Sunday, July 31, 2016

July Reflections

July Accomplishments

This month's Bible Reading (June 26-July 30):

ERV, 1885

  • Exodus
  • Leviticus
  • Numbers
  • Deuteronomy
  • Joshua
  • Judges
  • Ruth
  • 1 Samuel
  • 2 Samuel
  • 1 Kings
  • 2 Kings
  • 1 Chronicles 
  • 2 Chronicles
  • Ezra
  • Nehemiah
  • Esther
  • Job
  • Psalms
  • Proverbs
  • Ecclesiastes
  • Song of Songs
  • Isaiah 1-14


  • John


  • Psalms 1-30

Books I've reviewed this month:

Christian fiction:
  1. Twenty and Ten. Claire Huchet Bishop. Illustrated by William Pene du Bois. 1952/1978. 76 pages. [Source: Bought] 
Christian nonfiction: 

  1. Theologians You Should Know. Michael Reeves. 2016. Crossway. 336 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  2. One of the Few. Jason B. Ladd. 2015. 297 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  3. Judge Not. Todd Friel. 2015. 320 pages. [Source: Borrowed]
  4. Blessed My Whole Life Through. Eldon Hatch. 2009. 88 pages. [Source: Gift] 
  5. Big Beliefs: Small Devotionals Introducing Your Family to Big Truths. David R. Helm. 2016. P&R. 192 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  6. How Church Can Change Your Life. Josh Moody. 2015. Christian Focus Publications. 76 pages. [Source: Borrowed] 
  7. David Brainerd: May I Never Loiter On My Heavenly Journey. John Piper. 2012. Desiring God. 34 pages. [Source: Free Download]

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Week in Review: July 24-30

ERV, 1885

  • Psalm 90-150
  • Proverbs
  • Ecclesiastes
  • Song of Songs
  • Isaiah 1-14


  • John 6-21

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Saturday, July 30, 2016

July's Scripture Chain

  • But I am poor and needy; Yet the Lord thinketh upon me: Thou art my help and my deliverer; Make no tarrying, O my God. Psalm 40:17
  • What time I am afraid, I will put my trust in thee. In God I will praise his word: In God have I put my trust, I will not be afraid; What can flesh do unto me? Psalm 56:3-4
  • Thou tellest my wanderings: Put thou my tears into thy bottle; Are they not in thy book? Psalm 56:8
  • In God will I praise his word: In the LORD will I praise his word. In God have I put my trust, I will not be afraid; What can man do unto me? Psalm 56:10-11
  • Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me; For my soul taketh refuge in thee: Yea, in the shadow of thy wings will I take refuge, Until these calamities be overpast. I will cry unto God Most High; Unto God that performeth all things for me. Psalm 57:1-2
  • My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed: I will sing, yea, I will sing praises. Psalm 57:7
  • But I will sing of thy strength; Yea, I will sing aloud of thy mercy in the morning: For thou hast been my high tower, And a refuge in the day of my distress. Psalm 59:16
  • From the end of the earth will I call unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: Lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For thou hast been a refuge for me, A strong tower from the enemy. I will dwell in thy tabernacle for ever: I will take refuge in the covert of thy wings. Psalm 61:2-4
  • My soul waiteth only upon God: From him cometh my salvation. He only is my rock and my salvation: He is my high tower; I shall not be greatly moved. Psalm 62:1-2
  • My soul, wait thou only upon God; For my expectation is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation: He is my high tower; I shall not be moved. With God is my salvation and my glory: The rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God. Trust in him at all times, ye people; Pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us. Psalm 62:5-8
  • Be thou to me a rock of habitation, whereunto I may continually resort: Thou hast given commandment to save me; For thou art my rock and my fortress. Psalm 71:3
  • But I will hope continually, And will praise thee yet more and more. My mouth shall tell of thy righteousness, And of thy salvation all the day; For I know not the numbers thereof. Psalm 71:14-15
  • Whom have I in heaven but thee? And there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. My flesh and my heart faileth: But God is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever. For, lo, they that are far from thee shall perish: Thou hast destroyed all them that go a whoring from thee. But it is good for me to draw near unto God: I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, That I may tell of all thy works. Psalm 73:25-28
  • Teach me thy way, O LORD; I will walk in thy truth: Unite my heart to fear thy name. I will praise thee, O Lord my God, with my whole heart; And I will glorify thy name for evermore. For great is thy mercy toward me; And thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest pit. Psalm 86:11-13
  • But the LORD hath been my high tower; And my God the rock of my refuge. Psalm 94:22
  • Glory ye in his holy name: Let the heart of them rejoice that seek the LORD. Seek ye the LORD and his strength; Seek his face evermore. Remember his marvellous works that he hath done; His wonders, and the judgements of his mouth Psalm 105:3-5
  • The LORD is my strength and song; And he is become my salvation. Psalm 118:14
Inspiration: Rock of Ages
Scripture Used: ERV, 1885

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, July 28, 2016

My Summer with John #13

John Newton
Today I am continuing to share my reading experience with John Newton. Newton's inspiration for this sermon series was the popularity of Handel's Messiah

Today's quotes will come from sermons eighteen and nineteen:

From sermon eighteen: Isaiah 50:6
With respect to His engagement, as the Mediator between God and sinners, a great work was given Him to do, and He became responsible; and, therefore, in this sense, bound, and under obligation. But His compliance was, likewise, voluntary, for He gave Himself up freely to suffer, the just for the unjust. Could He have relinquished our cause, and left us to the deserved consequence of our sins, in the trying hour, when His enemies seized upon Him, then legions of angels, had they been wanted, would have appeared for His rescue (Matthew 26:53) . But if He was determined to save others, then His own sufferings were unavoidable.
He knew that no blood but His own could make atonement for sin, that nothing less than His humiliation could expiate our pride; that if He did not thus suffer, sinners must inevitably perish; and, therefore, (such was His love!) He cheerfully and voluntarily gave His back to the smiters, and His cheeks to them that plucked off the hair. Two designs of vast importance filled His mind, the completion of them was that joy set before Him, for the sake of which He made Himself of no reputation, endured the cross, and despised the shame. These were, the glory of God, and the salvation of sinners.
It is plain, therefore, that if we suffer as Christians, it is for His sake. He likewise suffered for our sake, but how wide is the difference between Him and us! We, when the trial is sharp, are in danger of flinching from the cause of our best friend and benefactor, to whom our obligations are so innumerable, and so immense; whereas He gave Himself up to endure such things for us, when we were strangers and enemies! He was not only treated with cruelty, but with every mark of the utmost detestation and scorn, which wanton, unfeeling, unrestrained barbarity could suggest.
From sermon nineteen: Isaiah 53:4-5
The Scripture makes little provision for the indulgence of our curiosity, but omits nothing that is necessary for our instruction: and we learn thus much from it, that they discoursed, not upon the trifling things which the world accounts great, such as the rise and fall of empires; but they spake of the sufferings of Jesus, and of the decease which He should accomplish at Jerusalem. They spake of His Exodus (Luke 9:31) (as the word is) His departure out of life, the issue and completion of His engagement for sinners, that is, His crucifixion and death. This is the grand theme of heaven and heaven-born souls.
The cross of Christ displays the divine perfections with peculiar glory. Here the name of God is revealed, as a just God, and a Saviour. Here the believer contemplates in one view, the unspeakable evil of sin, and the unsearchable riches of mercy. This gives him the most affecting sense of the misery which he has deserved, while at the same time he receives the fullest assurance that there is forgiveness with God, and discovers a sure foundation whereon he may build his hope of eternal life, without fear of disappointment.
But light in the understanding, is necessary to convince and influence the heart. Unless the mind be deeply penetrated with the causes, which rendered MESSIAH'S death necessary, the most pathetic description of the fact, will leave the will and the affections unchanged.
The cause of the Redeemer's sufferings, implied in the word our, --He bore the griefs and sorrows which were our desert. Such is the language, the confession, the grateful acknowledgement of all who believe in His name. They who are delivered by grace from the spirit and power of this evil world, and who live by His death; and, likewise they, who see they must perish, unless saved by Him, are authorized to consider Him as mindful of them, and making provision for them, in the day of His trouble.
That our state, while upon earth, is, in any respect, better than an image of hell, must wholly be ascribed to Him.
A sinner, as such, is under the curse of the law, and this curse includes every species of misery that can affect us either in mind, body, or estate. But He was appointed, from the beginning, to sustain and exhaust the curse for us.
The remembrance of what He bore for them alleviates the pressure of all their sufferings and affords them a ground whereon they may rejoice, yea, glory in tribulation also (Romans 5:3)
But His crucifixion, and the whole of His sufferings from wicked men, cannot give us a just idea of what He endured for us. Grievous as they were, considered in themselves, they were light if compared with the agonies of His soul.
But the death of Jesus was death indeed, death in all its horrors, the death which sinners had deserved to suffer as transgressors of the law.
He was wounded and bruised for us, the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, that by His stripes we may be healed. The Hebrew word here, and the Greek word, the Apostle Peter uses in this quotation of this passage, which we render stripes (I Peter 2:24), is, properly, the mark, which stripes or wounds leave upon the body, or, as we say, scars. The scars in His hands, feet, and side, and, perhaps, other marks of His many wounds, remained after His resurrection. And John saw Him in vision, before the Throne, as a lamb that had been slain.
All these expressions and representations, I apprehend, are designed to intimate to us, that though the death of MESSIAH is an event long since past, yet the effects and benefits are ever new, and, to the eye of faith are ever present. How admirable is this expedient, that the wounds of one, yea, of millions, should be healed, by beholding the wounds of another! Yet this is the language of the Gospel, Look and live. Look unto Me and be ye saved.
Three great wounds are ours, guilt, sin, and sorrow; but by contemplating His welts or scars, with an enlightened eye, and by rightly understanding who was thus wounded, and why; all these wounds are healed.
If all the persons, who have felt the efficacy of a dying Saviour's wounds apprehended by faith, were to publish their cases, how greatly would His power and grace be displayed! They are all upon record, and will all be known in the great Day of His appearing. Some of them are occasionally published, and may be read in our own tongue. And though they are not all related with equal judgment, nor attended with circumstances equally striking, yet there is a sufficiency, in this way, to leave the world without excuse.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Book Review: David Brainerd

David Brainerd: May I Never Loiter On My Heavenly Journey. John Piper. 2012. Desiring God. 34 pages. [Source: Free Download]

First sentence: David Brainerd was born on April 20, 1718 in Haddam, Connecticut. That year John Wesley and Jonathan Edwards turned 14. Benjamin Franklin turned 12 and George Whitefield 3. The Great Awakening was just over the horizon and Brainerd would live through both waves of it in the mid thirties and early forties, then die of tuberculosis in Jonathan Edwards’ house at the age of 29 on October 9, 1747.

Premise/plot: A short biography of David Brainerd written by John Piper. The first half is the biography itself. The facts of his life, the times in which he lived, what he did, etc. The second half examines WHY David Brainerd is and was influential. In other words, why our lives might be better for having come into contact with David Brainerd's diary or journal.

Who was David Brainerd? A man who felt God's calling to be a preacher. But having been expelled from Yale, he found himself with a strong calling and no outlet. He then is led to become a missionary to the Indians. His lifework--as such--was not his plan "A" or probably even his plan "B." He was a sick, weak man--literally a dying man--the last five to seven years of his (short) life. But he was a man who felt the importance of redeeming the time, and, not wasting one's suffering.

Piper writes, "The amazing thing may not be that he died so early and accomplished so little, but that, being as sick as he was, he lived as long as he did and accomplished so much."

He continues, "It was a short life: twenty-nine years, five months and nineteen days. Only eight of those years as a believer, and only four of those as a missionary. Why has Brainerd’s life made the impact that it has? One obvious reason is that Jonathan Edwards took the Diaries and published them as a Life of Brainerd in 1749. But why has this book never been out of print?"

Piper doesn't seek to answer this question for everyone. But he does answer it all the same.
The answer for me is that Brainerd’s life is a vivid, powerful testimony to the truth that God can and does use weak, sick, discouraged, beat-down, lonely, struggling saints, who cry to him day and night, to accomplish amazing things for his glory.
My thoughts: Brainerd's life teaches that one can't always know or predict what one's legacy will be or might be. God can use pain, suffering, weakness, hardships and strains--both physical and emotional--to bring glory to his name and accomplish his will. One doesn't have to be a success in the world's eyes and according to the reckoning of others--to be used mightily by God.

Piper admired Brainerd because despite his circumstances--he clung mightily to God and was dependent on Him to sustain him. Brainerd was often sick, often in great pain, often depressed and discouraged, often lonely, often unable to see the 'bright side' of life, and, yet he spent his time seeking God and obeying Him.

Reading this short biography made me want to read David Brainerd's Diary for myself.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

My Summer With John #12

John Newton
Today I am continuing to share my reading experience with John Newton. Newton's inspiration for this sermon series was the popularity of Handel's Messiah

Today's quotes will come from sermon seventeen (Isaiah 53:3)
Angels sang praises at His birth, but men despised Him. He took not upon Him the nature of angels, but of man; yet men rejected him. Sinful, helpless men, rejected and despised their only Saviour. He came to His own, but His own received Him not. How lamentable and fatal was their obstinacy!
They despised Him for, what they accounted, the meanness of His appearance. Though rich in Himself, He became poor for our sakes, and His poverty made Him contemptible in their eyes. They expected MESSIAH would appear with external pomp and power. But when they saw Him, they scorned Him, saying, Is not this the carpenter's son? (Matthew 13:55) He who had not money to pay the tribute demanded of Him (Matthew 17:27) , nor a house wherein to lay His head, was of small esteem with those who were covetous, proud of worldly distinctions, and fond of the praise and admiration of men.
Their contempt was heightened when this poor man publicly asserted His proper character and claim, demanded their attention and homage, and styled Himself in a peculiar sense the Son of God, the resurrection and the Life (John 5:18; 11:25) . For this seeming inconsistence between the appearance He made, and the honours He affirmed, they treated Him as a demoniac and a madman (John 10:20) Their language strongly expressed their sentiments of Him, when they asked Him with disdain, Art thou greater than our father Abraham? Whom makest thou thyself? (John 8:53)
They objected to Him the low state and former characters of His followers . Some of them were of low rank in life. The most of those who constantly attended Him were poor fishermen. Others had been of bad repute, publicans and open sinners. For this they reproached Him, and thought they were fully justified in their contempt, while they could say, Have any of the rulers or Pharisees believed on Him? (John 7:48)
They were farther exasperated against Him, by the authority and severity with which He taught. It is true, He was gentle and meek to all who felt their need of His help, or sincerely desired His instruction. He received them without exception, and treated them with the greatest tenderness. But He vindicated the honour of the law of God, from the corrupt doctrine and tradition of their professed teachers. He exposed and unmasked the hypocrisy of their most admired characters, and compared the men who were in the highest reputation, for wisdom and sanctity, to whited sepulchres, warning the people against them as blind guides and deceivers.
The Gospel of Christ has often been, and is to this day, rejected and despised upon similar grounds. Its simplicity and plainness, and the manner of its proposal, adapted to the use and capacity of the vulgar, offend those who are wise in their own conceit, and proud of their understanding and taste. At the same time they are equally disgusted by the sublimity [high spiritual and moral worth] of its doctrines, which will not submit to the test of their vain reasonings, and can only be received by humble faith. The faithfulness and freedom which its ministers are enjoined to use, give great offence likewise. And because they cannot comply with the humours of those, who wish them to prophesy smooth things, and deceits, they are accounted censorious, and uncharitable, and disturbers of the public peace.
It is farther said, He was a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. He was surrounded with sorrows on every side, and grief was His intimate, inseparable companion. Surely, this consideration, if any, will animate us to endure the cross, and to despise the shame we may be exposed to for His sake. The illustration of this subject will offer more fully in the next sequel It shall suffice, at present, to offer three causes for His continual sorrows.
His character was aspersed, His person despised, His words insidiously wrested, His actions misrepresented. He was misunderstood even by His friends, betrayed by one disciple, denied by another, and forsaken by the rest (John 7:5).
And though His love determined Him to save us, the prospect which was continually present to His view, of the approaching unutterable agonies of His soul, of all that He must endure from God, from the powers of darkness and from wicked men, when He should be made a curse for us to redeem us from the curse of the law (Galatians 3:13) ; I say, this tremendous prospect, was, doubtless, a perpetual source of sorrow.
Who that has any regard for the honour of God, or the souls of men, can bear to see what passes every hour; how the authority of God is affronted, His goodness abused, and His mercy despised, without emotions of grief and compassion? If we are spiritually-minded, we must be thus affected; and we should be more so, if we were more spiritual. But the holiness of MESSIAH, and, consequently, His hatred of sin, was absolutely perfect. His view of the guilt and misery of sinners, was likewise comprehensive and clear.
How must He be therefore grieved by the wickedness and insensibility of those with whom He daily conversed! especially as He not only observed the outward conduct of men, but had an intimate knowledge of the evil heart, which is hidden from us. In this sense, His sufferings and sorrows began with His early years, and continued throughout the whole of His life. He undoubtedly could say, with an emphasis peculiar to Himself, I beheld the transgressors, and was grieved; rivers of waters ran down my eyes, because men keep not Thy law (Psalm 119:136, 158)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, July 25, 2016

Book Review: Theologians You Should Know

Theologians You Should Know. Michael Reeves. 2016. Crossway. 336 pages. [Source: Review copy]

From the introduction: C. S. Lewis was a self-confessed dinosaur. He knew perfectly well that he simply did not belong in the modern world. Yet, being born out of due time, he was able to spot what the natives could not. And what he saw in modern culture, perhaps more than anything else, was a suffocating enslavement to the beautiful myth of progress, the dream that history is evolving ever onward and upward, that newer is better. It is the sort of belief that sits very comfortably in the subconscious, giving one the warm glow of knowing that we are faster, better, wiser, more advanced, and more knowledgeable than our parents and forebears. Yet one of the problems Lewis noticed in the myth was that such superiority tends to produce not wisdom but ignorance.

From chapter one: By the end of the first century AD, Jesus’s apostles were all dead and Jerusalem and its temple had been destroyed. It was a crucial time of transition for Christianity, made all the more difficult by the hostile notice the Roman Empire began to pay as it saw what looked to it like a subversive new sect in its midst. The writings of the Apostolic Fathers are the most important books for understanding those first generations after the apostles: how they thought, lived, and died.

Premise/plot: Theologians You Should Know introduces readers to over a dozen theologians. The first two chapters of this one cover more than one theologian. Chapter one focuses on the 'apostolic fathers,' and chapter two focuses on Justin Martyr and Irenaeus. The rest of the chapters--chapters three through thirteen--focus on one theologian apiece. These theologians are: Athanasius, Augustine, Anselm, Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Owen, Jonathan Edwards, Friedrich Schleiermacher, Karl Barth, J.I. Packer.

Each chapter is well-organized. Readers first read several pages of biographical material. This also helps place the theologian in context--his life and times. Next readers read a (relatively) brief summary of the theologian's "thought." But that is not all--far from it. Readers are provided reader-friendly summaries to that theologian's works. (If the theologian wrote a LOT, then just the "main" books are summarized.) Each chapter concludes with a "Going On" feature. Reeves carefully and purposefully guides you--encourages you--what to read next. (There is also a timeline for each theologian).

My thoughts: Reading the book straight through provides readers with a good, basic overview. But I think the book would also serve as a great reference book. I think each chapter could stand alone, and, your interest could guide you along.

What I appreciated was the author's easy-going, reader-friendly approach. I like his honesty. I came to trust him. This is what he has to say about John Owen, "Owen, it has to be said, was pretty merciless toward his readers. He expected them to be serious and committed" and "There are no gentle introductions, there is often little sense to the order of a book, and, bluntly, he does go on a bit. But all that is nothing to the way he writes. It feels as if Latin was his real native tongue, and so, when he tries to write in English, the result is uncomfortably complicated. Thus, trying to imbibe Owen in large doses can be a bit like drinking rather too much Horlicks. J. I. Packer’s suggested medicine is to read Owen out loud, which can help a bit. But, to be honest, whether read, said, chanted, or rapped, Owen is tough meat." He doesn't suggest you skip him, however. He says the place to start is Communion with God. It's tough, but, worth it in the end.

The book could have been intimidating or condescending. But it wasn't. Reeves is an excellent guide that makes you want to read theology.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Week in Review: July 17-23

ERV, 1885

  • 2 Chronicles
  • Ezra
  • Nehemiah
  • Esther
  • Job
  • Psalms 1-89


  • John 1-5

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, July 22, 2016

Book Review: Hello, I'm Johnny Cash

Hello, I'm Johnny Cash. G. Neri. Illustrated by A.G. Ford. 2014. Candlewick. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Before he became Johnny Cash, he was simply called J.R.-- a name that stood for nothing, and nothing was all he had coming into this world.

Premise/plot: Hello, I'm Johnny Cash is a picture book biography for older readers. This biography is told in verse. Each two-page spread is a poem. Many poems share a connection with his music--either a name of a song Cash recorded, or, a lyric taken from one of his songs. Most of the book focuses on his life BEFORE he became a famous country singer. The last few pages tell the story of his early successes.

My thoughts: I really enjoyed this one. I did. G. Neri did a great job placing his life in context and sneaking in some history as well. This one is more than a rags-to-riches feel-good story. I really appreciated how his religious/spiritual life was not downplayed or dismissed. Cash's love for gospel music is evident throughout.

I also really loved the illustrations by A.G. Ford.

Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 5 out of 5
Total: 10 out of 10

I Walk The Line

The Man in Black

Ring of Fire

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, July 21, 2016

My Summer with John #11

John Newton
Today I am continuing to share my reading experience with John Newton. Newton's inspiration for this sermon series was the popularity of Handel's Messiah

Today's quotes will come from the sixteenth sermon (John 1:29)
God has so loved rebellious, ungrateful sinners, as to appoint them a Saviour in the person of His only Son. The prophets foresaw His manifestation in the flesh, and foretold the happy consequences --that His presence would change the wilderness into a fruitful field, that He was coming to give sight to the blind, and life to the dead; to set the captive at liberty; to unloose the heavy burden; and to bless the weary with rest. But this change was not to be wrought merely by a word of power, as when He said, Let there be light, and there was light (Genesis 1:3) It was great, to speak the world from nothing; but far greater, to redeem sinners from misery. The salvation, of which He is the Author, though free to us, must cost Him dear. Before the mercy of God can be actually dispensed to such offenders, the rights of His justice, the demands of His law, and the honour of His government, must be provided for.
The early institution and long continued use, of sacrifices, had clearly pointed out the necessity of an atonement; but the real and proper Atonement could only be made by MESSIAH. The blood of slaughtered animals could not take away sin, nor display the righteousness of God in pardoning it. This was the appointed, covenanted work of MESSIAH, and He alone could perform it.
He is the Lamb of God. The paschal lamb, and the lambs which were daily offered, morning and evening, according to the law of Moses, were of God's appointment; but this Lamb was, likewise, of His providing. The others were but types [prophetic symbols]. Though many, they were all insufficient to cleanse the offerers from guilt (Hebrews 10:1) ; and they were all superseded, when MESSIAH, by the one offering of Himself, once for all, made an end of sin, and brought in an everlasting righteousness, in favour of all who believe in His name.
The Lamb of God, refers to His voluntary substitution for sinners, that by His sufferings and death, they who deserved to die, might obtain eternal life through Him, and for His sake.
The efficacy of this Atonement is complete. The Lamb of God, thus slain, takes away sin; both with respect to its guilt, and its defilement.
The Lamb of God is an object, proposed not to our bodily sight, but to the eye of the mind, which indeed, in fallen man, is naturally blind; but the Gospel message, enlivened by the powerful agency of the Holy Spirit, is appointed to open it. He who thus sees the Son, and believes on Him (John 6:40) , is delivered from guilt and condemnation, is justified from all sin. He is warranted to plead the sufferings of the Lamb of God in bar of his own; the whole of the Saviour's obedience unto death, as the ground and title of his acceptance unto life.
He takes away the sin of the world. Many of my hearers need not be told, what fierce and voluminous disputes have been maintained, concerning the extent of the death of Christ. I am afraid the advantages of such controversies, have not been answerable to the zeal of the disputants. For myself, I wish to be known, by no name, but that of a Christian; and implicitly to adopt no system but the Bible.
If it be inferred that He actually designed and intended the salvation of all men, because the death of Christ is here said to take away the sin of the world, or, (as this Evangelist expresses it in another place) the whole world (I John 2:2) , such an inference would be contradicted by fact. For it is certain that all men will not be saved (Matthew 7:13, 14) It is to be feared, that the greater part of those, to whom the Word of His salvation is sent, perish in their sins. If, therefore, He cannot be disappointed of His purpose, since many do perish, it could not be His fixed design, that all men should be finally and absolutely saved.
The exceeding great number, once dead in trespasses and sins, who shall be found on His right hand, at the great Day of His appearance, are frequently spoken of in appropriate and peculiar language. They are styled His sheep (John 10:11, 16) , for whom He laid down His life; His elect (Mark 13:27) , His own (John 13:1) ; those to whom it is given to believe in His name (Philippians 1:29) , and, concerning whom, it was the Father's good pleasure to predestinate them to the adoption of children (Eph. 1:5) By nature, they are children of wrath, even as others (Ephesians 2:3) ; and no more disposed in themselves to receive the truth, than those who obstinately and finally reject it. Whenever they become willing they are made so, in a day of divine power (Psalm 110:3) ; and wherein they differ, it is grace that makes them to differ (I Corinthians 4:7) Passages in the Scriptures to this purpose, are innumerable; and though much ingenuity has been employed to soften them, and to make them speak the language of an hypothesis, they are so plain in themselves, that he who runs may read.
It is not the language of conjecture, but of inspiration, that they whom the Lord God did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29). And though some serious persons perplex themselves with needless and painful reasonings, with respect to the sovereignty of God in His conduct towards mankind, they all, if truly spiritual and enlightened, stand upon this very ground, in their own experience.
That there is an election of grace, we are plainly taught; yet, it is not said, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save the Elect, but that He came to save sinners, to seek and to save them that are lost (I Timothy 1:15; Luke 19:10). Upon this ground, I conceive that ministers have a warrant to preach the Gospel to every creature, and to address the conscience of every man in the sight of God: and that every person who hears this Gospel, has thereby a warrant, an encouragement, yea, a command, to apply to Jesus Christ for salvation.
And that they who refuse, thereby exclude themselves, and perish, not because they never had, nor possibly could have any interest in His atonement, but, simply, because they will not come unto Him that they may have life.
The whole may be summed up in two points, which I commend to your serious attention; which it must be the business of my life to enforce, and which, I trust, I shall not repent of having enforced, either at the hour of death, or in the Day of Judgment, when I must give an account of my preaching, and you of what you have heard in this place. That salvation is, indeed, wholly of grace. The gift of a Saviour, the first dawn of light into the heart, all the supports and supplies needful for carrying on the work, from the foundation to the top-stone, all is of free grace. That now the Lamb of God is preached to you, as taking away the sin of the world, if you reject Him, which may the Lord forbid! I say, if you reject Him, your blood will be upon your own head. You are warned, you are invited. Dare not to say, Why doth He yet find fault, for who hath resisted His will? (Romans 9:19). If He will save me, I shall be saved; if not, what can I do? God is merciful, but He is also holy and just; He is almighty, but His infinite power is combined with wisdom, and regulated by the great designs of His government. He can do, innumerable things, which, He will not do. What He will do (so far as we are concerned) His Word informs us, and not one jot or tittle thereof shall fail (Matthew 5:18).

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Book Review: One of the Few

One of the Few. Jason B. Ladd. 2015. 297 pages. [Source: Review copy]

What's your worldview? Have you given it much thought? Is your worldview perhaps pieced together, here and there? How much importance do you place on it? You may be thinking, well, I don't even have a worldview. But the truth is, every single person has a way of viewing the world, of making sense of the world around them, of piecing together the way they fit into the world, of what it all means, or if life means anything at all. Whether you've given it just a little time or a LOT of your time, Jason B. Ladd's One of The Few could prove quite a beneficial read.

I think it could also prove a timely read as well. Perhaps your own worldview has been challenged, tested, or brought closer to the surface as the events of this past summer have unfolded. It is hard to watch the news and not react--physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Perhaps recent events have you asking questions, or, perhaps you're too angry or frustrated to form your questions into words and order them logically.

One of the Few is several books in one. It is, in part, a record of one man's journey from careless agnostic (agnostic by default, careless in that he didn't spend any time whatsoever thinking out these kinds of things) to Christian believer. It is, in part, an actual biography of a Marine. It is also a passionate pleading to readers. A passionate plea to parents to be involved in their children's spiritual lives, to teach and to train their children in the Christian faith. A plea to NOT be passive and dismissive when it comes to their child forming a world view. You do not want the sole influencers of your child's worldview to be the school system, the news, social media, movies, television shows, music, etc. Also, it is a passionate plea for believers to lead pure, holy lives. He tackles two issues in this one: sexual purity--the dangers of pornography--and alcohol usage--the dangers of drunkenness. He has one more plea for readers: WHETHER YOU LIKE IT OR NOT, THERE IS A SPIRITUAL WAR GOING ON, AND YOU NEED TO BE PREPARED FOR IT.

My favorite chapter is "Never Surrender." In this chapter, he discusses the Code of Conduct for the military, and, how it is relevant to spiritual warfare as well.
III. If I am captured I will continue to resist by all means available. I will make every effort to escape and aid others to escape. I will accept neither parole nor special favors from the enemy.
For the soldier, the preface is "if I am captured." For the Christian, it could read, "when I am captured," for we become prisoners when we sin…. When we are captured by sin, we must continue to resist, lest our stumble become a headlong plunge into spiritual relapse. The soldier must use all means available, but the Christian must use the only man capable: Jesus Christ. In order to escape, we must repent. In order to aid others to escape, we must fulfill the Great Commission by sharing the Gospel with everyone. We must not accept parole. Wartime captors say, "Favors and freedom I will give thee if you swear allegiance to our state, our cause, our Great Leader." (p. 250)
Other quotes:
"It is your responsibility to teach your children what is true. Would you let your child decide for themselves whether or not it is true that failing to look both ways before crossing the street can get you killed? The undeniable nature of that truth and the gravity of the consequences ensure you teach it to your children. You would never risk their safety by failing to give them that instruction." (35)
"Every Christian will have to ask a similar question: "How truly do I believe this?" The path is narrow and the journey is difficult. Your patience will be rubbed raw and your boots will be bloodied by spiritual warfare. Your feet will ache from walking up hills of conflict. Your brain will throb from worldly derision and doubt. You will wonder if you have what it takes to stay on the path and finish the hump. You will be tempted to quit." (46)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

My Summer with John #10

John Newton
Today I am continuing to share my reading experience with John Newton. Newton's inspiration for this sermon series was the popularity of Handel's Messiah

Today's quotes will come from sermons fourteen and fifteen.

From sermon fourteen: Matthew 11:28
But the riches of Christ are unsearchable and inexhaustible. If millions and millions of distressed sinners seek to Him for relief, He has a sufficiency for them all. His mercy is infinite to pardon all their sins; His grace is infinite, to answer and exceed their utmost desires; His power is infinite, to help them in all their difficulties.
There is, indeed, an appointed hour, when the sun shall cease to shine, and the course of nature shall fail. But the true Sun, the Sun of Righteousness has no variableness or shadow of turning (Malachi 4:2; James 1:17); and they who depend upon Him, while in this world, shall rejoice in His light forever.
As no case is too hard for His power, so no person who applies to Him is shut out from His compassion. Him that cometh to Him, whatever his former character or conduct may have been, He will in no wise cast out (John 6:37) This glorious exercise of sovereign mercy, is no less a divine attribute, than the power, by which He created the heavens and the earth.
The Invitation is expressed in very general terms. Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden. There is no qualifying or restraining clause, to discharge any person who is willing to accept it. Whoever hath an ear to hear, let him hear. Let him that is athirst come, and whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely (Revelation 22:17) I cannot doubt, but these words authorize me to address myself to every person in the assembly.
The preaching of the Gospel is His appointment, and has a great effect, when accompanied with His Holy Spirit, to make a willing people in the day of His power.
But what is it to come to Christ? It is, to believe in Him, to apply to Him, to make His invitation and promise, our ground and warrant for putting our trust in Him. On another occasion, He said, He that cometh to me shall never hunger, and he that believeth in me shall never thirst (John 6:35). The expressions are of the same import. When He was upon earth, many who came to Him, and even followed Him for a season, received no saving benefit from Him. Some came to Him from motives of malice and ill will, to ensnare or insult Him. Some followed Him for loaves and fishes. And of others, who were frequently near Him, He complained, Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life (John 5:40) But they who were distressed and came to Him for relief, were not disappointed. To come to Him, therefore, implies a knowledge of His power, and an application for His help.
He is seated upon a Throne of Grace; He is to be sought in His Word, and where His people assemble in His name; for He has said, There will I be in the midst of them (Matthew 18:20). They, therefore, who read His Word, frequent His ordinances and pray unto Him with a desire that they may know Him, and be remembered with the favour which He bears to His own people (Psalm 106:4), answer the design of my text. They come to Him, and He assures them that, whoever they are, He will in no wise cast them out. If they thus come to Him, they will of course come out from the world and be separate (II Cor. 6:17). If they apply to Him for refuge, they will renounce all other refuge and dependence, and trust in Him alone.
From sermon fifteen: (Matthew 11:29-30)
Though the influence of education and example, may dispose us to acknowledge the Gospel to be a revelation from God; it can only be rightly understood, or duly prized, by those persons who feel themselves in the circumstances of distress, which it is designed to relieve.
Thus our Saviour's gracious invitation to come to Him for rest, will be little regarded, till we really feel ourselves weary and heavy laden. This is a principal reason why the Gospel is heard with so much indifference. For though sin be a grievous illness, and a hard bondage, yet one effect of it is, a strange stupidity and infatuation, which renders us (like a person in a delirium) insensible of our true state. It is a happy time, when the Holy Spirit, by His convincing power, removes that stupor, which, while it prevents us from fully perceiving our misery, renders us likewise indifferent to the only mean of deliverance.
We cannot serve Him acceptably, unless we are taught by Him.
Human learning will neither support the mind under trouble, nor weaken its attachment to worldly things, nor control its impetuous passions, nor overcome the fear of death.
The happy effect of His instructions upon those who receive them, is, Rest to their souls. This has been spoken to before; but as it is repeated in the text, I shall not entirely pass it over here.
By restoring us to our proper state of dependence upon God. A state of reconciliation and peace, and deliverance from guilt and fear. A state of subjection; for until our wills are duly subjected to the will of God, we can have no rest.
By showing us the vanity of the world, and thereby putting an end to our wearisome desires and pursuits after things uncertain, frequently unattainable, always unsatisfying.
By a communication of sublimer pleasures and hopes, than the present state of things can possibly afford. And, lastly, -- By furnishing us with those aids, motives, and encouragements, which make our duty desirable, practicable, and pleasant.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, July 18, 2016

Music Review: Amazing Grace

I would definitely recommend George Jones' gospel-hymn album Amazing Grace. The album was released in 2013, after his death, but recorded over ten years earlier. One song was even recorded in 1994!

It features twelve songs:

Amazing Grace
In The Garden
How Beautiful Heaven Must Be
Why Me Lord
Swing Low, Sweet Chariot
Peace in the Valley
Just a Closer Walk With Thee
Lonesome Valley
What A Friend We Have In Jesus
The Old Rugged Cross
Softly and Tenderly
Great Judgment Morning

It is a WONDERFUL album to listen to all the way through. No need to skip over any tracks with this one! It has some great songs on it. The only hymn that I would have liked to see on it perhaps is How Great Thou Art. But Amazing Grace and The Old Rugged Cross are just LOVELY.

I really enjoyed listening to some new-to-me songs. I really LOVED How Beautiful Heaven Must Be, Why Me Lord, Lonesome Valley, and Great Judgment Morning.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Songs for Those Who Watch The News

I thought I'd share some songs today…

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Week in Review: July 10-16

ERV, 1885

  • 1 Kings 12-22
  • 2 Kings
  • 1 Chronicles


  • Psalms 1-30

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Two Country Songs that Remind Me of the Book of Hosea

Are you familiar with the Old Testament book of Hosea? It's a minor prophet whose message is anything but minor. Here are some country songs that capture the spirit of Hosea.

The first is Looking Out My Window Through the Pain

The second is That's Where My Baby Feels At Home.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, July 15, 2016

Book Review: Blessed My Whole Life Through

Blessed My Whole Life Through. Eldon Hatch. 2009. 88 pages. [Source: Gift]

Do you believe in prayer? That God listens to our prayers and does in fact answer prayer? That he answers prayers according to His Will? In this short biographical book, Eldon Hatch shares his testimony with readers. The subtitle in fact reads something like this, "a businessman thankfully recounts seven decades of answered prayer." So you can imagine that his testimony is packed with story and emotion!

Growing up, one of my favorite books was a little book called THE HAND THAT STILL INTERVENES by W.A. Spicer and Helen Spicer Menkel. I liked the stories of answered prayers; I liked seeing God in action, working in the lives of His children. I get the same sort of feeling from reading Blessed My Whole Life Through.

I think probably my favorite story is called "The Bachelor." He writes of one of his 'confirmed bachelors' who happens to meet a woman--at a sporting event, at the booth for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. They smile. They chat a few minutes. (He's sixty; her age is not given.) And then as he's walking away, she prays: LORD, if this is the right man for me, please bring him back. God answered that prayer! He returns minutes later to ask her to dinner that night. They marry after a brief courtship.

One of the more emotional stories is "Goodbye, Mother" about his mother's dying in the hospital despite prayers for healing. At the same time he's praying for his mother to be healed, he is also praying for someone else--a stranger's loved one--he just met. The stranger was healed; his mother was not. But he saw God's will being done in both situations.

The stories are short and straight-forward. Nothing fancy or concocted. I really enjoyed reading this one.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, July 14, 2016

My Summer with John #9

John Newton
Today I am continuing to share my reading experience with John Newton. Newton's inspiration for this sermon series was the popularity of Handel's Messiah

Today's quotes will come from sermons twelve and thirteen.

From sermon twelve: Isaiah 35:5,6
As the great Physician, He cured all manner of diseases and infirmities. But this was not the principle design for which He came into the world. The maladies to which sin has subjected the body, are but emblems of the more dreadful evils which it has brought upon the soul. He came to open the eyes of the mind; to make the obstinate will attentive and obedient to the voice of God; to invigorate our benumbed and paralytic faculties; that we may be active and cheerful in His service; and to open our lips, that our mouths may show forth His praise.
While Lazarus lay in the grave, all his natural powers were inactive. But when the voice of the Son of God restored him to life (John 11:43) , he was, of course, immediately enabled to see, to hear, to move, and to speak. Thus, while we were spiritually dead, we were necessarily blind, deaf, dumb, and motionless, with respect to all the objects and faculties of that life of God in the soul, which is the perfection and honour of our nature. When we are made partakers of this life, by a new and heavenly birth, then our spiritual senses are brought into exercise. Then the eyes of the blind are opened, to see the beauty and glory of divine truths; we hear the voice of God, we feel at liberty to walk and act in His service, and our tongues are taught to praise Him.
The religion of true believers is not the effect of imagination and blind impulse, but is derived from a solid knowledge which will bear the strictest scrutiny, and is the reasonable service of an enlightened understanding. They see God; their apprehensions of Him, are, in some measure, answerable to His greatness and His goodness, and inspire them with reverence and love. Their conceptions of other things in which they are most nearly interested, are agreeable to the truth. Sin appears to them hateful in itself, as well as mischievous in it consequences; and holiness, not only necessary by the ordination of God, but desirable for its own sake, as essentially belonging to the true dignity and happiness of man.
It is the work of God alone to open the blind eyes, to change the heart of stone into flesh, and to raise the dead.
From sermon thirteen: Isaiah 50:11
A sheep is a weak, defenceless, improvident creature; prone to wander, and if once astray, is seldom known to return of its own accord. A sheep has neither strength to fight with the wolf, nor speed to escape from him; nor has it the fore-sight of the ant, to provide its own sustenance. Such is our character, and our situation. Unable to take care of ourselves, prone to wander from our resting-place, exposed to enemies which we can neither withstand nor avoid, without resource in ourselves, and taught, by daily experience, the insufficiency of everything around us. Yet, if this Shepherd be our Shepherd, weak and helpless as we are, we may be of good courage. If we say with David, The LORD is my Shepherd, we may make the same inferences he did, Therefore I shall not want; therefore I need not fear.
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Worth Quoting: Five Reasons To Not Tell Someone to 'Ask Jesus Into Your Heart'

From "Giving Wrong Salvation Instructions, part 2" in Judge Not by Todd Friel p. 146, 148

1. It is not in the Bible. Jesus does come and dwell in the human heart (Ephesians 3:17), but the trillion dollar question is, "How does He get in there?" The biblical answer is, "Repentance and faith" (Mark 1:15). There is not a single verse that even hints we should say a prayer to invite Jesus into our hearts.

2. Asking Jesus into your heart is a saying that makes no sense. While I suspect that most adults cannot articulate the actual meaning of this phrase, I am certain that no child can explain it.

3. Asking Jesus into your heart leaves out the biblical requirement of repentance (Acts 2:38).

4. Asking Jesus into your heart leaves out the biblical requirement of faith (Acts 16:31).

5. It presents God as a powerless beggar who hopes you will let Him into your busy life.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Book Review: Night

Night. Elie Wiesel. Translated by Stella Rodway. Foreword by Francois Mauriac. 1958/1960. 109 pages. [Source: Bought]

I first read Night about fifteen years ago. I've been meaning to reread it ever since. It's definitely a book that is worth reading more than once. And the author's recent death made me want to read it now.

I am choosing to review it at Operation Actually Read Bible not because Night is a Christian book that affirms the Christian worldview, but because it is important, significant engaging book that Christians should read.

My edition of Night has a foreword by Francois Mauriac. I highly recommend reading it. Yes, I know it can be tempting to skip over introductions and forewords. But in this case, it is a must read. It contains gems:
It is not always the events we have been directly involved in that affect us the most. (vii)
Have we ever thought about the consequence of a horror that, though less apparent, less striking than other outrages, is yet the worst of all to those of us who have faith: the death of God in the soul of a child who suddenly discovers absolute evil? (ix)
And I, who believe that God is love, what answer could I give my young questioner, whose dark eyes still held the reflection of that angelic sadness which had appeared one day upon the face of the hanged child? What did I say to him? Did I speak of that other Jew, his brother, who may have resembled him--the Crucified, whose Cross has conquered the world? Did I affirm that the stumbling block to his faith was the cornerstone of mine, and that the conformity between the Cross and the suffering of men was in my eyes the key to that impenetrable mystery whereon the faith of his childhood had perished? Zion, however, has risen up again from the crematories and the charnel houses. The Jewish nation has been resurrected from among its thousands of dead. It is through them that it lives again. We do not know the worth of a single drop of blood, one single tear. All is grace. If the Eternal is the Eternal, the last word for each one of us belongs to Him. This is what I should have told this Jewish child. But I could only embrace him, weeping. (xi)
First sentence: They called him Moshe the Beadle, as though he had never had a surname in his life. He was a man of all work at a Hasidic synagogue. The Jews of Sighet--that little town in Transylvania where I spent my childhood--were very fond of him.

Night is nonfiction, an autobiography written by Elie Wiesel. Night covers his experiences from 1941 to 1945; it covers his loss of faith, loss of family, loss of innocence, and, perhaps even hope. Though written in prose, I venture to say that in its potency it more closely resembles poetry. There is beauty in its language, its turn of phrase. Though also a raw, vital, often ugly portrait is presented. One cannot help but be engaged with this book.

Primarily, it is the story of Elie Wiesel (a boy) and his Father. But two other characters are brought to life for readers. And I wouldn't dare review the book without mentioning them both.

The first is Moshe the Beadle. Young Elie is tutored by Moshe before the war comes and interrupts (and ends) lives.
He had noticed me one day at dusk, when I was praying.
"Why do you weep when you pray?" he asked me, as though he had known me for a long time.
"I don't know why," I answered, greatly disturbed.
The question had never entered my head. I wept because--because of something inside me that felt the need for tears. That was all I knew.
"Why do you pray?" he asked me, after a moment.
Why did I pray? A strange question. Why did I live? Why did I breathe?
"I don't know why," I said, even more disturbed and ill at ease. "I don't know why."
After that day I saw him often. He explained to me with great insistence that every question possessed a power that did not lie in the answer.
"Man raises himself toward God by the questions he asks Him," he was fond of repeating. "That is the true dialogue. Man questions God and God answers. But we don't understand His answers. We can't understand them. Because they come from the depths of the soul, and they stay there until death. You will find the true answers, Eliezer, only within yourself!"
"And why do you pray, Moshe?" I asked him.
"I pray to the God within me that He will give me the strength to ask Him the right questions."
We talked like this nearly every evening. We used to stay in the synagogue after all the faithful had left, sitting in the gloom, where a few half-burned candles still gave a flickering light.
One evening I told him how unhappy I was because I could not find a master in Sighet to instruct me in the Zohar, the cabbalistic books, the secrets of the Jewish mysticism. He smiled indulgently. After a long silence, he said:
"There are a thousand and one gates leading into the orchard of mystical truth. Every human being has his own gate. We must never make the mistake of wanting to enter the orchard by any gate but our own. To do this is dangerous for the one who enters and also for those who are already there." (2-3)
Their studies together were interrupted when Moshe, as a foreigner, was expelled from the city by Hungarian policemen. He returns, however, with a story to tell.
He told his story and that of his companions. The train full of deportees had crossed the Hungarian frontier and on Polish territory had been taken in charge by the Gestapo. There it had stopped. The Jews had to get out and climb into lorries. The lorries drove toward a forest. The Jews were made to get out. They were made to dig huge graves. And when they had finished their work, the Gestapo began theirs. Without passion, without haste, they slaughtered their prisoners. Each one had to go up to the hole and present his neck. Babies were thrown into the air and the machine gunners used them as targets. This was in the forest of Galicia, near Kolomaye. How had Moshe the Beadle escaped? Miraculously. He was wounded in the leg and taken for the dead…
Through long days and nights, he went from one Jewish house to another, telling the story of Malka, the young girl who had taken three days to die, and of Tobias, the tailor, who had begged to be killed before his sons…
…People refused not only to believe his stories, but even to listen to them.
"He's just trying to make us pity him. What an imagination he has!" they said. Or even, "Poor fellow. He's gone mad."
As for Moshe, he wept.
"Jews, listen to me. It's all I ask of you. I don't want money or pity. Only listen to me," he would cry between prayers at dusk and the evening prayers.
I did not believe him myself. I would often sit with him in the evening after the service, listening to his stories and trying my hardest to understand his grief. I felt only pity for him.
"They take me for a madman," he would whisper, and tears, like drops of wax, flowed from his eyes.
Once, I asked him this question:
"Why are you so anxious that people should believe what you say? In your place, I shouldn't care whether they believed me or not…"
He closed his eyes, as though to escape time.
"You don't understand," he said in despair. "You can't understand. I have been saved miraculously. I managed to get back here. Where did I get the strength from? I wanted to come back to Sighet to tell you the story of my death. So that you could prepare yourselves while there was still time. To live? I don't attach any importance to my life any more. I'm alone. No, I wanted to come back, and to warn you. And see how it is, no one will listen to me…" (4-5)
The second is Madame Schachter, a woman in the same train car (cattle car, I believe?) as Elie and his Father.
Madame Schachter had gone out of her mind. On the first day of the journey she had already begun to moan and to keep asking why she had been separated from her family. As time went on, her cries grew hysterical.
On the third night, while we slept, some of us sitting one against the other and some standing, a piercing cry split the silence:
"Fire! I can see a fire! I can see a fire!"
there was a moment's panic. Who was it who had cried out? It was Madame Schachter. Standing in the middle of the wagon, in the pale light from the windows, she looked like a withered tree in a cornfield. She pointed her arm toward the window, screaming:
"Look! Look at it! Fire! A terrible fire! Mercy! Oh, that fire!"
Some of the men pressed up against the bars. There was nothing there; only the darkness.
The shock of this terrible awakening stayed with us for a long time. we still trembled from it. With every groan of the wheels on the rail, we felt that an abyss was about to open beneath our bodies. Powerless to still our own anguish, we tried to console ourselves:
"She's mad, poor soul…"
Someone had put a damp cloth on her brow, to calm her, but still her screams went on:
"Fire! Fire!"
Her little boy was crying, hanging onto her skirt, trying to take hold of her hands. "It's all right, Mummy! There's nothing there…Sit down…" This shook me even more than his mother's screams had done.
Some women tried to calm her. "You'll find your husband and your sons again…in a few days…"
She continued to scream, breathless, her voice broken by sobs. "Jews, listen to me! I can see a fire! There are huge flames! It is a furnace!" (22-23)
I will share just one more quote with you. It is a powerful one, one quoted in the foreword as well.
Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which has turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed. Never shall I forget that smoke. Never shall I forget the little faces of the children, whose bodies I saw turned into wreaths of smoke beneath a silent blue sky. Never shall I forget those flames which consumed my faith forever. Never shall I forget that nocturnal silence which deprived me, for all eternity, of the desire to live. Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to dust. Never shall I forget these things, even if I am condemned to live as long as God Himself. Never. (32)
The book is short, powerful, compelling, unforgettable. It captures the horror of the Holocaust. I do think it's a subject that Christians should know about and care about. Yes, one could respond to this book with theological arguments and debates. A need to set the record straight. A need to defend God and prove Wiesel was tragically wrong. Or, one could perhaps respond with tears and weeping.

What do you do with the world's sorrow? What do you do when words are hard to come by--if not impossible to come by? Prepackaged words don't seem to fit well, do they? There is a time and place for theological debate, but, in the rawness of the moment when the tears are still fresh and today and tomorrow seem impossible to face--to live through, perhaps tears are best. Even if you think you have the answers.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

My Summer with John #8

John Newton
Today I am continuing to share my reading experience with John Newton. Newton's inspiration for this sermon series was the popularity of Handel's Messiah

Today's quotes will come from sermons ten and eleven.

From sermon ten (Luke 2:8-14)
We live in a crowd, but we must die alone.
We must not expect to sing with the great company of the redeemed hereafter, before the Throne of glory, unless we learn and love their song while we are here (Revelation 15:3).
They who attain to the inheritance of the saints in light, are first made meet for it in the present life, and in this way. They believe the testimony of the Scripture respecting their own guilt, unworthiness, and helplessness; then they receive the record which God has given of His Son. They renounce all confidence in the flesh (Philippians 3:3); they rejoice in Christ Jesus, and from His fulness they derive grace to worship God in the Spirit. A sense of their obligations to the Saviour, disposes them to praise Him now as they can ; and they rejoice in hope of seeing him ere long as He is, and that then they shall praise Him as they ought. For heaven itself, as described in the Word of God, could not be a state of happiness to us, unless we are like-minded with the Apostle, to account all things loss and dung for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ our Lord...   
From sermon eleven (Zechariah 9:9-10)
Jesus, when known and received by faith, is, in the highest sense, light to those who sit in darkness, health to the sick, food to the hungry, and rest to the weary soul.
They who know His name, and put their trust in Him are warranted to appropriate those strong expressions of another Prophet, Although the fig-tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vine, the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat, the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation (Habakkuk 3:17, 18)
The ground and cause of this joy is assigned. Thy King cometh. MESSIAH is a King. He is righteous. His Kingdom is founded in righteousness. It is the effect and reward of His obedience unto death, by which He made an end of sin, and brought in an everlasting righteousness. As His people receive and expect all from His hand, so likewise for His sake. Such is His command, and such is His promise. If ye shall ask anything in my name, I will do it (John 14:14) In pleading their cause, and managing their concerns, He is their righteous Advocate. He is a Saviour. Having salvation in Himself; yea, He is their salvation (Isaiah 12:2) His wisdom, power, compassion, and determined purpose, are all engaged to save them fully, freely, and forever. To save them from guilt, from Satan, and from sin, through all the dangers and trials of this life. To save them to the uttermost, till He fixes them finally, out of reach of all evil, and puts them in possession of all the happiness of which their natures are capable, in a conformity to His own image, and the enjoyment of unclouded, uninterrupted communion with God.
Let us try ourselves by this touch-stone, measure ourselves by this rule, and weigh ourselves in these balances of the sanctuary. They that are Christ's have crucified the flesh, have put off the old man, and are renewed in the spirit of their minds. If He be, indeed, your King, your consciences will bear you witness that you revere, imitate, and obey Him. If He be your Saviour, you certainly must be sensible yourself, and others must observe, that you are different from what you once were.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, July 11, 2016

Book Review: Judge Not

Judge Not. Todd Friel. 2015. 320 pages. [Source: Borrowed]

If you're familiar with the teaching of Todd Friel, you should know exactly what to expect from this book: bold, emphatic opinions expressed with a good dose of snark.

Six out of seven parts focus on what is wrong with Christianity today, with today's church. The seventh part--let's be honest, it's just one chapter--focuses on the solution.

Part One: Discernment Disasters (3 chapters)
Part Two: Ecclesiastical Calamities (9 chapters)
Part Three: Theological Train Wrecks (7 chapters)
Part Four: Wonky Evangelical Movements (9 chapters)
Part Five: Toxic Trends (7 chapters)
Part Six: Bad Attitudes (4 chapters)
Part Seven: The Solution (1 chapter)

The book is argument driven. He makes some very bold statements from the very beginning. Statements like, "The single largest moral influence in America is the Protestant church. If American culture is ailing morally, it is because the Protestant church is ailing." And, "the church became Burger King telling the world they can have God their way. Needless to say, God is not a hamburger." Both of these statements come from the book's introduction.

In part one, Friel argues that Christians NEED to be discerning. He seeks to teach readers what discernment is and isn't. How they can put discernment into practice in their own lives.

In part two, Friel discusses mainly what churches are doing wrong--in his opinion. Here are some of the chapter titles, "Pastors Who Think Jesus Needs Help," "Happy-Clappy Church," and "Manipulative Altar Calls."

In part three, Friel turns to theology, to theological train wrecks. I personally think this section is the most important in the book. The chapters include, "Twisting Scripture," "Hearing from God," "Describing Hell Inaccurately," "Making God the Red Cross," "Giving Wrong Salvation Instructions, part one and two," and "Compromising on Creation." The two chapters on GIVING WRONG SALVATION INSTRUCTIONS make this one well worth reading.

In parts four and five, Friel focuses on movements and trends. In some ways, he is demonstrating the discernment he was talking about in the first part. He discusses a little bit of everything--from the worship band Jesus Culture to purity rings and daycare.

In the sixth part, he focuses on how bad attitudes do a disservice to Christianity. This section, I think, is important to keep in mind. I really would recommend his chapter, "Being Disgusted by Homosexuals." (He also addresses the issue of immigration.)

The seventh part is more a conclusion. In it he mainly states the obvious. (Read the Bible. Obey the Bible.) The book, in some ways, is a bit unbalanced. He spends all but five pages focusing on the negative and only five on what Christians can do about everything that is "wrong" and "messed up" with the church.

I just want to say this. When I agreed with him, I found myself really agreeing with him. When I disagreed with him, I found myself REALLY disagreeing with him. I do think he gets some things wrong. And I think he doesn't always practice what he preaches. (Who does, though?)

One place I do disagree with him is on Christian music and Christian worship music. I am curious to see how much he really, truly listens to Christian music. When he listens, does he have an open mind? OR does he listen with his snarky hat on, combing through each line, each word, always, always assuming the worst theological intentions of the SONGWRITER and the SINGER. While I wouldn't say he has a zero tolerance policy for worship music written in the past hundred years, I would say that he has a one strike and your out policy. It seems if he finds one line in one song, then he holds a grudge against the songwriter and/or the singer. If one line in one song is iffy, then, you shouldn't listen to any of that person's music ever. It might be contaminated too.

I disagree with him for several reasons. First, he seems to be presuming that hymns are always theologically better, of more substance and value. I have found bad theology in hymns as well as contemporary worship music. Hymns do not always signal sound theology. If you're going to be discerning in what you listen to, then be fair and critical of hymns as well. Second, he seems to take the worst examples and present them as the norm, as if each and every worship song is the same. There are hundreds if not thousands of worship songs. Quality varies. And while it's true a percentage of songs do fit with what he is saying, that's not to say that most of them do. Third, he outright condemns singing songs written or performed by songwriters of denominations he does not agree with. For example, he calls out Matt Maher for being Catholic, and, says ALL charismatic songs should be avoided. I believe songs should be used discriminately (with discernment) on their content alone. It's one thing to object to the lyrics of a song.

I do agree, however, on some things. Worship matters. How we worship--why we worship matters. And songs should carefully be examined and considered. I do think that the songs we sing in worship should be of good, high quality--musically and theologically. I think that our hearts and minds should be engaged together in worship. I think we have a tendency to go through the motions in church, singing the words but not meaning the words and really connecting. I do think the Holy Spirit uses music to minister to us. Not just hymns. Not just worship songs. The Spirit brings meaning to the song. In other words, anyone can sing Tis So Sweet To Trust in Jesus or Amazing Grace, but, it takes the Spirit for us to EXPERIENCE the meaning of those beloved songs.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Week in Review: July 3-July 9

ERV, 1885

  • Joshua
  • Judges
  • Ruth
  • 1 Samuel
  • 2 Samuel
  • 1 Kings 1-11

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Sing Along Saturdays (Song That Moves You)

Today's prompt: A song that moves you

This meme is hosted by Bookish Things & More.

My choice this week is Benny Hester's When God Ran. I remember when this song was "new" in 1985; it was probably my first-ever favorite song. It has always moved me…often to tears. It was from his album, Benny From Here. I listened to the cassette endlessly.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, July 8, 2016

Book Review: Twenty and Ten

Twenty and Ten. Claire Huchet Bishop. Illustrated by William Pene du Bois. 1952/1978. 76 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: It all started when we were playing at The Flight into Egypt. Make-believe. It was in the schoolyard, at recess time, right after the Christmas vacation, beginning of the year 1944.

Premise/plot: Twenty fifth-graders* under the care of Sister Gabriel welcome ten Jewish children into their lives and agree to risk their lives to save them and hide them from the Nazis. This short little children's novel is set in France during the Second World War.

In the first chapter, the twenty children are introduced. The story is narrated by Janet, the one playing Mary when the story opens. Other key characters are George, Philip, Henry, Denise, and "baby" Louis. By the end of the chapter, Sister Gabriel brings them together to tell them a secret. They'll be joined by ten new children, all Jews. The children are excited to 'be Egyptians' and help save Jews from their persecutors. They see Hitler as a modern-day King Herod.

In the second chapter, one of the new children, Arthur, offers Henry a piece of chocolate. Henry offers to share with Janet. They devise a hiding place so none of the other children can steal it. Chocolate being a big, big, big luxury of course.

In the third chapter, the children discover that 'their' chocolate is missing. Denise has taken it. But in her flight, she fell into a CAVE. Arthur, Janet, Denise, and Henry are the four children that now know of this cave.

In the fourth chapter, Sister Gabriel leaves the children on their own to go to town and get the mail. She's hoping that some of the children will have received care packages containing food. But while on their own, the Germans come. The children are once again playing 'Flight into Egypt' and so spot the Nazis before they are spotted. They tell Arthur to lead the other Jews to safety and to hide in the cave immediately. The Jews are safe, but, the Germans are suspicious and determined. The Germans can't get ANY of the children to talk…about anything…let alone about hiding Jews.

In the fifth chapter, the Germans take out their secret weapon….oranges and chocolates. Will any of the children talk now?

My thoughts: This one was short but lovely. I really enjoyed reading it. I would definitely recommend it. It has just enough action and intensity for young readers--third to fifth graders--but isn't too much, too soon. The writing is also very well-paced.

*Well, nineteen fifth graders, and one four-year-old brother.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible