Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Book Review: River to Redemption

River to Redemption. Ann H. Gabhart. 2018. Revell. 336 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Adria Starr didn't want her mother and little brother to stop breathing the way her father had. She wanted to take care of them.

Premise/plot: River To Redemption by Ann H. Gabhart is set in Springfield, Kentucky in the 1830s and 1840s. Adria Starr, our heroine, is orphaned by a cholera epidemic. The epidemic essentially devastates the community--leaving many dead, most--if not all--families effected. But one man stands as a hero in the community, a slave named Louis. He cares for the sick, and buries the dead. One whom he rescued is Adria. Louis and Aunt Tilda save her and love her like family in the weeks following the devastation. But they also know that they can't keep raising a white girl--even an orphaned white girl with no family. They find a new home for her. The school teacher's wife has been widowed. The two need each other.

After Louis' owner dies, Adria--and subsequently Ruth--are determined to remind the town of Louis' heroics. If ever a man deserved his freedom, it is Louis. She's hoping that even those in the community who believe in slavery will recognize this. (As for Adria and Ruth, they believe that slavery is wrong. They are abolitionists.) With the help of the local pastor, they're on a mission to raise money to buy Louis' freedom--he's due to be auctioned off in the coming weeks.

River to Redemption is loosely based on history. There was a slave named Louis who stayed behind in Springfield, who nursed the sick, buried the dead, kept the businesses safe. The community did come together and purchase his freedom and helped him set up a partnership with a blacksmith. There is a monument in the town honoring him. All the other characters of the novel are fictional.

My thoughts: I really found this one compelling. The focus is on Ruth AND Adria. I loved, loved, loved Ruth's romantic storyline. Adria doesn't have much of a romance in this one. I'm unsure if this is the start of a series or a stand alone novel. I'm fine either way. I am. I wouldn't mind reading more about Adria. But the story feels complete as is.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, November 12, 2018

McGee and Me #6 Leviticus 1-14

Leviticus 1-14 (Thru the Bible #6) J. Vernon McGee. 1975. 192 pages. [Source: Bought]

I recently bought a complete set of J. Vernon McGee's Thru the Bible commentary series. These books are loosely based on his popular radio program. I have read a handful of his commentaries in the past--including this one--but I plan on reading and/or rereading all of the commentaries (again)

His commentary on Leviticus is divided into two books. The first book covers Leviticus 1-14. The second book covers Leviticus 15-27. 

First sentence: Many years ago, I read a statement by Dr. S. H. Kellogg saying that he considered the Book of Leviticus the most important book in the Bible. I felt that he must have had his tongue in cheek to make a statement like that.

Leviticus--unlike Genesis and Exodus--don't offer readers a lot of action and drama. There are no big stories to unpack in Leviticus. When it comes to adapting the Bible for children--you likely won't ever find one from Leviticus sneaking its way into a Bible story book. But that doesn't mean it lacks relevance. And not relevance because Christians are bound to obey the law to its fullest.

McGee spends a good amount of time explaining WHY Leviticus is in the Bible and WHY christians should read it and perhaps even come to love it in his introduction. This is not a waste of time, in my opinion, because the truth is most people give up on Leviticus. They don't credit Leviticus as being worth their time and energy. They don't see the point. But there is always a point to scripture--always. And that point is Jesus Christ.


  • Leviticus teaches that the walk with God is by sanctification. The word holiness, occurs 87 times in this book. “And ye shall be holy unto me: for I the LORD am holy, and have severed you from other people, that ye should be mine” (Lev. 20:26).
  • In Genesis we see man ruined. In Exodus we see man redeemed. In Leviticus we see man worshiping God. In the Book of Exodus we see the offer of pardon; Leviticus offers purity. In Exodus we have God’s approach to man; in Leviticus it is man’s approach to God. In Exodus, Christ is the Savior; in Leviticus, He is the Sanctifier. In Exodus man’s guilt is prominent; in Leviticus man’s defilement is prominent. In Exodus, God speaks out of the mount; in Leviticus, He speaks out of the tabernacle. In Exodus man is made nigh to God; in Leviticus man is kept nigh to God.
  • This offering [the burnt offering] is a picture of Christ in depth as well as in death. A man cannot probe the full meaning of this offering because it sets before us what God sees in Christ.
  • The burnt offering shows the person of Christ. He is our substitute.
  • It is not the spotless life of Christ and our approval of Him that saves us. Only His death can save the sinner.
  • It was His death which opened the way to God; it was His death which saves the sinner.
  • The offering was to be brought of his own voluntary will. You don’t have to come to Christ. But if you want to be saved, then you will have to come to Christ.
  • You may think that is dogmatic and narrow. I’ll tell you something—it is! But the interesting thing is that it will bring you to God. 
  • We do not make the terms by which we come to God. God makes the terms, my friend. “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags …” (Isa. 64:6).
  • The little animal was dying a substitutionary death in the place of the offerer. That is what Christ did for us. When you accept Christ, you put your hand on Him; that is, you designate Him as your Savior.
  • Our sins put Jesus Christ to death. If you want it made very personal, my sin is responsible for the death of Christ; your sin is responsible for the death of Christ.
  • My friend, people can argue all they wish; the fact is that if I hadn’t been a sinner and if you hadn’t been a sinner, nobody would have put Him to death. It was our sin that put Him to death!
  • I want to say it kindly but emphatically—you are not serving God unless you are letting Him cleanse and purify your life.
  • The meal offering reveals the humanity of Jesus in all its perfection and loveliness.
  • Friends, man as he is in the world today is the most colossal failure in God’s universe. Have you ever stopped to think about that? The Scriptures are outspoken and specific at this point.
  • There are two important aspects of this offering: the ingredients which are included and the ingredients which are excluded.
  • The offering was to be made of fine flour and fine flour in that day was a little unusual. If the flour was to be very fine, it meant they must spend a great deal of time with it.
  • This sets before us the Lord Jesus in His personality. Today I am sure we would use the expression that He had a well-integrated personality. Actually, I think He was the only normal person who has ever been on this earth. Sin has made all of the human race lumpy, one-sided, abnormal. One part of our personalities has overdeveloped at the expense of some other area of our personality.
  • The offering was drenched with oil. The oil was a very important part of the offering and was applied in many different ways.
  • The prominence of the Holy Spirit in the human life of Jesus is very noticeable. He was born of the Spirit—“mingled with oil” (Luke 1:35).
  • He was baptized of the Spirit—“oil upon it” (Matt. 3:16–17). He was led of the Spirit—“pour oil thereon” (Mark 1:12). He taught, performed miracles, and offered Himself in the power of the Holy Spirit—“with oil” (John 3:34; Matt. 12:28).
  • If the Lord Jesus in His perfect humanity needed the Holy Spirit, surely you and I need Him to an even greater extent. We can do nothing of ourselves.
  • Frankincense was made from a secret formula. There evidently was a form of incense with which it was mixed (Exod. 30:34). It was made from some part of a plant or tree, perhaps the bark or leaves, and it exuded its fragrance only when crushed, beaten, burned, or put under pressure. This speaks of the life of the Lord Jesus as He manifested the fragrance of His life under the fires of tension, pressures, and persecution. This is what the Father saw in Him as the One in whom He delighted. There was a special fragrance about His life, and there should be a fragrance in our lives also, since we belong to Him.
  • The emphasis upon the fine flour and the oil is repeated again and again. Also, the fire is mentioned over and over. I want to say with great emphasis that the fire here does not symbolize hell under any circumstance. It is God’s purifying energy and power which brought out the sweetness in the life of Christ.
  • The final and full meaning of this offering is what God sees in Christ. His sweetness came out under pressure. In your experience and mine sweetness doesn’t always come out from us when we are under pressure.
  • The ingredients excluded in this offering are as prominent as the ingredients included. The two mentioned here by name are leaven and honey. Leaven in Scripture is everywhere presented as a principle of evil. Evil teaching is the leaven. Leaven is the principle of evil. Leaven is to be excluded from the offering. This speaks of the fact that there is no evil in Christ. There is no sin in the life of Christ. Honey was also excluded. It represents natural sweetness. It will sour, just as leaven is a souring thing. There are Christians who assume a pious pose in public.
  • Salt is the final ingredient which was included in the meal offering. Salt is a preservative and is the opposite of leaven. Leaven produces decay; salt preserves from corruption.
  • This offering [the peace offering] speaks of the communion and fellowship of believers with God the Father through our Lord Jesus Christ. The only way you and I can come to God is through Jesus Christ. He is the Way!
  • Just as we need four Gospels in the New Testament to set forth His earthly life, so also we need the five offerings of Leviticus to set forth His person and work.
  • We will notice that there are striking similarities between the peace offering and the burnt offering but we will also note sharp contrast. So the peace offering is also a unique offering.
  • In the peace offering, the emphasis is not upon the peace that He made by the blood of the cross, but upon the peace He is because of the blood of the cross. He is the meeting place of all believers together and of each believer with God the Father. Christ is the only one who can break down the walls that separate individuals, families, religions, races, and nations.
  • God says to you and me as sinners, “You are lost. You are alienated from Me, so I will have to consign you to the darkness of eternity.”
  • If God did that, He would be just and holy and all the angels in heaven would sing praises to His name. But, my friend, God is satisfied with what Jesus did for you and now you can come to God.
  • This is the first of the non-sweet savor offerings. The three sweet savor offerings set forth the person of Christ in all of His glorious character. The two non-sweet savor offerings set forth the work of Christ on the cross for sin.
  • The sin offering speaks of sin as a nature. The trespass offering speaks of sin as an act. You see, man is a sinner by nature, and he is a sinner because of what he does. He does what he does because he is a sinner by nature.
  • It is the longest account of any offering since it is twice as long as any of the other four. The burnt offering was 17 verses; the meal offering, 16 verses; the peace offering, 17 verses; the trespass offering, 19 verses; the sin offering, 35 verses. Evidently the Spirit of God thought this was very important.
  • The sin offering was an entirely new offering. Up to this time, there is no record anywhere of a sin offering. There is no previous record of it occurring in Scripture.
  • From the time of the giving of the Law, it became the most important and significant offering.
  • The sin offering was offered during all of the feasts—Passover, Pentecost, Trumpets, and Tabernacles. It was offered on the great Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). It brought the High Priest into the Holy of Holies.
  • The burnt offering tells who Christ is; the sin offering tells what Christ did. In the burnt offering Christ meets the demands of God’s high and holy standard; in the sin offering Christ meets the deep and desperate needs of man.
  • The sin offering gave a profound conviction of sin. This conviction stands out in the literature of the race. The deep guilt complex of man must be diagnosed before an adequate remedy can be prescribed.
  • Our acceptance by God and our worship of Him are dependent upon the blood of Jesus Christ.
  • If you identify yourself with a church which does not teach the truth from the Word of God, God will judge you right along with that church.
  • Your responsibility is an individual responsibility, but when you join yourself with something, you are placed under corporate responsibility also.
  • We should not only pray for forgiveness in general, we are to name our specific failures to God and ask Him for forgiveness. But more than that, we should pray for forgiveness of sins that we may be unaware of. Sometimes we are unclean and do not realize it.
  • Christ is not only the priest but He is also the sacrifice. He offered Himself.
  • The trouble today is that we are out of touch with the living Christ. He is no longer a reality to us.
  • Today you and I need to offer our own hearts and lives to Him, if we belong to Him, that is, if we are saved. God forbid that we simply make empty professions. What is it that God wants us to do? “… This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent” (John 6:29).
  • All believers can participate in the enjoyment of the beauties and glories of the holy humanity of our Lord. My friend, you and I need to rejoice in Him more than we do.
  • When we see our sin nature and our sinful acts in all their enormity and frightfulness, then we shall see the wonder, greatness, and holiness of Christ.
  • My friend, you will never appreciate the Lord Jesus as your Savior until you see yourself as the terrible sinner that you are. I’m not calling you a low-down sinner. That is what the Word of God calls each one of us.
  • Friend, we cannot come to church to worship unless we are prepared to offer the sacrifice of praise to God. A complaining, criticizing Christian is in no position to worship God. How important this is!
  • A priest is one who represents man before God. He goes in to God on behalf of man. He is the opposite of a prophet. A prophet comes out from God, to speak for God, to man. A priest comes out from man and goes to God, to speak for man to God, and to represent man.
  • You can see that the Lord Jesus is both Prophet and Priest. He came out from God and spoke for God to man. He reveals God to man. Now He has gone from man back to God and is our great High Priest. He represents us there.
  • My friend, if you are not in Him, then you are not up there. You and I could never get there on our own.
  • A knowledge of the tabernacle is essential to an understanding of the Book of Leviticus and especially of the priesthood. 
  • We need the Word of God today, and we need the leading of God to determine the will of God in our lives.
  • Our life should be so that it would attract the man out in the world to the Lord Jesus Christ.
  • Too many folk think they must bring something to God if they are to be consecrated. Some folk seem to think they are giving the Lord a whole lot if they give themselves.
  • We’re not giving Him very much, friends. When He got me, all He got was just so much sin. That’s all.
  • We were born for the purpose of completing the body of Christ. And He was born for the purpose of coming down here to accomplish the will of God in order that He might bring us home to glory.
  • It is the filling of the Holy Spirit that is needed for the study and the teaching of the Word of God.
  • God is the One who saves and He is the One who says how we shall be saved. Jesus Christ says that no man comes to the Father but by Him.
  • Friends, you cannot make a distinction between the sacred and the secular. God moves right out here from that which we would call sacred to that which we would call secular, and He makes no distinction.
  • You see, we tend to divide things in our lives as big problems and little problems. They are not divided that way before God. They are all little problems to Him. Yet nothing is too small for His attention and care.
  • A Christian cannot mingle with the world and play with sin without becoming contaminated.
  • Leprosy and running issues of the flesh are accurate symbols of the manifestation of sin in the heart of man. It shows the exceeding sinfulness of sin and the effect of sin in action. The emphasis of Leviticus is on sin.
  • The sinner spreads his sin wherever he goes! His disease is contagious and he infects others.
  • We notice that the priest is not going out to heal the leper but is going out to see if he has been healed. That is important. This is the “law of the leper in the day of his cleansing.”
  • The leper was shut out from the tabernacle, and so it was necessary for the priest to come to him.
  • The brazen altar for the sacrifices speaks of the cross of Christ. But, you see, that cross had to be down here on this earth. He had to come down here to meet us where we are.
  • Friend, you can never be cleansed or sanctified, set apart for God’s use, until you are saturated with the Word of God.
  • Are you a leper who has come to Jesus Christ for cleansing or are you still unclean?

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Week in Review: November 4-10


  • Ezra
  • Nehemiah
  • Esther
  • Job
  • Psalms
  • Proverbs 1-15

ESV Systematic Theology Bible

  • Exodus
  • Joshua
  • Psalms 1-72
  • Isaiah
  • Hosea
  • Joel
  • Amos
  • Obadiah
  • Jonah
  • Matthew 19-28
  • Mark
  • James

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

My Victorian Year #42

Still reading Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon and J.C. Ryle's Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of Matthew. (I hope to finish up the Ryle this week! I only lack a few chapters.)

From Morning and Evening:

  • A primary qualification for serving God with any amount of success, and for doing God’s work well and triumphantly, is a sense of our own weakness.
  • Those who serve God—must serve Him in His own way, and in His strength, or He will never accept their service. God will never own that man who works, unaided by divine strength.
  • Until our Immanuel reveals Himself within—the soul cannot truly see Him.
  • It is not the law—but the gospel which saves the seeking soul at first; and it is not a legal bondage—but gospel liberty alone, which can restore the fainting believer afterwards.
  • Christian, make your life a clear testimony. Be as the clear brook wherein you may see every stone at the bottom—not as the muddy creek, of which you only see the surface—but clear and transparent, so that your heart’s love to God and man may be visible to all.
  • If we have received Christ Himself in our inmost hearts, our new life will manifest its intimate acquaintance with Him by a walk of faith in Him.
  • Proceed from grace to grace, run forward until you reach the uttermost degree of knowledge that a man can attain concerning our Beloved.
  • How many Christians think that in the morning and evening they ought to come into the company of Jesus—but may give their hearts to the world all the day. This is poor living;
  • We should always be with Him, treading in His steps and doing His will.
  • When we speak of a man’s walk and life—we mean his habits, the constant tenor of his life. Now, if we sometimes enjoy Christ, and then forget Him; sometimes call Him ours, and anon lose our hold, that is not a habit; we do not walk in Him.
  • We must keep to Him, cling to Him, never let Him go—but live and have our being in Him. “As you have received Christ Jesus the Lord—so walk in Him”;

From Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 26
Matthew 26:1-13

  • We now approach the closing scene of our Lord Jesus Christ's earthly ministry. Hitherto we have read of His sayings and doings--we are now about to read of His sufferings and death.
  • The place whereon we stand is holy ground. Here we see how the Seed of the woman bruised the Serpent's head. Here we see the great sacrifice to which all the sacrifices of the Old Testament had long pointed.
  • We see in the death of Christ, the great mystery revealed, how God can be just, and yet justify the ungodly.
  • We can never attach too much importance to the atoning death of Christ. It is the leading fact in the word of God, on which the eyes of our soul ought to be ever fixed.
  • Without the shedding of his blood, there is no remission of sin. It is the cardinal truth on which the whole system of Christianity hinges.
  • Without it the Gospel is an arch without a key-stone, a fair building without a foundation, a solar system without a sun.
  • Let us make much of our Lord's incarnation and example, His miracles and his parables, His works and His words, but above all let us make much of His death.
  • This, after all, is the master-truth of Scripture, that "Christ died for our sins." To this let us daily return.

Matthew 26:14-25

  • There are few blacker pages in all history, than the character and conduct of Judas Iscariot. There is no more dreadful evidence of the wickedness of man.
  • Let us learn, in the first place, from these verses, that a man may enjoy great privileges, and make a great religious profession, and yet his heart all the time may not be right before God.
  • Like Lot's wife, Judas is intended to be a beacon to the whole church. Let us often think about him, and say, as we think, "Search me, O Lord, and try my heart, and see if there be any wicked way in me."
  • Let us resolve, by God's grace, that we will never be content with anything short of sound, thorough, heart conversion.
  • Let us learn, in the second place, from these verses, that the love of money is one of the greatest snares to a man's soul.
  • Let us learn, in the last place, from these verses, the hopeless condition of all who die unconverted. The words of our Lord on this subject are peculiarly solemn.
  • He says of Judas, "It would have been better for that man, if he had not been born." This saying admits of only one interpretation. It teaches plainly, that it is better never to live at all, than to live without faith, and to die without grace.
  • The gulf between hell and heaven is one that no man can pass. This saying could never have been used, if there was any truth in the doctrine of 'universal salvation'.
  • Hell itself would lose its terrors, if it had an end. Hell itself would be endurable, if after millions of ages there was a HOPE of freedom and of heaven.
  • But universal salvation will find no foot-hold in Scripture. The teaching of the word of God is plain and express on the subject.
  • There are always people who dislike the reality and eternity of hell. We live in a day when a morbid charity induces many to exaggerate God's mercy, at the expense of His justice, and when false teachers are daring to talk of a "love of God, lower even than hell."
  • We may rest assured that there is no firm standing ground between a belief in the eternity of hell, and downright infidelity.

Matthew 26:26-35

  • These verses describe the appointment of the sacrament of the Lord's Supper. Our Lord knew well the things that were before Him, and graciously chose the last quiet evening that he could have before his crucifixion, as an occasion for bestowing a parting gift on his church.
  • The first thing that demands our notice in these verses, is the right meaning of our Lord's words, "this is my body, this is my blood."
  • The plain meaning of our Lord's words appears to be this--"This bread represents my body. This wine represents my blood."
  • The true doctrine about our Lord's human nature forbids us to believe that the bread in the Lord's Supper can be His body, or the wine His blood.
  • The second thing which demands our notice in these verses, is the purpose and object for which the Lord's Supper was appointed.
  • From the day that Jesus died there needed no more offering for sin. By one offering He perfected forever those who are sanctified. (Heb. 10:14.)
  • The Lord's Supper has no power to automatically confer benefit on those who come to it, if they do not come to it with faith.
  • The Lord's Supper was ordained for a continual remembrance of the sacrifice of Christ's death, until He comes again.
  • It is an ordinance for redeemed sinners, and not for unfallen angels.
  • By receiving it we publicly declare our sense of guilt, and need of a Savior--our trust in Jesus, and our love to Him--our desire to live upon Him, and our hope to live with Him.
  • The last thing which deserves a brief notice in this passage, is the character of the first communicants. It is a point full of comfort and instruction.
  • The state of their hearts was not hidden from Him. And yet He did not keep back from them the Lord's Supper.
  • It shows us plainly that we must not make great knowledge, and great strength of grace, an indispensable qualification for communicants.
  • Let us leave the passage with serious self-inquiry as to our own conduct with respect to the Lord's Supper. Do we turn away from it, when it is administered?
  • If so, how can we justify our conduct? It will not do to say it is not a necessary ordinance. To say so is to pour contempt on Christ Himself, and declare that we do not obey Him.
  • Are we in the habit of coming to the Lord's table? If so, in what frame of mind do we come? Do we draw near intelligently, humbly, and with faith?
  • Do we really feel our sinfulness and need of Christ? Do we really desire to live a Christian life, as well as profess the Christian faith? Happy is that soul who can give a satisfactory answer to these questions. Let him go forward, and persevere.

Matthew 26:36-46

  • Why do we find our Lord so "sorrowful and very heavy," as he is here described? What are we to make of His words, "my soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death?"
  • Why do we see Him going apart from His disciples, and falling on His face, and crying to His Father with strong cries, and thrice-repeated prayer?
  • Why is the Almighty Son of God, who had worked so many miracles, so heavy and disturbed? Why is Jesus, who came into the world to die, so like one ready to faint at the approach of death? Why is all this?
  • There is but one reasonable answer to these questions. The weight that pressed down our Lord's soul, was not the fear of death, and its pains.
  • But the real weight that bowed down the heart of Jesus, was the weight of the sin of the world, which seems to have now pressed down upon Him with peculiar force.
  • It was the burden of our guilt imputed to Him, which was now laid on Him, as on the head of the scapegoat. How great that burden must have been, no heart of man can conceive. It is known only to God.
  • Let us learn, in the first place, that prayer is the best practical remedy that we can use in time of trouble. We see that Christ Himself prayed, when His soul was sorrowful. All true Christians ought to do the same.
  • Trouble is a cup that all must drink in this world of sin. We are "born to trouble as the sparks fly upward." (Job 5:7.) We cannot avoid it.
  • But what is the first thing to be done in time of trouble? We must pray. Like Job, we must fall down and worship. (Job 1:20.)
  • The first person we must turn to for help, must be our God. We must tell all our sorrow to our Father in heaven.
  • Let us learn, in the second place, that entire submission of will to the will of God should be one of our chief aims in this world.
  • Let us learn, in the last place, that there is great weakness, even in true disciples of Christ, and that they have need to watch and pray against it.
  • If we desire to walk with God comfortably, and not fall, like David or Peter, let us never forget to watch and pray.
  • We cannot walk too carefully. We cannot be too jealous over our souls. The world is very ensnaring. The devil is very busy. Let our Lord's words ring in our ears daily like a trumpet.
  • Our spirits may sometimes be very willing. But our flesh is always very weak. Then let us always watch and always pray.
  • Matthew 26:47-56
  • We see in these verses the cup of our Lord Jesus Christ's sufferings beginning to be filled.
  • Never surely was there sorrow like His sorrow! Never may we forget, as we read this part of the Bible, that our sins were the cause of these sorrows!
  • Let us notice, for one thing, in these verses, what gracious condescension marked our Lord's communion with His disciples.
  • Let us notice for another thing, how our Lord condemns those who think to use carnal weapons in defense of Him and His cause.
  • Let us notice for another thing, how our Lord submitted to be made a prisoner of His own free will. He was not taken captive because he could not escape.
  • He came on purpose to fulfill the types and promises of Old Testament Scriptures, and by fulfilling them to provide salvation for the world.
  • He came intentionally to be the true Lamb of God, the Passover Lamb. He came to be the Scapegoat on whom the iniquities of the people were to be laid.
  • Let us observe this. There is much encouragement in it. The willing sufferer will surely be a willing Savior.
  • Let us notice, in the last place, how little Christians know the weakness of their own hearts, until they are tried.

Matthew 26:57-68

  • The great day of atonement was come. The wondrous type of the scapegoat was about to be completely fulfilled.
  • It was only suitable that the Jewish high priest should do his part, and declare sin to be upon the head of the victim, before he was led forth to be crucified.
  • Let us observe in these verses, that the chief priests were the principal agents in bringing about our Lord's death.
  • It is a clear proof that high ecclesiastical office exempts no man from gross errors in doctrine, and tremendous sins in practice.
  • Let us beware of regarding any minister of religion as infallible.
  • The teaching and conduct of all ministers must be tried by the Word of God. They are to be followed so long as they follow the Bible, but no longer.
  • Let us observe, in the second place, how fully our Lord declared to the Jewish council His own Messiahship, and His future coming in glory.
  • Let us observe, in the last place, how much our Lord endured before the council, from false witness and mockery.

Matthew 26:69-75

  • If the Gospel had been a mere invention of man, we would never have been told that one of its principal preachers was once so weak and erring, as to deny his Master.
  • The first thing that demands our notice, is the full nature of the sin of which Peter was guilty.
  • A man may be converted to God, have faith, and hope, and love towards Christ, and yet be overtaken in a fault, and have dreadful falls.
  • The second thing that demands our notice, is the series of steps by which Peter was led to deny his Lord.
  • The first step to Peter's fall was SELF-CONFIDENCE. He said, "Even if everyone else deserts you, I never will." The second step was INDOLENCE. His Master told him to watch and pray. Instead of doing so, he slept. The third step was cowardly COMPROMISING. The last step was NEEDLESS VENTURING INTO EVIL COMPANY. And then came the final fall, the cursing, the swearing, and the three-fold DENIAL.
  • Let us remember this part of Peter's history. It is deeply instructive to all who profess and call themselves Christians.
  • Great falls seldom happen to a saint, without a previous course of secret backsliding.
  • Men fall in private, long before they fall in public. The tree falls with a great crash, but the secret decay which accounts for it, is often not discovered until it is down on the ground.
  • The last thing that demands our notice, is the sorrow which Peter's sin brought upon him. We read at the end of the chapter, "He went out and wept bitterly."
  • Thousands have read the history of Peter's sin, who have thought little of Peter's tears, and Peter's repentance. May we have an eye to see, and a heart to understand.
  • We see in Peter's tears, the close connection between unhappiness and departure from God. It is a merciful arrangement of God, that in one sense holiness shall always be its own reward.
  • Let it be a settled principle in our religion, that if we love inward peace, we must walk closely with God.
  • When the hypocrite is overtaken by sin, he generally falls to rise no more. He has no principle of life within him to raise him up.
  • When the child of God is overtaken, he rises again by true repentance, and by the grace of God amends his life.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, November 9, 2018

Book Review: Jesus Loves Me

Jesus Loves Me (Bible bb's) Scholastic. 2018. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Jesus loves me! This I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to Him belong; They are weak, but He is strong.

Premise/plot: This picture book for young readers is an adaptation of the Christian hymn, "Jesus Loves Me." It does not include all of the verses. It includes the first verse--which most people learned by heart at an early age--and the third verse. It does not include the second or fourth verses. It includes the refrain twice.

The book is part of a new book series from the "Bible bb's" brand. I reviewed the first book in the series, "Away in a Manger" a few days ago.

The illustrations select a few scenes from Jesus' life to highlight including the calling of the disciples, the feeding of the five thousand, the last supper, the burial, the women discovering an empty tomb, etc.

My thoughts: I'll be completely honest. I miss the second and fourth verses of this one. I wish they'd been included too.
Jesus loves me! This I know,
As He loved so long ago,
Taking children on His knee,
Saying, "Let them come to Me."
Jesus loves me! He will stay
Close beside me all the way;
Thou hast bled and died for me,
I will henceforth live for Thee.
For better or worse, Jesus is NOT depicted on the cross or in the garden of Gethsemane. I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, since I tend to find the illustrations disrespectful and silly it could be a blessing. The Jesus depicted in these illustrations is ridiculously cutesy-cutesy. As in I'm surprised the illustrator restrained himself/herself from adding unicorns into the mix. On the other hand, his death is--without a doubt--absolutely central to the Christian faith. I would have to look over other children's bible story books that I've had to see how the cross is handled. Perhaps this is standard treatment.

The illustrations are obviously supposed to appeal to a young audience.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

McGee and Me #5 Exodus 19-40

Exodus 19-40 (Thru the Bible) J. Vernon McGee. 1975. 156 pages. [Source: Bought]

I recently bought a complete set of J. Vernon McGee's Thru the Bible commentary series. These books are loosely based on his popular radio program. I have read a handful of his commentaries in the past--including this one--but I plan on reading and/or rereading all of the commentaries (again)

His commentary on Exodus is divided into two books. The first covers Exodus 1-18; the second covers Exodus 19-40. 

McGee's commentary reprints the text of the King James Version. These chapters--in some ways--feature less action than the first nineteen. But they don't lack drama. In fact, some of these chapters are absolutely packed with drama. In these chapters Moses is talking with God. It's something that is oh-so-easy to take for granted. Moses went up on a mountain. God talked to him. God revealed Himself to Moses. What Moses could handle seeing of God's glory was manifested to him. The burning bush was just the beginning. This is the real deal. God gave him the law--the Ten Commandments--but so much more than that. Other rules, other guidelines and instructions on how to live and worship in the Promised Land. He gave him instructions on how to construct the tabernacle and rules for the priesthood. Everything about this structure--the tabernacle and everything within and without--would hint at Christ. 

The people below might be growing bored--restless, reckless, just plain stupid. But Moses was having a mountain-top experience. God is at the center of the book of Exodus--as he is at the center of all books in the Bible. We see his holiness, his righteous anger, his compassion, his faithfulness.


  • All the way God bore Israel on eagles’ wings, and that is the way He bears us today. He leads us by His grace, and we walk by faith.
  • Now at Mount Sinai God reminds Israel how He has led and cared for them. Then He gives them a choice—grace or law. God asks them if they will keep the commandments if He gives them to Israel.
  • They are going to exchange grace for law. A great many people do that today. This is unfortunate because we live in a day when God saves by grace. God does not save by law. What a contrast there is between law and grace.
  • Law demands—grace gives. Law says “do”—grace says “believe.” Law exacts—grace bestows. Law says “work”—grace says “rest.” Law threatens, pronouncing a curse—grace entreats, pronouncing a blessing. Law says “Do, and thou shalt live”—grace says, “Live, and thou shalt do.” Law condemns the best man—grace saves the worst man. The Law reveals the character of God—it also reveals the weakness of man.
  • The law was given to reveal that we are sinners. It was given temporarily until the Seed would come. The Seed spoken of in this verse is the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul goes on to say in Galatians 3:24 that, “… the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.”
  • The “schoolmaster” is not a school teacher, but a slave in the home of a Roman patrician that took care of the child. He clothed, washed, dressed him, blew his nose when needed, and paddled him when necessary. When the child was old enough to attend school, the school master took him.
  • The word for schoolmaster is paidagogos, meaning a “child conductor,” one who takes a little child by the hand and leads him to the school.
  • The natural man cannot keep the Law and he fails terribly in the attempt. The Law was given to control the old nature but it cannot, because the old nature is a revolutionary which cannot be controlled.
  • There is nothing that makes a greater hypocrite out of a person than for him to say, “I keep the Law!” No one can measure up to God’s standards.
  • The Law revealed that man is a sinner and needs a Savior. There must be an altar upon which to offer the sacrifice; there must be the shedding of blood for sin.
  • We love to think that we are sophisticated and refined sinners. We are not—we are just crude sinners in the raw—natural sinners.
  • Every preacher who teaches the grace of God and has a true perspective of the nature of salvation by faith, realizes the lofty character of the Law.
  • If you think you can continue to live in sin and break the Ten Commandments at will, then, my friend, you are not saved by the grace of God. When you are really saved, you want to please God and want to do His will which is revealed in the Ten Commandments.
  • The Law is the expression of the mind of God relative to what man ought to be. There is no grace or mercy in the Law at all. The Law is an expression of the holy will of God.
  • Our notions of right and wrong are colored by our environment and by the fact that we have a fallen nature. The Law is a revelation of God. God has drawn the line between right and wrong.
  • God is condemning polytheism, which is the belief in more than one god. There is no commandment against atheism—there was none in those days because they were too close to the creation and the original revelation of God.
  • In that day it was popular to worship many gods. Today it is popular not to worship any god. My, how the pendulum of the clock has moved!
  • The last thing I want to do is preach a beautiful sermon. I want to preach about a beautiful Savior and when people hear me preach, I want them to say, “Isn’t Jesus wonderful!”
  • My, the arrogance of the children of Israel in saying, “All the words which the Lord hath said we will do!” You will notice, however, that they did not keep all His words.
  • We live in a day when sin is called good and bad is called good. The prophets said that such a day would come. Well, we certainly have arrived.
  • Whether you like it or not, friend, you eat every day at God’s table in the physical realm. Yet how few recognize this truth and give thanks to Him for His bounty. God is the one who provides for us.
  • The table of showbread is a prefiguration of Christ as the sustainer of spiritual life for the believer.
  • The lampstand is probably the most perfect picture of Christ found in the tabernacle furniture. It sets Him forth as pure gold and speaks of His deity. It sets Him forth as He is—God. Worship has to do with walking in the light. This is a very important fact to see.
  • Everything in the tabernacle speaks of either the person or work of Christ. Every covering, every thread, and every article of furniture reveals some facet of the Savior.
  • Friends, it is the death of Jesus Christ that saves us. His spotless life condemns us. When I stand before the veil, I am condemned. I see myself as not able to pass into the presence of God.
  • This veil, or hanging, led to the Holy Place, the place of worship where the golden lampstand, table of showbread, and altar of incense were located. Now, friend, we cannot worship God any old way. We have to come through the Lord Jesus Christ. We have to come in spirit and in truth. Jesus said, “…I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). Both veils prefigure our Lord Jesus Christ.
  • Man is standing on the outside. How is he going to approach God? The first thing he must have is a substitute to die for him. Man might avoid meeting God, but if he wants to meet God and not die, he must have a substitute. 
  • There is no approach to God except by the brazen altar. There a victim must be sacrificed and must be claimed as the substitute. John 1:29 tells us, “The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”
  • Man could not worship, pray, or serve God until he came to the brazen altar. Every priest, every Levite, had to come to this altar. Friends, “the way of the cross leads home.” If Jesus Christ had not gone by the brazen altar, we would have no access to God.
  • Jesus Christ is not only the Lamb that died for us, He is also the risen Lamb. The Apostle John tells us in Revelation 5:6 that he saw a “…Lamb as it had been slain…” The brazen altar stood at the entrance of the tabernacle. The cross of Christ stands before heaven—it was raised on this earth but there is no entrance to heaven except by this cross.
  • The pomegranates speak of fruit, and the bells speak of witness. We should have both of these in our lives. We ought to be a witness for Christ, and there ought to be the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22–23) in our lives.
  • You should not be handing out tracts, friends, unless you are making the right kind of “tracks” in this world. Too many people want to witness but do not have a life to back it up. 
  • Consecration for a believer is nothing that he does for himself. It is something that God does for him. It rests upon the finished work of Christ. It has to rest there.
  • You go to God through Christ. He is the One who brings us into the presence of God. Christ is in heaven praying for us.
  • What a precious thing it is to have a great High Priest who prays for us. God hears our prayers because of who Christ is and what He did for us on the cross.
  • We get dirty in this world, and we cannot worship until we are cleansed. That is why the Lord washed the disciples’ feet. He is still doing that today.
  • One of the big troubles in our churches today is that there is too much spiritual B.O. We need to confess our sins to Him and wash before we go in to worship.
  • Sin is an awful cancer, and God uses extreme surgery in this case by slaying those who were guilty.
  • Liberalism has crept into our churches and we have allowed it to stay there unchecked. 
  • We are soft and sentimental and silly. Sometimes we are even stupid in the way we handle evil.
  • The church is also to be a peculiar people today. This means we are to be a people for God; it does not mean that we are to be oddballs.
  • God does not extend mercy by shutting His eyes to the guilty or by saying, “I will just forget that sin.” Sin must be punished and a penalty must be paid. God by no means clears the guilty.
  • How does He keep His mercy and take care of iniquity at the same time? A sacrifice has been provided. The sacrifices Israel made in that day did not take away sin but they pointed to that “Perfect Sacrifice,” the Lord Jesus Christ, who, when He did come, put away sin by His death on the cross.
  • Where are you today, friend, in relation to the tabernacle? Do you need to stand at the brazen altar and be saved? There are many folk—even church members—who need to go there.
  • Are you a soiled Christian who needs to confess your sins at the laver and be cleansed? Or are you walking in darkness today? Step inside the Holy Place and walk by the light of the golden lampstand.
  • Maybe your spiritual life is a little anemic, and you need to feed on the Bread of Life to gain nourishment. Maybe your prayer life is beggarly and you need to stand before the altar of incense.
  • Perhaps you are in trouble and you need mercy, grace, and help. Well, there is a mercy seat for you today. Go there and accept the help that is waiting for you. God wants to bless and guide you.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Book Review: A Season of Grace

Season of Grace. (Under Northern Skies #3) Lauraine Snelling. 2018. Bethany House.  320  pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence:
August 1910
The rocking chair on the porch made all the difference.
Premise/plot: A Season of Grace by Lauraine Snelling is the third book in the Under the Northern Skies series. The first two books in the series are The Promise of Dawn and A Breath of Hope. The books focus on a Norwegian immigrant family as they settle down in America at the turn of the century.

The first book primarily focuses on Signe and Rune and their children. The second book introduces more of their family: Nilda and her brother Ivar. (Both are siblings of Rune.) The third book sees even more of their family coming over and settling in. (Including their mother) But in this third book the focus shifts considerably.

The heroine is truly Nilda--and Nilda alone. She's been given an opportunity to work as a companion/assistant of sorts to a wealthy woman who lives in town. She is being taught social graces--learning English, learning the piano, learning social customs and niceties. There are socials nearly every week. Several men seem potentially interested in her. But one man continues to haunt her--or at the very least haunt her dreams. The man who attempted to sexually assault her back in Norway. Dreng.

My thoughts: I loved, loved, loved the first two books in this series. I got very bonded with Signe and her family. Part of me wanted more of the same in this third book. I wanted to stay on the farm. I wanted the focus to be on the entire family: Signe, Rune, their three sons, their daughter; Ivar and Nilda; the new family members--widows both. I was enjoying this book--up to a point--the point where Dreng started becoming the central focus.

I hated the fact that Nilda was discouraged from following her instincts. I hated the fact that even when Nilda spoke up about what happened to her in the past and spoke of his reputation--this wealthy society woman chose to keep inviting him into her home every week. I hated that she arranged for them to have a private meeting so that he could "apologize" to her and smooth things over. I hated that she was actively encouraged to socialize with the man who attempted to rape her. I hated that he knew where she lived. I hated that Nilda was isolated from her family. I don't think that Dreng would have been so bold to seek her out again and again and again if she'd remained on the farm surrounded by her brothers. (Though perhaps he would have all the same.) I hated that there was no distinction made between forgiveness as a step for personal healing and forgiveness as an invitation to welcome the abuser into one's life. I hated that when it came down to believing him or her--almost everyone believed him. "I've changed; I have. I'm no longer the man who did those things." "This wasn't a one time thing. He makes a habit of attacking women. He attacked me. I've talked to other women he's attacked. The women in our town talked to each other, looked out for one another, warned each other. His family knew about this and did nothing." She was essentially accused of privately slandering Dreng; she wasn't being fair to him. He could have changed. She doesn't know that he hasn't changed. He deserves the benefit of the doubt. It's a serious thing to cut someone socially and uninvite him into your home.

Nilda needed a better advocate, a better friend.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible