Sunday, May 31, 2015

Week in Review: May 24-30

The LORD is my strength and my song,
and he has become my salvation;
this is my God, and I will praise him,
my father's God, and I will exalt him. Exodus 15:2, ESV
You have led in your steadfast love the people whom you have redeemed;
you have guided them by your strength to your holy abode. Exodus 15:13, ESV
You will bring them in and plant them on your own mountain,
the place, O LORD, which you have made for your abode,
the sanctuary, O Lord, which your hands have established.
The LORD will reign forever and ever. Exodus 15:17-18, ESV
ESV Gospel Transformation

  • Psalms 11-41
  • Micah
  • Nahum
  • Habakkuk
  • Zephaniah
  • Haggai
  • Galatians
  • Ephesians

NKJV Evidence Bible

  • Exodus 26-40
  • Leviticus
  • Romans 8-16

ESV Reformation Bible

  • James

ESV Following Jesus

  • James


  • James


  • James


  • James
REB (Revised English Bible
  • James

  • James

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, May 29, 2015

Book Review: Jesus Continued

Jesus, Continued: Why The Spirit Inside You Is Better Than Jesus Beside You. J.D. Greear. 2014. Zondervan. 240 pages. [Source: Bought]

Jesus, Continued is a great book on the Holy Spirit. The book is divided into three parts: "The Missing Spirit," "Experiencing the Holy Spirit," and "Seeking the Holy Spirit." Throughout the book, readers have an opportunity to grow in their understanding of who the Holy Spirit is and what he does. Perhaps by the end, they will conclude along with the author that indeed the Holy Spirit inside you really is better than Jesus beside you.

Do believers take the Holy Spirit for granted? Do believers have a tendency to dismiss this person of the trinity? Or even misunderstand him? Perhaps. But Greear's book brings his person and his work to the reader's attention. His book is wonderful and compelling. Fully engaged readers could benefit greatly from reading this one! I thought it was quite substantive and thought-provoking. Let the book challenge you! Take time to consider what he's saying and reflect on it.

I loved reading Jesus, Continued. I did. I loved the focus on the Holy Spirit. I loved the focus on the Word of God. Greear emphasizes throughout that the Spirit cannot be separated from the Word; that is the Spirit always, always uses the Word of God when he speaks to us. The Spirit would never--could never--contradict the Word of God. The Spirit would never--could never--do anything but bring glory to Jesus Christ.

My favorite section is probably the second one. Chapter titles include:

  • Experiencing the Holy Spirit in the Gospel
  • Experiencing the Holy Spirit in the Word of God
  • Experiencing the Holy Spirit in Our Giftings
  • Experiencing the Holy Spirit in the Church
  • Experiencing the Holy Spirit in Our Spirit
  • Experiencing the Holy Spirit in Our Circumstances
Favorite quotes:
Do you interact, personally, with God? Think about this question very carefully: Is Christianity more of a set of beliefs to which you adhere and a lifestyle to which you conform, or is it a dynamic relationship in which you walk with the Spirit and move in his power?
The fullness of the Spirit comes as we plumb the depths, heights, widths, and lengths of God’s love as revealed in the gospel. The more he comes into us, the more we know his love; and the more of his love we know, the more of his fullness grows within us (Eph. 3:17 – 19). The Spirit moves us in the Word. The Spirit moves us to go deeper into that Word.
Where the gospel is not cherished, the Spirit will not be experienced. And, on the flip side, where the Spirit is not sought, there will be no deep, experiential knowledge of the gospel. The two always go hand in hand. Jesus said, “The words I have spoken to you — they are full of the Spirit and life” (John 6:63, emphasis mine). Spirit and Word, inseparably united.
You won’t know the Spirit any more than you know the Word of God. So if you want to walk with the Spirit of God, get on your knees and open your Bible.
Trying to share the gospel without using words is like watching a newscast with the sound turned off. I may realize that the newscaster looks excited, but I don’t know why. And if he’s telling me about danger headed my direction, I’d like to know specifically what he is saying.
He makes the gospel come alive, allowing you to truly see it. Doctrines become multi-dimensional. God’s words in the Bible become his voice to you. This illustrates why the Holy Spirit is a better teacher than even Jesus and confirms why Jesus said having the Holy Spirit in us would be better than having Christ beside us. The Spirit teaches us from the inside out.
The only thing stronger than the captivity of sin over our souls is the power of the Holy Spirit released by faith in the cross of Jesus Christ. As we dwell on it, embrace it, and drive it deeper into our lives, the power of new life comes into us.
The more Scripture you know, the more illumination the Holy Spirit can give regarding his will for various situations. God has never brought to my mind a Scripture I did not already know. Memorizing Scripture is like stocking myself with ammunition for the Spirit to fire as I pray — promises I can claim or warnings I can heed. The Bible contains more than three thousand promises, and I want to know all of them, so the Holy Spirit can flood my mind with them whenever he wants! God did not give us the Bible simply to read through, you see, but to pray through as well.
God has more invested in your life than even you do. He purchased you with his blood, the universe’s most precious commodity, worth infinitely more than anything you or I have ever spent on ourselves. I love that thought. He’s saved me for his purposes, which are far more important than my own; at the cost of his blood, which is far more than anything I have invested in myself.
Dependence, not strength, is God’s objective for you. And if dependence is the objective, then weakness is an advantage.

Readers might also be interested in reading R.C. Sproul's The Mystery of the Holy Spirit, John MacArthur's Strange Fire, R.A. Torrey's The Holy Spirit: Who He Is and What He Does, Charles Spurgeon's Holy Spirit Power, and Joe Thorn's Experiencing the Trinity.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Quotes from the Cloud #21

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.
“In my preaching of the Word, I took special notice of this one thing, namely, that the Lord did lead me to begin where His Word begins with sinners; that is, to condemn all flesh, and to open and allege that the curse of God, by the Law, doth belong to and lay hold on all men as they come into the world, because of sin.” ~ John Bunyan
“You and I must continue to drive at men’s hearts till they are broken. Then we must keep on preaching Christ crucified until their hearts are bound up.” ~ Charles Spurgeon
“Most people are bothered by those passages of Scriptures they don’t understand, but for me I have always noticed that the passages that bother me are those I do understand.” ~ Mark Twain
“Public opinion is held in reverence. It settles everything. Some think it is the voice of God.” ~ Mark Twain
“The reason why many fail in battle is because they wait until the hour of battle. The reason why others succeed is because they have gained their victory on their knees long before the battle came ... Anticipate your battles; fight them on your knees before temptation comes, and you will always have victory.” ~ R.A. Torrey
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Book Review: Theological Fitness

Theological Fitness: Why We Need a Fighting Faith. Aimee Byrd. 2015. P&R. 192 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Hebrews 10:23 says, "Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful." (ESV)
I definitely appreciated the premise behind Theological Fitness. In the book, Byrd argues that Christians need to know WHAT they believe and WHY they believe. That "holding fast" to a confession of faith will help them to persevere--remain steadfast--in the Christian life, in good times and bad. It's not an option to not be a theologian if you're a believer.  In other words, every believer should strive to be a good theologian. You should be a theologically fit believer. Being (or becoming) theologically fit requires effort, but, it's worth it.

Here's how Byrd defines theological fitness:
Theological fitness, then, refers to that persistent fight to exercise our faith by actively engaging in the gospel truth revealed in God's Word. It isn't just a remembering of some Bible verses about God, but a trust in his promises that motivates us in holy living. God's Word cannot be ignored. We must wrestle with it. 
Why is theology so important? Is it really, truly necessary? Byrd writes,
Our theology shapes the way we live. What we believe about who God is, who we are, and what he has done will affect our everyday thinking and behavior. 
We are all theologians and we all have a creed. The question is, are we good theologians or bad ones? Theology is simply the study of who God is, and that is something everyone wrestles with, even the atheist (as proven by the term atheism). As soon as you begin to answer the question of who he is, you are giving a creed. 
Why is it important to persevere? Because heaven is a prepared place for a prepared people. We are called to grow in faith, to persevere, to grow in holiness, to live holy lives. Perseverance takes action: striving, struggling, fighting, holding on, clinging, believing, hoping, praying, trusting, loving.  

Byrd asks her readers, Are you theologically healthy? Are you theologically fit? How well do you know God? Do you know what you believe? Do you know why you believe? How dusty is your Bible? What place does the Word of God have in your life? Are you willing to make the effort to get fit--theologically fit?

I love that this book is both a great exposition of Hebrews 10:23, and, a great book about what it means to be a Christian, what the Christian life looks like. I love that so much focuses on the content of the Christian faith, and that this discussion brings in yet another exposition, this time of Psalm 110:1-7, which she refers to as "David's Creed." What do I mean by "content of the Christian faith"? Simply the doctrines of the faith that are necessary for saving faith or fighting faith. These doctrines are clearly presented in chapters five and six. She writes, that these two chapters may serve as a "first workout" and in fact be a "gauge of your spiritual fitness level." She argues that in these seven verses, believers can find fourteen doctrines for their confession of faith!

I loved many things about this one. I think it's relevant and practical. I do believe that Christians need to be exhorted to know what they believe and why they believe; they need to be encouraged to be engaged with the Word of God.

When we say, "I am a Christian," what do we mean by this profession? This is a very important question. In fact, I would like to propose that our answer to this question, and our ability to proactively cling to a proper confession of what we believe, is directly connected to our perseverance in the Christian life. All Christians need to know what they're persevering for, whether it is through a fiery trial or the mundanity of everyday living. This entails a tenacity to grasp what is true about the person and work of Jesus Christ. I call it theological fitness. 
The words that God has carefully preserved about his plan of redemption, his sovereign holiness, goodness, love, justice, amazing mercy, and grace, are taken for granted. The average American owns more than three copies of the Bible, many of which are collecting enough dust to write the word damnation across the cover, as Charles Spurgeon so eloquently put it. Think about it: the authoritative Word of God, collecting dust. To persevere, we need to know the confession of our hope, and we can't do that with a dusty Bible. 
The trivial issues that we deal with on a daily basis give us training and conditioning for turning again and again to the gospel. 
Who is willing to suffer for a Savior they won't even trouble themselves to learn about? 
There is no plateau in the Christian life. We are either growing closer to Christ's likeness or we are falling away. 
The thing is, Jesus is already the center of everyone's life. For some of us it is a blessed center, and for some it is their greatest destruction. 

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

My Year with Spurgeon #21

Presumptuous Sins
Charles Spurgeon
Psalm 19:13
ALL sins are great sins, but yet some sins are greater than others. Every sin has in it the very venom of rebellion, and is full of the essential marrow of traitorous rejection of God. But there be some sins which have in them a greater development of the essential mischief of rebellion, and which wear upon their faces more of the brazen pride which defies the Most High. It is wrong to suppose that because all sins will condemn us, that therefore one sin is not greater than another.
I shall this morning first of all endeavor to describe presumptuous sins, then secondly, I shall try, if I can, to show by some illustrations why the presumptuous sin is more heinous than any other, and then thirdly, I shall try to press this prayer upon your notice — the prayer, mark you, of the holy man — the prayer of David. “Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins.”
First, then, WHAT IS A PRESUMPTOUS SIN? Now, I think there must be one of four things in a sin in order to make it presumptuous. It must either be a sin against light and knowledge, or a sin committed with deliberation, or a sin committed with a design of sinning, merely for sinning’s sake, or else it must be a sin committed through hardihood, from a man'’s rash confidence in his own strength. We will mark these points one by one.
A sin that is committed wilfully against manifest light and knowledge, is a presumptuous sin. A sin of ignorance is not presumptuous, unless that ignorance also be wilful, in which case the ignorance is itself a presumptuous sin. But when a man sins for want of knowing better — for want of knowing the law, for want of instruction, reproof, advice and admonition, we say that his sin, so committed, does not partake to any great extent of the nature of a presumptuous sin. But when a man knows better, and sins in the very teeth and face of his increased light and knowledge, then his sin deserves to be branded with this ignominious title of a presumptuous sin.
Again, when a man continues long in sin, and has time to deliberate about it, that also is a proof that it is a presumptuous sin. He that sins once, being overtaken in a fault, and then abhors the sin, has not sinned presumptuously; but he who transgresses to day, to-morrow and the next day, week after week and year after year until he has piled up a heap of sins that are high as a mountain, such a man, I say sins presumptuously, because in a continued habit of sin there must be a deliberation to sin; there must be at least such a force and strength of mind as could not have come upon any man if his sin were but the hasty effect of sudden passion.
Again: I said that a presumptuous sin must be a matter of design, and have been committed with the intention of sin.
The highest saints may sin the lowest sins, unless kept by divine grace.
There is enough corruption, depravity, and wickedness in the heart of the most holy man that is now alive to damn his soul to all eternity, if free and sovereign grace does not prevent. O Christian, thou hast need to pray this prayer.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, May 25, 2015

Book Review: God's Love Compels Us

God's Love Compels Us: Taking the Gospel to the World. Edited by Kathleen Nielson and D.A. Carson. 2015. Crossway. 144 pages. [Source: Review copy]

God's Love Compels Us is a collection of seven messages on world missions. Contributors include D.A. Carson, David Platt, John Piper, J. Mack Stiles, Andrew Davis, Michael Oh, and Stephen Um. These presentations were given at a pre-Cross conference in April 2013.

(Earlier in the year, I reviewed Cross: Unrivaled Christ, Unstoppable Gospel, Unreached Peoples, Unending Joy, another essay collection about world missions. That book was based on the Cross conference in December 2013. Both books focus on reaching unreached and unengaged people groups. If you're interested in the subject, I'd definitely recommend reading both books.)


  • The Biblical Basis for Missions: Treasure in Jars of Clay (2 Corinthians 4:1-12) by D.A. Carson
  • Why the Great Commission is Great: Reaching More and More People (2 Corinthians 4:13-18) by David Platt
  • The Heart of God in the Call to Proclaim: A Joyfully Serious courage in the Cause of World Missions (2 Corinthians 5:1-10) by John Piper
  • Being Ambassadors for Christ: The Ministry of Reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:11-21) by J. Mack Stiles
  • Are People Without Christ Really Lost? by Andrew Davis
  • The Individual's Suffering and the Salvation of the World by Michael Oh (Psalm 22)
  • Jesus and Justice by Stephen Um
The first four messages are expositions of passages from 2 Corinthians. The last three messages are more thematic; they are equally saturated in the Word, but, discuss various scripture verses.

I enjoyed reading all the essays in this collection. I loved the passion and urgency of the messages, the desire to see people from all around the world come to faith in Christ. Do I have a favorite contribution? It would be hard to pick just one. It really would. But my favorites include Andrew Davis' "Are People Without Christ Really Lost," David Platt's "Why The Great Commission is Great," and John Piper's "The Heart of God in the Call to Proclaim."

The human will is weak when it comes to doing the will of God. ~ John Piper

It is pretty hard to say nothing about hell and be faithful to Jesus. ~ D.A. Carson
Privatized Christianity is a profound curse across our culture and our churches. Multitudes of professing Christians live as if they believe the following: "Jesus has saved me. Jesus’s teachings work for me and my family. But who am I to tell my neighbor or my coworker what he or she should believe? Who am I to go and tell other people in other nations that their beliefs are wrong and my belief is right? And even more, who am I to tell anyone that if they don’t believe in what I believe, they’ll spend eternity damned in hell?" ~ David Platt
All of us— church members, church leaders, and pastors— need to ask ourselves this question: Do we really believe this gospel? Do we really believe this good news, that the sovereign, holy, just, and gracious Creator of the universe has looked upon hopelessly sinful men and women in their rebellion and has sent his Son, God in the flesh, to bear his wrath against sin on the cross and to show his power over sin in the resurrection? He has risen from the dead! We’re not talking resuscitation or reincarnation. It wasn’t as if Jesus was unconscious before getting a vision of heaven, and then he came back to write a best-selling book about it. We’re talking about being killed by crucifixion, wrapped in graveclothes, and put in a tomb, but three days later, the tomb was empty and Jesus was alive. He rose from the dead, and anyone and everyone who repents and believes in him will be reconciled to God forever. Do we believe this? If we do believe this gospel of the resurrected Christ, then we cannot sit quietly by in our churches while six thousand people groups in the world comprising 2 billion people have never even heard it. We cannot be content to spend our time, our money, and our resources in our lives and in our churches on comfortable plans and temporal possessions when hundreds upon hundreds of millions of people have never even heard the news of the resurrected Christ. We believe, and so we are compelled to proclaim the resurrected Christ to unreached peoples, knowing that as we speak this gospel to them, we will face suffering and affliction. These six thousand people groups are unreached for a reason— they’re hard to reach. All the easy ones have already been evangelized. These people groups are dangerous to reach. These people groups don’t want to be reached, and anyone who tries to reach them with the gospel will most certainly be met with suffering and affliction. ~ David Platt

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Week in Review: May 17-24

You have led in your steadfast love the people whom you have redeemed; you have guided them by your strength to your holy abode. Exodus 15:13
You will bring them in and plant them on your own mountain, the place, O LORD, which you have made for your abode, the sanctuary, O Lord, which your hands have established. The LORD will reign forever and ever. Exodus 15:17-18
After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.” Revelation 7:9-12

NKJV Evidence Bible
  • Genesis 12-50
  • Exodus 1-25
  • Mark 11-16
  • Romans 1-7
  • James 
  • 1 Peter
  • 2 Peter
ESV Gospel Transformation Bible

  • Psalm 1-10
  • Jonah
  • James
  • 1 Chronicles
  • 2 Chronicles
  • James
New English Bible
  • James
  • James
  • James
  • James
  • James
  • James

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, May 22, 2015

Book Review: Christy

Christy. Catherine Marshall. 1967. 512 pages. [Source: Bought]

Only my father saw me to the Asheville station that Sunday morning in 1912. 

Christy Huddleston is the heroine of Catherine Marshall's historical novel, Christy. It is set in a small community in the Smoky Mountains. Christy is the new school teacher hired by the local mission. She'll be working alongside, Miss Alice Henderson, and David Grantland. (Miss Alice Henderson runs the mission. David Grantland is the new minister, the oh-so-young, just-fresh-from-seminary minister.)

How to describe Christy? Well, she's young, spirited, enthusiastic, optimistic, naive, and well-intentioned. She's got a lot to learn, but, she's the type who's eager to learn. She comes to idolize (deeply respect and admire) Miss Alice. She sees Miss Alice as being the wisest woman ever, essentially. Miss Alice, to her credit, sees how loved she is by Christy, and seeks to show Christy how very human she is. Miss Alice would be the last person to say she had it all together and had all the answers. (She just knows who has the answers: God, and she trusts him and his providence.)

So the book is about Christy's experiences as a teacher, as a young woman. It's about the children she teaches, the families she meets, the women she befriends, the men she comes to know, namely David and Doc Neil MacNeill. It's a coming-of-age story, a spiritual coming-of-age story. How Christy came to the mountains believing certain things about God, but, during her time away from home and family, those beliefs were tested and questioned. She came out of her experiences KNOWING God instead of knowing about God.

I love the teaching aspect of this one. I like books about teachers: Anne of Avonlea, Anne of Windy Poplars, Good Morning, Miss Dove, Up A Road Slowly, When Calls the Heart, etc.

I like the spiritual aspects of this one as well. So many characters are in so many different places spiritually speaking. You do have to weigh all the statements about faith and God and Christianity while you're reading. Not all end up being true theologically. (I didn't necessarily like what the book said about Calvinism, at one point, Calvinism is blamed for their believing only in a God of wrath and their unwillingness to see him as a compassionate, forgiving, gracious God. It was a very generalized statement. It's on page 68.)

There is David, the minister, who came out of seminary knowing a lot of big words, but not knowing anything of the faith for certain. His conversations are heartbreaking, in my opinion. For example, when he and Christy go to visit a dying woman, she asks him to read from the Bible, and to talk to her of heaven. And he's hesitant. Oh, he reads the Bible fine. But when it comes to talk about the afterlife, about heaven, about dying. He stumbles a lot. Even Christy sees this as a weakness. He seems so uncertain of so many things we can be certain about. The old lady ends up giving him quite a speech. She knows God, David, well, it seems he may not even know about God. Not the God of the Bible.  (chapter sixteen)

Doctor MacNeill also comes to mind. He and Christy have quite a discussion. He has been shaken in his faith by a tragedy, and, he's in a place where he's doubting God's goodness and faithfulness. He doesn't necessarily trust or love this God who permits such suffering. The discussion they have, the questions he asks of Christy, are good for her, good for her spiritual journey. (chapter twenty-five) And I love the ending.

I love the romance of this one. It's a very understated romance novel though. David proposes to Christy, relatively early on, after six or seven months of working together. He'd never expressed any interest in her before the proposal. And even after the proposal, he doesn't really ever say that he loves her. Just that he needs her. And at times he seems most interested in having her body than anything else. Doctor MacNeill, well, it might take a few rereads before their scenes start to have an effect on you. (For example, chapter thirty-five). But once you do, it's hard not to love them as a couple.

I love, love, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Doctor MacNeill. I do.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Quotes from the Cloud #20

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.
Grant us grace to bear willingly all sorts of sickness, poverty, disgrace, suffering, and adversity and to recognize that in this your divine will is crucifying our will. ~ Martin Luther
To feed the soul we must toil at prayer. ~ P.T. Forsyth
Meditation is the affecting of our own hearts and minds with love, delight, and humility. ~ John Owen
Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid, cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy holy name, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen. ~ Thomas Cranmer.
I spend half my time telling Christians to study doctrine and the other half telling them doctrine is not enough. ~ Martyn Lloyd-Jones
Reading Ecclesiastes tends to have the same effect on foolish people that preaching the gospel has on unbelieving people. When unbelievers hear about freedom in Christ and about God’s approval coming from faith instead of what they do, they conclude that they don’t need to perform any good works. They think they can go on sinning because faith is enough. On the other hand, when we preach that good works are the fruit of faith, they think this is how they are saved. Then they try to earn their salvation by doing these works. So hearing God’s Word often leads to either arrogance or despair. It’s very difficult to avoid either extreme and find the middle way. ~ Martin Luther, Faith Alone, May 13
Faith teaches and holds to the truth. Faith simply clings to the Scripture, which never deceives us or lies to us. ~ Martin Luther, Faith Alone, May 19
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Book Review: God, Adam, and You

God, Adam, and You: Biblical Creation Defended and Applied. Richard D. Phillips, editor. 2015. P&R. 256 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Have you considered how significant the opening chapters of Genesis are? Significant in what way, you might ask?! Significant in many ways! Significant in understanding who we are as human beings, in understanding what sin is, in understanding what we've lost and why we so desperately need a Savior, in understanding the incarnation--why Jesus had to become one of us--in understanding what salvation or redemption means, in understanding our standing with God. The opening chapters of Genesis are not non-essential, we don't have the option of saying, well, the Bible starts out with these mythological, symbolic characters, but, at some point--perhaps closer to the New Testament--the Bible starts being true, something we can depend on.

God, Adam, and You is a collection of essays, a WONDERFUL collection of ten essays. Each essay seeks to answer the question, "What difference does Adam make?"

  • The Bible's First Word by Derek W.H. Thomas
  • The Case For Adam by Joel R. Beeke
  • Two Views of the Human Person by Kevin DeYoung
  • Adam, Lord, of the Garden by Liam Goligher
  • The Bible and Evolution by Richard D. Phillips
  • God's Design for Gender, Marriage, and Sex by Richard D. Phillips
  • Differing Views on the Days of Creation by Derek W.H. Thomas
  • Christ, The Second Adam by Joel R. Beeke
  • From God's Garden to God's City by Richard D. Phillips
  • Original Sin and Modern Theology by Carl R. Trueman

Overall, I found the book to be excellent. Each essay approaches the subject a little differently, from a slightly different angle or approach. Readers may naturally be interested in one more than the other, but, all are worthy of inclusion.

It is tricky to review a collection of essays. Each essay has enough substance, enough value for attention within my review! But can I do equal justice for all ten essays?! Probably not!

In "The Bible's First Word," Thomas focuses on what Genesis 1 tells us about God and ourselves. He points out the creation exalts God, that biblical creation makes a BIG distinction between the Creator and creation/creatures, that the Bible points out the original GOODNESS of creation, that creation is the basis for ethics and morality, and creation is the ground of worship.

In "The Case for Adam," Beeke focuses on Genesis 2 and 3. He presents ten arguments for a historical (biblical) Adam. Four of these arguments are based on history. Six of these arguments are based on theology. This is an EXCELLENT essay.

In "Two Views of the Human Person" DeYoung talks the meaning of life, of what it means to be human, of who we are, and why we're here.
"According to the world, we are (1) here by chance, (2) free to create our own selves, (3) basically good, (4) ethically excusable, and (5) destined for a happy heaven or a blessed extinction.
According to Scripture, we are (1) here by design, (2) created to reflect God's image, (3) fundamentally flawed, (4) morally culpable, and (5) destined to worship God in heaven or face his just wrath in hell." 
In "Adam, Lord, of the Garden," Goligher discusses Adam's roles as a prophet, a priest, and a king. Plenty of talk about covenants in this one.

In "The Bible and Evolution" Phillips discusses evolution. He follows through with ideas, statements of belief, to see where they lead. This essay is fundamental to the collection.
"Does the theory of evolution expose errors in our interpretation of Genesis? Is it possible to maintain a high view of biblical authority and embrace evolution? Most important, what kind of theology, and what kind of Christianity, do we end up with after we have incorporated evolutionary teaching into our theology?"
Other essays by Phillips include, "God's Design for Gender, Marriage, and Sex," and "From God's Garden to God's City."

"Differing Views on the Days of Creation" is an overview of the subject by Derek Thomas.

"Christ the Second Adam" is a great article by Beeke focusing on Christ's works. I'm not doing justice to this one, but it is really worth reading.

"Original Sin and Modern Theology" by Carl Trueman is the most academic essay in the collection. He presents the perspectives of six different theologians. (Not all are "modern" or "contemporary" theologians. Some lived centuries ago.) All take a wrong view of original sin. His choices are: Friedrich Schleiermacher, Walter Rauschenbusch, Karl Barth, Rudolf Bultmann, Reinhold Niebuhr, and Wolfhart Pannenberg.

I loved reading this book! I found it to be thought-provoking and substantive!

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

My Year with Spurgeon #20

Elijah's Appeal to the Undecided
Charles Spurgeon
1 Kings 18:21
First, you will note that the prophet insisted upon the distinction which existed between the worship of Baal and the worship of Jehovah. Most of the people who were before him thought that Jehovah was God, and that Baal was god too, and that for this reason the worship of both was quite consistent. The great mass of them did not reject the God of their fathers wholly, nor did they bow before Baal wholly; but as polythiests, believing in many gods, they thought both Gods might be worshipped and each of them have a share in their hearts. “No,” said the prophet when he began, “this will not do, these are two opinions, you can never make them one they are two contradictory things which cannot be combined.
Serve your master, whoever he be. If you do profess to be religious, be so thoroughly, if you make any I profession to be a Christian be one, but if you are no Christian, do not pretend to be.
Men’'s opinions are not such things as we imagine. It is generally said now-a-days, that all opinions are right, and if a man shall honestly hold his convictions, he is, without doubt, right. Not so; truth is not changed by our opinions, a thing is either true or false of itself, and it is neither made true nor false by our views of it. It is for us therefore, to judge carefully, and not to think that any opinion will do.
Besides, opinions have influence upon the conduct, and if a man have a wrong opinion, he will, most likely, in some way or other, have wrong conduct, for the two usually go together.
I know that none of you will ever decide for God'’s gospel, unless God decide you; and I tell you that you must either be decided by the descent of the fire of his Spirit into your hearts now, or else in the day of judgment. Oh! which shall it be? Oh! that the prayer might be put up by the thousand lips that are here: “Lord, decide me now by the fire of thy Spirit; oh I let thy Spirit descend into my heart, to burn up the bullock, that I may be a whole burnt offering to God; to burn up the wood and the stones of my sin; to burn up the very dust of worldliness; ah, and to lick up the water of my impiety, which now lieth in the trenches, and my cold indifference, that seek to put out the sacrifice.”

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, May 18, 2015

Book Review: Prayer

Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God. Timothy Keller. 2014. Penguin. 336 pages. [Source: Library]

Timothy Keller's Prayer is divided into five sections: desiring prayer, understanding prayer, learning prayer, deepening prayer, and doing prayer. The book is both academic (intellectual, theological) and practical. It addresses what prayer is, why we should pray, and how we should pray. The book is both reassuring and inspiring; above all, I think the book is packed with information. One of the things I liked best about it is how rich a resource it is on prayer: What did Augustine have to say on prayer? How about Martin Luther? John Calvin? John Owen? He shares what he's learned from what he's read. And he shares valuable advice from the cloud of witnesses! Now, I should also add, that Keller wasn't merely interested in what Luther or Calvin had to say about the subject. That would be misleading. The book is very much grounded in the Bible itself. What does the Bible have to say about prayer? (He shares quotes from Luther, Calvin, etc., because they were so well-grounded in the Word and placed such high value in understanding and applying it.)

Prayer is the only entryway into genuine self-knowledge. It is also the main way we experience deep change— the reordering of our loves. Prayer is how God gives us so many of the unimaginable things he has for us. Indeed, prayer makes it safe for God to give us many of the things we most desire. It is the way we know God, the way we finally treat God as God. Prayer is simply the key to everything we need to do and be in life. We must learn to pray. We have to. (18)
Therefore, knowing God better is what we must have above all if we are to face life in any circumstances. (21)
To fail to pray, then, is not to merely break some religious rule--it is a failure to treat God as God. It is a sin against his glory. (26)
God does not merely require our petitions but our selves, and no one who begins the hard, lifelong trek of prayer knows yet who they are. Nothing but prayer will ever reveal you to yourself, because only before God can you see and become your true self… Prayer is learning who you are before God and giving him your essence. Prayer means knowing yourself as well as God. (30)
Prayer is continuing a conversation that God has started through his Word and his grace, which eventually becomes a full encounter with him. (48)
To understand the Scripture is not simply to get information about God. If attended to with trust and faith, the Bible is the way to actually hear God speaking and also to meet God himself…We know who we are praying to only if we first learn it in the Bible. And we know how how we should be praying only by getting our vocabulary from the Bible. (54)
If the goal of prayer is a real, personal connection with God, then it is only by immersion in the language of the Bible that we will learn to pray, perhaps just as slowly as a child learns to speak… This wedding of the Bible and prayer anchors your life down in the real God. (55, 56)
Prayer turns theology into experience. Through it we sense his presence and receive his joy, his love, his peace and confidence, and thereby we are changed in attitude, behavior, and character. (80)
As we have seen, all prayer is somewhat impure. It is never done with fully proper motives of heart or with language worthy of its object. It is received and answered by God, therefore, only by grace. Yet there is every indication in the Bible that we should be striving to pray rightly. (121)
To come to the Father in Jesus' name, not our own, is to come fully cognizant that we are being heard because of the costly grace in which we stand. (125)
In some ways prayer is simply connecting Jesus to your absolute helplessness, your sense of fragility and dependence. (128)
Prayer is the way that all the things we believe in and that Christ has won for us actually become our strength. Prayer is the way that truth is worked into your heart to create new instincts, reflexes, and dispositions. (132)
Meditation is spiritually tasting the Scripture--delighting in it, sensing the sweetness of the teaching, feeling the conviction of what it tells us about ourselves, and thanking God and praising God for what it shows us about him. Meditation is also spiritually digesting the Scripture--applying it, thinking out how it affects you, describes you, guides you in the most practical way. It is drawing strength from the Scripture, letting it give you hope, using it to remember how loved you are. (150-1)
How do you do this practically? One way is Martin Luther's approach. After fixing the truth in the mind as instruction, he asks how it shows you something about the character of God for which you can praise him, something wrong about yourself for which you can repent, and something that is needed for which you can petition him. (158)
The written Word and its law can be a delight because the incarnate Word came and died for us, securing pardon for our sins and shortcomings before God's law. You can't delight in the law of the Lord without understanding Jesus' whole mission. (163)
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, May 17, 2015

30 Days with James

In May, I'll be reading James daily, or almost daily.

2. ERV 1885
4. RSV
5. ESV
6. ASV
7. GNT
8. KJV
9. NKJV Evidence Bible
10. Living
11. NLT
12. MEV
13. ESV Gospel Transformation Bible
14. KJ21
15. HCSB
16. New English Bible
17. NIV
18. NASB
19. ASV
20. MEV
21. RSV
22. NKJV
23. ESV
24. ESV Reformation Bible
25. ESV Following Jesus Bible
26. Living
27. NLT
28. KJV
29. GNT
30. Revised English Bible

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Week in Review: May 10-16

All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Matthew 11:27-30
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. James 4:7-10


  • Exodus 12-40
  • Proverbs 11-31
  • Haggai
  • Zechariah
  • Malachi

NKJV Evidence Bible

  • Genesis 1-11
  • Mark 1-10
  • James


  • Ecclesiastes
  • Esther
  • Daniel
  • Ezra
  • Nehemiah


  • James


  • James


  • James

ESV Gospel Transformation Bible

  • James


  • Psalms 1-41
  • Matthew
  • James

1599 Geneva Bible

  • Romans

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, May 15, 2015

Book Review: As Love Blooms

As Love Blooms. Lorna Seilstad. 2015. Revell. 320 pages. [Source: Review copy]

As Love Blooms is the third book in the Gregory Sisters trilogy by Lorna Seilstad. The first book, When Love Calls, focuses on the oldest sister, Hannah. The second book, While Love Stirs, focuses on the middle sister, Charlotte. In the first book, readers are introduced to the three now-orphaned sisters. When the first sister finds happily ever after, the other sisters find an instant family and move in with his suffragist aunt (Lincoln's Aunt). Also readers should know that in the first book, the sisters pledges to help one another's dreams come true.

So Tessa's settled on a dream. She's a horticulturist. She wants to be hired as a gardener at Como Park in Saint Paul, Minnesota. The problem? Well, the man in charge, Mr. Nussbaumer, doesn't want to hire her because she's a woman. He doesn't want to discourage her from gardening--private gardening. But there's a small chance she can change his mind…

Reese King has met Tessa and been wowed. He was equally wowed by her gardening designs. His idea? To work on the garden together at the park, taking credit for the design and the work, and then if his boss LOVES it, he'll confess it to be her design. The two hardly know one another, and it does seem like a risky agreement--at least to me--but she's desperate for a chance. It turns out he is as well.

Will these two fall in love as they work side-by-side? Perhaps. But if so, it won't come easily. For Tessa likes to spend time with another young man with ambitions of his own…

I liked this one. I didn't love it as much as While Love Stirs. For one thing, I thought the book was a little too dramatic in places, especially towards the end.

I would still recommend all three books, however.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Quotes from the Cloud #19

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.
I would cease to preach, if I believed that God, in the matter of salvation, required anything whatever of man which he himself had not also engaged to furnish. ~ Charles Spurgeon, "Salvation is Of the Lord"
So broad are your wants, so deep are your necessities, that until you are in heaven you will always find room for prayer. Dost thou need nothing? Then I fear thou dost not know thyself. Hast thou no mercy to ask of God? Then I fear thou hast never had mercies of him, and art yet “in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of inquity.” If thou be a child of God, thy wants will be as numerous as thy moments and thou wilt need to have as many prayers as there are hours. ~ Charles Spurgeon, "Prayer The Forerunner of Mercy"
“We have long been attempting to reform the nation by moral preaching. With what effect! None. On the contrary, we have dexterously preached the people into downright infidelity. We must change our voice; we must preach Christ and him crucified; nothing but the gospel is the power of God unto salvation.” ~ Bishop Lavington
Dear God, I cannot love Thee the way I want to. You are the slim crescent of a moon that I see and my self is the earth’s shadow that keeps me from seeing all the moon . . . what I am afraid of, dear God, is that my self shadow will grow so large that it blocks the whole moon, and that I will judge myself by the shadow that is nothing. I do not know You God because I am in the way. ~ Flannery O'Connor
Look at Christ, who was captured and offered for you. He is infinitely greater than and superior to anything else in creation. How will you respond when you hear that such a priceless ransom was offered for you? Do you still want to bring God your own good works? What is that compared to Christ’s work? He shed his most precious blood for your sins. ~ Martin Luther, Faith Alone, May 1
All Christians should know they won’t be spared from suffering. But it should be the kind of suffering that is worthy of its name. It should really hurt us and weigh us down, such as a serious threat to our possessions, bodies, or lives. We should really feel it, for it wouldn’t be suffering if it didn’t hurt. Moreover, we shouldn’t choose our own suffering, as some people do. It should be the kind of suffering the devil or the world sends our way. We would want to be spared of it, if at all possible. Then we need to hold on tight and reconcile ourselves to this suffering. I have said before, we have to suffer so that we will become more and more like Christ. It cannot be any different. Everyone will face Christ’s cross and suffering. If you know this, then the suffering is easier and more bearable for you. You can comfort yourself by saying, “Well now, if I want to be a Christian, I must wear the colors of the team. Our dear Christ doesn’t give out any other clothing for his side. I must endure this suffering.” People who insist on choosing their own cross cannot do this. They become upset and fight against it. What commendable behavior that is! Yet they criticize the way we teach about suffering as if they were the only ones who could teach how to handle it. Nevertheless, we still teach that none of us should choose our own suffering. But when the cross comes, we should patiently endure it and carry it. ~ Martin Luther, Faith Alone, May 12

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Book Review: The Heart of the Gospel (2015)

The Heart of the Gospel. God's Son Given for You. Sinclair B. Ferguson. 2015. P&R Publishing. 24 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED Sinclair Ferguson's The Heart of the Gospel. In this short booklet, Ferguson presents readers with an explanation of Romans 8:32. It's a verse he calls "the heart of the gospel." The verse reads, "He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?"

He first looks at the verse in context, and then expounds the verse with great depth. He breaks the verse down into three sections: the action of the Father, the experience of the Son, and the logic of the gospel. Section by section, I grew in appreciation for this verse. Reading Ferguson's reflections on this verse made me savor it all the more.

How can believers KNOW that God is on their side? that God is for them and not against them? Wouldn't it be great to trust in God's love and faithfulness? The answer to knowing, to being confident in your assurance, is within Romans 8:32, Ferguson explains.
Our ultimate confidence that God is for us cannot be found in our ability to interpret the providences of our own lives or the lives of others. But, according to Romans 8, there is one irrefutable reason for the Christian believer to be utterly convinced that God is for him or her. That reason is that he is the God who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all. And if this is the case, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? The cross, the Christ, the gospel, is the reason the Christian believer knows that God is finally and irreversibly for him or for her.
This booklet is great at explaining the gospel. Romans 8 is one of the richest chapters in the Bible. And Romans 8:32 is a marvelously rich verse. I loved Ferguson's clear teaching of this chapter and verse.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

My Year with Spurgeon #19

Salvation Of the Lord
Charles Spurgeon
"Salvation is of the Lord." Jonah 2:9
Most of the grand truths of God have to be learned by trouble; they must be burned into us with the hot iron of affliction, otherwise we shall not truly receive them. No man is competent to judge in matters of the kingdom, until first he has been tried; since there are many things to be learned in the depths which we can never know in the heights.
First, then, to begin by explanation, let us EXPOUND THIS DOCTRINE — the doctrine that salvation is of the Lord, or of Jehovah. We are to understand by this, that the whole of the work whereby men are saved from their natural estate of sin and ruin, and are translated into the kingdom of God and made heirs of eternal happiness, is of God, and of him only. “Salvation is of the Lord.”
To begin, then, at the beginning, the plan of salvation is entirely of God. No human intellect and no created intelligence assisted God in the planning of salvation; he contrived the way, even as he himself carried it out. The plan of salvation was devised before the existence of angels.
The banquet of mercy is served up by one host, that host is he to whom the cattle on a thousand hills belong. But none have contributed any dainties to that royal banquet; he hath done it all himself.
No blood of martyrs mingleth with that stream; no blood of noble confessors and of heroes of the cross entered into the river of atonement; that is filled from the veins of Christ, and from nowhere else beside He hath done it wholly.
Atonement is the unaided work of Jesus.
So far we are all agreed, but now we shall have to separate a bit. “Salvation is of the Lord,” in the application of it. “No,” says the Arminian, “it is not; salvation is of the Lord, inasmuch as he does all for man that he can do; but there is something that man must do, which if he does not do, he must perish.” That is the Arminian way of salvation.
If God had provided every means of escape, and only required him to get out of his dungeon, he would have remained there to all eternity. Why, is not the sinner by nature dead in sin? And if God requires him to make himself alive, and then afterwards he will do the rest for him, then verily, my friends, we are not so much obliged to God as we had thought for; for if he require so much as that of us, and we can do it, we can do the rest without his assistance.
The power must be given to him of the Spirit. He lieth dead in sin; the Spirit must quicken him. He is bound hand and foot and fettered by transgression; the Spirit must cut his bonds, and then he will leap to liberty.
When I enter my pulpit am I to believe that these men are to do something before God’'s Spirit will operate upon them? If so, I should go there with a faint heart, feeling that I never could induce them to do the first part. But now I come to my pulpit with a sure confidence — God the Holy Spirit will meet with these men this morning. They are as bad as they can be; he will put a new thought into their hearts, he will give them new wishes, he will give them new wills, and those who hated Christ will desire to love him; those who once loved sin will, by God’'s divine Spirit, be made to hate it, and here is my confidence, that what they cannot do, in that they are weak through the flesh, God sending his Spirit into their hearts will do for them, and in them, and so they shall be saved.
My business, as I have often said in this place before, is not to prove to you the reasonableness of any truth, nor to defend any truth from its consequences, all I do here — and I mean to keep to it is just to assert the truth, because it is in the Bible; then, if you do not like it, you must settle the quarrel with my Master, and if you think it unreasonable you must quarrel with the Bible. Let others defend Scripture and prove it to be true; they can do their work better than I could, mine is just the mere work of proclaiming. I am the messenger; I tell the Master'’s message; if you do not like the message quarrel with the Bible, not with me.
The Lord has to apply it, to make the unwilling willing, to make the ungodly godly, and bring the vile rebel to the feet of Jesus, or else salvation will never be accomplished.
And now on the next point we shall a little disagree again. “Salvation is of the Lord,” as to the sustaining of the work in any man’s heart. When a man is made a child of God he does not have a stock of grace given to him with which to go on for ever, but he has grace for that day; and he must have grace for the next day and grace for the next, and grace for the next, until days shall end, or else the beginning shall be of no avail. As a man does not make himself spiritually alive, so neither can he keep himself so. He can feed on spiritual food, and so preserve his spiritual strength, he can walk in the commandments of the Lord, and so enjoy rest and peace, but still the inner life is dependent upon the Spirit as much for its after existence as for its first begetting.
There may be Arminians here, but they will not be Arminians there; they may here say, “It is of the will of the flesh,” but in heaven they shall not think so. Here they may ascribe some little to the creature; but there they shall cast their crowns at the Redeemer’s feet, and acknowledge that he did it all. Here they may sometimes look a little at themselves, and boast somewhat of their own strength; but there, “Not unto us, not unto us,” shall be sung with deeper sincerity and with more profound emphasis than they have ever sung it here below. In heaven, when grace shall have done its work, this truth shall stand out in blazing letters of gold, “Salvation is of the Lord.”
You must be round in the faith if you have learned to spell this sentence — “Salvation is of the Lord;” and if you feel it in your soul you will not be proud; you cannot be; you will cast everything at his feet, confessing that you have done nothing, save what he has helped you to do, and therefore the glory must be where the salvation is.
And now in concluding let me just tell you WHAT IS THE OBVERSE OF THIS TRUTH. Salvation is of God: then damnation is of man. If any of you are damned, you will have no one to blame but yourselves; if any of you perish, the blame will not lie at God’'s door; if you are lost and cast away, you will have to bear all the blame and all the tortures of conscience yourself, you will lie for ever in perdition, and reflect, “I have destroyed myself; I have made a suicide of my soul; I have been my own destroyer; I can lay no blame to God.”

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, May 11, 2015

Book Review: No Adam, No Gospel

No Adam, No Gospel: Adam and the History of Redemption. Richard B. Gaffin Jr. 2015. P&R Publishing. 32 pages. [Source: Review copy]

The booklet "No Adam, No Gospel" addresses a contemporary issue. Did Adam and Eve really exist? Are the opening chapters of Genesis historically accurate? Can a person believe wholeheartedly in evolution and wholeheartedly in the gospel? Does it even matter if Adam and Eve were real? Would it matter if they were just a made-up story to illustrate a point? How essential is it for believers to actually believe that the Bible is true in matters big and small? And is it fair to assume that this would be a "small" matter?! And who would get to decide which things were "big" and which were "small"? It's always a horrible idea for anyone to decide which parts are true and which parts aren't.

Richard B. Gaffin Jr. argues that the opening chapters of Genesis are crucial to understanding Christianity--to understanding the gospel. He insists that if you take away the "realness" of Adam, you rob the gospel greatly. It is hard to have a right view of sin, a right view of salvation, a right view of the Savior, if you hold wrong views of creation and Adam.

He writes, "What Scripture affirms about creation, especially the origin of humanity, is central to its teaching about salvation. If it is not true that that all human beings descend from Adam, then the entire history of redemption taught in Scripture unravels."

For Adam and Christ are connected. Jesus is referred to as the "Second Adam." In the doctrine of imputation--clearly taught by Paul in Romans 5, and in many other places beside--Adam and Jesus are clearly connected in Scripture.

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.
But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man's trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man's sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. For if, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.
Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 5:12-21, ESV. 
Richard B. Gaffin Jr. responds to recent books and articles by a handful of different theologians. He presents how different people have interpreted "problem texts" like Romans 5. He also addresses the subject generally.

The booklet is a quick read. It is packed with information. Though it doesn't treat the subject absolutely or exhaustively. It is more of an introduction to the controversy.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Week in Review: May 3-9

One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts. Psalm 145:4 
Pray for your families; for your children. If they be pious, you can still pray for them that their piety may be real, that they may be upheld in their profession. And if they be ungodly, you have a whole fountain of arguments for prayer. So long as thou hast a child unpardoned, pray for it; so long as thou hast a child alive that is saved, pray for him, that he may be kept. Thou hast enough reason to pray for those that have proceeded from thine own loins… Perhaps the day when this world shall perish will be the day unbrightened by a prayer; and perhaps the day when a great misdeed was done by some man, was the day when his friends left off praying for him. Pray for your households. ~ Charles Spurgeon, "Prayer The Forerunner of Mercy"
Prayer is the only entryway into genuine self-knowledge. It is also the main way we experience deep change— the reordering of our loves. Prayer is how God gives us so many of the unimaginable things he has for us. Indeed, prayer makes it safe for God to give us many of the things we most desire. It is the way we know God, the way we finally treat God as God. Prayer is simply the key to everything we need to do and be in life. We must learn to pray. We have to. ~ Tim Keller, Prayer
  • Psalms 90-150
  • Proverbs
  • Job
  • Song of Songs
  • Ruth
  • Lamentations


  • Exodus 1-11
  • Judges 13-21
  • Ruth
  • Proverbs 1-10
  • Isaiah 50-66
  • Micah
  • Nahum
  • Habakkuk
  • Zephaniah
  • James
  • 1 John 
  • 2 John
  • 3 John
  • Jude
  • Revelation


  • James


  • James


  • James


  • James


  • James

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, May 8, 2015

Book Review: Piety

Piety: The Heartbeat of Reformed Theology. Joel R. Beeke. 2015. P&R Publishing. 40 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I liked reading Joel Beeke's short work, Piety. I did. I agree that "piety" is often misunderstood and under appreciated. I think clarity on what it is and isn't is a good thing.

What is piety? How did the reformers define piety? What priority did they give piety? How much of a connection did reformers see between theology (right thinking) and pious living (right living)? Which religious movements have cherished piety and been known for it? (Hint: Puritans aren't the only ones.) I like that the booklet examines what it is and how it has been defined through history and piety itself has shaped history or at least the history of the church.
Let us examine the importance of piety in Reformed theology, specifically in the work of Calvin, William Ames, and Gisbertus Voetius. We then will look at various definitions of Pietism, and conclude by offering some practical ways in which we may cultivate true piety in our daily lives. 
So what are the means that cultivate piety?

  • piety cultivated by the preached word 
  • piety cultivated by the sacraments
  • piety cultivated by the communion of saints
  • piety cultivated by the exercise of church discipline
  • piety cultivated by reading and searching the Scriptures
  • piety cultivated by meditation on the Scriptures
  • piety cultivated by praying and working
  • piety cultivated by journaling
  • piety cultivated by reading spiritually edifying literature

Piety may be a short work, but, it doesn't lack depth and substance. Readers can find some practical tips on how to live the Christian life from Reformers and Puritans. Tips on reading the Bible, on how to better listen to sermons, on how to pray, etc.

I'd definitely recommend this one!

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Quotes from the Cloud #18

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.
There is no place or time where He is not able and willing to walk by our side, to work through our hands and brains, and to unite Himself in loving and all-sufficient partnership with all our needs and tasks and trials, and prove our all-sufficiency for all things. ~ A.B. Simpson
Jesus is the Teacher. He has all knowledge of the ultimate purposes of God for man, of the will of God concerning man, of the laws of God that mark for man the path of his progress and final crowning. Disciples are those who gather around this Teacher and are trained by Him. Seekers after truth, not merely in the abstract, but as a life force, come to Him and join the circle of those to whom He reveals these great secrets of all true life. Christ never becomes a teacher to those who are living in sin. Sin as actual transgression in the past, must be pardoned, and sin as a principle of revolution within must be cleansed. He deals with this twofold aspect of sin. To the soul judging past sin, by confessing it and turning from it, He dispenses forgiveness, pronouncing His priestly absolution by virtue of His own atonement on the Cross. To the soul yielded to Him absolutely and unreservedly, consenting to the death of self, He gives the blessing of cleansing from sin. So He Himself provides for, and creates, the relationships of communion through cleansing, and intelligence through the indwelling of the Spirit, which constitute our condition for receiving what He has to teach. ~ G. Campbell Morgan, Discipleship, ch. 1
The Teacher demands that we shall take up the cross and so follow on, even though the progress be through pain. ~ G. Campbell Morgan, Discipleship, ch. 1
Not to impart information, and to satisfy curiosity, is Jesus the Teacher. It is because the truth sanctifies and makes free that He reveals it, and because, apart from the revelation He has to make, there is no possible way of realizing God's great purposes for us. ~ G. Campbell Morgan, Discipleship, ch. 1
Self, renders it impossible to know Christ, when other loves and interests intervene, and breeds dissatisfaction with all else and makes that very self sad and weak. Christ absolute, lights the whole being with His love, and joy, and beauty, and shines on other loves to their sanctification, and so, the abnegation of self is self's highest development. ~ G. Campbell Morgan, Discipleship, ch. 1
We should set the Word of God always before us like a rule, and believe nothing but that which it teacheth, love nothing but that which it prescribeth, hate nothing but that which it forbiddeth, do nothing but that which it commandeth. ~ Henry Smith
Thomas Watson's tips on receiving the preached word: 
1. Prepare to hear the Word by bathing your soul in prayer.
2. Come to the Word with a holy appetite and a tender, teachable heart.
3. Be attentive to the preached Word.
4. Receive with meekness the engrafted Word. (James 1:21).
5. Mingle the preached Word with faith.
6. Strive to retain what has been preached and pray about the Word proclaimed.
7. Put the Word into practice; be doers of it.
8. Beg the Spirit to accompany the Word with effectual blessing.
9. Familiarize yourself with the Word by sharing it with others.
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Book Review: The Whole Story of the Bible in 16 Verses

The Whole Story of the Bible in 16 Verses. Chris Bruno. 2015. Crossway. 144 pages. [Source: Library]

Ever since reading the title of this one--over six months before it was released--I've wanted to read this one; I've been excited to read it: full of curiosity. Which 16 verses would Bruno pick to tell the WHOLE story of the Bible? If I was to attempt to pick 16 verses, which would I pick? Would my choices line up with his? Can you really, truly make the message of the Bible that concise?!

I was not disappointed. It was a joy to read this one. And it's a quick read! Hopefully its conciseness will appeal to believers who are reluctant readers.

The book is a good choice for believers of all ages who haven't "mastered" the contents of the Bible, and, who want to know what it's all about it. That is most people, I imagine. For few, I imagine, would reckon themselves masters of the Word of God. If you've never read the Bible, or, if you've read the Bible two or three times, there's a good chance that this book will help you out either by teaching or refreshing.

So which 16 verses did he pick? The table of contents give it away!

Part 1 The Time is Coming

  • Creation (Genesis 1:31)
  • Human Beings (Genesis 1:27-28)
  • The Fall (Genesis 3:6-7)
  • Redemption Promised (Genesis 3:15)
  • Abraham (Genesis 12:2-3)
  • Judah the King (Genesis 49:10)
  • The Passover Lamb (Exodus 12:23)
  • King David (2 Samuel 7:12-13)
  • The Suffering Servant (Isaiah 53:6)
  • Resurrection Promised (Ezekiel 37:3-5)
  • New Creation (Isaiah 65:17)

Part 2 The Time Has Come

  • Fulfillment! (Mark 1:14-15)
  • The Cross (John 19:30)
  • Resurrection (Romans 1:3-4)
  • Justification (Romans 3:21-26)
  • Glory (Revelation 21:1-4)

Sixteen chapters on sixteen verses, each chapter is about five to six pages. Each chapter explains a verse and then provides context as to why it's significant in the message of the Bible--how it fits into the big picture of the Bible. Each chapter concludes with "key biblical theological themes" and "the story so far." The chapters build on one another, as you'd expect. By the end of the book, readers have a concise summary of the whole Bible.

The subject is a tricky one. Other books have tried--with varying success--to concisely give readers a big picture summary of the Bible. I've reviewed a handful of these in the past. I've also reviewed many children's bible story books. I think Bruno did a great job.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

My Year With Spurgeon #18

Charles Spurgeon
John 3:3
Regeneration is the hinge of the gospel; it is the point upon which most Christians are agreed, yea, all who are Christians in sincerity and truth. It is a subject which lies at the very basis of salvation. It is the very groundwork of our hopes for heaven, and as we ought to be very careful of the basement of our structure, so should we be very diligent to take heed that we are really born again, and that we have made sure work of it for eternity.
You think, mayhap, that heaven consists in those walls of jewels, in those pearly gates, and gates of gold; not so, that is the habitation of heaven. Heaven dwells there, but that is not heaven. Heaven is a state that is made here, that is made in the heart, made by God'’s Spirit within us, and unless God the Spirit has renewed us and caused us to be born again, we cannot enjoy the things of heaven.
Every man will clearly perceive that it must be impossible that a snail should build a city;--and there is just as much impossibility that a sinner unmended, should enjoy heaven. Why, there would be nothing there for him to enjoy; if he could be put into the place where heaven is, he would be miserable; he would cry, “Let me away, let me away; let me away from this miserable place!” I appeal to yourselves; a sermon is too long for you very often; the singing of God’s praises is dull dry work, you think that going up to God’s house is very tedious. What will you do where they praise God day without night. If just a short discourse here is very wearying, what will you think of the eternal talkings of the redeemed through all ages of the wonders of redeeming love? If the company of the righteous is very irksome to you, what will be their company throughout eternity?
The only heaven there is is the heaven of spiritual men, the heaven of praise, the heaven of delight in God the heaven of acceptance in the beloved, the heaven of communion with Christ. Now, you do not understand anything about this; you could not enjoy it if you were to have it; you have not the capabilities for doing so. You, yourselves, from the very fact of your not being born again, are your own barrier to heaven, and if God were to open the gate wide, and say, “some in,” you could not enjoy heaven, if you were admitted: for unless a man be born again, there is an impossibility, a moral impossibility, of his seeing the kingdom of God.
Men and women, if ye perish, my hands are washed in innocency; I have told you of your doom. I again cry, repent, repent, repent, for “unless ye repent ye shall all likewise perish.” I came here determined this morning, if I must use rough words to use them; to speak right out against men and for men too; for the things we say against you now are really for your good. We do but warn you, lest you perish. But ah! I hear one of you saying, A I do not understand this mystery, pray explain it to me.” Fool, fool, that thou art; do you see that fire? We are startled up from our beds, the light is at the window; we rush down stairs; people are hurrying to and fro; the street is trampled thick with crowds: they are rushing towards the house, which is in a burst of flame. The firemen are at their work; a stream of water is pouring upon the house; but hark ye! hark ye! there is a man up stairs; there is a man in the top room; there is just time for him to escape, and barely. A shout is raised — ‘Aho! fire! fire! fire! aho!” — but the man does not make his appearance at the window. See, the ladder is placed against the walls; it is up to the windowsill — a strong hand dashes in the easement! What is the man after, all the while? What! is he tied down in his bed? Is he a cripple? Has some fiend got hold of him and nailed him to the floor? No, no, no; — he feels the boards getting hot beneath his feet, the smoke is stifling him, the flame is burning all around, he knows there is but one way of escape, by that ladder! What is he doing? He is sitting down — no, you cannot believe me — he is sitting down and saying, “The origin of this fire is very mysterious; I wonder how it is to be discovered; how shall we understand it?” Why, you laugh him! You are laughing at yourselves. You are seeking to have this question and that question answered, when your soul is in peril of eternal fire! Oh! when you are saved, it will be time then to ask questions; but whilst you are now in the burning house, and in danger of destruction, it is not your time to be puzzling yourselves about free will, fixed fate, predestination absolute. All these questions are good and well enough afterwards for those that are saved. Let the man on shore try to find out the cause of the storm; your only business now is to ask, “What must I do to be saved? And how can I escape from the great damnation that awaiteth me?”

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, May 4, 2015

Book Review: The Love Letters (2015)

The Love Letters. Beverly Lewis. 2015. Bethany House. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I enjoyed reading Beverly Lewis' The Love Letters. I really appreciate that it is a stand-alone novel, that is that the story and most importantly the romance is resolved in this one book. That isn't always the case with Beverly Lewis's books. They can be great, but, frustrating at the same time.

The Love Letters is set in the 1960s. The heroine of The Love Letters is Marlena Wenger. She has come to stay with her grandmother (Mammi) for awhile--for the summer at least. Her grandfather (Dawdi) has recently died, and she's come to help her grandmother out. While there tragedy happens: her sister (who had left the community) is in a car crash and dies leaving her infant daughter behind. (Her husband is off fighting in the war.)  Marlena and her grandmother welcome the baby into their lives. And life continues on: some joyous moments, some frustrating ones. In particular, Marlena's intended--Nat--is very angry that she's raising her niece. Because he feels that her sister died outside of the faith--outside of God's grace and mercy. And that her daughter has no place at all within the Amish community.

Readers don't just spend time with Marlena and her grandma, but, also a whole community. Some neighbors we get to know very well.

One of my favorite characters in fact, was Jake Bitner, or "Small Jay." I loved getting to know him and his cat Sassafras. I loved that parts of the book seemed to be from his point of view. He was so easy to love. On one of his walks, he meets a homeless man with memory issues. Sometimes he can't even remember his own name or if he has a family somewhere. But he does have a notebook, I believe, where he rights down what he can remember--when he can remember. He also has a stack of letters he carries with him that Jake reads aloud to him. This mystery of who this man is plays a big role in the novel. Readers also get to know Jake's mother, Ellie, very well.

I found the novel to be well-written and interesting. I liked the characterization. I liked the setting.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible