want you to join with me in saying, "Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together!"

To clarify, you do NOT have to join me in reading Psalm 119 to participate in Celebrate the Bible. Read the Bible. Read what you want, where you want. Just read something and share with everyone where you're reading and what you're learning!!! 

Week Four, November 23-29

November 23, read and meditate on Psalm 119:145-152
November 24, read and meditate on Psalm 119:153-160
November 25, read and meditate on Psalm 119:161-168
November 26, read and meditate on Psalm 119:169-176
November 27, read Psalm 34
November 28, read Psalm 19
November 29, read Psalm 119 and/OR read Charles Spurgeon's sermon "Christ's Indwelling Word."

Be sure to check out quotes and resources from week oneweek two, and week three.

Questions: Do you have a favorite Bible? a favorite study Bible? What resources do you use and love?

Highlights from Psalm 119:145-176 in the MEV:

  • I arose before the dawn of the morning and cried for help; I hope in Your words. Psalm 119:147
  • My eyes are awake before the night watches, that I might meditate on Your word. Psalm 119:148
  • Hear my voice according to Your lovingkindness, O LORD; revive me according to Your judgment. Psalm 119:149
  • But You are near, O LORD, and all Your testimonies are true. Psalm 119:151
  • I have known of old that You have established Your testimonies forever. Psalm 119:152
  • Consider how I love Your precepts; revive me, O LORD, according to Your lovingkindness. Psalm 119:159
  • Your word is true from the beginning, and every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever. Psalm 119:160
  • Princes have persecuted me without a cause, but my heart stands in awe of Your words. Psalm 119:161
  • I rejoice at Your word, as one who finds great plunder. Psalm 119:162
  • Seven times a day I praise You, because of your righteous judgements. Psalm 119:164
  • Let my cry come near before You, O LORD; give me understanding according to Your word. Psalm 119:169
  • Let my supplication come before You; deliver me according to Your word. Psalm 119:170
  • My lips shall declare praise, for You have taught me Your statutes. Psalm 119:171
  • My tongue shall speak of Your word, for all Your commandments are right. Psalm 119:172
  • I have wandered like a lost sheep; seek Your servant, for I do not forget Your commandments. Psalm 119:176

Highlights from Psalm 34 and Psalm 19 in the MEV:

  • I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise will continually be in my mouth. Psalm 34:1
  • Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt His name together. Psalm 34:3
  • I sought the LORD, and He answered me, and delivered me from all my fears. Psalm 34:4
  • Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him. Psalm 34:8
  • Come, you children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD. Psalm 34:11
  • The LORD is near to the broken-hearted and saves the contrite of spirit. Psalm 34:18
  • The LORD redeems the life of His servants, and all who take refuge in Him will not be punished. Psalm 34:22
  • The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. Psalm 19:7
  • The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; Psalm 19:8
  • The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. Psalm 19:9
  • More to be desired are they than gold, yes, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Psalm 19:10
  • Moreover by them is Your servant warned, and by keeping them comes great reward. Psalm 19:11

Highlights from the rest of the Bible in the ESV:
  • Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O LORD, God of hosts. Jeremiah 15:16
  • I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. For as the earth brings forth its sprouts, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up, so the LORD God will cause righteousness and praise to sprout up before all the nations. Isaiah 61:10-11
  • Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Corinthians 5:17
  • For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21
  • But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8
  • Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. Psalm 32:1-2
  • He sent redemption to his people; he has commanded his covenant forever. Holy and awesome is his name! Psalm 111:9
  • Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,  who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. 2 Corinthians 1:3-5
Video Resources:
God's Word is a gift we have received from God, and we must accept it and thank Him for it. Christians who are not thankful for the Bible will not spend much time with the Bible. ~ Warren Wiersbe, Jesus In the Present Tense, 120
We will never love God purely--wholeheartedly--apart from immersing ourselves in God's Word because it is only in Scripture that we learn what God is like. To know him is to love him, and we always desire more of what we love most. ~ Lydia Brownback, Purity, 23
The key to spirituality is the development of little habits, such as Bible reading and memorization and prayer. In putting one foot in front of the other day after day, we become the kind of person who grows and endures rather than withers and dies. ~ Randy Alcorn, "Finishing With Few Regrets," O Love That Will Not Let Me Go, 57
The Bible is read by people who choose to read it. Bible reading is neglected by people who choose to neglect it. It's just that simple. No excuses. Just honesty. (Woodrow Kroll, Taking Back the Good Book, 77)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Week in Review: November 16-22

He sent redemption to his people;
he has commanded his covenant forever.
Holy and awesome is his name! (Psalm 111:9)

Let your steadfast love come to me, O Lord,
your salvation according to your promise. (Psalm 119:41)

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. (Isaiah 9:6-7)


  • Psalms 73-150
  • Titus
  • Philemon
  • Hebrews
  • James
  • 1 Peter
  • 2 Peter
  • 1 John
  • 2 John
  • 3 John
  • Jude
  • Revelation

  • Genesis 1-18


  • Psalms 103-150
  • John 1-5

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Book Review: The Secret of Pembrooke Park

The Secret of Pembrooke Park. Julie Klassen. 2014. Bethany House. 460 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Abigail Foster is the heroine of Julie Klassen's The Secret of Pembrooke Park. She is one of two sisters. Her younger sister seems to be the favorite of both her parents. Rivalry with her sister comes up often in the novel. For not only do her own parents seem to favor Louisa, but, Abigail's first love--the boy next door--seems to as well. As soon as Louisa is old enough for her first season, well, his attention seems to shift dramatically to her sister.

The Foster family is having a difficult time. Soon after the novel opens, readers learn of their financial woes. The father's investments have been unwise, it seems. And for some reason or other, Abigail seems ready to take the blame. (Why is the father going to her for business/financial advice? And why is he ready to blame her for bad advice? Why can't he be responsible for his own decisions and actions?!) She feels guilty enough to give up her dowry so that her younger sister can have a season. The family home is sold as well. But there is some hope. A strange offer is made by a distant relative or a representative of a distant relative. The family is given the opportunity to live one year at Pembrooke Park, a country estate of sorts. It has not been lived in for almost twenty years. Locally it has a reputation. Bad things happen there. Strange stories are told about the house and about the people who've lived there in the past. Abigail convinces her father that this is a good idea.

It is a good thing that Abigail is ready for the change, because it seems she will be the one doing almost everything. She will be the one to go and live there--for the most part alone--while it is being renovated and cleaned and restored. Her father will come and go, but mostly go. (I was so annoyed by the father, even when he was there, he wasn't actually there. He had the flimsiest substance or development in terms of characterization.) Her mother and her sister will stay in London. While Abigail is on her own, she is on her own, and she takes some social liberties. Like visiting the local minister in the middle of the night in her nightgown and a shawl. It's not that she's immoral exactly. She's not. But she's not guarding her own reputation--or HIS reputation. She is disregarding the propriety of the times, the social norms or morals. Not just in one instance or even two, but in dozens of cases.

One of the things I enjoyed about The Secret of Pembrooke Park was the complexity of the plot. I loved that there were several stories, several mysteries, several romances. I loved that the stories were layered, that there was always something happening. The suspenseful plot definitely worked for me. This was a book I did not want to put down. As I was reading it, I NEEDED to find out what happened next. I didn't have the answers, and I wanted them!

I have mixed feelings about Julie Klassen's newest Regency romance. On the one hand, I found it an incredibly suspenseful read. It's a very good gothic read. If you have read and enjoyed Rebecca or My Cousin Rachel, there's a good chance you'd enjoy this one as well. The mystery kept me in suspense, kept me guessing. On the other hand, I found it disappointing in characterization and romance. It wasn't that I disliked the hero and heroine. It was that I was disappointed with the way the romance developed. Time and time again, rules were broken. I kept waiting for a scene where the two would be "forced" to marry one another to protect her honor and reputation, or, even his reputation since he was a minister. But it never came. For better or worse.

There were plenty of things I loved about this one. There were a few things I didn't exactly love. While I was reading it, I was very caught up in the story. It was only after I stopped reading it and started thinking it through that my feelings started to change about it. The book might not be a perfect fit for me, but, it was certainly worth reading.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, November 21, 2014

Book Review: The Christmas Cat

The Christmas Cat. Melody Carlson. 2014. Revell. 169 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I found The Christmas Cat to be cute and charming. Exactly what I expected it to be for the most part. Garrison Brown is the hero. When his grandmother dies, he returns to Vancouver, Washington to handle her estate. His grandmother's lawyer has very specific instructions for him to follow. She had six cats. Six cats too many for the very-extremely-allergic-to-even-just-one-cat Garrison Brown. He's to find homes for all six before he receives his inheritance. But the cats can't go to just any home. Among the rules, 1) must be adopted by someone in her own neighborhood, 2) that neighbor must have lived in the neighborhood over a year, 3) that neighbor must be a homeowner and not a renter...and that's just three of the many rules!!! Will Garrison Brown find homes for the cats? What will he do in the meantime?

I enjoyed this one. I enjoyed getting to know Garrison. I enjoyed hearing about his experiences and his dreams. I enjoyed meeting his neighbors. I liked spending time with all the characters. I liked this one. It was just a satisfying read. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Book Review: The Christmas Quilt

The Christmas Quilt. Patricia Davids. 2011. Love Inspired. 215 pages. [Source: Bought]

I believe this is the second novel I've read by Patricia Davids. Both happen to be Christmas books in her Brides of Amish Country series. I enjoyed it very much.

Gabriel "Booker" Troyer grew up Amish, but, he was almost always a little restless. So when the love of his life, Rebecca Beachy, turns down his marriage proposal, off he goes. Because he was baptized into the faith, or, into the community, he is to be shunned now. This bothers him more than he'd like to admit, I believe. When readers meet him, we learn he's a pilot with a small business. In the opening scenes, readers witness a sick (and probably contagious) Booker watch television. He just happens to see a clip on the local news about the Amish community, about a fund raiser, an auction with quilts. They are raising funds for a blind woman, Rebecca Beachy. She's contributing at least one of the quilts that are being auctioned, I believe. Booker is shocked and determined. Shocked because he had no clue that his former lover had turned blind. Determined to go there, to buy her quilt no matter what, to contribute what money he can to pay for the surgery that could restore her sight. Equally determined it turns out to NOT reveal his identity.

Rebecca Beachy has accepted her blindness. It was an accident pure and simple that caused the blindness. A snowball with the needle of a pine tree hidden inside. No one knew it was there, of course, no one thought an innocent snowball fight would end up with her getting hit in the eye, and her eye being cut. She learned soon after that an infection-leading-to-disease would take away her sight completely in a few years. She did NOT tell the man she was courting the news. That man, of course, was Gabriel. She's graceful and grateful. Perhaps a tiny bit too good to be true, but, then there are occasions where she's fiery and fierce.

So. The two reconnect. As Booker and Rebecca at the auction. He gets snowed in by bad weather and the two see each other a few times over the course of a few days. The connection is there or still there. Their time together as awkward and as forbidden as it is special to them both.

Will Gideon decide to return to the Amish in repentance? Will he be reunited with his family? Will he reconnect with Rebecca as Gideon? Do they have a future together? And will enough money be raised to pay for Rebecca's eye surgery? Will she regain her sight?

I liked this one very much. There was so much to enjoy!

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible