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!
“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good repute, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – think on these things” (Phil. 4:8).
I’m not what I would call an avid poetry-lover, but with my education in literature, I do appreciate and enjoy it, and I have some favorite poets. This book was recommended by a friend, and I liked the idea of reading about the things of God written in verse form. This volume provides exactly what the sub-title states: a short poetry reading accompanied by some devotional commentary for each day of the year. The writers often include some background about the poet and some interpretive help (particularly for those older works which use more archaic language). They then draw a connection between the ideas and emotions expressed in the poem to the related ideas or doctrinal teachings found in Scripture, and end with a word of application to the reader and a relevant scripture passage.
“A man who has really within him the inspiration of the Holy Ghost calling him to preach, cannot help it – he must preach. As fire within his bones, so will that influence be, until it blazes forth…he must preach if he has the call of Heaven.” (Spurgeon’s Autobiography)
It is clear that some men and women are set apart by God to accomplish great things for His kingdom, and Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) was such a man. What an amazing servant of God Spurgeon was! It’s mind-boggling to think how many people are in Heaven today as a result of being touched directly by his ministry during his lifetime, not to mention since he left this world. God providentially placed young Charles in a family that exposed him to the things of God and provided him opportunities for learning at an early age. God also gave him the mind and temperament to become a great leader and teacher of others. As a little boy, he was captured by Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress and Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. He was reading at a very young age, and his biographer, Arnold Dallimore, writes that,
by the time he was nine or ten he was reading and understanding something of such mighty men as John Owens, Richard Sibbes, John Flavel, and Matthew Henry. He was already grasping the meaning of much of their theological argument and was reasoning out the pros and cons within his own mind.
“There are two main parts to the instruction from Scripture on the Christian life that follow. The first is that a love of righteousness, to which we are not naturally prone, must be implanted and poured into our hearts. The second is that we need some model that will keep us from losing our way in our pursuit of righteousness.”
This short book is an extract of a single chapter of the second edition of John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion, originally entitled “A Distinguished Little Book on the Life of a Christian Man.” It was first published in 1550 as a stand-alone work in booklet form, and was later published as different versions with the titles Golden Booklet of the True Christian Life and A Guide to Christian Living. With this 2017 new edition, translated from the official Latin edition of The Institutes, the editors state as their goal “to produce a translation that we believe Calvin himself would have been pleased with…aimed at faithfulness not just to Calvin’s meaning but, so much as possible, to his own words,” and to “make Calvin’s meaning as clear as possible to English readers.”
“The greatness of God is a glorious and unsearchable mystery. The condescension of the most high God to men is also a profound mystery. But when both these meet together, as they do in Psalm 57:2, they make up a matchless mystery. Here we find the most high God performing all things for a poor distressed creature.“
“O how ravishing and delectable a sight will it be to behold at one view the whole design of Providence, and the proper place and use of every single act, which we could not understand in this world!”
I’ve had The Mystery of Providence (1678) on my list of books to be read for quite a while, and with all the crazy stuff that has taken place in 2020, the time seemed right to read it. I don’t know about you, but I’ve thought a lot about the sovereignty and providence of God over the past year. Providence is defined in the Westminster Shorter Catechism as God’s “most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing all His creatures, and all their actions.” This statement presupposes that God is the Creator of all things, and as such, has the prerogative to do whatever He wishes with it. A pastor friend of mine recently shared this definition of the word “providence” from the Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms:
The vigilant care which God exercises in relation to all the works of his hand in their preservation and government. God has not merely created all things, but he continues to uphold them, and all his attributes of omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence, justice, goodness, faithfulness, etc. are continually illustrated in his providential control.
“God almighty has set before me two great objects: the suppression of the slave trade and the reformation of manners.”
“Because of his own good nature, Wilberforce could hardly believe that others wouldn’t leap to do what was right when they finally knew the facts. He was mistaken.”
This past year I added a new person to my list of admired heroes of history: William Wilberforce. I was familiar with who he was, particularly that he was a champion of the movement to abolish slavery in England, and I saw the 2007 film, Amazing Grace, several years ago. Reading Eric Metaxas’ excellent biography of Wilberforce secured him in my opinion as one of the great influential men of modern times. Reading of his early life reminds me of Queen Esther, who was told by her uncle Mordecai, “Who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
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: