Tuesday, September 30, 2014

My Year With Spurgeon #39

Christ Exalted
Charles Spurgeon
“This man, after he had offered on sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool.”—Hebrews 10:12-13
You see the superiority of Christ’s sacrifice rests in this, that the priest offered continually, and after he had slaughtered one lamb, another was needed; after one scape-goat was driven into the wilderness, a scape-goat was needed the next year, “but this man, when he had offered only one sacrifice for sins,” did what thousands of scape-goats never did, and what hundreds of thousands of lambs never could effect. He perfected our salvation, and worked out an entire atonement for the sins of all his chosen ones.
He has done all that was necessary to be done, to make an atonement and an end of sin.
The God of the Aged
Charles Spurgeon
“Even to your old age I am he; and even to hoar hairs will I carry you. I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you.”—Isaiah 46:4.
The doctrine, then is twofold: that God himself is the same, whatever may be our age; and that God’s dealings towards us, both in providence and in grace, his carryings and his deliverings, are alike unchanged.
The word of God is still the same; there is not one promise removed. The doctrines are the same; the truths are the same; all God’s declarations remain unchanged for ever; and I argue, from the very fact that his years do not change him.
Old age is a time of peculiar memories, of peculiar hopes, of peculiar solicitudes, of peculiar blessedness, and of peculiar duties; yet in all this, God is the same, although man be peculiar.
What was your hope when you first went to the wicket gate? Why, your hope was that you might arrive at the land of the blessed. And is it not the same now? Is your hope of heaven changed? Do you wish for anything else, or for anything better? “No,” you will say, “I thought when I started I should one day be with Jesus; that is what I expect now. I feel that my hope is precisely the same. I want to be with Jesus, to be like him, and to see him as he is.” And is not the joy of that hope just the same?

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, September 29, 2014

Quoting Martyn Lloyd-Jones #9

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. (JanuaryFebruaryMarchAprilMayJuneJuly, August)

From September 13
How did Christ act as a prophet on earth? He did so in all His teaching: His teaching concerning God the Father; His exposition of the law in the Sermon on the Mount; in all He told us of God’s love, of God’s gracious purpose, of His nature and His person. All this was a part of the exercise of His prophetic function, and supremely He told us about Himself. All this is vital, and I emphasize it because we sometimes forget that a part of our salvation consists in our receiving this knowledge that our Lord has given. This is why we must realize that this Gospel applies to us. All He taught applies to us; the Gospel is vital for Christian people and for Christian living. Christ is our Prophet. And then He taught us by His life and example. “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (John 14:9). “Look at me,” He said in effect. “Have not my works shown you?” (See John 10:37-38.) “Hast thou not known me, Philip?” (John 14:9). “If you only look at Me, you will learn about God.” Then let me go on to show you how He has continued to exercise His prophetic function ever since His ascension, after He left earth and returned to heaven. He said that He would speak through the Holy Spirit. “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you” (John 16:12-14). The Holy Spirit would not speak of Himself or about Himself, but the Holy Spirit would be told what to say. Christ would send the Holy Spirit to instruct. As the Son did not speak of Himself but from the Father, so the Spirit speaks as our Lord instructs Him.
From September 30
If we do not start with the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, if we are not absolutely clear about Him, then there is nothing. There is no good news, there is no evangel, there is no gospel; there is nothing to cheer us up, there is no hope. We are just living in the darkness of the world, and we are unutterably foolish in trying to persuade ourselves that things are better than they really are. There is no such thing, in a sense, as “the Christmas spirit.” That is not the Christian message, which is not a vague spirit; it is a message of news concerning Christ. So, therefore, we must of necessity start at this point and be absolutely clear about this matter. As has often been pointed out, Christianity is Christ. It all centers around Him, and every doctrine that we have and every idea that we possess is something that comes from Him. Therefore, of necessity we must start with Him, and of course John in this letter has already done so. The whole message that John has to deliver to us is that there is only one way of fellowship and communion with God, and that is because of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is He alone who can enable us to know this fellowship, for there is “one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5).  

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Week in Review: September 21-27


  • 1 Samuel 17-31
  • 2 Samuel 
  • 1 Kings
  • 2 Kings
  • 1 Chronicles 1-13
  • Acts


  • Psalms 107-150
  • Isaiah 1-10
  • Jonah
  • Mark 
  • Romans
  • Ephesians
  • Hebrews
  • 1 Peter
  • 2 Peter
  • Revelation

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Book Review: One Way Love

One Way Love: Inexhaustible Grace for an Exhausted World. Tullian Tchividjian. 2013. David Cook. 240 pages. [Source: Bought]

I have been wanting to read One Way Love for a long time. I absolutely loved, loved, loved Tchividjian's Jesus + Nothing = Everything. Did I love One Way Love as much? I'm not sure. I certainly enjoyed reading it. I thought it was worth my time, very relevant. But in some ways it is covering the same material: grace, grace, all is grace. And I love the subject. I do. I think it's a message that is always worth hearing. But because I had already read Jesus + Nothing = Everything, it didn't wow me as much as it might have otherwise. I think it's a good book. I would definitely still recommend it.
Works righteousness is the term the Protestant Reformation used to describe spiritual performancism, and it has plagued the church—and the world—since the Garden of Eden. It might not be too much of an overstatement to say that if Jesus came to proclaim good news to the poor and release to the captives, to restore sight to the blind and give freedom for the oppressed, then Christianity has come to stand for—and in practice promulgate—the exact opposite of what its founder intended (Luke 4:18–19).
One Way Love is about our need to fight against works righteousness, this idea that we need to earn God's love or acceptance. It is about turning from the idea that we earn or add or contribute to our salvation, to our faith. The book is about embracing God's grace and using it as a foundation for our lives.

Favorite quotes:
The Bible is a record of the blessed bad. The Bible is not a witness to the best people making it up to God; it’s a witness to God making it down to the worst people.
The Bible is one long story of God meeting our rebellion with His rescue, our sin with His salvation, our guilt with His grace, our badness with His goodness. The overwhelming focus of the Bible is not the work of the redeemed but the work of the Redeemer. Which means that the Bible is not first a recipe book for Christian living but a revelation book of Jesus who is the answer to our un-Christian living.
Grace doesn’t make demands. It just gives. And from our vantage point, it always gives to the wrong person. We see this over and over again in the Gospels: Jesus is always giving to the wrong people—prostitutes, tax collectors, half-breeds. The most extravagant sinners of Jesus’s day receive his most compassionate welcome. Grace is a divine vulgarity that stands caution on its head. It refuses to play it safe and lay it up. Grace is recklessly generous, uncomfortably promiscuous.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ announces that because Jesus was strong for you, you’re free to be weak. Because Jesus won for you, you’re free to lose. Because Jesus was Someone, you’re free to be no one. Because Jesus was extraordinary, you’re free to be ordinary. Because Jesus succeeded for you, you’re free to fail. One way to summarize God’s message to the worn out and weary is like this—God’s demand: “be righteous”; God’s diagnosis: “no one is righteous”; God’s deliverance: “Jesus is our righteousness.” Once this good news grips your heart, it changes everything. It frees you from having to be perfect. It frees you from having to hold it all together. In the place of exhaustion, you might even find energy.
The law offends us because it tells us what to do—and most of the time, we hate anyone telling us what to do. But ironically, grace offends us even more, because it tells us that there is nothing we can do, that everything has already been done. And if there is something we hate more than being told what to do, it’s being told that we can’t do anything, that we can’t earn anything—that we are helpless, weak, and needy. However much we hate the law, we are more afraid of grace. Because we are natural-born do-it-yourselfers, the vitriolic reaction to unconditional grace is understandable. Grace generates panic, because it wrestles both control and glory out of our hands.
The Law, to paraphrase Martin Luther, is a divine Hercules sent to attack and kill the monster of self-righteousness—a monster that continues to harass the redeemed. We need the Law to freshly reveal to us that we are worse off than we think we are. We need to be reminded that there is something to be pardoned even in our best works and proudest achievements.
Contrary to what some Christians today would have you believe, the biggest problem facing the church today is not “cheap grace” but “cheap Law”—the idea that God accepts anything less than the perfect righteousness of Jesus.
The one-way love of God is restorative and reconciling because in the mystery of His cross, God has neutralized the effects of sin, forgiven its offense, blotted out its stain, expiated its guilt, and created a new beginning. “As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us” (Ps. 103:12). Thanks to Jesus’s sacrifice on my behalf, the sins I cannot forget, God cannot remember. Jesus is not waving some magic wand or being dishonest about who Peter was (or who we are). He is acting on the firm foundation of what his death on our behalf has accomplished. There is nothing cheap about the grace he offers repeat offenders. On the contrary—it cost him everything! The Gospel announces that Jesus came to acquit the guilty. He came to judge and be judged in our place. Christ came to satisfy the deep judgment against us once and for all so we could be free from the judgment of God, others, and ourselves. Jesus came to unburden us of our efforts at trying to deal with judgment on our own.
An identity based in the one-way love of God does not take into account public opinion or, thankfully, even personal opinion. It is a gift from Someone who is not you. As my friend Justin Buzzard wrote recently, “The gospel doesn’t just free you from what other people think about you, it frees you from what you think about yourself.” In other words, you are not who others see you to be, and you are not who you see yourself to be; you are who God sees you to be—His beloved child, with whom He is well pleased.
Salvation is not a matter of our coming to God. It is a matter of God coming to us. Robert Capon explains it in this way: Jesus came to raise the dead. The only qualification for the gift of the Gospel is to be dead. You don’t have to be smart. You don’t have to be good. You don’t have to be wise. You don’t have to be wonderful. You just have to be dead. That’s it.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Book Review: The Names of Jesus

The Names of Jesus. Warren W. Wiersbe. 1997. Baker Publishing. 159 pages. [Source: Bought]

I loved, loved, loved, LOVED Warren W. Wiersbe's The Names of Jesus. This one is so good, so wonderful, that I'd recommend it to just about everyone! I expected to like it, to benefit from reading it, to learn a few things. But I didn't expect to LOVE it so very much. Each chapter is so good, so rich, so informative, so thought-provoking.

The premise of this one is simple: names in the Bible matter: they are significant, they reveal much.
Why should we study the wonderful names of Jesus? For this reason: every name that he wears is a blessing that he shares. The better we understand the names of our Lord Jesus Christ, the better we will know him. The better we know him, the better we’ll understand what he’s done for us and what he can do for us today. The names of Christ are revelations of his glorious character and his gracious ministry to his own people, and we want to appropriate by faith every blessing that he has for us.It’s a mistake to profess to trust Jesus Christ to save us and then go on living the way we please. Either the profession is false or we have a faulty understanding of who Jesus is.
Wiersbe wants his readers to KNOW Jesus, to know who Jesus is.

Part one focuses on the Names of Jesus from Isaiah 9:6.

  • Wonderful
  • Counselor
  • The Mighty God
  • The Everlasting Father
  • Prince of Peace

Part two focuses on the Names of Jesus from the New Testament

  • The Nazarene
  • The Pioneer
  • The Carpenter
  • Our Surety
  • Alpha and Omega
  • The Lamb
  • The Firstborn
  • Immanuel
  • Jesus

It also has an introduction, "What's In a Name?" and a postscript, "What is Your Name?" These provide a very nice framework for the book.

I believe I could gush about every chapter in The Names of Jesus. I wish I could talk about every chapter, to give this book all the attention it deserves.

Favorite quotes:
Whatever Jesus touched, he blessed and beautified and made wonderful. He longed for people to open their eyes to see the world around them: the splendor of the lilies, the freedom of the sparrows, the miracle of the children, the message of the wind. He took everyday bread and wine and gave these necessities a depth of meaning that transformed them into luxuries of God’s grace. A little seed suddenly becomes a sermon: “The seed is the Word of God.” Water becomes a picture of the Holy Spirit. A lost sheep is a lost soul. He wrote in the dust and confounded the angry religious leaders. Perhaps the greatest wonder of all was his transforming a shameful cross into the meeting place of God’s love and man’s sin.
Why people have a difficult time directing their steps isn’t difficult to explain. To begin with, our hearts are basically sinful and selfish, and our motives are mixed. Jeremiah says it accurately: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9). How easy it is to say, “Well, if I know my own heart!” But the plain fact is that we don’t know our own hearts! Peter looked into his heart and thought he saw courage and stability, but when Jesus looked into Peter’s heart he saw cowardice and failure. “Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water,” warns Proverbs 20:5. Not only is the human heart desperately and deceitfully wicked, but the human mind is severely limited. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways” (Isa. 55:8). “For who has known the mind of the LORD? Or who has become his counselor?” (Rom. 11:34). As we yield to the Lord and allow his Word to “renew our minds” (Rom. 12:2), we gradually learn more about his character and his ways, and we find it easier to determine his will. But we never come to the place in life where we can ignore prayer and the Scriptures and depend only on our own thinking.
When you trust Jesus Christ to save you from your sins, you become a part of eternity; you receive the gift of eternal life. Jesus has “fathered” eternity in the lives of all who have trusted him, and this involves much more than simply having our sins forgiven and knowing that we have a home in heaven.
Jesus came to earth to reveal the eternal, and he died that we might share the eternal. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Sin is the great obstacle to our experiencing eternal life. Sin isn’t eternal; only God is eternal. Sin is outside God and therefore produces death, for God is eternal life. Our nature partakes of sin and therefore is a stranger to the eternal. We were created in the image of God, and there is a hunger for eternity in our hearts. Until we do something about our sins, however, we will never share his eternal life.
When Jesus Christ was born at Bethlehem, time and eternity met in a person, a gift that was given. When he died at Calvary, time and eternity met in a price that was paid, and that price met the demands of God’s holy law and opened the way for sinners to be forgiven and share in eternity.
It took God’s Son coming to earth to strike the final deathblow that conquered sin. At Bethlehem he was made flesh and entered the human race. At Calvary he was made sin and bore the iniquity of the human race in his own body. The cross is the great meeting place of sinners and a merciful God: “Mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed” (Ps. 85:10). It took the blood of his cross to make peace between sinners and God, and one result of this peace with God is peace with one another. Once you’ve settled the war on the inside, you can start to settle the wars on the outside. “For He Himself is our peace,” writes Paul (Eph. 2:14).
What does it mean to you and me today that Jesus Christ was called “a Nazarene”? This name speaks to us of the grace of God. When Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came into this world, he didn’t identify with Jerusalem (the leading city of religion), or with Rome (the great city of law). Nor did he come to Athens (the most prominent city of philosophy). Where did he go? He went to Nazareth; he identified with people who were despised and rejected, the poor and the needy. But the remarkable thing is this: the Lord Jesus took that despised name “Nazareth” and glorified it! He was known as “Jesus of Nazareth.” Wouldn’t you be happy to have your name identified with Jesus? Nazareth, a place despised by many, was glorified by Jesus Christ because he identified himself with it. The sad thing is that the people of Nazareth rejected him (Luke 4:16–30). A prophet is always without honor in his own country and among his own people (see Matt. 13:57).
We need not be afraid of the future because Jesus goes before us. He’s the Pioneer of life and will guide our path. He’s the Pioneer of salvation and gives us new experiences of joy and blessing as we grow. He’s the Pioneer of faith who wants us to grow in our faith, become stronger, and claim new territory in the inheritance he’s assigned to us. How do we follow the Pioneer of our salvation? Through the Word of God. The Lord has spoken to us through his Word, and it’s important that you and I study the Word, trust the Word, and obey it. Do you read your Bible daily and meditate on what it says? Do you pray daily and claim his promises? Whatever your burden or problem may be, take time to get alone daily with Jesus Christ, the Pioneer of life, the Pioneer of salvation, the Pioneer of faith. If you follow him, you will start to move forward in an exciting new way in your Christian life and testimony.
Christ is our assurance to God. We make promises to God that we don’t always keep. Jesus Christ is our assurance to God. We can’t keep ourselves saved any more than we could save ourselves to begin with! But Jesus Christ represents us at the throne of God, saying to God the Father, “I am their surety. Whatever they owe you, I have paid. Receive them as you would receive me, because they are my children.” Because of this, we Christians have the wonderful assurance that we cannot lose our salvation. We have a High Priest in heaven who lives forever. He stands before the throne of God as the guarantee—the pledge, the security—for our salvation. He is our surety forever.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

My Year with Spurgeon #38

Men Chosen -- Fallen Angels Rejected
Charles Spurgeon
“Verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham.”—Hebrews 2:16.
But now we wish to draw your attention to two instances of God’s doing as he pleases in the fashioning of the works of his hands—the case of angels, and in the case of men. Angels were the elder born. God created them, and it pleased him to give unto them a free will to do as they pleased; to choose the good or to prefer the evil, even as he did to man: he gave them this stipulation—that if they should prefer the good, then their station in heaven should be for ever fixed and firm; but if they sinned, they should be punished for their guilt, and cast out from the presence of his glory into flames of fire. In an evil hour, Satan, one of the chiefs of the angels, rebelled; he tempted others, and he led astray a part of the stars of heaven. God, in his divine vengeance, smote those rebel angels, drove them from their heavenly seats, banished them from their abodes of happiness and glory, and sent them down to dwell for ever in the abyss of hell; the rest he confirmed, calling them the elect angels; he made their thrones eternally secure, and gave them an entail of those crowns which, sustained by his grace, they had preserved by the rectitude of their holy conduct. After that it pleased him to make another race of beings, called men. He did not make them all at once; he made but two of them, Adam and Eve, and he committed to their keeping the safety of their entire progeny throughout all generations; he said to Adam, as he had said to the angels, “I give unto thee free-will; thou mayest obey or disobey, as thou pleasest. There is my law; thou art not to touch yon tree. The command is by no means irksome. To keep that command will not be difficult to thee, for I have given thee free-will to choose the good.” However, so it happened, much to the misery of man, that Adam broke the covenant of works; he touched the accursed fruit, and in that day he fell. Ah! what a fall was there! Then you, and I, and all of us fell down, while cursed sin did triumph over us; there were no men that stood; there were some angels that stood, but no men, for the fall of Adam was the fall of our entire race. After one portion of the angels had fallen, it pleased God to stamp their doom, and make it fast and firm; but when man had fallen, it did not so please God; he had threatened to punish him, but in his infinite mercy he selected the major portion of the human race, whom he made the objects of his special affection, for whom he provided a precious remedy, to whom he covenanted salvation, and secured it by the blood of his everlasting Son. These are the persons whom we call the elect; and those whom he has left to perish, perish on account of their own sins, most justly, to the praise of his glorious justice. Now, here you notice divine sovereignty; sovereignty, that God chose to put both men and angels on the footing of their free-will; sovereignty, in that he chose to punish all the fallen angels with utter destruction; sovereignty, in that he chose to reprieve the whole human race, and to grant an eternal pardon to a number, whom no man can number, selected out of men, who shall infallibly be found before his right hand above. My text mentions this great fact, for when properly translated it reads thus:—“He took not up angels, but he took on him the seed of Abraham.” As this text has two translations, I shall give you the two meanings as briefly as I can.
In the first place, if Christ had taken upon himself the nature of angels, he could never have made an atonement for man.
It behooved Christ that he should take upon himself the form of a man, that he might become obedient to death, even the death of the cross.
Had our Saviour become an angel, we must note, in the next place, that he would never have been a fitting example for us.
Sweetly, also, let us remember that if Christ had been an angel, he could not have sympathised with us.
Once more, Christ became a man, and not an angel, because he desired to be one with his dear church. Christ was betrothed to his church ere time began.
Thus I have tried to explain the first part of the subject; and now for the second. The literal translation, according to the marginal reading, is, ”He took not up angels, but he took up the seed of Abraham,” by which is meant, that Christ did not die to save angels, though many of them needed salvation, but he died to save fallen man.
I have often been told, that election is a most dreadful doctrine and to teach that God saves some, and lets other perish, is to make God unjust. Sometimes I have asked how that was; and the usual answer I have got is this: Suppose a father should have a certain number of children, and he were to put some of his children into a terrible dungeon, and make the rest of them happy, would you think that father was just? Well, I reply, you have supposed a case, and I will answer you. Of course I should not: the child has a claim upon his father, and the father is bound to give him his claim; but I want to know what you mean by asking that question. How does that apply to the case of God? I did not know that all men were God’s children; I knew that they were God’s rebellious subjects, but I did not know that they were his children. I thought they did not become his children till they were born again, and that when they were his children, he did treat them all alike, and did carry them all to heaven, and give them all a mansion; and I never did hear that he sent any of his children to hell; true, I have heard you say so; I have heard you say that some of his children fall from grace, and he therefore sends them to hell, and I leave you to solve the problem how that is just; but, sir, I do not allow that all God’s creatures are his children.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, September 22, 2014

Book Review: Fair Play (2014)

Fair Play (It Happened At the Fair #2) Deeanne Gist. 2014. Howard Books 433 pages. [Source: Library]

There were things I liked about Deeanne Gist's Fair Play. There were things I disliked about the book as well. I'll start with a quick summary before I get to what I specifically liked and disliked about this one.

Billy Jack Tate, our heroine, is a doctor. She is a woman in her early thirties that has worked tremendously hard to get where she is. She has her medical degree. She's worked as a doctor in a hospital for seven years. Yet, when the novel opens, she doesn't quite have it all. She chose to leave Boston behind. She's recently moved to Chicago. She has "hung her shingle" but been unable to get any patients. Change is in her future, however. And it all starts with a speaking engagement at the fair.

Hunter Scott is a Texas Ranger temporarily working at the fair as a guard. He is, I think, the first patient Billy Jack sees in her new position at the fair. (She has been hired on as a replacement in the infirmary.) This meeting between hero and heroine--this second meeting, if I might give so much away--is unique. Not many couples come together because of constipation, I imagine. Circumstances throw them together more than a few times. Soon despite their differences, these two are good friends.

What I didn't like. For better or worse, this one did not feel like a Christian read. I know some readers may rejoice at the fact that "Christian fiction" is lowering its standards and providing more creative, descriptive, detailed "romantic" passages. Some readers may be coming from an addiction to actual (secular) smut. These passages are not exactly helpful. Some readers may not have had a past with smut--a struggle with it--but this may be enough of an introduction. As Sebastian (Little Mermaid) says, "you give them an inch…" And for the record, this is NOT the first book I've noticed this. Over the past two or three years, I've noticed this more and more in the christian fiction that I read. And in some cases, it's a matter of how it's handled and why it's there.

I also found Hunter and Billy Jack to be very hard-headed and deliberately stubborn and selfish. This is certainly part of what makes them human. Still. It can be annoying to read about people who continually don't get it like they should. For example, Billy Tate has an "I want to do it, so I will do it, no matter what, no one can talk me out of what I've decided to do, no MAN will ever be my boss" attitude which is super annoying. Because often what Hunter is wanting her to do is stay alive and out of danger.

What I liked. I liked the use of photographs throughout the book. Each chapter features a photograph at the beginning. I liked the setting. I liked learning more about the time period: the fair itself, the city of Chicago, the neighborhoods, the programs, etc. For example, many scenes of Fair Play relate in some way to Hull House, which was founded in 1889 by Jane Addams. I found the history fascinating at times.

Overall, I was a bit disappointed by Fair Play. I liked some scenes in it for sure. But I didn't love it.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, September 21, 2014

First Impressions of the ESV Women's Devotional Bible

I have had my ESV Women's Devotional Bible for several weeks now. I've read Genesis through Ruth. (I'm in the book of  1 Samuel). I've read Matthew through John. So far I am really enjoying it.

I like the size of it. It's not too big--too heavy--and it's not too small. You don't need to be sitting at a table to enjoy reading it.

I love, love, love the black letter. I wish other bible publishers would give buyers a choice. There are some translations where it is nearly impossible to find black letter.

I don't really have a strong preference between single column and double column. This one happens to be double column.

I haven't read any of the 15 articles yet. But I have read plenty of the devotionals and character profiles. I am enjoying them for the most part. I'll be sharing bits from my favorite below.

My favorite devotion, so far, is "Identifying with Zacchaeus" by Ann Voskamp. I loved, loved, loved it!!!
Six times the socially rejected tax collectors are mentioned in the book of Luke—and every single time positively. It’s a pattern into which you can weave the ends of your frayed heart: Jesus is drawn to the rejected, and the rejected are drawn to Jesus. And it’s the people who draw themselves up as the respectable who find Jesus repelling. Why? Because when you feel essentially respectable, you want religion. And when you know you are essentially rejected—you want the gospel. In religion, it’s the “respectable” who search for a God to impress. But in the gospel, it’s God who searches for the rejected to save. The only “respectable” people who become Christians are those who realize they aren’t. It’s not that even the rejected are accepted by Jesus—it’s that only the rejected are accepted by Jesus. Only those who confess that their reliance on self-sufficiency and supposed morality is as sinful as any other sin. It’s only when you realize you aren’t respectable, that you are no better than the rejected, that you are fully accepted.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Week in Review: September 14-20


  • Joshua
  • Judges
  • Ruth
  • 1 Samuel 1-16
  • Luke 15-24
  • John 


  • Psalms 58-106
  • John
  • 1 John
  • 2 John
  • 3 John
  • Jude
  • Revelation

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Book Review: The Bible Study Handbook

The Bible Study Handbook. Lindsay Olesberg. 2012. IVP. 240 pages. [Source: Bought]

Interested in learning more about inductive bible study? Lindsay Olesberg's Bible Study Handbook may just be the perfect book for you. If you're interested in learning more about bible study, but, not necessarily inductive bible study, then, you may find it intriguing and informative but also slightly disappointing.
The purpose of this handbook is to train God’s people to study the Bible for themselves rather than relying on “professional Christians” to explain it. The method I use is called manuscript Bible study and uses an inductive approach.
Christian faith and spiritual formation are too important to leave the work of understanding the Bible to experts. Sermons and books by skilled teachers and thinkers are valuable, but they can’t replace the life-giving words of the Bible itself. To become mature and vibrant followers of Jesus, we must engage with the Bible directly.
She does not really discuss the various ways to study the Bible, the various ways one could choose legitimately to study the Bible. The goal seems to be to convince readers that inductive bible study is the way to study the Bible.
Inductive Bible study follows three primary phases: observation, interpretation and application. This means that the question “What?” comes before the questions “So what?” and “Now what?”
Discovering the riches of the Scripture for ourselves deepens our motivation to learn and increases our level of comprehension.
Inductive Bible study is a way of slowing down and concentrating on the Word. Manuscript study can’t be accomplished in a quick ten minutes before running out the door. It requires an investment of time, a lingering in the presence of God. Whether we are aware of it or not, our souls are being watered and nourished as we do the work of observing, interpreting and applying the text.
One of the reasons people are so excited about inductive Bible study when they first encounter it is the discovery of “undreamed treasure” in familiar passages. Once they learn how to observe well, they find that the Bible is incredibly rich. They might even be baffled that they have read it for so many years and yet missed so much.
The good news? She explains what inductive bible study is and how to do it step by step by step. Each chapter has homework.

The book has some great information. It does. And Olesberg uses the same passage of Scripture throughout all the chapters so that readers can make sense of the process of inductive bible study.  For the most part, I thought the book was written clearly. It wasn't intimidating to read her examples and descriptions.

Reading this book did not un-intimidate me to the inductive process. Though it didn't WOW me to such an extent that I'm eager to try inductive bible study myself in the near future, I did appreciate many things about the book. I enjoyed getting to know the author. And there were many things I did agree with. I loved, for example, what she had to say about reading the book of Revelation.
Set aside a few hours to curl up with a cup of coffee and the book of Revelation. If you read it straight through (as the original audience would have listened to it), the depth of struggle of the God’s faithful witnesses and grandeur of Christ’s ultimate triumph over evil will engulf you and you will be moved to worship with the angels. In a “big read” of Revelation, all the confusion over signs, seals and beasts fades away; Jesus, the Lamb who was slain, is magnified.
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Book Review: Edwards on the Christian Life

Edwards on the Christian Life. Dane C. Ortlund. 2014. Crossway. 208 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Edwards on the Christian Life is a wonderful book. Have you wanted to read Jonathan Edwards yourself but been a bit hesitant?  Have you always thought he was too difficult to understand? If you find the thought of reading Jonathan Edwards intimidating, this is the book for you. Even if you've never considered reading Jonathan Edwards, this still may be the book for you. Why? It's a book on the Christian life, on what it means to be a Christian, how to live and love, etc.

It is a good introduction, in my opinion, because it provides CONTEXT for understanding and appreciating Edwards. It is rich in quotes so it gives you a taste, a sampling. But it also gives you a framework. It is great at explaining Edwards' theology, great at illustrating his theology through the use of quotes. The commentary on his theology is wonderful! Every chapter seeks to prove why Edwards is still relevant and worth reading.

The book is well written and well-organized. I loved the flow of the chapters, and how in its entirety it gives readers a way to make sense of Edwards. I also loved the preface. It is very straight-forward. It tells you EXACTLY what to expect from each and every chapter. As I was reading, I found myself having many "favorite chapters." And as I was preparing to review this one, I found myself rereading whole chapters. This is something that I rarely do. The book is EXCELLENT.

The book has thirteen chapters. I LOVED almost all of them. I believe I learned from all of them. I am not sure that I completely agree with all four of the criticisms in the final chapter. But overall, the book is so wonderful. It is NOT intimidating. It IS relevant.

Beauty: The Organizing Theme of Edwards's Theology of the Christian Life
To become a Christian is to become alive to beauty. 
Sinners are beautified as they behold the beauty of God in Jesus Christ. That is Edwards’s theology of the Christian life in a single sentence.
A Christian is a human being beautified— decisively in the past, progressively in the present, perfectly in the future. In the rest of this book we will consider Edwards’s distinctive emphases in his theology of the Christian life. Throughout, we will never be far from his vision of divine beauty. The remaining chapters of this book do not add to but explore different manifestations of Edwards’s vision of divine beauty.
New Birth: The Ignition of the Christian Life
Jonathan Edwards believed that the Christian life is of God. Having set his love on every one of his elect children before the foundation of the world, God then makes this election an experienced reality in the person’s life. Salvation is doubly of grace: grace planned in the past, grace activated in the present.
New birth does not simply change us by giving us a new power to do the same things we always wanted to do. It changes us by getting down underneath even the very level of our desires and changing what we want.
Love: The Essence of the Christian Life
Augustine has been called “the theologian of love,” and rightly so. But Jonathan Edwards could equally lay claim to that title. One scholar called Edwards the “theologian of the Great Commandment.” If there is one mark of the Christian life to which Edwards returns more than any other, it is love. Love, Edwards says, is “the life and soul of all religion.” It is definitive, not merely descriptive, of authentic Christianity. What is the essence of the Christian life? Tunneling down, drilling in, to the very heart and pulsating core of what it means to be a follower of Christ, what do we find? Edwards answers: love.
To be a Christian is to love. Love is neither optional nor peripheral. It is not required of only certain personality types. A Christian is one who has been welcomed into the great dance of mutual delight within the triune Godhead, having had the very love of this Godhead implanted in his own soul.
Joy: The Fuel of the Christian Life
The difference between a Christian life with or without joy is the difference between a boat being driven along by a tired oarsman or by a sail full of wind. Without the winds of joy we may make progress, at least on calm days— but it will be slow, painful, and exhausting. And on a day when the waves of circumstances are against us, we can only be driven backward, no matter how resolved the will. For Jonathan Edwards, joy is not the add-on to Christian living it seems to be for many believers.
Edwards therefore saw what many writers and preachers today do not: that the way to cultivate joy in God’s people was not to talk about joy but to talk about God.
Jesus Christ gives meaning to all priorities, not only heading the list but coloring every one with new and exciting meaning. To become a Christian is to make all of life sacramental.
The more one sees of the beauty of God, the more one longs for it— yet the seeing and the longing are themselves joy-generating. Indeed, such longings not only generate joy; they themselves are a joy. The wanting is the having. To long for God is to enjoy him.
Gentleness: The Aroma of the Christian Life
It may seem odd to include a chapter on gentleness in a book on Jonathan Edwards’s view of the Christian life. Are there not more central, more significant virtues to focus on? Edwards didn’t think so. He wrote that “a lamblike, dovelike spirit and temper” is “the true, and distinguishing disposition of the hearts of Christians.” And he has something to teach us. We give a chapter to gentleness here because it is a neglected virtue both in what others have unearthed in Edwards’s writings and more generally in the Christian church today.
A major way Christians wage war is by being gentle. We do not leave gentleness behind when we take up arms against the Devil. Gentleness is itself a way we take up arms against the Devil.
Scripture: The Treasure of the Christian Life
Communicating the role of the Bible in Edwards’s life and theology is something like capturing the role of food in a chef’s life. Scripture was in him. He ate it; and when he spoke, his words were filled with it. But not only that, Edwards’s lifelong calling was to feed others with it. The Bible was both his own life source and his vocation. When we immerse ourselves in Edwards’s writings, we do not find him speaking of Scripture so much as speaking from it. The Bible was not only what he looked at but also what he looked with.
Jonathan Edwards stands in a long line of Christian leaders who handled the Bible out of the conviction that the entire Scripture testifies to Christ. The Bible, while rich in diversity, is fundamentally, for Edwards, a message of salvation. He believes that to read the Bible without seeing the saving person of Christ throughout is not merely to omit an important portrait from the hallway of saints, but to fail to turn on the light that illumines the entire hallway. Christ is the key that unlocks Scripture. Without him, Scripture remains a disparate collection of mini-stories, pithy sayings, and moral exhortations, all empty of power.
Prayer: The Communion of the Christian Life
We would be hard-pressed to find a thinker across twenty centuries of church history with a higher view of the sovereignty of God than Jonathan Edwards. To hear Edwards teach on prayer is not to hear mainly how we are to go about it, but who God is, in all his shining beauty, drawing us to pray from a heart freshly moved.
His enduring legacy with regard to prayer is his lifting up of the beauty of God, drawing us to pray indirectly, with a special focus on God’s unfettered delight in showering his people with gifts— the greatest of which is himself.
Much contemporary evangelical exhortation to pray fails to land on us with power because it holds out before believers the urgency of the task and how practically to go about it more than the beauty of the One with whom we are communing and the greatness of what he promises. But the way to motivate praying is not to focus on praying but to focus on God.
Pilgrimage: The Flavor of the Christian Life
Christianity is hard. One reason for this is the jarring tension between what we say is true of us now that we belong to God and what we experience day in and day out emotionally, relationally, physically, and all the rest. If we are God’s children, we wonder, why is there so much senseless adversity in our lives? Such pain is disorienting for those seeking to walk faithfully with God. 1 The difficulty is not just that life is painful, but that life is painful despite the spectacular redemptive realities we believe have washed over us. One answer Jonathan Edwards would give to this disconcerting experience is the believer’s pilgrim status. A Christian is someone who has undergone a transfer of citizenship.
Obedience: The Fruit of the Christian Life
Of all the ways Jonathan Edwards can help us today, understanding true obedience may be the most pressing. And yet my guess is that when scanning the table of contents at the front of this book, readers would not be drawn most readily to the chapter on obedience. It wouldn’t be my first choice. But Edwards is helping me here. Maybe he can help you too. What is obedience? Doing what we love to do, out of a heart alive to beauty. Sin is doing what we love to do out of an unregenerate heart; obedience is doing what we love to do out of a regenerate heart. Sin is living out of our natural impulse; obedience is living out of our new impulse, what Edwards calls the new sense of the heart.
The heart of obedience is not summoning the will to do what it loathes. Rather, obedience is fruit— it is the outward manifestation of internal health. We naturally blossom because we are planted in the soil of the gospel with the sun of divine grace shining down on us. Obedience does not come out of a new raw power to now do what we don’t want to do; obedience comes because we now delight to do what we hated before. To obey is thus not to mechanically force our behavior into line with God’s moral law so much as it is living out of a new delight in God.
Satan: The Enemy of the Christian Life
To be a Christian is to be loved and loathed. New birth introduces a new and powerful love from heaven that defies our categories. And new birth introduces a new and powerful loathing from hell that makes human hatred look tame in comparison. Christianity is therefore not only a journey and a worldview and a religion. It is also combat. A battle. And Satan is our great enemy.
The Soul: The Great Concern of the Christian Life
In the 1959 novel A Canticle for Leibowitz, by Walter Miller, a character utters the well-known words: “You don’t have a soul, Doctor. You are a soul. You have a body.” 1 Central to Edwards’s vision of the Christian life, and foundational to all that is covered in this book, is his agreement with this. Beauty is perceived and enjoyed with the soul; love is expressed and received in the soul; Scripture and prayer feed the soul; and so on. The soul is the organ of beauty.
Heaven: The Hope of The Christian Life
The joy that will be experienced by Christians in heaven, says Edwards, “is exceeding great and vigorous; impressing the heart with the strongest and most lively sensation, of inexpressible sweetness, mightily moving, animating, and engaging them, making them like to a flame of fire.” We tend to view the joy of heaven in abstract and unappealing ways, but Edwards squeezes all that he can out of the language at his disposal to upend this mistake.
Four Criticisms
We will focus in this chapter especially on one question— whether Edwards sufficiently brought the gospel to bear on the hearts of his people. We will then more briefly consider three more weaknesses: his neglect of the doctrine of creation and the goodness of an embodied human existence, his use of Scripture, and his view of the regenerate as compared with the unregenerate.
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

My Year with Spurgeon #37

Hatred Without A Cause
Charles Spurgeon
"They hated me without a cause.”—John 15:25.
No being was ever more lovely than the Saviour; it would seem almost impossible not to have affection for him. Certainly at first sight it would seem far more difficult to hate him than to love him. And yet, loveable as he was, yea, “altogether lovely,” no being so early met with hatred, and no creature ever endured such a continual persecution as he had to suffer. He is no sooner ushered into the world, than the sword of Herod is ready to cut him off, and the innocents of Bethlehem, by their dreadful massacre, gave a sad foretaste of the sufferings which Christ would endure, and of the hatred that men would pour upon his devoted head. From his first moment to the cross, save the temporary lull while he was a child, it seemed as if all the world were in league against him, and all men sought to destroy him. In different ways that hatred displayed itself, sometimes in overt deed, as when they took him to the brow of the hill, and would have cast him down headlong, or when they took up stones again to stone him, because he said that Abraham desired to see his day, and saw it, and was glad. At other times that hatred showed itself in words of slander, such as these,—“He is a drunken man and a wine-bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners;” or in looks of contempt, as when they looked suspiciously at him, because he did eat with publicans and sinners, and sat down to table with unwashed hands. At other times that hatred dwelt entirely in their thoughts, and they thought within themselves, “This man blasphemeth,” because he said, “Thy sins be forgiven thee.” But at almost every time there was a hatred towards Christ; and when they took him, and would have made him king, and a shallow fleeting flood of popular applause would have watted him on to an unsteady throne, even then there was a latent hatred towards him, only kept under by loaves and fishes, which only wanted an equal quantity of loaves and fishes offered by the priests, to develop it itself in the cry of “Crucify him, crucify him,” instead of the shout of “Hosannah! blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.” All grades of men hated him. Most men have to meet with some opposition; but then it is frequently a class opposition, and there are other classes who look at them with respect. The demagogue, who is admired by the poor, must expect to be despised by the rich; and he who labours for the aristocracy, of course meets with the contempt of the many. But here was a man who walked among the people, who loved them, who spoke to rich and poor as though they were (as indeed they are) on one level in his blessed sight: and yet all classes conspired to hate him; the priests cried him down because he spoiled their dogmas; the nobles would put him to death because he spoke of being a king; while the poor, for some reasons best known to themselves, though they admired his eloquence, and frequently would have fallen prostrate in worship before him, on account of the wondrous deeds he did, even these, led by men who ought to have guided them better, conspired to put him to death, and to consummate their guilt by nailing him to the tree, and then wagging their heads, bade him, if he could build a temple in three days, to save himself and come down from the cross. Christ was the hated one, the slandered and scorned; he was “despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.”
First, then, beloved, let us JUSTIFY WHAT THE SAVIOUR SAID,—“They hated me without a cause.” And we remark, that, apart from the consideration of man’s sinfulness, and Christ’s purity, there certainly is not cause, whatever to be discovered why the world should have hated him.
He came, first of all, to explain mysteries—to tell them what was meant by the sacrificial lamb, what was the significance of the scape-goat, what was intended by the ark, the brazen serpent, and the pot of manna; he came to rend the veil of the holy of holies, and to show men secrets they had never seen before. Should they have hated one who lifted the veil of mystery, and made dark things light, and expounded riddles? Should they have hated him who taught them what Abraham desired to see, and what prophets and kings had longed to know, but died without a knowledge of? Was there anything in that to make them hate him? What else did he come for? He came on earth to reclaim the wanderer; and is there anything in that that should make men hate Christ? If he came to reform the drunkard, to reclaim the harlot, and gather in the publicans and sinners, and bring prodigals to their father’s house again, sure that is an object with which every philanthropist should agree; it is that for which our governments are formed and fashioned, to bring men to a better state; and if Christ came for that purpose, was there anything in that to make men hate him?
He came to heal the diseases of the body; is that a legitimate object of hatred? Shall I hate the physician who goes about gratuitously healing all manner of diseases? Are deaf ears unstopped, are mouths opened, are the dead raised, are the blind made to see, and widows blest with their sons? Are these causes why a man should be obnoxious? Surely, he might well say, “For which of these works do ye stone me? If I have done good works wherefore speak ye against me?” But none of these works were the cause of men’s hatred; they hated him without a cause. And he came on earth to die, that sinners might not die? Was that a cause of hatred? Ought I to hate the Saviour, because he came to quench the flames of hell for me? Should I despise him who allowed his father’s flaming sword to be quenched in his own vital blood? Shall I look with indignation upon the substitute who takes my sin and griefs upon him, and carries my sorrows? Shall I hate and despise the man who loved me better than he loved himself—who loved me so much that he visited the gloomy grave for my salvation? Are these the causes of hatred?
Never does sin appear so exceedingly sinful as when we see it pointed at the person of Christ, whom it hated without a cause.
It is not true that we Christian people are hated because of our infirmities; men make our infirmities a nail whereon to hang their laughter; but if we were not Christians they would not hate our infirmities. They hold our inconsistencies up to ridicule; but I do not believe our inconsistencies are what they care about; we might be as inconsistent as all the rest of the world if we did not profess religion, of if they did not think we had any.
You are indifferent to Christ? Then you hate him.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, September 15, 2014

Book Review: Love's Fortune (2014)

Love's Fortune. Laura Frantz. 2014. Revell. 400 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Love's Fortune is the third in the Ballantyne Legacy series by Laura Frantz. Love's Fortune introduces us to another generation of the family. Characters from the previous books are older--in some cases much older. I enjoyed revisiting with these characters. I was very pleased to see Ellie living her happily ever after. Readers also get to know Ellie's daughter, Izannah.

Can Love's Fortune stand alone? Probably. But I'd recommend at the very least reading Love's Awakening first. (Personally, I'd recommend reading ALL of Laura Frantz's books. I have loved them all.)

Rowena Ballantyne is the heroine of Love's Fortune. She is the granddaughter of Silas and Eden, and the daughter of Ansel Ballantyne. (Her mother is dead. She was English.) The novel opens with father and daughter traveling from Kentucky to Pennsylvania. He is coming home, and his return may be for good. Wren is anxious. Will she like living here? Will she fit in with the family? Will they like her? Will she like them? Will they accept her for who she is? Will they try to change her, to mold her? Will she be able to be herself here? Will she be happy? Will she have some independence, some say in her life? Wren has some reason to be anxious. There are plenty of bossy people in the family. In particular a bossy aunt and great-aunt. Certain members of the family think it is Wren's duty to do well for her family, to have a social season, to find a husband who has great connections (business, social) and is already wealthy. But does Wren want such a life? Does she want that sort of marriage? Does she want to be part of SOCIETY and have an extravagant lifestyle?

There are two heroes--of sorts--in Love's Fortune. I fell in love with them both. Honestly. I did. I loved, loved, loved James Sackett. But I also loved, loved, loved Malachi Cameron. I loved getting to know both men well. I loved all of their scenes. Good thing there are two heroines!

This one is set in the 1850s in Pennsylvania. It touches on abolition and slavery. In addition to history and romance, there's some action and mystery as well.

The first book, Love's Reckoning. The second book, Love's Awakening.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Week In Review: September 7-13


  • Leviticus 
  • Numbers
  • Deuteronomy
  • Matthew 
  • Mark
  • Luke 1-14


  • Psalms 42-57

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, September 12, 2014

Book Review: Unbroken

Unbroken. Laura Hillenbrand. 2010. Random House. 473 pages. [Source: Library]

Unbroken is an incredible read and an emotional one. It is the biography of Louis Zamperini. Readers learn about his family, his growing up years, his training and competitive years. Zamperini competed in track in the 1936 Olympics. He went home knowing that the next Olympics would be his Olympics. He spent years training for an Olympics that was never to be. The arrival of war shifts the focus to Zamperini in the military. Much of the book focuses on the war years. I suppose there are three sections that focus on the war years: his time as a bombardier, his crash and survival in the seas--this section was INTENSE, his "rescue" and time spent as a POW in Japan--and I thought the earlier section was intense! There is so much drama, so much emotion in this one. I don't mean that in a bad way at all. It's not overly dramatic or inappropriately dramatic or manipulative. The book is straightforward in its horrors. But the description of what life was like in the prisoner of war camps is vivid. Same with the descriptions of his survival at sea. For over a month, Zamperini and two others barely survived in two small rafts with essentially little to no food and water. So as I said, this is an emotional and unforgettable story of survival. What I didn't quite expect to be as emotional was the final section which focuses on his return to the States after the war is over. Those months and years where he had to get on with his life, to return to a "normal" life, his mental and emotional struggles. Since he was famous, it was made all the more difficult perhaps? As I said, I wasn't expecting that section to be as emotional as previous sections. There are a couple of scenes in this last section that just get to me.

I would recommend this one.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Book Review: The 30 Day Praise Challenge

The 30 Day Praise Challenge. Becky Harling. 2013. David Cook. 208 pages. [Source: Bought]

Becky Harling challenges her readers to commit to praising God for twenty minutes each day for 30 days. She promises that following through on this commitment will change believers' lives. The first section of the book works like a devotional in a way.
Each day begins with an invitation to praise God for some characteristic of His deity. Written as if they are from God Himself, these Scripture-based invitations are designed to help you hear God’s voice. Each day also includes guidance for how to praise God, suggestions for music to listen to in order to prompt your praise, and a journal idea to help you process your praise journey.
The second section of the book is an extension of sorts. Assuming that readers have now finished their 30 consecutive days of praise and benefited in it by growing closer to God, by coming to know Him more and more, she knows that they'll be hungry for more. So she then offers tips on how to praise God through His names, how to praise God through the Psalms, how to praise God through Revelation, how to praise God through the Apostles' Creed, and finally how to praise God when you are grieving or feeling depressed.

The book includes a comprehensive list of recommended praise songs at the end.

Day 13: Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1
My child, you are often weighed down by guilt and shame. I don’t condemn you and neither should you condemn yourself. Through My abundant grace, you are forgiven because of the work of My Son on Calvary. All your sins—past, present, and future—have been forgiven. You are totally okay with Me. Shame no longer has to haunt you. You are already clean. I have clothed you in My righteous robe and crowned you with blessing and beauty. When you are tempted to return to your old clothes of shame, put on garments of praise instead. As you worship Me, I will enable you to wear your righteous robe with confidence. Others will try to manipulate you and make you feel guilty; don’t let them. Listen to My voice alone, and lift your voice in praise. If you exalt Me and look up, your face will no longer be clouded with shame; instead, it will glisten with radiant joy. (Rom. 8:1; Rom. 5:17; John 15:3; Rom. 3:21; Isa. 61:1–3; Ps. 34:5) If you’re physically able, get down on your knees for your praise time today. If you are not physically able to get down on your knees, bow your head and imagine someday bowing down in heaven. When you listen to the praise music, use headphones so you won’t be easily distracted. Focus your praise on God’s grace and forgiveness. Lay down every burden of guilt, shame, regret, and self-punishment. Imagine yourself clothed in Christ’s righteous robe. You look as good to God the Father as His Son, Jesus Christ, does. Celebrate the forgiveness that is yours in Jesus Christ. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Cor. 5:21)
You might also be interested in knowing that there is a 30 Day Praise Challenge For Parents. (I would love to read this at some point to see how the books are the same, and how they are different.)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Book Review: The Savior of the World

The Savior of the World. Benjamin B. Warfield. 1991. Banner of Truth. 270 pages. [Source: Bought]

The Savior of the World was my introduction to B.B. Warfield. I loved this collection of sermons. Each sermon focused on a particular passage of Scripture. Warfield did a great job "unpacking" Scripture. He really took his time and examined the verses carefully. This was good, for the most part. There were places that instead of saying exactly what he thought a verse meant right away, he would explore various options first. Interpretation A says this, Interpretation B says that…but this is what I really think the Bible was saying. He argues his case for a particular interpretation. It definitely has an intellectual feel to it as opposed to devotional. It can still be emotional, by the way. The two are not exclusive.

His sermons are thought-provoking. They do require you to think, to be engaged, to follow his arguments point by point, to consider. These sermons can't be rushed through. There is much to be gained by taking your time, by absorbing all he has to say. It really is an amazing read.

The Savior of the World includes:

The Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32)
Jesus Only (Acts 4:12)
The Lamb of God (John 1:29)
God's Immeasurable Love (John 3:16)
The Gospel of Paul (2 Corinthians 5:14-15, 18-19, 21)
The Glorified Christ (Hebrews 2:9)
The Risen Jesus (2 Timothy 2:8)
The Gospel of the Covenant (John 6:38-39)
Imitating the Incarnation (Philippians 2:5-8)


From "The Prodigal Son"
The message which the parable brings us is certainly a great one. To lost sinners like you and me, assuredly few messages could appeal with more overwhelming force. Our hearts are wrung within us as we are made to realize that our Father in heaven will receive our wandering souls back with the joy with which this father in the parable received back his errant son. But it is an exaggeration to represent this message as all the Gospel, or even as the core of the Gospel; and to speak of this parable therefore, as it has become widely common to speak of it, as “the Gospel in the Gospel,” or even as the summation of the Gospel. It is not that. There are many truths which it has no power to teach us that are essential to the integrity of the Gospel: nay, the very heart of the Gospel is not in it. And, therefore, precious as this parable is to us, and priceless as is its message, there are many other passages of Scripture more precious still, because their message enters more deeply into the substance of the Gospel. Take this passage for example: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever belie vet h on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Or this passage: “God, being rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, quickened us together with Christ (by grace have ye been saved), and raised us up with Him and made us sit with Him in the heavenly places with Christ Jesus.” Or even this short passage: “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost.” All these are more precious passages than the parable of the lost son, not merely because they tell us more fully what is contained in the Gospel, but because they uncover to us, as it does not, what lies at the heart of the Gospel. It is important that we should recognize this.
We are sinners. And our only hope is in one who loves sinners; and has come into the world to die for sinners.
From "Jesus Only"
The salvation of the world hangs, thus, in our human mode of speaking, on the clearness and the strength of our conviction that there is salvation in none other than Jesus, that there is none other name under heaven, given among men, wherein they must be saved. O the cruelty of that indifferentism, miscalled broadness of mind, that would withhold from a perishing world the only healing draught, on the pretence, forsooth, that it is not needed. O remember that the whole world lies in iniquity — ill to death with the dreadful disease of sin, — and that you have in your hands the one curative potion, the only water of life which can purge away sin and restore to spiritual health and beauty. Remember the great commission!
On the peril of your souls, I charge you to remember that Jesus Christ is the only way, the only truth, the only life; that no man comes or can come to the Father except by Him, that all the life that is in the world is in Him, and he only that hath Him hath the life, while he that hath not Him hath not the life. Listen to the solemn words of the apostle of love: “Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: he that confesseth the Son,” he, and he only, “hath the Father also.” Let us note it clearly and note it whole: there is no access to God for sinners save in the blood of Jesus Christ.
From "The Lamb of God"
“Behold the Lamb of God,” cries the Baptist, “which taketh away the sin of the world.” Not, Behold the Prophet like unto Moses, whom ye shall hear; nor yet. Behold the Israelite without guile, in whom meet perfect purity, wisdom and truth; nor even. Behold the Lion of the tribe of Judah, who shall scatter your foes and deliver you from all your enemies. He might have said any one or all of these things. They are all true of Jesus. Christ is our teacher, and our example, and our king. But there is something more fundamental than any of these things; something which underlies them all and from which they acquire their value. And it is this that the Baptist saw in Christ and sends us to Christ to find. “Behold,” says he, “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” That image could mean but one thing to an humble, sin-conscious Old Testament saint. He would think first of the righteous sufferer of the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah: and that righteous sufferer is not merely described there, we will remember, as a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and as a sheep that before her shearers is dumb, the very embodiment of meekness and patience in enduring the violence of the despoiler; but, in well-remembered words which throw a glory over these sufferings to which even meek patience and uncomplaining endurance can lend nothing, we read: “Surely he hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we were healed.” “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” “For the transgression of my people was he stricken. .. yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him. He hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. … By his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many, and he shall bear their iniquities. … He bare the sin of many and made intercession for the transgressors.” And along with the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah, the Old Testament saint, when directed to the Lamb of God which takes away sin, would inevitably think also of the paschal lamb, the fundamental national symbol of deliverance; along with it, beyond question, also of the lamb of the daily sacrifice and of the underlying significance of the whole sacrificial system, with its typical finger pointing forward to something better, — to God’s own Lamb, who should really take away sin, a lamb of God’s providing, able and willing to bear on his own head the sin of the world.
“Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away sin.” Is it not a joyful message to sin-stricken souls? Let others think of Jesus as they may. Let them hail him as a king: let them sit at His feet as a prophet: let them eagerly seek to follow in His steps. For you and me, sinners, He is most glorious and most precious, as a Saviour.
From "God's Immeasurable Love"
What it concerns us now to note, however, is not the mere fact that He loves, but what it is that He is declared to love. For therein lies the climax of the great proclamation. This is nothing other than “the world.” For this is the unimaginable declaration of the text: “God so loved the world.” It is just in this that lies the mystery of the greatness of His love. The “world,” he tells us, is just the synonym of all that is evil and noisome and disgusting. There is nothing in it that can attract God’s love, — nay, that can justify the love of any good man. It is a thing not to be dallied with, or acquiesced in: they that are of it, are by that very fact not of God; and what the Christian has to do with it is just to overcome it; for everything that is begotten of God manifests that great fact precisely by this — that he overcomes the world. “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world,” is John’s insistent exhortation. “Nothing that is in the world is of the Father,” we are told; or, as it is put elsewhere in direct positive form: “The whole world lieth in the evil one.” “The world, the flesh and the devil” — this is the pregnant combination in which we have learned from Scripture to express the baleful forces that war against the soul: and the three terms are thus cast together because they are essentially synonyms. See, then, whither we are brought. When we are told that God loves the world, it is much as if we were told that He loves the flesh and the devil. And we may, indeed, take courage from our text and say it boldly: God does love the world and the flesh and the devil. Therein indeed is the ground of all our comfort and all our hope: for we — you and I — are of the world and of the flesh and of the devil. Only, — we must punctually note it, — the love wherewith God loves the world, the flesh and the devil — therefore, us — is not a love of complacency, as if He the Holy One and the Good could take pleasure in what is worldly, fleshly, devilish: but that love of benevolence which would fain save us from our worldliness, fleshliness and devilishness. The world then was perishing: and it was to save it that God gave His Son. The text is, then, you see, in principle an account of the coming of the Son of God into the world. There were but two things for which He, being what He was as the Son of God, could come into the world, being what it was: to judge the world or to save the world. It was for the latter that He came. “For,” the next verse runs on, “God sent not His Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world through Him should be saved.” Not wrath, then, though wrath were due, but love was the impelling cause of the coming of the Son of God into this wicked world of ours. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son.” The intensity of the love is what is emphasized: it was so intense that it was not deterred even by the sinfulness of its objects. The marvel, in other words, which the text brings before us is just that marvel above all other marvels in this marvellous world of ours — the marvel of God’s love for sinners. And this is the measure by which we are invited to measure the greatness of the love of God. It is not that it is so great that it is able to extend over the whole of a big world: it is so great that it is able to prevail over the Holy God’s hatred and abhorrence of sin. For herein is love, that God could love the world — the world that lies in the evil one: that God who is all-holy and just and good, could so love this world that He gave His only begotten Son for it, — that He might not judge it, but that it might be saved. Its primary connotation is ethical, and the point of its employment is not to suggest that the world is so big that it takes a great deal of love to embrace it all, but that the world is so bad that it takes a great kind of love to love it at all, and much more to love it as God has loved it when He gave His Son for it.
 From "The Gospel of Paul"
Until Jesus had died for us there was nothing for us to do but to die. We were dead in sin, and held under death for sin. But now since He has died for us, we can work our salvation out into life. And that is what Paul teaches us. We cannot save ourselves: but having been saved, we can illustrate our salvation in newness of life.
Being in Christ Jesus, you have within you the powers of a new life, and they will grow, and grow, and grow. Sinner that you are, Christ who knew no sin has been made sin for you, and you shall become the righteousness of God in Him. Could there be a greater inducement to effort brought to bear upon us than this great declaration? It is God that is working in us: shall we not then work out our own salvation with fear and trembling? This is Paul’s exhortation to you. In effect he says: Seeing that you are a new creation, live as becomes those who are a new creation. Desert the old plane of your living; it is not worthy of new creatures. Having died with Christ, live with and for Him. He has been made sin for you. See that you become the righteousness of God in Him. You are released from the bondage of sin and freed for a new life of holiness. Live it. Adorn the Gospel you profess: for God has called you not to sin but to holiness, and if you walk not in this holiness, — are you in Him? have you died with Him? He who dies with Him lives also in and with Him, and living in and with Him lives to Him.
From "The Glorified Christ"
The fashionable, I do not say unbelief, I say the fashionable belief, about us to-day, forgets or neglects, or openly turns its back upon the living Christ, and bids us seek inspiration for our lives and hope for our future, in a Jesus who lived and died in Palestine two thousand years ago, — and that was all. Dimly seen through the ever-increasing obscurity of the gathering years, that great figure has still the power to attract the gaze and to quicken the pulses — yes, to dominate the lives — of men. This is, no doubt, much; but so little is it all, that it is the least of what we are to seek and to find in Jesus Christ. He is our inspiration; and, knowing Him better than these, our would-be guides, know Him, He is also our example. But He is so much more than our inspiration or even our example, that we need scarcely think of these things when we think of Him: He is our life. And He is our life not only because He has washed out in His blood the death-warrant that had been issued against us — giving, as He Himself phrased it. His life as a ransom for many — but also because, after He had purchased us to Himself by His precious blood, He has become to us the living fountain and ever-flowing source of life and blessedness. Jesus on the cross is our Saviour; and it is our privilege to behold Him on His cross, an all-sufficient sacrifice for our sins. But Jesus on His throne is our Saviour too; and it is our privilege to-day, as we read the lofty words of this great declaration of the Epistle to the Hebrews, to behold Him on His throne, crowned with glory and honour, that His tasting of death may by God’s grace be the actual salvation of our souls. 
Remember that you serve a living, not a dead Christ. You are to trust in His blood. In it alone have you life. But you are to remember that He was not broken by death, but broke death; and having purchased you to Himself by His blood, now rules over your souls from His heavenly throne. He is your master whom you are to obey. He has given you commandment to bring all peoples to the knowledge of Him. And He has promised to be with you, even to the end of the world. Live with Him. Keep fast hold upon Him; be in complete touch with Him.
From "The Gospel of the Covenant"
What can we possibly need that we do not find provided in Him? Do we hopelessly groan under the curse of the broken law, hanging menacingly over us? Christ has “redeemed us from the curse of the law, having been made a curse for us.” Do we know that only he that worketh righteousness is acceptable to God, and despair of attaining life on so unachievable a condition? Christ Jesus “hath of God been made unto us righteousness.” Do we loathe ourselves in the pollution of our sins, and know that God is greater than we, and that we must be an offence in His holy sight? The blood of Christ cleanseth us from all sin. But do we not need faith, that we may be made one with Him and so secure those benefits? Faith, too, is the gift of God: and that we believe on Him is granted by God in the behalf of Christ. Have we sought to run, and learned by bitter experience that it is not of him that runneth nor of him that willeth? We may learn too by a happy experience that it is of God that showeth mercy and that worketh in us both the willing and the doing. Nothing has been forgotten, nothing neglected, nothing left unprovided. In the person of Jesus Christ, the great God, in His perfect wisdom and unfailing power, has taken our place before the outraged justice of God and under His perfect law, and has wrought out a complete salvation.
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

My Year With Spurgeon #36

The Plea of Faith
Charles Spurgeon
“Do as thou hast said.’—2 Samuel 7:25.
I shall not commence my sermon to-night by endeavoring to prove that this Bible is what God has said; I do not come here to give you arguments to prove the inspiration of Scripture; I assume that I speak to a Christian congregation, and I assume, therefore, at starting, that this is God’s word and none other. Leaving that matter, then, altogether, permit me to proceed at once to the text, understanding by what God has said, the Scriptures of his truth; and I trust there are some here who will be led, to-night, to cry to God in behalf of some promise made to their souls, “O Lord, do as thou hast said.”
Our first remark shall be HOW IMPORTANT IT IS TO KNOW WHAT GOD HAS SAID, for unless we know what God has said, it will be folly to say, ”do as thou hast said.”
Perhaps there is no book more neglected in these days than the Bible. I do verily believe there are more mouldy Bibles in this world than there are of any sort of neglected books.
But we have no book that is so much bought, and then so speedily laid aside, and so little used, as the Bible.
If we buy a newspaper, it is generally handed from one person to another, or we take care to peruse it pretty well; indeed some go so far as to read advertisements and all. If a person purchases a novel, it is well known how he will sit and read it all the way through, till the midnight candle is burnt out; the book must be finished in one day, because it is so admirable and interesting; but the Bible, of course, in the estimation of many, is not an interesting book; and the subjects it treats of are not of any very great importance.
So most men think; they think it is a very good book to carry out on a Sunday, but never meant to be used as a book of pleasure, or a book to which one could turn with delight. Such is the opinion of many; but no opinion can be more apart from the truth; for what book can treat of truths one-half so important as those that concern the soul. What book can so well deserve my attention as that which is written by the greatest of all authors, God himself? If I must read a valuable book with attention, how much more ought I to give my mind to the study of that book which is invaluable, and which contains truth without the slightest admixture of error?
And if books upon my health, or books which only concern the doings of my fellow creatures occupy some of my time, and deservedly so, how much more time should I spend in reading that which concerns my everlasting destiny; which reveals to me worlds hitherto unknown; which tells me how I may escape from hell and fly to heaven? But I must remark, that even among Christian people, the Bible is one of the least read books that they have in their house. What with our innumerable magazines, our religious newspapers, and our perpetual controversies about the Bible, it is too seldom that people read the Bible. There certainly is not that reading of it that there used to be.
Our predecessors, the ancient Puritans, would scarcely read any book but that; and if a book was not concerning the Bible, they did not care about reading it at all.
It is not the greatness of our intellect, it is the rightness of it, that makes us men in this world, and right men before God.
I beseech you, therefore, you who are members of Christian churches, if you have but little time, do not expend it in reading ephemeral books, but take your Bible and read it constantly; and I promise you one thing, that if you are already Christians, the more you read the Bible the more you will love it.
You may find it hard, perhaps, at present, to read a short passage and meditate upon it all day; but as you proceed you will see such depths unfathomable, such heights beyond your ken; and you will discover such unutterable sweetness in this precious honey-comb dropping with drops of honey, that you will say, “I must have more of it,” and your spirit will always cry, “Give, give;” nor will it be content until you can have God’s statutes upon your mind daily, to be your songs in the house of your pilgrimage.
The errors of this present age have sprung from a non-reading of the Bible.
Hold the truth, my friends, and hold it as the easiest method of sweeping away heresies and false doctrines.
No man has a right to believe what he likes; he is to believe what God tells him; and if he does not believe that though he is not responsible to man, or to any set of men, or to any government, yet mark you, he is responsible to God.
I beseech you, therefore, if you would avoid heresies, and bring the church to a glorious union, read the Scriptures. Read not so much man’s comments, or man’s books, but read the Scriptures, and keep your faith on this,—“God has said it.”
My brethren, always stand by what God has said, and do not be turned aside from it by all the arguments that can be brought to bear against you. “Search the Scriptures, for they testify of Christ.”
The only solid foothold that faith has is, ”It is written, God hath said it.” When a sinner comes to God he must have nothing else to rely upon except this, “Do as thou hast said.”
If I were to go round to some of you and ask you why you believe yourselves to be Christians, it is marvellous what strange reasons many of you would bring. It is very singular what strange views persons often have as to the way of salvation. It is hard to bring a sinner to God simply with this,—“Lord, do as thou hast said.”
Faith can build on a “thou hast said it;” but it cannot build on frames and feelings, on dreams and experiences—it only relies on this—“Thou hast said it.”
The way of salvation is no great mystery, it is very plain; it is “believe and live.” And faith needs no mysteries to hang itself upon; it catches hold of the bare naked promise, and it says, “Lord, do as thou hast said.”
My faith can on this promise live; I know that on this promise it never can die. But faith wants neither testimonies of man, nor learning of philosophers, nor eloquence of orators, nor rhapsodies, nor visions, nor revelations. It wants nothing else but what God has said applied to the heart; and it goes to God, and says, “Lord, do as thou hast said.”
The Lord always meant, when he said a thing, that we should remind him of it.
But oh! my friend, do try and use God’s promises; nothing pleases God better than to see his promises put in circulation; he loves to see his children bring them up to him, and say, “Lord, do as thou hast said.” And let me tell you that it glorifies God to use his promises. Do you think that God will be any the poorer for giving you the riches he has promised? Do you think he will be any the less holy for giving holiness to you? Do you think he will be any the less pure for washing you from your sins? And he has said, “Come now, let us reason together, though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as wool; though they be red, they shall be whiter than snow.” Faith gets hold of that promise, and it does not stand saying, “this is a precious promise, I will look at it;” it goes right up to the throne, and says, “Lord, here is the promise, do as thou hast said.” And God says, “Oh! faith, I am as glad to see the promise brought to me, as thou art to bring it; I meant my promise to be used, and the using of it glorifies me.”
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible