Wednesday, February 26, 2020

22. On Waiting Well

On Waiting Well: Moving from Endurance to Enjoyment When You're Waiting on God. Bradley Baurain. 2020. [July 2020] Moody. 176 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Christian living; Christian nonfiction; theology]

First sentence: Do you enjoy waiting as much as I do? I love to find a long line and a slow cashier for checking out at the grocery store. Doing so gives me an opportunity to contemplate my need for turkey jerky and to read the covers of fascinating magazines. I love to be put on hold when making a phone call—such great music! I love arriving for an eye appointment and being shown to a room, tastefully decorated with high-definition illustrations of cataract surgery, that has been specially designed for me to wait in. None of this is true, of course, which means you almost certainly do enjoy waiting as much as I do, that is to say, not at all. We find waiting in daily life to be boring, tiresome, and unfortunately inevitable.

If you have a pulse...then chances are you could benefit from reading Bradley Baurain's book on WAITING. The book tackles several different aspects of waiting--what he likes to call the "small w" and and "the big W." Examples of the "small w" would be actual waiting we do in our daily lives--waiting in traffic, waiting for an elevator, waiting in a check-out line, waiting for an appointment, waiting to get grades back, waiting for (medical) test results, waiting to get over a cold, waiting for a package to arrive, etc. Examples of "the big W" are typically more significant and often have a spiritual element to them. We may be annoyed by the first, but it's the second that gives us a greater opportunity to have faith, trust God, believe His promises, and lean hard on grace.

He also makes a distinction--or tries at any rate--between waiting on the Lord and waiting for the Lord. (I honestly tried to process this distinction. But I struggled. I believe both are seen in Scripture, used in Scripture in various translations.)

I loved it when he shared three MYTHS about waiting and follows up with three TRUTHS about waiting. (Chapters three and four!)

I also loved chapter six, "What Are We Waiting For?" he shares SEVEN answers that help clarify the "big W." Rescue. Promises. Salvation. Justice. Grace. Forgiveness. Christ's Return. He gives each one it's turn--and in doing so gives a good, solid foundation for HOPE.

Overall, I thought this was a book worth reading.

"By any name—attitude, orientation, choice, habit, discipline, virtue, or practice—learning to wait on the Lord is an essential, transformative, and rewarding dimension of spiritual formation. This perspective is countercultural and unexpected: waiting is positive. It is not merely a “dry season” or something we need to escape. Rightly conceived, spiritual waiting is a crucial, ongoing dimension of following Christ and loving God. It’s a vital part of our Christian pilgrimage."
"Waiting is a privilege, a pleasure, a step toward a deeper understanding of God and a richer experience of His boundless love for us."
"God cannot do His work without His and our waiting His time: let waiting be our work, as it is His. And if His waiting be nothing but goodness and graciousness, let ours be nothing but a rejoicing in that goodness, and a confident expectancy of that grace. And let every thought of waiting become to us simply the expression of unmingled and unutterable blessedness, because it brings us to a God who waits that He may make Himself known to us perfectly as the Gracious One."
"A fuller understanding of waiting can over time transform both our beliefs and our practices—and thus our experiences and our feelings about those experiences. It might also work in the other direction, that is, if we take a stand on what the Word says and act as though waiting on the Lord is important and fundamentally pleasurable, waiting will begin to feel pleasurable and thereby transform our beliefs. Whether the flow is from biblical beliefs to our actions, or from biblical actions to our beliefs, this is all likely to be a slow change."
"We cannot wait on the Lord and at the same time disobey His commandments, nor can we wait on the Lord and at the same time pridefully seek our own glory."
"As we’ve seen in the first two chapters, the Christian life is very much one of waiting for the Lord and waiting on the Lord. If we’re not doing one or both of these, we’re almost certainly not seeking God’s glory, and we’re probably also not thinking, speaking, or acting in faith. This is biblically true. But what is also often experientially true is that waiting can feel difficult and painful. Learning how to wait—which might be pursued as an attitude, orientation, choice, habit, discipline, virtue, or practice—as part of our spiritual maturing is sadly not a high priority for many of us in the church today."

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

21. God of Surprise

God of Surprise: The Life-Changing, Unexpected Ways God Works for Our Good. Bill Crowder. 2020. [May 2020] 112 pages. [Source: Review copy] [devotional; christian living]

First sentence: But God . . . In the film version of C. S. Lewis’s classic fantasy The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, a fascinating scene occurs as Aslan—the mighty lion that pictures Christ—is walking away from a celebration in Narnia’s palace. Lucy Pevensee, a young girl miraculously transported into Narnia, is standing with her friend Mr. Tumnus, the fawn. As they watch Aslan depart, she wonders aloud about Aslan and when they might see him again. Mr. Tumnus responds, “You mustn’t press him, he isn’t a tame lion.” Lucy’s response? “No, but he’s good.”

Crowder examines six "but God..." passages in his newest book. There are six main "but God..." passages--each receives its own chapter. But within each chapter, he sometimes elaborates more and shares others "but God..." verses.

Some of the passages examined are Romans 5:7-8; Acts 2:23-24; 1 Corinthians 1:27; Psalm 73:26, Genesis 50:20; 2 Corinthians 7:6.

The lessons he draws from these passage are good, solid, foundational.

He does share plenty of scripture. But he also packs in a lot of stories and story illustrations. In my humble opinion, there needs to be a balance of the two. If there are more stories than scriptures, it's like a top-heavy, icing/frosting heavy cupcake--not enough cake. Some people prefer more frosting to cake, that's true, you might argue.

This one worked for me--especially if you classify it as a devotional. I think if you were to try to classify it as theology, then it would come across as a bit too light and fluffy--in comparison. But as a devotional, there's enough substance to provide needed structure and instruction.

Favorite quotes:
"Death was conquered by resurrected life—bringing joy out of grief. The point of all this? By Jesus’s resurrection . . . Death is conquered—to give us life now. Death is conquered—to give us life forever. Death is conquered—to restore the created order. Death is conquered—to provide hope in our seasons of grief. The surprising truth is that the only way to defeat the power of death was for someone to die—and come back to life again."

"Contentment for the child of God is not based on what we have but rather on whose we are and who He is. It is this fundamental reality that fuels how our hearts are to process life in an often unfair world."

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Bible in 42 Days

I love, love, love reading the Bible. I do. I like to read--as much as is possible--whole books of the Bible in one sitting. I like CHUNKY reading plans that allow you to really immerse yourself into the big story of the Bible. I drafted up this Bible reading plan using myself as a guinea pig of sorts.

Day 1Genesis 1-25
Day 2Job
Day 3Genesis 26-50
Day 4Exodus 1-19
Day 5Exodus 20-40
Day 6Mark
Day 71 Chronicles
Day 82 Chronicles
Day 9Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Daniel, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi
Day 10Romans
Day 11Galatians, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, 
Day 12Leviticus
Day 13Hebrews, 
Day 14Matthew 1-14; Numbers 1-8
Day 15Matthew 15-28; Numbers 9-36
Day 16James, Proverbs 1-15
Day 17Proverbs 16-31, Deuteronomy 1-8
Day 18Deuteronomy 9-34
Day 19Joshua, Judges
Day 20Ruth, 1 Samuel 1-16
Day 211 Samuel 17-31; Psalm 1-41
Day 222 Samuel 1-10; Psalm 42-72
Day 232 Samuel 11-24; Psalm 73-89
Day 241 Kings 1-11; Psalm 90-107
Day 251 Kings 12-22; Psalm 108-118
Day 262 Kings 1-13; Psalm 119-150
Day 272 Kings 14-25; Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, 
Day 28Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, 
Day 29Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, 
Day 30Jeremiah 1-10; Luke 1-16
Day 31Jeremiah 11-23; Luke 17-24
Day 32Jeremiah 24-37; 1 Corinthians
Day 33Jeremiah 38-52; Lamentations
Day 34Ezekiel 1-12; Ephesians; Philippians, Colossians
Day 35Ezekiel 13-24; Acts 1-15
Day 36Ezekiel 25-34, Acts 16-28
Day 37Isaiah 1-39; 2 Corinthians
Day 38Isaiah 40-54; 1 Thessalonians; 2 Thessalonians
Day 39Isaiah 55-66; 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus Philemon
Day 40John
Day 411, 2, 3 John, Jude
Day 42Revelation

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, February 24, 2020

Bible in 90 Days Plan *FIXED*

I love, love, love reading the Bible in 90 Days. I do. I don't even mind reading it straight through Genesis to Revelation. But it drives me absolutely CRAZY that the plan is laid out not according to rhyme, reason, or any sense--common or theological. For example,

  • Matthew 26:57-Mark-9:13 (day 71)
  • Mark 9:14-Luke 1:80 (day 72)
  • John 15:18-Acts 6:7 (day 77)
  • Acts 6:8-Acts 16:37 (day 78)
  • Acts 16:38-Acts 28:16 (day 79)
  • Acts 28:17-Romans 14:23 (day 80)
  • Romans 15:1-1 Corinthians 14:40 (day 81)
  • 1 Corinthians 15:1-Galatians 3:25 (day 82)
  • Galatians 3:26:Colossians 4:18 (day 83)

This is my attempt to "fix" the readings and adjust them. I have been doing this as I read: some days reading more, some days reading less. Trying to keep books together in a logical way. I am not saying this "fix" is perfectly perfect. Further adjustments may be necessary.

Day 1Genesis 1-16
Day 2Genesis 17-27
Day 3Genesis 28-36
Day 4Genesis 37-50
Day 5Exodus 1-18
Day 6Exodus 19-31
Day 7Exodus 32-40
Day 8Leviticus 1-15
Day 9Leviticus 16-27
Day 10Numbers 1-8
Day 11Numbers 9-21
Day 12Numbers 22-36
Day 13Deuteronomy 1-8
Day 14Deuteronomy 9-24
Day 15Deuteronomy 25-34
Day 16Joshua 1-12
Day 17Joshua 13-24
Day 18Judges 1-12
Day 19Judges 13-21; Ruth 1-4
Day 201 Samuel 1-15
Day 211 Samuel 16-31
Day 222 Samuel 1-10
Day 232 Samuel 11-24
Day 241 Kings 1-11
Day 251 Kings 12-22
Day 262 Kings 1-13
Day 272 Kings 14-25
Day 281 Chronicles 1-12
Day 291 Chronicles 13-29
Day 302 Chronicles 1-9
Day 312 Chronicles 10-23
Day 322 Chronicles 24-36
Day 33Ezra 1-10
Day 34Nehemiah 1-13
Day 35Esther 1-10
Day 36Job 1-7
Day 37Job 8-22
Day 38Job 23-42
Day 39Psalm 1-34
Day 40Psalm 35-72
Day 41Psalm 73-107
Day 42Psalm 108-118
Day 43Psalm 119
Day 44Psalm 120-150
Day 45Proverbs 1-15
Day 46Proverbs 16-31
Day 47Ecclesiastes1-12; 
Day 48Song of Songs 1-8
Day 49Isaiah 1-24
Day 50Isaiah 25-39
Day 51Isaiah 40-53
Day 52Isaiah 54-66
Day 53Jeremiah 1-10
Day 54Jeremiah 11-23
Day 55Jeremiah 24-37
Day 56Jeremiah 38-52
Day 57Lamenations 1-5
Day 58Ezekiel 1-12
Day 59Ezekiel 13-24
Day 60Ezekiel 25-34
Day 61Ezekiel 35-48
Day 62Daniel 1-12
Day 63Hosea 1-14
Day 64Joel 1-3, Amos 1-9, Obadiah 1, 
Day 65Jonah 1-4, Micah 1-7, 
Day 66Nahum 1-3, Habakkuk 1-3
Day 67Zephaniah 1-3; Haggai 1-2; 
Day 68Zechariah 1-14; Malachi 1-4
Day 69Matthew 1-11
Day 70Matthew 12-20
Day 71Matthew 21-28
Day 72Mark 1-8
Day 73Mark 9-16
Day 74Luke 1-9
Day 75Luke 10-24
Day 76John 1-11
Day 77John 12-21
Day 78Acts 1-14
Day 79Acts 15-28
Day 80Romans 1-16
Day 811 Corinthians
Day 822 Corinthians
Day 83Galatians; Ephesians
Day 84Philippians; Colossians
Day 851 Thessalonians; 2 Thessalonians
Day 861 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon
Day 87Hebrews
Day 88James, 1 Peter, 2 Peter
Day 891, 2, 3 John, Jude
Day 90Revelation

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, February 20, 2020

20. Uncommon Woman

An Uncommon Woman. Laura Frantz. 2020. 384 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Historical; Romance; Christian]

First sentence: Why could she not quit pondering that flounced petticoat?

Premise/plot: Every day seems to be a struggle and adventure in Laura Frantz's newest historical romance set in colonial (Western) Virginia between the French and Indian War and the Revolutionary War. The heroine, Tessa, has already lost her father--will a brother be next in the strife and conflict between settlers and natives?! The book opens with some tension--and closes with tension. There are dangers for living on the frontier at the very edges of (colonial) civilization.

Clay Tygart, the hero, has experienced much in his years--including witnessing the murder of his family and being taken captive--for years. Still, he's a man with a strong sense of duty and conviction. He's there to keep settlers safe--or safer. He's not there to fall in love...

My thoughts: I love, love, love Laura Frantz. I find her books compelling and well written. An Uncommon Woman is no exception. This one is told in alternating view points. Readers get to spend equal amounts of time with Clay and Tessa. It would not have been easy--could not have been easy to make a home on the frontier and to face these dangers and risks every single day. Life as a woman in the eighteenth century would not have been easy either--even in a "civilized" town with luxuries. But it required gumption--spirit--and some hope and optimism to be happy on the frontier...

I would definitely recommend this one!

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, February 13, 2020

19. Enough About Me

Enough About Me: Finding Lasting Joy in the Age of Self. Jen Oshman. 2020. Crossway. 176 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Christian nonfiction; theology; Christian living]

First sentence: I am nearing my fortieth birthday. In just a couple weeks my friends and family will gather to celebrate, and I’m looking forward to it. Forty. It’s a much-anticipated age.

Sadly, this is a MUCH NEEDED book. If I could, if I had the power, I would make EVERY ABOUT-TO-BE-PUBLISHED author read this book before his/her book is actually published. Perhaps the line has always been a blur between Christian living and self-help books. Perhaps looking at the publisher of a book used to give readers more of a clue as to if it was "self-help" or "Christian living." Perhaps in days gone by Christian living used to be less me-me, me. Or maybe not. That's not an experiment I want to commit to making--to read all the Christian living books that have been published over the last hundred years.

So what is this one about? It's about GOD, GOD, GOD, GOD, GOD, yes, and did I mention it was about God?!?! The title essentially says it all, this is not a book telling YOU that YOU have all the answers, and that YOU are enough, and that everything you need is right there inside of YOU just waiting for you to tap into YOUR own strength, own destiny, own gibber-gabber. The book covers how to do life--as a godly, God-fearing, God-believing, God-worshipping woman.

I loved, loved, loved it. It truly counters essentially everything you're taught by the world, by society, by culture, by the books you read, by the music you listen to, by the shows you watch. Stop lying to yourself--it urges. Wake up! Take note!
"When we deify ourselves, we require reality to conform to our own desires, rather than the other way around (conforming ourselves to reality). And whether we know it or not, this self-deification requires us to worship ourselves, to uphold ourselves, to convince ourselves that we are enough and worthy of following. When we become our own source of meaning, we also become our only source of satisfaction and fulfillment. We set ourselves in a cycle of defining ourselves and worshiping ourselves. To uphold this worldview, we must become our own masters. Ironically, we don’t actually become free. We must not only muster our own meaning and goals and dreams, but we must supply our own energy and ability to accomplish them. With ourselves on the throne we must truly be self-made women: we must conjure up everything from the meaning of life to the energy and ability to live it out. This makes us fragile. It’s all on us. Today we have to create our worlds and make them go round too. The problem with self-deification is that it limits oneself to oneself. We disable ourselves by not permitting ourselves to look to something bigger—something outside (or someone outside, as we’ll investigate in the next chapter)—for our meaning and purpose. Our only hope is to believe ourselves when we say we are enough."
"We twenty-first-century women have been running on ourselves, rather than our God. We’ve been running on self-help, self-empowerment, and self-actualization. The fuel of self has run out, and that’s why we’re tired and discouraged and even in crisis. Enough about me. And enough about you. If we want to keep running, we need to run on the fuel we’re made for—God himself."
What we think of as empowering ourselves is really crippling ourselves.

Oshman invites readers to ask different questions, and seek answers in God's Word. She shares with her readers the BIG PICTURE story of the Bible; how all 66 books of the Bible work to tell one story. It's a grand, action-packed story in four parts: creation, fall, redemption, and restoration.
"These four movements make up the big story of the Bible. God created us, we rebelled against him, he redeemed us, and one day all will be restored. That big story about God is also our story because we were made in his image. We must know that we’re a part of that story before we can know what we must do. It’s in tethering ourselves to that story—in recognizing that we were created on purpose for a purpose—that we will thrive. God says, I made you in my image to live for my glory. Culture says, Be self-made in whatever image you like and live for your own glory. This is a counterfeit calling, and it’s killing us."
I definitely get the impression that Oshman believes wholeheartedly that man's chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever. (Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q/A 1)

The whole book cover to cover is a solid, compelling, truth-packed, gospel-saturated read that though marketed to women is relevant to everyone. Men and women could benefit by reading this one and doing a little self-reflection. It has depth and substance. It isn't fluff--the opposite of it, in fact. It offers much food for thought, and asks readers to challenge themselves.

"Our intuition says the more we prioritize ourselves, the better we will feel about ourselves. But in reality, the more you and I look at ourselves, the more we loath ourselves because we fall short. When we fix our eyes on Jesus, when we behold our good God and ponder what he has done, your self worth and mine is elevated. We remember that we have inherent value as dearly created children. We remember that we are chosen, adopted, and loved (see Gal. 3:26–27). In other words, when we transition from self-focus to Jesus-focus, we actually end up with a better self-image—because it’s dependent on him who made us, not on ourselves. Because God is the author of our lives and the Redeemer of our souls, we will thrive when we study him, know him, love him, root ourselves in him, and renew our minds in him. Feasting on him, beholding him, and making the change from me-ology to theology is the key to your wellbeing and mine."

"Life is lived in minutes, which add up to hours and days and years. Whatever we love most each minute is what drives our action in the present. Those minutes build, one on top of the other. Life is a culmination of our momentary desires. Whatever our hearts love each minute will lead us for a lifetime. We are what we love. Each of us must therefore ask, What do I love? What am I loving the most right now?"

"Here’s the telltale sign that our god, our faith, and our calling are small and self-created: we find ourselves at the center of them all. You and I must ask ourselves if the values of our god are identical to our own. Have we reworded the Bible so that it matches our preferences, rather than us being changed by it? Are we living exactly like our non-Christian friends and family and simply slapping a #blessed on all we do? Are we being stretched beyond ourselves? In our quest for joy, are we living for our own glory, our own name, our own success? Can we honestly say that our Christianity requires faith? Because what Jesus asks of us requires great faith. He asks you and me to die. And in that death, he promises joy."

"If your devotional book, your women’s Bible study, your pastor, your favorite Christian author, or your Christian best friend don’t encourage you to come and die, an alarm should go off in your head. If their messages are for self-preservation and self-promotion, you know they don’t match God’s word. If they want to bless you on the small cycle, you know it’s not the life Jesus has for you."

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

18. 7 Feasts

7 Feasts: Finding Christ in the Sacred Celebrations of the Old Testament. Erin Davis. 2020. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: I learned from my grandma to love puzzles.

7 Feasts is a Bible Study drawn from a study of Leviticus 23. Intimidated by Leviticus? Don't be. For while the study theoretically should be largely drawn from Leviticus--this particular chapter--Davis pulls in texts from the Old Testament and New Testament that shed some light on what is being studied. There is an introductory chapter about the importance of remembering and observing; included in this first week's study is the importance of handling Scripture rightly. Readers are taught six rules. (I'll quote them below). Then the subsequent seven chapters are about the seven feasts: The Passover, The Feast of Unleavened Bread, The Feast of Firstfruits, The Feast of Weeks, The Feast of Trumpets, The Day of Atonement, The Feast of Booths. Each week has five devotions or studies.

The six rules of handling Scripture rightly:

Rule #1: We let Scripture interpret Scripture. It is essential for us to interpret a passage in light of what the rest of Scripture says on the topic.

Rule #2: We pay close attention to context. Every word in the Bible is part of a verse. Every verse is part of a paragraph. Every paragraph is part of a book. Every book is part of the whole of Scripture. No verse of Scripture should be divorced from the verses around it. 

Rule #3: Pause to consider what type of book or passage you’re reading. Here are some broad categories that can be used to help us understand the context of most Scripture passages: 1) Epistles or Letters 2) Gospels 3) Parables 4) Eschatology 5) Apocalyptic 6) Law 7) Historical Narrative 8) Hebrew Poetry 9) Prophecy 10) Wisdom

Rule #4: Try to discern the writer’s intentions when he wrote the text. A passage cannot mean something to us today that it was never intended to mean to the original audience. The Bible is unique in its timelessness.

Rule #5: Keep it simple. The Bible is not a book of riddles to be solved. God is not a God of confusion, but of clarity (1 Cor. 14:33). He has not spoken in order to conceal, but to be understood and known (Isa. 48:6, Jer. 33:3). When we open God’s Word, it is the plain meaning of the text we are seeking to understand. 

Rule #6: Always take a God-centered approach. Avoid looking at Scripture primarily to better understand yourself or correct your actions. Ask yourself “What does this show me about God?” before you ask, “What does this tell me about me?” or “What should I do?” Right application of Scripture is only ever an outflow of right understanding of who God is.

These are rules that readers can take with them and use every time they read and study Scripture. These are also helpful rules when it comes to DISCERNING another person's preaching or teaching. If someone is telling you something is true that clearly violates one or more of these rules of how to interpret and understand Scripture--you can spot it.

The rules are definitely one of the most practical takeaways from reading the book.

The weekly studies. For better or worse. The studies keep thing very simple, very basic. The activities are definitely more about understanding the original context of the seven feasts and less on the actual details of the feasts and how specifically Christ is to be found. So if you come to this one specifically looking for Christ-types, Christ-symbols, talk of imagery, meaning, significance, etc., you might be disappointed. Or if you come seeking a geeky-guide to the actual feasts and how they were and how they are celebrated by might be slightly disappointed.

That being said, what is here is of value and worth. The activities are more LOOK UP THESE SCRIPTURES, WRITE OUT THESE SCRIPTURES, WHAT IS BEING SAID, WHAT DOES THIS SAY ABOUT GOD, WHAT DOES THIS MEAN, etc. And the activities are not ridiculous me-centered activities. We don't get any of the absurd: WHAT DOES THIS VERSE MEAN TO YOU, WHAT DO YOU THINK THIS PASSAGE MIGHT MEAN, HOW DOES THIS MAKE YOU FEEL. The questions are solid enough that there's no wish-washiness.

The book definitely teaches about the doctrines of sin correctly. And the book is grounded in the gospel of truth and grace as laid out clearly in the Word of God.

There are definite application moments throughout the book.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

17. That Way and No Other

That Way and No Other: Following God Through Storm and Drought. Amy Carmichael. 2020. 144 pages. [Source: Review copy] [biography, autobiography, christian nonfiction]

The book opens with two different biographical sketches of missionary Amy Carmichael (1867-1951). One sketch is by Carolyn Kurtz; the second sketch is by Katelyn Beaty. The remaining chapters of this one are written by Amy Carmichael herself--taken from previously published works. (I believe she did most of her writing in the 1930s).

The chapters address different topics. Some chapters include a great deal of stories about her life, her children, her work; other chapters stay focused on one topic/aspect/subject of the Christian life. Both can prove beneficial to readers.

This was my first time reading Carmichael. I found myself agreeing with some of what she wrote; I also found myself disagreeing here and there, in bits and pieces, with a few things. Like always, use discernment and judge all things by the Word of God.

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

"Our Lord did not say, “Go ye into all the world if you feel an ardent flame of love to all the people in it.” He just said, “Go ye,” and as we obey, he gives us all we need to lead them to him. And of course as we most of all need love, he gives it to us. I think often we accept the cross in theory, but when it comes to practice, we either do not recognize it for what it is, or we recognize it and try to avoid it. This we can always do, for the cross is something that can be taken up or left, just as we choose."

"Life is a journey; it is a climb; it is also and always a war. The soldier of the Lord of Hosts is always a soldier. He dare not drivel down to any other kind of life. We can’t be entangled in the affairs of this life if we are to be real soldiers. By its affairs I mean its chatter and its ways of thinking and deciding questions, its whole aspect and trend. God forgive us our love of ease. God forgive us that so often we turn our faces from a life that is even remotely like his. Forgive us that we all but worship comfort, the delight of the presence of loved ones, possessions, treasure on earth."

"All the great staining temptations–to selfishness, ambition, and other strong sins that violently affront the soul–appear first in the region of the mind, and can be fought and conquered there. We have been given the power to close the door of the mind. We can lose this power through disuse or increase it by use, by the daily discipline of the inner man in things which seem small, and by reliance upon the word of the spirit of truth."

"It is the eternal in books that makes them our friends and teachers–the paragraphs, the verses, that grip memory and ring down the years like bells, or call like bugles, or sound like trumpets; words of vision that open to us undying things and fix our eyes on them. We are not here, they tell us, for trivial purposes. . . . We are not here to be overcome, but to rise unvanquished after every knock-out blow, and laugh the laugh of faith, not fear."

"More and more as we go on, and learn our utter inability to move a single pebble by ourselves, and the mighty power of God to upturn mountains with a touch, we realize how infinitely important it is to know how to pray. There is the restful prayer of committal to which the immediate answer is peace. We could not live without this sort of prayer; we should be crushed and overborne, and give up brokenhearted if it were not for that peace. But the Apostle speaks of another prayer that is wrestle, conflict, “agony.” And if these little children are to be delivered and protected . . . then some of us must be strong to meet the powers that will combat every inch of the field with us, and some of us must learn deeper things than we know yet about the solemn secret of prevailing prayer."

"Our loving Lord is not just present, but nearer than thought can imagine, so near that a whisper can reach him. You know the story of the man who had a quick temper and had not time to go away and pray for help. His habit was to send up a little telegraph prayer, “Thy sweetness, Lord!” and sweetness came. Do you need courage? “Thy courage, Lord!” Patience? “Thy patience, Lord!” Love? “Thy love, Lord!” A quiet mind? “Thy quietness, Lord!” Shall we all practice this swift and simple way of prayer more and more? If we do, our Very Present Help will not disappoint us. For thou, Lord, hast never failed them that seek thee (Ps. 9:10). Prayer in the name of his beloved Son cannot lose its way in the void. It must find the ear of God."

"For prayer is not emotion, it is a traffic between earth and heaven, “a commerce of love.” Our ships set sail for heavenly shores; they do not return empty; it is impossible that they should; but we are not told what tide will bring them back. We think in terms of time; God thinks in terms of eternity. We see the near end of the thread on which are strung our moments, minutes, hours, days, like pearls on a string; the other end is out of view, and yet the thread is one, indivisible. We call the near end time, and the far end eternity, as though somewhere the thread broke (at death perhaps). But it is not so. We are living in eternity now."

"If monotony tries me, and I cannot stand drudgery; if stupid people fret me and little ruffles set me on edge; if I make much of the trifles of life, then I know nothing of Calvary love. If I am inconsiderate about the comfort of others, or their feelings, or even of their little weaknesses; if I am careless about their little hurts and miss opportunities to smooth their way; if I make the sweet running of household wheels more difficult to accomplish, then I know nothing of Calvary love. If interruptions annoy me and private cares make me impatient; if I shadow the souls about me because I myself am shadowed, then I know nothing of Calvary love. If souls can suffer alongside, and I hardly know it, because the spirit of discernment is not in me, then I know nothing of Calvary love." 

"Often our flash of haste means little. To read a book in an hour (if the book has taken half a lifetime to write) means nothing at all. To pray in a hurry of spirit means nothing. To live in a hurry means to do much but effect little. We build more quickly in wood, hay, and stubble than in gold, silver, and precious stones; but the one abides, the other does not."

"Thank God, courage is as infectious as discouragement. Have you not often felt the cheer and strength that seem to flow from one whose mind is stayed on God? I have."

"It matters a good deal that your book-food should be strong meat. We are what we think about."

"Can you find a promise that if we follow the Lord Jesus Christ, life is going to be fairly easy? I do not think we shall find even one. But we shall find ever so many promises assuring us that however things are, we may count on strength to make us brave and peace to keep our hearts at rest. I want you to welcome the little difficult things, the tiny pricks and ruffles that are sure to come almost every day. For they give you a chance to say “No” to yourself, and by doing so you will become strong not only to do but also to endure."

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

16. The Bible in 52 Weeks

The Bible in 52 Weeks: A Yearlong Bible Study for Women. Dr. Kimberly D. Moore. 2020. [February] 208 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Bible Study; Devotional; Christian nonfiction; junk]

First sentence: I HAVE BEEN INVOLVED IN MINISTRY for as long as I can remember. I was born and raised in the church.

The Bible in 52 Weeks is a bible study for women intended for individual use, small groups, and large groups.

Essentially this is a year-long reading plan--there are many of these that are free and available for download--with a built-in devotional study.

The study will choose a reading from one of the days that week to "focus" on. Each week concludes with points to ponder--questions to be answered, an activity or prayer. (Sometimes in place of an activity or prayer there is a key verse shared.)

The reading plan does not go from Genesis to Revelation straight through. It switches back and forth between Old Testament readings and New Testament readings.

The text accompanying the reading plan its best fluff with about as much nutritional value as cool whip. There were a handful of weeks that weren't all bad. The questions were worth asking and the activities seemed genuinely connected to applying the text. If only all 52 weeks met such a standard.

At its worst the text is just bad theology: bad theology, really bad theology, super-bad theology. Of course those descriptions are subjective. To those that lean towards prosperity, health-and-wealth, name-it-and-claim-it, word-of-faith, TBN-esque theology, live-your-best-life-now... then two thumbs up. This level of Bible "study" may just be your cup of tea. To those that actually want to read the Bible with spiritual eyes and handle the word of God correctly, then this is a disappointment.

One of the recurring questions throughout the Bible study is WHAT IS YOUR PURPOSE IN LIFE. I wish she'd not had that as an actual question--leaving it up to readers to write their own ideas as answers. This isn't exactly a question with a mysterious answer in scripture.

I hope everyone who honestly and earnestly wants to read the Bible for themselves--perhaps for the first time will be encouraged to do so. But YOU DO NOT NEED THIS BOOK TO HELP YOU DO SO. There are dozens and dozens of FREE READING PLANS. Many Bibles have a reading plan or two in the back. (Though not all Bibles.) Search for bible reading plans online, and you will find plenty to choose from. There are many places to find a reading plan--all for free.

I do recommend with all my heart that EVERYONE reads the Bible for themselves. I recommend the Bible for men, for women, for children, for teens, for any AGE, any background. The Bible is the Word of God--the infallible, inerrant, inspired Word of God. God's Very Own Revelation of Himself to His People. It is ALL ABOUT HIM. But it speaks truth into our lives as well. It may not be about us, but it is for us.

My thoughts:

"As you read this book alongside the Word of the Lord, I hope you’ll be encouraged to be your best self and find some of the answers you’ve been seeking."

BECAUSE BEING YOUR BEST YOU is what bible study is all about.

"Along with the daily readings is a commentary based on one of the week’s scripture selections that will help you apply the lessons from the Bible to your everyday life. Following the commentary, you’ll find questions to inspire you to think about your own journey, as well as a prayer, a highlighted verse, or action steps for exercising your faith or overcoming an issue you’re facing."

To call the readings in this book commentary is ridiculous, a complete joke.

1. Decide in your heart to think and speak positively, replacing negative words with positive ones.
2. Make a commitment to yourself to intentionally respond to your doubts with declarations of faith. 3. At the end of the week, note how speaking positively into your life has begun to have a good impact on your outlook and ability to trust God.

At least the book revealed itself early. These points to ponder are from chapter one. I believe the "commentary" is for Genesis 16-18? 

1.What goals did you give up on that just seemed too far-fetched?
2.What visions or dreams do you have that you need to pick up and dust off?
Actions for the Week:
1. Take a few minutes three times this week to pray for direction to get your goals back on track.
2. Commit to watching a video or listening to a podcast that will help jump-start your creative juices in your particular area of interest.
3. Put a timeline in place to accomplish some of your goals, one at a time.
4. Share your goals and timeline with someone so they can help keep you accountable.

The first two questions go with the "commentary" for Genesis 37! (The subsequent four questions are actions for the week.)

Have you noticed the trend that whatever the text, let's make it all about you as quick as possible. 

"I BELIEVE GOD’S purpose for us is to be all we can be, do all we’re destined to do, and have all we’re destined to have. I believe it’s God’s desire for us to do more than merely survive. God wants us to prosper. But what does it mean to prosper? It can mean to have economic success, to thrive, or to become strong and healthy. And I believe with all my heart, mind, and soul that this is God’s will for our lives."

No Scripture proofs for any of this--I wonder why?!?! Oh, yes, that's because there are none.

1. Have you positioned yourself to be blessed? Are you listening and doing? Has that been difficult to do? Why?
2. Have you ever felt like you were more cursed than blessed? How did you reverse the curse?
1. Make a list of your blessings, and make it a point to thank God for each one of them every day this week.
2. Make a list of the commands that you have failed to fulfill, whether it be helping, forgiving, or giving to someone. Begin to cross them off your list one by one this week.
I'm a bit stumped. Reversing curses that were read over the Israelites if the Israelites choose to serve idols instead of the one true God?!?! These blessings aren't ours to name and claim, nor are the curses ours to try to break or lift. Right?!

"The Word of God is the greatest tool needed in order to pass our tests of life. If it worked for Jesus, it can work for us."
1. What tests have you encountered lately?
2. Did you pass or fail your test? How did you do it?
3. What advice would you give someone going through a test? 

I wouldn't exactly describe the Bible in these terms nor the Christian life. But to each their own?
"We must pray, humble ourselves, seek His face, and turn from our wicked ways. This passage in 2 Chronicles shows us that after we do our part, He’ll heal what has been torn apart. When we do our part, we then have to trust Him to keep His Word concerning our lives. Without a doubt, it’s praying time."
1. Knowing that we play a part in our answered prayers, what part do you find most difficult?
2. We’re told to pray, humble ourselves, and turn from our wicked ways. Is there any one of these that you have knowingly failed to do?
3. Going forward, which area within these mandates will you intentionally make the effort to grow in?
I'm cringing a little. 
Don’t get caught in Satan’s trap of constantly speaking words of fear and doubt. Regardless of how impossible your circumstances may seem, keep speaking God’s Word in faith. Base what you say less on how you feel and more on what God has said. As of today, start speaking life, not death.
1. What are some negative words or phrases that we use daily?
2. What are some helpful words or phrases that we need to incorporate into our daily conversations?
3. In what area of life will you intentionally shift your words in an attempt to shift the course of the situation?
1. Search your heart and determine what you have been created to do.
2. Come up with a plan and begin to implement a portion of that plan.
3. If your purpose works in conjunction with others, schedule a call or meeting this week to discuss the potential process.
4. Plan how you will begin to fulfill your purpose over the course of the next 30 days.
Search your heart and determine what you have been created to do. You mean search this heart?! "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?"

ACTION FOR THE WEEK Take a moment and really think about your love relationship with the Lord. Then take some time and write your love story. How did you meet? What were the circumstances surrounding your first encounter? When did you finally decide to come into a covenant relationship with Him? How do you intend to prove your continued love to Him?

My cringe muscles are hurting. Especially: When did you finally decide to come into a covenant relationship with Him? How do you intend to PROVE your continued love to Him?

1. What is your personal definition of mercy?
2. If you had to name three things you’re thankful for that didn’t have to do with money, what would those things be?
3. Have you ever found yourself in a space where you can admit that you were ungrateful or failed to be thankful? Explain.

This isn't the only time she asks readers to define biblical, theological terms for themselves. How do YOU define mercy. How do YOU define grace. Because it doesn't much matter what the Bible actually says...but what you feel and how you understand it.

ACTIONS FOR THE WEEK 1. Write a list of at least three goals or dreams and begin to develop a vision for them. 2. Begin to work on a strategy to bring those dreams and goals to fruition. 3. Write a list of hindrances that you will denounce daily (e.g., fear, doubt, slothfulness) until those things are no longer a significant part of your life.
These actions go with readings from Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians and 2 Thessalonians. I'm not sure which chapters these activities are supposed to have stemmed from. But regardless, I can't think of a place they belong. 

1. What’s your love language?
2. How difficult or easy is it for you to show love to others who don’t show love to you?
3. How have you proven your love to God lately?

Because anytime I read 1 John the first thing that comes to mind is my need to my desire to prove to myself, to others, and even God himself how much I LOVE HIM. 

1. Have you ever bemoaned a door that seemed closed to you? Could you see God in it in any way?
2. If you had a choice to obtain the keys to walk through any door you desired, which door would you want access to (e.g., healing, financial freedom, career)?
3. If you could permanently close a door, which would you choose (e.g., job, relationship, the past), and why?

These are some WEIRD questions, right?! They are "connected" to reading some chapters in Revelation. Though your guess is as good as mine as to where they came from?! 

1. Go around the room and allow each person to share their favorite chapter and/or verse from the week’s readings.
2. How do you interpret this particular text? What do you hear the author saying?
3. Are there any companion scriptures that you know will complement this text?
4. As you read the text, do you see more of God’s love, His mercy, or His anger? Explain.
5. How can this text be applied to your life?
6. Can you identify with any particular character within the text? Can you see yourself in this text in any way?
7. After reading the weekly commentary, what will you do differently as you go forward?
8. How have this week’s readings encouraged you to do better and be better?
9. After reading the scripture and commentary, what principles have you acquired that you might teach others? 10. After reading the text, take a moment to encourage the person sitting next to you based upon something you have read in the text.

They should include this on the back cover and the introduction so that readers can be warned. Notice the theme of Me, Me, Me, the Bible is all about ME, Me, Me. The Bible is all about Me, Me, Me. Let's sing it, let's shout it: Me, Me, Me, the Bible is all about ME. The underline portions are for emphasis. 

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible