Friday, June 23, 2017

Book Review: The Knowledge of the Holy

Knowledge of the Holy. A.W. Tozer. 1961/1978. HarperCollins. 128 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]

From the preface: True religion confronts earth with heaven and brings eternity to bear upon time.

From chapter one: What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. 

Why read A.W. Tozer's The Knowledge of the Holy?

Because…"It is impossible to keep our moral practices sound and our inward attitudes right while our idea of God is erroneous or inadequate. If we would bring back spiritual power to our lives, we must begin to think of God more nearly as He is."

Because…"What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us."

Because…"Wrong ideas about God are not only the fountain from which the polluted waters of idolatry flow; they are themselves idolatrous. The idolater simply imagines things about God and acts as if they were true."

Because... "If we insist upon trying to imagine Him, we end with an idol, made not with hands but with thoughts; and an idol of the mind is as offensive to God as an idol of the hand."

Because…"We can never know who or what we are till we know at least something of what God is."

Because…"It is not a cheerful thought that millions of us who live in a land of Bibles, who belong to churches and labor to promote the Christian religion, may yet pass our whole life on this earth without once having thought or tried to think seriously about the being of God."

Technically, all those reasons are reasons to read the Good Book, the Word of God, Holy Scriptures. But I think the Holy Spirit can and will use Tozer's words--long after he's dead--to inspire new generations to seek God.

The Knowledge of the Holy is a theological-devotional book about the attributes of God. You may not be used to theology crossing over into devotions, but this Tozer quote sums up how this is so.
The study of the attributes of God, far from being dull and heavy, may for the enlightened Christian be a sweet and absorbing spiritual exercise. To the soul that is athirst for God, nothing could be more delightful.
What is an attribute?

  • An attribute of God is whatever God has in any way revealed as being true of Himself.
  • An attribute, as we can know it, is a mental concept, an intellectual response to God's self-revelation. It is an answer to a question, the reply God makes to our interrogation concerning himself.
  • What is God like? What kind of God is He? How may we expect Him to act toward us and toward all created things? Such questions are not merely academic. They touch the far-in reaches of the human spirit, and their answers affect life and character and destiny.
  • Between His attributes no contradiction can exist.
  • The divine attributes are what we know to be true of God. He does not possess them as qualities; they are how God is as He reveals Himself to His creatures. Love, for instance, is not something God has and which may grow or diminish or cease to be. His love is the way God is, and when He loves He is simply being Himself.
I recommend Knowledge of the Holy to every believer--no matter their age, gender, or denomination. You may or may not agree with every single sentence Tozer ever spoke--ever wrote--but what you will find is someone who challenges you to think, to consider, to grow. Tozer rarely leaves readers the same. 

 


© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, June 22, 2017

My Summer with Psalm 119 #3

As a few of you know, I love, love, LOVE Psalm 119. I thought it would be great to spend a summer focusing on that psalm and what others have had to say about it. I'll begin with Thomas Manton's Exposition of Psalm 119. It may take all summer to read all 158 sermons. But they're so GOOD, so RICH, I think it will be worth it.

Sermon three covers Psalm 119:2. 

This is the second sermon by Thomas Manton which covers the second verse. It's a rich verse, and it deserves more attention. Essentially, this time we focus exclusively on SEEKING God. 

I think John Piper would approve of this sermon very much!!! The ideas in this sermon may seem a bit radical, a bit extreme to modern ears. But certainly not to John Piper! He has been advocating the whole DELIGHT in God concept for decades. 

I invite you to read and reread these quotes slowly, to really stop and consider what it means to seek God. Do you agree with Manton?!  

  • We do not live merely to live; but for this end were we sent into the world, to seek God.
  • God is the cause of all things, and nature cannot be satisfied without him.
  • We were made for God, and can never enjoy satisfaction until we come to enjoy him;
  • We are seeking that for which we were created, when we seek and inquire after God.
  • The chiefest good should be sought after with the chiefest care, and chiefest love, and chiefest delight; nothing should be so precious to us as God.
  • It is the greatest baseness that can be, that anything should take up our time, our thoughts, and content us more than God.
  • If anything be sought from God above God, more than God, and not for God, it is but a brutish cry.
  • It is our benefit to seek God. It is no benefit to God if we do not seek him. The Lord hath no less, though we have less. He that hides himself from the sun, doth not impair the light. We derogate nothing from God if we do not seek him. He needed not the creature: he had happiness enough in himself; but we hide ourselves from our own happiness and our own peace.
  • Every hour we need his direction, protection, strength; and we are in danger to lose him, if we do not continue the search.
  • Wrestle through discouragements; though former endeavours have been in vain, yet still we should continue seeking after God.
  • It is not enough to own Christ to be the true Messiah, but we must embrace him, put our whole trust in him.
  • To seek God with the whole heart, is to seek him with the highest elevation of our hearts. The whole heart must be carried out to God, and to other things for God’s sake.
  • He that gives but part to God doth indeed give nothing.
  • The devil keeps an interest as long as one lust remains unmortified, and one corner of the soul is kept for him.
  • We were not mangled in our creation; God, that made the whole, must have the whole. He preserves the whole. Christ hath bought the whole:
  • All that you have is to be glorified in the day of Christ; all that you are and have must be given to him—whole spirit, soul, and body. Let us not deprive him of any part.


© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Book Review: Finding Grace in the Face of Dementia

Finding Grace in the Face of Dementia. John Dunlop, MD. 2017. Crossway. 208 pages.  [Source: Review copy]

First sentence from introduction: Dementia, dignity, and honoring God—you must be kidding! Chances are you have never seen those three thoughts in the same sentence. How can such a tragedy as dementia be dignified, and how in the world can God be honored through it?

Premise/plot: Dunlop provides a Christian perspective of care on dementia in his new book. He writes in the introduction, "My purpose in writing this book is to provide a theological lens through which we can view dementia and then give a number of practical ways in which it can be applied. I trust it will be useful for those who are developing the disease as well as those who care for people at any stage of it. I also hope that many professional caregivers, whether doctors, nurses, chaplains, or social workers, will benefit from this read. In addition, I believe it will be useful for pastors, other church leaders, and members of ethics committees. I suspect that most readers will be followers of Jesus, but I truly hope that the book will be read by non-Christians as well. I am impressed by how many who do not embrace the Christian faith nevertheless hold the life and teachings of Jesus in high regard. My desire is that they will profit from a deeper consideration of how Jesus would respond to dementia."

Table of Contents:
Introduction
God and Dementia
What Should We Know About Dementia?
What about Diagnosis?
Can Dementia Be Prevented or Treated?
How Does It Feel to Have Dementia?
The Experience of Caregiving
Help for Caregivers
How Can We Honor God Through Dementia?
Respect the Dignity of Those with Dementia
Meet the Needs of Those With Dementia
What Should the Church Do?
Grow Through the Experience of Dementia
End-of-Life Issues

My thoughts: First and foremost the book is practical and packed with information. Some of this information is medical: what is dementia? what are the different types of dementia? what are the signs of dementia? when should you see a doctor if someone you love is showing signs of dementia? are there ways to slow down dementia? what kinds of help are available for caregivers? The book has plenty of tips.
There are number of practical ways in which we can respect dignity by entering the world of people with dementia. Here are a few examples: 1. Get to know their past history, if you are not already familiar with it. Talk to them about stories from their past to allow them to enjoy the memories they still have. It may help to compile a picture book and have them explain the pictures in it. 2. Share some funny stories. They may not understand them, but if you laugh, they may enjoy laughing along with you. 3. Learn what they prefer to be called and use that when speaking with them. It may be the nickname they had as a child. 4. Learn their likes and dislikes from earlier in their lives. You might take them to places they used to enjoy and serve them the comfort foods they once relished. Their forgetfulness may enable you to do this repeatedly. If they used to love mac and cheese, they may be fine eating it every day. 5. Play the music and sing the songs they used to love. 6. Slow down to get into their world. Life for those with dementia moves slowly. Anything you do together will take more time, as it may upset them or even lead to a meltdown if they feel rushed. 7. Respect the constrictions of dementia. As the disease progresses, patients will be less interested in the past and future and more focused on the present. They will be less interested in news of the world outside and may not want to leave the comfort of their home or room. What is going on in the lives of other people may not be important to them; eventually, however, they will care only about how they feel in the here and now. To respect their dignity, those around them must learn to enjoy the present moment with them. At times, being touched and held may be all they want. Recognize that caregivers’ need for activity may be far greater than theirs. 8. Respect their resistance to change. Establish routines they are comfortable with. Having meals at the same time and going to bed and getting up on a regular schedule are usually best. The world they live in does not require much variety. 9. If they perceive that you did something wrong and have become upset by it, accept that their understanding of what happened may be totally different from yours. Do not make excuses but apologize profusely. That will affirm them, avoid arguments, and allow them to feel better. 
But there are also theological aspects of this one. Dunlop examines the subjects of dignity and human worth. He asserts that it is not our intellect or memory that makes us have worth; our image-bearing does not stop with diagnosis. No matter how much the mind deteriorates, our worth and value does not diminish or lessen. Dunlop also focuses on God. God is good. God is faithful. God is sovereign. God is wise. God is ever present. God is the God of all comfort. He writes, "As we celebrate God’s goodness, we must recognize that part of his loving care for us is allowing difficulties to come into our lives—such as dementia. We cannot deny that dealing with dementia, whether from the perspective of the patient, the caregiver, or other observers, involves emotional, spiritual, and at times even physical suffering. To handle it well, Christians need to be taught early in their lives that God is in control, that he always does what is good, and that we can trust him through the hard times of life. If we are going to endure suffering in a way that honors God, we need a robust understanding of how God uses suffering. This must start with an understanding of who God is."

He concludes, "If we are going to honor God in and even through dementia, we first need to know God in an intimate way. We need to think the way he thinks, respond to life’s situations the way he responds, love the things he loves, and value the things he values. When we know God in this way, we are able to respond to dementia the way God himself would respond."

Favorite quotes:

  • Compassion is not only showing love and kindness, but it is also understanding how others feel and then allowing ourselves to feel that same way. It is taking the time and effort to get into their lives to see the world as they see it. If they are frustrated, for example, we must allow ourselves to feel that frustration. This is crucial when relating to those with dementia.
  • Caregiving is a distinct call from God. It is not something we randomly fall into. Unfortunately, it may seem like this responsibility is foisted upon us, but that is not true. We often think of God’s calling as something that comes to us through a great, supernatural experience, but often the call comes to us by the circumstances he puts in our path.
  • Caregiving may be a trial, but it is carefully orchestrated by a loving God to transform the life of the caregiver. Furthermore, the caregiver will recognize that the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross was, in part, to be an example of sacrificial giving to others.
  • We basically have three options for how we spend our time: we may choose to invest time well, doing things with eternal value; we may spend most or part of our lives in sin; or, third, we may spend time doing things that, though not bad in themselves, are frankly a waste of time. There will come a day when we will stand before God to have our works judged. Thankfully, we will not be judged for our sinful deeds, for when we trusted Christ, they were forgiven. What will be judged is the amount of time we invested in doing good for eternity in comparison to the time we wasted.
  • Since memory is so important and God values it so highly, we must do whatever we can to preserve the memories of those who have dementia. We can do this by repeatedly telling them the stories of their lives. We should emphasize how God graciously brought them to himself and worked in and through them. And they may never tire of hearing the Bible stories they knew from Sunday school. We need to keep repeating that God loves them and that Jesus died for them. We need to use hymns, either singing or listening, as they will touch their emotional memories. We should also continually remind them of our love for them. 
  • We must never allow their cognitive impairment to blind us to their emotional needs. They may feel much more than they know, and how they feel may be far more important to them then what they know.
  • Music is a wonderful way to reach the spirit of people with dementia. Our church used to offer a worship service in the assisted-living facility next door. One dear friend was there every weekend playing his guitar and singing the old hymns. We were amazed how many of the residents, even with dementia, would either sing along or sit smiling in quiet reverie. I would on occasion be asked to present a brief devotional. In spite of my best efforts, many slept or did not follow even the simplest of thoughts. It was not the preaching that reached their souls; it was the music.
  • The best thing that a local church can do to prepare victims and caregivers for the spiritual challenges of dementia is to instill in them a deep and joyful experience with Jesus. If Christians memorize Scripture and sing hymns often enough to ingrain them in their brains, they may become part of their emotional and procedural memories, thereby being more likely to recall them once faced with dementia. For the caregiver, Scripture and hymns may sustain them through days of challenge and difficulty when they have so little time to nurture their own spiritual lives.
  • There is no guarantee that prayer, reading the Scriptures, and other disciplines of the Christian life established prior to the onset of dementia will continue through the course of the disease, but it is fairly certain that if they were not practiced before the onset of dementia, they will not be practiced afterward. 
  • God’s people must understand that suffering is not a tragic mistake that comes into our lives. Scripture assures us that it is the norm for a Christian. In the book of Acts the apostles taught that “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). Peter writes, “Let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator” (1 Pet. 4:19). Yes, times of suffering are not a tragic mistake in God’s universe; he ordains them according to his will.


© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, June 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

My Year with Owen #25

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.
  • The word of Christ is the word of the gospel; the word by him revealed from the bosom of the Father; the word of the Word; the word spoken in time of the eternal Word. ~ John Owen
  • Now this word is called “the word of Christ’s patience,” or tolerance and forbearance, upon the account of that patience and longsuffering which, in the dispensation of it, the Lord Christ exercises toward the whole, and to all persons in it; and that both actively and passively, in his bearing with men and enduring from them. He is patient toward his saints— he bears with them, suffers from them. He is “patient toward us” (2 Pet. 3: 9)— that is, that believe. The gospel is the word of Christ’s patience even to believers.  ~ John Owen
  • He that knows not the word of Christ’s patience as a sanctifying, cleansing word, in the power of it upon his own soul, neither knows it nor keeps it. The empty profession of our days knows not one step toward this duty; and thence it is that the most are so overborne under the power of temptations. Men full of self, of the world, of fury, ambition, and almost all unclean lusts, do yet talk of keeping the word of Christ! (See 1 Peter 1: 2; 2 Timothy 2: 19.) ~ John Owen
  • We have arrived, then, to the sum of this safeguarding duty, of this condition of freedom from the power of temptation: He that, having a due acquaintance with the gospel in its excellencies, as to him a word of mercy, holiness, liberty, and consolation, values it, in all its concerns, as his choicest and only treasure— makes it his business and the work of his life to give himself up unto it in universal obedience, then especially when opposition and apostasy put the patience of Christ to the utmost— he shall be preserved from the hour of temptation. ~ John Owen
  • He that keeps close to Christ is crucified with him and is dead to all the desires of the flesh and the world (as more fully: Gal. 6: 14). Here the match is broken, and all love, entangling love, dissolved. The heart is crucified to the world and all things in it. ~ John Owen
  • If liking and love of the things proposed, insinuated, commended in the temptation be living and active in us, we shall not be able to resist and stand. ~ John Owen
  • He that makes it his business to eat daily of the tree of life will have no appetite unto other fruit, though the tree that bear them seem to stand in the midst of paradise. ~ John Owen
  • “Let a soul exercise itself to a communion with Christ in the good things of the gospel— pardon of sin, fruits of holiness, hope of glory, peace with God, joy in the Holy Ghost, dominion over sin— and he shall have a mighty preservative against all temptations.” ~ John Owen
  • Consider that you are always under the eye of Christ, the great captain of our salvation, who has enjoined us to watch thus, and pray that we enter not into temptation. What do you think are the thoughts and the heart of Christ when he sees a temptation hastening toward us, a storm rising about us, and we are fast asleep? Does it not grieve him to see us expose ourselves so to danger, after he has given us warning upon warning? ~ John Owen



© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, June 19, 2017

Book Review: New Testament Words for Today

New Testament Words for Today. Warren Wiersbe. 2013. 207 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence from preface: If you know how to select them, five words can express unforgettable, life-changing thoughts.

Premise/plot: New Testament Words for Today is a devotional by Warren W. Wiersbe. It contains one hundred devotions for believers. Each devotion is based on a New Testament scripture. (He goes through the New Testament books in order.) Within each scripture, he italicizes five words for emphasis. The devotional itself is based on the whole verse. 

Here are some of the five words:
  • And he called His name Jesus.
  • This is My beloved Son
  • Therefore you shall be perfect
  • do not sound a trumpet
  • O you of little faith?
  • Enter by the narrow gate;
  • seek, and you will find;
  • Lord, I am not worthy
  • He was moved with compassion
  • I will build My church,
  • I will go before you
  • “I am willing; be cleansed.”
  • My soul is exceedingly sorrowful,
  • your sins are forgiven you.
  • Bless those who curse you
  • but the laborers are few
  • Do not fear, little flock
  • Bring out the best robe
  • and the Word was God.
  • you shall be free indeed.
  • I am the good shepherd.
  • your joy may be full.
My thoughts: This would be a great devotional for those reading through the New Testament--whether for the first time or the tenth time. And it's not such a bad goal to read the New Testament itself in 100 days or less. The devotionals are definitely Christ-centered and thoughtful. There is plenty of information and insight to be found. 

Favorite quotes:

  • Once he gets us to doubt God’s love, Satan has an easy time destroying our faith, hope, and love.
  • Whenever you are tempted, never once question the Father’s love.
  • The cross is the greatest proof of God’s love. We know God loves us, not because we are healthy, wealthy, and enjoying an easy life, but because he told us so in the Scriptures. In fact, the Father loves us just as he loves his own Son.
  • When you doubt God’s love, visit the cross.
  • The lost world will never believe John 3:16 if Christians don’t obey 1 John 3:16—“By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” And 1 John 4:11 says, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” Christians are to be channels, not reservoirs; we share God’s love with others as the Holy Spirit works in and through
  • If our faith does not operate in the affairs of daily life, it will never operate in the great challenges of ministry or spiritual warfare.
  • The more we feed on God’s truth, the stronger our faith will become. 
  • Prayer is not simply a conversation with God in which we tell him all our needs. Prayer is also a journey with God during which he shows us himself and his resources.
  • If we don’t know what we are seeking, our journey will be a waste of time.
  • We are never more like Jesus than when we are compassionate.
  • Everybody you meet is wearing some kind of yoke, some responsibility that burdens them, and most of them are trying to do it alone. Those who know Jesus as Master know that he is the burden-bearer, not carrying the burdens instead of us but carrying them with us.
  • When we are intimate with Jesus in his Word, we grow in our knowledge of God and his will for us. We cannot control the world around us, but with God’s help, we can control the world within us and experience the “peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” (Phil. 4:7).
  • When we find ourselves troubled about things that are beyond us, let’s obey the voice of Jesus: “Bring them here to Me.” We are not manufacturers; we are distributors.
  • You and I have enough to do handling our own lives without meddling with the lives of others.
  • We don’t live on explanations or contracts; we live on the promises of God.
  • Let’s take time for individuals, no matter how full the schedule or how weary the body. This makes us more like our Master. 
  • To carry a cross means to be headed for crucifixion. Each day we must willingly take up our cross and die to the old life.
  • Don’t fear the cross, for it leads to the crown. What seems to be loss will turn out to be glorious gain, both in this life and in the life to come.
  • Our lives, our prayers, our worship, and our service can reach around the world and bear fruit for eternity, but we won’t know about it until we see Jesus.
  • Prayer is both the thermometer and the thermostat of the Christian life. It reveals our “spiritual temperature” and also helps to regulate it. If we are neglecting prayer or if we are praying listlessly, then we are “cold” (Matt. 24:12). If we are “up and down” in an undisciplined prayer life, we are “lukewarm,” neither hot nor cold (Rev. 3:15–16). If we are walking with the Lord, meditating on the Word and yielded to him, our hearts will “burn within us” and energize us (Luke 24:32). Being honest in answering these questions in a brief inventory can help us improve our prayer ministry.
  • Physical freedom is useless if we don’t have spiritual freedom, for it is only in spiritual freedom that we have divine life, truth, and love.
  • Unless we allow Jesus to minister to us, we are not prepared to minister for him to others.
  • The world’s greatest sin is unbelief: sinners have not trusted Jesus Christ, and this is why they are lost. Conscience may convict a person of sins, but only the Spirit can convict them of the greatest sin—rejecting Jesus Christ. A person may abandon both the sins of the flesh and of the spirit (2 Cor. 7:1) and still be lost, for it is only faith in Christ that gives new birth into the family of God.
  • God’s people are witnesses, not prosecuting attorneys, so let’s leave the convicting to the Holy Spirit.
  • We live before a watching world and the way we respond to disappointment, trials, and conflicts gives us opportunities to bear witness to the lost people who know us. When we rejoice instead of complain and worship instead of whine, the unsaved take notice and wonder how it can happen. 
  • God’s method for reaching lost people is not imitation but incarnation. He sent his Son in the likeness of flesh so that he could be seen and heard and eventually be crucified. “Christ lives in me,” Paul wrote (Gal. 2:20). That’s incarnation! The Holy Spirit enables us to reveal Christ to the world around us and make a difference where we live.
  • Jesus befriended sinners but never imitated their way of life, and yet they were attracted to him and listened to his teaching.
  • The church that imitates the world with hopes of attracting the world will be disappointed. Lost people can tell the difference.
  • Holy men of God paid a price to write the Bible, and the Bible cost Jesus his life. Down through the centuries, dedicated servants of God were persecuted, imprisoned, and even slain because they translated the Bible, distributed copies of it, or preached from Scripture. Are pastors showing love for God’s truth when they fail to study the Bible and instead borrow other preachers’ sermons? If we plan fun and games for Sunday school but ignore Scripture, what does that say to the next generation? Do we use worship music that is based on Scripture? I fear that technology and entertainment are more important today in many churches than are the Word of God and prayer. Christians are imitating the culture instead of living countercultural lives.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Week in Review: June 11-17

KJV Reformation Study Bible

  • Ecclesiastes
  • Jeremiah 34-52
  • Lamentations
  • Ezekiel
  • Hosea
  • Joel


Living Bible

  • 2 Samuel
  • Hosea
  • Amos 
  • Obadiah
  • Jonah
  • Romans
  • Ephesians

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible