The Art Of Writing And The Gift Of Writers (book review)

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on iTunes or Spotify.

I am eternally grateful to my high school English teachers who not only taught me the fundamentals of reading literature and writing in different styles, but who immensely sharpened my skills. But can you imagine having C.S. Lewis as a writing mentor? That’s what you are getting when you read The Art Of Writing And The Gift Of Writers. 

This book is compromised of essays and book reviews written by Lewis, interviews that Lewis gave, and even a transcript of an extemporaneous conversation with other authors who had congregated in Lewis’ rooms at Magdalen College. 

Learning how a gifted writer like Lewis crafted his own books was insightful, as well as how he interpreted the writing process of other authors. He even talked about how he choose to handle literary critics. But most energizing of all for me was the freedom he gave me to be myself in the writing process. He made it abundantly clear that other authors shouldn’t try to emulate his literary style—nor any other author’s style either—but to use their unique talents to write their unique works of literature. 

Since Lewis has been one of my favorite authors for most of my life, I found the journey into his mind to be absolutely fascinating. I would recommend this book for any author, aspiring author, or fellow fan of C.S. Lewis’ books and essays. 

The Pilgrim’s Progress (book review)

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on iTunes or Spotify.

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.

Book Reviews From 2020

9 Quotes From “War As I Knew It”

General George Patton gives us an insightful leadership look into how his army was able to accomplish so much during such a short time in World War II. Check out my full book review by clicking here. 

“An ounce of sweat saves a gallon of blood.” 

“This is another example of the many I’ve encountered in life where great disappointments have proven to be the road to future success.” 

“Successful generals make plans to fit the circumstances, but do not try to create circumstances to fit plans.” 

“The 8th of May, 1945, marked exactly two-and-a-half years since we had landed in Africa. During all that time we had been in practically continuous battle, and when not in battle had been under the strain of continuous criticism, which I believe is harder to bear.” 

“It is unfortunate and to me a tragic fact, that in our attempts to prevent war we have taught our people to belittle the heroic qualities of the solider.” 

“Wars are not won by defensive tactics. … The best armor and the best defense is a rapid and well-directed fire.” 

“An army commander does what is necessary to accomplish his mission, and that nearly eighty percent of his mission is to arouse morale in his men.” 

“Don’t delay. The best is the enemy of the good. By this, I mean that a good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan next week.” 

“Fatigue breeds pessimism.”

Podcast: Leaders Are Learners

On this episode of “The Craig And Greg Show” we discuss:

  • the importance of leaders being lifelong learners
  • the many health benefits of learning
  • the science of how our brains process new information
  • how important it is to involve a mentor or a learning partner
  • questions for leaders to ask themselves

Check out this episode and subscribe on YouTube so you can watch all of the upcoming episodes.

Get more information at Maximize Leadership.

The Core Curriculum Of The Spirit

“The Law of God teaches us how to love Him and our neighbors (Matthew 22:34-40). The Law of God is critical for seeking the Kingdom of God (Matthew 5:17-19). The Law of God liberates us from the blinding and binding power of sin (James 2:8-13). The Law of God marks the path of love that Jesus walked, and that all must walk who would follow Him (1 John 2:1-6; 5:1-3). The Law of God provided the framework within which the apostles ordered their churches (cf. 1 Corinthians 5, 9; James 2:5; 1 John 5). The Law of God is the core curriculum of the Spirit, as He brings us into the presence of God’s glory and transforms us into the image of Jesus Christ (Ezekiel 36:26-27; 2 Corinthians 3:12-18). Neglecting the Law of God is a major cause for the decline of true and selfless love in the world; it licenses the progress of evil; and it threatens to render the prayers of Law-neglecting believers an ‘abomination’ or, we might say, ‘a dead and a useless thing’ (Matthew 24:12; Proverbs 28:4, 9). 

[all Scriptures from the above paragraph are here]

“It’s no wonder the psalmist, echoing Moses, insisted that the righteous person, the one who embodies the goodness of God in all his ways, meditates on the Law of God day and night, hides it in his heart and embodies it in all his ways (Psalm 119:9-11; Deuteronomy 6:1-9), keeps it diligently, delights in and loves it, and hastens to make sure his feet follow in its path (cf. Psalm 1; Psalm 119:4, 5, 35, 59, 60, 97). 

[all Scriptures from the above paragraph are here]

“If you are missing the Law of God in your relationship with Jesus, you are depriving yourself of a most important resource for bringing the goodness of God to light in the land of the living. The good works outlined in the Law of God are those ‘ordained of old’ which God intends us to do in all our ways (Ephesians 2:10). Yes, understanding the Law can be difficult. But we can learn from the prophets, Jesus, and the apostles how to read, study, and meditate in this most important corpus of Biblical literature, and thus we can discover the true freedom for goodness and love that God has prepared for us.” —T.M. Moore 

Apples Of Gold In Pictures Of Silver (book review)

The title of this book comes from the King James Version of the Bible: “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver” (Proverbs 25:11). A picturesque phrase for words that are challenging and uplifting. 

This book came to me from my Grandfather’s library. Originally published in 1889, my Grandfather had an autographed copy from 1901. The words in this book have stood the test of time. 

The first section of the book contains quotes, poems, and other life-guiding words to be read each day of the year. The subsequent sections are targeted to specific seasons of life. They are “Apples of Gold for…

  • … Children
  • … Youths 
  • … Lasses 
  • … Young Men 
  • … Young Women
  • … Early Married Life
  • … Middle-Aged 
  • … The Old
  • … Mothers 
  • … Dark Days 
  • … Bright Days” 

Each of these sections contains short stories, quotes, and poetry to both recover from a stumble and help the reader grow to new levels of maturity and success. 

I realize this book is out of print and probably unavailable to most, but there is an important principle from these types of books: Never stop learning. Find sources of wisdom that have stood the test of time, and let others’ hindsight be your foresight as you strive to keep on growing. In the case of Apples Of Gold In Pictures Of Silver, the editors approached this book from a biblical worldview, making sure that all of the counsel they printed aligned with God’s Word. 

I would encourage you to find these types of books to help you grow through life.

Faith Of Our Fathers (book review)

I almost want to quote George Santayana every time I post a review about an historical book, but for Faith Of Our Fathers compiled by Eric Buehrer it is especially appropriate. So allow me to quote two sage pieces of wisdom from Santayana—

“Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” —AND—  “A child educated only in school is an uneducated child.” 

I am flabbergasted at how little time is spent in public schools educating our kids on the founding of our country. And frequently when it is taught, the lessons seem to go out of their way to not mention the biblical principles that went into crafting our nation’s founding documents. 

I have become a big fan of Gateways To Better Education. The founder of Gateways, Eric Buehrer, has put together a very helpful book for parents to help their children learn about the Christian faith of our Founding Fathers. 

Eric has given us a very short biography of our Founders, a quote attributed to them, Bible verses that undergird that Founder’s quote, and then some discussion questions for the family. Parents, please make full use of this great resource! 

And best of all: You can download the PDF version of this book FREE by clicking this link.

Bible Gateway’s Bible Audio App (review)

Typically, I post book reviews. So what’s a review of an audio app doing here? Quite simply, the Bible Gateway Bible Audio App is a wonderful companion piece to the Book of books—the Bible. 

I am a voracious reader, but my all-time, hands-down, nothing-else-is-even-close book is my Bible. I enjoy finding new ways to interact with God’s Word, so I am always on the lookout for study aids or companion pieces. This audio Bible meets this desire very nicely! 

I enjoy how streamlined this app is. Not a lot of options or distractions on the screen. Just pick your passage, select which version you would like to listen to, and tap the big play button. It’s that simple! If you would like to look at the screen while you listen, the verses appear one-by-one at the top of the screen as they are being read. Other options include playback speed, repeat options, and a sleep timer. 

I recently recommended this app to a friend of mine and he wrote, “I have two learning disabilities: dyslexia and ADD. I found the audio easy to listen to and appreciate the large print text. This app is now the first thing and last thing I do every day!” 

The free version of this app is more than adequate, but for a small fee, you can upgrade to add even more versions to your library, which you may then listen to even when you’re not on a WiFi. 

Bible Gateway is owned by Zondervan. Some of the other Zondervan Bible study tools I have reviewed in the past (and I am still using today) include:

I downloaded this audio app for free, and you can too by clicking here. 

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Comments On Commentaries

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Comments On Commentaries

     It has been said that the passage I have taken for my text [Isaiah 7:1-17] is one of the most difficult in all the Word of God. It may be so. I certainly did not think it was until I saw what the commentators had to say about it, and I rose up from reading them perfectly confused! One said one thing, and another denied what the other had said. And if there was anything that I liked, it was self-evident that it had been copied from one to the other and handed through the whole of them! 

     One set of commentators tells us that this passage refers entirely to some person who was to be born within a few months after this prophecy….

     Well, that seems a strange frittering away of a wonderful passage, full of meaning, and I cannot see how they can substantiate their view when we find the evangelist Matthew quoting this very passage in reference to the birth of Christ [Matthew 1:22-23]….

     I find, moreover, that many of the commentators divide the sixteenth verse from the fourteenth and fifteenth verses, and they read the fourteenth and fifteenth verses exclusively of Christ, and the sixteenth verse of Shear-Jashub….

     Then another view, which is the most popular of all, is to refer the passage, first of all, to some child who was then to be born, and afterward, in the highest sense, to our blessed Lord Jesus Christ. … 

     But I think that if I had never read those books at all, but had simply come to the Bible without knowing what any man had written upon it, I would have said, ‘There is Christ here as plainly as possible! Never could His name had been written more legibly than I see it here.’ 

From The Birth Of Christ

Spurgeon was not advocating that we never consult commentaries because elsewhere he said about the use of commentaries: “I find it odd that he who thinks so highly of what the Holy Spirit teaches him speaks so little of what the Holy Spirit teaches others also.” 

But what I believe Spurgeon is advocating here is this important principle—The best commentary on a passage of Scripture is another passage of Scripture. Which is why he used the passage in Matthew to help him understand the passage in Isaiah.

God makes Himself clear in His Word. The same Holy Spirit that inspired the pen of those who wrote the words in the Bible is the same Holy Spirit in you that can illuminate those words to your heart and mind. 

Commentators have their place. I believe that place is after you have prayed through and wrestled with a passage of Scripture for yourself. Think of commentators as the answers in the back of your math book. After you have worked through the equations for yourself, go to the answer key to verify your answers. If you simply look up the answer before you wrestle with the problem, how have you benefitted yourself? 

And always remember that God’s Word is infallible, but men are fallible. Commentators may provide an insight that helps you see something more clearly, but they are never a substitute for God’s very own word on a matter. 

Should you use commentaries? Sure! Find a good one, but consult it only after you have asked the Holy Spirit to help illuminate the passage, and after you have allowed the commentary of Scripture itself to shine its light on the difficult verse or passage.


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