Tuesday, August 22, 2017

My Summer with Psalm 119 #15

As a few of you know, I love, love, LOVE Psalm 119. I thought it would be great to spend a summer focusing on that psalm and what others have had to say about it. I'll begin with Thomas Manton's Exposition of Psalm 119. It may take all summer to read all 158 sermons. But they're so GOOD, so RICH, I think it will be worth it.

Sermon 17 (Psalm 119:16)

  • Spiritual affections grow upon us by practice and much exercise. The graces of the Spirit and the duties of religion do every one fortify and strengthen one another; lose one, and lose all; keep one, and keep all.
  • Meditation breedeth delight, and delight helpeth memory and practice.
  • Seeing is in heaven, hearing in the churches upon earth; then vision, now hearing.
  • The world is a dark place, beset with dangers, and ever and anon we are apt to stumble into the pit of destruction, without taking heed to this light. The word discovereth to them evils, that they may see them, repent of them, forsake them; and showeth us our ready way to heaven, that we may walk therein. It discovereth the greatest dangers, and pointeth out the surest way to safety and peace.
  • One promise in the word of God doth bear up the heart more than all the arguings and discourses of men, though never so excellent. In time of temptation, in the hour of death, oh, what a reviving is one word of God’s mouth!
  • As fear is cured with fear, the fear of men with the fear of God, so is delight by delight; delight in God’s statutes is the cure of delight in worldly things. Love cannot lie idle, it must be occupied one way or another; either carried out to the contentments of the flesh, or else to holy things.
  • Pleasure is ingrained in our natures, born and bred with us; and therefore, though we may delight in the moderate use of the refreshments of the present life, in estate, honour, reputation, yet we should take heed of excess, that our hearts be not overjoyed, and too much taken up about these things.
  • A good conscience is a continual feast, a dish we are never weary of. The blessed spirits in heaven are never weary of beholding the face of God. God is new and fresh every moment to them. The contemplation of such excellent objects doth not overcharge and weaken the spirits, but doth raise and fortify them. It is true, the corporeal powers being weak, may be tired in such an employment, as much reading is a weariness to the flesh; but the object doth not grow distasteful, as in carnal things.
  • What we esteem most we best remember.
  • We must be often viewing and meditating of what we have laid up in the memory. It availeth not to the health of the body to eat much, but to digest what is eaten.
  • Tumultuary reading and hearing, without meditation, is like greedy swallowing much meat. When little is thought on, it doth not turn to profit. This concocteth and digesteth what we have heard. The more a thing is revolved in the mind, the deeper impression it maketh.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, August 21, 2017

Book Review: The Bruised Reed

The Bruised Reed. Richard Sibbes. 1630. [Source: Bought]
Behold my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my Spirit upon him;
he will bring forth justice to the nations.
He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice,
or make it heard in the street;
a bruised reed he will not break,
and a faintly burning wick he will not quench;
he will faithfully bring forth justice.
He will not grow faint or be discouraged
till he has established justice in the earth;
and the coastlands wait for his law. Isaiah 42:1-4
Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. And many followed him, and he healed them all and ordered them not to make him known. This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah:
“Behold, my servant whom I have chosen,
my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased.
I will put my Spirit upon him,
and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.
He will not quarrel or cry aloud,
nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets;
a bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not quench,
until he brings justice to victory;
and in his name the Gentiles will hope.” Matthew 12:15-21
First sentence: The prophet Isaiah, being lifted up and carried with the wing of a prophetic spirit, passes over all the time between him and the appearing of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Seeing with the eye of prophecy, and with the eye of faith, Christ as present, he presents him in the name of God to the spiritual eye of others.

If you read only one Puritan sermon, I'm tempted to say that it should be Sibbes' The Bruised Reed. For anyone wanting to taste and see how glorious, how wonderful, how sweet Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior really is should read it. The sermon teaches us about ourselves AND about Christ. 

I loved this one so much I am already thinking about rereading it. 

  • Christ was God’s servant in the greatest piece of service that ever was, a chosen and a choice servant who did and suffered all by commission from the Father. In this we may see the sweet love of God toward us, in that he counts the work of our salvation by Christ his greatest service, and in that he will put his only beloved Son to that service.
  • In time of temptation, apprehensive consciences look so much to the present trouble they are in, that they need to be roused up to behold the one in whom they may find rest for their distressed souls.
  • In all that Christ did and suffered as Mediator, we must see God in him reconciling the world to himself (2Cor. 5:19).
  • What a support to our faith this is, that God the Father, the party offended by our sins, is so well pleased with the work of redemption! And what a comfort this is, that seeing God’s love rests on Christ as well pleased in him, we may conclude that he is as well-pleased with us if we are in Christ!
  • For his love rests in a whole Christ, in the mystical Christ, as well as in the natural Christ, because he loves him and us with one love. Let us, therefore, embrace Christ, and in him embrace God’s love, and build our faith safely on a Savior who is furnished with so high a commission. See here, for our comfort, a sweet agreement of all three persons: the Father gives a commission to Christ; the Spirit furnishes and sanctifies it, and Christ himself executes the office of a Mediator. Our redemption is founded upon the joint agreement of all three persons of the Trinity. 
  • Shall our sins discourage us when he appears there only for sinners? Are you bruised? Be of good comfort, he calls you. Do not conceal your wounds, open everything before him and do not take Satan’s counsel. Go to Christ, although trembling, as the poor woman who said, “If I may only touch his garment” (Matt. 9:21). We shall be healed and have a gracious answer. Go boldly to God in our flesh; he is flesh of our flesh, and bone of our bone for this reason: so that we might go boldly to him. Never fear to go to God, since we have such a Mediator with him; he is not only our friend but our brother and husband. Well might the angel proclaim from heaven, “Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy” (Luke 2:10). Well might the apostle stir us up to “rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice” (Phil. 4:4). Paul was well-advised upon what grounds he did it. Peace and joy are two main fruits of Christ’s kingdom. Let the world be as it will, if we cannot rejoice in the world, yet we may rejoice in the Lord. His presence makes any condition comfortable. “Do not be afraid,” he says to his disciples when they were afraid, as if they had seen a ghost, “It is I” (Matt. 14:27), as if there were no cause of fear wherever he was present. 
  • When in temptation, think “Christ was tempted for me; my graces and comforts will be according to my trials. If Christ is so merciful as not to break me, then I will not break myself by despair, nor will I yield myself to the roaring lion, Satan, to break me in pieces.”
  • A man truly bruised judges sin to be the greatest evil, and the favor of God the greatest good.
  • First, we must conceive of bruising either as a state into which God brings us, or as a duty to be performed by us. Both are meant here.
  • But if we have this for a foundation truth, that there is more mercy in Christ than sin in us, there can be no danger in thorough dealing. It is better to go bruised to heaven than sound to hell. Therefore let us not take off ourselves too soon, nor pull off the plaster before the cure be wrought, but keep ourselves under this work till sin be the sourest, and Christ the sweetest, of all things. 
  • And when God’s hand is upon us in any way, it is good to divert our sorrow for other things to the root of all, which is sin. Let our grief run most in that channel, that as sin bred grief, so grief may consume sin. 
  • The purest actions of the purest men need Christ to perfume them; and this is his office. When we pray, we need to pray again for Christ to pardon the defects of our prayers.
  • When blindness and boldness, ignorance and arrogance, weakness and willfulness, meet together in men, it renders them odious to God, burdensome in society, dangerous in their counsels, disturbers of better purposes, intractable and incapable of better direction, miserable in the issue. Where Christ shows his gracious power in weakness, he does it by letting men understand themselves so far as to breed humility, and magnify God’s love to such as they are. He does it as a preservative against discouragements from weakness, to bring men into a less distance from grace, as an advantage to poverty of spirit, rather than greatness of condition and parts, which yield to corrupt nature fuel for pride. Christ refuses none for weakness of parts, that none should be discouraged, but accepts none for greatness, that none should be lifted up with that which is of so little reckoning with God.
  • Truth fears nothing so much as concealment, and desires nothing so much as clearly to be laid open to the view of all. When it is most unadorned, it is most lovely and powerful.
  • Christ came down from heaven and emptied himself of majesty in tender love to souls. Shall we not come down from our high conceits to do any poor soul good? Shall man be proud after God has been humble?
  • What is the gospel itself but a merciful moderation, in which Christ’s obedience is esteemed ours, and our sins laid upon him, wherein God, from being a judge, becomes our Father, pardoning our sins and accepting our obedience, though feeble and blemished? We are now brought to heaven under the covenant of grace by a way of love and mercy.
  • Heavenly truths must have a heavenly light to discern them. Natural men see heavenly things, not in their own proper light, but by an inferior light. In every converted man, God puts a light into the eye of his soul proportionable to the light of truths revealed to him. A carnal eye will never see spiritual things.
  • We must, therefore, walk by his light, not the blaze of our own fire.
  • God must light our candle (Psa. 18:28) or else we will abide in darkness. Those sparks that are not kindled from heaven are not strong enough to keep us from lying in sorrow, though they make a greater blaze and show than the light from above, as madmen do greater things than sober men, but by a false strength: so the excess of these men’s joy arises from a false light. ‘The light of the wicked shall be put out’ (Job 18:5). The light which some men have is like lightning which, after a sudden flash, leaves them more in darkness. They can love the light as it shines, but hate it as it discovers and directs.
  • Spiritual light is distinct. It apprehends spiritual good and applies it to ourselves; but common light is confused, and lets sin lie quiet. Where fire is, in any degree, it will fight everything contrary to it. God put irreconcilable hatred between light and darkness from the first; so also between good and ill, flesh and Spirit (Gal. 5:17). Grace will never join with sin, any more than fire with water.
  • All scandalous actions are only thoughts at the first. Thoughts are seeds of actions.
  • It is better to enjoy the benefit of light, though with smoke, than to be altogether in the dark.
  • There is never a holy sigh, never a tear we shed, which is lost. And as every grace increases by exercise of itself, so does the grace of prayer.
  • By prayer we learn to pray. So, likewise, we should take heed of a spirit of discouragement in all other holy duties, since we have so gracious a Saviour. Pray as we are able, hear as we are able, strive as we are able, do as we are able, according to the measure of grace received.
  • We must know for our comfort that Christ was not anointed to this great work of Mediator for lesser sins only, but for the greatest, if we have but a spark of true faith to lay hold on him. Therefore, if there be any bruised reed, let him not make an exception of himself, when Christ does not make an exception of him. ‘Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden’ (Matt. 11:28). Why should we not make use of so gracious a disposition? We are only poor for this reason, that we do not know our riches in Christ. In time of temptation, believe Christ rather than the devil. Believe truth from truth itself. Hearken not to a liar, an enemy and a murderer.
  • We are weak, but we are his; we are deformed, but yet carry his image upon us. A father looks not so much at the blemishes of his child as at his own nature in him; so Christ finds matter of love from that which is his own in us. He sees his own nature in us: we are diseased, but yet his members. Who ever neglected his own members because they were sick or weak? None ever hated his own flesh. Can the head forget the members? Can Christ forget himself? We are his fullness, as he is ours.
  • Cast yourself into the arms of Christ, and if you perish, perish there. If you do not, you are sure to perish. If mercy is to be found anywhere, it is there.
  • What greater unthankfulness can there be than to despise any help that Christ in mercy has provided for us?
  • The same Spirit that convinces us of the necessity of his righteousness to cover us convinces us also of the necessity of his government to rule us. His love to us moves him to frame us to be like himself, and our love to him stirs us up to be such as he may take delight in, neither do we have faith or hope any further than we have a concern to be purged as he is pure.
  • None ever did truly desire mercy for pardon but desired mercy for healing.
  • The first and chief ground of our comfort is that Christ as a priest offered himself as a sacrifice to his Father for us. The guilty soul flies first to Christ crucified, made a curse for us. Thence it is that Christ has right to govern us; thence it is that he gives us his Spirit as our guide to lead us home.
  • We must be new creatures. They seek for heaven in hell that seek for spiritual love in an unchanged heart.
  • Truth is truth, and error, error, and that which is unlawful is unlawful, whether men think so or not.
  • God has put an eternal difference between light and darkness, good and ill, which no creature’s conceit can alter; and therefore no man’s judgment is the measure of things further than it agrees to truth stamped upon things themselves by God.
  • The purpose of Christ’s coming was to destroy the works of the devil, both for us and in us; and the purpose of the resurrection was, as well as sealing to us the assurance of his victory, so also (1) to quicken our souls from death in sin; (2) to free our souls from such snares and sorrows of spiritual death as accompany the guilt of sin; (3) to raise them up more comfortable, as the sun breaks forth more gloriously out of a thick cloud; (4) to raise us out of particular slips and failings stronger; (5) to raise us out of all troublesome and dark conditions of this life; and (6) at length to raise our bodies out of the dust. For the same power that the Spirit showed in raising Christ, our Head, from the sorrows of death and the lowest degree of his abasement, that power, obtained by the death of Christ from God, now appeased by that sacrifice, the Spirit will show in the church, which is his body, and in every particular member thereof.
  • A Christian conquers, even when he’ is conquered. When he is conquered by some sins, he gets victory over others more dangerous, such as spiritual pride and security.
  • True judgment in us advances Christ, and Christ will advance it. All sin is either from false principles, or ignorance, or thoughtlessness, or unbelief of what is true. By lack of consideration and weakness of assent, Eve lost her hold at first (Gen. 3:6). It is good, therefore, to store up true principles in our hearts, and to refresh them often, that, in virtue of them, our affections and actions may be more vigorous. When judgment is fortified, evil finds no entrance, but good things have a side within us to entertain them.
  • How can we think that Christ will lead us out to victory, when we take counsel with his and our enemies?
  • Where Christ is, all happiness must follow. If Christ goes, all will go.
  • Nothing is stronger than humility, which goes out of itself, or weaker than pride, which rests on its own foundation.
  • Christ will not leave us till he has made us like himself, all glorious within and without, and presented us blameless before his Father (Jude 24).
  • Let us think when we are troubled with our sins that Christ has this in charge from his Father, that he shall not ‘quench the smoking flax’ until he has subdued all. This puts a shield into our hands to beat back ‘all the fiery darts of the wicked’ (Eph. 6:16). Satan will object, ‘You are a great sinner.’ We may answer, ‘Christ is a strong Saviour.’ But he will object, ‘You have no faith, no love.’ ‘Yes, a spark of faith and love.’ ‘But Christ will not regard that.’ ‘Yes, he will not quench the smoking flax: ‘But this is so little and weak that it will vanish and come to naught.” Nay, but Christ will cherish it, until he has brought judgment to victory.’ And this much we have already for our comfort, that, even when we first believed, we overcame God himself, as it were, by believing the pardon of all our sins, notwithstanding the guilt of our own consciences and his absolute justice. Now, having been prevailers with God, what shall stand against us if we can learn to make use of our faith?
  • If we fail, he will cherish us. If we are guided by him, we shall overcome. If we overcome, we are sure to be crowned. As for the present state of the church, we see now how forlorn it is, yet let us comfort ourselves that Christ’s cause shall prevail. Christ will rule, till his enemies become his footstool (Psa. 110:1), not only to trample upon, but to help him up to mount higher in glory. Babylon shall fall, ‘for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her’ (Rev. 18:8). Christ’s judgment, not only in his children, but also against his enemies, shall be victorious, for he is ‘King of kings and Lord of lords’ (Rev. 19:16). God will not always suffer antichrist and his supporters to revel and swagger in the church as they do.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Check-In With The Cloud

  • What have you been reading? What are you currently reading?
  • Have you finished anything for the challenge?
  • Have you read any new-to-you authors yet?
  • Have you found any new favorites?
  • Are you writing down favorite quotes? Have any to share?
  • Have you learned anything that you'd like to share?
  • Would you be interested in reading a book together? If so, what month would be good for you?

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Week in Review: August 13-19

ESV Reformation Study Bible

  • 2 Samuel
  • 1 Kings
  • Psalm 90-150
  • Proverbs 

CSB Study Bible

  • Genesis 6-26


  • 1 Thessalonians
  • 2 Thessalonians
  • 1 Timothy
  • 2 Timothy

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, August 18, 2017

Book Review: The Return

The Return. (Amish Beginnings #3) Suzanne Woods Fisher. 2017. Revell. 330 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: As Betsy climbed up from the creek carrying two buckets of water, she heard the sound of her brothers' laughter, and then a man's deeper laugh.

The Return is the third book in the Amish Beginnings series by Suzanne Woods Fisher. The first two in the series are Anna's Crossing and The Newcomer. Several decades have passed and this novel mainly focuses on the next generation. One of the heroines, for example, is Tessa Bauer the daughter of Bairn and Anna. The other heroine is Betsy Zook.

Tensions are HIGH between the white settlers and the Native Americans. While many of the Amish are happy to be at peace--stay at peace--there are a few men in the community that are hotheaded and lack common sense and decency. John Elder, for example, is one advocating the philosophy that the only good Indian is a dead Indian. Anna and Bairn think differently, as do most of the characters in the novel. But HANS (the foster brother of Felix and Bairn) goes a bit nuts when Betsy Zook, the supposed love of his life is kidnapped. Tessa sees Betsy's kidnapping by Indians as an opportunity to win Hans affection and attention.

The narrative shifts between Betsy and Tessa--mostly. Betsy meets Caleb, a "half-breed" with a Mennonite mother and an Indian father. The two become super-super close. And if I'm honest Caleb is without a doubt my favorite character in the book. In fact I HATED Hans. (I probably shouldn't say that.)

I definitely liked the book. I loved some characters; I liked some characters; and then there was Hans!

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, August 17, 2017

My Summer with Psalm 119 #14

As a few of you know, I love, love, LOVE Psalm 119. I thought it would be great to spend a summer focusing on that psalm and what others have had to say about it. I'll begin with Thomas Manton's Exposition of Psalm 119. It may take all summer to read all 158 sermons. But they're so GOOD, so RICH, I think it will be worth it.

Sermon 16 (Psalm 119:15)

  • Our thoughts follow our affections. It is tedious and irksome to the flesh to meditate, but delight will carry us out. The smallest actions, when we have no delight in them, seem tedious and burdensome.
  • Delight will set the mind a-work, for we are apt to muse and pause upon that which is pleasing to us. Why are not holy thoughts as natural and as kindly to us as carnal? The defect is in the heart: I have rejoiced in thy testimonies,’ saith David, and therefore I will meditate in thy statutes.’
  • Meditation is not a flourishing of the wit, that we may please the fancy by playing with divine truths (sense is diseased that must be fed with quails), but a serious inculcation of them upon the heart, that we may urge it to practice. Nor yet an acquainting ourselves with the word that we may speak of it in company: conference is for others, meditation for ourselves when we are alone.
  • To respect God’s ways is to take heed that we do not turn out of them, to regard them and ourselves: Observe to do them,’ Josh.1:8; and it is called elsewhere, pondering our path: Prov. 4:26, Ponder the path of thy feet,’ that we may not mistake our way, nor wander out of it. Respect to God’s word was opened ver. 6 and 9. The main point is this— That one great duty of the saints is meditating on the word of God, and such matters as are contained therein.
  • Meditation is— 1. Occasional. 2. Set and solemn. 
  • There is a reflective meditation, which is nothing but a solemn parley between a man and his own heart:
  • What can be more against self-love and carnal ease than for a man to be his own accuser and judge? All our shifts are to avoid our own company, and to run away from ourselves.
  • There is a meditation which is more direct, when we exercise our minds in the word of God and the matters contained therein. This is twofold:—
  • Dogmatical, or the searching out of a truth in order to know ledge: Proving what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.’ Rom. 12:2. This is study, and differeth from meditation in the object, and supposeth the matter we search after to be unknown, either in whole or in part; whereas practical meditation is the inculcation or whetting of a known truth upon the soul: and it differs in the end; the end of study is information, and the end of meditation is practice, or a work upon the affections. Study is like a winter sun, that shineth, but warmeth not; but meditation is like blowing up the fire, where we do not mind the blaze but the heat. The end of study is to hoard up truth; but of meditation, to lay it forth in conference or holy conversation. In study, we are rather like vintners, that take in wine to store themselves for sale; in meditation, like those that buy wine for their own use and comfort.
  • Thoughts are the eldest and noblest offspring of the soul, and it is fit they should be consecrated to converse with God.
  • Faith is lean unless it be fed with meditation on the promises.
  • The mind of man is restless, and cannot lie idle; therefore it is good to employ it with good thoughts, and set it a-work on holy things; for then there will be no time and heart for vanity, the mind being prepossessed and seasoned already; but when the heart is left to run loose, vanity increaseth upon us.
  • We meditate of God that we may love him and fear him; of sin, that we may abhor it; of hell, that we may avoid it; of heaven, that we may pursue it. Still the end is practical, to quicken us to greater diligence and care in the heavenly life.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Book Review: Exploring the Bible

Exploring the Bible: A Bible Reading Plan for Kids. David Murray. Illustrated by Scotty Reifsnyder. 2017. Crossway. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Perhaps sometimes you feel lost and confused when reading the Bible.

This book is for families primarily although churches might find it to be beneficial as well. Essentially it guides children through the Bible--Genesis to Revelation--in one year. The goal isn't for the child to read each and every verse of the Bible. The focus is on comprehending the big picture of the Bible, on seeing how all the books connect together to tell one story--the story of a God who loves and redeems us.

Each week the reader is invited to go on an expedition. There is something for the child to do each and every day of the week. A few goals are weekly, but many are daily. For example, there is only one place during the week to write down prayer requests and the memory verse, but, there are suggested/required readings for each day of the week. Sunday is a special day. Children are encouraged to write down what they learned from that day's sermon, and what scripture the preacher taught from, etc.

There are twenty-four expeditions in the Old Testament. They are arranged in the order they appear in most Bibles. They are not arranged chronologically. The rest of the expeditions are in the New Testament. Most expeditions come from Matthew through Acts. The last seven focus on the New Testament letters.

The book is definitely structured. This is a book that is designed to be written in and OWNED. For that reason, I'm not sure why it's available as an e-book, but it is. I'd encourage parents to buy the physical book. And I think this book would best be used by families together. Parents and children both engaging in a journey through the Bible.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

My Summer with Psalm 119 #13

As a few of you know, I love, love, LOVE Psalm 119. I thought it would be great to spend a summer focusing on that psalm and what others have had to say about it. I'll begin with Thomas Manton's Exposition of Psalm 119. It may take all summer to read all 158 sermons. But they're so GOOD, so RICH, I think it will be worth it.

Sermon 15 (Psalm 119:14)

  • A gracious heart finds more true joy in the way of God’s word than in all worldly things whatsoever.
  • There is a sweetness in the study of God’s word, or when we give up ourselves to attain the knowledge of it. The very speculation and study produces a delightful taste.
  • Scriptural truths are more sublime than other truths, and do en noble reason with the knowledge of them: Because these truths are suitable to our necessities. To every man that hath a conscience, it cannot but be very pleasing to hear of a way how he may come to the pardon of sins, and sound peace of conscience, solid perfection, and eternal glory.
  • There is a sweetness found in the way of God’s testimonies which ariseth from the conscience of practical obedience, not from contemplation only; and it is best to be found when we come to practise and perform what we know.
  • Now, it is the word of God believed and obeyed which yieldeth us the greatest profit and the greatest pleasure. You have both in one verse: Ps. 19:10, More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than the honey and the honeycomb.’ Because of the profit it is compared to gold, and because of the sweetness and pleasure we have by it, it is compared to honey.
  • The word of God will truly enrich a man and make us happy. The difference between God’s people and others doth not lie in this, that the one seeketh after riches, the other not; they both seek to enrich themselves; only the one seeketh after false, and the other true riches, as they are called, Luke 16:11.
  • The word of God is able to enrich a man more than all the riches of the world, because it is able to bring a man to an everlasting kingdom.
  • Spiritual delight in spiritual objects far exceedeth all the joy that we can take in worldly things.
  • The way of God’s commandments is your way home.
  • You are going home to rest. Let the joy of the Lord be your strength. Certainly you will think no labour too great to get thither, whither the word directs you.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, August 14, 2017

Book Review: Godless

Godless. (Fatherless #3) James Dobson and Kurt Bruner. 2014. 416 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Veronica's eyes flew open as she felt the rising sun warm her face. Panic forced her upright. "Where are we?" No response. Louder. "Mommy?"

Premise/plot: Godless is the third and final book in the trilogy by James Dobson and Kurt Bruner. (The first two in the series are Fatherless and Childless. The third novel opens in 2044, so two years have passed since the first novel began.)

What would society be like if it was truly godless? The entire series has shown a terrifying future where nothing is wrong because everything is right. It's a world in economic crisis for one thing.

The novel asks: What happens to a society, a civilization, when there are more old people than young people? Who gets what? How are resources shared and divided? In this fictional series, the author imagines that the elderly are manipulated and urged to make the best decision for everyone: to end their lives so that their grown children and grandchildren can benefit financially. Be a blessing for your loved ones: die today! Don't weigh down your loved ones lives with your continued existence! Make one last contribution to society! Be patriotic! Do good for your country, do good for your family!

The result is that medical care is being denied to the elderly. Children are pressuring their parents to transition--to die and leave them everything. Churches are pressuring older members to transition so that the church can have their money and thereby extend their gospel outreach. Politicians are definitely supporting the transition industry and building their campaigns around it.

Imagine this: You're 60+, at home waiting for results from the doctor, someone shows up at your door with the results. But they just don't give you the news, they're there to sell you a solution. Your health is bad. You're being denied coverage or treatment. But there's good news in all of this: you can take control of your diagnosis. Schedule your day to die! Sign up right here, right now and we'll set up your appointment to "transition." You can transition at home even if you'd prefer.

Or imagine this: You're 60+ and have a college-aged grandchild who wants to go to college. Your grandchild "needs" this educational opportunity if they are to succeed in life. The only thing standing in the way of their success, their future...is YOU. If you really love your grandchild, don't you want them to have the best in life even if you're not there to see it?

Godless has many characters. Most of the characters were introduced in the first two books in the series. But this one also focuses in on one pastor and his family as they struggle to do the right thing and stand up against a church board that is pro-transition.

My thoughts: The series has reminded me of Frank Peretti's novels. The ideas are truly terrifying. It isn't just the lack of respect for human life and dignity in regards to how the elderly are treated. (I imagine that the disabled would also be pressured to transition. If you can't work and contribute to society, go ahead and die.)

The breakdown of the family is complete. Adults never marry, never enter monogamous relationships, never learn to love others unconditionally and sacrificially, never have children, never have need to be selfless. The novels do show the other side, however. The "breeder" class where values have not disintegrated and human life is still seen as being in the image of God.

My favorite character was Alex, the pastor of a Colorado church. My least favorite character was Matthew. These two have several conversations throughout the book. Matthew is a tortured soul, chained to his bad decisions past and present. He comes as "Frank" seeking answers to his questions. Not that he's always open to the answers he receives from Alex. But Alex isn't his only counselor.
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Week in Review: August 6-12

ESV Reformation Study Bible

  • Joshua
  • Judges
  • Ruth
  • 1 Samuel
  • Esther
  • Psalms 1-89


  • 1 Corinthians
  • 2 Corinthians
  • Galatians
  • Ephesians
  • Philippians
  • Colossians

CSB Study Bible

  • Genesis 1-5

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, August 11, 2017

Book Review: The Gospel According to Peanuts

The Gospel According to Peanuts. Robert L. Short. Introduced by Martin E. Marty. 1965/2000. 130 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: "How shall we sing the LORD's song in a foreign land?" (Ps. 137:4) is a question the Church, always finding itself in but not of the world, urgently needs to reconsider today.

Premise/plot: Are there theological lessons to be learned from engaging (reading thoughtfully) in the comic strip Peanuts? Short says YES, and this book is his argument why Christians should engage with the culture of the world.

My thoughts: The Gospel According to Peanuts is a short book, just six chapters in length.

The chapters are: "The Church and the Arts," "The Whole Trouble: Original Sin," "The Wages of Sin is Aaughh!", "Good Grief," "The Hound of Heaven," and "Concluding Unscientific Postcript."

If you can make it past the first chapter of this one, I think you'll enjoy reading this one. The first chapter suffers from being overly scholarly and long-winded. Instead of coming straight to the point and writing in English, the author offers his argument that essentially says a) comic strips can be important cultural indicators, a type of ART that should not be ignored but engaged in b) Peanuts is well worth reading because there are theological lessons to be found c) Christians often have a hard time communicating with the world in ways that the world can understand, if Christians engage in the culture they can better communicate the gospel in ways--in words and actions--that the world will be more likely to listen and respond.

I really loved the middle chapters of this one. In particular I loved "The Whole Trouble: Original Sin," "The Wages of Sin is Aaughh!" and "Good Grief."
The original sinfulness of man--all men--is almost taken for granted by the New Testament; it is the background for almost everything the New Testament says. Christ himself usually seemed to presuppose this view of human nature. (29)
Short argues that original sin can easily be seen as the background for the Peanuts strip. Each of the characters reveals the lostness--the blindness--of human nature itself.

One of the strips shown in this section:
LUCY: You know what the whole trouble with you is, Charlie Brown?
CHARLIE BROWN: No; and I don't want to know! Leave me alone!
LUCY: The whole trouble with you is you won't listen to what the whole trouble with you is! (30-1)
And here's another that reminds us of Paul's letter to the Romans:
LUCY: This Linus is a picture of the human heart! One side is filled with hate and the other side is filled with love. These are the two forces which are constantly at war with each other..
LINUS: I think I know just what you mean. I can feel them fighting. (36)
An example of a theological insight Short shares:
The inability of the Peanuts kids to produce any radical change for the better in themselves--or in each other--is a constant Peanuts theme. (37)
I enjoyed the comic strips very much. I also enjoyed Short's insights.

One of the points of the book is that ALL of the Peanuts characters have a natural, sinful fallen nature. There aren't "good" characters and "bad" characters. They are all messes. They all make mistakes. They all think mistakenly. If you're used to compartmentalizing the characters into "good" and "bad" then this book might be disconcerting to you. For example, if you are prone to thinking that LUCY IS BAD and LINUS IS GOOD. If you are of the opinion that Linus can do no wrong, and that Linus is wiser than all the rest,  then this one might upset you. For example, Short considers that Linus' blanket is unhealthy as is his insistent belief in the Great Pumpkin.

A few observations I have:

1) If you read enough comic strips, you could find enough to probably prove whatever you wanted. You could pull strips together showing Linus to be practically perfect in every way and Lucy to be a real jerk with no redeeming qualities. In this book, Lucy gets a lot of great lines in and in these strips she seems to be very self-aware while Linus seems to be fascinated with his blanket to the exclusion of seeing the real world.

2) This book was published BEFORE the 1966 Charlie Brown Christmas special. Linus stands out in the special as being wise and observant and GOOD. I think most people associate Linus with that--an image of him reading the birth narratives of Christ. And that image is so solid that it's hard to think of Linus as being anything but wise.

3) The new Peanuts movie is wonderful, but goes against much of what this book says. In the new movie, Charlie Brown comes across as an absolute saint; he may be clumsy, he may be gullible. But he's GOOD; he's LOYAL; he's COMPASSIONATE; he always does the right thing. He may worry a lot. He may be awkward but it seems his good works and good intentions outweigh everything else. He doesn't seem to need a savior; he just needs to believe in himself.

4) This book doesn't consider the comic strips written from 1965-2000. So it isn't a comprehensive look at the comic strip. Again, I think you could pick different strips from these years to prove anything about one of the characters.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Psalm 119 #12

As a few of you know, I love, love, LOVE Psalm 119. I thought it would be great to spend a summer focusing on that psalm and what others have had to say about it. I'll begin with Thomas Manton's Exposition of Psalm 119. It may take all summer to read all 158 sermons. But they're so GOOD, so RICH, I think it will be worth it.

Sermon 14 (Psalm 119:13)

  • It is but hypocrisy to be speaking and talking of good things, when we have not been refreshed and warmed by them ourselves.
  • Christianity is not a religion to talk of, but to live by.
  • The power of grace in the heart is a good foundation for grace on the lips.
  • When there is true grace in the heart, the sweet influences thereof will flow forth in their common discourse for the refreshing of others; as a spring sendeth forth the streams to water the ground about it. If the heart be full, the tongue will drop what is savory.
  • The scripture is not only a record of what is past, but a calendar and prognostication of what is to come. You may read your doom, your judgment there; for the statutes of the Lord are all called judgments, because of an answerable proceeding in the course of God’s providence: if men escape here, they will not escape the judgment of the last day, when the sentence of that God shall infallibly be made good. Now, the verdict of the word is called the judgments of his mouth, as if God himself had pronounced by oracle, and judged from heaven in the case; and these judgments of his mouth the Psalmist saith shall be the matter of his discourse and conference with others.
  • It concerns all that fear God to declare upon meet occasions the judgments of his mouth.
  • It is true, all Christians are prophets, yet they are not to invade the office ministerial; as they are also all kings, yet they are not to usurp the magistracy, or to disturb the ruler in his government. If Christians would but meditate more, and see how much they have to do to preach to their own hearts; if they would but regard the unquestionable duty that they owe to their families more, this itch of public preaching would be much abated, and many other confusions and disorders among us would be prevented; and they would sooner find the Lord’s blessing upon interchangeable discourse, gracious conferences, than this affectation of sermoning and set discourses.
  • The family is the seminary of the church and state; and usually those that are ill-bred in the family, they prove ill when they come abroad. A fault in the first concoction is not mended in the second; and therefore here you should be declaring the mind and counsel of God to them.
  • It is the best love you can express to your children, when you take care to season them with the best things.
  • What we love, admire, and affect, the tongue will be occupied about such things.
  • What a man’s affections are upon, it is most ready in his mouth. Therefore it argueth we are affected with the word of God when we are declaring it upon all occasions.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Book Review: Missions

Missions: How the Local Church Goes Global. Andy Johnson. 2017. Crossway. 128 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: I once rented a vacation apartment on the sixth floor of a building with no elevator. The owner had been very clear in every email, stating, “This apartment is on the sixth floor and there is no elevator.” Still, the significance of her disclosure didn’t really hit me until I was panting on the fifth-floor landing, hauling suitcase number two of three up the winding stairs. Yet, as I stood there trying to remember the symptoms of a heart attack, I couldn’t feel angry toward the owner. She had been up-front about it, all along. I should have paid more attention.

Premise/plot: The foundational premises of this book on missions are: the mission of missions is primarily spiritual; the mission belongs to God, for His Glory, on His terms; global missions is primarily through the local church; and the Bible has a lot to say about how to approach missions.

My thoughts: This book has many strengths. I'll start with naming two: it is concise; it is biblical. There are just seven chapters--nine if you count the introduction and conclusion as chapters. Each chapter is doctrinal and has practical applications. The audience for this one is primarily pastors, elders, leaders of the local church. Each chapter has tips on how to do missions better.

  1. Introduction: Missions at a Crossroad
  2. A Biblical Foundation for Missions
  3. First Things First
  4. Sending and Supporting Well
  5. Getting the House in Order
  6. Healthy Missions Partnerships
  7. Reforming Short-Term Missions
  8. Engaging the Nations by Other Means
  9. Conclusion: Stepping Toward the Nations

I thought the book was insightful. Here is my favorite quote:
The heart for God-glorifying missions starts with joy in the gospel. Our churches must first cherish the God who sent his own Son to save sinners like us. The right fuel matters. Do not try to get your church excited about missions until they love and value (really, deeply value) what Christ has done for them in the gospel. Churches won’t extend themselves to commend the gospel until they deeply cherish the gospel. The glory of the gospel—not the neediness of mankind—is the selfsustaining fuel for global missions. 
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

My Summer with Psalm 119 #11

As a few of you know, I love, love, LOVE Psalm 119. I thought it would be great to spend a summer focusing on that psalm and what others have had to say about it. I'll begin with Thomas Manton's Exposition of Psalm 119. It may take all summer to read all 158 sermons. But they're so GOOD, so RICH, I think it will be worth it.

Sermon 13: Psalm 119:12

  • First, The compellation carrieth the force of an argument: Because thou art blessed, O Lord, therefore teach me. And therefore I shall open the sense of this title that is here given to God, so as I may still make good the argument.
  • It is our blessedness to enjoy God.
  • Blessed is the people whose God is the Lord.’ That is our blessedness, to have God for our portion. As soon as we are admitted into covenant with God, we have a right to him: I am thy God;’ and we have the full consummation of it when we enter into heaven; there we have the highest enjoyment of God that we are capable of.
  • If God be our chiefest good and our utmost end, it concerns us nearly to learn out the way how we may enjoy him.
  • God’s blessedness is that attribute by which the Lord, from himself, and in his own being, is free from all misery and enjoyeth all good, and is sufficient to himself, and contented with himself, and doth neither need nor desire the creature for any good that can accrue to him by us. Or, more shortly, God’s blessedness is the fruition of himself, and his delighting in himself.
  • God is eternally blessed, therefore we should study to be like him.
  • God loves himself, and acts for himself, and pursueth his own glory. Now when the word of God breaks in upon the heart, we pursue the same design with God.
  • Men are prejudiced against a course of holiness; it seems to look upon them with a sour and austere face. Surely God loves a pleasant life; whoever is miserable, he hath a full contentment. Doth he that made all things want true joy and contentment? Who should have happiness if God hath not? Now, when we learn, God’s statutes, we come to be conformed to the nature of God; we love what he loves, and hate what he hates, and then we begin to live the life of God. The happiness of God lieth in loving himself, enjoying himself, and acting for his own glory; and this is the fruit of grace, to teach us to live as God lives, to do as God doth, to love him and enjoy him as our chiefest good, and to glorify him as our utmost end. This is the first sense wherein God may be said to be actively blessed, as he hath infinite complacency in himself.
  • He is not only blessedness itself, but willing to communicate and give it out to the creature, especially his saints.
  • God is passively blessed as he is blessed by us, or as worthy of all praise from us, for his goodness, righteousness, and mercy, and the communications of his grace. There are two words by which our thanksgiving is expressed—praise and blessing.
  • Praise relateth to God’s excellency, and blessing to his benefits. His works declare his excellency: but his saints, which are sensible of his benefits, they bless him; they count him worthy of all honour and praise, and are ever ascribing to him, Rev. 5:13, Blessing, honour, glory, and power be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.’ Why blessing? As for other things, so it was for opening the book which was sealed with seven seals, and revealing his mind to his people; as you may see, ver. 9. So David here, Blessed art thou, O Lord: teach me thy statutes.’ As if he had said, Lord, thou art, and thou shalt be blessed: I bless thee that thou hast taught me; and I desire thou wouldst teach me still, that I may ever bless thee. Thus it may be taken in a passive sense, as he is the object of our blessedness. 
  • Before ever there was hill or mountain, man or angel, God was happy enough in himself. God had infinite complacency in Christ, and Christ in God, both in the Spirit, all in each, and each in all, before ever there was hill or mountain.
  • Though God stand in no need of us, yet he is willing to communicate his blessedness, and to make us happy in the enjoyment of himself.
  • The word of God, especially the gospel part, doth only teach us the way how we may be blessed in the enjoyment of God.
  • The law is good, but the gospel glorious, because more of the glory of God is displayed and discovered to the creature.
  • If we would profit by the word of God, we must go to God, and desire the light and strength of his grace.
  • If we would enjoy the blessed God, according to the direction of his word, we must not only consult with the word, but with God.
  • Nothing else can draw us off from the world, and persuade us to look after heavenly things; nothing else will teach us the vanity of the creature, the reality of spiritual privileges.
  • Then you are in a hopeful way to true blessedness when you begin to be careful to attend upon God’s teaching, much more when you have the fruits of it, when you know him so as to love him, so as to have your hearts drawn off from sin and folly.
  • The great business of Jesus Christ is to make us blessed in the enjoyment of God. But how is it? only by bare knowledge? No, it is by turning every one from his iniquity. So the more this teaching of God prevails upon the heart, the more blessed we are: Ps. 119:1, Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord.’ Otherwise, to have a golden head and feet of clay, that is monstrous, as in Nebuchadnezzar’s image; to have a naked knowledge of God, and not brought under the power of it. You read of the heathens, when they sacrificed to their gods, they were wont to hang a garland upon the heads of the beasts, and to crown them with roses, so they were led on to sacrifice. Many may have garlands upon their heads, ornaments of knowledge, yet are going on to destruction; therefore that light and teaching which conveyeth blessedness is such as prevaileth upon the heart, and doth effectually turn us to God. 
  • It is not only an affront put upon God, but also a great wrong, to neglect the word of God, and the way he prescribes, and to seek blessedness in temporal things.
  • That which makes us blessed, it must fill up the heart of man. As a vessel is never full until it have as much as it can hold, so we can never be said to have a full happiness and contentment until we have as much as we can hold. That which fills must be greater than the thing filled. Now man’s heart is such a chaos of desires, that it can never be filled up but in God: Ps. 16:11, In thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand are pleasures for evermore.’ Therefore, of the joy and happiness we have in God, it is said, Enter into thy master’s joy,’
  • Doct. If we would know God’s statutes so as to keep them, we must be taught of God. Here I shall inquire— 1. What it is, or how doth God teach us? 2. The necessity of this teaching. 3. The benefit and utility of it.
  • The outward means are necessary; it is God’s teaching in part; but the inward grace especially. Both these must go together; for it is said, John 6:45, Every man that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.’ There must be a hearing of the word, and so there is a teaching from God. But— 2. The inward teaching, which is the work of the Spirit, that needs most to be opened. What is that? It consists in two things—(1.) When God infuseth light into the understanding, so as we come to apprehend the things of God in a spiritual manner: Ps. 36:9, In thy light shall we see light.’
  • There is no discerning spiritual things spiritually, but in God’s light.
  • God’s teaching consisteth not only in enlightening the understanding, but in moving and inclining the heart and the will; for God’s teaching is always accompanied with drawing: John 6:44, No man cometh to me, except the Father draw him;’ which Christ proves, ver. 45, because they shall be all taught of God.’ The Spirit’s light is not only directive, but persuasive; it is effectual to alter and to change the affections, and to carry them out to Christ and to his ways; he works powerfully where he teacheth. When the Holy Ghost was first poured out upon the apostles, there was a notable effect of it; it came in the appearance of cloven tongues, like as of fire, Acts 2:3, to show the manner of the Spirit’s operation by the ministry; not only as light, but as fire: it is a burning and a shining light; that is, such a light as is seasoned with zeal and love, that affects the heart, that burns up our corruptions. And therefore, you know, when Christ would put forth a divine effect in his conference with his two disciples, it is said, Their hearts burned within them while he talked with them,’ Luke 24:32. There is a warmth and heat conveyed to the soul. Thus for the nature of this teaching.
  • That we may maintain an awe of God in our soul, we need to be taught of God.
  • Saving knowledge makes us more humble, but carnal knowledge more proud. Where it is in gift rather than in grace, there men are puffed up.
  • The more we know God or ourselves by a divine light, the more humble we shall be: Jer. 31:18-19, When I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh; I was ashamed, even confounded, because I did bear the reproach of my youth.’ The more light we have from God, the more we look into a vile heart. When Adam’s eyes are opened, he runs into the bushes; he was ashamed. So when God opens the eyes, and teacheth a Christian, this makes him more humble.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, August 7, 2017

Book Review: 1984

1984. George Orwell. 1949. 268 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. Winston Smith, his chin nuzzled into his breast in an effort to escape the vile wind, slipped quickly through the glass doors of Victory Mansions, though not quickly enough to prevent a swirl of gritty dust from entering along with him. (5)

Premise/plot: 1984 is a dystopian novel by George Orwell starring Winston Smith. The early chapters of the novel orient readers to the world Orwell's created--built. Big Brother. Thought Police. War is Peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength. These are the foundational ideas Orwell built his novel upon. 

Smith finds himself at odds with the Party. He knows that sooner or later--probably sooner--he'll be found out, the thought police will kill him; he's a walking dead man because he can't stop thinking about how much he hates the Party, hates Big Brother. 
So long as human beings stay human, death and life are the same thing. (138)
Smith worries for awhile that he's the only one, the only sane man, that everyone else actually believes the Party's propaganda and lies. But he's not alone. One day a woman slips him a note. (Her name is Julia.) The two become lovers and rebels. They openly talk--when they think they are safe--about how much they hate Big Brother. They make promises to one another that they may not be able to keep. 
The past was dead, the future was unimaginable. What certainty had he that a single human creature now living was on his side? (25)
To the future or to the past, to a time when thought is free, when men are different from one another and do not live alone--to a time when truth exists and what is done cannot be undone: from the age of Big Brother, from the age of double think--greetings. (26-7)
Perhaps a lunatic was simply a minority of one. (68) 
My thoughts: What is Winston's biggest struggle in the novel? That's what I keep asking myself over and over. Is it man versus man? Is Winston's biggest threat O'Brien and all that he stands for (Big Brother/ the Party)? Is it man versus himself? Is Winston his own worst enemy? Is it man versus society? Is Winston fighting a losing battle against a dangerous, deceptive world view? A world view that says truth is whatever you want it to be? Truly I think it could be a bit of all the above. 

Is Winston a sympathetic character? Yes and no. I'll start with defending my no. Winston may be a product of his time; but that doesn't mean I have to personally like him. Early on in the novel, for example, Winston has violent thoughts about a woman--nameless at this point. He sees her and he wants to rape her and then kill her. Why? I think he has anger issues about the junior anti-sex league, about the Party, about how men and women are kept separate, about how the Party purposefully makes pleasure and sex incompatible with one another. He's also angry with his wife--they are separated. And his mother vanished from his life when he was still a young child. He barely remembers her. Mentally, emotionally, I think Winston has some issues, some big issues. Winston, like everyone else, is being actively encouraged to HATE. 
The horrible thing about the two minutes hate was not that one was obliged to act a part, but that it was impossible to avoid joining in. (16)
Winston is a thoughtful man, in some ways. In a world where independent, individual thought is essentially illegal, Winston is a nonconformist. He's thinking. He's writing. He's engaged in trying to make sense of the world, questioning everything and everybody, and trying to find out the truth and hold onto the truth at great cost. He does this imperfectly, but at least he's trying. He's making the more difficult choice. It would be easy or safe to follow the mob mentality 24/7. 
Always yell with the crowd, that's what I say. It's the only way to be safe. (124)
Does God fit into this novel? Not really. Winston does not believe in God, does not even know anyone who does. I believe there's a brief mention at some point that the Party let the Proles keep whatever religion they wanted. The Proles being such powerless nobodies that it didn't matter if they conformed--or not--to the Party line. 
Even religious worship would have been permitted if the proles had shown any sign of needing or wanting it. (62)
I hate purity. I hate goodness. I don't want any virtue to exist anywhere. I want everyone to be corrupt to the bones. (128)
Should Christians read 1984? I will say that the novel has fornication and adultery in it. (Though hardly graphic by today's oh-so-loose standards). But that alone isn't enough to deem it an automatic no, in my opinion. If the presence of sexual sin led to an automatic no then the Bible itself would be rejected as immoral. 

One of the deep questions of 1984 is WHAT IS TRUTH? The Party says the truth is whatever we want it to be at any given moment. The Party--not truth--is absolute. The truth may change from hour to hour, day to day, week to week, month to month. Truth has no relation to reality: to what has happened, to what is happening. The Party determines what was true in the past and what is true in the present. If your memories remember something out of line with the Party's current version of the truth, then it's your memory that is wrong. Your memory is faulty; your memory could lead you to commit treasonous thoughts. You are your own worst enemy if you dare to actually think and reason.
Whatever was true now was true from everlasting. It was quite simple. All that was needed was an unending series of victories over your own memory. (32)
The past, he reflected, had not merely been altered, it had been actually destroyed. For how could you establish even the most obvious fact when there existed no record outside your own memory? (33)
Don't you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it. (46)
Orthodoxy means not thinking--not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness. (47)
Your worst enemy, he reflected, was your own nervous system. (56)
The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their most essential command. (69)
Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows. (69)
There was truth and there was untruth, and if you clung to the truth even against the whole world, you were not mad. (223) 
The novel also gives a name to the idea of DOUBLETHINK. 
Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them. (220)
The process has to be conscious, or it would not be carried out with sufficient precision, but it also has to be unconscious, or it would bring with it a feeling of falsity and hence of guilt. (220)
To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies--all this is indispensably necessary. (220)
Doublethink is not restricted to this horrible imagined future. Doublethink is real. 

For example, it's doublethink when society tells us to eat whatever we want, whenever we want, however much we want because we deserve it, because we want it, because it is what makes life worth living AND at the exact same time shames us for not being thin, shames us for not being athletically fit, shames us for not having willpower. The same society that bombards us with commercials for unhealthy food bombards us with commercials for weight loss miracles, weight loss programs, for weight loss surgeries, for exercise equipment. The same society that surrounds us with ads for processed foods and drinks surrounds us with ads for prescription drugs. The message is: EAT ALL THIS FOOD AND BECOME DIABETIC, THEN TELL YOUR DOCTOR YOU NEED THIS DRUG TO TREAT YOUR DIABETES. The entire diet industry, I'm convinced thrives on doublethink.  

Doublethink I think arguably exists in churches as well. 

Big Brother. The novel thrives on the 'scary' 'eery' thought that someone is always WATCHING and judging you. The idea of Big Brother is spooky to many readers. The truth is that we all could use reminders that there is someone always watching, always seeing, always judging us….that someone is God. And we will all stand before the judgment seat and be held accountable for our thoughts and our actions. Believers don't have to worry because we have a mediator--Jesus Christ. But unbelievers, well, that's a whole other story. The novel lacks the gospel and the themes of the gospel. So the novel alone won't point you in the right direction. But it might get you thinking. 

So for these reasons, I think Christians--at least Christians who like to read--should read 1984. It is a thought provoking novel even if it is not a Christian novel. 

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Week in Review: July 30 - August 5

ESV Reformation

  • Leviticus
  • Numbers
  • Deuteronomy
  • 1 Chronicles
  • 2 Chronicles
  • Ezra 
  • Nehemiah
  • Job
  • 1 Corinthians
  • 2 Corinthians
  • 2 Peter
  • Jude


  • Proverbs
  • Ecclesiastes
  • Song of Solomon
  • Acts 15-28
  • Romans
  • 1 Peter
  • 2 Peter

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, August 4, 2017

Book Review: Great Expectations

Great Expectations. Charles Dickens. 1860. 640 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: My father's family name being Pirrip, and my Christian name Philip, my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than Pip. So, I called myself Pip, and came to be called Pip.

Premise/plot: Can any Charles Dickens' novel easily--painlessly--be condensed into a couple of sentences that summarizes the plot and introduces the characters in an enticing, compelling way? I say NO. But I'll try. (Because I'm stubborn like that!)

Pip is a young man being raised by his older sister and his brother-in-law--the Gargerys. Mrs. Joe isn't all that nice to him, but, Joe--a blacksmith--is a godsend. The novel opens with some excitement. Pip has been approached--in a cemetery--by a shady character, a grown man, a man readers learn to be an escaped convict. He wants a file--to rid him of his chains--and some food. He's depending on Pip for both. Does Pip have a choice in helping him? Not really. (Though Pip is used to threats since he lives with his sister.) Some time later, Pip is given another opportunity. This time an eccentric old lady, Miss Havisham, wants Pip to be a companion for her and her adopted daughter, Estella. Does Pip have a choice? Again I'll say not really. The meeting is memorable and life-changing. Both his meeting of Miss Havisham and of Estella will change him for better or worse. It is this meeting that brings about his angst--his discontent. After meeting these two, he's no longer content in his home being raised by Joe and Mrs. Joe. He's no longer content being barely literate. He's no longer content with the idea of apprenticing to Joe and following in his footsteps. He wants what seems to be impossible: to be a gentleman--to walk, talk, act, live as a gentleman. But never say never, right? One day--in the middle of his apprenticeship to Joe--his life takes another turn. A lawyer approaches him with glad tidings: he's now a man with expectations. The catch: his benefactor wants to remain anonymous. His life from that moment on will change dramatically. He's being given the opportunity to become a new man. But does new always mean better? And what about those he leaves behind? Joe and Biddy, in particular. (Biddy is a young woman who has come to live with the family after Mrs. Joe is seriously injured. Biddy is of their class but has some education.) He's thrust into a whole new world, and, his manners and morals can sometimes lag behind. Joe goes to live with the Pockets; he becomes best-best friends with Herbert Pocket. Herbert christens him "Handel." The two go through much together; their friendship is deep and sincere. Life seems to be going swell, going according to Pip's grand plan, when Pip learns an unsettling truth. He learns the identity of his benefactor. Pip is shaken, confused, and ANGSTy once again. What is he to do now?! The foundation of his hopes and dreams has collapses. His big plan of marrying Estella seems to be truly impossible now. But not just that plan but all his plans seem to be off-track now. Who can he depend on in this crisis? From this point on, in my opinion, the novel shifts from being a coming-of-age story to a dramatic MYSTERY. So much ACTION and DRAMA are packed into the last hundred or so pages.

My thoughts: I recommend reading Great Expectations at a steady pace. It is not one to rush through in one or two days. If you do, chances are you won't remember what you read, and the novel won't stir up your emotions. It is not one to read slowly hit-or-miss style. If you don't read in it every day or every other day, you might not remember much either. The greatest danger may be that you won't connect with the characters or care about them. And unless you become attached to a character or two, the book won't stay with you. This was my third time to read the novel. In high school, I waited until the day before it was due to open it. It was a NIGHTMARE reading experience. I hated every minute of it. In college, I don't think I made the same mistake twice. I don't think I procrastinated. I think my sin in that instance was holding a grudge and reading it with a closed mind and heart. Since graduating college, I've read Dickens voluntarily. And this year I decided to read Great Expectations--as if for the first time. The goal: to read it with fresh eyes, open heart, open mind, looking for what made Great Expectations GREAT.

What was great about Great Expectations? I really enjoyed the characters, the themes, and the contrasts.

What kind of contrasts? Love and hate, foolishness and wisdom, bitterness and forgiveness, friends and enemies, pride and humility.

For example, we have two characters that live for revenge and thrive on bitterness to a certain degree. Abel Magwitch and Miss Havisham. Miss Havisham may be the more memorable of the two. She is living in a her worst moment, perpetuating the agony of it. She was jilted at the altar, and from that moment on her life stopped. Instead of moving on with her life, instead of finding a reason to keep living, she became filled with hate, pain, anger, bitterness. Not far behind her is Abel Magwitch. He has an enemy and there is this constant need to get him, to get revenge, to come out on top, to win no matter what. And this enemy haunts him--taunts him. Abel has his good side, as does Miss Havisham. But their worldview is tainted more by hate than love, more by this need to hurt others than to love.

Pip loves Estella. Estella does not love Pip. Estella loves Estella. I'm not sure if Dickens was trying to enter into the debate of nature versus nurture or not. But Estella has been raised to hate, raised to hurt. Miss Havisham thinks she's protecting Estella from having her heart broken by showing her day in and day out what happens from trusting a man. But in reality, Estella doesn't have a heart to hurt. She doesn't even have a heart to love the woman who raised her. Pip has trouble seeing the real Estella. His Estella is an idealized version, perhaps a version of who she could be if she'd been raised differently, if she'd allow herself to be human, if she'd allow herself to be vulnerable.
"You must know," said Estella, condescending to me as a brilliant and beautiful woman might, "that I have no heart,—if that has anything to do with my memory." I got through some jargon to the effect that I took the liberty of doubting that. That I knew better. That there could be no such beauty without it. "Oh! I have a heart to be stabbed in or shot in, I have no doubt," said Estella, "and of course if it ceased to beat I should cease to be. But you know what I mean. I have no softness there, no—sympathy—sentiment—nonsense."
Then, Estella being gone and we two left alone, she turned to me, and said in a whisper,— "Is she beautiful, graceful, well-grown? Do you admire her?" "Everybody must who sees her, Miss Havisham." She drew an arm round my neck, and drew my head close down to hers as she sat in the chair. "Love her, love her, love her! How does she use you?" Before I could answer (if I could have answered so difficult a question at all) she repeated, "Love her, love her, love her! If she favors you, love her. If she wounds you, love her. If she tears your heart to pieces,—and as it gets older and stronger it will tear deeper,—love her, love her, love her!" Never had I seen such passionate eagerness as was joined to her utterance of these words. I could feel the muscles of the thin arm round my neck swell with the vehemence that possessed her.
"Hear me, Pip! I adopted her, to be loved. I bred her and educated her, to be loved. I developed her into what she is, that she might be loved. Love her!" She said the word often enough, and there could be no doubt that she meant to say it; but if the often repeated word had been hate instead of love—despair—revenge—dire death—it could not have sounded from her lips more like a curse. "I'll tell you," said she, in the same hurried passionate whisper, "what real love is. It is blind devotion, unquestioning self-humiliation, utter submission, trust and belief against yourself and against the whole world, giving up your whole heart and soul to the smiter—as I did!" When she came to that, and to a wild cry that followed that, I caught her round the waist. For she rose up in the chair, in her shroud of a dress, and struck at the air as if she would as soon have struck herself against the wall and fallen dead.
"Herbert," said I, laying my hand upon his knee, "I love—I adore—Estella." Instead of being transfixed, Herbert replied in an easy matter-of-course way, "Exactly. Well?" "Well, Herbert? Is that all you say? Well?" "What next, I mean?" said Herbert. "Of course I know that." "How do you know it?" said I. "How do I know it, Handel? Why, from you." "I never told you." "Told me! You have never told me when you have got your hair cut, but I have had senses to perceive it. You have always adored her, ever since I have known you. You brought your adoration and your portmanteau here together. Told me! Why, you have always told me all day long. When you told me your own story, you told me plainly that you began adoring her the first time you saw her, when you were very young indeed." "Very well, then," said I, to whom this was a new and not unwelcome light, "I have never left off adoring her. And she has come back, a most beautiful and most elegant creature. And I saw her yesterday. And if I adored her before, I now doubly adore her."
"O Estella!" I answered, as my bitter tears fell fast on her hand, do what I would to restrain them; "even if I remained in England and could hold my head up with the rest, how could I see you Drummle's wife?" "Nonsense," she returned,—"nonsense. This will pass in no time." "Never, Estella!" "You will get me out of your thoughts in a week." "Out of my thoughts! You are part of my existence, part of myself. You have been in every line I have ever read since I first came here, the rough common boy whose poor heart you wounded even then. You have been in every prospect I have ever seen since,—on the river, on the sails of the ships, on the marshes, in the clouds, in the light, in the darkness, in the wind, in the woods, in the sea, in the streets. You have been the embodiment of every graceful fancy that my mind has ever become acquainted with. The stones of which the strongest London buildings are made are not more real, or more impossible to be displaced by your hands, than your presence and influence have been to me, there and everywhere, and will be. Estella, to the last hour of my life, you cannot choose but remain part of my character, part of the little good in me, part of the evil. But, in this separation, I associate you only with the good; and I will faithfully hold you to that always, for you must have done me far more good than harm, let me feel now what sharp distress I may. O God bless you, God forgive you!"
Favorite character: I think my favorite character was definitely Joe Gargery. Joe loved Pip unconditionally. Joe loved Pip even when Pip was being a brat or a snob--which was often especially in the first half of the book. Pip did nothing to earn Joe's unconditional love and support. Pip often thought of Joe as a fool, as ridiculous, as an embarrassment. But this reader saw him differently. I didn't need a late hour epiphany to see how awesome and amazing Joe was.

Favorite relationship: I really LOVED Herbert and Handel's friendship. I love how these two supported one another, confided in one another, wanted the best for one another. Herbert knew Pip--his strengths, his weaknesses--and loved him as a brother. That brotherly love was returned. When Pip came of age, he thought of Herbert first. How can I use my wealth to help Herbert get a start in life? When Pip's world started crashing in, I loved that Pip thought first of what this meant to Herbert and only secondly to what it meant for him and his dreams. I loved how these two seemed to understand one another. In hard, dangerous times or easy-going good times, these two were there for each other.

Favorite scene: I think one of my favorite scenes is between Pip and Miss Havisham. He is an adult now; he knows at last who his benefactor was; his own dreams are gone--his illusions shattered. He's come to ask for her help: he is not asking for money for himself, but money for his friend, Herbert, in setting him up in a career. His maturity in this scene effected me.
"If I give you the money for this purpose, will you keep my secret as you have kept your own?" "Quite as faithfully." "And your mind will be more at rest?" "Much more at rest." "Are you very unhappy now?" She asked this question, still without looking at me, but in an unwonted tone of sympathy. I could not reply at the moment, for my voice failed me. She put her left arm across the head of her stick, and softly laid her forehead on it. "I am far from happy, Miss Havisham; but I have other causes of disquiet than any you know of. They are the secrets I have mentioned." After a little while, she raised her head, and looked at the fire Again.
"It is noble in you to tell me that you have other causes of unhappiness, Is it true?" "Too true." "Can I only serve you, Pip, by serving your friend? Regarding that as done, is there nothing I can do for you yourself?" "Nothing. I thank you for the question. I thank you even more for the tone of the question. But there is nothing." She presently rose from her seat, and looked about the blighted room for the means of writing. There were none there, and she took from her pocket a yellow set of ivory tablets, mounted in tarnished gold, and wrote upon them with a pencil in a case of tarnished gold that hung from her neck.
She read me what she had written; and it was direct and clear, and evidently intended to absolve me from any suspicion of profiting by the receipt of the money. I took the tablets from her hand, and it trembled again, and it trembled more as she took off the chain to which the pencil was attached, and put it in mine. All this she did without looking at me. "My name is on the first leaf. If you can ever write under my name, "I forgive her," though ever so long after my broken heart is dust pray do it!" "O Miss Havisham," said I, "I can do it now. There have been sore mistakes; and my life has been a blind and thankless one; and I want forgiveness and direction far too much, to be bitter with you."
Verses to consider:
Love suffers long and is kind; love envies not; love flaunts not itself and is not puffed up, does not behave itself improperly, seeks not its own, is not easily provoked, thinks no evil; rejoices not in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. 
A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. Proverbs 17:17
The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. Proverbs 16:9
Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand. Proverbs 19:21
Why Christians should read Great Expectations…

I think it has something to say to all of us about love, and about loving unconditionally. It also shows us that hate can poison us from the inside out. Pip realizes that he can forgive much because he's been forgiven much. This is HUGE. 

Thursday, August 3, 2017

My Summer with Psalm 119 #10

As a few of you know, I love, love, LOVE Psalm 119. I thought it would be great to spend a summer focusing on that psalm and what others have had to say about it. I'll begin with Thomas Manton's Exposition of Psalm 119. It may take all summer to read all 158 sermons. But they're so GOOD, so RICH, I think it will be worth it.

Sermon 12: Psalm 119:11

  • IN this verse you have David’s practice, and the aim and end of it. 1. His practice, I have hid thy word in my heart. 2. The aim and end of it, that I might not sin against thee. In the first, his practice, observe these circumstances— 1. The object or matter, the word. 2. The act of duty, I have hid. 3. The subject, the heart. I shall open these circumstances.
  • The revelation of God’s mind to his people is called his law, his testimonies, his ways, his precepts, his statutes, his commandments, his judgments, and now his word; whereby is meant God’s expounding his mind as if he himself did speak to us. The expression is general, and compriseth promises, threatenings, doctrines, counsels, precepts. All these must be hid in the heart.
  • A thing may be hidden two ways, either to conceal it, or else to cherish and keep it.
  • What we value most preciously we save most carefully.
  • The subject or place where the word is hidden, in the heart. Not the brain, or mind and memory only, but the heart, the seat of affections.
  • To hide the word in our hearts is to understand and remember it, and to be affected to it and with it.
  • First we must have them, and then keep them. First we know them, then assent to them, and then approve them, because of the authority of the lawgiver, and the excellency of the thing commanded; and then respect them as a treasure that we are chary of; and having them still in our eye, do thereby regulate our practice and conversation. In short, by holding it in our hearts is meant not only a knowledge of the word, but an assent to it; not only an assent to it, but a serious and sound digestion of it by meditation; not only a digestion, but a constant respect to it, that we may not transgress it as it is a rule, nor lose it as it is a treasure, but may have it ready and forthcoming upon all occasions.
  • One duty and necessary practice of God’s children is to hide the word in their hearts.
  • That in hiding the word in our hearts, there must be a right end; our knowledge of it and delight in it must be directed to practice.
  • Be so diligent in the study of the scripture, that it may become familiar with us, by frequent hearing, reading, meditating, conferring about it.
  • To be strangers to the word of God, and little conversant in it, is a great evil. What is it to hide the word in our hearts? (1.) To understand it, to get a competent knowledge of it; we take in things into the soul by the understanding: Prov. 2:10, When wisdom entereth into thine heart, and knowledge is pleasant unto thy soul.’ There is first an entrance by knowledge. (2.) When it is assented unto by faith. The word is settled in the heart by faith, otherwise it soon vanisheth: Heb. 4:2, The word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it,’
  • (3.) When it is kindly entertained: John 8:37, Christ complains, Ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you,’ ou chorei en humin. Men are so possessed with lust and prejudice, that there is no room for Christ’s word. Though it break in upon the heart with evidence and power, yet it is not entertained there, but cast out again as an unwelcome guest. (4.) When it is deeply rooted. Many men have flashes for a time; their affections may be much aloft, and they may have great fits and elevations of joy and delight, but no sound grace: John 5:35, Ye rejoiced in his light for a season.’ But now the word must be settled into a standing affection, if we would have comfort and profit by it. We read of the ingrafted word,’ James 1:21. There is a word bearing fruit, and a word ingrafted. Till there be the root of the matter in us, in vain do we expect fruit.
  • What is the reason evil is so ready and present with us? Because our stock of knowledge is so small.
  • When you are alone and without outward helps, your hearts will furnish you with matter of counsel, or comfort, or reproof: Ps. 16:7, My reins instruct me in the night season.’ When we are alone, and there is a veil of darkness drawn upon the world, and we have not the benefit of a bible, a minister, or Christian friends, our reins will instruct us; we may draw out of our heart that which will be for our comfort and refreshing. A Christian is to be a walking bible, to have a good stock and treasure in himself.
  • Barrenness and leanness of soul is a very great defect, which God’s children often complain of. One great reason is, because the word of God doth not dwell plenteously in them, so that in every prayer we are to seek. If the heart were often exercised in the word, the promises would hold up our hearts in prayer, enlarge our affections, and we should be better able to pour out our spirits before him: Ps. 45:1, My heart is inditing a good matter.’ What then? My tongue is the pen of a ready writer.’ When the heart is full, the tongue will be loosed and speak freely. What is the reason we are so dumb and tongue-tied in prayer? Be cause our heart is so barren. When the spring is dry, there will be little water in the stream: Eph. 6:17, Take the sword of the Spirit, that is the word of God;’ then presently, praying with all manner of supplication.’ When we have a good store of the word of God it will burst out in prayer.
  • But a man that is a bible to himself, the word will be ever upon him, urging him to duty, restraining him from sin, directing him in his ways, seasoning his work and employment. Therefore we should hide the word in our hearts.
  • The more ready the scripture is with us, the greater advantage in our conflicts and temptations. When the devil came to assault Christ, he had scripture ready for him, whereby he overcame the tempter. The door is barred upon Satan, and he cannot find such easy entrance, when the word is hid in our hearts, and made use of pertinently: 1 John 2:14, I write to you, young men, because ye are strong.’ Where lies their strength? And the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one.’ Oh, it is a great advantage when we have the word not only by us, but in us, ingrafted in the heart! When it is present with us, we are more able to resist the assaults of Satan. Either a man for gets the word or hath lost his affection to it, before he can be drawn to sin. The word of God, when it hath gotten into the heart, it will furnish us with seasonable thoughts.
  • There is no malady but what hath its remedy in the word. To have a comfort ready is a great relief.
  • This is the book of books; let it not lie idle and unemployed. The world can as well be without the sun as the bible.
  • Oh! therefore, let us get it into our hearts; let it not only move the lighter part of the soul, but get rooting, that it may have its full power and force, that we may not only have a little knowledge to talk of it; but we are to hide it deeply, that it may take root, and spring up again in our lives and conversations. To this end meditate often of it, and receive it in the love of it.
  • The word may be reduced to doctrines, promises, threatenings.
  • (1.) For doctrines, lay up knowledge, Prov. 10:14. It is a notable preservative against sin, and an antidote against the infection of the world, when we have a good stock of principles: Ps. 37:31, The law of God is in his heart; none of his steps shall slide.’ As long as truth is kept lively and active, and in view of conscience, we shall not slide, or not so often slide. We have many temptations to divert us from the truth and obedience; but here we are in safety, when the law of God is in our heart.
  • Every time you read the scriptures you should lay up something. The best way to destroy ill weeds is by planting the ground with right seed.
  • What have you hidden in your heart for comfort against temptations, desertions, afflictions? What have you laid up against a dear year? 
  • In hearing. Do not hear slightly, but hide the word in your heart, that it be not embezzled by thy own negligence, forgetfulness, running into carnal distractions; that it be not purloined by Satan, that he may not snatch away the good seed out of thy soul. When the word is preached, there is more company present than is visible; there are angels and devils in the assembly. 
  • Whenever the sons of God meet together, Satan is present with them. The devil is present to divert the mind by wandering thoughts, by raising prejudices, that we may cast out the word; or by excuses, delays, evasions, putting it off to others when we begin to have some sensibleness of our sin and danger. The devil is loath to let us go too far, lest Christ get a subject into his kingdom. Oh! therefore, labour to get something into thy heart by every sermon; some fresh notion or consideration is given out to set you a-work in the spiritual life. A conscientious waiting upon God will find something every time.
  • Meditate upon the word; do not study the word in a cursory manner, or content yourselves with a slight taste, or a little volatile affection; but ponder it seriously, that it may enter into your very heart. Hasty and perfunctory thoughts work nothing. Meat must be well chewed and digested, if you would have it turn into good blood and spirits. You must follow it close till it settle into some affection. 
  • Doct. 2. In hiding the word in our hearts there must be a right end; our knowledge of it and delight in it must be directed to practice. 
  • Therefore, it is not enough to study the word merely that we may cherish our own persons with the comfortable part of it; but we must also study the holy part of it, and that which doth require our duty. Let us labour to hide the word in our hearts, as David did: I have hid thy word in my heart, that I might not sin against thee.’

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible