Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Book Review: The Dancing Master

The Dancing Master. Julie Klassen. 2014. Bethany House. 432 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I did not LOVE The Dancing Master. Since I have loved, loved, loved most of Julie Klassen's previous novels, I almost feel guilty that I don't LOVE The Dancing Master too. But it isn't a bad thing to merely like something.

Julia Midwinter, our heroine, kept me from "loving" this one. Her personality, her character, I found annoying, obnoxious even. She's bold and flirtatious, a bit defiant. She seems to like the fact that she doesn't get along with her mother, she seeks to do the opposite of whatever her mother would want her to do.

Alec Valcourt, our hero, I really adored. The Dancing Master has dual narration. The sections narrated by Alec and focusing on him and his family I really did love. I liked seeing Alec move into this community. I liked seeing him try to make a new start, trying to make friends, trying to keep the peace and make the best of a bad situation. It was easy to like him, easy to respect him.

Julia's mother has "forbidden" the community to dance. And apparently the "authority" she possesses has been enough to keep almost everyone under her control. Alec is a dancing and fencing master. He'd be happy to teach publicly at an academy, or to give private lessons to families. He's new to town and a bit shocked at this "rule" of no dancing. Will he be able to get any students?

Julia, of course, is instantly attracted to Alec. She sees him, she wants him, she flirts shamelessly. Alec is calm and resistant. He's not a fool. He's not going to let anyone like Julia rob him of his new chance in life.

Though I did not like the main character, Julia, I happened to really like most of the other characters. There were a few minor characters that I actually loved: Alec, of course, and Patience, Julia's best friend, and Walter Allen.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

My Year with Spurgeon #4

The Glorious Habitation
Charles Spurgeon
Lord thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations
Psalm 90:1
Have you ever known what it is to have God for your dwelling-place in the sense of comfort?
The Christian knows no change with regard to God. He may be rich to-day, and poor to-morrow; he may be sickly to-day and well to-morrow; he may be in happiness to-day, to-morrow he may be distressed; but there is no change with regard to his relationship to God. If he loved me yesterday he loves me to-day. I am neither better nor worse in God than I ever was. Let prospects be blighted, let hopes be blasted, let joy be withered, let mildews destroy every thing, I have lost nothing of what I have in God. He is my strong habitation whereunto I can continually resort. The Christian never becomes poorer, and never grows richer with regard to God. “Here,” he can say, “is a thing that never can pass away or change. On the brow of the Eternal there is never a furrow; his hair is unwhitened by age; his arm is unpalsied by weakness; his heart does not change in its affections; his will does not vary in its purpose; he is the immutable Jehovah, standing fast and forever. Thou art our habitation! As the house changes not, but stands in the same place, so have I found thee from my youth up.
You will never find rest except in God; there is no refuge but in him. Oh! what rest and composure are there in him! It is more than sleep, more than calm, more than quiet; deeper than the dead stillness of the noiseless sea in its utmost depths, where it is undisturbed by the slightest ripple, and winds can never intrude.
Ah! my beloved, do you ever find yourself in God to be at home? Have you been with Christ, and told your secrets in his ear, and found that you could do so without reserve? We do not generally tell secrets to other people, for it we do, and make them promise that they will never tell them, they will never tell them except to the first person they meet. Most persons who have secrets told them, are like the lady of whom it is said she never told her secrets except to two sorts of persons—those that asked her and those that did not. You must not trust men of the world; but do you know what it is to tell all your secrets to God in prayer, to whisper all your thoughts to him?
With God you can be always at home, you need be under no restraint. The Christian at once gives God the key of his heart, and lets him turn every thing over. He says, “There is the key of every cabinet; it is my desire that thou wouldst open them all. If there are jewels, they are thine; and if there be things that should not be there, drive them out. Search me, and try my heart.” The more God lives in the Christian, the better the Christian loves him; the oftener God comes to see him, the better he loves his God. And God loves his people all the more when they are familiar with him. Can you say in this sense, “Lord, thou hast been my dwelling place?”
O God! though I sometimes wander, yet I love thee in my wanderings, and my heart is fixed on thee.
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, January 27, 2014

Book Review: With Autumn's Return

With Autumn's Return. Amanda Cabot. 2014. Revell. 416 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Is Cheyenne ready for a woman doctor in 1887? Elizabeth Harding, Doctor Harding, is about to find out in Amanda Cabot's newest book, With Autumn's Return. Elizabeth's sister, Charlotte, has picked out the perfect office for her, and it's even next door to a lawyer's office--his name is Jason Nordling. Charlotte's also arranged a place for her sister to board. But no one can truly predict if she'll be welcomed into the community and if she'll have patients to treat. She's hoping that even if the men reject her or scorn her that there will be some women in town ready for a change. Her competition is someone without a medical degree: he's OLD and CRANKY and has a terrible bedside manner.

I enjoyed With Autumn's Return. I really liked getting settled into this community. I liked meeting all the characters. I liked seeing them interact with one another. I liked some of the background romances and stories. I definitely enjoyed getting to know Jason Nordling!!! He was a great hero. And I did like the heroine, Elizabeth.

It was a very pleasant read with some dramatic moments thrown in towards the end. I could have enjoyed the story just as much without all the drama, but, I still enjoyed it overall!

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Read With Me: Genesis, Week 5

This week's reading, if you're reading along, is Genesis 39-50. If you've read Genesis this month, I'd love you to share what you've learned, what you enjoyed, etc. Has reading Genesis helped you understand the New Testament better?
Christ is the Divine answer to the Devil's overthrow of our first parents. ~ A.W. Pink, The Satisfaction of Christ
Let us strive, every year we live, to become more deeply acquainted with Scripture. Let us study it, search into it, dig into it, meditate on it, until it dwell in us richly. ~ J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of Luke
The best of God’s saints have their nights; the dearest of his children have to walk through a weary wilderness. There is not a Christian who has enjoyed perpetual happiness, there is no believer who can always sing a song of joy. ~ Charles Spurgeon, The Desire of the Soul in Spiritual Darkness
God wants us all in various places, and the secret of accomplishing the most for Him is to recognize our places from Him and our service in it as pleasing Him. In the great factory and machine there is a place for the smallest screw and rivet as well as the great driving wheel and piston, and so God has His little screws whose business is simply to stay where He puts them and to believe that He wants them there and is making the most of their lives in the little spaces that they fill for Him. ~ A.B. Simpson, Days of Heaven Upon Earth
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Week in Review: January 19-25

Chronological Life Application, KJV

  • 1 Samuel 8-31
  • 2 Samuel 1-20
  • 1 Chronicles 12, 10, 11, 23, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19
  • Psalm 59, 34, 57, 142, 52, 54, 56, 60, 51, 3, 63, 

NRSV Daily Bible

  • Exodus 28-40
  • Leviticus 1-14

NASB MacArthur Study Bible

  • Revelation

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, January 24, 2014

Worth Quoting #2 (Heartbeat of the Bible)

The heartbeat of God’s Word is worship. In fact, Jesus defines believers as worshipers because the driving message of salvation is to worship the God of heaven. The Scriptures open in Genesis with God walking and talking with Adam and Eve, His worshipers. Exodus contains elaborate plans for a tent—its sole purpose being to bring worshipers to God. Psalms, the longest book at the heart of God’s Word, is a manual on ways to worship the God of the universe. The rest of the Old Testament is a series of prophets lamenting the neglect and abandonment of worship by God’s people who were to be a kingdom of worshipers (priests). The New Testament opens with the introduction in the Gospels of the God of heaven, on earth, seeking creatures who would be willing to be worshipers. The Book of Acts records what happens when average people from every walk of life, every strata of society, and every depth of sin, are bound together with a common passion for being lifelong worshipers. The Epistles are a manual on how to grow as worshipers. God’s Word then closes in Revelation with all of God’s worshipers home at last with their Creator—and joyfully worshiping Him! Is your heart the heart of a worshiper? The word “worship” is full of meaning; it expresses the idea of “falling down, prostrating oneself, and kissing the feet or the hem of the garment of the one honored.” We should ponder William Temple’s wonderful definition of worship, which is “to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to open up the heart to the love of God, to devote the will to the purpose of God.” ~ John Samuel Barnett, Living Hope for the End of Days
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Worth Quoting #1 (What Did Jesus Do?)

The question is asked, What did the Lord Jesus do the first thirty years of His life? Generally the answer is that he worked as a carpenter. But that is only half the truth. The other half is that He studied the Word of God. How tremendous! If He needed to study the Word of God, what about you? What about me? I think we need to get with it! It is nonsense to say, “Oh, I believe the Bible from cover to cover; I will defend it with my life,” when you don’t study it! If God has spoken between the pages of Genesis 1:1 and Revelation 22:21, then somewhere between God has a word for you and for me. If God is speaking to us, we ought to listen. ~ J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible, Isaiah

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

First Impressions of the Chronological Life Application Bible

It has been almost a month since I received the Chronological Life Application Bible. (It was a Christmas present.) As soon as I knew they had come out with the Chronological Life Application Bible in the King James translation of the Bible, I knew I really, really *needed* it. (KJV Bibles have a way of calling to me!) Fortunately, I discovered this just days before Christmas! And fortunately it was one of the 50% off Bibles in the special Christmas sale!

This Bible is beautiful inside and out. I love the color. I do. I love the fact that it's in the KJV. I would have been just as happy perhaps if it had been in NASB or ESV. But the KJV does make me especially happy. I find myself drawn more and more to this translation the older I get.

I was super-impressed by "A Chronological Survey of the Bible." In a relatively short span of pages, this bible does an incredible job of explaining the big picture of the Bible, how it all fits together. The narrative is fabulous, in my opinion. It is detailed enough to actually be useful. In other words it's more in depth than say, "Adam and Eve sinned. Sin is bad. Everyone sins. Jesus came to save us from sin because we could not save ourselves. Believe in him and be saved. The end." But it remains big-picture. It even covers the intertestamental period of history. I found it very accessible. It also impressed me because I have read whole books that attempt to do just this and fail to make an impact (with me), and yet this simple-but-not-too-simple introduction does it marvelously, almost effortlessly.

I like the fact that the Bible is divided into ten segments:

  • Beginnings: Undated-2100 BC
  • God's Chosen Family 2100-1800 BC
  • Birth of Israel 1800-1406 BC
  • Possessing the Land 1406-1050 BC
  • United Monarchy 1050-930 BC
  • Splintered Nation 930-586 BC
  • Exile 586-538 BC
  • Return and Diaspora 538-6 BC
  • Jesus Christ 6 BC - AD 30
  • The Church AD 30-Present 

The Chronological Life Application Study Bible helps the reader see the larger story by breaking up the traditional books of the Bible into 10 major eras of biblical history, intermingling the Scriptures into a single, unified story from Creation to the end. This provides readers with a unique viewpoint on the biblical story, and it can give fresh and exciting insight into books of the Bible that might have been difficult to understand apart from knowing where they fall chronologically. For example, see the way the prophets Haggai and Zechariah are interacting with what is happening in the book of Ezra. Intermingling the prophets with the historical books can give us a new perspective on the issues they were dealing with. In this case, it shows how the people responded to God's call on their life through the prophets: The temple was rebuilt and proper worship in Jerusalem was restored! This is only one of many examples...
And I really appreciate their honesty:
Although a chronological Bible gives us a new and exciting outlook on the message of Scripture, we do need to remember that the Bible was not written as a single story. God gave us the Bible as a collection of 66 individual books, not a chronological rearrangement of those books. While helpful as a tool for gaining insight into the meaning, message, and significance of Scripture, a chronological Bible is not a substitute for a traditional Bible. The Chronological Life Application Study Bible does contain every word of the Bible, but because it is rearranged and books are often presented out of canonical order or broken up into smaller pieces, we should remember that the books of the Bible are intended to be read as whole books. It is helpful to see the Gospels mingled together in one common narrative, with parallel passages together, but it is not a substitute for reading the book of Matthew as a whole, unbroken story about Jesus' life and his significance. With that in mind, it is our hope that the Chronological Life Application Study Bible will be a vital tool in helping you understand the Bible, but it should not replace a traditional Bible in any sense. 
I am definitely enjoying the life application features. I like the notes. I really like the character profiles. I love the introductions to each section.

There is also something comfortable about reading the Bible chronologically. It's very nice to know exactly where you are and where you're going. It's very pleasant to not have to think what book do I read next, where should I go from here.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Book Review: Dare To Love Again

Dare to Love Again. Julie Lessman. 2014. Revell. 416 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Love At Any Cost was the first book in Lessman's new Heart of San Francisco series. Dare to Love Again continues following the McClare family. Two of the three romances began in the first book: Cassidy and Jamie and Caitlyn and Logan. (Logan is "Uncle Logan." He is trying his absolute best to woo his brother's widow. Caitlyn is Cassie's aunt and Allison's mother. Of course, Allison isn't her only child.) The primary romance is between Allison McClare and Detective Nick.

Allison and Nick reminded me of Leia and Han Solo. For better or worse! Every time these two were in the same room together--expect a loud, somewhat obnoxious argument to follow. These two kept getting thrown together, however, and a truce had to be reached. Allison had to admit that she needed Nick, that working with Nick was a way to get what she wanted most. Nick, well, he had to learn a bit of tact. Nick did NOT lose authority or power. I doubt readers would really want him too. I certainly didn't. To tell the truth, Allison was so incredibly stupid that if Nick hadn't kept intervening it would have been a short, tragic book. Allison's "I can do whatever I want, whenever I want, no one can stop me" attitude HAD to be addressed. So. After her arrogant I can walk any street at night safely no one would dare harm me attitude was proven false--it was only outside intervention that saved her--she compromises a tiny bit. She wants to take lessons in self-defense. Nick is a busy guy: he was already working undercover, and as a guard, and now he is to give Miss Allison lessons--for six weeks or so. Hired by her uncle, he is also to sign a contract that he will not "make advances" to Allison. At the beginning, Nick thought such a thing to be ridiculous. He would NEVER EVER fall for someone like Allison. She is NOT the woman of his dreams--not even close. He can't stand her. Readers will guess these two will fall desperately in love with each other in a few months. Unfortunately, readers don't really see this process. Readers get lots of fighting scenes in the beginning, one or two make-a-truce scenes, and then flash forward to when the lessons are finishing up and their time together supposedly coming to an end, when they admit they want to be together. She definitely makes the first move.

As satisfying as Nick and Allison were in Dare to Love Again, I must admit that I really did not like Logan at all. I saw Logan as a villain. I am not sure that is what the author intended. Perhaps I should be cheering him on so he can have a happily ever after with Caitlyn. But. I found him sneaky, arrogant, manipulative, hateful, a bit power-hungry. He will control the family. He sets out to make trouble for Nick and he pushes and pushes until he succeeds.

I liked this one. Some scenes I did love. I liked certain relationships more than others. But I definitely am glad I read this one!

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

My Year With Spurgeon #3

Charles Spurgeon
Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth; and one convert him; Let him know that he which converteth sinner from the error of his way, shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.
James 5:19-20
Next to our own salvation, I am sure, as Christians, we shall always prize the salvation of other people; we shall always desire that what has been so sweet to our own taste, may also be tasted by others; and what has been of so inestimably precious a value to our own souls, may also become the property of all those whom God may please to shall unto everlasting life. I am sure, beloved, now that I am about to preach concerning the conversion of the ungodly, you will take as deep an interest in it as if it were something that immediately concerned your own souls, for, after all, such were some of you once.
Our text has in it, first of all, a principle involved—that of instrumentality.—“Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; let him know that he who converteth a sinner from the error of his way, shall save a soul from death.” Secondly, here is a general fact stated:—“He who converteth a sinner from the error of his way, shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.” And thirdly, there is a particular application of this fact made. “Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth and one convert him,”—that is the same principle as when a sinner is converted “from the error of his way.”
Secondly, we make another remark, which is, that instrumentality is very honorable to God, and not dishonorable. One would think, perhaps, at first sight, that it would reflect more glory to God, if he effected all conversions himself, without the use of men; but that is a great mistake. It is as honorable to God to convert by means of Christians and others, as it would be if he should effect it alone.
The true motive for which we should always labor, is the glory of God in the conversion of souls; and building up of God’s people; but let us never lose sight of the great end. Let God be glorified; and he will be, if we preach his truth faithfully and honestly.
Again, you may be the means of conversion by a letter you may write. Many of you have not the power to speak or say much; but when you sit down alone in your chamber you are able, with God’s help, to write a letter to a dear friend of yours. Oh! I think that is a very sweet way to endeavor to be useful. I think I never felt so much earnestness after the souls of my fellow-creatures as when I first loved the Saviour’s name, and though I could not preach, and never thought I should be able to testify to the multitude, I used to write texts on little scraps of paper and drop them anywhere, that some poor creatures might pick them up, and receive them as messages of mercy to their souls. There is your brother. He is careless and hardened. Sister, sit down and write a letter to him, when he receives it, he will perhaps smile, but he will say, “Ah, well! it is Betsy’s letter after all!” And that will have some power. I knew a gentleman, whose dear sister used often to write to him concerning his soul. “I used,” said he, “to stand with my back up against a lamp-post, with a cigar in my mouth, perhaps at two o’clock in the morning, to read her letter. I always read them; and I have,” said he, “wept floods of tears after reading my sister’s letters. Though I still kept on the error of my ways, they always checked me, they always seemed a hand pulling me away from sin; a voice crying out,” Come back! come back!’” And at last a letter from her, in conjunction with a solemn providence, was the means of breaking his heart, and he sought salvation through a Saviour.
Again. How many nave been converted by the example of true Christians. Many of you feel that you cannot write or preach, and you think you can do nothing. Well, there is one thing you can do for your Master—you can live Christianity.
And then how many souls may be converted by what some men are privileged to write and print.
Oh! to think that we may write and print books which shall reach poor sinners’ hearts.
Oh! men and women, how can ye better spend your time and wealth than in the cause of the Redeemer? What holier enterprise can ye engage in than this sacred one of saving souls from death, and hiding a multitude of sins?
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, January 20, 2014

Quoting Martyn Lloyd-Jones

One of the devotionals I am using this year is Walking with God Day by Day by Martyn Lloyd-Jones. I thought I would share some of my favorite passages month-by-month. Here is what I loved in January:

From January 9th
The Son says that He has come to glorify the Father, and the Spirit’s work is to glorify the Son. Each one reflects the glory of the other. Thus we look into the mystery of this amazing doctrine of the blessed Trinity: “He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you” (John 16:14). This is, to me, one of the most amazing and remarkable things about the biblical doctrine of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit seems to hide Himself and to conceal Himself. He is always, as it were, putting the focus on the Son, and that is why I believe, and I believe profoundly, that the best test of all as to whether we have received the Spirit is to ask ourselves, what do we think of, and what do we know about, the Son? Is the Son real to us? That is the work of the Spirit. He is glorified indirectly; He is always pointing us to the Son. Yes, we must realize that He dwells within us, but His work in dwelling within us is to glorify the Son, and to bring to us that blessed knowledge of the Son and of His wondrous love to us. It is He who strengthens us with might in the inner man (Ephesians 3 :16- 19), that we may know this love of Christ.
From January 17th
If you are regenerate, you will remain regenerate. It seems to me that this is absolutely inevitable because regeneration is the work of God. Yet there are those who seem to think that people can be born again as the result of believing the truth, and then if they backslide or fall into sin or deny the truth, they lose their regeneration, but if they come back again and believe again, then they are regenerate again—as if one can be born again and die and be born again and die an endless number of times! How important doctrine is! How important it is that we should be clear as to what the Scripture teaches about these things! It tells us that regeneration is the work of God Himself in the depths of the soul and that He does it in such a way that it is permanent. “No man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand” (John 10:29). “I am persuaded,” says Paul, and let us notice this, “I am persuaded” —he is certain—“that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39). And when Paul says that, he is expounding regeneration. It is not merely the relationship between us—it is because He has put this life in me that nothing can separate me from Him. And when we come to deal with the mystical union that follows directly from this, we see how still more inevitable this must be. This is a permanent work, and nothing can ever bring it to an end. Regenerate people cannot go on sinning because they are born of God (1 John 3:9). They may backslide temporarily, but if they are born of God they will come back. It is as certain as that they have been born again. This is the way to test whether or not someone is born again.
From January 18th
Regeneration and union must never be separated. You cannot be born again without being in Christ; you are born again because you are in Christ. The moment you are in Him you are born again, and you cannot regard your regeneration as something separate and think that union is something you will eventually arrive at. Not at all! Regeneration and union must always be considered together and at the same time because the one depends upon the other and leads to the other; they are mutually self-supporting. There is nothing that so strengthens my faith and fills me with a longing to be pure as He is pure and to live even as He did in this world as the realization of what I am and who I am because I am a Christian. I am a child of God, and I am in Christ.
From January 19th
There is nothing more important in the Christian life than to realize that our union with Christ is a vital one. It is a living thing. It is not something mechanical or conceptual; it is not a thought or an idea; it is really a vital, spiritual union. “And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace” (John 1:16). That says it all. That is our relationship to Him, says John; something of His fullness and of His life is passing into us, and we are receiving it. The trouble with all of us is that we do not realize the truth of these things. But this is the truth given by the Lord Himself. It is His prayer for His people that they may know the meaning of this vital, spiritual relationship. And He does not hesitate to compare it with the relationship that subsists between the Father and Himself: As the Father is in Him, so He is in us, and we are in Him. But consider the statement of this truth that is made by the apostle Paul in Galatians 2:20: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.” There is nothing greater than that, and what it does teach is that this is a life-giving relationship; it is a union of life. “Not I, but Christ liveth in me.” And then Paul goes on to say, “And the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”
From January 24th
Let me show you the essential difference between justification and sanctification. Look at it like this: Justification is an act of God the Father; sanctification is essentially the work of God the Holy Spirit. There is this division of work in the blessed Persons of the Trinity. It is the Father who declares righteous and just. It is the Holy Spirit who sanctifies. Second, justification takes place outside us, as in a tribunal; sanctification takes place within us, in our inner life. I stand in the court when I am justified, and the judge pronounces that I am free; it is a statement about me, outside me. But sanctification is something that is worked and takes place within. Third, justification removes the guilt of sin; sanctification removes the pollution of sin and renews us in the image of God. And therefore, last, by definition justification is a once-and-for-all act. It is never to be repeated because it cannot be repeated and never needs to be repeated. It is not a process but a declaration that we are pronounced just once and forever, by God. Sanctification, on the other hand, is a continuous process. We continue to grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord until we are perfect beyond the veil. So there is nothing quite so erroneous and confusing and unscriptural as to mistake the essential difference between justification and sanctification. That is the whole trouble with Roman Catholic teaching and all Catholic piety. If you confuse sanctification with justification, you will be doubtful as to whether you are justified or not. If you bring in your state and condition and sin that you may commit, then you are querying your justification. But if you realize that justification is forensic, external, and declaratory, you know that you are justified whatever may be true about you.
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Read With Me: Genesis, Week 4

This week's reading, if you're reading along, is Genesis 28-38. This week we'll focus mainly on Jacob and Esau, Rachel and Leah, Dinah and her many brothers!
My friend, God is speaking to mankind through Christ in our day. We cannot come to the Father directly. Every now and then I hear someone say in a testimony, "When I was converted, I came directly to God. I have access to God." We do not, my friend. We come through Christ; we have access to the Father through Christ. That is the only way we can get into God's presences. The Lord Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me" (John 14:6). The Lord Jesus Christ Himself is the ladder--not one that we can climb but one that we can trust. ~ J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible, Genesis
Every house of God, every church, ought to be a dreadful place to any sinner running away from God. It is the place where the sinner ought to be able to meet God, come face to face with God, through the Ladder who has been sent down from heaven, even Christ. ~ J.Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible, Genesis
This fellow Jacob is beginning now to say that he is not worthy. When any man begins to move toward God on that basis, he will find that God will communicate with him. ~ J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible, Genesis
You and I need to recognize that in our own lives the growth is slow, and therefore the growth in others will also be slow. ~ J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible, Genesis
Sin needs to be spelled out. There was a time when sin was sin, but now they've taken the "s" off of it, and you're in the "in" group if you're a sinner. But that's not the way God spells sin. He still spells it S-I-N. And you will notice that "I" is right in the middle of the word--that's where all of us are. ~ J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible, Genesis
Genesis is like a bud, and the flower opens up as we go through the Scripture. ~ J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible, Genesis
Before we go on with the story, I want to call to your attention the comparison of Joseph to the Lord Jesus. You just should not miss the analogy. 1. The birth of Joseph was miraculous in that it was by the intervention of God as an answer to prayer. The Lord Jesus is virgin born. His birth was certainly miraculous! 2. Joseph was loved by his father. The Lord Jesus was loved by His Father, who declared, “This is My beloved Son.” 3. Joseph had the coat of many colors which set him apart. Christ was set apart in that He was “separate from sinners.” 4. Joseph announced that he was to rule over his brethren. The Lord Jesus presented Himself as the Messiah. Just as they ridiculed Joseph’s message, so they also ridiculed Jesus. In fact, nailed to His cross were the words: THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS. 5. Joseph was sent by his father to his brethren. Jesus was sent to His brethren—He came first to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 6. Joseph was hated by his brethren without a cause, and the Lord Jesus was hated by His brethren without a cause. ~ J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible, Genesis
I am firmly convinced that if God's people would give out His Word and live lives that would commend the gospel, He would make their witness effective. There are many pastors in our day who are so afraid they will lose the crowd that they do anything to attract people to their church… But God has never asked us to compromise. God does ask us to give out the Word of God--regardless of the size of our congregation. ~ J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible, Genesis

Week in Review: January 12-18

What I read this week…

NIV MacArthur Study Bible

  • Deuteronomy 21-34
  • Joshua
  • Mark

Chronological Life Application, KJV

  • Deuteronomy 12-34
  • Joshua
  • Judges
  • Ruth
  • 1 Samuel 1-7
KJV New Cambridge Paragraph, David Norton, ed. 
  • 2 Samuel
  • 1 Kings
  • 2 Kings
  • Job
  • Micah
  • Nahum
  • Habakkuk
  • Zephaniah
  • Haggai
  • Zechariah
  • Malachi
  • 1 Peter
  • 2 Peter
  • 1 John
  • 2 John
  • 3 John
  • Jude
  • Revelation

NRSV Daily Bible
  • Exodus 1-27

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Book Review: The Merchant's Daughter

The Merchant's Daughter. Melanie Dickerson. 2011. Zondervan. 285 pages. [Source: Library]

I really loved rereading The Merchant's Daughter by Melanie Dickerson. It is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, a realistic retelling minus the magic, I suppose. The heroine is a beautiful young woman, Annabel. Annabel's father was a wealthy merchant, but, his ship was lost and he was heavily in debt. Annabel's mother and brothers refused to serve their lord by working their required number of days per year in the field. (They could not afford to pay to opt out of manual labor.) Soon after the novel opens, Annabel learns that one member of her family will have to enter the service of Lord le Wyse for three years. Though she has two older brothers, she has a feeling the only one doing the working will be herself. Of course, entering into service isn't her only option. One of her brothers has graciously accepted a marriage proposal on his sister's behalf. He has promised Bailiff Tom that Annabel would just love to marry him. She despises him. Working for Lord le Wyse has to be better than marrying a man she absolutely hates, right?! 

So Lord le Wyse when we first meet him isn't exactly a people-person. Ranulf doesn't make a great first impression: he's got more than his fair share of scars on his face and one of his hands is disfigured. (He comes by these injuries honorably, but, most don't know the story, or, at least the full story.) 

There is not an instant connection between Annabel and Lord le Wyse. He's distrustful for better or worse: she's new, she's young, she's beautiful. She fears that his bad temper is more than surface deep. But these two grow closer and closer and closer. And it begins with her nursing him and reading to him. 

I loved every minute of this one. I did. I really, really, really loved it. 

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Book Review: Every Waking Moment (2013)

Every Waking Moment. Chris Fabry. 2013. Tyndale. 400 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]

I would describe Every Waking Moment as a sentimental thriller. I didn't even realize it was a thriller until the last third of the novel when it became apparent that there was a story hiding and waiting to be discovered. I'm still not sure if this surprise works.

Treha Langsam is a janitor at a senior retirement home. Technically, her job is cleaning. But almost everyone considers her real gift to be with working with the elderly. She has a way of connecting with dementia sufferers, bringing them back. It's not as if she restores their memories, that might be asking too much. But they start talking, sharing, reaching out to others. And that is enough.

But not everyone appreciates Treha. The new director at Desert Gardens does not. She is condescending, rude, hateful. Miriam Howard, the former director, has been rushed into retirement by the board. Her replacement wastes no time in firing Treha. Miriam is shocked by this since the reason for Treha's dismissal is because she helped one of the residents after they had fallen. Treha had been forbidden to talk with any resident, no matter what.

Miriam befriends Treha and encourages her to become involved with two storytellers--filmmakers. These two filmmakers want to create a documentary, in part focused on Treha and her gift. It sounds more complicated than it is actually.

Every Waking Moment was an almost novel for me. I didn't dislike it. I just didn't love it either.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

My Year With Spurgeon #2

Repentance Unto Life
Charles Spurgeon
Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life
Acts 11:18
“Repentance” is a grace. Some people preach it as a condition of salvation. Condition of nonsense! There are no conditions of salvation. God gives the salvation himself; and he only gives it to those to whom he will. He says, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy “If, then, God has given you the least repentance, if it be sincere repentance, praise him for it, and expect that repentance will grow deeper and deeper as you go further on. Then this remark I think, ought to be applied to all Christians. Christian men and women, you feel that you have not deep enough repentance. You feel that you have not faith large enough. What are you to do? Ask for an increase of faith, and it will grow. So with repentance. Have you ever tried to get deep repentance?
And now you say, what are the signs of true “repentance” in the sight of God? First, I tell you, there is always sorrow with it. No man ever repents of sin without having some kind of sorrow with it. More or less intense, it may be, according to the way in which God calls him, and his previous manner of life, but there must be some sorrow. We do not care when it comes, but at some time or other it must come, or it is not the repentance of the Christian. 
No man can come to Christ and know his pardon without feeling that sin is a hateful thing, for it put Jesus to death.
There must be in this repentance, I think, not only sorrow, but there must be practice—practical repentance.
Every sinner hates his sin when he comes near to the mouth of hell; every murderer hates his crime when he comes to the gallows; I never found a child hate its fault so much as when it was going to be punished for it.
“Repentance,” my dear friends, is the gift of God. It is one of those spiritual favors which ensure eternal life. It is the marvel of divine mercy that it not only provides the way of salvation, that it not only invites men to receive grace, but that it positively makes men willing to be saved. God punished his Son Jesus Christ for our sins, and therein he provided salvation for all his lost children. He sends his minister; the minister bids men repent and believe, and he labors to bring them to God. They will not listen to the call, and they despise the minister. But then another messenger is sent, a heavenly ambassador who cannot fail. He summons men to repent and turn to God. Their thoughts are a little wayward, but after he, the Divine Spirit, pleads with them, they forget what manner of men they were, and they repent and turn.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, January 13, 2014

Book Review: How To Read The Bible Through the Jesus Lens

How To Read the Bible Through the Jesus Lens: A Guide to Christ-Focused Reading of Scripture. Michael James Williams. 2012. Zondervan. 288 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]

The simple truth that all of the Scriptures--Old Testament and New Testament--testify about Jesus seems to be often overlooked. 

I loved, loved, loved Michael James Williams' How To Read The Bible Through the Jesus Lens. I think it's the perfect choice for new believers and not so new believers that need a refresher course in what the Bible is all about, what the gospel is all about. (And who doesn't need reminders about what the gospel is all about?!)

Purpose of the book:
Reading the Bible through the Jesus lens is reading it the way it was intended. It keeps our reading, understanding, teaching, and preaching properly focused on God’s grand redemptive program that centers on his own Son. Seeing how each biblical book makes its own unique contribution to that redemptive focus enables us to use these diverse materials with much more confidence and accuracy. The Jesus lens ensures that our exegetical bowling balls stay within the lane and don’t go crashing over into areas where they can cause a lot of damage to the faith of believers and to our ability to use the Bible fruitfully in our service to God. (9)
To accomplish this purpose in a book that one doesn’t need a wheelbarrow to carry around, the chapters are brief and similarly structured. In each one, I present the overarching theme of each biblical book along with a discussion of how that theme ultimately finds its focus in Jesus Christ. I then explore how this focus in Christ is subsequently elaborated upon in the New Testament. Finally, I consider what that fulfillment in Christ must necessarily entail for believers, who are being conformed to his likeness, along with ways to communicate those entailments to others effectively. By means of these considerations I hope to help brothers and sisters in the faith grow in their awareness of how all of Scripture finds its focus in Jesus Christ and so help them to root their Christian life, theological discussions, and evangelical witness in the one who is our life (Colossians 3: 4). (10)
This book covers it all Genesis through Revelation. Each chapter looks a little something like this:
  • Introduction
  • Theme of the Book, Elaboration of the Theme
  • Memory Passage
  • The Jesus Lens
  • Contemporary Implications
  • Hook Questions
  • Conclusion
I think this book is great for individual use. I do. I think one could read this book as a companion to the Bible, journal the process, and grow. The book could also be used for small groups. The hook questions for each chapter are deep and reflective. A few of them would be applicable for group or class discussion, but, other questions might be more personal. I think readers who reflect on the questions will benefit the most from this book. But I must admit that even without the questions, I was hooked! I love the gospel focus. I do.

Favorite hook questions:

1 and 2 Chronicles:
Are you good enough for heaven? Do you behave as though you were? Do you expect other Christians to behave as though they were? If you are relying on your own righteousness (whatever that is) to bring about or maintain your relationship with God, then what do you think Christ’s righteousness accomplished? How do you acknowledge the Lord’s rule in your own circumstances? Do you regard yourself as a subject of King Jesus? If someone watched you during the day, who would they say really ruled your life? Jesus? Public opinion? You? 
Song of Songs:
Does our love for God or for each other look anything like God’s sacrificial love for us? How would you describe to an unbeliever what love is? How would an unbeliever recognize the love of God in you? Does your experience or practice of love look any different from that of an unbeliever? How does your effort to love like God affect your Christian witness?
Is God’s love for you conditional? Have you been living as though it is? Does your confidence in your relationship with God ultimately depend on your faithfulness or on Jesus'? Have you made Jesus your representative in faithfulness and in judgment? Are you more demanding than God is with yourself or others? Do you feel the need to pay for sins that have already been paid for? Is your behavior more motivated by guilt or by gratitude?
Where do you find your security and comfort in life? Have the things you are trusting in ever failed you? Do you spend most of your time developing your relationship with God or developing your relationship with other things? Are you as compassionate with others as God has been with you? Are you ready to be merciful and compassionate to those who, in your estimation, don’t deserve it? What if God were like you?
Are any of us faithful? Even when we feel closest to God, are our hearts entirely devoted to him? How would you evaluate your own consistency in your relationship with God? Would your spouse let you get away with the lack of attention and care that you give God? Is our Lord ever unfaithful? Do you live as though you doubt his faithfulness? What are you looking at for your security in your relationship with God, your own faithfulness or Jesus'?
Do you look forward to the Lord’s return, or do you fear it? What might be causing fear? Do you want God to remove sin from the world, or would you like to play with it a little longer? What makes sinful behavior attractive to you? In what will you take confidence on the coming day of judgment? How is your relationship with Christ? Is it growing deeper or are you growing apart? What is causing this?
Are you a good person? What is good? Do you describe “good” in terms of actions or of being? Can someone do enough good things to compensate for not being good? How good is good enough? What is the standard? Is it possible for you to meet your or God’s standards? What is the goal of the standards? How is that goal accomplished in Christ? Is there any use for the law of God in a Christian’s life today? Why might Jesus command his disciples “to obey everything I have commanded you"?
Favorite quotes:
Through Jesus Christ, God accomplishes our deliverance from sin, and also our deliverance into a rich life of meaning, purpose, and significance in his presence. By his almighty and unfailing power, God delivers us from the penalty of sin as well as from the power of sin that seeks to reclaim us after we have escaped its menacing clutches.
This demand for holiness in our relationship with God has not been removed or minimized. Not only do we need a perfect sacrifice, we need a perfect priest to offer it for us. Jesus, because he is both the flawless sacrifice and the sinless priest, fulfills both roles.
Because of what our Lord has done on our behalf, our whole perspective on God’s law has shifted. Now we do not look to our own obedience as the guarantee of our relationship with God (really no guarantee at all), but rather to the obedience of the perfect law-keeper, Jesus Christ. He sent his Spirit to indwell us, guide us, and empower us to follow God’s blueprint for the full human life that God wants for us.
Our turning away from God calls for judgment as well. God cannot be just and holy and simply excuse sin. And we have all sinned. All of us, therefore, have merited divine judgment. Incredibly, God in his grace and mercy has provided a way out of this seemingly impossible situation. The only solution to the human problem of faithlessness is a human being who is entirely faithful. Such a person would not merit any divine judgment himself, but he could experience that judgment for all the rest of us who are ready to claim his representation for ourselves. This is the reason — the only reason — why God became a human being. Jesus, both human and divine, is the one person who never turned away from the Father, but was willing to experience the judgment deserved by all the rest of us who have. We turned away from God, and God, in judgment, turned away from his own Son on the cross as he suffered for us: Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani? “ (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? “). (Matthew 27:46) We can’t imagine the physical pain and mental anguish of the Son as he experienced the exile of the Father on our behalf in order to bring us from exile to life-giving and life-sustaining relationship with him. Jesus paid the price for our turning away so that we could turn back to God.
God wants us to be in a continual, close relationship with him. And he doesn’t put any emotional qualifiers on this relationship. He doesn’t specify that we may only pray to him when we are happy and content with the world. He doesn’t require that we only sing praise songs — although it’s rare to see a lament team in our churches. He doesn’t ask that we hide our emotions under a blanket of doctrinal propositions. What he does ask is that we talk to him about everything. Within our secure relationship, we can pour out our hearts to God and rest assured that he will wrap our deepest concerns in his protective peace. He doesn’t promise to deliver us from all of our problems right now. But he does promise to guard us from any relationship-disturbing threat they may pose. And ultimately, our relationship with God is the only thing that matters.
Jesus bears our judgment so that we can experience God’s mercy. Now that our time has been served, our record has been expunged, and our citizenship rights restored by our righteous and merciful representative, we no longer need to fear judgment. Justice has been served in the uniform of mercy. After laying the foundation of justice, our merciful shepherd returned to the Father until a future time when the restoration his actions have initiated will be fully realized. Until then, he has sent us his Spirit to indwell us and guide us so that the divine justice and mercy we have experienced will begin to leak out all over our human experience.
Truth finds its source in God. Truth can be seen. Truth can be lived out before other people. The truth of God finds its perfect expression in Jesus Christ, who “came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Jesus’ life communicated in all of its details the same truth his words did.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Read With Me: Genesis, Week 3

This week's reading, if you're reading along, is Genesis 18-27. 
Long after all this there was another Father who offered His Son in a sacrifice, and there was no one that day to stay His hand, to say, "Do not harm the boy." That Father was God Himself, and the Son who died for you and me - and for Abraham and Isaac - was our Lord Jesus. He was the Son of God, and He was the son of Abraham too. For He was the one whom God had promised to Adam and Eve, and to Abraham. He was the one in whom all the nations of the earth are blessed. ~ Child's Story Bible, Catherine Vos
The object of God, in choosing a people before all worlds, was not only to save that people, but through them to confer essential benefits upon the whole human race. When he chose Abraham, he did not elect him simply to be God’s friend, and the recipient of peculiar privileges; but he chose him to make him, as it were, the conservator of truth. He was to be the ark in which the truth should be hidden. He was to be the keeper of the covenant in behalf of the whole world; and when God chooses any men by his sovereign, electing grace, and makes them Christ’s, he does it not only for their own sake, that they may be saved, but for the world’s sake. ~ Charles Spurgeon, The Church of Christ
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Week In Review: January 5-11

NIV MacArthur Study Bible

  • Numbers
  • Deuteronomy 1-20

Chronological Life Application, KJV

  • Exodus 19-40
  • Leviticus
  • Numbers
  • Deuteronomy 1-11

NRSV Daily Bible

  • Genesis 21-50

KJV New Cambridge Paragraph, David Norton, ed.

  • Esther
  • Ecclesiastes
  • Song of Songs
  • Daniel
  • Hosea
  • Amos
  • Obadiah
  • John
  • 1 Timothy
  • 2 Timothy
  • Titus
  • Philemon
  • Hebrews
  • James

NKJV Soul Care Bible

  • Matthew
  • Revelation

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Book Review: Dear Mr. Knightley

Dear Mr. Knightley. Katherine Reay. 2013. Thomas Nelson. 336 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]

For any reader who loves, loves, loves books--particularly classic romances--Dear Mr. Knightley may just be a must read. Dear Mr. Knightley is largely inspired by Daddy Long Legs by Jean Webster. Yes, the title might lead you to believe this is an Austen-inspired contemporary romance. And, in a way, it is that too. But. The Daddy-Long-Legs connection is even more apparent--at least to those that have read it. There may be plenty of readers who are unfamiliar with that 1912 classic!!!

Samantha Moore is the heroine of Dear Mr. Knightley. She absolutely loves to read. She has read her favorite classics again and again and again. Jane Eyre. Pride and Prejudice. Sense and Sensibility. Much Ado About Nothing. The list goes on and on. She loves to lose herself in a good, satisfying story. (And she doesn't even require a happily ever after for every single one.) She has read them so often, that she can quote from them with ease. She's got an ample supply of quotes for every single situation. Does this help her connect with people in the real world? Not so much. Sam also has another passion. She runs. She absolutely loves to run. She feels she finds herself in the process. She credits RUNNING and READING with saving herself from her not so perfect life.

So the novel opens with Sam getting ready to start a new chapter in her life. She will be attending graduate school in Chicago. She will be studying journalism. There is a sponsor who will pay for her schooling, if, she will write him once a month to keep him up to date on her studies and her progress. This correspondence is one-sided. The name chosen--by him--is Mr. Knightley. This puts her at ease at once. How could Mr. Knightley be anything but a kindred spirit?!

The novel focuses on relationships and connections, Sam, finding a place to belong and gaining a true sense of self. Sam who has spent most of her life in various foster programs and group homes has struggled with this. She is in her mid-twenties and tired of feeling lost and in-between.

There are many characters introduced in this one. I absolutely loved the character of Alex Powell. He's first introduced as a best-selling author of a mystery series. His detective makes Sam swoon. She meets Alex at an author event in Chicago. They share some significant minutes together: ten or twenty minutes of pleasant conversation. He happens to introduce her to a professor, one of his best friends in the area, and this professor takes a liking to her. This professor and his wife invite her into their lives…

Dear Mr. Knightley was completely enjoyable! I loved it more than Daddy Long-Legs. (For the record, I found Daddy Long Legs spiritually questionable, at best.) While Dear Mr. Knightley was published by a Christian publisher, I feel this title could crossover well. The spiritual message--if there is one--is understated.

If you are truly a “Mr. Knightley,” I can do this. I can write these letters. I trust you chose that name as a reflection of your own character. George Knightley is a good and honorable man—even better than Fitzwilliam Darcy, and few women put anyone above Mr. Darcy.
Dear Mr. Knightley, I thought about you last night and stayed up reading Emma. I adore her, though she’s out of my reach. Can you imagine such confidence and assurance of your own significance? Do you know anyone who would dare declare that he or she “cannot really change for the better”? I’d like to believe that—even for a moment. But no, I gravitate toward Fanny Price, morally spot-on, but commonly thought dull. Or Anne Elliot, demure and kind, not one to stand out in a crowd. Or the ever-practical and sensible Charlotte Lucas. Those dear friends I understand.
I’m a twenty-three-year-old woman who has never been with a guy, never really even kissed a guy, and clearly can’t speak to one. Who could understand that? My idea of romance comes from Jane Austen—and I was scandalized when Darcy and Lizzy kissed at the end of that BBC movie.
How would it feel to get carried away on emotion like Marianne? To be so recklessly entranced? So passionately in love? I never thought Marianne’s devotion to Willoughby was prudent, and it wasn’t, but I bet it was fun. And later, I’m sure all that passion enveloped Colonel Brandon.
Changing, being real and becoming who you want to be, is hard work. Right now, I’d love a good chat with Jane Eyre. She never lost herself. Not once.
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Book Review: Crazy Busy

Crazy Busy. Kevin DeYoung. 2013. Crossway. 128 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Crazy Busy is a "mercifully short book" about a common problem. It was definitely a quick read for me. I liked how straight-forward it was. The first chapter tells you exactly what to expect, in fact, it gives you an outline for the entire book.
I hope you'll find this book highly practical and accessibly theological. That's the book I set out to write because that's the book I'd want to read. (17)
My outline is as simple as three numbers: 3, 7, and 1: three dangers to avoid (chapter 2), seven diagnoses to consider (chapters 3-9), and one thing you must do (chapter 10). (18)

Another thing I loved about this one is how conversational it is, how relaxed. At times it was laugh out loud funny. It's not that the book lacks seriousness, however, it's just a very "real" book about being human.
We live in a permissive society that won't count sin against you as an adult, but will count the calories in your kids' hot lunches. (67)
I think the chapter most people will find it hard to implement is the last chapter--the essential chapter. In this chapter, Kevin DeYoung urges his busy, busy readers to have God be their one thing; in other words, to stop being Martha, to be Mary. To put aside all the "important" things, and focus on the only thing weighty enough to be truly important: Jesus.
If someone recorded your life for a week and then showed it to a group of strangers, what would they guess is the "good portion" in your life? What would they conclude is the one thing you must get done every day? Folding the laundry? Cleaning the house? Catching up on emails? Posting to Facebook? Mowing the lawn? Watching the game? I know you have things to do, I have plenty to do myself. But out of all the concerns in our lives, can we honestly say and show that sitting at the feet of Jesus is the one thing that is necessary? (113)
We have to believe that hearing from God is our good portion. We have to believe that the most significant opportunity before us every day is the opportunity to sit at the feet of Jesus. We won't rearrange our priorities unless we really believe this is the best one. (115)
Crazy Busy may be short. And some might argue that it's a book with obvious solutions: that there aren't any big secrets revealed, but, I think it's a thought-provoking book. If readers will take the time to consider their own lives as they read, I think this book offers something.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

My Year with Spurgeon #1

The Death of The Christian
Charles Spurgeon
Thou shall come to thy grave in a full age, like as a shock of corn cometh in his season
Job 5:26
A Christian has nothing to lose by death. You say he has to lose his friends. I am not so sure of that. Many of you have may more friends in heaven than on earth; some Christians have more dearly beloved ones above than below. ~ Charles Spurgeon, The Death of The Christian
A “full age” is whenever God likes to take his children home. ~ Charles Spurgeon, The Death of The Christian
There are two mercies to a Christian. The first is that he will never die too soon; and the second, that he will never die too late. ~ Charles Spurgeon, The Death of The Christian
I think the most honourable and glorious thing we shall ever behold, next to Christ’s entrance into heaven, and his glory there, is the entrance of one of God’s people into heaven. I can suppose it is made a holiday whenever a saint enters, and that is continually, so that they keep perpetual holiday. ~ Charles Spurgeon, The Death of the Christian
Oh! methinks there is a shout that cometh from heaven whenever a Christian enters it, louder than the noise of many waters. ~ Charles Spurgeon, The Death of the Christian

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, January 6, 2014

Book Review: Studying Your Bible

Bruce and Stan's Pocket Guide To Studying Your Bible: A User-Friendly Approach. Bruce Bickel and Stan Jantz. 2001. Harvest House. 112 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]

A note from the authors:
Millions of Americans turn to one literary source for guidance. Some do it daily; others read it only once a week (often on Sundays). To the novice reader, this literary work may seem complicated and intimidating--with references that range from historical to contemporary, spiritual to practical, and serious to comedic. But the diligent reader will be rewarded…
Of course, we are talking about the weekly TV Guide. But you knew that. People are much more anxious to read about the plots and schedules of their favorite television shows than to read the Bible. 
It's short. It's basic. It's reader-friendly. The approach is super casual. It was written in 2001, so some of the social references are a bit dated by now, but, it is not in any way intimidating.

The book is divided into four chapters: "Why Read the Bible When You Can Watch A Video Instead?," "So Many Bibles! Which One Is Right for You?," "So Many Verses! Where Do You Begin?," and "How To Make Sense Out of What You Read."

The first chapter talks about the Bible, about why it is important for every single believer to read the Bible for themselves, the benefits of Bible reading, etc. The second chapter focuses on the tricky subject of translation. The third chapter focuses on the story of the Bible, of finding the big picture, of making connections between the Old Testament and the New Testament, of weaving the 66 books into a whole book. The fourth chapter focuses on studying the Bible, methods of interpretation, emphasizing the need to dig deep and reach the objective truth.

It works as an introduction to those that have never acquired the discipline of reading or studying the Bible.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Read With Me: Genesis, Week 2

Do you have reading plans for the month of January? Planning to start the year with Genesis, the first book of the Bible? Hoping the new year is the year that Bible reading will become a habit that sticks around the whole year through? I'd love to have you join me in reading Genesis in January. You may follow whatever plan you like. I have divided the book up into weekly portions, but, that doesn't mean you have to follow those readings exactly.

It's not too late to join me in reading Genesis in January! The first week covered just five chapters, you can easily make those chapters up!

This week's chapters: Genesis 6 - 17

From How To Read The Bible Through the Jesus Lens, A Guide to Christ-Focused Reading of Scripture by Michael Williams
The Bible begins with a book that takes us all the way from the murky recesses of the distant past to a populated world whose future revolves around the fate of one family group. How are we supposed to get our minds around all this information? Why did God bother to communicate these details to us? What are we supposed to take away from all that that has anything to do with our lives today? 
Theme of the Book: God separates out one through whom he would bless all nations.
From the beginning of creation in the opening chapters through the millennia of conflict and struggle after the fall, God's activity in Genesis can be summarized by the word separating. God separates:
  • light from darkness (Genesis 1:4)
  • the waters in the heavens from the waters on the earth (Genesis 1:6)
  • dry ground from seas (Genesis 1:9-10)
  • animate life in the sea and on land from inanimate vegetable life (Genesis 1:11-12, 20-25)
  • human beings from animals (Genesis 1:26-28)
  • the line of Seth from and Adam and Eve's other children (Genesis 5:3-32)
  • the line of Noah from other people (Genesis 6:9-14)
  • the line of Noah's son Shem from Noah's other children (Genesis 9:25-27)
  • the line of Abraham from all other people (Genesis 12:1-3)
Through accounts of human failures, wars, family intrigues, deceptions, international slave trade, famines, and miraculous births, Genesis presents to us God's relentless and gracious separation and preservation of the human line he had chosen to bring his salvation to the world. 
Jesus is the one to whom all God's separating was always meant to lead, and Jesus is separate from all others in his ability to bring the promised divine blessing to the nations (Acts 4:12). The ultimate focus of all God's redemptive activity is Jesus Christ. 
As Christ's ambassadors, we have been "separated out" by God not just to receive the blessing of reconciliation with God and the life that flows from that divine, saving act, but also to pass on that blessing to others by making the good news of God's salvation in Jesus Christ clear to them with every aspect of our lives. 
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Week in Review: December 29 - January 4

NIV MacArthur Study Bible

  • Exodus
  • Leviticus
  • Hebrews

Chronological Life Application, KJV

  • Genesis 37-50
  • Job 
  • Exodus 1-18

NRSV Daily Bible

  • Genesis 10-20

KJV New Cambridge Paragraph, David Norton, ed.

  • 1 Samuel 16-31
  • Nehemiah
  • 1 Thessalonians
  • 2 Thessalonians

NKJV Soul Care Bible

  • Psalms 1-10
  • John
  • 1 John
  • 2 John
  • 3 John
  • Jude

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Book Review: A Woman's Guide to Reading the Bible In A Year

Woman's Guide to Reading the Bible In A Year. Diane Stortz. 2013. Bethany House. 144 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]

For women who want to come together and form a group with other similarly-goal-oriented women to read the Bible in a year, this book has something to offer. It offers a few tips and guidelines; it offers a handful of testimonies and I've-been-there stories; it offers a place to record your journey week by week if (and only if) you choose to record your answers to the questions; it also provides a plan: each week has its assigned chapters.
Develop an atmosphere where all questions are safe and no one has to have all the answers. Welcome questions and struggles. Learn from one another. Make it always OK to say “What do you think?” or “I don’t know.” This is especially important if group members come from a variety of backgrounds. Occasionally someone in the group will want to talk about a special concern. Ask, “What does this passage teach us about God’s character?” to refocus the group if the discussion seems to be veering too far from the text.
Sample of the plan:

Week one:
__ Genesis 1-3
__ Genesis 4-6
__ Genesis 7-9
__ Genesis 10-12
__ Genesis 13-15
__ Genesis 16-18
__ Genesis 19-21

Week three:
__ Genesis 43-45
__ Genesis 46-50
__ Matthew 1-3
__ Matthew 4-6
__ Matthew 7-9
__ Matthew 10-12
__ Matthew 13-15

Weekly questions:
How did you experience God’s heart in this week’s reading?
Something you learned or an insight you gained:
A verse or passage you’d like to remember:
For individuals who want to read the Bible on their own, it has less to offer. The inspirational testimonies are fine, I suppose, and the reading plan is a reading plan. But reading plans are easy to come by. Reading plans can be found in many Bibles. Reading plans can be found in many, many places online.

The weekly summaries and weekly discussion questions--which happen to be the same questions week after week after week after week--are not that extraordinary. The study-light questions make sense in a group where you're trying to get anybody and everybody to talk and feel comfortable talking, when you're just trying to stay relatively on task and avoid awkward silence. But when you're on your own, I'm not sure what the point would be. The questions aren't specific enough, or deep enough to be beneficial. And the chapter summaries are fine for an overview, but, if you've actually read the Bible and kept up, they're also superfluous.

I believe the intended focus of the book is on reading the Bible, not studying the Bible. The focus more on devotional reading and what does this mean to me, than perhaps on studying what the Bible means objectively and digging deep. The group atmospheres encourages lively, safe discussion and not teaching and instruction. It embraces the "I don't know" and "what do you think?" more than finding real answers to real questions.

I can't help but think on these passages by John MacArthur:
Authentic Christianity starts with the premise that there is a source of truth outside of us. Specifically, God's Word is truth. (Psalm 119:151John 17:17). It is objectively true--meaning it is true whether it speaks subjectively to any given individual or not; it is true regardless of how anyone feels about it; it is true for everyone universally and without exception; it is absolutely true. ~ John MacArthur, Why One Way, 19
It's not as if we can make the words mean anything we want them to mean, so that whatever connotation we impose on the words becomes the Word of God. Only the true interpretation of the text is the authentic Word of God, and any other interpretation is simply not what God is saying. ~ John MacArthur, Why One Way, 34
Truth is never determined by looking at God's Word and asking "What does this mean to me?" Whenever I hear someone talk like that, I'm inclined to ask, "What did the Bible mean before you existed? What does God mean by what He says?" Those are the proper questions to be asking. Truth and meaning are not determined by our intuition, experience, or desire. The true meaning of Scripture--or anything else for that matter--has already been determined and fixed by the mind of God. The task of an interpreter is to discern that meaning. And proper interpretation must precede application. The meaning of God's Word is neither as obscure nor as difficult to grasp as people today often pretend. Admittedly, some things in the Bible are hard to understand, but its central, essential truth is plain enough that no one need be confused by it. ~ John MacArthur, The Truth War, xx, xxi
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Book Review: The Captive Maiden

The Captive Maiden. Melanie Dickerson. 2013. Zondervan. 304 pages.

The Captive Maiden reminded me of two movies that I have loved in the past: Ever After and A Knight's Tale. It is a Christian retelling of Cinderella. Like Ever After, The Captive Maiden is free from magic. There isn't a fairy godmother, and there are certainly no singing mice! We first meet Gisela, our heroine, at the age of eight. Readers learn that her stepmother is cruel and her stepsisters follow their mother's example. We learn that Gisela loves horses just as her father did. We learn that Gisela sometimes slips into daydreaming about the day she met the Duke's son, Valten. This was all the prologue. The heart of the novel, as you may imagine, is set nine years later. Gisela is still crazy about horses, still doing plenty of manual labor, still putting up with her stepmother. In the opening chapters, Gisela catches a glimpse of Valten who has just returned. (It probably wouldn't surprise you that he's dressed as a commoner and not a noble lord.) They share a brief but meaningful conversation, a conversation centered around horses. There is definitely a spark between the two. Just one reason why Gisela is so determined to defy her stepmother and attend the three-day tournament anyway. (Her stepmother has forbidden her to go. She goes. In her mother's dress. With the help of a friendly neighbor.) She's chosen to sit in the gallery along with other beautiful, young, eligible maidens. She is playing dress up, in a way, since she's not really been in society before. But this taste of a better life is incredible. She gets to see all the action up close.

There is plenty of action and drama. And romance. Let's not forget the romance in this historical novel! I like the fourteenth century setting. I like the world-building. It was interesting, at least in small doses, to read of tournaments and jousting and such. I really like the characterization, particularly of HIS family. Gisela gets the opportunity to meet his family and spend time with his sisters. This was probably one of my favorite bits of the novel. I loved seeing the quiet scenes, the conversations, what happens when lives aren't at risk! (Her family was stereotypical and just what you'd expect in any Cinderella tale.)

The Captive Maiden is a companion novel to others in the series, especially The Fairest Beauty, a retelling of Snow White.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Quotes for A New Year

People are starving for the greatness of God. But most of them would not give this diagnosis of their troubled lives. The majesty of God is an unknown cure. ~ John Piper
It is a sweet thought that Jesus Christ, did not come forth without his Father’s permission, authority, consent, and assistance. He was sent of the Father, that he might be the Saviour of men. We are, alas! too apt to forget, that while there are distinctions as to the persons in the Trinity, there are no distinctions of honor; and we do very frequently ascribe the honor of our salvation, or at least the depths of its mercy and the extremity of its benevolence, more to Jesus Christ than we do to the Father. This is a very great mistake. What if Jesus came? Did not his Father send him? If he was made a child did not the Holy Ghost beget him? If he spake wondrously, did not his Father pour grace into his lips, that he might be an able minister of the new covenant? If his Father did forsake him when he drank the bitter cup of gall, did he not love him still? and did he not, by-and by, after three days, raise him from the dead, and at last receive him up on high, leading captivity captive? Ah! beloved, he who knoweth the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost as he should know them, never setteth one before another; he is not more thankful to one than the other; he sees them at Bethlehem, at Gethsemane, and on Calvary, all equally engaged in the work of salvation. ~ Charles Spurgeon
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible