Saturday, December 30, 2017

Week in Review: December 24-December 30

KJV Readers

  • Genesis
  • Exodus
  • Leviticus
  • Numbers
  • Deuteronomy
  • Joshua
  • Judges
  • Ruth
  • 1 Chronicles
  • Job


  • Ephesians 
  • Philippians

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, December 29, 2017

Year in Review: Best of 2017

Favorite Bibles

I read nine (whole) Bibles and an additional New Testament. Of the ten, six were text-only Bibles and four were study Bibles.

My favorite text-only Bible was:

My favorite study-Bible(s) were:

Favorite Christian fiction

I read 39 fiction books. Here are my top eight.
  1. The Karamazov Brothers. Fyodor Dostoevsky. Translated by Ignat Avsey. 1880/2008. 1054 pages. [Source: Library]
  2. Your Sins and Mine. Taylor Caldwell. 1955/2017. Open Road Media. 105 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  3. No One Hears But Him. Taylor Caldwell. 1966/2017. Open Road Media. 212 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  4. The Button Girl. Sally Apokedak. 2017. 394 pages. [Source: Review copy provided by author]
  5. Great Expectations. Charles Dickens. 1860. 640 pages. [Source: Library]
  6. Steal Away Home: Charles Spurgeon and Thomas Johnson, Unlikely Friends on the Passage to Freedom. Matt Carter and Aaron Ivey. 2017. B&H. 273 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  7. Uncle Tom's Cabin. Harriet Beecher Stowe. 1852. 438 pages. [Source: Bought]
  8. The Ladies of Ivy Cottage. (Tales from Ivy Hill #2) Julie Klassen. 2017. Bethany House. 448 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Favorite Christian nonfiction

I read 124 nonfiction titles. Here are my top twelve.

  1. The Heart of the Church: The Gospel's History, Message, and Meaning. Joe Thorn. 2017. Moody. 128 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  2. The Parables of Jesus. James Montgomery Boice. 1983/2016. Moody. 232 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  3. The New City Catechism Devotional. Collin Hansen, ed. Introduction by Timothy Keller. 2017. Crossway. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  4. Reading the Bible Supernaturally. John Piper. 2017. Crossway. 320 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  5. Surprised by Suffering. R.C. Sproul. 1994/2010. 214 pages. [Source: Bought]
  6. God Is: A Devotional Guide to the Attributes of God. Mark Jones. 2017. Crossway. 240 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  7. The Cross: God's Way of Salvation. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. 1986. Crossway. 224 pages. [Source: Bought]
  8. Fearless Living in Troubled Times: Finding Hope in the Promise of Christ's Return. Michael Youssef. 2017. [August] Harvest House. 240 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  9. How Does Sanctification Work. David Powlison. 2017. Crossway. 128 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  10. Sing!: How Worship Transforms Your Life, Family, and Church. Keith and Kristyn Getty. 2017. B&H Books. 176 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  11.  Asking the Right Questions: A Practical Guide to Understanding and Applying the Bible. Matthew S. Harmon. 2017. Crossway. 144 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
  12. Come, Let Us Adore Him. Paul David Tripp. 2017. Crossway. 160 pages. [Source: Review copy]  
Special Category: Reformation Year
  1. Three Treatises. Martin Luther. 1970. Fortress Press. 316 pages. [Source: Gift] 
  2. Martin Luther In His Own Words. Jack D. Kilcrease and Erwin Lutzer, editors. 2017. Baker Books. 176 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  3. Martin Luther: A Spiritual Biography. Herman Selderhuis. 2017. Crossway. 288 pages. [Source: Review copy]
  4. Martin Luther: The Man Who Rediscovered God and Changed the World. Eric Metaxas. 2017. Viking. 416 pages. [Source: Borrowed from friend] 
  5. A Little Book on the Christian Life. John Calvin. Edited by Buck Parsons and Aaron Denlinger. 2017. Reformation Trust. 132 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Special Category: Children's Books
  1. Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge. Mem Fox. Illustrated by Julie Vivas. 1984/1985. Kane/Miller. 32 pages. [Source: Library]
  2. The Sneetches and Other Stories. Dr. Seuss. 1961. Random House. 65 pages. [Source: Library]
  3. Preaching to the Chickens. Jabari Asim. Illustrated by E.B. Lewis. 2016. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

My Autumn with Psalm 119 #34

I will be continuing on in my study of Psalm 119 this autumn. I have spent months reading Thomas Manton's exposition of Psalm 119. In December, I hope to cover the next sixteen verses of Psalm 119.

49 Remember your word to your servant, for you have given me hope.
50 My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life.
51 The arrogant mock me unmercifully, but I do not turn from your law.
52 I remember, Lord, your ancient laws, and I find comfort in them.
53 Indignation grips me because of the wicked, who have forsaken your law.
54 Your decrees are the theme of my song wherever I lodge.
55 In the night, Lord, I remember your name, that I may keep your law.
56 This has been my practice: I obey your precepts.
57 You are my portion, Lord; I have promised to obey your words.
58 I have sought your face with all my heart;
be gracious to me according to your promise.
59 I have considered my ways and have turned my steps to your statutes.
60 I will hasten and not delay to obey your commands.
61 Though the wicked bind me with ropes, I will not forget your law.
62 At midnight I rise to give you thanks for your righteous laws.
63 I am a friend to all who fear you, to all who follow your precepts.
64 The earth is filled with your love, Lord; teach me your decrees.

Sermon 72 (Psalm 119:64)

  • The sum and substance of this verse will be comprised in these five propositions:— 1. That saving knowledge is a benefit that must be asked of God. 2. That this benefit cannot be too often or sufficiently enough asked; it is his continual request. 3. In asking we are encouraged by the bounty or mercy of God. 4. That God is merciful all his creatures declare. 5. That his goodness to all creatures should confirm us in hoping for saving grace or spiritual good things.
  • Prop. 1. That saving knowledge is a benefit that must be asked of God, for three reasons:— 1. God is the proper author of it. 2. It is a singular favour where he bestoweth it. 3. Prayer is the appointed means to obtain it.
  • That is the highest argument of friendship, not to give you wealth, and honour, and greatness, but to give you an enlightened mind and a renewed heart.
  • Let us not study without prayer, nor you hear without prayer, nor go about any business in your general and particular callings without prayer.
  • We never know so much but we may know more of God’s mind, and know it better and to better purpose.
  • The throne of grace lieth always open; the oftener we frequent it, the more welcome.
  • The Lord filleth up his servants’ lives with great and various mercies, even in their warfare and pilgrimage here in this world; abundance of invaluable mercies, that if we do but consider what we do receive, we must needs be confirmed in this truth by our own senses.
  • Everything is a mercy to a vessel of mercy.
  • Man can turn his eye nowhere but in every place and quarter of the world he shall see plain testimonies of God’s mercy. But alas! how much of this is lost and passed over for want of observation!
  • Our misery lieth in the ignorance of God and the transgression of his law; our happiness in being enlightened and sanctified by the Spirit of wisdom and understanding.
  • The devil seeks to weaken our opinion of God’s goodness; he thought to possess our first parents with this conceit, that God was envious, so as to draw them away from God.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, December 28, 2017

December Operation Deepen Faith Check-In

I. Wonderful Words of Life
  • What have you been reading in the Bible?
  • What books have you finished?
  • What book are you currently in?
  • Do you know what your next book of the Bible will be?
  • Which translation are you using?
  • What have you learned about God lately?
  • What have you learned about yourself?
  • Any favorite verses?
How much of the Bible did you complete this year? 

II Christian Nonfiction
  • Have you finished any books for the challenge this month?
  • What book are you currently reading for the challenge?
  • Do you know what book you'll be reading next?
  • Any favorite quotes?
What was your favorite book that you've read this year?

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Book Review: Keeping Holiday

Keeping Holiday. Starr Meade. Illustrated by Justin Gerard. 2008. Crossway. 192 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: The car, already barely moving, came to a complete stop. Dylan looked out his window at the car in the next lane, then at the car on the other side. Neither of them moved either. "Guess we'll be sitting here for a while," Dad said, but he wasn't complaining. "It's just like last year and the year before that," Mom said, and she she wasn't complaining either.

Premise/plot: Dylan loves, loves, loves to go to Holiday with his family. But as he gets older, he begins to wonder is there a way to keep holiday all year long?! He won't find answers quickly--no, it will take several Holiday vacations before he even begins his four-day-quest to discover the real Holiday. (The Holiday he's been visiting with his family year after year, he learns, is merely the Visitor's Center of Holiday.) His parents send him on his journey, hoping for the best, but knowing that he must do this all on his own. But he won't be on his journey alone, Clare, his cousin, joins him. And he will find hindrances along the way. Namely a Mr. Smith who seems determined to keep him from discovering the real Holiday and becoming an authorized guest. 

If there's a resounding theme (or echo) to this Christmas-themed allegory  it's this: You can't find the Founder; he finds you. He's not just the Founder, he's the Finder too. 

My thoughts: The book is strange. I won't lie. You have to accept the strangeness, almost welcome and celebrate the strangeness, the foreignness. It requires you to completely suspend your disbelief and accept the way things work in a fictional world. Yes, this is required in speculative fiction too, but, even more so in allegory or parable.

Keeping Holiday is an allegory about salvation. Dylan and Clare are "seeking" salvation and discovering that they wouldn't even be seeking if God wasn't the Seeker. The two discover that God is the author of salvation from start to finish. Of course, this being an allegory, readers never hear talk of God or Christ or Jesus or Christmas or Easter or the cross or the resurrection. One learns about an Emperor and a Founder and a King.

I do like the fact that the book acknowledges there is a difference between celebrating Christmas and celebrating the CHRIST of Christmas. That one can only really genuinely celebrate Christmas when you know the Savior. Knowing Jesus, loving Jesus, trusting Jesus, worshipping Jesus enhance Christmas celebrations. There is a very specific reason for the season--and it isn't an excuse to eat cookies or buy yourself stuff. So I liked aspects of this one very much. But other elements just didn't quite work for me--as allegories.

For example, in real life, the gospel should be presented clearly, openly, unashamedly, all year long. No games, no waiting games, no teasing, no follow the clues and hints, and maybe just maybe I'll tell you more. The gospel should not be presented in a scavenger-hunt way. The gospel should not be presented  vaguely or smugly or 'you'll see for yourself later after you follow this long and hard trail.' That's not to say that the gospel isn't personal. It is. You cannot have faith for another person. You cannot have trust for another person. You can't pass out faith like you pass out tracts. It doesn't work like that. So, yes, it is something that a believer has to experience on their own. And they do have a 'faith journey' in a way.   But the gospel is something simple and clear and factual.

This was my fifth time to read Starr Meade's Keeping Holiday.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Book Review: Uncle Tom's Cabin

Uncle Tom's Cabin. Harriet Beecher Stowe. 1852. 438 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: Late in the afternoon of a chilly day in February, two gentlemen were sitting alone over their wine, in a well-furnished dining parlor, in the town of P——, in Kentucky.

Uncle Tom's Cabin is a moral-driven novel with some unforgettable characters. The hero of the novel is a slave, Uncle Tom. Readers first meet him on a Kentucky plantation. But this isn't just a story of one individual slave; it's a story of slavery, of the condition of slaves.

The story is geared to make you think of each and every slave as a person. That concept may not be groundbreaking now, it may appear obvious. But at the time it was published, it would have had shock value.

There are two storylines. One story line follows Uncle Tom as he's sold and resold. He has three masters: Mr. Arthur Shelby, Augustine St. Clare, and Simon Legree. The other story line follows Eliza, George, and their son. They are escaped, "fugitive" slaves making a run for freedom for Canada. They are helped along the way by abolitionists and Quakers. There are some dramatic scenes. Yet, while their story line offers some initial drama and excitement, it is Tom's story that resonates the most.

I think my favorite section of the novel was when Tom was with the St. Clare family. I enjoyed meeting Augustine St. Clare, his daughter, Eva, and Miss Ophelia, a Northern cousin. I did not enjoy meeting Augustine's wife, Marie. Eva was a saint. Some readers might find fault with Eva for being perfectly perfect in every single way imaginable. But when the novel is coupled with so many flawed characters, with a few downright evil ones, having one or two saints among them is okay with me. Eva's greatest strength was her big heart. She saw slavery for what it was, an unacceptable evil, and she wanted to right it. She wanted her father to free his slaves.

Between Eva and Uncle Tom, his two biggest influencers, Augustine was slowly but surely changing his mind and determining to change his way of life, to stop conforming to the norm, and start following his conscience. He had an "I'm just one man; what could I possibly do?" attitude. He claimed to hate slavery. He claimed to see the evil cruelty of it. But his way of reacting to evil was to stand by and do nothing. He never actively did a cruel thing; just passively--by refusing to act at all.

I think the hardest section of the novel for me was Tom's time serving Simon Legree. This section introduces Cassy and Emmeline. Emmeline is a newly purchased slave--as is Uncle Tom. She's mourning being separated from her mother. But that isn't her only worry. Simon Legree's interest in her is way, way, way too personal. She fears that the kind of work he has in mind for her is the WORST possible fate for a good, Christian girl like herself. Cassy is an older-and-wiser slave who has been Legree's property for enough years to be almost filled completely with hate, anger, rage, and bitterness. Her biggest fear is coming to care even the slightest for another human being. Yet, she can't help feeling something for both Uncle Tom and Emmeline.

What I loved most about the novel was the character of Tom. I loved Tom's faith. I loved Tom's reliance on God's daily-given-grace to endure. I loved Tom's hope. Hope that the Lord does indeed hear his prayers, see his miseries, care about him. Hope that the victory is the Lord's, that justice will be done. Hope that the Lord will see him through, that he'll be an overcomer, that heaven is HIS. I loved Tom's heart. He loved. He was compassionate. He was an encourager. He also forgave. He lived the gospel--day in, day out. He didn't just live it by example; he also spoke it. He was a seed-planter. Even when his words fell on "deaf ears," so to speak, he continued to hold true to the gospel. He didn't see sharing the good news of Jesus Christ as a waste of breath. He wanted to see others around him KNOW Jesus as he knew Jesus. Whether they were white or black, free or slave. He prayed for the salvation of Augustine, of Simon Legree, of Sambo and Quimbo, of Cassy. He knew that God can save anyone, no one was beyond God's ability to save. And because he believed so strongly in heaven and hell, he CARED. He didn't want to see anyone in hell. Tom is in many ways, a saint, just like Eva. Faith didn't come easy to Tom. It wasn't like he was all: bring on the suffering, bring on the pain, do your worst and I'll smile and grin through it all. He prayed for deliverance. He prayed for the suffering to go away. He prayed for better circumstances. He longed for freedom. Being a Christian didn't stop him from wanting, from needing. But he was content that the Lord was his lot, his portion, his reward. Near the end he proclaims, "The Lord’s bought me, and is going to take me home,—and I long to go."

Favorite quotes:
“Pray for them that ’spitefully use you, the good book says,” says Tom. “Pray for ’em!” said Aunt Chloe; “Lor, it’s too tough! I can’t pray for ’em.” “It’s natur, Chloe, and natur ’s strong,” said Tom, “but the Lord’s grace is stronger; besides, you oughter think what an awful state a poor crittur’s soul ’s in that’ll do them ar things,—you oughter thank God that you an’t like him, Chloe. I’m sure I’d rather be sold, ten thousand times over, than to have all that ar poor crittur’s got to answer for.”
“Now, John, I don’t know anything about politics, but I can read my Bible; and there I see that I must feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and comfort the desolate; and that Bible I mean to follow.” “But in cases where your doing so would involve a great public evil—” “Obeying God never brings on public evils. I know it can’t. It’s always safest, all round, to do as He bids us.”
“I’m in the Lord’s hands,” said Tom; “nothin’ can go no furder than he lets it;—and thar’s one thing I can thank him for. It’s me that’s sold and going down, and not you nur the chil’en. Here you’re safe;—what comes will come only on me; and the Lord, he’ll help me,—I know he will.” 
“Well, George, I s’pose you’re running away—leaving your lawful master, George—(I don’t wonder at it)—at the same time, I’m sorry, George,—yes, decidedly—I think I must say that, George—it’s my duty to tell you so.” “Why are you sorry, sir?” said George, calmly. “Why, to see you, as it were, setting yourself in opposition to the laws of your country.” “My country!” said George, with a strong and bitter emphasis; “what country have I, but the grave,—and I wish to God that I was laid there!”
“My country again! Mr. Wilson, you have a country; but what country have I, or any one like me, born of slave mothers? What laws are there for us? We don’t make them,—we don’t consent to them,—we have nothing to do with them; all they do for us is to crush us, and keep us down. Haven’t I heard your Fourth-of-July speeches? Don’t you tell us all, once a year, that governments derive their just power from the consent of the governed? Can’t a fellow think, that hears such things? Can’t he put this and that together, and see what it comes to?”
“Is there a God to trust in?” said George, in such a tone of bitter despair as arrested the old gentleman’s words. “O, I’ve seen things all my life that have made me feel that there can’t be a God. You Christians don’t know how these things look to us. There’s a God for you, but is there any for us?” “O, now, don’t—don’t, my boy!” said the old man, almost sobbing as he spoke; “don’t feel so! There is—there is; clouds and darkness are around about him, but righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne. There’s a God, George,—believe it; trust in Him, and I’m sure He’ll help you. Everything will be set right,—if not in this life, in another.” The real piety and benevolence of the simple old man invested him with a temporary dignity and authority, as he spoke. George stopped his distracted walk up and down the room, stood thoughtfully a moment, and then said, quietly, “Thank you for saying that, my good friend; I’ll think of that.”
As to Tom, he was thinking over some words of an unfashionable old book, which kept running through his head, again and again, as follows: “We have here no continuing city, but we seek one to come; wherefore God himself is not ashamed to be called our God; for he hath prepared for us a city.” These words of an ancient volume, got up principally by “ignorant and unlearned men,” have, through all time, kept up, somehow, a strange sort of power over the minds of poor, simple fellows, like Tom. They stir up the soul from its depths, and rouse, as with trumpet call, courage, energy, and enthusiasm, where before was only the blackness of despair.
Having learned late in life, Tom was but a slow reader, and passed on laboriously from verse to verse. Fortunate for him was it that the book he was intent on was one which slow reading cannot injure,—nay, one whose words, like ingots of gold, seem often to need to be weighed separately, that the mind may take in their priceless value. Let us follow him a moment, as, pointing to each word, and pronouncing each half aloud, he reads, “Let—not—your—heart—be—troubled. In—my—Father’s—house—are—many—mansions. I—go—to—prepare—a—place—for—you.” 
It had been his custom to get the Bible read to him by his master’s children, in particular by young Master George; and, as they read, he would designate, by bold, strong marks and dashes, with pen and ink, the passages which more particularly gratified his ear or affected his heart. His Bible was thus marked through, from one end to the other, with a variety of styles and designations; so he could in a moment seize upon his favorite passages, without the labor of spelling out what lay between them;—and while it lay there before him, every passage breathing of some old home scene, and recalling some past enjoyment, his Bible seemed to him all of this life that remained, as well as the promise of a future one.
“Then you don’t believe that the Bible justifies slavery,” said Miss Ophelia. “The Bible was my mother’s book,” said St. Clare. “By it she lived and died, and I would be very sorry to think it did. I’d as soon desire to have it proved that my mother could drink brandy, chew tobacco, and swear, by way of satisfying me that I did right in doing the same. It wouldn’t make me at all more satisfied with these things in myself, and it would take from me the comfort of respecting her; and it really is a comfort, in this world, to have anything one can respect.
“I defend it, my dear lady? Who ever said I did defend it?” said St. Clare. “Of course, you defend it,—you all do,—all you Southerners. What do you have slaves for, if you don’t?” “Are you such a sweet innocent as to suppose nobody in this world ever does what they don’t think is right? Don’t you, or didn’t you ever, do anything that you did not think quite right?” “If I do, I repent of it, I hope,” said Miss Ophelia, rattling her needles with energy. “So do I,” said St. Clare, peeling his orange; “I’m repenting of it all the time.” “What do you keep on doing it for?” “Didn’t you ever keep on doing wrong, after you’d repented, my good cousin?”
“Wait,—I’m coming on,—you’ll hear. The short of the matter is, cousin,” said he, his handsome face suddenly settling into an earnest and serious expression, “on this abstract question of slavery there can, as I think, be but one opinion. Planters, who have money to make by it,—clergymen, who have planters to please,—politicians, who want to rule by it,—may warp and bend language and ethics to a degree that shall astonish the world at their ingenuity; they can press nature and the Bible, and nobody knows what else, into the service; but, after all, neither they nor the world believe in it one particle the more. It comes from the devil, that’s the short of it;—and, to my mind, it’s a pretty respectable specimen of what he can do in his own line.” 
“But it’s no kind of apology for slavery, to prove that it isn’t worse than some other bad thing.”
My mother used to tell me of a millennium that was coming, when Christ should reign, and all men should be free and happy. And she taught me, when I was a boy, to pray, ‘thy kingdom come.’ Sometimes I think all this sighing, and groaning, and stirring among the dry bones foretells what she used to tell me was coming. But who may abide the day of His appearing?” “Augustine, sometimes I think you are not far from the kingdom,” said Miss Ophelia, laying down her knitting, and looking anxiously at her cousin.
Tom read, in his only literary cabinet, of one who had “learned in whatsoever state he was, therewith to be content.” It seemed to him good and reasonable doctrine, and accorded well with the settled and thoughtful habit which he had acquired from the reading of that same book.
“Mamma,” she said, suddenly, to her mother, one day, “why don’t we teach our servants to read?” “What a question child! People never do.” “Why don’t they?” said Eva. “Because it is no use for them to read. It don’t help them to work any better, and they are not made for anything else.” “But they ought to read the Bible, mamma, to learn God’s will.” “It seems to me, mamma, the Bible is for every one to read themselves. They need it a great many times when there is nobody to read it.”
“O, the Bible! To be sure, it says a great many such things; but, then, nobody ever thinks of doing them,—you know, Eva, nobody does.” 
“What is being a Christian, Eva?” “Loving Christ most of all,” said Eva. “Do you, Eva?” “Certainly I do.” “You never saw him,” said St. Clare. “That makes no difference,” said Eva. “I believe him, and in a few days I shall see him;” and the young face grew fervent, radiant with joy. 
“How do you know there’s any Christ, Tom! You never saw the Lord.” “Felt Him in my soul, Mas’r,—feel Him now! O, Mas’r, when I was sold away from my old woman and the children, I was jest a’most broke up. I felt as if there warn’t nothin’ left; and then the good Lord, he stood by me, and he says, ‘Fear not, Tom;’ and he brings light and joy in a poor feller’s soul,—makes all peace; and I ’s so happy, and loves everybody, and feels willin’ jest to be the Lord’s, and have the Lord’s will done, and be put jest where the Lord wants to put me. I know it couldn’t come from me, cause I ’s a poor, complainin’ cretur; it comes from the Lord; and I know He’s willin’ to do for Mas’r.”
“Singular!” said St. Clare, turning away, “that the story of a man that lived and died eighteen hundred years ago can affect people so yet. But he was no man,” he added, suddenly. “No man ever had such long and living power! O, that I could believe what my mother taught me, and pray as I did when I was a boy!” “If Mas’r pleases,” said Tom, “Miss Eva used to read this so beautifully. I wish Mas’r’d be so good as read it. Don’t get no readin’, hardly, now Miss Eva’s gone.” The chapter was the eleventh of John,—the touching account of the raising of Lazarus, St. Clare read it aloud, often pausing to wrestle down feelings which were roused by the pathos of the story. Tom knelt before him, with clasped hands, and with an absorbed expression of love, trust, adoration, on his quiet face. “Tom,” said his Master, “this is all real to you!” “I can jest fairly see it Mas’r,” said Tom. “I wish I had your eyes, Tom.” “I wish, to the dear Lord, Mas’r had!” “But, Tom, you know that I have a great deal more knowledge than you; what if I should tell you that I don’t believe this Bible?” “O, Mas’r!” said Tom, holding up his hands, with a deprecating gesture. “Wouldn’t it shake your faith some, Tom?” “Not a grain,” said Tom.
“Tom, you seem to think the Lord needs a great deal done for him,” said St. Clare, smiling. “We does for the Lord when we does for his critturs,” said Tom. 
 “Any mind that is capable of a real sorrow is capable of good. You must try and do something with her.”
St. Clare, like most men of his class of mind, cordially hated the present tense of action, generally; and, therefore, he was considerably annoyed by Miss Ophelia’s downrightness.
“‘In the midst of life we are in death,’” said Miss Ophelia.
“Perhaps,” said Miss Ophelia, “it is impossible for a person who does no good not to do harm.”
“Always practical and to the point!” said St. Clare, his face breaking out into a smile. “You never leave me any time for general reflections, Cousin; you always bring me short up against the actual present; you have a kind of eternal now, always in your mind.” “Now is all the time I have anything to do with,” said Miss Ophelia. “Dear little Eva,—poor child!” said St. Clare, “she had set her little simple soul on a good work for me.”
“If you knew all this,” said Miss Ophelia, “why didn’t you do it?” “O, because I have had only that kind of benevolence which consists in lying on a sofa, and cursing the church and clergy for not being martyrs and confessors. One can see, you know, very easily, how others ought to be martyrs.” “Well, are you going to do differently now?” said Miss Ophelia. “God only knows the future,” said St. Clare. “I am braver than I was, because I have lost all; and he who has nothing to lose can afford all risks.”
“My duty, I hope, to the poor and lowly, as fast as I find it out,” said St. Clare, “beginning with my own servants, for whom I have yet done nothing; and, perhaps, at some future day, it may appear that I can do something for a whole class; something to save my country from the disgrace of that false position in which she now stands before all civilized nations.” “Do you suppose it possible that a nation ever will voluntarily emancipate?” said Miss Ophelia. They will have to go north, where labor is the fashion,—the universal custom; and tell me, now, is there enough Christian philanthropy, among your northern states, to bear with the process of their education and elevation? You send thousands of dollars to foreign missions; but could you endure to have the heathen sent into your towns and villages, and give your time, and thoughts, and money, to raise them to the Christian standard? That’s what I want to know. If we emancipate, are you willing to educate? How many families, in your town, would take a negro man and woman, teach them, bear with them, and seek to make them Christians? You see, Cousin, I want justice done us. We are in a bad position. We are the more obvious oppressors of the negro; but the unchristian prejudice of the north is an oppressor almost equally severe.”
Something within the silent black man answered No! and, as if repeated by an invisible voice, came the words of an old prophetic scroll, as Eva had often read them to him,—“Fear not! for I have redeemed thee. I have called thee by name. Thou art MINE!”
The silver, fair-browed moon rose in the purple sky, and looked down, calm and silent, as God looks on the scene of misery and oppression,—looked calmly on the lone black man, as he sat, with his arms folded, and his Bible on his knee.
In the very depth of physical suffering, bowed by brutal oppression, this question shot a gleam of joy and triumph through Tom’s soul. He suddenly stretched himself up, and, looking earnestly to heaven, while the tears and blood that flowed down his face mingled, he exclaimed, “No! no! no! my soul an’t yours, Mas’r! You haven’t bought it,—ye can’t buy it! It’s been bought and paid for, by one that is able to keep it;—no matter, no matter, you can’t harm me!”
“Mas’r,” said Tom, “I know ye can do dreadful things; but,”—he stretched himself upward and clasped his hands,—“but, after ye’ve killed the body, there an’t no more ye can do. And O, there’s all ETERNITY to come, after that!”
I’ll give ye all the work of my hands, all my time, all my strength; but my soul I won’t give up to mortal man. I will hold on to the Lord, and put his commands before all,—die or live; you may be sure on ’t. Mas’r Legree, I ain’t a grain afeard to die. I’d as soon die as not. Ye may whip me, starve me, burn me,—it’ll only send me sooner where I want to go.” “I’ll make ye give out, though, ’fore I’ve done!” said Legree, in a rage. “I shall have help,” said Tom; “you’ll never do it.” “Who the devil’s going to help you?” said Legree, scornfully. “The Lord Almighty,” said Tom.
What is freedom to a nation, but freedom to the individuals in it?
“I’ll hold on. The Lord may help me, or not help; but I’ll hold to him, and believe him to the last!”
“Love!” said Cassy, with a fierce glare; “love such enemies! It isn’t in flesh and blood.” “No, Misse, it isn’t,” said Tom, looking up; “but He gives it to us, and that’s the victory. When we can love and pray over all and through all, the battle’s past, and the victory’s come,—glory be to God!” And, with streaming eyes and choking voice, the black man looked up to heaven.
Tom looked up to his master, and answered, “Mas’r, if you was sick, or in trouble, or dying, and I could save ye, I’d give ye my heart’s blood; and, if taking every drop of blood in this poor old body would save your precious soul, I’d give ’em freely, as the Lord gave his for me. O, Mas’r! don’t bring this great sin on your soul! It will hurt you more than ’t will me! Do the worst you can, my troubles’ll be over soon; but, if ye don’t repent, yours won’t never end!” 
“I forgive ye, with all my heart!” said Tom, faintly. “O, Tom! do tell us who is Jesus, anyhow?” said Sambo;—“Jesus, that’s been a standin’ by you so, all this night!—Who is he?” The word roused the failing, fainting spirit. He poured forth a few energetic sentences of that wondrous One,—his life, his death, his everlasting presence, and power to save. They wept,—both the two savage men. “Why didn’t I never hear this before?” said Sambo; “but I do believe!—I can’t help it! Lord Jesus, have mercy on us!” “Poor critters!” said Tom, “I’d be willing to bar all I have, if it’ll only bring ye to Christ! O, Lord! give me these two more souls, I pray!” That prayer was answered! 
O, Mas’r George! Heaven has come! I’ve got the victory!—the Lord Jesus has given it to me! Glory be to His name!” George was awe-struck at the force, the vehemence, the power, with which these broken sentences were uttered. He sat gazing in silence. 
“Witness, eternal God!” said George, kneeling on the grave of his poor friend; “oh, witness, that, from this hour, I will do what one man can to drive out this curse of slavery from my land!” There is no monument to mark the last resting-place of our friend. He needs none! His Lord knows where he lies, and will raise him up, immortal, to appear with him when he shall appear in his glory. 

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

My Autumn with Psalm 119 #33

I will be continuing on in my study of Psalm 119 this autumn. I have spent months reading Thomas Manton's exposition of Psalm 119. In December, I hope to cover the next sixteen verses of Psalm 119.

49 Remember your word to your servant, for you have given me hope.
50 My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life.
51 The arrogant mock me unmercifully, but I do not turn from your law.
52 I remember, Lord, your ancient laws, and I find comfort in them.
53 Indignation grips me because of the wicked, who have forsaken your law.
54 Your decrees are the theme of my song wherever I lodge.
55 In the night, Lord, I remember your name, that I may keep your law.
56 This has been my practice: I obey your precepts.
57 You are my portion, Lord; I have promised to obey your words.
58 I have sought your face with all my heart;
be gracious to me according to your promise.
59 I have considered my ways and have turned my steps to your statutes.
60 I will hasten and not delay to obey your commands.
61 Though the wicked bind me with ropes, I will not forget your law.
62 At midnight I rise to give you thanks for your righteous laws.
63 I am a friend to all who fear you, to all who follow your precepts.
64 The earth is filled with your love, Lord; teach me your decrees.

Sermon 71 (Psalm 119:63)

  • Doct. 1. The fear of God is the grand principle of obedience. Here consider— 1. What is the fear of God. 2. What influence it hath upon obedience.
  • 1. What is the fear of God? There is a twofold fear of God—servile and filial.
  • Servile, by which a man feareth God and hateth him, as a slave feareth his cruel master, whom he could wish dead, and himself rid of his service, and obeyeth by mere compulsion and constraint.
  • Filial fear, as children fear to offend their dear parents; and thus the godly do so fear God, that they do also love him, and obey him, and cleave to him, and this preserveth us in our duty.
  • This fear is twofold:—(1.) The fear of reverence, when the soul is deeply possessed with a sense of God’s majesty and goodness, that it dareth not offend him. His greatness and majesty hath an influence upon this fear. (2.) The fear of caution is also called the fear of God, when we carry on the business of salvation with all possible solicitude and care. For it is no easy thing to please God and save our souls.
  • Men are more holy as the fear of God doth more prevail in their hearts, their tenderness both in avoiding and repenting of sin increaseth according as they entertain the awe and fear of God in their hearts, and here is the rise and fountain of all circumspect walking. As the stream is dried up that wanteth a fountain, so godliness ceaseth as the fear of God abateth.
  • Duties of religion will not reverently and seriously be performed unless there be a deep awe of God upon our souls.
  • A Christian is alike everywhere, because God is alike everywhere. He that feareth God needeth no other theatre than his own conscience, nor other spectators than God and his holy angels.
  • Salvation is not to be looked after between sleeping and waking; no, it requireth our greatest attention, as having a sense of the weightiness of the work upon our hearts.
  • To live always in an admiration of his excellent majesty, a thankful sense of his goodness, and a regard to his eye and presence, this is our happiness.
  • The heart must be prepared to keep all; they are all equally good, and they are all equally necessary; not one of them is in vain; and they are all joined together, like rings in a chain, and we are not sincere till we regard all.
  • There will be a secret love to some sins more than others, but it must not be indulged, but checked and striven against, and prayed against.
  • Doct. 2. That we should associate ourselves and keep communion with those who are truly gracious.
  • God loved us greatly, sent his own Son to die for us; now, how shall we express our thankfulness but by a dear and tender love to those who are Christ’s?

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Book Review: True Feelings

True Feelings: God's Gracious and Glorious Purpose for Our Emotions. Carolyn Mahaney and Nicole  Mahaney Whitacre. 2017. Crossway. 160 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Imagine Marilla Cuthbert and Anne Shirley writing a book together, and that’ll give you an idea of what’s ahead. But that’s only half the story. We may be emotional opposites, but we share a common curiosity and enthusiasm to learn what the Bible has to say about a woman’s feelings.

Premise/plot: True Feelings is written by a mother and daughter team. The focus is on emotions and what God has revealed about them in his Word. Chapters include: "Fact, Fiction, and Feelings," "The Gift of Emotions," "Why Do I Feel This Way?" "Feeling Good," "Emotional Emergency Measures," "How Do I Control My Emotions?" "Act to Feel," "God's Purpose in Pain," and "Godly Emotions for Life." The foreword is by one of my favorite authors, Joni Eareckson Tada. The book is definitely geared more towards women, but, I don't think women are the only ones that struggle with emotions and feelings.

The book is titled True Feelings. In chapter four, they define what makes feelings true:
Do we believe what God says is true and do we value what God says we should value? If so, we will have true feelings. In other words, our positive emotions are ungodly if we approve of things that God says are wrong or find pleasure in things that God hates. 
My thoughts: I definitely would recommend this one. At first, I felt a little disconnected from the authors. I remember finding it odd that the authors were referring to themselves in the third person. But it wasn't too long before I forgot about *who* was writing it and focused solely on the content or the message. What does God have to say in His Holy Word about emotions and feelings--positive and negative?

I would say the book is practical and relevant. For example, in chapter five, the authors teach readers three "emergency measures" for resisting emotional temptation. They are: 1) exercise self control, 2) cry out to God, 3) take one action (one obedient action).

And the book is definitely thought-provoking. In chapter six, the authors ask a lot of tough questions for readers to answer: "What are my working beliefs about God? How do I think about myself? What do I think about how things are going for me? How do my beliefs line up with the life-giving truth of the gospel?"

Favorite quotes:

  • Emotions play an integral role in our lives, from our relationships with God and others, to our memories, imaginations, and life experiences. God created our emotions to work in harmony with our other two most fundamental faculties: the mind and the will.
  • The myth that “emotions are bad” puts the blame in the wrong place. Emotions aren’t inherently bad or unruly, but sin has devastated our emotions. 
  • Emotions tell us what we value. They tell us about the people we care about and the things in life that we desire.  
  • Emotions also tell us what we believe. They reveal our take on reality. They tell us how we evaluate what is going on with the people and things that we value.
  • Nowhere in Scripture does God require us to examine and catalog every emotion. A cacophony of emotions tells us one thing above all: we must move to God. There is no feeling or jumble of feelings that we cannot bring to him. In fact, confusing emotions can be marvelous motivators, driving us to the only one who clears up our confusion.
  • When we seek emotions for God and not for ourselves, we will, by the grace of God, find true happiness. Only when we start with God can we handle our emotions; and in his Word, God tells us how we are supposed to feel. 
  • Godly emotions arise from godly beliefs and values. In other words, godly emotions spring from beliefs and values that correspond to the truths and values of God’s Word. By the same token, ungodly emotions flow from ungodly beliefs and values.  
  • If we spend twenty minutes a day reading our Bibles, but the remaining twenty-three hours and forty minutes ruminating on unbiblical thoughts, then it is no wonder that our sinful beliefs and values are so stubborn and our sinful emotions so strong. Sinful ruminating can reverse the good effects of time spent in God’s Word. It slows our growth and keeps us stuck in the same sinful emotions. We can’t expect to grow godly emotions in the soil of our sinful ruminations, so if we struggle to change our beliefs and values, this bad habit is the place to start.
  • We have to be deliberate, and we have to persist. But if we meditate on what is true, lovely, and admirable—all day long—we will cultivate godly beliefs and values from which obedient emotions will flourish (Phil. 4:8).
  • The longer we go without reading our Bibles, the less we want to read them. The more serving opportunities we pass up, the less we feel like serving, and the more times we skip church, the less we feel like going. If we procrastinate in our work, we feel less inclined to finish it. That’s because our faculties work together, and our actions (or inaction) affect how we feel. Waiting to feel before we act in obedience is a bad habit that bolsters our sinful emotions. Sinful beliefs and values only get stronger when we indulge our sinful feelings.  
  • God not only gives us Scripture, prayer, and the refreshing shelter of his church to sustain Christlike emotions, he punctuates our whole lives with gracious gifts that enliven our feelings.
  • Emotions are not dangerous. We are in danger, though, if our emotions are not satisfied in Christ.  

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, December 25, 2017

Progress of KJV Reader's Bible

KJV Reader's Bible. 2016. Holman Bible Publishers. 1840 pages. [Source: Gift]

Written by Moses

 1. Genesis (started December 25, 2017; finished 12/26/2017)
 2. Exodus (started 12/26/17; finished 12/27/17)
 3. Leviticus (started/finished 12/27/17)
 4. Numbers (started/finished 12/28/17)
 5. Deuteronomy (started 12/28/17; finished 12/29/17)

OT Narratives

 6. Joshua (started/finished 12/29/17)
 7. Judges (started 12/29/17; finished 12/30/17)
 8. Ruth (started/finished 12/30/17)
 9. 1 Samuel (started 1/19/18; finished 1/20/18)
 10. 2 Samuel (started 1/21/18; finished 1/22/18)
 11. 1 Kings (started 1/22/18; finished 1/23/18)
 12. 2 Kings (started 1/24/18; finished 1/26/18)
 13. 1 Chronicles (started/finished 12/30/17)
 14. 2 Chronicles (started 12/31/17; finished 1/1/18)
 15. Ezra (started/finished 1/1/18)
 16. Nehemiah (started/finished 1/1/18)
 17. Esther (started/finished 1/2/18)

Wisdom Literature

 18. Job (started 12/26/17; finished 12/27/17)
 19. Psalms (started 1/21/18; finished 1/27/18)
_ 20. Proverbs (started 1/27/18; 
 21. Ecclesiastes (started/finished 1/2/18)
 22. Song of Songs (started/finished 1/2/18)

Major Prophets

 23. Isaiah (started 1/4/18; finished 1/6/18)
 24. Jeremiah (started 1/8/18; finished 1/11/18)
 25. Lamentations (started/finished 1/7/18)
 26. Ezekiel (started 1/17/18; finished 1/19/18)
 27. Daniel (started/finished 1/17/18)

Minor Prophets

 28. Hosea (started/finished 1/13/18)
 29. Joel (started/finished 1/14/18)
 30. Amos (started/finished 1/14/18)
 31. Obadiah (started/finished 1/14/18)
✔ 32. Jonah (started/finished 1/14/18)
 33. Micah (started/finished 1/15/18)
 34. Nahum (started/finished 1/15/18)
 35. Habakkuk (started/finished 1/16/18)
 36. Zephaniah (started/finished 1/16/18)
 37. Haggai (started/finished 1/16/18)
 38. Zechariah (started/finished 1/16/18)
 39. Malachi (started/finished 1/16/18)

NT Narratives

 40. Matthew (started 1/2/18; finished 1/3/18)
 41. Mark (started 1/7/18; finished 1/8/18)
 42. Luke (started 1/11/18; finished 1/12/18)
_ 43. John
 44. Acts (started 1/15/18; finished 1/17/18)

Epistles by Paul

_ 45. Romans
_ 46. 1 Corinthians
_ 47. 2 Corinthians
_ 48. Galatians
_ 49. Ephesians
_ 50. Philippians
_ 51. Colossians
_ 52. 1 Thessalonians
_ 53. 2 Thessalonians
_ 54. 1 Timothy
_ 55. 2 Timothy
_ 56. Titus
_ 57. Philemon

General Epistles

_ 58. Hebrews
 59. James (started/finished 1/3/18)
 60. 1 Peter (started/finished 1/8/18)
✔ 61. 2 Peter (started/finished 1/8/18)
_ 62. 1 John
_ 63. 2 John
_ 64. 3 John
_ 65. Jude

Apocalyptic Epistle by John

_ 66. Revelation

If you're looking to keep track here's a checklist for your convenience. Feel free to copy/paste this. You can replace the _ with an X or a ✔ (copy/paste it) when you finish reading a book. 

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible