Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Book Review: Taking God at His Word

Taking God at His Word: Why the Bible Is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means for You and Me. Kevin DeYoung. 2014. Crossway. 138 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: This book begins in a surprising place: with a love poem.

I loved, loved, LOVED, LOVED, LOVED rereading Kevin DeYoung's Taking God At His Word. The book is about THE BOOK. (I love reading books about the Bible. I do.) How should a Christian feel about the Bible? How should a Christian treat the Bible? What should be our response, our reaction, to the WORD? What should the Bible mean to us? Yes, those questions are all closely related to one another. But there are shades of difference--in my opinion. A person can believe the Bible should have authority over one's life and yet not love the Word. A person can believe the Bible to be THE WORD OF GOD and yet be starving themselves because they are not delighting or feasting on it. There is head knowledge and heart. This book addresses a bit of both.

The opening chapter is perhaps the most important. He begins with the SO WHAT? When I was in college, I was taught to write papers with the SO WHAT? in mind. It often comes in the concluding paragraph. A professor once said that the first draft gives you your SO WHAT in the conclusion, and in the second draft you put it where it belongs: the introduction. I love that DeYoung starts in an unexpected place--the "conclusion."

So his first chapter is an exposition of PSALM 119. He writes,
Psalm 119 shows us what to believe about the word of God, what to feel about the word of God, and what to do with the word of God... Psalm 119 is the explosion of praise made possible by an orthodox and evangelical doctrine of Scripture... Too often, Christians reflect on only what they should believe about the word of God. But Psalm 119 will not let us stop there. This love poem forces us to consider how we feel about the word of God. We see that the psalmist has three fundamental affections for God’s word. First, he delights in it. Second, he desires it. Third, he depends on it... The goal of this book is to get us believing what we should about the Bible, feeling what we should about the Bible, and to get us doing what we ought to do with the Bible. 
Each of the following chapters is an exposition of Scriptural passages about the Bible. DeYoung unpacks the following verses: 2 Peter 1:16-21, Hebrews 1:1-4, Deuteronomy 30:11-14, Acts 17:1-15, 1 Corinthians 2:6-13, John 10:35-36, Matthew 5:17-19, Matthew 12:38-42, 2 Timothy 3:14-17.

DeYoung is not asking readers to take his word for it; DeYoung is asking readers to take GOD at HIS word. There is a difference. Christian teachers can--for better or worse--give an impression that you should AGREE with them and that if you don't agree with THEM then your Christianity is lacking. That is often a misunderstanding. (Though not always.) Do YOU believe what the Bible has to say about itself?

What we believe and feel about the word of God are absolutely crucial, if for no other reason than that they should mirror what we believe and feel about Jesus. As we’ll see, Jesus believed unequivocally all that was written in the Scriptures. If we are to be his disciples, we should believe the same. Just as importantly, the New Testament teaches that Jesus is the word made flesh, which means (among other things) that all the attributes of God’s verbal revelation (truth, righteousness, power, veracity, wisdom, omniscience) will be found in the person of Christ. All that the psalmist believed and felt about the words from God is all that we should feel and believe about the Word of God incarnate. Our desire, delight, and dependence on the words of Scripture do not grow inversely to our desire, delight, and dependence on Jesus Christ. The two must always rise together. 
This is a book unpacking what the Bible says about the Bible. My aim is to be simple, uncluttered, straightforward, and manifestly biblical. I make no pretenses about offering you anything other than a doctrine of Scripture derived from Scripture itself.
May God give us ears, for we all need to hear the word of God more than God needs any of us to defend it.
You cannot put more confidence in your Bible than Peter put in his. Notice three truths these verses teach us about the nature of Scripture. First, Scripture is the word of God. Second, the word of God is no less divine because it is given through human instrumentality. Third, the Bible is without error.
To deny, disregard, edit, alter, reject, or rule out anything in God’s word is to commit the sin of unbelief.
You can think too highly of your interpretations of Scripture, but you cannot think too highly of Scripture’s interpretation of itself. You can exaggerate your authority in handling the Scriptures, but you cannot exaggerate the Scriptures’ authority to handle you. You can use the word of God to come to wrong conclusions, but you cannot find any wrong conclusions in the word of God.
God’s word is final; God’s word is understandable; God’s word is necessary; and God’s word is enough.
Scripture is enough because the work of Christ is enough. They stand or fall together. The Son’s redemption and the Son’s revelation must both be sufficient. And as such, there is nothing more to be done and nothing more to be known for our salvation and for our Christian walk than what we see and know about Christ and through Christ in his Spirit’s book.
God’s people should be testing everything against God’s word. Whether we are the ones teaching or listening, we need to have our Bibles open like the Bereans. 
This passage [Acts 17:1-15] perfectly demonstrates what it means to affirm the authority of the Bible. When it says the Bereans were “examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11), the implication is that if the Scripture said it, they would believe it. And if they couldn’t find Paul’s teaching confirmed in and consistent with the Scripture, they would reject Paul’s teaching. The written word of God was their authority. It had the last word. It was the final word, after which no other word would be necessary, and contrary to which no other word would be believed.
If you are a Christian, by definition you ought to believe what Jesus teaches. He is the Son of God. He is our Savior and Lord. We must follow his example, obey his commands, and embrace whatever understanding of Scripture he taught and assumed. Surely this means we are wise to believe about the Scriptures whatever Jesus believed about the Scriptures.
We are sometimes told that the final authority for us as Christians should be Christ, and not the Scriptures. It is suggested that Christ would have us accept only the portions of Scripture that comport with his life and teaching; that certain aspects of biblical history, chronology, and cosmology need not bother us because Christ would not have us be bothered by them. The idea put forward by many liberal Christians and by not a few self-proclaimed evangelicals is that we are to worship Christ and not the Scriptures; we must let Christ stand apart from Scripture and above it. “But who is this Christ, the Judge of Scripture?” Packer asks. “Not the Christ of the New Testament and of history. That Christ does not judge Scripture; He obeys it and fulfills it. By word and deed He endorses the authority of the whole of it.” Those with a high view of Scripture are often charged with idolatry for so deeply reverencing the word of God. But the accusation is laid at the wrong feet. “A Christ who permits His followers to set Him up as the Judge of Scripture, One by whom its authority must be confirmed before it becomes binding and by whose adverse sentence it is in places annulled, is a Christ of human imagination, made in the theologian’s own image, One whose attitude to Scripture is the opposite of that of the Christ of history. If the construction of such a Christ is not a breach of the second commandment, it is hard to see what is.” Jesus may have seen himself as the focal point of Scripture, but never as a judge of it. The only Jesus who stands above Scripture is the Jesus of our own invention.
Jesus held Scripture in the highest possible esteem. He knew his Bible intimately and loved it deeply. He often spoke with the language of Scripture. He easily alluded to Scripture. And in his moments of greatest trial and weakness—like being tempted by the Devil or being killed on a cross—he quoted Scripture.
Jesus believed in the inspiration of Scripture—all of it. He accepted the chronology, the miracles, and the authorial ascriptions as giving the straightforward facts of history. He believed in keeping the spirit of the law without ever minimizing the letter of the law. He affirmed the human authorship of Scripture while at the same time bearing witness to the ultimate divine authorship of the Scriptures. He treated the Bible as a necessary word, a sufficient word, a clear word, and the final word. It was never acceptable in his mind to contradict Scripture or stand above Scripture. He believed the Bible was all true, all edifying, all important, and all about him. He believed absolutely that the Bible was from God and was absolutely free from error. What Scripture says, God says; and what God said was recorded infallibly in Scripture.
If the view of inspiration taught in 2 Timothy 3:16 were not already assumed, Psalm 119 would be tantamount to idolatry.
It’s not necessarily a sign of growth to move past the faith of your childhood, and not necessarily a weakness to believe the same thing throughout your whole life. What an inestimable privilege to be acquainted from childhood with the sacred writings.
Every book, every chapter, every line, every word—all of it is breathed out by God. Not just the obviously theological parts. Not just the memorable stuff. Not just the parts that resonate with us. All of it—history, chronology, philosophy—every truth the Bible affirms ought to be taken as God’s truth. Every word in the Bible is in there because God wanted it there. And therefore, we should listen to the Bible and stick with the Bible and submit ourselves to the teaching of the Bible because it is God’s Bible—both the sacred writings of the Old Testament, which Paul first of all had in mind, and the inspired writings for the new covenant church, which Paul understood himself to be issuing (1 Thess. 2:13) and Peter understood to be in the process of being written down (2 Pet. 3:16).
The unity of Scripture also means we should be rid, once and for all, of this “red letter” nonsense, as if the words of Jesus are the really important verses in Scripture and carry more authority and are somehow more directly divine than other verses...All Scripture is breathed out by God, not just the parts spoken by Jesus.
We must not seek to know the Word who is divine apart from the divine words of the Bible, and we ought not read the words of the Bible without an eye to the Word incarnate.
We can never outgrow the Bible, because it always means to make us grow. The Bible is only impractical for the immature, and only irrelevant for the fools who believe that most everything is new under the sun.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, April 29, 2019

Book Review: The Psalm 119 Experience

The Psalm 119 Experience. John Kramp. 2014. B&H Publishing. 217 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence from the introduction: Watch out. Psalm 119 is about to sneak up and draw you into a life-changing experience.

First sentence from chapter one: If you seek a happy life, discover the secret to a blameless life. Impossible? Can any of us stand before God innocent of wrongdoing, free of guilt and not subject to blame? No. At least not on our own. But God provided a way to the impossible.

The Psalm 119 Experience is a twenty-two week devotional by John Kramp. Kramp set out to write twenty-two songs to aid in memorizing or experiencing Psalm 119. The songs are NOT included and must be purchased separately. Oh, the lyrics are included--but not the actual music.

Psalm 119 has twenty-two sections. Kramp has written five devotions for each section thus making it easy for this book to be a twenty-two week devotional. Each devotion begins with a verse from Psalm 119 as a jumping off place. But the devotion rarely--if ever--stays in Psalms for better or worse. I appreciate that Kramp brings Jesus Christ into each and every devotional. Many--if not all--are open proclamations of the gospel itself. This is a good thing. How could it be anything other than good to exalt Jesus Christ? Yet this one isn't so much an experience of Psalm 119 in and of itself as an experience of the gospel.

If you love devotional books this one is worth your time.

We gain nothing by considering sin inevitable. Why think of ourselves as victims when God has equipped us to battle sin's enticements? God gave us His Word so that we would not sin. That's the good news. God gave us an advocate for when we sin. That is even better news. The more we treasure God's Word in our hearts, the more we can resist sin. We will recognize sin's seduction early and escape quickly. When tripped up by sin, we can confess to Jesus, our advocate, immediately and experience restored fellowship without delay. (21)
We live in a world of mystery explained by the providence of God and held by His absolute power. As we move through time and eternity, He alone is our fixed point. (115)
Those who have gained understanding from God's Word do not simply avoid evil ways; they hate them. They recognize the damage evil inflicts on people. They know the destruction and pain. Even more, they live with the knowledge that there is an alternative. (129)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Week in Review: April 21-27

Bible Reading

Did I read Revelation this week? Which translation? Yes. HCSB.

Am I keeping up with my 30 Days of Psalms, Psalms 90-118? Which translations have I read this week? Yes. HCSB. Living. NASB. 1599 Geneva. ESV. HCSB. RSV.

Am I keeping up with the Daily Chronological Bible Reading Plan for the Growing 4 Life reading group? What have I read so far? Yes. Some 2 Samuel, some 1 Chronicles, and some Psalms.

What have I read in the Old Testament this week?
My Creative Bible -- Leviticus, Jeremiah 38-52, Lamentations, Daniel,

What have I read in the New Testament this week?
My Creative Bible KJV -- 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Luke, Acts,

Other Reading

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Highlights from Psalms 90-118

Psalm 90:1-2
Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations.
Before the mountains were born
Or You gave birth to the earth and the world,
Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.

Psalm 90:14-15
satisfy us in the morning with Your lovingkindness,
That we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.

Make us glad according to the days You have afflicted us,
And the years we have seen evil.

Psalm 92:1-2
It is good to give thanks to the LORD
And to sing praises to Your name, O Most High;
To declare Your lovingkindness in the morning
And your faithfulness by night.

Psalm 93:2
Your throne is established from of old;
You are from everlasting.

Psalm 93:5
Your testimonies are fully confirmed;
Holiness befits Your house,
O LORD, forevermore.

Psalm 94:19
When my anxious thoughts multiply within me,
Your consolations delight my soul.

Psalm 95:5-7
Come, let us worship and bow down,
Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.
For He is our God,
And we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand.

Psalm 96:2
Sing to the LORD, bless His name;
Proclaim good tidings of His salvation from day to day.

Psalm 97:12
Be glad in the LORD, you righteous ones,
And give thanks to His holy name.

Psalm 99:9
Exalt the LORD our God
And worship at His holy hill,
For holy is the LORD our God.

Psalm 100
Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth.
Serve the LORD with gladness;
Come before Him with joyful singing.
Know that the LORD Himself is God;
It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;
We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.
Enter His gates with thanksgiving
And His courts with praise.
Give thanks to Him, bless His name.
For the LORD is good;
His lovingkindness is everlasting
And His faithfulness to all generations.

Psalm 101:3
I will set no worthless thing before my eyes;
I hate the work of those who fall away;
It shall not fasten its grip on me.

Psalm 102:12
But You, O LORD, abide forever,
And Your name to all generations.

Psalm 102:25-27
Of old You founded the earth,
And the heavens are the work of Your hands.
Even they will perish, but You endure;
And all of them will wear out like a garment;
Like clothing You will change them and they will be changed.
But You are the same,
And Your years will not come to an end.

Psalm 103:1-5
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
And all that is within me, bless His holy name.
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
And forget none of His benefits;
Who pardons all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases;
Who redeems your life from the pit,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion;
Who satisfies your years with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle.

Psalm 103:8-12
The LORD is compassionate and gracious,
Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.
He will not always strive with us,
Nor will He keep His anger forever.
He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
Nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
So great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him.
As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us.

Psalm 104:33-34
I will sing to the LORD as long as I live;
I will sing praise to my God while I have my being.
Let my meditation be pleasing to Him;
As for me, I shall be glad in the LORD.

Psalm 105:2-4
Sing to Him, sing praises to Him;
Speak of all His wonders.
Glory in His holy name;
Let the heart of those who seek the LORD be glad.
Seek the LORD and His strength;
Seek His face continually.

Psalm 107:1-2
Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
Let the redeemed of the LORD say so,
Whom he has redeemed from the hand of the adversary.

Psalm 108:1
My heart is steadfast, O God;
I will sing, I will sing praises, even with my soul.

Psalm 111:1-4
Praise the LORD!
I will give thanks to the LORD with all my heart,
In the company of the upright and in the assembly.
Great are the works of the LORD;
They are studied by all who delight in them.
Splendid and majestic is His work,
And His righteousness endures forever.
He has made His wonders to be remembered;
The LORD is gracious and compassionate.

Psalm 111:9-10
He has sent redemption to His people;
He has ordained His covenant forever;
Holy and awesome is His name.
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom;
A good understanding have all those who do His commandments;
His praise endures forever.

Psalm 113:2-3
Blessed be the name of the LORD
From this time forth and forever.
From the rising of the sun to its setting
The name of the LORD is to be praised.

Psalm 115:18
But as for us, we will bless the LORD
From this time forth and forever.
Praise the LORD!

Psalm 116:1-2
I love the LORD, because He hears
My voice and my supplications.
Because He has inclined His ear to me,
Therefore I shall call upon Him as long as I live.

Psalm 116:7-8
Return to your rest, O my soul,
For the LORD has dealt bountifully with you.
For You have rescued my soul from death,
My eyes from tears,
My feet from stumbling.

Psalm 116:15
Precious in the sight of the LORD
Is the death of His godly ones.

Psalm 118:24
This is the day which the LORD has made;
Let us rejoice and be glad in it.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Psalm 90:1-2, Various Translations

Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. (ESV)
Lord, you have been our refuge age after age.
Before the mountains were born, before the earth or the world came to birth, you were God from all eternity and for ever. (Jerusalem Bible) 
Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God. (KJV)
Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God. (NKJV)
Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God. (ASV)
Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations.
Before the mountains were born or you gave birth to the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God. (NASB)
Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth, or You had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting You are God. (MEV)
Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting thou art God. (RSV)
Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. (NRSV)
Lord, thou hast been our refuge from generation to generation.
Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God. (Jubilee Bible)
Adonai, you have been our dwelling place in every generation.
Before the mountains were born, before you had formed the earth and the world, from eternity past to eternity future you are God. (Complete Jewish Bible)
Lord, thou hast been our refuge from generation to generation.
Before the mountains were brought forth, or earth and world were born in travail, from age to age everlasting thou art God. (New English Bible)
Lord, you have been our refuge throughout all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth or the earth and the world were born, from age to age you are God. (Revised English Bible) 
Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations.
Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. (NIV 1984)
Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations.
Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. (NIV 2011)
Lord, you have been our help, generation after generation.
Before the mountains were born, before you birthed the earth and the inhabited world--from forever in the past to forever in the future, you are God. (Common English Bible)
Lord, thou hast been our habitation from generation to generation.
Before the mountains were made, and before thou hadst formed the earth, and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting thou art our God. (1599 Geneva Bible)
Lord, Thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever Thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, Thou art God. (JPS Tanakh 1917)
Lord, you have been our refuge in every generation.
Before the mountains were born, before you gave birth to the earth and the world, from eternity to eternity, you are God. (CSB)
Lord, You have been our refuge in every generation.
Before the mountains were born, before You gave birth to the earth and the world, from eternity to eternity, You are God. (HCSB)
Lord, through all the generations you have been our home.
Before the mountains were created, before the earth was formed, you are God without beginning or end. (Living Bible)
Lord, through all the generations you have been our home!
Before the mountains were born, before you gave birth to the earth and the world, from beginning to end, you are God. (NLT)
O Lord, you have always been our home.
Before you created the hills or brought the world into being, you were eternally God, and will be God forever. (Good News Translation)
O Lord, you have been our refuge throughout every generation.
Before the mountains were born, before you gave birth to the earth and the world, you were God. You are God from everlasting to everlasting. (God's Word Translation)
God, it seems you've been our home forever;
long before the mountains were born, long before you brought earth itself to birth, from "once upon a time" to "kingdom come"--you are God. (The Message)
Lord, you have been our home since the beginning.
Before the mountains were born and before you created the earth and the world, you are God. You have always been, and you will always be. (NCV)
O Lord, you have been our protector through all generations!
Even before the mountains came into existence, or you brought the world into being, you were the eternal God. (NET Bible)
Lord, you have always been our eternal home, our hiding place from generation to generation.
Long before you gave birth to the earth and before the mountains were born, you have been from everlasting to everlasting, the one and only true God. (Passion Translation)
Lord, You have always been our refuge. Our ancestors made You their home long ago.
Before mountains were born, before You fashioned the earth and filled it with life, from ages past to distant futures, You are truly God. (The Voice)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Book Review: The Bible In Pictures for Little Eyes

The Bible In Pictures for Little Eyes. Kenneth N. Taylor. 1956/1984. Moody Press. 190 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence (from the introduction): Even little children can understand great truths when told to them in simple words. And when pictures are added, doubly indelible impressions are made that can last forever.

First sentence:
When it is nighttime and the lights are out you know how dark everything gets. You can't see anything. That is how all the world once was. There were no pretty flowers; there were no trees or grass or birds. There were no children either. There was only darkness. God did not want everything to be all dark. He decided to make some people. People could not live in the darkness so God made a beautiful world full of light.
Questions: 1. Can you see anything at night when you go to bed and the lights are out?
2. Did God want everything to be all dark? 
This is a Bible story book intended for "little eyes." I'm supposing the intended use is for parents to share ONE picture and story per day during their family devotions. The stories are short--very, very short. These stories are shorter than almost any other that I've seen in bible story books through the years I've been reading. But is that a good thing?

The stories are from the Old Testament and the New Testament. Plenty of stories get skimmed over or skipped altogether.

Here's one of his stories about Jeremiah:
This man is Jeremiah. Can you say "Jeremiah"? He is one of God's friends. God has sent him to tell the people to be good. The people do not like Jeremiah to tell them this. They want to be bad so they have tied Jeremiah's hands together. They will put him in a room and lock the door so Jeremiah cannot get away. He must sit there all day. People go by laughing at him and making fun of him. Poor Jeremiah! But God is with him and God will punish the people who do this to His friend.
1. What has happened to Jeremiah's hands?
2. Is Jeremiah God's friend?
3. Will God help Jeremiah?
I am curious about the pictures, the illustrations. No credit is given for the artwork. Did Kenneth Taylor use artwork that had already been made for his book? Did he start with finding pictures and then write stories to go with these pictures? OR did the stories come first? Why is there so much emphasis on the details of the pictures perhaps focusing on details that are from artists' imaginations rather than the Bible itself?

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Book Review: Ken Taylor

Ken Taylor: Bringing the Bible to Life. (Heroes of the Faith) Jim Kraus. 2006. Barbour Books. 208 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: "Why, Kenneth has always been a Christian," Ken's mother said to a friend. He and his older brother, Douglas, well they have always believed."

I enjoyed reading this children's biography of Ken Taylor. The book focuses on his life, his family, his work, his career, his legacy. He is perhaps best known for writing a bible story book for children, writing a paraphrase of the entire Bible, and starting a publishing house. I speak, of course, of The Bible in Pictures for Little Eyes (1956), The Living Bible (1971) and Tyndale Publishing House.

Growing up Ken Taylor struggled to understand the King James Version. He could make sense of the gospels and the book of Acts. But when it came to understanding and appreciating other parts of Scripture--for example, Paul's letters--he was confused and frustrated. He knew that not everybody struggled with this--his brother Doug, for example, seemed to love all of Scripture. But he did. But he grew up, went to a Christian college, entered seminary. But again as a father this time he noticed a need. If people are to love the Word, treasure the Word, live the Word...it is imperative that they first understand it. There needed to be a Bible simple enough to be understood. His paraphrase started out as an experiment and an act of love. He opened up the Bible, read a chapter--I believe it was from 2 Timothy--and set out to paraphrase its meaning verse by verse. He shared this experiment with his family. It seemed to be a good idea. But it would also be a time-consuming one. A project requiring years of hard work and revision. And then there was the whole getting it published and stocked into bookstores aspect of it....

I learned a good deal about Ken Taylor reading this one. It was based on his own autobiography published in 1991. This explains why it was able to include so many personal details. The book also shares reactions to the Living Bible. (It was first published in parts: Living Letters, Living Prophecies, etc.) One thing that helped establish the Living Bible was the fact that Billy Graham supported it. He offered to give away free copies of Living Letters to those that wrote in and requested it. This success helped encourage him to keep going and paraphrase the entire Bible.

The Living Bible was the fastest selling book in 1972 and 1973.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, April 22, 2019

Book Review: The Cross

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

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

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

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

My thoughts: I loved, loved, loved, LOVED rereading Martyn Lloyd-Jones The Cross. I read it during Passion Week and finished up on Good Friday. It is one of those books that you should reread every other year or so. It's just that good. Christians should never tire of the gospel, of the cross. Christians should never be bored or dismissive of the good news. It should humble us and excite us. It should lead to worship and praise. It should lead to repentance and obedience. It should make us want more, more, more of Christ in our lives. 

  • The whole of the New Testament is proclaiming the blood of Christ, the death of Christ upon the cross, on Calvary. It is the heart and centre of the Christian evangel, the good news of salvation.
  • If he had not died upon the cross, nobody would ever have been saved. There would be no gospel to preach. It is the saving event.
  • It does not ask us to save ourselves, it does not tell us to do something that will save us, it says it is done, it has happened, it was happening there. That is the gospel.
  • Any man who is saved, is saved by the cross, and to be saved means that your sins are forgiven, that you are reconciled to God.
  • You will never understand the significance of what happened there until you are clear about who it was that was dying there. Who is this person in the middle nailed to a tree?
  • My friends, the Son of God is there dying on that cross because he came from heaven into this world in order to die.
  • He came because you and I and all mankind are guilty and under the condemnation of a Holy God.
  • Man is a guilty sinner, God is a holy God. How can the two be brought together? The answer is the cross of Christ.
  • The cross of our Lord Jesus Christ is either an offence to us or else it is the thing above everything else in which we glory.
  • The test of whether someone is teaching the cross rightly or wrongly is whether it is an offence to the natural man or not. If my preaching of this cross is not an offence to the natural man, I am misrepresenting it. If it is something that makes him say how beautiful, how wonderful, what a tragedy, what a shame, I have not been preaching the cross truly.
  • There is nobody born a Christian into this world. We have to be born again to become Christians, and while we are natural men and women, the cross is an offence.
  • If you want to know God, if you want to know the everlasting and eternal God, this is the way, the only way. Look there, gaze, meditate, survey, the wondrous cross. And then you will see something of him.
  • Grace is a great word in the Bible, the grace of God. It is most simply defined in these words—it is favour shown to people who do not deserve any favour at all. And the message of the gospel is that any one of us is saved and put right for eternity, solely and entirely by the grace of God, not by ourselves.
  • If you think you deserve heaven, take it from me you are not a Christian. Now, that is a very good definition of a Christian. Any man who thinks that he deserves heaven is not a Christian. But for any man who knows that he deserves hell, there is hope.
  • Sin is a matter of attitude. And what makes sin sin, is that it is rebellion against God. It is to disobey God; it is to trample upon the sanctities of God. It is unrighteousness; it is transgression of God’s law.  Indeed, it is worse. It is a hatred of God.
  • We are all naturally God-haters, and if you have not realized that, you have not known these things very deeply. And if you think you have always believed in God, it is because you have had a God of your own creation, not the God of the Bible.
  • Why did he die? He died for the souls of men, not for our material welfare, not to reform this world, but to save our souls.
  • From beginning to end the message of the Bible, this revelation of God, is that there is to be an end to the world, and that the end is judgement. The Christ of God will come back into this world and he will return to judge it.
  • Now you see why Paul glories in the cross. It is the cross alone that saves any one of us from the destruction which is coming to the world. 
  • I am not called to preach against, I am called to hold a Saviour forth.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Week in Review: April 14-20

Bible Reading

Did I read Revelation this week? Which translation? Yes. NKJV

Am I keeping up with my 30 Days of Psalms, Psalms 90-118? Which translations have I read this week? Yes. NKJV. KJV. Third Millennium Bible. ESV. NIV 1984, NIV 1984, NLT.

Am I keeping up with the Daily Chronological Bible Reading Plan for the Growing 4 Life reading group? What have I read so far? Yes. Began 2 Samuel and 1 Chronicles and continued reading Psalms.

What have I read in the Old Testament this week?
CSB Study Bible for Women -- Exodus 1-3
KJV My Creative Bible -- Exodus, Song of Solomon, Jeremiah 1-37;

What have I read in the New Testament this week?
KJV My Creative Bible -- James, Mark, 1 Peter, 2 Peter

Other Reading

Christian Nonfiction:

Christian Fiction:

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, April 19, 2019

Book Review: Christ's Call to Reform the Church

Christ's Call to Reform the Church. John F. MacArthur. 2018. Moody Publishers. 208 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence (from the introduction): In the book of Revelation, Jesus wrote seven letters to cities in Asia Minor. He didn't write them to city hall; He wrote them to the church. Let that sink in moment.

First sentence from chapter one: Have you ever heard of a church that repented? Not individuals, but an entire church that collectively recognized its congregational transgressions and openly, genuinely repented, with biblical sorrow and brokenness? Sadly, you probably have not. For that matter, have you ever heard of a pastor who called his church to repent and threatened his congregation with divine judgment if they failed to do so? It's not likely. Pastors today seem to have a hard enough time calling individuals to repent, let alone calling the whole church to account for their corporate sins.

MacArthur's sermon text--if you will--is Revelation 2 and 3. In these seven letters to seven different churches, Jesus is calling for--in fact demanding--that the churches repent. Repentance hasn't grown in popularity through the centuries, but its need has not lessened either. What can believers--what can churches--learn from studying these letters? How are our churches like the ancient ones? Do we face the same struggles? the same temptations? the same judgement if we do not repent? Have we forgotten that the Bible was written with authority and should be read as such?

In the introduction, MacArthur points out that the church has never been commanded to go to war with the culture, or to legislate morality. He writes, "The will of God is not that we become so politicized that we turn our mission field into our enemy...It's futile to think the solution to our culture's moral bankruptcy is a legislative remedy. There is no law that can make fallen sinners righteous" (12).

In the first chapter, MacArthur introduces key topics that will be discussed throughout the book: worldliness, sin, compromise, tolerance, repentance, judgment. He examines what happens when churches compromise with the truth--with the revealed Word of God--and choose tolerance, peace, and unity instead. He briefly mentions the Reformation and Puritan movements before addressing contemporary issues facing the church. Did the ancient church have it easier? Or did they face the same temptations and struggles? Has Satan used the same tactics against the church since day one? Are our "new problems" really ancient ones?

In the second chapter, MacArthur takes a closer look at Revelation 1. Since the majority of the book is focusing on Revelation 2 and 3, this chapter is providing orientation and context for understanding and appreciating the book as a whole.

In chapters three through nine, MacArthur discusses the seven churches--Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea--and closely examines the Lord's messages to them. This is the heart of the book. Readers will learn more about these ancient churches and their problems. Readers will be reminded of the relevance of these urgent, passionate messages. Jesus is still calling his church to repent.

In the tenth and final chapter, MacArthur revisits the five solas of the Reformation and discusses the church's need to reform or return to reform. The Reformation should not be thought of "as over."

This was a great read.


  • There have never been any Christian nations--just Christians. (9)
  • Cultural change can't accelerate the kingdom's growth; nor can it hinder it. (10)
  • Morality on its own is no solution; it damns just like immorality. (10)
  • Churches that start down a path of worldliness, disobedience, and apostasy typically move even further from orthodoxy over time. They almost never recover their original soundness. Rarely are they broken over their collective sins against the Lord. Rarely do they turn aside from corruption, immorality, and false doctrine. Rarely do they cry out from the depths of their hearts for forgiveness, cleansing, and restoration. Most never even consider it, because they have become comfortable with their condition. (16)
  • Filling the pews with comfortable, unaffected unbelievers is the fastest way to confuse and corrupt the work of the church. (25)
  • Most people who go to church believe it is a safe place--perhaps the safest place--when it comes to threats of judgment from the Lord. It's almost like climbing aboard the ark; once you're safely inside, you're untouchable. But that's not true. Frankly, it's a foolish and dangerous notion. (35)
  • Sinners--even redeemed sinners--are right to be terrified in the presence of a Holy God. There is always fear in a true vision of Christ, because we see His glory and He sees our sin. (51)
  • Put simply, loving Christ is the defining characteristic of a Christian. And while the genuine believer will always love the Lord, the intensity of his love can fluctuate over time. The redeemed person's love for Christ must be carefully guarded and nurtured, or it will diminish with time. (56)
  • Consider the chain reaction of forsaking your first love. Fading love for Christ is the forerunner of spiritual apathy. Apathy is the forerunner to loving something else. And love for something else means competing priorities with Christ, which in turn leads to compromise with the world and corruption, resulting ultimately in judgment. (67)
  • In themselves, believers don't have the capacity to maintain or protect their faith. If we could lose our salvation, we certainly would. Instead, it's the Lord who holds us steadfast in faith. (83)
  • Incredibly, many churches today proudly ignore the sin in their midst in the name of tolerance, unity, and love--proving only that they have no true understanding of what the Bible means when it talks about unity and love. Amazingly, ignoring sin and practicing tolerance has became a staple strategy for church growth. This directly defies the Lord's commands. (104)
  • I don't understand how pastors and churches can be indifferent to sin when they see this unequivocal statement from the Head of the church: that He will put on a public display of His holy wrath if a church falls into corruption. He will make a spectacle of His judgment, such that other congregations see it and cringe. He will use the failure and the destruction of one church to purify others, and to display His holiness to His people. There is no excuse for tolerating sin or welcoming it as an evangelistic strategy. Doing so invites the wrath of heaven. (116)
  • Error kills the church. False teaching and false doctrine confuse and corrupt the church, draining the life out of it. Sin kills the church. Little by little, sin tears away at the life of the church. It twists your character and warps your mind. Sins of omission and commission slowly suffocate the will of the church to maintain holiness and purity. Sinful leadership can quickly deal death blows to a church. Compromise with the world kills the church, too. Contrary to the current trend, there's no better way to introduce the killing power of sin into a church than with an influx of unbelievers. Accepting and putting those unbelievers into positions of leadership grips the church by the neck and strangles it. Ultimately, churches die for one reason: they tolerate sin, which includes the seminal sin of not taking Scripture seriously. (127)
  • Despite its frequent misapplication, Revelation 3:20 is not a general statement about Christ's knocking on the hearts door of sinners, nor is it an accurate picture of His call to repent. The fact is, the door Christ refers to here was a specific door, not the metaphorical door of every human heart. This is a specific invitation to the church at Laodicea and others like it. Christ was not in that church, further proof that, unlike the church at Sardis, there were no believers in the Laodicean congregation at all. (173)
  • The fact is the church isn't facing unique problems that demand clever new solutions. Satan's strategies have not changed, and "we are not ignorant of his schemes" (2 Cor 2:11). He assaults the church in the same ways he did in the first century. If anything, what has changed is the church's willingness to compromise with the world and accommodate false teaching. Rather than engaging a spiritual warfare against satanic lies and anti-Christian ideologies (2 Cor 10:4), too many churches have declared an unbiblical truce with the world and stopped fighting for God's truth altogether. (178)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Book Review: A House Divided

A House Divided (The Russians #2) Michael R. Phillips and Judith Pella. 1992. Bethany House. 352 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: The garden was once again still.

A House Divided is the second book in the series, The Russians by Michael R. Phillips and Judith Pella. Some series books are capable of standing alone, however, I'm not sure this is the case with A House Divided. All the characters--perhaps with the exception of a few minor characters, mostly rebels--were first introduced in the first book The Crown and the Crucible.

Anna, our heroine, is still a loyal maid to Katrina. Katrina is still head over heels in love with her brother's best friend, but when she can't have him...she starts to look elsewhere for love and attention. And the consequences for her poor judgment may be long-lasting. Anna's brother, Paul, is mixed up with a REALLY bad set--the rebels who think nothing of sacrificing innocent lives--civilians--in their ongoing quest to kill royalty and nobles. If their father knew, oh, the heartbreak that it would cause. Speaking of which, Anna does have to go home to help care for her father in his illness...and she's joined by another....one who wants her father's blessing on their marriage. She'll return to her post as maid, but, her situation may be changing. Katrina will be wanting to bring her along to her new household...

The Russians is like a soap opera in book form. It has dozens of characters, differing points of view, conflict and tension, and above all else DRAMA. But it's not all drama all the time. Anna and her father are deeply devoted to God. They have testifying to do...let the redeemed of the Lord say so!

I really am loving this series so far. Sometimes I want to yell at the characters--probably why it reminded me of a soap opera. But overall, it's just an enjoyable treat and a good reminder of why I love historical fiction.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Book Review: Growing in Godliness

Growing in Godliness: A Teen Girl's Guide to Maturing in Christ. Lindsey Carlson. 2019. Crossway Books. 128 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: As a child, I was always in a hurry to grow up. I wanted the privileges and freedom that came with maturity, but I didn’t want to wait through the awkward period of growing.

Don't be like me. Don't judge a book by its cover, or by its topic.

There is a part of me that thinks it is a pity that this one is limited to such a narrow scope of readers: teen girls and perhaps mothers of teen girls. For the part that just applies to being a teen girl is so very, very tiny. Most of this one could be applicable--relevant--to readers of both genders and of all ages. For the topic is SANCTIFICATION.

I loved this one. God is good; God is sovereign. He makes all things beautiful in HIS time. I'm not doubting the WHEN of my birth, but if someone could have handed me this book when I was actually a teen girl....that would have been super-lovely and helpful. Because the truth it, teen me was a MESS of emotions and I just didn't get it--get the goodness of the whole gospel.

Every chapter of this one embraces the GOOD NEWS of the gospel. The doctrine is strong with this one--and nothing could be more needed. Doctrine is meant to be lived out and Carlson's book encourages teens to do just that.

Another thing that I appreciated about this one was how it challenges you to think by asking important questions. For example, "Do you give your time, attention, and focus to the pursuit of knowing more about God? Or does the pursuit of growing in godliness feel like an imposition to your plans?" and "Would your words show evidence of a tender, merciful, and compassionate heart? Or would they point to selfishness, anger, or bitterness? And let’s not stop with spoken words; what about the words you type and text? If it’s “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matt. 12:34), then you can trust that out of the abundance of the heart, the fingers also type and text. How do you speak, type, text, and communicate with your family, friends, neighbors, and teachers? Do your words display maturity or immaturity?"

These are the things Carlson encourages her readers to bring with them to church:
  • Bring humility. Leave your preferences, entitlements, and disappointments at the door and enter with humility. “Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble’” (1 Pet. 5:5).
  • Bring a readiness to serve. “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).
  • Bring compassion. “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 5:5),
  • Bring your gifts. “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace” (1 Pet. 4:10).

As Christians, we are works in progress, awaiting full redemption. Stained by sin, we are no longer the original picture we were created to be. Made alive in Christ, we are no longer dead in our sin, decaying like the dilapidated before versions of our selves. But we aren’t yet the fully redeemed after picture either. We are in the work-in-progress stage of being made new.
You can’t fake or rush Christian maturity. There is no Glamour Shots version of holiness that is convincing to God on the day of redemption; only the work of the Spirit will do. In order to know God and please him, you must work with God to grow in godliness. Surrender to the work of the Holy Spirit and ask him to give you wisdom to understand the character of God and the desire to be more like him.
God created you with one specific and overarching purpose for your life. It is the clear and concrete reason you exist and the primary goal for your life. The Lord created all of humanity, including you, in his image for his purposes. God’s purpose for your life is to bring him glory in all you do.
Satan has been distorting God’s plan for your emotions and the resulting feelings you experience from the very beginning. In the garden he tempted Eve to follow her heart by dangling her desire for wisdom right before her face. She responded by following her feelings headlong into disobedience—a decision which resulted in consequences you’re still feeling today.
The “follow your heart” creed certainly isn’t found in the Bible. The Bible actually thinks our hearts have a disease: “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9).

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, April 15, 2019

Classics Club Spin #20 (My List)

It's time for a Classics Club Spin. The number--for better or worse--will be announced April 22nd. I will update this post and share the number that was chosen. The selected book should be completed by May 31, 2019. The number was 19.

1. The Holy Scriptures According to the Masoretic Text: A New Translation. Jewish Publication Society of America. 1917. 
2. 1 and 2 Kings by J. Vernon McGee (Thru the Bible)
3. Real Christianity by William Wilberforce
4. Saviour of the World by B.B. Warfield
5. A Disruptive Faith by A.W. Tozer
6. Communion with the Triune God by John Owen
7. The Way of Life by Charles Hodge
8. Sixty Days with John Owens in Hebrews
9. Matthew Henry's Commentary on Exodus
10. A Man Called Peter by Catherine Marshall
11. In His Image by Paul W. Brand
12. A Christian Manifesto by Francis A. Schaeffer
13. The Practice of Godliness by Jerry Bridges
14. Christ All in All by Philip Henry
15. Godly Prayer and Its Answers by John Brown of Wamphray
16. Selected Sermons of Jonathan Edwards
17. The Scottish Psalter. General Assembly Free Church of Scotland. 1650. 
18. Valley of Vision (Puritans, collected, first published 1975)
19. Exposition of Mark by J.C. Ryle
20. Foxe's Book of Martyrs

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Book Review: Why Christ Came

Why Christ Came: 31 Meditations on the Incarnation. Joel R. Beeke & William Boekestein. 2013. Reformation Heritage. 108 pages. [Source: Bought]

From the introduction: “Why” is a marvelous teacher because it helps us identify the meaning of the events we observe. Rudyard Kipling called the interrogative “why” one of the “six honest serving men” who taught him all he knew.

In this devotional, Joel Beeke shares thirty-one answers to the question WHY DID CHRIST COME?! If you are stumped to come up with an answer to this all-important, ever-relevant question then I encourage you to read this bible-saturated devotional for yourself.

There are, of course, more than thirty-one answers or reasons to the question. In the introduction, he notes: "The number of reasons for which Christ came into the world may ultimately surpass the number of people He came to save." Now that's food for thought.

At the center of every devotional, every reason, there is Scripture. Each devotional ultimately points readers to Jesus Christ and directs them to praise and worship.

My first review of Why Christ Came shared a small handful of reasons. I won't repeat any of those quotes here. Instead, I'll share different reasons:

To Bring Light to a Dark World (#3)

  • In Christ’s suffering, particularly in the crucifixion, the darkest blot was painted on the brightest canvas. Christ came as the brightness of God’s glory, in true and complete innocence, to reveal the abominable character of sin (Heb. 1:3; cf. Ezek. 8:3–4).
  • We can’t make sense of our lives until “God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6). As the pillar of fire who led His people through the wilderness (Ex. 13:21; 14:20), the Lord Jesus Christ has called out of darkness and into His marvelous light a “chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people,” to show forth His praises (1 Peter 2:9). Calvin says, “If the whole wisdom of the world were collected into one mass, not a single ray of the true light would be found in that vast heap; but, on the contrary, it will be found a confused chaos; for it belongs to Christ alone to deliver us from darkness.”

To Be Made Like His People (#4)

  • In Christ’s incarnation, God teaches us that we cannot solve our problems on our own. We cannot attain perfection and peace by our own strength. But in Christ, God has done it for us. In the words of church father Irenaeus of Lyon, “When He became incarnate, and was made man, He commenced afresh the long line of human beings, and furnished us, in a brief, comprehensive manner, with salvation; so that what we had lost in Adam—namely, to be according to the image and likeness of God—that we might recover in Christ Jesus.” Christ came to be like us so that His death would accomplish healing for us. Apart from a true incarnation, there is no true atonement.
  • Our salvation does not depend on our performance but on Christ’s. In His human obedience, we have a grand demonstration that Christ will never fail us. Christ did not come to earth simply to be our moral teacher. If that were His only mission, He could have come as He did in former times, as the Angel of the LORD, without our flesh and blood to encumber Him. Instead, He had to become like us so that He could raise us up to be like Him.
  • By faith, when we think of Christ, we should see ourselves in Him. As we glimpse at the manger of His birth we can say, “This is my brother, my flesh and blood.” As He grows and matures and continues to do the will of God, we can say, “This is my brother, my flesh and blood.” As He goes to the cross and bleeds and dies, we can say, “This is my brother, my flesh and blood.” When we see Christ seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, we can say, “This is my brother, my flesh and blood.” And when we see Christ return on clouds of glory to take us home to be with Him we will say, “This is my brother, my flesh and blood.” Because of the incarnation, believers can say of Christ what Adam said of Eve—“This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh”—and what the apostle Paul says to the Ephesians: “We are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones” (5:30).

To Give Eternal Life (#7)

  • Believers must not just think or talk about Jesus; they must feast on Him. How do we feast on Him? 
  • First, we develop an appetite for Christ by committing our hearts to Him, knowing that only He can satisfy our deepest longings. We learn to say of Christ, “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…. My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips” (Ps. 63:1, 5).
  • Second, we meditate upon Him. We must recollect and reflect on all that we learn of Christ. We reflect on His names, His states, His works, and His words. Then we apply every “bite” of His person and work to our lives.
  • Third, we delight in Him. God gave us food not only to strengthen us physically but also to cheer us. Christ is not just the food we need; He is also the food that we desire and our portion forever (Ps. 73:25–26). We cry out with the psalmist, “O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him” (Ps. 34:8).
  • Finally, we feed upon Him regularly. Our bodies must be fed daily to maintain our health and strength. When God rained down manna in the wilderness, His people had to gather it daily (Ex. 16:4–5). Some of us have little spiritual vitality because we fail to feed on Christ day by day. Over time, we become spiritually anorexic. We should realize that every part of Scripture speaks of Christ (John 5:39). Thus, every time we read a passage of God’s Word, we should ask how it bears witness to Him. We make Christ our favorite daily food.

To Die (#17)

  • Jesus was born to die. It is hard for us to grasp that truth, for we were created to live, not to die. Death is an intruder and a great enemy to life. Yet we may also find it comforting that Jesus came to die. Hebrews 9:27 says, “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” We each have an appointed time to die. So did Jesus. He came to earth to die so that He, “for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour…by the grace of God should taste death for every man” (Heb. 2:9). As the familiar Christmas hymn points out: “Mild He lays His glory by / Born that man no more may die.”
  • Jesus knows that His death will bring glory to God by satisfying justice, repelling the curse against sin, defeating the devil, and securing a people zealous to praise His Father. So Jesus presses on. Christ was born with a death sentence already hanging over him at the manger. That thought should bring us some gravity as we reflect on our Lord’s advent. But it should also help us see the utter resolve of Christ to redeem His people.

This little book is a treasure. I love, love, love it!

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Week in Review: April 7-13

Bible Reading

Did I read Revelation this week? Which translation? Yes. NIV 2011 (Readers Bible)

Am I keeping up with my 30 Days of Psalms, Psalms 90-118? Which translations have I read this week? Yes. KJV. CSB. NKJV. Revised English Bible. Jerusalem Bible. New English Bible. HCSB.

Am I keeping up with the Daily Chronological Bible Reading Plan for the Growing 4 Life reading group? What have I read so far? Yes. A variety of Psalms this week along with the rest of 1 Samuel. 

What have I read in the Old Testament this week?
KJV My Creative Bible:

  • Proverbs
  • Isaiah
  • Hosea
  • Joel
  • Amos
  • Obadiah
  • Jonah
  • Micah
  • Nahum
  • Habakkuk
  • Zephaniah
  • Haggai
  • Zechariah
  • Malachi

What have I read in the New Testament this week?
KJV My Creative Bible:

  • Matthew
  • Romans
  • Galatians
  • Ephesians
  • Philippians

Other Reading

Christian nonfiction:
Grace Defined and Defended: What a 400 Year Old Confession Teaches Us About Sin, Salvation, And the Sovereignty of God. Kevin DeYoung. 2019. Crossway. 144 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Mighty Acts of God: A Family Bible Story Book. Starr Meade. 2010. Crossway. 288 pages. [Source: Review copy]
The New City Catechism: 52 Questions and Answers for Our Hearts and Minds. Timothy J. Keller. Introduced by Kathy Keller. 2017. Crossway Books. 128 pages. [Source: Bought]

Christian fiction:
A Surprise for Lily (The Adventures of Lily Lapp #4) Mary Ann Kinsinger and Suzanne Woods Fisher. 2013. Revell. 272 pages. [Source: Review copy]

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Book Review: A Surprise for Lily

A Surprise for Lily (The Adventures of Lily Lapp #4) Mary Ann Kinsinger and Suzanne Woods Fisher. 2013. Revell. 272 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: All morning, Lily hurried to pull weeds in the garden.

A Surprise for Lily is the fourth and final book in the series by Mary Ann Kinsinger and Suzanne Woods Fisher. I knew going into it that it was the last--but it was still sad to come to the end.
Lily Lapp has matured so much since the first book. Now she's in fifth grade and experiencing the highs and lows of growing up. She's still struggling with a few of her classmates; but she's doing it with a certain amount of grace and dignity. Most of the time.

It is just a treat to spend time with the whole Lapp-Miller family. I love them all. I even love to "hate" a few of the characters. (Think Nellie Oleson.)

I think it would be awesome if the authors decided to write a young adult or even adult series starring an older Lily. Just enough time has passed--in the real world--for Lily to mature into a young woman who might just be interested in boys and courting and marriage and settling down. Would Aaron Yoder still be a PEST and NUISANCE? Part of me really wants these two to get together.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Book Review: Grace Defined and Defended

Grace Defined and Defended: What a 400 Year Old Confession Teaches Us About Sin, Salvation, And the Sovereignty of God. Kevin DeYoung. 2019. Crossway. 144 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: The first car I owned was a 1995 Dodge Neon, and it was a lemon.

The 400-Year-Old Confession of which DeYoung speaks is none other than the Canons of Dort. If you're thinking...didn't you just review a book about the Canons of Dort?....you'd be right. I did. That book was by Robert Godfrey and titled  Saving the Reformation. (It was published by Reformation Trust.)

Both books stress that Calvinism is MORE than the acronym TULIP. Both books stress the relevance of the Canons of Dort to the Christian faith and the importance of holding to doctrinal truth. Both books include the text of the Canons of Dort and provide commentaries for the articles. (DeYoung's book does not provide exposition of the rejections however.) Both books provide a history lesson. DeYoung's book provides a glossary of key terms, key people, key writings BEFORE the history lesson. (I thought this was a nice touch).
  • Reformed : the Christians and churches in sixteenth-and seventeenth-century Europe that held to one of more of the Reformed confessions. In the Netherlands this meant the Belgic Confession (1561) and the Heidelberg Catechism (1563).
  • Arminian: Initially, these were the followers of Jacob Arminius, but Arminian theology continued to develop after his death in 1609. Later Arminians like John and Charles Wesley (or your Methodist or Free Will Baptist friend next door) probably bear some theological resemblance to the Arminians at Dort, but we should not assume a one-to-one correspondence.
  • Remonstrants: The Arminian party in the Netherlands, so called because of the protest document they issued called the Remonstrance of 1610.
  • CounterRemonstrants : The Reformed party in the Netherlands opposed to the Arminians.
  • Opinions of the Remonstrants (1618): The opinions (sometimes called the Sententia) offered by the Arminians at the Synod of Dort.
  • Canons of Dort (1619): The doctrinal pronouncements from the Synod of Dort, organized under five main points of doctrine.
I loved how DeYoung's book was filled with I-didn't-know-that facts. For example, "Before the Synod of Dort conducted its business, each member took a solemn oath saying that “I will only aim at the glory of God, the peace of the Church, and especially the preservation of the purity of doctrine.” They ended with a prayer: “So help me, my Savior, Jesus Christ! I beseech him to assist me by his Holy Spirit.”

Wouldn't it be wonderful if believers today were as passionate and zealous for doctrinal truth?! Can their be true [genuine, authentic] unity without purity or truth?

Most of this book focuses on the Canons of Dort. As I mentioned earlier, it includes the ARTICLES of the Canons of Dort within the text itself. These are broken down, of course, into their five main points. DeYoung provides exposition or commentary for these articles. It does include the rejections for each of the five main points, but only as an appendix. He does not provide commentary for the rejections.

Here are DeYoung's summary of the Five Points Held by the Arminians:
  • Point 1 affirms that God “determined before the foundation of the world to save out of the fallen sinful human race those in Christ, for Christ’s sake, and through Christ who by the grace of the Holy Spirit shall believe in this his Son Jesus Christ.” That sounds like Ephesians 1, except that it’s not clear on what basis God determines the elect. Does God choose the elect so that they might believe in Jesus Christ, or does he choose the elect based on foreseen knowledge that they shall believe in Jesus Christ? We know from the arguments at the Synod of Dort that the Arminians clearly meant the latter.
  • According to point 2, Jesus Christ “died for all men and for every man, so that he merited reconciliation and forgiveness of sins for all through the death of the cross; yet so that no one actually enjoys this forgiveness of sins except the believer.” Here we can see the conflict with what Dort would teach concerning “limited atonement.” The Arminians believed that Christ merited forgiveness for every human being, but that this procured salvation is only effective in those who believe.
  • At first glance, point 3 sounds a lot like Total Depravity, with the Arminians affirming that “man does not have saving faith of himself nor by the power of his own free will.” Moreover, they teach that we cannot do anything truly good without first being regenerated through the Holy Spirit and renewed in all powers. The rub is that the Remonstrance does not make clear whether this spiritual inability is a death or a sickness and whether the remedy is a monergistic (one-work-working) resurrection or a gracefilled, cooperative empowerment.
  • We see in point 4 that Arminian grace was not sovereign grace as traditional Reformed theology had understood it, but rather a “prevenient or assisting, awakening, consequent and cooperating grace.” The Remonstrants certainly believed in grace. They affirmed that all our good works must be “ascribed to the grace of God in Christ.” But this was a coming-alongside grace instead of a unilaterallybring-you-back-from-the-dead grace. Prevenient grace is the grace that comes before human decision and makes it possible (but not certain) for men and woman to choose God. For this reason, the Arminians denied that saving grace is “irresistible.”
  • Point 5 teaches that “that those who are incorporated into Jesus Christ” have “abundant strength to strive against Satan, sin, and the world,” and that in this struggle the believers are helped by Christ and by “the assistance of the grace of the Holy Spirit.” But there is an “if” to this perseverance. Jesus Christ assists believers through his Spirit “if only they are prepared for warfare and desire his help and are not negligent.” In the end, the Remonstrance of 1610 left the door open that believers might “through negligence fall away from the principle of their life in Christ” and “again embrace the present world.”
Here are some of my favorite quotes from his commentary:
The question is not simply, “Why do some people get passed over?” but, “Why should anyone be saved?” We are all deserving of punishment and death. It is only by God’s grace that any of us receive eternal life.
Although the Canons of Dort are rigorously careful and theologically precise, this does not mean they are pastorally irrelevant. In fact, the driving force behind all their definition and all their defending was a desire to help struggling Christians.
The caricature is that Calvinists believe that God capriciously chooses to create innocent people so that he might damn them for his glory. If this what Arminians think that Calvinists believe, they should be embarrassed. And if this is what Calvinists think they ought to believe, they should be ashamed.
God doesn’t condemn people for being reprobate. He condemns people for sin and unbelief, from which God, according to his good pleasure and sovereign grace, has purposed to rescue only the elect.
The doctrine of predestination should never be taught so that people conclude, in despair, that they cannot come; the doctrine must be articulated so people conclude that by God’s grace they can come.
The doctrine of definite atonement is massively important for our theology and for our worship. In fact, I’d argue that definite atonement is so integral to the biblical system taught by Dort that without the L in the TULIP, the whole flower withers.
Bad theology leads to despair, and proud theology leads to disdain. But humble, heartfelt Reformed theology should always lead to doxology.
We often think of free will as being the opposite, in some sense, of God’s sovereignty. But strictly speaking, the freedom of the will has to do with whether the will is in bondage to sin. Prior to the fall, human beings had free will (in this sense), but now our wills, apart from regeneration, are bound to sin. What was holy and pure has become dark, futile, and distorted. Every part of us—mind, will, heart, and emotions—has been corrupted by the fall.
Sin is not just something we do when we follow bad examples; it’s who we are in our very nature.
The doctrine of perseverance does not negate repentance; it leads us to repentance. The grace that saves a wretch like me is also the grace that will lead us home.
You cannot be unjustified. You cannot be un-born again. You cannot be lost a second time once you have been found. We will not lose what God has chosen us for in eternity. We will not forfeit what Christ has perfectly accomplished and infallibly applied. We will not, in the end, resist the grace that first entered our lives irresistibly.
I would definitely recommend this one. It was a great read. I am glad I read both books, and I'm glad that I did so within a week of each other--even if I didn't set out to do so!

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible