Monday, February 29, 2016

February Reflections

February Accomplishments:

What I've read in the Bible this month:

  • 1 Samuel
  • 2 Samuel
  • 1 Kings
  • 2 Kings
  • 1 Chronicles
  • 2 Chronicles
  • Job
  • Ecclesiastes
  • Song of Solomon
  • Isaiah
  • Jeremiah
  • Lamentations
  • Hosea
  • Joel
  • Amos
  • Obadiah
  • Jonah
  • Micah
  • Nahum
  • Habakkuk
  • Zephaniah
  • Haggai
  • 1 John
  • 2 John 
  • 3 John


  • Leviticus
  • Numbers
  • Psalms 13-


  • Psalms 13-23
  • Mark
  • Galatians

Favorite verse:
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will receive me to glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. Psalm 73:24-25

Books I've reviewed this month:
Christian Fiction

  1. The Prophetess. Jill Eileen Smith. 2016. Revell. 368 pages. [Source: Review copy] BIBLICAL FICTION
Christian Nonfiction

  1. Judges and Ruth: God in Chaos. Barry G. Webb. 2015. Crossway. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy] BIBLE COMMENTARY
  2. Is God Anti-Gay? And Other Questions About Homosexuality, the Bible and Same-Sex Attraction. Sam Allberry. 2013/2015. Good Book Co. 93 pages. [Source: Gift] CURRENT ISSUES
  3. I am N: Inspiring Stories of Christians Facing Islamic Extremists. Voice of the Martyrs. 2016. David C. Cook. 304 pages. [Source: Review Copy] CURRENT ISSUES
  4. Valley of Vision: A Collection of Prayers and Devotions. Arthur Bennett. 1975. Banner of Truth. 223 pages. [Source: Gift] DEVOTIONAL, POETRY, CHRISTIAN CLASSIC
  5. Christ Among Other Gods. Erwin Lutzer. 1994/2016. Moody. 256 pages. [Source: Review copy] CURRENT ISSUES, CHRISTIAN LIVING, 
  6. Best of A.W. Tozer (#1) A.W. Tozer. Compiled by Warren Wiersbe. 1978/2007. 251 pages. [Source: Bought] DEVOTIONAL, CHRISTIAN LIVING
  7. Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon (Thru the Bible #21) J. Vernon McGee. 1977/1996. Thomas Nelson. 192 pages. [Source: Gift from Friend]  BIBLE COMMENTARY
  8. A Tale of Two Sons: The Inside Story of a Father, His Sons, and a Shocking Murder. 2008. Thomas Nelson. 221 pages. [Source: Gift] CHRISTIAN LIVING, 
  9. The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance--Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters. Sinclair B. Ferguson. 2016. Crossway. 256 pages. [Source: Review copy] THEOLOGY, CHRISTIAN LIVING
  10. Pleasing God. R.C. Sproul. 1994. Tyndale. 234 pages. [Source: Bought] CHRISTIAN LIVING, THEOLOGY
  11. PROOF: Finding Freedom Through the Intoxicating Joy of Irresistable Grace. Daniel Montgomery and Timothy Paul Jones. 2014. Zondervan. 224 pages. [Source: Bought] CHRISTIAN LIVING, THEOLOGY    
Favorite quotes:
Christ’s commitment to his people does not depend on our capacity to remember, but on God’s capacity to sustain us and preserve us. It depends on a covenant that has been engraved in flesh and confirmed in blood. ~ Daniel Montgomery and Timothy Paul Jones, Proof
Dedication is not something you talk about; dedication to Christ is something you reveal. It will be manifested in your life. If your eye is upon Him, then His beauty will be reflected in you. ~ J. Vernon McGee, Song of Solomon
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, February 28, 2016

February's Scripture Chain

  • Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord! O Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy! If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared. Psalm 130:1-4
  • And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
  • The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands. Psalm 138:8
  • But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. 1 John 1:7-10
  • The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth. Lamentations 3:22-27
  • And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. 1 John 5:11-12
  • And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. Acts 4:12
  • But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8
  • Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. Psalm 32:1-2
  • But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:4-10
  • I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord. Psalm 40:1-3
  • Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. Isaiah 53:4-6
  • For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21
  • For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16
  • Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases,who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's. Psalm 103:1-5
  • In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 1 John 4:9-10
  • He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. Psalm 103:10-13
  • What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:31-39
  • As for you, O Lord, you will not restrain your mercy from me; your steadfast love and your faithfulness will ever preserve me! For evils have encompassed me beyond number; my iniquities have overtaken me, and I cannot see; they are more than the hairs of my head; my heart fails me. Psalm 40:11-12
  • But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Romans 3:21-26
  • See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. 1 John 3:1-3
  • Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love. He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot.You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. Micah 7:18-19
  • For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 
  • Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:14-21
  • As for you, O Lord, you will not restrain your mercy from me; your steadfast love and your faithfulness will ever preserve me! Psalm 40:11
  • Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:3-14
  • We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4:19
  • But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. Ephesians 2:13
  • Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Corinthians 5:17
  • Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:12-17

Inspiration: Love Lifted Me (Alan Jackson's Love Lifted Me)
Translation Used: ESV

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Week in Review: February 21-27

Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known. Jeremiah 33:3
Too often we Christians expect too little of Jesus and too much of each other. ~ Joel Beeke, Walking As He Walked

  • 1 Chronicles 20-29
  • 2 Chronicles 1-21
  • Jeremiah 
  • Lamentations


  • Psalm 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87, 88, 89, 90, 112, 113, 114, 115, 116, 117, 118, 119, 120, 142, 143, 144, 145, 146, 147, 148, 149, 150
  • Mark


  • Numbers 22-36
  • Psalm 19-23

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, February 26, 2016

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]
Performance — work and reward — is one of the basic structures of our lives. As a result, we grow up thinking, “I am what I am because of what I do . . . or because of what I’ve failed to do.” But what if we told you that it’s all a lie? What if we proved to you that, when you stake your identity on your performance, you’re delusional. Better yet, what if we told you a truth that can get you free from this lifelong delusion?
I loved, loved, loved, LOVED, LOVED this one. I first reviewed it in 2014. I decided to reread it again this year. I'm so glad I did.

What is it about? The gospel--the amazing, beautiful, glorious gospel.
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.
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.
It is about the doctrines of grace. Perhaps you're unfamiliar with the "doctrines of grace." Or perhaps you're too familiar with the doctrines of grace. This is a good book in both instances. Whether this is your very first book about the "doctrines of grace" or your fiftieth.

The authors write,
Whenever we talk about PROOF, we’re referring to an acronym that summarizes five key facets of God’s amazing grace. PROOF reminds us of five different ways in which we experience the grace of God at work in our lives
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 10:11-18Ephesians 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 5:21Ephesians 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 15:16Ephesians 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 15:16Ephesians 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 10:27-29Ephesians 1:13-144:30).
To anyone who has questions about salvation, this is the book for you. What is salvation? How can I be saved? What is God's part in my salvation? What is my part in my salvation? Is salvation forever and ever? Can I lose my salvation? Is my salvation dependent on my sanctification, on my striving to follow God's rules and commands? What exactly is grace? Is grace too good to be true? What are the conditions of receiving God's grace? Am I really supposed to share the gospel? share the gospel with everyone?!

Some of my favorite quotes:
The empty wisdom of human religion proclaims, “What goes around comes around. God helps those who help themselves. You get what you pay for” — but these are lies that lead only to bondage and despair. The gospel of grace speaks an entirely different word, a word that’s filled with paradox and mystery. By God’s grace, we get what someone else paid for. By grace, God helps those who not only can’t help themselves, they don’t even want to. By grace, what goes around stops at the foot of the cross, never to come around again.
The message of planned grace begins with the truth that God is a loving Father who chose us personally and specifically before time began. It continues with the truth that God is a loving Bridegroom who has accomplished everything necessary to win the heart of his beloved bride. God didn’t plan for Christ’s work on the cross to extend a certain distance only to discover later that his creatures have somehow thwarted his good intentions. God’s grace always goes precisely as far as God planned.
When did God choose to love and save his people? God planned to love and save his people before the creation of the world. This is planned grace. God maps out our rescue from start to finish (Ephesians 1:4–5). The Son didn’t just make the world savable — he secured salvation for every individual who repents and believes. The value of his suffering was more than sufficient to atone for every person in the world, but God planned for his death to purchase particular people from every nation.
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 sovereign king of the cosmos isn’t waiting on a permission slip from humanity before he resurrects spiritual zombies — and he certainly isn’t pacing the portals of heaven, wringing his hands, hoping someone responds positively to his invitation to the celestial prom. God powerfully sends his church to proclaim the gospel in every nation. As the gospel is shared, God’s Spirit pierces the lives of particular people who are spiritually dead and exchanges their death for his life (Acts 2:37; 13:48; Colossians 2:13).
God’s choice to save you had nothing to do with anything that you have done or will do. You did nothing to gain God’s favor, and there’s nothing you can do to keep God’s favor. All that you can do — which is really no “doing” at all — is to receive what God in Christ has already done. It’s only when we realize that nothing we did or might do formed the basis of God’s choice to save us that we truly taste the intoxicating joy of God’s irresistible grace.
Outrageous grace isn’t a favor you can achieve by being good; it’s the gift you receive by being God’s. Outrageous grace is God’s goodness that comes looking for you when you have nothing but a middle finger flipped in the face of God to offer in return.
The God of the Scriptures is no debonair gentleman who waves to us from the opposite side of a chasm, hoping we will find it in our hearts to respond. In Jesus Christ, God himself crossed the chasm between himself and humanity (John 1:14; 12:27). He came as a righteous shepherd who sacrifices his life to snatch his sheep from the jaws of the beast (Ezekiel 34:10; Matthew 18:12 – 14; John 10:11 – 15). He entered space and time as a sovereign lord in humble disguise, seeking to transform a broken woman into his pure and perfect bride (Ezekiel 16:1 – 14; Hosea 3:1; Ephesians 5:25 – 27). He came as a medic on an emergency mission to breathe life into sin-infected souls (Mark 2:17). Now, through the power of his Spirit and the proclamation of his gospel, this same Jesus is shattering every resistance to his reign in the lives of those he has chosen. He is planting outposts of his kingdom where love and justice grow, and he is beginning the healing of his people’s sin-infected souls. Jesus Christ came to seek and to save his people who were lost, and he isn’t asking anyone’s permission to finish this mission (Matthew 1:21; Luke 19:10). That’s the power and the beauty of overcoming grace.
Christ’s commitment to his people does not depend on our capacity to remember, but on God’s capacity to sustain us and preserve us. It depends on a covenant that has been engraved in flesh and confirmed in blood.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Quotes from the Cloud #7

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.
Let wrath deserved be written on the door of hell, but the free gift of grace on the gate of heaven. I know that my sufferings are the result of my sinning, but in heaven both shall cease. ~ Valley of Vision, "The Mover," p. 8
May I be always amongst those who not only hear but know thee, who walk with and rejoice in thee, who take thee at thy word and find life there. ~ Valley of Vision, "A Present Salvation," p. 12
God will not use a man greatly until He has broken him deeply. ~ A.W. Tozer
“Letting God be God is half of all true religion.” ~ Martin Luther
Faith gives us living joy and bestows dying rest. Christ's resurrection is the cause, the promise, the guarantee, and the proof of the coming resurrection of all His people. ~ Charles Spurgeon, Daily Treasures in the Psalms, January 31

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Book Review: Pleasing God

Pleasing God. R.C. Sproul. 1994. Tyndale. 234 pages. [Source: Bought]

TRUE OR FALSE. Every Christian should have a passion to please God. We are to delight in honoring Him. It should be our greatest desire to please our Redeemer.

In Pleasing God, R.C. Sproul writes that "we all begin the Christian life with the intention of living in such a way to please God. But that we encounter obstacles along the way. We meet with conflicts between what pleases us and and what pleases God. We need help in overcoming these obstacles." His book on sanctification is a practical guide for how to live a Christian life. The premise is, of course, that our lives after conversion should differ from before our conversion, that being saved should change us, transform us.

Sanctification is very much a process--a journey--believers are never instantly victorious and wholly holy! Even if we "win" victory (through Christ) over one area of sin in our lives, we're never completely, totally, absolutely free from sin in all areas of our lives. The Christian life is a struggling life: our battle against self, sin, temptation, even Satan. It may not be popular to think of the Christian life being a battleground, but, it is true all the same. And though it may not be easy to admit: often our greatest foe is ourselves!

Sproul opens the book with a Scripture illustration from the gospel of Mark:
And they came to Bethsaida. And some people brought to him a blind man and begged him to touch him. And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Do you see anything?” And he looked up and said, “I see people, but they look like trees, walking.” Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. Mark 8:22-25
Believers are like the blind man seeing "walking trees." Sproul says:
He was at an intermediate stage between total blindness and full clarity of vision. He was, as we shall see, a representative of all Christians in their progress toward pleasing God.
When we are born again, we see men as trees, walking. Our spiritual vision is clouded by ongoing sin. We do not see all things in sharp spiritual focus. But there will come a day when all remnants of our old nature will be destroyed, when our hearts will be so purified that Christ’s beatitude will be fulfilled: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8).
Though the scales are removed from our eyes, we still need to be led by the hand of Jesus. Regeneration is the beginning of a journey. It is a journey with successes and failures, with growth amid stumbling. At times, the progress seems painfully slow, but progress is there.
There is a danger in thinking that we can live the Christian life in our own strength, in our own way. We all need to be reminded that we need to be led by the hand of Jesus. That though some things in the Christian life are instant--regeneration and justification come to mind--other things are a process, at times a very slow, very painful process. I had to smile when I read his illustration of this:
Bunyan understood the many temptations and pitfalls that stand in the path of every Christian. But he also understood two vitally important truths about the Christian life: we are pilgrims, and we make progress.
Sproul shows us what sanctification is and what it is not:
Run for your life from those who promise you instant sanctification. There is a poisonous doctrine—one that dies hard in Christian circles—called the doctrine of perfectionism. It teaches that some people have already attained spiritual perfection in this world. Those who teach this doctrine promise a “second work of grace,” a “second blessing” of instant sanctification. Turn away from such teachers… For people to convince themselves that they have already achieved spiritual perfection, they must do one of two things: they must reduce the demands of God’s law to such a low level that they can obey them, or they must radically inflate their own assessment of their spiritual performance… Either of these steps is deadly. To reduce the demands of God’s law is to do violence to the holiness of God. To inflate one’s own self-assessment to the point of self-delusion is an extreme form of pride.
Sanctification is a journey, a life-long journey, a fighting and struggling journey.  
The journey has but one guarantee: Christ promises to go with us and to bring us out the other side. Our Lord finishes what He starts. He does not abort His handiwork in the middle of its creation. He does not leave us staring at walking trees. No, the Lord is intensely interested in our welfare and our maturing.
The Christian life is to be a SEEKING life. Every step of the journey we are to be seeking: seeking God, seeking his kingdom, seeking His righteousness, seeking to glorify Him. Here are just a few passages from the Bible about seeking:
And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you. Psalm 9:10
One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple. Psalm 27:4
You have said, “Seek my face.” My heart says to you, “Your face, Lord, do I seek.” Psalm 27:8
But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation say continually, “Great is the Lord!” Psalm 40:16
O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. Psalm 63:1
Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice! Psalm 105:3
Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually! Psalm 105:4
With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! Psalm 119:10
My soul yearns for you in the night; my spirit within me earnestly seeks you. For when your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness. Isaiah 26:9
“Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; Isaiah 55:6
You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:13
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matthew 6:33
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Matthew 7:7-8
It also becomes clear that we seek God because He sought us first!

How can we please God in this life? Sproul argues that it simply comes down to one word: obedience. Easy to conclude that, not so easy to accomplish it, right?!
The conclusion we reach is this: the great overarching goal of the Christian life is obedience to the King. He is pleased when we obey. We cannot possibly imitate His deity, but we are to imitate His single-minded devotion to obedience, His commitment to pleasing God.
What is righteousness? The simplest answer that righteousness is doing what is right in the sight of God. This is a simple definition that is far more complex under the surface. To be righteous is to do everything that God calls us to do.
Sproul goes on to address common obstacles that all believers come up against in this life. The table of contents provides you with a good idea of what to expect:

  • Tender Grace
  • The Goal of Christian Living
  • Beware the Leaven of the Pharisees
  • The Battle with the World
  • The Battle with the Flesh
  • The Battle with the Devil
  • Satan as Accuser
  • Fear and Guilt Paralysis
  • Real Forgiveness
  • The Carnal Christian
  • The Sin of Pride
  • The Sin of Slothfulness
  • The Sin of Dishonesty
  • Doctrine and Life
  • Never Give Up
In my opinion, every believer needs to read at least one book on sanctification. R.C. Sproul's Pleasing God would be a fine choice.

I'll leave you with some quotes from the book.

TRUE OR FALSE “We Christians, God’s beloved children, have Christ’s righteousness” is a valid statement only if we are truly aiming for righteousness. Pretense does not count. Reality does.

TRUE OR FALSE During His incarnation, Jesus displayed a deep love for the Word of God. He calls His people to be diligent students of Scripture. But He demands more than the acquisition of Bible knowledge. We must have a sound doctrine of the Bible. But even this is not enough. The righteousness that pleases Him is a righteousness that proceeds from being doers of His Word and not hearers only (James 1:22).

TRUE OR FALSE The theater of God’s redemption is this world. It is to this world that God came in Christ. Christ refused to allow His disciples to hide in an upper room with the doors locked because of fear. No tabernacles were allowed on the Mount of Transfiguration. We are called to be Christ’s witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). Jerusalem is in this world. Judea is in this world. Samaria is in this world. The ends of the earth are still on this earth. So we should not flee this world. But, oh, how many Christians try to do so. And in doing so, they may actually be displeasing the God who wants the world to be redeemed, not escaped.

TRUE OR FALSE It is to our advantage to understand how the enemy thinks.

TRUE OR FALSE Sin is the abuse of the divine gift. It is using the gift in a manner that God does not allow.

TRUE OR FALSE Satan’s chief device of temptation is to attack the truth of God.

TRUE OR FALSE Failure to believe what God says is the foundation of all sin. Once the truth of God is set aside, we have nothing to restrain us from doing what is right in our own eyes.

TRUE OR FALSE  The redeemed of God who are snatched from the flames by the hand of the Lord are still covered with ashes. We remain streaked with charcoal and blemished with soot. We are redeemed, but not sinless. Satan is quick to call attention to the dirt. He wants us to be more conscious of our sin than of God’s mercy.

TRUE OR FALSE It is the possession of saving faith that justifies us, not the mere profession of it.

TRUE OR FALSE The Spirit works with the Word. He does not work against the Word or without the Word. The Word and Spirit go together. Doctrine and life go together. The will and the mind go together. To separate them is to frustrate the work of sanctification within us and to grieve the Holy Spirit. To separate them is to miss the integrated, committed life that pleases God.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

My Year with Spurgeon #7

How To Keep The Heart
Charles Spurgeon
Philippians 4:7
This morning my text was, “Keep the heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life.” Now, this evening we have the promise upon which we must rest if we desire to fulfill the precept: — “The peace of God which passeth all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” We shall use the figure of a fortress which is to be kept. And the promise saith that it shall be kept — kept by “the peace of God which passeth all understanding through Christ Jesus.”
There is a peace of God which exists between the child of God and God his Judge, a peace which may be truly said to pass all understanding. Jesus Christ has offered so all- sufficient a satisfaction for all the claims of injured justice that now God hath no fault to find with his children.
Against the child of God conscience brings no accusation, or if it brings the accusation, it is but a gentle one — a gentle chiding of a loving friend who hints that we have done amiss, and that we had better change, but doth not afterwards thunder in our ears the threat of a penalty.
Let us make it an experimental question with our own hearts: — “Come, my soul, art thou at peace with God? Hast thou seen thy pardon signed and sealed with the Redeemer’s blood? Come, answer this, my heart; hast thou cast thy sins upon the head of Christ, and hast thou seen them all washed a way in the crimson streams of blood? Canst thou feel that now there is a lasting peace between thyself and God, so that, come what may, God shall not be angry with thee — shall not condemn thee — shall not consume thee in his wrath, nor crush thee in his hot displeasure?
If it be so, then, my heart, thou canst scarcely need to stop and ask the second question — Is my conscience at peace? For, if my heart condemn me not, God is greater than my heart, and doth know all things; if my conscience bears witness with me, that I am a partaker of the precious grace of salvation, then happy am I! I am one of those to whom God hath given the peace which passeth all understanding. Now, why is this called “the peace of God?” We suppose it is because it comes from God — because it was planned by God because God gave his Son to make the peace — because God gives his Spirit to give the peace in the conscience — because, indeed, it is God himself in the soul, reconciled to man, whose is the peace. And while it is true that this man shall have the peace — even the Man-Christ, yet we know it is because he was the God-Christ that he was our peace. And hence we may clearly perceive how Godhead is mixed up with the peace which we enjoy with our Maker and with our conscience.
Then we are told that it is “the peace of God which passeth all understanding.” What does he mean by this? He means such a peace that the understanding can never understand it, can never attain to it. The understanding of mere carnal man can never comprehend this peace. Without Christ Jesus this peace would not exist; without Christ Jesus this peace, even where it has existed, cannot be maintained. Daily visits from the Savior, continual lookings by the eye of faith to him that bled upon the cross, continual drawings from his ever-flowing fountain, make this peace broad, and long, and enduring. But take Christ Jesus, the channel of our peace away, and it fades and dies, and droops, and comes to nought. A Christian hath no peace with God except through the atonement of his Lord Jesus Christ.
Thus we have discussed the first point, what is this peace? Now the second thing was, now Is THIS PEACE TO BE OBTAINED? You will note that although this is a promise, it hath precepts preceding, and it is only by the practice of the precepts that we can get the promise. Turn now, to the fourth verse, and you will see the first rule and regulation for getting peace. Christian, would you enjoy “the peace of God which passeth all understanding?” The first thing you have to do is to “rejoice evermore.” The man who never rejoices, but who is always sorrowing, and groaning, and crying, who forgets his God, echo forgets the fullness of Jehovah, and is always murmuring concerning the trials of the road and the infirmities of the flesh, that man will lose the prospect of enjoying a peace that passeth all understanding. Cultivate, my friends, a cheerful disposition; endeavor, as much as lieth in you, always to bear a smile about with you; recollect that this is as much a command of God as that one which says, “Thou shalt love the Lord with all thy heart.”
Rejoice evermore, is one of God’s commands; and it is your duty, as well as your privilege, to try and practice it. Not to rejoice, remember, is a sin. To rejoice, is a duty, and such a duty that the richest fruits and the best rewards are appended to it. Rejoice always, and then the peace of God shall keep your hearts and minds. Many of us, by giving way to disastrous doubts, spoil our peace. But keep on singing, even when the sun does not keep on shining; keep a song for all weathers; get a joy that will stand clouds and storms; and then, when you know how always to rejoice, you shall have this peace.
Keep moderation, whatsoever you do, in all things, but in your desires after God; and so shall you obey the second precept, and get the glimpse of this promise, “The peace of God shall keep your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ.” The last precept that you have to obey is, “be careful for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication make known your requests unto God.” You cannot have peace unless you turn your troubles up. You have no place in which to pour your troubles except the ear of God. If you tell them to you friends, you but put your troubles out a moment, and they will return again. If you tell them to God, you put your troubles into the grave; they will never rise again when you have committed them to him. Cast your troubles where you have cast your sins; you have cast your sins into the depth of the sea, there cast your troubles also Never keep a trouble half an hour on your own mind before you tell it to God.
Now, the third thing was to show HOW THE PEACE, which I attempted to describe in the first place, KEEPS THE HEART. You will clearly see how this peace will keep the heart full. That man who has continued peace with God, will not have an empty heart. He feels that God has done so much for him that he must love his God. The eternal basis of his peace lies in divine election — the solid pillars of his peace, the incarnation of Christ, his righteousness, his death — the climax of his peace, the heaven hereafter where his joy and his peace shall be consummated; all these are subjects for grateful reflection, and will, when meditated upon, cause more love. Now, where much love is, there is a large heart and a full one. Keep, then, this peace with God, and thou wilt keep thy heart full to the brim. And, remember, that in proportion to the fullness of thine heart will be the fullness of thy life.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, February 22, 2016

Book Review: The Whole Christ

The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance--Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters. Sinclair B. Ferguson. 2016. Crossway. 256 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Can republishing a book cause a theological storm--a huge controversy? It can if the book in question is The Marrow of Modern Divinity by Edward Fisher. For that is exactly what happened in Scotland in the eighteenth century in a law versus gospel showdown. Though that might be slightly unfair to both sides. It was, however, "us" versus "them." And the labels being tossed around were "legalist" and "antinomian."

In The Whole Christ, Sinclair Ferguson addresses the dangers of both legalism and antinomianism and reveals how they share a surprising connection: a failure to believe in God's love and grace, or to fully believe it in any case. Also both are more attitudes about the gospel than solid doctrines--at least such is the case in the Marrow Controversy. Both sides held most of the same doctrines--creeds, confessions, catechisms--in common. Both confessed these doctrines to be true. But the arguments were fierce.

If there is a main point in The Whole Christ, it is this: THE GOSPEL IS THE CURE. The gospel is the cure for legalists. The gospel is the cure for antinomians. The gospel is the cure no matter your error. Whether you've strayed a few steps or a lot of steps from the purity of the gospel--the whole truth of the gospel. The gospel as revealed in the Word of God will cure you, straighten you out.

It is essential that believers know the gospel, are firmly rooted in the gospel, and keep that vital connection with the gospel, for God is the gospel. Christ cannot be separated into "his works" and "his person." One should not say, "I am saved by Christ's work on the cross." Instead, one should proclaim, "I am saved by Christ--by my union with Christ!"

Ferguson does present the gospel in The Whole Christ. The book is more than a history lesson, though a history lesson is there! The book is about how no matter the century, believers--and preachers--can fall into either error, that of legalism or antinomianism, one extreme or the other. Often it is a case of over-reacting, over-correcting to perceived error. So he defines both terms, and discusses them in depth, giving readers a lot to think about. What are the signs of legalism? of antinomianism? What do I believe about justification? about sanctification? Have I divided Christ in my theology? Do I live in light of what I say I believe about God?

I would recommend this one. I will admit that at times it is a heavy read. Any book that goes into in-depth discussion about justification and sanctification, about law and gospel, about how the two are connected, IF the two are connected, is prone to being heavy in places. Also, the history of this one is a little weighty--who said what when and what so-and-so said in response, etc. But overall it is a good book and worth reading.

Table of Contents:

  • Introduction
  • How A Marrow Grew
  • Grace in the Gospel
  • Preparation, Distortion, Poison
  • Danger! Legalism
  • The Order of Grace
  • Suspicious Symptoms
  • Faces of Antinomianism
  • Causes and Cures
  • The Marrow of Assurance
  • How Assurances of Christ Becomes Assurance of Salvation
  • Hindrances Strew All the Way
  • Conclusion
  • Appendix: Thomas Boston on Faith

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Week in Review: February 14-20

He sent redemption to his people; he has commanded his covenant forever. Holy and awesome is his name! Psalm 111:9

  • 1 Chronicles 1-19
  • Isaiah
  • Amos
  • Obadiah
  • Jonah
  • Micah
  • Nahum
  • Habakkuk 
  • Zephaniah
  • Haggai
  • 1 John
  • 2 John
  • 3 John


  • Psalm 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79, 80, 81, 104, 105, 106, 107, 108, 109, 110, 111, 134, 135, 136, 137, 138, 139, 140, 141


  • Numbers 12-21
  • Psalm 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, February 19, 2016

Book Review: North and South

North and South. Elizabeth Gaskell. 1854-1855. 452 pages. [Source: Bought]

Have you read North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell? Have you watched the movie at least?!?! North and South is one of my favorite, favorite, favorite books. I first read it in May 2010. I then listened to the audio book and watched the movie. Subsequent reviews followed in 2011, 2012, and 2014.

Margaret Hale is our heroine. She has spent most of her childhood in London living with her aunt and cousin. But when the novel opens, change is fast approaching. Her cousin is getting married, and, soon Margaret will return to her own family. Mr. Hale is a vicar whose conscience is burdening him. He finds he simply can't remain in the Church of England any longer. He resigns his post much to the dismay and disappointment of his wife and daughter. (Mr. Hale doesn't make the best first impression when he leaves his daughter to break the news to his wife. He leaves a lot of unpleasant duties to his daughter.)

The Hale family moves to the North of England, to a mill town, Milton. Mr. Hale takes a job as a tutor. One of his students--in fact, the only student that we know by name--is John Thornton, a master of one of the mills in town. Margaret and John take notice of each other--for better or worse. Though if you've seen the movie, it is NOTHING AT ALL like the first meeting in the book. The movie does add drama, the book is more subtle.

Margaret befriends the Higgins family (Nicholas, Bess, and Mary). Nicholas (the father) and Bess (the oldest daughter) work in the mills. (Bess is Margaret's best friend.) Through this friendship she learns the perspective of the working class. (She "learns" the perspective of the masters/mill owners through her un-friendship with John Thornton.) Soon Margaret has formed opinions and conclusions of her own which she's not shy to voice.

But these first few years in Milton are bittersweet at best. I won't mention all the reasons why--needless to say that Margaret is given plenty of opportunities to despair and complain OR to place her hope in God and keep going.

So what do I love about this one? I love Margaret. I love, love, love, love, LOVE John Thornton. I love Nicholas, Bess, Mr. Bell and Mr. Hale. Mrs. Thornton is joy from a distance! Essentially, I really like to spend time with these characters. These characters are friends of mine. We've spent LOTS of time together through the years. I love the romance. All the scenes--or almost all the scenes--between John and Margaret. I love the focus on friendship--particularly Bess and Margaret. Bess' words have stuck with me through the years.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Quotes from the Cloud #6

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.
A great many people think they can come into the light of the holy presence of God without a covering. I tell you, no one can come into the holy presence of God without the covering of the righteousness of Christ. That is our protection--which is another meaning of being covered with His wings. You and I need to be clothed in the righteousness of Christ to come into the presence of God. ~ J.Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible, Song of Solomon
We cannot feed others and tell them about the joy of the Word of God unless it is a joy to us. ~ J.Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible, Song of Solomon
Unused truth becomes as useless as an unused muscle. ~ A.W. Tozer, That Incredible Christian
There is One who pleads His precious blood on our behalf in the temple above, and there is One upon the throne who is never deaf to the intercession of His Son. Why then should we fear? God sees each person as much and as perfectly as if there were no other creature in the universe. He sees us always; He never removes His eyes from us. Is not this sufficient ground for confidence? ~ Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon's Daily Treasures in the Psalms, January 23

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Book Review: A Tale of Two Sons

A Tale of Two Sons: The Inside Story of a Father, His Sons, and a Shocking Murder. 2008. Thomas Nelson. 221 pages. [Source: Gift]

Are you familiar with the story of the Prodigal Son? Is this parable one of your favorites? Is it perhaps one of the few stories you know from the Bible?

TRUE OR FALSE. The parable of the prodigal son is a mirror of every human heart and conscience. (xvii)

One of my very first FAVORITE songs was "When God Ran" by Benny Hester. It was on the album Benny From Here. (I think I listened to that cassette hundreds if not thousands of times.) Of course, that is not the only song that has made mention of this parable from Luke 15. (Others include Mystery of Mercy and The Prodigal Son Suite. There may be dozens of others as well. If you have a favorite, leave a note in the comment.)

I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED John MacArthur's A Tale of Two Sons. I loved it for many reasons. I loved it because it was engaging, thought-provoking, challenging. Most people--most Christians--think they know the story, all they need to know about the story. It has become a feel-good story, a cozy story, a safe story, a nostalgic story perhaps bringing to mind flannel story boards. Who doesn't like the story of the Prodigal Son?!?!

MacArthur challenges readers to give the story another read, to look closer, to experience the story as its original audience would have--so far as possible. Who was the original audience?
Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” Luke 15:1-2
TRUE OR FALSE. The truth of the Bible doesn't change with time or mean different things in different cultures. Whatever the text meant when it was originally written, it still means today. Whatever Jesus intended to communicate to His listeners when He told this parable, that meaning still constitutes its only true message… Until we begin to comprehend the ideals and attitudes that shaped the culture, we can't expect to gain a full appreciation of the parable's main lesson. (5, 8)

TRUE OR FALSE. Jesus did not consort or seek fellowship with sinners in their sin. His overtures to sinners were always in the context of seeking their salvation, offering His grace and mercy, and extending to them forgiveness. He healed them, cleansed them, and released them from the prison of guilt and degradation. Yes, of course, Jesus consorted with sinners, but always as their deliverer. He was a true friend of sinners--the most authentic kind of friend. He served them and reached out to them and laid hold of their lives. Jesus didn't affirm them in their sin. Quite the contrary: He gave His whole self for them to redeem them from sin's cruel bondage. (22)

Jesus tells three parables at this time, to this audience. In Luke 15:3-7, He tells the parable of the Lost Sheep. In Luke 15:8-10, He tells the parable of the Lost Coin. The main point of those parables were as follows:
Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. Luke 15:7
Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Luke 15:10
Essentially, he was stressing: when sinners repent it is time to rejoice and celebrate. God himself is rejoicing--and all the angels too! And also, in those two parables God is symbolically seen as searching and seeking the lost. What we get is not the sinners' perspective, but God's perspective.

TRUE OR FALSE. To them [the original audience], the idea that God would freely accept and forgive repentant sinners (including the very worst of them) was a shocking and revolutionary concept. That's why Christ's practice of immediately receiving such people into His fellowship was such a public scandal. Almost no one in that society could conceive of God as reaching out to sinners… In our culture, the tendency usually goes to the opposite extreme. Too many people today take God's forgiveness for granted. They think of Him as so unconcerned about sin that things such as redemption, atonement, and the wrath of God are unsophisticated, crude, outmoded concepts. (20)

The third parable is different, and not just because it is longer. There are THREE perspectives. A sinner's perspective,  we get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of what true repentance looks like, in a way. God's perspective--the Father in the story represents CHRIST by the way--is shown. Here we see MERCY IN ACTION. But we also get the elder brother's perspective. Who did the elder brother represent? The pharisees and scribes. And this wasn't subtle, but, obvious to his audience.

MacArthur argues that the parable would have been shocking, upsetting, scandalous, and, towards the end abrasive. It would have left a very BITTER taste in the mouth to the Pharisees and scribes hearing the story. MacArthur would have you know that the elder brother in the story is not an afterthought, an epilogue. No, the elder brother is "the main reason Jesus told the parable… Jesus is pointing out the stark contrast between God's own delight in the redemption of sinners and the Pharisees' inflexible hostility toward those same sinners." (xiii, xvi)

TRUE OR FALSE. If you can hear the parable of the prodigal son and not identify yourself, you are missing the unspoken point of Jesus' message. It is a call to repentance, and it applies to prodigals (immoral, outcast sinners) and Pharisees (moral, respectable hypocrites) alike. Both the point and counterpoint of the parable underscores this idea. (36)

A Tale of Two Sons is divided into five sections: 1) The Parable (chapters 1 & 2), 2) The Prodigal (chapters 3-6), 3) The Father (chapters 7-8), 4) The Elder Brother (chapters 9-10), and 5) The Epilogue (chapter 11 titled: "The Shocking Real-Life Ending").

Another point MacArthur stresses in A Tale of Two Sons is that "everything Jesus does and says in the second half of Luke's Gospel drives the narrative to the cross" (9). The CROSS needs to be taken into account when we read the parable in context.

A Tale of Two Sons is a compelling nonfiction read that I'd definitely recommend. If you're not familiar with John MacArthur's works, this one would be a GREAT place to start. The gospel is proclaimed in A Tale of Two Sons, and, much is said of OUR SAVIOR AND REDEEMER.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

My Year with Spurgeon #6

The Great Reservoir.
Charles Spurgeon
Proverbs 4:23
Here let us pause and ask the solemn and vital question, “Is my heart right in the sight of God?” For unless the inner man has been renewed by the grace of God, through the Holy Spirit, our heart is full of rottenness, filth, and abominations. And if so, here must all our cleansing begin, if it be real and satisfactory.
Now, ye who love the Lord, let me take you to the reservoir of your heart, and let me urge upon you the great necessity of keeping the heart right, if you would have the streams of your life happy for yourselves and beneficial to others.
I. First, keep the heart full. It is the emptiness of men’s hearts that makes them so feeble. Men do not feel what they are at. Learn, then, the necessity of keeping the heart full; and let the necessity make you ask this question — “But how can I keep my heart full? How can my emotions be strong? How can I keep my desires burning and my zeal inflamed?” Christian! there is one text which will explain all this. “All my springs are in thee,” said David. If thou hast all thy springs in God, thy heart will be full enough. If thou dost go to the foot of Calvary, there will thy heart be bathed in love and gratitude. If thou dost frequent the vale of retirement, and there talk with thy God, it is there that thy heart shall be full of calm resolve.
He who lives without prayer — he who lives with little prayer — he who seldom reads the Word — he who seldom looks up to heaven for a fresh influence from on high — he will be the man whose heart will become dry and barren; but he who calls in secret on his God — who spends much time in holy retirement — who delights to meditate on the words of the Most High — whose soul is given up to Christ — who delights in his fullness, rejoices in his all-sufficiency, prays for his second coming, and delights in the thought of his glorious advent — such a man, I say, must have an overflowing heart; and as his heart is, such will his life be. It will be a full life; it will be a life that will speak from the sepulcher, and wake the echoes of the future. “Keep shine heart with all diligence,” and entreat the Holy Spirit to keep it full, for, otherwise, the issues of thy life will be feeble, shallow, and superficial; and thou mayest as well not have lived at all.
Secondly, we must keep our hearts pure; for if the heart be not pure, the life cannot be pure. It is quite impossible that it should be so. Christ Jesus in the heart is the sweet purification. He is made unto us sanctification. Elijah cast salt into the waters; but we must cast the blood of Jesus there. Once let us know and love Jesus, once let his cross become the object of our adoration and the theme of our delight, the heart will begin its cleansing and the life will become pure also. Oh! that we all did learn the sacred lesson of fixing the cross in the heart!
Third, unless the heart be kept peaceable, the life will not be happy. If calm doth not reign over that inner lake within the soul which feeds the rivers of our life, the rivers themselves will always be in storm. Our outward acts will always tell that they were born in tempests, by rolling in tempests themselves. Let us just understand this, first, with regard to ourselves. Let us all remember, that the only way to keep our life peaceful and happy is to keep the heart at rest; for come poverty, come wealth, come honor, come shame, come plenty, or come scarcity, if the heart be quiet there will be happiness anywhere. But whatever the sunshine and the brightness, if the heart be troubled the whole life must be troubled too. Remember, in the second place, that it is just the same with regard to other men.
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, February 15, 2016

Book Review: The Prophetess

The Prophetess. Jill Eileen Smith. 2016. Revell. 368 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Do you read much biblical fiction? Most of the biblical fiction I've read and reviewed since starting to blog has been written by Jill Eileen Smith. Though I don't consider it [biblical fiction] one of my favorite sub-genres, I do consider her one of my favorite authors.

The Prophetess is a retelling of Judges 4 and 5.
And the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord after Ehud died. And the Lord sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan, who reigned in Hazor. The commander of his army was Sisera, who lived in Harosheth-hagoyim. Then the people of Israel cried out to the Lord for help, for he had 900 chariots of iron and he oppressed the people of Israel cruelly for twenty years.
Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at that time. She used to sit under the palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the people of Israel came up to her for judgment. She sent and summoned Barak the son of Abinoam from Kedesh-naphtali and said to him, “Has not the Lord, the God of Israel, commanded you, ‘Go, gather your men at Mount Tabor, taking 10,000 from the people of Naphtali and the people of Zebulun. And I will draw out Sisera, the general of Jabin's army, to meet you by the river Kishon with his chariots and his troops, and I will give him into your hand’?” Barak said to her, “If you will go with me, I will go, but if you will not go with me, I will not go.” And she said, “I will surely go with you. Nevertheless, the road on which you are going will not lead to your glory, for the Lord will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman.” Then Deborah arose and went with Barak to Kedesh. And Barak called out Zebulun and Naphtali to Kedesh. And 10,000 men went up at his heels, and Deborah went up with him. Judges 4:1-10.
The villagers ceased in Israel;
they ceased to be until I arose;
I, Deborah, arose as a mother in Israel. Judges 5:7
Or perhaps the better description would be The Prophetess is a fictional prologue to Judges 4 and 5! In the Bible's account, readers meet Deborah and Barak RIGHT when the action is about to happen. Not so in this retelling. Pray and wait; pray and wait; pray and wait; pray and wait; pray and wait. Year after year after year as the country is terrorized by their enemies, Deborah prays and waits. She's not pictured as being alone in her prayers either. Those faithful to the Lord are crying out for mercy and deliverance. God do something! Haven't we suffered enough at the hands of our enemies? We've done wrong Lord, but, forgive us.  

One of the strengths of the novels is it brings to life this particular verse: he oppressed the people of Israel cruelly for twenty years. Readers see the effect of this oppression, how all "normal" activities and freedoms had been suppressed by an ever-present fear. Men were killed--slaughtered. Women could be raped, killed, kidnapped and sold into slavery, tortured. Man. Woman. Boy. Girl. All were at risk as perishing at the direct hands of their enemy who would show no mercy. They seemed powerless; the situation seemed hopeless. But some began to pray. Their prayers most likely were not answered immediately. But they did not pray and wait in vain.

In the biblical account, readers learn a little about Deborah, Barak, and Jael. Jill Eileen Smith added dozens of characters to the novel. Readers spend a LOT of time with Deborah's family. Her husband, her two sons, her daughter-in-law(s), her daughter. Readers spend the most time with her daughter, Talya. For better or worse. I have to admit that I really struggled to tolerate Talya! Her "I can do anything" "I can be anything" "I can take care of myself" attitude bothered me because it fueled her outright rebellion and disobedience. When most men and women were timid to leave their homes and fields--at least alone--her I can go where I want, when I want, I'm not afraid of enemy armies attitude seemed not brave but foolish. When most everyone else respected Deborah and followed her decisions and/or advice--she was the prophetess after all--Talya stood apart as disregarding almost everything her mother said.

One of my favorite characters was Jael. I thought the author did a great job in including Jael, her husband Heber, and their children (grown up children) into the story.
But Sisera fled away on foot to the tent of Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, for there was peace between Jabin the king of Hazor and the house of Heber the Kenite. And Jael came out to meet Sisera and said to him, “Turn aside, my lord; turn aside to me; do not be afraid.” So he turned aside to her into the tent, and she covered him with a rug. And he said to her, “Please give me a little water to drink, for I am thirsty.” So she opened a skin of milk and gave him a drink and covered him. And he said to her, “Stand at the opening of the tent, and if any man comes and asks you, ‘Is anyone here?’ say, ‘No.’” But Jael the wife of Heber took a tent peg, and took a hammer in her hand. Then she went softly to him and drove the peg into his temple until it went down into the ground while he was lying fast asleep from weariness. So he died. And behold, as Barak was pursuing Sisera, Jael went out to meet him and said to him, “Come, and I will show you the man whom you are seeking.” So he went in to her tent, and there lay Sisera dead, with the tent peg in his temple. Judges 4:17-22. 
The book concludes with a bit of romance and celebration. Deborah has composed her song, taught it to the Israelites, and all seems to be well--for the moment. Things never stay well in the book of Judges however!!!

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, February 14, 2016

(Ten) Activities I'd Recommend for Lent

I do not believe that believers *have* to "GIVE UP" something for the Lent season. I don't. But I do think that believers would greatly benefit by ADDING something for the Lent season. Lent would be a GREAT time of year to add the spiritual discipline of daily Bible reading, for example. Or perhaps you read your Bible daily, but, you don't read much else. Now would be a great time to start, and, it isn't too late for this Lent season.

Bible-Based Activities

1. Read All Four Gospels. Crossway has published a lovely edition, ESV Reader's Gospels. Thomas Nelson offers One Perfect Life. Either book would get you through the text of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

2. Read A Gospel. Perhaps four gospels sounds overwhelming. Choose one gospel: Matthew or Mark or Luke or John and read it slowly, carefully, deliberately. Consider reading a commentary or devotional book about that gospel in addition. For example, Beth Moore's The Beloved Disciple: Following John to the Heart of Jesus, Exalting Jesus in Matthew by David Platt, Michael Card's Mark: The Gospel of Passion, Warren Wiersbe's Be Compassionate (Luke 1-13) and Be Courageous (Luke 14-24).

3. Read the Psalms--all 150! No special book required, of course, but they do make several editions if you're looking just for the book of Psalms. Here is one in KJV. Here is another in the ESV.

Prayer and Meditation

4. Read a book about prayer and commit to implementing/incorporating it into your life. I'd recommend Praying the Bible by Donald S. Whitney or Prayer by Timothy Keller.

5. You don't have to read a book about prayer in order to start praying! Set a goal, make a commitment. It might be "I will pray ten minutes every day" for Lent. Or. "I will pray for my unsaved friends and family" throughout Lent. Or. "I will pray with my spouse" throughout Lent.

6. Keep a journal. You might want to think of it as a 'prayer' journal, or, a 'meditation' journal. Or even--a journal-journal! One of the meditation tips in Donald Whitney's Spiritual Disciplines For the Christian Life recommends meditating on Scripture by writing down observations, insights, questions, etc. He recommends setting a 'goal' for your notes. You could meditate on one verse, a handful of verses or passage, a whole chapter. I'd recommend John 17:17, John 3:1-21, Proverbs 3:5-7, Psalm 23, Exodus 3, Deuteronomy 6:4-9, Psalm 103:1-5, Psalm 103:8-13, Isaiah 53, Galatians 1, Romans 8, etc. I think you'll find that once you start this practice, this discipline, you'll find it life-changing, and want to keep it up.

Praise and Worship

7. Listen to your favorite album(s). Sing aloud. Make time every day to focus all your attention on praising God. You might want to create your own playlist of worship songs for Lent. It could be traditional hymns or contemporary worship songs. Whatever lifts your heart up to God in song.


8. Read 'from the cloud' -- the cloud of witnesses! I'd recommend:

The Valley of Vision by Arthur Bennet
The Root of the Righteous by A.W. Tozer
Holiness by J.C. Ryle
Pleasure and Profit in Bible Study by D.L. Moody

9. Read Christian nonfiction. I'd especially recommend:

Gospel: Recovering the Power That Made Christianity Revolutionary by J.D. Greear
Give Them Truth by Starr Meade
Newton on the Christian Life by Tony Reinke
A Tale of Two Sons by John MacArthur
Taking God At His Word by Kevin DeYoung

10. Read A Bible Story Book. A good story book Bible can be a refresher course on what the gospel is all about. It can also help you 'make sense' of how the Bible fits all together which might help you in your own Bible reading.

The Big Picture Story Bible by David Helm
The Biggest Story by Kevin DeYoung
The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Week in Review: February 7-13

You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will receive me to glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. Psalm 73:24-25

  • 1 Kings
  • 2 Kings
  • Ecclesiastes
  • Song of Solomon
  • Hosea
  • Joel


  • Leviticus 15-27
  • Numbers 1-11


  • Psalm 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 97, 98, 99, 100, 101, 102, 103, 127, 128, 129, 130, 131, 132, 133

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Book Review: Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon

Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon (Thru the Bible #21) J. Vernon McGee. 1977/1996. Thomas Nelson. 192 pages. [Source: Gift from Friend]

From Ecclesiastes, Chapter 1:
The book of Ecclesiastes is a dramatic autobiography of King Solomon's life when he was away from God. As the book of Proverbs reveals Solomon's wisdom, the book of Ecclesiastes reveals his foolishness.
From Song of Solomon, Introduction
The Song of Solomon is the great neglected book of the Bible. The reader who is going through the Word of God for the first time is puzzled when he comes to it. The carnal Christian will misunderstand and misinterpret it. Actually this little book has been greatly abused by people who have not understood it… The Song of Solomon is poetic and practical. Here God is speaking to His people in poetic songs which unfold a story. We need to take our spiritual shoes off our feet as we approach this book. We are on holy ground.
I would definitely recommend this volume of J. Vernon McGee's Thru the Bible. I'll be honest--completely honest--Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon puzzle me, have puzzled me for years. I'd routinely read them every time I read the Bible all the way through, but, I didn't ever really come to terms with them--appreciate or understand them. They are both tricky books. You have a fair chance of being able to understand--appreciate--the random verse or two taken from Psalms or even Proverbs. But Ecclesiastes?! There are verses--passages--that seem so UN-scriptural. (Same thing with Job in places.) And Song of Solomon out of context, may sound poetical in places, but in other places, more odd than romantic. And to me--it is always a struggle to determine who is speaking and what they are saying.

In this volume, J. Vernon McGee goes through the books of Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon, chapter by chapter, verse by verse. His approach is light, casual, practical. He may not be as passionately zealous as A.W. Tozer, but, speak truth he does!!!

In the opening chapter to his commentary on Ecclesiastes, McGee makes an important distinction. Ecclesiastes is inspired, it is part of the canon of Scripture after all, but that inspiration in this case means "what Solomon said has been accurately recorded in Scripture." In other words, "Inspiration guarantees the accuracy of the words of Scripture, not always the thought that is expressed." The book records the results of Solomon's experiments, his search for satisfaction and meaning. Solomon's conclusions, stresses McGee, are human ones. He later adds that Solomon's spiritual discernment was "nil," and that Solomon is the "paradox of Scripture. The wisest man was the greatest fool."

Quotes from Ecclesiastes commentary:
Experience must be tested by the Word of God. Unfortunately, many folk today are testing the Word of God by their experience. My friend, if your experience is contrary to the Bible, then it is your experience, not the Word of God, which is wrong. 
Did you know that religion has damned more people in this world than anything else has? My friend, if you have a religion, I suggest you get rid of it and exchange it for Christ. To be a Christian means that you trust Christ. Religion has never been very helpful to man.
Going to some churches is not only a waste of time; it is wrong. It is wrong to give your approval to a liberal pulpit. It is wrong when you do not give your support to a fundamental pastor who is giving out the Word of God. 
People today do anything to avoid sorrow. We have it arranged now so that you can laugh all the way to the cemetery. 
I believe it is easier to reach a godless atheist than a hypocritical churchgoer. The godless atheist may respond when he hears the gospel for the first time, but the hypocritical churchgoer has heard the gospel again and again and has become hardened to it. That is the real tragedy.
My friend, all of us are preachers. You are preaching to those around you by the life that you live. I personally believe that the do-gooder, the man who boasts of his moral life apart from God, is the greatest detriment. He actually stands in the way; he blocks the way to God, because his message is, "Live like I do. I live without God. I just do good." There is nothing quite as deadening as that. 
In the introduction to Song of Solomon, he stresses the fact that there are FOUR "different and important" meanings to be found in the book. 1) It sets forth the glory of wedded love. 2) It sets forth the love of Jehovah (God) for Israel. 3) It is a picture of Christ and the church. 4) It depicts the communion of Christ and the individual believer. These meanings will be explored further in his verse-by-verse unpacking. The way he speaks of the Song of Solomon makes it personal, lovely, inspiring. He gushes about the richness of it, of how it illustrates Christ's oh-so-real love for us.

Quotes from Song of Solomon commentary:
"He brought me to the banqueting house." This probably looks forward to that day of the final banquet which is called the "marriage supper of the Lamb." You and I as believers will be there by the grace of God. That is when full satisfaction will be made. But already He has brought me to the table of salvation, and He has brought me to the table of fellowship with Him. He prepares the table before me, the table of the Word of God, and He tells me to eat and be full. He brings me to the table of good things. How good and gracious He is!
Now in the spiritual sense, the bride is the church, and the bridegroom is the Lord Jesus Christ. Does he find any beauty in the church? Friend, He found all of us lost sinners. The Shulamite girl had a natural beauty even though it had been neglected, but we don't even have that. There is nothing about us that could be appealing to Christ. We bring nothing to Him; He provides everything for us. 
Dedication is not something you talk about; dedication to Christ is something you reveal. It will be manifested in your life. If your eye is upon Him, then His beauty will be reflected in you.
"I sought him, but I found him not." This is her honest confession. A great many folk never find Christ because they never seek Him. Oh, how many Christians sit in a church pew every Sunday and never face honestly the fact: "I found him not." However, He has promised that He will be found of those who seek Him with their whole heart. Or, as James put it, "Draw near to God, and he will draw nigh to you…" James 4:8
The solution to your problem is in knowing Christ. "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus." (Phil. 2:5) That, my friend, is the reason that I keep saying the answer is in the Word of God. It is ignorance of His Word that causes people to search elsewhere for answers. It makes a person vulnerable to false teachers who trade on and take advantage of those who are ignorant of the Word of God. But it is through the Word of God that we get acquainted with Jesus Christ and learn to sit at that round table in the banqueting hall which we have seen here in the Song of Solomon. There we can feast with Him, and find satisfaction and joy in Him. 
My friend, if you are going to defend the Lord Jesus Christ today, if you are going to witness for Him, you must know Him. Not only do you need to know who He is, but you need to know Him enough to be able to wax eloquently on His behalf. When I say be eloquent, I don't necessarily mean eloquent in language. I mean full of enthusiasm, excitement, love, and zeal for His person. You and I need not only to know Him, but we must love Him. That is the the challenge that we find here. The bride knew Him. She knew Him and she loved Him. She says that He is the chiefest among ten thousand. 

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible