Friday, March 31, 2017

Book Review: A Little Book on the Christian Life

A Little Book on the Christian Life. John Calvin. Edited by Buck Parsons and Aaron Denlinger. 2017. Reformation Trust. 132 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: THE GOAL OF God’s work in us is to bring our lives into harmony and agreement with His own righteousness, and so to manifest to ourselves and others our identity as His adopted children. We discover in God’s law a picture of God’s own image, to which we are being progressively conformed. But since we are lazy and require prodding and encouragement in this, it will be helpful to construct in this work a model of the mature Christian life from various passages of Scripture, so that those who are truly repentant of heart will not lose their way on the path to greater conformity to God’s image.

Premise/plot: This "little" book is extracted from a much longer one: John Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion. But it has a LONG publishing history as being published on its own. The first edition of Institutes was published in 1536, and the first edition of this "little book" was 1540!

A word from the publishers:  We have aimed at faithfulness not just to Calvin’s meaning but, so much as possible, to his own words. We have, however, also striven to make Calvin’s meaning as clear as possible to English readers. Our efforts in this regard have required us to break some of Calvin’s lengthier sentences into shorter ones, to introduce more frequent paragraph breaks than Calvin’s work contains, and to replace some pronouns with their stated antecedents to maximize clarity.

My thoughts: I loved this one. I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED it. I have read roughly half of the Institutes. It was good, but, tough. (I do hope to finish it one day.) This 'little book' is a thousand times easier to read!

Favorite quotes:

  • THERE ARE TWO main parts to the instruction from Scripture on the Christian life that follow. The first is that a love of righteousness—to which we are not naturally prone—must be implanted and poured into our hearts. The second is that we need some model that will keep us from losing our way in our pursuit of righteousness.
  • When we contemplate this relationship between ourselves and God, let us remember that holiness is the bond of our union with Him. Not, of course, because we enter into fellowship with Him by the merit of our own holiness. Rather, we first of all cling to Him, and then, having received His holiness, we follow wherever He calls us. For it is characteristic of His glory that He has no fellowship with sin and impurity. Holiness is the goal of our calling. Therefore we must consistently set our sights upon holiness if we would rightly respond to God’s calling. To what purpose did God pull us out of the wickedness and pollution of this world—wickedness and pollution in which we were submerged—if we allow ourselves to wallow in such wickedness and pollution for the rest of our lives? Furthermore, if we count ourselves among God’s people, Scripture tells us to live as citizens of the holy city of Jerusalem, which He has consecrated to Himself.
  • For true doctrine is not a matter of the tongue, but of life; neither is Christian doctrine grasped only by the intellect and memory, as truth is grasped in other fields of study. Rather, doctrine is rightly received when it takes possession of the entire soul and finds a dwelling place and shelter in the most intimate affections of the heart. So let such people stop lying, or let them prove themselves worthy disciples of Christ, their teacher.
  • If we are not our own but the Lord’s, it’s clear what errors we must flee, and what we must direct our whole lives toward. We are not our own; therefore, neither our reason nor our will should dominate our plans and actions. We are not our own; therefore, let us not make the gratification of our flesh our end. We are not our own; therefore, as much as possible, let us forget ourselves and our own interests. Rather, we are God’s. Therefore, let us live and die to Him. We are God’s. Therefore, let His wisdom and His will govern all our actions. We are God’s. Therefore, let us—in every way in all our lives—run to Him as our only proper end. How far has he progressed who’s been taught that he is not his own—who’s taken rule and dominion away from his own reason and entrusted them to God. For the plague of submitting to our own rule leads us straight to ruin, but the surest way to safety is neither to know nor to want anything on our own, but simply to follow the leading of the Lord.
  • Our very nature inclines us toward self-love. As a result, we don’t easily deny ourselves or our desires in order to seek the good of others. Even less are we willing to give up our right to something and give that right to another.
  • Therefore, you have no cause to evade anyone who stands before you and needs your service. Suppose he’s a stranger. The Lord, however, has stamped him with His own mark that’s familiar to you, and for that reason God forbids you to despise your own flesh. Suppose he is contemptible and worthless. The Lord, however, shows him to be one whom He has condescended to decorate with His own image. Suppose you owe him nothing for what he’s done. But God—to whom you know you are obligated because of His many wonderful benefits to you—puts Himself, as it were, in that person’s place. Suppose he is unworthy of even your smallest labors for his sake. But the image of God, according to which this person is commended to you, warrants your giving of yourself and your all. Supposing a man not only deserves nothing good from you, but he has also provoked you with injustices and injuries—even this is not just cause for you to stop embracing him with affection and fulfilling your duties of love to him. He has deserved, you might say, something much different from me. But what has the Lord deserved? When He orders you to forgive that man for whatever sin he has committed against you, He calls you to do so not because that man deserves it, but because God Himself has forgiven you (Luke 17:3–4). This is the only path to achieving that which is not only difficult for, but entirely adverse to, our human nature—that is, loving those who hate us, repaying evil with good, and blessing those who curse us.
  • We must be sure not to dwell on the wickedness of men, but rather to consider the image of God in them.
  • Something more is required from Christians than wearing a cheerful face and rendering their duties attractive by friendly words. First, they should imagine themselves in the situation of that person who needs their help, and they should pity his bad fortune as if they themselves both bore it and felt it. Thus they will be compelled, by a feeling of mercy and humanity, to give him help as if it were given to themselves. One who has this mind-set and approaches the task of helping his brothers will not contaminate his duties to others with arrogance or resentment. He won’t despise a brother whom he helps because his brother needs such help, nor will he subject his brother to himself as a debtor.
  • However, there are many reasons why we ourselves must spend our lives subject to a constant cross. First of all, there’s the fact that unless our own weaknesses are regularly displayed to us, we easily overestimate our own virtue, being by nature inclined to attribute all good things to our own doing.
  • Our heavenly doctor, having purposed to restore all of us to health, treats some more leniently. Meanwhile, He applies stronger remedies to others. But none of us is left untouched by or remains immune to His medicine—He knows we are all diseased. 
  • Whether we suffer poverty, exile, imprisonment, contempt, sickness, childlessness, or any such thing, let us remember that nothing happens apart from God’s pleasure and providence, and that God Himself does nothing that isn’t perfectly in order. What then? Don’t our innumerable and frequent faults deserve more severe and weighty punishments than those that He, according to His mercy, has placed on us? Isn’t it fair that our flesh be tamed and made familiar with the yoke in order to keep it from running wild with lust according to its natural disposition? Are God’s justice and truth not worthy causes to suffer for?
  • But since in the end we only find attractive those things that we perceive to be for our good and well-being, our kind Father comforts us also in this way—assuring us that He works for our salvation by that very cross with which He afflicts us.
  • If it’s clear that tribulations work toward our salvation, shouldn’t we accept them with a grateful and calm spirit? In bearing them with endurance, we’re not yielding to necessity, but we’re assenting to our own good.
  • If heaven is our home, what is earth but our place of exile? If departure from this world is entrance into life, what is this world but a grave?
  • To sum up everything in a word: The cross of Christ finally triumphs in believers’ hearts—over the devil, the flesh, sin, and the wicked—when their eyes are turned to the power of the resurrection. 

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, March 30, 2017

My Year with Henry #13

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.

Genesis 16

  • In every relation and situation in life there is some cross for us to bear: much of the exercise of faith consists in patiently submitting, in waiting the Lord’s time, and using only those means which he appoints for the removal of the cross. Foul temptations may have very fair pretenses, and be colored with that which is very plausible. Fleshly wisdom puts us out of God’s way. This would not be the case, if we would ask counsel of God by his word and by prayer, before we attempt that which is doubtful.
  • Passionate people often quarrel with others, for things of which they themselves must bear the blame.
  • It is a great mercy to be stopped in a sinful way, either by conscience or by providence.

Matthew 15

  • How thankful ought we to be for the written word of God! Never let us think that the religion of the Bible can be improved by any human addition, either in doctrine or practice.
  • Where a weak head doubts concerning any word of Christ, an upright heart and a willing mind seek for instruction.
  • It is the duty of parents to pray for their children, and to be earnest in prayer for them, especially for their souls. 
  •  Those whom Christ feeds, he fills. With Christ there is bread enough, and to spare; supplies of grace for more than seek it, and for those that seek for more.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Book Review: Reset

Reset: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture. David Murray. 2017. Crossway. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I will begin by telling you what I wish I had known before I requested it to review: this is a book for men. Throughout the book, he stresses that it is for men again and again. He hints that a book for women, I believe written by his wife, will be written and eventually published. But this book is FOR MEN. It has manly-man metaphors throughout.

The premise of this one is that Christian men burnout easily and most--if not all--need to be RESET. He argues that there is often a huge disconnect between a man's theology and doctrine and his daily practice. Christian men may believe in the five solas of the reformation, but they live by the five deficits.

Murray promises in the first few pages not to waste anyone's time. He promises that the book from cover to cover will be practical and relevant. The first few chapters are more of an inventory and invitation to reflect and analyze…to self-diagnos. The remaining chapters take you into the garage to fix what's wrong in your life.

One of my favorite chapters--perhaps my only favorite chapter--is on sleep.

  • Few things are as theological as sleep. Show me your sleep pattern and I’ll show you your theology, because we all preach a sermon in and by our sleep.
  • Question: Which of the Ten Commandments can you keep in your sleep? Answer: The sixth commandment, because, as the following statistics demonstrate, getting enough sleep is an act of loving your neighbor.
  • If our schools substituted sleepology for algebra, our society would be much healthier, safer, and brighter. Despite sleep taking up a quarter to a third of our lives and having such an influence on the remainder, most of us leave school in total ignorance of the why and the how of sleep.
  • We need to ask God to help us see this as a life priority, as a matter of obedience, and as a way of pleasing our Father and Creator. Let’s plead with him to give us the strength to do what we know we must do.
  • By sleeping, we are relinquishing control and reminding ourselves—at least for a few hours—that God actually doesn’t need us. When we close our eyes each night, we are saying, “I don’t run the world, or the church, or even my own little life.”
  • When and how long we sleep makes a huge statement about who we are and what we believe about ourselves and God.
  • Ultimately, sleep, like everything else, should lead us to the gospel and the Savior. First, it prompts us to think about death, that we shall all close our eyes as in sleep, and wake up in another world (1 Thess. 4:14). It also teaches about our Savior. The fact that Jesus slept (Mark 4:38) is as profound as “Jesus wept” (John 11:35). It reminds us of Christ’s full humanity, that the Son of God became so frail, so weak, so human that he needed to sleep. What humility! What love! What an example! What a comfort! What a sleeping pill! It illustrates salvation. How much are we doing when we sleep? Nothing! That’s why Jesus used rest as an illustration of his salvation. “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). It points us toward heaven. There remains a rest for the people of God (Heb. 4:9). That doesn’t mean heaven is going to be one long lie-in. It means it will be a place of renewal, refreshment, comfort, and perfect peace. 

Another chapter that gave some good insights was on the importance of relaxation and having hobbies. This chapter talked about the joys and benefits of reading:
There is something about reading, however, especially reading real paper books, that can be especially health-giving. In “How Changing Your Reading Habits Can Transform Your Health,” Michael Grothaus says, “Reading doesn’t just improve your knowledge, it can help fight depression, make you more confident, empathetic, and a better decision-maker.”
Reading for pleasure can help prevent conditions such as stress, depression, and dementia. People who read books regularly are on average more satisfied with life, happier, and more likely to feel that the things they do in life are worthwhile. In a survey of fifteen hundred adult readers, 76 percent said that reading improves their lives and helps to make them feel good.
His book covers most of the basics of life: eating and drinking, exercise, sleeping, working, playing, etc. He recommends an amended to do list:
1. Definite do. These are our most important God-given responsibilities and commitments. 2. Desire to do. These are activities we hope to do, and will do some of them after the “Definite-do’s” are done. 3. Delay do. These are worthy activities that we would love to do someday, but which we have to postpone until we have space and time in our schedules. 4. Don’t do. These are the things we either commit to stop doing or to say “no” to in the future.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

March 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

My Year with Owen #13

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).

  • Use and exercise yourself to such meditations as may serve to fill you at all times with self-abasement and thoughts of your own vileness. ~ John Owen
  • Be much in thoughtfulness of the excellency of the majesty of God and your infinite, inconceivable distance from him. ~ John Owen
  • Think greatly of the greatness of God. ~ John Owen
  • Think much of your unacquaintedness with him. ~ John Owen
  • We speak much of God, can talk of him, his ways, his works, his counsels, all the day long; the truth is, we know very little of him. ~ John Owen
  • Our thoughts, our meditations, our expressions of him are low, many of them unworthy of his glory, none of them reaching his perfections. ~ John Owen
  • We know him rather by what he does than by what he is--by his doing us good than by his essential goodness. ~ John Owen
  • We know little of God, because it is faith alone whereby here we know him. ~ John Owen
  • The truth is, we all of us know enough of him to love him more than we do, to delight in him and serve him, believe him, obey him, put our trust in him, above all that we have hitherto attained. Our darkness and weakness is no plea for our negligence and disobedience. Who is it that has walked up to the knowledge that he has had of the perfections, excellencies, and will of God? God’s end in giving us any knowledge of himself here is that we may “glorify him as God” [Rom. 1: 21], that is, love him, serve him, believe and obey him— give him all the honor and glory that is due from poor sinful creatures to a sin-pardoning God and Creator. We must all acknowledge that we were never thoroughly transformed into the image of that knowledge which we have had. And had we used our talents well, we might have been trusted with more. ~ John Owen
  • The intention of all gospel revelation is not to unveil God’s essential glory that we should see him as he is, but merely to declare so much of him as he knows sufficient to be a bottom of our faith, love, obedience, and coming to him— that is, of the faith which here he expects from us; such services as beseem67 poor creatures in the midst of temptations. But when he calls us to eternal admiration and contemplation, without interruption, he will make a new manner of discovery of himself, and the whole shape of things, as it now lies before us, will depart as a shadow. ~ John Owen

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, March 27, 2017

Book Review: The Titanic's Last Hero

The Titanic's Last Hero: A Startling True Story That Can Change Your Life Forever. Moody Adams. 2012. 120 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: AS THE DARK, FRIGID WATERS of the Atlantic crept slowly up the decks of the Titanic, John Harper shouted, “Let the women, children, and the unsaved into the lifeboats!” Harper gave his life jacket—his last hope of survival—to another man. After the ship had slipped beneath the silent water and left Harper floundering, he was heard urging those around him to put their faith in Jesus Christ. It was the night of April 14, 1912, a night for heroes, and John Harper met the challenge. Though the waters swallowing him were bitterly cold and the sea about him was dark, John Harper left this world in a brilliant blaze of glory.

Premise/plot: Most of this one is a reprint of a much, much older title: John Harper: A Man of God (1912). The first chapter tells the essentials of the story of this Christian hero. The remaining chapters are written by a diverse group: John Climie, George Harper, eleven assorted preachers and missionaries, and an assorted gathering of testimonies of his converts. The book also includes, I believe, four sermon outlines by John Harper.

My thoughts: I have no doubt that demand was high for a book about John Harper in the year or two following the Titanic disaster. But I have to say that the book is uneven in quality. The first few chapters were really insightful and interesting. But most were not. The chapters written by eleven different pastors/evangelists/missionaries were essentially fillers. Like someone had put out an advertisement: have you ever spoken to John Harper? have you ever been in the same room with him? how would you like to be published in a book?! That is a bit mean of me, I suppose. But I really wish that the publisher had not made such a BOLD and DRAMATIC subtitle. It promises more than it can deliver.

That being said, I think there's room for a NEW book about John Harper that gathers the facts of his life and ministry. Perhaps a picture book for older readers?! I think this story would lend well to illustration. It would be lovely to gather together select quotes from John Harper and others that knew and loved him. I think the bare facts of the story are inspiring.
“Oh that we could only have more faith in a loving, living Savior, and that we would only open our hearts wide enough to receive more of His sweet, consuming, constraining, heart-piercing love, and oh! That we would open our ears to hear the sweet voice of the Bridegroom as He whispers to our souls, ‘Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away, and leave the fleeting phantoms of this fleeting day.’ And oh, that His soul-ravishing voice would so reach our cold hearts that we would be made to thirst and cry out for a closer fellowship with the crucified Savior.” ~ John Harper
Many of the men, women, and children who were left on the sinking ship screamed their way toward a dreadful silence. In contrast, a confident John Harper faced death with absolute assurance that Jesus had conquered death and given him the gift of eternal life. This assurance overcame the terror of drowning.
Harper’s heroism was not just one shining moment in an otherwise unheroic existence. He burned, wept, prayed, and worked unselfishly for others throughout his entire life. Harper reclaimed drunkards, gamblers, and former prize fighters for the Lord. As a pastor, he would sometimes spend the entire night in his church praying for his hundreds of members by name. Harper worked day and night, in homes and on the streets, pointing the downtrodden to a better life. He labored ceaselessly among the common people, seeking to care for them. 
In the End, There Were Only Two Classes of Passengers Following the sinking of the Titanic, the White Star office in Liverpool, England, placed a large board on either side of the main entrance. On one they printed in large letters, “KNOWN TO BE SAVED.” On the other, “KNOWN TO BE LOST.” When the Titanic’s voyage began, there were three classes of passengers. But when it ended, the number was reduced to only two—those who were “saved” by the rescue boats and those who were “lost” in the deep waters.
John Harper plunged into death with reckless abandon, knowing he would be among the lost passengers. But he had absolute confidence that his name would be on the “saved” list at the throne of God. 
During those fifty minutes, a young man from Scotland who was clinging to a board drifted near John Harper. Harper, who was struggling in the water as well, cried, “Are you saved?” The answer returned, “No.” Harper shouted words from the Bible: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.” Before responding, the man drifted away into the dark night. Later, the current brought them back in sight of each other. Once more the dying Harper shouted the question: “Are you saved?” Again the man answered, “No.” Harper repeated the words of Acts 16: 31. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.” Bereft of strength, Harper released his hold and sank downward into his watery grave. The man to whom whose soul Harper had with his last breath thrown a verbal lifeline was indeed saved. That man not only put his faith in Jesus Christ but also found himself rescued by the SS Carpathia’s lifeboats. In Hamilton, Ontario, four years later, this survivor whose identity remains a mystery (although some investigation might lead one to believe he was John “Jack” Stewart, one of the ship’s stewards), described what happened and testified that he was John Harper’s last convert. Harper’s final convert was won by Harper’s last words: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.”
An eager student of the Bible, Harper devoured the sacred Book. He meditated upon it. He used any commentary that would throw light upon it or that would help him to draw light from it. He yielded himself to its sway. He expounded it. Few could make better use of it than he “for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (II Timothy 3: 16). Whatever form of doctrine was found in it, he adhered to. This he did tenaciously. He held fast to the instruction it gave him. He esteemed it as his life. Whatever doctrine was not found in the Holy Scriptures, it mattered not how fancifully put, nor by whomsoever it was proclaimed, it found no place with him. “Thus saith the Lord” was his standby. He stood on the Rock of revelation. Men’s theories to him were sand. God’s Word was rock.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Week in Review: March 19-25

NIV Tozer Bible

  • Exodus 13-40
  • Esther
  • Song of Songs
  • Malachi
  • Acts
  • 1 Timothy
  • 2 Timothy

NLT Beyond Suffering

  • 2 Kings 
  • Isaiah 1-39
  • Matthew 10-18


  • Matthew 10-18


  • Matthew 10-18

Revised English Bible

  • Matthew 10-18

Christian Standard Bible

  • Matthew 10-18

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, March 24, 2017

Book Review: Reading the Bible Supernaturally

Reading the Bible Supernaturally. John Piper. 2017. Crossway. 320 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Reading the Bible Supernaturally is a companion book to John Piper's A Peculiar Glory. Don't worry if you haven't read it, though. He tells you just enough about the first book to situate readers for this second book. (What book should come first? It's almost like The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe and A Magician's Nephew. Almost. I would liken Reading the Bible Supernaturally to be The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe and A Peculiar Glory to A Magician's Nephew.)

This is John Piper writing so expect logic and clarity. He does a great job of explaining everything precisely and logically.

The book has three divisions: "The Ultimate Goal of Reading the Bible," "The Supernatural Act of Reading the Bible," and "The Natural Act of Reading the Bible Supernaturally."
"Part 1 poses the all-important question What does the Bible tell us is the ultimate goal of reading the Bible? I propose an answer with six implications and then devote ten chapters to unfolding and testing those implications. Part 2 works out the inference from part 1 that reading the Bible really must be a supernatural act, if God’s goals for our reading the Bible are to be reached. Finally, part 3 treats the practical outworking of such a claim in the seemingly ordinary human act of reading—the natural act of reading the Bible supernaturally."
So what does Piper see as the ultimate goal in reading the Bible?!
"The Bible itself shows that our ultimate goal in reading the Bible is that God’s infinite worth and beauty would be exalted in the everlasting, white-hot worship of the blood-bought bride of Christ from every people, language, tribe, and nation. In other words, each time we pick up the Bible to read, we should intend that reading would lead to this end. The way that we as individuals are caught up into this ultimate aim as we read the Bible becomes clear as we spell out six implications that flow from this proposed answer to our question. When we say that the ultimate goal of reading the Bible is that God’s infinite worth and beauty would be exalted in the everlasting, white-hot worship of the blood-bought bride of Christ from every people, language, tribe, and nation, we imply that: 1. the infinite worth and beauty of God are the ultimate value and excellence of the universe; 2. that the supremely authentic and intense worship of God’s worth and beauty is the ultimate aim of all his work and word; 3. that we should always read his word in order to see this supreme worth and beauty; 4. that we should aim in all our seeing to savor his excellence above all things; 5. that we should aim to be transformed by this seeing and savoring into the likeness of his beauty, 6. so that more and more people would be drawn into the worshiping family of God until the bride of Christ—across all centuries and cultures—is complete in number and beauty."
Why must the Bible be read supernaturally? What does Piper mean by this phrase?
"What I mean is that the act of reading, in order to be done as God intended, must be done in dependence on God’s supernatural help. The Bible gives two decisive reasons: Satan and sin. That is, we have a blinding enemy outside and a blinding disease inside. Together these two forces make it impossible for human beings to read the Bible, as God intended, without supernatural help. It seems to me that thousands of people approach the Bible with little sense of their own helplessness in reading the way God wants them to."
He continues,
"Bible reading that only collects facts, or relieves a guilty conscience, or gathers doctrinal arguments, or titillates esthetic literary tastes, or feeds historical curiosities—this kind of Bible reading Satan is perfectly happy to leave alone. He has already won the battle. But reading that hopes to see the supreme worth and beauty of God—reading that aims to be satisfied with all that God is for us in Christ, reading that seeks to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Ps. 34:8)—this reading Satan will oppose with all his might. And his might is supernatural. Therefore, any reading that hopes to overcome his blinding power will be a supernatural reading."
Ultimately he concludes,
"It is a miracle when God’s word is implanted in us, and it is a miracle when in it we taste the sweetness of God’s goodness. From that moment on, all our reading of God’s word is supposed to be an extension of that miracle in daily life—until we “grow up into salvation."
If the Bible is to be read supernaturally, what is natural about the process?
"God does not see for us. God enables us to see. We do the seeing. And the supernatural act of seeing “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” is by means of the natural act of seeing the story of the gospel written (or spoken) in natural human words." 
"All the human effort and skill that you can muster to construe the meaning of biblical passages will be called for. The glory is seen through the meaning of the text. And the meaning is found by reading and thinking. God is united to the man Jesus. The glory of God is united to the meaning of biblical texts. Therefore, when the miracle of seeing and savoring the glory of God happens, it is in the act of reading and thinking. We read. God reveals. God gives the supernatural miracle. We act the supernatural miracle."
In the final chapters of the book, he addresses this question: "How do you go about living the Christian life in such a way that you are actually doing the living, and yet another—the Holy Spirit—is decisively doing the living in and through your living?" His answers are all in acronyms.

I said Piper was logical, and, I meant it. I did. But also expect passion and enthusiasm. Piper's love of God, love of the Word, is apparent on every page of this book. Piper DELIGHTS in God and DELIGHTS in teaching others to delight in God too.

Here's one of my favorite passages:
"So we open our Bibles with a sweet sense that even though we don’t deserve it, God will lead us and instruct us. Our very reading is the experience of gospel grace. Christ died for sinners so that the promise would come true: God helps sinners understand the Bible. These blood-bought promises are given to us so that we might believe them. Not just hear them. Believe them. Trust them. Because, remember from Galatians 3:5, God “supplies the Spirit to you . . . by hearing with faith.” We stand before the Bible ready to read. We hear a promise. “I will instruct you and teach you.” We put our faith in it. The Spirit moves in the channel of faith, and we “act the miracle.” We read supernaturally. So it is good to gather some of these precious promises and store them up: The Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright. (Prov. 2:6–7) Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. (Prov. 3:5–6) I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you. (Ps. 32:8) You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. (Ps. 73:24) Do not be anxious about . . . what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say. (Luke 12:11–12) Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31–32) If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a doubleminded man, unstable in all his ways. (James 1:5–8)" 
And also this one:
"When we read the Bible, its meaning is not the ideas that come into our head that may be “meaningful” to us. Those ideas may or may not be part of what the author meant. Rather, when we read the Bible we are digging for the gold of what inspired writers wanted to communicate. We are not creating meaning. We are seeking it." 
A good book is worth reading and occasionally quoting. A great book is worth rereading and quoting liberally. This book is one of the best I've read this year. I will definitely want to reread it!!!

Favorite quotes:

  • "No one merely decides to experience the Christian Scriptures as the all-compelling, all-satisfying truth of one’s life. Seeing is a gift." 
  • "The ultimate aim of all Bible reading, I argue, is that God’s infinite worth and beauty would be exalted in everlasting, white-hot worship. There is nothing higher than the worth and beauty of God."
  • "Lukewarm affection for God gives the impression that he is moderately pleasing. He is not moderately pleasing. He is infinitely pleasing. If we are not intensely pleased, we need forgiveness and healing. Which, of course, we do."
  • "Emotions for God that do not spring from seeing God cannot honor God."
  • "If there is no true seeing of the glory of God, there can be no true savoring of the glory of God. And without savoring—delighting, cherishing, enjoying, treasuring—there will be no true transformation into the image of God. And if the people of God fail to be transformed into the image of Christ—from glory to glory—the ultimate purpose of God will fail. That cannot happen. God cannot fail in his ultimate purpose. Therefore, if we would be part of his Christ-reflecting, Christ-exalting family, we must read the Bible in order to see his glory—and then savor him above all things."
  • "It is also clear from Scripture that God uses not only pleasant emotions in response to seeing his glory, but also painful emotions. These too come from seeing the glory of God in Scripture. And these too are meant to be transforming, in their own way. They are meant to bring about change in a more indirect way, driving us away from destructive sins, in the hope that we will be drawn positively by the superior satisfaction of God’s holiness. God does not cease to be glorious when he disciplines his children. Yet this glory leads us first to sorrow. And then, through sorrow and repentance, to joy. God does not cease to be glorious when he says to those who are entangled in sin, “Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you” (James 4:9–10). His aim is that we enjoy the experience of “he will exalt you.” But on the way there, God’s strategy may be rebuke. It is fitting. Together with all God’s ways and purposes, it too is part of his peculiar glory. It may stretch the ordinary meaning of language, but this too we should “savor.” “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness” (James 1:2–3). There are foods that blend the sour and the sweet in such a way as to make the sweet all the richer."
  • "Our Bible reading is never just for seeing, never just for learning and doctrine. It is not even just for savoring, if that savoring is thought of in a private way that leaves us unchanged in our relationship with others. No. We read the Bible—we always read the Bible—for the kind of seeing and savoring Christ that transforms us into his likeness."
  • "The ultimate purpose of God—to be worshiped with white-hot affection by a redeemed people, complete in number and beauty—will be accomplished by the one who “works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Eph. 1:11). There is no doubt about it. He cannot fail. And he will do it by his Spirit through his word. Through the reading of the Scriptures."
  • "If we are going to read the Scriptures about Jesus and see him and savor him and be transformed into his image, it will not be by mere human means. It will be a “blessing” that opens the eyes of our hearts to see his all satisfying glory for what it really is."
  • "Life is war. And the main battles are fought at the level of desires, not deeds."
  • "The great, central, all-pervading message of the Bible is that God is to be loved above all things, and with all that we are" 
  • "The meaning of a biblical text is what the author intended to communicate by his words...To read with the aim of creating your own meaning, instead of finding the author’s meaning, leaves you trapped in the tiny world of self."

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, March 23, 2017

My Year with Henry #12

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.

Nehemiah 4

  • God has many ways of bringing to light, and so of bringing to naught, the devices and designs of his church’s enemies. If our enemies cannot frighten us from duty, or deceive us into sin, they cannot hurt us.
  • We must watch always against spiritual enemies, and not expect that our warfare will be over till our work is ended.
  • The word of God is the sword of the Spirit, which we ought to have always at hand, and never to have to seek for it, either in our labors, or in our conflicts, as Christians. Every true Christian is both a laborer and a soldier, working with one hand, and fighting with the other.

Acts 14

  • The apostles spake so plainly, with such evidence and proof of the Spirit, and with such power; so warmly, and with such concern for the souls of men; that those who heard them could not but say, God was with them of a truth. Yet the success was not to be reckoned to the manner of their preaching, but to the Spirit of God who used that means.
  • God has a shelter for his people in a storm; he is, and will be their Hiding-place.
  • The most powerful arguments, the most earnest and affectionate addresses, even with miracles, are scarcely enough to keep men from absurdities and abominations; much less can they, without special grace, turn the hearts of sinners to God and to holiness.
  • So strong is the bent of the corrupt and carnal heart, that as it is with great difficulty that men are kept back from evil on one side, so it is with great ease they are persuaded to evil on the other side. 
  • All who are converted need to be confirmed in the faith; all who are planted need to be rooted.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Book Review: A Stolen Heart

A Stolen Heart. Amanda Cabot. 2017. Revell. 352 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: No matter what anyone said, she wouldn't believe this was a mistake.

Premise/plot: Lydia Crawford is following her heart--following a promise--to Cimarron Creek, Texas. But when this Yankee arrives in town she discovers a couple of things: her "fiancé" is missing, her "fiancé" is is someone's husband, he's soon to be a father in fact! (Also the town's sheriff is REALLY cute, not that she's ready to trust ANY man right now.)

The sheriff, the obvious hero of the tale, is Travis Whitfield. He points her in the direction of his great-aunt Bertha. There isn't a boarding house or hotel for this oh-so-beautiful Yankee girl to stay. But Bertha would make her feel quite welcome, he's sure!

One other thing Lydia learns is that acceptance doesn't come easy. Travis and Bertha and Catherine (a cousin, I believe) welcome her sure. But everyone else in town--including Travis' father--see her as a trouble-maker, a carpetbagger, a devil-in-disguise. That is until she wins them over with her confectionary skills. What Cimarron Creek needs is a candy store. What western town would be complete without a candy store? Peanut brittle and fudge and lemon drops are essentials, you know!

But all is not sweet in the town. Trouble lurks. Well jealousy more like it. Perhaps a touch of insanity as well. Someone in town has a grudge against the sheriff….

My thoughts: I really found this a quick, enjoyable, oh-so-satisfying read. I loved Bertha. I loved Lydia. I loved Opal. I liked Catherine. And Travis? Well, he made for a good hero. I do wish, in a way, that there would be romance books out there where the hero and heroine weren't described as being the most amazingly beautiful people ever to grace the earth. Why can't heroes and heroines ever be average looking? Why the need for perfection? Still, I can't find fault with A Stolen Heart for that. I think 98% of romance books are guilty of that!!!

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

My Year with Owen #12

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).

Bring your lust to the gospel--not for relief, but for further conviction of its guilt. ~ John Owen
Consider the infinite patience and forbearance of God toward you in particular. ~ John Owen
Get a constant longing, breathing after deliverance from the power of it. Suffer not your heart one moment to be contented with your present frame and condition. ~ John Owen
Longing, breathing, and panting after deliverance is a grace in itself, that has a mighty power to conform the soul into the likeness of the thing longed after. ~ John Owen
Assure yourself, unless you long for deliverance you shall not have it. ~ John Owen
Consider whether the distemper with which you are perplexed be not rooted in your nature, and cherished, fomented, and heightened from your constitution. ~ John Owen
Consider what occasions, what advantages your distemper has taken to exert and put forth itself, and watch against them all. ~ John Owen
Know that he that dares to dally with occasions of sin will dare to sin. He that will venture upon temptations unto wickedness will venture upon wickedness. ~ John Owen
Rise mightily against the first actings of your distemper, its first conceptions; suffer it not to get the least ground. ~ John Owen
If it have allowance for one step, it will take another. It is impossible to fix bounds to sin. It is like water in a channel--if it once breaks out, it will have its course. ~ John Owen

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, March 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?
I've read Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan. Another recent book with plenty of quotes from the 'cloud of witnesses' is NEW CITY CATECHISM DEVOTIONAL. I reviewed it earlier today.

If we, then, are not our own but the Lord’s, it is clear what error we must flee, and whither we must direct all the acts of our life. We are not our own: let not our reason nor our will, therefore, sway our plans and deeds. We are not our own: let us therefore not set it as our goal to seek what is expedient for us. . . . We are not our own: in so far as we can, let us forget ourselves and all that is ours. Conversely, we are God’s: let us therefore live for him and die for him. We are God’s: let his wisdom and will therefore rule all our actions. We are God’s: let all the parts of our life accordingly strive toward him as our only lawful goal. O, how much has that man profited who, having been taught that he is not his own, has taken away dominion and rule from his own reason that he may yield it to God! For, as consulting our self-interest is the pestilence that most effectively leads to our destruction, so the sole haven of salvation is to be wise in nothing and to will nothing through ourselves but to follow the leading of the Lord alone. ~ John Calvin

The Creator of the world is doubtless also the Governor of it. He that had power to give being to the world, and set all the parts of it in order, has doubtless power to dispose of the world, to continue the order he has constituted, or to alter it. He that first gave the laws of nature, must have all nature in his hands; so that it is evident God has the world in his hands, to dispose of as he pleases. . . . And it is manifest, in fact, that God is not careless how the affairs and concerns of the world he has made proceed, because he was not careless of this matter in the creation itself; as it is apparent, by the manner and order in which things were created, that God, in creating, took care of the future progress and state of things in the world. ~ Jonathan Edwards

The glory of God is the first thing that God’s children should desire. It is the object of one of our Lord’s own prayers: “Father, glorify thy name” (John 12:28). It is the purpose for which the world was created. It is the end for which the saints are called and converted. It is the chief thing we should seek, that “God in all things may be glorified” (1 Pet. 4:11). . . . Anything whereby we may glorify God is a talent, our gifts, our influence, our money, our knowledge, our health, our strength, our time, our senses, our reason, our intellect, our memory, our affections, our privileges as members of Christ’s Church, our advantages as possessors of the Bible,—all, all are talents. Whence came these things? What hand bestowed them? Why are we what we are? Why are we not the worms that crawl on the earth? There is only one answer to these questions. All that we have is a loan from God. We are God’s stewards. We are God’s debtors. Let this thought sink deeply into our hearts. ~ J.C. Ryle 

God leads men to see that the God revealed in Scripture, and manifested in the person of the Lord Jesus, is the God who made heaven and earth. Man fashions for himself a god after his own liking; he makes to himself if not out of wood or stone, yet out of what he calls his own consciousness, or his cultured thought, a deity to his taste, who will not be too severe with his iniquities or deal out strict justice to the impenitent. He rejects God as he is, and elaborates other gods, such as he thinks the Divine One ought to be, and he says concerning these works of his own imagination, “These be thy gods, O Israel!” The Holy Spirit, however, when he illuminates their minds, leads us to see that Jehovah is God, and beside him there is none else. He teaches his people to know that the God of heaven and earth is the God of the Bible, a God whose attributes are completely balanced, mercy attended by justice, love accompanied by holiness, grace arrayed in truth, and power linked with tenderness. He is not a God who winks at sin, much less is pleased with it, as the gods of the heathen are supposed to be, but a God who cannot look upon iniquity, and will by no means spare the guilty. This is the great quarrel of the present day between the philosopher and the Christian. The philosopher says, “Yes, a god if you will, but he must be of such a character as I now dogmatically set before you”; but the Christian replies, “Our business is not to invent a god, but to obey the one Lord who is revealed in the Scriptures of truth.” ~ Charles Spurgeon

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Book Review: The New City Catechism

The New City Catechism Devotional. Collin Hansen, ed. Introduction by Timothy Keller. 2017. Crossway. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Doctrine matters. Everyone's a theologian. You've probably heard these truths or insights in passing. Perhaps you've even given it a little thought. Perhaps you've made a resolution or two or three. Maybe it's on your one-day-I-will-figure-this-stuff-out list.

Everyone should be able to give an answer for the hope that they have. And catechisms--as out of favor as they are in some denominations--might be the way to go.
"Catechisms were written with at least three purposes. The first was to set forth a comprehensive exposition of the gospel—not only in order to explain clearly what the gospel is, but also to lay out the building blocks on which the gospel is based, such as the biblical doctrines of God, of human nature, of sin, and so forth. The second purpose was to do this exposition in such a way that the heresies, errors, and false beliefs of the time and culture were addressed and counteracted. The third and more pastoral purpose was to form a distinct people, a counterculture that reflected the likeness of Christ not only in individual character but also in the church’s communal life." (from the introduction)
The New City Catechism is 52 questions and answers. Questions 1-20 cover "God, Creation and Fall, Law." Questions 21-35 cover "Christ, Redemption, Grace." Questions 21-35 cover "Spirit, Restoration, Growing in Grace."

I loved the way this devotional is arranged: first the question and answer; second, a Bible verse; third, commentary from a 'witness' (theologian now in glory); fourth, commentary from a contemporary theologian; and finally, a closing prayer.

Three sample questions and answers:
  • What is sin? Sin is rejecting or ignoring God in the world he created, rebelling against him by living without reference to him, not being or doing what he requires in his law—resulting in our death and the disintegration of all creation.
  • How can we be saved? Only by faith in Jesus Christ and in his substitutionary atoning death on the cross; so even though we are guilty of having disobeyed God and are still inclined to all evil, nevertheless, God, without any merit of our own but only by pure grace, imputes to us the perfect righteousness of Christ when we repent and believe in him.
  • What is faith in Jesus Christ? Faith in Jesus Christ is acknowledging the truth of everything that God has revealed in his Word, trusting in him, and also receiving and resting on him alone for salvation as he is offered to us in the gospel.
An example of the contemporary commentary:
"It is spectacularly wonderful to talk about God, to think about him. There cannot be any higher subject. But the word God itself is not an empty cipher. Just because somebody uses the word God and then somebody else uses the word God, it does not follow that they mean the same thing. God, for some, is an inexpressible feeling, or it’s the unmoved cause at the beginning of the universe, or it’s a being full of transcendence. But we’re talking about the God of the Bible, and the God of the Bible is self-defined. He talks about himself as being eternal and righteous. He’s the God of love. He’s the God of transcendence; that is, he’s above space and time and history. Yet he is the immanent God; that is, he is so much with us that we cannot possibly escape from him. He is everywhere. He is unchangeable. He is truthful. He is reliable. He’s personal. What’s really important to see and understand, as God has disclosed himself not only in words but in the whole storyline of the Bible’s narrative, is that we are not permitted to take one attribute of God and make everything of it. We cannot, let’s say, take his sovereignty and forget his goodness. Or take his goodness and forget his holiness (his holiness is what makes him the God of judgment). Or take his judgment, even the severity of his judgment, and forget that he’s the God of love, the God who has so much loved even his rebellious creatures that ultimately he sent his Son to bear their sin in his own body on the tree. In other words, to get to the heart of who God is and to bow before him in some small measure of genuine understanding, it’s important to think through what the Bible says again and again and integrate the whole with the same balance and proportion that Scripture itself gives. That calls us to worship. And if we put anything else in the place of God, that is the very definition of idolatry." ~ D.A. Carson
An example of the 'theologian in glory' commentary:
Sin is a fundamental relationship; it is not wrong doing, it is wrong being, deliberate and emphatic independence of God. The Christian religion bases everything on the positive, radical nature of sin. Other religions deal with sins; the Bible alone deals with sin. The first thing Jesus Christ faced in men was the heredity of sin, and it is because we have ignored this in our presentation of the Gospel that the message of the Gospel has lost its sting and its blasting power. ~ Oswald Chambers
Three examples of closing prayer:

  • Merciful Lord, we are corrupt in our very natures. We are sons and daughters of the first Adam who desire what you forbid. Give us a new nature through new birth in Christ, the second Adam, that we might be able to keep your law in the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
  • Creator God, forgive us for worshiping the things you have made. No person or thing should be our hope or our trust. You alone are self-existent and all sufficient. May you be our all in all. Amen.
  • Righteous Lord, if we think that we are good, we deceive ourselves. We deserve your wrath. We have broken your commands and we have not loved you with our whole hearts, minds, and strength. We can only plead the righteousness of Christ and ask you to let our punishment fall on him. Amen. Is there any way to escape punishment and be brought back into God’s favor? Yes, to satisfy his justice, God himself, out of mere mercy, reconciles us to himself and delivers us from sin and from the punishment for sin, by a Redeemer. 

I loved, loved, LOVED, LOVED this one. It's so very good. I think everyone should have a copy of this one. I love the catechism. I think the questions are very straightforward and capture the essentials of the faith. I think they're relevant questions too. The how-then-should-I-live questions. I think the organization of this one is excellent. I love the blend of old and new. I'm already excited about rereading this one!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Week in Review: March 12-18

NIV Tozer Bible

  • Exodus 1-12
  • 2 Chronicles 
  • Ezra
  • Nehemiah
  • Psalm 73-150
  • Isaiah 40-66
  • Haggai
  • Zechariah
  • Luke 


  • Matthew 10-18


  • Matthew 10-18


  • Matthew 10-18


  • Matthew 10-18

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, March 17, 2017

Why There Won't Be A Book Review Today

After eight or so years of not sewing even one thing…I decided to try my hand at sewing Bible covers again. This is something I have really missed, off and on, but seven in one week may have a little too obsessive!!!

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, March 16, 2017

My year with Henry #11

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.
In all our approaches to God, by praise as well as by prayer, it is good for us to eye him as a Father, and to fasten on that relation, not only when we ask for the mercies we want, but when we give thanks for the mercies we have received. Mercies are then doubly sweet, and powerful to enlarge the heart in praise, when they are received as tokens of a Father’s love, and gifts of a Father’s hand; Giving thanks to the Father, Col. 1:12. It becomes children to be grateful, and to say, Thank you, father, as readily as, Pray, father.
When we come to God as a Father, we must withal remember, that he is Lord of heaven and earth; which obliges us to come to him with reverence, as to the sovereign Lord of all, and yet with confidence, as one able to do for us whatever we need or can desire; to defend us from all evil and to supply us with all good.
Observe, The Father has delivered his all into the hands of the Lord Jesus; let us but deliver our all into his hand and the work is done; God has made him the great Referee, the blessed Daysman, to lay his hand upon us both; that which we have to do is to agree to the reference, to submit to the arbitration of the Lord Jesus, for the taking up of this unhappy controversy, and to enter into bonds to stand to his award.
The happiness of men lies in an acquaintance with God; it is life eternal, it is the perfection of rational beings.
Those who would have an acquaintance with God, must apply themselves to Jesus Christ; for the light of the knowledge of the glory of God shines in the face of Christ, 2 Cor. 4:6. We are obliged to Christ for all the revelation we have of God the Father’s will and love, ever since Adam sinned; there is no comfortable intercourse between a holy God and sinful man, but in and by a Mediator, John 14:6.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Book Review: Through the Eyes of a Lion

Through the Eyes of a Lion. Levi Lusko. 2015. Thomas Nelson. 240 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence (from introduction): It is early morning, and I am walking along the waterfront in Seattle near the Pike Place Market. Bracing myself against the damp, chilly air, I zip my leather jacket up to my throat but still feel the wind cut daggers through me. I will them to run me through. Clouds fill all of the visible sky—dark, menacing, and turbulent. My hands are burning. I start to run. Can I outrun this? I run until my legs burn too. The sky matches my soul. Seattle is a good place to be sad. I will never walk her down the aisle. She will never have a baby. She lost only one tooth. She will never read a chapter book. Memories from only thirty days ago race past like flood-waters and sweep me off my feet. It’s as though I am in an abandoned movie theater inside my mind, being forced to watch archival footage from a horror movie that is my life.

Premise/plot: Levi Lusko shares the lessons he's learned from his pain and grief. His five year old daughter died a few days before Christmas of a bad asthma attack. He preached the Christmas sermon--he is a pastor--and buried his daughter the next day. The book was written several years, I believe, after this huge loss. It is a book about grief, in part, but more than anything it's a book about living each day with hope because Jesus rose again.

He writes, "You must learn to see life through the eyes of a Lion. Doing so is to utilize the telescope of faith, which will not only allow you to perceive the invisible—it will give you the strength to do the impossible."

His message: As long as you have breath, LIVE. Live for God. "There are things God intends for you to accomplish that no one else has been chosen for. Words he wants you to speak. Actions that speak louder than words. And through it all, he wants you to leave a mark, to put a dent in the universe."

My thoughts: This one has some good insights. His writing is engaging. I liked it well enough most of the time. I definitely stumbled across some bad theology in this one. In particular, he seems to very oh-so-casually challenge God's sovereignty. And he is DEFINITELY not Reformed.
When things don’t go our way, we get sad and can be grieved, just like God. This might surprise you, but God doesn’t always get what he wants, and neither do we. Jesus knocks at the doors of our hearts, and we have to invite him inside in order to be saved. He is a gentleman, so he knocks. He won’t go all SEAL Team Six and kick the door down. He gives us the dignity and responsibility of making our own decisions.
But just because I disagree with him on a few things doesn't mean I didn't benefit from his insights in other areas.

Favorite quotes:
We do a disservice anytime we try to rush people through the process of grief, as though it were spiritual to put a happy face on a horrible thing. Masking pain doesn’t heal it any faster; it actually slows it down and stunts your rehabilitation. Expecting someone to bounce back as some sort of benchmark of holiness is kind of like asking a person who has had an arm amputated if he is over it yet.
People commonly say “Rest in peace” or “RIP” as a final salvo over a grave. God has three different words for you to hold onto in faith as you approach the death of believers. Those three words are “Raised in power!”
The most important battle is the one you fight within, in your mind and heart, to not give up. If you give up hope, you won’t have the motivation to do anything else in a critical situation.
Pain is a microphone. And the more it hurts, the louder you get. Suffering isn’t an obstacle to being used by God. It is an opportunity to be used like never before.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

My Year with Owen #11

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).

Slight thoughts of grace, of mercy, of the blood of Christ, of the law, heaven, and hell, come all in at the same season. ~ John Owen

To have peace with God, to have strength to walk before God, is the sum of the great promises of the covenant of grace. ~ John Owen

Consider who and what you are; who the Spirit is that is grieved, what he has done for you, what he comes to your soul about, what he has already done in you; and be ashamed. ~ John Owen

Among those who walk with God, there is no greater motive and incentive unto universal holiness, and the preserving of their hearts and spirits in all purity and cleanness, than this, that the blessed Spirit, who has undertaken to dwell in them, is continually considering what they give entertainment in their hearts unto, and rejoices when his temple is kept undefiled. ~ John Owen

Load your conscience with the guilt of it. Not only consider that it has a guilt, but load your conscience with the guilt of its actual eruptions and disturbances. ~ John Owen

Bring the holy law of God into your conscience, lay your corruption to it, pray that you may be affected with it. Consider the holiness, spirituality, fiery severity, inwardness, absoluteness of the law, and see how you can stand before it. ~ John Owen

If ever you will mortify your corruptions, you must tie up your conscience to the law, shut it from all shifts and exceptions, until it owns its guilt with a clear and thorough apprehension. ~ John Owen© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, March 13, 2017

Journaling 1984

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

I have started reading 1984 by George Orwell. I began taking notes almost from the start, so I thought I would share my thoughts as I read. In addition to my thoughts, I will be including quotes from the book, and, as relevant quotes from Scripture.

Chapter one is all about the world-building. It introduces readers to the concepts of the Party, Big Brother, the telescreen, the two minutes of Hate and Hate Week, the three slogans, the three nations, and the four ministries of Oceania. The three slogans are: War is peace; freedom is slavery; ignorance is strength. (7) The three nations are: Oceania, Eastasia, and Eurasia. The four ministries are: Ministry of Truth, Ministry of Peace, Ministry of Love, and Ministry of Plenty.* It also introduces readers to the main character, Winston Smith. (Other characters mentioned: O'Brien, a potential friend or enemy; a nameless woman, a coworker; and Emmanuel Goldstein, the biggest enemy of the state.**)

In this first chapter, Winston writes in a diary for the first time. The crime isn't the writing down of his ideas--though that would be enough to lead to his death--but the thinking of his own ideas in the first place. Thoughtcrime. Winston realizes in this first chapter, that it's just a matter of time before he's killed by the Party. He can't stop thinking. And one day his thoughts will be revealed either on his face, in his mannerisms, or in his words and actions.
How could one communicate with the future? Either the future would resemble the present in which case it would not listen to him, or it would be different from it, and his predicament would be meaningless. (10)
Winston is not automatically lovable as a character. I don't know how much is just pure sin-nature and how much is brainwashing, but the fact that he fantasizes about raping a coworker is disturbing. So far, it's just the one fantasy we witness, but still.

Hate. Two minutes of hate. Every day, or at least every work day, they participate in two minutes of hate. A film, I believe, is shown. And this film--this propaganda--is used to stir up feelings of hate and rage. To rally everyone around a common enemy, someone--something--to hate passionately.
The horrible thing about the two minutes hate was not that one was obliged to act a part, but that it was impossible to avoid joining in. (16)
Today, we don't officially have a "two minutes of hate" built into our workdays. (Though one could argue that most people can find a common enemy to hate.) But hate is programmed into us all the same.  Oh, it's frowned upon to hate some things. The key is to hate what everyone else hates and to love what everyone else loves. We're not really free to hate freely, nor encouraged to love freely. Social media can at times encourage people to be proud of their hate and anger.
Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. Isaiah 5:20
What does the Scripture have to say about hate?
  • Let those who love the Lord hate evil, for he guards the lives of his faithful ones and delivers them from the hand of the wicked. Psalm 97:10
  • I will not look with approval on anything that is vile. I hate what faithless people do; I will have no part in it. Psalm 101:3
  • To fear the Lord is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech. Proverbs 8:13
  • “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Luke 6:27-28
  • If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. John 15:19
  • Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Romans 12:9
  • At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone. Titus 3:3-8
  • Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 1 John 4:20
I'm not generally a fan of  the "What Would Jesus Do?" brand. But would Jesus participate in two minutes of hate? Would he join in with the crowd and follow their mob-like passionate hate? I don't think so!

The Telescreen. Big Brother. And the idea that someone is always, always watching and judging you. This is a terrifying aspect of the book because it is the PARTY who is doing the watching and judging. The party is arbitrary, unpredictable, untrustworthy. NOT someone you want in your head.
The telescreen received and transmitted simultaneously. Any sound that Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it; moreover, so long as he remained within the field of vision which the metal plaque commanded, he could be seen as well as heard. There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. (6)
You had to live--did live, from habit that became instinct--in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized. (7)
It is true that there is someone always watching, always weighing, always judging. But this someone is GOD. IF and only if you're in right relationship with Him, this is both comforting and convicting.
Hebrews 4:13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
Psalm 139:1-12 You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.
But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. Matthew 12:36
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. 2 Corinthians 5:10
Knowledge of this leads to fear of God. And the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. I think many have lost this notion of fearing God. Of seeing God as completely and overwhelmingly other--completely HOLY.
“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” Isaiah 6:5
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.” Hebrews 12:28-29
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. Proverbs 9:10
It is comforting if you trust the Lord. God has revealed himself in the Word to be entirely trustworthy, praiseworthy. Good. Faithful. Merciful. Compassionate. Just. Wise. Loving. Unchanging. But also still convicting. Fear of the Lord leaves you humble. And humility is a virtue. It also makes you teachable and usable.

Is the average person giving any thought to the idea that God is omniscient? I include Christians and nonChristians in this question. I think even with Christians, this is one of those doctrines we don't live in light of. That is to say, we affirm it in a creed but don't live by it day by day by day. God is omnipresent. Always with us. Always everywhere. We cannot escape his presence. Light, dark, day, night makes no difference. Our God doesn't sleep. And he isn't ignoring us or disinterested.

Talking about a day of judgment isn't popular. (Has it ever been?) But I think it is necessary to go there--to think uncomfortable thoughts and ponder where you stand before the Lord Almighty.
Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Isaiah 55:6
I'll close this section with a few Lutzer quotes:
Five minutes after you die you will either have had your first glimpse of heaven with its euphoria and bliss or your first genuine experience of unrelenting horror and regret. Either way, your future will be irrevocably fixed and eternally unchangeable. In those moments, you will be more alive than you ever have been. ~ Erwin Lutzer
Entering hell is easy enough. All that one has to do is neglect Christ, the only one who can save us. ~ Erwin Lutzer

*Ministry of Truth = news, entertainment, education, fine arts; ministry of peace = manages wars; ministry of love = law and order; ministry of platy = economic affairs.

**Emmanuel Goldstein = advocates freedom of speech, press, assembly, thought

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Week in Review: March 5-11

NIV Pursuit of God (Tozer)

  • Genesis 16-50
  • 1 Chronicles 12-29
  • Psalms 10-72
  • Isaiah 1-39
  • Matthew 10-18
  • Mark 6-16
  • Romans
  • James
  • 1 Peter
  • 2 Peter
  • Jude


  • Mark 
  • Titus
  • Philemon
  • 1 Peter
  • 2 Peter


  • Matthew 10-18


  • Matthew 10-18 (2)

NLT Beyond Suffering Bible

  • Matthew

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, March 10, 2017

Book Review: And the Beagles and the Bunnies Shall Lie Down Together

And the Beagles and the Bunnies Shall Lie Down Together. Charles M. Schulz. 1984. 100ish pages. [Source: Gift]

Confession: I love Linus. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Linus. I know I have some competition because every girl wants Linus to be their own Sweet Baboo. One of my favorite things about Linus is that he's a theologian, a true thinker, a true observer.

This book is a collection of Peanuts comic strips that deal--in one way or another--with theology. At the very least, it shares comic strips that quote Scripture. At its best, it shares comic strips which reflect Scripture.

The book doesn't focus on Linus exclusively. There's plenty of Lucy, Charlie Brown, Linus, and Sally. (Plus Snoopy, of course. Let's not forget that Snoopy KNOWS Scripture too and uses it quite well to get what he wants from Charlie Brown.)

Early on, readers see that Linus identifies himself as a prophet. On the copyright page, you'll see Linus carrying a sign that says PROPHET. And one of the earliest comic strips in this one is about how he wants to be a prophet when he grows up.
Linus: When I grow up, I think I'll be a great prophet. I'll speak profound truths but no one will listen to me…
Charlie Brown: If you known ahead of time that no one is going to listen to you, why speak?
Linus: We prophets are very stubborn.
My absolute FAVORITE, FAVORITE strip features Lucy and Linus. It's RAINING heavily.
Lucy: Boy, look at it rain…What if it floods the whole world?
Linus: It will never do that…in the ninth chapter of Genesis, God promised Noah that would never happen again, and the sign of the promise is the rainbow…
Lucy: You've taken a great load off my mind…
Linus: Sound theology has a way of doing that!
This one is definitely recommended. Not every strip is WONDERFUL. But many are worth a smile at least. And some are truly worth treasuring!

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible