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!

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The Leaf of Lorien in The Lord of the Rings

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J. R. R. Tolkien

“Not idly do the leaves of Lórien fall.

“One who cannot cast away a treasure at need is in fetters.”

This past weekend I did something I never thought I would do: I got a tattoo (my first and most-likely last!). My daughter has quite a few, and we had talked for a couple of years about getting one together as a mother-daughter thing, but we couldn’t decide on a picture or graphic to use that we both liked. To be honest, we don’t have a lot in common when it comes to interests, music, hobbies, etc., but The Lord of the Rings is something that she and I, in fact our whole family, are big fans of: both the books and the movies. And that ended up being the inspiration for our twin tattoos.

The Lord of the Rings story, while a fantasy set in an alternate world and reality, contains so many themes and Biblical principles about life and what is true. We witness how power can corrupt one’s values and perspective. We see the threat of evil and those who are willing to risk everything to defeat it. We observe the loyalty and dependability of friends who have sworn to stick by each other no matter what, and fight side by side towards a common goal. We watch as characters from different cultures and backgrounds set aside their differences and learn to value one another as individuals and appreciate their uniqueness and worth. We read of normal, inconsequential people achieving greatness simply by being courageous, faithful, and determined to do what is right.

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The Comfort of Revelation: We are More Than Conquerors!

More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation by William Hendricksen (1939)

Throughout the prophecies of this wonderful book Christ is pictured as the Victor, the Conqueror… He conquers death, Hades, the dragon, the beast, the false prophet, and the men who worship the beast. He is victorious; as a result, so are we, even when we seem to be hopelessly defeated.

Have you ever been reading the last book of the Bible and found yourself scratching your head, wondering, What is this actually talking about? Or maybe you’ve just sort of avoided reading it, thinking it’s too hard to understand, or not important or of practical use to your life? I have felt like this at times, and after acquiring a copy of William Hendricksen’s book had always intended to read it sometime. Then when my pastor announced he was starting a sermon series preaching through the book of Revelation, I thought it would be a good time to start it.

The last book of the Bible has been approached and interpreted in many ways, and is often considered to be one of the most difficult and cryptic books in all of Scripture. Yet, the book of Revelation comes with the promise of a blessing to all who read it:

Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written in it; for the time is near (Rev. 1:3).

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The Grace & Truth Paradox

The Grace and Truth Paradox: Responding with Christlike Balance by Randy Alcorn

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

What an insightful, helpful little book! Randy Alcorn points out that most Christians struggle with balancing two traits of Christ-likeness: grace and truth (John 1:14). Either we have no problem being bold in standing for and sharing God’s truth with others, yet often lack grace, love, and compassion when doing so. Or we are readily loving, accepting, and compassionate toward others, but neglect speaking the truth regarding doctrinal matters, sin, or repentance. If you’re honest with yourself, you will probably admit that you have a tendency to fall into one of these two camps. I know which one I fall into!

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A Hymn for our Nation: O God, Give Peace Again

At my church we sing hymns, specifically those found in the Trinity Hymnal (Baptist Edition). The original edition was published by a Presbyterian church in 1961. The Baptist edition was published in 1995 as a collaborative effort of several Reformed Baptist churches to make minor revisions in order to accommodate Baptist congregations. Having been a member at my church for about 25 years (not to mention my husband being the pianist and the one primarily responsible for making the weekly song selection), I am very familiar with its contents. I think it is really sad that in so many churches, hymns have fallen by the wayside, being replaced with praise songs and trite, repetitive ditties.

If you want hymns that contain solid doctrine, this is the hymnal for you. The Baptist edition contains 774 hymns, each one with a scripture printed in the heading. It also includes the full text of the London Baptist Confession of Faith (which replaced the Westminster Confession of Faith that was in the original edition). There are many classics and tunes that will be very familiar to those who have been in evangelical churches for any amount of time, but some not so much, and some, to be honest, are not easy or “catchy” tunes. But the purpose of singing hymns is primarily to worship and praise our God, to extol His person, word, and works, and to instruct us in his truths. Of course for the most part, hymns began as poems, then had a tune added to them. Some of the most well-known hymn writers are found here: John Newton, Isaac Watts, Charles & John Wesley, Martin Luther, William Cowper, Fanny Crosby, Frances Havergal, and Augustus Toplady.

In light of it being the weekend of July 4th, my husband chose two hymns for today’s service that are national hymns – prayers that a Christian may pray for the country in which he or she lives. The Scriptures instruct us to pray for our leaders and our nation; we should sing hymns with this in mind as well. Here is one of them:

O God of love, O King of peace,
Make wars throughout the world to cease;
The wrath of sinful man restrain;
Give peace, O God, give peace again.
 
Remember, Lord, thy works of old,
The wonders that our fathers told;
Remember not our sin’s dark stain;
Give peace, O God, give peace again.
 
Whom shall we trust but thee, O Lord?
Where rest but on thy faithful Word?
None ever called on thee in vain;
Give peace, O God, give peace again.
 
Where saints and angels dwell above
All hearts are knit in holy love;
O bind us in that heav’nly chain;
Give peace, O God, give peace again.
 
               – Sir Henry W. Baker, 1861

 

I shared the other hymn we sang as a Prayer for our Nation in another post.

If you can get hold of a copy of this hymnal, I encourage you to take the time to read the lyrics of these wonderful hymns. Like most hymnals, it’s organized by topic, and an index of hymns by subject and occasion is at the end. Even if you are not musical or cannot figure out the tunes, you will find the words to be edifying to your soul and instructive to your heart and mind as you reflect on the God that these hymns speak of.

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Holiness is Not Optional for the Christian

The Pursuit of Holiness and The Practice of Godliness by Jerry Bridges

“Pursue holiness…without which no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14).

The pursuit of holiness must be anchored in the grace of God, otherwise it is doomed to failure.”

“There is no higher compliment that can be paid to a Christian than to call him a godly person. He might be a conscientious parent, a zealous church worker, a dynamic spokesman for Christ, or a talented Christian leader; but none of these things matters if, at the same time, he is not a godly person.

Author, teacher, and speaker Jerry Bridges (1929 – 2016) served in ministry with the evangelistic organization The Navigators for over 50 years before he passed away in 2016. He authored about 20 books, the first and one of his best-known being The Pursuit of Holiness, published in 1978. I read this book many years ago, but my church has just started going through it in our men’s and ladies’ monthly breakfasts, so I am looking forward to reading it again. In The Pursuit of Holiness, Bridges talks about the importance of striving after holiness in obedience to God (“Be holy, for I am holy, says the Lord.”), that we are to be making the effort to not be in conformity to this world, and to be putting off the old self and putting on the new (Eph. 4:22-24). This is not something that is just done once when we are first saved; it is ongoing throughout our lives. Bridges suggest three main reasons that Christians struggle with what it means to be holy and why it is so important:

  1. Our attitude toward sin is more self-centered than God-centered.
  2. We have a misunderstanding of what it means to “live by faith.”
  3. There is some sin that we don’t identify as sin and/or don’t take seriously. (For more on this, I highly recommend Bridges book Respectable Sins)

I recently reread The Practice of Godliness, the companion book that followed The Pursuit of Holiness about 5 years later, and found it very profitable, helpful, and convicting. Bridges explains at the beginning of the book that the process of sanctifying, which begins at regeneration, is initiated and carried out by God the Holy Spirit. He gives this helpful definition of sanctification:

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A Godly Person is a Thankful Person: The Godly Man’s Picture

The Godly Man’s Picture Drawn with a Scripture Pencil by Thomas Watson

“Praise and thanksgiving is the work of heaven and he begins that work here which he will always be doing in heaven…None but the godly can praise God aright.”

 

WATSON-Thomas

A painting of Watson by Gustavus Ellinthorpe Sintzenich

The Puritan preacher/writer Thomas Watson (1620-1686) is considered one of our church’s honorary elders (in absentia), since we enjoy reading and referencing his books and sermons so much. A few years ago, we went through his book The Godly Man’s Picture at our monthly ladies’ breakfasts at my church, because of course the term “godly man” in the book’s title doesn’t refer just to the male species but is relevant to women as well. The book was very profitable and stimulated good group discussion about what it means to be a godly person. Although written some 350 years ago, the topic and illustrations are still quite valid and applicable to the Christian life today. Watson is a master illustrator, and as the title of the book states, he uses the Word of God to draw in some detail a portrait of what a godly person looks like, as well as what he or she is not like. Continue reading

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