Monday, October 23, 2017

Book Review: Life


Life. Cynthia Rylant. Illustrated by Brendan Wenzel. 2017. 48 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Life begins small. Even for elephants. Then it grows. Beneath the Sun. And the Moon. Life grows.

Premise/plot: Life is a philosophical picture book written for a wide audience. The illustrations focus on the animal world. The text speaks to anyone and everyone. "Life is not always easy. There will probably be a stretch of wilderness now and then. But wilderness eventually ends. And there is always a new road to take."

My thoughts: I liked it. I did. I do think it's better suited for older audiences. The more life experiences one has, the more the text resonates. But there is nothing inappropriate about it for younger audiences. The book has a definite message: life is worth living, have hope.

Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 9 out of 10


© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Week in Review: October 15-21

Revised English Bible (REB)

  • 2 Samuel 14-24
  • 1 Kings
  • 2 Kings
  • Isaiah
  • Jeremiah
  • Lamentations
  • Matthew 1-7
  • Colossians
  • 1 Timothy
  • 2 Timothy

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Book Review: Sword of the Wicked

Sword of the Wicked. Richard Sibbes. 1577-1635. [Source: Bought]

The Sword of the Wicked is an exposition of Psalm 42, focusing specifically Psalm 42:10.

Richard Sibbes walks us through nearly the entire Psalm. He points out details about David, about God, about believers like you and me.

Here is how Sibbes describes the book of Psalms: "If the Scriptures be compared to a body, the Psalms may well be the heart, they are so full of sweet and holy affections and passions."

He continues, "In other portions of Scripture, God speaks to us; in the Psalms, holy men (especially David, who was the penman of most of them), speak to God, wherein we have the passages of a broken, humble soul to God."

He then begins by looking at the author of the Psalm, David, and his situation. What was David's state of mind when he wrote Psalm 42? What can we learn about David? What can we learn about God? How can we apply it to ourselves? These are the questions Sibbes asks of the text.

Much of the psalm deals with David's grief, for example. Sibbes points out that David's grief "ariseth from his desire." What did David desire most? God! I loved this insight: "He that loves most and desireth most, he always grieves most." Sibbes notes that David didn't just pour out his tears, or his words. He poured out his SOUL as well.

This is a lesson worth noting, especially in this day and age when preachers like to use gimmicks and guarantee success.
Beloved, neither sin, nor grief for sin, are stilled and quieted at the first. You have some short-spirited Christians, if all be not quiet at the first, all is lost with them; but it is not so with a true Christian soul, with the best soul living. It was not so with David: when he was in distemper, he checks himself; the distemper was not yet stilled, he checks himself again; then the distemper breaks out again, then he checks himself again; and all little enough to bring his soul to a holy, blessed, quiet temper, to that blessed tranquillity and rest that the soul should be in, before it can enjoy its own happiness, and enjoy sweet communion with God.
After a few pages of introduction, Sibbes narrows down the focus to Psalm 42:10. He addresses David's enemies, and examines the enemy's attacks.
There hath been contrary seeds from the beginning of the world, and will be while Satan is in the world. Till he be cast into the ‘burning lake,’ and he there in perpetual chains adjudged to torment, he will raise up men alway that shall he of his side. And as long as that grand enemy is, and as long as men are that will be subject to his government, as alway there will he, he will have a great faction in the world. And by reason that he hath a party in us, the flesh, he will have the greatest party in the world. The most go the broad way, so that God’s children, even David himself, shall not want enemies.
Their purpose was therefore to shake his faith and affiance in God; and herein they showed themselves right, the children of the devil, whoso scope is to shake the faith and affiance of God’s people, in all his temptations, and by his instruments.
For the devil knows well enough, that as long as God and the soul join together, it is in vain to trouble any man; therefore he labours to put jealousies, to accuse God to man, and man to God. He knows there is nothing in the world can stand against God. As long as we make God our confidence, all his enterprises are in vain.
Keep faith, and keep all. If faith be safe, all is safe; let us strengthen that, and strengthen all; weaken that, and we weaken all. What cares Satan for other sins that we fall into? He aims at our assurance, that we may doubt of God’s love, whom we have been so bold as to sin against.
That is it he aims at, to make weak faith in the particular acts of sin we commit. He knows that sin naturally breeds doubts, as flesh breeds worms.
Where sin is, if it be in never such a little degree, he knows it will breed doubts and perplexities, and where they are, he hath that he would have. He labours to hinder that sweet communion that should be between the soul and God: Where is note thy God? You see wicked men are the children of the devil right in this.
Then he examines David's response...and asks what our response should be as well. They were teasing and taunting, WHERE IS YOUR GOD?
‘Where is thy God? David might rather have said to them, Where are your eyes? where is your sight? for God is not only in heaven, but in me.
Though David was shut from the sanctuary, yet David’s soul was a sanctuary for God; for God is not tied to a sanctuary made with hands. God hath two sanctuaries, he hath two heavens: the heaven of heavens and a broken spirit. God dwelt in David as in his temple. God was with David and in him; and he was never more with him, nor never more in him, than in his greatest afflictions. They wanted eyes, he wanted not God. 
God is with his church and children, and wicked men are not aware of it. Christ is in them, and they are not aware of it. Christ was in the saints when Saul persecuted them, and Paul was not aware of it, ‘Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? Who art thou, Lord?’ saith he. Alas! he dreamed not of Christ. However wicked men of the world think, yet God is near his own children, in the most disconsolate condition that can be.
Now, therefore, to make some use of it to ourselves, let us enter into our own souls, and examine with what spirits and feeling we hear God reproached, and religion reproached, and hindered, and disgraced any kind of way. If we be not sensible of this, and sensible to the quick, we may suspect we are not of David’s spirit, that was a man after God’s own heart.
When we see wicked men go about to pervert religion, and overturn all, and we are not stirred at it, it is an ill sign.
He that hath no zeal in him hath no love.
Spiritual warfare. Believers tend to think either too much or too little about Satan. They tend to either give too much credit to Satan, make him more powerful, more present than he really is. OR. They tend to deny his existence all together. The Bible makes it clear that Satan is real, that his defeat is certain. We are called to be aware spiritually, and to fight the good fight. Often we don't recognize the fact we're in a war and that we're called to be part of that--equipped to be part of the Lord's army.

This was a short read. It is one sermon from Sibbes' Complete Works.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, October 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

Book Review: Sing in the Morning, Cry at Night

Sing in the Morning, Cry at Night. Barbara J. Taylor. 2014. 320 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Grace lay in bed, listening to Violet mill about the kitchen, but for what? Breakfast, that was it. Something to eat before heading off on the first day of school. "I'm her mother," Grace murmured. "Her mother," she repeated, pushing herself up, swinging one leg onto the floor and then the other.

Premise/plot: If grief tears a family apart, what can bring a family together? Sing in the Morning, Cry at Night opens in September 1913 in a small mining town in Pennsylvania. Readers meet a family that is broken; it has been two months since the family's last tragedy. Daisy Morgan, just nine, died on the 4th of July--a fireworks accident. Violet, her 8 year old sister, was the only witness, and, for whatever reason the mother--and some of the busybodies--blame Violet for Daisy's death. Owen, the father, has turned to drinking; breaking his temperance pledge. Grace finds companionship in the arms of another--Grief. Grief has been her one constant friend and companion for years. Grief has seen her through many tragedies and losses. But does Grief have an agenda?! Is Grief telling her the truth?

Readers spend time with Grace, Owen, and especially Violet. The novel covers a little under a year. One of the big "events" of the novel is the preparation and arrival of revivalist, Billy Sunday. But there are plenty of small happenings as well. One really gets a chance to know the community. Much like you do with the musical Music Man.

Why bring up The Music Man? Perhaps because of the close-knit busybody community of churchgoers. Interspersed throughout the novel, we get a collective snapshot from their point of view--they speak as one. Almost like a chorus in a tragedy on stage.

My thoughts: I really found this to be a quick and compelling read. I always bring home a large stack of books from the library. Some books never get a proper chance. They sit. In a pile. Until they are due back. I started this book--an impulse pick--the day I got it from the library. I read it in two days. I found it to be incredible in terms of characterization and storytelling.

If character-driven novels make your day, this is a must read, in my opinion.

Favorite quote: You can relive a moment again and again and again. But you can't change it. That's the tragedy of time. (78)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, October 19, 2017

My Autumn with Psalm 119 #8

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 October I hope to cover the next eight verses of the Psalm.

33 Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes;    and I will keep it to the end.
34 Give me understanding, that I may keep your law    and observe it with my whole heart.35 Lead me in the path of your commandments,    for I delight in it.36 Incline my heart to your testimonies,    and not to selfish gain!37 Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things;    and give me life in your ways.38 Confirm to your servant your promise,    that you may be feared.39 Turn away the reproach that I dread,    for your rules are good.40 Behold, I long for your precepts;    in your righteousness give me life!

Sermon 43 (Psalm 119:38)

  • How can the word be more stable than it is? Ans. I answer—It is sure in regard of God, from whom it comes, and in itself. In regard of the things propounded, it cannot be more or less stable, it cannot be fast and loose; but in regard of us, it may be more or less established. And that two ways— 1. By the inward assurance of the Spirit increasing our faith. 2. By the outward performance of what is promised.
  • Great is the weakness of our faith, as appears by our fears, doubts, distrusts; so that we need to be assured more and more.
  • Every event which falls out according to the word is a notable testimony of the truth of it, and a seal to confirm and strengthen our faith.
  • Three ways may this be made good: [1.] The making good of some promises at one time strengthens our faith in expecting the like favour at another. [2.] The accomplishment of one promise confirms another; for God, that keepeth touch at one time, will do so at another: [3.] When the word is performed in part, it assureth us of the performance of the whole; it is an earnest given us of all the rest: 2 Cor. 1:10, For all the promises of God in him are Yea, and in him Amen.’ A Christian hath a great many promises, and they are a-performing daily. God is delivering, comforting, protecting him, speaking peace to his conscience; but the greater part are yet to be performed.
  • Doct. That it is a matter of great consequence to have the word of God established to us, or to be confirmed in a certain belief of his promises.
  • It is very convenient that we should build strongly upon a strong foundation, that sure truths shall be entertained with a certain faith, and things taken as they are uttered.
  • The word of God is stable in itself, but if we are not persuaded it is so, we are soon shaken with temptations.
  • As faith without the promises is nothing but groundless and fruitless conceit, so the promises yield us no comfort without faith.
  • 2. The necessity of it will appear if we consider—(1.) How natural unbelief is to us all; and (2.) How weak the faith of most is. [1.] If we consider how natural unbelief is to us; it is a sin we suck in with our milk. When our first parents sinned against God, his word was not believed, and thereupon the sin was committed, Gen. 3:4.
  • The necessity of establishment in the word of God will appear if we consider how weak the faith of most is. There are few that entertain the word as a sure and certain truth. There are several degrees of assent; there is conjecture, opinion, weak faith, and faith that is stronger, and that which comes up to an assurance of understanding, as the apostle calls it.
  • When once the word is established to us, we shall know how to live and how to die, and upon what terms to maintain comfort and holiness; whereas otherwise men live loosely and carelessly:
  • Until the word of God be owned as a divine and infallible truth, it hath no efficacy upon us. When it is received merely by conjecture, as a possible truth, it works but weakly. Ay! but then it profits when we receive the word of God as the word of God, as a certain truth; when the soul comes to determine, Surely these are truths in which I am deeply concerned, upon which my eternal life or death doth depend. Without this God can have no service, and we no comfort, but are at a great uncertainty of spirit. On the other side, let me tell you that all our coldness in duty, and ail our boldness in sinning, it comes from unbelief.
  • If holiness doth not flourish, there is a worm at the root, atheism and unbelief lies at the heart, and the want of such an assent to those great and glorious promises which God hath made known to us in Christ.
  • Every day God is fulfilling one promise or another, to train us up-to look for more at his hands. That we may trust him for our inheritance and our final blessing, he first giveth us a proof of his truth in lesser matters. The more you observe the dealings of God with your own souls, and the fulfilling his word to you, the more will your heart be confirmed against atheism, and established in the belief of the divine authority of the scripture. It concerns us much to look to this, that our hearts be firmly settled against atheism, especially when such errors are abroad, and divisions in the church, and the name of God is blasphemed.
  • But rather, secondly, you may observe the character that he puts upon himself, Thy servant. David was a king, but at the throne of grace he styles himself God’s servant, the fittest title that he could use when he prays for grace.’
  • Doct. He that is a servant of God may seek and expect grace from him.
  • 1. Who is God’s servant. 2. Why we must use this plea when we come to have promises accomplished.
  • Who is God’s servant? I answer—He that dedicates himself to God’s use, and he that lives under a sense and conscience of his dedication.
  • When you have given up yourselves to God’s service, you must not walk as you list, but as your master pleaseth.
  • Those that would have the word to be established, why must they be servants of the Lord?
  • The word of God was appointed to this use, to plant the fear of God in our hearts, and to increase our reverence of God. Not that we may play the wanton with promises, and feed our lusts with them.
  • The more any is given to the fear of God, the more assurance they have of God’s love, and readiness to hear them at the throne of grace. That man is indeed God’s servant who is devoted to his fear. There may be weaknesses and failings, but for the main he is swayed by the fear of God.
  • 1. What it is to fear God. 2. Why this is a sure note of God’s servant, because it removes all the lets of obedience.
  • 1. What it is to fear God. There is a servile and a filial fear; a fear of wrath, which the worst may have: James 2:19, The devils believe and tremble;’ and a fear of offending, which the best must have: Prov. 28:14, Blessed is he that feareth alway;’ a reverent disposition of heart towards God as our sovereign lord and master, yea, as our father in Jesus Christ.
  • For the first of these:— [1.] A fear of wrath. Every fear of wrath is not sinful; it is a duty rather than a sin. All God’s children are bound to have a tender sense of God’s wrath or displeasure against sin, to make them awful and serious in the spiritual life; as in Heb. 12:27, Let us serve God with reverence and godly fear.’ 
  • There is a filial fear, a fear of reverence. This fear of God was in Christ as mediator, Isa. 11:1, 2. Among other graces there reckoned up which do belong to Jehovah the branch,’ to Christ Jesus, this is one, The fear of the Lord.’ Christ as man had a reverent affection to his Father whom he served, and this fear it continueth to all eternity in the blessed spirits that are in heaven. The saints and angels have this kind of fear, a dread of the holy God, and a reverent and awful respect to his majesty. It is an essential respect which passeth between the creature and the creator, and can never be abolished. Now, this fear of reverence consisteth in a high esteem of God, of his majesty, glory, power, and in the sense and continual thoughts of his presence; and then a loathness to sin against God, or to offend in his sight, to do anything that is unseemly when God is a looker-on.
  • What! can a man sin freely that lives in the sight of the holy God, when he hath a deep sense of his excellency imprinted on his heart? This is that fear which is the note of God’s servants.
  • The fear of God is one of the radical and essential graces which belong to a Christian; it is a mighty restraint from sin. 


© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Book Review: Creation

Creation. Cynthia Rylant. 2016. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

Premise/plot: Rylant gently adapts the KJV translation of Genesis 1 for her picture book, Creation. It is not a verse by verse adaptation. Rylant chooses which words and which verses to include in her adaptation.

The first four verses seem to have made it intact. It's in the fifth verse that she begins to pick her words. She excludes the text, "And the evening and the morning were the first day. And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day."

She resumes her text with verse nine. She abbreviates verse eleven--mentioning grass and fruit but skipping over herbs. She eliminates verses twelve and thirteen. Which reads "and God saw that it was good. And the evening and the morning were the third day." Also she eliminates verses fourteen and fifteen: "And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years: And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so."

She resumes her text with verse sixteen. But it isn't long before she's skipping again. "And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so. And to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good. And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven." Genesis 1:18-20.

Her text resumes with PART of verses twenty-one and twenty-two. Her text reads, "And God created the great whales. God blessed them saying, Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas." The KJV reads: "And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth."

She does eliminate verse twenty-three: And the evening and the morning were the fifth day.

She almost combines Genesis 1:21 and 24, 25. Her text reads, "God created every living creature that moved: the beasts, the birds, and the creeping things. And it was good."

Here is where Rylant departs from Scripture--completely. Her text reads, "God then made man and woman and God said to them, Replenish the earth so that everything may multiply and be fruitful. He blessed them, these two who were most like him."

The KJV reads: "And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so. And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day."

While Rylant has ignored--essentially--every numbered mention of days: first, second, third, fourth, fifth--she does mention the SIXTH day as being the day God finished his work of creation.

Her text ends with God taking a rest from his very good creation. She mentions the resting on the seventh day, but not the BLESSING of the seventh day. "And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made." Genesis 2:3.

My thoughts: I liked it. I really did. I think the illustrations are wonderful. The drama of the story unfolds well because of her illustrations. Is it the full story of creation? Not exactly. Did she leave out too much? Maybe. Maybe not.

I think if she had retold the story using her own words or mainly her own words, there wouldn't be as much of an issue of what she included and what she excluded. I have read dozens of creation stories within bible story book collections, they rarely include every single detail yet the excluded details didn't jump out at me as SUBTRACTIONS.

I really enjoyed this one. The illustrations make it worth sharing with little ones.



© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Book Review: Martin Luther

Martin Luther: The Man Who Rediscovered God and Changed the World. Eric Metals. 2017. Viking. 416 pages. [Source: Borrowed from friend]

First sentence: There is no beginning to the story of Martin Luther.

I have read a good many biographies of Martin Luther in recent years. Some have been short. Some have been long. Some have focused on the historical. Some have focused solely on the theological. Some have been compelling. Some have been boring.

I'll be honest. Concise isn't always better. There is such a thing as keeping Luther's life story so basic, so simple, so compact that it becomes dull, dry, BORING. The problem isn't that Luther led a dull life with hardly anything ever happening. Far from it! The problem is that putting Martin Luther into context--historically, spiritually, theologically--takes a lot of words and details. Rob a biography of good, substantive, meaty details, and it becomes dull. Metaxas' biography thrives on details. Readers need details--not just about Martin Luther himself--but about everything. Luther cannot be understood apart from his times, apart from his contemporaries, apart from his writings. Can Luther be understood fully? Can any man--or woman--be understood fully?! Any biographer who thinks they have grasped everything there is to grasp and know everything there is to know, and can explain the inner workings of Luther's heart and mind from birth to death aren't to be trusted. Luther is not simple. His biography shouldn't be simple either.

I would definitely recommend this one. I found it a compelling read, though not a quick one. The bad news: Metaxas' chapters are super-long. This almost forces you to slow down your reading--to take time with the text. That's also the good news. There is something to be said for going slow and steady through a book. Martin Luther is worth spending time with, worth engaging. And you just don't get that when you rush through a book.

In a world in which we nearly always associate the Bible with churches--and churches with the Bible--it is difficult to imagine a time when the two had almost no connection. That this changed so dramatically is yet another measure of Luther's immense impact on history. (52) 
By the time Luther entered the monastic life, the one book that novices were allowed to read was in fact the Bible. We know that immediately upon entering the monastery, Luther was lent one that was bound in red leather, for he recollected this often in his later years. It seems that Luther did not receive the book lightly, for he not only read it but almost devoured it. (53)
Strangely enough, once a novice became a monk, he was no longer allowed to keep his Bible. At that point, he must limit himself to only reading scholarly books, and those while in his cell. It seems that only in Luther's private time in the library of the monastery did he have access to the Bible after his novitiate. 
Staupitz saw that for Luther the Bible was not a book like Aristotle's Ethics or like a volume of Livy or Cicero. It was the living Word of God and therefore could not be read like any other book. It was inspired by God, and when one read it, one must do so in such a way--with such closeness and intimacy--that one fully intended to feel and smell the breezes of heaven. If one missed this aspect, one missed the whole point. For Staupitz, to read any other book like this was to be a fool, but to read the Bible in any other way than this was to be twice the fool. (68)
Therefore, one must not merely see what the devil could see, which is to say the words on a page, but see what only God could see and would reveal to those who desired it, which was in the words and around them too. (77)
The difference between Luther and many other Christians in this is that he is not afraid to make explicit what is clearly implicitly understood. The idea that all Bible verses are technically equal by dint of being part of the "Word of God" should not prohibit us from saying that some verses are more important than others. Some would say that we can somehow find the Gospel in every jot and tittle of Scripture, because it is alive and should not be read the way we read other books, but even if this is the case, we will look much harder in some verses than in others, where it is on the very surface for everyone to see. (293)


© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

My Autumn with Psalm 119 #7

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 October I hope to cover the next eight verses of the Psalm.

33 Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes;    and I will keep it to the end.
34 Give me understanding, that I may keep your law    and observe it with my whole heart.35 Lead me in the path of your commandments,    for I delight in it.36 Incline my heart to your testimonies,    and not to selfish gain!37 Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things;    and give me life in your ways.38 Confirm to your servant your promise,    that you may be feared.39 Turn away the reproach that I dread,    for your rules are good.40 Behold, I long for your precepts;    in your righteousness give me life!

Sermon 42 (Psalm 119:37)

  • The first request is for the removing the impediments to obedience, the other for addition of new degrees of grace. These two are fitly joined, for they have a natural influence upon one another; unless we turn way our eyes from vanity, we shall soon contract a deadness of heart. Nothing causeth it so much as an inordinate liberty in carnal vanities. When our affections are alive to other things, they are dead to God; therefore the less we let loose our hearts to these things the more lively and cheerful in the work of obedience.
  • 1. Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity.’ There observe—(1.) The object, vanity; (2.) The faculty, mine eyes; (3.) The act of grace desired, the removing of this faculty from this object.
  • Doct. It concerneth those that would walk with God to have their eyes turned away from worldly things. I shall give you the meaning in these propositions.
  • 1. He that would be quickened, carried out with life and vigour in the ways of God, must first be mortified. Many would fain live with Christ, but first they must learn to die unto sin. It is impossible for sin and grace to live in the same subject.
  • 2. One great means of mortification is guarding the senses, eyes, and ears, and taste, and touch, that they may not betray the heart.
  • The eye, as it is used, will either be a help or a snare; either it will let in the sparks of temptation, or enkindle the fire of true devotion. These are the windows which God hath placed in the top of the building, that man from thence may contemplate God’s works, and take a prospect of heaven, the place of our eternal residence. The eye must be looked to, because it hath been the window by which Satan hath crept in, and all manner of poison conveyed to the soul. 
  • It is dangerous to dally with temptations, and to think no great harm will come of it.
  • Quickening is very necessary for them that would walk in God’s ways. I shall not consider it here as a prayer to God, or as it is a blessing to be asked of God, but as it is necessary to obedience; and here I shall inquire— 1. What quickening is. 2. Show the necessity of it.
  • First, What quickening is. It is put for two things (1.) It is put for regeneration or the infusion of grace; (2.) For the renewing the vigour of the life of grace, the renewed influence of God, whereby this grace is stirred up in our hearts. First, for regeneration or the in fusion of grace: Eph. 2:1, 2, When we were dead in trespasses and sins, yet now hath he quickened us.’ Then we are quickened or made alive to God when we are new born, when there is a habitual principle of grace put into our hearts. Secondly, Quickening is put for the renewed excitation of grace, when the life that we have received is carried on to some further increase; and so it is twofold, either by way of comfort in our afflictions, or enlivening in a way of holiness.
  • Liveliness in obedience doth depend upon God’s blessing; unless he put life and keep life in our souls, all cometh to nothing. Come to God upon the account of his glory: Ps. 143:11, Quicken me, O Lord, for thy name’s sake; for thy righteousness’ sake bring my soul out of trouble.’ His tender mercies: Ps. 119:156, Great are thy tender mercies, O Lord; quicken me according to thy judgments.’ Come to him upon the account of Christ: John 10:10, I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly;’ and John 7:38, He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.’ Every new act of faith draweth from Christ some in crease of spiritual life.



© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, October 16, 2017

Book Review: Nativity

Nativity. Cynthia Rylant. 2017. 40 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: And there were shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

Premise/plot: The first half of Nativity is an abridgment of the the nativity narrative found in Luke 2 in the King James Version. It is an abridgment:
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. KJV
And there were shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. Rylant's adaptation
And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. KJV
And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them. Rylant's adaptation
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. KJV
The angel said, Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy. For unto you this day is born a savior. And this shall be a sign to you: you will find the babe lying in a manger. Rylant's adaptation
It is not the whole narrative. Rylant does not include every verse, and she does abbreviate the sentences a good bit. You may notice, for example, that she does not include the phrase, "which is Christ the Lord."

The second half of the book races ahead to the start of Jesus' ministry on earth. She includes an excerpt from the Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 5. (The full sermon is Matthew 5-7). Again she is selective in what she shares:
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. KJV
Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Rylant's adaptation
She includes verses: Matthew 5:3, 5:4, 5:5, and 5:8. She does not include: Matthew 5:6, 5:7, 5:9, 5:10.

The book ends with those four "blessed" statements. No further explanation or commentary provided.

My thoughts: Whether or not you like or love this one may depend entirely on how you react to the illustrations. I did like the illustrations for the first half of the book. I liked the shepherds, the sheep, the angels. I liked the simplicity of it. I wasn't as impressed with the illustrations for the second half. I wasn't sure if Rylant was bringing us forward in time...or not. One of the spreads shows a modern house with a Christmas tree, Christmas wreath, Christmas lights, candle, and smoking chimney. In this same spread there seems to be a sheep hanging out by a garbage bin. I could be wrong on what it is supposed to be. It could be a primitive shed or barn. But the spread that bothers me most--puzzles me most--is two men in profile on a beach in an ocean scene wearing tricorne hats.

Text: 3 out of 5
Illustrations: 3 out of 5
Total: 6 out of 10
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, October 15, 2017

My Autumn with Psalm 119 #6

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 October I hope to cover the next eight verses of the Psalm.

33 Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes;    and I will keep it to the end.
34 Give me understanding, that I may keep your law    and observe it with my whole heart.35 Lead me in the path of your commandments,    for I delight in it.36 Incline my heart to your testimonies,    and not to selfish gain!37 Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things;    and give me life in your ways.38 Confirm to your servant your promise,    that you may be feared.39 Turn away the reproach that I dread,    for your rules are good.40 Behold, I long for your precepts;    in your righteousness give me life!

Sermon 41 (Psalm 119:36)



  • Doct. 2. That covetousness, or an inordinate desire of worldly things, is the great let or hindrance to complying with God’s testimonies.
  • Master your love to the world, and temptations lose their strength. 1. What is covetousness. 2. How it hindereth from complying with God’s testimonies. 
  • First, What is covetousness? I shall give the nature, the causes, the discoveries of it. First, the nature of it. It is an inordinate desire of having more wealth than the Lord alloweth in the fair course of his providence, and a delight in worldly things as our chiefest good.
  • Not only this greedy thirst discovereth covetousness, but a complacency, delight, and acquiescency of soul in worldly enjoyments.
  • When we set up our rest here, and look no further, we are guilty of this sin.
  • But now, because we may delight in our portion, and take comfort in what God hath given us; let us see when our delight in temporal things is a branch of covetousness. I answer—When we delight in them to the neglect of God, and the lessening of our joy in his service, and our hopes of eternal life are abated and grow less lively; when we so delight in them as to neglect God and the sweet intercourse we should have in him.
  • Secondly, Let us come to the causes of it, and they are two—distrust of God’s providence, and discontent with God’s allowance.
  • Distrust breeds discontent with our present portion, and discontent breeds ravenous desires, and ravenous desires breed distrust; for when we set God a task to provide for our lusts, certainly he will never do it.
  • When once men transgress the bounds of contentment prescribed by God, there is no stop or stay.
  • Secondly, I am to show how it hindereth us from complying with God’s testimonies. I shall do it by these arguments. 1. It disposeth and inclineth the soul to all evil, to break every command and law of God: 1 Tim. 6:10, The love of money is the root of all evil.’
  • As it doth dispose and incline the soul to evil, so it incapacitates us for God’s service, both in our general and particular calling. In our general calling, it makes us incapable of serving God. Why? It destroys the principle of obedience, is contrary to the matter of obedience, and it slights the rewards of obedience.
  • If covetousness be the great let and hindrance from keeping God’s testimonies, then let us examine ourselves, Are we guilty of it?
  • Let the men of the world, whose portion and happiness lieth here, scramble for these things; but you, that profess yourselves children of God, follow after all the gifts and graces of the Spirit; let that be your holy covetousness, to increase in these things.


© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Week in Review: October 8-14

REB (Revised English Bible)

  • 1 Samuel
  • 2 Samuel 1-13
  • 2 Chronicles
  • Ezra
  • Nehemiah
  • Esther
  • Job
  • Psalm 120-150
  • Proverbs
  • Ecclesiastes
  • Song of Songs
  • 2 Corinthians
  • Ephesians
  • Philippians


© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, October 13, 2017

Book Review: Preaching to the Chickens

Preaching to the Chickens. Jabari Asim. Illustrated by E.B. Lewis. 2016. 32 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Little John Lewis loved the spring. He loved it not only because it was the time when the whole planet came alive, but also because it was the season of the chicks. Winter was too cold to bring them safely into the world, and summer was too hot. Spring was just right.

Premise/plot: This is a picture book biography of a young John Lewis. As a boy, he was in charge of the chickens on the family farm--about sixty. One of the things he loved to do was to preach to the chickens.
Like the ministers he heard in church, John wanted to preach, so he gathered his chickens in the yard. John stretched his arms above his flock and let the words pour forth. The chickens nodded and dipped their beaks as if they agreed. They swayed to the rhythm of his voice.
"Blessed are the peacemakers," he'd say when they fought over their morning meal.
"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness," he would tell a hen who didn't want to share, "for they shall be satisfied."
My thoughts: I enjoyed this picture book biography. I'd read the three volume graphic novel biography series, March, and was intrigued by his preaching to chickens as a young boy. I thought it was a well written story. There aren't an abundance of picture books sharing--showing--how faith impacts lives in the day-to-day. This one definitely does.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Book Review: The Sneetches and Other Stories

The Sneetches and Other Stories. Dr. Seuss. 1961. Random House. 65 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence of The Sneetches:

Now, the Star-Belly Sneetches
Had Bellies with stars.
The Plain-belly Sneetches
Had none upon thars.
Plot/Premise of The Sneetches: Star-Belly Sneetches and Plain-Belly Sneetches have trouble playing and working together. The Plain-Belly Sneetches are envious of the Stars on the Star-Belly Sneetches. And the Star-Belly Sneetches look down on the Plain Belly sort. Sylvester McMonkey McBean takes advantage of the whole situation with his "Star On" and "Star Off" machine. He makes a LOT of money in the process. Will the Sneeches ever learn?

My thoughts: I think the Apostle Paul would have a lot to say to Sylvester McMonkey McBean, the Plain-Belly Sneetches, and the Star-Belly Sneetches. The truth is Christians can act just as stubborn, just as foolish, just as envious, just as greedy as the Sneetches we meet in the story.

Here are a few words Paul might say:
Love in all sincerity, loathing evil and holding fast to the good. Let love of the Christian community show itself in mutual affection. Esteem others more highly than yourself. With unflagging zeal, aglow with the Spirit, serve the Lord. Let hope keep you joyful; in trouble stand firm; persist in prayer, contribute to the needs of God’s people, and practice hospitality. Romans 12:9-13
So no place is left for any human pride in the presence of God. 1 Corinthians 1:29
First sentence of The Zax

One day, making tracks
In the prairie of Prax,
Came a North-Going Zax
And a South-Going Zax.
Plot/Premise of The Zax: A North-Going Zax and a South-Going Zax meet. Neither Zax will budge because, of course, the North-Going Zax will only go North, and the South-Going Zax will only go South. Take a step in the wrong direction?! Never! How long will these two be stubborn?

My thoughts: Have you met a Zax or two in the church? I know I have. Some people just love to argue, to be right, to stand there not budging from their position. I think sometimes its more love of arguing than any one issue. When the Bible speaks of standing firm, I don't think it means like the Zax!

First sentence of Too Many Daves
Did I ever tell you that Mrs. McCave
Had twenty-three sons and she named them all Dave?
Plot/Premise of Too Many Daves: The premise of this one is simple and clearly stated in the first sentence: The McCave family has too many sons named Dave. The joy in this one comes from reading it aloud. All the names she wished she'd chosen. Names like "Hoos-Foos" "Putt-Putt" and "Oliver Boliver Butt."

My thoughts: In this world, it's easy to feel unknown, misunderstood, invisible. But there is a God who knows us. God doesn't have "too many sons" he knows and loves them all. You are known by God. You are loved by God.

First sentence of What Was I Scared Of?

Well...
I was walking in the night
And I saw nothing scary.
For I have never been afraid
Of anything. Not very.
Plot/Premise of What Was I Scared Of? The narrator of this one claims he's not scared of anything. But one night when he sees a pair of pale green pants with nobody inside them...he becomes very frightened indeed. Will he ever overcome his fear? Should he overcome his fear?

My thoughts: The Bible has a lot to say about anxiety and fear. The narrator in this one is very fearful of the unknown. Aren't we all? The unknown in this instance is a pair of pale green pants. We all face our own unknowns. Time and time again we are pushed into facing our unknowns. We can react with fear and anxiety--dragging our feet. We can react with confidence--our confidence being in the God who is always with us.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Book Review: Refresh

Refresh: Embracing a Grace-Paced Life in a World of Endless Demands. Shona and David Murray. 2017. Crossway. 208 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: I was a crumpled heap.

Premise/plot: Refresh is a companion book to Reset. Reset was a book for men using a metaphor of a garage. Refresh is a book for women using a metaphor of a gym. The Murrays invite readers to "Refresh Gym" which features ten stations. The goal is to guide and teach women how to live better, how to have a grace-paced life. What is a grace-paced life? "It's a pace of life that's constantly refreshed by five wells of divine grace: 1) motivating well of grace, 2) moderating well of grace, 3) multiplying well of grace, 4) releasing well of grace, 5) receiving well of grace. The ten stations are: reality check, replay, rest, re-create, relax, rethink, reduce, refuel, relate, and resurrection.

Like Reset, the book focuses on the whole life--eating and drinking, sleeping, exercising, working, worshipping, relaxing, parenting, etc. In Refresh, Shona tells her own story--or stories of depression, anxiety, and burnout. Shona is a homeschooling mom of five, and, before she was stay-at-home, she was a doctor.

My thoughts: I thought I had trouble relating to Reset because it was written for men, but honestly I didn't have much better luck relating to Refresh the one written for women. This isn't unusual for me. Most books "for women" seek to be super-practical and go beyond the spiritual and theological. Most books for women tend to be about how to be a wife, how to be a mother, how to be a godly wife and godly mother and do all these godly things in and about your godly home. Most books assume that if you're not in that stage yet--it's just a matter of time until you'll need to know.

That being said, there are chapters that are applicable to anyone and everyone. For example, the chapter on sleep! The chapter on sleep was my favorite in Reset. But I think my favorite chapter in Refresh might be Relax. In this chapter, they address the DIGITAL DELUGE. These pages are very passionate. Here's how it begins, "Digital technology is killing us. It's killing our souls and our bodies. It's killing our marriages, families, and friendships. It's killing our listening skills and speaking abilities. It's killing face-to-face communications and interfamily relationships. It's killing our minds, especially our ability to focus and concentrate. It's killing communication with God as it usurps communication with him first thing in the morning and last thing at night...." She is JUST getting started.

Another interesting chapter was Refuel. She discusses how there are fillers and drainers in our lives, and it's important to know what fills us and what drains us.

Favorite quote:
Every Christian wants to know God more; few Christians fight for the silence required to know him. 
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, October 9, 2017

Operation Commentary

Goal: To read--over a long period of time, no rush--a commentary for each and every book of the Bible. The goal is not to read an entire commentary set by a sole author, though if that is your personal goal, go for it. You may mix and match commentators. And combined commentaries are alright as well. For example, you often see commentaries group 1, 2, and 3 John, for example.


Written by Moses

1. Genesis
Be Basic (Genesis 1-11) Warren W. Wiersbe. 2010. David C. Cook. 192 pages. [Source: Bought]
Thru the Bible: Genesis 1-15. J. Vernon McGee. 1975. 204 pages. [Source: Bought]
Thru the Bible: Genesis 16-33. J. Vernon McGee. 1975. 188 pages. [Source: Bought]
Thru the Bible: Genesis 34-50. J. Vernon McGee. 1975. 180 pages. [Source: Bought]
2. Exodus
3. Leviticus
Exalting Jesus in Leviticus. Allan Moseley. 2015. B&H. 288 pages. [Source: Bought]
4. Numbers
5. Deuteronomy


OT Narratives

6. Joshua
7. Judges
Judges and Ruth: God in Chaos. Barry G. Webb. 2015. Crossway. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy]
8. Ruth
Judges and Ruth: God in Chaos. Barry G. Webb. 2015. Crossway. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy]
9. 1 Samuel
Thru the Bible: 1 and 2 Samuel. J. Vernon McGee. 1976/1997. Thomas Nelson. 308 pages. [Source: Bought]
10. 2 Samuel
Thru the Bible: 1 and 2 Samuel. J. Vernon McGee. 1976/1997. Thomas Nelson. 308 pages. [Source: Bought]
11. 1 Kings
1 and 2 Kings. J. Vernon McGee. 1976/1996. Thomas Nelson. 320 pages. [Source: Bought]
12. 2 Kings
1 and 2 Kings. J. Vernon McGee. 1976/1996. Thomas Nelson. 320 pages. [Source: Bought]
13. 1 Chronicles
14. 2 Chronicles
15. Ezra
16. Nehemiah
God's Word, Our Story. Learning from the Book of Nehemiah. D.A. Carson and Kathleen B. Nielson, editors. 2016. Crossway. 208 pages. [Source: Review copy]
17. Esther

Wisdom Literature

18. Job
19. Psalms
Sing a New Song: A Woman's Guide to the Psalms. Lydia Brownback. 2017. Crossway. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]
More Precious Than Gold: 50 Daily Meditations on the Psalms. Sam Storms. 2009. Crossway. 288 pages. [Source: Review copy]
20. Proverbs
21. Ecclesiastes
Living Life Backward: How Ecclesiastes Teaches Us To Live in Light of the End. David Gibson. 2017. Crossway. 176 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Exalting Jesus in Ecclesiastes. Daniel L. Akin and Jonathan Akin. 2016. B&H. 288 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon (Thru the Bible #21) J. Vernon McGee. 1977/1996. Thomas Nelson. 192 pages. [Source: Gift from Friend]
22. Song of Songs
Song of Songs. Ian M. Duguid. 2016. P&R. 216 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon (Thru the Bible #21) J. Vernon McGee. 1977/1996. Thomas Nelson. 192 pages. [Source: Gift from Friend]

Major Prophets

23. Isaiah
Isaiah: God Saves Sinners. Raymond C. Ortlund, Jr. R. (Preaching The Word Commentaries). Crossway. 2005. 496 pages. [Source: Bought]
Isaiah Chapters 1-35 (Thru the Bible). J. Vernon McGee. 1991. Nelson. 225 pages.
Isaiah 36-66 (Thru the Bible #23). J. Vernon McGee. Thomas Nelson. 204 pages. [Source: Book I bought]
24. Jeremiah
Thru the Bible Commentary: Jeremiah and Lamentations. J. Vernon McGee. 1997. Thomas Nelson. 216 pages.
25. Lamentations
Thru the Bible Commentary: Jeremiah and Lamentations. J. Vernon McGee. 1997. Thomas Nelson. 216 pages.
26. Ezekiel
27. Daniel

Minor Prophets

28. Hosea
Hosea and Joel. J. Vernon McGee. 1978/1996. Thomas Nelson. 180 pages. [Source: Bought]
29. Joel
Hosea and Joel. J. Vernon McGee. 1978/1996. Thomas Nelson. 180 pages. [Source: Bought]
30. Amos
31. Obadiah
32. Jonah
33. Micah
34. Nahum
Severe Compassion: The Gospel According to Nahum. Gregory D. Cook. 2016. P&R Publishing. 288 pages. [Source: Review copy]
35. Habakkuk
36. Zephaniah
37. Haggai
38. Zechariah
Zechariah. J. Vernon McGee. 1979/1997. Thomas Nelson. 204 pages. [Source: Bought]
39. Malachi


NT Narratives

40. Matthew
Matthew: All Authority in Heaven and On Earth. Douglas Sean O'Donnell. 2013. Crossway. 1090 pages. [Source: Bought]
Exalting Jesus in Matthew. (Christ Centered Exposition) David Platt. 2013. B&H. 400 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of Matthew. J.C. Ryle. 408 pages.
41. Mark
Mark: The Gospel of Passion. Michael Card. 2012. IVP. 206 pages. [Source: Library]
Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of Mark. J.C. Ryle. 384 pages.
42. Luke
43. John
John: That You Might Believe (Preaching the Word) R. Kent Hughes. 1999/2014. Crossway Books. 528 pages. [Source: Bought]
44. Acts

Epistles by Paul

45. Romans
Thru the Bible Commentary Series: Romans Chapters 1-8. J. Vernon McGee. Thomas Nelson. 170 pages.
Thru the Bible Commentary Series: Romans 9-16. J. Vernon McGee. Thomas Nelson. 144 pages.
46. 1 Corinthians
1 Corinthians: The Word of the Cross. Stephen T. Um. 2015. Crossway. 368 pages. [Source: Review copy]
47. 2 Corinthians
48. Galatians
Exalting Jesus in Galatians (Christ-Centered Exposition) David Platt and Tony Merida. 2014. B&H. 288 pages. [Source: Bought]
49. Ephesians
50. Philippians
Exalting Jesus in Philippians. Tony Merida and Francis Chan. 2016. B&H. 209 pages. [Source: Review copy]
51. Colossians
52. 1 Thessalonians
53. 2 Thessalonians
54. 1 Timothy
Exalting Jesus in 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus. David Platt, Dr. Daniel L. Akin, and Tony Merida. 2013. B&H. 336 pages. [Source: Bought]
55. 2 Timothy
Exalting Jesus in 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus. David Platt, Dr. Daniel L. Akin, and Tony Merida. 2013. B&H. 336 pages. [Source: Bought]
56. Titus
Exalting Jesus in 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus. David Platt, Dr. Daniel L. Akin, and Tony Merida. 2013. B&H. 336 pages. [Source: Bought]
57. Philemon

General Epistles

58. Hebrews
59. James
60. 1 Peter
61. 2 Peter
62. 1 John
63. 2 John
64. 3 John
65. Jude

Apocalyptic Epistle by John

66. Revelation
Unveiled Hope: Eternal Encouragement from the Book of Revelation. 1997. 244 pages. [Source: Borrowed]
Revelation 1-5. (Thru the Bible Commentary Series) J. Vernon McGee. Thomas Nelson. 152 pages.
Thru the Bible Commentary Series: Revelation 6-13. J. Vernon McGee. Thomas Nelson. 192 pages.
Revelation 14-22 (Thru the Bible Commentary Series) J. Vernon McGee. Thomas Nelson. 204 pages.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible