Thursday, December 13, 2018

Gift Ideas for Christian Book Lovers

Having trouble finding a present for a book lover in your family? Or are you a book lover yourself and trying to answer someone's question to you, "what would you like for Christmas?" For me, that is often a hard question to answer. Good, interesting books just seem to get harder and harder to find. Sometimes I'll come across an interesting quotation or excerpt from a book, and that will answer my question.  I've compiled a list of some of my favorite books, with summaries and a quotation from each one. Perhaps one of them will spark your interest and give you an idea of what you'd like to read next.


Free Grace and Dying Love: 
The Life of Susannah Surgeon
- By Charles Ray and Susannah Spurgeon

This is a rather short biography of Mrs. Spurgeon, but still very interesting and inspiring. Susannah Spurgeon is another example of living for God in whatever circumstances and with whatever limitations He has given you, making the most of the time He has allotted for you. Also, it includes twenty-four little musings that she wrote about Scriptural truths. 

This book may be purchased at and at

More Love to Thee:
The Life and Letters of Elizabeth Prentiss
- By George Prentiss

This book is about a woman who lived an ordinary life of faith. Not very exciting sounding, is it? Ordinary...what is good about the ordinary? What purpose can be found in it? The most important purpose. God's. Mrs. Prentiss wrote books; that was exceptional. But for the most part, her life was that of a Christian housewife'. Ironically, a life of faith in ordinary circumstances is just as, if not more, extraordinary as a person who exercised faith in extraordinary circumstances. Her husband, George, put this biography together very well. It is very interesting, with excerpts from her diary and letters forming a major part. Even her thoughts on everyday occurrences are insightful and encouraging, found this biography comforting, interesting and thought provoking. We look at exhibitions of faith in all kinds of circumstances, all of them are witnesses to it being worth it. Even the ones who exhibited biblical faith in common circumstances. Knowing the sovereignty of God, we trust that He places us in exactly the right place to exercise faith.  Read My Full Review

This book may be purchased at and at
(The one I am recommending is the one by her husband George - there seems to be another biography about Elizabeth under the same name)

Hudson Taylor 
Vol 1: In Early Years: The Growth of a Soul 
Vol 2:The Growth of a Work of God
-By Dr. and Mrs. Howard Taylor

I was very intrigued and fascinated with how God used Taylor and how he grew him and sanctified him. Hudson persistently tried to keep the perspective that God is completely sovereign, and strove to acknowledge it in everything he did. Much of the commentary of the authors (Taylor's son and daughter in-law) is also very interesting - they try to keep the perspective of God's working in Taylor's life and all of his circumstances as well.

This set may be purchased at Davidson Publishing - It seems that they are having a sale right now, you can by the set for $29.95 when you use the coupon code they provide on the page.

Life and Letters of General Thomas J. Jackson: Stonewall Jackson 
- By his wife, Mary Anna Jackson

Very interesting account of this man's life. I loved his example of trust in the sovereignty of God - so much so that he was quite fearless on the battlefield, knowing that his life was in God's hands. 

This book may be purchased at Reformation Heritage Books 

An Autobiography and Letters of the Author of The Listener, Christ Our Law, Etc..
- By Caroline Fry Wilson
Caroline Fry Wilson, I had never heard of her before, but came across some of her writings while looking for something online.  I became intrigued while skimming through some of her writings and decided to learn more about her.  She was a Christian author writing in the 1800s, who wasn't afraid to delve into theological subjects. The biographical part of this book isn't very large, but is very interesting to see her looking back in retrospect at how God brought her to Himself.  The rest of the book is made up of her letters to various people and is also very, very interesting and edifying. 

This book may be purchased at

Martin Luther
- By Simonetta Carr

Martin Luther by Simonetta Carr is a nice overview of the life of Luther for children. She writes in a way that I think children will easily understand and also manages to simplify explanations of erroneous beliefs of the day as well as important Biblical concepts. I really appreciated that she does not make Luther come across as a hero to be worshiped but rather as a man, saved by God's grace and not his own merit, who was used by God to bring people to a correct knowledge of the Gospel and to point them to the Word of God as the only authority.  Be sure to check out the other biographies in the Christian Biographies for Young Readers Series!  Read My Full Review

This book may be purchased at and at


Polycarp: a destroyer of our gods 
By Rick Lambert

This book will work even for those who don't normally read novels, as it's not just fiction, it is also instructive and edifying, it's like a book on spiritual growth only in the format of a novel. Most novels are entertaining, carrying you along by the emotions and imagination and, although they are certainly enjoyable to read, it is a bit discouraging that, when one is done with them, one is left with the feeling of having catered to oneself rather than having grown in any way. This book is an edifying novel, wherein you learn along with the main character rather than merely being an observer of him and the different events in his life. You are carried along by a desire to learn, not merely a desire to be entertained. While most novels inspire you to read more novels, this one inspires you to read God’s word. Instead of making you want to live in a different time, a different place, have a romance, an adventure, become an admired hero, this book inspires you to get out into the fray of your own battles and discover the lessons promoting spiritual growth that God has for you in your own life. I highly recommend it as, not just a good read, but an inspiring one. It gives an illustration of the life of a Christian living out the reality of victory over sin and death that Christ has provided for him. Read My Full Review

This book may be purchased at 

The Holy War 
- By John Bunyan

This is a fascinating allegory. Personally, I think that it is better than A Pilgrim's Progress. One of my uncles introduced me to it when I was a young teenager. I've loved it ever since. The town of Mansoul is taken over (with the peoples' consent) by an evil tyrant named Diabolus and his cohorts. The secondary rulers of the town, native townsmen like Lord WIllbeWill and Mr. Mind are compliant with all of his changes. The rightful King's Son, Prince Emmanuel comes and fights to take the town back, ultimately succeeding, banishing Diabolous and and changing nature of the townspeople within. The rest of the book deals with the townspeople's fickleness and their wars against the flesh (they are supposed to put to death the remaining diabolinians who live in the city walls)and they face foes like the army of "Election Doubters", the army of "Vocation Doubters"and the "Resurrection Doubters". They also have to contend with individual diabolinians within the town (whom at times they fail to kill and are deceived by) like Mr. Carnal Security. But the Prince is faithful, even when they are not, though they do not understand all of His ways.

I recommend the version that is abridged and updated to modern English.

This book may be purchased at and at 

Stepping Heavenward 
- By Elizabeth Prentiss

This story is written in the format of a diary, written by a woman named Katherine, who records her life struggles, from young womanhood through much of her married life. She gives the events of various days (sometimes skipping days, months or even years, but giving updates along the way), and writes down many of her inmost thoughts, questions and struggles with sin. She has questions about her salvation and whether or not she is being sanctified. God brings along many different people to teach her and to help her recognize that He really is working in her and making her more Christ like. God also brings along many different trials to grow her spiritually. Kate grows in the Faith, becomes more patient toward others, learns to not trust her own judgement, learns to trust God more and more, learns that whatever trials He ordains for her to face are lovingly ordained to make her more Christ like. The book is very well written and really keeps the attention, or at least it kept mine! Read My Full Review

This book may be purchased at 


The Language of Salvation: 
Discovering the Riches of What it Means to Be Saved
 - By Victor Kuligin

A friend gave this book to me, otherwise I don't think I'd have ever come across it.  I really like it.  Kuligin does an excellent job of pulling together a biblical picture of salvation, showing that many people miss what Salvation actually is. Salvation, as described in God's Word, has so many intricate details, one can approach it from several different aspects, which Kuligin dives into in this book. I really need to give this one a full review some time. 

This book may be purchased at

The Spontaneous Expansion
of the Church
 - By Roland Allen

The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church by Roland Allen is a rather short but very thought provoking book.  In it,he somewhat implicitly asks the question, Who builds the Church? Leading to that thought, he critiques our method of Evangelization, are we doing it right? Do we need to organize the expansion of the church?  Do we need to establish mission stations, do we need missionaries who depend upon appeals for money for their support.  Will the Gospel spread if we don't purposefully come up with a plan to spread it?  Allen warns us that we are trying to make people into New Creations ourselves, essentially taking the job of the Holy Spirit into our own hands.  We don't need to make people moral before they can come to Christ, that will come afterward, we don't need to change people's surrounding  circumstances before they can be a vibrant Christian.  We don't need money to spread the Gospel. We don't need professional missionaries and Christian organizations to spread the Gospel. We don't need money to create a church.  Christ will build His church. READ MY FULL REVIEW 

This book may be purchased at

The Messianic Hope
- By Michael Rydelnik
How defensible are Old Testament prophecies of Christ? If someone came up to you and declares that, in the Hebrew manuscripts of the OT, Psalm 22:16 does not read, "they pierced my hands and my feet," rather, when it is accurately translated it reads, "like a lion are my hands and feet." What would your answer be? And what if they say that Isaiah 53 was not speaking of a Messiah, but rather of Israel as a suffering servant? Nowadays, too many Christians believe that many, if not all, of the prophecies of the Messiah are only indirect prophecies, not direct prophecies. And many Christians might say that these prophecies are allegorically fulfilled, or that it is perfectly alright for the Holy Spirit , in His inspiration of the Apostles, to change His own prophecies. Others say that many prophecies have a 'double fulfillment', that these prophecies were fulfilled historically, in the prophets' life-time, and that they were fulfilled spiritually by Christ.

Michael Rydelnik offers the best defense I have read on the topic, arguing for the literal/direct fulfillment of Messianic/end time prophecies. I was fascinated by his information on Rashi and his followers, how they influenced, and to some degree instigated, the change from the literal interpretation of the Messianic prophecies, to interpreting these prophecies as having historical fulfillments in the time they were prophesied. In doing this, they countered the Christians' proof texts that Jesus is the Christ. These Jews' claimed to be using a literal hermeneutic, and that the literal interpretation of these prophecies was to view them as historically fulfilled. Read My Full Review

This book may be purchased at and at

Excellence:  The Character of God and the Pursuit of Scholarly Virtues
By Andreas J. Kostenberger

This book focuses on applying the virtues described in 2 Peter 1:3-11 to Christian scholarship, examining how they ought to be implemented in that vocation.  I found it inspiring and think that it will interest and encourage Christians in a variety of vocations (I found it very interesting and applicable to myself), not just scholars.  This is one of those books I need to write a review of sometime.  Here's a quote from the book,"Spirituality is therefore not an individualistic experience of solitude, defined by the amount of time spent in protracted periods of communion alone with God, but an active obedience to God's commands that practically demonstrates love to others and is integrally involved in Jesus' mission to the world."  

This book may be purchased at and at

Jesus' Terrible Financial Advice: Flipping the Tables on Peace, Prosperity, and the Pursuit of Happiness 
-by John Thornton
This book, Jesus' Terrible Financial Advice, was in a list of books available for review in the book reviewing program of which I'm a member.   The description of this book caught my attention.  It was described as not being the book that the author, John Thornton, intended to write.  He wanted to write about how his family had gotten to a debt free state and wanted to back it up with biblical principles.  But then He went to the Bible to study the topic and found that Jesus' teachings on money shocked him, they really seemed like irresponsible teachings, teachings that didn't seem like the type of instructions that God would give wise stewards to follow.  He put off writing the book for a long time.   I was intrigued by this information and so I requested the book.  Thornton directs us to think about why Christ came to the earth in the first place, "to glorify His Father".  And all of Jesus' teachings, including his teachings on money, stem from this purpose. God does not need money to get things done, and we Christians do not need money either because God supplies all our needs, and he does not need money to do that.  Read My Full Review

This book may be purchased at and at

The Forgotten Father
- by Thomas Allan Smail
Recently there seems to have been a trend towards a Christocentric hermeneutic, and an overall focus on Christ altogether in Christian circles. It has been frustrating to see, as the focus of the Bible is more Theocentric. Christ Himself points to the Father! When I saw the title of this book, it intrigued me...that's exactly what I and my dad(a pastor) have been talking about: people forgetting about God the Father. It might surprise you, as it surprised me, to learn that Mr. Smail is a charismatic. His leanings show up more towards the end of the book, so be watching out for that. But even this this is not so 'bad', as he is critical of the movement, desiring it to focused on the Father, not on the Spirit, to be biblical rather than emotionally/needs based(focused on miracles, speaking in tongues). Read My Full Review

This book may be purchased at and at

Mission Drift: The Unspoken Crisis Facing Leaders, Charities, and Churches
- by Peter Greer and‎ Chris Horst with ‎Anna Haggard 

Why do so many Christian organizations become secular within a generation or two? How does one build a focused ministry that doesn't change its core purpose? Peter Greer and Christ Horst provide some excellent answers in Mission Drift: The Unspoken Crisis Facing Leaders, Charities, and Churches. They have examined and analyzed various ministries, some that have stayed focused on their Gospel focused mission, and some that drifted away from that focus have become secular in focus, not spiritual. They warn that Mission Drift is inevitable unless it is actively fought against.  Read My Full Review

This book may be purchased at and at 

Daily Readings from The Christian in Complete Armour 
- William Gurnall

I have read a good chunk of the unabridged Christian in Complete Armour by William Gurnall, it is very good but HUGE, you kind of need to plough through it. This book, Daily Readings from The Christian in Complete Armour was an excellent idea!  Breaking it up into small chunks for daily reading makes it a much easier read, and gives you a good taste of Gurnall's great skill of teaching and illustrating various spiritual warfare concepts. The best summary that I can come up with is that this book is like having a spiritual commanding officer giving you a rousing speech each day to be ready to fight the battles to come.  Read My Full Review

This book may be purchased at and at

Eve in Exile: 
and the restoration of femininity 
- Rebekah Merkle

What is God's purpose for Christian women? Do women have a unique roll to fulfill or is it exactly the same as men's'?  In our Christian circles, which seems to be infected by our feminist focused society, this book is quite a refreshing breath of reaffirmed biblical truth (rather than reaffirmed worldly cultural preference). In her book Eve in Exile: And the Restoration of Femininity,  Rebekah Merkle writes an excellent exhortation to Christian women of our day.   Merkle really gets one thinking about our God-given job as women and how we can best fulfill that service to the best of our ability.  When we see that we can best please our Maker by doing what He made us to do then we have something to work toward. We are here to please our Savior, not ourselves, and He Himself tells us, in His Word, how we can be pleasing to Him and fulfill our God-glorifying purpose.  Overall I really liked this book.  And Merkle is an excellent writer, she keeps the attention (especially because of her sense of humor and sarcasm), and continually pulls one's perspective back to God's Word and His purpose rather than our own.  It was a very enjoyable and thought provoking read.  Read My Full Review

This book may be purchased at


Greek for Everyone: Introductory Greek for Bible Study and Application
- by A. Chadwick Thornhill
Greek for Everyone by A. Chadwick Thornhill presents a unique book on New Testament Greek.  His  stated goal is to have those reading this book learn "Greek in order to become better students of the Scripture rather than students of Greek." The aim of the book is not to "gain reading proficiency but rather are working to establish the ability to use various tools to study the text in Greek".  

And I think that Thornhill accomplishes his goals with this book, he takes you through a basic (though it still seems quite thorough) overview of the various parts of Greek so that you may then use lexicons, parsing guides, and other Greek tools in your Bible study without having to become an expert Greek scholar. Read My Full Review

This book may be purchased at and at


The Apostles' School of Prophetic Interpretation: With Its History Down to the Present Time
- by Charles Maitland

The Apostles' School of Prophetic Interpretation: With Its History Down to the Present Time - by Charles Maitland is a very fascinating book on prophecy.  Maitland bases his premise on the fact that the Apostles taught Christians verbally and not merely through letters, and that those letters do not contain everything they taught the early Christians.   He cites 2 Thes. 2:15, "So then, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye were taught, whether by word, or by epistle of ours. "(2Th 2:15 ASV)  And also uses another verse closely connected with the above to prove his point, speaking of 2 Thess. Ii 5-6.  "…on this point St. Paul and the Thessalonians understood each other:  'Ye know what withholdeth.' And how had they learnt it?  'When I was yet with you I told you these things.'  They knew something not directly expressed in Scripture:  and this knowledge they were told to hand down together with the epistle." Paul told the Thessalonians to hold fast to, and by implication to pass down, what they had been taught, by letter and by the Apostles' verbal teaching.  So Maitland thinks that one of the best ways to study prophecy is to see what many of the Christians of the early church believed in regard to prophecy as they may have learned from the Apostles, or those taught by the Apostles, about certain prophetic interpretations.  This is what the author does in this book, going down through church history to see what the earliest Christians believed and observing and critiquing the deviations from those interpretations that ended up occurring along the way. Read My Full Review

This book may be purchased at Wipf and Stock Or you can read it for free online on Google Books or on

Amillennialism and the Age to Come

- By Matt Waymeyer

Amillennialism and the Age to Come: A Premillennial Critique of the Two-Age Model by Matt Waymeyer is an excellent critique of Amillennialism and, in the process, an excellent defense of Premillennialism. I learned a lot about Amillennialism and grew even more confident (if that's even possible) in the Premillennial view of Scripture. 

This book may be purchased at and at

Israel and the Church: The Origin and Effects of Replacement Theology

- By Ronald E. Diprose

A Fascinating exploration of how replacement theology...or as some nowadays seem to want to call it, "fulfillment theology" came to be and how it affected various aspects of Christian doctrine.  I found the section on "Replacement Theology and Ecclesiology" particularly interesting as it details how the view that Israel is now the church as a whole affected ecclesiastical practices, introducing 'Priests" and the"Eucharist" into the church as they began bringing in Christianized levitical roles.

This book may be purchased at and at

Friday, December 7, 2018

Never in Finer Company - Edward G. Lengel

This book, Never in Finer company by Edward G. Lengel, tells the story of the famous 'lost battalion' of World War I.  Focusing on four men who, one way or another, were connected with the lost battalion, either by being a part of it, or by being involved in relief efforts or reporting on it. Charles Whittlesey, commander of the battalion, , George McMurtry, executive officer, Alvin York a sergeant who was Involved in the attempt to rescue the lost battalion and Damon Runyon a newspaper man reporting from as near the front as he could.

Edward Lengel takes you through the days before the war and introduces you to each man  They each have their own unique background, personal struggles and their own perspective on life. They all end up around the same geographic area during the war. 

Ironically, the lost battalion was lost twice.  They were commanded to keep pushing forward even if the groups on their flanks fell away.  They did so both times they were sent out.  The first time they were only lost for a short while, the second, they were surrounded by the enemy for days.  The days that Whittlesey and his men went through were particularly horrific.  Lacking food and water and even being fired on by their own side, their circumstances became more and more desperate.  But Whittlesey was determined to stand by their orders and hold out, not surrendering to the Germans.

Finally, a plan was put in motion to save the lost battalion, and that's where York came in, he was a part of the initial relief effort to press through the Argonne, and ended up performing his famed exploits not long after the lost battalion was rescued.  

Lengel writes quite well, more in a narrative style without a lot of quoted dialogue.  He seems to have somewhat of a liberal mindset, at least, that's how some of his perspectives of the happenings of this time came across to myself. But even though I have a more politically conservative perspective, I was able to see past his commentary and still learn about and find interest in this particular event in history. But there were several times when the author would make statements about what people were thinking, what their perspective was of certain things, and I kept wondering if some of this was just added for dramatic effect? For instance, after York has killed many people in the Argonne, at one point it is stated that, "York didn't realize what brought him to this point in his life, or why he behaved as he did despite his renunciation of violence years before." That statement confused me, because the author, at another point in the book quotes York saying that his conscience was clear, and York seems to take some pride in his exploits of killing and of how good of a shot he was.  Didn't sound like a guy struggling with emotional turmoil.  But perhaps Lengel pulled that information from a diary or letter that York wrote? (Or perhaps parts like this were changed in the published book)*

I have to admit, this book doesn't make one feel patriotic or happy when you finish it. This is a very sobering account. Only one of the four main characters of this account appeared to have a hope beyond the grave and so could see past some of the horrors of this present reality.  A lot of the men in the lost battalion were terrified of dying, or even struggled to find a purpose for living.   It really brings out the realization that these guys really were human beings, not just characters in a heroic feat.  Speaking of York trudging over a battlefield, the author notes that "Many of these had  died close enough for him to see the expressions on their faces as they went, all unprepared to meet their maker." That's just plain scary.

 Whittlesey and Damon Runyan especially seemed to find no real purpose in life.  Whittlesey was haunted by the events in the Argonne, and ultimately committed suicide.  Runyan died unhappy, despite living quite a hedonistic life.  York is really the only bright spot in the book, as he actually had purpose, though he didn't necessarily understand everything that happened.  I'm glad that it ended with him and his more God focused perspective.  All in all, if you want to get more of a sense of the individual in the military this book does a pretty good job of bringing the reality of that individuality alive to ones thinking.

*Many thanks to the folks at De Capo Press for sending me a free review advance copy of this book (My review did not have to be favorable).  

My rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

This book may be purchased at

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Made for the Journey - by Elisabeth Elliot

Made for the Journey by Elizabeth Elliot is an account of her first year as a missionary to Ecuador.  I've read it before as it was previously published as These Strange Ashes. 

Elliot started her missionary full of excitement and triumphal expectation.  She was heading out the jungle to attempt to learn the Colorado Indian language in order to reduce it to writing and translate the Bible into that language. There is a note of underlying criticism throughout of the 'traditional' missionary way of doing things. Having started her work, she fights to have success in even figuring out the language.  She combats laziness in herself, but does start making some progress with the language.  Then everything falls apart.  People die, in tragic ways, including her main language informant.  She has difficulty continuing the study, but does have a good amount of language information to leave with those who would stay while she moved on to different work.  And then, after she leaves, the suitcase she entrusted to the missionary left behind with all (yes, ALL) of the language information is stolen and never recovered.  All of her work seemingly for nothing.

Elliot grappled with the thought, does God actually want these people saved? She came face to face with the sovereignty of God.  As she comments, "Faith's most severe tests come not when we see nothing but when we see a stunning array of evidence that seems to prove our faith vain." Now, I want to note here that though Elliot seems to believe in the overall sovereignty of God, she seems to have some trouble with the particular sovereignty of God, God's work inside of us. At the beginning of the book, in contemplating mankind she says, "Why did He give them in the first place freedom of will, power to choose, when surely He knew that their choices would be evil?...The power to exercise the will has been delegated to us and God will not usurp it."  But God does usurp our wills.  Changing someone into a completely new person is a very drastic act, a very personally invasive act. When we become Christians God changes our will, He makes us New Creations (2 Corinthians 5:17), we are taken out of slavery to sin and we become the slaves of God(Romans 6:22).  I think that Elliot unconsciously acknowledges this in her writings as she seems to contradict herself in places.

There are a few other things I had trouble with, for instance, she talks about the hard part of a missionary trying to figure out how to convert people to Christianity without changing their culture.  I don't completely understand this fear of changing the culture of those we witness to.  Yes, we don’t want to convert people to our ethnic culture, but the culture of those who convert to Christianity will inevitably change. For instance, If people have a culture where they do not wear clothes, they will find in the Bible that God is the One who instituted the wearing of clothing. They will realize that wearing clothing is an acknowledgement of humanity's fallenness. That after the Fall, public nakedness is presented in the Bible as a shameful thing.  Even after we become Christians, though our inner man is renewed, our outward flesh is not yet glorified (2 Cor 4:16, Rom 8:10-11,23).  Though, interestingly, it looks as though clothing will be worn even in the New Heaven and new earth (Rev 6:11, 7:9).  Any practice of any particular culture that is not in accordance with God's will, will disappear in the lives of people who grow in Christlikeness.  And that's not a bad thing.

That said, I still really liked this book.  I just needed to get those things out of my system.  Elliot writes very, very well and really pulls you into the account. You feel as though you are in the jungle with her, experiencing her excitement, exhaustion and confusion. You can "see" and "feel", as it were, the jungle around you and the strange sites and the different people she comes in contact with, her descriptions are so vivid. She portrays clearly her own bewilderment with the acts of God in her work as a missionary, but then pulls the perspective back to submission to God's sovereignty and rightness, whether or not one sees the "why" or the "rightness" of things, we believe in the righteousness of the God who allowed them and so submit. I'll end with a quote from the book, "Faith, prayer, and obedience are our requirements.  We are not offered in exchange immunity and exemption from the world's woes.  What we are offered has to do with another world altogether."

Many thanks to the folks at Revell Reads (A division of Baker Publishing Group) for sending me a free review copy of this book! (My review did not have to be favorable)

My Rating:  5 out of 5 Stars

This book may be purchased at and