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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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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The One Year Book of Poetry: A Year of Christian Verse

The One Year Book of Poetry: 365 Devotional Readings Based on Classic Christian Verse, Compiled and Written by Philip Comfort and Daniel Partner

“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.

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Prince of Preachers: C. H. Spurgeon

Spurgeon: A Biography by Arnold A. Dallimore

“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.

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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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