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 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 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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What It Means to be a Knight: Raising Sir Gallant

Raising Sir Gallant by Mary Bustamante

“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?

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Our Time is Now – Ode to a New Year

Happy New Year, Everyone!

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

Watch the official video – Before Our Time, by Jon Foreman

Or as Foreman’s band, Switchfoot, sings in their song Live It Well:

Awaken, oh my soul – Every breath that you take is a miracle! Life is short, I wanna live it well – One life, one story to tell.

What are you looking most forward to in 2020?

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