Saturday, April 30, 2016

April's Scripture Chain

  • But as for me, by Your abundant lovingkindness I will enter Your house, At Your holy temple I will bow in reverence for You. Psalm 5:7
  • But as for me, I shall walk in my integrity; Redeem me, and be gracious to me. Psalm 26:11
  • But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord, I say, “You are my God.” Psalm 31:14
  • But as for me, I am like a green olive tree in the house of God; I trust in the lovingkindness of God forever and ever. Psalm 52:8
  • But as for me, I shall sing of Your strength; Yes, I shall joyfully sing of Your lovingkindness in the morning, For You have been my stronghold And a refuge in the day of my distress. Psalm 59:16
  • But as for me, my prayer is to You, O Lord, at an acceptable time; O God, in the greatness of Your lovingkindness, Answer me with Your saving truth. Psalm 69:13
  • But as for me, I will hope continually, And will praise You yet more and more. Psalm 71:14
  • But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord God my refuge, That I may tell of all Your works. Psalm 73:28
  • But as for me, I will declare it forever; I will sing praises to the God of Jacob. Psalm 75:9
  • But as for me, I will watch expectantly for the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation. My God will hear me. Micah 7:7

Inspired by the phrase: "But as for me…"
This month's translation: NASB

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

April Reflections

April Accomplishments:



This Month's Bible Reading: (March 27-April 30)

NASB

  • Joshua
  • Judges
  • Ruth
  • 1 Samuel
  • 2 Samuel
  • Psalms
  • Proverbs
  • Isaiah
  • Jeremiah
  • Lamentations
  • Matthew
  • Mark
  • Acts
  • Romans
  • 1 Peter
  • 2 Peter
  • 1 John
  • 2 John
  • 3 John
  • Jude
  • Revelation


ESV

  • 1 Chronicles
  • Ezra
  • Nehemiah
  • Esther
  • Proverbs 1-23
  • Daniel
  • Jonah
  • Haggai
  • Zechariah
  • Malachi
  • Galatians
  • Ephesians
  • Philippians
  • Colossians


Books I've Reviewed This Month:

Christian fiction:

  1. No Other Will Do. Karen Witemeyer. 2016. Bethany House. 368 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  2. No Graven Image. Elisabeth Elliot. 1966. 267 pages. [Source: Inter-Library-Loan]
  3. C.S. Lewis at War: The Dramatic Story Behind Mere Christianity. Focus on the Family Radio Theatre. Tyndale. 2 Discs. [Source: Library]
Christian nonfiction: 

  1. Why Christ Came: 31 Meditations on the Incarnation. Joel R. Beeke & William Boekestein. 2013. Reformation Heritage. 108 pages. [Source: Bought]
  2. God's Word, Our Story. Learning from the Book of Nehemiah. D.A. Carson and Kathleen B. Nielson, editors. 2016. Crossway. 208 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  3. Know the Creeds and Councils. Justin S. Holcomb. 2014. Zondervan. 183 pages. [Source: Bought]
  4. 100 Bible Verses Everyone Should Know By Heart. Robert J. Morgan. 2010. B&H Publishing. 288 pages. 288 pages. [Source: Bought]
  5. Looking for Lovely. Annie F. Downs. 2016. 208 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  6. Experiencing the Trinity: The Grace of God for the People of God. Joe Thorn. 2015. Crossway. 144 pages. [Source: Library]
  7.  The Pursuit of Holiness. Jerry Bridges. 1978. NavPress. 160 pages. [Source: Bought]  
  8. Why Bother With Church? Sam Allberry. 2016. Good Book Company. [Source: Borrowed]  
  9. Jesus Without Borders. Chad Gibbs. 2015. Zondervan. 240 pages. [Source: Library] 


© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Live Like You're Loved: Adopted


Today, I'm sharing with you a couple of passages about our adoption.
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God. Romans 8:14-16
But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. Galatians 4:4-7
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure. 1 John 3:1-3
He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. John 1:11-13
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Week in Review: April 24-30

NASB

  • 2 Samuel
  • Proverbs 10-31
  • Jeremiah
  • Lamentations
  • Matthew 13-28
  • Romans

ESV

  • Proverbs 19-23


© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, April 29, 2016

Audiobook Review: C.S. Lewis at War

C.S. Lewis at War: The Dramatic Story Behind Mere Christianity. Focus on the Family Radio Theatre. Tyndale. 2 Discs. [Source: Inter-Library]

What is it about? It opens with a radio broadcast being interrupted to announce that war has been declared against Nazi Germany. A few minutes later, listeners hear C.S. Lewis' lecture--or guest lecture--being interrupted to deliver the same news to students. So, essentially it is focused on World War II, and, the effect of the war on the British home front. Particular attention is paid to the BBC and to C.S. Lewis. It is a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the creating of Mere Christianity and The Screwtape Letters.

Further thoughts: Though I am not typically a fan of audio books, I have a harder time listening than reading, I thought the format of this one worked well. Why? Because the heart of the story is about RADIO BROADCASTS, so it makes perfect sense to LISTEN to the story in such a dramatic, polished way.

Would I recommend listening to this? Yes! I really loved it. I found myself listening to this one several weekends in a row.

Who would I recommend it to? Anyone who has read C.S. Lewis. This includes anyone who has read The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, Screwtape Letters, or Mere Christianity. Anyone who is interested in history and world war II. Anyone who enjoys fiction or nonfiction set in the UK. Anyone who is interested in the history of radio.


© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Quotes From the Cloud #16

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.
I think there should be no dividing asunder the duties and privileges which God has manifestly joined together—and that we should count it our highest privilege to do His will in every duty which He has enjoined upon us.
Equally remarkable is it how closely the privileges and duties of the Christian life are connected with the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Because we are one with Him, therefore are we beloved of the Father, therefore are we redeemed from death and Hell, therefore are we separated from the world, therefore are we dead to sin, therefore do we live unto the Lord and therefore do we confidently expect a final triumph over all our adversaries until the last enemy of all shall be put under our feet! You get nothing, dear Brother or Sister in Christ, except as you get it through Christ! Apart from Him you would be miserable, poor, blind and naked—as you were until you came to Him. But in union with Him you are rich to all the intents of bliss. All things are yours because you are Christ's and while the Father views you as one with Christ, He will bless you—and while you view yourself as one with Christ, you will be conscious of the blessing and, at the same time, will be led to devote yourself more completely to the pursuit of holiness and the fear of God. ~ Charles Spurgeon, "Dead, Yet Alive,"
"Complete Atonement You have made,
And to the utmost farthing paid
Whatever Your people owed—
Nor can His wrath on me take place,
If sheltered in Your righteousness
And sprinkled with Your blood!
If You have my discharge procured
And freely in my place endured
The whole of wrath Divine—
Payment God cannot twice demand—
First at my bleeding Surety's hand
And then again at mine." ~ Augustus Toplady, "From Whence This Fear and Unbelief"
    

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Book Review: The Pursuit of Holiness

The Pursuit of Holiness. Jerry Bridges. 1978. NavPress. 160 pages. [Source: Bought]

Is Jerry Bridges' The Pursuit of Holiness one of the best, best books I've read on holiness? Perhaps. Probably. Especially if you make a distinction between God's holiness and our sanctification. (R.C. Sproul has a great book on the holiness of God.) How good was it? So good it was uncomfortable. As in it was a convicting, reality check.  So good it was thought-provoking. So good that I think I'll need to reread it a few times so that I can absorb and digest all the insights into Christian living. So good that I'd love to read it WITH someone and discuss it.

Table of Contents:

  • Holiness is For You Romans 6:14
  • The Holiness of God 1 Peter 1:15-16
  • Holiness is Not an Option Hebrews 12:14
  • The Holiness of Christ 2 Corinthians 5:21
  • A Change of Kingdoms Romans 6:6-7
  • The Battle for Holiness by Romans 7:21
  • Help in the Daily Battle Romans 6:11
  • Obedience--Not Victory Romans 8:13
  • Putting Sin to Death Colossians 3:5
  • The Place of Personal Discipline 1 Timothy 4:7
  • Holiness in Body 1 Corinthians 9:27
  • Holiness in Spirit 2 Corinthians 7:1
  • Holiness and Our Wills Philippians 2:13
  • Habits of Holiness Romans 6:19
  • Holiness and Faith Hebrews 11:8
  • Holiness in an Unholy World John 17:15
  • The Joy of Holiness Romans 14:17

Premise of the book: God has made it possible for us to walk in holiness. But He has given to us the responsibility of doing the walking; He does not do that for us. (p. 14) True salvation brings with it a desire to be made holy. (p. 38)

What is holiness? To be holy is to be morally blameless. It is to be separated from sin, and, therefore consecrated to God. The word signifies "separation to God, and the conduct befitting those so separated. (p. 19) Holiness is nothing less than conforming to the character of God. (p. 26)

What is the difference between obedience and victory? Obedience is oriented toward God; victory is oriented toward self. (p. 21)

Does God hate sin? Because God is holy, He hates sin. Hate is such a strong word we dislike using it. Yet when it comes to God's attitude toward sin, only a strong word such as hate conveys an adequate depth of meaning. We become so accustomed to our sins we sometimes laps into a state of peaceful coexistence with them, but God never ceased to hate them. (p. 32)

Are some sins more acceptable than other sins? We cannot categorize sin if we are to live a life of holiness. God will not let us get away with that kind of attitude. (p. 23) God hates sin wherever He finds it, in saint and sinner alike. He does not hate sin in one person and overlook it in another. (p. 33)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

My Year With Spurgeon #16

The Love of Jesus--What It Is--None But His Loved Ones Know
Charles Spurgeon
1862

Ephesians 3:19
There is a tendency, in the contemplative knowledge of Christ's love, to self-indulgence. Now, there is a tendency, a wrong tendency, mark you, of getting so high and not wanting to get any higher. Even the contemplative life, itself, ought only to be considered as a steppingstone to something beyond. And when we get to the very highest point, we are still to say with Paul, as we sit down upon the milestone, "Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but this one thing I do, forgetting the things which are behind, press forward to those which are before."
Now, there is a tendency, when we have been alone and in private, and have had sweet fellowship with Christ, for us to feel—"I do not want to go out from this. I do not want to be disturbed just now. I would rather not do anything just now." I do not suppose there are very many of you who get into this state, but there may be some who think at such times, "I do not want to preach today. I would rather not do anything. It is best that I should be alone." Ah, it is a strong temptation, and you must strive against it and say, "No, I have enjoyments in my religion, but I did not seek my religion for the enjoyment it would give me. I must look higher than that, to the God I serve, and to the Lord and Master whose I am. I love the jewels He gives me to wear upon my fingers, but I love His Person better. I am not to look upon these rings and forget to look into His eyes. I love the sweet couch that He makes for me at night, but I am not to lie there and forget the fields that are to be plowed and the battles that are to be fought. I must be up and doing. The contemplative life must lead me to duty and then shall I know Christ even as I am known.
"I live. Yet not I, but Christ lives in me," said the Apostle Paul, and that is where we must get—when the man ceases to feel himself, the "I"—and only recognizes himself as part of Christ. It is our individuality that we really have to get rid of in this matter. It is our selfish separateness, I mean. We need to feel that we are a part of Christ, a member of His body, flesh of His flesh and bone of His bone.
We have to get to where we have no more desire to act, or think, or feel according to anything that is here—but to send our hearts up to the great heart of Christ in Heaven—only tarrying here while our souls are walking the golden streets with Christ.
When we are lost in God we are highest. When it is not we, but Christ—and we have come to be with Him and His heart is ours, and His love and soul, and wish are ours—then it is that we comprehend the height and depth and length and breadth and know the love of Christ which passes knowledge.   
Now, I have not said much tonight to the ungodly. But if I could make any of you feel your mouths a-watering after Christ by what I have said, I should be pleased, indeed. Oh, if you did but know the sweetness of the love of Christ, you would not be careless about it.
The Gospel is—"Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved." Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. To believe in Christ is to trust in Him. That is all it is—to trust in Him. "But I must repent," one says. Repentance is a change of mind, and is a blessed fruit of faith and comes with faith. That repentance which comes before faith is not true repentance, for it is a repentance that needs to be repented of. Where there is no faith, it is impossible to please God.
That repentance which has no faith in it must be displeasing to God, and needs to be repented of. The first business you have, Sinner, is not to feel anything, but to put your trust in Christ. Your business is not to try to make yourselves fit to come to Christ, but to come to Him just as you are. You are to trust Christ and to trust Him now. "Oh but I am a black with sin!" Come and be washed. "Oh but I am a naked sinner." Come and be clothed. "But I am lost." Oh, Sirs, the Master has come to seek and to save that which is lost. You are not to find yourselves first, and then think He will come and find you. He is come to seek you.
I would sound the Gospel trumpet here. Come and welcome! Come just as you are! To come is to trust and simply to fall flat at the foot of the Cross and say, "Jesus, I trust You to save me." That done, you are saved, and your sin is gone. He took it and was punished for it. You are righteous in God's sight, for His righteousness is yours, and you are saved. Christ, the Head, is your Representative. You are delivered. Christ has broken the neck of your foe, and you are emancipated the very moment when you believe.
Some persons dislike instantaneous conversions. Let them read the Bible and see what sorts of conversion are there. There is Saul of Tarsus, there is the Philippian jailer. There are the three thousand on the day of Pentecost—these are all instantaneous conversions. There is a man over there, near the door, who came in here. Perhaps he did not know what for, or to listen to some strange, out-of-the-way matter. That man, if Christ shall meet with him tonight, and lead him in the way of His Grace, may go out of this Chapel as much saved as if it were seven years ago when he first believed on Jesus, for—
"The moment a sinner believes And trusts in a crucified God," he is saved, it is all done! The work is finished and there is no need that anything else should be done. The robe of righteousness has been completed. There is not a stitch to be added to it.
Sinner, this is the glory of the Gospel. Trust Jesus and you are saved and saved forever, beyond the reach of destruction. May God meet with some soul here tonight, and especially may He now stir up you, His people, to grow in Divine Grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen and Amen.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Book Review: Jesus Without Borders

Jesus Without Borders. Chad Gibbs. 2015. Zondervan. 240 pages. [Source: Library]

Jesus Without Borders is a travel narrative written from the perspective of a football-and-soccer loving Southerner (Alabaman) who grew up as an evangelical in the Bible Belt. It is light on the theology, heavy on superficial jesting. A lot of the humor, unfortunately for me, didn't work. I wouldn't say that I always rolled my eyes every time he tried to be funny or witty. But I never laughed either.

It was also very predictable. After the first chapter or two, readers know exactly what to expect: complaining about the plane ride there, complaining about transportation while there, complaining about traffic and road conditions, complaining about bad driving, mentioning the stereotypes he has grown up with about the country he's in, going to a church or bible study that he "discovered" online in his research, complaining about food, mentioning his lack of note-taking, mentioning sports, reporting his conversations with two to three people he met while there, drawing conclusions about a whole country based on the conversations he had with two to three people. Each chapter was supposed to include his insights about faith and God and what he learned--how he expanded his mind and his heart--by traveling. I would say these are light and it's not that they're completely absent from the text it's just that they're not very substantive and memorable.

The premise of the book was great. He is a writer who has had Christian books published. He loves to travel. He decides that it would be great fun to combine the two. To go on twelve to thirteen working vacations. His work would have him going to church in thirteen countries and talking to at least thirteen people about their faith and what it means to "be a Christian" in their various countries. The narrative style is casual, bordering on embarrassingly full of jokes that don't quite work. (I guess readers would have had to been there to 'get' the joke.) At least for me. His half-jesting style may prove quite delightful for other readers. (For example, Lenin's statue is reading The Hunger Games.)

With travel books, sometimes it's more who's doing the narrating...unless the travel writing is really good, really focused, really descriptive. Which his travel writing isn't.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Week in Review: April 17-23

ESV

  • 1 Chronicles
  • Ezra
  • Nehemiah
  • Esther
  • Proverbs 1-18
  • Daniel
  • Jonah
  • Haggai
  • Zechariah
  • Malachi
  • Galatians
  • Ephesians
  • Philippians
  • Colossians

NASB

  • Isaiah 60-66
  • Matthew 11-12

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Live Like You're Loved: Prayer



Today, I thought we could focus in on prayer. I'll be sharing a few quotes and a few verses.
To understand the Scripture is not simply to get information about God. If attended to with trust and faith, the Bible is the way to actually hear God speaking and also to meet God himself…We know who we are praying to only if we first learn it in the Bible. And we know how how we should be praying only by getting our vocabulary from the Bible. ~ Timothy Keller
If the goal of prayer is a real, personal connection with God, then it is only by immersion in the language of the Bible that we will learn to pray, perhaps just as slowly as a child learns to speak… This wedding of the Bible and prayer anchors your life down in the real God. ~ Timothy Keller
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. 1 Timothy 2:1-6
And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him. 1 John 5:14-15
Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16
If you struggle with prayer, you're not alone. First, I would suggest that you take your weakness, your struggle, your inability and inadequacy, to God. Pray that he will teach you to pray. Pray that he will guide your prayers. Pray that he will keep your attention focused. Pray that he will give you strength and perseverance. Second, there are some great Christian resources out there. I'd be happy to share some of my favorite recommendations with you if you're interested.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Book Review: Looking for Lovely

Looking for Lovely. Annie F. Downs. 2016. 208 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Looking for Lovely was a quick and (mostly) enjoyable read. It is a personal narrative of a young, single Christian woman. (I see it as a polished form of stream of consciousness; it is organized not random, but, it's almost an uncensored look at a woman's private thoughts.) If the book has spiritual insights to pass along, it is probably in the showing and not telling. In other words, that she is--that we all are--works in progress; that we all struggle with ups and downs, good days and bad days. That in spite of how we appear to others, how we appear to ourselves even, God loves us because God is that good and gracious and faithful.

Readers can benefit from the chapter "Looking for Lovely." In that chapter, she stresses two things: 1) God made you on purpose and 2) God made you to be brave.

Most of the book focuses on the author: on her past, on her present, on her dreams for the future, on her desperate pleading to the Lord to send her a husband, on her desperate need to be married, on her fears, on her doubts, on her strengths, on her weaknesses, on her good days, on her bad days, on her weaknesses, on her successes. She doesn't seem to hold much of anything back from her readers.

One doesn't particularly learn much about God and the Bible directly. It is more indirect and subtle than that. If you look for it, you can find Him there in her messy, chaotic, fun-filled life. But this isn't particularly my favorite type of "Christian nonfiction."

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Live Like You're Loved: Defining the Gospel


This will be a post full of quotes. Others can say it better.
The gospel is the good news that God’s kingdom power has entered human history through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. When we repent and rely on his righteousness instead of our own, his kingdom power transforms us, and we become participants in the restoration of God’s world. The three aspects of the gospel are the kingdom, the cross, and God’s grace. 1. The gospel of the kingdom is life with God under God’s rule. 2. The gospel of the cross is the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus by which God accomplishes our salvation, rescues us from his wrath, incorporates us into his people, and inaugurates his reign in the world. 3. The gospel of grace is the wonderful news that God accepts us, shares his life with us, and adopts us as heirs of his kingdom not because we have earned it or deserve it but because God chooses to give all of this freely at Christ’s expense. ~ Daniel Montgomery and Timothy Paul Jones
I am a Christian not because I think that I can walk in Jesus's footsteps but because he is the only one who can carry me. I am not the gospel; Jesus Christ alone is the gospel. His story saves me, not only by bringing me justification but by baptizing me into his resurrection life. ~ Michael Horton
The gospel is not a way to get people to heaven; it is a way to get people to God. It's a way of overcoming every obstacle to everlasting joy in God. ~ John Piper
At its core, the gospel is Jesus as the substitute for sinners. We could summarize the whole by saying that in his life Jesus lives in perfect submission to the will of God and he fulfills his righteous standard (the law). In his death on the cross he quenches God's wrath against sin, satisfying the sovereign demand for justice. In his resurrection he is victorious over sin and death. All of this is done on behalf of sinners in need of redemption and is offered to all who believe. This is therefore very "good news." ~ Joe Thorn
“I go to prepare a place for you”—the whole of the gospel is in that statement; in that one verse is packed the whole of Christian theology and doctrine. ~ Martyn Lloyd-Jones
The cross provides our access to relate to God, but we must always relate to him in light of who he is, not just who we think or hope him to be. ~ Matt Chandler
Jesus fulfilled all of God's conditions on our behalf so that our relationship with God could be unconditional. Christianity is the only faith system where God both makes the demands and meets them. ~ Tullian Tchividjian
The Bible is the story of God's counteroffensive against sin. It is the grand narrative of how God made it right, of how he is making it right, and how he will one day make it right finally and forever. ~ Greg Gilbert
If a penitent should come and ask me, “What must I do to be saved?” I would say, “Christ must save you—believe on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” I would neither direct to prayer, nor reading of the Scriptures nor attending God’s house; but simply direct to faith, naked faith on God’s gospel. Not that I despise prayer—that must come after faith. Not that I speak a word against the searching of the Scriptures—that is an infallible mark of God’s children. Not that I find fault with attendance on God’s word—God forbid! I love to see people there. But none of those things are the way of salvation. It is nowhere written—“He that attendeth chapel shall be saved,” or, “He that readeth the Bible shall be saved.” Nor do I read—“He that prayeth and is baptised shall be saved;” but, “He that believeth,”—he that has a naked faith on the “Man Christ Jesus,”—on his Godhead, on his manhood, is delivered from sin. To preach that faith alone saves, is to preach God’s truth. ~ Charles Spurgeon
Either Jesus bears our sin, or we do. If the Father turned His face away from His beloved Son when He was regarded as a sinner, we can be sure that the Father will turn away from every sinner who stands before the Judgment Bar on his own merits. We are either saved by His rejection, or we must bear our own rejection for all of eternity. ~ Erwin Lutzer

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, April 22, 2016

Book Review: God's Word, Our Story

God's Word, Our Story. Learning from the Book of Nehemiah. D.A. Carson and Kathleen B. Nielson, editors. 2016. Crossway. 208 pages. [Source: Review copy]

God's Word, Our Story is a collection of talks from The Gospel Coalition Women's Conference 2014. But. It isn't just the conference in book form. Each chapter concludes with a behind-the-scenes glimpse into bible exposition. How does that contributor read and study the Bible? What does the exposition process look like in real life? How does one go from the Bible text to a polished (somewhat polished) sermon or lesson?!

God's Word Our Story is an exposition of the entire book of Nehemiah. It includes contributions by Kathy Keller (Nehemiah 1, 2); Tim Keller (Nehemiah 3, 4); Paige Brown (Nehemiah 5, 6); Nancy Guthrie (Nehemiah 7, 8); John Piper (Nehemiah 9, 10); Carrie Sandom (Nehemiah 11, 12-1-26); Jenny Salt (Nehemiah 12:44-43); Kathleen Nielson (Nehemiah 12:44-47); and D.A. Carson (Nehemiah 13).

The book begins with an introduction by Kathleen Nielson titled, "On Exposition." In the introduction, she examines the what of exposition, the why of exposition, and the where of exposition. I'd like to share several of her reasons WHY biblical exposition is important.
Biblical exposition is so important because the Bible is God speaking. If we had to choose just one reason, this, of course, would be it. If it is true that these words are God-breathed (2 Tim. 3:16), written by men who “spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet. 1:21), then nothing is more important than hearing these words clearly. The One who spoke these words made us. He also made a way to save us from his wrath, which we in our sin deserve. He loves us and lights the way to him. That way is found in his Word. That way is Jesus, who is at the center of this Word. Hearing this Word clearly and truly is a life-and-death matter. Submitting to God’s Word as to the Lord himself is what we human beings were created to do, for his glory and for our good. When a person stands up to handle the Word of the God of the universe, eternal realities are at stake. These realities are personal, not abstract. God’s Word is alive and active because God is alive and active. Sometimes we actually forget he is there as we receive and discuss his words to us. ~ Kathleen Nielson
Biblical exposition is so important because it gives us confidence in our message. ~ Kathleen Nielson
Biblical exposition is so important because those who preach or teach should be guides, not gurus. ~ Kathleen Nielson
Biblical exposition is so important because regular expository teaching tells God’s story truly. ~ Kathleen Nielson
We take in the Word in whole books because that is the form in which God has delivered his Word to us. He’s made us a “people of the book.” Even though in this day we all tend to be people of topics and snippets of information digested through one quick link after another, we must respect the beautiful coherence of the book we call the Bible. ~ Kathleen Nielson
The Bible is God’s work of art. Each book’s form and content, and the unity of the whole Bible, represent an unparalleled literary masterpiece, with multiple genres combining to speak one unified story. It’s the universal story, the true story of the universe. It’s God’s telling of his redemption of a people for himself for his glory, through his Son… There’s no other way to get the story right than to listen to it the way God tells it. There’s no other way to delight fully in the story than to contemplate it in its fullness. We deepen our knowledge of Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the Savior of the world, as we grasp his part in the story from the very beginning (in creation) to the very end (at his second coming and into eternity). The cross and resurrection that are the climax at the center of the story cannot be torn away from the beginning and the end— and all the other parts in between. Every passage of Scripture finds its fullness of revelation in the gospel of Jesus Christ. ~ Kathleen Nielson
Biblical exposition is so important because it grows us up into mature followers of Christ. “Little-snippet teaching” is one way to stay on a milk diet forever instead of moving on to meat (see 1 Cor. 3: 1– 2). ~ Kathleen Nielson
The remaining chapters focus in on the book of Nehemiah. I have always loved certain parts of Nehemiah, the story is a great one. But I now have a fuller appreciation for the whole book of Nehemiah, and, how it all comes together.

I love how Bible-centered, Christ-centered this book was. I love that we get to see the process of Bible study. I found it an encouraging read.

Perhaps my favorite chapter was by Paige Brown. It was called "Fearing God In A Fallen World." She wrote her chapter about Nehemiah 5 and 6. But she somehow connected it with John Newton's Amazing Grace, the second verse. And it fit together absolutely beautiful. This was a wow chapter for me!

Some favorite quotes:
We are studying Nehemiah not only to learn from the book itself but also to learn how to learn from the book. ~ Tim Keller
Studying a book like Nehemiah forces us to go back to what we understand the Bible to be. I’d like to show you two basic parts to the doctrine of Scripture. The Bible, on the one hand, is a human book, which means we don’t believe— as did Joseph Smith about The Book of Mormon— that it was written on golden plates by angels or by God himself. It was written by human beings who used Greek, Aramaic, or Hebrew words. Therefore, we need to understand what those words meant and how those languages worked, because human beings used them to give us the message. On the other hand, the Bible is a divine book. It was written by God; every word on the page is there because God guided the human author to write that word. That means the Bible is ultimately one story. It is one large story comprised of many little stories. There’s one large narrative arc, and everything in the Bible is moving and pointing along that arc. ~ Tim Keller
Most people today would scoff at the idea that the central source in which to discover the reality of who you are, of who you were created to be, and of what you are meant to do could be the pages of an ancient book. Maybe we presume that idea would have been more believable in Nehemiah’s day. But consider that when the events we are reading about took place, the Book of the Law of Moses was already an ancient book. It was already a thousand years old. And consider that these were people who had never heard the voice of God speaking to them from a mountain that was on fire, as their ancestors did at Sinai (Exodus 19). They’d never seen a cloud of fire hovering over the temple to signify God’s presence among them, as their ancestors did in Solomon’s day (2 Chron. 7: 1– 3). But they did want to hear from God in their day. So how would that happen? And how can we expect to hear God speaking to us in our day when we’ve never heard an audible voice from heaven or had a supernatural experience? God speaks to us, revealing to us who he is and what he has done, helping us understand who we are in relationship to him, through his written Word. ~ Nancy Guthrie
One of the main lessons from Nehemiah 9 and 10— indeed, from all the Bible— is that God does not exist for the sake of our enjoying biblical stories; biblical stories exist for the sake of our enjoying God. The reason I make a point of this is not only because it stands out amazingly in Nehemiah 9, but also because in our time there is great fascination with tracing out the storyline of the Bible. I simply want to wave a flag over all this fascination with story and narrative to say: there is a point to the story; there is a point to the narrative— and the point is a person. Biblical stories are no more ends in themselves than history is an end in itself or the universe is an end in itself. The universe is telling the glory of God (Ps. 19: 1). And the history of the world is what it is to show that God is who he is. God writes the story of history to reveal who he is— what he is like, his character, his name. ~ John Piper

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Quotes from the Cloud #15

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.
Every time we say, “I believe in the Holy Spirit,” we mean that we believe there is a living God able and willing to enter human personality and change it. ~ J. B. Philips
“A wavering Christian is a Christian who trusts in the love of God one day and doubts it the next, and who is alternately happy or miserable accordingly . . . driven to and fro by every wind of doctrine. . . . You would suppose that even the most ignorant child of God would know without telling that this sort of experience is all wrong, and that to waver in one’s faith after such a fashion was one of the things most dishonoring to the Lord. . . . A wavering faith is not only disloyal to God, but it is a source of untold misery to ourselves and cannot in any way advance our spiritual interests.” ~ Hannah Whitall Smith on James 1:5
God pays in joy that is fireproof, famine-proof and devil-proof. ~ Billy Sunday
Indeed this is one of the greatest mysteries in the world—namely, that a righteousness that resides with a Person in heaven should justify me, a sinner on earth. ~ John Bunyan

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Book Review: No Graven Image

No Graven Image. Elisabeth Elliot. 1966. 267 pages. [Source: Inter-Library-Loan]

No Graven Image is set in Ecuador. It's narrated by an American missionary--a single woman--named Margaret. Ecuador is her first placement, and, it is without a doubt where she feels called by God to serve. She hopes to learn the language--Quichua--and eventually translate the Bible into the native language. She has learned Spanish. She's seeking someone who speaks Spanish and Quichua. About a third of the way through the novel, she meets Pedro. There are some barriers to their friendship--language, culture, social class--but eventually he becomes 'the one' to help her in her work. She will pay him to teach her the language. She will pay him to help her translate the Bible. Now you might think that was challenging enough, but no, before anyone can benefit from this new translation of the Bible, she will have to teach them to read their own native language, that it's worth the time and effort to learn to read. Before she can teach them--at least as she sees it--she has to show them that she's trustworthy and/or worthy of their respect and friendship. She has to overcome the 'who-does-she-think-she-is' and 'is-that-lady-crazy' viewpoint.

From start to finish, Margaret experiences troubles and frustration. Think of it like this: I'm a missionary, now what? Now that I'm actually here in a foreign country instead of back home training to be this missionary whom God will use...what do I do? How does a missionary do missions. Is being a missionary simply living in another country--having other people pay you to live in another country? How does one justify spending one's time when you're a missionary? Is it serving God to go to the marketplace and buy food from natives? Or is the only time that 'counts' the time you spend "sharing the gospel"?

The book has more questions than answers, in my opinion. Margaret wrestles with God quite a bit. Or perhaps I should rephrase that. She wrestles with her beliefs about God quite a bit. She definitely starts out with belief that she is doing God a favor by being a missionary and serving in Ecuador. She definitely believes that by being there and serving, she is doing "her part" to bring people to Christ, and, that God should honor that service by blessing her with definite converts. The issue she doesn't quite address straight-forwardly is the idea that God is sovereign in missions--as He is sovereign over the whole universe--and that it is God who works in the heart, that salvation is all His from start to finish. Her efforts--no matter how mighty and fierce--cannot bring about results. She doesn't have anything to "prove" to God. I'm not sure if Margaret grasped these truths or not. And if Margaret's lacking was intentional on the part of the author, or, if Elliot herself struggled with God's sovereignty.

As a happy, comfy-cozy read, No Graven Image fails to satisfy. If you want to read a book about a woman struggling with living out her calling and wrestling out her doctrines about God in the real world, then this one is worth picking up and reading. Just know that it asks more questions than it answers. There is no tidy ending, no "aha" moment when everything clicks into place and her struggles with herself, with God, cease.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

My Year With Spurgeon #15

The Love of Jesus--What It Is--None But His Loved Ones Know
Charles Spurgeon
1862

Ephesians 3:19
To know the love of Christ which passes knowledge by contemplation is very high—but there is a higher stage than this. There are times when I almost fear to speak of these things, but there are some here, surely, who will understand me, some here who have passed through the same state, and will not think that I am dreaming. There are times when the soul has long contemplated Christ, and there are some who know not only to contemplate but to enjoy. Even on earth, faith sometimes gives place to a present and conscious enjoyment.
I shall quote but one or two, and I hope there are some here who have known them in their own experience. In the life of Mr. Flavel, who was one of the most temperate of the Puritans, and one not at all given to anything like fanaticism, there is an event mentioned which once occurred to him. He said that being once on a journey alone on horseback, the thought of the love of Christ came upon him with great power. And as he rode gently along the road, the thought seemed to increase in force and strength, till at last he forgot all about earth, and even where he was. Somehow or other his horse stood still but he did not notice it. And when he came to himself, through some passerby observing him, he found that he had bled very copiously during the time. Getting off his horse he washed his face at the brook and he said, "I did verily think as I stood there, that if I was not in Heaven, I could hardly hope to be more blessed in Heaven than I was then." He mounted his horse and rode on to a place of lodging where he was to pass the night. Supper was brought in but left untasted on the table. He sat all night long without sleep, enjoying the presence of Christ, and he says, "I was more rested that night than with any sleep I ever had, and I heard and saw in my soul, by faith, such things as I had never known before." The like occurred to Mr. Tennant, who was a man who spent many hours in private, and sometimes, when it was time to preach, he was quite unable to stand unless first carried into his pulpit. Then he would put his hands out and lean there and say such glorious things of Christ, that those who looked upon him verily thought that they looked upon the face of an angel.
Rutherford, too, is another specimen. When he preached about Christ, he preached so wonderfully, that on any other subject he was not at all like himself. And the Duke of Argyle was once so warmed when Rutherford got upon that subject, that he cried out in Church—"Now, Man, you are on the right strain! Keep to it." And he did keep to it, and the little man's thin voice seemed to swell with supernatural grandeur when he began to talk of his precious, precious Lord Jesus, and to extol and exalt Him who was the Bridegroom of his soul, his Brother and his blessed Companion.
"Oh, these are flights of the imagination," you say. Yes, they may be, indeed, Beloved. But if you could get them some times, you would come back to the world's cares and troubles like giants refreshed with new wine, caring nothing for anything that might happen. Christ would be so sweetly and blessedly within you, that you could bear the burden and think nothing of it. And though the grasshopper was a burden before, you could now carry it right readily.
Well, I have taken you up to where not many go in these times, but I hope there are some who will yet ascend there till they shall even embrace Christ, and who will sit down at His table till they shall know Ralph Erskine's blessed sickness of love and, in the conscious enjoyment of a precious Savior, shall say in the words of the spouse, "Stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples, for I am sick of love. His left hand is under my head and His right hand does embrace me."
To know Christ sympathetically, is a yet higher stage than any to which we have attained before. What do I mean by this? I will show you, first of all, what I do not mean. We will suppose ourselves standing on the brow of the hill with Jerusalem in the alley below. Jerusalem is to be destroyed by the Romans. The decree has gone forth that its sin must be punished. Now, here is a Brother who holds very high doctrines in his head, but who has not much sympathy in his heart. Come up here, Brother. Do you see that city there? That is all to be destroyed! Do you see its streets? They are all to be crimsoned with blood! Do you see its temple? Not one stone of it is to be left upon another! What do you think of it? "Well," he says, "if they are to be saved, they will be saved. If it is in the purpose and the decree it will be so. I am sure I am very sorry if they should not be, but I do not see that it is any particular business of mine. The Lord will have His own and it will all be well."
Get down, Sir! What do you know about the love of Christ? Nothing! Give such a man as you that text, "He beheld the city and wept over it," and you would not know how to preach from it, for you do not know the Savior's heart, and have not known His love.
If you say are not your Brother's keeper, rest assured that you are a Cain, and that you will be your Brother's murderer—for we either do good or hate. It is impossible for us to be devoid of influence. 
If he serves his Master, he is scattering mercy abroad. But let him, if it were possible for him to do so, let him cease to serve the Lord, and become idle, and then he scatters plague and death. Oh, do we know the love of Christ by feeling it in our own hearts?
May He help you to weep like Christ, to work like Christ—yes, and to be ready to die like Christ—if it were necessary by such means to bring sinners to their Savior and their Lord. O that we could get here!

Monday, April 18, 2016

Bible Review: Family Devotional Bible

ESV Family Devotional Bible. 2016. Crossway. 1408 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Who's the target audience of the ESV Family Devotional Bible? Primarily Christian parents. If you've got children between the ages of four and ten, I'd imagine this Bible might be a nice fit for you.

Is it for adults to read with children? Or, is it for children to read on their own? 

There is no reason it couldn't be a bit of both. Ideally, I think this is one that parents and children would sit down to read together as a family. Obviously, if your children haven't learned to read yet, the parents will do the reading aloud. But if your children are reading confidently on their own, then there is no reason why parents and children couldn't pass the Bible around and read it together.

What are the features of the Family Devotional Bible?

The translation is the ESV. It is black letter, not red letter for the Words of Christ. It is in paragraph format as opposed to verse-verse-verse. (Where each verse begins a new line.) There are headings and subheadings. It does have a ribbon marker.

It features 130 "gospel-centered" Bible story retellings. Each story, each devotion, is complemented by a color illustration. Each devotional story features one key verse and three questions for the family. Both the stories and the illustrations--the paintings--are copyrighted to Concordia. I know that these are the same stories and illustrations previously found in the ESV Seek and Find Bible published in 2010. There is an index of devotions. There are eight color maps.

Though there are some similarities between the ESV Seek and Find Bible and the ESV Family Devotional Bible, there are some differences as well. This is not publishing 'the same Bible' -- 'the same material' -- under a different name. The illustrations may be the same, but, they've been resized, for example. The stories may be identical, as far as I can tell, but other elements for each devotion have been changed. The key verses on some stories have changed, I believe. The "three key questions" have become "questions for the family" and though the number has remained the same, the questions themselves have been edited, adapted, rewritten.

Another difference is the layout. The font is definitely smaller in the ESV Family Devotional Bible!

Are there book introductions? No. The ESV Seek and Find Bible had book introductions, but, the ESV Family Devotional Bible does not.

I do think the Bible would benefit from having book introductions. I think adults need book introductions. I think book introductions help readers of all ages--adults and children--make sense of the text. In other words, book introductions help place each book within its proper context. It is important to know, for example: when a book was written, who wrote it, whom it was written for, why it was written, where it fits into the big picture of the Bible. One shouldn't assume that adults have all these answers already! Curious kids might want to go beyond the three scripted questions. They might have a lot of questions of their own. Adults might have questions of their own as well. Families could have a "let's find out together" attitude  approaching the Bible.

Are there character profiles? No. The ESV Seek and Find Bible had character profiles, but, the ESV Family Devotional Bible does not.

Is there a dictionary or concordance? No. The ESV Seek and Find Bible had this feature, but, the ESV Family Devotional Bible does not.

The ESV Seek and Find Bible is no longer in print, it is no longer available. But. It's important to distinguish that the goals for these two Bibles were not--are not--the same. The ESV Seek and Find Bible was for children to read on their own. It was almost meant to be a first Bible, a way to transition from a story Bible to the text of a real Bible. A blending of the best of both. The ESV Family Devotional Bible is meant to be read as a family, with adults leading the way.

Is it important for the family to read the Bible together? Yes. I think it is a wonderful idea to both read the Bible devotionally together, and, to also study it together. I think family 'discussion' questions are one way to do this.


© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Week in Review: April 10-16

As the Bible plainly states, “Christ died for the ungodly” (Rom. 5:6). Here are five of the most heart-humbling, awe-inspiring, and joy-producing words we will ever hear. As many have said, “Here is the gospel in five words.” Those who are justified are those who willingly admit to being ungodly, and thus are willing to trust in Christ alone for their godliness. They understand that their ungodliness is such that self-justification is not possible. ~ Anthony Carter
NASB

  • 1 Samuel 24-31
  • Psalm 73-150
  • Proverbs 1-9
  • Isaiah 40-59
  • Matthew 1-10
  • Mark 12-16

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Live Like You're Loved: Comfort


Where do you go for comfort? Take a moment if you need to. Don't think about what answer I might want to hear. Be completely honest with yourself. Where do you go for comfort? I think we all--if we're honest--will admit that sometimes we don't make wise decisions on where to go.

For example, I spent years seeking comfort in food. Letting food be my all in all. Never quite deciding if I was eating because I hated myself or loved myself. But. Regardless of what you answered just now, you should know something about God…
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30
“Come, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and he who has no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food. Isaiah 55:1-2
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort. 2 Corinthians 1:3-7
For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 15:4-6
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. Romans 15:13
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Matthew 5:4
Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word. 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Live Like You're Loved: Memory Verse Suggestions

A verse learned goes into our memories and from there into our conscious and subconscious minds. From there it appears in the room of imagination, from whence it shows up in the way we live, think, feel, talk, act, and achieve. The principle of Proverbs 23:7 is true 24-7. It is an inviolable law of life that cannot be altered and will be true as long as human nature endures: For as we think in our hearts so are we. ~ Robert J. Morgan
Today, I thought I would share some super-short verses that are worthy of memorizing.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Philippians 4:4 
I love that verse. It is short. It is simple. It is easy to figure out what the application should be. It can't get any more straightforward than that. Yet, it's a convicting little verse isn't it?!
I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Psalm 34:4
Isn't this a wonderful verse too. Who doesn't want to be delivered from all their fears?!
Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! Psalm 34:8
Have you tasted and seen that the Lord is GOOD? How do you taste and see? It's hard to put into words the how--I think it's a spirit thing, to be honest--but you'll know when you've done it. And the great thing is that it's an open invitation. It's not a quick free sample. No, we can FEAST on the Lord's goodness! 
The Lord redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned. Psalm 34:22
Are you a servant of the Lord? Have you taken refuge in Him? Isn't this a great promise!
Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name. Psalm 86:11
I must admit this one is probably one of my favorite, favorite verses. It's a built-in prayer, isn't it? 
The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.
This is another favorite, favorite of mine. I love the "will." It says, first of all, that the Lord HAS a purpose for me. Second, that the Lord WILL fulfill HIS purpose for me. His purpose may be different than how I see my purpose. But his purpose is for my good, and, is made by someone infinitely wise and good. I also love the focus on God's steadfast love. The last ends in a prayer! 

What are some of your favorite verses?

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, April 15, 2016

Book Review: No Other Will Do

No Other Will Do. Karen Witemeyer. 2016. Bethany House. 368 pages. [Source: Review copy]

No Other Will Do by Karen Witemeyer is a great read. I loved, loved, loved it. That did not come as a surprise to me. I tend to love, love, love Witemeyer's novels. Her historical romances tend to be set in Texas, and feature truly memorable heroes and heroines. No Other Will Do did not disappoint in the slightest. I'm not sure I'm ready to commit to saying it is my favorite, favorite of her novels. But it's one I won't be forgetting any time soon!

Malachi Shaw is the hero of No Other Will Do. As a young (orphan) boy, he took shelter in a barn and was discovered by our young heroine, Emma Chandler. She asked her aunts if she could 'keep' him. They said yes. For several years, he knew what a 'real home' was like in many, many ways. When he left, he promised Emma that he would always let her know where he was so they could write. He also promised to return if ever she needed him. A good many years later, she does just that, writing him telling him to come...and as soon as possible.

Emma Chandler is one of the founding members of a special town, Harper's Station, Texas, an all-female town where women take care and support one another. Emma is a banker. Other women run farms or businesses. It is a new town, but, a closely knit one. Some women are widows. Some are old maids. Some have fled from abusive husbands or fathers. The reason Emma writes Malachi is simple: the town is being threatened. There is a masked man--or as it turns out two masked men--making threats on the town. A lot of waving guns about, some shooting (though no one is hit), some arson, some destruction of property. Only two or three women know how to shoot a gun, and, certainly the women want to avoid violence if at all possible. But the women need some outside help this time. And since the nearby sheriff is ignoring their pleas for help, dismissing them really as not his problem, Emma knows just what to do.

Malachi Shaw becomes one of two men allowed in the town. (The other is Mr. Porter, I believe, who delivers messages (the post) and goods.) And seeing these two reunite after years apart was just something. They grew up close, but, now they're all grown up...and both are strong, capable, opinionated, intelligent, kind and loyal.

This is a drama-packed, action-packed novel but characterization never falters. I loved the setting, community, the people in it, and Malachi and Emma. It was just a joy to read this romance.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Quotes from the Cloud #14

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 is not hung upon such an untwisted thread as, “I imagine so,” or “It is likely,” but the cable, the strong tow of our fastened anchor, is the oath and promise of Him who is eternal verity. Our salvation is fastened with God’s own hand, and with Christ’s own strength, to the strong stake of God’s unchangeable nature. ~ Samuel Rutherford
There is no trouble to which the heart of man is exposed that a belief in the doctrine of the Gospel is not calculated to purify and to alleviate. ~ Thomas Chalmers
A tent or a cottage, why should I care? They’re building a palace for me over there. ~ Harriet E. Buell
I will read the 63rd Psalm first, as somewhat representing the state of heart into which I would we could all come tonight.
Psalm 63:1 O God, You are my God. Read that sentence how you will, it is unspeakably precious. If we say, "O God, You are my God," it brings out the possession which the Believer has in God. If we say, "O God, You are my God," it shows the greatness of the possession which we thus have in having this God to be our God forever and ever. And if we say "O God, You are my God," it leads us to think of God and not of His gifts as our chief good.
1, 2. Early will I seek You: my soul thirsts for You, my flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is; to see Your power and Your glory, so as I have seen You in the sanctuary. Long after the old times over again—for those times of Heaven upon earth—those special seasons when the Lord made the veil between us and Heaven to be very thin, indeed, and allowed us almost to see His face. "To see Your power and Your glory, so as I have seen You in the sanctuary." Well, then, let us go to the sanctuary again, or make the place where we are a sanctuary. Even the stony pillar may mark the site of Bethel and every spot may be hallowed ground.
3-5. Because Your loving-kindness is better than life, my lips shall praise You. Thus will I bless You while I live: I will lift up my hands in Your name. My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise You with joyful lips. Satisfaction, absolute satisfaction! Satiety of every desire, full to the brim to the running over only because God is our God! We need nothing beyond that to make our mouth praise with joyful lips.
6, 7. When I remember You upon my bed, and meditate on You in the night watches. Because You had been my help, therefore in the shadow of Your wings will I rejoice. If I cannot see Your face, the shadow of Your wing shall be enough for me, for they shall shelter me from all harm and I will, yes, I will rejoice. Under the wings we are near the heart of God and he who know God's heart of love must be glad.
8-10. My soul follows hard after You: Your right hand upholds me. But those that seek my soul, to destroy it, shall go into the lower parts of the earth. They shall fall by the sword: they shall be a portion for foes. All our sins and all other things or beings that are the enemies of our soul! Christ has overcome and He will leave them upon the field. ~ Charles Spurgeon, Expository on Psalm 63

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Book Review: Experiencing the Trinity

Experiencing the Trinity: The Grace of God for the People of God. Joe Thorn. 2015. Crossway. 144 pages. [Source: Library]

I've been meaning to reread Joe Thorn's Experiencing the Trinity for quite a while now, probably since first reviewing it last March. Since I'm celebrating the gospel and preaching it to myself each day this month, I thought I would reread this gem of a book and review it (again). 

Joe Thorn is an author you should know. Trust me. I've read Note to Self and Experiencing the Trinity. Both are definite 'must-reads.' Both are written directly to readers. Both are pastoral care, in my opinion, speaking truth that you need to know, truth that you need to live by. And yet even though the books could easily in the hands of another author be a bit condescending perhaps, yet, with Thorn that is not the case at all. It's a very honest, very vulnerable glimpse into his own heart and into our own hearts as well. We stand together in this--in our needs, in our weaknesses. 

The book is fifty devotionals celebrating the trinity. The first part focuses on God the Father. The second part focuses on God the Son. The Third part focuses on God the Holy Spirit.

From the introduction: 
It was Scripture that drew me back to the hope, peace and safety I have in Jesus. And that is what this book is really about: how the Word of God draws us to the living God. In knowing him we find peace, joy, strength, and faith… Preaching God's Word to yourself is not necessarily a quick fix for your sorrows and suffering. At times God will delay granting you relief in order to draw you closer to himself. (17)

From chapter one:
The less you are gripped with God's holiness, the less awe you will experience in your faith. A truer sight of his holiness will give you a truer sight of your corruptions. And it is only as you see both of these realities that you will find his mercy extended toward you in Jesus Christ to be soul-satisfying and worship-inspiring. Awe of God proceeds from knowing and experiencing his holiness--his otherness. (24)

From chapter two:
To say God is Creator is to say he is the one in whom you find your identity and purpose. Your God has not only created the world, but he has also created you. You exist because God chose to make you. And when he made you, he made you for himself. Meditate on this. You were made for your Maker's pleasure. You are here for the sake of Another. And this doesn't diminish your purpose or value in life. In fact, it heightens it. (26)

From chapter four:
You are never really alone, but unless you are seeking communion with the Lord who is there, you will feel alone. You will carry the burden. And in doing so you will remain afraid and collapse under the weight of your afflictions. (32)

From chapter seventeen:
You love the idea that Jesus is the friend of sinners. You should; this is your only hope as a sinner. His grace has appeared to set the condemned free, to rescue the enslaved. You truly are saved by grace. (63)

From chapter twenty-two:
There is no safer place than where Jesus is or has been. He has gone before you, and in fact faced much worse, and his example is one of silent submission. He voiced no selfish complaint or felt any need to justify himself. He would suffer, but God would make it right. He would die, but the Lord was bringing  about a glorious deliverance--not only for the Son, but also for his people. Your suffering is real, but those who trust the Lord will find life even in the midst of death. (77)

From chapter forty-one:
It's one thing to affirm that the Scripture is the Word of God, perfect and authoritative in all matters of faith and practice. But it's another thing to know that you can read it, understand it, and receive it, not only because it is clear, but also because the Spirit was given to teach you. (121)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

My Year With Spurgeon #14

The Love of Jesus--What It Is--None But His Loved Ones Know
Charles Spurgeon
1862

Ephesians 3:19
True saints know Christ's love gratefully and thankfully, having experienced it. O dear Friends! Let me refresh your memories and tell you what you do know, rather than attempt to say anything which might be new to you. Do you remember the place, the spot of ground where Jesus met with you? Some of us do. Oh, that day of days! That first day of our spiritual life! Other days have lost their freshness in our recollection, but this one is like a coin newly minted from time, though it is years ago with some of us. Oh, that day! That marriage day! That feast day! That day of Heaven on earth! Our soul was burdened and bowed down to the very dust, and we thought we should soon descend into the pit where despair would be our portion forever. But as we went mourning on our way, we heard a voice saying to us— "Come here soul, I am the way."
Oh, do you remember when you looked unto Him and when you came to trust Him—just as you were—with your soul? You had been learning about Christ, perhaps, for years. You had been taught about Him. You had got some knowledge of Him and some desire towards Him. But did you not learn more of Christ in one five minutes then, than you could have learned in a whole course of college education in theology, in years before?
And since that time, dear Friends, have we not learned Christ's love thankfully to a very high degree? Day after day He comes to us. Night after night He draws the curtains of our bed. He is ever with us and all that He has is ours. He talks sweetly to us by the way, and He sits down by us in our afflictions and comforts us, and makes our hearts to burn within us. And as we think of all that He has done for us, we feel we do know something of Him, for gratitude has been our schoolmaster.
Let me share my witness that my Lord and Master improves upon acquaintance. The more I know of Him, the more I wish to know. And I think I do but speak the mind of all the Lord's people when I declare that instead of having less love to Him, the more I experience of His favor, the more warm is my heart towards Him.
The true children of God know Christ's love in a way which I can only describe by the word practically. If any man would know His doctrine, let him keep His commandments. You know if a man is to be taught to swim, you could not teach him in Surrey Chapel. You might get the most skillful master in the world who should come and explain the way in which he should spread his hands and move his feet, but he never can be taught to swim on dry land. And we cannot make Christians know Christ except by imitating Christ and by obeying Christ.
Just so, if we would learn Christ, we must be practically engaged in His service. We must learn His love by keeping His Commandments. You may sit in these pews and be preached to every Sunday. You may hear God's Truth plainly and simply unfolded. But if you want to learn, and learn in such a way that you never will forget, it is the back streets that must teach you, the lodging houses, the haunts of poverty, and the dens of vice.  If any man would know the love of Christ, let him go where Christ went and to the place where a Savior is needed. Let him carry Christ's light to give light to others, and it shall enlighten himself. Let him go forth to water other men's vineyards, and his own soul shall be watered, also. Whatever his Master bids him do, let him do it, and he shall learn his Master's will while he is doing his Master's will. But when men, at the very outset, make a profession of religion and then disobey Christ—when they refuse to keep His Commandments—when they say of this one, "It is non-essential." And of the next, "It is unnecessary." And when they say of some duty, "Well, I can leave that to others." And of some sphere of action for which they are especially adapted, "I need not attend to that. Others can do that quite as well"—when men, I say, enlist into Christ's army and begin at once to refuse to march as they are told, and decline to go out to battle when the Captain gives them the command—it is a sure sign that they never will learn much of their Master, their Captain and their Lord.
So, if a man would know the love of Christ, he must lay himself out to discover the deformity of sin, and the awful degradation into which crime casts mankind. And then he will know that love which stoops from the highest Heaven, reaches down to the gates of the deepest Hell, thrusts its arms up to the very elbows in the mire to pull these accursed ones out of the pit of distraction and make them blessed forever among the shining ones before the Truth of God. Strict and practical obedience to the Master's commands gives an amount of knowledge which is not to be attained by sentiments of gratitude, much less by systems of doctrine. This is a higher stage of Divine Grace, though not much higher. Yet, I would to God that more of us had even got here, for I fear there are many who have a name to live but who do not obey Christ.
There is a way, not known to many moderns, but much practiced by the ancients, of knowing the love of Christ by contemplation. Do you know that in the early ages of the Church they spoke more of Christ and of His Person, and thought more of Him than we do? To them He was a real Person, whom the eye of their faith could see as clearly as the eye of sense can see outward objects. They looked, and looked, and looked again, till the love of Christ grew brighter to them than the sun at his meridian, and for very dimness of mortal sight they veiled their faces and paused their speech—while their souls were bathed in inward joy and peace unspeakable. There have been some such in these later times but not many.
Now, I think that contemplating Christ winds up the soul and puts it into a right frame, so that when we come back we can do more for the Master than we ever did before.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible