Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Book Review: Reset

Reset: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture. David Murray. 2017. Crossway. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I will begin by telling you what I wish I had known before I requested it to review: this is a book for men. Throughout the book, he stresses that it is for men again and again. He hints that a book for women, I believe written by his wife, will be written and eventually published. But this book is FOR MEN. It has manly-man metaphors throughout.

The premise of this one is that Christian men burnout easily and most--if not all--need to be RESET. He argues that there is often a huge disconnect between a man's theology and doctrine and his daily practice. Christian men may believe in the five solas of the reformation, but they live by the five deficits.

Murray promises in the first few pages not to waste anyone's time. He promises that the book from cover to cover will be practical and relevant. The first few chapters are more of an inventory and invitation to reflect and analyze…to self-diagnos. The remaining chapters take you into the garage to fix what's wrong in your life.

One of my favorite chapters--perhaps my only favorite chapter--is on sleep.

  • Few things are as theological as sleep. Show me your sleep pattern and I’ll show you your theology, because we all preach a sermon in and by our sleep.
  • Question: Which of the Ten Commandments can you keep in your sleep? Answer: The sixth commandment, because, as the following statistics demonstrate, getting enough sleep is an act of loving your neighbor.
  • If our schools substituted sleepology for algebra, our society would be much healthier, safer, and brighter. Despite sleep taking up a quarter to a third of our lives and having such an influence on the remainder, most of us leave school in total ignorance of the why and the how of sleep.
  • We need to ask God to help us see this as a life priority, as a matter of obedience, and as a way of pleasing our Father and Creator. Let’s plead with him to give us the strength to do what we know we must do.
  • By sleeping, we are relinquishing control and reminding ourselves—at least for a few hours—that God actually doesn’t need us. When we close our eyes each night, we are saying, “I don’t run the world, or the church, or even my own little life.”
  • When and how long we sleep makes a huge statement about who we are and what we believe about ourselves and God.
  • Ultimately, sleep, like everything else, should lead us to the gospel and the Savior. First, it prompts us to think about death, that we shall all close our eyes as in sleep, and wake up in another world (1 Thess. 4:14). It also teaches about our Savior. The fact that Jesus slept (Mark 4:38) is as profound as “Jesus wept” (John 11:35). It reminds us of Christ’s full humanity, that the Son of God became so frail, so weak, so human that he needed to sleep. What humility! What love! What an example! What a comfort! What a sleeping pill! It illustrates salvation. How much are we doing when we sleep? Nothing! That’s why Jesus used rest as an illustration of his salvation. “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). It points us toward heaven. There remains a rest for the people of God (Heb. 4:9). That doesn’t mean heaven is going to be one long lie-in. It means it will be a place of renewal, refreshment, comfort, and perfect peace. 

Another chapter that gave some good insights was on the importance of relaxation and having hobbies. This chapter talked about the joys and benefits of reading:
There is something about reading, however, especially reading real paper books, that can be especially health-giving. In “How Changing Your Reading Habits Can Transform Your Health,” Michael Grothaus says, “Reading doesn’t just improve your knowledge, it can help fight depression, make you more confident, empathetic, and a better decision-maker.”
Reading for pleasure can help prevent conditions such as stress, depression, and dementia. People who read books regularly are on average more satisfied with life, happier, and more likely to feel that the things they do in life are worthwhile. In a survey of fifteen hundred adult readers, 76 percent said that reading improves their lives and helps to make them feel good.
His book covers most of the basics of life: eating and drinking, exercise, sleeping, working, playing, etc. He recommends an amended to do list:
1. Definite do. These are our most important God-given responsibilities and commitments. 2. Desire to do. These are activities we hope to do, and will do some of them after the “Definite-do’s” are done. 3. Delay do. These are worthy activities that we would love to do someday, but which we have to postpone until we have space and time in our schedules. 4. Don’t do. These are the things we either commit to stop doing or to say “no” to in the future.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

March Operation Deepen Faith Check-In

I. Wonderful Words of Life

  • What have you been reading in the Bible?
  • What books have you finished?
  • What book are you currently in?
  • Do you know what your next book of the Bible will be?
  • Which translation are you using?
  • What have you learned about God lately?
  • What have you learned about yourself?
  • Any favorite verses?

II Christian Nonfiction

  • Have you finished any books for the challenge this month?
  • What book are you currently reading for the challenge?
  • Do you know what book you'll be reading next?
  • Any favorite quotes?

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

My Year with Owen #13

I will be sharing some John Owen quotes this year. The first book I'll be reading is Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers (1656).

  • Use and exercise yourself to such meditations as may serve to fill you at all times with self-abasement and thoughts of your own vileness. ~ John Owen
  • Be much in thoughtfulness of the excellency of the majesty of God and your infinite, inconceivable distance from him. ~ John Owen
  • Think greatly of the greatness of God. ~ John Owen
  • Think much of your unacquaintedness with him. ~ John Owen
  • We speak much of God, can talk of him, his ways, his works, his counsels, all the day long; the truth is, we know very little of him. ~ John Owen
  • Our thoughts, our meditations, our expressions of him are low, many of them unworthy of his glory, none of them reaching his perfections. ~ John Owen
  • We know him rather by what he does than by what he is--by his doing us good than by his essential goodness. ~ John Owen
  • We know little of God, because it is faith alone whereby here we know him. ~ John Owen
  • The truth is, we all of us know enough of him to love him more than we do, to delight in him and serve him, believe him, obey him, put our trust in him, above all that we have hitherto attained. Our darkness and weakness is no plea for our negligence and disobedience. Who is it that has walked up to the knowledge that he has had of the perfections, excellencies, and will of God? God’s end in giving us any knowledge of himself here is that we may “glorify him as God” [Rom. 1: 21], that is, love him, serve him, believe and obey him— give him all the honor and glory that is due from poor sinful creatures to a sin-pardoning God and Creator. We must all acknowledge that we were never thoroughly transformed into the image of that knowledge which we have had. And had we used our talents well, we might have been trusted with more. ~ John Owen
  • The intention of all gospel revelation is not to unveil God’s essential glory that we should see him as he is, but merely to declare so much of him as he knows sufficient to be a bottom of our faith, love, obedience, and coming to him— that is, of the faith which here he expects from us; such services as beseem67 poor creatures in the midst of temptations. But when he calls us to eternal admiration and contemplation, without interruption, he will make a new manner of discovery of himself, and the whole shape of things, as it now lies before us, will depart as a shadow. ~ John Owen

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, March 27, 2017

Book Review: The Titanic's Last Hero

The Titanic's Last Hero: A Startling True Story That Can Change Your Life Forever. Moody Adams. 2012. 120 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: AS THE DARK, FRIGID WATERS of the Atlantic crept slowly up the decks of the Titanic, John Harper shouted, “Let the women, children, and the unsaved into the lifeboats!” Harper gave his life jacket—his last hope of survival—to another man. After the ship had slipped beneath the silent water and left Harper floundering, he was heard urging those around him to put their faith in Jesus Christ. It was the night of April 14, 1912, a night for heroes, and John Harper met the challenge. Though the waters swallowing him were bitterly cold and the sea about him was dark, John Harper left this world in a brilliant blaze of glory.

Premise/plot: Most of this one is a reprint of a much, much older title: John Harper: A Man of God (1912). The first chapter tells the essentials of the story of this Christian hero. The remaining chapters are written by a diverse group: John Climie, George Harper, eleven assorted preachers and missionaries, and an assorted gathering of testimonies of his converts. The book also includes, I believe, four sermon outlines by John Harper.

My thoughts: I have no doubt that demand was high for a book about John Harper in the year or two following the Titanic disaster. But I have to say that the book is uneven in quality. The first few chapters were really insightful and interesting. But most were not. The chapters written by eleven different pastors/evangelists/missionaries were essentially fillers. Like someone had put out an advertisement: have you ever spoken to John Harper? have you ever been in the same room with him? how would you like to be published in a book?! That is a bit mean of me, I suppose. But I really wish that the publisher had not made such a BOLD and DRAMATIC subtitle. It promises more than it can deliver.

That being said, I think there's room for a NEW book about John Harper that gathers the facts of his life and ministry. Perhaps a picture book for older readers?! I think this story would lend well to illustration. It would be lovely to gather together select quotes from John Harper and others that knew and loved him. I think the bare facts of the story are inspiring.
“Oh that we could only have more faith in a loving, living Savior, and that we would only open our hearts wide enough to receive more of His sweet, consuming, constraining, heart-piercing love, and oh! That we would open our ears to hear the sweet voice of the Bridegroom as He whispers to our souls, ‘Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away, and leave the fleeting phantoms of this fleeting day.’ And oh, that His soul-ravishing voice would so reach our cold hearts that we would be made to thirst and cry out for a closer fellowship with the crucified Savior.” ~ John Harper
Many of the men, women, and children who were left on the sinking ship screamed their way toward a dreadful silence. In contrast, a confident John Harper faced death with absolute assurance that Jesus had conquered death and given him the gift of eternal life. This assurance overcame the terror of drowning.
Harper’s heroism was not just one shining moment in an otherwise unheroic existence. He burned, wept, prayed, and worked unselfishly for others throughout his entire life. Harper reclaimed drunkards, gamblers, and former prize fighters for the Lord. As a pastor, he would sometimes spend the entire night in his church praying for his hundreds of members by name. Harper worked day and night, in homes and on the streets, pointing the downtrodden to a better life. He labored ceaselessly among the common people, seeking to care for them. 
In the End, There Were Only Two Classes of Passengers Following the sinking of the Titanic, the White Star office in Liverpool, England, placed a large board on either side of the main entrance. On one they printed in large letters, “KNOWN TO BE SAVED.” On the other, “KNOWN TO BE LOST.” When the Titanic’s voyage began, there were three classes of passengers. But when it ended, the number was reduced to only two—those who were “saved” by the rescue boats and those who were “lost” in the deep waters.
John Harper plunged into death with reckless abandon, knowing he would be among the lost passengers. But he had absolute confidence that his name would be on the “saved” list at the throne of God. 
During those fifty minutes, a young man from Scotland who was clinging to a board drifted near John Harper. Harper, who was struggling in the water as well, cried, “Are you saved?” The answer returned, “No.” Harper shouted words from the Bible: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.” Before responding, the man drifted away into the dark night. Later, the current brought them back in sight of each other. Once more the dying Harper shouted the question: “Are you saved?” Again the man answered, “No.” Harper repeated the words of Acts 16: 31. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.” Bereft of strength, Harper released his hold and sank downward into his watery grave. The man to whom whose soul Harper had with his last breath thrown a verbal lifeline was indeed saved. That man not only put his faith in Jesus Christ but also found himself rescued by the SS Carpathia’s lifeboats. In Hamilton, Ontario, four years later, this survivor whose identity remains a mystery (although some investigation might lead one to believe he was John “Jack” Stewart, one of the ship’s stewards), described what happened and testified that he was John Harper’s last convert. Harper’s final convert was won by Harper’s last words: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.”
An eager student of the Bible, Harper devoured the sacred Book. He meditated upon it. He used any commentary that would throw light upon it or that would help him to draw light from it. He yielded himself to its sway. He expounded it. Few could make better use of it than he “for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (II Timothy 3: 16). Whatever form of doctrine was found in it, he adhered to. This he did tenaciously. He held fast to the instruction it gave him. He esteemed it as his life. Whatever doctrine was not found in the Holy Scriptures, it mattered not how fancifully put, nor by whomsoever it was proclaimed, it found no place with him. “Thus saith the Lord” was his standby. He stood on the Rock of revelation. Men’s theories to him were sand. God’s Word was rock.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Week in Review: March 19-25

NIV Tozer Bible

  • Exodus 13-40
  • Esther
  • Song of Songs
  • Malachi
  • Acts
  • 1 Timothy
  • 2 Timothy

NLT Beyond Suffering

  • 2 Kings 
  • Isaiah 1-39
  • Matthew 10-18


  • Matthew 10-18


  • Matthew 10-18

Revised English Bible

  • Matthew 10-18

Christian Standard Bible

  • Matthew 10-18

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, March 24, 2017

Book Review: Reading the Bible Supernaturally

Reading the Bible Supernaturally. John Piper. 2017. Crossway. 320 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Reading the Bible Supernaturally is a companion book to John Piper's A Peculiar Glory. Don't worry if you haven't read it, though. He tells you just enough about the first book to situate readers for this second book. (What book should come first? It's almost like The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe and A Magician's Nephew. Almost. I would liken Reading the Bible Supernaturally to be The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe and A Peculiar Glory to A Magician's Nephew.)

This is John Piper writing so expect logic and clarity. He does a great job of explaining everything precisely and logically.

The book has three divisions: "The Ultimate Goal of Reading the Bible," "The Supernatural Act of Reading the Bible," and "The Natural Act of Reading the Bible Supernaturally."
"Part 1 poses the all-important question What does the Bible tell us is the ultimate goal of reading the Bible? I propose an answer with six implications and then devote ten chapters to unfolding and testing those implications. Part 2 works out the inference from part 1 that reading the Bible really must be a supernatural act, if God’s goals for our reading the Bible are to be reached. Finally, part 3 treats the practical outworking of such a claim in the seemingly ordinary human act of reading—the natural act of reading the Bible supernaturally."
So what does Piper see as the ultimate goal in reading the Bible?!
"The Bible itself shows that our ultimate goal in reading the Bible is that God’s infinite worth and beauty would be exalted in the everlasting, white-hot worship of the blood-bought bride of Christ from every people, language, tribe, and nation. In other words, each time we pick up the Bible to read, we should intend that reading would lead to this end. The way that we as individuals are caught up into this ultimate aim as we read the Bible becomes clear as we spell out six implications that flow from this proposed answer to our question. When we say that the ultimate goal of reading the Bible is that God’s infinite worth and beauty would be exalted in the everlasting, white-hot worship of the blood-bought bride of Christ from every people, language, tribe, and nation, we imply that: 1. the infinite worth and beauty of God are the ultimate value and excellence of the universe; 2. that the supremely authentic and intense worship of God’s worth and beauty is the ultimate aim of all his work and word; 3. that we should always read his word in order to see this supreme worth and beauty; 4. that we should aim in all our seeing to savor his excellence above all things; 5. that we should aim to be transformed by this seeing and savoring into the likeness of his beauty, 6. so that more and more people would be drawn into the worshiping family of God until the bride of Christ—across all centuries and cultures—is complete in number and beauty."
Why must the Bible be read supernaturally? What does Piper mean by this phrase?
"What I mean is that the act of reading, in order to be done as God intended, must be done in dependence on God’s supernatural help. The Bible gives two decisive reasons: Satan and sin. That is, we have a blinding enemy outside and a blinding disease inside. Together these two forces make it impossible for human beings to read the Bible, as God intended, without supernatural help. It seems to me that thousands of people approach the Bible with little sense of their own helplessness in reading the way God wants them to."
He continues,
"Bible reading that only collects facts, or relieves a guilty conscience, or gathers doctrinal arguments, or titillates esthetic literary tastes, or feeds historical curiosities—this kind of Bible reading Satan is perfectly happy to leave alone. He has already won the battle. But reading that hopes to see the supreme worth and beauty of God—reading that aims to be satisfied with all that God is for us in Christ, reading that seeks to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Ps. 34:8)—this reading Satan will oppose with all his might. And his might is supernatural. Therefore, any reading that hopes to overcome his blinding power will be a supernatural reading."
Ultimately he concludes,
"It is a miracle when God’s word is implanted in us, and it is a miracle when in it we taste the sweetness of God’s goodness. From that moment on, all our reading of God’s word is supposed to be an extension of that miracle in daily life—until we “grow up into salvation."
If the Bible is to be read supernaturally, what is natural about the process?
"God does not see for us. God enables us to see. We do the seeing. And the supernatural act of seeing “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” is by means of the natural act of seeing the story of the gospel written (or spoken) in natural human words." 
"All the human effort and skill that you can muster to construe the meaning of biblical passages will be called for. The glory is seen through the meaning of the text. And the meaning is found by reading and thinking. God is united to the man Jesus. The glory of God is united to the meaning of biblical texts. Therefore, when the miracle of seeing and savoring the glory of God happens, it is in the act of reading and thinking. We read. God reveals. God gives the supernatural miracle. We act the supernatural miracle."
In the final chapters of the book, he addresses this question: "How do you go about living the Christian life in such a way that you are actually doing the living, and yet another—the Holy Spirit—is decisively doing the living in and through your living?" His answers are all in acronyms.

I said Piper was logical, and, I meant it. I did. But also expect passion and enthusiasm. Piper's love of God, love of the Word, is apparent on every page of this book. Piper DELIGHTS in God and DELIGHTS in teaching others to delight in God too.

Here's one of my favorite passages:
"So we open our Bibles with a sweet sense that even though we don’t deserve it, God will lead us and instruct us. Our very reading is the experience of gospel grace. Christ died for sinners so that the promise would come true: God helps sinners understand the Bible. These blood-bought promises are given to us so that we might believe them. Not just hear them. Believe them. Trust them. Because, remember from Galatians 3:5, God “supplies the Spirit to you . . . by hearing with faith.” We stand before the Bible ready to read. We hear a promise. “I will instruct you and teach you.” We put our faith in it. The Spirit moves in the channel of faith, and we “act the miracle.” We read supernaturally. So it is good to gather some of these precious promises and store them up: The Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright. (Prov. 2:6–7) Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. (Prov. 3:5–6) I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you. (Ps. 32:8) You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. (Ps. 73:24) Do not be anxious about . . . what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say. (Luke 12:11–12) Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31–32) If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a doubleminded man, unstable in all his ways. (James 1:5–8)" 
And also this one:
"When we read the Bible, its meaning is not the ideas that come into our head that may be “meaningful” to us. Those ideas may or may not be part of what the author meant. Rather, when we read the Bible we are digging for the gold of what inspired writers wanted to communicate. We are not creating meaning. We are seeking it." 
A good book is worth reading and occasionally quoting. A great book is worth rereading and quoting liberally. This book is one of the best I've read this year. I will definitely want to reread it!!!

Favorite quotes:

  • "No one merely decides to experience the Christian Scriptures as the all-compelling, all-satisfying truth of one’s life. Seeing is a gift." 
  • "The ultimate aim of all Bible reading, I argue, is that God’s infinite worth and beauty would be exalted in everlasting, white-hot worship. There is nothing higher than the worth and beauty of God."
  • "Lukewarm affection for God gives the impression that he is moderately pleasing. He is not moderately pleasing. He is infinitely pleasing. If we are not intensely pleased, we need forgiveness and healing. Which, of course, we do."
  • "Emotions for God that do not spring from seeing God cannot honor God."
  • "If there is no true seeing of the glory of God, there can be no true savoring of the glory of God. And without savoring—delighting, cherishing, enjoying, treasuring—there will be no true transformation into the image of God. And if the people of God fail to be transformed into the image of Christ—from glory to glory—the ultimate purpose of God will fail. That cannot happen. God cannot fail in his ultimate purpose. Therefore, if we would be part of his Christ-reflecting, Christ-exalting family, we must read the Bible in order to see his glory—and then savor him above all things."
  • "It is also clear from Scripture that God uses not only pleasant emotions in response to seeing his glory, but also painful emotions. These too come from seeing the glory of God in Scripture. And these too are meant to be transforming, in their own way. They are meant to bring about change in a more indirect way, driving us away from destructive sins, in the hope that we will be drawn positively by the superior satisfaction of God’s holiness. God does not cease to be glorious when he disciplines his children. Yet this glory leads us first to sorrow. And then, through sorrow and repentance, to joy. God does not cease to be glorious when he says to those who are entangled in sin, “Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you” (James 4:9–10). His aim is that we enjoy the experience of “he will exalt you.” But on the way there, God’s strategy may be rebuke. It is fitting. Together with all God’s ways and purposes, it too is part of his peculiar glory. It may stretch the ordinary meaning of language, but this too we should “savor.” “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness” (James 1:2–3). There are foods that blend the sour and the sweet in such a way as to make the sweet all the richer."
  • "Our Bible reading is never just for seeing, never just for learning and doctrine. It is not even just for savoring, if that savoring is thought of in a private way that leaves us unchanged in our relationship with others. No. We read the Bible—we always read the Bible—for the kind of seeing and savoring Christ that transforms us into his likeness."
  • "The ultimate purpose of God—to be worshiped with white-hot affection by a redeemed people, complete in number and beauty—will be accomplished by the one who “works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Eph. 1:11). There is no doubt about it. He cannot fail. And he will do it by his Spirit through his word. Through the reading of the Scriptures."
  • "If we are going to read the Scriptures about Jesus and see him and savor him and be transformed into his image, it will not be by mere human means. It will be a “blessing” that opens the eyes of our hearts to see his all satisfying glory for what it really is."
  • "Life is war. And the main battles are fought at the level of desires, not deeds."
  • "The great, central, all-pervading message of the Bible is that God is to be loved above all things, and with all that we are" 
  • "The meaning of a biblical text is what the author intended to communicate by his words...To read with the aim of creating your own meaning, instead of finding the author’s meaning, leaves you trapped in the tiny world of self."

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, March 23, 2017

My Year with Henry #12

This year I will be reading Matthew Henry's Concise Bible Commentary alongside the American Standard Version (1901). I will share quotes a few times a month.

Nehemiah 4

  • God has many ways of bringing to light, and so of bringing to naught, the devices and designs of his church’s enemies. If our enemies cannot frighten us from duty, or deceive us into sin, they cannot hurt us.
  • We must watch always against spiritual enemies, and not expect that our warfare will be over till our work is ended.
  • The word of God is the sword of the Spirit, which we ought to have always at hand, and never to have to seek for it, either in our labors, or in our conflicts, as Christians. Every true Christian is both a laborer and a soldier, working with one hand, and fighting with the other.

Acts 14

  • The apostles spake so plainly, with such evidence and proof of the Spirit, and with such power; so warmly, and with such concern for the souls of men; that those who heard them could not but say, God was with them of a truth. Yet the success was not to be reckoned to the manner of their preaching, but to the Spirit of God who used that means.
  • God has a shelter for his people in a storm; he is, and will be their Hiding-place.
  • The most powerful arguments, the most earnest and affectionate addresses, even with miracles, are scarcely enough to keep men from absurdities and abominations; much less can they, without special grace, turn the hearts of sinners to God and to holiness.
  • So strong is the bent of the corrupt and carnal heart, that as it is with great difficulty that men are kept back from evil on one side, so it is with great ease they are persuaded to evil on the other side. 
  • All who are converted need to be confirmed in the faith; all who are planted need to be rooted.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible