Friday, March 24, 2017

Book Review: Reading the Bible Supernaturally

Reading the Bible Supernaturally. John Piper. 2017. Crossway. 320 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Reading the Bible Supernaturally is a companion book to John Piper's A Peculiar Glory. Don't worry if you haven't read it, though. He tells you just enough about the first book to situate readers for this second book. (What book should come first? It's almost like The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe and A Magician's Nephew. Almost. I would liken Reading the Bible Supernaturally to be The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe and A Peculiar Glory to A Magician's Nephew.)

This is John Piper writing so expect logic and clarity. He does a great job of explaining everything precisely and logically.

The book has three divisions: "The Ultimate Goal of Reading the Bible," "The Supernatural Act of Reading the Bible," and "The Natural Act of Reading the Bible Supernaturally."
"Part 1 poses the all-important question What does the Bible tell us is the ultimate goal of reading the Bible? I propose an answer with six implications and then devote ten chapters to unfolding and testing those implications. Part 2 works out the inference from part 1 that reading the Bible really must be a supernatural act, if God’s goals for our reading the Bible are to be reached. Finally, part 3 treats the practical outworking of such a claim in the seemingly ordinary human act of reading—the natural act of reading the Bible supernaturally."
So what does Piper see as the ultimate goal in reading the Bible?!
"The Bible itself shows that our ultimate goal in reading the Bible is that God’s infinite worth and beauty would be exalted in the everlasting, white-hot worship of the blood-bought bride of Christ from every people, language, tribe, and nation. In other words, each time we pick up the Bible to read, we should intend that reading would lead to this end. The way that we as individuals are caught up into this ultimate aim as we read the Bible becomes clear as we spell out six implications that flow from this proposed answer to our question. When we say that the ultimate goal of reading the Bible is that God’s infinite worth and beauty would be exalted in the everlasting, white-hot worship of the blood-bought bride of Christ from every people, language, tribe, and nation, we imply that: 1. the infinite worth and beauty of God are the ultimate value and excellence of the universe; 2. that the supremely authentic and intense worship of God’s worth and beauty is the ultimate aim of all his work and word; 3. that we should always read his word in order to see this supreme worth and beauty; 4. that we should aim in all our seeing to savor his excellence above all things; 5. that we should aim to be transformed by this seeing and savoring into the likeness of his beauty, 6. so that more and more people would be drawn into the worshiping family of God until the bride of Christ—across all centuries and cultures—is complete in number and beauty."
Why must the Bible be read supernaturally? What does Piper mean by this phrase?
"What I mean is that the act of reading, in order to be done as God intended, must be done in dependence on God’s supernatural help. The Bible gives two decisive reasons: Satan and sin. That is, we have a blinding enemy outside and a blinding disease inside. Together these two forces make it impossible for human beings to read the Bible, as God intended, without supernatural help. It seems to me that thousands of people approach the Bible with little sense of their own helplessness in reading the way God wants them to."
He continues,
"Bible reading that only collects facts, or relieves a guilty conscience, or gathers doctrinal arguments, or titillates esthetic literary tastes, or feeds historical curiosities—this kind of Bible reading Satan is perfectly happy to leave alone. He has already won the battle. But reading that hopes to see the supreme worth and beauty of God—reading that aims to be satisfied with all that God is for us in Christ, reading that seeks to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Ps. 34:8)—this reading Satan will oppose with all his might. And his might is supernatural. Therefore, any reading that hopes to overcome his blinding power will be a supernatural reading."
Ultimately he concludes,
"It is a miracle when God’s word is implanted in us, and it is a miracle when in it we taste the sweetness of God’s goodness. From that moment on, all our reading of God’s word is supposed to be an extension of that miracle in daily life—until we “grow up into salvation."
If the Bible is to be read supernaturally, what is natural about the process?
"God does not see for us. God enables us to see. We do the seeing. And the supernatural act of seeing “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” is by means of the natural act of seeing the story of the gospel written (or spoken) in natural human words." 
"All the human effort and skill that you can muster to construe the meaning of biblical passages will be called for. The glory is seen through the meaning of the text. And the meaning is found by reading and thinking. God is united to the man Jesus. The glory of God is united to the meaning of biblical texts. Therefore, when the miracle of seeing and savoring the glory of God happens, it is in the act of reading and thinking. We read. God reveals. God gives the supernatural miracle. We act the supernatural miracle."
In the final chapters of the book, he addresses this question: "How do you go about living the Christian life in such a way that you are actually doing the living, and yet another—the Holy Spirit—is decisively doing the living in and through your living?" His answers are all in acronyms.

I said Piper was logical, and, I meant it. I did. But also expect passion and enthusiasm. Piper's love of God, love of the Word, is apparent on every page of this book. Piper DELIGHTS in God and DELIGHTS in teaching others to delight in God too.

Here's one of my favorite passages:
"So we open our Bibles with a sweet sense that even though we don’t deserve it, God will lead us and instruct us. Our very reading is the experience of gospel grace. Christ died for sinners so that the promise would come true: God helps sinners understand the Bible. These blood-bought promises are given to us so that we might believe them. Not just hear them. Believe them. Trust them. Because, remember from Galatians 3:5, God “supplies the Spirit to you . . . by hearing with faith.” We stand before the Bible ready to read. We hear a promise. “I will instruct you and teach you.” We put our faith in it. The Spirit moves in the channel of faith, and we “act the miracle.” We read supernaturally. So it is good to gather some of these precious promises and store them up: The Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright. (Prov. 2:6–7) Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. (Prov. 3:5–6) I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you. (Ps. 32:8) You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. (Ps. 73:24) Do not be anxious about . . . what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say. (Luke 12:11–12) Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31–32) If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a doubleminded man, unstable in all his ways. (James 1:5–8)" 
And also this one:
"When we read the Bible, its meaning is not the ideas that come into our head that may be “meaningful” to us. Those ideas may or may not be part of what the author meant. Rather, when we read the Bible we are digging for the gold of what inspired writers wanted to communicate. We are not creating meaning. We are seeking it." 
A good book is worth reading and occasionally quoting. A great book is worth rereading and quoting liberally. This book is one of the best I've read this year. I will definitely want to reread it!!!

Favorite quotes:

  • "No one merely decides to experience the Christian Scriptures as the all-compelling, all-satisfying truth of one’s life. Seeing is a gift." 
  • "The ultimate aim of all Bible reading, I argue, is that God’s infinite worth and beauty would be exalted in everlasting, white-hot worship. There is nothing higher than the worth and beauty of God."
  • "Lukewarm affection for God gives the impression that he is moderately pleasing. He is not moderately pleasing. He is infinitely pleasing. If we are not intensely pleased, we need forgiveness and healing. Which, of course, we do."
  • "Emotions for God that do not spring from seeing God cannot honor God."
  • "If there is no true seeing of the glory of God, there can be no true savoring of the glory of God. And without savoring—delighting, cherishing, enjoying, treasuring—there will be no true transformation into the image of God. And if the people of God fail to be transformed into the image of Christ—from glory to glory—the ultimate purpose of God will fail. That cannot happen. God cannot fail in his ultimate purpose. Therefore, if we would be part of his Christ-reflecting, Christ-exalting family, we must read the Bible in order to see his glory—and then savor him above all things."
  • "It is also clear from Scripture that God uses not only pleasant emotions in response to seeing his glory, but also painful emotions. These too come from seeing the glory of God in Scripture. And these too are meant to be transforming, in their own way. They are meant to bring about change in a more indirect way, driving us away from destructive sins, in the hope that we will be drawn positively by the superior satisfaction of God’s holiness. God does not cease to be glorious when he disciplines his children. Yet this glory leads us first to sorrow. And then, through sorrow and repentance, to joy. God does not cease to be glorious when he says to those who are entangled in sin, “Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you” (James 4:9–10). His aim is that we enjoy the experience of “he will exalt you.” But on the way there, God’s strategy may be rebuke. It is fitting. Together with all God’s ways and purposes, it too is part of his peculiar glory. It may stretch the ordinary meaning of language, but this too we should “savor.” “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness” (James 1:2–3). There are foods that blend the sour and the sweet in such a way as to make the sweet all the richer."
  • "Our Bible reading is never just for seeing, never just for learning and doctrine. It is not even just for savoring, if that savoring is thought of in a private way that leaves us unchanged in our relationship with others. No. We read the Bible—we always read the Bible—for the kind of seeing and savoring Christ that transforms us into his likeness."
  • "The ultimate purpose of God—to be worshiped with white-hot affection by a redeemed people, complete in number and beauty—will be accomplished by the one who “works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Eph. 1:11). There is no doubt about it. He cannot fail. And he will do it by his Spirit through his word. Through the reading of the Scriptures."
  • "If we are going to read the Scriptures about Jesus and see him and savor him and be transformed into his image, it will not be by mere human means. It will be a “blessing” that opens the eyes of our hearts to see his all satisfying glory for what it really is."
  • "Life is war. And the main battles are fought at the level of desires, not deeds."
  • "The great, central, all-pervading message of the Bible is that God is to be loved above all things, and with all that we are" 
  • "The meaning of a biblical text is what the author intended to communicate by his words...To read with the aim of creating your own meaning, instead of finding the author’s meaning, leaves you trapped in the tiny world of self."

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, March 23, 2017

My Year with Henry #12

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.

Nehemiah 4

  • God has many ways of bringing to light, and so of bringing to naught, the devices and designs of his church’s enemies. If our enemies cannot frighten us from duty, or deceive us into sin, they cannot hurt us.
  • We must watch always against spiritual enemies, and not expect that our warfare will be over till our work is ended.
  • The word of God is the sword of the Spirit, which we ought to have always at hand, and never to have to seek for it, either in our labors, or in our conflicts, as Christians. Every true Christian is both a laborer and a soldier, working with one hand, and fighting with the other.

Acts 14

  • The apostles spake so plainly, with such evidence and proof of the Spirit, and with such power; so warmly, and with such concern for the souls of men; that those who heard them could not but say, God was with them of a truth. Yet the success was not to be reckoned to the manner of their preaching, but to the Spirit of God who used that means.
  • God has a shelter for his people in a storm; he is, and will be their Hiding-place.
  • The most powerful arguments, the most earnest and affectionate addresses, even with miracles, are scarcely enough to keep men from absurdities and abominations; much less can they, without special grace, turn the hearts of sinners to God and to holiness.
  • So strong is the bent of the corrupt and carnal heart, that as it is with great difficulty that men are kept back from evil on one side, so it is with great ease they are persuaded to evil on the other side. 
  • All who are converted need to be confirmed in the faith; all who are planted need to be rooted.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Book Review: A Stolen Heart

A Stolen Heart. Amanda Cabot. 2017. Revell. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: No matter what anyone said, she wouldn't believe this was a mistake.

Premise/plot: Lydia Crawford is following her heart--following a promise--to Cimarron Creek, Texas. But when this Yankee arrives in town she discovers a couple of things: her "fiancé" is missing, her "fiancé" is is someone's husband, he's soon to be a father in fact! (Also the town's sheriff is REALLY cute, not that she's ready to trust ANY man right now.)

The sheriff, the obvious hero of the tale, is Travis Whitfield. He points her in the direction of his great-aunt Bertha. There isn't a boarding house or hotel for this oh-so-beautiful Yankee girl to stay. But Bertha would make her feel quite welcome, he's sure!

One other thing Lydia learns is that acceptance doesn't come easy. Travis and Bertha and Catherine (a cousin, I believe) welcome her sure. But everyone else in town--including Travis' father--see her as a trouble-maker, a carpetbagger, a devil-in-disguise. That is until she wins them over with her confectionary skills. What Cimarron Creek needs is a candy store. What western town would be complete without a candy store? Peanut brittle and fudge and lemon drops are essentials, you know!

But all is not sweet in the town. Trouble lurks. Well jealousy more like it. Perhaps a touch of insanity as well. Someone in town has a grudge against the sheriff….

My thoughts: I really found this a quick, enjoyable, oh-so-satisfying read. I loved Bertha. I loved Lydia. I loved Opal. I liked Catherine. And Travis? Well, he made for a good hero. I do wish, in a way, that there would be romance books out there where the hero and heroine weren't described as being the most amazingly beautiful people ever to grace the earth. Why can't heroes and heroines ever be average looking? Why the need for perfection? Still, I can't find fault with A Stolen Heart for that. I think 98% of romance books are guilty of that!!!

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

My Year with Owen #12

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).

Bring your lust to the gospel--not for relief, but for further conviction of its guilt. ~ John Owen
Consider the infinite patience and forbearance of God toward you in particular. ~ John Owen
Get a constant longing, breathing after deliverance from the power of it. Suffer not your heart one moment to be contented with your present frame and condition. ~ John Owen
Longing, breathing, and panting after deliverance is a grace in itself, that has a mighty power to conform the soul into the likeness of the thing longed after. ~ John Owen
Assure yourself, unless you long for deliverance you shall not have it. ~ John Owen
Consider whether the distemper with which you are perplexed be not rooted in your nature, and cherished, fomented, and heightened from your constitution. ~ John Owen
Consider what occasions, what advantages your distemper has taken to exert and put forth itself, and watch against them all. ~ John Owen
Know that he that dares to dally with occasions of sin will dare to sin. He that will venture upon temptations unto wickedness will venture upon wickedness. ~ John Owen
Rise mightily against the first actings of your distemper, its first conceptions; suffer it not to get the least ground. ~ John Owen
If it have allowance for one step, it will take another. It is impossible to fix bounds to sin. It is like water in a channel--if it once breaks out, it will have its course. ~ John Owen

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, March 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?
I've read Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan. Another recent book with plenty of quotes from the 'cloud of witnesses' is NEW CITY CATECHISM DEVOTIONAL. I reviewed it earlier today.

If we, then, are not our own but the Lord’s, it is clear what error we must flee, and whither we must direct all the acts of our life. We are not our own: let not our reason nor our will, therefore, sway our plans and deeds. We are not our own: let us therefore not set it as our goal to seek what is expedient for us. . . . We are not our own: in so far as we can, let us forget ourselves and all that is ours. Conversely, we are God’s: let us therefore live for him and die for him. We are God’s: let his wisdom and will therefore rule all our actions. We are God’s: let all the parts of our life accordingly strive toward him as our only lawful goal. O, how much has that man profited who, having been taught that he is not his own, has taken away dominion and rule from his own reason that he may yield it to God! For, as consulting our self-interest is the pestilence that most effectively leads to our destruction, so the sole haven of salvation is to be wise in nothing and to will nothing through ourselves but to follow the leading of the Lord alone. ~ John Calvin

The Creator of the world is doubtless also the Governor of it. He that had power to give being to the world, and set all the parts of it in order, has doubtless power to dispose of the world, to continue the order he has constituted, or to alter it. He that first gave the laws of nature, must have all nature in his hands; so that it is evident God has the world in his hands, to dispose of as he pleases. . . . And it is manifest, in fact, that God is not careless how the affairs and concerns of the world he has made proceed, because he was not careless of this matter in the creation itself; as it is apparent, by the manner and order in which things were created, that God, in creating, took care of the future progress and state of things in the world. ~ Jonathan Edwards

The glory of God is the first thing that God’s children should desire. It is the object of one of our Lord’s own prayers: “Father, glorify thy name” (John 12:28). It is the purpose for which the world was created. It is the end for which the saints are called and converted. It is the chief thing we should seek, that “God in all things may be glorified” (1 Pet. 4:11). . . . Anything whereby we may glorify God is a talent, our gifts, our influence, our money, our knowledge, our health, our strength, our time, our senses, our reason, our intellect, our memory, our affections, our privileges as members of Christ’s Church, our advantages as possessors of the Bible,—all, all are talents. Whence came these things? What hand bestowed them? Why are we what we are? Why are we not the worms that crawl on the earth? There is only one answer to these questions. All that we have is a loan from God. We are God’s stewards. We are God’s debtors. Let this thought sink deeply into our hearts. ~ J.C. Ryle 

God leads men to see that the God revealed in Scripture, and manifested in the person of the Lord Jesus, is the God who made heaven and earth. Man fashions for himself a god after his own liking; he makes to himself if not out of wood or stone, yet out of what he calls his own consciousness, or his cultured thought, a deity to his taste, who will not be too severe with his iniquities or deal out strict justice to the impenitent. He rejects God as he is, and elaborates other gods, such as he thinks the Divine One ought to be, and he says concerning these works of his own imagination, “These be thy gods, O Israel!” The Holy Spirit, however, when he illuminates their minds, leads us to see that Jehovah is God, and beside him there is none else. He teaches his people to know that the God of heaven and earth is the God of the Bible, a God whose attributes are completely balanced, mercy attended by justice, love accompanied by holiness, grace arrayed in truth, and power linked with tenderness. He is not a God who winks at sin, much less is pleased with it, as the gods of the heathen are supposed to be, but a God who cannot look upon iniquity, and will by no means spare the guilty. This is the great quarrel of the present day between the philosopher and the Christian. The philosopher says, “Yes, a god if you will, but he must be of such a character as I now dogmatically set before you”; but the Christian replies, “Our business is not to invent a god, but to obey the one Lord who is revealed in the Scriptures of truth.” ~ Charles Spurgeon

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Book Review: The New City Catechism

The New City Catechism Devotional. Collin Hansen, ed. Introduction by Timothy Keller. 2017. Crossway. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Doctrine matters. Everyone's a theologian. You've probably heard these truths or insights in passing. Perhaps you've even given it a little thought. Perhaps you've made a resolution or two or three. Maybe it's on your one-day-I-will-figure-this-stuff-out list.

Everyone should be able to give an answer for the hope that they have. And catechisms--as out of favor as they are in some denominations--might be the way to go.
"Catechisms were written with at least three purposes. The first was to set forth a comprehensive exposition of the gospel—not only in order to explain clearly what the gospel is, but also to lay out the building blocks on which the gospel is based, such as the biblical doctrines of God, of human nature, of sin, and so forth. The second purpose was to do this exposition in such a way that the heresies, errors, and false beliefs of the time and culture were addressed and counteracted. The third and more pastoral purpose was to form a distinct people, a counterculture that reflected the likeness of Christ not only in individual character but also in the church’s communal life." (from the introduction)
The New City Catechism is 52 questions and answers. Questions 1-20 cover "God, Creation and Fall, Law." Questions 21-35 cover "Christ, Redemption, Grace." Questions 21-35 cover "Spirit, Restoration, Growing in Grace."

I loved the way this devotional is arranged: first the question and answer; second, a Bible verse; third, commentary from a 'witness' (theologian now in glory); fourth, commentary from a contemporary theologian; and finally, a closing prayer.

Three sample questions and answers:
  • What is sin? Sin is rejecting or ignoring God in the world he created, rebelling against him by living without reference to him, not being or doing what he requires in his law—resulting in our death and the disintegration of all creation.
  • How can we be saved? Only by faith in Jesus Christ and in his substitutionary atoning death on the cross; so even though we are guilty of having disobeyed God and are still inclined to all evil, nevertheless, God, without any merit of our own but only by pure grace, imputes to us the perfect righteousness of Christ when we repent and believe in him.
  • What is faith in Jesus Christ? Faith in Jesus Christ is acknowledging the truth of everything that God has revealed in his Word, trusting in him, and also receiving and resting on him alone for salvation as he is offered to us in the gospel.
An example of the contemporary commentary:
"It is spectacularly wonderful to talk about God, to think about him. There cannot be any higher subject. But the word God itself is not an empty cipher. Just because somebody uses the word God and then somebody else uses the word God, it does not follow that they mean the same thing. God, for some, is an inexpressible feeling, or it’s the unmoved cause at the beginning of the universe, or it’s a being full of transcendence. But we’re talking about the God of the Bible, and the God of the Bible is self-defined. He talks about himself as being eternal and righteous. He’s the God of love. He’s the God of transcendence; that is, he’s above space and time and history. Yet he is the immanent God; that is, he is so much with us that we cannot possibly escape from him. He is everywhere. He is unchangeable. He is truthful. He is reliable. He’s personal. What’s really important to see and understand, as God has disclosed himself not only in words but in the whole storyline of the Bible’s narrative, is that we are not permitted to take one attribute of God and make everything of it. We cannot, let’s say, take his sovereignty and forget his goodness. Or take his goodness and forget his holiness (his holiness is what makes him the God of judgment). Or take his judgment, even the severity of his judgment, and forget that he’s the God of love, the God who has so much loved even his rebellious creatures that ultimately he sent his Son to bear their sin in his own body on the tree. In other words, to get to the heart of who God is and to bow before him in some small measure of genuine understanding, it’s important to think through what the Bible says again and again and integrate the whole with the same balance and proportion that Scripture itself gives. That calls us to worship. And if we put anything else in the place of God, that is the very definition of idolatry." ~ D.A. Carson
An example of the 'theologian in glory' commentary:
Sin is a fundamental relationship; it is not wrong doing, it is wrong being, deliberate and emphatic independence of God. The Christian religion bases everything on the positive, radical nature of sin. Other religions deal with sins; the Bible alone deals with sin. The first thing Jesus Christ faced in men was the heredity of sin, and it is because we have ignored this in our presentation of the Gospel that the message of the Gospel has lost its sting and its blasting power. ~ Oswald Chambers
Three examples of closing prayer:

  • Merciful Lord, we are corrupt in our very natures. We are sons and daughters of the first Adam who desire what you forbid. Give us a new nature through new birth in Christ, the second Adam, that we might be able to keep your law in the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
  • Creator God, forgive us for worshiping the things you have made. No person or thing should be our hope or our trust. You alone are self-existent and all sufficient. May you be our all in all. Amen.
  • Righteous Lord, if we think that we are good, we deceive ourselves. We deserve your wrath. We have broken your commands and we have not loved you with our whole hearts, minds, and strength. We can only plead the righteousness of Christ and ask you to let our punishment fall on him. Amen. Is there any way to escape punishment and be brought back into God’s favor? Yes, to satisfy his justice, God himself, out of mere mercy, reconciles us to himself and delivers us from sin and from the punishment for sin, by a Redeemer. 

I loved, loved, LOVED, LOVED this one. It's so very good. I think everyone should have a copy of this one. I love the catechism. I think the questions are very straightforward and capture the essentials of the faith. I think they're relevant questions too. The how-then-should-I-live questions. I think the organization of this one is excellent. I love the blend of old and new. I'm already excited about rereading this one!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Week in Review: March 12-18

NIV Tozer Bible

  • Exodus 1-12
  • 2 Chronicles 
  • Ezra
  • Nehemiah
  • Psalm 73-150
  • Isaiah 40-66
  • Haggai
  • Zechariah
  • Luke 


  • Matthew 10-18


  • Matthew 10-18


  • Matthew 10-18


  • Matthew 10-18

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, March 17, 2017

Why There Won't Be A Book Review Today

After eight or so years of not sewing even one thing…I decided to try my hand at sewing Bible covers again. This is something I have really missed, off and on, but seven in one week may have a little too obsessive!!!

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, March 16, 2017

My year with Henry #11

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.
In all our approaches to God, by praise as well as by prayer, it is good for us to eye him as a Father, and to fasten on that relation, not only when we ask for the mercies we want, but when we give thanks for the mercies we have received. Mercies are then doubly sweet, and powerful to enlarge the heart in praise, when they are received as tokens of a Father’s love, and gifts of a Father’s hand; Giving thanks to the Father, Col. 1:12. It becomes children to be grateful, and to say, Thank you, father, as readily as, Pray, father.
When we come to God as a Father, we must withal remember, that he is Lord of heaven and earth; which obliges us to come to him with reverence, as to the sovereign Lord of all, and yet with confidence, as one able to do for us whatever we need or can desire; to defend us from all evil and to supply us with all good.
Observe, The Father has delivered his all into the hands of the Lord Jesus; let us but deliver our all into his hand and the work is done; God has made him the great Referee, the blessed Daysman, to lay his hand upon us both; that which we have to do is to agree to the reference, to submit to the arbitration of the Lord Jesus, for the taking up of this unhappy controversy, and to enter into bonds to stand to his award.
The happiness of men lies in an acquaintance with God; it is life eternal, it is the perfection of rational beings.
Those who would have an acquaintance with God, must apply themselves to Jesus Christ; for the light of the knowledge of the glory of God shines in the face of Christ, 2 Cor. 4:6. We are obliged to Christ for all the revelation we have of God the Father’s will and love, ever since Adam sinned; there is no comfortable intercourse between a holy God and sinful man, but in and by a Mediator, John 14:6.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Book Review: Through the Eyes of a Lion

Through the Eyes of a Lion. Levi Lusko. 2015. Thomas Nelson. 240 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence (from introduction): It is early morning, and I am walking along the waterfront in Seattle near the Pike Place Market. Bracing myself against the damp, chilly air, I zip my leather jacket up to my throat but still feel the wind cut daggers through me. I will them to run me through. Clouds fill all of the visible sky—dark, menacing, and turbulent. My hands are burning. I start to run. Can I outrun this? I run until my legs burn too. The sky matches my soul. Seattle is a good place to be sad. I will never walk her down the aisle. She will never have a baby. She lost only one tooth. She will never read a chapter book. Memories from only thirty days ago race past like flood-waters and sweep me off my feet. It’s as though I am in an abandoned movie theater inside my mind, being forced to watch archival footage from a horror movie that is my life.

Premise/plot: Levi Lusko shares the lessons he's learned from his pain and grief. His five year old daughter died a few days before Christmas of a bad asthma attack. He preached the Christmas sermon--he is a pastor--and buried his daughter the next day. The book was written several years, I believe, after this huge loss. It is a book about grief, in part, but more than anything it's a book about living each day with hope because Jesus rose again.

He writes, "You must learn to see life through the eyes of a Lion. Doing so is to utilize the telescope of faith, which will not only allow you to perceive the invisible—it will give you the strength to do the impossible."

His message: As long as you have breath, LIVE. Live for God. "There are things God intends for you to accomplish that no one else has been chosen for. Words he wants you to speak. Actions that speak louder than words. And through it all, he wants you to leave a mark, to put a dent in the universe."

My thoughts: This one has some good insights. His writing is engaging. I liked it well enough most of the time. I definitely stumbled across some bad theology in this one. In particular, he seems to very oh-so-casually challenge God's sovereignty. And he is DEFINITELY not Reformed.
When things don’t go our way, we get sad and can be grieved, just like God. This might surprise you, but God doesn’t always get what he wants, and neither do we. Jesus knocks at the doors of our hearts, and we have to invite him inside in order to be saved. He is a gentleman, so he knocks. He won’t go all SEAL Team Six and kick the door down. He gives us the dignity and responsibility of making our own decisions.
But just because I disagree with him on a few things doesn't mean I didn't benefit from his insights in other areas.

Favorite quotes:
We do a disservice anytime we try to rush people through the process of grief, as though it were spiritual to put a happy face on a horrible thing. Masking pain doesn’t heal it any faster; it actually slows it down and stunts your rehabilitation. Expecting someone to bounce back as some sort of benchmark of holiness is kind of like asking a person who has had an arm amputated if he is over it yet.
People commonly say “Rest in peace” or “RIP” as a final salvo over a grave. God has three different words for you to hold onto in faith as you approach the death of believers. Those three words are “Raised in power!”
The most important battle is the one you fight within, in your mind and heart, to not give up. If you give up hope, you won’t have the motivation to do anything else in a critical situation.
Pain is a microphone. And the more it hurts, the louder you get. Suffering isn’t an obstacle to being used by God. It is an opportunity to be used like never before.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

My Year with Owen #11

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).

Slight thoughts of grace, of mercy, of the blood of Christ, of the law, heaven, and hell, come all in at the same season. ~ John Owen

To have peace with God, to have strength to walk before God, is the sum of the great promises of the covenant of grace. ~ John Owen

Consider who and what you are; who the Spirit is that is grieved, what he has done for you, what he comes to your soul about, what he has already done in you; and be ashamed. ~ John Owen

Among those who walk with God, there is no greater motive and incentive unto universal holiness, and the preserving of their hearts and spirits in all purity and cleanness, than this, that the blessed Spirit, who has undertaken to dwell in them, is continually considering what they give entertainment in their hearts unto, and rejoices when his temple is kept undefiled. ~ John Owen

Load your conscience with the guilt of it. Not only consider that it has a guilt, but load your conscience with the guilt of its actual eruptions and disturbances. ~ John Owen

Bring the holy law of God into your conscience, lay your corruption to it, pray that you may be affected with it. Consider the holiness, spirituality, fiery severity, inwardness, absoluteness of the law, and see how you can stand before it. ~ John Owen

If ever you will mortify your corruptions, you must tie up your conscience to the law, shut it from all shifts and exceptions, until it owns its guilt with a clear and thorough apprehension. ~ John Owen© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, March 13, 2017

Journaling 1984

1984. George Orwell. 1949. 268 pages. [Source: Bought]

I have started reading 1984 by George Orwell. I began taking notes almost from the start, so I thought I would share my thoughts as I read. In addition to my thoughts, I will be including quotes from the book, and, as relevant quotes from Scripture.

Chapter one is all about the world-building. It introduces readers to the concepts of the Party, Big Brother, the telescreen, the two minutes of Hate and Hate Week, the three slogans, the three nations, and the four ministries of Oceania. The three slogans are: War is peace; freedom is slavery; ignorance is strength. (7) The three nations are: Oceania, Eastasia, and Eurasia. The four ministries are: Ministry of Truth, Ministry of Peace, Ministry of Love, and Ministry of Plenty.* It also introduces readers to the main character, Winston Smith. (Other characters mentioned: O'Brien, a potential friend or enemy; a nameless woman, a coworker; and Emmanuel Goldstein, the biggest enemy of the state.**)

In this first chapter, Winston writes in a diary for the first time. The crime isn't the writing down of his ideas--though that would be enough to lead to his death--but the thinking of his own ideas in the first place. Thoughtcrime. Winston realizes in this first chapter, that it's just a matter of time before he's killed by the Party. He can't stop thinking. And one day his thoughts will be revealed either on his face, in his mannerisms, or in his words and actions.
How could one communicate with the future? Either the future would resemble the present in which case it would not listen to him, or it would be different from it, and his predicament would be meaningless. (10)
Winston is not automatically lovable as a character. I don't know how much is just pure sin-nature and how much is brainwashing, but the fact that he fantasizes about raping a coworker is disturbing. So far, it's just the one fantasy we witness, but still.

Hate. Two minutes of hate. Every day, or at least every work day, they participate in two minutes of hate. A film, I believe, is shown. And this film--this propaganda--is used to stir up feelings of hate and rage. To rally everyone around a common enemy, someone--something--to hate passionately.
The horrible thing about the two minutes hate was not that one was obliged to act a part, but that it was impossible to avoid joining in. (16)
Today, we don't officially have a "two minutes of hate" built into our workdays. (Though one could argue that most people can find a common enemy to hate.) But hate is programmed into us all the same.  Oh, it's frowned upon to hate some things. The key is to hate what everyone else hates and to love what everyone else loves. We're not really free to hate freely, nor encouraged to love freely. Social media can at times encourage people to be proud of their hate and anger.
Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. Isaiah 5:20
What does the Scripture have to say about hate?
  • Let those who love the Lord hate evil, for he guards the lives of his faithful ones and delivers them from the hand of the wicked. Psalm 97:10
  • I will not look with approval on anything that is vile. I hate what faithless people do; I will have no part in it. Psalm 101:3
  • To fear the Lord is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech. Proverbs 8:13
  • “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Luke 6:27-28
  • If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. John 15:19
  • Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Romans 12:9
  • At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone. Titus 3:3-8
  • Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 1 John 4:20
I'm not generally a fan of  the "What Would Jesus Do?" brand. But would Jesus participate in two minutes of hate? Would he join in with the crowd and follow their mob-like passionate hate? I don't think so!

The Telescreen. Big Brother. And the idea that someone is always, always watching and judging you. This is a terrifying aspect of the book because it is the PARTY who is doing the watching and judging. The party is arbitrary, unpredictable, untrustworthy. NOT someone you want in your head.
The telescreen received and transmitted simultaneously. Any sound that Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it; moreover, so long as he remained within the field of vision which the metal plaque commanded, he could be seen as well as heard. There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. (6)
You had to live--did live, from habit that became instinct--in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized. (7)
It is true that there is someone always watching, always weighing, always judging. But this someone is GOD. IF and only if you're in right relationship with Him, this is both comforting and convicting.
Hebrews 4:13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
Psalm 139:1-12 You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.
But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. Matthew 12:36
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. 2 Corinthians 5:10
Knowledge of this leads to fear of God. And the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. I think many have lost this notion of fearing God. Of seeing God as completely and overwhelmingly other--completely HOLY.
“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” Isaiah 6:5
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.” Hebrews 12:28-29
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. Proverbs 9:10
It is comforting if you trust the Lord. God has revealed himself in the Word to be entirely trustworthy, praiseworthy. Good. Faithful. Merciful. Compassionate. Just. Wise. Loving. Unchanging. But also still convicting. Fear of the Lord leaves you humble. And humility is a virtue. It also makes you teachable and usable.

Is the average person giving any thought to the idea that God is omniscient? I include Christians and nonChristians in this question. I think even with Christians, this is one of those doctrines we don't live in light of. That is to say, we affirm it in a creed but don't live by it day by day by day. God is omnipresent. Always with us. Always everywhere. We cannot escape his presence. Light, dark, day, night makes no difference. Our God doesn't sleep. And he isn't ignoring us or disinterested.

Talking about a day of judgment isn't popular. (Has it ever been?) But I think it is necessary to go there--to think uncomfortable thoughts and ponder where you stand before the Lord Almighty.
Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Isaiah 55:6
I'll close this section with a few Lutzer quotes:
Five minutes after you die you will either have had your first glimpse of heaven with its euphoria and bliss or your first genuine experience of unrelenting horror and regret. Either way, your future will be irrevocably fixed and eternally unchangeable. In those moments, you will be more alive than you ever have been. ~ Erwin Lutzer
Entering hell is easy enough. All that one has to do is neglect Christ, the only one who can save us. ~ Erwin Lutzer

*Ministry of Truth = news, entertainment, education, fine arts; ministry of peace = manages wars; ministry of love = law and order; ministry of platy = economic affairs.

**Emmanuel Goldstein = advocates freedom of speech, press, assembly, thought

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Week in Review: March 5-11

NIV Pursuit of God (Tozer)

  • Genesis 16-50
  • 1 Chronicles 12-29
  • Psalms 10-72
  • Isaiah 1-39
  • Matthew 10-18
  • Mark 6-16
  • Romans
  • James
  • 1 Peter
  • 2 Peter
  • Jude


  • Mark 
  • Titus
  • Philemon
  • 1 Peter
  • 2 Peter


  • Matthew 10-18


  • Matthew 10-18 (2)

NLT Beyond Suffering Bible

  • Matthew

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, March 10, 2017

Book Review: And the Beagles and the Bunnies Shall Lie Down Together

And the Beagles and the Bunnies Shall Lie Down Together. Charles M. Schulz. 1984. 100ish pages. [Source: Gift]

Confession: I love Linus. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Linus. I know I have some competition because every girl wants Linus to be their own Sweet Baboo. One of my favorite things about Linus is that he's a theologian, a true thinker, a true observer.

This book is a collection of Peanuts comic strips that deal--in one way or another--with theology. At the very least, it shares comic strips that quote Scripture. At its best, it shares comic strips which reflect Scripture.

The book doesn't focus on Linus exclusively. There's plenty of Lucy, Charlie Brown, Linus, and Sally. (Plus Snoopy, of course. Let's not forget that Snoopy KNOWS Scripture too and uses it quite well to get what he wants from Charlie Brown.)

Early on, readers see that Linus identifies himself as a prophet. On the copyright page, you'll see Linus carrying a sign that says PROPHET. And one of the earliest comic strips in this one is about how he wants to be a prophet when he grows up.
Linus: When I grow up, I think I'll be a great prophet. I'll speak profound truths but no one will listen to me…
Charlie Brown: If you known ahead of time that no one is going to listen to you, why speak?
Linus: We prophets are very stubborn.
My absolute FAVORITE, FAVORITE strip features Lucy and Linus. It's RAINING heavily.
Lucy: Boy, look at it rain…What if it floods the whole world?
Linus: It will never do that…in the ninth chapter of Genesis, God promised Noah that would never happen again, and the sign of the promise is the rainbow…
Lucy: You've taken a great load off my mind…
Linus: Sound theology has a way of doing that!
This one is definitely recommended. Not every strip is WONDERFUL. But many are worth a smile at least. And some are truly worth treasuring!

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, March 9, 2017

My Year with Henry #10

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, here called the word of the kingdom (Matt. 13:19): the kingdom of heaven, that is the kingdom; the kingdoms of the world, compared with that, are not to be called kingdoms. The gospel comes from that kingdom, and conducts to that kingdom; the word of the gospel is the word of the kingdom; it is the word of the King, and where that is, there is power; it is a law, by which we must be ruled and governed. This word is the seed sown, which seems a dead, dry thing, but all the product is virtually in it. It is incorruptible seed (1 Pet. 1:23); it is the gospel that brings forth fruit in souls, Col. 1:5, 6.
The sower that scatters the seed is our Lord Jesus Christ, either by himself, or by his ministers; see Matt. 13:37. The people are God’s husbandry, his tillage, so the word is; and ministers are labourers together with God, 1 Cor. 3:9. Preaching to a multitude is sowing the corn; we know not where it must light; only see that it be good, that it be clean, and be sure to give it seed enough. The sowing of the word is the sowing of a people for God’s field, the corn of his floor, Isa. 21:10.

The ground in which this seed is sown is the hearts of the children of men, which are differently qualified and disposed, and accordingly the success of the word is different. Note, Man’s heart is like soil, capable of improvement, of bearing good fruit; it is pity it should lie fallow, or be like the field of the slothful, Prov. 24:30. The soul is the proper place for the word of God to dwell, and work, and rule in; its operation is upon conscience, it is to light that candle of the Lord. Now according as we are, so the word is to us: Recipitur ad modum recipientis—The reception depends upon the receiver. As it is with the earth; some sort of ground, take ever so much pains with it, and throw ever so good seed into it, yet it brings forth no fruit to any purpose; while the good soil brings forth plentifully: so it is with the hearts of men, whose different characters are here represented by four sorts of ground, of which three are bad, and but one good. Note, The number of fruitless hearers is very great, even of those who heard Christ himself. Who has believed our report? It is a melancholy prospect which this parable gives us of the congregations of those who hear the gospel preached, that scarcely one in four brings forth fruit to perfection. Many are called with the common call, but in few is the eternal choice evidenced by the efficacy of that call, Matt. 20:16.

Now observe the characters of these four sorts of ground.

The highway ground, Matt. 13:4-10. They had pathways through their corn-fields (Matt. 12:1), and the seed that fell on them never entered, and so the birds picked it up. The place where Christ’s hearers now stood represented the characters of most of them, the sand on the sea-shore, which was to the seed like the highway ground.

Observe First, What kind of hearers are compared to the highway ground; such as hear the word and understand it not; and it is their own fault that they do not. They take no heed to it, take no hold of it; they do not come with any design to get good, as the highway was never intended to be sown. They come before God as his people come, and sit before his as his people sit; but it is merely for fashion-sake, to see and be seen; they mind not what is said, it comes in at one ear and goes out at the other, and makes no impression.

Secondly, How they come to be unprofitable hearers. The wicked one, that is, the devil, cometh and catcheth away that which was sown.—Such mindless, 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: as the birds pick up the seed that falls on the ground that is neither ploughed before nor harrowed after. If we break not up the fallow ground, by preparing our hearts for the word, and humbling them to it, and engaging our own attention; and if we cover not the seed afterwards, by meditation and prayer; if we give not a more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, we are as the highway ground. Note, The devil is a sworn enemy to our profiting by the word of God; and none do more befriend his design than heedless hearers, who are thinking of something else, when they should be thinking of the things that belong to their peace.

The stony ground. Some fell upon stony places (Matt. 13:5, 6), which represents the case of hearers that go further than the former, who receive some good impressions of the word, but they are not lasting, Matt. 13:20, 21. Note, It is possible we may be a great deal better than some others, and yet not be so good as we should be; may go beyond our neighbours, and yet come short of heaven. Now observe, concerning these hearers that are represented by the stony ground,

First, How far they went. 1. They hear the word; they turn neither their backs upon it, nor a deaf ear to it. Note, hearing the word, though ever so frequently, ever so gravely, if we rest in that, will never bring us to heaven. 2. They are quick in hearing, swift to hear, he anon receiveth it, euthys, he is ready to receive it, forthwith it sprung up (Matt. 13:5), it sooner appeared above ground than that which was sown in the good soil. Note, Hypocrites often get the start of true Christians in the shows of profession, and are often too hot to hold. He receiveth it straightway, without trying it; swallows it without chewing, and then there can never be a good digestion. Those are most likely to hold fast that which is good, that prove all things, 1 Thess. 5:21. 3. They receive it with joy. Note, There are many that are very glad to hear a good sermon, that yet do not profit by it; they may be pleased with the word, and yet not changed and ruled by it; the heart may melt under the word, and yet not be melted down by the word, much less into it, as into a mould. Many taste the good word of God (Heb. 6:5), and say they find sweetness in it, but some beloved lust is rolled under the tongue, which it would not agree with, and so they spit it out again. 4. They endure for awhile, like a violent motion, which continues as long as the impression of the force remains, but ceases when that has spent itself. Note, Many endure for awhile, that do not endure to the end, and so come short of the happiness which is promised to them only that persevere (Matt. 10:22); they did run well, but something hindered them, Gal. 5:7

Secondly, How they fell away, so that no fruit was brought to perfection; no more than the corn, that having no depth of earth from which to draw moisture, is scorched and withered by the heat of the sun. And the reason is.

They have no root in themselves, no settled, fixed principles in their judgments, no firm resolution in their wills, nor any rooted habits in their affections: nothing firm that will be either the sap or the strength of their profession. Note, (1.) It is possible there may be the green blade of a profession, where yet there is not the root of grace; hardness prevails in the heart, and what there is of soil and softness is only in the surface; inwardly they are no more affected than a stone; they have no root, they are not by faith united to Christ who is our Root; they derive not from him, they depend not on him. (2.) Where there is not a principle, though there be a profession, we cannot expect perseverance. Those who have no root will endure but awhile. A ship without ballast, though she may at first out-sail the laden vessel, yet will certainly fail in stress of weather, and never make her port.

Times of trial come, and then they come to nothing. When tribulation and persecution arise because of the word, he is offended; it is a stumbling-block in his way which he cannot get over, and so he flies off, and this is all his profession comes to. Note, (1.) After a fair gale of opportunity usually follows a storm of persecution, to try who have received the word in sincerity, and who have not. When the word of Christ’s kingdom comes to be the word of Christ’s patience (Rev. 3:10), then is the trial, who keeps it, and who does not, Rev. 1:9. It is wisdom to prepare for such a day. (2.) When trying times come, those who have no root are soon offended; they first quarrel with their profession, and then quit it; first find fault with it, and then throw it off. Hence we read of the offence of the cross, Gal. 5:11. Observe, Persecution is represented in the parable by the scorching sun, (Matt. 13:6); the same sun which warms and cherishes that which was well rooted, withers and burns up that which wanted root. As the word of Christ, so the cross of Christ, is to some a savour of life unto life, to others a savour of death unto death: the same tribulation which drives some to apostasy and ruin, works for others a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. Trials which shake some, confirm others, Phil. 1:12. Observe how soon they fall away, by and by; as soon rotten as they were ripe; a profession taken up without consideration is commonly let fall without it: “Lightly come, lightly go.”

The thorny ground, Some fell among thorns (which are a good guard to the corn when they are in the hedge, but a bad inmate when they are in the field); and the thorns sprung up, which intimates that they did not appear, or but little, when the corn was sown, but afterwards they proved choking to it, Matt. 13:7. This went further than the former, for it had root; and it represents the condition of those who do not quite cast off their profession, and yet come short of any saving benefit by it; the good they gain by the word, being insensibly overcome and overborne by the things of the world. Prosperity destroys the word in the heart, as much as persecution does; and more dangerously, because more silently: the stones spoiled the root, the thorns spoil the fruit.

Now what are these choking thorns?

First, The cares of this world. Care for another world would quicken the springing of this seed, but care for this world chokes it. 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 deals much in them (2 Sam. 23:6, 7); they are entangling, vexing, scratching, and their end is to be burned, Heb. 6:8. These thorns choke the good seed. Note, Worldly cares are great hindrances to our profiting by the word of God, and our proficiency in religion. They eat up that vigour of soul which should be spent in divine things; divert us from duty, distract us in duty, and do us most mischief of all afterwards; quenching the sparks of good affections, and bursting the cords of good resolutions; those who are careful and cumbered about many things, commonly neglect the one thing needful.

Secondly, The deceitfulness of riches. Those who, by their care and industry, have raised estates, and so the danger that arises from care seems to be over, and they continue hearers of the word, yet are still in a snare (Jer. 5:4, 5); it is hard for them to enter into the kingdom of heaven: they are apt to promise themselves that in riches which is not in them; to rely upon them, and to take an inordinate complacency in them; and this chokes the word as much as care did. Observe, It is not so much riches, as the deceitfulness of riches, that does the mischief: now they cannot be said to be deceitful to us unless we put our confidence in them, and raise our expectations from them, and then it is that they choke the good seed.

The good ground (Matt. 13:18); Others fell into good ground, and it is pity but that good seed should always meet with good soil, and then there is no loss; such are good hearers of the word, Matt. 13:23. Note, Though there are many that receive the grace of God, and the word of his grace, in vain, yet God has a remnant by whom it is received to good purpose; for God’s word shall not return empty, Isa. 55:10, 11.

Now that which distinguished this good ground from the rest, was, in one word, fruitfulness. By this true Christians are distinguished from hypocrites, that they bring forth the fruits of righteousness; so shall ye be my disciples, John 15:8. He does not say that this good ground has no stones in it, or no thorns; but there were none that prevailed to hinder its fruitfulness. Saints, in this world, are not perfectly free from the remains of sin; but happily freed from the reign of it.

The hearers represented by the good ground are,

First, Intelligent hearers; they hear the word and understand it; they understand not only the sense and meaning of the word, but their own concern in it; they understand it as a man of business understands his business. God in his word deals with men as men, in a rational way, and gains possession of the will and affections by opening the understanding: whereas Satan, who is a thief and a robber, comes not in by that door, but climbeth up another way.

Secondly, Fruitful hearers, which is an evidence of their good understanding: which also beareth fruit. Fruit is to every seed its own body, a substantial product in the heart and life, agreeable to the seed of the word received. We then bear fruit, when we practise according to the word; when the temper of our minds and the tenour of our lives are conformable to the gospel we have received, and we do as we are taught.

Thirdly, Not all alike fruitful; some a hundred-fold, some sixty, some thirty. Note, Among fruitful Christians, some are more fruitful than others: where there is true grace, yet there are degrees of it; some are of greater attainments in knowledge and holiness than others; all Christ’s scholars are not in the same form. We should aim at the highest degree, to bring forth a hundred-fold, as Isaac’s ground did (Gen. 26:12), abounding in the work of the Lord, John 15:8. But if the ground be good, and the fruit right, the heart honest, and the life of a piece with it, those who bring forth but thirty-fold shall be graciously accepted of God, and it will be fruit abounding to their account, for we are under grace, and not under the law.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Book Review: Finding God in My Loneliness

Finding God in My Loneliness. Lydia Brownback. 2017. Crossway. 174 pages. [Source: Review copy]

In Finding God in My Loneliness, Lydia Brownback argues that every person--every man, every woman, every child--experiences loneliness in one degree or another. It doesn't matter if you're young or old, if you're single or married or divorced, if you've got twenty kids or zero kids, if you're working six jobs or no jobs. Every person is prone to experiencing loneliness. (And there is a distinction between being alone and feeling lonely.) We're lonely for a reason: Eve ate the apple.
"God created human beings with a capacity for loneliness so that we would yearn for and find our all in him."
"The loneliness we experience is a consequence of sin and has been ever since Adam and Eve disobeyed God. The couple hid from God after they ate from the forbidden tree, and that’s also when they began to hide from each other. Loneliness began in the garden."
The goal of this one is to show readers that they are never truly alone, and that all of God's people have felt lonely. Each chapter examines a story--a person--from the Bible and deals with different ways of experiencing loneliness.

Favorite quotes:
"Self-seeking breeds loneliness; self-forgetfulness breeds fullness."
"We won’t know him as our greatest treasure if our view of him is skewed, and the more we seek escape from our pain in worldly things, the more warped our view of God becomes. Instead of looking for a way out of loneliness, we need to look at Jesus. Only then will we discover that he is what we’ve been looking for all along. And only then will we really be willing to “sell” our earthly possessions and acquisitions for the sake of God and his kingdom."
"All relationships are tainted by brokenness in one way or another because all of us are tainted by sin. Worst of all are the guilt-ridden thoughts that demand a place in our overburdened heart. The hurtful remarks we wish we’d never said; the selfish things we wish we’d never done; the requests for help we refused to heed—no one can fix this for us. No kind words can erase the past. We are alone in our pain."
"When he paid for our sin on the cross, he bore the weight of its consequences too—every sorrow and every broken thing for every one of his people. It’s beyond our comprehension, but it’s true. He knows us personally, and his knowledge includes a comprehension of what each of us uniquely feels. We are not alone after all."
"We miss so much if we fixate on what we need to fit into the world around us. We imagine how much better life would be if only, but even if those if onlys come to pass, they won’t fulfill us the way we think they will. Only Jesus does that. If we’re not convinced, it’s because we haven’t really tasted how good it is—how good he is. Once we do, we won’t despise our differences anymore. We certainly don’t have to like them, but if they linger, we can come to know a sweetness that we wouldn’t trade for anything. Are we willing? That’s the real question. If we let him choose for us, we will find way more than we’ve been hoping for with all our striving." 
"Unlike Jesus, we bring a good bit of our loneliness on ourselves through sin and selfishness. Unlike Jesus, we deserve to be lonely. Being left alone is a fit consequence for sin. But Christ hasn’t left us there. He has come to rescue us from ourselves and all we do to destroy our lives and our relationships. He gives us himself when the people we love have left us. And he fills up from himself what no person or circumstance in this life can ever fill—that aching place in our heart we call “loneliness.” During his earthly life and in his death on the cross, Jesus did loneliness for us. He is back with his Father now, and he comes to take us there too. Close your reading of this book with Jesus’s words to lonely hearts: Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. . . . I am the way, and the truth, and the life. (John 14:1–3, 6)"

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

My Year with Owen #10

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).

By applying grace and mercy to an unmortified sin, or one not sincerely endeavored to be mortified, is this deceit carried on. This is a sign of a heart greatly entangled with the love of sin. ~ John Owen
To apply mercy, then, to a sin not vigorously mortified is to fulfill the end of the flesh upon the gospel. ~ John Owen
Frequency of success in sin's seduction, in obtaining the prevailing consent of the will unto it, is another dangerous symptom. ~ John Owen
When a man rights against his sin only with arguments from the issue or the punishment due unto it, this is a sign that sin has taken great possession of the will, and that in the heart there is a superfluity of naughtiness (James 1:21) ~ John Owen
But now if a man be so under the power of his lust that he has nothing but law to oppose it with, if he cannot fight against it with gospel weapons, but deals with it altogether with hell and judgment, which are the proper aims of the law, it is most evident that sin has possessed itself of his will and affections to a very great prevalency and conquest. ~ John Owen
Sometimes in reading of the word God makes a man stay on something that cuts him to the heart, and shakes him as to his present condition. ~ John Owen
More frequently in the hearing of the word preached--his great ordinance for conviction, conversion, and edification--does he meet with men. God often hews men by the sword of his word in that ordinance, strikes directly on their bosom-believed lust, startles the sinner, makes him engage unto the mortification and relinquishment of the evil of his heart. ~ John Owen
Get a clear and abiding sense upon your mind and conscience of the guilt, danger, and evil of that sin wherewith you are perplexed. ~ John Owen
It is one of the deceits of a prevailing lust to extenuate its own guilt. ~ John Owen
Let this, then, be the first care of him that would mortify sin--to fix a right judgment of its guilt in his mind. ~ John Owen
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, March 6, 2017

Book Review: Jews Don't Need Jesus

Jews Don't Need Jesus…and Other Misconceptions: Reflections of a Jewish Believer. Avi Snyder. 2017. Moody. 176 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: IF WE’RE GOING TO consider whether the gospel message is relevant to the Jewish people, then we ought to start with an understanding of the message itself. The word “gospel” means good news, but in reality, the message is both good and bad.

Premise/plot: In this one, Avi Snyder argues that Jews DO need Jesus, DO need to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ, DO need to experience the rebirth. He argues presumably with believers who for various reasons choose to believe that Jews are saved another way--through another covenant, by keeping the law. Snyder insists that being a descendant of Abraham wasn't good enough to save you when Jesus walked this earth, and, it's not good enough to save you here and now. He also resists the notion that Jews will come to faith only when they see Jesus face to face the day of his return. He points out that on that day--the day of the Lord--it will be too late for Jew or Gentile to come to faith.

The book isn't written solely for Christian believers but for a broader audience.

My thoughts: This one was well written. I agreed with Snyder's arguments. I thought he did a good job defending his point of view and advocating biblical truth. I loved how Snyder's go-to source was the Word of God. He used Scripture to counter each claim or excuse. And that is how the book is presented. He tackles the problem one excuse, one argument at a time.

If Jesus is an imposter, then belief in Him threatens our survival as a distinct people, chosen by God. But what if He is the prophet like Moses whom God promised to raise up? What if He is the One whom God commanded the Jewish people to heed? And what if we Jews will be held accountable by God if we fail to listen to what He’s said, just as Deuteronomy 18:18–19 warns? Then to withhold the message of the gospel from the Jewish people specifically because we’re Jews is not an act of love. It’s probably the most anti-Jewish act that a Christian can commit. This is not an easy matter to consider, but we can’t push it aside. Either He’s a blessing for Jews, or He’s a blight. There’s really no middle ground, just as there was no middle ground between Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal. Also, if Jesus is not the Messiah of Israel, then He’s not the Christ of the nations. That means that Christians who worship Him are guilty of idolatry, and they’ll be judged by the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob for worshiping a man who claimed to be God (John 10:33). Ultimately, it comes down to this: either Jesus is Lord of all, or Jesus is not Lord at all. Either He must be worshiped, adored, and obeyed by Jews and non-Jews alike, or He must be rejected by all as a false savior. Either everyone must hear the message, or no one needs to know His name.
Chosen to bear witness and proclaim. What a privilege! But there’s a problem. We Jews cannot proclaim the gospel until we believe the gospel. We cannot carry His light to the nations until we carry His light in our hearts.
No one is saved by virtue of birth, but by virtue of rebirth. That’s foundational to the gospel; we must be born again.
The problem doesn’t lie with a God who refuses to shed His light. The problem lies with our unbelieving hearts that refuse to receive His light. And the problem lies with believers who refuse to bear His light to those who are looking for a way out of the dark.
If the greatest commandment is to love the Lord wholeheartedly, how can we love Him if we don’t know who He is? How can we love a Lord whose name is a mystery, and whose deeds on our behalf have never been explained?
The purpose of repentance is not to increase the believer’s burden of guilt over generational sins. Rather, it’s to free the believer from the penalty and the shackles of those sins. Wonderfully, the chain to a family’s sins is broken by Yeshua’s cross.
Receiving God’s forgiveness must be followed by proclaiming God’s forgiveness. We’re commanded to make His deeds known. From repentance, to pardon, to proclamation for the sake of those who haven’t yet believed.
True love cannot be silent, if silence allows the beloved to die. True love cares more about the outcome facing the beloved than about the consequences facing the one who speaks. True love compels us to speak. Silence is the enemy of the salvation of any people. All too often, our silence takes two tragic forms. We choose silence before people, and so we fail to speak. Or we choose silence before God, and we fail to pray.
WHY IS IT INTOLERANT if we speak the truth? Why is it unloving if we speak that truth in love? Why is it arrogant if we implore a person to embrace the same life-saving truth that rescued our own lives from imminent danger? And why is it an act of aggression if we tell Jewish people that the Hope of Israel has come?
The gospel is offensive, and this is why we must proclaim the gospel in love. But no matter how lovingly we endeavor to present the good news, the naked reality of the bad news—that we’re sinners who have offended God—will always bring about either the pain of righteous conviction or the pain of self-righteous indignation. The key does not lie in seeking to eliminate the offense of the cross. The key lies in making certain that if offense is taken, it is taken because of the clarity of the message and not because of the callousness of the messenger.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible