Sunday, August 30, 2015

Week in Review: August 23-29

KJV Audio Bible (Dramatized)

  • John

ESV Reader's Bible

  • Psalms
  • Acts
  • Romans
  • 1 Corinthians


  • 1 Samuel
  • John

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, August 28, 2015

Book Review: John

John: That You Might Believe (Preaching the Word) R. Kent Hughes. 1999/2014. Crossway Books. 528 pages. [Source: Bought]

This is the second book I've read in Crossway's oh-so-excellent PREACHING THE WORD commentary series. The first I read was Raymond C. Ortlund, Jr.'s Isaiah: God Saves Sinners. I loved, loved, LOVED it. Isaiah is among my favorite books in the Old Testament. (The only other book that might top it is Psalms. I also love Deuteronomy.) John is one of my favorite New Testament books. (I also love, love, love Revelation). I would definitely say that this expository commentary was well worth reading.

It did take me three months to read it all. (My goal was to complete it by the end of August.) I tried to read a chapter or two per week. But it wasn't a chore or a duty to keep on reading it. Far from it. It was a book I picked up with pleasure and joy. For each chapter is packed with information and insight and grace and hope. No matter the chapter, there was always something thought-provoking or engaging. So even if you don't typically read commentaries--consider this one! It isn't so much a commentary--though it does examine every verse and chapter of the book of John--as it is a collection of expository sermons preached from the book of John.
It has depth and substance, but it's oh-so-accessible. Yes, five hundred pages is a commitment. But taken a chapter or two at a time, it's well worth your time. And I do recommend reading it slowly, and, alongside the book of John. (It was my summer project to read the book of John thirty times over three months.)

I think the more of yourself you give to the reading, the more you'll learn. Engage with the text. Consider it. Be willing to ask hard questions and be honest with your answers.

I learned so much from each and every chapter. Here's a small taste of what to expect.
OUR SPIRITUAL GROWTH is inextricably bound up with the size of our vision of Christ. Once we get away from a one-dimensional or overly narrow picture of Christ, once we see the fullness and glory of Christ in the Scriptures, our lives will be enlarged. I believe most of us need a bigger vision of Christ.
We learn a great deal about sin in Genesis 3, and we learn much about grace in the first chapter of John. Grace, God reaching out to us in our sin, is best understood when we contrast it with the dark tableau of the garden. It is tremendously important to understand grace since it is the pipeline through which we receive all of God’s tremendous benefits—the greatness of Christ, the greatness of his love, the greatness of the gospel.
Gentle Jesus, meek and mild, is a concept that has been so overworked that many today preach and follow a Christ who has no resemblance to the Christ of the New Testament. That Jesus is an idol, drained of his deity—a weak, good-natured deity whose great aim is to let us off the hook. Do not get me wrong. Jesus is meek and mild. In fact, he describes himself in that way in Matthew 11:29 when he invites those who have burdens to come to him. Dozens of Scriptures in the New Testament testify to his gentleness. But we need to balance this with other descriptions of our Lord. For instance, in Mark 3:5, the passage describing the man with the paralyzed hand, Jesus looked around at all those who were questioning whether or not he would heal on the Sabbath, and “he looked around at them with anger.” Jesus’ anger was a swelling wrath. There was nothing gentle in the fierce message he sent to Herod either: “Go and tell that fox . . .” (Luke 13:32), or in his response to Peter: “Get behind me, Satan!” (Matthew 16:23). I am sure the Pharisees in the temple saw nothing of his gentleness, meekness, and mildness when he said, “You are like whitewashed tombs” and “You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?” (Matthew 23:27, 33). The scene described in our text is a wild scene! Men were grasping at their moneybags and tables as Jesus applied the whip to those not moving. But the fact is, Jesus was as Godlike here as he was when he hung on the cross. He was revealing as much of God on this occasion as he did at Calvary. He was displaying a great underlying truth: Love presupposes hatred. A love for the downtrodden, the poor, and the oppressed also brings about a hatred for the conditions that caused their suffering.
The measure of someone’s love is how much he is willing to give. The measure of our Lord’s love is the cross!
Do we really know our own hearts? As we get to know ourselves, we find more and more that needs healing. But the question is, do we really want to be healed? I am speaking primarily of bitterness, unresolved conflicts, and things that lie hidden within us. Sometimes when we experienced these things, we were aware of them but didn’t deal with them. We cauterized them, layered them over. But they are realities within us, and they do affect our lives. Even though we cannot put a finger on them, they take their toll. As a result we do not feel God’s power; we do not feel the authenticity of grace we know we ought to feel. We know we should be joyful in all the things we confess and while we are doing the right things—reading the Word and praying—but we have little power or inner peace. The question remains, do we really want to be healed? Do we really want to have those things resolved? I believe with all my heart that if we do and if we take the time to ask God to do his work within us, he will reveal to us the things that must be washed away—the refuse, the filth, the sin.
Abiding begins with being students of the Word of God. If we were to compare the various ages of Protestant church history, we would have to say that today is an age of Biblical ignorance. People do not take the first step in abiding in the Word of God. Yet the importance of basing our lives on the Scriptures is urgent. We all need to know the Word of God. We must be students of the Word—not only the preachers, not just the educated, but all believers. And yet even if that takes place, we are not necessarily abiding. To abide in the Word we must obey it. And that is how freedom comes. We learn the Word of God, we obey it, and then we are free. The exhilaration of that freedom motivates us to study the Word of God more, and when we again obey it, more freedom comes. And on and on and on it goes—from freedom to freedom to freedom. The reason many Christians are not experiencing spiritual freedom today is that while they may be Biblically literate, they are not Biblically obedient.
Prayer is not a means by which we get God to do what we want. Rather, it is a means by which God does through us what he wants.
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Quotes from the Cloud #34

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.
God is merciful. He is just — as just as if he were not merciful. He is merciful — as merciful as if he were not just, and in very deed more merciful than if he were too lenient; instead of blending a wise severity of justice with a gracious clemency of long-suffering. ~ Charles Spurgeon, 1857, "Fast-Day Service"
True freedom is being free from sin. How does this happen? It happens when we hear his Word—Christ was born of Mary, suffered, was crucified, died, was buried, and rose again from the dead on the third day. We must preach this message again and again so that all of us may be satisfied and filled with its teaching. My hunger, however, has not yet been satisfied. This teaching is like bread. No one ever grows tired of eating bread. We fill ourselves with all kinds of food, but we never have enough bread, unless we are ill and can’t eat. A healthy person will never grow tired of bread. In the same way, Christians will never learn this completely during their lifetimes, whether they are saints or even Mary or John the Baptist. ~ Martin Luther, "Faith Alone," August 2
All teachers of Scripture conclude that the essence of prayer is simply the lifting up of the heart to God. But if this is so, it follows that everything else that doesn’t lift up the heart to God is not prayer. We should consider our spoken words to be like a trumpet, drum, organ, or other kind of sound that moves our hearts and lifts them up to God. We shouldn’t attempt to pray without words, relying on our own hearts, unless we are well trained spiritually and skilled in removing stray thoughts from our minds. Otherwise, the devil will lead us astray and quickly destroy the prayers in our hearts. So we should cling to the words and let them lift us up—lift us until our feathers grow and we’re able to soar high without the help of words. ~ Martin Luther, "Faith Alone," August 7
There is only one thing I know of that crushes me to the ground and humiliates me to the dust, and that is to look at the Son of God, and especially contemplate the cross. Nothing else can do it. When I see that I am a sinner…that nothing but the Son of God on the cross can save me, I'm humbled to the dust…Nothing but the cross can give us this spirit of humility. ~ Martyn Lloyd Jones

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Bible Review: The Study Bible for Women, Large Print

The Study Bible for Women: HCSB Large Print Edition. Dorothy Kelley Patterson and Rhonda Harrington Kelley. 2015. B&H. 2208 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I am very happy to be reviewing the Study Bible for Women. This study bible is written and designed for women by women. And it's a serious (not-fooling-around) STUDY Bible. (Not every Bible labeled "a study Bible" actually IS a study Bible. I've found this to be quite true.) I really appreciate the amount of notes within this Bible, and the assumption that women are capable learners. (And the fact that so many notes focus on specific words in the original language--Hebrew or Greek. I've always found word studies to be fascinating. And not all study Bibles meet this need.)
Overwhelmingly women purchase more Bibles and more Bible study materials than men do. By all rights, just the amount of materials in the marketplace should make women the best equipped Bible students of the modern era. However, one only has to peruse those materials to see that there is a great gulf fixed between most of what is being produced by women for women and even the most basic devotional commentary. Inspirational thoughts, practical application, and systematic topical studies are all important, but women need more. Women can study the Bible in depth; they can learn to do genuine exposition or verse-by-verse interpretation of God's Words, using the best hermeneutical principles; and this study tool is a step in making available to women resources produced especially for them. Here is a clarion call to women to demand the best in biblical scholarship--even resources prepared by women and men who have been formally trained in biblical studies--and to spend the time necessary to dig deeply into God's Word and pull out its rich truths and full knowledge. (1907, Biblical Womanhood: Digging Deeper Into God's Word, Titus)
This edition of the Study Bible for Women is large print. If ever a large print edition was needed it was here. Why? The font size in the original was teeny-tiny. I had to squint to even see the text of the Bible. (Yes, the font-size of the notes was teeny-tiny as well. But squinting didn't really help with the notes. It was just a personal impossibility.) Is the font size improved? Yes and no. Mostly. The size of the Bible text is larger. I wouldn't exactly call it "large print." But it is definitely larger than the original font size. And I can read it somewhat comfortably--that is without squinting! So that's a very good thing. The font size of the notes is still tiny. I can read it if I squint. It is definitely a larger font size than it was. But I can't comfortably read it either. That is slightly disappointing if I'm honest. But it's not a huge problem either. (I do wish that publishers of large print study Bibles would take into consideration that if your sight is poor enough that you need a large size print to read the Bible text, that one would also need the study notes in large print too. That is why people buy study Bibles after all, because they're interested in reading study notes. At the same time, I realize that the larger the print--the heavier the weight. And if the study notes were written in a comfortable-to-read size, then the weight of the Bible would probably double. And a six pound Bible wouldn't be practical or comfortable!!!) Overall, a definite improvement upon the original edition.

Strengths of the Study Bible for Women:
  • black letter, not red letter
  • two column, not single column
  • plenty of notes for each chapter of the Bible, notes appear in the side column, some notes feature Hebrew or Greek word studies and definitions
  • thorough book introductions, question and answer format, plus book outlines and timelines
  • additional Hebrew/Greek word studies
  • charts, articles, maps, and other features throughout each book of the Bible
  • beautiful layout
  • HCSB translation
Weaknesses of the Study Bible for Women:
  • the Bible text is in a nice font size, however, the study notes seem TINY to my eyes
  • I've caught a few theological flaws*, so far; just a small reminder that only the text of the Bible itself is infallible! 
*Are the notes Reformed? That is a big question for me when approaching any Bible. I am Reformed. And I have strong opinions! I know there are others out there with some of the same questions and/or hesitations. I do not think the notes are especially Reformed. There are a few places where the notes are decidedly unReformed.
The spirit helps sinners understand the reasons for their separation from a holy and awesome God. Atonement has already been graciously accomplished by the Son, the Second person of the Trinity, thus making restoration and fellowship with God possible. When sinners accept that atonement made on their behalf, the Holy Spirit performs the work of regeneration, what Jesus called being "born again" (John 3:3). Further the Holy Spirit of God takes up residence in and continues to sanctify the believer. ~ Doctrine: Holy Spirit: Ezekiel 36:24-37:1-14, p. 1343
Salvation is a gift for all who believe and trust in the Lord. god is the sole author of salvation. Yet each person has a choice on how he responds. ~ Doctrine: Salvation: John 3:16, p. 1677
There are no helpful notes for John 6. Notes on John 6:44, 45, 46, 63, 65 would have been most helpful in discerning the position the editor takes on election and predestination.

There are no notes specifically for Romans 8:28, 29, 30 concerning interpreting these verses and how they relate to election and predestination. Though they do GREEK WORD STUDIES for the words foreknew, predestined, called, justified, and glorified. This is on page 1784.

There is one article that specifically addresses Election. It is found on page 1873. In part, it reads:
The doctrine of election has been debated and misunderstood in the history of Christian thought. Election does not mean a person is not required to repent to come to faith in Christ. However, all those who do repent and come to faith have been elected. Election does not mean that Christians do not need to share the gospel. It is through the sharing of the gospel that people see their sin and need for repentance. The response to the concept of election should be gratitude to God and should encourage believers during difficult times. ~ Doctrine: Election: 1 Thessalonians 1:4, p. 1873
There is nothing in that article that I disagreed with. It doesn't really explain the doctrine of election. But it does clarify what it isn't. Which is helpful.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

My Year with Spurgeon #34

The Mysteries of the Brazen Serpent
Charles Spurgeon
John 3:14
It is not in the power of mortal language to depict the horrors of the death-bed of a man who has lived without God and without Christ.
I challenge all the orators that have ever lived, to draw forth from their vocabulary, words full enough of horror and of terror to depict the departing scene of the man who has lived at enmity with God, and who dies with his conscience quickened then.
“Now,” says the infidel, “I cannot see how men are to be saved from sin by the preaching of Christ.” “Truly sir,” he says “you go and tell men that though they have sinned never so much, if they do but believe, their sins shall all be washed away! Why they will take advantage of that, and they will be more wicked than ever they were. You tell men that their good works are of no avail whatever, that they must rest on Christ alone!” “Why,” says the sceptic, “my dear fellow, it will be the destruction of all morality, instead of a cure, it will be a death. Why preach it?” Ah, the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us who are saved, it is Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.
But when you come to study and understand the marvellous scheme of God’s justice vindicated, and man pardoned through the atoning blood of the cross, I say, that not even the mighty intellect of God could have conceived a wiser plan, than the wisdom of God displayed in Christ Jesus crucified.
There are some ministers who forget that their errand in the world is to lift up Christ.
Note first that Jesus Christ was put on the cross on purpose for you to look at. The only reason why he died, was that poor sinners might look at him and be saved.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, August 24, 2015

Book Review: Original Jesus

The Original Jesus: Trading The Myths We Create For The Savior Who Is. Daniel Darling. 2015. Baker Books. 160 pages. [Source: Review copy]

The Original Jesus has a great premise, one I can definitely appreciate. Daniel Darling closely examines a handful of mythical Jesus' that we have created in our own image. He compares these mythical Jesus' to Scripture, to the actual Son of God. How do they compare? For the most part, these mythical Jesus' we've created contain small nuggets of truth, but, never the whole truth. All of our creations of Jesus--all of our re-creations--are weak, lacking, and incapable. It simply will not do. The REAL Jesus is needed. Do you know Jesus? Or are you worshipping a "Jesus" of your own creation? Darling's book challenges readers to consider who it is they worship and why.

In the introduction, he writes:
My only goal is to help knock down some Jesus myths, our ideas about Jesus that are either incomplete or totally false.
I loved the premise of this one. And it did not disappoint. It lived up to the premise. The real Jesus--the Jesus of Scripture--is to be found in each and every chapter. Readers can learn so much by reading this one. Especially if readers aren't in the habit of reading the Bible for themselves, and their gospel is one that they've pieced together over the years based on various sermons and songs and the like. The message of this book is needed, in my opinion.

So what are some of the mythical Jesus' discussed in The Original Jesus?

  • Guru Jesus
  • Red-Letter Jesus
  • Braveheart Jesus
  • American Jesus
  • Left-Wing Jesus
  • Dr. Phil Jesus
  • Prosperity Jesus
  • Post-Church Jesus
  • BFF Jesus
  • Legalist Jesus

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Week in Review: August 16-22

Everyone we meet will live eternally, either as a glorious being or as a dreadfully lost soul. The ministering heart senses this and treats all encounters accordingly. ~ R. Kent Hughes, John: That You May Believe
Good evangelism is getting to know people well enough to sense where that religious impulse is at work in their heart, and then clearly offering them an exchange--their works for Christ's work. ~ Jonathan Dodson
ESV Reader's Bible

  • 1 Chronicles
  • 2 Chronicles
  • Ezra
  • Nehemiah
  • Esther
  • Job
  • John

Living Bible

  • Psalms 51-150
  • James


  • John

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, August 21, 2015

Book Review: Compassion

Compassion: Seeing with Jesus' Eyes. Joshua Mack. 2015. P&R Publishing. 48 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Is this short booklet worth your time? Yes! It is short. I won't deny that. But these 48 pages are worth reading, worth reflecting on. The subject, of course, is compassion. But it isn't just compassion, it is compassion as defined or redefined by Jesus himself. (That is the book isn't about how the world sees compassion or defines it, but, how Christ himself defined it and commands it of us.)
Without compassion, no matter how right you are in what you are saying, you are wrong in how you are acting. 
Biblical compassion involves sacrificing yourself for the glory of God and the good of others. True compassion involves deliberately choosing to enter into another person's pain. It is bearing an actual burden that is not your own. It is worshipping God by denying yourself in real life, and it takes a whole lot of theological understanding to do that. 
 Love. Time and time again we are commanded to love. To love God. To love our Christian brothers and sisters. To love our neighbors. To love our enemies. To not love is not an option. The first half of the booklet focuses on compassion: what it is, what it looks like, why it's essential, etc. The second half of the booklet shows readers "Practical Steps Toward Showing Compassion." I'll share two of my favorites: "Learn to treat other people like people instead of like projects" and "Make sure you are speaking words that are biblically true in a manner that is biblically appropriate."

Love and truth go hand in hand. Mack writes, "It is impossible to love people without loving truth. Love without truth is no love at all. But it is equally impossible to disconnect a sincere love for truth from a deep love for people. We should not try to serve people without a love for God. We must not try to serve God without a love for people." His writing may be concise, but, it is thought-provoking, isn't it. Read it slowly enough, and there is plenty to absorb and digest!

Have you thought about how compassion relates to worship--or worship relates to compassion? I hadn't until reading this book. This insight--and others--is why I loved reading this "little" booklet.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Quotes from the Cloud #33

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 Christian perfection be necessary to salvation, I shall never be saved; my heart is a very hot-bed for sinful thoughts, and when I decide on an action I scarcely remember to look to my Redeemer for direction. I know not how to pray; I cannot bend my life the grand end of doing good; I go on constantly seeking my own pleasure, pursuing the gratification of my own desires. I forget God, and will not God forget me? And, meantime, I know the greatness of Jehovah; I acknowledge the perfection of His word; I adore the purity of the Christian faith; my theory is right, my practice horribly wrong. ~ Charlotte Bronte
Dear E——, you certainly have a heavy burden laid on your shoulders, but such burdens, if well borne, benefit the character; only we must take the GREATEST, CLOSEST, MOST WATCHFUL care not to grow proud of our strength, in case we should be enabled to bear up under the trial. That pride, indeed, would be sign of radical weakness. The strength, if strength we have, is certainly never in our own selves; it is given us. ~ Charlotte Bronte, 1849
Every time we look at the cross of Christ seems to be saying to us, "I am here because of you. It is your sin I am bearing, your curse I am suffering, your debt I am paying, your death I am dying." Nothing in history or in the universe cuts us down to size like the cross. All of us have inflated views of ourselves, especially in self-righteousness, until we have visited a place called Calvary. It is there, at the foot of the cross, that we shrink to our true size. ~ John Stott
Fill your affections with the cross of Christ that there may be no room for sin. ~ John Owen

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Book Review: Modesty

Modesty. Martha Peace and Kent Keller. 2015. P&R Publishing. 176 pages. [Source: Review copy]

The target audience for Modesty: More Than A Change of Clothes is young women: teen girls especially, though also perhaps, twenty-somethings. Martha Peace and Kent Keller contribute to each and every chapter providing dual perspectives on what modesty is and isn't. They often supplement one another, providing a balanced perspective on the subject.

As you might have guessed from the subtitle, one of the main messages of the book is that modesty isn't about what you wear, or, isn't only about what you wear. It is a heart issue. You can outwardly be modest for whatever reason, yet, still have an immodest heart-attitude.

The first part focuses on what modesty is and why it matters. (There's an insightful chapter on how guys are different from girls, and, how girls should be mindful of those differences.) The second part focuses on what the Old Testament has to say on immodesty and modesty. The third part focuses on what the New Testament says about immodesty and modesty. The fourth and final section focuses on the practice of modesty, here is where the book turns practical.

I loved how grounded the book was in Scripture. The book isn't so much about lists, rules, guidelines, or dress codes. Or about man-made lists, rules, guidelines on what is and isn't proper. The authors point out several times that each church, each denomination may have a strict almost-legalistic approach to what is and isn't proper to wear. They are not endorsing any one church's ideas. It is, instead, all about WHAT DOES THE BIBLE HAVE TO SAY ON THE SUBJECT? They examine principles in the Bible that can apply to modesty.

Here is how they define modesty:
Modesty is an inner attitude of the heart motivated by a love for God that seeks His glory through purity and humility; it often reveals itself in words, actions, expressions, and clothes.
Here is how they define immodesty:
Immodesty is an attitude of the heart that expresses itself with inappropriate words, actions, expressions, and/or clothes that are flirtatious, manipulative, revealing, or suggestive of sensuality or pride.
Does this definition differ from how you've always thought about modesty?

I also loved how the book discusses legalism. It had a lot of insightful things to say on the subject!
There are at least three ways that legalism expresses itself. There is the legalism of addition, the legalism of subtraction, and the legalism of algebra. 
The book ends with the focus shifting from modesty to the gospel itself. I love that they keep the gospel itself--a right relationship with God--the MAIN THING. Modesty isn't about conforming outwardly, it's about being in right fellowship with God.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

My Year with Spurgeon #33

Things That Accompany Salvation
Charles Spurgeon
Hebrews 6:9
I sat myself down, and I meditated on this subject — ”Things that accompany Salvation.” And after some period of rumination, my thoughts assumed the form of an allegory; in which I hope to present them to you this morning. I compared Salvation to a rich and costly treasure, which God in his infinite love and mercy had determined to send into the world, and I remembered that our Lord Jesus was so much interested in the bringing of this Salvation to this earth, that he did send all that he had, and came himself to attend and to accompany this Salvation.
I looked around Salvation, and I saw it always in every case attended with divers graces and virtues which seemed to be like troops and soldiers to guard it in the ran, about its flanks, and in the rear.
Our faith does not cause Salvation, nor our hope, nor our love, nor our good works; they are things which attend it as its guard of honor. The origin of Salvation lies alone in the sovereign will of God the Father; in the infinite efficacy of the blood of Jesus — God the Son, and in the divine influence of God the Holy Spirit.
Now you are to take that as the basis of my figure and suppose Salvation to be the sacred treasure which is being carried through the world, with guards before and guards behind, to accompany it on its journey.
We will begin, then, with the advance-guard that has accompanied Salvation or rather gone before it. We shall then come to those who immediately precede it, and then we shall notice those who accompany it by its side, and conclude by noticing the rear guard attending upon this Salvation of our God.
First, then, IN THE MARCHES OF TROOPS AND ARMIES, THERE ARE SOME THAT ARE OUTRIDERS, AND GO FAR AHEAD OF THE OTHER TROOPS. So in the march of Salvation,” which have far preceded it to clear the way. I will tell you the names of these stupendous Titans who have gone before. The first is Election, the second is Predestination, the third is Redemption and the Covenant is the captain of them all.
Before Salvation came into this world, Election marched in the very forefront, and it had for its work the billeting of Salvation. Election went through the world and marked the houses to which Salvation should come and the hearts in which the treasure should be deposited. Election looked through all the race man, from Adam down to the last, and marked with sacred stamp those for whom Salvation was designed.
Then came Predestination. Predestination did not merely mark the house, but it mapped the road in which Salvation should travel to that house, Predestination ordained every step of the great army of Salvation, it ordained the time when the sinner should be brought to Christ, the manner how he should be saved, the means that should be employed; it marked the exact hour and moment, when God the Spirit should quicken the dead in sin, and when peace and pardon should be spoken through the blood of Jesus. Predestination marked the way so completely, that Salvation doth never overstep the bounds, and it is never at a loss for the road.
Then came Redemption. The way was rough; and though Election had marked the house, and Predestination had mapped the road, the way was so impeded that Salvation could not travel it until it had been cleared. Forth came Redemption, it had but one weapon; that weapon was the all-victorious cross of Christ. There stood the mountains of our sins; Redemption smote them, and they split in halves and left a valley for the Lord’s redeemed to march through. There was the great gulph of God’s offended wrath; Redemption bridged it with the cross, and so left an everlasting passage by which the armies of the Lord may cross.
Now, this sacred advance-guard carry for their banner the Eternal Covenant. Election, Predestination, and Redemption — the things that have gone before, beyond the sight, are all rallied to the battle by this standard — the Covenant, the Everlasting Covenant, ordered in all things and sure.
We know and believe that before the morning star startled the shades of darkness, God had covenanted with his Son that he should die and pay a ransom price, and that, on God the Father's part, he would give to Jesus "a number whom no man could number," who should be purchased by his blood, and through that blood should be most securely saved. Now, when Election marches forward, it carries the Covenant. These are chosen in the Covenant of grace. When Predestination marcheth, and when it marketh out the way of Salvation, it proclaims the Covenant. "He marked out the places of the people according to the tribes of Israel." And Redemption also, pointing to the precious blood of Christ, claims Salvation for the blood-bought ones, because the Covenant hath decreed it to be theirs.
Now, my dear hearers, this advance-guard is so far ahead that you and I cannot see them. These are true doctrines, but very mysterious; they are beyond our sight, and if we wish to see Salvation, we must not stop until we see the van-guard, because they are so far off that only the eye of faith can reach them. We must have that sacred glass, that divine telescope of faith, or else we shall never have the evidence of things not seen. Let us rest certain, however, that if we have Salvation we have Election. He that believeth is elected whoever casts himself on Christ as a guilty sinner, is certainly God's chosen child. As sure as ever you believe on the Saviour, and go to him, you were predestinated to do so from all eternity, and your faith is the great mark and evidence that you are chosen of God, and precious in his esteem. Dost thou believe? Then Election is thine. Dost thou believe? Then Predestination is as surely thine as thou art alive. Dost thou trust alone in Jesus? Then fear not, Redemption was meant for thee. So then, we will not be struck with terror at that grand advance-guard that hath already gained the celestial hill, and have prepared the place where the elect shall for ever repose upon the bosom of their God.
But mark, we are about to review THE ARMY THAT IMMEDIATELY PRECEDES SALVATION; and first, in the forefront of these, there marches one whose name we must pronounce with sacred awe. It is God, the Holy Spirit. Before anything can be done in our salvation, there must come that Third Person of the Sacred Trinity. Without him, faith, repentance, humility, love, are things quite impossible. Even the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ cannot save until it has been applied to the heart by God the Holy Spirit.
The great King, Immortal, invisible, the Divine person, called the Holy Ghost, the Holy Spirit: it is he that quickens the soul, or else it would lie dead for ever; it is he that makes it tender, or else it would never feel, it is he that imparts efficacy to the Word preached, or else it could never reach further than the ear; it is he who breaks the heart, it is he who makes it whole: he, from first to last, is the great worker of Salvation in us just as Jesus Christ was the author of Salvation for us.
And now, close in the rear of the adorable Spirit follow the Thundering Legion. No sooner does God the Holy Ghost come into the soul, than he brings with him what I have called the Thundering Legion; and those of you that have been saved will not be at a loss to understand what I mean. This Thundering Legion are clad in mail, their helmets wave with horror; their speech is rough like men that come from a far country; their faces are terrible to look upon, for they are like unto lions, and do terribly affright the timid. Some of the men in this Thundering Legion bear with them swords; with these swords they are to slay the sinner. For before he can be made whole, he must be spiritually killed, the sword must pierce him, and must slay all his selfishness before he can be brought to the Lord Jesus. Then another body of them carry with them axes, with which they cut down the thick trees of our pride and abase the goodly cedars of our righteousness. There are with them those that fill up the wells with stones, and break up all the cisterns of our carnal sufficiency, until we are driven to despair, having all our hopes despoiled. Then come those who, with brazen trumpets, or with trumps of ram's horns—like those who once razed Jericho level with the ground—do blow a blast, so shrill and dread, that the sinner thinks that even the yells of hell itself could not be more terrible. Then come those who with lances pierce the spirit through and through; and in the rear are the ten great guns, the artillery of the law, which, perpetually fire upon the wounded spirit till it knows not what it is, nor what it does. My friend, has this Thundering Legion ever come to your house? Have they ever taken up their quarters in your heart? For, rest assured, these are some of the "things that accompany Salvation." What I have said is no allegory to those who have been converted, but it may be a mystery to those who know not the Lord. Understand, then, that the first work of God the Spirit in the soul is a terrible work. Before a man can be truly converted, he must suffer great agony of spirit; all our self-righteousness must be laid level with the ground, and trampled like the miry streets. Our carnal hopes must, every one of them, be cut in pieces, and our refuges of lies must be swept away with the hail of God's anger. The law of God will appear terrible to the sinner when he is first convinced of sin.
Close in the rear there follows a broken heart. Look at it; do not despise it, God never despises it, do not thou. “A broken and a contrite heart O God thou wilt not despise.” I see how this poor broken heart is broken; it is rent to its very eye and center; it is bathed in tears; it is overwhelmed with suffering. See its humility; it never talks about boasting now. Mark its repentance, the sins it loved before it hates now; it speaks not about self-salvation. Hear it, as the broken heart speaks out its broken language. Hear it — “Lord have mercy upon me a sinner!” Do not fear to come and look at this broken heart; how sweetly is it perfumed! The sacred smell of a sacrifice which God approves rises from it.
The heart must first be pounded in the mortar of conviction, and beaten in pieces with the pestle of the law, or else it never can receive the grace of the Comforter in all its plenitude. Are you broken-hearted to-day? Are you sorrowful at this very hour? Be of good cheer, Salvation is not far behind. When there is once a broken heart there is mercy very near. The broken heart is the prelude of healing. He that kills will make whole; he that woundeth will bind up; he that smote will cure. God is looking on thee with love, and will have mercy upon thee.
But who are those that follow in the rear? Another troop, another legion, but these are far different from the rest. The silken legion follow, these are not clad in steel; they have no helmets of war upon their head; they have smiling looks and countenances that are full of joy. No weapons of war in their hands; no thunders do they utter, but they speak kind words of pity, and their hands are full of benedictions. There is a troop of them who take the poor wounded heart, and wash it first in blood; they sprinkle on it the sacred blood of the Atonement; and it is amazing how the poor broken heart, though faint and sick, revives at the first drop of the precious blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and when well washed in blood, another of this legion steps forward and takes it and washes it in water — for both water and blood flowed from the Saviour’s heart. And oh, what a washing it is! The heart that was once black as the coals of hell, seems white as the snow of Lebanon. The sacred oil and wine of the precious promise is poured into every wound; and then follow those who with downy fingers bind up the heart with the sacred liniment of Promise till it seems no longer broken, but the broken heart rejoices. The whole heart sings for gladness; for God hath restored its strength and bound up all its wounds, according to his promise: “He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.” And then, since the work is not quite done, there come those who carry the King’s ward-robe; and with the things out of this rich storehouse they array the soul from head to foot; they clothe it with everything that for lustre and for glory could adorn it, and make it bright as the spirits before the throne.
What cometh next? Now come those that are the actual attendants upon Salvation — or rather, that march in the rank immediately before it. There are four of these, called Repentance, Humility, Prayer and a tender Conscience.
And now comes SALVATION IN ALL ITS FULLESS. And who are those that are close around it? There are three sweet sisters that always have the custody of the treasure — you know them, their names are common in Scripture — Faith, Hope, and Love, the three divine sisters; these have Salvation in their bowels and do carry it about with them in their loins.
Now you must have patience with me for just a few more minutes; I MUST BRING UP THE REAR GUARD. There are four that follow it, and march in solemn pomp into the sinner’s heart. The first of these is Gratitude — always singing, “Bless the Lord O my soul, and all that is within me bless his holy name.” And then Gratitude lays hold upon its son’s hand; the name of that son is Obedience. In company with this fair grace is one called Consecration — a pure white spirit that hath no earthliness; from its head to its foot it is all God’s, and all gold. Linked to this bright one, is one with a face Serene and solemn, called Knowledge, “Then shall ye know when ye follow on to know the Lord.” whose that are saved understand mysteries, they know the love of Christ; they “know him, whom to know is life eternal.”
I will not weary you, but there are three shining ones that follow after these four, and I must not forget them, for they are the flower of them all. There is Zeal with eyes of fire, and heart of flame a tongue that burneth, a hand that never wearies and limbs that never tire. Zeal, that flies round the world with wings swifter than the lightning’s flash, and finds even then he- wings too tardy for her wish. Zeal, ever ready to obey, resigning up itself for Christ, jealously affected always in a good thing. This Zeal always dwells near one that is called Communion. Communion calls in secret on its God; its God in secret sees. It is conformed to the image of Jesus; walks according to his footsteps, and lays its head perpetually on his bosom. And as a necessary consequence, on the other side of Communion — which with one hand lays hold of Zeal, is Joy — joy in the Spirit.
Now I have almost done. Just in the rear is Perseverance, final, certain and sure. Then there follows complete Sanctification, whereby the soul is purged from every sin, and made as white and pure as God himself. Now we have come to the very rear of the army; but remember as there was an advance guard so far ahead that we could not see them, so there is a rear guard so far behind that we cannot behold them now. A guard, far, far back are coming following the steps of the conquering heroes, that have already swept our Sills away. Do you not see in the fore part there is one, whom men paint a skeleton. Look at him, he is not the King’s terrors. I know thee, Death, I know thee. Miserably men have belied thee. Thou art no spectre, thine hand bears no dart; thou art not gaunt and frightful. I know thee, thou bright cherub: thou hast not in thy hand a dart, but a golden key that unlocks the gates of Paradise. Behold this angel Death, and his successor Resurrection. I see three bright things coming; one is called Confidence, see it! it looks at Death; no fear is in its eye, no palor on its brow. See holy Confidence marches with steady steps, the cold chill stream of Death doth not freeze its blood. See behind it its brother Victory; hear him, as he cries, "O Death, where is thy sting? O Grave where is thy victory?" The last word, "victory," is drowned amidst the shouts of angels. These bring up the rear.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, August 17, 2015

Book Review: Our Only Comfort

Our Only Comfort. Neal Presa. 2015. Westminster John Knox Press. 160 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Are you familiar with the Heidelberg Catechism? Do you want to be more familiar with it? You should consider reading Neal Presa's devotional book, Our Only Comfort.

Within is the Heidelberg Catechism itself, plus devotional readings and prayers for each Lord's Day. (The Heidelberg Catechism is divided into 52 Lord's Days. Several questions are focused on each week--each Lord's Day. There are 129 questions in all.)

Theological fitness is important, and, the Heidelberg Catechism covers the basics of the faith from a historic Reformed position. The catechism covers--among other things--the Apostles Creed, the Lord's Prayer, the Ten Commandments, and the church sacraments of the Lord's Supper (communion) and baptism. It also quite properly focuses on sin, the law, and man's need for a Savior.

Here's the first question:
Question 1.
What is thy only comfort in life and death?
That I with body and soul, both in life and death, (a)
am not my own, (b)
but belong unto my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ; (c)
who, with his precious blood, has fully satisfied for all my sins, (d)
and delivered me from all the power of the devil; (e)
and so preserves me (f)
that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; (g)
yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, (h)
and therefore, by his Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, (i)
and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto him. (j)
(a) Rom.14:7,8. (b) 1 Cor.6:19. (c) 1 Cor.3:23; Tit.2:14. (d) 1 Pet.1:18,19; 1 John 1:7; 1 John 2:2,12. (e) Heb.2:14; 1 John 3:8; John 8:34-36. (f) John 6:39; John 10:28; 2 Thess.3:3; 1 Pet.1:5. (g) Matt.10:29-31; Luke 21:18. (h) Rom.8:28. (i) 2 Cor.1:20-22; 2 Cor.5:5; Eph.1:13,14; Rom.8:16. (j) Rom.8:14; 1 John 3:3.
I would definitely recommend reading and studying the Heidelberg Catechism. I think it would prove quite beneficial. 

Our Only Comfort is a devotional book with devotions and prayers. Some people really do enjoy reading devotional books, and benefit greatly from including devotional readings in their spiritual lives. For anyone who does enjoy devotional readings, Our Only Comfort would certainly be worth considering. 

But not every Christian enjoys devotional books. For me, it's a very rare devotional book that impresses and wows. I found myself more interested in the catechism itself than in the devotions.   

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Week in Review: August 9-15

We must not seek to know the Word who is divine apart from the divine words of the Bible, and we ought not to read the words of the Bible without an eye to the Word incarnate. ~ Kevin DeYoung
ESV Reader's Bible

  • 1 Kings
  • 2 Kings
  • Luke


  • John


  • John

Living Bible

  • Psalm 1-50
  • 1 Peter
  • 2 Peter
  • 1 John
  • 2 John
  • 3 John
  • Jude
  • Revelation

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, August 14, 2015

Book Review: Through Waters Deep

Through Waters Deep. (Waves of Freedom #1) Sarah Sundin. Revell. 384 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Sarah Sundin is one of my favorite authors. She writes historical romances set during World War II. I enjoy many historical romances; some more than others perhaps. I enjoy reading novels set during World War II--romance or not. So Sarah Sundin is a definite treat for me. I look forward each year to reading her newest book. Often her books are released in August, and anything that you can look forward to in August is a GOOD thing in my opinion.

Through Waters Deep is the first book in her new series. Readers meet  Mary Stirling, a secretary for Boston's Navy Yard, and Jim Avery, an ensign in the Navy. These two knew each other--though not well--in high school. They've bumped into each other in Boston after several years apart, and are now on ever-increasing friendly terms.

World War II has not started yet, but, that doesn't mean there's not a lot of activity. Boston is a city full of opinionated people. Some anxious to have the United States join the war. Some determined to avoid war at all costs. When the two groups meet and mingle, well, trouble is the result. (The novel opens in March 1941, and ends shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941).

Through Waters Deep is a great read. Readers meet plenty of characters, the main characters, of course are Jim and Mary. Other novels may explore other characters introduced in this one perhaps. (I hope so!) I loved the characterization. I loved the romance. I enjoyed the mystery. Yes, MYSTERY. For Mary is a smart woman good at detecting trouble and solving crimes. She knows that SOMETHING is going on at the Navy Yard, and believes it to be serious…

I definitely recommend this one!

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Quotes from the Cloud #32

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.
Don’t listen to your own thoughts. Listen to God’s Word. It promises forgiveness of sins to anyone who believes that this Lamb carried the sins of the whole world. Did you hear that? The Lamb didn’t miss any of it. He carried all the sins of the world from the beginning of time. Therefore, he carried your sin too, and he offers his grace to you. ~ Martin Luther, Faith Alone, July 28
Satan keeps on tempting people to commit sexual sins and other terrible crimes because he doesn’t want people to believe in what God says and does. But the church and God’s people should regard Satan’s attacks on God’s Word and work as especially dangerous. Letting go of God’s Word is the root of all temptations. It results in the destruction and violation of all God’s commandments. Unbelief is the source of every sin. If Satan is able to tamper with God’s Word or snatch it out of people’s hearts, he will achieve his goal—people will no longer believe in God. ~ Martin Luther, Faith Alone, July 29

The greatest and best man in the world must say, By the grace of God I am what I am, but God says absolutely I am that I am. ~ Matthew Henry
Have you ever realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? ~ Martyn Lloyd-Jones
At every stage of our Christian development and in every sphere of our Christian discipleship, pride is the greatest enemy and humility our greatest friend. ~ John Stott

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Book Review: Ladylike: Living Biblically

Ladylike: Living Biblically. Rebekah Curtis and Rose Adle. 2015. Concordia. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Ladylike: Living Biblically is certainly a thought-provoking read. It is a collection of essays--essays addressing women and how they should live--why they should live--biblically.

It might be tempting to call these chapters "devotional" but that wouldn't be the truth, not the exact truth. Yes, one could read this book in place of a devotional book, and, perhaps maybe even get more out of it than the typical devotional.

But these essays--these chapters--are food for thought. Even when written in a humorous style, they're meant to be taken seriously. One of the things I most appreciated about this one is the variety of narrative styles used throughout. Each chapter almost does stand alone. Each one speaks for itself.

It doesn't matter if you're young or old, or somewhere in between. It doesn't matter if you're single, married, or widowed--if you've had kids or not. The authors are talking to YOU. (One of the most frustrating things for me is when  books "for women, by women" assume that all women are naturally married and have at least a couple of kids. This book makes no assumptions.)

I also appreciated how straight-forward and unafraid these women are to speak the truth as they see it, even knowing that speaking "the truth" could lead to disagreement or controversy. If the Bible says it's true--it's true. Don't look to modern-day feminists who may or may not claim to be Christ-followers for the answer you're looking for--hoping for--turn to the Word of God.
But what we're offering here are thoughts aimed to ground our functions, identities, and lives in Christ our Lord as He reveals Himself to us in His Word. 
I enjoyed the whole book, but, several chapters stand out as MUST-READ. "The Pie Eating Contest" comes to mind.

This is how it begins:
A little girl walked into a kitchen and saw a delicious pie on the table. The little girl squealed with delight, "I want to eat it all." "You can't eat it all," her mother replied. "It wouldn't be good for you." End of discussion. Many years later, another kitchen and another pie. This time, there's a different response. It smells so good! It looks so good! The girl, now a grown woman, squeals, "I want to eat it all!" And everyone cheers. Yes, to the pie! Yes to the eating of it all! Go you! She starts in on the pie and life is sweet. After a few large slices, she's a little bit surprised that having it all is not as easy or as enjoyable as she had anticipated.
Other favorite quotes:
The people of God always appear to be on some wrong side of history from a human perspective. Running afoul of human "wisdom" can be awkward or even dangerous. But the believer knows it is far more dangerous to be on the wrong side of the God of history. It can never be wise to live counter to the wisdom of the world's maker. 
The children of God cannot lead holy lives when the Word of God is not taught in truth and purity. 
Avoiding topics that might not be well received is refusing to treat someone like a reasonable adult.
The human animal wants cupcakes, oversleeping, and sex, all without consequences. 
But Jesus died for the celibate person as much as He did for the beloved spouse (not to mention the unbeloved spouse). "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints" (Psalm 116:15), no matter how many people show up for a particular saint's funeral. Every person ever born is a testimony to the love and power of the Creator, and His love for any one of us is greater than the love all of humanity combined could offer.
What Jesus wants from us is repentance, every day of our lives. He would rather have us be holy than self-actualized. It is better for us to die daily to sin than to open that cookie shop or write that novel or finish that degree.
The true Church does not ordain women; neither will women of the true Church permit themselves to be ordained or submit to anyone who teaches contrary to Scripture.
Most unbelievers are not kept from faith because they do not believe there is a God. What they do not believe in is their own sin. They think they're pretty good. They don't believe there is anything so wrong with them that they need forgiveness in any significant way, certainly not an eternal one. If there is a hell, it was only invented for Hitler, and what makes it so hellish is that he's there all alone. 
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

My Year with Spurgeon #32

The Condescension of Christ
Charles Spurgeon
2 Corinthians 8:9
There was never a time in which there was not God. And just so, there was never a period in which there was not Christ Jesus our Lord. He is self-existent, hath no beginning of days, neither end of years; he is the immortal, invisible, the only wise God, our Savior.
All those for whom the Savior died, having believed in his name and given themselves to him, are this day rich.
Remember that adoption, justification, sanctification, are all yours. Thou hast everything that heart can wish in spiritual things, and thou hast everything that is necessary for this life; for you know who hath said, “having food and raiment, let us therewith be content.” You are rich; rich with true riches, and not with the riches of a dream.
And now, Christian, in heaven there is a crown of gold which is thine to- day; it will be no more thine when thou hast it on thy head than it is now. I remember to have heard it reported that I once spoke in metaphor and bade Christians look at all the crowns hanging in rows in heaven — very likely I did say it — but if not, I will say it now. Up, Christian, see the crowns all ready, and mark thine own, stand thou and wonder at it; see with what pearls it is bedight, and how heavy it is with gold! And that is for thy head, thy poor aching head; thy poor tortured brain shall yet have that crown for its arraying! And see that garment, it is stiff with gems, and white like snow; and that is for thee! When thy week day garment shall be done with, this shall be the raiment of thy everlasting Sabbath. When thou hast worn out this poor body, there remaineth for thee, “A house not made with hands eternal in the heavens.” Up to the summit, Christian, and survey thine inheritance, and when thou hast surveyed it all, when thou hast seen thy present possessions, thy promised possessions, thine entailed possessions then remember that all these were bought by the poverty of thy Savior!
Look thou on every promise, and see the blood stains on it; yea, look, too, on the harps and crowns of heaven and read the bloody purchase! Remember, thou couldst never have been anything but a damned sinner unless Christ had bought thee! Remember if he had remained in heaven, thou wouldst for ever have remained in hell, unless he had shrouded and eclipsed his own honor thou wouldst never have had a ray of light to shine upon thee.
My Savior is a physician; if you can heal yourself, he will have nothing to do with you. Remember, my Savior came to clothe the naked. He will clothe you if you have not a rag of your own; but unless you let him do it from head to foot, he will have nothing to do with you.
Christ says he will never have a partner, he will do all or none. Come then, hast thou given up all to Christ? Hast thou no reliance and trust save in the cross of Jesus? Then thou hast answered the question well. Be happy, be joyous, if death should surprise thee the next hour, thou art secure. Go on thy way, and rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, August 10, 2015

Book Review: Lady Maybe

Lady Maybe. Julie Klassen. 2015. Penguin. 400 pages. [Source: Library]

There's good news and bad news. Which to start with?! I'll start with the good news, I suppose.

The good news is that there is very little distinctively Christian content within Lady Maybe. Why is that good news? Well, you don't have to be unChristian to have disdain for "Christian romances." Some Christians avoid it perhaps for the reason that "Christian fiction" is "preachy." Some perhaps for the reason that "Christian fiction" rarely contains realistic content: characters that are actually, genuinely sinners--or so they say.

I can honestly say that there is nothing within Lady Maybe that could be considered preachy. The first slight evidence of "Christian content" comes in at around three hundred pages. The main character, Hannah, prays or speaks of praying. And another character reminds her that Jesus forgives all who ask. I can also say that the characters are certainly sinners living in a sin-filled world. For example, the main character is a "fallen woman". (I'll include spoilers towards the end.*) And the hero himself has made some big mistakes. The characters subtly point to the message that forgiveness is offered to all by Christ. I say subtly because there is nothing preachy--nothing obvious--about this one.

Now, the bad news. The bad news is that there is very little distinctively Christian content within Lady Maybe. It would be unfair for me to generalize that all readers of Christian romance read exclusively Christian romances, or, that Christian readers avoid secular romances. But some readers--at least--do exclusively read Christian romances, and, there is a reason for this. They want their romances to be clean, absent of graphic details, a high purity quality especially between unmarried characters, but lacking of intimate details even between married characters. (Some secular books are capable of this. Georgette Heyer, for example, comes to mind.) But sadly, more and more Christian romances are failing this standard. Some readers perhaps--like myself--have learned the hard way that reading "smutty books" is spiritually dangerous or unwise. Some readers hold themselves accountable to a higher standard, not caring what everyone else is reading, or what everyone else considers fine for reading.

Lady Maybe is a Regency Romance set during 1819. Marianna and Sir John are unhappily married. She has had a lover since the very beginning. Sir John is aware of his wife's cheating, but, hopes that if he keeps on forgiving her that even if it takes three hundred or so chances, that their marriage might eventually work out. Hannah Rogers, the heroine, has been in and out of their lives. She was first hired to be a companion for Marianna, (Lady Mayfield). She left her job--suddenly--and then returned a year later asking for past wages. She ended up getting rehired as a companion for the Lady. The couple is--for better or worse--moving yet again. Sir John is trying to "hide" his wife from his lover and cut off all communication between the two. But an accident within the first few chapters of the book changes everything….

Lady Maybe is a secret-driven, surprise-heavy historical romance. The characters are well-drawn. Marianna. Hannah. James Lowden. Sir John. Becky (the wet nurse). Dr. Parrish. Mrs. Parrish. Mrs. Turrill, the housekeeper. I could go on. There were plenty of characters that I genuinely started to care about and/or got the chance to know. That is a strength, I won't deny it. I have read Christian romances where 90% of the characters are completely one-dimensional and essentially lifeless. That is not the case with Lady Maybe.

Was it compelling? Yes. I admit that it was. But was it bordering on inappropriate for picky readers? Yes. I think it was.



Hannah, the heroine, is a fallen woman. During her employ, she was seduced by Sir John who was angry and hurt by his wife's cheating. He arranges another job for her so they do not continue to fall into sin. He's worried that so long as she's in the house--she'll be a constant temptation to him to commit adultery. He also chooses that time to move with his wife. Hannah keeps her pregnancy a secret, and has Sir John's child with him being no wiser for it. Hannah's sudden re-entry for their lives is a bit of a shock for him. But what can he say when his wife surprises him within two or three minutes of them getting into the carriage to leave for their new home?! Readers, of course, know nothing of their past. As I said, this is a secret-driven romance.

The carriage tumbles off a cliff, and Sir John and a woman are recovered. Everyone assumes that the woman by his side is his wife. And she is, in fact, clutching a ring belonging to Lady Mayfield. As you might have guessed--as I guessed almost right away--Hannah is that woman. Sir John does recover, but, he finds it wonderfully fun to have a new "Lady Mayfield." And he's beyond thrilled to learn that he has a son, Danny. (Danny was brought to their home while Sir John was still in a coma.) He loves putting Hannah in tricky situations. Asking the doctor when he can start sleeping with his wife again. Insisting that she sleep by his side.

But Sir John is not Hannah's only temptation. James, Sir John's solicitor, comes around. He is anxious to prove that Lady Mayfield is TROUBLE. But, he falls in love with her himself. It doesn't help that he ever-so-accidentally comes across a just-finished-bathing still-very-extremely-exposed Hannah. James becomes a little lust-driven to say the least. He learns her true identity, and, is relieved that she isn't Marianna after all. He has heard too many stories about her.

The book has dozens of twists and turns, and, yes, I've spoiled a small number of them. It isn't so much the fact that Hannah is a "fallen woman" who has had a child out of wedlock that is objectionable. It is the amount of graphic detail involved in the storytelling--past and present. Now this "graphic detail" might be laughable compared to other SMUTTY ROMANCES published secularly. But for any reader who finds such content undesirable, it will be disappointing or frustrating.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Week in Review: August 2-8

Jesus knows us in the most profound ways. He knows our past with its failures, its hurts. He knows our present, our unrealized longings. He knows us in the most intimate ways. He knows our idiosyncrasies. He calls us by our characteristics. I sometimes wonder if he calls us some of the things we would not want to be called. It is quite possible he affectionately calls us “Grumpy” or “Fearful” or “Faithless,” just as we might talk to our sheep if we were shepherds. It is encouraging to think that not only does he know us, but we know him! ~ R. Kent Hughes, John: That You May Believe
It is not sinful to tell God how you feel. That may sound like heresy in the light of some things we have been taught, and I want to qualify it by saying that we should always be reverent toward God. He is God! We are his creatures and must ever bow to him. But that does not mean we are not allowed to express to him how we feel. Some of us have feelings that ought to be shared with God. The feelings are not necessarily right, but they are feelings that need to be brought honestly before God. But we do not, for fear of losing something. God is more patient and accepting than we realize (not to mention that he already knows our thoughts anyway, so we couldn't hide it even if we wanted to). ~ R. Kent Hughes, John: That You May Believe
ESV Reader's Bible

  • 1 Samuel
  • 2 Samuel
  • Mark

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  • Jeremiah


  • John


  • John

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

August "Memory" Work

I started out the year wanting to memorize Scripture, I've discovered that I'm satisfied meditating on Scripture. Here are the verses I'll be adding in August.

  • The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. Numbers 6:24, 25, 26, ESV
  • Therefore know this day, and consider it in your heart, that the LORD himself is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other. Deuteronomy 4:39, NKJV
  • The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of the law. Deuteronomy 29:29, ESV
  • Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart. Psalm 119:111
  • Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. John 17:17, ESV
  • For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Romans 15:4, ESV
  • May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 15:5-6, ESV
  • Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Corinthians 5:17, ESV
  • For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21, ESV

Past memory verses:
  1. Revelation 21:34
  2. Proverbs 3:5-6
  3. Psalm 34:3
  4. Psalm 34:8
  5. Psalm 103:1,2,3,4,5
  6. Psalm 103:101112
  7. Psalm 96:2
  8. Psalm 95:6-7
  9. Matthew 11:28
  10. Hebrews 7:25
  11. Ephesians 2:8910
  12. Psalm 138:8
  13. Psalm 27:14
  14. Proverbs 18:10
  15. Philippians 4:4
  16. Philippians 4:13
  17. John 14:123
  18. John 14:6
  19. John 11:2526
  20. Psalm 16:8
  21. Psalm 16:11
  22. Psalm 18:30
  23. Psalm 25:5
  24. Psalm 27:4
  25. Psalm 28:6
  26. Psalm 30:45
  27. Psalm 31:5
  28. Psalm 31:9
  29. Psalm 32:8
  30. Habakkuk 3:1718
  31. Zephaniah 3:17
  32. Jeremiah 17:14
  33. Lamentations 3:2223242526
  34. Deuteronomy 6:4567
  35. Exodus 15:18
  36. John 6:40
  37. John 6:44
  38. Jude 21
  39. Jude 24-25
  40. Isaiah 26:34
  41. Isaiah 25:1
  42. Isaiah 25:8,9
  43. Numbers 6:24, 25, 26
  44. Deuteronomy 4:39
  45. Deuteronomy 29:29
  46. Psalm 119:111
  47. Romans 15:4, 5, 6
  48. John 17:17
  49. 2 Corinthians 5:17
  50. 2 Corinthians 5:21

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible