Tuesday, April 30, 2013

April Reflections

This month I read:

  1. Altar Ego by Craig Groeschel. February 2013. Zondervan. 240 pages. 
  2. The Insanity of God: A True Story of Faith Resurrected. Nik Ripken. 2013. B&H. 384 pages. 
  3. Love At Any Cost. Julie Lessman. 2013. Revell. 416 pages. 
  4. The Tutor's Daughter. Julie Klassen. 2013. Bethany House. 412 pages.
  5. Love's Abiding Joy. Janette Oke. 1983. Bethany House. 240 pages. 
  6. Iscariot. Tosca Lee. 2013. Howard Books. 336 pages. 
  7. When Jesus Wept. Bodie Thoene and Brock Thoene. 2013. Zondervan. 304 pages.
  8. Miranda. Grace Livingston Hill. 1915. 224 pages. 
  9. Everlasting Righteousness. Horatius Bonar. 1872. 114 pages. 
  10. Rhythms of Grace: How the Church's Worship Tells The Story of The Gospel. Mike Cosper. Foreword by Bob Kauflin. 2013. Crossway. 224 pages.
  11. The Disappearance of God: Dangerous Beliefs in the New Spiritual Openness. R. Albert Mohler Jr. 2009. Multnomah. 194 pages.
  12.  The Truth of the Cross. R.C. Sproul. 2007. Reformation Trust. 168 pages. 
  13. Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of Matthew. J.C. Ryle. 408 pages.

My month's goal was to read Psalm 119 at least thirty times! I also met my other goals of reading Leviticus, 1 and 2 Kings, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Isaiah, Zephaniah, Haggai. I even read Malachi! I also believe I finished the New Testament this month!

I only read one Spurgeon sermon this month:

The Immutability of God

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, April 29, 2013

Book Review: Love's Abiding Joy (1983)

Love's Abiding Joy. Janette Oke. 1983. Bethany House. 240 pages.

I've not read the second half of Janette Oke's Love Comes Softly series quite as many times. Instead of a dozen, probably only three or four times! In this fourth book, Marty and Clark visit their daughter and son-in-law. It has been years since Clark and Marty have seen Missie and Willie, and this will be the very first time they meet their two grandsons Nathan and Joey. They had only intended to visit two weeks with their family, which makes sense since it takes a week to travel to travel there and a week to travel back home. But during their stay, Clark becomes a HERO. Two boys (NOT HIS GRANDSONS) are trapped in an old mine, he is the first to reach the scene, knowing all the dangers he bravely trusts God to guide Him and protect Him. I had forgotten, in a way, how touching and compelling those scenes were! I remembered this as the book with the big DRAMA in it, but I didn't really remember the details rightly. I think I appreciated it more as an adult than I did as a child. God is providentially moving in this book as Clark and Marty face the future...

I definitely liked this one!

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Book Review: When Jesus Wept (2013)

When Jesus Wept. Bodie Thoene and Brock Thoene. 2013. Zondervan. 304 pages.

I really wanted to love this novel. Biblical fiction from the point of view of Lazarus?! I wanted to read it! This story has always fascinated me. I'll borrow a quote from Rick James and add:
What we share in common as believers, we also share with Lazarus: We were all raised from the dead. The resurrection of our own salvation was no less staggering--indeed more so--than the physical raising of Lazarus. (A Million Ways To Die, Rick James, 99)
The biblical account of Lazarus can be found in John 11:1-43 and John 12:1-9. More about Martha and Mary can be found in Luke 10:38-42.

Unfortunately, almost everything I loved about the biblical account is absent from this novel. True, it is narrated from Lazarus' perspective and not either of his sisters. So instead of getting the wonderful ministry of Jesus to the two sisters, we get a glimpse of Lazarus in heaven (but not the way Carman imagined it to be).

The biggest issue I had with this novel was the fact that the authors condensed three different women into one. Mary wasn't just Mary, sister of Martha and Lazarus; she also was forced into the role of Mary of Magdala AND the unidentified adulterous woman in John 8:1-11. Almost half the novel focused on Martha and Lazarus being judgmental and ashamed of their sister, Mary. I felt they slandered Mary needlessly.

If the novel has a strength, it is in showing the politics and dangers of daily life. What was it like to live on a day-to-day or season-to-season basis during this time period. What were the actual expectations--if any--that ordinary people had for the coming Messiah? How did people perceive Jesus? Was it easy or hard to believe in Jesus' message? Personally, I felt Iscariot by Tosca Lee did a better job than When Jesus Wept in showing this.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Week One, Treasury of Truth


Welcome to the mini-challenge, Treasury of Truth! I hope you benefit from reading, meditating, and studying the Word this month! Perhaps Bible reading isn't a daily part of your life, this would be a great opportunity to start! Here are the goals for this week:

Week one, April 29-May 4

Primary goal: read Psalm 139 three or four times

Secondary goal: read Psalm 100 two or three times

Extra Credit: read the book of Ephesians

Song of the Week: "Just As I Am" by Andrew Peterson (amazon mp3)




From Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer
What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. (1)
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. When asked in reverence and their answers sought in humility, these are questions that cannot but be pleasing to our Father which are in heaven. (13)
We can hold a correct view of truth only by daring to believe everything God has said about Himself. It is a grave responsibility that a man takes upon himself when he seeks to edit out of God's self-revelation such features as he in his ignorance deems objectionable. (80)
From The Root of the Righteous by A.W. Tozer
The Christian is strong or weak depending upon how closely he has cultivated the knowledge of God. (8)

 © Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Treasury of Truth Mini-Challenge (May)


Do you see yourself the way God sees you, or, the way the world sees you? The Bible is rich in truth; it's holding treasures we need to know and rediscover. I'd like to invite you to join me in special readings for the month of May. The primary goal is to read Psalm 139 thirty times in the month of May. (Exact numbers don't matter, if you can only manage around twenty. I'd rather have you mediate on these twenty-four verses a dozen times than none at all.) Please let me know if you're interested in joining! I'll be posting something each week reminding you of the readings and sharing additional quotes and verses!

From, "Tozer Pulpit, vol. 1"
A discouraged heart will always go astray, so don't think about yourself the way you feel about yourself. Instead, go to God and Christ. God loves you, and Christ loves you enough to have died for you. He thought you were worth something. (A.W. Tozer, 53)
From, "God Loves You"
The profound thought of God's love should begin and end your every day. It should define your every goal, your every action. (David Jeremiah, 3)
From, "Lord Teach Us to Pray"
Wherever in all the world there is a human heart, God also is there. And He is there in order to have that heart poured out before Him. (Alexander Whyte, 29)
From "Worship"
God is with us now as much as He will be with us in eternity. (John MacArthur, 98)
From Les Miserables
He pondered on the greatness and the living presence of God, on the mystery of eternity in the future and, even more strange, eternity in the past, on all the infinity manifest to his eyes and to his senses; and without seeking to comprehend the incomprehensible he contemplated these things. He did not scrutinize God but let his eyes be dazzled. (The narrator describing Bishop Myriel, Victor Hugo, 67)
Week one, April 29-May 4
Primary goal: read Psalm 139 three or four times
Secondary goal: read Psalm 100 two or three times
Extra Credit: read the book of Ephesians
Song of the Week: "Just As I Am" by Andrew Peterson (amazon mp3)

Week two, May 5-May 11
Primary goal: read Psalm 139 five to seven times
Secondary goal: read Psalm 103 three to four times
Extra Credit: read the book of Philippians
Song of the Week: "Meant to Be" by Steven Curtis Chapman (amazon mp3)

Week three, May 12-May 18
Primary goal: read Psalm 139 five to seven times
Secondary goal: read Psalm 25 three to four times
Extra Credit: read the book of Colossians
Song of the Week: "How Great Is Our God" by Chris Tomlin (amazon mp3)

Week four, May 19-May 25
Primary goal: read Psalm 139 five to seven times
Secondary goal: read Psalm 23 three to four times
Extra Credit: read John 13, 14, 15, 16, 17
Song of the Week: "I Will Rise" by Chris Tomlin (amazon mp3)

Week five, May 26-May 31
Primary goal: read Psalm 139 five to six times
Secondary goal: read Romans 8 three to four times
Extra Credit: read the book of Romans
Song of the Week: "Never Been A Greater Love" by Aaron Shust (amazon mp3)

The particulars:

  • Just one translation is necessary to participate; additional translations might add something to the study, but are not needed. Any translation is acceptable.
  • You can participate on a week-to-week basis or a week-to-week commitment; if you just do one week out of five that would be fine. 


© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

30 Days of Psalm 139


To learn more about Treasury of Truth, Bible-reading Mini-Challenge, visit the original post about the challenge.


Week one:

Psalm 139

1) NEB
2) REB
3) NEB
4) NASB
5) ASV
6) CEB
7) NEB
8) REB
9) NEB
10) NLT
11) Revised Version, 1885
12) NEB
13) NKJV
14) NEB
15) NKJV
16) HCSB


Psalm 100

1) NEB
2) REB
3) NEB
4) NASB
5) ASV
6) CEB
7) NEB
8) REB
9) NEB
10) NLT
11) Revised Version, 1885
12) NEB
13) NKJV
14) NEB
15) NKJV
16) HCSB
17) 1599 Geneva
18) GNT


Week two:

Psalm 139

17) NEB
18) HCSB
19) NKJV
20) NEB
21) RV 1885
22) HCSB
23) NKJV
24) REB
25) ASV
26) ESV
27) NLT
28) NASB
29) CEB
30) NIV
31) ESV

Psalm 103

1) NEB
2) HCSB
3) NKJV
4) NEB
5) RV 1885
6) HCSB
7) NKJV
8) REB
9) ASV
10) ESV
11) NLT
12) NASB
13) CEB
14) NIV
15) ESV
16) 1599 Geneva
17) GNT

Week three:

Psalm 139

32) NKJV
33) NKJV
34) NIV
35) NEB
36) NKJV
37) HCSB
38) NIV
39) ESV
40) RV 1885
41) ESV
42) NKJV
43) ASV
44) ESV
45) NASB
46) NKJV
47) KJV

Psalm 25

1) NKJV
2) NKJV
3) NIV
4) NEB
5) NKJV
6) HCSB
7) NIV
8) ESV
9) RV 1885
10) ESV
11) NKJV
12) ASV
13) ESV
14) NASB
15) NKJV
16) KJV
17) 1599 Geneva
18) GNT

Week four:

Psalm 139

50) 1599 Geneva
51) GNT
52) ESV
53) NASB
54) NKJV
55) ESV
56) ESV
57) RV 1885

Psalm 23

1) 1599 Geneva
2) GNT
3) ESV
4) NASB
5) NKJV
6) ESV
7) ESV
8) RV 1885

Week five: 

Psalm 139

58) NASB
59) HCSB
60) ESV
61) NKJV
62) NIV
63) ESV

Romans 8

1) NASB
2) HCSB
3) ESV
4) NKJV
5) NIV
6) ESV

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Week in Review: April 21-27

ESV

  • 1 Chronicles 14-29
  • Psalm 119 (5)
  • Isaiah 45-66
  • Acts 11-28
  • Hebrews
  • James
  • 1 Peter
  • 2 Peter
  • 1 John
  • 2 John
  • 3 John
  • Jude
  • Revelation

HCSB

  • Psalm 119

Revised Version 1885

  • Psalm 119

NKJV

  • Psalm 119

NLT

  • Psalm 119

NASB

  • Psalm 119

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, April 26, 2013

Veggie Review: Duke and the Great Pie War

Do you have a favorite Veggie Tales? One of my favorites is Duke and the Great Pie War. The moral lesson of this video is "Loving Your Family." It contains two short stories and a silly song. The silly song is Larry Sings the Blues. I just LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to see Larry sing the blues because he truly doesn't get it. He just doesn't know how to be sad and blue. He's too optimistic to sing the blues, which ultimately leads to a fun polka!

The first story is "Baby Sitter in De Nile." Viewers see a not-so-happy Miriam in her role of big sister. She does not like having to take care of the new baby. In this adaptation, Miriam doesn't grasp--at least not until her parents explain it to her a bit better--the danger her baby brother is in. If you know the story--found in Exodus--you'll know that baby boys were to be killed. I really enjoyed this adaptation. The sometimes-clueless and often-selfish Miriam is easy to relate to perhaps for the youngest viewers who may be dealing with new baby brothers or sisters of their own.  Miriam's song is "What Can a Baby Do?"

The second story is "Duke and the Great Pie War." This one stars Larry (Duke Duke), Bob (Lucas), Madame Blueberry (Nona), and Sweet Petunia, the Rhubarbarian. It is an adaption of the story of Ruth, Boaz, and Naomi. I just LOVE this story! It is quite cleverly written with plenty of jokes. (I loved the "serf music" for example!)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Book Review: The Truth of the Cross (2007)

The Truth of the Cross. R.C. Sproul. 2007. Reformation Trust. 168 pages.

R.C. Sproul has written some great books. The Truth Of the Cross is perhaps a good place to start if you're new to R.C. Sproul. It is, for the most part, an accessible examination or discussion of the atonement, or Christ's work on the cross. (Also justification, imputation, propitiation, expiation, etc. To a small degree, Sproul also introduces Calvinism through TULIP.) The chapter titles include: "The Necessity of an Atonement," "The Just God," "Debtors, Enemies, and Criminals," "Ransomed from Above," "The Saving Substitute," "Made Like His Brethren," "The Suffering Servant," "The Blessing and the Curse," "A Secure Faith," and "Questions and Answers." If you're looking to answer the why of the cross, this is a great resource!

I definitely loved this one! I'm not sure it is my all-time favorite R.C. Sproul book, but it is very good.

Favorite quotes:
If anything has been lost from our culture, it is the idea that human beings are privately, personally, individually, ultimately, inexorably accountable to God for their lives. If everybody in the world woke up and said, "Someday I have to stand before my Maker and give an account for every word I've ever spoken, every deed I've ever done, every thought I've ever thought, and every task I've failed to do," several things could happen. They could say, "I'm accountable, but isn't it great that the One to Whom and before Whom I am accountable isn't concerned about the kind of life I lead, because He understands that boys will be boys and that girls will be girls." In that case, nothing would change. But if people understood that there is a holy God and that sin is an offense against that holy God, they would break down the doors of our churches and ask, "What must I do to be saved?" 
The prevailing doctrine of justification today is not justification by faith alone. It's not even justification by good works or by a combination of faith and works. The prevailing notion of justification in Western culture today is justification by death. It's assumed that all one has to do to be received into the everlasting arms of God is to die. 
If you take away the cross as an atoning act, you take away Christianity. 
Anselm saw that the chief reason a God-man was necessary was the justice of God. That may seem to be a strange answer. Thinking of the cross and of Christ's atonement, we assume that the thing that most strenuously motivated God to send Christ into the world was His love or His mercy. As a result, we tend to overlook the characteristic of God's nature that makes the atonement absolutely necessary--His justice. God is loving, but a major part of what He loves is His own perfect character, with a major aspect being the importance of maintaining justice and righteousness. Though God pardons sinners and makes great provision for expressing His mercy. He will never negotiate His justice. If we fail to understand that, the cross of Christ will be utterly meaningless to us. 
A simple definition of God's justice is "His eternal, immutable commitment always to do what is right." 
God is not a frustrated schoolteacher. God is omniscient; He doesn't have to play games to ferret out the guilty party.
In the smallest sin we defy God's right to rule and to reign over His creation. Instead, we week to usurp for ourselves the authority and the power that belong properly to God. Even the slightest sin does violence to His holiness, to His glory, and to His righteousness. Every sin, no matter how seemingly insignificant, is truly an act of treason against the cosmic King. 
How righteous are we required to be? How moral are we called to be? God demands perfect obedience, sinless perfection. This is the crux of the problem. If I am responsible to be perfect, and I sin once, what must I do to be perfect?... What do I have to do to become perfect after I have once been imperfect? Simply put, it is impossible.
Nothing could ever happen to me in this world that would give me a just reason to assault the integrity of God in terms of our relationship. He is the injured party, not we. 
We may think the Son is more loving than the Father, but Whose idea was it for us to have a Mediator? Who then sent the Mediator? As the Scriptures declare, "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son..." (John 3:16a). God the Father, the One we violated by our sin, sent the Son to be the Mediator Who would reconcile us to Himself. 
Ultimately, Jesus died to save us from the wrath of God. We simply cannot understand the teaching and the preaching of Jesus of Nazareth apart from this, for He constantly warned people that the whole world someday would come under divine judgment. 
The point of the gospel is that the minute a person embraces Jesus Christ, all that Christ has done is applied to that person. All that He is becomes ours, including His righteousness. 
The hard reality is this: if Jesus was not forsaken on the cross, we are still in our sins. We have no redemption, no salvation. The whole point of the cross was for Jesus to bear our sins and bear the sanctions of the covenant. In order to do that, He had to be forsaken. Jesus submitted Himself to His Father's will and endured the curse, that we, His people, might experience the ultimate blessedness. 
I think that a four-point Calvinist is an Arminian. I say that for this reason: When I have talked to people who call themselves four-point Calvinists and have had the opportunity to discuss it with them, I have discovered that they were no-point Calvinists. They thought they believed in total depravity, in unconditional election, in irresistible grace, and in the perseverance of the saints, but they didn't understand these points. 
We need to realize that those who are in hell desire nothing more than the absence of God. They didn't want to be in God's presence during their earthly lives, and they certainly don't want Him near when they're in hell. The worst thing about hell is the presence of God there. Hell reflects the presence of God in His mode of Judgment, in His exercise of wrath, and that's what everyone would like to escape.
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Psalm 119:111

This month I've been reading Psalm 119 each day. It has been WONDERFUL. I would definitely recommend it; I think it's been very beneficial. I've been reading it in a handful of different translations. And translation styles are becoming more evident with each reading! I thought I would share an example today.

ESV
Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart.

NLT
Your laws are my treasure; they are my heart's delight.

NASB
I have inherited Your testimonies forever, for they are the joy of my heart.

NIV
Your statutes are my heritage forever; they are the joy of my heart.

CEB
Your laws are my possession forever because they are my heart's joy

HCSB
I have Your decrees as a heritage forever; indeed, they are the joy of my heart.

KJV
Thy testimonies have I taken as an heritage for ever: for they are the rejoicing of my heart

RSV
Thy testimonies are my heritage for ever; yea, they are the joy of my heart.

ASV
Thy testimonies have I taken as a heritage for ever; for they are the rejoicing of my heart.

Message
I inherited your book on living; it's mine forever--what a gift! And how happy it makes me!

NKJV
Your testimonies I have taken as a heritage forever, for they are the rejoicing of my heart.

GNT
Your commandments are my eternal possession; they are the joy of my heart.

1599 Geneva Bible
Thy testimonies have I taken as an heritage forever: for they are the joy of mine heart.

NET
I claim your rules as my permanent possession, for they give me joy.

Complete Jewish Bible
I take your instruction as a permanent heritage, because it is the joy of my heart.

Amplified
Your testimonies have I taken as a heritage forever, for they are the rejoicing of my heart.

CEV
They will always be my most prized possession and my source of joy.



© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

My Year with Spurgeon, Week #16

It has been said by some one that "the proper study of mankind is man." I will not oppose the idea, but I believe it is equally true that the proper study of God's elect is God; the proper study of a Christian is the Godhead. The highest science, the loftiest speculation, the mightiest philosophy, which can ever engage the attention of a child of God, is the name, the nature, the person, the work, the doings, and the existence of the great God whom he calls his Father. There is something exceedingly improving to the mind in a contemplation of the Divinity. It is a subject so vast, that all our thoughts are lost in its immensity; so deep, that our pride is drowned in its infinity. ~ Charles Spurgeon, The Immutability of God
No subject of contemplation will tend more to humble the mind, than thoughts of God. But while the subject humbles the mind it also expands it. He who often thinks of God, will have a larger mind than the man who simply plods around this narrow globe. Nothing will so enlarge the intellect, nothing so magnify the whole soul of man, as a devout, earnest, continued investigation of the great subject of the Deity. And, whilst humbling and expanding, this subject is eminently consolatary. Oh, there is, in contemplating Christ, a balm for every wound; in musing on the Father, there is a quietus for every grief; and in the influence of the Holy Ghost, there is a balsam for every sore. ~ Charles Spurgeon, The Immutability of God
All creatures change. Man, especially as to his body, is always undergoing revolution. But God is perpetually the same. He is not composed of any substance or material, but is spirit—pure, essential, and ethereal spirit—and therefore he is immutable. He remains everlastingly the same. He is the great I AM—the Great Unchangeable. ~ Charles Spurgeon, The Immutability of God
Whatever the attributes of God were of old, that they are now; and of each of them we may sing "As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end, Amen." Was he powerful? Was he the mighty God when he spake the world out of the womb of nonexistence? Was he the Omnipotent when he piled the mountains and scooped out the hollow places for the rolling deep? Yes, he was powerful then, and his arm is unpalsied now, he is the same giant in his might; the sap of his nourishment is undried, and the strength of his soul stands the same for ever. Was he wise when he constituted this mighty globe, when he laid the foundations of the universe? Had he wisdom when he planned the way of our salvation, and when from all eternity he marked out his awful plans? Yes, and he is wise now; he is not less skillful, he has not less knowledge; his eye which seeth all things is undimmed; his ear which heareth all the cries, sighs, sobs, and groans of his people, is not rendered heavy by the years which he hath heard their prayers. He is unchanged in his wisdom, he knows as much now as ever, neither more nor less; he has the same consummate skill, and the same infinite forecastings. He is unchanged, blessed be his name, in his justice. just and holy was he in the past; just and holy is he now. He is unchanged in his truth; he has promised, and he brings it to pass; he hath saith it, and it shall be done. He varies not in the goodness, and generosity, and benevolence of his nature. He is not become an Almighty tyrant, whereas he was once an Almighty Father; but his strong love stands like a granite rock, unmoved by the hurricanes of our iniquity. And blessed be his dear name, he is unchanged in his love. When he first wrote the covenant, how full his heart was with affection to his people. He knew that his Son must die to ratify the articles of that agreement. He knew right well that he must rend his best beloved from his bowels, and send him down to earth to bleed and die. He did not hesitate to sign that mighty covenant; nor did he shun its fulfillment. He loves as much now as he did then, and when suns shall cease to shine, and moons to show their feeble light, he still shall love on for ever and for ever. Take any one attribute of God, and I will write semper idem on it (always the same). Take any one thing you can say of God now, and it may be said not only in the dark past, but in the bright future it shall always remain the same: "I am Jehovah, I change not." ~ Charles Spurgeon, The Immutability of God
Ah! we love to speak about the sweet promises of God; but if we could ever suppose that one of them could be changed, we would not talk anything more about them. If I thought that God's promises would never be fulfilled—if I thought that God would see it right to alter some word in his promises—farewell Scriptures! I want immutable things: and I find that I have immutable promises when I turn to the Bible: for, "by two immutable things in which it is impossible for God to lie," he hath signed, confirmed, and sealed every promise of his. The gospel is not "yea and nay," it is not promising today, and denying tomorrow; but the gospel is "yea, yea," to the glory of God. ~ Charles Spurgeon, The Immutability of God
Every threatening of God, as well as every promise shall be fulfilled. You must believe or be damned, saith the Bible; and mark, that threat of God is an unchangeable as God himself. And when a thousand years of hell's torments shall have passed away, you shall look on high, and see written in burning letters of fire, "He that believeth not shall be damned." "But, Lord, I am damned." Nevertheless it says "shall be" still. And when a million ages have rolled away, and you are exhausted by your pains and agonies, you shall turn up your eye and still read "SHALL BE DAMNED," unchanged, unaltered. And when you shall have thought that eternity must have spun out its last thread—that every particle of that which we call eternity, must have run out, you shall still see it written up there, "SHALL BE DAMNED." O terrific thought! How dare I utter it? But I must. Ye must be warned, sirs, "lest ye also come into this place of torment." Ye must be told rough things; for if God's gospel is not a rough thing & the law is a rough thing; Mount Sinai is a rough thing. Woe unto the watchman that warns not the ungodly! God is unchanging in his threatenings. Beware, O sinner, for "it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." ~ Charles Spurgeon, The Immutability of God
I will be an infidel at once, when I can believe that a saint of God can ever fall finally. If God hath loved me once, then he will love me for ever. ~ Charles Spurgeon, The Immutability of God
There is a God; this God rules and governs all things; this God fashioned the world: he upholds and maintains it. What kind of being must he be? It does strike me that you cannot think of a changeable God. I imagine it is impossible to conceive of a changing God; it is so to me. Others may be capable of such an idea, but I could not entertain it. I could no more think of a changing God, than I could of a round square, or any other absurdity. The thing seems so contrary, that I am obliged, when once I say God, to include the idea of an unchanging being. ~ Charles Spurgeon, The Immutability of God
I believe God to be a perfect being. Now, if he is a perfect being, he cannot change. Do you not see this? Suppose I am perfect today, if it were possible for me to change, should I be perfect tomorrow after the alteration? If I changed, I must either change from a good state to a better—and then if I could get better, I could not be perfect now—or else from a better state to a worse—and if I were worse, I should not be perfect then. If I am perfect, I cannot be altered without being imperfect. If I am perfect today, I must keep the same tomorrow if I am to be perfect then. So, if God is perfect, he must be the same; for change would imply imperfection now, or imperfection then. ~ Charles Spurgeon, The Immutability of God 
Mr. Self is the worst enemy a Christian has. ~ Charles Spurgeon, The Immutability of God
We call God a Father; but there is not a father in this world who would not have killed all his children long ago, so provoked would he have been with them, if he had been half as much troubled as God has been with his family. He has the most troublesome family in the whole world—unbelieving, ungrateful, disobedient, forgetful, rebellious, wandering, murmuring, and stiffnecked. Well it is that he is longsuffering, or else he would have taken not only the rod, but the sword to some of us long ago. But there was nothing in us to love at first, so, there cannot be less now. John Newton used to tell a whimsical story, and laugh at it too, of a good woman who said, in order to prove the doctrine of Election, "Ah! sir, the Lord must have loved me before I was born, or else he would not have seen anything in me to love afterwards." I am sure it is true in my case, and true in respect most of God's people; for there is little to love in them after they are born, that if he had not loved them before then, he would have seen no reason to choose them after; but since he loved them without works, he loves them without works still; since their good works did not win his affection, bad works cannot sever that affection; since their righteousness did not bind his love to them, so their wickedness cannot snap the golden links. He loved them out of pure sovereign grace, and he will love them still. But we should have been consumed by the devil, and by our enemies—consumed by the world, consumed by our sins, by our trials, and in a hundred other ways, if God had ever changed. ~ Charles Spurgeon, The Immutability of God

Monday, April 22, 2013

Book Review: Expository Thoughts on Matthew

Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of Matthew. J.C. Ryle. 408 pages.

It took me almost four months to read J.C. Ryle's commentary or "exposition" on the gospel of Matthew. (I didn't read in it every week, of course. Other books had priority, for the most part.) I definitely enjoyed reading it however. I read the second half with more focus and concentration over the last few weeks of Lent. Reading this commentary reminded me of all the reasons I LOVE reading J.C. Ryle. I love his passion, his zeal, his boldness. I love his truthfulness. I love how he asks tough questions. Questions perhaps made even tougher by all the changes in society, in morality, from when he lived. He could be said to be a critic of his own time, of his own society! I love how Ryle isn't afraid to talk about sin and hell and the lostness of humanity. I also LOVE the focus on Christ. This is a gospel-rich commentary. Of course, it is focused on the first gospel, the book of Matthew, but I mean the GOOD NEWS, the preaching of the good news.

I shared two posts rich in quotes--part one focusing on Matthew 1-10 and part two focusing on Matthew 11-28.

Favorite quotes:
Happy is he who really comprehends that one principal qualification for coming to Christ is a deep sense of sin! ~ J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, Matthew
Men are sadly apt to forget, that it does not require great open sins to be sinned, in order to ruin a soul forever. They have only to go on hearing without believing, listening without repenting, going to Church without going to Christ, and by and bye they will find themselves in hell! We shall all be judged according to our light. We shall have to give account of our use of religious privileges. To hear of the "great salvation," and yet neglect it, is one of the worst sins man can commit. (John 16:9.) ~ J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, Matthew
The beginning of the way to heaven, is to feel that we are in the way to hell, and to be willing to be taught of the Spirit. ~ J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, Matthew
A sermon without application is like a letter posted without an address. It may be well written, rightly dated, and duly signed. But it is useless, because it never reaches its destination. ~ J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, Matthew
The heart must be the principal point to which we attend in all the relations between God and our souls. What is the first thing we need, in order to be Christians? A new heart. What is the sacrifice God asks us to bring to him? A broken and a contrite heart. What is the true circumcision? The circumcision of the heart. What is genuine obedience? To obey from the heart. What is saving faith? To believe with the heart. Where ought Christ to dwell? To dwell in our hearts by faith. What is the chief request that Wisdom makes to everyone? "My son, give me your heart." ~ J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, Matthew
The time of miracles is not yet past. Every conversion is a miracle. ~ J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, Matthew
Nothing does so much harm to the cause of religion as the quarrels of Christians. ~ J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, Matthew
Open sin may kill its thousands, but indifference and neglect of the Gospel kill their tens of thousands. ~ J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, Matthew
Our sins may be many and great, but the payment made by our Great Substitute far outweighs them all.  ~ J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, Matthew

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Week in Review: April 14-20

This week I read:

ESV

  • Leviticus 22-27
  • 2 Kings 11-25
  • 1 Chronicles 1-13
  • Psalm 119
  • Ecclesiastes
  • Isaiah 28-44
  • Malachi
  • John 
  • Acts 1-10
  • 1 Thessalonians
  • 2 Thessalonians
  • 1 Timothy
  • 2 Timothy
  • Titus
  • Philemon

NASB

  • Psalm 119

KJV

  • Psalm 119

NKJV

  • Psalm 119

HCSB

  • Psalm 119

NLT

  • Psalm 119

NIV

  • Psalm 119



© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Book Review: Rhythms of Grace (2013)

Rhythms of Grace: How the Church's Worship Tells The Story of The Gospel. Mike Cosper. Foreword by Bob Kauflin. 2013. Crossway. 224 pages.

I would definitely recommend Mike Cosper's Rhythms of Grace. The first four chapters focus on the gospel, on how the gospel itself is a worship story. These chapters do a great job in illustrating how worship has always been and always will be an important part of God's story. We were designed--created--to worship. If we're not worshipping who we should be--GOD--then we'll find lesser "gods" (like ourselves) to worship. The four titles are "The Song of Eden," "Worship in the Wilderness,"The Song of Israel," and "The Song of Jesus." In part, they summarize the Old Testament and present the gospel--the good news--of Christ. The last six chapters focus on the idea or concept of "worship" in the lives of believers. These chapters show that worship is not just music, not just a particular music style. Worship is a way of life. It isn't just something you do on Sundays in a community. The titles are "Worship One, Two, Three," "Worship as Spiritual Formation," "Worship and the Story of the Church," "Liturgy and the Rhythms of Grace," "Sing, Sing, Sing," "The Pastoral Worship Leader." These chapters address worship basics, answering many questions. This is NOT a book about hymns versus choruses. It is, in a way, a book about church services, thoughtfully and carefully planned worship-filled church services. But not only church services. It is a book about how as Christians we are called to worship God daily as individuals and as communities.

Favorite quotes:
The gospel is a story about worship. It begins with promise and serenity, spins wildly and terribly off course, and is rescued in the most unexpected and surprising way possible. (25)
Worship was God's idea as he initiated creation. (26)
Worship is life with God, lived unto God for his glory and our pleasure. (31)
It's stories like these that make people think there must be something different about the Old Testament God and the New Testament God. The God Jesus speaks of surely wouldn't be so arbitrary, so harsh, they reason. Perhaps they were two different Gods, or perhaps Jesus changed the nature of God by becoming human. Perhaps God was just more compassionate after the incarnation, more sympathetic, less angry.
But this perspective underestimates two crucial facts: the holiness of God and the sinfulness of fallen man. The boiling, fiery, deadly presence of God is the natural reaction of holiness in the presence of sin. Our God is likened to a refining fire--a raging inferno that burns away impurity and leaves only what is purified and perfect (Mal. 3:2-3). We misunderstand the wrath of God if we think it's only emotional rage, like an angry, frustrated parent. It's not; it's a rage made of a pure, perfect, and holy hatred of sin and evil. On the flip side, it's a rage built upon the deepest love of what is good, pure, and perfect. Such wisdom and love can only respond with disgust at evil's destructive grip on the good.
Just as we underestimate God's holiness, we underestimate how deeply sinful we are. We think of ourselves as good enough, smart enough, and likeable enough to deserve forgiveness from God. (57)
In a single event, Jesus revolutionizes worship. By offering his body as a sacrifice for us, he makes it possible for the unholy to enter the presence of the holy. The unimaginably wide gap between sinners and their Maker is bridged by the unimaginably worthy sacrifice of Christ on the cross. (66)
For every Christian, at all times and in all places, there has only ever been one Worship Leader, one who is worthy to enter that sacred space and able to endure the wrath of God in our places, making us able to "boldly enter in" with and through him. The songs we sing, the prayers we pray, the faith we confess--all of it is an echo and an amen to the perfect worship offered to God by his Son. (68)
Simply put, Worship One, Two, Three is this: worship has one object and author, two contexts, and three audiences. (75)
The story of worship makes it clear: God is at the center of all of our worship. He is the single most glorious thing in the whole universe, the One to whom we ascribe the greatest and highest worth. (75)
Participating in God's glory-sharing life, then, happens in two contexts: scattered and gathered. Worship scattered is the Spirit-filled life of the Christian in the world, and worship gathered is the meeting of God's people to remember, encourage, and bless one another. (76)
There are three distinct audiences that the church needs to be aware of, both gathered and scattered. There is God, who is both the object of our praise and a witness to us as we praise him; there is the church, which both participates in and witnesses the lives and gatherings of the people; and there is the world, watching from the darkness. (83)
In most conversations about worship, an obstacle stands in the way: you. Whether you know it or not, intend it or not, you carry a deep well of ideas about what worship is, what it looks, sounds, and feels like. You've built this knowledge over the years and decades of your life, adding to it each time you've gathered with the church. One might say, "I don't really have a theology of worship," but in fact everyone does. That's because we are habit-formed people. (91)
Whoever dubbed the debate over musical style a "worship war" failed to realize that worship is always a war. The declaration that there is one God, that his name is Jesus, and that he has died, has risen, and will come again is an all-out assault on the saviors extended at every level of culture around us. (103)
Worship isn't merely a yes to the God who saves, but also a resounding and furious no to the lies that echo in the mountains around us. The church gathers like exiles and pilgrims, collected out of a world that isn't our home, and looks hopefully toward a future. Our songs and prayers are a foretaste of that future, and even as we practice them, they shape us for our future home. (104)
The words we hear, sing, and speak in worship help form: our images of God; our understanding of what the church is and does; our understanding of human brokenness and healing; our sense of purpose as individuals and as a church; our religious affections: awe, humility, delight, contrition, hope; our vision of wholeness for ourselves and all creation; our practices of engaging with God, with each other, and with the world. (118) (Ron Rienstra, Worship Words)
Our faith is a sung faith. (152)
The gospel should be what connects people--not music. (154)
Our singing is a testimony, a declaration to those around us of who we are and whose we are. (157)
The Bible gets much thinner if we take out all the songs and references to singing. (158)
That's what songs and hymns are meant to do. They provide language for experiences that often leave us speechless. (162)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, April 19, 2013

Book Review: Everlasting Righteousness

Everlasting Righteousness. Horatius Bonar. 1872. 114 pages.

From the preface:
The awakened conscience of the sixteenth century betook itself to "the righteousness of God." There it found refuge, at once from condemnation and from impurity. Only by "righteousness" could it be pacified; and nothing less than that which is divine could meet the case. At the cross this "righteousness" was found; human, yet divine: provided for man, and presented to him by God, for relief of conscience and justification of life. On the one word τετέλεσται, "It is finished," as on a heavenly resting-place, weary souls sat down and were refreshed. The voice from the tree did not summon them to do, but to be satisfied with what was done. Millions of bruised consciences there found healing and peace. The belief of that finished work brought the sinner into favour with God; nor did it leave him in uncertainty as to this. The justifying work of Calvary was God's way, not only of bringing pardon, but of securing certainty. It was the only perfect thing which had ever been presented to God in man's behalf; and so peculiar was this perfection, that it might be used by man in his transactions with God, as if it were his own. The knowledge of this sure justification was life from the dead to multitudes.
From chapter one:
How may I, a sinner, draw near to Him in whom there is no sin, and look upon His face in peace? This is the great question which, at some time or other, every one of us has asked. This is one of the awful problems which man in all ages has been attempting to solve. There is no evading it: he must face it.
I really LOVED reading this short but oh-so-beneficial little book on the "everlasting righteousness" of Christ. This is a book about justification and sanctification, imputation and the atonement. The chapter titles include, "God's Answer To Man's Question," "God's Recognition of Substitution," "The Completeness of the Substitution," "The Declaration of the Completeness," "Righteousness for the Unrighteous," "The Righteousness of God," "Not Faith, But Christ," "What the Resurrection of the Substitute Has Done," "The Pardon and the Peace Made Sure," and "The Holy Life of the Justified."

The Everlasting Righteousness was my introduction to the work of Horatius Bonar. He's definitely an author I'm going to want to read again! I found the book to be quite accessible. (Definitely more accessible than A.W. Pink and J.C. Ryle. And perhaps slightly more accessible than some of Spurgeon's works.) The subject is an ESSENTIAL one. He's writing on something of great foundational importance. More people need to be aware of this doctrine; it is a life-changing doctrine. If you want to better understand--better GRASP--the gospel, read this book!!!

Favorite quotes:
Man has always treated sin as a misfortune, not a crime; as disease, not guilt; as a case for the physician, not for the judge. Herein lies the essential faultiness of all mere human religions or theologies. They fail to acknowledge the judicial aspect of the question, as that on which the real answer must hinge; and to recognise the guilt or criminality of the evil-doer as that which must first be dealt with before any real answer, or approximation to an answer, can be given. God is a Father; but He is no less a Judge. Shall the Judge give way to the Father, or the Father give way to the Judge? God loves the sinner; but He hates the sin. Shall He sink His love to the sinner in His hatred of the sin, or His hatred of the sin in His love to the sinner? God has sworn that He has no pleasure in the death of a sinner (Eze 33:11); yet He has also sworn that the soul that sinneth, it shall die (Eze 18:4). Which of the two oaths shall be kept? Shall the one give way to the other? Can both be kept inviolate? Can a contradiction, apparently so direct, be reconciled? Which is the more unchangeable and irreversible, the vow of pity or the oath of justice? Law and love must be reconciled, else the great question as to a sinner's intercourse with the Holy One must remain unanswered. The one cannot give way to the other. Both must stand, else the pillars of the universe will be shaken.
The reconciliation God has accomplished; and, in the accomplishment, both law and love have triumphed. The one has not given way to the other. Each has kept its ground; nay, each has come from the conflict honored and glorified. Never has there been love like this love of God; so large, so lofty, so intense, so self-sacrificing. Never has law been so pure, so broad, so glorious, so inexorable. There has been no compromise. Law and love have both had their full scope. Not one jot or tittle has been surrendered by either. They have been satisfied to the full; the one in all its severity, the other in all its tenderness. Love has never been more truly love, and law has never been more truly law, than in this conjunction of the two. It has been reconciliation, without compromise. God's honour has been maintained, yet man's interests have not been sacrificed. God has done it all; and He has done it effectually and irreversibly. Man could not have done it, even though he could have devised it. But truly he could do neither. God only could have devised and done it. He has done it by removing the whole case into His own courts of law, that it might be settled there on a righteous basis. Man could not have gone into court with the case, save in the certainty that he would lose it. God comes into court, bringing man and man's whole case along with Him, that upon righteous principles, and in a legal way, the case may be settled, at once in favour of man and in favour of God. It is this judicial settlement of the case that is God's one and final answer to man's long unanswered question, "How shall man be just with God?" "Wherewith shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before the high God?" (Micah 6:6). God provides the basis of the reconciliation; a basis which demonstrates that there is no compromise between law and love, but the full expression of both; a basis which establishes both the authority and the paternity of Jehovah, as Lawgiver and Father; a basis which reveals in infinite awfulness the exceeding sinfulness of sin, the spotless purity of the statute, the unbending character of God's governmental ordinances; and which yet secures, in and by law, the righteous overflow of His boundless love to the lost sons of Adam. This basis of reconciliation between law and love God has Himself not only provided, but brought into His own courts of law; proposing to the sinner that all the questions between Himself and the sinner should be settled on this basis ,-so equitable, so friendly, so secure; and settled in judicial form, by a legal process, in which verdict is given in favour of the accused, and he is clean absolved, -"justified from all things."
Sin is too great an evil for man to meddle with. His attempts to remove it do but increase it, and his endeavours to approach God in spite of it aggravate his guilt. Only God can deal with sin, either as a disease or a crime; as a dishonour to Himself, or as a hinderer of man's approach to Himself. He deals with it not in some arbitrary or summary way, by a mere exercise of will or power, but by bringing it for adjudication into His own courts of law. As judge, seated on His tribunal, He settles the case, and settles it in favour of the sinner, -of any sinner on the earth that will consent to the basis which He proposes. Into this court each one may freely come, on the footing of a sinner needing the adjustment of the great question between him and God. That adjustment is no matter of uncertainty or difficulty; it will at once be granted to each applicant; and the guilty man with his case, however bad, thus legally settled, retires from court with his burden removed and his fears dispelled, assured that he can never again be summoned to answer for his guilt. It is righteousness that has reconciled God to him, and him to God. As sin is too great an evil for any but God to deal with, so is righteousness too high for man to reach; to high for any but God to bring down and place at our disposal. God has brought down, and brought nigh, the righteousness. Thus the guilt which we have contracted is met by the righteousness which God has provided; and the exclusion from the divine fellowship, which the guilt produced, is more than reversed by the new introduction which the righteousness places at our disposal.
The history of six thousand years of evil has been lost on man. He refuses to read its awful lesson regarding sin, and God's displeasure against the sinner, which that history records. The flood of evil that has issued forth from one single sin he has forgotten. The death, the darkness, the sorrow, the sickness, the tears, the weariness, the madness, the confusion, the bloodshed, the furious hatred between man and man, making earth a suburb of hell,-all this is overlooked or misread; and man repels the thought that sin is crime, which God hates with an infinite hate, and which He, in His righteousness, must condemn and avenge... The world has grown old in sin, and has now more than ever begun to trifle with it, either as a necessity which cannot be cured, or a partial aberration from good order which will rectify itself ere long. It is this tampering with evil, this refusal to see sin as God sees it, as the law declares it, and as the story of our race has revealed it, that has in all ages been the root of error, and of wide departure from the faith once delivered to the saints. Admit the evil of sin, with all its eternal consequences, and you are shut up to a divine way of dealing with it. Deny the evil of sin, and the future results of that evil, and you may deny the whole revelation of God, set aside the cross, and abrogate the law.
Stripe for stripe is human law; "by His stripes we are healed" is superhuman, the result of a legislation as gracious as it is divine.
What God is, and what Christ has done, make up one gospel. The belief of that gospel is eternal life. "All that believe are justified from all things" (Acts 13:39).
With a weak faith and a fearful heart many a sinner stands before the altar. But it is not the strength of his faith, but the perfection of the sacrifice, that saves; and no feebleness of faith, no dimness of eye, no trembling of hand, can change the efficacy of our burnt-offering. The vigor of our faith can add nothing to it, nor can the poverty of it take anything from it. Faith, in all its degrees, still reads the inscription, "The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin"; and if at times the eye is so dim that it cannot read these words, through blinding tears or bewildering mist, faith rests itself on the certain knowledge of the fact that the inscription is still there, or at least that the blood itself (of which these words remind us) remains, in all its power and suitableness, upon the altar unchanged and uneffaced. God says that the believing man is justified; who are we, then, that we should say, "We believe, but we do not know whether we are justified"? What God has joined together, let not man put asunder. The question as to the right way of believing is that which puzzles many, and engrosses all their anxiety, to the exclusion of the far greater questions as to the person and work of Him who is the object of their believing. Thus their thoughts run in a self-righteous direction, and are occupied, not with what Christ has done, but with what they have yet to do, to get themselves connected with His work...The quality or quantity of faith is not the main question for the sinner. That which he needs to know is that Jesus died and was buried, and rose again, according to the Scriptures. This knowledge is life everlasting.
Our burden He assumed when He entered the manger, and laid it aside only at the cross. The utterance, "It is finished,' pointed back to a whole life's sin-bearing work.
Not resurrection, but crucifixion, is the finishing of transgression and the making of an end of sin.
To be entitled to use another's name, when my own name is worthless; to be allowed to wear another's raiment, because my own is torn and filthy; to appear before God in another's person,-the person of the Beloved Son ,-this is the summit of all blessing. The sin-bearer and I have exchanged names, robes, and persons! I am now represented by Him, my own personality having disappeared; He now appears in the presence of God for me (Heb 9:24). All that makes Him precious and dear to the Father has been transferred to me. His excellency and glory are seen as if they were mine; and I receive the love, and the fellowship, and the glory, as if I had earned them all. So entirely one am I with the sin-bearer, that God treats me not merely as if I had not done the evil that I have done; but as if I had done all the good which I have not done, but which my Substitute has done. In one sense I am still the poor sinner, once under wrath; in another I am altogether righteous, and shall be so for ever, because of the Perfect One, in whose perfection I appear before God. Nor is this a false pretense or a hollow fiction, which carries no results or blessings with it. It is an exchange which has been provided by the Judge, and sanctioned by law; an exchange of which any sinner upon earth may avail himself and be blest.
The knowledge of Christ is that which secures our justification; the knowledge of Christ as the sin-bearer: for it is added, as the justifying thing in this knowledge, "He shall bear their iniquities"; thus again linking justification with the cross, and the finished work there.
The first note of that gospel was sounded at Bethlehem, from the manger where the young child lay; the last note came from the throne above, when the Son of God returned in triumph from His mission of grace to earth, and took His seat upon the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. Between these two extremities, the manger and the throne, how much is contained for us! All the love of God is there. The exceeding riches of divine grace are there. The fullness of that power and wisdom and righteousness, which have come forth, not to destroy, but to save, is there. These are the two boundary walls of that wondrous storehouse out of which we are to be filled throughout the eternal ages. Of what is contained in this treasure-house we know something here, in some small measure; but the vast contents are beyond all measurement and all conception. The eternal unfolding of these to us will be perpetual gladness. Apart from the excellency of the inheritance, and the beauty of the city, and the glory of the kingdom, which will make us say, "Truly the lines have fallen unto us in pleas-ant places," there will be, in our ever-widening knowledge of "the unsearchable riches of Christ," light and replenishment and satisfaction, which, even were all external brightness swept away, would be enough for the soul throughout all the ages to come. The present glory of Christ is the reward of His humiliation here. Because He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross, therefore God hath highly exalt-ed Him, and given Him the name that is above every name. He wears the crown of glory, because He wore the crown of thorns. He drank of the brook by the way, therefore he has lifted up the head (Psa 110:7). But this is not all. That glory to which He is now exalted is the standing testimony before all heaven that His work was finished on the cross. "I have finished the work which Thou gavest me to do," He said; and then He added, "Now, O Father, glorify Thou me with Thine own self, with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was" (John 17:4,5). The proofs of the completeness of the sacrificial work upon the cross are very full and satisfying. They assure us that the work was really finished, and, as such, available for the most sinful of men. We shall find it good to dwell upon the thought of this completeness, for the pacifying of the conscience, for the satisfying of the soul, for the removal of all doubt and unbelief, and for the production and increase of faith and confidence. There are degrees of rest for the soul, and it is in proportion as we comprehend the perfection of the work on Calvary that our rest will increase. There are depths of peace which we have not yet sounded, for it is "peace which passeth all understanding"; and into these depths the Holy Spirit leads us, not in some miraculous way, or by some mere exertion of power, but by revealing to us more and more of that work, in the first knowledge of which our peace began. We are never done with the cross, nor ever shall be. Its wonders will be always new, and always fraught with joy. "The Lamb as it had been slain" will be the theme of our praise above. Why should such a name be given to Him in such a book as the Revelation, which in one sense carries us far past the cross, were it not that we shall always realize our connection with its one salvation; always be looking to it even in the midst of glory; and always learning from it some new lesson regarding the work of Him "in whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace"? What will they who here speak of them-selves as being so advanced as to be done with the cross, say to being brought face to face with the Lamb that was slain, in the age of absolute perfection, the age of the heavenly glory? Thou fool! Dost thou not know that the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ endureth for ever, and that thou shalt eternally glory in it, if thou are saved by it at all? Thou fool! Wilt thou not join in the song below, "To Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood"? Wilt thou not join in the song above, "Thou was slain, and hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood"? And dost thou not remember that it is from "the Lamb as it had been slain" that "the seven spirits of God are sent forth into all the earth"? (Rev 5:6). (2It is the Lamb who stands in the midst of the elders (Rev 5:6), and before whom they fall down. "Worthy is the Lamb" is the theme of celestial song. It is the Lamb that opens the seals (Rev 6:1). It is before the Lamb that the great multitude stand clothed in white (Rev 7:9). It is the blood of the Lamb that washes the raiment white (Rev 7:14). It is by the blood of the Lamb that the victory is won (Rev 12:11). The book of life belongs to the Lamb slain (Rev 13:8). It was a Lamb that stood on the glorious Mount Zion (Rev 14:1). It is the Lamb that the redeemed multitude are seen following (Rev 14:4); and that multitude is the first-fruits unto God and unto the Lamb (Rev 14:4). It is the song of the Lamb that is sung in heaven (Rev 15:3). It is the Lamb that wars and over-comes (Rev 17:14). It is the marriage of the Lamb that is celebrated, and it is to the marriage-supper of the Lamb that we are called (Rev 19:7,9). The church is the Lamb's wife (Rev 21:9). On the foundations of the heavenly city are written the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb (Rev 21:14). Of this city the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple (Rev 21:23). Of that city the Lamb is the light (Rev 21:23). The book of life of the Lamb, and the throne of the Lamb (Rev 21:27; Rev 22:1,3), sum up this wondrous list of honors and dignities belonging to the Lord Jesus as the crucified Son of God. Thus the glory of heaven revolves round the cross; and every object on which the eye lights in the celestial city will remind us of the cross, and carry us back to Golgotha. Never shall we get beyond it, or turn our backs on it, or cease to draw from it the divine virtue which it contains.
It is in righteousness and by righteousness that God saves the sinner. He justifies the ungodly (Rom 4:5); but He does it in and by RIGHTEOUSNESS. For "the righteous Lord loveth righteousness" (Psa 11:7). He "justifies freely by His grace" (Rom 3:24); but still it is "in and by righteousness." His grace is righteous grace; it is grace which condemns the sin while acquitting the sinner; nay, which condemns the sin by means of that very thing which brings about the acquittal of the sinner. His pardon is righteous pardon, and therefore irreversible. His salvation is righteous salvation, and therefore everlasting. It is as the righteous Judge that God justifies. He is "faithful and just" in forgiving sin (1 John 1:9). By His pardons He magnifies His righteousness; so that he who goes to God for forgiveness can use as his plea the righteousness of the righteous Judge, no less than the grace of the loving and merciful Lord God. God loves to pardon because He is love; and He loves to pardon because He is righteous, and true, and holy. No sin can be too great for pardon, and no sinner can be too deep or old in sin to be saved and blest; because the righteousness out of which salvation comes is infinite. 
From the moment that we receive the divine testimony to the righteousness of the Son of God, all the guilt that was on us passes over to Him, and all His righteousness passes over to us; so that God looks on us as possessed of that righteousness, and treats us according to its value in His sight. Men may call this a mere "name" or "legal fiction"; but it is such a "name" as secures for us the full favor of the righteous God, who can only show favor to us in a righteous way; and it is such a "fiction" as law recognizes and God acts upon in dealing with the unrighteous as if they were righteous,-supremely, divinely righteous, in virtue of their connection with Him, who, "though He knew no sin, was made sin for us, that we might be made the RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD in Him" (2 Cor 5:21).
The righteous God receives unrighteous man, if man presents himself in his own true character as a sinner, and does not mock God by pretending to be something less or better than this. For then the divinely provided righteousness comes in to cover the unrighteous, and to enable God to receive him in love, and justify him before earth and heaven. 
Jehovah is satisfied, more than satisfied, with Christ's fulfilling of the law which man had broken. For never had that law been so fulfilled in all its parts as it was in the life of the God-man.
In His name we carry on all our transactions with God, and obtain all that we need by simply using it as our plea. The things that He did not do were laid to His charge, and He was treated as if He had done them all; so the things that He did do are put to our account, and we are treated by God as if we had done them all.
If God is willing that Christ should represent us, who are we, that we should refuse to be represented by Him? If God is willing to deal with us on the footing of Christ's obedience, and to reckon that obedience to us as if it had been our own, who are we, that we should reject such a method of blessing, and call it unjust and impossible?
He who refuses to be represented by another before God, must represent himself, and draw near to God on the strength of what he is in himself, or what he has done. How he is likely to fare in such an approach, let his own conscience tell him, if he will not believe the explicit declaration of the Holy Spirit, that "through Him (Christ) we have access by one Spirit to the Father" (Eph 2:18); or Christ's own affirmation concerning this: "I am the way," and "I am the door" (John 10:9, 14:6).
Yet such is the power of sin, that it took thirty-three years of righteousness to undo what one act of unrighteousness had done. One act of disobedience to one statute had done the evil; a lifetime's obedience to the whole law of God is required for the undoing. Only by this can man be replaced in that condition of righteousness in which God can accept him, and the law recognize him as entitled to blessing. Our characters are not transferred to Christ, but our liabilities are; and in our acceptance of God's mode of transference, we make the complete exchange by which we are absolved from all guilt, and enter into a state of "no condemnation." Sin reckoned to Christ as our substitute, and righteousness reckoned to us as the acceptors of that substitute: this is deliverance, and peace, and life eternal.
The believed gospel saves; but it is the believed promise that assures us of this salvation.
By a natural figure of speech, faith is often magnified into something great; whereas it is really nothing but our consenting to be saved by another: its supposed magnitude is derived from the greatness of the object which it grasps, the excellence of the righteousness which it accepts. Its preciousness is not its own, but the preciousness of Him to whom it links us... Faith is not our savior. It was not faith that was born at Bethlehem and died on Golgotha for us. It was not faith that loved us, and gave itself for us; that bore our sins in its own body on the tree; that died and rose again for our sins. Faith is one thing, the Savior is another. Faith is one thing, and the cross is another. Let us not confound them, nor ascribe to a poor, imperfect act of man, that which belongs exclusively to the Son of the Living God.
For the cross saves completely, or not at all. Our faith does not divide the work of salvation between itself and the cross. It is the acknowledgment that the cross alone saves, and that it saves alone. Faith adds nothing to the cross, nor to its healing virtue. It owns the fullness, and sufficiency, and suitableness of the work done there, and bids the toiling spirit cease from its labors and enter into rest. Faith does not come to Calvary to do anything. It comes to see the glorious spectacle of all things done, and to accept this completion without a misgiving as to its efficacy. It listens to the "It is finished!" of the Sin-bearer, and says, "Amen." Where faith begins, there labor ends,-labor, I mean, "for" life and pardon. Faith is rest, not toil. It is the giving up all the former weary efforts to do or feel something good, in order to induce God to love and pardon; and the calm reception of the truth so long rejected, that God is not waiting for any such inducements, but loves and pardons of His own goodwill, and is showing that good will to any sinner who will come to Him on such a footing, casting away his own performances or goodnesses, and relying implicitly upon the free love of Him who so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son. 
 Faith is the acknowledgment of the entire absence of all goodness in us, and the recognition of the cross as the substitute for all the want on our part. Faith saves, because it owns the complete salvation of another, and not because it contributes anything to that salvation. There is no dividing or sharing the work between our own belief and Him in whom we believe. The whole work is His, not ours, from the first to last. Faith does not believe in itself, but in the Son of God. Like the beggar, it receives everything, but gives nothing. It consents to be a debtor for ever to the free love of God. Its resting-place is the foundation laid in Zion. It rejoices in another, not in itself. Its song is, "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but by His mercy He saved us." 
Christ crucified is to be the burden of our preaching, and the substance of our belief, from first to last. At no time in the saint's life does he cease to need the cross.
At every turn of the way, resurrection meets us in the person of the Lord Jesus, and says to us, "Because I live, ye shall live also." For the life that is in Him is resurrection-life. 
The oftener that we visit His empty tomb, and see for ourselves that He is not here, He is risen, the more shall we be penetrated by that wondrous truth that we are risen with Him, and that this fellowship in resurrection is as truly the source of spiritual life, health, and holiness, as of joy unspeakable and full of glory. 
We do not live a holy life in order to be justified; but we are justified that we may live a holy life.
We are forgiven, that we may be like Him who forgives us.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Book Review: Miranda (1915)

Miranda. Grace Livingston Hill. 1915. 224 pages.

While I certainly enjoyed Marcia Schuyler and Phoebe Deane, I really LOVED Miranda. Perhaps because Miranda has had a role to play--indeed most significant roles to play in both previous books giving the reader plenty of time to get to know her or love her. Perhaps just because this one avoids some of the "weaknesses" of the earlier novels. What I enjoyed most about Miranda was the LACK of a scoundrel or villain. Miranda's love story is just as unique as she is, in a way. It isn't presented traditionally either. The romance first starts with a proposal--five proposals in fact--ending early on with the man marrying another young woman in place of Miranda. He's a widower with a LARGE family. One of the youngest is a young boy named Nathan. After the wedding, the two become friendly--very friendly. Then readers are rushed to the past. Readers see a few significant incidences in Miranda's life, for example, we see her at school where she's madly in love with the school's bad boy or troublemaker. We see her "save" him, in a way--in a way only Miranda can accomplish! We later see this "bad boy" in trouble again, this time with the law. It is in Miranda's power to free him--she has access to the smokehouse where he's being locked up temporarily. But is it in his best interest and her own that she do so? Right or wrong, Miranda's decision is made long before readers get a chance to know her in previous books. (I wasn't sure how these past revelations fit in with Marcia Schuyler. If both events occurred before Miranda befriends Marcia, but, I imagine at least one of them was before.) The idea of falling in love with an eligible young man is unthinkable to Miranda, she's content to be a part of Marcia and David's household, to look after their daughter, Rose, to help keep house. The "present" of this novel (minus the flashbacks) occur in the late 1830s to early 1840s. Miranda is in her mid-to-late twenties and is definitely considered a plain old maid. Only readers know that Miranda's heart belongs to a "bad boy" from oh-so-long ago. She may not know where he is--if he is even in the United States--but she thinks of him sometimes.
Readers learn before Miranda just what he has been doing. He's "found" in Oregon territory; he's a trapper who has just made friends with a missionary named Dr. Whitman....and so the story truly begins to unfold.

Miranda is RICH in historical detail. I loved that about this series, but especially in Marcia Schuyler and Miranda. Is it necessary to have read Phoebe Deane before reading this one? Not really. Phoebe is not a part of this story, this community. Is it necessary to have read Marcia Schuyler before reading this one? Perhaps. But not extremely important. It would just give readers a better understanding of David and Marcia's family.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Book Review: The Tutor's Daughter (2013)

The Tutor's Daughter. Julie Klassen. 2013. Bethany House. 412 pages.

It wasn't quite love at first sight--or love at first sentence, I suppose. But within a few chapters, I knew it was LOVE, LOVE, LOVE. The more I read, the more I loved. This was one of those oh-so-magical, giddy-making historical romances for me. The Tutor's Daughter is a regency romance. (I would DEFINITELY recommend it for fans of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer.) The heroine is a young woman, Emma Smallwood. She has for the last few years greatly helped her father in his teaching or tutoring. In the past, they've taught from their own home or school. But business has been poorly lately, and when he is offered a tutoring position at the home of his would-be-pupil, and that offer extends to his daughter, he accepts. The Smallwoods will be leaving their own home to live with the Weston family. They know the two oldest Weston sons--they are former students now grown to adulthood. But they don't know their new pupils, Rowan and Julian. And nothing prepares them for the reality of living in such a strange and sometimes unwelcoming home. (It feels more like Northanger Abbey than Jane Eyre, perhaps, but there are some secrets, some clues, some mysteries.) The Weston household can be oh-so-strange and not at all what it appears.

When she was younger, Emma was perhaps drawn to the second son, Phillip. But now that she's become reacquainted with both Phillip and Henry, well, she's surprised by how much she does admire and respect Henry! This is SHOCKING to her at first because she perhaps didn't realize that he would grow out of his childishness, his obnoxiousness, his pranks. But he is all grown up now, and he's oh-so-responsible.

I absolutely loved this one so much. It was so compelling, so dramatic, so perfectly perfect!!!

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Book Review: Iscariot (2013)

Iscariot. Tosca Lee. 2013. Howard Books. 336 pages.

I must admit I had my doubts about the novel Iscariot. I would have doubts about any novel focusing on Judas Iscariot making him a an easy to relate to, sympathetic character. But. The writing really was so beautiful in places, and the author's storytelling, for the most part, worked really well. She made an effort to give fullness to Judas' whole life, not just his few years spent following the Messiah, but for better or worse his life experience. What circumstances and situations impacted Judas' character? What events shaped and molded him into the man he was, the man he would become? While this is a FICTION novel, I thought it did a good job of establishing the fact that he was a real person, that he would have been bringing all of his life experiences with him as he became a disciple. The fictional Judas of this novel was oh-so-human, oh-so-broken; a man who truly desperately NEEDED Jesus to be THE Messiah right then, right there. Judas' faith in God was not questioned in this novel, nor his spirituality. So in many ways I found Iscariot to be a captivating read. If one clearly keeps in mind that this is fiction, the work of an imagination to bring Judas to life for modern readers, then this is well worth reading. What the Bible says about Judas is the inspired Word of God, the work of the Holy Spirit. So it is perhaps important to keep what the Bible actually says about the betrayal in mind as you read.

I am glad I read this one. It was my first introduction to Tosca Lee's writing. And I definitely enjoyed her storytelling and her writing even if at times the story was dark and uncomfortable. (I would rather the passion story remain always uncomfortable than to become hardened to the atrocities and realities of the atonement.)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

My Year with Spurgeon, Week #15

God has richly blessed us, notwithstanding all our faults and failures, surely we should learn to forgive many injuries done to ourselves. ~ Charles Spurgeon, Thou Art Now The Blessed of the Lord
Now, do you know anything of the covenant relationship between God and his people? The bulk of Christians nowadays are wholly ignorant on this subject. The preachers have forgotten it; yet the covenant is the top and bottom of all theology. He that is the master of the knowledge of the covenants has the key of true divinity. But the doctrine has gone out of date except with a few old-fashioned people, who are supposed to know no better, but who, in spite of all the taunts of their opponents, cling to the doctrines of grace, and find in them the very marrow and fatness of the truth of God. I love the promises of God because they are covenant promises God has engaged to keep his word with his people in the person of his dear Son. He has bound himself, by covenant with Christ, and will not, cannot go back from his word; and Christ has fulfilled the conditions of the covenant, and he who hath "brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant," will certainly, "make you perfect to do his will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ." The promise is a double promise when it is confirmed in Jesus. Though we are poor and worthless creatures, yet can we say with David, "Although my house not be so with God, yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure." Twice God says by Isaiah, "I have given him for a covenant to the people" thrice happy are they who receive what God hath given, and who, in Christ, enter into that blessed bond. Beloved, if God has laid the promise home to you by the Spirit, and let you see it as a covenant promise, the God has borne this testimony to you: "Thou art now the blessed of the Lord." ~ Charles Spurgeon, Thou Art Now the Blessed of the Lord
How few there are of us who make it our business to be constantly telling out the sweet story of Jesus and his love! I read, the other day, of a chaplain in the Northern army in the lamentable war in the United States, who, while he lay wounded on the battle-field, heard a man, not far off, utter an oath. Though he himself was so badly wounded that he could not stand, yet he wished to reach the swearer to speak a gospel message to him, and he thought, "I can get to him if I roll over." So, though bleeding profusely himself, he kept rolling over and over till he got to the side of the poor blasphemer, and on the lone battle-field he preached to him Jesus. Some of the other men came along, and he said to them, "Can you carry me? I fear that I am dying, but I do not want to be taken off the field. I should like you, if you would, to carry me from one dying man to another, all the night long, that I might tell them of a Saviour." What a splendid deed was this! A bleeding man talking to those who were full of sin about a Saviour's bleeding wounds! Oh, you who have no wound, who can walk, and possess all the faculties to fit you for the service, how often you miss opportunities and refuse to speak of Jesus! "Thou art now the blessed of the Lord," and at this moment I would have you think that the blessed Lord lays his pierced hand on thee saying, "Go and tell others what I have done for thee." Never cease to tell the divine tale, as opportunity is given, until thy voice is lost in death; then thy spirit shall begin to utter the story in the loftier sphere. ~ Charles Spurgeon, Thou Art Now The Blessed of the Lord
He that believeth in Jesus hath all the blessing which Jesus can give to him; forgiveness for the past; grace for the present; and glory for the future. ~ Charles Spurgeon, Thou Art Now The Blessed of the Lord
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible