The Pilgrim’s Progress (book review)

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Charles Spurgeon said of John Bunyan, “Prick him anywhere—his blood is Bibline, the very essence of the Bible flows from him. He cannot speak without quoting a text, for his very soul is full of the Word of God.” Although this can be said of all Bunyan’s books and sermons, it is abundantly clear in The Pilgrim’s Progress. 

In my mind it’s easy to classify this book as “a classic” because of its enduring message. The journey through life for pilgrims like Christian, Hopeful, Faithful, Christiana, and you and me resonate with readers all over the world. In over the nearly 350 years since this book was first published, the pilgrimage has connected with Christians and seekers alike because it is the pilgrimage we are all on. 

In The Pilgrim’s Progress it’s not hard to identify the biblical messages because Bunyan literally names them for what they are, using names like Talkative, Mr. Worldly Wiseman, the Giant Despair, Mr. Great-heart, the Interpreter, and many more. Some biblical stories are portrayed in this book just as they are in the Bible, while others are fairly easily seen for all modern-day pilgrims to learn their lessons. 

As I’ve said before about this book, it’s an excellent one for parents to read aloud to their children. Then as their kiddos get a bit older, there is an easy-to-read version called Little Pilgrim’s Progress for them to read on their own. But I still highly recommend the original version of Bunyan’s classic in its 17th-century English. To me, the Old English in a story like this makes it feel like an epic adventure story, which, in fact, it is because it is every Christian’s story still to this day. 

I can’t urge you enough to make The Pilgrim’s Progress a friend that you visit often.

Words To Winners Of Souls (book review)

Horatius Bonar has given us a collection of sermons preached to pastors, which have been collated in a book under the title Words To Winners Of Souls. 

Although these were words by a pastor to pastors, this shouldn’t be a book exclusively read by pastors. Anyone who wants to successfully share their Christian testimony with unsaved friends and loved ones can find much to digest in these sermons. That being said, this is still a must-read (and I don’t say that very often) for those in pastoral ministry. 

Bonar was a no-pulled-punches preacher! He spoke candidly and forcefully, but he also spoke out of a love for the Body of Christ and its ministers. Early on in this book he says, “We take for granted that the object of the Christian ministry is to convert sinners and to edify the body of Christ. No faithful minister can possibly rest short of this. Applause, fame, popularity, honor, wealth—all these are vain. If souls are not won, if saints are not matured, our ministry itself is vain.” Wow: “our ministry itself is vain”—you cannot get more gut-level honest than that! 

In this collection of messages, Bonar helps us diagnose what may be hindering our soul-winning practices, and he also proposes the remedy for those shortcomings. These words are honest and often hard to hear, but they are so needed for everyone who desires, as Jesus does, “that none should perish but all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). 

Pastors, please read this book! 

Parishioners, please get a copy of this book for your pastor and then offer to prayerfully read through it with him or her. I promise you: this book will pay eternal dividends. 

UPDATE: I have shared some quotes from this book here.

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! 

Prevailing Prayer (book review)

prevailing-prayerWhile I was growing up I heard an oft-repeated phrase around our church: “I prayed it through.” I think this would resonate with the heart of Dwight Moody, as he clearly articulates this concept in his book Prevailing Prayer.

Quite simply, Moody defines prevailing prayer as prayer that “involves the whole of our being. It affects our minds because we are occupied with God; it affects our wills because we desire to be yielded to God; and it affects our emotions because we are consumed with a love for God.” But many people—even seasoned Christians—wold probably confess that praying like this is challenging. Moody would agree with this, which is why he has given us such a practical book.

Moody not only lays out for us what will increase the likelihood that we will prevail in prayer, but he also diagnoses some of the roadblocks to this kind of consuming prayer. Each chapter links with the other chapters to build a convincing case that every Christian can learn how to prevail in prayer.

Moody uses stories from the Bible, stories from his own life and ministry, quotes from other Christian thinkers, as well as common-sensical ideas to create a desire to pray in this powerful, sustained way.

Whether you are a brand new Christian or a “seasoned saint,” Prevailing Prayer will energize your prayer life!

How To Read A Book (book review)

how-to-read-a-bookIt’s amazing with all the books I’ve read that I’ve never before read How To Read A Book by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren.

This book was originally published in 1940, but there is a reason it has stood the test of time. You may have been reading before, but this book will show you how to really read a book for all it’s worth. The opening paragraph states it well: “This is a book for readers and for those who wish to become readers. Particularly, it is for readers of books. Even more particularly, it is for those whose main purpose in reading books is to gain increased understanding.”

If you read simply to be entertained or to escape reality, don’t waste your time on this book. However, if you read to learn new things, expand your worldview, or increase your understanding, then the science and insight packed into How To Read A Book will revolutionize your approach to reading.

This is a challenging read, and a couple of times I almost gave up on getting through all of the information. But I’m glad I persevered!

If you’re ready to read better than before, please spend some time with this classic.

Easter Stories (book review)

Easter StoriesMiriam LeBlanc has compiled a lovely collection of stories in Easter Stories: Classic Tales for the Holy Season. The stories themselves are not always classics (in the sense of being well known), but the authors are certainly a Who’s Who list.

Some of the better known authors include André Trocmé, Anton Chekhov, C.S. Lewis, The Brothers Grimm, and Oscar Wilde. The stories were collected in this book because they talk about sacrifice, new birth, new beginnings, and new life: all the themes echoed in the biblical story of Christ’s sacrificial death and resurrection.

These are great stories to introduce others to the story of Easter without turning to the passages in the Bible. These stories can introduce the themes of salvation, reconciliation, and new life, which will then allow Christians to lead their family and friends to the foundational stories in Scripture.

This is not only an excellent way to introduce the Easter themes to others, but also to introduce them to some of the more meaningful authors.

I am a Plough Publishing House book reviewer.

Pilgrim’s Progress (book review)

Pilgrim's ProgressIt’s been awhile since I have read Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan, so I thought it was high time to re-read this amazing classic.

I was not disappointed!

In fact, I think I appreciated this time reading this amazing story more than any other time I’ve read it! The pilgrimages of Christian, Faithful, and Hopeful, and that of Christiana, Mercy and Great-heart are fantastic! Very few books have portrayed the journey of a Christian from salvation until arrival in Heaven with such accuracy and emotion.

Parents, your kids will love hearing you read this classic story to them. As your children get a little older, they can read Little Pilgrim’s Progress on their own. And then encourage them to read (and re-read) the original Pilgrim’s Progress throughout their lives. This book is a true blessing!

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