Saturday, September 28, 2019

Week in Review: September 15-28

Did I read Revelation? Yes. KJV and ASV 1901

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. 

What did I read in the Old Testament?


  • Leviticus 
  • Numbers
  • 1 Samuel
  • 2 Samuel
  • 1 Kings
  • Job
  • Psalms 126-150
  • Jeremiah
  • Lamentations
  • Obadiah
  • Jonah
  • Micah
  • Nahum
  • Habakkuk

NASB 1977

  • 1 Chronicles
  • 2 Chronicles
  • Ezra
  • Zechariah
  • Malachi

What did I read in the New Testament?


  • Mark
  • Romans
  • 1 Timothy
  • 2 Timothy
  • Titus
  • Philemon
  • Hebrews

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, September 23, 2019

Book Review: Emblems of the Infinite King

Emblems of the Infinite King: Enter the Knowledge of the Living God. J. Ryan Lister and Anthony M. Benedetto. 2019. Crossway. 184 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: His strong and wise command cut through the empty silence as he reached out of the shadows to offer an ancient key. “I am the Key Keeper. I have come to show you the Way. But before you do anything . . . Heed this warning: Those who turn this key will never be the same. It will show your deepest guilt and display your darkest shame. You’ll see who you were made to be and what you’ve really become. But only if you turn the key will you find your story isn’t done, that the way ahead is the path that leads into the throne room of the Son, this one they call the Death Killer, who gives his life to pay your ransom. “If you so choose, pick up the key. Open the lock. “If you do, you will not be alone. I will walk with you and guide you. I will meet you on the other side.” Everything changed with the turn of a key.

This book is a great introduction of the gospel for children and teens to read either on their own or with their parents. The gospel presentation is structured around the thematic concept of keys. The Throne Room Key: The Doctrine of God. The Dust Key: The Doctrine of Humanity. The Serpent Key: The Doctrine of Sin. The Tomb Key: The Doctrine of Christ. The Spirit Key: The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit. The Gavel Key: The Doctrine of Salvation. The Temple Key: The Doctrine of the Church. The Throne Key: The Doctrine of Last Things.

I earlier said 'gospel presentation' but it could also be seen as an introduction to systematic theology. If you are already a believer, the clear presentation will strengthen and inform your faith. Plenty of substance to chew on. If you are not a believer--perhaps you've been exposed here and there to the faith of others--then I think this will give you food for thought. Perhaps the Spirit will use the book to help clarify and explain the faith.

I think the intended audience is children ages eight and up. But I think adults could benefit as well from reading this one. I do think families could benefit from using this one together. Counting the introduction and conclusion there are ten chapters/sections to read.

It does directly address the reader. Not many books for adults do this--for better or worse. I liked the style of this one--especially in small doses.
We all want to be the main character in our own story. Everybody—in his own way—wants to be the center of his world. Everyone wants to be king of the mountain, the smartest kid in the class, the one with the biggest trophy case, or everybody’s best friend. It hurts when you aren’t and, after a while, it can even hurt when you are. This is why knowing the King is so important. Knowing him shows you that you can’t be the center of the world because he already is. That is a good thing. You weren’t made to be the center of the world; you can’t hold everything together. But God can. And when he is the center of the world, and the center of your story, you are free to be who you were made to be—who he made you to be.
If knowing the King is really the most important thing, then you need to know him correctly. This is where it gets really good: God doesn’t play hide-and-seek with you. He actually comes to you. The King wants you to know him, and, in his kind mercy, he has actually already spoken to you in many ways.
In both the Old and New Testaments of Scripture, God works with the words, lives, and qualities of human authors to give you his perfect words—not just to have them, but so that you may believe and obey them and find life in them. Because the King speaks through Scripture, you can trust it to be a perfect guide to knowing him. Every part of it is from God, which means it doesn’t have any errors. It means you can understand it, and it means that it already contains everything God wants you to know. It also means that God will use it to make sure that what he wants to happen will indeed happen.
Now this is too important to miss, so listen well: the only real reason you can know the King is because the King wants you to know him. He tells you everything you need to know about him. Now, he doesn’t tell you everything; but everything he does tell you is true and exactly what you need to know. The King wants you to hear his words because he wants you to know him rightly. People will try to tell you who God is but the truth is, God himself has already told you who he is. He’s given you his Word. The question is, will you hear and heed his Word?
I would definitely recommend this one.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Book Review: The Joy of Missing Out

The Joy Of Missing Out: Live More by Doing Less. Tonya Dalton. 2019. Thomas Nelson. 240 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence from the introduction: OVERWHELMED. It was a beautiful spring morning, but I was too busy to notice the trees beginning to bud or the clear blue sky.

First sentence from chapter one: Create the highest, grandest vision possible for your life, because you become what you believe. OPRAH WINFREY

Premise/plot: Dalton hopes to connect with her readers who feel overwhelmed and stressed in her new book, The Joy of Missing Out. What does she mean by the phrase 'joy of missing out'?
Noun 1. The emotionally intelligent antidote to busy; intentionally choosing to live in the present moment by embracing open spaces of unrushed time 2. An intense feeling of delight and happiness caused by centering your life on what is truly important and letting go of the “shoulds” and “have to’s” in life. SYNONYMS: unhurried purpose, intentional, priority-centered ANTONYMS: busy, hustle, frazzled, knock stuff out, having a full plate
The book falls into the 'self-help' genre though it is published by a Christian publisher. It's a book about productivity, effectiveness, goal-setting, and priorities. It's a super-practical book packed with cultural wisdom. It guides readers step by step on discovering their own unique 'North Star' and discovering their own core values that will help shape their vision.
Productivity is not about doing more—it’s doing what’s most important. We need to stop trying to get more done and instead reset our focus on our own priorities. When we do that, our ideal life can become our real, everyday life.
When we treat everything as equal, it means nothing is a priority. It all gets jumbled together and we begin to lose sight of what really matters.
You have more time left in your life right now in this very minute than you will have an hour from now. There is not another point in your lifetime when you’ll have the luxury of the amount of time you have right this very second. If there’s something you really want to do, today is the day to start. It’s possible for your future to look brighter, for you to focus on the things that are important to you. But to do that, your priorities have to take priority.
While we may not be sailors, we still need a constant in our life to help guide us through the darkness. Here’s the hard fact: we don’t just find ourselves on a fulfilling, deeply satisfying path—we create it for ourselves. The clarity comes from within us.
My thoughts: If The Joy of Missing Out was NOT published by a Christian publisher, would I be surprised--even shocked--by its contents? Probably not. In fact, I know I wouldn't. This is exactly what I'd expect to find in any self-help section.

But the fact that it is in fact published by a Christian publisher, well, it shook me a bit. Why? Because the word "God" only appears once. The word "Bible" only appears once. I believe the words "church" and "Sunday School" appear once in the same story. And prayer might accidentally be mentioned two or three times even. Perhaps. But there is not one Scripture verse quoted or even alluded to. The book (the Bible) that is supposed to be the one and only authority in our lives is completely and totally missing. (As is all mention of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.) Oprah is mentioned more than God. Think about that. Think. About. That.

Priorities, goals, mission statements, core values, visions...all without any reference at all to God the Father, Son, or Holy Spirit...without any reference to God's His the eternity. There is nothing remotely Christian about this one.

There are plenty of quotes to be found in this one. All contemporary. All cultural. But not one of them is from a Christian theologian, author, or preacher.

“It is our choices . . . that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” J. K. ROWLING
“I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.” LOUISA MAY ALCOTT
Don’t spend time beating on a wall, hoping to transform it into a door. COCO CHANEL
As Zig Ziglar said, “If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.” 
Perfectionism is just fear in fancy shoes and a mink coat. ELIZABETH GILBERT 
Instead of saying “I don’t have time” try saying “it’s not a priority,” and see how that feels. LAURA VANDERKAM
What I do every day matters more than what I do once in a while. GRETCHEN RUBIN
The decisions you make determine the schedule you keep. The schedule you keep determines the life you live. And how you live your life determines how you spend your soul. LYSA TERKEURST
Sometimes it helps me to wake up in the morning and tell myself, “Today, I’m going to believe that showing up is enough.” BRENÉ BROWN
The world will see you the way you see you, and treat you the way you treat yourself. BEYONCÉ
As Zen priest and Buddhist teacher Joan Halifax shared, “There is the in-breath and there is the out-breath, and it’s easy to believe that we must exhale all the time without ever inhaling. But the inhale is absolutely essential if you want to continue to exhale.”
Do your thing and don’t care if they like it. TINA FEY
You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them. MAYA ANGELOU
I am conflicted in some ways. On the one hand, I think she's lacking a solid foundation, and I question her questions. The questions and framework she wants us to work with--start from--are not based on anything solid and lasting. They are build on cultural wisdom and pragmatism. On the other hand, it is very true we don't need all the things. Some of the conclusions she arrives at seem true enough. We do fill our lives with things that just don't matter, with things that we don't really want. Sometimes we do not know how to say NO. I do believe in using your time wisely and valuing minutes. But her process...well...I'm just not sure it's biblical enough to build your own system around.

If you're looking for a book where you are encouraged and pleaded with to put yourself at the center always then this one might be for you.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Week in Review: September 8-14

Did I read Revelation? 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?  Yes. Ezekiel and Daniel.

What did I read in the Old Testament?


  • Exodus
  • Psalm 61-125
  • Isaiah
  • Joel
  • Amos

What did I read in the New Testament?


  • Acts
  • 1 Thessalonians
  • 2 Thessalonians

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Book Review: Bible History ABC's

Bible History ABCs: God's Story from A to Z. Stephen J. Nichols. 2019. Crossway. 60 pages. [Source: Review copy]

A is for aardvarks, armadillos, an apple, and Adam.
Anchors aweigh. Let’s start our journey through the Bible from beginning to end, from A to Z.
In the beginning God made all things. He made alligators and asteroids, anteaters and antelopes, and also ants. Of all the creatures God made, he made only one in his image: Adam. God did not want Adam to be alone, so God made Eve. They lived in absolute Paradise and were to worship God alone. They ate avocados and all kinds of wonderful fruit. They were not allowed to eat one forbidden fruit.
Bible History ABCs tells the big picture of the whole Bible--a chronological narrative. The framework is the ABCs. This seems like it would be a super-daunting task. Not summarizing the Bible, not summarizing the gospel, not summarizing doctrines systematically in genearl--but doing so in the order of A to Z! One might argue that one doesn't exactly *need* it to be ordered A to Z. And you'd be right. You don't *need* it. But what a fun way to challenge yourself. I'm almost tempted to try it myself.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, September 16, 2019

Book Review: My Heart Cries Out

My Heart Cries Out: Gospel Meditations for Everyday Life. Paul David Tripp. 2019. Crossway. 256 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: I am not a poet; I am a pilgrim. I am not attracted to formal, overly romantic Christian verse, but I think that we do not train our eyes to see enough, our hearts to consider enough, and our emotions to celebrate enough the glories of the grace that is showered down on us in a thousand ways every day.

My Heart Cries Out is a new devotional book by Paul David Tripp. The devotions are poems. But don't let the poetry scare you away. This book is far from intimidating--it's refreshing, honest, genuine. I enjoyed most--if not all--the entries. Which is saying a lot considering the fact that it's poetry. I am not a big reader of devotional books. I like books with weight, substance, heart--not light, fluffy, feathery nonsense. This book has substance. But again, it's not intimidating. Truth resonates.

I loved, loved, loved some of these:
My heart cries out, but I am not afraid, discouraged, panicked, forgotten, alone, dismayed, or doubtful because in the din of a million voices from every place in every situation young and old crying day and night in weakness, in alienation, in fear, and in distress, you are not overwhelmed, you are not distracted, you are not disgusted, you are not discouraged, you are not exhausted. But you listen, you hear, you attend to my cry in tenderness of mercy, in patience of spirit, and with generosity of love you listen to my plea and you never turn away. But with power and wisdom and the tender heart of a Savior, you do this amazing thing—you answer. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. (1 Pet. 3:12)
You are the sun that shines in darkness. You are the water that quenches thirst. You are the balm that heals the wounded. You are the master that calms the storm. You are the rose of brightest beauty. You are the chosen, perfect lamb. You are the king of a greater kingdom. You are the captain of battles won. You are the lion of chosen Judah. You are the dove of peace that’s come. You are the shelter for the homeless. You are the father to helpless orphans. You are the chosen, suffering son. You are my God, my Savior, my hope, my life, my forgiveness, my wisdom, my strength, my righteousness, my peace, my Father, my brother, and my friend. Because you are, I am what I am.
You are not a distant Lord, or a detached Master, moving the pawns on the board in an impersonal act of winning. Your lordship does not separate me from you as a serf would be separated from a king. No, you accomplished your sovereign plan by invading my dark and messy world in the person of your Son, giving yourself in radical grace to people who saw no value in your nearness. You are Master, and you are Immanuel. You are Lord, and you are Father. You are King, and you are Friend. You are Sovereign and you are Shepherd. Your rule is not from afar. No, your rule brings you near. I have hope today, because you are not distant. And I celebrate the amazing rest and strength to be found in the reality that your sovereignty has brought you near.
I was not designed to be on my own, to author my own story, to compose my own rules, to live with me in the center. I was not designed to question your goodness, to bring you to the court of my judgment, to be bitter in my assessment of the things you do. for owning my heart’s desires, for teaching me that my life is you. I was not designed to look for life outside of you, to treasure the creation, to love people, places, and things, more than you. I was not designed to let my heart fill with envy, to be constantly accounting, to be jealous and untrusting instead of resting in you. I was not designed to rely on my wisdom, to trust my imagination, to rely on my thoughts, to ignore your revelation. I was not designed to follow the paths of my craving, to be enslaved to my desires, to be ruled by my passions, more than I am by you.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, September 9, 2019

Book Review: Lessons On Love

Lessons On Love: 4 Schoolteachers Find More than They Bargained For in Their Contracts. Susanne Dietze, Rita Gerlach, Kathleen L. Maher, Carrie Fancett Pagels. 2019. Barbour. 448 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Lessons on Love is a collection of historical romance novellas. It is a themed collection celebrating teachers—male and female. The novellas are as follows: Something Old, Something New by Kathleen Maher; Love in Any Language by Susanne Dietze; In Desperate Straits by Carrie Fancett Pagels; and A Song in the Night by Rita Gerlach.

The first novella features a Jewish heroine, Gilda. The family (her mother and sisters) have been financially struggling since her father’s death. She’s a teacher—a good one—but her job has been threatened. Joshua Blake, a Christian, could potentially take her position. Right now they are co-teaching. But though they seemingly come from different backgrounds and cultures, there is undeniably something there between them. Will these two make a match of it?!

Love in Any Language is a super sweet story about a young woman, a former teacher named Mary, who teaches an immigrant and his children English. She teaches immigrant children from several families, I believe, but only one catches her eye and captures her heart—Kristofer Nilsson.

In Desperate Straits is by far my least favorite novella in this collection—dare I say any collection?! It features Maggie Hadley and Jesse Huntington. Her family raises horses. His family buts them. She catches his eye. When his family goes from wealthy to dirt-poor, he seeks a teaching job. Maggie disguises herself as a young boy so she can get a job as a driver and send her wages back home. Her disguise doesn’t fool him...and love predictably follows.

A Song in the Night may just be my favorite. Maybe. Karien Wiles is a music teacher at a well-respected academy in Baltimore. But on the day she just happens to trip and fall in the snow—only to be “rescued“ by a dashing young man, Nathan Archer—she loses her job when the whole academy closes. Will she find another teaching job...or will she find a love worth settling down for. The main point of this one being that a woman couldn’t have both—a husband and a job.

The first story I would rate 5/5.
The second story I would rate 5/5.
The third story I would rate 1/5.
The fourth story I would rate 5/5.

It is interesting that I read the first novella in one sitting, same with the second and fourth. But that third story was dragging and flat. It took me about three weeks to make it through. I am not sure what it was about it—the cross dressing, the horses, the lack of school setting, the melodrama—that made it so not my cup of tea.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Week in Review: September 1-7

Did I read Revelation? Yes. NASB 1995.

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. Ezekiel...still.

What did I read in the Old Testament?


  • Genesis
  • Ruth
  • Psalm 1-60
  • Daniel
  • Hosea

What did I read in the New Testament?

NKJV Vines

  • 2 Corinthians


  • Luke
  • Galatians
  • Ephesians
  • Philippians
  • Colossians

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, September 6, 2019

Book Review: Sophie and the Heidelberg Cat

Sophie and the Heidelberg Cat. Andrew Wilson. Illustrated by Helena P. Garcia. 2019. Crossway. 36 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Sophie is crying. Her sister Michaela has broken her dollhouse, and nobody cares. To make matters worse, she’s pushed over her sister, then yelled at her parents, and stormed up the stairs.

Premise/plot: This is a picture book that will appeal to Reformed or Calvinist families; the picture book is oh-so-loosely inspired by the Heidelberg Catechism. It stars a naughty girl, Sophie, who follows a strange cat (named Grace, I believe) up on the roof to talk theology. And it’s all done in rhyme. The theme of this one is that we are all born with a sin nature and stand in need of a savior. Salvation is not earned or achieved but purely of grace. God graciously saves his elect.

My thoughts: I love, love, love the Heidelberg Catechism. I do. I am without a doubt Reformed in my theology. But. If parents really, truly want to teach theology to their children there has to be a better way then this—mediocre rhyme and a flimsy story. Why a talking cat? Why a rooftop? Why introduce fantasy elements into what could be a realistic story? Why not just directly talk to children about the gospel?

A few years ago an updated children’s Catechism inspired by the Heidelberg Catechism was released—also a few albums with songs to aid in memorizing the questions and answers. That approach actually makes sense.

Few writers can write in rhyme and actually get the concept of rhythm. Many try, no doubt about it. They give it their all and do manage to get published. But rhyming texts are so tricky to get right and easy to get wrong. Few achieve a natural, realistic, genuine, believable voice. That credibility is much more important if you want to engage with readers heart to heart.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Week in Review: August 25-31

Did I read Revelation? YES. NKJV.

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. Lamentations and some Ezekiel.

What did I read in the Old Testament?

NKJV Vines

  • Judges
  • Ruth

NASB 1977

  • Hosea
  • Joel
  • Amos
  • Obadiah
  • Jonah
  • Micah
  • Nahum
  • Habakkuk 
  • Zephaniah
  • Haggai

What did I read in the New Testament?

NKJV Vines

  • 1 Corinthians

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible