Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Book Review: David Brainerd

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

My Summer With John #12

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

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

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, July 25, 2016

Book Review: Theologians You Should Know

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Week in Review: July 17-23

ERV, 1885

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


  • John 1-5

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, July 22, 2016

Book Review: Hello, I'm Johnny Cash

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

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

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

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

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

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

I Walk The Line

The Man in Black

Ring of Fire

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, July 21, 2016

My Summer with John #11

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

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

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Book Review: One of the Few

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

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

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

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

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

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible