Saturday, June 29, 2019

Week in Review: June 23-29

Bible Reading

Did I read Revelation this week? Which translation? Yes. KJV.

Have I started my 30 Days of Psalms, Psalms 120-150? Which translations have I read this week?

Yes, I finished the project! This week I read KJV, ASV, NASB 1977, RSV, KJV, NKJV, Jubilee.

Am I keeping up with the Daily Chronological Bible Reading Plan for the Growing 4 Life reading group? What have I read so far? Yes. Kings, Chronicles, and Jonah

What have I read in the Old Testament this week?

ESV Prayer Bible

  • Isaiah
  • Jeremiah
  • Lamentations

1599 Geneva

  • Isaiah 40-66

What have I read in the New Testament this week?

NASB 1977

  • Acts 1-12
  • Colossians
  • 1 Thessalonians
  • 2 Thessalonians
  • 1 Timothy
  • 2 Timothy
  • Titus
  • Philemon
  • James
  • 1 Peter
  • 2 Peter

1599 Geneva

  • Galatians

Other Reading

More Than Words Can Say. (Patchwork Family #2) Karen Witemeyer. 2019. Bethany House. 368 pages. [Source: Review copy]
5 Minutes in Church History: An Introduction to the Stories of God's Faithfulness in the History of the Church. Stephen J. Nichols. 2019. Reformation Trust. 154 pages. [Source: Review copy]
The Apostles' Creed: Discovering Authentic Christianity in an Age of Counterfeits. R. Albert Mohler Jr. 2019. Thomas Nelson. 256 pages. [Source: Review copy]

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Highlights from Psalm 120-150

  • In my distress I called to the LORD and he answered me. Psalm 120:1
  • I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. Psalm 121:1-2
  • The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore. Psalm 121:8
  • Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him. Psalm 126:5-6
  • Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep. Psalm 127:1-2
  • Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD! O Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy! If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared. Psalm 130:1-4
  • I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning. Psalm 130:5-6
  • Whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps. Psalm 135:6
  • Your name, O LORD, endures forever, your renown, O LORD, throughout all ages. Psalm 135:13
  • On the day I called, you answered me; my strength of soul you increased. Psalm 138:3
  • The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands. Psalm 138:8
  • O LORD, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Psalm 139:1-5
  • For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. Psalm 139:13-16
  • Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips! Psalm 141:3
  • I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you have done; I ponder the work of your hands. I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. Psalm 143:5-6
  • Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever. Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable. Psalm 145:2-3
  • One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts. Psalm 145:4
  • The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The LORD is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made. Psalm 145:8-9
  • Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures throughout all generations. Psalm 145:13
  • The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. Psalm 145:18
  • He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Psalm 147:3
  • Let everything that has breath praise the LORD! Praise the LORD! Psalm 150:6

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, June 28, 2019

Book Review: More Than Words Can Say

More Than Words Can Say. (Patchwork Family #2) Karen Witemeyer. 2019. Bethany House. 368 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: "The council has denied your appeal, Miss Kemp." Mayor Longfellow delivered the blow with a finality that threatened to buckle Abigail's knees.

Premise/plot: Abigail ("Abby") Kemp has inherited her family's bakery shop--A Taste of Heaven. But   the bakery is now being threatened by the city council: she needs to sell her property or find a silent business partner, a MALE business parter by the end of the week. Abby rejects both options. Instead, she plans to find a HUSBAND by the end of the week.
Choosing a husband was much like choosing a good baguette. One looked for a strong outer shell, a tender interior, and most importantly, a tractability of dough to hold whatever shape the baker deemed appropriate. Abigail needed a good baguette by the end of the week. The crust could be a little stale. The crumb could be chewy and tough. Beggars couldn't be choosers, after all. But she refused to scrimp on malleable dough. Too much depended on the outcome. 
Her first choice for husband is "Bachelor #3" a newcomer to town, a regular for breakfast at A Taste of Heaven. His name? Zacharias Hamilton. (Readers may remember him as the older brother in More Than Meets The Eye.)

Zach isn't looking for a wife. And when Abby proposes completely out of the blue, his first reaction is to say YOU'VE GOT TO BE KIDDING?!?!?! But. The more he thinks about Abby, her sticky buns, and her offer of a convenient marriage...the more he's tempted to say yes. But he has a few conditions...

Will these two fall madly in love with each other after saying I do?!

My thoughts: I loved, loved, loved, loved, loved, loved, loved, loved, crazy-loved this one. I thought Short Straw Bride would forever be my absolute favorite book by Witemeyer. (I'll have to reread that one again to see if it still holds its spot.) But I could easily see myself rereading this one frequently. It is a swoon-worthy book cover to cover. I loved Abby. I loved Zach. I loved them together. I loved the spiritual aspects of this one. I loved getting to know the other characters as well that live in Honey Grove, Texas. Speaking of which, I love her TEXAS setting.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Book Review: 5 Minutes in Church History

5 Minutes in Church History: An Introduction to the Stories of God's Faithfulness in the History of the Church. Stephen J. Nichols. 2019. Reformation Trust. 154 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence of the preface: This book offers a series of postcards from church history. There are postcards of people, places, events, artifacts, dates, and ideas. I offer these postcards in the hopes that you will enjoy visiting the past--and that you will go back there often.

In 2013, 5 Minutes in Church History premiered as a podcast hosted by Stephen Nichols. The premise mission of both book and pocast is simple: to encourage believers to become more familiar--to "visit the past" often.

The first chapter (but not the first podcast) is titled "Is Spurgeon Right?" This chapter serves as a great WHY to the book. Why do believers need to be connected to the past? What benefits can believers hope to gain by exploring the past and becoming familiar with church history?

Nichols takes inspiration from Charles Spurgeon. Spurgeon wrote on why it was important for preachers to use commentaries instead of relying (or relying solely) on themselves and their interpretation of a text. Spurgeon wrote, "It seems odd, that certain men who talk so much of what the Holy Spirit reveals to themselves, should think so little of what he has revealed to others." Nichols writes, "Spurgeon reminds us that the Holy Spirit is not an individual gift. The Holy Spirit is a corporate gift to the body of Christ. The Holy Spirit has taught others, and the Spirit uses others to teach us. Spurgeon's argument reaches the conclusion that preachers should use commentaries. Don't be arrogant, and don't think you have a corner on the market of the Holy Spirit, because you don't."
Nichols then supposes what would Spurgeon say to the modern church, "Here's my paraphrase of Spurgeon's argument: 'I find it odd that the church of the 21st century thinks so highly of what the Holy Spirit has taught it today that it thinks so little of what the Holy Spirit taught the church in the first century, the second, the third, the fourth, and son and and so on.' The Holy Spirit is not unique to our age. The Holy Spirit has been at work in the church for the past twenty centuries. We could put the matter this way--it is rather prideful to think that we have nothing to learn from the past...We need a little humility. Enough humility to say we may not have all the answers in the present. Enough humility to say we need the past, and enough humility to visit it from time to time."

The book is arranged chronologically and divided into sections: "The Early Church," "The Middle Ages," "The Reformation," and "The Modern Age." There are forty chapters in all.

I would definitely recommend this one. Dare I say I would even recommend it as a devotional?! I think it would make a great devotional for readers who don't want the typical short, fluffy, light, insubstantial, inspirational, sticky-sweet devotional typically marketed for Christians. It has substance. It is informational and insightful. I think it would even be great for family devotions. That being said, you don't have to approach it as a devotional.

I really enjoyed this one...and not just because it was short. I've always loved history. I haven't always loved church history. But I think that was in part because it can be presented in a way that is overwhelming and much too much. I like the balance between focusing on people, on ideas, on places, on events, on dates, etc.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Book Review: The Apostles' Creed

The Apostles' Creed: Discovering Authentic Christianity in an Age of Counterfeits. R. Albert Mohler Jr. 2019. Thomas Nelson. 256 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: It began as an assignment. It ended as a milestone in my Christian life.

This book is a great choice for new Christians or any Christian looking for a refresher course on the basics of the Christian faith. Let's be honest, every Christian needs to be preaching the gospel to themselves daily because we need frequent reminders.

Each chapter focuses on a specific phrase of the Apostles' Creed. When you break the Apostles' Creed into short phrases, and actually take the time to unpack what is being said and how significant it is to the faith, then you realize just how much theology is packed into it.

Mohler goes one step further. He not only helps readers unpack the theology of the creed but he thoughtfully examines the times. What does it mean for the church if this part of the creed is not lived out, is not upheld, is not proclaimed or taught.

He begins the book by answering the question WHY. Why is it important for Christians to know and understand the Apostles' Creed? Why study the creed? What benefits do Christians gain from understanding an ancient creed? One reason Mohler gives is that the Apostles' Creed helps every believer be able to discern true from false. (That isn't his only reason, mind you. But it is a crucial one in these days and times. If you don't have a solid foundation, deep roots, if you will, then you won't recognize false teachers and false doctrines when you encounter them. And you will encounter them. They are abundant.)

Mohler actually gives SEVEN reasons why the creed is useful and necessary.

1. Creeds define the truth. Jesus Christ told his disciples, “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). We must study the creeds of the faith, so long as they rightly espouse the Scriptures, because they outline the truths of our faith. The truth sets the people of God free from sin, corruption, and a world under the despair of sin. The truth ushers in an eternal hope in the glorious splendor of God and his gospel to mankind.

2. Creeds correct error. The reality of truth presupposes the existence of error. In the present age, however, we find a generation, perhaps for the first time, that objects to the existence of truth. The church, however, has understood since its founding that heresy and false teaching exist and that these are horrible dangers to the people of God. Indeed, no error presents a greater danger to the church and the world than theological error. Heresy, the denial of a doctrine central to Christianity, departs from the truth and thus has eternal consequences.

3. Creeds provide rules and standards for God’s people. The Apostles’ Creed functions as a guardrail for our teaching and instruction. Indeed, the creeds protect teachers from stumbling into error by providing a rule to follow and boundaries for healthy theological discussion and development. One of the most important functions of the Apostles’ Creed, like all faithful creeds, is that it helps the church to teach and prepare new believers for faithfulness and maturity in the faith of the church. New believers in the early church were often asked to affirm the lines of the Apostles’ Creed, one by one affirming their belief and confession of the true Christian faith.

4. Creeds teach the church how to worship and confess the faith. The Apostles’ Creed delineates the most glorious and splendid truths of the Christian faith. It naturally ushers our souls into heartfelt worship and praise of God. The creeds, therefore, guide the church in worship and contain the most precious truths through which we can worship God and rightly praise his name. In corporate worship, voices converge so that I believe becomes we believe, joining together all believers, both the living and those already with Christ.

5. Creeds connect us to the faith of our fathers.

6. Creeds summarize the faith. Those who would argue for no creed but the Bible have forfeited a great gift in maintaining biblical Christianity. This dubious position fails to understand the heart behind creeds and confessions. These documents do not seek to replace Scripture. Instead, they accurately seek to summarize its content into succinct statements in order to equip Christians with brief yet crucial distillations of the faith.

7. Creeds define true Christian unity. Finally, the affirmations of the Apostles’ Creed weave a fabric that knits all Christians together in the genuine bonds of unity. Statements of faith and the creeds of the church unite believers from all ages to the unchanging truth of God’s revelation. True Christian unity is unity in the truth revealed by Christ, not unity at the expense of truth, as is becoming all too common.

It would be easy for Christians to dismiss the Apostles' Creed--not because they reject the truths it contains--but because of their familiarity with it. It is so familiar, so routine that it is easy to recite it without engaging the heart and mind. It can be recited mindlessly. But if read slowly, thoughtfully--it can be an act of worship. God is GOOD.

I loved reading this one. All of the chapters were good and solid. A few of the chapters really spoke to me and got me thinking. (For example, the chapter on Christ's Ascension.) I loved, loved, loved the chapter on the Holy Spirit.

Favorite quotes:
The Apostles’ Creed collapses time and space, uniting all true believers in the one, holy, and apostolic faith. This creed is a summary of what the Bible teaches, a narrative of God’s redemptive love, and a concise statement of basic Christianity. All Christians believe more than is contained in the Apostles’ Creed, but none can believe less.
I believe. These two words are among the most explosive words any human can utter. They open the door to eternal life and are the foundation of the Christian faith.
Real Christianity is Christianity resting on truth—a faith of definite beliefs cherished by believers throughout the ages and all given to the church. as Christians, we believe what the apostles believed. And we want to hand that same faith to the next generation. Further, we want to worship like the apostles and preach and teach like them. To do so, we turn first to the Bible, but we also turn to the historic and faithful summaries of the Christian faith, the most honored, historic, and universal of which is the Apostles’ Creed.
Just as in the early centuries of the church, it takes courage to be an orthodox Christian. It takes courage to confess the “faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). It takes courage to believe the orthodox faith of the church, rooted in Scripture—but confessional courage is exhilarating. Throughout Christian history, many believers have faced persecution, imprisonment, and even death for the sake of the gospel. Their courage in the face of immense adversity should inspire us.
We must confess our complete dependence upon the revelation of God in Scripture lest we preach some other Jesus, some other Christ. Jesus is the supernatural Savior. We know this by means of a supernatural revelation. 

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, June 24, 2019

Berean Playlist #9 Diamonds

See my blog post: On Being Berean, Part 2 for context on this series. It's been almost eight months since my last "Berean" post. This week's song is by Hawk Nelson, Diamonds. I'll link to the lyrics video and the music video. Both appear on the band's official page. 


Here and now I'm in the fire in above my head
Being held under the pressure don't know what'll be left
But it's here in the ashes
I'm finding treasure

He's making diamonds, diamonds
Making diamonds out of dust
He is refining and in His timing
He's making diamonds out of us

I'll surrender to the power of being crushed by love
Till the beauty that was hidden isn't covered up
Oh it's not what I hoped for
It's something much better

He's making diamonds, diamonds
Making diamonds out of dust
He is refining and in His timing
He's making diamonds out of us

Oh the joy of the Lord
It will be my strength
When the pressure is on
He's making diamonds
Oh the joy of the Lord
It will be my strength
When the pressure is on
He's making diamonds
Oh the joy of the Lord
It will be my strength 
When the pressure is on
He's making diamonds, he's making

He's making diamonds, diamonds
Making us rise up from the dust
He is refining and in His timing
He's making diamonds out of dust
Making diamonds out of us

I won't be afraid to shine
I won't be afraid to shine
I won't be afraid to shine
'Cause He's making diamonds out of dust
Making diamonds out of us

Scriptures that shed light on the lyrics...
The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands. Psalm 138:8
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4
Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. James 1:12
Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1:6-9
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 1 Peter 4:12-13
Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good. 1 Peter 4:19
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. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort. 2 Corinthians 1:3-7
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:17-18
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:7-18 
For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. 2 Corinthians 5:1-5 
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. 1 Corinthian 10:13
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. Hebrews 2:18
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Hebrews 4:15
Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermostthose who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. Hebrews 7:25
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. Hebrews 12:1-3
It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? Hebrews 12:7
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:3-5
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long;   we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:18-39
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1-2
Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Romans 12:12
I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:12-13
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4-7
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. John 16:33
Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10
Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4
Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold  and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. Habakkuk 3:17-18 
The LORD is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him. Psalm 28:7
He has made everything beautiful in its time. Ecclesiastes 3:11
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10

Conclusion: I'm not sure Diamonds is a worship song exactly; a worship song that is super-appropriate for church. But if it is in any way inappropriate, it isn't because of unbiblical lyrics. I think the structural themes for this one are solid. That being said there are individual lines that could perhaps use a little building up or rewording to be clearer. For example, the line, "Till the beauty that was hidden isn't covered up..." Man in his natural state is fallen and sinful. Man is still made in the image of God, but that image in its natural state is fractured, broken, not perfect. I think God sanctifies us, purifies us, transforms and renews us, makes us holy and pleasing. I think this growing, reshaping process is painful to us. God has never promised to make us happy and comfortable; he has promised to sanctify and glorify us.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Psalm 130:5-6, Various Translations

  • I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning. (ESV)
  • I wait for Jehovah, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope. My soul waiteth for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning; yea, more than watchmen for the morning. (ASV)
  • I wait for the LORD, my soul does wait, and in His word do I hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than the watchmen for the morning; Indeed, more than watchmen for the morning. (NASB)
  • I wait for the LORD, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope. My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning: I say, more than they that watch for the morning. (KJV)
  • I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in His word I do hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning--yes, more than those who watch for the morning. NKJV
  • I rely on the LORD, I rely on him with my whole being; I wait for his assuring word. I yearn for the Lord, more than watchmen do for the morning, yes, more than watchmen do for the morning. (NET)
  • That is why I wait expectantly, trusting God to help, for he has promised. I long for him more than sentinels long for the dawn. (Living)
  • I am counting on the LORD; yes, I am counting on him. I have put my hope in his word. I long for the Lord more than sentries long for the dawn, yes more than sentries long for the dawn. (NLT)
  • I wait longingly for ADONAI; I put my hope in his word. Everything in me waits for Adonai more than guards on watch wait for morning, more than guards on watch wait for morning. (Complete Jewish Bible)
  • I have waited on the Lord: my soul hath waited, and I have trusted in his word. My soul waiteth on the Lord more than the morning watch watcheth for the morning. (1599 Geneva)
  • I wait for Yahweh, I wait and put my hope in His word. I wait for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning--more than watchmen for the morning. (HCSB)
  • I wait for the LORD; I wait and put my hope in his word. I wait for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning--more than watchmen for the morning. (CSB)
  • I wait for the LORD, with bated breath I wait; I long for His Word! My soul waits for the Lord, more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning. (MEV)
  • I wait for the LORD, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope. I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning. (NIV 2011)
  • I wait for the LORD with all my soul, I hope for the fulfillment of his word. My soul waits for the Lord more eagerly than watchmen for the morning. (NEB)
  • I wait for the LORD with longing; I put my hope in his word. My soul waits for the Lord more eagerly than watchmen for the morning. Like those who watch for the morning. (REB)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Week in Review: June 16-22

Bible Reading

Did I read Revelation this week? Which translation? Yes. English Revised Version

Have I started my 30 Days of Psalms, Psalms 120-150? Which translations have I read this week?
NASB 1977. KJV. 1599 Geneva. NASB 1971. Jerusalem Bible.

Am I keeping up with the Daily Chronological Bible Reading Plan for the Growing 4 Life reading group? What have I read so far? Yes. Kings and Chronicles

What have I read in the Old Testament this week?
NASB 1977

  • Psalm 42-150

ESV Prayer Bible

  • Psalms 55-150
  • Proverbs
  • Ecclesiastes
  • Song of Songs

1599 Geneva Bible

  • Proverbs
  • Isaiah 1-39

What have I read in the New Testament this week?
NASB 1977

  • Luke
  • Galatians
  • Ephesians
  • Hebrews

Other Reading

Fearfully and Wonderfully: The Marvel of Bearing God's Image. Paul W. Brand and Philip Yancey. 2019. InterVarsity Press. 264 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Choosing Community: Action, Faith, and Joy in the Works of Dorothy L. Sayers. Christine A. Colon. 2019. [October] InterVarsity Press. 150 pages. [Source: Review copy]
A Song of Joy. Lauraine Snelling. 2019. Bethany House. 464 pages. [Source: Review copy]

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Book Review: Fearfully and Wonderfully

Fearfully and Wonderfully: The Marvel of Bearing God's Image. Paul W. Brand and Philip Yancey. 2019. InterVarsity Press. 264 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: A curtain screened my group of interns and medical students from the rest of the forty-bed ward at a training hospital in Vellore, India.

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made is an updated and combined edition of two classic books: Fearfully and Wonderfully Made and In His Image. I have not read either book before so I'm not sure exactly how these two are merged together. (I am curious though!)

The book is one doctor's perspective on the human body and its Creator. What can learning about the human body teach us about our Creator? What spiritual lessons can be gleamed from the natural world? One thing is stressed throughout the book: we are God's image-bearers. The church especially has the unique opportunity to do God's work on earth and be a blessing to the world. In the first chapter he writes, "we can take on God’s qualities—compassion, mercy, love, gentleness—and express them to a needy, broken world. As spirit, God remains invisible, relying on us to make that spirit visible. It is a supreme mystery that God has chosen to convey likeness through millions of ordinary people like us. We bear that image collectively, as a Body, because any one of us taken individually would present an incomplete image, one partly false and always distorted, like a single glass chip hacked from a mirror. Yet in all our diversity we can come together as a community to bear something of God’s image in the world." Towards the end of the book, he shares, "When God seems unreal, we can demonstrate that reality to others by expressing Christ’s love and character. Some may see this as God’s failure to respond to our deepest needs: “My God, why have you forsaken me?” I see it as a calling for the rest of the Body to unify and to embody the love of God. I say this carefully: we can show love when God seems not to."

I enjoyed reading this one. I did. I liked hearing his personal stories--stories about his family, his experiences on the mission field, his experiences with patients, his experiences as a student, etc. I liked his insights as well. He offers much food for thought.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Book Review: Choosing Community

Choosing Community: Action, Faith, and Joy in the Works of Dorothy L. Sayers. Christine A. Colon. 2019. [October] InterVarsity Press. 150 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: IN THE NINE TAILORS, one of her most famous detective novels, Dorothy L. Sayers discusses the “art of change-ringing”—an art where a group of bell ringers gather together in a church’s bell tower “to work out mathematical permutations and combinations” on the bells.

Choosing Community features three essays by Christine Colon and three responses by various scholars. All three essays address the idea or concept of community in the works of Dorothy L. Sayers. In the first and third essays the focus is on Sayers' detective novels. In the second essay the focus is on Sayers' dramas.

In the first essay, "Dorothy L. Sayers’s Vision for Communities of Action" the focus is on Peter Wimsey and HIS community. He does not solve cases alone. Far from it--he's not an egotistical genius in isolation. He relies on others within the community--men and women. It isn't that he allows others to help him. He would find it impossible to solve cases without others helping him. Every person is vital--essential. Sayers also breaks the formula of the traditional detective novel. Her mystery novels became progressively more and more complex. The "worlds" she creates are realistic--oh-so-human. The characters she creates have realistic problems that correlate to the real world. Her mystery novels can be thought-provoking and not mindless escapes. Her novels aren't tied up in neat little bows with the world returned to cozy innocence. The real world doesn't work like that and neither do her novels. Colon concludes, "Sayers, by moving beyond traditional conventions, has deepened the artistry of her works and created a more realistic view of evil and a more complex view of the (limited) power of the detective."

The novels examined closely within this essay are The Nine Tailors, The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club, Murder Must Advertise, and Strong Poison.

In the third essay, "Dorothy L. Sayers’s Vision for Communities of Joy" the focus is on Harriet Vane's character arc. When the character is first introduced in Strong Poison, she is without a community. She is isolated, alone, distrustful of others. She is without joy or hope. But this isn't the last we see of her. Harriet Vane appears in three additional novels--and her character develops with each additional novel. Colon discusses Strong Poison, Have His Carcase, Gaudy Night, and Busman's Honeymoon. Vane's rejoining the community is gradual perhaps but ultimately healing.

In the second essay, "Dorothy L. Sayer's Vision for Communities of Faith" the focus is not on the local Christian church but on the community of the theatre. Colon spends time discussing or analyzing three of Sayers' dramas: "The Zeal of Thy House," "The Emperor Constantine," and "The Just Vengeance." Colon also briefly discusses a few of Sayers' essays and her new translation of Dante's Divine Comedy.

After each essay, there is a response. I wasn't overly impressed by the first and third responses--particularly the third one. But I really LOVED the response by Andy Mangin about the theatre.
Here are a few of my favorite quotes from his response.
  • Theater is the only art form in which both the medium and the subject are human. It seeks to explore who we are; it is a laboratory of the human condition. In order to do this work well and with honesty, theater is dependent on a series of collaborations, each requiring belief, commitment, and relationship.
  • A play, unlike other written material, is unfinished until this collaboration begins.
  • In the theater, the audience is being asked to be more than consumers. They are being asked to engage and participate. They are being asked to be co-creators of the play. Dorothy Sayers knew that the audience was necessary for a play to work.
  • This connection in the moment between performer and audience, this shared experience of a glimpse of humanity demands something of us. It asks us to tell the story too. An audience, inclining and cocreating, might be able to experience things they might never experience in their own lives. It gives us a chance to see the embodied stories about the extremes of humanity, times we might never face; yet in it, we might also recognize ourselves.
  • The great paradox of theater is this: an audience is being asked to look past themselves, to engage in a story about others with the hope that who they are will be reflected back at them.
  • The theater is not for single viewing. It is not for private consumption. You are meant to be sitting with others, laughing when they laugh, crying when they cry, in some cases, moved to do so by those around you. This is what the ancient Greeks would call catharsis.
I would definitely recommend this collection of essays. It also references a few of her letters. I had no ideas she was good friends with C.S. Lewis. This book includes photographs of a few of these letters. And there are illustrations. It's a hoot!

Quotes from the essays:

Throughout her life, Sayers immersed herself in groups that would not only help to nurture her own individual creativity but also allow her to work with others to achieve more as a group than she could individually. She recognized the potential power of people working well in community and utilized it in her own life and career.
Sayers recognized the potential for detective fiction to be more than escapism. In her essay “Gaudy Night,” Sayers describes the process she went through as she tried to move from the simple formula of a typical detective puzzle to a detective novel of manners: a novel that retained the intrigue of the puzzle but also portrayed a realistic society with complex characters and themes that would compel readers to reflect on the issues of the novel long after they closed the book.
By investigating the trajectory of her novels, we can begin to see how Sayers asks her readers to rethink the simplistic portrayals of the community and the detective that are part of the traditional formula for mystery novels, encouraging them to reflect on the role that each individual might play in the process of maintaining a healthy community.
In a number of her later novels, however, Sayers begins to challenge these simplistic views of community and evil. In these novels, the communities are not essentially peaceful and good nor are the problems easily resolved simply by finding the true villain. Here, evil—whether social or moral—pervades the community, making it much more difficult for the brilliant detective to bring the community to a state of innocence. For example, in The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club (1928), Sayers initially seems to follow the traditional formula: a greedy villain throws the community into chaos by murdering an elderly man in order to gain access to a substantial inheritance, and Peter restores that inheritance to the appropriate people by solving the case.
Rather than presenting comforting endings in which the detective by solving the case also resolves the problems that threaten the community, Sayers illustrates that there are essential problems in the worlds of these novels that transcend the detective’s power.
And the fact that the worlds of these novels so closely mirror the world of Britain in the late 1920s and early 1930s, when the novels were written, suggests that Sayers is also asking her readers to move beyond these fictional realities to the challenges facing their own world. But if the detective cannot solve all these problems, who can?
In her later novels, Sayers develops this idea even further as she increases the number of friends who help Peter solve his cases, eventually demonstrating that the problems of society might be addressed more effectively by a community of individuals actively pursuing their unique vocations. She does this most fully in her novel Strong Poison (1930).
Sayers did not write her detective fiction intending to present a theological perspective on community. But as an artist trying to do her proper work with integrity, she began to recognize that preserving the complex communities she was beginning to create within her novels required more than simply the brilliance of Lord Peter Wimsey. It required Miss Climpson’s insights into human nature and her ability to fake a séance just as much as it required Inspector Parker’s plodding police work, Freddie Arbuthnot’s knowledge of the stock market, Marjorie Phelps’s insight into the artistic mind, and Miss Murchison’s secretarial skills. By focusing on their unique work and taking action when needed, they all ended up serving the wider community. Their skills came together with everyone else’s, ultimately providing a powerful model of the balance between individuals and community that Sayers hoped would help transform her own society.
As we will soon see, an arch plays an important role in the plot of The Zeal of thy House. But in addition to that, I believe the arch serves as a powerful symbol of Sayers’s developing ideas about the components needed to maintain healthy communities of faith: committed individuals who are willing to participate in the work of bearing one another’s burdens (like the stones in an arch), and a centering doctrine that acts like a keystone to hold those individuals together.
With the outbreak of World War II, Sayers, along with many other Christian intellectuals, began to reflect on the ways that the supposedly Christian society of Great Britain might not be prepared for the challenges of the war. In “Creed or Chaos?,” which was delivered as a lecture in 1940, Sayers characterizes the war as “a life-and-death struggle between Christian and pagan,” and she declares that “at bottom it is a violent and irreconcilable quarrel about the nature of God and the nature of man and the ultimate nature of the universe.” Sayers contends that what is “terrifying and tremendous” about the war is that it is based not on a “failure in Germany to live up to her own standards of right conduct” but rather that “what we believe to be evil, Germany believes to be good.” 
For Sayers, the fundamental issue at stake in the war is the truth of Christianity. She is therefore adamant that those who claim to be Christians must be fully grounded in the doctrines they supposedly believe. In fact, Sayers implies that unless the people of Britain truly understand Christian doctrine, they run the risk of winning the battle against Germany but losing the war against paganism: a war they do not even realize they should be fighting.
Throughout her essays, Sayers warns her readers that unless they hold to the truth of doctrine as the keystone of Christianity, the arch of their faith cannot stand. Sayers, however, recognizes that a lack of doctrinal understanding is not the only threat that Christians must address. She also focuses on the difficulties Christians experience when trying to live out their faith together in community.
To return to the image of the arch, the challenge for communities, then, is not simply the lack of a keystone but also the internal divisions that reveal the stones’ flaws that would compromise the arch’s stability even with the keystone in place. Throughout her essays, Sayers repeatedly highlights these dangers that she believes threaten to destroy Christianity; but, as we will see, it is in her religious plays that she fully explores the implications of these ideas about doctrine, evil, and community as she presents the various challenges of individuals attempting (and repeatedly failing) to live well in their communities of faith.
Theater, for Sayers, has all the qualities that she desired to see in the church, so it seems fitting that she uses drama to explore the challenges facing communities of faith. With these plays, Sayers not only reflects on the qualities that communities of faith need in order to thrive, but she also enacts these qualities within each of the communities that came together in making the productions. Sayers may have experienced her ideal community of faith much more fully in the theater than in the church, but she never abandoned the idea that the church could become a more effective community of faith.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, June 17, 2019

Book Review: A Song of Joy

A Song of Joy. Lauraine Snelling. 2019. Bethany House. 464 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Life in America certainly wasn't like Nilda had dreamed.

Premise/plot: A Song of Joy is the fourth book in Lauraine Snelling's Under Northern Skies series. Though one could certainly start the series at any point, you'll get more enjoyment and satisfaction if you read the series in order.

Though there are many, many characters in A Song of Joy, the main character is Nilda Carlson. She's still working for Mrs. Gertrude Schoenleber as her assistant and secretary. She hasn't forgotten the traumatic event(s) of previous books--nor should she have.

Jeffrey Schmitz is pursuing a relationship with Nilda at the insistence of his father, Heinrik. Nilda can see through Jeffrey's advances. He's a self-centered snob who thinks Nilda should be grateful if Jeffrey stoops to say hello to her. He only talks of himself, and he's dismissive of just about anything and everything Nilda has to say. He's not too observant, or he'd never have proposed at a public ball! He reminds me a bit of Disney's Gaston.

Fritz Larsson is a teacher and a musician. He's known Nilda for several books now. She's been taking piano lessons from him. She's always liked him. Perhaps she's always liked-liked him. But does he like-like her? Does he love her? Does he want to marry her?

This one isn't just a romance. It's also a novel about compassion and giving back. Nilda and her employer are hard at work on a new project that will help new immigrants that arrive in Blackduck.

My thoughts: I had my issues with the third book, I won't lie. But I thoroughly enjoyed this latest book in the series. I'm so glad that I've read it. I don't know why I assumed they'd just be three books in the series!!!

I love Lauraine Snelling's novels. It's always a treat to spend time with her well-developed characters.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible