Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Reaction: Christian Leader Singer Talks Losing His Faith in God

WAY Nation (Rob Vischer) did an interview with Jon Steingard. Watch it here. And I think everyone should go read Hell's Best Kept Secret.

2:12 Jon answers a question about when he initially decided to follow Jesus. His response is about when he was very young camping with his Dad and his Dad led him in "the prayer." As a teenager he looked back to that moment of praying the prayer as "his moment" of coming to faith. But he says his story never felt like the same experience as other conversion stories of his friends.
2:35 "I wish I had that story." He's talking about how his friends stories would go something like: my life was falling apart, I accepted Jesus into my heart, now everything is better because of Jesus.
3:00 As a teenager though he felt like he was floundering with his faith, he was asked to lead worship. He took that to mean that he had to get his act together and do better. He had to be solid, not going with the flow.
4:00 Real religious moments with God. "I don't know that I've had that." I like this bit--awkward as it may be--in that he seems to be realizing two things at least. 1) I can't build my faith on someone else's faith, someone else's experiences and encounters; 2) Realizing that he has not had any of his own experiences or encounters with God in the past or in the present. That is honest.
5:39 Unplugged from Christian culture and music. Self-aware of hypocrisy. He doesn't want to stand up and pretend to be someone he's not. Getting paid to lead worship--essentially performing as a Christian band--while not actually actually believing in God and doing so as an act of love and service to God...he recognizes that that would be wrong. Maybe he thinks its wrong for a different reason--because he values honesty and wants to be true to himself--but at some level he realizes that its wrong.
6:39 More financially free. Wasn't going to destroy me financially.
7:00 He talks about what broke him and intensified his doubts. At least this reason seems more genuine than the reason given on his instagram post.
9:20 He talks about prayer.
10:00 Trite answers and free will.
10:50 Belief in God as a sweater analogy...and Rob talks about the analogy of belief in God as a PARACHUTE. When did you start to view your belief in God as more of an accessory and less as a necessity. Jon's reaction is key.
12:06 I may have thought about it as more like an accessory--a sweater--than a necessity--my entire life. Some people in the comments...you've never believed...that's possible.
13:00 Avoiding pitfalls of bitterness and anger.
14:00 Some walk away because they've been deeply wounded; wanted his walk away to be fruitful, helpful, kind.
15:30 Open to having his heart changed in the future. Why would I not want to know him...if he's real. I don't believe what my family and friends do. I haven't had those experiences. I'm genuinely looking for the truth. There's no need to be defensive.
16:30 His response of sorts to his fans and friends within the industry.
19:00 It's God's work--it's not my work to go in and...convert you. This is the solution. Here you go. His response...the truth will be the truth no matter what we think...trust in God that he will reveal himself to me.

My thoughts are a bit scattered. But I want to make a few observations here and there.

First, I think parents may be very well intentioned and genuinely hopeful when they try to push and guide a child into the faith by praying a prayer, etc. But that doesn't necessarily always correlate to a genuine, authentic, personal-trusting-believing relationship IN Christ that grows and grows and grows and grows. It may be perhaps best in some cases at least to allow the child to come to faith in his or her own time, making his/her own realizations. I am NOT by any means saying don't instruct the child in the Christian faith, let them discover spiritual truths on their own without any input or guidance or instruction or discussion. I am saying don't assume that because your child knows the words to forty different praise songs that they've made it personal. My sins nailed Jesus to the tree. He took my place. He did this for Me. He loved me. He loves me still. He loved me while a sinner. His grace covers me. My sin was exchanged for his righteousness. Jesus Christ is in heaven praying for ME. Every person needs his/her own encounters with God. There are lessons that have to be lived. Sometimes instructions come before the living. Sometimes the living comes before the instructions. But whether you have had a moment in the distant past or not so distant past, it's not looking back towards YOUR decision or YOUR praying a prayer that means you're saved.

Second, there are four types of people in the world. 1) Those that are unsaved and know it. 2) Those that believe themselves to be saved but that are in fact unsaved. They have a false assurance. 3) Those that are saved and know it. (They can clap their hands). 4) Those that are saved but doubt their salvation. They lack the assurance that God has granted us as believers. But they are just as saved as those that know it.

It is BETTER, a million times better, to come to the realization that you are not really saved though you've lived with that belief perhaps for decades that you are saved...than to realize too late. Jon at least has realized this about himself...it seems like. Though he may not have processed it all.

Third, I want to leave you with a lengthy quote from Hell's Best Kept Secret about the parachute analogy and gospel presentations. It seems that Jon never really got or understood the gospel.

Two men are seated in a plane. The first is given a parachute and told to put it on as it would improve his flight. He’s a little skeptical at first because he can’t see how wearing a parachute in a plane could possibly improve a flight. After a time he decides to experiment and see if the claim is true. As he puts it on he notices the weight of it upon his shoulders and he finds that he has difficulty in sitting upright. However, he consoles himself with the fact that he was told the parachute would improve the flight, so he decides to give the thing a little time. As he waits he notices that some of the other passengers are laughing at him because he’s wearing a parachute in a plane. He begins to feel somewhat humiliated. As they begin to point and laugh at him, he can stand it no longer. He slinks in his seat, unstraps the parachute, and throws it to the floor. Disillusionment and bitterness fill his heart, because, as far as he was concerned, he was told an outright lie.
The second man is given a parachute, but he’s told to put it on because at any moment he’d be jumping 25,000 feetout of the plane. He gratefully puts the parachute on; he doesn’t notice the weight of it upon his shoulders, nor that he can’t sit upright. His mind is consumed with the thought of what would happen to him if he jumped without that parachute.
Let’s analyze the motive and the result of each passenger’s experience. The first man’s motive for putting the parachute on was solely to improve his flight. The result of his experience was that he was humiliated by the passengers; he was disillusioned and somewhat embittered against those who gave him the parachute. As far as he’s concerned it’ll be a long time before anyone gets one of those things on his back again. The second man put the parachute on solely to escape the jump to come, and because of his knowledge of what would happen to him without it, he has a deep-rooted joy and peace in his heart knowing that he’s saved from sure death. This knowledge gives him the ability to withstand the mockery of the other passengers. His attitude toward those who gave him the parachute is one of heart-felt gratitude.
Now consider what the modern gospel says. It says, “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ. He’ll give you love, joy, peace, fulfillment, and lasting happiness.” In other words, “Jesus will improve your flight.” So the sinner responds, and in an experimental fashion, puts on the Savior to see if the claims are true. And what does he get? The promised temptation, tribulation, and persecution. The other passengers mock him. So what does he do? He takes off the Lord Jesus Christ, he’s offended for the word’s sake (Mark 4:17), he’s disillusioned and somewhat embittered, and quite rightly so. He was promised peace, joy, love, fulfillment, and lasting happiness, and all he got were trials and humiliation. His bitterness is directed toward those who gave him the so-called “good news.” His latter end becomes worse than the first—another inoculated and bitter backslider.
Instead of preaching that Jesus improves the flight, we should be warning the passengers they’re going to have to jump out of the plane, that it’s “appointed unto man once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). And when a sinner understands the horrific consequences of breaking God’s Law, then he will flee to the Savior solely to escape the wrath that’s to come. And if we’re true and faithful witnesses, that’s what we’ll be preaching: that there is wrath to come. That God “commands all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30). Why? “Because He has appointed a day, in which He will judge the world in righteousness” (verse 31).
You see, the issue isn’t one of happiness, but one of righteousness. It doesn’t matter how happy a sinner is, how much he’s enjoying “the pleasures of sin for a season” (Hebrews 11:25). Without the righteousness of Christ, he’ll perish on the day of wrath. “Riches profit not on the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death” (Proverbs 11:4). Peace and joy are legitimate fruits of salvation, but it’s not legitimate to use these fruits as a drawing card for salvation. If we continue to do so, sinners will respond with an impure motive lacking repentance. Now, can you remember why the second passenger had joy and peace in his heart? It was because he knew that parachute was going to save him from sure death. And as a believer, I have, as Paul says, “joy and peace in believing” (Romans 15:13), because I know that the righteousness of Christ is going to deliver me from the wrath that’s to come.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, June 25, 2020

51. Pandemics, Plagues, and Natural Disasters

Pandemics, Plagues, and Natural Disasters. Erwin Lutzer. 2020. Moody publishers. 176 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: COVID-19, is the pandemic that changed everything. The “new normal” will not be the same as the “old normal.” For years to come we will talk about BC (Before COVID) and AC (After COVID). Normal might not be back.

Erwin Lutzer's newest book is current-event driven. Many, many, many things are going on in 2020. When this book was written, I believe the biggest issue was COVID 19--and to some degree some natural disasters (tornadoes, locusts, etc.). I do not believe the racial tensions had escalated with protests and looting.

Lutzer uses the Word of God AND the historical past to speak to this generation of believers. Lutzer shows readers that they are not the first generation to experience pandemics, plagues, and natural disasters. How believers choose to respond and do respond perhaps has changed a great deal. For sadly we live in a culture that would rather God be a caring bystander powerless to do anything but say, "there, there" while patting believers on the shoulder than a sovereign, providential God that allows pandemics, plagues, and natural disasters as part of His will.

In chapter one, Lutzer writes, "In the following pages I will discuss God’s relationship to pandemics, plagues, and natural disasters. I believe that realistic answers have to be given that will ground our faith in our sovereign Lord even in a time of fear and grief—or I should say especially in a time of fear and grief. Although God appears to be silent, I want to point out that He has actually spoken through the Scriptures, and furthermore, His promises are to be believed."

 God has a message for believers; it's not a new message, but an old one. "No special revelation from God here, just the Bible in one hand and a hurting world in another." He encourages believers to cling to hope AND to also offer comfort to those that are grieving and confused. Lutzer writes, "We must begin any discussion of tragedy by grieving for those who are in pain. Many of us are better at trying to explain the whys and wherefores of pandemics and disasters than we are weeping over them!"

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

50. Weep With Me

Weep with Me: How Lament Opens a Door for Racial Reconciliation. Mark Vroegop. Foreword by Thabiti M. Anyabwile. 2020. Crossway. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: There is no institution more equipped and capable of bringing transformation to the cause of reconciliation than the church.

To say that Weep With Me: How Lament Opens a Door for Racial Reconciliation is timely would be a bit of an understatement. This is Mark Vroegop's second book on lament and the church's need to lament. His first book, which I loved, loved, loved, loved is Dark Clouds Deep Mercy: Discovering The Grace of Lament.

In his second book, he urges readers that lament very well could be the common language that helps bring about the first steps of racial reconciliation. In addition to advocating for learning how to lament in general--both as hurting individuals and as a church body or community--he makes the case for racial reconciliation, and it's a good one: because it's biblical. The idea of different peoples, tongues, tribes, nations, clans, etc. coming together to WORSHIP the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Believers find their reconciliation in Jesus Christ, and he has made us all one.

Vroegop does initially point out that the notion of race is not exactly biblical. God didn't create different races; he created just one, the human race. And that race was created in His Image and for His glory. But while he initially acknowledges that fact, Vroegop soon progresses to using terms and definitions as society does. Words are defined and explained. Race. Racism. Majority. Minority. Prejudice. He is engaging with a conversation with the world, with society, he talks using their terms.
To those who approach any and all books about race with their defense at high alert, this might be alarming and unsettling.

I would encourage you to read this one cover to cover even if you have hesitations here and there. Because even if you don't end up agreeing with him 100% of the time, he offers plenty to think about.

Since not everyone will have read the first book on how to lament and why it's so important to our emotional, mental, and spiritual health to know how to lament, he offers plenty of refreshers on the hows and the whys.

The book is divided into three parts. "In part 1 we’ll start with a basic definition of terms and learn what the biblical language of lament involves. Then we’ll discover the value of spirituals, a musical expression of lament in American culture. And I’ll also show you why I think lament opens a door for reconciliation. Parts 2 and 3 focus on the application of lament. In part 2 we’ll learn how lament can help white Christians weep, speak, and repent where needed. In part 3 we’ll explore lament for African American and other minority believers as they wrestle with exile, redeem their hurt, and dare to hope again. Finally, we’ll conclude by looking at the implications of what we’ve learned together."

Each chapter ends with a lament prayer contributed by a pastor or teacher. (As well as some discussion questions.)

His goal is to see a diverse set of believers worshiping side by side every Sunday on this side of eternity.

Prayers in pain lead to trust—together.

Christianity looks stunning to the world and most emulates Jesus when our identity and unity in the gospel are more foundational than any other identity—including our ethnicity.

When Christians from majority and minority cultures learn to grieve together, they reaffirm their common bond as brothers and sisters in Christ. Lament enters into the deep emotions of sorrow, hurt, misunderstanding, and injustice.

Lament starts with a humble posture. It communicates: “I’m here. I’m sad too. Let’s talk to Jesus, because we need his help.”

Simply stated, a lament is a prayer in pain that leads to trust. Laments are more than merely the expression of sorrow. The goal of a lament is to recommit oneself to hoping in God, believing his promises, and a godly response to pain, suffering, and injustice. Lament is the historic biblical prayer language of Christians in pain. It’s the voice of God’s people while living in a broken world. Laments acknowledge the reality of pain while trusting in God’s promises.

Godly lamenters keep asking even when the answer is delayed.

Laments help us through suffering by directing our hearts to make the choice—often daily—to trust in God’s purposes hidden behind the pain. In this way, a lament is one of the most theologically informed practices of the Christian life. Laments lead us through our sorrows so that we can trust God and praise him.

Lament creates a language to “weep with those who weep.” It helps us express sorrow with one another. Lament gives us a voice of empathy. It communicates that while we may not understand, we are willing to walk alongside a brother or sister in pain.

The Bible calls us to weep with those who weep; it doesn’t tell us to judge whether they should be weeping. H. B. Charles Jr.

We empathize not because we fully understand but because we have been freely loved by Christ. Entering the pain of another and lamenting with others demonstrates the heart of Christianity.

Lament candidly identifies the brokenness around us and in us. It acknowledges the gap between God’s design for the world and our experience. Lament is the way the Bible talks about life in a sinful world.

Even while the facts are unclear and emotions run high, lamenting the presence of racial tension is better than silence. We can acknowledge the hurt our minority brothers and sisters feel. Lament refuses to allow silence to rule our lives. 

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

49. Why Am I Feeling Like This?

Why Am I Feeling Like This? A Teen's Guide to Freedom From Anxiety and Depression. David P. Murray. 2020. Crossway. 144 pages. [Source: Review copy] [teens; YA; self-help; christian nonfiction]

First sentence: Freedom! We long for it and love it. At last, free to be and do what we want. That’s the teen years, right? Our first car, our first job, our first date, our first road trip. These are wonderful moments of increasing independence that we experience in our teen years as our parents gradually release us from their supervision. Freedom is so amazing, isn’t it? We can’t get enough of it, and we can’t get it early enough. But for some of us, our teen years are the opposite of freedom. They are years of increasing bondage. It’s not that an outside force like our parents or teachers imprisons us. No, it’s an inside force that restricts us. Our own thoughts and feelings hold us captive, and we can’t break free from them.

Why Am I Feeling Like This? A Teen's Guide to Freedom from Anxiety and Depression has a companion book geared towards adults (parents, teachers, counselors, pastors, grandparents, etc.)

The book introduces readers to eighteen teens. (I'm assuming names have been changed and/or the teens are composites of multiple teens.)

1. Circular Sarah
2. Tense Tom
3. Doomed Dave (this is the author's testimony)
4. Imaginative Imogen
5. Panicky Paul
6. Faithless Flavia
7. Controlling Colin
8. Depressed Dan
9. Negative Nicole
10. Workaholic Will
11. Beautiful Brianna
12. Media Max
13. Friendly Fiona
14. Bullied Benton
15. Rebellious Rob
16. Perfect Peyton
17. Paralyzed Pam
18. Lonely Luke

A couple of paragraphs illustrates each teen's experience with anxiety, depression, or anxiety and depression. After the introduction, a key is shared. One main key per chapter. This key is the key that that teen said helped improve the situation. An update or follow up from the teen then follows. The chapters close with an activity or exercise to try, a verse to memorize, and a prayer to pray. The book stresses that teen readers are NOT to try using or "turning" all the keys at once. Not all keys will work for all readers. And some keys that will end up working in the end require time and patience.

This is the exercise for chapter one:

The next time you feel anxious or depressed, use the key of understanding. Try to view your feelings as an outside observer and briefly describe what you experience in your thoughts, feelings, and body. Instead of getting on the roller coaster, try to think of yourself as a spectator watching it from the sidelines and you are calling your friend to describe it. This may not immediately change your feelings, but it changes the way you relate to them. Write down: • What are my thoughts? • What are my feelings? • What is happening in my body? What was the sequence? What came first, second, and third? Labeling and describing our thoughts and feelings like this reduces their power over us.

The adult book includes these same teens. But my impression from reading the adult book--which includes the two or three paragraph summaries of teens' experiences--was that they were generic stereotypes and not reflective or representative of any actual teen. Perhaps because the adult book didn't include the follow ups? Perhaps because the adult book didn't stress that the main key of each chapter was the one the teen said helped best? Perhaps because the adult book sought to bring in more, more, more, more. Instead of one or two activities per chapter, the author was throwing half a dozen per chapter. Perhaps because there was less narrative quality and more fact-throwing? I don't know.

I definitely got the impression from reading this book that anxiety and depression are normal and natural to humanity. There is help, but you're first and foremost a human being. The adult book I felt tended more towards your teen is a problem to be solved; here are some tools, start experimenting. That could just be me.

Neither book mention the gut microbe. I think if David Murray had bothered to go there--the gut, brain connection--the book would be even better. There is a BIG, BIG, BIG connection between the gut and the brain. Good bacteria can make a HUGE difference in how our brain functions and processes life.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

48. Why Is My Teenager Feeling Like This?

Why Is My Teenager Feeling Like This? A Guide for Helping Teens Through Anxiety and Depression. David P. Murray. 2020. Crossway. 160 pages. [Source: Review copy] [parenting; christian nonfiction]

First sentence: Why is my teenager feeling like this? Have you ever looked at your adolescent son or daughter and asked this question? You poured your life into your children. You provided for them in every way. You set them up for success. But now they are sinking. They can’t get out of bed. They don’t want to go to school. They can’t function. They spend hours locked in their bedroom. They are nervous wrecks. This was not what you dreamed of. Instead of a confident, independent, happy, hopeful young man or woman, you now see a depressed, anxious, and empty soul.

Why Is My Teenager Feeling Like This? is a companion book to Why Am I Feeling Like This? It is for adults--parents, grandparents, pastors, teachers, etc. Why Am I Feeling Like This? is the book for teens.

I have not read Why Am I Feeling Like This?--at least not yet. I am curious if I'll identify more with that book or the book for parents?! (I am not a parent.)

The topic is anxiety and depression. The book opens with a longer section about anxiety and depression. It asks and answers these three questions: Who Gets Anxiety and Depression? What Causes Anxiety and Depression? What Can We Do about Anxiety and Depression? It encourages parents to read this book while their teens read Why Am I Feeling Like This? The books are designed to be read together and discussed together.

The book features eighteen examples or types. Circular Sarah. Tense Tom. Doomed Dave. Imaginative Imogen. Panicky Paul, etc. You get the idea. Each chapter focuses on a "key" to working through anxiety. One chapter, for example, might encourage kids to exercise and be less sedentary. Another chapter might focus on praying or memorizing Scripture. There is a chapter on seeking medical treatment and taking pills. There are additional activities and tools at the end of every chapter.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, June 15, 2020

47. It's All About Jesus

It's All About Jesus: A Treasury of Insights on Our Savior, Lord, and Friend. Randy Alcorn. 2020. Harvest House. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy] [christian nonfiction; devotional]

First sentence: Why a book of great thoughts and quotations about Jesus?

It's All About Jesus: A Treasury of Insights on Our Savior, Lord, and Friend is long story short a book of quotes. Now quote books can vary in quality, I won't lie. There are some quote books that are super-cheesy and a waste of paper. There are some quote books that are worth reading--or skimming--once, but really they're a good re-gifting possibility in an emergency.

But this book isn't like that. Why?! Because these are not only good quotes about Jesus, not only true quotes about Jesus, these are some of the best of the best of the best quotes about Jesus by some truly outstanding theologians, preachers, writers, and the odd celebrity or two.

Here are the reasons why I loved, loved, loved this book.

1) It is well-organized and has a great flow. The book has four main sections and many, many, many subsections. Part 1 declares who Jesus is—his nature, attributes, and characteristics. Part 2 speaks of his transforming life, death, resurrection, return, and reign. Part 3 explores the many powerful names and titles of Jesus. Part 4 centers on Jesus in his beautiful relationships with his people.

2) Each section (subsection) begins with key scriptures. The book values quotes from others--theologians, pastors, preachers, authors, famous folk, etc. But above all it values Scripture as the Word of God. Randy Alcorn even encourages readers NOT to skip the Scriptures.

3) I love the SELECTION and variety. It's like contemporary believers are joining in with the cloud of witnesses and exalting the Lord Jesus Christ. Or is it exulting?! Maybe both. Reading a handful of quotes all together all on the same subject/theme--all centered on who Christ is or who we are in Christ--is a blessing.

4) Reading the book leads to worship. This book is a feast for those who love Jesus Christ and want to know him More, love Him better, have their faith go deeper.

If you're only so-so about Jesus, then maybe the book won't be anything but a waste of paper--to you. But maybe just maybe the Spirit will use this book to bring you closer to the One who died to save you. Maybe just maybe the Spirit will use this book to rekindle your heart and restore your first love.

He is the fountain of all truth, but He is more—He is truth itself. He is the source and strength of all beauty, but He is more—He is beauty itself. He is the fountain of all wisdom, but He is more—He is wisdom itself. In Him are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge hidden away!… He is the fountain of love, but again, He is far more than that—He is love! A.W. Tozer 

The truth is, God doesn’t grade on a curve; he grades on a cross. Jefferson Bethke

There is more mercy in Christ than sin in us. Richard Sibbes

Live nearer to Christ than to any person on this earth; so that when they are taken, you may have Him to love and lean upon. Robert Murray M’Cheyne

Once in our world, a stable had something in it that was bigger than our whole world. C.S. Lewis

Until you see the cross as that which is done by you, you will never appreciate that it is done for you. John Scott

We write Jesus’ name upon our banner, for it is hell’s terror, heaven’s delight and earth’s hope. Charles Spurgeon

The true gospel is radically exclusive. Jesus is not a way; He is the way, and all other ways are no way at all. If Christianity would only move one small step toward a more tolerant ecumenicalism and exchange the definite article the for the indefinite article a, the scandal would be over, and the world and Christian‑ ity could become friends. However, whenever this occurs, Christianity ceases to be Christianity, Christ is denied, and the world is without a Savior. Paul Washer 

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

46. Reading Romans with Luther

Reading Romans with Luther. R.J. Grunewald. 2017. 128 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Christian nonfiction; devotional]

First sentence: When I was a kid, I dreamed I could fly like Superman.

I love, love, love, love, love the book of Romans. I am currently working my way through seven different commentaries of it. (Barnes, Calvin, Clarke, Henry, MacLaren, Spurgeon, Wesley) I wanted to love R.J. Grunewald's Reading Romans with Luther. I did. I have read several of Luther's books in the past--including his commentary on Galatians. I ended up slightly disappointed with Reading Romans with Luther. Grunewald's stated intent was to make Luther accessible and good theology within reach. He wants to explain Luther in such a way that all intimidation is removed.

If you're looking for a good, basic book on the themes of Romans you probably won't be disappointed. It is well laid out and quite good.

I was reading an ARC of Reading Romans with Luther provided through Netgalley. At least in the ARC, it was not clear which words were Grunewald's and which words were Luther. I had a hard time distinguishing between Luther quotes--I am assuming there are some--and Grunewald's summaries and "cliff notes" of Luther's commentary. Luther does require translation, I realize that. Unless you read German or possibly possibly Latin--I'm assuming those are the two languages you might find him writing in--you're going to need a translation. I wanted to be able to tell Luther from Grunewald. Now this might not be an issue in the actual actual book.

As a devotional it is mostly excellent. As a commentary, well, it disappoints because it's like you're expecting a meal and are handed a breath mint.

Essentially I am conflicted because it was a nice enough devotional organized around a handful of main themes found in the gospel of Romans. It depends on what you're looking for.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, June 12, 2020

Dream Bible Project: NASB

I love, love, love the NASB translation of the Bible. I do. But selection varies from small to almost nonexistent. Here are a few Bibles I'd love to to see published in the NASB.

ESV Six-Volume Readers Set

CSB Five-Volume Readers Set
NASB Readers Bible. I would love to see both a single-volume Readers Bible (without chapters and verses) and a six volume set. The single-volume edition because not everyone can afford premium Bibles. So long as the the paper is thick enough not to have major bleed through issues, it would be a great choice. The six volume edition because we're all entitled to dream about owning such a gem. High quality is a must.

ESV Creeds and Confessions Bible
NASB Creeds and Confessions Bible. I love, love, love, love, loved the ESV Creeds and Confessions Bible that released earlier in 2020. To see a similar Bible published in the NASB would be a true dream come true. The ESV edition came close to perfection in terms of font size and weight. It included the following creeds and confessions. They include the Apostles Creed (ca. 200-400), the Nicene Creed (325), the Athanasian Creed (381), the Chalcedonian Definition (451), the Augsburg Confession (1530), the Belgic Confession (1561), the Articles of Religion (1563), the Canons of Dort (1618-19), the Westminster Confession (1646), the London Baptist Confession (1689), the Heidelberg Catechism (1563), the Westminster Larger Catechism (1647), and the Westminster Shorter Catechism (1647). The NASB could even improve upon the ESV if it chose to include these two creeds left out of the ESV: the Scots Confession (1560) and the Second Helvetic Confession(1566). 

NASB Reformation Bible. I honestly wouldn't care if it was the Ligonier Reformation Study Bible (ESV and NKJV) OR if it was the Reformation Heritage Study Bible published by Reformation Heritage (KJV). OR if it was a NEW publication with new notes, new articles, new essays, new book introductions, etc.

NASB Chronological Bible. I love to be able to read the NASB chronologically. I wouldn't mind if the arrangement followed along the lines of the CSB Day by Day Chronological Bible or the NIV Daily Bible. There are several chronological Bibles with study notes (NLT, NKJV, KJV). I don't care so much about the notes and special features...so long as the layout is good: nice paper and great font.

NASB Bible for Children/Teens/Students. There are so MANY choices for "children's Bibles" being published. I don't remember thoroughly looking over the NASB Children's Bible published in 2019--I do not own it. But it seems to be text only with just a few illustrations here and there. Yes, that might technically be a children's Bible--if illustrations are all you judge by. But I am talking about an actual Bible written for tweens and teens that has features: book introductions, study notes, articles and essays, profiles perhaps, charts and maps. The less gimmick the better. But solid, foundation-building grow-with-your-child-into-adulthood goodies. The NASB Student Bible published around 1999 was okay enough--but it had TURQUOISE TEXT. WHY?!?!?!?! I will never believe that a colored font would significantly encourage a teen to actually read the Bible more over a black font. But this one has long, long, long been out of print.

NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible; originally NIV Zondervan Study Bible
NASB Biblical Theology Study Bible. This is a purely selfish request. Okay, all of them lean that direction a bit. But I would love, love, love to have this study Bible available in the NASB translation. I much prefer the NASB to the NIV 2011. From what I've read in it--I do own this one in the e-book--the notes and articles are great. The print book (of the NIV Zondervan Study Bible) has incredibly super-super-super tiny font. The large print isn't much better. But if the NASB could improve upon the design and layout...it would be absolutely wonderful. Surely I am not the only one who prefers the NASB to the NIV 2011?!

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

45. You Are Never Alone

You Are Never Alone: Trust in the Miracle of God's Presence and Power. Max Lucado. September 2020. 240 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Devotional. Christian Living]

First sentence: "It's just me, and I ain't much." We’d been talking for well into an hour before she said the words. We’d worked our way through two cups of machinebrewed, hospital-waiting-room coffee. Hers with sweetener, mine with powdered creamer. Small of stature she was. No makeup, hair matted. Her T-shirt was loose fitting and crumpled. I wondered if she’d slept in it.

Max Lucado's newest book is drawn from the gospel of John. Each chapter in one way or another connects to a chapter of John. I emphasize in one way or another because the focus of each chapter centers more on stories and experiences--from his own life, from his conversations with others, his observations and conclusions--than on the Word of God itself. While other books quote Scripture--moderately to even liberally--Lucado's quoting of Scripture is sparse to almost non existent. He talks about the contents of the gospel of John--it's clearly evident that he's familiar with John and that he has given it much thought--but it's more like a summary aside that supports his narrative. I definitely think he leans towards inspirational application.

I read Lucado sparingly. I prefer to read something that requires more chewing, more thought, more attention. But I love, love, love, love, love, crazy love the gospel of John. I am always up to read a book that relates/connects to John. And so I was open to reading and reviewing this.

I definitely enjoyed it. Lucado has a way with words. Like he knows he's going to be quoted a billion times and then some. Which he is. Often. He knows his audience and what they expect. I definitely found gems that were worthy of quoting.

Life happens when we believe. We find strength beyond our strength. We accomplish tasks beyond our capacity. We see solutions beyond our wisdom. Belief is not some respectful salute to a divine being. Belief happens when we place our confidence in God. It is a decision to lean entirely upon the strength of a living and loving Savior.

Each and every one of Jesus’ miracles was an act of kindness. Someone benefited. All these events stand together as one voice, calling on you to lift your eyes and open your heart to the possibility—indeed, the reality—that the greatest force in the universe is One who means you well and brings you hope.

You’re stronger than you think because God is nearer than you know.

Read the Bible from the table of contents in the front to the maps in the back, and you will not find any promise of a pain-free life on this side of death. But you will find this assurance: “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Heb. 13:5 niv).

Set your compass on the polestar of God’s promise, and place one weary foot in front of the other. Jesus has spoken. Let his word do what it was intended to do: lead you home.

It is not ours to say what God will do. Our job is to believe he will do something. It simply falls to us to stand up, take up, and walk.

When we wonder if God is coming, he answers with his name: “I AM!” When we wonder if he is able, he declares, “I AM.” When we see nothing but darkness, feel nothing but doubt, and wonder if God is near or aware, the welcome answer from Jesus is this: “I AM!” Pause for a moment and let him tell you his name. Your greatest need is his presence. Yes, you want this storm to pass. Yes, you want the winds to still. But yes, yes, yes, you want to know, need to know, and must know that the great I AM is near.

When I was a fifth grader, the optometrist gave me a vision test. If God tested your spiritual vision, would you pass it? Can you see the meaning of life? Have you caught a vision for eternity? Most of all, can you see God’s great love for you? The hand you sense on your face is his. The voice you hear is his. It is not his will that we grope blindly through life. He wants us to know why we are on earth and where we are going. Our vision matters to Jesus. He will do whatever it takes to help us see how to see. 

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

44. If I Were You

If I Were You. Lynn Austin. 2020. Tyndale. 464 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Women's Fiction. World War II. Friendship. Christian Fiction]

First sentence from the prologue: Eve Dawson bolted upright in bed. Someone was pounding on her door. Sirens wailed outside, growing louder. Approaching. She leaped up, her instincts screaming for her to run to the air-raid shelter. But no. The war was over.

Premise/plot: If I Were You is the newest historical novel by Lynn Austin. Are Audrey and Eve friends? true friends? It's a complicated relationship for sure. Audrey is an aristocratic daughter, shy and nervous at times, but she is Somebody and knows it. Eve, well, Eve is the daughter of maid. Her father died in World War I. Her mother is busy waiting on the family. Eve is raised by her grandmother--until her grandma dies. Then Eve herself goes into service. She's the opposite of Audrey: ambitious and impulsive. The two are friendly as girls--keeping it hidden from Audrey's parents a must--but will that friendship last through all the twists, turns, ups, and downs?!?!

The novel is not told chronologically. The narrative alternates between the present--1950 in the United States--and the past, England starting in the 1930s. It opens with a SHOCK. Audrey arrives to find that Eve is calling herself AUDREY and living with her in-laws. Eve has taken her identity...and her place in her dead husband's family...

My thoughts: I haven't decided if it was wise or foolish to open with the great big SHOCK in the opening paragraph. On the one hand, you would think that knowing what was coming--that something would happen that would lead Eve to do something so deceitful and manipulative--would take away something from the reading experience. On the other hand, I stayed engaged with the book. It took me a long, long, long time to engage with the characters themselves. Knowing this about Eve kept me from opening myself up to her in some ways....YET Audrey was the less likeable of the two in many of the flashback scenes. So I was torn, conflicted. Was it right to cheer Eve on knowing that she might end up being the bad girl?! Would I be convinced that Eve had done the right thing? But I was engaged with the STORY oddly enough...or not odd at all, all things considered. I love reading books set during World War II. And it was set in England during the war!!! I mean this book was begging to be read.

This is published by a christian publisher, but, I would classify it as not all that preachy. I would say that even if you don't necessarily seek out "Christian fiction" you might enjoy it if you like women's fiction or historical fiction or books with an emphasis on friendship. That being said, I am a Christian; I do not avoid Christian fiction: I actually seek out Christian fiction. I enjoyed this one. It has a theme of forgiveness which I think almost transcends the genre. Not all books about forgiveness end up being preachy.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, June 8, 2020

Operation Actually Turns Twelve Today

Twelve years ago today I started Operation Actually Read Bible. My first post was called THE MISSION.

My goal--obvious as it may be--is to actually read the Bible. You might think that I've not read it. But that wouldn't be the case. I've read it a dozen or so times over the past twenty years. However, I've not been in the habit of reading it lately. For the past three or four years, my reading of the Bible has been pitiful to nil. I know--rationally speaking--that I NEED to read the Bible...that I NEED to study and read and pray. But it's not a part of my daily routine. Hence why I'm challenging myself to ACTUALLY read the Bible instead of just talking about how I need to start one day soon.

Each year I celebrate by sharing my favorite posts from the past year. Here are my favorite posts from June 9, 2019 to June 8, 2020.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

...I'll Be A Believer

Last week I wrote a post titled, "In A World Full of Doubters." The lines "In a world full of doubters, I'll be a believer..." is a lyric from Hawk Nelson's song, "Sold Out." The post was about the lead singer of Hawk Nelson coming out and saying that he no longer believes in God.

I hope some good will come of this situation or circumstance.

For individual believers it might be used as a wake-up call of sorts. It certainly allows for an opportunity for reflection, prayer, and renewed commitments.

  • Do I view faith as a one-time event? Do I view faith as a daily choice to love and serve God? 
  • Is my faith built on the rock or on the sands? Is it built on the Rock--Christ Jesus himself? Or is it built on the sands of my feelings and emotions?
  • Does my faith have content? Do I view the Christian faith as having content and instructions? Do I acknowledge that it is something you are taught, that you learn, that you continue to grow in? Or do I have a more relaxed and fluid notion of Christianity? 
  • Do I hold the Bible to be the Word of God? Do I hold it be inspired, inerrant, infallible? Do I hold it to be true in its entirety? Do I submit to the Bible's authority? Do I allow the Bible to shape my worldview? Or do I allow my worldview to shape my reading of the Bible?
  • Where do I go with my questions, my doubts? Do I go to the Word of God and search for answers? Do I pray to God and cry out? Do I go to my preacher? Do I go to other believers? Do I go to the world?
  • Do I have an appetite for the spiritual? Do I have a hunger and thirst for the things of God? Do I long to know him more, to know him better? Do I love God? Do I live life like I love God? Do my actions reflect my profession of love? Do I value time in the Word of God? Do I value private prayer? Do I value public prayer? Do I value the preaching and teaching of the Word? Do I have a heart for fellow believers? Do I seek to encourage and build up others? Do I view Bible reading as a duty or a privilege?
  • Do I believe in the doctrine of sin? Do I understand that God has more than one attribute? That God has to be more than just love? Have I ever sensed the weightiness of God's holiness? Can I name any attribute of God other than love? 
  • Can I put into words what the gospel message is? Can I explain who Jesus is? why Jesus came? why Jesus died? what difference his resurrection makes? 
  • Have I felt my need for God? Do I continue to realize my need for God? Are you humbled by God's love towards you, a sinner? 
  • Are you actively amazed by grace? Have you lived out--emotionally--the contents of the great hymns? Do you truly comprehend the wonder of it all? 

Every single believer can use the publicity of stories like Jon's and take his/her spiritual temperature.

But I think the church is missing out on a great opportunity if they don't also use this as an opportunity to reflect and pray. These next set of questions are for pastors, teachers, leaders, and church members.

  • Does my church uphold the Bible as being the Word of God? Do they hold that it is inspired, infallible, inerrant? Do they hold it to be wholly true? Do they teach that it is authoritative? Do they add to the Word? subtract from the Word? 
  • Does my church have biases? Does the pastor read his or her own world view into the Word? Is his/her preaching more a reflection of his/her world view, his/her philosophies, his/her ideas? Are the sermons more informed by the world, by the latest news broadcast, by the latest trends, the latest polls? 
  • Does my church interpret Scripture with Scripture? Or are there outside sources, theories, world views that they use to interpret what the Scripture really means? Do they rely more on latest scholarship, new theories of interpretation, etc.?
  • Does my church teach anything contrary to the Word of God? If the Bible is crystal clear about something, does my church teach something different? something contrary? Does my church twist and manipulate the Word of God? 
  • Does my church encourage the asking of questions and celebrate the voicing of doubts? Does my church believe that there are actually answers to those questions and doubts? 
  • Does my church clearly preach the gospel in a way that it can be understood? Does my pastor preach the gospel often or infrequently? 
  • Does my church clearly present the bad news and the good news? Does my church uphold the traditional and biblical view that heaven and hell are real? Does my church believe that Jesus Christ is THE way, THE truth, THE life? Does my church believe that Jesus Christ is the ONLY way to the Father? That there is no mediator between God and man but Christ Jesus himself? Does my church believe in universalism? That ALL will be saved; that there is no hell, or, if there is a hell that it will be empty? That there are many, many ways to God? That Christian truths are not absolute truths?  That truth is subjective and relative? Does my church value evangelism? Does my church preach that people can be saved AFTER they die? 
  • Does my church ever mention sin and uphold to the traditional and biblical doctrine of sin? 
  • Does my church focus more on living this life to the fullest? being happy, wealthy, wise, and blessed? Or does my church focus on the next life?
  • Does my church encourage the spiritual disciplines of Bible reading, prayer, meditation, etc.?
  • Do my pastor's prayers sound more like sermons than actual prayers? 
  • Does your church present the biggest sin, greatest sin, being that of intolerance and close-mindedness?
  • Does my church recognize the importance of repentance? does my church value discipleship and instruction?
  • Does my church encourage members to GROW in the faith and GROW in knowledge and acquire wisdom and discernment?
  • Does my pastor really only preach on a handful of topics no matter what the scripture reading is? 
  • Could a person living in sin, comfortable in sin, holding tightly to particular sins, feel perfectly comfortable sitting under the preaching ministry at my church?
  • Is God given all the glory at my church? Is God's holiness emphasized? 
  • Does pride or humility reign at my church?

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, June 1, 2020

Bible Review #5 MEV Bible

MEV Personal Size Large Print. Passio. 2015. 1952 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and void, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the water.

I started this one December 27, 2019. I finished on May 27, 2020.  During those months the world seemed to go kaboom. 

This was my first time to read this translation cover-to-cover. I had read the New Testament in the Modern English Version the year the translation was first released.

Overall, I enjoyed this translation very much.

One thing that I loved, loved, loved about this one was the font size of the text. The Bible wasn't particularly heavy or bulky, but the font was super-comfortable on the eyes.

One thing that I really didn't love about this one was the thinness of the pages. I wouldn't be surprised if you could read two or three pages at a time. The bleed through was ghastly. In fact that is probably why it took me years and years to get around to reading this one cover to cover.

BUT. I discovered early this year that by trimming a black piece of construction paper to the size of the pages, a lot of the bleed through can be avoided. I wrote about this in January, I believe.

With the construction paper backing

Without the construction paper
I definitely enjoyed this experience.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible