Monday, May 31, 2021

May Reflections

May 2021 Bible Reading
  • In May I read Matthew 9-12 thirty times
  • In May I read Psalm 42-72 thirty times. (If I *ever* do this again, I will never break it up like this again)
  • In May I continued using the ESV Bible app to read the M'Cheyne Bible reading plan.
  • In May I finished the NIV Reader's Bible mainly using the revised Horner reading plan (greatly modified)
  • In May I used the Bible in 90 Days plan to read the NRSV. I have read Genesis through Ezekiel. (I started this plan in April.)
  • I have continued to do a little here and there reading in several other Bibles including the KJV, the NASB Schuyler, and the LSB.
  • I made a second revision (or is it the third??) of the Horner system. I have ten mostly new categories. (The only thing I really kept the same were the bookmarks for Psalms AND the books of the law (Genesis - Deuteronomy). I am starting the Horner system again for the NASB 2020 BIBLE. I am using the Large Print Thinline edition of the NASB 2020.
  • In May the Facebook group, Psalms: Life From God's Heart, began reading Psalms. (3 a week). I am a moderator. 

Books Reviewed at Operation Actually Read Bible

29. Board books: Bible Stories for Little Hearts. Sandra Magsamen. 2019. 10 pages. [Source: Review copy]
30.Come Back To Me (Waters of Time #1) Jody Hedlund. 2021. [July] 384 pages. [Source: Review copy]
31. Go and Do Likewise: The Parables and Wisdom of Jesus. John Hendrix. 2021. [February] 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]
32. Providence. John Piper. 2021. 752 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Bibles Reviewed at Operation Actually Read Bible

4. NIV Reader's Bible (2011 Translation). God. 2017. 1984 pages. [Source: Won a Contest]

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, May 28, 2021

Days of the Week Bible Reading Plan

My idea for this reading plan is from several years ago. I made the bookmarks, but had them in a non-current Bible. So I've never really given this plan a proper go. (I may try for my next Bible project). This plan is perfect for those who like FREEDOM in what they read and how much they read per day. It offers some structure, but its not rigid. I've also built in some "catch-up" or "wild card" days.

For the Old Testament I offer two different options

Plan A

Monday: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy
Tuesday: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, 2 Kings, 1 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther
Wednesday: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs
Thursday: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel
Friday: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi

Plan B

Monday: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy
Tuesday: Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel
Wednesday: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi
Thursday: The book of Psalms
Friday: Proverbs, Job, Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, 1 Chronicles, and 2 Chronicles

For Saturday and Sunday I suggest that *if* you choose to read the Old Testament on the weekend, that you might use this time to catch up. Perhaps you're just a couple chapters away from finishing a book of the Bible. Or perhaps you're really excited to get back to a particular section of Scripture--read from any of your bookmarks--as much or as little as you want. Don't feel pressured to read a little from all five. Just read where the Spirit leads you.

For the New Testament, my system is a little different:

Monday, Wednesday, Friday: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, Revelation 

Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday: Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, James, 1 Peter, 2 Peter 

For Sunday, feel free to where ANYWHERE you want in the New Testament. Or perhaps you want to go deeper in a section of Scripture that you've read earlier in the week. 

Essentially, every day (or near every day) you'll be reading in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. 

You could type up bookmarks. OR you could do like I do and just jot them down on (shopping) list paper. 

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

4. NIV Reader's Bible

NIV Reader's Bible (2011 Translation). God. 2017. 1984 pages. [Source: Won a Contest]

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

This was not my first time to read through the "new" NIV (2011) translation. I have read the A.W. Tozer devotional Bible before. 

What I enjoyed about this particular Bible was that it was a Reader's Bible. It has no verse numbers. (It does have chapter numbers.) I also enjoyed the size of the font and that it was single column. Overall, I thought the layout worked great. (It does lay flat!)

It is black letter, not red letter, which is definitely important to me when I'm considering Bibles.

I do recommend that everyone read through the Bible at least once in a reader's Bible. I don't think everyone has to read the NIV translation. Many translations these days have been published in this format. And reading the Bible in an app, you can usually (though not always) make adjustments in the preferences so that you can *make* any translation into a Reader's Bible. 

I did use a modified Professor Horner plan to read this one through. I will say I stuck to it except for the past two days when I essentially read all the books I hadn't already read once. (Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Revelation). 

So my modified Horner had these ten groupings:

  1. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy
  2. Joshua Judges, Ruth, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles, Esther
  3. Psalms
  4. Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon
  5. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, REVELATION
  6. Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi
  7. Matthew, Mark, Luke, Acts, John
  8. Romans and Hebrews
  9. 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians
  10. 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, James, 1 and 2 Peter, 1, 2, 3 John, and Jude
I think I will change my Horner bookmarks again when I start over next time. It does get a bit uneven. I think this is mainly my fault. Mainly. I tend to read in chunks that make sense--in terms of narrative--instead of a strict one chapter per group. 

In my Horner accounting, I marked all the NIV in red. The NASB 95 is marked in black. My next color will be blue--I'll be reading the NASB 2020. 

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Third Impressions of Professor Horner

In January, I wrote my first impressions of this popular (semi-popular?) Bible reading plan. In March, I revised the plan to better suit my needs. As I'm finishing up the NIV using the revised Horner plan, I'm realizing I want another revision. No, I need another revision. 

I'm thinking of breaking the Old Testament down into five groups:

1) The Law -- Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy
2) The Prophets: Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel
3) The Twelve Prophets: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi
4) The book of Psalms
5) The writings: Proverbs, Job, Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, 1 Chronicles, and 2 Chronicles

Yes, this list is inspired by the order of the Torah...with the exception that I separated out Psalms from The Writings. 

Which leaves me to group the New Testament into five groups as well. The New Testament is trickier than the old in terms of easy grouping.

6) Matthew, Hebrews, James, Jude
7) Mark, Romans, 1 and 2 Peter
8) Luke, Acts, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians
9) Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon
10) John, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, Revelation

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, May 24, 2021

32. Providence

Providence. John Piper. 2021. 752 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: God has revealed the goal and nature and extent of his providence. He has not been silent. He has shown us these things in the Bible. This is one of the reasons that the apostle Paul says, “All Scripture is . . . profitable” (2 Tim. 3:16). The profit lies not mainly in the validation of a theological viewpoint but in the revelation of a great God, the exaltation of his invincible grace, and the liberation of his undeserving people. God has revealed his purposeful sovereignty over good and evil in order to humble human pride, intensify human worship, shatter human hopelessness, and put ballast in the battered boat of human faith, steel in the spine of human courage, gladness in the groans of affliction, and love in the heart that sees no way forward.

It is finished! It took me over a month--perhaps closer to two--to finish this one. Was it worth it? Yes. Do I see this as a book worthy of a reread? Yes. I think it is a substantive, weighty book where a reader would benefit from a second read. Or perhaps as an alternative as a resource to go back to again and again. 

I will not try to provide an in-depth review of each part, each section, each chapter. 

Part 1: A Definition and a Difficulty
1. What is Divine Providence
2. Is Divine Self-Exaltation Good News?
Part 2: The Ultimate Goal of Providence
Section 1: The Ultimate Goal of Providence before Creation and in Creation
3. Before Creation
4. The Act of Creation
Section 2: The Ultimate Goal of Providence in the History of Israel
5. Overview from Abraham to the Age to Come
6. The Exodus Unfolds
7. Remembering the Exodus
8. The Law, the Wilderness, and the Conquest of Canaan
9. The Time of the Judges and the Days of the Monarchy
10. The Protection, Destruction, and Restoration of Jerusalem
Section 3: The Ultimate Goal of Providence in the Design and Enactment of the New Covenant
11. The Designs of the New Covenant
12. Christ's Foundational Act in Establishing the New Covenant
13. The Entrance of Sin into Creation and the Glory of the Gospel
14. The Glory o fChrist in the Glorification of His People
Part 3: The Nature and Extent of Providence
Section 1: Setting the Stage
15. Knowing the Providence of the God Who Is
Section 2: Providence Over Nature
16. The Loss and Recovery of a Theater of Wonders
17. Earth, Water, Wind, Plants, and Animals
Section 3: Providence over Satan and Demons
18. Satan and Demons
19. The Ongoing Existence of Satan
Section 4: Providence over Kings and Nations
20. Israel's Divine King is King of the Nations
21. Human Kingship and the King of Kings
22. To Know and Rejoice That the Most High Rules
Section 5: Providence Over Life and Death
23. A Bath of Truth and the Gift of Birth
24. The Lord Has Taken Away; Blessed Be the Name of the Lord
25. We Are Immortal till Our Work is Done
Section 6: Providence Over Sin
26. Natural Human Willing and Acting
27. Things We Know and Things We Do Not Need to Know
28. Joseph: God's Good Meaning in a Sinful Act
29. Israel Hated, Pharaoh Hardened, God Exalted, Helpless Saved
30. Broken Families
31. Deception and Dullness of Heart
32. Though He Cause Grief, He Will Have Compassion
33. A Wickedness God Especially Abhorred
Section 7: Providence Over Conversion
34. Our Condition Before Conversion
35. Three Biblical Pictures of How God Brings People to Faith
36. Saving Faith as the Gift of Providence
37. Driven Back to the Precious Roots of Election
Section 8: Providence Over Christian Living
38. Forgiveness, Justification, and Obedience
39. God's Command-and-Warning Strategy
40. Those Whom He Called, He Also Glorified
41. Blood-Bought Zeal for Good Works
42. Working In Us That Which Is Pleasing In His Sight
43. Killing Sin and Creating Love--By Faith
Section 9: The Final Achievement of Providence
44. The Triumph of Missions and the Coming of Christ
45. New Bodies, New World, Never-Ending Gladness in God 

If you take the time to thoughtfully read the table of contents you see that Piper's book covers just about anything and everything. 

Is it accessible or reader friendly? This will vary reader by reader, of course, but I think if taken one to three chapters at a time, it IS more accessible than not. I do want to point out that it isn't equally accessible cover to cover. There are chapters--or paragraphs within chapters--that are quite complex and where Piper's approach is more technical/scholarly. The good news is that if you keep reading, keep on keeping on, that you will get back to parts you are able to understand/comprehend/appreciate. And sometimes he even provides summary of the harder bits by the end of the chapter or section. Don't give up.

The book covers just about everything--it's very broad in its subject. I think it's only natural that some readers will "love" some chapters and sections more than others. While all chapters are relevant when seen in the grand scheme of seeing God's Providence, not all chapters are equally relevant in showing how God's providence relates back to the reader. The last third of the book is, in my opinion, the best. 

  • I am going to use the word providence to refer to a biblical reality. The reality is not found in any single Bible word. It emerges from the way God has revealed himself through many texts and many stories in the Bible. They are like threads woven together into a beautiful tapestry greater than any one thread. We are using a word that is not in the Bible for the sake of this larger truth of the Bible.
  • The focus of this book is on God’s sovereignty considered not simply as powerful but as purposeful. Historically, the term providence has been used as shorthand for this more specific focus.
  • God does not simply see as a passive bystander. As God, he is never merely an observer. He is not a passive observer of the world—and not a passive predictor of the future. Wherever God is looking, God is acting. In other words, there is a profound theological reason why God’s providence does not merely mean his seeing, but rather his seeing to. When God sees something, he sees to it.
  • Providence says, Whatever God ordains must be; but the wisdom of God never ordains anything without a purpose. Everything in this world is working for some one great end. 
  • It is cheap grace, not genuine grace, that thinks life in Christ is without remorse for past sin and for remaining corruption.
  • The fear of the Lord is not the opposite of joy in the Lord; it is the depth and seriousness of it.
  • Jesus is both the ground of our salvation, and the glory we were saved to see and savor and share. He was the price that was paid for our deliverance, and the prize we were destined to enjoy. He redeemed us from hell, and he rewarded us with himself.
  • Though death is real, (1) Christ has defeated it by his death and resurrection, so that (2) those who treasure him need not fear what kills the body, because (3) in that moment we will be with Christ, seeing his glory, savoring his love, feeling at home, until the day of his appearing, when (4) he will raise our bodies from the dead, and (5) give us a body like his glorious body, and (6) renew all creation as our eternal habitation, and (7) bring us to fullness of joy and pleasures forever in the radiance of his glorious presence. That is bracing reality.
  • What if I look you in the eye and ask, “Are you a Christian? Do you have saving faith in Jesus?” And what if you say, “Yes, I do,” and I then ask, “How did that happen? How did you cease to be a person who preferred other things to God and become a person who treasures Christ?” Will you be able to give me a true, biblical answer? This is not theoretical. This is urgent. For most people, the answer presses for an answer with more urgency than the question of election. It feels like something great hangs in the balance. And it does.
  • I am not asking about what you can remember about the circumstances—young or old, recent or distant. Those facts may be precious in memory or long forgotten. The genuineness of our conversion does not depend on its being remembered. If it did, people with dementia would be in a desperate spiritual plight. Salvation is not by works—including the work of memory.
  • Far more important than the human circumstances God used to bring you to faith is how God himself was involved at the moment when you passed from death to life (Eph. 2:5). And we learn that from Scripture, not from memory. In fact, many people must unlearn aspects of what they think happened, when they finally see in Scripture what truly happened in their conversion.
  • Experience does not teach us the depth of our difficulty. Only God can do that. And he does it by his word and Spirit.
  • The point is that any sin—because it is sin (a preference for something over God)—will destroy us if we cordon it off from opposition, give it amnesty, and keep it as our beloved rebellion against God.
  • I often ask people, How do you know you will wake up a Christian tomorrow morning? The bottom-line answer is that God will cause you to wake up a Christian, or you won’t. God will be faithful. God will keep you. Everything hangs on the faithfulness of God to his promise: “Those whom he called . . . he also glorified.”
  • Holiness is the opposite of sin. Therefore, treasuring God above all things is the essence of holiness.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, May 21, 2021

Berean Playlist #12 Come Forth

See my blog post: On Being Berean, Part 2 for context on this series. Today's song is Come Forth by CAIN. Listen to it on YouTube. The lyrics can be found as well

I have very mixed feelings on this song. I do. I honestly don't know if this song is intended to be a wake up call for believers who are a bit lazy and sluggish. (Like some of the churches we see in Revelation, not to mention some of Jesus' rebukes to his disciples). OR if the song is intended as an invitational to nonbelievers, to seekers. If the song writers intended it to be a wake up call to those who are WITHIN the church, those that have genuinely trusted and believed in Christ, then perhaps I have less of an issue with the song??? Perhaps. But if the song writers intended it to be a song of invitation (think of the way Just As I Am is used for altar calls) to the unbelieving world, I have some major theological issues with the song. 

The song opens with a vivid description of Jesus.

He is a grave robber, 
He’s a wave walker 
There ain’t nothing that He can’t do 
He’s a storm stopper, 
He’s a death mocker

The song then shifts focus to how Jesus has work for us to do in his power. And for the most part this is where the song stays focused: the power that can be obtained by us when we respond to God's calling in our lives. 

There is another verse about Jesus, by the way:

Oh with a cross they killed Him 
But the Spirit filled Him 
The gates of hell flung open wide 
Now That same spirit lives within us 
Step into the power of Christ

I don't particularly have issues with these verses about Jesus. I don't. Not really.

I may not have issues with the other lyrics--but it all depends on the intended purpose and audience. There's a big, big, big difference in interpreting the meaning of the lyrics. Are unbelievers in mind here????? Are believers in mind????? Or perhaps that "carnal" Christian???? Who knows for sure.

Dead man open your eyes 
The Lord ain’t finished with you 
Wake up You sleeper 
Watch what He can do 
Dead man open your eyes 
Jesus is calling you 

and later

Dead man open your eyes 
The Lord ain’t finished with you 
Wake up You sleeper 
Watch what He can do 
Dead man open your eyes 
Jesus is calling you 
I hear Him 
I hear Him 
I hear Him calling 
Step into the power of Christ 

The Bible has something to say about those without Christ. Unbelievers. Lost. Blind. Deaf. Dead. There's really no (self) recovery for the dead. (And not much hope for the blind or deaf). Those that are spiritually dead (and the Bible clearly teaches this) cannot open their own eyes, cannot come forth (in their own strength or power), cannot respond (not even a little), cannot step into the power of Christ (they are dead, dead, super dead). I love Ezekiel 37 and of course Ephesians 2. 

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. Ephesians 2:1-10

The Bible does mention several wake-up calls to believers--to the visible church of believers. Perhaps they are using "dead man" to mean sleeping believer. It's possible. But just hearing the line Dead man open your eyes over and over again just bothers me somehow. Because it's just not possible---literally or spiritually. I do think it's as simple as those couple of lines. 

To be fair their song Rise Up (Lazarus) is one of my favorite, favorite, favorite, favorite songs. For whatever reasons the lyrics in that song doesn't set off any alarm bells. 

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, May 17, 2021

Verse comparison, Psalm 68:19

This month I am reading Psalm 42-72 thirty days in a row. It's a LOT. But one thing I have noticed are how many variants there are in translating Psalm 68:19. There are two main camps--those who translate it as God loading us with benefits day by day...and those who translate it either as God bearing US up day by day OR God bearing our burdens day by day. I don't know which I find more comforting. 

Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation. KJV
Blessed be the Lord,
Who daily loads us with benefits,
The God of our salvation! NKJV
Blessed be the Lord, who daily beareth our burden,
Even the God who is our salvation. ASV
Blessed be the Lord!
Day after day he bears our burdens;
God is our salvation. CSB
Blessed be the Lord!
Day after day he bears our burdens;
God is our salvation. ESV
Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears our burden, The God who is our salvation. NASB 77
Praised be the Lord, even the God of our salvation, which ladeth us daily with benefits. 1599 GEN
Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears our burden,
The God who is our salvation.  NASB95
Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears our burden,
The God who is our salvation. NASB2020
Blessed be the Lord. Daily he loads us with benefits,
the God of our salvation. Lexham English Bible
Blessed be the Lord.
Day by day he bears our burdens.
He is the God who saves us. Evangelical Heritage Version
What a glorious Lord! He who daily bears our burdens also gives us our salvation. Living Bible
Blessed be the Lord, who daily loads us with benefits,
    even the God who is our salvation. MEV
The Lord deserves praise.
Day after day he carries our burden,
the God who delivers us. New English Translation
The Lord deserves praise.
Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior,
    who daily bears our burdens. NIV 2011
Praise the Lord; praise God our savior!
    For each day he carries us in his arms.  New Living Translation
Blessed be the Lord,
    who daily bears us up;
    God is our salvation. NRSV
Blessed be the Lord,
    who daily bears us up;
    God is our salvation. RSV

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, May 16, 2021

31. Go and Do Likewise

Go and Do Likewise: The Parables and Wisdom of Jesus. John Hendrix. 2021. [February] 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Jesus's sandals were always dusty. Jesus didn't call any one place home. But he was not alone. Alongside Jesus were his students, the twelve disciples.

In 2016, John Hendrix gave us Miracle Man: The Story of Jesus. I definitely enjoyed it. I wasn't expecting a follow up book, but was pleasantly surprised to see that he has a new book out called Go and Do Likewise: The Parable and Wisdom of Jesus. 

The 'wisdom' shared here mainly comes from the Sermon on the Mount. (I would say with a few bits perhaps from the gospel of John.) The parables come mainly (though not exclusively) from the gospel of Luke. Expect The Good Samaritan, the Lost Sheep, the Prodigal Son, etc. 

What is shared, in my opinion, for better or worse, focuses on ethics: how to be a good, decent, kind human being. 

Hendrix definitely puts his own spin on the stories. What do I mean by spin? Adding his own interpretation and commentary. This isn't all that unusual for bible story books. I think every author is 'guilty' of it to a certain degree or another. But adding details--opinions, observations, making conclusions--to the text that simply aren't in the original (in any translation) can be theologically tricky. I think he adds what he adds for storytelling purposes. He wants to tell an engaging story to a young audience. He's not out to quote the Bible verse by verse by verse. 

The story of the Good Samaritan can be found in Luke 10:30-37. 

The original verse: And by chance a priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.

That's it. That's all the Bible says about the priest in the parable. Hendrix, however, spins a different tale:
But a priest of God, the ones you see in the temple, was also traveling this lonely road. As he looked upon the dying man, the priest feared for his own life--or perhaps didn't want to get his fine clothes dirty--and passed by him on the other side of the road without stopping to help.

The original verse: Likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 

Again, Hendrix spins a tale with motives: A short time later, a Levite, a person who also worked in the temple, came along the road. He, too, saw the wounded man, and blaming the man for his own carelessness, left him in a puddle of dirt and blood. 

Hendrix definitely spins the Beatitudes as well. The Beatitudes can be read in Matthew 5:3-12.

Original: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Hendrix: Blessed are those who feel like an empty jar. God will fill that emptiness with abundance.
Original: Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Hendrix: Blessed are those who cry, for the Lord sees every tear. Each one, He will wipe away.
Original: Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Hendrix: Blessed are those full of mercy, for they, too, will be shown grace.
Original: Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Hendrix: Blessed are those who work for peace. They understand what it means to be God's child.

He definitely doesn't include every single Beatitude. He leaves some off--not a criticism, just an observation. (He leaves off gentle, hunger and thirst, pure in heart, the persecuted). 

The narrative style is unique as are the visuals. The layout very much stresses the visual arts. The text is almost secondary in importance. This makes it slightly difficult to read in places. It also shifts it, in my opinion, to a slightly older audience. (As opposed to a beginning reader.)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

30. Come Back To Me

Come Back To Me (Waters of Time #1) Jody Hedlund. 2021. [July] 384 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: “Your father is in a coma.” “What did you say?” Marian Creighton fumbled with her phone and almost dropped it. “I don’t think I heard you correctly.” “I’m sorry, Marian.” Harrison Burlington’s English accent on the other end was as loud and clear as if he’d been sitting at Jasper’s desk opposite from hers. “Unfortunately, you did hear me all too correctly. I’m afraid your father is in a coma.”

Premise/plot: Marian Creighton, our heroine, is determined to save both her father (who is in a coma) and her sister (who is dying of a genetic disease). Her father (before his coma) was mad determined as well. He has been obsessed with finding the tree of life. Yes, you read that correctly. The tree of life. Perhaps not the actual-actual tree, that might be a bit much, but any seeds that may remain from the tree of life. His theory is that those seeds were carried to England (at one point) and have blessed several springs with healing powers (just read your history). He is looking for that holy water. And it is up to his daughter (now that he is in a coma) to finish his research...before his competitors steal it (because of course they have an agenda).

Marian spent years--if not decades--of her life distancing herself from her father's obsession. But now that he is in a coma and she's found a few cryptic notes, she's convinced that the only way to save her family is to carry out her father's research--even if that comes at great risk to herself. (Then again, experimenting on one's self and taking big risks with the hope of great reward might be part of the whole mad scientist thing?)

Here is where I recommend readers suspend all disbelief. And I do mean all--all while you're reading (book in hand), all while you're thinking about what you've read, all while you're thinking about thinking about what you've just read. 

So now that you're willing to believe everything without asking any questions (not even one), this novel features time travel via drinking holy water. The solution to many of her problems may be found in the past--the year 1381 to be exact.

Will she find what she's looking for? Or perhaps will she found what she has never bothered looking for?

My thoughts: I definitely found this one compelling. Even when I found it over the top ridiculous I found it compelling. 

I loved the past setting of Come Back To Me. True I thought she was very UNprepared and very naive as she oriented herself to the past. (Honestly, who wouldn't be to a certain degree.) It seems to me she could have spent a little more time researching and planning before she drank herself to the past. (That's a very odd sentence). Still, it was the past that made this one an exciting read. 

This one may pretend to be many things--a mystery, a thriller, science fiction--but at its heart, at its core it is essentially a romance (and a STEAMY, STEAMY, STEAMY romance at that).

Let's talk steam. On the one hand, ALL THE STEAM happens in a marital relationship. On the other hand, even though it isn't in any way improper for the characters to be in a steamy, sensual, oh-so-intimate relationship, that might not be the case for the book's readers. 

For some readers who have had struggles in the past or are currently struggling with smutty-smut romance addiction, the steam in this one may not make this one a good choice. If reading this one makes you tempted to pick up that addiction again. (Be it romance novels or movies).

I would say also that Christian fiction tends to be labeled "safe" and "clean" and "appropriate" for readers of most ages (think 8+). I know I was certainly reading Janette Oke when I was in elementary school. This one would not be one you'd want young(er) readers to read. I think older teens it might not be a bad choice--especially if they read widely from secular publications--this is probably oh-so-tame/lame in comparison to the heavy stuff. But it might not be the absolute best choice either. 

If you are "triggered" (and I don't know that this is the best word choice) easily, this might be a gateway back into a sin you're trying to recover from.

But every reader is different. 

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Questions To Ask a Book Before You Read It

I recently reread an article from 2016 by Tim Challies, "5 Questions to Ask of a Book Before You Read It.". I read it when it was "new" and I revisited it this past weekend when he reposted it on Facebook. Many things in the article still hold up. A few things don't.

I thought I would share my own list and provide my perspective as a reviewer. 

I thought it would be fun to share two examples to make it a bit more practical and behind-the-scenes-ish.

The Soul of the Family Tree: Ancestors, Stories, and the Spirits We Inherit
By Lori Erickson
Published by Westminster John Knox Press
Classification: (Adult) Religion & Spirituality 
Date: August 2021

Challies' list focuses primarily on the author, the publisher, and any endorsements. (He also includes two more.)

Author. I have not heard of the author previously. And I have found that more often than not to be the case. Yes, there will always be a dozen or so authors you know--whose books you look forward to reading--but whether you've heard of the author or not--it doesn't really guarantee the worth or value of a book.

Publisher. Here's what I found out about WJK "Westminster John Knox Press (WJK) is the academic and trade imprint of the Presbyterian Publishing Corporation (PPC). Books and resources published under the WJK imprint cover the spectrum of religious thought and represent the work of scholarly and popular authors of many different religious and theological affiliations. WJK publishes approximately 60 new books and other resources each year and manages a backlist of more than 1,800 titles that are sold throughout the world."

Did anything jump out at you? Books and resources published under the WJK imprint cover the spectrum of religious thought and represent the work of scholarly and popular authors of many different religious and theological affiliations.

It's too early for endorsements--and reviews--this one isn't released until August. 

But Challies' list fails to mention something of great importance: the book description

The official description (as found on GoodReads, Amazon, and Netgalley) reads: 

Growing up in a passionately Norwegian-American Iowa town, Lori Erickson rolled her eyes at traditions like Nordic Fest and steaming pots of rømmegrøt. But like many Americans, she eventually felt drawn to genealogy, the "quintessential hobby of middle age." Her quest to know more about the Vikings and immigrants who perch in her family tree led her to visit Norse settlements and reenactments, medieval villages and modern museums, her picturesque hometown and her ancestor's farm on the fjords.

Along the way, Erickson discovers how her soul has been shaped by her ancestors and finds unexpected spiritual guides among the seafaring Vikings and her hardscrabble immigrant forebears. Erickson's far-ranging journeys and spiritual musings show us how researching family history can be a powerful tool for inner growth. Travel with Erickson in The Soul of the Family Tree to learn how the spirits of your ancestral past can guide you today.

Did anything jump out at you when reading the description? Two things stood out to me: 1) Along the way, Erickson discovers how her soul has been shaped by her ancestors and finds unexpected spiritual guides among the seafaring Vikings and her hardscrabble immigrant forebears... and 2) Travel with Erickson in The Soul of the Family Tree to learn how the spirits of your ancestral past can guide you today.

Netgalley offers an additional description. But notably, it adds, "Author’s own spiritual dabbling across different faith traditions mean that the book will appeal beyond those who identify as Christian."

If this was a book that had reviews already, I'd focus on my next step. I find reading book reviews of books I'm on the fence about to be extremely helpful. One stars. Two stars. Three stars. Four stars. Five stars. All the stars. Not reading reviews and equating well, one star is bad and five stars is good. But considering PERSPECTIVE and BIAS and view point. A book can be excellent, biblically sound, saturated in Scripture, and beneficial. But you can find one star reviews calling the book intolerant, hateful, narrow-minded, a waste of time, bigoted, etc. A book can be terrible--far from biblical, a clear departure from the faith, a twisted and distorted mess--and there be plenty of five star reviews singing the books praises. I look for indicators in a review that tell me what the reviewers' viewpoint or bias is. When it comes to matters of faith are we likely to agree or disagree????

Again, if this was a book that was published already, one could take additional steps:

a) scanning the table of contents
b) reading the foreword or introduction
c) checking out those endorsements
d) reading the first few pages of chapter one

I find all of those steps to be helpful. I really think that these steps--particularly scanning the table of contents--goes unappreciated. 

Getting back to the example, this one seems to be a blend of GENEALOGY, TRAVEL, and Spiritualism. Though it is published by so-called Christian publisher, the publisher seems to be open-minded and anything-goes. Knowing nothing about the author but learning that she has dabbled or is dabbling in multiple faith traditions, I'm hesitant to say wow, this is the book for me. Also the book seems to be quite proud that it isn't "just" for Christians but for everyone no matter their spiritual path. 

I do love genealogy...and history. But do I personally think our souls are shaped by ancestors??? Is that a biblical concept? What about our spiritual ancestors guiding us today??? Is that a biblical concept??? On the surface, I'd have to say no to both questions. Though there is always the possibility that the book itself isn't as weird/odd/off/questionable as its description. 

Now for a second example, Providence by John Piper. 

by John Piper
Published by Crossway
752 pages
Date: January 2021

Author. John Piper. Now I have personally read a couple of his books. Some I like. Some I love. Some I find gush-worthy. Some I really don't. He's  been dismissed by some Christians online recently as "no longer good" or "no longer biblical" or "questionable." So the fact that he's an author might not be persuasive enough for some. In fact, some might say NOT GONNA TOUCH IT JUST IN CASE ITS TAINTED. But I take Piper on a book by book, article by article, sermon by sermon basis. I just do. Yes, I've heard snippets of sermons here and there that make him appear odd. 

Title. I can't believe I almost forgot to include title AND subtitle. It isn't really applicable in discussing Providence, but in *most* Christian titles it would be. 

Publisher. Crossway. I am very familiar with Crossway. I have read dozens--if not hundreds--of their books. I may not give every title an A++++. I trust them more often than not. Their description on Netgalley simply reads "gospel-centered publishing." It's concise but true enough.


From Genesis to Revelation, the providence of God directs the entire course of redemptive history. Providence is "God's purposeful sovereignty." Its extent reaches down to the flight of electrons, up to the movements of galaxies, and into the heart of man. Its nature is wise and just and good. And its goal is the Christ-exalting glorification of God through the gladness of a redeemed people in a new world.

Drawing on a lifetime of theological reflection, biblical study, and practical ministry, pastor and author John Piper leads us on a stunning tour of the sightings of God's providence--from Genesis to Revelation--to discover the all-encompassing reality of God's purposeful sovereignty over all of creation and all of history. Piper invites us to experience the profound effects of knowing the God of all-pervasive providence: the intensifying of true worship, the solidifying of wavering conviction, the strengthening of embattled faith, the toughening of joyful courage, and the advance of God's mission in this world.

You can learn a lot about a book by reading its description. I am currently reading this one and the description seems to be accurate as far as I can tell.

Endorsements. This one has a LONG list of folks that have endorsed it. I recognize a couple of names. Namely D. A. Carson, Thomas R. Schreiner, Michael Horton, Joni Eareckson Tada, etc. Not all names were super familiar to me. But a few were. And I trust Horton and Tada. 

Reviews. So far on GoodReads there are 29 reviews and 68 ratings. I haven't read through all the reviews...because to be honest, I am not on the fence about this book. But it mainly seems to be five stars with an occasional three or four stars.

Table of Contents. Great outline. Looks meaty and substantive. Very thorough. 

Sampling the writing: As I mentioned earlier, this is one I'm currently reading. So I don't technically need to read the first few pages to get an idea of what it's about, what it's like. But I think it would be helpful if I hadn't already started it. Piper has this one available free and you can sample the Amazon book for free as well. 

There's nothing about this one that seems unsettling. It seems like it would be worthy of my time, my effort, my energy. It looks like it would be worth engaging with. 

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, May 6, 2021

29. Bible Stories for Little Hearts

Board books: Bible Stories for Little Hearts. Sandra Magsamen. 2019. 10 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: In seven days and seven nights, God made the darkness and the light. 

Bible Stories for Little Hearts is a rhyming story book for very young children. There are five Bible stories in all: the creation story, Jonah, the lost sheep, Noah, and the nativity. The order seems to be random and not chronological. Each story is a two-page spread. 

On the one hand, the book has a just-right size. I like the dimensions of it. I feel the pages are easy to turn. I could see this being a good book to read aloud with a kid--possibly squirmy--in your lap. I also like the length of the book for the target audience. 

On the other hand, the rhyming isn't all that great. It's not the absolute worst rhyming book ever. I wouldn't go to that extreme. It's just the rhythm is off. It isn't smooth; it is awkward in places. Still, I wouldn't let that be a deal breaker if you have a little one--toddler--to share it with.

The theology was weird in one of the stories. I get that the most important thing in the story was to keep it rhyming, but to conclude the Noah story by saying that "God sent a dove to show the way, believing that Noah would save the day." Like what does that even mean??? Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. Noah obeyed God in all things--in the building of the ark, in gathering the animals, in entering the ark, in staying in the ark, in leaving the ark. Like when did Noah "save the day"???

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible