Monday, January 22, 2018

True or False With the Victorians #1 (J.C. Ryle)

TRUE OR FALSE The moment we depart from "God's written Word," in considering eternity and the future state of man, we are likely to fall into error.

TRUE OR FALSE The noblest thoughts about God which we have a right to hold are the thoughts which He has been pleased to reveal to us in His "written Word."

TRUE OR FALSE We are all going towards a world where everything is eternal. Whatever there is beyond the tomb, when the last trumpet has sounded, and the dead are raised, will be endless, everlasting, and eternal.

TRUE OR FALSE The future happiness of those who are saved is eternal.

TRUE OR FALSE The future misery of those who are finally lost is eternal.

TRUE OR FALSE If the joy of the believer is forever, the sorrow of the unbeliever is also forever. If Heaven is eternal, so likewise is hell.

TRUE OR FALSE If a man may escape eternal punishment at last, without faith in the blood of Christ or sanctification of the Spirit, sin is no longer an infinite evil, and there was no need for Christ making an atonement.

TRUE OR FALSE Every blow struck at the eternity of punishment is an equally heavy blow at the eternity of reward. Every attack on the duration of hell is also an attack on the duration of heaven.

TRUE OR FALSE Unrepented sin is an eternal evil, and can never cease to be sin; and He with whom we have to do is an eternal God.

TRUE OR FALSE  We are constantly sowing seeds which will spring up and bear fruit, every day and hour in our lives. There are eternal consequences resulting from all our thoughts and words and actions, of which we take far too little account.

TRUE OR FALSE Heaven is a prepared place. Those who shall dwell there are all of one character. The entrance into it is only by one door.

TRUE OR FALSE There is such a place as heaven. No truth is more certain in the whole of Scripture than this--there remains a rest for the people of God. This earth is not our rest--it cannot be--there breathes not a man or woman who ever found it so.

TRUE OR FALSE Repentance, faith, and holiness; this is a character against which the gates shall never be closed.

TRUE OR FALSE God is the light, the food, the air of heaven. It is an eternal sabbath. To serve God is heaven's employment; to talk with God is heaven's occupation.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Week in Review: January 14-20

KJV Readers Bible:

  • 1 Samuel
  • Ezekiel
  • Daniel
  • Joel
  • Amos
  • Obadiah
  • Jonah
  • Micah
  • Nahum
  • Habakkuk
  • Zephaniah
  • Haggai
  • Zechariah
  • Malachi 
  • Acts

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

My Victorian Year #3

This week I reviewed a biography of Charles Spurgeon. I continued reading Spurgeon's Morning and Evening devotional. I read two sermons by J.C. Ryle.

Thoughts on Immortality (2 Corinthians 4:18)
  • There are heights and depths about the subject of eternity which mortal man can never comprehend; but God has spoken of it, and we have no right to turn away from it altogether.
  • The subject is one which we must never approach without the Bible in our hands. The moment we depart from "God's written Word," in considering eternity and the future state of man, we are likely to fall into error. 
  • In examining points like these we have nothing to do with preconceived notions as to what is God's character, and what we think God ought to be, or ought to do with man after death. We have only to find out what is written. "What says the Scripture? What says the Lord?"
  • The noblest thoughts about God which we have a right to hold are the thoughts which He has been pleased to reveal to us in His "written Word."
  • We live in a world where all things are temporary and passing away. Beauty is only temporary. Humbling and painful as these truths may sound, it is good for us to realize them and lay them to heart.
  • The things you live for now are all temporary and passing away. The pleasures, the amusements, the recreations, the merry-makings, the profits, the earthly callings, which now absorb all your heart and drink up all your mind, will soon be over. Oh, do not love them not too well; do not grasp them too tightly; do not make them your idols! You cannot keep them, and you must leave them.
  • The same thought ought to cheer and comfort every true Christian. Your trials, crosses, and conflicts are all temporary. They will soon have an end; and even now they are working for you "a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." (2 Cor. 4:17.) Take them patiently; bear them quietly; look upward, forward, onward, and far beyond them.
  • Fight your daily fight under an abiding conviction that it is only for a little time, and that rest is not far off. Carry your daily cross with an abiding recollection that it is one of the "things seen" which are temporary. The cross shall soon be exchanged for a crown, and you shall sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of God. We are all going towards a world where everything is eternal.
  • Whatever there is beyond the tomb, when the last trumpet has sounded, and the dead are raised, will be endless, everlasting, and eternal.
  • The contrast between now and then, between this world and the next, is so enormously great that our feeble minds will not take it in. The consequences it entails are so tremendous, that they almost take away our breath, and we shrink from looking at them. But when the Bible speaks plainly we have no right to turn away from a subject, and with the Bible in our hands we shall do well to look at the "things which are eternal."
  • Let us settle it, then, in our minds, for one thing, that the future happiness of those who are saved is eternal. Let us settle it, for another thing, in our minds, that the future misery of those who are finally lost is eternal.
  • To my eyes eternal future happiness and eternal future misery appear to stand side by side. I fail to see how you can distinguish the duration of one from the duration of the other. If the joy of the believer is forever, the sorrow of the unbeliever is also forever. If Heaven is eternal, so likewise is hell. 
  • I cannot reconcile the non-eternity of punishment with the language of the Bible. Its advocates talk loudly about love and charity, and say that it does not harmonize with the merciful and compassionate character of God. But what says the Scripture? Who ever spoke such loving and merciful words as our Lord Jesus Christ? Yet His are the lips which three times over describe the consequence of impenitence and sin, as "the worm that never dies and the fire that is not quenched."
  • Let us hold it fast in the interest of the whole system of revealed religion. What was the use of God's Son becoming incarnate, agonizing in Gethsemane, and dying on the cross to make atonement, if men can be finally saved without believing on Him? Where is the slightest proof that saving faith in Christ's blood can ever begin after death? Where is the need of the Holy Spirit, if sinners are at last to enter heaven without conversion and renewal of heart? If a man may escape eternal punishment at last, without faith in the blood of Christ or sanctification of the Spirit, sin is no longer an infinite evil, and there was no need for Christ making an atonement.
  •  Let us distinctly understand that every blow struck at the eternity of punishment is an equally heavy blow at the eternity of reward.
  • Every attack on the duration of hell is also an attack on the duration of heaven.
  • But I turn from it with an equally deep conviction that if we believe the Bible we must never give up anything which it contains. From hard, austere, and unmerciful theology, good Lord, deliver us! If men are not saved, it is because they "will not come to Christ." (John 5:40.)
  • Men sometimes talk exclusively about God's mercy and love and compassion, as if He had no other attributes, and leave out of sight entirely His holiness and His purity, His justice and His unchangeableness, and His hatred of sin. Let us beware of falling into this delusion. It is a growing evil in these latter days.
  • Low and inadequate views of the unutterable vileness and filthiness of sin, and of the unutterable purity of the eternal God, are prolific sources of error about man's future state.
  • Unrepented sin is an eternal evil, and can never cease to be sin; and He with whom we have to do is an eternal God.
  • Our state in the unseen world of eternity depends entirely on what we are in time.
  • The life that is before us when we leave this world is an endless eternity, a sea without a bottom, and an ocean without a shore.
  • Our lot after death depends, humanly speaking, on what we are while we are alive. It is written, "God will give to each person according to what he has done. To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger." Romans 2:6-8
  • We are constantly sowing seeds which will spring up and bear fruit, every day and hour in our lives. There are eternal consequences resulting from all our thoughts and words and actions, of which we take far too little account. 
  • In a word, what we sow in life we shall reap after death, and reap to all eternity.
  • There is no greater delusion than the common idea that it is possible to live wickedly, and yet rise again gloriously; to be without religion in this world, and yet to be a saint in the next.
  • Now is the time to believe on Christ, and to lay hold on eternal life. Now is the time to turn from darkness unto light, and to make our calling and election sure. 
  • Your hours and days and weeks and months and years have all something to say to an eternal condition beyond the grave. What you sow in life that now is, you are sure to reap in a life to come.
  • Whatever we do in religion must be done now.
  • The Lord Jesus Christ is the great Friend to whom we must look for help, both for time and eternity.
  • The purpose for which the eternal Son of God came into the world can never be declared too fully, or proclaimed too loudly.
  • He came to give us hope and peace while we live among the "things seen, which are temporary," and glory and blessedness when we go into the "things unseen, which are eternal." He came to "bring life and immortality to light," and to "deliver those who, through fear of death, were all their life-time subject to bondage." (2 Tim. 1:10; Heb.2:15.) He saw our lost and bankrupt condition, and had compassion on us. And now, blessed be His name, a mortal man may pass through things temporal with comfort, and look forward to things eternal without fear. These mighty privileges our Lord Jesus Christ has purchased for us at the cost of His own precious blood. He became our Substitute, and bore our sins in His own body on the cross, and then rose again for our justification. He suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us unto God. He was made sin for us who knew no sin, that we poor sinful creatures might have pardon and justification while we live, and glory and blessedness when we die. (1 Pet. 2:24; 3:18; 2 Cor. 5:21.)
  • He who has Christ, has life. He can look round him on the "temporary things," and see change and decay on every side without dismay. He has got treasure in heaven, which neither rust nor moth can corrupt, nor thieves break through and steal. He can look forward to the "things eternal," and feel calm and composed. His Savior has risen, and gone to prepare a place for him. When he leaves this world he shall have a crown of glory, and be forever with his Lord. He can look down even into the grave, as the wisest Greeks and Romans could never do, and say, "Oh, death, where is your sting? oh, grave, where is your victory? oh, eternity, where are your terrors?" (1 Cor. 15:55.)
  • Let us all settle it firmly in our minds that the only way to pass through "things seen" with comfort, and look forward to "things unseen" without fear, is to have Christ for our Savior and Friend, to lay hold on Christ by faith, to become one with Christ and Christ in us, and while we live in the flesh to live the life of faith in the Son of God. (Gal. 2:20.)
  • I offer to every one within these old Cathedral walls tonight some food for thought, and matter for self-examination. First of all, how are you using your TIME? Life is short and very uncertain. You never know what a day may bring forth. And you, what are you doing for your immortal soul? Are you wasting time, or turning it to good account? Are you preparing to meet God?
  • Secondly, where shall you be in eternity? It is coming, coming, coming very fast upon us. You are going, going, going very fast into it. But where will you be? On the right hand or on the left in the day of judgment? Among the lost or among the saved? Oh, rest not, rest not until your soul is insured! Make sure work leave nothing uncertain. It is a fearful thing to die unprepared, and fall into the hands of the living God.
  • Thirdly, would you be safe for time and eternity? Then seek Christ, and believe in Him. Come to Him just as you are. Seek Him while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. There is still a throne of grace. It is not too late. Christ waits to be gracious He invites you to come to Him. Before the door is shut and the judgment begins, repent, believe, and be saved.
  • Lastly, would you be happy? Cling to Christ, and live the life of faith in Him. Abide in Him, and live near to Him. Follow Him with heart and soul and mind and strength, and seek to know Him better every day.
Heaven by J.C. Ryle (Revelation 21:27)
  • Heaven is a prepared place. Those who shall dwell there are all of one character. The entrance into it is only by one door. Brethren, remember that. And then, too, I read of two sorts of hope: a good hope and a bad hope; a true hope and a false hope; a living hope and a dead hope; the hope of the righteous and the hope of the wicked; the hope of the believer and of the hypocrite.
  • Surely it were wise and prudent and safe to find out what the Bible tells you on the subject, to discover whether your confidence is indeed well founded; and to this end I call your attention to the doctrine of my text. There you will find three things: I. The place of heaven. II. The character of those who will certainly not be in heaven. III. The character of those who will certainly be in heaven.
  • There is such a place as heaven. No truth is more certain in the whole of Scripture than this--there remains a rest for the people of God. This earth is not our rest--it cannot be--there breathes not a man or woman who ever found it so.
  • Thanks be to God--this life is not all. I know and am persuaded there is a glorious rest beyond the tomb! This earth is only the training-school for eternity; these graves are but the stepping-stone and half-way house to heaven.
  • What sort of a place shall heaven be? Heaven shall be a place of perfect rest and peace.
  • There shall be no need of means of grace, for we shall have the end to which they are meant to lead. There shall be no need of ordinances, we shall have the substance they are appointed to keep in mind. There faith shall be swallowed up in sight, and hope in certainty, and prayer in praise, and sorrow in joy! Now in this present world--is the school-time, the season of the 'lesson and the rod'--then will be the eternal holiday.
  • Now we are tossed upon a stormy sea--then we shall be safe in harbor! Now we have to plough and sow--there we shall reap the harvest! Now we have the labor but then the wages! Now we have the battle but then the victory and reward! Now we must bear the cross but then we shall receive the crown! Now we are journeying through the wilderness but then we shall be at home! 
  • Heaven shall be a place of perfect and unbroken happiness. Mark what your Bible tells you in the very chapter which contains my text, "God shall wipe away all tears from the eyes of His people; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain--for the former things are passed away."
  • Hear what the prophet Isaiah says in the twenty-fifth chapter: "The Lord God has swallowed up death forever! The Lord will wipe away tears from off all faces. It shall be said in that day--Behold, this is our God! We have waited for him, and he will save us! This is Yahweh! We have waited for him. We will be glad and rejoice in his salvation!"
  • Brethren, think of an eternal habitation in which there is no sorrow. Who is there here below that is not acquainted with sorrow? It came in with thorns and thistles at Adam's fall, it is the bitter cup that all must drink, it is before us and behind us, it is on the right hand and the left, it is mingled with the very air we breathe. Our bodies are racked with pain, and we have sorrow. Our worldly goods are taken from us, and we have sorrow. We are encompassed with difficulties and troubles, and we have sorrow. Our friends forsake us and look coldly on us, and we have sorrow. We are separated from those we love, and we have sorrow. Those on whom our hearts' affections are set go down to the grave and leave us alone, and we have sorrow. And then, too, we find our own hearts frail and full of corruption, and that brings sorrow. We are persecuted and opposed for the Gospel's sake, and that brings sorrow. We see those who are near and dear to us refusing to walk with God, and that brings sorrow. Oh, what a sorrowing, grieving world we live in!
  • O Christian brethren, what is our light affliction when compared to such an eternity as this? Shame on us if we murmur and complain and turn back--with such a heaven before our eyes!
  • The character of those who will certainly not be in heaven. Let us now pass on and see that great thing which is revealed in the second part of our text. 
  • "Nothing that defiles." This touches the case of all who are defiled with sins of heart, and yet feel it not, and refuse to be made clean. These may be decent people outwardly but they are vile and polluted within. These are the worldly-minded. They live to this world only, and they have no thought of anything beyond.
  • These are the men who set their affections on earthly things; they have each their idol in the chamber of their imagination, and they worship and serve it more than God. These are the proud and self-righteous, the self-honoring and the self-conceited; they love the praise of men, they like the good opinion of this world.
  • These know not what sorrow for sin means. They are strangers to spiritual concern; they are self-satisfied and content with their condition. If you attempt to stir them up to zeal and repentance, it is more than probable that they will be offended.
  • They bring no glory to their Maker, they are lovers of themselves more than of God, and therefore they are counted as defiled in His sight and nothing that is defiled shall enter heaven.
  • But again: "Nothing that works abomination." This touches the case of all who practice those sins which God has pronounced abominable, and take pleasure in them, and countenance those who practice them. These are the men who work the works of the flesh, each as his heart inclines him.
  • These are the adulterers, fornicators, and unclean livers; these are the drunkards, revellers, and gluttons; these are the blasphemers, swearers, and liars. These are the men who count it no shame to live in hatred, variance, wrath, strife, envyings, quarrellings and the like. They throw the reins on the neck of their lusts--they follow their passions wherever they may lead them. Their only object is to please themselves.
  • Once more: "No one who tells lies." This touches the case of hypocrites. These are the false professors; the lip-servants. They say that they know God but in works they deny Him.
  • Look well to your own souls; judge yourselves that you be not judged of the Lord; I call heaven and earth to witness this day, those who will live these bad lives, whether they be Churchmen or dissenters, old or young, rich or poor, they shall in no wise enter heaven.
  • III. The character of those who will certainly be in heaven. The text has told you who shall not enter heaven. Oh! what a mighty crowd those words shut out! But it tells you something more: who are those who shall. Short is the account and simple: those only, who that are written in the Lamb's book of life.
  • What is this book of life? There is a book, a little book, a book prepared from all eternity, which God the Father keeps sealed the book of His election; of that book man knows nothing, excepting this blessed truth--that there is such a book. With that book man has little or nothing to do.
  • They are all true penitents. They have been convinced of their own unworthiness in God's sight; they have felt themselves to be sinners in deed and in truth; they have mourned over their sins, hated their sins, forsaken their sins; the remembrance of them is grievous, the burden of them intolerable; they have ceased to think well of their own condition and count themselves worthy to be saved; they have confessed with their whole heart: "Lord, we are really chief of sinners Lord, we are indeed unclean." Again: they are all believers in Christ Jesus. Once more: they are all born of the Spirit and sanctified. They have all put off the old man with his deeds, and put on the new man which is after God. They have all been renewed in the spirit of their minds; a new heart and a new nature has been given to them. They have brought forth those fruits which only are the proof of the Spirit being in them. 
  • They love God, and they must live to Him. Such is the character of those who are written in heaven. These, then, are the men whose names are to be found in the Lamb's book of life.
  • They have one thing at least in common, they have repented and believed, and been born again, and therefore they stand all together in the Lamb's book of life.
  • Repentance, faith, and holiness; this is a character against which the gates shall never be closed. Repent and believe in Christ and be converted, and then, whatever happens to others, you, at least, shall enter heaven; you shall never be cast out.
  • And now, men and brethren, in CONCLUSION, let me press upon you my old question. How is it with yourselves? What, no answer! Are you ready to depart? Again, no answer! Is your name written in the book of life? Once more, have you no answer?
  • Oh, think, think, unhappy man or woman, whoever you are, think what a miserable thing it is to be uncertain about eternity. And then consider, if you can not give your heart to God now, how is it possible you could enjoy God's heaven hereafter. Heaven is unceasing godliness; it is to be in the presence of God and His Christ for evermore. God is the light, the food, the air of heaven. It is an eternal sabbath. To serve God is heaven's employment; to talk with God is heaven's occupation.
  • God will not alter heaven merely to please you; better a thousand times to conform to His ways while you can. You must love the things of heaven before your death or else you cannot enter heaven when you die.
  • Christian, look up and take comfort. Jesus has prepared a place for you, and those who follow Him shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of His hands. Look forward to that glorious abode He has provided; look forward in faith, for it is yours.

Charles Spurgeon's Morning and Evening
  • Christ is not only “mighty to save” those who repent—but He is able to make men repent. He will carry those who believe those to heaven; but He is, moreover, mighty to give men new hearts and to work faith in them. He is mighty to make the man who hates holiness—love it; and to constrain the despiser of His name—to bend the knee before Him.
  • Christ’s might does not lie in making a believer—and then leaving him to shift for himself; but He who begins the good work carries it on; He who imparts the first germ of life in the dead soul—prolongs the divine existence, and strengthens it—until it bursts asunder every bond of sin, and the soul leaps from earth, perfected in glory.
  • Believer, here is encouragement. Are you praying for some beloved one? Oh, do not give up your prayers, for Christ is “mighty to save.” You are powerless to reclaim the rebel—but your Lord is Almighty. Lay hold on that mighty arm—and rouse it to put forth its strength.
  • Sinking times are praying times with the Lord’s servants.
  • In our hours of bodily pain and mental anguish—we find ourselves as naturally driven to prayer, as the wreck is driven upon the shore by the waves.
  • Short prayers are long enough. There were but three words in the petition which Peter gasped out—but they were sufficient for his purpose. Not length—but strength is desirable.
  • If our prayers had less of the tail feathers of pride—and more wing—they would be all the better. Verbiage is to devotion, as chaff to the wheat.
  • When we can do nothing—Jesus can do all things; let us enlist His powerful aid upon our side, and all will be well.
  • Nothing pleases our Lord better, than to see His promises put in circulation. He loves to see His children bring them up to Him, and say, “Lord—do as You have said.”
  • We glorify God when we plead His promises.
  • The common fault with the most of us, is our readiness to yield to distractions. Our thoughts go roving hither and thither, and we make little progress towards our desired end.
  • This morning let us hear the Lord Jesus speak to each one of us: “I Myself will help you.” “It is but a small thing for Me, your God, to help you. Consider what I have done already. What! not help you? Why, I bought you with My blood. What! not help you? I have died for you! And if I have done the greater—will I not do the lesser? Help you! It is the least thing I will ever do for you; I have done more, and will do more. Before the world began I chose you. I made the covenant for you. I laid aside My glory and became a man for you. I gave up My life for you. And if I did all this, I will surely help you now. In helping you, I am giving you what I have bought for you already. If you had need of a thousand times as much help—I would give it to you. You require little compared with what I am ready to give. It is much for you to need—but it is nothing for me to bestow. ‘Help you?’ Fear not! If there were an ant at the door of your granary, asking for help—it would not ruin you to give him a handful of your wheat! Just so, you are nothing but a tiny insect at the door of My all-sufficiency. ‘I Myself will help you.’” Herein is wisdom, whereby substitution, the sure and speedy way of atonement, was devised! Herein is condescension, which brought Messiah, the Prince, to wear a crown of thorns, and die upon the cross! Herein is love, which led the Redeemer to lay down His life for His enemies! It is not enough, however, to admire the spectacle of the innocent—bleeding for the guilty, we must make sure of our interest therein. The special object of the Messiah’s death was the salvation of His church—have we a part and a lot among those for whom He gave His life a ransom? Did the Lord Jesus stand as our representative?
  • Christian, here is joy for you; you have looked, and you have seen the Lamb. Through your tears—your eyes have seen the Lamb of God taking away your sins. Rejoice, then. In a little while, when your eyes shall have been wiped from tears—you will see the same Lamb exalted on His throne! It is the joy of your heart to hold daily fellowship with Jesus; you shall have the same joy to a higher degree in heaven; you shall enjoy the constant vision of His presence; you shall dwell with Him forever! “I looked, and there before me was the Lamb!”
  • How different will be the state of the believer in heaven—from what it is here! Here he is born to toil and suffer weariness—but in the land of the immortal, fatigue is never known.
  • O for grace to study the Bible with Jesus as both our teacher and our lesson!
  • Tell me where you lost the company of Christ—and I will tell you the most likely place to find Him. Have you lost Christ in the closet by restraining prayer? Then it is there that you must seek and find Him. Did you lose Christ by sin? You will find Christ in no other way but by the giving up of the sin, and seeking by the Holy Spirit to mortify the member in which the lust dwells. Did you lose Christ by neglecting the Scriptures? You must find Christ in the Scriptures. It is a true proverb, “Look for a thing where you dropped it—it is there.” So look for Christ where you lost Him—for He has not gone away.
  • With your whole heart seek Him—and He will be found of you. Only give yourself thoroughly up to the search, and truly—you shall yet discover Him to your joy and gladness.
  • Many can bring the Scriptures to the mind—but the Lord alone can prepare the mind to receive the Scriptures.
  • Our Lord Jesus differs from all other teachers; they reach the ear—but He instructs the heart; they deal with the outward letter—but He imparts an inward taste for the truth, by which we perceive its savor and spirit. The most unlearned of men become ripe scholars in the school of grace—when the Lord Jesus by His Holy Spirit unfolds the mysteries of the kingdom to them, and grants the divine anointing by which they are enabled to behold the invisible.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Book Review: Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus

Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus. How a Jewish Perspective Can Transform Your Understanding. Lois Tverberg. 2018. Baker Books. 288 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Years ago, I signed up for a summer Hebrew course in Israel. That way, I’d be able to absorb the sights and sounds of the land as I studied. The class was held at a retreat center a few miles outside Jerusalem, and everywhere you looked you could see evidence of the ancient Israelites.

Do you do your Bible study microwave-style? Do you "gulp down a prepackaged, presweetened devotion with a few slurps of coffee before heading off to work"? Or are you into artisanal Bible study? Are you willing to to slow down, change focus, and be there?

By "being there" Tverberg means two things really: a) being there with the original audience, taking the time to place the text of what we're reading into its original, natural context and b) being there with Jesus, having him as our guide and teacher.

She writes, "The Scriptures are meant for us to read but they were not written to our modern world. God spoke so that the ancient world would understand, as they looked at life through different lenses.  If we want to empathize with how they thought and approached life, we need to know more about their culture."

The book is divided into three sections: "Repacking Our Mental Bags: Tools for the Journey," "How the Bible Thinks: Big Picture Ideas That You Need to Understand," and "Reading about the Messiah: Seeing Him Through Hebrew Eyes."

She asserts that Westerners have a more difficult time reading and understanding the Bible. In part, because we're so WEIRD. "We are Western Educated Industrialized Rich Democratic (in voting countries)."

The book focuses on the clash between modern and ancient, western and eastern. The chapters focus on getting us ready to read the Bible with "fresh," "new" eyes. Tverberg gives readers a few practical tips on how to do so. For example, in chapter four, "Painting in Hebrew" she suggests doing key word studies of Hebrew words. Or if that seems a bit too extreme for you, read from multiple Bible translations.
"Take, for instance, the word walk, which in biblical Hebrew is halakh (ha-LAKH) and widely used as a metaphor to describe one’s moral lifestyle, as in Psalm 1:1, “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked” (NASB). In Greek this is normally not the case. The word for walk is peripateo, and it simply means “to stroll around” or “travel on foot.” Yet the New Testament often uses it with a Hebraic sense instead. Jesus was asked why his disciples did not “walk” according to the tradition of the elders (Mark 7:5) and Paul exhorted the Thessalonians to “walk” in order to please God (1 Thess. 4:1). A Greek reader would have scratched his head at why Paul wanted his listeners to “stroll around to please God.” It’s only when we recognize Paul’s Jewish, Hebraic accent that his intent becomes clear."
The Hebrew words for “forget,” shakach and nashah, are also broad in scope. Often they mean to ignore, neglect, forsake, or disregard a person or covenant. For instance, So watch yourselves, that you do not forget the covenant of the Lord your God which He made with you, and make for yourselves a graven image in the form of anything against which the Lord your God has commanded you. (Deut. 4:23 NASB) The idea here is that the Israelites would intentionally ignore their covenant, not necessarily forget that they made it. When the Israelites lapse into idolatry, we also hear God threatening to forget them: Therefore behold, I will surely forget you and cast you away from My presence, along with the city which I gave you and your fathers. (Jer. 23:39 NASB) Once again the emphasis is on action rather than mental activity. God is saying that he would spurn his people, not lose their memory from his mind. When God “forgets” something, he does not necessarily lack information. This helps us understand why, in the psalms, we hear people asking God why he is forgetting them: How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? (Ps. 13:1 NASB) Here the psalmist is saying, “Why do you ignore my prayers and not intervene in my crisis?” God doesn’t forget, but sometimes it seems as if he does. Interestingly, forget is almost never used in combination with sin. But often the Bible does say that God will “not remember” our sins. The idea of “remembering sins” takes the idea of acting according to memory and puts it into a negative framework. It suggests that God is going to give the person what he or she deserves for the sin. He will punish sin, not just keep it on his mind.  To “remember their iniquity” is the same as to “punish their sin.” It is automatically negative, implying that God will intervene to bring justice. So, to not remember sins is to decide not to punish them.
 Many chapters focus on thinking, conceptions of thought, use of and meaning of language. She illustrates how Hebrews thought, how Hebrew thought is very, very different from Greek thought, how the New Testament though written in Greek still uses Hebrew Thought as its base, and why understanding these cultural differences helps explain the Bible.
"Often I find that reading Jesus’ words in light of New Testament history challenges my preconceptions and refines my understanding of our calling as his disciples."
Theology is a wonderful tool for helping us understand the God who revealed himself in the Bible. But having your doctrinal ducks in a row is not what accomplishes salvation. If it were, wouldn’t Satan be fully qualified? 
Much of the reason we’ve found Jesus’ words so hard to grasp is because we are so unfamiliar with the Scriptures he loved—the Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings. 

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Ten Bookish/Bloggish Goals for 2018

This week's topic is bookish resolutions for 2018. The host is That Artsy Reader Girl.

1. It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones. C.S. Lewis This quote was the inspiration for my new reading challenge. It is my approach for reading in 2018. So far, so good. I am LOVING keeping track on GoodReads. New books; old books. I am also using a calendar which I'm color-coding to keep track of my old and new books.

2. To read both fiction and nonfiction. It is super-easy for me to focus on Christian nonfiction and practically ignore Christian fiction. I keep up with what I read on this post.

3. To improve my feedback ratio on Netgalley. Or at the very least steadily increase my number of feedback sent titles. I would love to keep my "current titles" to under 16--though realistically that might need to be around twenty. I would love to work on my "older than three months" shelf as well. By the end of the year, I'd love my feedback sent to be OVER three-hundred or around three-hundred.

4. To read more books from my Christian TBR shelf. Right now, it's sitting at 845. And that number will just keep growing. Every time I receive a review copy or buy a book, it gets added. The ones added before January 1, 2018 will get to count towards my Mount TBR challenge.

5. To read R.C. Sproul. (Author Love Challenge)

6. To read J.C. Ryle. (Victorian Reading Challenge)

7. To keep up with my TBR Pile challenge so that I'm not overwhelmed the second half of the year.

8. To read books by/about Reformers and Puritans. (Reformation Reading Challenge; Cloud of Witnesses)

9. To read the Bible daily.

10. To keep up with Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Book Review: Spurgeon on the Christian Life

Spurgeon On the Christian Life: Alive in Christ (Theologians on the Christian Life) Michael Reeves. 2018. Crossway. 192 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Crowds lined the streets, hoping to catch a glimpse of the olivewood casket as it made its way through the streets of south London.

Spurgeon on the Christian Life by Michael Reeves is one of the books in Crossway's Theologians on the Christian Life series. It is divided into four parts: "Charles Spurgeon," "Christ The Center," "The New Birth," and "The New Life." It blends the formats of biography and theology. Readers learn a bit about Charles Spurgeon--his life and the times in which he lived--and a lot about what Spurgeon believed (taught and preached).

In the introduction, Reeves writes:
This is a book about Spurgeon’s theology of the Christian life, and those were the concerns that lay at the heart of it. Spurgeon was unreservedly Christ-centered and Christ-shaped in his theology; and he was equally insistent on the vital necessity of the new birth. The Christian life is a new life in Christ, given by the Spirit and won by the blood of Jesus shed on the cross... What I have attempted here is to let Spurgeon’s theology of the Christian life shape the very structure—as well as the content—of this book. This is not a comprehensive analysis of Spurgeon’s overall theology, nor is it a biography, though it should help readers get to know both the man and the broad brushstrokes of his theology. 
Reeves decided to let Spurgeon do most of the talking for himself. He says, "In my own experience, I generally find reading Spurgeon himself like breathing in great lungfuls of mountain air: he is bracing, refreshing, and rousing. I want, therefore, to try to make myself scarce and let Spurgeon leap at readers himself."

I would say that Reeves was successful.

I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED Spurgeon on the Christian Life. I found it to be packed with great insight. It almost goes without saying that it's relevant as well.  Every page of this one has treasure. Most pages have treasures in heaps. That is how good Spurgeon is. But it is also how good Reeves is. He organized, clarified, and wove everything together into a lovely book.

I already loved Charles Spurgeon. This book made me love him even more. It definitely whet my appetite for MORE Spurgeon in 2018. I think this one would be a great book to introduce Spurgeon to new readers and/or new believers. Spurgeon is not an intimidating author--neither is Reeves. And he packs more truth per page--I stand corrected, packs more CHRIST per page--than most any other author I've read. This makes for rich reading indeed. How could you read it and not find it delightful?!

I discovered a kindred spirit in the pages of this book:
Spurgeon was a man who went at all of life full-on. He was not simply a large presence in the pulpit. In life, he laughed and cried much; he read avidly and felt deeply; he was a zealously industrious worker and a sociable lover of play and beauty. He was, in other words, a man who embodied the truth that to be in Christ means to be made ever more roundly human, more fully alive....It takes no great insight to see that Spurgeon was a big-hearted man of deep affections. His printed sermons and lectures still throb with passion. At times the emotional freight of his sermon would even overcome him, especially when it was about the crucifixion of Christ....Spurgeon publicly admitted that his temperamental sensitivity inclined him to be fearful.
He treasured the Bible and held it to be entirely trustworthy because he treasured Christ and held him to be entirely trustworthy. (And, sealing the bond between the two, he treasured Christ because the Bible self-evidently presents him as self-evidently good, beautiful, and true.) It also meant that Spurgeon could only be interested in the Christ of the Bible, unlike those who love a “Jesus” other than the one made known in Scripture. 
Spurgeon describing the ideal preacher:
I love a minister whose face invites me to make him my friend—a man upon whose doorstep you read, “Salve,” “Welcome;” and feel that there is no need of that Pompeian warning, “Cave Canem,” “Beware of the dog.” A man who is to do much with men must love them, and feel at home with them. An individual who has no geniality about him had better be an undertaker, and bury the dead, for he will never succeed in influencing the living. When a man has a large, loving heart, men go to him as ships to a haven, and feel at peace when they have anchored under the lee of his friendship. Such a man is hearty in private as well as in public; his blood is not cold and fishy, but he is warm as your own fireside. No pride and selfishness chill you when you approach him; he has his doors all open to receive you, and you are at home with him at once. Such men I would persuade you to be, every one of you. 
Spurgeon on joy and happiness:
God made human beings, as he made his other creatures, to be happy. They are capable of happiness, they are in their right element when they are happy; and now that Jesus Christ has come to restore the ruins of the Fall, he has come to bring back to us the old joy,—only it shall be even sweeter and deeper than it could have been if we had never lost it. A Christian has never fully realized what Christ came to make him until he has grasped the joy of the Lord. Christ wishes his people to be happy. When they are perfect, as he will make them in due time, they shall also be perfectly happy. As heaven is the place of pure holiness, so is it the place of unalloyed happiness; and in proportion as we get ready for heaven, we shall have some of the joy which belongs to heaven, and it is our Saviour’s will that even now his joy should remain in us, and that our joy should be full.
Spurgeon on doctrine:
Jesus is the Truth. We believe in him,—not merely in his words. He himself is Doctor and Doctrine, Revealer and Revelation, the Illuminator and the Light of Men. He is exalted in every word of truth, because he is its sum and substance. He sits above the gospel, like a prince on his own throne. Doctrine is most precious when we see it distilling from his lips and embodied in his person. Sermons are valuable in proportion as they speak of him and point to him. A Christless gospel is no gospel and a Christless discourse is the cause of merriment to devils.
Spurgeon on Bible-reading:
Much, then, that passes for Bible reading is really no Bible reading at all, as Spurgeon understood it. “Do not many of you read the Bible in a very hurried way—just a little bit, and off you go?” he asked. “How few of you are resolved to get at its soul, its juice, its life, its essence, and to drink in its meaning.” When the eye freewheels over verses and leaves the mind unengaged, that is no true reading. It is much more likely to be evidence of the crude superstition that religion demands an unthinking performance of a regular reading ritual. Where others go on pilgrimages and perform penances, evangelicals throw their eyes over chapters of the Bible—and could do it just as well with the book turned upside down. Indeed, Spurgeon would drive home this point deeper, arguing that the mind must be more than listlessly engaged:  There is an interior reading, a kernel reading—a true and living reading of the Word. This is the soul of reading; and, if it be not there, the reading is a mechanical exercise, and profits nothing. 
 “It is a grand thing to be driven to think, it is a grander thing to be driven to pray through having been made to think.”
Spurgeon on prayer:
Turning to prayer when prayer is hard needn’t mean going from silence to composing perfect speeches to God. That is another of those crushing expectations we often place on ourselves. Rather, we cry out—even babble—to God as we can. If you cannot speak, cry; if you cannot cry, groan; and if you cannot even groan to God, “let thy prayer be at least a breathing,—a vital, sincere desire, the outpouring of thine inner life in the simplest and weakest form, and God will accept it. In a word, when you cannot pray as you would, take care to pray as you can.” 

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Book Review: Can I Trust the Bible?

Can I Trust the Bible? (Crucial Questions #2) R.C. Sproul. 2009. Reformation Trust. 65 pages. [Source: Free download]

First sentence: The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy rightly affirms that "the authority of Scripture is a key issue for the Christian church in this and every age."

Can I Trust the Bible is a reprint of a booklet: Explaining Inerrancy: A Commentary by the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy in 1980 and as Explaining Inerrancy in 1996. It is the second book in the Crucial Questions series.

The booklet consists of the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, which was the work of a committee, and six chapters by R.C. Sproul providing commentary and exposition on the Chicago statement. Each chapter covers two or more of the nineteen articles from the Chicago Statement. Each article contains an affirmation and a denial.

The book discusses the Bible, the role of the Bible in the lives of believers and the church; it also provides terms and definitions for the discussion.

I do wish the book was titled Is the Bible Trustworthy? instead of Can I Trust the Bible? Essentially, he answers both questions. The answer to the first being that the Bible is the Word of God; God cannot err, therefore his Word to us cannot and will not err. It is completely trustworthy and should be an authority in the lives of believers and the church. The answer to the second being, the Bible--the Word of God--is linked so closely to Jesus Christ--the Word Incarnate, that to trust in one is to trust in the other.

Favorite quotes:
Ultimately, we believe the Bible to be inerrant because it comes from God Himself. It is unthinkable to contemplate that God might be capable of error. Therefore, His Word cannot possibly contain errors. This is our faith— we can trust the Bible because we can trust God.
Jesus Christ, the Son of God who is the Word made flesh, our Prophet, Priest, and King, is the ultimate Mediator of God’s communication to man, as He is of all God’s gifts of grace. The revelation He gave was more than verbal; He revealed the Father by His presence and His deeds as well. Yet His words were crucially important; for He was God, He spoke from the Father, and His words will judge all men at the last day. As the prophesied Messiah, Jesus Christ is the central theme of Scripture. The Old Testament looked ahead to Him; the New Testament looks back to His first coming and on to His second. Canonical Scripture is the divinely inspired and therefore normative witness to Christ. No hermeneutic, therefore, of which the historical Christ is not the focal point is acceptable. Holy Scripture must be treated as what it essentially is— the witness of the Father to the incarnate Son.
The authority of Christ and that of Scripture are one. As our Prophet, Christ testified that Scripture cannot be broken. As our Priest and King, He devoted His earthly life to fulfilling the Law and the Prophets, even dying in obedience to the words of messianic prophecy. Thus, as He saw Scripture attesting Him and His authority, so by His own submission to Scripture He attested its authority. As He bowed to His Father’s instruction given in His Bible (our Old Testament), so He requires His disciples to do— not, however, in isolation but in conjunction with the apostolic witness to Himself which He undertook to inspire by His gift of the Holy Spirit.
Infallible signifies the quality of neither misleading nor being misled, and so safeguards in categorical terms the truth that Holy Scripture is a sure, safe, and reliable rule and guide in all matters. Similarly, inerrant signifies the quality of being free from all falsehood or mistake, and so safeguards the truth that Holy Scripture is entirely true and trustworthy in all its assertions.
If the Bible is the Word of God and if God is a God of truth, then the Bible must be inerrant— not merely in some of its parts, as some modern theologians are saying, but totally, as the church for the most part has said down through the ages of its history.
The Bible’s truth does not depend in any way on whether a person believes the truth.
The Bible is not to be reinterpreted to be brought into conformity with contemporary philosophies but is to be understood in its intended meaning and word usage as it was written at the time it was composed.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible