Thursday, September 24, 2020

77. The Gospel in Dickens

The Gospel in Dickens: Selections from His Works. Charles Dickens. Edited by Gina Dalfonzo. Foreword by Karen Swallow Prior. 2020. 264 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Good literature is fresh water for the soul. While some writers offer a sip ladled from the well, Dickens takes us to a mountain waterfall where rushing waters saturate, overwhelm, and put us at risk of drowning as we drink. But fear not. This book of selected readings is more like a gentle brook whose waters will quench the thirst of Dickens’ aficionados and neophytes alike. I know this volume will attract those who know and love Dickens already. But I hope it woos those who have yet to drink from his depths.

Only read this book if you want to struggle with the dilemma of what Dickens book to pick up next. I jest. 

I definitely enjoyed reading The Gospel in Dickens, and would happily recommend it to any and all who enjoy Victorian literature and/or the classics.

The book is divided into three sections: Sin and Its Victims, Repentance and Grace, and The Righteous Life. Each section has excerpts thoughtfully selected and introduced by the editor Gina Dalfonzo. 

Before reading The Gospel in Dickens I wouldn't have thought much of Dickens being a Christian--or not being a Christian. I probably would have assumed that he believed in God to some extent, perhaps attended church services, held Christian values and morals to some degree. But I wouldn't have really thought here is a man who knows and loves the Lord. The truth is when you read all these excerpts together it paints a powerful portrait of a man who does just that--love the Lord and love the Word of the Lord. 

This one features excerpts from 
  • A Christmas Carol
  • Great Expectations
  • Hard Times
  • Bleak House
  • Oliver Twist
  • Sketches by Boz
  • Martin Chuzzlewit
  • Our Mutual Friend
  • Little Dorrit
  • A Tale of Two Cities
  • David Copperfield
  • Nicholas Nickleby
  • The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain
  • The Life Of Our Lord
  • The Mystery of Edwin Drood
  • The Old Curiosity Shop
  • Dombey and Son
  • personal letters

My background? I have a BA and MA (bachelor of arts, master of arts) degree in English literature. I love and adore Dickens. Perhaps he's not my absolute favorite, favorite, favorite, favorite Victorian author. (That may be Gaskell or Trollope). But I love Dickens. I have often found that it takes reading each book twice to really go from like to love or love to REALLY love, love, love. There is something substantive and unforgettable about his characters and stories. I have read all but three of his novels. I've read most of them twice--though not all. Every January I start off thinking this will be the year where I read TONS of Dickens. But usually I just manage one or two. Not from lack of desire--but from a million or so books competing for my attention saying read me, read me, read me. Dickens doesn't push himself forward into the fight to be read. But there are certain times of the year when I seek him out. 

As I was reading this one I kept thinking, I HAVE to reread this one. Then I'd go onto the other excerpt and it was, NO, I have to read THIS one. I may never make up my mind!!! 

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

76. The Trinity An Introduction

The Trinity: An Introduction. Scott R. Swain. Edited by Graham A Cole and Oren R Martin. 2020. October. 161 pages. [Source: Review copy]

The Trinity is a book that is part of a new series by Crossway. About the series, "While the specific focus will vary, each volume will (1) introduce the doctrine, (2) set it in context, (3) develop it from Scripture, (4) draw the various threads together, and (5) bring it to bear on the Christian life."

The author states the purpose of The Trinity is to recatechize the evangelical mind after the Trinitarian controversy of 2016 revealed the need for clarity among evangelicals. 

I have mixed feelings on The Trinity--the book not the doctrine. On the one hand, it's overly complicated and complex. I feel the author would rather use a string of long syllable words that few actual laymen know the definition of instead of more straight forward language that anyone and everyone could appreciate and understand. This book almost needs an interpreter. Someone to translate the scholar-ese into English. On the other hand, it is comprehensive and saturated in Scripture rather than conjecture. Each chapter does develop the doctrine of the Trinity drawing largely if not exclusively from Scripture itself. (A few creeds and church fathers are also mentioned, though their contribution to the argument the author is making is supplemental and supportive rather than foundational and fundamental.)

Here--for better or worse--is my interpretation of what the book is about. It's entirely possible that I missed key points because as I said earlier this book is overly complicated and complex--a bit full of itself.

What does the Bible have to say about the Trinity? Which passages shed light on the doctrine of the Trinity? What can we learn by reading and studying passages on God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit? How are these three as being the same one true God? How does Scripture distinguish between the Father, the Son, and the Spirit? How does the Trinity work together for our salvation? What is the role of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit in relation to our creation, redemption, salvation, etc. Why is important for Christians to believe in the doctrine of the Trinity? Why is it important for Christians to understand the persons and works of each member of the Trinity? What effect does this knowledge have on our worship?

Here's some sample sentences: 
  • "The purpose of the present chapter is to honor the Father’s name by considering the manifold ways in which the Bible’s Trinitarian discourse manifests the Father’s fecundity."
  • "First, we will consider “innerTrinitarian conversation texts,” where we overhear the persons of the Trinity speaking to and of each other. Second, we will consider “cosmic framework texts,” which frame the entire cosmos, as well as the entirety of God’s work in the cosmos, in relation to the Trinity. Third, we will consider “redemptive mission texts,” which display the sending or “mission” of the Son (and, sometimes, the sending of the Spirit) as the great divine acts whereby God fulfills his redemptive purpose, establishing his dwelling among us, for the praise of his name."
  • "In previous chapters we had opportunity to consider a distinction fundamental to the Bible’s basic Trinitarian grammar, the distinction between “common predication” and “proper predication.” Common predication refers to what the three persons hold in common as the one and simple God: they share the one God’s holy name, YHWH, one divine being, one divine wisdom, one divine goodness, and one divine power. In contrast to common predication, proper predication refers to what each person of the Trinity holds in distinction from the other two persons. The “personal properties” of paternity, filiation, and spiration identify that which foundationally and fundamentally distinguishes the persons of the Trinity: the Father eternally begets the Son (paternity), the Son is eternally begotten of the Father (filiation), and the Father and the Son eternally breathe forth the Spirit (spiration)."

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, September 18, 2020

75. The Ultimate Commentary on Romans

Romans. The Ultimate Commentary on Romans. By Albert Barnes, John Calvin, Adam Clarke, Matthew Henry, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, and John Wesley. 2016. 4164 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: This Epistle is placed first among Paul‘s epistles, not because it was the first written, but because of the length and importance of the Epistle itself, as well as the importance of the church in the imperial city. 

I have spent the last four months reading and studying the book of Romans for the Growing for Life Bible Reading project/group. The project started in June and concludes in September. I still have a few more days--about ten--before the project wraps up. I hope to read through the epistle a few more times. But. I have finished this one!!!

What you see is exactly what you get. SEVEN commentaries in one e-book. Every single verse of all sixteen chapters is covered. Though perhaps readers should know not covered seven times. A few of the commentaries skip around a bit and don't cover every verse of every chapter. But at least three or four of the seven do cover EVERYTHING and in great detail.

When I bought the commentary I was most familiar with Charles Spurgeon and Matthew Henry. And to a certain extent John Calvin. (I've read an abridged Institutes; and the first volume of an unabridged Institutes. But this was my first time reading a commentary by Calvin.) 

So this is how I read the book, the facebook group (Growing 4 Life) would have one chapter of Romans to focus on each week. I would read the commentary for that chapter that week from these seven authors. (Again, some authors did not have commentary for all sixteen chapters of Romans. One author, I can't remember who offhand, skipped Romans 9-11, for example!) So over the course of the week, I'd read many commentaries on that one chapter. 

Because I didn't read this book in a traditional sense--all of Barnes, all of Clarke, all of Calvin, all of Henry, etc. I may not have a true sense of which is my most favorite and best commentator. I know who I like least--Wesley. Perhaps because he was placed last. Perhaps because by that point I'd already read anything/everything that I would/could possibly need to be enlightened. Perhaps because he's Arminian. Perhaps because he really didn't have much to say about any verse or chapter. His commentary is definitely the shortest! By the time I got to Wesley it was more so what??? 

Of the seven, Charles Spurgeon and Alexander MacLaren had more of a sermon feel. I think their "commentaries" were more gathered resources of expository sermons. They were excellent--most of the time I truly insightful and worth my time. But more devotional and application. 

A few of the commentaries were definitely more scholarly and were packed with Greek words and interpretations. I'm thinking Clarke and Barnes. I think. Again I didn't read the book traditionally, so it's hard for me to recall with preciseness the uniqueness of each author.

But is it worth your time???? YES. 

  • Either your sins must die, or you must. If they are suffered to live, you will die. If they are put to death, you will be saved. No man can be saved in his sins. ~ Albert Barnes
  • The Christian has joys which the world does not know; but he has also sorrows; he sighs over his corruption; he is in the midst of calamity; he is going to the grave; and he looks forward to that complete deliverance, and to that elevated state, when, in the presence of an assembled universe, he shall be acknowledged as a child of God. This elevated privilege gives to Christianity its high value; and the hope of being acknowledged in the presence of the universe as the child of God - the hope of the poorest and the humblest believer - is of infinitely mere value than the prospect of the most princely inheritance, or of the brightest crown that a monarch ever wore. Our trials are so great that nothing but the prospect of future deliverance would uphold us; and the prospect is sufficient to enable us to bear them with patience. ~ Albert Barnes
  • the whole gospel is included in Christ, so that if any removes one step from Christ, he withdraws himself from the gospel. For since he is the living and express image of the Father, it is no wonder, that he alone is set before us as one to whom our whole faith is to be directed and in whom it is to center. ~ John Calvin
  • Perseverance is not founded on our power and diligence, but on Christ; though at the same time by saying, that we stand, he indicates that the gospel ought to strike deep roots into the hearts of the godly, so that being strengthened by its truth, they may stand firm against all the devices of Satan and of the flesh. And by the word stand, he means, that faith is not a changeable persuasion, only for one day; but that it is immutable, and that it sinks deep into the heart, so that it endures through life. ~ John Calvin
  • if we seek God sincerely, let us follow the way by which alone we can come to him. For it is better, as [Augustine ] says, even to go limping in the right way than to run with all our might out of the way. ~ John Calvin
  • It belongs not indeed to us to imagine a God according to what we may fancy; we ought to possess a right knowledge of him, such as is set forth in his word. And when any one forms an idea of God as good, according to his own understanding, it is not a sure nor a solid faith which he has, but an uncertain and evanescent imagination; it is therefore necessary to have the word, that we may have a right knowledge of God. No other word has he mentioned here but that which is preached, because it is the ordinary mode which the Lord has appointed for conveying his word. ~ John Calvin
  • The unutterable groan is big with meaning, and God understands it, because it contains the language of his own Spirit. Some desires are too mighty to be expressed; there is no language expressive enough to give them proper form and distinct vocal sound: such desires show that they came from God; ~ Adam Clarke
  • Have no hypocritical love; let not your love wear a mask; make no empty professions. Love God and your neighbor; and, by obedience to the one and acts of benevolence to the other, show that your love is sincere. ~ Adam Clarke
  • Hate sin as you would hate that hell to which it leads.  ~ Adam Clarke
  • Be Cemented or Glued to that which is good; so the word literally signifies. Have an unalterable attachment to whatever leads to God, and contributes to the welfare of your fellow creatures. ~ Adam Clarke
  • A life devoted to God is a new life before, self was the chief and highest end, but now God. To live indeed is to live to God, with our eyes ever towards him, making him the centre of all our actions. ~ Matthew Henry
  • While we are in this world, hoping and waiting for what we see not, we must be praying. Hope supposes desire, and that desire offered up to God is prayer we groan. ~ Matthew Henry
  • It is our love to God that makes every providence sweet, and therefore profitable. ~ Matthew Henry
  • It is Christ living in the soul by faith that makes the body a living sacrifice, ~ Matthew Henry
  • God is a merciful God, therefore let us present our bodies to him he will be sure to use them kindly, and knows how to consider the frames of them, for he is of infinite compassion. We receive from him every day the fruits of his mercy, particularly mercy to our bodies: he made them, he maintains them, he bought them, he has put a great dignity upon them. ~ Matthew Henry
  • The eternal happiness we chose for our portion is now nearer to us than it was when we became Christians. Let us mind our way and mend our pace, for we are now nearer our journey's end than we were when we had our first love. The nearer we are to our centre the quicker should our motion be. Is there but a step between us and heaven, and shall we be so very slow and dull in our Christian course, and move so heavily? ~ Matthew Henry
  • Either God is my centre, and that is holiness; or self is my centre, in more or less subtle forms, and that is sin. ~ Alexander MacLaren
  • My yielding of myself to Him can only be the echo of His giving of Himself to me. He must be the first to love. You cannot argue a man into loving God, any more than you can hammer a rosebud open. ~ Alexander MacLaren
  • There is no faith which does not lead to surrender. ~ Alexander MacLaren
  • To preach our doubts, to preach our own opinions, to preach poor platitudes, to talk about politics and morals and taste and literature and the like in the pulpit, is profanation and blasphemy. ~ Alexander MacLaren
  • A gospel which says much of Christ, but little of His Cross, or which dilates on the beauty of His life, but stammers when it begins to speak of the sacrifice in His death, is not Paul’s Gospel, and it will have little power to deal with the universal sickness of sin. ~ Alexander MacLaren
  • God does not love men because of what they are, therefore He does not cease to love them because of what they are. ~ Alexander MacLaren
  • You cannot lean half upon Christ and half upon yourselves. ~ Alexander MacLaren
  • There is but one Being who can make a change in our position in regard to God, and there is but one Being who can make the change by which man shall become a ‘new creature.’ The Creative Spirit that shaped the earth must shape its new being in my soul; and the Father against whose law I have offended, whose love I have slighted, from whom I have turned away, must effect the alteration that I can never effect-the alteration in my position to His judgments and justice, and to the whole sweep of His government. No new birth without Christ; no escape from the old standing-place, of being ‘enemies to God by wicked works,’ by anything that we can do: no hope of the inheritance unless the Lord and the Man, the ‘second Adam from heaven,’ have come! He has come, and He has ‘dwelt with us,’ and He has worn this life of ours, and He has walked in the midst of this world, and He knows all about our human condition, and He has effected an actual change in the possible aspect of the divine justice and government to us; and He has carried in the golden urn of His humanity a new spirit and a new life which He has set down in the midst of the race; and the urn was broken on the cross of Calvary, and the water flowed out, and whithersoever that water comes there is life, and whithersoever it comes not there is death! ~ Alexander MacLaren
  • Ceremonies are nothing, notions are nothing, beliefs are nothing, formal participation in worship is nothing. Christ is everything to him that trusts Him. Christ is nothing but a judge and a condemnation to him who trusts Him not. And here is the turning-point, Am I resting upon that Lord for my salvation? If so, you can begin upon that step, the low one on which you can put your foot, the humble act of faith, and with the foot there, can climb up. If faith, then new birth; if new birth, then sonship; if sonship, then an heir of God, and a joint-heir with Christ.’ But if you have not got your foot upon the lowest round of the ladder, you will never come within sight of the blessed face of Him who stands at the top of it, and who looks down to you at this moment, saying to you, ‘My child, wilt thou not cry unto Me “Abba, Father?”‘ ~ Alexander MacLaren
  • We are told that the Biblical view of human nature is too dark. Well, the important question is not whether it is dark, but whether it is true. ~ Alexander MacLaren
  • If you and I really believed what we say we believe, that Jesus Christ has died for us, and lives for us, and is ready to pour out upon us the gift of His Divine Spirit, and wills that we should be like Him, and holds out to us the great and wonderful hopes and prospects of an absolutely eternal life of supreme and serene blessedness at His right hand, should we be, could we be, the sort of people that most of us are? ~ Alexander MacLaren
  • Truth professed has no transforming power; truth received and fed upon can revolutionise a man’s whole character. ~ Alexander MacLaren
  • Blessed be God! the Christian view of sorrow, while it leaves much unexplained, focuses a steady light on these two points; its origin and its end. ‘He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness,’ is enough to calm all agitation, and to make the faintest heart take fresh courage. The slings and arrows which strike are no more flung blindly by an ‘outrageous fortune,’ but each bears an inscription, like the fabled bolts, which tells what hand drew the bow, and they come with His love. ~ Alexander MacLaren
  • We cannot say that sorrow produces hope. It does not, unless we have this connecting link-the experience in sorrow of a God-given courage which falters not in the onward course, nor shrinks from any duty. But if, in the very press and agony, I am able, by God’s grace, to endure nor cease to toil, I have, in myself, a living proof of His power, which entitles me to look forward with the sure confidence that, through all the uproar of the storm, He will bring me to my harbour of rest where there is peace. ~ Alexander MacLaren
  • Yesterday’s faith will not bring joy to-day; you cannot live upon past experience, nor feed your souls with the memory of former exercises of Christian faith. It must be like the manna, gathered fresh every day, else it will rot and smell foul. A present faith, and a present faith only, produces a present joy and peace. ~ Alexander MacLaren
  • What a God we trust in — a God who quickeneth the dead. We have no faith unless we believe in such a God as this. We shall need such a God in order to bring us safely to his right hand at last. ~ Charles Spurgeon
  • The more trial you have the more spiritual education you receive. You cannot learn the virtue of patience without tribulation, any more than a man can learn to be a sailor if he stops on shore: ~ Charles Spurgeon
  • As you submitted yourselves to sin most cheerfully and voluntarily, and yet were slaves under it, so now come, and be slaves under Christ with most blessed cheerfulness and delight: endeavor now to lose your very wills in his will, for no man’s slavery is so complete as his who even yields his will. Now, yield everything to Christ. You shall never be so free as when you do that, never so blessedly delivered from all bondage as when you absolutely and completely yield yourselves up to the power and supremacy of your Lord. ~ Charles Spurgeon

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, September 17, 2020

74. John 11-21

John 11-21 (Thru the Bible #39) J. Vernon McGee. 1995. 192 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: It is generally assumed that the Gospel of John is easy to understand. Often you hear the cliche, “The Gospel of John is the simple gospel.” And the simplicity of the language has deceived a great many folk.

I am reading the Bible in 2020 using the daily M'Cheyne (Robert Murray M'Cheyne) plan. I thought it would add a layer of substance to in addition to the four chapters a day, to also read commentaries for those chapters. For that I am using Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible. But the plan goes through the New Testament (and Psalms, I believe) twice. So now that I've finished Henry's commentary for the New Testament, I am tackling the New Testament commentary section of J. Vernon McGee's series.

This is not my first time reading J. Vernon McGee. I've read probably twenty or so of his commentaries. (Most recently his volume on 1 Corinthians.) I honestly can't recall if I've read his volume on the Gospel of John before. 

Overall, I like his laidback, casual, straightforward, tell it like it is approach to teaching Scripture. There is something so grounded and down to earth about him. Each reader is "his" friend. It's hard not to feel like he is a friend too.

One of the things that I love about McGee's commentaries is that he just speaks timeless truths. He almost always leaves me thinking!!! IF I was reading this in a traditional book format, I would probably find myself underlining, putting stars, putting exclamation points, and a couple of AMENS. (With only a few question marks or zahs thrown in.)

*Note, I would have included the first sentence of *this* section of the gospel of John but I didn't highlight that. I thought the book separated at chapter 13? I don't know why. 

  • Jesus loved Lazarus when he was sick. Not only that, Jesus will let Lazarus die—but He still loves him.
  • The soul never dies, nor does the soul ever sleep.
  • Death is a reality, an awful reality of the body. But, remember, the resurrection is also reality.
  • Many of our churches are turning away from God and the things of God. They are no longer places of delightful fellowship and blessing. So perhaps the church will return to homes where true fellowship with Christ will be found.
  • The glory of God is seen in that cross. That is why He could say that the time had come for Him to be glorified. Friend, He was glorified when He died for you and me. He was glorified when He came forth from that tomb. Mercy and pardon and forgiveness are found at that cross.
  • You haven’t seen Jesus until you have seen that He is the One who died for you on the cross. He is the One who died for the sins of the world.
  • My friend, the most dangerous thing in the world is to hear the gospel and then turn your back on it. If you just go on listening and listening and do not accept it and act upon it, there comes the time when you cannot hear and you cannot see. God is God, and it is He who has the final word.
  • It is more important to know the Word of God than it is to partake of Communion. There is no blessing in Communion apart from a knowledge of the Word of God.
  • Our Lord Jesus came down to this earth, took upon Himself our humanity, and was made in the likeness of a servant. He did all this because He loved us. He could have gone out free, but He died on the cross to provide salvation for us. He did this to establish a wonderful relationship for us and to make it possible for us to have fellowship with Him. He has become a slave because He loves us.
  • It is the Word of God that will keep the believer clean. And when we sin, how are we cleansed? “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Too many people treat sin as a light matter.
  • That is the amazing thing and the most wonderful thing in the world. God loves us! He loves you and me, not because we are worth loving, but He loves us in spite of the fact that we are absolutely, totally depraved. We belong to that kind of human race. If you deny that, look around you.
  • We are going to spend all eternity with Him. For those of us who love Him, the goal of our lives is to come to know Him.
  • The peace He is talking about here is not the peace of sins forgiven. This is the glorious, wonderful peace that comes to the heart of those who are fully yielded to the Lord Jesus Christ. It is the peace of heart and mind of those who are in the will of God.
  • In the Old Testament it is prophesied that the Lord Jesus would grow up before Him as a tender plant and as a root out of the dry ground. Think how often the Father intervened to save Jesus from the Devil who wished to slay Him. The Father is the One who cared for the Vine, and He will care for the branches, too.
  • There are tremendous words like propitiation, reconciliation, and redemption that cover particular phases of salvation, but the entire spectrum of salvation is in the phrase “in Christ.” There are only two groups of people: those who are in Christ and those who are not in Christ. How do you get “in Christ”? By the new birth.
  • This passage is directed to believers, to those who are already in Christ. Jesus is not talking about how a person gets saved. He is not actually talking about salvation at all in this passage. Rather, He is talking about fruit-bearing, and that is the next word we wish to mark. Fruit is mentioned six times in the first ten verses. We will find as we go further that there are three degrees of fruitbearing: fruit, more fruit, and much fruit. The whole theme here is fruit-bearing.
  • One of the reasons so many of God’s children get hurt by this method of pruning is that they get so far from God, so far out of fellowship. The closer we are to God, the less it will hurt.
  • The purging is accomplished by the Word of God. The cleansing power of the Word of God is a wonderful thing. We hear so much today about modern wash-day miracles, but I’ve never found them to be as miraculous as the claims made for them. The only true wash-day miracle is the cleansing power of the Word of God.
  • There are light views among believers today that you can live any kind of life so long as you are fundamental in your belief of salvation by the grace of God. Believe me, God uses the Word of God to reveal to us when we are not walking according to His will.
  • I don’t think that you will ever be clean before God if you don’t study the Word of God. I believe that the people who are really dangerous are the ones who are as active as termites in our churches but who are reluctant to study the Word of God. I consider them the most dangerous element against the Word of God and the cause of Christ in this world. My friend, we need to study the Word of God and apply it to our lives.
  • The professing church, instead of taking the position of Christ, has gone out into the world, boasting that they are going to convert the world. They, of course, haven’t done it in over nineteen hundred years. In their attempt they always try to popularize religion, make it very attractive to the world. You will find that today there are churches using all kinds of devices to attract the ungodly. Today music has come down to the level of the world. They say, “We have to do this to win the world.” Who told them they were going to win the world? I’m not talking about liberal churches now—they went off the track years ago—I am talking about fundamental churches. Today fundamental churches are going off the track. In them you will find enemies of the Word of God!
  • Friend, if you stand for the Word of God, you will find that the world won’t love you. You will experience the hatred that Christ experienced. “These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended.” He is warning them ahead of time in order to strengthen them and let them know what is coming. He loves them right on through to the very end, and He lets them know that He will be with them and that He understands what they are going through.
  • The Spirit of God wants to present evidence in your heart and in my heart to bring us to a place of conviction, and that, of course, means a place of decision. There must be a conviction before we can turn in faith and trust to Jesus Christ.
  • If you do not trust Him, you are lost. It is just as simple as that. It is just as important as that. This is a decision that every man must make. The man today, whoever he is, if he is rejecting Jesus Christ, is, in the sight of God, the greatest sinner.
  • We cannot stand in God’s presence if we are nothing more than pardoned criminals. Christ has made over to us His righteousness. That is the righteousness Paul spoke of: “… that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith” (Phil. 3:8–9). He not only subtracts our sin, but He adds His righteousness. If we are to have any standing before God, we must be in Christ and He is our righteousness. Either we have as much right in heaven as Christ Himself has, or we have no right there at all. He was delivered for our offenses, and He was raised again for our justification (righteousness).
  • My friend, you are not on trial. God has already declared you a lost sinner, and He has already judged you—“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:23). We live in a world that has already been judged and is like the man waiting in death row for his execution. The judgment against all of us is “Guilty” because all our own righteousnesses are as filthy rags in the sight of God. If we had to stand before God in our own filthy rags, we would not only be ashamed of ourselves, but we would also see how guilty we are.
  • Notice the seven steps that are here: (1) The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, has come; (2) He will guide you into all truth; (3) He will not speak of Himself; (4) He shall speak whatsoever He shall hear; (5) He will show you things to come; (6) He shall glorify Jesus; and (7) He shall receive of mine and show it unto you.
  • Jesus Christ was made sin for us, friend. There was a rent in the Godhead as well as a rent in the veil. Yet at that very moment, God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself.
  • It is the longest prayer in the Bible, although it would take you only three minutes to read it. I think that is a good indication of the length of public prayers. If you can’t say all you’ve got to say in three minutes, then you’ve got too much to say.
  • This is the prayer which John Knox read over and over in his lifetime. When he was on his deathbed, his wife asked him, “Where do you want me to read?” He replied, “Read where I first put my anchor down, in the seventeenth chapter of John.”
  • Every instrument should be tuned up before it is played. Before you and I begin to pray for others, we need to pray for ourselves. That is not selfishness; it is essential.
  • The church is God’s love gift to Jesus Christ. So He gives eternal life to as many “as thou hast given him.” This brings up the question of election and free will, and I don’t want to go into that extensively. There are extreme Calvinists and extreme Arminians, and the truth is probably somewhere between the two.
  • If God would somehow reveal to me who are the elect ones, I would give the gospel only to them. But God does not do this. He has said that whosoever will may come. That is a legitimate offer to every person. You have no excuse to offer at all if you will not come to Him. It will be your condemnation that you turned down the offer that God has made to you.
  • Does election shut out certain people? No. Life eternal is to know the only true God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent. Do you have a desire to know the true God and Jesus Christ? Then you are not shut out. You must be one of the elect. He gives eternal life to those who have heard the call and have responded down in their hearts. They have come to Christ of their own free will.
  • Future tense for God is just as accurate as past tense.
  • The reason we know so little about election is because it is God’s side, and there are a lot of things that God knows that we don’t know.
  • Jesus Christ does not pray for the world today. His ministry of intercession is for His own who are in the world. He doesn’t pray for the world; He died for the world. What more could He do for the world? He has sent the Holy Spirit into the world to convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment. Jesus Christ prays for His own.
  • The Word of God causes problems in the world today. The Bible is the most revolutionary Book in the world. It is revolutionary to teach that you cannot save yourself, that only Christ can save you. And you can’t make this world better. Only Jesus Christ can do that. That’s revolutionary, and the world doesn’t want to hear that. They’d rather plant a few flowers and try to clean up pollution. The problem is that the pollution is in the human heart.
  • “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Even in this dark hour when He was yielding Himself as the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world, He revealed His deity—and they fell backwards! He revealed to these men that He was absolutely in charge, and they could not arrest Him without His permission. They didn’t fall forward to worship Him. They fell backward in fear and in absolute dismay.
  • They are seeking Jesus of Nazareth. Well, here He is, but He is the Lord of glory. My friend, whom do you see? Do you know who He is? The unsaved man doesn’t know Him. People may even read the Bible and be very religious and very moral and not see that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ, the Son of the living God.
  • “My kingdom is not of this world.” The preposition is the Greek ek, meaning “out of.” Literally, He said “My kingdom is out of this world.” He is not saying that His kingdom is not going to be on this earth someday, as He is going to rule as King of kings and Lord of lords and “… the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea” (Isa. 11:9). But His kingdom is not going to be of this world system. It will not be a power structure built on politics. It will not come through worldly measures. Jesus will not be elected King by either the Democrats or the Republicans or by the United Nations. It is not going to be built by war and turmoil and hatred and bitterness.
  • From the standpoint of God, the cross is a propitiation. It is the mercy seat where God can extend mercy to you and to me. It is the place where full satisfaction was made, so that a holy, righteous God can reach down and save sinners. The very throne of God, the place of judgment, is transformed into the place of mercy where you and I can find mercy instead of the judgment we deserve. Jesus Christ bore our guilt, and God is satisfied.
  • From the standpoint of the Lord Jesus, it is a sacrifice. He is the Savior, and He makes Himself an offering for sin. He is a sweet-smelling savor to God. It is also an act of obedience for Him. Paul tells us in Philippians 2:8 that he became obedient to death, even the death of the cross.
  • From the standpoint of you and me, believers in Christ Jesus, it was a substitution. He took my place and He took your place. He was the sinless One suffering for the sinner. He was the just One suffering for the unjust. “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed” (1 Pet. 2:24).
  • From the standpoint of Satan, it was a triumph and also a defeat. It was a triumph for Satan to bruise the heel of the woman’s seed as had been foretold way back in Genesis 3. It was a defeat because the head of Satan is yet to be crushed: “… that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Heb. 2:14).
  • From the standpoint of the world, the cross is nothing but a brutal murder.
  • There are a great many of us today who read the Bible but still do not know certain scriptures. I believe there are two reasons for this. One is that we may read a passage many times and each time see things in the passage that we have never seen before. The Holy Spirit gives us further light as we study and read the passages over and over again. Also I believe that we must experience some of the scriptures to understand their meaning. The trials and sufferings and experiences of life explain their meaning to us.
  • What is it that forgives sins? Even God cannot just arbitrarily forgive sins. Forgiveness of sins is only and alone through the blood of Jesus Christ. Back in the Old Testament, the forgiveness of sins was based on the fact that Christ would come and die. God saved “on credit” in the Old Testament until Christ would come and pay the penalty. Today God forgives our sins when we believe that Christ died for them.
  • We have the only thing that will bring forgiveness to the world. It is the gospel of Jesus Christ. My friend, what are you doing?
  • “Come and dine”—what an invitation! Jesus did say, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel” (see Mark 16:15), but He would rather you would come and have breakfast with Him before you go. The lovely part is that the resurrected Lord, God Himself, feeds them. If only we would sit today and let Him feed us! He wants to feed His own.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

73. John 1-10 (Thru the Bible #38)

Thru the Bible #38: John 1-10. J. Vernon McGee. 1995. 180 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: It is generally assumed that the Gospel of John is easy to understand. Often you hear the cliche, “The Gospel of John is the simple gospel.” And the simplicity of the language has deceived a great many folk.

I am reading the Bible in 2020 using the daily M'Cheyne (Robert Murray M'Cheyne) plan. I thought it would add a layer of substance to in addition to the four chapters a day, to also read commentaries for those chapters. For that I am using Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible. But the plan goes through the New Testament (and Psalms, I believe) twice. So now that I've finished Henry's commentary for the New Testament, I am tackling the New Testament commentary section of J. Vernon McGee's series.

This is not my first time reading J. Vernon McGee. I've read probably twenty or so of his commentaries. (Most recently his volume on 1 Corinthians.) I honestly can't recall if I've read his volume on the Gospel of John before. 

Overall, I like his laidback, casual, straightforward, tell it like it is approach to teaching Scripture. There is something so grounded and down to earth about him. Each reader is "his" friend. It's hard not to feel like he is a friend too.

One of the things that I love about McGee's commentaries is that he just speaks timeless truths. He almost always leaves me thinking!!! IF I was reading this in a traditional book format, I would probably find myself underlining, putting stars, putting exclamation points, and a couple of AMENS. (With only a few question marks or zahs thrown in.)

  • We will never grow spiritually by singing “O Little Town of Bethlehem” umpteen times at Christmas. John won’t take us to Bethlehem because he wants you and me to grow as believers.
  • John takes us down the silent corridors of eternity, through the vast emptiness of space, to a beginning that is not a beginning at all. “In the beginning was the Word” (John 1:1).
  • The Christian who has come to a knowledge of Christ and faith in Him doesn’t need to have the Virgin Birth gone over again; he already believes that. Therefore, when he comes to the Gospel of John, he finds sheer delight and joy unspeakable as he reads and studies it.
  • The Gospel of John is for those who already believe. When you come to chapters thirteen through seventeen you can write a sign over it, For Believers Only and you could put under that, All Others Stay Out. I don’t think that section was ever meant for an unbeliever.
  • Man does not know God; man is in rebellion against God; man is in sin that blinds him to God. In the Lord Jesus Christ there is life, and the life that He gives is the light of men. In fact, His life is the only thing that can kindle light in the heart of an individual. An unregenerate man has no spiritual life within him. This is the reason that when you present to him Jesus Christ, he says, “I don’t get it. I don’t understand that at all.”
  • A great many people do not seem to recognize that unbelief and atheism go naturally with the natural man.
  • Obviously atheism precludes the possibility of being Christian, yet unbelief has moved into our seminaries and pulpits across the land. The world does not know Him.
  • Some people treat the church and the cause of Christ as something so cheap that at times it becomes necessary to sound an alarm.
  • There are two things that we need to note here. One is that we must be born again. The other is that the Son of Man must be lifted up. They are related. It takes the death of Christ and the resurrection of Christ—He must be lifted up. Since He has been lifted up, since He bore our penalty, the Spirit of God can regenerate us. And we must be born again—that is the only way God can receive us.
  • It doesn’t say that God’s love saved the world, because the love of God could never save a sinner. God does not save by love, friends. God saves by grace! “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:8–9).
  • But God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever (you can write your name in here and I can write mine) believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. Notice that with the word believe is the little preposition in which means to believe in Christ. That is, we trust Him as the One who bore the penalty for our sins. This is a personal thing. We must each believe that He died in our place and in our stead. My friend, you must believe that He died for you.
  • The world is lost. You and I live in a lost world, and we’ll not wait until the final judgment to see that we are lost. Our position is something like a man who is in prison being asked whether or not he will accept a pardon. That is the gospel. It is not telling a man that he is on trial. He is already condemned. He is already in prison waiting for execution. But the gospel tells him a pardon is offered to him.
  • You can influence someone that no preacher can reach. In fact, nobody else can reach that individual but you. You have that influence over that individual. Be very sure that you bring him face to face with Christ.
  • Although I don’t find Him on every page, I believe He is on every page of the Pentateuch. He says, “Moses … wrote of me.” I think He is on every page of the Bible.
  • Friend, the mission of Jesus was not to restore our physical bodies. He wants to be Lord of our hearts.
  • Man has always felt that if he could just work at it, he could be saved. Man feels thoroughly capable of working out his own salvation. He feels competent to do it, and he feels that God must accept his works.
  • There is a theological argument that rages today on election or free will. There are some people who put all their eggs in the basket of election. There are others who put all their eggs in the basket of free will. I’m not proposing to reconcile the two because I have discovered that I cannot.
  • Election and free will are both in this verse. “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me” states a truth, and that is election. But wait a minute! “And him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” is also true, and “him that cometh to me” is free will. I don’t know how to reconcile them, but they are both true.
  • The Father gives men to Christ, but men have to come. And the ones that come are the ones, apparently, whom the Father gives to Him. You and I are down here, and we don’t see into the machinery of heaven.
  • We have the right to be the judge of others provided we meet the requirement. That requirement is sinlessness. May I say to you, my friend, I don’t know about you, but that takes me out of the stone-throwing business.
  • One is not lost because he is a murderer, or a liar, or a thief, or an adulterer, or because he has borne false witness or committed other sins. A person does these things because he is lost and does not believe in Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ forgives sins. He is the Savior. He died for the sins of the whole world. Any person who comes to the Lord Jesus Christ is forgiven.
  • The truth shall make you free. The truth is that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world. He is the Truth. First we come to Him as our Savior. Then as we go on with Him, we know by experience that we are free. We are free from the penalty of sin—we don’t need to lie awake at night worrying about going to hell. He doesn’t even ask us to live the Christian life. He asks us to trust Him and let Him live His life through us. When we yield to Him, we are free.
  • It is our responsibility to get out the Word of God, and there our responsibility ends. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to open the heart of the listener and cause him to obey the Word. We should present the Light of the World to people, but the Holy Spirit must open the eyes.
  • It may be true that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, but after a man is sick, it’s pretty important to get that pound of cure for him.
  • God has created you and me for His glory. He did not create us that we might try to be a somebody down here. He created us for His glory. If we miss that, we miss the entire purpose of our creation.
  • Unless the Son of God, by means of the Holy Spirit, opens our eyes so that we can see spiritual things, we will remain blind as bats.
  • It is the most wonderful thing in the world to know that, when we give out the Word of God, Jesus is calling His sheep. The Spirit of God is the Porter who does the opening, and the sheep will hear. Our Lord will lead His sheep out of a legal system, perhaps even out of a church where they’re not being fed. They will follow Him. You cannot permanently fool God’s sheep.
  • I believe that you can fool some of God’s people some of the time, but I don’t think you can fool God’s people all the time. For a time, God’s sheep may think they hear Him but eventually discover that it is not His voice. Then they will turn to the teaching of the Word of God because they know their Shepherd.
  • Wherever we find people who are eager for the Word of God, we know they are His sheep.
  • The Lord Jesus Christ has a threefold relationship to this flock which is known as His church. First of all He is the Good Shepherd, and He defines the Good Shepherd in verse 11: “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.” Then He is the Great Shepherd, for we read in the magnificent benediction given in Hebrews 13:20: “Now the God of peace, who brought again from the dead the great shepherd of the sheep with the blood of an eternal covenant, even our Lord Jesus, make you perfect in every good thing to do his will …” (ASV). So today He is the Great Shepherd of the sheep, as seen in Psalm 23. But wait, that does not give the total picture. He is also the Chief Shepherd. This speaks of the future.
  • Modern cult leaders actually get rich off the people. In contrast to this, the Good Shepherd gives His life for the sheep, and He protects His own.
  • Friend, when He gives to them eternal life, that means they don’t earn it and they don’t work for it. He gives it to them. Note that it is eternal life. It is forever. If it plays out in a week, or in a year, or until they sin, then it is not eternal life after all. They are not really His sheep if the life does not last forever.
  • When I say to you that He gives me eternal life and I shall never perish, you may accuse me of bragging. No, my friend, I am not bragging on myself; I’m bragging about my Shepherd. I have a wonderful Shepherd. He won’t lose any of His sheep. If He starts with one hundred, He will not end with ninety-nine. If one gets lost, He will go out and find it. None will be lost.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

72. How To Eat Your Bible

How To Eat Your Bible: A Simple Approach to Learning and Loving the Word of God. Nate Pickowicz. 2021. [January] Moody Publishers. 144 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence from the introduction: I’m writing this book to myself. Well, actually, it’s for you, but I can’t help wondering whether you and I may have had a similar experience.

This short little book focuses on the Word of God. Why should Christians read the Bible? How often should Christians read the Bible? How should Christians approach Bible reading? What steps are necessary or important? (Namely prayer and actually doing it.) 

The reader Pickowicz has in mind is a reluctant reader who feels slightly bad about approaching the Word of God reluctantly and inconsistently. This reader is essentially unfamiliar with the Word of God and lacks desire to be fed by the Word of God. 

I believe his goal is to get that reluctant, inconsistent reader to get excited and prayerful about actually reading the Word of God and living by it. He encourages the reader often to pray, pray, pray, pray. Pray for God to place the desire within your heart. Pray for God to open your eyes, your heart, your mind. Pray for God to transform you through the reading of the Word. Pray for God to use your time in the Word beneficially. Pray against temptations that distract and negate. 

He specifically is encouraging readers to take a different approach to reading the Bible. Instead of encouraging readers to read through the Bible in a year or two or three in its entirety. He is encouraging his reluctant, inconsistent readers to approach Bible reading the John MacArthur way. That is to read each book of the New Testament through thirty times in a row. Shorter books get a month. Longer books are broken into sections and tackled over multiple months. (For example, three months for the book of Romans.) He deviates from MacArthur's advice to read through the Old Testament once each year. He instead feels that readers should commit to reading each book through fifteen times in a row. (Half of what he encourages for the New Testament.) Again shorter books are given their own time. But longer books are broken into segments. One clarification: MacArthur emphasizes 30 days--roughly a month. Pickowicz emphasizes thirty readings. So if you wanted to read Galatians once in the morning and once in the evening--one could finish it in fifteen days instead of thirty. It is the number of times through a book that matters to Pickowicz. 

So he's devised--loosely somewhat--a seven year Bible reading plan. 

My thoughts...I do have them! Let's see. I like the idea of including the Old Testament in this in-depth study. I myself have done this with Psalms. I read 30 days of book one of Psalms, 30 days of book two of Psalms, 30 days of book three of Psalms, 30 days of book four of Psalms, 30 days of book five of Psalms. It was incredible, wonderful, nourishing. I highly recommend it if you get the chance. There are other books I'd love to approach this way. (Though notably not Proverbs. But Isaiah 40-66 comes to mind!) 

But. I am not Pickowicz's envisioned reader. I am not reluctant to read the Bible. Nor am I reluctant to read in general. You don't have to really do much to get me to set aside time to read. Being completely honest, I am not inconsistent now. Though the me of twenty years ago was inconsistent--very. I was either all hot or all cold. 

I am slightly unsure how someone completely and totally new to the Bible--who doesn't really have an idea of the big picture or how the narrative fits together or how books relate to one another or a foundational grounding of key essential doctrines of the faith--would handle being thrown right into possibly one of the hardest ways (but most thorough and no-nonsense) to get to know the Bible. 30 days or 30 readings of the same book. He encourages reading the whole New Testament first. Is this perhaps disconnecting the New Testament from the Old Testament a little too much at the beginning of the program??? Maybe. Maybe not. I can't imagine reading Hebrews for 30 or 60 or even 90 days without ever having read the Old Testament. The New Testament is built on the Old. 

I love the idea of people actually reading the New Testament books that intensely and frequently. But I am leaning more towards MacArthur's the Old Testament needs to be being read throughout the year too. (Just like I would encourage readers who actually implement Picowicz's plan to read through the New Testament each year that they study the Old Testament books.) I can't imagine going four years without reading the New Testament!!! (Nor can I imagine going three years without reading the Old Testament.)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

7. The One Year Chronological Bible (NLT)

The One Year Chronological Bible. (NLT) Tyndale. 2007. 1728 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

This is the second chronological Bible I've read in 2020. (Earlier in the year I read and reviewed the CSB Day by Day Bible.) I picked up this paperback Bible at a friends of the library sale in 2019 for $1. It was definitely worth a $1. I'd even say it was worth $3 or $4. 

It is the New Living Translation--the New New Living Translation, aka the updated New Living Translation. Readings are arranged into daily-sized portions and arranged chronologically. 

The New Living Translation is not my favorite or best. It is way, way, way better than say The Message. But it isn't really a Bible I would seek out and read for my main Bible, my daily Bible. I like translations that are a bit more formal. (Does that make sense?) That being said, it is refreshing to read the New Testament letters and not have to spend every second decoding meaning. 

I have about decided that maybe chronologically arranged Bibles aren't quite my thing. I don't mind reading chronologically if it can be done in whole book chunks. Or perhaps large-ish sections of text. But the choppity-chop-chop-chopping of books I found tedious. I also found it frustrating that it would start/stop books in an irritating fashion. 

I started this one on July 21, 2020 and finished on September 15, 2020. 

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible