Saturday, October 31, 2015

"Christians Get Depressed Too" Playlist

This month I've reviewed two books by David Murray. One was Christians Get Depressed Too. The second was The Happy Christian. Last Sunday, I shared "The Happy Christian" playlist. It was great fun for me. But I think it's only fair that the other book gets a playlist too. Though in many ways, there is a good deal of overlap.

In choosing songs for this playlist, I kept several things in mind. I was looking for songs that came from an honest, oh-so-human starting place. A place that acknowledges that life isn't easy and happy-clappy all the time, or, even most of the time. A place that acknowledges that it's normal to feel a wide range of emotions, to be vulnerable. But I also wanted to choose songs that illustrate the journey out, that shifted the focus perhaps from circumstances and self to God and Jesus and HOPE. The point of this playlist is not to celebrate darkness for the sake of darkness but to celebrate LIGHT.

"Blessings" by Laura Story.

"Untitled Hymn" by Chris Rice

"Broken Hallelujah" The Afters

"God, Is It True (Trust Me)" by Steven Curtis Chapman

"I Will Trust You" by Steven Curtis Chapman

"Praise You In This Storm" by Casting Crowns.

"Never Once" by Matt Redman.

"Sovereign" by Chris Tomlin.

"You Never Let Go" also by Matt Redman.

"Joy" by Rend Collective.

"No More Faith" by Andrew Peterson

"Questions" by Steven Curtis Chapman

"Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)" by Chris Tomlin

"Faithful" by Steven Curtis Chapman

"Good Good Father" by Chris Tomlin

"Hold Me Jesus" by Rich Mullins

"Jesus Will Meet You There" by Steven Curtis Chapman

"All the Way My Savior Leads Me" by Chris Tomlin

"Give Me Jesus" by Fernando Ortega

"Cry Out to Jesus" by Third Day

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, October 30, 2015

Book Review: 100 Greatest Songs In Christian Music

100 Greatest Songs In Christian Music: The Stories Behind The Music That Changed Our Lives Forever. CCM. 2006. Thomas Nelson. 196 pages. [Source: Gift]

While I'm not sure that I like the subtitle of this one, I must admit this one was fun to browse and skim. You should know that there isn't a 'proper' table of contents or an 'official' list, for better or worse. Also, there isn't an index. To see what made the cut as being among the '100 Greatest Songs' you do have to flip through the entire book. Several pages--of text and photographs--are devoted to each song. Chances are that you'll seek out your favorite songs, your favorite artists, and want to read those pages. And there'll be other pages that you merely skim over.

I thought I'd mention the songs that meant something TO ME.

81. When God Ran. Benny Hester. If it was MY list, this one would be much higher on the list. This was really my first favorite, favorite, favorite, FAVORITE song. And it's still among my favorites if I'm honest. I'll never out-grow my need for this emotional, compelling song of God's amazing love for us.

63. We Are The Reason. David Meece. I love and adore this song. I'd be surprised if I could ever listen to this one without getting all teary. I learned early on that the BEST Christmas songs NEED a little Easter in them.

46. Secret Ambition. Michael W. Smith. This isn't the only MWS song on the list. There are many, many songs that made it. I love this one. This was one of the first Christian music videos I remember seeing on TV. And it reminds me of my first concert. It was MAGIC.

41. Love Crucified Arose. Michael Card. I love, love, love Michael Card's music. He does some of my favorite songs. Like "Final Word" and "Immanuel" and "God's Own Fool" and "Tell The World That Jesus Loves You." Just to name a few :)

25. Big House. Audio Adrenaline. I love this one. It reminds me of high school. I saw Audio Adrenaline in concert many, many times! (Same with Newsboys!)

16. Agnus Dei. Third Day. I really appreciate the fact that this little song from the album Exodus got mentioned. True it is Third Day. But still. The Exodus album was one I listened endlessly to for many, many months. I still have many happy associations with it. Just seeing the cover makes me smile.

15. Because He Lives. Gaithers. This song is EVERYTHING to me. You might think I'm exaggerating. I'm not. Every word, every verse is packed with meaning for me. And the memories. Oh. I'm getting emotional just thinking about it.

9. Shine. Newsboys. Is Shine my favorite Newsboys song? I'm not sure. I loved the album Going Public. I think I listened to it five times a day for months and months. I love Shine. I love Spirit Thing. I'm surprised more Newsboys didn't make the list. I really am. (Entertaining Angels is another favorite of mine!)

Am I surprised by who didn't make it on the list? or by what didn't make it on the list? Yes and no. I have to remind myself that this book did come out in 2006. I think they'd be more Steven Curtis Chapman on the list if the list was newer. And there isn't one Chris Tomlin song on the list. Praise songs in general don't get mentioned all that often on the list--which is what I mainly listen to these days.


© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Quotes from the Cloud #43

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.
The act of prayer teaches us our unworthiness, which is a very salutary lesson for such proud beings as we are. If God gave us favours without constraining us to pray for them we should never know how poor we are, but a true prayer is an inventory of wants, a catalogue of necessities, a revelation of hidden poverty. While it is an application to divine wealth, it is a confession of human emptiness. The most healthy state of a Christian is to be always empty in self and constantly depending upon the Lord for supplies; to be always poor in self and rich in Jesus; weak as water personally, but mighty through God to do great exploits; and hence the use of prayer, because, while it adores God, it lays the creature where it should be, in the very dust. Prayer is in itself, apart from the answer which it brings, a great benefit to the Christian. As the runner gains strength for the race by daily exercise, so for the great race of life we acquire energy by the hallowed labour of prayer. Prayer plumes the wings of God's young eaglets, that they may learn to mount above the clouds. Prayer girds the loins of God's warriors, and sends them forth to combat with their sinews braced and their muscles firm. An earnest pleader cometh out of his closet, even as the sun ariseth from the chambers of the east, rejoicing like a strong man to run his race. Prayer is that uplifted hand of Moses which routs the Amalekites more than the sword of Joshua; it is the arrow shot from the chamber of the prophet foreboding defeat to the Syrians. Prayer girds human weakness with divine strength, turns human folly into heavenly wisdom, and gives to troubled mortals the peace of God. We know not what prayer cannot do! We thank thee, great God, for the mercy-seat, a choice proof of thy marvellous lovingkindness. Help us to use it aright throughout this day! ~ Charles Spurgeon, Morning, October 11
We should be better Christians if we were more alone, waiting upon God, and gathering through meditation on his Word spiritual strength for labour in his service. We ought to muse upon the things of God, because we thus get the real nutriment out of them. Truth is something like the cluster of the vine: if we would have wine from it, we must bruise it; we must press and squeeze it many times. The bruiser's feet must come down joyfully upon the bunches, or else the juice will not flow; and they must well tread the grapes, or else much of the precious liquid will be wasted. So we must, by meditation, tread the clusters of truth, if we would get the wine of consolation therefrom. Our bodies are not supported by merely taking food into the mouth, but the process which really supplies the muscle, and the nerve, and the sinew, and the bone, is the process of digestion. It is by digestion that the outward food becomes assimilated with the inner life. Our souls are not nourished merely by listening awhile to this, and then to that, and then to the other part of divine truth. Hearing, reading, marking, and learning, all require inwardly digesting to complete their usefulness, and the inward digesting of the truth lies for the most part in meditating upon it. Why is it that some Christians, although they hear many sermons, make but slow advances in the divine life? Because they neglect their closets, and do not thoughtfully meditate on God's Word. They love the wheat, but they do not grind it; they would have the corn, but they will not go forth into the fields to gather it; the fruit hangs upon the tree, but they will not pluck it; the water flows at their feet, but they will not stoop to drink it. From such folly deliver us, O Lord, and be this our resolve this morning, "I will meditate in thy precepts." ~ Charles Spurgeon, Morning October 12
When we repent of sin, we must have one eye upon sin and another upon the cross, or it will be better still if we fix both our eyes upon Christ and see our transgressions only, in the light of his love.
True sorrow for sin is eminently practical. No man may say he hates sin, if he lives in it. Repentance makes us see the evil of sin, not merely as a theory, but experimentally--as a burnt child dreads fire. We shall be as much afraid of it, as a man who has lately been stopped and robbed is afraid of the thief upon the highway; and we shall shun it--shun it in everything--not in great things only, but in little things, as men shun little vipers as well as great snakes. True mourning for sin will make us very jealous over our tongue, lest it should say a wrong word; we shall be very watchful over our daily actions, lest in anything we offend, and each night we shall close the day with painful confessions of shortcoming, and each morning awaken with anxious prayers, that this day God would hold us up that we may not sin against him.
Sincere repentance is continual. Believers repent until their dying day. This dropping well is not intermittent. Every other sorrow yields to time, but this dear sorrow grows with our growth, and it is so sweet a bitter, that we thank God we are permitted to enjoy and to suffer it until we enter our eternal rest. ~ Charles Spurgeon, Morning, October 13

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Book Review: God's Promise of Happiness

God's Promise of Happiness. Randy Alcorn. 2015. Tyndale. 112 pages. [Source: Borrowed]

Are you a Christian? Do you subtly or perhaps not-so-subtly make distinctions between the words joy and happiness? Do you perhaps see the two as being contrasting qualities? Alcorn hopes to persuade you to see the word happiness differently.

Randy Alcorn asks in his introduction, "Do we seek happiness because we're sinners or because we're human?" It's a good, solid question for sure. Alcorn would argue that we were created--designed--for happiness, to be happy. The fall perhaps corrupted our natural desires for happiness, but, we were always meant to be happy.

Alcorn then argues that Christians often feel guilty and ashamed of being happy, of seeking happiness. Instead of embracing happiness as a gift of God, as part of God's natural-and-good design for us, he says that Christians often feel obligated to feel solemn, sad, contemplative, and "holy." Somehow Christians associate happiness too closely with sin. Alcorn insists that this shouldn't be so!

This little book, to me, felt like a question-and-answer book. Each chapter of the book is PACKED with questions…and answers. Alcorn doesn't leave you in doubt as to what the answers should be. And he typically backs up his answers with at least one or two scripture quotations.

Here are some of the questions the book asks:

  • Do we have a choice whether or not to desire happiness?
  • Do we have to choose between God and happiness?
  • Does the Bible have much to say about happiness?
  • Doesn't the Bible talk about joy rather than happiness?
  • Are there big differences between joy and happiness?
  • Is there any difference between a believer's and an unbeliever's happiness?
  • Can lasting happiness be found apart from God?
  • Does the Bible say God is happy?
  • Is God by nature happy or unhappy?
  • Was Jesus happy?
  • How does sin affect our happiness?
  • What does holiness have to do with happiness?
  • How can reading the bible increase our happiness?
  • How central to our happiness is our closeness to Jesus?

Alcorn does ask good questions. And he does provide good, clear answers. I like his use of scripture. I like his use of quotes.

Overall, this is a nice, concise "little" book perfect for reading and sharing with others.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

My Year With Spurgeon #43

The Warning Neglected
Charles Spurgeon
1857
Ezekiel 33:5
IN all worldly things men are always enough awake to understand their own interests.
Men will always be looking out for themselves, and personal and home interests will generally engross the major part of their thoughts. But in religion it is otherwise. In religion men love far rather to believe abstract doctrines, and to talk of general truths, than the searching inquiries which examine their own personal interest in it.
You will hear many men admire the preacher who deals in generalities, but when he comes to press home searching questions, by-and-by they are offended. If we stand and declare general facts, such as the universal sinnership of mankind; or the need of a Savior, they will give an assent to our doctrine, and possibly they may retire greatly delighted with the discourse, because it has not affected them; but how often will our audience gnash their teeth, and go away in a rage, because like the Pharisees with Jesus, they perceive, concerning a faithful minister, that he spoke of them.
If in all other matters we like personalities —if in everything else we look to our own concerns, how much more should we do so in religion? for surely every man must give an account for himself at the day of judgment. We must die alone, we must rise at the day of resurrection one by one, and each one for himself must appear before the bar of God; and each one must either have said to him, as an individual, “Come ye blessed;” or else he must be appalled with the thundering sentence “Depart ye cursed.”
Now, this morning, by God’s help, I shall labor to be personal, and whilst I pray for the rich assistance of the Divine Spirit, I will also ask one thing of each person here present — I would ask of every Christian that he would lift up a prayer to God, that the service may be blessed, and I ask of every other person that he will please to understand that I am preaching to him, and at him; and if there be anything that is personal and pertinent to his own case, I beseech him, as for life and death, to let it have its full weight with him, and not begin to think of his neighbor, to whom perhaps it may be even more pertinent, but whose business certainly does not concern him.
If men perish under an unfaithful ministry, and have not been sufficiently warned to escape from the wrath to come, the Christian may pity them, yea, and methinks, even when they stand before the bar of God, although the fact of their not having been warned will not fully excuse them, yet it will go far to diminish their eternal miseries, which otherwise might have fallen upon their heads; for we know it is more tolerable for unwarned Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment, than it is for any city, or any nation that has had the Gospel proclaimed in its ears.

My brethren, if on the other hand, we have been warned, if our ministers have been faithful, if they have aroused our conscience, and have constantly and earnestly called our attention to the fact of the wrath to come, if we have not attended to their message, if we have despised the voice of God, if we have turned a deaf ear to their earnest exhortations, if we perish, we shall die warned — die under the sound of the Gospel, and our damnation must be an unpitied one, for our blood must fall upon our own heads. Permit me then, to try, if I can, to enlarge upon this thought, that the warning has been in the case of many of you, all that could have been needed.
Alas! there are myriads of our fellow creatures who have never been warned by God’s ambassadors, who know not that wrath abideth on them, and who do not yet understand the only way and method of salvation. In your case it is very different. You have heard the Word of God preached to you. You cannot say, when you come before God, “Lord. I knew no better.” There is not a man or a woman within this place who will dare then to plead ignorance. And moreover, you have not only heard with your ears, but some of you have been obliged to hear it in your consciences.
Oh! my hearers, if a man should hear the gospel but once, his blood would be upon his own head for rejecting it, but of how much sorer punishment shall you be thought worthy who have heard it many and many a time. AH! I may well weep, when I think how many sermons you have listened to, many of you, how many times you have been CUT to the heart. A hundred times every year you have gone up to the house of God, and far oftener than that, and you have just added a hundred billets to the eternal pile. A hundred times the trumpet has sounded in your ears, and a hundred times you have turned away to sin again, to despise Christ, to neglect your eternal interests, and to pursue the pleasures and the CONCERNS of this world.
Oh my brethren, to preach the gospel now is to preach in a hopeful period; for “now is the accepted time: now is the day of salvation.” Warn the boatman before he enters the current, and then, if he is swept down the rapids, he destroys himself. Warn the man before he drinks the cup of poison, tell him it is deadly; and then, if he drinks it, his death lies at his own door. And so, let us warn you before you depart, this life; let us preach to you while as yet your bones are full of marrow, and the sinews of your joints are not loosed.
I will just go over one or two of the excuses that people make. Some of them say, “Well, I did not attend to the warning, because I did not believe there was any necessity for it.” Ah! You were told that after death there was a judgment, and you did not believe there was any necessity that you should be prepared for that judgment. You were told that by the works of the law there shall no flesh living be justified, and that only through Christ CAN sinners be saved; and you did not think there was any necessity for Christ. Well sir, you ought to have thought there was a necessity.
There was enough in reason to have taught you that there was an hereafter; the Book of God’s revelation was plain enough to have taught it to you, and if you have rejected God’s Book, and rejected the voice of reason and of conscience, your blood is on your own head. Your excuse is idle. It is worse than that, it is profane and wicked, and still on your own head be your everlasting torment.
“But,”cries another, “I did not like the trumpet. I did not like the Gospel that was preached.” Says one, “I did not like certain doctrines in the Bible. I thought the minister preached too harsh doctrines sometimes, I did not agree with the Gospel, I thought the Gospel ought to have been altered, and not to have been just what it was.” You did not like the trumpet, did you? Well, but God made the trumpet, God made the Gospel. and inasmuch as ye did not like what God made, it is an idle excuse.
Ah, my brethren, we do not find fault with the way a man speaks, if we are in a house that is on fire. If the man calls, “Fire! Fire!” we are not particular what note he takes, we do not think what a harsh voice he has got. You would think any one a fool, a confounded fool, who should lie in his bed, to be burned, because be said he did not like the way the man cried, “Fire” Why his business was to have been out of bed and down the stairs at once, as soon as he heard it.
You are so busy with criticising the minister, and his style, and his doctrine, that your own soul perishes. Remember you may get into hell by criticism, but you will never criticise your soul out of it. You may there make the most you can of it. You may be there and say “I did not like the minister I did not like his manner, I did not like his matter;” but all your dislikings will not get one drop of water to cool your burning tongue. nor serve to mitigate the unalleviated torments of that world of agony.

There are many other people who say, “Ah, well, I did none of those things, but I had a notion that the trumpet sound ought to be blown to everybody else, but not to me.” Ah! that is a very common notion.Let each of us recollect that the Gospel has a message to each one of us. What saith the Gospel to thee my hearer? What saith the Word to thee? Forget thy neighbors, and ask this question. Doth it condemn thee? or doth it assure thee of thy. pardon? for recollect, all thou hast to do in the hearing of the Word, is to hear with thine own ears for thine own soul, and it will be idle for any one to say “ I did not think it applied to me,” when we know that it is to be preached to every creature under heaven, and therefore there must be something in it for every creature or else it would not be preached to every creature.
What will you say of the man who has so much to do that he could not get out of the burning house, but was burnt to ashes? What will you say of the man that had so much to do, that when he was dying, he had not time to send for a physician? Why, you will say, then he ought not to have had so much to do. And so it is with religion, the reason why men cannot find time for it is, because they do not like it well enough. If they liked it, they would find time. And besides, what time does it want? What time does it require? Can I not pray to God over my ledger? Can I not snatch a text at my very breakfast, and think over it all day? May I not even when I am busy in the affairs of the world, be thinking of my soul, and casting myself upon a Redeemer’s blood and atonement? It wants no time. There may be some time required; some time for my private devotions, and for communion with Christ, but when I grow in grace, I shall think it right to have more and more time, the more I can possibly get, the happier I shall be, and I shall never make the excuse that I have no time.
There is no human mind, however capacious, that can ever guess the thought of a soul eternally cast away from God. The wrath to come is as inexpressible as the glory that shall be revealed hereafter.
No preacher was ever so loving as Christ but no man ever spoke so horribly about hell; and yet even when the Savior had said his best and said his worst, he had not told us what are the horrors of a future state.
Have you never seen yourselves what power the mind has over us to make us full of misery? Ah, brethren and sisters, if ye could go to many of our asylums, and to our sick wards — ay, and dying beds, too, you might know what acute anguish the mind may feel.
And remember that the mind, as well as the mortal frame, is to endure damnation. Yes, we must not shirk that word, the Scripture saith it, and we must use it. Oh! men and women, except we repent, except we do each of US cry for mercy to him that is able to save, we must perish. All that is meant by that word “hell,” must be realized in me except I be a believer. and so all that is meant by “Depart, ye cursed,” must be thine, unless thou dost turn unto God with full purpose of heart.
The things we preach, and that are taught in Scripture, are matters of solemn certainty. It may be that death is that bourne from which no traveler returns, but it is not true that we know nothing of it. It is as certain as that there are men, and a world in which they live, that there is another world to come, and that if they die impenitent, that world will be to them one of misery.
And mark you — there is no chance of escape, die without Christ, and there is no gate out of which you can escape — for ever, oh, for ever lost, and not one hope of mercy — cast away, and not one outlet for escape, not one solitary chance of ransom. Oh, if there were hope that in the world to come, men might escape, we need not be so earnest; but since once lost, lost for aye — once cast away, cast away without hope, without any prospect of a hope, we must be earnest.
And let every man remember that if he perish after having heard the Gospel, he will be his own murderer. Sinner, thou wilt drive the dagger into thine heart thyself. If thou depisest the Gospel, thou art preparing fuel for thine own bed of flames, thou art hammering out the chain for thine own everlasting binding; and when damned, thy mournful reflection will be this: — I have damned myself, I cast myself into this pit; for I rejected the Gospel, I despised the message; I trod under foot the Son of Man; I would have none of his rebukes. I despised his Sabbaths: I would not hearken to his exhortations, and now I perish by mine own hand, the miserable suicide of my own soul.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, October 26, 2015

Book Review: The Happy Christian

The Happy Christian. David Murray. 2015. Thomas Nelson. 256 pages. [Source: Borrowed]

Earlier this month, I reviewed David Murray's Christians Get Depressed Too. I really loved it and thought it was great. The Happy Christian is a follow-up of sorts. The subject is happiness and positive thinking.

In his introduction, he writes:
What we think and believe about God, about ourselves, about others, about our problems, and about our world dictates and determines the quality of our whole lives: our happiness, our relationships, our creativity, our productivity, and even our physical health. That's why I've written this book. I want you to have a positive faith and life. Or if you do already, I want you to have an even more positive faith because the more positive your faith is, the more positive your life will be. As Nehemiah said more than twenty-five hundred years ago, "The joy of the LORD is your strength." 
His approach:
I will identify the major causes of negativity and unhappiness in our lives and outline ten biblical and practical ways to tilt the balance of our attitude, outlook, words, and actions in a way that will lift our spirits, compel attention for the Christian faith, and make the church an energizing force in a life-sapping culture.
His ten chapters include ten "spiritual" equations:

  • Happy Facts: Facts > Feelings = Positive
  • Happy Media: Good News > Bad News = Positive
  • Happy Salvation: Done > Do = Positive
  • Happy Church: Christ > Christians = Positive
  • Happy Future: Future > Past = Positive
  • Happy World: Everywhere Grace > Everywhere Sin = Positive
  • Happy Praise: Praise > Criticism = Positive
  • Happy Giving: Giving > Getting = Positive
  • Happy Work: Work > Play = Positive
  • Happy Differences: Diversity > Uniformity = Positive

I really loved, loved, loved, LOVED the first seven chapters. Honestly, every time I thought I found the BEST, BEST chapter of the book, I would go on and read the next chapter and change my mind again.  Though if I had to choose, I think the most potentially life-changing chapters are "Happy Facts" and "Happy Salvation."

In the first chapter, the focus is on thought patterns and feelings. Some of the negative thought patterns he addresses are black-or-white thinking, generalizing, filtering, transforming, mind reading, fortune-telling, telescoping, perfecting, and personalizing. He then offers a six-step strategy for retraining your brain to overcome your negativity. The first three focus on "How did I get into this mood?" and the final three focus on "How do I get out of this mood?" Facts, thoughts, and feelings are examined twice. You might be skeptical. Is Murray making all this up? Are his examples and strategies biblical? He provides biblical examples and his use of scripture is persuasive.

In the third chapter, Murray presents THE GOOD NEWS OF THE GOSPEL. This chapter is quite refreshing and a big encouragement. I think it has great potential to change the way readers think about the gospel, about Christianity. Of course, some readers may already be aware that the Christian faith is a DONE religion and not a do religion or a do-not religion. But confusion abounds and our own fallen nature and our culture don't exactly help clear up confusion.

Murray writes,
"It is finished!" Are there any happier words in the universe? It is done. All done. Nothing in my spiritual inbox. Nothing in my trays. No lists to tackle. It is finished. Jesus lived the life I could not live and died the death I dare not die. He took my duties and performed them perfectly; He took my failures and paid the penalty. That's the foundation, the starting point, the beginning of all true Christianity. Done! Done! Done! 
He also challenges readers to rethink how they approach the Bible.
What is the Bible all about? Most popular answer: "To help us live better lives." In other words, it is all about me. I am the main subject of the Bible. I hate to disillusion you--no, actually I'm glad to--but the Bible is all about God. He is the subject, the object, and every other grammatical term in between. Our first question when reading this book about God is not, "How does this apply to me?" but "What does this reveal about God?" 
I would definitely recommend this one! It is a fantastic read.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The "Happy Christian" Playlist

Last week, I read David Murray's The Happy Christian. It is a great book, and, my review of it will be tomorrow. I thought that today, however, I'd share a playlist I was inspired to create while reading it!

"The Happy Song" by Delirious
An obvious choice, perhaps, but a genuine one as well. This song is just contagiously, outrageously HAPPY.

"Sing, Sing, Sing" by Chris Tomlin
Chris Tomlin is probably an obvious choice as well. But. If you read the psalms at all--and I hope you do!--then you can't ignore the fact that there are HUNDREDS of verses about singing to God, singing praises, singing loudly and without abandon. So it makes sense to me that Happy Christians need to be reminded to SING, SING, SING.

"Build Your Kingdom Here" by Rend Collective
I dare you to listen to this one without smiling. Rend Collective is a new-to-me discovery. And this one is JOYOUS. I also chose it because I thought it fit well with the book.

"Thank God for Something" by Hawk Nelson
Sadly, I think we all need reminders to THANK GOD. Thankfulness--gratitude--doesn't come easily for some--for most. Though some people may be more Pollyanna-like in nature. Still, all of us could be more thankful than we are. And this song definitely goes well with the book!!!

"Lay Me Down" by Chris Tomlin
Yes, another Chris Tomlin. I'm including this one because I think when you can sing this song and mean it through and through that you've discovered "the secret" of a happy, Christian life.

"10,000 Reasons" by Matt Redman
The simple truth is I love this song. I love every line, every verse. I join in every time. This is a song I could listen to a million times a month and never tire of it. Because I do think we need to SING the gospel to ourselves daily.

"Blessed Be Your Name" by Matt Redman
My mom and I may never completely agree which song is better--10,000 Reasons or Blessed Be Your Name--but in the end, it doesn't matter. Blessed Be Your Name is one I've been singing longer than 10,000 Reasons perhaps. And maybe that's just enough to keep me loving it a tiny bit more! I love this song, and, I think that if ever a song deserves to be on the Happy Christian playlist, this one does. I think it embodies the whole attitude of a HAPPY CHRISTIAN. Blessed be your name on the road marked with suffering, though there's pain in the offering. Blessed be your name. You give and take away. You give and take away. My heart will choose to say LORD, BLESSED BE YOUR NAME. 

"I'm Going Free" by Vertical Church Band
This is a song Mom and I agree 100% on. We love, love, LOVE breaking out in song with this one! And Vertical Church Band is a new-to-me discovery this year. I can hardly imagine now not knowing their songs! This one goes well with the "Happy Salvation" chapter.

"Rejoice in the Lord" from Glory Revealed 2, Trevor Morgan and Mark Hall
I love these verses in Philippians. I do. I love, love, love them. So a scripture-song based on my favorite verses, it's going to be something I want to listen to! And in this case, David Murray spends some time unpacking these verses in his book. So I thought it was a good fit for the playlist!

"Words" by Hawk Nelson
I think this one is a great fit for the list because David Murray writes of the importance of positive thinking, positive speaking (affirmations), and having a positive attitude. That and it's a great, contagious song.

"Finally Home" by Jeremy Camp
I've listened to this one dozens and dozens of times. It's a JOYOUS song, and, an important one. That we're not home yet, that we're pilgrims on a homeward journey. It reminds me of two chapters in Murray's book as well. Honestly, I was torn between "Finally Home" and "Where I Belong" by Building 429. I adore both songs.

"Thrive" by Casting Crowns
God wants us to be HAPPY. Joy unspeakable, faith unsinkable, love unstoppable, anything is possible.


© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Week in Review: October 18-24

ESV Reformation Study Bible

  • Psalm 25-150
  • John 4-21

NIV Pursuit of God Bible

  • Joshua 11-24
  • Judges 
  • Ruth
  • 1 Samuel

Jubilee Bible

  • Ruth
  • Psalm 1-70
  • Daniel
  • Hosea
  • 1 Timothy
  • 2 Timothy
  • Titus
  • Philemon
  • Hebrews
  • James
  • 1 Peter
  • 2 Peter
  • 1 John
  • 2 John
  • 3 John
  • Jude
  • Revelation

NKJV

  • 2 Samuel
  • 1 Timothy
  • 2 Timothy
  • Titus
  • Philemon


© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Worth Quoting: Why A Deep Sense of Sin is So Crucial!

Sin isn't all that popular a doctrine at times. Some would argue against its existence at all. Some would just dismiss it as an old-fashioned concept that has lost all relevance or usefulness. Some don't deny it, but, don't make much of it either--at least from the pulpit! Why talk about sin? You might make someone feel uncomfortable! They might never come back to your church! You want everyone to feel welcome! You want everyone to hear the good news that God is love! But a right understanding of sin is absolutely essential. And David Murray illustrates just why in his conclusion to his book THE HAPPY CHRISTIAN. He argues that "A deep sense of sin gives insights into the deep things of the Bible."

From The Happy Christian by David Murray:

  • When I feel my sinfulness, I'm much more motivated to search the Scriptures for grace to help in my time of need.
  • When I'm convicted of my sin, I doubt my wisdom and rely more on the Holy Spirit.
  • When I see my sin, I understand the character of God better--His frightening holiness and His refreshing love.
  • When I'm confronted with my sinful inability, I have no doubts about my need of God's grace.
  • When I grasp how bad my best deeds are, salvation by faith without works becomes fascinating and utterly compelling.
  • When I'm utterly condemned, all new perspectives on justification look ridiculous, and I get a far deeper insight into the old but ever new perspective of justification by faith alone.
  • When I mourn my spiritual deadness, the resurrection of Christ is not only a doctrine but my only source of life. 
  • When I sense my immeasurable guilt, I have no difficulty whatsoever in grasping the existence and eternality of hell.
  • When I absorb the enormity of my spiritual enmity, substitution is no longer a theory of the atonement but my only and enthralling hope.
  • When I see the untrustworthiness of my heart and mind, the inerrancy of Scripture becomes a matter of life or death.
  • When I perceive the deceitfulness of my heart, I understand so much better how to minister the Word to other similar hearts.
  • When I behold the ugliness and vileness of my sin, my eyes are opened to behold more of the glory and beauty of Christ. (223-224)
His conclusion also includes a long list of "good results" that come from having one's sins repented of and forgiven!!! I urge you to seek out this book for yourself!


© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, October 23, 2015

Advent Ideas

I thought I'd share a few ideas about how to perhaps "better" observe Advent and/or celebrate the Christmas season. I'd really love to hear YOUR ideas as well. So leave your suggestions in a comment, please! My goal--for myself--is, I suppose, a simple one to focus on WHY we celebrate Christmas, and WHAT Christmas is all about. The answer, of course, is obvious: JESUS. But just because the answer is simple, doesn't mean it's easy to put into focus on daily basis. Especially as Christmas draws closer and closer, and, to-do lists grow longer and longer.

1) Make time to watch The Gospel of John among other "Christmas" movies. We can learn more about how WONDERFUL life is by watching The Gospel of John is than in watching Miracle on 34th Street or It's A Wonderful Life or A Christmas Carol. At least in my opinion!

2) Better yet. Or perhaps in addition to. Wouldn't it be something to make time to read a gospel or two during the month of December?! Luke does happen to have 24 days. But John, well, John just says CHRISTMAS to me. But the goal is not to rush through a gospel, but, to savor a gospel. To taste and see the goodness of God in sending a Savior, an Emmanuel.

3) I think Advent would be a great season to read a Bible story book aloud for family devotions. There are so many great ones out there.

  • Kevin DeYoung's Biggest Story is out this year. 
  • Older favorites of mine include The Big Picture Story Bible by David Helm 
  • and The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones. 

4) This next one may sound quite odd. But I think it could be key--at least for me. Making sure "Christmas" playlists include non-traditional "Christmas" songs.

  • Hymns like, "Amazing Grace," "I Love To Tell The Story," "Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus," "How Great Thou Art," "My Jesus I Love Thee" etc. 
  • Worship songs like, "Jesus Messiah," "Glorious Day," "Above All," "Jesus, Son of God," "10,000 Reasons," "How Can I Keep From Singing," etc.
  • New, original Christmas songs like, "Come and Worship," "Born to Die," and "Mary's Prayer" all from Bebo Norman's Christmas from the Realms of Glory. I'd also recommend, "Before The Skies" by Sovereign Grace. There are so many good ones out there that do add freshness to the Christmas story. But if you only listen to one, choose MARY'S PRAYER
  • Don't be afraid to try genres a little outside your comfort zone. For example, some country Christmas albums have some great songs. 

5) If you haven't tried it yet, it might be a wonderful time to start praying the Bible, praying the Psalms. Donald Whitney's Praying the Bible is AMAZING. It's a quick read too. And if you put it into practice, I think, it could change your prayer life.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Quotes from the Cloud #42

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.
Our hope in Christ for the future is the mainspring and the mainstay of our joy here. It will animate our hearts to think often of heaven, for all that we can desire is promised there… Through the Spirit of God the hope of heaven is the most potent force for the product of virtue; it is a fountain of joyous effort, it is the corner stone of cheerful holiness. The man who has this hope in him goes about his work with vigour, for the joy of the Lord is his strength. He fights against temptation with ardour, for the hope of the next world repels the fiery darts of the adversary. He can labour without present reward, for he looks for a reward in the world to come. ~ Charles Spurgeon, Morning, October 2
The true saint is so completely satisfied with the all-sufficiency of Jesus that he thirsts no more--except it be for deeper draughts of the living fountain. In that sweet manner, believer, shalt thou thirst; it shall not be a thirst of pain, but of loving desire; thou wilt find it a sweet thing to be panting after a fuller enjoyment of Jesus' love. ~ Charles Spurgeon, Morning, October 6
Praying in the Holy Ghost is praying in fervency. Cold prayers ask the Lord not to hear them. Those who do not plead with fervency, plead not at all. As well speak of lukewarm fire as of lukewarm prayer--it is essential that it be red hot. It is praying perseveringly. The true suppliant gathers force as he proceeds, and grows more fervent when God delays to answer. The longer the gate is closed, the more vehemently does he use the knocker, and the longer the angel lingers the more resolved is he that he will never let him go without the blessing. Beautiful in God's sight is tearful, agonizing, unconquerable importunity. It means praying humbly, for the Holy Spirit never puffs us up with pride. It is his office to convince of sin, and so to bow us down in contrition and brokenness of spirit. We shall never sing Gloria in excelsis except we pray to God De profundis: out of the depths must we cry, or we shall never behold glory in the highest. It is loving prayer. Prayer should be perfumed with love, saturated with love--love to our fellow saints, and love to Christ. Moreover, it must be a prayer full of faith. A man prevails only as he believes. The Holy Spirit is the author of faith, and strengthens it, so that we pray believing God's promise. O that this blessed combination of excellent graces, priceless and sweet as the spices of the merchant, might be fragrant within us because the Holy Ghost is in our hearts! Most blessed Comforter, exert thy mighty power within us, helping our infirmities in prayer. ~ Charles Spurgeon, Evening, October 8

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Book Review: Journey to the Manger

Journey to the Manger. Paula Gooder. 2015. Hymns Ancient & Modern. 128 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Looking for something to read during Advent and Christmas but devotionals aren't quite your thing? I've got a book for you. Paula Gooder's Journey to the Manger is a good fit for those who want a little meat, a little substance in their holiday reading. Throughout the book she urges her readers to read the birth narratives from the gospel with fresh, new eyes, to try to shake off their familiarity with the stories as much as possible and experience it anew. Also she hopes that her readers will come to appreciate the theology of the birth narratives. There is a rich theology to be found, studied, and appreciated. It's a wonderful story, but, it's so much more than a story.

Gooder approaches the story as a scholar and a believer. She presents the findings of the scholarship she's read. Sometimes this means presenting two or three or even more perspectives on any one subject. Sometimes this means presenting scholarship she herself doesn't believe in--at least not completely. She always distinguishes her own personal beliefs from the conclusions of the scholars she's read. She acknowledges that their questions are not always her questions. And that "big" issues supposedly "standing in the way" of believing the accuracy of the Bible are not "big" to her at all.

I find it interesting that the scholarship she presents differs quite a bit from the scholarship I find in my own study Bibles. For example, one of the "big" issues focused on in Gooder's work is the dating of the census--Luke 2:1-2. Here is what the MacArthur Study Bible has to say:
Quirinius was governor of Syria. Fixing a precise date for this census is problematic. Publius Sulpicius Quirinius is known to have governed Syria during A.D. 6–9. A well known census was taken in Palestine in A.D. 6. Josephus records that it sparked a violent Jewish revolt (mentioned by Luke, quoting Gamaliel, in Acts 5:37). Quirinius was responsible for administering that census, and he also played a major role in quelling the subsequent rebellion. However, that cannot be the census Luke has in mind here, because it occurred about a decade after the death of Herod (see note on Matt. 2:1)—much too late to fit Luke’s chronology (cf. Luke 1:5). In light of Luke’s meticulous care as a historian, it would be unreasonable to charge him with such an obvious anachronism. Indeed, archaeology has vindicated Luke. A fragment of stone discovered at Tivoli (near Rome) in A.D. 1764 contains an inscription in honor of a Roman official who, it states, was twice governor of Syria and Phoenicia during the reign of Augustus. The name of the official is not on the fragment, but among his accomplishments are listed details that, as far as is known, can fit no one other than Quirinius. Thus, he must have served as governor in Syria twice. He was probably military governor at the same time that history records Varus was civil governor there. With regard to the dating of the census, some ancient records found in Egypt mention a worldwide census ordered in 8 B.C. That date is not without problems, either. It is generally thought by scholars that 6 B.C. is the earliest possible date for Christ’s birth. Evidently, the census was ordered by Caesar Augustus in 8 B.C. but was not actually carried out in Palestine until two to four years later, perhaps because of political difficulties between Rome and Herod. Therefore, the precise year of Christ’s birth cannot be known with certainty, but it was probably no earlier than 6 B.C. and certainly no later than 4 B.C. Luke’s readers, familiar with the political history of that era, would no doubt have been able to discern a very precise date from the information he gave.
I appreciated Gooder's perspective that scholars can sometimes lose sight of what is important and what's ultimately not. That they can miss the big picture--the glorious, life-changing BIG PICTURE--for focusing on all the wrong things--to the exclusion of everything else. Early on, she writes:
The birth narratives are about the mind-blowing, brain-boggling truth that the God who shaped the universe into existence was prepared to be born as a tiny, vulnerable baby. This God trusted his whole well-being to a young girl, who had never had a baby before and wasn't even married. This God chose a ludicrously risky means of redeeming the world he loved so much. When I think about this my brain is so taken up with the wonder and mystery of it that there is minimal space left for the historical questions that seem to trouble others so deeply.*
I don't absolutely agree with every single sentence or paragraph. As I mentioned before, she presents multiple points of view at times. But I think I agree enough with her on the big things--the things that really matter--that I can recommend this one.

*I agree completely that there is plenty of room for wonder and mystery. I do. But I do disagree that the incarnation was "ludicrously risky." God is sovereign--sovereign over the whole universe. Always has been, always will be. God is God is God. There was nothing risky about God's redemption plan. There was no, cross my fingers, I hope this works. And there wasn't an IF. The outcome was never uncertain or unsure. God accomplishes what he sets out to accomplish--in the way, and in the time, he means to accomplish it. So there is plenty to fathom in the gospel story, in the birth narratives. But I don't for a second see it as God's Big Gamble.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

My Year With Spurgeon #42

The Loved Ones Chastened
Charles Spurgeon
1857
Revelation 3:19
The fact is, that this world is not the place of punishment. There may now and then be eminent judgments; but as a rule God does not in the present state fully punish any man for sin. He allows the wicked to go on in their wickedness; he throws the reins upon their necks; he lets them go on unbridled in their lusts; some checks of conscience there may be; but these are rather as monitions than as punishments. So, then, we must remember that as this world is not the place of punishment, we are to expect punishment and reward in the world to come; and we must believe that the only reason, then, why God afflicts his people must be this: — “In love I correct thee, thy gold to refine To make thee at length in my likeness to thine.”
Sometimes God rebukes his children under the ministry. The minister of the gospel is not always to be a minister of consolation.
Sometimes, again, God rebukes his children in their consciences, without any visible means whatever.
At other seasons the rebuke is quite indirect. How often have I met rebuke where it never was intended to be given! But God overruled the circumstance for good.
There never was an idol that God either did not or will not pull out of its place.
But this is not the only sin: we are all subject to another crime which God abhors exceedingly. It is the sin of pride.
Sometimes God chastens and afflicts us, to prevent sin. He sees that the embryo of lust is in our hearts, he sees that that little egg of mischief is beginning to hatch and to produce sin, and he comes and crushes it at once nips the sin in the bud. Ah! we cannot tell how much guilt Christians have been saved from by their afflictions.
And now I am to conclude by noting WHAT IS OUR COMFORT WHEN GOD REBUKES AND CHASTENS US? Our great comfort is, that he loves us still. Oh! what a precious thing faith is when we are enabled to believe our God, and how easy then it is to endure and to surmount all trouble!
When one comes to die and has Jesus with him, even then dying is hard work; but to die without a Savior! Oh! my friends, are you inclined to risk it?

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, October 19, 2015

Book Review: The Biggest Story

The Biggest Story. Kevin DeYoung. Illustrated by Don Clark. 2015. Crossway. 132 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Once upon a time there lived a man and a woman. They were the happiest people on the planet. True, they were the only people on the planet, but they were still terrifically happy. Their names were Adam and Eve, and God made them. He made them in his image, little mirrors to reflect God's glory. And like everything else God made, he made them good.

The Biggest Story is a bible story book for believers of all ages. Yes, you might think that a bible story book would have to be for children and ONLY for children. But I'm not convinced. Especially when you pair the text with illustrations like these. (I'd classify the illustrations as sophisticated and abstract. Please visit Kevin DeYoung's post on his book to see interior spreads of the illustrations AND also to see a video.) No, I think this is a book for readers of all ages. One reason is that everyone needs to know the Bible, that the Bible tells one BIG story, and the Bible really fits together well. It is not a mishmash of random stories and lists. The Biggest Story is a clear presentation of the bible's gospel message. How we were created in God's image. How humans sinned and became separated from God. Why the law was given, and, yet, how we could never keep all of the law. Why we needed a Savior who was both God and man. Just to get started by mentioning a few basics! (I do get excited when I start thinking about the gospel.) I think readers--believers and unbelievers--could use a little clarity as to what it is Christians believe.

But, of course, it is a bible story book made up of various bible stories: Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Noah and the flood, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Saul, David, etc. They are all touched upon--some more briefly than others. But the narrative has a fast pace, it flows really well. DeYoung takes you through both testaments quite quickly!

I liked the writing style. I did.
God gave the Israelites rules (but they didn't follow them).
God made his dwelling among them (but they didn't act like they wanted him to stick around).
God sent prophets (but Israel didn't listen).
God provided priests (but the priests didn't know how to be holy).
Later, God gave them kings (but the kings were a royal pain).
Israel was a mess.
Of course, God still had his promises to keep. But most days it was hard to imagine how anyone could save this stubborn people.
It would have been even harder to imagine how the Promised Man could come from among this people. (77)
and
After all these downs--and not too many ups--we come to a manger in the little town of Bethlehem. This is where we meet the new Adam, the child of Abraham, the Son of David. It's with the stinky shepherds and the singing angels where we see the real Deliverer, the real Judge, the real Conqueror. No one understood it completely at the time, but when Mary pushed out that baby, God pushed into the world the long-expected Prophet, Priest, and King. God gave his people a new law, a new temple, and a new sacrifice. Best of all, he gave his people a new beginning. Just as he promised. (101)
and
It's a familiar story to some of us. It's a true story for all of us. But we haven't seen the end of the story--not yet. We live in the beginning of the end of the story that we are still in the middle of. We know it's not the end because we haven't made it back to the garden. (120)
In the author's note, Kevin DeYoung mentions that The Biggest Story started as a Christmas sermon. I found this a fascinating afterthought as a reader. I was getting ready to recommend this one for families to use during the advent season, and, I learn that it was originally preached during Advent!!!

Did I like the illustrations? Honestly, the abstract-ness of the art lost me. I think it is Art, no doubt. But not the cozy-happy illustrations I'm used to seeing in children's books. That's why I think, in part, that adults may be a good match for this one. Also, I couldn't help but get Sesame Street's Pinball Number Count stuck in my head!!! I do love, love, LOVE the cover though. To me, it just says CHRISTMAS. And the endpapers say ORNAMENTS.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Week in Review: October 11-17

NIV Pursuit of God

  • Numbers 12-36
  • Deuteronomy
  • Joshua 1-10
  • Luke
  • 1 Timothy
  • 2 Timothy

ESV Reformation Bible

  • Psalm 1-24
  • John 1-3
  • Romans
  • 1 Timothy
  • 2 Timothy

Modern English Version

  • 1 Timothy
  • 2 Timothy
  • Titus
  • Philemon

English Revised Version, 1885

  • 1 Timothy
  • 2 Timothy

1599 Geneva Bible

  • 1 Timothy
  • 2 Timothy

Jubilee Bible

  • 1 Timothy
  • 2 Timothy
  • Titus
  • Philemon

Contemporary English Version

  • 1 Timothy
  • 2 Timothy

NRSV

  • 1 Timothy
  • 2 Timothy
  • Titus

NIV 1984 (Quest Bible)

  • 1 Timothy
  • 2 Timothy



© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Two quotes on Regeneration

Both quotes come from Bibles. The first is by A.W. Tozer and is found within the NIV Pursuit of God, A.W. Tozer Bible:
"We are always in danger of allowing teaching to substitute for living. Indoctrination is not regeneration and should never be mistaken for it. Thousands are turned out of confirmation classes each year who have never known the transforming power of the gospel. These go out to be lifelong anomalies, orthodox in creed, but untouched pagans in fact. They have absorbed the notion that to receive the creed concerning Christ is identical with receiving Christ. This is a costly and tragic error. ~ A.W. Tozer, The Early Tozer: A Word in Season
The second is from the Reformation Study Bible edited by R.C. Sproul:
Rebirth is an essential part of Christianity, without it, entrance into God's Kingdom is impossible. Regeneration is the theological term used to describe rebirth. It refers to a new generating, a new genesis, a new beginning. It is more than "turning over a new leaf"; it marks the beginning of a new life in a radically renewed person…Regeneration is the work of the Holy Spirit upon those who are spiritually dead (see Ephesians 2:1-10). The Spirit recreates the human heart, quickening it from spiritual death to spiritual life. Regenerate people are new creations. Where formerly they had no disposition, inclination, or desire for the things of God, now they are disposed and inclined toward God. In regeneration, God plants a desire for Himself in the human heart that otherwise would not be there. Regeneration is not to be confused with the full experience of conversion. Just as birth is our initiation, our first entrance into life outside the womb, so our spiritual rebirth is the starting point of our spiritual life. It occurs by God's divine initiative and is an act that is sovereign, immediate, and instantaneous. An awareness of our conversion may be gradual. Yet rebirth itself is instantaneous. No one can be partially reborn any more than a woman can be partially pregnant. Regeneration is not the fruit or result of faith. Rather, regeneration precedes faith as the necessary condition for faith. We also do not in any way dispose ourselves toward regeneration or cooperate as coworkers with the Holy Spirit to bring it to pass. We do not decide or choose to be regenerated. God chooses to regenerate us before we will ever choose to embrace Him. To be sure, after we have been regenerated by the sovereign grace of God, we do choose, act, cooperate, and believe in Christ. God does not have faith for us. It is our own faith by which we are justified. What God does is quicken us to spiritual life, rescuing us from darkness, bondage, and spiritual death. God makes faith possible and actual for us. He quickens faith within us. (note on John 3)
Both quotes came from my natural reading. I was in the book of Joshua in the Tozer Bible, and the book of John in the Reformation Bible. I just thought it was interesting that both mentioned regeneration. (It's also slightly funny to be including in one post a quote from Sproul and Tozer. Let's just say that Tozer is decidedly not Reformed, but, I love him anyway. Except for when I choose to play True or False with his quotes!!!)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Book Review: The Story of God's Love For You

The Story of God's Love for You. Sally Lloyd-Jones. 2015. Zondervan. 208 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: God wrote, "I love you"--he wrote it in the sky, and on the earth, and under the sea. He wrote his message everywhere! Because God created everything in his world to reflect him like a mirror--to show us what he is like, to help us know him, to make our hearts sing. The way a kitten chases her tail. The way red poppies grow wild. The way a dolphin swims. And God put it into words, too, and wrote it in a book called "the Bible." 

The Story of God's Love for You is a great choice for any reader who wants to know what the Bible is all about, but, doesn't have the time or perhaps even the desire to sit down and read the Bible for themselves. Which is understandable. 208 pages versus 1700+ pages. It can seem overwhelming or intimidating or even impossible. (Emphasis on seem. I believe wholeheartedly that anyone can learn to read the Bible and can grow in that desire to read the Bible. Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. Psalm 34:8.)

The Story of God's Love for You provides readers--of all ages--with an overview of the Bible. They can see "the big picture" of the Bible. Maybe for the first time, seeing how the Bible is ONE book, ONE story.
The Bible is most of all a Story. It's an adventure story about a young Hero who comes from a far country to win back his lost treasure. It's a love story about a brave Prince who leaves his palace, his throne--everything--to rescue the one he loves. It's like the most wonderful of fairy tales that has come true in real life! You see, the best thing about this Story is--it's true. There are lots of stories in the Bible, but all the stories are telling One Big Story. The Story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them. It takes the whole Bible to tell this Story. And at the center of the Story, there is a baby. Every Story in the Bible whispers his name. He is like the missing piece in a puzzle--the piece that makes all the other pieces fit together, and suddenly you can see a beautiful picture. 
Lloyd-Jones makes a point to weave Jesus into each and every story within the book. You might, at least at first, be skeptical. How can Jesus be connected to every story in the Bible? How can every story really "whisper" his name? Isn't that forcing things a bit? But I hope you'll see differently soon enough. For this is how Christ taught us to read the Bible. (Luke 24:27; John 5:39-40; John 5:46)

Lloyd-Jones excels at storytelling: at crafting words together in a creative, descriptive way. She doesn't stay strictly with the facts as revealed in the Bible. She uses her imagination and crafts a story. I think this is a strength, for the most part, so long as readers are aware.

From "Operation No More Tears"
Dear Little Flock,
You're all wandering away from me, like sheep in an open field. You have always been running away from me. And now you're lost. You can't find your way back. But I can't stop loving you. I will come to find you. So I am sending you a Shepherd to look after you and love you. To carry you home to me. You've been stumbling around, like people in a dark room. But into the darkness, a bright Light will shine! It will chase away all the shadows, like sunshine. A little baby will be born. A Royal Son. His mommy will be a young girl who doesn't have a husband. His name will be Emmanuel, which means "God has come to live with us." He is one of King David's children's children. The Prince of Peace. Yes, Someone is going to come and rescue you! But he won't be who anyone expects. He will be a King! But he won't live in a palace. And he won't have lots of money. He will be poor. And he will be a Servant. But this King will heal the whole world. He will be a Hero! He will fight for his people and rescue them from their enemies. But he won't have big armies, and he won't fight with swords. He will make the blind see; he will make the lame leap like a deer! He will make everything the way it was always meant to be. But people will hate him, and they won't listen to him. He will be like a lamb -- he will suffer and die. It's the Secret Rescue Plan we made--from before the beginning of the world! It's the only way to get you back. But he won't stay dead--I will make him alive again. And, one day, when he comes back to rule forever, the mountains and trees will dance and sing for joy! The earth will shout out loud! His fame will fill the whole earth--as the waters cover the sea! Everything sad will come untrue. Even death is going to die! And he will wipe away every tear from every eye. Yes, the Rescuer will come. Look for him. Watch for him. Wait for him. He will come! I promise. Love God.
Does not that sum up the book of Isaiah?! I think she did a wonderful job!

So what do I think of The Story of God's Love For You? I really love Sally Lloyd Jones' work. I do. I loved it when it was originally published as The Jesus Storybook Bible, and I love it as The Story of God's Love For You. (The lack of illustrations is the difference between the two).

Resources for readers who want MORE after reading The Story of God's Love For You:

For upper elementary through middle schoolers, I'd recommend either the NIV Jesus Bible published by Zondervan OR the ESV Following Jesus Bible published by Crossway.

For middle schoolers through high schoolers, I'd recommend either the NIV Student Bible published by Zondervan OR the ESV Student Study Bible published by Crossway.

For high schoolers through adults (of all ages), I'd recommend the following:


© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, October 16, 2015

Book Review: Waiting on the Word

Waiting on the Word. Malcolm Guite. 2015. Canterbury Press. 178 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Looking for a book to read during Advent and Christmas? Like or love poetry? Malcolm Guite's Waiting on the Word might be a perfect fit for you. I know I enjoyed reading it, though I advise readers to take their time reading it--one or two poems a day. I felt the need to rush through it so that I could tell you about it in time for this holiday season.

Guite has selected at least one poem for every day of the season--from the first Sunday in Advent through January 6. Some poems are short. Some are longer. Guite provides commentary and analysis for all the included poems. Readers first read the poem for themselves, and, then it's like Guite is guiding you through a rereading of the poem, almost line by line. Often including why he selected the poem and why he thinks it's a good fit for the season. Some days will see an additional reflection or poem written by the author. (O Sapientia, O Adonai, O Radix, O Clavis, O Oriens, O Rex Gentium, O Emmanuel--for example, all include a new reflective poem).


  • "Advent Sunday" by Christina Rosetti
  • "The Glance" by George Herbert
  • "The Moons" by Grevel Lindop
  • "Annunciation" by John Donne
  • "Annunciation" by Scott Cairns
  • "Those Winter Sundays" by Robert Hayden
  • "From the Ballad of the White Horse" by G.K. Chesterton
  • "From An Hymne of Heavenly Love" by Edmund Spenser
  • "Kenosis" by Luci Shaw
  • "Old Age" by Edmund Waller
  • "In Drear Nighted December" by John Keats
  • "Despised and Rejected" by Christina Rosetti
  • "In Memoriam XXVIII" by Alfred Lord Tennyson
  • "Launde Abbey on St. Lucy's Day" by Malcolm Guite
  • "Autumn" by David Baird
  • "Christmas and Common Birth" by Anne Ridler
  • "Advent Good Wishes" by David Grieve
  • "O Sapientia"
  • "O Adonai"
  • "O Radix"
  • "O Clavis"
  • "O Oriens"
  • "O Rex Gentium"
  • "O Emmanuel"
  • "Christmas Eve" by Christina Rosetti
  • "From Ode on the Morning of Christ's Nativity" by John Milton
  • "Song of the Shepherds" by Richard Bauckham
  • "Nativity" by Scott Cairns
  • "Refugee" by Malcolm Guite
  • "For Our Lady of Guadalupe" by Grevel Lindop
  • "Christmas (I)" by George Herbert
  • "The Darkling Thrush" by Thomas Hardy
  • "In Memoriam CVI" by Alfred Lord Tennyson
  • "The Bird in the Tree" by Ruth Pitter
  • "Courtesy" by Hailaire Belloc
  • "From Hymn Before Sunrise in the Vale of Chamouni" by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
  • "Rocky Mountain Railroad, Epiphany" by Luci Shaw
  • "The Divine Image" by William Blake

I appreciated the commentary/analysis very much. If the book had just included the poems and left me on my own with them, I'm not sure I would have had a positive reading experience. But I never felt alone while reading. And Guite's enthusiasm was often contagious. I also appreciated how Guite often worked Scripture into his analysis/commentary, though it never felt forced.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Quotes From the Cloud #41

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.
Let your heart yearn for your ungodly neighbors. Alas, there is but a step between them and death and hell. Many hundred diseases are waiting, ready to seize on them and if they die unregenerate, they will be lost forever. Have you hearts of rock that cannot pity men in such a case as this? Do you not care who is damned as long as you are saved? If so, you have sufficient cause to pity yourselves, for it is a frame of spirit utterly inconsistent with grace. . . . Do you live close by them? Or, do you meet them in the streets or work with them or travel with them or sit and talk with them and say nothing to them of their souls? If their houses were on fire, you would run and help them. Will you not help them when their souls are almost at the fire of hell? ~ Richard Baxter
Faith gives God the greatest honor anyone can give him. Giving God honor is believing him, considering him truthful, wise, righteous, merciful, and all-powerful. In short, it’s recognizing that he is the Creator and Giver of every good thing. Reason doesn’t do this; only faith does. Faith makes God real to us and real in us. Without faith, God’s honor, glory, wisdom, righteousness, truth, and mercy cannot be in us. Where there is no faith, God has no majesty and divinity. God doesn’t require anything more from us than to acknowledge his divinity and give him the glory and honor he deserves. ~ Martin Luther, Faith Alone, September 26
The gospel—the most loved and comforting doctrine of all—doesn’t focus on our works or the works of the law. Rather, it shows us the incomprehensible, inexpressible mercy and love of God toward us, who are unworthy and lost people. The merciful Father saw that we were oppressed by the curse of the law and held under it. On our own and through our own efforts, we never could have freed ourselves. He sent his only Son into the world. He put all the sin of all the people on his Son and said, “You will be Peter, who denied me; Paul, who persecuted, blasphemed, and acted violently; David, who committed adultery; the sinner who ate the apple in Paradise; the thief on the cross. In summary, you will be the one who committed all the sins of all the people. Make sure you pay for these sins and make atonement for them.” At this point the law said, “I find Christ to be a sinner—the one who has taken the sins of all the people upon himself. I do not see sin on anyone else except him. Therefore, he must die on the cross.” Then the law grabbed him and killed him. Since this happened, the entire world has been cleansed and atoned of all sin and freed from death and all evil. If everyone in the whole world believed, God would see only purity and righteousness. This is because Christ would have taken away all sin and death. And even if there were any remnants of sin remaining, God wouldn’t see them because of the brightness of Christ, the Sun. ~ Martin Luther, Faith Alone, October 6

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Book Review: Christians Get Depressed Too

Christians Get Depressed Too. David Murray. 2010. Reformation Heritage. 112 pages. [Source: Borrowed]

There are many different kinds of mental and emotional suffering. The area I am particularly concerned with here is the most common--depression. As anxiety and panic attacks are also commonly associated with depression (so much so that doctors are increasingly using the term depression-anxiety when referring to depression), much of what I write will apply to these distressing conditions also. 

Christians Get Depressed Too may just be the best book I've read on the subject of depression. Its strengths? Well, it's short, it's concise, it's well-organized. It tells you what you need to know and why you need to know it. It is also a very practical book. Because it is short and concise, it may not tell you absolutely everything there is to know on the subject. But if it did, it would be overwhelming and intimidating. There is something to be said for telling people clearly and precisely what they need to know first.

Murray's book is divided into six chapters:
  • The Crisis
  • The Complexity
  • The Condition
  • The Causes
  • The Cures
  • The Caregivers
In the first chapter, Murray shares eight reasons WHY believers should study the subject:

  • Because the Bible speaks about it
  • Because it is so common
  • Because it impacts our spiritual lives
  • Because it may be prevented or mitigated
  • Because it will open doors of usefulness
  • Because it is so misunderstood
  • Because it is a talent to be invested for God
  • Because we can all improve our mental and emotional health

I'll be honest. I didn't need all eight reasons to convince me to read the rest of the book. I include the whole list because I do believe--strongly believe--that all believers would benefit from reading this little book.

In the second chapter, Murray shares two guiding principles with readers. HOW should Christians prepare themselves to study depression? Both principles are important, but, one is especially important: "avoid extremes and seek balance." Most of the chapter focuses on how depression has been perceived and how depression has been treated within the Christian community. What things have we gotten right? What things have we gotten wrong? What is the best way to think about depression? He urges us not to go to either extreme and seek balance.

In the third chapter, Murray focuses on WHAT depression is--its symptoms. How does depression manifest itself in our everyday lives and in our spiritual lives? Even if the cause of a person's depression is not in any way caused by problems in our spiritual lives, the consequences of depression may effect our spiritual lives. Mainly because depression effects our thoughts and our feelings. One of the things I found most helpful in this chapter is his sharing of ten false thought patterns that "reflect, but also contribute to, the symptoms of depression." With each thought pattern, he shares an example from ordinary life, a spiritual example, and a biblical example.

In the fourth chapter, Murray focuses on some of the causes of depression, and in the fifth chapter, he goes on to focus on some of the cures for depression. He presents things in balance. Not all physical. Not all spiritual.

The final chapter focuses almost exclusively on caregivers--the family and friends of those suffering from depression. What can they do to help? How can they best help?


© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

My Year With Spurgeon #41

Awake! Awake!
Charles Spurgeon
1857
1 Thessalonians 5:6
Brethren, if we be saints, let us not be ignorant as are others. Let us search the Scriptures, for in them we have eternal life, for they do testify of Jesus. Let us be diligent; let not the Word depart out of our hearts, let us meditate therein both by day and night, that we may be as the tree planted by the rivers of water. “Let us not sleep as do others.”
Behold ye, how many professing Christians there are that are asleep in this sense! They are inactive. Sinners are dying in the street by hundreds; men are sinking into the flames of eternal wrath; but they fold their arms, they pity the poor perishing sinner, but they do nothing to show that their pity is real. They go to their places of worship, they occupy their well-cushioned easy pew; they wish the minister to feed them every Sabbath; but there is never a child taught in the Sunday-school by them; there is never a tract distributed at the poor man’s house; there is never a deed done which might be the means of saving souls.
Oh, what a vast amount of sleeping we have in all our churches and chapels; for truly if our churches were once awake, so far as material is concerned, there are enough converted men and women, and there is enough talent with them, and enough money with them, and enough time with them, God granting the abundance of his Holy Spirit, which he would be sure to do if they were all zealous — there is enough to preach the gospel in every corner of the earth. The church does not need to stop for want of instruments, or for want of agencies we have everything now except the will; we have all that we may expect God to give for the conversion of the world, except just a heart for the work, and the Spirit of God poured out into our midst.
There are you! You know the world is sick with the plague of sin, and you yourself have been cured by the remedy, which has been provided. You are asleep, inactive, loitering. You do not go forth to “Tell to others round, What a dear Savior you have found.” There is the precious gospel: you do not go and put it to the lips of a sinner. There is the all-precious blood of Christ: you never go to tell the dying what they must do to be saved. The world is perishing with worse than plague: and you are idle! And you are a minister of the gospel; and you have taken that holy office upon yourself; and you are content to preach twice on a Sunday, and once on a week-day, and there is no remonstrance within you. You never desire to attract the multitudes to hear you preach; you had rather keep your empty benches, and study propriety, than you would once, at the risk of appearing over-zealous, draw the multitude and preach the word to them.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, October 12, 2015

Book Review: Spurgeon's Sorrows

Spurgeon's Sorrows. Zack Eswine. 2014. Christian Focus. 144 pages. [Source: Borrowed]

I found Zack Eswine's Spurgeon's Sorrows to be worth reading. It is a little book on depression and/or anxiety. It focuses on what it is and isn't for starters. Twelve chapters, three sections. The first focuses on "trying to understand depression." The second focuses on "learning how to help those who suffer from depression." The third focuses on "learning helps to daily cope with depression." And it somehow manages to tie it all in to the life and teachings of one of my favorites, Charles Spurgeon. It is a faith-centered, gospel-focused book that acknowledges that depression is real, an actual, physical problem, and that it is not in any way a sin or a result of lack of faith.

The book balances the past and present better than I thought it could. (Spurgeon's thoughts on depression, melancholy, fear and anxiety. His own personal struggles. Plenty of quotes from his sermons. Mention of what those in the nineteenth century thought of depression, how they treated it, etc. Contemporary thoughts on depression and mental illness. Advice on modern-day treatments and such.)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Week in Review: October 4-10

Train yourself to be godly. “Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.” This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it. This is why we work hard and continue to struggle, for our hope is in the living God, who is the Savior of all people and particularly of all believers. 1 Timothy 4:7-10 (NLT) 
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed. You know those who taught you, and you know that from childhood you have known the sacred Scriptures, which are able to give you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:14-17 (HCSB)
NIV Pursuit of God
  • Exodus
  • Leviticus
  • Numbers 1-11
  • Mark
  • 1 Timothy (2)
  • 2 Timothy (2)
  • Titus (2)
  • Philemon (2)

ESV Reformation Study Bible

  • Amos
  • Obadiah
  • Jonah
  • Micah
  • Matthew
  • 1 Timothy (5)
  • 2 Timothy (5)
  • Titus (4)
  • Philemon
  • Hebrews

ASV

  • 1 Timothy
  • 2 Timothy
  • Titus

NLT

  • 1 Timothy
  • 2 Timothy

HCSB

  • 1 Timothy
  • 2 Timothy

NIV-UK Audio Bible

  • Ezra 
  • Nehemiah
  • 1 Timothy
  • 2 Timothy
  • Titus
  • Philemon

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible