Thursday, July 25, 2019

Book Review: The Whole Armor of God

The Whole Armor of God: How Christ's Victory Strengthens Us for Spiritual Warfare. Iain M. Duguid. 2019. Crossway. 128 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Over recent years, there have been many television shows aimed at helping people get properly dressed.

The book is a study of Ephesians 6:10-18.

Who should read The Whole Armor of God?! One might as well ask who should not read The Whole Armor of God?! It is just that good. And I do love it when MUST-READ books happen to fall around the 125 page mark. It should be read by believers of all ages and stages. It should be read by all believers because all believers wear the armor. This book is not for "super-Christians." Duguid reminds readers, "the choice is not whether you will be a Christian soldier or a Christian civilian but whether you will be a prepared Christian soldier or an unprepared one. And an unprepared soldier of flesh and blood will not be able to stand against the scale of the spiritual forces ranged against him or her."

The first chapter, "Dressed for Battle," covers the introductory verses that serve as the preface to the armor of God. Duguid wants his readers to have a proper big-picture perspective for understanding and applying the armor. It is essential that believers understand the SCALE OF OUR NEED; it is essential that believers comprehend the VASTNESS OF GOD'S PROVISION; it is essential that believers take seriously the CALL TO STAND. If you fail to take into account any of these three, then your understanding of the armor of God might be a little warped. And a misunderstanding could lead to misapplication.

I love the example he gives: "What many of us hear in these words [Ephesians 6:13-17] is a call to triumphant action, as if it is completely up to us to take on the devil and withstand his schemes. If we would just put on the whole armor of God, we should therefore constantly be able to stand firm against all of Satan’s schemes. God has done his part perfectly in making the armor available; now it is up to us to choose whether to use it. Meanwhile, God appears helpless in heaven, waiting to see how it all turns out. When this wrong understanding holds sway, Christians get sorted into one of two camps. Some choose to be radical disciples of Jesus and live an epic life by putting on that armor. Others, by their neglect, become those “loser” Christians who are regularly tripped up by the devil’s schemes, falling into sin daily, leaving God perpetually disappointed. In reality, many of us find ourselves daily in the second category: we are often unwilling and unable even to think clearly about the armor, let alone put it on...If sanctification were as simple as some suggest (“Just try harder to put on the armor!”), we would not fail and fall in the Christian life nearly as much as we do." (Emphasis mine)

Isn't it easy--even when you KNOW better--to fall into this mindset?! To shift the focus from Christ's wearing of the armor to OUR WEARING OF THE ARMOR. I think this is fairly common as well. Duguid writes, "An inevitable result of this self-focused perspective on our spiritual growth is that we become proud of ourselves and judgmental of others if we think that we are doing well in our struggle against sin and Satan. After all, we chose to put on God’s armor while they made poor choices."

The BIGGIE insight of chapter one is, "Our sanctification rests first and foremost on the finished work of Christ in our place. As we shall see, the armor of God is quite literally God’s armor—armor designed for and worn by God first and foremost. The armor God gives us to defend and protect us against Satan’s onslaught is the armor that he has already worn in the decisive battle on our behalf. We fight and stand firm against Satan only in the strength that comes from the victory that Christ has already won for us. That is why each of the various pieces of armor points us to Christ. The belt of truth is the belt that girds the messianic king in Isaiah 11:5. The breastplate of righteousness and the helmet of salvation come from the divine warrior’s arsenal in Isaiah 59:17. The feet shod with gospel readiness are the feet of those who proclaim the arrival of Messiah’s kingdom in Isaiah 52:7. God himself is the shield of faith, as he describes himself in Genesis 15. The sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, is the weapon wielded by the promised servant of the Lord in Isaiah 49:2. What God clothes us with is nothing less than his own armor, the same armor that Christ has already worn on our behalf in his lifelong struggle with the mortal enemy of our souls, Satan himself. You are called to wear the armor of God not because that’s what Jesus would do if he found himself in a similar situation; you are called to wear God’s armor because that is what Jesus has already done, wearing God’s armor all the way to the cross."

This may just be the BIGGIE insight of the entire book. And it's a potential life-changer or game-changer. Hence why this book is a must-read in my opinion. Every believer needs to grasp these key truths about justification, sanctification, propitiation, and imputation. And these are the key doctrines being taught throughout the book AS Duguid unpacks Ephesians 6.

Every day believers can take joy from knowing that, "Your victory over sin belongs to Jesus, not you. Jesus’s struggle was the decisive one, not yours. His victory on the cross purchased your complete sanctification, your ultimate holiness before God. His Spirit is at work within you growing you at the rate that he intends toward his goal of your complete purity. Your sanctification is where he plans for it to be... Fight the good fight with all your might. Wrestle with all the energy that the Spirit gives you. But in the midst of that standing, fighting, and wrestling, don’t forget to rest in the finished victory of Christ and the assurance that the Spirit’s perfect sanctifying work in your life is what counts."

In the following chapters, "The Belt of Truth," "The Breastplate of Righteousness," "Gospel Boots," "The Shield of Faith," "The Helmet of Salvation," and "The Sword of the Spirit" Duguid unpacks spiritual truths one by one from the Ephesians passage. These chapters are packed with insight but also quite practical. I love that he teaches from the Old Testament and the New Testament, highlighting how Paul was using Old Testament texts and applying them in light of Christ. Believers not familiar with the Old Testament may not be aware of these connections and how they are among the OT passages that point to Christ.

The last chapter, "Praying Always," [Ephesians 6:18-20] focuses on prayer. "The armory needs to be under the control of the pilot; you and I need to be in close contact with God. And the means by which we stay in contact is prayer. Prayer is not so much another weapon that the Christian has been given as it is the means by which all of his or her weaponry is kept effective, under the control and guidance of God."

Favorite quotes:
  • Truth is essential to the Christian life; it is foundational to taking a stand against the devil. The Christian message unambiguously claims to be the truth, not just a truth.
  • Christianity claims loudly to be the truth. And the truth with which we are to be belted in order to face up to the devil is, first and foremost, the truth of what we believe: the gospel message of who God is, who we are, and what he requires of us as created human beings. This truth is revealed to us in the Word of God, the Scriptures.
  • Our hearts are leaky containers, constantly losing our hold on the truth. Day by day, we need to refill our mind with a fresh measure of God’s truth, revealed in the Scriptures, so that we will be equipped to stand against Satan’s lies.
  • What the Bible gives to us, however, is not simply little nuggets of truth—one truth over here, another truth over there—but rather a whole system of teaching, of doctrine. All the different parts of the Bible are related and interrelated, and when you put them together as a whole, they teach us what we must believe about God and what God requires of us. The idea of doctrine is not very popular in our day and age.
  • Foundational truth, belted around our waists, enables us to stand against Satan, even as it points us away from ourselves to Jesus Christ as the only one who can make us stand.
  • What Paul means by the “breastplate of righteousness,” however, is not a set of accomplishments that we create for ourselves; rather, it is something given to us to put on. This breastplate is not our workmanship; it is part of the armor that God provides for us, a righteousness that is not our own.
  • The trouble with the popular view of what makes someone a Christian, that what gets us into God’s good books are our own efforts to obey God, is that our righteousness can never be good enough. Even when I am trying to obey God, I regularly do, say, and think things that are either against what God tells me to do or not in line with what God tells me I ought to do, which is sin. What is more, the Bible says that the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23). That is, the reward that we deserve each and every time that we fail to obey God fully from our hearts is death, eternal separation from God. Yet we all sin many times each day.
  • Our own righteousness won’t protect us against God, let alone against the devil.
  • At the heart of the Christian message are two equal and opposite transformations. Each is dramatic; each would be unbelievable if we didn’t have God’s own Word on it. They are these: God took Jesus, the only perfect person who ever lived, the only one who could ever stand before God on the basis of his own goodness—God’s own beloved Son—and stripped off from Jesus these clean clothes of faithful obedience. The Father tore off Jesus’s righteous standing before him and treated him as if he were the guilty one. He made Jesus to be blackened with our sin, our iniquity, our transgression—all the filthy thoughts, abusive words, and vile actions that you and I have committed in the past or will commit in the future... And then, equally remarkably, having treated the innocent one as guilty, God treats the guilty ones as innocent. Paul puts it like this: “In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them” (2 Cor. 5:19). Instead of counting our sins against us, God chooses to count for us Christ’s righteousness. As Isaiah had said, “Upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed” (Isa. 53:5). It is not just that God doesn’t count against us all the times that we have fallen short of his perfect standard; he also counts for us all the times Jesus faced a similar temptation and stood firm. His perfect righteousness and holy obedience are credited to our account. The robe of perfect obedience that God stripped off the back of his own Son, he now gives to clothe us (see Zechariah 3). In Christ, we have received a breastplate of righteousness that defends us forever against the wrath of God.
  • As we look back over today and yesterday and last week, we lose count of the multitude of times we have failed God through lust, pride, selfishness, lies, coveting, and so on. For people like us, the breastplate of God’s righteousness is really good news. It declares that no matter how bad you’ve been, the offer of God’s deliverance still stands. You can’t pile more evil onto Jesus than he can bear! If he can carry the weight of the sins of all his people—past, present and future—then he can certainly manage your personal collection.
  • This central truth of the imputed righteousness of Christ needs to dominate the lives of all Christians. On the one hand, it means that nothing I can do could ever stop God loving me. If God loved me enough to give himself for me when I was his sworn enemy, he will certainly love me enough to forgive me now that I am his adopted child. The righteousness that comes through the cross gives us assurance and security in God’s love. If I have been reconciled to God through Christ and am always clothed in his perfect righteousness, then even during the darkest nights of personal failure, when I slide right back into those sins that have the strongest grip on my heart, he will not cast me off. 
  • On the other hand, the righteousness that comes through the cross also means that I can never take my sin lightly and just shrug it off. I have been reconciled to God and made a new creature in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17). God is now at work in me by his Holy Spirit, remaking me into the image of Christ. His purpose is to make me part of a holy people, created for good works in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:10). Why, then, would I act as if I am still part of the kingdom of darkness and plunge back into my former way of life among the prostitutes and the pigs as if nothing had happened? The righteousness of Christ, painfully won for us at the cross, motivates us to strive hard toward an obedience that fits the new nature God is working in us.
  • If, when you are doing well, your mind is full of yourself, it is a sign that you are unduly enamored with your own armor. If, when you are failing, you are cast down with overwhelming feelings of guilt and shame, your problem is the same. Refocus your attention again on the gospel.
  • The task of being a herald is simple and twofold: to get the message right and to get the message out. 
  • To experience faith as a shield, you need to know not only that God is powerful but that this God is your friend. God’s sovereignty is not in the least comforting unless you know that this sovereign God is on your side.
  • Our feelings about whether God exists and who he is rise and fall like the tides, but God’s truth in the Bible endures forever. What is the Bible’s answer to the question about whether God is on our side? Strangely enough, it starts out by recognizing that God isn’t automatically on everybody’s side. God is not a great grandfather in the sky who exists to make every human life happy and fulfilled.
  • There is one more thing to say: even when I don’t believe with my whole heart that God is sovereign and good, which is often, that doesn’t change the truth. Our constant cry is, “I believe; Lord, help my unbelief!” And he does. Remember, it is not ultimately our faith that shields us but God himself. When the shield of our faith wavers and drops, the Lord’s strong and mighty shield is always in place, keeping us safe from Satan’s assaults. 
  • It is interesting to note that Paul begins and ends his listing of the armor of God with related ideas. He started with the belt of truth, the foundational garment that underlies all the rest. Now he concludes with the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. The knowledge and application of the truth as it is found in God’s Word are quite literally the beginning and end of the story in our struggle to stand firm in the battle for obedience. We may live in an age that declares itself “post-truth” and seems more interested in feelings and experiences than thoughtful analysis and discernment, but this is just one more way in which Christianity is countercultural in our context.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

On Migraines

So far the longest I've gone without a migraine this month is about forty to forty-four hours. Though I sometimes exaggerate (slightly) about how "horrible" a month has been in terms of number of migraines, no exaggerations this month.

I have never been one to have to know WHY, to demand to know WHY, to focus my energy on discovering WHY. Sometimes I've been tempted to cry out HOW LONG. Particularly when my rests between episodes/experiences are practically nonexistent.

I've about decided that the majority--if not the totality--of my spiritual warfare will stem from physical pain and suffering and the mental/spiritual impact of that. How can God be glorified in my pain? How can I honor God through my suffering? Where do I turn, where do I run? This isn't exactly suffering for Christ so much as suffering with Christ.

I can prepare for battle--prepare for suffering. The best weapon I have is Scripture. For it is in Scripture that I find hope, find peace, find joy, find strength.

Here are a few of my go-to verses that may help you out in your circumstances:

  • I lay down and slept; I awoke for the LORD sustains me. Psalm 3:5
  • 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 the watchmen for the morning. Psalm 130:5-6
  • The LORD will accomplish what concerns me; Thy lovingkindness, O LORD< is everlasting; do not forsake the works of Thy hands. Psalm 138:8
  • I will praise the LORD while I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being. Psalm 146:2
  • But Thou, O LORD, art a shield about me, my glory and the One who lifts my head. Psalm 3:3
  • This is my comfort in my affliction, that Thy word has revived me. Psalm 119:50
  • I am exceedingly afflicted; revive me O LORD, according to Thy word. Psalm 119:107
  • How sweet are Thy words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth. Psalm 119:103
  • I will bless the LORD who has counseled me; Indeed my mind instructs me in the night. Psalm 16:7
  • One thing I have asked from the LORD, that I shall seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to meditate in His temple. Psalm 27:4
  • When Thou didst say, "Seek my face," my heart said to Thee, "Thy face, O LORD, I shall seek. Psalm 27:8
  • Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the LORD. Psalm 27:14
  • O LORD my God, I cried to Thee for help, and Thou didst heal me. Psalm 30:2
  • I will rejoice and be glad in Thy lovingkindess because Thou hast seen my affliction; Thou hast known the troubles of my soul. Psalm 31:7
  • I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. Psalm 34:1
  • O taste and see that the LORD is good; how blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him! Psalm 34:8
  • The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18
  • Delight yourself in the LORD and He will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4
  • The LORD will command His lovingkindess in the daytime; and His song will be with me in the night. A prayer to the God of my life. Psalm 42:8
  • Thou has taken account of my wanderings; put my tears in Thy bottle; are they not in Thy book? Psalm 56:8
  • I will cry to God Most High, to God who accomplishes all things for me. Psalm 57:2
  • Because Thy lovingkindess is better than life, my lips will praise Thee. So I will bless Thee as long as I live; I will lift up my hands in Thy name. Psalm 63:3-4
  • When I remember Thee on my bed, I meditate on Thee in the night watches, for Thou hast been my help, and in the shadow of Thy wings I wing for joy. Psalm 63:6-7
  • Blessed be the LORD, who daily bears our burden, the God who is our salvation. Psalm 68:19
  • But I am afflicted and in pain, may Thy salvation, O God, set me securely on high. Psalm 69:29
  • But as for me, I will hope continually, and will praise Thee yet more and more. Psalm 71:14
  • With Thy counsel Thou wilt guide me, and afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but thee? And besides Thee, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Psalm 73:24-26
  • Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; for His lovingkindness is everlasting. Let the redeemed of the LORD say so. Psalm 107:1-2
  • And he has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly therefore I will rather boast about my weakness that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Cor. 12:9-10
  • I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13
  • This is the day which the LORD has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24
  • Rejoice in the LORD always, again I will say rejoice! Philippians 4:4
  • Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. 2 Corinthian 4:16
  • This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. The LORD's lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Thy faithfulness. "The LORD is my portion" says my soul, "therefore I have hope in Him." The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him. Lamentations 3:21-25
  • Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering for He who promised is faithful. Hebrews 10:23
  • If then you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. Colossians 3:2-4
  • Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

I have many, many more. But this is enough to work through today.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Week in Review: July 14-20

Bible Reading

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

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

What have I read in the Old Testament this week?

Spurgeon Study Bible KJV

  • Genesis
  • Job

NASB 1977

  • Genesis
  • Isaiah 1-39

What have I read in the New Testament this week?
NKJV Vines Expository

  • Matthew
  • James

Other reading: 

Prayers for Little Hearts. Sandra Magsamen. 2019. Scholastic. 10 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Not Home Yet: How the Renewal of the Earth Fits Into God's Plan for the World. 2019. Crossway. 176 pages. [Source: Review copy]
How God Grows a Brave Boy: A Devotional. Matt Koceich. 2019. [October] Barbour. 192 pages. [Source: Review copy]
ESV Prayer Bible. 2019. Crossway Books. 1920 pages. [Source: Review copy]

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, July 19, 2019

Board book: Prayers for Little Hearts

Prayers for Little Hearts. Sandra Magsamen. 2019. Scholastic. 10 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray that God will love and keep all the fish in all the seas and all the leaves on all the trees.

This board book includes five short prayers for parents to read with or read over their little ones.

I thought some of the poems--the prayers--were a bit clunky in terms of rhythm and/or rhyme. Not that all poems have to rhyme. They don't. And that's definitely the same of prayers as well.

The text font is over-the-top cutesy. Many of the capital letters are just oversized lower case letters. Including the "g" in God.

The illustrations and the text are both colorful.

I love the unusual size of this one: tall and skinny.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Book Review: Not Home Yet

Not Home Yet: How the Renewal of the Earth Fits Into God's Plan for the World. 2019. Crossway. 176 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Traveling is fun, but after a while we long for home.

Is heaven our home? For the believer should heaven be considered our home? Are we currently "not home yet"?

In Not Home Yet, Ian K. Smith argues that heaven is NOT our home. His point is technically a valid one. Heaven is not our final, ultimate HOME. After Jesus' return and the resurrection of our bodies, our final, ultimate home will be the NEW HEAVENS AND THE NEW EARTH. Smith is correct in his conclusion that the Bible speaks of a new heaven and a new earth, restored and recreated. The book celebrates the fact that the physical earth will not be destroyed or obliterated, that our final-and-forever home will be this earth. The book celebrates our future resurrection bodies.

A few weeks ago I saw a meme on Facebook. KNOWLEDGE is knowing that tomatoes are a fruit. WISDOM is knowing that tomatoes do not belong in fruit salad. I was reminded of this as I read this one. Smith seems so pleased with himself that he's discovered that heaven is NOT OUR HOME and that our eternal rest is not to be found in heaven that he just has to talk about it to anyone and everyone he meets. I think he definitely loves the shock value. I WILL RATTLE EVERYTHING YOU THINK YOU KNOW ABOUT THE CHRISTIAN FAITH. DID YOU KNOW THAT HEAVEN IS NOT YOUR HOME?!?! EVERYTHING YOU EVER LEARNED ABOUT HEAVEN FROM YOUR GRANDMA AND GRANDPA IS WRONG.

Smith's argument is that Christians should spend less time thinking about "heaven" and "things above" and the "great glory" beyond and start focusing on the earth--for it is our present home and future home. Christians priorities can be unbalanced because they don't grasp the obvious truth that heaven is not our home.

He also wants to make sure that your hope is not in dying "and going to heaven to be with the Lord" but your hope is in the future resurrection after Christ's return. HEY, YOU, YOU SHOULDN'T LOOK FORWARD TO HEAVEN. That's just silly. The only thing worth looking forward to is OUR FUTURE RESURRECTION WHERE WE'LL LIVE ON THE NEW HEAVEN AND THE NEW EARTH.

Here's the thing--if you read the Bible, if you read the Bible widely--Genesis to Revelation, if you read the Bible often, you already know that there will be a new heaven and a new earth. You may not have "chewed the cud" (aka meditated enough) to ponder if what we call heaven is actually heaven. But if you slow down, go step by step, stop and consider, you'll say YES, there will be a day; there will be a great day; a glorious day; I'll have a new body and a new home. I will live with the LORD and all my brothers and sisters ON THE NEW HEAVEN AND THE NEW EARTH. You can reach a biblical conclusion without all the shock and awe, without turning your "foundations" topsy, turvy.

Would his other points have come across better--a bit smoother--if he hadn't been so busy trying to shock and awe us out of ignorance?

Smith' book is about God's downward movement. (The Bible is not about us going heavenward; but God coming earthward). Smith examines Eden, the tabernacle, the temple, the incarnation, the crucifixion, the resurrection, and the second coming. He also looks at the first cataclysmic destruction of the earth--the flood--in both the Old and New Testaments. He says that believers could learn a great deal about the future "destruction" of the earth by studying the first.

Sin does not ultimately change earth's beauty or the fact that God will renew, recreate, restored. We should not let sin stop us from appreciating the fact that earth is and will be our home.

John 14 is not about "heaven" (as we know it, as opposed to HEAVEN aka new earth) but about Christ's second coming and our future resurrection.

After reading most of the book, Smith finally "grants permission" to believers to think of "heaven" as a type of home. "After Christians have died, they are away from the body, which perishes in the grave, but at home with the Lord in some sort of bodiless existence. So in the light of this, it is appropriate to refer to heaven as "home" as long as we understand that it will not be our permanent home. We still await the new heavens and new earth."


  • The resurrection is not a denial of the power of death but an affirmation of its defeat.
  • The Christian hope is firmly grounded in the resurrection of Jesus that assures us of the renewal of all creation at the return of Christ. 

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Book Review: How God Grows a Brave Boy

How God Grows a Brave Boy: A Devotional. Matt Koceich. 2019. [October] Barbour. 192 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: You are very, very special! God has created you to do great things for Him and His glory. The cool part is that He doesn't wait for you to become a grown-up. Right now God wants to grow you into a brave boy so that you can be a young man of integrity--that is a young man who lives by God's principles.

This children's devotional has one hundred and eighty readings. It's written with boys in mind. For the record, I'm not exactly sure why boys and girls need different devotionals. But apparently they do. Boys are to be brave and girls are to be courageous. Koceich falls into a pattern of defining bravery at the start of many of his devotionals. I'm not sure they help illumine the concept of bravery. I'll share a few below.

  • Being a brave young man means believing that Jesus is who He says He is and can do whatever He says He will do. 
  • Being brave means understanding God's grace. He loves you so much that He send Jesus to save you.
  • Being brave means deciding to make Jesus famous. Spend today thinking about Him and all the things He has done for you.
  • Becoming brave is becoming satisfied with the promises God gives you.
  • Being brave means seeing your Bible as much more than letters on a page or stories written so long ago that their meanings have been diluted by time.
  • Being brave means being grateful for everything God has done for you. 

If I had to describe this devotional, I would say it was written in the key of G: G for Generic, or to be precise Generic Boy. While the girls' devotional tended to mainly focus on the practical and concrete, this one seems to veer into abstracts and metaphors.

Taste the joy that comes from running after a life covered in His grace.
A broken heart isn't a sign of weakness. It is proof of God's presence. 
I will say this, Koceich's devotional book DOES delve into the ins and outs of the gospel and actually present the gospel message. The girls' book on courage does not ever do this--to my disappointment.
God loves you. The heart of Jesus is the lens through which God sees your life.
When God looks at you, He sees a beautiful person. You are beautiful and forgiven because of Jesus! Don't waste this new day trying to be someone else!
That being said, I'm not sure there's enough emphasis on God's grace and mercy and our complete and total lack of ability. The imperative tone at times seems to apply that the Christian life is something that you DO, DO, DO, DO, DO and not something that is DONE. (Jesus saying IT IS FINISHED. Jesus paid it all.) Christians of all shapes, sizes, and ages tend to miss this as well.
Decide that today is the day you will become more like Jesus and live your life for Him! Read His Word and ask Him to show you ways that you can change. 
One thing that I did appreciate was the focus on evangelism. But I'm not sure a little pride didn't creep in there as well. (Just saying it's not reformed!)
Speak truth and let your praises to God be the key that unlocks hardened hearts. 
But I didn't care for how they simplified the concept of God's glory and glorifying and exalting God into "making God famous."

Make a list of everything that's important to you. Family? Toys? Books? Friends? Whatever is on your list, make sure that "making God famous" is on it.
Be brave and decide every day that you want your life to keep making God famous. 
It did choose Scriptures from both the Old Testament and the New Testament. I also liked that it didn't just choose "boy" Scriptures. For example, boys can learn to be brave like Esther.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Bible Review: ESV Prayer Bible

ESV Prayer Bible. 2019. Crossway Books. 1920 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I was so excited to be able to review one of Crossway's newest Bibles, the ESV Prayer Bible.

What makes this one unique? It includes over four hundred prayers--spanning the centuries of Christian thought--linked to specific passages throughout the Old and New Testaments. It also includes an introductory essay by Donald Whitney. (I absolutely loved, loved, loved his book How To Pray the Bible.)

I found the quality of the quotes--the prayers--to be excellent. This would be a GREAT way for readers to learn about new theologians. I love that there's a resource at the back that gives you a bit more information about each author/theologian included.

The size of this one mostly worked for me. I found it small enough and light enough to read in bed. The font of the Scripture text allowed comfortably for this. The font of the quotes--or the prayers--was a bit too tiny.

It was also light enough that one could read it while sitting in a chair--and having tea. But I found myself squinting more when I read this way. (I still did it. I love, love, love having tea and reading the Word.)

As I mentioned before, the font size of the quotes--or the prayers--was small (7.25). They were also printed in GRAY. I think both the smaller size and the lighter font made it more difficult on my eyes for long periods of time. The text of the Word itself was 9.25. (And, of course, it was printed in black.)

 The ESV Prayer Bible is single column paragraph.

There is ghosting or bleed-through. I found this to be most noticeable in the wisdom books--like Psalms--where you could "read" several psalms without ever turning the page. It was also more noticeable with the quotes--or prayers. Sadly this is because the prayers are in gray--as is the ghosted text.

If the pages had been thicker, if the the font size of the prayers had been slightly bigger, if the the color of the prayers had been slightly darker, then I think I would have absolutely loved this one. It is oh-so-close to being ideal.

I would recommend this one. Many people have better eyesight than I do and don't struggle with strained eyes. The quality of the quotes--as I mentioned--is absolutely wonderful! So there's definitely substance here.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Week in Review: July 7-13

Bible Reading

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

Am I keeping up with the Daily Chronological Bible Reading Plan for the Growing 4 Life reading group? What have I read so far?  Some Isaiah. All of Micah. Some from 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles. 

What have I read in the Old Testament this week? 

What have I read in the New Testament this week?

ESV Prayer Bible

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

NASB 1977

  • Matthew
  • John
  • 1 John
  • 2 John
  • 3 John
  • Jude
  • Revelation

Other reading: 

Imagine...The Miracles of Jesus. Matt Koceich. 2019. [October] 112 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Imagine...The Giant's Fall. Matt Koceich. 2019. Barbour. 112 pages. [Source: Review copy]

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Book Review: Imagine...The Miracles of Jesus

Imagine...The Miracles of Jesus. Matt Koceich. 2019. [October] 112 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: No light. No sound...except for the beat of his heart.

Premise/plot: John Le is on his flight back home. He's dreading it...big time. His father isn't such a nice guy. His home has a lot of stress, tension, discomfort. When the plane encounters turbulence due to a storm, John flees to the bathroom where he finds a strange note. In a flash, it seems, John finds himself far from home--and in Bible land. He's in a BOAT of all places, fishing with Jesus and his disciples. Jesus has a special message for him, John Le. Jesus also has a super-big hug for him. Will being with Jesus in Bible Land make John be the stuff of dreams or nightmares?

My thoughts: Imagine...the Miracles of Jesus, in my humble opinion, is strongly influenced by The Twilight Zone. If I approach this children's book with that in mind, with the voice of that narrator, I find I like it better. John Le is on a TRIP. And it's a strange, disorienting, odd, crazy, over-the-top TRIP. He'll be chased by a dragon, a snake, a lion, a lying man, a demon masquerading as an angel of light, a 'thief' wearing his own face, etc. John Le finds Jesus--or Jesus finds John Le--in between some truly discomforting encounters.

Jesus gave John a hug and told him a second time not to worry. "I am calling you to do great things. There is an enemy that will try and stop you. He will come at you in different ways. Don't worry about anything. Say no, and trust that I am with you. Stand up, and with My power you will defeat his plans!" 

"Precious child, I need you to know that in My eyes, you are a miracle too. Please have faith that what I say is true. While you are in the world, the dragon will always be there in the shadows lurking. But he has no power over you, John Le."
John Le does have to return to a reality, a reality where his father does not believe in Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.

I definitely liked this one a bit better than the previous title in the series that I read earlier in the week.

This one felt like a nightmare and not an attempt at a fantasy novel. If that was the intent, then it succeeded. If it wasn't the intent, well, I guess the series probably isn't for me. Nightmares have their own crazy logic and vague-fuzzy segues. When you're go with the flow. It's only when you're awake that you realize how weird or bizarre it really was. Emotions matter more than being realistic.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Book Review: Imagine...The Giant's Fall

Imagine...The Giant's Fall. Matt Koceich. 2019. Barbour. 112 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: The giant grabbed the girl and lifted her high into the air. He yanked her up so hard and fast she thought she was going to pass out. Her struggle to get out of the monster's powerful grip was over. Despite the way the Bible story ended, it appeared the girl was not going to be as lucky as the young shepherd boy.

Premise/plot: Wren Evans is a young girl--mourning the loss of her mother AND her home--who finds herself transported back in time. The good news is that she gets to meet David before he was king, when he was just a shepherd boy. She also gets to FLY AROUND on the back of an angel named Josephine. Josephine is there to tell her that she's super-special to God and that she's needed to fight in God's army. The bad news? Well, she won't just be a witness to Goliath threatening the Israelites, to David's epic showdown with Goliath...she'll BE IN GOLIATH'S FIST DURING THE EPIC SHOWDOWN SCENE. During her time in the past, she'll learn that God is trustworthy and maybe just maybe things will be okay even though her house burned down, even though her mother is dead, even though her super-awesome-special MANUSCRIPT which already has a publisher was "lost" in the fire.

My thoughts: I am an adult. Would my opinion of this one be vastly different if I was eight years old? If I had read less widely? I don't think my issue was with the time travel. (I love time travel. Always have. My favorite Star Trek episodes growing up were the ones with time travel.) I think I had issues with several things.

First, the focus wasn't on the Bible story itself. The book wasn't so much giving readers a behind-the-scenes glimpse of David, the plight of the Israelites, the culture of the Philistines, or Goliath himself. The book seemed to rely more on King Kong or possibly Jack and the Beanstalk than Scripture. I could easily imagine this giant going around saying Fe-Fi-Fo-Fum and mumbling. And why would Goliath pick up a child and carry it around in his fist and stomp around? Yes, Goliath was a giant. Yes, he was a soldier. But seriously?!

Second, the focus seemed more on the angel Josephine (who's able and willing to give piggy-back-flights to young children) and symbolic butterflies appearing as signs than on God the Father, God the Son, or God the Holy Ghost. It's not that I don't believe in angels. There was just something very Touched-by-an-Angel-ish about this one.

Third, I find it difficult to believe that a child (fourth grader) would write a book, find a publisher, get it published, sell copies, touch lives, change the world. We're led to believe that Josephine has a large part to do with the book's success--BUTTERFLIES--but still. The stories that fourth graders write can be super-precious and charming and wonderful to parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts, their own teachers. But ready to publish a real (not vanity press) book?!?!

If I was eight, if I was looking for an incredibly happy ending, if I didn't give much thought to how silly it was...would I find it a compelling read? I just don't know.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Week in Review: June 30-July 6

Bible Reading

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

Am I keeping up with the Daily Chronological Bible Reading Plan for the Growing 4 Life reading group? What have I read so far?  Amos. Hosea. Some Isaiah.

What have I read in the Old Testament this week? 

ESV Prayer Bible

  • Ezekiel
  • Daniel
  • Hosea
  • Joel
  • Obadiah
  • Jonah
  • Micah
  • Nahum
  • Habakkuk
  • Zephaniah
  • Haggai
  • Zechariah
  • Malachi

What have I read in the New Testament this week?

NASB 1977 

  • Acts 13-28

ESV Prayer Bible

  • Matthew
  • Mark

Other Reading:

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, July 5, 2019

Book Review: Untangling Emotions

Untangling Emotions: God's Gift of Emotions. J. Alasdair Groves and Winston T. Smith. 2019. Crossway Books. 240 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Emotions are strange. They’re strange in that they can make us behave in ways we don’t want to. Strange in that they can flood through our bodies whether we like it or not. Strange in that they can help us see and do things we would never have done without them. Strange in that most of us don’t know (or even stop to ask) why we are feeling what we are feeling most of the time. We want to help you understand what your emotions are (and aren’t) and what you can do about it. The reality is that, while we might be slow to admit it, we’re all troubled by our emotions.

Groves and Smith approach emotions from a Christian perspective in their new book, Untangling Emotions. Can understanding and appreciating what the Bible has to say about emotions--the good, the bad, the ugly--help Christians live life better?! Perhaps. Why should it matter to Christians...why should Christians take the time to understand or unpack what the Bible has to say on emotions? There are many, many reasons why. One reason, for example, is that believers can fall into the bad habit of associating negative emotions with sin AND also associating positive emotions with sin. But ultimately, "The way you respond to your emotions, including how you feel about how you feel, is of vital importance to your relationship with God and others in your life....A careful study of the Bible can help us discard faulty assumptions so we can engage our emotions rather than be ruled by or flee from them."

This one has three parts: "Understanding Emotions," "Engaging Emotions," and "Engaging the Hardest Emotions." The first part serves as an introduction, a beginner's course in emotion. What are emotions? What is the connection between mind and body? Is there a connection between mind, body, and spirit? Why did God give us emotions? The second part continues examining emotions from a biblical standpoint. It is all about giving readers tools to engage, explore, dissect their emotions IN LIGHT OF THEIR RELATIONSHIPS. The third part addresses in greater detail the darker, more negative emotions: fear, anger, sorrow, guilt and shame. All three parts offer readers practical advice; the goal is always to put tools into the hands of readers.

I found this one to be well organized and super-practical. Most of the examples--especially in the second section--are focuses on marriage, a husband and wife and the ways they communicate or fail to communicate which lead to fights and arguments. This may be incredibly helpful for many readers; but it would have been helpful if a few of the examples used other scenarios since not every Christian is married.


  • God so loved the world that he made himself vulnerable to it, even to the point of losing his beloved Son, of sending him among us to take on our pains, weep our tears, and ultimately die the death we should have died. God loves, so God grieves. God cares for us, so he hates the sin that separates us from him. God is perfect, so he hurts when his beloved creation and precious people hurt each other and are hurt by the hurts of this hurtfully broken world.
  • The basic reason we need negative, unpleasant emotions is that we live in a fallen world. God made us to respond to things as they actually are. Human beings should be distressed by what is distressing, horrified by violence and abuse, deeply concerned (we’d call it “anxious”) about the possibility of injury to someone or something we love, angry at arrogant injustices. To not feel grief when someone we love dies, to not feel discouraged when we find ourselves falling into the same pattern of sin yet again, to not be upset when our children lie or hurt each other would be wrong.
  • You were made in the image of God himself, and that means you were made to see the world as he sees it, to respond as he responds, to hate what he hates, and to be bothered by what brings him displeasure.
  • Our emotions—all our emotions—give us the chance to share God’s heart, purpose, and perspective and so to truly be his “friends,” as Jesus calls the disciples at the Last Supper (John 15:15).
  • Only those who love the Lord enough to open their hearts to the pain in his world will be able to enter into his joy as well.
  • The Bible places the focus on how emotions facilitate (or impede) our role as God’s image bearers, helping us love him and one another (or hampering us from loving). Our emotions, in all their dimensions, body and mind, are meant to function together in a way that serves his purposes. And in that context, the Bible speaks to us as essentially unified persons, who were created with minds and bodies designed to work together seamlessly in our image-bearing tasks.
  • Perhaps one of the most important things the Bible tells us about our emotions is that they are an expression of what we value or love.
  • Your emotions are always expressing the things you love, value, and treasure, whether you understand them or not.
  • Every emotion you ever feel reflects your loves, or what you worship. This is easy to see in terms of joy, thanks, and awe. But it’s equally true of sorrow, guilt, and distress! Where godly joy, for example, flows from a heart that treasures what God treasures and sees God’s purposes advancing, godly distress come from a heart that treasures what God treasures and sees his will being violated. Godly distress is the cry of a heart that honors God’s desires as good ones, honors God’s will as right, and is so personally committed to seeing God’s will being done on earth as it is in heaven that it causes anguish of spirit to see the opposite.
  • The counterintuitive reality is that joy and sorrow really can deeply mingle. You are allowed to feel deep grief and deep joy at the same time. Christians are called to grieve with hope (1 Thess. 4:13). Compassion and anger, joy and sorrow, various kinds of grief and a hundred more emotions need to be able to flow together, as they often did for Jesus.
  • First, we want to understand as much as we can about anything in our emotional buckets. The more we know about what’s going on in the swish and swirl of our feelings, the better we’ll be able to understand what is going on in our hearts and our loves. Every little bit helps. Second, however, we need to remember that we will never exhaustively understand all the streams from our hearts into our emotions, and we don’t need to! Instead, all we need to do is bring whatever we do manage to understand to God and entrust him with all the hidden corners of our hearts, loves, and feelings that we can’t see into but he knows perfectly. 
  • The problem is not that your body has emotions. The problem is that your body, like your mind, soul, and strength, has been affected by sin and has a skewing effect on your emotions. In short, while we are going to focus on the problems our bodies cause for our feelings, we want you to keep firmly in mind that our bodies are not an embarrassment, nor are they fundamentally a problem.
  • A shy, reserved introvert may be sharing more openly in three brief sentences acknowledging a personal struggle than a boisterous extravert who talks for an hour about the highlights and lowlights of the week.
  • God gave us emotions that are actually designed not to change unless what we love changes or what is happening to the thing we love changes.
  • Scripture is adamant on this point: our biggest need is for new hearts with new loves and reoriented worship, not for more comfortable feelings. Deuteronomy, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel all underscore our need for hearts that are softened from stone, made clean, brought to life. Since we have seen how our love and worship produce our emotions, it makes sense that when our hearts are reshaped, our emotions follow suit.
  • Are your emotions really the most important thing about you? We’re writing a whole book on emotions, so obviously we do think they are important! Further, we’re going to spend significant time arguing for the value of talking about your emotions with God and others. But to place your feelings ahead of the quality of your character, ahead of the faithfulness of your obedience to God, ahead of the depth of your relationships with God and others—even to place your feelings ahead of the feelings of others—is the opposite of what Scripture calls us to!
  • Our culture’s overemphasis on the role of emotions constantly trains us to be ruled by our emotions. This, in turn, inevitably slides toward an increasingly frantic pursuit of emotional highs and escaping from emotional lows. Such an approach leans away from the richer and ultimately more satisfying “long obedience in the same direction” as Eugene Peterson, a Christian author and thinker, once described the Christian life.
  • Just as cookies are a terrible nutritional center for your diet, so emotions make a terrible central priority for your life.
  • The Bible’s model of engaging emotions means something very simple: when an emotion comes on your radar, you look at it, see what you find, and then (not before!) decide how to respond.
  • When you know that you are feeling, have named what you are feeling as best you can, and have decided which aspects of the feeling are good and which are bad, you are finally ready to act. While options for action are endless, proper responses to emotions fall into two fundamental categories. On the one hand, we want to embrace and nurture the loves of our heart and the behaviors that are good. On the other hand, we want to resist and even starve loves and actions that are bad.
  • We left prayer out of the four steps of engaging emotions for a very good reason though: engaging God in your emotions and about your emotions is not a step in a process! Instead, every single nuance of every aspect of each step must involve engaging God as well. Engaging our emotions does indeed mean identifying, examining, evaluating, and acting, but engaging our emotions also means engaging the One who made them.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Book Review: How God Grows A Courageous Girl

How God Grows a Courageous Girl. Carey Scott. 2019. [October] Barbour. 192 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: God has big plans for you! And you can be confident in His plans for you because every day He is growing YOU into a courageous girl. He will be your constant companion and will give you just the strength you need to choose faith over fear. These devotions and prayers were written with you in mind. They are lovely reminders of the power you have because you’re God’s girl. Touching on topics that matter to you, like family, friendships, trust, hope, and prayer, these inspiring readings will help you grow a deeper relationship with God as you also grow into the courageous girl He designed you to be.

How God Grows a Courageous Girl is a devotional book with 180 readings. Each reading opens with a text of Scripture--a verse...or two--and closes with a short prayer. The Scripture texts that inspired the devotions come from the Old and New Testament. The prominent themes of the readings are fear, courage, faith, and trust. The translation of the Bible they use throughout is incredibly simple, perhaps too simple so that some verses are bordering on losing their actual oomph.

Expect a LOT of exclamation marks in each reading.

Expect the use of the word COOL and its variant (COOLNESS) throughout.

At times this one did come across as condescending. (Not every reading, not every paragraph but here or there.)

It does seek to speak Scripture directly into the lives of its reader, to offer application advice. This is what the Bible says and this is how you can apply it to your life in situation a, b, and c.

It makes some assumptions along the way. One that all readers are genuine born again believers. Two that they know the ins and outs of the whole gospel message and they don't really need refreshing in that area. To be fair, this devotional book does seem to have a theme of FEAR/COURAGE. So perhaps they didn't want to work the gospel into that theme? Three that all readers have body image issues or low self esteem.

The theology of this one can be very light and somewhat iffy. (I'm thinking of two or three out of the one hundred and eighty readings and not fifty. So I don't want this concern to be taken out of proportion.) But for example, when it talks about "listening to the gut feeling that warns you..." they could have talked about the HOLY SPIRIT DWELLING WITHIN YOU or THE CONSCIENCE THAT GOD HAS GIVEN YOU. Either one of those or both would have been better than the vague not specifically Christian idea of "a gut feeling." The author may have had the Holy Spirit in mind when she wrote the word "gut feeling" but will readers pick up on that?!?! There are dozens of Scripture passages about being taught by the spirit, guided by the spirit, walking with the spirit, the Spirit living in you, being transformed by the spirit, etc.

Another reading that didn't quite sit right with me was the one inspired by Philippians 4:13. This shouldn't surprise me--or you. Adults--even adults that should know better--often get this wrong and pull the verse way out of context.
Have you ever walked away from a challenge because you felt weak and vulnerable? It’s common to look at the things life throws our way and say, “Um. . .no thanks. I’ll pass.” Sometimes it’s just too hard. But when we let those tests and trials scare us away, we’re forgetting one very important truth: you have Jesus on your side. That means with His help, you can do anything you choose to do.
The approach at times seemed to be: you can handle most things on your own in your own strength; you've got this, no worries; BUT when you do find yourself in trouble, you can go to God with your needs. Perhaps the author's intent was good. Perhaps she didn't mean it come across that way?! "God is ready to fill in the gaps that need filling. " But the truth of the matter is that we need Jesus all the time, every single day, every single hour of the day. There's never a time when we don't need Jesus--HIM but also HIS grace, HIS love, HIS redemption, HIS strength, HIS presence, HIS promise, HIS faith, HIS compassion, HIS comfort. I could go on and on. Perhaps this is the kind of wisdom that comes with age? Or that only age can appreciate?

But for the most part, most of the readings were good. There were plenty of entries that I liked.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible