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