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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Putting Faith into Practice: A Little Book on the Christian Life

A Little Book on the Christian Life by John Calvin

“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.”

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God Preserving and Governing: The Mystery of Providence

The Mystery of Providence by John Flavel

“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.

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A Time Such as This: Amazing Grace & William Wilberforce

Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery by Eric Metaxas

“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?”

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A Prayer for our Nation

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:

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Liberating the Nations: Can a Nation Ever Truly by Free?

Liberating the Nations: Biblical Principles of Government, Education, Economics, & Politics by Stephen K. McDowell & Mark A. Beliles

“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 is another book that I believe is relevant and helpful in today’s climate. The questions explored and discussed in this book are essentially:

  1. Is it possible for a nation to be really free?
  2. What is a Christian Nation?
  3. Can such a thing ever exist, and if so, how is one to be built?
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Come Boldly to the Throne of Grace: Prayer

Prayer by John Bunyan

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 that prayer is and how detrimental and sinful it is when we neglect it.

Related Sites and Articles

What other books about prayer have you found to be helpful and encouraging?
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