The Autobiography Of Charles Spurgeon (book review)

For a man who preached up to 10 times per week for nearly 40 years, you would think that people knew all about Charles Spurgeon’s personal life. Although he frequently used some small personal examples in his sermons, he still kept much of his personal life personal. In reading Spurgeon’s Autobiography, I expected to get an inside look, but that was not what I found. 

Like his sermons, Spurgeon’s Autobiography was fascinating. Like his sermons, his recollections of his past are thoroughly steeped in Scripture. I love this! This shows us that this Prince of Preachers didn’t just put on a performance when he stepped into his pulpit, nor did he simply teach Christian principles for others to apply only to their lives; instead, we see a man who truly patterned his life after the Bible. 

I also love the honesty in Spurgeon’s stories. He tells of his struggles before and after his conversion. He talks openly of his disagreements with some “church” people that didn’t behave very Christ-like. He discusses his battles with depression, and with those who were outright critics of his ministry. In other words, Spurgeon reveals himself without putting himself on some sort of pedestal. 

Charles Spurgeon’s sermons are always a delight to read, but I think you will find in his Autobiography a living sermon that we can all emulate. 

The Jesus Who Surprises (book review)

Oswald Chambers wisely noted, “God did not give a progressive revelation of Himself through the Old Testament: the people progressively grasped the revelation, which is very different.” Jesus is all throughout the Old Testament, giving us ample opportunity to discover Him on every page. A helpful guide to get you started on this journey of discovery is The Jesus Who Surprises by Dee Brestin. 

Dee wrote that she was intrigued by Christ’s words to the questioning disciples walking the road to Emmaus on the morning of His resurrection. These men were having a hard time wrapping their minds around the report from eyewitnesses who said Jesus was alive! As Jesus walked with them (although unrecognized by them for the moment), Luke records, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning Himself” (Luke 24:27). 

The Jews divided their Scripture—the part we now refer to as the Old Testament—into three sections: the Law, the Writings (the poetic books), and the Prophets. In The Jesus Who Surprises, Dee divides her book into the same three sections, giving us samples of how Jesus surprises us in the pages of each section of the Old Testament Scripture. Each chapter concludes with a Bible study that can be done on your own, or in a small group setting. 

The two disciples on the road Jesus commented to each other later that they felt their hearts burning as Jesus revealed Himself all throughout the Scriptures. I pray that as you read The Jesus Who Surprises you will experience the same burning. Then I believe this book will start you on your own lifelong journey to read the Scriptures for yourself and see Jesus on every single page! 

I am a Multnomah book reviewer. 

When Faith Fails (book review)

Have you ever had your legs knocked out from under you? Ever felt like what you used to believe in doesn’t seem real anymore? Ever been screaming out for real answers? Good! That means you are growing and maturing beyond the pat answers of the past. Dominic Done has given us a great guide book through these times of questions: When Faith Fails—Finding God in the Shadow of Doubt.

I grew up in a Christian home as a fourth-generation Christian. I was in church during my formative years almost more than I was anywhere else. But at some point I had to confront my Christian faith—I had to ask myself, “Do I believe this just because my parents and grandparents believed it? Or do I believe it because it’s really true?” 

Maybe your story is similar to mine. Or maybe you are a first-generation Christian and the storm you are navigating right now is making you wonder if you were sold on an idea that just doesn’t hold up in “the real world.” All of these things can be classified as a crisis of faith, a questioning of just what is true. 

What do you do at this time? Dominic identifies three possibilities— 

“One option is to demonize your doubt: in this narrative, doubt is labeled as the nemesis of faith, and those who doubt are judged and marginalized. … The second option is to idolize your doubt. … I can’t help but wonder if there is a third way, one that doesn’t demonize or idolize doubt but recognizes doubt for what it is: an opportunity for authentic and vibrant faith. That is why I wrote this book. I wrote this book because you need to know that your doubts aren’t a sign of spiritual collapse but of a faith that is screaming out for substance and truth.”

Dominic leads us on a journey of discovery by sharing his own personal struggles with doubt, and by helping us see doubt in a whole new light. Doubts are normal. Doubts can be healthy. Healthy?! Yes, because, as Dominic points out, “Doubts aren’t just an obstacle; they’re an opportunity. Uncertainty can lead us into the beautiful mystery we call God.” 

Whether for yourself or for your friend who may be struggling with doubt, please pick up a copy of When Faith Fails. I promise you that you will understand more clearly what doubt really is. You’ll also understand that your doubts are a normal part of your maturation process. You’ll also see that God is waiting to reveal Himself to you through your times of doubting. This is a great book!

I am a Thomas Nelson book reviewer. 

40 Days With Jesus (book review)

Martin Luther said, “The Bible is alive, it speaks to me.” Truly, the Bible is God’s Word speaking to us every time we peer into its pages, so I love how Sarah Young strings passages of Scripture together to allow us to hear Jesus speaking to us in a first-person voice. 

40 Days With Jesus was designed as a series of readings during the Lenten season, as we walk with Jesus to the Cross and His resurrection from the dead. But any time is a good time when we can walk with Jesus and hear His unmistakable voice reassuring our hearts. 

Are you walking through a dark time in your life? Know that Jesus is walking with you. 

Do you want to live a life of purpose and lasting value? Listen to Jesus counsel you. 

Are you standing at a crossroads trying to make the right decision? Let Jesus point the way. 

Each time I read a Sarah Young book, it reignites my heart to read the Bible as though Jesus is personally speaking to me. Because He is! 

40 Days With Jesus is a great starting point for you to learn to hear Jesus speaking to you every time you open your Bible. The Holy Spirit will then use those words read in your quiet time to continue to bring you direction and reassurance all throughout your day (John 14:26). 

I highly recommend this book (or any other book by Sarah Young)!

Life In The Spirit Study Bible (book review)

I love to read, averaging about 30 books per year. In addition to books, I have a lot of news feeds that I check daily. But hands down, everything else comes in a distant second place to my number-one read: the Bible. 

I read the Bible for myself. I read the Bible to prepare my Sunday messages. I read the Bible to teach classes. I read the Bible to confirm or refute what I am reading in other books and news feeds. And with all that Bible reading, I have also gravitated toward my favorite study Bible—The Life In The Spirit Study Bible. 

At one time people referred to this Bible as “the fire Bible” because of the graphic on the front cover depicting the fire that fell on praying Christians at the Pentecost celebration immediately following Christ’s ascension into heaven. That fire still falls in my heart every time I read God’s Word!

The study notes in this Bible are fantastic! But don’t be deceived by the name: these are not study notes that focus on the Holy Spirit out of proportion; rather, the role of the Spirit is merely noted where others have ignored it. Far too many people don’t ponder very much about the Holy Spirit’s involvement, except for perhaps the Book of Acts and maybe Paul’s instruction on the operational gifts of the Spirit in 1 Corinthians. The Life In The Spirit Study Bible simply seeks to make us aware of the Spirit’s involvement. 

In addition to the short commentary notes at the bottom of each page, there are several insightful and scholarly articles throughout this whole book that will make the Scripture come alive in new ways. 

This is my “preaching Bible” that I take with me for every sermon I deliver, which means it is the Bible I am diving deep into each day as I study. I cannot recommend this Bible to you highly enough. 

Shepherding God’s Flock (book review)

T.M. Moore founded the Fellowship of Ailbe, a ministry patterned after the example of the Irish Christians who kept the spread of the Gospel alive during history’s dark times. A key component of the Fellowship’s ministry is the equipping of pastors for their tasks, and Shepherding God’s Flock masterfully lays out the role of pastors like few other resources. 

Throughout the Scriptures, God uses the picture of a shepherd caring for his sheep as a consistent image of how God cares for His people, and how He desires for pastors/elders to care for those under their care as well. God has stern warnings for shepherd-leaders who misuse or abuse their positions, but He also showers His blessings on those shepherd-leaders whose hearts beat with God’s heart. David talked lovingly of the Lord being our Shepherd, Jesus called Himself the Good Shepherd, and the Apostle Peter called for elders in the church to shepherd the flock under their care. 

Shepherding God’s Flock helps pastors work through the practicalities of their shepherding role. And I do mean work through these concepts. This book is as much a workbook as it is a textbook. T.M. Moore gives valuable insights for pastors, but he intersperses penetrating discussion questions throughout his teaching. You will also need to keep your Bible handy while reading Shepherding because Moore will send you to passage after passage to undergird the principles he is teaching. 

I can’t recommend this book highly enough to both current pastors and those preparing to enter into pastoral ministry. It would probably be a good idea for lead pastors to read this book alongside their elder/deacon boards. 

As Moore notes in his closing words, “Shepherding is the work God has chosen for the care and nurture of His flocks. We’ve neglected this ministry for too long. Let us resolve to bring the work of shepherding to bear on the task of building Christ’s Church.” 

To that, I add my hearty “Amen!”

Surprised By Paradox (book review)

Many years ago, as I struggled with some of the either-or challenges of Christianity, I read C.S. Lewis’ wisdom that the safest course between two either-or extremes was a course straight between them. Jen Pollock Michel embraces this profound wisdom in her thoughtful book Surprised By Paradox—The Promise of And in an Either-Or World.

Jen wrestled with many of the same either-or struggles I wrestled with, which I actually found encouraging. The reason I find this encouraging is that it tells me that I’m not alone in my wrestling, and you aren’t either! So embracing the same C.S. Lewis wisdom that helped guide me, Jen opens up her heart to us in an intimate journey of discovery. 

Surprised By Paradox felt like I was getting a glimpse at Jen’s personal diary. Every chapter seemed like it could start out “Dear Diary…” with Jen sharing what prompted her wrestling thoughts, the alternatives she considered, and then the AND solution that God revealed to her. I could feel her growing in insight and confidence as I turned to each successive chapter. 

This book will cause you to question and ponder and wrestle as well. And that’s a good thing! To help you along the way, there are some very helpful discussion questions sprinkled throughout the book. Although these would be fine questions for you to answer on your own, I encourage to invite someone else alongside you on your journey. Surprised By Paradox will help you and your friends grow in your spiritual maturity. 

I am an IVP book reviewer. 

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