Tuesday, September 30, 2014

My Year With Spurgeon #39

Christ Exalted
Charles Spurgeon
1856
“This man, after he had offered on sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool.”—Hebrews 10:12-13
You see the superiority of Christ’s sacrifice rests in this, that the priest offered continually, and after he had slaughtered one lamb, another was needed; after one scape-goat was driven into the wilderness, a scape-goat was needed the next year, “but this man, when he had offered only one sacrifice for sins,” did what thousands of scape-goats never did, and what hundreds of thousands of lambs never could effect. He perfected our salvation, and worked out an entire atonement for the sins of all his chosen ones.
He has done all that was necessary to be done, to make an atonement and an end of sin.
The God of the Aged
Charles Spurgeon
1856
“Even to your old age I am he; and even to hoar hairs will I carry you. I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you.”—Isaiah 46:4.
The doctrine, then is twofold: that God himself is the same, whatever may be our age; and that God’s dealings towards us, both in providence and in grace, his carryings and his deliverings, are alike unchanged.
The word of God is still the same; there is not one promise removed. The doctrines are the same; the truths are the same; all God’s declarations remain unchanged for ever; and I argue, from the very fact that his years do not change him.
Old age is a time of peculiar memories, of peculiar hopes, of peculiar solicitudes, of peculiar blessedness, and of peculiar duties; yet in all this, God is the same, although man be peculiar.
What was your hope when you first went to the wicket gate? Why, your hope was that you might arrive at the land of the blessed. And is it not the same now? Is your hope of heaven changed? Do you wish for anything else, or for anything better? “No,” you will say, “I thought when I started I should one day be with Jesus; that is what I expect now. I feel that my hope is precisely the same. I want to be with Jesus, to be like him, and to see him as he is.” And is not the joy of that hope just the same?

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, September 29, 2014

Quoting Martyn Lloyd-Jones #9

One of the devotionals I am using this year is Walking with God Day by Day by Martyn Lloyd-Jones. I thought I would share some of my favorite passages month by month. (JanuaryFebruaryMarchAprilMayJuneJuly, August)

From September 13
How did Christ act as a prophet on earth? He did so in all His teaching: His teaching concerning God the Father; His exposition of the law in the Sermon on the Mount; in all He told us of God’s love, of God’s gracious purpose, of His nature and His person. All this was a part of the exercise of His prophetic function, and supremely He told us about Himself. All this is vital, and I emphasize it because we sometimes forget that a part of our salvation consists in our receiving this knowledge that our Lord has given. This is why we must realize that this Gospel applies to us. All He taught applies to us; the Gospel is vital for Christian people and for Christian living. Christ is our Prophet. And then He taught us by His life and example. “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (John 14:9). “Look at me,” He said in effect. “Have not my works shown you?” (See John 10:37-38.) “Hast thou not known me, Philip?” (John 14:9). “If you only look at Me, you will learn about God.” Then let me go on to show you how He has continued to exercise His prophetic function ever since His ascension, after He left earth and returned to heaven. He said that He would speak through the Holy Spirit. “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you” (John 16:12-14). The Holy Spirit would not speak of Himself or about Himself, but the Holy Spirit would be told what to say. Christ would send the Holy Spirit to instruct. As the Son did not speak of Himself but from the Father, so the Spirit speaks as our Lord instructs Him.
From September 30
If we do not start with the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, if we are not absolutely clear about Him, then there is nothing. There is no good news, there is no evangel, there is no gospel; there is nothing to cheer us up, there is no hope. We are just living in the darkness of the world, and we are unutterably foolish in trying to persuade ourselves that things are better than they really are. There is no such thing, in a sense, as “the Christmas spirit.” That is not the Christian message, which is not a vague spirit; it is a message of news concerning Christ. So, therefore, we must of necessity start at this point and be absolutely clear about this matter. As has often been pointed out, Christianity is Christ. It all centers around Him, and every doctrine that we have and every idea that we possess is something that comes from Him. Therefore, of necessity we must start with Him, and of course John in this letter has already done so. The whole message that John has to deliver to us is that there is only one way of fellowship and communion with God, and that is because of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is He alone who can enable us to know this fellowship, for there is “one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5).  

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Week in Review: September 21-27

ESV

  • 1 Samuel 17-31
  • 2 Samuel 
  • 1 Kings
  • 2 Kings
  • 1 Chronicles 1-13
  • Acts

NASB

  • Psalms 107-150
  • Isaiah 1-10
  • Jonah
  • Mark 
  • Romans
  • Ephesians
  • Hebrews
  • 1 Peter
  • 2 Peter
  • Revelation


© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Book Review: One Way Love

One Way Love: Inexhaustible Grace for an Exhausted World. Tullian Tchividjian. 2013. David Cook. 240 pages. [Source: Bought]

I have been wanting to read One Way Love for a long time. I absolutely loved, loved, loved Tchividjian's Jesus + Nothing = Everything. Did I love One Way Love as much? I'm not sure. I certainly enjoyed reading it. I thought it was worth my time, very relevant. But in some ways it is covering the same material: grace, grace, all is grace. And I love the subject. I do. I think it's a message that is always worth hearing. But because I had already read Jesus + Nothing = Everything, it didn't wow me as much as it might have otherwise. I think it's a good book. I would definitely still recommend it.
Works righteousness is the term the Protestant Reformation used to describe spiritual performancism, and it has plagued the church—and the world—since the Garden of Eden. It might not be too much of an overstatement to say that if Jesus came to proclaim good news to the poor and release to the captives, to restore sight to the blind and give freedom for the oppressed, then Christianity has come to stand for—and in practice promulgate—the exact opposite of what its founder intended (Luke 4:18–19).
One Way Love is about our need to fight against works righteousness, this idea that we need to earn God's love or acceptance. It is about turning from the idea that we earn or add or contribute to our salvation, to our faith. The book is about embracing God's grace and using it as a foundation for our lives.

Favorite quotes:
The Bible is a record of the blessed bad. The Bible is not a witness to the best people making it up to God; it’s a witness to God making it down to the worst people.
The Bible is one long story of God meeting our rebellion with His rescue, our sin with His salvation, our guilt with His grace, our badness with His goodness. The overwhelming focus of the Bible is not the work of the redeemed but the work of the Redeemer. Which means that the Bible is not first a recipe book for Christian living but a revelation book of Jesus who is the answer to our un-Christian living.
Grace doesn’t make demands. It just gives. And from our vantage point, it always gives to the wrong person. We see this over and over again in the Gospels: Jesus is always giving to the wrong people—prostitutes, tax collectors, half-breeds. The most extravagant sinners of Jesus’s day receive his most compassionate welcome. Grace is a divine vulgarity that stands caution on its head. It refuses to play it safe and lay it up. Grace is recklessly generous, uncomfortably promiscuous.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ announces that because Jesus was strong for you, you’re free to be weak. Because Jesus won for you, you’re free to lose. Because Jesus was Someone, you’re free to be no one. Because Jesus was extraordinary, you’re free to be ordinary. Because Jesus succeeded for you, you’re free to fail. One way to summarize God’s message to the worn out and weary is like this—God’s demand: “be righteous”; God’s diagnosis: “no one is righteous”; God’s deliverance: “Jesus is our righteousness.” Once this good news grips your heart, it changes everything. It frees you from having to be perfect. It frees you from having to hold it all together. In the place of exhaustion, you might even find energy.
The law offends us because it tells us what to do—and most of the time, we hate anyone telling us what to do. But ironically, grace offends us even more, because it tells us that there is nothing we can do, that everything has already been done. And if there is something we hate more than being told what to do, it’s being told that we can’t do anything, that we can’t earn anything—that we are helpless, weak, and needy. However much we hate the law, we are more afraid of grace. Because we are natural-born do-it-yourselfers, the vitriolic reaction to unconditional grace is understandable. Grace generates panic, because it wrestles both control and glory out of our hands.
The Law, to paraphrase Martin Luther, is a divine Hercules sent to attack and kill the monster of self-righteousness—a monster that continues to harass the redeemed. We need the Law to freshly reveal to us that we are worse off than we think we are. We need to be reminded that there is something to be pardoned even in our best works and proudest achievements.
Contrary to what some Christians today would have you believe, the biggest problem facing the church today is not “cheap grace” but “cheap Law”—the idea that God accepts anything less than the perfect righteousness of Jesus.
The one-way love of God is restorative and reconciling because in the mystery of His cross, God has neutralized the effects of sin, forgiven its offense, blotted out its stain, expiated its guilt, and created a new beginning. “As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us” (Ps. 103:12). Thanks to Jesus’s sacrifice on my behalf, the sins I cannot forget, God cannot remember. Jesus is not waving some magic wand or being dishonest about who Peter was (or who we are). He is acting on the firm foundation of what his death on our behalf has accomplished. There is nothing cheap about the grace he offers repeat offenders. On the contrary—it cost him everything! The Gospel announces that Jesus came to acquit the guilty. He came to judge and be judged in our place. Christ came to satisfy the deep judgment against us once and for all so we could be free from the judgment of God, others, and ourselves. Jesus came to unburden us of our efforts at trying to deal with judgment on our own.
An identity based in the one-way love of God does not take into account public opinion or, thankfully, even personal opinion. It is a gift from Someone who is not you. As my friend Justin Buzzard wrote recently, “The gospel doesn’t just free you from what other people think about you, it frees you from what you think about yourself.” In other words, you are not who others see you to be, and you are not who you see yourself to be; you are who God sees you to be—His beloved child, with whom He is well pleased.
Salvation is not a matter of our coming to God. It is a matter of God coming to us. Robert Capon explains it in this way: Jesus came to raise the dead. The only qualification for the gift of the Gospel is to be dead. You don’t have to be smart. You don’t have to be good. You don’t have to be wise. You don’t have to be wonderful. You just have to be dead. That’s it.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Book Review: The Names of Jesus

The Names of Jesus. Warren W. Wiersbe. 1997. Baker Publishing. 159 pages. [Source: Bought]

I loved, loved, loved, LOVED Warren W. Wiersbe's The Names of Jesus. This one is so good, so wonderful, that I'd recommend it to just about everyone! I expected to like it, to benefit from reading it, to learn a few things. But I didn't expect to LOVE it so very much. Each chapter is so good, so rich, so informative, so thought-provoking.

The premise of this one is simple: names in the Bible matter: they are significant, they reveal much.
Why should we study the wonderful names of Jesus? For this reason: every name that he wears is a blessing that he shares. The better we understand the names of our Lord Jesus Christ, the better we will know him. The better we know him, the better we’ll understand what he’s done for us and what he can do for us today. The names of Christ are revelations of his glorious character and his gracious ministry to his own people, and we want to appropriate by faith every blessing that he has for us.It’s a mistake to profess to trust Jesus Christ to save us and then go on living the way we please. Either the profession is false or we have a faulty understanding of who Jesus is.
Wiersbe wants his readers to KNOW Jesus, to know who Jesus is.

Part one focuses on the Names of Jesus from Isaiah 9:6.

  • Wonderful
  • Counselor
  • The Mighty God
  • The Everlasting Father
  • Prince of Peace

Part two focuses on the Names of Jesus from the New Testament

  • The Nazarene
  • The Pioneer
  • The Carpenter
  • Our Surety
  • Alpha and Omega
  • The Lamb
  • The Firstborn
  • Immanuel
  • Jesus

It also has an introduction, "What's In a Name?" and a postscript, "What is Your Name?" These provide a very nice framework for the book.

I believe I could gush about every chapter in The Names of Jesus. I wish I could talk about every chapter, to give this book all the attention it deserves.

Favorite quotes:
Whatever Jesus touched, he blessed and beautified and made wonderful. He longed for people to open their eyes to see the world around them: the splendor of the lilies, the freedom of the sparrows, the miracle of the children, the message of the wind. He took everyday bread and wine and gave these necessities a depth of meaning that transformed them into luxuries of God’s grace. A little seed suddenly becomes a sermon: “The seed is the Word of God.” Water becomes a picture of the Holy Spirit. A lost sheep is a lost soul. He wrote in the dust and confounded the angry religious leaders. Perhaps the greatest wonder of all was his transforming a shameful cross into the meeting place of God’s love and man’s sin.
Why people have a difficult time directing their steps isn’t difficult to explain. To begin with, our hearts are basically sinful and selfish, and our motives are mixed. Jeremiah says it accurately: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9). How easy it is to say, “Well, if I know my own heart!” But the plain fact is that we don’t know our own hearts! Peter looked into his heart and thought he saw courage and stability, but when Jesus looked into Peter’s heart he saw cowardice and failure. “Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water,” warns Proverbs 20:5. Not only is the human heart desperately and deceitfully wicked, but the human mind is severely limited. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways” (Isa. 55:8). “For who has known the mind of the LORD? Or who has become his counselor?” (Rom. 11:34). As we yield to the Lord and allow his Word to “renew our minds” (Rom. 12:2), we gradually learn more about his character and his ways, and we find it easier to determine his will. But we never come to the place in life where we can ignore prayer and the Scriptures and depend only on our own thinking.
When you trust Jesus Christ to save you from your sins, you become a part of eternity; you receive the gift of eternal life. Jesus has “fathered” eternity in the lives of all who have trusted him, and this involves much more than simply having our sins forgiven and knowing that we have a home in heaven.
Jesus came to earth to reveal the eternal, and he died that we might share the eternal. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Sin is the great obstacle to our experiencing eternal life. Sin isn’t eternal; only God is eternal. Sin is outside God and therefore produces death, for God is eternal life. Our nature partakes of sin and therefore is a stranger to the eternal. We were created in the image of God, and there is a hunger for eternity in our hearts. Until we do something about our sins, however, we will never share his eternal life.
When Jesus Christ was born at Bethlehem, time and eternity met in a person, a gift that was given. When he died at Calvary, time and eternity met in a price that was paid, and that price met the demands of God’s holy law and opened the way for sinners to be forgiven and share in eternity.
It took God’s Son coming to earth to strike the final deathblow that conquered sin. At Bethlehem he was made flesh and entered the human race. At Calvary he was made sin and bore the iniquity of the human race in his own body. The cross is the great meeting place of sinners and a merciful God: “Mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed” (Ps. 85:10). It took the blood of his cross to make peace between sinners and God, and one result of this peace with God is peace with one another. Once you’ve settled the war on the inside, you can start to settle the wars on the outside. “For He Himself is our peace,” writes Paul (Eph. 2:14).
What does it mean to you and me today that Jesus Christ was called “a Nazarene”? This name speaks to us of the grace of God. When Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came into this world, he didn’t identify with Jerusalem (the leading city of religion), or with Rome (the great city of law). Nor did he come to Athens (the most prominent city of philosophy). Where did he go? He went to Nazareth; he identified with people who were despised and rejected, the poor and the needy. But the remarkable thing is this: the Lord Jesus took that despised name “Nazareth” and glorified it! He was known as “Jesus of Nazareth.” Wouldn’t you be happy to have your name identified with Jesus? Nazareth, a place despised by many, was glorified by Jesus Christ because he identified himself with it. The sad thing is that the people of Nazareth rejected him (Luke 4:16–30). A prophet is always without honor in his own country and among his own people (see Matt. 13:57).
We need not be afraid of the future because Jesus goes before us. He’s the Pioneer of life and will guide our path. He’s the Pioneer of salvation and gives us new experiences of joy and blessing as we grow. He’s the Pioneer of faith who wants us to grow in our faith, become stronger, and claim new territory in the inheritance he’s assigned to us. How do we follow the Pioneer of our salvation? Through the Word of God. The Lord has spoken to us through his Word, and it’s important that you and I study the Word, trust the Word, and obey it. Do you read your Bible daily and meditate on what it says? Do you pray daily and claim his promises? Whatever your burden or problem may be, take time to get alone daily with Jesus Christ, the Pioneer of life, the Pioneer of salvation, the Pioneer of faith. If you follow him, you will start to move forward in an exciting new way in your Christian life and testimony.
Christ is our assurance to God. We make promises to God that we don’t always keep. Jesus Christ is our assurance to God. We can’t keep ourselves saved any more than we could save ourselves to begin with! But Jesus Christ represents us at the throne of God, saying to God the Father, “I am their surety. Whatever they owe you, I have paid. Receive them as you would receive me, because they are my children.” Because of this, we Christians have the wonderful assurance that we cannot lose our salvation. We have a High Priest in heaven who lives forever. He stands before the throne of God as the guarantee—the pledge, the security—for our salvation. He is our surety forever.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

My Year with Spurgeon #38

Men Chosen -- Fallen Angels Rejected
Charles Spurgeon
1856
“Verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham.”—Hebrews 2:16.
But now we wish to draw your attention to two instances of God’s doing as he pleases in the fashioning of the works of his hands—the case of angels, and in the case of men. Angels were the elder born. God created them, and it pleased him to give unto them a free will to do as they pleased; to choose the good or to prefer the evil, even as he did to man: he gave them this stipulation—that if they should prefer the good, then their station in heaven should be for ever fixed and firm; but if they sinned, they should be punished for their guilt, and cast out from the presence of his glory into flames of fire. In an evil hour, Satan, one of the chiefs of the angels, rebelled; he tempted others, and he led astray a part of the stars of heaven. God, in his divine vengeance, smote those rebel angels, drove them from their heavenly seats, banished them from their abodes of happiness and glory, and sent them down to dwell for ever in the abyss of hell; the rest he confirmed, calling them the elect angels; he made their thrones eternally secure, and gave them an entail of those crowns which, sustained by his grace, they had preserved by the rectitude of their holy conduct. After that it pleased him to make another race of beings, called men. He did not make them all at once; he made but two of them, Adam and Eve, and he committed to their keeping the safety of their entire progeny throughout all generations; he said to Adam, as he had said to the angels, “I give unto thee free-will; thou mayest obey or disobey, as thou pleasest. There is my law; thou art not to touch yon tree. The command is by no means irksome. To keep that command will not be difficult to thee, for I have given thee free-will to choose the good.” However, so it happened, much to the misery of man, that Adam broke the covenant of works; he touched the accursed fruit, and in that day he fell. Ah! what a fall was there! Then you, and I, and all of us fell down, while cursed sin did triumph over us; there were no men that stood; there were some angels that stood, but no men, for the fall of Adam was the fall of our entire race. After one portion of the angels had fallen, it pleased God to stamp their doom, and make it fast and firm; but when man had fallen, it did not so please God; he had threatened to punish him, but in his infinite mercy he selected the major portion of the human race, whom he made the objects of his special affection, for whom he provided a precious remedy, to whom he covenanted salvation, and secured it by the blood of his everlasting Son. These are the persons whom we call the elect; and those whom he has left to perish, perish on account of their own sins, most justly, to the praise of his glorious justice. Now, here you notice divine sovereignty; sovereignty, that God chose to put both men and angels on the footing of their free-will; sovereignty, in that he chose to punish all the fallen angels with utter destruction; sovereignty, in that he chose to reprieve the whole human race, and to grant an eternal pardon to a number, whom no man can number, selected out of men, who shall infallibly be found before his right hand above. My text mentions this great fact, for when properly translated it reads thus:—“He took not up angels, but he took on him the seed of Abraham.” As this text has two translations, I shall give you the two meanings as briefly as I can.
In the first place, if Christ had taken upon himself the nature of angels, he could never have made an atonement for man.
It behooved Christ that he should take upon himself the form of a man, that he might become obedient to death, even the death of the cross.
Had our Saviour become an angel, we must note, in the next place, that he would never have been a fitting example for us.
Sweetly, also, let us remember that if Christ had been an angel, he could not have sympathised with us.
Once more, Christ became a man, and not an angel, because he desired to be one with his dear church. Christ was betrothed to his church ere time began.
Thus I have tried to explain the first part of the subject; and now for the second. The literal translation, according to the marginal reading, is, ”He took not up angels, but he took up the seed of Abraham,” by which is meant, that Christ did not die to save angels, though many of them needed salvation, but he died to save fallen man.
I have often been told, that election is a most dreadful doctrine and to teach that God saves some, and lets other perish, is to make God unjust. Sometimes I have asked how that was; and the usual answer I have got is this: Suppose a father should have a certain number of children, and he were to put some of his children into a terrible dungeon, and make the rest of them happy, would you think that father was just? Well, I reply, you have supposed a case, and I will answer you. Of course I should not: the child has a claim upon his father, and the father is bound to give him his claim; but I want to know what you mean by asking that question. How does that apply to the case of God? I did not know that all men were God’s children; I knew that they were God’s rebellious subjects, but I did not know that they were his children. I thought they did not become his children till they were born again, and that when they were his children, he did treat them all alike, and did carry them all to heaven, and give them all a mansion; and I never did hear that he sent any of his children to hell; true, I have heard you say so; I have heard you say that some of his children fall from grace, and he therefore sends them to hell, and I leave you to solve the problem how that is just; but, sir, I do not allow that all God’s creatures are his children.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, September 22, 2014

Book Review: Fair Play (2014)

Fair Play (It Happened At the Fair #2) Deeanne Gist. 2014. Howard Books 433 pages. [Source: Library]

There were things I liked about Deeanne Gist's Fair Play. There were things I disliked about the book as well. I'll start with a quick summary before I get to what I specifically liked and disliked about this one.

Billy Jack Tate, our heroine, is a doctor. She is a woman in her early thirties that has worked tremendously hard to get where she is. She has her medical degree. She's worked as a doctor in a hospital for seven years. Yet, when the novel opens, she doesn't quite have it all. She chose to leave Boston behind. She's recently moved to Chicago. She has "hung her shingle" but been unable to get any patients. Change is in her future, however. And it all starts with a speaking engagement at the fair.

Hunter Scott is a Texas Ranger temporarily working at the fair as a guard. He is, I think, the first patient Billy Jack sees in her new position at the fair. (She has been hired on as a replacement in the infirmary.) This meeting between hero and heroine--this second meeting, if I might give so much away--is unique. Not many couples come together because of constipation, I imagine. Circumstances throw them together more than a few times. Soon despite their differences, these two are good friends.

What I didn't like. For better or worse, this one did not feel like a Christian read. I know some readers may rejoice at the fact that "Christian fiction" is lowering its standards and providing more creative, descriptive, detailed "romantic" passages. Some readers may be coming from an addiction to actual (secular) smut. These passages are not exactly helpful. Some readers may not have had a past with smut--a struggle with it--but this may be enough of an introduction. As Sebastian (Little Mermaid) says, "you give them an inch…" And for the record, this is NOT the first book I've noticed this. Over the past two or three years, I've noticed this more and more in the christian fiction that I read. And in some cases, it's a matter of how it's handled and why it's there.

I also found Hunter and Billy Jack to be very hard-headed and deliberately stubborn and selfish. This is certainly part of what makes them human. Still. It can be annoying to read about people who continually don't get it like they should. For example, Billy Tate has an "I want to do it, so I will do it, no matter what, no one can talk me out of what I've decided to do, no MAN will ever be my boss" attitude which is super annoying. Because often what Hunter is wanting her to do is stay alive and out of danger.

What I liked. I liked the use of photographs throughout the book. Each chapter features a photograph at the beginning. I liked the setting. I liked learning more about the time period: the fair itself, the city of Chicago, the neighborhoods, the programs, etc. For example, many scenes of Fair Play relate in some way to Hull House, which was founded in 1889 by Jane Addams. I found the history fascinating at times.

Overall, I was a bit disappointed by Fair Play. I liked some scenes in it for sure. But I didn't love it.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible