Thursday, August 31, 2017

My Summer with Psalm 119 #18

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 25 (Psalm 119:24)

  • First, Let me speak of the first benefit, Thy testimonies are my delight.’ Doct. That a child of God, though under deep affliction, finds a great deal of delight and comfort in the word of God. What manner of delight this is that we find in the word. 2. What the word ministereth or contributeth towards it. 
  • This delight is a real joy. It is a cordial joy. It is a great joy. It is a joy that ends well. But now, the more of this delight we have, the more we delight ourselves in the word of God, the more we love God, the better the heart is. It is a delight that overcomes the sense of our affliction, and all the evils that do befall us; and therefore it is said of the heirs of promise that they have strong consolation.'
  • Carnal joy makes a loud noise, and therefore it is compared to the crackling of thorns under a pot;’ but this is that which goes to the heart, that fills it with serenity and peace. Carnal joy is like the morning dew, which wets the surface; but godly joy is like a soaking shower that goes to the root, and makes the plant flourish. They that indulge false comfort rather laugh than are merry. But now he that is exercised in the word of God, and fetcheth his comfort out of the promises, he is glad at the very heart.
  • It is not a joy that perverts the heart. Carnal comforts, the more we use them, the more we are ensnared by them.
  • Secondly, How do we find it in the word? His testimonies are my delight.’ The word requires this joy in troubles, and the word ministers it to the soul.
  • We are not only with patience to submit to God’s will, but also to rejoice in it.
  • A true believer, that hath received the word of God as the rule of his life and guide of his hopes, he can not only be patient, but cheerful, glory in his tribulation. A carnal man is not so comfortable in his best estate as he at his worst.
  • Again, it gives us matter and ground of joy. God speaks a great deal of comfort to an afflicted spirit. It was one end why the scriptures were penned: Rom. 15:4, That we through patience and comfort of the scripture might have hope;’ and Heb. 12:5, Have you forgotten the consolation, that speaks to you as children?’ The great drift of the word is to provide matter of comfort, and that in our worst estate.
  • The scripture gives us ground of comfort from the author of our afflictions, who is our Father, and never manifests the comfort of adoption so much as then when we are under chastening.
  • Cordials are for those that are fainting. In time of trouble we have most sensible experience of God’s love.
  • He that can find Christ in his afflictions, and can see heaven beyond it, needs not to be troubled.
  • Let us exercise ourselves in the word of God, and let all his promises be as so many cordials to us. To this end get an interest in these promises, for the heirs of promise have strong consolation.'
  • There is strong, great, real, and pure comfort, but it is to the heirs of promise. So Rom. 5:4, Not only so, but we rejoice in tribulation.’ Who are those? Those that are justified by faith in Christ, ver. 1. To others, afflictions are the punishments of sin, and an occasion of despair, not of rejoicing. Ay! but when we are interested in reconciliation with God, then we take this comfort out of the word of God.
  • For the clearing of this, let me lay down these propositions— 1. That our great interest is to keep in with God, or approve ourselves to him. 2. Whoever would keep in with God needs counsel and direction in all his ways. 3. The only good counsel we can have is from God in his word. 4. The counsel God hath given us in his word is sufficient and full out for all our necessities.
  • God, being our chiefest good, must be our last end; therefore in every action there must be a habitual purpose, and in all actions of weight and moment there must be an actual purpose, to please God.
  • Every ordinary affair must be carried forth in the strength of the habitual purpose, but in all actions we would make a business of there must be an actual purpose. And because his authority alone can sway the conscience, which is under his dominion, therefore it concerns us in all things to exercise ourselves that we may have a good conscience, void of offence both towards God and man,’ Acts 24:16. And again, we are to approve our ways to God, and to keep in with him, because to him we are to give an account, 2 Cor. 5:9,10. There will a time come when every action of ours shall be taken into consideration, and weighed in the balance of the sanctuary, with all our principles and ends; therefore we strive, we are ambitious (so the word signifies); our great ambition should be, living or dying, to be accepted with God. Again, surely it should be our business to approve ourselves to God in every action, because all the success of our actions depends upon his concurrence and blessing.
  • Whosoever would keep in with God, he needs good counsel and direction in all his ways. Both in regard of the darkness of his understanding, his corrupt affections, and inordinate self-love, man is not able to rule and govern himself, but needs counsel: Prov. 12:15, The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise.’ When a man engageth in any action, such is the darkness and perverseness of man’s heart that he should not be over-confident of his own apprehensions, or of his own inclinations, but should hearken after counsel;
  • Blind affections usually govern a man’s life; and all sinners have an evil counsellor in their bosom, some lust or other, and therefore need to be directed.
  • The only good counsel that we can have is from God in his word: Ps. 73:24, Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterwards receive me unto glory.’ We have it from God, and we have it from his word; for there is a guide and a rule.
  • Man is so weak and so perverse that he needs both a guide and a rule. The guide is the Spirit of God, and the rule is the word of God: thou shalt guide me, but by thy counsel. By these two alone can we be led in the way to true happiness.
  • The Spirit he is a sure guide; and the word, that is a clear rule. We are dark, but the scriptures are not dark.
  • The counsel that God hath given us in his word is sufficient and full out to all our necessities.
  • We are full of darkness and error; but as we follow the direction of God, it is a lamp not only to our path, but to our steps, to our feet; not only to our path, to our general course, but it directeth us in every particular action.
  • When you live in a constant dependence upon God, then will the Lord undertake to direct and guide you.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Book Review: Make & Play Nativity

Make & Play Nativity. Illustrated by Joey Chou. 2017. Candlewick Press. 26 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Premise/plot: Make & Play Nativity is an interactive book for families with young children. It features 20 press-out pieces to create a 'make and play' nativity the whole family can enjoy together. The nativity includes: Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus and a manger, three wise men, three shepherds, an angel, two sheep, one camel, one donkey, one bull, two trees. There are certainly enough pieces that everyone in the family can have a character to act out. The press-out pieces seem fairly sturdy; it feels like it's made of something sturdier and thicker than just cardstock. The first seventeen pages are the press-out pieces. (You'll definitely need a way to keep these together; there is no built in storage system.)

So what else does the book include? Suggestions for activities for the whole family.

Read the Nativity Story. The book includes a two page summary of the nativity for parents to read aloud. (Parents might also want to read from the Bible. Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 1:26-38; Luke 1:46-56; Luke 2:1-21; Luke 2:22-38; Matthew 2:1-12; Matthew 2:13-15.)

Song suggestions:

  • Away in a Manger
  • O Little Town of Bethlehem
  • We Three Kings
  • Silent Night

Craft suggestions:

  • Christmas Star
  • Advent Calendar
  • Christmas Angel

My thoughts: I definitely like this one! I would recommend it for families. But it is not a recommendation for a Christmas gift. The point of this book is to celebrate ADVENT.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Music Review: The Fall and Salvation

The Fall and Salvation (Questions with Answers volume 2) Songs for Saplings. Dana Dirksen. Find out more here.
“You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers to give them, as long as the heavens are above the earth." Deuteronomy 11:18-21
One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts. Psalm 145:4 
We want you to understand things, to get a true knowledge of them. The reason why men forsake truth for error is, that they have not really understood that truth; in nine cases out of ten they have not embraced it with enlightened minds. Let me exhort you, parents, as much as lieth in you, to give your children sound instruction in the great doctrines of the gospel of Christ. ~ Charles Spurgeon

Technically, this music series is designed to help children learn about God, to help establish a theological foundation that will serve them all their days. I think parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, Sunday school teachers, pastors, and music directors, etc. should definitely consider using this music with children.

The Questions and Answers are inspired by the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Each song answers one specific question. And each song includes at least one Scripture verse. So children--and adults--are memorizing Scripture too. There are six albums in the Questions With Answers series. Today I am highlighting the second volume: The Fall and Salvation.

The playlist

  • What is A Covenant?
  • What Was Adam's Part in the Covenant?
  • Did Adam Obey God?
  • How Did God Punish Adam's Disobedience?
  • What is Sin?
  • Who is Satan?
  • Who is Stronger, God Or Satan?
  • What Was The Sin of Our First Parents?
  • Who Tempted Adam and Eve to Sin?
  • What Happened to Adam and Eve When They Sinned?
  • What Did Adam's Sin Do To You?
  • What Does Every Sin Deserve?
  • How Sinful Are You By Nature?
  • Can You Go To Heaven with a Sinful Nature?
  • What Is This Change of Heart Called?
  • Who Can Change a Sinner's Heart?
  • Who is the Redeemer of God's Elect?
  • How Is Your Heart Changed?
  • What is Grace?
  • What Work Did Christ Do To Save You?
  • Can Anyone Be Saved By His Own Works?
  • What Do We Gain From the Work of Christ?
  • What is Justification?
  • How Were You Justified?
  • What Is Sanctification?
  • What Are The Two Parts of Sanctification?
  • For Whom Did Christ Die?
  • Who Will Be Saved?
  • What Does It Mean to Repent?
  • What is Faith In Christ?

In the first place, every deviation from truth is a sin. It is not simply a sin for me to do a wrong act, but it is a sin for me to believe a wrong doctrine. Lately our ministers have absolved us all from obeying God in our judgments; they have told us point blank, many of them, in their drawing-rooms, and some of them in the pulpit, that we shall never be asked in the day of judgment what we believed. We have been told that for our acts we shall be responsible, but for our faith we shall be irresponsible, or something very much like it; they have told us plainly, that the God who made us, although he has authority over our hands, our feet, our eyes and our lips, hath but little authority over our judgments; they have told us, that if we make ever such blunders in divinity, they are no sins, so long as we can live right lives. But is that true? No; the whole man is bound to serve God; and if God gives me a judgment, I am bound to employ that judgment in his service; and if that judgment receive an untruth, it has received stolen goods, and I have sinned as much as if I put forth my hand to take my neighbour’s goods. There may be degrees in the sin. If it be a sin of ignorance, it is nevertheless a sin; but it is not so heinous as a sin of negligence, which I fear it is with many. ~ Charles Spurgeon
Doctrine—what we believe—is foundational to how we live. And if you miss it, you’ll never get to where you want to be. It is the ground we stand on as we build our lives. Doctrine, you see, simply means teaching. It’s the content of what we believe, the understanding of reality that shapes our faith. The soil of doctrine in which we’re planted can make us beautiful and help us point others to the beauty of Christ and His gospel. But only if it’s the right doctrine. Even those of us who are long-time Christians can be misled by false or skewed beliefs we’ve picked up somewhere. If we aren’t intentional about where our hearts and minds are planted and watered, we can’t expect to end up with a healthy crop. ~ Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth
There is one song on the album I don't like musically. There is one song on the album that I love, love, love "What Do We Gain From the Work of Christ."

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

My Summer with Psalm 119 #17

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 21 (Psalm 119:20)

  • Desires are the vigorous bent of the soul, and therefore, as the stream of a river, they can run but one way. Our passionate desires of earthly things certainly will be abated if spiritual desires prevail in us; for being acquainted with a better object, they begin to disdain and loathe other things.
  • A child of God is not satisfied with a slight taste of the word, but he desires more; when he hath felt the comfort of it, he is still longing to receive more from God: James 1:18, He hath begotten us by the word of truth.’ What follows? Wherefore be swift to hear.’ A man that hath had experience of the power of the word taketh all occasions; he knows there is strength, grace, and liberty of heart to be found there. So 1 Peter 2:3, As new-born babes, &c., if so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.’ Certainly a man that hath had any taste of communion with God will desire a fuller measure, as by tasting of excellent meats we get an appetite to them. Carnal men do not know what it is to enjoy God in ordinances, and therefore do not long for them; they do not taste the sweetness of the word: Ps. 19:10, The statutes of the Lord are sweeter than the honey or the honeycomb.’ The children of God find more true pleasure in the ordinances, in the statutes of God, than in all things in the world, though to carnal men they are but as dry sticks, burdensome exercises. The reason follows, ver. 11, Moreover, by them is thy servant warned; and in keeping of them there is great reward.’ He commendeth the word from his own experience; he had felt the effects and good use of it in his own heart; he had been warned, and had a great deal of comfort and refreshing by it; therefore it is sweeter than the honey and the honeycomb. So Ps. 63:1,2, O God, my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee.’ What to do? To see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary.’ He that hath had once a sight of God, would not be long out of his company. He compareth his desire of communion with God with hunger and thirst; his desire is greater than the hunger and thirst that men suffer in a dry wilderness where there is no water to give refreshment. He had seen God, and would now see him again; the remembrance of those former pleasures of the sanctuary revived his desires: so that besides nature, there is this experience.

Sermon 22 (Psalm 119:21)

  • Moral pride is an over-high conceit of ourselves, or our own excellencies, discovered by our disdain and contempt of others.
  • Spiritual pride, that is, disobedience and impenitency, which is discovered by a neglect of God and contempt of his law; and that pride is often so taken appeareth by these scriptures.
  • Fearing the commandment, that is the effect of a wise heart.
  • Do you know what God is? and will you contend with him? Certainly you will fail in the enterprise and undertaking.
  • In seeking to reclaim us, and soften us by many mercies, and by his kind dealing with us. God would break the heart rather than the back of the sinner, and therefore he seeks to melt us with acts of kindness. Now for us to continue our pride and rebellion after all this, what a pride is this—of how horrible a nature?
  • It is not enough to come weary and heavy laden, not only to be sensible of the burden of sin, and beg for pardon, but we must take Christ’s yoke, Mat. 11:29. Nature sticks at this: a proud heart is loath to come under the yoke. We would taste of the sweetness of mercy, but cannot endure the bonds and restraint of duty; as Ephraim would tread out the corn, but was loath to break the clods, Hosea 10:11. The prophet alludes to the manner among the Jews; their fashion was to tread or thresh out their corn by the feet of beasts, and the ox his mouth was not to be muzzled; it was easy work, and afforded abundance of food, Deut. 25:4. We would have comfort, but not duty.

Sermon 23 (Psalm 119:22)

  • God hath an aim in all things that befall you.
  • Pride is one of the oldest enemies ever God had; it was born in heaven in the breast of the fallen angels, for which they are laid low; and when his children harbour it, God hath a quarrel against it.
  • There is nothing so bad but we may make some good use of it, a Christian may gain some advantage by it.

Sermon 24 (Psalm 119:23)

  • When God meaneth good or evil to a nation, he usually dispenseth it by their magistrates. If good, then he puts wisdom and grace into the hearts of those that govern, or government into the hands of those that are wise and gracious. When he meaneth evil, he sendeth them evil magistrates.
  • They that are not holy in a time of peace will not be holy and constant in a time of trouble.
  • The best way to ease the heart from trouble that doth arise from the opposition of men of power and place, is by serious consulting with God’s word.
  • A cursory reading doth not work upon us so much as serious thoughts. In all studies, meditation is both the mother and nurse of knowledge, and so it is of godliness, without which we do but know truths by rote and hearsay, and talk one after another like parrots; but when a truth is chased into the heart by deep inculcative thoughts, then it worketh with us, and we feel the power of it. Musing maketh the fire burn, ponderous thoughts are the bellows that blow it up.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, August 28, 2017

August 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

Music Review: God and Creation

God and Creation (Questions with Answers vol. 1) Songs for Saplings. Dana Dirksen. Find out more here.
“You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers to give them, as long as the heavens are above the earth." Deuteronomy 11:18-21
One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts. Psalm 145:4 
My son, keep your father's commandment,
and forsake not your mother's teaching.
Bind them on your heart always;
tie them around your neck.
When you walk, they will lead you;
when you lie down, they will watch over you;
and when you awake, they will talk with you.
For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light,
and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life. Proverbs 6:20-23
Technically, this music series is designed to help children learn about God, to help establish a theological foundation that will serve them all their days. I think parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, Sunday school teachers, pastors, and music directors, etc. should definitely consider using this music with children.

The Questions and Answers are inspired by the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Each song answers one specific question. And each song includes at least one Scripture verse. So children--and adults--are memorizing Scripture too. There are six albums in the Questions With Answers series. Today I am highlighting the first volume: God and Creation.

The playlist

  • Who is God?
  • Who Made God?
  • Has God Ever Had a Beginning?
  • Will God Ever Die?
  • Are There More Gods Than One?
  • In How Many Persons Does This One God Exist?
  • Who Are The Three Persons of God?
  • Where is God?
  • Can You See God?
  • Does God Know All Things?
  • Can God Do All Things
  • Who Made You?
  • Why Did God Make You?
  • What Else Did God Make?
  • Why Did God Make All Things?
  • How Can You Glorify God?
  • Why Should You Glorify God?
  • Who Were Our First Parents?
  • How Did God Make Adam and Eve?
  • What Did God Give Adam and Eve Besides a Body?
  • Do You Have A Spirit As Well As A Body?
  • What Were Adam and Eve Like When God Made Them?

But I would add that you don't have to be a child in order to benefit from the music. It is never too late to learn the basics of the faith, to get a solid foundation going. Too many believers I fear use a piecework approach to the faith. Doctrine matters. What we believe impacts how we live our daily lives.
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” Matthew 7:24-27

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Week in Review: August 20-26


  • Genesis
  • Exodus 1-15
  • Job

ESV Reformation Study Bible

  • 2 Kings
  • Ecclesiastes
  • Song of Songs
  • Isaiah 1-39

CSB Study Bible

  • Genesis 27-31

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, August 25, 2017

Book Review: Reformation Sketches

Reformation Sketches: Insights Into Luther, Calvin, and the Confessions. W. Robert Godfrey. 2003. 151 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Around October 31, Martin Luther is remembered far and wide in the United States among evangelical protestants as a hero of the faith.

Premise/plot: Reformation Sketches gathers together previously published material by W. Robert Godfrey. Each of the seventeen chapters were originally published in the magazine Outlook. (

The first five chapters focus on Martin Luther. Of these five, by far, the BEST OF THE BEST is Luther on Law and Gospel. Two chapters focus on Philip Melanchthon. Five chapters focus on John Calvin. One chapter focuses on the French Reformation. One chapter focuses on Peter Martyr Vermigli. The final three chapters focus on Reformed Confessions of faith.

My thoughts: I enjoyed reading this one. I didn't love, love, love it. But I enjoyed it. I really thought the best chapter was the first chapter. I thought it was the most substantive. That being said, I also really loved the tenth chapter, "A Response to Trent." There were definitely chapters that I feel are worth reading. Some chapters focus more on history; other chapters focus more on ministry.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

My Summer with Psalm 119 #16

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 18 (Psalm 119:17)

  • God’s word must not only be understood, but obeyed;
  • None of God’s mercies can simply be said to be little; whatever cometh from the great God should be great in our value and esteem;
  • Life natural we have in common with the beasts and plants; but in keeping the word, we live the life of God: Eph. 4:18, Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God.’ To natural men it is a gloomy thing; but to believers this is the life of life, and that which is the joy of their hearts.

Sermon 19 (Psalm 119:18)

  • There is no want of light in the scripture, but there is a veil of darkness upon our hearts; so that if in this clear light we cannot see, the defect is not in the word, but in ourselves.
  • When God is said to enlighten us, it is not that we should expect new revelations, but that we may see the wonders in his word, or get a clear sight of what is already revealed.
  • The light which we have is not without the word, but by the word.

Sermon 20 (Psalm 119:19)

  • We are all travelling into another world, and are every day nearer to eternity. As in a ship, whether men sleep or wake, stand or sit, whether they think of it, yea or nay, the voyage still goes onward. So, whatever we think, and whatever we do, we hasten towards death.
  • Wicked men are pilgrims against their will; but saints are ever looking for, longing for, groaning for a better estate: Rom. 8:23
  • God fits us with graces as well as happiness; not only grants us a glorious estate, but gives us grace to expect it. Hope would be of no use if it did not lift up the head, and look out for a better estate than the world yieldeth. Hope fastens upon God’s title in the covenant, I am thy God.’ Now God could not with honour take this title, and give us no better than present things: Heb. 11:16, Wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he hath prepared for them a city,’ 
  • Keep up a warm respect to your everlasting home. It is not enough to despise the world, but you must look after a better country.
  • A Christian enters heaven while he is here in the world. In the word preached heaven is brought down to us. The gospel is called the kingdom of heaven. And by reading we do as it were converse with the saints departed, that writ what we read. Meditation brings us into the company of God; it puts our heads above the clouds, in the midst of blessed spirits there.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Book Review: Asking the Right Questions

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

First sentence: Everyone loves a good story. Whether it is kids begging for Dad to read them a book at bedtime or friends gathering to watch a movie, people enjoy hearing (and telling) stories. Think for a minute about the last time you caught up with an old friend you had not seen in a while. No doubt that conversation included a story or two. But stories are for more than entertainment or providing information. They shape our understanding of who we are, why we exist, what kind of person we should be, and what kind of world we live in. Whether we realize it or not, we automatically connect everything we experience to what we believe to be the true story of the world. Our view of the world is inherently story shaped.

Believers may have the best of intentions when it comes to wanting to read, understand, and apply the Bible, but, most struggle in one way in actually doing it. Harmon's book is designed to equip believers with the tools they need to read, understand, and apply the Bible.  He gives us two sets of four questions. There are four questions for understanding the Bible; there are four more questions for understanding how to APPLY the Bible. These questions can be asked of any Bible passage.

The book has three parts, "Laying the Foundation," "Reading the Bible," and "Reading Our Lives."

In the introduction, he shares his reasons for writing the book. He points out that believers not only need to learn how to read the Bible correctly, but how to read their own lives. We need to be asking the right questions of the Bible.

In chapter one, he argues that the way we see the world, the way we see ourselves is story-shaped. The story shaping our lives should be the grand story of the Bible--Genesis through Revelation. Our natural inclinations is to either make up our own stories, our own truths OR to be shaped by false stories promoted by our culture and society. What believers need is to know the big picture of the Bible. This chapter gives us a concise biblical overview using six c words: creation, crisis, covenants, Christ, church, consummation.

In chapter two, he argues that the Bible is God's Tool to change us--to transform us. We are born idol-worshippers or idol-makers. He writes, "we enter this world with a deeply ingrained tendency toward idolatry. We are like the shopping cart with the bent wheel that constantly pulls the cart in the same direction. The way idolatry shows up varies from person to person. But no one is immune to it. Unless someone intervenes at the deepest level of our hearts and souls, we will pursue idolatry in some form or fashion." The Bible is God's tool for changing us--breaking down/tearing down our idols, and remaking us into His Image.
"In the Bible. God has given us the Bible to tell us who he is, what he has done for us, and how we should live. He uses the Bible to change us so that our lives demonstrate that we bear his image. Psalm 1:2 says of the blessed person, His delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. As a result of meditating on God’s Word, He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. (Ps. 1:3) Psalm 19 is even clearer on the connection between hearing/reading/meditating on God’s Word and God transforming us through it. After describing how the heavens declare the glory of God (19:1–6), David turns to the power of God’s Word (19:7–11): The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward."
In chapter three, he shares HOW Jesus read the Bible and HOW Jesus taught others to read the Bible. He concludes, "If we approach every passage of Scripture with the expectation that it will somehow point us toward Christ, we will begin to see Scripture in a fresh way."

In chapter four, he makes an important distinction in how we read the Bible. He clarifies the Bible is written FOR US but not TO US. Like in the previous chapters, Harmon relies on the Bible to teach us how to read and interpret it. In this case, he examines Romans 15:4, 1 Peter 1:10-12, 1 Corinthians 10:1-13.

In chapter five, he introduces the four foundation questions that we need to ask as we read the Bible. I think he rightly points out that, "the quality of the questions you ask determines what you get out of the text and your ability to apply it to your life."

1) What do we learn about God?
2) What do we learn about people?
3) What do we learn about relating to God?
4) What do we learn about relating to others?

Those are the big, broad questions. Harmon goes into greater detail, breaking down these big questions into smaller, more manageable questions or aspects. I wanted to keep it big picture, however, for the review.

Chapter six is titled, "The Gospel Pattern of Life." It is FANTASTIC. He argues that the WHOLE of our Christian lives should be a pattern of repentance and faith. Repentance isn't something you do once before you're a Christian. And faith isn't something you decided one day when you prayed a prayer or came forward to the altar. He defines what faith and repentance are; but he goes a step further. He defines what a Christian is.

He writes, "So to sum up, repentance is a gift from God that enables us to turn our whole lives away from sin to such a degree that it changes how we think, believe, feel, and act. If repentance is turning away from sin, faith is turning toward God. It is the commitment of our whole being to God. The Bible uses words like believe, trust, commit, and delight to describe it."

And, "By definition a Christian is someone who has turned from sin and put his or her faith in Jesus Christ to be made right with God. Repentance and faith are the entry point into the Christian life."

Chapter seven focuses on "the fallen condition." Understanding sin, the concept of sin--the nature of sin--is fundamental to understanding the Word of God. Genesis to Revelation deals with the fallen condition of man. And to properly read and understand ourselves, we need to recognize our own fallen condition. The fallen condition was mentioned briefly in chapter five under "what do we learn about people," but here it is FULLY discussed.

  • What sinful tendencies, habits, thoughts, patterns of behavior, feelings, desires, or beliefs are explicitly stated in the text or reasonably implied by the text? 
  • What evidence of the effects of the fall is explicitly stated in the text or reasonably implied by it and needs the redemptive work of God?
  • What God-given human longings, though warped by sin, are explicitly stated in the text or reasonably implied by the text and need the redemptive work of God?  

Chapter eight focuses on "the gospel solution."

"Here is what I mean by “gospel solution”: The aspects of the gospel that are revealed in the text that provide the solution to the fallen condition. Let’s unpack this definition a little further. The gospel refers to what God has done for us in and through Jesus Christ. There are many different aspects of what Jesus has done for us. He has justified us (declared us not guilty of our sins). He has adopted us (made us part of his family). He has sanctified us (set us apart for his special purposes in the world). He has given us the Holy Spirit to live inside us. These are just a few of the different aspects of what God has done for us in the gospel through his Son, Jesus."

He points out that sometimes the gospel solution is a) within the passage you're studying b) within the larger context of the passage you're studying c) found somewhere else in the Bible.

Chapter nine is the chapter on how to apply the Bible. Though this only gets one chapter, it isn't of lesser importance. I really appreciated his perspective. I'd always thought of application as something you DO. Three out of four of his questions focus on applying the text internally. So again, we have FOUR questions to bring to any text of Scripture.

1) The first question we should ask ourselves when applying the Bible is What does God what me to think or understand? We are responsible to fight against every pattern of thinking that opposes or contradicts what God has said in his Word. We must take every thought captive, evaluating it against what the Bible says is true.
2) What does God want me to believe? Asking what God wants us to believe gives us an opportunity to identify the false beliefs that motivate our sinful actions. That puts us in position to confess those false beliefs and move forward in believing what God says is true.
3)  What does God want me to desire? When we think about what God wants us to desire, we should also consider our emotions. Asking what God wants us to desire can reveal sinful desires, inclinations, and feelings that the Holy Spirit needs to change. If we do not desire what God says we should desire, then we should confess this and pursue repentance. As God shows us who or what we should desire, we can pray for his Spirit to change us so that our desires, inclinations, and feelings line up with what Scripture says.
4) What does God want me to do? Asking what God wants us to do helps us recognize actions we should be taking but are not. It also exposes sinful actions we should stop doing. Some actions that God brings to mind are occasional, but others may be far more habitual. Pursuing repentance for repeated and habitual sin often requires help and encouragement from other believers.

Chapter ten focuses on the balance between God's role and our role in spiritual growth.

There are additional helps at the back of the book. My favorite was "AT A GLANCE: ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS" which presents in outline form the eight questions we should be asking.

I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED, LOVED this book. I thought it was practical, concise, and above all BIBLICAL.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

My Summer with Psalm 119 #15

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 17 (Psalm 119:16)

  • Spiritual affections grow upon us by practice and much exercise. The graces of the Spirit and the duties of religion do every one fortify and strengthen one another; lose one, and lose all; keep one, and keep all.
  • Meditation breedeth delight, and delight helpeth memory and practice.
  • Seeing is in heaven, hearing in the churches upon earth; then vision, now hearing.
  • The world is a dark place, beset with dangers, and ever and anon we are apt to stumble into the pit of destruction, without taking heed to this light. The word discovereth to them evils, that they may see them, repent of them, forsake them; and showeth us our ready way to heaven, that we may walk therein. It discovereth the greatest dangers, and pointeth out the surest way to safety and peace.
  • One promise in the word of God doth bear up the heart more than all the arguings and discourses of men, though never so excellent. In time of temptation, in the hour of death, oh, what a reviving is one word of God’s mouth!
  • As fear is cured with fear, the fear of men with the fear of God, so is delight by delight; delight in God’s statutes is the cure of delight in worldly things. Love cannot lie idle, it must be occupied one way or another; either carried out to the contentments of the flesh, or else to holy things.
  • Pleasure is ingrained in our natures, born and bred with us; and therefore, though we may delight in the moderate use of the refreshments of the present life, in estate, honour, reputation, yet we should take heed of excess, that our hearts be not overjoyed, and too much taken up about these things.
  • A good conscience is a continual feast, a dish we are never weary of. The blessed spirits in heaven are never weary of beholding the face of God. God is new and fresh every moment to them. The contemplation of such excellent objects doth not overcharge and weaken the spirits, but doth raise and fortify them. It is true, the corporeal powers being weak, may be tired in such an employment, as much reading is a weariness to the flesh; but the object doth not grow distasteful, as in carnal things.
  • What we esteem most we best remember.
  • We must be often viewing and meditating of what we have laid up in the memory. It availeth not to the health of the body to eat much, but to digest what is eaten.
  • Tumultuary reading and hearing, without meditation, is like greedy swallowing much meat. When little is thought on, it doth not turn to profit. This concocteth and digesteth what we have heard. The more a thing is revolved in the mind, the deeper impression it maketh.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, August 21, 2017

Book Review: The Bruised Reed

The Bruised Reed. Richard Sibbes. 1630. [Source: Bought]
Behold my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my Spirit upon him;
he will bring forth justice to the nations.
He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice,
or make it heard in the street;
a bruised reed he will not break,
and a faintly burning wick he will not quench;
he will faithfully bring forth justice.
He will not grow faint or be discouraged
till he has established justice in the earth;
and the coastlands wait for his law. Isaiah 42:1-4
Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. And many followed him, and he healed them all and ordered them not to make him known. This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah:
“Behold, my servant whom I have chosen,
my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased.
I will put my Spirit upon him,
and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.
He will not quarrel or cry aloud,
nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets;
a bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not quench,
until he brings justice to victory;
and in his name the Gentiles will hope.” Matthew 12:15-21
First sentence: The prophet Isaiah, being lifted up and carried with the wing of a prophetic spirit, passes over all the time between him and the appearing of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Seeing with the eye of prophecy, and with the eye of faith, Christ as present, he presents him in the name of God to the spiritual eye of others.

If you read only one Puritan sermon, I'm tempted to say that it should be Sibbes' The Bruised Reed. For anyone wanting to taste and see how glorious, how wonderful, how sweet Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior really is should read it. The sermon teaches us about ourselves AND about Christ. 

I loved this one so much I am already thinking about rereading it. 

  • Christ was God’s servant in the greatest piece of service that ever was, a chosen and a choice servant who did and suffered all by commission from the Father. In this we may see the sweet love of God toward us, in that he counts the work of our salvation by Christ his greatest service, and in that he will put his only beloved Son to that service.
  • In time of temptation, apprehensive consciences look so much to the present trouble they are in, that they need to be roused up to behold the one in whom they may find rest for their distressed souls.
  • In all that Christ did and suffered as Mediator, we must see God in him reconciling the world to himself (2Cor. 5:19).
  • What a support to our faith this is, that God the Father, the party offended by our sins, is so well pleased with the work of redemption! And what a comfort this is, that seeing God’s love rests on Christ as well pleased in him, we may conclude that he is as well-pleased with us if we are in Christ!
  • For his love rests in a whole Christ, in the mystical Christ, as well as in the natural Christ, because he loves him and us with one love. Let us, therefore, embrace Christ, and in him embrace God’s love, and build our faith safely on a Savior who is furnished with so high a commission. See here, for our comfort, a sweet agreement of all three persons: the Father gives a commission to Christ; the Spirit furnishes and sanctifies it, and Christ himself executes the office of a Mediator. Our redemption is founded upon the joint agreement of all three persons of the Trinity. 
  • Shall our sins discourage us when he appears there only for sinners? Are you bruised? Be of good comfort, he calls you. Do not conceal your wounds, open everything before him and do not take Satan’s counsel. Go to Christ, although trembling, as the poor woman who said, “If I may only touch his garment” (Matt. 9:21). We shall be healed and have a gracious answer. Go boldly to God in our flesh; he is flesh of our flesh, and bone of our bone for this reason: so that we might go boldly to him. Never fear to go to God, since we have such a Mediator with him; he is not only our friend but our brother and husband. Well might the angel proclaim from heaven, “Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy” (Luke 2:10). Well might the apostle stir us up to “rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice” (Phil. 4:4). Paul was well-advised upon what grounds he did it. Peace and joy are two main fruits of Christ’s kingdom. Let the world be as it will, if we cannot rejoice in the world, yet we may rejoice in the Lord. His presence makes any condition comfortable. “Do not be afraid,” he says to his disciples when they were afraid, as if they had seen a ghost, “It is I” (Matt. 14:27), as if there were no cause of fear wherever he was present. 
  • When in temptation, think “Christ was tempted for me; my graces and comforts will be according to my trials. If Christ is so merciful as not to break me, then I will not break myself by despair, nor will I yield myself to the roaring lion, Satan, to break me in pieces.”
  • A man truly bruised judges sin to be the greatest evil, and the favor of God the greatest good.
  • First, we must conceive of bruising either as a state into which God brings us, or as a duty to be performed by us. Both are meant here.
  • But if we have this for a foundation truth, that there is more mercy in Christ than sin in us, there can be no danger in thorough dealing. It is better to go bruised to heaven than sound to hell. Therefore let us not take off ourselves too soon, nor pull off the plaster before the cure be wrought, but keep ourselves under this work till sin be the sourest, and Christ the sweetest, of all things. 
  • And when God’s hand is upon us in any way, it is good to divert our sorrow for other things to the root of all, which is sin. Let our grief run most in that channel, that as sin bred grief, so grief may consume sin. 
  • The purest actions of the purest men need Christ to perfume them; and this is his office. When we pray, we need to pray again for Christ to pardon the defects of our prayers.
  • When blindness and boldness, ignorance and arrogance, weakness and willfulness, meet together in men, it renders them odious to God, burdensome in society, dangerous in their counsels, disturbers of better purposes, intractable and incapable of better direction, miserable in the issue. Where Christ shows his gracious power in weakness, he does it by letting men understand themselves so far as to breed humility, and magnify God’s love to such as they are. He does it as a preservative against discouragements from weakness, to bring men into a less distance from grace, as an advantage to poverty of spirit, rather than greatness of condition and parts, which yield to corrupt nature fuel for pride. Christ refuses none for weakness of parts, that none should be discouraged, but accepts none for greatness, that none should be lifted up with that which is of so little reckoning with God.
  • Truth fears nothing so much as concealment, and desires nothing so much as clearly to be laid open to the view of all. When it is most unadorned, it is most lovely and powerful.
  • Christ came down from heaven and emptied himself of majesty in tender love to souls. Shall we not come down from our high conceits to do any poor soul good? Shall man be proud after God has been humble?
  • What is the gospel itself but a merciful moderation, in which Christ’s obedience is esteemed ours, and our sins laid upon him, wherein God, from being a judge, becomes our Father, pardoning our sins and accepting our obedience, though feeble and blemished? We are now brought to heaven under the covenant of grace by a way of love and mercy.
  • Heavenly truths must have a heavenly light to discern them. Natural men see heavenly things, not in their own proper light, but by an inferior light. In every converted man, God puts a light into the eye of his soul proportionable to the light of truths revealed to him. A carnal eye will never see spiritual things.
  • We must, therefore, walk by his light, not the blaze of our own fire.
  • God must light our candle (Psa. 18:28) or else we will abide in darkness. Those sparks that are not kindled from heaven are not strong enough to keep us from lying in sorrow, though they make a greater blaze and show than the light from above, as madmen do greater things than sober men, but by a false strength: so the excess of these men’s joy arises from a false light. ‘The light of the wicked shall be put out’ (Job 18:5). The light which some men have is like lightning which, after a sudden flash, leaves them more in darkness. They can love the light as it shines, but hate it as it discovers and directs.
  • Spiritual light is distinct. It apprehends spiritual good and applies it to ourselves; but common light is confused, and lets sin lie quiet. Where fire is, in any degree, it will fight everything contrary to it. God put irreconcilable hatred between light and darkness from the first; so also between good and ill, flesh and Spirit (Gal. 5:17). Grace will never join with sin, any more than fire with water.
  • All scandalous actions are only thoughts at the first. Thoughts are seeds of actions.
  • It is better to enjoy the benefit of light, though with smoke, than to be altogether in the dark.
  • There is never a holy sigh, never a tear we shed, which is lost. And as every grace increases by exercise of itself, so does the grace of prayer.
  • By prayer we learn to pray. So, likewise, we should take heed of a spirit of discouragement in all other holy duties, since we have so gracious a Saviour. Pray as we are able, hear as we are able, strive as we are able, do as we are able, according to the measure of grace received.
  • We must know for our comfort that Christ was not anointed to this great work of Mediator for lesser sins only, but for the greatest, if we have but a spark of true faith to lay hold on him. Therefore, if there be any bruised reed, let him not make an exception of himself, when Christ does not make an exception of him. ‘Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden’ (Matt. 11:28). Why should we not make use of so gracious a disposition? We are only poor for this reason, that we do not know our riches in Christ. In time of temptation, believe Christ rather than the devil. Believe truth from truth itself. Hearken not to a liar, an enemy and a murderer.
  • We are weak, but we are his; we are deformed, but yet carry his image upon us. A father looks not so much at the blemishes of his child as at his own nature in him; so Christ finds matter of love from that which is his own in us. He sees his own nature in us: we are diseased, but yet his members. Who ever neglected his own members because they were sick or weak? None ever hated his own flesh. Can the head forget the members? Can Christ forget himself? We are his fullness, as he is ours.
  • Cast yourself into the arms of Christ, and if you perish, perish there. If you do not, you are sure to perish. If mercy is to be found anywhere, it is there.
  • What greater unthankfulness can there be than to despise any help that Christ in mercy has provided for us?
  • The same Spirit that convinces us of the necessity of his righteousness to cover us convinces us also of the necessity of his government to rule us. His love to us moves him to frame us to be like himself, and our love to him stirs us up to be such as he may take delight in, neither do we have faith or hope any further than we have a concern to be purged as he is pure.
  • None ever did truly desire mercy for pardon but desired mercy for healing.
  • The first and chief ground of our comfort is that Christ as a priest offered himself as a sacrifice to his Father for us. The guilty soul flies first to Christ crucified, made a curse for us. Thence it is that Christ has right to govern us; thence it is that he gives us his Spirit as our guide to lead us home.
  • We must be new creatures. They seek for heaven in hell that seek for spiritual love in an unchanged heart.
  • Truth is truth, and error, error, and that which is unlawful is unlawful, whether men think so or not.
  • God has put an eternal difference between light and darkness, good and ill, which no creature’s conceit can alter; and therefore no man’s judgment is the measure of things further than it agrees to truth stamped upon things themselves by God.
  • The purpose of Christ’s coming was to destroy the works of the devil, both for us and in us; and the purpose of the resurrection was, as well as sealing to us the assurance of his victory, so also (1) to quicken our souls from death in sin; (2) to free our souls from such snares and sorrows of spiritual death as accompany the guilt of sin; (3) to raise them up more comfortable, as the sun breaks forth more gloriously out of a thick cloud; (4) to raise us out of particular slips and failings stronger; (5) to raise us out of all troublesome and dark conditions of this life; and (6) at length to raise our bodies out of the dust. For the same power that the Spirit showed in raising Christ, our Head, from the sorrows of death and the lowest degree of his abasement, that power, obtained by the death of Christ from God, now appeased by that sacrifice, the Spirit will show in the church, which is his body, and in every particular member thereof.
  • A Christian conquers, even when he’ is conquered. When he is conquered by some sins, he gets victory over others more dangerous, such as spiritual pride and security.
  • True judgment in us advances Christ, and Christ will advance it. All sin is either from false principles, or ignorance, or thoughtlessness, or unbelief of what is true. By lack of consideration and weakness of assent, Eve lost her hold at first (Gen. 3:6). It is good, therefore, to store up true principles in our hearts, and to refresh them often, that, in virtue of them, our affections and actions may be more vigorous. When judgment is fortified, evil finds no entrance, but good things have a side within us to entertain them.
  • How can we think that Christ will lead us out to victory, when we take counsel with his and our enemies?
  • Where Christ is, all happiness must follow. If Christ goes, all will go.
  • Nothing is stronger than humility, which goes out of itself, or weaker than pride, which rests on its own foundation.
  • Christ will not leave us till he has made us like himself, all glorious within and without, and presented us blameless before his Father (Jude 24).
  • Let us think when we are troubled with our sins that Christ has this in charge from his Father, that he shall not ‘quench the smoking flax’ until he has subdued all. This puts a shield into our hands to beat back ‘all the fiery darts of the wicked’ (Eph. 6:16). Satan will object, ‘You are a great sinner.’ We may answer, ‘Christ is a strong Saviour.’ But he will object, ‘You have no faith, no love.’ ‘Yes, a spark of faith and love.’ ‘But Christ will not regard that.’ ‘Yes, he will not quench the smoking flax: ‘But this is so little and weak that it will vanish and come to naught.” Nay, but Christ will cherish it, until he has brought judgment to victory.’ And this much we have already for our comfort, that, even when we first believed, we overcame God himself, as it were, by believing the pardon of all our sins, notwithstanding the guilt of our own consciences and his absolute justice. Now, having been prevailers with God, what shall stand against us if we can learn to make use of our faith?
  • If we fail, he will cherish us. If we are guided by him, we shall overcome. If we overcome, we are sure to be crowned. As for the present state of the church, we see now how forlorn it is, yet let us comfort ourselves that Christ’s cause shall prevail. Christ will rule, till his enemies become his footstool (Psa. 110:1), not only to trample upon, but to help him up to mount higher in glory. Babylon shall fall, ‘for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her’ (Rev. 18:8). Christ’s judgment, not only in his children, but also against his enemies, shall be victorious, for he is ‘King of kings and Lord of lords’ (Rev. 19:16). God will not always suffer antichrist and his supporters to revel and swagger in the church as they do.

Sunday, August 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

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Week in Review: August 13-19

ESV Reformation Study Bible

  • 2 Samuel
  • 1 Kings
  • Psalm 90-150
  • Proverbs 

CSB Study Bible

  • Genesis 6-26


  • 1 Thessalonians
  • 2 Thessalonians
  • 1 Timothy
  • 2 Timothy

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, August 18, 2017

Book Review: The Return

The Return. (Amish Beginnings #3) Suzanne Woods Fisher. 2017. Revell. 330 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: As Betsy climbed up from the creek carrying two buckets of water, she heard the sound of her brothers' laughter, and then a man's deeper laugh.

The Return is the third book in the Amish Beginnings series by Suzanne Woods Fisher. The first two in the series are Anna's Crossing and The Newcomer. Several decades have passed and this novel mainly focuses on the next generation. One of the heroines, for example, is Tessa Bauer the daughter of Bairn and Anna. The other heroine is Betsy Zook.

Tensions are HIGH between the white settlers and the Native Americans. While many of the Amish are happy to be at peace--stay at peace--there are a few men in the community that are hotheaded and lack common sense and decency. John Elder, for example, is one advocating the philosophy that the only good Indian is a dead Indian. Anna and Bairn think differently, as do most of the characters in the novel. But HANS (the foster brother of Felix and Bairn) goes a bit nuts when Betsy Zook, the supposed love of his life is kidnapped. Tessa sees Betsy's kidnapping by Indians as an opportunity to win Hans affection and attention.

The narrative shifts between Betsy and Tessa--mostly. Betsy meets Caleb, a "half-breed" with a Mennonite mother and an Indian father. The two become super-super close. And if I'm honest Caleb is without a doubt my favorite character in the book. In fact I HATED Hans. (I probably shouldn't say that.)

I definitely liked the book. I loved some characters; I liked some characters; and then there was Hans!

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, August 17, 2017

My Summer with Psalm 119 #14

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 16 (Psalm 119:15)

  • Our thoughts follow our affections. It is tedious and irksome to the flesh to meditate, but delight will carry us out. The smallest actions, when we have no delight in them, seem tedious and burdensome.
  • Delight will set the mind a-work, for we are apt to muse and pause upon that which is pleasing to us. Why are not holy thoughts as natural and as kindly to us as carnal? The defect is in the heart: I have rejoiced in thy testimonies,’ saith David, and therefore I will meditate in thy statutes.’
  • Meditation is not a flourishing of the wit, that we may please the fancy by playing with divine truths (sense is diseased that must be fed with quails), but a serious inculcation of them upon the heart, that we may urge it to practice. Nor yet an acquainting ourselves with the word that we may speak of it in company: conference is for others, meditation for ourselves when we are alone.
  • To respect God’s ways is to take heed that we do not turn out of them, to regard them and ourselves: Observe to do them,’ Josh.1:8; and it is called elsewhere, pondering our path: Prov. 4:26, Ponder the path of thy feet,’ that we may not mistake our way, nor wander out of it. Respect to God’s word was opened ver. 6 and 9. The main point is this— That one great duty of the saints is meditating on the word of God, and such matters as are contained therein.
  • Meditation is— 1. Occasional. 2. Set and solemn. 
  • There is a reflective meditation, which is nothing but a solemn parley between a man and his own heart:
  • What can be more against self-love and carnal ease than for a man to be his own accuser and judge? All our shifts are to avoid our own company, and to run away from ourselves.
  • There is a meditation which is more direct, when we exercise our minds in the word of God and the matters contained therein. This is twofold:—
  • Dogmatical, or the searching out of a truth in order to know ledge: Proving what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.’ Rom. 12:2. This is study, and differeth from meditation in the object, and supposeth the matter we search after to be unknown, either in whole or in part; whereas practical meditation is the inculcation or whetting of a known truth upon the soul: and it differs in the end; the end of study is information, and the end of meditation is practice, or a work upon the affections. Study is like a winter sun, that shineth, but warmeth not; but meditation is like blowing up the fire, where we do not mind the blaze but the heat. The end of study is to hoard up truth; but of meditation, to lay it forth in conference or holy conversation. In study, we are rather like vintners, that take in wine to store themselves for sale; in meditation, like those that buy wine for their own use and comfort.
  • Thoughts are the eldest and noblest offspring of the soul, and it is fit they should be consecrated to converse with God.
  • Faith is lean unless it be fed with meditation on the promises.
  • The mind of man is restless, and cannot lie idle; therefore it is good to employ it with good thoughts, and set it a-work on holy things; for then there will be no time and heart for vanity, the mind being prepossessed and seasoned already; but when the heart is left to run loose, vanity increaseth upon us.
  • We meditate of God that we may love him and fear him; of sin, that we may abhor it; of hell, that we may avoid it; of heaven, that we may pursue it. Still the end is practical, to quicken us to greater diligence and care in the heavenly life.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Book Review: Exploring the Bible

Exploring the Bible: A Bible Reading Plan for Kids. David Murray. Illustrated by Scotty Reifsnyder. 2017. Crossway. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Perhaps sometimes you feel lost and confused when reading the Bible.

This book is for families primarily although churches might find it to be beneficial as well. Essentially it guides children through the Bible--Genesis to Revelation--in one year. The goal isn't for the child to read each and every verse of the Bible. The focus is on comprehending the big picture of the Bible, on seeing how all the books connect together to tell one story--the story of a God who loves and redeems us.

Each week the reader is invited to go on an expedition. There is something for the child to do each and every day of the week. A few goals are weekly, but many are daily. For example, there is only one place during the week to write down prayer requests and the memory verse, but, there are suggested/required readings for each day of the week. Sunday is a special day. Children are encouraged to write down what they learned from that day's sermon, and what scripture the preacher taught from, etc.

There are twenty-four expeditions in the Old Testament. They are arranged in the order they appear in most Bibles. They are not arranged chronologically. The rest of the expeditions are in the New Testament. Most expeditions come from Matthew through Acts. The last seven focus on the New Testament letters.

The book is definitely structured. This is a book that is designed to be written in and OWNED. For that reason, I'm not sure why it's available as an e-book, but it is. I'd encourage parents to buy the physical book. And I think this book would best be used by families together. Parents and children both engaging in a journey through the Bible.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

My Summer with Psalm 119 #13

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 15 (Psalm 119:14)

  • A gracious heart finds more true joy in the way of God’s word than in all worldly things whatsoever.
  • There is a sweetness in the study of God’s word, or when we give up ourselves to attain the knowledge of it. The very speculation and study produces a delightful taste.
  • Scriptural truths are more sublime than other truths, and do en noble reason with the knowledge of them: Because these truths are suitable to our necessities. To every man that hath a conscience, it cannot but be very pleasing to hear of a way how he may come to the pardon of sins, and sound peace of conscience, solid perfection, and eternal glory.
  • There is a sweetness found in the way of God’s testimonies which ariseth from the conscience of practical obedience, not from contemplation only; and it is best to be found when we come to practise and perform what we know.
  • Now, it is the word of God believed and obeyed which yieldeth us the greatest profit and the greatest pleasure. You have both in one verse: Ps. 19:10, More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than the honey and the honeycomb.’ Because of the profit it is compared to gold, and because of the sweetness and pleasure we have by it, it is compared to honey.
  • The word of God will truly enrich a man and make us happy. The difference between God’s people and others doth not lie in this, that the one seeketh after riches, the other not; they both seek to enrich themselves; only the one seeketh after false, and the other true riches, as they are called, Luke 16:11.
  • The word of God is able to enrich a man more than all the riches of the world, because it is able to bring a man to an everlasting kingdom.
  • Spiritual delight in spiritual objects far exceedeth all the joy that we can take in worldly things.
  • The way of God’s commandments is your way home.
  • You are going home to rest. Let the joy of the Lord be your strength. Certainly you will think no labour too great to get thither, whither the word directs you.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, August 14, 2017

Book Review: Godless

Godless. (Fatherless #3) James Dobson and Kurt Bruner. 2014. 416 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: Veronica's eyes flew open as she felt the rising sun warm her face. Panic forced her upright. "Where are we?" No response. Louder. "Mommy?"

Premise/plot: Godless is the third and final book in the trilogy by James Dobson and Kurt Bruner. (The first two in the series are Fatherless and Childless. The third novel opens in 2044, so two years have passed since the first novel began.)

What would society be like if it was truly godless? The entire series has shown a terrifying future where nothing is wrong because everything is right. It's a world in economic crisis for one thing.

The novel asks: What happens to a society, a civilization, when there are more old people than young people? Who gets what? How are resources shared and divided? In this fictional series, the author imagines that the elderly are manipulated and urged to make the best decision for everyone: to end their lives so that their grown children and grandchildren can benefit financially. Be a blessing for your loved ones: die today! Don't weigh down your loved ones lives with your continued existence! Make one last contribution to society! Be patriotic! Do good for your country, do good for your family!

The result is that medical care is being denied to the elderly. Children are pressuring their parents to transition--to die and leave them everything. Churches are pressuring older members to transition so that the church can have their money and thereby extend their gospel outreach. Politicians are definitely supporting the transition industry and building their campaigns around it.

Imagine this: You're 60+, at home waiting for results from the doctor, someone shows up at your door with the results. But they just don't give you the news, they're there to sell you a solution. Your health is bad. You're being denied coverage or treatment. But there's good news in all of this: you can take control of your diagnosis. Schedule your day to die! Sign up right here, right now and we'll set up your appointment to "transition." You can transition at home even if you'd prefer.

Or imagine this: You're 60+ and have a college-aged grandchild who wants to go to college. Your grandchild "needs" this educational opportunity if they are to succeed in life. The only thing standing in the way of their success, their YOU. If you really love your grandchild, don't you want them to have the best in life even if you're not there to see it?

Godless has many characters. Most of the characters were introduced in the first two books in the series. But this one also focuses in on one pastor and his family as they struggle to do the right thing and stand up against a church board that is pro-transition.

My thoughts: The series has reminded me of Frank Peretti's novels. The ideas are truly terrifying. It isn't just the lack of respect for human life and dignity in regards to how the elderly are treated. (I imagine that the disabled would also be pressured to transition. If you can't work and contribute to society, go ahead and die.)

The breakdown of the family is complete. Adults never marry, never enter monogamous relationships, never learn to love others unconditionally and sacrificially, never have children, never have need to be selfless. The novels do show the other side, however. The "breeder" class where values have not disintegrated and human life is still seen as being in the image of God.

My favorite character was Alex, the pastor of a Colorado church. My least favorite character was Matthew. These two have several conversations throughout the book. Matthew is a tortured soul, chained to his bad decisions past and present. He comes as "Frank" seeking answers to his questions. Not that he's always open to the answers he receives from Alex. But Alex isn't his only counselor.
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Week in Review: August 6-12

ESV Reformation Study Bible

  • Joshua
  • Judges
  • Ruth
  • 1 Samuel
  • Esther
  • Psalms 1-89


  • 1 Corinthians
  • 2 Corinthians
  • Galatians
  • Ephesians
  • Philippians
  • Colossians

CSB Study Bible

  • Genesis 1-5

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, August 11, 2017

Book Review: The Gospel According to Peanuts

The Gospel According to Peanuts. Robert L. Short. Introduced by Martin E. Marty. 1965/2000. 130 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: "How shall we sing the LORD's song in a foreign land?" (Ps. 137:4) is a question the Church, always finding itself in but not of the world, urgently needs to reconsider today.

Premise/plot: Are there theological lessons to be learned from engaging (reading thoughtfully) in the comic strip Peanuts? Short says YES, and this book is his argument why Christians should engage with the culture of the world.

My thoughts: The Gospel According to Peanuts is a short book, just six chapters in length.

The chapters are: "The Church and the Arts," "The Whole Trouble: Original Sin," "The Wages of Sin is Aaughh!", "Good Grief," "The Hound of Heaven," and "Concluding Unscientific Postcript."

If you can make it past the first chapter of this one, I think you'll enjoy reading this one. The first chapter suffers from being overly scholarly and long-winded. Instead of coming straight to the point and writing in English, the author offers his argument that essentially says a) comic strips can be important cultural indicators, a type of ART that should not be ignored but engaged in b) Peanuts is well worth reading because there are theological lessons to be found c) Christians often have a hard time communicating with the world in ways that the world can understand, if Christians engage in the culture they can better communicate the gospel in ways--in words and actions--that the world will be more likely to listen and respond.

I really loved the middle chapters of this one. In particular I loved "The Whole Trouble: Original Sin," "The Wages of Sin is Aaughh!" and "Good Grief."
The original sinfulness of man--all men--is almost taken for granted by the New Testament; it is the background for almost everything the New Testament says. Christ himself usually seemed to presuppose this view of human nature. (29)
Short argues that original sin can easily be seen as the background for the Peanuts strip. Each of the characters reveals the lostness--the blindness--of human nature itself.

One of the strips shown in this section:
LUCY: You know what the whole trouble with you is, Charlie Brown?
CHARLIE BROWN: No; and I don't want to know! Leave me alone!
LUCY: The whole trouble with you is you won't listen to what the whole trouble with you is! (30-1)
And here's another that reminds us of Paul's letter to the Romans:
LUCY: This Linus is a picture of the human heart! One side is filled with hate and the other side is filled with love. These are the two forces which are constantly at war with each other..
LINUS: I think I know just what you mean. I can feel them fighting. (36)
An example of a theological insight Short shares:
The inability of the Peanuts kids to produce any radical change for the better in themselves--or in each other--is a constant Peanuts theme. (37)
I enjoyed the comic strips very much. I also enjoyed Short's insights.

One of the points of the book is that ALL of the Peanuts characters have a natural, sinful fallen nature. There aren't "good" characters and "bad" characters. They are all messes. They all make mistakes. They all think mistakenly. If you're used to compartmentalizing the characters into "good" and "bad" then this book might be disconcerting to you. For example, if you are prone to thinking that LUCY IS BAD and LINUS IS GOOD. If you are of the opinion that Linus can do no wrong, and that Linus is wiser than all the rest,  then this one might upset you. For example, Short considers that Linus' blanket is unhealthy as is his insistent belief in the Great Pumpkin.

A few observations I have:

1) If you read enough comic strips, you could find enough to probably prove whatever you wanted. You could pull strips together showing Linus to be practically perfect in every way and Lucy to be a real jerk with no redeeming qualities. In this book, Lucy gets a lot of great lines in and in these strips she seems to be very self-aware while Linus seems to be fascinated with his blanket to the exclusion of seeing the real world.

2) This book was published BEFORE the 1966 Charlie Brown Christmas special. Linus stands out in the special as being wise and observant and GOOD. I think most people associate Linus with that--an image of him reading the birth narratives of Christ. And that image is so solid that it's hard to think of Linus as being anything but wise.

3) The new Peanuts movie is wonderful, but goes against much of what this book says. In the new movie, Charlie Brown comes across as an absolute saint; he may be clumsy, he may be gullible. But he's GOOD; he's LOYAL; he's COMPASSIONATE; he always does the right thing. He may worry a lot. He may be awkward but it seems his good works and good intentions outweigh everything else. He doesn't seem to need a savior; he just needs to believe in himself.

4) This book doesn't consider the comic strips written from 1965-2000. So it isn't a comprehensive look at the comic strip. Again, I think you could pick different strips from these years to prove anything about one of the characters.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible