Tuesday, May 31, 2016

May Reflections

May Accomplishments:

This months' Bible Reading (May 1-29)


  • 2 Chronicles
  • Job
  • Proverbs
  • Ecclesiastes
  • Song of Solomon
  • Hosea
  • Joel
  • Amos
  • Obadiah
  • Jonah
  • Micah
  • Nahum
  • Habakkuk
  • Zephaniah 
  • 1 Thessalonians
  • 2 Thessalonians
  • 1 Timothy
  • 2 Timothy
  • Titus
  • Philemon
  • Hebrews
  • 1 Peter (6)
  • 2 Peter (6)


  • 1 Kings
  • 2 Kings
  • Ezekiel
  • Hosea
  • Joel
  • Amos
  • Obadiah
  • Jonah
  • Micah
  • 1 Corinthians
  • 2 Corinthians
  • Galatians
  • Ephesians
  • 1 Peter
  • 2 Peter

Books I've reviewed this month:

Christian fiction:
  1. Anchor in the Storm. Sarah Sundin. 2016. Revell. 400 pages. [Review copy]
  2. The Quieting. Suzanne Woods Fisher. 2016. Revell. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  3. The Rhyme Bible Storybook. L.J. Sattgast. Illustrated by Laurence Cleyet-Merle. 1996/2012. Zonderkidz. (Zondervan) 344 pages. [Source: Borrowed]
Christian nonfiction:  
  1. Habits of Grace: Enjoying Jesus Through the Spiritual Disciplines. David Mathis. Foreword by John Piper. 2016. Crossway. 240 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  2. The God We Worship. Edited by Jonathan L. Master. 2016. P&R Publishing. 192 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  3. Heaven and the Afterlife. Erwin W. Lutzer. 2016. Moody Publishers. 480 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  4. For the Glory: Eric Liddell's Journey From Olympic Champion to Modern Martyr. Duncan Hamilton. 2016. 400 pages. [Source: Library]
  5. Severe Compassion: The Gospel According to Nahum. Gregory D. Cook. 2016. P&R Publishing. 288 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  6. Passionate Preaching of Martyn Lloyd Jones. Steven J. Lawson. 2016. Reformation Trust. 180 pages. [Source: Borrowed]
  7. Blood Work: How the Blood of Christ Accomplishes Our Salvation. Anthony J. Carter. 2013. Reformation Trust. 150 pages. [Source: Bought]
  8. I Wonder: Engaging a Child's Curiosity about the Bible. Elizabeth Caldwell. 2016. Abingdon. 160 pages. [Source: Review copy]

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, May 30, 2016

On the First Year, OR, God's Providence

I recently read Kevin DeYoung's "Me, The Lord, Pizza, and Celiac Disease." The blog post was about his first week going gluten-free. It brought back a lot of things to my mind. It was only a year ago that I myself was 'forced' into a radical diet change of my own. I am gluten-free, dairy-free, and egg-free. With a change that radical comes two things: a big sense of loss and ongoing waves of guilt.

Loss because it feels like your life is initially being turned upside-down and ripped apart. Loss because it is a forever-and-ever change. The list of foods that I can never have again--at least on this side of eternity--are too many to count. Also one never quite realizes--at least I'd never realized--how interconnected food is with socializing. One gets a sense of it when dieting, of course. But there's always a choice: to cheat or not to cheat. When your very health depends on avoiding whole categories of food, there is no cheating.

Guilt because you know that despite of what you may be feeling emotionally, despite of how you're feeling physically, you should be thankful. Thankful for life. Thankful for the blessings in your life. Thankful that it isn't a 'real' loss of life, just a loss of lifestyle. Guilt because you know it shouldn't be this INCREDIBLY BIG DEAL to give up certain foods. Guilt because there are so many more important things in life that should be taking priority.

Reminders come--day or night--of your "loss". TV commercials. Cooking shows. Daily meals with your family. Weekly grocery shopping trips. The sight and smell of food you'll never again taste and enjoy.

The melodrama of the first week, the first month, doesn't last forever. It does get better. Naturally it does. You adjust. You adapt. You learn. You find new ways to be joyful. You find new ways to live life well.

There is definitely a sense of adventure. The old you has passed away, the new you is here to stay. The focus becomes more:

  • what can I eat? 
  • what new things can I try? 
  • how can I make what I eat taste really, really good? 
  • can I recapture a sense of satisfaction? 

I see God's Providence in my life. It is no longer a mere doctrine that I assent to abstractly. God providentially shaped me, my life, my health--or lack of. He shaped all the circumstances in my life. He has blessed me throughout. His blessings don't always look and feel like blessings--at least not as prosperity preachers would have you believe. But isn't it blessed to be drawn closer to the Savior? Isn't it a blessing to live moment-by-moment by a strength not your own? Isn't it a blessing to know that God's grace is sufficient? Aren't there lessons that can only be learned by taking refuge in God? Aren't there blessings to be found in waiting? in seeking? in trusting?

Maybe food was an idol in my heart--maybe it wasn't. All I know is that God IS good. The physical trials I've undergone the past two years of my life have strengthened me spiritually. (Note not perfected me, not taught me everything there is to know, if anything I've learned how much I don't know, how certain I am that I can never know all there is to know).
Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! Psalm 34:8
I'll end this little post with a playlist that helped me to SURVIVE those melodramatic first weeks.

Blessed Be Your Name, Matt Redman
I recommend singing this one LOUDLY and often. When others hear this song on the radio--or whenever--and identify it as YOUR SONG. Then you know you're on the right track!

10,000 Reasons by Matt Redman. Same as above! I think one of the reasons these two songs work so well is it directs and focuses you God-ward. And Godward is where you need to be, need to REST.

Joy by Rend Collective
I choose this one because you need a DANCING song to lose yourself in. Rend Collective, in case you're unfamiliar with this group, just brings a SMILE each and every time.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

May's Scripture Chain

  • But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you. Psalm 5:11
  • I will give to the Lord the thanks due to his righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the Lord, the Most High. Psalm 7:17
  • Sing praises to the Lord, who sits enthroned in Zion! Tell among the peoples his deeds! Psalm 9:11
  • I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me. Psalm 13:6
  • Be exalted, O Lord, in your strength! We will sing and praise your power. Psalm 21:13
  • Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name. Psalm 30:4
  • Sing to him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts. Psalm 33:3
  • Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises! Psalm 47:6
  • My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast! I will sing and make melody! Psalm 57:7
  • I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations. Psalm 57:9
  • O my Strength, I will sing praises to you, for you, O God, are my fortress, the God who shows me steadfast love. Psalm 59:17
  • for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. Psalm 63:7
  • sing the glory of his name; give to him glorious praise! Psalm 66:2
  • All the earth worships you and sings praises to you; they sing praises to your name.” Selah Psalm 66:4
  • Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth. Selah Psalm 67:4
  • Sing to God, sing praises to his name; lift up a song to him who rides through the deserts; his name is the Lord; exult before him! Psalm 68:4
  • My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God. Psalm 84:2
  • I will sing of the steadfast love of the Lord, forever; with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations. Psalm 89:1
  • It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to your name, O Most High; Psalm 92:4
  • Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Psalm 95:1
  • Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day. Psalm 96:12
  • Oh sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things! His right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him. Psalm 98:1
  • Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises! Psalm 98:4
  • Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Psalm 98:8
  • I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have being. Psalm 104:33
  • Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works! Psalm 105:2
  • My heart is steadfast, O God! I will sing and make melody with all my being! Psalm 108:1
  • Praise the Lord! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting. Psalm 147:1
  • Let the godly exult in glory; let them sing for joy on their beds. Psalm 149:5
  • Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously; let this be made known in all the earth. Isaiah 12:5
  • Sing, O heavens, for the Lord has done it; shout, O depths of the earth; break forth into singing, O mountains, O forest, and every tree in it! For the Lord has redeemed Jacob, and will be glorified in Israel Isaiah 44:23
  • Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the Lord has comforted his people and will have compassion on his afflicted. Isaiah 49:13
  • Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion, for behold, I come and I will dwell in your midst, declares the Lord. Zechariah 2:10
  • Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Colossians 3:16
  • Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Philippians 4:4

Inspired by "How Can I Keep From Singing?" by Chris Tomlin
This month's translation: ESV

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Week in Review: May 22-28


  • 2 Kings
  • Hosea
  • Joel
  • Amos
  • Obadiah
  • Jonah
  • Micah
  • 2 Corinthians
  • Galatians
  • Ephesians

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, May 27, 2016

Book Review: The Passionate Preaching of Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Passionate Preaching of Martyn Lloyd Jones. Steven J. Lawson. 2016. Reformation Trust. 180 pages. [Source: Borrowed]

The Passionate Preaching of Martyn Lloyd-Jones is one of the biographies in Reformation Trust's Long Line of Godly Men series. This title is written by one of my favorite authors/speakers Steven J. Lawson. (I thought I loved him before watching the sermon series The Doctrines of Grace in the Gospel of John. Now I love, love, LOVE him.) I am also very fond of Martyn Lloyd-Jones. This is not my first title to read in the series, and, it won't be my last. I'd love to read as many as I can actually! I think it's a great way to approach biographies.

In the first chapter, readers get a relatively brief introduction to his life--birth through death. This is roughly twenty-five pages! I'd say it was a just-right amount of biographical context.

In the second chapter, the focus shifts to the ministry. The argument is that ministers should be sovereignly called. The chapter includes six distinguishing marks of divine calling. 1) Inner compulsion 2) Outside influence 3) Loving concern for others 4) Overwhelming constraint 5) Sobering humility 6) Corporate Confirmation. Lloyd-Jones did not believe that theological training in a seminary was necessary or always beneficial. He also did not believe in lay preaching. All are called to be witnesses but not all called to PREACH. Preaching is not the same as teaching or witnessing.

In the third chapter, the focus shifts to the Bible--the Word of God--and the role the Bible should have in the life of the minister and the life of the church. Many chapters within this book focus on preaching from the Bible, expository preaching from the Bible, going verse-by-verse-by-verse through whole books of the Bible. But this chapter focuses more generally on the authority and power of the Bible. The Bible is divine, the very word of God. I loved, loved, loved this chapter.
We can be perfectly certain that the Church has lost her authority and power from the moment she ceased to firmly believe in the authority of the Word of God. ~ Lloyd-Jones
From the moment that the idea began to gain currency that the Bible was the history of the quest of mankind for God, rather than God's revelation of Himself and the only way of salvation to mankind, the Church began to decline and to wane in her influence and in her power. From the time the Church threw overboard the great evangelical doctrines, and substituted for them a belief in the moral and spiritual evolution of mankind, and began to preach a social gospel rather than a personal salvation--from that moment church attendance really became a mere matter of form, or a merely pleasant way of gratifying one's appetite for ceremony, ritual, oratory, and music. ~ Lloyd-Jones
We all therefore have to face this ultimate and final question: Do we accept the Bible as the Word of God, as the sole authority in all matters of faith and practice, or do we not? Is the whole of my thinking governed by Scripture, or do I come with my reason and pick and choose out of Scripture, or do I come with my reason and pick and choose out of Scripture and sit in judgment upon it, putting myself and modern knowledge forward as the ultimate standard and authority? The issue is crystal clear. Do I accept Scripture as a revelation from God, or do I trust to speculation, human knowledge, human learning, human understanding, and human reasons OR, putting it still more simply, Do I pin my faith to, and subject all my thinking to, what I read in the Bible? Or do I defer to modern knowledge, to modern learning, to what people think today, to what we know at this present time which was not known in the past? It is inevitable that we occupy one or the other of those two positions. ~ Lloyd-Jones
Do not read the Bible to find texts for sermon, read it because it is the food that God has provided for your soul, because it is the Word of God, because it is the means whereby you can get to know God. Read it because it is the bread of life, the manna provided for your soul's nourishment and well-being. ~ Lloyd-Jones
The purpose of studying the Scripture is to arrive at its doctrine. ~ Lloyd-Jones
I believe the paramount and most urgent duty at the moment is not to defend the Bible, not to argue about the Bible--I believe we are called upon at the present moment to declare the Bible: to announce the eternal truths contained in the Bible. ~ Lloyd-Jones
The fourth chapter begins by making a distinction between teaching and preaching. How did Martyn Lloyd-Jones define the terms "preacher" and "preaching"?
The first thing, obviously, is that he is a speaker. He is not primarily a writer of books, he is not an essayist or a literary man; the preacher is primarily a speaker. So if the candidate has not got the gift of speech, whatever else he may have, he is not going to make a preacher. He may be a great theologian, he can be an excellent man at giving private advice and counseling, and many other things, but by basic definition, if a man has not got the gift of speech he cannot be a preacher. ~ Lloyd-Jones
The business of the preacher is to bring the Bible alive to them, to show them what is in it to thrill them as they hear it from him. ~ Lloyd-Jones
It then shifts to focus specifically on expository preaching. Did you know there are three types of expository preaching? Experiential preaching--expository preaching that assumes the audience is Christian and teaching application--how to live a Christian life. Evangelistic preaching--expository preaching directed to unbelievers. Instructional preaching--expository preaching designed to teach doctrines and theology.

The fifth chapter makes distinctions between lectures and sermons. This chapter would be completely practical for ministers. It is focused on sermon preparations, etc. For example, the necessity to have at least a sermon outline, if not a full draft of what one will say.

The sixth chapter is about how all sermons should be divinely-focused and seek at all times to unveil God. This may just be the best chapter in the book. Maybe. They're all so good though!
I can forgive a man a bad sermon, I can forgive the preacher almost anything if he gives me a sense of God, if he gives me something for my soul, if he gives me the sense that though he is inadequate in himself, he is handling something which is very great and glorious, if he gives me some dim glimpse of the majesty and glory of God, the love of Christ my Savior, and the magnificence of the gospel. If he does that, I am his debtor, and I am profoundly grateful to him. ~ Lloyd-Jones
The goal of preaching is to plant within people the knowledge of God, a sense of wonder for His divine holiness, and an overwhelming realization of His ardent love for sinners. ~ Lawson
The goal of all our seeking and all our worship and all our endeavor should not be to have a particular experience; it should not be to petition certain blessings; it should be to know God Himself--the Giver not the gift, the source and the fount of every blessing, not the blessing itself. ~ Lloyd-Jones
The Word of God is, first and foremost, a presentation of the awesome majesty of God. ~ Lawson
The preaching of God must begin with expounding the absolute holiness of God. Lloyd-Jones said every other area of truth must be viewed in light of this divine attribute. ~ Lawson
You will never have a knowledge of sin unless you have a true conception of the holiness of God. ~ Lloyd-Jones
It is the holiness of God that demands the cross, so without starting with holiness there is no meaning in the cross. It is not surprising that the cross has been discounted by modern theologians; it is because they have started with the love of God without His holiness. It is because they have forgotten the life of God, His holy life, that everything in Him is holy; with God love and forgiveness are not things of weakness or compromise. He can only forgive sin as He has dealt with it in His own holy manner, and that is what He did upon the cross. ~ Lloyd-Jones
The seventh chapter focuses on doctrine and theology. Preachers should have a good and solid grasp of systematic theology and biblical theology.
Preaching must always be theological, always based on a theological foundation...there is no type of preaching that should be non-theological. ~ Lloyd-Jones
Each doctrine in Scripture is inseparably joined to every other doctrine. Preaching must be aimed at teaching what he called "doctrinal certainties" that unify the entire Bible in one cohesive body of truth. ~ Lawson
It is our business to face the Scriptures. One advantage in preaching through a book of the Bible, as we are proposing to do, is that it compels us to face every single statement, come what may, and stand before it, and look at it, and allow it to speak to us. ~ Lloyd-Jones
The eighth chapter focuses on Lloyd-Jones being Reformed. This chapter specifically focuses on tracing the doctrines of grace through his works.
Instead of labeling the doctrine he was preaching, Lloyd-Jones opted to simply explain the text of Scripture. ~ Lawson
The ninth chapter is the final chapter. It focuses on the Holy Spirit and the role of the Spirit both in the minister and in the church.
The Holy Spirit must be active in true preaching, active not only in owning the truth as it is heard, but active in anointing the preacher himself. ~ Lloyd-Jones
Lloyd-Jones insisted that without the power of the Spirit, a man in the pulpit is merely reading his notes and repeating words. ~ Lawson
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Quotes from the Cloud #20

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

For fellow participants, what I would LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to see is for people to share quotes from what they're reading. I'd love for you to share quotes occasionally with your readers and let me know about it. If you don't have a blog, you could always leave quotes in the comments here.
David has left no sweeter Psalm than the short twenty- third. It is but a moment's opening of his soul; but, as when one, walking the winter street sees the door opened for some one to enter, and the red light streams a moment forth, and the forms of gay children are running to greet the comer, and genial music sounds, though the door shuts and leaves the night black, yet it cannot shut back again all that the eyes, the ear, the heart, and the imagination have seen—so in this Psalm, though it is but a moment's opening of the soul, are emitted truths of peace and consolation that will never be absent from the world. The twenty-third Psalm is the nightingale of the Psalms. It is small, of a homely feather, singing shyly out of obscurity; but, oh! it has filled the air of the whole world with melodious joy, greater than the heart can conceive. Blessed be the day on which that Psalm was born! What would you say of a pilgrim commissioned of God to travel up and down the earth singing a strange melody, which, when one heard, caused him to forget whatever sorrows he had? And so the singing angel goes on his way through all lands, singing in the language of every nation, driving away trouble by the pulses of the air which his tongue moves with divine power. Behold just such an one! This pilgrim God has sent to speak in every language on the globe. It has charmed more griefs to rest than all the philosophy of the world. It has remanded to their dungeon more felon thoughts, more black doubts, more thieving sorrows, than there are sands on the sea-shore. It has comforted the noble host of the poor. It has sung courage to the army of the disappointed. It has poured balm and consolation into the heart of the sick, of captives in dungeons, of widows in their pinching griefs, of orphans in their loneliness. Dying soldiers have died easier as it was read to them; ghastly hospitals have been illuminated; it has visited the prisoner, and broken his chains, and, like Peter's angel, led him forth in imagination, and sung him back to his home again. It has made the dying Christian slave freer than his master, and consoled those whom, dying, he left behind mourning, not so much that he was gone, as because they were left behind, and could not go too. Nor is its work done. It will go singing to your children and my children, and to their children, through all the generations of time; nor will it fold its wings till the last pilgrim is safe, and time ended; and then it shall fly back to the bosom of God, whence it issued, and sound on, mingled with all those sounds of celestial joy which make heaven musical for ever. ~ Henry Ward Beecher, in "Life Thoughts."
Augustine is said to have beheld, in a dream, the one hundred and nineteenth Psalm rising before him as a tree of life in the midst of the paradise of God. This twenty-third may be compared to the fairest flowers that grew around it. The former has even been likened to the sun amidst the stars—surely this is like the richest of the constellations, even the Pleiades themselves! ~ John Stoughton, in "The Songs of Christ's Flock," 1860.
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Book Review: Severe Compassion

Severe Compassion: The Gospel According to Nahum. Gregory D. Cook. 2016. P&R Publishing. 288 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I must admit that I was skeptical that any person could be passionate and enthusiastic about the book of Nahum. Now passion and enthusiasm for the Bible--that I get, that I live. So reading Cook's little commentary on the book of Nahum was enlightening. It did indeed help me to appreciate Nahum more than ever before.

I agree with Cook's premise that every single book of the Bible is important and serves a purpose, that every single book of the Bible should be read from and preached from, that God has a message for us in every book of the Bible.

Nearly every single chapter of Severe Compassion treats the subject of sin. The doctrine of sin is examined, explored, discussed. The author's tone is at times openly confrontational and direct. Are you, YES YOU, aware of the sin in your life? Are you, YES YOU, taking sin as seriously as God is taking it? Are you, YES YOU, being a hypocrite, living a hypocritical life? Do you say you love God, trust in God, yet live for the world and glory in the world?

In addition to being "about" sin, judgment, and the holiness of God, the book is "about" how Nahum fits into the big picture of the Bible, of how the book connects with Jesus Christ.

Nahum becomes a wake-up call in the hands of Gregory Cook. I don't think that is necessarily a bad thing either. Aren't we all at times guilty of taking sin oh-so-lightly? Aren't we all a little smug about how silly and foolish and disobedient those ancient-Israelite's were? At times.

The book is for anyone. Pastors may be a little more likely to pick the book up in the first place. But you don't need to be a scholar to appreciate this one.

Cook takes an intimidating book--minor prophet written in poetry--and shows why it is worth your time.

I definitely found it worth reading. It is easy to recommend.

Favorite quote(s):
We read the Bible to know God. He has told us about himself. We will not know God if we refuse to listen to his self-description. Those who will not allow the Bible to describe God do not worship the God of the Bible; they worship a god of their own making.
If God did not care when our hearts are far from him (Isa. 29:13) or when we adulterously give our hearts to the world (James 4:4), he would not love us. If God did not care that the world, the flesh, and the Devil attempt to seduce us away from him (Eph. 2:2-3), he would not love us. If God could watch us suffer grievous injustice without punishing evil (Deut. 32:35-36), he would not love us. The notion of a love without jealousy and vengeance cannot survive a thorough biblical examination.
We tend to read the Bible as if it focuses on us. It does not. The primary concern of the Bible is that God would be glorified. The primary reason for missions and evangelism is not to save people from hell, as important as that is. The primary reason to abandon all to tell others about Christ is that he might receive glory.
Our task is to consider what makes Nahum unique: how did it add to Jesus' understanding of God's plan for him, and how does it illumine what Jesus did for us?
In the gospel according to Nahum, we are saved not because we are righteous but because we take refuge in God.
We have sinned grievously against God, and we live among people who have sinned grievously against God. We have no hope apart from God's mercy given to us because of his Son's work. The cross alone can provide us shelter from God. That God would willingly shelter us from his wrath by pouring it out on his Son demonstrates his goodness.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of forgiveness.
Jesus came, not only to save us from the effects of our sin, but also to save us from our sin. Sin destroys our lives. Every human wants deliverance from the effects of sin, but few humans hate their sin.
A person may live his or her life for the honor of this world or for the honor of Christ. Despite this, much of American evangelism seeks to combine the two.
We are not here to receive the glory due to Jesus. Rather, we are here so that others may see Jesus' beauty and glory for themselves and may worship him.
We face dangers far more insidious than blatant state persecution. What we desperately need--and what would be a most gracious gift from God--is that he would strip off the erotic exterior of American culture and force us to comprehend the truly horrific nature of what we have sold ourselves to. We cannot deliver ourselves. We must be delivered. It will not happen unless God does it. If you ask and beg him to, he promises to answer that prayer.
We do not sit in judgment of Scripture; it sits in judgment of us.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

My Year with Spurgeon #20

The Treasury of David
Charles Spurgeon
Psalm 23-4-6
Verse 4. "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me." This unspeakably delightful verse has been sung on many a dying bed, and has helped to make the dark valley bright times out of mind. Every word in it has a wealth of meaning. "Yea, though I walk," as if the believer did not quicken his pace when he came to die, but still calmly walked with God. To walk indicates the steady advance of a soul which knows its road, knows its end, resolves to follow the path, feels quite safe, and is therefore perfectly calm and composed. The dying saint is not in a flurry, he does not run as though he were alarmed, nor stand still as though he would go no further, he is not confounded nor ashamed, and therefore keeps to his old pace. Observe that it is not walking in the valley, but through the valley. We go through the dark tunnel of death and emerge into the light of immortality. We do not die, we do but sleep to wake in glory. Death is not the house but the porch, not the goal but the passage to it. The dying article is called a valley. The storm breaks on the mountain, but the valley is the place of quietude, and thus full often the last days of the Christian are the most peaceful of his whole career; the mountain is bleak and bare, but the valley is rich with golden sheaves, and many a saint has reaped more joy and knowledge when he came to die than he ever knew while he lived. And, then, it is not "the valley of death," but "the valley of the shadow of death," for death in its substance has been removed, and only the shadow of it remains. Some one has said that when there is a shadow there must be light somewhere, and so there is. Death stands by the side of the highway in which we have to travel, and the light of heaven shining upon him throws a shadow across our path; let us then rejoice that there is a light beyond. Nobody is afraid of a shadow, for a shadow cannot stop a man's pathway even for a moment. The shadow of a dog cannot bite; the shadow of a sword cannot kill; the shadow of death cannot destroy us. Let us not, therefore, be afraid. "I will fear no evil." He does not say there shall not be any evil; he had got beyond even that high assurance, and knew that Jesus had put all evil away; but "I will fear no evil;" as if even his fears, those shadows of evil, were gone for ever. The worst evils of life are those which do not exist except in our imagination. If we had no troubles but real troubles, we should not have a tenth part of our present sorrows. We feel a thousand deaths in fearing one, but the psalmist was cured of the disease of fearing. "I will fear no evil," not even the Evil One himself; I will not dread the last enemy, I will look upon him as a conquered foe, an enemy to be destroyed, "For thou art with me." This is the joy of the Christian! "Thou art with me." The little child out at sea in the storm is not frightened like all the other passengers on board the vessel, it sleeps in its mother's bosom; it is enough for it that its mother is with it; and it should be enough for the believer to know that Christ is with him. "Thou art with me; I have, in having thee, all that I can crave: I have perfect comfort and absolute security, for thou art with me." "Thy rod and thy staff," by which thou governest and rulest thy flock, the ensigns of thy sovereignty and of thy gracious care—"they comfort me." I will believe that thou reignest still. The rod of Jesse shall still be over me as the sovereign succour of my soul.
Many persons profess to receive much comfort from the hope that they shall not die. Certainly there will be some who will be "alive and remain" at the coming of the Lord, but is there so very much of advantage in such an escape from death as to make it the object of Christian desire? A wise man might prefer of the two to die, for those who shall not die, but who "shall be caught up together with the Lord in the air," will be losers rather than gainers. They will lose that actual fellowship with Christ in the tomb which dying saints will have, and we are expressly told that they shall have no preference beyond those who are asleep. Let us be of Paul's mind when he said that "To die is gain," and think of "departing to be with Christ, which is far better." This twenty-third psalm is not worn out, and it is as sweet in a believer's ear now as it was in David's time, let novelty-hunters say what they will.
Verse 5. "Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies." The good man has his enemies. He would not be like his Lord if he had not. If we were without enemies we might fear that we were not the friends of God, for the friendship of the world is enmity to God. Yet see the quietude of the godly man in spite of, and in the sight of, his enemies. How refreshing is his calm bravery! "Thou preparest a table before me." When a soldier is in the presence of his enemies, if he eats at all he snatches a hasty meal, and away he hastens to the fight. But observe: "Thou preparest a table," just as a servant does when she unfolds the damask cloth and displays the ornaments of the feast on an ordinary peaceful occasion. Nothing is hurried, there is no confusion, no disturbance, the enemy is at the door, and yet God prepares a table, and the Christian sits down and eats as if everything were in perfect peace. Oh! the peace which Jehovah gives to his people, even in the midst of the most trying circumstances!
"Let earth be all in arms abroad,
They dwell in perfect peace."
"Thou anointest my head with oil." May we live in the daily enjoyment of this blessing, receiving a fresh anointing for every day's duties. Every Christian is a priest, but he cannot execute the priestly office without unction, and hence we must go day by day to God the Holy Ghost, that we may have our heads anointed with oil. A priest without oil misses the chief qualification for his office, and the Christian priest lacks his chief fitness for service when he is devoid of new grace from on high. "My cup runneth over." He had not only enough, a cup full, but more than enough, a cup which overflowed. A poor man may say this as well as those in higher circumstances. "What, all this, and Jesus Christ too?" said a poor cottager as she broke a piece of bread and filled a glass with cold water. Whereas a man may be ever so wealthy, but if he be discontented his cup cannot run over; it is cracked and leaks. Content is the philosopher's stone which turns all it touches into gold; happy is he who has found it. Content is more than a kingdom, it is another word for happiness.
Verse 6. "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life." This is a fact as indisputable as it is encouraging, and therefore a heavenly verily, or "surely" is set as a seal upon it. This sentence may be read, "only goodness and mercy," for there shall be unmingled mercy in our history. These twin guardian angels will always be with me at my back and my beck. Just as when great princes go abroad they must not go unattended, so it is with the believer. Goodness and mercy follow him always—"all the days of his life"—the black days as well as the bright days, the days of fasting as well as the days of feasting, the dreary days of winter as well as the bright days of summer. Goodness supplies our needs, and mercy blots out our sins. "And I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever." "A servant abideth not in the house for ever, but the son abideth ever." While I am here I will be a child at home with my God; the whole world shall be his house to me; and when I ascend into the upper chamber, I shall not change my company, nor even change the house; I shall only go to dwell in the upper storey of the house of the Lord for ever.
May God grant us grace to dwell in the serene atmosphere of this most blessed Psalm!

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, May 23, 2016

Book Review: For the Glory

For the Glory: Eric Liddell's Journey From Olympic Champion to Modern Martyr. Duncan Hamilton. 2016. 400 pages. [Source: Library]

When I saw For the Glory: Eric Liddell's Journey From Olympic Champion to Modern Martyr appear on the 'new books' list at my local library, I knew I would want to read it. I also knew that I would need to rewatch Chariots of Fire. Though I had vague memories of watching it in sixth grade--the other movie we were shown during school time was The Hiding Place--I really didn't know enough about Eric Liddell to commit to reading an almost four-hundred page book. I made time for both book and movie this past month. I'm glad I made the time. I liked the movie very much. But I loved, loved, loved the book.

Do you have to love, love, love sports to love this one? I'd say no. Honestly, though I typically watch track events during the Olympics, it's the one-and-only time I watch track. And track isn't the real reason I tune into the Olympics. I find the Olympics irresistible. Thousands of human interest stories just waiting to unfold. But. I've gotten distracted.

Do you have to have a love of history, a love of World War II in order to love this one? This one is trickier. I can't imagine not loving history and not being fascinated by World War II. The first third of the book covers Eric Liddell's 'running' career in the early 1920s. The second third covers his time as a missionary in China in the 1930s--both as a single man and as a husband and father. The last third of the book covers his time in occupied China as a prisoner in a "work camp" during World War II.
The last third of the book was easily the best. That's not to say that the first two-thirds was lacking. It wasn't. It really wasn't. But I found the last hundred or so pages so compelling, so emotional that I could NOT, would NOT put it down.

Do you have to love God, do you have to be a Christian, to appreciate this one? I would hope not. Eric Liddell's story is worth knowing, trust me. And the more people read this one, the better, in my opinion. That being said. I am a Christian. I found the sections on his missionary life FASCINATING. Particularly his time in the work camp, his time as a prisoner. How he lived--how he died--I'm almost--almost--left without words. It was quite moving. Heart-breaking, inspiring, wonderful and tragic all at the same time.

All I can say is that the movie-makers focused on the wrong stuff. A movie focusing on his life as a missionary would be well-worth watching. That's a movie I would dearly love to see though it would require a lot of tissues!!!!!! 

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Week in Review: May 15-21


  • Job 20-42
  • Hosea
  • Joel
  • Amos
  • Obadiah
  • Jonah
  • Micah
  • Nahum
  • Habakkuk
  • Zephaniah
  • 1 Thessalonians
  • 2 Thessalonians
  • 1 Timothy
  • 2 Timothy
  • Titus
  • Philemon
  • Hebrews


  • Ezekiel 40-48

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, May 20, 2016

Book Review: Anchor in the Storm

Anchor in the Storm. Sarah Sundin. 2016. Revell. 400 pages. [Review copy]

Sarah Sundin is without a doubt one of my favorite, favorite authors. Mind you, not one of my favorite, favorite "Christian" authors, but one of my favorite authors. She writes historical fiction set around the time of the Second World War.

Anchor in the Storm is the second book in the Waves of Freedom Series. In the first book readers meet Mary Stirling and Jim Avery. In the second book, readers meet Jim's sister, Lillian, and get reacquainted with Jim's friend, Arch. Lillian is a pharmacist--an almost unheard of profession for a woman in 1941--excited about her new job in Boston, she'll be moving in with Mary. (Lillian is one of Mary's many roommates. The third book, I believe, will focus on another of her roommates.)

The book opens dramatically enough with the bombing of Pearl Harbor. That is with the Avery family learning of the bombing and the declaration of war. Jim and Arch are Navy men. They've already seen plenty of action at sea, and, now that war has openly begun, the horrors will only increase. One of the things I appreciate about Sundin's novel--besides the obvious romance and mystery--is the realism.
The problem addressed in the novel is this: the men are suffering--mentally, emotionally, psychologically--because of what they've seen, because of what they've done, because they are always, always on high alert, because awake or asleep some things can't be forgotten. But. That isn't the whole problem. The problem is that the men feel the absolute need to keep quiet about it, feel the need to hide it, ignore it. If the men speak up, they could be dismissed or discharged; they could be labeled weak or coward by other men. Their careers could be over.

So that is where the mystery comes in....how the men secretly cope with their problems...

And this mystery helps Lillian and Arch work through some of their issues. Both Lillian and Arch are flawed, some might even say deeply flawed. And that's another reason I liked this one....

Did I like it, or, did I love it? I definitely LOVED it. But there was one scene--or perhaps even two or three scenes--where I was HORRIBLY ANGRY at Arch and was YELLING at him.

But for the most part, I liked it very much indeed!!!

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Quotes from the Cloud #19

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

For fellow participants, what I would LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to see is for people to share quotes from what they're reading. I'd love for you to share quotes occasionally with your readers and let me know about it. If you don't have a blog, you could always leave quotes in the comments here.
[Jesus] was the clearest, most straightforward, and most outspoken of all speakers. He knew what he meant to say, and he meant his hearers also to know. Turn to his teaching, and see if anyone else ever spoke so simply as he did. He wore his heart upon his sleeve, and spoke out what was in his mind in such plain, clear language that the poorest of the poor, and the lowest of the low were eager to listen to him. ~ Charles Spurgeon
I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else. ~ C.S. Lewis
I am saved, not because of who I am, but because of what Christ did. My friend, your sins are either on you or they are on Christ. If your sins are on you, you are yet to come up for judgment. If you have trusted Christ, your sins are on Him. He bore them for you, and the judgment is past. ~ J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible, Song of Solomon

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Book Review: The Quieting

The Quieting. Suzanne Woods Fisher. 2016. Revell. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Last year, I read and loved Suzanne Woods Fisher's The Imposter, the first book in her new series, The Bishop's Family. I really, really, really LOVED this second book in the series. (Though perhaps I think the title says perhaps a little too much about the plot.)

The Stoltfzfus family is "in trouble." Apparently, the news has spread to their family in Ohio. Help--or should I say "help" is on the way. David's MOTHER, Tillie (aka MAMMI), is coming with two of her granddaughters: Laura and Abigail. David will struggle most with his mother who is without a doubt a FORCE. His mother has ideas on how his house should be managed, how his store should be managed, how his church should be managed (well, maybe this one is a stretch), and how his love life should be managed (this one is NOT a stretch). And it's not just David she's looking to transform. Abigail, her granddaughter, is her second priority--behind her son. A husband must be found. The sooner the better. And she has one or two possibilities in mind...

Abigail. I just want to say that as much as I enjoyed all the characters in this one--and I do mean it--I think Abigail may just be my FAVORITE AMISH HEROINE EVER. I adore her. Truly I do. I also enjoyed Dane Glick. (Let's just say that he is not on Mammi's approved list. And that Abigail isn't interested in making a list of her own--of eligible possibilities.) He raises sheep, but, really, truly dreams of working with horses, of healing them. Readers actually meet Dane before meeting Abigail. In the first chapter of the book, I believe, he comes into David's store and pronounces that he's SEEN THE ONE HE WANTS TO MARRY. He doesn't know her name, or, anything about her, just that she's new in town, visiting SOMEONE.

So. There is a LOT OF drama in the community as David tries to figure out what to do with what he knows--information about the personal lives of the current bishop and his family.

I loved this one so much. I loved that it was character-driven. I loved that the focus is on the family and the community. I loved the flawed characters. I loved the drama--when it came. This one is just a compelling read set in a community I've come to love.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

My Year With Spurgeon #19

The Treasury of David,
Charles Spurgeon
Psalm 23:1-3
Verse 1. "The Lord is my shepherd." What condescension is this, that the infinite Lord assumes towards his people the office and character of a Shepherd! It should be the subject of grateful admiration that the great God allows himself to be compared to anything which will set forth his great love and care for his own people. David had himself been a keeper of sheep, and understood both the needs of the sheep and the many cares of a shepherd. He compares himself to a creature weak, defenceless, and foolish, and he takes God to be his Provider, Preserver, Director, and, indeed, his everything. No man has a right to consider himself the Lord's sheep unless his nature has been renewed for the scriptural description of unconverted men does not picture them as sheep, but as wolves or goats. A sheep is an object of property, not a wild animal; its owner sets great store by it, and frequently it is bought with a great price. It is well to know, as certainly David did, that we belong to the Lord. There is a noble tone of confidence about this sentence. There is no "if" nor "but," nor even "I hope so;" but he says, "The Lord is my shepherd." We must cultivate the spirit of assured dependence upon our heavenly Father. The sweetest word of the whole is that monosyllable, "My." He does not say, "The Lord is the shepherd of the world at large, and leadeth forth the multitude as his flock," but "The Lord is my shepherd;" if he be a Shepherd to no one else, he is a Shepherd to me; he cares for me, watches over me, and preserves me. The words are in the present tense. Whatever be the believer's position, he is even now under the pastoral care of Jehovah.
The next words are a sort of inference from the first statement—they are sententious and positive—"I shall not want." I might want otherwise, but when the Lord is my Shepherd he is able to supply my needs, and he is certainly willing to do so, for his heart is full of love, and therefore "I shall not want." I shall not lack for temporal things. Does he not feed the ravens, and cause the lilies to grow? How, then, can he leave his children to starve? I shall not want for spirituals, I know that his grace will be sufficient for me. Resting in him he will say to me, "As thy day so shall thy strength be." I may not possess all that I wish for, but "I shall not want." Others, far wealthier and wiser than I, may want, but "I shall not." "The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger: but they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing." It is not only "I do not want," but "I shall not want." Come what may, if famine should devastate the land, or calamity destroy the city, "I shall not want." Old age with its feebleness shall not bring me any lack, and even death with its gloom shall not find me destitute. I have all things and abound; not because I have a good store of money in the bank, not because I have skill and wit with which to win my bread, but because "The Lord is my shepherd." The wicked always want, but the righteous never; a sinner's heart is far from satisfaction, but a gracious spirit dwells in the palace of content.
Verse 2. "He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters." The Christian life has two elements in it, the contemplative and the active, and both of these are richly provided for. First, the contemplative. "He maketh me to lie down in green pastures." What are these "green pastures" but the Scriptures of truth—always fresh, always rich, and never exhausted? There is no fear of biting the bare ground where the grass is long enough for the flock to lie down in it. Sweet and full are the doctrines of the gospel; fit food for souls, as tender grass is natural nutriment for sheep. When by faith we are enabled to find rest in the promises, we are like the sheep that lie down in the midst of the pasture; we find at the same moment both provender and peace, rest and refreshment, serenity and satisfaction. But observe: "He maketh me to lie down." It is the Lord who graciously enables us to perceive the preciousness of his truth, and to feed upon it. How grateful ought we to be for the power to appropriate the promises! There are some distracted souls who would give worlds if they could but do this. They know the blessedness of it, but they cannot say that this blessedness is theirs. They know the "green pastures," but they are not made to "lie down" in them. Those believers who have for years enjoyed a "full assurance of faith" should greatly bless their gracious God.
The second part of a vigorous Christian's life consists in gracious activity. We not only think, but we act. We are not always lying down to feed, but are journeying onward toward perfection; hence we read, "he leadeth me beside the still waters." What are these "still waters" but the influences and graces of his blessed Spirit? His Spirit attends us in various operations, like waters—in the plural—to cleanse, to refresh, to fertilise, to cherish. They are "still waters," for the Holy Ghost loves peace, and sounds no trumpet of ostentation in his operations. He may flow into our soul, but not into our neighbour's, and therefore our neighbour may not perceive the divine presence; and though the blessed Spirit may be pouring his floods into one heart, yet he that sitteth next to the favoured one may know nothing of it.
"In sacred silence of the mind
My heaven, and there my God I find."
Still waters run deep. Nothing more noisy than an empty drum. That silence is golden indeed in which the Holy Spirit meets with the souls of his saints. Not to raging waves of strife, but to peaceful streams of holy love does the Spirit of God conduct the chosen sheep. He is a dove, not an eagle; the dew, not the hurricane. Our Lord leads us beside these "still waters;" we could not go there of ourselves, we need his guidance, therefore it is said, "he leadeth me." He does not drive us. Moses drives us by the law, but Jesus leads us by his example, and the gentle drawing of his love.
Verse 3. "He restoreth my soul." When the soul grows sorrowful he revives it; when it is sinful he sanctifies it; when it is weak he strengthens it. "He" does it. His ministers could not do it if he did not. His Word would not avail by itself. "He restoreth my soul." Are any of us low in grace? Do we feel that our spirituality is at its lowest ebb? He who turns the ebb into the flood can soon restore our soul. Pray to him, then, for the blessing—"Restore thou me, thou Shepherd of my soul!"
"He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake." The Christian delights to be obedient, but it is the obedience of love, to which he is constrained by the example of his Master. "He leadeth me." The Christian is not obedient to some commandments and neglectful of others; he does not pick and choose, but yields to all. Observe, that the plural is used—"the paths of righteousness." Whatever God may give us to do we would do it, led by his love. Some Christians overlook the blessing of sanctification, and yet to a thoroughly renewed heart this is one of the sweetest gifts of the covenant. If we could be saved from wrath, and yet remain unregenerate, impenitent sinners, we should not be saved as we desire, for we mainly and chiefly pant to be saved from sin and led in the way of holiness. All this is done out of pure free grace; "for his name's sake." It is to the honour of our great Shepherd that we should be a holy people, walking in the narrow way of righteousness. If we be so led and guided we must not fail to adore our heavenly Shepherd's care.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, May 16, 2016

Book Review: The Rhyme Bible Storybook

The Rhyme Bible Storybook. L.J. Sattgast. Illustrated by Laurence Cleyet-Merle. 1996/2012. Zonderkidz. (Zondervan) 344 pages. [Source: Borrowed]

First "sentence":
The world was once/ As dark as night,/ But then God said/ "Let there be light!/ The light appeared;/ It shone so bright!/ And so began/ The day and night.
This children's bible story book contains twenty-five stories: seventeen from the Old Testament, eighteen from the New Testament. There are seven stories originating from Genesis. Two stories are about Moses. Joshua, Samuel, David, Elijah, Jonah, Daniel, Esther, and Nehemiah all get one story apiece. The New Testament stories come from the four gospels Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Readers learn about Jesus from his miraculous birth to his ascension into heaven.

Each story is told completely in rhyme. (That is one of the reasons this bible is so unique.) While it might be a stretch to say that every single poem is creatively unique and thoroughly engaging, it would be more than fair to say that the author does a good job with narrative voice. Some stories--or poems--I really, really love. Some I merely liked.

"Jonah Goes To Ninevah"
God said to Jonah,
"I have a little task.
Get up and go to Ninevah
And do what I ask.
The people are wicked,
So tell them to obey."
But Jonah got on board a ship
And sailed the other way~
(Uh-oh, Jonah,
You better go to Ninevah!) p. 136-137
The stories vary in length between eight to twelve pages. The book has a generous proportion of illustrations providing a nice balance between text and illustration.

I really enjoyed reading this one.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Week in Review: May 8-14


  • 1 Kings
  • Ezekiel 1-39
  • 1 Corinthians


  • Job 6-19

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, May 13, 2016

Book Review: Heaven and the Afterlife

Heaven and the Afterlife. Erwin W. Lutzer. 2016. Moody Publishers. 480 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Heaven and the Afterlife: The Truth About Tomorrow And What It Means For Today by Erwin Lutzer is an omnibus edition of three previously published books. It includes: How You Can Be Sure You Will Spend Eternity with God, One Minute After You Die, and Your Eternal Reward. Of the three titles, my particular favorite--one that I've read three or four times now--is How You Can Be Sure You Will Spend Eternity with God.

How You Can Be Sure You Will Spend Eternity With God is a great book, perhaps even a life-changing book, for some readers. It explores the truth claims of the Bible, of Christianity, clearly presents the gospel--what it is, what it isn't--and proclaims assurance of salvation for any who truly believe. It may come across as confrontational to some readers. For example, if you have a fuzzy notion of heaven, disregard the concept of hell, and can't quite put into words what the gospel is and why you need saving in the first place, this book is a wake-up call perhaps. This book isn't just for unbelievers or the unchurched. This book is for everyone. It is clear, straight-forward, intentional: hear the good news, be delivered from your sins, and BELIEVE in Jesus Christ.

One Minute After You Die is another great title by Lutzer. This one focuses specifically on heaven and hell. Every person--sooner or later--will die and 'one minute after you die' you will either be in heaven or hell. No exceptions. It explores what we know about heaven, what we know about hell, and how can we know what we know about either. (The answer to the last being trust only what has been revealed in the Word of God.) Lutzer argues that you can know now where you will spend eternity. He urges readers not to put off thinking about eternity.

Your Eternal Reward is the third title. Of the three titles, it is probably my least favorite. The other two books have focused on the gospel, on grace, on God, on worship here on earth and on heaven. This book, on the other hand, focuses on rewards and punishments. One can easily twist it out of context perhaps and conclude that grace isn't that amazing after all. I don't want to twist it out of context. And. Because I generally do trust that Lutzer knows what he's talking about, I'll just say that this one is beyond me in rightly understanding it. Essentially his message is that heaven is not the same for everyone; that some believers will not have any rewards and will not be participants of much of anything in heaven; that you should decide to live every day focused on earning rewards for yourself in heaven. This what-can-I-do-to-add-to-my-rewards-today focus rubbed me the wrong way. It's not that I don't believe in sanctification and that I support reckless, careless living. It's just I think our eyes should be on God and not focused on what-is-in-it-for-me.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Quotes from the Cloud #18

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

For fellow participants, what I would LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to see is for people to share quotes from what they're reading. I'd love for you to share quotes occasionally with your readers and let me know about it. If you don't have a blog, you could always leave quotes in the comments here.
And this nearness to God which all Christians enjoy through Christ is a privilege we take too frequently for granted. Our God does not keep his distance or stand on his dignity, like some foreign potentate, nor does he insist on any complicated ritual or protocol. On the contrary, through Jesus Christ and by the Holy Spirit we have immediate “access” to him as our Father. We need to exhort one another to avail ourselves of this privilege. ~ John Stott
To worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, to devote the will to the purpose of God. ~ William Temple
Oh, to be filled with the Holy Spirit so that we might experience that excitement, that exhilaration, that ecstasy of belonging to Christ and of having fellowship with Him! Friend, I am talking about something that neither you or I know very much about, do we? We play at church. We talk about being dedicated Christians simply because we are as busy as termites, and often have the same effect. ~ J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible, Song of Solomon 
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Book Review: The God We Worship

The God We Worship. Edited by Jonathan L. Master. 2016. P&R Publishing. 192 pages. [Source: Review copy]

The God We Worship is a collection of sermons preached at various conferences held by the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals--the Princeton Conference. It includes sermons by Bryan Chapell, Charles D. Drew, Richard D. Phillips, Joseph "Skip" Ryan, Philip Graham Ryken, Michael Horton, Michael A.G. Haykin, R. Albert Mohler, and D.A. Carson.

From the preface,
All of these sermons explore and expound upon the nature of God--who he is, how he draws sinners to himself, how he is at work providentially, and how he is to be approached by us in worship. In a sense, the glory of these sermons is that they never begin with man as their subject. They are focused on the triune God revealed in the Bible: the Creator, the Redeemer, and the source of all that is true.
I definitely enjoyed reading The God We Worship. I enjoyed reading these sermons. While I was familiar with most of these preachers, one or two were new to me. I particularly liked the focus of these sermons: God. These are good and meaty sermons that any Christian can benefit from reading and reflecting upon. Each sermon is built around expounding particular scripture verses.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

My Year with Spurgeon #18

A String of Pearls
Charles Spurgeon
1 Peter 1:3-5
THE persons whom Peter addressed were in great need of comfort. They were strangers, strangers scattered far from home. They had in consequence to suffer manifold trials and therefore needed plenteous consolations. Such is our position in a spiritual sense. We, too, are strangers and foreigners. We are pilgrims and sojourners below, and our citizenship is in Heaven. We also require the Word of comfort, for while our banishment lasts, we look for tribulations.
The persons whom Peter addressed were God's chosen, "elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father," and one sure result of Divine election is the world's enmity. "If you were of the world, the world would love his own: but because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you."
So you too, my Brethren, chosen out from among men, to be the peculiar people of God, must expect to be partakers of the Cross—for the servant is not greater than his Lord. Since they persecuted Him they will also persecute you. Therefore to you, as to those of old by Peter, the Word of consolation is sent this day. The Apostle also addressed the sanctified. Through the Holy Spirit they had been sanctified and set apart. To the "obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus" they had been brought. They were a people who had "purified their souls in obeying the Truth of God through the Spirit."
And rest assured no man can do this without encountering fiery trials. He who swims with the stream shall find all things go easily with him until he reaches the waterfall of destruction. But he who stems the torrent must expect to breast many a raging billow. And therefore to such the strong consolations of the Gospel are necessary. Speak we then this morning to the same characters as those addressed by Peter, even to you who "are not of the world," but "strangers." To you who are "chosen of God," and therefore the object of the enmity of man. To you who maintain the separated life of true holiness, and are therefore opposed by the profane.
You have need of comfort, and in the Word, and by the Holy Spirit, your need is more than met.
I might almost entitle these three verses a New Testament Psalm. They are stanzas of a majestic song. You have here a delightful hymn. It scarcely needs to be turned into verse—it is in itself essential poetry.
To lead the mind to praise God is one of the surest ways of uplifting it from depression.
In these three verses we have a string of pearls, a necklace of diamonds, a cabinet of jewels—no, the comparisons are poor—we have something far better than all the riches of the earth can ever typify. You have here the heritage of the chosen of God. Your heritage, Beloved, your own peculiar portion if you belong to Christ this day.
We shall conduct you through this mine of treasure, and ask you to dwell upon each blessing, that your souls may be comforted, and that you, lifting up your hearts in blessing, and praising the God of all Grace, may forget your cares and sorrows, and find a young Heaven begun below—a Paradise blooming amid the desert. There are seven choice things in the text, a perfect number of perfect things.
First, I see in the text as the source of all the rest, ABUNDANT MERCY. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again unto a lively hope." No other attribute could have helped us had Mercy refused. As we are by nature Justice condemns us, Holiness frowns upon us, Power crushes us, Truth confirms the threat of the Law, and Wrath fulfils it. It is from the mercy of our God that all our hopes begin. Mercy is needed for the miserable, and yet more for the sinful. Misery and sin are fully united in the human race, and Mercy, here, performs her noble deeds. My Brethren, God has vouchsafed His mercy to us, and we must thankfully acknowledge that in our case His mercy has been abundant mercy.   
The next great blessing in the text is that OF INCORRUPTIBLE LIFE. Mark that, O Believer. "The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, according to His abundant mercy, has begotten us again unto a lively hope." One of the first displays of Divine mercy which we experience is being begotten again. Our first birth gave us the image of the first Adam—"earthly." Our second birth, and that alone, gives us the image of the second Adam, which is "heavenly." To be begotten once may be a curse—to be begotten again is everlastingly and assuredly a blessing. To be born once may be a subject for eternal bewailing—to be born a second time will be the theme of a joyful and unending song. My Brethren, saints are "begotten again unto a lively hope" in the hour of their regeneration, when they are "born again from above."    
A third blessing strictly connected with this new life, is A LIVELY HOPE. "He has begotten us again unto a lively hope." Could a man live without hope? Men manage to survive the worst condition of distress when they are encouraged by a hope. But is not suicide the natural result of the death of hope? Yes, we must have a hope, and the Christian is not left without one. He has "a lively hope," that is to say, first, he has a hope within him, real, true, and operative. A Christian's hope purifies him, excites him to diligence, makes him seek after that which he expects to obtain.     
We cannot tarry, but must notice, in the fourth place, another delightful possession which ought effectually to chase away from all of us the glooms of this life, and that is A RISEN SAVIOR. "He has begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead." Our best Friend is not dead! Our great Patron and Helper, our Omnipotent Savior, is not lying in the tomb today. He lives, He ever lives! No sound of greater gladness can be heard in the Christian Church than this—"The Lord is risen, the Lord is risen indeed!" Now, Brethren, observe the connection between a risen Savior and our living hope. Jesus Christ died, not in appearance, but in reality. He rose, not in fantasy and figure, but in reality. Now, note you well the comfort which arises out of this fact, since it proves that we possess a living Advocate, Mediator and High Priest who has passed into the heavens. Moreover, since all Believers, being partakers of the incorruptible life of God are one with Jesus Christ, that which happens to Him virtually happens to them. They died in His death, they live in His life, they reign in His Glory. As in Adam all die who were in Adam, so in Christ shall all be made alive who are in Christ—the two Adams head up their dispensations—whatever happens to either of the Adams, happens to those represented by him. So, then, the resurrection of Jesus is virtually my resurrection.
The fifth is exceedingly rich, but we can only give a word where many sermons would not exhaust—AN INCORRUPTIBLE INHERITANCE—"an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fades not away." God has been pleased in His abundant mercy to prepare for His people an inheritance. He has made them sons, and if children, then heirs. He has given them a new life, and if a new life, then there must be possessions and a place suitable for that new life. A heavenly nature requires a heavenly inheritance, Heaven-born children must have a heavenly portion. Now I shall only ask you to notice that the inheritance which God has prepared for us has a fourfold description appended to it. First, as to its substance—it is "incorruptible." Next, for purity—it is "undefiled." And then it is added for its beauty, "it fades not away." The substance of a thing might endure after its beauty was gone, but in Heaven there shall be no declining in the beauty of anything celestial.
Time fails us, therefore we must mention the sixth blessing at once, it is INVIOLABLE SECURITY. The inheritance is kept for you, and you are kept for the inheritance. Herein is our confidence—our great Captain has walled us around—He has appointed Salvation for walls and bulwarks. We are safe, though all the devils of Hell surround us, for we are garrisoned by Omnipotence. Each Believer is kept by that same power which "bears the earth's huge pillars up," and sustains the arches of Heaven. This keeping, observe, my Brothers and Sisters, for I must leave the point—this keeping is complete and continuous—it will never end until we shall need keeping no longer. We shall be kept "unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time."
The best I have reserved for the last. Out of the seven treasures of the Christian the last comprehends all, is better than all, though what I have already spoken is everything—it is A BLESSED GOD. We left this to the last, though it comes first—"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." It is joy to have Heaven, it is joy to possess a new life to fit me for Heaven—but the greatest of all is to have my God, my own Savior's God, my Father, my own Savior's Father, to be all my own! God Himself has said, "I will be their God, and they shall be My people." He has not given you earth and Heaven only, though that were much. He has given you the Heaven of Heaven—Himself.   

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, May 9, 2016

Book Review: Habits of Grace

Habits of Grace: Enjoying Jesus Through the Spiritual Disciplines. David Mathis. Foreword by John Piper. 2016. Crossway. 240 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I really enjoyed reading David Mathis' Habits of Grace: Enjoying Jesus Through the Spiritual Disciplines. I've read three books on spiritual disciplines this year, and, each one has been good in its own way. I'm a bit surprised by the three different perspectives on spiritual disciplines! Though all three share some things in common: a desire to know and love God more and more.

The book is divided into three sections. The first section is titled "Hear His Voice" and focuses on the Word of God. The second section is titled "Have His Ear" and focuses on prayer. The third section is titled "Belong to His Body" and focuses on fellowship. Though just three main sections, more gets covered in this book than just reading the Bible, praying, and attending church! Every page of this one seems to highlight God's grace and God's glory. It is a book that proclaims a big, big God!!!

It is full of practical tips and advice. For example, here are five tips for scripture meditation: 1) diversify your picks 2) take it with you during the day 3) seek to understand, feel, and apply the text as you memorize 4) turn your text into prayer 5) memorize in the light of the gospel.

I really enjoyed this one. I thought it was well written, well organized, and packed with tips and advice. Not just his own advice, but advice from theologians past and present.

From the foreword by John Piper:
Enjoyment of Jesus is not like icing on the cake; it's like powder in the shell.
From the preface:
Much has been said in terms of duty, and too little said about joy.
From section one:
Without the Bible, we will soon lose the genuine gospel and the real Jesus and the true God. For now, if we are to saturate our lives with the words of life, we must be people of the Book.
The battleground is between our ears. What is it that is capturing your idle thoughts? What fear or frustration is filling your spare moments? Will you just listen to yourself, or will you start talking? Preaching the gospel to ourselves is a habit of grace that is both proactive and reactive.
What we need is not just truth, but the truth, the message of the gospel. What preaching the gospel to ourselves requires is pausing, rehearsing some expression of the Father's and Son's love of and provision of goodness and rescue and joy for us, and consciously seeking to have that truth shape and permeate our reality.
If you feel uncomfortable in the Scriptures and inadequate in the art of Bible reading, the single most important thing you can do is make a regular habit of reading the Bible for yourself. There is no substitute for a few focused minutes each day in the text. You may be surprised how much the little bits add up over the long haul.
It takes both an increasing sense of the big picture of Jesus's rescue of sinners as well as a growing depth in the little pieces that make up that big picture for us to stay fresh in applying the gospel to our lives.
When we get alone with the Bible, we are not alone. God has not left us to ourselves to understand his words and feed our own souls.
We were made to meditate. God designed us with the capacity to pause and ponder. He means for us to not just hear him, not only to read quickly over what he says, but to reflect on what he says and knead it into our hearts.
From section two:
Prayer is not finally about getting things from God, but getting God.
Journaling has the appeal of mingling the motions of our lives with the mind of God.
From section three:
Fellowship may be the often forgotten middle child of the spiritual disciplines, but she may save your life in the dark night of your soul.
Our inability to listen well to others may be symptomatic of a chatty spirit that is droning out the voice of God.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Celebrating Mom By Interviewing Her!

1. Why do you think it is important to read the Bible?

The Bible is the Word of God. It is the means by which the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit speak to Christians today. I'm not saying that God is limited in how he speaks, but that what He says or impresses on me will not be in contradiction to His Written Word. It is important to read the Bible in its entirety and in context. When one starts pulling verses out of context to win arguments, they can certainly distort the true meaning. As my Grandma Peterman used to say, "You can make the Bible say almost anything with enough dot, dot, dots."

2. Do you read the Bible? Did you read the Bible then? When did you "become engaged" in reading the Bible?

I read the Bible daily--usually with cups of coffee before I start my day. I read both devotionally and systematically. I keep track of what I read and study so that my reading stays in balance.

When my children were small I tried my best to spend time in God's Word daily. Sometimes it was challenging. I did not give into legalism by thinking that God's love and grace for me was dependent upon following a certain plan, discipline, or rule. To balance that I also knew that it was important to make God and his Word a priority.

I started taking daily Bible reading more seriously during my sophomore year in high school. Before that my study was more sporadic.

3. How do you see the bible? How would you describe it? What role does it have in your life?

I see the Bible as the Word of God. I feel that the Bible is a true blessed gift from God Himself and I strive to cherish it, read it, and meditate on it daily. It is my source of strength and guidance.

4. Do you see the Bible as teaching right and wrong?

The Bible definitely teaches right from wrong, but it is so much more than rigid rules. It is a book that reveals God's amazing love and forgiveness towards his children.

5. Have you taught Sunday School? Which ages? Which age group is most receptive? most argumentative? most distracted?

I have taught Sunday School at different times in my life. I have taught preschoolers, early elementary, upper elementary, and adults. I have not taught middle school or high school. I have seen good reception in all ages. Ditto for argumentative and distracted. I think that Sunday School should definitely be led for children. Adults can go either way depending on their ability to stay focused. I have seen adults that only wanted to argue. But if you have a group of students that are seriously seeking God, shared discussion can be beneficial.

6. Did your parents read the Bible with you or to you as a child?

My parents did not necessarily make a point of reading the Bible with me as a child.

7. Do you remember seeing your parents read the Bible? Who else in your life did you see reading the Bible? What did you learn from your parents, grandparents, and others? Anything specifically that you wanted to pass down specifically to your children?

I do remember seeing both Mama and Daddy reading the Bible. I also saw my Grandma Peterman reading the Bible. I also saw older church members reading the Bible.

I learned to read the Bible for answers, enjoyment, and guidance from my Mama and Grandma.

I chose to pass down to my children the importance of reading God's Word daily.

8. Was faith openly discussed in your home? What "faith" activities were part of your growing up--either formally or informally?

Faith was not preached to me as a child. It was more presented by example. My parents were usually open to my questions about the Bible and faith. We were allowed to participate in church and Sunday School but not forced.

9. Why did you choose to read the Bible to your children? Do you see it as being a deliberate choice? Was it purposeful? Did you have a plan? What were some of the obstacles along the way? Did anything intimidate you?

I chose to read the Bible to my children so that I might share my faith. It was also a good way to sneak in more time with it myself. It was purposeful in that I wanted to train them to love God's Word. I did not follow a set plan. I was not intimidated.

10. Did you feel pressure to "get it right" or "be perfect" in reading with your children? Were you afraid of them asking questions?

I did not feel pressure to get it right. I was not afraid of them asking questions. The main obstacle was being busy, and the main distraction was television. Those obstacles were generally overcome by being flexible.

11. What did you hope to accomplish by reading the Bible to your children? What was your goal or primary objective?

My main objective was for my children to love and cherish the Bible as much as I do.

12. What makes a Bible story book a good Bible story book? What do you look for--did you look for--in a Bible story book?

A good Bible story book has engaging pictures, is true to the gospel, and appropriate to the learning level of the child. If the author or editor was/is not a person of true Christian faith I would automatically reject it.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible