Friday, November 30, 2012

J.C. Ryle on the Incarnation

I see a marvelous proof of love and wisdom — in the union of two natures in Christ's person. It was marvelous love in our Savior to condescend to go through weakness and humiliation for our sakes, ungodly rebels as we are. It was marvelous wisdom to fit Himself in this way to be the very Friend of friends, who could not only save man — but meet him on his own ground. I want one able to perform all things needful to redeem my soul. This Jesus can do, for He is the eternal Son of God. I want one able to understand my weakness and infirmities, and to deal gently with my soul, while tied to a body of death. This again Jesus can do, for He was the Son of man, and had flesh and blood like my own. Had my Savior been God only — I might perhaps have trusted Him — but I never could have come near to Him without fear. Had my Savior been Man only — I might have loved Him — but I never could have felt sure that He was able to take away my sins. But, blessed be God, my Savior is God as well as Man — and Man as well as God. God, and so able to deliver me — Man, and so able to feel with me. Almighty power and deepest sympathy are met together in one glorious Person, Jesus Christ, my Lord. Surely a believer in Christ has a strong consolation. He may well trust, and not be afraid. ~ J.C. Ryle, Holiness, 
The foundation of the true Church was laid at a mighty cost. It was necessary that the Son of God should take our nature upon Him, and in that nature live, suffer and die, not for His own sins — but for ours. It was necessary that in that nature Christ should go to the grave, and rise again. It was necessary that in that nature Christ should go up to Heaven, to sit at the right hand of God, having obtained eternal redemption for all His people. No other foundation could have met the necessities of lost, guilty, corrupt, weak, helpless sinners. That foundation, once obtained, is very strong. It can bear the weight of the sins of all the world. It has borne the weight of all the sins of all the believers who have built on it.  ~ J.C. Ryle, Holiness, 
Infinite power and infinite sympathy are met together and combined in our Savior. If He had been only Man, He could not have saved us. If He had been only God (I speak with reverence), He could not have been "touched with the feeling of our infirmities," nor "suffered Himself being tempted." (Hebrews 4:15; 2:18). As God, He is mighty to save; as Man, He is exactly suited to be our Head, Representative and Friend. Let those who never think deeply, taunt us, if they will, with squabbling about creeds and dogmatic theology. But let thoughtful Christians never be ashamed to believe and hold fast the neglected doctrine of the Incarnation, and the union of two natures in our Savior. It is a rich and precious truth that our Lord Jesus Christ is both "God and Man." ~ J.C. Ryle, Holiness,  

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Translation Fun with Philippians 4:13

Last year, I wrote a little post about how various translators translated Philippians 4:4-7. I thought I would now look at Philippians 4:13. This is a verse that is very easy to take out of context, to lift out of the surroundings and apply or misapply to just about any and every situation.

ESV: I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
CEB: I can endure all these things through the power of the one who gives me strength.
HCSB: I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me.
NASB:  I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
NIV, 1984: I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
NIV, 2011: I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
NKJV: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
NLT: For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.
KJV: I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.
Amplified: I have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers me [I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who infuses inner strength into me; I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency].
J.B. Phillips: I am ready for anything through the strength of the one who lives within me.
Good News Translation: I have the strength to face all conditions by the power that Christ gives me.
Contemporary English Version: Christ gives me the strength to face anything.
The Message: I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.

The context of the verse is that Paul is telling his readers that whether he is rich or poor, well fed or hungry, that no matter what his outward condition, God is taking care of him, enabling him to go on.

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
(Philippians 4:11-13 ESV)

Some translators have clearly sought to reword the verse so that it fits with the context clearly so that it can't (as easily) be misinterpreted.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Book Review: The Purpose of Man

The Purpose of Man: Designed to Worship. A.W. Tozer. Compiled and Edited by James L. Snyder. 2009. Regal. 188 pages.

The Purpose of Man: Designed to Worship is a wonderful book, an easy yet thought-provoking read on the subject of worship. How critical is it for Christians, for believers, to understand worship? It is essential as Tozer argues!

The chapter titles:

  • The Tragedy of Human Depravity
  • Searching for Man's Lost Identity
  • Discovering the Heart of Man's Nature
  • The Various Paths to Worship
  • Religion Versus Worship
  • Seekers After Truth
  • What Came First: Workers or Worshipers?
  • The Components of True Worship
  • The Mystery of True Worship
  • The Natural Dwelling Place of God
  • The Absolute Worth-ship of Christ
  • The Authenticity of Ownership
  • The Lord of Our Worship
  • Maintaining a Vibrant Worship Lifestyle

Favorite quotes:
Worship is man's full reason for existence. Worship is why we are born and why we are born again. Worship is the reason for our genesis in the first place and our regenesis that we call regeneration. Worship is why there is church, the assembly of the Redeemed, in the first place. Every Christian church in every country across the world in every generation exists to worship God first, not second; not tacking worship at the end of our service as an afterthought, but rather to worship God primarily, with everything else coming in second, at best. Worshiping God is our first call. (46)
When a man falls on his knees and stretches his hands heavenward, he is doing the most natural thing in the world. Something deep within compels him to seek someone or something outside of himself to worship and adore. In his unredeemed condition, man has lost the way and cannot clearly define the object of his wistful adoration, and so his search takes him far from God. When he does not find God, man will fill the void in his heart with anything he can find. That which is not God can never satiate the heart exclusively created for God's presence. (52)
Worship acceptable to God is based upon knowing the nature of God. (63)
Many religious people mistakenly assume a relationship to God that does not exist. They think and teach that we are all God's children, and they talk about the God and Father of mankind. However, the Bible does not teach that God is the Father of mankind; in fact, it teaches the exact opposite. To assume a relationship that does not exist prohibits a person from really knowing God. (63)
God is infinitely more concerned that He has worshipers than that He has workers. (95)
Worship is to feel in the heart and express in some appropriate manner a humbling but delightful sense of admiring awe. Worship will humble a person as nothing else can. (108)
Worship pleasing to God saturates our whole being. There is no worship pleasing to God until there is nothing in me displeasing to God. (128)
By nature, worship is not some performance we do, but a Presence we experience. (177)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

J.C. Ryle, Tips on Praying

From J.C. Ryle's Practical Religion (1878), "Call to Prayer." These are his points he wants others to consider about their prayer lives...
I commend then to your attention, the importance of reverence and humility in prayer. Let us never forget what we are, and what a solemn thing it is to speak with God. Let us beware of rushing into his presence with carelessness and levity. Let us say to ourselves: "I am on holy ground. This is no other than the gate of Heaven. If I do not mean what I say — then I am trifling with God. If I regard iniquity in my heart — the Lord will not hear me." Let us keep in mind the words of Solomon, "Do not be rash with your mouth, and let not your heart be hasty to utter anything before God; for God is in Heaven, and you on earth." Ecclesiastes 5:2. When Abraham spoke to God, he said, "I am dust and ashes!" When Jacob spoke to God, he said, "I am vile!" Let us do likewise.

I commend to you the importance of praying spiritually. I mean by that, that we should labor always to have the direct help of the Holy Spirit in our prayers, and beware above all things of formality. There is nothing so spiritual — that it may become a form, and this is especially true of private prayer. We may insensibly get into the habit of using the fittest possible words, and offering the most scriptural petitions — and yet do it all by rote, without feeling it — and walk daily round an old beaten path. I desire to touch this point with caution and delicacy. I know that there are certain things we daily need, and that there is nothing necessarily formal in asking for these things in the same words. The world, the devil, and our hearts — are daily the same. Of necessity, we must daily go over old ground. But this I say — we must be very careful on this point. If the skeleton and outline of our prayers be by habit almost form — let us strive that the clothing and filling up of our prayers, be as far as possible of the Spirit. 
I commend to you the importance of making prayer a regular business of life. I might say something of the value of regular times in the day for prayer. God is a God of order. The hours for morning and evening sacrifice in the Jewish temple were not fixed as they were, without a meaning. Disorder is eminently one of the fruits of sin. But I would not bring any under bondage. This only I say, that it is essential to your soul's health, to make praying a part of the business of every twenty-four hours of your life. Just as you allot time to eating, sleeping, and business — so also allot time to prayer. Choose your own hours and seasons. At the very least, speak with God in the morning — before you speak with the world: and speak with God at night — after you are done with the world. But settle it in your minds, that praying is one of the great things of every day. Do not drive it into a corner. Do not give it the scraps and parings of your duty. Whatever else you make a business of — make a business of prayer.

I commend to you the importance of perseverance in prayer. Once having begun the habit — never give it up. Your heart will sometimes say, "You have had family prayers — what mighty harm is there if you leave private prayer undone?" Your body will sometimes say, "You are unwell, or sleepy, or weary — you need not pray." Your mind will sometimes say, "You have important business to attend to today; cut short your prayers." Look on all such suggestions as coming directly from Satan. They are all as good as saying, "Neglect your soul."

I do not maintain that prayers should always be of the same length; but I do say, let no excuse make you give up prayer. Paul said, "Continue in prayer" and, "Pray without ceasing." He did not mean that people should be always on their knees — but he did mean that our prayers should be like the continual burned-offering, steadily preserved in every day; that it should be like seed-time and harvest, and summer and winter, unceasingly coming round at regular seasons; that it should be like the fire on the altar, not always consuming sacrifices — but never completely going out.

Never forget that you may tie together morning and evening devotions — by an endless chain of short ejaculatory prayers throughout the day. Even in company, or business, or in the very streets — you may be silently sending up little winged messengers to God, as Nehemiah did in the very presence of Artaxerxes. And never think that time is wasted, which is given to God. A Christian never finds he is a loser, in the long run, by persevering in prayer.

I commend to you the importance of earnestness in prayer. It is not that a person should shout, or scream, or be very loud, in order to prove that they are in earnest. But it is desirable that we should be hearty and fervent and warm — and ask as if we were really interested in what we were doing! It is the "effectual fervent" prayer that "avails much." This is the lesson that is taught us by the expressions used in Scripture about prayer. It is called, "crying, knocking, wrestling, laboring, striving." This is the lesson taught us by scripture examples. Jacob is one. He said to the angel at Penuel, "I will not let you go, unless you bless me." Genesis 32:26. Daniel is another. Hear how he pleaded with God: "O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do; defer not, for your own sake, O my God." Daniel 9:19. Our Lord Jesus Christ is another. It is written of him, "In the days of his flesh, he offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears." Hebrews 5:7.

Alas, how unlike is this to many of our supplications! How tame and lukewarm they seem by comparison. How truly might God say to many of us, "You do not really want what you pray for!" Lets us try to amend this fault. Let us knock loudly at the door of grace, like Mercy in Pilgrim's Progress, as if we must perish unless we are heard. Let us settle it in our minds, that cold prayers are a sacrifice without fire. Let us remember the story of Demosthenes the great orator, when one came to him, and wanted to plead his cause. He heard him without attention — while he told his story without earnestness. The man saw this, and cried out with anxiety that it was all true. "Ah," said Demosthenes, "I believe you now!"

I commend to you the importance of praying in faith. We should endeavor to believe that our prayers are heard, and that if we ask things according to God's will, we shall be answered. This is the plain command of our Lord Jesus Christ: "Whatever things you desire, when you pray, believe that you receive them — and you shall have them." Mark 11:24. Faith is to prayer what the feather is to the arrow: without it prayer will not hit the mark!

We should cultivate the habit of pleading promises in our prayers. We should take with us some promises, and say, "Lord, here is your own word pledged. Do for us as you have said." This was the habit of Jacob and Moses and David. The 119 th Psalm is full of things asked, "according to your word."

Above all, we should cultivate the habit of expecting answers to our prayers. We should do like the merchant who sends his ships to sea. We should not be satisfied, unless we see some return. Alas, there are few points on which Christians come short, so much as this. The church at Jerusalem made prayer without ceasing for Peter in prison; but when the prayer was answered, they would hardly believe it. Acts 12:15. It is a solemn saying of Robert Trail, "There is no surer mark of trifling in prayer — than when men are careless what they get in prayer."

I commend to you the importance of boldness in prayer. There is an unfitting familiarity in some people's prayers which I cannot praise. But there is such a thing as a holy boldness, which is exceedingly to be desired. I mean such boldness as that of Moses, when he pleads with God not to destroy Israel "Why," says he, "should the Egyptians speak and say, For mischief did he bring them out, to slay them in the mountains? Turn from your fierce anger." Exodus 32:12. I mean such boldness as that of Joshua, when the children of Israel were defeated before men of Ai: "What," says he, "will you do unto your great name?" Joshua 7:9. This is the boldness for which Luther was remarkable. One who heard him praying said, "What a confidence was in his very expressions. With such a reverence he sued, as one begging of God — and yet with such hope and assurance, as if he spoke with a loving father or friend. This is the boldness which distinguished Bruce, a great Scottish divine of the seventeenth century. His prayers were said to be "like bolts shot up into Heaven." Here also I fear we sadly come short. We do not sufficiently realize the believer's privileges. We do not plead as often as we might, "Lord, are we not your own people? Is it not for your glory that we should be sanctified? Is it not for your honor that your gospel should increase?"

I commend to you the importance of fullness in prayer. I do not forget that our Lord warns us against the example of the Pharisees, who, for pretense, made long prayers; and commands us when we pray not to use vain repetitions. But I cannot forget, on the other hand, that he has given his own sanction to large and long devotions — by continuing all night in prayer to God. At all events, we are not likely in this day to err on the side of praying too much. Might it not be feared that many believers in this generation pray too little? Is not the actual amount of time that many Christians give to prayer, in the aggregate, very small?

I am afraid these questions cannot be answered satisfactorily. I am afraid the private devotions of many are painfully scanty and limited; just enough to prove they are alive and no more. They are really seem to want little from God. They seem to have little to confess, little to ask for, and little to thank him for. Alas, this is altogether wrong. Nothing is more common, than to hear believers complaining that they do not get along well. They tell us that they do not grow in grace as they could desire. Is it not rather to be suspected that many have quite as much grace as they ask for? Is it not the true account of many, that they have little — because they ask little? The cause of their weakness is to be found in their own stunted, dwarfish, clipped, contracted, hurried, narrow, diminutive prayers! They have not — because they ask not! Oh, we are not narrowed in Christ — but in ourselves. The Lord says, "Open your mouth wide — and I will fill it." But we are like the King of Israel who smote on the ground thrice and stopped, when he ought to have smitten five or six times.

I commend to you the importance of particularity in prayer. We ought not to be content with general petitions. We ought to specify our needs before the throne of grace. It should not be enough to confess we are sinners; we should name the sins of which our conscience tells us we are most guilty of. It should not be enough to ask for holiness; we should name the graces in which we fell most deficient. It should not be enough to tell the Lord we are in trouble; we should describe our trouble and all its peculiarities. This is what Jacob did when he feared his brother Esau. He tells God exactly what it is that he fears. Genesis 32:11. This is what Eleazar did, when he sought a wife for his master's son. He spreads before God precisely what he needs. Genesis 24:12. This is what Paul did when he had a thorn in the flesh. He besought the Lord. 2 Corinthians 12:8. This is true faith and confidence. We should believe that nothing is too small to be named before God. What would we think of the patient who told his doctor he was ill — but never went into particulars? What would we think of the wife who told her husband she was unhappy — but did not specify the cause? What would we think of the child who told their father that they were in trouble — but nothing more? Christ is the true bridegroom of the soul, the true physician of the heart, the real father of all his people. Let us show that we feel this, by being unreserved in our communications with Him. Let us hide no secrets from Him. Let us tell Him all that is in our hearts.

I commend to you the importance of intercession in our prayers. We are all selfish by nature, and our selfishness is very apt to stick to us, even when we are converted. There is a tendency in us to think only of our own souls, our own spiritual conflicts, our own progress in religion — and to forget others. Against this tendency, we all have need to watch and strive, and not the least in our prayers. We should study to be of a public spirit. We should stir ourselves up to name other names besides our own before the throne of grace. We should try to bear in our hearts the whole world, the heathen, the Jews, the Roman Catholics, the body of true believers, the professing Protestant churches, the country in which we live, the congregation to which we belong, the household in which we sojourn, the friends and relations we are connected with. For each and all of these we should plead. This is the highest charity. He loves me best — who loves me in his prayers. This is for our soul's health. It enlarges our sympathies and expands our hearts. This is for the benefit of the church. The wheels of all machinery for extending the gospel are moved by prayer. They do as much for the Lord's cause who intercede like Moses on the mount, as they who fight like Joshua in the thick of the battle. This is to be like Christ. He bears the names of his people, as their High Priest, before the Father. Oh, the privilege of being like Jesus! This is to be a true helper to ministers. If I must choose a congregation — give me a people that pray!

I commend to you the importance of thankfulness in prayer. I well know that asking God is one thing — and praising God is another. But I see so close a connection between prayer and praise in the Bible, that I dare not call that true prayer, in which thankfulness has no part. It is not for nothing that Paul says, "By prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God." Philippians 4:6. "Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving." Colossians 4:2. It is of mercy — that we are not in Hell. It is of mercy — that we have the hope of Heaven. It is of mercy — that we live in a land of spiritual light. It is of mercy — that we have been called by the Spirit, and not left to reap the fruit of our own ways. It is of mercy that we still live and have opportunities of glorifying God for that free grace by which we live, and for that loving-kindness which endures forever. Never was their an eminent saint — who was not full of thankfulness. Paul hardly ever writes an epistle, without beginning with thankfulness. Men like Whitefield in the last century, and Bickersteth in our own time, abounded in thankfulness. Oh, reader, if we would be bright and shining lights in our day, we must cherish a spirit of praise. Let our prayers be thankful prayers.

I commend to you the importance of watchfulness over your prayers. Prayer is the point in religion at which you must be most of all on your guard. Here it is that true religion begins; here it flourishes, and here it decays. Tell me what a person's prayers are — and I will soon tell you the state of their soul. Prayer is the spiritual pulse. By this, the spiritual health may be tested. Prayer is the spiritual weather-glass. By this, we may know whether it is fair or foul with our hearts. Oh, let us keep an eye continually upon our private devotions. Here is the pith and marrow of our practical Christianity. Sermons and books and tracts, and committee-meetings and the company of holy people are all good in their way — but they will never make up for the neglect of private prayer.

Mark well the places and society and companions that unhinge your hearts for communion with God, and make your prayers drive heavily. There be on your guard. Observe narrowly what friends and what employment leave your soul in the most spiritual frame, and most ready to speak with God. To these cleave and stick fast. If you will take care of your prayers, nothing shall go very wrong with your soul.

I offer these points for your private consideration. I do it in all humility. I know no one who needs to be reminded of them more than I do myself. But I believe them to be God's own truth, and I desire myself and all I love to feel them more. I want the times we live in to be praying times. I want the Christians of our day to be praying Christians. I want the church to be a praying church. My heart's desire and prayer in sending forth this tract is to promote a spirit of prayerfulness. I want those who never yet prayed — to arise and call upon God, and I want those who do pray — to see that they are not praying amiss.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, November 26, 2012

My Month in Philippians

I read Philippians forty-five times in the month of November. Here are my records:

Study Bibles

  • ESV Student Study Bible (notes & intro)
  • ESV MacArthur Study Bible (notes & intro)
  • ESV Study Bible (notes & intro)
  • ESV Reformation Bible (notes & intro)
  • HCSB Study Bible (notes & intro)
  • ESV Grow (notes & intro)

Text-only Translations

  • ESV (11) 
  • HCSB (6)
  • KJV (5)
  • NASB (7)
  • CEB (5)
  • Living (1)
  • NLT (1)
  • ERV, 1885 (1)
  • NKJV (1)
  • J.B. Phillips (1)
I also wrote reflections on each chapter, one each week. 
My favorite verses: 
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
(Philippians 4:4-9 ESV)
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.   (Philippians 2:3-11 ESV)
But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.   (Philippians 3:7-11 ESV)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, November 25, 2012

November 2012 Bible-Reading Records

Written by Moses

1. Genesis (ESV)
2. Exodus
3. Leviticus
4. Numbers
5. Deuteronomy

OT Narratives

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

Wisdom Literature

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

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
43. John
44. Acts

Epistles by Paul

45. Romans
46. 1 Corinthians
47. 2 Corinthians
48. Galatians
49. Ephesians
50. Philippians (45)
51. Colossians
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
63. 2 John
64. 3 John
65. Jude

Apocalyptic Epistle by John

66. Revelation

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Reflecting on Philippians 4

In Ephesians 5:15-17, Paul tells believers that they should "redeem the time;" he goes on several verses later to list, in part, how believers can redeem the time: 1) be filled with the Spirit, 2) speak to one another in psalms, hymns, spiritual songs, 3) sing and make melody in your heart to the Lord, 4) give thanks to God always for all things in Christ's name, 5) submit to one another. In Philippians 4, I believe Paul has a similar goal in mind. I believe there are many verses from the fourth chapter of Philippians which instruct believers clearly on how to "redeem" the time they've been given:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
(Philippians 4:4-9 ESV)
To redeem one's time is to spend it with the LORD: rejoicing, praying, praising, testifying, giving, loving, sharing, comforting. Earlier in his epistle he writes:

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
(Philippians 2:1-4 ESV)

Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.
(Philippians 2:14-16 ESV)
Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel,
(Philippians 1:27 ESV) 
Only let us hold true to what we have attained.
(Philippians 3:16 ESV) 

Paul's prayers to believers reveal his heart:

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
(Philippians 1:9-11 ESV)

Philippians is a letter of substance written to believers focusing on the believer's relationship with God (what we can expect from God, what he has promised us, what God expects or wants from us, what God calls us to do or commands us not to do) and on the believer's relationship with other believers and the world. Philippians is about the Christian life or Christian lifestyle. There are verses that are so short, so simple, and are anything but simple in practice! Verses like: Do all things WITHOUT grumbling or disputing and Rejoice in the Lord ALWAYS.

Philippians also urges believers to REMEMBER who Christ is and what he has done, what he is doing, and what he will do. And, perhaps when we REMEMBER that, we have reason to rejoice always. I think the key to rejoicing always is to always keep God in focus.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Week in Review: November 17-23

This week I read Philippians eight times bringing my total up to forty-five.


  • Psalms 11-50


  • Philippians (4)


  • Philippians (2)

HCSB Study Bible

  • Philippians (2)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, November 23, 2012

8 Bible-Reading Tips from J.C. Ryle

This excerpt is taken from J.C. Ryle's "Bible Reading" which appeared in his book, Practical Religion, which was first published in 1878.
This paper may fall into the hands of someone who is willing to begin reading the Bible--but wants advice on the subject. Are you that man? Listen to me, and I will give a few short hints.

(1) For one thing, begin reading your Bible this very day. The way to do a thing--is to do it; and the way to read the Bible--is actually to read it! It is not merely meaning, or wishing, or resolving, or intending, or thinking about it--which will advance you one step. You must positively read. There is no royal road in this matter, any more than in the matter of prayer. If you cannot read yourself, you must persuade somebody else to read it to you. But one way or another, through eyes or ears--the words of Scripture must actually pass before your mind.

(2) For another thing, read the Bible with an earnest desire to understand it. Do not think for a moment, that the great object is to turn over a certain quantity of printed paper, and that it matters nothing whether you understand it or not. Some ignorant people seem to imagine, that all is done if they advance so many chapters every day, though they may not have a notion what they are all about, and only know that they have pushed on their bookmark ahead so many pages. This is turning Bible reading into a mere ritual form. It is almost as bad as the Popish habit of 'buying indulgences'--by saying an astounding number of 'Ave-Marias' and 'Pater-nosters' (Hail-Mary's and Our-Father's--on their 'rosary beads'.) It reminds one of the poor Hottentot who ate up a Dutch hymn-book because he saw it comforted his neighbors' hearts! Settle it down in your mind as a general principle, that a Bible not understood--is a Bible that does no good! Say to yourself often as you read, "What is this all about?" Dig for the meaning like a man digging for gold.

(3) For another thing, read the Bible with child-like faith and humility. Open your heart--as you open God's book, and say, "Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening!" Resolve to believe implicitly whatever you find there, however much it may run counter to your own desires and prejudices. Resolve to receive heartily every statement of truth--whether you like it or not. Beware of that miserable habit into which some readers of the Bible fall--they receive some doctrines because they like them; and they reject others because they are condemning to themselves, or to some relation, or friend. At this rate, the Bible is useless! Are we to be judges of what ought to be in God's Word? Do we know better than God? Settle it down in your mind--that you will receive all and believe all, and that what you cannot understand--you will take on trust. Remember, when you pray--that you are speaking to God, and God hears you. But, remember, when you read Scripture--that God is speaking to you, and you are not to "dictate," but to listen!

(4) For another thing, read the Bible in a spirit of obedience and self-application. Sit down to the study of it with a daily determination that you will live by its rules, rest on its statements, and act on its commands.

Consider, as you travel through every chapter, "How does this affect my thinking and daily conduct? What does this teach me?" It is poor work to read the Bible from mere curiosity, and for speculative purposes--in order to fill your head and store your mind with mere opinions; while you do not allow the book to influence your heart and life. That Bible is read best--which is practiced most!

(5) For another thing, read the Bible daily. Make it a part of every day's business to read and meditate on some portion of God's Word. Private means of grace are just as needful every day for our souls--as food and clothing are for our bodies. Yesterday's food will not feed the laborer today; and today's food will not feed the laborer tomorrow. Do as the Israelites did in the wilderness. Gather your manna fresh every morning. Choose your own seasons and hours. Do not scramble over and hurry your reading. Give your Bible the best, and not the worst part of your time! But whatever plan you pursue, let it be a rule of your life to visit the throne of grace and God's Word every day.

(6) For another thing, read all of the Bible--and read it in an orderly way. I fear there are many parts of the Word which some people never read at all. This is to say at the least, a very presumptuous habit. "All Scripture is profitable." (2 Timothy 3:16.) To this habit may be traced that lack of well-proportioned views of truth, which is so common in this day. Some people's Bible-reading is a system of perpetual 'dipping and picking'. They do not seem to have an idea of regularly going through the whole book.

This also is a great mistake. No doubt in times of sickness and affliction, it is allowable to search out seasonable portions. But with this exception, I believe it is by far the best plan to begin the Old and New Testaments at the same time--to read each straight through to the end, and then begin again. This is a matter in which every one must be persuaded in his own mind. I can only say it has been my own plan for nearly forty years, and I have never seen cause to alter it.

(7) For another thing, read the Bible fairly and honestly. Determine to take everything in its plain, obvious meaning--and regard all forced interpretations with great suspicion. As a general rule, whatever a verse of the Bible seems to mean--it does mean! Cecil's rule is a very valuable one, "The right way of interpreting Scripture is to take it as we find it, without any attempt to force it into any particular theological system."

(8) In the last place, read the Bible with Christ continually in view. The grand primary object of all Scripture, is to testify of Jesus! Old Testament ceremonies are shadows of Christ. Old Testament deliverers are types of Christ. Old Testament prophecies are full of Christ's sufferings, and of Christ's glory yet to come.
The first coming and the second;
the Lord's humiliation and His glorious kingdom;
His cross and the crown--
shine forth everywhere in the Bible. Keep fast hold on this clue, if you would read the Bible aright!

I might easily add to these hints, if space permitted. Few and short as they are--you will find them most profitable when implemented.

The 'book' satisfies and feeds his soul. A poor Christian woman once said to an infidel, "I am no scholar. I cannot argue like you. But I know that honey is honey, because it leaves a sweet taste in my mouth. And I know the Bible to be God's book, because of the taste it leaves in my heart!"

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Rejoice in the Lord

Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. 

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.

Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears us up; God is our salvation.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.

May all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you! May those who love your salvation say evermore, "God is great!"

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.

Blessed be his glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory! Amen and Amen!

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.

Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.

For you are, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.

It is good to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praises to your name, O Most High; to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night,

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.

Oh come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.

Scriptures from: Philippians 4:4, Psalm 63:4, Psalm 68: 19, Psalm 70:4, Psalm 73:25, Psalm 86:5, Psalm 92:1-2, Psalm 95:1-2,

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Resolution Tips from J.C. Ryle

Do you make resolutions for the new year? Even if you don't believe in waiting until the New Year to put your own resolutions--or goals--in place, even if you don't believe in formalizing your goals and resolutions for the months and years ahead, I think this advice is worth considering!

I recently read J.C. Ryle's Practical Religion which was originally published in 1878. One of the chapters in this book is on Bible Reading. This chapter is wonderful: challenging and inspiring. Here is how Ryle concludes his chapter,
Let us resolve to read the Bible more and more every year we live. Let us try to get it rooted in our memories, and engrafted into our hearts. Let us be thoroughly well-provisioned with it, against the voyage of death. Who knows but we may have a very stormy passage? Sight and hearing may fail us, and we may be in deep waters. Oh, to have the Word "hidden in our hearts" in such an hour as that! (Psalm 119:11.)

Let us resolve to be more watchful over our Bible reading every year that we live. Let us be jealously careful about the time we give to it, and the manner that time is spent. Let us beware of omitting our daily reading, without sufficient cause. Let us not be gaping, and yawning, and dozing over God's book, while we read. Let us read like a wife reading a husband's Letter from a distant land.

Let us be very careful that we never exalt any minister, or sermon, or book, or tract, or friend--above the Word. Cursed be that book, or tract, or human counsel--which creeps in between us and the Bible, and hides the Bible from our eyes! Once more I say, let us be very watchful. The moment we open the Bible--the devil sits down by our side. Oh, to read with a hungry spirit, and a simple desire for edification!

Let us resolve to honor the Bible more in our families. Let us read it morning and evening to our families, and not be ashamed to let others see that we do so.

Let us not be discouraged by seeing no good arise from it. The Bible-reading in a family has kept many a one from the jail, the workhouse, and the hospital--if it has not kept him from Hell.

Let us resolve to meditate more on the Bible. It is good to take with us two or three texts when we go out into the world, and to turn them over and over in our minds whenever we have a little leisure time. It keeps out many vain thoughts. It clenches the nail of daily reading. It preserves our souls from stagnating and breeding corrupt things. It sanctifies and quickens our memories; and prevents them becoming like those foul ponds where the reptiles live, but the fish die.

Let us resolve to talk more to believers about the Bible when we meet them. Alas, the conversation of Christians, when they do meet, is often sadly unprofitable! How many frivolous, and trifling, and uncharitable things are said! Let us bring out the Bible more, and it will help to drive the devil away, and keep our hearts in tune. Oh, that we may all strive so to walk together in this evil world; that Jesus may often draw near, and go with us, as He went with the two disciples journeying to Emmaus!

Last of all, let us resolve to live by the Bible more and more every year we live. Let us frequently take account of . . .
all our opinions and practices,
all our habits and tempers,
all our behavior in public and in private
--in the world, and by our own firesides.

Let us measure all by the Bible, and resolve, by God's help, to conform to it. Oh that we may learn increasingly to "cleanse our ways" by the Word! (Psalm 119:9.)

I commend all these things to the serious and prayerful attention of every one into whose hands this paper may fall. I want the ministers of my beloved country--to be Bible-reading ministers; the congregations--to be Bible-reading congregations; and the nation--to be a Bible-reading nation.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Celebrate the Bible!

Did you know that the week of Thanksgiving is National Bible week? I thought I would begin by sharing some of my favorite quotes about the Bible!

Having faith is believing that what God says is true. The content of the Christian faith is God's revealed Word. ~ John MacArthur, Our Awesome God, 13
The way to do a thing--is to do it; and the way to read the Bible--is actually to read it! It is not merely meaning, or wishing, or resolving, or intending, or thinking about it--which will advance you one step. You must positively read. ~ J.C. Ryle, Practical Religion
None of us can ever be fully pleasing to God if we are not willing to be well taught in His Word. ~ A.W. Tozer, Jesus Our Man in Glory, 104
We will never love God purely--wholeheartedly--apart from immersing ourselves in God's Word because it is only in Scripture that we learn what God is like. To know him is to love him, and we always desire more of what we love most. ~ Lydia Brownback, Purity, 23
Crave the word of God. Be desperate for it! Seek it. Yearn for it. Long for it. Desire it. Tolerate nothing in your life that might diminish your hunger for God's Word. And apply it with vigor and spiritual energy! The Word of God, whether it is preached and heard or read and memorized is more than simply true. It is effectual. The Word of God does more than merely announce: it accomplishes! It doesn't just impart information: it creates life! Sam Storms, Note to Self, Foreword, 19 
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. ~ Michael Horton, The Gospel-Driven Life, 26)
 I have often said that if Christians blew the dust off their Bibles at the same time, we'd all get killed in the dust storm. If you are to benefit from God's Word, you're going to have to read it. It's how you connect with God. Woodrow Kroll, How To Find God in the Bible, 173
The key to spirituality is the development of little habits, such as Bible reading and memorization and prayer. In putting one foot in front of the other day after day, we become the kind of person who grows and endures rather than withers and dies. ~ Randy Alcorn, "Finishing With Few Regrets," O Love That Will Not Let Me Go, 57
God's Word is a gift we have received from God, and we must accept it and thank Him for it. Christians who are not thankful for the Bible will not spend much time with the Bible. ~ Warren Wiersbe, Jesus In the Present Tense, 120
To be sure knowledge of God's Word does not guarantee that we will do what it says, but at least we will know what we are supposed to be doing in our quest for human fulfillment. The issue of faith is not so much whether we believe in God, but whether we believe the God we believe in. ~ R.C. Sproul, Knowing Scripture, 30 

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, November 19, 2012

Book Review: Christmas Roses

Christmas Roses. Amanda Cabot. 2012. Revell. 174 pages.

I definitely enjoyed this one! For readers who enjoy short, lovely, delightful, oh-so-satisfying, holiday-themed novels/romances, this one will prove just right. It's historical romance set in Wyoming Territory in 1882. The heroine is a widow who runs a boarding house. She's got an infant daughter, and the hero, well, he just happens to save the baby's life early in the novel. The heroine, Celia Anderson, wasn't looking for love, wasn't looking to remarry. But. The more she spends time with her new boarder, a man named Mark, the more likely she is to change her mind. Mark wasn't exactly searching for a wife--or a child--either. He WAS searching for the father he never knew. But how can he help falling for her?!

It's a quick read, a bit predictable perhaps, but quite satisfying in some ways!

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Book Review: Practical Religion

Practical Religion. J.C. Ryle. 1878. 336 pages.

In July, I reviewed J.C. Ryle's Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties, and Roots. It was a wonderful book and an introduction to a great writer. Though his books were published over a hundred years ago, his messages to believers still hold true for they are solidly based on the Bible. (Granted, I'm not so sure his warnings to his readers to avoid attending balls and to avoid card parties are equally relevant. But the general principle to be careful with your time and to give God your best still remains just as true.)

Practical Religion challenges readers to see if they are in the faith, to see if they are truly in God's family, if they've made a genuine connection with the Savior. There are chapters on what it means to be a Christian, how a Christian acts and behaves, what a Christian life looks like day by day, week by week, etc. There are chapters on prayer, on Bible reading, on church attendance, on worship, on service to others, on communion. There are chapters on how a Christian is supposed to live in the world. And there are chapters on heaven.

The chapters include:

  • Self-inquiry
  • Self-exertion
  • Reality
  • A Call to Prayer
  • Bible Reading
  • The Lord's Supper
  • Christian Love
  • Zeal
  • Freedom
  • Happiness
  • Formal Religion
  • The World
  • Riches and Poverty
  • The Best Friend
  • Sickness
  • The Family of God
  • Our Home
  • Heirs of God
  • The Great Gathering
  • The Great Separation
  • Eternity

If you are interested in reading any particular chapter, you can find the book online.

Favorite quotes from the first five chapters:

From "Self-Inquiry,"
They know that there is no forgiveness of sin excepting in Christ Jesus. They can tell you that there is no Savior for sinners, no Redeemer, no Mediator, excepting Him who was born of the Virgin Mary, and was crucified under Pontius Pilate, dead, and buried. But here they stop, and get no further! They never come to the point of actually laying hold of Christ by faith, and becoming one with Christ and Christ in them. They can say, He is a Savior — but not my Savior; a Redeemer — but not my Redeemer; a Priest — but not my Priest; an Advocate — but not my Advocate: and so they live and die unforgiven! No wonder that Martin Luther said, "Many are lost because they cannot use possessive pronouns."    
Sense of sin and deep hatred of it, faith in Christ and love to Him, delight in holiness and longing after more of it,  love for God's people, and distaste for the things of the world — these, these are the signs and evidences which always accompany conversion.
Let it be distinctly understood that union with Christ is one thing — and communion is another thing. There can be no communion with the Lord Jesus without union first; but unhappily there may be union with the Lord Jesus, and afterwards little or no communion at all. The difference between the two things is not the difference between two distinct steps — but the higher and lower ends of an inclined plane.
Union is the common privilege of all who feel their sins, and truly repent, and come to Christ by faith, and are accepted, forgiven, and justified in Him. Too many believers, it may be feared, never get beyond this stage!
Partly from ignorance, partly from laziness, partly from the fear of man, partly from secret love of the world, partly from some unmortified besetting sin — they are content with a little faith, and a little hope, and a little peace, and a little measure of holiness. And they live on all their lives in this condition — doubting, weak, hesitant, and bearing fruit only "thirty-fold" to the very end of their days!
Communion with Christ is the privilege of those who are continually striving to grow in grace, and faith, and knowledge, and conformity to the mind of Christ in all things — who "forget what is behind," and "do not consider themselves yet to have taken hold of it — but "press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:13-14)
Union is the bud — but communion is the flower.
Union is the baby — but communion is the strong man.
Expect little from self — but much from Christ. Look more to Jesus — and less to self.
From, "Self-Exertion"
There is a gate which leads to pardon, peace with God, and Heaven. Whoever goes in by that gate, shall be saved. Never, surely, was a gate more needed. Sin is a vast mountain between man and God. How shall a man climb over it? Sin is a high wall between man and God. How shall man get through it? Sin is a deep gulf between man and God. How shall man cross over it? God is in Heaven — holy, pure, spiritual, undefiled, light without any darkness at all — a Being who cannot bear that which is evil, or look upon iniquity. Man is a poor fallen worm, crawling on earth for a few years — sinful, corrupt, erring, defective — a being whose imagination is only evil, and whose heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. How shall man and God be brought together? How shall man ever draw near to his Maker without fear and shame? Blessed be God, there is a way! There is a road. There is a path. There is a door. It is the gate spoken of in the words of Christ, "the narrow gate."

This gate was made for sinners by the Lord Jesus Christ. From all eternity He covenanted and engaged that He would make it. In the fullness of time He came into the world and made it, by His own atoning death on the cross. By that death He made satisfaction for man's sin, paid man's debt to God, and bore man's punishment. He built a great gate at the cost of His own body and blood. He reared a ladder on earth whose top reached to Heaven. He made a door by which the chief of sinners may enter into the holy presence of God, and not be afraid. He opened a road by which the vilest of men, believing in Him, may draw near to God and have peace. He cries to us, "I am the door: by Me if any man enter in, he shall be saved." (John 10:9.) "I am the way: no man comes unto the Father but by Me." (John 14:6.) "By Him," says Paul, "we have boldness and access with confidence." (Ephesians 3:12.) Thus was the gate of salvation formed.

This gate is called the narrow gate, and it is not called so without cause. It is always narrow, and difficult to pass through to some people, and it will be so as long as the world stands. It is narrow to all who love sin — and are determined not to part with it. It is narrow to all who set their affection on this world — and seek first its pleasures and rewards. It is narrow to all who dislike trouble — and are unwilling to take pains and make sacrifices for their souls. It is narrow to all who like company — and want to keep in with the crowd. It is narrow to all who are self-righteous — and think they are good people, and deserve to be saved. To all such, the great gate which Christ made, is narrow and strait. In vain they seek to pass through. The gate will not admit them. God is not unwilling to receive them; their sins are not too many to be forgiven: but they are not willing to be saved in God's way.
It is no mark of a healthy state of soul, when there is much complaining and little praise. It is an amazing mercy that there is any gate of salvation at all; but it is a still greater mercy when we are taught to enter in by it and be saved.
What shall I say of those who seldom or never read the Bible? There are thousands of people, I fear, who answer this description. They know the Book by name; they know it is commonly regarded as the only Book which teaches us how to live and how to die — but they can never find time for reading it! Newspapers, reviews, novels, romances, they can read — but not the Bible! And is this "striving" to enter in? I speak to men of common sense. Let them judge what I say.

What shall I say of those who never pray? There are multitudes, I firmly believe, in this condition. Without God they rise in the morning, and without God they lie down at night. They ask nothing; they confess nothing; they return thanks for nothing; they seek nothing. They are all dying creatures — and yet they are not even on speaking terms with their Maker and their Judge! And is this striving"? I speak to men of common sense. Let them judge what I say.
Do not suppose that it needs some great scarlet sin to bring you to the pit of eternal destruction! You have only to sit still and do nothing — and you will find yourself there at last.
Whatever you do for God — do it with all your heart and mind and strength. In other things be moderate — and dread running into extremes. In soul matters fear moderation just as you would fear the plague! Care not what men think of you. Let it be enough for you that your Master says, "STRIVE!"
The cross is only for a little season — the crown is forever!
From, "Reality"
Never be content to wear a cloak of religion. Be all that you profess. Though you may err — be real. Though you may stumble — be true. Keep this principle continually before your eyes, and it will be well with your soul throughout your journey from grace to glory.
From "A Call to Prayer"
Just as it is with the mind and body, so it is with the soul. There are certain things absolutely needful to the soul's health and well-being. Each must attend to these things for themselves. Each must repent for themselves. Each must apply to Christ for themselves. And for themselves — each must speak to God and pray. You must do it for yourself, for by nobody else it can be done. To be prayerless is to be without God, without Christ, without grace, without hope, and without Heaven. It is to be in the road to Hell. Now can you wonder that I ask the question, DO YOU PRAY?
Choose your own hours and seasons. At the very least, speak with God in the morning — before you speak with the world: and speak with God at night — after you are done with the world. But settle it in your minds, that praying is one of the great things of every day. Do not drive it into a corner. Do not give it the scraps and parings of your duty. Whatever else you make a business of — make a business of prayer.
How can we expect to be saved by an "unknown" God? And how can we know God without prayer? We know nothing of men and women in this world, unless we speak with them. We cannot know God in Christ, unless we speak to Him in prayer. If we wish to be with Him in heaven, we must be His friends on earth. If we wish to be His friends on earth, we must pray. Yes, we must pray on earth, or we shall never praise in heaven. We must go through the school of prayer, or we shall never be fit for the holiday of praise.
Praying and sinning will never live together in the same heart. Prayer will consume sin, or sin will choke prayer. 
There is everything on God's part to make prayer easy if people will only attempt it. All things are ready on his side. Every objection is anticipated. Every difficulty is provided for. The crooked places are made straight and the rough places made smooth. There is no excuse left for the prayerless person.

There is a way by which any person, however sinful and unworthy, may draw near to God the Father. Jesus Christ has opened that way by the sacrifice he made for us upon the cross. The holiness and justice of God need not frighten sinners and keep them back. Only let them cry to God in the name of Jesus, and they shall find God upon the throne of grace, willing and ready to hear. The name of Jesus is a never-failing passport for our prayers. In that name, a person may draw near to God with boldness, and ask with confidence. God has engaged to hear him. Think of this. Is this not an encouragement?

There is an Advocate and Intercessor always waiting to present the prayers of those who come to God through him. That advocate is Jesus Christ. He mingles our prayers with the incense of his own almighty intercession. So mingled, they go up as a sweet savor before the throne of God. Poor as they are in themselves, they are mighty and powerful in the hand of our High Priest and Elder Brother. The bank-note without a signature at the bottom is nothing but a worthless piece of paper. The stroke of a pen confers on it all its value. The prayer of a poor child of Adam is a feeble thing in itself — but once endorsed by the hand of the Lord Jesus, it avails much. There was an officer in the city of Rome who appointed to have his doors always open, in order to receive any Roman citizen who applied to him for help. Just so the ear of the Lord Jesus is ever open to the cry of all who need mercy and grace. It is his office to help them. Their prayer is his delight! Think of this. Is this not and encouragement?

There is the Holy Spirit ever ready to help our infirmities in prayer. It is one part of his special office is assist us in our endeavors to speak to God. We need not be cast down and distressed by the fear of not knowing what to say. The Spirit will give us words, if we seek his aid. The prayers of the Lord's people are the inspiration of the Lord's Spirit, the work of the Holy Spirit who dwells within them as the Spirit of grace and supplication. Surely the Lord's people may well hope to be heard. It is not merely those who pray — but the Holy Spirit pleading in them. Think of this. Is not this an encouragement?

There are exceeding great and precious promises to those who pray. What did the Lord Jesus mean when he spoke such words as these: "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and the door shall be opened unto you: for every one who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it shall be opened." Matthew 7:7,8. "All things whatever you shall ask in prayer believing — you shall receive ." Matthew 12:22. "Whatever you shall ask in my name — that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you shall ask anything in my name — I will do it." John 14:13,14.

What did the Lord mean when he spoke the parables of The friend at midnight and The importunate widow? Luke 11:5, 18:1. Think over these passages. If this is not an encouragement to pray, words have no meaning.
Prayer can lighten crosses for us, however heavy. It can bring down to our side One who will help us to bear them. Prayer can open a door for us when our way seems hedged up. It can bring down One who will say, "This is the way — walk in it." Prayer can let in a ray of hope when all our earthly prospects seem darkened. It can bring down One who will say, "I will never leave you, nor ever forsake you." Prayer can obtain relief for us when those we love most are taken away, and the world feels empty. It can bring down One who can fill the gap in our hearts with himself, and say to the angry waves within, "Peace, be still!" Oh that people were not so like Hagar in the wilderness, blind to the well of living waters close beside them.
There is a friend ever waiting to help us, if we will unbosom to him our sorrow — a friend who pitied the poor and sick and sorrowful, when he was upon earth — a friend who knows the heart of man, for he lived thirty-three years as a man among us — a friend who can weep with the weepers, for he was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief — a friend who is able to help us, for there never was an earthly pain which he could not cure. That friend is Jesus Christ. The way to be happy — is to be always opening our hearts to him.
From "Bible-Reading"
All other books in the world, however good and useful in their way, are more or less defective. The more you look at them--the more you see their defects and blemishes. The Bible alone is absolutely perfect. From beginning to end, it is "the Word of God."
A man may get to Heaven without money, without learning, without health, or without friends--but without Bible knowledge he will never get there at all.
How glorious and soul-satisfying is the description it gives us of God's plan of salvation, and the way by which our sins can be forgiven! The coming into the world of Jesus Christ, the God-man, to save sinners--the atonement He has made by suffering in our stead, the just for the unjust--the complete payment He has made for our sins by His own blood--the justification of every sinner who simply believes on Jesus--the readiness of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, to receive, pardon, and save to the uttermost--how unspeakably grand and cheering are all these truths! We would know nothing of them without the Bible.
How comforting is the account it gives us of the great Mediator of the New Testament--the God-man Christ Jesus! Four times over His picture is graciously drawn before our eyes. Four separate witnesses tell us of . . .His miracles and His ministry, His sayings and His doings, His life and His death, His power and His love, His kindness and His patience, His ways, His words, His works, His thoughts, His heart!  Blessed be God, there is one thing in the Bible which the most prejudiced reader can hardly fail to understand--and that is the character of Jesus Christ!
How blessed are the hopes which the Bible holds out to the believer in Christ Jesus! Peace in the hour of death, rest and happiness on the other side of the grave, a glorious body in the morning of the resurrection, a full and triumphant acquittal in the day of judgment, an everlasting reward in the kingdom of Christ, a joyful meeting with the Lord's people in the day of gathering together. These, these are the future prospects of every true Christian. They are all written in the book--in the book which is all true!
The Bible is "able to make a man wise unto salvation, through faith which is in Christ Jesus." (2 Timothy 3:15.) It alone can show you the way which leads to Heaven, teach you everything you need to know, point out everything you need to believe, and explain everything you need to do. It alone can show you what you are--a sinner, what God is--perfectly holy, the great giver of pardon, peace, and grace--Jesus Christ.
The Bible applied to the heart by the Holy Spirit, is the grand instrument by which souls are first converted to God.
The Bible applied to the heart by the Holy Spirit, is the chief means by which men are built up and established in the faith, after their conversion. It is able to cleanse them, to sanctify them, to instruct them in righteousness, and to thoroughly furnish them for all good works. (Psalm 119:9; John 17:17; 2 Timothy 3:16, 17.) The Spirit ordinarily does these things by the written Word; sometimes by the Word read, and sometimes by the Word preached--but seldom, if ever, without the Word. The Bible can show a believer how to walk in this world so as to please God. It can teach him how to glorify Christ in all the relations of life--and can make him a good master, servant, subject, husband, father, or son. It can enable him to bear afflictions and privations without murmuring, and say, "It is well." It can enable him to look down into the grave, and say, "I fear no evil." (Psalm 23:4.) It can enable him to think on judgment and eternity, and not feel afraid. It can enable him to bear persecution without flinching, and to give up liberty and life rather than deny Christ's truth.
Is he drowsy in soul? The Bible can awaken him.
Is he mourning? The Bible can comfort him.
Is he erring? The Bible can restore him.
Is he weak? The Bible can make him strong.
Is he in company? The Bible can keep him from evil.
Is he alone? The Bible can talk with him. (Proverbs 6:22.)
All this the Bible can do for all believers--for the least as well as the greatest--for the richest as well as the poorest. It has done it for thousands already--and is doing it for thousands every day!
The man who has the Bible, and the Holy Spirit in his heart--has everything which is absolutely needful to make him spiritually wise and mature.
A man must make the Bible alone his rule. He must receive nothing, and believe nothing, which is not according to the Word. He must try all religious teaching by one simple test--Does it square with the Bible? What says the Scripture?
Tell me what the Bible is to a man--and I will generally tell you what he is. This is the spiritual pulse--if we would know the state of the heart. I have no notion of the Spirit dwelling in a man and not giving clear evidence of His presence. And I believe it to be a signal evidence of the Spirit's presence--when the Word is really precious to a man's soul.
The health of a man's soul may be known by his treatment of the Bible.

The way to do a thing--is to do it; and the way to read the Bible--is actually to read it! It is not merely meaning, or wishing, or resolving, or intending, or thinking about it--which will advance you one step. You must positively read.
Settle it down in your mind as a general principle, that a Bible not understood--is a Bible that does no good! Say to yourself often as you read, "What is this all about?" Dig for the meaning like a man digging for gold.
Open your heart--as you open God's book, and say, "Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening!" Resolve to believe implicitly whatever you find there, however much it may run counter to your own desires and prejudices. Resolve to receive heartily every statement of truth--whether you like it or not. Beware of that miserable habit into which some readers of the Bible fall--they receive some doctrines because they like them; and they reject others because they are condemning to themselves, or to some relation, or friend. At this rate, the Bible is useless! Are we to be judges of what ought to be in God's Word? Do we know better than God? Settle it down in your mind--that you will receive all and believe all, and that what you cannot understand--you will take on trust. Remember, when you pray--that you are speaking to God, and God hears you. But, remember, when you read Scripture--that God is speaking to you, and you are not to "dictate," but to listen!
Give your Bible the best, and not the worst part of your time! But whatever plan you pursue, let it be a rule of your life to visit the throne of grace and God's Word every day.
A religion of deep Bible knowledge, is a firm and lasting possession! It enables a man not merely to say," I feel hope in Christ,"--but "I know whom I have believed." (2 Timothy 1:12.)
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible