Monday, October 28, 2019

Book Review: The Rhythm of the Christian Life

The Rhythm of the Christian Life: Recapturing the Joy of Life Together. Brian J. Wright. 2019. 160 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: A good life requires a good rhythm—a pattern of movement regularly repeated over time. When we live life in tempo and experience the various harmonies around us, we find true joy and experience lasting contentment.

Brian J. Wright's newest book relies heavily upon three things: the Old Testament, the New Testament, and Bonhoeffer's Life Together.  His message is clear: the rhythm of the Christian life is equally dependent on time alone with God and time with other believers. To be in rhythm is a very good thing--a blessing from above. To be out of rhythm is a very dangerous thing--an indicator that you are out of favor with the Lord.

He writes, "We cannot glorify God—the chief purpose of our life—without living in the rhythm of faith he ordained. He wired us this way. He designed it into our DNA. As Christians, our whole life, no matter when or in what context, consists of loving God and loving others—just like Jesus did. When we neglect the rhythm of the Christian life as God ordained it, we are vulnerable to sin, Satan, and the world."

I am conflicted when it comes to this one. On the one hand, I do believe that we are called to love God--and to love with him with all our hearts, souls, and minds. I also believe, of course, that we are called to love others--both saved and unsaved. There were plenty of sections I agreed with overall. (In fact, I'd say I agreed with at least 90% of it.) On the other hand, I think this one could be misinterpreted by those with a tendency to legalism. This one at times focuses so much on activities and measuring those activities, reflecting on intentions, reflecting on growth or lack thereof, that there's no room for grace and celebration. Jesus Christ has paid it all. All to him I owe. We stand on Christ's righteousness alone. Nothing we can do can "add" to our salvation, to make God love us more, to win us any bonus points in God's sight.

For the record, I do not believe that Wright is encouraging legalism and dismissing grace. I'm not calling into doubt his intentions--to encourage believers to live a holy life pleasing to God and to be a blessing to the world around them. But does one live a holy life by focusing closely on what you're doing, on what you're feeling, on what you're intending, on how you're growing? Or does one live a holy life by keeping both eyes front-and-center on Christ? While I'm not doubting that there is a time and place for moderate amounts of self-reflection...I think you can overthink things and complicate the Christian walk. To those prone to doubting or legalism...or both. I think it might prove discouraging.

The book does offer much food for thought. For example, he writes, "the health of the community depends on each one of our private devotional lives...Everything we do (or don’t do) affects both us individually and the church communally (for better or worse). What may seem at first glance a “personal” practice is actually communal in nature." That's a truly terrifying thought, isn't it?!?! Perhaps sobering is the better word choice. The time I'm NOT spending with God is weakening my local church. OR The time I am spending with God is strengthening my local church.

Or consider this, "The purpose of our time alone is bigger than us alone. If we are only trying to achieve a greater individual closeness to God, then we are failing our spiritual family. We are setting a bad example of being united in Christ. We are distorting the truth about corporate life. We are squandering our gifts and talents by rebelling against God’s Word that calls us to edify one another."

And..."Our time alone is either weakening or strengthening us as a whole, and our time together is either increasing or decreasing our individual faith. This thought should be sobering to us, knowing that we could be dragging down our whole family of faith, or they may be pulling us down with them."

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Week in Review: October 19-25

Did I read Revelation? Yes. KJV.

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

What did I read in the Old Testament?

NASB 1973

  • Genesis
  • Exodus
  • Leviticus

CSB Readers' Bible

  • Genesis
  • Exodus
  • Leviticus
  • Numbers
  • 1 Chronicles
  • 2 Chronicles
  • Ezra
  • Nehemiah
  • Job
  • Proverbs
  • Ecclesiastes
  • Song of Songs


  • Ezekiel
  • Zechariah
  • Malachi

What did I read in the New Testament?

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

CSB Readers' Bible

  • Matthew
  • Hebrews
  • James

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Book Review: Stop Calling Me Beautiful

Stop Calling Me Beautiful: Finding Soul-Deep Strength in a Skin-Deep World. Phylicia Masonheimer. 2020. [February] Harvest House. 208 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: I attended my first Bible study when I was 16 years old. I came into the house clutching my copy of Beth Moore’s Believing God and spent the next sixteen weeknights glued to my pastor’s TV screen.

I have a confession to make. I may do a decent job of not judging a book by its cover. Most of the time. But. When it comes to christian books--especially nonfiction books--I tend to judge a book by its publisher. Stop Calling Me Beautiful is published by Harvest House. Yet the description of this one sounded GREAT. Like the author and I would get along well. For she too opposes "pink fluff" theology written by women, for women, that consists of little real substance.

She addresses three problems that she sees in typical women's ministries: 1) Christian women are being taught a message that is theologically deficient. Modern women’s ministry’s framework for presenting and understanding God contains pieces of truth, but these pieces do not present an accurate picture of God and the gospel. 2) The message we’re hearing is self-focused. Flawed theology always turns attention away from God and onto ourselves, and that’s exactly what has happened with women’s ministry today. 3) The message is superficial, watered-down.

She concludes, "Theological education—learning about God, the Bible, and how these truths apply to life—is not just for men or for those called to ministry. Women must be spiritually equipped with the knowledge of God through His Word so they can minister to the people around them...The true gospel is available to all of us through God’s Word. We must learn to study it. We must know it well enough to rightly divide the truth and check teachings against the Word of God as the Bereans did (Acts 17:11). In other words, we must cultivate a holy curiosity." I couldn't agree with her more!

The book doesn't focus, however, on how everyone else is doing it wrong. Far from it. Most of the book serves either as a first introduction or a refresher course on the Christian faith, on how to live the life and walk the walk daily.

I found myself highlighting passage after passage. I guess you could say I was nodding my head and going, YES.

Here are some of my favorites:

  • Desire and delight become an endless circle in the presence of the living God. 
  • Our self-discovery is not God’s goal. We are meant to know God and make Him known. This is the great adventure for which our hearts long!
  • We don’t go deeper with God by reflecting more on ourselves, or even by reading God’s Word to look for insight about ourselves. Roots of spiritual growth develop as we seek God for who He is and allow Him to do the transforming work in our hearts that we can never do on our own. He is the one who plants the desire to seek Him. He is the one who meets us when we apply diligence in faith.
  • Bible study is as simple as actually reading the Bible. You don’t need to know everything up front to learn and appreciate what God says in His Word. But you do have to be willing to start. From that heart of willingness, you can add resources for deeper study. These will add depth to the places, people, and terms you read in the Bible, transforming what used to be drab and gray into the living color of God’s redemption story.
  • We need the full gospel—the gospel that began in Genesis and runs to Revelation like a “scarlet thread”, a continual story written in blood—in order to find a deeper spiritual life in this shallow world. Finding this life is not easy. It takes diligence. But diligence is what a student of any kind must cultivate in order to gain knowledge. And that’s what we, as believers, need to do.
  • God insists on our involvement in Christian community. We are called to vulnerability, transparency, and the sharing of our burdens. Without this, we cannot grow as believers.
  • We can’t draw near if we don’t open our Bibles and read them ourselves, if we don’t put ourselves into godly community, and if we don’t receive discipleship and accountability. We live abundantly when we regularly expose ourselves to the work and Spirit of God. When we do, the things that used to bore us take on the color of abundant life.
  • Your brokenness is real, but it is not your identity. It is not an excuse, and it is not your future.
  • The goal of time with God is worship of God.
  • God is the most valuable, worthy person we will ever know. Yet we often attribute more worth and value to sleep, social media, and friends than we do to Him. Our worship is naturally revealed through our daily habits and behaviors. The things we think, say, read, watch, and do reveal what we’re worshipping.
  • There is no quick fix for a soul-deep struggle. Though it’s not easy and certainly not quick, Jesus never makes a promise He won’t bring to fruition. 
  • Overcoming anxiety is the daily choice to come. When we feel weary, burdened, and overwhelmed, changing our schedules and habits will help, but these will not bring us lasting victory. Being present and letting go of perfectionism will help us make great strides, but these actions will not cut to the spiritual root of anxiety. Anxiety is overcome when we make the choice to trust God more than we trust our emotions.
  • Victory is not defined by never feeling anxious. 
  • You don’t have to like your circumstances to depend on God in the midst of them. 
  • Our grief is known and carried. Our loss is not pointless. 
  • You can’t love someone and condemn them at the same time! 
  • In one of life’s great dichotomies, we fear losing what we value most—even when the thing we value is destroying us.
  • Repentance does not entail rehearsing our unworthiness (to ourselves and others) over and over again for the purpose of glorifying God. We glorify God best when we turn from our sinful ways, embrace the worthiness He has given us in Christ, and live out that worthiness by the Holy Spirit’s power.
  • Without grounding ourselves in the Word of God we can’t live by the truth of God. Without living by the truth of God we can’t live out the freedom of God. An overcoming life is the product of consistent exposure to God through His Word. This isn’t another reminder to do your devotions. This is war! Abundant life doesn’t happen apart from God, and God has revealed Himself in Scripture.
  • We think in terms of the big picture, but our lives are actually lived in the mundane moments, and our legacy is less about the world at large and more about our immediate communities. But here’s the kicker: We can’t impact our communities if we’re constantly playing whack-a-mole with our sinfulness. And we can’t overcome our sinfulness—or the difficulties of this world—apart from Jesus. To truly make a difference in the world, we have to know the Creator and Redeemer of the world on an intimate level. We have to be women of spiritual depth.
  • We change our communities by letting Jesus change our lives in front of, alongside, and within our communities. 

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Book Review: Rising Above Shepherdsville

Rising Above Shepherdsville. Ann Schoenbohm. 2019. 320 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: There I was, Mama, standing in the tall grass right next to Redeemer Baptist Church, the day after the Fourth of July, when I spied what I would have sworn on a heap of Bibles was an angel rising straight up to heaven.

Premise/plot: Dulcie Louise Dixon stars in Ann Schoenbohm’s coming of age historical novel. (It is set in 1977.) After her mother’s death, Dulcie has lost the ability to speak. Ray, her mother’s steady boyfriend, has tried his best to raise her since her mother’s death. But both are grieving—though in different ways. He’s a trucker. His livelihood depends on him trucking. Someone needs to be there day to day to take care of her. Ray sends her to Aunt Bernie. Dulcie is reluctant for another change. But life in Shepherdsville might just be the absolute best thing for Dulcie...the place where she finds her voice.

My thoughts: I loved this one. I did. Dulcie’s narrative was amazing. I don’t particularly share her interest in swans. But I absolutely loved the sideline with Evangeline and Faith. This one has characters that I loved and championed.

One thing that I absolutely loved was the religious/spiritual aspect of it. The book wasn’t preachy. Christianity is just a major backdrop for the story. While it isn’t at all unusual for middle grade novels to have a strong school setting, a church setting is unique and refreshing. Reverend Love’s patience and empathy is something beautiful. I loved how his relationship with Dulcie developed. (There isn’t a hint of creepiness.)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Book Review: God Cares When I'm Afraid

God Cares When I'm Afraid. Stormie Omartian. 2020 [ February] Harvest House. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Every little boy and girl can be afraid about something at some time. Being afraid means you have fear. Having fear can be a good thing…or a bad thing.

God Cares When I’m Afraid is a new children’s book by Stormie Omartian. She first points out that not all fear is bad or wrong. There is a healthy, normal, good fear. But sometimes fear isn’t good. We can be afraid of things we shouldn’t be worried about, things that may not even be real. No matter what our fear is, she stresses that God cares and that God is present. God can see you through each and every time you are afraid. God hears the prayers of little children no matter how little. He can comfort you and help you not be so afraid.

The book addresses fear in general but also talks specifics and situations.

When you feel afraid that something bad might happen, tell God.

One day you may see something that makes you afraid. And that scary thing can stay in your mind so that you remember it over and over. If that ever happens to you, turn away and don’t look at anything that scares you. Ask God to help you stop thinking about the scary thing you saw. Lord, I saw something that scared me. Please take that memory out of my mind so I won’t think about it and be afraid anymore. Help me to think about things that make me happy. Help me think about things that make You happy too.

Loud sounds can frighten you—especially if they happen suddenly, and you don’t know what they are. Sometimes even when you do know what the sound is, it can still scare you. For example, some children are afraid of loud thunder. If loud thunder frightens you, see if you can go to another room where it is not so loud. Tell God about any noise that is scaring you. Lord, please help me to not be afraid when I hear thunder. Help me to remember that thunder is good because it brings rain and gives us water.

The Bible says God’s love for us is so strong that it takes away our fear. Did you know that singing a song to God can also take away your fear? That’s because it is one of the ways we show love to God and say, “Thank You, God, forloving me.” It makes God happy to hear you sing a song to say you love Him.

I think this is a practical book. While it doesn’t cover each and every scenario possible that a child may fear, it does deal in principles teaching truths about God that can be applied to other situations. Plus it encourages prayers and praise!

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, October 21, 2019

Bible Review: KJV Holy Bible

The Holy Bible. King James Version. 1947/52. Spence Press. 1566 pages. [Source: Gift]

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

The King James Version is one of my all-time favorite, favorite, favorite translations of the Bible. (Though I am not in the KJV only camp, I do love, love, love reading this translation.) I first "discovered" this translation several years ago. I love it for its beauty and substance. It's a meaty read, yet poetic. You have to work to understand or "decipher" the text. And the time it takes, I've found, slows me down enough to appreciate the magnificence and splendor of the glory of God. While I do not read it exclusively--nor expect others to do so--I like to keep this one of my main translations.

My favorite books of the Bible in the King James are Psalms, Proverbs, the Gospels, and some of the prophecies--like Isaiah and Revelation. It simply doesn't get better for a translation of Psalms. Here's one of my favorite examples, Psalm 139:2: Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off.

This edition published by Spencer Press in Chicago in the late 40s/early 50s is a delight. I will say this: the book introductions are definitely LIBERAL and not all that sound. This bible does not feature study notes, but if it did, I probably wouldn't recommend reading them if they're anything like the book introductions. But the text and layout are good. The pages are WONDERFULLY THICK. I think page bleed through--being able to read five pages at a time--is a MODERN-DAY problem. Publishers have done this--for whatever reason--and we've "allowed" it perhaps?

The aging of the Bible has left a nice sepia tint to the pages. I'm not sure what color the pages were in 1952, but right now the color is SUPER-EASY on the eyes. Even though the text features the word of Christ in red, I don't mind.
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Weeks in Review: September 29-October 18

Did I read Revelation? Yes. NASB 1977. Living. CSB.

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

What have I read in the Old Testament?

NASB 1977

  • Exodus
  • Leviticus
  • Numbers
  • Deuteronomy
  • Joshua
  • Judges
  • Ruth
  • 1 Samuel
  • 2 Samuel
  • 1 Kings
  • 2 Kings
  • Nehemiah
  • Esther


  • Deuteronomy
  • Joshua
  • Judges
  • 2 Kings 9-25
  • 1 Chronicles
  • 2 Chronicles
  • Ezra
  • Nehemiah
  • Esther
  • Proverbs
  • Ecclesiastes
  • Song of Songs
  • Zephaniah
  • Haggai

What have I read in the New Testament?

  • Matthew
  • 1 Corinthians
  • 2 Corinthians
  • 1 Peter
  • 2 Peter

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, October 18, 2019

Bible Review: NASB 1977

Giant Print Handy Size Reprint NASB 1977 Edition. 2011. AMG Publishers. 2304 pages.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

I received the NASB 77 as a birthday present last year. I chose well! I wanted to love, love, love this translation of the Bible, and I do. I love both the NASB 77 and the NASB 95. (Actually, I love the NASB 71 too.) I believe I started reading it in May of this year.

I loved, loved, loved so much about this bible. I loved the size of the font. Giant print isn't as GIANT as you might imagine. It's slightly bigger than a regular size font you'd find in just about any Bible from the 80s or 90s. But it was super-comfortable on my eyes. Not too big. Not too small.

It is double-column. I don't mind double column, especially with a nice size font.

It is red-letter. But red-letter in a "giant" size font isn't all that bad. I'd still prefer black letter, but it's not bad at all.

I loved the size of this one. It isn't too heavy. I don't know that I'd go so far as to say you could hold it comfortably up in bed to read it, but it isn't too heavy for normal use. It is the perfect weight for daily reading and for taking to church as well.

I loved the translation itself.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, October 11, 2019

Book Review: Jesus Heals

Jesus Heals [Board book] Danielle Hitchen. Illustrated by Jessica Blanchard. 2020 [January] 20 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Great crowds came to Jesus, “and he healed them. The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel.” Matthew 15:30-31

Premise/plot: This board book is a concept book for Christian parents to read with their little ones. The concept is parts of the body—anatomy. The parts of the body are highlighted alongside scripture as stories of Jesus’ healings are shared. Time and time again Jesus heals.

My thoughts: I have honestly never thought of teaching the parts of the body by sharing scripture verses about Jesus’ healing ministry. I do like that it uses actual scripture verses. That’s one way to keep the text biblically sound. I liked the emphasis on Jesus’ ministry. I loved the lead up to the cross. The illustrations are nice.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Book Review: When Silence Sings

When Silence Sings. Sarah Loudin Thomas. 2019. Bethany House. 384 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Colman walked along the last car of the coal train, tapping each wheel with his long-handled hammer, listening intently to the clang clang clang.

Premise/plot: Colman Harpe desires to be preacher and leave the family feud far far behind. But the family feud isn’t just in the past. The McLeans are still out to get the Harpes. In fact, soon after the novel opens, Jake McLean murders Caleb Harpe, Colman‘s cousin. The Harpes vow vengeance—most of them at least. Serepta McLean’s message doesn’t cool things down either. Can Colman manage to stay out of the feud and avoid the drama on both sides? For the Harpes, to take no side in the feud is to be on the McLean’s side. If Colman actually follows his call, he’s risking his very life. God has called him not just to preach—a general call—but to preach to the McLean clan specifically. Will Colman run away like Jonah? Or will he learn to love his enemies with the love of Christ?

My thoughts: I really got swept up in the story. I believe it’s set in Tennessee circa 1930/31. At first all I was seeing were the parallels between this story and the book of Jonah—too many to be a mere coincidence. But then the story became so much more than that. The story alternates perspectives between Colman Harpe and Serepta McLean. That was a nice touch. It’s hard to see them as enemies when they’re humanized. I enjoyed every minute of this one.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible