Monday, March 31, 2014

Quoting Martyn Lloyd-Jones #3

One of the devotionals I am using this year is Walking with God Day by Day by Martyn Lloyd-Jones. I thought I would share some of my favorite passages month-by-month. (January, February)

From March 6
In the light of this, it is vital that we should ask ourselves the question, am I of the world or am I not? That is the fundamental distinction that runs through the Bible from beginning to end. There are only two groups of people in the world today—those who are of the world and those who belong to Christ.
From March 13
Many Christian people spend the whole of their lives looking at their own feelings and always taking their own spiritual pulse, their own spiritual temperature. Of course, they never find it satisfactory, and because of that they are miserable and unhappy, moaning and groaning.
The secret of joy is the practice of meditation—that is the way to have this joy of the Lord. We must meditate upon Him, upon what He is, what He has done, His love to us, and God’s care for us who are His people.
The joy of the world always drives out the other joy, as does any dependence on the world; so we must avoid sin in every shape and form. Let us stop looking to the world, even at its best, for true joy and for true happiness. But above all, we must look at “these things” (John 17:13) that He speaks of, these truths that He unfolded. Let us meditate upon them, contemplate them, dwell upon them, revel in them, and I will guarantee that as we do so, either in our own personal meditation or in reading books about them, we will find ourselves experiencing a joy we have never known before. It is inevitable; it follows as the night the day.
From March 20
The Gospel of Jesus Christ does not so much take the Christian out of the world as take the world out of the Christian.
From March 27
The essence of sanctification is that I love the God in whom I believe and who has been revealed to me with the whole of my being. Indeed I do not hesitate to assert that if I think of sanctification in any lesser terms than that, I am being unscriptural. This is scriptural holiness. This is the holiness, the sanctification, that is produced and promoted by the truth of God, because it is the truth concerning God.
From March 30
It is only in the light of the resurrection that I finally have an assurance of my sins forgiven. It is only in the light of the resurrection that I ultimately know that I stand in the presence of God absolved from guilt and shame and every condemnation. I can now say with Paul, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1) because I look at the fact of the resurrection. It is there that I know it.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Read With Me: John, Week 1

Do you have reading plans for the month of April? I'd love to have you join me in reading the Gospel of John. You may read in any translation of the Bible. Ideally, participants would finish all twenty-one chapters of John just in time for Easter, April 20! If you want to meet the Easter goal and still just read one chapter a day, perhaps you might start one day early, March 31. You can let me know you've joined me on the original post or any of the weekly and/or daily posts. 

This week's top ten:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:1-5)
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. (John 3:16-19)
He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all. He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony. Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true. For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. (John 3:31-36)
God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth. (John 4:24)
Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. (John 5:24-26)
You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me (John 5:39)
All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. (John 6:37-40)
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. (John 6:44)
Forever, O LORD, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens. (Psalm 119:89)
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. (Psalm 119:105)
All verses this week come from the English Standard Version.

Quoting J.C. Ryle:
No one of the four Gospel-writers has given us such full statements about the divinity of Christ — about justification by faith — about the offices of Christ — about the work of the Holy Spirit — and about the privileges of believers, as we read in the pages of John.
Christ is the meeting-point between the Trinity and the sinner's soul.
We have no true religion about us, until we cast away our high thoughts, and feel ourselves sinners.
Christ is a SAVIOR. He did not come on earth to be a conqueror, or a philosopher, or a mere teacher of morality. He came to save sinners. He came to do that which man could never do for himself — to do that which money and learning can never obtain — to do that which is essential to man's real happiness, He came to "take away sin."
Christ is a COMPLETE savior. He "takes away sin." He did not merely make vague proclamations of pardon, mercy, and forgiveness. He "took" our sins upon Himself, and carried them away. He allowed them to be laid upon Himself, and "bore them in His own body on the tree." (1 Pet. 2:24.) The sins of every one that believes on Jesus are made as though they had never been sinned at all. The Lamb of God has taken them clean away.
Christ is an ALMIGHTY Savior, and a Savior for all mankind. He "takes away the sin of the world." He did not die for the Jews only, but for the Gentile as well as the Jew. He did not suffer for a few people only, but for all mankind. The payment that He made on the cross was more than enough to make satisfaction for the debts of all. The blood that He shed was precious enough to wash away the sins of all. His atonement on the cross was sufficient for all mankind, though efficient only to those who believe. The sin that He took up and bore on the cross was the sin of the whole world.
Last, but not least, Christ is a PERPETUAL and UNWEARIED Savior. He "takes away" sin. He is daily taking it away from every one that believes on Him — daily purging, daily cleansing, daily washing the souls of His people, daily granting and applying fresh supplies of mercy. He did not cease to work for His saints, when He died for them on the cross. He lives in heaven as a Priest, to present His sacrifice continually before God.
"God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." This wonderful verse has been justly called by Luther, "The Bible in miniature." No part of it, perhaps, is so deeply important as the first five words, "God so loved the world." The love here spoken of is not that special love with which the Father regards His own elect, but that mighty pity and compassion with which He regards the whole race of mankind. Its object is not merely the little flock which He has given to Christ from all eternity, but the whole "world" of sinners, without any exception.
There is a deep sense in which God loves that world. All whom He has created He regards with pity and compassion. Their sins He cannot love — but He loves their souls. "His tender mercies are over all His works." (Psalm. 145:9.) Christ is God's gracious gift to the whole world. Let us take heed that our views of the love of God are Scriptural and well-defined. The subject is one on which error abounds on either side. On the one hand we must beware of vague and exaggerated opinions. We must maintain firmly that God hates wickedness, and that the end of all who persist in wickedness will be destruction. It is not true that God's love is "lower than hell." It is not true that God so loved the world that all mankind will be finally saved, but that He so loved the world that He gave His Son to be the Savior of all who believe. His love is offered to all men freely, fully, honestly, and unreservedly, but it is only through the one channel of Christ's redemption. He that rejects Christ cuts himself off from God's love, and will perish everlastingly.
On the other hand, we must beware of narrow and contracted opinions. We must not hesitate to tell any sinner that God loves him. It is not true that God cares for none but His own elect, or that Christ is not offered to any but those who are ordained to eternal life. There is a "kindness and love" in God towards all mankind. It was in consequence of that love that Christ came into the world, and died upon the cross. Let us not be wise above that which is written, or more systematic in our statements than Scripture itself. God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked. God is not willing that any should perish. God would have all men to be saved. God loves the world. (John 6:32; Titus 3:4; 1 John4:10; 2 Pet. 3:9; 1 Tim. 2:4; Ezek. 33:11.)
Until men and women are brought to feel their sinfulness and need, no real good is ever done to their souls. Until a sinner sees himself as God sees him, he will continue careless, trifling, and unmoved. By all means we must labor to convince the unconverted man of sin, to pierce his conscience, to open his eyes, to show him himself. To this end we must expound the length and breadth of God's holy law. To this end we must denounce every practice contrary to that law, however fashionable and customary. This is the only way to do good. Never does a soul value the Gospel medicine until it feels its disease. Never does a man see any beauty in Christ as a Savior, until he discovers that he is himself a lost and ruined sinner. Ignorance of sin is invariably attended by neglect of Christ.

Every one who has received the grace of God, and tasted that Christ is gracious, ought to find words to testify of Christ to others. Where is our faith, if we believe that souls around us are perishing, and that Christ alone can save them, and yet remain silent? Where is our charity if we can see others going down to hell, and yet say nothing to them about Christ and salvation? We may well doubt our own love to Christ, if our hearts are never moved to speak of Him. We may well doubt the safety of our own souls, if we feel no concern about the souls of others. What are WE ourselves? This is the question, after all, which demands our notice. Do we feel the supreme importance of spiritual things, and the comparative nothingness of the things of the world? Do we ever talk to others about God, and Christ, and eternity, and the soul, and heaven, and hell? If not, what is the value of our faith? Where is the reality of our Christianity?
Let us never doubt for a moment, that the preaching of Christ crucified — the old story of His blood, and righteousness, and substitution — is enough for all the spiritual necessities of all mankind. It is not worn out. It is not obsolete. It has not lost its power. We need nothing new — nothing more broad and kind-nothing more intellectual — nothing more effectual. We need nothing but the true bread of life, distributed faithfully among starving souls. Let men sneer or ridicule as they will. Nothing else can do good in this sinful world. No other teaching can fill hungry consciences, and give them peace. We are all in a wilderness. We must feed on Christ crucified, and the atonement made by His death, or we shall die in our sins.
Whatever mercy, grace, peace, strength we require, the Son of man will give freely, immediately, abundantly, and eternally.
What did our Lord mean by saying — "I will never cast him out"? He meant that He will not refuse to save any one who comes to Him, no matter what he may have been. His past sins may have been very great. His present weakness and infirmity may be very great. But does he come to Christ by faith? Then Christ will receive him graciously, pardon him freely, place him in the number of His dear children, and give him everlasting life.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Week in Review: March 23-29

KJV Chronological Life Application

  • Psalm 92, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99, 100, 102, 104, 105, 106, 107, 111, 112, 113, 114, 115, 116, 117, 118, 119, 120, 121, 123, 125, 128, 129, 130, 132, 134, 135, 136, 146, 148, 149, 150

NRSV Daily Bible

  • 2 Samuel
Revised Version, 1885
  • Luke 1-3

1599 Geneva Bible

  • 1 John
  • 2 John
  • 3 John
  • Jude

NIV MacArthur Study Bible

  • 1 John
  • 2 John
  • 3 John

NIV Young Women of Faith

  • Revelation

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Book Review: Practical Theology for Women (2008)

Practical Theology for Women. Wendy Horger Alsup. 2008. Crossway. 154 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Practical theology is a good thing. And I believe that women should read theology, should be encouraged to read theology. But do women need practical theology written just for them? I'm hesitant to answer that with a yes. I'm confused, in a way, because I never thought of theology as being written by men for men. I have always thought of theology as being beyond gender for the most part. Theology can be very practical for every Christian reader, regardless of gender.

There were statements that bothered me,
Have you ever wanted to understand the deep things of the Word but have been put off by the intimidating vocabulary of theologians? Have you assumed that studying the attributes of God is for seminary students only? Or maybe "just for men?" Have heavy doctrinal themes felt beyond you and your everyday world? If so--if you've ever thought theology was too deep, too impractical, or too irrelevant for your life as a woman--this book is for you.
Most of us want to understand the Bible. If you've read this far in this book, chances are you love God and want to know more about him. But many believers, especially Christian women, are not confident in their personal study of the Word. Does Scripture intimidate you? (143)
If the last statement is true, that "many Christian women" lack the confidence to read the Bible for themselves, that is just incredibly sad to me. The idea that ANY woman would cling to the idea that she is not smart enough to read and learn of God is incredibly sad to me.

That being said, is the theology of Practical Theology for Women practical and biblical? The answer is yes. The book is divided into three sections: "What Is Theology?", "Who Is Our God?", and "Communicating With Our God."

The first section introduces readers to the basics of theology. It focuses on the faith, on what it means to believe, on how your belief comes into play in your daily life. Your life can reveal what you truly believe, perhaps exposing your trust issues at times. The second section focuses on God, on His character and attributes. It focuses on God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Again this is very basic stuff. Good stuff, I might add! The third section focuses more perhaps on our response. It focuses on the disciplines of prayer and Bible-reading.

The topics discussed in Practical Theology for Women are relevant to men and women. If you're new to the faith, this might be a good place to start. I can think of a dozen other good books that would also serve equally well, books that aren't targeted just for women.

Favorite quote:
Some of us don't know the truth of the character of our God. But many more of us do know the truth but don't count on it, don't set our minds on it, don't take our thoughts captive and make them submit to it when we get to the practical issues of life. (99)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Book Review: Childless (2013)

Childless (Fatherless #2) James C. Dobson and Kurt Bruner. 2013. FaithWords. 448 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]

While some books are character-driven and others are plot-driven, Childless is idea-driven. Characters represent ideas and world views. Childless is all about logically following those ideas and imagining the consequences to both society and individuals. The ideas are definitely centered in the real world, the novel, is set roughly forty or fifty years in the future to give all the ideas time to come to fruition.

The series is about broken families, about the loss of family, about a break down of values. People choosing not to get married. People choosing to have a series of relationships instead of one monogamous relationship. People choosing not to have children at all. People who do choose to become parents being choosy parents and choosing their children's genes in the lab.

But that isn't all. The series is also about the treatment of the elderly.  What happens to a society, a civilization, when there are more old people than young people? Who gets what? How are resources shared and divided? In this fictional series, the author imagines that the elderly are manipulated and urged to make the best decision for everyone: to end their lives so that their grown children and grandchildren can benefit financially. Be a blessing for your loved ones: die today! Don't weigh down your loved ones lives with your continued existence! Make one last contribution to society! Be patriotic! Do good for your country, do good for your family! It is very political. Many politicians have strong opinions. The economy, the budget, is dependent, very dependent, on continuing this business.

Childless is the sequel to Fatherless. I think it is definitely important to read the books in order. There is an ongoing legal case in Childless. No one knows exactly what the three judges will decide or state in their ruling. It is supposed that Judge Victor Santiago will be the deciding judge in the case. Much of this one focuses on threatening letters he receives in the weeks leading up to the decision. A private investigator is hired by the Judge's secretary. Tyler coincidentally crosses circles with previous characters introduced in Fatherless, mainly Julia and Troy.

The main characters of Childless include Julia and Troy, Kevin and Angie, Tyler and Renee. Matthew also continues to be a narrator. It would be hard to put into words exactly how I feel about Matthew. In the first novel, I found his narration to be heartbreaking. I found I could pity him even if I couldn't like him. I'm not strong enough to pity him in the second novel. I thought Matthew's actions in the first novel were despicable, but, the comparison between his actions in the first novel and the second novel would be like comparing littering to assault.

I can't say that I enjoyed Childless. But I can say that I reacted to it. I always emotionally reacted to the characters: what they were saying and doing.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

My Year With Spurgeon #12

The Resurrection of the Dead
Charles Spurgeon
“There shall be a resurrection of the dead, both the of the just and unjust.”—Acts 24:15.
It appears that the Alpha and the Omega of their gospel was the testimony that Jesus Christ died and rose again from the dead according to the Scriptures.
The resurrection of Jesus and the resurrection of the righteous is a doctrine which we believe, but which we too seldom preach or care to read about.
But if ye were Christians as ye profess to be, ye would believe that every mortal man who ever existed shall not only live by the immortality of his soul, but his body shall live again, that the very flesh in which he now walks the earth is as eternal as the soul, and shall exist for ever. That is the peculiar doctrine of Christianity.
Christ died not only to save my soul, but to save my body. It is said he “came to seek and to save that which was lost.” When Adam sinned he lost his body, and he lost his soul too; he was a lost man, lost altogether. And when Christ came to save his people, he came to save their bodies and their souls.
As Christ actually rose from the dead—flesh and blood, so shall we.
Don’t fear to suffer in your frame, because your frame will one day share in your delights. Every nerve will thrill with delight, every muscle move with bliss; your eyes will flash with the fire of eternity; your heart will beat and pulsate with immortal blessedness; your frame shall be the channel of beatitude; the body which is now often a cup of wormwood will be a vessel of honey; this body which is often a comb out of which gall distilleth, shall be a honeycomb of blessedness to you. Comfort yourselves then, ye sufferers, weary languishers upon the bed: fear not, your bodies shall live.
Now, we expect to hear a whole list of doctrines when the apostle says “I declare unto you the gospel;” but instead of that, he simply tells us of the resurrection of Jesus, for that is the very marrow of the gospel, the foundation of it—that Jesus Christ died and rose again the third day, according to the Scriptures.
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, March 24, 2014

Book Review: Taking A Risk On Love

Taking A Risk On Love. Irene Brand. 2012. Barbour (Heartsong Presents) 184 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]

I really enjoyed the first half of Taking a Risk on Love. The book opens dramatically with Vance Bolden discovering a pregnant woman washed up on shore, a survivor of a shipwreck. He takes Evelyn Weber to his cabin and cares for her. Two people, two strangers, isolated on an island during a big storm.  He's worried that she'll go into labor, and while he's got a tiny bit of experience in delivering a baby--since he insisted on being there for his wife's delivery a decade ago--it's still not ideal. She goes into labor. They're both surprised. TWINS. The moment it's safe, once the storm has cleared and the waters are calm, he's off to get help to bring back help.

There was something lovely about these opening chapters where Evelyn and Vance are getting to know one another. Evelyn is an orphan from England on her way to North Carolina as a missionary's wife. Now that her husband is dead, she's once again alone in the world. Whether she stays in North Carolina or goes back to England, she's still "alone." As "alone" as a person can be who has newborns. Vance is a widower. He's also lost his father recently. He's decided to move from South Carolina to North Carolina. He'll be founder of a new village, Canaan. Some of his friends and family are joining him, also traveling from South Carolina. There is a wagon train of sorts from one place to another. Vance really wants Evelyn to go with him as his wife. She agrees.

Unfortunately, while the first half of this one shows promise for satisfying development and an oh-so-happy conclusion, somewhere along the way, it becomes heavy in all the wrong ways. For example, it would make perfect sense to have the characters talk about the hardships of reconstruction once or even twice. But it seems that this issue is addressed a dozen times. And reconstruction wasn't the only "issue" that got Brought Up and Discussed repetitively. It becomes all tell and no show. The characters even seem to lose some of their previous development, especially Vance. It was disappointing.

Taking a Risk on Love is set in 1875.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Week in Review: March 16-22

NIV Young Women of Faith

  • 1 John
  • 2 John
  • 3 John
  • Jude

NIV MacArthur Study Bible

  • 2 Samuel 13-24

KJV Chronological Life Application

  • 2 Chronicles 29-31
  • Psalms 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 84, 85, 87, 1, 2, 10, 33, 66, 67, 71, 91 
  • Proverbs 25-31
  • Isaiah 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 13, 14, 15, 16, 

RV 1885

  • Mark

NRSV Daily Bible

  • 1 Samuel 16-31

1599 Geneva Bible

  • John

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Book Review: God in the Whirlwind

God in the Whirlwind: How the Holy-love of God Reorients Our World. David F. Wells. 2014. Crossway. 272 pages. [Source: Library]

I appreciated the premise of God in the Whirlwind. In chapter one, Wells writes,
In this book, we are on a journey. Our destination is a well-known place. It is the character of God. We are taking a journey into "the Father's heart," as A.W. Tozer put it. It is here that we find our home, our resting place, our joy, our hope, and our strength.
The goal of Christ's redemption was, after all, that we might know God, love him, serve him, enjoy him, and glorify him forever. This is, indeed, our chief end. It was for this end that Christ came, was incarnate, died in our place, and was raised for our justification. It was that we might know God. (15)
He sets out not to explore all of God's attributes, but, to explore two thoroughly: God's holiness and God's love. He likes the term (though I'm not especially fond of it) holy-love. In the context of arriving at the character of God, of exploring these two crucial aspects of God's character, he presents the gospel and discusses various aspects of the christian life. In many ways, God in the Whirlwind covers the basics.

I would definitely recommend God in the Whirlwind.

Favorite quotes:
We are here to know him as he is and not as we want him to be. The local church is the place where we should be learning about this, and God's Word is the means by which we can do so. (33)
The Holy Spirit re-speaks Scripture's truth to us today and opens our minds and hearts to receive it. Thus we are given, not just a view of God and of ourselves, but the view. And not just the right and true view. We are given God himself, who comes to us through his Word by the work of the Holy Spirit. It is God who makes us knowers of himself. (33)
Adam, we know, was created to be God-centered in his thoughts, God-fearing in his heart, and God-honoring in all that he did. But of course he fell, and his vision of God was lost, as was his understanding of his place in God's world. It is this vision, this goal, that is being restored by Christ in those who are his. (42)
God's love descends to us. His is the initiative from first to last. When he took action on our sin, it was his love that offered up his Son to be the Mediator between himself and sinners. It was his love that sent the Holy Spirit to open sinners' eyes to understand the meaning of that gift. We could not make our way back to him, so he made his way down to us. (81)
If the greatest commandment is to love God with our whole being, then to come to him in worship is a duty central to living out that love. Worship is primarily an expression of the worth of God. It is primarily for God and about God; it is not primarily for ourselves and for our needs. (113)
There is a distinction between the crucifixion and the cross. The former was a particularly barbaric way of carrying out an execution, and it was the method of execution that Jesus endured. The latter, as the New Testament speaks of it, has to do with the mysterious exchange that took place in Christ's death, an exchange of our sin for his righteousness. It was there that judgment fell on the One who is also our Judge. Indeed, he who had made all of creation was dishonored in the very creation he had made. And yet, through this dark moment, this fierce judgment, through this dishonor, there now shines the light of God's triumph over sin, death, and the Devil. And in this moment, this moment of Jesus' judgment-death, God was revealed in his holy-love as nowhere else. This however, was not seen from the outside… That is why dramatic presentations of Christ's death so often miss the point. They give us the crucifixion, not the cross. They show the horrifying circumstances of his death. These circumstances may be shown accurately. But this can take us only so far… The crucifixion without the cross is an incomplete picture, a half-told story. (130)
That God has thus planned our redemption from all eternity delivers a declaration louder than any thunderclap. It is that he is for us, that he has always been for us. He was for us in the far reaches of eternity. It was there that he took thought of us even before we existed. It was there that he planned to act for us. This plan was there from the very beginning. He planned to do this knowing that once we fell into the disorder of sin our fist would be raised against him. But his grace preceded us. (135)
Christ, who made our sin his own, entered a place that should have been ours. He entered our existence and made it his own. He entered our world and made our plight his own. He took up our cause. He took up what was not properly his so that we might have that to which we have no right. He stood before God, at the cross, as our representative. He tasted death for us by dying in our place. In a strange and beautiful paradox, he who is our Judge submitted to the penalty for our sin. And in this moment, this moment of judgment, our sin was no longer ours. It became his. That righteousness which was and is his became ours by a transfer that is as mysterious as it is real. (139)
That there was a cross means that there will be judgment. But that there was a cross also means that God's mercy toward his people is bottomless. The God who is righteous is the God who is the Savior. He is the one who forgives. (155)
Nothing is more important to our understanding of worship than this: we come to the Lord, not because it is our idea to do so, or because we need to do so, or even because we like to do so, but because he first came to us. Worship is our response to what he has done. (202)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Book Review: Discovering The Power of Christ's Prayer Life

Discovering the Power of Christ's Prayer Life. Charles Spurgeon. Compiled and Edited by Lance Wubbels. 1995. Emerald Books. 204 pages. [Source: Bought]

This book is a collection of Charles Spurgeon's sermons on the topic of Christ's prayer life. I think it's a great compilation. Many, but not all, discuss John 17, one of my favorite, favorite chapters in the gospel of John. I think these messages are just as relevant today as they were when they were originally preached. I think there is a richness, a biblical richness, in many of Spurgeon's sermons. If you haven't taken the time to read him, you should. He is that good.

The twelve messages in this collection include:

The Ever-Living Priest
Before Daybreak with Christ
Jesus Interceding for Transgressors
All Night in Prayer
Our Lord's Prayer for His People's Sanctification
Our Lord's Prayer for His People's Unity
Our Lord's Prayer of Glory
Prayer in Gethsemane
Prayer for the Bowed Down
Jesus' Prayer for Peter
Jesus Declining the Legions
A Golden Prayer

I have linked to each sermon included in this one; these sermons were preached and published over many decades in the nineteenth century. Wubbels did not always stick with Spurgeon's original title.

As you might have gathered, many of these sermons are GREAT for reading during the weeks leading up to Easter. Though, of course, any time of year is great for reading about Jesus!

Instead of quoting my favorite quotes in this post, I will use these sermons in my weekly "Year with Spurgeon" posts in upcoming weeks. If I were to post all of the quotes I want to share from this whole book, the post would be incredibly long!

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

My Year with Spurgeon #11

Lions Lacking--But The Children Satisfied
Charles Spurgeon
“The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger; but they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing.”—Psalm 34:10
Let me show you that the Christian, in whatever portion of his spiritual history he may be, is one that seeks the Lord.
We commence with conviction of sin. That is where God begins with us, and no man is a Christian unless the Holy Spirit has revealed to him in his own entire helplessness, his want of merit, and absence of power ever to accumulate merit in the sight of God. Well, then, the man who is under a conviction of sin, and feels his need of a Saviour—what is he doing? What is his occupation, now that he is hungering and thirsting after righteousness? Why, he is seeking the Lord. Ask him what is his one want, and he will say, ‘Christ is all my desire: I rise early in the morning, and the first thought I have is, ‘O that I knew where I might find him?’ I am in my business, and my ejaculatory prayers go up to heaven like hands searching for Jesus; and when I lie down again upon my bed, my heart says, ‘I seek him whom my soul loveth: I seek him, but I find him not.’” Such a man will offer prayer. Why? Not because there is any merit in it, not because he will be praised for it, but to seek the Lord. He turns the pages of Scripture, not as he would a book of philosophy, from curiosity, or for mere instruction, but to seek the Lord. He has one passion, one desire—to seek the Lord. For that he would barter his life, and be content to have his name cancelled from the register of men below, if he might but find the Lord Jesus, desiring above everything to have his name recorded in some humble place in the Lamb’s book of life. Are you thus in the dim morn of spiritual life seeking the Lord? Is he your one object of pursuit? Rejoice then, and tremble not, for the promise is to you in this earlier stage of your calling, when you are only just struggling into being, “They that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing.”
But let us go a stage further on, when the Christian has found the Saviour, and is justified...You will find that he has not left off seeking the Lord. No; he seeks now to know more of him; he seeks to understand more of the heights and depths, and lengths, and breadths of the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge. I ask any one here who has an assurance that he is a pardoned man, thoroughly justified and complete in Christ—are you not seeking the Lord? “Oh yes,” you say, “I thirst, I long to know more of him; I feel that all I have ever known of him is like the whispering of the sea in the shell, while the awful roar of the sea itself has not yet reached mine ears. I have heard the whisperings of Christ in some little mercy, and I have heard his bounties sing of bottomless, eternal, unchangeable love; but oh! I long to plunge into the sea itself, to bathe myself in the broad ocean of his infinite generosity and love to me.” No Christian ever fancies that he knows enough of his Master; there is no Christian who has found the Lord who does not desire to be better acquainted with him. “Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest,” is the cry of the man who has had his sins forgiven. He sitteth down at the feet of Jesus, and looketh up to him, and saith, “Master, teach me more; I am a little child; thou art a great instructor; oh! I long to love and learn more of thee.” He is ever seeking the Lord; and, in this more advanced stage, the promise to him is, “They that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing.”
As the Lord liveth, if you are not seeking the Lord, the devil is seeking you; if you are not seeking the Lord, judgment is at your heels.
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, March 17, 2014

Book Review: The Attributes of God 2

The Attributes of God, volume 2: Deeper Into the Father's Heart. A.W. Tozer. 2001/2007. Wingspread. 203 pages. [Source: Bought]

Earlier this month, I reviewed A.W. Tozer's The Attributes of God. Ten "attributes" were discussed including God's goodness, God's justice, God's mercy, God's grace, God's infinitude, and God's omnipresence. What is an attribute? "An attribute of God is something we can know about God. It is knowing what kind of God  God is" (17).

But that was just the beginning. Tozer's sermons were collected into a second volume. In this volume, Tozer explores:

  • God's Self-Existence
  • God's Transcendence
  • God's Eternalness
  • God's Omnipotence
  • God's Immutability
  • God's Omniscience
  • God's Wisdom
  • God's Sovereignty
  • God's Faithfulness
  • God's Love

Each chapter begins with Scripture. Each chapter closes with prayer. These are contemplative, devotional readings. Tozer never lets readers forget that it is KNOWING GOD and not KNOWING ABOUT God that truly matters. His enthusiasm is contagious. His approach is passionate and demanding. He invites readers into theology. He encourages them to take God seriously, to take God at his word, to earnestly and passionately seek GOD for themselves.

Tozer died in 1963. Yet Tozer's messages remain relevant. In fact, they might be even more timely today than when they were first preached. For example, "I don't suppose there is ever a time in the history of the world when we needed a restored knowledge of God more than we need it now" (5) If you haven't read Tozer yet, you don't know what your missing. 

Favorite quotes:
We wonder why we don't have faith; the answer is, faith is confidence in the character of God and if we don't know what kind of God God is, we can't have faith. (5)
God is always nearer than you may imagine Him to be. God is so near that your thoughts are not as near as God; your breath is not as near as God; your very soul is not as near to you as God is. And yet because He is God, His uncreated Being is so far above us that no thought can conceive it nor words express it. (34)
When you meet God, you get over the dangers and fears of this world. But the fear, the dread that is God, is not a sense of danger. It's a sense of being in the presence of someone very awful, very wonderful, transcendent and highly lifted up. It's a creature consciousness. (44)
Whatever God felt about anything, He still feels. Whatever He thought about anyone, He still thinks. Whatever He approved, He still approves. Whatever He condemned, He still condemns. Today we have what they call the relativity of morals. But remember this God never changes. Holiness and righteousness are conformity to the will of God. And the will of God never changes for moral creatures. (99, 100)
I recommend to you Jesus Christ, the unchanging One. I recommend to you God's answer to your questions, God's solution to your problems, God's life for your dying soul, God's cleansing for your sin-cursed spirit, God's rest for your restless mind, and God's resurrection for your dying body. For advocate above, I recommend Him to you. You will find Him to be all He ever was--the very same Jesus. (104)
Wisdom is the ability to see the end from the beginning, to see everything in proper relation and in full focus. It is to judge in view of final and ultimate ends and to work toward those ends with flawless precision. (130)
Why don't you start reading your Bible with the thought that God meant exactly what He said there? (172)
We talk about love, but God proved His love. The save love that created us is the love that redeemed us and now keeps us. (194)
Heaven will not be heaven to the man who does not have the love of God in his heart. (196)
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Read with Me: Gospel of John

Do you have reading plans for the month of April? I'd love to have you join me in reading the Gospel of John. You may read in any translation of the Bible. Ideally, participants would finish all twenty-one chapters of John just in time for Easter, April 20! If you want to meet the Easter goal and still just read one chapter a day, perhaps you might start one day early, March 31.

But reading at your own pace works too. I would rather have you read it with attention and absorb it than to rush through your reading.

But reading is not the only way you can join me! Participants may choose to WATCH the Gospel of John. You may choose this in place of reading OR you may choose this in addition to reading. I personally plan to do both. If you don't already own your own copy, it's around $10 on Amazon. (The same movie is about $15 on Barnes & Noble). You may also be able find it available to watch online for free. It's almost three hours long.

You might also choose to LISTEN to an audio production of the Gospel of John. Bible Gateway offers several audio versions that you can listen to online for free.

KJV Dramatized
NIV Dramatized

Please let me know in the comments if you plan to join me! Even if you don't plan on joining, please consider spreading the word to others you know who might be interested.

From Woodrow Kroll's Read Your Bible One Book At A Time:

The Book of Christ the Son of God
Author: John
Audience: Christians and non-Christians of the first century
Date: A.D. 85-95

Subject: the life, teachings, death, resurrection, and post resurrection appearances of Jesus Christ
Scope: the events recorded in John's gospel cover from eternity past to the post-resurrection appearance of Jesus Christ in Galilee
Setting: the Holy Land--the Jordan Valley, Galilee, Samaria, Bethany, and Jerusalem

Three keys:
Key chapters: 3 (Jesus, only-begotten of the Father, Savior of the world); 10 (the believer's relationship with Jesus Christ); 15 (abiding in Christ); 19 (the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ)
Key verses: John 1:1-3, 11-12, 29; John 3:14-18, 36; John 5:24, John 6:66-69; John 8:32, 36; John 14:1-6; John 17:17; John 18:38; John 19:16-21, 30, 38-42; John 20:13-16, 30-31; John 21:15-17
Key people: Jesus, John the Baptist, the disciples, Mary, Martha, Lazarus, Jesus' mother, Peter, Mary Magdalene, Joseph of Arimathea

Book profiles:
Number of chapters: 21
Number of verses: 879
Average reading time: 1 hour, 54 minutes

What to look for:
  • Jesus Christ as the Son of God (John 19:7)
  • John's careful presentation of the facts so as to bring his readers to believe that Jesus is the Son of God and Savior of the world
  • word pictures of who Jesus is, such as water, lamb, bread, light, shepherd, and vine
Why you should read John:
Nowhere is the gospel more clearly presented than in the Gospel of John. If you are looking for a way to share the gospel story with a friend. John has some classic passages that God's servants have used for generations, such as chapter three, five, and ten. Become familiar with these passages and you will never be a witless witness. (81-82)
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Week in Review: March 9-15

NIV Young Women of Faith

  • John
  • Romans 8-16

NRSV Daily

  • Ruth
  • 1 Samuel 1-15

NIV MacArthur Study Bible

  • 2 Samuel 3-12

KJV Chronological Life Application

  • 2 Kings 14-17
  • 2 Chronicles 25-28
  • Isaiah 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 17, 28
  • Jonah
  • Micah 1, 
  • Amos
  • Hosea

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Book Review: Now That I'm A Christian

Now That I'm A Christian: What It Means to Follow Jesus. C. Michael Patton. 2014. Crossway. 176 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Now That I'm A Christian: What It Means To Follow Jesus by C. Michael Patton is a thought-provoking read. The intended audience for this one is new believers. This is made clear both by the title and the introduction. Patton hopes to shepherd new believers, to guide them into the faith by teaching them the basics and emphasizing the journey, the "what comes next."

Five chapters focus on the basics of the faith, the essential doctrines: "Bible," "Man," "God," "Christ," and "Faith." Five chapters focus on the christian life, the practice of the journey, if you will: "Prayer," "Study," "Church," "Suffering," and "Mission." Each chapter concludes with discussion questions and a bibliography of further resources for readers.

Overall, this book has more strengths than weaknesses. It's one that is easy to recommend to new believers and to old believers who could use a refresher course. This is a book that should not be limited to new believers, in my opinion. Just because the subject matter is basic or essential does not mean that it lacks depth and relevance to all believers.

His chapter on Bible Study alone would be worth the cost of this one. He shares "eight common Bible Study methods" pointing out how these eight will lead you to trouble: "Lucky Lotto," "Brussels Sprout," "Channel Changer," "The Concorde," "Baseball Card," "Clint Eastwood," "Magical," and "Indiana Jones." He then teaches three steps for right interpretation.
The goal is to find out what the Bible meant, what it means, and how it applies to us. Get that down: (1) meant, (2) means, (3) applies. Many people start with the third step and fail miserably in understanding God’s Word. Others start with step two, attempting to force their own beliefs on the text.
The first step, he writes, is exegetical: what did it mean then? The second step, he continues, is theological: what does it mean for all people of all places of all times? The third step, he concludes, is homiletical: how does it apply to us? He illustrates the three steps in a reader-friendly way giving plenty of examples.

I also loved his chapters on Man. He does a wonderful job explaining the creation, the fall, original or imputed sin, inherited sin, etc. By the end of the chapter, he has clearly shown why we all--every one of us--need a Savior.
Imputed is an accounting term. It is appropriate because we are all born with a sin debt. This debt was created in Eden. It is a debt that every human, including you, has inherited directly from Adam and   Eve.
The best way to think of inherited sin is to see it as a spiritual infection. This infection, like a virus, spreads to all mankind. We are born with a sinful inclination or disposition. Just as you are born with a hunger for food, you are also born with a hunger for sin. We are born rebels. We can’t help but sin.
Not only are you born with a massive debt in your bank account (one so large that it could never be paid off), you are also born with a spending habit. You are in debt, and you, from the moment you are born, continually make that debt greater.
Strengths: Now That I'm A Christian covers the essentials of the faith in a straight-forward way; the style is casual and inviting yet respectful of both God and man. The book may start at the surface, but, it's not afraid to dig deeper. I found this one to have depth and substance. Just the right amount. It is not weighed down by footnotes or endnotes. You don't need a dictionary or a reference book to comprehend it. Patton is not scared of introducing new vocabulary, of challenging readers to learn new words. But he always provides clear definitions and illustrations. He challenges his readers to grow in their new faith. "Your God is with you every day and is leading you safely to your eternal home. Yet so many people will go months, years, or even a lifetime without taking the initiative to grow as a learner." And I loved this: "The knowledge is foundational. But the response is what changes the world." I applaud Patton for going deeper, for going darker. He's not afraid to talk about the dark side of the Christian life. He's not going to proclaim half-truths and make promises to his readers that they're going to be healthy and wealthy and that they will never suffer more than a paper-cut until the day they die. In this world, we will have trouble. He addresses the issues of pain and suffering, of depression and loss, of anger and doubt. I respect him for going to hard places and sharing personal stories. The book is practical and personal.

Weaknesses: While I think I would ultimately end up agreeing with Patton at the end of the day, I feel some of his statements are too strong and may give brand new believers the wrong message. I hope this isn't so. I really do.
But the Bible can be hard to understand. Often, interpreters can’t agree on what many passages mean. This is part of the reason why the Bible is the most controversial book ever written. It has divided countries and families. It creates divisions, splits churches, and can be downright frustrating to read. The Bible study method we are going to focus on will not guarantee that you always understand the Bible perfectly, but it will guarantee that you are interpreting the Bible with integrity before God and having a legitimate interaction with God.
Is it helpful to new believers to tell them the Bible is hard to understand and that most people cannot agree on what many passages mean? Yes, in the wrong translation (the wrong translation being one that you can't understand or make sense of for comprehension reasons) or in certain books (say Leviticus or Ezekiel) the Bible can be seen as "frustrating" or "hard to understand." But it is my belief that most of the Bible can be read and understood with only a minimal amount of effort. As far as "not agreeing on what many passages mean" that may be more of a split between protestants and catholics and within denominations than anything else. And that does NOT have to be an issue new believers deal with from the start. Especially since these more often than not fall into the non-essential category. (Perhaps with the EXCEPTION of doctrines that divide protestants and catholics to begin with. Again not a subject that would have to be brought up with a brand new believer.) Still I believe that when and where it matters in the Bible, it is clear within the Bible itself, and there is a majority interpretation. I've often thought that it isn't a lack of comprehension, but a not wanting to do what it clearly says. For example, "do all things without grumbling or disputing," is clear enough as is "count others more significant than yourselves." It challenges us as readers because it challenges us to change our behaviors, our thoughts, our actions.

He concludes his overall wonderful chapter with these sobering words:
I want you to understand how important it is that you read and study your Bible. But I would rather you not read it than to read it and make the fundamental mistakes I have described in this chapter. This is why the Bible is a dangerous book. It is very powerful when interpreted correctly. But when it is interpreted wrongly, it can destroy people’s lives, split churches, and bring about all kinds of troubles. If we properly interpret the Scriptures consistently, we will be less prone toward discouragement, disillusionment, and distancing ourselves from God.
Is it helpful to new believers to tell them you would rather them NOT read the Bible out of the fear that they might misunderstand or misinterpret what they read? Is it helpful to stress the fact that "the Bible is a dangerous book" and that it can "bring about all kinds of troubles"? Do we even want to hint that the Bible can "destroy people's lives"?

The Bible--to new believers and even to old believers who have never read the Word for themselves--may seem intimidating enough without the drama of these warnings. I believe that the Bible should be read prayerfully, thoughtfully, emotionally and intellectually. I believe in devotional reading and in-depth Bible Study. I believe in stressing the fact that the Bible is never read alone. Believers are spirit-filled. The Spirit can and will ever-guide us day by day through the very Word of God. It is not that I'm blind to the fact that there are dangers to getting it wrong, of misinterpreting things, concluding things from passages that just aren't so. But those dangers exist regardless of if you read the Bible or if you don't read the Bible. Those dangers exist if you turn on the TV, if you explore on the internet, if you turn on the radio, if you attend a church weekly, if you talk with other believers, even if you debate with nonbelievers. Wrong thoughts about God, wrong teachings about who He is and what He has done, and how we are to live until His return. I say it's dangerous NOT to read the Bible. I say it's dangerous to not be grounded in the Word of God, in the truth. I say it's dangerous to merely accept what other people say, other people's interpretations of what the Bible says. Knowledge and more knowledge is always the answer. The Bible is meant to be read and studied and cherished and treasured. It is a book for every emotion a soul can be. It truly is. The Bible is God's very revelation of himself. How can your faith grow or mature WITHOUT the Bible? And if you're letting other people do your thinking for you, if you're merely accepting what someone else says instead of reading and studying yourself, then that is dangerous. Pray for wisdom. Pray for understanding. Pray for interpretation. Talk to the Author of the Book as you read! But DON'T give up reading the Bible out of fear or anxiety that you'll get it wrong or that you're not smart enough.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Book Review: Strange Fire

Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending The Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship. John MacArthur. 2013. Thomas Nelson. 333 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Strange Fire is a great read: compelling and intense and not without controversy perhaps. In Strange Fire, John MacArthur discusses the charismatic movement, past and present. It focuses on several aspects of the charismatic movement including the prosperity gospel and the word of faith movement. He mentions ministries, preachers, and authors. He documents his argument well: thousands of citations, backing up his statements with thousands of proofs. These little details, when combined, add up to a very telling big picture that is hard to ignore. Yes, MacArthur makes some very generalized statements in this one, especially in the introduction and the conclusion, statements that could easily offend: especially when taken completely out of context, but, even within context, there's a good risk that his message will be taken as too harsh. But when MacArthur moves into specifics looking closely, very closely, at the charismatic movement, his argument becomes more persuasive perhaps.

In the first section of Strange Fire, MacArthur introduces his reader to the subject, a brief examination of the charismatic movement past and present. He'll later fill in more details, but, this provides readers with a quick framework. The main point of this section--and it's a good one--is to examine the charismatic movement in light of Jonathan Edward's famous "distinguishing marks" test. This test seeks to determine true works of the Spirit from false ones.
We might frame these tests from 1 John 4:2-8 in the form of five questions
1)Does the work exalt the true Christ?
2)Does it oppose worldliness?
3)Does it point people to the Scriptures?
4) Does it elevate the truth?
5)Does it produce love for God and others?
MacArthur then examines (or judges or critiques) the charismatic movement using these five questions. Obviously, MacArthur's conclusion is that there are indicators that something is seriously wrong with the charismatic movement. For example, a movement known for its "health and wealth" or the "prosperity gospel" a movement that promotes the idea that the gospel is all about blessing you in the here and now with STUFF fails question #2.

In the second section of Strange Fire, MacArthur focuses on spiritual gifts, or, as he calls them counterfeit (spiritual) gifts. These chapters are, "Apostles Among Us?" "The Folly of Fallible Prophets," "Twisting Tongues," and "Fake Healings and False Hopes." This section is very detailed and a bit creepy.

In the third and final section of Strange Fire, MacArthur focuses on the genuine. Here is the truth-packed section that is deep and wonderful. Chapters include: "The Holy Spirit and Salvation," "The Spirit and Sanctification," "The Spirit and the Scriptures," and "An Open Letter To My Continuationist Friends."
It is a sad twist of irony that those who claim to be most focused on the Holy Spirit are in actuality the ones doing the most to abuse, grieve, insult, misrepresent, quench, and dishonor Him. How do they do it? By attributing to Him words He did not say, deeds He did not do, phenomena He did not produce, and experiences that have nothing to do with Him. They boldly plaster His name on that which is not His work. (xiii)
In recent history, no other movement has done more to damage the cause of the gospel, to distort the truth, and to smother the articulation of sound doctrine. (xv)
Nearly half of American Christians, in any denomination, and roughly two-thirds of American Pentecostals now embrace the basic premise of the prosperity gospel: God wants you to be happy, healthy, and rich. (15)
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Book Review: 52 Words Every Christian Should Know

52 Words Every Christian Should Know. Kendell Easley. 2010. B&H. 124 pages. [Source: Bought]

I love the premise behind Kendell Easley's 52 Words Every Christian Should Know. In the introduction, he writes that this book is a book, "for everyday believers that says, 'Christian terms have standard meanings, and here are the historic, orthodox meanings of essential terms.'" I agree with Easley that it is essential for believers to have more than a fuzzy notion of what these terms mean: clarity is  what is needed. He chose 52 words so that even the busiest person could have no excuse: one word per week for an entire year. (I think this would be a great book to use in Sunday School classes or group bible studies.)

Each term is "presented in a two-page study, organized into 8 major biblical categories."

The eight categories:

  • God
  • Scripture
  • Creation and Mankind
  • Sin
  • Jesus
  • Salvation
  • Church and Discipleship
  • Last Things
A sampling of the terms:
  • Sovereignty
  • Great Commandments
  • Covenants
  • Original Sin
  • Hell
  • Messiah
  • Atonement
  • Resurrection
  • Justification
  • Regeneration
  • Adoption
  • Baptism
  • Lord's Supper
  • Sanctification
  • Glorification
  • Second Coming
  • Heaven
A sampling of the definitions:
  • Trinity: DEFINITION: God is eternally one Being. Yet He exists eternally as three Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. There are not three Gods, only one. The Father, the Son, and the Spirit are distinct from each other.
  • Depravity: DEFINITION: Depravity means tendency toward evil. Everyone is naturally inclined away from loving God and toward self-centeredness. Humans are not as sinful as they can possibly be, but they are tainted by evil through and through.
  • Gospel: DEFINITION: Gospel literally means “good news.” “Gospel” refers in Scripture mainly to the message that through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, God graciously acted to establish His kingdom and now welcomes into His family sinners who repent and receive Christ by faith.
  • Regeneration: DEFINITION: Regeneration or being born again refers to God's act of making a person alive spiritually. This is the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit by which sinners are given new spiritual life enabling them to relate to God in faith, love, obedience, and delight.
  • Faith: DEFINITION: Gospel faith means trust, reliance, confidence, or commitment. Jesus Christ, specifically His death in saving sinners, is the object of such belief. This must be distinguished from “assent” (belief that facts are true). Loyalty and devotion are included in genuine faith.
  • Hell: DEFINITION: Hell is the final place and condition of unregenerate humans (and evil spirits) in which they consciously suffer everlasting punishment, separated from God forever. It is a place of spiritual, psychological, and bodily torment from which there will never be hope of release.
  • Heaven: DEFINITION: Heaven is the supernatural location of God's presence displayed far beyond the earth, where the holy angels worship Him. After the last judgment and the renewal of all things, God will manifest His presence among the redeemed in “the New Jerusalem.”
I appreciated this book. I think it is a necessary book. Understanding and comprehension is important. Assumption that everyone is automatically "on the same page" is wishful thinking. These are words used commonly in sermons, in Christian articles and books, in conversations and debates. Not that this is about "being smart." These terms can bring clarity to WHAT you believe and WHY you believe which could impact HOW you live and HOW you share the gospel. For example, understanding, "grasping" truths such as justification and sanctification and atonement and adoption CAN be life changing.

This book may pair well with Kelly Kapic's A Little Book for New Theologians: Why and How to Study Theology or Michael James Williams' How To Read The Bible Through the Jesus Lens.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

My Year with Spurgeon #10

The Enchanted Ground
Charles Spurgeon
“Therefore let us not sleep, as do others: but let us watch and be sober.”—1 Thess. 5:6
How many Christians are inactive! Once it was their delight to instruct the young in the Sabbath- school, but that is now given up. Once they attended the early prayer-meeting, but not now. Once they would be hewers of wood and drawers of water, but alas! they are asleep now. Am I talking of what may happen! Is it not too true almost universally? Are not the churches asleep? Where are the ministers that preach? We have men that read the manuscripts, and talk essays: but is that preaching? We have men that can amuse an audience for twenty minutes. Is that preaching? Where are the men that preach their hearts out, and say their soul in every sentence? Where are the men that make it, not a profession, but a vocation, the breath of their bodies, the marrow of their bones, the delight of their spirits?
The honor of God is engaged to save the meanest sheep; and whether that sheep is asleep or awake, it is perfectly safe, so far as final salvation is concerned.
O Christians! do you know that your Lord is coming? In such an hour as ye think not, the man who once hung quivering on Calvary will descend in glory; “The head that once was crowned with thorns” will soon be crowned with a diadem of brilliant jewels. He will come in the clouds of heaven to his church. Would you wish to be sleeping when your Lord comes? Do you want to be like the foolish virgins, or like the wise ones, either, who, while the bridegroom tarried, slumbered and slept?
But now what is the best plan to keep awake when you are going across the enchanted ground? This book [Pilgrim's Progress] tells us that one of the best plans is to keep Christian company, and talk about the ways of the Lord. Christian and Hopeful said to themselves, “Let us talk together, and then we shall not sleep.” Christian said, “Brother, where shall we begin?” And Hopeful said, “We will begin where God began with us.” There is no subject so likely to keep a man awake as talking of the place where God began with him. When Christian men talk together they won’t sleep together. Hold Christian company, and you will not be so likely to slumber. Christians who isolate themselves and stand alone are very liable to lie down and sleep on the settle or the soft couch, and go to sleep; but, if you talk much together, as they did in old time, you will find it extremely beneficial. Two Christians talking together of the ways of the Lord will go much faster to heaven than one; and when a whole church unite in specking of the Lord’s loving kindness, verily, beloved, there is no way like that of keeping themselves awake.
Let the breath of the Holy Spirit continually fan thy temples, and thou wilt not sleep. Seek to live daily under the influence of the Holy Ghost; derive all thy strength from him, and thou wilt not slumber.
Lastly, labor to impress thyself with a deep sense of the value of the place to which thou art going. If thou rememberest that thou art going to heaven, thou wilt not sleep on the road.
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, March 10, 2014

Worth Quoting #6 Quotes About the Holy Spirit

Found this J.I. Packer quote in John MacArthur's newest book, Strange Fire.
The Spirit's message to us is never, "Look at me; listen to me; come to me; get to know me," but always, "Loot at HIM, and see HIS glory; listen to HIM, and hear HIS word; go to HIM, and have life; get to know HIM, and taste his gift of joy and peace." (43)
And this one by Pastor Dan Phillips:
Show me a person focused on the person and work of Jesus Christ--never tiring of learning about Him, thinking about Him, boasting of Him, speaking about and for and to Him, thrilled and entranced with His perfections and beauty, finding ways to serve and exalt Him, tirelessly exploring ways to spend and be spent for Him, growing in character to be more and more like Him--and I will show you a person who is filled with the Holy Spirit. (45)
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Book Review: The Rhyme Bible

The Rhyme Bible Storybook for Toddlers. L.J. Sattgast. Illustrated by Laurence Cleyet-Merle. 2014. Zonderkidz. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

In this board book, ten classic Bible stories are told in rhyme for young children to enjoy. The stories include:

God Made Everything (Genesis 1, 2)
The Floating Zoo (Genesis 6-9)
Baby in a Boat (Exodus 2)
David and Goliath (1 Samuel 17)
Where Did Jonah Go? (Jonah 1, 2)
Daniel Prays (Daniel 6)
Who Saw Jesus? (Luke 2)
A Tasty Lunch (John 6)
Jesus is Coming (Luke 19-23)
Jesus is Alive! (John 21*)

This book is simple, quite simple, with just a few sentences per page. Each story is several pages in length. Six stories come from the Old Testament. Four stories come  from the New Testament. Each story, as I mentioned earlier, is told in rhyme.

Where Did Jonah Go?

God spoke to Jonah.
He said, "Go! Go! Go!"
But Jonah didn't listen.
He said, "No! No! No!"

Jonah ran and tried to hide.
He found a ship and went inside.
But God sent stormy winds outside
To blow, blow, blow!

A fish was waiting hungrily.
It swallowed Jonah easily--
Oh! Oh! Oh!

Jonah prayed inside the fish,
So, so sad.
He said to God, "I'm sorry
I was so, so bad."

Jonah heard the Lord's command:
"Go and preach in other lands."
And Jonah said,
(Can you guess?)
"Yes! Yes! Yes!"

Overall, I thought this was a nice book. I'm not sure any of the stories are great poetry. I'm not sure the rhymes have rhythm exactly (which can be just as important as ending in rhyme, in my opinion). But. I liked it. I think this one would be a good choice for parents to share with their little ones.

*The book has a typo. They list John 2, not John 21, as the source for this resurrection story.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Week in Review: March 1-8

KJV Chronological

  • 1 Kings 12-22
  • 2 Kings 1-13
  • 2 Chronicles 10-24

NIV MacArthur

  • 1 Samuel 12-31
  • 2 Samuel 1-2

NRSV Daily Bible

  • Joshua 18-24
  • Judges

Revised Version, 1885

  • Matthew

NIV YOUNG Women of Faith

  • Romans 1-7

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Book Review: The Attributes of God

The Attributes of God. A.W. Tozer. 1996. Christian Publications. 176 pages. [Book I Bought]

From chapter one:
Are you contented with nominal Christianity? If you are, I've nothing for you. Are you contented with popular Christianity that runs on the authority and popularity of big shots? If you are, I've nothing for you. Are you content with elementary Christianity? If you are, all I've got for you is to exhort you earnestly to press on toward perfection. But if you're not satisfied with nominal Christianity, popular Christianity, and the first beginnings of things and you want to know the Triune God for yourself, read on. (16)
A.W. Tozer's The Attributes of God has been on my shelf for years. It is probably one of the first Tozer books I ever bought. However, it has remained unread for years. Even after discovering Knowledge of the Holy, a book that I loved, loved, loved. The first few attempts, for better or worse, I found a bit intimidating. The timing just wasn't right. But it was right this time. It was JUST RIGHT. The Attributes of God turned out to be an amazing--absolutely amazing--read for me.

Tozer's Attributes of God is published as two volumes. I have only read the first one. So far. In this first volume, Tozer explores:

  • God's Infinitude
  • God's Immensity
  • God's Goodness
  • God's Justice
  • God's Mercy
  • God's Grace
  • God's Omnipresence
  • God's Immanence
  • God's Holiness
  • God's Perfection

Each chapter begins with Scripture. Each chapter closes with prayer. These are contemplative, devotional readings. Tozer never lets readers forget that it is KNOWING GOD and not KNOWING ABOUT God that truly matters. His enthusiasm is contagious. His approach is passionate and demanding. He invites readers into theology. He encourages them to take God seriously, to take God at his word, to earnestly and passionately seek GOD for themselves. Some of what he says could be considered harsh, but, it could also be taken as truth--pure truth revealing the ugliness of our sin condition and just how far we've fallen. Tozer takes sin just as seriously as he takes God. I'd argue that Tozer took sin so very seriously precisely because he took God at his word, because he treasured God's word in his heart, because he believed that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, because he trusted that Jesus is the same yesterday and today and forever. Tozer calls believers to a deeper life, a holier life, a called apart life.

I absolutely loved this one!!!! I had four favorite chapters. I loved the chapters on God's Goodness, on God's Justice, on God's Mercy, and on God's Grace. While all the chapters are excellent, some of them are more WOW than others.

I would definitely recommend this one!!!

Favorite quotes:
The Bible is a whole series of highways, all leading toward God. And when the text has been illuminated and the believer of the text knows that God is the end toward which he is moving, then that man has real faith. (20)
What God made, God loves, because it's inconceivable that God should make anything that He didn't love. (26)
Christianity at any given time is strong or weak depending upon her concept of God. And I insist upon this and I have said it many times, that the basic trouble with the Church today is her unworthy conception of God. (41)
Nobody has ever been saved, from the day that Abel offered his bloody lamb on a homemade altar, down to the latest convert made today,  except out of the goodness of God. Because of God's grace, His mercy, His lovingkindness, His goodness and graciousness, His cordiality and approachability, He kindly saved people. (47)
He takes no pleasure in human tears. He came and wept that He might stop forever the fountain of human tears. He came and bereaved His mother that He might heal all bereavement. He came and lost everything that He might heal the wounds that we have from losing things. And He wants us to take pleasure in Him. Let us put away our doubts and trust Him. (55)
When Jesus died on the cross the mercy of God did not become any greater. It could not become any greater, for it was already infinite. We get the odd notion that God is showing mercy because Jesus died. No--Jesus died because God is showing mercy. It was the mercy of God that gave us Calvary, not Calvary that gave us mercy. If God had not been merciful there would have been no incarnation, no babe in the manger, no man on a cross and no open tomb. (82)
The goodness of God is confronting human suffering and guilt, and that is mercy. (85)
Mercy cannot cancel judgment apart from atonement. When justice sees iniquity, there must be judgment. But mercy brought Christ to the cross. (86)
The man who has an adequate conception of God will not only believe in the love of God, but also in the holiness of God. He will not only believe in the mercy of God, but also in the justice of God. And when you see the everlasting God in His holy, perfect union, when you see the One God acting in judgment, you know that the man who chooses evil must never dwell in the presence of this holy God. (107)
The teachings of the Holy Scriptures have their origin in the nature of God. They are what they are because God is what He is. These teachings rest upon the character of God and are guaranteed by the changeless attributes of the Lord God Almighty, the Ancient of Days. (118)
It is the manifest, conscious presence of God that makes heaven heaven. (128)
We need to repent of unlikeness; of unholiness in the presence of the holy; of self-indulgence in the presence of the selfless Christ; of harshness in the presence of the kind Christ; of hardness in the presence of the forgiving Christ; of lukewarmness in the presence of the zealous Christ, burning like a fiery flame; of worldliness and earthliness in the presence of the heavenly Christ. (154)
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible