Thursday, October 30, 2014

Book Review: Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God

Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God. J.I. Packer. 1961/1991. IVP. 126 pages. [Source: Bought]

From the introduction: Always and everywhere the servants of Christ are under orders to evangelize, and I hope that what I shall say now will act as an incentive to this task.

From chapter one: I do not intend to spend any time at all proving to you the general truth that God is sovereign in His world. There is no need; for I know that, if you are a Christian, you believe this already. How do I know that? Because I know that, if you are a Christian, you pray; and the recognition of God's sovereignty is the basis of your prayers. 

Evangelism & The Sovereignty of God was one of the first theology books I ever read. In the late nineties, I read a good number of J.I. Packer books, this was one of them. I loved it then. I love it now. I do think it's a great book on the subject.

Evangelism and The Sovereignty of God is divided into four chapters. The first chapter is "Divine Sovereignty." The second chapter is "Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility." The third chapter is "Evangelism." The fourth and final chapter is "Divine Sovereignty and Evangelism."

The first chapter is the shortest chapter. Since Packer assumes that every person reading his book is a Christian, and since in his mind it would be impossible for a Christian to not believe in God's Sovereignty already, he keeps it brief. Essentially he argues, you already believe that God is sovereign in election because 1) you are thankful to God for your salvation, and don't try to take credit for it, 2) you pray for others to be saved. In 1961, when this was originally published, these may have been easy assumptions. I'm not so sure that is still the case today. Not that I'm saying he NEEDED to have proved God's sovereignty in the world, or in salvation. If a person, a believer, actually believes the Bible to be the Word of God, then, I think opening up the Bible will prove it soon enough. The Bible is extremely clear that God is God and that we are not. That God IS sovereign. He's always been sovereign. He always will be sovereign.

The second chapter is important. In this chapter, he presents two views, both straight from Scripture. These beliefs are a) God is King and b) God is Judge.
"Scripture teaches that as King, He orders and controls all things, human actions among them, in accordance with His own eternal purpose." (22)
"Scripture also teaches that, as Judge, He holds every man responsible for the choices he makes and the courses of action he pursues." (22)
After establishing that the Bible clearly says that God is Sovereign and that humans are responsible to God, he focuses on two extreme reactions. One extreme, he notes, is to focus so exclusively on human responsibility that you essentially forget that God is sovereign even in election. When this happens, it is oh-so-easy to focus on methods and techniques and to put all the pressure on the evangelist, or the preacher.
If we forget that only God can give faith, we shall start to think that the making of converts depends, in the last analysis, not on God, but on us, and that the decisive factor is the way in which we evangelize. And this line of thought, consistently followed through, will lead us far astray. (27)
It is not right when we regard ourselves as responsible for securing converts, and look to our own enterprise and techniques to accomplish what only God can accomplish. To do that is to intrude ourselves into the office of the Holy Ghost, and to exalt ourselves as the agents of the new birth. (29)
The second extreme is to focus so exclusively on God's sovereignty that you forget that God calls men and women to evangelize, that we are in fact the instruments God uses. The gospel must be proclaimed and shared. God uses us as his messengers. We give voice to the good news. We're part of God's plan. We have the privilege to be a part of his plan.

The third chapter is perhaps the MOST important chapter of all. It is dedicated to evangelism. It seeks to answer four questions:

  • What is evangelism?
How, then should evangelism be defined? The New Testament answer is very simple. According to the New Testament, evangelism is just preaching the gospel, the evangel. It is a work of communication in which Christians make themselves mouthpieces for God's message of mercy to sinners. Anyone who faithfully delivers that message, under whatever circumstances, in a large meeting, in a small meeting, from a pulpit, or in a private conversation, is evangelizing. (41)
Evangelizing, therefore, is not simply a matter of teaching, and instructing, and imparting information to the mind. There is more to it than that. Evangelizing includes the endeavor to elicit a response to the truth taught. It is communication with a view to conversion. (50)
As love to our neighbor suggests and demands that we evangelize, so the command to evangelize is a specific application of the command to love others for Christ's sake, and must be fulfilled as such. (52)
  • What is the evangelistic message?
The four essential ingredients
1) The gospel is a message about God. (58)
2) The gospel is a message about sin. (59)
3) The gospel is a message about Christ (63)
4) The gospel is a summons to faith and repentance (70)
  • What is the motive for evangelizing?
The two motives of evangelizing:
1) Love for God and desire to be obedient (73)
2) Love for others and desire to see them saved (75)
  • By what means and methods should evangelism be practiced?
Packer discusses the pros and cons of "evangelistic meetings." But I think he has been answering this last question all along. In particular when he discusses personal evangelism and the importance of preaching/teaching.

The fourth chapter focuses on God's sovereignty AND evangelism. How will a person's conviction that God is sovereign affect the way they evangelize?! Does it make a difference? Should it make a difference?

The belief that God is sovereign in grace does not affect
1) the necessity of evangelism (97)
2) the urgency of evangelism (98)
3) the genuineness of the gospel invitations (100)
4) the truth of the gospel promises (100)
5) the responsibility of the the sinner for his reaction to the gospel (105)

The belief that God is sovereign in grace DOES affect
1) our hope, "it gives us our only hope of success in evangelism" (106)
2) our boldness, "it should make us bold" (118)
3) our patience, "this confidence should make us patient" (119)
4) our prayerfulness, "this confidence should make us prayerful" (122)

The third and fourth chapters are the strongest and best, perhaps. But the whole book is well worth reading. One of the highlights, for me, was his making a distinction between personal evangelism and impersonal evangelism (81-82). He also writes of the three true signs of conviction (62-63).

The book is practical, relevant, and enthusiastic.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Quoting Martyn Lloyd-Jones #10

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. (JanuaryFebruaryMarchAprilMayJuneJulyAugust, September).

From October 19
Why did the Son of God ever come into this world? When we think about the Lord Jesus Christ and especially about His death on that cross on Calvary’s hill, what is its purpose? Is it just something about which we sentimentalize? What does it represent to us? What is the explanation of it all? That is the question that John answers here, and let me put the answer in a negative form. Our Lord did not only come to give us a revelation of God, though that is a part of the purpose. He said, “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (John 14:9), and we also read, “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him” (John 1:18). But that is not all, though He indeed revealed the Father and has come to do that. In the same way, He has not only come to teach us about God. There is incomparable teaching there, such as the world had never known before and has not known since, but He did not come only to do that. There is also, of course, the example of His life, a matchless one, but He has not come only to give us an example of how we should live in this world. He is not just a teacher or a moral exemplar; He has not come merely to give us some kind of picture as to the nature and being of God. All that is there, but that is not the real reason, says John. He has really come, he says, because of our sins, because of the predicament and the position of men and women, because of this whole question of law. He has not come only to instruct us and to give us encouragement in our endeavor and a great example. No; there is a fundamental problem at the back of it all, and that is our relationship to God in the light of God’s holy law.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

My Year with Spurgeon #43

The Day of Atonement
Charles Spurgeon
“This shall be an everlasting statute unto you, to make an atonement for the children of Israel for all their sins once a year.”—Leviticus 16:34.
God’s great day of atonement was appointed and predestinated by himself. Christ’s expiation occurred but once, and then not by any chance; God had settled it from before the foundation of the world; and at that hour when God had predestinated, on that very day that God had decreed that Christ should die, was he led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers he was dumb.
So, beloved, Jesus Christ, the High Priest, and he only, works the atonement. There are other priests, for “he hath made us priests and kings unto God.” Every Christian is a priest to offer sacrifice of prayer and praise unto God, but none save the High Priest must offer atonement; he, and he alone, must go within the veil; he must slaughter the goat and sprinkle the blood; for though thanksgiving is shared in by all Christ’s elect body, atonement remains alone to him, the High Priest.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, October 27, 2014

Book Review: The Night Gardener (2014)

The Night Gardener. Jonathan Auxier. 2014. Abrams. 350 pages. [Source: Library]
Sin always takes you further than you intended to go, keeps you longer than you intended to stay, and costs you more than you intended to pay. (Erwin Lutzer, How You Can Be Sure You Will Spend Eternity with God, 38)
Our sins are often as dear to us as our children! We love them, hug them, cleave to them and delight in them! To part with them, is as hard as cutting off a right hand or plucking out a right eye! But it must be done. The parting must come. J.C. Ryle, Holiness

The Night Gardener is probably my favorite 2014 publication, and, it's the only (new) book that I've read this year and already reread. It's that kind of good.

The book opens with two quotes. One is a quote from John Milton's Paradise Lost. The second is a quote from Aesop. Both give readers a thematic taste.
Of man's first disobedience, and the fruit of that forbidden tree, whose mortal taste brought death into the world, and all our woe.
We would often be sorry if our wishes were gratified. 
I love The Night Gardener for many reasons.

I love the symbolism. I love, love, love it. I think this is a book that Christians of all ages should read again and again. Parents may want to read it before handing it to their children to make sure it's age-appropriate, of course.

I love the characters. I love how flawed they are. Both Molly and Kip are very easy to relate to. The first time I read this one, I was focused more on Molly. The second time I read this one, I focused more on Kip. Honestly, I love these two so much. I also was able to pay more attention to each member of the Windsor family. The mom (Constance), the dad (Bertrand), the brother (Alistair), the sister (Penny). I do still enjoy Hester Kettle (the storyteller).

I love the story. This one has it all: atmospheric setting, suspense, mystery, and action. It is a book that is almost impossible to put down. It is intense. It is emotional. It is one that I just connected with from the very start.

I love the writing. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the writing. I do. It is one of the best written books I've read all year. The language--the phrasing--is beautiful. It is rich in description. And did, I mention, the symbolism?!

I love what it's about. I love that it is about lies and truth, good and evil, right and wrong.

I love the world-building. I love, love, love the legend within the book. This legend "of the night gardener" is found in chapter thirty-one. (209-213)

I think it's a book that anyone can fall in love with. I think that Christians can take away something from it--find spiritual depth in it, find food for thought. But I think that everyone can take away something. Believer or not. I think the book works on many levels. I think readers can walk away from it thinking it is a deliciously spooky gothic tale.

First sentence: The calendar said early March, but the smell in the air said late October.

Descriptions of 'the tree':
"There's something about this land that draws folks in, even when every bone in their bodies is telling them to run far, far away…" (107)
He had noticed a number of low branches around the base of the trunk, which he thought might provide a boost to reach the higher limbs. He reached for a branch but stopped short of touching it. The branch was dark and smooth and slightly curved. It wasn't a branch at all--it was the handle of an axe. The handle looked very old and had become a part of the tree. Kip could see the swollen knot of bark where the tree had swallowed the axe head. He stared at the other "branches" sticking out from the base: a crude hatchet, the stub of a hunting knife, a rusted bucksaw, even what looked like the hilt of a broadsword. Some of the handles looked centuries old, others looked more recent--but every one of them had failed in its purpose. "It's like a regular battlefield," he said, his voice a whisper. (129)  
"So you think he's tied to the tree, like a leash?" "I think it's deeper than that. I think they're connected…He's a slave to that tree, and the only way for him to on livin' is to keep it alive." "I hardly call that livin'." Kip pulled his coat tight. "But that's how the tree works, ain't it? It gives you what you wish for but not in a way that makes things better. I suppose that's the difference between what you want and what you need." Molly nodded. "Maybe that's what Hester really meant when she said it takes your soul." (273)
Descriptions of the house:
The air smelled stale, like an attic. Dust and dry leaves crowded the corners. Cobwebs dangled lazily from lamps and furniture. But strangest and most alarming by far was the presence of the tree, which seemed to have insinuated itself into the very architecture: crooked limbs grew straight through the plaster walls, thick roots pushed through the floorboards, and a broad, twisted branch hovered just below the high ceiling like a black chandelier. She stepped over some muddy tracks, peering into the unlit hallway. (19)
Molly took a shaky breath. "If this house is makin' you sick, then why do you stay?" Constance creased her lips. "I could ask you the same thing…but I already know the answer." Her dark gaze drifted to Molly's side, "Those letters you keep in your pocket--" Molly started. "You know about the letters?" Constance waved off her alarm. "Not their precise contents, mind you. I've seen you pouring over them when you think you're alone. But, of course, no one's ever alone in this house, not truly." She glanced toward the branches towering over the roof. "I remain here for the same reason you do. I would no sooner leave this place than you would burn those letters." Molly put a protective hand over her apron pocket. "Never…" Constance smiled. "Exactly. Without the tree, without its gifts, we would be completely unmoored." She sat back in her chair. This time, when she took her teacup, she used both hands so it would not shake. "I should think that a touch of fever is a small price to pay for such a bounty." She sipped. "Wouldn't you agree?" (221)
Descriptions of 'the night gardener':
He was real tall, dressed all in black, with a tall black hat. (42)
He walks through the whole house, room to room, and then he's gone. I asked Mummy about him, and she said I just made him up. But I'm sure I didn't, because some mornings I see the footprints he's left behind. They're muddy and shaped wrong and I don't like them." (64)
The man was working at the foot of the big tree. his clothes were tattered and worn, but his skin was as white as soap…the man's gaunt face was half-hidden behind a long, unkempt beard. The wells of his eyes were darker than pitch--like a shadow's shadow. The man carried with him a collection of old gardening tools. (120)
When he comes, you can feel it. Like when a song goes off-key. (179)
On storytelling:
For as long as Molly could remember, she had possessed a gift with words. It was not magic, exactly. Rather, it was a way of talking that made other people believe in magic things, if only for a moment. (22)
"There's nothin' so great about me," she said. "I'm just a servant. And you're just a beggar."
Hester shook her head. "Don't confuse what you do with who you are, dearie. Besides, there is no shame in humble work. Why, Aesop himself, the king of storytellers, was a slave his whole life. Never drew a free breath, yet he shaped the world with just three small words: 'There once was.'" (201)
A story helps folks face the world, even when it frightens 'em. And a lie does the opposite. It helps you hide. (278)
About Kip's crutch:
His father had carved the crutch from the branch of a fallen wych elm on the farm back home. It was strong and thick and had just enough spring to be comfortable when he walked. His father had named it "Courage," saying that all good tools deserved a good title. Kip had always liked the idea that courage was a thing a person could hold on to and use. (15)
Other favorites:
To demand promises to to invite disappointment. (197)
Lizards aren't snakes, but they can still bite. Worse, they're bad luck in a garden. So folks have an old trick for gettin' rid of 'em. What you do is wait till just before sundown, when the air's cool but the lizards ain't yet gone into their holes. You take a red-hot rock from the fire and set it in the middle of the garden. The lizards--why, they hate the cold, and they'll come runnin' straight for that rock and curl up right on top o' it. Come mornin', you'll wake to find 'em still on that rock, their bodies cooked alive." She turned back. "You see: the rock saves 'em from chill only to kill'em in its own way." (231)
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Looking Ahead to November

I'm super excited about Celebrate the Bible!!! And to clarify, you do NOT have to read Psalm 119 the entire month in order to participate. (You don't even have to read it once.) You participate by reading the Bible: any book, any chapter. Read anywhere you like in the Bible. I want to celebrate the Bible, celebrate Bible reading. Please consider participating! Share where you're reading throughout the month!

I will be writing first impression and/or bible reviews of the following:

MEV Thinline Bible

ESV Women's Devotional Bible

NKJV Adventure Bible

The Study Bible for Women, HCSB. Edited by Dorothy Kelley Patterson and Rhonda Harrington Kelley

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Week in Review: October 19-25


  • Isaiah 30-66
  • Jeremiah
  • Lamentations


  • Genesis
  • Exodus 1-2
  • Psalms 90-150
  • Proverbs
  • Hosea
  • Joel
  • Amos
  • Obadiah
  • Jonah
  • Micah
  • Nahum
  • Habakkuk
  • Zephaniah
  • Haggai
  • Luke
  • Acts


  • 2 Corinthians
  • 1 John 
  • 2 John
  • 3 John
  • Jude
  • Revelation

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Book Review: While Love Stirs (2014)

While Love Stirs. Lorna Seilstad. 2014. Revell. 341 pages. [Source: Bought]

While Love Stirs is the second book in the Gregory Sisters trilogy. (The first book is When Love Calls.) Charlotte Gregory is the middle sister. She is a recent graduate of Fannie Farmer's School of Cookery. She is hoping to find work in a restaurant, as a chef. That is her big dream. It won't be easy. She knows that. Her sisters know that too. But she's determined to find a way to cook for others. Her dream may need to undergo some compromises…

Charlotte Gregory may not have been able to find a job as a chef in a hotel in her hometown. But there is someone at the gas company who believes in her, and wants to hire her to tour and lecture. She'll be helping to advertise and promote the gas company's gas stove. She'll be demonstrating how wonderful it is, how easy it is, how revolutionary it is. She'll also be showing off some of her cooking skills, advocating cooking by recipe and precise measurements. She'll meet plenty of interesting people…

But the one person who may change her mind about many things--her heart, her future, her goals--is a young, handsome doctor named Joel Brooks.

When the novel isn't focused on Charlotte, readers get a chance to know the youngest sister, Tessa. Readers learn that she wants to be an actress. I didn't exactly "love" Tessa's chapters. I was much more interested in Charlotte's story. I found it entertaining. I liked her taking part in a cooking contest. I liked the scenes where she's demonstrating and lecturing. I liked many things actually.

I definitely have enjoyed both books in this series. Recommended.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Book Review: Loving Jesus More

Loving Jesus More. Philip Graham Ryken. Crossway. 176 pages. [Source: Crossway.]

The goal of this book is to help people grow more in love with Jesus.

Phil Ryken's newest book has a great goal. He wants his readers to LOVE Jesus more. Ryken sees things realistically. He knows most--if not all--believers struggle with loving Jesus, with loving Him MORE. It is oh-so-easy to love him less--less than at first, less than we should, less than we ought. Ryken sets out to show how readers can, in fact, love Him more. 

The book focuses on two things: God's love for us, which, is the source of our love for him, and, our love for God, which, spills over into our love for others. 

I believe the book does its best to be practical and relevant. I am not doubting it is practical and relevant. But it isn't exactly new or surprising information. The things he discusses while remaining relevant are things that the reader most likely already knows. (Things like living an obedient life, not clinging to favorite sins, going to church, loving and forgiving others, reading the Bible, etc.) 

It is in the "putting into practice" what one already knows that would show actual results. The book is good--great, even--if and only if it challenges readers to change their beliefs and behaviors. If the Spirit uses Ryken's message to reach hearts and awaken the conscience. I believe the Spirit can use books and sermons. I believe the Spirit also uses the Word of God itself.

Perhaps because I loved Philip Graham Ryken's Loving the Way Jesus Loves so very, very much, I was disappointed by Loving Jesus More.

Favorite quotes:
Once we have the Holy Spirit, it is vitally important to leave our lives open to his influence. If we want to love Jesus more, and if the Spirit is the source of that love, then we should do everything we can to keep the channel of his grace wide open. The Bible gives some very specific instructions about our response to the Spirit. It tells us some things we should be sure to do, and also some things we should be careful not to do. On the positive side, we are told to “walk by the Spirit” (Gal. 5:16) and “keep in step with the Spirit” (Gal. 5:25). This principally means following the words that the Holy Spirit has revealed in the pages of Holy Scripture. But it also means following the leading of the Spirit through his inward work in our mind, heart, and conscience… On the negative side, the Bible tells us not to “quench” (1 Thess. 5:19) or “grieve the Holy Spirit of God” (Eph. 4: 30). The Bible talks about quenching the Spirit in the context of prayer, worship, and the ministry of God’s Word (see 1 Thess. 5:16–21). We quench the Spirit whenever we sense him leading us to do something and then fail to follow through.  It is also possible to grieve the Spirit, which we do whenever we persist in rebellious sin. After all, the Spirit is a Holy Spirit, and therefore as he lives in us, he wants us to be holy. The context in which the Bible tells us not to grieve the Spirit is noteworthy. “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths,” the Scripture says. “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice” (Eph. 4:29,31). Bad language, hate speech, and words that tear people down grieve the Spirit of God. All of this may help to explain why we are not falling more in love with Jesus. When we do not turn to God in prayer or encourage people in the gospel, then we quench the Spirit. When we curse God or speak against other people, we grieve the Spirit. As a result, we choke off the channel of God’s love.
Most of all, the assurance of God’s love will come by going back to the gospel and listening again to the good news about Jesus Christ. If the gospel is what we are having trouble believing, then it may be tempting to ignore it. Instead, we ought to go back to the lowly manger and not stop until we have gone on to the bloody cross, the empty tomb, and the glorious throne of God, where Jesus reigns as the King of all kings. When we go back to the story of Jesus like this and see him again in his gospel, we know that we are loved. We know this because everything Jesus has ever done for our salvation is a demonstration of his affection.
The more trouble we have seeing Jesus, the more we wander into foolish thinking. The consequences are devastating: sinful patterns of self indulgence, angry conflicts with other people, and bitter thoughts about ourselves as well as others. If these are some of the struggles that we have— habitual sin, broken relationships, self-loathing— then we must not be seeing the love of Jesus the way that God wants us to see it.
The whole drama of our salvation is a love story from start to finish— the love that has appeared to us in Jesus Christ. Truly, it is a love that will never end, because nothing in time or eternity can ever separate us from the love that God has for us in Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:35–39).
If we ever wonder why we do not seem to love Jesus very much— at least not as much as we should— maybe this is one of the reasons why: we are not reading the Bible in one of the ways we should. We are reading it in worship services, perhaps, or reading it for a class or study group. We are reading the Bible for content and maybe for application, but not for a relationship. If we want to love Jesus with all we have, we should read his Word the way a lover would, as a message from our beloved. Whenever we open our Bibles, we should pray, “Lord Jesus, I am not just here for these words; I am here for you, and for the love message you want to send from your heart to mine.” God has promised to meet us in his Word, which makes Bible-reading a place to rendezvous with our Savior.
One of the best ways to test our grasp of God’s grace is to see how we respond to the people we think of as “sinners.” What do we say about them? How do we treat them? What are we doing to reach out to them with the love of Jesus? Sadly, many Christians do not care enough to get involved in the lives of people in spiritual trouble. They do not touch “sinners,” and they do not let “sinners” touch them. Our calling as Christians is to share the love of Christ with people who need his grace. In the same way that Jesus came to seek and to save the lost, and in the same way that he has touched our own lives with mercy, we are called to reach out with his love… But what would happen if we really believed that God has grace for sinners— not just for us, but for everyone? What would happen if we embraced lost and difficult people instead of avoiding them? What would happen in their lives, and what would happen in our lives? The way for us to make the difference in the world that God is calling us to make is to believe that he has grace for sinners. 
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

My Year with Spurgeon #42

Charles Spurgeon
“Boast not thyself of to-morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.”—Proverbs 27:1.
GOD’S MOST holy Word was principally written to inform us of the way to heaven, and to guide us in our path through this world, to the realms of eternal life and light. But as if to teach us that God is not careless concerning our doings in the present scene, and that our benevolent Father is not inattentive to our happiness even in this state, he has furnished us with some excellent and wise maxims, which we may put in practice, not only in spiritual matters, but in temporal affairs also.
Boasting never makes a man any the greater in the esteem of others, nor does it improve the real estate either of his body or soul. Let a man brag as he will, he is none the greater for his bragging; nay, he is the less, for men invariably think the worse of him.
To-day hath no brother, it stands alone, and to-morrow must come alone, and the next and the next, also, must be born into this world without a brother.
I never knew a man who was always hoping to do great things in the future, that ever did much in the present. I never knew a man who intended to make a fortune by-and-bye, who ever saved sixpence a week now.
I think I have given up resolutions now; I have enough of the debris and the rubbish of my resolutions to build a cathedral with, if they could but be turned into stone. Oh! the broken resolutions, the broken vows, all of us have had! Oh! we have raised castles of resolutions, structures of enormous size, that outvied Babylon itself, in all its majesty.
There are great many things we may do with to-morrows. We may not boast of them, but I will tell you what we may do with them if we are the children of God. We may always look forward to them with patience and confidence, that they will work together for our good. We may say of the to-morrows, “I do not boast of them, but I am not frightened at them; I would not glory in them, but I will not tremble about them.”
We may be very easy and very comfortable about to-morrow; we may remember that all our times are in his hands, that all events are at his command; and though we know not all the windings of the path of providence, yet He knows them all. They are all settled in his book, and our times are all ordered by his wisdom.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, October 20, 2014

Book Review: An Arrow Pointing to Heaven

Rich Mullins: An Arrow Pointing to Heaven (A Devotional Biography). James Bryan Smith. 2000. B&H. 272 pages. [Source: Bought]

I first read this one years ago, probably seven or eight years ago. I was inspired to pick it up again after watching the new film, Ragamuffin. I was thinking about writing up a post about the movie itself, but, a few sentences in this book review would probably do just as well.

My thoughts on the film. First, I think this one is a movie for Ragamuffins by Ragamuffins. The point of the film seems to be humanity's brokenness: a need for a Savior, a need for honesty or transparency, a willingness to be vulnerable in community, in the church. It is biographical film about Rich Mullins. The film goes to ugly, uncomfortable places. Places that God is more willing to go than His followers, perhaps. There were scenes that were difficult to watch. There were scenes that I loved, however. The book does a better job, perhaps, of contrasting highs and lows, light and darkness. I did think the movie focused more on the darkness and the misery and the ugliness of life. When the movie was good, it was GREAT. I'm thinking in particular of the scenes where Rich and Brennan Manning are together, and he has been given the assignment (by Brennan) to write a letter to himself from his father.

My thoughts on the book. An Arrow Pointing to Heaven is not a traditional biography, a chronological biography. The book shares some details of his life, from various points in his life. But. It's a devotional biography. It is arranged topically. These are topics or subjects that were important to Rich Mullins. These were topics that came up again and again in his writing, in his songs. Each chapter gives readers a glimpse into Rich Mullins' life, a chance to see what was important to him, and why. The book keeps God very central. It is rich in lessons Mullins learned about the God he loved and served.

The table of contents:

  • First Family: Understanding His Roots
  • Creed: Being Made in the Church
  • The Love of God: Encountering the Reckless, Raging Fury
  • Boy Like Me/Man Like You: Trusting in Jesus
  • Calling Out Your Name: Seeing God in The Beauty of Creation
  • Bound to Come Some Trouble: Growing Through Struggle and Pain
  • My One Thing: Finding Freedom in Simplicity
  • Growing Young: Dealing With Sin and Temptation
  • Brother's Keeper: Learning to Love One Another
  • That Where I Am, There You May Also Be: Meditating on Death and the Life to Come
  • Social Aspects of the Beatitudes (by Rich Mullins)
  • Scared of the Dark (by Rich Mullins)

From the introduction:
Rich Mullins was a man who stood among the ruins--the ruins created by his own faults and failings, the ruins that result from the ravages of time. In the midst of the ruins he pointed to heaven, to the God who bundles our brokenness and heals our wounds. (2)
From "The Love of God: Encountering the Reckless Raging Fury"
It is hard to love an angry God. It is also difficult to see ourselves as God's beloved children if we believe we are worthless. (60)
Whatever else we may think we want, the thing we need is God's love. (63)
The love we are longing for is a love that loves not in spite of but in light of our weaknesses and failures. We long to be loved as we are, with all of our defects known. Only then will we truly feel that we are loved. But this kind of love belongs only to God. We humans are too limited to give it. That is why finding it anywhere except in God is impossible. (63)
Comprehending the love of God was difficult for Rich, but it is no less difficult for any of the rest of us. There is no one who can understand how much and how passionately and how tenderly God loves us. There is nothing that is beyond God, but there is much that is beyond us, and grasping this love is one of them. (66)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Week in Review: October 12-18

I want to invite you to join me in Celebrating the Bible this November.


  • Psalm 90-150
  • Proverbs
  • Ecclesiastes
  • Song of Solomon
  • Isaiah 1-29

KJV (Rainbow Study Bible)

  • Deuteronomy
  • Psalms 28-106
  • Obadiah
  • Jonah
  • Mark 8-16
  • 1 Corinthians
  • 2 Corinthians
  • Galatians
  • James
  • Revelation


  • Psalms 42-90
  • Matthew
  • Mark 8-16
  • Titus
  • Philemon
  • James
  • 1 Peter
  • 2 Peter

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Celebrate the Bible, Coming This November

Join me this November to celebrate the Bible. I would encourage you to read and meditate and study Psalm 119 with me. I would encourage you to pick up your Bible and read something. Even if you choose not to dedicate the month to the longest Psalm in the Bible!!! My goal is not to have you fall in love with Psalm 119. My goal is to have you fall in love with God's Word. I want you to "taste and see that the LORD is good!" I want you to join with me in saying, "Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together!"

I'll be sharing some resources below. But I'll also be sharing resources throughout the month of November.

Week One, November 1-8

November 1, read Psalm 119
November 2, read and mediate on Psalm 119:1-8
November 3, read and meditate on Psalm 119:9-16
November 4, read and mediate on Psalm 119:17-24
November 5, read and meditate on Psalm 119:25-32
November 6, read and meditate on Psalm 119:33-40
November 7, read and meditate on Psalm 119:41-48
November 8, read Psalm 119 OR read OR listen to John Piper's Scripture the Kindling of Christian Hedonism. It is available to read. It is available to watch as video. It is available to listen on their site, or you can download it.

Week Two, November 9-15

November 9, read and meditate on Psalm 119:49-56
November 10, read and meditate on Psalm 119:57-64
November 11, read and meditate on Psalm 119:65-72
November 12, read and meditate on Psalm 119:73-80
November 13, read and meditate on Psalm 119:81-88
November 14, read and meditate on Psalm 119:89-96
November 15, read Psalm 119 and/OR read J.C. Ryle's Bible Reading

Week Three, November 16-22

November 16, read and meditate on Psalm 119:97-104
November 17, read and meditate on Psalm 119:105-112
November 18, read and meditate on Psalm 119:113-120
November 19, read and meditate on Psalm 119:121-128
November 20, read and meditate on Psalm 119:129-136
November 21, read and meditate on Psalm 119:137-144
November 22, read Psalm 119 and/OR listen to Alistair Begg's sermon How To Know Your Bible and/OR read John MacArthur's post How To Study Your Bible

Week Four, November 23-29

November 23, read and meditate on Psalm 119:145-152
November 24, read and meditate on Psalm 119:153-160
November 25, read and meditate on Psalm 119:161-168
November 26, read and meditate on Psalm 119:169-176
November 27, read Psalm 34
November 28, read Psalm 19
November 29, read Psalm 119 and/OR read Charles Spurgeon's sermon "Christ's Indwelling Word."

So why did I choose Psalm 119 for this little project? Well, I LOVED hosting "Give Thanks" last November which focused on reading the book of Psalms. So I wanted to do something, host something this year. But ever since I've read Kevin DeYoung's Taking God At His Word last spring, I've wanted to do something focusing on the Bible itself.
This book begins in a surprising place: with a love poem. It's not a new poem or a short poem. But it is most definitely a love poem. You may have read it before. You may have sung it, too. It's the longest chapter in the longest book in the longest half of a very long collection of books. Out of 1,189 chapters scattered across 66 books written over the course of two millennia, Psalm 119 is the longest.
I can think of three different reactions to the long, repetitive passion for the word of God in Psalm 119. The first reaction is, “Yeah, right.” This is the attitude of the skeptic, the scoffer, and the cynic. You think to yourself, “It’s nice that ancient people had such respect for God’s laws and God’s words, but we can’t take these things too seriously. We know that humans often put words in God’s mouth for their own purposes. We know that every ‘divine’ word is mixed with human thinking, redaction, and interpretation. The Bible, as we have it, is inspiring in parts, but it’s also antiquated, indecipherable at times, and frankly, incorrect in many places.” The second reaction is “Ho, hum.” You don’t have any particular problems with honoring God’s word or believing the Bible. On paper, you have a high view of the Scriptures. But in practice, you find them tedious and usually irrelevant. You think to yourself, though never voicing this out loud, “Psalm 119 is too long. It’s boring. It’s the worst day in my Bible reading plan. The thing goes on forever and ever saying the same thing. I like Psalm 23 much better.”
If the first reaction is “Yeah, right” and the second reaction is “Ho, hum,” the third possible reaction is “Yes! Yes! Yes!” This is what you cry out when everything in Psalm 119 rings true in your head and resonates in your heart, when the psalmist perfectly captures your passions, your affections, and your actions (or at least what you want them to be). This is when you think to yourself, “I love this psalm because it gives voice to the song in my soul.” The purpose of this book is to get us to fully, sincerely, and consistently embrace this third response. I want all that is in Psalm 119 to be an expression of all that is in our heads and in our hearts. In effect, I’m starting this book with the conclusion. Psalm 119 is the goal. I want to convince you (and make sure I’m convinced myself) that the Bible makes no mistakes, can be understood, cannot be overturned, and is the most important word in your life, the most relevant thing you can read each day. Only when we are convinced of all this can we give a full-throated “Yes! Yes! Yes!” every time we read the Bible’s longest chapter.
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Bible Review: Rainbow Study Bible

Holman Rainbow Study Bible KJV Edition (New, Improved User-Friendly Design) 10/1/2014. B&H Publishing Group. 1632 pages. [Source: Review copy]

The introduction states,
"The Holman Rainbow Study Bible is a simple yet thorough Bible based upon the premise that every verse of every Bible falls under one of twelve thematic headings. Each of the twelve headings is assigned a different color; then each verse of the Bible is color-coded to the heading to which it is most closely related…The Holman Rainbow Study Bible allows the serious Bible student the opportunity to study and teach the great Bible themes while avoiding a time-consuming or complicated system."
How is the Rainbow Study Bible different from other Bibles? Is it a necessary or beneficial publication? Who is the best match for the Rainbow Study Bible? I hope to answer these questions in this review of the Rainbow Study Bible.

The Rainbow Study Bible is certainly different from other Bibles. There are two things which make this Bible unique. 1) Every verse of the Bible has been color-coded. There are twelve themes and colors. The themes are: God, Discipleship, Love, Faith, Sin, Evil, Salvation, Family, Outreach, Commandments, History, and Prophecy. Each theme--or subject--covers many sub-categories*.

Examples of the twelve themes:

5 OT: Ex. 3:6, 2 Chr. 16:9, Ps. 84:11, Is. 42:1-8;  Amos 4:13
5 NT: Matthew 20:28, Acts 11:15-16, 1 Cor. 8:6, 1 John 4:4, Rev. 22:13

5 OT: Gen. 22:3-12, Judges 2:7, Ps. 92:1-3, Jeremiah 32:38-40, Malachi 1:5
5 NT: Luke 9:23-25, Acts 17:11, Romans 12:1-8, Hebrews 12:1, Rev. 7:9-12

5 OT: Dt. 7:7-8, 2 Kings 2:2-6, Ps. 23:1-3, Is. 49:13, Hab. 3:17-18
5 NT: John 21:15-17, Acts 5:41, Eph. 3:17-19, 1 Peter 3:8-9, Rev. 5:4

5 OT: Numbers 14:19-20, 2 Samuel 7:18-21, Job 19:25-27, Ez. 18:30-32, Jonah 2:1-7
5 NT: Mark 8:22-25, Acts 12:5, Philippians 1:3-6, James 1:3-8, Rev. 14:12

5 OT: Ex. 12:29-30, 1 Kings 19:1-2, Ps. 1:4-6, Is. 42:18-20, Hosea 10:13
5 NT: Mt. 8:12, Acts 16:19-24, 1 Cor. 2:14, 1 John 2:15-16, Rev. 9:2

5 OT: Gn. 3:1-5, Joshua 23:16, Ps. 115:4-8, Is. 5:20, Zechariah 11:16-17
5 NT: Mark 8:32-33, Acts 17:16, 2 Thess. 2:9-10, 2 Peter 2:1-3, Rev. 13:1-8

5 OT: Ex. 13:21-22, 2 Samuel 6:9-12, Ps. 27:4-6, Jeremiah 17:7-8, Malachi 4:2-3
5 NT: John 3:14-15, Acts 4:12, Eph. 2:13, 1 John 3:2-3, Rev. 21:1-4

5 OT: Deuteronomy 11:19, Ruth 3:1-6, Proverbs 4:1-4, Jeremiah 29:6, Micah 7:5-6
4 NT: Matthew 1:1-17, Acts 16:1-3, Eph. 6:1-4, 1 Pet. 3:1-7

5 OT: Ex 20:22, 1 Samuel 7:3, Ps. 19:1-6, Ez. 33:1-9, Jonah 3:4, 
5 NT: Mt. 5:13-16, Acts 4:13-20, Romans 10:14-15, James 4:11-12, Rev. 14:6-7

5 OT: Ex. 34:1-3, Joshua 1:10-15, Job 42:8, Is. 66:20-21, Jonah 1:1-2
5 NT: Mt. 23:8-10, Acts 9:6, Romans 6:3-4, 1 Pet. 2:13-14, Rev 1:19

5 OT: Gn. 9:8-17, 2 Samuel 7:4-17, Ps. 91:1, Ezekiel 37:5-8, Malachi 3:1
5 NT: Mark 13:1-4, Acts 11:5-14, 2 Cor. 5:10, 2 Peter 1:19-21, Rev. 4:1

5 OT: Gn. 1:1-2, Joshua 2:1-7, Job 1:3, Is. 7:1-2, Amos 1:1
3 NT: Mt. 3:4-5, John 19:12-14, Acts 10:23-24, 

2) This Bible also uses underlining to emphasize the word of God. When God--Father, Son, Spirit--is speaking, his words are underlined in both testaments. Yes, some Bibles offer readers "Words of Christ in Red." But this Bible goes beyond that.

Genesis 1:26-31:

And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so.
And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.

Acts 13:13

Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.
As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.
And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.

So the Rainbow Study Bible certainly is unique. It is not just another Bible. 

Is it a necessary or beneficial publication? The second question is definitely trickier. The Rainbow Study Bible is perhaps a little too different to be a great fit for every believer. I could see how some would LOVE it and others dismiss it. (About the color-coding: Too distracting, too overwhelming, too intimidating. About the KJV: too hard to understand, too intimidating.)  

Did I find things to love about the Rainbow Study Bible? Yes. 
  • I loved the size of the font. 
  • I loved the weight of the Bible.
  • I loved how it opens and holds. The pages lay very flat. The margins are wide. No text is hard to read.
  • I loved that it was easy on the eyes. Some might find the colors distracting. I found them soothing on the eyes. 
  • I liked the book introductions. They were concise, but on task.
  • I liked the visual drama. For example, there are a few places in the Bible, where the drama of the story itself is communicated by the colors. Like in Job. Like in Revelation.
  • I liked some of the supplemental study aids. One is called "365 Popular Bible Quotations for Memorization and Meditation." I liked this idea very much. I think it is a good resource. As is the "Harmony of the Gospels." 
Who is the best match for the Rainbow Study Bible? 

I think a love or appreciation for the King James Version of the Bible is a must, if, and only if you choose the KJV Edition of the Holman Rainbow Study Bible. In February 2015, the Rainbow Study Bible will be released in a NIV Edition. 

I think you have to have an open heart/mind to thinking about reading Scripture in a new way. You have to relax a bit. At first it may seem odd and confusing. And even after you get used to it, you may find yourself at times questioning how a verse is color-coded. Scripture is complex. Verses have layers of meaning. One verse might clearly fit one theme and only one theme. But more often verses could fit several themes all at the same time. Some patience and understanding is definitely a good thing. 

I read the following books in the Rainbow Study Bible before writing this review: Deuteronomy, Ruth, half of Psalms, Obadiah, Jonah, Mark, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philemon, James, and Revelation.

*Some of the subcategories:

Love: joy; kindness; mercy; mourning; lament; comfort; compassion; peace; sympathy; humility; charity

Faith: prayer; miracles; courage; confession; repentance; fasting; healing; hope; confidence; conviction; belief

Discipleship: obedience; praise; service; worship; spiritual formation; commitment; fellowship; spiritual gifts; fruit

Salvation: blessings; deliverance; holiness; Heaven; the tabernacle; angels; eternity; resurrection; second coming; judgement of the godly; grace

Outreach: teaching; counseling; questioning; instruction; testimony; ministry; preaching; evangelism; gospel; doctrine; sayings

Commandments: offerings; law; priesthood; feasts; Sabbath; tithing; baptism; Lord's supper; church; deacon; growth

Prophecy: promises; covenants; revelations; vows; visions; dreams; oaths; pledges; inspiration; fulfillment; future

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Book Review: A Bride in Store (2014)

A Bride in Store. Melissa Jagears. 2014. Bethany House. 363 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Eliza Cantrell, the heroine, is a mail-order bride. She decided she just couldn't wait any longer and came one week earlier than expected. Her intended groom is a man named Axel. (Did I believe for one second that he would be the hero? No. From the earliest chapters, I knew he was non-essential, that no matter when he entered the story, how he entered the story that Eliza would never, could never be his.) Eliza came by train. A train that happened to be robbed. During the robbery, her face is cut. She arrives in town and discovers that Axel is out of town. His business partner and friend, Will, however is very much in town. He, for one, is happy to welcome her to town. He basically starts fantasizing about Eliza from the moment they meet. He's a doctor, of sorts. Not officially. But he's got the dream bad. He stitches up her face, introduces her around, establishes her at a local boarding house, shows her around the store, in general proving that he's very good at being the nice guy. She's attracted to him as well. Though I don't believe she starts fantasizing about him as quickly. I've mentioned his dream: being a doctor. Eliza's dream is owning a store. It's a family thing. Her brother may have gotten the store when their father died, but, she got the know-how. She's unimpressed with Will and Axel's store. But she's willing to make suggestions for how to improve it to anyone who will listen. Will listens. He doesn't have a problem listening to her talk about her dreams. But the store, well, it isn't his dream. And he doesn't have the money and the time to transform it into something wonderful to please someone else's bride. Axel remains missing for the first half of the book. I don't think I'm exaggerating. During his absence, Will and Eliza get real cozy with one another. Instead of admitting to each other openly that they should be the ones to get married, they cling to the idea of Axel being the one. In some ways, I was irritated with Axel long, long before he shows up. Will Axel and Eliza marry? Will she marry anyone? Will she ever see her dream achieved? Will Will ever pursue his dream of medical school?

I liked A Bride in Store by Melissa Jagears well enough to keep reading. It is the second in a series, and, I'm wondering if I'd read the first book if I would have gotten more out of this one. You never can tell with historical romance series. I can't even decide exactly what it was about A Bride in Store that kept it an almost. Was it the fact that the hero and heroine spend most of their time fantasizing about one another? Maybe. Was it the fact that except for the hero and heroine there is little depth to the characterization? It's certainly possible. Was it the fact that it was all so predictable? Probably not. I don't mind predictable and familiar if I like the characters and writing well enough. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

My Year with Spurgeon #41

God in the Covenant
Charles Spurgeon
“I will be their God.”—Jeremiah 31:33.
WHAT A glorious covenant the second covenant is! Well might it be called “a better covenant, which was established upon better promises.” Heb. viii. 6. It is so glorious that the very thought of it is enough to overwhelm the soul, when it discerns the amazing condescension and infinite love of God, in having framed a covenant for such unworthy creatures, for such glorious purposes, with such disinterested motives. It is better than the other covenant, the covenant of works, which was made with Adam; or that covenant which is said to have been made with Israel, on the day when they came out of Egypt. It is better, for it is founded upon a better principle.
Where there is anything of man, there is always a degree of mutability; for creatures, and change, and uncertainty always go together. But since this new covenant hath now nothing whatever to do with the creature, so far as the creature has to do anything, but only so far he is to receive: the idea of change is utterly and entirely gone. It is God’s covenant, and therefore it is an unchanging covenant. If there be something which I am to do in the covenant, then is the covenant insecure; and although happy as Adam, I may yet become miserable as Satan. But if the covenant be all on God’s part, then if my name be in that covenant, my soul is as secure as if I were now walking the golden streets; and if any blessing be in the covenant, I am as certain to receive that blessing as if I already grasped it in my hands; for the promise of God is sure to be followed by fulfilment; the promise never faileth; it always bringeth with it the whole of that which it is intended to convey, and the moment I receive it by faith, I am sure of the blessing itself.
How is GOD ESPECIALLY THE GOD OF HIS OWN CHILDREN? For God is the God of all men, of all creatures; he is the God of the worm, of the flying eagle, of the star, and of the cloud; he is God everywhere. How then is he more my God and your God than he is God of all created things? We answer, that in some things God is the God of all his creatures; but even there, there is a special relationship existing between himself and his chosen creatures, whom he has loved with an everlasting love. And in the next place, there are certain relationships in which God does not exist towards the rest of his creatures, but only towards his own children.
First then, God is the God of all his creatures, seeing that he has the right to decree to do with them as he pleases. He is the Creator of us all: he is the potter, and hath power over the clay, to make of the same lump, one vessel to honor and another to dishonor. However men may sin against God, he is still their God in that sense—that their destiny is immovably in his hand; that he can do with them exactly as he chooses; however they may resent his will, or spurn his good pleasure, yet he can make the wrath of man to praise him, and the remainder of that wrath he can restrain. He is the God of all creatures, absolutely so in the matter of predestination, seeing that he is their Creator, and has an absolute right to do with them as he wills.
But here again he has a special regard to his children, and he is their God even in that sense; for to them, while he exercises the same sovereignty, he exercises it in the way of grace and grace only. He makes them the vessels of mercy, who shall be to his honor for ever; he chooses them out of the ruins of the fall, and makes them heirs of everlasting life, while he suffers the rest of the world to continue in sin, and to consummate their guilt by well-deserved punishment, and thus, while his relationship is the same, so far as his sovereignty is concerned and his right of decree, there is something special in its loving aspect towards his people; and in that sense he is their God.
Again: he is the God of all his creatures, in the sense that he has a right to command obedience of all. He is the God of every man that was ever born into this earth, in the sense that they are bound to obey him. God can command the homage of all his creatures, because he is their Creator, Governor, and Preserver; and all men are, by the fact of their creation, so placed in subjection to him, that they cannot escape the obligation of submission to his laws.
But even here there is something special in regard to the child of God. Though God is the ruler of all men, yet his rule is special towards his children; for he lays aside the sword of his rulership, and in his hand he grasps the rod for his child, not the sword of punitive vengeance. While he gives the world a law upon stone, he gives to his child a law in his heart.
Again: God has a universal power over all his creatures in the character of a Judge. He will “judge the world in righteousness and his people with equity.” He will judge all men with equity it is true; but, as if his people were not of the world, it is added afterwards, “his people with equity.” God is the God of all creatures, we repeat, in the sense that he is their Judge; he will summon them all before his bar, and condemn or acquit them all, but even there, there is something peculiar with regard to his children, for to them the condemnation sentence shall never come, but only the acquittal. While he is Judge of all, he especially is their judge; because he is the judge whom they love to reverence, the judge whom they long to approach, because they know his lips will confirm that which their hearts have already felt—the sentence of their full acquittal through the merits of their glorious Saviour. Our loving God is the Judge who shall acquit our souls, and in that respect we can say he is our God. So, then, whether as Sovereign, or as Governor enforcing law, or as Judge punishing sin; although God is in some sense the God of all men, yet in this matter there is something special towards his people, so that they can say, “He is our God, even in those relationships.”
God is our God in a sense, with which the unregenerate, the unconverted, the unholy, can have no acquaintance, in which they have no share whatever. We have just considered other points with regards to what God is to man generally; let us now consider what he is to us, as he is to none other.
First, then, God is my God, seeing that he is the God of my election. If I be his child, then has he loved me from before all worlds, and his infinite mind has been exercised with plans for my salvation. If he be my God, he has seen me when I have wandered far from him, and when I have rebelled, his mind has determined when I shall be arrested—when I shall be turned from the error of my ways. He has been providing for me the means of grace, he has applied those means of grace in due time, but his everlasting purpose has been the basis and the foundation of it all; and thus he is my God, as he is the God of none else beside his own children. My glorious, gracious God in eternal election; for he thought of me and chose me from before the foundation of the world, that I should be without blame before him in love.
Furthermore, the Christian can call God his God, from the fact of his justification. A sinner can call God—God, but he must always put in an adjective, and speak of God as an angry God, an incensed God, or an offended God. But the Christian can say, “my God,” without putting in any adjective except it be a sweet one wherewithal to extol him; for now we who were sometime afar off are made nigh by the blood of Christ; we who were enemies to God by wicked works are his friends; and looking up to him, we can say, “my God;” for he is my friend, and I am his friend. Enoch could say, “my God,” for he walked with him. Adam could not say, “my God,” when he hid himself beneath the trees of the garden. So that while I, a sinner, run from God, I cannot call him mine; but when I have peace with God, and am brought nigh to him, then indeed is he my God and my friend.
Again: he is the believer’s God by adoption, and in that the sinner hath no part.
I have heard people represent God as the Father of the whole universe. It surprises me that any reader of the Bible should so talk. Paul once quoted a heathen poet, who said that we are his offspring; and it is true in some sense that we are, as having been created by him. But in the high sense in which the term “childhood” is used in the Scripture to express the holy relationship of a regenerate child towards his Father, in that sense none can say, “Our father,” but those who have the “Abba Father” printed on their hearts by the spirit of adoption. Well, by the spirit of adoption, God becomes my God, as he is not the God of others. The Christian has a special claim to God, because God is his Father, as he is not the Father of any else save his brethren.
Oh! Christian, do but consider what it is to have God to be thine own; consider what it is, compared with anything else.
What is heaven, but to be with God, to dwell with him, to realize that God is mine, and I am his? I say I have not a hope beyond that; there is not a promise beyond that; for all promises are couched in this, all hopes are included in this, “I will be their God.”
This is the master-piece of all promises; it is the top-stone of all the great and precious things, which God has provided for his children, “I will be their God.” If we could really grasp it, if it could be applied to our soul and we could understand it, we might clap our hands and say, “Oh! the glory, oh! the glory, oh! the glory of that promise!” it makes a heaven below, and it must make a heaven above, for nothing else will be wanted but that, “I will be their God.”

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, October 13, 2014

Book Review: Read the Bible for Life

Read the Bible for Life: Your Guide to Understanding and Living God's Word. George H. Guthrie. 2011. B&H Books. 338 pages. [Source: Bought]

I almost loved, loved, loved this one. I did love it, by the way. It's an easy book to love IF you love the book the author loves. If you LOVE the Bible, if you love reading about the Bible, love reading about other people who love the Bible who get excited about the Bible, then chances are you'll enjoy spending time with this one too.

I think Read the Bible for Life would be a great book for groups to read together. (Families. Christian schools. Sunday Schools. Bible Studies. Friends.)

It had me from the introduction. I loved the introduction. Guthrie gives two reasons for writing the book. First, his belief that it is important that we read the Bible and read it well. He focuses on WHY it is so very essential to read the Bible. And he stresses the importance of reading it well--with understanding and application. He writes,
Thus, reading the Bible ought to at once be as encouraging as a mother's gentle touch and, at moments, as unsettling and disturbing as a violent storm. (5)
Take away the Bible and we cease to exist. It is both foundation and fuel of spiritual vitality for a Christian. Accordingly, there are many reasons we as believers need to read the Bible on a consistent basis. We need to read the Bible to know the truth. We want to think clearly about what God says is true and valuable (2 Peter 1:20-21). We read the Bible to know God in a personal relationship (1 Cor. 1:21; Gal. 4:8-9; 1 Tim. 4:16). We read the Bible to live well for God in this world, and living out His will expresses our love for Him (John 14:23-24; Rom 12:2; 1 Thess. 4:1-8; 2 Tim. 3:16-17). We read the Bible to experience God's freedom, grace, peace, and hope (John 8:32; Rom. 15:4; 2 Pet. 1:2). We read the Bible because it gives us joy (Ps. 119:111). We read the Bible to grow spiritually, as we reject conformity to the world and are changed by the renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:1-2, 1 Pet. 2:1-2). We read the Bible to minister to other Christ followers and to those who have yet to respond to the gospel, experiencing God's approval for work well done (Josh. 1:8; 2 Tim. 2:15; 3:16-17). We read the Bible to guard ourselves from sin and error (Eph. 6:11-17; 2 Pet. 2:1-2). We read the Bible to be built up as a Christian community with others in the body of Christ (Acts 20:32; Eph. 4:14-16). (5)
The second reason Guthrie gives is the fact that we are not reading the Bible, much less reading it well. He then goes on to show how biblical illiteracy is on the rise. How even among those who profess to be Christians, biblical illiteracy is a very real problem, a real concern. He points out four reasons why. First, reading in general is on the decline. Second, technology may be hurting our ability to read, to focus on what we read. Third, people are distracted and overextended. Fourth, people don't know the Bible's grand story or how its parts work.

The book is divided into four parts. Part one is "Reading the Bible: Foundational Issues." Parts two and three are "Reading the Old Testament" and "Reading the New Testament." Part four is "Reading the Bible in Modern Contexts."

Each part has four chapters. Some chapters focus on the why. Other chapters focus on the how. The book is definitely practical and packed with information. Each chapter is a conversation, an interview of sorts. Guthrie is asking experts questions and he's not only sharing what he's learned but the process of it as well. (I could have used a little less description in places.)

Reading the Bible As A Guide for Life with David S. Dockery
Reading the Bible in Context with Andreas Kostenberger
Reading the Bible in Translation with Clint Arnold and Mark Strauss
Reading the Bible for Transformation with George Guthrie (for better or worse, he interviews himself)
Reading the Old Testament Stories with Bruce Waltke
Reading the Old Testament Laws with J. Daniel Hays
Reading Psalms and Proverbs with David Howard
Reading the Old Testament Prophets with Gary Smith
Reading the New Testament Stories with Darrell Bock
Reading the Teachings of Jesus with Craig Blomberg
Reading the New Testament Letters with Douglas Moo
Reading Revelation with J. Scott Duvall
Reading the Bible for Personal Devotion with Donald S. Whitney
Reading the Bible in Times of Sorrow and Suffering with Michael Card
Reading the Bible with the Family with Pat Guthrie (his wife)
Reading the Bible with the Church with Buddy Gray and David Platt

Each chapter deserves time--my time and your time. I learned so much. I want to remember so much. I want to share with you what I learned. But that would mean going chapter by chapter by chapter. It would weigh this review down to try to include everything.

I definitely would recommend this one.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Rainbow Study Bible, First Impressions

I recently received a copy of the Holman Rainbow Study Bible, KJV Edition for review. I look forward to reading in it for several months to come. I will try to do a proper review of this one once I've had the chance to read more in it--some in the Old Testament, some in the New Testament. But I thought I'd share my initial impressions of the Bible.

It is the KJV translation of the Bible. I do love that. I would never say it's the only translation I read in, but, it's certainly one I enjoy reading. 

It is verse, verse, verse. In other words. It is not in paragraph format. I typically try to choose bibles in paragraph format. (Verse, verse, verse is very common for KJV publications. It is more rare to see the KJV in paragraph format.) Because this is a special Rainbow Study Bible, it makes perfect sense to have it in this format. Each verse of the Bible is color-coded. Paragraph format might make it more of a messy read.) 

The font is large enough to be easy on the eyes. It isn't GIANT by any means. But it is a wonderfully nice size. And the Bible itself is not too heavy. (I have found that it is often one or the other.)

It is NOT red-letter!!! Instead, readers will find that all words spoken directly by God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit appear underlined throughout the Old and New Testaments. I am very excited about this approach. So far, I'm loving this idea.

It is color-coded. There are twelve subjects (and colors) in this color-code system. God. Discipleship. Love. Faith. Sin. Evil. Salvation. Family. Outreach. Commandments. History. Prophecy. Each subject is a heading, of sorts, covering many subjects. For example:

Love: joy; kindness; mercy; mourning; lament; comfort; compassion; peace; sympathy; humility; charity

Faith: prayer; miracles; courage; confession; repentance; fasting; healing; hope; confidence; conviction; belief

Discipleship: obedience; praise; service; worship; spiritual formation; commitment; fellowship; spiritual gifts; fruit

Salvation: blessings; deliverance; holiness; Heaven; the tabernacle; angels; eternity; resurrection; second coming; judgement of the godly; grace

Outreach: teaching; counseling; questioning; instruction; testimony; ministry; preaching; evangelism; gospel; doctrine; sayings

Every verse is color-coded; every verse has been categorized into one of the twelve main subject headings. At the bottom of each two-page spread, the colors/headings appear as reminders so you can easily interpret what the colors mean without having to refer back to the chart at the front of the Bible. However, I found it helpful to write on index cards the smaller subcategories under each. 

I've quoted Psalm 19:7-14, twice already today. But this will give you some idea of how it is color-coded. The purple is "God." The pale-peach is "faith". If you look up the subcategories, you'll find faith covers "confession" and "repentance" and "prayer" and "hope."

7 The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.

8 The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.

9 The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.

10 More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.

11 Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.

12 Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults.

13 Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression.

14 Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.

I enjoyed reading the Words of Explanation at the front of the Bible. In fact, I would think it essential if you plan on reading this unique Bible.
The Holman Rainbow Study Bible is a simple yet thorough Bible based upon the premise that every verse of every Bible falls under one of twelve thematic headings. Each of the twelve headings is assigned a different color; then each verse of the Bible is color-coded to the heading to which it is most closely related…The Holman Rainbow Study Bible allows the serious Bible student the opportunity to study and teach the great Bible themes while avoiding a time-consuming or complicated system. 
Goals of the Holman Rainbow Study Bible:
1. To paint a picture of colors on every page and thereby make reading more enjoyable
2. To help every reader attain a further understanding of the message in each Scripture
3. To provide easy access for studying, giving devotionals, and teaching.
4. To provide an accurate breakdown of topics
5. To help every reader remember by color association where significant verses are located
6. To provide an easily recognizable format distinguishing the Words of God throughout the Bible.
7. To encourage more and more reading of God's Word.
I haven't read enough in this one yet to assess the (bold) statements in the introduction. (For example, phrases like "the premise that every verse of every Bible falls under one of twelve thematic headings" and "while avoiding a time-consuming or complicated system.")

I do love the way they list the books of the Bible in the table of contents. The chart makes note of divisions: law, history, poetry, major prophets, minor prophets, the gospels, the early church, letters of Paul, other letters, and prophecy. The chart also makes note of the number of chapters in each book. (So you can see at a glance facts like there are 66 books in the Bible, 39 OT, 27 NT. There are 1189 chapters in the whole Bible.)

The Bible does have--in addition to maps and illustrations throughout the Bible--several supplemental study aids found at the back. Notably, it includes "100 Popular Bible Passages" (50 OT; 50 NT), "365 Popular Bible Quotations for Memorization and Meditation" (selections from every book of the Bible), a "One Year Daily Bible Reading Calendar," and "A Harmony of the Gospels."

Feel free to ask me questions, and I'll try to answer them in the next post about this bible.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Worth Quoting #17, Matthew Henry On Psalm 19:7-14

From Matthew Henry's Commentary on Psalm 19:7-14

First, the verses in question!

The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul:
the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.
The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: 
the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.
The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever: 
the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: 
sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
Moreover by them is thy servant warned: 
and in keeping of them there is great reward.
Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults.
Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; 
let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, 
and I shall be innocent from the great transgression.
Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart,
be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer. 
Psalm 19:7-14. King James Version.

Second, the commentary itself!
God’s glory, (that is, his goodness to man) appears much in the works of creation, but much more in and by divine revelation. The holy scripture, as it is a rule both of our duty to God and of our expectation from him, is of much greater use and benefit to us than day or night, than the air we breathe in, or the light of the sun.

The psalmist gives an account of the excellent properties and uses of the word of God, in six sentences (v. 7-9), in each of which the name Jehovah is repeated, and no vain repetition, for the law has its authority and all its excellency from the law-maker. Here are six several titles of the word of God, to take in the whole of divine revelation, precepts and promises, and especially the gospel. Here are several good properties of it, which proves its divine original, which recommend it to our affection, and which extol it above all other laws whatsoever. Here are several good effects of the law upon the minds of men, which show what it is designed for, what use we are to make of it, and how wonderful the efficacy of divine grace is, going along with it, and working by it.
1. The law of the Lord is perfect. It is perfectly free from all corruption, perfectly filled with all good, and perfectly fitted for the end for which it is designed; and it will make the man of God perfect, 2 Tim. 3:17 . Nothing is to be added to it nor taken from it. It is of use to convert the soul, to bring us back to ourselves, to our God, to our duty; for it shows us our sinfulness and misery in our departures from God and the indispensable necessity of our return to him.
2. The testimony of the Lord (which witnesses for him to us) is sure, incontestably and inviolably sure, what we may give credit to, may rely upon, and may be confident it will not deceive us. It is a sure discovery of the divine truth, a sure direction in the way of duty. It is a sure foundation of living comforts and a sure foundation of lasting hopes. It is of use to make us wise, wise to salvation, 2 Tim. 3:15 . It will give us an insight into things divine and a foresight of things to come. It will employ us in the best work and secure to us our true interests. It will make even the simple (poor contrivers as they may be for the present world) wise for their souls and eternity. Those that are humbly simple, sensible of their own folly and willing to be taught, shall be made wise by the word of God, Ps. 25:9.
3. The statutes of the Lord (enacted by his authority, and binding on all wherever they come) are right, exactly agreeing with the eternal rules and principles of good and evil, that is, with the right reason of man and the right counsels of God. All God’s precepts, concerning all things, are right (Ps. 119:128 ), just as they should be; and they will set us to rights if we receive them and submit to them; and, because they are right, they rejoice the heart. The law, as we see it in the hands of Christ, gives cause for joy; and, when it is written in our hearts, it lays a foundation for everlasting joy, by restoring us to our right mind.
4. The commandment of the Lord is pure; it is clear, without darkness; it is clean, without dross and defilement. It is itself purified from all alloy, and is purifying to those that receive and embrace it. It is the ordinary means which the Spirit uses in enlightening the eyes; it brings us to a sight and sense of our sin and misery, and directs us in the way of duty.
5. The fear of the Lord (true religion and godliness prescribed in the word, reigning in the heart, and practised in the life) is clean, clean itself, and will make us clean (Jn. 15:3); it will cleanse our way, Ps. 119:9 . And it endureth for ever; it is of perpetual obligation and can never be repealed. The ceremonial law is long since done away, but the law concerning the fear of God is ever the same. Time will not alter the nature of moral good and evil.
6. The judgments of the Lord (all his precepts, which are framed in infinite wisdom) are true; they are grounded upon the most sacred and unquestionable truths; they are righteous, all consonant to natural equity; and they are so altogether: there is no unrighteousness in any of them, but they are all of a piece.
He expresses the great value he had for the word of God, and the great advantage he had, and hoped to have, from it, v. 10, v. 11.
1. See how highly he prized the commandments of God. It is the character of all good people that they prefer their religion and the word of God, (1.) Far before all the wealth of the world. It is more desirable than gold, than fine gold, than much fine gold. Gold is of the earth, earthly; but grace is the image of the heavenly. Gold is only for the body and the concerns of time; but grace is for the soul and the concerns of eternity. (2.) Far before all pleasures and delights of sense. The word of God, received by faith, is sweet to the soul, sweeter than honey and the honey comb. The pleasures of sense are the delight of brutes, and therefore debase the great soul of man; the pleasures of religion are the delight of angels, and exalt the soul. The pleasures of sense are deceitful, will soon surfeit, and yet never satisfy; but those of religion are substantial and satisfying, and there is no danger of exceeding in them.
2. See what use he made of the precepts of God’s word: By them is thy servant warned. The word of God is a word of warning to the children of men; it warns us of the duty we are to do, the dangers we are to avoid, and the deluge we are to prepare for, Eze. 3:17, Eze. 33:7. It warns the wicked not to go on in his wicked way, and warns the righteous not to turn from his good way. All that are indeed God’s servants take this warning.
3. See what advantage he promised himself by his obedience to God’s precepts: In keeping them there is great reward. Those who make conscience of their duty will not only be no losers by it, but unspeakable gainers. There is a reward, not only after keeping, but in keeping, God’s commandments, a present great reward of obedience. Religion is health and honour; it is peace and pleasure; it will make our comforts sweet and our crosses easy, life truly valuable and death itself truly desirable.
He draws some good inferences from this pious meditation upon the excellency of the word of God. Such thoughts as these should excite in us devout affections, and they are to good purpose.
1. He takes occasion hence to make a penitent reflection upon his sins; for by the law is the knowledge of sin. "Is the commandment thus holy, just, and good? Then who can understand his errors? I cannot, whoever can.’’ From the rectitude of the divine law he learns to call his sins his errors. If the commandment be true and righteous, every transgressions of the commandment is an error, as grounded upon a mistake; every wicked practice takes rise from some corrupt principle; it is a deviation from the rule we are to work by, the way we are to walk in. From the extent, the strictness, and spiritual nature, of the divine law he learns that his sins are so many that he cannot understand the number of them, and so exceedingly sinful that he cannot understand the heinousness and malignity of them. We are guilty of many sins which, through our carelessness and partiality to ourselves, we are not aware of; many we have been guilty of which we have forgotten; so that, when we have been ever so particular in the confession of sin, we must conclude with an et cetera—and such like; for God knows a great deal more evil of us than we do of ourselves. In many things we all offend, and who can tell how often he offends? It is well that we are under grace, and not under the law, else we were undone.
2. He takes occasion hence to pray against sin. All the discoveries of sin made to us by the law should drive us to the throne of grace, there to pray, as David does here, (1.) For mercy to pardon. Finding himself unable to specify all the particulars of his transgressions, he cries out, Lord, cleanse me from my secret faults; not secret to God, so none are, nor only such as were secret to the world, but such as were hidden from his own observation of himself. The best of men have reason to suspect themselves guilty of many secret faults, and to pray to God to cleanse them from that guilt and not to lay it to their charge; for even our sins of infirmity and inadvertency, and our secret sins, would be our ruin if God should deal with us according to the desert of them. Even secret faults are defiling, and render us unfit for communion with God; but, when they are pardoned, we are cleansed from them, 1 Jn. 1:7 . (2.) For grace to help in time of need. Having prayed that his sins of infirmity might be pardoned, he prays that presumptuous sins might be prevented, v. 13. All that truly repent of their sins, and have them pardoned, are in care not to relapse into sin, nor to return again to folly, as appears by their prayers, which concur with David’s here, where observe, [1.] His petition: "Keep me from ever being guilty of a wilful presumptuous sin.’’ We ought to pray that we may be kept from sins of infirmity, but especially from presumptuous sins, which most offend God and wound conscience, which wither our comforts and shock our hopes. "However, let none such have dominion over me, let me not be at the command of any such sin, nor be enslaved by it.’’ [2.] His plea: "So shall I be upright; I shall appear upright; I shall preserve the evidence and comfort of my uprightness; and I shall be innocent from the great transgression;’’ so he calls a presumptuous sin, because no sacrifice was accepted for it, Num. 15:28-30 . Note, First, Presumptuous sins are very heinous and dangerous. those that sin against the habitual convictions and actual admonitions of their consciences, in contempt and defiance of the law and its sanctions, that sin with a high hand, sin presumptuously, and it is a great transgression. Secondly, Even good men ought to be jealous of themselves, and afraid of sinning presumptuously, yea, though through the grace of God they have hitherto been kept from them. Let none be high-minded, but fear. Thirdly, Being so much exposed, we have great need to pray to God, when we are pushing forward towards a presumptuous sin, to keep us back from it, either by his providence preventing the temptation or by his grace giving us victory over it.
3. He takes occasion humbly to beg the divine acceptance of those his pious thoughts and affections, v. 14. Observe the connexion of this with what goes before. He prays to God to keep him from sin, and then begs he would accept his performances; for, if we favour our sins, we cannot expect God should favour us or our services, Ps. 66:18 . Observe, (1.) What his services were—the words of his mouth and the meditations of his heart, his holy affections offered up to God. The pious meditations of the heart must not be smothered, but expressed in the words of our mouth, for God’s glory and the edification of others; and the words of our mouth in prayer and praise must not be formal, but arising from the meditation of the heart, Ps. 45:1 . (2.) What was his care concerning these services—that they might be acceptable with God; for, if our services be not acceptable to God, what do they avail us? Gracious souls must have all they aim at if they be accepted of God, for that is their bliss. (3.) What encouragement he had to hope for this, because God was his strength and his redeemer. If we seek assistance from God as our strength in our religious duties, we may hope to find acceptance with God in the discharge of our duties; for by his strength we have power with him.In singing this we should get our hearts much affected with the excellency of the word of God and delivered into it, we should be much affected with the evil of sin, the danger we are in of it and the danger we are in by it, and we should fetch in help from heaven against it.   

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible