Thursday, March 31, 2016

March Reflections

March Accomplishments:

This Month's Bible Reading (February 28-March 26)


  • Deuteronomy
  • Psalm 24-31
  • Luke
  • John


  • 2 Chronicles 22-36
  • Ezra
  • Nehemiah
  • Esther
  • Ezekiel
  • Daniel
  • Zechariah
  • Malachi


  • Psalm 1-25
  • Romans
  • 1 Corinthians
  • 2 Corinthians
  • Galatians
  • Ephesians
  • Philippians
  • Colossians
  • 1 Thessalonians
  • 2 Thessalonians
  • 1 Timothy
  • 2 Timothy
  • Titus
  • Philemon
  • Hebrews
  • James


  • Romans
  • 1 Peter
  • 2 Peter
  • 1 John
  • 2 John
  • 3 John
  • Jude


  • Galatians

  • Psalms
  • Matthew
  • Galatians
  • Ephesians
  • Philippians
  • Colossians
  • 1 Thessalonians
  • 2 Thessalonians
  • 1 Timothy
  • 2 Timothy
  • Titus
  • Philemon

Books I've Reviewed This Month:

Christian fiction:
  1. A Sweet Misfortune. Maggie Brendan. 2016. Revell. 336 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Historical Romance]
  2. The Screwtape Letters. C.S. Lewis. 1942. HarperCollins. 224 pages. [Source: Bought] [Adult fantasy]
  3. The Temple: Sacred Poems and Private Ejaculations. George Herbert. 1633. 192 pages. [Source: Library] [poetry]
Christian nonfiction:  
  1. Habits for Our Holiness. Philip Nation. 2016. Moody Publishers. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Christian living, spiritual disciplines, theology]
  2. Touching the Hem: A Biblical Response to Physical Suffering. Elizabeth A. Johnson. 2013. Ambassador International. 160 pages. [Source: Bought] [christian living, suffering, christian nonfiction]
  3. Lessons from a Hospital Bed. John Piper. 2016. Crossway. 80 pages. [Source: Free from Desiring God Ministries.] [Gift book, christian living, suffering]
  4. A Peculiar Glory. John Piper. Crossway. 2016. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy] [book about the Bible, christian nonfiction, theology]
  5. Parables. John MacArthur. 2015. Thomas Nelson. 288 pages. [Source: Gift from Grace to You] [book about the Bible, christian nonfiction]
  6. Walking As He Walked. Joel R. Beeke. 2002/2007. 133 pages. [Source: Bought] [Christian living, christian nonfiction]
  7. Hosea and Joel. J. Vernon McGee. 1978/1996. Thomas Nelson. 180 pages. [Source: Bought] [Bible commentary]
  8. Mere Christianity. C.S. Lewis. 1943. 256 pages. [Source: Library] [Christian classic]
  9. 1 Corinthians: The Word of the Cross. Stephen T. Um. 2015. Crossway. 368 pages. [Source: Review copy] [Bible commentary]
  10. My Name is Mahtob. Mahtob Moody. 2015. Thomas Nelson. 352 pages. [Source: Library] [Memoir]
  11. The Answer to Bad Religion is Not No Religion. Martin Thielen. 2014. Westminster John Knox. 160 pages. [Source: Library] [Not exactly recommended]
  12. Healed of Cancer. Dodie Osteen. 1986/2003. Lakewood Church. 81 pages. [Source: Borrowed] [Definitely not recommended]

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Quotes from the Cloud #12

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.
Lord, I freely yield to You all my liberty; Take my memory, my intellect, and my entire will. You have given me everything I am or have; I give it all back to you to stand under your will alone. Your love and Your grace are enough for me, I ask for nothing more. ~ Saint Ignatius
Before we attempt to cram the gospel down the throats of people, we need to give them a little appetite for it. They should see something in our lives that will make them want to know about the Lord Jesus. ~ J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible, Song of Solomon
What the praying man does is to bring His will into line with the will of God so God can do what He has all along been willing to do. Thus prayer changes the man and enables God to change things in answer to man's prayer. ~ A.W. Tozer, The Price of Neglect

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Book Review: The Temple

The Temple: Sacred Poems and Private Ejaculations. George Herbert. 1633. 192 pages. [Source: Library]

Do I read a lot of poetry? I wouldn't say that I do. Perhaps two or three books per year, usually. And often those "poetry books" are poems for the very young. So reading George Herbert, in many ways, was going outside of my comfort zone. Yet, it was good for me to go outside my comfort zone in reading. I assumed--presumed--that it would be an intimidating read: at best a bit boring, at worst, incomprehensible. But I really enjoyed reading this one.

I enjoyed "The Sacrifice" which is a poem written from the point of view of Jesus Christ. It has a refrain of "Was ever grief like mine?" and it would be a timely read for Lent and Easter. (Another timely read would be "Good Friday.") Though I think believers would profit from it year round.

"The Call" would probably be in my top three. Here's how it opens:
Come, my way, my Truth, my Life: Such a Way, as gives us breath: Such a truth, as ends all strife: And such a Life, as killeth death.
Though I'm just sharing the first stanza, I really adore this one from start to finish.

"Colossians 3:3" is a fun little poem, and, definitely in my top three.
My words and thoughts do both express this notion, that Life hath with the sun a double motion. The first Is straight, and our diurnal friend, the other Hid and doth obliquely bend. One life is wrapped In flesh, and tends to earth: The other winds towards Him, whose happy birth Taught me to live here so, That still one eye Should aim and shoot at that which Is on high: Quitting with daily labour all My pleasure, To gain at harvest an eternal Treasure.
 I love the "hidden" message: My life is hid in Him, that is my treasure.

I also appreciate Herbert's "The Twenty-Third Psalm" which opens like this:
The God of love my shepherd is, And he that doth me feed: While he is mine, and I am his, What can I want or need?
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

My Year with Spurgeon #12

Human Inability
Charles Spurgeon
John 6:44
Our second point is THE FATHER’S DRAWINGS. “No man can come to me except the Father which hath sent me draw him.” How then does the Father draw men?
Arminian divines generally say that God draws men by the preaching of the gospel Very true; the preaching of the gospel is the instrument of drawing men, but there must be some thing more than this.
Now there is such a thing as being drawn by the gospel, and drawn by the minister without being drawn by God. Clearly it is a divine drawing that is meant, a drawing by the Most High God — the First Person of the most glorious Trinity sending out the Third Person, the Holy Spirit, to induce men to come to Christ.
Another person turns round and says with a sneer, “Then do you think that Christ drags men to himself, seeing that they are unwilling!” I remember meeting once with a man who said to me, “Sir, you preach that Christ takes people by the hair of their heads and drags them to himself” I asked him whether he could refer to the date of the sermon wherein I preached that extraordinary doctrine, for if he could, I should be very much obliged.
But said I, while Christ does not drag people to himself by the hair of their heads, I believe that he draws them by the heart quite as powerfully as your caricature would suggest. Mark that in the Father’s drawing there is no compulsion whatever; Christ never compelled any man to come to him against his will. If a man be unwilling to be saved, Christ does not save him against his will. How, then, does the Holy Spirit draw him?
Why, by making him willing. It is true he does not use “moral suasion;” he knows a nearer method of reaching the heart. He goes to the secret fountain of the heart, and he knows how, by some mysterious operation to turn the will in an opposite direction, so that, as Ralph Erskine paradoxically puts it, the man is saved “with full consent against his will” that is, against his old will he is saved. But he is saved with full consent for he is made willing in the day of God’s power.
Do not imagine that any man wilt go to heaven kicking and struggling all the way against the hand that draws him. Do not conceive that any man will be plunged in the bath of a Saviour’s blood while he is striving to run away from the Savior. Oh, no.
The first thing the Holy Spirit does when he comes into a man’s heart is this: he finds him with a very good opinion of himself: and there is nothing which prevents a man coming to Christ like a good opinion of himself. Why, says man, “I don’t want to come to Christ. I have as good a righteousness as anybody can desire. I feel I can walk into heaven on my own rights.” The Holy Spirit lays bare his heart, lets him see the loathsome cancer that is there eating away his life, uncovers to him all the blackness and defilement of that sink of hell, the human heart, and then the man stands aghast.
Man is as much drawn willingly, as if he were not drawn at all, and he comes to Christ with full consent, with as full a consent as if no secret influence had ever been exercised in his heart. But that influence must be exercised, or else there never has been and there never will be, any man who either can or will come to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Let me assure you, in God’s name, if your religion has no better foundation than your own strength, it will not stand you at the bar of God. Nothing will last to eternity, but that which came from eternity. Unless the everlasting God has done a good work in your heart, all you may have done must be unravelled at the last day of account.
A spiritual heaven must be inhabited by spiritual men, and preparation for it must be wrought by the Spirit of God.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, March 28, 2016

Book Review: Parables

Parables. John MacArthur. 2015. Thomas Nelson. 288 pages. [Source: Gift from Grace to You]

I have looked forward to reading John MacArthur's newest book Parables since it first released in 2015. I wanted to read his book A Tale of Two Sons first though! (It was great. It was on Luke 15, essentially). This second book focuses on a wider selection of Jesus' parables.

MacArthur devotes the first chapter of this book to the subject of why; the chapter is titled, "One Ominous Day in Galilee." The introduction and the first chapter address two issues really: the dangers--then and now--of misinterpreting parables and WHY Jesus chose to speak in parables in the first place. What are some of the dangers according to MacArthur? Making sloppy conclusions that storytelling is "better" at reaching crowds than teaching straight-forward doctrine, for example, or even daring to believe that stories have no "fixed" or "objective" meaning and each reader can decide for himself or herself what any parable means. Why did Jesus speak in parables? Because to speak plain truth to those who were persistently, stubbornly holding onto their unbelief would have been unkind: they would be judged based on the knowledge that they had, that they had heard or seen. (That is also one reason the Scripture speaks of Jesus being "unable" to perform miracles in certain towns. He wasn't lacking power to perform miracles. He was limiting their future punishment.)

The remaining chapters in the book focus on the parables of Jesus grouped together by subject. Readers are getting: "A Lesson About Receiving the Word," "A Lesson About the Cost of Discipleship," "A Lesson about Justice and Grace," "A Lesson about Neighborly Love," "A Lesson About Justification by Faith," "A Lesson About Faithfulness," "A Lesson About Serpentine Wisdom," "A Lesson About Heaven and Hell," and "A Lesson About Persistence in Prayer." The book, as you can see, covers just about every topic of importance to Christians seeking--striving--to live a life pleasing to God. Here is a book rich in lessons about what it means to follow Christ, to be a believer. And the book does keep it basic, mostly, almost every chapter offering a refresher course in the gospel.

Favorite quotes:

When we agree with God concerning our own guilt, the atoning blood of Christ cleanses us from every kind of sin or blasphemy--no matter how abominable (12).
The seed represents God's Word. Any attempt to improve the harvest by using different seed is a misguided dereliction of the sower's duty. The unadulterated Word of God is the only true and legitimate seed. (27)
Only God himself can plow and prepare a heart to receive the Word. He does it through the regenerating and sanctifying work of His Holy Spirit, who convicts the world of "sin and of righteousness and of judgment" (John 16:8). For those who believe, he awakens them spiritually (Romans 8:11). He enlightens their minds to the truth (1 Corinthians 2:10). He washes them clean (Ezekiel 36:25). He removes the stony heart and gives them a new heart (Ezekiel 36:26). He indwells His people and motivates them unto righteousness (Ezekiel 36:27). He engraves the truth of God on their hearts (Jeremiah 31:33; 2 Corinthians 3:3). He pours the love of God into their hearts (Romans 5:5). We who believe in Christ are totally dependent on the indwelling Spirit's work in our hearts to keep us tender, receptive, and ultimately fruitful. (37)
Genuine faith never fails to appreciate the true cost of salvation--what our deliverance from sin's curse and bondage cost Christ; what it means to be bought by Christ and bow to His lordship; and (above all) how valuable redemption is in terms of its eternal worth to the sinner. (43)
Forgiveness is not measured by weighing our good deeds against our sins, nor is it partially withheld if we have sinned for too long or too badly. Everyone who enters the kingdom receives the full abundance of God's grace, mercy, and forgiveness (68).
Christ is the living embodiment of divine love in all its perfection (93).
The gospel has nothing to say to people who are satisfied with their own righteousness. There is no truly good news for someone in that state of mind (107).
No one in the Bible had more to say about hell than the Savior of sinners, the Lord Jesus Christ. The most vivid and detailed biblical descriptions of hell appear in the four gospels, and they come from Jesus. (158)
Question whether God has a right to do what He says He will do, and you might as well deny the very existence of God. (164)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Week in Review: March 20-26

Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus,
who, existing in the form of God,
did not consider equality with God
as something to be used for His own advantage.
Instead He emptied Himself
by assuming the form of a slave,
taking on the likeness of men.
And when He had come as a man
in His external form,
He humbled Himself by becoming obedient
to the point of death—
even to death on a cross.
For this reason God highly exalted Him
and gave Him the name
that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
every knee will bow—
of those who are in heaven and on earth
and under the earth—
and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:5-11
Not one of the Father’s expectations went unfulfilled in Christ. When Christ said, “It is finished,” He meant it (John 19:30). By His obedience to God’s will, even in the things that He suffered, He secured salvation for us. As our high priest, Christ teaches us that we have no other way of dealing with our moral failure and its penalty than to come to God and say, “Nothing in my hand I bring, / Simply to thy cross I cling. ~ Joel R. Beeke, Why Christ Came: 31 Meditations on the Incarnation

  • Psalm 1-25
  • 1 Timothy
  • 2 Timothy
  • Titus
  • Philemon
  • Hebrews


  • John

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

March's Scripture Chain

  • A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also. John 14:19
  • Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live. John 5:24-25
  • He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. 1 John 5:12
  • And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. John 3:14-19
  • Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life. John 6:47
  • Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”  “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?”  The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:51-57
  • My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. John 10:27-29
  • Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25-26
  • “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know.” Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. John 14:1-6
  • But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
  • He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him. John 3:36
  • For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23
  • And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” John 6:40
  • And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. John 17:3
Inspiration: Because He Lives (a cappella) (want to go old school?!)
Translation Used: NKJV

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Book Review: Screwtape Letters

The Screwtape Letters. C.S. Lewis. 1942. HarperCollins. 224 pages. [Source: Bought]

I definitely enjoy rereading C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters every few years. These 'letters' are from 'Uncle Screwtape' to his nephew 'Wormwood.' Both Wormwood and Screwtape are demons. That should tell you a little something about this topsy-turvy Christian fantasy.

Wormwood's human has just become a Christian. But with a little help from his uncle, Wormwood hopes to change that, to reverse the damage, to keep him *his*. Readers only view Screwtape's letters to Wormwood, so, we have to piece together the rest of the story, in a way. Readers can piece together that there is a world war going on. Also perhaps that Wormwood's human dies in a bomb raid.

Screwtape's letters are packed with advice on how to keep Wormwood's human from being an effective Christian. How to keep him from praying, for example, to name just one. What Screwtape and Wormwood fail to understand is the futility of their efforts. True, C.S. Lewis may not have known how futile himself. Since Lewis most likely believed that one could 'fall from grace' and 'lose salvation.' But. Putting all that aside, one knows from Scripture that isn't the case.
And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” John 6:39-40
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. I and the Father are one.” John 10:27-30
Can believers benefit from reading Screwtape Letters? I think so. The letters are engaging, and, give readers plenty to think about.

From the first letter: "Your business is to fix his attention on the stream. [The stream of immediate sense experiences]. Teach him to call it 'real life' and don't let him ask you what he means by 'real.'" (2)

From the second letter: "He has not been anything like long enough with the Enemy to have any real humility yet. What he says, even on his knees, about his own sinfulness, is all parrot talk. At bottom, he still believes he has run up a very favorable credit balance in the Enemy's ledger by allowing himself to be converted, and thinks that he is showing great humility and condescension in going to church with these 'smug' commonplace neighbors at all. Keep him in that state of mind as long as you can." (6)

From the third letter: "You must bring him to a condition in which he can practise self-examination for an hour without discovering any of those facts about himself which are perfectly clear to anyone who has ever lived in the same house with him or worked in the same office." (7)
"It is, no doubt, impossible to prevent his praying for his mother, but we have means of rendering the prayers innocuous. Make sure that they are always very "spiritual," that he is always concerned with the state of her soul and never with her rheumatism. Two advantages will follow. In the first place, his attention will be kept on what he regards as her sins, by which, with a little guidance from you, he can be induced to mean any of her actions which are inconvenient or irritating to himself. In the second place, since his ideas about her soul will be very crude and often erroneous, he will, in some degree, be praying for an imaginary person, and it will be your task to make that imaginary person daily less and less like the real mother--the sharp-tongued old lady at the breakfast table." (8)

From the fourth letter: "It is funny how mortals always picture us as putting things into their minds: in reality our best work is done by keeping things out" (11).
"The simplest is to turn their gaze away from Him towards themselves." (11)

From the fifth letter: "In wartime not even a human can believe that he is going to live forever." (15)

From the seventh letter: "All extremes except devotion to the Enemy are to be encouraged" (20).

From the ninth letter: "Never forget that when we are dealing with pleasure in its healthy and normal and satisfying form, we are, in a sense, on the Enemy's ground." (26)

From the twelfth letter: "Do remember, the only thing that matters is the extent to which you separate the man from the Enemy. It does not matter how small the sins are, provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing....Indeed, the safest road to Hell is the gradual one--the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts." (36)

From the sixteenth letter: "Surely you know that if a man can't be cured of churchgoing, the next best thing is to send him all over the neighborhood looking for the church that 'suits' him until he becomes a taster or connoisseur of churches." (46)

From the nineteenth letter: "Nothing matters at all except the tendency of a given state of mind, in given circumstances, to move a particular patient at a particular moment nearer to the Enemy or nearer to us." (56-7)

From the twenty-first letter: "Let him have the feeling that he starts each day as the lawful possessor of twenty-four hours." (61)

From the twenty-fifth letter: "What we want, if men become Christians at all, is to keep them in the state of mind I call 'Christianity And...' (73)

From the twenty-seventh letter: "Anything, even a sin, which has the total effect of moving him close up to the Enemy makes against us in the long run." (79)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, March 25, 2016

Book Review: 1 Corinthians

1 Corinthians: The Word of the Cross. Stephen T. Um. 2015. Crossway. 368 pages. [Source: Review copy]

This bible commentary on 1 Corinthians is part of Crossway's Preaching the Word commentary series. I have read quite a few commentaries in the series now. I've read Isaiah, John, and Judges/Ruth. My favorite would probably be either the Isaiah one or the John. I loved, loved, loved both of those.

Stephen Um wrote the commentary for 1 Corinthians. Chapter by chapter, he takes readers verse by verse through one of Paul's longest letters.

This commentary series is more formal than say J. Vernon McGee's Thru the Bible series. But it isn't dry or scholarly either. Each chapter is essentially an expository sermon in print form. Each chapter also seeks to highlight how relevant the Bible still is for our lives today.

So don't expect Stephen Um, to address you as "MY FRIEND" every other page. (I do love that about J. Vernon McGee.)

So. 1 Corinthians covers a LOT of material on how to live a Christian life. What to do, and, what NOT to do. It's addressed to a church with issues. And that helps make a case for relevance, doesn't it?!

Four chapters are dedicated to unpacking all the wonderful-ness of 1 Corinthians 15. Three chapters are dedicated to covering 1 Corinthians 7. Most chapters of the book get one or two chapters.

I loved the focus on the resurrection, the cross, and the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Favorite quote:
The power of God was shown through weakness. The triumph of God was shown not through victory, but through loss. Jesus was the true Wisdom and Power of God. If the common storyline is to be rewritten, it has to be done by someone who is outside of us. When we as believers understand this, it completely frees us not to be performers or achievers. God uses hopeless, broken, and weak people. This is the picture of the cross.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Quotes from the Cloud #11

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.
Though the grace of God and the merit of Christ are not the same, they always go together in our relationship with God. We cannot experience one without the other. In terms of order, God's grace comes first. It was because of His grace that God the Father sent His only Son to die in our place. To say it another way, Christ's death was the result of God's grace; grace is not the result of Christ's death. But it is also true that our experience of God's grace is made possible only by the death of Christ. God is gracious; but He is also just in an absolute sense; that is, His justice cannot overlook the least infraction of His holy law. Because Christ completely satisfied the justice of God, we can now experience the grace of God. (23) ~ Jerry Bridges, Transforming Grace, p. 23
Neither our merits nor our demerits determine how much grace we need, because grace does not supplement merits or make up for demerits. Grace does not take into account merits or demerits at all. ~ Jerry Bridges, Transforming Grace, p. 32
"The true preaching of the gospel of salvation by grace alone always leads to the possibility of this charge being brought against it. There is no better test as to whether a man is really preaching the New Testament gospel of salvation than this, that some people might misunderstand it and misinterpret it to mean that it really amounts to this, that because you are saved by grace alone it does not matter at all what you do; you can go on sinning as much as you like because it will redound all the more to the glory of grace." ~ Martyn Lloyd-Jones, quoted in Transforming Grace

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Book Review: The Silver Chair

The Silver Chair. (Chronicles of Narnia #4) C.S. Lewis. 1953. HarperCollins. 243 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: IT WAS A DULL AUTUMN DAY AND JILL Pole was crying behind the gym. She was crying because they had been bullying her. This is not going to be a school story, so I shall say as little as possible about Jill’s school, which is not a pleasant subject.

The Silver Chair is the fourth book in the Chronicles of Narnia. (The first three are: The Lion, the Witch, and The Wardrobe; Prince Caspian; and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.) It is an enjoyable installment in a wonderful fantasy series. It is neither my absolute favorite nor my least favorite. (Voyage of the Dawn Treader and The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe battle it out for top place. My opinion as to which is my favorite and my best varies depending on the day. The Last Battle is my least favorite simply because Lewis' weird theology sours the book.)

Jill Pole and Eustace Scrubb find themselves unexpectedly whisked away to another country. After Jill "accidentally" tumbles Eustace off a cliff, she has a close encounter with a lion. 

This encounter with Aslan is one of my absolute favorites:
But her thirst was very bad now, and she plucked up her courage to go and look for that running water. She went on tiptoes, stealing cautiously from tree to tree, and stopping to peer round her at every step. But although the sight of the water made her feel ten times thirstier than before, she didn’t rush forward and drink. She stood as still as if she had been turned into stone, with her mouth wide open. And she had a very good reason; just on this side of the stream lay the lion.... And the thirst became so bad that she almost felt she would not mind being eaten by the lion if only she could be sure of getting a mouthful of water first. “If you’re thirsty, you may drink.” They were the first words she had heard since Scrubb had spoken to her on the edge of the cliff. For a second she stared here and there, wondering who had spoken. Then the voice said again, “If you are thirsty, come and drink,” and of course she remembered what Scrubb had said about animals talking in that other world, and realized that it was the lion speaking. Anyway, she had seen its lips move this time, and the voice was not like a man’s. It was deeper, wilder, and stronger; a sort of heavy, golden voice. It did not make her any less frightened than she had been before, but it made her frightened in rather a different way. “Are you not thirsty?” said the Lion. “I’m dying of thirst,” said Jill. “Then drink,” said the Lion. “May I—could I—would you mind going away while I do?” said Jill. The Lion answered this only by a look and a very low growl. And as Jill gazed at its motionless bulk, she realized that she might as well have asked the whole mountain to move aside for her convenience. The delicious rippling noise of the stream was driving her nearly frantic. “Will you promise not to—do anything to me, if I do come?” said Jill. “I make no promise,” said the Lion. Jill was so thirsty now that, without noticing it, she had come a step nearer. “Do you eat girls?” she said. “I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms,” said the Lion. It didn’t say this as if it were boasting, nor as if it were sorry, nor as if it were angry. It just said it. “I daren’t come and drink,” said Jill. “Then you will die of thirst,” said the Lion. “Oh dear!” said Jill, coming another step nearer. “I suppose I must go and look for another stream then.” “There is no other stream,” said the Lion. It never occurred to Jill to disbelieve the Lion—no one who had seen his stern face could do that—and her mind suddenly made itself up. It was the worst thing she had ever had to do, but she went forward to the stream, knelt down, and began scooping up water in her hand. It was the coldest, most refreshing water she had ever tasted. You didn’t need to drink much of it, for it quenched your thirst at once.

 After asking her where Eustace is--he knows, of course, having blown him to Narnia on his breath himself--he gives her a mission, a task.
And now hear your task. Far from here in the land of Narnia there lives an aged king who is sad because he has no prince of his blood to be king after him. He has no heir because his only son was stolen from him many years ago, and no one in Narnia knows where that prince went or whether he is still alive. But he is. I lay on you this command, that you seek this lost prince until either you have found him and brought him to his father’s house, or else died in the attempt, or else gone back to your own world.
She must learn the four signs that go along with the mission. She'll need to know them backwards and forwards and be able to recall them perfectly. And, of course, she'll need to share them with Eustace.
“I will tell you, Child,” said the Lion. “These are the signs by which I will guide you in your quest. First; as soon as the Boy Eustace sets foot in Narnia, he will meet an old and dear friend. He must greet that friend at once; if he does, you will both have good help. Second; you must journey out of Narnia to the north till you come to the ruined city of the ancient giants. Third; you shall find a writing on a stone in that ruined city, and you must do what the writing tells you. Fourth; you will know the lost prince (if you find him) by this, that he will be the first person you have met in your travels who will ask you to do something in my name, in the name of Aslan.”
She's confident that she can do it. How hard could it be, after all?! Knowing this, he warns her:
But, first, remember, remember, remember the signs. Say them to yourself when you wake in the morning and when you lie down at night, and when you wake in the middle of the night. And whatever strange things may happen to you, let nothing turn your mind from following the signs. And secondly, I give you a warning. Here on the mountain I have spoken to you clearly: I will not often do so down in Narnia. Here on the mountain, the air is clear and your mind is clear; as you drop down into Narnia, the air will thicken. Take great care that it does not confuse your mind. And the signs which you have learned here will not look at all as you expect them to look, when you meet them there. That is why it is so important to know them by heart and pay no attention to appearances. Remember the signs and believe the signs. Nothing else matters. And now, daughter of Eve, farewell—”
Aslan then blows Jill to Narnia. She finds Eustace who arrived just minutes before. She tells him the signs, but, unfortunately he's already missed the opportunity of greeting an old friend--King Caspian. But the two will go on their mission all the same. They may not have the help of a king, but, they do have the help of some friendly owls. And it is through the owls that they meet one of my favorite, favorite characters: Puddleglum, a Marsh-wiggle. (The owls also tell them essentially everything they need to know about Prince Rilian and his mysterious disappearance). 

These three set off on a dangerous adventure quest together. And it's a memorable journey, I think....

Will they be successful? Will they find Prince Rilian? Will Rilian return to Narnia and be crowned king? Will they meet Aslan again?

Some additional quotes I loved:
IT IS A VERY FUNNY THING THAT THE sleepier you are, the longer you take about getting to bed; especially if you are lucky enough to have a fire in your room.
“How beastly one feels after sleeping in one’s clothes,” said Jill, sitting up. “I was just thinking how nice it was not to have to dress,” said Eustace. “Or wash either, I suppose,” said Jill scornfully.
“Good morning, Guests,” he said. “Though when I say good I don’t mean it won’t probably turn to rain or it might be snow, or fog, or thunder. You didn’t get any sleep, I dare say.” “Yes we did, though,” said Jill. “We had a lovely night.” “Ah,” said the Marsh-wiggle, shaking his head. “I see you’re making the best of a bad job. That’s right. You’ve been well brought up, you have. You’ve learned to put a good face on things.” “Please, we don’t know your name,” said Scrubb. “Puddleglum’s my name. But it doesn’t matter if you forget it’. I can always tell you again.”
“Well, I don’t know that you’d call it help,” he said. “I don’t know that anyone can exactly help. It stands to reason we’re not likely to get very far on a journey to the North, not at this time of the year, with the winter coming on soon and all. And an early winter too, by the look of things. But you mustn’t let that make you down-hearted. Very likely, what with enemies, and mountains, and rivers to cross, and losing our way, and next to nothing to eat, and sore feet, we’ll hardly notice the weather. And if we don’t get far enough to do any good, we may get far enough not to get back in a hurry.”
“The bright side of it is,” said Puddleglum, “that if we break our necks getting down the cliff, then we’re safe from being drowned in the river.”
However tired you are, it takes some nerve to walk up to a giant’s front door.
“Don’t you mind him,” said Puddleglum. “There are no accidents. Our guide is Aslan; and he was there when the giant King caused the letters to be cut, and he knew already all things that would come of them; including this”
Puddleglum was still fighting hard. “I don’t know rightly what you all mean by a world,” he said, talking like a man who hasn’t enough air. “But you can play that fiddle till your fingers drop off, and still you won’t make me forget Narnia; and the whole Overworld too. We’ll never see it again, I shouldn’t wonder. You may have blotted it out and turned it dark like this, for all I know. Nothing more likely. But I know I was there once. I’ve seen the sky full of stars. I’ve seen the sun coming up out of the sea of a morning and sinking behind the mountains at night. And I’ve seen him up in the midday sky when I couldn’t look at him for brightness.” Puddleglum’s words had a very rousing effect. The other three all breathed again and looked at one another like people newly awaked.
Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things—trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that’s a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We’re just babies making up a game, if you’re right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That’s why I’m going to stand by the play-world. I’m on Aslan’s side even if there isn’t any Aslan to lead it. I’m going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn’t any Narnia. So, thanking you kindly for our supper, if these two gentlemen and the young lady are ready, we’re leaving your court at once and setting out in the dark to spend our lives looking for Overland.
Have you read The Silver Chair? What did you think of it? Do you have a favorite book in the series? A favorite character?

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

My Year with Spurgeon #11

Human Inability
Charles Spurgeon
John 6:44
“COMING to Christ” is a very common phrase in Holy Scripture. It is used to express those acts of the soul wherein leaving at once our self- righteousness, and our sins, we fly unto the Lord Jesus Christ, and receive his righteousness to be our covering, and his blood to be our atonement. Coming to Christ, then, embraces in it repentance, self-negation, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and it sums within itself all those things which are the necessary attendants of these great states of heart, such as the belief of the truth, earnestness of prayer to God, the submission of the soul to the precepts of God’s gospel, and all those things which accompany the dawn of salvation in the soul.
Coming to Christ is the very first effect of regeneration. No sooner is the soul quickened than it at once discovers its lost estate, is horrified thereat, looks out for a refuge, and believing Christ to be a suitable one, flies to him and reposes in him. Where there is not this coming to Christ, it is certain that there is as yet no quickening; where there is no quickening, the soul is dead in trespasses and sins, and being dead it cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Coming to Christ, though described by some people as being the very easiest thing in all the world, is in our text declared to be a thing utterly and entirely impossible to any man, unless the Father shall draw him to Christ. It shall be our business, then, to enlarge Upon this declaration.
We doubt not that it will always be offensive to carnal nature, but, nevertheless, the offending of human nature is sometimes the first step towards bringing it to bow itself before God. And if this be the effect of a painful process, we can forget the pain and rejoice in the glorious consequences.
I shall endeavor this morning, first of all, to notice man’s inability, wherein it consists. Secondly, the Father’s drawings — what these are, and how they are exerted upon the soul. And then I shall conclude by noticing a sweet consolation which may be derived from this seemingly barren and terrible text.
First, then, MAN’S INABILITY. The text says, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him.” Wherein does this inability lie?
First, it does not lie in any physical defect. If in coming to Christ, moving the body or walking with the feet should be of any assistance, certainly man has all physical power to come to Christ in that sense.
Nor, again, does this inability lie in any mental lack. I can believe this Bible to be true just as easily as I can believe any other book to be true. So far as believing on Christ is an act of the mind, I am just as able to believe on Christ as I am able to believe on anybody else. Let his statement be but true, it is idle to tell me I cannot believe it. I can believe the statement that Christ makes as well as I can believe the statement of any other person.
Permit me to show you wherein this inability of man really does lie. It lies deep in his nature. Through the fall, and through our own sin, the nature of man has become so debased, and depraved, and corrupt, that it is impossible for him to come to Christ without the assistance of God the Holy Spirit.
Now, the reason why man cannot come to Christ, is not because he cannot come, so far as his body or his mere power of mind is concerned; but because his nature is so corrupt that he has neither the will nor the power to come to Christ unless drawn by the Spirit.
Coming to Christ is so obnoxious to human nature that, although, so far as physical and mental forces are concerned, (and these have but a very narrow sphere in salvation) men could come if they would: it is strictly correct to say that they cannot and will not unless the Father who hath sent Christ doth draw them.
We assert that no man will come to Christ unless he be drawn; nay, we do not assert it, but Christ himself declares it — ‘Ye will not come unto one that-ye might have life;’ and as long as that ‘ye will not come‘ stands on record in Holy Scripture, He shall not be brought to believe in any doctrine of the freedom of the human will.”
It is strange how people, when talking about free will, talk of things which they do not at all understand “Now” says one, “I believe men can be saved if they will.” My dear sir, that is not the question at all. The question is, are men ever found naturally willing to submit to the humbling terms of the gospel of Christ?"
We declare, upon Scriptural authority, that the human will is so desperately set on mischief,- so depraved, and so inclined to everything that is evil, and so disinclined to everything that is good, that without the powerful, supernatural, irresistible influence of the Holy Spirit, no human will will ever be constrained towards Christ.
We declare, upon Scriptural authority, that the human will is so desperately set on mischief,- so depraved, and so inclined to everything that is evil, and so disinclined to everything that is good, that without the powerful, supernatural, irresistible influence of the Holy Spirit, no human will will ever be constrained towards Christ.
The will, then, and the understanding, are two great doors, both blocked up against our coming to Christ, and until these are opened by the sweet influences of the Divine Spirit, they must be for ever closed to anything like coming to Christ.
Again, the affections, which constitute a very great part of man, are depraved. Man, as he is, before he receives the grace of God, loves anything and everything above spiritual things. If ye want proof of this, look around you. There needs no monument to the depravity of the human affections.
We love that which we ought to hate, and we hate that which we ought to love. It is but human nature, fallen human nature; that man should love this present life better than the life to come.
Yet once more, --conscience too, has been overpowered by the fall. I believe there is no more egregious mistake made by divines, than when they tell people that conscience is the vicegerent of God within the soul, and that it is one of those powers which retains its ancient dignity, and stands erect amidst the fall of its compeers. No, beloved; conscience can tell me that I am a sinner, but conscience cannot make me feel that I am one. Conscience may tell me that such-and-such a thing is wrong, but how wrong it is conscience itself does not know. Did any man’s conscience, unenlightened by the Spirit, ever tell him that his sins deserved damnation?
There is in man, not only unwillingness to be saved, but there is a spiritual powerlessness to come to Christ; and this I will prove to every Christian at any rate. Beloved, I speak to you who have already been quickened by the divine grace, does not your experience teach you that there are times when you have a will to serve God, and yet have not the power?
But, again, there is another argument. If the sinner has strength to come to Christ, I should like to know how we are to understand those continual descriptions of the sinner’s state which we meet with in God’s holy Word? Now, a sinner is said to be dead in trespasses and sins. Will you affirm that death implies nothing more than the absence of a will? Surely a corpse is quite as unable as unwilling. Or again, do not all men see that there is a distinction between will and power: might not that corpse be sufficiently quickened to get a will, and yet be so powerless that it could not lift as much as its hand or foot?
To be found continually in the house of God is in your power; to study the Word of God with diligence is in your power; to renounce your outward sin, to forsake the vices in which you indulge, to make your life honest, sober, and righteous, is in your power. For this you need no help from the Holy Spirit; all this you can do yourself; but to come to Christ truly is not in your power until you are renewed by the Holy Ghost.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Ten Reasons To Saturate Your April With The Gospel

In April, I'll be focusing on the gospel--preaching the gospel to myself--each and every day. I'd love for you to join me. I'm calling it the Live Like You're Loved challenge/event. (Perhaps I should call it an experiment! For that is what it is.) I would love your help spreading the word about this 'experiment' and your prayers as well! It is all about embracing and experiencing the gospel.

10) You may have gospel amnesia.

 Stephen Um writes,
How do you overcome a gospel identity crisis? How do you get over gospel amnesia? When we lapse in our identity, the answer is not to learn a new one, but to relearn who we already are. Our identity is not ours to form; it has already been formed for us and given to us as a gift. In what is our identity grounded? 
Our identity is grounded in being found IN CHRIST.

Joe Thorn writes,
To preach to yourself is to challenge yourself, push yourself, and point yourself to the truth. It is not so much uncovering new truth as much as it is reminding yourself of the truth you tend to forget. 
9) You may need to be more deliberate. After all, you are not likely to be accidentally nourished each day with gospel truths. 

C.S. Lewis writes,
Make sure that some of its [Christianity's] main doctrines shall be deliberately held before your mind for some time every day…We have to be continually reminded of what we believe. Neither this belief nor any other will automatically remain alive in the mind. It must be fed. 
J.C. Ryle writes,
How blessed are the hopes which the Bible holds out to the believer in Christ Jesus! Peace in the hour of death, rest and happiness on the other side of the grave, a glorious body in the morning of the resurrection, a full and triumphant acquittal in the day of judgment, an everlasting reward in the kingdom of Christ, a joyful meeting with the Lord's people in the day of gathering together. These, these are the future prospects of every true Christian. They are all written in the book--in the book which is all true! 
A.W. Tozer writes,
The Christian is strong or weak depending upon how closely he has cultivated the knowledge of God.
8) You may be listening to the wrong voice.

J.D. Greear writes,
Each day Jesus says to us, "You are my beloved child. I am well pleased in you. Now live that way." Satan, on the other hand, says, "Look at you. Look at the condition of your circumstances. Look at how poorly you're living. There is no way you are God's beloved child." Which voice are you going to believe? There's an eternity of difference between them. 
D.L. Moody writes,
Man lost spiritual life and communion with his Maker by listening to the voice of the tempter, instead of the voice of God. We get life again by listening to the voice of God. The Word of God gives life.
7) You may be so focused on what other people think of you--what other people expect of you--that you miss what is important.

Matt Chandler writes,
Your approval before God is woven into the life and sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross, not what other men and women think about you. 
Martin Luther writes,
We who confess Christ should always walk in fear and grow in faith. We should realize that we all carry in our hearts a horrible religious fanatic, who will destroy our faith with foolish delusions of good works. The Holy Spirit provides us with a way to counter this godless delusion. We need to hold tightly to what we have received through the grace of God. God’s approval doesn’t come to us by what we do. Rather, it comes through the holiness of Christ, who suffered for us and rose again from the dead.
Charles Spurgeon writes,
Let us believe all that God has revealed, for every truth is precious and practically useful.
6) Your desires may be misplaced. Your heart may be divided.

John Piper writes,
The gospel is not a way to get people to heaven; it is a way to get people to God It's a way of overcoming every obstacle to everlasting joy in God. If we don't want God above all things, we have not been converted by the gospel. 
Matthew Jacoby writes,
The more we seek God, the more our desire for God will grow. And if we keep on seeking God, if we refuse to give up until we have found God and even then keep seeking a deeper knowledge of God, if we stubbornly persist in seeking God in the face of all doubt and discouragement, then our desire for God will gradually outgrow our other desires. By seeking God, we exercise our desire for God, and as we exercise our desire for God, it grows. And when our desire for God grows to a place of supremacy in our hearts, then God is truly the God of our hearts. Seeking, therefore, creates within us the capacity to know God as God. It is by seeking that we are able to find God because seeking enables our hearts to receive God. If we don’t desire God above all things, then we are still blind to God. God cannot be known and depreciated. To know God is to know his supreme worthiness. To know God is to desire him above all. The more we cultivate a desire for God, the more our hearts are able to know him for who he is.
J.D. Greear writes,
I want you to see the gospel not only as the means by which you get into heaven, but as the driving force behind every single moment of your life. 
5) You may be in need of transformation, or more of a transformation. 

Sam Storms writes,
Crave the word of God. Be desperate for it! Seek it. Yearn for it. Long for it. Desire it. Tolerate nothing in your life that might diminish your hunger for God's Word. And apply it with vigor and spiritual energy! The Word of God, whether it is preached and heard or read and memorized is more than simply true. It is effectual. The Word of God does more than merely announce: it accomplishes! It doesn't just impart information: it creates life!
J.D. Greear writes,
Always "begin again" with the gospel. Abide in it; swim in it; make your home in it. See more and more of your life through it. Be absolutely convinced at every moment of every day of the goodness of God in your life. That's the only way you'll ever really grow. 
J.C. Ryle writes,
Let us often ask ourselves whether we are doing good or harm in the world. We cannot live to ourselves, if we are Christians. The eyes of many will always be upon us. Men will judge by what they see, far more than by what they hear. If they see the Christian contradicting by his practice what he professes to believe, they are justly stumbled and offended. For the world's sake, as well as for our own, let us labor to be eminently holy.
4) Ask yourself if you are functional or dsyfunctional in your spiritual life…

J.D. Greear writes,
Whatever spiritual dysfunction you have in your life, the cure is the gospel. Do we want to be filled with passion for God? We should drink from the gospel. Do we want to get control of our bodies? We must be captivated by the gospel. Do we want to be content with what we have? We need to feast on the gospel.  
Tullian Tchividjian writes,
Once God rescues sinners, his plan isn't to steer them beyond the gospel but to move them more deeply into it. After all, the only antidote to sin is the gospel--and since Christians remain sinners even after they're converted, the gospel must be the medicine a Christian takes every day. Since we never leave off sinning, we can never leave the gospel. 
3) You may be living with guilt and shame, when God wants you live like you're LOVED, live like you're FORGIVEN, live like you're FREE.

J.D. Greear writes,
Right now, if you are in Christ, when God looks at you--regardless of your situation--He sees the righteousness of Christ. If we really believe that--not only with our heads but also with our hearts--it would change everything in our lives. 
Tony Merida writes,
When you open the Bible, there is grace coming to you--through personal devotion, hearing the Word read and preached, and singing it. Meditate on the gospel daily because you never outgrow your need for it.
Joe Thorn writes,
Until a person knows his guilt, he cannot know pardon. Until you feel the bondage of your guilt, you cannot find the freedom of forgiveness. In this sense, guilt is not your enemy. Yes, guilt before God is the greatest problem a human being must face. That guilt will destroy you. But the sense of that guilt is itself a gift that should lead you to the only one who can deal with it. Do you see? Your guilt can ruin you, but your sense of guilt can guide you. Your guilt before God is your own. You have no defense for your actions. There is no self-justification for your thoughts and choices. But your sense of all this should lead you not to an empty despair that ends in death, but to a hungry despair that seeks and feasts on grace! It’s good that your sins bother you. They should. They are an offense and affront to God. But your tendency to lose hope in light of them is not of faith, because faith believes and receives the pardon of God. He forgives his people. Read that again: God forgives his people. He sees your guilt, takes it from you, and gives it to his Son, who willingly received it and its punishment on your behalf. This is what it means to be saved. You have been pardoned for crimes you have committed, rescued from the justice of God to rest in the mercy of God. Despite what so many are saying these days, you do not need to forgive yourself. You need to be forgiven.

2) Your faith might be weak, prone to doubting; you may be struggling with if you're really saved, with if God loves you. 

Timothy Keller writes,
You are not saved because of the quality of your faith. You are saved because of the object of your faith: the Redeemer, the God who is fighting for you.
Horatius Bonar writes,
The quality or quantity of faith is not the main question for the sinner. That which he needs to know is that Jesus died and was buried, and rose again, according to the Scriptures. This knowledge is life everlasting.
Martin Luther writes,
When I feel anxious about sin and hell, I remind myself that when I have Christ, I have all that is necessary. Neither death, sin, nor the devil can hurt me. If I believe in Christ, I have fulfilled the law; it cannot accuse me. I have conquered hell; it cannot hold me. Everything that Christ has is mine. Through him, we obtain all his possessions and eternal life. Even if I am weak in faith, I still have the same treasure and the same Christ that others have. There’s no difference: we are all made perfect through faith in him, not by what we do.

1) You might be be thinking too much of yourself and too little of Jesus.

Tullian Tchividjian writes,
The hard work of Christian growth, therefore, is to think less of ourselves and our performance and more of Jesus and his performance for us. Ironically, when we focus mostly on our need to get better, we actually get worse. We become neurotic and self-absorbed. Preoccupation with our effort instead of with God's effort for us makes us increasingly self-centered and morbidly introspective.
Our natural tendency is to focus on ourselves--on our obedience (or lack thereof), on our performance (good or bad), on our holiness--instead of on Christ and his obedience, his performance, and his holiness for us. We all possess a natural proclivity to turn God's good news announcement that we've been set free into a narcissistic program of self-improvement. When we do this, we fail to see the needs of our neighbors and serve them. After all, as Martin Luther said, "God doesn't need our good works, but our neighbor does." My greatest need and yours is to look at Christ more than we look at ourselves.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Book Review: Mere Christianity

Mere Christianity. C.S. Lewis. 1943. 256 pages. [Source: Library]

I have mixed feelings on C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity. On the one hand, I remember from previous reads that I disagreed with Lewis' theology a handful of times. If it's only a handful of times, why can't I overlook it? Because they are on points where I strongly, strongly disagree. On the other hand, every time I see Lewis quoted in another book, I almost always agree with the quote. And more often than not, the quote in question is either from Mere Christianity or Screwtape Letters. Since I'm more likely to come across Lewis quotes in other books, I tend to think well of him. I was not writing reviews the last time I read Mere Christianity, so this will be my "first" time to put into words exactly how I feel about the book.

Mere Christianity has four sections. The first section is "Right and Wrong as a Clue to The Meaning of the Universe." In this section, Lewis is arguing that a person--any person--can come to the conclusion that there is a God--or a god. In this section, he mentions--several times--that he isn't aiming for proving the existence of "the Christian God." Just the idea of "a god" or "higher power" or "supreme being" etc. He can reach this conclusion because he knows the difference between right and wrong; there is a "natural" knowing of what is right, what is wrong, what is fair, what is unfair. One can "know" without being taught what is good and what is bad. Is this section timeless? Will Lewis' argument stand throughout the generations? I'm not convinced that it will. Sadly. In the decades since the 1940s--when the section was written--the idea or concept of absolute truth has been attacked; not just attacked here and there, but it has been heavily under attack. Holding to absolute truth--good old-fashioned, solid, unchanging truth--has been likened to "Dancing with the Dinosaur." 

Here are some of my favorite quotes from this section:
It seems, then, we are forced to believe in a real Right and Wrong. People may be sometimes mistaken about them, just as people sometimes get their sums wrong; but they are not a matter of mere taste and opinion any more than the multiplication table. (7)
These, then, are the two points I wanted to make. First, that human beings, all over the earth, have this curious idea that they ought to behave in a certain way, and cannot really get rid of it. Secondly, that they do not in fact behave in that way. They know the Law of Nature; they break it. These two facts are the foundation of all clear thinking about ourselves and the universe we live in. (8)
The Law of Human Nature tells you what human beings ought to do and do not. (17)
We all want progress. But progress means getting nearer to the place where you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turning, then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man. (28)
If the universe is not governed by an absolute goodness, then all our efforts are in the long run hopeless. But if it is, then we are making ourselves enemies to that goodness every day, and are not in the least likely to do any better tomorrow, and so our case is hopeless again. We cannot do without it, and we cannot do with it. God is the only comfort, He is also the supreme terror: the thing we most need and the thing we most want to hide from. He is our only possible ally, and we have made ourselves His enemies... Goodness is either the great safety or the great danger--according to the way you react to it. (31)
All I am doing is to ask people to face the facts--to understand the questions which Christianity claims to answer. And they are very terrifying facts. I wish it was possible to say something more agreeable. But I must say what I think true. Of course, I quite agree that the Christian religion is, in the long run, a thing of unspeakable comfort. But it does not begin in comfort; it begins in the dismay I have been describing, and it is no use at all trying to go on to that comfort without first going through that dismay. In religion, as in war and everything else, comfort is the one thing you cannot get by looking for it. If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end: if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth--only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin with and, in the end, despair. (32)

 I don't recall disagreeing with anything in this section. So the book makes a good first impression. I especially love the quote about progress and the quote about comfort. This section has some good stuff in it.

The second section of Mere Christianity is "What Christians Believe." This is a thought-provoking section. Lewis has progressed from talking about "a god" to talking about the Christian GOD. This is a thought provoking section; it will most likely keep you engaged as you consider if you agree or disagree with his conclusions, his arguments.

True or False: If you are a Christian you do not have to believe that all the other religions are simply wrong all through. If you are an atheist you do have to believe that the main point in all the religions of the whole world is simply one huge mistake. If you are a Christian, you are free to think that all those religions, even the queerest ones, contain at least some hint of truth... But, of course, being a Christian does mean thinking that where Christianity differs from other religions, Christianity is right and they are wrong. (35)

True or False: Reality, in fact, is usually something you could not have guessed. That is one of the reasons I believe Christianity. It is a religion you could not have guessed. If it offered us just the kind of universe we had always expected, I should feel we were making it up. But, in fact, it is not the sort of thing anyone would have made up (42).

True or False: If a thing is free to be good it is also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible. Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having (48).

True or False: A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic--on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg--or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. (52)

True or false: A man can accept what Christ has done without knowing how it works: indeed, he certainly would not know how it works until he has accepted it. We are told that Christ was killed for us, that His death has washed out our sins, and that by dying He disabled death itself. That is the formula. That is Christianity. That is what has to be believed. (55)

True or false: A Christian is not a man who never goes wrong, but a man who is enabled to repent and pick himself up and begin over again after each stumble--because the Christ-life is inside him, repairing him all the time, enabling him to repeat (in some degree) the kind of voluntary death which Christ Himself carried out. (63)

Isn't this a peculiar book cover?!
 My favorite quotes from this section:
Enemy-occupied territory--that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage. When you go to church you are really listening-in to the secret wireless from our friends: that is why the enemy is so anxious to prevent us from going (46)
Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing. (50)
So far, so good. No big disagreements from me. Note "big." At this point, I'm still thinking the book is good--if not great.

The third section is "Christian Behavior." This section is more on how to live the Christian life, a brief examination of vices to avoid and virtues to pursue.

Food for thought:
An individual Christian may see fit to give up all sorts of things for special reasons--marriage, or meat, or beer, or the cinema; but the moment he starts saying the things are bad in themselves, or looking down his nose at other people who do use them, he has taken the wrong turning. (79)
When a man is getting better he understands more and more clearly the evil that is still left in him. When a man is getting worse he understands his own badness less and less. (93)
There ought to be two distinct kinds of marriage: one governed by the State with rules enforced on all citizens, the other governed by the Church with rules enforced by her on her own members. The distinction ought to be quite sharp, so that a man knows which couples are married in a Christian sense and which are not. (112)
I said in a previous chapter that chastity was the most unpopular of the Christian virtues. But I am not sure I was right...Every one says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive, as we had during the war. (115)
When you start mathematics you do not begin with calculus; you begin with simple addition. In the same way, if we really want (but all depends on really wanting) to learn how to forgive, perhaps we had better start with something easier than the Gestapo. (116)
C.S. Lewis on pride:
There is no fault which makes a man more unpopular, and no fault which we are more unconscious of in ourselves. And the more we have it ourselves, the more we dislike it in others. (121)
Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind. (122)
C.S. Lewis on charity:
He will give us feelings of love if He pleases. We cannot create them for ourselves, and we must not demand them as a right. But the great thing to remember is that, though our feelings come and go, His love for us does not. It is not wearied by our sins, or our indifference, and, therefore, it is quite relentless in its determination that we shall be cured of those sins, at whatever cost to us, at whatever cost to Him. (133)
C.S. Lewis on hope:
Most of us find it very difficult to want 'Heaven' at all--except in so far as 'Heaven' means meeting again our friends who have died. One reason for this difficulty is that we have not been trained: our whole education tends to fix our minds on this world. Another reason is that when the real want for Heaven is present in us, we do not recognize is. Most people, if they had really learned to look into their own hearts, would know that they do want, and want acutely, something that cannot be had in this world. (135)
C.S. Lewis on faith:
Make sure that some of its main doctrines shall be deliberately held before your mind for some time every day. That is why daily prayers and religious readings and church going are necessary parts of the Christian life. We have to be continually reminded of what we believe. Neither this belief nor any other will automatically remain alive in the mind. It must be fed. (141)
Again, I am liking the book so far. Some bits I especially love, love, love. Some bits I question a bit more. But nothing that I strongly, passionately disagree with...yet. The closest I've come is his second chapter on faith which is a lot more confusing than I would like it to be, that it needs to be. He seems to think faith is all about trying, striving, struggling, and then when you've wrestled enough with God, then, and only then do you get "it" that you're not in a place to merit God's favor or to make a bargain. You reach a place--though it may take you years and years and years to get there--that God is enough and that he will supply what you need.

The fourth and final section of the book is "Beyond Personality: Or First Steps in the Doctrine of the Trinity." How I wish there was no fourth section!!! If the book ended with just the first three sections, how happy I would be! I could gladly give it five stars and gush about it being a true must read. In this last section, Lewis puts on his theologian hat. It's not that I disagreed with every single sentence in the remaining chapters. But all the things I disagree with are mostly--exclusively--found in this section.

More food for thought:
Doctrines are not God: they are only a kind of map. But that map is based on the experience of hundreds of people who really were in touch with God. (154)
If you do not listen to Theology, that will not mean that you have no ideas about God. It will mean that you have a lot of wrong ones--bad, muddled, out-of-date ideas. For a great many of the ideas about God which are trotted out as novelties today are simply the ones which real Theologians tried centuries ago and rejected. (155)
When you come to knowing God, the initiative lies on His side. If He does not show Himself, nothing you can do will enable you to find Him. And, in fact, He shows much more of Himself to some people than to others--not because He has favorites, but because it is impossible for Him to show Himself to a man whose whole mind and character are in the wrong condition. (164)
He [the devil] always sends errors into the world in pairs--pairs of opposites. And he always encourages us to spend a lot of time thinking which is the worse. You see why, of course? He relies on your extra dislike of the one error to draw you gradually into the opposite one. But do not let us be fooled. We have to keep our eyes on the goal and go straight through between both errors. We have no other concern than that with either of them. (186)
Until you have given up yourself to Him you will not have a real self (226).
Where I disagreed strongly:
He does not 'foresee' you doing things tomorrow; He simply sees you doing them: because, though tomorrow is not yet there for you, it is for Him. You never supposed that your actions at this moment were any less free because God knows what you are doing. Well, He knows your tomorrow's actions in just the same way--because He is already in tomorrow and can simply watch you. In a sense, He does not know your action till you have done it: but then the moment at which you have done it is already 'Now' for him. (170)
There are people in other religions who are being led by God's secret influence to concentrate on those parts of their religion which are in agreement with Christianity, and who thus belong to Christ without knowing it. For example, a Buddhist of good will may be led to concentrate more and more on the Buddhist teaching about mercy and to leave in the background (though he might still say he believed) the Buddhist teaching on certain other points. Many of the good Pagans long before Christ's birth may have been in this position. And always, of course, there are a great many people who are just confused in mind and have a lot of inconsistent beliefs all jumbled up together. (209)
Have you read Mere Christianity? What did you think?

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible