Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Book Review: Echoes of Exodus

Echoes of Exodus: Tracing Themes of Redemption Through Scripture. Alastair J. Roberts and Andrew P. Wilson. 2018. Crossway. 176 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: The exodus is central to the Scriptures, central to the gospel, and central to the Christian life. Whatever book of the Bible you are reading, and whichever Christian practices you are involved in, echoes of the exodus are in there somewhere.

In Echoes of Exodus, the authors argue that the themes of exodus--of deliverance--are to be found in every book of the Bible. The Bible tells a cohesive story of a God who saves, who rescues, who redeems, who restores, who fulfills, who blesses, who loves.

The approach they take to illustrating this is unique. It is a musical approach. They write,
"Scripture is music. We use musical metaphors all the time when we talk about the Scriptures, without even thinking about it. We might describe the Bible as a symphony or a love song. We might refer to the opening of Genesis as an overture or to Revelation as a finale. We might talk about the story being composed or perhaps orchestrated by God, with themes and rhythms and echoes running through it, all building to a crescendo. If we are handling some of the difficult sections, we might say that there is a clash here or a discordant note there, but that there is always, ultimately, a harmony within the Word of God, and therefore that we can expect things to resolve....A musical approach to Scripture encompasses a number of aspects, each of which can help us see Scripture in a fresh light. One, which we have already mentioned, involves the language of tension and resolution...The Bible has a clear storyline, a melody, a tune, and it can be summarized (or sung) by a small child. It also has a range of individual and corporate stories that run together, sometimes taking center stage, sometimes fading into the background, providing harmony and counterpoint, treble and bass, height and depth, in such a way that no single writer (or musician) could possibly represent it all."
The book begins with a discussion of Exodus, of Passover. The book then journeys on through the rest of the Bible going back to Genesis and finally concluding in Revelation.

I would definitely recommend this one! I found it very relevant. Like the authors I agree that modern society is confused about what freedom really is.

Here are some of my favorite quotes:
Escaping from Egypt is only the first half of the exodus. It is easy for us to forget this, in an age where freedom is understood as merely being freedom from: from oppression, from constraint, or whatever. This aspect of liberation, as wonderful as it is, is only half the deal. In the Scriptures, more emphasis is placed on the freedom for: for worship, for flourishing, for growth in obedience and joy and glory. Human beings are not designed to be free from all constraint, slaves to nothing but our own passions, triumphantly enthroned as our own masters, even our own gods. 
The freest people in the world are those who are owned by someone else. Service is liberty. Obedience is joy. 
The greatest threats to true freedom, it seems, do not come from external oppression but from within. Delivering Israel from slavery to Pharaoh took only ten plagues; delivering Israel from slavery to self, sin, sex, greed, and idolatry took ten commandments and ten separate trials and corresponding judgments (Num. 14:22), and ended up with an entire generation dying in the wilderness—and even then, the problems persisted. True slavery is captivity of the soul, not just the body. Until a nation or a person is freed from that, and free to become what they were originally intended to be, their exodus is incomplete. 
It can be hard to tell the difference between an exodus and an exile, especially when you’re in the middle of one.
One summary we hardly ever use, but which appears in Paul’s writings all the time—even when he is primarily talking about something else—goes something like this: We were slaves. We were slaves to sin, death, fear, the flesh, and the Devil. But at just the right time, God rescued us. He defeated our enemy and redeemed us through the blood of his Son, taking us through the waters of baptism, uniting us to himself, giving us his Spirit to lead us and guide us, and providing us with all we need. He did all this, not so that we could do our own thing, but so that we could do his thing. And he is taking us on toward a new creation of resurrection and victory, milk and honey. In other words: Paul’s gospel is an exodus.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Week in Review: March 4-10


  • 2 Chronicles
  • Ezra
  • Nehemiah
  • Esther
  • Job
  • Isaiah 1-48
  • Ephesians
  • Philippians
  • Colossians
  • 1 Thessalonians
  • 2 Thessalonians
  • 1 Peter
  • 2 Peter

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Saturday, March 10, 2018

My Victorian Year #10

This week I'll be sharing quotes from Charles Spurgeon's Morning and Evening and J.C. Ryle's Old Paths.

Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon

  • God’s grace is illustrated and magnified—in the troubles and trials of believers. Saints bear up under every discouragement, believing that all things work together for their good—and that out of apparent evils—a real blessing shall ultimately spring!
  • They believe that their God will either work a deliverance for them speedily, or most assuredly support them in the trouble, as long as He is pleased to keep them in it. This patience of the saints proves the power of divine grace.
  • If then, yours is a much-tried path, rejoice in it, because you will the better show forth the all-sufficient grace of God.
  • Think how much grace one Christian requires—so much that nothing but the Infinite could supply him for one day! And yet the Lord spreads His table, not for one—but many saints; not for one day—but for many years; not for many years only—but for generation after generation!
  • Christians who isolate themselves and walk alone—are very liable to grow drowsy. Hold Christian company, and you will be kept wakeful by it, and refreshed and encouraged to make quicker progress in the road to heaven.
  • Regeneration is a subject which lies at the very basis of salvation, and we should be very diligent to take heed that we really are “born again,” for there are many who imagine they are, who are not.
  • To wash and dress a corpse is a far different thing from making it alive! Man can do the one—God alone can do the other.
  • If you cannot trust God for temporal needs—how dare you trust Him for spiritual needs? Can you trust Him for your soul’s redemption, and not rely upon Him for a few lesser mercies? Is not God enough for your needs—or is His all-sufficiency too narrow for your needs?
  • Trials are a part of our lot; they were predestinated for us in Christ’s last legacy, “In this world you will have trouble.” John 16:33. So surely as the stars are fashioned by his hands, and their orbits fixed by Him, so surely are our trials allotted to us! He has ordained their season and their place, their intensity and the effect they shall have upon us.
  • It is well for us if, while the flesh mourns over trials—that our faith triumphs in divine faithfulness.
  • When death itself appears, faith points to the light of resurrection beyond the grave—thus making our dying Benoni to be our living Benjamin!
  • Live near to Jesus, Christian, and it is matter of secondary importance whether you live on the mountain of honor—or in the valley of humiliation.
  • If we would remember that all the trees of earth are marked for the woodman’s axe, we would not be so ready to build our nests in them. We would love others—but we would love with the love which expects death, and which reckons upon separations.

Last week, I thought I was sharing quotes from all of chapter one...but it was only the first half of chapter one! I've read several chapters this week. But I'll content myself to just finish sharing quotes from chapter one.
The view which I maintain is that every book, and chapter, and verse, and syllable of the Bible was originally given by inspiration of God. I hold that not only the substance of the Bible, but its language,--not only the ideas of the Bible, but its words,--not only certain parts of the Bible, but every chapter of the book,--that all and each are of Divine authority. I hold that the Scripture not only contains the Word of God, but is the Word of God.
I believe the narratives and statements of Genesis, and the catalogues in Chronicles, were just as truly written by inspiration as the Acts of the Apostles. I believe Ezra’s account of the nine-and-twenty knives, and St. Paul’s message about the cloak and parchments, were as much written under Divine direction as the 20th of Exodus, the 17th of John, or the 8th of Romans.
The inspiration of every word, for which I contend, is the inspiration of every original Hebrew and Greek word, as the Bible writers first wrote it down.
I cannot see how the Bible can be a perfect rule of faith and practice if it is not fully inspired, and if it contains any flaws and imperfections. 
If the Bible is anything at all it is the statute-book of God’s kingdom,--the code of laws and regulations by which the subjects of that kingdom are to live,--the register-deed of the terms on which they have peace now and shall have glory hereafter.
Where is the use of choosing a text and making it the subject of a pulpit address, if we do not believe that every word of the text is inspired? Once let our hearers get hold of the idea that the writers of the Bible could make mistakes in the particular words they used, and they will care little for any reproofs, or exhortations, or remarks which are based on words.
The denial of verbal inspiration appears to me to destroy a great part of the usefulness of the Bible as a source of comfort and instruction in private reading.
Is the Bible the Word of God? Then mind that you do not neglect it. Read it: read it! Begin to read it this very day. What greater insult to God can a man be guilty of than to refuse to read the letter God sends him from heaven? Oh, be sure, if you will not read your Bible, you are in fearful danger of losing your soul!
You are in danger, because God will reckon with you for your neglect of the Bible in the day of judgment. You will have to give account of your use of time, strength, and money; and you will also have to give account of your use of the Word. 
Of all men’s buried talents, none will weigh them down so heavily as a neglected Bible. As you deal with the Bible, so God will deal with your soul.
You are in danger, because there is no degree of error in religion into which you may not fall. A land of unwalled villages is not more defenceless against an enemy than a man who neglects his Bible. You may go on tumbling from one step of delusion to another, till at length you are landed in the pit of hell I say once more, Will you not repent and read your Bible?
 You are in danger, because there is not a single reasonable excuse you can allege for neglecting the Bible. You have no time to read it forsooth! But you can make time for eating, drinking, sleeping, getting money and spending money, and perhaps for newspaper reading and smoking. You might easily make time to read the Word.
Alas, it is not want of time, but waste of time that ruins souls!--You find it too troublesome to read, forsooth! You had better say at once it is too much trouble to go to heaven, and you are content to go to hell.
Is the Bible the Word of God? Then be sure you always read it with deep reverence. Say to your soul, whenever you open the Bible, “O my soul, thou art going to read a message from God.”
Is the Bible the Word of God? Then be sure you never read it without fervent prayer for the help and teaching of the Holy Spirit. Here is the rock on which many make shipwreck. They do not ask for wisdom and instruction, and so they find the Bible dark, and carry nothing away from it. You should pray for the Spirit to guide you into all truth.
The Bible is a large book or a small one, a dark or a bright one, according to the spirit in which men read it.
Finally, is the Bible the Word of God? Then let us all resolve from this day forward to prize the Bible more. Let us not fear being idolaters of this blessed book.
Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter. God has given us the Bible to be a light to guide us to everlasting life. Let us not neglect this precious gift. Let us read it diligently, walk in its light, and we shall be saved.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, March 9, 2018

Book Review: Phoebe's Light

Phoebe's Light. (Nantucket Legacy #1) Suzanne Woods Fisher. 2018. Revell. 345 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Phoebe Starbuck flung back the worn quilt, leapt out of bed, and hurried to the window.

Premise/plot: Phoebe Starbuck finds herself learning things the hard way despite receiving her great-grandmother's journal as a birthday gift. The novel--the first in a series--is set in a whaling community of Nantucket in 1767. Her father is one of the few men not directly or indirectly in the whaling business. That plus his financial woes leave the pair on the fringes of society. Phoebe has ambitions, and those ambitions lead her to give her heart away to Captain Phineas Foulger. The captain will have readers booing and hissing from the start. But Phoebe is stubborn. Will she live long enough to see the errors of her ways?

My thoughts: I enjoyed this one. I didn't love, love, love it like I have some of Fisher's other novels. But I enjoyed it. There are two narratives within the book. The "current" story of 1767 starring Phoebe, Matthew,  and Captain Foulger, etc. And the "past" story set in the 1650s and 1660s starring the original community of settlers. At first I struggled to get into the journal aspect of the story--perhaps because of the font. But by the end I was invested in both stories.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Book Review: 5 Things Every Christian Needs to Grow

Five Things Every Christian Needs To Grow. R.C. Sproul. 2002/2008. Reformation Trust. 135 pages. [Source: Free Download? Bought?]

First sentence: It is a worldwide phenomenon. Every four years, the world pauses and holds its collective breath while the Olympic Games take place.

Premise/plot: The Christian life is a disciplined life. Sproul writes, "like Olympic athletes, Christians are called upon to train, to make sacrifices, and to embrace certain disciplines in order to give God "our utmost for His highest." This book deals with five of those disciplines: Bible study, prayer, worship, service, and stewardship." There is a chapter dedicated to each discipline or grace. Through the disciplines, grace flows and abounds.

My thoughts: This is a solidly biblical book.

I enjoy spending time with R.C. Sproul. It is good for my soul. I enjoy his stories. For example, "As a new Christian I was infatuated with Scripture. I wanted to spend almost every waking moment reading it. As a result, I made the dean's list in my first semester of college. It was not the list of academic achievement, however; it was the list of students placed on academic probation." OR "At seminars, I often ask for a show of hands indicating ing how many people have read the entire Bible. Rarely do even 50 percent of the people answer "yes." I ask, "How many of you have read the book of Genesis?" Almost everyone raises his hand. Then I say, "Keep your hand up if you've also read Exodus." Only a few hands are lowered. "Leviticus?" That's when hands start dropping quickly. With Numbers it's even worse."

I enjoy his practical teaching. For example, "I suggest that you put a question mark in the margin beside every passage that you find unclear or hard to understand. Likewise, put an X beside every passage that offends you or makes you uncomfortable. Afterward, you can focus on the areas you struggle with, especially the texts marked with an X. This can be a guide to holiness, as the Xs show us quickly where our thinking is out of line with the mind of Christ." Further: "If I don't like something I read in Scripture, perhaps I simply don't understand it. If so, studying it again may help. If, in fact, I do understand the passage and still don't like it, this is not an indication there is something wrong with the Bible. It's an indication that something is wrong with me, something that needs to change. Often, before we can get something right, we need to first discover what we're doing wrong."

I enjoy his honesty. "I don't think there is any area of the Christian life in which people are more weighed down by guilt than in the area of their prayer lives. Most Christians will readily confess that their prayer lives are not what they should be. And one major reason for this problem is that Christians don't really know how to pray effectively." Another favorite of mine is, "I hear people say, "Doctrine divides." Of course doctrine divides, but it also unites. It unites the ones who love God's truth and are willing to worship Him according to that truth. God wants people to worship Him from the heart and from a mind that is informed of who He is by His Word."

His works are full of gems and insights. For example, "I think one of the reasons many Christians never get to the meat of the Word but remain at the milk level is because they never really learned how to drink the milk."

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Book Review: Faith Alone

Faith Alone: The Doctrine of Justification. Thomas R. Schreiner. 2015. 284 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: One of the five rallying cries of the Reformation was the statement that we are saved by faith alone — ​sola fide! These words declared that salvation does not come from looking at our own works of righteousness, but from looking outside ourselves to another, to the person and work of Jesus Christ. This statement grew out of a desire to return to the biblical text and to the teachings of the early church fathers, a cry to reform the church and return it to biblical orthodoxy. I believe that the Reformation cry of sola fide should continue to be taught and treasured today because it summarizes biblical teaching, and God’s Word never loses its transforming power. The Word of God speaks in every era and in every place.

Premise/plot: Faith Alone is the first in a five-book-series celebrating the Protestant Reformation. Each book has a different author. Faith Alone is by Thomas R. Schreiner. In his own words: "In this book I attempt to tour the historical teaching of the church, explain the scriptural teaching on justification, and provide some sense of contemporary relevance." The book is divided into three sections: "A Historical Tour of Sola Fide," "A Biblical and Theological Tour of Sola Fide," and "Contemporary Challenges to Sola Fide."

My thoughts: I'll start with the good news. Each chapter has a clear-and-obvious introduction and conclusion. He tells you exactly what the chapter will be about at the beginning. At the end, he sums the chapter up tidily reminding you exactly what his points were.

Unfortunately, the introductions and conclusions were the only parts that I was able to grasp. It wasn't the subject matter that made it dense and hard to read. It wasn't. The subject can--and often is--presented in a way that is for everyone. There are books on the subject that feel almost like a devotional because they are packed with rich insights and shining gospel truths. There are books on the subject that can lift the weight of the world off your shoulders. There is something liberating and freeing and GLORIOUS and WONDERFUL on the subject of justification by faith alone. It wasn't the subject. It was the style.

I was not the right audience for this book...apparently.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, March 5, 2018

Book Review: The Gospel According to God

The Gospel According to God: Rediscovering the Most Remarkable Chapter in the Old Testament. John F. MacArthur. 2018. Crossway. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: This is one of the chapters that lie at the very heart of the Scriptures. It is the very Holy of holies of Divine Writ. Let us, therefore, put off our shoes from our feet, for the place whereon we stand is specially holy ground. This fifty-third of Isaiah is a Bible in miniature. It is the condensed essence of the gospel. Charles Spurgeon

I love that MacArthur begins the book--begins most chapters of his book--with a quote by Charles Spurgeon.

The Gospel According to God is a study of Isaiah 52:13-53:12. The book is divided into two sections. The first section--the majority of the book--walks readers verse by verse through this chapter. The second chapter--just two chapters--is about the life and times of the prophet Isaiah.

MacArthur writes, "The book of Isaiah is sometimes called the “fifth Gospel.” It’s really more than that. It contains in microcosm the whole range of redemptive truth. It is like a miniature compendium of the Bible. In fact, there are some interesting parallels between how the book of Isaiah is laid out and the arrangement of the Bible as a whole." He continues, "No text in the entire Old Testament is more momentous than Isaiah 52:13–53:12. It is a prophecy that begins and ends with the voice of Yahweh himself."
Isaiah 53 is so replete with gospel truth that those who see the passage for the first time might well think they are reading the New Testament. Jewish people whose exposure to the Scripture is limited to texts that are read aloud in their synagogues each week will be completely unfamiliar with Isaiah 53. The entire passage is always omitted from the scheduled public readings.Every Sabbath in every synagogue worldwide, two portions of Scripture are prescribed to be read aloud—one from the Pentateuch (the Torah), and the other (the haftarah) a selection of texts drawn from the prophets. The same schedule of readings is followed in all synagogues, year after year. Over a year’s time, the rotation covers every verse of the Torah in canonical order. But the haftarah readings are more selective. One of the featured haftarah excerpts is Isaiah 51:12–52:12. The next reading in the cycle is Isaiah 54:1–10. Isaiah 52:13—53:12 is therefore never read publicly in the synagogues. As a result, Isaiah 53 is an unfamiliar passage for multitudes of devout Jewish people.
MacArthur's book is an exposition of Isaiah 53--verse by verse. It is also a reminder of what the gospel is and what the gospel isn't. Do we as individuals get to determine what the gospel is and isn't? Or is the Bible emphatic and clear?! Do we get to change and modify the gospel to suit or needs? Or is the Bible calling us to change and be changed by the gospel, through the gospel?!

MacArthur's book challenged me to think of Isaiah 53 in a new way. I had always thought of it in a simplistic way: Look, Isaiah is prophesying about Jesus! Jesus came and fulfilled this prophecy! The end. MacArthur writes,
"Don’t miss this fact: the prophet is describing the sacrifice of the suffering servant from a vantage point that looks back from a time still in the future even now. He is seeing the cross from a prophetic perspective near the end of human history. He is prophesying the collective response of the Jewish people when they finally see, understand, and believe that the one they rejected truly is the promised Messiah. Isaiah is standing prophetically on that very day, near the end of human history, literally thousands of years after Jesus was crucified. He therefore speaks of Christ’s death on the cross as a past event. That explains why all the verbs in chapter 53 from verse 1 through the first part of verse 10 are in the past tense. In other words, we need to understand this passage not merely as a description of the crucifixion per se; it is literally the lament of repentant Israel at a future time when the Jewish people will look back on the Messiah whom they had for so long rejected, and they will finally embrace him as their Lord and King. Isaiah 53 gives voice prophetically to the dramatic confession of faith that the believing remnant of Israel will make at that time."
He continues, "It is a significant moment in the yet-future final act of the story of redemption. The only worldwide ethnic community that will ever turn to Christ in multitudes together as a group will be Israel. And when they do so, the words of Isaiah 53 will be their confession."

I definitely enjoyed reading this one.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible