Thursday, July 27, 2017

My Summer with Psalm 119 #8

As a few of you know, I love, love, LOVE Psalm 119. I thought it would be great to spend a summer focusing on that psalm and what others have had to say about it. I'll begin with Thomas Manton's Exposition of Psalm 119. It may take all summer to read all 158 sermons. But they're so GOOD, so RICH, I think it will be worth it.

The ninth sermon is on Psalm 119:8.

  • Man’s will is the toughest sinew in the whole creation. The very purpose and bent of the heart is the fruit of regeneration.
  • But the will and resolution that we are to understand here is the fruit of grace.
  • Until we come to resolution we shall be liable to temptation; until we fully set our faces towards God, and have a bent and serious purpose of heart, we shall never be free from temptation from the devil, and from evil men, or from ourselves.
  • It is God’s work to incline the heart; but when the work of grace is passed upon us, then the believer doth voluntarily incline himself; his will is bent to serve God, not by fits and starts, but alway to the end:
  • Those that will keep God’s statutes must fly to God’s help. Three reasons for this— 1. We are weak and mutable creatures. 2. Our strength lies in God’s hands. 3. God gives out his strength according to his own pleasure.
  • Resolution is needful, as was said before; but all our confidences must arise from God’s promises, not our own, if we mean not to be left in the dirt. This self-confidence in spiritual things I shall show—We cannot regularly expect anything from God but in God’s way. They who depend upon God will be much in prayer, hearing, and taking all opportunities. But when men begin to think they need not pray so much, need not make such conscience of hearing; when we are more arbitrary and negligent in the use of means, then we begin to live upon ourselves and our own stock, and do not depend upon the free grace of God to carry us out in our work.

The tenth sermon is on Psalm 119:9.

  • How shall a man that is impure, and naturally defiled with sin, be made able, as soon as he cometh to the use of reason, to purge out that natural corruption, and live a holy and pure life to God? The answer given is, By taking heed thereto according to thy word.’ Where two things are to be observed—(1.) The remedy; (2.) The manner how it is applied and made use of.
  • 1. The remedy is the word—by way of address to God, called thy word; because if God had not given direction about it, we should have been at an utter loss. 2. The manner how it is applied and made use of, by taking heed thereto, &c., by studying and endeavouring a holy conformity to God’s will.
  • The word is considerable as an instrument which God maketh use of to cleanse the heart of man. It will not be amiss a little to show the instrumentality of the word to this blessed end and purpose. It is the glass that discovereth sin, and the water that washeth it away.
  • It is the glass wherein to see our corruption. The first step to the cure is a knowledge of the disease;
  • In the word we see God’s image and our own. It is the copy of God’s holiness, and the representation of our natural faces, Rom. 7:9. What fond conceits have we of our own spiritual beauty! but there we may see the leprous spots that are upon us.
  • It sets us a-work to see it purged; it is the water to wash it out. The word of command presseth the duty; it is indispensably required.
  • Many have gone to heaven that were never learned, but never any without holiness.
  • The doctrine of the scripture holds out the remedy and means of cleansing—Christ’s blood;
  • God hath been at great cost to bring it about, therefore we must not content ourselves with some smooth morality, which might have been whether Christ had been, yea or nay.
  • The great duty of youth, as soon as they come to the full use of reason, is to inquire and study how they may cleanse their hearts and ways from sin.
  • The word of God is the only rule sufficient and effectual to accomplish this work.
  • It is fit that God should have our first and our best. It is fit he should have our first, because he minded us before we were born. His love to us is an eternal and an everlasting love; and shall we put off God to old age? shall we thrust him into a corner? Surely God, that loved us so early, it is but reason he should have our first, and also our best; for we have all from him.
  • Sin groweth stronger by custom, and more rooted; it gathereth strength by every act.
  • All time is little enough to declare your respects to God.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Book Review: The Legacy of Luther

The Legacy of Luther. R.C. Sproul, editor. 2016. Reformation Trust. 308 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence (from the foreword): Much of the discussion about Martin Luther these days seems to focus on his flaws rather than his faith, and that’s a pity. ~ John MacArthur

Premise/plot: The Legacy of Luther is edited by R.C. Sproul and Stephen J. Nichols. It has many contributors including: John MacArthur, David B. Calhoun, Joel R. Beeke, Steven J. Lawson, Stephen J. Nichols, Michael S. Horton, Guy Prentiss Waters, Sinclair B. Ferguson, W. Robert Godfrey. Gene Edward Veith, Aaron Clay Denlinger, Scott M. Manetsch, Sean Michael Lucas, Terry Yount, Derek W.H. Thomas, and R.C. Sproul.

The book is divided into three sections: "Luther's Life," "Luther's Thought," and "Luther's Legacy."

My thoughts: If you're looking to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, this would be a good choice. I'm not sure it's my favorite new book on the subject of the Reformation, but it is solidly good.

The first part of the book is a biography of Martin Luther and gives readers context. The second part of the book focuses on the five solas of the Reformation: Scripture Alone, Faith Alone, Grace Alone, Christ Alone, The Glory of God Alone. The third part focuses on Luther's legacy.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

My Year with Owen #30

I will be sharing some John Owen quotes this year. The third book I'll be reading is The Nature, Power, Deceit and Prevalency of Indwelling Sin. 
  • Promises of growth and improvement are many and precious, the means excellent and effectual, the benefits great and unspeakable; yet it often falls out, that instead hereof decays and declensions are found upon professors, yea, in and upon many of the saints of God. ~ John Owen
  • God suffers us not to be unmindful of this assistance he has afforded us, but is continually calling upon us to make use of the means appointed for the attaining of the end proposed. ~ John Owen
  • Indwelling sin oftentimes prevails to the stopping of these springs of gospel obedience, by false and foolish opinions corrupting the simplicity of the gospel. ~ John Owen
  • False opinions are the work of the flesh. ~ John Owen
  • Growing in notions of truth without answerable practice is another thing that indwelling sin makes use of to bring the souls of believers unto a decay. ~ John Owen
  • Surely it is a pleasant thing to be brought out of darkness into light— out of a dungeon unto a throne— from captivity and slavery to Satan and cursed lusts, to the glorious liberty of the children of God, with a thousand heavenly sweetnesses not now to be mentioned. ~ John Owen
  • The law gives the soul to know the filth and guilt of this indwelling sin— how great they are, how vile it is, what an abomination, what an enmity to God, how hated of him. The soul shall never more look upon it as a small matter, whatsoever thoughts it had of it before, whereby it is greatly surprised. ~ John Owen
  • The whole work of the law does only provoke and enrage sin, and cause it, as it has opportunity, to put out its strength with more power, and vigor, and force than formerly. ~ John Owen

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, July 24, 2017

Ten Books I'd Love to Read In The Next Few Months

Asking the Right Questions: A Practical Guide to Understanding and Applying the Bible. Matthew S. Harmon. 2017. Crossway. 144 pages. [Source: Review copy]

This is my "current" book in the review copy program that Crossway has.

Learning to Love the Psalms. W. Robert Godfrey. 2017. Reformation Trust. 318 pages. [Source: Review copy]

This is my actual current read! I am LOVING it.

Side by Side: Walking with Others in Wisdom and Love by Edward T. Welch. 2015. Crossway. 176 pages. [Source: Gift]

My aunt bought me this book! So I'd love to make it a priority in the upcoming weeks.

Heart on the Line. Karen Witemeyer. 2017. Bethany House. 329 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I really, really love Karen Witemeyer's historical romances. I'm torn between reading them as soon as I get them, and, putting it off as long as possible because I like having something to look forward to. (I'm weird like that.)

Long Before Luther. Nathan Busenitz. 2017. Moody Publishers. 240 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I'm looking forward to reading this for my Reformation Reading Challenge!

Christianity and Liberalism. J. Gresham Machen. 1922. 189 pages. [Source: Bought

I blame W. Robert Godfrey for this one. I really fell in love with his church history teaching series. He made this one sound like an ESSENTIAL read for believers.

City of God. Augustine. 1097 pages. [Source: Bought]

I started reading this in February, took several months off, and then picked it up again this July. I am almost halfway through it now! Can I finish it before September or October? Probably not. But I'm aiming to finish it before the end of the year!

The Noble Servant. Melanie Dickerson. 2017. Thomas Nelson. 336 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I've been meaning to read this one for months now. But I'm always picking up nonfiction instead. I do love fiction. I just have to find a way to become more balanced as a reader!

Treasured Grace. Hearts of the Frontier #1. Tracie Peterson. 2017. Bethany House. 320 pages. [Source: Library]

I did get a review copy of the second book in the series, but not the first. So I'll need to read this one first!

Beloved Hope. Hearts of the Frontier #2. Tracie Peterson. 2017. Bethany House. 336 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I got a review copy of this one a few weeks ago, and I am looking forward to reading it. I guess when I requested it I wasn't aware it was the second in a series. Fortunately, my library has it!

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Bible Review: RSV

RSV Bible. 1977. Oxford University Press. 1904 pages. [Source: Gift]

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters. Genesis 1:1-2

About the RSV: The Revised Standard Version was a revision of the American Standard Version of 1901. The New Testament was released as early as 1946. The Old and New Testaments together were published in 1952. The translation went through several updates becoming finalized, I believe, in 1977.

According to Wikipedia, the VERY first copy of the RSV to come off the press was given to Harry S. Truman in September 1946. It was released to the general public a few days later.

Not every Christian embraced this new translation especially regarding the Old Testament. A strong reaction against this NEW translation in part led to a King-James-Only Movement. The fuss was over how Isaiah 7:14 was translated.
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, a young woman shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14
Some pastors preached sermons and wrote pamphlets against this "horrid" "modern" translation. A few even made a spectacle of themselves by burning it.

The RSV has been the basis for two different revisions: the NRSV (1989) and the ESV (2001).

My thoughts: This is the fifth Bible I've read in 2017. I was not aware of the controversy before I started reading it! I didn't always love, love, love how they translated particular verses. But I wouldn't have been an angry protester, at least I don't think! But then again, I did get quite upset with the Common English Bible over how they translated a verse in Genesis, so maybe I would have been.

I CAN ONLY IMAGINE the fuss that would have resulted if the MESSAGE had been published in 1952. It would actually be a little fun to imagine the uproar.
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Week in Review: July 16-22


  • Luke 7-24
  • John
  • Acts
  • 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
  • 1 John
  • 2 John
  • 3 John
  • Jude
  • Revelation

NLT Beyond Suffering Bible

  • Genesis 1-23

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, July 21, 2017

Book Review: Embodied Hope

Embodied Hope: A Theological Meditation on Pain and Suffering. Kelly M. Kapic. 2017. IVP. 197 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: This book will make no attempt to defend God. I will not try to justify God or explain away the physical suffering in this world. Instead, I wrestle with nagging questions about our lives, our purpose, and our struggles. How should we live in the midst of this pain-soaked world? How do we relate to the God whose world this is? If you are looking for a book that boasts triumphantly of conquest over a great enemy or gives a detached philosophical analysis that neatly solves an absorbing problem, this isn’t it. Instead, this book aims to invites you into a larger conversation, a conversation greater than my family, and a struggle bigger than your pain and doubt. For while our pain, or the suffering of those we love, may cause us to feel isolated, these challenges remind us that we are actually part of the much larger stream of humanity.

Premise/plot: Embodied Hope is a Christian book about pain--chronic physical pain to be exact. It is divided into three parts: "The Struggle," "The Strangeness of God," and "Life Together."

The premise is simple: "Physical suffering often affects how we relate to God and others….The condition of our bodies does influence how we understand God and his ways….Pain in our body often influences how we relate to others." Kapic writes, "We must not pit the body against the spirit, the mind against the heart, the individual against the community. For our struggle is not ultimately with a single side of suffering but with how it affects us in our totality: from our relationships to our faith, from our bodies to our hope, from our mourning to our love."

Kapic examines the subject of pain in the world in this world. How pain impacts the individual, the family unit, the church community, and to a very small extent society itself. It isn't necessarily a theological book on "the problem of evil" vs. "the goodness of God." I don't think it would be a stretch to say that Kapic seeks to avoid the general and abstract in favor of the intimate and personal. In fact, he writes, "Rightly understood, doing theology is more often like farming than it is like stacking doctrinal bricks. Theology is lived; it is not regimentally constructed….Only when we begin to see that theology is not merely about repeating back answers but instead more like caring for a garden can we care well for others….There is a world of difference between reading a book about caring for people and actually caring for people. To theologize well, we need to love well."

The truth of the matter is that every person is unique. Every person has his or her own way of dealing with the pain, of coping with the pain, of living with the pain. And as much as he tries not to make generalizations, I think a few slip in.

In the first part, he explores "the struggle" of living with pain and the theological implications. He assumes that pain leads most to have "hard thoughts" about God. He assumes that most pain sufferers have false notions of God. For example, they see him as angry, distant, cruel, harsh; someone who enjoys watching people suffer. Pain sufferers might conclude that God isn't good and merciful and kind.

Kapic writes, "How does God look upon us in our weakness, even in our sin? Is God really angry or wrathful with us, his children? His bride? What picture of God is really warranted by the Scriptures? How do these passages like Zephaniah 3:17 and Isaiah 62:5 intersect our own experience? How can we then deal with the “hard thoughts” that tempt us, especially in our suffering? How do we develop a profound and affectionate trust of God rather than a sense of alienation? Our journey is to learn why such hard thoughts don’t reflect the triune God. Our hope is to learn to hear him singing over us, to trust his presence in the middle of the pain. Some will immediately object that this is wishful thinking based on a few obscure verses here and there. However, we will see that we are not talking about a few scattered biblical texts but are diving into the heart of the gospel, the heart of the good news discovered in Messiah. Only here will we unquestionably discover the very heart of God. To understand God and his relationship to our pain, we will need to examine the case of Jesus of Nazareth, a man who walked the dusty roads of Galilee over two thousand years ago. Only by listening to his words and by following the movement of his life, death, resurrection, and ascension might our very human struggle be seen in different light. Because he was and is God’s revelation of himself to us, it only makes sense to start there. In this endeavor it is to be hoped that our view of the God of heaven and earth will deepen beyond our current understanding. But to see Jesus clearly we need to stop defending our preconceived notions of who God is."

In the second part, the focus shifts to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.

In the third part, the focus shifts to the church, to the community of believers. How can the church of God best care for the people of God? How can the church reach out, include, better understand those living and struggling with physical pain and suffering?

My thoughts: I found the tenth chapter the most thought-provoking. In this chapter, he discusses the importance of confessing our sins to one another. This isn't a subject that is addressed often in contemporary theology. So he gave me a lot to think about!

I wanted to read this book because I suffer from chronic pain. The philosophical statement, "I think therefore I am," has been for me "I hurt, therefore I am." My mom also suffers from chronic pain, and as a result I think I've always felt understood and supported. The book assumes that if you're a pain sufferer that there's a good chance you struggle with loving God and seeing him as GOOD. The book assumes that physical pain leads you to keep God at a distance. I talked this over with my Mom for her perspective, and we both agreed that we could not relate to that reaction or response. (I knew my opinion. I wanted hers too!)

Pain, for me, has always kept the lines of communication with God OPEN. It keeps me dependent, needy, desperate, humble, weak. Pain  has me crying out for more of God's presence. Pain has filled me with an undeniable hope and a strong desire for heaven. The Word of God sustains me for it is full of God's promises.

His focus on community was very thought-provoking as I mentioned before. Vulnerability is not easy for me. It is hard for me to believe that others care how I'm feeling, how I'm doing in any real way. So much food for thought is included in this one.

Favorite quotes:

  • "Laments rise to the heavens as a strange combination of complaint, grief, questions, confusion, desire for rescue, and expectation of divine faithfulness. Our great hope is that lament is not all there is to human experience. Nevertheless, any who have truly lived and loved must come to believe that lament is at least part of our existence. Only the idealistic and unloving belittle tears and sadness. Only the coolly detached never raise a complaint about the condition of things, including our broken bodies. If we never lament, then it is legitimate to wonder if we have ever truly loved."
  • "To have a healthy emotional, spiritual, and mental life, we must be honest with ourselves. One truth about our lives is that we are broken; we inevitably encounter our own suffering and that of others, and eventually we die. How does our Lord teach us to respond to this? He teaches us hope, and within that hope we use lament to speak to God of the painful delay of peace. All laments ultimately go to God, with whom we wrestle and rest."
  • "If we fully and completely felt the lament of this broken and sinful world, it would crush any and all of us. We know that because it crushed Jesus. But thanks be to God, this Jesus also rose from the depths of despair and from the grave. He rose and lives even now. For now, let us simply appreciate that we are allowed, even invited, to lament. Yet we must take those laments to God since they will not crush him." 
  • "To be a truly human story—which is the only way we should understand the Christian story—means it must confess both grief and hope, sin and faithfulness, struggle and promise. We must learn to be truly honest with ourselves, with others, and even with God. Our theology requires it. Our stories demand it. Only with this kind of confession and lament are we finally in a position to capture a glimpse of the God who is, rather than the god we imagine him to be. Only then can we discover the scandalous grace of God so often spoken about, but so seldom truly savored."
  • "The church has always believed that we do not testify properly to God if we lie about the state of the world. Sin, death, and devilish activity are all around us. Anguish, heartbreak, and troubled relationships are everywhere. This is the world we live in. And it is in this world that we must learn to live. Consequently, Christians are to live before God in this world by honestly facing the reality of pain’s presence and all that it represents. We neither deny nor glorify it, but we must face it nevertheless, for this is the world we inhabit."
  • "So how are we to live when our present moment includes a constant guest called pain? How are we to embrace the present moment, not just in light of the possibility of some future death but as we live in the midst of very real suffering? These questions are not easy. But learning to ask questions, to wrestle honestly with God amid our laments, can actually serve as a way to live faithfully before and with God in the present, even amid our struggle with pain."
  • "God concerns himself for us in our sin and pain, neither because it was required of him nor because he had personally done anything wrong, but because he loves us and is the only one who could restore what was lost, repay the debt, free the slave, and heal the sick."
  • "So if faith and hope are to mean anything to us in our suffering, they must come to us in the context of love, or, to put it another way, faith and hope are only properly applied with love: a love accomplished and given through the person and work of Christ."
  • "Love is what we are called to, and love is what we should never try to escape from. But in this fallen world, such love also brings with it real suffering."
  • "We experience divine love most concretely when we receive and give it to others. God expresses his love and extends his comfort through his people."
  • "When faith and hope grow out of love, they are like food for the hungry and medicine for the sick. Thus we need faith, hope, and love, but without love we lose all three."
  • "Simply facing pain everyday does not free us from sin. Nor does it make us more sinful. But what it does tend to do is heighten our awareness of sin and brokenness in the world and in our own life. In a counterintuitive way, those who are hurting can also help those who are relatively free from pain: they remind us that the world—including our body—is not as it should be, and it is this which suffering and the pains of death never let us forget. But with these sisters and brothers we can also see the promise of shalom and hope, a promise not yet full realized. To understand these dynamics we must learn why those who suffer often have a heightened awareness of the reality of sin, not only in themselves but in the world."
  • "I believe the act of confession, and in particular confession to a fellow believer, is crucial to sustaining the struggling saint. As we will soon see, for those facing physical suffering—where they have a heightened sense of their own sin—this act of confession becomes one of the keys to life-giving faith amid the voices of condemnation. This is not because they are greater sinners but because they sometimes have a greater sensitivity to the presence of sin in their lives and this world, and they sense their deep need for forgiveness and grace. We all need these gifts of divine compassion and mercy, but our relative health often masks the darker realities of our spiritual neediness."
  • "To be forgiven, healed, cleansed, and restored to God requires that our offenses, diseases, dirt, and alienation be obliterated and that we experience the consequent forgiveness, healing, cleansing, and restoration. This requires an honest reckoning. Confession before others, therefore, to be of any use at all, requires that those others are safe and trustworthy, and that we are open with them. Normally, those who receive our confessions must have enough life and spiritual experiences in line with what is confessed to serve us well."
  • "We need to hear the gospel from others, from outside ourselves. The power of the gospel preached personally to me from a faithful sister or brother has a power that I cannot conjure for myself."
  • "Confession before others can also help us disentangle our pain from the idea of personal punishment. Here we can know forgiveness and grace even in our pain (1 Jn 1:9). Here we can honestly affirm and confess the brokenness of the world and the failures of our own hearts. In confession, we are brought before Jesus, whom we encounter through our brother and sister (Mt 18:20; 2 Cor 2:10). Looking into their eyes, hearing their voice, and feeling their touch, we can receive Jesus’s promise to us: “your sins are forgiven.”"
  • "We may not be able to take away the physical pain, but we can point one another to him who promises one day to completely heal us. For now we cling to his promise of restoration, cling to him who has the ability also to restore the body. He will make all things new (Rev 21:5). We will be free from sin, pain, and tears (Is 65:19; Rev 21:4). We will be free from isolation, selfcondemnation, darkness, fear and anger (cf. Is 35:10//51:11; Rev 21:22-27). We will be utterly free to love our Creator and our neighbor. While we may not fully experience that freedom now, we can help one another to experience genuine tastes of shalom even in the present, even in our pain, even as we struggle with our sin."
  • "Confession liberates us, not from physical pain but from shame and condemnation. And here, the “healthy” can learn from the hurting, like the blind teaching the Pharisees to see (cf. Jn 9:31–10:41)."
  • "Witness holds an important place in the Christian tradition. These days when someone hears about Christian witness, they almost inevitably think about believers testifying of Christ to nonbelievers. That is what we call evangelism. However, what is often forgotten is how important giving witness or testimony can be within the Christian community, especially in times of difficulty. This witness is always twofold: acknowledging that our troubles are real and that God is unflinchingly faithful."
  • "We are called to have compassion, to come alongside others in their pain, and to love them. This is risky. Almost inevitably you will—even if only in some small way—suffer with them. However, in this shared pilgrimage you will also discover afresh the grace and tenderness of God."

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible