Tuesday, June 30, 2015

My Year With Spurgeon #26

Charles Spurgeon
2 Corinthians 5:21
This great book, the Bible, this most precious volume is the heart of God made legible; it is the gold of God’s love beaten out into leaf gold, so that therewith our thoughts might be plated, and we also might have golden, good, and holy thoughts concerning him. And you will mark that, as in nature so in grace, the most necessary is the most prominent. I see in God’s word a rich abundance of flowers of glorious eloquence; often I find a prophet marshalling his words like armies for might, and like kings for majesty. But far more frequently I read simple declarations of the truth. I see here and there a brilliant thought of beauty, but I find whole fields of plain didactic doctrine, which is food for the soul; and I find whole chapters full of Christ which is divine manna, whereon the soul doth feed. I see starry words to make the Scriptures brilliant, sweet thoughts to make them fair, great thoughts to make them impressive, terrible thoughts to make them awful; but necessary thoughts, instructive thoughts, saving thoughts, are far more frequent, because far more necessary.
First, THE DOCTRINE. There are three persons mentioned here. “He (that is God) hath made him (that is Christ) who knew no sin, to be sin for us (sinners) that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” Before we can understand the plan of salvation, it is necessary for us to know something about the three persons, and, certainly, unless we understand them in some measure, salvation is to us impossible.
Here is first, GOD. Let every man know what God is. God is a very different Being from what some of you suppose. The God of heaven and of earth — the Jehovah of Abraham, of Isaac and Jacob, Creator and Preserver, the God of Holy Scripture, and the God of all grace, is not the God that some men make unto themselves, and worship. There be men in this so called Christian land, who worship a god who is no more God than Venus or Bacchus! A god made after their own hearts; a god not fashioned out of stone or wood, but fashioned from their own thoughts, out of baser stuff than ever heathen attempted to make a god of. The God of Scripture has three great attributes, and they are all three implied in the text.
The God of Scripture is a sovereign God; that is, he is a God who has absolute authority, and absolute power to do exactly as he pleaseth. Over the head of God there is no law, upon his arm there is no necessity; he knoweth no rule but his own free and mighty will. And though he cannot be unjust, and cannot do anything but good, yet is his nature absolutely free; for goodness is the freedom of God’s nature. God is not to be controlled by the will of man, nor the desires of man, nor by fate in which the superstitious believe; he is God, doing as he willeth in the armies of heaven, and in this lower world. He is a God, too, who giveth no account of his matters; he makes his creatures just what he chooses to make them, and does with them just as he wills. This is the God of the Bible, this is the God whom we adore; no weak, pusillanimous God, who is controlled by the will of men, who cannot steer the bark of providence; but a God unalterable, infinite, unerring. This is the God we worship; a God as infinitely above his creatures, as the highest thought an fly; and higher still than that.
But, again, the God who is here mentioned, is a God of infinite justice. That he is a sovereign God, I prove from the words, that he hath made Christ to be sin. He could not have done it if he had not been sovereign. That he is a just God, I infer from my text; seeing that the way of salvation is a great plan of satisfying justice. And we now declare that the God of Holy Scripture is a God of inflexible justice; he is not the God whom some of you adore. You adore a god who winks at great sins; you believe in a god who calls your crimes peccadilloes and little faults. Some of you worship a god who does not punish sin; but who is so weakly merciful, and so mercilessly weak, that he passes by transgression and iniquity, and never enacts a punishment. You believe in a god, who, if man sins, does not demand punishment for his offense. You think that a few good works of your own will pacify him, that he is so weak a ruler, that a few good words uttered before him in prayer will win sufficient merit to reverse the sentence, if, indeed, you think he ever passes a sentence at all. Your god is no God; he is as much a false god as the god of the Greeks, or of ancient Nineveh. The God of Scripture is one who is inflexibly severe in justice, and will by no means clear the guilty.
The God of Scripture is a ruler, who, when his subjects rebel, marks their crime, and never forgives them until he has punished it, either upon them, or upon their substitute.
And one more thought here concerning God, or else we cannot establish our discourse upon a sure basis. The God who is here means, is a God of grace: think not that I am now contradicting myself. The God who is inflexibly severe, and never pardons sin without punishment, is yet a God of illimitable love. Although as a Ruler he will chastise, yet, as the Father-God, he loveth to bestow his blessing. “As I live, saith the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth; but had rather that he should turn unto me and live.” God is love in its highest degree. He is love rendered more than love. Love is not God, but God is love; he is full of grace, he is the plenitude of mercy, — he delighteth in mercy. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are his thoughts of love above our thoughts of despair; and his ways of grace above our ways of fear. This God, in whom these three great attributes harmonize — illimitable sovereignty, inflexible justice, and unfathomable grace — these three make up the main attributes of the one God of heaven and earth whom Christians worship.
The second person of our text is the Son of God — Christ, who knew no sin. He is the Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds: begotten, not made; being of the same substance with the Father, co-equal, co-eternal, and co-existent. Is the Father Almighty? So is the Son Almighty. Is the Father infinite? So is the Son infinite. He is very God of very God: having a dignity not inferior to the Father, but being equal to him in every respect, — God over all, blessed for evermore. Jesus Christ also, is the son of Mary, a man like unto ourselves. A man subject to all the infirmities of human nature, except the infirmities of sin; a man of suffering and of woe; of pain and trouble; of anxiety and fear; of trouble and of doubt; of temptation and of trial; of weakness and death. He is a man just as we are, bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh.
Of this God in Christ, our text says that he knew no sin. It does not say that he did not sin; that we know: but it says more than that; he did not know sin; he knew not what sin was. He saw it in others, but he did not know it by experience. He was a perfect stranger to it. It is not barely said, that he did not take sin into his heart; but, he did not know it. It was no acquaintance of his. He was the acquaintance of grief; but he was not the acquaintance of sin. He knew no sin of any kind, — no sin of thought, no sin of birth, no original, no actual transgression; no sin of lip, or of hand, did ever Christ commit.
The third person is the sinner. And where is he? Will you turn your eyes within you, and look for him, each one of you? He is not very far from you. 
I have introduced the persons, and now I must introduce you to a scene of a great exchange which is made according to the text. The third person whom we introduce is the prisoner at the bar. As a sinner, God, has called him before him, he is about to be tried for life or death. God is gracious, and he desires to save him; God is just, and he must punish him. The sinner is to be tried; if there be a verdict of guilty brought in against him, how will the two conflicting attributes work in God’s mind? He is loving, he wants to save him; he is just, he must destroy him! How shall this mystery be solved, and the riddle be solved? Prisoner at the bar, canst thou plead “Not Guilty?” He stands speechless; or, if he speaks, he cries, “I am Guilty!”
The text says, God “hath made him to be sin for us;” and inasmuch as Christ did stand in my room, place, and stead, he did not make the exchange unlawfully. It was with the full determinate counsel of Almighty God, as well as with his own consent, that Christ stood in the sinner’s place, as the sinner doth now in Christ’s place.
Old Martin Luther was a man for speaking a thing pretty plainly, and sometimes he spoke the truth so plainly that he made it look very much like a lie. In one of his sermons he said, “Christ was the greatest sinner that ever lived.” Now, Christ never was a sinner, but yet Martin was right. He meant to say, all the sins of Christ’s people were taken off them and put on Christ’s head, and so Christ stood in God’s sight as if he had been the greatest sinner that ever lived. He never was a sinner; he never knew sin; but good Martin, in his zeal to make men understand what it was, said, “Sinner, you became Christ; Christ, you became a sinner!” It is not quite the truth; the sinner is treated as if he were Christ, and Christ is treated as if he were the sinner. That is what is meant by the text God “hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”
I have punished Christ instead of him: that sinner is no sinner now — he is perfect. How? perfect! Perfect, because Christ was perfect, and I look upon him as if he were Christ. Though in himself all black as the gates of Kedar, I consider him to be fair as the curtains of Solomon. I make Christ the sinner, and I punish Christ; I make the sinner Christ, and I magnify and exalt him. And I will put a crown of pure gold upon his head, and by-and-bye, I will give him a place among them that are sanctified, where he shall, harp in hand, for ever praise the name of the Lord. This is the grand result to sinners of the great exchange. “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”
Thou thinkest God to be a God of wrath. Would he have given his own Son to be punished if he had hated thee? Sinner if God had anything but thoughts of love towards thee, I ask, would he have given up his Son to hang upon the cross? Think not my God a tyrant; think him not a wrathful God, destitute of mercy. His Son, torn from his bosom and given up to die, is the best proof of his love.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, June 29, 2015

Book Review: Packer on the Christian Life

Packer on the Christian Life. Sam Storms. 2015. Crossway. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Packer on the Christian Life is one of the books in Crossway's Theologians on the Christian Life series. It is the first in the series that focuses on a living theologian.

The first chapter serves as a biography and general introduction to J.I. Packer. Storms considers events in Packer's life that had the greatest impact on his life and led to him being one of the most influential theologians of the twentieth century. (Did you know that he was run over by a bread truck when he was seven? The head injury led him to wearing an aluminum plate over the injury, kept him out of sports--and a more social life--and most likely encouraged him to keep to himself and read, read, read. Instead of the bicycle he wanted, he got a typewriter.) The chapter also focuses on his conversion and Christian influences. (For example, Packer's discovery of the Puritans which would have a huge impact on him and his own work.) The chapter concludes with the briefest of overviews of Packer's own writings.

The remaining chapters--chapters two through twelve--focus on various aspects of Packer's theology.

The Central Reference Point for Christian Living: Atonement
Authority for Christian Living: The Role of the Bible
The Shape of Christian Living: What Is Holiness?
The Process of Christian Living: The Meaning and Means of Sanctification
The Struggle of Christian Living: The Battle with Indwelling Sin
The Catalyst for Christian Living: The Person of the Holy Spirit
Power for Christian Living: The Necessity of Prayer
Guidance in Christian Living: Discerning the Will of God
The Cauldron of Christian Living: The Inevitability of Suffering
The Hub of Christian Living: Theocentricity 
The Conclusion of Christian Living: How To End Well

As you can see, the topics are all excellent, all essential, all relevant. These are topics that every one of us could benefit from reading and applying. The more we understand these foundational aspects of the Christian life, the greater our response to God. In other words, growing in understanding can lead us to being more thankful, more in awe, loving and glorying more and more in God.

If you've never read any of J.I. Packer's books, Storms book is an excellent introduction. He covers these topics well. He's able to clearly summarize Packer's theology, and his work is enriched with plenty of Packer's own words. He quotes from most of Packer's best-known books.

If you have read J.I. Packer, you're still in for a treat. Storms does a good job illustrating just why Packer's books are so great, so worth-reading, so timeless and influential. He will make you want to pick up Packer again. To reread those books you've already read. To seek out those you still haven't gotten to yet.

I loved this one. I did. It is easy to recommend this one.

As far as Packer is concerned, there is but one explanation for why there is such a thing as Christian living. It is found in this singular truth: Jesus Christ died for sinners! Nothing in this book or in the theology of J. I. Packer makes sense apart from the fact that God the Son endured and satisfied the wrath of God the Father in the place of sinners who otherwise merit eternal damnation.
What did Christ’s death accomplish? It redeemed us to God— purchased us at a price, that is, from captivity to sin for the freedom of life with God (Tit 2: 14; Rev 5: 9). How did it do that? By being a blood-sacrifice for our sins (Eph 1: 7; Heb 9: 11– 15). How did that sacrifice have its redemptive effect? By making peace, achieving reconciliation, and so ending enmity between God and ourselves (Rom 5: 10; 2 Cor 5: 18– 20; Eph 2: 13– 16; Col 1: 19– 20). How did Christ’s death make peace? By being a propitiation, an offering appointed by God himself to dissolve his judicial wrath against us by removing our sins from his sight (Rom 3: 25; Heb 2: 17; 1 Jn 2: 2; 4: 10). How did the Savior’s self-sacrifice have this propitiatory effect? By being a vicarious enduring of the retribution declared due to us by God’s own law (Gal 3: 13; Col 2: 13– 14)— in other words, by penal substitution. ~ J.I. Packer
At the heart of Packer’s view of biblical authority is his insistence that we never think of Scripture statically but dynamically, that is to say, not merely as something that was spoken or recorded centuries ago but also as something God is saying today. The Bible speaks not merely to men in general but also to each particular person who reads or hears it in the present moment. Thus “Holy Scripture should be thought of as God preaching— God preaching to me every time I read or hear any part of it— God the Father preaching God the Son in the power of God the Holy Spirit.”
Packer often reminds us that the Christian life is more than merely a physical journey from the cradle to the grave. It is also, and more importantly, an inner spiritual journey into the knowledge of God and Christ. The proper and more biblically grounded course direction is into ever-increasing conformity to Jesus himself, to live and think and feel and act and react as he did. Jesus is himself the perfect man, the one in whom the image of God is most completely embodied, and our holiness is authentic only to the degree that we are progressively reshaped to resemble him in all ways. Thus, the aim for our lives must be his righteousness in us: his love for the unlovely, his humility in place of pride, his self-denial as over against self-seeking; wisdom and boldness and self-control, together with faithfulness to the Father and strength under pressure— these, says Packer, are among the “good works” (Eph. 2:10) for which we have been both created and, by new birth, re-created of the Spirit.
Simply put, if you don’t know God, you can’t pray to him, or at least not with any measurable degree of effectiveness. Knowing God— his character, personality, and patterns of behavior, together with how he thinks and feels and reacts— is the one thing that will make prayer a joy and a delight rather than religious drudgery. Packer would certainly agree that every problem in prayer is traceable to a misconception about God. If we pray less than we should, or not at all, it is probably because we are deficient in our knowledge of the true and living God. How we perceive God controls how we speak to him. Who we understand God to be will always control what we ask him to do.
Meditating on the Bible is absolutely essential for genuine and long-lasting Christian growth. We must soak our souls in Scripture until, as Spurgeon put it, “our blood is bibline.” We must also “traverse the Bible in terms of overall images of its nature as God’s communication to us, and of our due response as recipients of his messages. Images affect our imagination, and imagination is the midwife, if not the mother, of insight.” A typical lectio meditation might involve four steps. It begins with the reading aloud of a sentence or a paragraph of the biblical text. The reading should be slow, as one has opportunity to taste and enjoy the goodness of God revealed. It often helps to read the passage several times, perhaps with a slightly different emphasis each time through. The second step brings us back to the notion of meditation (meditatio) or brooding over the text. Here one ponders each word, each phrase, each image, all the while asking: What is God saying or doing? What is he asking of me? How should my life be different in light of this truth? How might I respond with humility and vulnerability to what God is showing me? The third step, says Packer, is oratio, or responding verbally to God by praying the passage itself or rephrasing it in the form of petition or praise or intercession. Lastly comes contemplatio, or contemplation, a time of peacefully resting in God, waiting in silence in the divine presence with alert, hopeful expectancy. A new sharpness of focus on something may not be given, but then again it may. Practicing lectio divina takes time, perhaps thirty minutes to an hour for a single verse. But this slow prayerful reading of God’s Word engages the mind and the heart with a refreshing force that the brisk march would easily miss.
Reading Packer is a wake-up call to anyone who may erroneously conclude that Christianity is little more than a worldview or religious philosophy or a commitment to embrace the ethics of Jesus in daily life. The essence of Christianity is neither a set of beliefs nor a pattern of behavior. It is “the communion here and now with Christianity’s living founder, the Mediator, Jesus Christ.”

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, June 28, 2015

True or False with A.W. Tozer

It's time for another round of TRUE OR FALSE featuring the quotes of A.W. Tozer. Two things you should know.

First, all of the quotes are about entertainment and society.

Second, all of the quotes originally date from 1950 to 1955.

So the original audience is several decades past, but, are the quotes still relevant or perhaps more relevant than ever? Does he go too far in his condemnation? Is there any truth in what he says? And what can we take away from his words of warning, if anything?

1) True or False:
A German philosopher many years ago said something to the effect that the more a man has in his own heart the less he will require from the outside; excessive need for support from without is proof of the bankruptcy of the inner man. If this is true (and I believe it is), then the present inordinate attachment is evidence that the inner life of modern man is in serious decline. The average man has no central core of moral assurance, no spring within his own breast, no inner strength to place him above the need for repeated psychological shots to give him the courage to go on living. He has become a parasite on the world, drawing his life from his environment, unable to live a day apart from the stimulation which society affords him.
2) True or False:
For there are millions who cannot live without amusement; life without some form of entertainment for them is simply intolerable; they look forward to the blessed relief afforded by professional entertainers and other forms of psychological narcotics as a dope addict looks to his daily shot of heroin. Without them they could not summon the courage to face existence.
3) True or False:
The all-out devotion to entertainment as a major activity for which and by which men live is definitely something else again. The abuse of a harmless thing is the essence of sin. The growth of the amusement phase of human life to such fantastic proportions is a portent, a threat to the souls of modern man. It has been built into a multimillion dollar racket with greater power over human minds and human character than any other educational influence on earth.
4) True or False:
For centuries the Church stood solidly against every form of worldly entertainment, recognizing it for what it was--a device for wasting time, a refuge from the disturbing voice of conscience, a scheme to divert attention from moral accountability. For this she got herself abused roundly by the sons of this world. But of late she has become tired of the abuse and has gotten over the struggle. She appears to have decided that if she cannot conquer the great god Entertainment she may as well join forces with him and make what use she can of his powers. So today we have the astonishing spectacle of millions of dollars being poured into the unholy job of providing earthly entertainment for the so-called sons of heaven. Religious entertainment is in many places rapidly crowding out the serious things of God.  
 5) True or False:
"Gospel" boogie singing now furnishes for many persons the only religious joy they know. Others wipe their eyes tenderly over "gospel" movies, and a countless number of amusements flourish everywhere, paid for by the consecrated tithes of persons who ought to know better. For multitudes of professed Christians today the Holy Spirit is not a necessity. They have learned to cheer their hearts and warm their hands at other fires. And scores of publishers and various grades of "producers" are waxing fat on their delinquency.
These quotes come from several chapters within The Root of the Righteous. Can you see why some of these caught my attention?! Was Tozer being too harsh? Were his observations true then? Are his observations true now? Tozer makes very little--if any--distinction between worldly entertainment and Christian entertainment. He condemns both as dangerous--if consumed recklessly, thoughtlessly. And he seems even more angry at the idea of Christian entertainment. I have no clue as to what "Christian entertainment" was in the 1950s. So I'm not sure if his statements were fair then or not. But is there any truth in his assessment that we can use to evaluate Christian entertainment now?

I invite your comments and insight!

I'll work my way backwards. Tozer was concerned--if concerned is the right word--that the Holy Spirit was being replaced by Christian entertainment. That Christians were getting worked up--"moved" emotionally--not by the Spirit but by the entertaining music. That the joy of the Spirit was being replaced by the emotional joy or thrill of a song. Is there some truth in this? I don't want there to be any truth in this honestly. But is there some danger present? Could worship in churches be leaning more towards entertainment than actual worship? If there is some truth in this--is it the music's fault? Or is more a matter of people misusing it? Consider also Christian music in general--outside the church. Is your only "dose" of God for the day coming from Christian music? Is Christian music the only place you're getting "fed" truth and theology? I could see how if it's your only source, that could be problematic, in need of correction. But should the misuse of it by some lead to general condemnation of all? I say no. But I think discernment is important. Also balance.

It is easier for me to be in agreement with the fourth statement: Religious entertainment is in many places rapidly crowding out the serious things of God. I do think that in some cases entertainment and the need to "bring them in" and "keep them in" outweighs the need to consistently, accurately proclaim the whole truth of God. Not every single church in every single denomination, of course. But I do agree the focus should be on God--and his glory--and not on entertainment and pleasing ourselves.

The third statement I think definitely has some truth--as painful as it is. No one particularly wants to admit that "the abuse of a harmless thing is the essence of sin." But how we spend our time does effect us: spiritually, emotionally, physically, mentally. God is with us. Always. That is a blessed privilege. Are we wasting our time and filling it with things that can never satisfy us? Tozer also wrote: "Some things may be neglected with but little loss to the spiritual life, but to neglect communion with God is to hurt ourselves where we cannot afford it. God will respond to our efforts to know Him. The Bible tells us how; it is altogether a matter of how much determination we bring to the holy task."

The first and second statements are harsh in tone. But harsh or not, is there a bit of truth there? How dependent are we on entertainment? on technology? on social media?  on having something to entertain and amuse us all the time? something to fill all our moments? Do we want to avoid being alone with our thoughts? Do we avoid the serious and the real and always seek escape? How can we focus on the serious things of God if we are always trapped in the trivial moments?

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Week in Review: June 21-27

A rejection, or in Scripture’s strong language, a crucifixion of the natural self is the passport to everlasting life. Nothing that has not died will be resurrected. ~ C.S. Lewis
Our uncrucified flesh will rob us of purity of heart, Christ-likeness of character, spiritual insight, fruitfulness; and more than all, it will hide from us the vision of God's face, that vision which has been the light of earth and will be the completeness of heaven. ~ A.W. Tozer

  • Psalm 107-150

NIV UK Audio Bible

  • 1 Kings


  • John 


  • Jeremiah 6-42


  • John


  • John 1-8

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Book Review: The Message of The General Epistles

The Message of the General Epistles: Wisdom from James, Peter, John, and Jude. Brandon D. Crowe. 2015. P&R Publishing. 240 pages.

I enjoyed reading The Message of the General Epistles in the History of Redemption. And I enjoyed taking my time doing so. By taking my time, I was able to absorb its message better.

Crowe's book focuses on the general epistles of the New Testament: 1 and 2 Peter, 1, 2, and 3 John, Jude, and James. Two chapters focus on 1 Peter. Two chapters focus on 2 Peter. One chapter focuses on Jude. Two chapters focus on John's epistles. One chapter focuses on James.

I'll be honest. My two favorite chapters are "This Is Love: Salvation in John's Letters" and "That You May Know: Schisms and Assurance in John's Letters." I adore 1 John. It happened to be the first book I read the MacArthur way--30 days in a row!

The topics covered in The Message of the General Epistles in the History of Redemption are essential and relevant. Crowe has selected key themes from each epistle to focus on. He examines verse-by-verse--or so it seems--the verses that cover that topic or theme. One gets a good impression of what the book is about and why your understanding of it matters. I would definitely recommend this one. It isn't quite a commentary; I find it a bit more reader-friendly than a commentary.

Election is an eminently practical doctrine that should cause us to look outside ourselves to the priority of God's action in salvation--action that God took even before we were born! God's election is not based on anything good we have done or will do, but is solely because of God's good pleasure. And the good news is that we are chosen in Christ, the Beloved Son, and through faith in him we are granted the privilege of becoming beloved children of God (cf. Ephesians 1:4-6)
This brings us to a very practical question: how do we know whether we are elect? One way is by asking whether we love the things God loves. Do we love Jesus? Do we look to him in faith as our only hope of salvation? Do we seek to honor him and follow his commandments? Do we mourn over and repent of our sins? These are some indications of election. There is no love more precious, no word more reassuring, than to know that God has purposed to choose us in Christ before the foundation of the world--even if the world itself thinks we are no better than scalawags. We may be exiles, but we are elect exiles.
Our conversations about the teachings of the Bible should be seasoned with equal parts truth and gentleness. The stereotype for many is that Christians are bigoted and intolerant. Yet Christians should be the most courteous and respectful in discussions, even when we disagree with the views of others. We should never call names, label others unfairly, or use incendiary language just because we encounter people who may disagree with biblical teaching. Instead, we should be humble and respectful to all, even those who may firmly hold different views on hot-button issues. Let us speak the truth, but always with love and respect. 
Our only hope for escaping the wrath of God is to trust in Christ as our substitute who bore the penalty of our sin and grants us his righteous status before God. But we dare not call him "Lord, Lord" and despise his Word to us (Luke 6:46).
Eternal life is not something that is dispensed in passing as if from a drive-through window, irrespective of one's ongoing relationship with Jesus. 

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, June 26, 2015

Summer Goal: Reading John 30 Times

One of my goals for this summer is to read the gospel of John thirty times. I enjoy using MacArthur's method for reading the New Testament. But I'll be adjusting it a bit to fit my needs. I will not be reading  John 1-7 for a month, John 8-14 for a month, John 15-21 for a month. I'll be reading the gospel in its entirety each time before repeating. It generally takes me two to three days to read John, though I have read it in one sitting several times in the past.

1. KJV
2. ESV, Gospel Transformation
3. GNT
4. NEB
5. RSV
6. NIV
7. ESV
10. NLT
11. NASB
12. REB
13. MEV
14. Living
15. ERV (English Revised Version, 1885)
16. NKJV
17. RSV
18. HCSB
19. Living
20. J.B. Phillips
21. NCV
22. NIV Audio
23. NKJV
24. Living
25. KJV
26. HCSB
27. ESV
28. NIV
29. KJV Audio
30. NKJV

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Book Review: The Root of the Righteous

The Root of the Righteous: Tapping The Bedrock of True Spirituality. A.W. Tozer. 1955/2015. Moody Publishers. 192 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: One marked difference between the faith of our fathers as conceived by the fathers and the same faith as understood and lived by their children is that the fathers were concerned with the root of the matter, while their present day descendants seem concerned only with the fruit.

The Root of the Righteous remains one of my favorite books by A.W. Tozer. (I've reviewed 22 Tozer books to give you some perspective.) Why do I keep reading Tozer? Why would I recommend him to others? Because I find that even though these sermons were preached decades ago, his messages remain relevant. He has a fiery way of speaking--or writing. He's zealous for the Lord and for the things of the Lord. He's not timid in issuing challenges to believers. His love for God is evident in every book of his that I've ever read. And that love for God is matched for his love of the truth as revealed in the Word of God. There is nothing casual about how Tozer treats the Bible or the God that Bible reveals. His books urge readers--believers--to take God seriously, to pick up the Word of God for themselves, to trust and obey. Tozer reminds his readers that how they live matters, and they need to be growing in knowledge and holiness. I would describe Tozer as a devotional theologian. That is, his writings may read like a devotional, but, they have great depth and substance.

What does a Christian life look like? How should we live as Christians in this world? How should we spend our time? What should matter to us? The Root of the Righteous addresses how believers should live their lives. Many, many subjects are covered within these 46 chapters.

Tozer challenges believers in their complacency, in their laziness. Seek God, seek more of Him always, grow in your faith, don't be satisfied to remain where you are, never settle! Take God seriously! Live your creed--as if you actually believe what you say you do.

Favorite quotes:
The Christian is strong or weak depending upon how closely he has cultivated the knowledge of God.
Progress in the Christian life is exactly equal to the growing knowledge we gain of the Triune God in personal experience. And such experience requires a whole life devoted to it and plenty of time spent at the holy task of cultivating God. God can be known satisfactorily only as we devote time to Him.
We please Him most, not by frantically trying to make ourselves good, but by throwing ourselves into His arms with all our imperfections, and believing that He understands everything and loves us still.  
To many Christians Christ is little more than an idea, or at best an ideal; He is not a fact. Millions of professed believers talk as if He were real and act as if He were not. And always our actual position is to be discovered by the way we act, not by the way we talk. We can prove our faith by our committal to it and in no other way. Any belief that does not command the one who holds it is not a real belief.
In every Christian's heart there is a cross and a throne, and the Christian is on the throne till he puts himself on the cross; if he refuses the cross he remains on the throne. Perhaps this is at the bottom of the backsliding and worldliness among gospel believers today. We want to be saved but we insist that Christ do all the dying. No cross for us, no dethronement, no dying.
The chapter titles:

  • The Root of the Righteous
  • We Must Give Time to God
  • God is Easy to Live With
  • Listen to the Man Who Listens to God
  • We Must Hear Worthily
  • That Utilitarian Christ
  • On Receiving Admonition
  • The Great God Entertainment
  • Bible Taught or Spirit Taught?
  • The Terror of the Lord
  • No Regeneration without Reformation
  • Faith is a Perturbing Thing
  • True Faith Brings Committal
  • The Great Disparity
  • Our Enemy Contentment
  • Christ is the Pattern
  • The Cross is a Radical Thing
  • We Must Die If We Would Live
  • Christ Died For Our Hearts
  • We Stand in Christ's Triumph
  • To Be or To Do
  • Make Room for Mystery
  • The Whole Life Must Pray
  • No Saviorhood without Lordship
  • "A Sweet Lute, Sweetly Played"
  • The All-Importance of Motive
  • The Presence More Important Than the Program
  • The World's Most Tragic Waste
  • The Hunger of the Wilderness
  • Our Fruit Will Be What We Are
  • Needed: A Baptism of Clear Seeing
  • Narrow Mansions
  • The Sanctification of Our Desires
  • In Praise of Disbelief
  • Thankfulness As A Moral Therapeutic
  • Understanding Those Dry Spells
  • About Hindrances
  • The Uses of Suffering
  • Praise God for the Furnace
  • Victory in the Guise of Defeat
  • Love of the Unseen is Possible
  • Something Beyond Song
  • Three Degrees of Love
  • We Need Cool Heads
  • We Can Afford to Wait
  • God, the First and the Last

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Quotes from the Cloud #25

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.
If you do not know the road to hell and the road to heaven from the Bible itself, you would never know it at all. No book could be more clear, no revelation more distinct, no testimony more plain. And since without the agency of the Spirit, these testimonies are insufficient for salvation, it follows that no further declaration would avail. ~ Charles Spurgeon, "A Preacher From The Dead," 1857
If it were possible to see into a person’s heart, nothing would be more ridiculous than seeing the thoughts of a cold, undevoted heart in prayer. When someone forgets what they just said, they aren’t praying a good prayer. Praise God that I now understand this clearly. In true prayer, one remembers all the words and thoughts from the beginning to the end of the prayer. ~ Martin Luther, Faith Alone, June 16
Our sin is covered by the purity and innocence of Christ, which we receive when we hear and believe God’s Word. We should keep in mind, though, that this purity comes completely from outside ourselves. In other words, Christ clothes us with his own perfection. If we look at Christians apart from Christ and see them as they really are, we would notice how much they are contaminated by sin. Even if they were fine people, we would see not only that they’re thoroughly contaminated, but also that they’re covered over with a thick, dark film of sin. If someone tried to separate us from Christ and take away our baptism and God’s promises, we would no longer have Christ’s purity. We would be left with nothing but sin. So when someone asks you, “If sin always sticks to people, how can they be washed so clean that they are whiter than snow?”you can answer, “We should view people, not as they are on their own, but as they are in Christ.” ~ Martin Luther, June 19
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Book Review: The Underestimated Gospel

The Underestimated Gospel, edited by Jonathan Leeman. 2014. B&H Publishing. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy]

The Underestimated Gospel is a collection of sermons from the Together for the Gospel (T4G) 2012 conference. The theme was "The Underestimated Gospel." The book features contributions from R. Albert Mohler Jr, Thabiti Anyabwile, David Platt, Kevin DeYoung, Mark Dever, C.J. Mahaney, Matt Chandler, John Piper, and J. Ligon Duncan III. The book also features eight testimonies.

The book is divided into four sections highlighting the power of the gospel, power for the church, power for the pastor, and the power of God.

The sermons:

  • The Power of the Articulated Gospel by R. Albert Mohler Jr. (watch)
  • Can Your Gospel Transform a Terrorist? by Thabiti Anyabwile (watch)
  • Divine Sovereignty: The Fuel of Death-Defying Missions by David Platt (watch)
  • Spirit-Powered, Gospel-Driven, Faith-Fueled Effort by Kevin DeYoung (watch)
  • False Conversions: The Suicide of the Church by Mark Dever (watch)
  • When a Pastor Loses Heart by C.J. Mahaney (watch)
  • Hope and Fulfillment of the Gospel by Matt Chandler (watch)
  • Glory, Majesty, Dominion, and Authority Keep Us Safe for Everlasting Joy by John Piper (watch)
  • The Underestimated God by J. Ligon Duncan III (watch)

The testimonies:

  • Mezz McConnell
  • Hezekiah Harshit Singh
  • Matthias Lohmann
  • John Joseph
  • William "Trip Lee" Barefield III
  • Sonia Jenkins
  • George Paz
  • John Folmar

Together the sermons and testimonies celebrate the gospel, and celebrate our gracious God!!! I enjoyed reading this sermon collection.

Favorite quotes:
Christian, feel the weight and wonder of this. God purposed to save you. Christ purposed to purchase you. Amidst your weakness, amidst your struggles, amidst your suffering, amidst trying moments in your family, amidst conflicts in the church, and amidst days that you want to quit, don't forget this: Before the sun was ever formed, before a star was ever placed in the sky, before mountains were ever laid upon the earth, before oceans were ever poured upon the land, Almighty God set his sights on your soul. And he sent his Son, according to the purpose of his sovereign will, to purchase you for him. That's a graciously particular atonement. (David Platt, 70)
Our preaching will be greatly helped if we remember to preach not just the content but the mood of the text. You cannot assume that everyone in your church needs a kick in the pants or that everyone in your church needs a hug. You have to preach the text. Let the sweet texts sing sweetly and let the stern warnings sound stern. You have to pray for the Spirit to work and give each person just what they need. Give them grace every week, without fail, without exception. But make sure it is the grace that saves a wretch like me and the grace that leads us home. (Kevin DeYoung, 106)
If we deny or just ignore God's role as judge of this world, then people will follow their own evil desires. And it is comparatively easy to fill a church by ignoring this truth, drawing people instead with one reason or another. But beware this temptation. Avoiding the doctrine of hell is one step away from denying it all together. (Mark Dever, 120)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

My Year with Spurgeon #25

A Simple Sermon for Seeking Souls
Charles Spurgeon
Romans 10:13
It is proper, then, that the preacher should address himself to his hearers sometimes as if they were totally ignorant of his message, and tell it to them as a new thing, going over the whole of it as if he believed them to be ignorant of it; it is better to suppose too little knowledge, and so to explain the thing clearly, to the meanest comprehension, than to suppose too much, and thus to let the ignorant escape without a word of instruction.
I try in the simplest words that human lips can put together to tell out the story of how men are lost, and how men are saved according to the words of my text by calling upon the name of the Lord.
Well then, we must begin at the beginning. And we must first tell our hearers, that inasmuch as our text talks of men being saved, it implies that men need saving, and we tell them that if men had been as God created them, they would have needed no saving. Adam in the garden wanted no salvation, he was perfect, pure, clean, holy, and acceptable before God. He was our representative, he stood as the representative for all the race, and when he touched the forbidden fruit, and ate of the tree of which God had said, “Thou shalt not eat thereof, or thou shalt surely die.” When he so transgressed against God, he needed a Savior and we, his offspring through his sin, are born into this world, each of us needing a Savior. We, who are now present, must not however throw blame on Adam; no man was ever yet damned for Adam's sin alone. Children dying in infancy are, without doubt, saved by sovereign grace through the atonement which is in Christ Jesus. No sooner do they close their eyes to earth than being innocent of any actual sin they at once open them on the bliss of heaven. But you and I are not children. We need not talk just now of Adam's sins. We have our own to a count for, and God knoweth they are enough.
Holy Scripture tells us that we all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God, and conscience beareth witness to the same truth. We have all broken the great commands of God, and in consequence thereof the just God is bound in justice to punish us for the sins we have committed. Now, my brethren, it is because you and I have broken the divine law, and are subject to the divine wrath, that we stand in need of mercy. Every one of us therefore — every one of us if we would be happy, if we would dwell in heaven with God for ever, must be saved.
But there is great confusion in the minds of men as to what being saved is. Allow me, then, just to say, that salvation means two things. It means in the first place, our escaping from the punishment of sins committed; and it means in the next place, the escaping from the habit of sin, so that in future we shall not live as we have lived. The way in which God saves you is twofold: he finds man a sinner breaking his law, he says, “I forgive you, I will not punish you. I have punished Christ instead of you — you shall be saved.” But that is only half the work. He says in the next place — ”Man, I will not let you go on sinning as you have been wont to do; I will give you a new heart, which shall subdue your evil habits. So that whereas you have been the slave of sin, you shall be free to serve me. Come away, you are not going to serve that black master of your’s any more, you must leave that demon, I will have you to be my child, my servant.
Salvation, then, I say, consists of two things — deliverance on the one hand from the habit of living in enmity with God; and, on the other hand, from the punishment annexed to transgression.
The great subject of this morning, which I shall attempt to dwell upon in very plain language; attempting no flights of oratory whatever — is, how men may be saved. That is the one great question. Let them remember what to be saved is. It is to be made Christians, to have new thoughts, new minds new hearts, and then, it is to have a new home for ever at God’s right hand in bliss. How may they be saved? “What must I do to be saved?” is a cry springing from many lips here this morning. The answer of my text is this — “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
What is faith? What is believing? What is calling upon the name of the Lord? In order to get the true sense of this, I turned to my concordance, and looked out the passages where the same word is employed; and, so far as I can judge, I may state from the authority of Scripture, that the word “call” signifies worship, so that I might translate it thus — “Whosoever worships God shall be saved.” But you must let me explain that word “worship” according to the Scripture signfication of it which must be received, in order to explain the word “call.”
To call upon the name of the Lord, in the first place, signifies to worship God. You will find in the book of Genesis that, “when men began to multiply upon the face of the earth, then began men to call upon the name of the Lord.”
Now, whosoever— whoever he may be in the wide, wide world, who is enabled by grace to worship God, in God's way, shall be saved. If you worship him by a Mediator, having faith in the atonement of the cross, if you worship him by humble prayer and hearty praise, your worship is a proof that you shall be saved. You could not thus worship, unless you had grace within your heart, and your faith and grace are a proof that you shall have glory.
But lest any man should run away with a mistaken idea of what worship is, we must just explain a little further. The word “call,” in holy Scripture meaning, signifies prayer. Now, prayer is a sure sign of divine life within. Whosoever prayeth to God through Christ, with sincere prayer shall be saved.
Sinner, thou canst not pray and perish; prayer and perishing are two things that never go together. I ask you not what your prayer is; it may be a groan, it may be a tear, a wordless prayer, or a prayer in broken English, ungrammatical and harsh to the ear: but if it be a prayer from the inmost heart, thou shalt be saved; or else this promise is a lie.
But the word “call” signifies a little more, it signifies trust. A man cannot call upon the name of the Lord, unless he trusts in that name. We must have reliance upon the name of Christ, or else we have not called aright. Hear me, then, poor tried sinner; thou hast come here this morning sensible of thy guilt, awakened to thy danger; here is thy remedy. Christ Jesus the Son of God, became a man; he was “born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried.” He did this to save sinners such as thou art. Wilt thou believe this? Wilt thou trust thy soul to it? Wilt thou say “Sink or swim, Christ Jesus is my hope; and if I perish I will perish with my arms around his cross, crying — ‘Nothing in my hands I bring Simply to the cross I cling?’” Thou art nothing; wilt thou take Christ to be everything?
Calling on the name of the Lord signifies professing his name.
Men cannot call upon a God they do not know. The necessity of a preacher lies in telling what the way of salvation is, for how can they hear without a preacher, and how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? But the preacher’s office goes no further than just the telling of the message, and after we have told it, God, the Holy Spirit, must apply it; for further we cannot go.
All you want to know to get to heaven is the two things that begin with S. — Sin and Savior. Do you feel your sin? Christ is your Savior trust to him pray to him; and as sure as you are here now, and I am talking to you, you will one day be in heaven.
No man ever called on Christ's name yet who was not elected. That doctrine of election which puzzles many and frightens more, never need do so. If you believe, you are elect, if you call on the name of Christ you are elect, if you feel yourself to be a sinner, and put your trust in Christ you are elect.
God does not choose men, and then cast them away; he does not elect them, and then cast them into the pit. Now, you are elect, you could not have called if you had not been elected your election is the cause of your calling, and inasmuch as you have called, and do call upon the name of God, you are God's elect. And from his book not death nor hell can ever erase your name. ‘Tis an omnipotent decree. Jehovah's will be done! His chosen must be saved, though earth and hell oppose, his strong hand shall break their ranks, and lead his people through. You are one of these people. You shall at last stand before his throne, and see his smiling face in glory ever lasting, because you are elect.
If thou callest upon the name of the Lord thou shalt be saved, because thou art redeemed. Christ has bought thee, and paid for thee, poured out the hottest of his heart’s blood to buy thy ransom, split his heart, and riven it to splinters to buy thy soul from wrath. Thou art a bought one, thou knowest it not, but I see the blood-mark on thy brow. If thou callest on his name though thou hast as yet no comfort, yet Christ has called thee his own.
I can never bring my mind to the unrighteous idea that Christ was punished for a man, and that such a man will be punished again. I never could see how Christ could stand in a man's stead and be punished for him, and yet that man be punished again. No, inasmuch as thou callest on God's name there is proof that Christ is thy ransom. Come, rejoice! If he was punished, God's justice cannot demand a double vengeance, first, at the bleeding Surety's hands and then again at thine. Come, soul put thine hand upon the Saviour's head, and say “Blest Jesus, thou wast punished for me.” Oh, God, I am not afraid of thy vengeance. When my hand is on the atonement, smite, but thou must smite me through thy Son.
“In my Father's house,” says Christ, “there are many mansions,” and there is one there for you. Christ has prepared a house and a crown, from before the foundation of the world, for all them that believe. Come! dost thou think Christ will prepare a house, and not carry the inhabitant there? Will he make crowns, and then lose the heads that are to wear them! God forbid! Turn thine eye towards heaven. There is a seat there that must be filled, and must be filled by thee; there is a crown there that must be worn, and must be worn by thee. Oh! be of good cheer: heavens preparation shall not be too abundant, he shall make room for those that believe, and because he hath made that room those that believe shall come there.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Week in Review: June 14-20


  • Deuteronomy
  • Jeremiah 1-5
  • Philippians


  • John 8-21

New English Bible

  • 2 Samuel
  • 1 Corinthians 


  • Psalm 34-106


  • John

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Quotes from the Cloud #24

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.
Prayer is a sincere, sensible, affectionate pouring out of the heart or soul to God, through Christ, in the strength and assistance of the Holy Spirit, for such things as God has promised, or according to His Word, for the good of the church, with submission in faith to the will of God. ~ John Bunyan
Prayer is the chief exercise of our faith. ~ John Calvin
To Be Near Unto God” means such nearness to God as to see him with the eyes, to be aware of his presence in the heart, to hear him with the ear, and to have every barrier removed that thus far kept him aloof. “To Be Near Unto God” means to be near him in one of two ways: either to feel as though we were caught up into heaven, or as though God had come down to us in our loneliness, sorrow or joy. The very word “near” implies that there is much that separates us from God, and makes us solitary. When God is far away from us and we from him, it makes us desolate. It also implies that we are not contented; that we can not endure it; that our whole heart goes out after him, and will not rest until the last barrier is removed. For only when God is near unto us and we are near unto him is there blessedness again, which nothing can exceed, since it is unspeakably good “To Be Near Unto God.” This exceeding blessedness can only be enjoyed at rare moments here, but in the life to come it shall endure. For in the Father’s house above, we shall be near unto God forever and forever. ~ Abraham Kuyper, "It Is Good For Me To Be Near Unto God" 

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Book Review: Why We Pray (2015)

Why We Pray. William Philip. 2015. Crossway. 112 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I absolutely LOVED, LOVED, LOVED William Philip's Why We Pray. The book may be short--just a little over a hundred pages--but it is PACKED with rich truths from Scripture. Philip was able to pack a lot of insight and wisdom into the four chapters of this book, he kept it concise and reader-friendly.

Early on in the book, Philip mentions what he didn't want his book on prayer to be: another depressing book on prayer. He'd heard enough depressing sermons "exhorting" listeners to pray more, to pray better, to pray harder. Instead, he wanted his book to place the emphasis on God--on the relationship between God and believers, that prayer is merely the expression of that relationship. Philip shares with his readers FOUR reasons why we pray, he devotes one reason per chapter. He ends each chapter with discussion questions. These are good questions.

  • We Pray Because God Is A Speaking God
  • We Pray Because We Are Sons of God
  • We Pray Because God is a Sovereign God
  • We Pray Because We Have the Spirit of God

Why We Pray is an excellent book on prayer, and a great reminder of what the gospel is all about.

Favorite questions:
We learn most about prayer simply by learning about God. What truths have you learned about God that have impacted your prayer life? What spiritual disciplines do you practice that help your prayer life?
Philip writes, “Don’t think about yourself when you’re thinking about prayer; think about the Lord Jesus Christ. Think about how faithful he is— always, always, always— for you.” What starts to happen to your prayer life when you think about yourself too much? What happens to your prayer life when you think only about Jesus?

Favorite quotes:
Prayer is responding to Jesus. We can pray because God is a speaking God, because we have been created to respond to him, and because through Jesus Christ we have been redeemed that we might again respond to him.
Jesus is not only God’s ultimate word to man but also man’s ultimate word of response to God.
Your prayers and mine will not be heard by God because of our sincerity but because of our status. We are sons of God, which means that God cannot not hear us. We are his sons. That’s gospel truth. He can’t not hear your prayers if you are in Christ. If we don’t feel that at times, if it doesn’t feel like it’s true, it’s simply because we are disbelieving the gospel that teaches it plainly to us. We are disbelieving our status as justified before God. We are disbelieving the reality of the legal status of adoption that is ours through faith in Jesus Christ. It really is ours; it has changed everything.
Thinking about what God does and who God is, is always far more encouraging than thinking about ourselves, about what we aren’t, about what we don’t do and what we should do more of.
Real gospel prayer always thinks God’s thoughts after him. It has God’s goal in view. That means we have to ask ourselves practical questions about where our prayer focus is. Whose thoughts are we thinking when we pray?
To speak about prayer is to speak about the ministry of the Holy Spirit of Jesus within people. It is all about his ministry for us, his ministry in us, and his ministry to us.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

My Year with Spurgeon #24

Christ Lifted Up
Charles Spurgeon
John 12:32

We have three things to notice. Christ crucified, Christ’'s glory. He calls it a lifting him up. Christ crucified, the minister'’s theme. It is the minister’'s business to lift Christ up in the gospel. Christ crucified, the heart'’s attraction. “I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me.” His own glory; —the minister’'s theme; the heart'’s attraction.
Now, the cross of Christ is Christ’'s glory. We will show you how. Man seeks to win his glory by the slaughter of others--—Christ by the slaughter of himself; men seek to get crowns of gold--he sought a crown of thorns; men think that glory lieth in being exalted over others--Christ thought that his glory did lie in becoming “a worm and no man,” a scoff and reproach amongst all that beheld him. He stooped when he conquered; and he counted that the glory lay as much in the stooping as in the conquest.
Now, Christ won more love by the cross than he did ever win elsewhere.
Christ won glory by his cross. He was never so lifted up as when he was cast down; and the Christian will bear witness, that though he loves his Master anywhere, yet nothing moves his heart to rapture and vehemence of love, like the story of the crucifixion and the agonies of Calvary.
The laurels of his crown were sown in a soil that was saturated with his own blood.
Again: Christ looked upon his crucifixion as the completion of all his work, and therefore he looked upon it as an exaltation.
And, my hearers, Christ longed for the cross, because he looked for it as the goal of all his exertions. It was to be the place upon which he could say, “It is finished.” He could never say “It is finished” on his throne: but on his cross he did cry it. He preferred the sufferings of Calvary to the honors of the multitude who crowded round about him; for, preach as he might, and bless them as he might, and heal them as he might, still was his work undone.
And, once again, Christ looked upon his crucifixion with the eye of firm faith as the hour of triumph.
But, now, secondly, CHRIST HAS ANOTHER LIFTING UP, not ignominious, but truly honorable; there is a lifting of him upon the pole of the gospel, in the preaching of the Word.
Christ Jesus is to be lifted up every day; for that purpose he came into the world: “That like as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness,” even so he might by the preaching of the truth be lifted up, “that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Christ is THE MINISTER'’S GREAT THEME, in opposition to a thousand other things which most men choose. I would prefer that the most prominent feature in my ministry should be the preaching of Christ Jesus.
Christ should be most prominent, not hell and damnation.
God’'s ministers must preach God'’s terrors as well as God'’s mercies; we are to preach the thunder of God'’s law. If men will sin, we are to tell them that they must be punished for it. If they will transgress, woe unto the watchman who is ashamed to say, “The Lord cometh that taketh vengeance.” We should be unfaithful to the solemn charge which God has given us if we were wickedly to stifle all the threatenings of God’'s word.
Did the loving Savior talk of the pit that burneth, of the worm that never dieth, and of the fire that can never be extinguished? It is ours to speak as he spake, and not to mince the matter. It is no mercy to men to hide their doom. But, my brethren terrors never ought to be the prominent feature of a minister'’s preaching.
There are more souls won by wooing than by threatening. It is not hell, but Christ, we desire to preach.
Again, the theme of a minister should be Christ Jesus in opposition to mere doctrine. Some of my good brethren are always preaching doctrine. Well, they are right in so doing, but I would not care myself to have as the characteristic of my preaching, doctrine only. I would rather have it said, “He dwelt much upon the person of Christ, and seemed best pleased when he began to tell about the atonement and the sacrifice. He was not ashamed of the doctrines, he was not afraid of threatening, but he seemed as if he preached the threatening with tears in his eyes, and the doctrine solemnly as God’'s own word; but when he preached of Jesus his tongue was loosed, and his heart was at liberty.”
Brethren, we would rather preach Christ than election. We love election, we love predestination, we love the great doctrines of God'’s word, but we had rather preach Christ than preach these. We desire to put Christ over the head of the doctrine, we make the doctrine the throne for Christ to sit on, but we dare not put Christ at the bottom, and then press him down, and overload him with the doctrines of his own word.
And again, the minister ought to preach Christ in opposition to mere morality.
Christ wants us not to preach learning, but to preach the good word of life in the simplest manner possible.
AND NOW WE GO TO THE THIRD POINT, WHICH IS, INDEED, THE ESSENCE OF THE TEXT, THE ATTRACTIVE POWER OF THE CROSS OF CHRIST. If Christ be thus preached, thus fully held forth, thus simply proclaimed to the people, the effect will be, he will draw all men unto him.
Christ draws like a trumpet attracting men to hear the proclamation. Christ draws like a net bringing men out of the sea of sin. Christ draws, also, with bonds of love. In the next place, Christ attracts like a standard, bringing all the soldiers round him, and, in the last place, Christ draws like a chariot.
You cannot expect people to be blessed by the preaching of the gospel if they do not hear it. One part of the battle is to get them to listen to its sound. Now, the question is asked in these times, “How are we to get the working-classes to listen to the word?” The answer is, Christ is his own attraction, Christ is the only trumpet that you want to trumpet Christ.
My good ministering brother, have you got an empty church? Do you want to fill it? I will give you a good receipt, and if you will follow it, you will, in all probability, have your chapel full to the doors. Burn all your manuscripts, that is No. 1. Give up your notes, that is No. 2. Read your Bible and preach it as you find it in the simplicity of its language. And give up all your Latinized English. Begin to tell the people what you have felt in your own heart, and beseech the Holy Spirit to make your heart as hot as a furnace for zeal. Then go out and talk to the people. Speak to them like their brother. Be a man amongst men. Tell them what you have felt and what you know, and tell it heartily with a good, bold face; and, my dear friend, I do not care who you are, you will get a congregation.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, June 15, 2015

Book Review: A Worthy Pursuit

A Worthy Pursuit. Karen Witemeyer. 2015. Bethany House. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I loved reading Karen Witemeyer's A Worthy Pursuit. This historical romance is set in Texas in the early 1890s. The heroine is a school teacher--a head mistress to be precise-- named Miss Charlotte Atherton. The novel opens with some disturbing news: Sullivan's Academy for Exceptional Youths is closing mid-term. One might think Miss Atherton is rightfully worried about finding another job, but, soon one realizes differently! Miss Atherton isn't too concerned about finding another teaching job. No, she is extremely concerned about the fate of two or three of her students. Namely, a little girl named Lily, and, a young boy named John Chang. Lily's mother made Miss Atherton Lily's guardian, but, she knows that it wouldn't really go that smoothly. Lily's grandfather wants to be the one to raise her. And Lily's grandfather means business. Fearing the worst, Miss Atherton takes Lily, John, and one other student, Stephen, in the middle of the night. (Stephen's parents are traveling in Europe.) She suspects that it will just be a matter of time before someone appears threatening to take Lily…so she's always on her guard.

Stone Hammond is the hero of A Worthy Pursuit. He has been hired to find a kidnapper, and to return the little girl, Lily, to her grandfather. What he finds surprises him, Miss Atherton isn't exactly the monster she was made out to be in the grandfather's description! The children look wonderfully happy, like a loving family. When Miss Atherton shows him the paperwork proving that Lily's mother made her legal guardian of Lily, he doesn't know what to think! So he agrees to wait and see…

I loved everything about A Worthy Pursuit. I loved the characters. I loved the story. I loved the romance. I definitely recommend this one!

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Week in Review: June 7-13

Sarah Hale wrote the famous poem “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” It is a nice little nursery rhyme, but I like to think of it theologically, completely out of its context. The Virgin Mary really did have a little Lamb—the Agnus Dei, the Lamb of God. And on the cross the Lamb took our sins upon himself as our sacrifice. “Worthy is the Lamb!” will be our eternal refrain. May we never move away from the centrality of his sacrificial death! If you do not know the joy of having been soaked with the Holy Spirit and thus of knowing Christ personally, perhaps you have not personally experienced, first, the reality and greatness of Christ’s sacrificial death and, second, the necessity of repentance. Possibly you give only lip service to the idea of his sacrificial atonement without fully depending on his shed blood. Just as the Jews needed John’s baptism of repentance, perhaps you too need to repent. Many people miss Christ because they never have truly repented. Grace without repentance is cheap grace—not the real thing. A realization of what Christ has done must be coupled with a repentant spirit if we are truly to believe and be saved. We must say, “I am nothing, but he is everything, everything, everything!” ~ R. Kent Hughes, John: That You May Believe
NIV 1984

  • Psalm 1-37

NIV-UK Audio Bible

  • 1 Samuel
  • 2 Samuel


  • John

ESV Following Jesus Bible

  • John


  • John
  • 1 John 
  • 2 John
  • 3 John
New English Bible

  • 1 Samuel 15-31


  • John 1-7

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, June 12, 2015

Book Review: Julie

Julie. Catherine Marshall. 1984/1985. Avon. 428 pages. [Source: Bought]

I've read Catherine Marshall's Christy many times, but, this was my first time reading her last novel, Julie.

What did I think about Julie? Well, on the surface, Julie reminded me very much of North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell. (North and South is one of my favorite books.) Julie's family is on-the-move because the father has left the ministry. The family has mixed feelings on the move, and there is a certain amount of uncertainty about the future. The town where they move is a mill town. The lower-class workers are most upset about working conditions and are contemplating striking. Julie becomes interested in their cause, and enjoys talking with workers now and then. She's not unafraid to speak up for the lower-class and make a few enemies. Julie is in some ways a novel about social class. These were just a few similarities that came to mind. But there are plenty of things that make Julie unique.

So what is it about? Julie is the oldest of three children. She has a younger brother, Tim, and a younger sister, Anne-Marie. Their father has just bought a newspaper. Buying the paper has taken all their resources--if the paper doesn't make it, then the family loses everything. Oh, and I should mention the book is set in Pennsylvania during the Great Depression. So there are no guarantees that the newspaper can survive the hard times. They've got barely enough to run the paper and manage their living expenses. They didn't budget in emergencies. Fortunately, the family seems to have a guardian angel who looks out for them and the paper. The guardian angel is named Dean. Julie will volunteer at the paper when she's not busy in school. She wants to be a journalist, so, she doesn't really mind all that much.

Julie's in high school. She makes a few good friends. Her best friend is Margo. There are several guys interested in Julie, but, Julie seems much more interested in an older man, an English man, named Rand. These two don't always get along. Julie likes to ask too many questions, and, some of the questions make him uncomfortable. For one, she becomes fascinated with the dam. Is it safe? Is it dangerous? Does it need repairs? How many? Are any major repairs? When will they be done? Why is talk about the dam discouraged? Julie's questions are catching. Soon her father is asking questions as well, which, in addition with their views on unions, makes the family some enemies…

I definitely found it a compelling and dramatic read. I'm glad I finally read it!

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Bible Review: Following Jesus Bible (2015)

ESV Following Jesus Bible. March 2015. Crossway. 1424 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Following Jesus is one of three new children's Bibles published by Crossway in 2015*. The other two Bibles are the ESV Children's Bible and the ESV Big Picture Bible.

What you need to know:

1) The Following Jesus Bible is available in the ESV Translation. This is a translation that will grow-with-your child. It is not a just-for-kids translation. The vocabulary is tougher, I admit. But there is a glossary at the back of the Bible.

I personally LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the ESV translation. I believe it is a translation families could read together. An adult Bible that seeks to show how the Bible is all about Jesus is the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible.

Romans 3:21:26 in the ESV
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. 
Romans 3:21-26 in the NIrV (New International Reader's Version)
But now God has shown us his saving power without the help of the law. But the Law and the Prophets tell us about this. We are made right with God by putting our faith in Jesus Christ. This happens to all who believe. It is no different for the Jews than for the Gentiles. Everyone has sinned. No one measures up to God’s glory. The free gift of God’s grace makes us right with him. Christ Jesus paid the price to set us free. God gave Christ as a sacrifice to pay for sins through the spilling of his blood. So God forgives the sins of those who have faith. God did all this to prove that he does what is right. He is a God of mercy. So he did not punish for their sins the people who lived before Jesus lived. God did all this to prove in our own time that he does what is right. He also makes right with himself those who believe in Jesus.
Romans 3:21-26 in the ICB (International Children's Bible)
But God has a way to make people right with him without the law. And God has now shown us that way which the law and the prophets told us about. God makes people right with himself through their faith in Jesus Christ. This is true for all who believe in Christ, because all are the same. All people have sinned and are not good enough for God’s glory. People are made right with God by his grace, which is a free gift. They are made right with God by being made free from sin through Jesus Christ. God sent him to die in our place to take away our sins. We receive forgiveness through faith. And all of this is because of the blood of Jesus’ death. This showed that God always does what is right and fair. God was right in the past when he was patient and did not punish people for their sins. And God gave Jesus to show today that God does what is right. God did this so that he could judge rightly and also make right any person who has faith in Jesus.
Glossary Terms:

  • propitiation: the turning away of wrath. Christ's death was the propitiation of God's wrath because of sin (1 John 2:2)
  • justification: a declaration of right standing before God, received through faith in Christ's death and resurrection on our behalf (Romans 3:24; Romans 5:18)
  • the law: God's instructions concerning proper behavior (Psalm 19:7-9). Because of human sin, no one is able to keep God's law perfectly (Romans 3:19-20). But Jesus did that for us, and we can find salvation through faith in him (Galatians 4:4-7)
  • witness: to proclaim the truth abut Jesus and the gospel (Acts 1:8)
  • redemption: the act of buying someone back from captivity (Exodus 21:30). God redeemed us from sin and death by offering his Son, Jesus, as a ransom or payment for us (Ephesians 1:7-10)
  • sin: any thought or action that violates God's moral law (Romans 3:23-24)
  • faith: belief in Jesus Christ, resulting in salvation from sin and eternal life (John 3:16)
  • grace: The unmerited favor of God (2 Corinthians 12:9) it is only by God's grace through Jesus Christ that we can be saved from our sins and can have eternal life. (Ephesians 2:7-9)
2) The Following Jesus Bible has special features throughout designed to help children ages 8 through 12 understand the Bible.

Articles such as "About the Bible," "About the Old Testament", "The Books of Moses," "The Books of History," "The Books of Wisdom and Poetry," "The Books of the Prophets," "The Time Between the Testaments," "About the New Testament Books," "The Gospels and Acts," "The Epistles," "Seeing Jesus," "The Ten Commandments," "What is the Law?" "What is the Gospel?" "God's Word in the Lord's Prayer," etc.

Book Introductions. These book introductions may be just one page, but, they are informative.

Charts such as "Days of Creation," "Categories of Psalms," "Who are the Fools in Proverbs," "Words of the Prophets," "The Miracles of Jesus," "The Parables of Jesus," "Our Savior's Last Words," "Where Did We Get the Apostle's Creed?" "Timeline of the Old Testament," "Timeline of the New Testament," etc.

Maps such as "Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus," "The Land of the Patriarchs," "The Exodus from Egypt," "The Lands Assigned to the Tribes of Israel," "The Kingdom of Saul, David, and Solomon," "The Divided Kingdom of Israel and Judah," "The City of Jerusalem," "The Land of Israel During the New Testament," and "Places Paul Visited."

450+ "W Questions" found throughout the Bible answering the who, what, where, when, or why of a text.
70+ "Following Jesus" sections found throughout the Bible explaining a text and how to apply it
30 + "Seeing Jesus" sections found throughout the Bible helping readers see how the whole Bible is all about Jesus.

Zephaniah 3:14-17, Singing with God
Ever sung in a choir? It's fun! Singing is fun anyway, but singing in a choir is even better, because you get to do it with other people. You put your voices together, and it comes out sounding great!
Read Zephaniah 3:14-17. Who does it say is singing in verse 14? God's people--Israel, Jerusalem. What are they singing about? They're singing about how God has taken away their sins ("the judgments against you") and all their enemies. That's what Jesus did for them when he died on the cross. But Jesus' death on the cross has taken away our sins and saved us from our enemies too. So we can sing with Israel and Jerusalem as well. Quite a choir!
Wait! There's more! Look who's singing in verse 17. The Lord God himself is singing (loudly!) about how he's loving and blessing us! This is what Jesus' death on the cross does! By taking away our sins, it brings us into perfect harmony with God. (990)
Galatians 2:11-16, A Reminder for Everyone
Nobody gets to heaven by doing good things or by not doing bad things. The one and only way to heaven is to trust that Jesus has done everything for us already.
That's still the most important thing for us to hear every day, because everyone gets confused now and then. Read Galatians 2:11-16. Even Peter needed a reminder. Great to hear it again, isn't it? (1261)
Examples of "W Questions"
WHAT is "propitiation"? Propitiation means the turning away of wrath. In the Old Testament, the place of propitiation was the cover of the ark of the covenant, where the high priest sprinkled the blood of the sacrifice. Just as the blood covered the ark of the covenant, Christ's blood covers the sinner. He is the sacrifice for our sins. Hebrews 2:17 (1315)
WHAT does it mean to be "justified by faith?" To justify is a legal term meaning "to declare not guilty" or "to declare righteous." Jesus kept the law perfectly for us and paid the penalty for our sin through his death and resurrection. Because of Christ, God declares us righteous. that means that we are now in a positive relationship with God. We have access to the Father and his blessings through faith in Christ. Romans 3:27-31. (1215)
WHY is the church called the body of the Christ? Like the human body with its many parts, the body of Christ has many members. Each believer is a member of Christ's body and has his or her own functions. The Lord equips each Christian with different gifts and abilities. Together, believers accomplish the Lord's mission of spreading the gospel throughout the world. Romans 12:5. (1221)
3) Other details about the text and design:
  • 9 point type
  • double column
  • paragraph format
  • black letter (words of Christ appear in black, not red)
  • chapter numbers are in blue, headings are in orange

The Following Jesus Bible is a redesign of the ESV Grow Bible.

My thoughts:

I definitely recommend the ESV Following Jesus Bible. Especially to families who do not already own the ESV Grow Bible. (If you have the ESV Grow Bible, and it's in good condition, then you should know that the ESV Following Jesus Bible has many of the same notes and book introductions. So you may already have most of what it contains.)

I think it is an excellent children's Bible. The design is appealing and very readable.

For parents, I'd recommend Starr Meade's excellent book GIVE THEM TRUTH. I think this book and this Bible would pair quite well together!!!

*Also newly available are various compact and thinline Bibles.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible