Sunday, August 31, 2014

Week in Review: August 24-30


  • Jeremiah 6-52
  • Joel
  • John 17-21
  • Acts 
  • 2 Corinthians

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Quoting Martyn Lloyd-Jones #8

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, March, April, May, June, July)

From August 2
The whole history of the world, if we could but see it, is a revelation of God.
From August 14
I say with reverence, nothing less than the omnipotence of God could save a single soul. But thank God, He is omnipotent, and we are saved by the power of God in and through the Lord Jesus Christ. The glory of God is the biblical way of describing God’s greatness, His splendor, His majesty. We read of the glory of God filling the Temple (1 Kings 8:11 ) and of the glory of God being manifested in dimmed vision to certain people. This means they had some conception of the greatness, the splendor, the majesty, the might of His being.
From August 15
I suppose if you were to be asked to say where the Bible teaches the holiness of God most powerfully of all, you have to go to Calvary. God is so holy, so utterly holy, that nothing but that awful death could make it possible for Him to forgive us. The cross is the supreme and the sublimest declaration and revelation of the holiness of God.
From August 26
God has made certain promises. So what is the great central promise that He has made in the covenant of grace? He has promised to be a God unto man. That is the great promise: “I will be to you a God.” Do you see the importance and significance of this? God had been the God of Adam, but Adam sinned against Him and fell; he became the slave of Satan and broke the connection with God. And the remarkable and astounding thing is that God turned to man and assured him in the covenant of grace that He had a way whereby He could still be a God to man. “I will take you to me for a people, and I will be to you a God” (Exodus 6:7). Make a note of that because as you go through the Scriptures you will find that this great promise is repeated time and time again. You will find it in Jeremiah 31:33; 32:38-40. You will find it in Ezekiel 34:23-25; 36:25-28; 37:26-27. You will find it in 2 Corinthians 6:16-18 and in Hebrews 8:10 and, in a marvelous way, in Revelation 21:3 where we read: “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them.” That is the final state. So you see that is the very essence of God’s promise in the covenant of grace—that what had been broken by sin and the Fall was going to be restored. And the supreme blessing therefore, the ultimate blessing, the blessing of blessings, is that God is my God, and that I have a right to say, “my God.” And the whole of salvation is included in that. How often do we tend to define salvation in terms other than that? Yet the greatest thing a human being can ever say since the Fall is this: “God is my God.”

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Book Review: Proof

PROOF: Finding Freedom Through the Intoxicating Joy of Irresistable Grace. Daniel Montgomery and Timothy Paul Jones. 2014. Zondervan. 224 pages. [Source: Bought]

PROOF is my new favorite book on the doctrines of grace. I loved, loved, LOVED this book! Is it fair to say the book is about the doctrines of grace? Yes and no. On the one hand, it is a book about the gospel--the whole gospel, the glorious gospel. It is a God-glorifying book about salvation.

The authors write: The gospel is the good news that God’s kingdom power has entered human history through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. When we repent and rely on his righteousness instead of our own, his kingdom power transforms us, and we become participants in the restoration of God’s world. And they continue: The three aspects of the gospel are the kingdom, the cross, and God’s grace. 1. The gospel of the kingdom is life with God under God’s rule. 2. The gospel of the cross is the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus by which God accomplishes our salvation, rescues us from his wrath, incorporates us into his people, and inaugurates his reign in the world. 3. The gospel of grace is the wonderful news that God accepts us, shares his life with us, and adopts us as heirs of his kingdom not because we have earned it or deserve it but because God chooses to give all of this freely at Christ’s expense.

On the other hand, it is a book about the doctrines of grace, the detailed doctrines surrounding the gospel, answering the little questions about salvation. If you're looking for a book about the gospel: what the gospel message is and perhaps what it isn't, then this one is for you. If you're looking for a book about the doctrines of grace, about Reformed theology, this is also the book for you.

Instead of using the acronym TULIP, the authors choose one of their own acronym: PROOF.

P -- planned grace

  • Before time began, God mapped out the plan of salvation from first to last. God planned to adopt particular people as his own children; Christ offered himself as a sacrifice for these people’s sins and as a substitute who satisfied God’s righteous requirements in their place (John 10:11-18; Ephesians 1:4-12).

R -- resurrecting grace
  • Everyone is born spiritually dead. Left to ourselves, we will never choose God’s way. God enables people to respond freely to his grace by giving them spiritual life through the power of Christ’s resurrection (John 5:21; Ephesians 2:1-7).
O -- outrageous grace
  • God chose people to be saved on the basis of his own sovereign will. He didn’t base his choice to give us grace on anything that we did or might do (John 15:16; Ephesians 2:8-9).
O -- overcoming grace
  • God chose people to be saved on the basis of his own sovereign will. He didn’t base his choice to give us grace on anything that we did or might do (John 15:16; Ephesians 2:8-9).
F -- forever grace
  • God seals his people with his Holy Spirit so that they are preserved and persevere in faith until the final restoration of God’s kingdom on the earth (John 10:27-29; Ephesians 1:13-14; 4:30).
Over half the book focuses on explaining each point or doctrine. One chapter per letter. Other chapters provide context and give the reader a big picture understanding of the gospel. I loved the appendix material, in particular, I loved PROOF texts and PROOF distilled.

So why did I love this one so much? I loved how it was written. I loved the clarity. I loved the reliance on Scripture. I loved how detailed it was. The details were never overwhelming or confusing. I loved how relevant and practical it was. PROOF is not dry theology or philosophy. It is so very readable.  I would definitely recommend this one!

In eternity past, God chose to save undeserving sinners “to the praise of his glorious grace” (Ephesians 1:5-6). Now he is on a global rescue mission, chasing down undeserving rebels and changing their hearts so that they turn to him and freely submit to his kingship (Isaiah 43:5-7; Acts 16:14; Ephesians 1:5; Revelation 5:9-10). By his grace, God transforms sinners into his beloved adopted children, filling the bank accounts of their identity with all the goodness of his Son, sealing their destiny by the power of his Spirit, and securing them on a journey that will not end until his splendor floods the earth like waters surging in the sea (Psalm 72:19; Habakkuk 2:14; Romans 4:24; 2 Corinthians 1:21-22; Ephesians 1:4-5, 13-14). The true and living God does all this for his own glory and for the praise of his grace (Isaiah 43:7; Ephesians 1:6; 1 Peter 5:10). When the apostle Paul described God’s works of grace, he found himself facedown in worship, overwhelmed by a mystery he couldn’t comprehend: “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! . . . To him be the glory forever!” (Romans 11:33, 36).
Ever since human sin plunged the world into darkness, people have been working to bury God’s sovereignty and mystery beneath an ever-multiplying multitude of graceless counterfeits (Romans 1:23). As John Calvin once observed, “Human nature is, so to speak, a workshop that’s continually crafting idols.”
It’s time to wake up. If you’re a believer in Jesus Christ, your deeds no longer determine your destiny. From the moment you first rest in Christ as your only hope, you have no failures to hide and no triumphs to hide behind. Your short-fallings no longer fall short. Your future is secure. You are forgiven, and you are free (Matthew 17:25 – 26; John 8:31 – 36). There is no greater favor for you to earn because God has already given you the greatest favor of all: “the gift of [being right with God] . . . through the one man, Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:17). Nothing remains for you to prove. Your right standing is the right standing of Christ himself, given by grace through faith “from first to last” (Romans 1:17). 
Spiritual zombies don’t choose the gift of God’s grace for the same reason that prison escapees don’t show up voluntarily at police stations. It isn’t because convicted felons are incapable of locating their local law-enforcement agency. It’s because the police represent everything the convict wants to avoid. Ever since our expulsion from Eden, every human being has been a convicted corpse on the run from God’s reign. Apart from God’s single-handed gift of resurrecting grace, no human being will ever seek God because a death-defeating King who demands that we find our greatest joy in his Father’s fame is repulsive to the spiritually dead (John 3:19 – 20; Romans 3:11).
The gospel of grace is a divine declaration that Jesus Christ has already secured all that’s required to turn zombie corpses into chosen children. The only right response to such a glorious announcement is to discard every concern about what you must do, to cling desperately to what Christ has already done, and to call everyone around you to cling to Christ with you.
God’s grace is based on who he is, not on who we are. His plan is fixed and his hand is steady. He does not change his mind, he does not get nervous, and he does not hesitate. When God chose us, he declared, “These people belong to me.” There is nothing in the universe strong enough to remove God’s chosen ones from his hands. Believers don’t merely enter eternal life when they die; eternal life enters us when we believe and it can never leave — if it did leave us, it wouldn’t have been eternal!
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

My Year with Spurgeon #34

Unimpeachable Justice
Charles Spurgeon
“Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.”—Psalm 51:4
Our subject this morning, then, will be, both in the condemnation and in the punishment of every sinner, God will be justified: and he will be made most openly clear, from the two facts of the sinner’s own confession, and God himself having been an eye-witness of the deed. And as for the severity of it, there shall be no doubt upon the mind of any man who shall receive it, for God shall prove to him in his own soul, that damnation is nothing more nor less than the legitimate reward of sin.
There are two kinds of condemnation: the one is the condemnation of the elect, which takes place in their hearts and consciences, when they have the sentence of death in themselves, that they should not trust in themselves—a condemnation which is invariably followed by peace with God, because after that there is no further condemnation, for they are then in Christ Jesus, and they walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. The second condemnation is that of the finally impenitent, who, when they die, are most righteously and justly condemned by God for the sins they have committed—a condemnation not followed by pardon, as in the present case, but followed by inevitable damnation from the presence of God. On both these condemnations we will discourse this morning. God is clear when he speaks, and he is just when he condemns, whether it be the condemnation which he passes on Christian hearts, or the condemnation which he pronounces from his throne, when the wicked are dragged before him to receive their final doom.
The Christian, when he is condemned by the Holy Law, makes a confession, a full and free confession. He feels, when God records the sentence against him, that the execution of it would be just, for his now honest heart compels him to confess the whole story of his guilt. Allow me to make some remarks on the confession which is followed by pardon.
First, such a confession is a sincere one. It is not the prattling confession used by the mere formalist, when he bends his knee and exclaims that he is a sinner; but it is a confession which is undoubtedly sincere, because it is attended by awful agonies of mind, and usually by tears, and sighs, and groans.
This confession is attended with no apology on account of sin. We have heard of men who have confessed their guilt, and afterwards tried to extenuate their crime, and shew some reasons why they were not so guilty as apparently they would seem to be; but when the Christian confesses his guilt, you never hear a word of extenuation or apology from him.
Again: after the Christian confesses his sin, he offers no promise that he will of himself behave better.
Again: when the Christian is condemned by the law in his conscience, there is something else which makes God just in condemning him beside his confession, and that is the fact, that God himself, the Judge, comes forward as a witness to the crime. The convinced sinner feels in his own soul that his sins were committed to the face of God, in the teeth of his mercy, and that God was an exact and minute observer of every part and particle of the crime for which he is now to be condemned, and the sin which has brought him to the bar. “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.”
The other question which I hinted at as being on the public mind, is the severity of the punishment. In the case of a believer, when he is condemned, there is no doubt about the justice of the punishment. When God the Holy Ghost in the soul passes sentence on the old man, and condemns it for its sins, there is felt most solemnly in the heart the great truth, that hell itself is but a rightful punishment for sin.
As every man finds fault with the gallows who is going to be hung, so do many men find fault with hell because they fear that they are in danger of it.
But the convinced sinner is a fair witness; God has made him so, for he feels in his soul that there will be pardon given to him, and that God, by grace, will never condemn him there; but at the same time he feels that he deserves it, and he confesses that hell is not too great a punishment, and that the eternity of it is not too long a duration of punishment for the sin which he has committed.
But now a little concerning THE SECOND CONDEMNATION, which is the more fearful of the two. Some of you have never been condemned by God’s law in your conscience. Now, as I stated at first, that every man must be condemned once, so I beg to repeat it. You must either have the sentence of condemnation passed on you by the law in your conscience, and then find mercy in Christ Jesus, or else you must be condemned to another world, when you shall stand with all the human race before God’s throne.
God will be clear when he condemns a sinner, from this fact, that the sinner when he stands before God’s bar, will either have made a confession, or else such will be his terror, that he will scarce be able to brazen it out before the Almighty.
But in the second place, God will be just, because there will be witnesses there to prove it. There will be no need of witnesses; God himself will open his Book; and how astonished will you be, when all your crimes are announced, with every individual circumstance connected with them—all the minuteness of your motives, and an exact description of your designs! Suppose I should be allowed to open one of the books of God, and read that description, how astonished you would be! But what will be your astonishment, when God shall open his great book and say, “Sinner, here is thy case,” and begin to read! Ah! mark how the tears run down the sinner’s cheek; the sweat of blood comes from every pore; and the loud thundering voice still reads on, while the righteous execrate the man who could commit such acts as are recorded in that book. There may be no murder staining the page, but there may be the filthy imagination, and God reads what a man imagines; for to imagine sin is vile, though to do it is viler still. I know I should not like to have my thoughts read over for a single day. Oh! when you stand before God’s bar, and hear all this, wilt thou not say, “Lord, thou wilt condemn me, but I cannot help saying thou art just when thou condemnest, and clear when thou judgest.” There will be eye-witnesses there.
One of the miseries of hell will be that the sinner will feel that he deserves it all.
You must measure your sins not by their apparent heinousness, but by the light against which you sinned.
Oh! my dear hearers, my beloved hearers, I cannot bring you to Christ. Christ has brought some of you himself, but I cannot bring you to Christ. How often have I tried to do it! I have tried to preach my Saviour’s love, and this day I have preached my Father’s wrath; but I feel I cannot bring you to Christ. I may preach God’s law; but that will not affright you, unless God sends it home to your heart; I may preach my Saviour’s love, but that will not woo you, unless my Father draw you.
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, August 25, 2014

Book Review: Slave

Slave: The Hidden Truth About Your Identity in Christ. John MacArthur. 2010. December 2010. Thomas Nelson. 227 pages. [Source: Bought]

I first reviewed John MacArthur's Slave in 2011. I loved it then. I love it now. It's a book well worth reading and rereading. Are you a slave to sin? Or are you a slave of Christ? What does it mean to be Christ's slave? What does the Bible mean by the word slave? (And why do most translations get it wrong and translate the word slave as servant?) Why is the Bible so rich in slave-master imagery? MacArthur addresses these questions in this book. To keep it very simple, the book is about what it means to be a Christian: to be a Christian is to be a slave. The book is plenty complex. MacArthur examines slavery in the Old Testament and the New Testament. He specifically talks about slave culture during the Roman Empire. He provides readers with the context they need to grasp the significance of the biblical imagery. Readers learn about slaves; readers learn about masters. In the Christian context. Do you see God as your master? Should you be seeing God as your master? I loved how the book ties slavery into adoption. The book concludes with four "rich paradoxes" of Scripture: slavery brings freedom, slavery ends prejudice, slavery magnifies grace, and slavery pictures salvation.

Overall, the book is just excellent. I highly recommend it!!! 

The table of contents:

  • One Hidden Word
  • Ancient History, Timeless Truth
  • The Good and Faithful Slave
  • The Lord and Master (Part 1)
  • The Lord and Master (Part 2)
  • Our Lord and Our God 
  • The Slave Market of Sin
  • Bound, Blind, and Dead
  • Saved From Sin, Slaved by Grace
  • From Slaves to Sons (Part 1)
  • From Slaves to Sons (Part 2)
  • Ready to Meet the Master
  • The Riches of the Parodox

When we call ourselves Christians, we proclaim to the world that everything about us, including our very self-identity, is found in Jesus Christ because we have denied ourselves in order to follow and obey Him. He is both our Savior and our Sovereign, and our lives center on pleasing Him. To claim the title is to say with the apostle Paul, "To live is Christ and to die is gain" (Phil. 1:21) (11)
In addition to the name Christian, the Bible uses a host of other terms to identify the followers of Jesus. Scripture describes us as aliens and strangers of God, citizens of heaven, and lights to the world. We are heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, members of His body, sheep in His flock, ambassadors in His service, and friends around His table. We are called to compete like athletes, to fight like soldiers, to abide like branches in a vine, and even to desire His Word as newborn babies long for milk. All of these descriptions--each in its own unique way--help us to understand what it means to be a Christian. Yet, the Bible uses one metaphor more frequently than any of these. It is a word picture you might not expect, but it is absolutely critical for understanding what it means to follow Jesus. It is the image of a slave. Time and time again throughout the pages of Scripture, believers are referred to as slaves of God and slaves of Christ. In fact, whereas the outside world called them Christians, the earliest of believers repeatedly referred to themselves in the New Testament as the Lord's slaves. For them, the two ideas were synonymous. To be a Christian was to be a slave of Christ. (12)
We don't hear about that concept much in churches today. In contemporary Christianity the language is anything but slave terminology. It is about success, health, wealth, prosperity, and the pursuit of happiness. We often hear that God loves people unconditionally and wants them to be all they want to be. He wants to fulfill every desire, hope, and dream. Personal ambition, personal fulfillment, personal gratification--these have all become a part of the language of evangelical Christianity--and part of what it means to have a "personal relationship with Jesus Christ." Instead of teaching the New Testament gospel--where sinners are called to submit to Christ--the contemporary message is exactly the opposite: Jesus is here to fulfill all your wishes. Likening him to a personal assistant or a personal trainer, many churchgoers speak of a personal Savior who is eager to do their bidding and help them in their quest for self-satisfaction or individual accomplishment. The New Testament understanding of the believer's relationship to Christ could not be more opposite. He is the Master and Owner. We are His possession. He is the King, the Lord, and the Son of God. We are His subjects and His subordinates. In a word, we are His slaves. (14-15)
The gospel is not simply an invitation to become Christ's associate; it is a mandate to become His slave. (19)
Though the doctrine of total depravity is often the most attacked and minimized of the doctrines of grace, it is the most distinctly Christian doctrine because it is foundational to a right understanding of the gospel (in which God initiates everything and receives all the glory). The neglect of this doctrine within American evangelicalism has resulted in all kinds of errors, including both the watered-down gospel and the seeker-driven pragmatism of the church growth movement. But the Scripture is clear: unless the Spirit of God gives spiritual life, all sinners are completely unable to change their fallen nature or to rescue themselves from sin and divine judgment. They can neither initiate nor accomplish any aspect of that redemption. Even the supposed "good things" that unbelievers do are like filthy rags before a Holy God (Isa. 64:6). Contrast that with every other religious system, in which people are told that through their won efforts they can achieve some level of righteousness, thereby contributing to their salvation. Nothing could be further from the truth. (121-2)
Adoption, in Roman times, signified a new beginning: entrance into a new family such that all previous family ties and obligations were broken. The adoption process consisted of several specific legal procedures. The first step completely terminated the adopted child's social relationship and legal connection to his natural family. The second step made him a permanent member of his new family. Additionally, any previous financial obligations were eradicated, as if they had never existed… Once the adoption was complete, the new son or daughter was then completely under the care and control of the new father. The previous father no longer had any authority over his former child. (156-7)
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Week in Review: August 17-23


  • Nehemiah
  • Esther
  • Job 
  • Isaiah 40-66
  • Jeremiah 1-5
  • Matthew 18-28
  • John 1-16
  • 1 Corinthians
  • 1 Thessalonians
  • 2 Thessalonians
  • 1 Timothy
  • 2 Timothy

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Book Review: Sweet Mercy

Sweet Mercy. Ann Tatlock. 2013. Bethany House. 400 pages. [Source: Gift]

Sweet Mercy is historical fiction set in 1931 in Mercy, Ohio. It is partly a coming-of-age story, and partly a romance. Sweet Mercy is very much about Prohibition. Is it a good law? a bad law? a foolish law? a wise law?

The heroine is seventeen year old Eve Marryat. Her family has recently moved to town to stay with her Uncle Cy who owns and runs Marryat Island Ballroom and Lodge. Her family will be contributing by working whatever jobs are needed for her Uncle on any given day. Eve will have some time to herself, but, she'll also spend plenty of time working. She'll meet some people her own age. She'll have her first romance, for better or worse.

Eve has a lot to learn about life in the summer of 1931. It is a life-changing summer in many ways. She has much to consider, much to decide, much to realize. Can a person be both good and bad? Can a good person do bad things? Can a bad person do good things? How can you tell a good person from a bad person if they both are capable of doing good and bad?

I loved many things about Sweet Mercy. I loved Eve and her family. I loved Eve's friendship with her step-cousin, Jones. I appreciated the character of Jones. I felt for him, I really did. And I loved to see Eve reach out to him as she did. I also liked Eve's developing relationship with her future husband. I liked the framework of the story: the framework being her telling the story of that summer to her grandson.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Book Review: Making Sense of the Bible

Making Sense of the Bible. David Whitehead. 2014. Bethany House. 176 pages. [Source: Review copy]

In many ways, it doesn't get more basic than Making Sense of the Bible. Whitehead does a good enough job in giving readers essential background information; he covers all the basics.

In the introduction, he discusses why it's important for believers to read the Bible. He covers why it's important to have an understanding of the Bible, but, even more important to have a relationship with God--a relationship grounded in the truth of God's Revelation.

In the first chapter, he addresses a question that may authentically confuse some: WHY are there so many translations?! He covers the basics there as well. (Whole books have been written on translation philosophies and what translations are really "best." Whitehead offers a good introduction, but, it is by no means a thorough discussion of the subject.)

In the second chapter, he discusses "the heart of the reader." He discusses reading and studying the Bible. He writes,
"It's humbling to think that we don't judge the Bible, the Bible judges us. If we see the Bible in the way it speaks of itself--as the very Word of God--then our reaction to the Scriptures is more than just a reaction. It is a clue to the condition of our heart" (30). 
In the third chapter, he discusses writing styles in the Bible.

Whitehead's strength perhaps is his ability to summarize. This is revealed in chapters four through 12. In these chapters, Whitehead summarizes essentially all 66 books of the Bible--perhaps not with equal depth. These summaries come about through his discussions about genres: gospels, epistles, Old Testament narratives, poetry, and prophetic literature. He also summarizes the lives of Abraham, Moses, David, and Jesus. It would be hard to understand many portions of the New Testament without a good idea of who Abraham, Moses, and David were. And this book will give readers what they need to grasp the big picture of the Bible. It is mostly summary work. Are his summaries the best summaries available on the books of the Bible? Probably not. I really LOVE, LOVE, LOVE How To Read the Bible Through the Jesus Lens. And I loved Woodrow Kroll's Read Your Bible One Book At A Time.

I was personally annoyed by the author's dismissive attitude of Revelation. Revelation is one of my favorite, favorite, favorite books of the Bible. It has SO MUCH to offer readers, and this author dismisses it as "not based upon real events" and warns readers that "they won't get much out of Revelation." It is a book about the future, yes, but that doesn't mean that it's not based upon real events just because those events are in the future instead of the past.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

My Year with Spurgeon #33

Charles Spurgeon
“Thou God seest me.”—Genesis 16:13.
In the first place, I shall notice the general doctrine, that God observes all men. In the second place, I shall notice the particular doctrine, “Thou God seest me.” And in the third place, I shall draw from it some practical and comforting inferences to different orders of persons now assembled, each of whom may learn something from this short sentence.
The word which the Greeks applies to God implied that he was a God who could see. They called him *Theos* (Theos); and they derived that word, if I read rightly, from the root *Theisthai* (Theisthai), to see, because they regarded God as being the all-seeing one, whose eye took in the whole universe at a glance, and whose knowledge extended far beyond that of mortals. God Almighty, from his very essence and nature, must be an Omniscient God. Strike out the thought that he sees me, and you extinguish Deity by a single stroke. There were no God if that God had no eyes, for a blind God were no God at all.
There is a working God everywhere, a God with his eyes open everywhere, a God with his hands at work everywhere; a God doing something, not a God slumbering, but a God labouring.
Jesus Christ preached a very successful sermon once when he had but one hearer, because he had the woman sitting on the well, and she could not say that Christ was preaching to her neighbour. He said to her, “Go, call thy husband, and come hither.” There was something there which smote her heart; she could not evade the confession of her guilt. But in regard to our congregations, the old orator might soon see his prayer answered, “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears,” for when the gospel is preached, we lend our ears to everybody; we are accustomed to hear for our neighbours, and not for ourselves. Now, I have no objection to your lending anything else you like, but I have a strong objection to you lending your ears; I shall be glad if you will keep them at home for a minute or two, for I want to make you hear for yourselves this truth “Thou God seest me.”
Mark, God sees you—selecting any one out of this congregation—he sees you, he sees you as much as if there were nobody else in the world for him to look at. If I have as many people as there are here to look at, of course my attention must be divided; but the infinite mind of God is able to grasp a million objects at once, and yet to set itself, as much upon one, as if there were nothing else but that one; so that you, to-night, are looked at by God as much as if throughout space there were not another creature but yourself.
In the next place God sees you entirely. He does not merely note your actions; he does not simply notice what is the appearance of your countenance; he does not merely take into his eyesight what your posture may be; but remember, God sees what you are thinking of; he looks within. God has a window in every man’s heart, through which he looks; he does not want you to tell him what you are thinking about—he can see that, he can read right through you.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, August 18, 2014

Book Review: Miracle in a Dry Season

Miracle in a Dry Season. Sarah Loudin Thomas. 2014. Bethany House. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Miracle in a Dry Season is a historical romance novel set in 1954 in Wise, West Virginia. The hero is a bachelor in his thirties, I believe. His name is Casewell Phillips, and he's a carpenter. The heroine is a single mother. A never-been-married single mother. She's coming to live with her aunt and uncle. Her name is Perla Long and her daughter is Sadie. (Sadie is a lovely little girl! She makes quite an impression on Casewell! I thought the scenes between the two were great!) Casewell has certain ideas about the woman of his dreams, the kind of woman he could see himself marrying and having a family with. The woman of his dreams, for better or worse, does not  already have a child, and certainly not a child born out of wedlock. Yet the more time he spends with Perla and little Sadie, the more time he wants to spend with them. They seem to fit together just right--the three of them. She needs his friendship--for various reasons--but he needs her too. It may just be the whole town needs her.

The novel is called Miracle in a Dry Season, and the book is definitely about a dry season--or drought. Aside from the developing romance, I found Miracle in a Dry Season to be a mess requiring a good amount of patience. The elements of the story that did not work for me--at least not work well for me--would require many spoilers.

There were definitely characters that I loved spending time with. I really loved the Talbot sisters Angie and Liza, for example. I liked elements of this one. But I didn't LOVE it.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Week in Review: August 10-16


  • 2 Chronicles 9-36
  • Ezra
  • Isaiah 16-39
  • Matthew 1-17


  • Psalms 1-41
  • 1 Timothy
  • 2 Timothy

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Book Review: Captured by Love

Captured by Love. Jody Hedlund. 2014. Bethany House. 384 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I never expected to love a book set during the War of 1812. But I did. This historical romance was one I didn't want to put down. I read it all in one day!

Angelique MacKenzie is the heroine of Captured by Love. She grew up spending time with two brothers: Pierre Durant and his brother Jean. These three--as children--were always together. After Pierre left home--not on the best of terms--she and Jean continued to be close. Close enough that she accepted his marriage proposal a few years ago. But now there is war. She is living on an island recaptured by Britain. Jean left the island to join the American army.  To complicate matters further, Pierre has returned to the island for the first time in years--five years, I believe. He returns to find his mother in great need. She's blind and dependent on Angelique's kindness. Times are hard for everyone. Every one is hungry.

But I get the feeling that Angelique's life would be hard regardless of the war. For her guardian, Ebenezer Whiley, is mean, mean, mean.

Having Pierre back on the island is good news and bad news. Depending on your perspective!

I really enjoyed this historical romance.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Book Review: Centurion

Centurion: Mark's Gospel As A Thriller. Ryan Casey Waller. 2013. Interlochen Ink. 190 pages. [Source: Bought]

I have conflicting thoughts on Ryan Casey Waller's novel, Centurion. On the one hand, it is a dystopian novel set in the American South at the turn of the next century--2099. On the other hand, it is a retelling of the gospel of Mark. The novel is an attempt to blend the dystopian-futuristic genre with biblical fiction. This blending gets messy in places. I won't deny that there are scenes in this novel that do work or function. But I can't pretend that the mess doesn't exist either.

The protagonist of Centurion is Deacon Larsen. His parents sent him to the West to escape some of the hardships of the South. The South is definitely more under the dominion of the Kingdom--led by King Charles. There are not opportunities for success or happiness…not like in other parts of the country. Deacon returns home with a specific mission in mind: do as much damage to the Kingdom as possible, die for the cause, but get revenge and use all the anger you've been building up. What he didn't expect was to fall in love with a woman named Maria who follows the Teacher. The more time he spends with Maria and her Teacher, the more confused he becomes. There are small moments here and there where he "sees the light" and decides that maybe just maybe he shouldn't live for anger and be willing to die for revenge. But the moments where he "gets it" are very outweighed by those other moments. Let's just say that Maria isn't his only influence. Jude has plans for Deacon, and, he did meet him first.

The world-building was messy. For a dystopian novel to truly work, it has to make some sense and be somewhat believable. Here is the background we're given: The era of Great Uncertainty finally had come to an end when the English squashed the Chinese uprising and seized governmental power in this country once and for all. It had been a full decade since any single authority had ruled the vast land that was once the USA. The incredibly evil kingdom is British. It is ruled by a King Charles. King Charles has centurion soldiers. He rules over--cruelly and unjustly--at least part of the former states. I don't think his dominion is over the western states. But it isn't just this new kingdom that requires readers to suspend their disbelief. (Why would the British hang people on crosses?!) There are the religious details too. The religious side is in a way extremely, annoyingly vague. He is "the Teacher." The religion doesn't have a name, no origin is given. No background or context is given. Readers are told that the Kingdom essentially pays little to no attention to religious people because they don't see the religion as being threatening. There are supposedly--again no real background or context being given--religious leaders and/or institutions in place that may govern over religious followers. There is a Holy City. (Which Southern city of the U.S. is supposed to be THE Holy City???) There is a religious festival involving animal sacrifice at a Holy Temple. (It is never identified as Passover, of course, because that would prevent this religion from being vague and nameless.)

This novel works best when it is focused on the Teacher. When readers see the Teacher teaching or preaching or performing miracles. These scenes are largely lifted from Scripture. Readers are part of the crowd, they are seeing and hearing for themselves.

The novel is also mostly successful in illustrating why the crowds--the masses--wanted deliverance from oppression and an actual revolution or uprising. They wanted freedom from the kingdom that oppressed them--literal freedom. Not freedom from sin or thoughts or attitudes.

The two genres being combined are so very different that the blending process is uneven at best. A dystopian retelling of the gospel could work if the focus was clearer and some of the details worked out better. Is the foundation of the dystopian a big what-if, what if Jesus did not come when he did--during the first century, Roman Empire? What would the world have been like if it was still waiting for a Savior or Messiah to come? What would the world have been like if Jesus had never come? What would countries and governments have been like? How would people be treated? More rights? Less rights? More problems? Less problems? About the same? What about cultures? What about developments and progress? Would people have still clung to the God of the Old Testament? Would people still believe in God as revealed in Holy Scripture? Would animal sacrifices still be occurring as part of that religion in 2099? How would the history of the world been changed? Would anything be the same? How dramatically different would the world be?  A dystopian retelling of the gospel demands a lot of thought and world-building. It would not be easy to make it convincing and believable. Biblical fiction--keeping the setting the same as the Bible--would have been an easier task perhaps. And one could have still kept it relevant and personal and from the same perspective. The protagonist still could have been an angry, bitter young man who wanted to be part of an uprising or rebellion. He could have wanted WAR and blood to be spilled and not have to have a gun and travel by taxi. It's not in the making it contemporary or futuristic that makes it relevant to modern readers. One could just as easily sell the reader on the idea of ROMAN oppression.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

My Year With Spurgeon #32

Salvation to the Uttermost
Charles Spurgeon
“Where he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.”—Hebrews 7:25.
Salvation, then, is to be found in the Scriptures, and in the Scriptures only; for we can read nothing of it elsewhere. And while it is to be found only in Scripture, I hold that the peculiar doctrine of revelation is salvation. I believe that the Bible was sent not to teach me history, but to teach me grace—not to give me a system of philosophy, but to give me a system of divinity—not to teach worldly wisdom, but spiritual wisdom. Hence I hold all preaching of philosophy and science in the pulpit to be altogether out of place. I would check no man’s liberty in this matter, for God only is the Judge of man’s conscience; but it is my firm opinion that if we profess to be Christians, we are bound to keep to Christianity; if we profess to be Christian ministers, we drivel away the Sabbath-day, we mock our hearers, we insult God, if we deliver lectures upon botany, or geology, instead of delivering sermons salvation.
He who does not always preach the gospel, ought not to be accounted a true-called minister of God.
We have, in our text, two or three things. In the first place, we are told who they are who will be saved, “them that come into God by Jesus Christ;” in the second place we are told the extent of the Saviour’s ability to save, “He is able to save to the uttermost;” and in the third place, we have the reason given why he can save, “seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.”
By coming to God we are not to understand the mere formality of devotion, since this may be but a solemn means of sinning. What a splendid general confession is that in the Church of England Prayer Book: “We have erred and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep; we have done those things which we ought not to have done, and we have left undone those things which we ought to have done, and there is no health in us.” There is not to be found a finer confession in the English language. And yet how often, my dear friends, have the best of us mocked God by repeating such expressions verbally, and thinking we have done our duty! How many of you go to chapel, and must confess your own absence of mind while you have bowed your knee in prayer, or uttered a song of praise! My friends, it is one thing to go to church or chapel; it is quite another thing to go to God.
And let me tell you, again, that coming to God is not what some of you suppose—now and then sincerely performing an act of devotion, but giving to the world the greater part of your life. You think that if sometimes you are sincere, if now and then you put up an earnest cry to heaven, God will accept you; and though your life may be still worldly, and your desires still carnal, you suppose that for the sake of this occasional devotion God will be pleased, in his infinite mercy, to blot out your sins. I tell you, sinners, there is no such thing as bringing half of yourselves to God, and leaving the other half away. If a man has come here, I suppose he has brought his whole self with him; and so if a man comes to God, he cannot come, half of him, and half of him stay away. Our whole being must be surrendered to the service of our Maker. We must come to him with an entire dedication of ourselves, giving up all we are, and all we ever shall be, to be thoroughly devoted to his service, otherwise we have never come to God aright.
The whole man must seek after the Lord; the whole soul must be poured out before him; otherwise it is no acceptable coming to God at all.
I think I hear one say, “Well, then, tell us what it is to come to God.” I answer, coming to God implies, leaving something else. If a man comes to God, he must leave his sins; he must leave his righteousness; he must leave both his bad works and his good ones, and come to God, leaving them entirely.
Coming to God signifies having some love to God. Again: coming to God signifies desiring God, desiring to be near to him. And, above all, it signifies praying to God and putting faith in him. This is coming to God; and those that have come to God in that fashion are among the saved.
Let me solemnly assure you, in God’s most holy name, there never was a prayer answered for salvation, by God the Creator, since Adam fell, without Jesus Christ the Mediator. “No man can come unto God but by Jesus Christ;” and if any one of you deny the Divinity of Christ, and if any soul among you do not come to God through the merits of a Saviour, bold fidelity obliges me to pronounce you condemned persons; for however amiable you may be, you cannot be right in the rest, unless you think rightly of him.
The Father will never save a man apart from Christ; there is not one soul now in heaven who was not saved by Jesus Christ; there is not one who ever came to God aright, who did not come through Jesus Christ. If you would be at peace with God, you must come to him through Christ, as the way, the truth, and the life, making mention of his righteousness, and of his only.
How far can salvation go? What are its limits and its boundaries? Christ is a Saviour: how far is he able to save? He is a Physician: to what extent will his skill reach to heal diseases? What a noble answer the text gives! “He is able to save to the uttermost.”
Sinner, Christ is “able to save to the uttermost;” by which we understand that the uttermost extent of guilt is not beyond the power of the Saviour. Can any one tell what is the uttermost amount to which a man might sin?
My dear friend, suppose you had gone to the uttermost, remember that even then you would not have gone beyond the reach of divine mercy; for he is “able to save to the uttermost,” and it is possible that you yourself might go a little further, and therefore you have not gone to the uttermost yet. However far you may have gone—if you have gone to the very artic regions of vice, where the sun of mercy seems to scatter but a few oblique rays, there can the light of salvation reach you. If I should see a sinner staggering on in his progress to hell, I would not give him up, even when he had advanced to the last stage of iniquity. Though his foot hung trembling over the very verge of perdition, I would not cease to pray for him; and though he should in his poor drunken wickedness go staggering on till one foot were over hell, and he were ready to perish, I would not despair of him. Till the pit had shut her mouth upon him I would believe it still possible that divine grace might save him. See here! he is just upon the edge of the pit, ready to fall; but ere he falls, free grace bids, “Arrest that man!” Down mercy comes, catches him on her broad wings, and he is saved, a trophy of redeeming love. If there be any such in this vast assembly—if there be any here of the outcast of society, the vilest of the vile, the scum, the draff of this poor world,—oh! ye chief of sinners! Christ is “able to save to the uttermost.” Tell that everywhere, in every garret, in every cellar, in every haunt of vice, in every kennel of sin; tell it everywhere! “To the uttermost!” “He is able to save them to the uttermost.”
I tell you, sinner, you may have rejected Christ to the very uttermost; but he is still able to save you. There are a thousand prayers on which you have trampled, there are a hundred sermons all wasted on you, there are thousands of Sabbaths which you have thrown away; you have rejected Christ, you have despised his Spirit; but still he ceases not to cry, “Return, return!” He is “able to save thee to the uttermost,” if thou comest unto God by him.
If Christ is able to save a Christian to the uttermost, do you suppose he will ever let a Christian perish? Wherever I go, I hope always to bear my hearty protest against the most accursed doctrine of a saint’s falling away and perishing. There are some ministers who preach that a man may be a child of God (now, angels! do not hear what I am about to say, listen to me, ye who are down below in hell, for it may suit you) that a man may be a child of God to-day, and a child of the devil to-morrow; that God may acquit a man, and yet condemn him—save him by grace, and then let him perish—suffer a man to be taken out of Christ’s hands, though he has said such a thing shall never take place. How will you explain this? It certainly is no lack of power. You must accuse him of a want of love, and will you dare to do that? He is full of love; and since he has also the power, he will never suffer one of his people to perish. It is true, and ever shall be true, that he will save them to the very uttermost.
Now, in the last place, WHY IS THAT JESUS CHRIST IS “ABLE TO SAVE TO THE UTTERMOST?” The answer is, that he “ever liveth to make intercession for them.” This implies that he died, which is indeed the great source of his saving power. Oh! how sweet it is to reflect upon the great and wonderous works which Christ hath done, whereby he hath become “the high priest of our profession,” able to save us! It is pleasant to look back to Calvary’s hill, and to behold that bleeding form expiring on the tree; it is sweet, amazingly sweet, to pry with eyes of love between those thick olives, and hear the groanings of the Man who sweat great drops of blood. Sinner, if thou askest me how Christ can save thee, I tell thee this—he can save thee, because he did not save himself; he can save thee, because he took thy guilt and endured thy punishment. There is no way of salvation apart from the satisfaction of divine justice. Either the sinner must die, or else some one must die for him. Sinner, Christ can save thee, because, if thou comest to God by him, then he died for thee. God has a debt against us, and he never remits that debt; he will have it paid. Christ pays it, and then the poor sinner goes free.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, August 11, 2014

Book Review: Wonder-Working God

The Wonder-Working God. Jared C. Wilson. 2014. Crossway. 192 pages. [Source: Review copy]

In March, I reviewed Jared C. Wilson's The Storytelling God: Seeing the Glory of Jesus in His Parables. I was happy to be able to review The Wonder-Working God: Seeing the Glory of Jesus in His Miracles. Both books are excellent, by the way. Both focus on God's glory as revealed in Jesus Christ. Wilson argues that "miracles are pictures of what happens when God's will is manifest on earth as it is in heaven."

From the introduction:
What if the miracles in the Bible— and miracles today, should they still occur— are not God trying to convince us he’s “up there somewhere,” looming out there in heaven and trying on earth to get us to acknowledge him, but are actually God showing us that he is right here and right now in charge? What if, in other words, God is not an interloper in our world, but the things we find so familiarly “everyday”— sin, corruption, injustice, decay, death— these very “laws of nature,” are interlopers in his? When we are able to see the world that way, we get closer to the heart of the gospel. The miracles of Jesus serve that end, and when we see the world through the reality of the kingdom of God, the miracles become just as provocative, just as scandalous, in this day as they were in first-century Palestine. We post-postmoderns pride ourselves on being beyond all that superstitious hokum, but we place our hopes in the same sorts of sentimental magic as the ancients. We worship our accomplishments and our knowledge, because we worship ourselves.
The Wonder-Working God is a book that closely examines the miracles performed during Jesus' ministry. There is a big-picture focus: how do the miracles fit into the big picture of the kingdom? what do they reveal? what do they reveal about us? what can they teach us about ourselves? what do they reveal about God?  what can they teach us about God? But Wilson spends plenty of time focusing on the details of some of the miracles. Again stressing what miracles reveal about the kingdom of God. By the way, if you're looking for a deeper understanding of the phrase "kingdom of God" and what it means, then, this book has it! This is a King-exalting book!!!
But in the proclamation of his kingdom, something special, something different, is happening. The reign of God is finally and directly being pressed into the brokenness of the world— the sins of men and the rebellion and injustice of mankind— fulfilling God’s promise to one day set things back to rights. The church often gets “the kingdom” wrong, because we equate it so often with the church or with the place of paradise we call heaven. But while both the church and heaven are integral to the purposes of God’s kingdom, neither is itself the kingdom. The kingdom is God’s reign, his sovereignty, his will being done… The kingdom of God broke into the world in and through the person of Jesus. There can be no kingdom without a king, and ours comes announcing that God is now forgiving sins, restoring peace and justice, reversing the curse, and setting in motion the end of days. This is— finally— good news for a creation that is groaning for redemption. All that is left for us to do is repent and believe, and the kingdom blessings will be ours, too. But only through Jesus. No Jesus, no blessing.
Because the entire world has been affected by mankind’s sin, the way the Bible talks about the kingdom’s coming seems somewhat cataclysmic. This place is broken, but because we have become so accustomed to living with the brokenness, the very restoration of the place can seem like a breaking. And it is. It is a breaking of the way things have been and a resetting to the way they ought to be.
I loved this book. I loved it because I learned so much from reading it. I loved the focus on Scripture. And I loved some of the insights the book provides about what the gospel is and what the kingdom is. I loved the focus on Jesus' ministry, the closer examination of his preaching and healing, of Jesus' disciples, of the crowds both believing and  unbelieving.

Favorite quotes:
Something for nothing? That is the exchange offered in the gospel of Jesus. Bring your nothingness, and he will give you his everything. It’s the only exchange Christ will make.
There is one great sign that you are loved more than you thought. It is the cross. And there is a still further sign that you will live in this love forever. It is the empty tomb.
There are a lot of reasons for difficulties and sufferings in the world, but a powerless, passive God isn’t one of them.
Like the Bible that reveals it, the gospel is not about us but for us. The story is chiefly about God’s glory. But in the gospel, we are partakers of that glory. So part of the story of Christ’s death and resurrection is the story of the captives being freed from sin and shame.
We love for Jesus to fix our circumstances and our pains, but we often don’t want him doing the invasive surgery his gospel is designed for.
So often we try to have Jesus without his cross. We carry on, assuming the Christian life should be typified by comfort rather than suffering, assuming sin will disappear without its being intentionally killed, assuming Jesus saves us because we’re essentially awesome people. But the Savior without the cross is no Savior. The Messiah without the cross is no Messiah. The King without the cross is no King. So to take Jesus and remove the offense of the cross is a satanic act. When you seek to have Christ without taking his cross, you are not aligning with Christ but with the Devil.
It is perhaps a modern myth of the church that every lost person feels lost. The reality for many of us is that we are too satisfied with our ambitions.
The incarnation is crucial to the good news of forgiveness of sins and the gift of eternal life. The reality is this: only man should pay the price for the sins of mankind, but only God could pay the price for the sins of mankind. Thus, in Jesus Christ, the “man should” and the “God could” unite in perfect payment and pure pardon.
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Week in Review: August 3-9


  • Ruth
  • 1 Chronicles
  • 2 Chronicles 1-9
  • Proverbs
  • Ecclesiastes
  • Song of Solomon
  • Isaiah 1-15
  • Luke 5-24
  • Ephesians
  • Philippians
  • Colossians


  • Mark 9-16

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, August 8, 2014

Book Review: In Perfect Time

In Perfect Time. Sarah Sundin. 2014. Revell. 416 pages. [Source: Review copy]

In Perfect Time is the third book in the Wings of a Nightingale series by Sarah Sundin. The first two novels in the series are With Every Letter and On Distant Shores. Lt. Kay Jobson has appeared in earlier books in the series. In Perfect Time is her story.

Lt. Kay Jobson has an interesting backstory. Readers finally learn more about this flirtatious nurse who is resistant to the gospel. Kay has a habit of mistrusting Christians. As you might expect, there is a reason. But Kay doesn't tell just anyone, especially at first. So it's not fair for me to tell you either!

Lt. Roger Cooper is a pilot with dreams of being a drummer in a big band. He loves the Lord, and, he's committed to living a holy life. For him that means distancing himself from women and from dating. He doesn't see dating as a game. He thinks dating should lead somewhere, to marriage. And he knows he's not ready for marriage. He does not want to put himself in situations where he could be tempted. He wants to guard his heart and mind.

On the surface perhaps, Roger and Kay are unlikely friends. But after sharing a conversation or two, Roger feels led to give her something very personal: his very own Bible with his notes. He barely knows her. He does know that she needs the Lord.

In Perfect Time is a lovely story about a man and woman discovering and perhaps rediscovering the good news and God's overflowing grace. It is an exciting read in terms of action as well.

I would definitely recommend this series!

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Worth Quoting #12 Call to Discipleship

From The Wonder-Working God by Jared C. Wilson:

Where we get the idea that Christianity excludes suffering, I don’t rightly know. It likely comes mostly from our flesh, from our prideful idolization of comfort and pleasure. It comes somewhat from just plain ol’ crappy doctrine. It certainly does not come from the Bible. 

In the story of the man whose house is built on the rock (Matt. 7:24-27), the firm foundation does not keep the storm away. In fact, according to the Scriptures, being a Christian means being willing to take on more suffering than the average person. Not only must we endure the same pains, stresses, and diseases of every other mortal, but we agree to take on the added burden of insults, hardships, and persecutions on account of our faith. 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes: "The cross is laid on every Christian. The first Christ-suffering which every man must experience is the call to abandon the attachments of this world. It is that dying of the old man which is the result of his encounter with Christ. As we embark upon discipleship we surrender ourselves to Christ in union with his death— we give over our lives to death. Thus it begins; the cross is not the terrible end to an otherwise god-fearing and happy life, but it meets us at the beginning of our communion with Christ. When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die." (Cost of Discipleship, 99)

The call to discipleship, in other words, is not an invitation for one of those popular Christian cruises. I can see the advertisement in the Christian magazine now:

Jesus! Shuffleboard! Seafood Buffet! Join Jesus Christ and twelve other influential teachers for seven luxurious days and six restful nights on the maiden voyage of our five-star, five-story ship of dreams, the S.S. Smooth Sailing. Enjoy karaoke with your favorite psalmists on the lido deck or splash your cares away in our indoor water park with a safe crowd of people who look just like you! 

Instead, Jesus calls us into nasty crosswinds in a boat specifically designed to make us trust totally in him. And if the boat even appears to offer safety from the waves, Jesus may actually call us out of it and into the sea (Matt. 14:29). But in either place, he will be there with us, not to help us worry but to help us believe. Thus, it is imperative that we have our theology straight before we even get in the boat.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

My Year with Spurgeon #31

Indwelling Sin
Charles Spurgeon
“Then Job answered the Lord and said, Behold, I am vile.”—Job 40:3-4.
When we believe in Jesus Christ all our sins are pardoned; yet the power of sin, albeit that it is weakened and kept under by the dominion of the new-born nature which God doth infuse into our souls, doth not cease, but still tarrieth in us, and will do so to our dying day. It is a doctrine held by all the orthodox, that there dwelleth still in the regenerate, the lusts of the flesh, and that there doth still remain in the hearts of those who are converted by God’s mercy, the evil of carnal nature.
But scarcely do I need to prove this, beloved; for all of you, I am sure, who know anything about the experience of a living child of God, have found that in your best and happiest moments sin still dwells in you; that when you would serve your God the best, sin frequently works in you the most furiously. There have been many saints of God who have abstained, for a time, from doing anything they have known to be sin; but still there has not been one who has been inwardly perfect.
How wrong it is of any of us, from the fact of our possessing evil hearts, to excuse our sins.
Some persons, who profess to be Christians, speak very lightly of sin. There was corruption still remaining, and therefore they said they could not help it. Such persons have no visible part nor lot in God’s covenant.
The truly loving child of God, though he knows sin is there, hates that sin; it is a pain and misery to him, and he never makes the corruption of his heart as an excuse for the corruption of his life; he never pleads the evil of his nature, as an apology for the evil of his conduct. If any man can, in the least degree, clear himself from the conviction of his own conscience, on account of his daily failings, by pleading the evil of his heart, he is not one of the broken-hearted children of God; he is not one of the tried servants of the Lord, for they groan concerning sin, and carry it to God’s throne; they know it is in them—they do not, therefore, leave it, but seek with all their minds to keep it down, In order that it may not rise and carry them away.
But indwelling sin does more than that: it not only prevents us from going forward, but at times even assails us, as well as seeks to obstruct us. It is not merely that I fight with indwelling sin; it is indwelling sin that sometimes makes an assault on me. You will notice, the Apostle says, “O, wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” Now, this proves that he was not attacking his sin, but that this sin was attacking him. I do not seek to be delivered from a man against whom I lead the attack: but it is the man who is opposing from whom I seek to be delivered. And so sometimes the sin that dwelleth in believers flies at us, like some foul tiger of the woods, or some demon, jealous of the celestial spirit within us. The evil nature riseth up: it doth not only seek to stop us in the way, but, like Amalek, it labours to destroy us and cut us off utterly. Did you ever feel, beloved, the attacks of inbred sin? It may be, you have not: but if not, depend upon it you will. Before you get all the way to heaven, you will be attacked by sin. It will not be simply your driving out the Canaanite; but the Canaanite, with chariot of iron, will attempt to overcome you, to drive you out, to kill your spiritual nature, damp the flame of your piety, and crush the new life which God has implanted in you.
The evil heart which still remaineth in the Christian, doth always, when it is not attacking or obstructing, still reign and dwell within him. My heart is just as bad when no evil emanates from it, as when it is all over vileness in its external developments. A volcano is ever a volcano; even when it sleeps, trust it not. A lion is a lion, even though he play like a kid; and a serpent, is a serpent, even though you may stroke it while for a season it slumbers; there is still a venom in its sting when its azure scales invite the eye. My heart, even though for an hour, it may not have had an evil thought, is still evil. If it were possible that I could live for days without a single temptation from my own heart to sin, it would be still just as evil as it was before; and it is always either displaying its vileness, or else preparing for another display. It is either loading its cannon to shoot against us, or else it is positively at warfare with us. You may rest assured that the heart is never other than it originally was; the evil nature is still evil; and when there is no blaze, it is heaping up the wood, wherewith it is to blaze another day. It is gathering up from my joys, from my devotions, from my holiness, and from all I do, some materials to attack me at some future period. The evil nature is only evil, and that continually, without the slightest mitigation or element of good.
Nothing shows blackness like exposure to light. If I would see the blackness of my own character, I must put it side by side with spotless purity; and when the Lord is pleased to give us some special vision of himself, some sweet intercourse with his own blessed person, then it is that the soul learns, as it never knew before, with an agony perhaps which it never felt, even when at first convinced of sin, “Behold, I am vile.”
If I must trust my God when I first set out, because of the difficulties in the way, if those difficulties be not diminished, I ought to trust God just as much as I did before. Oh! beloved, yield your hearts to God. Do not become self-sufficient. Self-sufficiency is Satan’s net, wherein he catcheth men, like poor silly fish, and doth destroy them. Be not self-sufficient. Think yourselves nothing, for ye are nothing, and live by God’s help. The way to grow strong in Christ is to become weak in yourself. God poureth no power into man’s heart till man’s power is all poured out. Live, then, daily, a life of dependence on the grace of God. Do not set thyself up as if thou wast an independent gentleman; do not start in thine own concerns as if thou couldst do all things thyself; but live always trusting in God. Thou has as much need to trust him now as ever thou hadst; for, mark thee, although thou wouldst have been damned without Christ, at first, thou wilt be damned without Christ now, unless he still keeps thee, for thou has as evil a nature now as thou hadst then.
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, August 4, 2014

Book Review: Bridge to Haven

Bridge to Haven. Francine Rivers. 2014. Tyndale House. 468 pages. [Source: Library]

Filling his lungs with cool October air, Pastor Ezekiel Freeman started his morning vigil. He had laid out the route on a map when he first came to town. Each building brought people to mind, and he upheld them before the Lord, giving thanks for trials they had come through, praying over trials they now faced, and asking God what part he might play in helping them.

In 1936, Pastor Zeke finds an abandoned newborn baby under the bridge. He and his wife take the baby into their home for five lovely years. But when his wife dies, Pastor Zeke finds it too difficult to continue to care for Abra. For better or worse, he feels Abra deserves a better home, a home with a mom and a dad. There was another couple from the very beginning who wanted to adopt Abra. They have a daughter, Penny, and they'd always wanted her to have a sister. So he makes a difficult decision. To give away Abra. It's a decision that Abra does not understand at all. It's a decision that Joshua doesn't understand. Joshua has just spent five years of his life having a little sister, and, now she's gone and given away to another family!

Bridge to Haven is Abra's story start to finish. It's a very human story with touches of unconditional love and merciful grace. But it also serves as a testimony of the world's fallenness. Abra is emotionally troubled. She knows her mom left her on the side of the road essentially. She knows that her dad, Pastor Zeke, gave her away. From her point of view, she has no reason to trust her new mom and dad. She knows that more than likely it's just a matter of time before they want to be rid of her too. Her relationship with her sister, Penny, is a trial. The rivalry between these two is fierce. Abra does not know what it feels like to be loved and accepted. This is in part a perception issue. Abra doubts what people tell her. She can hear the words I love you, I want you, but she doesn't FEEL them to be true.

Abra learns lessons the hard way. And sometimes that is what it takes. Abra finds herself far from home, lost and confused, and full of regrets. Feeling a little shame for what led her to Hollywood leads her to making bigger mistakes, thinking that it is too late for her, too late to go home, too late to turn her life around.

I loved Bridge to Haven. I loved the community of Haven. I loved meeting all the people. I loved seeing Mitzi and Abra together. Mitzi's friendship provides stability, and, so does her tell-it-like-it-is honesty. Mitzi also teaches her to play the piano. Through spending years with Mitzi, she learns all the hymn in the hymnals. And it is the hymns that will speak to her in her lowest moments decades later. The setting, as I said, was fabulous. I also loved the characters of Pastor Zeke and Joshua. Readers get to know Joshua very well. The book even follows Joshua to the Korean War. I wasn't expecting that! But it was great to spend equal amounts of time with the hero and heroine.

I would definitely recommend this one!!!

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Week in Review: July 27 - August 2


  • Psalm 73-150
  • Jeremiah 37-52
  • Lamentations
  • Mark 1-8
  • 1 Timothy
  • 2 Timothy
  • Titus
  • Philemon
  • 1 Peter
  • 2 Peter
  • 1 John 
  • 2 John
  • 3 John
  • Jude
  • Revelation

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible