Thursday, July 30, 2015

Quotes from the Cloud #30

This year, I hope share weekly posts of quotes. These quotes are from authors I'm reading and enjoying from the Clouds of Witnesses Reading Challenge

For fellow participants, what I would LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to see is for people to share quotes from what they're reading. I'd love for you to share quotes occasionally with your readers and let me know about it. If you don't have a blog, you could always leave quotes in the comments here.
If you are interested enough to have read thus far you are probably interested enough to make a shot at saying your prayers: and, whatever else you say, you will probably say the Lord’s Prayer.
Its very first words are Our Father. Do you now see what those words mean? They mean quite frankly, that you are putting yourself in the place of a son of God. To put it bluntly, you are dressing up as Christ. If you like, you are pretending. Because, of course, the moment you realise what the words mean, you realise that you are not a son of God. You are not being like The Son of God, whose will and interests are at one with those of the Father: you are a bundle of self-centred fears, hopes, greeds, jealousies, and self-conceit, all doomed to death. So that, in a way, this dressing up as Christ is a piece of outrageous cheek. But the odd thing is that He has ordered us to do it. ~ C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
We say a great many things in church (and out of church too) without thinking of what we are saying. For instance, we say in the Creed “I believe in the forgiveness of sins.” I had been saying it for several years before I asked myself why it was in the Creed. At first sight it seems hardly worth putting in. “If one is a Christian,” I thought, “of course one believes in the forgiveness of sins. It goes without saying.” But the people who compiled the Creed apparently thought that this was a part of our belief which we needed to be reminded of every time we went to church. And I have begun to see that, as far as I am concerned, they were right. To believe in the forgiveness of sins is not nearly so easy as I thought. Real belief in it is the sort of thing that very easily slips away if we don’t keep on polishing it up.We believe that God forgives us our sins; but also that He will not do so unless we forgive other people their sins against us. There is no doubt about the second part of this statement. It is in the Lord’s Prayer; it was emphatically stated by our Lord. If you don’t forgive, you will not be forgiven. No part of His teaching is clearer, and there are no exceptions to it. He doesn’t say that we are to forgive other people’s sins provided they are not too frightful, or provided there are extenuating circumstances, or anything of that sort. We are to forgive them all, however spiteful, however mean, however often they are repeated. If we don’t, we shall be forgiven none of our own. ~ C.S. Lewis, Weight of Glory
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that Christians are people who never sin or feel sinful. Rather, because of their faith in Christ, God simply doesn’t attribute their sin to them. This teaching is comforting to those who have terrified consciences. To the extent we are Christians, we stand above the law and sin. Christ is the Lord of the law. He is present and locked in our hearts, just as a precious stone is firmly mounted in a ring. When the law accuses us and sin terrifies us, all we need to do is look to Christ. When we have taken hold of him in faith, we have the victor over the law, sin, death, and the devil with us. Because Christ rules over all of these, we won’t be harmed. ~ Martin Luther, Faith Alone, July 14
The devil knows what prayer can accomplish. That’s why he creates so many obstacles and makes it so inconvenient for us that we never get around to prayer. ~ Martin Luther, Faith Alone, July 16

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

My Year With Spurgeon #30

Five Fears
Charles Spurgeon
Ecclesiastes 8:12
Fear may be used for the most sinful purposes; at the same time it may be so ennobled by grace, and so used for the service of God, that it may become the very grandest part of man. In fact, Scripture has honored fear, for the whole of piety is comprehended in these words, “Fear God;” “the fear of the Lord;” “them that fear Him.” These phrases are employed to express true piety, and the men who possess it. Fear, I have said, may ruin the soul, alas! it has ruined multitudes. O Fear, thou art the rock upon which many a ship hath been wrecked. Many a soul hath suffered spiritual destruction through thee, but then it hath been not the fear of God, but the fear of man.
I am no general redemptionist, I believe Jesus Christ died for as many as will be saved; I do not believe he died in vain for any man alive. I have always believed that Christ was punished instead of men. Now, if he were punished in the stead of all men, I could see no justice in God punishing men again after having punished Christ for them. I hold and believe — and, I think, on Scriptural authority, that Jesus Christ died for all those who believe or will believe; and he was punished in the stead of all those who feel their need of a Savior, and lay hold on him. The rest reject him, despise him, sin against God, and are punished for their sine. But those who are redeemed, having been blood-bought, shall not be lost. Christ’s blood is too precious to have been shed for men who are damned. It is too awful a thing to think of the Savior standing in a sinner’s stead, and then that sinner after all having to bear his own iniquities;
I can never indulge a thought which appears to be so unrighteous to God, and so unsafe to men. All that the Savior bought he shall have, all that his heavenly Father hath given him, he says, shall come unto him. Now here is something solid for thee, poor soul. I ask again, dost thou know and feel thyself to be lost and ruined? Then the Savior bought thee, and will have thee; then he was punished for thee and thou never wilt be punished again; then he hung upon the cross for thee that thou mightest not perish. For thee there is no hell, so far as thou art concerned. The eternal lake is quenched; the dungeons of hell are broken open, their bars are cut in sunder. Thou art free; no damnation can ever seize thee, no devils can ever drag thee to the pit. Thou art redeemed, and thou art saved. “What!” sayest thou, “I redeemed! Why, sir, I am full of sin.” It is the very reason why thou art redeemed. “But I feel myself to be the guiltiest of all the human race.” Yes, and that is just the evidence that Christ died for thee. He says himself, “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
If you have got abundance of good works, and think you can go to heaven by them, you will perish; but if you know your guilt, and confess it — it is not my affirmation, but the affirmation of the Scriptures — “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom,” says the Apostle, “I am chief.” Lay hold on that, poor soul: and then I repeat to thee the text, “Yet surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God, which fear before him.” It shall be well with thee yet, and black though thou art, thou shalt one day sing among the bloodwashed ones in glory everlasting. That is the first stage of fearing God; we shall now proceed to another.
There are many who have believed, and are truly converted, who have a fear which I may call THE FEAR OF ANXIETY. They are afraid that they are not converted. They are converted, there is no doubt of it. Sometimes they know they are so themselves, but, for the most part, they are afraid.
Not only those who believe, but those who fear, have got a promise, I would to God that they had more faith; I would that they could lay hold on the Savior, and had more assurance, and even attain unto a perfect confidence; but if they cannot shall I utter a word that would hurt them? God forbid; “Surely it shall be with even with them that fear God, with them that fear before him.”
Now, I am about to utter a great paradox — I believe that some of these poor fearing people have got the greatest faith of anybody in the world; I have sometimes thought that great fear, great anxiety, must have great faith with it to keep the soul alive at all.
Now, in this case, he that fears the most believes the most; and I do think it is so sometimes with poor desponding spirits. They have the greatest fear of hell, and the greatest fear of themselves, and the greatest dread that they are not right. Oh, what a faith they must have, when they are enabled to throw themselves on Christ, and when they can but whisper to themselves “I think that he is mine” — “Surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God, which fear-before him.”
And you who are fearing, I would not say a word to hurt you, but I would say a word to comfort you if I could; I would remind you that you are not fit to judge of yourself.
We sometimes think ourselves proud, and we are never more humble than when we feel that we are proud. At other times, we think ourselves to be wonderfully humble, and we are never more proud than then.
All Christians, when they are in a right state, are afraid of falling into sin. Holy fear is the proper condition of a child of God. Even the most confident will not go into presumption.
You have never any right to believe, till you have nothing to believe in yourself. Until you have lost all, you have no right to take anything. But now, if you have lost all your own good works and righteousness, if you feel that there is no reason why you should be saved, that is the very reason why you should be. My Master bids me tell the naked to come to his heavenly wardrobe, and take his royal garment for their clothing. He bids me tell the hungry to haste away to his heavenly granaries, and feed upon the old corn of the kingdom to their very full. He bids me tell the thirsty that the river of life is broad and deep, and flows freely to all those who thirst after it. Now, sinner, if thou art sick of sin, and grieved at heart where thou standest, follow me in spirit in these words: “O Lord, I know my guilt, and I confess my misery. If thou dampest me to all eternity, thou wilt be just; but, O Lord, have mercy upon me, according to thy promise, which thou hast made in Christ Jesus, unto those who confess their faults.”

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, July 27, 2015

Book Review: The Shaping of a Christian Family

The Shaping of a Christian Family. Elisabeth Elliot. 1992/2000. Revell. 240 pages. [Source: Borrowed]

I enjoyed reading The Shaping of a Christian Family by Elisabeth Elliot--for the most part. It is part autobiography, part how-to-parent. Several times, Elliot stresses the fact that it is the shaping of ONE Christian family--her own family. She's not necessarily advocating that there is one and only one 'Christian' way to raise a family. (Though I am guessing that there are a few guiding principles that she would have classified as essential for any and every Christian family.)

Most of the book is grounded in her family history. Therefore most of the book reads like an autobiography. Readers learn about her mother's upbringing, her father's upbringing, their courtship and marriage, and her own upbringing. She's one of six children, and, readers learn more about all six Howard siblings. Because of the way it is written, I felt the book was more of a tribute--a love letter of sorts--to her own mother and father, both passed away, of course. Most of the book is story-oriented. This is what my parents did. This is what my parents believed. These were the rules I grew up with, the routine that I was raised with, this is how it was, and I think it was wonderful.

There are dozens of times when Elliot moved from the personal to the general, where she gave specific advice to parents--new parents especially. The advice is somewhat practical, though not nearly detailed enough perhaps. If readers are going to find something to disagree about--it will be here. That is something that I think happens in any parenting book. You're going to find statements you agree with strongly, and statements you disagree with strongly. You can get a couple of good ideas, perhaps, without embracing each and every idea.
God's way of speaking to you and of getting at you will be through His Word. Dwell in it, therefore. Begin each day with a portion of it. Pray for grace to see when He is speaking to you, and for grace to adjust yourself to what He shows you. (46)
Christ is the Head of this house,
The unseen Guest at every meal,
The silent Listener to every conversation. (53)
How thankful I have been in the dark hours that my parents saw to it that hymns became fixed in our minds and hearts, through what was to us at the time merely a family routine. (58)
No one can make a child love anything, from spinach to sparrows to Scripture, but the parents' love for things exerts a powerful thrust in that direction (and I for one learned to love all of the above). (60)
There are so many wrong ideas about God. Wrong thinking about Him leads to wrong thinking about His actions. (118)
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Week In Review: July 19-25

From the opening chapters of Genesis to the end of Revelation, we find the same testimony—God is good. He is always good, for he never changes. ~ R. Kent Hughes, John: That You Might Believe
We need a regular plan of reading, study, and yes, even memorization. Bible study and Scripture memorization earn no merit with God. We never earn God's blessings by doing these things, anymore than we earn His blessing by eating nutritious food. But as the eating of proper food is necessary to sustain a healthy physical life, so the regular intake of God's word is necessary to sustain a healthy spiritual life and to regularly appropriate His grace. ~ Jerry Bridges, Transforming Grace, p. 179
ESV Reader's Bible

  • Genesis 27-50
  • Exodus
  • Leviticus
  • Numbers
  • Matthew 1-8


  • Deuteronomy 16-34


  • Revelation

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, July 24, 2015

Book Review: Transforming Grace

Transforming Grace. Jerry Bridges. 1991. NavPress. 207 pages. [Source: Borrowed]

I loved, loved, loved Jerry Bridges' Transforming Grace. It is a MUST READ in my opinion. If you've never read Jerry Bridges before, you don't know what you're missing. He is a GREAT author that every Christian--every Christian who reads--should try. And Transforming Grace would be a great introduction to his work.

Why? Well, because people NEED to know about grace, to embrace grace, to come to a greater, deeper appreciation of what grace is and all that it means. Not that any person can fully and totally comprehend God's grace and 'all that it means.' But you can live in awe of it, and let it transform you day by day, year by year. Grace isn't something to celebrate a couple of times in your life. It's something to celebrate each and every day.

Believers need to preach the gospel to themselves daily--and reading Jerry Bridges, well, may just help you remember to do just that. I believe that the book would prove beneficial to new believers and to old believers--those who have perhaps been in the faith for decades, but, could use a little refreshing. (Who doesn't need refreshing from the Spirit?!) The truth, in my opinion, never gets old. The good news is GREAT news. And one never outgrows one's need for gospel-truth, for the richness of grace.

Table of Contents:

  • The Performance Treadmill
  • Grace--Who Needs It?
  • Grace--It Really Is Amazing
  • The Generous Landowner
  • Does God Have A Right?
  • Compelled by Love
  • The Proof of Love
  • Holiness: A Gift of God's Grace
  • Called To Be Free
  • The Sufficiency of Grace
  • The Least of All God's People
  • Appropriating God's Grace
  • Garments of Grace

One of the best kept secrets among Christians today is this: Jesus paid it all. I mean all. He not only purchased your forgiveness of sins and your ticket to Heaven, He purchased every blessing and every answer to prayer you will ever receive. Every one of them--no exceptions. Why is this such a well-kept secret? For one thing we are afraid of this truth. We are afraid to tell even ourselves that we don't have to work anymore, the work is all done. We are afraid that if we really believe this, we will slack off in our Christian duties. (19)
What, then, is the grace by which we are saved and under which we live? Grace is God's free and unmerited favor shown to guilty sinners who deserve only judgment. It is the love of God shown to the unlovely. It is God reaching downward to people who are in rebellion against Him. Grace stands in direct opposition to any supposed worthiness on our part. (22)
You are loved and accepted by God through the merits of Jesus, and you are blessed by God through the merit of Jesus. Nothing you ever do will cause Him to love you any more or any less. He loves you strictly by His grace given to you through Jesus. (73)
To live by grace is to live solely by the merit of Jesus Christ. To live by grace is to base my entire relationship with God, including my acceptance and standing with Him, on my union with Christ. It is to recognize that in myself I bring nothing of worth to my relationship with God, because even my righteous acts are like filthy rags in His sight (Isaiah 64:6). Even my best works are stained with mixed motives and imperfect performance. I never truly love God with all my heart, and I never truly love my neighbor with the degree of consistency with which I love myself. (101)
God never allows pain without a purpose in the lives of His children. He never allows Satan, nor circumstances, nor any ill-intending person to afflict us unless He uses that affliction for our good. God never wastes pain. He always causes it to work together for our ultimate good, the good of conforming us more to the likeness of His Son (see Romans 8:28-29). (139)
The Bible is God's self-revelation to us of all He wants us to know about Himself and His provision for our salvation and our spiritual growth. It is God's only objective, authoritative communication. to us. If we are to appropriate the grace of God then, we must become intimate friends with the Bible. We must seek to know and understand the great truths of Scripture: truths about God and His character, and truths about man and his desperate need of God's grace. (177)
It is difficult for us to see God's hand of love in the adversities and heartaches of life because we persist in thinking, as the world does, that happiness is the greatest good. Thus we tend to evaluate all our circumstances in terms of whether or not they produce happiness. Holiness, however, is a greater good than happiness, so God arranges and orchestrates circumstances to produce holiness before happiness. He is more concerned about our eternal than our temporal welfare and more concerned about our spiritual than our material welfare. So all the trials and difficulties, all the heartaches, disappointments, and humiliations come from His loving hand to make us partakers of His holiness. (183)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Quotes from the Cloud #29

This year, I hope share weekly posts of quotes. These quotes are from authors I'm reading and enjoying from the Clouds of Witnesses Reading Challenge

For fellow participants, what I would LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to see is for people to share quotes from what they're reading. I'd love for you to share quotes occasionally with your readers and let me know about it. If you don't have a blog, you could always leave quotes in the comments here.
I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life. John 6:47 One could preach a hundred thousand years about these words and emphasize them again and again. Yes, one can’t speak enough about these words. Here Christ explicitly promises eternal life to the believer. He doesn’t say that if we believe in him we will have eternal life. Rather, he says that as soon as we believe in him, we already have eternal life. He is speaking, not of future gifts, but of present ones. He is saying, “If you believe in me, you are saved. You already have eternal life.” If we believe in Christ and cling to him, we are redeemed from both physical and spiritual death. We already have eternal life. ~ Martin Luther, Faith Alone, July 5
God forgives and even blesses the mistakes of faithful people. Important and faithful leaders often cause great harm through their advice and actions. If God didn’t have mercy on them and didn’t straighten everything out, the world would be in a terrible mess. ~ Martin Luther, Faith Alone, July 8
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever. Psalm 118:1 You shouldn’t read the words good and love in a dispassionate way. Don’t skim over these words. Don’t say them too quickly or irreverently in church. Instead, remember that these are vibrant, relevant, and meaningful words that emphasize the goodness of God. God proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is good and loving. His daily and continual goodness shows this in rich and powerful ways. This psalm says, “His love endures forever.” In other words, God continually does what is best for us. He provides for our bodies and souls and protects us day and night. He continues to preserve our lives. He lets the sun and moon shine for us and allows the sky, fire, air, and water to serve us. The Lord causes the earth to give us everything we need—grain, food, cattle feed, wood, and the resources for making wine and clothes. He gives us gold and silver, homes and families, spouses and children, animals, birds, and fish. Who can count all the Lord’s blessings? ~ Martin Luther, Faith Alone, July 11
Redeemed humanity is to be something more glorious than unfallen humanity would have been, more glorious than any unfallen race now is (if at this moment the night sky conceals any such). The greater the sin, the greater the mercy: the deeper the death, the brighter the re-birth. And this super-added glory will, with true vicariousness, exalt all creatures, and those who have never fallen will thus bless Adam’s fall. ~ C.S. Lewis, Miracles

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Book Review: Embracing Obscurity

Embracing Obscurity. Anonymous. 2012. B&H. 192 pages. [Source: Borrowed]
What do you, me, a student, a musician, a stay-at-home mom, a laid-off blue-collar worker, a pastor, and a successful entrepreneur all have in common? We're drunk. In our defense the epidemic is so common that most of us don't even know we're under the influence. We're confused, blinded, and wandering around like sailors at dawn; but, then again, so is everyone else, so why should we be alarmed? But this unsuspected poison is simultaneously nimbus us, diverting our attention from the kingdom and undermining the gospel of Christ. We're drunk all right. We're intoxicated with a desire to be known, recognized, appreciated, and respected. We crave to be a "somebody" and do a notable things, to achieve our dreams and gain the admiration of others. To be something--anything--other than nothing.
Embracing Obscurity is a quick, light read, and, I definitely enjoyed reading it. I didn't love it exactly. But I didn't dislike it either. It wasn't a wow book for me. It was easy-reading, light and casual--definitely not an intimidating read. It's full of stories and good advice. One thing that I definitely appreciated was how rich it was in scripture: there are so very many verses quoted. I also appreciated the discussion questions at the end of each chapter.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

My Year With Spurgeon #29

The Good Man's Life and Death
Charles Spurgeon
Philippians 1:21
Our pilgrimage on earth is but a journey to the grave.
The pulse that preserves our being beats our death march, and the blood which circulates our life is floating it onward to the deeps of death.
If you would get a fair estimate of the happiness of any man you must judge him in these two closely connected things, his life and his death.
Call no man happy until he is dead; because the life that is to come, if that be miserable, shall far outweigh the highest life of happiness that hath been enjoyed on earth.
I suppose that every man living has a model by which he endeavors to shape his life. When we start in life, we generally select some person, or persons, whose combined virtues shall be to us the mirror of perfection. “Now,” says Paul, “if you ask me after what fashion I mould my life, and what is the model by which I would sculpture my being, I tell you, it is Christ. I have no fashion, no form, no model by which to shape my being, except the Lord Jesus Christ. Now, the true Christian, if he be an upright man, can say the same.
This is the very age of conventionalities. People dare not now do a thing unless everybody else does the same. You do not often say, “Is a thing right?” The most you say is, “Does so-and-so do it?”
I would we had the courage to look upon a thing, not according to its age, but according to its rightness, and so weigh everything, not by its novelty, or by its antiquity, but by its conformity to Christ Jesus and his holy Gospel; rejecting that which is not, though it be hoary with years, and believing that which is, even though it be but the creature of the day, and saying with earnestness, “For me to live is not to imitate this man or the other, but ‘for me to live is Christ.’”

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, July 20, 2015

Book Review: Humility

Humility. C.J. Mahaney. 2005. Multnomah. 176 pages. [Source: Borrowed]

Humility is a funny thing. On the one hand, it's an extremely desirable trait. Most of us, as Christians, would say we want to be humble, right? Or at least we want to be thought of as humble. At the same time, few of us have given attention to what being humble actually means. Even fewer have considered what it takes to grow in humility. 

I absolutely loved, loved, LOVED reading C.J. Mahaney's Humility. It is a short book that every believer needs to read. One reason, of course, is that everyone--believer or not--struggles with pride. Becoming a Christian does not remove that struggle with pride. Though the type of pride might shift around a bit and become spiritual pride, or, pride in our spiritual health or growth. Pride wears hundreds of masks after all. And thinking you've conquered all there is to conquer, and that the battle against pride or the battle against self is won once and for all, can be dangerous. (Now, we know that Christ has won the victory, and, that ultimately, that victory will be ours. But the battle is daily. And just because Christ has won, doesn't mean that we can relax and let down our guard against sin. Our problem is that we don't always recognize sin as sin.) Mahaney's book is about humility and pride--being humble and being proud. It is in many ways a book about how to live the Christian life.

In part one, Mahaney shows us "The Promise of Humility" and "The Perils of Pride." In part two, the focus shifts to greatness: "Greatness Redefined" and "Greatness Demonstrated." (The subtitle of this book is TRUE GREATNESS.) In part three, the book turns super-practical. The chapters are: "As Each Day Begins," "As Each Day Ends," "For Special Focus," "Identifying Evidences of Grace," "Encouraging Others," "Inviting and Pursuing Correction," "Responding Humbly to Trials," and "A Legacy of Greatness."

I love the book because it's honest, straight-forward, practical, and above all biblical. The book doesn't waste your time. It's concise and relevant.

Humility is honestly assessing ourselves in light of God's holiness and sinfulness. That's the twin reality that all genuine humility is rooted in: God's holiness and our sinfulness. Without an honest awareness of both these realities (and we'll reflect on both throughout this book), all self-evaluation will be skewed and we'll fail to either understand or practice true humility. (22)
The sad fact is that none of us are immune to the logic-defying, blinding effects of pride. Though it shows up in different forms and to differing degrees, it infects us all. The real issue is not if pride exists in your heart; it's where pride exists and how pride is being expressed in your life. Scripture shows us that pride is strongly and dangerously rooted in all our lives, far more than most of us care to admit or even think about. (29)
Pride is when sinful human beings aspire to the status and position of God and refuse to acknowledge their dependence upon Him. (31)
As sinfully and culturally defined, pursuing greatness looks like this: Individuals motivated by self-interest, self-indulgence, and a false sense of self-sufficiency pursue selfish ambition for the purpose of self-glorification. Contrast that with the pursuit of true greatness as biblically defined: Serving others for the glory of God. (44)
Here's an essential truth: To learn true humility, we need more than a redefinition of greatness; we need even more than Jesus' personal example of humble service. What we need is His death. (47)
Prior to our conversion we were sin's prisoners, and even after our conversion we continue to fight the presence of sin, though we're freed from the power and penalty of sin. And if you aren't aware of this danger, you'll never sufficiently appreciate the significance of His death. It's this captivity to sin and continued tendency to sin that necessitates the Savior's death as a ransom for many. That's the price ransom requires: the life of God's only Son. (53)
Sin--including especially the sin of pride--is active, not passive. Sin doesn't wake up tired, because it hasn't been sleeping. When you wake up in the morning, sin is right there, fully awake, ready to attack. So rather than be attacked by sin in the morning, I've chosen to go on the offensive. I've chosen to announce to sin, "I'm at war with you. I know you're there, and I'm after you." From the moment I awake, I've learned to make statements to God about my dependence upon God, and in this way I'm humbling myself before God. (69)
We watch our hearts and study our hearts in the shadow of the cross as a means of protecting our hearts from the daily presence and opposition of sin. If you don't watch, you'll inevitably weaken. (132)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Week in Review: July 12-18

The Bible is a wonderful window, but we must look through that window to see the beautiful realities of Christ and God. ~ R. Kent Hughes, John: That You May Believe
  • Acts 12-28
  • 1 Thessalonians
  • 2 Thessalonians
  • 1 Timothy
  • 2 Timothy
  • Revelation
ESV Reader's Bible
  • Genesis 1-26
  • John
  • Deuteronomy 1-15
Phillips New Testament
  • John
  • 2 Corinthians
  • Galatians
  • John 1-21

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, July 17, 2015

Journaling Fahrenheit 451

Fahrenheit 451. Ray Bradbury. 1953/1991. Del Rey. 179 pages. [Source: Bought]

It was a pleasure to burn. 

I've reviewed Fahrenheit 451 at least seven times. But I've never journaled the reading experience. This is one of my favorite, favorite books. And it's a book that I think everyone needs to read at least once. That goes for Christians as well. Yes, there are a couple of bad words, but that alone should not deter you from reading an excellent book.

I have a few questions for you, before we begin--before I begin.

  • Have you read Fahrenheit 451? 
  • If you have, what did you think of it? What would you say the book is about? 
  • If you haven't read it, what have you heard about it? What are your assumptions about the book and what it is about? What is keeping you from reading it? 

A few weeks ago, I was reading A.W. Tozer, and there are a handful of quotes that make a great framework for discussing Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451.
A German philosopher many years ago said something to the effect that the more a man has in his own heart the less he will require from the outside; excessive need for support from without is proof of the bankruptcy of the inner man. If this is true (and I believe it is), then the present inordinate attachment is evidence that the inner life of modern man is in serious decline. The average man has no central core of moral assurance, no spring within his own breast, no inner strength to place him above the need for repeated psychological shots to give him the courage to go on living. He has become a parasite on the world, drawing his life from his environment, unable to live a day apart from the stimulation which society affords him.
For there are millions who cannot live without amusement; life without some form of entertainment for them is simply intolerable; they look forward to the blessed relief afforded by professional entertainers and other forms of psychological narcotics as a dope addict looks to his daily shot of heroin. Without them they could not summon the courage to face existence.
The all-out devotion to entertainment as a major activity for which and by which men live is definitely something else again. The abuse of a harmless thing is the essence of sin. The growth of the amusement phase of human life to such fantastic proportions is a portent, a threat to the souls of modern man. It has been built into a multimillion dollar racket with greater power over human minds and human character than any other educational influence on earth.
So for this first post, I'll be writing about the first part of "The Hearth and the Salamander."
Characters we meet:

  • Guy Montag,
  • Clarisse McClellan, 
  • Mildred Montag, 
  • Captain Beatty. 

Basic plot:
Guy Montag is a fireman who realizes, after his meeting with Clarisse, that he is unhappy and afraid. He's unhappy with his job. He's unhappy in his marriage. Is it right for him to be unhappy in his job? Yes. In my opinion. One fire in particular haunts him. Is it right for him to be unhappy in his marriage? It's certainly understandable.

Clear communication with Mildred is difficult indeed. Mildred is a perfect example of all that's wrong with this future society. (Read above quotes). Mildred cannot live life without amusement. She's addicted to her three walls--her parlor, her family. She's also addicted to her earbuds. She does draw her life from her environment.

Slowly but surely, it is foreshadowed that Guy Montag is not your typical fireman. He doesn't blindly follow the rules. He's starting to think for himself and beginning to ask hard questions. He has dared to take home a few books. If you haven't read the book, you might not realize that firemen start fires. And that primarily they burn books. That in this future-world books are illegal. Captain Beatty pays a personal call to Montag's home. Much is revealed about the past and present through dialogue. Actually almost everything we know as readers comes through dialogue. Guy's conversations with Clarisse. Guy's conversation with the guy that pumped Mildred's stomach. Guy's conversations with Mildred. And the heavy on world-building conversation with Captain Beatty.

"You sound so very old."
"Sometimes I'm ancient. I'm afraid of children my own age. They kill each other. Did it always use to be that way? My uncle says no. Six of my friends have been shot in the last year alone. Ten of them died in car wrecks. I'm afraid of them and they don't like me because I'm afraid. My uncle says his grandfather remembered when children didn't kill each other. But that was a long time ago when they had things different. They believed in responsibility, my uncle says…" (30)
"People don't talk about anything."
"Oh, they must!"
"No, not anything. They name a lot of cars or clothes or swimming pools mostly and say how swell! But they all say the same things and nobody says anything different from anyone else..." (31)
"We need not to be let alone. We need to be really bothered once in a while. How long is it since you were really bothered? About something important, about something real?" (52)
There you have it, Montag. It didn't come from the Government down. There was no dictum, no declaration, no censorship, to start with, no! Technology, mass exploitation, and minority pressure carried the trick, thank God. Today, thanks to them, you can stay happy all the time, you are allowed to read comics, the good old confessions, or trade journals. (58)
We must all be alike. Not everyone born free and equal, as the Constitution says, but everyone made equal. Each man the image of every other, then all are happy, for there are no mountains to make them cower, to judge themselves against. So! A book is a loaded gun in the house next door. Burn it. Take the shot from the weapon. Breach man's mind. Who knows who might be the target of the well-read man? Me? I won't stomach them for a minute. And so when houses were finally fireproofed completely, all over the world (you were correct in your assumption the other night) there was no longer need of firemen for the old purposes. They were given the new job, as custodians of our peace of mind, the focus of our understandable and rightful dread of being inferior: official censors, judges, and executors. That's you, Montag, and that's me." (58-9)
You must understand that our civilization is so vast that we can't have our minorities upset and stirred. Ask yourself, What do we want in this country, above all? People want to be happy, isn't that right? Haven't you heard it all your life? I want to be happy, people say. Well, aren't they? Don't' we keep them moving, don't we give them fun? That's all we live for, isn't it? For pleasure, for titillation? And you must admit our culture provides plenty of these." (59)
You ask why to a lot of things and you wind up very unhappy indeed, if you keep at it. (60)
The home environment can undo a lot you try to do at school. That's why we've lowered the kindergarten age year after year until now we're almost snatching them from the cradle. (60)
Did you listen to him? He knows all the answers. He's right. Happiness is important. Fun is everything. And yet I kept sitting there saying to myself, I'm not happy, I'm not happy." (65)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Quotes from the Cloud #28

This year, I hope share weekly posts of quotes. These quotes are from authors I'm reading and enjoying from the Clouds of Witnesses Reading Challenge

For fellow participants, what I would LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to see is for people to share quotes from what they're reading. I'd love for you to share quotes occasionally with your readers and let me know about it. If you don't have a blog, you could always leave quotes in the comments here.
As we gradually come to befriend our own reality, too look with compassion at our own sorrows and joys, and as we are able to discover the unique potential of our way of being in the world, we can move beyond protest, put the cup of our life to our lips and drink it, slowly, carefully, but fully…we can choose to drink the cup of our life with the deep conviction that by drinking it we will find our true freedom. Thus we will discover that the cup of sorrow and joy we are drinking is the cup of salvation. ~ Henri Nouwen
We men and women are all in the same boat, upon a stormy sea. We owe each other a terrible and tragic loyalty. ~ G.K. Chesterton
God does not regard our voices, he hears our hearts, and if our hearts do not sing we have not sung at all. ~ Charles Spurgeon
The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and his compulsion is our liberation. ~ C.S. Lewis
The world doesn’t want to be punished. It wants to remain in darkness. It doesn’t want to be told that what it believes is false. If you also don’t want to be corrected, then you might as well leave the church and spend your time at the bar and brothel. But if you want to be saved—and remember that there’s another life after this one—you must accept correction. ~ Martin Luther, Faith Alone, July 2

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Book Review: To Capture Her Heart

To Capture Her Heart. Rebecca DeMarino. 2015. Revell. 368 pages. [Source: Review copy]

To Capture Her Heart is the sequel to A Place In His Heart. Did I like it more than A Place In His Heart? Yes, mostly. If you remember, I had some big issues with the first book.

To Capture Her Heart is set on Long Island in the early 1650s. (1653 and 1654 to be precise). There are two or three main stories within the book.

Heather Flower, one of the main characters, is rescued by Dirk Van Buren. A rival native tribe kidnaps Heather Flower--on her wedding day--along with a dozen other young women from her tribe. She is ransomed or rescued, the other young women--not being Indian princesses perhaps--may not be as fortunate. Dirk Van Buren is "her hero" the one who brings her back to her family. He makes an impression, for sure, but not as he hoped perhaps. For he falls madly in love with her at first sight. And the last thing on her mind is love and romance.

He's not the only man in love with Heather Flower. (Of course, he isn't.) Benjamin Horton is also in love with her. (But is he really?) She is on very friendly terms with the whole Horton family. Her aunt was one of Mary Horton's first friends in the new country. She is staying with her aunt for personal reasons. (Her aunt is grieving the loss of her husband. And she is grieving the loss of her groom.) Benjamin wants to be the one. But does she want to move on and find love again?

Is To Capture Her Heart a romance novel? Yes and no. It is more than that certainly. The book also focuses on the friendships of the women characters: Mary, Lizzie, Patience, Winnie, Abigail, etc. And the threat of war between the English settlers and the Dutch settlers. (Not to mention the "threat" of Quakers in the community.) Will the settlement go to war against the Dutch settlement on the island? Will Joseph and Benjamin be caught up in a war? Will this potential war keep Dirk from courting Heather Flower?

I would still recommend this one for those that enjoy historical fiction more than historical romance. But this one does have more romance than the first book.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

My Year with Spurgeon #28

Love Thy Neighbor
Charles Spurgeon
Matthew 19:19
Beloved, it is as much the business of God’s minister to preach man’s duty as it is to preach Christ’s atonement, and unless he doth preach man’s duty, he will never be blessed of God to bring man into the proper state to see the beauty of the atonement. Unless he sometimes thunders out the law and claims for his Master the right of obedience to it, he will never be very likely to produce conviction — certainly not that conviction which afterwards leads to conversion.
This rough world sometimes needs to be rebuked, and if we can get at the ears of the people it is our business to reprove them, and I think if ever there was a time when this text needed to be enlarged upon, it is just now. It is so often forgotten, so seldom remembered, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”
First then, THE COMMAND. It is the second great commandment. The first is “Thou shalt love the Lord, thy God,” and there the proper standard is “thou shalt love thy God more than thyself.” The second commandment is, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor,” and the standard there is a little lower but still pre-eminently high, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” There is the command. We can split it into three parts. Whom am I to love? “My neighbor.” What am I to do? I am to love him. How am I to do it? I am to love him as myself.
Love thy neighbor too, albeit that he be of a different religion.
His religion thou sayest is unsound and untrue; love him for all that. Let not thy differences separate him from thee. Perhaps he may be right, or he may be wrong, he shall be the rightest in practice who loves the most.
Possibly he has no religion at all. He disregards thy God, he breaks the Sabbath; he is confessedly an atheist, love him still. Hard words will not convert him, hard deeds will not make him a Christian. Love him straight on; his sin is not against thee, but against thy God. Thy God takes vengeance for sins committed against himself, and leave thou him in God’s hands. But if thou canst do him a kind turn, if thou canst find aught whereby thou canst serve him, do it, be it day or night.
Again, thou art bound to love thy neighbor, though he offend thee with his sin.
We are bound to love even sinners, and not to drive them from the land of hope, but seek to reclaim even these. Is a man a rogue, a thief, or a liar? I cannot love his roguery, or I should be a rogue myself. I cannot love his lying, or I should be untrue, but I am bound to love him still, and even though I am wronged by him, yet I must not harbour one vindictive feeling, but as I would desire God to forgive me, so I must forgive him.
Oh, I would to God that this great law were fully carried out. Ah, my hearers, you do not love your neighbors, you know you do not. You do not hardly love all the people who go to the same chapel. Certainly, you would not think of loving those who differ from you in opinion — would you? That would be too strange a charity.
Now if this love for our neighbor were carried out — love, real love,--it would prohibit all rash anger. Who is ever angry with himself?
State the truth if thou art obliged to do it, as kindly as thou canst. Be no more stern than there is need to be. Deal with others as thou wouldst deal with thyself.
Deal gently, deal kindly, deal lovingly, and there is not a wolf in human shape but will be melted by kindness; and there is not a tiger in woman’s form but will break down and sue for pardon, if God should bless the love that is brought to bear upon her by her friend. I say again, for the world’s good, love your neighbors.
Christian, your religion claims your love, — Christ loved you before you loved him. He loved you when there was nothing good in you. He loved you though you insulted him, though you despised him and rebelled against him. He has loved you right on, and never ceased to love you. He has loved you in your backslidings and loved you out of them. He has loved you in your sins, in your wickedness and folly. His loving heart was still eternally the same, and he shed his heart’s blood to prove his love for you. He has given you what you want on earth, and provided for you an habitation in heaven. Now Christian, your religion claims from you, that you should love as your Master loved. How can you imitate him, unless you love too?
My text suggests first, the guilt of us all. My friends, if this be God’s law, who here can plead that he is not guilty? If God’s law demands I should love my neighbor, I must stand in my pulpit, and confess my guilt. In thinking of this text yesterday, my eyes ran with tears at the recollection of many a hard thing I had spoken in unwary moments. I thought of many an opportunity of loving my neighbor that I had slighted, and I labored to confess the sin. I am certain there is not one of all this immense audience who would not do the same, if he felt this law applied by the Spirit in power to his soul.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, July 13, 2015

Book Review: Living in the Grip of Relentless Grace

Living in the Grip of Relentless Grace. Iain M. Duguid. 2015. P&R. 192 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I loved reading Iain Duguid's Living in the Grip of Relentless Grace. The book focuses on the gospel--relentless grace--in the lives of Isaac and Jacob.

The book provides readers a detailed examination of Genesis 25 through 35. He may even persuade readers that these Old Testament stories are ever-relevant. (Not every reader will need to be persuaded, of course. Some of us already love reading the Old Testament. But still. It's always a good thing to be reminded that the Bible isn't boring or dull--but relevant and dramatic.)

This book is part of a series. And the series appears to have a great mission: to show how the Old Testament is all about Christ.
God began to tell a story in the Old Testament, the ending of which the audience eagerly anticipated. But the Old Testament audience was left hanging. The plot was laid out, but the climax was delayed. The unfinished story begged for an ending. In Christ, God has provided the climax to the Old Testament story. Jesus did not arrive unannounced; his coming was declared in advance in the Old Testament--not just in explicit prophecies of the Messiah, but also by means of the stories of all the events, characters, and circumstances in the Old Testament. God was telling a larger, overarching, unified story. From the account of creation in Genesis to the final stories of the return from exile, God progressively unfolded his plan of salvation. And the Old Testament account of that plan always pointed in some way to Christ.
So the goal of this particular book is what can we learn about grace, about Christ, about ourselves, our sinful nature from studying the lives of two patriarchs: Isaac and his son, Jacob. (Also we spend a tiny amount of time with Esau.)

The book is reader-friendly. It doesn't matter if you've never read Genesis, and if these stories are all new to you. The book is written to be read and understood by all.

What is God do with such a pair as Esau and Jacob? One of them regards his spiritual birthright as less valuable than a bowl of soup, and the other regards it as a commodity to be bought and maneuvered for. Which of these two should God choose to save? A neutral bystander would have to say neither. Neither one deserves God's work in his heart. Neither one is qualified to be the ancestor of God's chosen people, except insofar as sin and depravity are suitable qualifications. What clearer evidence could there be that God's calculations are not the same as ours? He doesn't just choose the weak to shame the strong--he chooses sinners to shame those who trust in their own goodness. What more proof do we need that our salvation is all of grace? But how can God save such great sinners? There is only one hope. He must send a Savior who is quite unlike Jacob and Esau, and unlike us. 
Satan can appear as your fairy godmother, promising to wave his magic wand and enable you to attend the ball of your choice. What he does not reveal to you is that if you give in to him, the gilded carriage of your sin will turn back into its true pumpkin self long before midnight… Perhaps one of the most remarkable aspects of fallen humanity is our ability to believe that we can sin and not get hurt. We are so easily convinced by Satan that our sin will not come to light and that if it does it will not hurt us. The Bible, however, warns us against such comfortable illusions when it says, "Be sure that your sin will find you out" (Num. 32:23)
Thank God that the gospel that we read about, pray about, and sing about is still true, even when our hearts are just going through the motions. 
Our sinful hearts are such that even when we bury our idols, we never forget where we buried them and tend to go back regularly to lay flowers on the grave! Ye there is abundant grace available for you and me. Even though we neglect him and fall away, still God remains faithful to his covenant promises and calls you back to him. 

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Top Ten Knowing God Quotes

On Friday, I reviewed J.I. Packer's Knowing God. Today, I'll be sharing my top ten quotes from the book. Some will be short. Some will be long. I hope you'll agree with me, that all will be GOOD!
Five basic truths, five foundation principles of the knowledge about God which Christians have, will determine our course throughout. They are as follows:
1. God has spoken to man, and the Bible is his Word, given to us to make us wise unto salvation.
2. God is Lord and King over his world; he rules all things for his own glory, displaying his perfections in all that he does, in order that men and angels may worship and adore him.
3. God is Savior, active in sovereign love through the Lord Jesus Christ to rescue believers from the guilt and power of sin, to adopt them as his children and to bless them accordingly.
4. God is triune; there are within the Godhead three persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit; and the work of salvation is one which all three act together, the Father purposing redemption, the Son securing it and the Spirit applying it.
5. Godliness means responding to God's revelation in trust and obedience, faith and worship, prayer and praise, submission and service. Life must be seen and lived in the light of God's Word. This, and nothing else, is true religion.
In the light of these general and basic truths, we are now going to examine in detail what the Bible shows us of the nature and character of the God of whom we have been speaking. (20)
 I chose this quote because it is foundational for understanding and appreciating the context not only of this book, but, oh-so-many books. All good theological books start with these five basic truths in the background.
Our aim in studying the Godhead must be to know God himself better. Our concern must be to enlarge our acquaintance, not simply with the doctrine of God's attributes, but with the living God whose attributes they are. As he is the subject of our study, and our helper in it, so he must himself be the end of it. We must seek, in studying God, to be led to God. It was for this purpose that revelation was given, and it is to this use that we must put it. (23)
I chose this quote--and it's one of my "shorter" quotes--because in it is the mission of the book itself. Packer desires readers to be LED TO GOD. The study of God isn't about being intellectual and learning facts. It's all about knowing God himself and being in relationship.
Meditation is the activity of calling to mind, and thinking over, and dwelling on, and applying to oneself, the various things that one knows about the works and ways and purposes and promises of God. It is an activity of holy thought, consciously performed in the presence of God, under the eye of God, by the help of God, as a means of communion with God. Its purpose is to clear one's mental and spiritual vision of God, and to let his truth make its full and proper impact on one's mind and heart. It is a matter of talking to oneself about God and oneself; it is, indeed, often a matter of arguing with oneself, reasoning oneself out of moods of doubt and unbelief into a clear apprehension of God's power and grace. Its effect is ever to humble us, as we contemplate God's greatness and glory and our own littleness and sinfulness, and to encourage and reassure us--"comfort" us, in the old, strong, Bible sense of the word--as we contemplate the unsearchable riches of divine mercy displayed in the Lord Jesus Christ. (23)
I chose this quote because it is such a good definition of meditation. If you're like me, you hear the word meditation and it's easy to think you know what it means--mostly. But it's hard to put into exact words what it means, or should mean. It's a fuzzy concept in some ways. But Packer writes with clarity that is much appreciated!!!
Do we desire such knowledge of God? Then two things follow.
First, we must recognize how much we lack knowledge of God. We must learn to measure ourselves, not by our knowledge about God, not by our gifts and responsibilities in the church, but by how we pray and and what goes on in our hearts. Many of us, I suspect, have no idea how impoverished we are at this level. Let us ask the Lord to show us.
Second, we must seek the Savior. When he was on earth, he invited ordinary people to company with him; thus they came to know him, and in knowing him to know his Father… The Lord Jesus Christ is now absent from us in body, but spiritually it makes no difference; still we may find and know God through seeking and finding Jesus' company. It is those who have sought the Lord Jesus till they have found him--for the promise is that when we seek him with all our hearts, we shall surely find him--who can stand before the world to testify that they have known God. (32)
I chose this quote because it challenges readers to reflect and consider. I agree with Packer that it is essential that we recognize how much we lack knowledge of God….and that there is a difference between knowing God and knowing about God…
What matters supremely, therefore, is not, in the last analysis, the fact that I know God, but the larger fact which underlies it--the fact that he knows me. I am graven on the palms of his hands. I am never out of his mind. All my knowledge of him depends on his sustained initiative in knowing me. I know him because he first knew me, and continues to know me. He knows me as a friend, one who loves me; and there is no moment when his eye is off me, or his attention distracted from me, and no moment, therefore, when his care falters…There is tremendous relief in knowing that his love to me is utterly realistic, based at every point on prior knowledge of the worst about me, so that no discovery now can disillusion him about me, in the way I am so often disillusioned about myself, and quench his determination to bless me. (41-42)
I chose this quote because it is such a wow quote. Have you grasped what being known by God means to you personally?! 
It needs to be said with the greatest possible emphasis that those who hold themselves free to think of God as they like are breaking the second commandment. (47)
I chose this quote--and it is my shortest quote--because it has impact. Idolatry isn't a relic of the past. You don't have to be worshiping an ancient, pagan god--an actual idol--an actual image--to be committing idolatry. If you create a god in your own image--if you reshape the God of the Bible into one of your own making--that is idolatry. It is very much a modern day problem. 
What is a Christian? Christians can be described from many angles, but from what we have said it is clear that we can cover everything by saying: True Christians are people who acknowledge and live under the word of God. They submit without reserve to the word of God written in "the book of Truth" (Dan 10:21), believing the teaching, trusting the promises, following the commands. Their eyes are upon the God of the Bible as their Father and the Christ of the Bible as their Savior. Christians will tell you, if you ask them, that the Word of God has both convinced them of sin and assured them of forgiveness. Their consciences, like Luther's, are captive to the Word of God, and they aspire, like the Psalmist, to have their whole lives brought into line with it. (116)
I chose this quote because it is another foundational quote. The question WHAT IS A CHRISTIAN? is fundamental to the faith. And how we answer this question says a lot about us. I love Packer's definition. And I love the challenge that comes shortly afterwards, "Why does this description fit so few of us who profess to be Christians in these days?"
To be sure, there have always been some who have found the thought of grace so overwhelmingly wonderful that they could never get over it… But many church people are not like this. They may pay lip service to the idea of grace, but there they stop. Their conception of grace is not so much debased as nonexistent…What is it that hinders so many who profess to believe in grace from really doing so? Why does the theme mean so little even to some who talk about it a great deal? The root of the trouble seems to be misbelief about the basic relationship between a person and God--misbelief rooted not just in the mind but in the heart, at the deeper level of things that we never question because we always take them for granted. (129) 
There are four crucial truths in this realm which the doctrine of grace presupposes, and if they are not acknowledged and felt in one's heart, clear faith in God's grace becomes impossible. Unhappily, the spirit of our age is as directly opposed to them as it well could be. It is not to be wondered at, therefore, that faith in grace is a rarity today. The four truths are these:
1. The moral ill-desert of man. Modern men and women…naturally incline to a high opinion of themselves…in the moral realm they are resolutely kind to themselves, treating small virtues as compensating for great vices and refusing to take seriously the idea that, morally speaking, there is anything much wrong with them…The thought of themselves as creatures fallen from God's image, rebels against God's rule, guilty and unclean in God's sight, fit only for God's condemnation, never enters their heads.
2. The retributive justice of God. The way of modern men and women is to turn a blind eye to all wrongdoing as long as they safely can. They tolerate it in others, feeling that there, but for the accident of circumstances, go they themselves…Willingness to tolerate and indulge evil up to the limit is seen as a virtue, while living by fixed principles of right and wrong is censured by some as doubtfully moral…The idea that retribution might be the moral law of God's world and an expression of his holy character seems to us quite fantastic… God is not true to himself unless he punishes sin. And unless one knows and feels the truth of this fact that wrongdoers have no natural hope of anything from God but retributive judgment, one can never share the biblical faith in divine grace.
3. The spiritual impotence of man…This has confirmed modern men and women in the faith…belief that we can repair our own relationship with God by putting God in a position where he cannot say no anymore…To mend our relationship with God, regaining God's favor after having once lost it, is beyond the power of any one of us. And one must see and bow to this before one can share the biblical faith in God's grace.
4. The sovereign freedom of God. Ancient paganism thought of each god as bound to his worshipers by bonds of self-interest, because he depended on their service and gifts for his welfare. Modern paganism has at the back of its mind a similar feeling that God is somehow obliged to love and help us, little though we deserve it. This was the feeling voiced by the French freethinker who died muttering, "God will forgive--that's his job." But this feeling is not well-founded…We can only claim from him justice--and justice, for us, means certain condemnation. God does not owe it to anyone to stop justice taking its course. He is not obliged to pity and pardon; if he does so it is an act done, as we say, "of his own free will," and nobody forces his hand… Grace is free, in the sense of being self-originated and of proceeding from One who was free not to be gracious. Only when it is seen that what decides each individual's destiny is whether or not God resolves to save him from his sins, and that this is a decision which God need not make in any single case, can one begin to grasp the biblical view of grace. (130-132)
I chose this quote--these quotes--because Packer's chapter on grace was AMAZING. And I think people do tend to misunderstand what grace is and isn't. People tend to go to either extreme--making too much of it--is such a thing possible???--or too little of it. If you want to know WHY grace is amazing, these four truths sum it up. Do you agree with Packer's conclusions?
As judge, he is the law, but as Savior he is the gospel. Run from him now, and you will meet him as judge then--and without hope. Seek him now, and you will find him, and you will then discover that you are looking forward to that future meeting with joy, knowing that there is now "no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." (Rom 8:1) (147)
Packer spends a lot of time on "difficult subjects." With chapters titled "God the Judge," "The Wrath of God," "Goodness and Severity," and "The Jealous God" you know that he's not afraid to go there, to speak of hell and judgment and the life-and-death importance of believing in God and obtaining eternal life. I chose this quote because it is a heartfelt invitation for readers.
You sum up the whole of New Testament teaching in a single phrase, if you speak of it as a revelation of the Fatherhood of the holy Creator. In the same way, you sum up the whole of New Testament religion if you describe it as the knowledge of God as one’s holy Father. If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God’s child, and having God as his Father. If this is not the thought that prompts and controls his worship and prayers and his whole outlook on life, it means that he does not understand Christianity very well at all. For everything that Christ taught, everything that makes the New Testament new, and better than the Old, everything that is distinctively Christian as opposed to merely Jewish, is summed up I the knowledge of the Fatherhood of God. (201)
Packer has a LOT to say about adoption and the fatherhood of God. But this was my favorite. (It was hard to choose just one).

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Week in Review: July 5-11

God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth. John 4:24, ESV
“Truth” means that we are to worship what is true about God. In other words, worshiping in “truth” occurs when we worship in accordance with what God has revealed about himself. That is true worship. The converse is also true—true worship does not take place when we do not worship in accordance with what God has revealed about himself. So what we think about God is of great importance… When the church’s concept of God in any way blurs, not only does worship suffer, but moral standards decline….Wrong thinking about God is in fact idolatry because an idolatrous heart assumes God is other than he is… We must be people of the Word, because the clearest revelation of God that we have is in his Word… Worship must include the total revelation of who God is. When this happens, God is worshiped in truth, idolatrous hearts are purged, moral lives are elevated, and God is pleased… Authentic worship happens only when the very core of our being is employed in worshiping God! Sometimes we sing but do not worship. Sometimes we pray with our lips, but worship does not take place. Sometimes we give, but we do not worship. And sometimes we do none of these things but are in deepest worship! ~ R. Kent Hughes, John: That You May Believe
  • Mark
  • Luke
  • John
  • Acts 1-11
  • 1 Corinthians
  • 2 Corinthians
  • Philippians
  • Colossians
  • Titus
  • Philemon
  • James
  • 1 Peter
  • 2 Peter
  • 1 John
  • 2 John
  • 3 John
  • Numbers
  • Exodus 1-20
  • John
  • Isaiah
  • Revelation

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, July 10, 2015

Book Review: Knowing God

Knowing God. J.I. Packer. 1973/1993. Intervarsity Press. 286 pages. [Source: Bought]

Knowing God was the very first theology book I ever read, and I read it back in college days. It has been a while--quite a while--since I last read it. So it was great for me to revisit with a past favorite. If you haven't read J.I. Packer, Knowing God is probably the one that you need to pick up first. It is an excellent book.

The book is divided into three sections: "Know the Lord," "Behold Your God!", and "If God Be For Us…"

The first section includes, "The Study of God," "The People Who Know Their God," "Knowing and Being Known," "The Only True God," "God Incarnate," and "He Shall Testify."

The second section includes, "God Unchanging," "The Majesty of God," "God Only Wise," "God's Wisdom and Ours," "Thy Word Is Truth," "The Love of God," "The Grace of God," "God the Judge," "The Wrath of God," "Goodness and Severity," and "The Jealous God."

The third section includes, "The Heart of the Gospel," "Sons of God," "Thou Our Guide," "These Inward Trials," and "The Adequacy of God."

Knowing God is an engaging, challenging read. Challenging in a good way. The book offers readers plenty to think about in a wide range of subjects touching on how to live the Christian life. It also answers essential questions. Questions like:

Who is God?
How can I know God?
What is sin?
What is the gospel?
What is grace?
How can I be saved?
What am I saved from? and saved for?
What is justification?
What is propitiation?
What does it mean to be a Christian?

And these are just for starters. Knowing God is packed with information that believers of all ages need to know.

I highly recommend this one! I'll be sharing quotes in another post.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Quotes from the Cloud #27

This year, I hope share weekly posts of quotes. These quotes are from authors I'm reading and enjoying from the Clouds of Witnesses Reading Challenge

For fellow participants, what I would LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to see is for people to share quotes from what they're reading. I'd love for you to share quotes occasionally with your readers and let me know about it. If you don't have a blog, you could always leave quotes in the comments here.
When I am asked what God is, I think I know, but when I try to answer the question, I find that I know nothing. ~ St. Augustine
My sin was all the more incurable because I did not think of myself a sinner. ~ St. Augustine 
I firmly believe that the moment our hearts are emptied of pride and selfishness and ambition and self-seeking and everything that is contrary to God's law, the Holy Spirit will come and fill every corner of our hearts; but if we are full of pride and conceit and ambition and self-seeking and pleasure and the world, there is no room for the Spirit of God; and I believe many a man is praying to God to fill him when he is full already with something else. Before we pray that God will fill us, I believe we ought to pray that He would empty us. There must be an emptying before there can be a filling. And when the heart is turned upside-down and everything that is contrary to God is turned out, then the Spirit will come. ~ D.L. Moody
God sends no one away empty except those who are full of themselves. ~ D.L Moody

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Book Review: Pass It On

Pass It On. Jim Burns & Jeremy Lee. David C. Cook. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy]
The Rites of Passage Experience is a series of shared spiritual moments between parent and child that uses the power of symbols and ceremonies to infuse faith into the natural transitions that take place in the life of your child. 
Pass It On is a book encouraging parents to celebrate rites of passages with their children. They suggest celebrating one rite of passage per school year. The first three chapters of the book establish some of the why and how. What kind of legacy do you want to create for your children?

The remaining chapters are more of a reference, in a way. There's a chapter for a rite of passage for each grade in school starting with kindergarten. The goal, of course, is for parents to come back to this book every year as their child grows up. Each chapter is packed with information. Not only on the rite of passage and how to do it yourself in your own family, but, also information on that stage of development: physical, emotional, relational, spiritual.

  • Kindergarten: An Invitation to Generosity
  • First Grade: An Invitation to Responsibility
  • Second Grade: An Invitation to the Bible
  • Third Grade: An Invitation to Rhythm (Time-Management/Setting Priorities)
  • Fourth Grade: An Invitation to Friendship
  • Fifth Grade: An Invitation to Identity
  • Sixth Grade: Preparation for Adolescence
  • Seventh Grade: The Blessing
  • Eighth Grade: Purity Weekend
  • Ninth Grade: Driving Contract
  • Tenth Grade: Money Matters
  • Eleventh Grade: Family Tree
  • Twelfth Grade: Manhood/Womanhood Ceremony

I appreciated how each chapter has a Laying the Foundation of Faith section. The book isn't just about spirituality, but, it is the foundation in many ways.

I am choosing to only talk about one "rite of passage" experience. (It wouldn't be practical to cover all of them in a review).
Second Grade Rite of Passage
Ceremony: Bible Presentation with Scripture Testimony
Symbol: Bible
In the second grade rite of passage, you and others who are important to your child will have the chance to share why the Bible is meaningful to you, and then you will present your child with his very own special Bible. As a parent, your treatment of Scripture greatly forms how your child will treat Scripture, so this experience is a wonderful gateway to influence him concerning the power and impact of God's Word.
The first step is to purchase a Bible…
After you purchase the Bible, ask significant people in your child's life to highlight their favorite verses and write their names or initials next to those verses. We also recommend that you write a short letter to your child in the front of the Bible.
Once the Bible is ready, present it to your child. Take time to read the letter inside the cover and point out some of the verses people highlighted…
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

My Year With Spurgeon #27

Waiting Only Upon God
Charles Spurgeon
Psalm 62:6
The Psalmist was a preacher, and it was quite right that he should sometimes make himself his congregation. The preacher who neglects to preach to himself has forgotten a very important part of his audience. He who never in his silent privacy speaketh a word to his own soul, doth not know where to begin his preaching. We must first address our own soul. If we can move that by the words we may utter, we may hope to have some power with the souls of others.
Oh! how many men have made a fearful shipwreck of their entire existence, by choosing an object inferior to this high and noble object of existence, the serving of God.
Oh if we could make God our only object we should rest quite secure, and whatever happened it never could be said of us, “He died without having had what he wished for.
Christian, if thou wouldest know the path of duty take God for thy compass; if thou wouldest know the way to steer thy ship through the dark billows, put the tiller into the hand of the Almighty. Many a rock might be escaped, if we would let God take the helm; many a shoal or quicksand we might well avoid, if we would leave to his sovereign will to choose and to command.
We must mark God’s providence leading us; and then let us go. But he that goes before providence will be very glad to run back again. Take your trouble, whatever it is, to the throne of the Most High and on your knees put up the prayer, “Lord, direct me.” You will not go wrong.
Oh! it is a happy way of smoothing sorrow, when we can say, “We will wait only upon God.” Oh, ye agitated Christians, do not dishonor your religion by always wearing a brow of care; come, cast your burden upon the Lord.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, July 6, 2015

Book Review: Stronger

Stronger. Clayton King. 2015. Baker Books. 208 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I have read some great books this past year, Stronger may be one of my personal favorites. The subtitle explains why: how hard times reveal God's greatest power. Within pages, I knew that Stronger was going to be an absolutely amazing read for me. I admit it. I cried reading some sections of this one.

Here is an excerpt from his journal which he shared in the introduction:
Hard times don't make me happy, but by God's grace, they can make me holy.
Where there's no death, there can be no resurrection. Where there's no cross, there can be no empty tomb.
Peace isn't the absence of crisis. It's the presence of Christ in my crisis.
Just because I feel invisible, it doesn't mean I'm not valuable.
God works in our weakness because that's all he has to work with.
Before every triumph, there is a trial. Before every testimony, there is a test.
I can't stop when I feel stuck. I have to keep moving forward in faith that Jesus is stronger.
I want to give up, but if I'm not dead, then God's not done. If I'm still breathing, then I can keep going.
I don't have to feed every feeling. Just because I'm lonely, it doesn't mean that God has left me.
I can grow bitter or I can become better. If my pain serves the purpose of seeing Jesus more clearly and preaching the gospel more boldly, then I want to embrace it, not escape it.
I keep asking Jesus to give me something, but he keeps trying to show me something. Maybe the real gift is the revelation of his presence in my pain.
I should stop seeking happiness in my weakness and start seeking holiness. Pain has a way of purifying my motives and clarifying my calling.
God is not punishing me for failure. He is pruning me for fruitfulness.
The things that break me are the things that bring me closer to God. (15-16)
He writes clearly, honestly, powerfully. There isn't a page of Stronger where he doesn't make himself vulnerable. The book is his personal story of how God has used his pain, his grief, his suffering. These are truths learned about God, about life, the hard way. It's a compelling read, and a necessary one. For as King points out in the first chapter, we are all broken whether we admit it or not.

King is sharing his experiences with readers. It is a personal story. He writes of losing family members he loved. Of taking care of his mom and dad, but particularly his dad in his final years. These memories are intense and resonate with emotion. I think many readers can relate to his experiences, and will appreciate King's sharing. But it isn't just about him. It is never just about him. Every chapter shows readers something about God. King is challenging readers to grow in their understanding of who God is, and to reexamine how they think.

My favorite chapters were "Presence," "Vulnerability," "Worship" and "Glory."

None of us like to feel broken. We want to feel strong, in charge, full of courage. We want to stop feeling so frail, so human--we wish we could be unaffected by the pain of the world in and around us. We would not choose to be crushed, to feel rejected, to feel spurned. We would not choose to be heartbroken. But we don't get to choose what breaks us. We only get to choose how we respond. We can never escape our weakness. So we must embrace it. (36)
Fear must be present for faith to exist at all. Fear is the thing that calls faith out of us. The obstacle that's too big for us, the situation we can't fix, the sickness we can't cure--these bring fear to the surface. But if we look behind those fears, we will find that faith is hot on their heels. Every fear is an opportunity to have faith in God's power… Fear is actually a kind of faith; it's faith in the wrong thing, the bad thing, the worst thing. We succumb to fear when we forget that God is still there with us, in us, and for us. I think we have gotten the idea of faith all wrong. Faith does not mean the absence of fear. Faith means moving forward in the face of fear. It's owning our fear and forging ahead into an uncertain outcome. (90)