Monday, July 31, 2017

5 Months. 5 Goals.

5 Months. 5 Goals. August 2017-December 2017

1. Write a weekly week-in-review post at Becky's Book Reviews sharing links to everything I've reviewed at my blogs. REASON: So monthly wrap-up posts are not scary-intimidating.
2. Read five classics and review them from a Christian perspective. Reason: I enjoy reading classics. I am a Christian. And so often I delegate Operation Actually Read Bible to just "Christian" fiction. Classics can be of benefit to believers even if they're not Christian. We live in a real world that is messy.
3. Read 40-50 books from my GoodRead's ChristianTBR list. Reason: I need to read my own books.
4. Improve my feedback ratio on Netgalley. I haven't decided if the problem is a) I choose other books to read and review instead of these e-galleys, b) I do review them but am horrible at going and submitting feedback, c) I request books faster than I can read them, d) all of the above. To make this a measurable goal: let's say I'd like to have my "feedback sent" number be 200+ by December 2017. Reason: So I don't feel guilty.
5. Restart a mother-daughter book club project with my mom. It will be up to her if we read one book per month. Or if we just read two or three books over the next five months. Reason: MOM IS AWESOME.
Alternate: Read 42 books of my charity books--books I've bought from Ruth's Room Too. This would be about 10% of my TBR. I do keep track of what comes home with me. REASON: I have no self-control around bargain books. If I actually read them, then I can say: BUT I READ THEM, they just don't sit around.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Week in Review: July 23-29

ESV Reformation Bible

  • Genesis
  • Exodus
  • Matthew
  • Mark
  • Romans
  • Galatians
  • James
  • 1 Peter


  • Matthew
  • Mark
  • Luke
  • John
  • Acts 1-14

ASV (1901)

  • Genesis 1-26
  • Ephesians

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, July 28, 2017

Current Bible Projects

ESV Reformation Study Bible. 2015. Edited by R.C. Sproul. Reformation Trust. 2560 pages. [Source: Gift/Bought]

I am committing to read all 66 books of the Bible, all 66 book introductions, and any in-text articles that appear in the books of the Bible.

The Bible also contains these creeds and confessions: "The Apostles' Creed," "The Nicene Creed," "The Chalcedonian Definition of the Faith," "The Heidelberg Catechism," "The Belgic Confession," "The Canons of Dort," "The Westminster Confession of Faith," "The Westminster Larger Catechism," "The Westminster Shorter Catechism," "The 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith."

I haven't decided yet if I'm going to commit to reading ALL of these. I have an e-book that has a lot of these creeds, catechisms, and confessions. That may be easier on the eyes! I will NOT, I repeat NOT be reading the study notes.

I'll also be reading a text-only Bible in a new-to-me translation.

MEV Thinline. Passio. 2014. 1184 pages. [Source: Bought]

I have been meaning to read this translation through for several years now. I have read some in it--in the past. But not nearly all 66 books of the Bible. This past week my number one goal was to read all four gospels and get them out of the way. Why? Because this Bible has the most hideous, most awful, most violent color RED text I've ever seen in any Bible. I knew that if I could push my way through the gospels and have them behind me, then I could get excited about reading the other books of the Bible in this translation. The text is SMALL. But it is light weight. So we'll see how it goes!

For the record, I do LOVE the gospels.

John 1:1-5
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were created through Him, and without Him nothing was created that was created. In Him was life, and the life was the light of mankind. The light shines in darkness, but the darkness has not overcome it.
Matthew 5:2-12
And He began speaking and taught them, saying:“Blessed are the poor in spirit,    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.Blessed are those who mourn,    for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,    for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,    for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,    for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,    for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,    for they shall be called the sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.“Blessed are you when men revile you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be very glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in this manner they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

July 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

Thursday, July 27, 2017

My Summer with Psalm 119 #8

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.

The ninth sermon is on Psalm 119:8.

  • Man’s will is the toughest sinew in the whole creation. The very purpose and bent of the heart is the fruit of regeneration.
  • But the will and resolution that we are to understand here is the fruit of grace.
  • Until we come to resolution we shall be liable to temptation; until we fully set our faces towards God, and have a bent and serious purpose of heart, we shall never be free from temptation from the devil, and from evil men, or from ourselves.
  • It is God’s work to incline the heart; but when the work of grace is passed upon us, then the believer doth voluntarily incline himself; his will is bent to serve God, not by fits and starts, but alway to the end:
  • Those that will keep God’s statutes must fly to God’s help. Three reasons for this— 1. We are weak and mutable creatures. 2. Our strength lies in God’s hands. 3. God gives out his strength according to his own pleasure.
  • Resolution is needful, as was said before; but all our confidences must arise from God’s promises, not our own, if we mean not to be left in the dirt. This self-confidence in spiritual things I shall show—We cannot regularly expect anything from God but in God’s way. They who depend upon God will be much in prayer, hearing, and taking all opportunities. But when men begin to think they need not pray so much, need not make such conscience of hearing; when we are more arbitrary and negligent in the use of means, then we begin to live upon ourselves and our own stock, and do not depend upon the free grace of God to carry us out in our work.

The tenth sermon is on Psalm 119:9.

  • How shall a man that is impure, and naturally defiled with sin, be made able, as soon as he cometh to the use of reason, to purge out that natural corruption, and live a holy and pure life to God? The answer given is, By taking heed thereto according to thy word.’ Where two things are to be observed—(1.) The remedy; (2.) The manner how it is applied and made use of.
  • 1. The remedy is the word—by way of address to God, called thy word; because if God had not given direction about it, we should have been at an utter loss. 2. The manner how it is applied and made use of, by taking heed thereto, &c., by studying and endeavouring a holy conformity to God’s will.
  • The word is considerable as an instrument which God maketh use of to cleanse the heart of man. It will not be amiss a little to show the instrumentality of the word to this blessed end and purpose. It is the glass that discovereth sin, and the water that washeth it away.
  • It is the glass wherein to see our corruption. The first step to the cure is a knowledge of the disease;
  • In the word we see God’s image and our own. It is the copy of God’s holiness, and the representation of our natural faces, Rom. 7:9. What fond conceits have we of our own spiritual beauty! but there we may see the leprous spots that are upon us.
  • It sets us a-work to see it purged; it is the water to wash it out. The word of command presseth the duty; it is indispensably required.
  • Many have gone to heaven that were never learned, but never any without holiness.
  • The doctrine of the scripture holds out the remedy and means of cleansing—Christ’s blood;
  • God hath been at great cost to bring it about, therefore we must not content ourselves with some smooth morality, which might have been whether Christ had been, yea or nay.
  • The great duty of youth, as soon as they come to the full use of reason, is to inquire and study how they may cleanse their hearts and ways from sin.
  • The word of God is the only rule sufficient and effectual to accomplish this work.
  • It is fit that God should have our first and our best. It is fit he should have our first, because he minded us before we were born. His love to us is an eternal and an everlasting love; and shall we put off God to old age? shall we thrust him into a corner? Surely God, that loved us so early, it is but reason he should have our first, and also our best; for we have all from him.
  • Sin groweth stronger by custom, and more rooted; it gathereth strength by every act.
  • All time is little enough to declare your respects to God.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Book Review: The Legacy of Luther

The Legacy of Luther. R.C. Sproul, editor. 2016. Reformation Trust. 308 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence (from the foreword): Much of the discussion about Martin Luther these days seems to focus on his flaws rather than his faith, and that’s a pity. ~ John MacArthur

Premise/plot: The Legacy of Luther is edited by R.C. Sproul and Stephen J. Nichols. It has many contributors including: John MacArthur, David B. Calhoun, Joel R. Beeke, Steven J. Lawson, Stephen J. Nichols, Michael S. Horton, Guy Prentiss Waters, Sinclair B. Ferguson, W. Robert Godfrey. Gene Edward Veith, Aaron Clay Denlinger, Scott M. Manetsch, Sean Michael Lucas, Terry Yount, Derek W.H. Thomas, and R.C. Sproul.

The book is divided into three sections: "Luther's Life," "Luther's Thought," and "Luther's Legacy."

My thoughts: If you're looking to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, this would be a good choice. I'm not sure it's my favorite new book on the subject of the Reformation, but it is solidly good.

The first part of the book is a biography of Martin Luther and gives readers context. The second part of the book focuses on the five solas of the Reformation: Scripture Alone, Faith Alone, Grace Alone, Christ Alone, The Glory of God Alone. The third part focuses on Luther's legacy.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

My Year with Owen #30

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. 
  • Promises of growth and improvement are many and precious, the means excellent and effectual, the benefits great and unspeakable; yet it often falls out, that instead hereof decays and declensions are found upon professors, yea, in and upon many of the saints of God. ~ John Owen
  • God suffers us not to be unmindful of this assistance he has afforded us, but is continually calling upon us to make use of the means appointed for the attaining of the end proposed. ~ John Owen
  • Indwelling sin oftentimes prevails to the stopping of these springs of gospel obedience, by false and foolish opinions corrupting the simplicity of the gospel. ~ John Owen
  • False opinions are the work of the flesh. ~ John Owen
  • Growing in notions of truth without answerable practice is another thing that indwelling sin makes use of to bring the souls of believers unto a decay. ~ John Owen
  • Surely it is a pleasant thing to be brought out of darkness into light— out of a dungeon unto a throne— from captivity and slavery to Satan and cursed lusts, to the glorious liberty of the children of God, with a thousand heavenly sweetnesses not now to be mentioned. ~ John Owen
  • The law gives the soul to know the filth and guilt of this indwelling sin— how great they are, how vile it is, what an abomination, what an enmity to God, how hated of him. The soul shall never more look upon it as a small matter, whatsoever thoughts it had of it before, whereby it is greatly surprised. ~ John Owen
  • The whole work of the law does only provoke and enrage sin, and cause it, as it has opportunity, to put out its strength with more power, and vigor, and force than formerly. ~ John Owen

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, July 24, 2017

Ten Books I'd Love to Read In The Next Few Months

Asking the Right Questions: A Practical Guide to Understanding and Applying the Bible. Matthew S. Harmon. 2017. Crossway. 144 pages. [Source: Review copy]

This is my "current" book in the review copy program that Crossway has.

Learning to Love the Psalms. W. Robert Godfrey. 2017. Reformation Trust. 318 pages. [Source: Review copy]

This is my actual current read! I am LOVING it.

Side by Side: Walking with Others in Wisdom and Love by Edward T. Welch. 2015. Crossway. 176 pages. [Source: Gift]

My aunt bought me this book! So I'd love to make it a priority in the upcoming weeks.

Heart on the Line. Karen Witemeyer. 2017. Bethany House. 329 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I really, really love Karen Witemeyer's historical romances. I'm torn between reading them as soon as I get them, and, putting it off as long as possible because I like having something to look forward to. (I'm weird like that.)

Long Before Luther. Nathan Busenitz. 2017. Moody Publishers. 240 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I'm looking forward to reading this for my Reformation Reading Challenge!

Christianity and Liberalism. J. Gresham Machen. 1922. 189 pages. [Source: Bought

I blame W. Robert Godfrey for this one. I really fell in love with his church history teaching series. He made this one sound like an ESSENTIAL read for believers.

City of God. Augustine. 1097 pages. [Source: Bought]

I started reading this in February, took several months off, and then picked it up again this July. I am almost halfway through it now! Can I finish it before September or October? Probably not. But I'm aiming to finish it before the end of the year!

The Noble Servant. Melanie Dickerson. 2017. Thomas Nelson. 336 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I've been meaning to read this one for months now. But I'm always picking up nonfiction instead. I do love fiction. I just have to find a way to become more balanced as a reader!

Treasured Grace. Hearts of the Frontier #1. Tracie Peterson. 2017. Bethany House. 320 pages. [Source: Library]

I did get a review copy of the second book in the series, but not the first. So I'll need to read this one first!

Beloved Hope. Hearts of the Frontier #2. Tracie Peterson. 2017. Bethany House. 336 pages. [Source: Review copy]

I got a review copy of this one a few weeks ago, and I am looking forward to reading it. I guess when I requested it I wasn't aware it was the second in a series. Fortunately, my library has it!

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Bible Review: RSV

RSV Bible. 1977. Oxford University Press. 1904 pages. [Source: Gift]

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters. Genesis 1:1-2

About the RSV: The Revised Standard Version was a revision of the American Standard Version of 1901. The New Testament was released as early as 1946. The Old and New Testaments together were published in 1952. The translation went through several updates becoming finalized, I believe, in 1977.

According to Wikipedia, the VERY first copy of the RSV to come off the press was given to Harry S. Truman in September 1946. It was released to the general public a few days later.

Not every Christian embraced this new translation especially regarding the Old Testament. A strong reaction against this NEW translation in part led to a King-James-Only Movement. The fuss was over how Isaiah 7:14 was translated.
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, a young woman shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14
Some pastors preached sermons and wrote pamphlets against this "horrid" "modern" translation. A few even made a spectacle of themselves by burning it.

The RSV has been the basis for two different revisions: the NRSV (1989) and the ESV (2001).

My thoughts: This is the fifth Bible I've read in 2017. I was not aware of the controversy before I started reading it! I didn't always love, love, love how they translated particular verses. But I wouldn't have been an angry protester, at least I don't think! But then again, I did get quite upset with the Common English Bible over how they translated a verse in Genesis, so maybe I would have been.

I CAN ONLY IMAGINE the fuss that would have resulted if the MESSAGE had been published in 1952. It would actually be a little fun to imagine the uproar.
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Week in Review: July 16-22


  • Luke 7-24
  • John
  • Acts
  • Romans
  • 1 Corinthians
  • 2 Corinthians
  • Galatians
  • Ephesians
  • Philippians
  • Colossians
  • 1 Thessalonians
  • 2 Thessalonians
  • 1 Timothy
  • 2 Timothy
  • Titus
  • Philemon
  • Hebrews
  • James
  • 1 Peter
  • 2 Peter
  • 1 John
  • 2 John
  • 3 John
  • Jude
  • Revelation

NLT Beyond Suffering Bible

  • Genesis 1-23

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, July 21, 2017

Book Review: Embodied Hope

Embodied Hope: A Theological Meditation on Pain and Suffering. Kelly M. Kapic. 2017. IVP. 197 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: This book will make no attempt to defend God. I will not try to justify God or explain away the physical suffering in this world. Instead, I wrestle with nagging questions about our lives, our purpose, and our struggles. How should we live in the midst of this pain-soaked world? How do we relate to the God whose world this is? If you are looking for a book that boasts triumphantly of conquest over a great enemy or gives a detached philosophical analysis that neatly solves an absorbing problem, this isn’t it. Instead, this book aims to invites you into a larger conversation, a conversation greater than my family, and a struggle bigger than your pain and doubt. For while our pain, or the suffering of those we love, may cause us to feel isolated, these challenges remind us that we are actually part of the much larger stream of humanity.

Premise/plot: Embodied Hope is a Christian book about pain--chronic physical pain to be exact. It is divided into three parts: "The Struggle," "The Strangeness of God," and "Life Together."

The premise is simple: "Physical suffering often affects how we relate to God and others….The condition of our bodies does influence how we understand God and his ways….Pain in our body often influences how we relate to others." Kapic writes, "We must not pit the body against the spirit, the mind against the heart, the individual against the community. For our struggle is not ultimately with a single side of suffering but with how it affects us in our totality: from our relationships to our faith, from our bodies to our hope, from our mourning to our love."

Kapic examines the subject of pain in the world in this world. How pain impacts the individual, the family unit, the church community, and to a very small extent society itself. It isn't necessarily a theological book on "the problem of evil" vs. "the goodness of God." I don't think it would be a stretch to say that Kapic seeks to avoid the general and abstract in favor of the intimate and personal. In fact, he writes, "Rightly understood, doing theology is more often like farming than it is like stacking doctrinal bricks. Theology is lived; it is not regimentally constructed….Only when we begin to see that theology is not merely about repeating back answers but instead more like caring for a garden can we care well for others….There is a world of difference between reading a book about caring for people and actually caring for people. To theologize well, we need to love well."

The truth of the matter is that every person is unique. Every person has his or her own way of dealing with the pain, of coping with the pain, of living with the pain. And as much as he tries not to make generalizations, I think a few slip in.

In the first part, he explores "the struggle" of living with pain and the theological implications. He assumes that pain leads most to have "hard thoughts" about God. He assumes that most pain sufferers have false notions of God. For example, they see him as angry, distant, cruel, harsh; someone who enjoys watching people suffer. Pain sufferers might conclude that God isn't good and merciful and kind.

Kapic writes, "How does God look upon us in our weakness, even in our sin? Is God really angry or wrathful with us, his children? His bride? What picture of God is really warranted by the Scriptures? How do these passages like Zephaniah 3:17 and Isaiah 62:5 intersect our own experience? How can we then deal with the “hard thoughts” that tempt us, especially in our suffering? How do we develop a profound and affectionate trust of God rather than a sense of alienation? Our journey is to learn why such hard thoughts don’t reflect the triune God. Our hope is to learn to hear him singing over us, to trust his presence in the middle of the pain. Some will immediately object that this is wishful thinking based on a few obscure verses here and there. However, we will see that we are not talking about a few scattered biblical texts but are diving into the heart of the gospel, the heart of the good news discovered in Messiah. Only here will we unquestionably discover the very heart of God. To understand God and his relationship to our pain, we will need to examine the case of Jesus of Nazareth, a man who walked the dusty roads of Galilee over two thousand years ago. Only by listening to his words and by following the movement of his life, death, resurrection, and ascension might our very human struggle be seen in different light. Because he was and is God’s revelation of himself to us, it only makes sense to start there. In this endeavor it is to be hoped that our view of the God of heaven and earth will deepen beyond our current understanding. But to see Jesus clearly we need to stop defending our preconceived notions of who God is."

In the second part, the focus shifts to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.

In the third part, the focus shifts to the church, to the community of believers. How can the church of God best care for the people of God? How can the church reach out, include, better understand those living and struggling with physical pain and suffering?

My thoughts: I found the tenth chapter the most thought-provoking. In this chapter, he discusses the importance of confessing our sins to one another. This isn't a subject that is addressed often in contemporary theology. So he gave me a lot to think about!

I wanted to read this book because I suffer from chronic pain. The philosophical statement, "I think therefore I am," has been for me "I hurt, therefore I am." My mom also suffers from chronic pain, and as a result I think I've always felt understood and supported. The book assumes that if you're a pain sufferer that there's a good chance you struggle with loving God and seeing him as GOOD. The book assumes that physical pain leads you to keep God at a distance. I talked this over with my Mom for her perspective, and we both agreed that we could not relate to that reaction or response. (I knew my opinion. I wanted hers too!)

Pain, for me, has always kept the lines of communication with God OPEN. It keeps me dependent, needy, desperate, humble, weak. Pain  has me crying out for more of God's presence. Pain has filled me with an undeniable hope and a strong desire for heaven. The Word of God sustains me for it is full of God's promises.

His focus on community was very thought-provoking as I mentioned before. Vulnerability is not easy for me. It is hard for me to believe that others care how I'm feeling, how I'm doing in any real way. So much food for thought is included in this one.

Favorite quotes:

  • "Laments rise to the heavens as a strange combination of complaint, grief, questions, confusion, desire for rescue, and expectation of divine faithfulness. Our great hope is that lament is not all there is to human experience. Nevertheless, any who have truly lived and loved must come to believe that lament is at least part of our existence. Only the idealistic and unloving belittle tears and sadness. Only the coolly detached never raise a complaint about the condition of things, including our broken bodies. If we never lament, then it is legitimate to wonder if we have ever truly loved."
  • "To have a healthy emotional, spiritual, and mental life, we must be honest with ourselves. One truth about our lives is that we are broken; we inevitably encounter our own suffering and that of others, and eventually we die. How does our Lord teach us to respond to this? He teaches us hope, and within that hope we use lament to speak to God of the painful delay of peace. All laments ultimately go to God, with whom we wrestle and rest."
  • "If we fully and completely felt the lament of this broken and sinful world, it would crush any and all of us. We know that because it crushed Jesus. But thanks be to God, this Jesus also rose from the depths of despair and from the grave. He rose and lives even now. For now, let us simply appreciate that we are allowed, even invited, to lament. Yet we must take those laments to God since they will not crush him." 
  • "To be a truly human story—which is the only way we should understand the Christian story—means it must confess both grief and hope, sin and faithfulness, struggle and promise. We must learn to be truly honest with ourselves, with others, and even with God. Our theology requires it. Our stories demand it. Only with this kind of confession and lament are we finally in a position to capture a glimpse of the God who is, rather than the god we imagine him to be. Only then can we discover the scandalous grace of God so often spoken about, but so seldom truly savored."
  • "The church has always believed that we do not testify properly to God if we lie about the state of the world. Sin, death, and devilish activity are all around us. Anguish, heartbreak, and troubled relationships are everywhere. This is the world we live in. And it is in this world that we must learn to live. Consequently, Christians are to live before God in this world by honestly facing the reality of pain’s presence and all that it represents. We neither deny nor glorify it, but we must face it nevertheless, for this is the world we inhabit."
  • "So how are we to live when our present moment includes a constant guest called pain? How are we to embrace the present moment, not just in light of the possibility of some future death but as we live in the midst of very real suffering? These questions are not easy. But learning to ask questions, to wrestle honestly with God amid our laments, can actually serve as a way to live faithfully before and with God in the present, even amid our struggle with pain."
  • "God concerns himself for us in our sin and pain, neither because it was required of him nor because he had personally done anything wrong, but because he loves us and is the only one who could restore what was lost, repay the debt, free the slave, and heal the sick."
  • "So if faith and hope are to mean anything to us in our suffering, they must come to us in the context of love, or, to put it another way, faith and hope are only properly applied with love: a love accomplished and given through the person and work of Christ."
  • "Love is what we are called to, and love is what we should never try to escape from. But in this fallen world, such love also brings with it real suffering."
  • "We experience divine love most concretely when we receive and give it to others. God expresses his love and extends his comfort through his people."
  • "When faith and hope grow out of love, they are like food for the hungry and medicine for the sick. Thus we need faith, hope, and love, but without love we lose all three."
  • "Simply facing pain everyday does not free us from sin. Nor does it make us more sinful. But what it does tend to do is heighten our awareness of sin and brokenness in the world and in our own life. In a counterintuitive way, those who are hurting can also help those who are relatively free from pain: they remind us that the world—including our body—is not as it should be, and it is this which suffering and the pains of death never let us forget. But with these sisters and brothers we can also see the promise of shalom and hope, a promise not yet full realized. To understand these dynamics we must learn why those who suffer often have a heightened awareness of the reality of sin, not only in themselves but in the world."
  • "I believe the act of confession, and in particular confession to a fellow believer, is crucial to sustaining the struggling saint. As we will soon see, for those facing physical suffering—where they have a heightened sense of their own sin—this act of confession becomes one of the keys to life-giving faith amid the voices of condemnation. This is not because they are greater sinners but because they sometimes have a greater sensitivity to the presence of sin in their lives and this world, and they sense their deep need for forgiveness and grace. We all need these gifts of divine compassion and mercy, but our relative health often masks the darker realities of our spiritual neediness."
  • "To be forgiven, healed, cleansed, and restored to God requires that our offenses, diseases, dirt, and alienation be obliterated and that we experience the consequent forgiveness, healing, cleansing, and restoration. This requires an honest reckoning. Confession before others, therefore, to be of any use at all, requires that those others are safe and trustworthy, and that we are open with them. Normally, those who receive our confessions must have enough life and spiritual experiences in line with what is confessed to serve us well."
  • "We need to hear the gospel from others, from outside ourselves. The power of the gospel preached personally to me from a faithful sister or brother has a power that I cannot conjure for myself."
  • "Confession before others can also help us disentangle our pain from the idea of personal punishment. Here we can know forgiveness and grace even in our pain (1 Jn 1:9). Here we can honestly affirm and confess the brokenness of the world and the failures of our own hearts. In confession, we are brought before Jesus, whom we encounter through our brother and sister (Mt 18:20; 2 Cor 2:10). Looking into their eyes, hearing their voice, and feeling their touch, we can receive Jesus’s promise to us: “your sins are forgiven.”"
  • "We may not be able to take away the physical pain, but we can point one another to him who promises one day to completely heal us. For now we cling to his promise of restoration, cling to him who has the ability also to restore the body. He will make all things new (Rev 21:5). We will be free from sin, pain, and tears (Is 65:19; Rev 21:4). We will be free from isolation, selfcondemnation, darkness, fear and anger (cf. Is 35:10//51:11; Rev 21:22-27). We will be utterly free to love our Creator and our neighbor. While we may not fully experience that freedom now, we can help one another to experience genuine tastes of shalom even in the present, even in our pain, even as we struggle with our sin."
  • "Confession liberates us, not from physical pain but from shame and condemnation. And here, the “healthy” can learn from the hurting, like the blind teaching the Pharisees to see (cf. Jn 9:31–10:41)."
  • "Witness holds an important place in the Christian tradition. These days when someone hears about Christian witness, they almost inevitably think about believers testifying of Christ to nonbelievers. That is what we call evangelism. However, what is often forgotten is how important giving witness or testimony can be within the Christian community, especially in times of difficulty. This witness is always twofold: acknowledging that our troubles are real and that God is unflinchingly faithful."
  • "We are called to have compassion, to come alongside others in their pain, and to love them. This is risky. Almost inevitably you will—even if only in some small way—suffer with them. However, in this shared pilgrimage you will also discover afresh the grace and tenderness of God."

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Check-In With The Cloud

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

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

My Summer with Psalm 119 #7

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.

The seventh sermon is on Psalm 119:6.

  • No sin can be little that is committed against the great God.
  • A Christian is alike everywhere, because God is alike everywhere.
  • A chief cause of our going wrong is because we do not bring our hearts and ways together.
  • Two things make one bold, innocency and independency; and both are found in him that hath a sincere respect to God’s commandments.
  • Sin and shame entered into the world together.
  • Sin is odious to God, it grieveth the Spirit; but the person that committeth it shall be filled with shame.

The eighth sermon is on Psalm 119:7.

  • Every unbeliever, such as all are by nature, is condemned already, having only the slender thread of a frail life between him and the execution of it. The sentence of the law standeth in force against him, since he will not come to Christ to get it repealed. This sentence standeth in force against all heathens which never heard of Christ, and are condemned already by the law.
  • Conscience is God’s deputy, Satan is God’s executioner.
  • The witness is silenced; the executioner hath no more to do when the judge absolveth, as God doth all by the sentence of the gospel that are willing to come under Christ’s shadow.
  • Men have only a process against others either for words or actions, but God hath a process against them for their thoughts. Though in men’s courts thoughts are free, as not liable to their cognisance, yet they are subject to another judicature.
  • Words will come to be judged: either we are to give an account of them here, or hereafter; either to condemn ourselves for them, and seek pardon, or to be condemned hereafter before God.
  • God will not deal with you by way of surprise; he hath plainly told you according to what rule he will proceed: saith he, The word which I have spoken, the same shall judge you at the last day.’
  • If you cannot stand before the word of God, how will you stand before Christ’s tribunal at the last day?
  • Consult often with the word, which is the copy of God’s most righteous will. A man need go no further either for direction, quickening, or encouragement. The world despiseth the plain directions of the word, and crieth up the notion of things, and looketh for quainter conceits, and things of a more sublime speculation. If we should only bring scripture, and urge men by God’s authority, and call upon them in Christ’s name, and by Christ’s arguments, this would be too low for them.
  • To be backward in the knowledge of grace after long teaching, and to be still conflicting with fleshly lusts, which is the exercise of beginners—so much means and so small experience, and get no further—this is sad!

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Book Review: Matthew

Matthew: All Authority in Heaven and On Earth. Douglas Sean O'Donnell. 2013. Crossway. 1090 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: WHEN VAN HALEN’S album 1984 hit the record stores, many a young lad, myself included, signed up for piano lessons.
I definitely enjoyed reading Douglas Sean O'Donnell's commentary on the gospel of Matthew. Yes, it is over a thousand pages. Yes, it's  at least twice the length of the whole New Testament. But it's worth reading.

In eighty-nine chapters, O'Donnell covers all twenty-eight chapters of Matthew. The commentary isn't written with a verse-by-verse approach, but, a section by section approach. Each chapter is a sermon essentially that unpacks that section of Scripture.

There are eleven chapters on the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5-7.

  • A Sermon on THE Sermon, Matthew 5-7
  • A Broken Blessedness, Matthew 5:3-10
  • Unworldly for the World, Matthew 5:11-16
  • "I Say to You," Part 1, Matthew 5:17-48
  • "I Say to You," Part 2, Matthew 5:21-48
  • God-Rewarded Righteousness, Matthew 6:1-18
  • How Not to Pray, Matthew 6:5-8
  • How to Pray, Matthew 6:9-15
  • Treasure and Trust, Matthew 6:19-34
  • The Loving Art of Speck Removal, Matthew 7:1-12
  • The Narrow Gate to Life, Matthew 7:13-29

There are fourteen chapters on the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ which covers Matthew 26 through 28.

Every verse gets covered some way, some how. But not every verse gets equal amount of attention.

O'Donnell begins by talking about all four gospels. He points out that, "They have the same bass line. Yet each Gospel has a distinct melody of its own." So what is Matthew's melody line?
"Jesus is King. Jesus is the King of Jews and Gentiles. Therefore, this King Jesus is to be worshipped. Like a fine symphony, Matthew’s melodic line resurfaces time and again through each chapter, oftentimes like a cello quietly playing in the background, until finally we come to the finale, where the whole orchestra, chorus, and even the audience stand up, play, and sing in one voice! This happens in the last three verses—the Great Commission. Listen for yourself. Listen for the culmination of all the subtle and strong sounds."
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20
"If you understand the Great Commission in its context, you will very well understand the Gospel of Matthew."
He challenges you NOT to let your familiarity with Matthew, with any of the gospels, get in the way of your seeing, your BEHOLDING who Jesus is.
"Nobody talks the way Jesus talked. Those today who have great authority, even if they overestimate their power and over-esteem themselves, do not talk like Jesus talked. They do not claim to be the king of Heaven and earth. They do not claim, as they sit on their glorious throne no less(!), that every person from every time and everywhere will one day come before them to be judged. They do not claim to have authority to forgive sins. They do not claim to be greater than the temple and the Torah or to be the fulfillment and embodiment of the Hebrew Scriptures. They do not claim that their rule will spread to every corner of the world. They do not claim to establish an unconquerable church and institute new sacraments that have themselves as the foundation and focus. They do not claim that all their commandments are to be obeyed. Matthew has a certain logic about him. He gives us various reasonable proofs for Jesus’ crazy claims. But such proofs are not like a mathematical equation. Rather, they are like the burning bush that Moses encountered, a bush that burns but never burns out. You have to come close enough to feel its heat to know it’s true. Logic on fire! Think of Matthew’s case for Christ and his absolute authority like one of those metal fire pits. In the fire pit itself are these burning but not burning-out claims of Christ—“I have authority over all things,” etc. Then there are those four sturdy, cast-iron legs that hold the pit up and in place. Each leg by itself would not necessarily hold up the claims, but together they make a pretty solid base. Let’s briefly examine the legs that hold up his claims. The first leg is fulfillment. Matthew will repeatedly use the word “fulfilled” and phrases like “This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet” to show that what was promised in the Old Testament is now being fulfilled in Jesus. He highlights general characteristics of what to expect in the Messiah as well as specific prophecies—e.g., “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son” (1:23) or “Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey” (21:5). Near the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus will say of himself, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (5:17). The idea is this: check what the Old Testament says. Check what Jesus does and says. Then you might very well say, “By golly, the shoe fits!” The second leg is teaching. If you have one of those Bibles that has all the words of Jesus in red, in Matthew you will see a lot of red. But the point is not simply that Jesus taught a lot. It is that he taught with authority. That is what the crowds noticed. He taught them “as one who had authority” (7:29). This will be the constant criticism of his critics, who will ask, “By what authority” he does this or says that (cf. 21:23–27). Jesus taught with authority, but an authority unlike any other. The third leg is character. A wise person can say some wise things, and some of those wise things can be remembered, even many years later. We still quote Socrates. But nobody worships Socrates. Why? Well, because he never claimed to be God, and because his character never had to fit his claims. The fourth leg is his miracles. By themselves, the miracles are not what is unique about him. But as the last and final leg, his miracles hold everything in place perfectly. The healing of the blind men, the lepers, the multiplication of the fishes and loaves, and the resurrection itself all point beyond themselves to Jesus’ identity. They point to his authority—his authority to forgive sins, his authority over disease, and his authority to conquer even death, of which there is nothing so powerful and prevalent in this world. If you can conquer death, you have a lot of power! All authority is the first and key note in Matthew’s Gospel. Tragically it is the most disregarded thought in the world today."
He challenges you to take your faith seriously, to hold to the truth, to live out what you say you believe.
"Christianity is not a pick-n-save religion: you pick whatever teachings you like and you still get saved. Oh no! If that’s how you think, you have it all wrong. Just listen to Jesus if you won’t listen to me. He stated it straightforwardly: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (7:21)."
Quotes I loved:
God has given us creation—what Calvin called the theatre of his glory—and Scripture, what I’ll call the evidence of his faithfulness, and yet how many humans want a DNA test before they will call him, “Abba, Father.”
Who is the King of the Jews? Who is your king? Whose voice are you going to heed? Will you be indifferent to Jesus? Will you be hostile? Or will you bow low, with whatever gifts you have in hand, adoringly worshipping him?
This is the message the world needs, but it is also the message the church needs. This is why we find this theme of repentance in all the letters of the New Testament. Christians who have repented must continue to live lives of repentance (e.g., 2 Corinthians 7:9, 10; 12:21; 2 Peter 3:9).
Is Jesus Lord? If so, is he Lord over your life so much that in his presence you recognize the spiritual difference that exists between you and him—he is holy, you are not? In light of this difference, do you repent of your sins? And more than understanding and embracing repentance in this first sense—repenting of sin—do you also repent from following anyone or anything more than Jesus? That is the real point pressed on us here, and it will be pressed on us again and again in Matthew, especially at the end of chapter 10.
We serve a Lord who does not ask his followers to follow any road he himself has not traveled, a Lord who selflessly entered into the brokenness of this world to give all who would believe in him a future, the blessings of the kingdom of heaven.
Let’s be perfectly honest. We live in a prayerless world and in a prayerless church. I can say with confidence that the good majority of us are not disciplined when it comes to prayer. We can blame our negligence on the recent advances in science and technology, which seek to unveil all mysteries and free us from dependence on supernatural forces beyond our control. Or we can blame the great influence of entertainment, which takes our attention from the sublime and the divine and focuses it on the trite and the trivial. But the real blame must fall on us. We don’t pray because we don’t understand God. Or worse, we don’t pray because we don’t love, trust, or need God. Since God doesn’t matter to us as much as we think or say, prayer doesn’t matter much either.
The narrow gate is more of a who than a what. The narrow gate is Jesus. I say this because of what Jesus himself teaches in John 10:9, where he calls himself “the door” (cf. v. 3 “gatekeeper”) or “the gate” (NIV). In a context similar to what we have here in Matthew (as Jesus is talking about false teachers who try to steal and harm the sheep), he says in John 10:9, “I am the door [i.e., the gate through which the sheep enter safely]. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved.” This same sort of imagery and language in John 10:9 is used in 7:21, where Jesus says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven.” Enter what? The kingdom of heaven. How? Through the narrow gate (i.e., Jesus). Jesus teaches, “Not everyone who says to me . . .” He is the gate into Heaven, the way into life, the way into eternal fellowship with God (cf. John 14:6).
Our felt needs or physical needs may be great, but they will never be as great as our need for forgiveness.
Our ultimate hope is not to escape death. Who escapes death? This twelve-year-old girl would one day die again, just as Lazarus, who was also raised from the dead, also eventually died again. This miracle story is not about how we should trust that Jesus will save us from an early death or from death itself. Jesus is not some mystical, magical, mythical Fountain of Youth. No. He is our resurrected Savior! This story before us is really just a miniature version of the great story of our salvation: in the death of Christ is the death of death. He takes on the curse of death that Adam brought into the world. Specifically, in the death of Christ is the death of our spiritual death (we will be forgiven our sin), and in the resurrection of Christ is the death of our physical death (we will rise again bodily). Since Christ died and rose again, we who are united to him, though we may die, will also rise again to a better life. In the words of Horatio Spafford, the hymn-writer who lost his four daughters at sea, we will rise to a life where Satan does not buffet, where trials do not come, where sea billows do not roll, and where all is finally well with our souls. That is our hope. It is a hope based on the reality of the resurrection and a hope that I hope brings encouragement to you today. Hammer away! Hammer away . . . for on the last day we shall rise again.
Disbelief? Is that the worst sin in the world? Everyone ranks sins differently—murder, adultery, stealing, parking in a handicap space without a sticker, eating trans fats. But disbelief—failure to trust in Jesus? That’s not even on some people’s lists. Well, it’s on Jesus’ list, at the very top!
If you want God as your Father, pride cannot be your mother. Pride cannot be the ruling principle in your life. Pride cannot be the authority over all your actions. Pride cannot be the voice telling you what to do.
Don’t call yourself a Christian if you don’t believe Jesus ever existed. Don’t call yourself a Christian if you believe only half of the red letters in your Bible have any connection to the historical Jesus. Don’t call yourself a Christian if you think Jesus didn’t die for your sins and rise for your justification. Don’t call yourself a Christian if you think obeying Christ’s commands are optional. And don’t call yourself a Christian if you think there are many ways to God. To be a Christian is, at the very least, to take Jesus at his word. “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters” (v. 30). Thus saith the Lord. The claims of Jesus are the claims of Jesus. We either believe them or we don’t. What he said in verse 30 is either true or false.
Gospel growth, gospel judgment, and gospel gain are the three themes of these seven parables. Gospel growth says to us, “Don’t be discouraged. The gospel has grown, it is growing, and it will continue to growth until harvesttime.” Gospel judgment says to us, “Don’t be less gracious than God. God will eradicate evil, but first he wants people to repent, find the kingdom, and embrace the King.” Gospel gain says to us, “The kingdom of heaven is worth infinitely more than the cost of discipleship.”13 Such sacrifice is worth it, for it will bring eternal blessedness (shining-like-the-sun blessedness!) when the King of the kingdom comes again to gather the good fish, the fruitful wheat, and all those beautiful birds nesting on the branches of that once tiny mustard seed.
To come to Christ is to deny self—to admit that we’re sinful, that we need a Savior. And to live for Christ is to deny self—to abide in him, pray to him, walk in his power. God’s plan of salvation and sanctification has one summary command: deny yourself!
My brothers and sisters in Christ, God is to be first in our lives. That’s what this first great commandment teaches us. He can’t be second or third or fourth of fifth or fiftieth. The sum of the whole Old Testament (and New Testament) is the command to love God and to love him before all others, more than anything and anyone else. And in a world that lacks a God-consciousness (let alone a God-centeredness), and in churches where preachers refuse to preach straightly and forthrightly the need for Christians to love God, we need to pray doubly hard to set the Lord God before our eyes and to see him (as Jesus did) towering “in sovereignty above the state (22:15–22), above death (vv. 23–33), and . . . above all other human responsibilities (vv. 34–40).”
The Christian life is not a ten-yard dash—such a short sprint that we can get the prize after the first five steps. Rather it is a grueling marathon that we must run all the way to the finish line. The gospel demands distance runners, those who run toward Heaven with hardship burning on our heels, those who patiently pace themselves, knowing that “momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17).
The most neglected theme in the modern church is the theme of judgment. The second most neglected theme is the theme that the church shall be judged: “judgment [will] . . begin [with] the household of God” (1 Peter 4:17). The third most neglected theme is the theme that the individual Christian shall stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ to give an account for what he has done (16:27; cf. Romans 14:12).
Without Jesus there is no gospel. Without the Old Testament there is no gospel. Without Jesus fulfilling the Old Testament there is no gospel. What good news do we herald? What light do we bring to the dark world? That Jesus died for our sins, rose again from the dead to grant us eternal life, and will come again in power to make everything right . . . just like the Hebrew Bible said. Our gospel is “the saving Story of Israel . . . lived out by [true Israel,] Jesus, who lived, died, was buried, and was exalted to God’s right hand” and who will soon come in glory to establish his forever kingdom.
For the sins of abortion, adultery, anxiety, arrogance, backbiting, bearing false witness, bitterness, blasphemy, boasting, bribery, complaining, coveting, contention, coarse joking, deceit, defrauding others, despising the poor, dishonoring the government, disregarding the Lord’s people on the Lord’s Day, disrespecting your parents and elders, envy, evil thoughts, fornication, fortune-telling, fraud, gambling, giving grudgingly (or not giving at all), gluttony, gossip, greed, harsh words, hating your brother, holding a grudge, idleness, idolatry, immodesty, losing your temper, lust, lying, malice, murder, prayerlessness, racism, rage, rape, resisting the Holy Spirit, returning insult for insult, rioting, scoffing, selfish ambition, showing favoritism, slander, sloth, speaking idle words, stealing, unlawful divorce, violence, witchcraft, and loving the world, loving yourself, not loving your neighbor or enemy or fellow Christian or God . . . to name a few sins. For all those and more, Behold your crucified king! Give thanks to him. Give thanks. Give thanks. Give thanks. Just imagine what the weight of the sins of the world felt like. Just imagine the one man “who knew no sin” being “made . . . to be sin . . . so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). It is one thing to have a thorn pushing into your skull when a Roman soldier hits you in the head;16 it is quite another thing—an unfathomable thing—for God the Father to charge/impute/bestow upon his only Son all of our sins. You see, nothing reveals the weight of our sins like the sufferings of Jesus. Nothing reveals the mercy of God like the sufferings of Jesus. Nothing reveals our absolute inability to save ourselves like the sufferings of Jesus. And thus something of our heartfelt thanks offered up to him is more than appropriate, don’t you think?
However, let’s be careful to hold high and hold out the Great Commission’s “go.” There must be some movement to our mission. And the movement in our text is not the movement from sitting in our pews to standing to sing. Neither is the movement from the sanctuary to the fellowship hall. Rather, it is the movement out the front door to take the gospel to lost people.
Jesus’ teaching ministry is to be our teaching ministry. Christian churches are only Christian if they center on Christ’s commands. Our mission is not to make Buddhists better Buddhists or Muslims better Muslims or atheists better atheists or witches better witches, but rather to invite all people from all other “faiths” into the one true faith under the commandments of the one true Lord. The Great Commission is exclusively inclusive—it is one Lord for all nations! So I ask you, do you know all that the Lord has commanded?

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

My Year with Owen #29

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. 

    • Our progress in obedience is our edification or building. ~ John Owen
    • It is particular actions wherein we express and exercise our faith and obedience; ~ John Owen
    • There are sundry things in and about every sin that the mind of a believer, by virtue of its office and duty, is obliged to attend diligently unto, for the preservation of the soul from it. ~ John Owen
    • The receiving of the promises ought to be effectual, as to stir us up unto all holiness, so to work and effect an abstinence from all sin. And what promises are these?— namely, that “God will be a Father unto us, and receive us” (2 Cor. 6: 17-18); which comprises the whole of all the love of God toward us here and to eternity. ~ John Owen
    • Now, the heart may have a settled, fixed detestation of sin; but yet if a man find that the imagination of the mind is frequently solicited by it and exercised about it, such a one may know that his affections are secretly enticed and entangled. This entanglement is heightened when the imagination can prevail with the mind to lodge vain thoughts in it, with secret delight and complacency. ~ John Owen
    • When the soul is willing, as it were, to be tempted, to be courted by sin, to hearken to its dalliances and solicitations, it has lost its conjugal affections unto Christ and is entangled. ~ John Owen
    • It is not, indeed, possible that sin should utterly deprive the soul of the knowledge of the danger of it. It cannot dispossess it of its notion or persuasion that “the wages of sin is death” [Rom. 6: 23], and that it is the “judgment of God that they that commit sin are worthy of death” [Rom. 1: 32]. But this it will do— it will so take up and possess the mind and affections with the baits and desirableness of sin, that it shall divert them from an actual and practical contemplation of the danger of it. ~ John Owen
    • Meditate on the vileness, the demerit, and punishment of sin as represented in the cross, the blood, the death of Christ. Is Christ crucified for sin, and shall not our hearts be crucified with him unto sin? Shall we give entertainment unto that, or hearken unto its dalliances, which wounded, which pierced, which slew our dear Lord Jesus? God forbid! ~ John Owen
    • Fill your affections with the cross of Christ, that there may be no room for sin. The world once put him out of the house into a stable, when he came to save us; let him now turn the world out of doors, when he is come to sanctify us. ~ John Owen
    • Grace has the rule and dominion, and not sin, in the will of every believer. ~ John Owen
    • Temptation is the representation of a thing as a present good, a particular good, which is a real evil, a general evil. ~ John Owen

    © Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

    Monday, July 17, 2017

    Book Review: The Wisdom of God

    The Wisdom of God: Letting His Truth and Goodness Direct Your Steps. A.W. Tozer. Edited by James L. Snyder. 2017. Bethany House. 190 pages. [Source: Review copy]

    First sentence: For a long time I have been thinking about the subject of this book: wisdom. A better writer than I should write this book, but in the meantime, I will do my best to unburden my heart.

    James L. Snyder has had permission from Tozer's estate to publish his "never-before-published" sermons into new books. There have been many in recent years, the Wisdom of God is the newest.

    The theme of the book is Wisdom. He addresses what "wisdom" meant in Hebrew thought and doctrine, what "wisdom" meant in Greek thought and how the Greek and Hebrew thought differ from one another, and the connection between Jesus Christ and Wisdom. But perhaps more than all this is his focus on God: Father, Son and Spirit. The focus is on how God has revealed himself to us through His Word. The wise among us will treasure the Bible for what it is: the very revelation of God himself.

    The subject is, without a doubt, a challenging one. I don't think many Christians would deny that God is wise. But I also don't think many would claim to understand--define, explain, elaborate on--GOD'S WISDOM. I am just not sure the human mind can grasp the fullness and depth. We can certainly affirm truths about God as revealed in Scripture. We can be humbled by God's wisdom--and the vastness in between our "wisdom" and His. I definitely think it is the height of foolishness to think that we can judge God, that we can judge God's actions, commands, or precepts. I think the more we try to defend God, to better God, to bring out God 2.0, the more foolish we become. I do think people can be deceived into thinking that they have all the answers and know better than God.

    I definitely found this to be a thought-provoking read. But it wasn't Tozer at his clearest or best. It would not be the first book by Tozer that I'd recommend. But it certainly was worth reading. Tozer identifies wisdom so closely with God in the three persons of the trinity that a lot of his statements could be taken out of context and misunderstood. In other words, he uses the word "wisdom" in this one in ways that one would normally associate it with God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit. For example, he says: the one thing a person needs most in life is wisdom. Or another example, when we saved we were joined with the eternal wisdom that created the universe itself.

    Favorite quotes:

    • The purpose of God in redemption is not just to save us from hell. The purpose of God in redemption is to save us unto heaven. To be totally saved, He has to save us from something in order to save us unto something. We are saved from sin, which is the negative side. We are saved unto holiness, which is the positive side. We are saved from hell, but we are saved unto heaven. We are saved from the devil, but we are saved unto Christ. (26)
    • In our day, we have degraded Christianity to be a kind of soft vaccine against hell and sin. We gather people, stick them with a religious needle, and say, "If you just accept Jesus you will not go to hell, you will go heaven when you die. Keep living as well as you can, and when you die you'll go to heaven." Many are preaching what I refer to as a kind of lifeboat salvation, and even the songs today reflect that idea. Certainly, this is an inadequate concept of Christianity. The purpose of God in redeeming men was not to save them from hell only, but to save them to worship, and to allow them to be born into that eternal wisdom that was with the Father, which is synonymous with that eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed unto men. (38)
    • I believe the compelling need of this hour is for Christians to receive from God a baptism of eternal wisdom, the creative wisdom of God. Lacking this, the church is blind. (47)
    • We have ignored the fact that Christianity has a divine source; it is divinely ordained, divinely given, and it cannot be humanly explained. It can only be promoted by divine wisdom and power. (50)
    • Our relationship with God must be based upon God's ways and not our ways. The wisdom that comes from on high, this divine breath that settles down upon us is what enables us to understand God and our relationship to Him. (68)
    • It is a wonderful thing when you come to the conclusion that only God can help. (73)
    • Oh, what a different world it would be, what a different life we would live, what a different service we would render, and what a different death we would die if we were able to see the presence of God in all things all of the time. (93)
    • Does anybody preach on overcoming anymore? Is not this a good evangelical doctrine? Or are we so afraid that we will distract from the glory of grace that we are no longer teaching people that they must overcome? We have to be overcomes, and to do so there must be a fight. (120)
    • Repentance is to seek to become a new person. It is not simply to get peace, for you can have peace and be the same person you were. It is not to get a ticket to heaven. A Christian is not one who has a ticket to heaven as one might have a ticket to a ball game. A Christian is one who has sought to become a new person. He has found himself out and has learned what a scoundrel he is by the illumination of the Holy Spirit. (139)
    • The idea that Christ reaches out to you with a lifeboat and pulls you aboard without changing you is a modern heresy that ought to be set aside until the Lord comes, or until men learn better. (140)
    • The one who says he wants to be saved but has no interest in being changed cannot be saved. To be saved, one must care about being like Christ. He will be anxious to be free from sin and alive unto God. (141)
    • To be repentant means to come to Christ self-accusing and without defense. (142)

    © Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

    Saturday, July 15, 2017

    Week in Review: July 9-15


    • Psalms 107-150
    • Proverbs
    • Ecclesiastes
    • Song of Songs
    • Isaiah
    • Jeremiah
    • Lamentations
    • Ezekiel
    • Daniel
    • Hosea
    • Joel
    • Amos
    • Obadiah
    • Jonah
    • Micah
    • Nahum
    • Habakkuk
    • Zephaniah
    • Haggai
    • Zechariah
    • Malachi
    • Matthew

    © Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

    DVD Review: Survey of Church History, Part Six

    A Survey of Church History, Part One: A.D. 1900-2000.  W. Robert Godfrey. Twelve 23-Minute Messages. [Source: Gift]

    For anyone who loves history or theology, I recommend Ligonier's teaching series, A Survey of Church History. W. Robert Godrey is the teacher, and he's fabulous! The series has six parts. 

    The sixth part is the final part. It covers the twentieth century. Again the focus keeps returning, circling around, the Presbyterian church. Many of the messages share a common theme: what went wrong with the Presbyterian church, when did it go wrong, how and why did it go wrong, etc. A lot of division and splitting occurs. But the series covers so much more than that.

    The messages are:

    • A Remarkable Century
    • Empires and Missions
    • Fundamentalism
    • J. Gresham Machen
    • Struggle in American Churches
    • Aimee Semple McPherson
    • Pentecostalism
    • The New Evangelicalism
    • Rome in the 20th Century
    • The Church and Islam
    • Doctrinal Distinctives
    • Reformed Christianity

    I really LOVED, LOVED, LOVED the series as a whole. I thought it would be easy to choose a favorite part: one, two, three, four, or five. You might think, well, the one on the Reformation HAS to be the best of the best, right? Well, I'm not sure I can pick. I found the last two discs to be SO GOOD. Perhaps a bit more thought-provoking and convicting than previous sections which were more history-themed.

    One thing he addresses are labels and definitions. Fundamentalism and evangelicalism. How labels come about, how words are defined, how words change meaning, who uses them and why. In one lecture, he talks about how limiting the word evangelical really is. He says that there are four pillars of evangelicalism and that these are the most basic, most bare minimums you could come up with and still technically be of the Christian faith. He argues that Christianity is so much more than four points. It is not even five points. If you're going to embrace the faith, and STAND for something, then he wants you to stand for the whole faith and embrace everything the Bible teaches. The last two messages are specifically about Reformed theology. 

    Mom and I were definitely sad to see the series end. We'd become quite attached to spending our days with Godfrey! The series in total is 73 messages!!! 

    © Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

    Friday, July 14, 2017

    My Summer with Psalm 119 #6

    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.

    The sixth sermon is on Psalm 119:5.
    • Note, that it is the use and duty of the people of God to turn precepts into prayers.
    • What God hath required at our hands, that we may desire at his hands.
    • Why doth God require what we cannot perform by our own strength? He doth it—(1.) To keep up his right; (2.) To convince us of our impotency, and that upon a trial; without his grace we cannot do his work; (3.) That the creature may express his readiness to obey; (4.) To bring us to lie at his feet for grace.
    • The precept cometh from God to drive us to God; his sovereignty maketh way for his grace. He calleth upon us for obedience, that we may call upon him for help.
    • He giveth us a law, that he may afterwards give us a heart. God’s end is to bring us upon our knees. 
    • When we are full of self, there is no room for grace. 
    • Cold, raw wishes are unuseful and fruitless; we must work as well as wish.
    • The scriptures are sufficient to make us wise; but without the light of the Spirit, how do we grope at noonday!
    • One great end of God’s Spirit is to put us in remembrance, to revive truths upon us in their season. A ship, though never so well rigged, needs a pilot; we need a good guide to put us in mind of our duty.
    • A man is to choose God for a guide, as well as to take him for a lord; to ask his counsel as well as submit to his commandments. 

    © Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible