When The Darkness Will Not Lift (book review)

Depression and a “dark night of the soul” can happen to anyone. It falls over us sometimes because of physical issues, sometimes spiritual issues, and sometimes mental or emotional issues. Whatever its root cause, When The Darkness Will Not Lift by John Piper gives hope for those battling joy-suppressing melancholy. 

Depression, as with most ailments that humans face, doesn’t have a simple starting point. Most likely, depression is the result of a combination of many things—environmental, physical health, emotional crisis, spiritual attack, among other things. Sadly, many Christians attempt to address this multifaceted problem with a singular solution. Darkness doesn’t lift simply because someone has enough faith to make it so! 

“It is utterly crucial that in our darkness we affirm the wise, strong hand of God to hold us, even when we have no strength to hold Him.” —John Piper 

Pastor John weaves together Scripture, practical insights, and historical examples to help us see depression in its entirety. This comprehensive look will help you better understand both your own battle with darkness as well as helping you be a better friend to others who are also struggling with depression. 

Pastor John looks at the physical, emotional, and spiritual causes of depression, and then helps us battle for joy when the darkness will not lift. This is a short book, but one that you should return to frequently to help yourself and others in times of depression.

Cultivation Of Christian Character (book review)

I’ve always enjoyed reading J. Oswald Sanders. Let me rephrase that: I enjoy the new insights on God’s Word that Sanders’ books have given me, but the confrontation of the Holy Spirit that comes while reading these books can be quite painful at times. Cultivation Of Christian Character is no exception! 

In his opening words, Sanders explains the purpose of “this little volume” (as he calls it)—

“The genuine disciple of Christ earnestly desires a closer walk with God and a greater conformity to Christ. If these are absent, there is reason to doubt the genuineness of the discipleship. But many true lovers of the Lord are beset with a sense of inadequacy and failure in living the Christian life as it ought to be lived. They are very conscious with Paul that they have not already attained, neither are already perfect, but they yearn to know Christ better and to serve Him more worthily.” 

There you have it in a nutshell: If you yearn to be more Christlike, and yet at the same time struggle with how far you still have to go to see the fruits of Christlikeness in your life, this is the book for you. 

The chapters are short enough to read in just a few minutes. But the thought processes and the heart-searching that these short chapters will stimulate will undoubtedly take a long time to assimilate into your daily life. At least, this is the case for me. 

None of J. Oswald Sanders’ books are long books, but all of his books live long inside of me. Dive into Cultivation of Christian Character with an attitude of ready submission to the Holy Spirit, and then watch the amazing fruitfulness and Christlikeness that will begin to blossom from your life. 

I am a Moody Publishers book reviewer. 

Book Reviews From 2019

The Gospel Of The Kingdom (book review)

In the 1940s, C.S. Lewis presented a series of radio talks which became the book Mere Christianity. It was in this book that Lewis went beyond any denominationalism to the basic tenants of Christianity as outlined in the Bible. T.M. Moore persuasively warns us today of the trend away from “mere” Christianity to what he terms “near Christianity.” The Gospel of the Kingdom is an important book for those who desire to “contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people” (Jude 3). 

An increasing number of people who call themselves Christians—and even more alarmingly, those who are in positions of church leadership—aren’t living or preaching the full Gospel as presented in the Scriptures. Moore sounds the clarion call: “We are in danger, I believe, of having embraced, not the Gospel Jesus and the Apostles proclaimed, and for which our forbearers in the faith lived and died, but another gospel, a shallow, self-centered, merely sentimental gospel, which ‘assures’ us of heaven but does not equip us for the kingdom of God.” 

The followers of near Christianity tout how they have been saved from hell, but their profession and lifestyle don’t go beyond that. In other words, there is very little—if any—evidence that Jesus has become the Sovereign of their lives, and that they are living as citizens of God’s Kingdom. “Near Christianity, therefore, produces little in the way of kingdom evidence in the lives and churches of those who embrace it,” says Moore. 

In The Gospel of the Kingdom, Moore fully defines the imposter known as near Christianity, and then systematically details the characteristics of the Kingdom of God that should be evidenced in the lives of those who call themselves Christians. This isn’t just Moore’s opinion, but this short book is thoroughly cross-referenced with over 100 biblical passages.

All Christians—and especially those in the pastorate or other leadership roles—would do well to digest this book. If we aren’t vigilant, near Christianity may dominate the landscape of our churches, which really isn’t Christianity at all. 

I am a Wax Tablet Publications book reviewer. 

As A Man Thinketh (book review)

“For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he,” said the wise King Solomon nearly 3000 years ago. James Allen picked up on this phrase and noticed how true it still was in his day, prompting him to pen some astute observations in his book As A Man Thinketh.

This is not an academic book, nor is it a self-help book. Mr. Allen states his rationale for writing on the opening pages: “This little volume (the result of meditation and experience) is not intended as an exhaustive treatise on the much-written-upon subject of the power of thought. It is suggestive rather than explanatory, its object being to stimulate men and women to the discovery and perception of the truth that—‘They themselves are makers of themselves.’” 

Just as the biblical book of Proverbs contains short observations that are intended to cause the reader to contemplate the outcome of particular life choices and thought patterns, Mr. Allen does the same thing for a contemporary audience. Although you could breeze through this short book quite quickly, I strongly urge you to take your time to ponder just how powerfully your patterns of thought contribute to your everyday actions. 

Metacognition is a psychological term meaning to think about what you think about. As A Man Thinketh will definitely stimulate some productive metacognition of your own. 

The Art Of War (book review)

You don’t have to be a military officer to appreciate some of the timeless and widely applicable lessons in the classic text from Sun Tzu called The Art Of War.

The Art Of War was written in roughly the fifth century BC in China. Just by knowing those brief facts, many people might dismiss the book from their potential reading list because it doesn’t appear to “fit” where they are. Granted, Sun Tzu’s thrust is to help military generals win the battles against their enemies, but I found many of his strategies and observations helpful to other areas of life. 

    • … business leaders can glean strategies for marketing victories 
    • … sports coaches can learn how to motivate their teams during training
    • … pastors can see spiritual warfare tactics
    • … teachers could learn the best times and ways to motivate students for academic success
    • … even those who want to be lifelong learners can discover how to self-motivate and organize their daily lives

The Art Of War is a fairly short read, and each of the chapters are presented in bite-size verses (almost like the biblical book of Proverbs), so it is a book you can read in short bursts in between other tasks. 

If you really want to “shake up” your regular reading routines, this little classic might be just the thing for you! 

Love Changes Everything (book review)

One of the most fascinating love stories in the Bible is between Hosea and Gomer. In this story, we see a picture of God’s unconditional love so clearly. Using this story as a backdrop, Micah Berteau explains how this love is still potent for all of us today. His book is called Love Changes Everything.

Micah believes our culture has watered down and diminished what love really means. And I heartily agree with him! There’s an old children’s song that says, “Jesus loves me this I know,” but Micah entitles one of his chapters: “Jesus loves me… this I don’t know.” This book is meant to help us recapture what real love is. 

Weaving aspects of the rescuing love Hosea had for Gomer throughout the entire book, Micah teases out thoughts that many may not have considered. He then skillfully uses his own personal life journey to bring a modern-day feel to this love story. Each chapter opens a new facet of God’s love that is intended to dismantle all of the false definitions of love too many have previously taken to heart. 

Although this book is a good reminder for a wide audience, I especially think this would be a good discussion guide for a mature Christian to use with someone who is struggling to believe that God can unconditionally love and forgive them. 

I am a Revell book reviewer. 

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