Friday, June 30, 2017

Book Review: The Cross

The Cross: God's Way of Salvation. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. 1986. Crossway. 224 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence from the introduction: Can you remember what you were doing when you heard the news that President Kennedy had been assassinated?

Premise/plot: In the fall of 1963, Martyn Lloyd-Jones was preaching a sermon series on Galatians 6:14 which reads, ‘God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me and I unto the world.’ These sermons have been published in book form as The Cross. Lloyd-Jones did not interrupt his sermon series to address the assassination of President Kennedy, but, it did trouble him and he incorporated it into his next sermon.

The Cross features nine sermons: "The Wondrous Cross," "The Acid Test," "The Wisdom of God," "Love Not the World," "The Triumph of the Cross," "He Is Our Peace," "The Cross of Christ Speaks," "A New Nature," and "Bought Out and Set Free." All nine sermons share a single Scripture verse as their basis. All nine sermons are Christ-centered. All nine sermons include an invitation to unbelievers.

My thoughts: I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED this collection of sermons. Martyn Lloyd-Jones has yet to disappoint. He was quite the preacher. His sermons were never me, me, me but always Christ, Christ, Christ. I believe that this book would be a great book for new believers. I believe that it would be a great book for those new to Martyn Lloyd-Jones' work. I think this one would give you a very solid impression of who he was, what he taught, and what he saw as essential. Would I go so far as to say this book is an essential must-read? I think I would! I don't say that lightly. I know that not every believer reads as a hobby. I know that not every believer has an interest in theology. But this book is what it's all about--these sermons explain the gospel and explain it in such a simple yet passionate way that it invites you to be a part of God's family. These are compelling sermons. They are not apologetic in nature. That's not what I mean. Nor are they packed with long hard-to-pronounce words proving in every paragraph that he was a scholar and that Christianity is for intellectuals. The sermons are practical and the very stuff of life.

From "The Wondrous Cross"

  • How do you differentiate between the true and the false? The Apostle has answered the question in this epistle, as he has answered it in other epistles. As indeed the whole of the Bible answers it. What then is the true message? What is the Christian gospel? What is it about? What does it proclaim? What has it got to say to us? How can a man be right with God? How can I sow to the Spirit? How can I reap life everlasting? What have I got to do in this life and in this world which will render me immune to what may happen round and about me, which would enable me to smile in the face of death, which already assures me that I have nothing to fear when I come to the judgement of God, and which guarantees me everlasting and eternal bliss in the glory indescribable? What have I got to do? How can I get to that position? Here, very fortunately for us, the great apostle answers the question.
  • The preaching of the cross, the preaching of the death of the Lord Jesus Christ on that cross is the very heart and centre of the Christian gospel and the Christian message. 
  • What is the message of the Christian gospel, and of the Christian church? Now at the risk of being misunderstood I will put it like this. It is not primarily the teaching of our Lord. I say that, of course, because there are so many today who think that this is Christianity. They say: ‘What we need is Jesus’s teaching. He is the greatest religious genius of all times. He is above all the philosophers. Let us have a look at his teaching, at the Sermon on the Mount and so on. That is what we want. What the world needs today,’ they say, ‘is a dose of the Sermon on the Mount. A dose of his ethical teaching. We must preach this to people and teach them how to live.’ But according to the apostle Paul, that is not their first need. And I will go further. If you only preach the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ, not only do you not solve the problem of mankind, in a sense you even aggravate it. You are preaching nothing but utter condemnation, because nobody can ever carry it out.
  • If he had not died upon the cross, nobody would ever have been saved. There would be no gospel to preach. It is the saving event. It is the act whereby our salvation is accomplished.
  • So the cross is the centre of apostolic preaching because it is the thing that saves us. It does not ask us to save ourselves, it does not tell us to do something that will save us, it says it is done, it has happened, it was happening there. That is the gospel. There is the event which saves us. It is a saving event, that is why he glories in it and that is why he preached it. 
  • You will never understand the significance of what happened there until you are clear about who it was that was dying there. Who is this person in the middle nailed to a tree?
  • My friends, the Son of God is there dying on that cross because he came from heaven into this world in order to die. That is why he came. He was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death. He took on human nature in order that he might die. It is not an accident. It is not something to be explained away. It is essential. He came to give his life a ransom for many.
  • But why did he do this? The answer is here in the whole of the Bible, from beginning to end. It is here in this one verse. He came because you and I and all mankind are guilty and under the condemnation of a Holy God. He came to deliver us from this world which is doomed to disaster and final destruction, ‘by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.’ We all belong to the world. We are men of the world, we are born in the world, and we will bear the world’s fate, unless he can deliver us. That is why he did it.
  • ‘For God so loved the world, that he gave ...’; ‘... the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.’ This is the preaching of the cross. It is the cross that saves me. What am I to do? You and I have only one thing to do. I have nothing to do but to believe this message. Nothing else. Do not tell me you are going to live a better life. You have not seen the truth if you say that. Do not tell me you are going to be a better man, or a better woman. Do not tell me that you are going to stop this or that. You have not seen it. You have only one thing to do.
  • I know the most important thing about every single one of you, and that is that each of you is a vile sinner. I do not care who you are, because all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. I do not care what particular form your sin takes. There is a great deal of attention paid to that today. The preacher is not interested in that. I do not want a catalogue of your sins. I do not care what your sins are. They can be very respectable or they can be heinous, vile, foul, filthy. It does not matter, thank God. But what I have authority to tell you is this. Though you may be the vilest man or woman ever known, and though you may until this moment have lived your life in the gutters and the brothels of sin in every shape and form, I say this to you: be it known unto you that through this man, this Lord Jesus Christ, is preached unto you the forgiveness of sin. And by him all who believe, you included, are at this very moment justified entirely and completely from everything you have ever done—if you believe that this is the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and that he died there on the cross, for your sins and to bear your punishment.

From "The Acid Test"

  • My dear friends, there never can be a more important question than this: what does this cross do to you? Where do you find yourself as you think of it and face it? It is one of these two, it is either an offence or else you glory in it. Are we all clear about our position? Do we know exactly where we stand?
  • The test of whether someone is teaching the cross rightly or wrongly is whether it is an offence to the natural man or not. If my preaching of this cross is not an offence to the natural man, I am misrepresenting it. If it is something that makes him say how beautiful, how wonderful, what a tragedy, what a shame, I have not been preaching the cross truly.
  • There is nobody born a Christian into this world. We have to be born again to become Christians, and while we are natural men and women, the cross is an offense.

From "The Wisdom of God"

  • All our troubles ultimately emanate from our ignorance of God. That is the real trouble in the world today. Men and women do not know God. There are some who say they are not interested. There are others, and this is equally bad, who simply put up their own ideas of God. The men who speculate philosophically about God, these are the popular writers of today. They have no authority whatsoever. It is simply what they think. That is sheer ignorance of God. No, we cannot know God unless he reveals himself to us, because God is who and what he is. And what do we know? Do we know ourselves? Does your psychology really explain you to yourself? Does all your modern knowledge really help you to know yourself and your neighbour? Does it really give you an understanding of life and of death? Of course it does not! Our ignorance is appalling, and the more we learn, the more we see our own ignorance. How can a man know God?
  • If you think you deserve heaven, take it from me you are not a Christian. But for any man who knows that he deserves hell, there is hope.
  • What the cross tells us is that God hates sin. God is the eternal antithesis to sin. God abominates sin with the whole intensity of his divine and perfect and holy nature. And God not only hates sin, he cannot tolerate it. God cannot compromise with sin. That is what we want, of course. We want God to compromise with sin. We want a God who says: ‘All right, I know you have done this or that, but it is all right. Slip into heaven.’ God cannot do that. God cannot compromise. There is no compromise between light and darkness, good and evil. They are eternal opposites, and God, because he is God hates sin. God must therefore punish sin. That is what the Bible means when it tells us that the wrath of God is against all sin and unrighteousness. ‘For the wrath of God,’ says the apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans, ‘is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness’ (1:18). My friend, God is holy. Who can imagine this? We are so imperfect, so impure. Our minds are so polluted. You and I cannot think of absolute purity, absolute righteousness, absolute holiness. We may talk about these things, but we cannot imagine them. But God is all that.
  • Sin is a matter of attitude. And what makes sin sin, is that it is rebellion against God. It is to disobey God; it is to trample upon the sanctities of God. It is unrighteousness; it is transgression of God’s law. Indeed, it is worse. It is a hatred of God.
  • We are all naturally God-haters, and if you have not realized that, you have not known these things very deeply. Do not come and tell me that you have always loved God. You have not. You were born in sin, shapen in iniquity. And if you think you have always believed in God, it is because you have had a God of your own creation, not the God of the Bible. This is a universal statement, and so we have the problem. How can this holy, righteous God possibly forgive anybody at all, and remain what he is? What I see in the cross is God’s way of solving the problem. So I see the wisdom of God. If you want to know anything about the wisdom of God, look at the cross.
  • How can God be just and at the same time forgive anybody? How can he bring these things together—righteousness and mercy, holiness and love? Is it possible? And the answer is on the cross.
  • That, my friend, is the love of God to you, a sinner. Not that he looks on passively and says: I forgive you though you have done this to my Son. No, he himself smites the Son. He does to the Son what you and I could never do. He pours out his eternal wrath upon him, and hides his face from him. His own dearly beloved, only begotten Son. And he did it in order that we should not receive that punishment and go to hell and spend there an eternity in misery, torment and unhappiness. That is the love of God. And that is the wonder and the marvel and the glory of the cross, God punishing his own Son, in order that he might not have to punish you and me. It was also done in order that the message of the cross might be preached, and it is this: ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved’ (Acts 16:31). Believe that he died your death, bore your punishment, suffered in your place, that the chastisement of your peace was upon him. Believe, and you are immediately forgiven. That is the glory of the cross. God’s wisdom devising the way, God’s love carrying it out, in spite of what it meant to him, and the Son, willingly and readily submitting himself to it, in order that you and I might be forgiven and might become the children of God.

From "Love Not The World"

  • There are only two types of people in the world: there are those who belong to the world and who are men of the world, and who glory in that fact, and there are those who glory in the fact that they are no longer of the world. Though they are still in it, they glory that they are only strangers and pilgrims, travellers and journeymen, passing through this world of time.
  • The world is that view of life and death, and of man and of time, and of everything else entirely apart from God and his revelation as given in the Bible. That is the world. The world is that collection of people who think about all these things entirely apart from God and without God.
  • Well there is our definition of the world, and I can sum it up by putting it like this. It is that outlook which puts man at the centre, and makes man the ultimate authority. It is the view which says there is nothing but this world. What we have now is all that we will have. That is the worldly outlook, the mind of the world. That is the mind that is controlling the masses of the people, that controls all who are not Christians.
  • And that is what the worldly outlook always leads to. Every man becomes his own authority and his defence is, Why shouldn’t I? Is that not our great problem in this country today? Is that not why morality is breaking down round and about us? Why not, says the world, why shouldn’t I? I couldn’t care less. What does it matter what the Bible says?
  • Why did he die? He died for the souls of men, not for our material welfare, not to reform this world, but to save our souls. ‘The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost’ (Lk 19:10). And it is the soul that is lost. The thing that the world knows nothing about, but it is in you, and in all of us—this imperishable thing in us that goes on beyond death and the end. No, he exposed the lie of this world for what it really.

From "The Triumph of the Cross"

  • The power of the devil, the power of evil, is so great that every human being ever born into this world has been defeated by it. Read the Old Testament. There are some very great men there. Abraham and the patriarchs, the prophets and godly people like them, but every one of them sinned. Every one of them fell down before the devil. The Bible puts it as strongly as this. Man, even when he was perfect—Adam, a perfect man, made in the image of God—was defeated by the devil. The devil was so powerful, so subtle. His ingenuity is such that no man has ever been able to stand against him, even a perfect man. The apostle Paul sums it all up by saying, ‘There is none righteous, no, not one .... For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God’ (Rom 3:10, 23). There has never been a human being in this world that has lived a wholly righteous life and has satisfied God, not one. The whole world, therefore, lieth guilty before God. Why is this? It is because of the terrible power of the devil, who dominates and who controls, and who masters. He does so, firstly, through the mind. He hates God, and so he persuades the human race to hate him too. I have already quoted 2 Corinthians 4:3 ‘But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost.’ The devil does not want anybody to believe in God and in the Son of God, so he blinds their minds. There is nothing new about unbelief. You are not being particularly modern or clever by not being a Christian. There has always been opposition to the gospel. The Bible is full of examples of it. It does not conceal it. No, the gospel has never been believed by men and women en masse in this world. ‘Few there be that find it’, says our Lord. ‘Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it’ (Mt 7:13–14). The devil dominates the bulk of the life of mankind. He has always done it, and you know you are not being anything new or different by rejecting this gospel and this preaching and teaching of the Bible. Mankind has always been doing that. The devil has been dominant and he governs the mind.
  • Our Lord came, then, into this world in order to rid us from the tyranny and from the power of the devil. But it was on the cross that he did it supremely and finally. 

From "He Is Our Peace"

  • It is the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ that alone can produce true unity and a real peace among men. Now it is to that I want to call your attention, and what a time it is to consider this, because everybody’s mind is engaged on the whole question of how to produce unity in the world. The assassination of the late President Kennedy pinpoints that in a very acute manner for us. Now I am not going to preach on President Kennedy, but it would be madness not to see what that terrible event, that awful event, should make us all think about. He was a man who was struggling and striving in various ways to bring men and women together. There are those who would say that he met his death because he was trying to solve the problem of integration in the United States. Black and white and coloured—how to bring them together. How to bring an end to segregation, and how to produce integration. It was certainly one of the problems with which he was struggling. He went to Texas because he was concerned about that. Then he faced the problem of the two groupings of the nations of the world, the Iron Curtain between them. He was striving, he was struggling with this problem of how to bring together these two warring factions of human nature and of humankind. Here was a man who gave his life and his activity to that very question, to that very matter. And I have no doubt that it is true to say that in many ways he met his death because of these things.
  • We are born creatures of conflict, within and without, in every realm and department of life. And what I want to try to demonstrate is that there is only one thing in the whole world at this moment that can deal with this warfare and tension and strife. It is the cross of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
  • The Bible is an honest book, a realistic one which tells you the truth. It shows human nature as it is and it conceals nothing.
  • Peace, I say, is something positive. Peace means a new attitude, a new understanding. Peace means a love. But the world, even at its best, is incapable of producing it.
  • Do you know what the gospel does? What the cross does? It shows you to yourself.
  • The cross also reveals to us the truth about others. It makes of twain one new man, it deals with both of us, which is why it is so wonderful. The cross shows me that these other people also are souls, that it does not matter what the colour of their skin is, or whether they are wealthy or poor, whether they are very learned or very ignorant. It does not matter whether they are very powerful or very weak, they are souls. They are men and women, like me, made originally in the image of God, and standing before God in all the dignity of human nature. But why do they behave as they do? That is the question, and, before I myself was humbled, I never went beyond that. I said, ‘It is because they are wrong. I am right and they are wrong.’ I have now seen that I am wrong, altogether wrong, but what of them? Ah, now I am enabled to see them in a new way. They are the victims of the devil even as I was. It is that the devil is controlling them, and as I see this I begin to pity them. In other words, what the cross does is to make us both see ourselves exactly as we are and the moment that happens we see that there is no difference at all between us and other people.
  • Now the cross does that, it shows us that we are all exactly the same. We are one in sin. We are one in failure. We are one in misery. We are one in helplessness and hopelessness. What is the point of boasting that you are a Jew when you are as much a failure as the Gentile? What is the point of boasting that you have got the law, if you cannot keep it? What is the point of boasting about your great brain, if you do not know how to live? What is the point of boasting about your money and your wealth, if you are miserable in your own heart and soul, and filled with jealousy and envy and malice and spite? What is the use of anything? What is the value of anything? What is the point of everything? The cross humbles us. My richest gain I count but loss, And pour contempt on all my pride. It is the cross of Christ that brings us all down to the same place.
  • I wish in many ways that I could believe that the assassination of John F. Kennedy is going to bring the nations of the world together. I know it will not. It cannot. It will probably produce more strife and bitter hatred. But there is a death, there is a murder that once took place, that can reconcile because it reconciles men to God. It reconciles them to one another. Stop thinking in terms of nations, think of yourself first. Is that old pride there, is this the thing that governs you? I pray that God may show us to ourselves in the light of the cross of Christ, that all our ugly pride may go, and that we may see our utter hopelessness and helplessness. 

From "The Cross of Christ Speaks"

  • Has the cross of Christ ever spoken to you? Have you heard its message? The cross of Christ preaches. The cross of Christ speaks. The blood of the cross speaks. It has something to say. Have you heard it?
  • The blood speaks, and it speaks the best things that the world has ever heard.
  • But I would say that it is the business of the gospel to say that it is the soul of man that matters, that part of us that goes on even when we die—something imperishable, something which goes on into eternity. The cross puts tremendous emphasis upon that. He came there, not in order that our bodies might be healed, not in order that we might be better fed or clothed or have more information and knowledge, no, he came to save the soul. ‘The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost’, and what is lost is man’s soul. Here is this tremendous statement, therefore, coming from the cross to us. Have you heard it, have you realized, that the most important thing about you is this soul of yours?
  • Sin is the most serious matter that has ever entered into the whole universe.
  • So the question that I ask is not what sort of a life you are living. It is not that I am not interested, but that is not the first question. The question the Bible asks us all, the question that the cross puts to us, is not that, or how you spent last night; or whether you are moral or immoral; or what your thoughts are. No, its first question is: what is your relationship to God?
  • The first great question in the shorter catechism of the Presbyterian Church, which I am never tired of quoting, is ‘What is the chief end of man?’ And here is the answer: ‘The chief end of man is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.’ God made us for that, and if you are not doing it, you are a terrible sinner. You say you have never committed adultery. I am not interested. You say you have never committed murder. That is not the first thing. The question is, are you living to the glory of God? Is God the chief end and object of your life? Is God the centre of your interest? Are you submitting yourself in obedience to him? That is the question.
  • The cross speaks of benediction, of pardon, joy and peace with God. It tells you that God is ready to forgive you, the blood of sprinkling tells you that. It says, listen to me, your sin has been punished. I am here because this is the punishment of sin. Listen to me, says the blood of sprinkling, I have been shed that you might be forgiven, pardoned, at peace with God. Oh, thank God, there is also cleansing here.

From "A New Nature"

  • It is impossible for anyone to be blessed by God in any way ultimately, apart from the cross. The cross is the key that opens, if I may so put it, the heart of God. And without the cross we know no blessings at all.
  • Justified by faith means that the moment you believe in what happened on the cross, and see that that is God’s way of reconciling you unto himself, you are immediately regarded as just, your sins are all forgiven and blotted out, and you are clothed in the righteousness of Christ.
  • You are in an entirely new position and the cross puts you there. You are under grace, and you do not tremble before God with a craven fear. You know that though you are unworthy, he is your Father, and you say, ‘My Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come.’ And you know that he looks upon you with a smile. You know that he is patient, that he is long-suffering. You know that he is determined to bring you back to the perfection in which he originally made you, and that all the forces of his love and grace and compassion are working in your favour.
  • We have all known what it is to turn to God in prayer, but the vital question is this: Can we pray? Have we any right to pray? What is prayer? Now prayer means entering into the presence of God. It means addressing that almighty holy God who is in heaven while we are on earth, the God we have ignored and spurned, and reviled and rejected. How can we go into his presence? The answer is that we cannot go into his presence as we are. ‘God heareth not sinners’ (Jn 9:31). There is only one way whereby a man can pray with any confidence and assurance, and it is in believing in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Listen to the Apostle: ‘Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand ....’ But he is fond of saying this, we find it everywhere. ‘For through him,’ says Paul to the Ephesians—by Christ—‘we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father’ (2:18). You cannot go to God except through Jesus Christ. He said it himself: ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me’ (Jn 14:6). You may address ‘whatever Gods may be’, you may shout out in the dark hoping that some god will hear you. That is not prayer. Prayer means speaking to God who is in heaven, who is all powerful to bless. How can you do that? There is only one way.

 From "Bought Out and Set Free"

  • What most of us need above everything else is to get away from ourselves, to forget ourselves. But we revolve around ourselves. We are the centre of our universe and we are always looking at ourselves, and everything is judged and evaluated in terms of us—what it means to me, what it does to me.
  • Once a man sees himself in the light of the cross, he sees the horror of that self-centred view in its every aspect. It is all wrong; it is not true. It is because that view is not true of any of us, that the world is as it is, with all the strife and tension and the animosity, the unhappiness and the misery. Self is the cause of all these things.
  • Have you ever thought of the amount of time you waste in thinking about yourself—looking at yourself, preening yourself, examining yourself, awarding marks, afraid of others? A sheer waste of time, and an abomination. 
  • So the cross not only teaches me how to live, it teaches me how to suffer, how I should follow in his steps. And it also teaches me how to die, that we have all got to die. And it is only the cross that really can teach me how to die.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, June 29, 2017

DVD: The English Reformation and the Puritans

The English Reformation and the Puritans. Michael Reeves. 2014. Ligonier Ministries. Twelve 23 minute messages. [Source: Gift]

My words won't do this lecture series justice. You'll just have to trust me on that. I found this series by Michael Reeves to be giddy-making. Six of the twelve sermons focus a bit more on history than theology. Six of the twelve sermons focus a bit more on theology than history. So if you LOVE both--as I do--you'll find yourself in a very happy place.

Here are the twelve sermons:

  1. Tyndale and the Early Reformers
  2. Henry VIII
  3. Edward VI and Mary I
  4. Elizabeth and the Rise of the Puritans
  5. The Theology of the Puritans
  6. Richard Sibbes
  7. James I and Charles I
  8. Thomas Goodwin
  9. Cromwell and Charles II
  10. John Owen
  11. Owen's Theology
  12. The Demise of Puritanism

Some of the people discussed: William Tyndale, Erasmus, Martin Luther, Henry VIII, all of Henry VIII's wives, Edward VI, Lady Jane Grey, Mary I, Queen Elizabeth, James I, Charles I, Oliver Cromwell, Charles II, Richard Sibbes, Thomas Goodwin, John Owen, John Bunyan.

There's religion, theology, politics, and so much more!

Questions addressed:
What is the Reformation? What is at the heart of the Reformation? What are the five solas? What's the big deal about justification by faith alone? When did the Reformation end? Did it end? Who were the Puritans? What was the Puritan movement about? What did they hope to achieve? Were all Puritans the same? When did that period begin and end? Is the church still in need of purifying today? What can we learn from reading Puritans? Who is worth reading and remembering? Where is a good place to start?

I loved, loved, loved, LOVED this series. I found it fascinating. The sermons were anything but boring. Most were packed with a lot of information. Yet they always came full circle in a way. I found the series as a whole to be very Christ-centered. Theology should lead to WORSHIP. And if this series doesn't lead you to praising God, I don't know what will. I found Reeves' enthusiasm contagious.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

My Summer with Psalm 119 #4

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

Sermon four covers Psalm 119:3. This sermon would pair well with Romans 7:1-25. Essentially the Psalmist is addressing the same issues as Paul. If we love God, we will hate sin. If we love God and long to walk in his ways--and not our own ways--then we will not tolerate sin in our own lives. John Owen, a fellow Puritan to Thomas Manton, deals with this issue in one of his books. I've been sharing quotes from it all year long. He speaks of sin, temptation, of the importance of mortifying--or crucifying--sin. If we love God and want to obey Him, we will not let sin be a habit. 

Essentially, Manton is saying that no Christian can totally, completely, absolutely avoid sinning altogether. But to tolerate sin, to cling to sin, to make sin our habit and lifestyle--that is out of the question for any believer who genuinely loves God. When was the last time you heard a contemporary preacher talk of mortifying sin?!

  • What it is to do iniquity? If we make it our trade and practice’ to continue in wilful disobedience. To sin is one thing, but to make sin our work is another.
  • None are absolutely freed from sin, but it is not their trade, their way, their work. When a man makes it his study and business to carry on a course of sin, then he is said to do iniquity.
  • Who are those that are said to do no iniquity in God’s account, though they fail often through weakness of the flesh and violence of temptation? Answer—All such as are renewed by grace, and reconciled to God by Christ Jesus; to these God imputeth no sin to condemnation, and in his account they do no iniquity.
  • If a man be constantly, easily, frequently carried away to sin, it discovers a habit of soul, and the temper of his heart.
  • A child of God may be carried away, and act contrary to the bent and inclination of the new nature; but when men are drowned and overcome with the return of every temptation, and carried away, it argues a habit of sin. And partly, because sin never carries it away clearly, but with some dislikes and resistances of the new nature. The children of God make it their business to avoid all sin, by watching, praying, mortifying.
  • They that are and shall be blessed are such as make it their business to avoid all sin.
  • If this be the character of a blessed man, to make it our business to avoid sin, then here is caution to God’s people: 1. To beware of all sin. 2. To be very cautious against gross sins, committed against the light of conscience. 3. To beware of continuance in sin.
  • Christ came to take away sin, and will you bind those cords the faster which Christ came to loosen? Then you go about to defeat the purpose of his death, and put your Redeemer to shame. You seek to make void the great end for which Christ came, which was to dissolve sin. And, besides, you disparage the worth of the price he paid down; you make the blood of Christ a cheap thing, when you despise grace and holiness; you make nothing of that which cost him so dear—you lessen the greatness of his sufferings. And it is a wrong to his pattern.
  • It is not enough only to avoid evil, but we must do good.
  • In every command there are precepts and prohibitions, that we might own God, as well as renounce the devil; and maintain communion with him, as well as avoid our own misery.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Bible Covers

I was recently asked how I make my Bible covers. Short answer: by hand and with flaws. Here's my long answer. This is subject to revision, because, I've never actually written out how to do it in sequence.

1) Choose a Bible you want to cover.
2) Pick the fabric(s) you want to use to make the cover.
3) Measure the Bible making allowances for seams. This depends on your skills essentially. For some this might be quarter of an inch, for others half an inch. But I'd say half an inch is an adequate starting guess. You'll take two measurements. First measure up and down. Common sizes--with seam allowances--are 10 inches, 10 1/2 inches, 11 inches, 12 inches. Second, measure all around. I start by putting the end of the tape measure a couple of inches in the back of the Bible (for the back flap), and then walking the tape measure all around the Bible and leaving a couple of inches for the front flap. Common sizes--with seam allowances--are 16 inches, 18 inches, 20 inches, 22 inches, etc.
4) Today's example will be a reversible Bible cover. Choose two different fabrics. Cut them with the exact same measurements. (Iron fabric as needed.)
5) Place the right sides of the fabric together. Be as precise as possible, when you're pinning the sides together. (I'd recommend at least nine to twelve pins, maybe more). But don't spend thirty minutes just trying to get it perfectly perfectly perfect either.
6) Sew a seam around three and a half sides. Your seam could be a precise quarter inch. Or whatever seam allowance you want. You'll want to leave an opening big enough for your hand to fit through to turn the fabric around.
7) Turn the project inside out. The right sides should be facing out now. You'll want to close the remaining opening (turning ends in) with a blanket stitch. Before you close everything up, you want to make sure that all four corners are as square and crisp as you can make them. (Again the goal is not absolute perfection at the sacrifice of sanity.)
8) Get your Bible ready. This is where you lay down the nearly-finished-cover and place your Bible on top. You'll want to square everything up and see how many inches each flap should be. Go for a tight but not too tight fit. It's important that you open up the Bible as well as you try it on for size. I'd recommend pinning where you want the flap to go. I have found it is only when I see the Bible in place that I get a true sense of where to make those final seams. Measuring by tape measure alone, it just wasn't working for me.
9) For reversible covers, I like to blanket stitch the flaps. You'll want your stitches to be really secure on the edges especially. Getting your Bible in and out (and in and out) will be hard on stitches. So you might go over the same spot multiple times.
10) Try on your Bible cover. Be prepared to make small adjustments as needed.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Book Review: Fearless Living in Troubled Times

Fearless Living in Troubled Times: Finding Hope in the Promise of Christ's Return. Michael Youssef. 2017. [August] Harvest House. 240 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: We live in an age of fear, an age that seems poised for the apocalypse.

Premise/plot: In Michael Youssef's newest book he teaches from the books of 1 and 2 Thessalonians. Each chapter covers a section of verses.  He argues that believers have much to learn from the first century church and that understanding what Paul wrote to the Thessalonians will help us make sense of the crazy world we're living in. Understanding Paul's message will make a difference in how we live our lives, how we see the world.
These two letters serve as a unified message of instruction on a number of issues:
• how to build and maintain a healthy church
• the importance of evangelism and church planting
• the value of godly living and morality
• the necessity of living productively and supporting one’s family
• above all, the great theological questions surrounding of the second coming of Christ 
Youssef writes of an end-times paradox:
"The paradox is simply this: There has never been more interest in the end times than there is today—yet that interest is not being manifested in the lives of Christians." 
He asks his readers:
"How can anyone sincerely await the return of the Lord, yet live as if the world will go on forever? How can we be watching for the second coming—yet we do so little to reach out to those who would be left behind? There’s nothing wrong with reading about the end times and learning about Bible prophecy, but shouldn’t we also spend time inviting the lost into the Lord’s kingdom?" 
Reflect on this a minute or two:
"One day, the Lord will return to take us to heaven. This truth ought to motivate every dimension of our lives. It ought to inspire us to serve more, to witness more, to give more, to pray more, and to live in the daily expectation that Christ could return at any moment. C.S. Lewis once made this convicting statement: If you read history, you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next."
He concludes, "In short, if we say we expect the return of Christ at any time, we should live like it."

Genuine believers, he argues, are characterized by faith, love, and hope. He writes,
"Each of these traits is outgoing, not inward; active, not passive; visible, not hidden; public, not private. Faith is active toward God. Love is active toward other people. Hope is active toward our expectation of the Lord’s return. Faith is anchored in the past, in actual historic events, as we look back to the Lord’s saving work on the cross. Love is anchored in the present, as we practice Christlike love toward the people around us. Hope is anchored in the future, in the trustworthy promises God gave us in his Word. The Bible does not recognize a “private” faith. Faith is, by definition, visible and active. Faith must work. Love must labor. Hope must endure."
Genuine believers have been transformed. The three signs of transformation are renewed character, radical conduct, and reliable compensation.

Youssef points out that if we're living like the Lord could return at any time, we will actively be sharing the gospel. And we will be sharing the true gospel no matter the cost.
"The reason many Christians today do not experience opposition or hostility from the world is that they do not preach the authentic gospel of Jesus Christ. The true gospel is offensive to the world. But many Christians walk on egg shells, avoiding any subject that might offend. They never speak of sin, hell, judgment, atonement, the cross, the resurrection, or the blood of Jesus. No wonder they never experience any persecution! They are so bland and timid that there is nothing about them that would offend anyone."
"The church in America today needs to teach the uncompromised truth. The church needs to display courage in the face of opposition and criticism. The church needs to build up the saints in wisdom and integrity, so that they will stand firm for God’s Word."
"If anyone ever calls you narrow-minded for staying true to the gospel, consider it a compliment. No authentic believer should ever want to be praised for being tolerant of error, falsehood, and sin."
My thoughts: Feeling convicted yet? I sure was! I love how thought-provoking Youssef's book was. It challenges readers to rethink their lives. It is one thing to say you believe something and quite another to act on your beliefs and use your beliefs as a foundation to how you live day in and day out. It is one thing to say you believe in Christ, and another to obey Christ and follow Him.

Youssef's book is rich in insight. I love how the basis for this book, the basis for his arguments is Scripture itself.

Favorite quotes:
"Hope is involved with the sufferings of humanity. Hope rolls up its sleeves and gets its hands dirty. Hope is continually lighting candles of faith in the hearts of others. In times of persecution and oppression, hope endures. Hope perseveres. Hope brings us peace in the midst of trouble. The serene and confident expectation of the return of Jesus Christ, whether his return takes place in the next instant or ten thousand years from now, fills us with a peace that no persecutor can take away."
"God didn’t entrust his gospel to you so that you could hide it away. God saved you for a purpose. He placed you where you are for a purpose. He provided you with opportunities for a purpose."
"The future is important, but not as important as the present. Someone once said that the past is history, the future is a mystery, but the present is a gift to be used in service to God. Satan wants to distract us from the task at hand. He wants us to focus our attention on the past—on past hurts, past failures, past regrets—because he knows that if we are focused on the past, we will be immobilized in the here and now. Or he wants us to focus our attention on the future—on worries and fears that may never come to pass, or on wishful thinking that never accomplishes anything. He knows that if we are living in the future, we’re doing nothing in the here and now."
"True freedom is not the freedom to sin but the freedom to serve God and live godly lives out of hearts full of gratitude and love. True freedom is to be free of the tyranny of our fallen selves—our rebelliousness and lusts. True freedom is to be free from enslavement to Satan and sin."
"A message that is “almost right” is wrong. A message that is “almost true” is false. In fact, a message that is a subtle distortion of the truth may be far more dangerous than an outright lie because it is more likely to lead people astray." 
"Some claim that history is cyclical—it goes in cycles, and events often repeat themselves. In a limited sense, this is often true. But in a larger sense, we know that history is linear. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end. The end of history has been planned and foretold. The trajectory of history will come to a sudden halt. The drama of history will reach a grand finale. The pinnacle of history will be the glorious resurrection of believers. The tragedy of history will be the judgment and dreadful end of unbelievers."
"Truth is not determined by emotions. Truth is not determined by circumstances. Truth is not determined by the persuasiveness of a smooth-tongued teacher. Truth is determined by the Word of God."
"Right now, we all have a very narrow window of opportunity—the window of our own mortal existence. None of us knows how wide that window is—if it is the span of thirty or sixty or ninety years. During that short span, we will determine our eternal destiny by the choices we make and the truths we believe or the truths we reject."

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

June 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

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

DVD Review: Luther and the Reformation

Luther and the Reformation. R.C. Sproul. 2011. Ten 23 minute messages. [Source: Gift]

I definitely enjoyed this sermon series by R.C. Sproul. Earlier this year I watched another Reformation-themed DVD series by R.C. Sproul God Alone. I'm counting both of these towards my Reformation Reading Challenge.

Luther and the Reformation.

Luther & the Lightning Bolt
Monastery & Rome Crisis
Tower Experience
Building St. Peters
Indulgence Controversy
Progress to Worms
Roman Catholic View of Justification (part 1)
Roman Catholic View of Justification (part 2)
Protestant View of Justification
Rome's Objections Answered

The first six messages are definitely centered more on history--on what happened, on when it happened, WHO the major players were, etc.--than on theology. These six messages provide a good background or context for understanding the theological debate.

The last four messages are definitely centered more on theology. I think of the theological debate as the WHY IT MATTERED THEN AND WHY IT STILL MATTERS NOW.

This series would serve as an introduction, perhaps, to Martin Luther's life. But it doesn't quite do justice to Reformation theology itself. For that, I would recommend Sproul's God Alone. That series also has ten 23 minute messages. Two sermons each for the following solas.
  • Faith Alone
  • Grace Alone
  • Christ Alone
  • Scripture Alone
  • Glory to God Alone

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

My Year with Owen #26

I will be sharing some John Owen quotes this year. The third book I'll be reading is The Nature, Power, Deceit and Prevalency of Indwelling Sin. 
  • And for this reason does the apostle here call indwelling sin a law. It is a powerful and effectual indwelling principle, inclining and pressing unto actions agreeable and suitable unto its own nature. ~ John Owen
  • There is an exceeding efficacy and power in the remainders of indwelling sin in believers, with a constant working toward evil. ~ John Owen
  • Awake, therefore, all of you in whose hearts is anything of the ways of God! Your enemy is not only upon you, as on Samson of old, but is in you also. ~ John Owen
  • The pleasures of sin are the rewards of sin; a reward that most men lose their souls to obtain. ~ John Owen
  • Wherever you are, whatever you are about, this law of sin is always in you; in the best that you do, and in the worst. ~ John Owen
  • Men little consider what a dangerous companion is always at home with them. When they are in company, when alone, by night or by day, all is one, sin is with them. ~ John Owen
  • There is a living coal continually in their houses; which, if it be not looked unto, will fire them, and it may be consume them. ~ John Owen
  • Temptations and occasions put nothing into a man, but only draw out what was in him before. ~ John Owen
  • The more men sin, the more they are inclined unto sin. ~ John Owen
  • Every sin increases the principle, and fortifies the habit of sinning. ~ John Owen

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, June 26, 2017

Bible Review: KJV Reformation Study Bible

Reformation Heritage Study Bible--KJV. Edited by  Joel R. Beeke, Gerald Bilkes, and Michael Barrett. 2014. Reformation Heritage Books. 2218 pages. [Source: Birthday Gift in 2014]

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

Premise/plot: God created the heaven and the earth, and, everything he created was very good. But then the serpent in the Garden of Eden started singing "Trust in Me" (from the Jungle Book) and everything went WRONG because Eve ate the apple. God being a good God and a merciful God provided a way to restore his creation, that way--the only way, the only truth, the only life--was revealed more clearly in the New Testament.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.The same was in the beginning with God.All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.In him was life; and the life was the light of men.And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.He came unto his own, and his own received him not.But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-14)

The whole Bible--both Old and New Testament--reveals who God is and who we are. It tells of who we are apart from Christ, and who we are in Christ. It speaks of a just, holy, uncompromising, never-changing God who is kind, compassionate, merciful, faithful and good. The Spirit of God enlightens and teaches us through the Word. Apart from the Spirit, there is no true knowledge of God. 

My thoughts: I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this Bible so much.

Favorite quotes:

  • Truth and love are closely related to each other. What are the consequences of having truth without love? Love without truth? What does it mean to love someone “in the truth” (v. 1)? How can we improve the balance of truth and love in our relationships at home, at church, at school, and in society? KJV Reformation Bible, 2 John 1
  • The Bible is a book like no other, for it is the Word of God. Therefore, every word is faithful and true. To believe and obey the Bible is the path of blessing. It stands unique in its authority, and we must never place any human tradition or philosophy on equal standing with it, or set aside any part of it because it offends our way of thinking. How does a Christian show with his life that he has received the Bible as the Word of God? The great theme of Scripture is the Lord Jesus Christ, fully God and fully man. His grace is the only salvation for sinners. His death like a lamb for the sins of His people is the only righteousness fallen men can have before God. His resurrection and future coming are the only hope of the world. God’s Son will bring His people into happiness beyond their greatest expectations, for He will bring them into the eternal enjoyment of infinite good: the triune God. All three of the primary Christian graces—faith, hope, and love—focus upon Jesus Christ. Do you trust, hope in, and love God’s Son? If not, call out to God even now to save you. If you do know Christ and His salvation, then use each day to seek grace to grow deeper in faith, hope, and love for Christ, as you prepare for the day of the Lord. KJV Reformation Bible, Revelation 22
  • The glory that shines in all the delights of heaven is the glory of God in Christ. The Lord is the sweetness, beauty, pleasure, and treasure of His kingdom. Heaven holds nothing for those who do not love God for His own sake. Those who do not delight in the Lord and holiness would be repulsed by heaven if they could go there. Do you love Jesus Christ and His holiness? What are some signs of a true love for God that can assure believers that God is preparing them for eternity with Him? KJV Reformation Bible, Revelation 21
  • Worship and missions are intimately related. Missions aim to see God create new worshipers, while worship declares God’s worthiness of the praises of all people. Ironically, sometimes people set the two against each other: one group in the church promotes worship and neglects evangelism, while another group does the opposite. Why can we never be faithful worshipers without missions? Why must missions be grounded in worship? KJV Reformation Bible, Revelation 15
  • The Bible is a bittersweet book for believers. On the one hand, its righteous laws and trustworthy promises are sweeter than honey to those who receive them. On the other hand, it calls us into the bitterness of loneliness and persecution in the world. How are you experiencing the sweetness of the Word in your life? Its bitterness? KJV Reformation, Revelation 10
  • The conflict between the church and the world boils down to this: “Who or what will you worship?” This is the great question of Revelation. What does this chapter teach us about what it means to worship God, and what motivates the worship of God? KJV Reformation, Revelation 4
  • The Lord Jesus is stunningly glorious. John knew Jesus and talked with Him after His resurrection, but even a symbolic vision of Christ’s glory put John on the ground. What about Christ fills you with awe? What about Christ comforts you? KJV Reformation Bible, Revelation 1
  • It is not a kindness in our preaching to the unconverted, to keep from them the fearful reality of hell, with its “flaming fire” (v. 8) and its “everlasting destruction” (v. 9). Pray for preachers that they would boldly preach both law and gospel, both hell and heaven. KJV Reformation Bible, 2 Thessalonians 1
  • Let us never assume that it is worthless to speak God’s Word to a group of sinners, no matter what their reputation. They may put us to shame with how they respond. Where are you tempted to think that it is not worth sharing God’s Word? KJV Reformation Bible, 2 Chronicles 28
  • Treasure the Word of God in the fear of God. One man speaking God’s truth is worth more than 400 men telling us what we want to hear. Thank God for faithful ministers who refuse to speak anything except God’s Word. The Word of the Lord proves true because it is backed by the providence of God. When God threatens death on an unrepentant sinner, be sure it will come, even if by a random shot by an archer. How then should we respond when God’s Word says hard things against us and our sin? KJV Reformation Bible, 2 Chronicles 18
  • We have all descended from one man: Adam. The existence of Adam was as much history as the existence of David. In Adam, we were all made in God’s image and likeness. God’s purpose for His people therefore remains to fill the earth with His living image. In Adam, we all sinned and have fallen into spiritual corruption and enduring misery. We all share the same fallen nature as the Canaanites. We all die and face judgment, and human life is so transient that from God’s perspective all the generations from Adam to Israel fit on a single page of history. God’s people consequently must be redeemed by the Lord’s grace if they will ever achieve their high calling and eternal life. Mankind needs a new Adam. How has God met that need in Christ? KJV Reformation Bible, 1 Chronicles 1
  • The opening statement of Nah. 2:13 is fearful: “I am against thee, saith the Lord.” For God to be the enemy spells doom and damnation. But this is the state of every individual outside of Christ. To be outside of Christ is to be under condemnation and subject to God’s severe wrath. To be in Christ changes everything. The believer is united to Christ and enjoys security and peace. The consequence is that God is now for us instead of against us. And the consequence of that is, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31). KJV Reformation Bible, Nahum 2

The strengths of the KJV Reformation Bible

  • King James Version (I happen to love the KJV)
  • Black Letter, NOT red letter (I think I squealed when I saw it was black letter!!!)
  • Has thorough book introductions for all 66 books of the Bible
  • Has introductions to different sections of Scripture (introduction to the Pentateuch, introduction to the historical books, introduction to the poetic and wisdom books, introduction to the prophetic books, introduction to the gospels and Acts, introduction to the epistles)
  • Has thousands of study notes; some notes are just clarifying the vocabulary of the King James Version; others are genuine study notes. All the notes are from the Reformed theological position. 
  • Includes within the notes, "Thoughts for Personal/Family Worship" for each and every chapter of the Bible. 
  • Has 50+ in-text articles covering seven key doctrines (the doctrine of God, the doctrine of creation, the doctrine of sin, the doctrine of Christ, the doctrine of salvation, the doctrine of the church, and the doctrine of last things). Some of these in-text articles are excerpts from Puritans.
  • Double column
  • Has a daily Bible Reading Plan (M'Cheyne's Reading Plan)
  • Has an extensive study helps section at the back of the Bible (when I say extensive, I mean extensive*)
  • Has a dozen color maps
  • Has a concordance
*Here's a good idea of what the study helps section offers readers:

How To Live As A Christian
  • Coming to Christ
  • United with Christ
  • Experiencing Justification and Adoption
  • Growing in Sanctification
  • Assured and Persevering
  • Reading the Scriptures
  • Why and How We Pray
  • Worship and the Means of Grace
  • Fellowship with Believers
  • How We Regard Ourselves
  • Love to God
  • The Fear of God
  • Living by the Ten Commandments
  • Godly Contentment
  • Self-Denial
  • Humility
  • How We Kill Pride
  • Coping with Criticism
  • Enduring Affliction
  • Spiritual Desertion
  • Fleeing Worldliness
  • Fighting Against Backsliding
  • Family Worship
  • Being A Christ-Like Husband
  • Being a Godly Wife
  • Showing Hospitality
  • Raising Children in the Lord
  • Being a Christian Grandparent
  • Honoring Your Parents
  • Serving God at Work
  • Using Leisure Time Well
  • Witnessing for Christ
  • Defending Our Faith
  • Facing Sickness and Death
  • Living Positively
  • Living for God's Glory
Twenty Centuries of Church History
  • First Century: Apostolic Foundations
  • Second Century: The Church of Martyrs and Confessors
  • Third Century: Persecution and Heresy; Origen and Tertullian
  • Fourth Century: Beginnings of the Christian Empire
  • Fifth Century: City of God and City of Man
  • Sixth Century: Justinian, Benedict, and the Conversion of the Scots
  • Seventh Century: Gregory the Great and the Rise of Islam
  • Eighth Century: The Iconoclastic Controversy
  • Ninth Century: Struggle for Power in the Church; Ratramnus and Gottschalk
  • Tenth Century: "The Dark Ages"
  • Eleventh Century: The Great Schism; Anselm of Canterbury
  • Twelfth Century: The Crusades, Abelard, Lombard, and the Waldenses
  • Thirteenth Century: Francis of Assisi and Thomas Aquinas
  • Fourteenth Century: The Church's Babylonian Captivity and John Wycliffe
  • Fifteenth Century: The Renaissance, Huss, Savonarola, and Groote
  • Sixteenth Century: Luther, Calvin, and the Reformation
  • Seventeenth Century: Reforming the Church in England
  • Eighteenth Century: The Great Awakening
  • Nineteenth Century: Beginnings of Modern Theology and Kingdom Builders
  • Twentieth Century: Age of Paradoxes
Creeds and Confessions
  • Apostles' Creed
  • Nicene Creed
  • Athanasian Creed
  • Belgic Confession
  • Heidelberg Catechism
  • Canons of Dort
  • Westminster Confession
  • Westminster Shorter Catechism
  • Westminster Larger Catechism

The weaknesses of the KJV Reformation Study Bible

  • Overall the text size is small. The text of the Bible itself is manageable. But the notes are definitely on the too-small-for-comfort size. But the notes were so good, I deemed it worth the squint.
  • The layout of the Bible is verse, verse, verse. It is not in paragraph format.
  • There are no subject headings in the text of the Bible. There are subject headings in the notes. So if you're looking for something specific, look in the notes of the chapter you think it might be in. Or else check out the book outline in the introduction of the book. 

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Week in Review: June 18-24

KJV Reformation Study Bible

  • 1 Chronicles
  • 2 Chronicles
  • Ezra 
  • Nehemiah
  • Esther
  • Daniel
  • Amos
  • Obadiah
  • Jonah
  • Micah
  • Nahum
  • Habakkuk
  • Zephaniah
  • Haggai
  • Zechariah
  • Malachi
  • 1 Thessalonians
  • 2 Thessalonians
  • 1 Timothy
  • 2 Timothy
  • Titus
  • Philemon
  • Hebrews
  • 1 Peter
  • 2 Peter
  • 1 John
  • 2 John
  • 3 John
  • Revelation

Living Bible
  • Micah
  • Isaiah 1-24
Revised Standard Version (RSV)

  • Genesis 1-26

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Saturday, June 24, 2017

True or False with Tozer (Knowledge of the Holy edition)

My last game of True or False with Tozer was in December 2016.

1. True OR False: To know God is at once the easiest and the most difficult thing in the world.
2. True OR False: God does not love populations, He loves people. He loves not masses, but men. He loves us all with a mighty love that has no beginning and can have no end.
3. True OR False: We do God more honor by believing what He has said about Himself and having the courage to come boldly to the throne of grace than by hiding in self-conscious humility among the trees of the garden.
4. True OR False: For our souls' sake we must learn to understand the Scriptures.
5. True OR False: We can never know the enormity of our sin, neither is it necessary that we should. What we can know is that "where sin abounded, grace did much more abound."
6. True OR False: Both the Old and the New Testaments proclaim the mercy of God, but the Old has more than four times as much to say about it as the New.
7. True OR False: We can hold a correct view of truth only by daring to believe everything God has said about Himself.
8. True OR False: Nothing that God has ever said about Himself will be modified; nothing the inspired prophets and apostles have said about Him will be rescinded. In God no change is possible; in men change is impossible to escape.
9. True OR False:  For every man it must be Christ or eternal tragedy.
10. True OR False: Sin has many manifestations but its essence is one. A moral being, created to worship before the throne of God, sits on the throne of his own selfhood and from that elevated position declares, "I AM." That is sin in its concentrated essence; yet because it is natural it appears to be good.
11. True OR False: We can never know who or what we are till we know at least something of what God is.
12. True OR False: A right conception of God is basic not only to systematic theology but to practical Christian living as well.
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, June 23, 2017

Book Review: The Knowledge of the Holy

Knowledge of the Holy. A.W. Tozer. 1961/1978. HarperCollins. 128 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]

From the preface: True religion confronts earth with heaven and brings eternity to bear upon time.

From chapter one: What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. 

Why read A.W. Tozer's The Knowledge of the Holy?

Because…"It is impossible to keep our moral practices sound and our inward attitudes right while our idea of God is erroneous or inadequate. If we would bring back spiritual power to our lives, we must begin to think of God more nearly as He is."

Because…"What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us."

Because…"Wrong ideas about God are not only the fountain from which the polluted waters of idolatry flow; they are themselves idolatrous. The idolater simply imagines things about God and acts as if they were true."

Because... "If we insist upon trying to imagine Him, we end with an idol, made not with hands but with thoughts; and an idol of the mind is as offensive to God as an idol of the hand."

Because…"We can never know who or what we are till we know at least something of what God is."

Because…"It is not a cheerful thought that millions of us who live in a land of Bibles, who belong to churches and labor to promote the Christian religion, may yet pass our whole life on this earth without once having thought or tried to think seriously about the being of God."

Technically, all those reasons are reasons to read the Good Book, the Word of God, Holy Scriptures. But I think the Holy Spirit can and will use Tozer's words--long after he's dead--to inspire new generations to seek God.

The Knowledge of the Holy is a theological-devotional book about the attributes of God. You may not be used to theology crossing over into devotions, but this Tozer quote sums up how this is so.
The study of the attributes of God, far from being dull and heavy, may for the enlightened Christian be a sweet and absorbing spiritual exercise. To the soul that is athirst for God, nothing could be more delightful.
What is an attribute?

  • An attribute of God is whatever God has in any way revealed as being true of Himself.
  • An attribute, as we can know it, is a mental concept, an intellectual response to God's self-revelation. It is an answer to a question, the reply God makes to our interrogation concerning himself.
  • What is God like? What kind of God is He? How may we expect Him to act toward us and toward all created things? Such questions are not merely academic. They touch the far-in reaches of the human spirit, and their answers affect life and character and destiny.
  • Between His attributes no contradiction can exist.
  • The divine attributes are what we know to be true of God. He does not possess them as qualities; they are how God is as He reveals Himself to His creatures. Love, for instance, is not something God has and which may grow or diminish or cease to be. His love is the way God is, and when He loves He is simply being Himself.
I recommend Knowledge of the Holy to every believer--no matter their age, gender, or denomination. You may or may not agree with every single sentence Tozer ever spoke--ever wrote--but what you will find is someone who challenges you to think, to consider, to grow. Tozer rarely leaves readers the same. 


© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, June 22, 2017

My Summer with Psalm 119 #3

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

Sermon three covers Psalm 119:2. 

This is the second sermon by Thomas Manton which covers the second verse. It's a rich verse, and it deserves more attention. Essentially, this time we focus exclusively on SEEKING God. 

I think John Piper would approve of this sermon very much!!! The ideas in this sermon may seem a bit radical, a bit extreme to modern ears. But certainly not to John Piper! He has been advocating the whole DELIGHT in God concept for decades. 

I invite you to read and reread these quotes slowly, to really stop and consider what it means to seek God. Do you agree with Manton?!  

  • We do not live merely to live; but for this end were we sent into the world, to seek God.
  • God is the cause of all things, and nature cannot be satisfied without him.
  • We were made for God, and can never enjoy satisfaction until we come to enjoy him;
  • We are seeking that for which we were created, when we seek and inquire after God.
  • The chiefest good should be sought after with the chiefest care, and chiefest love, and chiefest delight; nothing should be so precious to us as God.
  • It is the greatest baseness that can be, that anything should take up our time, our thoughts, and content us more than God.
  • If anything be sought from God above God, more than God, and not for God, it is but a brutish cry.
  • It is our benefit to seek God. It is no benefit to God if we do not seek him. The Lord hath no less, though we have less. He that hides himself from the sun, doth not impair the light. We derogate nothing from God if we do not seek him. He needed not the creature: he had happiness enough in himself; but we hide ourselves from our own happiness and our own peace.
  • Every hour we need his direction, protection, strength; and we are in danger to lose him, if we do not continue the search.
  • Wrestle through discouragements; though former endeavours have been in vain, yet still we should continue seeking after God.
  • It is not enough to own Christ to be the true Messiah, but we must embrace him, put our whole trust in him.
  • To seek God with the whole heart, is to seek him with the highest elevation of our hearts. The whole heart must be carried out to God, and to other things for God’s sake.
  • He that gives but part to God doth indeed give nothing.
  • The devil keeps an interest as long as one lust remains unmortified, and one corner of the soul is kept for him.
  • We were not mangled in our creation; God, that made the whole, must have the whole. He preserves the whole. Christ hath bought the whole:
  • All that you have is to be glorified in the day of Christ; all that you are and have must be given to him—whole spirit, soul, and body. Let us not deprive him of any part.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Book Review: Finding Grace in the Face of Dementia

Finding Grace in the Face of Dementia. John Dunlop, MD. 2017. Crossway. 208 pages.  [Source: Review copy]

First sentence from introduction: Dementia, dignity, and honoring God—you must be kidding! Chances are you have never seen those three thoughts in the same sentence. How can such a tragedy as dementia be dignified, and how in the world can God be honored through it?

Premise/plot: Dunlop provides a Christian perspective of care on dementia in his new book. He writes in the introduction, "My purpose in writing this book is to provide a theological lens through which we can view dementia and then give a number of practical ways in which it can be applied. I trust it will be useful for those who are developing the disease as well as those who care for people at any stage of it. I also hope that many professional caregivers, whether doctors, nurses, chaplains, or social workers, will benefit from this read. In addition, I believe it will be useful for pastors, other church leaders, and members of ethics committees. I suspect that most readers will be followers of Jesus, but I truly hope that the book will be read by non-Christians as well. I am impressed by how many who do not embrace the Christian faith nevertheless hold the life and teachings of Jesus in high regard. My desire is that they will profit from a deeper consideration of how Jesus would respond to dementia."

Table of Contents:
God and Dementia
What Should We Know About Dementia?
What about Diagnosis?
Can Dementia Be Prevented or Treated?
How Does It Feel to Have Dementia?
The Experience of Caregiving
Help for Caregivers
How Can We Honor God Through Dementia?
Respect the Dignity of Those with Dementia
Meet the Needs of Those With Dementia
What Should the Church Do?
Grow Through the Experience of Dementia
End-of-Life Issues

My thoughts: First and foremost the book is practical and packed with information. Some of this information is medical: what is dementia? what are the different types of dementia? what are the signs of dementia? when should you see a doctor if someone you love is showing signs of dementia? are there ways to slow down dementia? what kinds of help are available for caregivers? The book has plenty of tips.
There are number of practical ways in which we can respect dignity by entering the world of people with dementia. Here are a few examples: 1. Get to know their past history, if you are not already familiar with it. Talk to them about stories from their past to allow them to enjoy the memories they still have. It may help to compile a picture book and have them explain the pictures in it. 2. Share some funny stories. They may not understand them, but if you laugh, they may enjoy laughing along with you. 3. Learn what they prefer to be called and use that when speaking with them. It may be the nickname they had as a child. 4. Learn their likes and dislikes from earlier in their lives. You might take them to places they used to enjoy and serve them the comfort foods they once relished. Their forgetfulness may enable you to do this repeatedly. If they used to love mac and cheese, they may be fine eating it every day. 5. Play the music and sing the songs they used to love. 6. Slow down to get into their world. Life for those with dementia moves slowly. Anything you do together will take more time, as it may upset them or even lead to a meltdown if they feel rushed. 7. Respect the constrictions of dementia. As the disease progresses, patients will be less interested in the past and future and more focused on the present. They will be less interested in news of the world outside and may not want to leave the comfort of their home or room. What is going on in the lives of other people may not be important to them; eventually, however, they will care only about how they feel in the here and now. To respect their dignity, those around them must learn to enjoy the present moment with them. At times, being touched and held may be all they want. Recognize that caregivers’ need for activity may be far greater than theirs. 8. Respect their resistance to change. Establish routines they are comfortable with. Having meals at the same time and going to bed and getting up on a regular schedule are usually best. The world they live in does not require much variety. 9. If they perceive that you did something wrong and have become upset by it, accept that their understanding of what happened may be totally different from yours. Do not make excuses but apologize profusely. That will affirm them, avoid arguments, and allow them to feel better. 
But there are also theological aspects of this one. Dunlop examines the subjects of dignity and human worth. He asserts that it is not our intellect or memory that makes us have worth; our image-bearing does not stop with diagnosis. No matter how much the mind deteriorates, our worth and value does not diminish or lessen. Dunlop also focuses on God. God is good. God is faithful. God is sovereign. God is wise. God is ever present. God is the God of all comfort. He writes, "As we celebrate God’s goodness, we must recognize that part of his loving care for us is allowing difficulties to come into our lives—such as dementia. We cannot deny that dealing with dementia, whether from the perspective of the patient, the caregiver, or other observers, involves emotional, spiritual, and at times even physical suffering. To handle it well, Christians need to be taught early in their lives that God is in control, that he always does what is good, and that we can trust him through the hard times of life. If we are going to endure suffering in a way that honors God, we need a robust understanding of how God uses suffering. This must start with an understanding of who God is."

He concludes, "If we are going to honor God in and even through dementia, we first need to know God in an intimate way. We need to think the way he thinks, respond to life’s situations the way he responds, love the things he loves, and value the things he values. When we know God in this way, we are able to respond to dementia the way God himself would respond."

Favorite quotes:

  • Compassion is not only showing love and kindness, but it is also understanding how others feel and then allowing ourselves to feel that same way. It is taking the time and effort to get into their lives to see the world as they see it. If they are frustrated, for example, we must allow ourselves to feel that frustration. This is crucial when relating to those with dementia.
  • Caregiving is a distinct call from God. It is not something we randomly fall into. Unfortunately, it may seem like this responsibility is foisted upon us, but that is not true. We often think of God’s calling as something that comes to us through a great, supernatural experience, but often the call comes to us by the circumstances he puts in our path.
  • Caregiving may be a trial, but it is carefully orchestrated by a loving God to transform the life of the caregiver. Furthermore, the caregiver will recognize that the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross was, in part, to be an example of sacrificial giving to others.
  • We basically have three options for how we spend our time: we may choose to invest time well, doing things with eternal value; we may spend most or part of our lives in sin; or, third, we may spend time doing things that, though not bad in themselves, are frankly a waste of time. There will come a day when we will stand before God to have our works judged. Thankfully, we will not be judged for our sinful deeds, for when we trusted Christ, they were forgiven. What will be judged is the amount of time we invested in doing good for eternity in comparison to the time we wasted.
  • Since memory is so important and God values it so highly, we must do whatever we can to preserve the memories of those who have dementia. We can do this by repeatedly telling them the stories of their lives. We should emphasize how God graciously brought them to himself and worked in and through them. And they may never tire of hearing the Bible stories they knew from Sunday school. We need to keep repeating that God loves them and that Jesus died for them. We need to use hymns, either singing or listening, as they will touch their emotional memories. We should also continually remind them of our love for them. 
  • We must never allow their cognitive impairment to blind us to their emotional needs. They may feel much more than they know, and how they feel may be far more important to them then what they know.
  • Music is a wonderful way to reach the spirit of people with dementia. Our church used to offer a worship service in the assisted-living facility next door. One dear friend was there every weekend playing his guitar and singing the old hymns. We were amazed how many of the residents, even with dementia, would either sing along or sit smiling in quiet reverie. I would on occasion be asked to present a brief devotional. In spite of my best efforts, many slept or did not follow even the simplest of thoughts. It was not the preaching that reached their souls; it was the music.
  • The best thing that a local church can do to prepare victims and caregivers for the spiritual challenges of dementia is to instill in them a deep and joyful experience with Jesus. If Christians memorize Scripture and sing hymns often enough to ingrain them in their brains, they may become part of their emotional and procedural memories, thereby being more likely to recall them once faced with dementia. For the caregiver, Scripture and hymns may sustain them through days of challenge and difficulty when they have so little time to nurture their own spiritual lives.
  • There is no guarantee that prayer, reading the Scriptures, and other disciplines of the Christian life established prior to the onset of dementia will continue through the course of the disease, but it is fairly certain that if they were not practiced before the onset of dementia, they will not be practiced afterward. 
  • God’s people must understand that suffering is not a tragic mistake that comes into our lives. Scripture assures us that it is the norm for a Christian. In the book of Acts the apostles taught that “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). Peter writes, “Let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator” (1 Pet. 4:19). Yes, times of suffering are not a tragic mistake in God’s universe; he ordains them according to his will.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible