Thursday, May 31, 2018

May Check-In

What Bible(s) did I read from this month? The Beyond Suffering Bible, NLT and the NKJV Chronological Study Bible. I also read Psalms in the KJV because I adore it.

How many books by J.C. Ryle did I read this month? I am still working on Old Paths. I hope to finish that one soon and start another.
Favorite quote(s) by J.C. Ryle:
It matters nothing who says a thing, and declares it to be religious truth; it matters nothing whether we like or dislike a doctrine. Is it in the Bible? That is the only question. If it is, we have no right to refuse it. If we reject a Bible truth because we do not like it, we do so at the peril of our souls, and might as well become infidels at once. This is a principle which ought never to be forgotten.

Am I keeping up with my Morning and Evening devotional by Charles Spurgeon? YES.
Favorite quote(s) by Charles Spurgeon:
Keep back no part of the precious truth—but speak what you know, and testify what you have seen. Let not the toil or darkness, or possible unbelief of your friends, weigh one moment in the scale. Up, and be marching to the place of duty—and there tell what great things God has shown to your soul!

How many books by R.C. Sproul did I read this month? Two.

Favorite quote(s) by R.C. Sproul:
I think the greatest weakness in the church today is that almost no one believes that God invests His power in the Bible. Everyone is looking for power in a program, in a methodology, in a technique, in anything and everything but that in which God has placed it—His Word. He alone has the power to change lives for eternity, and that power is focused on the Scriptures.

Did I read any Puritans or Reformers this month: I read some from Matthew Henry's commentary on Genesis.
Favorite quote(s):
What God has promised is as certain as if it were already done; and so it is said, whoever believes hath everlasting life (Jn 3:36), for all that believe will as surely go to heaven as if they were there already.
Did I complete at least one book from the TBR Pile challenge? Which one? No. But I'm *super* close to finishing the Beyond Suffering Bible. I just lack 1, 2, 3 John, Jude, and Revelation. I'll finish it this week for sure. I hope to have a review up soon.

Other Christian nonfiction books read this month:

Christian fiction books read this month:

How many "new" books did I read (published 2000-present)? Eight
How many "old" books did I read (published before 2000)? Three
Which book was my overall favorite?

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Book Review: Sleep Sound in Jesus

Sleep Sound in Jesus: Gentle Lullabies for Little Ones and Inspirational Devotions for Parents. Michael Card. Illustrated by Catherine McLaughlin. 1989. Harvest House. 36 pages.

First sentence: To be "in Jesus," to be found in Him, whether we are waking or sleeping is what the Christian life is all about.

Premise/plot: Sleep Sound In Jesus is a picture book companion to an album by singer/songwriter Michael Card. Sleep Sound in Jesus is an album with fifteen lullabies. (He sings on some of the songs.  There's also a woman singing.) Sleep Sound in Jesus is also a picture book with SIXTEEN lullabies--POEMS, if you will--and fifteen devotions.

The lullabies:
Sleep Sound In Jesus
He'll Wipe Away Your Tears
Even the Darkness Is Light To Him
Sweet Sleep Descends
Dreaming Jacob's Dream
Song of Jesus
Unseen Warriors
Wordless Ones
He Grants Sleep to Those He Loves
Jesus, Let Us Comet to Know You
All You Are
Lullaby for the Unborn
Sleepy Eyes
Hold Me Gently
Lullaby for the Innocents

All but Lullaby for the Innocents has an accompanying devotional written by Michael Card. Each song gets a two page spread. On one side, there is an illustrations by Catherine McLaughlin. On the other is the LYRIC/poem AND a short devotional.

My thoughts: I've owned this album for years. I had never really listened to it until I happened upon this picture book at my local charity shop. Because I already owned the album, I decided to buy the picture book.

Theologically it is easy to give this one two thumbs up. Card's work is done well. I've always enjoyed his musical ministry. He's a great songwriter. His songs have theological substance. He's a good singer too. His voice IS the sound of my childhood. It just is. It's easy for me to listen to him sing just about anything.

The illustrations are--and don't hate me--very dated. There should be something timeless about illustrated babies. But more often than not that is not the case in picture books. You can tell at a glance which decade a picture book is from based on the details of the illustration. For example, mom's CRIMPED hair might be an indication that this book has been out quite a while.

Are these my favorite-and-best songs by Michael Card? No. Not really. But the album is pleasant and soothing.

One last thing I want to mention is this: I don't know that we ever really outgrow our need--physical, mental, spiritual--of lullabies. I think lullabies ARE theological. Lullabies don't have to be intentional lullabies written for the very young or the still unborn.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Week in Review: May 20-26

NLT Beyond Suffering Bible

  • Luke
  • John
  • Acts
  • Romans
  • 1 Corinthians
  • 2 Corinthians

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

My Victorian Year #21

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

From Morning and Evening:
Our heavenly Father often draws us with the cords of love; but ah! how backward we are to run towards Him! How slowly do we respond to His gentle impulses! He draws us to exercise a more simple faith in Him.
We are but poor lovers of our sweet Lord Jesus, not fit to be His servants, much less to be His brides, and yet He has exalted us to be bone of His bone and flesh of His flesh, married to Him by a glorious marriage-covenant. Herein is love! But it is love which takes no denial.
A jealous and holy distrust of SELF may give rise to the question even in the believer’s heart—but the continuance of such a doubt would be an evil indeed. We must not rest without a desperate struggle to clasp the Savior in the arms of faith, and say, “I know whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him.”
Do not rest, O believer, until you have a full assurance of your interest in Jesus. Let nothing satisfy you until, by the infallible witness of the Holy Spirit bearing witness with your spirit—you are certified that you are a child of God.
Oh, do not think, believer, that your sorrows are out of God’s plan; they are necessary parts of it.
It is the Lord who has begun the good work within us; it is He who has carried it on; and if He does not finish it—it never will be complete!
If there is one stitch in the celestial garment of our righteousness, which we are to insert ourselves, then we are lost! But this is our confidence, the Lord who began—will perfect. He has done it all, must do it all, and will do it all.
If we had to navigate our frail vessels over so rough a sea alone—we might well give up the voyage in despair! But, thanks be to God—HE will perfect that which concerns us, and bring us to the desired haven! We can never be too confident—when we confide in Him alone!
Jesus gave His blood for us—what shall we give to Him? We are His, and all that we have, for He has purchased us unto Himself—can we act as if we were our own?
In looking back upon the character of our prayers, if we do it honestly, we shall be filled with wonder that God has ever answered them.
But the true Christian, in a more enlightened retrospect, weeps over his prayers, and if he could retrace his steps—he would desire to pray more earnestly.
The gospel is very simple. So Christians should be simple and plain in their habits. There should be about our manner, our speech, our dress, our whole behavior—that simplicity which is the very soul of beauty.
The gospel is pre-eminently true, it is gold without dross; and the Christian’s life will be lustreless and valueless without the jewel of truth.
The gospel is a very bold gospel, it fearlessly proclaims the truth, whether men like it or not. We must be equally faithful and unflinching.
But the gospel is also very gentle. Mark this spirit in its Founder, “a bruised reed He will not break.”
The gospel is very loving. It is the message of the God of love to a lost and fallen race.
We must not forget that the gospel of Christ is holy. It never excuses sin. It pardons sin—but only through an atonement. If our life is to resemble the gospel, we must shun, not merely the grosser vices—but everything that would hinder our perfect conformity to Christ.
For His sake, for our own sakes, and for the sakes of others, we must strive day by day—to live our life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ!
There is no moment of our life, however holy—in which we can do without His constant upholding. Whether in light or in darkness, in communion or in temptation—we alike need the prayer, “Do not forsake, O Lord!” “Hold me up—and I shall be safe!”
Keep back no part of the precious truth—but speak what you know, and testify what you have seen. Let not the toil or darkness, or possible unbelief of your friends, weigh one moment in the scale. Up, and be marching to the place of duty—and there tell what great things God has shown to your soul!
Perseverance is the badge of true believers. The Christian life is not only a beginning in the ways of God—but also a continuance in holiness as long as life lasts.
The world does not object to your being a Christian for a time, if she can but tempt you to cease your pilgrimage, and settle down to buy and sell with her in Vanity Fair.
From Old Paths, chapter twelve, Conversion
Conversion is a Scriptural thing. Let me show, in the first place, that conversion is a Scriptural thing.
It matters nothing who says a thing, and declares it to be religious truth; it matters nothing whether we like or dislike a doctrine. Is it in the Bible? That is the only question. If it is, we have no right to refuse it. If we reject a Bible truth because we do not like it, we do so at the peril of our souls, and might as well become infidels at once. This is a principle which ought never to be forgotten.
To be renewed,--to be transformed,--to be created anew,--to be raised from the dead,--to be illuminated,--to pass from death to life,--to be born again,--to put off the old man and put on the new man,--all these are Scriptural expressions, which mean the same thing as conversion.
I have known people to find fault with doctrines and opinions as enthusiastic, fanatical, and absurd, in perfect ignorance that they were finding fault with Scripture itself! They have given sad proof that they spoke of things which they did not understand, and that they knew nothing, comparatively, of the contents of the Bible. 
Conversion is a real thing. Let me show, in the second place, that conversion is a real thing.
I say that when a man turns right round from sin to God,--from worldliness to holiness,--from self-righteousness to self-distrust,--from carelessness about religion to deep repentance,--from unbelief to faith,--from indifference to Christ to strong love to Christ,--from neglect of prayer, the Bible, and the Sabbath, to a diligent use of all means of grace, I say boldly, that such a man is a converted man.
Conversion is a necessary thing. Let me show, in the third place, that conversion is a necessary thing.
Some worthy people are ready enough to admit that conversion is a Scriptural truth and a reality, but not a thing which needs to be pressed on most English people. The heathen, they grant, need conversion. Even the thieves, and fallen characters, and inmates of jails, they allow, may require conversion. But to talk of conversion being necessary for Church-going people, is to talk of things which they cannot see at all.
The Bible teaches expressly that the change of heart, called conversion, is a thing absolutely needed by every one. It is needed because of the total corruption of human nature. It is needed because of the condition of every man’s natural heart.
All people born into the world, of every rank and nation, must have their hearts changed between the cradle and the grave, before they can go to heaven. All, all men, without exception, must be converted.
Without conversion of heart we cannot serve God on earth. We have naturally neither faith, nor fear, nor love, toward God and His Son Jesus Christ. Without conversion of heart we could not enjoy heaven, if we got there. Heaven is a place where holiness reigns supreme, and sin and the world have no place at all The company will all be holy; the employments will all be holy; it will be an eternal Sabbath-day. Surely if we go to heaven, we must have a heart in tune and able to enjoy it, or else we shall not be happy. We must have a nature in harmony with the element we live in, and the place where we dwell. Can a fish be happy out of water? We know it cannot. Well, without conversion of heart we could not be happy in heaven.
Conversion is a possible thing. Let me now show, in the fourth place, that conversion is a possible thing.
Any one, however sinful and hardened, any one may be converted. Why do I speak so confidently? How is it that I can look round the world, and see the desperate wickedness that is in it, and yet despair of no living man’s soul?  How is it that I can say to any one, however hard, fallen, and bad, “Your case is not hopeless: you, even you, may be converted? “I can do it because of the things contained in Christ’s Gospel. It is the glory of that Gospel that under it nothing is impossible. Conversion is a possible thing, because of the almighty power of our Lord Jesus Christ. In Him is life. In His hand are the keys of death and hell. He has all power in heaven and earth. He quickeneth whom He will. (John 1:4; Revelation 1:18; Matthew 28:18; John 5:21.)
It is as easy to Him to create new hearts out of nothing, as it was to create the world out of nothing. It is as easy to Him to breathe spiritual life into a stony, dead heart, as it was to breathe natural life into the clay of which Adam was formed, and make him a living man.
But beside this, conversion is a possible thing, because of the almighty power of the Holy Ghost, whom Christ sends into the hearts of all whom He undertakes to save. He who moved on the face of the waters before those wonderful words were spoken, “Let there be light,” is He who moves over sinners’ souls, and takes their natural darkness away. Great indeed is the invisible power of the Holy Ghost!
He can soften that which is hard. He can bend that which is stiff and stubborn. He can give eyes to the spiritually blind, ears to the spiritually deaf, tongues to the spiritually dumb, feet to the spiritually lame, warmth to the spiritually cold, knowledge to the spiritually ignorant, and life to the spiritually dead. “None teacheth like Him!” (Job 36:22.) He has taught thousands of ignorant sinners, and never failed to make them “wise unto salvation.” The Holy Ghost lives, and therefore conversion is never impossible.
Conversion is a happy thing. Let me show, in the fifth place, that conversion is a happy thing.  
A converted man is happy, because he has peace with God. His sins are forgiven; his conscience is free from the sense of guilt: he can look forward to death, judgment, and eternity, and not feel afraid.
Without forgiveness of sins, without hope for the world to come, dependent on this world for comfort, unprepared to meet God, he cannot be really happy. Conversion is an essential part of true happiness. Settle it in your mind to-day that the friend who labours for your conversion to God is the best friend that you have.
Conversion is a thing that may be seen. Let me now show you, in the last place, that conversion is a thing that may be seen.
Hundreds have caused the very name of conversion to stink, by the lives they have lived after declaring themselves converted. 
There will always be something seen in a converted man’s character, and feelings, and conduct, and opinions, and daily life. You will not see in him perfection; but you will see in him something peculiar, distinct, and different from other people.
You will see him hating sin, loving Christ, following after holiness, taking pleasure in his Bible, persevering in prayer. You will see him penitent, humble, believing, temperate, charitable, truthful, good-tempered, patient, upright, honourable, kind. These, at any rate, will be his aims: these are the things which he will follow after, however short he may come of perfection.
First of all, I urge every reader of this paper to find out whether he is converted. I am not asking about other people. In the next place, I urge every reader of this hook who is not converted, never to rest till he is. Make haste: awake to know your danger. Escape for your life: flee from the wrath to come. Time is short: eternity is near. Life is uncertain: judgment is sure. Arise and call upon God. The throne of grace is yet standing: the Lord Jesus Christ is yet waiting to be gracious. The promises of the Gospel are wide, broad, full, and free: lay hold upon them this day. Repent, and believe the Gospel: repent, and be converted. Rest not, rest not, rest not, till you know and feel that you are a converted man. In the last place, I offer a word of exhortation to every reader who has reason to think that he has gone through that blessed change of which I have been speaking in this paper. Do you think that you are converted? Then give all diligence to make your calling and conversion sure. Leave nothing uncertain that concerns your immortal soul. 
Conversion is not heaven! The old man within you is yet alive; the world around you is yet full of danger; the devil is not dead. Remember at your best, that a converted sinner is still a poor weak sinner, needing Christ every day.
Never be content to go to heaven alone. 

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Book Review: The Church in Babylon

The Church in Babylon: Heeding the Call to Be a Light in the Darkness. Erwin W. Lutzer. 2018. Moody Publishers. 208 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: The church in Babylon! Those four words plunge us into the heart of our present cultural context here in the West.

True or false: The church's values should be different from the world's values.
True or false: When traditional church values clash with contemporary cultural values, the church should change to keep in step with the times.
True or false: The Bible's message changes for each and every generation. Each generation is to keep what is relevant and speaks to them and throw out the rest.
True or false: The Bible has been misunderstood by every single generation except this one.
True or false: There is only one absolute truth, and that one fundamental, not-to-be-questioned truth is this: THERE ARE NO ABSOLUTE TRUTHS.
True or false: The greatest sin one can commit is to offend someone.

Erwin Lutzer is not the first or the last to write a strong message to the modern-day church. The Church in Babylon IS a strong message, no doubt about it. Subtlety was not what Lutzer was aiming at! It is a plea to the church--to the collective church, to individuals, to families--to be discerning: to love what is good, to hate what is evil. It urges believers to know the truth, speak the truth, teach the truth, stand up for the truth. The Word of God is to have authority over us, we are not to be ruled by ever-changing codes, values, morals of society, of culture. We are not to call good 'evil' and evil 'good'.

Chapters include: "Welcome to Babylon," "A Light to the City, a Heart for God," "Conflicts of Conscience," "When the State Becomes God," "The Church, Technology, and Purity," "Transgenderism, Sexuality, and the Church," "Islam, Immigration, and the Church," "Five False Gospels Within the Evangelical Church," "Taking the Cross Into the World," "Jesus at the Church Door," "The Church That Will Survive in Babylon."

The premise of the book in Lutzer's own words:
In brief, the purpose of this book is to answer three questions: First, what does faithfulness look like in a nation that has lost its way, a nation that appears to be under the judgment of God? Second, what are those issues that we, as a church, must confront in order to represent the God we worship? Or to put it differently, what instructions might Christ give us as we prepare ourselves for the darkness that is closing around us and the deeper darkness that’s on its way?  Finally, Jesus told five of the seven churches of Revelation to repent. Might that not be His message to us? What might He be asking us to repent of ? Where might we have lost our way?
Is The Church in Babylon offensive? Yes. It is potentially offensive. It embraces the idea--the notion--that the very nature of the gospel IS offensive. The gospel always has been and always will be offensive.

The message is that we are all--one and all, nobody excluded--sinners. We are sinners by nature; we are sinners through and through. There is not one person untainted by sin--sin from the inside. We are dead, blind, lost, enslaved. And the natural man loves it that way. Sin is what pleases the natural man. We freely and gleefully cling to sin--even as it kills us.

The message is that we are incapable, unable, unwilling to change. We need a Savior. We don't even know we need a Savior. Our greatest need is to be reconciled to God.

The message is that we can't save ourselves, that we can't contribute anything to our salvation. We are not saved by good works. We have no merit to contribute to our salvation. WE bring nothing but sin. We come as we are: broken, crushed, hopelessly helpless.

The message is that God is God and we are not. Jesus is LORD and SAVIOR. We are to surrender our wills to HIS WILL. We are to OBEY. We are to SUBMIT. We are to live as if we are not our own, but HIS. We are called to live and love sacrificially. We are called to live holy lives. We are called to be humble, to stay humble.

The message is that we are called to live in the Spirit, by the Spirit, with the Spirit. And the Spirit cannot tolerate sin. We are to hate sin as the Spirit hate sins.

The message is that we should cling to the truth--know it, love it, embrace it, proclaim it--and not worry about the world's approval.

Lutzer writes about modern-day culture, the contemporary church, and the glorious truths of the Word.

A church that has assimilated the world cannot be a vibrant witness to that world. To adopt prevailing cultural values hardly gives the world a reason to believe that we are a viable alternative to lives of brokenness, greed, and addiction.
We have to be a church that is, in some ways, repulsive to the world because of our authentic holiness and yet very attractive to the world because of our love and care.
If we are not distinct from the world, we will have nothing to say to the world.
Salvation is free, but as the seven churches of Revelation discovered, there is a cost to living authentic lives of holiness in a godless culture. We cannot take the resources Christ offers for granted but must diligently seek Him and His Word with prayerful wisdom.
The nature of evil is to plunge ahead, deliberately closing one’s eyes to the consequences.
We are called to be alive and represent Him at this hour of our history. We could have been born in a previous era, a future era, or not born at all. God has a reason for us living now. The God who calls is the God who provides. 
Young or old, married, single, or widowed, God has equipped us to live for Him in this hour. As we shall see, we are to live without fear and with joy at the privilege of representing Christ even at great personal cost.
There are risks involved when Christians live in a pagan culture without proper safeguards. The culture can devour us. And yet, I believe that the mandate found in Jesus’ prayer, “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one,” (John 17:15) is still applicable today. 
We are called to expose the sins of the world, but to do so with redemption, in humility and compassion. And, yes, with courage. And tears.
We, as the church, will never be effective unless we see ourselves as sent by Christ into the world. He prayed, “As you [the Father] sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world” (John 17:18). We are pilgrims, out of step with the ever-changing culture—yet we are sent by Christ, the Head of the church.
Confidence in God’s unassailable sovereignty fuels worship. Only those who see God even in their defeats can offer Him praise at all times just as the psalmist wrote, “I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad. O, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together!” (Ps. 34:1–3).
We have to take a stand against the culture, but we must do it in a way that never loses sight of Jesus. We stand against the culture with a redemptive mindset. We have to take account of culture, to be aware of what is going on in our world, and to accept it as far as our conscience allows, but then we have to draw the line and say, “This far but no further.”
God knows the longitude and latitude of our little boat as we cross the tempestuous sea. He knows the strength of every board. He knows the trajectory of the wind and its speed. Let us never say there are so many disturbing trends in our society that we must simply blend in with the culture as best we can. Nor should we withdraw from our culture abandoning it to its well-deserved fate. Let us not divorce God from our predicament, but rather see God in it.
Satan’s one desire is to draw our souls away from God, then he substitutes pleasure, guilt, self-condemnation, and anger in God’s place.The devil wants us to continue to violate what we know to be right and so fills our minds with a list of rationalizations. Satan doesn’t respond to sweet reason, he doesn’t play by the rules, and he won’t go down without a fight. Churches need to help, guide, and encourage their people, and confront the enemy as necessary. There is nowhere to hide. This is not a war that can be won without prayer, earnest prayer, and intercessory prayer. And accountability.
The bottom line is that we must love God more than we love our sin. But this love cannot be manufactured; it cannot be turned on and off like a faucet. The love we have for God must be God-given, the result of conversion. And this love is nurtured through the Word of God and the fellowship of God’s people. It grows in response to what God has done for us.
There’s a story about a man who dreamt he was carrying a heavy cross on his shoulder. He was exhausted; he wished that his cross was lighter. In the dream he saw a woodsman with an axe, so he asked that a good part of his cross be chopped off. After that, the man happily resumed his journey, thankful that his cross was so much lighter. On his journey, he came to a chasm between two mountains. He wanted to continue but found that he couldn’t bridge the gap; if only his cross had been longer, he could have laid it down and used it as a bridge. But the cross was short—by just the length that had been chopped off. When the man awoke, he was glad this was only a dream. He now realized that only those who are willing to carry a heavy cross are able to scale the next mountain. Those who are constantly in search of a lighter cross will never go far in claiming territory for Christ. At some point, they will conclude that the price of obedience is too high. The obstacles too formidable.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Week in Review: May 13-19

NLT Beyond Suffering Bible

  • Joel
  • Amos
  • Obadiah
  • Jonah
  • Micah
  • Nahum
  • Habakkuk
  • Zephaniah
  • Haggai
  • Zechariah
  • Malachi
  • Matthew
  • Mark


  • Psalm 90-150

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

My Victorian Year #20

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

From Morning and Evening:
Christian! If you are in a night of trial, think of the morrow; cheer up your heart with the thought of the coming of your Lord. Be patient, for “Lo! He comes with clouds!” Be patient! The Gardener waits until He reaps His harvest. Be patient; for you know who has said, “Behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give to every man according as his work shall be.”
When you have God for your portion, you have more than all else put together. In Him every need is met, whether in life or in death. With God for your portion you are rich indeed, for He will supply your needs, comfort your heart, assuage your grief, guide your steps, be with you in the dark valley—and then take you home, to enjoy Him as your portion forever.
All that He has—He shares with His people! The crown royal He has placed upon the head of His Church, appointing her a kingdom, and calling her sons a royal priesthood, a generation of priests and kings. He uncrowned Himself—that we might have a coronation of glory; He would not sit upon His own throne—until He had procured a place upon it for all who overcome by His blood. Crown the head—and the whole body shares the honor. Behold here the reward of every Christian conqueror! Christ’s throne, crown, scepter, palace, treasure, robes, heritage—are yours!
We are today accepted in the Beloved, today absolved from sin, today acquitted at the bar of God. Oh! soul-transporting thought!
Let present privilege awaken us to present duty, and now, while life lasts, let us spend and be spent for our sweet Lord Jesus.
Recollect that there are two kinds of perfection which the Christian needs—the perfection of justification in the person of Jesus, and the perfection of sanctification wrought in him by the Holy Spirit. At present, corruption yet remains even in the hearts of the regenerate; experience soon teaches us this. But I rejoice to know that the day is coming when God shall finish the work which He has begun; and He shall present my soul, not only perfect in Christ—but perfect through the Spirit, without spot or blemish, or any such thing.
Why should Christians imitate Christ? They should do it for their own sakes. If they desire to be in a healthy state of soul—if they would escape the sickness of sin, and enjoy the vigor of growing grace—let Jesus be their model.
It is when, by the power of the Holy Spirit, you are enabled to walk with Jesus in His very footsteps, that you are most happy, and most known to be the sons of God. Peter afar off—is both unsafe and uneasy. 
Next, for religion’s sake, strive to be like Jesus. Ah! poor religion, you have been sorely shot at by cruel foes—but you have not been wounded one-half so dangerously by your foes—as by your friends.
Christian, love you your Savior? Is His name precious to you? Is His cause dear to you? Would you see the kingdoms of the world become His? Is it your desire that He should be glorified? Are you longing that souls should be won to Him? If so, imitate Jesus—be an “epistle of Christ, known and read of all men.”
If we have received the grace of God in our hearts, its practical effect has been to make us God’s servants. We may be unfaithful servants, we certainly are unprofitable ones—but yet, blessed be His name, we are His servants, wearing His livery, feeding at His table, and obeying His commands.
We were once the servants of sin—but He who made us free—has now taken us into His family and taught us obedience to His will. We do not serve our Master perfectly—but we would if we could. As we hear God’s voice saying unto us, “You are My servant,” we can answer with David, “I am your servant—You have loosed my bonds.”
We were not new created to allow our passions to rule over us—but that we, as kings, may reign in Christ Jesus over the triple kingdom of spirit, soul, and body, to the glory of God the Father!
From Old Paths, chapter eleven, "Having the Spirit."
I TAKE it for granted that every reader of this paper believes in the Holy Spirit.
I consider that clear views about the work of the Holy Spirit are among the best preservatives against the many false doctrines which abound in our times.

Suffer me then, to lay before you a few things, which by God’s blessing, may throw light on the subject of having the Spirit. 1. Let me explain the immense importance of “Having the Spirit.” 2. Let me point out the great general principle by which alone the question can be tried,--“Have you the Spirit?” 3. Let me describe the particular effects which the Spirit always produces on the souls in which He dwells.
If you have not the Spirit, you have no part in Christ and no title to heaven. The indwelling of God the Holy Spirit is the common mark of all true believers in Christ. It is the Shepherd’s mark on the flock of the Lord Jesus, distinguishing them from the rest of the world. It is the goldsmith’s stamp on the genuine sons of God, which separates them from the dross and mass of false professors. It is the King’s own seal on those who are His peculiar people, proving them to be His own property. It is “the earnest” which the Redeemer gives to His believing disciples while they are in the body, as a pledge of the full and complete “redemption” yet to come in the resurrection morning. (Ephesians 1:14.) This is the case of all believers. They all have the Spirit. 
From not having the Spirit to being in hell, there is but a long flight of downward steps. Living without the Spirit, you are already on the top; dying without the Spirit, you will find your way to the bottom. 
Heaven is the place to which all people hope to go after death. It would be well for many if they considered calmly what kind of dwelling-place heaven is.
The everlasting presence of God, saints, and angels,--the perpetual doing of God’s will,--the complete absence of everything which God does not approve, these are the chief things which shall make up heaven. 
For this heaven we are all by nature utterly unfit. We have no capacity for enjoying its happiness; we have no taste for its blessings; we have no eye to see its beauty; we have no heart to feel its comforts. Instead of freedom, we should find it bondage; instead of glorious liberty, we should find it constant constraint; instead of a splendid palace, we should find it a gloomy prison.
For this heaven it is the special office of the Holy Ghost to prepare men’s souls. He alone can change the earthly heart, and purify the worldly affections of Adam’s children. He alone can bring their minds into harmony with God, and tune them for the eternal company of saints, and angels, and Christ. He alone can make them love what God loves, and hate what God hates, and delight in God’s presence.
The truth is that the deep corruption of human nature would make salvation impossible if it were not for the work of the Spirit. Without Him the Father’s love and the Son’s redemption are set before us in vain. The Spirit must reveal them, the Spirit must apply them, or else we are lost souls.
Nothing less than the power of Him who moved on the face of the waters in the day of creation can ever raise us from our low estate. He who said, “Let there be light, and there was light” must speak the word before any one of us will ever rise to newness of life.
He who came down on the day of Pentecost, must come down on our poor dead souls, before they will ever see the kingdom of God.
You must have the Spirit in you, as well as Christ for you, if you are ever to be saved. God must be your loving Father, Jesus must be your known Redeemer, the Holy Ghost must be your felt Sanctifier, or else it will be better for you never to have been born.
1. The Spirit quickens men’s hearts. 2. The Spirit teaches men’s minds. 3. The Spirit leads to the Word. 4. The Spirit convinces of sin. 5. The Spirit draws to Christ. 6. The Spirit sanctifies. 7. The Spirit makes men spiritually-minded. 8. The Spirit produces inward conflict. 9. The Spirit makes men love the brethren. 10. The Spirit teaches to pray. These are the great marks of the Holy Ghost’s presence.
I have no desire for a moment to exaggerate the office of the Spirit, and to exalt Him above the Sun and Centre of the Gospel,--Jesus Christ. But I do believe that, next to the priestly office of Christ, no truth in the present day is so frequently lost sight of, and so cunningly assailed, as the work of the Spirit.
Drink deep of the living waters. Do not be content with a little religion. Pray that the Spirit may fill every corner and chamber of your heart, and that not an inch of room may be left in it for the world and the devil.
Little sins not mortified, little bad habits of temper or of tongue not corrected, little compliances with the world,--are all likely to offend the Holy Ghost. Oh, that believers would remember this! There is far more of “heaven on earth” to be enjoyed than many of them attain to: and why do they not attain to it? They do not watch sufficiently over their daily ways,--and so the Spirit’s work is damped and hindered.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, May 18, 2018

Scripture Chain #2

Unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul. Psalm 25:1
Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. Psalm 73:25

As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. Psalm 42:1
Truly my soul waiteth upon God: from him cometh my salvation. Psalm 62:1
When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek. Psalm 27:8
And my soul shall be joyful in the Lord: it shall rejoice in his salvation. Psalm 35:9
O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is; Psalm 63:1
My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God. Psalm 84:2
One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple. Psalm 27:4
Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Psalm 103:2
I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope. Psalm 130:5
Cause me to hear thy lovingkindness in the morning; for in thee do I trust: cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto thee. Psalm 143:8
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Psalm 23:3
My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever. Psalm 73:26
Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore. Psalm 16:11

True or False with the Puritans #3 (Matthew Henry)

True or False with Matthew Henry
From his commentary on Genesis, chapters 11-20

TRUE OR FALSE If God loves us and has mercy in store for us, he will not allow us to take up our rest anywhere short of Canaan, but will graciously repeat his calls, till the good work that he has begun is truly carried out and our souls rest only in God.

TRUE OR FALSE The world and all our enjoyments in it must be looked on with a holy indifference; we must no longer look on it as our country or home, but where we are staying for a while, and must accordingly sit loose to it, be independent of it, live above it, and make sure that it does not hold our deepest affection.

TRUE OR FALSE  Jesus Christ is the great blessing of the world, the greatest blessing that the world has ever known. He is a family blessing, by him salvation is brought to the house (Lk 19:9).

TRUE OR FALSE We must continue our journey, going on from strength to strength, as having not yet reached our goal.

TRUE OR FALSE What God has to show is infinitely better and more desirable than anything that the world has to offer to our view.

TRUE OR FALSE We ought to be ready, whenever it is in the power of our hands, to help and relieve those that are in distress.

TRUE OR FALSE Though we must never complain about God, we may still complain to him, and it is some ease to a burdened spirit to open up to a faithful and compassionate friend:

TRUE OR FALSE If Christ is ours, heaven is also ours.

TRUE OR FALSE What God has promised is as certain as if it were already done; and so it is said, whoever believes hath everlasting life (Jn 3:36), for all that believe will as surely go to heaven as if they were there already.

TRUE OR FALSE When passion is on the throne, reason has been thrown outdoors and is neither heard nor spoken. Those who are most loud and forward in appealing to God are not always in the right.

TRUE OR FALSE Tears speak as well as prayers.

TRUE OR FALSE What God is himself, that he will be to his people: his wisdom is theirs, to guide and counsel them; his power is theirs, to protect and support them; his goodness is theirs, to provide for and comfort them.

TRUE OR FALSE God graciously comes to those in whom he has first raised an expectation of him.

TRUE OR FALSE Religion does not destroy, but improve, good manners, and teaches us to honor all people.

TRUE OR FALSE Fellowship with God is maintained by the word and by prayer. In the word, God speaks to us; in prayer we speak to him.

TRUE OR FALSE God’s word does us good when it provides us with matter for prayer and stirs us to it.

TRUE OR FALSE Though sin is to be hated, sinners are to be pitied and prayed for. God does not delight in their death, and we should not desire, but pray for deliverance from, the day of destruction.

TRUE OR FALSE We must direct our prayer as we send a letter and then look up to wait for a reply. We must direct our prayer as an arrow and then look up to see whether it reaches its mark (Ps 5:3).

TRUE OR FALSE If we have entered on a wrong course of action through ignorance, this does not excuse our knowingly persisting in it (Lev 5:3-5).

TRUE OR FALSE The prayers of good people may be a kindness to great people and ought to be valued.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Book Review: Made For His Pleasure

Made For His Pleasure: Ten Benchmarks of a Vital Faith. Alistair Begg. 1995/2018. Moody Publishers. 192 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: I remember the occasion vividly. The afternoon sun cast shadows over the small gathering of parents clustered at the center line of the high school soccer field...If I, an earthly father, can know such a sensation of pleasure in the well-being of my son, surely that gives an inkling of how our heavenly Father feels when we please Him. If we could only grasp and be grasped by this, our lives would be revolutionized.

The Christian faith has content and Alistair Begg reminds believers of ten benchmarks of the Christian faith in Made For His Pleasure. These doctrines if believed, if embraced, will transform how we live our lives. We are to live out our theology in other words.

How can we live lives that please God? That is the question Begg asks and answers in Made for His Pleasure. It should be noted that it is a question that can be answered. God has revealed in His Word how we can please him and how we should live. The problem is not that we have been left with the silence of God, left to wonder and puzzle out the answer for ourselves. The problem is that many of us--most of us, perhaps even all of us--understand all too well that the Bible has authority to speak over us. We don't want to relinquish that authority to another. We get uncomfortable with the idea of holiness, uncomfortable with the idea of living holy lives, of being pious. And what do we do with this discomfort? I fear most of us are like Scarlett O'Hara and put off until tomorrow thinking about anything that makes us uncomfortable or anxious.

I think there's also some misconception going on. We are not called to live holy lives on our own apart from the Spirit, apart from the grace of God, the strength of God. We are not called to power our own living. We are not called to independence but dependence. We are not called to be self-reliant but Spirit-reliant. If we are terrified at the idea of holy living, perhaps it's because we're trying to do it on our own. Or perhaps our PRIDE, our arrogance, our ego starts tripping us up. Or need to compete with others for God's attention. (A completely ridiculous idea when you think about it.)

Begg gives real answers and explores foundational doctrines of the faith.  He also shares some personal stories within each chapter.

I would recommend this one. It is a great read.

Spiritual Fitness in a Flabby Generation
One of the key reasons for the flabbiness of our spiritual lives is that a generation of Christians is growing up with little awareness of the necessity of dealing with sin. There are sins to be rejected. These are the things that “so easily entangle” us. We will not all be tripped up by the same things; the source of our temptations differs according to our personalities and circumstances. We must learn where our personal weaknesses lie—and once they are identified, we must be ruthless in dealing with them.
The power we need is the power that comes from the Lord, who works in our lives to enable us to do His good pleasure. Then we are responsible to work out what God by His Spirit is working.
We should not assume we are spiritually fit simply because we feel we are.
The Christian faith is like a muscle: the more we exercise it, the more we build it, but when we neglect it, it atrophies. It is in recognizing our weakness that we discover the strength that God provides. It is God who keeps us strong to the end.
Prayer That Is Larger Than Ourselves
How the devil loves to hear us talk about tomorrow!
Sacrifice: Wholehearted Commitment to God's Kingdom:
It is both dangerous and wrong to substitute personal preference for biblical principle, to place pleasing self above pleasing God. 
Relationships: A Marriage That Pleases God:
For those who are not married, the moments they share with friends, family members, neighbors, and coworkers provide ample opportunity to serve and demonstrate the joys of unwavering devotion to Christ. 
Vocation: Finding the Ideal Place to Serve God:
We need to view our daily round and common task as the realm in which we fulfill God’s call upon our lives and not rush to be done with these secular pursuits so that we might turn to spiritual activities.
Suffering: Pleasing God When the Wheels Fall Off:
The truth is that more spiritual progress is made through failure and tears than success and laughter. If we are to be honest, we have all faced, and continue to face, events in our lives which we assume will mar us—and yet, in God’s providence, we discover them to be incidents that make us more sensitive and faithful and useful. If this is true of individuals, it is equally true of church families.
We tend to run away from the things that make us. We should neither court suffering nor complain about it. Instead, we should see it as one of the means God chooses to employ to make us increasingly useful to the Master.
We need to remember this when talking with our friends who are in the eye of the storm. At that moment, our presence is more important than our pronouncements, and our silences more eloquent than our speech.
The Narrow Way: Never Did a Heedless Person Lead a Holy Life
To allow that everyone and everything is right is to destroy the notion of truth itself. This challenge is not unique to our time.
Twentieth-century British evangelist Alan Redpath used to talk to young people about the vital importance of what he called “blanket victory.” He was referring not to some strategy for overall success, but to the necessity of getting out of bed at a reasonable time in the morning to pursue the business of the day. If a young person could not get victory over his blankets, it was unlikely that he would be self-controlled in many other areas. 
Sow a thought, reap an action. Sow an action, reap a habit. Sow a habit, reap a character. Sow a character, reap a destiny.
Putting on the Garment of Humility:
We should not rely on only one good meal or two a week. Many of us, though, neglect the Scriptures on a daily basis. 
Evangelism: The Necessity of Bringing Others To Christ:
One doesn’t need to be a Christian to embrace an emphasis on the family and virtue, but only a Christian will be prepared to challenge the world with the claims of Jesus Christ. The unique danger at this point in history is that we will fail to “contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people” (Jude 3), but instead succeed in passing on to the coming generation an agenda and not a theology. Without the fixed building blocks of biblical theology, our flimsy constructions will fall flat.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Book Review: Rebekah in Danger

Rebekah in Danger: Peril at Plymouth Colony. Sisters in Time #2. Colleen L. Reece. 2004. Barbour Books. 144 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: "I'm tired of working," eleven-year-old Rebekah Cunningham muttered to herself as she crawled into her familiar hiding place under the chicken coops on the Mayflower's deck.

Rebekah is very much her brother's keeper in this historical children's novel set in Plymouth Colony. Will can get into trouble easily. He always means well. Or so he claims. He wants to help out. He wants to be a big manly, man--even though he's a boy. So he "helps" out by following along behind the men when they go exploring or hunting. He also "helps" out by going hunting on his own. He doesn't always tell anyone he's about to wander off. So without Rebekah's oh-so-watchful eye upon him, his whereabouts would be more unknown. Unfortunately, Rebekah hates tattling and prefers scolding herself. (A few times a crisis would have been avoided if she'd left him and gone to tattle to someone--anyone.)

But believe it or not there were real threats facing ALL the colonists and not just the Cunningham family. Whether it was intentional or not on the author's part, the very real perils are overshadowed by family dramas and childish woes. Woes like Rebekah's complaining and muttering about having to work because she's a girl. (Does she not realize that EVERY single person--perhaps minus the babies and toddlers--is hard at work. That every single day brings its challenges. That their survival is very much uncertain. They are surviving--or not--day by day, week by week, month by month. No family--except the oh-so-lucky Cunninghams--is free from loss.)

If a young girl complaining about being a girl is your idea of fun, then this one is worth your time.

I was disappointed with this second book in the series. I liked some aspects of it. But I would have appreciated some continuity between book one and two. After all, they are both set at the same time and the same place. 1620-1621, the Mayflower and Plymouth Colony. Would it have been so difficult to have Rebekah be friends with Sarah and John be friends with Will. After all, the community IS small. After spending all those months together they are bound to have known each other.

I like historical fiction generally. And plenty of times historical fiction feels authentic. But there are times when it feels like the heroine is too modern--her sensibilities so thoroughly modern--that all she does is complain that things in 1621 aren't as they are in 2001.

Times were DANGEROUS and PERILOUS. I just wish the characterization had been better. Perhaps a book for an older audience wouldn't be afraid to be more authentic and intense.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, May 14, 2018

Book Review: How Sweet the Sound: The Story of Amazing Grace

How Sweet the Sound: the Story of Amazing Grace. Carole Boston Weatherford. Illustrated by Frank Morrison. 2018. Simon & Schuster. 48 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence:
Slave ship Greyhound, ocean faring;
Young John, homeward, brawling, swearing.
Fierce storm, sea squall, ripping sails;
Young John wakes to crewmen's wails. 
Premise/plot: How Sweet the Sound is a picture book biography of John Newton, specifically it focuses on Newton's writing of Amazing Grace and his campaign to end slavery. The last few pages--spreads--focus on the legacy of the hymn.
Choirs make the song their own.
Newton's timeless hymn has grown.
Verses added here and there
Till this song is like a prayer. 
It is written in verse.  The verse, I admit, may take some getting used to for some readers. But once the rhythm catches you, it is quite catchy and instead of a weakness, it becomes a strength.

My thoughts: I loved this one. One of my favorite things about it is the verse--the rhythm of it. If you'd asked me before I read it what I wanted, what I expected, it would not have been verse. It would have been prose. Of course, prose would be the best way to frame the narrative, right? I was so wrong.

The story is worth telling--sharing.

I didn't love, love, love the illustrations as much as I loved the text. But they're good: strong and intense. They convey a LOT of emotion.

Text: 5 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 9 out of 10

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Week in Review: May 6-12

Beyond Suffering Bible -- NLT

  • Jeremiah 9-52
  • Lamentations
  • Ezekiel
  • Daniel
  • Hosea


  • Psalm 1-89

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Saturday, May 12, 2018

My Victorian Year #19

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

From Morning and Evening:

A little stay on earth—will make heaven more heavenly. Nothing makes rest so sweet as toil; nothing renders security so pleasant as exposure to alarms.
We would not have full fellowship with Christ if we did not for awhile sojourn below, for He was baptized with a baptism of suffering among men, and we must be baptized with the same if we would share his kingdom.
Our time on earth is fixed and settled by eternal decree. Let us not be anxious about it—but wait with patience until the gates of pearl shall open!
Whatever my own case may be—the beloved Physician can heal me. And whatever may be the state of others whom I may remember at this moment in prayer, I may have hope in Jesus that He will be able to heal them of their sins.
I can have hope for each, for all, when I remember the healing power of my Lord; and on my own account, however severe my struggle with sins and infirmities, I may yet be of good cheer. He who on earth walked the hospitals, still dispenses His grace, and works wonders among the sons of men—let me go to Him at once in right earnest.
The Holy Spirit makes men penitents—long before He makes them theologians; and he who believes what he knows, shall soon know more clearly what he believes.
If we would rightly “acquaint ourselves with God—and be at peace,” we must know Him—as He has revealed Himself. Let no man be content until he knows something of the God from whom his being was derived.
All the goodness of the past, the present, and the future—Christ bestows upon His people. In the mysterious ages of the past, the Lord Jesus was His Father’s first elect, and in His election—He gave us an interest, for we were chosen in Him from before the foundation of the world.
The whole system of Christianity rests upon the fact that “Christ is risen from the dead;” for, “if Christ is not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain—you are yet in your sins.”
The divinity of Christ finds its surest proof in His resurrection, since He was “Declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.” It would not be unreasonable to doubt His Deity—if He had not risen.
Moreover, Christ’s sovereignty depends upon His resurrection, “For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that He might be Lord both of the dead and living.”
Again, our justification, that choice blessing of the covenant, is linked with Christ’s triumphant victory over death and the grave; for “He was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.”
Nay, more, our very regeneration is connected with His resurrection, for we are “Begotten again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”
And most certainly our ultimate resurrection rests here, for, “If the Spirit of Him who raised up Jesus from the dead dwells in you—He who raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwells in you.” If Christ is not risen—then shall we not rise; but if He be risen—then they who are asleep in Christ have not perished—but in their flesh shall surely behold their God.
He is full of grace. Ah! had He not been—I would never have been saved. He drew me when I struggled to escape from His grace; and when at last I came all trembling like a condemned culprit to His mercy-seat He said, ‘Your sins which are many—are all forgiven you—be of good cheer.’
And He is full of truth. True have His promises been, not one has failed. I bear witness that never any servant had such a master as I have; never any brother had such a kinsman as He has been to me; never any spouse had such a husband as Christ has been to my soul; never any sinner had a better Savior; never any mourner had a better comforter than Christ has been to my heart. I desire none beside Him.
In life—He is my life; and in death—He shall be the death of death. In poverty—Christ is my riches. In sickness—He makes my bed. In darkness—He is my star. In brightness—He is my sun. He is my manna in this wilderness. He shall be heavenly manna when I come to the heavenly Canaan. Jesus is to me—all grace and no wrath, all truth and no falsehood. And of truth and grace He is full, infinitely full. My soul, this night, bless with all your might ‘the only Begotten.’
“I am with you always,” is enough for my soul to live upon—though all others forsake me!
“Fear not,” is the Lord’s command and His divine encouragement to those who at His bidding are launching upon new seas! His divine presence and preservation forbid so much as one unbelieving fear. Without our God—we should fear to move; but when He bids us to, it would be dangerous to tarry. Reader, go forward, and fear not!
Old Paths, Chapter Ten, The Holy Ghost

What place has God the Holy Ghost in your religion! What do you know of His office, His work, His indwelling, His fellowship, and His power?--This is the subject to which I ask your attention this day. I want you to consider seriously what you know about the work of God the Holy Ghost.
I believe that few truths of the Christian religion are so often obscured and spoiled by false doctrine as the truth about the Holy Ghost- I believe that there is no subject which an ignorant world is so ready to revile as “cant, fanaticism, and enthusiasm,” as the subject of the work of the Holy Ghost. 
For convenience sake I shall divide my subject into four heads. I shall examine in order:-- 1. Firstly,--the importance attached to the work of the Holy Ghost in Scripture. 2. Secondly,--the necessity of the work of the Holy Ghost to man’s salvation. 3. Thirdly,--the manner in which the Holy Ghost works in man’s heart. 4. Lastly,--the marks and evidences by which the presence of the Holy Ghost in a man’s heart may be known.

ask you then to remark carefully, that whatever individual Christians have, are, and enjoy, in contradistinction to the worldly and unconverted, they owe to the agency of God the Holy Ghost. By Him they are first called, quickened, and made alive. Of Him they are born again, and made new creatures. By Him they are convinced of sin, guided into all truth and led to Christ. By Him they are sealed unto the day of redemption. He dwells in them as His living temples. He witnesses with their spirits, gives them the spirit of adoption, makes them to cry Abba Father, and makes intercession for them. By Him they are sanctified. By Him the love of God is shed abroad in their hearts. Through His power they abound in hope. Through Him they wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. Through Him they mortify the deeds of their bodies. After Him they walk. In Him they live. In a word, all that believers have from grace to glory, all that they are from the first moment they believe to the day they depart to be with Christ,--all, all, all may be traced to the work of God the Holy Ghost.
The election of God the Father, and the atoning blood of God the Son, are the foundation stones of our faith. But from them must never be separated the applicatory work of God the Holy Ghost. The Father chooses. The Son mediates, absolves, justifies, and intercedes. The Holy Ghost applies the whole work to man’s soul. Always together in Scripture, never separated in Scripture, let the offices of the three Persons in the Trinity never be wrenched asunder and disjoined in your Christianity. What God hath so beautifully joined together let no man dare to put asunder.
Without the Holy Ghost no man ever turns to God, repents, believes, and obeys.--Intellectual training and secular education alone make no true Christians. Acquaintance with fine arts and science leads no one to heaven. Pictures and statues never brought one soul to God. The “tender strokes of art” never prepared any man hands.--The most zealous efforts of ministers alone cannot make men Christians. The “ablest scriptural reasoning has no effect on the mind; the most fervent pulpit eloquence will not move the heart; the naked truth alone will not lead the will. We who are ministers know this well by painful experience.
We can show men the fountain of living waters, but we cannot make them drink.
And we learn by such cases as these, that nothing will make a Christian but the introduction into the heart of a new nature, a new principle, and a Divine seed from above.
What is it then that man needs? We need to be “born again:” and this new birth we must receive of the Holy Ghost. The Spirit of life must quicken us. The Spirit must renew us. The Spirit must take away from us the heart of stone. The Spirit must put in us the heart of flesh. A new act of creation must take place. A new being must be called into existence. Without all this we cannot be saved. Here lies the main part of our need of the Holy Ghost. “Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3.) No salvation without a new birth!
We need a meetness for heaven, as well as a title for heaven, and this meetness we must receive from the Holy Ghost. The love of sin must be taken from us, as well as the guilt of sin removed; the desire of pleasing God must be implanted in us, as well as the fear of God’s judgment taken away; a love to holiness must be engrafted, as well as a dread of punishment removed.
Man’s utter inability to turn to God without the Spirit, man’s utter unmeetness for the joys of heaven, without the Spirit,--are two great foundation stones in revealed religion, which ought to be always deeply rooted in a Christian’s mind.

Low and inadequate views of your spiritual disease, are sure to be accompanied by low and inadequate views of the remedy provided in the Gospel. 
I say then that the Holy Ghost works on the heart of a man in a mysterious manner. Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself tell us that in well-known words;--“The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh and whither it goeth; so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8.) I say furthermore, that the Holy Ghost works on the heart of a man in a sovereign manner. I say furthermore, that the Holy Ghost always works on the heart of a man in such a manner as to be felt. I say furthermore, that the Holy Ghost always works on the heart of a man in such a manner as to be seen in the man’s life. I say furthermore, that the Holy Ghost always works on the heart of a man in an irresistible manner. I say, finally, under this head, that the Holy Ghost generally works on the heart of man through the use of means. The Word of God, preached or read, is generally employed by Him as an instrument in the conversion of a soul. He applies that Word to the conscience: He brings that Word home to the mind. This is His general course of procedure. 

Where the Holy Ghost is, there will always be deep conviction of sin, and true repentance for it. Where the Holy Ghost is, there will always be lively faith in Jesus Christ, as the only Saviour. Where the Holy Ghost is, there will always be holiness of life and conversation. He is the Spirit of holiness. (Romans 1:4.) Where the Holy Ghost is, there will always be the habit of earnest private prayer. He is the Spirit of grace and supplication, (Zechariah 12:10.) He works in the heart as the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry Abba, Father. He makes a man feel that he must cry to God, and speak to God,--feebly, falteringly, weakly, it may be,--but cry he must about his soul. Finally, where the Holy Ghost is, there will always be love and reverence for God’s Word. He makes the new-born soul desire the sincere milk of the Word.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, May 11, 2018

Book Review: The Watcher

The Watcher. Nikki Grimes. Illustrated by Bryan Collier. 2017. 42 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence: I lift up my eyes to the hills--where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.

Premise/plot: The Watcher is a golden-shovel poem told in two voices. What is a golden shovel poem? It may be easier to show you. But essentially 'you take lines from an existing poem and create a new poem using the words from the original.'

Some days, even the ant towers over me, and I
cower in a forest of grass, waiting for the fear to lift
like fog, so I can be brave, rise up.
But the class bully growls my name, and I shiver in my
sneakers, feel the wet fill my eyes.
Then I remember how Mom told me to
roll my fear like a ball, toss it high in the
air where you can catch it, and fling it to the hills.

Wish I was some other Who, living where
stutterers aren't treated like spit. Does
that place even exist? No. So I switch off my
hearing when Grandma says to ask you for help.
If you care, maybe you can tell me how come
kids tease me into meanness I can't run from.

The narrators are Jordan and Tanya, classmates who appear to be as different as can be. What can these two ever have in common? How could they ever be friends? How could they be anything other than enemies? But the Lord works in mysterious ways. And his guidance leads these two together.

My thoughts: I really loved this one. I love Psalm 121. I love this form of poetry. The book is inspirational.

Text: 4 out of 5
Illustrations: 4 out of 5
Total: 8 out of 10

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible