Monday, December 2, 2019

Book Review: Transformed by Truth

Transformed by Truth: How to Study the Bible as a Teen. Katherine Forster. 2019. Crossway Books. 208 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: When I was eight, the Bible was boring.

What sets Transformed by Truth apart from other books about how to read and study the Bible is the fact that it's written specifically for a teen audience. The author's intent is to get (more) TEENS to actually read and actually study the Bible for themselves. This comes at a time when many professing adults do not actually-actually read or study the Bible. At least if stats are accurate. (Have you ever wondered who is being surveyed?)

The contents of this one could easily be applicable to teens and adults alike. True some of the narrative is recounting the author's experiences as a teen (and she comes across as a young or younger author) and focuses on a few things that would only apply to teens (living with parents, going to school most of the year, studying for tests, deciding electives and hobbies, choosing colleges, deciding career and life goals). But the mechanics of HOW to read the Bible are the same no matter if you're fifteen or fifty-five.

The first five chapters focus on the WHY of Bible reading and Bible study. These chapters are inspiring and encouraging. Often filled with quotes from some of my favorite theologians (aka John Piper, J.I. Packer, John Calvin, etc.)

The last five chapters focus on the HOW of Bible study. The study method recommended throughout this one is the INDUCTIVE BIBLE STUDY method. And this method can be intimidating--very intimidating--for many adults.

I love the idea of loving this one. I do. I love, love, love reading the Bible. I do. I always have. Or almost always, always. I became a Christian at age 8. I found the Bible far from boring. Of course, I wasn't trying to read it cover-to-cover. I wasn't aiming to read and understand every verse of every chapter of every book. There were sections of the Bible that I read often, very often. There were sections of the Bible I didn't even pretend to attempt before going to college. (I was about seventeen or eighteen before I read the WHOLE Bible.) I did often find myself feeling alone and out of sorts with others because I did read my Bible and actually enjoy it. (Not that I had a great grasp of all points of theology; I didn't. I cringe when I think back on some of my theology.)

I love the QUESTIONS section which ends each chapter. I think these are well done and take the book to the next level.

Does Forster expect too much of her readers?! Or do we expect too little from ourselves and others?!




© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Book Review: Christmas Pageant for Jesus

Christmas Pageant for Jesus. Susan Jones. Illustrated by Lee Holland. 2019. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: As the bright sun rises, Little Chipmunk pops his head out of his tree. It’s a special day!

I have not read Susan Jones’ other picture books. I know that there are two previous picture books about Christmas starring these same characters. A Birthday Party for Jesus and Everyone is Invited to Christmas. There is also an Easter-themed book titled An Easter Egg Hunt for Jesus. I couldn’t begin to explain why these religious books star animals instead of humans. I can only say that a large majority of picture books in general do so. Animals go to school, go to the doctor, have sleepovers, lose teeth, celebrate birthdays, go on vacation, etc. so perhaps it isn’t that much of a stretch that they need to hear the gospel and be reassured of God’s love, God’s grace. You can overthink things as an adult reader. I know I do.

So. It’s the day of the pageant and Little Chipmunk forgets to bring the baby Jesus doll for the pageant. How could he forget? Everyone will hate him! The pageant is absolutely ruined! This is the worst thing ever. Can Little Chipmunk realize a few spiritual truths to calm him down? Truths like Jesus is always, always present with them. And God is a gracious God who loves us even when we make mistakes.

I liked this one well enough. 

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Saturday, November 30, 2019

2020 Reading Challenge: Growing 4 Life 2020 Challenge

Growing 4 Life 2020 Bible Reading Challenge
Hosted by Growing 4 Life (sign up post) (facebook group)

Here’s the challenge:
We will read the assigned portion every day for one month. By the end of each month we will be super familiar with the content—even if we don’t do anything further. You can choose how dedicated you want to be. If you have other studies going on or in the midst of a busy time of your life, you may want to shoot for three or four days per week to get started. Or perhaps you want to commit to six or seven days. If you are like me, the amount of times we can read each week may even change throughout the year. This is fine, because each month gives us a new beginning. Just remember: The more often we read a passage, the more familiar it will become.
Here is the schedule–
January:   I John
February:  John 1-7
March:   John 8-14
April:   John 15-21
May:   Colossians
June:   Romans 1-4
July:   Romans 5-8
August:  Romans 9-12
September:   Romans 13-16
October:   Philippians
November:   2 Thessalonians
December:   Jude

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, November 29, 2019

Book Review: Truth We Can Touch

Truth We Can Touch. Tim Chester. 2020. [January] Crossway Books. 176 pages. [Source: Review copy]

From the introduction: Thought Experiment 1 Imagine your church stopped celebrating Communion. Nothing is announced. It just stops happening. Everything else goes on as before. You gather each Sunday to sing God’s praises and hear his word. You meet midweek to study the Bible and pray together. You get involved in evangelistic initiatives and serve your local community. But Communion doesn’t happen. How long do you think it would be before you noticed? What difference would it make to your life? To your life together as a church? Would you miss it? All good experiments have a control sample, and this one is no exception. As a control, imagine what would happen if your church stopped singing. Again, no announcement is made. But next Sunday there’s no music group or organist; there are no hymn numbers or songs on the screen. The Bible is read, prayers are offered, a sermon is preached. But there’s no music. Same questions: How long do you think it would be before you noticed? What difference would it make to your life? To your life together as a church? Would you miss it? Here’s my hunch. In the no-singing scenario there would be an uproar after the very first meeting. A group of people would surround the leaders demanding to know what was going on. People would be pointing in open Bibles to Colossians 3:16. Veiled threats would be made. But what about the no-Communion scenario? I fear that many Christians could skip Communion without missing very much, and perhaps without even noticing for some time.

Truth We Can Touch is about TWO church sacraments: baptism and communion. Is the book necessary? Do we really, truly need yet another book about communion and baptism? The author would argue YES. Because both are vitally misunderstood OR undervalued in terms of priority. The truth is that Christians often find communion and baptism to be confusing--and most books are so focused on the HOW or even HOW OFTEN that the WHY or SO WHAT is lost altogether.

This is not your typical book about the sacraments. This isn't a book about sprinkling or immersion, infant baptism or believer's baptism. Nor is it an argument about wine or grape juice. What should communion MEAN to believers? How should taking communion impact your life? What should baptism MEAN to believers? Should having been baptized change your life on the day-to-day?

So what is the purpose of this one? He writes, "I want to argue that our primary focus when we think about baptism should not be on our faith, but on the object of our faith—Jesus Christ. I think this is consistent with both an evangelical paedobaptist position and a Reformed credobaptist position. If you’ve grown up in the kind of Baptist circles where the focus is all on the commitment we make in baptism, then this emphasis may initially appear unfamiliar. But I hope you will see that, while it is true that baptism is in part a sign of faith, first and foremost it points us away from ourselves to the promises of God and the work of Christ. As we recognize this, we will discover how God uses baptism and Communion to strength our faith and reassure our hearts. I want us to learn to appreciate baptism and Communion. Christ gave them to us to nurture our faith. I want us to understand how we can approach them so they do this. They do more than simply work on our minds to teach or remind us—otherwise Christ would merely have given words to say or truth to remember. Working out what the “more than” involves is the theme of this book. What is the added value of physical acts? Or, to put it another way, why water, bread, and wine? Why not just thoughts and words?"

I think he does a MARVELOUS job answering these questions.

I don't usually seek out books about baptism and communion. First because I don't want to be lectured. Second because they tend to go technical and theoretical. But this one does neither. It is a book that is ENTIRELY practical and further more grounded in Scripture. By focusing on the WHY and the SO WHAT, instead of being dry and scholarly, it becomes relevant and personal.

 My absolute favorite chapter was "Enacted Grace" in which he tells the HISTORY OF THE WORLD IN TWELVE MEALS.

1. Creation and the Menu for Mankind: The Story of God’s Generosity
2. The Fall and Another Menu: The Story of Humanity’s Sin
3. The Passover Meal: The Story of God’s Redemption
4. Manna from Heaven: The Story of God’s Provision
5. A Meal on the Mountain: The Story of God’s Covenant
6. The Bread of Presence: The Story of God’s Presence
7. The True Happy Meal: The Story of God’s Home
8. Exile and Famine: The Story of God’s Judgment
9. Another Meal on a Mountain: The Story of God’s Feast
10. Levi’s Party: The Story of God’s Grace
11. The Feeding of the Five Thousand: The Story of God’s Future
12. The Last Supper and the Lord’s Supper: The Whole Story in One Meal

Of this last meal, he writes:
It is a meal that echoes all the other meals and points to their fulfillment. The Lord’s Supper looks back to the Passover meal. Luke is at pains to point this out in his account of the Last Supper, mentioning the Passover in Luke 22:1, 7, 8, 11, 13, and 15. The Passover meal told the story of redemption from slavery through the blood of a lamb. The Communion meal tells the story of redemption from sin through the blood of Jesus, the Lamb of God. The Sinai covenant and its sprinkled blood find their fulfillment in the cross. This is God’s complete and permanent solution for sin. All who come to Christ are cleansed by his blood and welcomed to his banquet. We are invited to eat in the presence of God. At the Last Supper, Jesus said, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:20). The cup represents the new covenant, a new relationship-forming agreement through which we become God’s people and he becomes our God. The Communion meal embodies the grace of God to needy sinners. Paul would later say we “proclaim the Lord’s death” every time we eat it (1 Cor. 11:26). Here in this meal we encounter the heart of our salvation. And we do not just see it or hear it. We eat it! It becomes part of us. We enact what Jesus said in John 6:51, 54–56: I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh. . . . Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. This is a meal at which Jesus is the host. He tells Peter and John to “go and prepare the Passover” (Luke 22:8). But the point of their mysterious encounter with an apparently random man carrying a jar of water is to show that Jesus has made everything ready (Luke 22:7–13). It is a powerful picture of the way Jesus prepares the eternal banquet by dying in our place. He takes the judgment we deserve so we can come to eat in the presence of God. At the cross Jesus experiences exclusion from God (like Adam from the garden) and exile from God (like Israel in Babylon) so we can come close to God. The Lord’s Supper also echoes the feeding of the five thousand. That miracle involved four verbs: taking, thanking, breaking, giving (Luke 9:16). The same four verbs in the same order describe Jesus’s consecration of the bread in Luke 22:19: “And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them.” Here is Jesus providing bread from heaven to satisfy his people, except that now this bread is his own body, which we feed on by faith as we consume the Communion bread. The Lord’s Supper also points forward to the final eternal banquet promised by Isaiah. Luke’s account of the Last Supper is bookended by references to Christ’s return (Luke 22:14–18, 28–30).
It was a great way to reveal the BIG PICTURE of the Bible. Sadly, many are lacking this big-picture context. So books that include a way of conveying the whole story of the Bible in just a chapter or two are desperately needed.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Book Review: Set Free

Set Free: Restoring Religious Freedom for All. Edited by Art Lindsley and Ann R. Bradley. 2019. Abilene Christian University Pres. 354 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Religious freedom is what the founding fathers called the first freedom, and it is one of the most important things the U.S. experiment gave the world. Legal scholars throughout this nation’s history have believed that the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution recognized one’s right to lead life according to faith and religious moral code, not only in our churches but also in our homes, in our places of work, and in the public square. In recent years, however, that belief has been challenged. We view any attack on religious freedom as alarming because it threatens to negate the guarantee of individual liberty afforded to every person, regardless of faith.

Set Free is a collection of essays on the topic or subject of religious liberty. It isn't the work of one individual--but of many. There are many different approaches taken throughout the book, but one common assertion: religious freedom is fundamental for one and all.

The introduction prepares readers for what to expect:
In Chapter One, Os Guinness provides a sweeping survey of the present situation and what is at stake if we fail to address the threats to religious freedom.
In Chapters Two through Chapter Four, we look at religious freedom in the Old and New Testaments, focusing on key biblical concepts such as the image of God, the importance of freedom and responsibility, the place of conscience, and the way these biblical concepts influenced the debate on religious freedom at key points in history. John Redd, Barrett Duke, and Hugh Whelchel approach this topic from various directions.
Greg Wallace shows in Chapter Five how the idea of religious freedom developed from the period of the early church through the Reformation. In Chapter Six, Daniel Dreisbach explores the origins of religious freedom in America. It is important to note here that religious freedom arises from a biblical foundation and not from secular sources. Then in Chapter Seven, I note how the biblical view of freedom underlies political, economic, and religious freedom in the United States today.
In Chapter Eight, Anne Bradley and Joe Connors further explore the relationship between political, economic, and political freedom. They provide data that show the importance of religious freedom in allowing opportunities for voluntary associations—the building blocks of an emerging society. If this cultivated soil is present, economic freedom can flourish.
In Chapters Nine through Eleven, we look at our current situation along with the issues we are facing now or will likely face in the near future. Jennifer Marshall Patterson surveys the impact of sex and gender issues; Mark David Hall gives us a helpful survey of the way that religious accommodations have been addressed by America’s founders and, later, many legislators and jurists; and finally, Stanley Carlson-Thies demonstrates the significant contributions that faith-based organizations have made to our society. If these organizations are unreasonably driven out of business by being forced to do things that they cannot, in good conscience, do, society will be much, much poorer.
The approach taken is almost always, always scholarly and technical. I wouldn't be surprised if roughly half the pages of this one are footnotes and bibliography. But that isn't a con in my opinion. This subject is of great importance and significance. It becomes even more so as it is continually threatened not only in the United States but around the world. Any book that weighs in on the subject should be weighty in content.

I found myself agree with overall conclusions, for the most part, but I didn't always, always, always agree with the "reasons" why a particular author reached said conclusion. For example, I don't think religious liberty for ALL should be logically dependent on the arminian doctrine of free will. That was the position of one author in one chapter. Other chapters better tackle the WHY--having to do with the fact that ALL are created in the image of God, that ALL have a conscience, that ALL should be treated with dignity (do unto others...). I definitely enjoyed reading about the distinction between "tolerance" and "religious liberty."

I read this one a chapter or two at a time.

The Genesis declaration that humans are made in the image and likeness of God has been described as the Magna Carta of humanity.  ~ Os Guinness
“When people lose their religious freedom, they lose more than their freedom to be religious. They lose their freedom to be human.” ~ Timothy Shah



© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Book Review: Faithful Theology

Faithful Theology: An Introduction by Graham A. Cole. Edited by Oren R. Martin. 2020 [January] Crossway. 128 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Last century A. W. Tozer wrote: 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. . . . 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.

Faithful Theology is the first book in a new series published by Crossway. This series is titled "Short Studies in Systematic Theology." In the preface to the series, they write, "While the specific focus will vary, each volume will (1) introduce the doctrine, (2) set it in context, (3) develop it from Scripture, (4) draw the various threads together, and (5) bring it to bear on the Christian life. It is our prayer, then, that this series will assist the church to delight in her triune God by thinking his thoughts—which he has graciously revealed in his written word, which testifies to his living Word, Jesus Christ—after him in the powerful working of his Spirit."

So what is this first book about? FAITHFUL THEOLOGY. Being faithful to the Word of God while doing Theology. Making sure that you are wisely and rightly handling the Word of God--interpreting it. It is important to not read into the text what you want it to say, but to let the Scriptures speak--let Scripture interpret Scripture. Cole is a bit more concise, "This book is about the method to use in doing faithful theology: faithful to God, faithful to God’s word."

This book is largely about the Bible, how to read it, study it, interpret it, apply it. It is also about how the Bible has been read, studied, interpreted, and applied in the past--through church doctrines, creeds, traditions.

He concludes, "God has spoken. The Bible is where the divine self-revelation is to be found. Theology is both reflection upon that self-revelation as the word of God and a response to it. Doing theology is a human activity that is always open to being reformed by the word of God. This is because Scripture, as the word of revelation, is the norm of norms. In any contest between authorities, Scripture is the final court of appeal. It is the touchstone of faith. Tradition, reason, and experience have their roles, but they are ruled norms that are ruled by Scripture. They are never to displace Scripture as the norm of norms. However, Scripture needs interpretation. On this score, the legacy of the Reformers of the sixteenth century remains immensely valuable. The analogy of faith provides excellent guidelines still for the interpreter, especially when nuanced with genre analysis. Theology is not done in a vacuum, however. We do our theology in fellowship with those of the past (e.g., Calvin) and the present (e.g., Kevin J. Vanhoozer). In other words, we do not read Scripture and do theology informed by Scripture as though no other Christians have ever lived, as though there were no witness of Christian thought and practice. Doing theology is a situated pursuit. We live outside Eden in the world of human brokenness. This is the truth in the postmodern perspective, but human imagination happily can give us a critical distance from ourselves, even despite our finiteness and fallenness."



© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Book Review: The Inn at Hidden Run

The Inn at Hidden Run (Tree of Life #1) Olivia Newport. 2019. 256 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Sad, but true. She would have to procure a new favorite coffee mug.

Jillian Parisi-Duffy, the star of The Inn at Hidden Run, is a professional genealogist. When a new stranger, Meri Davies, comes to town (Canyon Mines is the Colorado town), Jillian finds herself with a new side project. Could Meri's anxiety be calmed by knowing more about her family history? Meri is skeptic. Perhaps all readers are a little bit skeptic. How could knowing one's great-great-great-anything "cure" your anxiety and stress about what you want to do with your life, and solve the problem of how to handle "disappointing" your family by choosing what you want instead of what they want. But Jillian's family and friends seem to be confident that Jillian is just that good at her job. Will she prove Meri (and potential readers) wrong? Can Meri's family history reassure her of her place in this world?

My thoughts: I love, love, love "doing" genealogy. I love "doing" family history. I love storytelling. (Mom is a great family storyteller.) So I wanted to love, love, love this one. And I do really like it. I loved the blend of the present and the past. Half of the novel is set in contemporary times in a small town in Colorado. Half of the novel is set in the past--1878ish--in Memphis, Tennessee. Of course, readers know the stories will have to come together somehow....and it's lovely when they do.



© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, November 25, 2019

Book Review: To Be A Christian

To Be A Christian: An Anglican Catechism. J.I. Packer, editor. Joel Scandrett, editor. 2020 [January] Crossway. 160 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Why an Anglican catechism? Anglicans are heirs of a rich tradition of Christian faith and life.

To Be A Christian is a new catechism written specifically for Anglicans. I am not an Anglican. (Though certainly I can affirm many of the questions and answers in this one.) I wanted to let you know at the start that I am not an Anglican and I am looking at this from more of an outsider perspective.

The question isn't so much do believers--in general--need catechisms and creeds. The question is do Anglicans need their own catechism, an updated catechism though the content is often drawn from a rich, traditional past? The editors' obvious answer is YES, yes they do.

Do I agree that Anglicans need their own catechism? I'm not sure that I'm convinced. But hey I am an outsider.

So the catechism covers the gospel and faith in general, the Apostles' Creed, the Lord's Prayer, prayer in general, the Ten Commandments, etc. All stuff you'd expect in ANY christian catechism. But it doesn't stick with the basics. It goes above and beyond to cover things that are specifically or exclusively Anglican.

For example,
244. What is liturgy? Liturgy is an established pattern or form for the worship of God by God’s people.The liturgy leads us in the remembrance of God’s mighty acts and unites us in grateful response. (Exodus 15:1–21; Psalm 118; Luke 22:14–20; 1 Corinthians 11:23–26)
245. Why do Anglicans worship with a structured liturgy? Anglicans worship with a structured liturgy because it embodies biblical patterns of worship, fosters reverence and love for God, deepens faith in Jesus Christ, and is in continuity with the practices of Israel and the Early Church. (Numbers 6:22–27; Deuteronomy 12:8–14; Psalm 96; Acts 2:42–47; Revelation 15; Didache 8–10)
246. Does structured liturgy inhibit sincere and vibrant worship? No. A structured liturgy provides sincere worshipers biblical language and forms that train our hearts for worship. Liturgy enables us to worship God joyfully and with one voice. (2 Samuel 6:1–4; 2 Chronicles 29; Psalm 68:24–33; 1 Corinthians 14:26–33, 39–40; Revelation 7:9–8:5)
247. What is the role of Scripture in the Prayer Book? The Book of Common Prayer is saturated with the Scriptures, organizing and orchestrating them for worship. It helps us to pray together in words God himself has given us, with order, beauty, joy, deep devotion, and great dignity. (Exodus 34:5–8; 1 Chronicles 29:10–13; Psalms 96:9; 118; Matthew 21:1–11; Revelation 7:9–12)
248. How does the Book of Common Prayer organize corporate worship? The Prayer Book orders our daily, weekly, and seasonal prayer and worship. It also provides liturgies for significant events of life. (Leviticus 23:1–24:9; Psalm 90; John 2:1–12; 1 Corinthians 15:1–11)
249. What is the Daily Office? The Daily Office includes the services of Morning and Evening Prayer. In them we confess our sins and receive absolution, hear God’s Word and praise him with psalms, and offer the Church’s thanksgivings and prayers. (Psalms 5; 63; Daniel 6:10; Mark 1:35)
250. How is the Daily Office observed? The Daily Office is primarily designed for corporate prayer. It may also be used by individuals or families, in public or in private, in whole or in part. (Psalm 22:22–27; Acts 10:9–16; Hebrews 10:24–25; Revelation 7:9–12)
251. Why do we pray the Daily Office? We pray the Daily Office because, by it, we learn the Scriptures, join with the Church in prayer, mark our days with praise to God, and sanctify our time. ( Joshua 1:6–9; Psalms 92; 119:97; Acts 10:1–8; 1 Timothy 2:1–7)
252. What is a rule of life? A rule of life is a discipline by which I order my worship, work, and leisure as a pleasing sacrifice to God. (Deuteronomy 6:1–9; Psalm 103; John 15:1–15; Romans 12:1–2; Colossians 3:12–17)
253. Why do you need a rule of life? I need a rule of life because my fallen nature is disordered, distracted, and self-centered. A rule of life helps me to resist sin and establish godly habits, through which the Holy Spirit will increasingly conform me to the image of Christ. (Psalms 73; 86:11–13; Proverbs 3; 1 Corinthians 9:23–27; Colossians 3:1–4; 1 Peter 1:13–19)
254. What is included in a rule of life? In addition to Scripture, prayer, and worship, a rule of life includes witness, service, self-denial, and faithful stewardship of my time, money, and possessions. (Deuteronomy 5:28–33; Psalm 141; Matthew 5:13–16; 6:19–24; Mark 8:27–38; 1 Peter 4:10–11)
255. Why is prayer an essential part of a rule of life? Through prayer, I rely upon God for strength, wisdom, and humility to sustain and guide me in my rule of life. Without the love of God and the power of his Spirit, I will not attain to the fullness of Christ. ( Job 28:12–28; Psalm 143; Romans 8:26–30) 
When it's covering more-basic, truly-essential Christian doctrine and creed, the catechism is good and beneficial. Here are some of the earlier questions,
1. What is the human condition? Though created good and made for fellowship with our Creator, humanity has been cut off from God by self-centered rebellion against him, leading to lawless living, guilt, shame, death, and the fear of judgment. This is the state of sin. (Genesis 3:1–13; Psalm 14:1–3; Matthew 15:10–20; Romans 1:18–23; 3:9–23)
2. What is the Gospel? The Gospel is the good news that God loves the world and offers salvation from sin through his Son, Jesus Christ. (Psalm 103:1–13; Isaiah 53:4–5; John 3:16–17; 1 Corinthians 15:1–5)
3. How does sin affect you? Sin alienates me from God, my neighbor, God’s good creation, and myself. Apart from Christ, I am hopeless, guilty, lost, helpless, and walking in the way of death. (Genesis 3:14–19; Psalm 38; Isaiah 53:6; 59:1–2; Romans 6:20–23)
4. What is the way of death? The way of death is a life without God’s love and Holy Spirit, a life controlled by things that cannot bring me eternal joy, leading only to darkness, misery, and eternal condemnation. (Genesis 2:16–17; Deuteronomy 28:15–19; Proverbs 14:12; John 8:34; Romans 1:24–25)
5. Can you save yourself from the way of sin and death? No. I have no power to save myself, for sin has corrupted my conscience, confused my mind, and captured my will. Only God can save me. (Psalm 33:13–19; Isaiah 43:8–13; John 3:1–8; Ephesians 2:1–9)
6. How does God save you? God forgives my sins and reconciles me to himself through his Son, Jesus Christ, whom he has given to the world as an undeserved gift of love. “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” ( John 3:16; see also Psalm 34; Zechariah 12:10–13:2; Romans 3:23–26)
7. Why does God save you? Because he loves me, God saves me from sin and judgment, so that I may love and serve him for his glory. (Psalm 98; Isaiah 42:5–9; John 3:17; Romans 5:8–10; 2 Corinthians 5:18–21; Ephesians 1:3–14)
So at times I found myself LOVING it. And at other times it was more of a meh response. There are over 360 questions and answers that one would potentially have to memorize. That is A LOT. The answers are concise, but perhaps there are a few too many for the average reader...unless one is truly an Anglican.


© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Week in Review: October 26-November 24

Did I read Revelation? Yes. RSV. CSB. MEV. ASV.

Am I keeping up with the Daily Chronological Bible Reading Plan for the Growing 4 Life reading group? Yes.

What did I read in the Old Testament?

CSB Readers Bible

  • Numbers
  • Deuteronomy
  • Joshua
  • Judges
  • Ruth
  • 1 Samuel
  • 2 Samuel
  • 1 Kings
  • 2 Kings
  • 1 Chronicles
  • 2 Chronicles
  • Ezra
  • Nehemiah
  • Esther
  • Psalms
  • Isaiah
  • Jeremiah 
  • Lamentations
  • Ezekiel
  • Daniel
  • Hosea
  • Joel
  • Amos
  • Obadiah
  • Jonah
  • Micah
  • Nahum
  • Habakkuk
  • Zephaniah
  • Haggai
  • Zechariah
  • Malachi


NASB 1973

  • Numbers
  • Deuteronomy
  • Joshua
  • Judges
  • Ruth
  • 1 Samuel 1-22

KJV Spurgeon Study Bible


  • Genesis
  • Exodus 1-15
  • Psalms 1-78
  • Obadiah
  • Jonah
  • Micah
  • Nahum



What did I read in the New Testament?

CSB Readers Bible

  • Mark
  • Luke
  • John
  • Acts
  • Romans
  • 1 Corinthians
  • 2 Corinthians
  • Galatians
  • Ephesians
  • Philippians
  • Colossians
  • 1 Thessalonians
  • 2 Thessalonians
  • 1 Timothy
  • 2 Timothy
  • Titus
  • Philemon
  • 1 Peter
  • 2 Peter
  • 1 John
  • 2 John
  • 3 John
  • Jude
  • Revelation

KJV Spurgeon Study Bible


  • Matthew
  • James
  • Philemon


© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, November 22, 2019

Book Review: Crossroads in Jerusalem

Crossroads in Jerusalem. Elizabeth Raum. 2019. JourneyForth/BJU Press. 112 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I love choose your own adventure books. I do. Elizabeth Raum has written several biblical choose your own adventure for young elementary-aged readers. Others in the series include Crossroads Among the Gentiles, Christmas Crossroads, and Crossroads in Galilee. Each book offers a series of journeys. In the newest Choose Your Journey, the three journeys are: Journey with a Boy of Jerusalem (and witness Jesus overturning the money-changing tables at the temple), Journey with a Servant Girl (and witness Jesus healing the man at the Bethesda Pool), and Journey with the Lawyer's Assistant (and witness Jesus telling the parable of the Good Samaritan). Of course those are just a tiny selection of the events you may witness in this one. Each story has multiple endings, of course--as all choose your own adventure books do--and readers can reread the book until he/she has read them all.

First sentence from Journey 1: It’s spring in Jerusalem, time for Passover. Passover is the greatest of the Jewish feasts. It occurs every spring and lasts for a week. Jews from all over the world come to the temple in Jerusalem to celebrate the Exodus from Egypt and the barley harvest.
First sentence from Journey 2: Now that you are eleven years old, you can be a great help. You are a member of Chuza’s household. Chuza is an important man. He works for Herod Antipas, the ruler of Galilee and Perea.
First sentence from Journey 3: The lawyer calls you his assistant. Servant is a better title. You’re actually a slave. Your mother was a slave, which makes you one too.

I love how the back matter includes references for all the events in the book. Readers can choose to read the biblical accounts for themselves in their original context. The choose your own adventure books do tend to rearrange things quite a bit!

I definitely enjoy the series.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Book Review: A Small Book for the Anxious Heart

A Small Book for the Anxious Heart: Meditations on Fear, Worry, and Trust. Edward T. Welch. 2019. New Growth Press. 192 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence from the introduction: Anxieties remain among my top bugaboos. My own grappling with them is different than it was even a year ago, but I see so much more that is available, so much room for growth. In this book I will raise some themes from books on fear that I have previously written, but I will also introduce new themes and, I hope, add the benefit of additional experience.

First "sentence" from day one: Could there be a more important topic? Our lives are full of uncertainties. We never know what the day will bring. Worries, fears, and stress are part of daily life. We shouldn’t be surprised, then, that Scripture says so much about it, and that what it says is both attractive and helpful. The Lord responds to our fears with words of comfort, which he is pleased to repeat again and again. His words to us cluster around two themes: your God is very near, and he gives the grace and power you need for today. The aim of this book is to help us become more skillful in how we identify our fears and anxieties, hear God’s good words, and grow. You could say that our goal is wisdom. Wisdom is another name for skill in living.

Is it a devotional? Is it a Bible study? It's a happy-happy blend of both. It's a book of daily readings--fifty days--that challenge readers to grow in their faith. The devotions are substantive--packed with information both practical and biblical.

There were some readings that I just LOVED, LOVED, LOVED, LOVED, LOVED, LOVED. I thought they were timely, relevant, and just what I needed. Other readings I "merely" loved, loved, loved. Overall, I would say I was an enthusiastic reader and definitely part of Welch's target audience.
I would say the book has the potential--with the Spirit--to offer hope and change to readers.

I loved that each daily reading ended with a question or two--or an activity. Sometimes he's asking readers to write what they're thinking and feeling. Sometimes he's asking readers to "be brave" and reach out to someone--anyone--to talk to about their feelings and experiences. He's a big advocate that there's nothing to be ashamed about. Talking about what you're feeling with someone else can be life-changing. He is also a BIG advocate of PRAYER.

I disobeyed Welch in that I did NOT read just one a day. I was wearing my BOOK REVIEWER HAT. Yes, I'm part of his target audience--someone who has wrestled with anxiety and fear--but I'm also a book blogger who wanted to finish the book so I could review it and recommend it to others. I didn't want to wait FIFTY whole days before I started spreading the word: BUY THIS BOOK. Or THIS WOULD MAKE A LOVELY CHRISTMAS GIFT.

Quotes:
God never intended us to bear the overwhelming burdens of life by ourselves. Instead, he gives himself—just the right person to bear them with us. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything. (Philippians 4:5–6) Whenever God speaks to you about your fears, you can be sure he will say something about being close. He even patiently persuades you that he is close. He piles up the evidence. Still, you can be blind to that evidence when fears are close and anxieties ring loud. The process of letting anxieties go takes practice that engages with God himself—which means you will engage with Jesus.
Our goal is to persist in listening to God’s words until we really hear them and they speak God’s comfort and healing to our souls. Often it can seem like Scripture is too hard to understand and too far removed from our daily life. But it is a treasure that yields more and more as you go further in. Anything of value comes through perseverance. So listen, and keep listening. You will find well over three hundred places in the Bible where God speaks directly to your fears, and, with practice, you will hear his words to you on every page.
Response 1. Psalm 23 makes no requests. It is a declaration of truth to your soul and a confession to the Lord. Like all psalms, it is also a prayer that you can modify to the contours of your own soul. Rewrite it for yourself. Or simply speak it to the Lord in your words. 2. “You are with me” is the center of the psalm. What else do you hear that gives you hope? 3. Are there any other songs that would be good to sing?


© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

2020 Bible Reading Challenge: Knowable Word

Host: Knowable Word 
Post About the 90 Day Challenge
Mission Read the Bible in 90 Days
Reading can start anytime after November 15, 2019 and January 1, 2020
Reading must be completed by March 31, 2020
Fill out this entry form WHEN the project is complete. It must be submitted by March 31. 




© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, November 18, 2019

Bibles Read in 2020

January
February
March
April
May
June
July
August
September
October
November
December


© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Books Read in 2020



January
February
March
April
May
June
July
August
September
October
November
December

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Bible Review: CSB Reader's Bible

CSB Reader's Bible. 2019. Holman. 1824 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

I began reading the CSB Reader's Bible in October. Despite finding a 2019 publication date for this one on GoodReads, I *know* that I bought it for myself as a birthday present in November 2018. But who am I to argue with GoodReads? Does it matter? Not really. (On a complete side note, why do they have to MERGE all editions of a Bible based on translation. It makes it super tricky to find the RIGHT one to review...if you're the kind of person who keeps up with page numbers. As a book reviewer, I'm not just "reviewing" a translation, but a specific bible with specific features and specific layout.)

The Reader's Bible does NOT feature chapters or verses--just text. The chapter numbers can be found on the bottom of each page. It's relatively easy to find out which chapter(s) you've just read.

I love the format of this bible and other reader's Bibles. I do. I like approaching the book as a whole instead of broken up into chapters and verses. When possible, I did try to read whole books within a day or two or three. (For example, books like Genesis were read over two or three days. Mark was read in one day.)

Was there bleed-through? Were the pages too thin? While I would LOVE to see an edition with even thicker pages published, I didn't have a huge issue with this one. What I did have a little issue with is the SHININESS of the paper. I would love to not have GLARE while I read the bible. A cream colored paper would be perfectly ideal and lovely. Or a white without SHINY, SHIMMERY glare. I don't want glow-in-the-dark paper. (I'm reminded of the Friends' episode where Ross whitens his teeth. There is such a thing as TOO white.)

The size of the font was solidly good. I believe if GoodReads is trustworthy that it is 10 point font. That is definitely better than average these days. (A little on the small size if you remember the GOOD OLD DAYS). Ideally, my perfect size font would be around ten to twelve.

As for the CSB translation, I like it. I definitely like it. This was my second time reading the CSB. I first read it in the CSB Spurgeon Study Bible.



© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Book Review: Becoming C.S. Lewis

Becoming C.S. Lewis. A Biography of Young Jack Lewis. Harry Lee Poe. Crossway. 312 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Between the death of his mother in 1908 and his war service in 1918, young Jack Lewis made the transition from childhood to adolescence to young manhood.

I have a complex relationship with the author/theologian C.S. Lewis. I do. On the one hand, we share a birthday, and I adore almost all of the books in the Chronicles of Narnia series. (I LOATHE The Last Battle.) I really like Screwtape Letters. But when it comes to his theology, his theological writing, I have issues--some BIG issue, some tiny issues, but too many to ignore.

Who is the primary audience of this new biography? I would say that it would most appeal to scholars. A strong interest in history, literature, philosophy, the first world war would certainly help. A love of Lewis' writing--his literary essays, his philosophy, his nonfiction, his fiction--would be an absolute must. It isn't enough to merely love and adore the Chronicles of Narnia. One must equally love and adore his other books and articles as well.

The premise of this one is simple, "During his school days, the boy who would grow to become C. S. Lewis formed his most important tastes in music, art, literature, companionship, religion, sports, and almost every other aspect of life. While his ideas and critical thought about what he liked and disliked would change, his basic preferences came together during this period and formed the foundation out of which his later life grew." And..."The questions of C. S. Lewis that began to form in his mind during childhood and adolescence would compel him toward answers that resulted in his conversion to faith in Jesus Christ many years later."

But above all else, this one requires an enormous amount of patience--the patience of a saint, perhaps?! It is tedious, cumbersome work. Unless you are incredibly curious to know about the smallest details of his daily life, year after year after year after year...one could probably sum up everything you really needed to know about this time period in his life in about a hundred pages--maybe 112 pages.

This one is idea-driven. What ideas did C.S. Lewis hold during his childhood and adolescence? When did those ideas form? Did those ideas change throughout these years? Did these ideas change as he became an adult? Did they ever change? To what extent did he stay the same and to what extent did he change? What books did he read? When did he read them? Did he reread them? Did he talk about them with anyone? Did his opinions on those books, on those authors change over time? Are there any parallels between his own books that he would later write and those that he read? Are there any similar themes? What relationships were significant to him when he was eight? when he was nine? when he was ten? when he was eleven? when he was twelve? when he was thirteen? ETC.

So many WORDS. It's not that I didn't care at all. It's that I didn't care all that much. For example, do we really need to know how often a young Jack Lewis thought about sex? which friends he discussed sex with? what his sexual fantasies were? who he fantasized about? how Lewis viewed women at this time in his life? where he got his views of women from? I pick on this one issue--which I consider almost non-relevant to C.S. Lewis the author and theologian revered by Christian masses. Almost. I mean, I suppose it shows his fallenness. But still. And this is just one example.

All that being said...I can't deny the book was well-researched. He obviously spent A LOT of time finding out EVERY LITTLE THING he possibly could about C.S. Lewis. And I do believe there are a handful of readers in the world who will care because they share a similar obsession with anything and everything Lewis related. The details go to the extreme. But it's a solid read.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, November 11, 2019

Week(s) in Review: October 26-November 10

Did I read Revelation? Yes. RSV. CSB.

Am I keeping up with the Daily Chronological Bible Reading Plan for the Growing 4 Life reading group? Yes.

What did I read in the Old Testament?

CSB

  • Numbers
  • Deuteronomy
  • Joshua
  • Judges
  • Ruth
  • 1 Samuel
  • 2 Samuel
  • Esther
  • Jeremiah
  • Lamentations
  • Ezekiel
  • Daniel
  • Hosea
  • Joel
  • Amos
  • Obadiah
  • Jonah
  • Micah
  • Nahum
  • Habakkuk
  • Zephaniah
  • Haggai
  • Zechariah
  • Malachi

NASB 1973

  • Numbers
  • Deuteronomy
  • Joshua
  • Judges
  • Ruth
  • 1 Samuel 1-12


What did I read in the New Testament?

CSB

  • Mark
  • Luke
  • Acts
  • Romans
  • 1 Corinthians
  • 2 Corinthians
  • Galatians
  • 1 Peter
  • 2 Peter
  • Jude 
  • Revelation


© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Book Review: Good News! God Made Me!

Good News! God Made Me! (Board Book) Glenys Nellist. 2019. Discovery House. 18 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Who made my fingers wiggle so? Who gave me ten cute toes? Who gave me eyes to peek at you? Who made my button nose? It's God who made my fingers five and counted out each toe. The good news is that God made me--and watches as I grow!

This is a board book for Christian parents (and grandparents) to share with the little ones in their lives. What you see is what you get--a super adorable board book highlighting God's creation and their uniqueness.

It's a lovely little book. I'm happy I got the chance to review it.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Book Review: The Oregon Trail Romance Collection

The Oregon Trail Romance Collection: 9 Stories of Life on the Trail Into the Western Frontier. Featuring Stories by Amanda Cabot, Melanie Dobson, Pam Hillman, Myra Johnson, Amy Lillard, DiAnn Mills, Anna Schmidt, Ann Shorey and Jennifer Uhlarik.  2015/2019. Barbour Books.  448 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I love pioneer stories. I do. It's "my one weakness" you might say. (Of course, I have many "one" weaknesses.) I also enjoy a good romance every now and then. This collection recently republished by Barbour was just the treat I needed. So I requested to review it.

The Sagebrush Bride by Amanda Cabot. This was a GREAT choice for an opening story. I was swept up, up and away by this swoon-worthy romance.

Beckoned Hearts by Melanie Dobson. I enjoyed this one. I did. It was a good, solid read, a nice edition to the collection.

Shanghaied by the Bride by Pam Hillman. This is not your traditional romance--for better or worse. Unless by traditional you mean predictable that the hero and heroine would ultimately fall in love. I didn't care for it much. But it wasn't awful.

Settled Hearts by Myra Johnson. If I had to pick one word to describe this one it would be SILLY. Yet I can't help recalling that it was also satisfying. I found it silly because of the way the heroine/hero treat traveling east and west--the year is 1852--as if it's no big deal, not a hardship or challenge to be found!!! Her mother is DYING and so she decides to go west to try to track down her father so they can return together to be with the dying woman--wife/mother. Anyway, the focus is NEVER on the trail or the trip. Just on all the feels. Now I admit that the feels were there for this couple. I definitely liked the characters--just found the plot/story ridiculous.

As Good As Gold by Amy Lillard. Is it horrible that I can't remember one thing about this one?! Maybe this was the story that I stopped in the middle of and took a break of several weeks?! The summary provided in the book doesn't help me recall anything either!

Daughter of the Wind by Diann Mills. One word to describe this one: INTENSE. WOW. I found this story hard to put down--not because I found myself swooning at the hero or feeling like a girl again but because I had to know what happened next. This is incredible story.

His Frontier Family by Anna Schmidt. Oh this story, this one I remember too! I definitely found it charming. Not focused on the trail west--far from it--but a great romance with a good, solid hero and heroine.

State of Matrimony by Ann Shorey. Just when I think I couldn't possibly find another "favorite" in the collection...I really enjoyed this one. The heroine hires herself out as a COOK so she can go west...and there's a love triangle of sorts. This is a book I thoroughly enjoyed now, but would have LOVED, LOVED, LOVED as an eleven year old.

Sioux Summer by Jennifer Uhlarik. At first I didn't much like this one. But then I read in the author's note about the events it was based upon (...the Indian attack/hostilities). The more I thought about it, the more I liked it.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Book Review: Westering Women

Westering Women. Sandra Dallas. 2020 [January 7] 336 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Hidden beneath her black umbrella, Maggie stood in the shelter of the church and stared at the woman reading the broadsheet.

Premise/plot: Maggie is one of dozens of women signing up to travel west via wagon train to Goosetown, California, a mining town in 1852. The women will face challenges great and small along the way.

My thoughts: I loved, loved, loved, loved this one. I did. I requested a review copy because the title was close to one of my all-time favorite movies, Westward the Women. Those who know me well, know that I do not do westerns. I don't. I don't like them--never have, never will. But Westward the Women has long been an exception to the ALLERGIC TO WESTERNS rule. Dallas' novel imitates the movie in the best possible ways. I do not mean it in anyway as an insult to compare the two.

I loved that the focus was on FRIENDSHIP and not particularly on romance. The characterization was incredibly well done. This book is authentic in a raw, gritty way. The lives these women led--both before joining up, during the trek west, and afterwards in California--were ROUGH. Maggie, one of our main heroines, has had a rough life. She's had to make some incredibly difficult decisions. As have some of the others. This isn't a book appropriate for younger readers (tweens and younger teens.) There are a couple of #metoo instances that while completely realistic and authentic make it an intense read.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Prepare Him Room #2

While Joy to the World is not my favorite Christmas hymn, there is one line in the lyrics that resonates deeply with me. Let every heart prepare him room...What does that mean for you and me as another holiday season approaches. How can we--as individuals, as a church body--prepare our hearts to receive, to celebrate Christ's coming?

If you prepare your heartyou will stretch out your hands toward himIf iniquity is in your hand, put it far away, and let not injustice dwell in your tents. (Job 11:13-14)

Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name. Psalm 86:11

With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. (Psalm 119:10-11)

I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. (Psalm 119:15)

Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain! Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways. (Psalm 119:36-37)

How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way. Psalm 119:104

Your testimonies are my heritage foreverfor they are the joy of my heart. Psalm 119:111

What do you joy in? What do you take joy in? Do you find joy--pleasure, happiness, contentment--in sin? Or do you find joy--pleasure, happiness, contentment--in Christ? Have you turned away from sin and turned towards Christ? We are called to love the Lord our God with all our hearts. All. If we are holding onto sins--pet sins, my preciousss--then we are not loving God with all. The more we love God, the more we'll hate sin and want to "put it far away." 

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible