December 30, 2019

10 Great Reads of 2019

My goal this year was to read 45 books and I just made it at the end of December, reading 48.

I have to admit my reading was a little disappointing this past year, but I was able to find 10 books which I really enjoyed and excited to share here.

I also read a few classics, and though none really stood out to me. I'm glad I read them.

They were:

Silas Marner by George Elliot - About a man who is misjudged and how a young baby girl left near his home changes his life. I felt this story was to short and skipped over a great part of his life where he raised the child. But it did include some thought provoking quotes.

Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset- I really didn't like this book I'm sad to say. It was filled with Catholic imagery and superstitions from the Middle Ages, which didn't sit right with me. I'm so glad the Bible teaches we are saved by grace alone and not works, least we boast about them! What a blessing to be able to rest in the work Christ did for our salvation.

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad - This was about the slave trade and was good, but a bit depressing as it talked of the darkness slavery entails.
Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton - This was my least favorite classic. Though a clean read it focused on adultery and I never enjoy reading about that.

The History of England by Jane Austen - This was a short novella written in her youth and was a bit silly, but it was fun to read something by a favorite author from her younger years.

I'm hoping to read more classics in 2020. Starting with Les Miserables, which I'm sure I will love!

And now onto my favorites of 2019:

Devoted by Tim Challies - This was about 11 godly men and the influence their mothers had on them.

Here is a link to my thoughts on the book... HERE

In His Image by Jen Wilkin - Loved this one just as much as her other book, 'None Like Him', which I included on my 2018 favorites list!

Reflections on the Psalms by C.S. Lewis - This was an interesting read filled with Lewis's thoughts on the book of Psalms.

Here is a link to my thoughts on the book... HERE

True Feelings by Carolyn Mahaney and her daughter, Nicole Whitacre - I really enjoyed this one. It teaches how to use our feelings, a gift God has given us, for good and for His glory.

Church History in Plain Language by Bruce L. Shelley - This one took me awhile to get through but was so good! I learnt a lot about the history of the church.

Here is a link to my thoughts on the book... HERE

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate - This is one of the few fiction reads I really loved this year. It's about a family of children stolen from their home and taken to a Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage run by a corrupt woman named Georgia Tann. This was based on true events and was a very sad and emotional read.

God, Greed, and the (Prosperity) Gospel by Costi W. Hinn - Here Costi shares his experience within his Uncle Benny's ministry. Costi is very matter of fact and kind in his writing of this book, but I felt sad and frustrated with how many people are deceived and hurt by these kinds of ministries like his Uncle Benny Hinn's. Full of greed, false teachings and false hopes for money.

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson - This was a very eye-opening read. Bryan Stevenson is a lawyer who founded the Equal Justice Initiative, which helps those unjustly accused and imprisoned for crimes they didn't commit. Some as young as 13 years old. And many on death row. His compassion and commitment to helping the least of these was inspiring. I recently heard they are making a movie from this book, which I'm excited about.

All That's Good by Hannah Anderson - This book addresses the commands of Philippians 4:8...
"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." 

Here is a link to my thoughts on the book... HERE

Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey - I still think about the things I read in this book. I listened to it on audio and really need to get a copy of it so I can underline some profound and moving quotes. Her website says here of the book: "Nancy makes a passionate case that Christianity is not just religious truth but truth about total reality. It is total truth." 

                                                              Happy Reading to you all in 2020!

December 16, 2019

Christmas: A Gift for Every Heart

I think this is my new favorite Christmas book! I loved it! Charles Stanley has such a kindness that comes through his writing, and this book is no exception. It was so encouraging and uplifted my spirits.

Sometimes the enemy whispers lies like.. Did God really say that?  Does He really love you in your imperfection? Does He really want to share His joy and peace with you? Does He really care? Does He really fully forgive all? Is He even really here?

This book reminded me that yes, God does love us. He does want to share his joy and peace and commune with us, He does care for us, He really does forgive all, and when we come to Him for salvation, He will never leave us or forsake us.

Charles Stanley says here:

"He is with you. He loves you. He listens to the cries of your heart. When you are hurting, He is near to you and cares for you. When you are powerless, He gives you strength. When you are in despair, He brings his promises to mind and reveals the blessings He has planned for you. 

And when you feel disrespected, worthless, or inadequate, He reminds you that you are His, that He died for you, that He adores you, that He is your adequacy, and that He will never let you go."

The reason for the Christmas season is to remind us of this, that He came for us, because He loves and cares for us. He came for me and He came for you.

He is the Great Immanuel, God with us.

"Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel." Isaiah 7:14

"So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 'Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,' which is translated, 'God with us.'  Matthew 1:22-23

So put on some Christmas music, grab this book and be encouraged this Christmas season!

P.S. I found this book at my library! : )

At the end of each chapter Charles Stanley includes several Scriptures, as well as verses from some beloved Christmas carols.

Here are some of those Scriptures to encourage you this season:

"Not one word of all the good words which the LORD your God spoke concerning you has failed; all have been fulfilled for you." Joshua 23:14

"May the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance. The Lord be with you all!" 2 Thessalonians 3:16

"Your lovingkindness, O LORD, is everlasting." Psalm 138:8  

"The LORD is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. do not fear or be dismayed." Deuteronomy 31:8

"Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight! Yes, what joy for those whose the LORD has cleared of guilt." Psalm 32:2

"I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. you will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart." Jeremiah 29:11-13

"I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. " Romans 8:38-39

I'll leave you with this beautiful song from Casting Crowns thats a reminder of why Jesus came.

He came for us:

                                                                       MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Buy it HERE on Amazon

December 9, 2019

Christmas Book Recommendations

Over the last few years I've enjoyed reading books focused on the Christmas story.

Here are a few I've loved and highly recommend...

C is for Christmas by David W. and Warren W. Wiersbe

I reviewed this book in a series of posts in 2012. Here are the links to those posts:

C is for Christmas - Part 1

C is for Christmas - Part 2

C is for Christmas - Part 3

C is for Christmas - Part 4

C is for Christmas - Part 5 

C is for Christmas - Part 6 

C is for Christmas - Part 7 

C is for Christmas - Part 8 

The Dawning of Indestructible Joy by John Piper

John Piper has a way of expressing the joy of the Lord that is rare in our world today. I always come away from his books with a deeper view of God and the true joy He freely gives. This book is a daily devotional, written for advent.

Here is a link to info and a short video  about the book... The Dawning of Indestructible Joy

Hidden Christmas by Timothy Keller

I was surprised at how much I loved this book. I was reminded of why the Christmas story never gets old. It's because it's really not a story at all. The birth of Christ was an historical event that changed my life and the lives of many others. An event that will affect eternity.

Born in a manger, the Light in this darkened world.

Death on a cross, risen from the dead. His love is gracious and sacrificial.

He is the greatest gift ever given.

Christmas Bells by Jennifer Chiaverini

This was a beautiful novel set in two time periods, modern day and during the life of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in the 1860's.

Here is a link to my review which I wrote in 2015... Christmas Bells

Come Thou Long-Expected Jesus by Nancy Guthrie

This was also a great book. It's an 'anthology of Advent readings collected from the writings and sermons of 22 classic and contemporary theologians and Bible teachers.' (taken from the description).

Some of the writers include George Whitfield, Randy Alcorn, John Piper, J.C. Ryle, Charles Spurgeon, Joni Eareckson Tada, Francis Schaeffer and Saint Augustine. It's edited by Nancy Guthrie.

*The title of this book is actually a Christmas hymn I'd never heard of before and was happy to discover such a beautiful new song! I thought I'd share it with you:

Note: Painting above: The Nativity by Greg Olsen

December 1, 2019

O Come, All Ye Faithful: Hymns of Adoration

I really enjoyed this lovely book! A book about Christmas hymns/carols. They always bring such beauty and joy to the Christmas season.

This book includes these 12 beloved Christmas carols:

O Come, All Ye Faithful
Once in Royal David's City
Angels We Have Heard on High
Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus
What Child is This?
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
O Little Town of Bethlehem
Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silent
Silent Night! Holy Night!
Hark! the Herald Angels Sing
Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming
Angels, from the Realms of Glory

Each chapter is in 3 sections:

At the Heart of the Hymn - A personal reflection on the hymn by either Joni Eareckson Tada, Robert Wolgemuth or Bobbie Wolgemuth

In the Light of the Word - Biblical bases of the hymn by John MacArthur

From Out of the Past - a brief history of the writer of the hymn and how the hymn came to be by either Joni Eareckson Tada, Robert Wolgemuth or Bobbie Wolgemuth

Each section, of each chapter, was only a page or two, which made it an easy and enjoyable read for the Christmas season.

I thought I'd share from the chapter on the Christmas hymn, What Child is This?

In the first section, at the heart of the hymn, Joni Eareckson Tada, reflects on the Christmas story in the carol, 'What Child is This?'

She says here:

"'What child is this?' A child, demurely divine. Wholly Spirit. But also a child made from dust, flesh, bone, and blood. One hundred percent hundred percent man. We are amazed that God the Son would become a man, but equally astounding is that a man or woman can become a son or daughter of God. The Nativity is a holy story, but also human...

...a young bride goes into labor, a new husband nervously attends, and while music and feasting continue behind the warm walls of the inn, yards away the Son of God quietly slips into history. Human history. 

'What child is this?' He is God, warm and alive, close and sweet as an infant's breath."

That long ago night in Bethlehem, 'The Son of God quietly slipped into history.' 

And He asks of us all, who do you say that I am?

In the second section, in the light of the Word, John MacArthur, reflects on the biblical meaning of this carol.

He says here:

"This traditional English carol asks one of the most important questions ever to confront the human mind. 'What think ye of Christ? whose son is he?' (Matthew 22:42). Who is the baby 'on Mary's lap...sleeping? Who is this One 'whom angels greet with anthems sweet, while shepherds watch are keeping'? "

He later talks of the second stanza of the carol, which carries the beauty of the gospel message. It goes like this:

Why lies He in such mean estate,
Where ox and donkeys are feeding?
Good Christians, fear, for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.
Nails, spears shall pierce him through,
The cross he bore for me, for you.
Hail, hail the Word made flesh,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

He first quotes from the carol here:

"Why lies he in such mean (lowly) estate, where ox and ass are feeding?"

Then goes on:

"He had set aside His heavenly glory."

'He made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.' Philippians 2:7 


'Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even death of the cross.' Philippians 2:8

"In other words, unlike every other king, He deliberately came in the most abject humility, and with a purpose that at first glance seems unbefitting one of such eternal glory. He became flesh so that 'nails, spear, shall pierce him through.'

The hymn pictures Him already undertaking His priestly work as He lay in the manger: 'Good Christian, fear; for sinners here the silent Word is pleading.' That accords well with the truth of  Hebrews 7:25: 'Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them."

Finally, in the third section, Bobbie Wolgemuth tells a bit about the writer, William Chatterton, (1837-1898) who wrote this carol:

"William was a prolific writer as a young twenty-something man. His hymns, however, were not born from 'gladness.' In his early twenties William became bedridden with a serious illness. Confined to bed, instead of his days being filled with activity and personal contacts, the lad struggled with depression.

It was this experience that led him to meet God in a deeper way and to pen some of his most artistic poetry. Being himself laid to rest, William knew it was for his own benefit that the 'silent Word' was pleading. This brought hope to William's young heart and gave him renewed delight as he wrote 'Joy, joy, for Christ is born, the babe, the son of Mary."

Then she shares about the tune to this wonderful carol:

"The tune adapted to 'What Child is This?' was the traditional 'Greensleeves,' which dates back to the sixteenth century. Although its authorship is sometimes attributed to Henry VII of England, it is probably an ancient Italian dance melody. Traveling bands of entertainers that moved throughout the countryside and various towns used the common melody. Variations of the tune were adapted in several countries all over Europe."

The chapter ends with these words from Bobbie Wolgemuth:

"The babe was Jesus Christ, born of the Virgin Mary, and He was and is incarnate God! May our 'loving hearts enthrone him'!"

Here is the carol in full:

What child is this, who, laid to rest,
On Mary's lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing:
Haste, haste to bring Him laud,
The babe, the son of Mary.

Why lies He in such mean estate,
Where ox and donkeys are feeding?
Good Christians, fear, for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.
Nails, spears shall pierce him through,
the cross he bore for me, for you.
Hail, hail the Word made flesh,
the Babe, the Son of Mary.

So bring him incense, gold, and myrrh,
Come, peasant, king, to own him.
The King of kings salvation brings,
Let loving hearts enthrone him.
Raise, raise a song on high,
The virgin sings her lullaby
Joy, joy for Christ is born,
The babe, the Son of Mary.

I highly recommend this book for Christmas reading! May your Christmas be filled with the love and peace of God, and may His joy fill your hearts.

Buy it HERE on Amazon

November 24, 2019

Some Christmas Reads for 2019

Reading books about Christmas, during December, has been something I've really been enjoying the past few years.

Here are few I'm hoping to get to this season.

Oh Come All Ye Faithful by John MacArthur, Joni Eareckson Tada, Robert & Bonnie Wolgemuth

This book in filled with reflections on some wonderful Christmas Carols. Carols such as, O Come, O Come Emmanuel, Angel We have Heard on High and Silent Night!, Holy Night!

I'm excited to read this one, as I love Christmas carols!

Christmas - A Gift for Every Heart by Charles Stanley

This book shares the Christmas story with these lessons:
  • True peace and joy are found only in Christ, not in the things of this world;
  • Christmas itself is undeniable evidence that God always keeps His promises;
  • The Lord God not only lives and reigns, but He is intimately involved in every circumstance of our lives; and
  • The perfect gift for us to give Jesus is the gift of our own heart.

Family Christmas Treasures: Celebration of Art and Stories by Various

This is such a pretty book! It's filled with beautiful art by artists like Norman Rockwell, Eastman Johnson and Thomas Birch, as well as many others. It is also filled with Christmas stories from authors like Betty Smith, Louisa May Alcott and Harriet Beecher Stowe.

I'm looking forward to reading a few of these this season.

Finding Christ in Christmas by A.W. Tozer

This is a short advent devotional compelled of Tozer's writings on why Jesus came. I always enjoy reading Tozer and excited for this December read.

Note: Painting above: 'Stockbridge Main Street at Christmas' by Norman Rockwell

November 18, 2019

Reflections on the Psalms

In this book, C.S. Lewis shares his thoughts and reflections on the book of Psalms. I've always liked, that through his writings or talks, Lewis gets us thinking, and by so, showing us the way to Jesus. This book is no exception. It will get you thinking on some heavy topics.

For example in chapter four, he talks about death in the Psalms and how it's Jewish poets thought on it and expressed it through their poetry. Lewis reminds us of the nations around Israel (such as Egypt) that were often obsessed with the afterlife and how he felt God didn't want them, or us for that matter, to be as concerned.

Here is what he says of it:

"Is it possible for men to be to much concerned with their eternal destiny? In one sense, paradoxical though it sounds, I should reply, Yes.

For the truth seems to me to be that happiness or misery beyond death, simply in themselves, are not even religious subjects at all. A man who believes in them will of course be prudent to seek the one and avoid the other. but that seems to have no more to do with religion than looking after one's health or saving money for one's old age. 

The only difference here is that the stakes are so very much higher. 

And this means that, granted a real and steady conviction, the hopes and anxieties aroused are overwhelming. But they are not on that account the more religious. They are hopes for oneself, anxieties for oneself. God is not the center. He is still important only for the sake of something else. Indeed such a belief can exist without a belief in God at all. Buddhists are much concerned with what will happen to them after death, but are not, in a true sense, Theists.

It is surely, therefore, very possible that when God began to reveal Himself to men, to show them that He and nothing else is their true goal and the satisfaction of their needs, and that He has a claim upon them simply by being what He is, quite apart from anything He can bestow or deny, it may have been absolutely necessary that this revelation should not begin with any hint of future Beatitude or Perdition. 

These are not the right points to begin at. An effective belief in them, coming too soon, may even render almost impossible the development of ( so to call it) the appetite for God; personal hopes and fears, too obviously exciting, have got in first. Later, when, after centuries of spiritual training, men have learned to desire and adore God, to pant after Him 'as pants the hart', it is another matter. For then those who love God will desire not only to enjoy Him but 'to enjoy Him forever', and will fear to lose Him."             Pgs. 45-47

It's easy to get caught up in the hope of heaven, which is a gift, and end up turning it into an idol. When instead, we should be desiring the gift-giver, God Himself.

As Christians, we should look to the Lord and rejoice in who He is.

And desire to enjoy Him forever.

"Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,

yet I will rejoice in the LORD;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation." Habakkuk 3:18

"It will be said on that day,
“Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us.
This is the LORD; we have waited for him;
let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.” Isaiah 25:9

"May all who seek you
rejoice and be glad in you!
May those who love your salvation
say evermore, “God is great!” Psalm 70:4

Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Philippians 4:4

Buy it HERE on Amazon

November 9, 2019

Church History in Plain Language

I finally finished reading this book! And it was a good one. It was set up with short chapters with different time periods and stages of the church, which was ideal for reading a chapter here or there.

Why is church history important? Because it's important to God. Many times in Scripture God uses reminders of times gone by to bring His people back to Him.

History is important. Especially church history, it helps us learn and discern what has pleased God and what hasn't. Every story told in Scripture is to bring us closer to Him, to see His love for us and to show us who He is.

History is important because it contains our brothers and sisters in Christ. Those who went before us and stood for truth and justice. They weren't perfect, but our God is and they trusted Him.

The author says here in the prologue, of the importance of church history for the Christian:

"Many Christians today suffer from historical amnesia. The time between the apostles and their own day is one giant blank. That is hardly what God had in mind. 

The Old Testament is sprinkled with reminders of God's interest in time. 

When He established the Passover for the children of Israel, he said, 'Tell your will be like a sign...that the Lord brought us out of Egypt' (Ex. 13:8,16, NIV). And when he provided the manna in the wilderness, he commanded Moses to keep a jar of it 'for the generations to come' (Ex. 16:33, NIV)."

This book is a great start to learning about church history.

I thought I'd share a few interesting historical church facts here, from this book.

How the church was called the church:

"The disciples called their new movement 'The Way,' emphasizing their belief that Jesus would lead his followers to the kingdom of God. Before long, however, the Jerusalem community came to speak of itself  by an Old Testament term used to refer to the assembly of Israel. The Greek equivalent was ekklesia (or church in English) and meant a gathering of people, God's people." Page 18

Explaining theology: 

"Theology comes from two Greek words: theos, meaning God, and logos, meaning word or rational thought. So theology is rational thought about God. It is not identical with religion. Religion is our belief in God and our effort to live by that belief. Theology is the attempt to give a rational explanation of our belief: it is thinking about religion. 

When we err in our thinking we call it heresy or bad theology. Heresy is not necessarily bad religion, but like all wrong thinking it may lead to bad religion.

Heretics, in fact, served the church in an unintended way. Their pioneering attempts to state the truth forced the church to shape good theology: a rounded, well-organized statement of biblical revelation... Page 50

...But theology, don't forget, is not synonymous with God's revelation and effort to express it clearly in teaching and preaching. Theology is using our own language and our own way of thinking to explain God's truth. and we know that people belonging to different times and cultures simply think and speak in different ways." Page 52

On Orthodoxy:

"Good theology we call orthodox, a term that always seems to stir emotions. It is that form of Christianity that won the support of the overwhelming majority of Christians and that is expressed by most of the official proclamations or creeds of the church... Page 50

...Much of orthodoxy was articulated because some heresy had arisen that threatened to change the nature of Christianity and to destroy its central faith... Page 51

About Constantine's conversion, the first Christian leader of Rome: 

 "Some historians have considered Constantine's 'conversion' a purely political maneuver. Plenty of paganism remained. He conspired; he murdered; he even retained his title Pontifex Maximus as head of the state religious cult. 

But a purely political conversion is hard to maintain in the light of his public and private actions. From the year 312, he favored Christianity openly. He allowed Christian ministers to enjoy the same exemption from taxes as the pagan priests; he abolished executions by crucifixion; he called a halt to the battles of gladiators as a punishment for crimes; and in 321 he made Sunday a public holiday. Thanks to his generosity, magnificent church buildings arose as evidence of his support of Christianity... Page 100

...This public Christianity was matched by changes in Constantine's private life. Making no secret of his Christian convictions, he had his sons and daughters brought up as Christians and led a Christian family life." Page 101

How earthly freedom can bring false converts:

Whatever Constantine's motives for adopting the Christian faith, the result was a decline in Christian commitment. The stalwart believers whom Diocletian killed were replaced by a mixed multitude of half-converted pagans. Once Christians had laid down their lives for the truth; now they slaughtered each other to secure the prizes of the church." Page 127

At a time when heresies were abounding about who Jesus was (325-451), some saying he was created, some that he was not fully God, and others saying he wasn't fully human, the church fathers at the time wrote this creed at the forth General Council of Chalcedon. One most Christians believe today:

"We all with one voice confess our Lord Jesus Christ one and the same Son, at once complete in godhead and complete in manhood, truly God and truly man,...acknowledged in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, or without separation; the distinction of natures being in no way abolished because of the union, but rather the characteristic property of each nature being preserved, and coming together to form one person." Page 122

The pros and cons of the monastic life of the middle ages:

"...the Benedictine conception of the Christian life was essentially unnatural. 'To enter a monastery was to separate from the world, to abandon the ordinary relationships of social life,' to shun marriage and all that the Christian home signifies. and supporting the whole endeavor was an erroneous view of man. The soul, said the monk, is chained to the flesh as a prisoner to a corpse. That is not the biblical view of human life, and it created a fundamental flaw in monasticism. 

To recognize these errors today, however, is not to say that the faults were apparent to the men of the declining Roman Empire or the Middle Ages. For them, generally, the monastic calling seemed the truest form of the Christian life. Nor should we, in noting the evils of monasticism, underrate in the least the immense service the monks rendered in the spread and development of Christianity and of civilization in a trying period of European history." Page 132

On the Roman Church and the pope:

"The papacy is a highly controversial subject. No other institution has been so loved and so hated. Some Christians have revered the pope as the 'Vicar of Christ'; others have denounced him as the  'Anti-Christ.' 

All sides agree, however, that Leo (*the first official pope 440AD) represents an important stage in the history of this unique institution. He demonstrates the papacy's capacity to adapt to different environments in its long history: the Roman Empire, the Germanic kingdoms of the Middle Ages, the national states of modern times, and today the developing worlds of Asia and Africa...

...According to the official teaching of the Roman Catholic church, defined at the First Vatican Council (1870), Jesus Christ established the papacy with the apostle Peter, and the bishop of Rome as Peter's successor bears the supreme authority (primacy) over the whole church, Both Eastern Orthodox churches and Protestant denominations deny both of these claims...

...Our primary concern, however, is neither the vindication nor the refutation of the Roman Catholic claims. It is a survey of Christian history. Whatever the absolute claims of church authorities, history indicates that the concept of papal rule of the whole church was established by slow and painful stages. Leo is a major figure in that process because he provides for the first time the biblical and theological bases of the papal claim. That is why it is misleading to speak of the papacy before his time." Page 142

 On the Orthodox Church in Russia:

"Over the years Russia made the aesthetic glories of Orthodox Christianity her own. Gradually Moscow came to see herself as the leader of the Orthodox world. A theory developed that there had been one Rome, in Italy, that had fallen to the barbarians and to the Roman Catholic heresy. There had been a second Rome: Constantinople. And when that fell to the Turks, there was a third Rome: Moscow. The emperor took his title from the first Rome - Tzar is the same word as Caesar - just as he had taken his religion from the second." Page 160

Martin Luther in 1517 shook the religious world by protesting against the evils within the Catholic Church and proclaiming, by Scripture, that man was saved by faith alone:

"Luther saw it clearly now. Man is saved only by his faith in the merit of Christ's sacrifice. The cross alone can remove man's sin and save him for the grasp of the devil. Luther had come to his famous doctrine of justification by faith alone...

...The implications of Luther's discovery were enormous. If salvation comes through faith in Christ alone, the intercession of priests is superfluous. faith formed and nurtured by the Word of God, written and preached, requires no monks, no masses, and no prayers to the saints. The mediation of the Church of Rome crumbles into insignificance." Page 249-250

"Good works do not make a man good, but a good man does good works." Martin Luther

On Protestantism:

What is Protestantism? The description from Ernst Troeltsch has served as a standard. In the early twentieth century he called Protestantism a 'modification of Catholicism' in which Catholic problems remain but different solutions are given. The four questions that Protestantism answered in a new way are, 

(1) How is a person saved? 
(2) Where does religious authority lie? 
(3) What is the church? and 
(4) what is the essence of Christian living?... Page 248

...Luther took four basic Catholic concerns and offered invigorating new answers. 

To the question, how is a person saved? Luther replied, 'not by works but by faith alone.' 

To the question, where does religious authority lie? he answered, 'not in the visible institution called the Roman church but in the Word of God found in the Bible.' 

To the question, what is the church? he responded, ' the whole community of Christian believers, since all are priests before God.' 

And to the question, what is the essence of christian living? he replied, ' serving God in any useful calling, whether ordained or lay.' 

To this day any classical description of Protestantism must echo those central truths." Page 257

 On Denominations:

"Denominationalism, as originally designed, is the opposite of sectarianism. A sect claims the authority of Christ for itself alone. It believes that it is the true body of Christ; all truth belongs to it and to no other religion. So by definition a sect is exclusive.

The word denomination by contrast was an inclusive term. It implied that the Christian group called or denominated by a particular name was but one member of a larger group, the church, to which all denominations belong.

The denominational theory of the church, then, insists that the true church cannot be identified with any single ecclesiastical structure. No denomination claims to represent the whole church of Christ. Each simply constitutes a different form, in worship and organization, of the larger life of the church.

The Reformers had planted the seeds of the denominational theory of the church when they insisted that the true church can never be identified in any exclusive sense with a particular institution. The true succession is not of bishops but of believers." Pages 318-319

These quotes are barely the beginning of the information about the Church found in this book, but I'd be typing for days if I added everything I'd like to share!

I highly recommend this book! I'll leave you with this final quote from the author:

"Its (*the church's) confidence is in a person. And no other person in recorded history has influenced more people in as many conditions over so long a time as Jesus Christ...

...Truly, he is a man for all time. In a day when many regard him as irrelevant, a relic of a quickly discarded past, church history provides a quiet testimony that Jesus Christ will not disappear from the scene. His title may change, but his truth endures for all generations." Page 521

Note: *added my me. 

Buy it HERE on Amazon

October 28, 2019

5 books on my future reading list

Before and After by Judy Christie and Lisa Wingate

I recently read Lisa Wingate's novel, 'Before We Were Yours' which was based on the real-life scandal where children were being kidnapped and than sold through adoption by Georgia Tann, the director of a Memphis-based adoption organization. 

This book contains true stories from those who suffered by the hands of Georgia Tann and the Tennessee Children's Home Society.

Goodreads says here:

"From the 1920s to 1950, Georgia Tann ran a black-market baby business at the Tennessee Children's Home Society in Memphis. She offered up more than 5,000 orphans tailored to the wish lists of eager parents--hiding the fact that many weren't orphans at all, but stolen sons and daughters of poor families, desperate single mothers, and women told in maternity wards that their babies had died.

The publication of Lisa Wingate's novel Before We Were Yours brought new awareness of Tann's lucrative career in child trafficking. Adoptees who knew little about their pasts gained insight into the startling facts behind their family histories. Encouraged by their contact with Wingate and award-winning journalist Judy Christie, who documented the stories of fifteen adoptees in this book, many determined Tann survivors set out to trace their roots and find their birth families.

Before and After includes moving and sometimes shocking accounts of the ways in which adoptees were separated from their first families. Often raised as only children, many have joyfully reunited with siblings in the final decades of their lives. Christie and Wingate tell of first meetings that are all the sweeter and more intense for time missed and of families from very different social backgrounds reaching out to embrace better-late-than-never brothers, sisters, and cousins. In a poignant culmination of art meeting life, many of the long-silent victims of the tragically corrupt system return to Memphis with the authors to reclaim their stories at a Tennessee Children's Home Society reunion . . . with extraordinary results."

Know How We Got Our Bible by Ryan M. Reeves and Charles Hill

I just started this one and enjoying it quite a bit.  I'm looking forward to reading more about how the Bible came to be.

It is a fairly short read and looks great for those who are wanting to learn about the history of the Bible.

The back cover say here:

"In Know How We Got Our Bible...scholars Ryan Reeves and Charles Hill trace the history of the Bible from its beginnings to the present day, highlighting key developments and demonstrating the reliability of Scripture.

Reeves and Hill begin with the writing and canonization of the Bible's books before moving into the copying, translation, and publication of the Bible, concluding with a look at the ongoing work of Bible translation around the world. 

Including reflection questions and recommended readings for further learning, Know How We Got Our Bible is an excellent introduction for formal students and lay learners alike."

Even Better Than Eden by Nancy Guthrie

Last year I read an advent book that Nancy Guthrie had compiled from Christian writers called, 'Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus.' Which was really good, but I've never read anything by Nancy, herself. This one looks interesting!

Goodreads says here:

"Most people--Christians and non-Christians alike--are familiar with the garden of Eden, the perfect paradise that God created for the first man and woman. However, many don't realize the Bible teaches that God is preparing an even better world for his people in the future new creation. 

In this book, experienced Bible teacher Nancy Guthrie traces 9 themes--the tree of life, garden and wilderness, the image of God, clothing, Sabbath rest, marriage, the seed of the Serpent, the temple, and the city of Jerusalem--throughout the Bible, revealing how God's plan for the new heaven and the new earth is far better than anything we can possibly imagine."

The Pioneers by David McCullough

I really enjoy reading David McCullough's books! He makes history come alive with his writing and you don't feel like you are reading a history book. This one sounds so interesting!  I'm looking forward to reading it.

Amazon describes it here:

"Pulitzer Prize–winning historian David McCullough rediscovers an important and dramatic chapter in the American story—the settling of the Northwest Territory by dauntless pioneers who overcame incredible hardships to build a community based on ideals that would come to define our country.

As part of the Treaty of Paris, in which Great Britain recognized the new United States of America, Britain ceded the land that comprised the immense Northwest Territory, a wilderness empire northwest of the Ohio River containing the future states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin. 

A Massachusetts minister named Manasseh Cutler was instrumental in opening this vast territory to veterans of the Revolutionary War and their families for settlement. Included in the Northwest Ordinance were three remarkable conditions: freedom of religion, free universal education, and most importantly, the prohibition of slavery. In 1788 the first band of pioneers set out from New England for the Northwest Territory under the leadership of Revolutionary War veteran General Rufus Putnam. They settled in what is now Marietta on the banks of the Ohio River.

McCullough tells the story through five major characters: Cutler and Putnam; Cutler’s son Ephraim; and two other men, one a carpenter turned architect, and the other a physician who became a prominent pioneer in American science. They and their families created a town in a primeval wilderness, while coping with such frontier realities as floods, fires, wolves and bears, no roads or bridges, no guarantees of any sort, all the while negotiating a contentious and sometimes hostile relationship with the native people. Like so many of McCullough’s subjects, they let no obstacle deter or defeat them.

Drawn in great part from a rare and all-but-unknown collection of diaries and letters by the key figures, The Pioneers is a uniquely American story of people whose ambition and courage led them to remarkable accomplishments. This is a revelatory and quintessentially American story, written with David McCullough’s signature narrative energy."

Susie: The Life and Legacy of Susannah Spurgeon by Ray Rhodes Jr.

Charles Spurgeon is one of my favorite preacher authors to read. He fought the good fight, and through many difficulties he keep his faith in God.

This book is about his wife Susannah. I don't know much about her, so I'm really looking forward to reading this one.

Goodreads says here:
"While many Christians recognize the name of Charles H. Spurgeon, the beloved preacher and writer, few are familiar with the life and legacy of his wife, Susie.  Yet Susannah Spurgeon was an accomplished and devout woman of God who had a tremendous ministry in her own right, as well as in support of her husband. 

Even while dealing with serious health issues, she administered a book fund for poor pastors, edited and published her husband’s sermons and other writings, led a pastor’s aid ministry, wrote five books, made her home a hub of hospitality, and was instrumental in planting a church. And as her own writing attests, she was also a warm, charming, and fascinating woman.

Now, for the first time, Susie brings this vibrant woman’s story to modern readers. Ray Rhodes Jr. examines Susannah’s life, showing that she was not only the wife of London’s most famous preacher, but also a woman who gave all she had in grateful service to the Lord.

Susie is an inspiring and encouraging account of a truly remarkable woman of faith that will delight Spurgeon devotees and fans of Christian biographies alike."

October 20, 2019

A Few Thoughts on the Book of Matthew

My Bible's introduction to the book of Matthew says here:

"Matthew is the gospel written by a Jew to Jews about a Jew. Matthew is the writer, his countrymen are the readers, and Jesus Christ is the subject. Matthew's design is to present Jesus as the King of the Jews, the long-awaited Messiah. Through a carefully selected series of Old Testament quotations, Matthew documents Jesus Christ's claim to be the Messiah. His genealogy, baptism, messages, and miracles all point to the same inescapable conclusion: Christ is King. Even in His death, seeming defeat is turned to victory by the Resurrection, and the message again echoes forth: the King of the Jews lives."
In the gospels, the words of Jesus always pierce my soul. His life, here on earth, moves me every time. When I get to his betrayal, beatings and crucifixion, I am always overwhelmed by His love, even though I've read and heard it hundreds of times before.

As the introduction states, Matthew focuses on Jesus as King. This leads me to a few things that happen to Peter in this book that point us to this.

In chapter 14 verse 25 Jesus is walking on water towards a boat the disciples are in. They are troubled when they see Him, but then Jesus says:  

'Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.'

Peter than questions Jesus and says;  

'Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.'

Jesus calls: 'Come' 

Peter than gets out of the boat and starts walking on the water towards Jesus.

But when he takes his eyes off of Jesus, and looks around at the sea and wind, he is afraid and begins to sink. Calling out, 'Lord, save me!'

Jesus stretches out His hand and catches him, but also reprehends him saying, 'O you of little faith, why did you doubt?'

This story shows us our need for the Lord in all things, that we are weak, but He is strong. Peter's faith was weak because it was based on faith in himself as a 'good' follower of Jesus.

But Jesus is teaching Him to put his faith in Him alone. To look at Him and nothing else.

Later during the last supper, Jesus tells the disciples in chapter 26 verse 31-35:  

'All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night, for it is written: 

'I will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.' (Zech. 13:7)'

Peter, in his stubborn faith in his own feelings and thoughts, says:

'Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble.' 

Jesus answered him:

'Assuredly, I say to you that this night, before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.'

Again Peter is defiant and says:

'Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!'

Peter isn't listening. Instead, he is arguing with the King of Kings!

We know that, that night Peter denied knowing Jesus three times.

This is what we do when we don't have our faith totally in Him and instead insist on believing our own feelings and thoughts and so putting our faith in ourselves.

This is not being a true follower of Christ.

Jesus asks us to have faith in Him alone.

Jesus loved Peter.

He was patient with him and kind. Jesus knew Peter was open to learning and growing in Him. He knew Peter would come to a place of surrender and a strong faith in Him alone.

Jesus is the same with us. If we humble ourselves before Him he is just in forgiving us our sins, patient in our growth and kind with our mistakes.

But He is adamant that our faith is in Him alone. Why? Because He is King. The King who loves us.

I'll leave you with this beautiful quote from Charles Spurgeon:

"My hope lives not because I am not a sinner, but because I am a sinner for whom Christ died; my trust is not that I am holy, but that being unholy, HE is my righteousness. My faith rests not upon what I am or shall be or feel or know, but in what Christ is, in what He has done, and in what He is now doing for me. Hallelujah!"

October 14, 2019

The Psalms - Part Three

I thought I'd share a few more Psalms here today. It's been awhile since I have. I always need these reminders of wisdom and guidance.

You can read my other two posts HERE and HERE

I'm reminded to trust in the Lord:

"In You, O LORD, I put my trust;
Let me never be ashamed;
Deliver me in Your righteousness." Psalm 31:1

"Trust in the LORD, and do good;
Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness." Psalm 37:3

I'm reminded to be humble before Him:

"LORD, You have heard the desire of the humble;
You will prepare their heart;
You will cause Your ear to hear." Psalm 10:17

"The LORD takes pleasure in His people;
He will beautify the humble with salvation." Psalm 149:4

I'm reminded that joy and salvation come from the Lord:

"A Psalm of David. The king shall have joy in Your strength, O LORD;
And in Your salvation how greatly shall he rejoice!" Psalm 21:1

I'm reminded to be thankful to Him:

"Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise.
Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.

For the LORD is good;
His mercy is everlasting,
And His truth endures to all generations." Psalm 100:4-5

I'm reminded to ask the Lord for help in watching what I say:

"Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth;
Keep watch over the door of my lips." Psalm 141:3

I'm reminded it is good to praise Him:

"Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us,
But to Your name give glory,
Because of Your mercy,
Because of Your truth." Psalm 115:1

"Praise the LORD!
Praise the LORD, O my soul!
While I live I will praise the LORD;
I will sing praises to my God while I have my being." Psalm 146:1-2

"Praise the LORD!
For it is good to sing praises to our God;
For it is pleasant, and praise is beautiful." Psalm 147:1