Saturday, March 31, 2018

March Check-In

What Bible(s) did I read from this month? I FINISHED the NASB Bible. I've started the NLT Beyond Suffering Bible.
How many books by J.C. Ryle did I read this month? 0. But I have been reading his OLD PATHS.
Favorite quote(s) by J.C. Ryle:
  • Never, never let us be content with anything short of a saving religion. Surely to be satisfied with a religion which neither gives peace in life, nor hope in death, nor glory in the world to come, is childish folly.
Am I keeping up with my Morning and Evening devotional by Charles Spurgeon? Mostly.

Favorite quote(s) by Charles Spurgeon:
  • You can trace the beginning of human affection; you can easily find the beginning of your love to Christ—but His love to us is a stream whose source is hidden in eternity. God the Father loves Jesus without any change. Christian, take this for your comfort, that there is no change in Jesus Christ’s love—to those who rest in Him.
How many books by R.C. Sproul did I read this month? 2
Favorite quote(s) by R.C. Sproul:
Actually, one of the most dangerous things we can do as Christians is to determine our theology by our experience, because no one’s experience is normative for the Christian life. We have to determine our theology from the Word of God, not from what we feel. Actually, one of the most dangerous things we can do as Christians is to determine our theology by our experience, because no one’s experience is normative for the Christian life. We have to determine our theology from the Word of God, not from what we feel. 
Did I read any Puritans or Reformers this month: I read about the Reformation. And I read one book by a Puritan.

The Saint's Safety In Evil Times. Richard Sibbes. 1633. Best guess under 60-70 pages. [Source: Bought]
 Faith Alone: The Doctrine of Justification. Thomas R. Schreiner. 2015. 284 pages. [Source: Bought] 

Favorite quote(s): Delight carries the whole strength and marrow of the soul with it; much of the soul is where delight is. Richard Sibbes

Did I complete at least one book from the TBR Pile challenge? Which one? Yes. The NASB Quick Study Bible.

Other Christian nonfiction books read this month:
18. The Saint's Safety In Evil Times. Richard Sibbes. 1633. Best guess under 60-70 pages. [Source: Bought]
19. The Gospel According to God: Rediscovering the Most Remarkable Chapter in the Old Testament. John F. MacArthur. 2018. Crossway. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy]
20. Faith Alone: The Doctrine of Justification. Thomas R. Schreiner. 2015. 284 pages. [Source: Bought] 
21. Five Things Every Christian Needs To Grow. R.C. Sproul. 2002/2008. Reformation Trust. 135 pages. [Source: Free Download? Bought?]
22. Echoes of Exodus: Tracing Themes of Redemption Through Scripture. Alastair J. Roberts and Andrew P. Wilson. 2018. Crossway. 176 pages. [Source: Review copy]
24. The Kingdom of God and the Glory of the Cross. Patrick Schreiner. 2018. Crossway. 160 pages. [Source: Review copy]
25. Can I Be Sure I'm Saved? (Crucial Questions #7) R.C. Sproul. 2010. Reformation Trust. 72 pages. [Source: Free download.] 

Christian fiction books read this month: 1

How many "new" books did I read (published 2000-present)? 7
How many "old" books did I read (published before 2000)? 1
Which book was my overall favorite?
The Gospel According to God: Rediscovering the Most Remarkable Chapter in the Old Testament. John F. MacArthur. 2018. Crossway. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy]

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

My Victorian Year #13

This week I'll be sharing quotes from Charles Spurgeon's Morning and Evening and J.C. Ryle's Old Paths.

Old Paths, Chapter Four
“We are saved by hope.” (Romans 8:24.) Let us, then, make sure that our hope is sound. Have we a hope that our sins are pardoned, our hearts renewed, and our souls at peace with God? Then let us see to it that our hope is “good,” and “lively,” and one “that maketh not ashamed.” (2 Thessalonians 2:16; 1 Peter 1:3; Romans 5:5.)
1. A good hope is a hope that a man can explain. I do say that a man must know what his hope is, and be able to tell us its nature. I cannot believe that a man has got possession of a thing if he knows nothing about it.
I do not say that a power of talking well is necessary to salvation. There may be many fine words on a man’s lips, and not a whir of grace in his heart; there may be few and stammering words, and yet deep feeling within, planted there by the Holy Ghost. If he can tell us no more than this, that “he feels himself a sinner, and has no hope but in Christ,” it is something. But if he can tell us nothing at all, I must suspect that he has got no real hope.
2. A good hope is a hope that is drawn, from Scripture. In the second place, a good hope is a hope that is drawn from Scripture. What says David? “I hope in Thy word.”--“Remember the word unto Thy servant, upon which Thou hast caused me to hope.” What says St. Paul? “Whatsoever things were written aforetime, were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.” (Psalm 119:31-49. Romans 15:4.) If our hope is sound we ought to be able to turn to some text, or fact, or doctrine of God’s Word, as the source of it. Our confidence must arise from something which God has caused to be written in the Bible for our learning, and which our heart has received and believed.
It is not enough to have good feelings about the state of our souls. We may flatter ourselves that all is right, and that we are going to heaven when we die, and yet have nothing to show for our expectations but mere fancy and imagination.
Good feelings without some warrant of Scripture do not make up a good hope.
It is not enough to have the good opinion of others about the state of our souls. We may be told by others on our death beds, to “keep up our spirits,” and “not to be afraid.” We may be reminded that we have “lived good lives, or had a good heart,--or done nobody any harm,--or not been so bad as many;” and all this time our friends may not bring forward a word of Scripture, and may be feeding us on poison.
I warn every one to beware of a hope not drawn from Scripture. It is a false hope, and many will find out this to their cost. That glorious and perfect book, the Bible, however men despise it, is the only fountain out of which man’s soul can derive peace.
 There is not on earth a scrap of solid hope for the other side of the grave which is not drawn out of the Word.
3. A good hope rests entirely on Jesus Christ. In the third place, a good hope is a hope that rests entirely on Jesus Christ. What says St. Paul to Timothy? He says that Jesus Christ “is our hope.” What says he to the Colossians? He speaks of “Christ in you the hope of glory.” (1 Timothy 1:1;Colossians 1:27.) If we have nothing better than Church-membership to rest upon we are in a poor plight: we have nothing solid beneath our feet. Reception of the sacraments is no foundation of hope. We may be washed in the waters of baptism, and yet know nothing of the water of life. We may go to the Lord’s table every Sunday of our lives, and yet never eat Christ’s body and drink Christ’s blood by faith.
4. A good hope is felt inwardly in the heart. In the fourth place, a good hope is a hope that is felt inwardly in the heart. What says St. Paul? He speaks of “hope that maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts.” He speaks of “rejoicing in hope.” (Romans 5:5; Romans 12:12.) 
But the abuse and perversion of a truth must never be allowed to rob us of the use of it. When all has been said that can be said against fanaticism and enthusiasm, it is still undeniable that religious feelings are plainly spoken of and described in Scripture. 
Let us beware of a hope that is not felt, and a Christianity that is destitute of any inward experience. They are idols of the present day, and idols before which thousands are bowing down. Thousands are trying to persuade themselves that people may be born again, and have the Spirit, and yet not be sensible of it,--or that people may be members of Christ, and receive benefit from Him, who have neither faith nor love towards His name.
5. A good hope is manifested outwardly in the life. In the last place, a good hope is a hope that is manifested outwardly in the life. Once more, what saith the Scripture? “Every one that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure.” (1 John 3:8.) The man that has a good hope will show it in all his ways. It will influence his life, his character, and his daily conduct; it will make him strive to be a holy, godly, conscientious, spiritual man. He will feel under a constant obligation to serve and please Him from whom his hope comes.
If there is light in a house it will shine through the windows: if there is any real hope in a man’s soul it will be seen in his ways. Show me your hope in your life and daily behaviour. Where is it? Wherein does it appear? If you cannot show it, you may be sure it is nothing better than a delusion and a snare.
My first word of application shall be a question. I offer it to all who read this paper, and I entreat each reader to give it an answer. That question is, “What is your own hope about your soul?” 
The account of God will not be taken by towns, or by parishes, or by families: each must stand forth separately and answer for himself. “Every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” (Romans 14:12.)
My second word of application shall be a request. I make it to all readers of this paper who feel they have no hope and desire to have it. It is a short simple request. I entreat them to seek “a good hope” while it can be found.
Our past lives do not make it impossible to obtain it, however bad they may have been; our present weaknesses and infirmities do not shut us out, however great they may be. The same grace which provided mankind with a hope, makes a free, full, and unlimited invitation:--“Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely;”--“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find.” (Revelation 22:17; Matthew 7:7.)
If you have a good hope, keep it always ready. Have it at your right hand, prepared for immediate use: look at it often, and take care that it is in good order. Trials often break in upon us suddenly, like an armed man. Sicknesses and injuries to our mortal frame sometimes lay us low on our beds without any warning. Happy is he who keeps his lamp well trimmed, and lives in the daily sense of communion with Christ!
The hope of many a believer is like that fire-engine, and that ship. It exists,--it lives,--it is real.--it is true, it is sound,--it is good: it came down from heaven: it was implanted by the Holy Ghost. But, alas, it is not ready for use! Its possessor will find that out, by his own want of joy and sensible comfort, when he comes to his death-bed. Beware that your hope be not a hope of this kind. If you have a hope keep it ready for use, and within reach of your hand.
If you have a good hope, seek and pray that it may grow more and more strong every year. Do not be content with a “day of small things;” covet the best gifts: desire to enjoy full assurance.
If you have a good hope, be thankful, for it, and give God daily praise. Who has made you to differ? Why have you been taught to feel your sins, and nothingness, while others are ignorant and self-righteous? Why have you been taught to look to Jesus, while others are looking to their own goodness, or resting on some mere form of religion? Why are you longing and striving to be holy, while others are caring for nothing but this world? Why are these things so? There is but one answer,--Grace, grace, free grace, has done it all. For that grace praise God. For that grace be thankful.

Morning and Evening
Whenever a man is about to stab true religion, he usually professes very great reverence for it. 
Out of slavery of sin and Satan—the redeemed must come. In every cell of the dungeons of Despair, the sound is echoed, “Let these go their way!” and forth come Despondency and Much-afraid. Satan hears the well-known voice, and lifts his foot from the neck of the fallen; and Death hears it, and the grave opens her gates to let the dead arise.
Great thoughts of your sin alone—will drive you to despair; but great thoughts of Christ—will pilot you into the haven of peace. “My sins are many—but oh! it is nothing to Jesus to take them all away. The weight of my guilt presses me down as a giant’s foot would crush a worm—but it is no more than a grain of dust to Him, because He has already borne its curse on the cruel tree. It will be but a small thing for Him to give me full remission, although it will be an infinite blessing for me to receive.
The love of Christ in its sweetness, its fullness, its greatness, its faithfulness, surpasses all human comprehension. Where shall language be found—which shall describe His matchless, His unparalleled love towards His people?
Before we can have any right idea of the love of Jesus, we must understand His previous glory in its height of majesty, and His humiliation upon the earth in all its depths of shame.
You cannot be accepted without Christ; but, when you have received His merit, you cannot be unaccepted.
Remember that, to suffer is an honorable thing — to suffer for Christ is glory. The apostles rejoiced that they were counted worthy to do this.
Tried believer, your Lord has a tear-bottle in which the costly drops of sacred grief are stored away—and a book in which your holy groanings are numbered. By-and-by, your prayer shall be answered. Can you not be content to wait a little? Will not your Lord’s time—be better than your time?

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

First Quarter Challenge Check-Ins (Check-ups!)

2018 52 Books in 52 Weeks
Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks (about) (links post)
Link back EVERY Sunday
# of books 52

I don't have a problem reading--even reviewing--a book a week. But oh the REMEMBERING to share the review link on the site. That is what will do me in. But my challenge update post has 13. 

Author Love Challenge
Because Reading (sign up)
January - December 2018

I have read SEVEN R.C. Sproul books. Not bad.

2018 Cloud of Witnesses Reading Challenge
Host: Operation Actually Read Bible (sign up)
January - December 2018
# of books: 24 is my goal

Eleven books. 

Host: Becky's Book Reviews (sign up)
Duration: January 2018 - December 2018
Inspiration: It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones. C.S. Lewis
# of books: readers decide

I've read 33 Christian books. Twenty-five non-fiction books. Eight fiction ones. All of the fiction has been new with the exception of an updated Pilgrim's Progress published in 1998. Five of the nonfiction have been old. But some books are tricky. Like the "new" Tozer book with the 2018 publication date--but he died in 1963. It's previously unpublished so it is technically new. But it's "old" too.

2018 Mount TBR Reading Challenge
Host: My Reader's Block (sign up)
Dates: January - December 2018
# of Books: I'm committing to the reading level Mt. Ararat--48 books from my TBR pile. My TBR pile is on GoodReads. I will continue to add to it throughout the year, but only books added before January 1, 2018, will count towards this challenge. Right now there are just over 800 books.

I've read FIFTEEN books so far. 

Operation Deepen Faith
Host: Operation Actually Read Bible (sign up)
January - December 2018

I've read 2 Bibles so far. The KJV Readers Bible and the NASB Quick Study Bible.

I've read twenty-five Christian nonfiction books.

Reformation Reading Challenge
Host: Operation Actually Read Bible (sign up here)
Duration: October 31, 2017 - December 31, 2018
# of books: minimum of 1 book OR 1 sermon series

I've read ten books.

The Official 2018 TBR Pile Challenge
Host: Adam (Roof Beam Readersign up here
Dates: January 2018 - December 2018
# of Books: 12 (+2 alternates)
Another note to self: On Social Media, please use #TBR2018RBR

I've read three books.

Victorian Reading Challenge
Host: Becky's Book Reviews
Duration: January - December 2018
Goal: Read a minimum of 4 Victorian books

I've read three books.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, March 30, 2018

Book Review: Can I Be Sure I'm Saved?

Can I Be Sure I'm Saved? (Crucial Questions #7) R.C. Sproul. 2010. Reformation Trust. 72 pages. [Source: Free download.]

First sentence: There is a passage in the New Testament that I believe is one of the most terrifying in the Bible. It comes from the lips of Jesus at the end of the Sermon on the Mount.

This little booklet tackles the controversial subject of assurance of salvation. It seeks to answer the question can a person be sure he/she is saved? It is not a light, inconsequential question. Nor is it a question with fifty--or a hundred--answers all equally right. It is a life-or-death question with eternal consequences.

Before answering the question properly, Sproul points out that it isn't just a Roman Catholic versus Protestant controversy. Within the Protestant community, there are a variety of responses and opinions to the question. He makes a clear distinction between "Protestant" theology and "Reformed" theology. It's a distinction that the average believer may perhaps be oblivious to. The position Sproul takes in the booklet is the Reformed response to the question. Sub-questions tackled are: what is salvation? what is regeneration? what is election?

Sproul asserts that there are four types of people in the world. "Every living person, without exception, can be assigned to one of these categories. The categories are: 1) those who are saved and know it, 2) those who are saved but do not know it, 3) those (like the man I mentioned above) who are unsaved and know it, and 4) those who are unsaved but do not know it." The book examines those categories in detail. Particularly making the distinction between TRUE ASSURANCE and FALSE ASSURANCE. He talks about three 'main' errors of false assurance: universalism, legalism, and various forms of sacerdotalism.

The book is a thought-provoking read. Sproul challenges how we think about evangelism, about how we "do" evangelism. He writes,
When one is immersed in a Christian subculture that puts a great deal of stress on making decisions, responding to altar calls, and praying the sinner’s prayer, it is easy to miss this important point—making a decision to follow Jesus has never converted anyone. This is because it is not a decision that converts a person; it is the power of the Holy Spirit that does so. We get into the kingdom not because we make a decision, walk down an aisle, raise a hand, or sign a card. We get into the kingdom because there is true faith in our hearts. (15)
A few pages later, he says:
Actually, one of the most dangerous things we can do as Christians is to determine our theology by our experience, because no one’s experience is normative for the Christian life. We have to determine our theology from the Word of God, not from what we feel. Actually, one of the most dangerous things we can do as Christians is to determine our theology by our experience, because no one’s experience is normative for the Christian life. We have to determine our theology from the Word of God, not from what we feel. (23)
Consider this passage, if you will:
We have so eliminated the last judgment from our theology and expunged any notion of divine punishment or of hell from our thinking (and from the church’s thinking) that it is now widely assumed that all a person must do to get to heaven is to die. In fact, the most powerful means of grace for sanctification in our culture is to die, because a sin-blistered sinner is automatically transformed between the morgue and the cemetery, so that when the funeral service is held, the person is presented as a paragon of virtue. His sins seem to have been removed by his death. This is very dangerous business, because the Scriptures warn us that it is appointed for every person once to die, then to face judgment (Heb. 9:27). (32)
 I loved this one. It was short. It was biblical. It was practical and relevant. A lot of substance packed in such a little book!

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Bible Review: NASB

NASB Quick Study Bible. 2006. Thomas Nelson. 1920 pages. [Source: Bought]

I read just the text of this 'quick study' bible. I bought this Bible used a few years ago--was thrilled to do so--because of the layout.

It isn't always easy to find NASB Bibles that are a) in paragraph format instead of verse, verse, verse; b) in black letter and not red letter; c) in a font size that is easy on the eyes. This Bible is all three.

I do LOVE the NASB translation. It is one of my top three translations of choice. I adore it really.

It was a joy to read this one over the past few months. I began with Genesis. I ended with Revelation. But I didn't read it cover to cover. I tend to always begin and end the same way. I like to read the first five books together--the books of the law, the torah. I like to always, always, always finish with the works of John. I read John, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, and Revelation as my last five books. I've also started to save the book of Psalms for my last read in the Old Testament.

I'm not sure which translation I'll tackle next. But I know where I'll be reading!

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Week in Review: March 18-24


  • Psalms 1-79
  • Ezekiel 42-48
  • Daniel
  • Hosea
  • Joel
  • Amos
  • Obadiah
  • Jonah
  • Micah
  • Nahum
  • Habakkuk
  • Zephaniah
  • Haggai
  • Zechariah
  • Malachi
  • 1 Timothy
  • 2 Timothy
  • Titus
  • Philemon

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Saturday, March 24, 2018

My Victorian Year #12

This week I'll be sharing quotes from Charles Spurgeon's Morning and Evening and J.C. Ryle's Old Paths.

Morning and Evening:

  • The weak Christian is as much a child of God—as the strong one. Yet, while we are comforted by knowing this, let us not rest contented with weak faith—but ask, like the Apostles, to have it increased.
  • You can trace the beginning of human affection; you can easily find the beginning of your love to Christ—but His love to us is a stream whose source is hidden in eternity. God the Father loves Jesus without any change. Christian, take this for your comfort, that there is no change in Jesus Christ’s love—to those who rest in Him.
  • There is no road between my soul and heaven—but faith.
  • When Jesus is the host—no guest goes empty from the table. Our head is satisfied with the precious truth which Christ reveals; our heart is content with Jesus, as the altogether lovely object of affection; our hope is satisfied, for whom have we in heaven but Jesus? and our desire is satiated, for what can we wish for more than “to know Christ and to be found in Him”?
  • God alone can remove the winter of spiritual death from an individual, or a people. Lord, end my winter, and let my spring begin. I cannot with all my longings raise my soul out of her death and dullness—but all things are possible with You.
  • Exiles though we are, we rejoice in our King! Yes, in Him we exceedingly rejoice, while in His name we set up our banners.

Old Paths, chapter three

  • If the common opinion of the world as to the number of the saved was correct, I would not trouble men with searching and hard questions. But is it so? Let us see.
  • If God had never spoken plainly in the Bible about the number of the saved, I might well be silent But is it so? Let us see. If experience and facts left it doubtful whether many or few would be saved, I might hold my peace. But is it so? Let us see.
  • I. Let me explain what it is to be saved. 2. Let me point out the mistakes which are common in the world about the number of the saved. 3. Let me show what the Bible says about the number of the saved. 4. Let me bring forward some plain facts as to the number of the saved.
  • By being “saved” I may mean one thing, and you may mean another. Let me show you what the Bible says it is to be “saved,” and then there will be no misunderstanding.
  • To be saved, is not merely to profess and call ourselves Christians. We may have all the outward parts of Christianity, and yet be lost after all.
  • To be saved, is to be delivered in this present life from the guilt of sin, by faith in Jesus Christ, the Saviour. It is to be pardoned, justified, and freed from every charge of sin, by faith in Christ’s blood and mediation.
  • To be saved, is to be delivered in this present life from the power of sin, by being born again, and sanctified by Christ’s spirit. It is to be freed from the hateful dominion of sin, the world, and the devil, by having a new nature put in us by the Holy Ghost.
  • To be saved, is to be delivered in the day of judgment, from all the awful consequences of sin. It is to be declared blameless, spotless, faultless, and complete in Christ, while others are found guilty, and condemned for ever. It is to hear those comfortable words,--“Come, ye blessed!” while others are hearing those fearful words,--“Depart, ye cursed!” (Matthew 25:34-41.)
  • It is to be owned and confessed by Christ, as one of His dear children and servants, while others are disowned and cast off for ever.
  • Let it never be forgotten that the chief object of a minister of the Gospel is to set forward the salvation of souls. 
  • If the saving of souls is not the grand interest--the ruling passion--the absorbing thought of his heart,--he is no true minister of the Gospel: he is a hireling, and not a shepherd. Congregations may have called him,--but he is not called by the Holy Ghost, Bishops may have ordained him,--but not Christ.
  • Never, never let us be content with anything short of a saving religion. Surely to be satisfied with a religion which neither gives peace in life, nor hope in death, nor glory in the world to come, is childish folly.
  • What then do men generally think about the spiritual state of others while they are alive? What do they think of the souls of their relations, and friends, and neighbours, and acquaintances? Let us just see how that question can be answered.
  • Men flatter themselves there is no great difficulty in getting to heaven. It proves plainly that men are of opinion that most persons will be saved.
  • But what do men generally think about the spiritual state of others after they are dead? Let us just see how this question can be answered.
  • I say, without fear of contradiction, that there is an unhappily common fashion of speaking well of the condition of all who have departed this life. It matters little, apparently, how a man has behaved while he lived. He may have given no signs of repentance, or faith in Christ; he may have been ignorant of the plan of salvation set forth in the Gospel; he may have shown no evidence whatever of conversion or sanctification; he may have lived and died like a creature without a soul. And yet, as soon as this man is dead, people will dare to say that he is “probably happier than ever he was in his life.”
  • But again, what do men generally think of ministers who preach fully the doctrines of the New Testament?
  • And what does it prove? It just makes one more proof that men generally are resolved to think that salvation is not a very hard business, and that after all most people will be saved.
  • Upon what Scripture do they build this notion, that salvation is an easy business, and that most people will be saved? What revelation of God can they show us, to satisfy us that these opinions are sound and true? They have none,--literally none at all. They have not a text of Scripture which, fairly interpreted, supports their views. They have not a reason which will bear examination. They speak smooth things about one another’s spiritual state, just because they do not like to allow there is danger.
  • The plain truth is that the world’s opinion is worth nothing in matters of religion.
  • Let us remember, above all, that it never will do to think as others do, if we want to get to heaven. No doubt it is easy work to “go with the crowd” in religious matters. It will save us much trouble to swim with the stream and tide. We
  • But let us remember, once for all, that the world’s mistakes about salvation are many and dangerous. Unless we are on our guard against them we shall never be saved.
  • What the Bible says about the number of the saved. Let me show, in the third place, what the Bible says about the number of the saved.
  • Whatsoever is there written we must receive and believe: whatsoever cannot be proved by Scripture we ought to refuse.
  • Let us go through the whole four thousand years, over which the history of the Bible reaches. Let us find, if we can, one single period of time at which godly people were many, and ungodly people were few.
  • The sum of the whole matter is this: the Bible and the men of the world speak very differently about the number of the saved. According to the Bible, few will be saved: according to the men of the world, many.
  • Some plain facts about the number of the saved. Let me show, in the last place, some plain facts about the number of the saved.
  • I am persuaded that the views of most people about the quantity of unbelief and sin in the world, are utterly inadequate and incorrect. I am convinced that very few people, whether ministers or private Christians, at all realize how few there are in a way to be saved. I want to draw attention to the subject, and I will therefore bring forward a few plain facts about it.
  • People generally die just as they have lived. True repentance is never too late:--but repentance deferred to the last hours of life is seldom true.
  • There is a spurious charity, I am afraid, which dislikes all strong statements in religion,--a charity which would have no one interfered with,--a charity which would have everyone let alone in his sins,--a charity which, without evidence, takes for granted that everybody is in a way to be saved,--a charity which never doubts that all people are going to heaven, and seems to deny the existence of such a place as hell. But such charity is not the charity of the New Testament, and does not deserve the name.
  • Give me the charity which tries everything by the test of the Bible, and believes nothing and hopes nothing that is not sanctioned by the Word. Give me the charity which St. Paul describes to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 13:1, etc.): the charity which is not blind, and deaf, and stupid, but has eyes to see and senses to discern between him that feareth God and him that feareth Him not. Such charity will rejoice in nothing but “the truth;” and will confess with sorrow that I tell nothing but the truth when I say that few are likely to be saved.
  • Whether we like to believe it or not, hell is filling fast,--Christ is daily holding out His hand to a disobedient people,--many are in the way to destruction,--few, few are in the way to life. Many, many are likely to be lost. Few, few are likely to be saved. 

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Book Review: Only One Way

Only One Way: Christian Witness in an Age of Inclusion. Edited by Michael L. Johnson and Richard D. Phillips. 2018. P&R Publishing. 169 pages. [Source: Review copy]

The seven chapters of Only One Way were originally addresses prepared for the 2005 Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology sponsored by the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. The chapters include:

"One Among Many" by David F. Wells
"One Gospel" by Albert Mohler
"One God" by Peter R. Jones
"One Savior" by Richard D. Phillips
"One Truth" by Philip G. Ryken
"One Way" by D.A. Carson
"One People" by J. Ligon Duncan III

I would definitely recommend Only One Way. If I had to sum up the message of the book, I'd say it was a not-so-gentle call to fellow Christians to WAKE UP and thoughtfully consider what they believe and reflect on if their actions match up with what they say they believe. It's a call to embrace the truth of the Bible, to discern between the true gospel and all other false gospels no matter their origins, no matter the sincerity of their proclaimers and followers. It's a call to be separate from culture, to be transformed by the Word of God instead of conformed to the world. It is also a clear, definite call to evangelize. Not "do evangelism" in a pragmatic, systematic way geared to produce results--numbers. But to proclaim the Good News always--in and out of season, no compromises, no gimmicks.

Each address focuses on a specific scripture passage. David Well's passage is Acts 17.
Our inclination is to get the audience to the gospel in the shortest possible time and in its most stripped-down version. If inquirers have questions, they come later, not at the beginning. Paul, however, was different. Before speaking about Christ and the gospel, he spoke about worldviews. The reason for this is rather clear. Jews who heard Paul’s gospel were people well prepared by the Old Testament in their understanding about the nature of God and his relation to the creation, his holiness, the reality and consequences of sin, and the necessity of sacrifice. The pagans to whom Paul spoke were at sea in all of these matters. It was therefore important to Paul that the worldviews of his listeners be confronted first. Otherwise, the gospel might have been absorbed into false worldviews in which its nature and uniqueness might well be lost. The gospel, after all, is not a disembodied message that can be assimilated into just any worldview. Rather, it comes within its own understanding of the world, outside of which the gospel makes no sense at all. ~ David Wells
Paul assumed that his culture was fallen, that its religions were mistaken, and that redemption meant a clean break with all “natural” religion. We tend to assume the opposite. We assiduously read Barna polls to find the best ways to capitalize on the culture, to find the latest personalities to whom the gospel wagon can be hitched. Evangelicals rush in droves to embrace what they think is “culture” (though what they are really talking about is mostly passing fads and fashions) in the forlorn hope that they will find in it the recipe for their own success and acceptance. What results from this kind of accommodation to the culture is that the Christian gospel seems little different from the kind of general spirituality that is now pervasive throughout all Western cultures.  Evangelicals have been in the business of minimizing and reducing the gospel to its bare essentials, putting it in the most appealing secular form, selling and marketing it, and stripping it of its doctrinal framework. Any kind of doctrine present in the framing of the gospel, it is believed, will put people off; and so, in order to assure more success, all doctrine has now gone. The kind of spirituality that is being offered—a spirituality without doctrinal truth, without the full recognition of the reality of sin, without any sense of the due holiness of God, and without too much need for the cross—is little different from the spirituality pervasive in the culture, a spirituality that is often not religious. The gospel being marketed to postmodern consumers is a gospel perverted by these same postmodern consumers, who have been encouraged to think that they can “buy” on their own terms. And those terms have far more in common with paganism than we realize or might like to know! ~ David Wells 
Albert Mohler's passage is Romans 8:28-39. But he gives an overview of Romans 1-8!
No matter our denominational affiliation—Presbyterian, Baptist, and so on—we are people of the gospel. We are one in the one gospel. Wherever the gospel is found, our people are found. Wherever the gospel is found, this is where God’s people are. The gospel defines us. ~ Albert Mohler
One of the problems with our generation’s presentation of the gospel is that it doesn’t begin with the reality of human sinfulness. We’re living in an age of synthetic gospels. The gospel is under attack. It is being subverted. And, as at so many points in the history of the Christian church, we see the need to clarify the gospel. Gospel confusion is writ large throughout history. The clear articulation of the gospel in terms of what it is and what it is not is the responsibility of this generation.  ~ Albert Mohler
Peter Jones' passage is Genesis 1:1
Many Christians will be surprised to learn that the chief doctrinal attack in our time is directed not against the inspiration of Scripture or the deity of Christ, but against the doctrine of God. The very denial of God is one of the chief obstacles to our preaching the gospel today. ~ Peter Jones 
Richard D. Phillips' passage is Romans 3:23-25. This chapter is SO important and relevant. It should be required reading for anyone who watches the news.
There is something wrong in the world. The question is, what is it? What is the problem facing mankind? This is important, because the nature of a problem always determines the nature of its solution. It is because of Christianity’s and the Bible’s answer to this question—why aren’t things the way they’re supposed to be?—that we proclaim Jesus Christ as the one and only Savior. ~ Richard D. Phillips
What really separates Christianity from all other religions is not merely its doctrine of Christ but its doctrine of sin. According to the Bible, the problem with this world, the reason that things aren’t the way they’re supposed to be, is sin—that is, the transgression of God’s law and the power of evil that thus takes residence in our hearts. ~ Richard D. Phillips
Is Jesus the one way that God has established? Everywhere today we hear, “There are many ways to God.” Let us observe, at least, that Jesus taught the exact opposite. There are many ways to hell, he said, but only one way to God. “The gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matt. 7:13–14). ~ Richard D. Phillips 
Philip G. Ryken's passage is John 18:37-38.
It would be hard to think of even a single major doctrine of the Christian faith that is not under attack in these postmodern times. The doctrine of God (which is attacked by open theism), the doctrine of Scripture (which is undermined by doubts about inerrancy), the doctrine of the atonement (which is destroyed by the denial of our need for a blood substitute), the doctrine of justification (which is redefined and thus disabled by new perspectives on Paul and the law)—everything seems to be under attack. But no attack is more fundamental than the attack on truth itself—the assault on the very claim that some things are true and others are false. ~ Philip G. Ryken
The Bible is constantly discriminating between truth and falsehood, especially in relationship to the gospel. ~ Philip G. Ryken
We cannot be both for and against the truth. We have to choose. If we are not for the truth—the truth that God has revealed in the story and the theology of his Word—then we are against it. Philip G. Ryken
 D.A. Carson's passage is Matthew 7:13
Since critics often measure Christians against Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, let us begin there. One of the first things a careful inquirer finds is that the Sermon on the Mount is anything but simplistic. The same Jesus who says, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged,” also says, “Do not throw your pearls to pigs”—which means somebody has to figure out who the pigs are (Matt. 7:1, 6). The same Jesus who says, “Turn . . . the other [cheek]” (Matt. 5:39) adds, at the end of the Sermon on the Mount, some startlingly antithetical things. Particularly in the last section, Matthew 7:13–29, Jesus casts four striking antitheses: two ways, two trees, two claims, and two foundations. In each instance, there are but two possibilities, there are only two ways—one of which is right and the other wrong. ~ D.A. Carson
Why must we choose between a narrow gate with a small, narrow road and a broad gate with a wide road? How about an in-between road—not too narrow, not wide and relativistic, but sort of in between? ~ D.A. Carson
At the end of the day there are only two ways: the way of the kingdom or the way of death. But still, we cannot save ourselves by obeying the Sermon on the Mount. This is why Christians have always recognized that the Sermon on the Mount simultaneously tells us how to live and exposes us to the fact that we cannot meet the challenge. It probes us deeply and shows us our inconsistencies and our double standards.  ~ D.A. Carson
 J. Ligon Duncan's passage is 1 Peter 2:9-10.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, March 19, 2018

Book Review: The Kingdom of God and the Glory of the Cross

The Kingdom of God and the Glory of the Cross. Patrick Schreiner. 2018. Crossway. 160 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: “What is the kingdom of God?” The student leaned back and looked at me. I paused, fumbled around, then tossed out some words, but I ended my little incoherent bluster by saying that we would find out as we continued to study Matthew.

The book presents an overview of the entire Bible through the theological/doctrinal lens of 'the kingdom of God.' The book explores what the phrase 'kingdom of God' means throughout Scripture. It would be tempting to define this key concept just based on the gospel readings, for example. But a more accurate assessment must consider all of scripture. He uses the Jewish ordering of Scripture when he discusses the Old Testament. (If you've never read the Old Testament this way, I do recommend it!)

How does Schreiner define the kingdom of God?
The kingdom is the King’s power over the King’s people in the King’s place.
So what is the kingdom? It is concrete; it is earthy; it is people; it is place; it is about Jesus; it concerns the cross; it is about the new heavens and the new earth; it is about community, politics, order, bodies, and human flourishing. It is about power, family, thrones, walls, gates, rivers, and streams.  
Jesus did not invent the concept of kingdom. Rather, it started in the garden and has always concerned people, place, and power. 
Only when we connect the dots from the first page of the Bible to the last do we begin to see that on every page the kingdom concerns the King, his people, and their place. And at the center of this kingdom plan stands a wooden cross covered in blood. 
In part one, the focus is on the Old Testament. What can we learn about the kingdom of God in the law? in the prophets? in the writings? In part two, the focus is on the New Testament. What can we learn about the kingdom of God in the gospels? in Acts? In Paul's letters? in the general letters? Of course, this is all leading up to what can we learn about the kingdom of God in the book of Revelation?!?!

I would definitely recommend this one. It may be a "short study" in Biblical theology--but it packs in a lot of substance or 'meat.'

Favorite quotes:
The whole of Scripture culminates on a mountain, and at the top of it we find a tree—the cross. The Gospels present the kingdom realized through the cross. The cross establishes the kingdom; the kingdom comes through the cross. But if the kingdom is people and place, then the kingdom is also hidden beneath the people of God (the church). The cross lives on in the people of God and the places where they gather together. When they take up their crosses and follow Jesus, there the kingdom is.  
The kingdom is not a higher or more important theme than the cross. These two realities are forever joined; separating them is an act of violence. If the kingdom is the goal, then the cross is the means. 
Kingdom and cross must mutually interpret each other, and they must be kept in the same orbit. 
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Week in Review: March 11-17


  • Isaiah 48-66
  • Jeremiah
  • Lamentations
  • Ezekiel
  • Romans

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Saturday, March 17, 2018

My Victorian Year #11

This week I'll be sharing quotes from Charles Spurgeon's Morning and Evening and J.C. Ryle's Old Paths.

Morning and Evening

  • Beware of light thoughts of sin. At the time of conversion, the conscience is so tender, that we are afraid of the slightest sin. Young converts have a holy timidity—a godly fear lest they should sin against God. But alas! very soon the fine bloom upon these first ripe fruits is removed by the rough handling of the surrounding world—and the sensitive plant of young piety turns into a willow—too pliant, too easily yielding.
  • By degrees—men get familiar with sin. The ear in which the cannon has been booming—will not notice slight sounds. At first a little sin startles us; but soon we say, “Is it not a little one?” Then there comes another, larger, and then another—until by degrees we begin to regard sin as but a minor thing.
  • Christian, beware how you think of sin. Take heed lest you fall little by little. Sin, a little thing? Is it not a poison?
  • Sin, a little thing? It girded the Redeemer’s head with thorns, and pierced His heart! It made Him suffer anguish, bitterness, and woe. Could you weigh the least sin in the scales of eternity—you would fly from it as from a serpent, and abhor the least appearance of evil.
  • Look upon all sin as that which crucified your Savior—and you will see it to be “exceeding sinful.”
  • The surpassing grace of God is seen very clearly, in that we were not only sought—but sought out. Men seek for a thing which is lost upon the floor of the house—but in such a case there is only seeking, not seeking out. The loss is more perplexing and the search more persevering, when a thing is sought out.
  • Have you been “born again”? If you have, you belong to Christ—but without the new birth, you cannot be His. In whom do you trust? For those who believe in Jesus, are the sons of God. Whose work are you doing? You are sure to serve your master, for he whom you serve is thereby owned to be your Lord.
  • If you are Christ’s let me advise you to do four things. You belong to Jesus — obey him; let his Word be your law; let His wish be your will. You belong to the Beloved, then love Him; let your heart embrace Him; let your whole soul be filled with Him. You belong to the Son of God, then trust him; rest nowhere but on him. You belong to the King of kings, then be decided for Him. Thus, without your being branded upon the brow—all will know to whom you belong.
  • Open your Bible, and read the story of the lepers, and mark their position, which was much the same as yours. If you remain where you are—you must perish; if you go to Jesus—you can but die.
  • It is a curious fact, that there is such a thing as being proud of grace.
  • Take heed that you don’t boast in your graces—but let all your glorying and confidence be in Christ and His strength, for only so can you be kept from falling. Be much more in prayer. Spend longer time in holy adoration. Read the Scriptures more earnestly and constantly. Watch your lives more carefully. Live nearer to God. Take the best examples for your pattern. Let your conversation be redolent of heaven. Let your hearts be perfumed with affection for men’s souls. So live that men may take knowledge of you—that you have been with Jesus, and have learned of Him.
  • No man ever fell into sin through being too watchful. May the Holy Spirit guide us in all our ways—so shall they always please the Lord.
  • “I am a stranger with you.” — Psalm 39:12 Yes, O Lord, with You—but not to You. All my natural alienation from You—Your grace has effectually removed; and now, in fellowship with Yourself, I walk through this sinful world as a pilgrim in a foreign country.
  • May infinite wisdom cure us of the madness of self-confidence!

Old Paths -- Chapter Two
We live in an age when there is a false glare on the things of time, and a great mist over the things of eternity.
The death which each of us has one day to die does not make an end of the man. All is not over when the last breath is drawn, and the doctor’s last visit has been paid,--when the coffin is screwed down, and the funeral preparations are made,--when “ashes to ashes and dust to dust” has been pronounced over the grave, when our place in the world is filled up, and the gap made by our absence from society is no longer noticed.
You may be poor in this world; but you have a soul You may be sickly and weak in body; but you have a soul. You may not be a king, or a queen, or a duke, or an earl; yet you have a soul. The soul is the part of us which God chiefly regards The soul is “the man.”
I do not stop to prove that men have souls, but I do ask all men to live as if they believed it. Live as if you really believed that we were not sent into the world merely to spin cotton, and grow corn, and hoard up gold, but to “glorify God and to enjoy Him for ever.”
Read your Bible, and become acquainted with its contents. Seek the Lord in prayer, and pour out your heart before Him. Go to a place of worship regularly, and hear the Gospel preached. Keep the Sabbath holy, and give God His day. And if any ask you the reason why: if wife, or child, or companion say, “What are you about?”--answer them boldly, like a man, and say. “I do these things because I have a soul.” 
I am one of those old-fashioned ministers who believe the whole Bible,--and everything that it contains. I can find no Scriptural foundation for that smooth-spoken theology, which pleases so many in these days, and according to which every body will get to heaven at last.
I believe that there is a real devil. I believe that there is a real hell. I believe that it is not charity to keep back from men that they may be lost. Charity! shall I call it? If you saw a brother drinking poison, would you hold your peace?--Charity I shall I call it? If you saw a blind man tottering towards a precipice, would you not cry out “Stop”? Away with such false notions of charity! 
It is the highest charity to bring the whole truth before men. It is real charity to warn them plainly when they are in danger. It is charity to impress upon them, that they may lose their own souls for ever in hell.
Any man’s soul may be saved. I bless God that the Gospel of Christ enables me to proclaim these glad tidings, and to proclaim them freely and unconditionally to every one who reads these pages. 
Look forward, look onward and forward to the end! Your best things are yet to come. Time is short. The end is drawing near.
Do something, by God’s help, to make heaven more full and hell more empty.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Book Review: Echoes of Exodus

Echoes of Exodus: Tracing Themes of Redemption Through Scripture. Alastair J. Roberts and Andrew P. Wilson. 2018. Crossway. 176 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: The exodus is central to the Scriptures, central to the gospel, and central to the Christian life. Whatever book of the Bible you are reading, and whichever Christian practices you are involved in, echoes of the exodus are in there somewhere.

In Echoes of Exodus, the authors argue that the themes of exodus--of deliverance--are to be found in every book of the Bible. The Bible tells a cohesive story of a God who saves, who rescues, who redeems, who restores, who fulfills, who blesses, who loves.

The approach they take to illustrating this is unique. It is a musical approach. They write,
"Scripture is music. We use musical metaphors all the time when we talk about the Scriptures, without even thinking about it. We might describe the Bible as a symphony or a love song. We might refer to the opening of Genesis as an overture or to Revelation as a finale. We might talk about the story being composed or perhaps orchestrated by God, with themes and rhythms and echoes running through it, all building to a crescendo. If we are handling some of the difficult sections, we might say that there is a clash here or a discordant note there, but that there is always, ultimately, a harmony within the Word of God, and therefore that we can expect things to resolve....A musical approach to Scripture encompasses a number of aspects, each of which can help us see Scripture in a fresh light. One, which we have already mentioned, involves the language of tension and resolution...The Bible has a clear storyline, a melody, a tune, and it can be summarized (or sung) by a small child. It also has a range of individual and corporate stories that run together, sometimes taking center stage, sometimes fading into the background, providing harmony and counterpoint, treble and bass, height and depth, in such a way that no single writer (or musician) could possibly represent it all."
The book begins with a discussion of Exodus, of Passover. The book then journeys on through the rest of the Bible going back to Genesis and finally concluding in Revelation.

I would definitely recommend this one! I found it very relevant. Like the authors I agree that modern society is confused about what freedom really is.

Here are some of my favorite quotes:
Escaping from Egypt is only the first half of the exodus. It is easy for us to forget this, in an age where freedom is understood as merely being freedom from: from oppression, from constraint, or whatever. This aspect of liberation, as wonderful as it is, is only half the deal. In the Scriptures, more emphasis is placed on the freedom for: for worship, for flourishing, for growth in obedience and joy and glory. Human beings are not designed to be free from all constraint, slaves to nothing but our own passions, triumphantly enthroned as our own masters, even our own gods. 
The freest people in the world are those who are owned by someone else. Service is liberty. Obedience is joy. 
The greatest threats to true freedom, it seems, do not come from external oppression but from within. Delivering Israel from slavery to Pharaoh took only ten plagues; delivering Israel from slavery to self, sin, sex, greed, and idolatry took ten commandments and ten separate trials and corresponding judgments (Num. 14:22), and ended up with an entire generation dying in the wilderness—and even then, the problems persisted. True slavery is captivity of the soul, not just the body. Until a nation or a person is freed from that, and free to become what they were originally intended to be, their exodus is incomplete. 
It can be hard to tell the difference between an exodus and an exile, especially when you’re in the middle of one.
One summary we hardly ever use, but which appears in Paul’s writings all the time—even when he is primarily talking about something else—goes something like this: We were slaves. We were slaves to sin, death, fear, the flesh, and the Devil. But at just the right time, God rescued us. He defeated our enemy and redeemed us through the blood of his Son, taking us through the waters of baptism, uniting us to himself, giving us his Spirit to lead us and guide us, and providing us with all we need. He did all this, not so that we could do our own thing, but so that we could do his thing. And he is taking us on toward a new creation of resurrection and victory, milk and honey. In other words: Paul’s gospel is an exodus.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible