Tuesday, January 31, 2017

My Year with Owen #5

I will be sharing some John Owen quotes this year. The first book I'll be reading is Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers (1656).

Life, Vigor, and Comfort are not necessarily connected to mortification. ~ John Owen
Adoption and justification, not mortification, are the immediate causes of life, vigor, and comfort. ~ John Owen
In the ordinary relationship with God, the vigor and comfort of our spiritual lives depend much on our mortification of sin. ~ John Owen
Every unmortified sin will certainly do two things: it will weaken the soul and deprive it of its vigor. It will darken the soul and deprive it of its comfort and peace. ~ John Owen
It untunes and unframes the heart itself by entangling its affections. It diverts the heart from the spiritual frame that is required for vigorous communion with God; it lays hold on the affections, rendering its object beloved and desirable, so expelling the love of the Father (1 John 2:15, 3:17); so that the soul cannot say uprightly and truly to God, "You are my portion," having something else that it loves. Fear, desire, hope, which are the choice affections of the soul, that should be full of God, will be one way or the other entangled with it. ~ John Owen
Thoughts are the great purveyors of the soul to bring in provision to satisfy its affections; and if sin remain unmortified in the heart, they must ever and anon be making provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof. ~ John Owen
As sin weakens, so it darkens the soul. It is a cloud, a thick cloud, that spreads itself over the face of the soul, and intercepts all the beams of God's love and favor. It takes away all sense of the privilege of our adoption; and if the soul begins to gather up thoughts of consolation, sin quickly scatters them. ~ John Owen
The heart is like the sluggard's field--so overgrown with weeds that you can scarce see the good corn. ~ John Owen
Mortification is the soul's vigorous opposition to self--wherein sincerity is most evident. ~ John Owen

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, January 30, 2017

Book Review: No Little Women

No Little Women. Aimee Byrd. P&R. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy]

We read books for different reasons. But whether we pick a fictional, historical, biographical, doctrinal, or self-help book, we are after a positive experience. There is something noble about reading—even if it isn’t quality reading—in an age that is captivated by visual media.

No Little Women is an engaging read for men and women. In the book, Byrd argues that men in the church (pastors, elders, etc.) need to be more aware of books being marketed to the women in their congregations, more discerning of what books are being read by women in their study groups or book clubs. Byrd also argues that women--whether in position of leadership or not--need to be more discerning of what they read. All books are not of equal quality. Bad theology, she warns, is entering our homes, our churches, our very minds because we lack discernment.

This book isn't just about bad books, however. It's about men and women doing church together, learning or not learning from one another. The segregation that exists--for better or worse--when churches insist on having separate "women's ministries."

This book addresses women's roles a good bit. Byrd argues that women are necessary allies for men.

Byrd is very honest and straightforward. She calls us to stop being nice, to stop being tolerant, and to take a stand for the truth. We are to be men and women of the Word. And we are to know the Word. We are to judge by the Word. What we read--outside the Bible--should be informed by the Bible. We should insist that truths line up. That the "Christian" books we read--whether self-help, christian living, theology, or devotional--be biblical.

Byrd assumes that her readers attend churches where only men are pastors and hold leadership positions, and that there are no women pastors. For better or worse, she makes this assumption.

Favorite quotes:

  • What we study together in a side room of our church or in our living rooms shapes our own growth in holiness as well as the growth of those around us. Women are very influential both in God’s household and in their own. And there are many books marketed to Christian women that appear to be godly, while a closer look reveals that they are not in accord with Scripture.
  • People need to learn how to read a book.
  • Sin weighs us down and discourages us from our call to keep running. It also distracts us from the One we are to look to while running. That’s when divergent teaching becomes appealing. Don’t be susceptible! Make no mistake; weak women are still being targeted.
  • Knowledge of God’s Word is not enough. We need to pray for God’s thoughts to form our thoughts, and this takes conditioning in the Word of God and a willingness to live in the light of his presence.
  • We act according to what we believe to be true. Our spirituality is a living out of our doctrine.
  • Are people in our churches worshipping what they do not know? Tragically, many women full of good intentions are always learning and never able to arrive at the truth. Are we bold and compassionate enough to point that out?
  • No matter what our different circumstances and vocations may be, every woman is a theologian. We all have an understanding of who God is and what he has done. The question is whether or not our views are based on what he has revealed in his Word about himself.
  • To be fit theologically, we must be conditioned by God’s Word, exercising this gift actively by living a life of faith and obedience. As we strive to understand our confession of hope, we are emboldened to hold fast to it. God’s Word and his promises should motivate us to live in a way that pleases him. 
  •  But man is not to determine goodness apart from what God, who is goodness, says! We are thoroughly dependent on God, and nothing is good outside of him. So, by entertaining this guest and keeping conversation going with him in the household-garden-temple of Eden, Eve is already practicing this autonomy. She is already beginning to turn from God. And Adam, who is with her, is doing the same.
  • Evangelical Christians are not generally expected to be critical thinkers. And this is sad.
  • Christians are responsible to be discerning readers, to separate the truth from the lie. Why should women be less responsible? Instead, discernment has become just as unappealing as the truth it stands up for.
  • First of all, we do need to be paying attention to everyone we are learning from. We are responsible for our own maturity in the Word and for discernment in reading and listening (see Acts 17:11). It’s not okay for anyone to learn bad theology, no matter what our gender or the gender of our teacher may be. No one should be winking at any of this. We shouldn’t accept bad theology just for the sake of encouraging women to teach. All teachers should have the same standards for content and methods.
  • It is not insulting to point out error. What is unloving is giving a teacher license to teach falsely because you like her personality, because you want to believe that it’s true, or, worse, because you don’t want to engage critically with a woman. Teachers will be accountable before God for what they say, so we should want to correct them.
  • We need to read authors whose writings are over our heads, and to engage in the process of learning from them, so that we can then connect that knowledge to other ideas for new discoveries. 
  • No one is really teachable who does not freely exercise his power of independent judgment. He can be trained, perhaps, but not taught. The most teachable reader is, therefore, the most critical. 

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Book Review: Max Gives Thanks to God

Board book: Max Gives Thanks To God. Todd and Jackie Courtney. 2017. 22 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: I give thanks to God one hundred times a day; it makes me feel better in every single way.

Premise/plot: This board book is one in the Inspirational Nursery Rhymes series. The book embraces  the verse: Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! (Philippians 4:4). It is ALL about showing (and telling) young ones what giving praise, what giving thanks looks like. It does so mainly through rhyme.
I like when the days are sunny, but I always give thanks for the rain.
Rain gives us water to drink, so we should never complain.
My thoughts: I like the premise of this one. I think we all need reminders--no matter our age, no matter our stage in life--that we should give thanks to God always, always, always. I think gratitude and praise are things to teach little ones--primarily through example, in my opinion, and not necessarily through books. (That being said, it is much, much, easier to "demonstrate" gratitude by reading a book than it is to live out your doctrine day by day by day in front of your children.)

I liked the illustrations especially. My favorites were Molly and Rosie and Papa.

Part of me hesitates to say the text works well because of the rhyming. I think rhyme--or rather rhythm as the case may be--is one of the trickiest things to get right. It just is. If it doesn't sound right, it just sounds unnatural and forced. I've seen it done really well--like in the Rhyme Bible Storybook by L.J. Sattgast.  

The message of the book is good and strong. 

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Journaling Genesis #10

What can I learn by reading Genesis 18?

  • The LORD appeared to Abraham. How much time has passed since chapter 17? Not much. Still about a year away from the blessed event.
  • Abraham saw three visitors, ran to meet them, bowed to the ground, offered up the best he had. Do not go past your servant. Have water, wash your feet, feast, make yourself comfortable. Both Abraham and Sarah went right to work to prepare for their guests. Abraham served the guests.
  • The LORD speaks again and says that Sarah will have a baby in a year. Sarah laughs and denies it.
  • Men got up and looked out over Sodom and Abraham was walking with them. God chose to confide in Abraham. Was he testing Abraham to see how he would responds? Did he have a heart after God's? A heart that saw sin and wept? A heart that wanted to save the lost and rescue them? 
  • Abraham plead with God to be merciful, yet recognized sin's seriousness and the justice of God's wrath. He stepped forward and ventured to speak with God. First "if 50 be found," then "45," then "40," then "30," then "20," then "10." Abraham is really hoping that Lot and his household number at least ten and that they have stayed faithful to God and will be spared God's wrath.
  • Abraham left it with God and trusted him to be just.

What can I learn by reading Genesis 19?

  • The three visitors became two angels by the start of chapter 19. The third visitor was the LORD. 
  • God takes sin seriously. It is not a little obnoxious, but truly offensive. The people were comfortable with their sin--at least some were--but comfort is not the issue. The issue is never "how much sin am I comfortable with?" God hates all sin regardless of if we love it or hate it or like it or need it or want it.
  • God judges sin. God has a wrathful side. This wrath is just. Not out of proportion. Not out of character. 
  • God heard the outcry. Could the outcry be from the dead that were slain there? (see Genesis 4) or form the living that were being abused or taken advantage of? 
  • God hates injustice. He wants good to prevail--once and for all. For the injustice to be corrected, sin must be punished. When sin is taken lightly, injustice abounds.
  • God was merciful to Lot and his two daughters. Not because they were righteous and deserving. Not because they loved him and hated sin. But because God is merciful and gracious. They were enslaved and hesitant. God took them by the hand and got them out. 

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Week in Review: January 22-28

New English Bible

  • Ezra
  • Nehemiah
  • Esther
  • Job
  • Psalm 2, 29, 84, 85, 86, 87, 88, 91, 92, 93, 94, 95, 97, 98, 99, 100, 101, 102, 103, 134, 135, 138, 139, 140, 141, 150
  • Ezekiel 16-48
  • Daniel
  • Zechariah
  • Haggai
  • Malachi
  • John 6-21
  • 1 John
  • 2 John
  • 3 John
  • Revelation


  • Genesis
  • Exodus
  • Esther
  • Job
  • Proverbs
  • Matthew
  • Philemon
  • Jude


  • Genesis 30-50
  • Esther 6-10

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

2017 Reading Challenges: Back to the Classics

Back to the Classics 2017
Host: Books and Chocolate (sign up)
January - December 2017
# of books: 6-12

Classic with a number in the title1984. George Orwell. 1949. 268 pages. [Source: Bought]
A Russian ClassicThe Karamazov Brothers. Fyodor Dostoevsky. Translated by Ignat Avsey. 1880/2008. 1054 pages. [Source: Library]
A 20th Century Classic Out of the Silent Planet. C.S. Lewis. 1938. 224 pages. [Source: Bought]
A 19th Century Classic - any book published between 1800 and 1899. The Warden. Anthony Trollope. 1855. Oxford World's Classics. 294 pages. [Source: Bought]
A classic by a woman authorNo One Hears But Him. Taylor Caldwell. 1966/2017. Open Road Media. 212 pages. [Source: Review copy]
A classic published before 1800The Pilgrim's Progress. John Bunyan. 1678. 301 pages. [Source: Bought]
A classic about an animal or which includes the name of an animal in the title.  The Horse and His Boy. (Chronicles of Narnia #5) C.S. Lewis. 1954. 224 pages. [Source: Library]
Classic in TranslationThree Treatises. Martin Luther. 1970. Fortress Press. 316 pages. [Source: Gift] *All three treatises were published in 1520, this English translation is from 1970.

1.  A 19th Century Classic - any book published between 1800 and 1899.

2.  A 20th Century Classic - any book published between 1900 and 1967. Just like last year, all books MUST have been published at least 50 years ago to qualify. The only exception is books written at least 50 years ago, but published later, such as posthumous publications.

3.  A classic by a woman author

4.  A classic in translation.  Any book originally written published in a language other than your native language. Feel free to read the book in your language or the original language. (You can also read books in translation for any of the other categories).

5.  A classic published before 1800. Plays and epic poems are acceptable in this category also.

An romance classic. I'm pretty flexible here about the definition of romance. It can have a happy ending or a sad ending, as long as there is a strong romantic element to the plot.

7.  A Gothic or horror classic. For a good definition of what makes a book Gothic, and an excellent list of possible reads, please see this list on Goodreads

8.  A classic with a number in the title. Examples include A Tale of Two Cities, Three Men in a Boat, Slaughterhouse Five, Fahrenheit 451, etc.

9.  A classic about an animal or which includes the name of an animal in the title.  It an actual animal or a metaphor, or just the name. Examples include To Kill a Mockingbird, Of Mice and Men, The Metamorphosis, White Fang, etc. 

10. A classic set in a place you'd like to visit. It can be real or imaginary: The Wizard of Oz, Down and Out in Paris and London, Death on the Nile, etc.

11. An award-winning classic. It could be the Newbery award, the Prix Goncourt, the Pulitzer Prize, the James Tait Award, etc. Any award, just mention in your blog post what award your choice received.

12. A Russian Classic. 2017 will be the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, so read a classic by any Russian author. 

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Bible Review: New English Bible

New English Bible. 1970/1990. Illustrated by Horace Knowles. 973 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: In the beginning of creation, when God made heaven and earth, the earth was without form and void, with darkness over the face of the abyss, and a mighty wind that swept over the surface of the waters.

I had read a handful of books in the New English Bible through the years, but, I'd never read this translation through in its entirety.

A few years ago, I got a fun little edition--though very green--that was illustrated by Horace Knowles.

Using the 5 Day Bible Reading Program, I decided to see if I could read the Bible in one month. I decided to tackle two to three weeks per day. This made sense to me though to others it might seem very crazy. What I liked best was the chronological arrangement of the readings--particularly the Old Testament.

I am very glad to have read this translation once. I'm not sure if I'll ever feel the need to read this particular translation over again--that is, regularly. I like more traditional translations better. But sometimes a new translation is needed to change up your routine a bit.


  • I will sing to the LORD as long as I live, all my life I will sing psalms to my God. Psalm 104:33
  • May my meditation please the LORD, as I show my joy in him! Psalm 104:34
  • Goodness and love unfailing, these will follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD my whole life long. Psalm 23:6
  • How blest are those who know their need of God; the kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
  • How blest are the sorrowful; they shall find consolation.
  • How blest are those of gentle spirit; they shall have the earth for their possession. 
  • How blest are those who hunger and thirst to see right prevail; they shall be satisfied.
  • How blest are those who show mercy; mercy shall be shown to them.
  • How blest are those whose hearts are pure; they shall see God.
  • How blest are the peacemakers; God shall call them his sons.
  • How blest are those who have suffered persecution for the cause of right; the kingdom of Heaven is theirs. Matthew 5:3-10
  • Come to me, all whose work is hard, whose load is heavy; and I will give you relief. Bend your necks to my yoke, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble-hearted; and your souls will find relief. For my yoke is good to bear, my load is light. Matthew 11:28-30
  • God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, that everyone who has faith in him may not die but have eternal life. It was not to judge the world that God sent his Son into the world, but that through him the world might be saved. John 3:16-17

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

January Operation Deepen Faith Check-In

I. Wonderful Words of Life

  • What have you been reading in the Bible?
  • What books have you finished?
  • What book are you currently in?
  • Do you know what your next book of the Bible will be?
  • Which translation are you using?
  • What have you learned about God lately?
  • What have you learned about yourself?
  • Any favorite verses?

II Christian Nonfiction

  • Have you finished any books for the challenge this month?
  • What book are you currently reading for the challenge?
  • Do you know what book you'll be reading next?
  • Any favorite quotes?

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, January 27, 2017

Book Review: Prevailing Prayer

Prevailing Prayer. D.L. Moody. Foreword by Erwin Lutzer. 1987/2016. Moody. 143 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: THOSE WHO HAVE LEFT the deepest impression on this sin-cursed earth have been men and women of prayer.

I enjoyed reading D.L. Moody's Prevailing Prayer. Prayer is one of those subjects that is always, always relevant for believers. Not all books on prayers are created equal, I've found. Prevailing Prayer is one of the good ones.

What I appreciated most about this one is how practical it is. Moody examined what the Bible had to say about prayer and showed readers how to apply what the Scripture teaches to their own prayers.

How practical is practical? Moody focused on nine elements that are essential to true prayer. These elements are: adoration, confession, restitution, thanksgiving, forgiveness, unity, faith, petition, submission. A few of these terms readers may be familiar with. But I'm guessing a few will be new to you. (I know they were new to me).

Favorite quotes:
  • If our sermons are going to reach the hearts and consciences of the people, we must be much in prayer to God, that there may be power with the word.
  • Holiness belongs to God; sinfulness belongs to us. 
  • When we see the holiness of God, we shall adore and magnify Him. When we hear men trying to make out that they are holy, and speaking about their holiness, they make light of the holiness of God.  It is His holiness that we need to think and speak about; when we do that, we shall be prostrate in the dust. 
  • The judgment of God must begin with us. 
  • God will hear our prayer and turn our captivity when we take our true place before Him, and confess and forsake our transgressions. 
  •  I think if God searches us, we will find a good many things in our lives for us to confess. If we are tried and tested by God’s law, there will be many, many things that Will have to be changed. 
  • Very often when we cry to God we do not really mean anything. 
  • The only way to trouble God is not to come at all. He encourages us to come to Him repeatedly, and press our claims. 
  • Too often we knock at mercy’s door, and then run away, instead of waiting for an entrance and an answer. Thus we act as if we were afraid of having our prayers answered. 

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, January 26, 2017

My Year with Matthew Henry #4

This year I will be reading Matthew Henry's Concise Bible Commentary alongside the American Standard Version (1901). I will share quotes a few times a month.

From Matthew 4-7
When the gospel comes, light comes; when it comes to any place, when it comes to any soul, it makes day there. Light discovers and directs; so does the gospel. The doctrine of repentance is right gospel doctrine.
Sin is the sickness, disease, and torment of the soul: Christ came to take away sin, and so to heal the soul.
None will find happiness in this world or the next, who do not seek it from Christ by the rule of his word. He taught them what was the evil they should abhor, and what the good they should seek and abound in.
Heaven is the joy of our Lord; a mountain of joy, to which our way is through a vale of tears.
The heart must be purified by faith, and kept for God. Create in me such a clean heart, O God. None but the pure are capable of seeing God, nor would heaven be happiness to the impure. As God cannot endure to look upon their iniquity, so they cannot look upon his purity.
What is between God and our souls, must be kept to ourselves; but that which is of itself open to the sight of men, we must study to make suitable to our profession, and praiseworthy. We must aim at the glory of God.
It is taken for granted that all who are disciples of Christ pray. You may as soon find a living man that does not breathe, as a living Christian that does not pray. If prayerless, then graceless.
The petitions are six; the first three relate more expressly to God and his honor, the last three to our own concerns, both temporal and spiritual. This prayer teaches us to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and that all other things shall be added. After the things of God’s glory, kingdom, and will, we pray for the needful supports and comforts of this present life. Every word here has a lesson in it. We ask for bread; that teaches us sobriety and temperance: and we ask only for bread; not for what we do not need. We ask for our bread; that teaches us honesty and industry: we do not ask for the bread of others, nor the bread of deceit, Proverbs 20:17; nor the bread of idleness, Proverbs 31:27, but the bread honestly gotten. We ask for our daily bread; which teaches us constantly to depend upon Divine Providence. We beg of God to give it us; not sell it us, nor lend it us, but give it. The greatest of men must be beholden to the mercy of God for their daily bread. We pray, Give it to us. This teaches us a compassion for the poor. Also that we ought to pray with our families. We pray that God would give it us this day; which teaches us to renew the desires of our souls toward God, as the wants of our bodies are renewed. As the day comes we must pray to our heavenly Father, and reckon we could as well go a day without food, as without prayer. We are taught to hate and dread sin while we hope for mercy, to distrust ourselves, to rely on the providence and grace of God to keep us from it, to be prepared to resist the tempter, and not to become tempters of others. Here is a promise, If you forgive, your heavenly Father will also forgive. We must forgive, as we hope to be forgiven. Those who desire to find mercy with God, must show mercy to their brethren. Christ came into the world as the great Peace-maker, not only to reconcile us to God, but one to another.
God requires the whole heart, and will not share it with the world. When two masters oppose each other, no man can serve both. He who holds to the world and loves it, must despise God; he who loves God, must give up the friendship of the world.
The conclusion of the whole matter is, that it is the will and command of the Lord Jesus, that by daily prayers we may get strength to bear us up under our daily troubles, and to arm us against the temptations that attend them, and then let none of these things move us. Happy are those who take the Lord for their God, and make full proof of it by trusting themselves wholly to his wise disposal. Let thy Spirit convince us of sin in the want of this disposition, and take away the worldliness of our hearts.
Prayer is the appointed means for obtaining what we need. Pray; pray often; make a business of prayer, and be serious and earnest in it. Ask, as a beggar asks alms. Ask, as a traveler asks the way. Seek, as for a thing of value that we have lost; or as the merchantman that seeks goodly pearls. Knock, as he that desires to enter into the house knocks at the door. Sin has shut and barred the door against us; by prayer we knock.
There are but two ways right and wrong, good and evil; the way to heaven and the way to hell; in the one or other of these all are walking: there is no middle place hereafter, no middle way now. All the children of men are saints or sinners, godly or ungodly.
The way to eternal life is narrow. We are not in heaven as soon as we are got through the strait gate. Self must be denied, the body kept under, and corruptions mortified. Daily temptations must be resisted; duties must be done. We must watch in all things, and walk with care; and we must go through much tribulation. And yet this way should invite us all; it leads to life: to present comfort in the favor of God, which is the life of the soul; to eternal bliss, the hope of which at the end of our way, should make all the difficulties of the road easy to us.
It is necessary to our happiness that we believe in Christ, that we repent of sin, that we live a holy life, that we love one another.

From Ezra 4-10
Every believer is a living temple, building up himself in his most holy faith: much opposition is given to this work by Satan and our own corruptions. We trifle, and proceed in it with many stops and pauses; but He that has begun the good work, will see it performed. Then spirits of just men will be made perfect. By getting their sins taken away, the Jews would free themselves from the sting of their late troubles. Their service was with joy. Let us welcome holy ordinances with joy, and serve the Lord with gladness.
We must see the hand of God in the events that befall us, and acknowledge him with thankfulness.
If any good appear in our hearts, or in the hearts of others, we must own that God put it there, and bless him; it is he that worketh in us, both to will and to do that which is good.
If God give us his hand, we are bold and cheerful; if he withdraw it, we are weak as water. Whatever we are enabled to do for God and those around us, God must have all the glory.
All our concerns about ourselves, our families, and our estates, it is our wisdom and duty, by prayer to commit to God, and to leave the care of them with him.
The atonement sweetens and secures every mercy to us, which will not be truly comfortable, unless sin be taken away, and our peace made with God.
Disbelief of God’s all-sufficiency, is at the bottom of the sorry shifts we make to help ourselves.
Holy shame is as necessary in true repentance as holy sorrow.
Every one in the church of God, has to wonder that he has not wearied out the Lord’s patience, and brought destruction upon himself. What then must be the case of the ungodly? But though the true penitent has nothing to plead in his own behalf, the heavenly Advocate pleads most powerfully for him.
From Acts 4-7
Jesus was anointed to be a Savior, therefore it was determined he should be a sacrifice, to make atonement for sin. But sin is not the less evil for God’s bringing good out of it. In threatening times, our care should not be so much that troubles may be prevented, as that we may go on with cheerfulness and courage in our work and duty. They do not pray, Lord let us go away from our work, now that it is become dangerous, but, Lord, give us thy grace to go on steadfastly in our work, and not to fear the face of man. Those who desire Divine aid and encouragement, may depend upon having them, and they ought to go forth, and go on, in the strength of the Lord God.
There is no prison so dark, so strong, but God can visit his people in it, and, if he pleases, fetch them out. Recoveries from sickness, releases out of trouble, are granted, not that we may enjoy the comforts of life, but that God may be honored with the services of our life.
The words of the gospel are the words of life; words whereby we may be saved.
We cannot expect to be redeemed and healed by Christ, unless we give up ourselves to be ruled by him. Faith takes the Savior in all his offices, who came, not to save us in our sins, but to save us from our sins.
None are freed from the guilt and punishment of sin, but those who are freed from the power and dominion of sin; who are turned from it, and turned against it. Christ gives repentance, by his Spirit working with the word, to awaken the conscience, to work sorrow for sin, and an effectual change in the heart and life. The giving of the Holy Ghost, is plain evidence that it is the will of God that Christ should be obeyed. And He will surely destroy those who will not have Him to reign over them.
The slow steps by which the promise made to Abraham advanced toward performance, plainly show that it had a spiritual meaning, and that the land intended was the heavenly. God owned Joseph in his troubles, and was with him by the power of his Spirit, both on his own mind by giving him comfort, and on those he was concerned with, by giving him favor in their eyes.
Suffering times often are growing times with the church. God is preparing for his people’s deliverance, when their day is darkest, and their distress deepest.
The whole world is God’s temple, in which he is every where present, and fills it with his glory;
Our Lord Jesus is God, to whom we are to seek, and in whom we are to trust and comfort ourselves, living and dying. And if this has been our care while we live, it will be our comfort when we die.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Book Review: The Heart of the Church

The Heart of the Church: The Gospel's History, Message, and Meaning. Joe Thorn. 2017. Moody. 128 pages. [Source: Review copy]

The church today has a heart condition. She has not taken care of herself. As a result, she is sick. Modern religious doctors have written prescriptions to treat her lethargy, joylessness, fruitlessness, and weakening faith. But they are addressing only the symptoms, never getting to the root problem. The heart problem plaguing the modern church cannot be healed with new programs or innovative marketing tactics. The root problem for many local churches is that the gospel no longer fills their hearts.
Joe Thorn has written a trilogy of books about the church for the church that will be published in 2017. The first one is The Heart of the Church. (The next one, which I accidentally read first, is The Character of the Church. The third one, which I will pick up to read really soon, is The Life of The Church).

The church should not be confused about the gospel--what the gospel is, what the gospel isn't. But it is. You don't have to be a Christian confused about the gospel--confused about why the gospel matters, confused about what the gospel continues to mean to us as we live our lives.

Joe Thorn's little book, The Heart of The Church, is ALL about simplifying for readers everything about the gospel. By simplifying I do not mean subtracting the "hard" messages, the "controversial" messages, the "uncomfortable" bits that make us squirm reminding us that the Word of God is sharper than a sword and is intended to pierce through us. I mean laying out the gospel clearly, concisely, as it is--take it or leave it.

Chapter 1: The Theme of Scripture
Chapter 2: The Life of Christ
Chapter 3: The Death and Resurrection of Christ
Chapter 4: Justification
Chapter 5: Forgiveness
Chapter 6: Faith and Forgiveness
Chapter 7: Reconciliation
Chapter 8: Sanctification
Chapter 9: Good Works
Chapter 10: God Condemns Justly
Chapter 11: God Saves Sovereignly
Chapter 12: God Atones Effectively
Chapter 13: God Calls Irresistibly
Chapter 14: God Sustains Faithfully

As you can see from the table of contents, Joe Thorn covers essentially 'everything' about the gospel. (The last few chapters covers the doctrines of grace.) These basics are the foundation of the Christian faith. And these aren't trivial matters that are optional for believers these days. These are the very truths of God revealed to us in Scripture that are worth living and dying for.

Gospel truths cannot impact you on a day to day basis, cannot transform you, if there's confusion as to what's true and what's false. If you're not sure what you believe or why you believe it. If you're just deciding day by day by day what feels right for you to believe in the moment. Oh, I'm feeling good today, God is a God of LOVE after all.

Some truths need to be as essential to our well being as breathing in and out. These truths are presented and presented well in this new book. Though to be fair, this new book is full of old, old truths and based on an old, old story.

Favorite quotes:
The gospel of Jesus Christ is not a mere set of propositions. It is not a lifestyle or a perspective on life…. The gospel is not something we do. The gospel is historical truth. The gospel is something that happened—something God did for us. To say it simply, the gospel is the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
In His life, Jesus fulfilled the law and accomplished all righteousness on behalf of sinners who have broken God’s law at every point. In His death, Jesus atoned for our sins, satisfying the wrath of God and obtaining forgiveness for all who believe. In His resurrection, Jesus conquered sin and death, and guaranteed our victory over the same in and through Him.
To be gospel-centered means that the gospel, and ultimately Jesus Himself, is our greatest hope and boast, our deepest longing and joy, and our most passionate song and message. It means that the gospel is what defines us as Christians, unites us as brothers and sisters, changes us as sinners/saints and sends us as God’s people into the world on mission. When we are gospel-centered, the gospel is exalted above every other good thing in our lives and triumphs over every bad thing set against us.
The gospel happened, and by it we are saved. To say that the gospel is history is true, but that history has to be explained. What did Jesus accomplish by His life, death, and resurrection, and what does the believer receive from Him on account of these events? To interpret the history is the work of theology, and to do this we must rely on Scripture alone.
The Bible, in all its parts, is one unified story of God’s love for and salvation of sinners through His Son. From the opening pages of Genesis to the conclusion of Revelation, we discover the unfolding plan of God’s work to redeem a people for His own possession through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He is the hero of Scripture, the full revelation of God, and the one to whom all Scripture points.
Sin and judgment came quickly into the world, but the promise of deliverance came even quicker.
Jesus, the Son of God, came to take away sin, fulfill all righteousness, establish a kingdom, and conquer the Devil. He did it all through His life, death and resurrection, which became the basis for God’s final covenant—the new covenant.
Part of the good news of the gospel is that Jesus’ exemplary life was also one of substitution. He took the place of sinners to fulfill their responsibilities before the face of God. In every area that we have failed to keep God’s commands, Jesus succeeded. In our responsibility to love our neighbors, pray in all things, serve others, forgive those who hurt us, and obey the commands of God, Jesus never failed.
He lived in our stead so we could be counted righteous, and He died on our behalf so we would be forgiven.
The righteous willingly suffered for the unrighteous so we could be made righteous. In this sense, we can say that Jesus died for us, to save us. But there is another sense in which we can say that Jesus died for God. Our transgression and rebellion against God must be punished. This is why Jesus died on the cross. He died to satisfy God’s wrath against us. The word that the apostle John uses to explain God’s love for us on the cross is propitiation (1 John 2:2). The word essentially means “to satisfy.” But more specifically, propitiation is the satisfaction of God’s wrath against our sin through the death of Jesus Christ (see also Rom. 3:25; Heb. 2:17). Thus, Jesus’ death on the cross is the clearest expression of God’s justice, because in it He was punishing sin. Yet Jesus’ death is also the clearest expression of God’s love for us, and that makes Jesus’ death good.
There is no good news for sinners if Jesus did not live a perfect life on our behalf. Nor is there good news for us if He did not die on the cross for sins. Nor is there any good news if Jesus did not also rise from the dead. All this is the gospel. It is history, and it is foundation for our doctrine.
But the central message the church is called to hold out before the world is that forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with God is offered in Jesus Christ and no one else. But, as we discussed earlier, forgiveness cannot be offered at the expense of justice. Our just God must punish sin while extending the grace of forgiveness. How can God do both? Like all gospel promises, the answer is found in Jesus Christ.
Christian faith is not wishing. It is dependence on Christ and His promises and truths revealed in Scripture. Faith is based on what God has said in the light, not a trust fall into the dark. Faith is best understood as being made up of three parts: knowledge, assent, and trust.
Repentant people see their sin, hate their sin, and prayerfully seek to reject their sin and walk with God. While some of our sins are obvious to us, we comfortably ignore others. We all must prayerfully ask the Holy Spirit to lead us in repentance as we examine our lives in light of the Word and seek to lay aside the sin that so easily entangles us.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

My Year with Owen #4

I will be sharing some John Owen quotes this year. The first book I'll be reading is Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers (1656).

Spiritually sick men cannot sweat out their distemper with working. But this is the way of men who deceive their own souls; as we shall see afterward. ~ John Owen
Why Mortification is the Work of the Spirit. It is then, the work of the Spirit. For--He is promised of God to be given unto us to do this work. ~ John Owen
We have all our mortification from the gift of Christ, and all the gifts of Christ are communicated to us and given us by the Spirit of Christ. ~ John Owen
How the Spirit Mortifies Sin. The first [question] is: How does the Spirit mortify sin? I answer, in general, three ways. 1) By causing our hearts to abound in grace and the fruits that are contrary to the flesh, and the fruits thereof and principles of them. 2) By a real physical efficiency on the root and habit of sin, for the weakening, destroying, and taking it away. 3) He brings the cross of Christ into the heart of a sinner by faith, and gives us communion with Christ in his death and fellowship in his sufferings: of the manner whereof more afterward. ~ John Owen
A soul under the power of conviction from the law is pressed to fight against sin, but has no strength for the combat. They cannot but fight, and they can never conquer; they are like men thrust on the sword of enemies on purpose to be slain. The law drives them on, and sin beats them back. ~ John Owen
Strength and comfort, and power and peace, in our walking with God, are the things of our desires. Were any of us asked seriously what it is that troubles us, we must refer it to one of these heads--either we want strength or power, vigor and life, in our obedience, in our walking with God; or we want peace, comfort, and consolation therein. Whatever it is that many befell a believer that does not belong to one of these two heads does not deserve to be mentioned in the days of our complaints. ~ John Owen

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, January 23, 2017

Book Review: My Heart

My Heart. Julie Manning. 2017. B&H. 224 pages. [Source: Review Copy]

Julie Manning's My Heart is a mother's memoir. (Though one doesn't have to be a mother--or a nurse--to appreciate it.) Manning shares her story--her testimony. During the birth of her second child--a son--her heart stops working. Further tests reveal that her heart is in failure, and, that it could stop beating at any time, without much warning. Her life will never be the same. She's a wife, a mother--a mother of two young boys--and a Christian. This is her testimony of how she found Christ in the midst of her suffering. Of how she's able to hold onto joy and hope and peace despite all of her health issues.

Throughout the book she shares her story. But she also shares some of her journal entries and some letters she's written to her sons. These letters to her sons are by necessity emotional masterpieces. How could you read them and not be touched?!

This book may not be theology proper, but, I'd argue that it is theology lived out. Readers need both.

Favorite quotes:
  • "We do not need to die in order to experience Jesus; we just need to stop, pause, and cease striving long enough to need Him, love Him, and rest in Him." 
  • "Our sufferings do not produce belief or unbelief of the Lord in our lives; rather our sufferings will reveal our belief or unbelief in Jesus."
  • "What would our lives look like if we really did live with our life’s brevity at the forefront of our mind? Would we pursue the temporary, or would we pursue the eternal?"
  • "When you fail to take all of the emotions and heartaches and fears of your present circumstances to the Lord, just for the sake of numbing yourself, you are telling God that you believe He messed up and that He did not know what He was doing."
  • "Yes, the risk of vulnerability can be scary. It is true that the Holy Spirit often leads us into areas where we feel vulnerable. But we can go there because in God we have eternal security. Though it feels “dangerous” to walk in this direction, we are already safe in the embrace of God’s powerful love—so no place is truly dangerous for us. And, when the Holy Spirit leads us to be vulnerable, God shows up and blesses us through it with His peace and freedom."
  • " In the midst of suffering, we will look one of two places. We will either look at the suffering, and we will doubt God; or we will look at God and read the promises of His Word, and it will cause us to cry out to Him in utter desperation, leaning on Him as the One who is able to see us through our circumstances."
  • "I absolutely believe it is not only possible for us to experience hope and joy in the midst of suffering but that God desires to show us that He alone is our only hope and our only source of fulfilling joy."
  • "Do I believe that God being in control is better than me being in control? Do I believe that following God’s leading is better than my own comfort?"
  • "Our sufferings do not negate God’s call on our life to love Him and love others." 
  • "We share our stories to remember God’s faithfulness. We share our stories to direct our hearts back to what is important in this life as we feel the tug to drift away from a surrendered posture unto the Lord to a life of selfsufficiency. This life is not about us. Rather, this life is about Jesus. This life is not about our individual lives but about the day when the entire big “C” Church body is in the same place at the same time for eternity surrounding the throne of God, proclaiming “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God, the Almighty” (Rev. 4:8). We are not yet home, but rest assured, we WILL be home one day. Until then we must battle against complacency and against comfort and against taking things into our own hands of control. Even when we seek Jesus fervently. Even when we rely on the Lord for every ounce of energy and sustaining breath. "
  • "We can only view this life through the lens of the gospel of Jesus to the extent in which we know and believe the gospel itself."
  • "The more time we spend putting God’s Word into our minds, the more His Word will become our thoughts. The more Scriptures we study, the more we will learn about our God’s character. The more times we read through God’s redemption story for His people, which is you and me, the more our hearts will humbly rejoice in the grace poured out upon our souls. The Lord has much work to do in our lives. He accomplishes this work through His Word, the working of His Holy Spirit, and the presence of other believers in our lives. The more time we spend reading about Jesus, the more we will view this life and all of this life’s circumstances with the perspective that this place is not our forever home."

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Journaling Genesis #9

What can I learn from reading Genesis 17?

  • Thirteen years have passed since Genesis 16. A LOT of waiting.
  • In chapter 15, Abram had a vision. In chapter 17, the LORD appeared to him. I AM GOD ALMIGHTY. LIVE IN MY PRESENCE AND BE DEVOUT. I will establish my covenant…I will multiply you greatly. 
  • Abram's response: fell on his face, fell to the ground! And God spoke with him. This is even more awe-inspiring than a vision. This is incredible and leaves him speechless.
  • Father of many nations, extremely fruitful, make nations and kings come from you. Abram gets a new name: Abraham.
  • Covenant not just for Abraham, but for his offspring. An everlasting covenant. To be the God of your offspring; the land of Canaan to be an eternal possession. I will be their God.
  • Circumcision a sign of the covenant. They are to keep the covenant with God, a way to show whose they are--they are God's people.
  • God renames Sarai to Sarah. Some "I will" for Sarah. I will bless her. I will give you a son by her. She will produce nations; kings of people will come from her.
  • Abraham fell to the ground (again?!), laughed, questioned silently can this really be happening to me?!
  • Abraham pleads for Ishmael. If only he could live in your presence. I think Abraham wanted everyone--especially in his own household, in his own family--to worship, love, and serve God. I think he wanted this for Lot and I think he wanted this for Ishmael.
  • God tells him what to name their baby--the chosen seed of Abraham and Sarah. His name will be Isaac. God names. God calls. I will confirm my covenant with Isaac, not Ishmael.
  • God hears. God responds. Ishmael will not be heir of promise. But God will bless him. I will make him fruitful and multiply him greatly. He will father 12 tribal leaders. I will make him into a great nation. So not an everlasting blessing, but far from a curse.
  • For the first time God gives Abraham an answer: Sarah will bear a child at this time next year. Abraham will have a lot to tell his wife!!!!
  • Abraham's response: immediate obedience to God. All males in his household circumcised that day. 

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Week in Review: January 15-21

New English Bible

  • 1 Kings 12-22
  • 2 Kings 
  • 2 Chronicles 10-36
  • Psalm 9, 10,  20, 22, 47, 48, 49, 50, 53, 55, 58, 61, 62, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 79, 80, 82, 83, 118, 119, 128, 129, 130, 131, 133, 136, 137, 149, 
  • Isaiah
  • Jeremiah
  • Lamentations
  • Ezekiel 1-15
  • Hosea
  • Micah
  • Nahum
  • Habakkuk
  • Zephaniah
  • Joel
  • Jonah
  • Obadiah
  • Amos 
  • Matthew
  • John 1-5
  • 1 Corinthians
  • 2 Corinthians
  • Titus
  • Philemon
  • James
  • 1 Peter
  • 2 Peter
  • Jude

American Standard Version, 1901

  • Genesis 26-29
  • Matthew 25-28
  • Esther 2-5
  • Acts 25-28

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, January 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: 1 and 2 Samuel

Thru the Bible: 1 and 2 Samuel. J. Vernon McGee. 1976/1997. Thomas Nelson. 308 pages. [Source: Bought]

One of my goals for 2017 is to read twelve commentaries. I have always, always, always loved the history books of the Old Testament, so I decided to start with J. Vernon McGee's commentary for 1 and 2 Samuel.

If you've never read his work before, what should you expect? Casual, conversational, yet not fluffy, commentary not only on the Scripture text but on church and society as well. He has a call-it-like-I-see it honest approach to unpacking Scripture.

I appreciate his love of Scripture. The way he sees the whole Bible to be the message of God--the revelation of God--to all of us past, present, future. I love his eagerness to explain Scripture in a way that's easy for everyone--no matter your background--to understand.

Every chapter of the books of First and Second Samuel are discussed in the commentary. I believe the Scripture text printed within this one is the King James Version.

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

  • The fact that certain things are recorded in Scripture does not mean that God sanctions them. He is merely giving you the facts concerning history, persons, and events. For example, you will find that the lie of Satan is recorded in Scripture, but that does not mean God approves it!
  • Some churches are the worst places you can be in and the most dangerous places for you.
  • We don’t see much praying like Hannah’s today. Would people think you were drunk by the way you pray? Our prayers are very dignified.
  • We are living in a day of abortion. Hannah lived in a day when she wanted a son, and she dedicated that son unto the Lord. On her cry, God built a kingdom. What a tremendous tribute and wonderful monument to this woman’s cry!
  • Salvation comes in three tenses. (1) We have been saved. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath [right now] everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life” (John 5:24). That means that God has delivered us from the guilt of sin by the death of Christ. That is justification, and it is past tense. (2) God has also delivered us from what the old theologians called “the pollution of sin,” which is present deliverance. We are being saved. It is a deliverance from the weaknesses of the flesh, the sins of the flesh, the faults of the mind, and the actions of the will. This is the present deliverance that Hannah is talking about. It is sanctification and is in the present tense. (3) Finally there is the deliverance from death in the future—not physical, but spiritual death. “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). This is a future deliverance. We shall be saved. That will be glorification, which is future tense. We have been saved, we are being saved, and we will be saved. Hannah was rejoicing in her salvation.
  • When we come to God in prayer, we need to be very careful, friends, that we do not let our pride cause us to stumble. We need to recognize our weakness, our insufficiency, and our inability, and the fact that we really have no claim on God. Sometimes we hear people ask, “Why didn’t God hear my prayer?” To be quite frank, why should He? What claim do you have on Him? If you have accepted Jesus Christ as Savior, you have a wonderful claim on God, and you can come to Him in the name of Jesus Christ. As His children we have Jesus’ right and claim. However, we must remember that our prayers must be in accordance with His will.
  • When God says something, it is the same as done. When God says something is going to happen, it is going to happen.
  • How did God reveal Himself? By the Word. God today is also revealing Himself through His Word. He is illuminating by His Spirit the pages of Scripture. That is how you and I come to know Him, and to know Him is life eternal.
  • You cannot get God into a box! The merit was in the presence and person of God. The merit is in Christ. Success is determined by whether or not we are with Him. That is all important.
  • They think they are getting somewhere spiritually, but this is nothing in the world but idolatry. They are worshiping a box—not God. Let us be careful in the ceremonies and rituals of our church.   
  • The name Eben–ezer means “stone of help.” “Hitherto hath the Lord helped us.” It was also a stone of remembrance, looking back to the past. It was a stone of recognition, a stone for the present. It was a stone of revelation, a stone for the future. “Hitherto [up to this point, up to the present time] God has helped us.” It is customary for us to look back over the past. Remember what the Lord said through Paul to the Philippians: “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6). Friend, has God brought you to this point? Is He leading you today? Is He guiding you? If He has, you can say, “Hitherto has the Lord helped me.” Since He has helped you up to this moment, He will continue to do that. God has given us memories so that we can have roses in December. As memory plays on the keyboard of the past, I am sure that all of us can say, “Hitherto hath the Lord helped us.” Joshua could say, “… as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Josh. 24:15). David could say, “O give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever. Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he hath redeemed form the hand of the enemy” (Ps. 107:1–2). I personally want to say that oh, the Lord is good! He is the One who has helped us and will help us.
  •  Many people believe that the voice of the majority, the choice of the people, is the voice of God. The Bible contradicts this thinking. Generally the minority is closer to determining the will of God. The people wanted Saul. God was the One who chose David.
  • We ought to pray for one another. There are many needy people. God forbid that we should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for one another.
  • There is a great deal of this informal and friendly approach to the Lord Jesus Christ today. There are so many little songs that go something like this: “Jesus is a friend of mine.” We need to be careful how we use an approach like this to Him. When you say that Jesus is a friend of yours, what do you mean? Actually, you are trying to bring Him down to your level.
  • When we begin to talk about Jesus as “a friend of mine,” we are not being Scriptural. The Lord said, “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you” (John 15:14). Are you obedient unto Him? How dare any of us call Him friend if we are not obeying Him? To disobey Him is worse than witchcraft. It is rebellion against God. When you meet a person who is totally disobedient to the Lord, you almost have to conclude that he does not belong to the Lord at all. Now I am not saying that works enter into salvation. I am saying that if you are a child of God, if you come to the place where you know Him, you will obey Him.
  • The important thing is to be rightly related to the Lord Jesus Christ. To be a child of God is to know Him personally. That is what makes Christianity different from any religion in the world. You can be a Buddhist without knowing Buddha. You can be a follower of Confucius without knowing him. You can be a member of any other religion without knowing the founder, but you cannot be a Christian, friend, without knowing the Lord Jesus Christ. And to know Him is life eternal.
  • My friend, God’s love will not deter Him from judging sinners. He can love them and still execute judgment. Our God is holy and righteous and just, as well as loving.
  • Let’s not try to be something we are not, or try to do something we are really not called to do. If God has called you to use a slingshot, friend, don’t try to use a sword. If God has called you to speak, then speak. If God has called you to do something else, well, do that. If God has called you to sing, sing. But if He has not called you to sing, for goodness sake, don’t do it. Too many people are trying to use a sword when the slingshot is really more their size.
  • God has shown kindness to you and me for the sake of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is not because of who we are or what we have done that He saved us. Our salvation comes because of who Christ is and what He has done for us. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Because His Son died for us, God extends favor to us for Jesus’ sake.
  • Sin has made us debtors to God. Remember that in the prayer Christ taught His disciples, it says, “Forgive us our debts.” God alone can forgive us. Forgiveness always rests upon the payment of a debt, and those who were in debt had to flee. David, actually, did not pay the debt, but Christ did. He paid the debt of sin by dying on the Cross. He set us free. That is what the Lord Jesus Christ did for you and for me. If you realize you are a debtor to God and have no means to pay, He will pay that debt for you. You can flee to Him. What a wonderful privilege that is!
  • Suppose you wanted to choose the greatest day in the life of David. What day would you choose? Would it be the day that Samuel poured the anointing oil on him as a young shepherd boy? How about the day that he slew the giant Goliath? Certainly his first romance with Michal, Saul’s daughter, who was given to him in marriage, deserves consideration. Perhaps you might choose the day David escaped from Saul. Then again you might choose the day Saul died, because that meant that David would ascend the throne. You might think it was the day that he was made king of all Israel and the crown was placed upon his head. You might even want to suggest it was the day his son Absalom rebelled against him and was slain. Or perhaps you might choose the day his son Solomon was anointed king. All of these were great days in the life of a great man. However, I believe there are two events that stand out above all others in the life of David: the day that David brought the ark of God to Jerusalem (recorded in ch. 6) and the day David purposed in his heart to build God a house (recorded in ch. 7). These are probably the two greatest days in David’s life.
  • Light creates responsibility. If men have the light of the gospel, they are held responsible for rejecting it. I am not going to argue with you about the heathen in Africa, but I would like to argue with you about the heathen in my town and your town because they can hear the gospel, and their responsibility is great. If you turn your back on Jesus Christ, my friend, you can argue about the heathen all you want to, but you are lost and doomed and judged and are bound for eternal hell. That is the teaching of the Word of God. You may not like it; and, if you don’t, you ought to move out of this universe into another one. This is God’s universe and these are His rules.
  • God is going to judge. I do not know about you, but I am a little weary of hearing all this love, love, lovey–dovey stuff. Sure, God is love. Certainly God loves you, but you can go on in sin, you can turn your back on Him, and you are lost. There is no way out of it. There is no other alternative.
  • The Word of God is a mirror that reveals us as we really are.
  • When Absalom died, however, David’s heart broke. Why? He was not sure of the young man’s salvation; he was not sure where his son was. Frankly, I believe that David felt his son was not saved, and that is why he was so stricken with grief. Also, even though David was a great king, he was a poor father; I am sure David realized this.
  • Friend, faith is not a leap in the dark. It is not a gamble. Faith is not even a “hope so.” Faith is a sure thing. God never asks you to believe something that is not true. Faith rests upon a rock, a sure foundation. The Lord Jesus Christ is the foundation. Faith, therefore, is not just leaping out into space. However, there is a time in your life, my friend, when you need to live and move by faith and to recognize that you cannot live by your own effort or by numbers. Unfortunately, the church today has not learned to trust God. As a result, at the congregational meetings the spiritual victories are never mentioned. The things that are mentioned are how much we have in the treasury, how many we baptized this year, and how many members we took in. If the figures look pretty good, we consider that it is a great spiritual victory. Actually, it might have been the worst thing in the world that could have happened in that church.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, January 19, 2017

My Year with Matthew Henry #3

This year I will be reading Matthew Henry's Concise Bible Commentary alongside the American Standard Version (1901). I will share quotes a few times a month.

From Genesis 4-11
It shows great hardness of heart to be more concerned about our sufferings than our sins.
All the patriarchs that lived before the flood, except Noah, were born before Adam died. From him they might receive a full account of the creation, the fall, the promise, and the Divine precepts about religious worship and a religious life. Thus God kept up in his church the knowledge of his will.
Godliness is walking with God: which shows reconciliation to God, for two cannot walk together except they be agreed, Amos 3:3. It included all the parts of a godly, righteous, and sober life. To walk with God, is to set God always before us, to act as always under his eye. It is constantly to care, in all things to please God, and in nothing to offend him. It is to be followers of him as dear children.
The Holy Spirit, instead of saying, Enoch lived, says, Enoch walked with God. This was his constant care and work; while others lived to themselves and the world, he lived to God. It was the joy of his life.
Oh that we may look on Him whom we have grieved, and mourn!
Christ, the true Noah, which same shall comfort us, hath by his sufferings already prepared the ark, and kindly invites us by faith to enter in. While the day of his patience continues, let us hear and obey his voice.
The call to Noah is very kind, like that of a tender father to his children to come in-doors when he sees night or a storm coming. Noah did not go into the ark till God bade him, though he knew it was to be his place of refuge. It is very comfortable to see God going before us in every step we take. Noah had taken a great deal of pains to build the ark, and now he was himself kept alive in it. What we do in obedience to the command of God, and in faith, we ourselves shall certainly have the comfort of, first or last. This call to Noah reminds us of the call the gospel gives to poor sinners. Christ is an ark, in whom alone we can be safe, when death and judgment approach. The word says, "Come;" ministers say, "Come;" the Spirit says, "Come, come into the Ark." Noah was accounted righteous, not for his own righteousness, but as an heir of the righteousness which is by faith, Hebrews 11:7.
Who can stand before the Lord when he is angry? The sin of sinners will be their ruin, first or last, if not repented of. The righteous God knows how to bring ruin upon the world of the ungodly, 2 Peter 2:5. How tremendous will be the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men! Happy they who are part of Christ’s family, and safe with him as such; they may look forward without dismay, and rejoice that they shall triumph, when fire shall burn up the earth, and all that therein is.
God has times and places of rest for his people after their tossing; and many times he provides for their seasonable and comfortable settlement, without their own contrivance, and quite beyond their own foresight.
He begins well, that begins with God.
The blessing of God is the cause of our doing well. On him we depend, to him we should be thankful.
Our lives are God’s, and we must only give them up when he pleases. If we in any way hasten our own death, we are accountable to God for it.
Let us learn to provoke one another to love and to good works, as sinners stir up and encourage one another to wicked works.
God is just and fair in all he does against sin and sinners, and condemns none unheard.
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Book Review: Out of the Silent Planet

Out of the Silent Planet. C.S. Lewis. 1938. 224 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: The last drops of the thundershower had hardly ceased falling when the Pedestrian stuffed his map into his pocket, settled his pack more comfortably on his tired shoulders, and stepped out from the shelter of a large chestnut-tree into the middle of the road.

Premise/plot: When Dr. Ransom (the Pedestrian in the first sentence) intervenes in a private squabble, he gets more than he bargained for. The story begins with him looking for a place to stay the night--a place that is nearby since he's already walked a long way. He is looking for a night's stay when he overhears a boy protesting loudly against two men. The boy claims the men mean him harm, mean to lock him up in a shed, I believe. Ransom intervenes, and, to add another creepy element into the mix, he recognizes one of the men from his university days! The men now mean him--not the boy--harm. It's no shed that he'll be locked up in--after he's drugged--but a spaceship. The three will go to the planet Mars--aka Malacandra. Ransom doesn't know their plans for him, but he overhears enough to fear them more than the unknown planet. He does know that it's populated, however. And that, for better or worse, he's to be given to the aliens.

My thoughts: Out of the Silent Planet is science fiction, adult science fiction. (Though there's no reason why teens couldn't enjoy this as well.) I'd not read it before, and, I'm definitely glad I finally got around to it. I found myself shouting at Ransom several times in this one. Like at the beginning when he meets the two strangers. Even though he's heard a super-creepy conversation, he shows absolutely no caution at all. NO one is expecting me; no one knows where I am or where I might be or where I might be going; no one will miss me because they have no idea when I'll be back. After voluntarily giving them this information, he accepts a drink from them!

Because it is C.S. Lewis expect some philosophy interwoven in the story.

Favorite quotes:
  • "The love of knowledge is a kind of madness" (55)
  • "A pleasure is full grown only when it is remembered" (73)
  • "When you and I met, the meeting was over very shortly, it was nothing. Now it is growing something as we remember it. But still we know very little about it. What it will be when I remember it as I lie down to die, what it makes in me all my days till then--that is the real meeting. The other is only the beginning of it." (73)
  • "And how could we endure to live and let time pass if we were always crying for one day or one year to come back--if we did not know that every day in a life fills the whole life with expectation and memory and these are that day?" (74)
  • "Bent creatures are full of fears." (122)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

My Year with John Owen #3

I will be sharing some John Owen quotes this year. The first book I'll be reading is Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers (1656).
Let not that man think he makes any progress in holiness who walks not over the bellies of his lust. ~ John Owen
He who does not kill sin in his way takes no steps toward his journey's end. ~ John Owen
He who finds not opposition from it, and who sets not himself in every particular to its mortification, is at peace with it, not dying to it. ~ John Owen
If vain spending of time, idleness, unprofitableness in men's places, envy, strife, variance, emulations, wrath, pride, worldliness, selfishness (1 Cor. 1) be badges of Christians, we have them on us and among us in abundance. ~ John Owen
The good Lord send out a spirit of mortification to cure our distempers, or we are in a sad condition! ~ John Owen
There are two evils which certainly attend every unmortified professor--the first, in himself; the other, in respect of others. ~ John Owen
In himself. Let him pretend what he will, he has slight thoughts of sin; at least, of sins of daily infirmity. The root of an unmortified course is the digestion of sin without bitterness in the heart. When a man has confirmed his imagination to such an apprehension of grace and mercy as to be able, without bitterness, to swallow and digest daily sins, that man is at the very brink of turning the grace of God into lasciviousness and being hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. Neither is there a greater evidence of a false and rotten heart in the world than to drive such a trade. ~ John Owen
To others. It has an evil influence on them on a twofold account: It hardens them, by begging in them a persuasion that they are in as good condition as the best professors. ~ John Owen
They deceive them, in making them believe that if they can come up to their condition it shall be well with them; and so it grows an easy thing to have the great tempt ion of repute in religion to wrestle with, when they may go far beyond them as to what appears in them, and yet come short of eternal life. ~ John Owen
The Holy Spirit is the great sovereign cause of the mortification of indwelling sin. ~ John Owen

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Journaling Genesis #8

What can I learn from reading Genesis 15?

  • The LORD came to Abram in a vision.
  • The LORD tells him NOT to be afraid.
  • 'I am your shield.' 'Your reward will be very great!'
  • Abram questions God. What can you give me since I have no child?!?! Look, you haven't given me any offspring!
  • God answers, You will have a child, an heir. Look at the sky and count the stars…if you are able to!!! Your offspring will be that numerous.
  • Genesis 15:6 Abram believed the LORD.
  • The LORD once again promises that Abram's descendants will possess the land. (15:7)
  • Abram questions: How can I know that I will possess it?!
  • God's covenant with Abram. 3 year old cow, 3 year old goat, 3 year old ram, a turtledove, pigeon. Split livestock down the middle, laid them opposite each other; Abram shooed birds of prey away and waited for the sun to go down. Abram fell into a deep sleep. 
  • 'Know this for certain.' Prophecies Israelites will be enslaved by Egyptians for 400 years, prophecies 
  •  God will judge Egypt, and that they will leave with many possessions. Then He will bring them to the land. His descendants will possess the land--but, not yet--they must wait.
  • Smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed through the divided animals.
What can I learn about God in Genesis 16?
  • God is the God-who-Sees! The God-Who-Sees appeared to Hagar. He came to her--revealed himself to her. Gave her bad news and good news. 1) She had to go back to the master and mistress who had treated her unfairly. But. 2) She was promised that her son would have offspring too numerous to count. He will not live in peace with his brothers, but he will live. (Would she have considered this promise a good one? Would she have seen her son's friction as a good thing? Certainly understandable that he wouldn't get along with Sarai and any of her children.) 
  • The LORD told her what to name her baby--Ishmael. God is continuing to name!
  • God is the God who hears! Hagar may have felt outside of this God-business. a) she was an Egyptian, b) she was a slave, c) she was a woman. But He heard her; He saw her; He cared enough to come to her and reveal himself to her.
  • God treated her kindly. She was not rescued from her circumstances but she was comforted in her circumstances. She may have felt all alone, but God reminded her she was not.
What can I learn about myself by reading Genesis 16?
  • How am I like Abraham? He wanted to control the when and the how of God's promise. He needed to believe and wait, not believe and act. Though sometimes belief leads directly to action, sometimes the action IS waiting. He followed the advice of his wife who also had ideas on how to make God's promise happen here and now. They wanted "to help" God keep his promise. God doesn't need help keeping promises. Abram was impatient and wanted to be more in control. He didn't have to listen to his wife, but, he chose to. The fact that he did listen probably means he was already tempted to rush things and hurry God up. After all, each month meant a "not yet" from God…and believing in God's promise faithfully for years--think of all those months--could not have been easy mentally, emotionally, spiritually.
  • How am I like Sarai? She was an emotionally-driven woman. Bitter. Impatient. Angry. She blames Abram for listening to her and doing exactly what she wanted! Also jealous and hurting. She thought claiming Hagar's baby as her own would take away the pain and shame of being barren. Sarai desperately wanted to be a mother. She was tired of waiting. I imagine that each time Abram came to her with news that God had spoken to him again--and OH THE PROMISES! She probably got excited and his enthusiasm and hope became hers for a time. At least in the early years. I think it's been ten years since the last few chapters. It does say something that she didn't push Abram into this after just a year or two of waiting. So it wasn't that she lacked the ability to wait…just not able to wait long enough. It would be 23 years, I believe, from the promise in Genesis 15 and fulfillment in Genesis 21. No wonder she laughed!
  • How am I like Hagar? She was the victim of circumstances. Commanded by by both Sarai and Abram. Her life was in their hands. She might have let her new position as future (birth) mother of his heir go to her head. But if there was unkindness, I think we can say it went both ways. She probably went from feeling invisible to having unwanted attention. Discouraged. Anxious. Bitter. She was abused and mistreated. Her life wasn't fair. But she found herself seen and heard. 

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible