Monday, October 31, 2016

October Accomplishments

October Accomplishments
This month's Bible Reading September 25-October 29


  • Genesis
  • Exodus
  • Leviticus
  • Numbers
  • Deuteronomy
  • Joshua
  • Judges
  • Ruth
  • 1 Samuel
  • 2 Samuel
  • 1 Kings
  • 2 Kings
  • 1 Chronicles
  • Matthew
  • Mark
  • Luke


  • 1 Kings 7-22
  • 2 Kings
  • Isaiah
  • Jeremiah
  • Lamentations
  • Ezekiel
  • Luke
  • John
  • Acts
  • Revelation

NLT Beyond Suffering Bible

  • Genesis
  • Exodus
  • Leviticus
  • Ruth
  • Esther
  • Job
  • Ecclesiastes
  • Jeremiah
  • Lamentations
  • Daniel
  • Jonah
  • Mark
  • Romans
  • Philemon
  • 1 Peter 
  • 2 Peter


  • Genesis 21-50
  • Matthew 1-4


  • Genesis 1-16


  • Genesis 1-11

Books Reviewed in October
Christian fiction:
  1. The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest. Melanie Dickerson. 2015. Thomas Nelson. 306 pages. [Source: Library]
  2. The Beautiful Pretender. Melanie Dickerson. 2016. Thomas Nelson. 320 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  3. The Devoted. Suzanne Woods Fisher. 2016. Revell. 336 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  4. This Road We Traveled. Jane Kirkpatrick. 2016. Revell. 340 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  5. Flirtation Walk. Siri Mitchell. 2016. Bethany House. 384 pages. [Source: Library]
Christian nonfiction:  
  1. Why The Reformation Still Matters. Michael Reeves and Tim Chester. 2016. Crossway. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  2. Show Them Jesus: Teaching the Gospel to Kids. 2014. New Growth Press. 224 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]
  3. Questioning Evangelism. Randy Newman. 2003. Kregel. 272 pages. [Source: Bought]
  4. Full. Asheritah Ciuciu. 2017. Moody. 256 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  5. Gleanings in Genesis. A.W. Pink. 1922. 420 pages. [Source: Bought]
  6. Be Basic (Genesis 1-11) Warren W. Wiersbe. 2010. David C. Cook. 192 pages. [Source: Bought]
  7. None Like Him. Jen Wilkin. 2016. Crossway. 163 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  8. Remember and Return. John MacArthur. 2016. Baker Books. 208 pages. [Source: Free]
  9. Blessed: God's Gift of Love. Mary J. Moerbe and Christopher Mitchell. 2016. Concordia. 144 pages. [Source: Review copy]

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Book Review: Be Basic

Be Basic (Genesis 1-11) Warren W. Wiersbe. 2010. David C. Cook. 192 pages. [Source: Bought]

Be Basic is a commentary by Warren W. Wiersbe that focuses on the first eleven chapters of Genesis. Though I own a lot of his "Be" series of commentaries, this was the first that I've actually read.

This commentary doesn't just cover the basics of Genesis, this commentary covers the basics of the Christian faith. In part, that is his argument. Genesis 1-11 provides the FOUNDATION for everything that comes next.

He writes, "To know Genesis is to know the fundamental truths—the basics—about God, the world, yourself and other people, law, sin, salvation, marriage, faith, and spiritual fulfillment."

He continues, "Genesis is the foundational book of the Bible, and the rest of Scripture is built on what Moses wrote. Genesis is quoted or referred to more than two hundred times in the New Testament, which means it’s important for the New Testament Christian to understand its message."

I LOVED how he doesn't start with Genesis 1:1! I love that instead he starts with what God was doing BEFORE Genesis 1:1. 
God existed in sublime glory. God is eternal; He has neither beginning nor ending. Therefore, He is totally self-sufficient and needs nothing more than Himself in order to exist or to act.
The divine Trinity planned redemption. The wonderful plan of redemption wasn’t a divine afterthought, for God’s people were chosen in Christ “before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4; see Rev. 17:8) and given by the Father to the Son both to belong to His kingdom (Matt. 25:34) and to share His glory (John 17:2, 6, 9, 11–12, 24). The sacrificial death of the Son wasn’t an accident, it was an appointment (Acts 2:23; 4:27–28), for He was “slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8).
Wiersbe then moves on to looking closely at Genesis 1-11. I wasn't expecting this one to be so MEATY and thought-provoking. I don't know why I had a notion Wiersbe was on the fluffier side of theology. But I think I was wrong! (It's nice to be proven wrong.)
If you read long enough and honestly enough, you will meet yourself in the Bible.

In other words, from beginning to end, Genesis is the story of God’s sovereign will and electing grace.
When we speak about spiritual things, it’s important that we use God’s dictionary as well as His vocabulary. Words carry meanings and giving the wrong meaning to a word could lead to serious trouble.
The Bible explains and illustrates words like sin, grace, forgiveness, justification, and faith, and to change their meanings is to replace God’s truth with lies. “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter” (Isa. 5:20).
The Lord has a divine purpose for each of us to fulfill, and we discover that purpose by reading His Word and obeying it.
If Genesis 3 were not in the Bible, there would be no Bible as we know it. Why? Because the rest of Scripture documents the sad consequences of Adam’s sin and explains what God in His grace has done to rescue us.

The record in Genesis 3 is not a myth. If the fall of man didn’t actually occur, then the Christian faith is built on fables, not fact, and Jesus Christ suffered needlessly on the cross. From Genesis 3 to Revelation 22, the Bible records the conflict between God and Satan, sin and righteousness, and pleads with sinners to repent to trust God.
Once we start to question God’s Word, we’re prepared to deny His Word and believe Satan’s lies.
In His mercy, God doesn’t give us what we do deserve, and in His grace, He gives us what we don’t deserve. That’s the nature of God. God spared Cain’s life, but that wasn’t the end of the story. Eventually Cain died and “after this the judgment” (Heb. 9:27). The entire civilization that he built was destroyed in the flood, and the record of his life is left in Holy Scripture as a warning to anybody who pretends to worship, plays with sin, and doesn’t take temptation seriously. “The way of Cain” (Jude 11) is not the narrow way that leads to life (Matt. 7:13–14).
In Bible history, very often the birth of a baby has made the difference between defeat and victory for God’s people. During the Jews’ difficult years in Egypt, Moses was born and became the liberator of his people (Ex. 2:1–10). When the lamp of prophecy was burning very low, Samuel was born to bring Israel back to God’s Word (1 Sam. 1—3), and when the kingdom was disintegrating under Saul, God sent a son to Jesse whom he named David, the man God had chosen to be the next king (Ruth 4:18–22; 1 Sam. 16).
God’s promise in Genesis 3:15 could never have been fulfilled were it not for the faithfulness of many undistinguished people who to us are only strange names in an ancient genealogy.
One of Satan’s most successful devices is compromise. If he can delude God’s people into abandoning their privileged position of separation from sin and communion with God, then he can corrupt them and lead them into sin.
When anxious believers are searching the Bible for something encouraging to read, they’re more likely to turn to Romans 8 than to Genesis 8. After all, Romans 8 is one of the most heartening chapters in Scripture, while Genesis 8 describes God’s “mop-up” operation after the flood.
But the next time you find yourself in a storm, Genesis 8 can give you new hope and encouragement, because the major theme of the chapter is renewal and rest after tribulation. The chapter records the end of a storm and the beginning of new life and hope for God’s people and God’s creation.
It didn't take me long to realize that this book was making me want to clap my hands and shout AMEN!

Essentially, I loved his writing because it was rich in insights, concise and accessible, and very thought-provoking!!!!

From the introduction by Ken Baugh:
God is love. God is the source and standard of love, and everything God does is motivated by love. He cannot act in any way that is not loving. God loves because God is love. And God’s love affair with men and women is the “Big Idea” that runs throughout the first eleven chapters of Genesis. As you read these chapters, you will discover the three dimensions of God’s love for people.
Sin is not without its consequences, but it is also not without God’s willingness to forgive and restore fallen, rebellious, sinful humans back into relationship with Him.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Bible Review: NLT Beyond Suffering Bible

NLT Beyond Suffering Bible. Joni and Friends Inc. 2016. Tyndale. 1760 pages. [Source: Bought]

I have been using the NLT Beyond Suffering Bible for several weeks now. I knew I "needed" this one as soon as I heard about it. I was right, by the way. It is a GREAT resource. I am LOVING this one so much.

It is the New Living Translation. Now, I'll be honest, the NLT is not in my top three translations of choice. Or even in my top five really. But. Because of the resources in this one, I definitely find the trade off worth it.

So what kind of resources?

Bible introductions. True, other Bibles have Bible introductions. But each Bible introduction in this one stresses key suffering and disability themes found within that book of the Bible. (In addition to giving the basics you'd expect.)

For example, these are the Key Suffering and Disability Themes found in the book of Jeremiah:
  • God’s words are sweet. In the midst of our suffering, God’s words bring joy and delight (Jeremiah 15:16), even when they do not promise immediate relief. In contrast, words of false prophets who provide empty promises are bitter poison (Jeremiah 23:13-16). But when we pay attention to God’s words, we can have peace as we trust in his sovereign plan.
  • Give us ears to hear. Jeremiah rebuked the people for failing to listen to and obey God (Jeremiah 7:24, 26; Jeremiah 17:23-24, 27). When pain strikes, we often become locked inside our own minds, unable to communicate with others. God is not confined by such restraints. He always listens and responds when we pay attention to his voice.
  • God is our source of knowledge. Jeremiah castigated humanity for lacking knowledge (Jeremiah 10:14), because knowledge is linked with “fear of the LORD” (Prov 9:10). Fears about weakness and inadequacy often flood our minds. Knowing God, the source of all knowledge, helps us see that our human fears can be removed and replaced with his loving presence (1 Jn 4:18). A healthy awe of our Creator calms our minds and becomes the lens through which everything else is made clear.
And the Key Suffering and Disability Themes found in the book of Lamentations
  • Sorrow must be faced head-on. Jeremiah dearly loved the city of Jerusalem, but he did not defend her innocence, writing that her tragic destruction was the result of her own weaknesses. Sorrow and sin must always be faced head on. It is this no-nonsense, raw approach that allows hope to grow in the fertile ground left from the ashes of suffering. By being honest with our failings and honest about our sorrow, we allow God to turn our hearts back to him so that he can give us the hope of the renewal he has promised.
  • Lament implies trust in God. Jeremiah expressed real anger and “negative” emotions—several poems in this book reflect deep heartache, frustration, and hopelessness. There are those today who believe that even in the face of unspeakable struggles, lamenting indicates a lack of faith in God. On the contrary, lament can be an implicit expression of one’s trust in God. Lament shows our awareness that God cares for us and can change our circumstances. God doesn’t view lament as a critical review of our problems, but as a form of praise offered in anticipation of the ways in which he may yet reveal himself.
Connection Points. These are brief notes that provide commentary and application. While there aren't as many notes as you'd' find in a study Bible like the ESV Study Bible or the John MacArthur Study Bible, I think that's a good thing overall. These notes are concise and helpful.
Genesis 3:15 A Promise of Victory. When God put hostility between the serpent and the woman’s offspring, he opened the way for our eventual redemption. Sometimes referred to as the protoevangelium (“first gospel”), this is the first promise in Scripture of God’s final victory over evil and a full restoration of the cosmos to its intended state—free from the effects of sin. These are words of great hope for those who suffer.
Exodus 3:14 Intimacy with God. God is not bound by time, space, or other limitations. As the Timeless One, he is able to walk with us through all our struggles and sufferings, never growing weary or running out of options (Isa 40:28). Jesus, the great “I AM” incarnate (John 8:24, 58), invited all those who “are weary and carry heavy burdens” to find rest in him (Matt 11:28-29).
Exodus 40:36-38 The Christian Life. A large part of the journey of faith is learning to walk with God instead of running ahead of him. The key to discerning God’s direction in our lives is resting in his presence. We may not always be certain which way we should go, but when we “remain in [him]” (John 15:4), the Good Shepherd will never lead us astray (John 10:14; see also Ps 23).
Ruth 2:19-20 Family Support. Often in our suffering, we withdraw from those around us, particularly our family. And sometimes families can be uncaring. However, as we see in the example of Ruth and Boaz, family members can also be amazing agents of God’s love and support. Consider gently reaching out to your family in your suffering. They may be waiting, unsure of how to help and looking for you to provide them with directions.

Job 7:3 Chronic Struggles. Job did not suffer for a short period of time. He was “assigned months of futility, long and weary nights of misery.” Chronic illness and disability are not evidence of God’s lack of involvement in our lives. Instead, suffering can often serve to deepen our relationship with the Lord, who suffered in our place and stands alongside us in the midst of our suffering.
Lamentations 2:11-12  The Plight of Children. Jeremiah didn’t just have passing thoughts about the destruction of Jerusalem, he lived through it. He anguished over not being able to bring greater comfort to his people, especially the children. The majority of children around the world with disabilities live below the poverty level, which compounds their struggles. Even today, childhood deaths due to starvation continue to increase. Ask God what you can do both in your community and around the world to help ease the suffering of children.

Mark 8:31-33 Suffering Does Not Define Us. Many know Jesus as the Suffering Servant. In this passage, Jesus reminds us that his suffering was not a surprise but rather something he knew was coming and chose to face head on. Yet it is easy to forget that Jesus’ life was not all about suffering. The stories preserved about Jesus’ life in the Gospels attest that the human experiences of joy, love, parties, and sleep were just as much a part of his daily life as suffering was. Suffering was not the only thing to define him. Suffering is not the only thing that defines any one of us.

Romans 8:28-29 Becoming like the Son. It can be hard to believe that God is working everything “together for the good of those who love God” in the midst of pain, sickness, heartache, or financial uncertainty. How can such trials be for our benefit? How can this verse bring comfort, even though it sometimes feels like a trite platitude? We must look to the full counsel of Romans, where Paul also teaches that problems and trials help refine our character (5:3-4). And when our character better reflects Christ, more people are able to see what God is doing in our lives, and they are drawn to him.
Romans 8:35-37 God Stays! Trouble does not come because God has abandoned us. Christ’s love is not withdrawn because of disability, struggle, financial ruin, lies, or depression. God is present with us in both good and bad. The Holy Spirit cries out on our behalf when we are unable to find the words (8:26-27). Suffering is not a sign that God has left you. It never has been, and it never will be.
Profiles. The Beyond the Suffering Bible contains profiles of Bible characters--like you'd expect--but it also contains profiles of ordinary--or not so ordinary--people who know a lot about suffering and/or disabilities. These are inspirational and insightful.

From the profile on Noah
  • Given the depravity of his culture—which was probably worse than our own—Noah’s life must not have been easy. But Noah stood firm, even when the call came to build the ark. Take a stand for righteousness Before the flood, Noah likely suffered a great deal of ridicule and scorn from skeptics around him. It must have been painful to watch his friends and neighbors ignore his warnings of God’s impending judgment. When the great flood finally came, Noah witnessed firsthand the destructive fury of God’s wrath against sin and evil poured out on all creation.
  • No matter how severe the calamity, distress, or difficulty, God’s purposes continue and always prevail. Like Noah, we are called to take a stand for righteousness in the midst of evil. It won’t always be easy, convenient, or comfortable. But in the end, we have God’s covenant to protect and watch over us. What better promise could we have than that?
Devotionals. I don't always love devotionals. But these devotionals seem to be the exception to the rule. Here is one from the book of Jeremiah:

Two Roads, Two Choices Jer 24:1-10 Two brothers. Two responses. Two roads. The theme introduced in Genesis 4 with Cain and Abel runs all the way through the Bible to Revelation: Choose God or false gods, righteousness or wickedness, wisdom or foolishness, the narrow way or the wide way. The “two-road” metaphor also appears in Jeremiah 24 in the vision of two baskets of figs. God asked the prophet what he saw, and Jeremiah responded that he saw a basket of good figs and a basket of figs that were rotten and useless. The two baskets represented the responses of God’s people under sustained suffering. While both groups had stumbled, some of the people would eventually turn and choose to honor God. The others simply turned their backs on the ways of the Lord, and God told Jeremiah to treat them like rotten figs. We don’t like to think about God turning away from his people, but these examples instruct us in learning to make the right choices. God cannot tolerate an unrepentant lifestyle of sin. Paul documents God’s response to those who lived lives of ongoing wickedness: “Since they thought it foolish to acknowledge God, he abandoned them to their foolish thinking and let them do things that should never be done” (Rom 1:28). There are consequences when we make the wrong choice. We don’t like to think about God turning away from his people, but these examples instruct us in learning to make the right choices. God cannot tolerate an unrepentant lifestyle of sin. Paul documents God’s response to those who lived lives of ongoing wickedness: “Since they thought it foolish to acknowledge God, he abandoned them to their foolish thinking and let them do things that should never be done” (Rom 1:28). There are consequences when we make the wrong choice.
Words from Joni. These are letters spread throughout the Bible. Here's a brief excerpt from one found in the book of Jeremiah:
My best memories give shape to that hopeful future promised in Jeremiah 29:11. Your memories—especially if you’ve lost a loved one, or your health, or your ability to think clearly—should inspire hope in you, too. For as wonderful as the world was when all those special remembrances occurred—as wonderful as it was when my hands worked—these things are only a foretaste of more delightful, pleasurable experiences to come. Jesus is the one who makes our futures bright. Jesus assures us that our best memories will one day blossom into a more joyous reality than we can ever imagine. He is our hope (1 Tim 1:1). What are the memories of things you’ve lost? How might those memories inspire hope in you today? How might those remembrances draw you closer to Jesus, the God of all hope? Grab hold of this verse—Jeremiah 29:11—and so many other Scriptures that promise the world. Oh, not this world, but the world to come!
Articles. These are found at the back of the Bible.

  • God's Story of Disability The Unfolding Plan from Genesis to Revelation by David C. Deuel, PHD
  • A Biblical View on the Sanctity of Life by Joni Eareckson Tada
  • Why Am I Disabled? Reflections on Life's Questions and God's Answers by Christopher Ralston, PHD
  • The Constant Distraction: Living with Chronic Pain by Michael J. Easley, DMIN
  • An Innocent Addiction by Stephen F. Arterburn, MED
  • How To Be A Loving Friend to Those Affected by Disability by Mark W. Baker, PHD
  • Becoming a Welcoming Church: God's Urgent Call to Disability Ministry by Steve Bundy, MA
  • Hope: Heaven, Our Real Home by Joni Eareckson Tada

Some of my favorite quotes:
Every God-honoring response to a trial increases your capacity to praise God and enjoy him forever. Joni Eareckson Tada
Through Jesus’ death on the cross, God will lift the Curse that brought disability. People with disabilities will no longer need a law to protect them, prophecy to offer them hope, or instruction to correct misunderstandings about disability. For now, we eagerly await our assured deliverance from the suffering associated with disability. David C. Deuel
We have an immortal soul, and we were made to glorify and magnify the Lord. As image-bearers, we are all equal. This is so critical to how we relate to people with disabilities. Joni Eareckson Tada
If we can embrace the view that we are not defined by our disability, pain, or disease, we can minister to others. A major turning point is not only refusing to be defined by our situation, but also seeing others with hearts of compassion and knowing that we can encourage them because of our pain. I call it “imperceptible influence.” You and I have no idea how we are being used by Christ. Simply pressing on, staying in the Word, choosing not to whine, learning to have a healthy sense of humor in the midst of trials, affirming others in their gifting, and trying to encourage those who struggle in similar situations are ways Christ works through us. Your faithfulness to him and your compassion for others may never be graded in this life, but don’t underestimate the possibility that God is using you and that you have that imperceptible influence. Michael J. Easley
Comfort actually has nothing to do with removing suffering; it is about offering another person strength as they endure suffering. We do not need to remove suffering from our lives or the lives of those we love because we can find God there in the midst of it. We often misunderstand the point of comforting others. We think we are supposed to come up with pithy phrases that will distract them from their pain or that we are supposed to be an agent of some miraculous cure. But actually, the true meaning of providing comfort is to simply be with others in their pain. You don’t need to know what to say, and you don’t need to do anything in particular. Mark W. Baker

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Week in Review: October 23-29


  • 2 Samuel
  • 1 Kings
  • 2 Kings
  • 1 Chronicles
  • Luke

NLT Beyond Suffering Bible

  • Exodus
  • Leviticus
  • Ruth
  • Esther
  • Jeremiah
  • Lamentations
  • Philemon


  • Matthew 1-4

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, October 28, 2016

Book Review: None Like Him

None Like Him. Jen Wilkin. 2016. Crossway. 163 pages. [Source: Review copy]

None Like Him is a wonderful read that is easy to recommend. I loved that it was so accessible and practical. It is a book about God's attributes. But instead of being your traditionally routine book about God's attributes, it gets a bit of a spin. It first covers an attribute, and, then challenges you to rethink--or to think--about HOW that attribute being true of God is GOOD, life-changing news for you right here, right now. The book is about God--about who He is and what He has done--but it is also about how KNOWING God, knowing about God, transforms your life--what you do, what you say, how you think, etc. I wouldn't go so far as to say that it makes a book about God's attributes me-centered instead of God-centered. But it does remind you in each and every chapter--if not on each and every page--WHY the GOOD news is such great news. This book may just get you EXCITED about God: humbled and ready to give thanks to our amazing God.

It focuses on TEN attributes of God. It is a surprisingly quick read. I don't know if the book is really that short. Or if her writing style was so contagiously enthusiastic that she kept me turning pages because I wanted to learn more.

One thing that I really loved was the introduction and conclusion. She chooses two stereotypical verses and puts a spin on them. The first being from Proverbs 31, the last being from Psalm 139.

I would definitely recommend this one. It may be good to pair this one alongside another book focusing on God's attributes. For example, let Knowing God by J.I. Packer be your steak and let Jen Wilkin's None Like Him be your baked potato!

Though None Like Him might be a quicker read than your typical "theology" book, it is both concise and thought-provoking. I give you as food for thought: "Our whole lives as Christ-followers are to be given over to the identification and celebration of the limits God has ordained for us." And "We are capable of bearing his image as we were intended only when we embrace our limits." And "Our limitations are by design. Whether we spend the remainder of our lives denying or embracing this basic truth makes all the difference in how we will love God and others."

And here's another one that really captured my attention. I've always thought of being needy as a sin or a deficit. She challenges, "We were created to need both God and others. We deny this to our peril. We are not needy because of sin; we are needy by divine design."

Favorite quotes:
Life is too short and too precious to spend fearing the wrong things in the wrong ways.
When we lose sight of the majesty of God, we invariably fill the gap in our vision with the fable of the majesty of someone else.
Worshipful reverence and awe, not cowering dread, define a right fear of the Lord.
It is the joyful duty, the delightful task of his children to spend their lives, both this one and the next, discovering who he is.
The Scriptures sketch his character with a fine-tipped pen for those who have eyes to see, elaborating across sixty-six books the story of who he is, what he has done, and what he will yet do.
During this life, we will not reach the end of our contemplation of God. Though we know him in part, we love him deeply. What we cannot know about him would only serve to increase our love for him were he to reveal it to us.
God has never and will never declare his need for us. It is for us to say, “I need thee every hour.” It is for him to say, “I am.”
Praise God that his plans do not rely on my faithfulness, his joy doesn’t hinge on my good behavior, his glory doesn’t depend on my performance.
Sanctification is the process of learning increasing dependence, not autonomy.
The Bible begins with a time stamp, “in the beginning,” and then spends sixty-six books describing the God who decrees seasons and times but is not bound by them in the least.
Just as my assurance of salvation rests in the fact that God cannot change, my hope of sanctification rests in the fact that I can. What greater disavowal of the gospel of grace than to claim it is capable of changing every sinner’s heart but mine?
The business of every believer is to strive to understand what God has revealed. What he has revealed is sufficient for salvation, needful for godliness, and supremely worthy of meditation.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Quotes from the Cloud #35

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
You will never know God as you should know Him unless you are helpless in His hands, unless you cannot escape Him. As long as you can run, you are not in God’s hands. ~ A.W. Tozer
A sick society must think about politics, as a sick man must think about his digestion: To ignore the subject may be fatal cowardice for the one as for the other. But if either comes to regard it as the natural food of the mind—if either forgets that we think of such things only in order to be able to think of something else—then what was undertaken for the sake of health has become itself a new and deadly disease. ~ C.S. Lewis
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. ~ C.S. Lewis
The vigor, and power, and comfort of our spiritual life depends on the mortification of the deeds of the flesh. ~ John Owen
G.K. Chesterton, "We make our friends; we make our enemies; but God makes our next-door neighbor."

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Book Review: The Beautiful Pretender

The Beautiful Pretender. Melanie Dickerson. 2016. Thomas Nelson. 320 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Reinhart Stolten, Margrave of Thornbeck, spotted the pack of wolves devouring their fresh kill at the bottom of the ravine.

Premise/plot: The king has "requested" that Reinhart marry soon. So reluctantly he invites ten or so eligible young ladies from the nobility to his estate. With some help from Jorgen Hartman and his wife, Odette, he will choose the most worthy to be his wife. The young women will be put through a series of subtle tests to expose their true characters.

Lady Dorothea is one of the young ladies invited to Thornbeck. But she has other plans. Plans that will take her far, far away. So it will fall to Avelina, Dorothea's maid, to "save" Plimmwald. She'll masquerade as Lady Dorothea for a few weeks. Her instructions: DON'T GET CAUGHT; DON'T GET PICKED.

My thoughts: Dare I say that this is my FAVORITE, FAVORITE fiction read of the year?! I do have several months left in 2016. But this one is oh-so-good. I just LOVED AND ADORED it so very much. I love Avelina. I love her friendship with Magdalen. I love her developing relationship with Reinhart. I love how they surprise one another! But it was the scenes perhaps inspired by Beauty and The Beast that got to me the most. This one was GIDDY-MAKING through and through.

This one is recommended to anyone who loves historical romances, historical fiction, or fairy tales.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

My Year with Newton #9

Today I am continuing to share my reading experience with John Newton. I have completed John Newton's sermon series on Handel's Messiah. I am moving on to his LETTERS. 

Today's letter is titled, "God Rules All," and it is dated 1774.
God rules all! And though He is concealed by a veil of second causes from common eyes, so that they can perceive only the means, instruments, and contingencies by which he works, and therefore think He does nothing; yet, in reality, He does all, according to His own counsel and pleasure, in the armies of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth.
Who can enumerate all the beings and events, which are incessantly before His eye, adjusted by His wisdom, dependent on His will, and regulated by His power!
If we speak of intelligences, He is the life, the joy, the sun of all that are capable of happiness. Whatever may be signified by the thrones, principalities, and powers in the world of light, they are all dependent upon his power, and obedient to his command.
Still more wonderful, is Christ's administration in His kingdom of grace! He is present with all His creatures—but in a special manner with His own people. Each of these are monuments of a more illustrious display of power, than that which spread abroad the heavens like a curtain, and laid the foundations of the earth. For He finds them all in a state of rebellion and enmity—and makes them His willing people!
From the moment that He reveals is love to them—He espouses their cause, and takes all their concerns into His own hands. He is near and attentive to every one of them—as if there was only that one! This high and lofty One, who inhabits eternity, before whom the angels veil their faces—condescends to hold communion with those whom men despise.
For all things serve him, and are in his hands as clay in the hands of the potter.
This is the God whom we adore! This is he who invites us to lean upon his almighty arm, and promises to guide us with his unerring eye!

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, October 24, 2016

Book Review: Gleanings in Genesis

Gleanings in Genesis. A.W. Pink. 1922. 420 pages. [Source: Bought]

Gleanings in Genesis is not the first Pink I've read, but, it is the first I've reviewed for my blog.

Arthur W. Pink essentially shares his thoughts chapter by chapter through the book of Genesis--except for when he decides to SKIP. (For some reason he did not bother gleaning anything from Genesis 34.)

Are his thoughts--his gleanings--worth reading? Yes and no. I think Pink was into details, and reading big things into little details. He took Jesus' words that the Scriptures were ALL about HIM quite seriously. I think sometimes his interpretations are a bit of a stretch. Key word: sometimes. I found myself walking in agreement with Pink up to a certain point, and, then him pushing things a bit too far for me to wholeheartedly agree with. Never to the point I yelled at the book though!!!

When Pink was right, he was RIGHT. I found myself wanting to go AMEN!!!! If I wrote in my books, which I usually don't, then this one would have lots of exclamation points and only a few question marks.

Appropriately has Genesis been termed "the seed plot of the Bible," for in it we have, in germ form, almost all of the great doctrines which are afterwards fully developed in the books of Scripture which follow.
The opening sentence of Holy Writ is not to be philosophized about, but is presented as a statement of truth to be received with unquestioning faith.
The Bible is couched in human language, it is addressed to human ears, it was written by human hands, but, in the beginning God "holy men of God spake, moved by the Holy Spirit" (2 Pet. 1:21).
Christ is the key which unlocks the golden doors into the temple of Divine truth. "Search the Scriptures," is His command, "for they are they which testify of Me." And again, He declares, "In the volume of the Book it is written of Me." In every section of the written Word the Personal Word is enshrined—in Genesis as much as in Matthew.
The third chapter in Genesis is one of the most important in all the Word of God.
First, the voice of the tempter was heeded. Instead of saying, "Get thee behind me, Satan," Eve quietly listened to the Evil One challenging the word of Jehovah. Not only so, but she proceeds to parley with him. Next there is a tampering with God’s Word. Eve begins by adding to what God has said—always a fatal course to pursue. "Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it." Next she proceeded to alter God’s Word, "lest ye die." The sharp point of the Spirit’s Sword was blunted. Finally, she altogether omits God’s solemn threat, "Thou shalt surely die." How true it is that "History repeats itself." Such, in brief, is the Divine account of the entry of sin into our world. The will of God was resisted, the word of God was rejected, the way of God was deserted.

It is the call of Divine justice, which cannot overlook sin. It is the call of Divine sorrow, which grieves over the sinner. It is the call of Divine love. which offers redemption from sin. To each and to every one of us the call is reiterated, ‘Where art thou?’"

Walking with God means that we cease taking our own way, that we abandon the world’s way, that we follow the Divine way.
If we would know God we must walk with Him: we must come into living contact with Him, have personal dealings with Him, commune with Him.
If we doubt God’s Word about one thing, we shall have small confidence in it upon another thing.
Observe that the Lord does not say "Go into the ark," but "Come." "Go" would have been a command, "Come" was a gracious invitation; "Go"would have implied that the Lord was bidding Noah depart from Him, "Come" intimated that in the ark the Lord would be present with him. Is it not the same thought as we have in the Gospel—"Come unto Me and I will give you rest!
It is only as we separate ourselves from the world and walk in the path marked out for us by God that we reach the place where strength is to be found, and, it is only thus that we can enter into fellowship with and learn from Him in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
The call which came to Abram comes to each one of his believing children—the call for absolute confidence in God; the call to take Him at His word and step out in simple and unquestioning faith; the call to separate ourselves from the world to a life of pilgrimage in dependency upon Jehovah. The trial of Abram’s faith is also the lot of all his children. Profession must be tested and at times the meal in the barrel will run very low. The failure of Abram is a solemn warning against being occupied with circumstances instead of with God. Look not at the famine but unto God’s faithfulness. Beware of going down to Egypt. The friendship of the world is enmity with God. Time spent in Egypt is wasted. Days lived out of communion with God produce nought but "wood, hay and stubble." 
It was love that "suffered long" with Abram’s failings! It was love that persisted with him in spite of every check and drawback. It was love that now met him and promised to grant the desire of his heart, and in old age give him a son.
To walk before is suggestive of a child running ahead and playing in the presence of his father, conscious of his perfect security because he is just behind. To walk after becomes a servant following his master. To walk with indicates fellowship and friendship. To walk in denotes union.
My reader, there are no chance-happenings, no chance-meetings, no chance delays, no chance losses, no chance anythings in our lives. All is of Divine appointment.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, October 23, 2016

October's Scripture Chain

  • Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day. Psalm 96:2
  • One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts. Psalm 145:4
  • You have multiplied, O Lord my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us; none can compare with you! I will proclaim and tell of them, yet they are more than can be told. Psalm 40:5
  • My mouth will tell of your righteous acts, of your deeds of salvation all the day, for their number is past my knowledge. Psalm 71:15
  • But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works. Psalm 73:28
  • We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done. Psalm 78:4
  • Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord. Psalm 34:11
  • Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples! Psalm 105:1
  • Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works! Psalm 105:2
  • So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands. Psalm 63:4
  • I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have being. Psalm 104:33
  • I will praise the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being. Psalm 146:2
  • My tongue shall tell of your righteousness and of your praise all the day long. Psalm 35:28
Inspiration: It Is No Secret What God Can Do
Translation Used: ESV

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Week in Review: October 16-22

NLT Beyond Suffering Bible

  • Genesis 6-50
  • Exodus 1-23
  • Job 
  • Ecclesiastes
  • Daniel
  • Jonah
  • Mark
  • Romans
  • 1 Peter
  • 2 Peter


  • Joshua
  • Judges
  • Ruth
  • 1 Samuel
  • 2 Samuel 1-12
  • Matthew 16-28
  • Mark


  • Genesis 44-50

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Book Review: Full

Full. Asheritah Ciuciu. 2017. Moody. 256 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: For a brief moment, I was convinced some desperate sugar-binging alien had possessed me.

Premise/plot: Full: Food, Jesus, and the Battle for Satisfaction is a book primarily for Christian women about food fixation. The main idea of the book is that you "can't solve a spiritual problem with a physical solution." Most people don't consider their struggles with food and weight (and body image) to be SPIRITUAL in nature. She writes, "At the core, our problem is not really what we eat. It's why we seek fullness in something that will never satisfy." She continues, "Food cannot fix anything--God is the only one who can satisfy us because He created us to find our satisfaction in Him."

What is food fixation? She defines it as the "inordinate preoccupation with thoughts and longings for food." I was happy to see that she doesn't further limit it to obese people obsessed with eating and craving food. That she does in fact include the other extreme: non-obese people who may outwardly appear to not have "food issues" but inwardly struggle just as much.

The book is practical and personal. She shares her own story--her own journey--in addition to sharing the stories of other women. The focus isn't on diet plans and food diaries. The focus is on how to do spiritual battle against Satan who is using LIES to keep you from finding satisfaction and fullness in Jesus. That being said, it assumes that readers will after putting on the armor of God subsequently change their eating habits and obtain some degree of physical victory as well.

My thoughts: While reading this I realized I'd become someone from my nightmares: a non-obese person who talks and complains about food and weight all the time. I've spent decades of my life HATING people like that. You know, the ones who talk about how horrible they look and how they really, desperately need to lose five or ten pounds. I always hated such talk because, let's face it, if you need to lose fifty plus pounds--or hundred plus pounds--the person who is always, always on a diet for those "last ten pounds" is ANNOYING. You can't help thinking, "Even if I lost a hundred pounds, you'd still be thinner than me." When did I become that person? How can I stop being that person? When did my food fixation switch from one extreme to another? When did my fixation on HEALTH and exercise become so out of control? And why didn't I realize it as it was happening?

I agreed with some of what she writes. I disagreed with a few things here and there. I do not think, for example, that obesity is solely a spiritual issue. I do not think people are obese solely because they've set up food as their idols. I think there are dozens--if not hundreds--of factors as to why people are overweight.

I think AWARENESS is big. I think people need to be more aware of how they're talking to themselves, of the lies they keep on repeat. I think people need to be more aware of why they are eating, of why they are eating what they are eating. I think people need to be more aware of their emotions. Because I think for me--and for a lot of people--you can eat so you don't feel. Eating to numb emotions that you just want to avoid for whatever reason. I think people need to be more knowledgeable about science and nutrition and how their bodies work and what their bodies need.

One of my favorite lines from a Caedmon's Call song goes, "I don't know if it's the devil or if it's just something I ate." And that is probably one of the truest lines ever. Those who know me know that I talk about BUGGIES all the time. I think it is absolutely CRUCIAL to take care of your gut microbes. There are good microbes and bad microbes. There are microbes that literally make you crave sugar and carbs. Your microbes determine--in a way--if you crave vegetables or doughnuts. And once you've eliminated the bad guys--starved them out, if you will, you might be surprised at how quickly and how permanently your cravings disappear. So I think there is a physical aspect that still needs to be considered. Your gut--in addition to sending messages about what to eat or how often to eat--also contribute to anxiety and depression, etc. So by eliminating most--if not all--sugar and gluten--you may completely wipe out your cravings for processed food and other junk. I think that's more the way to go--personally speaking--than relying on the Holy Spirit to whisper when you've had enough food. (Nothing against the Holy Spirit, I promise. It's just that trying to discern the Spirit's voice from your own inner critic and your own toxic lies about food and body image would be really, really tricky.)

I do think that starting the journey from a spiritual point is great advice. I do think it is better or smarter than just sending someone to the diet section of a bookstore or library. (I am anti-diet, by the way. I am all about healthy, balanced eating.)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, October 21, 2016

The Devoted

The Devoted. Suzanne Woods Fisher. 2016. Revell. 336 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: The bad thing about Ruthie Stoltzfus's job was that it barely paid minimum wage and she had no job security. She was only employed when someone from the Shrock family, who owned the Inn of Eagle Hill, was busy or unavailable, like now.

Premise/plot: The Devoted is the third book in The Bishop's Family series by Suzanne Woods Fisher. The focus is not only on one specific family but on a whole community. In the spotlight this time: David's sister, "Dok;" David's daughter, Ruth; David's son, Jesse; and David himself. (Patrick Kelly is the potential love interest of Ruthie; the other potential love interest is Luke Shrock. Dok has two potential love interests as well: Ed Gingerich and Matt Lehman. Jesse has two potential loves as well: Miriam Schrock and Jenny Yoder.)

My thoughts: I love, love, love this series. I do. I have loved getting to know David...and Birdie. I have loved spending some time with David's children. Some time has passed since the first book! Katrina, for example, now has TWO children and is happily married. This third book was satisfying precisely because I already loved the characters and couldn't wait to catch up with them.

This one may come across as somewhat preachy to some readers. I personally loved it. David is a bishop, and his insights into scripture were welcome to me. Though I mentioned this one might come across as preachy, I want to clarify that this one is very realistic. It is Amish fiction set in contemporary times. The characters are flawed, and definitely tempted. I would say that Luke "struggles" with alcohol and drug addiction, but, the truth is that he has ceased the struggle, ceased fighting it. He is an addict, and, his addiction is destroying lives. This book does not make light of the real world in which we live.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Quotes from the Cloud #34

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
“The Christian often tries to forget his weakness: God wants us to remember it, to feel it deeply. The Christian wants to conquer his weakness and to be freed from it: God wants us to rest and even rejoice in it. The Christian mourns over his weakness: Christ teaches His servant to say, ‘I take pleasure in infirmities; most gladly will I glory in my infirmities.’ The Christian thinks his weakness his greatest hindrance in the life and service of God: God tells us that it is the secret of strength and success. It is our weakness, heartily accepted and continually realized, that gives us our claim and access to the strength of Him who has said, ‘My strength is made perfect in weakness.’” ~ Andrew Murray

“Receive every inward and outward trouble, every disappointment . . . darkness and desolation with both your hands, as a blessed occasion of dying to self, and entering into a fuller fellowship with your Savior. Look at no inward or outward trouble in any other view; reject every other thought about it; and then every kind of trial and distress will become the blessed day of your prosperity.” ~ William Law

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Book Review: Remember and Return

Remember and Return. John MacArthur. 2016. Baker Books. 208 pages. [Source: Free]

First sentence: Loving the Lord Jesus Christ is what the Christian life is all about. If you are a Christian, you love Christ.

Premise/plot: Remember and Return: Rekindling Your Love for the Savior is a thirty-one day devotional. All of this material has been previously published. I mention this because I know how annoying it can be to think you're getting a brand-new book from MacArthur only to discover that it's an old book with a new name! The material has been adapted into a devotional format, I believe. But there are two previous copyright dates: 1995 and 2009.

What you should know: These devotions are not light and fluffy. They are relatively meaty. Each is about six to seven pages each. So definitely longer than the typical devotional you may be accustomed to. The devotions share a common theme: JESUS CHRIST, OUR LORD AND SAVIOR. All devotions lead to food-for-thought on how to better love Jesus.

My thoughts: I definitely liked this one. I did. I am always looking for devotional books that I feel comfortable recommending to others. What I liked best about this one was MacArthur quoting from so many other great theologians.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

My Year with Newton #8

Today I am continuing to share my reading experience with John Newton. I have completed John Newton's sermon series on Handel's Messiah. I am moving on to his LETTERS. 

Today I am sharing from two letters. Both were printed and distributed to EVERY family in his church. The first dates from 1768 and the second dates from 1781. Both letters treat a wide variety of spiritual subjects. For example, church attendance or the lack thereof. Or worldly living or skepticism, etc. In the second letter he spends quite a bit of time discussing SERMON LENGTH.
If I cannot prove my doctrine by the Scripture, and even by the articles and public offices of our own church—you have reason to be displeased with me. But why will you venture to reject, what you must confess may at least possibly be the truth? I am sure you cannot disprove the general subjects of my ministry, not even to the satisfaction of your own minds, if you will sit leisurely down, and examine them by the New Testament.
You may live in a crowd—but you must die alone. What you think of yourself, or what others may think of you—is of small consequence; the main question is, "What you are in the sight of the Great Judge, to whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hidden!" (1 Corinthians 4:3.)
And can you think it safe to trifle with the great God! Do you not know that your life, your health, the peace of your family, and the success of your labor—all depend upon Him? Are you not afraid, lest by openly affronting His Majesty—that you should provoke Him to send a curse upon all your concerns, and to blast all your endeavors? (Hag. 1:6-9)
Why then should you remain in this miserable bondage, where there is One who is able to set you free? Perhaps you have concluded that you have gone too far to stop; that you have sinned with too high a hand to be forgiven. A secret despair of this kind, is Satan's great engine, by which he hurries many sinners to the most dreadful sins!
When I consider the progress of infidelity in the present day, I cannot but fear, that there may be some among you who absent themselves from the church, not so much from a dislike of what may be called my doctrines, or my sentiments—as from a disregard to the Christian religion in general. I know how to pity people of this unhappy sentiment, for it was too long my own sentiment.
It was thus with me, and it must, in the nature of things, be thus with every unbeliever.
To doubt or deny the truth of Christianity is too common; but to demonstrate that it is false, is an utter impossibility!
I labored long in the attempt—but, when I least expected it, I met with evidence that overpowered my resistance; and the Bible which I had despised, removed my skepticism. He against whom I had hardened myself, was pleased to spare me! And I now live to tell you, that there is forgiveness with God—that he may be feared! (Psalm 130:4)
But the greater part of you, I am persuaded, will agree with me thus far at least—that the Scripture is a divine Revelation. But do not some of you act inconsistently with your acknowledged principles? Can you reconcile your conduct—to the precepts of God, or to the character of those who fear and love Him, as described either in the Old or New Testament?
As a Christian minister, and preaching to professing hearers, I not only take my text from the Scriptures—but likewise draw from thence the proofs and illustrations of what I advance in my sermons. I frequently, yes constantly, appeal to the Bible—the acknowledged standard and touchstone of all true religious sentiments. As a minister of the church of England, when speaking to the professed members of that church, I might likewise appeal to the current doctrine expressed in our liturgy and articles; but I seldom do it, because having, as I conceive, the highest authority, the Holy Scripture, on my side, I need no other.
But, if the proper ends of preaching are to instruct, to admonish, to exhort, and to persuade; if the great truths of Scripture are to be explained, illustrated, and applied; if the various known or probable states and cases of the several people who compose our congregation are to be attended to; in a word, if, as a preacher, I am conscientiously to endeavor to save myself and those who hear me; (1Ti. 4:16) then I confess I know not how to answer these ends, were I to limit myself to a much shorter space than I do!
It is not so much the length, as the subject-matter which wearies you. It is possible I could, if I dared, preach a sermon, which, though it exceeded three quarters of an hour—you would not think too long. Many people can afford their attention for several hours to some vain entertainment without weariness, whose patience is quickly exhausted under a sermon, where the principles of Scripture are plainly enforced, and a faithful application of them is addressed to the conscience!
But, alas! there are too many hearers, who seem more desirous of entertainment, than of real benefit from a Christian sermon!
The Scripture is the rule by which we must all be judged at last; it is therefore our wisdom to judge ourselves by it now.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, October 17, 2016

Book Review: Why The Reformation Still Matters

Why The Reformation Still Matters. Michael Reeves and Tim Chester. 2016. Crossway. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Why The Reformation Still Matters by Michael Reeves and Tim Chester is a MUST READ in my opinion. At least it is a must read for believers within the Protestant tradition. The book sets out to answer the question, DOES the reformation still matter? Their answer is YES, MORE THAN EVER!

Each chapter sets out to explain to readers WHY the reformation still matters. They go through the doctrines held dear by the Reformers one by one. In the first chapter, for example, the focus is on justification by faith. The second chapter addresses the view of Scripture. The third and fourth chapters take us back to basics: what is sin? what is grace? There are eleven chapters in all. Each chapter is FABULOUS.

The authors first explain what the commonly held view was prior to the Reformation. Then the authors explain what led the Reformers to change their minds. Finally the authors discuss WHY the doctrine is biblical and essential to the faith. In other words, WHY it is important for us to upheld the doctrine and reformation tradition.

This one is RICH in quotes. Readers have the opportunity to read what the Reformers actually said or wrote, not merely what one person or another interprets that person to have said or wrote.

This one is probably one of my favorite books of the year. I think it is VERY relevant and a great introduction to the Reformers.

Favorite quotes:

The Reformation still matters because eternal life still matters.
Nothing matters more than justification by Christ alone through faith alone. If justification by faith seems obvious to you, then it is because of Luther. But we must not presume on his legacy.
God is committed to judging sin. And that means he is committed to judging my sin.
Justification is the reminder that we have peace with God and the hope of glory. And we need that reminder not just on the day of our conversion, but day after day.
What is God’s Word? There is more than one answer. The first answer is that Jesus is the Word of God (capital W if you like). Second, the Bible is the word of God. The Bible is the word of God for three reasons. First, the Bible is from God the Father. It is a revelation of God the Father. Second, the Bible is about God the Son. It is the record of the Word of God in the person of Jesus, promised in the Old Testament and attested in the New Testament. Third, the Bible is by God the Spirit. It is the Spirit-inspired record of the Word of God in the person of Jesus. The Spirit ensures that it is an accurate and reliable account of the word of God. So it is from God, about God, and by God.
So Christ is central to the Bible. And Christ is central to the interpretation of the Bible. All true interpretations of the Bible lead us to Jesus.
The Reformation’s “deep” view of sin is rather like the proverbial ugly duckling: initially unattractive and embarrassing, but secretly a thing of promise. It is a doctrine of promise because without it Christ is robbed of his saving glory, and the gospel loses its wonder. If sin is not much of a problem, Christ need not be much of a Savior, and we do not need much grace.
There is no such “thing” as grace; there is only Christ, who is the blessing of God freely given to us.
Our knowledge of God is by grace alone.
The only way the Reformation could possibly not still matter would be if beauty, goodness, truth, joy, and human flourishing no longer mattered. We have been made to enjoy God, but without the great truths the Reformers fought for that display him as glorious and enjoyable, we shall not do so. Seeing less of him, we shall be lesser and sadder. Seeing more of him, we shall be fuller and happier.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Week in Review: October 9-15


  • Numbers
  • Deuteronomy
  • Matthew 1-15


  • Genesis 37-43


  • Ezekiel 35-48

KJV (Reformation Heritage Bible)

  • Genesis 8-16

NLT Beyond Suffering

  • Genesis 1-5

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, October 14, 2016

Book Review: Show Them Jesus

Show Them Jesus: Teaching the Gospel to Kids. 2014. New Growth Press. 224 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]

If you teach Sunday School, Show Them Jesus: Teaching the Gospel to Kids comes close to being a must-read. It is one of those breathe-the-gospel-in and breathe-the-gospel out kinda books. The premise is that teachers (and parents) should use every opportunity--both formal and informal "lessons"--to point their kids to the gospel message of Jesus Christ. But not just a fuzzy, vague gospel. He wants kids to fall in love with Jesus. He wants Jesus to be their 'one thing.' their one great desire. He wants to teach--wants others to teach--in such a way that kids know that Jesus is really, truly worthy of their worship. In other words, a BIG, BIG, BIG Jesus that will grow with them long past the days of flannel boards and talking vegetables.

The chapters are very practical and rich in examples. He doesn't just share what he's done right, he shares a lot of what he's done wrong. Being a teacher doesn't make him right, doesn't make him infallible, doesn't make him better. Neither would being a pastor. All of us--one and all, no matter our age or occupation--are sinners saved by grace. There is a realness to this one about using everyday moments to show the gospel--to "show Jesus" to those in our lives.

He urges us to change the way we approach "teaching" the Bible to others. Perhaps focusing less on what is easy and natural.
Don’t: Look for a moral lesson about a human character. Instead: Look for the worth and work of the main character, God.
We’ve been dispensing good advice instead of the good news. Eventually, kids will tire of our advice, no matter how good it might be. Many will leave the church. Others will live decent, churchy lives but without any fire for Christ. We’ll wonder why they’ve rejected the good news, because we assumed they were well grounded in it. In fact, they never were. Although we told stories of Jesus and his free grace, we watered it down with self-effort—and that’s what they heard.
The gospel goes against our nature. It just does. Even though we know grace, grace, all by grace, always by grace, through grace, with grace, much grace. It doesn't take but a few glances away from Jesus and we've allowed some self-effort (do better, try harder, do more, give it all you got) to creep back in.

Favorite quotes:
The good news is the Bible’s drumbeat. To ignore it at any point is to misplay the theme song.
No how-to-live lesson can wake the spiritually dead.
Any kid could be the one who needs to be saved. Much of the time, we just don’t know.
None of us learns to love anyone—including God—by having someone tell us to love them. You love people because you find them beautiful and lovable, and because they love you. The good thing is that God is far, far more beautiful and love-worthy than anything or anyone else, and he loves us far, far more than anyone else ever could.
The greater error is to teach from the Bible and fail to point out Jesus at all.
We shouldn’t build self-esteem. We should build Christ-esteem. We must give kids the best kind of encouragement of all—the kind that comes from knowing that Jesus is in you and for you.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Quotes from the Cloud #33

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
Thomas à Kempis said, “The Lord has many lovers of His crown, but few lovers of His cross.”
If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the Devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battlefield besides, is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point. ~ Martin Luther
The Lord aims at his own glory and our happiness, and we aim at his glory and our happiness. And though he may seem more to seek his glory than our happiness, and we may fear we seek our happiness more than his glory, yet indeed these two are inseparable and almost coincident. That which advances his glory promotes our happiness, and that which makes us most happy makes him most glorious. Wisdom and mercy have made a sweet connection between his honor and our happiness, so that they cannot be disjoined. We need no more fear to come short of happiness than we need to fear that the Lord will come short of his glory, for these two are embarked together. ~ David Clarkson
We do not pray in order to persuade God to change His mind. Prayer is not an assault upon the reluctance of God, nor an effort to secure a suspension of His will for us or for those for whom we pray. Prayer is not intended to overcome God and "move His arm." God will never be other than Himself, no matter how many people pray, nor how long, nor how earnestly. ~ A.W. Tozer, The Price of Neglect

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Book Review: Questioning Evangelism

Questioning Evangelism. Randy Newman. 2003. Kregel. 272 pages. [Source: Bought]

What is Questioning Evangelism about? Is it anti-evangelism? I want to clarify from the start that it is not anti-evangelism. He is not questioning IF Christians need to evangelize. Rather he is insisting that they do need to evangelize, they just need to go about it better. He is "calling Christians to use questions in the venture of evangelism."

In the opening chapters, he mentions three basic skills needed to evangelize.

1) The first and most basic involves declaring the gospel, including the ability to clearly and concisely articulate the message of salvation. Declaring the gospel also includes the sharing of one’s own story or testimony. Every Christian needs fluency in articulating how the Lord changed his or her life and the difference that change makes daily.

2) The second evangelistic skill is ability in defending the gospel. Anticipating common questions, acquainting oneself with helpful discoveries from the past, and planning how to deliver this information in a logical sequence has to be part of “always being ready to make a defense” (1 Peter 3:15 NASB).

3) The third skill—and this is where Questioning Evangelism fits in—is built upon the foundations of declaring and defending the gospel. That skill is called dialoguing the gospel. Perhaps the most important component to this kind of evangelism is answering questions with questions rather than giving answers.

You might be thinking, is this biblical? is this right? Newman knows this, I think! And he writes, "I once did a study of how Jesus answered every question that was asked of Him in all four gospels. Answering a question with a question was the norm. A clear, concise, direct answer was a rarity." He continues, "Answering a question with a question, then, often has significant advantages over using direct answers. It brings to the surface the questioner’s assumptions."

The more I read, the more I liked the book. I could sense he genuinely cares that the gospel stays intact and is not compromised. Care more about the person and having an actual conversation with them, listening to them, seeking to understand them, and care less about staying on task and on script. Forget trying to get someone to make a decision during the course of one conversation. Forget about trying to check off from a list all the essential doctrines of the faith. Be in the moment, and, realize that God is sovereign. You are not responsible for persuading someone to come to faith.

I think one of my favorite, favorite chapters was on compassion. He writes, "When we plead for God to draw people to Him, we ourselves are drawn to those people. Making lists of those who are our “Ten Most Wanted” and keeping them in our Bibles can prompt prayers as well as soften hearts."
Answering a question with a question is part of a different style of sharing the Good News, one that I call rabbinic evangelism. Rabbis, using this style of debate, train their disciples to think about God and life. The method was used in Jesus’ day and is similar to what happens today in training schools called “yeshivas.”
Rabbinic evangelism is not simply a rational, logical argument. We must avoid the danger of thinking that a person’s reception of the gospel is simply based upon his or her ability to reason.
Rabbinic evangelism also is not a sales pitch. If we were to try and convince someone to “buy” the gospel, we’d shy away from some difficult words that need to be said.
Our failure to practice good listening hurts our attempts to convey the Good News.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

My Year with Newton #7

Today I am continuing to share my reading experience with John Newton. I have completed John Newton's sermon series on Handel's Messiah. I am moving on to his LETTERS. 

Today I will share snippets from several letters. The first is titled, "Covetousness," and dates from 1795.
If the Lord loves you, he will not lose you; and therefore he will beat you, as it were, in a mortar, if necessary, rather than permit that covetousness to remain in you which his soul abhors, and which, if it were to remain, would exclude you from his kingdom.
The second is "Conformity to the World."
It is not necessary, perhaps it is not lawful, wholly to renounce the society of the world. A mistake of this kind took place in the early ages of Christianity, and men (at first, perhaps, with a sincere desire of serving God without distraction) withdrew into deserts and uninhabited places, and wasted their lives at a distance from their fellow-creatures. But unless we could flee from ourselves likewise, this would afford us no advantage; so long as we carry our own wicked hearts with us, we shall be exposed to temptation, go where we will.
But, in general, the proper evidence of true Christians is, not merely that they can talk about Divine things, but that, by the grace of God, they live and act agreeable to the rules of his word, in the state in which his providence has placed them, whether as masters or servants, husbands or wives, parents or children; bearing rule, or yielding obedience, as in his sight.
As believers, we are strangers and pilgrims upon earth. Heaven is our country, and the Lord is our King. We are to be known and noticed as his subjects; and therefore it is his pleasure, that we do not speak the sinful language, or adopt the sinful customs, of the land in which we sojourn. We are not to conform to the world, as we did in the days of our ignorance. And though we have received the principles of grace, and have tasted of the goodness of the Lord, the admonition is still needful; for we are renewed but in part, and are liable to be drawn aside to our hurt by the prevalence of evil examples and customs around us.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, October 10, 2016

Book Review: Blessed

Blessed: God's Gift of Love. Mary J. Moerbe and Christopher Mitchell. 2016. Concordia. 144 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I was interested in reading Mary J. Moerbe's Blessed because this word has always fascinated me. If you read the Bible, you'll see it popping up everywhere. It's in the Old Testament and the New. It's something that both God does and that we do as well. I had a general, fuzzy-and-vague notion of what it meant to bless and to be blessed, but, I wanted to know more. (I do think it's one of the words that is easier to use than it is to define!)

What should you know about the book? It is more scholarly than devotional. The book examines all the different uses of the Hebrew word(s) that are translated as blessed. (To be precise, the Hebrew root brk). The book also considers all the different contexts that the word is used. The book traces the word--the concept--throughout redemptive history. So the book isn't necessarily a warm-and-fuzzy book of Bible promises to feed and nurture your soul as it is a meaty book for you to engage with and digest. At times it does become technical.

Favorite quotes:
Blessings are not about us; rather, blessings are about God who gives them.
There is a temptation to believe that blessings are always accompanied by strength, happiness, courage, or wealth. Really, one can be blessed and struggle. One can be blessed and weak, afraid, or persecuted. One can be blessed during calamities and death.
God does not rely on us: we rely on Him, and the power of Christ does not need our strength, courage, or anything else. In Christ, we are highly favored, which means blessed, by our heavenly Father.
When our heavenly Father saw the fall into sin, He did not first address our emotions, self-esteem, or other needs humanly perceived. He entered the battle for our souls.
A name from God marks the entrance into a relationship with God.
God both blesses to deliver and delivers to bless. He offers peace and rescue.
It takes God's Word to reveal God's blessings. And, as a sign of His favor, no earthly blessing is intended to be a distraction from God's greatest gift: His Son.
He blesses before we praise, even as He gives us life before we seek it.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Week in Review: October 2-8


  • Genesis 21-50
  • Exodus
  • Leviticus


  • Genesis 29-36


  • Jeremiah 40-52
  • Lamentations
  • Ezekiel 1-34
  • John 18-21
  • Revelation

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Ten Hymns I'd Love Andrew Peterson To Record

1. Because He Lives
2. Lily of the Valley
3. My Hope Is Built
4. Amazing Grace
5. Rock of Ages
6. Old Rugged Cross
7. Christ the Lord is Risen Today
8. Wonderful Words of Life
9. Marching to Zion
10. He Keeps Me Singing (There's within my heart a melody Jesus whispers sweet and low,)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, October 7, 2016

Book Review: This Road We Traveled

This Road We Traveled. Jane Kirkpatrick. 2016. Revell. 340 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I really enjoyed reading Jane Kirkpatrick's This Road We Traveled. This historical novel takes readers along on the Oregon Trail in 1846, but the heroine may defy your expectations: she's a grandmother. I think you'll agree that most heroines are younger and at a completely different stage in their lives. But Tabitha Brown, the heroine, was an incredible woman. Yes, This Road We Traveled is based on true people, true events. Tabitha Brown has been named "the Mother of Oregon."

When our heroine was told she COULD NOT go with the family to Oregon because she would be a burden to the family, and probably just die before they arrived anyway, she was hurt and angry. Stay there, by herself, watch all of her children, all of her grandchildren, ride away never to return again? Live alone the rest of her life until she died? NOT HER. If her family didn't want her in their wagons, she'd hire one herself! She'd buy a wagon, all her own supplies, her own oxen, her own driver. SO THERE. She ended up going with her brother-in-law, John. (They also hired a young man to help).

The trip would not be easy, but, what is in life? Especially life in the 1840s? I think a close look at this extended family reveals that. Part of being a wife meant having a baby every year or every other year, no matter how tired, no matter how weary, no matter how weak. No matter how hard or impossible the previous delivery. You had babies until you died having a baby. (Then your husband would marry again and start the whole thing over again with a younger wife.) One of Tabitha's daughters really struggles with grief. She lost a child--probably under the age of two, maybe even one--and she can't really seem to "let him go" and "move on." (No one really understands her pain at leaving his grave behind.)

Anyway, the book is REALLY good. It is not a romance. So don't expect it to be your typical Christian romance. No, it's historical fiction. It is a multi-generational family story about three generations of a family heading west together and facing all sorts of challenges along the way.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible