Wednesday, July 31, 2013

July Reflections

Books read in July:
  1.  A Promise to Love. Serena B. Miller. 2012. Revell. 332 pages. [Source: Library]  
  2. The Measure of Katie Calloway. Serena B. Miller. 2011. Revell. 320 pages. [Source: Library] 
  3. The Sunroom. Beverly Lewis. 1998. Bethany House. 144 pages. [Source: Bought] 
  4. By Grace Alone. Sinclair B. Ferguson. 2010. Reformation Trust. 123 pages. [Source: Borrowed from friend] 
  5. The Cost of Discipleship. Dietrich Bonhoeffer. 1937/1959/1995. Simon & Schuster. 320 pages. [Source: Borrowed from friend.]  
  6. Chosen by God. R.C. Sproul. 1986/1994/2011. Tyndale. 216 pages. [Source: Bought] 
  7. A Big Year for Lily. Suzanne Woods Fisher and Mary Ann Kinsinger. 2013. Revell. 272 pages. [Source: Review Copy]
  8. Fatherless. James C. Dobson and Kurt Bruner. 2013. FaithWords. 448 pages. [Source: Bought]
  9. Heaven: Priceless Encouragements on the Way to Our Eternal Home. J.C. Ryle. 92 pages. [Source: Bought] 
  10. Love Takes Wing. Janette Oke. 1988. Bethany House. 240 pages. [Source: Own]. 
  11. Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart. J.D. Greear. 2013. B&H. 128 pages. [Source: Library]
  12. UnChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity...and Why It Matters. David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons. 2007. Baker Books. 256 pages.
  13. Stealing the Preacher by Karen Witemeyer. 2013. Bethany House. 352 pages.
  14. Bonhoeffer on the Christian Life. Stephen J. Nichols. 2013. Crossway. 208 pages.
  15. Erasing Hell: What God Said About Eternity, and the Things We Made Up. Francis Chan and Preston Sprinkle. 2011. David C. Cook. 208 pages. 
  16. Anomaly. Krista McGee. 2013. Thomas Nelson. 2013. 320 pages. [Source: Library]

Sermons listened/read in July:

1) The Sunday School and the Scriptures by Charles Spurgeon
2) Delight in the Almighty by Charles Spurgeon
3) Before Sermon, At Sermon, After Sermon by Charles Spurgeon
4) How To Know Your Bible, Alistair Begg, Truth for Life, #1097, 2 Timothy 2:15
5) A Defense of Calvinism by Charles Spurgeon
6) Hell's Best Kept Secret by Ray Comfort
7) Blessing for Blessing by Charles Spurgeon
8) Peculiar Sleep of the Beloved by Charles Spurgeon

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

My Year with Spurgeon: Week #30

It is a great thing to begin the Christian life by believing good solid doctrine. Some people have received twenty different "gospels" in as many years; how many more they will accept before they get to their journey's end, it would be difficult to predict. ~ Charles Spurgeon, A Defense of Calvinism
I cannot understand the reason why I am saved, except upon the ground that God would have it so. I cannot, if I look ever so earnestly, discover any kind of reason in myself why I should be a partaker of Divine grace. If I am not at this moment without Christ, it is only because Christ Jesus would have His will with me, and that will was that I should be with Him where He is, and should share His glory. I can put the crown nowhere but upon the head of Him whose mighty grace has saved me from going down into the pit. ~ Charles Spurgeon, A Defense of Calvinism
Born, as all of us are by nature, an Arminian, I still believed the old things I had heard continually from the pulpit, and did not see the grace of God. When I was coming to Christ, I thought I was doing it all myself, and though I sought the Lord earnestly, I had no idea the Lord was seeking me. ~ Charles Spurgeon, A Defense of Calvinism
I can recall the very day and hour when first I received those truths in my own soul—when they were, as John Bunyan says, burnt into my heart as with a hot iron, and I can recollect how I felt that I had grown on a sudden from a babe into a man—that I had made progress in Scriptural knowledge, through having found, once for all, the clue to the truth of God. One week-night, when I was sitting in the house of God, I was not thinking much about the preacher's sermon, for I did not believe it. The thought struck me, How did you come to be a Christian? I sought the Lord. But how did you come to seek the Lord? The truth flashed across my mind in a moment—I should not have sought Him unless there had been some previous influence in my mind to make me seek Him. I prayed, thought I, but then I asked myself, How came I to pray? I was induced to pray by reading the Scriptures. How came I to read the Scriptures? I did read them, but what led me to do so? Then, in a moment, I saw that God was at the bottom of it all, and that He was the Author of my faith, and so the whole doctrine of grace opened up to me, and from that doctrine I have not departed to this day, and I desire to make this my constant confession, "I ascribe my change wholly to God." ~ Charles Spurgeon, A Defense of Calvinism
John Newton used to tell a whimsical story, and laugh at it, too, of a good woman who said, in order to prove the doctrine of election, "Ah! sir, the Lord must have loved me before I was born, or else He would not have seen anything in me to love afterwards." I am sure it is true in my case; I believe the doctrine of election, because I am quite certain that, if God had not chosen me, I should never have chosen Him; and I am sure He chose me before I was born, or else He never would have chosen me afterwards; and He must have elected me for reasons unknown to me, for I never could find any reason in myself why He should have looked upon me with special love. So I am forced to accept that great Biblical doctrine. ~ Charles Spurgeon, A Defense of Calvinism
I recollect an Arminian brother telling me that he had read the Scriptures through a score or more times, and could never find the doctrine of election in them. He added that he was sure he would have done so if it had been there, for he read the Word on his knees. I said to him, "I think you read the Bible in a very uncomfortable posture, and if you had read it in your easy chair, you would have been more likely to understand it. Pray, by all means, and the more, the better, but it is a piece of superstition to think there is anything in the posture in which a man puts himself for reading: and as to reading through the Bible twenty times without having found anything about the doctrine of election, the wonder is that you found anything at all: you must have galloped through it at such a rate that you were not likely to have any intelligible idea of the meaning of the Scriptures." ~ Charles Spurgeon, A Defense of Calvinism
I am bound to the doctrine of the depravity of the human heart, because I find myself depraved in heart, and have daily proofs that in my flesh there dwelleth no good thing. ~ Charles Spurgeon, A Defense of  Calvinism
"Salvation is of the Lord." That is just an epitome of Calvinism; it is the sum and substance of it. If anyone should ask me what I mean by a Calvinist, I should reply, "He is one who says, Salvation is of the Lord." I cannot find in Scripture any other doctrine than this. It is the essence of the Bible. ~ Charles Spurgeon, A Defense of Calvinism
I have my own private opinion that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and Him crucified, unless we preach what nowadays is called Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else. I do not believe we can preach the gospel, if we do not preach justification by faith, without works; nor unless we preach the sovereignty of God in His dispensation of grace; nor unless we exalt the electing, unchangeable, eternal, immutable, conquering love of Jehovah; nor do I think we can preach the gospel, unless we base it upon the special and particular redemption of His elect and chosen people which Christ wrought out upon the cross; nor can I comprehend a gospel which lets saints fall away after they are called, and suffers the children of God to be burned in the fires of damnation after having once believed in Jesus. Such a gospel I abhor. ~ Charles Spurgeon, A Defense of Calvinism
I will be an infidel at once when I can believe that a saint of God can ever fall finally. If God hath loved me once, then He will love me for ever. God has a master-mind; He arranged everything in His gigantic intellect long before He did it; and once having settled it, He never alters it, "This shall be done," saith He, and the iron hand of destiny marks it down, and it is brought to pass. ~ Charles Spurgeon, A Defense of Calvinism
I do not know how some people, who believe that a Christian can fall from grace, manage to be happy. It must be a very commendable thing in them to be able to get through a day without despair. If I did not believe the doctrine of the final perseverance of the saints, I think I should be of all men the most miserable, because I should lack any ground of comfort. ~ Charles Spurgeon, A Defense of Calvinism
I believe that the happiest of Christians and the truest of Christians are those who never dare to doubt God, but who take His Word simply as it stands, and believe it, and ask no questions, just feeling assured that if God has said it, it will be so. ~ Charles Spurgeon, A Defense of Calvinism

Monday, July 29, 2013

Book Review: Anomaly

Anomaly. Krista McGee. 2013. Thomas Nelson. 2013. 320 pages. [Source: Library]

Fifteen minutes and twenty-three seconds. That's how long I have to live. The wall screen that displayed the numbers in blood-red letters now projects the image of a garden. 

I enjoy reading dystopian novels and post-apocalyptic novels. It is one of my favorite science fiction sub-genres. There aren't as many titles published by Christian authors and Christian publishers in this sub-genre, so I was very delighted to discover Anomaly.

Thalli, our heroine, was designed to be a musician. She is THE musician of pod B. But unlike others in her generation, Thalli is curious, questioning, emotional. She is more observant, more thoughtful--always wanting to know why. Thalli knows this gets her into trouble sometimes, that she is not supposed to question authority or ever be curious enough to ask why. (For the record, Thalli is not rude, obnoxious, or disrespectful.) So Thalli is generally careful about appearances, about covering up what makes her so different. But one day that becomes impossible. Thalli is asked to play a new-to-her piece of music, a song from "before", a song by Bach, Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring. She's overwhelmed with emotion. She cries. This is when they know beyond all question, that she's an anomaly. They take her away from her pod, away from the only home she's known, and put her in a cell. She's scheduled to be eliminated...

There is a man, an old man, who is not allowed to speak with anyone--of any generation, but especially these new ones that have only known life deep underground--a man of faith. It is only to the dying that he's allowed to speak. His name is John, and he speaks to her of a Designer.

Berk is a young scientist from Thalli's generation. The two have always been really close. When he learns of her fate, he decides to do whatever he can to save her...but will it be enough?

I really LOVED this one.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Miscellaneous Quotes

Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God. ~ Corrie ten Boom
Science may have found a cure for most evils; but it has found no remedy for the worst of them all: the apathy of human beings. ~ Helen Keller
You are more sinful than you ever dared to believe, but you are more loved than you ever dared to hope. ~ Mark Liederbach
God creates out of nothing. Therefore until man is nothing, God can make nothing out of him. ~ Martin Luther 
I really only love God as much as I love the person I love the least. ~ Dorothy Day
I shall allow no man to belittle my soul by making me hate him. ~ Booker T. Washington
The Christian world is in a deep sleep; nothing but a loud shout can awaken them out of it! ~ George Whitefleld
So long as there is a human being who does not know Jesus Christ, I am his debtor to serve him until he does. ~ Oswald Chambers
Ask Paul why [the Law] was given. Here is his answer: That every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God (Romans 3:19). The Law stops every man’s mouth. I can always tell a man who is near the kingdom of God; his mouth is stopped. This, then, is why God gives us the Law to show us ourselves in our true colors. ~ D.L. Moody
There is nothing but God’s grace. We walk upon it; we breathe it; we live and die by it; it makes the nails and axles of the universe. ~ Robert Louis Stevenson
I am much afraid that schools will prove to be the great gates of hell unless they diligently labor in explaining the Holy Scriptures, engraving them in the hearts of youth. I advise no one to place his child where the Scriptures do not reign paramount. Every institution in which men are not increasingly occupied with the Word of God must become corrupt. ~ Martin Luther

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, July 28, 2013

On Bible Reading

I believe Bible reading to be essential to the Christian life--essential to keeping a Christian healthy, discerning, and well-grounded. It can be used to guard your heart and mind and prevent one from falling into error, but, it can also be used to correct and discipline. And of course it is a must for encouragement and hope. To be joyful, to have hope, one MUST KNOW the God of the Bible and His promises. If you don't know his promises, if you don't know him, then how can one truly live life with hope?

The Bible is a spiritual book, and it takes a spiritual reader. Perhaps that is a clue as to why some reject it so completely and are so biased against it. For a Christian to reject it, on the other hand, leads to some very thought-provoking questions. Some of these questions are raised by Annette in her post today. I think she is right that there are Christians who prefer to make and shape God--the "Christian God" of course--into their own liking. They would rather come to know God outside of the Bible than within its holy pages. Perhaps their idea of God comes from a blending of what they've heard through the years, what they've read through the years, what they want to believe, what is comfortable for them. But God is not who we make Him to be, He is not ours to make or unmake. He is not ours to edit. He is the Creator. He made us. Not the other way around. People feel free to play around with God, to be the ultimate judge.

God can be known; he wants to be known. That is why He revealed Himself to us in HIS book. The Bible tells us everything we need to know for salvation. The Bible shows us the way, the truth, the life. The Bible gives us everything we need to know to live life for HIM. It will always be relevant because it was written by a God who cannot lie and who is unchanging.

Therefore the question isn't can God be known, the question is do you want to know God? If the answer is yes, then how do you expect to come to know God? Do you base your God on your feelings? Or do you want to base your God on a solid foundation--on the Word of God? The Bible reveals the truth about ourselves, our lives, our sins, our weaknesses. But it also reveals the truth about God, an amazing, gracious, loving and completely just and righteous God who LOVES us, who DEMONSTRATED HIS LOVE FOR US WHILE WE WERE STILL SINNERS. He wants to give us a new heart, a new life. He wants us to be His.  God doesn't require us to be perfect before we come to Him. (In fact the opposite is true!)

From, "Before Sermon, At Sermon, After Sermon" by Charles Spurgeon
The Word of God is a feast, but what comes of it if a man only looks at the banquet? Shall he not go away as empty as he came if he does not receive it?

You cannot be said to be His disciple if you question His teaching, for in the questioning of Christ's teaching lies the rejection of His Person. 

We are not bid to receive with meekness men's words, for they are many, and there is little in them. But receive with meekness God's Word, for it is one, and there is power in each Word which proceeds out of His mouth. Any little particle of God's Word, so far as we know it, is precious, and should be highly esteemed by us. The odds and ends, and corners and fragments of the Divine Word are to be received by you and by me—and there is a lack of meekness in us if we begin to pick and choose, and cut and carve the Divine Word. Who are we that we should say, "This or that is not essential"? Who are you, O man, that you should decide what is essential or otherwise? He who gave the Word did not write trifles! It is essential that you receive the Word of the Lord as supreme and perfect! And it is essential that you are lost if you do willfully reject any portion of that which the Most High deigns to reveal to men. Receive with meekness the one, only, and indivisible Word of the Lord

Nobody ever received the Word of God into his heart, to be engrafted there, without being cut and wounded by the Truth of God. It needs two wounds to make a graft—you wound the tree and you wound that better tree which is to be grafted in. Is it not a blessed grafting when a wounded Savior comes into living contact with a wounded heart? When a bleeding heart is engrafted with a bleeding Savior? Engrafting implies that the heart is wounded and opened—and then the living Word is laid in and received with meekness into the bleeding, wounded soul of the man. There is the gash and there is the space opened by it. Here comes the graft—the gardener must establish a union between the tree and the graft. This new life, this new branch, is inserted into the old stem, and they are to be livingly joined together.  Now, we need the Word of God to be brought to us in a similar fashion—our heart must be cut and opened—and then the Word must be laid into the gash till the two adhere. Then the heart begins to hold to the Word, to believe in it, to hope in it, to love it, to grow to it, to grow into it and to bear fruit accordingly! "Christ lives in me," said the Apostle. Is not that a wonderful thought? ~ Charles Spurgeon, Before Sermon, At Sermon, After Sermon 
I think the last quote is something to really consider. It is not enough to say "read the Bible" to a person who is not of the Spirit, who has not been born again, who cannot read and understand it as it is meant to be understood--spiritually comprehended. God uses his Word--spoken, preached, and read--to reach people where they are, to share the good news, to save and deliver. But it is His Spirit moving and acting through the Word. Without the Spirit, there can be no life.

But there are plenty of Christians who need a wake-up call, who need to be told THE BIBLE IS FOR YOU, YES YOU.

From "Delight in the Almighty" by Charles Spurgeon:
If we do not know God, how can we delight in Him? What delight can there be in an unknown God? Brothers and Sisters, you are not half as happy as you might be because you do not study this Book, where, as in a glass, you may see the face of Jehovah your God! Oh, that you knew more of His dear Son, for he that has seen Him has seen the Father! Take God for your daily company. "Acquaint now yourself with Him." Great as He is, dare to be free with Him. Though you are but dust and ashes, yet, like Abraham, speak with Him as a man speaks with his friend, for as you know your God so shall you delight in Him and lift up your face unto Him. ~ Charles Spurgeon, "Delight in the Almighty"
Your neglected Bibles hide your God! When dust falls on the Scriptures, dust falls on the eyes of those who have neglected them—and then they cannot behold the Glory of the Lord God. The more of Scripture is understood, fed upon and received into the inward parts, the more will be your delight in God! You can have no pleasure in the Speaker if you despise the Word spoken—let it be to you as marrow and fatness. ~ Charles Spurgeon, "Delight in the Almighty"

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Week In Review: July 21-27

This week I read:


  • 1 Corinthians
  • 2 Corinthians
  • Revelation


  • Genesis 37-50
  • Ruth 
  • Psalms 116-150
  • Proverbs 28-31
  • Jeremiah 31-52
  • Jonah
  • Matthew 5-28
  • 1 Thessalonians 
  • 2 Thessalonians

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Law and Grace

From Sovereign Grace Its Source, Its Nature and Its Effects by D.L. Moody
Some one has compiled the following, which beautifully describes the contrast between law and grace: The Law was given by Moses. Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. The Law says—This do, and thou shalt live. Grace says—Live, and then thou shalt do. The Law says—Pay me that thou owest. Grace says—I frankly forgive thee all. The Law says—The wages of sin is death. GRACE says—The gift of God is eternal life. The Law says—The soul that sinneth, it shall die. Grace says—Whosoever believeth in Jesus, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth in Him shall never die. The Law pronounces—Condemnation and death. Grace proclaims—Justification and life. The Law says—Make you a new heart and a new spirit. Grace says—A new heart will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you. The Law says—Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. Grace says—Blessed is the man whose iniquities are forgiven, whose sin is covered; blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute iniquity. The Law says—Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength. Grace says—Herein is love: not that we love God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. The Law speaks of what man must do for God. Grace tells of what Christ has done for man. The Law addresses man as part of the old creation. Grace makes a man a member of the new creation. The Law bears on a nature prone to disobedience. Grace creates a nature inclined to obedience. The Law demands obedience by the terror of the Lord. Grace beseeches men by the mercies of God. The Law demands holiness. Grace gives holiness. The Law says—Condemn him. Grace says—Embrace him. The Law speaks of priestly sacrifices offered year by year continually, which could never make the comers thereunto perfect. Grace says—But this Man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins forever . . . by one offering hath perfected forever them that are sanctified. The Law declares—That as many as have sinned in the Law, shall be judged by the Law. Grace brings eternal peace to the troubled soul of every child of God, and proclaims God’s salvation in defiance of the accusations of the adversary. “He that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment (condemnation), but is passed from death unto life.”

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, July 26, 2013

Book Review: A Promise to Love

A Promise to Love. Serena B. Miller. 2012. Revell. 332 pages. [Source: Library]

Last October, I read A Promise to Love. It was LOVE, LOVE, LOVE. It was a giddy-making book that I gushed about. It was one I knew I would definitely want to reread! I decided to read A Measure for Katie Calloway and A Promise to Love back-to-back. It was a wonderful treat for me! (Some characters from the first book make a reappearance in this one: Robert and Katie Foster and Jigger just to name a few.)

A Promise to Love is set in Michigan in 1870-1871. It stars an unforgettable, oh-so-lovable heroine named Ingrid. When readers first meet Ingrid she is a Swedish immigrant working as a servant. She is not being treated fairly; her mistress is very cruel and harsh. But she won't remain in service for long.

Joshua Hunter, our hero, is a widower with five children. His in-laws are accusing him of murder. If they have their way in court, he'll be charged with murder or at the very least lose custody of his children. (They've assumed custody of the youngest, a baby boy just a few months old.) Ingrid sees Joshua (for only the second time) at the inquest. When she sees his four daughters, when she hears the judge say that he will lose his children because he can't provide the care they need, her heart compels her to stand up and speak. She comes close to proposing to him right then and there! She knows she can be a good mother to those kids, and she knows that she can take good care of him too. If he'll let her that is!

Within the first month, Ingrid has taken on the responsibility of a house, a husband, five children, and a mother-in-law. I just LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Ingrid's relationship with her mother-in-law. I love how happy she is to welcome her mother into their small home, not as a burden, not as a responsibility, not as a duty, but as pleasure.

I love the characterization. I love all the major characters and plenty of the minor characters too! I loved the story; it was oh-so-satisfying. If you enjoy historical fiction, or, historical romance, then this is a MUST read.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Book Review: The Measure of Katie Calloway

The Measure of Katie Calloway. Serena B. Miller. 2011. Revell. 320 pages. [Source: Library]

I loved, loved, loved Serena B. Miller's A Promise to Love. I've been meaning to go back and read her first book, The Measure of Katie Calloway, for almost a year now! I'm not sure I loved it quite as much. But it was close! Serena Miller is a GREAT writer! I just loved this historical romance.

The Measure of Katie Calloway is set in a lumber camp in Michigan a few years after the Civil War (1867-1868). Katie Calloway and her younger brother, Ned, are escaping from Katie's abusive husband. He returned home from the War even more bitter and abusive. The day she makes her escape is the day she realizes that her husband has set a trap to kill her. She knows that if she stays, she dies. The two make it to Michigan and she happens to find work as a cook at a lumber camp. She arrives when the boss, Robert Foster, is hiring. He is desperate for a cook--a good cook would be even better! She passes his test--baking an apple pie--and prepares for her new life. But life won't be easy and uncomplicated!

I loved this one. I loved the characters. I love Katie and Robert and Ned. I love some of the men from the camp as well. Even the mostly cranky ones. This book is rich in historical detail. It does not spend much time with courting or wooing. After all, Robert knows only what he's been told. She is a widow. Her married status is very much on her mind. Katie knows that she is not free to start a relationship with anyone.

Everything felt natural, nothing felt forced which is exactly what I'm looking for when it comes to Christian fiction.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Book Review: The Sunroom

The Sunroom. Beverly Lewis. 1998. Bethany House. 144 pages. [Source: Bought]

I've spent a lot of time perusing old scrapbooks and childhood diaries of late. The notion that I am coming into my contemplative years is entirely settling, really. Like a warm hug from someone who loves me. 

The Sunroom is a small book, a short read. The main character, a woman named Rebecca, has come back to her hometown; one of the emotional stops on her way is the hospital sunroom. She shares with readers what this room meant to her mother in the 1950s as she was a cancer patient. She shares with readers excerpts from her own diary of the times. She shares her fears, her worries, her experiences. As a little girl--eleven or twelve--she promises God to give up her music, her piano playing, if he will only heal her mother and allow her to come back home healthy. Since music is her life, the promise is severe and life-changing. Her father is slow to notice the change in his daughter, the change in his home. But eventually her secret prayer is unveiled...

I had plenty of expectations for this book. I thought I knew exactly what to expect. I thought I could judge its contents based on its cover, based on its description. I was wrong. This one challenged me. Why was I so quick to assume that this one had to be one of "those books"? You know, one of "those" deliberately sad, mostly bittersweet, good-for-a-cry books. Why did the ending surprise me so much?

I liked this one fine. I didn't love it or hate it.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

My Year With Spurgeon: Week #29

Sleep is the gift of God; and not a man would close his eyes, did not God put his fingers on his eyelids; did not the Almighty send a soft and balmy influence over his frame which lulled his thoughts into quiescence, making him enter into that blissful state of rest which we call sleep. ~ Charles Spurgeon, "The Peculiar Sleep of the Beloved"
If ye have sinned but once, ye shall be damned for it, unless ye have something to take away that one sin. ~ Charles Spurgeon, "The Peculiar Sleep of the Beloved"
Some think it matters not what a man believes. Excuse me: truth is alway precious, and the least atom of truth is worth searching out. ~ Charles Spurgeon, "The Peculiar Sleep of the Beloved"
And, if you are not a reader of the Bible, if you take doctrines second-hand, if you go to chapel, and say, “I do not like that:’ what matters your not liking it, provided it is in the Bible? Is it Biblical truth, or is it not? If it is God’s truth, let us have it exalted. It may not suit you; but let me remind you, that the truth that is in Jesus never was palatable to carnal men, and I believe never will be. The reason you love it not, is because it cuts too much at your pride; it lets you down too low. Search yourselves, then, in doctrine. ~ Charles Spurgeon, "The Peculiar Sleep of the Beloved"
He hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in Christ. A new heart, a tender conscience, a submissive will, faith, hope, love, patience, we have all these in Christ. Regeneration, justification, adoption, sanctification, perfection are all in Christ. ~ Charles Spurgeon, "Blessing for Blessing"

God called us in Christ. He justified us in Christ. He sanctified us in Christ. He will perfect us in Christ. He will glorify us in Christ. We have everything in Christ, and we have nothing apart from Christ. Let us praise and bless the name of the Lord that this sacred channel of his grace is as glorious as the grace itself. There is as much grace in the gift of Christ to save us as there is in the salvation which Christ has wrought out for us. ~ Charles Spurgeon, "Blessing for Blessing"
The object of our election is our holiness, and the object of every spiritual blessing is our holiness. God is aiming at making us holy. ~ Charles Spurgeon, "Blessing for Blessing"
Without Christ, you can do nothing, and you are nothing, and you have nothing. Come to Jesus as you are, and put your trust in him, and then all things are yours. ~ Charles Spurgeon, "Blessing for Blessing"
God is ours. He that is our God is the God of salvation. His omnipotence and omniscience, his immutability and his faithfulness - all his attributes are ours. The Father is ours; the Son is ours; the Spirit is ours. The God of election is ours; the God of redemption is ours; the God of sanctification is ours. Oh! with all this, how can we be cast down? Why should we repine! We have certainly abounding cause for blessing and praising the Lord. Those are the mercies of life. ~ Charles Spurgeon, "Blessing for Blessing"
We are in a wrong state of mind if we are not in a thankful state of mind. ~ Charles Spurgeon, "Blessing for Blessing"
You may stop praising God when he stops having mercy upon you - not till then; and as there is always a new mercy coming to your doors let new praise be going up out of your hearts. ~ Charles Spurgeon, "Blessing for Blessing"

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, July 22, 2013

10 Years of "Casting Crowns"

Casting Crowns' first album, "Casting Crowns" was released in 2003! The album features some great songs. These songs are thought-provoking and compelling! A good blend of praise and worship songs, and songs to reflect upon. Which songs are you familiar with? Do you have a favorite?

  • What If His People Prayed
  • If We Are The Body
  • Voice of Truth
  • Who Am I
  • American Dream
  • Here I Go Again
  • Praise You With The Dance
  • Glory
  • Life of Praise
  • Your Love is Extravagant

From "What If His People Prayed"
What if the armies of the Lord
Picked up and dusted off their swords
Vowed to set the captives free
And not let Satan have one more
What if the church for heaven's sake
Finally stepped up to the plate
Took and stand upon God's promise
And stormed hell's rusty gates
What if His people prayed
And those who bear His name
Would humbly seek His face
And turn from their own way
From "If We Are The Body"
But if we are the body
Why aren't His arms reaching?
Why aren't His hands healing?
Why aren't His words teaching?
And if we are the body
Why aren't His feet going?
Why is His love not showing them there is a way?
There is a way
From "Voice of Truth"
But the voice of truth tells me a different story
And the voice of truth says "Do not be afraid!"
And the voice of truth says "This is for My glory"
Out of all the voices calling out to me
I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth
From "Who Am I"
Who am I, that the Lord of all the earth
Would care to know my name,
Would care to feel my hurt?
Who am I, that the Bright and Morning Star
Would choose to light the way
For my ever wandering heart?
Not because of who I am
But because of what You've done.
Not because of what I've done
But because of who You are.
I am a flower quickly fading,
Here today and gone tomorrow.
A wave tossed in the ocean.
A vapor in the wind.
Still You hear me when I'm calling.
Lord, You catch me when I'm falling.
And You've told me who I am.
I am Yours, I am Yours.
From "Here I Go Again"
Father, hear my prayer
I need the perfect words
Words that he will hear
And know they're straight from You
I don't know what to say
I only know it hurts
To see my only friend slowly fade away
So maybe this time I'll speak the words of life
With Your fire in my eyes
But that old familiar fear is tearing at my words
What am I so afraid of?
'Cause here I go again
Talkin 'bout the rain
And mulling over things that won't live past today
And as I dance around the truth
Time is not his friend
This might be my last chance to tell him
That You love Him
But here I go again, here I go again

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Are you Evangelical?

What comes to mind when you hear the term "evangelical"? Is your first association positive or negative? (For example, you might have heard, "I'm a Christian, but I'm not a born-again Christian." Or "I'm a Christian, but I'm not evangelical.") It may be a term you've heard in various places, but do you know what the word means? What makes evangelicals distinctive? I'm rereading a wonderful little book called The Evangelicals by Christopher Catherwood. I plan on reviewing the book when I'm finished, but I thought the book was rich enough for multiple posts!

Eleven Core Beliefs, Or, An Evangelical is someone who believes in....

  • The unity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the Godhead (the doctrine of the trinity)
  • The sovereignty of God in creation, revelation, redemption, and final judgment
  • The divine inspiration and entire trustworthiness of Holy Scripture, as originally given, and its supreme authority in all matters of faith and conduct
  • The universal sinfulness and guilt of all people since the fall, rendering them subject to God's wrath and condemnation
  • Redemption from the guilt, penalty, dominion, and pollution of sin, solely through the sacrificial death (as our representative and substitute) of the Lord Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God.
  • The bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead and his ascension to the right hand of God the Father
  • The presence and power of the Holy Spirit in the work of regeneration
  • The justification of the sinner by the grace of God through faith alone
  • The indwelling and work of the Holy Spirit in the believer
  • The one holy universal church, which is the body of Christ and to which all true believers belong
  • The expectation of the personal return of the Lord Jesus Christ

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Week in Review: July 14-20

This week I read:


  • 1 Thessalonians
  • 2 Thessalonians


  • Genesis 27-36
  • Judges 13-21
  • Psalms 107-115
  • Proverbs 19-27
  • Jeremiah 21-30
  • Amos
  • Obadiah
  • Matthew 1-4
  • Acts 9-28
  • Philippians
  • Colossians


  • Romans
  • Ephesians
  • Philippians
  • Colossians
  • 1 Thessalonians
  • 2 Thessalonians
  • 1 Timothy
  • 2 Timothy
  • Titus
  • Philemon
  • Hebrews
  • James
  • 1 Peter
  • 2 Peter
  • 1 John
  • 2 John
  • 3 John
  • Jude

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, July 19, 2013

Book Review: By Grace Alone (2010)

By Grace Alone. Sinclair B. Ferguson. 2010. Reformation Trust. 123 pages. [Source: Borrowed from friend]

By Grace Alone is a wonderful book by Sinclair Ferguson. In By Grace Alone, he paints a wonderful portrait of grace and mercy and love! The chapters are: "My Chains Fell Off," "Unconditional Love," "At God's Expense," "A Great Exchange," "Guaranteed Security," "Delivered From Evil," and "True Freedom." If you aren't quite sure what grace is all about, what grace looks like, feels like, read this book!

One of my favorite chapters examined the parable of the prodigal son; it looked at the parable from three different perspectives: from the prodigal son, from the elder brother, from the father.

In another chapter, he examines Jesus as prophet, priest, and king. He talks about how we see Christ in those three roles on the cross. I felt I learned so much by reading this one!

Favorite quotes:
We do not become sinners by committing specific acts. We commit specific acts of sin because we are sinners. (3)
No one can will the will to will what it will not will! Only God's grace can set us free to come to trust in Him. (4)
If there is resistance in the heart to loving God, there will be resistance in the mind to knowing God--and therefore to listening to and seeking God. Only the truth can set us free. (8)
The One who was being despised as Prophet, as Priest, and as King actually was God's Prophet, Priest, and King--the Christ, the Savior. He was actually doing what they were cynically calling out for Him to do. They, however, spoke in ignorance; they did not understand that if He was to save others, He could not save Himself. (43)
The two charges leveled against Jesus were blasphemy (that He had made Himself equal with God) and treason (that He had rejected lawfully constituted authority). Why were those two charges so significant? It was because these are the charges each of us faces before the judgment seat of God. In that court, I am guilty of blasphemy, because I have made myself rather than God the center of the universe. I am also guilty of treason, since I have sought to overturn His lawfully and graciously constituted authority over my life. Blasphemy and treason were also the crimes of Adam. These are the age-old crimes of which every one of us--old and young, rich and poor, wise and simple, famous and infamous--stands accused. We are on the same charge sheet. We are all guilty. But Jesus has come! (44)
The gospel is an invitation to receive a gift. But many people hear it as a summons to do better. Paul makes it clear that the gospel is not about something we do. It is about what God has done for us in Jesus Christ. (48)
Contemporary men and women find it almost impossible to conceive that they were made to glorify and to enjoy God. It would perhaps be more accurate to say that the very idea of living for the glory of God appears to be many people's idea of hell. (50)
You did not, do not, and cannot earn your own salvation. You can contribute nothing to it in any way. It is not earned by your achievements, your merit, your faith, your level of sanctification, your faithfulness, or your Christian service. Reconciliation is a free gift of grace from beginning to end. Christ already has done everything that is needed in order to take your sins and to transfer His righteousness to you. (54)
Faith says: "Yes, God counts my sins. But He does not count them against me. Rather, He counts my sins against His Son." (56)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Book Review: The Cost of Discipleship (1937/1959)

The Cost of Discipleship. Dietrich Bonhoeffer. 1937/1959/1995. Simon & Schuster. 320 pages. [Source: Borrowed from friend.]

Words I'd use to describe Dietrich Bonhoeffer's The Cost of Discipleship: challenging, confusing, deep and philosophical, puzzling, thought-provoking, discussion-worthy, complex, problematic, and unsettling. It is an engaging read. If you're not willing to commit your mind to unpacking it--engaging with the ideas and concepts being explored in the text--then it's a waste of time. It's a challenging read. You can easily puzzle over the meaning of a paragraph for a considerable amount of time. Did Bonhoeffer mean this or that? The difference between "this" and "that" may be subtle or narrow--or it could be considerable. I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt in some places, yet, I wanted to weigh each statement against the Word of God. I still don't know what to make of certain statements, certain positions, certain ideas within The Cost of Discipleship. For example, when he argues that it is dangerous for Christians to believe that "our salvation has already been accomplished by grace of God" (55) This was NOT a work where I found myself in easy agreement all the time.

At its best, The Cost of Discipleship showcases Bonhoeffer's expository writing. Within The Cost of Discipleship, he discusses particular sections of Scripture: Mark 2:14, Luke 9:57-62, Matthew 19:16-22, Matthew 19:23-26, Mark 8:31-38, Matthew 26:39, 42, Luke 14:26, Mark 10:32, Matthew 5:1-12, Matthew 5:13-16, Matthew 5:17-20, Matthew 5:21-26, Matthew 5:27-32, Matthew 5:33-37, Matthew 5:38-42, Matthew 5:43-48, Matthew 6:1-4, Matthew 6:5-8, Matthew 6:16-18, Matthew 6:19-24, Matthew 7:1-12, Matthew 7:13-23, Matthew 7:24-29, Matthew 9:35-38, Matthew 10:1-4, Matthew 10:5-6, Matthew 10:7-8, Matthew 10:9-10, Matthew 10:11-15, Matthew 10:16-25, Matthew 10:26-39, Matthew 10:40-42. You'll notice that he extensively focuses on the Sermon of the Mount (Matthew 5, 6, and 7). Essentially, Bonhoeffer is discussing what it means to be a disciple, what it means to follow Christ, what it means to live the Christian life, what it means to be justified and sanctified.

I will share quotes that I think sum up Bonhoeffer's doctrines. Some I agree with; some I am less sure about. Some I think are discussion-worthy because I just don't have the answers.

Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate. (45)
Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son, "ye were bought at a price," and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God... Costly grace confronts us as a gracious call to follow Jesus, it comes as a word of forgiveness to the broken spirit and the contrite heart. Grace is costly because it compels a man to submit to the yoke of Christ and follow him; it is grace because Jesus says: "My yoke is easy and my burden is light." (45)
The only man who has the right to say that he is justified by grace alone is the man who has left all to follow Christ. Such a man knows that the call to discipleship is a gift of grace, and that the call is inseparable from the grace. (51)
An abstract Christology, a doctrinal system, a general religious knowledge on the subject of grace or on the forgiveness of sins, render discipleship superfluous, and in fact they positively exclude any idea of discipleship whatever... Christianity without the living Christ is inevitably Christianity without discipleship, and Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ...In such a religion there is trust in God, but no following of Christ. (59)
The call to follow Christ always means a call to share the work of forgiving men their sins. Forgiveness is the Christlike suffering which it is the Christian's duty to bear. (90)
It is not for the disciples to decide whether they will be the salt of the earth, for they are so whether they like it or not, they have been made salt by the call they have received. (116)
The cross is the strange light which alone illuminates these good works of the disciples... It is by seeing the cross and the community beneath it that men come to believe in God. But that is the light of the Resurrection. (119)
Their righteousness is righteousness indeed, for from henceforth they do the will of God and fulfil the law themselves. Again, it is not enough to teach the law of Christ, it must be done, otherwise it is no better than the old law. In what follows the disciples are told how to practice this righteousness of Christ. In a word, it means following him. It is the real and active faith in the righteousness of Christ. It is the new law, the law of Christ. (125)
From whom are we to hide the visibility of our discipleship? Certainly not from other men, for we are told to let them see our light. No. We are to hide it from ourselves. Our task is simply to keep on following, looking only to our Leader who goes on before, taking no notice of ourselves or of what we are doing. We must be unaware of our own righteousness, and see it only in so far as we look unto Jesus; then it will seem not extraordinary but quite ordinary and natural. Thus we hide the visible from ourselves in obedience to the word of Jesus. (158)
When men pray, they have ceased to know themselves, and know only God whom they call upon. Prayer does not aim at any direct effect on the world; it is addressed to God alone, and is therefore the perfect example of undemonstrative action. (163)
The essence of Christian prayer is not general adoration, but definite, concrete petition. The right way to approach God is to stretch out our hands and ask of One who we know has the heart of a Father. (164)
Discipleship does not afford us a point of vantage from which to attack others; we come to them with an unconditional offer of fellowship, with the single-mindedness of the love of Jesus. When we judge other people we confront them in a spirit of detachment, observing and reflecting as it were from the outside. But love has neither time nor opportunity for this. If we love, we can never observe the other person with detachment, for he is always and at every moment a living claim to our love and service. (184)
Judgment is the forbidden objectification of the other person which destroys single-minded love. I am not forbidden to have my own thoughts about the other person, to realize his shortcomings, but only to the extent that it offers to me an occasion for forgiveness and unconditional love, as Jesus proves to me. (185)
Christian love sees the fellow-man under the cross and therefore sees with clarity. (185)
If we follow Christ, cling to his word, and let everything else go, it will see us through the day of judgment. His word is his grace. (195)
Nothing could be more ruthless than to make men think there is still plenty of time to mend their ways. To tell men that the cause is urgent, and that the kingdom of God is at hand is the most charitable and merciful act we can perform, the most joyous news we can bring. (211)
It is baptism into the death of Christ which effects the forgiveness of sin and justification, and completes our separation from sin. (233)
The death of Jesus is the manifestation of God's righteousness, it is the place where God has given gracious proof of his own righteousness, the place where alone the righteousness of God will dwell. By sharing in this death we too become partakers of that righteousness... Since God had to establish his own righteousness in the death of Christ, it follows that we are with him in the place where God's righteousness is to be found, that is, on the cross... For the death of Jesus establishes not only the righteousness of God, it establishes his righteousness for us who are embodied in the death of Christ. (274)
Justification is primarily concerned with the relation between man and the law of God, sanctification with the Christian's separation from the world until the second coming of Christ...Justification is the new creation of the new man, and sanctification his preservation until the day of Jesus Christ. (278) 
The preaching of forgiveness must always go hand-in-hand with the preaching of repentance, the preaching of the gospel with the preaching of the law. (287)
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Book Review: Chosen by God

Chosen by God. R.C. Sproul. 1986/1994/2011. Tyndale. 216 pages. [Source: Bought]
Baseball. Hot dogs. Apple pie. Chevrolet. These are all things American. To complete the mix we must add the great American motto: "We will not discuss religion or politics." Mottoes are made to be broken. Perhaps no American rule is broken more frequently than the one about not discussing religion or politics. We embark on such discussions repeatedly. And when the topic turns to religion it often gravitates to the issue of predestination. Sadly, that often means the end of discussion and the beginning of argument, yielding more heat than light. Arguing about predestination is virtually irresistible. 
It's been around ten years since I first read R.C. Sproul's Chosen by God. The book wowed me then. And it still leaves quite an impression the second time around. The book is divided into nine chapters: "The Struggle," "Predestination and the Sovereignty of God," "Predestination and Free Will," "Adam's Fall and Mine," "Spiritual Death and Spiritual Life: Rebirth and Faith," "Foreknowledge and Predestination," "Double, Double, Toil and Trouble: Is Predestination Double?", "Can We Know That We Are Saved?" and "Questions and Objections Concerning Predestination."

Is the book reader friendly? Yes and no. The theological subject is complex. Being complex doesn't make it more biblical OR less biblical. Because it can sound so absolutely foreign to our natural nature, our natural mind, to everything that we think we know, it can be tough to grasp. R.C. Sproul makes a point that this is the kind of knowledge that you almost fight against accepting. Depending on your background, depending on your church experience, depending on your theological leanings, of course. I absolutely love R.C. Sproul's approach to this:
Why do we speak of it? Because we enjoy unpleasantness? Not at all. We discuss it because we cannot avoid it. It is a doctrine plainly set forth in the Bible. We talk about predestination because the Bible talks about predestination. If we desire to build our theology on the Bible, we run head on into the concept. We soon discover that John Calvin did not invent it... (10)
If we are to be biblical, then, the issue is not whether we should have a doctrine of predestination or not, but what kind we should embrace. If the Bible is the Word of God, not mere human speculation, and if God himself declares that there is such a thing as predestination, then it follows irresistibly that we must embrace some doctrine of predestination. If we are to follow this line of thinking, then, of course, we must go one step further. It is not enough to have just any view of predestination. It is our duty to seek the correct view of predestination, lest we be guilty of distorting or ignoring the Word of God. (11)
I wrote a note to myself that I kept on my desk in a place where I could always see it: YOU ARE REQUIRED TO BELIEVE, TO PREACH, AND TO TEACH WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS IS TRUE, NOT WHAT YOU WANT THE BIBLE TO SAY IS TRUE. (12)
They say there is nothing more obnoxious than a converted drunk. Try a converted Arminian. Converted Arminians tend to become flaming Calvinists, zealots for the cause of predestination. You are reading the work of such a convert. (13)
To a Calvinist, to someone of the "Reformed" faith, the book is easier going. Once you connect the dots, once you have grasped the doctrines of grace, then it is hard to see what kept you blind to these "obvious" biblical truths.

Chosen by God is a book to read or perhaps reread slowly and thoughtfully. It is not necessarily a book to be rushed. It's a book to read side by side with the Bible, a book to be studied and pondered.

Favorite quotes:
The freedom of the sovereign is always greater than the freedom of his subjects. (24)
The very essence of grace is that it is undeserved. God always reserves the right to have mercy upon whom he will have mercy. God may owe people justice, but never mercy. (33)
Let us assume that all men are guilty of sin in the sight of God. From that mass of guilty humanity, God sovereignly decides to give mercy to some of them. What do the rest get? They get justice. The saved get mercy and the unsaved get justice. Nobody gets injustice. Mercy is not justice. But neither is it injustice. (37)
God is free. I am free. God is more free than I am. If my freedom runs up against God's freedom, I lose. His freedom restricts mine; my freedom does not restrict his. (43)
To have free will is to be able to choose according to our desires. Here desire plays the vital role of providing a motivation or a reason for making a choice... According to Edwards a human being is not only free to choose what he desires but he must choose what he desires to be able to choose at all. (54) 
Our choices are determined by our desires. They remain our choices because they are motivated by our own desires. (54)
The will is a natural ability given to us by God. We have all the natural faculties necessary to make choices. We have a mind and we have a will. We have the natural ability to choose what we desire. What, then, is our problem? According to the Bible the location of our problem is clear. It is with the nature of our desires. This is the focal point of our fallenness. Scripture declares that the heart of fallen man continually harbors desires that are only wicked... Before a person can make a choice which is pleasing to God, he must first have a desire to please God. Before we can find God, we must first desire to seek him. Before we can choose the good, we must first have a desire for the good. Before we can choose Christ, we must first have a desire for Christ. The sum and and substance of the whole debate on predestination rests squarely on this point: Does fallen man, in and of himself, have a natural desire for Christ? (60-1)
Edwards insists that, in the Fall, man lost his original desire for God. When he lost that desire, something happened to his freedom. He lost the moral ability to choose Christ. In order to choose Christ, the sinner must first have a desire to choose Christ. Either he has that desire already within him or he must receive that desire from God. (61)
Original sin refers to the result of the sin of Adam and Eve. (63)
Before the Fall Adam was endowed with two possibilities: He had the ability to sin and the ability not to sin. After the Fall Adam had the ability to sin and the inability not to sin. The idea of "inability to not" is a bit confusing to us because in English it's a double negative. Augustine's Latin formula was non posse non peccare. Stated another way, it means that after the Fall man was morally incapable of living without sin. The ability to live without sin was lost in the Fall. This moral inability is the essence of what we call original sin. (65)
No human being can possibly come to Christ unless something happens that makes it possible for him to come. That necessary condition that Jesus declares is that "it has been granted to him by the Father." Jesus is saying here that the ability to come to him is a gift from God. Man does not have the ability in and of himself to come to Christ. God must do something first. (68) (John 6:65)
A cardinal point of Reformed theology is the maxim: "Regeneration precedes faith." Our nature is so corrupt the power of sin is so great, that unless God does a supernatural work in our souls we will never choose Christ. We do not believe in order to be born again; we are born again in order that we may believe. (72-3)
We see people searching desperately for peace of mind, relief from guilt, meaning and purpose to their lives, and loving acceptance. We know that ultimately these things can only be found in God. Therefore we conclude that since people are seeking these things they must be seeking after God. People do not seek God. They seek after the benefits that only God can give them. (110)
Seeking is the business of believers... The Christian life begins at conversion; it does not end where it begins. It grows; it moves from faith to faith, from grace to grace, from life to life. The movement of growth is prodded by a continual seeking after God. (111)
When God regenerates a human soul, when he makes us spiritually alive, we make choices. We believe. We have faith. We cling to Christ. God does not believe for us. (118)
Jesus is irresistible to those who have been made alive to the things of God. Every soul whose heart beats with the life of God within it longs for the living Christ. (123)
I learned one thing clearly in my experience in evangelism: The message of justification by faith alone has not penetrated our culture. Multitudes of people are resting their hopes for heaven on their own good works. They are quite willing to admit they are not perfect, but they assume they are good enough. They have done "their best" and that, they tragically assume, is good enough for God. (165)
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Resources for Clouds of Witness Challenge

I thought I would share a list of resources that participants in the Clouds of Witnesses Challenge might find useful.

Christian Classics Ethereal Library (


Project Gutenberg (


Internet Archive (


Nook Books


Kindle Books


Author-Specific Sites
Other resources may include

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

My Year With Spurgeon: Week #28

This morning I shall handle my text with the earnest design of teaching you how to hear. Oh, that the Spirit of God may graciously help me! First, let us note what to do before the sermon—"Lay aside all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness." Secondly, let us learn how to behave during the sermon—"Receive with meekness the engrafted Word, which is able to save your souls." And thirdly, here is the instruction for after the sermon—"Be you doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves." ~ Charles Spurgeon, Before Sermon, At Sermon, After Sermon
It will strike every man who thinks about it, that there should be some preparation of the heart in coming to the worship of God and to the hearing of the Gospel. Consider who He is, in whose name we gather, and surely we cannot rush together without thought! Consider whom we profess to worship and we shall not hurry into His stumbling into the place of worship half-asleep; no roaming there as if it were no more than going to the theater. We cannot expect to profit much if we bring with us a swarm of idle thoughts and a heart crammed with vanity. If we are full of folly, we may shut out the Truth of God from our minds. We should make ready to receive what God is so ready to bestow. ~ Charles Spurgeon, Before Sermon, At Sermon, After Sermon
There is a common consent among mankind that there should be some preparation for worship. I see the visible signs of it here, today...My counsel to you is cleanse your hearts rather than your garments! Go before God in newness of spirit rather than in newness of clothing...In making this preparation, our text tells us that there are some things to be laid aside. What does it say? "Therefore lay aside all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness." Some things must be removed before the Word of God can be received. And what are these things? The text mentions all filthiness. Now sin of every kind is filthiness. It does not strike the most of men so—they call it pleasure! I have even known them to think it an ornament. But in the judgment of the Spirit of God, who speaks here by His servant, James, every sin is filthiness. In the sight of every renewed man, all sin is filthiness and nothing better. Ever since the day when the Spirit of God took the scales from his eyes, the godly man sees sin to be a foul thing—abominable in the sight of a holy God. Sin in the thoughts is filthiness of the thoughts! Sin in words is filthiness of speech! Sin in action is filthiness in life! Everywhere, the transgression of the Law is a foul and polluting thing, which neither God nor good men can bear. Now, Brothers and Sisters, in coming before God, by the help of His Spirit, every sin must be confessed, forsaken, and hated. By faith in the precious blood of Jesus, it must be washed out, for we cannot come before God with acceptance while iniquity is indulged. We must remain apart from God till we are apart from filthiness. ~ Charles Spurgeon, Before Sermon, At Sermon, After Sermon
I cannot attempt to express the abomination of sin to God! He hates it with all His soul. If we are to be acceptable before God, there must be no keeping of favorite sins, no sparing of darling lusts, no providing for secret iniquities—our service will be filthiness before God if our hearts go after our sins. ~ Charles Spurgeon, Before Sermon, At Sermon, After Sermon
Sin is the greatest conceivable danger to a man's own soul—it makes a man to be dead while he lives—yes, corrupt before he is dead. Sin is a mortal disease and he that bears it about him is not far from Hell—while he continues to love it, he can never enter Heaven. ~ Charles Spurgeon, Before Sermon, At Sermon, After Sermon
Some persons, when they are angry, will say things that never ought to be repeated, or even said for the first time. ~ Charles Spurgeon, Before Sermon, At Sermon, After Sermon
Any kind of naughtiness in a child of God is superfluous—iniquity ought not to be within him! Children of God, you cannot serve the Lord if you are giving your strength to any form of wrong! Moreover, sin prejudices against the Gospel. A man says, "I did not enjoy the sermon." How can you? What have you been enjoying during the week? What flavor did last night leave in your mouth? ~ Charles Spurgeon, Before Sermon, At Sermon, After Sermon
How shall we act while listening to the Word? "Receive with meekness the engrafted Word, which is able to save your souls." The first thing, then, is receive. That word, "receive," is a very instructive Gospel word—it is the door through which God's Grace enters us. We are not saved by working, but by receiving—not by what we give to God, but by what God gives to us—and we receive from Him. In the hearing of the Word, there should be a receiving of it, not into the ears only, but into the understanding, into the heart, into the conscience, together with a laying-up of this good treasure in the memory and the affections. You must receive the Word of God, or it cannot bless you. For, Sirs, the Word of God is a feast, but what comes of it if a man only looks at the banquet? Shall he not go away as empty as he came if he does not receive it? The preaching of the Word of God is as a shower from Heaven, but what happens to the soil if the raindrops fall but none are absorbed into the soil? Of what use is the shower if none is drunk in by the thirsty furrows? A medicine may have great healing power, but if it is not received, it does not purge the inward parts of the body. There must be a receiving of any good thing before the goodness of it can be ours. ~ Charles Spurgeon, Before Sermon, At Sermon, After Sermon
The door of Heaven is open to those who sit at Jesus' feet and learn of Him. You are not His servant unless He is your Master. You cannot be said to be His disciple if you question His teaching, for in the questioning of Christ's teaching lies the rejection of His Person. To doubt Jesus is treason against the authority He claims over every human heart. Receive with meekness if you would be blessed with Divine Grace. ~ Charles Spurgeon, Before Sermon, At Sermon, After Sermon
We are not bid to receive with meekness men's words, for they are many, and there is little in them. But receive with meekness God's Word, for it is one, and there is power in each Word which proceeds out of His mouth. Any little particle of God's Word, so far as we know it, is precious, and should be highly esteemed by us. The odds and ends, and corners and fragments of the Divine Word are to be received by you and by me—and there is a lack of meekness in us if we begin to pick and choose, and cut and carve the Divine Word. Who are we that we should say, "This or that is not essential"? Who are you, O man, that you should decide what is essential or otherwise? He who gave the Word did not write trifles! It is essential that you receive the Word of the Lord as supreme and perfect! And it is essential that you are lost if you do willfully reject any portion of that which the Most High deigns to reveal to men. Receive with meekness the one, only, and indivisible Word of the Lord. ~ Charles Spurgeon, Before Sermon, At Sermon, After Sermon
Nobody ever received the Word of God into his heart, to be engrafted there, without being cut and wounded by the Truth of God. It needs two wounds to make a graft—you wound the tree and you wound that better tree which is to be grafted in. Is it not a blessed grafting when a wounded Savior comes into living contact with a wounded heart? When a bleeding heart is engrafted with a bleeding Savior? Engrafting implies that the heart is wounded and opened—and then the living Word is laid in and received with meekness into the bleeding, wounded soul of the man. There is the gash and there is the space opened by it. Here comes the graft—the gardener must establish a union between the tree and the graft. This new life, this new branch, is inserted into the old stem, and they are to be livingly joined together.  Now, we need the Word of God to be brought to us in a similar fashion—our heart must be cut and opened—and then the Word must be laid into the gash till the two adhere. Then the heart begins to hold to the Word, to believe in it, to hope in it, to love it, to grow to it, to grow into it and to bear fruit accordingly! "Christ lives in me," said the Apostle. Is not that a wonderful thought? ~ Charles Spurgeon, Before Sermon, At Sermon, After Sermon
Believe in the power of God's Word—receive it as being fully able to save your souls from beginning to end! Two ways it does this—by putting away your sin as you accept the blood and righteousness of Christ—and by changing your nature as you accept the Lord Jesus to be your Master and your Lord, your life and your all. There is such potency in the Word of God, that if it is received into the heart, it will effectually save the soul! It will not merely give you a hope of being saved, but really save you—save you now, save you through life, save you to all eternity! Oh, with what ears ought men to listen to a Word which can save their souls! ~ Charles Spurgeon, Before Sermon, At Sermon, After Sermon
We value clouds by their rain, and men by their actual doings! The world is always looking to the church, not so much to hear her teachings as to see her doings. The bulk of men do not read the Bible, but they read you...~ Charles Spurgeon, Before Sermon, At Sermon, After Sermon

Monday, July 15, 2013

Book Review: A Big Year for Lily (2013)

A Big Year for Lily. Suzanne Woods Fisher and Mary Ann Kinsinger. 2013. Revell. 272 pages. [Source: Review Copy]

This is the third book in the Adventures of Lily Lapp series. The first two novels in the series are: Life with Lily and A New Home for Lily. A Big Year for Lily covers Lily Lapp's fourth grade year. Readers see the celebrations of several family birthdays and the holidays as well. Lily gets in and out of trouble multiple times. And Lily has a few more adventures in the kitchen! This time she wants to cook just ONE cupcake. (She learns that it is impossible to divide one egg into twentieths, and that cooking even one cupcake makes a big, big mess.) But she has a few successes as well, like when she makes her mom a surprise birthday cake mostly on her own.

If you have enjoyed Lily in the previous books, you probably won't be disappointed in the latest installment of the series. I am continuing to find her a lovely heroine. I love this contemporary series with a historical feel. I love the focus on relationships and friendships. I love Lily's relationship with her parents. Lily struggles to make good decisions every day. It isn't always easy.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Participants of Cloud of Witnesses

For anyone participating in my Cloud of Witnesses Reading Challenge, I've found a few resources that may interest you!!!

First, there is a video (DVD) called On The Shoulders of Giants. This is on the Reformation and the Reformers. My review. Buy a copy. Watch online.

Free Grace Broadcaster is another great resource. They publish a quarterly magazine or booklet; each booklet has a theme. Past issues can be downloaded in pdf format. Some editions are available in mobi or epub. Here are just a few of the subjects covered: The Gospel (pdf), Justification (pdf), The Scripture (pdf).

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Week in Review: July 7-13


  • Genesis 12-26
  • Judges 6-12
  • Psalms 36-106
  • Proverbs 11-18
  • Jeremiah 11-20
  • Joel
  • Luke 20-24
  • Acts 1-8
  • Galatians
  • Ephesians
  • 1 John
  • 2 John
  • 3 John
  • Jude

Jubilee 2000

  • Daniel
  • John 9-21


  • 1 Thessalonians
  • 2 Thessalonians
  • James
  • Revelation

Revised Common Version

  • James

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, July 12, 2013

Book Review: Fatherless (2013)

Fatherless. James C. Dobson and Kurt Bruner. 2013. FaithWords. 448 pages. [Source: Bought]
Family affection lies at the root of a well-ordered society. It is one of the few good things which has survived the fall, and prevent men and women from being mere devils. It is the secret oil on the wheels of our social system which keeps the whole machine going, and without which the power of the machine is useless. ~ J.C. Ryle
When I came across that J.C. Ryle quote in my reading this past week, I knew it would be a good way to introduce Fatherless, a new novel by James Dobson and Kurt Bruner.

First sentence: I didn't expect the person killing me to yawn in boredom.

Fatherless paints a disturbing portrait of the future. The novel is set in 2042. The United States is in near-crisis. The majority of the population is old, past the working-and-contributing-age; the burden of medical treatment, of day-to-day care, is stressing the economy. Working adults find it difficult to keep a job and take care of their parents. Their place in the workplace is deemed critical. And hiring someone to parent-sit can be expensive. The burden is especially difficult on the poor, the rich can always afford what's necessary. So in the past decade or so, transitions have become the new norm. For any "debit" in society, for those who cost society more than what they contribute, those who may be older or those who may have physical disabilities or mental limitations. They can truly help their families, help society, help their country by choosing to transition--to transition from life to death. Government is making the idea of transitioning sound so noble, so heroic, so necessary. (Many transitions even include organ donation.) The novel begins and ends with readers getting a glimpse of the transition process. (The first is a paralyzed young man, just turned eighteen. The last is a senior citizen, a mother pressured into it by her son.)

Julia Davidson is a journalist struggling to maintain her place near the top. She has written some incredible stories in the past. Her name has meant something. She has been a somebody. But now other reporters are getting the "big" stories, and Julia finds herself stuck with a weekly column of little significance. But her boss is giving her one last chance.

Kevin Tolbert and his wife, Angie, are "breeders" in a time when it is socially questionable to get married (and stay married) and have children (yes, multiple children). To have a child in wedlock? To have more than one child? Women who are mothers are thought to be extremists, absurd, out of touch with liberated reality. Babies are a burden, always have been, always will be. To have more than one child--at most--is to be oppressed.

Julia Davidson PITIES her old high school friend, Angie. The only reason she's seeking out this old acquaintance is because Angie's husband, Kevin Tolbert, is an up-and-coming politician. Julia has been assigned to write a story about Tolbert's political ideas and policies which are being introduced to a committee. Her paper wants to spin the story so that his conservative ideas are rightly labeled ridiculous, absurd, outrageous, extreme. He has found "bright spots" in the U.S. economy. There are small regions or communities that are doing better than the nation as a whole. The differences between these bright spots and the rest of the nation are higher birth rates (more families having children) and fewer transitions (they're not encouraging their senior citizens to do the right thing and go ahead and die). The idea being that these communities value human life more.

There are multiple stories in Fatherless and many protagonists. Some are Christian; many are not. The book is religious AND political. It goes tough places and asks hard questions. It examines long-term ethics or consequences of some things happening today. For example, hostility towards religion and deeming people of faith, people who hold to the Bible, as being extremists. This book seemed to eerily connect with UnChristian. Another example: the deterioration of the family, of fathers not staying around long enough to parent their children.

Fatherless is heartbreaking and thought-provoking. The Matthew-and-his-mother story line was so disturbing and heartbreaking! Fatherless may not be a flawless novel, weaknesses could be spotted here and there, but it has many strengths as well. (One weakness, perhaps, is the info-dumping.) I enjoyed having multiple points of view. Julia was a broken heroine, troubled with nightmares, struggling in her personal and professional life, clinging to her worldview with fierce determination. But Julia was quite human as well: she has a close relationship with her nephew, and, she is longing for satisfaction of her own. She finds Kevin's friend, Troy, so intriguing though their world-views are so very different from one another. (Troy is a newish Christian). Matthew's brokenness is equally obvious. His searching for spiritual enlightenment and finding it in all the wrong places was so heartbreaking.

Troy to Julia:
Imagine a world of people trying to out-serve, out-love, out-sacrifice, and out-honor one another. Sure beats a world of people trying to outdo and outsmart one another. Don't you think? (238)
Julia's politics:
Didn't one's unalienable rights include controlling one's own body, choosing one's own offspring, and ending one's own existence? (260)
Kevin Tolbert:
We live in a world where the weak and scrawny have little choice but to play by rules set by the big and powerful. By those who rig the game against the dignity of human life. (373)
Julia and Kevin in conversation:
"What kind of choices do you want them to make?" Julia tried to sound sympathetic.
"Natural, commonsense choices," he replied. "Like getting married and raising a family. Like protecting the dignity of aging citizens rather than making them feel guilty every time they take another breath. Like protecting our disabled rather than labeling them worthless debits." (373)
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible