Tuesday, May 23, 2017

My Year with Owen #21

I will be sharing some John Owen quotes this year. The second book I'll be reading is Of Temptation: The Nature and Power of It.

Sin will not long seem great or heavy unto any to whom temptations seem light or small. ~ John Owen
The daily exercise of our thoughts with an apprehension of the great danger that lies in entering into temptation, is required of us. ~ John Owen
Temptation despised will conquer; and if the heart be made tender and watchful here, half the work of securing a good conversation is over. ~ John Owen
Therefore are we to pray that we may be preserved from it, because we cannot save ourselves. ~ John Owen
This is another means of preservation. As we have no strength to resist a temptation when it does come, when we are entered into it, but shall fall under it, without a supply of sufficiency of grace from God; so to reckon that we have no power or wisdom to keep ourselves from entering into temptation, but must be kept by the power and wisdom of God, is a preserving principle (1 Pet. 1: 5). ~ John Owen
The first beginnings of temptation [are] insensible and plausible, so that, left unto myself, I shall not know I am ensnared, until my bonds be made strong, and sin has got ground in my heart. ~ John Owen
This will make the soul be always committing itself to the care of God, resting itself on him, and to do nothing, undertake nothing, etc, without asking counsel of him. ~ John Owen
We are to pray for what God has promised. Our requests are to be regulated by his promises and commands, which are of the same extent. ~ John Owen
To pray that we enter not into temptation is a means to preserve us from it. ~ John Owen
It is not my business to speak of it [prayer] in general; but this I say as to my present purpose— he that would be little in temptation, let him be much in prayer. This calls in the suitable help and succor that is laid up in Christ for us (Heb. 4: 16). This casts our souls into a frame of opposition to every temptation. ~ John Owen
The other part of our Savior’s direction— namely, to “watch”— is more general, and extends itself to many particulars. I shall fix on some things that are contained therein. ~ John Owen
Watch the seasons wherein men usually do “enter into temptations.” ~ John Owen
A season of unusual outward prosperity is usually accompanied with an hour of temptation. John Owen
A time of the slumber of grace, of neglect in communion with God, of formality in duty, is a season to be watched in, as that which certainly [has] some other temptation attending it. ~ John Owen
A season of great spiritual enjoyments is often, by the malice of Satan and the weakness of our hearts, turned into a season of danger as to this business of temptation. ~ John Owen
A fourth season is a season of self-confidence; then usually temptation is at hand. ~ John Owen

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, May 22, 2017

Book Review: God's Story in 66 Verses

God's Story in 66 Verses. Stan Guthrie. 2015. Thomas Nelson. 256 pages. [Source: Bought]

From the introduction: HOW DO YOU, AS THE OLD SAYING GOES, EAT AN ELEPHANT? ONE bite at a time. How do you digest the Bible? One verse at a time. The Bible can be a difficult book for the average person to understand. Written over the span of a millennium and a half, and completed nearly two thousand years ago, the Book of books sometimes seems like a mishmash of stories and literary styles. We can get so caught up in the Bible’s details that we lose sight of its big picture. So how are we to get a handle on Scripture as a whole and on these sixty-six unique books without becoming Bible scholars? This book, God’s Story in 66 Verses, is my answer. It will offer you quick, lay-level access into Scripture via one key verse for each of the Bible’s books, from Genesis to Revelation.
Premise/plot: Guthrie seeks to provide a 'big-picture' guide for reading, understanding, appreciating the Bible as a whole. He has selected one verse from each book of the Bible to represent the book. "They are highlighted because I believe they most accurately represent the books in which they reside and Scripture as a whole." Each chapter is essentially an introduction to the book and its main theme(s). He writes, "God has given each Bible book to his people for good reason, and this volume will help you get something out of each one. As you read through, absorb, and refer to this volume, you will learn how the key verses (and the books they represent) fit together in a unified message, what the main thrust of Scripture is, and what difference it should make in your daily life."

My thoughts: God's Story in 66 Verses is the exact opposite of The Good Book which I reviewed last week. Guthrie provides concise commentary--an overview--of each book of the Bible. He provides an outline of the book, explains how the key verse represents the main theme(s) of the book, connects that book to other books in the Bible. Often--almost always--he tells how that book relates to Jesus Christ.

What you won't find in God's Story in 66 Verses are stories and anecdotes. This isn't meant to be a light, devotional, fluffy read. The goal isn't entertainment, in other words. He assumes that you're reading the book because you want to know God better, because you want more out of your Bible reading experience.

I found it interesting to see which verses he selected as key verses. Some were obvious choices. (For example, Ruth 1:16, Lamentations 3:22, Micah 6:8, Ephesians 2:8, Philippians 4:4) Some were not.

In case you're curious:

  • Genesis 15:6
  • Psalm 16:11
  • Proverbs 1:7
  • Isaiah 40:9
  • Jeremiah 31:33
  • Ezekiel 36:22
  • Matthew 16:15
  • Mark 10:45
  • Luke 4:18
  • John 1:14
  • Revelation 1:19

THE OLD TESTAMENT SURELY IS ONE OF THE MOST TRAGIC BOOKS in all of literature. It begins with a majestic Creator who graciously sets a man and a woman in a garden. They rebel against his loving, kingly rule, however, and are expelled from his presence, setting in motion a devastating series of events that culminates in a global deluge. God begins again, with Abraham, seeking to establish a righteous people who will draw the nations to himself, under the royal line of David. But despite nearly countless displays of the holy Lord’s patient faithfulness, the people of Israel rebel and face his judgment—expulsion from the promised land. By his grace, a chastened remnant eventually returns, looking for God to fulfill his promises of a coming King and kingdom. The glory days are past, however. Israel is now subject to one pagan empire after another, its pivotal role in the divine plan seemingly over. Matthew tells the story of how God intervenes personally, continuing the divine plan in a way that his people never expected. Matthew, one of four ancient biographies in the New Testament called the Gospels, begins with “Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (1:1).
If love for the truth characterizes the Christian, however, then so does its flip side: hatred for falsehood. That is because lies, especially those that deny Christ and his teaching, come from the devil, “the father of lies” (John 8:44). Those who promulgate these deceptions wage war against Christ and his church, threatening men’s souls and our heavenly rewards.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Week in Review: May 14-20

KJV Reformation Study Bible

  • Numbers 
  • 2 Kings 14-25
  • Proverbs 21-31
  • Isaiah 1-22
  • Ephesians


  • Psalm 66-90
  • Luke 7-24

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Check In With The Cloud

  • What have you been reading? What are you currently reading?
  • Have you finished anything for the challenge?
  • Have you read any new-to-you authors yet?
  • Have you found any new favorites?
  • Are you writing down favorite quotes? Have any to share?
  • Have you learned anything that you'd like to share?
  • Would you be interested in reading a book together? If so, what month would be good for you?

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Book Review: Sold Into Egypt

Sold Into Egypt: Journeys Into Human Being. Madeleine L'Engle. 1989/2017. Convergent Books. 256 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: He was a spoiled brat, Joseph, the eleventh brother. Indulged, self-indulgent, selfish. He clung to his father and the women. Whined. Got his own way. If one of the wives said no, another would surely say yes. When he was crossed he wailed that he had no mother.

Premise/plot: Sold Into Egypt completes Madeleine L'Engle's Genesis trilogy. (And It Was GoodStone for A Pillow). The book is a blend of memoir and biblical fiction. Sold Into Egypt is a memoir in that Madeleine L'Engle is reflecting on her life, specifically her GRIEF over losing her husband, Hugh. She's also sharing her spiritual reflections on what it means to live, to die, to be human. Sold Into Egypt is biblical fiction in that within each chapter--or most of the chapters--L'Engle speculates on the last chapters of Genesis. She presents accounts from different points of view.

My thoughts: I've mentioned it before, but, it's always worth mentioning again: L'Engle's theology is dangerous. Her theology is not devoid of all truth. And, at times, she speaks the unadulterated truth. But most of the time, the "truth" is filtered through her all-too-human-lens of what is right and what is wrong in her own eyes, in her own reckoning. And God as revealed in the written Word, the Bible, the Holy Scriptures, the Scriptures that are not to be added to or subtracted from does not match L'Engle's God. And so when given the choice to believe God's Own Revelation of Himself and her own idea of God, she goes with her own idea of God. L'Engle claiming that the Bible was never meant to be static, and that God is always changing, that "I AM" really means "I will be what I will be." Here's the thing: we all have a choice to make. No matter who we are, how we've been raised, how seasoned or experienced we are "in the faith." When our thoughts are in conflict with the Word of God, what will we do--who will we trust?! Will we trust the Word of God even when it doesn't seem right to us? even when it conflicts with what we want to do, with what we want to believe? even when it conflicts with our comfort zone? L'Engle is an advocate of the theory the Bible only has meaning when we--the reader--read it. And that meaning changes reader to reader. The Bible means what it means to us at that moment in time. What it means to me today is not what the Bible meant to me two decades ago. And of course my Bible is going to be different from your Bible because we're two different people! I hope you can see that L'Engle is dangerous, and dangerous precisely because she's not alone in her madness.

The three books are a product of her times. All three were written in the eighties. All three were written in the midst of the Cold War. All three deal with "current news" and "current politics."

Because we have failed to listen to each other’s stories, we are becoming a fragmented human race.
It is an amazing thing that Jacob wrestled with an angel and yet seldom wrestled with himself.
There seems to be an illusion in some of Christendom today that Christians are always happy. No matter what tragedies happen, Christians are supposed to be happy if they truly have faith. It’s only an illusion and can cause enormous trouble. Jesus was not always happy. He was, indeed, the suffering servant Isaiah talks about. Happiness, blind, unquestioning happiness, is not the sign of the Christian. Even the Holy Family was not, in the superficial sense of the word, happy. Simeon warned Mary that a sword of anguish would penetrate her own heart. And, indeed, it did.
God reproves us whenever we decide that El is like us, or like our own particular group. There is only one criterion to use in deciding whether or not the image of God we are finding within us is really God’s image, or a projection of ourselves. The one thing we know about God for certain is that God is love. Where there is not love, even if there is righteousness, or justice, it is not God.
There are many things in Scripture that are not to be understood, perhaps because so many years have passed that things have been left out, or added to, or shifted around.
Our visions of God are partial and incomplete at best. But the God who shines through the Old Testament is the mighty Creator who made the brilliance of all those stars he showed Abraham, the God of the universe. There have been many times in history when people must have wondered what kind of God we Christians have—for instance, when crusaders slaughtered Orthodox Christians in Greece; when the Spanish Inquisitors burned people at the stake for tiny differences in interpretation of faith; in Salem where a woman could be hanged as a witch if an angry neighbour accused her out of spite. Perhaps God needs less of our fierce protectiveness for his cause, and more of our love to El, to each other.
But God, El, the God of Joseph and the patriarchs, seems to be almost two separate gods, the tribal god whom Bilhah found so offensive, and who still offends many people today, and the God who was the Maker of the Universe, Creator of the Stars, the All in All, the God of Love who still lights our hearts. The tribal god can be described and defined. The God of love, the God of beginnings, cannot. And we have the desire to define, to encompass, to understand with our minds, rather than our hearts, the God we proclaim.
Truth is eternal, but our knowledge is always flawed and partial.
If we are responsible for the being of things, if we are, as this new theory implies, co-creators with God, this gives the sentient, questioning human being an enormous responsibility. Rather than swelling our egos, it should awaken in us an awed sense of vocation. We human creatures are called to be the eyes and ears and nose and mouth and fingers of this planet. We are called to observe all that is around us, to contemplate it, and to make it real.
The important thing is that the universe was made by Love, and belongs to Love.
So many people do not know what death means, and that is the cause of their embarrassment. My faith affirms that it means something, and I don’t have to know what.
Who knows what the God of love has in store for us? There are many important lessons to be learned before we are ready for the unveiled glory of the Presence.
To be human is to be able to laugh, to cry, to live fully, to be aware of our lives as we are living them. We are the creatures who know that we know, unlike insects who live by unthinking instinct. That ability to think, to know, to reflect, to question, marks us as human beings. And our humanness includes an awareness that we are mortal. To be a human being is to be born, to live, to die. We have a life span.
We tell stories, listen to stories, go to plays, to be amused, to be edified, but mostly so that we can understand what it means to be a human being.
Story is the closest we human beings can come to truth.
Story was a mirror in which I could be helped to find the image of God in myself.
Normal is the reality of living with precariousness, of never knowing what is around the corner, when accident or death are going to strike. Normal is cooking dinner for friends in the midst of this precariousness, lighting the candles, laughing, being together. Normal is trusting that God will make meaning out of everything that happens.
To be a human being is to be able to listen to a story, to tell a story, and to know that story is the most perfect vehicle of truth available to the human being.
Wait! Did I imply that Scripture is not infallible? Scripture is true, and fallibility and infallibility is not what Scripture is about. According to Scripture it is perfectly all right to have slaves as long as you treat them kindly. Slaves are told to be diligent and loyal to their masters. The psalmist says that he never saw the good man go hungry or his children begging for bread. Yet we know that good men do go hungry and their children do beg for bread every day. In his letter to the people of Thessalonica Paul’s harsh words about the Jews have encouraged the ugliness of anti-Semitism: It was the Jews who killed their own prophets, the Jews who killed the Lord, Jesus, the Jews who drove us out, his messengers. Taken out of the context in which Paul was writing to the suffering Thessalonians, his words can do untold harm, and they have often done so. So what do I believe about Scripture? I believe that it is true. What is true is alive and capable of movement and growth. Scripture is full of paradox and contradiction, but it is true, and if we fallible human creatures look regularly and humbly at the great pages and people of Scripture, if we are willing to accept truth rather than rigidly infallible statements, we will be given life, and life more abundantly. And we, like Joseph, will make progress toward becoming human.
My writing teaches me. It gives me truths I didn’t know and could never have thought of by myself. Truth is given us when we are enabled to believe the contradictory and impossible.
One of the bits of dogma that used to concern me was that Jesus is exactly like us—except he’s sinless. Well, of course if he’s sinless he’s not exactly like us; he’s not like us at all. And then I arrived at a totally different definition of sin. Sin is not child abuse or rape or murder, terrible though these may be. Sin is separation from God, and Jesus was never separate from the Source. Of course if we were close to our Source, if we were not separated from God, it would be impossible for us to commit child abuse or rape or murder. But when we are separated from God, that sin makes all sins possible.
To be human is to be able to change, knowing full well that some change is good and some change is bad; some change is progressive and some is regressive, and we often cannot discern which is which. But if we lose the ability to change we stultify, we turn to stone, we die.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, May 19, 2017

Book Review: The Whole Message of the Bible in 16 Words

The Whole Message of the Bible in 16 Words. Chris Bruno. 2017. Crossway. 144 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence from chapter one: We begin at the end, because the end actually starts in the beginning. Confused? Just hang with me for a little while, and hopefully you’ll see where we are heading. If you knew in advance that Frodo survives the journey to Mordor in The Lord of the Rings, but only barely; that Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker’s dad in Star Wars; and that Bruce Willis is dead the whole time in the Sixth Sense, would it ruin these stories? You might think that it would, but according to a 2011 study published in Psychological Science, people actually enjoy stories more when they know the ending.

Premise/plot: This one is a companion book to Chris Bruno's The Whole Message of the Bible in 16 Verses. Bruno stated the purpose for his new book quite clearly in his introduction, "In this book, I want to change our analogy. Instead of talking about the forest and the trees, I want us to see the whole story of the Bible as a rope that is woven tightly together. The goal of this book is to pull out sixteen key strands that compose this rope, look at how they contribute to the overall message, and then put them back in place." Or, "In this book, we are going to trace sixteen words that help us better understand and apply the whole message of the Bible."

The sixteen words: "The End," "God," "Creation," "Covenant," "Kingdom," "Temple," "Messiah," "Israel," "Land," "Idols," "Judgment," "Exodus," "Wisdom," "Law," "Spirit," "Mission."

Each chapter includes two connecting verses. One verse from the Old Testament and one verse from the New Testament. Each chapter ends with a GREAT summary statement.

My thoughts: Like Deron Spoo's The Good Book, Bruno seeks to address the BIG ideas of the Bible, seeks to help readers--no matter their background--understand and appreciate the big picture of the Bible.

But. Bruno does it better. He stays on-task, on-focus. The book is better focused on God and God's Glory. And this one is very meaty, very substantive, and extremely rich in insight. He is also straightforward, "If you want to know the message of the Bible, then you need to read the Bible."

I felt that Spoo's book was like a bag of potato chips--technically food--but not ultimately satisfying like a good MEAL with meat and vegetables.

Some of my favorite quotes:
This reality [Revelation 21:3-5] should change the way we see everything in the world—and the way we read everything in our Bibles. We need to see that the end of the Bible is closely connected to the beginning of the story. But we also need to see that the end of the story changes the way we live right now, because the end has already been brought into the present. 

Even if you haven’t read Genesis recently, you probably know the main idea of the creation story. God made the world and everything in it. He created humans in his own image and put them in the garden of Eden. But Adam and Eve doubted God’s kindness to them and wanted to be like him, so they ate the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (the only fruit they weren’t allowed to eat). Because of their disobedience, the world and everything in it was broken. And that is basically what we see when we look out the window or turn on the news today. We live in a world where we can still see God’s hand in both the beauty of creation and the creativity of people, but it is also a world filled with broken people looking for some way to fix everything that has gone wrong. If we really want to understand the story of the world and the story of the Bible, we need to see that God told us about the solution almost as soon as we broke the world. And he started to provide for that solution as soon as he told us about it. In Genesis 3:15, he told Adam and Eve that the seed of the woman would crush the head of the Serpent. In other words, he would undo the fall and restore his good creation. From the very beginning, God was committed to stepping into history to change it, renew it, and make it better than we could ever imagine—for our good and his glory. And that, in a nutshell, is what we mean by eschatology. While we need to see that eschatology is heading toward the end, we also need to see that the end shapes the whole story. In fact, that is how I would define eschatology—the study of God’s work in history to bring the story to his intended end. So when we talk eschatology, we have to start in Genesis.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, May 18, 2017

My Year with Henry #20

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.

Matthew 19

  • When the gospel is really embraced, it makes men kind relatives and faithful friends; it teaches them to bear the burdens, and to bear with the infirmities of those with whom they are connected, to consider their peace and happiness more than their own.
  • It is well for us, that Christ has more love and tenderness in him than the best of his disciples have.
  • The gospel is the only remedy for lost sinners.
  • The beginning, progress, and perfecting the work of salvation, depend wholly on the almighty power of God, to which all things are possible.

Nehemiah 9

  • The word will direct and quicken prayer, for by it the Spirit helps our infirmities in prayer. The careful study of God’s word will more and more discover to us our own sinfulness, and the plenteousness of his salvation; thus it calls us to mourn for sin, and to rejoice in him. Every discovery of the truth of God, should render us more unwearied in attendance on his sacred word, and on his worship.
  • When confessing our sins, it is good to notice the mercies of God, that we may be the more humbled and ashamed. The dealings of the Lord showed his goodness and long-suffering, and the hardness of their hearts.
  • Instead of keeping away from God under a sense of unworthiness, let us come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. He is a God ready to pardon. 

Acts 19

  • We ought to be quiet, and to do nothing rashly; to do nothing in haste, of which we may repent at leisure. 

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible