Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Book Review: Asking the Right Questions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter eight focuses on "the gospel solution."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

My Summer with Psalm 119 #15

As a few of you know, I love, love, LOVE Psalm 119. I thought it would be great to spend a summer focusing on that psalm and what others have had to say about it. I'll begin with Thomas Manton's Exposition of Psalm 119. It may take all summer to read all 158 sermons. But they're so GOOD, so RICH, I think it will be worth it.

Sermon 17 (Psalm 119:16)

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

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Monday, August 21, 2017

Book Review: The Bruised Reed

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

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

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

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

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Check-In With The Cloud

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

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Week in Review: August 13-19

ESV Reformation Study Bible

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

CSB Study Bible

  • Genesis 6-26


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

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Friday, August 18, 2017

Book Review: The Return

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

Thursday, August 17, 2017

My Summer with Psalm 119 #14

As a few of you know, I love, love, LOVE Psalm 119. I thought it would be great to spend a summer focusing on that psalm and what others have had to say about it. I'll begin with Thomas Manton's Exposition of Psalm 119. It may take all summer to read all 158 sermons. But they're so GOOD, so RICH, I think it will be worth it.

Sermon 16 (Psalm 119:15)

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

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible