Book Review: “The Story of the Bible” by Larry Stone

After the the first book I agreed to review from a publisher turned out to be a dud (in my opinion, humble), I told myself that maybe I just wasn’t cut out for the “review copy” thing. I should go back to just reviewing the books I check out of the library. It’s much less pressure that way.

Then I saw The Story of the Bible from Thomas Nelson’s BookSneeze program–and saw that the foreword was by Ravi Zacharias.

Surely if Ravi wrote the foreword, it’s got to be okay, I told myself. So I went ahead and requested it without reading another word.

What a fortuitous impulse!

The Story of the Bible arrived outside my front door, I opened it up, and was immediately hooked.

For the next couple of weeks, I never went anywhere without my copy.

“You need to see what Thomas Nelson just sent me,” I’d say as I pulled it out of my tote to pass to friends, family, and strangers. (Lucky me, I carry a nice large tote that can hold the jumbo-sized coffee-table-style book.)

“It’s the story of the writing and canonization and preservation and translation of the Bible.” I told them as they rifled through the pages.

Then, lest they miss the most exciting part, I’d direct them to the vellum envelope pages found within every chapter. “Go ahead and take it out” I’d urge.

Dutifully, they’d pull out the odd sized papers found in the various envelopes.

One started reading the writing:

Great Isaiah Scroll
The only complete Dead Sea Scroll is the Great Isaiah Scroll, discovered in 1947 by Muhammed Ahmed el-Hamed and pictured on page 25….

I could hear the quizzical expression in my friend’s voice as she read aloud. “Why on earth is Rebekah so excited about this?”

“Turn it over,” I urged.

And that’s when she discovered what I was so excited about.

Each scrap of paper within the vellum envelopes is a life-size full-color replica of a Biblical text.

A page from the Dead Sea Scrolls, pages from the Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus, Wycliff’s Bible and Gutenberg’s. The list goes on and on.

It’s like a museum in one glossy paged volume.

I can’t be more excited.

The text itself is in well-written, engaging prose. I had no difficulty getting through the pages–or dipping in for a paragraph here and there in casual perusal (both of which I did.)

The author writes with an evangelical bent and an obvious reverence for the Word of God. This is no dull historical story of how men have preserved a book. This is a living story of how God has spoken a book, preserved His words, and communicated His heart to the nations of the world throughout the centuries.

This book is a definite keeper!

Rating: 5 stars
Category:Christian history
Synopsis:A museum in a book, telling the story (and showing the documents) of the writing, canonization, preservation, and translation of the Bible.
Recommendation: 5 stars

For the sake of full disclosure, I received this book for free via the Book Sneeze blogger program at Thomas Nelson. All views expressed in this post are my own. I received nothing for this review beyond the book I just reviewed (which is a reward of great worth, if I do say so myself!)

WiW: A Lovely Song

The Week in Words

I am surrounded by the Word of God.

My Bible goes with me, tucked into my purse.

My MP3 player is loaded with sermons and podcasts to listen to as I drive.

My bookshelves are full of books expositing the Word of God.

My Google Reader fills every day. Homemakers reflecting on how the word of God impacts their lives. Mothers praying the word of God over their children. Men discussing the nuances of one doctrine or another.

The Word of God. My life is saturated with it.

And it is beautiful.

But the Word of God is not merely a song to be heard and applauded.

Last night, I read these words–and they cut me to the heart:

“Indeed you are to them as a very lovely song of one who has a pleasant voice and can play well on an instrument; for they hear your words, but they do not do them.”
~Ezekiel 33:32

Surrounded by the Word of God, I revel in its beauty. I delight to hear how the gospel has impacted others. I delight to read of the intricacies of the gospel. It is a lovely song. The speakers, the bloggers, the writers play their instruments well with pleasant voices.

But it is not enough to consider the Word of God a lovely song.

I must do it.

The Word of God must enter my soul and transform me.

I pray that Jeremiah’s cry might become mine.

“Your words were found, and I ate them,
And Your word was to me
the joy and rejoicing of my heart;
For I am called by Your name,
O Lord God of hosts.”
~Jeremiah 15:16

Oh that the Word of God might become for me more than just a lovely song. Oh that it would become as the very sustenance of my soul. That I might eat the Word of God–and that by it I might be transformed.

This is my prayer.

Collect more quotes from throughout the week with Barbara H’s meme “The Week in Words”.

Skills in Singleness

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If God does indeed have a purpose in my singleness, then it probably follows that the best use of my time of singleness is NOT moping over my lack of a husband, a boyfriend, or some other “significant other”.

But what should I be doing while I’m single?

The love months of my youth gave some advice: pray for your future spouse, prepare to be a good spouse yourself. Good advice, but incomplete (in my *humble?* opinion.)

I would propose that while singleness can be used as preparation for marriage, the primary goal in singleness should not be preparation for marriage but… well, glorifying God by being conformed to His image.

You can learn skills in singleness that can bless you, your friends and acquaintances, your family, your church–and ultimately God–whether you remain single or eventually marry.

What are some of these “skills in singleness”?

I think Paul’s letters to Timothy are a good starting point.

  • Learn to be a person of prayer (I Tim 2:1-8)
    Too few of us, myself included, have established strong prayer lives–yet Paul states that this is essential for living a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.
  • Learn modesty, good works, and submission (I Tim 2:9-14)
    Women are encouraged to adorn themselves with modesty, with good works, and with submission. This is a skill we can grow in, even as single women.
  • Learn discernment (I Tim 4:7-8, 6:20-21, II Tim 2:15-19)
    Paul commands Timothy to “reject profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise [himself] toward godliness.” So we too, would do well to develop discernment in doctrine and practice.
  • Learn to walk in purity (I Tim 4:12, 5:22, II Tim 2:21-22)
    Contrary to the depraved world in which we live, where singles are encouraged to do whatever they like, Christian singles are called to live lives of purity.
  • Devote yourself to the Word of God (I Tim 4:13,15-16, II Tim 1:13-14, 4:2-4)
    I believe single adults have a unique opportunity to dig down deep into the Word of God–both reading it, speaking it, and doing it. Paul says singles are not distracted–what better time to “give attention” to the Word?
  • Learn to walk in your giftings (I Tim 4:14, II Tim 1:6, 4:5)
    Singleness is also a great time to learn what your gifts are and to begin to practice them. Don’t sit around and wait until you are married to get involved within your local church and your community. Ask God what role He would have you play–and get doing it. Don’t waste your singleness by living only for your own pleasure.
  • Develop healthy relationships (I Tim 5:1-2)
    Paul encourages Timothy to develop healthy relationship with older men and older women (treating them as parents) and with younger men and women (treating them as brothers and sisters). We can learn how to glorify God and honor others in our relationships.
  • Learn to take care of your physical body (I Tim 5:23)
    Of course, I’d add this part–but Paul says it: “No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for your stomach’s sake and your frequent infirmities.” We can (and should) learn good health practices while we are still relatively young. Learn good sleep habits. Learn to eat well, to exercise, to get regular medical care.
  • Learn to be good employees (I Tim 6:1-2)
    This is a biggie. We can, and should learn to be good employees within this world. Remember that your reputation as an employee can either bring God glory or blaspheme His name. That’s a big deal.
  • Learn contentment (I Tim 6:6-10)
    I’ve spoken already of contentment with being single–but contentment goes further than that. We can learn to be content with our circumstances, with our possessions, with our relationships.
  • Be discipled and disciple someone (II Tim 2:2)
    Paul encourages Timothy to take what he (Timothy) has learned from him (Paul) and to teach it to others. Timothy is one link in the chain of making disciples. In the same way, we ought to be links in the chain of discipleship. Seek out older believers who can mentor you. Don’t wait until you have kids of your own to begin to pass along what has been entrusted to you. Find a younger man, a younger woman, a child, that you can commit the word of God to. I promise you won’t regret it.
  • Maintain your focus (II Tim 2:3-7, 4:5)
    Endure hardship. Resist temptation. Look forward to the prize. Don’t let either the trials or the pleasures of this world distract you from the treasure that is Christ Jesus.
  • Learn humility (II Tim 2:24-26)

    This one gets me every time. Learn humility–avoiding worthless disputes. Being gentle. It’s tough, but it’s necessary.

Recognize that singleness is not a sit-on-your-hands-until-something-better-comes-along time. Singleness is a time when we should be fully focused on God and on advancing His kingdom. Singleness is a time when we can develop our relationships with God, with His body, and with the lost. Singleness is a time to grow in godly character and to be conformed into the image of Christ. Don’t waste your singleness.

(A few extras I might add from my own experience to the list above: learn to hear the voice of God, learn to trust God with everything, learn to resolve conflicts, learn to serve one another with love, learn to budget your time and money, learn to give sacrificially of time and money, learn to be a member of the body.)

Beyond the Fairy Tale

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So you get my point about the fairy tales. You can see the sin, fallen-ness, rescue thing. But you’re still skeptical about the whole “Prince and Princess fall in love” bit. You think I’m over-romanticizing the Bible, turning it into a fairy tale.

Sure, I’ve taken some creative liberties with the story of redemption–but the idea of God pursuing us as a man pursues a woman is not new. In fact, it’s found all over Scripture.

Both Jesus and John refer to Christ as being a bridegroom.

When some people came to John, telling him about how Jesus was baptizing people and how people were coming to Him, John responded without jealousy: “He who has the bride is the bridegroom, but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled.” (John 3:29) John likens himself to the best man at a wedding where Jesus is the groom. John is ecstatic that the groom has arrived and the wedding approaches.

When others complained to Jesus that His disciples did not fast like the disciples of John did, Jesus answered, “Can you make the friends of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them; then they will fast in those days.” (Luke 5:34-35) Jesus asks, “Why would you make the groomsmen fast during the celebration leading up to the wedding? When the groom leaves, then the groomsmen will fast.” It is clear that Jesus is speaking of Himself as the bridegroom, and His disciples as the groomsmen.

Paul also picks up this theme in I Corinthians 11:2 “For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present as a chaste virgin to Christ.” Like a father, or perhaps a matchmaker, who has arranged a match between Christ and the Corinthian church, Paul is rooting for the relationship to work. He speaks of his fear that somehow the bride will call off the match, “falling in love” with another man.

Let’s put the pieces together. We have Jesus, arriving on the scene, announcing that He is a bridegroom. He has paid a great bride-price, laying down His own life. The church is now betrothed to Christ–and Jesus has ascended to heaven. “In My Father’s house are many mansions….I go to prepare a place for you.” (John 14:2) Jesus is now in heaven, preparing the place for His bride–but He has promised that He will return. “I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14:3)

The very end of Revelation tells the end of this glorious story. “‘Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.’ And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints….’Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb.'” (Revelation 19:7-9)

Someday, the home shall be prepared, the groom shall return, the bride and the marriage supper shall be ready, and the story will draw to a close. The happily ever after will begin. Until that day, we–the church, the bride of Christ–wait in eager expectation. “And the spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say ‘Come!’….Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:17, 20)