Sunday, February 26, 2012

February 2012 Bible Reading Records

Here are the books I've read from January 30th through February 25th. I read in multiple translations this month, so I've indicated which translations for each book. To see about this month's project, visit my post, My Month with John. I almost, almost read the New Testament twice this month. All but for Acts. I probably could have finished Acts if I'd been reading it in a text-only Bible, but I am enjoying the notes in the ESV Student Study Bible, and there is no real rush to speed through the reading after all!!!

Written by Moses

1. Genesis
2. Exodus
3. Leviticus
4. Numbers
5. Deuteronomy

OT Narratives

6. Joshua
7. Judges
8. Ruth (ESV Student Study Bible)
9. 1 Samuel (ESV Student Study Bible)
10. 2 Samuel
11. 1 Kings
12. 2 Kings
13. 1 Chronicles
14. 2 Chronicles
15. Ezra
16. Nehemiah
17. Esther

Wisdom Literature

18. Job
19. Psalms (NKJV)
20. Proverbs (NKJV)
21. Ecclesiastes
22. Song of Songs

Major Prophets

23. Isaiah
24. Jeremiah
25. Lamentations
26. Ezekiel
27. Daniel

Minor Prophets

28. Hosea (ESV Student Study Bible
29. Joel
30. Amos
31. Obadiah
32. Jonah
33. Micah
34. Nahum
35. Habakkuk
36. Zephaniah
37. Haggai
38. Zechariah
39. Malachi

NT Narratives

40. Matthew (ESV Student Study Bible, NKJV)
41. Mark (ESV Student Study Bible, NKJV)
42. Luke (ESV Student Study Bible, NKJV)
43. John (ESV Student Study Bible, NKJV, NASB, RSV)
44. Acts (NKJV)

Epistles by Paul

45. Romans (ESV Student Study Bible, NKJV)
46. 1 Corinthians (ESV Student Study Bible, NKJV)
47. 2 Corinthians (ESV Student Study Bible, NKJV)
48. Galatians (ESV Student Study Bible, NKJV )
49. Ephesians (ESV Student Study Bible, NKJV)
50. Philippians (ESV Student Study Bible, NKJV)
51. Colossians (ESV Student Study Bible, NKJV)
52. 1 Thessalonians (ESV Student Study Bible, NKJV)
53. 2 Thessalonians (ESV Student Study Bible, NKJV)
54. 1 Timothy (ESV Student Study Bible, NKJV)
55. 2 Timothy (ESV Student Study Bible, NKJV)
56. Titus (ESV Student Study Bible, NKJV)
57. Philemon (ESV Student Study Bible, NKJV)

General Epistles

58. Hebrews (ESV Student Study Bible, NKJV)
59. James (ESV Student Study Bible, NKJV)
60. 1 Peter (ESV Student Study Bible, NKJV)
61. 2 Peter (ESV Student Study Bible, NKJV)
62. 1 John (ESV Student Study Bible, NKJV, NASB, RSV, and many others....)
63. 2 John (ESV Student Study Bible, NKJV, NASB, RSV)
64. 3 John (ESV Student Study Bible, NKJV, NASB, RSV)
65. Jude (ESV Student Study Bible)

Apocalyptic Epistle by John

66. Revelation (ESV Student Study Bible, NKJV, NASB, RSV)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

My Month with John

This February, I made a goal for myself to read 1 John thirty times. I also made plans to read John, 2 John, 3 John, and Revelation each week in February. I was inspired by John MacArthur's system. You can read a little bit about that at Grace To You. Here is what he says in part,
It is my conviction that the Bible is not difficult for the believing heart to understand. And the more I understand, the more unshakable is my conviction that the Bible is the living, authoritative, inerrant Word of God. It has this remarkable effect on me: the more I study it, the more I hunger to know. So God's Word not only satisfies my appetite, but also arouses an even deeper hunger for more. I want you to experience that hunger too. I want you to live in the joy of a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ that comes only through knowing the meaning of Scripture. Here's a simple process to get you started.
Begin by developing a plan on how you will approach reading through the Bible. Just by reading the Bible you become familiar with its themes, history, and contexts. There is simply no replacement for Bible reading.

He says:
Read through the Old Testament at least once a year...

Follow a different plan for reading the New Testament. Read one book at a time repetitiously for a month or more. That will help you retain the New Testament so you will not always have to depend on a concordance to find things. If you want to try that, begin with a short book, such as 1 John, and read it through in one sitting every day for thirty days. At the end of that time, you will know the book
He then goes on with tips for interpreting, evaluating, applying, and correlating.

Week one I read 1 John eight times: NKJV (5), ESV(1), NASB (1), ASV (1)
I read John, 2 John, 3 John, and Revelation in the ESV.

Week two I read 1 John eight times: NKJV (6) Living (1), New Living (1).
I read John, 2 John, 3 John, and Revelation in the NKJV.

Week three I read 1 John ten times: NKJV (5), KJ21 (1), NIV (1), RSV (1), Message (1), NASB (1)
I read John, 2 John, 3 John, and Revelation in the NASB.

Week four I read 1 John eight times: NKJV (2), ESV (3), NASB (1), RSV (1), HCSB (1).
I read John, 2 John, 3 John, and Revelation in the RSV.

So in total, here's what my month looked like: NKJV (18), ESV (4), NASB (3), RSV (2), ASV (1), Living (1), New Living (1), KJ21 (1), NIV (1), Message (1), HCSB (1). Most of these readings were done in a text-only Bible, but I read it in two student study Bibles. One, the MacArthur Student Study Bible. Two, the ESV Student Study Bible.

John, 2 John, 3 John, and Revelation were read in the ESV, NKJV, NASB, and RSV translations.

Key Verses:

1 John 1:9  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (NKJV)

Most translations read similarly except for the Holman Christian Standard Study Bible and the New American Standard Bible. They both read:

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 

Other variations I found refreshing to a certain degree:

If we confess our sins, he is just, and may be trusted to forgive our sins and cleanse us from every kind of wrong. (NEB)
If we confess our sins, he is just and may be trusted to forgive our sins and cleanse us from every kind of wrongdoing. (REB)
But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. (NLT)
But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from everything we've done wrong. (CEB)
1 John 2:1-2 My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world. (NKJV)
The key word for me--well, one of them, at any rate, is propitiation. I was curious to see which translations kept this word, and which ones changed it up a bit.

Propitiation: NKJV, ESV, NASB, HCSB, KJV, KJ21, ASV,

CEB: My little children, I'm writing these things to you so that you don't sin. But if you do sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one. He is God's way of dealing with our sins, not only for ours but the sins of the whole world.
NIV: My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father--Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. 
NLT: My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous. He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins--and not only our sins but the sins of all the world. 
NEB: My children, in writing thus to you my purpose is that you should not commit sin. But should anyone commit a sin, we have one to plead our cause with the Father, Jesus Christ, and he is just. He is himself the remedy for the defilement of our sins, not our sins only but the sins of all the world. 
REB: My children, I am writing this to you so that you should not commit sin. But if anybody does, we have in Jesus Christ one who is acceptable to God and will plead our cause with the Father. He is himself a sacrifice to atone for our sins, and not ours only but the sins of the whole world.
RSV: My little children, I am writing this to you so that you may not sin; but if any one does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is expiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. 

And, yes, because I do care about the differences--subtle or not--between propitiation and expiation I'll include a link to this article from the Holman Bible Dictionary.

1 John 4:7-11 

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (NKJV)

And some interesting (at least interesting to me) variations on 1 John 4:19

  • We love Him because He first loved us (NKJV, KJV)
  • We love because God first loved us (CEB)
  • We love because he first loved us (NIV, ESV, NEB, REB)
  • We love each other because he loved us first (NLT)
  • We love because He first loved us (NASB, HCSB, RSV)
  • We, though, are going to love--love and be loved. First we were loved, now we love. He loved us first. (Message)

1 John 5:5 Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
1 John 5:12-13 He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God. (NKJV)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

MacArthur System, 1 John: Week of February 19-25

This February, I am focusing on the writings of John. I am going to read 1 John thirty times this month. I am planning on reading John, Revelation, 2 John, and 3 John a handful of times as well. This is my fourth (and probably final) week. I happened to read 1 John eight times. (I believe that makes thirty-four times for the whole month!!!) This week I read it in the HCSB (1), NKJV (2), RSV (1), ESV (3), NASB (1).

From the ESV Student Study Bible

  • Matthew 3-28
  • Acts 1-4

From the Living Insights Bible (NIV)

  • Psalms 1-45
  • Proverbs 1-7
  • Genesis 1-36
  • Job 
  • Isaiah 1-44
  • Matthew
  • Mark 1-13
  • Romans 
  • 1 Corinthians 
  • 2 Corinthians
  • Galatians
  • Ephesians
  • Philippians
  • Colossians
  • 1 Thessalonians
  • 2 Thessalonians


  • 1 John (3)


  • John
  • 1 John
  • 2 John
  • 3 John
  • Revelation


  • 1 John


  • 1 John


  • 1 John

Instead of sharing "key verses" with you this week, I think I'll try a little something different.

Did You Know?!

1) The gospels comprise 46% of the New Testament, and that the Gospels and Acts make up 60% of the New Testament. (Living Insights, Introduction to Matthew, p. 1005)

2) There are five divisions in Psalms. And each book focuses on something different! And that each book concludes in a doxology... (Living Insights, Introduction to Psalms, p. 550-552)

  • Book 1 (1-41) Humanity
  • Book 2 (42-72) Deliverance
  • Book 3 (73-89) Sanctuary
  • Book 4 (90-106) God's Righteous Reign Over Earth
  • Book 5 (107-150) Revelation of God Through His Works and His Word

3) One out of every thirty verses in the Bible mentions the subject of Jesus' return or the end of time. In the Old Testament, such well-known, reliable men of God as Job, Moses, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel and most of the minor prophets spoke of the Lord's return. In the 260 chapters in the New Testament there are well over three hundred references to Jesus' return. Only 4 of the 27 New Testament books fail to mention Jesus' return. Jesus emphasized His return often, especially after He had revealed His death. Those who followed Jesus' teachings, established churches and wrote the Scriptures frequently mentioned His return in their preaching and in their writings. The Bible teaches that Jesus will come again. The prophets predicted it. The Lord Jesus Himself testified that He would return. The apostles declared it and wrote about it. The creeds include it and affirm it. Quite obviously, Jesus' return has not been considered an insignificant issue through the centuries. But the strange thing is that many in this generation, even a large number of believers, either ignore it or are confused by it. Too bad. It is a marvelous truth that only gains significance as each of us moves closer to death. ("The Call to Readiness", Living Insights Bible, p. 1286)


Samuel Taylor Coleridge called the letter to the Romans, "the profoundest piece of writing in existence."
Martin Luther said, "It's the chief book of the New Testament. It deserves to be known by heart by every Christian."
John Chrysostom, never to be outdone in eloquence, called it "the cathedral of the Christian faith."
J. Sidlow Baxter wrote, "This is Paul's magnum opus--the most important book in the Bible; more than any other it has determined the course of Christian thought." (Introduction to Romans, Living Insights Bible, 1189)

The great theologian Charles Hodge once said, "If anyone thinks he has a simple solution to the problem of pain and suffering he should hold a tiny infant screaming with pain. And as he holds that baby in his arms, any simple solution will fly out the window." (Introduction to Job, Living Insights Bible, 521)

C.S. Lewis gives us a wonderful way to understand hell when he says, "Heaven is the place where man says to God, 'Thy will be done,' and hell is that place where God says to man, 'Thy will be done." Hell is the place where we get more and more of what we have been seeking to quench our thirst. Hell is the place where we get more than we ever wanted of those things that we are trying to stuff into our souls. ("I Am Thirsty" by Joseph "Skip" Ryan, Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross, p. 82)

You need to fill your head with Scripture and think of your life in terms of the promises of Scriptures now. If you do not do it now, how will you ever find strength to do it when you come to die? You must live by Scripture, committing your spirit into the hands of God day by day if you are to yield your spirit into God's loving hands trustingly at the last. ("Into Your Hands I Commit My Spirit" by James Montgomery Boice, Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross, p. 100)

The English language has about eight hundred thousand words. Most of us get by with around two thousand words. That means about 788,000 words are sitting on the shelves, just waiting to be dusted off and used. The top ten most frequently used English words "are," "the," "of," "and," "to," "a," "in," "that," "is," "I," and "it"--but not propitiation. When was the last time you heard that word? When was the last time you used it? We don't hear it on the radio or television, because we've lost the vocabulary of God. But it's the most important word in universe. We need to recover not only the Word of God but the words of God. His words define relevance.
The word "propitiation" comes from the Latin propitio, meaning "to render favorable, to appease, to conciliate." To propitiate God means to appease his anger. Propitiation is all about God's wrath.
God's wrath? Wait a minute. Is God a fuming, frustrated person? Does he have a temper? Is he subject to mood swings? Is biblical propitiation like the pagan concept of throwing a virgin into the volcano to placate the pineapple god? And what if God changes back to anger? After all, we keep sinning--in the same old ways, too.
The first thing to say is that the wrath of God is a part of the gospel. It's the part we tend to ignore. Yet we don't mind our own anger. There is a lot of anger in us, a lot of righteous indignation. Listen to talk radio. In our culture it's acceptable to vent our moral fervor at one another. We watch it on cable TV news every night. It's our entertainment. But the thought of God being angry--well, who does he think he is?
Great question. Who is God? He's the most balanced personality imaginable. He is normal. His wrath is not an irrational outburst. God's wrath is worthy of God. It is his morally appropriate, carefully considered, justly intense reaction to our evil demeaning his worth and destroying our own capacity to enjoy him....
The God you have offended doesn't demand your blood; he gives his own in Christ Jesus. He knows what you deserve, but he wants to give you what you don't deserve. He himself has opened the way. He took the initiative. ("The Most Important Word in the Universe," Raymond C. Ortlund Jr., Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross, 115-116, 117)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Top Ten Books I'd Recommend Reading for Lent

I thought I would share a top ten list with you today. (I do love making lists!) And since Ash Wednesday is this week, I thought it would be timely to connect it with Lent. I know not everyone observes Lent, or observes Lent traditionally. (I like to do my own little thing--super-intense Bible reading.) But reading good Christian nonfiction, reading books that celebrate Jesus, well, surely the upcoming months are as good as any other! (The books are NOT presented in any order.)

1. Loving the Way Jesus Loves. Phil Ryken. 2012. Crossway. 224 pages. [My review]

First sentence: There is nothing I need more in my life than more of the love of Jesus.

About the book*: One of the best ways to learn more of the love of Jesus is to study 1 Corinthians 13 in conjunction with the Gospels. In Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John we discover that everything the apostle Paul told the Corinthians about love is perfectly illustrated in the perfect life, atoning death, and glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus never does anything without love. Indeed, his love is everything the Love Chapter says that love should be. It is patient with sinners and kind to strangers. It does not envy or boast but offers itself in humble service. It does not insist on its own way but submits to the Father. It is able to forgive, trust, hope, and persevere. In other words, the love of Jesus is everything that we are not.

2. Jesus + Nothing = Everything. Tullian Tchividjian. 2011. Crossway Books. 220 pages. [My review.]

First sentence: Never had I experienced anything so tough. I could hardly eat, had trouble sleeping, and was continually battling nausea. I felt at the absolute end of myself.

My quick summary: This book is all about God's grace, God's mercy. It is about how the Christian life SHOULD be led. It is all about learning simple truths that can free you from yourself, free you from guilt and shame, free you from lies. It is all about accepting God's word as truth and living day by day in his grace, in his love.

(This may be the book I reread for Lent. I haven't decided yet).

3. Cries From the Cross: A Journey Into the Heart of Jesus. Erwin Lutzer. 2002. Moody. 170 pages. [My review]

First sentence: Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

About the book: Lutzer studies each of Jesus' cries from the cross. All seven of them:

  • A Cry for Pardon: "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34)
  • A Cry of Assurance: "Today you will be with me in paradise." (Luke 23:43)
  • A Cry of Compassion: "Dear woman, here is your son...Here is your mother." (John 29:26-27)
  • A Cry of Anguish: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46)
  • A Cry of Suffering: "I am thirsty." (John 19:28)
  • A Cry of Victory: "It is finished." (John 19:30)
  • A Cry of Submission: "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." (Luke 23:46)

It would be hard to truly pick a favorite quote, but I'll try anyway:

"Either Jesus bears our sin, or we do. If the Father turned His face away from His beloved Son when He was regarded as a sinner, we can be sure that the Father will turn away from every sinner who stands before the Judgment Bar on his own merits. We are either saved by His rejection, or we must bear our own rejection for all of eternity."

4. The Big Picture Story Bible. David R. Helm. 2004/2010. Crossway Publishers. 456 pages. [My review]

First sentence paragraph (or two):

The Bible is God's story, and it begins with these big words: "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." Do you know how God created everything? Simply by speaking words. Imagine, making the world with words! Strong words. Powerful words. With words God created everything! He made the stars, the sun, and the moon. He made the animals, the fish, the trees, and flowers too. Everything! And then after all these things, God created... People!

Can you see Adam and Eve? God put his people in the Garden of Eden. They were made in the image of God. They were to be the rulers of God's place.

Adam and Eve were very special to God. Did you know that you are also very special to God? You are special because you are made in his image too! Being created in the image of God must have made Adam and Eve very, very happy. God was happy too. He was pleased with his world and his people because he saw that they were very good. Nothing was wrong. Nothing was bad. Nobody disobeyed God. In the very beginning, everything and everyone knew how good God was. God gave Adam and Eve good words to obey. He told them not to eat from a special tree. You see, God was teaching Adam and Eve that he was their king, that people were to obey God's word. God also said that if Adam and Eve disobeyed his word, they would surely die. So God's people, Adam and Eve, lived in God's place, the Garden of Eden. And they ruled God's world by obeying his good word. Do you know what happened next?

About the book: This may just be my favorite, favorite, favorite children's storybook bible. (Well, I actually have about two or three that I think are the best of the best. But this one is probably at the top of my list). I think it is just the right proportion of text to illustration. I think the stories are written in a kid-friendly way making this one a great choice for parents (grandparents, aunts, uncles, Sunday School teachers, etc.) to read aloud. But it's profound enough, evangelical enough, that it may just move adult readers to think about the gospel too. I LOVE that you really, truly can get the BIG PICTURE of the whole Bible just by sitting down to read this 'simple' storybook.

5. The Everlasting Tradition: Jewish Customs, Holidays, and Historical Events That Reveal Biblical Truth. Galen Peterson. 1995. Kregel Publications. 160 pages. [My review]

From the preface: We live in an age where there are few secrets. Through science we are discovering the secrets of the atom and the stars. Through tabloids we are discovering the secrets of celebrities. We may even attend churches and synagogues to worship the Creator of atoms and "stars" alike. But do we truly understand that God has a very detailed plan for our lives? And do we realize that He has presented it in a most mysterious and creative manner? This book unwraps many of those mysteries. It draws upon the specific features of both everyday and holiday customs of the Bible. It zeroes in on those elements which have either been misunderstood or have great underlying meaning. It also brings in some intriguing but little-known historical events which have profoundly shaped our perception of of the message of the Bible. There is a Hebrew folk expression that says more or less, "The apple does not fall far from the tree." This saying conveys the idea that we tend to stay close to our comfort zone, whatever it may be. But when it comes to the Bible, how many of us truly understand the cultural practices and traditions that formed the context of what we believe? These are the roots of our tree of faith. It can be said that, in many ways, our "apples" have rolled a long way down the hill from the tree which bore our fruit. We have lost track of our biblical heritage. In the pages which follow, we will take a journey back to the place where it all began, a back-to-basics approach that will consider four primary biblical themes--tradition, blessing, redemption, and celebration. Each one will take us to a special place where we can discover what God has to say to you and to me. We will discover that it really is no secret. There is an essential message in the Bible that permeates every chapter. But we will have to look carefully in order to solve the mysteries that lie just beneath the surface. Our journey begins with a walk along the path of tradition. (8-9)

About the book: I just LOVED this one. I found it fascinating and informative. I loved learning more about Jewish culture, traditions, celebrations, etc. And I thought it was very well-written. Understanding these things does add more to your reading of the Bible.

6. Scandalous: The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus. D.A. Carson. 2010. February 2010. Crossway Publishers. 173 pages. [My review]

First paragraph: Nothing is more central to the Bible than Jesus' death and resurrection. The entire Bible pivots on one weekend in Jerusalem about two thousand years ago. Attempts to make sense of the Bible that do not give prolonged thought to integrating the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus are doomed to failure, at best exercises in irrelevance. Jesus' own followers did not expect him to be crucified; they certainly didn't expect him to rise again. Yet after these events their thinking and attitudes were so transformed that they could see the sheer inevitability that Jesus would die on a cross and leave an empty tomb behind, and absolutely everything in their lives was changed.

About the book: A series of five messages by D.A. Carson. The messages are:

  • The Ironies of the Cross (which focuses on Matthew 27:27-51a)
  • The Center of the Whole Bible (which focuses on Romans 3:21-26)
  • The Strange Triumph of a Slaughtered Lamb (which focuses on Revelation 12)
  • A Miracle Full of Surprises (which focuses on John 11:1-53)
  • Doubting the Resurrection of Jesus (which focuses on John 20:24-31)

7. Raised With Christ: How The Resurrection Changes Everything by Adrian Warnock. 2010. January 2010. Crossway. 272 pages. [My review]

First few paragraphs: "What did Jesus come back to life again?" This was the surprised reaction when a young Englishwoman heard about the resurrection of Jesus. She was drinking coffee with other mothers, including my wife. It seems almost impossible to believe that she had never heard that Christians believe Jesus rose from the dead. She hadn't rejected the gospel. No one had ever told her about it!

How many other people do we know who would have a similar reaction? It is much more comfortable for us to assume that our relatives, friends, neighbors, and coworkers have already dismissed the gospel than to think they have never heard it.

Without Jesus' resurrection there is no good news at all. John Stott said, "Christianity is in its very essence a resurrection religion. The concept of resurrection lies at its heart. If you remove it, Christianity is destroyed."

About the book: Raised With Christ is about the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Sounds simple, right? Chances are at some point that you've contemplated what the cross means to you, means to the church, to the faith. But have you given equal attention to what Jesus' resurrection means? How his resurrection impacts you still today?

8. The Bookends of the Christian Life. Jerry Bridges and Bob Bevington. 2009. March 2009. Crossway Publishers. 160 pages. [My review]

First sentence: Most of us have experienced the difficulty of putting books on a bookshelf without having a set of bookends to keep them in place. You know what happens.

About the book: Bridges and Bevington argue that there are two bookends of the Christian life. The first bookend is the Righteousness of Christ. The second bookend is the Power of the Holy Spirit. (In a way, you could say this book was all about justification and sanctification.) By understanding these two bookends, these two concepts, readers will get a very good picture of the gospel, a good idea of what it means to be a Christian. The book also addresses three gospel enemies: self-righteousness, persistent guilt, and self-reliance.

My favorite-favorite quote:

There's an old play on the word justified: "just-as-if-I'd never sinned." But here's another way of saying it: "just-as-if-I'd always obeyed." Both are true. The first refers to the transfer of our moral debt to Christ so we're left with a "clean" ledger, just as if we'd never sinned. The second tells us our ledger is now filled with the perfect righteousness of Christ, so it's just as if we'd always obeyed. That's why we can come confidently into the very presence of God (Hebrews 4:16; 10:19) even though we're still sinners--saved sinners to be sure, but still practicing sinners, every day in thought, word, deed, and motive.

The perfect righteousness of Christ, which is credited to us, is the first bookend of the Christian life. The news of this righteousness is the gospel. Christ's righteousness is given to us by God when we genuinely trust in Christ as our Savior. From that moment on, from God's point of view, the first bookend is permanently in place. We're justified; we're credited with his righteousness. Or to say it differently, we're clothed with his righteousness (Isaiah 61:10) so that as God looks at us in union with Christ, he always sees us to be as righteous as Christ himself. And that changes everything. (26-27)

9. Grace God's Unmerited Favor. Charles Spurgeon. 1996. Whitaker House. 175 pages. [My review]

First sentence: That God would enter into gracious covenant with men is an amazing thing. That He would create man and be gracious to man is barely conceivable. However, that God would shake hands with His creature and would subject His august majesty to an unbreakable bond with many by His own pledge is astonishing.

About the book: I love this one. I just LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it. It is one I just recently finished reading, and already I want to read it again. It is about grace. God's grace. It is about the covenant of grace. (So if you're familiar with covenant theology, you might know what to part.) It is about the doctrines of grace--how God's grace applied to us...changes EVERYTHING! It is an amazing, amazing book!

10. Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself. Joe Thorn. Foreword by Sam Storms. 2011. Crossway Books. 144 pages. [My review]

First paragraph from the introduction: Christians value the preaching of Scripture and are genuinely excited when it is preached well (when God and the gospel are on full display). We like being challenged by the Word, and we need the comfort that comes from the heralding of God's promises to all who believe. We need good preaching. Yet many who value the preaching of Scripture by pastors and teachers are not benefiting from the kind of preaching that should be most consistent and personal--preaching to ourselves. 

About the book: This book is so VERY, VERY quotable. Each chapter is short, direct, and oh-so-relevant. This book is so rich, so rewarding, so NEEDED! I can't recommend it enough!!!

Just a few quotes:
To preach to yourself is to challenge yourself, push yourself, and point yourself to the truth. It is not so much uncovering new truth as much as it is reminding yourself of the truth you tend to forget. (32)
From chapter seven "Jesus is Big"
Dear Self,
Take note--your view of Jesus tends to shrink over time. It is not that your theology itself drifts, but sometimes you so focus on one aspect of Jesus that you tend to forget the rest. The result is a shrinking Jesus (in your faith). And as your shrinking Jesus becomes small Jesus, he is easily eclipsed by your idols and ego.
The bigger and more biblical your understanding of who Jesus is, the more likely he is to be such an object of love and adoration that the idols that aim at capturing your attention and swaying your allegiance will lose their power. This is why you sometimes lack earnestness for the kingdom and the glory of God while you overflow with passion concerning temporal things. Instead of making a joyful noise and singing earnestly for the victory Christ has over sin and death, you express a dispassionate approval and mouth the words to the songs sung in worship. But there is often fire in your belly and shouts of joy when your favorite college football team is victorious over the competition. This is probably why the church is shrinking in North America--because small Jesus does not inspire awe, command respect, lead to worship, or compel us to talk of him (much less suffer for him). And small Jesus is too little to arrest the attention of the world.
So please remember--Jesus is bigger than you tend to think. He is the perfect revelation of God, the radiance of his glory, the exact imprint of his nature; he is the Creator and Sustainer of all that exists. Everything belongs to him and exists for him. He is the author of your salvation, the perfecter of your faith, and the only one in whom you can find life. (47-48)

*This is what I would consider the "topic sentence" from the book. I am using the book's own words to describe it.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday Salon: Quoting Dorothy Sayers

Quoting from The Gospel-Driven Life by Michael Horton, see review, who was quoting from Creed Or Chaos?

Official Christianity, of late years, has been having what is known as a "a bad press." We are constantly assured that the churches are empty because preachers insist too much upon doctrine--"dull dogma," as people call it. The fact is the precise opposite. It is the neglect of dogma that makes for dullness. The Christian faith is the most exciting drama that ever staggered the imagination of man--and the dogma is the drama...This is the dogma we find so dull--this terrifying drama of which God is the victim and the hero. If this is dull, then what, in Heaven's name, is worthy to be called exciting? The people who hanged Christ never, to do them justice, accused Him of being a bore--on the contrary; they thought Him too dynamic to be safe. It has been left for later generations to muffle up that shattering personality and surround Him with an atmosphere of tedium. We have very efficiently pared the claws of the Lion of Judah, certifying Him "meek and mild," and recommended Him as a fitting household pet for pale curates and pious old ladies. (63)


That God should play the tyrant over man is the dismal story of unrelieved oppression; that man should play the tyrant over man is the usual dreary record of human futility; but that man should play the tyrant over God and find Him a better man than himself is an astonishing drama indeed. Now, we may call that doctrine exhilarating or we may call it devastating; we may call it revelation or we may call it rubbish; but if we call it dull, then words have no meaning at all. (64)


Let us, in Heaven's name, drag out the Divine Drama from under the dreadful accumulation of slipshod thinking and trashy sentiment heaped upon it, and set it on an open stage to startle the world into some sort of vigorous reaction. If the pious are the first to be shocked, so much the worse for the pious--others will pass into the Kingdom of Heaven before them. If all men are offended because of Christ, let them be offended; but where is the sense of their being offended at something that is not Christ and is nothing like Him? We do Him singularly little honour by watering down His Personality till it could not offend a fly. Surely it is not the business of the Church to adapt Christ to men, but to adapt men to Christ. It is the dogma that is the drama--not beautiful phrases, nor comforting sentiments, nor vague aspirations to loving-kindness and moral uplift, nor the promise of something nice after death--but the terrifying assertion that the same God who made the world lived in the world and passed through the grave and gate of death. Show that to the heathen, and they may not believe it; but at least they may realize that here is something that one might be glad to believe. (262-263)
But no good whatever will be done by a retreat into personal piety or by mere exhortation to a 'recall to prayer'. (263)
'Take away theology and give us some nice religion' has been a popular slogan for so long that we are apt to accept it, without inquiring whether religion without theology has any meaning....And however unpopular I may make myself I shall and will affirm that the reason why the Churches are discredited today is not that they are too bigoted about theology, but that they have run away from theology. (263)
But if Christian dogma is irrelevant to life, to what, in Heaven's name, is it relevant?--since religious dogma is in fact nothing but a statement of doctrines concerning the nature of life and the universe. If Christian ministers really believe it is only an intellectual game for theologians and has no bearing on human life, it is no wonder that that their congregations are ignorant, bored, and bewildered. (263)
If people will not understand the meaning of judgment, they will never come to understand the meaning of grace. (263)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Saturday, February 18, 2012

MacArthur System, 1 John: Week of February 11-18

This February, I am focusing on the writings of John. I am going to read 1 John thirty times this month, if all goes well. And I am planning on reading John, Revelation, and 2 John, and 3 John a handful of times too. This is my third week, and I happened to read 1 John ten times this week. (I believe that makes twenty-six times this month!) I read it this week in the New King James (5), KJ21 (1), NIV (1), RSV (1), Message (1), NASB (1).

From the ESV Student Study Bible

  • Matthew 1-2
  • Mark
  • Hebrews
  • Luke
  • James
  • 1 Corinthians
  • 2 Corinthians
  • 1 Peter
  • 2 Peter

From the NKJV Soul Care Bible

  • Psalms 111-150
  • Proverbs 15-31
  • 1 Corinthians
  • 2 Corinthians
  • Galatians
  • Ephesians
  • Philippians
  • 1 Thessalonians
  • 2 Thessalonians
  • 1 Timothy
  • 2 Timothy
  • Titus
  • Philemon
  • 1 John (5)

From the NASB

  • John
  • 1 John
  • 2 John
  • 3 John
  • Revelation

From the KJ21

  • 1 John

From the NIV

  • 1 John

From the RSV

  • 1 John

From the Message

  • 1 John

Key Verses:

For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world--our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (1 John 5:4-5)

These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world--the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life--is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15-17)

You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. (1 John 4:4)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

On Finishing Goals...A Little Early

In February, I set a couple of goals for my Bible reading. I wanted to read in The Soul Care Bible (NKJV) and the ESV Student Study Bible. I wanted to read 1 John at least thirty times. I wanted to read the gospel of John and Revelation (in addition to 2 John and 3 John) several times apiece this month. (Turning February into a celebration of the apostle John.) I also wanted to read Psalms and Proverbs in the NKJV. Those were the original goals at any rate. A few weeks into the project, I realized it was very possible for me to finish the NT in the Soul Care Bible AND the ESV Student Study Bible. All that remains to meet this month's goals is to read Matthew and Acts in the ESV Student Study Bible. I hope to do that in the upcoming week.

I've been on the fence with whether or not I should have "special" goals for Lent. (Ash Wednesday is this Wednesday, the 22nd)

On one hand, I do plan on having goals during these weeks. I am hosting the event/challenge New Testament in a Week during Holy Week (April 1-8). And I really would LOVE to have you join me. My "special" plan is to finish reading READING GOD'S STORY: A CHRONOLOGICAL DAILY BIBLE. (My partial review--my review of the OT readings.) It's in the Holman Christian Standard Bible translation. Though participants can read in ANY translation, of course. But I've been saving this one just for this occasion. It will be interesting to read the NT in chronological order, to see just how they arrange everything. I haven't looked too closely at it yet because I'm afraid I'd be tempted to start now. And I wanted to go on the record for committing to read the Bible six hours a week throughout Lent. I'd love to commit to twelve hours a week. That would challenge me even more. But I thought six was a good number, a good starting place.

On the other hand, I don't technically plan on "observing" Lent. Not in the self-denial, fasting, giving up things way. In the past I've played around with giving up things--and I've been somewhat successful at sticking with it. But part of me is thinking that if I feel guilty enough about it to think I should give it up for Lent, that I'd be better off staying parted with it. God doesn't call us to obey him just these forty-some days of Lent. Generally speaking, I think it is better to think of it as a time for adding something positive. Or perhaps what I'm trying to say is that it is an OPPORTUNITY to start anew or change your priorities. It takes time for good habits to develop. And this time, for some at least, is a blessing.

The translation I plan on reading next--whether it is for "Lent" or just for March, with a little bit of a head start in February--is the New International Version. This isn't a version I've read much in since the publication of the ESV. But I'd like to revisit it since it's been a while.

I am thinking I'll use a super-modified version (my own super-modified adaptation) of the Professor Horner reading plan or concept. (I kept Psalms and Proverbs. I shifted *many* of the books around, especially in the OT.)

OT One -- Psalms (monthly)
OT Two -- Proverbs (monthly)
OT Three -- Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, 1 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi (so-not-monthly; I'm thinking this group will take at least two months if not three)
OT Four -- Job, Ruth, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, 1 Kings, 2 Kings, Joel, Amos, Jonah, Hosea, Micah, Nahum, Zephaniah, Habakkuk, Esther (so-not-monthly; I'm thinking this group will take at least two months)
OT Five -- Isaiah, Obadiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel (I'm thinking this will probably a month to six weeks)

NT One -- Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts (monthly, 4 chapters a day would be monthly; 8 chapters a day would let me read it twice a month)
NT Two -- Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Hebrews, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, Revelation, Jude (I'm thinking twice a month)
NT Three -- Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, James, 1 Peter, 2 Peter (I'm thinking twice a month)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Book Review: Grace God's Unmerited Favor

Grace God's Unmerited Favor. Charles Spurgeon. 1996. Whitaker House. 175 pages.

This is the fourth Charles Spurgeon book I've reviewed today. And I purposefully saved it for last because it is the best of the best of the best. Grace God's Unmerited Favor is one of those books that NEEDS to be read and reread and reread. It is a true must-read.

The six chapters are entitled:

The Covenant of Grace (Psalm 111:5)
Salvation Altogether By Grace (2 Timothy 1:9)
Grace, the One Way of Salvation (Acts 15:11)
All of Grace (Ephesians 2:8)
Grace for the Covenanter (Psalm 25:10)
Twelve Covenant Mercies (Isaiah 55:3)

This book was AMAZING. Truly amazing. It is was rich in Scripture, rich in truth--I love the way Spurgeon quotes Scripture, I do, he relies on it so much in his works. Modern writers use the Bible, too--especially the ones I read published by Crossway--but I haven't found anyone who can write exactly the same way as Spurgeon. If you have not read him before because you're worried that he's out of date or irrelevant or too wordy, don't be. The four I've read this February have been fabulous. Three out of the four I read in two days or less!!! And Grace: God's Unmerited Favor would be a great starting place!!! Not just for those looking to give Spurgeon a try, not just for those wanting to give Christian nonfiction a try, but for ANY new believer in Christ.

I marked dozens and dozens of passages to share with you. Well, passages that I wanted to come back to myself. But what I discovered when I was rereading them is that they are all connected--too connected--and that I can't easily pull out sentences. For where would I start and where would I end when each paragraph builds upon another? It would also be hard to narrow it down to a reasonable number. I can't share every page of the text in this one. And sometimes my "favorite" sections would be just that--page after page after page. So I'll just say, read this one for yourself.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Book Review: Power in the Blood

Power in the Blood. Charles Spurgeon. 1996. Whitaker House. 190 pages.

I am just LOVING the Spurgeon I've been reading the past two weeks. Power in the Blood has six chapters. I'm not completely comfortable calling them chapters because the chapters don't necessarily depend on one another. The book does stay on topic--on task--and each of the chapters adds to the whole book. But each chapter is a little self-contained in a way.

Healing By the Stripes of Jesus (Isaiah 53:5)
The Beginning of Months (Exodus 12:1-2)
God's Watchful Care (Deuteronomy 11:12)
A Tempted Savior--Our Best Help (Hebrews 2:18)
True Unity Promoted (Ephesians 4:3)
Creation's Groans and Saints' Sighs (Romans 8:22-23)

I am not sure I can condense the whole book into a single topic sentence. I could simply say it was a book about the Christian life, about how a Christian should live, reasons to have faith and assurance, reasons to be discerning, persevering, etc. But the book isn't exactly as generic as it may sound. The book is actually interesting and informative. Spurgeon makes connections between Scriptures that I haven't made yet, that I may never have made, yet they make sense. For example, In Power of the Blood, Spurgeon talks a good deal about Passover, and how Jesus Christ is our Passover Lamb, he is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. I'd definitely made the connection between Jesus' blood making us right with God (justification; reckoned right with God; His blood cleansing us of our sins and purifying us with his righteousness), but I'd NOT made the connection between the unleavened bread and sanctification. How in celebrating Passover, they are to remove leaven from all their homes, they were only to eat unleavened bread for those seven days. Anyway, I'm not sure if insights and connections like that are life-changing enough to make a difference in how I live day by day, but there are plenty more insights in Power in the Blood. It's rich in Scripture, rich in truth.

My favorite quotes:

Sin is disturbing to manhood: sin unmans a man. Sin is sadly destructive to man; it takes the crown from his head, the light from his mind, and the joy from his heart. We may name many grievous diseases that are destroyers of our race, but the greatest of these is sin. (10-11)

The remedy for your sins and mine is found in the substitutionary sufferings of the Lord Jesus, and in these alone. These stripes of the Lord Jesus Christ were on our behalf. Do you ask, "Is there anything for us to do to remove the guilt of sin?" I answer: There is nothing whatsoever for you to do. By the stripes of Jesus we are healed. All those stripes He has endured, and He has not left one of them for us to bear.
"But do we not have to believe on Him?" Yes, certainly. If I claim that a certain ointment heals, I do not deny that you need a bandage with which to apply it to the wound. Faith is the bandage that binds the ointment of Christ's reconciliation to the sore of our sin. The bandage does not heal; that is the work of the ointment. Likewise, faith does not heal; that is the work of the atonement of Christ.
Do I hear someone say, "But surely I must do something or suffer something"? I answer: You must not try to add anything to Christ's atonement, or you greatly dishonor Him. For your salvation, you must rely on the wounds of Jesus Christ and nothing else. The text does not say, "His stripes help to heal us," but "With his stripes we are healed." (Isaiah 53:5).
"But we must repent," cries another. Assuredly we must, and will, for repentance is the first sign of healing; but the stripes of Jesus heal us, not our repentance. These stripes, when applied to the heart, work repentance in us: we hate sin because it made Jesus suffer.
When you believe that Jesus suffered for you, then you discover the fact that God will never punish you for the same offense for which Jesus died. His justice will not permit Him to see the debt paid first by the surety, and then again by the debtor. Justice cannot demand a recompense twice; if my bleeding Substitute has borne my guilt, then I cannot bear it. Accepting Christ Jesus as having suffered for me, I have accepted a complete discharge from judicial liability. I have been condemned in Christ, and there is, therefore, now no condemnation to me anymore (Romans 8:1). (22-23)

We hear a great deal about the beauty of Christ's moral character, and assuredly our blessed Lord deserves to be highly exalted for His character, but that is not the aspect under which He is food to a soul conscious of sin. The chief relish about our Lord Jesus to a penitent sinner is His sin-bearing and His agonies. We need the suffering Savior, the Christ of Gethsemane, the Christ of Golgotha and Calvary, Christ shedding His blood in the sinner's stead and bearing for us the fire of God's wrath. Nothing short of this will suffice to be food for a hungry heart. Withhold this, and you starve the child of God.
We are told in Exodus 12:9 that they were not to eat any of the lamb raw. Alas! There are some who try to do this with Christ, for they preach a half-atoning sacrifice. They try to make His person and His character to be food for their souls, but they have small liking for His passion. They cast His atonement into the background or represent it as an ineffective atonement that does not rescue any soul. What is this but to devour a raw Christ?
I will not touch their half-roasted lamb; I will have nothing to do with their half substitution, their half-complete redemption. No, no. Give me a Savior who has borne all my sins in His own body (1 Peter 2:24) and so has been roasted with fire to the full. "It is finished" (John 19:30) is the most charming note in all of Calvary's music. "It is finished." The fire has passed upon the Lamb. He has borne the whole of the wrath that was due to His people. This is the royal dish of the feast of love.
There are a multitude of teachers who want to have the Lamb boiled with water, though the Scripture says, "Eat not of it raw, nor sodden at all with water" (Exodus 12:9). I have heard it said that a great number of sermons are about Christ and the Gospel yet neither Christ nor His Gospel are preached in them. If so, the preachers present the Lamb boiled in the water of their own thoughts and speculations and notions.
Now, the harm in this boiling process is that the water takes away a good deal from the meat. Likewise, philosophical discourses on the Lord Jesus take away much of the essence and virtue of His person, offices, work, and glory. The real juice and vital nutrients of His glorious Word are carried off by interpretations that do not explain, but explain away. How many boil away the soul of the Gospels by their carnal wisdom!
What is worse still, when meat is boiled not only does the meat get into the water, but the water gets into the meat. So, what truth these gospel-boilers do hand out is boiled with error, and you receive from them dishes made up partly of God's truth and partly of men's imaginings. We hear in some measure solid Gospel and in larger measure mere watery reasoning. When certain preachers preach atonement, it is not pure and simple substitution; one hardly knows what it is. Their atonement is not the vicarious sacrifice, but a performance of a long list of things. They have a theory that is like the remainders of meat after days of boiling, all strings and fibers.
People use all kinds of schemes to try to extract the marrow and fatness from the grand, soul-satisfying doctrine of substitution, which to my mind is the choicest truth that can ever be brought forth for the food of souls. (49-51)

How long should a person thank God for forgiving his sins? Is life long enough? Is time long enough? Is eternity long enough? How long should a man thank God for saving him from going down to hell? Would fifty years suffice? Oh, no, that would never do; the blessing is too great to all be sung of in a millennium. (69)

I pray that God will always preserve us from a unity in which truth is considered valueless, in which principle gives place to policy, in which the masculine virtues of the Christian hero are supplemented by an effeminate, fake love. May the Lord deliver us from indifference to His Word  and will, for this creates a cold unity--like masses of ice frozen into an iceberg, chilling the air for miles around; or like the unity of the dead as they sleep in their graves, contending for nothing because they no longer have a part in the land of the living. (138)

The unity of the Spirit never requires any support of sin. (137)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Book Review: Being God's Friend

Being God's Friend. Charles Spurgeon. 1997. Whitaker House. 175 pages.

Being God's Friend has six chapters (or six essays, six sermons). It is a good book, a challenging book, in a way. Because it is much easier to read about grace and love and justification than it is to read about obedience and sanctification. But Spurgeon's text--like always--is rich in Scripture.

The Obedience of Faith (Hebrews 11:8)
"At Thy Word" (Luke 5:5)
Elijah's Plea (1 Kings 18:36)
Love's Law and Life (John 14:15)
The Friends of Jesus (John 15:14)
The Man Who Will Never See Death (John 8:51-53)

Being God's Friend is about living in right relationship with God. It is NOT about justification. It is not about works salvation. It is not about being good enough, obedient enough, that God "likes" you and accepts you into His family. No, Being God's Friend is about sanctification and obedience. It is about how believers who have already been justified and accepted (reckoned right with God based on Christ's righteousness and Christ's atonement for sins) can now abide with Christ by being obedient, by following God's will, by obeying his commandments. Yes, this one is about holiness--how we're called to be holy, set apart, to be "the called out" ones. Yes, we're to walk with Christ, abide in Him. But what does that mean to put Him first, to live for Christ, to walk in the light as He is in the light?

My favorite quotes:

There is a holy familiarity with God that cannot be enjoyed too much, but there is a flippant familiarity with God that cannot be abhorred too much. (13)
May God grant us a supreme, overmastering faith, for this is the kind of faith that we must have if we are to lead obedient lives. We must have faith in God's right to rule, faith in the justness of His commands, faith in our personal obligation to obey, and faith that His commands must be the chief authority of our lives. (19)
It is very interesting how people try to give God something other than what He asks for! The Lord says, "My son, give me thine heart" (Proverbs 23:26), and they give Him ceremonies. He asks for obedience, and they give Him man-made religion. He asks for faith and love and justice, and they offer meaningless sacrifices. They will give everything except the one thing that He will be pleased with: To obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams" (1 Samuel 15:22). (24)
Common life is the true place in which to prove the truth of godliness and bring glory to God. (52)
I would rather be a fool and do what Christ tells me than be the wisest man of the modern school of thought and despise the Word of the Lord. (73)
The reason why some churches do not prosper is because they have not done according to God's Word. They have not even cared to know what God's Word says. Another book is their standard. (80)
Do not deceive yourself. You cannot be saved in our sins; you are to be saved from your sins. You and your sins must part, or else Christ and you will never be joined. (89)
Love must act as mother, nurse, and food to obedience. (105)
Never glory in armor that you have not tested, or rejoice in love for Christ that has not been tried and proven. (111)
Jesus does not say, "As long as you love me in your hearts, I do not care anything about your lives." It is not written, "If you love me, do whatever you please." There is no such doctrine as that between the covers of the Holy Book. (116)
Friendship cannot live on windy talk; it needs matter-of-fact bread. (135)
I wish that we all lived as if Jesus were always present, as if we could see His wounds and gaze into His beautiful countenance. (159)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Book Review: The Practice of Praise

The Practice of Praise: How To Develop the Habit of Abundant, Continual Praise In Your Daily Life by Charles Spurgeon. 1995. Whitaker House. 170 pages.

The Practice of Praise has six chapters, or perhaps the better term is six essays or sermons, written by Charles Spurgeon. (I wish I knew the date these were originally published.)

The Philosophy of Abundant Praise (Psalm 145:7)
More and More (Psalm 71:14)
Morning and Evening Songs (Psalm 92:2)
Acceptable Praises and Vows (Psalm 65:1-2)
The Power of Prayer and the Pleasure of Praise (2 Corinthians 1:11-12)
A Life-long Occupation (Hebrews 13:15)

So this book is all about praising God, delighting in God, rejoicing in our relationship with Him, being grateful for all He has done for us. Is it a practical book? Yes, for the most part. It's the kind of practical application that seems simple and common and obvious, but yet remains undone by many.

Tips like observing the world around you, really considering and taking notice of each moment day by day, looking for how God is working in your life, how God is blessing you, seeing how wonderful and great God is by appreciating this world we live in, by appreciating nature. When we rush through life we miss so much. And above all else, perhaps, we take every little thing for granted. We never stop and consider the simple things, the basic things, as being gifts from God. (The food we eat at each meal. The people in our lives. Our health.) Because we don't see the small things, we're not grateful enough. We may even miss some of the 'big things' God is doing because we're always focused inward, focused on what is not going right, worried about hundreds of things.

Spurgeon also suggests remembering. Not just your past. But the past of all who have gone before. How has God acted in human history? How has God revealed himself? How has God taken care of His own? How has he loved them, nurtured them, and, yes, even disciplined them? How has he shown his grace and mercy? How has he met their needs? What great and awesome things has he done? By reading your Bible you'll find plenty of reasons to praise God, to love Him even more, to be grateful that you've been adopted into His family.

Praising God all the time might not sound all that natural, all that convenient, all that practical. In fact some of the biblical commands about continuous praise and rejoicing seem impossible. But when one lives with constant awareness that God is always with them, that God is part of their seven-day-week life, not just their one-morning-a-week life, the more one knows God, the more one loves God, the easier it becomes perhaps. And I think there is something to KNOWING that we're designed to praise God, to take delight in Him, to glorify Him.

One point in the book--and it's a point that I would not have ever made on my own, most likely--is that praying will cease one day. The need for prayer will be done away with. In heaven, we won't be praying to God. But we'll always, always, always be praising Him in heaven. Praise is something that we do both on earth and in heaven, forever and ever and ever and ever.

I liked this one. I did. I found it very readable and still as relevant as ever. I definitely am enjoying reading Charles Spurgeon!!!
Beloved, be familiar with the Word of God. Stock your memory with the ancient records of His great goodness. Drink in the whole narrative of the evangelists, and despise not Moses and the prophets. Soak in the Psalms, the Song of Solomon, and other such books until you come to know the well-recorded goodness of the Lord. Have His words and deeds of goodness arranged and ready at hand. Let them be at your finger tips, as it were, because they are in your heart's core. (21)
The purest and most exhilarating joy is the delight of glorifying God and anticipating the time when we will enjoy Him forever. (40)
God is so good that every moment of His love demands a lifetime of praise. (44)
A good rule is never to look into the face of man in the morning until you have looked into the face of God. (80)
There should be within us an enthusiasm which kindles at the very thought of prayer. (81)
The evening is the sabbath of the day and should be the Lord's. (81)
I have often said that prayer and praise are like the breathing in and out of air and make up that spiritual respiration by which the inner life is instrumentally supported. We take in an inspiration of heavenly air as we pray; we breathe it out again in praise unto God from whom it came. If, then, we would be healthy in spirit, let us be abundant in thanksgiving. Prayer, like the root of a tree, seeks for and finds nutriment; praise, like the fruit, renders a revenue to the owner of the vineyard. Prayer is for ourselves; praise is for God. Let us never be so selfish as to abound in the one and fail in the other. (93)
It would be well, perhaps, in our public service, if we had more often the sweet relief of silence. (103)
To praise God continually will need a childlike faith in Him. You must believe His word, or you will not praise His name. Doubt snaps the harp strings. Questions mar all melody. Trust Him, lean on Him, enjoy Him--you will never praise Him unless you do. (159)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, February 17, 2012

Book Review: Loving the Way Jesus Loves

Loving the Way Jesus Loves. Phil Ryken. 2012. Crossway. 224 pages.

There is nothing I need more in my life than more of the love of Jesus. I need more of his love for my wife--the woman God has called me to serve until death. I need more of his love for my children and the rest of my extended family. I need more of his love for the church, including the spiritual brothers and sisters it is sometimes hard for me to love. I need more of his love for my neighbors who still need to hear the gospel, and for all the lost and the lonely people who are close to the heart of God even when they are far from my thoughts. Everywhere I go, and in every relationship I have in life, I need more of the love of Jesus. The place where I need it the most is in my relationship with God himself, the Lover of my soul. What about you? Are you loving the way Jesus loves? Or do you need more of his love in your life--more love for God and for other people? (17)

I have read some great nonfiction this year, and Loving the Way Jesus Love ranks among the best of the best. It is a whole book dedicated to studying 1 Corinthians 13, the "love" chapter. It is the way this study is done--is presented--that makes all the difference. While the whole chapter is discussed--and discussed in context, in relationship to the book of 1 Corinthians as a whole, the focus of this one in particular is 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. Each phrase is paired or linked with Christ, with a specific event in the gospel. (Love is patient; love is kind; love does not envy; love does not boast; love is not arrogant; love is not rude; etc.) If ever a book celebrates Jesus Christ, it is Phil Ryken's Loving The Way Jesus Loves. Instead of looking at just the passage in 1 Corinthians 13, instead of just looking at it word by word or phrase by phrase, he arranges things chronologically making Loving the Way Jesus Loves an absolutely PERFECT book to read during Lent, to read during these weeks as we prepare to celebrate the RESURRECTION of our Lord!!!

For example, 1 Corinthians 13:4 (Love is patient) is linked with John 11:5-6, the story where Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead--after taking his time to get there. And 1 Corinthians 13:7 (Love hopes all things) is linked with John 17:24! (Though most of the 17th chapter of John is discussed!) And 1 Corinthians 13:5 (Love does not insist on its own way) is linked with Matthew 26:39--the Garden of Gethsemane. Some of these connections are powerful, wow-worthy, and life-changing.

I just LOVED Loving the Way Jesus Loves. It is fascinating, informative, engaging, compelling--a true must read. I would definitely recommend this one to anyone and everyone who wants to feel more. The focus on Christ, the focus on the gospel, on grace, makes this one a perfect, perfect read. It is rich in truth. And it's written in such a way that you can relate to it.

One of the best ways to learn more of the love of Jesus is to study 1 Corinthians 13 in conjunction with the Gospels. In Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John we discover that everything the apostle Paul told the Corinthians about love is perfectly illustrated in the perfect life, atoning death, and glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus never does anything without love. Indeed, his love is everything the Love Chapter says that love should be. It is patient with sinners and kind to strangers. It does not envy or boast but offers itself in humble service. It does not insist on its own way but submits to the Father. It is able to forgive, trust, hope, and persevere. In other words, the love of Jesus is everything that we are not. (178)

If 1 Corinthians 13 is a portrait of love, then it must be a portrait of Jesus Christ, who is love incarnate. (181)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Saturday, February 11, 2012

MacArthur System, 1 John: Week of February 5-10

This month my focus is completely different--well, mostly different--from last month's focus. Which is a good thing, I think!!!

I am choosing to read 1 John, thirty to thirty-one times this month. This is my second week, and again I happened to read it in eight times. I read it this week in the New King James (6), Living (1), and New Living (1) translations.

Secondary goals this month include reading in two different bibles. One, the ESV Student Study Bible. I am just LOVING this one!!! The book introductions are just perfect for my attention span. They're informative enough, well-organized enough. But they're not too much. It doesn't take half an hour to decipher the introduction. And the notes are a good balance as well. The second Bible I'm reading this month is the NKJV Soul Care Bible.

From the ESV Student Study Bible

  • 1 Samuel
  • Hosea
  • Romans
  • Galatians
  • Ephesians
  • Philippians
  • Colossians
  • 1 Thessalonians
  • 2 Thessalonians
  • 1 Timothy
  • 2 Timothy
  • Titus
  • Philemon

From the NKJV Soul Care Bible

  • Psalms 51-110
  • Proverbs 6-14
  • Matthew
  • John 13-21
  • Acts
  • James
  • 1 Peter
  • 2 Peter
  • 1 John (5)
  • 2 John
  • 3 John
  • Jude
  • Revelation

From the MacArthur Student Bible, NKJV

  • 1 John

From the Living Translation

  • 1 John

From the New Living Translation

  • 1 John

Key Verses:

And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment. Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us. (1 John 3:23-24)
Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. (1 John 4:11-16)
We love Him because He first loved us...And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also. (1 John 4:19, 21)
If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever--the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. (John 14:15-17)
He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him....If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. (John 14:21, 23)
As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. (John 15:9-12)
And above all things have fervent love for one another, for love will cover a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8)
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation. (Romans 5:8-11)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Book Review: The Gospel-Driven Life

The Gospel-Driven Life: Being Good News People in a Bad News World. Michael Horton. 2009. Baker Books. 272 pages.

I just LOVED, LOVED, LOVED this book. It was such an amazing read!!! And I can't recommend it enough. It's one of those books I could just gush on and on and on about! One of those books about the essentials of the faith, one that everyone should read, one that everyone needs to read!

The book is divided into two sections: "Looking Up, Looking Out: Breaking News," and "Looking Around, Looking Ahead: A Cross-Cultural Community." The first section--the first six chapters--are amazing, outstanding, a must, must read. The second section--the last four chapters--are good, but not as GREAT as the earlier chapters. Overall, the book is a book that NEEDS to be read and reread because it is rich in gospel-truth. The message of The Gospel-Driven Life needs to be heard time and time again.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes. (Granted, the "few" may be a joke.)

To the extent that we remain pilgrims in this life, the gospel will remain strange even to us. Until the day we die, we will struggle to believe the bad news and the Good News that God announces to us. We do not just naturally think that we are born in sin, spiritually dead, helpless, and unable to lift a finger to save  ourselves or impress a holy God. As a result, it does not just occur to us that our greatest need is to be redeemed, justified, regenerated, sanctified, and glorified by God's saving work in his Son and by his Spirit. If the "Good News" that we proclaim is determined by what we already know--or think we know--and experience, it isn't really news. Limited to whatever we already think is relevant, practical, and useful, the message will never be surprising, disorienting, and troubling. It can never throw us off balance or cause us to reevaluate our priorities and interpretations of reality. (19)
Born with a severe case of spiritual scoliosis, our spines are twisted so that all we can see are our own immediate felt needs, desires, wants, and momentary gratifications. But the gospel makes us stand erect, looking up to God in faith and out to the world and our neighbors in love and service. Not every piece of news can do that, but the gospel can. (20)
The Bible is not a collection of timeless principles offering a gentle thought for the day. It is not a resource for our self-improvement. Rather, it is a dramatic story that unfolds from promise to fulfillment, with Christ at the center. Its focus is God and his action. God is not a supporting actor in our drama; it is the other way around. God does not exist to make sure that we are happy and fulfilled. Rather, we exist to glorify God and to enjoy him forever. (26)
Does our worship focus on this unfolding historical drama of the Triune God? Are we being constantly directed outside of our inner experience and our own felt needs to the real newsmaker in history? Are we perpetually drawn outside of ourselves, "looking to Jesus, the founder and perfector of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God" (Hebrews 12:2)? Is our corporate and private worship centered on "human will or exertion" or on "God, who has mercy" (Romans 9:16)? Is the main point trying to see how God fits into our existing plot or to hear God tell us how we fit into his unfolding drama of redemption? (29-30)
We are not really prepared for life until we are prepared for death. (38)
There is no happiness without holiness. Created in God's image "to glorify God and to enjoy him forever," our fulfillment, meaning, and pleasure are found in friendship with God. As the church father Augustine expressed it in the form of a prayer, "You have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you." (40)
The doctrine of justification--that is, God's act of declaring the wicked righteous by imputing our guilt to Christ and Christ's righteousness to us through faith alone--is only irrelevant or incomprehensible for our society today because God and sin have become irrelevant or incomprehensible for the church. (52)
We need God's Word, standing outside of us, to pass judgment on our lives, calling us out of our optimism and pessimism to hear things as they really are. If our introspection leads us to greater self-confidence, we have only deceived ourselves. (57)
God's law is not a tool that we can use; it is the rod by which God measures us. God's law says, "Be perfect." God's gospel says, "Believe in Christ and you will be reckoned perfect before God." The law tells us what must be done if we are to be saved; the gospel tells us what God has done to save us. (60)
God's love did not overwhelm or overrule his justice, but fulfilled it. Justice and love, righteousness and mercy, wrath and peace embraced at the cross. (62)
The gospel is not a general belief in heaven and hell or hope for a better life beyond; it is not even confidence in a resurrection at the end of the age. It is the announcement that Jesus Christ himself is our life, for he is our peace with God. He does not merely show us the way; he is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). (80)
Nowhere do we find the apostles proclaiming the gospel as an invitation to have a personal relationship with God. After all, they presupposed that everyone has a personal relationship with God already. In fact, our major problem is that we do have a relationship with God: the relationship of a guilty defendant before a just judge. (91)
So the gospel does not offer the possibility of a personal relationship with God, but announces a different relationship with God based on Christ! Instead of enemies, we have been reconciled through Christ's sacrifice (Romans 5:8-11). "Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 5:1). (92)
We all want to be and to do something rather than to be made and to receive our identity from above. It is a blow to our spiritual ego to be told that everything has already been done. Yet that is the glory of the gospel! (93)
"Lord and Savior" is simply who God is, not something that we can make him to be for us. In fact, he was reigning and saving us while we were "ungodly," "while we were still sinners," even, "while we were enemies" (Romans 5:6-10) (93)
The hardest thing in the world for us even as believers in Christ is to sit down and receive something. However, that is exactly what we have to do. (108)
To receive the Light, we must have our darkness exposed; to be clothed in Christ's righteousness, we must acknowledge our righteousness is filthy rags; to live in Christ, we must die to our former identity. Only the Spirit can raise those who are "dead in trespasses and sins" (Ephesians 2:1), so that we can accept the news: both the bad and the good of it. (125)
Christ lived the purpose-driven life so that we would inherit his righteousness through faith and be promise-driven people in a purpose-driven world. (141)
Getting the plot of Scripture is crucial to the very existence of the church. Who is Jesus? We don't get to decide. The story tells us who Jesus is! He is not just anything and everything we want him to be in our lives. (236)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible