Thursday, June 30, 2016

Quotes from the Cloud #23

This year, I hope share weekly posts of quotes. These quotes are from authors I'm reading and enjoying from the Clouds of Witnesses Reading Challenge

For fellow participants, what I would LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to see is for people to share quotes from what they're reading. I'd love for you to share quotes occasionally with your readers and let me know about it. If you don't have a blog, you could always leave quotes in the comments here.
Lower the Law and you dim the light by which man perceives his guilt; this is a very serious loss to the sinner rather than a gain; for it lessens the likelihood of his conviction and conversion. I say you have deprived the gospel of its ablest auxiliary when you have set aside the Law. You have taken away from it the schoolmaster that is to bring men to Christ. They will never accept grace till they tremble before a just and holy Law. Therefore the Law serves a most necessary purpose, and it must not be removed from its place. ~ Charles Spurgeon
People will never set their faces decidedly towards heaven, and live like pilgrims, until they really feel that they are in danger of hell. Let us expound and beat out the Ten Commandments, and show the length and breadth, and depth, and height of their requirements. This is the way of our Lord in the Sermon on the Mount. We cannot do better than follow His plan. We may depend on it, men will never come to Jesus, and stay with Jesus, and live for Jesus, unless they know why they are to come, and what is their need. Those whom the Spirit draws to Jesus are those whom the Spirit has convinced of sin. Without a thorough conviction of sin, men may seem to come to Jesus and follow Him for a season, but they will soon fall away and return to the world. ~ J.C. Ryle

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

June's Scripture Chain

  • But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:4-10
  • In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. 1 John 4:10-12
  • We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4:19
  • Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. 1 John 3:2-3
  • For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. Romans 5:6-11
  • For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21
  • Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Psalm 23:6
Inspiration: Amazing Grace
Translation Used: ESV

Book Review: How To Enjoy Reading Your Bible

How To Enjoy Reading Your Bible. Keith Ferrin. 2015. Bethany House. 176 pages. [Source: Bought]

Author's stated goal: My goal is simple: to help you enjoy the Bible. That’s it. If you enjoy it, you will read it more. If you enjoy it, you will talk about it. If you enjoy it, you will be more consistent in your time with God. If you enjoy it, you will apply it. When it comes to the Bible, God never intended you to stop at believing it is true. He also wants you to enjoy it. I do too.

Premise/plot: In How To Enjoy Reading Your Bible Keith Ferrin shares with readers ten tips on how to ENJOY reading your Bible. At the end of each chapter, there is a study guide that helps to adapt it--if you will--to a group bible study format.

  • Introduction
  • Tip 1: Remember Why You Are Doing This
  • Tip 2: Set Your Expectations Really High
  • Tip 3: Have a Strategy
  • Tip 4: Watch the Whole Movie
  • Tip 5: Learn From Your Shampoo
  • Tip 6: Raise Your Voice
  • Tip 7: Read Alone
  • Tip 8: Don't Read Alone
  • Tip 9: Go on a 60 Day Adventure
  • Tip 10: Take Two Four Month Challenges
  • How These 10 Tips Have Changed Everything
  • Appendix A: A Small Group Study of Ephesians
  • Appendix B: A Chronological Reading Plan

My thoughts: I would definitely recommend this one. I feel the author and I are kindred spirits in some ways. In particular, we both love to read CHUNKS of Scripture. And by chunks I mean large quantities of the Bible in one sitting as opposed to one or two chapters per day. Also he seems to be a fan of spending a month or two in the same book of the Bible. I'll be honest I've never spent 60 days in the same book of the Bible (tip 9). But I have spent 30 days in the same book of the Bible.

I thought each tip worthy of attention. Some will be more challenging (for me) to try to implement into my own reading. But I think his tips are definitely solid and good.

I thought I would include a quote from each tip:
Oh, how our time in the Bible would change if we kept the friendship front and center. If our time in God’s Word were primarily relational instead of informational, it would have a significantly higher probability of being transformational!
You can change your expectations. You don’t have to stay where you are. The Bible can be exciting and enjoyable for you. It is possible to have David’s words be your own: The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul.
Every time you and I sit down to read our Bibles, there is someone playing defense. Someone who is actively trying to make sure we don’t enjoy it. Someone who is throwing distractions our way. And the “defense” starts early. It starts before you even pick up your Bible.
When we read more of it, we easily get into it. When we read little bits, we don’t. It is as simple as that.
The context is story, but the process is repetition. We learn in the context of story by the process of repetition.
We remember some of what we see. We remember much more of what we see and hear. Even if what we are hearing is our own voice.
Read only the Bible. No devotional. No commentary. No questions. No videos. No lesson. Yes, read alone. Simply you, God, and His Word. That’s it.
When it comes to enjoying the Bible, few habits are more beneficial than having regular conversations with someone—or a small group of people—who is studying the same book of the Bible as you.
What would you say if I told you that sixty days from now you could understand and love a book of the Bible more than any you have studied before? Now, what if I told you that you would actually have huge chunks of it down word-for-word without even trying? That would be pretty cool, right? Well, you can.
Challenge One: The Bible Read Thru There are only three simple parameters: 1. Read the whole Bible in four months. 2. Read with a pen in your hand. 3. Talk about it. If you want to get the most out of your Bible Read Thru, this third parameter is not optional. You will be tempted to make it optional. It will seem easier to keep it between you and God. You will convince yourself that you don’t need the accountability to stick with it.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

My Summer with John #5

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 six (Isaiah 40:9). For your listening pleasure: O Thou That Tellest Good Tidings to Zion. (I must admit this is one of my favorites). 

Some of these quotes may prove unpopular and offensive in today's culture. I don't think any society at any time likes to be told that they are guilty sinners in the eyes of God. But this sermon seems to focus on the "T" of Total Depravity, one of the doctrines of grace. 
The deplorable state of fallen man by nature, is largely described both in the Old Testament and the New. It may suffice to take notice of two principal features, which characterize our whole species, and apply to every individual of the race of Adam, until the grace of God, which bringeth Salvation, affords relief. These are guilt, alienation of heart, and misery.
Guilt. All have sinned. We are the creatures of God. He made us, and He preserves us. Our life, faculties, and comforts are all from Him. He is therefore our great Lord, our supreme Benefactor. Of course we belong to Him. His we are, and not our own. It follows that dependence, gratitude, submission, and obedience, are incumbent on us, as they must be upon all intelligent creatures, from the very nature of things.
But we have evidently broken this law of our creation. We have violated the order of God's government. We have implicitly, if not formally, renounced our allegiance, disowned His right over us, and set up for ourselves.
It is possible, that had we been wholly left to ourselves, we should never have been aware, while in this world, of the just and inevitable consequences of our rebellion. Having lost all right thoughts of God, and conceiving of Him, as if He were altogether as ourselves, we might have felt neither fear nor remorse. But there is a revelation, by which we are informed of His determined purpose to avenge disobedience, and to vindicate the honour of His government; and we are assured, that He is not an indifferent spectator of our opposition to His established order. His justice and truth are engaged to punish transgressors, and our obnoxiousness to punishment, is what we mean by guilt. If the Scripture be true, there is no way of escape, unless He Himself be pleased to appoint one.
Think about that: If the Scripture be true, there is no way of escape, unless He Himself be pleased to appoint one. The problem is that today in and out of church some question Scripture.
Alienation of mind. Not only is it true that we have sinned against the Lord, but a principle of aversion from Him is deeply rooted in our hearts.
I do not assert that we hate God under that character, which, our vain imaginations form of Him. If we can persuade ourselves, in direct contradiction to the testimony of Scripture, that He is not strict to mark what is amiss; that He will dispense with the strictness of His law; that He will surely have mercy upon us, because we are not openly abandoned and profligate in our conduct; that He will accept of lip-worship in which the heart has no concern, reward us for actions in which we had no intention of pleasing Him, permit us to love and serve the world with all our mind, and soul, and strength, while we live, and make us happy in another world, when we can live in this no longer -- If we form such an image of God, it is too much like our own to provoke our enmity, for it is destitute of holiness, justice, and truth.
Misery. If we are guilty in the sight of God, and alienated from Him in our hearts, we must be miserable. Guilt entails a burden, and a foreboding of evil upon the conscience. And our alienation from the fountain of living waters (Jeremiah 2:13) , compels us (for we are insufficient in our own happiness) to seek our resources from broken cisterns, and pits which will hold no water. Farther, sin has filled the world with woe. The whole creation travails and groans; and natural evil is inseparable from moral, as the shadow from the body. Though the earth be filled with tokens of the goodness, patience, and forbearance of God, it likewise abounds with marks of His displeasure.
I think we have sufficient reason to attribute earthquakes, hurricanes, famine, and pestilence, to sin as their original cause. We can hardly conceive, that if mankind had continued in that happy state of love and obedience to God, in which our first parents were created, they would have been exposed to such calamities.
MESSIAH establishes a new, a spiritual Kingdom upon the earth, and His happy subjects are freed from the misery in which they were involved. They commit all their concerns to Him, and He manages for them. Their fears are removed, their irregular desires corrected, and all that is really good for them, is secured to them by His love, promise, and care. Afflictions still await them, but they are sanctified.
Does the language of my text cause joy to spring up in your hearts? or is it nothing to you? If you heard the Messiah [Oratorio], you were, perhaps, affected by the music of the passage; how much are you to be pitied, if you are hitherto unaffected by the sentiment! Yet once more, hear -- Thy God cometh! He did come in the fulness of time, according to the prophecy, and the Word of prophecy assures us, that He will come again. Behold He cometh in the clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they also that pierced Him (Revelation 1:7) -- Prepare to meet thy God! (Amos 4:12)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, June 27, 2016

Book Review: Five Points

Five Points: Towards a Deeper Experience of God's Grace. John Piper. 2013. 94 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: Christians love God. He is our great Treasure, and nothing can compare with him.

Premise/plot: John Piper wants his readers to know God better, to taste and see for themselves how GOOD God is. His goal in writing is to have his readers ENJOY God more and more. "Enjoying God is the way to glorify God, because God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.
But to enjoy him we must know him. Seeing is savoring. If he remains a blurry, vague fog, we may be intrigued for a season. But we will not be stunned with joy..." He asserts in this short little book that the "most crucial kind of knowledge [for believers to know] is the knowledge of what God is like in salvation." He continues, "To experience God fully, we need to know not just how he acts in general, but specifically how he saves us—how did he save me?" And just one more, "To know him in his sovereignty is to become like an oak tree in the wind of adversity and confusion. And along with strength is sweetness and tenderness beyond imagination. The sovereign Lion of Judah is the sweet Lamb of God."

John Piper introduces readers to the doctrines of grace, the "five points" of Calvinism. While he stays with the TULIP acronym, he rearranges the book to suit his own purposes.
I have found, however, that people grasp these points more easily if we go in the order in which we ourselves often experience them when we become Christians.
1. We experience first our depravity and need of salvation.
2. Then we experience the irresistible grace of God leading us toward faith.
3. Then we trust the sufficiency of the atoning death of Christ for our sins.
4. Then we discover that behind the work of God to atone for our sins and bring us to faith was the unconditional election of God.
5. And finally we rest in his electing grace to give us the strength and will to persevere to the end in faith.
The first chapter is essentially an introduction. The second chapter addresses the historical roots of the doctrines of grace and offers a basic summary of all five points. The eighth chapter is John Piper's testimony about what understanding the doctrines of grace have meant to him. The ninth chapter is more testimonies--these testimonies are all from the cloud of witnesses (Augustine, Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, George Mueller, Charles Spurgeon). The tenth chapter includes two final appeals: quotes from Charles Spurgeon and J.I. Packer.

Chapters three through seven focus on the five points: Total Depravity, Irresistible Grace, Limited Atonement, Unconditional Election, and Perseverance of the Saints.

My thoughts: I really loved this one. I've read dozens of books on the five points of Calvinism or the doctrines of grace. Some I've liked better than others. Some are very weighty--theologically--and not practical to recommend. Keep in mind that a) not every believer likes to read to begin with, b) not every believer likes to read theology c) not every believer is equally familiar with Scripture, d) not every believer has been exposed to reformed theology, e) to someone who has never been exposed to reformed teaching and preaching, the doctrines of grace may prove so overwhelmingly contrary to everything they think they know that they shut down and become defensive.

I would recommend this one. Why? It is short. It is straightforward. It is logically organized. All the main points and insights are backed up clearly with Scripture. Sometimes Scripture passages are unpacked for readers in the text. Sometimes only Scripture references are provided. Skeptical readers can be like the Bereans and see for themselves if it is so. (Acts 17:11) It is passionately, zealously presented. Far from being dry and boring, this one illustrates how theology can energize your life. Piper also packs this one with quotes.

I agree with Piper (and nearly everyone else) that the place to begin sharing about the doctrines of grace is with the "T" of Total Depravity. If you can show someone that the Bible clearly, plainly teaches the total depravity of man, then it will be easier to persuade them of the truth of the other four points.
Man’s depravity is total in at least four senses.
1. Our rebellion against God is total.
2. In his total rebellion everything man does is sin.
3. Man’s inability to submit to God and do good is total.
4. Our rebellion is totally deserving of eternal punishment.
The aim of this book is to deepen our experience of God’s grace. The aim is not to depress or to discourage or to paralyze. Knowing the seriousness of our disease will make us all the more amazed at the greatness of our Physician. Knowing the extent of our deep-seated rebellion will stun us at the long- suffering grace and patience of God toward us. The way we worship God and the way we treat other people, especially our enemies, are profoundly and wonderfully affected by knowing our depravity to the full.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, June 26, 2016

A few observations...

Yesterday, I read Job in one sitting. Here are a few of the observations I wrote down in my journal after I finished.

It is easy to keep suffering an abstract theological subject far removed from the heart, from emotion. We should probably fight against this especially if we're trying to "help" someone who's grieving a loss in his or her life.

Sometimes what we don't know and what we can't possibly understand can fill a book (literally).

It is good and right to go to a grieving friend and stand beside them--or sit beside them--in support. We are called to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those that weep. Do any of us take Romans 12:15 seriously?

Knowing what is coming ahead in the rest of the book, the fact that Job's three friends stayed with him seven days and seven nights in silence is worth noting.

A string of half-truths--no matter how long the string--does not make for the whole truth.

The tongue can get us into trouble--BIG, BIG TROUBLE--because we are both quick to speak and quick to anger. We are very poor listeners. (See James 1:19)

Sometimes we are so in love with hearing ourselves talk that we want to ALWAYS win and turn everything into an argument that can be won or lost. This was no time for a boast battle.

There is a right time and place for theological discussions--but not every time and place is right. His friends were no longer a comfort, a support. Instead of uplifting or sustaining him, they were draining him emotionally and spiritually. He was now worse off for them being there.

His friends, who were so wise in their own eyes, were off in their theology and their conclusions about everything were a bit warped. Instead of being humble and open to correction, they were proud and confident that they knew all there was to know. They weren't at a loss for what to say. They were confident that they had all the answers.

Job spoke honestly and humbly. He did NOT have the answers. He was holding onto what he knew to be true of God. God is GOOD. God is JUST. He trusted in God's character to be steadfast even though nothing in his life was. He saw how much he did not know, how much he did not understand, and he was awed by the mysteries of God.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Week in Progress: June 19-25

ERV

  • Genesis 26-50

RSV

  • Psalm 1-41

NASB

  • Ezra
  • Nehemiah
  • Esther
  • Job
  • Hebrews 6-13
  • James


© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible