Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Quoting George Whitfield #2

Jesus is our peace as well as our peace-maker. When we are justified by faith in Christ, then, but not till then, we have peace with God; and consequently cannot be said till then to walk with him, walking with a person being a sign and token that we are friends to that person, or at least, though we have been at variance, yet that now we are reconciled and become friends again. This is the great errand that gospel ministers are sent out upon. To us is committed the ministry of reconciliation; as ambassadors for God, we are to beseech sinners, in Christ's stead, to be reconciled unto God, and when they comply with the gracious invitation, and are actually by faith brought into a state of reconciliation with God, then, and not till then, may they be said so much as to begin to walk with God. ~ George Whitfield, Walking With God
WALKING WITH GOD consists especially in the fixed habitual bent of the will for God, in an habitual dependence upon his power and promise, in an habitual voluntary dedication of our all to his glory, in an habitual eyeing of his precept in all we do, and in an habitual complacence in his pleasure in all we suffer. ~ George Whitfield, Walking With God
WALKING WITH GOD implies our making progress or advances in the divine life. WALKING, in the very first idea of the word, seems to suppose a progressive motion. A person that walks, though he move slowly, yet he goes forward, and does not continue in one place. And so it is with those that walk with God. ~ George Whitfield, Walking With God
Indeed, in one sense, the divine life admits of neither increase nor decrease. When a soul is born of God, to all intents and purposes he is a child of God; and though he should live to the age of Methuselah, yet he would then be only a child of God after all. But in another sense, the divine life admits of decays and additions. Hence it is, that we find the people of God charged with backslidings and losing their first love. And hence it is that we hear of babes, young men, and fathers in Christ. And upon this account it is that the apostle exhorts Timothy, 'to let his progress be made known to all men'. And what is here required of Timothy in particular, by St. Peter is enjoined on all Christians in general. 'But grow in grace, (says he), and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ'. For the new creature increases in spiritual stature; and though a person can but be a new creature, yet there are some that are more conformed to the divine image than others, and will after death be admitted to a greater degree of blessedness. ~ George Whitfield, Walking With God
FIRST, Believers keep up and maintain their walk with God by reading of his holy word. 'Search the scriptures', says our blessed Lord, 'for these are they that testify of me'. And the royal Psalmist tells us 'that God's word was a light unto his feet, and a lantern unto his paths'; and he makes it one property of a good man, 'that his delight is in the law of the Lord, and that he exercises himself therein day and night'. 'Give thyself to reading', (says Paul to Timothy); 'And this book of the law, (says God to Joshua) shall not go out of thy mouth'. For whatsoever was written aforetime was written for our learning. And the word of God is profitable for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness, and every way sufficient to make every true child of God thoroughly furnished unto every good work. If we once get above our Bibles, and cease making the written word of God our sole rule both as to faith and practice, we shall soon lie open to all manner of delusion, and be in great danger of making shipwreck of faith and a good conscience. Our blessed Lord, though he had the Spirit of God without measure, yet always was governed by, and fought the devil with, 'It is written'. This the apostle calls the 'sword of the Spirit'... The scriptures are called the lively oracles of God: not only because they are generally made use of to beget in us a new life, but also to keep up and increase it in the soul. The apostle Peter, in his second epistle, prefers it even to seeing Christ transfigured upon the mount. For after he had said, chap. 1:18. 'This voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount'; he adds, 'We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day-star arise in your hearts': that is, till we shake off these bodies, and see Jesus face to face. Till then we must see and converse with him through the glass of his word. We must make his testimonies our counselors, and daily, with Mary, sit at Jesus' feet, by faith hearing his word. We shall then by happy experience find, that they are spirit and life, meat indeed and drink indeed, to our souls. ~ George Whitfield, Walking With God
SECONDLY, Believers keep up and maintain their walk with God by secret prayer. It is the very breath of the new creature, the fan of the divine life, whereby the spark of holy fire, kindled in the soul by God, is not only kept in, but raised into a flame. A neglect of secret prayer has been frequently an inlet to many spiritual diseases, and has been attended with fatal consequences. O prayer! Prayer! It brings and keeps God and man together. It raises man up to God, and brings God down to man. If you would there, O believers, keep up your walk with God; pray, pray without ceasing. Be much in secret, set prayer. ~ George Whitfield, Walking With God

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

My Year With Spurgeon: Week 43

A truth perverted is generally worse than a doctrine which all know to be false. ~ Charles Spurgeon, The Two Effects of the Gospel
“Now I must aim another blow at my antagonists the Arminians; I cannot help it. They will have it that sometimes the gospel is a savour of life unto death. They tell us that a man may receive spiritual life, and yet may die eternally. That is to say, a man may be forgiven, and yet be punished afterwards; he may be justified from all sin, and yet after that, his transgressions can be laid on his shoulders again. A man may be born of God, and yet die; a man may be loved of God, and yet God may hate him to-morrow. Oh! I cannot bear to speak of such doctrines of lies; let those believe them that like. As for me, I so deeply believe in the immutable love of Jesus that I suppose that if one believer were, to be in hell, Christ himself’ would not long stay in heaven, but would cry, “To the rescue!” Oh! if Jesus Christ were in glory with one the gems wanting in his crown, and Satan had that gem, he would say, “Aha! prince of light and glory, I have one of thy jewels!” and he would hold it up, and then he would say, “Aha! thou didst die for this man, but thou hadst not strength enough to save him; thou didst love him once—where is thy love? It is not worth having, for thou didst hate him afterwards!” And how would he chuckle over that heir of heaven, and hold him up, and say, “This man was redeemed; Jesus Christ purchased him with his blood:” and plunging him in the waves of hell, he would say, “There purchased one see how I can rob the Son of God!” And then again he would say, This man was forgiven, behold the justice of God! He is to be punished after he is forgiven. Christ suffered for this mans sins, and yet,” says Satan with a malignant joy, “I have him afterwards; for God exacted the punishment twice!” Shall that e’er be said? Ah! no. It is “a savour of life unto life,” and not of life unto death. Go, with your vile gospel; preach it where you please; but my Master said, “I give unto my sheep ETERNAL life.” You give to your sheep temporary life, and they lose it; but, says Jesus, “I give unto my sheep ETERNAL life, and they shall never perish, neither shall man pluck them out of my hands.” I generally wax warm when I got to this subject, because I think few doctrines more vital than that of the perseverance of the saints; for if ever one child of God did perish, or if I knew it were possible that one could, I should conclude, at once that I must , and suppose each of you would do the same; and then where is the joy and happiness of the gospel? Again I tell you the Arminian gospel is the shell without the kernel; it is the husk without the fruit; and those who love it may take it to themselves. We will not quarrel with them. Let them go and preach it. Let them go and tell poor sinners, that if they believe in Jesus they will be damned after all, that Jesus Christ will forgive them and yet the Father send them to hell. Go and preach your gospel, and who will listen to it? And if they do listen, is it worth their hearing? I say no; for if I am to stand after conversion on the same footing as I did before conversion then it is of no use for me to have been converted at all. But whom he loves he loves to the end. “Once in Christ, in Christ for ever; Nothing from his love can sever.” It is “a savour of life unto life.” And not only, “life unto life” in this world, but of “life unto life” eternal. Every one who has this life shall receive the next life; for “the Lord will give grace and glory, and no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.” ~ Charles Spurgeon, The Two Effects of the Gospel
THE MINISTER IS NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR HIS SUCCESS. He is responsible for what he preaches; he is accountable for his life and actions; but he is not responsible for other people. If I do but preach God’s word, if there never were a soul saved, the King would say, “Well done, good and faithful Servant!” If I do but tell my message, if none should listen to it, he would say, “Thou hast fought the good fight: receive thy crown.” ~ Charles Spurgeon, The Two Effects of the Gospel

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, October 28, 2013

Book Review: The Cat in the Window

The Cat in the Window And Other Stories of the Cats We Love. Callie Smith Grant, ed. 2013. Revell. 192 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Cat in the Window is a charming collection of true cat stories. There are many contributors to this collection: Callie Smith Grant, Vicki Crumpton, Andrea Doering, Alison Hodgson, Kathryn Ann Mays, Mark Muhich, Ila J. Smith, Mary Ann Osborn, Jill Eileen Smith, Robert Benson, Kathi Lipp, Pamela Allnutt, Donna Acton, Ed Peterson, Donna Hollingsworth with Pam Lione, Lonnie Hull DuPont, Cindy Crosby, Sandy Cathcart, April McGowan, Marilyn Guidinger, Melody Carlson, David Manuel, Jeanette Thomason, Cathy E. Watkins, and Dusty Rainbolt. Some are telling about current (or more recent) cats; some are reminiscing about former cats they've loved and lost. Some are meant to bring a laugh, others a smile. Some are definitely more emotional than others. I didn't connect with each and every story if I'm being honest. Some felt to be stories just featuring a cat. The cat was there when this happened in my life stories. Other stories, however, truly focus more on the special relationship between cats and their owners. You can imagine both types of stories being told in conversation: to friends, perhaps, or, even to strangers.

For anyone who enjoys cats, who loves cats, this one is a good, enjoyable collection.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Thoughts on Jonah

I am continuing to read and love the Gospel Transformation Bible (ESV). It is quickly becoming well-loved, and it's beginning to look comfortable. Last night I read Jonah. Colin Smith was the study note contributor for Jonah.

From the introduction:
On the surface, the story of Jonah lends itself to a moralistic interpretation: God sends Jonah to the notoriously evil city of Ninevah (Jonah 1:1-2), but Jonah runs away instead (Jonah 1:3). So God sends a storm and a fish to rescue Jonah from his disobedience (ch. 2), he tells Jonah to go a second time (Jonah 3:1-2), and finally Jonah gives in and obeys (Jonah 3:3). Then God rewards Jonah's obedience by bringing him surprising success among the Ninevites (Jonah 3:6-10)
But this interpretation leaves us with a number of problematic questions: Why is chapter 4 included? Why isn't our hero, Jonah, a better model of obedience in the end? Why is he still angry after his success in Ninevah? Once we begin to pull back the layers of this story, we discover that it is not really about what Jonah is doing for God, but what God is doing for Jonah.
Jonah is about the disturbing possibility that, having pledged our life to God, we could end up spending much of that life avoiding the God we set out to serve. You may have already discovered this strange contradiction that lies at the heart of all Christian experience: while loving Christ, you find yourself turning from him; while trusting Christ, you often battle fear and anxiety; while serving Christ, you sometimes struggle with disappointment about certain events in your life. You are not alone!
Some people teach us by their example; Jonah teaches us by his weakness. By confessing his own failures, Jonah holds up a mirror for us to see the struggles and enigmas of our Christian lives (1 Cor 10:11). He wants us to discover the grace of God--which, once we see it, is stronger than all our fears, anxieties, and disappointments. The real hero in the story is God. We catch glimpses of God's extraordinary patience with weak people like Jonah (Jonah 3:1-2, 4:4, 9-10), his relentless pursuit of lost people like the Ninevites (Jonah 1:2, 4:11), and the ultimate victory of his love (Jonah 2:9; 3:10)
From the commentary on Jonah 1:1-3
When God calls us to something new, he is always up to something good. However difficult the call may be, it is one of grace and it is for our ultimate joy. Reflect for a moment on the contrast between Jonah and Jesus.
Jonah was in a good place, doing good work, enjoying a good life. Then God said, "Jonah, I want you to go to another place, and do a different work for the sake of the people I love; people who are facing an imminent judgment." Jonah said, "No."
Jesus was in heaven, ruling the universe by the word of his power. Adored by angels, he was in the best place, doing the best work, and enjoying the best life. Then the Father said, "Go to another place, where you will be utterly rejected. You will live a life that will lead to torture, crucifixion, and death. You will become an atoning sacrifice for people I love who are facing an eternal judgment." Jesus said, "Yes."
Recognizing that Jesus did all this on our behalf moves us from being the kind of people who care about our own comfort, reputation, and success, to caring more about the people all around us, whom we are called to love and serve. Loved much, we are freed to love much. (Luke 7:47)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Week in Review: October 20-26

Reminder: I'm hosting a mini-challenge for the month of November. We'll be celebrating the book of Psalms. I've selected 30 Psalms, one for each day of November. You are, of course, welcome to read the whole book of Psalms in November! I'd encourage it, in fact. But I've chosen thirty that represent the best of the best of the best!

If you're just in for the 30 psalms, here is the list:
Psalms 1, 19, 23, 25, 27, 32, 34, 37, 42, 46, 47, 51, 57, 63, 66, 71, 84, 91, 95, 98, 100, 103, 107, 119, 121, 130, 138, 139, 145, 148.

Please let me know if you're considering joining me!

This week I read:


  • Jeremiah 32-52
  • Lamentations
  • Ezekiel
  • Daniel
  • Hosea
  • Joel
  • Amos
  • Obadiah
  • Jonah
  • Micah
  • Nahum
  • Habakkuk
  • Zephaniah
  • Haggai
  • Zechariah
  • Malachi
  • Matthew 1-12

ESV Gospel Transformation Bible

  • Exodus 28-40
  • Leviticus 1-8
  • 1 Samuel 24-31
  • Ezra 
  • Job 32-42
  • Psalms 1-41
  • Isaiah 35-66
  • Hosea
  • Joel
  • Amos
  • Obadiah
  • Jonah
  • Matthew 26-28
  • Mark
  • 1 Corinthians
  • 2 Corinthians 
  • Hebrews 4-13


  • Psalms 42-150
  • Acts

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Treasury of Truth: Give Thanks Edition

In November, I hope you'll join me in reading Psalms. I'd love to have you join me in reading all 150 chapters. But, I also know that the number may overwhelm or intimidate those not in the habit of Bible reading. So I've got an alternate plan in place: I've chosen thirty--one for each day of November. If you're just in for the 30 psalms, here is the list:

Psalms 1, 19, 23, 25, 27, 32, 34, 37, 42, 46, 47, 51, 57, 63, 66, 71, 84, 91, 95, 98, 100, 103, 107, 119, 121, 130, 138, 139, 145, 148.

If you'd like to read the whole book of Psalms, there are a few methods I can recommend. The thirty day plan involves reading five chapters a day. If you read ten chapters a day, you can finish the book in fifteen days. (If you just read Psalms on weekdays, that's three weeks.)
There is a certain sense in which God's sovereignty should influence our attitude toward prayer, at least with respect to adoration. If anything, our understanding of God's sovereignty should provoke us to an intense prayer life of thanksgiving. Because of such knowledge, we should see that every benefit, every good and perfect gift, is an expression of the abundance of His grace. The more we understand God's sovereignty, the more our prayers will be filled with thanksgiving. ~ R.C. Sproul, Does Prayer Change Things
I have often said that prayer and praise are like the breathing in and out of air and make up that spiritual respiration by which the inner life is instrumentally supported. We take in an inspiration of heavenly air as we pray; we breathe it out again in praise unto God from whom it came. If, then, we would be healthy in spirit, let us be abundant in thanksgiving. Prayer, like the root of a tree, seeks for and finds nutriment; praise, like the fruit, renders a revenue to the owner of the vineyard. Prayer is for ourselves; praise is for God. Let us never be so selfish as to abound in the one and fail in the other. (Charles Spurgeon, The Practice of Praise, 93)
What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. (A.W. Tozer, Knowledge of the Holy, 1)
Faith is born and sustained by the Word of God, and out of faith grows the flower of joy. ~ John Piper, Desiring God, 127
How long should a person thank God for forgiving his sins? Is life long enough? Is time long enough? Is eternity long enough? How long should a man thank God for saving him from going down to hell? Would fifty years suffice? Oh, no, that would never do; the blessing is too great to all be sung of in a millennium. (Charles Spurgeon, Power in the Blood, 69)
Week One, November 1-9:
Psalms 1, 19, 23, 25, 27, 32, 34, 37, 42
Psalms 1-45
Extra Credit: Read Philippians 1

Week Two, November 10-16
Psalms 46, 47, 51, 57 63, 66, 71,
Psalms 46-80
Extra Credit: Read Philippians 2

Week Three, November 17-23
Psalms 84, 91, 95, 98, 100, 103, 107,
Psalms 81-115
Extra Credit: Read Philippians 3

Week Four, November 24-30
Psalms 119, 121, 130, 138, 139, 145, 148
Psalms 116-150
Extra Credit: Read Philippians 4

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Movie Review: When Calls The Heart

My expectations were low, and I was not disappointed. Why such low expectations? Adaptations of books can be awful. The greater the book is to begin with, the more it can be ruined in adaptations. Fair books can actually be improved upon by others when adapted to film. While I enjoyed the adaptation of Love Comes Softly, to a certain degree, the others--what I could bring myself to watch after--were not so good.

When Calls The Heart is probably my favorite Janette Oke book. The romance is giddy-making. It is completely charming. None of that translates into this adaptation.

Two Elizabeths. There are TWO Elizabeth Thatchers. Viewers are first introduced to a spoiled Elizabeth Thatcher living in luxury with her family. Great emphasis is placed on her closeness with her sister, Julie. This Elizabeth Thatcher receives a teaching assignment to Coal Valley, I believe. She is out of sorts with what to make of this. Does she want to leave life-as-she-knows-it behind her? Does she want to go out West? Does she have the inner strength and resources to be independent and all grown up? Her sister, Julie, is intrusive and obnoxious. Julie decides that she must go out of her way to convince her sister to stay home, to turn the job down. There is nothing Julie won't do to convince her sister to stay by her side. Julie turns to her good-friend-and-probably-boyfriend, Edward, who has recently become a Mountie, for help. Together, surely, they can pull enough pranks to make Elizabeth stay. During this time, Elizabeth finds a hidden, oh-so-secret diary from ANOTHER Elizabeth Thatcher. This is a never-spoken-about Aunt who essentially vanished from the family and was never heard from again...after she conveniently left her diary behind in their possession. Julie has read the diary. Now Elizabeth is reading the diary. By the end, Edward has read the diary too. The Elizabeth-in-the-diary is supposedly THE Elizabeth Thatcher from Janette Oke's When Calls The Heart. True, this diary-Elizabeth isn't really shown having a family...HER family having been given to her niece...(Jon, Julie, etc.) But the diary-Elizabeth does have the Pine Springs school, and the diary-Elizabeth does have Wynn.

Flashbacks and Framework. It's not that movies within a framework and rich in flashbacks are impossible. The problem here is that they missed everything that truly made Elizabeth who she is. They've focused on humiliation. Let's all laugh at Elizabeth. But the charm is gone. I think one of the reasons why is that so much is missing. We're told that Elizabeth and Wynn share a picnic together. We don't see the picnic. We see Wynn inviting Elizabeth to a special Mountie-dance in Calgary. We don't see the dance. We see Elizabeth sharing her feelings with Wynn to Wynn's sister-in-law. We're told that Wynn has told Elizabeth he doesn't ever plan to marry. But where are the scenes showing Elizabeth and Wynn together?! These are few and far between. And almost all of them occur before the misunderstanding is cleared up. Why would anyone think this romance is swoon-worthy???

There is potential romance between the niece-Elizabeth and Edward (if you forget that he's spent much of the first half of the movie attached to Julie). Edward has been instructed by Elizabeth's father to accompany his daughter to her job as an escort. They go by train...and then stagecoach... I'll be honest, Edward and Elizabeth's potential relationship was the only promising element of this movie, yet it remains undeveloped, of course, because this movie has no true resolution because the whole point is to introduce a new series.

The worst thing about this adaptation, however, was how the story was ROBBED of its spiritual integrity. The adaptation is just theologically BAD.

From the book:
But Andy did not return. He died during surgery in the Calgary hospital. We were told that even the nurses who attended him wept when the small boy lost his battle for life. It was a Wednesday afternoon when we all gathered at the school-house for Andy’s short funeral service. Mr. Dickerson read the scripture, and a visiting priest gave the last rites. We then left for the little cemetery on the hill. Many of my pupils were crying as we filed from the school-room. Else Peterson and Mindy Blake clung to each of my hands. My eyes were overflowing, but I was able to keep the sobs from shaking me...
It was a short distance to the cemetery so we walked to it, the little procession, with the small pine casket at its head, stirring up little pillowy swirls of dust. The day was bright, the autumn sun glistening in a tranquil sky. A few clouds skittered across the blueness. The leaves still clinging to the trees were in full dress, but many others lay scattered on the ground, rustling at each stirring of the breeze...
Else broke our silence. “Andy would have liked this day,,” she whispered, looking up at its brightness; and I knew that she was right. I could imagine the gentle little boy with his shining eyes cheering this day on. “You did good,” he would exclaim to the beautiful morning. “You did good.” I cried then, the great sobs shaking my whole body. I remembered the last time that I had wept, and how the little boy in my embrace had reached up awkwardly, and yet tenderly, to brush away my tears. “You did good, Teacher,” he had whispered. And now that small boy had passed beyond—so young to journey on alone. But then I remembered that he hadn’t traveled alone—not one step of the way, for as soon as the loving hands had released him here, another Hand had reached out to gently take him. I tried to visualize him entering that new Land, the excitement and eagerness shining forth on his face, the cheers raising from the shrill little voice. There would be no pain twisting his face now, no need to hold his head and rock back and forth. Joy and happiness would surround him. I could almost hear his words as he looked at the glories of heaven and gave the Father his jubilant ovation—“You did good, God; You did real good!”
The grieving scene in the movie was all kinds of wrong. It begins with a why discussion and a question from a trouble-maker, Carl, who insists that God couldn't be a caring God. Elizabeth's response is startling. It starts weak and gets progressively worse. She tells Carl, that it is all about assumptions. We can't assume God doesn't care about us. Assumptions are silly and wrong and make us weak and foolish. Assuming something means believing something without any proof. Here's where it goes horribly wrong:
(Aunt/Diary) Elizabeth: You see, we all assume much of the time. And maybe we do that with God as well.
Carl: So if we can't assume that God doesn't care. Then we can't assume he does, right?
Elizabeth: Yes, Carl, that's right. But all of us including me need to dig for what is true. For example, I care about you all and I love you very much.
There are so many things wrong with this conversation. We can know that God cares. He has revealed Himself to us. He has made known to us His character. He has made known to us His works. He has shown He CARES for us above and beyond. He showed this ultimately, of course, in JESUS. From Genesis to Revelation, God is revealed as a God who SEES, who LISTENS, who UNDERSTANDS, who RESPONDS. He is a God who seeks us and encourages us to SEEK HIM in return. God is God. No question about his authority or sovereignty. But also no question about His goodness, His lovingkindness, His mercy, His grace. God has not treated us as we deserved. God has treated us BETTER than we deserved. He has provided the way, the truth, the life. He has provided a way to be reconciled, a way to be forgiven. Here's the thing: The Bible reveals deep, beautiful promises; it speaks truth and only truth. So much can be known, can be experienced, by those who SEEK to know the book and its author. Elizabeth could have spoken of God's promises, of God's goodness, of God's grace. She could have opened up the Bible to John 11:1-44 or John 14:1-7. It is not like there are just a small number of verses that would have been encouraging and uplifting and comforting. The Bible is incredibly, beautifully, amazingly rich. Even Elizabeth's knowing "Jesus Loves Me" would have helped. Or "Amazing Grace" for that matter. Music can bring together sorrow and hope naturally.

"To Dig for What Is True." That is almost an insult to push aside God's Revelation which apparently "can't be assumed..." in order to take comfort in the fact that dear-old-Elizabeth, their brand-new teacher LOVES them oh-so-much. Isn't that a cozy thought. You can not assume that God loves you or cares for you, but you can know that I love you. Let's hope she didn't share her perspective with the dying Andy.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, October 25, 2013

Quoting A.B. Simpson #5

From Days of Heaven Upon Earth: A Year Book of Scripture Texts and Living Truths. A.B. Simpson. Originally Published 1897. 372 pages.
If we truly desire His Presence more than all else, we will turn away from every conflicting thought and look steadily up to Jesus.
The real secret of perfect rest is to be jealously, habitually occupied with Jesus.
The resurrection will mean no more than the death has meant. Only so far as we are really dead shall we live with Him.
Every true life is death-born, and the deeper the dying the truer the living.
May 14. “But God” (Luke 12:20). What else do we really need? What else is He trying to make us understand? The religion of the Bible is wholly supernatural. The one resource of faith has always been the living God, and Him alone. The children of Israel were utterly dependent upon Jehovah as they marched through the wilderness, and the one reason their foes feared them and hastened to submit themselves was that they recognized among them the shout of a King, and the presence of One compared with whom all their strength was vain. “Wherein,” asked Moses, “shall we be separated from all other peoples of the earth, except it be in this that Thou goest before us.” A church relying on human wisdom, wealth or resources, ceases to be the body of Christ and becomes an earthly society. When we dare to depend entirely upon God and without doubt, the humblest and feeblest agencies will become “mighty through God, to the pulling down of strongholds.” May the Holy Spirit give to us at all times, His own conception of these two great words, “But God.”
Christ is developing a perfect life within us. Some say man can never be perfect. “It is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.” We are all a lot of failures. This is true, but we should go further. We must take God's provision for our failure and rise above it through His grace. We must take Jesus as a substitute for our miserable self. We must give up the good as well as the bad and take Him instead. It is hard for us to learn that the very good must go, but we must have Divine impulses instead of even our best attainments.
A precious secret of Christian life is to have Jesus dwelling within the heart and conquering things that we never could overcome. It is the only secret of power in your life and mine, beloved. Men cannot understand it, nor will the world believe it; but it is true, that God will come to dwell within us, and be the power, and the purity, and the victory, and the joy of our life. It is no longer now, “What is the best that I can do?” but the question is, “What is the best that Christ can do?” It enables us to say, with Paul, in that beautiful passage in Philippians, “I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound, everywhere and in all things, I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me.
May 21. “We will come unto Him and make our abode with Him” (John 14:23). The Bible has always held out two great promises respecting Christ. First, I will come to you; and, second, I will come into you. For four thousand years the world looked forward to the fulfilment of the first. The other is the secret which Paul says has been hid from ages and generations, but is now made manifest to His saints, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. This is just as great a revelation of God as the incarnation of Jesus, for it makes you like Christ, as free from sin as He is. If Christ is in you, what will be the consequences? Why, He will put you aside entirely. The I in you will go. You will say, “Not I, but Christ.” Christ undertakes your battles for you. Christ becomes purity and grace and strength in you. You do not try to attain unto these things, but you know you have obtained them in Him. It is glorious rest with the Master. Jesus does not say, “Now we must bring forth fruit, we must pray much, we must do this or that.” There is no constraint about it, except that we must abide in Him. That is the center of all joy and help.
Many Christians fail to see these blessings as they are centered in Him. They want to get the blessing of salvation, but that is not the Christ. They want to get the blessing of His grace to help, but that is not Him. They want to get answered prayer from Him to work for Him. You might have all that and not have the blessing of Christ Himself. A great many people are attached rather to the system of doctrine. They say, “Yes, I have got the truth; I am orthodox.” That is not the Christ. It may be the cold statue in the fountain with the water passing from the cold hands and lips, but no life there. A great many other people want to get the blessing of joy, but it is not the blessing of Christ personally. A great many people are more attached to their church and pastor, or to dear Christians friends, but that is not the Christ. The blessing that will alone fill your heart when all else fails is the loving heart of Jesus united to you, the fountain of all your blessings and the unfailing one when they all wither and are exhausted—Jesus Christ Himself.
There are two cares in this verse—your care and His care. They are different in the original. One means anxious care, the other means Almighty care. Cast your anxious care on Him and take His Almighty care instead. Make no account of trouble any more, but believe He is able to sustain you through it.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Book Review: Return to Me

Return to Me. Lynn Austin. 2013. Bethany House. 464 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I definitely enjoyed Lynn Austin's Chronicle of the Kings series. I was thrilled to learn that she was writing more biblical fiction. Return To Me is the first in her Restoration Chronicles. The novel spans at least two decades. It opens with the good news: the exiles are being allowed to return to Jerusalem; they are even encouraged to rebuild the temple! The good news is received with joy and thanksgiving by some. But not by all. Many have grown good and comfortable in Babylon. Many would rather stay in Babylon where life is good, really good, and definitely known. This "good news" definitely divides families. Some choosing to stay; some choosing to go; some saying, you go now, we'll come later.

Return to Me has two main narrators: Iddo, a Levite, a priest, and his young grandson, Zechariah. These two are really the only believers in their family--at least for most of the novel. Iddo leaves most of his children and grandchildren behind in Babylon, but, his call to return home, to return to Jerusalem is so strong, that he'll do anything, risk anything, to obey. One of the things he risks is the wrath of his wife. His wife, Dinah, does NOT want to return, does NOT want to leave her children because some God that she only half-heartedly believes in some of the time has spoken this or that promise, does NOT want to leave her good life behind to go to some place she doesn't even care about and build some old temple. She follows her husband out of duty, not love. Zechariah is Iddo's grandson. He's just turned thirteen or so when the novel opens. He is EXCITED about returning. He is even leaving his parents behind. He is following God's call and is completely trusting God to make it all work for good.

The women characters in Return to Me, for the most part, annoyed me. While it is true that both characters--Iddo's wife and Zechariah's future wife (Yael)--have found redemption and grace by the end, and that may be the whole point of the book, God showing grace to otherwise worthless people, I still found them to be incredibly obnoxious.  Yael, for example, worships several Babylonian gods. She is a seer, a sorceress. She hides this idol worship from some, but not all, of her community. She makes easy friends with the Samaritans because she reads the stars and predicts the future and worships a good number of gods. Dinah, Iddo's wife, commits adultery when she's angry at her husband and blaming him for something he had absolutely nothing to do with. "But he promised he'd take me back to Babylon." I think the part that annoyed me most was his response, how he was actually willing to go back to Babylon to pacify his wife and keep her, to give into her whining demands. Of course, she came to her senses and experienced a call of her own, I suppose, before that happened. But still.

I found Return to Me to be an interesting read. I didn't necessarily "love" the characters, but I thought they were all very human. I think the book is challenging and thought provoking. The characters that I found most annoying and obnoxious were the very ones in need of grace, forgiveness, and compassion. It would be easy to say, well, forget about those people, God can't use them, God couldn't possibly love them, just look at them, and, yet, this story illustrates "the impossible." Grace is unmerited. Grace is not given to people who have earned it, who are good and nice and easy to get along with, who are moral and upstanding. Grace is for desperate people covered inside and out with the scars of sins past and present.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Quoting George Whitfield #1

The fall of man is written in too legible characters not to be understood: Those that deny it, by their denying, prove it. ~ George Whitfield, "The Seed of the Woman, and the Seed of the Serpent"
Before God gave a revelation of his Son, man was a riddle to himself. And Moses unfolds more, in this one chapter (out of which the text is taken, Genesis 3, Genesis 3:15) than all mankind could have been capable of finding out of themselves, though they had studied to all eternity. ~ George Whitfield, "The Seed of the Woman, and the Seed of the Serpent"
How many does Satan lead captive at his will, by flattering them, that they shall not surely die; that hell torments will not be eternal; that God is all mercy; that he therefore will not punish a few years sin with an eternity of misery? But Eve found God as good as his word; and so will all they who go on in sin, under a false hope that they shall not surely die. ~ George Whitfield, "The Seed of the Woman, and the Seed of the Serpent"
We labor to cover our nakedness with the fig-leaves of our own righteousness: We hide ourselves from God as long as we can, and will not come, and never should come, did not the Father prevent, draw, and sweetly constrain us by his grace, as he here prevented Adam. ~ George Whitfield, "The Seed of the Woman, and the Seed of the Serpent"
This pride we are all subject to by the fall; and, till our hearts are broken, and made contrite by the spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ, we shall be always charging God foolishly. ~ George Whitfield, "The Seed of the Woman, and the Seed of the Serpent"
Secure sinners must hear the thunderings of mount Sinai, before we bring them to mount Zion. ~ George Whitfield, "The Seed of the Woman, and The Seed of the Serpent"
We must first show people they are condemned, and then show them how they must be saved. But how and when to preach the law, and when to apply the promises of the gospel, wisdom is profitable to direct. ~ George Whitfield, "The Seed of the Woman, and the Seed of the Serpent"
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

My Year With Spurgeon Week 42

If we can look upon all the things in the world and say, “As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied by-and-bye!” then we cannot envy other men, because their lot would not be adapted to our peculiar taste. ~ Charles Spurgeon, The Hope of Future Bliss
Christian! live on the future; seek nothing here, but expect that thou shalt shine when thou shalt come in the likeness of Jesus, with him to be admired, and to kneel before his face adoringly. ~ Charles Spurgeon, The Hope of Future Bliss
The text is fragrant with confidence. “As for me,” says David, no perhaps about it. “I will behold thy face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake up in thy likeness.” If some men should say so now, they would be called fanatics, and it would be considered presumption for any man to say, “I will behold thy face, I shall be satisfied;” and I think there are many now in this world who think it is quite impossible for a man to say to a certainty, “I know, I am sure, I am certain.” But, beloved, there are not one or two, but there are thousands and thousands of God’s people alive in this world who can say with an assured confidence, no more doubting of it than of their very existence, “I will behold thy face in righteousness. I shall be satisfied, when I awake in thy likeness.” It is possible, though perhaps not very easy, to attain to that high and eminent position wherein we can say no longer do I hope, but I know; no longer do I trust, but I am persuaded; I have a happy confidence; I am sure of it; I an certain; for God has so manifested himself to me that now it is no longer “if” and “perhaps” but it is positive, eternal, “shall.” “I shall be satisfied when I awake in thy likeness.” [Psalm 17:15] ~ Charles Spurgeon, The Hope of Future Bliss
Satisfaction! this is another joy for the Christian when he shall enter heaven. Here we are never thoroughly satisfied. True, the Christian is satisfied from himself; he has that within which is a wet-spring of comfort, and he can enjoy solid satisfaction. But heaven is the home of true and real satisfaction. When the believer enters heaven I believe his imagination will be thoroughly satisfied. All he has ever thought of he will there see; every holy idea will be solidified; every mighty conception will become a reality, every glorious imagination will become a tangible thing that he can see. His imagination will not be able to think of anything better than heaven; and should he sit down through eternity, he would not be able to conceive of anything that should outshine the lustre of that glorious city. His imagination will be satisfied. Then his intellect will be satisfied. “Then shall I see, and hear, and know, All I desired, or wished, below.” Who is satisfied with his knowledge here? Are there not secrets we want to know, depths in the arcana of nature that we have not entered? But in that glorious state we shall know as much as we want to know. The memory will be satisfied. We shall look back upon the vista of past years, and we shall be content with whatever we endured, or did, or suffered on earth. “There, on a green and flowery mound, My wearied soul shall sit, And with transporting joys recount The labors of my feet.” Hope will be satisfied, if there be such a thing in heaven. We shall hope for a future eternity, and believe in it. But we shall be satisfied as to our hopes continually: and the whole man will be so content that there will not remain a single thing in all God’s dealings, that he would wish to have altered; yea, perhaps I say a thing at which some of you will demur—but the righteous in heaven will be quite satisfied with the damnation of the lost. I used to think that if I could see the lost in hell, surely I must weep for them. Could I hear their horrid wailings, and see the dreadful contortions of their anguish, surely I must pity them. But there is no such sentiment as that known in heaven. The believer shall be there so satisfied with all God’s will, that he will quite forget the lost in the idea that God has done it for the best, that even their loss has been their own fault, and that he is infinitely just in it. If my parents could see me in hell they would not have a tear to shed for me, though they were in heaven, for they would say, “It is justice, thou great God; and thy justice must be magnified, as well as thy mercy;” and moreover, they would feel that God was so much above his creatures that they would be satisfied to see those creatures crushed if it might increase God’s glory. Oh! in heaven I believe we shall think rightly of men. Here men seem great things to us; but in heaven they will seem no more than a few creeping insects that are swept away in ploughing a field for harvest; they will appear no more than a tiny handful of dust, or like some nest of wasps that ought to be exterminated for the injury they have done. They will appear such little things when we sit on high with God, and look down on the nations of the earth as grasshoppers, and “count the isles as very little things.” We shall be satisfied with everything; there will not be a single thing to complain of. ~ Charles Spurgeon, The Hope of Future Bliss
The moment we begin to live we begin to die. ~ Charles Spurgeon, The Hope of Future Bliss 
Sinner is your Christian name, and lost is your surname; therefore, why not come? ~ Charles Spurgeon, The Hope of Future Bliss
“This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners of whom I am chief.” “Yes, but,” another one says, “I am afraid I am not elect.” Oh! dear souls, do not trouble yourselves about that. If you believe in Christ you are elect. Whoever puts himself on the mercy of Jesus is elect; for he would never do it if he had not been elect. Whoever comes to Christ, and looks for mercy through his blood, is elect, and he shall see that he is elect afterwards; but do not expect to read election till you have read repentance. Election is a college to which you little ones will not go till you have been to the school of repentance. Do not begin to read your book backwards, and say Amen before you have said your paternoster. Begin with “Our Father,” and then you will go on to “thine is the kingdom the power and the glory;” but begin with “the kingdom,” and you will have hard work to go back to “Our Father.” We must begin with faith. We must begin with— “Nothing in my hands I bring.” As God made the world out of nothing, he always makes his Christians out of nothing; and he who has nothing at all to-night, shall find grace and mercy, if he will come for it. Let me close up by telling you what I have heard of some poor woman, who was converted and brought to life, just by passing down a street, and hearing a child, sitting at a door, singing— “I am nothing at all But Jesus Christ is all in all.” That is a blessed song; go home and sing it; and he who can rightly apprehend those little words, who can feel himself vanity without Jesus, but that he has all things in Christ, is not only far from the kingdom of heaven, but he is there in faith, and shall be there in fruition, when be shall wake up in God’s likeness. ~ Charles Spurgeon, The Hope of Future Bliss

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, October 21, 2013

Heroes of Prayer

From Does Prayer Change Things? (Crucial Questions) R.C. Sproul. 1998. Reformation Trust. 88 pages. [Source: Bought]

The Scriptures do not provide a similar catalogue of the heroes of prayer, but such a list could be compiled easily. Using the same format as does the writer of Hebrews, let us examine a partial list of the accomplishments of prayer:

• By prayer, Esau's heart was changed toward Jacob, so that they met in a friendly, rather than hostile, manner (Gen. 32). 
• By the prayer of Moses, God brought the plagues upon Egypt and then removed them again (Ex. 7-11). 
• By prayer, Joshua made the sun stand still (Josh. 10). 
• By prayer, when Samson was ready to perish with thirst, God brought water out of a hollow place for his sustenance (Judg. 15). 
• By prayer, the strength of Samson was restored. He pulled down the temple of Dagon on the Philistines, so that those whom he killed as he died were more than all he had killed in his life (Judg. 16). 
• By prayer, Elijah held back the rains for three and a half years. Then by prayer, he caused it to rain again (1 Kings 17-18). 
• By the prayer of Hezekiah, God sent an angel and killed in one night 185,000 men in Sennacherib's army (2 Kings 19). 
• By the prayer of Asa, God confounded the army of Zerah (2 Chron. 14). 

Time would fail me to tell of Abraham, who prayed for and received a son at the age of one hundred years; and Moses, who received help at the Red Sea; and the Israelites, who were delivered from Egypt after much prayer; and David, who escaped the treachery of Saul by prayer; and Solomon, who received great wisdom as the result of prayer; and Daniel, who was able to interpret dreams after prayer. People were delivered from peril, healed from diseases, saw loved ones cured, and witnessed innumerable miracles as the result of fervent prayer. 

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Week in Review: October 13-19

This week I read:


  • Psalm 107-150
  • Proverbs
  • Ecclesiastes
  • Song of Solomon
  • Isaiah 
  • Jeremiah 1-31

ESV Gospel Transformation

  • Exodus 11-27
  • 1 Samuel 9-23
  • Job 1-31
  • Isaiah 14-34
  • Haggai
  • Zechariah
  • Malachi
  • Matthew 1-25
  • Romans 4-16
  • Titus
  • Philemon
  • Hebrews 1-3
  • James
  • 1 Peter
  • 2 Peter


  • Psalms 1-41
  • Matthew
  • Mark
  • Luke
  • John


  • John 11-21

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Bible Review: The Gospel Transformation Bible

Gospel Transformation Bible (ESV). 2013. Crossway. 1904 pages. [Source: Review Copy]

THE CHRISTIAN IS ALWAYS pleased and delighted when he can see Christ in the Scriptures. If he can but detect the footstep of his lord, and discover that the sacred writers are making some reference to him, however indistinct or dark he will rejoice there at: for all the Scriptures are nothing except as we find Christ in them. ~ Charles Spurgeon, "A Wise Desire"

How is the Gospel Transformation Bible different from other Bibles? Is it a necessary or beneficial publication? Who is the best match for the Gospel Transformation Bible?

I hope to answer these questions in this review of the Gospel Transformation Bible.

New Bibles are being published every year. Every translation, it seems, has something new to offer each year. Some of these are truly new, such as the case with the Gospel Transformation Bible, and others not quite as much. For example, bibles being released in personal size; bibles being released as e-books; bibles being released in different translations. (2013 sees the release of the NIV MacArthur Study Bible. It is now available in NKJV, NASB, ESV, and NIV). Some seem a bit superficial. (Text-only bibles with the focus on the cover image: puppies, kittens, cupcakes, oh my!)

Is the Gospel Transformation Bible different from other Bibles? Yes. Is it different from other study Bibles? Yes. Is it REALLY different from other study Bibles? Yes! Despite what you may think, not all study notes are the same, are created equal. The Gospel Transformation study notes are different from the notes you'll find in the MacArthur Study Bible, are different from the notes you'd find in the ESV Study Bible, are different from the notes you'd find in the ESV Student Study Bible. Every Bible has a purpose. Here is the purpose of the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible:
The goal of the Gospel Transformation Bible is twofold: 1) to enable readers to understand that the whole Bible is a unified message of the gospel of God's grace culminating in Christ Jesus 2) to help believers apply this good news to their everyday lives in a heart-transforming way. (vii)
The focus is on the gospel, on grace, on Jesus Christ. God gets all the glory with this one. It is all about helping readers connect-the-dots so that they see the big picture of the Bible. The focus of the study notes is not overly scholarly. It isn't Hebrew this, Greek that. It isn't about historical background or archaeology or geography. The focus is on what Christ has done and how that translates into your life--if you're a believer.

I love the book introductions; I love the study notes. Here are examples from both:

From the introduction to John
Setting out to find a gospel-focus in John's Gospel might seem like the "challenge" of finding a mountain in a photo montage of the Swiss Alps--an exercise in the obvious. Yet there is a great difference between holding a travel brochure in your hand and actually standing at the base of the Alps. It is the difference between pleasant thoughts and soul-gripping wonder; a curious imagination and awe-fueled adoration; being well studied, and being knee-buckling stunned. John's Gospel is written not just to inform our minds but to inflame our hearts. Think of John's Gospel not so much as a book but as a destination. John is a tour guide of the Alps of the gospel. 
From the commentary on John 5:18-47
Our adoption is secured by Jesus' propitiating (turning away, satisfying) God's wrath. According to Jesus, the only way we can derive life from the Scriptures is to see Jesus in the Scriptures, for all the Scriptures bear witness to him (John 5:30-47; cf. Luke 24:27, 44-47). The entire Bible, Genesis to Revelation, is ultimately about Jesus. Throughout Scripture God is unfolding the grace that culminates in Christ (John 5:39-40). The Bible is therefore not fundamentally about what we do for God but what God does for us.
From the commentary on Micah 6:8
This text is frequently quoted summary of godly living, and rightly so. This is the godly life, the beautiful life. To it we are called. Let us strive to embody Micah 6:8 in our lives. And let us do so in a way that gladly acknowledges that we will never "do justice" and "love kindness" and "walk humbly" with God as we should. Only Jesus lived this way perfectly. But the wonder of the gospel is that he did it in our place and transfers his record of perfect righteousness to all those joined to him by faith.

From the commentary on Ruth 1:6-13
But death of loved ones is ultimately the result of living in a fallen world; it comes to all. Far from being against her, the Lord is working through Naomi's grievous circumstances to bring into the world One who ultimately will redeem her and all his people from death forever. (Col. 2:13-15, 2 Tim. 1:10;Rev. 21:4)

Audience. Who is the best match for the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible?

New believers of all ages. It could easily be read if you're 11 or if you're 81. The notes are clear, relevant, and are not condescending. I thought the notes and introductions were quite accessible, very reader-friendly. Some "study" Bibles are way too intimidating to recommend to new believers. The goal should be to encourage them to read and grow, to fall in love with the gospel, to fall more and more in love with God. The goal should not be to overwhelm them with technical details that have little impact on their lives.

Old believers who are new to the Word. For better or worse, it is TRUE that most Christians do not read the Bible on a regular basis. It is true that most Christians are anorexic--spiritually starving. If you believe, as I do, that

Scripture reading is our spiritual meal time. Sound the gong and call in every faculty to the Lord's own table to feast upon the precious meat which is now to be partaken of; or, rather, ring the church-bell as for worship, for the studying of the Holy Scripture ought to be as solemn a deed as when we lift the psalm upon the Sabbath day in the courts of the Lord's house. If these things be so, you will see at once, dear friends, that, if you are to understand what you read, you will need to meditate upon it. ~ Charles Spurgeon, How to Read the Bible
We shall be the people that get the profit out of it if we make it to be our food, our medicine, our treasury, our armour, our rest, our delight. May the Holy Ghost lead us to do this and make the Word thus precious to our souls. ~ Charles Spurgeon, How To Read the Bible

Believers may have been saved ten, twenty, thirty years ago, but it is NEVER too late to start reading the Bible and growing in the faith.

Believers who LOVE the Bible, and KNOW the Bible, but, feel that the gospel cannot be outgrown. That the gospel is something we need to preach to ourselves daily.

In Note to Self, for example, we read:
Preaching to ourselves is the personal act of applying the law and the gospel to our own lives with the aim of experiencing the transforming grace of God leading to ongoing faith, repentance, and greater godliness. (Joe Thorn, Note to Self, 24)
To preach to yourself is to challenge yourself, push yourself, and point yourself to the truth. It is not so much uncovering new truth as much as it is reminding yourself of the truth you tend to forget. (Joe Thorn, Note To Self, 32)
And from Don't Call It A Comeback:
Once God rescues sinners, his plan isn't to steer them beyond the gospel but to move them more deeply into it. After all, the only antidote to sin is the gospel--and since Christians remain sinners even after they're converted, the gospel must be the medicine a Christian takes every day. Since we never leave off sinning, we can never leave the gospel. (Tullian Tchividjian, "Worship It's A Big Deal", 221)
And from Jesus + Nothing = Everything:
By daily preaching this gospel to ourselves, we can more readily see and confront all the idols in our lives--including those we may not be quite as aware of. We will be able to recognize that every temptation to sin is a temptation to not believe the gospel... when we succumb to temptation, we are failing to believe in that moment that everything we need, in Christ we already have. (Tullian Tchividjian, Jesus + Nothing = Everything, 96)

The Gospel Transformation Bible will not take the place of other study Bibles. The MacArthur study notes, for example, are outstanding in their depth, their quality. For those that want to dig, dig, dig into the Bible and study it, make a lifelong study of it, then substantive resources like the MacArthur Study Bible or the ESV Study Bible are well worth buying. The notes are expansive, informative, thorough. The notes in the Gospel Transformation Bible, on the other hand, are focused, are narrow. The notes don't tell you anything and everything you might need to know or want to know about a particular verse.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Charles Spurgeon On The Gospel Transformation Bible

Would Charles Spurgeon endorse Crossway's Gospel Transformation Bible? And if he did, what might he say about it? These quotes are taken from a handful of his sermons. I think Spurgeon's philosophy matches those of the creators of the Gospel Transformation Bible perfectly.
THE CHRISTIAN IS ALWAYS pleased and delighted when he can see Christ in the Scriptures. If he can but detect the footstep of his lord, and discover that the sacred writers are making some reference to him, however indistinct or dark he will rejoice there at: for all the Scriptures are nothing except as we find Christ in them. ~ Charles Spurgeon, "A Wise Desire"
Oh, how clearly the Word of God sets Christ before us! It is a sort of mirror in which he is revealed. ~ Charles Spurgeon, Revelation and Conversion
The living Christ is in the book; you behold His face almost in every page; and, consequently, it is a book that can talk. ~ Charles Spurgeon, The Talking Book
You will get at the soul of Scripture when you can keep Jesus with you while you are reading. ~ Charles Spurgeon, How to Read the Bible
No man can know Jesus Christ unless he is taught of God. There is no doctrine of the Bible which can be safely, thoroughly, and truly learned, except by the agency of the one authoritative teacher. ~ Charles Spurgeon, The Comforter
There is scarcely one chapter in which Christ is not, more or less clearly, set forth as the Savior of sinners. So the Word of God, you see, shows the man that he is in the wrong, takes him away from wrong ways of trying to get right, and then puts him in the way to get right, namely, by believing in Jesus. ~ Charles Spurgeon, Revelation and Conversion
The Book was written to be understood. It is a book which speaks to us about our lives (for the soul is the true life), and about the bliss eternal, and the way to win it. It must be so written as to be understood, since it were a mockery for God to give us a revelation which we could not comprehend. The Bible was meant to be understood, and it benefits us in proportion as we get at the meaning of it. The mere words of Scripture passing over the ear or before the eye, can do us little good. ~ Charles Spurgeon, Understandest Thou What Thou Readest?
You understand the Scripture if you make everything of the Lord Jesus Christ; if you believe on him with all your heart, and then yield yourselves up to him in his own way. ~ Charles Spurgeon, Understandest Thou What Thou Readest?
O for grace to study the Bible with Jesus as both our teacher and our lesson! ~ Charles Spurgeon, Evening, January 18
Now, from every text in the Bible there is a road to Jesus Christ, and the way to preach is just to say, 'How can I get from this text to Jesus Christ?' and then go preaching all the way along it." "Well, but," said the young man, "suppose I find a text that has not got a road to Jesus Christ." "I have preached for forty years," said the old man, "and I have never found such a Scripture, but if I ever do find one I will go over hedge and ditch but what I will get to him, for I will never finish without bringing in my Master." ~ Charles Spurgeon, How to Read the Bible
St. Austin says, “The Scriptures are the swaddling bands of the man-child—Christ Jesus, and were all intended to be hallowed garments in which to wrap him “So they are; and it is our pleasant duty to lift the veil, or remove the garment of Jesus and so behold him in his person, in his nature, or his offices. ~ Charles Spurgeon, "A Wise Desire" 
Remember, dear Friends, that Christ Himself is the Word of God, and also remember that the Scriptures are the word of the Word. They are "the word of Christ." I think that they will be all the sweeter to you if you realize that they speak to you of Christ, that He is the sum and substance of them, that they direct you to Christ, in fact, as John says of His Gospel, that they were "written that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you might have life through His name." Remember, also, that the Scriptures do, in effect, come to us from Christ. Every promise of this blessed Book is a promise of Christ, "for all the promises of God in Him are yes, and in Him, Amen, unto the glory of God by us." They all come to us through Christ, God speaks them to us through Him as the Mediator. Indeed, we may regard the whole of the Sacred Scriptures, from the beginning of Genesis to the end of Revelation, as being "the word of Christ." ~ Charles Spurgeon, Christ's Indwelling Word
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"
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"
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"
How much I desire that each one of you may be a personal student of the Holy Scriptures! We need to know them for ourselves! Personally grasping them as a Revelation of God to himself, the godly man loves them, studies them, feels them, lives upon them and so knows them! ~ Charles Spurgeon, "The Sunday School and the Scriptures"
You must believe it, live upon it, drink it in—you must let it soak into your innermost being as the dew saturated the fleece of Gideon. It is not enough to have a Bible on the shelf—it is infinitely better to have its Truths stored up within your soul. It is a good thing to carry your Testament in your pocket—it is far better to carry its message in your heart. But mind that you let it get right into you! ~ Charles Spurgeon, Christ's Indwelling Word
We must not think that, in order to have conversions, it is necessary to leave out any part of the gospel. I am afraid that some people think: that, if you stand and shout, "Believe, believe, believe, believe, believe, believe, believe you will convert any number of people; but it is not so. You must tell your hearers what they have to believe; you must give them the Word of God, the doctrines of the gospel; for the people, who are said to be converted without being taught from the Scriptures, will very soon need to be "converted" again. ~ Charles Spurgeon, Revelation and Conversion
The Bible reader is always the Bible lover, and the Bible searcher is the man who searches it more and more. Various pursuits have a measure of fascination about them, but the study of God's Word is fascinating to the highest degree. ~ Charles Spurgeon, Christ's Indwelling Word
As heaven is desirable, as hell is terrible, as time is short, as eternity is infinite, as the soul is precious, as pain is to be shunned, as heaven is to be sought, as God is eternal, and as his words are sure, these are great things, things ye ought to listen to. ~ Charles Spurgeon, The Bible
Mercy pardons sin, grace bestows favour: in both the Lord abounds. ~ Charles Spurgeon, Treasury of David, Psalm 103
Love to God is obedience, love to God is holiness. To love God and to love man is to be conformed to the image of Christ; and this is salvation. ~ Charles Spurgeon, "All of Grace"
If we grow in grace, or if we backslide, in either case Scripture still talks with us. Whatever our position before the eternal God, the book seems to be written on purpose to meet that position. It talks to you as you are, not only as you should be, or as others have been, but with you, with you personally, about your present condition. ~ Charles Spurgeon, The Talking Book
Nobody ever outgrows Scripture; the book widens and deepens with our years. It is true, it cannot really grow, for it is perfect; but it does so to our apprehension. The deeper you dig into Scripture, the more you find that it is a great abyss of truth. The beginner learns four or five points of orthodoxy, and says, "I understand the gospel, I have grasped all the Bible." Wait a bit, and when his soul grows and knows more of Christ, he will confess, "Thy commandment is exceeding broad, I have only begun to understand it." ~ Charles Spurgeon, The Talking Book
Consider this, believer. You have no right to heaven in yourself: your right lies in Christ. If you are pardoned, it is through His blood; if you are justified, it is through His righteousness; if you are sanctified, it is because He is made of God unto you sanctification; if you shall be kept from falling, it will be because you are preserved in Christ Jesus; and if you are perfected at the last, it will be because you are complete in Him. Thus Jesus is magnified--for all is in Him and by Him; thus the inheritance is made certain to us--for it is obtained in Him; thus each blessing is the sweeter, and even heaven itself the brighter, because it is Jesus our Beloved "in whom" we have obtained all. Where is the man who shall estimate our divine portion? Weigh the riches of Christ in scales, and His treasure in balances, and then think to count the treasures which belong to the saints. Reach the bottom of Christ's sea of joy, and then hope to understand the bliss which God hath prepared for them that love Him. Overleap the boundaries of Christ's possessions, and then dream of a limit to the fair inheritance of the elect. "All things are yours, for ye are Christ's and Christ is God's." ~ Charles Spurgeon, Evening, January 30
Give earnest heed to every single word of what God has sent as his own epistle to your hearts. Value the Scriptures. Luther said that "he would not be in paradise, if he might, without the Word of the Lord; but with the Word he could live in hell itself." He said at another time that "he would not take all the world for one leaf of the Bible." The Scriptures are everything to the Christian—his meat and his drink. The saint can say, "O how I love thy law!" If we cannot say so, something is wrong with us. If we have lost our relish for Holy Scripture, we are out of condition, and need to pray for spiritual health. ~ Charles Spurgeon, The Blessing of Full Assurance

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, October 18, 2013

Book Review: A Wreath of Snow

A Wreath of Snow. Liz Curtis Higgs. 2012. Waterbrook. 224 pages. [Source: Library]

A Wreath of Snow is a Christmas novella set in Scotland in the 1890s. The novel opens on Christmas Eve. The heroine is a young woman named Margaret Campbell (Meg). Instead of rushing home to be with family, Meg is running away from hers. She had returned home for Christmas, but, family strife leads her to cut her visit short.  Gordon Shaw, our hero, has no family to spend Christmas with. He's on a business trip. These two happen to be on the same train when it meets an accident. The two return to the last town, the town they both happened to grow up in. (She did not recognize him; however, he recognized her.) Both characters have personal stresses.

A Wreath of Snow is about difficult choices and new beginnings. I definitely liked it for what it was--a simple, short romance set during the holidays. The character development for minor characters isn't as strong as in some of her longer novels in series.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Book Review: When Comes The Spring

When Comes The Spring. Janette Oke. 1985. Bethany House. 252 pages. [Source: Library]

I really do love the first book in the series. And this second book is almost as good. It focuses on the married life of Elizabeth and Wynn, and their first year of marriage. The novel opens with Elizabeth planning her wedding. Oh, the plans she has; oh the plans her sister-in-law has! But Wynn's announcement changes things! He's received a post, in the north, he has to be there on August 1. Elizabeth's September wedding is off. But her quieter, calmer, just-family wedding is just a few days! The book dwells on Elizabeth's life in the North. I liked the focus on Elizabeth having to find her own life within her husband's, of course. She will always be "his wife." But she can't spend each and every moment of the day in the two-room cabin sitting and worrying or working and cleaning. His work is unpredictable. He could be gone most of the day or most of the night. He might be gone for days at a time. He might be going into situations that are extremely dangerous. And she has to learn to be okay with that, okay with her husband's profession, okay with her loneliness too. She needs to embrace this community, this village, as her own. She needs to open her heart and her home to others, and, this means letting go of certain prejudices. This struggle to be content, to accept life just as God has willed it, is not easy. And this is something that only begins in this one. It is continued in When Breaks The Dawn, the third book in the series. These two books are so closely linked I almost wish they were just one big book!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Book Review: A Call To Spiritual Reformation

A Call To Spiritual Reformation. Priorities from Paul and His Prayers. D.A. Carson. 1992. Baker. 232 pages. [Source: Bought]
A Call to Spiritual Reformation is a deep thought-provoking, practical-but-theological study of some of Paul's prayers. In its zeal, it reminded me of Tozer at his best. Carson is urging the church to wake up and PRAY. He's not alone in his appeal, by the way. There are men of every generation with the same urgent appeal to the church. (Charles Spurgeon and J.C. Ryle come to mind, for example). His introduction is excellent: convicting and encouraging at the same time. 

His goal: "to work through several of Paul’s prayers in such a way that we hear God speak to us today, and to find strength and direction to improve our praying, both for God’s glory and for our good."

Chapter titles:
Introduction: The Urgent Need of the Church
1. Lessons from the School of Prayer
2. The Framework of Prayer (2 Thessalonians 1:3-12)
3. Worthy Petitions (2 Thessalonians 1:1-12
4. Praying for Others
5. A Passion for People (1 Thessalonians 3:9-13)
6. The Content of a Challenging Prayer (Colossians 1:9-14)
7. Excuses for Not Praying
8. Overcoming the Hurdles (Philippians 1:9-11)
9. A Sovereign and Personal God
10. Praying to the Sovereign God (Ephesians 1:15-23)
11. Praying for Power (Ephesians 3:14-21)
12. Prayer for Ministry (Romans 15:14-33)
Afterword: A Prayer for Spiritual Reformation

I absolutely loved this one. It was substantive. It was deep. It challenges you to think and reflect. Perhaps, ultimately challenging you to act. It is a book that almost demands to be reread and studied, perhaps at a slower pace. It is quite practical. 

The one thing we most urgently need in Western Christendom is a deeper knowledge of God. We need to know God better. When it comes to knowing God, we are a culture of the spiritually stunted. So much of our religion is packaged to address our felt needs—and these are almost uniformly anchored in our pursuit of our own happiness and fulfillment.
One of the foundational steps in knowing God, and one of the basic demonstrations that we do know God, is prayer—spiritual, persistent, biblically minded prayer. Writing a century and a half ago, Robert Murray M’Cheyne declared, “What a man is alone on his knees before God, that he is, and no more.” But we have ignored this truism. We have learned to organize, build institutions, publish books, insert ourselves into the media, develop evangelistic strategies, and administer discipleship programs, but we have forgotten how to pray.
Much praying is not done because we do not plan to pray. We do not drift into spiritual life; we do not drift into disciplined prayer. We will not grow in prayer unless we plan to pray. That means we must self-consciously set aside time to do nothing but pray.
If we are grateful for the most important things, and determined to live with our eternal destiny uppermost in mind, what kinds of things will we pray for? From eternity’s perspective, what should be the primary things for which we should pray for our children, for ourselves, for our fellow believers?
We need to know who we are, as God sees us. Paul wants us to appreciate the value that God places on us, not because we are intrinsically worthy but because we have been identified with Christ. We have been chosen in Christ; his righteousness has been reckoned ours; our destiny is to be joint-heirs with him. If we maintain this vision before our eyes of who we are—nothing less than God’s inheritance!—we will be concerned to live in line with this unimaginably high calling. This does not mean that we focus on ourselves, as if we were to strut around and commend ourselves for being part of God’s inheritance. Rather, Paul wants us to grasp “the riches of the glory” of God’s inheritance, that is, the ineffably great privileges that belong to God’s inheritance, simply because we are God’s inheritance. Can there be any greater and higher incentive to live in the light of the glory of God and of heaven?

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

My Year with Spurgeon: Week 41

THERE ARE SOME passages of sacred writ [Isaiah 43:25] which have been more abundantly blessed to the conversion of souls than others. They may be called salvation texts. We may not be able to discover how it is, or why it is, but certainly it is the fact, that some chosen verses have been more used of God to bring men to the cross of Christ than any others in his Word. Certainly they are not more inspired, but I suppose they are more noticeable from their position, from their peculiar phraseology more adapted to catch the eye of the reader, and more suitable to a prevailing spiritual condition. ~ Charles Spurgeon, "Forgiveness"
If you will turn to your Bibles, you will find who are the persons here spoken of. Look for example at the 22nd verse of the chapter from which our text is taken, and you will see, first, that they were prayerless people...And are there not some prayerless ones sitting or standing here this morning? Prayerless souls are Christless souls; for you can have no real fellowship with Christ, no communion with the Father, unless you approach his mercy-seat, and be often there; and yet if you are condemning yourselves, and lamenting that this has been your condition, you need not despair, for this mercy is for you: “Thou hast not called upon me, O Jacob;” yet, “I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake.” ~ Charles Spurgeon, "Forgiveness"
Next, these persons were despisers of religion, for observe the language of the same verse:—“Thou hast been weary of me, O Israel.” And may I not say to some here—thou despisest religion, thou hatest God; thou art weary of him, and lovest not his services. As for the Sabbath-day, do not too many of you find it the most tiresome day in the week, and do you not, in fact, look over your ledger on the Sabbath afternoon? If you were compelled to attend a place of worship twice on the Sabbath-day, would you not think it the greatest and most terrible hardship that could be inflicted upon you? You have to find some worldly amusement to make the hours of the Sabbath-day pass away with any comfort at all. So far from wishing that “congregations might ne’er break up.” and the Sabbath last for eternity, is it not to some of you the most tedious day of the week? You feel it to be a weariness, and are glad when it is gone. ~ Charles Spurgeon, "Forgiveness"
It is well said, the chief end of man is to glorify God. For that purpose God made the sun, moon, and stars, and all his works, that they might honor him. And yet how many are there, even, perhaps among my hearers this morning, who have never honored God in their lives. ~ Charles Spurgeon, "Forgiveness"
These, then, are the characters who receive mercy. Some of you may say, “You seem to think us a bad lot”—and so I do. Others exclaim, “How can you talk to us in this way? We are a honest, moral, and upright people.” If so, then I have no gospel to preach to you. You may go elsewhere if you will, for you may get moral sermons in scores of chapels if you want them; but I am come in my Master’s name to preach to sinners, and so I will not say a word to you Pharisees except this—By so much as you think yourself righteous and holy, by so much shall ye be cast out of God’s presence at last. ~ Charles Spurgeon, "Forgiveness"
We have found out the persons to whom God will give mercy; now what is mercy’s deed? It is a deed of forgiveness, and in speaking of it, I shall speak first of its being a divine forgiveness—“I, even I, am he.” Divine pardon is the only forgiveness possible; for no one can remit sin but God only, and it matters not whether a Roman Catholic Priest, or any other priest shall say in the name of God, “I absolve thee from thy transgressions,” it is abominable blasphemy. If a man has offended me I can forgive him, but if he has offended God I cannot forgive him. The only discharge possible is pardon by God; but then it is the only pardon necessary. It is only God that can forgive satisfactorily; because no human pardon can ease the troubled conscience. ~ Charles Spurgeon, "Forgiveness"
It is said that Alexander, whenever he attacked a city, put a light before the gate of it; and if the inhabitants surrendered before the light was burnt out, he spared them; but if the light went out first, he put them all to death. But our Master is more merciful than this; for if he had manifested grace only while a small light would burn, where should we have been? There be some here seventy or eighty years of age, and God has mercy on you still; but there is a light you know which when once quenched, extinguishes all hope of pardon—the light of life. ~ Charles Spurgeon, "Forgiveness"
It is no more possible for a pardoned man to be lost than for Christ to be lost, because Christ is the sinner’s surety. ~ Charles Spurgeon, "Forgiveness"
If you have been the chief of sinners, you may have the chief of sinner’s forgiveness, and God can bestow it now. ~ Charles Spurgeon, "Forgiveness"

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible