Friday, February 24, 2017

Book Review: Gospel Fluency

Gospel Fluency: Speaking the Truths of Jesus Into The Everyday Stuff of Life. Jeff Vanderstelt. 2017. Crossway. 240 pages. [Source: Review copy]

From the foreword: Every human being on earth needs salvation, not only from the wrath to come, but also from the flimsy theology permeating our Christian communities. That might sound a bit extreme, but in essence it is true.

From chapter one: I’m an unbeliever. So are you. “Wait,” you’re thinking. “What are you doing writing a book about the gospel of Jesus Christ if you’re an unbeliever? And what do you know about me? Who do you think I am?” I grew up believing that people fall into two categories: you are either a believer or an unbeliever—; you either believe in Jesus Christ and what he has done for us or you don’t.

Do you know the gospel? Do you need the gospel? Do you love the gospel? Do you live the gospel? Do you SPEAK the gospel, not just in the words you say in front of others, not just in the words you say to justify yourself to yourself, but in the way you live your life? Vanderstelt's book is about becoming fluent in the gospel.

What does it mean to be gospel fluent? In his own words, 
"We need to know how to believe and speak the truths of the gospel—the good news of God—in and into the everyday stuff of life. In other words, we need to know how to address the struggles of life and the everyday activities we engage in with what is true of Jesus: the truths of what he accomplished through his life, death, and resurrection, and, as a result, what it true of us as we put our faith in him. The gospel has the power to affect everything in our lives."
He continues, 
"Gospel-fluent people think, feel, and perceive everything in light of what has been accomplished in the person and work of Jesus Christ. They see the world differently. They think differently. They feel differently. When they are listening to people, they are thinking: “How is this in line with the truths of the gospel? What about Jesus and his work might be good news to this person today? How can I bring the hope of the gospel to bear on this life or situation so this person might experience salvation and Jesus will be glorified?” When they see movies, they see the themes of the gospel, and they also notice which themes represent a false gospel. They begin to evaluate the storylines of their surrounding culture in light of the story of God’s redemptive purposes in Christ Jesus, and they learn to perceive where God might already be at work around them, preparing the soil of a community and individual hearts for the seeds of the gospel to be sown. Most significantly, those who are growing in gospel fluency are experiencing ongoing transformation themselves."
This book is divided into five sections: Gospel Fluency, The Gospel, The Gospel in Me, The Gospel with Us, and The Gospel to Others.

This one is good and basic and fundamental. Don't assume because it covers all the basics that "mature" "advanced" believers can skip it, that this is one for baby Christians. I'm convinced that we need the gospel every day, no matter what. And sometimes it's the people who think they know the gospel inside and out and back again that need the most basic principles of the gospel fleshed out for them...again.

The ideas are really good. The narrative has a lot of illustrations in it--dialogue situations--that I haven't quite decided if I like or not. I think his coaching you through how to speak the gospel to others--or to yourself--in love can come across at first as a little condescending. There were certain passages that I just felt were slightly awkward or unnatural. But. That being said, do I disagree with his theology? No.

I found his ideas thought-provoking for the most part. I liked what he had to say about stories and storytelling especially. "Listening to one another’s stories enables us to learn about God’s work in one another as well. Every one of us has a story, and all of our stories are part of the true story. Really, our story is God’s story. Though we regularly believe they are about us, our stories are really all about him, for “in him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28)."

His ideas about gospel fluency stayed with me as I read two books: John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress and Taylor Caldwell's No One Hears But Him. Both would be great examples of gospel fluency, in my opinion. Caldwell's book in particular stood out to me in terms of stories and finding ways to connect the gospel to our lives, our stories, our needs. But Christian and Faithful OR Christian and Hopeful (depending on where you are in their journey) are also great at speaking truth in love into any and every situation.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, February 23, 2017

My Year with Henry #8

This year I will be reading Matthew Henry's Concise Bible Commentary alongside the American Standard Version (1901). I will share quotes a few times a month.

Matthew 13

  • The seed sown is the word of God. The sower is our Lord Jesus Christ, by himself, or by his ministers. Preaching to a multitude is sowing the corn; we know not where it will light. Some sort of ground, though we take ever so much pains with it, brings forth no fruit to purpose, while the good soil brings forth plentifully. So it is with the hearts of men, whose different characters are here described by four sorts of ground. Careless, trifling hearers, are an easy prey to Satan; who, as he is the great murderer of souls, so he is the great thief of sermons, and will be sure to rob us of the word, if we take not care to keep it. Hypocrites, like the stony ground, often get the start of true Christians in the shows of profession. Many are glad to hear a good sermon, who do not profit by it. They are told of free salvation, of the believer’s privileges, and the happiness of heaven; and, without any change of heart, without any abiding conviction of their own depravity, their need of a Savior, or To show the excellence of holiness, they soon profess an unwarranted assurance. But when some heavy trial threatens them, or some sinful advantage may be had, they give up or disguise their profession, or turn to some easier system. Worldly cares are fitly compared to thorns, for they came in with sin, and are a fruit of the curse; they are good in their place to stop a gap, but a man must be well armed that has much to do with them; they are entangling, vexing, scratching, and their end is to be burned, Hebrews 6:8. Worldly cares are great hindrances to our profiting by the word of God. The deceitfulness of riches does the mischief; they cannot be said to deceive us unless we put our trust in them, then they choke the good seed. What distinguished the good ground was fruitfulness. By this true Christians are distinguished from hypocrites. Christ does not say that this good ground has no stones in it, or no thorns; but none that could hinder its fruitfulness. All are not alike; we should aim at the highest, to bring forth most fruit. The sense of hearing cannot be better employed than in hearing God’s word; and let us look to ourselves that we may know what sort of hearers we are.
  • This parable represents the present and future state of the gospel church; Christ’s care of it, the devil’s enmity against it, the mixture there is in it of good and bad in this world, and the separation between them in the other world. So prone is villainy man to sin, that if the enemy sow the tares, he may go his way, they will spring up, and do hurt; whereas, when good seed is sown, it must be tended, watered, and fenced. The servants complained to their master; Sir, didst thou not sow good seed in thy field? No doubt he did; whatever is amiss in the church, we are sure it is not from Christ. Though gross transgressors, and such as openly oppose the gospel, ought to be separated from the society of the faithful, yet no human skill can make an exact separation. Those who oppose must not be cut off, but instructed, and that with meekness. And though good and bad are together in this world, yet at the great day they shall be parted; then the righteous and the wicked shall be plainly known; here sometimes it is hard to distinguish between them. Let us, knowing the terrors of the Lord, not do iniquity. At death, believers shall shine forth to themselves; at the great day they shall shine forth before all the world. They shall shine by reflection, with light borrowed from the Fountain of light. Their sanctification will be made perfect, and their justification published. May we be found of that happy number.


Nehemiah 3

  • Every one must begin at home; for it is by getting the work of God advanced in our own souls that we shall best contribute to the good of the church of Christ. May the Lord thus stir up the hearts of his people, to lay aside their petty disputes, and to disregard their worldly interests, compared with building the walls of Jerusalem, and defending the cause of truth and godliness against the assaults of avowed enemies.

Acts 13

  • The doctrine of Christ astonishes; and the more we know of it, the more reason we shall see to wonder at it. 
  • When we come together to worship God, we must do it, not only by prayer and praise, but by the reading and hearing of the word of God. The bare reading of the Scriptures in public assemblies is not enough; they should be expounded, and the people exhorted out of them. This is helping people in doing that which is necessary to make the word profitable, to apply it to themselves.
  • By Jesus Christ we obtain a complete justification; for by him a complete atonement was made for sin. We are justified, not only by him as our Judge but by him as the Lord our Righteousness. What the law could not do for us, in that it was weak, the gospel of Christ does. This is the most needful blessing, bringing in every other. The threatenings are warnings; what we are told will come upon impenitent sinners, is designed to awaken us to beware lest it come upon us. It ruins many, that they despise religion. Those that will not wonder and be saved, shall wonder and perish.


© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Book Review: The Pilgrim's Progress

The Pilgrim's Progress. John Bunyan. 1678. 301 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: As I walk'd through the wilderness of this world, I lighted on a certain place, where was a Denn; And I laid me down in that place to sleep: And as I slept I dreamed a dream.

Premise/plot: The first part of The Pilgrim's Progress concerns Christian and his journey--his pilgrimage. The first book opens with him greatly grieving his sins and desperate for answers on how to rid himself of the burden on his back. His family, his neighbors, his friends no nothing of this burden, this weight. They're thinking: CHRISTIAN HAS LOST HIS MIND. WHAT HAPPENED TO HIM? The time has come for Christian to decide between the old and the new, to count the cost, if you will. He decides to go on a quest, to find relief or deliverance. He's soon directed to the wicket gate and the narrow path within. But his journey won't be quick and easy and painless. It won't be a path leading to health, wealth, fame, and happiness. It won't be a comfortable path, a take-it-easy path, a this-is-your-best-life path. It will have hills and valleys and DITCHES. He'll have to FIGHT for every step and breath. There'll be plenty of blessed moments on this path. He'll find close friends--Faithful and Hopeful. He'll learn A LOT from the people he meets--the guides and porters and watchmen. He'll learn even from his enemies. There's not a dull moment on the way. The second part of The Pilgrim's Progress concerns Christian's wife, Christiana, and their four children: Matthew, Samuel, Joseph, and James. Mercie joins them from the start. And they are led by a conductor, Greatheart. Her journey is not the exact same as her husbands. Some familiar places are revisited--old friends are met again. But Bunyan uses this second book to further his instruction.

Both books are allegories. Both are "dreams" the author had. Both are definitely didactic in nature. But didactic in a creative way. I've about determined that my Pilgrim's Progress name would be Reads-all-hours.

My thoughts: Pilgrim's Progress remains relevant. I think every generation could learn something from this one, if they'd make the attempt. It might take reading it with open minds and an awareness of what is at stake--then and now. It is a book of IDEAS.

For example, early in the book there's an exchange between Pliable and Christian.
Pliable: And do you think that the words of your Book are certainly true?
Christian: Yes verily, for it was made by him that cannot lye.
Isn't this question and answer still relevant today?! Aren't Christians still doing battle for God's Word?

Favorite quotes:
To go back is nothing but death, to go forward is fear of death, and life everlasting beyond it. I will yet go forward. (36)
Therefore thought I, what God says, is best, though all the men in the world are against it. (60)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

My Year with Owen #8

I will be sharing some John Owen quotes this year. The first book I'll be reading is Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers (1656).

There will be no mortification unless a man be a believer. ~ John Owen
Unless a man be a believer--that is, one that is truly ingrafted into Christ--he can never mortify any one sin; I do not say, unless he know himself to be so, but unless indeed he be so. ~ John Owen
I have proved that it is the Spirit alone that can mortify sin; he is promised to do it, and all other means without him are empty and vain. How shall he, then, mortify sin that has not the Spirit? A man may easier see without eyes, speak without a tongue, than truly mortify one sin without the Spirit. ~ John Owen
To kill sin is the work of living men; where men are dead (as all unbelievers, the best of them, are dead), sin is alive, and will live. ~ John Owen
Be sure to get an interest in Christ--if you intend to mortify ay sin without it, it will never be done. ~ John Owen
To break men off particular sins, and not to break their hearts, is to deprive ourselves of advantages in dealing with them. ~ John Owen
Can sin be killed without an interest in the death of Christ, or mortified without the spirit? ~ John Owen
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, February 20, 2017

Check In With The Cloud

  • What have you been reading? What are you currently reading?
  • Have you finished anything for the challenge?
  • Have you read any new-to-you authors yet?
  • Have you found any new favorites?
  • Are you writing down favorite quotes? Have any to share?
  • Have you learned anything that you'd like to share?
  • Would you be interested in reading a book together? If so, what month would be good for you?

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Book Review: No One Hears But Him

No One Hears But Him. Taylor Caldwell. 1966/2017. Open Road Media. 212 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Many years have passed since old John Godfrey, the mysterious lawyer, built his Sanctuary in a great city for the hopeless, the grieving, the despairing, the churchless, the cynical, the defeated, the dying and the bereaved, the betrayers of men and the betrayed, the burdened and the old, the young and the lost. Here, in the Sanctuary, waits the Man who Listens, who waits and listens endlessly and patiently to the anguished stories told to him in a blue and marble silence. There is no experience that he has never heard before. There is no grief with which he is not familiar. There is no crime against God or man that he has not seen with his own eyes. He has heard the blasphemies of the self-congratulatory. He has heard the cry of all parents and all children. He has listened to all prayers and all excuses. The experiences of all men are his own. Nothing disturbs him except hatred and violence. He knows them, too.

Premise/plot: No One Hears But Him is a collection of twelve short stories. Each story is a 'soul'. Readers hear from twelve distinct voices. At some point in each story, the character goes to the Sanctuary, waits his or her turn, and goes into the room to speak with the Man Who Listens. Most choose to press the button to meet this Listener face-to-face, but, not all do. Each story ends with hope; all stories are tied together by hope. The stories can be dark, gritty, pessimistic, angry, doubting, critical, questioning, sarcastic--essentially anything and everything under the sun but the connection each makes with THE MAN WHO LISTENS brings hope.

In the preface or the introduction of this one, the author makes a startling statement: This book is deliberately designed to anger many.

Soul One: The Watchman (Fred Carlson, disgruntled cop)
Fred Carlson had had an excellent lunch with his prospective employers. They had parted from him with expressions of great cordiality, for they respected good and dedicated and intelligent men.
Soul Two: The Sadducee (Dr. Edwin Pfeiffer, unbelieving minister)
“Is that all you can tell me?” asked the desolate woman. What is it you want me to say to you? the man commented to himself. Do you want old-fashioned and sentimental cant in which I don’t believe and which is absurd in these enlightened and sophisticated days? I am no parson, dear lady, full of soothing platitudes and maudlin aphorisms. I am a teacher, a leader, a guide to my congregation. Do you expect me to soothe you with evangelical hysteria or invoke some tribal god?
Soul Three: The Afflicted (Francis Stoddard, contemplating murderer)
“I didn’t come here for counsel,” said Francis Stoddard to the hidden man behind the blue curtain. “I’ve had plenty of that stupidity. When I lost my business fifteen years ago, you should have heard all my self-appointed advisers! I should have listened to them; I shouldn’t have done this, I should have done that, if I’d only watched my step here, or been plenty smart there—it wouldn’t have happened to me. Then when I made my comeback, they were almost offended. I hadn’t asked their advice; I’d done it all myself. When I was down, they could feel superior and pity me—and avoid me, too, afraid I’d ask them for money.
Soul Four: The Ostracized (Paul Winsor, black man who wants to first and foremost be seen as a man)
He supposed they had been offended when he had left the lunch so abruptly. He had ended his talk on a note of despair, but they had not heard the despair. Of that he was positive. They never heard anything but their self-congratulation and the applause of their colleagues for their “tolerance” and “liberalism.” When he had quoted Seneca and had demanded “Am I not a man as you are a man?” they had only nodded their heads solemnly and had looked at each other with grave eyes of assent. But they did not know what he had meant. He had meant it for them. They had not known or were too stupid and self-engrossed to know.
Soul Five: Only A Kid (Johnnie Martin, a spoiled brat with many ex-wives and many children who won't grow up)
He came smiling rosily into the waiting room, walking with his usual boyish insolence and waiting for every eye to turn on him indulgently and every woman’s eye to warm. But no one seemed to know he had entered.
Soul Six: The Senior Citizen (Bernard Carstairs, does NOT want to retire)
The mauve-blue twilight lay over the snowy city and the street lamps began to bloom like faint golden balls.
Soul Seven: The Shepherd (Mr. Henry Blackstone, a minister who believes but is losing his congregation because he's not keeping up with the world)
The month of May, the flowering month, the month of the Queen of Heaven. Isn’t that what his friend, Father Moran, called it? Yes. A beautiful month, full of light and promise, gold and green and blossoming, with the heady scent of jubilation and rejoicing. But when did I feel that last? asked the Reverend Mr. Henry Blackstone of himself. I am as old as death, honestly, in these days, though by modern calculation I am only sixty. I’m not with it, as my younger parishioners would say. No, I’m not “with it.” It’s strange; I was always such an optimistic man until the last few years. Now I feel totally despondent; I walk despondently; I think despondently. Who is wrong, the world or I? Am I of the past, hopelessly? I’m so damned confused, so helpless.
Soul Eight: The Husbandman (Adam Faith, farmer about to lose the farm)
“Well, hello, Parson,” said the old man with gravity as he faced the calm blue curtain of the alcove. “You are a parson, ain’t you? That’s what everybody says, anyhow. You listen to folks’ troubles and then you tell them what to do. That’s real kind of you. Didn’t know there was that kind left in the world, no sir. Everybody loving each other and nobody loving anybody: that’s what goes on now. Like the patriotism you read about in the newspapers and nobody’s patriotic, seems like. Why, there was a time, I remember, if folks had trouble, even in the city, everybody’d come with baked goods and fruit and maybe a roast chicken, and there’d be real sympathy. Now it’s all fake, newspapers full of brotherly love and the rights of everybody, and people talkin’ and the pastors telling you, in their pulpits, to do good to everybody, ’specially people you don’t know in foreign parts, and nobody gives a damn about their next-door neighbor. Easy to be sympathetic about people a thousand miles away or more; costs you nothin’ to roll your eyes and make your voice all deep and soft. But gettin’ off your butt and doin’ something about the people next door, with your own money and your own work: Oh, no. That doesn’t mean anythin’ now. It isn’t havin’ a sense—what do they call it with their mealy-mouths?—of world-wide responsibility.
Soul Nine: The Richest Man in Town (John Service, Has everything, satisfied with nothing. Can't decide if he's more angry than bored or more bored than angry)
It was enough to make, a man kill himself. He, John Service, had been seriously considering this for over six months. Or was it longer? He could not remember. He was bored to death, bored by pleasantness, smoothness, affluence, laughter, cocktail parties, wood-paneled offices, amiable employees, serene wife, well-established children, rosy fat grandchildren, summer homes, winters in Florida or the Caribbean, or in those exotic out-of-the-way places in Mexico and Central America, or in Paris, or London or Madrid or Mallorca. The world was really small; one finally ran out of places to visit and explore. Besides, everything had become Americanized and sterile and cellophaned and sanitary, with excellent bathrooms, fast jets, gourmet meals, and tender stewardesses. Sweet and Lovely. As he waited in the quiet room John Service hummed that old popular song from his boyhood. It rang in his brain now, not liltingly, but with a kind of horror and terror, mocking, a refrain of demons, a refrain from the very black pits of hell. Sweet and lovely. An excellent epitaph for a world—and especially for a human life.
Soul Ten: The New Breed (Lucy Marner, young and desperate)
“Where’re you going, Lucy?” asked a young girl of her companion as they moved together to the parking lot of the campus. “Well, I thought I’d just run around—someplace,” said Lucy Marner. Her friend peered at her inquisitively. “Something wrong? You haven’t been looking on the ball for a couple of months.” The friend giggled. “Nothing wrong, uh?” Lucy flushed. “No,” she said in a short tone. She did not invite her friend to accompany her. “But I—well, I’m going to the doctor for the early summer check-up. No use waiting until the end of the semester, when things begin. ’Bye now, Sandy.” She walked very fast to the parking lot. She was usually proud of her smart white convertible and would glance over it to be sure no hot-rod had marred its bright finish. But today she merely threw herself onto the red leather seat and roared off the campus. Friends, young men and women, hailed her but she did not reply for she did not hear them.
Soul Eleven: The Dream-Spinner (Maude Finch, past-her-prime liar)
The golden spring day was no fresher than the air in the white and blue waiting room.
Soul Twelve: The Adversary and the Man Who Listens (a show-down between the devil and Christ)
The waiting room was almost filled when he entered, but no one seemed to see him except for a very young girl with mad eyes. He became aware that she saw him and he stopped, and it was as if a dark shadow had fallen over her distraught face. She most certainly saw him and he half-smiled. He knew at once what troubled her and what had caused that dilated appearance in her pupils, and the long, fixed stare. He knew her very well. There was no pity in him, no regret, but only contempt. Weakling. Wretch. Contemptible animal. She was only eighteen, he recalled, but her soul was shriveled within her like a bud that had withered before it had opened. Anathema, anathema, he thought. It was no triumph to him that he had brought down that meager soul so easily. She had needed little tempting! “Emily?” he said, very softly.
My thoughts: I loved, loved, LOVED this one. I thought the stories were compelling and relevant. Yes, the stories are perhaps a bit dated here and there. But I'm of the opinion that truth is never out of date even if it it seen as out of style. Caldwell meant the book to be critical of society in 1966, and, today's readers should probably still feel offended by the gospel truths on display in this one.

Favorite quotes:
When somebody tells me they’re awful happy, I think, ‘You’re either a liar or a fool.’ ’T’ain’t possible to live in this world and be happy, after you’re about three years old.”
He shook his head. “I’m remembering something. When it was a choice between you and a criminal the people chose the criminal. They always do; it never fails. But you didn’t hold that against them. You’ve been watching all through the night, and you’ll be on hand when the last night comes.”
We speak only of the world and never question the stars, for the world is all we know—and all we want to know. Our little bright corner is enough for us, and there we can sit and talk our blasphemous and urbane nonsense, and utter our words of peace in a world where there is no peace, and offer up well-rehearsed prayers which are empty of content, as we are empty of content. Who shall forgive us?”
“What is it that is so frightful in most men these days that they must pretend to ‘love’ others?” asked Paul. “Never was the world so loveless as it is now, so degraded, so full of hate. Yet, you can’t go anywhere but that you hear love, love, love. A steamy bath of it. A miasma. It is particularly smothering for my people. They are choking in it, especially in the North. But it isn’t really love, is it? It is hatred. It is the self-righteousness of the cruel Pharisee.”
No one has ever earned the right to leave the harvest.
“They never said you were like this—When I heard about you, they said you were a terrible person; it scared me; they said you were the Judge. I only heard about you a few times, so long ago I don’t remember, but I thought you’d hate me—all the lies and everything. They said you hated liars and hypocrites, and I guess I’ve been that all my life, and maybe it don’t mean anything to you that it was the only way I could live, lying like that to myself and everybody else, and pretending. After all, you are the Judge, and you’re terrible. That’s what they said, all those years ago, and it scared me.” She opened her eyes and the man was still regarding her with gentle suffering and love, and she began to weep again, but softly. “I see! You don’t hate me for what I did, do you? And all that I went through in my life—it wasn’t even all that as bad as one day of yours, was it? And you didn’t have anybody to talk to, either, did you? Oh, they listened to you, they sure did, but what good did it do? They didn’t believe you, but people believed me a little, and that’s something. They don’t even believe you now. “You didn’t have anyone to talk to except yourself. And God.” Her eyes suddenly shone with wonder and she sat upright. “That’s it, you had God to talk to! And so do I! That’s what you mean, isn’t it? I can talk to you, any time I want to, anywhere! If only I’d known a little more about you in the beginning. That’s what the real depriv—the real not-having—not having you in all those years. “But now I have you!” The wonder brightened on her face and the years left her and she was a child again, hoping. But this time the hope had verity and truth. “That’s what you’re trying to tell me, isn’t it, that I have you, and that if I have you you’ll always listen and help me, and that I mustn’t be afraid any longer.”
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Week in Review: February 12-18

KJ21

  • Judges
  • Ruth
  • Psalm 42-62
  • Isaiah 40-66
  • Joel
  • Luke 1-14


Living

  • Numbers 16-36
  • Deuteronomy 1-11
  • Psalm 1-15
  • Matthew


J.B. Phillips

  • Matthew 1-9

Wycliffe

  • Matthew 1-9

ESV

  • Matthew 1-9

NIV-84

  • Matthew 1-9

NLT

  • Matthew 1-9

NRSV

  • Matthew 1-9


© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, February 17, 2017

Book Review: Thru the Bible 1 & 2 Kings

1 and 2 Kings. J. Vernon McGee. 1976/1996. Thomas Nelson. 320 pages. [Source: Bought]

One of my goals for 2017 is to read twelve commentaries. I have always, always, always loved the history books of the Old Testament, so after finishing J. Vernon McGee's commentary for 1 and 2 Samuel I decided to continue on with his 1 and 2 Kings. 

I have always--nearly always--loved these two because of Elijah and Elisha. The books have plenty of drama certainly!!!

If you've never read his work before, what should you expect? Casual, conversational, yet not fluffy, commentary not only on the Scripture text but on church and society as well. He has a call-it-like-I-see it honest approach to unpacking Scripture. I also love how he addresses the reader as "my friend." 

I appreciate his love of Scripture. The way he sees the whole Bible to be the message of God--the revelation of God--to all of us past, present, future. I love his eagerness to explain Scripture in a way that's easy for everyone--no matter your background--to understand. I think you'll find he is still relevant. Now whether his message is welcome or not is besides the point. 

Every chapter of the books of First and Second Kings are discussed in the commentary. I believe the Scripture text printed within this one is the King James Version.

Favorite quotes:
  • The sin of Adam has been passed down to you and me; if the Lord tarries, we will go through the doorway of death. Why? Because this is the way of all the earth, the conclusion of this life’s journey. It is not a very attractive subject. We don’t like to think about death today because it is something a little too depressing for the human race. In Psalm 23:4 David says, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” David is not speaking about the fact that he has come to his deathbed. As someone has said, “The moment that gives you life begins also to take it away from you.” David is likening life to a walk through a valley. At birth you start down through the valley, and the farther you walk the narrower it gets. At the end of the valley is death. All of us are walking through that valley today. You may be in robust health today, but you can be dead before the sun goes down.
  • Who is adequate for living the Christian life? Not one of us. The fact of the matter is that we cannot live the Christian life, and God has never asked us to live it. He has asked that He might live that life through us.
  • All of us are wholly inadequate to serve God. We should recognize that fact so that we are in a position where God can help us.
  • In the sickening scene in every government today we see a group of men clamoring for positions. They want to be elected to an office. All of them are telling us how great they are and what marvelous abilities they have. They assure us that they are able to solve the problems. By now, friend, some of us have come to the conclusion that these boys are just kidding us. They don’t have the solution and they don’t have the wisdom. If only some men would come on the scene and say, “I don’t have the wisdom; I recognize my inadequacies. But I am going to depend on God to lead and guide me.” Something like that would be so startling it would probably rock the world. That is what Solomon said, and God commended him for it. It was a great step.
  • We like to feel that God forgives sin because He is sentimental. God does not forgive sin on a low plane like that. A battle has been fought, my friend, and a great sacrifice has been made. Blood has been shed that we might have forgiveness of sin. The Lord Jesus Christ made peace by the blood of His cross. It is only through His blood that we can enter into peace.
  • Friend, only God can give peace, whether it is world peace or peace in the human heart. God alone can give the rest today that the human heart needs. That is why our Lord, when they rejected Him as king, could send out His personal, private, individual invitation, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden”—that is, burdened with sin—“and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). Only Christ can give that kind of rest.
  • We worship Him in the beauty of holiness. That is, when we come into the presence of God, sense His presence, and realize our inadequacies, then we can see Him in all of His beauty and glory.
  • To wash in the Word of God is to apply the Word to the life.
  • Oh, my friend, we are called to witness to the world. God have mercy on us for going into the business of apes and peacocks.
  • My friend, when the church of God today gets involved in the things of the world and makes all kinds of compromises, it is a stench in the nostrils of Almighty God. We are living in days that are much like Jeroboam’s, and we need to exercise the same caution and discernment that was needed then by God’s man.
  • You and I are dead bodies. We are lost sinners—dead in trespasses and sins. If we have trusted Christ, then we can say that we were crucified with Him nineteen hundred years ago; He died, and we died with Him. He was raised, and we were raised with Him. We are joined to the living Christ today—if we are not joined to Him, we are nothing. The apostle Paul expressed it this way: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).
  • Martin Luther once said that God creates out of nothing. Until a man recognizes that he is nothing, God can do nothing with him. That is the problem with many of us today: we are too strong, we have too much ability, and God cannot use us.
  • Elijah stood alone. He did not voice public opinion, friend. He was no echo—he was no parrot. He was not promoting anyone else. He was no politician. He was more concerned about pleasing God than courting the popularity of the crowd. He sought divine approval rather than public applause. He was not a clown in a public parade. He was a fool for God’s sake. He was a solo voice in the wilderness of the world. He carried on an all–out war against Satan and his hosts. He stood alone, arrayed against the prophets of Baal. Elijah chose Mount Carmel to take a dramatic stand for God.
  • We have no right to demand anything of God. It is true that He demands a great deal of us, but we are not to demand anything of Him. He is not a Western Union boy. He will not come at your command. We are to pray according to His will.
  • The compromise of the church and its leaders has not caused the world to listen to the church. As a matter of fact, the world is not listening at all. They pass the church right by. Why? The world will not listen until the church declares the Word of God. If the church preached God’s Word, there would be communication.
  • Only God can cure sin and save a sinner. Naaman had many fine points, but he was a sinner. He tried to cover up his leprosy, but he could not cure it. Many people today whitewash sin. What they need is to be washed white, and only Christ can do that.
  • We hear a great deal about the fact that “God is love,” but God also hates. You cannot love without hating. You cannot love the good without hating the evil. If you love your children, you would hate a mad dog that would come into the yard to bite your little ones. You would want to kill that mad dog.
  • The greatest miracle today, friend, is not to go to the moon. It is not even to go to heaven in a chariot of fire. Rather it is to go to the highest heaven when we are still sinners and have trusted Christ. That’s the greatest miracle there is—to be lifted out of the muck and mire of this world and to be given meaning for our lives and enabled to live for God.
  • We need God. No nation ever needed God as this nation needs God right now.
  • What we need today is not politicians calling other politicians crooks. We need politicians who will say, “I have been wrong. I am going to get right with God.” It would be a strange thing, and I suppose it would frighten our nation, but it’s what we need.
  • To repent means to make things right, my friend. Repentance means to turn around and go in the opposite direction. If you are going the wrong way, you turn around and go the right way.
  • Many people seem to think that if they get out and protest, things will change. But what we need is some real deep conviction on the inside. We need to recognize our coldness and indifference. When was the last time you confessed your coldness and indifference to the Lord? Have you told Him today that you love Him? He is your Savior, my friend, and I am convinced that even in this dark hour, as has happened in the past, we can have a revival. The story of Josiah encourages me. It was in the darkest hour in the life of his nation that revival came.
  • Trouble will do one of two things for an individual. It will either soften or harden you. It will either draw you to God or drive you away from God. You can never be the same after you experience trouble and suffering. The sun will soften wax, but the sun will harden clay. It is the same sun that softens one and hardens the other.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

My Year with Henry #7

This year I will be reading Matthew Henry's Concise Bible Commentary alongside the American Standard Version (1901). I will share quotes a few times a month.

Matthew 12

  • Christ only, by the power of his grace, cures us; he heals the withered hand by putting life into the dead soul, works in us both to will and to do: for, with the command, there is a promise of grace given by the word.
  • Let us lay aside contentious and angry debates; let us receive one another as Christ receives us. And while encouraged by the gracious kindness of our Lord, we should pray that his Spirit may rest upon us, and make us able to copy his example.
  • Christ herein has set an example to the sons of men, to be ready to forgive words spoken against them. But humble and conscientious believers, at times are tempted to think they have committed the unpardonable sin, while those who have come the nearest to it, seldom have any fear about it. We may be sure that those who indeed repent and believe the gospel, have not committed this sin, or any other of the same kind; for repentance and faith are the special gifts of God, which he would not bestow on any man, if he were determined never to pardon him; and those who fear they have committed this sin, give a good sign that they have not. The trembling, contrite sinner, has the witness in himself that this is not his case.
  • Christ’s preaching was plain, easy, and familiar, and suited to his hearers. His mother and brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him, when they should have been standing within, desiring to hear him.
  • Let us look upon every Christian, in whatever condition of life, as the brother, sister, or mother of the Lord of glory; let us love, respect, and be kind to them, for his sake, and after his example. 

Nehemiah 1

  • Our best pleas in prayer are taken from the promise of God, the word on which he has caused us to hope. Other means must be used, but the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails most. Communion with God will best prepare us for our dealings with men. When we have entrusted our concerns to God, the mind is set at liberty; it feels satisfaction and composure, and difficulties vanish. We know that if the affair be hurtful, he can easily hinder it; and if it be good for us, he can as easily forward it.

Acts 11-12

  • Repentance is God’s gift; not only his free grace accepts it, but his mighty grace works it in us, grace takes away the heart of stone, and gives us a heart of flesh. The sacrifice of God is a broken spirit.
  • What should the ministers of Christ preach, but Christ? Christ, and him crucified? 
  • We that live in a cold, prayerless generation, can hardly form an idea of the earnestness of these holy men of old. But if the Lord should bring on the church an awful persecution like this of Herod, the faithful in Christ would learn what soul-felt prayer is.
  • Those who are delivered out of spiritual imprisonment must follow their Deliverer, like the Israelites when they went out of the house of bondage. They knew not whither they went, but knew whom they followed.


© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Book Review: The Newcomer

The Newcomer. Suzanne Woods Fisher. 2017. Revell. 336 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Bairn was suffocating. Not literally, mayhap, but as close as a man could get. Hardly a week had passed since he had been joyfully reunited with his father, and then, with each passing day, joy slipped away, and in its place swept anxiety, disappointment, frustration, even panic.

This one is the sequel to Anna's Crossing and is part of Fisher's Amish Beginnings series. The three main characters are Bairn, Anna, and Dorothea. Each will be tested mightily throughout the novel.

Bairn is torn between his old life and the new. Should he remain a sailor or settle down with his family and farm. He does love Anna very much, but feels a stranger to the others. He cannot pretend those years apart didn't happen. Felix, his younger brother, is a dear. The time they spend together getting to know one another is one of my favorite things about this one.

Anna doesn't like waiting for Bairn to make up his mind. She wants to be with him and doesn't fully understand why he needs just one more trip before settling down for good. Why does the sea call so loudly to him? When their group faces unforeseen separation, every plan seems to stall and crumble. If only Bairn were there to lead them. But Henrik, the newcomer, seems to be a strong, persuasive leader, just what the group needs at the moment.

Dorothea has always followed her husband Jacob in every little thing. Her husband has never really opened up any opportunities for her to think deeply and at length about anything. He speaks for the family and for the community. But now that he's sick, dying even, she is on her own with an infant. But is she alone?! God has a lot to teach her in this 'wilderness' experience.


I loved this one. I loved the time period, 1730's in Pennsylvania. I loved the characters. I loved how everything unfolded and came together. I'm not usually a fan of multiple narrators, but the narration was just right!

Even if you don't seek out Amish books, I would recommend this author. She is wonderful.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

My Year with Owen #7

I will be sharing some John Owen quotes this year. The first book I'll be reading is Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers (1656).
Now, the first thing in mortification is the weakening of this habit of sin or lust, that it shall not, with that violence, earnestness, frequency, rise up, conceive, tumultuate, provoke, entice, disquiet, as naturally it is apt to do (James 1:14-15). ~ John Owen
When a suitable temptation falls in with a lust, it gives it a new life, vigor, power, violence, and rage, which it seemed not before to have or to be capable of. ~ John Owen
Mortification consists in constant fighting and contending against sin. ~ John Owen
The contest is vigorous and hazardous--it is about the things of eternity. ~ John Owen
To labor to be acquainted with the ways, the wiles, methods, advantages, and occasions of its success is the beginning of this warfare. ~ John Owen
Frequent success against any lust is another part and evidence of mortification. By success I understand not a mere disappointment of sin, that it be not brought forth nor accomplished, but a victory over it and pursuit of it to a complete conquest. ~ John Owen

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, February 13, 2017

Book Review: The Parables of Jesus

The Parables of Jesus. James Montgomery Boice. 1983/2016. Moody. 232 pages. [Source: Review copy]

In Parables of Jesus, James Montgomery Boice examines parables of the kingdom, parables of salvation, parables of wisdom and folly, parables of the Christian life, and parables of judgment. Each section has four to five chapters. (Some chapters cover more than one parable.) I think you'll agree that this is a thorough representation of the parables Jesus taught!

Parables of the Kingdom: Matthew 13:1-23; Matthew 13:24-43; Matthew 13:44-46; Matthew 13:47-52
Parables of Salvation: Luke 15:1-32; Matthew 20:1-16; Matthew 22:1-14; Luke 13:22-30; Luke 18:9-14
Parables of Wisdom and Folly: Matthew 25:1-13; Luke 12:13-21; Luke 16:1-9; Luke 6:46-49
Parables of the Christian Life: Matthew 21:28-32; Luke 8:16-18; Luke 11:33-36; Luke 10:25-37; Luke 11:5-13; Luke 18:1-8; Luke 7:36-50
Parables of Judgment: Matthew 18:21-35; Matthew 21:33-46; Matthew 25:14-46; Luke 16:19-31

This was my first time finishing a book by James Montgomery Boice. (I've started several in the past but never finished.) I ended up loving this one, and loving Boice's insight and style. It was thought-provoking. It was straight-forward. It was WONDERFUL. So much to learn! Definitely one worth rereading again and again!

How Boice defines a parable, "A parable is a story taken from real life (or a real-life situation) from which a moral or spiritual truth is drawn."

Favorite quotes:


  • What is it that makes the human heart hard? There can be only one answer: sin. Sin hardens the heart, and the heart that is hardened sins even more.
  • Virtually all of God’s attributes—whether sovereignty, holiness, omniscience, immutability, or even the divine love—are offensive to the natural man, if properly understood. So rather than repent of sin and turn for mercy to a God who is altogether sovereign, holy, knowing, and unchangeable, men and women suppress what knowledge they have and refuse to seek out that additional knowledge that could be the salvation of their souls. 
  • Is your heart an open heart? Are you receptive to God’s truth? Do you allow it to settle down into your life and thinking so that it turns you from sin, directs your faith to Jesus, and produces the Holy Spirit’s fruit? You may say, “I’m afraid not. I wish my heart was like that, but I’m afraid it is hard or shallow or strangled by this world’s goods. What can I do?” The answer is that you can do nothing, any more than soil can change its nature. But although you can do nothing, there is one who can—the divine Gardener. He can break up the hard ground, uproot the rocks, and remove the thorns. That is your hope—not you, but the Gardener. 
  • People are not saved by Jesus in groups. They are saved one by one as by the grace of God they recognize their need and come to Jesus in simple faith that He is who He claimed to be (the Son of God) and that He did what He claimed He would do (provide for our salvation through His death on our behalf ) The man in the field did not allow someone else to buy the treasure in hopes that he might share in it. The merchant did not form a cooperative to acquire the pearl of great price. Each made the purchase individually.
  • You are not called to poverty in Christ but to the greatest of spiritual wealth. You are not called to disappointment but to fulfillment. You are not called to sorrow but to joy. How could it be otherwise when the treasure is the only Son of God? How can the outcome be bad when it means salvation?
  • You are valuable to God even in your lost condition. You may be worthless in your own sight because you can only see what you have made of yourself, but you should learn that you are valuable to God because (unlike yourself ) He is able to see what you were created to be and what He can yet make of you. 
  • Each Christian has been sought and found by God, who always finds what He seeks. So let no one despair. No matter how great your sins may be, this is the day of grace. 
  • We are never so like God as when we rejoice at the salvation of sinners. We are never so like Satan as when we despise those who are thus converted and think ourselves superior to them. 
  • The time for repentance is not endless. But there is time for repentance now, while the door is open. Today anyone may enter and be saved. To enter is not hard; there is no complicated course to follow. If Jesus had compared Himself to a wall, we would have to climb over, and it might be hard work. If He had compared Himself to a long, dark passageway, we would have to feel our way along it, and some might be afraid to try. But Jesus said He was a door, and a door can be entered easily and instantly. But it must be entered. There is no way of getting around that.
  •  Jesus may be just another religious teacher. If so, His teachings can be used or not, as they prove helpful or unhelpful. But if He is more than a religious teacher, if He is God come in human flesh, as He claimed, then His teachings demand more than just a casual perusal. They demand belief and obedience. I am in trouble here because I have not believed in Him or obeyed Him. 4. If Jesus is not God, then His death and His teachings about its meaning are unimportant, though they were obviously important to Him. But if He is God, then His death is of the utmost importance. He taught—and He must be believed if He is God—that no one will ever be saved who does not believe that He died in his place to satisfy the just wrath of God against the sinner. That means that if I have not believed in Jesus as my Savior, I am doomed to suffer for my own sins when I eventually appear before God to give an accounting of all I have done or failed to do. 
  • You cannot have sin and Jesus, too. Sin will keep you from Him. But if you want the light and will turn to it, you will find that He is already shining and that God is already at work to save you through the gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Week in Review: February 5-11

Living

  • Genesis 18-50
  • Exodus
  • Leviticus
  • Numbers 1-15
  • Job
  • Galatians
  • James


KJ21

  • Deuteronomy 19-34
  • Joshua
  • 2 Chronicles 21-36
  • Ezra
  • Nehemiah
  • Psalms 10-41
  • Isaiah 1-39
  • Titus
  • James



ASV

  • Job 5-12
  • Mark 9-16
  • Romans 12-16


NLT

  • Matthew 1-9


NKJV

  • Matthew 1-9


NASB

  • Matthew 1-9


1599 Geneva

  • Matthew 1-9


NIV-84

  • Matthew 1-9


Today's English Version

  • Matthew 1-9


KJV

  • Matthew 1-9


Tyndale

  • Matthew 1-9


© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, February 10, 2017

Book Review: The Good of Giving Up

The Good of Giving Up. Aaron Damiani. 2017. Moody. 192 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Aaron Damiani makes a case for Lent in his new book, The Good of Giving Up. In this one, he seeks to persuade readers from all denominations that Lent is a good thing, could be a GREAT thing even. The first part of this one focuses on the history of Lent, and, a little of the why you should observe it. The second part of this one focuses on the how--specifically how an individual can observe Lent. The third and final part of this one is how to lead others--your family, your church, etc--through Lent. He does admit that Lent can be misunderstood and abused. But he urges that just because people have the wrong ideas about Lent isn't a good reason to abandon this centuries old practice.

This one had some good insights:

  • In theory the gospel is compelling, but in reality we would rather pay attention to whatever Netflix is offering. We are so full on the junk food of our culture that we cannot metabolize the feast on our Easter plates.
  • We were made to look upward and outward with our imaginations to behold the beauty of God in Christ.
  • We are called to worship, but we have chosen to fantasize. We have exchanged God’s exhilarating and expansive story for lesser stories shaped by our fears, pain, and unhealthy desires. 
Here are a few reasons why he wants you to celebrate Lent:
  • The desert is where God called his people to make them holy. We might assume that the wilderness is a place of exile and isolation, and it certainly can be that. But in the story of redemption, the wilderness has always been a sacred rendezvous spot for God and His beloved sons and daughters. In the wilderness, we detox from our false attachments and renew our sacred, primal bond with our loving Father.
  • We enter the wilderness of Lent because the gospel is true. We do not go into the wilderness to find God. We enter the wilderness because God has found us. He has delivered us, blessed us, and called us His own. The desolation and quiet gives us space to ponder the great salvation we have already witnessed. Even our struggles and failures in the wilderness teach us the truth of the gospel. 
  • Lent, then is a profound picture of the Christian journey. It stands between our deliverance and our home. It is a time of faith and longing, hope and expectation. No, we are not ready for Easter. Not yet. But with the world behind us and the cross before us, we go repenting and rejoicing one faltering step at a time. 
  • We need Lent because repentance is not just a prayer. It is a posture. We need time and space to become repentant people, to experience the depths of Jesus’ forgiveness. Our default posture is to use Jesus’ forgiveness like we use the car wash: as a fast, convenient solution to a surface problem. The truth is that the cleansing process needs to go much deeper, like a thorough spring cleaning. It cannot be rushed. Lent provides forty days for us to behold Christ and His cross, not only to understand it more deeply, but also to cast our soul’s toxic waste upon it. I invite you to imagine Lent as a season when Jesus heals and restores what sin has destroyed in our souls, families, and congregations. The sermons, silence, and ancient prayers of confession during Lent all teach us a posture of gospel repentance.
Much of this book could be considered Lent for beginners. He explains just about everything including what it is and what it isn't. It is a very practical book in many ways.
A partial fast is distinct from repentance of sin. Do not take a partial fast from using pornography or sleeping with your significant other. Rather, confess your sin to God, receive Christ’s forgiveness, and take drastic, intentional steps to remove it permanently from your life. The same is true for any other sin, such as gluttony, racism, violent behavior, slander, envy, or deceit. A partial fast may help you repent of sin, but it is a different path altogether. A partial fast is not an addiction treatment program. If you feel powerless to break a dependence on alcohol, sexual activity, gambling, drugs, overeating, or any other vice, seek professional help from a licensed counselor and an addiction recovery program in your church or community. Also seek support from your local pastor and church family. There is hope! The spiritual benefits of observing Lent with the people of God will be a support and encouragement as you walk the road of recovery. 
If this is your first time observing Lent, keep it simple and make a short list of one or two abstentions that will challenge you without crushing you. Consider getting input from a mentor or pastor to ensure you set realistic goals. If you have already practiced the partial fast and are ready for more, then consider adding other items to your list.
Did Aaron Damiani convince me? Not really. Oh, I am glad to know that his reasons for celebrating Lent seem wholesome enough--biblical enough. To focus on Christ and WORSHIP him. Not to boast to anyone and everyone, HEY LOOK AT ME, I'M GIVING UP SOMETHING FOR LENT!

Here's where we agree, I think: Drawing near to God is good. Seeking the LORD is good. Spending time in prayer and Bible reading is wonderful. Applying what you read to your life is great. Give of yourself--not just financially but your time and resources. Live in God's presence and REJOICE in the resurrection.

Here's where we disagree, I think: The focus of Lent seems to be on the 'giving up' something. I don't think that is where the focus should be. I think the focus should be on what you're gaining. It isn't the giving up of something that makes for a richer spiritual life. It is the realizing that Jesus is BETTER than anything you have going in your life. The wrong way to do Lent is to give up something without gaining anything in return, or to gain something merely temporarily. The right way to do Lent--to do life--is to make Jesus your ONE THING and let that love of Christ rearrange your daily schedule forever more.


© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, February 9, 2017

My Year with Henry #6

This year I will be reading Matthew Henry's Concise Bible Commentary alongside the American Standard Version (1901). I will share quotes a few times a month.

Genesis 12

  • Those who leave their sins, and turn to God, will be unspeakable gainers by the change. The command God gave to Abram, is much the same with the gospel call, for natural affection must give way to Divine grace. Sin, and all the occasions of it, must be forsaken; particularly bad company. Here are many great and precious promises. All God’s precepts are attended with promises to the obedient.
  •  Jesus Christ is the great blessing of the world, the greatest that ever the world possessed.
  • If God did not deliver us, many a time, out of straits and distresses which we bring ourselves into, by our own sin and folly, we should be ruined. He deals not with us according to our deserts. 

Matthew 10-11

  • In the grace of the gospel there is a salve for every sore, a remedy for every malady. There is no spiritual disease, but there is power in Christ for the cure of it. 
  • It appears plainly, that all who will live godly in Christ Jesus must suffer persecution; and we must expect to enter into the kingdom of God through many tribulations. With these predictions of trouble, are counsels and comforts for a time of trial. The disciples of Christ are hated and persecuted as serpents, and their ruin is sought, and they need the serpent’s wisdom. Be ye harmless as doves. Not only, do nobody any hurt, but bear nobody any ill-will. Prudent care there must be, but not an anxious, perplexing thought; let this care be cast upon God.
  • It is our duty, not only to believe in Christ, but to profess that faith, in suffering for him, when we are called to it, as well as in serving him. 
  • Do we think when the sermon is done, the care is over? No, then the greatest of the care begins.
  • We are indebted to Christ for all the revelation we have of God the Father’s will and love, ever since Adam sinned. Our Savior has invited all that labor and are heavy-laden, to come unto him. In some senses all men are so.
  • Those who labor to establish their own righteousness also labor in vain. The convinced sinner is heavy-laden with guilt and terror; and the tempted and afflicted believer has labors and burdens. Christ invites all to come to him for rest to their souls. He alone gives this invitation; men come to him, when, feeling their guilt and misery, and believing his love and power to help, they seek him in fervent prayer. Thus it is the duty and interest of weary and heavy-laden sinners, to come to Jesus Christ. This is the gospel call; Whoever will, let him come. All who thus come will receive rest as Christ’s gift, and obtain peace and comfort in their hearts. But in coming to him they must take his yoke, and submit to his authority. They must learn of him all things, as to their comfort and obedience. He accepts the willing servant, however imperfect the services. Here we may find rest for our souls, and here only. Nor need we fear his yoke. His commandments are holy, just, and good. It requires self-denial, and exposes to difficulties, but this is abundantly repaid, even in this world, by inward peace and joy. It is a yoke that is lined with love. So powerful are the assistances he gives us, so suitable the encouragements, and so strong the consolations to be found in the way of duty, that we may truly say, it is a yoke of pleasantness. The way of duty is the way of rest. 
  • The truths Christ teaches are such as we may venture our souls upon. Such is the Redeemer’s mercy; and why should the laboring and burdened sinner seek for rest from any other quarter? Let us come to him daily, for deliverance from wrath and guilt, from sin and Satan, from all our cares, fears, and sorrows. But forced obedience, far from being easy and light, is a heavy burden. In vain do we draw near to Jesus with our lips, while the heart is far from him. Then come to Jesus to find rest for your souls. 


© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Book Review: Biblical Doctrine

Biblical Doctrine: A Systematic Summary of Bible Truth. John MacArthur and Richard Mayhue, eds. 2017. Crossway. 1008 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Two words: thorough and scholarly

Is Biblical Doctrine a reference book? Yes! Is it only a reference book? No!

Is it a good one for pastors? Yes! Is it good only for pastors and above and beyond the realm of the laity? No. I think this one is for all of us--all believers, both men and women.

I would recommend reading this one slowly, with patience and diligence. I would also recommend rereading sections of this one as time allows for deeper study.

It is certainly possible to skim this one--to read at a 'normal' pace and grab hold of the big picture ideas. But I think a slower-more-deliberate pace where you allow yourself time to absorb the information and think about what you're reading would be better.

I think a few pages at a time--perhaps one sub-sub division at a time would be the best approach to this one. Perhaps read best with a cup of tea or coffee!

I do think this one would be a good one for church groups--for small groups--to tackle together, over the course of a year or two years.

There are ten chapters in this one.

  • Introduction: Prolegomena
  • God's Word: Bibliology
  • God the Father: Theology Proper
  • God the Son: Christology
  • God the Holy Spirit: Pneumatology
  • Man and Sin: Anthropology and Hamartiology 
  • Salvation: Soteriology
  • Angels: Angelology
  • The Church: Ecclesiology
  • The Future: Eschatology

Each chapter has divisions and subdivisions and sub-sub-divisions. I would say it's definitely well-organized. For example, here is the outline for the fourth chapter, "God the Son":

I Preincarnate Christ
A Eternity Past
B Eternal Son of God
C Old Testament Appearances
D Old Testament Activities
E Old Testament Prophecies
II Incarnate Christ
A Incarnation
B Teachings
C Miracles
D Arrest and Trials
E Death and Atonement
F Resurrection and Ascension
III Glorified Christ
A Heavenly Intercessor
B Rapture
C Judgment Seat
D Second Coming
E Millennial Reign
F Great White Throne Judgment
G Eternity Future

This one is packed with information including hundreds of definitions. The insights and conclusions are drawn from Scripture. Here are the five principles used:
1. The literal principle. Scripture should be understood in its literal, natural, and normal sense. While the Bible does contain figures of speech and symbols, they are intended to convey literal truth. In general, however, the Bible speaks in literal terms and must be allowed to speak for itself.
2. The historical principle. A passage should be interpreted in its historical context. What the author intended and what the text meant to its first audience must be taken into account. In this way, a proper, contextual understanding of the original meaning of Scripture can be grasped and articulated.
3. The grammatical principle. This task requires an understanding of the basic grammatical structure of each sentence in the original languages. To whom do the pronouns refer? What is the tense of the main verb? By asking simple questions like these, the meaning of the text becomes clearer.
4. The synthetic principle. This principle, the analogia scriptura, means that Scripture is to be its own interpreter.4 It assumes that the Bible does not contradict itself. Thus, if an understanding of a passage conflicts with a truth taught elsewhere in the Scriptures, that interpretation cannot be correct. Scripture must be compared with Scripture to discover its accurate and full meaning.
5. The clarity principle. God intended Scripture to be understood. However, not every portion of the Bible is equally clear. Therefore, clearer portions should be employed to interpret the less clear. 
I enjoyed many of the chapters. Some more than others. For example, I got more from the chapter on Jesus than the chapter on angels.


© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

My Year with Owen #6

I will be sharing some John Owen quotes this year. The first book I'll be reading is Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers (1656).

To mortify a sin is not utterly to kill, root it out, and destroy it, that it should have no more hold at all nor residence in our hearts. ~ John Owen
It is true this is that which is aimed at; but this is not in this life to be accomplished. ~ John Owen
Mortification is not the dissimulation of sin. ~ John Owen
The mortification of sin consists not in the improvement of a quiet, sedate nature. ~ John Owen
A sin is not mortified when it is only diverted. ~ John Owen
Occasional conquests of sin do not amount to a mortifying of it. ~ John Owen
Mortification consists in a habitual weakening of sin. ~ John Owen

Monday, February 6, 2017

Book Review: Silent Songbird

The Silent Songbird. Melanie Dickerson. 2016. Thomas Nelson. 296 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Servants may marry whomever they want, but a king's ward has no freedom at all.

Premise/plot: Evangeline (Eva) is the ward of King Richard II. (The fictional ward of Richard II that is.) When she learns that she is going to be forced to marry an "old" man with thick lips, Lord Shiveley, she does something drastic: she runs away. Her maid, Muriel, comes with her--reluctantly. The two join a company of traveling men led by Westley le Wyse. Muriel tells everyone that her red-headed mistress is mute, and, that her muteness is a result of being beaten. Eva falls for Westley instantly. And oh how she wishes she could talk to him! Westley is attracted to her as well, and takes an interest in her welfare once they arrive at his parents' estate. This "servant" knows NOTHING about housework or fieldwork or work-work. (On her first day at "work," she almost kills someone!)

Westley and Eva come to bond--both before and after her muteness--over the Bible. It turns out that in 1384--a good number of years before Wycliffe's team translates the Bible into English--that Westley, or rather his family, owns TWO copies of the Bible: one in English and one in Latin. (I find this a bit far-fetched. The family might be closer to nobility than peasantry. But. I don't think Bibles were so common place--remember each copy would have had to have been hand-written--that every family would have owned their own.) But it does make for a convenient Christian romance--let's have a beautiful woman and a handsome man sitting together in the evenings meditating on Scripture!

There are two conflicts in this one. 1) Evangeline is being pursued by Lord Shiveley. The King himself promised Shiveley his ward's hand in marriage. And for the first hundred pages--or so--the only one who truly finds him repulsive is Eva. (Conveniently close to the end of the novel, it's revealed that he is an actual villain.)  2) Someone is trying to kill Westley. Only Eva can identify him. I believe this conflict exists mainly to give Eva motivation to SPEAK and to come clean with Westley about her past.

My thoughts: I liked this one. I didn't love, love, love it. But I liked it well enough. I think Westley is a great hero. Eva is an interesting heroine. I just wish that she'd started out a bit more mature. Her whining at the beginning of the novel--about how she could never, ever, ever marry Lord Shiveley because he was oh-so-old and just look at how thick his lips were! Ewwww!--irritated me a bit. In that way she did remind me of Ariel. And since this was supposed to be loosely based on Little Mermaid, I suppose that's okay!


© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, February 5, 2017

February Project: Matthew 1-9

This Gospel was written by a man for men about the Man. Matthew wants all people everywhere to bow down before that Man, the one to whom all authority in Heaven and on earth has been given. He wants Gentiles and Jews to submit to their King, trusting Jesus to be Savior from sins and Lord of life. He wants us to know Jesus, worship him, obey his teachings, and tell others to do the same. ~ Douglas Sean O'Donnell
I will say that if you understand the Great Commission in its context, you will very well understand the Gospel of Matthew. ~ Douglas Sean O'Donnell
So listen to the first note of this Gospel—all authority. After his sacrificial death and glorious resurrection, Jesus says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (28:18). That is not a statement you hear every day, is it? Yet, it is so familiar to us that we don’t recognize how bizarre it is. ~ Douglas Sean O'Donnell
Christianity is not a pick-n-save religion: you pick whatever teachings you like and you still get saved. Oh no! If that’s how you think, you have it all wrong. Just listen to Jesus if you won’t listen to me. He stated it straightforwardly: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (7:21). ~ Douglas Sean O'Donnell
Week 1, February 1-4:

  1. MEV
  2. HCSB
  3. CEB
  4. NIV
  5. KJ21
  6. Living
Week 2, February 5-11

  1. NLT
  2. Tyndale
  3. NKJV
  4. NASB
  5. 1599 Geneva
  6. NIV-84
  7. Today's English Version
Week 3, February 12-18

  1. KJV
  2. Wycliffe
  3. J.B. Phillips
  4. Living
  5. NIV-84
  6. KJ21
  7. NLT
  8. NRSV
Week 4, February 19-25

Week 5, February 26-28



© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Week in Review: January 29-February 4

KJ21

  • Leviticus
  • Numbers
  • Deuteronomy 1-18
  • 1 Chronicles
  • 2 Chronicles 1-20 
  • Psalms 1-9
  • Ecclesiastes
  • Song of Solomon
  • Matthew 1-9
  • Mark
  • Hebrews
  • 1 Peter
  • 2 Peter
Living
  • Genesis 1-17
  • Matthew 1-9

ASV

  • Job 1-4
  • Mark 1-8
  • Romans 1-11

MEV

  • Matthew 1-9

HCSB

  • Matthew 1-9

CEB

  • Matthew 1-9

NIV

  • Matthew 1-9


© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, February 3, 2017

Book Review: Your Sins and Mine

Your Sins and Mine. Taylor Caldwell. 1955/2017. Open Road Media. 105 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: My father was no different from other men; he had the wisdom of hindsight. He was also a countryman, and had never been far from the place where he was born, and had always lived close to the earth. So when he told us later of what he had seen in early January—a few months before the strange and awful things had come to pass—we discounted it as superstition, for he was what used to be called a “fundamentalist.”

Premise/plot: Love science fiction? Love apocalyptic fiction? Love dystopias? Ready to read about the end of the world…if the end of the world had happened in the 1950s? Taylor Caldwell's Your Sins and Mine is a must read in my opinion.

Set in a farming community, readers meet Pete and his family. George has two grown sons--both veterans. Edward fought in World War II and came home blind. Pete fought in Korea. Both "boys" are married now with children of their own. They all live on the farmstead. One January evening, George is out late stargazing and notices something eery and ominous in the sky. He doesn't instantly know that the end has come. But. It makes him uncomfortable--increasingly uncomfortable as the drought lengthens month by month. By spring, he fears the worst: no crops. Lest you think he's panicking much too much, you should know: this drought is world-wide effecting every country, every nation. And starvation may be the least of their problems...

My thoughts: I loved this one. I absolutely loved it. This one would pair really well with Pat Frank's Alas, Babylon. It has a lot to say about war, about nuclear weapons, about society, about governments, about the environment.

Quotes:
And the sun shone, cloudless, in the sky, and the rivers dropped and the seas shrank and the creeks and brooks dried up and the mountains were sear and the valleys yellowed—all over the world. The land hated us, the violated land, the faithful land, the exploited and gentle land. The land had decided that we must die, and all innocent living things with us. The land had cursed us. Our wars and our hatred—these had finally sickened the wise earth. We did not know then that we stood indicted as the enemy of life.…
“We’ve got just one court of appeals now,” my father said, “and I don’t suppose most of you have given it any thought. Oh, I suppose you’ve prayed for rain, in church. But have you ever prayed: ‘God have mercy on me, a sinner,’ like the publican in the Bible? I guess you haven’t; your faces are the answer. I wonder how many of you even know your Bible? I wonder how many of you know we’re all being punished, and that we’ve had a sentence of death handed to us?” “Yes, a sentence of death,” he said, with authority. “Because every man in the world is a sinner against every other man, and against God. It isn’t only all the wars we’ve had in this century. We’ve forgotten God.” My father tightened his belt and ran his hand over the stubble on his chin. His blue eyes were vivid—vivid and condemning—as they traveled slowly over every face in the room. “I’m no politician. I’m a farmer, just as you are. When we were little fellows we took it seriously when the parsons told us we owed a duty to our fellow man, and that the things, of the spirit are more important than the things of the body. Every church told its people that; every church still does, though mostly the parsons speak to empty rows. We don’t hear these things with our ears any more. Why? Because every one of us has come to believe that the things of the body are the only valuable things, and we’ve scrambled for them over the rights of all other men. We’ve become too materialistic, too atheistic. Look, I’m no orator. You know what I’m talking about.
We heard, over the radio that night, that rain was falling all over the world in gushing floods. And for the first time we learned that the drought had been worldwide. It rained for many days, and the farmers plowed joyously in it and sang, and set their crops, and held up their faces to the dark and pouring heavens. All over the world it rained, and the cruel sun was gone for a long time. The forests freshened and the rivers tumbled everywhere. But the wheat did not come up, and the fruit trees, though green as jade, did not put out any flowers, and the inundated earth did not brighten with grass. It remained lifeless except for bursting acres of poisonous weeds. Vegetables did not grow, though flowers bloomed everywhere—flowers which men and beasts could not eat.
We did not know at that time that millions of Bibles were being opened all over the world, and that churches were beginning to burst with new members. But the ministers did not speak of what was happening all over the country. They, too, had been given their orders. Fear hung over the world like a vast cloud.


My father spoke louder, moving in his chair indignantly. “I’ve heard you talk about the Sermon on the Mount as if it was just another Declaration of Independence. When you pray, you speak to God politely, and remind Him that we’d like to have a little peace on this earth. You mentioned once that the parables of Jesus are excellent examples of profound human psychology. That was the Sunday when you devoted your whole lecture to the ‘science of psychiatry,’ and what it can do for disturbed minds.” His voice became even louder and was touched with anger. “You mentioned God in passing, but there was a hell of a lot more of Freud in your lecture! Disturbed minds! You’re damned right we’ve got disturbed minds. And why? Because our parsons think it primitive to talk about an ever-present God in the affairs of men. It never occurs to them that a human soul is thirsting for the living God, and hungering to know He is there for the asking.” His voice softened and deepened. “They come to you in grief and bewilderment and pain and you quote textbooks at them, and deny them the bread of life.” “George,” said my mother gently.
“There is still something a man can say to God that He wants to hear. And when He hears it, perhaps He will spare us—but He wants the whole world to say it.”
It was my father’s custom to read the account of the Nativity on Christmas Eve. But on this night he opened the Bible to the Book of Job, and we sat about him and listened to the dolorous lamentations of an afflicted man. “The arrows of the Almighty are within me, the poison whereof drinketh up my spirit; the terrors of God do set themselves in array against me.”
Mr. Herricks came that night, brought to us by a neighbor’s belching tractor. We had not seen him for some time, and I was aghast at the change in him. He seemed weary and broken and very sad. Yet, as he shook my hand he smiled at me, and his youthful eyes became radiant. He had brought his own food with him, and my mother and Lucy prepared it and we all sat down together for our sparse meal. He told us that very few people, if any, came to church now. Either they were dead or dying, sick or desolate, unable to travel even a little distance, or nursing their children or their parents. He visited them in their homes, giving them what comfort he could. He looked at me directly, now. “The gospel of repentance,” he said. “How can I say to them: ‘Pray for forgiveness’? Wouldn’t it be cruel? But that is the only prayer which will save the world now. True repentance, true penance.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Book Review: The Life of the Church

The Life of the Church: The Table, Pulpit, and Square. 2017. Moody. 128 pages.

The church can do many things, but there is one primary responsibility given to the church by our Lord: to make disciples (Matt. 28:18–20). Many churches seek to do the work entrusted to them by Jesus through the careful implementation of programs and teaching supported by well-developed systems for assimilation. Others opt for a more “organic” approach to disciple-making, offering less structure and cultivating a more relationship-based culture. Some churches view discipleship as primarily, if not exclusively, a matter of instruction and indoctrination, and thus neglect the need for relationships and working together. Other churches neglect doctrine while offering ministry services aimed only at practical matters.

I've now read all three of Joe Thorn's books about the church: The Heart of the Church, The Character of the Church, and the Life of the Church. All three books are great, are necessary. In the Heart of the Church, the focus was on the gospel. In The Character of the Church, the focus was on shaping the church by the Word of God. In The Life of the Church, the focus is on the church--the people, not the building--in action. The first part is "The Table," and it is about the family of believers loving and serving one another in community. The second part is "The Pulpit," and it is about worship services. The third part is "The Square," and it is in this final section that Thorn tackles the question of the church's place in the larger community, the world.

Quotes:

  • A theologian, then, is one who knows God and makes Him known. To say that all Christians must be a theologian is a bit incorrect. All Christians are theologians. They are either good or bad at being theologians, but all are theologians.
  • Disciples are made when the people of God following the Son of God are instructed and transformed by the Word of God. Apart from the ministry of the Word among the people of God, disciples cannot be made. To put it plainly, discipleship requires the church.
  • Our redemption in Jesus Christ is not merely a rescue of the individual; it is a deliverance of a people from the domain of darkness into the kingdom of light, from friendship with the world into the family of God.
  • The people of God must meet together in smaller numbers to carry out the will of God in each other’s lives. For instances, if we gather together only on the Lord’s Day for corporate worship, how can we possibly carry out the “one another” passages that pepper the New Testament?
  • Hospitality is service to, interest in, and compassion for others.
  • Corporate worship should be distinctly Christian, incapable of being confused with another cause, movement, or religion. 
  • If we are God’s people, saved and gathered together to “proclaim his excellencies” (1 Peter 2:9), then we must not only know them, but also make them known. Worship that does not revel in the character and work of our sovereign and saving God will lift up something or someone else instead. 
  • Worship is about God, not us. 
  • If the preacher is not pointing you to Jesus in the text from which he preaches, search Him out yourself. Commit yourself to seeking the Lord when you gather on the Lord’s Day. This is your responsibility, and no one can prevent you from seeking Him.
  • Who will determine how we worship God as the church? Does the church decide what is acceptable, or does God?
  • Reading Scripture in worship is not merely a call to give attention, but a call to hear God’s revelation of Himself. For it to be read Scripture thoughtfully and thoroughly requires us to read the revelation of God’s person and work by which people might be confronted, convicted, and comforted. Readings from the Old Testament and the New Testament ought to be common. Longer and multiple readings should mark the whole of the service as the church is led through its liturgy. The law of God should show us our sin, and the gospel of God should show us our Savior. And in it all, the church is called to respond to God in faith and repentance.
  • God has gone to great lengths to teach us about Himself by condescending to our level, by speaking to us in ways we can understand. He even goes beyond this by using multiple genres of literature, allowing us to access the truth from different vantage points.
  • When we encounter God’s Word, we are awed by His holiness, humbled by His grace, comforted by His goodness, and strengthened by His love. God reveals His character se we might properly respond to Him in faith, love, and obedience.
  • True worshipers know who they are by nature (sinners) and who they are by grace (saints) and that they are now truly free to worship. 
  • A good liturgy will walk the congregation through the full experience of Christian faith—from guilt to grace to gratitude. 
  • The truth is the gospel cannot be preached apart from words. No one will come to faith in Jesus Christ by merely watching the conduct of a Christian or benefitting from the service ministries of a church. The good news of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection for sinners must be heralded, and people must be called to repent of their sin and believe in Christ. They cannot believe if there is nothing to hear: “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17).
  • Most people in your city are open to a conversation, but are opposed to a lecture. 




© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible