Looking for something good to read? Well, you’ve come to the right place! I love reading, book lists, and recommending great books to others. Please accept my humble reviews and recommendations of Christian, Classic, and Children’s books. Check out my lists of “Books Every Christian Should Read,” and feel free to comment on my articles and to offer some of your own recommendations!
This past Sunday at church we sang a hymn that we don’t sing on a regular basis (#621 in the Baptist Trinity Hymnal) that was so appropriate given that this is the week of our national and local elections. There are several key thoughts and truths conveyed in the lyrics that I believe are important for people living in any country to be mindful of as they find themselves concerned about the current political state of their nation or face the uncertainty of an upcoming election. The lyrics are written as a prayer to God:
Great King of nations, hear our prayer,
While at thy feet we fall,
And humbly, with united cry,
To thee for mercy call.
The guilt is ours, but grace is thine,
O turn us not away;
But hear us from thy lofty throne,
And help us when we pray.
Our fathers' sins were manifold,
And ours no less we own,
Yet wondrously from age to age,
Thy goodness hath been shown.
When dangers, like a stormy sea,
Beset our country round,
To thee we looked, to thee we cried,
And help in thee was found.
With one consent we meekly bow,
Beneath thy chastening hand,
And, pouring forth confession meet,
Mourn with our mourning land.
With pitying eye behold our need,
As thus we lift our prayer;
Correct us with thy judgments, Lord,
Then let thy mercy spare.- John H. Gurney, 1838
Notice the following ideas in this prayer offered to God by His people:
No matter what our current situation or the outcome of an election, it should be a comfort to always remember that, as the King of nations, God is sovereign over all the leaders of the world (Daniel 2:21; Isaiah 40:21-23).
We must recognize our need for God’s mercy and come to Him with a heart of humility (II Chron. 7:14).
As individuals and as a people, we must bow in repentance and admit our sinfulness and guilt before a holy God, as Daniel (one of the most godly men in the Bible) prayed for his people in Daniel 9.
We must keep in mind that, as the righteous Judge of all the earth, it is within His right to judge and punish evil. If He decides to punish us as a nation, we must be ready to accept the chastisement that comes from His hand (Isaiah 11:4).
At the same time, we must acknowledge God’s goodness to us in the past. Our nation has been blessed by Him in so many ways, in spite of our unfaithfulness and rebelliousness against Him.
We must remember that when faced with troubles such as war, civil unrest, famine, or disease, there is only one place to turn for mercy, help and healing.
As we watch to see what the coming weeks and months hold for the American people, may the Lord turn the hearts of His people to Him in repentance and may they seek to follow Him faithfully in humble obedience to His Word. May He change the hearts of the lost to turn to Him for the first time. And may the Lord be gracious and merciful to us as a nation, even though we are undeserving of it. But above all, may the Lord Jesus Christ be glorified, no matter what happens. Soli Deo Gloria!
“To the degree that nations have applied the principles of the Bible, is the degree to which those nations have prospered, been free, and acted justly.”
With all that has been happening in our country and local communities in 2020, one of the questions being asked is: which is of greater value to us as a society – freedom or safety/security? Can we have both, or must one be sacrificed for the sake of the other? One of my favorite books for youth that I’ve written about is The Giver by Lois Lowy, a book that explores this dilemma.
Liberating the Nations isanother book that I believe is relevant and helpful in today’s climate. The questions explored and discussed in this book are essentially:
Is it possible for a nation to be really free?
What is a Christian Nation?
Can such a thing ever exist, and if so, how is one to be built?
It has long been debated whether the United States is a Christian nation. What does this term even mean? The writers of this book explain what it means to be a Christian nation. First, a Christian Nation is not one in which Christianity is the state or majority religion, nor does it mean that the majority of the population are necessarily Christians, nor does it mean a nation that is governed by a church or ecclesiastical body. A Christian Nation is one that is founded on Biblical truths and Christian principles, and in which the laws and institutions reflect a Christian worldview.
Most of the nations of the world have certain desires in common, those being: Liberty/Freedom, Peace and Justice, and Prosperity. Of course how these terms are defined and how each individual country goes about achieving these goals varies. The authors identify the fact that, “Every nation is built upon some religion or philosophy of life.” How the leaders and people in a society view God and man will determine how they go about pursuing these goals, and to what extent they will succeed.
Logic would say that good men will make good laws, and evil men will make evil laws. With that in mind, “Governments depend upon men more than men depend upon governments. If men are good, the government cannot be bad…[on the other hand] the best government in ill hands can do nothing great or good.” While some people would like to believe that man is inherently good, the Bible teaches that the heart of man is “deceitful and desperately wicked,” and that “there is no one righteous, no not one.” The internal is causative to the external, so “the external affairs of a nation are a reflection of the condition of the hearts of the people.” If this is the case, where are we to find good law-makers and how can good governments be established? Government and laws do not change men or make them “good”, they can only dictate behavior externally. Only the gospel of Christ can truly change the hearts of men, therefore it is also able to change a society or a nation, because societies are made up of men. The authors observe that,
“The Bible teaches and history confirms that to the degree that a nation applies the principles of the Word of God to all aspects of the society is the degree to which that nation obtains freedom and prosperity.”
More government, rules, restrictions, or penalties will not create a freer, happier, more prosperous nation. What is required is prayer, repentance, and the inward change of the hearts of individual citizens through the working of God by His Word. God works in individuals, changing lives from the inside out. The Gospel message and the truths of Scripture apply in all spheres of life, not just one’s personal spiritual or even church life, but to the social/civil spheres as well. Reform that occurs with one man or woman will affect change in his or her family. As families are affected positively, changes will take place in the local community establishments such as the churches, schools, and businesses. As these experience change, it will extend out to the city and state, and eventually the national level.
As we have seen in history and even at the present time, many things can occur that can threaten the well-being and stability of a country, from natural disasters, to threats of war and acts of terrorism, to disease pandemics. A society or nation cannot stand up under pressure without a strong, solid foundation of thought and character. Sadly, I think we can see that the foundation that was once solid in the United States of America, has gradually been weakened over the past several generations. The authors of Liberating the Nations begin by presenting seven foundational principles that form a Christian nation, and which were key ideas in the founding of the United States of America. Bear with me as I provide a brief explanation of each, as many readers are likely not familiar with how these ideas are related to the founding of our country:
Self-Government. You must be able to rule yourself before you can properly and effectively rule others. The more internally self-governed an individual is, the less external government he needs. For example, if a child is taught that he should be kind, and that yelling at or hitting his brother is unkind, if he takes that to heart and holds himself to that principle, then he will resist treating his brother unkindly and will not need to be disciplined or punished for unkind behavior. The basis of self-government cannot simply be Self, because as we stated above, the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked. The standard for right and wrong used to govern one’s behavior must be one that is always perfect, is not arbitrary or subject to opinion, and never changes – the Word of God.
Voluntary Union or Covenant. A community of people becomes united by common interests, goals, and desires. Individuals should not be compelled to join or unite for a cause or purpose by force or fear. Strong bonds begin and are demonstrated in the home, with the commitment of a man and woman to the marriage covenant. Voluntarily uniting with others can also occur in schools, churches, clubs, businesses and other organizations, as well as levels of government. It is good and healthy for people to find others they can join with for a common goal or purpose. There’s a saying that goes, “If you are not committed to anyone, then no one is committed to you.” The authors state, “Stronger internal bonds within a people will produce a stronger union. A people working together in union will bring a great increase to the strength of a country.”
Individuality. The principle of individuality acknowledges that every person has value and worth as an image-bearer of God. While “all men are created equal” with regard to their right to life, liberty, and their pursuit of happiness, this is not to say that everyone is or should be the same. We see diversity in God’s creation – He made no two snowflakes alike! In the same way, every person is born with a unique set of features, qualities, skills, talents, and character traits that set us apart, and that make our life meaningful. Likewise, each of us has individual responsibility for our choices and actions, both before God and our fellow man. We live in a time where individuals tend to look outside of themselves for someone or something to blame for their misfortunes or even immoral behavior. People want the freedom to do what they wish, but no one wants to be held accountable for their actions and the effects they have on others.
Property or Conscience. Each person has certain personal property that he has exclusive rights to and control of. Physical/material property includes things such as money, goods, land, work, or even your physical body. But property is not merely external; it is (and more importantly) internal as well. These include things like your thoughts, feelings, beliefs, opinions, ideas. Everything we possess comes from God, and we are required to be good stewards of them. James Madison said our natural, God-given rights are just as much our property as our material possessions, and that a just government should protect these rights. He also stated that “Conscience is the most sacred of all property,” that we should protect our conscience and should never be forced to violate it. Just as our government should protect our physical property (the possession, use, and disposal of it), it should also protect our rights to our thoughts, opinions, beliefs and ideas. He said, “Where an excess of power prevails, property of no sort is duly respected. No man is safe in his opinions, his person, his faculties, or his possessions.”
Education. In order to be free, happy and prosperous, a society must be well-educated. An ignorant people will quickly become an enslaved people. We can see many examples throughout history of society and life improving as people had greater access to education, became literate, and were able to think for themselves. But education is about more than merely information. It involves morals and principles. It includes teaching Christian character. It’s about knowing how to use information for good and not evil. Every government has a view or philosophy of education. The philosophy of the government is what will be taught in a government-run (ie. public) school system. If the government does not uphold Christian values, we cannot expect our children to be taught them in the public schools.
Morality or Christian Character. As stated above, essential to a proper, good education is the instruction of character. Of what benefit is it to a society to have intelligent, knowledgeable individuals if their moral character is defective? We have all heard of the psychopathic killer who is a textbook genius. An evil genius is more dangerous than an evil moron. It has been said that a person’s character is known by how they act when no one is looking. The writers observe, “No nation can long endure without virtue or morality in the people…Everyone’s fundamental rights are threatened by a lack of morality in the people.” And Ben Franklin stated, “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom.” The authors go on to give examples of how a moral citizenry ensures the freedom and prosperity of its society. In a moral society, there is greater freedom, less fear, fewer laws needed, and greater prosperity.
Faith in God and His Word. If morality is to be taught, what are the standards of right and wrong to be based upon? What is to be the source or foundation for the laws of the land? Character traits that are fundamental to a thriving nation such as kindness, honesty, diligence, justice, mercy, and loyalty are Godly traits that derive from our Creator. Likewise, our fundamental rights are given to us by our Creator, not by a man or government. Every nation is based upon some religion, even if it doesn’t have a state religion. “Christianity brings not only individual, but also civil, liberty.”
As Biblical ideas and principles in American civil life and education were replaced with unbiblical views of evolution and secular humanism, our society began to adopt pagan ideas of man, government, and welfare. In contrast to the seven Biblical principles listed above, we can identify certain problems that are evident in our nation today:
Lack of Self-Government: People don’t want to take responsibility for their life or be held accountable for their actions. They depend on the government to provide for them, and to control them, look to the media to tell them how to think or behave, and are certainly not governed by God’s Word.
Lack of Unity: There is no common ground, beliefs, faith, values, or goals. We are a nation divided by so many issues, many of which are not worth dividing over.
Sameness: There is a lack of tolerance, recognition and appreciation for the uniqueness of individuals with regard to differences in roles, views, opinions, preferences, and beliefs.
Violation of rights: Little by little, our freedoms and property rights are being threatened and infringed upon, including our freedom of speech, expression, and worship, our rights to provide for and protect ourselves and our property.
Degradation of education: The public school system has turned schools into institutes of indoctrination of ungodly principles, secular thought, and political agendas.
Decline of religion; rejection of God and His Word: In many churches, solid Biblical doctrine has been replaced with moralizing and self-help advice, while the true gospel of Christ which leads to repentance has been rejected in favor of a social or prosperity gospel.
Lack of Moral Standards: Every man has become a law unto himself, without regard to how his or her behavior affects others.
“In proportion as the genuine effects of Christianity are diminished in any nation, either through unbelief or the corruption of its doctrine, or the neglect of its institutions; in the same proportion will the people of that nation recede from the blessings of genuine freedom, and approximate the miseries of complete despotism…Whenever the pillars of Christianity shall be overthrown, our present republican forms of government, and all the blessings which flow from them, must fall with them.”
In the chapters that follow, the authors take us through a brief historical overview of how Christianity influenced cultures and brought more freedom, from the Protestant Reformation, to the westward movement, the discovery and settlement of the New World, and the founding of the United States. They then discuss how positive change can be brought about by applying Biblical principles in family life, the church, education, government, economics, the media and press, and extending even to foreign policies.
The authors propose that in Christ’s Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20, the idea is that, as the gospel went forth, it would change individuals, making them Christ’s disciples, and as a result, nations would become Christian as well. While worldwide missionary efforts from America have taken Christianity to other parts of the world such as Asia and Africa, why has the growth of Christianity not changed those governments and brought more liberty in many of these countries? There are three God-ordained institutions: the Family, the Church, and Civil Government. Christians believe they should govern their families and churches according to God’s Word, and honor him in those spheres, so why doesn’t this extend to the local government? God gave us civil government for our benefit. Shouldn’t we desire for it then to be the best reflection of God that it can be? Only as biblically self-governed individuals take on civil roles will this be possible. But a dualistic mindset that separates church and state keeps Christians out of public leadership and influence. As a result I fear that the church has abandoned its responsibility to influence and have a positive effect in the sphere of civil government.
The authors conclude by offering some practical steps with suggested social and political action for bringing about positive social change in our nation. I don’t know that I agree with all of these recommendations, and some of them may seem extreme or even impossible, but it has been said that, “Desperate times call for desperate measures.” However, change cannot be imposed from the top down; it has been attempted many times throughout history but never results in a free and happy people. If any real effective change for the good is to take place, it must begin with the individual.
I recommend Liberating the Nations to anyone who wants to gain a better understanding of the foundations of the United States of America, a perspective on where we are today and how we got here, and a rekindled hope for its future.
“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.” – Ronald Wilson Reagan (1911–2004)
What do you think? Is the United States a Christian Nation? Can we restore it to what it was intended to be? Or should the original plan be abandoned as irrelevant and unfeasible for the 21st century?
Other resources about America’s Christian history, founders, and government:
“Let us come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16).
This one little volume actually contains two works by John Bunyan on prayer. The first exposition on the subject, originally entitled A Discourse Touching Prayer, looks at what true prayer is, who should pray, what kinds of prayers are acceptable to God, and what we should pray for. He begins with making this statement about prayer:
Prayer is an ordinance of God to be used both in public and private; yea, such an ordinance as brings those that have the spirit of supplication into great familiarity with God.
Followed by this definition of prayer:
Prayer is a sincere, sensible, affectionate pouring out of the heart or soul to God, through Christ, in the strength and assistance of the Holy Spirit, for such things as God has promised, or according to his Word, for the good of the church, with submission in faith to the will of God.
He then proceeds to expound on the points mentioned in this definition, and explains what it means to pray with or in the Spirit. Following this, he addresses what may serve as obstructions to prayer. Bunyan writes,
As prayer is the duty of every one of the children of God, and carried on by the spirit of Christ in the soul, so everyone that takes it upon him to pray to the Lord, had need to be very wary and go about that work especially with a dread of God, as well as with hopes of the mercy of God through Jesus Christ.”
Prayer is indeed serious business, and it is a hard business. We cannot do it in our own strength; it requires the work of the Holy Spirit within us. As Bunyan explains,
Prayer is an ordinance of God, that must continue with a soul so long as it is on this side of Glory. But, as I said before, it is not possible for a man to get up his heart to God in prayer; likewise it is as difficult to keep it there, without the assistance of the Spirit. And if so, then for a man to continue from time to time in prayer with God, it must of necessity be with the Spirit.
Bunyan’s second discourse, originally published by the title The Saints’ Privilege and Profit, focuses on the idea of coming to the throne of grace – what does this mean and how are we to approach it? Bunyan demonstrates how it is that we are able to pray because Jesus Christ was himself the sacrifice, the altar, and the high priest who has provided the way for us to come. He also talks about the proper attitude and motives for prayer.
We have boldness, brethren, to enter the holiest by the blood of Jesus. What can be more plain, more encouraging, more comfortable to them that would obtain mercy, ‘and find grace to help in time of need’! It is a dishonor to God, a disadvantage to you, and an encouragement to Satan, when you hang back and seem afraid to “come boldly to the throne of grace.”
This book provides many blessed reminders of the wonderful privilege prayer is and how detrimental and sinful it is when we neglect it.
“The greatest are those who serve the least. Do you see, Gallant? By learning to be a servant, you have learned to be a knight. And all this was done in the context of the Holy Scriptures — the Bible, which is our guide to a virtuous life.”
The author, Mary Bustamante, sent me a copy of this book in exchange for sharing an honest review of it. I receive requests from authors to read and review their books pretty regularly, and I usually decline, but this one intrigued me for a couple of reasons. One is that I believe there is a need to recover biblical masculinity in our culture, and secondly, because I have two grandsons who I can share this book with when they get a bit older. The description of Raising Sir Gallant reminded me of the historical fiction novels of G. A. Henty, whose books I love.
Raising Sir Gallant is a charming sort of “coming of age” story of a young boy who is given the opportunity to train to become a knight. But the training Gallant receives is not what he initially expects or hopes for. He is so excited to wear a suit of armor, ride a big war horse, and learn to joust and fight with a sword. But week after week, his lessons with Sir Francis consist of “tedious things not fit for a knight,” as he thinks. “Why do knights need to learn how to plant vegetables? Or count and measure? I brush his horse and fetch his food. I am nothing more than an ordinary servant!” Gallant complains to himself. But Sir Francis knows that before a boy is ready to learn to handle a steed or wield a sword he must first train his mind and manners and develop the heart of a knight. Meanwhile, throughout the period of his training, Gallant harbors a secret that haunts him with a feelings of shame and guilt. He knows it is something he must confess and deal with, but what will his parents and Sir Francis think of him when they learn of what he did?
The story uses situations to teach character building such as the importance of honesty and integrity, hard work, respect for parents and authority, self-control, kindness, patience, generosity, bravery, and self sacrifice. The story teaches that every life has value, no matter where they are socially or economically. Throughout the story are sprinkled Bible verses and biblical principals, although it be from a medieval religious point-of-view. The lessons that come through in this story transcend time, and are still relevant and valuable for our young ones today. Each chapter ends with a couple of questions for thought and a list of vocabulary words for the young reader.
Raising Sir Gallant meets the standards I looked for when choosing literature for my children when I homeschooled them, which I talk about on my Blog intro page. It depicts a Love for Home and Family, Love for God and His Word, Love for the Individual, and a Love for Learning. It stresses that the internal is more important than the external. I highly recommend this book for children ages 8-12, although older children and even adults will enjoy it as well. The author’s book oriented towards girls, entitled Raising Lady Grace, is expected to come out later this year.
On her website, SirGallant.com, Ms. Bustamante has supplemental teaching materials available to accompany her book, such as a workbook, crafts, and other hands-on related items to enhance the child’s learning experience as they read through Raising Sir Gallant.
What books that teach character building for children do you recommend?
Wow, it’s hard to believe it is 2020 – a new decade! For some, the past year was wonderful – maybe it included a wedding, a new baby, a move, or the start of a new job or career path. Undoubtedly, there was some disappointment or sadness as well. We lost my step-father just the week before Christmas. But he was 94; he lived a good, long life, was a great husband to my mother for over 25 years, and was ready to be with his Savior. Perhaps your 2019 wasn’t what you had hoped it would be. Maybe you look back on the past year or decade with regret. But every day, every year is an opportunity to start fresh – what a blessing!
Two years ago I had no idea I would be where I am now with regard to my job situation. Three months ago I had no idea we would be anticipating another grandchild in our family. Today, I have no idea what will happen in the coming year. It’s January First, 2020; we will blink, and suddenly it will be the end of another year. And yet, not one of us is guaranteed another year, or even tomorrow, for that matter. (see Luke 12:16-21, James 4:13-14)
We can’t determine or control everything that will occur this year, or tomorrow for that matter. But we can certainly make plans – and it is good and wise to do so. We can make the most of each day that we have breath. We can make a conscious decision to live for the Lord and to make a positive difference in the lives of those we touch. We can live, work, even sing before our time runs out, as Jon Foreman so artfully puts it.
January, February, March – The days are marching forward; April, May, June and July – They fly like a hummingbird. August, September, October – The year is almost over. November, December arrive, Now the year is gone.
Time is illusion; Time is a curse. Time is all these things and worse, But our time is now, Oh Oh Oh Oh – Our time is now, Oh Oh Oh Oh! Let us sing before our time runs out.
Time is a mockingbird, The embers of what we were. But the years are still burning in my veins – And my time is now
“The core problem isn’t the fact that we’re lukewarm, halfhearted, or stagnant Christians. The crux of it all is…we have an inaccurate view of God. We see Him as a benevolent Being who is satisfied when people manage to fit Him into their lives in some small way.”
Many of us know what it is or has been like to be crazy in love with someone – to love someone so much that there’s nothing you wouldn’t do for them. Hopefully if you’re married you feel this way at least to some degree about your spouse. Maybe you can say you’re crazy about your kids, at least when they’re not driving you crazy! Have you ever characterized your love for God as being crazy? Consider God’s unconditional love toward sinners: a love for those who were His enemies, who hated Him and would have nothing to do with Him, a love that would cause Him to deliver His own Son to suffer the wrath and punishment that they deserved in order to redeem them for Himself (Romans 5:8). Now that’s crazy! In response to God’s “relentless” love for us undeserving sinners, doesn’t it seem natural that we in return would be utterly lovestruck for God and completely devoted to Him? Francis Chan wrote his book Crazy Love out of a concern that so many who profess to be Christians only seem to have a half-hearted love for Him and are content to live complacent, comfortable lives for God, as long as it’s convenient and doesn’t require too much effort or sacrifice on their part. Instead of feeling like they “have enough God” as Chan puts it, he desires for his readers to want more of God, and such is his stated purpose for this book. Continue reading →