Saturday, June 30, 2012

June 2012 Bible-Reading Records

Written by Moses

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

OT Narratives

6. Joshua
7. Judges
8. Ruth (HCSB)
9. 1 Samuel
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 (HCSB)
20. Proverbs (HCSB)
21. Ecclesiastes
22. Song of Songs

Major Prophets

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

Minor Prophets

28. Hosea
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
41. Mark
42. Luke (NASB)
43. John
44. Acts

Epistles by Paul

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

General Epistles

58. Hebrews
59. James
60. 1 Peter
61. 2 Peter
62. 1 John (ERV)
63. 2 John (ERV)
64. 3 John (ERV)
65. Jude (ERV)

Apocalyptic Epistle by John

66. Revelation (ERV, ESV, NASB, CEB, HCSB, NKJV, ICB, 1865 American Bible Union, KJV, TMB)

I read Revelation 32 times in various translations, my "main" translation was the ESV.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Book Review: The Gift

The Gift. (Chiveis Trilogy #2) Bryan Litfin. 2011. Crossway. 416 pages.

From the prologue: The people of the twenty-first century nearly destroyed the earth in a global nuclear holocaust. This is the story of what God did next.

It has actually been several centuries--at least--since the 'modern world' collapsed due to virus, war, food shortages, etc. And the world has reorganized itself, new civilizations have been formed, several societies put into place. This trilogy is set in a nearly unrecognizable Europe. The Gift is the second book in the trilogy. The Sword is the first novel, The Gift is the second novel, and The Kingdom is the third novel--this final book in the trilogy will be published this summer.

It had been over two years since I first read The Sword, and I think that proved problematic when I picked up this one. The big things--the name of our hero and heroine, the name of their God (Deu), the fact that the last book ended with their exile--I remembered. Everything else I had forgotten, all the little things, details big and small, including the author's very distinct writing style. So it took me over two hundred pages to reconnect with the story, with the characters. For the first two hundred pages, I was definitely a reluctant reader. The last two hundred pages went smoother, it helped that I made up my mind that no matter what I was going to finish the book that day.

What did I struggle with in this second book? I'm not sure if I struggled more with the plot or with the characters. Teo and Ana are exiled from their country, but, are soon welcomed into a new country. Ana is accepted into the social elite (I'm not sure if this was just because she was so beautiful, or, if they assumed she was a fine lady in the other country and deserved the same special treatment there), but, Teo is not. He manages to stay very, very, very loosely connected with Ana by claiming the role of her tutor. But almost everyone assumes that he's merely her love slave. Ana glories in her new lifestyle, she loves her new rich friends, loves all the parties, loves the clothes, loves the attention and flattery. The more materialistic Ana becomes, the less prone she is to listen to Teo who warns her not to forget the most important thing. But does Ana listen? Oh, no, she does not. Does she drink? Does she party? Does she start sunbathing topless in public? Yes, yes, yes. She stops listening to Teo, stops listening to God, and then starts questioning and doubting things she knows to be true. Teo is a man who is torn in his duties. On the one hand, he knows that finding the New Testament is the MOST important, most essential thing he could do. He knows that finding the New Testament, translating it into a language that can be understood, getting the full truth of God's message to men is the MOST IMPORTANT thing he could do. It's worth living and dying for. He knows he must attempt it no matter the risk. But, at the same time, he's torn because he wants to save Ana from herself, and from outside dangers as well. He knows that she's not safe, he knows she's being really stupid, he knows that her faith is endangering her life, he knows that she has enemies--as he knows that he has enemies. So part of him wants to stay in the background just watching and waiting and watching and waiting and watching and see what happens next in Ana's life. Does Ana even know that Teo is around? No, not really. She assumes that he's moved on, moved away, accepted their new places in society. Because she has pushed him out of her thoughts--essentially--she doesn't really appreciate the sacrifices he's making for her. So essentially, the first half of the novel could be summed up as: watch Ana be stupid. The second half of the novel is different, however, for Ana realizes that she's walked away from God, and she's made some big mistakes. She turns towards God, finds forgiveness, becomes selfless, humbles herself, etc. Teo does not change in the second half, he remains the hero he's been since page one, book one.

The plot. What can I say? There's a dark side to these books, a dark side that delights in torture, torture, and more torture. Readers are forced to "overhear" evil, evil plots that endanger the characters we care about, or are supposed to care about. In a way, I suppose, the dark side adds tension, contrast, suspense to the novel. But there's only so much torture a person can take without becoming sick of it.

The second half of the novel does become intense, but I'm not sure it's a good enough intense. Part of me got frustrated even with the second half of this one because it was Teo's turn to be stupid, I suppose. In a couple of crucial moments, moments where he had to choose between his mission to serve God, to find the New Testament, to find out the truth, the whole truth of God's message, to restore Christianity, he chose saving the girl.


So in this one scene, the scene when they discover the last remaining copy of the New Testament, the only copy supposedly still in existence on the whole planet, and the bad guys show up and he has to choose between saving the girl's life (supposedly, they have her in their grasp) and handing the copy over knowing that it's just a matter of time--perhaps minutes, perhaps hours, perhaps days--before it is destroyed....and he chooses the girl. Never mind that a whole secret community is counting on him, never mind that there is no one left on the planet who knows who Jesus Christ is, why he came to Earth, why he died, the fact that he rose again, the fact that he saves us from our sins, delivers us from our sins, restores and redeems us, adopts us. Etc. This body of believers--men, women who believe in the one true Creator God--who knows nothing at all about the New Testament, any event, any promise, any doctrine, etc. And he chooses the girl. And the New Testament is burned. Part of me was like, how is saving Ana going to bring salvation to the world? Do you even realize what you just threw away? I mean, sure, this proves that he *loves* her in that way, something she was in doubt about for the first half of the novel because he hadn't spent every moment of every hour of every day flattering her, complimenting her, and trying to kiss her, etc. But I was a little frustrated with Teo here.

The novel does have some strengths. For example, it is hard to read this one without reflecting on your faith and your knowledge of the Bible, the Old and New Testaments, your knowledge of doctrines, etc. In this story, we see that "Christianity" has been preserved through the sketchy-fuzzy memory of a five year old boy who grew up to be "Papa" and live in "Roma." He remembers the act of communion, but not what it means, not what it signifies. He remembers that Christians were commanded to love others and serve others, to be compassionate to the needy, to welcome the outcasts, the needy, the sick and dying. But he doesn't really remember why--just that God loves them, so we should too. He remembers vaguely the symbol of the cross--the wounded man on the cross--but he doesn't remember why he died, what his death accomplished, and the fact that "the pierced One" rose again on the third day. So this "Christian" community that essentially is an echo of an echo of an echo of an echo from faded centuries  is desperately in need of the truth--the WHOLE truth. They have no sacred writings, no sacred texts, no religious texts or treatises at all. Nothing to help them spiritually or practically in terms of knowing the God that they risk their lives to worship. And there is a lot to contemplate. One, Christianity was in its dying stages even as the big war came, even as the evil virus threatened humanity's survival. People just didn't care enough to live the faith, to know the Bible, to know God, to pass the gospel, to pass the Word down to their children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Doctrines weren't seen as being important and relevant--and neither was the Word of God. Perhaps there were some that were going through the motions. We are told very, very, very little about this time--mainly just through the prologues and we're left to form our own conclusions as to how everything degraded into the mess it was. But. We're also told that in the next twenty, thirty, forty, fifty years after IT happened, that governments came together to make a pact and part of that pact was to make Christianity illegal, to make the sacred texts illegal, to make proselytizing illegal. They formed an army of men dedicated to hunting down Christians killing them, men dedicated to destroying/burning sacred/religious texts. Two, in terms of reconstruction, how well could you do, how well could the average believer do, the average church-goer, the average child. How important is it to you to KNOW the Bible? How important is it to you to know your doctrine? To be firmly rooted and grounded in the faith--in historic faith. How relevant is it to you in your own life? Is it something you've even thought about at all? How much do you take for granted? And should you be taking it for granted? How much do you VALUE the Bible? How thankful are you that God is not silent, that the mystery can be known and explored?

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, June 24, 2012

MacArthur System: Revelation, June 16-23

This week I read Revelation eight times!!! I read it five times in the ESV! I read it once in the KJV, once in the NKJV, once in the TMB. I was also able to finish Psalms in the HCSB! Since May 26, I've read Revelation 29 times!!! I'm really close to reaching my goal. Just one more week to go. It isn't always easy to fit Revelation into the daily schedule, I'll be honest. It was much, much, much easier to read 1 John 30 days in a row!!! But I think this intense level of exposure--is exposure the right word???--is good for me.


  • Psalms 107-150


  • Revelation (5)


  • Revelation


  • Revelation


  • Revelation

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Book Review: Tozer Pulpit, volume 1

The Tozer Pulpit*. Volume 1. A.W. Tozer. 140 pages.

This book is very different from the previous Tozer I've read. This first volume in the Tozer Pulpit series features FIFTY short entries. Each "chapter" is at most two or three pages long. The chapters do not necessarily rely on one another either--they can be read in any order. You can use this book as a topical devotional book. The good news is that it covers a wide range of subjects. The bad news? Well, the entries are so very, very short. And while each entry or each chapter is good, the book as a whole lacks the greatness of some of Tozer's other works. This book could never compare to The Knowledge of the Holy, for example. The book is worth reading particularly if you're seeking to read everything Tozer wrote, but, it's not a must-must read, in my opinion.

Here are the fifty teachings:

  1. The New Birth: A Major Miracle of God’s Grace —
  2. The Psychologist Can Never Explain the New Birth —
  3. We Ride a Sick, Fallen Planet-But God Still Calls —
  4. Extract Sin From Man, and There’s God’s Image Again —
  5. A Coming Day When God Will No Longer Love Lost Men —
  6. Rejection of God’s Light Brings the Worst Darkness —
  7. No One Rejects Christ on Philosophical Grounds —
  8. Something Wrong With a "Secret" or "Silent" Christian —
  9. It Doesn’t Take Science to Prove God and His Word —
  10. Science and Philosophy More Bigoted Than Religion —
  11. We Have Surrendered the Human Spirit to This Present World —
  12. Modern Fools Lock Up Their Hearts With Their Wealth —
  13. Your $10 Bills Won’t Come Back to You in Heaven —
  14. Nothing Can Destroy Christianity If We Live Like Christians —
  15. You Can’t Elect to Worship God on Just One Day of the Week —
  16. Where God Is Not Worshipped There Can Only Be Discord —
  17. Reverence and Boasting Cannot Be Found on the Same Platform —
  18. The Great Danger of Pride and Arrogance Among Christians —
  19. A Defeated Spirit Easily Gives in to Discouragement —
  20. God Looks for Men Through Whom He Can Do the Impossible —
  21. There Is More to the Ministry Than Being Able to Talk —
  22. The Minister Ought to Speak As a Prophet for God —
  23. Social Compassion for Mankind Does Not Make a Preacher —
  24. Christ Did All the Dying So We Romp on Our Way to Heaven —
  25. Absolute Freedom Found Only in Doing the Will of God —
  26. With God, the Kingly Idea Is Not a Bad Thing —
  27. The Bible Does Not Teach Universalism and Second Chance —
  28. Man Will Have to Account to God for His Moral Choices —
  29. The World Has an Inadequate Concept of Judgment —
  30. Jesus Christ As Judge: A Neglected Bible Doctrine —
  31. Christ Qualifies Both As Saviour and Judge of Mankind —
  32. It Is Man’s Conscience That Puts Hell in Judgment —
  33. Don’t Let the Devil Make a Joke of Conscience —
  34. Do You Give Heed to the I=er Voice of God? —
  35. The Practicing Sinner Must Be a Practical Atheist —
  36. The Crooked Foundations Will Betray Man’s Civilization —
  37. Faith in God Is More Than Sensitivity to Religion —
  38. Christians Belong to God and Each Other in a Unique Way —
  39. Jesus, the Lamb of God, Tested on Earth for Thirty-three Years —
  40. Judgment Awaits Those Who Despise the Blood of Christ —
  41. How to Keep From Having a Nervous Breakdown —
  42. Sad, But True, That Christians Can Be Careless and Carnal —
  43. People Don’t Go to Hell Because They Are Rich or Poor —
  44. Do You Need the Sensational to Keep You "Satisfied"? —
  45. There’s a Gloomy, Low Key in Too Many Churches —
  46. Solve the Problem of Sin and You Solve the Race Problem —
  47. Not a Newspaper in the World Gives Me a Word to Die By —
  48. Christians Are So Well-Fixed, Heaven No Longer Beckons —
  49. Is Your Hope of Heaven a Valid and Eternal Hope? —
  50. Only the Christian Believer Actually Dares to Die! — 

Some of the messages do seem geared to pastors, preachers, teachers, and those in leadership positions within the church, but not all of them. Many are practical, only a few are dated. Meaning that some of the messages are in response to the Cold War, threat of Communism, threat of atomic war, etc. But many of the messages are in fact timeless. Readers may not equally benefit from each of the fifty messages or chapters--chapters that read like devotional entries. But I think there is enough of worth in this one to merit it being read.

Favorite quotes:

A discouraged heart will always go astray, so don't think about yourself the way you feel about yourself. Instead, go to God and Christ. God loves you, and Christ loves you enough to have died for you. He thought you were worth something. (53)
Error cannot stand before God. Heresy cannot possibly stand up under all the light of the Bible. It is a night-blooming plant, and blooms in the shadows of human thought, but as soon as we turn the whole Bible loose on it, it withers and dies. (75)
What is your concept of Jesus Christ, my brother? If the "ten-cent-store Jesus" that is being preached by a lot of men, the plastic, painted Christ who has no spine and no justice and is pictured as a soft and pliable friend to everybody--if He is the only Christ there is, then we might as well close our books and bar our doors, and make a bakery or garage out of this church. But that Christ that is being preached and pictured is not the Christ of God, nor the Christ of the Bible, nor the Christ we must deal with. The Christ we must deal with has eyes as a flame of fire, and His feet are like burnished brass, and out of His mouth comes a sharp, two-edged sword. He will be the judge of mankind. And, thank God, you can leave your loved ones who have died in His hands, knowing that He Himself suffered, knowing that He knows all, that no mistakes can be made, that there can be no miscarriage of justice, because He knows all that can be known! (83)
The God that men believe in now, the God to whom they are "sensitive," is a kind of divine Pan with a pipe who plays lovely music while they dance, but he's not a God that makes any moral demands on them. I still say that any revival that will come to a nation and leave people as much in love with money as they were before is a falsehood and it's from the devil. And any revival that can come to a nation and leave men as worldly as they were before, and as engrossed in human pleasures, is a snare and a delusion. Faith in God--not in any god, not in religion--but faith in the sovereign God who made heaven and earth, who judges among the gods, and whose throne is justice and judgment, and who will require men's deeds--that's the God we must believe in, my friends. And when we believe in that kind of God, we will change our way of living, and we'll change for the better. We will repent, and we will reform and turn to God, and we will cease to do evil and begin to do good, and turn from the world. We will seek to crucify our flesh and put on the new man which is renewed in holiness. (101)

*I recently purchased Tozer Speaks, a two volume Tozer set featuring four books per volume. The first volume of Tozer Speaks has The Tozer Pulpit, The Tozer Pulpit, vol. 2 (aka When He is Come OR The Counselor), Tozer Pulpit, vol. 3 (aka Faith Beyond Reason) and Tozer Pulpit, vol. 4 (aka I Talk Back to the Devil). I did NOT want to wait to review this one massive volume as one book, so I'll be reviewing each of the four books separately. I thought I'd use the original titles from their original publication instead of Tozer Speaks, Volume 1, Book 1; Tozer Speaks Volume 1, Book 2; etc. All page numbers will be from this edition however. Which should not be a problem since this is the first book.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

2012 Completed Challenge: Spring Reading Thing

What I Read For the Challenge:

1. The ESV and the English Bible Legacy. Leland Ryken.
2. Jesus, Our Man in Glory: 12 Messages from the Book of Hebrews. A.W. Tozer and Gerald B. Smith.
3. Knowledge of the Holy. A.W. Tozer. 
4. Gospel Centered Discipleship. Jonathan K. Dodson. Foreword by Matt Chandler. 2012. Crossway Books. 176 pages.
5. The Root of the Righteous: Tapping The Bedrock of True Spirituality. A.W. Tozer. 1955/2006. WingSpread Publishers. 186 pages.
6. The Pursuit of God: The Human Thirst for the Divine. A.W. Tozer 1948/2006. WingSpread Publishers. 70 pages
7. Nature of God (Formerly published as Gleanings in the Godhead). Arthur W. Pink. 1975/1999. Moody Publishers. 347 pages.
8. Letters To A Diminished Church: Passionate Arguments for the Relevance of Christian Doctrine. Dorothy Sayers. 2004. Thomas Nelson. 280 pages.
9. It is Well: Expositions on Substitutionary Atonement. Mark Dever and Michael Lawrence. 2010. Crossway. 224 pages.
10. Precious Blood: The Atoning Work of Christ. Edited by Richard D. Phillips. 2009. Crossway Books. 240 pages
11. The Explicit Gospel. Matt Chandler. 2012. Crossway Books. 240 pages.
12. Surprised by Grace. Tullian Tchividjian. 2010. Crossway. 192 pages.
13. Understanding the Big Picture of the Bible. Edited by Wayne Grudem, C. John Collins, Thomas R. Schreiner. Contributors: Vern S. Poythress, C. John Collins, Gordon Wenham, David Howard, David Reimer, Paul House, J. Julius Scott, Jr., David Chapman, John Delhousaye, Thomas R. Schreiner, Darrell Bock, Dennis Johnson. 2012. Crossway. 160 pages.
14. Kisses From Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and Redemption. Katie Davis. 2011. October 2011. Howard Books. 288 pages.
15. Experiencing the Presence of God: Teachings from the Book of Hebrews. A.W. Tozer. 2010. Regal (Gospel Light) 224 pages.
16. God's Pursuit of Man. A.W. Tozer. 1950/2007. Wingspread. 140 pages.
17. The Pursuit of Lucy Banning. Olivia Newport. 2012. Revell. 304 pages.
18. Retro-Christianity: Reclaiming the Forgotten Faith. Michael J. Svigel. 2012. Crossway Books. 320 pages.
19. The Lord is My Shepherd. (Psalm 23 Mysteries) Debbie Viguie. 2010. Abingdon Press. 320 pages. 
20. Jesus Is Victor: A Fresh Perspective on the Book of Revelation. A.W. Tozer. Compiled and Edited by Gerald B. Smith. 1989/2007. WingSpread Publishers. 143 pages.
21. Short-Straw Bride. Karen Witemeyer. 2012. Bethany House. 368 pages.
22. Mary Magdalene. Diana Wallis Taylor. 2012. Revell. 304 pages.

  • Did you finish reading all the books on your spring reading list? If not, why not?
My goal was to read twelve books: six fiction; six nonfiction. I ended up reading eighteen nonfiction books and only four fiction books! I just was not in the mood--apparently--to read historical romance. 
  • Did you stick to your original goals or did you change your list as you went along?
I definitely changed my list of books as I went along. I added a LOT more Tozer! And I never got to the oh-so-thick Spurgeon collection or the Torrey book on the Holy Spirit. But, I was happy with what I did get read. 
  • What was your favorite book that you read this spring? Least favorite? Why?
My favorite novel has to be Short-Straw Bride by Karen Witemeyer. I just thought it was giddy-making! I loved the romance. It was just too much fun!!! As for favorite nonfiction, I can narrow it down to three I suppose. Kisses From Katie by Katie Davis, The Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler, and The Root of the Righteous by A.W. Tozer. 

Since I read so much nonfiction, I'm not sure it's fair to have a least favorite. All of what I read could benefit somebody--even if I don't count myself as the best possible intended audience. Some books were more relevant to me where I am in life, and others were not. For example, a few of the books I read were better suited for  pastors and elders and church leaders--those with authority to make decisions for a church body, etc. 
  • Did you discover a new author or genre this spring? Did you love them? Not love them?
Well, I'm not sure if I discovered this author during the challenge or just a couple of days before the challenge, but I certainly read A LOT of A.W. Tozer!!!! Before this spring, I'd not read any of his works, and I've now read a stack!!! And he's a great, great author--very zealous, very passionate, I highly recommend him!!! 

I also read Dorothy Sayer's nonfiction for the first time. I highly recommend her essays, "The Greatest Drama Ever Staged" and "Creed or Chaos." 
  • Did you learn something new because of Spring Reading Thing 2012 – something about reading, about yourself, or about a topic you read about?
I read a lot of nonfiction, and I probably learned something from each nonfiction book I read. Some being more beneficial than others, perhaps, but still each book proved worthy of reading. 

For example, here are my favorite quotes from A.W. Tozer's Knowledge of the Holy:

What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. The history of mankind will probably show that no people has ever risen above its religion, and man's spiritual history will positively demonstrate that no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God. Worship is pure or base as the worshipper entertains high or low thoughts of God. For this reason the gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like. We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God. This is true not only of the individual Christian, but of the company of Christians that composes the Church. Always the most revealing thing about the Church is her idea of God, just as her most significant message is what she says about Him or leaves unsaid, for her silence is often more eloquent than her speech. She can never escape the self-disclosure of her witness concerning God. (1)

That our idea of God correspond as nearly as possible to the true being of God is of immense importance to us. Compared with our actual thoughts about Him, our creedal statements are of little consequence. (2)
What is God like? What kind of God is He? How may we expect Him to act toward us and toward all created things? Such questions are not merely academic. They touch the far-in reaches of the human spirit, and their answers affect life and character and destiny. When asked in reverence and their answers sought in humility, these are questions that cannot but be pleasing to our Father which are in heaven. (13)
To be right we must think rightly of God. It is morally imperative that we purge from our minds all ignoble concepts of the Deity and let Him be the God in our minds that He is in His universe. The Christian religion has to do with God and man, but its focal point is God, not man. (35)
I think it might be demonstrated that almost every heresy that has afflicted the church through the years has arisen from believing about God things that are not true, or from overemphasizing certain true things so as to obscure other things equally true. To magnify any attribute to the exclusion of another is to head straight for one of the dismal swamps of theology; and yet we are all constantly tempted to do just that. (79)
We can hold a correct view of truth only by daring to believe everything God has said about Himself. It is a grave responsibility that a man takes upon himself when he seeks to edit out of God's self-revelation such features as he in his ignorance deems objectionable. (80)
  • What was your favorite thing about the challenge?

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Book Review: Mary Magdalene

Mary Magdalene. Diana Wallis Taylor. 2012. Revell. 304 pages.

The early morning breeze lifted Mary's shawl, exposing her long dark hair, and brought with it the tangy smell of seaweed. 

I have really enjoyed Diana Wallis Taylor's works of biblical fiction: Journey to the Well and Martha. I was pleased to be able to review her newest book, Mary Magdalene.

While this is a work of fiction, the second half of the novel does follow what is revealed in the gospel accounts. Taylor has given Mary Magdalene quite the back story in this novel. The first half is bittersweet, at best. Readers meet a young girl, Mary, who is beautiful, bright, quite promising. Her father is allowing her to learn Scriptures, to learn of God and his commandments and promises. Nathan is part apprentice in her father's boat building enterprise, part tutor to the young girl. But when Mary's kidnapped and held for ransom, well, it's the beginning of a tragic story. Psychologically traumatized, Mary can never quite recover fully even after she's been restored to her family, even after her father's wounds are healed. She's been struck with an illness, a terror, that leaves her mad and not quite in control of herself or her body. Some even say she acts possessed. The truth is, she's not quite well, she never knows when her illness or madness will strike. She could be perfectly fine one minute, and not so fine the next. Her father and mother do worry that no one will want to marry her, but, Nathan has fallen in love with her for better or worse. He loves her even though she's ill, even though there are times she's not herself at all. He loves her truly and deeply and wants to take care of her and protect her. He longs to find a way to heal her mind, body, and spirit. But as the years go by, things don't improve, they only get worse. Mary loses her father and her mother. And Nathan is having a hard time with Mary; he loves her still, but she's not capable of being his wife, of loving him. She can't run a house, she can't even take care of herself. She needs constant tending and supervision, and it's a tiring task. But then one day Nathan hears of a man, a man some are calling a prophet, a healer, a messiah. Could the rumors be true? Could this man called Jesus heal and restore Mary? He'll do anything it takes to make sure Mary meets Jesus....

I did enjoy this one. But it was so sad in a way. I really came to love Nathan, to admire him. And I wanted a happier ending for the two of them. I was happy that Mary met the Savior and was healed. And I was happy to see her come to love him and serve him and follow him closely. I liked seeing these events through her eyes. But. It wasn't as satisfying as I was hoping. It was good though.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Saturday, June 16, 2012

MacArthur System: Revelation, June 10-15

This week I read Revelation seven times. I read it three times in the ESV translation. One of the times in the ESV was the ESV MacArthur Study Bible. I read it once in the HCSB translation. I listened to it once in the New King James translation. I listened to it once in the International Children's Bible (ICB). I read it once in the 1865 American Bible Union translation.


  • Psalms 81-106
  • Revelation


  • Revelation (3)

New King James (Word of Promise Audio Bible)

  • Revelation

ICB (Word of Promise, Next Generation, Audio Bible)

  • Revelation

1865 American Bible Union New Testament Translation

  • Revelation

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Book Review: Short-Straw Bride

Short-Straw Bride. Karen Witemeyer. 2012. Bethany House. 368 pages.

From the prologue: Ten-year-old Meredith Hayes balled her hands into fists as she faced her tormentor, "Hiram Ellis! Give me back my lunch bucket this instant!"

From chapter one: "I don't think I can do it, Cass." Meredith peered up at her cousin through the reflection in the vanity mirror. Cassandra pulled the hairpin from her mouth and secured another section of Meredith's braided chignon. "Do what?" "Marry a man who wants me only for the land I can bring him." 

This isn't my first Karen Witemeyer book; however, it is the first Karen Witemeyer book that I absolutely LOVED, LOVED, LOVED. Short-Straw Bride is a Christian historical romance; it is set in Palestine, Texas in the 1880s.

In the prologue, Travis Archer saves the then-ten-year-old Meredith, her leg having gotten trapped in a hunting trap. The incident stays with her, as you might imagine. First, because she can't forget Travis Archer, he is forever her hero, the stuff of her dreams, despite the fact that that isolated incident is the only time she's seen him. Second, because it left a scar on her leg and the damage to the bone prevented it from growing as it should; one leg being slightly longer than the other.

The novel opens with Meredith all grown up and living with her aunt and uncle who are her guardians. They have arranged a marriage for her with an up-and-coming businessman, Roy Mitchell. Meredith prays for a sign, an indication one way or another if she should marry the man her guardians have chosen for her, or, if she should be stubborn and refuse their choice. And the sign, when it comes, is definite: she not only overhears him calling her a cripple, she overhears him making unethical arrangements to acquire land. He WANTS the Archer land, and since the Archer brothers won't sell, won't negotiate, won't budge, he's decided that if he burns their barn down, it will be a good first step to getting what he wants.

So what's a woman to do? Well, she does try going to the sheriff--or the deputy?--but when she's not taken seriously, when she's instead ridiculed for being a silly woman with a vivid imagination, she does what she must: she rides out to the Archer land herself to warn them. The problem? She doesn't have the time to ride out there and back before nightfall. And she wasn't counting on her cousin giving into the pressure of revealing her whereabouts. So her heroic ride to warn them just in time turns into a compromising reputation-killer. Her uncle demanding that one of the four Archer brothers step forward to marry her....

I admit this one could sound a bit silly to some readers, but, oh how I loved it!!!! I loved Meredith! I loved Travis! I loved their relationship, their marriage, their courtship-coming-after-marriage. I loved seeing how Meredith's presence on the Archer farm transforms the place, transforms the brothers. I loved just about everything in this one!!! There were quite a few giddy-making scenes!

Will Short-Straw Bride appeal to every reader? I doubt it. It's definitely for those that love Christian fiction, those that love Christian historical romance. I could see it having some appeal to non-Christians who love and seek out clean romance novels (smut-free romance novels).

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Journaling Holiness, part 1

Not my edition, but the prettiest cover 
Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties, and Roots. J.C. Ryle. (1816-1900)

He who wishes to attain right views about Christian holiness — must begin by examining the vast and solemn subject of sin. He must dig down very low — if he would build high. A mistake here is most mischievous. Wrong views about holiness — are generally traceable to wrong views about human corruption. I make no apology for beginning this volume of messages about holiness, by making some plain statements about sin.

J.C. Ryle was a Victorian theologian--preacher, teacher, writer. I am currently reading his book entitled Holiness. I don't think this will be a quick and easy read, though I fully expect it to be challenging and thought-provoking and wonderful. I thought I would share quotes as I go. I've read the introduction and the first three chapters so far.

I would never say that this book is an easy read. The topic alone--holiness and sanctification--make it an uncomfortable read at least part of the time. But is it biblical? Is it sound doctrine? What does the Bible say on the issue of holiness? of sanctification? of the believer's life and lifestyle? That is what matters most. Not a reader being made comfortable, being made cozy and secure. But an accurate reading and interpretation of the Word of God.

From the introduction,
True holiness does not consist merely of believing and feeling, but of doing and bearing, and a practical exhibition of active and passive grace. Our tongues, our tempers, our natural passions and inclinations--our conduct as parents and children, masters and servants, husbands and wives, rulers and subjects--our dress, our employment of time, our behavior in business, our demeanor in sickness and health, in riches and in poverty--all these are matters which are fully treated by inspired writers. 
True holiness, we surely ought to remember, does not consist merely of inward sensations and impressions. It is much more then tears, and sighs, and bodily excitement, and a quickened pulse, and a passionate feeling of attachment to our favorite preachers and our own religious party, and a readiness to quarrel with everyone who does not agree with us. It is something of "the image of Christ" which can be seen and observed by others in our private life, and habits, and character, and doings!
But I have yet to learn that there is a single passage in Scripture which teaches that a literal perfection — that a complete and entire freedom from sin, in thought, or word, or deed — is attainable, or has ever been attained, by any child of Adam in this world. 
Let us never forget that truth, distorted and exaggerated — can become the mother of the most dangerous heresies! 

The Word of God always speaks of only two classes of people ...
the livingand the dead in sin;
the believer — and the unbeliever;
the converted — and the unconverted;
the travelers in the narrow way — and the travelers in the broad;
the wise — and the foolish;
the children of God — and the children of the devil.
Within each of these two great classes there are, doubtless, various measures of sin and grace; but it only the difference between the higher and lower end of an inclined plane. Between these two great classes there is an enormous gulf; they are as distinct . . .
as life — and death,
light — and darkness,
Heaven — and Hell. 

But the theory of a sudden, mysterious transition of a believer into a state of blessedness and entire consecration at one mighty bound — I cannot receive! It appears to me to be a man-made invention; and I do not see a single plain text to prove it in Scripture!
Gradual growth in grace,
gradual growth in knowledge,
gradual growth in faith,
gradual growth in love,
gradual growth in holiness,
gradual growth in humility,
gradual growth in spiritual-mindedness
 — all this I see clearly taught and urged in Scripture, and clearly exemplified in the lives of many of God's saints. But sudden, instantaneous leaps from conversion to entire consecration — I fail to see in the Bible! 

I think it wiser and safer to press on all converted people the possibility of continual growth in grace, and the absolute necessity of going forward, increasing more and more, and in every year, dedicating and consecrating themselves more, in spirit, soul, and body to Christ. By all means let us teach that there is more holiness to be attained, and more of Heaven to be enjoyed upon earth — than most believers now experience.
In justification, the word to address to man is believe — only believe. In sanctification, the word must be "watch, pray, and fight!" What God has divided — let us not mingle and confuse.
From chapter one, "Sin"
He who wishes to attain right views about Christian holiness — must begin by examining the vast and solemn subject of sin. He must dig down very low — if he would build high. A mistake here is most mischievous. Wrong views about holiness — are generally traceable to wrong views about human corruption. I make no apology for beginning this volume of messages about holiness, by making some plain statements about sin
The plain truth is, that a right understanding of SIN lies at the root of all saving Christianity. Without it, such doctrines as justification, conversion, sanctification, are "words and names" which convey no meaning to the mind. The first thing, therefore, that God does when He makes anyone a new creature in Christ, is to send light into his heart and show him that he is a guilty sinner!
God "shines into our hearts" by the work of the Holy Spirit — and then spiritual life begins (2 Corinthians 4:6).
Dim or indistinct views of sin are the origin of most of the errors, heresies and false doctrines of the present day. If a man does not realize the dangerous nature of his soul's disease — you cannot wonder if he is content with false or imperfect remedies. I believe that one of the chief needs of the contemporary church has been, and is — clearer, fuller teaching about sin.
Sin is that vast moral disease which affects the whole human race, of every rank and class and name and nation and people and tongue-a disease from which there never was but one born of woman that was free. Need I say, that One was Christ Jesus the Lord?
I say, furthermore, that "a sin," to speak more particularly, consists in doing, saying, thinking or imagining anything that is not in perfect conformity with the mind and law of God. "Sin," in short, as the Scripture says, is "the transgression of the law" (1 John 3:4). The slightest outward or inward departure from absolute mathematical parallelism with God's revealed will and character, constitutes a sin, and at once makes us guilty in God's sight.
We will do well to remember that, when we make our own miserably imperfect knowledge and consciousness, the measure of our sinfulness — we are on very dangerous ground.
Sin is a disease which pervades and runs through every part of our moral constitution, and every faculty of our minds. The understanding, the affections, the reasoning powers, the will — are all more or less infected. Even the conscience is so blinded that it cannot be depended on as a sure guide, and is as likely to lead men wrong as right — unless it is enlightened by the Holy Spirit. In short, "From the sole of your foot to the top of your head, there is no soundness — only wounds and welts and open sores!" (Isaiah 1:6). The disease may be veiled under a thin covering of courtesy, politeness, good manners and outward decorum — but it lies deep down in the constitution!
For my part, I know no stronger proof of the inspiration of Genesis and the Mosaic account of the origin of man — than the power, extent and universality of sin.
We, on the other hand — poor blind creatures, here today and gone tomorrow, born in sin, surrounded by sinners, living in a constant atmosphere of weakness, infirmity and imperfection — can form none but the most inadequate conceptions of the hideousness of sin. We have no line to fathom it, and no measure by which to gauge it. The blind man can see no difference between a masterpiece of Raphael — and a child's scribbling. The deaf man cannot distinguish between a penny-whistle — and a cathedral organ. The very animals whose smell is most offensive to us — have no idea that they are offensive; and are not offensive to one another. Fallen men and women, I believe, can have no just idea what a vile thing sin is in the sight of that God whose handiwork is absolutely perfect — perfect whether we look through telescope or microscope; perfect in the formation of a mighty planet like Jupiter, with his satellites, keeping time to a second as he rolls round the sun; perfect in the formation of the smallest insect that crawls over a foot of ground. But let us nevertheless settle it firmly in our minds...
that sin is "the abominable thing that God hates";
that God "is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, and cannot look upon that which is evil";
that the least transgression of God's law makes us "guilty of all";
that "the soul that sins shall die";
that "the wages of sin is death";
that God will "judge the secrets of men";
that there is a worm that never dies and a fire that is not quenched;
that "the wicked shall be turned into Hell" and "shall go away into everlasting punishment";
and that "nothing that defiles, shall in any way enter" Heaven! (Jeremiah 44:4; Hab. 1:13; James 2:10; Ezekiel 18:4; Romans 6:23; Romans 2:16; Mark 9:44; Psalm 9:17; Matthew 25:46; Rev. 21:27). These are indeed tremendous words, when we consider that they are written in the book of a most merciful God! 

No proof of the exceeding sinfulness of sin, after all, is so overwhelming and unanswerable — as the sufferings and cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the whole doctrine of His substitution and atonement. Terribly black must that guilt be, for which nothing but the blood of the Son of God could make satisfaction. Heavy must that weight of human sin be, which made Jesus groan and sweat drops of blood in agony at Gethsemane and cry at Golgotha, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me!" (Matthew 27:46). Nothing, I am convinced, will astonish us so much, when we awake in the resurrection day, as the view we will have of sin, and the retrospect we will take of our own countless shortcomings and defects. Never until the hour when Christ comes the second time, will we fully realize the "sinfulness of sin." Well might George Whitefield say, "The anthem in Heaven will be: What has God wrought!"

Sin rarely seems sin at its first beginnings. Let us then watch and pray, lest we fall into temptation. We may give wickedness smooth names — but we cannot alter its nature and character in the sight of God.
There is a remedy revealed for man's need — as wide and broad and deep as man's disease! We need not be afraid to look at sin and study its nature, origin, power, extent and vileness — if we only look at the same time at the almighty medicine provided for us in the salvation that is in Jesus Christ. Though sin has abounded — grace has much more abounded . . .
in the everlasting covenant of redemption, to which Father, Son and Holy Spirit are parties;
in the Mediator of that covenant, Jesus Christ the righteous, perfect God and perfect Man in one Person;
in the work that He did by dying for our sins and rising again for our justification;
in the offices that He fills as our Priest, Substitute, Physician, Shepherd and Advocate;
in the precious blood He shed which can cleanse from all sin;
in the everlasting righteousness that He brought in;
in the perpetual intercession that He carries on as our Representative at God's right hand;
in His power to save to the uttermost the chief of sinners, His willingness to receive and pardon the vilest, His readiness to bear with the weakest;
in the grace of the Holy Spirit which He plants in the hearts of all His people, renewing, sanctifying and causing old things to pass away and all things to become new —
in all this (and oh, what a brief sketch it is!) — in all this, I say, there is a full, perfect and complete medicine for the hideous disease of sin!     
Men will never come to Jesus, and stay with Jesus, and live for Jesus — unless they really know why they are to come, and what is their need. Those whom the Spirit draws to Jesus — are those whom the Spirit has convinced of sin. Without thorough conviction of sin, men may seem to come to Jesus and follow Him for a season; but they will soon fall away and return to the world.
From chapter two, "Sanctification"
It is a subject of the utmost importance to our souls. If the Bible is true, it is certain that unless we are "sanctified," we shall not be saved. There are three things which, according to the Bible, are absolutely necessary to the salvation of every man and woman in Christendom. These three are justification, regeneration and sanctification. 

Sanctification is that inward spiritual work which the Lord Jesus Christ works in a man by the Holy Spirit, when He calls him to be a true believer. He not only washes him from his sins in His own blood — but He also separates him from his natural love of sin and the world, puts a new principle in his heart and makes him practically godly in life. The instrument by which the Spirit effects this work is generally the Word of God, though He sometimes uses afflictions and providential visitations "without the Word"

The Lord Jesus has undertaken everything that His people's souls require: not only to deliver them from the guilt of their sins, by His atoning death; but from the dominion of their sins, by placing in their hearts the Holy Spirit; not only to justify them — but also to sanctify them. He is, thus, not only their "righteousness," but their "sanctification"
If the Savior of sinners gives us renewing grace and calls us by His Spirit — we may be sure that He expects us to use our grace and not to go to sleep. It is forgetfulness of this which causes many believers to "grieve the Holy Spirit" and makes them very useless and uncomfortable Christians.
Believing all this, I shall never hesitate to tell people that inward conflict is no proof that a man is not holy, and that they must not think they are not sanctified because they do not feel entirely free from inward struggle. Such freedom from conflict we shall doubtless have in Heaven — but we shall never enjoy it in this present world.
Most men hope to go to Heaven when they die; but few, it may be feared, take the trouble to consider whether they would enjoy Heaven if they got there. Heaven is essentially a holy place; its inhabitants are all holy; its occupations are all holy. To be really happy in Heaven, it is clear and plain that we must be somewhat trained and made ready for Heaven while we are on earth. 
1. Justification is the reckoning and counting a man to be righteous for the sake of another, even Jesus Christ the Lord.
Sanctification is the actual making a man inwardly righteous, though it may be in a very feeble degree.
2. The righteousness we have by our justification is not our own — but the everlasting perfect righteousness of our great Mediator Christ, imputed to us, and made our own by faith.
The righteousness we have by sanctification is our own righteousness, imparted, inherent and wrought in us by the Holy Spirit — but mingled with much infirmity and imperfection.
3. In justification our own works have no place at all, and simple faith in Christ is the one thing needful.
In sanctification our own works are of vast importance, and God bids us fight and watch and pray and strive and take pains and labor.
4. Justification is a finished and complete work, and a man is perfectly justified the moment he believes.
Sanctification is an imperfect work, comparatively, and will never be perfected until we reach Heaven.
5. Justification admits of no growth or increase: a man is as much justified the hour he first comes to Christ by faith — as he will be to all eternity.
Sanctification is eminently a progressive work and admits of continual growth and enlargement so long as a man lives.
6. Justification has special reference to our persons, our standing in God's sight, and our deliverance from guilt.
Sanctification has special reference to our natures and the moral renewal of our hearts.
7. Justification gives us our title to Heaven and boldness to enter in.
Sanctification gives us our fitness for Heaven and prepares us to enjoy it when we dwell there.
8. Justification is the act of God for us and is not easily discerned by others.
Sanctification is the work of God within us and cannot be hidden in its outward manifestation from the eyes of men.
I commend these distinctions to the attention of all my readers, and I ask them to ponder them well. I am persuaded that one great cause of the darkness and uncomfortable feelings of many well-meaning people in the matter of religion, is their habit of confounding, and not distinguishing, justification and sanctification.
It can never be too strongly impressed on our minds, that they are two separate things. Yet, they cannot be separated, and everyone that is a partaker of either — is a partaker of both. But never, never ought they to be confounded, and never ought the distinction between them to be forgotten.
It matters little what we wish and what we hope and what we desire to be, before we die. What are we now? What are we doing? Are we sanctified — or not? If not, the fault is all our own.
If we would be sanctified, our course is clear and plain: we must begin with Christ. We must go to Him as sinners, with no plea but that of utter need, and cast our souls on Him by faith — for peace and reconciliation with God. We must place ourselves in His hands, as in the hands of a good physician, and cry to Him for mercy and grace. We must wait for nothing to bring with us, as a recommendation. The very first step towards sanctification, no less than justification, is to come with faith to Christ.
From chapter three, "Holiness"
Holiness is the habit of being of one mind with God, according as we find His mind described in Scripture.It is the habit of agreeing in God's judgment, hating what He hates, loving what He loves, and  measuring everything in this world by the standard of His Word.
A holy man will endeavor to shun every known sin, and to keep every known commandment. He will have a decided bent of mind towards God, a hearty desire to do His will, a greater fear of displeasing Him than of displeasing the world, and a love to all His ways.
To reach the holiday of glory — we must pass through the training school of grace. We must be heavenly-minded and have heavenly tastes in the present life — or else we will never find ourselves in Heaven in the life to come!
We must not merely have a Christian name and Christian knowledge — we must have a Christian character also.

There is not a brick nor a stone laid in the work of our sanctification — until we go to Christ. Holiness is His special gift to His believing people. Holiness is the work He carries on in their hearts by the Spirit whom He puts within them. He is appointed a "Prince and a Savior, to give repentance" as well as remission of sins. To as many as receive Him, He gives power to become sons of God (Acts 5:31; John 9:12, 13). Holiness comes not by blood — parents cannot give it to their children; nor of the will of the flesh — man cannot produce it in himself; nor of the will of man — ministers cannot give it to you by baptism. Holiness comes from Christ. It is the result of vital union with Him. It is the fruit of being a living branch of the true Vine. Go then to Christ and say, "Lord, not only save me from the guilt of sin — but send the Spirit, whom You promised, and save me from its power. Make me holy. Teach me to do Your will." Would you continue holy? Then abide in Christ. (John 15:4, 5). It pleased the Father that in Him should all fullness dwell — a full supply for all a believer's needs. He is the Physician to whom you must daily go — if you would keep well. He is the Manna which you must daily eat, and the Rock from which you must daily drink. His arm is the arm on which you must daily lean, as you come up out of the wilderness of this world. You must not only be rooted — you must also be built up in Him. 

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible