Sunday, August 31, 2014

Week in Review: August 24-30


  • Jeremiah 6-52
  • Joel
  • John 17-21
  • Acts 
  • 2 Corinthians

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Quoting Martyn Lloyd-Jones #8

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. (January, February, March, April, May, June, July)

From August 2
The whole history of the world, if we could but see it, is a revelation of God.
From August 14
I say with reverence, nothing less than the omnipotence of God could save a single soul. But thank God, He is omnipotent, and we are saved by the power of God in and through the Lord Jesus Christ. The glory of God is the biblical way of describing God’s greatness, His splendor, His majesty. We read of the glory of God filling the Temple (1 Kings 8:11 ) and of the glory of God being manifested in dimmed vision to certain people. This means they had some conception of the greatness, the splendor, the majesty, the might of His being.
From August 15
I suppose if you were to be asked to say where the Bible teaches the holiness of God most powerfully of all, you have to go to Calvary. God is so holy, so utterly holy, that nothing but that awful death could make it possible for Him to forgive us. The cross is the supreme and the sublimest declaration and revelation of the holiness of God.
From August 26
God has made certain promises. So what is the great central promise that He has made in the covenant of grace? He has promised to be a God unto man. That is the great promise: “I will be to you a God.” Do you see the importance and significance of this? God had been the God of Adam, but Adam sinned against Him and fell; he became the slave of Satan and broke the connection with God. And the remarkable and astounding thing is that God turned to man and assured him in the covenant of grace that He had a way whereby He could still be a God to man. “I will take you to me for a people, and I will be to you a God” (Exodus 6:7). Make a note of that because as you go through the Scriptures you will find that this great promise is repeated time and time again. You will find it in Jeremiah 31:33; 32:38-40. You will find it in Ezekiel 34:23-25; 36:25-28; 37:26-27. You will find it in 2 Corinthians 6:16-18 and in Hebrews 8:10 and, in a marvelous way, in Revelation 21:3 where we read: “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them.” That is the final state. So you see that is the very essence of God’s promise in the covenant of grace—that what had been broken by sin and the Fall was going to be restored. And the supreme blessing therefore, the ultimate blessing, the blessing of blessings, is that God is my God, and that I have a right to say, “my God.” And the whole of salvation is included in that. How often do we tend to define salvation in terms other than that? Yet the greatest thing a human being can ever say since the Fall is this: “God is my God.”

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Book Review: Proof

PROOF: Finding Freedom Through the Intoxicating Joy of Irresistable Grace. Daniel Montgomery and Timothy Paul Jones. 2014. Zondervan. 224 pages. [Source: Bought]

PROOF is my new favorite book on the doctrines of grace. I loved, loved, LOVED this book! Is it fair to say the book is about the doctrines of grace? Yes and no. On the one hand, it is a book about the gospel--the whole gospel, the glorious gospel. It is a God-glorifying book about salvation.

The authors write: The gospel is the good news that God’s kingdom power has entered human history through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. When we repent and rely on his righteousness instead of our own, his kingdom power transforms us, and we become participants in the restoration of God’s world. And they continue: The three aspects of the gospel are the kingdom, the cross, and God’s grace. 1. The gospel of the kingdom is life with God under God’s rule. 2. The gospel of the cross is the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus by which God accomplishes our salvation, rescues us from his wrath, incorporates us into his people, and inaugurates his reign in the world. 3. The gospel of grace is the wonderful news that God accepts us, shares his life with us, and adopts us as heirs of his kingdom not because we have earned it or deserve it but because God chooses to give all of this freely at Christ’s expense.

On the other hand, it is a book about the doctrines of grace, the detailed doctrines surrounding the gospel, answering the little questions about salvation. If you're looking for a book about the gospel: what the gospel message is and perhaps what it isn't, then this one is for you. If you're looking for a book about the doctrines of grace, about Reformed theology, this is also the book for you.

Instead of using the acronym TULIP, the authors choose one of their own acronym: PROOF.

P -- planned grace

  • Before time began, God mapped out the plan of salvation from first to last. God planned to adopt particular people as his own children; Christ offered himself as a sacrifice for these people’s sins and as a substitute who satisfied God’s righteous requirements in their place (John 10:11-18; Ephesians 1:4-12).

R -- resurrecting grace
  • Everyone is born spiritually dead. Left to ourselves, we will never choose God’s way. God enables people to respond freely to his grace by giving them spiritual life through the power of Christ’s resurrection (John 5:21; Ephesians 2:1-7).
O -- outrageous grace
  • God chose people to be saved on the basis of his own sovereign will. He didn’t base his choice to give us grace on anything that we did or might do (John 15:16; Ephesians 2:8-9).
O -- overcoming grace
  • God chose people to be saved on the basis of his own sovereign will. He didn’t base his choice to give us grace on anything that we did or might do (John 15:16; Ephesians 2:8-9).
F -- forever grace
  • God seals his people with his Holy Spirit so that they are preserved and persevere in faith until the final restoration of God’s kingdom on the earth (John 10:27-29; Ephesians 1:13-14; 4:30).
Over half the book focuses on explaining each point or doctrine. One chapter per letter. Other chapters provide context and give the reader a big picture understanding of the gospel. I loved the appendix material, in particular, I loved PROOF texts and PROOF distilled.

So why did I love this one so much? I loved how it was written. I loved the clarity. I loved the reliance on Scripture. I loved how detailed it was. The details were never overwhelming or confusing. I loved how relevant and practical it was. PROOF is not dry theology or philosophy. It is so very readable.  I would definitely recommend this one!

In eternity past, God chose to save undeserving sinners “to the praise of his glorious grace” (Ephesians 1:5-6). Now he is on a global rescue mission, chasing down undeserving rebels and changing their hearts so that they turn to him and freely submit to his kingship (Isaiah 43:5-7; Acts 16:14; Ephesians 1:5; Revelation 5:9-10). By his grace, God transforms sinners into his beloved adopted children, filling the bank accounts of their identity with all the goodness of his Son, sealing their destiny by the power of his Spirit, and securing them on a journey that will not end until his splendor floods the earth like waters surging in the sea (Psalm 72:19; Habakkuk 2:14; Romans 4:24; 2 Corinthians 1:21-22; Ephesians 1:4-5, 13-14). The true and living God does all this for his own glory and for the praise of his grace (Isaiah 43:7; Ephesians 1:6; 1 Peter 5:10). When the apostle Paul described God’s works of grace, he found himself facedown in worship, overwhelmed by a mystery he couldn’t comprehend: “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! . . . To him be the glory forever!” (Romans 11:33, 36).
Ever since human sin plunged the world into darkness, people have been working to bury God’s sovereignty and mystery beneath an ever-multiplying multitude of graceless counterfeits (Romans 1:23). As John Calvin once observed, “Human nature is, so to speak, a workshop that’s continually crafting idols.”
It’s time to wake up. If you’re a believer in Jesus Christ, your deeds no longer determine your destiny. From the moment you first rest in Christ as your only hope, you have no failures to hide and no triumphs to hide behind. Your short-fallings no longer fall short. Your future is secure. You are forgiven, and you are free (Matthew 17:25 – 26; John 8:31 – 36). There is no greater favor for you to earn because God has already given you the greatest favor of all: “the gift of [being right with God] . . . through the one man, Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:17). Nothing remains for you to prove. Your right standing is the right standing of Christ himself, given by grace through faith “from first to last” (Romans 1:17). 
Spiritual zombies don’t choose the gift of God’s grace for the same reason that prison escapees don’t show up voluntarily at police stations. It isn’t because convicted felons are incapable of locating their local law-enforcement agency. It’s because the police represent everything the convict wants to avoid. Ever since our expulsion from Eden, every human being has been a convicted corpse on the run from God’s reign. Apart from God’s single-handed gift of resurrecting grace, no human being will ever seek God because a death-defeating King who demands that we find our greatest joy in his Father’s fame is repulsive to the spiritually dead (John 3:19 – 20; Romans 3:11).
The gospel of grace is a divine declaration that Jesus Christ has already secured all that’s required to turn zombie corpses into chosen children. The only right response to such a glorious announcement is to discard every concern about what you must do, to cling desperately to what Christ has already done, and to call everyone around you to cling to Christ with you.
God’s grace is based on who he is, not on who we are. His plan is fixed and his hand is steady. He does not change his mind, he does not get nervous, and he does not hesitate. When God chose us, he declared, “These people belong to me.” There is nothing in the universe strong enough to remove God’s chosen ones from his hands. Believers don’t merely enter eternal life when they die; eternal life enters us when we believe and it can never leave — if it did leave us, it wouldn’t have been eternal!
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

My Year with Spurgeon #34

Unimpeachable Justice
Charles Spurgeon
“Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.”—Psalm 51:4
Our subject this morning, then, will be, both in the condemnation and in the punishment of every sinner, God will be justified: and he will be made most openly clear, from the two facts of the sinner’s own confession, and God himself having been an eye-witness of the deed. And as for the severity of it, there shall be no doubt upon the mind of any man who shall receive it, for God shall prove to him in his own soul, that damnation is nothing more nor less than the legitimate reward of sin.
There are two kinds of condemnation: the one is the condemnation of the elect, which takes place in their hearts and consciences, when they have the sentence of death in themselves, that they should not trust in themselves—a condemnation which is invariably followed by peace with God, because after that there is no further condemnation, for they are then in Christ Jesus, and they walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. The second condemnation is that of the finally impenitent, who, when they die, are most righteously and justly condemned by God for the sins they have committed—a condemnation not followed by pardon, as in the present case, but followed by inevitable damnation from the presence of God. On both these condemnations we will discourse this morning. God is clear when he speaks, and he is just when he condemns, whether it be the condemnation which he passes on Christian hearts, or the condemnation which he pronounces from his throne, when the wicked are dragged before him to receive their final doom.
The Christian, when he is condemned by the Holy Law, makes a confession, a full and free confession. He feels, when God records the sentence against him, that the execution of it would be just, for his now honest heart compels him to confess the whole story of his guilt. Allow me to make some remarks on the confession which is followed by pardon.
First, such a confession is a sincere one. It is not the prattling confession used by the mere formalist, when he bends his knee and exclaims that he is a sinner; but it is a confession which is undoubtedly sincere, because it is attended by awful agonies of mind, and usually by tears, and sighs, and groans.
This confession is attended with no apology on account of sin. We have heard of men who have confessed their guilt, and afterwards tried to extenuate their crime, and shew some reasons why they were not so guilty as apparently they would seem to be; but when the Christian confesses his guilt, you never hear a word of extenuation or apology from him.
Again: after the Christian confesses his sin, he offers no promise that he will of himself behave better.
Again: when the Christian is condemned by the law in his conscience, there is something else which makes God just in condemning him beside his confession, and that is the fact, that God himself, the Judge, comes forward as a witness to the crime. The convinced sinner feels in his own soul that his sins were committed to the face of God, in the teeth of his mercy, and that God was an exact and minute observer of every part and particle of the crime for which he is now to be condemned, and the sin which has brought him to the bar. “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.”
The other question which I hinted at as being on the public mind, is the severity of the punishment. In the case of a believer, when he is condemned, there is no doubt about the justice of the punishment. When God the Holy Ghost in the soul passes sentence on the old man, and condemns it for its sins, there is felt most solemnly in the heart the great truth, that hell itself is but a rightful punishment for sin.
As every man finds fault with the gallows who is going to be hung, so do many men find fault with hell because they fear that they are in danger of it.
But the convinced sinner is a fair witness; God has made him so, for he feels in his soul that there will be pardon given to him, and that God, by grace, will never condemn him there; but at the same time he feels that he deserves it, and he confesses that hell is not too great a punishment, and that the eternity of it is not too long a duration of punishment for the sin which he has committed.
But now a little concerning THE SECOND CONDEMNATION, which is the more fearful of the two. Some of you have never been condemned by God’s law in your conscience. Now, as I stated at first, that every man must be condemned once, so I beg to repeat it. You must either have the sentence of condemnation passed on you by the law in your conscience, and then find mercy in Christ Jesus, or else you must be condemned to another world, when you shall stand with all the human race before God’s throne.
God will be clear when he condemns a sinner, from this fact, that the sinner when he stands before God’s bar, will either have made a confession, or else such will be his terror, that he will scarce be able to brazen it out before the Almighty.
But in the second place, God will be just, because there will be witnesses there to prove it. There will be no need of witnesses; God himself will open his Book; and how astonished will you be, when all your crimes are announced, with every individual circumstance connected with them—all the minuteness of your motives, and an exact description of your designs! Suppose I should be allowed to open one of the books of God, and read that description, how astonished you would be! But what will be your astonishment, when God shall open his great book and say, “Sinner, here is thy case,” and begin to read! Ah! mark how the tears run down the sinner’s cheek; the sweat of blood comes from every pore; and the loud thundering voice still reads on, while the righteous execrate the man who could commit such acts as are recorded in that book. There may be no murder staining the page, but there may be the filthy imagination, and God reads what a man imagines; for to imagine sin is vile, though to do it is viler still. I know I should not like to have my thoughts read over for a single day. Oh! when you stand before God’s bar, and hear all this, wilt thou not say, “Lord, thou wilt condemn me, but I cannot help saying thou art just when thou condemnest, and clear when thou judgest.” There will be eye-witnesses there.
One of the miseries of hell will be that the sinner will feel that he deserves it all.
You must measure your sins not by their apparent heinousness, but by the light against which you sinned.
Oh! my dear hearers, my beloved hearers, I cannot bring you to Christ. Christ has brought some of you himself, but I cannot bring you to Christ. How often have I tried to do it! I have tried to preach my Saviour’s love, and this day I have preached my Father’s wrath; but I feel I cannot bring you to Christ. I may preach God’s law; but that will not affright you, unless God sends it home to your heart; I may preach my Saviour’s love, but that will not woo you, unless my Father draw you.
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, August 25, 2014

Book Review: Slave

Slave: The Hidden Truth About Your Identity in Christ. John MacArthur. 2010. December 2010. Thomas Nelson. 227 pages. [Source: Bought]

I first reviewed John MacArthur's Slave in 2011. I loved it then. I love it now. It's a book well worth reading and rereading. Are you a slave to sin? Or are you a slave of Christ? What does it mean to be Christ's slave? What does the Bible mean by the word slave? (And why do most translations get it wrong and translate the word slave as servant?) Why is the Bible so rich in slave-master imagery? MacArthur addresses these questions in this book. To keep it very simple, the book is about what it means to be a Christian: to be a Christian is to be a slave. The book is plenty complex. MacArthur examines slavery in the Old Testament and the New Testament. He specifically talks about slave culture during the Roman Empire. He provides readers with the context they need to grasp the significance of the biblical imagery. Readers learn about slaves; readers learn about masters. In the Christian context. Do you see God as your master? Should you be seeing God as your master? I loved how the book ties slavery into adoption. The book concludes with four "rich paradoxes" of Scripture: slavery brings freedom, slavery ends prejudice, slavery magnifies grace, and slavery pictures salvation.

Overall, the book is just excellent. I highly recommend it!!! 

The table of contents:

  • One Hidden Word
  • Ancient History, Timeless Truth
  • The Good and Faithful Slave
  • The Lord and Master (Part 1)
  • The Lord and Master (Part 2)
  • Our Lord and Our God 
  • The Slave Market of Sin
  • Bound, Blind, and Dead
  • Saved From Sin, Slaved by Grace
  • From Slaves to Sons (Part 1)
  • From Slaves to Sons (Part 2)
  • Ready to Meet the Master
  • The Riches of the Parodox

When we call ourselves Christians, we proclaim to the world that everything about us, including our very self-identity, is found in Jesus Christ because we have denied ourselves in order to follow and obey Him. He is both our Savior and our Sovereign, and our lives center on pleasing Him. To claim the title is to say with the apostle Paul, "To live is Christ and to die is gain" (Phil. 1:21) (11)
In addition to the name Christian, the Bible uses a host of other terms to identify the followers of Jesus. Scripture describes us as aliens and strangers of God, citizens of heaven, and lights to the world. We are heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, members of His body, sheep in His flock, ambassadors in His service, and friends around His table. We are called to compete like athletes, to fight like soldiers, to abide like branches in a vine, and even to desire His Word as newborn babies long for milk. All of these descriptions--each in its own unique way--help us to understand what it means to be a Christian. Yet, the Bible uses one metaphor more frequently than any of these. It is a word picture you might not expect, but it is absolutely critical for understanding what it means to follow Jesus. It is the image of a slave. Time and time again throughout the pages of Scripture, believers are referred to as slaves of God and slaves of Christ. In fact, whereas the outside world called them Christians, the earliest of believers repeatedly referred to themselves in the New Testament as the Lord's slaves. For them, the two ideas were synonymous. To be a Christian was to be a slave of Christ. (12)
We don't hear about that concept much in churches today. In contemporary Christianity the language is anything but slave terminology. It is about success, health, wealth, prosperity, and the pursuit of happiness. We often hear that God loves people unconditionally and wants them to be all they want to be. He wants to fulfill every desire, hope, and dream. Personal ambition, personal fulfillment, personal gratification--these have all become a part of the language of evangelical Christianity--and part of what it means to have a "personal relationship with Jesus Christ." Instead of teaching the New Testament gospel--where sinners are called to submit to Christ--the contemporary message is exactly the opposite: Jesus is here to fulfill all your wishes. Likening him to a personal assistant or a personal trainer, many churchgoers speak of a personal Savior who is eager to do their bidding and help them in their quest for self-satisfaction or individual accomplishment. The New Testament understanding of the believer's relationship to Christ could not be more opposite. He is the Master and Owner. We are His possession. He is the King, the Lord, and the Son of God. We are His subjects and His subordinates. In a word, we are His slaves. (14-15)
The gospel is not simply an invitation to become Christ's associate; it is a mandate to become His slave. (19)
Though the doctrine of total depravity is often the most attacked and minimized of the doctrines of grace, it is the most distinctly Christian doctrine because it is foundational to a right understanding of the gospel (in which God initiates everything and receives all the glory). The neglect of this doctrine within American evangelicalism has resulted in all kinds of errors, including both the watered-down gospel and the seeker-driven pragmatism of the church growth movement. But the Scripture is clear: unless the Spirit of God gives spiritual life, all sinners are completely unable to change their fallen nature or to rescue themselves from sin and divine judgment. They can neither initiate nor accomplish any aspect of that redemption. Even the supposed "good things" that unbelievers do are like filthy rags before a Holy God (Isa. 64:6). Contrast that with every other religious system, in which people are told that through their won efforts they can achieve some level of righteousness, thereby contributing to their salvation. Nothing could be further from the truth. (121-2)
Adoption, in Roman times, signified a new beginning: entrance into a new family such that all previous family ties and obligations were broken. The adoption process consisted of several specific legal procedures. The first step completely terminated the adopted child's social relationship and legal connection to his natural family. The second step made him a permanent member of his new family. Additionally, any previous financial obligations were eradicated, as if they had never existed… Once the adoption was complete, the new son or daughter was then completely under the care and control of the new father. The previous father no longer had any authority over his former child. (156-7)
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Week in Review: August 17-23


  • Nehemiah
  • Esther
  • Job 
  • Isaiah 40-66
  • Jeremiah 1-5
  • Matthew 18-28
  • John 1-16
  • 1 Corinthians
  • 1 Thessalonians
  • 2 Thessalonians
  • 1 Timothy
  • 2 Timothy

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Book Review: Sweet Mercy

Sweet Mercy. Ann Tatlock. 2013. Bethany House. 400 pages. [Source: Gift]

Sweet Mercy is historical fiction set in 1931 in Mercy, Ohio. It is partly a coming-of-age story, and partly a romance. Sweet Mercy is very much about Prohibition. Is it a good law? a bad law? a foolish law? a wise law?

The heroine is seventeen year old Eve Marryat. Her family has recently moved to town to stay with her Uncle Cy who owns and runs Marryat Island Ballroom and Lodge. Her family will be contributing by working whatever jobs are needed for her Uncle on any given day. Eve will have some time to herself, but, she'll also spend plenty of time working. She'll meet some people her own age. She'll have her first romance, for better or worse.

Eve has a lot to learn about life in the summer of 1931. It is a life-changing summer in many ways. She has much to consider, much to decide, much to realize. Can a person be both good and bad? Can a good person do bad things? Can a bad person do good things? How can you tell a good person from a bad person if they both are capable of doing good and bad?

I loved many things about Sweet Mercy. I loved Eve and her family. I loved Eve's friendship with her step-cousin, Jones. I appreciated the character of Jones. I felt for him, I really did. And I loved to see Eve reach out to him as she did. I also liked Eve's developing relationship with her future husband. I liked the framework of the story: the framework being her telling the story of that summer to her grandson.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible