Thursday, April 30, 2015

Quotes from the Cloud #17

This year, I hope share weekly posts of quotes. These quotes are from authors I'm reading and enjoying from the Clouds of Witnesses Reading Challenge

For fellow participants, what I would LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to see is for people to share quotes from what they're reading. I'd love for you to share quotes occasionally with your readers and let me know about it. If you don't have a blog, you could always leave quotes in the comments here.
Understand, that the doctrine of the Holy Scripture is, that man by nature, since the fall, is dead; he is a corrupt and ruined thing; in a spiritual sense, utterly and entirely dead. And if any of us shall come to spiritual life, it must be by the quickening of God’s Spirit, vouchsafed to us sovereignly through the good will of God the Father, not for any merits of our own, but entirely of his own abounding and infinite grace. ~ Charles Spurgeon, "Spiritual Resurrection," 1857
No duty is more pressed in both Testaments than this, of rejoicing in the Lord. It is no less a sin not to rejoice than not to repent. ~ John Trapp
“The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.” ~ Flannery O'Connor
For the one principle of hell is -- "I am my own." I am my own king and my own subject. I am the center from which go out my thoughts; I am the object and end of my thoughts; back upon me as the alpha and omega of lime, my thoughts return. My own glory is, and ought to be, my chief care; my ambition, to gather the regards of men to the one center, myself. My pleasure is my pleasure. My kingdom is--as many as I can bring to acknowledge my greatness over them. My judgment is the faultless rule of things. My right is--what I desire. ~ George MacDonald
Jesus is my sanctification. Having Him I have obedience, rest, patience and everything I need. He is alive forevermore. If you have Him nothing can be against you. Your temptations will not be against you; your bad temper will not be against you; your hard life, your circumstances, even the devil himself will not be against you. Every time he comes to attack you, he will only root you deeper in Christ. You will become a coward at the thought of being alone; you will be thrown on Jesus every time a trouble assails you. All things henceforth will work together for good to your own soul. Since God is for you nothing can be against you. ~ A.B. Simpson, July
The pressure of hard places makes us value life. Every time our life is given back to us from such a trial, it is like a new beginning, and we learn better how much it is worth, and make more of it for God and man. The pressure helps us to understand the trials of others, and fits us to help and sympathize with them. There is a shallow, superficial nature, that gets hold of a theory or a promise lightly, and talks very glibly about the distrust of those who shrink from every trial; but the man or woman who has suffered much never does this, but is very tender and gentle, and knows what suffering really means. This is what Paul meant when he said, “Death worketh in us, but life in you.” Trials and hard places are needed to press us forward; even as the furnace fires in the hold of that mighty ship give the force that moves the piston, drives the engine, and propels that great vessel across the sea, in the face of the winds and waves. ~ A.B. Simpson, July

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Book Review: Prince Caspian

Prince Caspian. C.S. Lewis. 1951. HarperCollins. 240 pages. [Source: Bought]
ONCE THERE WERE FOUR CHILDREN whose names were Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy, and it has been told in another book called The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe how they had a remarkable adventure. They had opened the door of a magic wardrobe and found themselves in a quite different world from ours, and in that different world they had become Kings and Queens in a country called Narnia. While they were in Narnia they seemed to reign for years and years; but when they came back through the door and found themselves in England again, it all seemed to have taken no time at all. At any rate, no one noticed that they had ever been away, and they never told anyone except one very wise grown-up.
Prince Caspian is the second book in C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia series. It is the second visit to Narnia for Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy. Hundreds of years have passed since they reigned as kings and queens in Narnia. Their reigns have become the stuff of legend--along with other details about "old Narnia." Not every one believes that there ever was a King Peter, King Edmund, Queen Susan, and Queen Lucy. Some even dare to go so far as to say there never was an Aslan. But some do still believe and cling to "old Narnia." Among them a young boy, Caspian, who learned of 'the legends' of old Narnia first from his nurse, and, then later--secretly--from his tutor. It is Caspian who calls the four back into Narnia: when he blows the magical horn. Why did he blow it? It was most definitely a great time of need and the horn came with a promise that when it was blown help would come.

Do I love, love, love Prince Caspian? Probably not. I do really like it however. I like spending time with Peter, Edmund, Susan, and Lucy. I enjoyed meeting Prince Caspian. I liked meeting Reepicheep and some of the others. I like the tension in this one as well: the tension between belief and disbelief. I think I appreciate it more each time I revisit it.
“Do you believe all those old stories?” asked Trumpkin. “I tell you, we don’t change, we beasts,” said Trufflehunter. “We don’t forget. I believe in the High King Peter and the rest that reigned at Cair Paravel, as firmly as I believe in Aslan himself.” “As firmly as that, I daresay,” said Trumpkin. “But who believes in Aslan nowadays?”
“Wouldn’t it be dreadful if some day in our own world, at home, men started going wild inside, like the animals here, and still looked like men, so that you’d never know which were which?”
But for the movement of his tail he might have been a stone lion, but Lucy never thought of that. She never stopped to think whether he was a friendly lion or not. She rushed to him. She felt her heart would burst if she lost a moment. And the next thing she knew was that she was kissing him and putting her arms as far round his neck as she could and burying her face in the beautiful rich silkiness of his mane. “Aslan, Aslan. Dear Aslan,” sobbed Lucy. “At last.” The great beast rolled over on his side so that Lucy fell, half sitting and half lying between his front paws. He bent forward and just touched her nose with his tongue. His warm breath came all round her. She gazed up into the large wise face. “Welcome, child,” he said. “Aslan,” said Lucy, “you’re bigger.” “That is because you are older, little one,” answered he. “Not because you are?” “I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger.” For a time she was so happy that she did not want to speak. But Aslan spoke. “Lucy,” he said, “we must not lie here for long. You have work in hand, and much time has been lost today.” “Yes, wasn’t it a shame?” said Lucy. “I saw you all right. They wouldn’t believe me. They’re all so—” From somewhere deep inside Aslan’s body there came the faintest suggestion of a growl. “I’m sorry,” said Lucy, who understood some of his moods. “I didn’t mean to start slanging the others. But it wasn’t my fault anyway, was it?” The Lion looked straight into her eyes. “Oh, Aslan,” said Lucy. “You don’t mean it was? How could I—I couldn’t have left the others and come up to you alone, how could I? Don’t look at me like that … oh well, I suppose I could. Yes, and it wouldn’t have been alone, I know, not if I was with you. But what would have been the good?” Aslan said nothing. “You mean,” said Lucy rather faintly, “that it would have turned out all right—somehow? But how? Please, Aslan! Am I not to know?” “To know what would have happened, child?” said Aslan. “No. Nobody is ever told that.” “Oh dear,” said Lucy. “But anyone can find out what will happen,” said Aslan. “If you go back to the others now, and wake them up; and tell them you have seen me again; and that you must all get up at once and follow me—what will happen? There is only one way of finding out.”

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Book Review: Experiencing the New Birth

Experiencing the New Birth: Studies in John 3. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. 2015. Crossway. 400 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Experiencing the New Birth is a collection of twenty-four sermons preached by Martyn Lloyd-Jones in 1966. All the messages are drawn primarily from John 3. I say primarily because Lloyd-Jones often brings in other passages into each chapter. Does Experiencing the New Birth guide readers verse by verse through the entire chapter? Not really. But it addresses many--if not all--of the themes of John 3. He uses John 3 as the main text, and supplements as needed from other books-- 1 John, Hebrews, Romans, etc. I was expecting the book to stick more closely to John 3 itself. That being said, I wasn't disappointed by his theological ramblings.

Experiencing the New Birth--for better or worse--isn't exactly concise. These are a series of sermons gathered together to be published in book format. So there is a lot of repetition, a lot more repetition than I'm used to reading in my theology. But repetition is needed in sermons because of our weaknesses: our inattention, our wandering minds, our proneness to get distracted and stay that way. Reading is different from listening, but, distraction still happens. So the repetition isn't unforgivable.

Twelve of the twenty-four messages are drawn from John 3:8. This seemed a little much to me--especially at first. But each message varies a little:

  • Characteristics of the New Birth
  • The Sign of the New Birth
  • Marks of the Spiritual Life
  • The Christian and the World
  • Righteousness
  • Loving the Brethren
  • Knowing God
  • A Personal Knowledge of God--God the Father and God the Son
  • The Fellowship of the Holy Spirit
  • Heavenly Things
  • Assurance
  • Alive in Christ

All these messages essentially are passionate pleas from Martyn Lloyd-Jones to his listeners and readers: EXAMINE YOURSELF, SEE IF YOU PASS THESE TESTS, ARE YOU IN THE FAITH? HAVE YOU BEEN REBORN? In these twelve chapters, he makes distinctions between believers and nonbelievers. He reminds us again and again that you can think you're saved and not actually be saved at all.

Eight of the twenty-four messages are drawn from John 3:30. He continues discussing what it means to be a Christian, and what the Christian life looks like, or should look like. Much of the emphasis in these chapters are the dangers of self.

  • The Friend of the Bridegroom
  • The Baptism with the Holy Spirit
  • None of Self and All of Thee
  • Make the Poor Self Grow Less and Less
  • He Must Increase
  • Is He Everything?
  • Prophet, Priest, and King
  • Lost in Wonder, Love, and Praise 
My favorite chapter may just be "Make The Poor Self Grow Less and Less." In this chapter, he discusses--among other things--tips on how to decrease self.
How is that to be done? Is there anything we can do about it? There is a great deal, and the danger is, again, to think that self can be taken out of us in one experience. It cannot. There are experiences, thank God for them again, that take us upon this road a tremendous distance and enable us to run where formerly we were trudging, but still you and I must do many things. There are things prescribed for us that will teach us what to do in order that self may become less and less and continue to decrease until it has gone altogether as it were! No, not in this life, but we must get as near to that as we can.
So what are we to do? These things sound elementary, and yet these are the real answers to this problem. The first is the reading of the Scriptures. Why do I put this first? It is for this reason: ignorance is always the greatest cause of self-conceit and esteem— always. So if you want to get rid of self, the first rule is, read the Word of God. Read it constantly. We must read the Bible in the Spirit. We need to be prepared to read the Bible; we must pray before we read the Bible; we must pray for the Spirit of God to come upon us.
Are you reading the Bible only so you may have a knowledge of the contents of the Bible so that if somebody says to you, “Well now, what does Genesis teach? What is the teaching of Matthew? Mark? John?” you can give an account of the content? Is that the way in which you read the Bible? My dear friend, that is merely to read the letter, and if you put the letter before the spirit you are missing the whole value of Bible reading. The whole object of reading the Bible is so we may get at the spirit of the teaching and so the spirit of the teaching may get hold of us. And that is why I say it is essential that we should take our time in reading the Bible... So you can read your Bible and say, “I am a religious man— look at the amount of the Bible I read.” But the question is, What does it do to you? Do you remember in five minutes what you have read? Has the Bible done something to you? That is the test of the value of our Bible reading.
Now if you read the Bible truly, this is what you will discover. You will start by discovering something about the holiness of God. We all think we believe in God, do we not? Many in the world say, “I have always believed in God.” But they know nothing about him. They do not believe in him. Stop and examine yourself for a moment. When you say, “I believe in God,” what are you saying, what do you mean? This is the thing we say so glibly, but if you read your Bible, you will begin to know something about God— the holiness of God, the greatness and the glory of God.
In addition, he urges believers to read about the saints, to meditate on the fleeting character of life, to examine ourselves regularly, and finally, to look to Jesus and put on the mind of Christ--to put others first.
When did you last “stand and stare” in a spiritual sense? The world keeps us on the rush, and we forget the things that finally matter and finally count. We get excited, we get inflated, our values go all wrong, we do not stop and think.
My least favorite chapter would probably be the one on the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Here Martyn Lloyd-Jones goes to great lengths to teach that you can be a Christian and lack the baptism of the Holy Spirit. At best, the chapter was confusing. For regeneration--the new birth--is a filling of the Holy Spirit; the Spirit unites us with Christ. The Spirit dwells in us--as wonderful and mysterious as that is. So I'm not sure what he means by "baptism of the Holy Spirit." Oh, he tries to explain it as being a special blessing of assurance. But his examples didn't help his case. For most of his examples, were from the gospels. The disciples were Christians before, but, they didn't receive the Holy Spirit until Pentecost, and it was only after this baptism of the Holy Spirit that they were filled with assurance. But the apostles' experience is the apostles' experience, that isn't to say the two are always and forever separate occurrences. This chapter made me uncomfortable because if the concept is misunderstood, it can lead to trouble.

Reading Experiencing the New Birth requires a commitment, but, overall I think it's worth the effort.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

My Year with Spurgeon #17

Justification by Grace
Charles Spurgeon
Romans 3:24
We have, this morning, then, a subject which I trust may be the means of comforting God’s saints, seeing it takes its rise at the cross, and thence runs on in a rich stream of perennial blessing to all believers. You note, we have in our text, first of all, the redemption of Christ Jesus; secondly, the justification of sinners sowing from it; and then thirdly, the manner of the giving of this justification, “freely by his grace.”
The figure of redemption is very simple, and has been very frequently used in Scripture. When a prisoner has been taken captive, and has been made a slave by some barbarous power, it has been usual, before he could be set free, that a ransom price should be paid down. Now we being, by the fall of Adam, prone to guiltiness, and, indeed, virtually guilty, we were by the irreproachable judgment of God given up to the vengeance of the law; we were given into the hands of justice; justice claimed us to be his bond slaves for ever, unless we could pay a ransom, whereby our souls could be redeemed.
We were, as our hymn hath worded it, “bankrupt debtors” an execution was put into our house; all we had was sold; we were left naked, and poor, and miserable, and we could by no means find a ransom; it was just then that Christ stepped in, stood sponsor for us, and, in the room and stead of all believers, did pay the ransom price, that we might in that hour be delivered from the curse of the law and the vengeance of God, and go our way, clean, free, justified by his blood.
God demanded of Christ the payment for the sins of all his people; Christ stood forward, and to the utmost farthing paid whate’er his people owed. The sacrifice of Calvary was not a part payment; it was not a partial exoneration, it was a complete and perfect payment, and it obtained a complete and perfect remittal of all the debts of all believers that have lived, do live, or shall live, to the very end of time.
On that day when Christ hung on the cross, he did not leave a single farthing for us to pay as a satisfaction to God, he did not leave, from a thread even to a shoe-latchet, that he had not satisfied. The whole of the demands of the law were paid down there and then by Jehovah Jesus, the great high priest of all his people. And blessed be his name, he paid it all at once too.
The whole of the punishment of his people was distilled into one cup; no mortal lip might give it so much as a solitary sip. When he put it to his own lips, it was so bitter, he well nigh spurned it. —”Let this cup pass from me.” But his love for his people was so strong, that he took the cup both his hands, and “At one tremendous draught of love He drank damnation dry,” for all his people. He drank it all, he endured all, he suffered all; so that now for ever there are no flames of hell for them, no racks of torment; they have no eternal woes; Christ hath suffered all they ought to have suffered, and they must, they shall go free. The work was completely done by himself, without a helper.
If God had not accepted his sacrifice, he would have been in his tomb at this moment; he never would have risen from his grave. But his resurrection was a pledge of God’s accepting him.
And, moreover, God gave a second proof of acceptance for he took his only begotten Son to heaven, and set him at his right hand, far above all principalities and powers; and therein he meant to say to him, “Sit upon the throne, for thou hast done the mighty deed, all thy works and all thy miseries are accepted as the ransom of men.”
Now, what is the meaning of justification? There is no means among men of justifying a man of an accusation which is laid against him, except by his being proved not guilty. Now, the wonder of wonders is, that we are proved guilty, and yet we are justified: the verdict has been brought in against us, guilty, and yet, notwithstanding, we are justified. Can any earthly tribunal do that? No, it remained for the ransom of Christ to effect that which is an impossibility to any tribunal upon earth. We are all guilty.
The way whereby God raves a sinner is not, as some say, by passing over the penalty. No; the penalty has been all paid. It is the putting of another person in the rebel’s place. The rebel must die. God says he must. Christ says, “I will be substitute for the rebel. The rebel shall take my place; I will take his.” God consents to it. No earthly monarch could have power to consent to such a change. But the God of heaven had a right to do as he pleased. In his infinite mercy he consented to the arrangement. “Son of my love,” said he, “you must stand in the sinner’s place; you must suffer what he ought to have suffered, you must be accounted guilty, just as he was accounted guilty, and then I will look upon the sinner in another light. I will look at him as if he were Christ, I will accept him as if he were my only-begotten Son, full of grace and truth. I will give him a crown in heaven, and I will take him to my heart for ever and ever.” This is the way we are saved. “Being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.”
And now, let me further go on to explain some of the characteristics of this justification. As soon as a repenting sinner is justified, remember, he is justified for all his sins. Here stands a man all guilty. The moment he believes in Christ, his pardon at once he receives and his sins are no longer his; they are cast into the depths of the sea. They were laid upon the shoulders of Christ, and they are gone. The man stands a guiltless man in the sight of God, accepted in the beloved.
“What!” say you, “do you mean that literally?” Yes I do. That is the doctrine of justification by faith. Man ceases to be regarded by divine justice as a guilty being; the moment he believes on Christ his guilt is all taken away. But I am going a step further. The moment the man believes in Christ, he ceases to be guilty in God’s esteem, but what is more, he becomes righteous, he becomes meritorious, for, in the moment when Christ takes his sins he takes Christ’s righteousness, so that, when God looks upon the sinner who but an hour ago was dead in sins, he looks upon him with as much love and affection as he ever looked upon his Son. He himself has said it — “As the Father loved me, so have I loved you.” He loves us as much as his Father loved him. Can you believe such a doctrine as that? Does it not pass all thought? Well, it is a doctrine of the Holy Spirit, the doctrine whereby we must hope to be saved.
Those who are once justified are justified irreversibly. As soon as a sinner takes Christ’s place, and Christ takes the sinner’s place there is no fear of a second change. If Christ has once paid the debt, the debt is paid, and it will never be asked for again; if you are pardoned, you are pardoned once for ever. God does not give man a free pardon under his own sign-manual, and then afterwards retract it and punish man: that be far from God so to do. He says, I have punished Christ; you may go free.” And after that, we may “rejoice in hope of the glory of God,” that “being justified by faith we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
God gives away his justification freely; if you bring anything to pay for it, he will throw it in your face, and will not give his justification to you. He gives it away freely.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, April 27, 2015

Book Review: A Travelogue of the Interior

A Travelogue of the Interior: Finding Your Voice and God's Heart in the Psalms. Karen Dabaghian. 2015. David C. Cook. 274 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I enjoyed the premise of A Travelogue of the Interior, the idea that believers should open up their hearts and minds and be willing to write bad poetry as they journey slowly but surely through the book of Psalms. I liked the concept of reflection and connection as you are reading the Word of God. It would require you to slow down and engage more. The book does encourage readers to commit to journeying through Psalms: to take one psalm at a time and really connect with it and write their own poem in response. For readers who follow through, I think there is some benefit. The benefit comes not so much from reading someone else's journey through the book of Psalms and not even so much from taking someone else's idea about how to read the Bible, but, through the reading of the Word itself. Journaling, I believe, can also be a good thing. (I won't deny the spiritual benefit for those that practice it.)

The book is both about understanding the psalms and laboring to sing them back to God--that is relating our own lives and experiences to the Word, making a personal connection in other words. It's a personal book in many ways. The author is sharing her stories, her beliefs, her methods, her journey, her poems. Yes, she's inviting you to go on your own journey, to experience it all for yourself, to create your own poems, etc. But the focus is always on her. The book doesn't so much examine the psalms or the life of David as it examines one particular journey through part of the book of Psalms.

If the book has a message beyond 'read the Psalms' it would be: BE VULNERABLE, LEARN TO SHARE, DON'T BE AFRAID TO FEEL WHAT YOU FEEL.

The book isn't without a couple of strengths. But overall, it wasn't quite for me. Her beliefs didn't always mesh well with mine. I found some to agree with to be sure, but, it wasn't quite enough for me.  I have read more beneficial books on the psalms.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Week in Review: April 19-25


  • Ezekiel
  • Hosea
  • Joel
  • Amos
  • Obadiah
  • Jonah
  • Micah
  • Nahum
  • Habakkuk


  • Genesis 21-36
  • Judges 1-5
  • Job 16-31
  • Isaiah 20-39
  • Luke
  • Acts 1-14
  • Colossians
  • 1 Thessalonians
  • 2 Thessalonians
  • 1 Timothy
  • 2 Timothy
  • Titus
  • Philemon

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, April 24, 2015

Book Review: A Life Observed

A Life Observed: A Spiritual Biography of C.S. Lewis. Devin Brown. 2013. 256 pages. [Source: Library]

I enjoyed reading Devin Brown's biography of C.S. Lewis. I'm not sure I found it as fascinating as his biography of J.R.R. Tolkien. But I definitely found it worth reading and of some interest. A Life Observed is not exactly a biography of C.S. Lewis, it is a spiritual biography. It is a book that seeks to trace the formation or transformation of C.S. Lewis' spirituality. The book relies heavily on Lewis' own work: his books, his essays, his letters, his diaries.

Table of Contents:

Prologue: A Longing Nothing Can Satisfy
Infant and Child (1898-1908)
Schoolboy and Adolescent (1908-1913)
Young Man and University Student (1913-1925)
Oxford Don and Reluctant Convert (1925-1931)
Inkling and Author (1931-1950)
Husband, Widower, and Brother Once More (1950-1963)
Epilogue: Home at Last

How do I feel about C.S. Lewis? Well, his work, I mean. I do like the Chronicles of Narnia for the most part. And I love The Screwtape Letters. But I don't love all his works. I don't like all his works. As a theologian, I find him somewhat suspect.

I would recommend A Life Observed to readers who want to learn more about C.S. Lewis.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Quotes from the Cloud #16

This year, I hope share weekly posts of quotes. These quotes are from authors I'm reading and enjoying from the Clouds of Witnesses Reading Challenge

For fellow participants, what I would LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to see is for people to share quotes from what they're reading. I'd love for you to share quotes occasionally with your readers and let me know about it. If you don't have a blog, you could always leave quotes in the comments here.

Forgiveness of sins and tolerance for others are indispensable to the Christian life. We should bear with each other and forgive one another. ~ Martin Luther,  Faith Alone, April 21
We should be ashamed that we’re so lazy we need to be prodded into praising God or awakened to do so, as if we were sleeping. We’re showered with blessings every day, and we’re always using what God gives us. Why do we need to be continually reminded of the wonderful things God does for us? We should be able to remember to thank him without reminders from the Psalms. God’s gifts alone should inspire us to praise God. But this doesn’t happen. We have to be yelled at before we start praising the Lord. The words have to be written down for us and spoon-fed into our mouths, as this psalm does. ~ Martin Luther, Faith Alone, April 27
God is glorified not only by His glory’s being seen, but by its being rejoiced in. When those that see it delight in it, God is more glorified than if they only see it. His glory is then received with the whole soul, both by the understanding and by the heart. God made the world that he might communicate, and the creature receive, His glory. ~ Jonathan Edwards
He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose. ~ Jim Elliot
Sin is very clever; it always brings forward its reasons, its arguments. Sin knows us so well; it knows that we like to think of ourselves as highly intelligent people. So it does not just tell us, “Do this”; it gives us reasons for doing it, and they appear to be so wonderful. But the whole point is that in reality they are specious; they are empty and foolish. The reasoning is always false reasoning. The arguments are always wrong. ~ Martyn Lloyd-Jones

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Book Review: Gospel

Gospel: Recovering the Power That Made Christianity Revolutionary. J.D. Greear. Foreword by Timothy Keller. 2011. B&H Books. 266 pages. [Source: Bought]

I first reviewed Gospel in 2011. It would be an understatement to say it was love, or, even LOVE. It was a book that I absolutely LOVED and couldn't stop gushing about. It was--and is--one of the very best books I've ever read about the gospel--what it is, how it changes us--and why we need to preach it to ourselves each and every day. It's an obvious recommendation, in my opinion, for believers new and old, even for believers that don't read all that much. 

I decided to reread Gospel because it was such a great experience for me the first time I read it. Also, I wanted to read his new book, Jesus Continued. 

I loved it just as much, if not more, the second time I read it.

Top Ten Quotes:
A Christianity that does not have as its primary focus the deepening of passions for God is a false Christianity, no matter how zealously it seeks conversions or how forcefully it advocates righteous behavior. Being converted to Jesus is learning to so adore God that we would gladly renounce everything we have to follow Him.
Always “begin again” with the gospel. Abide in it; swim in it; make your home in it. See more and more of your life through it. Be absolutely convinced at every moment of every day of the goodness of God in your life. That’s the only way you’ll ever really grow.
The Gospel Prayer “In Christ, there is nothing I can do that would make You love me more, and nothing I have done that makes You love me less.” “Your presence and approval are all I need for everlasting joy.” “As You have been to me, so I will be to others.” “As I pray, I’ll measure Your compassion by the cross and Your power by the resurrection.”
Awe combined with intimacy is the essence of Christian worship.

We often think we have done God a favor by down-playing the whole idea of His judgment. Our user-friendly God does not punish sin. He certainly doesn’t send people to hell. But hell gives us a picture of the absolute perfection and beauty of God. Hell is what hell is because God is who God is. Hell is what hell is because that’s what sin against an infinitely beautiful and glorious God deserves. Hell is not one degree hotter than our sin demands that it be. Hell should make our mouths stand agape at the righteous, just, holiness of God. Have you ever heard someone say that God should not be “feared,” only respected? You’d have a hard time selling that to the Israelites after their encounter near the mountain. That encounter was designed to produce fear. It is only when we see the holiness of God—a sight that should terrify us—that our hearts learn to worship Him.
You see, the gospel not only tells us about the power of God; the message of the gospel is itself the power of God. By the power of the Spirit, the hearing of the gospel re-creates our hearts to love the things God commands. Think of it like Jesus’ command to the lame man to walk. When Jesus said, “Rise, take up your bed, and walk,” He was giving the lame man not only a command, but His words also gave the power to obey that command. In the same way the gospel God gives the power to do what He commands. Believing the gospel is not only the way we become Christians, it is the power that enables us to do, every moment of every day, the very things Jesus commands us to do.
How can we say we love others and not pour out our lives so that others can hear? I was once sharing the gospel with a girl named Rhonda. After talking for quite some time, she said, “I couldn’t believe what you believe. It would wreck my life.” I said, “Why?” She said, “If I believed what you believed—that my friends were condemned and salvation could only be found by believing in Jesus—I would approach each of them—in fact, every person I met—on my hands and knees and plead with them to believe in Jesus. I would never stop pleading, never stop weeping, until I had convinced everyone to believe.” Do we feel that way about the lost?
Martin Luther said that it wouldn’t matter if Jesus had died a thousand times if no one ever heard about it. We are the only way they hear about it.
Spiritual disciplines must be accompanied by a deep saturation in the gospel. The gospel changes the desires and cravings of the heart. The whole purpose of the disciplines, in fact, is to give you opportunity to think about, and meditate on, and move within the gospel. Spiritual disciplines are like wires that connect us to the power of the gospel. They have no power in themselves, but they connect us to the place from which the power flows. They are gateways to the gospel, but not the gospel itself.
Nonbelievers need to hear the gospel to believe it and be saved. Believers need to be reminded of the gospel so they can grow deeper in Christ. There is really no distinction, you see, between what believers need to hear and what unbelievers need to hear. Both believers and unbelievers need to get a glimpse of God’s majestic glory, a taste of His surpassing beauty, and a sense of how much grace God has shown toward them in Christ. Both believers and unbelievers need to be rebuked for their pride and self-sufficiency, to be reminded of the all-surpassing beauty of God.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

My Year with Spurgeon #16

The Uses of the Law
Charles Spurgeon
Galatians 3:19
If you could see the world without Christ in it, simply under the law you would see a world in ruins, a world with God's black seal put upon it, stamped and sealed for condemnation; you would see men, who, if they knew their condition, would have their hands on their loins and be groaning all their days — you would see men and women condemned, lost, and ruined; and in the uttermost regions you would see the pit that is digged for the wicked, into which the whole earth must have been cast if the law had its way, apart from the gospel of Jesus Christ our Redeemer.
Ay, beloved, the law is a great deluge which would have drowned the world with worse than the water of Noah'’s flood, it is a great fire which would have burned the earth with a destruction worse than that which fell on Sodom, it is a stern angel with a sword, athirst for blood, and winged to slay; it is a great destroyer sweeping down the nations; it is the great messenger of God’s vengeance sent into the world.
Apart from the gospel of Jesus Christ, the law is nothing but the condemning voice of God thundering against mankind.
The first use of the law is to manifest to man his guilt. When God intends to save a man, the first thing he does with him is to send the law to him, to show him how guilty, how vile, how ruined he is, and in how dangerous a position.
Mark this, moreover, my dear hearers, one breach of this law is enough to condemn us forever. He that breaketh the law in one point is guilty of the whole. The law demands that we should obey every command, and one of them broken, the whole of them are injured.
Do you imagine that you can perfectly keep this law of God? Will you dare to say, you have not broken it. Nay, surely, you will confess, though it be in but an under tone, “I have revolted.” Then, this know: the law can do nothing for you in the matter of forgiveness. All it can do is just this: It can make you feel you are nothing at all; it can strip you; it can bruise you; it can kill you, but it can neither quicken, nor clothe, nor cleanse — it was never meant to do that. Oh, art thou this morning, my hearer, sad, because of sin? Dost thou feel that thou hast been guilty? Dost thou acknowledge thy transgression? Dost thou confess thy wandering? Hear me, then, as God’s ambassador, God hath mercy upon sinners. Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. And though you have broken the law, he has kept it. Take his righteousness to be yours. Cast yourself upon him. Come to him now, stripped and naked and take his robe as your covering, Come to him, black and filthy, and wash yourself in the fountain opened for sin and uncleanness; and then you shall know “wherefore then serveth the law?”
Now, the second. The law serves to slay all hope of salvation of a reformed life. Most men when they discover themselves to be guilty, avow that they will reform. It does it partly thus, by reminding the man that future obedience can be no atonement for past guilt.
Perfect obedience in the future is impossible. And the ten commandments are held up, and if any awakened sinner will but look at them, he will turn away and say, “It is impossible for me to keep them.”
The law tells you that unless you perfectly obey you cannot be saved by your doings, it tells you that one sin will make a flaw in it all, that one transgression will spoil your whole obedience. It is a spotless garment that you must wear in heaven; it is only an unbroken law which God can accept. So, then, the law answers this purpose, to tell men that their acquirements, their amendings, and their doings, are of no use whatever in the matter of salvation. It is theirs to come to Christ, to get A new heart and a right spirit; to get the evangelical repentance which needeth not to be repented of, that so they may put their trust in Jesus and receive pardon through his blood.
“Wherefore then serveth the law?” It serveth this purpose, as Luther hath it, the purpose of a hammer. Luther, you know, is very strong on the subject of the law. He says, “For if any be not a murderer, an adulterer, a thief, and outwardly refrain from sin, as the Pharisee did, which is mentioned in the gospel, he would swear that he is righteous, and therefore he conceiveth an opinion of righteousness, and presumeth of his good works and merits. Such a one God cannot otherwise mollify and humble, that he may acknowledge his misery and damnation, but by the law, for that is the hammer of death, the thundering of hell, and the lightning of God’s wrath, that beateth to powder the obstinate and senseless hypocrites. For as long as the opinion of righteousness abideth in man, so long there abideth also in him incomprehensible pride, presumption, security, hatred of God, contempt of his grace and mercy, ignorance of the promises and of Christ. The preaching of free remission of sins, through Christ, cannot enter into the heart of such a one, neither can he feel any taste or savor thereof; for that mighty rock and adamant wall, to wit, the opinion of righteousness, wherewith the heart is environed, doth resist it. Wherefore the law is that hammer, that fire, that mighty strong wind, and that terrible earthquake rending the mountains, and breaking the rocks, (1 Kings 19:11, 12, 13.) that is to say, the proud and obstinate hypocrites. Elijah, not being able to abide these terrors of the law, which by these things are signified, covered his face with his mantle. Notwithstanding, when the tempest ceased, of which he was a beholder, there came a soft and a gracious wind, in the which the Lord was; but it behoved that the tempest of fire, of wind, and the earthquake should pass, before the Lord should reveal himself in that gracious wind.”
Let me briefly hint at one other thought. “Wherefore then serveth the law.” It was sent into the world to shew the value of a Sauiour. Just as foils set off jewels, and as dark spots make bright tints more bright, so doth the law make Christ appear the fairer and more heavenly. I hear the law of God curse, but how harsh its voice. Jesus says, “come unto me;” oh, what music! all the more musical after the discord of the law. I see the law condemns; I behold Christ obeying it. Oh! how ponderous that price — when I know how weighty was the demand! I read the commandments, and I find them strict and awfully severe — oh! how holy must Christ have been to obey all these for me! Nothing makes me value my Savior more than seeing the law condemn me. When I know this law stands in my way, and like a flaming cherubim will not let me enter paradise, then I can tell how sweetly precious must Jesus Christ’s righteousness be, which is a passport to heaven, and gives me grace to enter there.
Therefore, God has written the law, that when we read it we may see our faults; that when we look into it, as into a looking- glass, we may see the impurities in our flesh, and have reason to abhor ourselves in sackcloth and ashes, and still cry to Jesus for mercy. Use the law in this fashion, and in no other.
If ye would know how we must be saved, hear this — ye must come with nothing of your own to Christ. Christ has kept the law. You are to have his righteousness to be your righteousness. Christ has suffered in the stead of all who repent. His punishment is to stand instead of your being punished. And through faith in the sanctification and atonement of Christ, you are to be saved. Come, then, ye weary and heavy laden, bruised and mangled by the Fall, come then, ye sinners, come, then, ye moralists, come, then, all ye that have broken God’s law and feel it, leave your own trusts and come to Jesus, he will take you in, give you a spotless robe of righteousness, and make you his for ever.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, April 20, 2015

Book Review: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe

The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. C.S. Lewis. 1950. HarperCollins. 224 pages. [Source: Bought]

Once there were four children whose names were Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy. This story is about something that happened to them when they were sent away from London during the war because of the air-raids.

Have you read the The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe? Do you have a favorite book in the Chronicles of Narnia? Have you read them all? 

I've been reading and rereading the Chronicles of Narnia since I was in fourth grade. The FIRST book, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe was a classroom read-aloud. It was a powerful experience to listen to this fantasy novel. The story was familiar, in a way, yet new. I loved the characters then and now. This FIRST book is one I've read and reread dozens of times. I love Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy. I love Mr. Tumnus, Mr. Beaver, and Mrs. Beaver. But above all else, I love, love, love Aslan. 

Why the emphasis that The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe is the FIRST book in the series? Well, though I don't like to think about it, some people insist on labeling it the second in the series. This might prove confusing to new readers. The story does have a proper order, and, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe is the only proper best introduction to Aslan. 
Here the Beaver’s voice sank into silence and it gave one or two very mysterious nods. Then signaling to the children to stand as close around it as they possibly could, so that their faces were actually tickled by its whiskers, it added in a low whisper— “They say Aslan is on the move—perhaps has already landed.” And now a very curious thing happened. None of the children knew who Aslan was any more than you do; but the moment the Beaver had spoken these words everyone felt quite different. Perhaps it has sometimes happened to you in a dream that someone says something which you don’t understand but in the dream it feels as if it had some enormous meaning—either a terrifying one which turns the whole dream into a nightmare or else a lovely meaning too lovely to put into words, which makes the dream so beautiful that you remember it all your life and are always wishing you could get into that dream again. It was like that now. At the name of Aslan each one of the children felt something jump in its inside. Edmund felt a sensation of mysterious horror. Peter felt suddenly brave and adventurous. Susan felt as if some delicious smell or some delightful strain of music had just floated by her. And Lucy got the feeling you have when you wake up in the morning and realize that it is the beginning of the holidays or the beginning of summer. “And what about Mr. Tumnus?” said Lucy; “where is he?” “S-s-s-sh,” said the Beaver, “not here. I must bring you where we can have a real talk and also dinner.”
“It’s no good, Son of Adam,” said Mr. Beaver, “no good your trying, of all people. But now that Aslan is on the move—” “Oh, yes! Tell us about Aslan!” said several voices at once; for once again that strange feeling—like the first signs of spring, like good news, had come over them.
“Who is Aslan?” asked Susan. “Aslan?” said Mr. Beaver. “Why, don’t you know? He’s the King. He’s the Lord of the whole wood, but not often here, you understand. Never in my time or my father’s time. But the word has reached us that he has come back. He is in Narnia at this moment. He’ll settle the White Queen all right. It is he, not you, that will save Mr. Tumnus.” “She won’t turn him into stone too?” said Edmund.
“Lord love you, Son of Adam, what a simple thing to say!” answered Mr. Beaver with a great laugh. “Turn him into stone? If she can stand on her two feet and look him in the face it’ll be the most she can do and more than I expect of her. No, no. He’ll put all to rights as it says in an old rhyme in these parts…
“Aslan a man!” said Mr. Beaver sternly. “Certainly not. I tell you he is the King of the wood and the son of the great Emperor-beyond-the-Sea. Don’t you know who is the King of Beasts? Aslan is a lion—the Lion, the great Lion.” “Ooh!” said Susan, “I’d thought he was a man. Is he—quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.” “That you will, dearie, and no mistake,” said Mrs. Beaver; “if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.” “Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy. “Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” “I’m longing to see him,” said Peter, “even if I do feel frightened when it comes to the point.”
I love everything about The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe: the storytelling, the world-building, the pacing, the dialogue, and the characterization. Most of all, I love how Lewis doesn't waste words with battle-action. Things happen certainly, but, we don't have to endure endless descriptions of the action.

I do wish that every book in the series was as good as the FIRST book in the series. I certainly love others in the series. But not in the same way. My next favorite would be The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. My least favorite is The Last Battle.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Week in Review: April 12-18

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 1 Corinthians 15:20-22, ESV
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25-26
Do you realize that it is God’s will to make this earth into an extension of his throne room in Heaven? Do you realize that it is God’s will for his kingdom of glory to come into your life and for his will to be done in you as it is done in Heaven? Heaven is expanding, spreading in your direction. That is the meaning of your existence, if you will accept it and enter in. Heaven is taking over. Yield. ~ Raymond C. Ortlund Jr.


  • Genesis 6-20
  • Joshua 7-24
  • Job 6-15
  • Psalms 119-150
  • Isaiah 7-19
  • Joel
  • Matthew 
  • Galatians
  • Ephesians
  • Philippians


  • Jeremiah

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, April 17, 2015

Book Review: Isaiah: God Saves Sinners

Isaiah: God Saves Sinners. Raymond C. Ortlund, Jr. R. (Preaching The Word Commentaries). Crossway. 2005. 496 pages. [Source: Bought]

I could gush about this commentary on Isaiah for days if not weeks and weeks. I won't lie. It did take me months to read it all. I tried to read a chapter or two per week. But it wasn't a chore or a duty to keep on reading it. Far from it. It was a book I picked up with pleasure and joy. For each chapter is packed with information and insight and grace and hope. No matter the chapter, there was always something thought-provoking or engaging. So even if you don't typically read commentaries--consider this one! It isn't so much a commentary--though it does examine every verse and chapter of the book of Isaiah--as it is a collection of expository sermons preached from the book of Isaiah.

This book is one of the best books I've ever read. It has depth and substance, but it's oh-so-accessible. Yes, five hundred pages is a commitment. But taken a chapter or two at a time, it's well worth your time. And I do recommend reading it slowly, and, alongside the book of Isaiah. I think the more of yourself you give to the reading, the more you'll learn. Engage with the text. Consider it. Be willing to ask hard questions and be honest with your answers.

I learned so much from each and every chapter. Here's a small taste of what to expect.

From the preface:
God saves sinners. We don’t believe that. We bank our happiness on other things. But God says to us, “I’m better than you think. You’re worse than you think. Let’s get together.” The prophet Isaiah wants to show us more of God and more of ourselves than we’ve ever seen before. He wants us to know what it means for us to be saved. Do we have the courage to listen? But God has opened a way for us to swim eternally in the ocean of his love. Our part is to look beyond ourselves and stake everything on God, who alone saves sinners.
As a pastor, it’s not my job to protect people from the living God. My job is to bring people to God, and leave them there.
From chapter one the introduction to Isaiah:
Every day we treat God as incidental to what really matters to us, and we live by our own strategies of self-salvation. We don’t think of our choices that way, but Isaiah can see that our lives are infested with fraudulent idols. Any hope that isn’t from God is an idol of our own making... A salvation we don’t even know how to define, Isaiah is an expert at explaining to us. He wants to lead us into a life that outlasts our earthly expiration date.
J. I. Packer puts into words the greatness of the Isaianic message: God saves sinners. God — the Triune Jehovah, Father, Son and Holy Spirit; three Persons working together in sovereign wisdom, power and love to achieve the salvation of a chosen people, the Father electing, the Son fulfilling the Father’s will by redeeming, the Spirit executing the purpose of the Father and Son by renewing. Saves — does everything, first to last, that is involved in bringing man from death in sin to life in glory: plans, achieves and communicates redemption, calls and keeps, justifies, sanctifies, glorifies. Sinners — men as God finds them, guilty, vile, helpless, powerless, blind, unable to lift a finger to do God’s will or better their spiritual lot. God saves sinners. . . . Sinners do not save themselves in any sense at all, but salvation, first and last, whole and entire, past, present and future, is of the Lord, to whom be glory forever, amen!
If the world is not experiencing the grace of God, the church is being untrue to its destiny.
From chapter two: Our Urgent Need: A New Self Awareness I
We need a sense of sin. We shouldn’t fear it or resent it. It is not destructive. It is life-giving, if we have the courage to let Christ save us. We are often told — or just whispered to — that what we need is more self-esteem. That is false. What we need is more humility and more Christ-esteem.
What is conviction of sin? It is not an oppressive spirit of uncertainty or paralyzing guilt feelings. Conviction of sin is the lance of the divine Surgeon piercing the infected soul, releasing the pressure, letting the infection pour out. Conviction of sin is a health-giving injury. Conviction of sin is the Holy Spirit being kind to us by confronting us with the light we don’t want to see and the truth we’re afraid to admit and the guilt we prefer to ignore. Conviction of sin is the severe love of God overruling our compulsive dishonesty, our willful blindness, our favorite excuses. Conviction of sin is the violent sweetness of God opposing the sins lying comfortably undisturbed in our lives. Conviction of sin is the merciful God declaring war on the false peace we settle for. Conviction of sin is our escape from malaise to joy, from attending church to worship, from faking it to authenticity. Conviction of sin, with the forgiveness of Jesus pouring over our wounds, is life.
The reason we see so little repentance in the world is that the world sees so little repentance in the church.

The church survives because God saves sinners. He sees what we would become, left to ourselves, and in mercy he stretches out his hand and says, “I will not let you go.” That is why the evil inside every one of us doesn’t explode with its actual power, to our destruction (Romans 9:29). Apart from God’s preserving grace, we would relive the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. We are what they were. We deserve what they got. That’s what God says. And the only reason we’re still here is his overruling mercy saving us from ourselves.
From chapter three: Our Urgent Need: A New Self Awareness II
Rebellion against God is our problem. But God saves rebels. And true worship is rebels like us waving the white flag of surrender before our rightful Lord in repentance.
Let’s ask ourselves, what do we think is unbearably repulsive to God, to his very soul, right down to the depths of the Divine Being? We might answer, hard-core crime, the exploitation of children, terrorist mayhem —that sort of thing. It might not occur to us that what the soul of God hates and is burdened and wearied by is the worship we offer him, if we are not in repentance.
From chapter four: Our Urgent Need, A New Self Awareness III
What is redemption? Redemption explains how God saves us. How does he? By paying a personal price. In real life, we sin our way right into bondage, and there’s no easy way out. If we try to cover it up or make excuses, we dig ourselves in deeper. Every day we create the conditions in which we literally deserve Hell. But what does God do? He offers to get us out of trouble at his own expense. He offers to absorb within himself the consequences we have set in motion. He pays the price, so that we don’t have to, because we can’t anyway. That’s redemption. If you have sinned your way into helplessness, where you deserve to reap what you have sown, you can be redeemed. God is not only willing to pay the price, he already has — at the cross of Christ. You can enter into redemption freely, by his grace.
We add nothing to the value of Jesus’ sacrifice, but his love does claim all that we are. The flip side of God paying the price is that we are no longer our own (1 Corinthians 6:19b, 20a). What else can we do but repent? We need to repent of our sins every day. We need to repent of our fifth-rate righteousness every day. We need to receive afresh, with the empty hands of faith, real righteousness from Jesus Christ every day. The cross becomes a redeeming power for us as we learn what it means to repent.
From chapter five: The Transforming Power of Hope and Humility
We think too well of ourselves and too poorly of God to believe that his love for his glory and his love for us are one love, drawing him on to the final day when we will be forever happy with his glory alone. But how could it be otherwise? Human fulfillment is union with God.
Do you believe that there is enough glory in God to make you happy forever? If you don’t, why? What failing have you found in God? The gospel promises that his glory will remake the whole world. Stop valuing the idols you not only might lose but inevitably must lose. Learn to enjoy God. The triumph of his glory is enough to make your complete happiness forever invincible.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Quotes from the Cloud #15

This year, I hope share weekly posts of quotes. These quotes are from authors I'm reading and enjoying from the Clouds of Witnesses Reading Challenge

For fellow participants, what I would LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to see is for people to share quotes from what they're reading. I'd love for you to share quotes occasionally with your readers and let me know about it. If you don't have a blog, you could always leave quotes in the comments here.
We cannot proclaim to the world that the house is afire--it is a disagreeable thing to say, scarcely to be risked in the presence of those whose interest it is not to believe it. But believe it, and how quickly you rush forth to shout the unpalatable truth! … What care we if it be unpalatable, if it be true? For if it be true, it is urgent. ~ B.B. Warfield
Christians are in perpetual conflict with their own unbelief. ~ John Calvin
Almighty God, you alone can bring into order the unruly wills and affections of sinners: Grant your people grace to love what you command and desire what you promise; that, among the swift and varied changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. ~ Thomas Cranmer
Health is a gift from God, but sickness is a gift greater still. ~ Charles Spurgeon
For when the heart receives new light, new judgment, and new impulses through the gospel, the external senses also are renewed. Then the ears have the desire to hear God’s Word instead of human ideas and dreams. The mouth and the tongue no longer praise their own works, righteousness, and rules but joyfully praise God’s mercy, which was revealed in Christ. These are not merely changes in words but real changes. They include a new mind, new will, new senses, and also new ways of behaving. Not only do the eyes, ears, mouth, and tongue see, hear, and speak differently than before, but the mind itself resolves to follow a different way of living. ~ Martin Luther, Faith Alone, April 7
Instead, we should realize that all work is made holy through God’s Word and our faith. But the world doesn’t view work in this way. They think that reading stories about people in the Bible doing common, everyday tasks is a waste of time. Only believers are able to see and understand that God is at work in these ordinary activities. This work is precious, not only in our sight, but also in the sight of God. ~ Martin Luther, Faith Alone, April 10
When I’m talking about faith, I’m not talking about merely acknowledging that something is true. That kind of faith doesn’t place any confidence in what God says. It merely states, “Christ’s suffering and death are historical facts.” Genuine faith, however, confesses, “I believe that Christ suffered and died for me. I have no doubts about this, and I rest in this faith. I can depend on God’s Word to help me fight against sin and death.” ~ Martin Luther, Faith Alone, April 14
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Book Review: Bringing Narnia Home

Bringing Narnia Home: Lessons from the Other Side of the Wardrobe. Devin Brown. 2015. Abingdon Press. 144 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Devin Brown has also written a biography of C.S. Lewis, A Life Observed A Spiritual Biography. I hope to read this soon. (I've got it checked out from the library. I hope to like it a little more than Bringing Narnia Home.)

Did I like Bringing Narnia Home? Yes and no. I liked the premise of it very much. Each chapter is a moral lesson lifted from the world of Narnia. All the chapters have unique, meant-to-be-memorable titles.

  1. Of Mice and Minotaurs: Actions We See As Small and Insignificant Can Be Far More Important Than We Realize
  2. Despite What White Witches, Tisrocs, and Other Petty Tyrants Think Being A Leader Means More Than Simply Being the Boss
  3. Bad Can Be Beautiful (At Least On the Surface)
  4. I Thought We Were Getting Real Soldiers: Sometimes Help Does Not Look Like Help Until Much Later
  5. Live Like It's Always Christmas and Never Winter: Merriment and Celebration Are Not Just For Holidays and Birthdays
  6. It Takes A Village to Make A Community (With Giants, Dwarfs, and Everything In-Between)
  7. There Is A Way Back From Every Offense--Large and Small (And It Has Nothing To Do With Having a Good Defense)
  8. Bury the Hatchet and Don't Put a Marker on the Site (Forgiveness Means Forgiving and Forgetting)
  9. Only the Good Have Fun (The Self-Centered Life Turns Out to be Not Cool)
  10. The Virtuous Life is a Real Adventure (Yes, One That Includes Real Hardship, but One You Don't Want To Miss)
  11. Adventures Begin in the Most Unlikely Places (Something to Keep in Mind the Next Time You're in an Unlikely Place)
  12. Of Course He's Not Safe (But He's Good)

I thought some of the chapters were very good. I loved the chapter "Bad Can Be Beautiful" and "There Is A Way Back From Every Offense." I loved, loved, LOVED the chapter "Of Course He's Not Safe (But He's Good)." Three or four chapters make this book worth reading, in my opinion. But not every chapter is equally great. Not all chapters are gush-worthy or have that much worth contemplating. (Every chapter has reflection questions, by the way.) What the book is rich in is quotes from the Narnia books. So if you absolutely love C.S. Lewis and Narnia and can't get enough, then this one is probably worth your time. (It would be a good gift for Narnia lovers.) If you're not obsessed with Narnia, however, the book isn't as much of a must-read. It can still be a fun treat though.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

My Year With Spurgeon #15

The Snare of the Fowler
Charles Spurgeon
Psalm 91:5
It was once said by a talented writer, that the old devil was dead, and that there was a new devil now; by which he meant to say, that the devil of old times was a rather different devil from the deceiver of these times. We believe that it is the same evil spirit, but there is a difference in his mode of attack. The devil of five hundred years ago was a black and grimy thing, well pourtrayed in our old pictures of that evil spirit. He was a persecutor, who cast men into the furnace, and put them to death for serving Christ. The devil of this day is a well-spoken gentleman: he does not persecute — he rather attempts to persuade and to beguile. He is not now the furious Romanist so much as the insinuating unbeliever, attempting to overturn our religion, whilst at the same time he pretends he would but make it more rational, and so more triumphant. He would only link worldliness with religion; and so he would really make religion void, under the cover of developing the great power of the gospel, and bringing out secrets which our forefathers had never discovered.
Satan is the fowler; he has been so and is so still, and if he does not now attack us as the roaring lion, roaring against us in persecution, he attacks us as the adder, creeping silently along the path, endeavoring to bite our heel with his poisoned fangs, and weaken the power of grace and ruin the life of godliness within us.
If the devil comes to my door with his horns visible, I will never let him in; but if he comes with his hat on as a respectable gentlemen, he is at once admitted. The metaphor may be very quaint, but it is quite true.
Your fairest pleasures will harbour your grossest sins. Take care; take care of your pleasures.
First, he delivers them from the snare —does not let them get in it, secondly, when they do get in it he delivers them out of it. The first promise is the most precious to some of us, the second is the best to others.
Trouble is often the means whereby God delivers us from snares.
At other times God keeps his people from the sin of the fowler by giving them great spiritual strength, a spirit of great courage; so that when they are tempted to do evil they say, with decision, “How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?
But the second thought was, that God delivers his people, even when they get into the snare. Alas I my hearer, you and I know something about the net; we have been inside it, we have; we have not only seen it spread, we have been in its folds. We know something about the cage, for we have, unfortunately, been in the cage ourselves, even since we have known the Lord.
And now, to conclude, I am to dwell for a moment or two upon that word “SURELY.” The assurance of every truth of Scripture is just the beauty of it. If it were not sure, it were not precious; and it is precious just because it is sure. God'’s promises are bonds that never yet were dishonored.
None of God'’s people shall be cast away, or else the Bible is not true. The whole stability of the covenant rests on their final perseverance.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, April 13, 2015

Book Review: Cross

Cross: Unrivaled Christ, Unstoppable Gospel, Unreached Peoples, Unending Joy. General Editors: John Piper and David Mathis. 2015. B&H Publishing. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Cross is an essay collection featuring contributions from John Piper, David Mathis, Thabiti Anyabwile, Kevin DeYoung, Conrad Mbewe, Richard Chin, Mack Stiles, Matt Chandler, Michael Oh, D.A. Carson, and David Platt. The articles--or essays, or presentations--originated from the Cross Student Missions Conference in Louisville, Kentucky, in December 2013. (Some of these messages can be watched online. I have not watched them all, most are around an hour long. But I think they'd all be worth watching.) The book is about evangelism and missions, reaching unreached and unengaged people groups with the saving truth of the gospel message.

People groups are communities or societies of persons and families with a shared language and common ethnic identity. (3)
An unreached people is a group with no indigenous Christian community, or Christians so few in number (and without adequate resources) that they are unlikely to ably plant the gospel and the church among their people. (3)
An unengaged people is one in which no known church-planting effort is currently active. (4)
Missions is a term for preserving a category for the church's evangelistic efforts to reach the unreached and engage the unengaged. (4)
It may sound daunting to learn that 6,500-7,000 of the world's people groups are unreached (and more than 40 percent of those are presently unengaged), but it's also deeply encouraging to put these figures into context…Although many people are still unreached, the number is only a fraction of that of 100 years ago. The goal is attainable in our generation--if we mobilize in prayer and effort and work together to disciple the remaining least reached peoples. (4, 5)

The table of contents does a great job expressing the goal of the book:
  • Introduction: Beautiful Feet, David Mathis
  • The Chief End of Missions: The Supremacy of God in the Joy of All Peoples, John Piper (see video)
  • Beauty from Ashes, The Plight of Man and the Plan of God, Thabiti Anyabwile (see video)
  • Five Surprising Motivations for Missions, Kevin DeYoung (see video)
  • The Death of Death in the Death of Christ by Conrad Mbewe (see video)
  • Seeing Jesus Properly: The Lord to Gladly Obey Forever, Richard Chin (see video)
  • The Call of God: Inspired, Informed, Confirmed, Mack Stiles (see video)
  • The Life Worth Living for Christ is a Life Worth Losing, Matt Chandler (see video)
  • Give a Dam for Jesus, Michael Oh (see video)
  • The Church As the Means and the Goal of Missions, D.A. Carson
  • Mobilizing the Army for God's Great Commission, David Platt (see video)
  • Appendix 1: God is Finishing His Mission Now, John Piper
  • Appendix 2: What is Cross?
  • Appendix 3: Why A New Student Missions Conference, John Piper

I would definitely recommend CROSS. I think it's a fantastic book on the subject of missions and the great commission. The book points out that for some Christians obeying God's call means staying, and, for other Christians obeying God's call means going. The key is to be obedient to God. That being said, the book is hoping to inspire the current generation of believers to go. To go to where the unreached and unengaged are. To proclaim the one, true gospel.

My absolute favorite chapter was "Five Surprising Motivations for Missions" by Kevin DeYoung, which begins, "I might as well tell you from the get-go: the five surprising motivations are the five points of Calvinism. As crazy as it may sound to some, I believe the strongest trust in God's sovereignty spurs us on to make the most costly sacrifices in world missions" (45). He goes on to say, "it's not an exaggeration to say Calvinists birthed the modern missions movement in the Protestant church. History shows us that a high view of God's all-determining sovereignty has not deterred Christians from going to hard places and giving their lives for the spread of the gospel" (49). He then presents three scripture passages for the five points. They are: John 3:1-8, John 6:35-48, 60-65, and John 10:7-15, 27-30.

I would also highly recommend watching Matt Papa's mission-themed music video THE REWARD OF HIS SUFFERING. Take ten minutes and give it your attention. I happened to discover this video while reading the book. I saw an immediate connection. One thing I loved about the video, is that it shares details about unreached people groups. Name. Population. Location. Percentage that are Christian. To see on the screen, for example, "Population 1,096,000, 0% Christian" is thought-provoking at the very least, closer to heartbreaking really. And that's just one example. The video and this book remind you that there are billions of people in the world who have never heard the gospel.

Christ is supremely magnified in the peoples when the people are supremely satisfied in Christ. We have the best news in all the world: Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died and rose and reigns to make the nations fully and eternally glad in the glory of God. When Christ becomes the satisfaction of the nations, and God becomes their delight, then he is honored and they are saved. (John Piper, 26)
When Paul boils down his missionary method to its bedrock foundation, he always talks of preaching and teaching the gospel. He builds everything--his entire missionary agenda--on this one essential method. So Paul says things like, "I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified" (1 Cor. 2:2). or, "Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ" (Col. 1:28). That's his method. I emphasize this for one reason: too many Christians wrongly think Christ can be made known without the use of words. That's false. And too many missionaries give so much time to strategies for getting in and remaining in countries that they sadly never get around to proclaiming Christ. (Thabiti Anyabwile, 29)
There are generational issues and language issues and cultural issues that can make for rocky soil. But a dead person is a dead person. It's a miracle to raise any of them. And God can do it. Anytime, anywhere, by the same gospel call through which you were saved. Why go to the nations unless you believe in this kind of God with this kind of sovereign power?
In John 5, Jesus says a time is coming when he will call forth the dead from their tombs, some to everlasting life and some to everlasting death (John 5:29). There is no uncertainty as to the efficacy of this call. Jesus will speak, and the dead will be raised. It's a good thing Jesus said, "Lazarus, come forth" (John 11:43), because if he had not prefaced the command with the name of his friend, all the tombs would have been emptied. Such is the power of the divine word.
You may say, "Why go share the gospel if God has chosen just some to believe?" The Bible's logic would have you ask, "Why go share the gospel unless God has chosen some to believe?" John Newton, the slave-trader-turned-pastor and hymn-writer once said, "If I were not a Calvinist, I think I should have no more hope of success in preaching to men than in preaching to horses and cows."
As many as were appointed for eternal life believed. That's why we preach. That's why we share. That's why we go. And that line is not found in John Calvin or John Owen or John Piper, but in the Bible--Acts 13:48. God is the only one who can make light shine in our darkness. He's the only one who can give new life to the dead. He's the only one who can justify. He's the only one who can quicken the heart, the only one to renew the mind. (Kevin DeYoung, 59)
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, April 12, 2015

April and May Memory Work

I'm a little late in posting about April's memory verses. I was a few days late picking them. So I've decided to combine April and May. Again I went with the ESV translation though I'm thinking about changing it up some perhaps and working with other translations now and then.
The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe. Proverbs 18:10
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Philippians 4:4
I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13
Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. John 14:1-3
Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6
Jesus said to her, I am the resurrection and the the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this? John 11:25-26
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Week in Review: April 5-11

First: An announcement. Mom's Toolbox is hosting a session of THE BIBLE IN 90 DAYS. Registration opened on Friday. The session is from April 27 through July 25. I have never read The Bible in 90 Days in a group format, but, I have read the Bible in 90 days several times on my own using their schedule as a loose format of sorts. (Some days a lot more; some days quite a bit less.) This is something I'd definitely recommend for anyone who wants to grow both in knowledge and desire. I have found that spending this much time a day reading the Bible really does GROW (abundantly grow) your desire.

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. "The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "therefore I will hope in him." The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD. (Lamentations 3:22-26, ESV)
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. "For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:9-11, ESV)

  • 2 Kings
  • Isaiah


  • Genesis 1-5
  • Joshua 1-6
  • Job 1-5
  • Psalms 1-118
  • Isaiah 1-5
  • Hosea
  • Mark
  • Romans
  • 1 Corinthians
  • 2 Corinthians

1599 Geneva

  • Luke 15-24
  • John 
  • Acts

NIV First Century

  • Philemon

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, April 10, 2015

Book Review: Kept For Jesus

Kept for Jesus: What The New Testament Really Teaches About Assurance of Salvation and Eternal Security. Sam Storms. 2015. Crossway. 208 pages. [Source: Library]

I loved, loved, LOVED Sam Storms' Kept For Jesus. Is it more than a feel-good book? Yes. It isn't just a feel-good book. And it may not be a feel-good book for every reader. It's a book that asks readers to engage and reflect. Storms isn't one to unconditionally assure anyone that they are saved and have nothing to worry about. Instead, Storms guides readers through dozens of New Testament passages about eternal life, about who is saved and who isn't saved, about salvation, about heaven and hell. He looks at all relevant passages; sometimes he examines multiple interpretations of a passage. So it's a thorough examination of the topic.

His goal isn't to make readers unconditionally feel warm and fuzzy. His goal is to discover the truth: what the Bible really says, and clearly says, about assurance of salvation.

Table of Contents
  • Introduction
  • How Deep the Father's Love for Us (John 6:37-44, John 10:27-30)
  • So Close Yet So Very Far Away (Matthew 7:15-23, Matthew 12:22-32, Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23)
  • The Dangers of Fickle Faith (John 15:1-6, 1 John 2:19, Hebrews 3:14)
  • The Logic of Love (Romans 5:6-11, Romans 8:31-32)
  • Inseparable: Now and Forever (Romans 8:1, Romans 8:28-30, 31-39)
  • God Will Sustain You To The End (1 Corinthians 1:4-9, 1 Corinthians 11:27-32, 2 Corinthians 1:21-22)
  • Test Yourselves (Hebrews 6:4-6, 2 Corinthians 13:5)
  • Whatever God Starts, He Finishes (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24, 2 Thessalonians 3:1-5, Philippians 1:6, 1 Peter 1:1-5, Jude 24, 25)
  • Warnings, Perplexing Passages and the Potential for Apostasy, Part 1 (Romans 11:22, Romans 14:15, 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, 2 Corinthians 6:1-2, Galatians 5:2-4, Colossians 1:23, 1 Timothy 1:18-20, 2 Timothy 2:11-13)
  • Warnings, Perplexing Passages and the Potential for Apostasy, Part 2 (Hebrews 10:26-31, James 5:19-20, 2 Peter 2:20-22, 1 John 3:9, Revelation 3:5)
  • Can A Christian Commit the Sin Unto Death? (1 John 5:16-17, 
  • Conclusion
Favorite quotes:
Nothing else in Christianity makes sense apart from the belief that God is love. God's love explains everything whether it be the incarnation of Christ, his sinless life, his atoning death, his resurrection, and his return to earth, not to mention the very existence of heaven and eternal life. Why is it, then, that so many Christians struggle to believe it? (19)
To deny eternal security means the possibility exists that some who come to the Son will in fact be cast out. It means the possibility exists that the will of the Father and of the Son that all born-again believers be raised up on the last day will not, in fact, be fulfilled. It means that although Jesus is determined to ensure that every born-again Christian might be fully and finally saved, the possibility exists that every born-again Christian might be fully and finally damned for eternity. Are you prepared to say that? (22)
Jesus died for spiritually impotent people (Romans 3:10-12). He died for people who were helpless to prepare themselves, helpless to prove themselves worthy, helpless to do or think or say anything that might attract God's love. (60)
Jesus died for ungodly people, that is, people who are both unlike God and opposed to God. Jesus died for sinful people. He didn't die for a single righteous person. Jesus died for his enemies. Jesus didn't die for a single friend. He died for rebellious, insolent, haughty, arrogant, self-righteous, repulsive, disobedient, at-war-with-God people. (60)
The cross is an expression of grace because those for whom Christ died merited only wrath and hell. (62)
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible