Washington’s Immortals (book review)

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There’s an old proverb that says,

For want of a nail the shoe was lost,
for want of a shoe the horse was lost,
for want of a horse the knight was lost,
for want of a knight the battle was lost,
for want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
So a kingdom was lost—all for want of a nail.

I thought of this proverb as I began reading Washington’s Immortals by Patrick K. O’Donnell, which recounts the history of a regiment from Maryland that not only turned the tide of a crucial battle in the American Revolutionary War, but who were at the center of nearly every vital battle throughout the war. 

At the outset of the war, the British army and navy nearly overwhelmed George Washington’s forces in New York. One regiment from Maryland stood their ground, keeping the British bottled up for just one hour. But that one hour allowed General Washington precious time to get his retreating army to safety. Without the bravery and tenacity of these Marylanders, the war could have been over almost before it started. So to paraphrase the old proverb above, for want of the brave stand of the Marylanders, the American cause could have been lost! 

As General Washington watched those brave men not only stand their ground, but repeatedly counterattack the far superior British forces, he said, “Good God! What brave fellows I must this day lose!” 

If that were the only service to the American colonies that this elite group had supplied, it would have been enough. But time and time again, General Washington and General Nathaniel Green placed the Marylanders in the most vulnerable or the most crucial places on the battlefield, knowing that these men would not fail to come through. 

O’Donnell follows the movements of the Marylanders from the beginning of the war all the way through to its conclusion in a very readable manner. He shares just enough of the details of the battle for us to get a feel for the gravity of the situation, but not so many details that it becomes laborious reading. 

Any students of American history, military history, or leadership-under-fire will appreciate reading Washington’s Immortals. 

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10 Quotes From “Reading The Bible With The Founding Fathers”

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For any students of American history or of the role the Bible has played in affecting world affairs, Reading The Bible With The Founding Fathers is an eye-opening book. You can check out my full book review by clicking here. Unless otherwise noted, quotes are from author Daniel Dreisbach. 

“Following an extensive survey of American political literature from 1760 to 1805, political scientist Donald S. Lutz reported that the Bible was referenced more frequently than any European writer or even any European school of thought, such as the Enlightenment or Whig intellectual traditions. Indeed, the Bible accounted for about one-third of all citations in his sample. According to Lutz, ‘Deuteronomy is the most frequently cited book, followed by Montesquieu’s The Spirit of the Laws.’ … Saint Paul is cited about as frequently as Montesquieu and [William] Blackstone, the two most-cited secular authors, and Deuteronomy is cited almost twice as often as all of [John] Locke’s writings put together.”

“The founders often quoted the Bible without the use of quotation marks or citations, which were not necessary for a biblically literate society but the absence of which fail to alert a biblically illiterate modern audience to the Bible’s invocation.” 

“Increasing unfamiliarity with the Bible makes it harder and harder for Americans to understand their origins and their mores, or to put words to their experiences. … Lacking knowledge of the Bible, Americans are likely to be literally inarticulate, unable to relate themselves to American life and culture as a whole.” —Wilson Carey McWilliams

“Knowledge of the Bible and its place in the American experience, in short, helps Americans better understand themselves and their history.” 

“In regard to this Great Book [the Bible], I have but to say, it is the best gift God has given to man. All the good the Saviour gave to the world was communicated through this book. But for it we could not know right from wrong. All things most desirable for man’s welfare, here and hereafter, are to be found portrayed in it.” —Abraham Lincoln 

“[T]he Bible has had a literary influence not because it has been considered as literature, but because it has been considered as the report of the Word of God.” —T.S. Eliot 

“[William] Tyndale, who was the first to translate the Bible into English from the original Hebrew and Greek, can be rightly called the father of the King James Bible. Approximately ‘eighty percent of his Old Testament and ninety percent of his New Testament’ were adopted by the King James translators. …  

“There is much truth in the remark that ‘without Tyndale, no Shakespeare.’ It is also true that ‘without Tyndale, no King James Bible.’ ‘Without the King James Bible,’ Alister McGrath observed, ‘there would have been no Paradise Lost, no Pilgrim’s Progress, no Handel’s Messiah, no Negro spirituals, and no Gettysburg Address. … Without this Bible, the culture of the English-speaking world would have been immeasurably impoverished.’” 

“The size of the vocabulary found in the King James Bible is not extensive. [William] Shakespeare, it is estimated, used between fifteen and twenty thousand different words. Milton’s verse draws on a lexicon of about thirteen thousand words. The Old Testament, in the Hebrew and Aramaic, has approximately fifty-six hundred words. The New Testament, in the Greek, has around forty-eight hundred words. In the entire King James Bible, by contrast, there are only about six thousand different words, according to one accounting.” 

“The opinion that human reason, left without the constant control of divine laws and commands, will preserve a just administration, secure freedom and other rights, restrain men from violations of laws and constitutions, and give duration to a popular government, is as chimerical as the most extravagant ideas that enter the head of a maniac. … Where will you find any code of laws, among civilized men, in which the commands and prohibitions are not founded on Christian principles? I need not specify the prohibition of murder, robbery, theft, [and] trespass. … Every wise code of laws must embrace the main principles of the religion of Christ.” —John Adams 

“Moral principles and precepts contained in the Scriptures ought to form the basis of all our civil constitutions and laws. These principles and precepts have truth, immutable truth, for their foundation; and they are adapted to the wants of men in every condition of life. They are the best principles and precepts, because they are exactly adapted to secure the practice of universal justice and kindness among men; and of course to prevent crimes, war and disorders in society. No human laws dictated by different principles from those in the gospel, can ever secure these objects. All the miseries and evils which men suffer from vice, crime, ambition, injustice, oppression, slavery and war, proceed from their despising or neglecting the precepts contained in the Bible. … For instruction then in social, religious and civil duties resort to the scriptures for the best precepts and most excellent examples of imitation.” —Noah Webster

The Story Isn’t Over Yet

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One of the things I enjoy about my Apple Watch is the connection I have with others who also use an Apple Watch. For instance, I get notified when my wife has finished a workout, and one of the pre-set replies I could choose is, “I’ve got questions!” That’s a funny way of me saying, “How did you complete that workout?!” 

In Psalm 75 and Psalm 76, Asaph tells us how God will deal with the wicked. But then Psalm 77 begins with Asaph using words like, “My soul refused to be comforted, my spirit is overwhelmed,” and then he launches into the tough questions like: “How long is this going to last? Has God forgotten me? Have I fallen out of favor with God? Has His mercy dried up? Can God keep what He has promised? Is God angry with me?” When I read all this, I feel like saying, “Asaph, I’ve got questions!” 

Yet, these complaints of Asaph ring true to real life. Like when a friend called me last week and started our conversation by asking, “Why can’t things just go easy for me?”

Here’s the simple answer: The Story isn’t over yet. We are in a battle, and the enemy of our soul is still trying to take us out, or at least shut us up. 

In Psalm 77, Asaph tells his story to Jeduthun (a Levite worship leader whose name means praising) in four chapters, with a Selah for each of the breaks between the chapters. 

Chapter 1—Distress (vv. 1-3)

The word distress means confronted by an adversary. Ever been there? Every follower of God has been, so Asaph invites us to Selah: pause to contemplate things like (a) Is this distress causing me to reevaluate the foundation on which I stand? (b) What is it God is shaking in my life? When God shakes things up, it is to cause us to remember and muse about the ONLY sure foundation that can withstand any storm (see Matthew 7:24-27). 

Chapter 2—Questioning (vv. 4-9) 

Notice the words Asaph uses: thought, remembered, mused, inquired. He is asking those tough questions, but he is asking them in a way that he can carefully consider the answers. That means he is really taking a Selah pause with each question. I think he has come to this conclusion: “Aren’t all these really just rhetorical questions? And isn’t the answer to all of them a resounding ‘NO!’?” If you aren’t sure the answer to all of these questions is no, please read Romans 8:31-39.

Chapter 3—Recalling (vv. 10-15) 

Notice the continuation of the words: thought, remember, meditate, consider. He also asks another question in v. 13 which he then answers in the next two verses. His call to Selah here is another pause to reflect: “Has God lost His power? Has He changed His mind?” And once again the answer is a loud and clear, “NO!” (see Isaiah 59:1; Hebrews 13:8) 

One of the important takeaways from this stanza of Psalm 77 is this: Looking back in gratitude at what God has done allows me to look forward in hope to what He is still going to do. My remembering what God has done in the past leads to: 

  1. Release from the darkness 
  2. Renewed praise 
  3. Recovered strength 
  4. Refocused outlook 

Chapter 4—Hope (vv. 16-20) 

Asaph says, “Look what God did! And since He is the same today as He was yesterday, guess what He’s still able to do!” We know this because the Bible says, “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ. And so through Him the ‘Amen’ is spoken by us to the glory of God” (2 Corinthians 1:20). 

Remember I said earlier that God isn’t done telling His story yet? God isn’t done yet, He knows His Story, and His Story is still being told. But He’s also already told us how His story will end (see Revelation 21:4-6). And the end of His story is really just the beginning of the Real Story! 

C.S. Lewis said it this way in the closing words of The Last Battle:

“And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page; now at last they were beginning Chapter 1 of the Great Story, which no one on earth has read; which goes on forever; in which every chapter is better than the one before.” 

When you find yourself saying, “I’ve got questions: How long is this going to last,” Selah to remember that the Story isn’t over yet. The Storyteller knows how it ends, and He promises us: But what of that? For I consider that the sufferings of this present time—this present life—are not worth being compared with the glory that is about to be revealed to us and in us and for us and conferred on us! (Romans 8:18 AMP)

If you have missed any of the messages in our Selah series, you can find the complete list by clicking here.

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Churchill’s Ministry Of Ungentlemanly Warfare (book review)

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This book was a complete and pleasant surprise! I have read so many books about Winston Churchill, including a number of books that Churchill himself wrote, and I never knew about the prime minister’s special group that played such havoc with the Nazi war machine. Giles Milton unpacks the fascinating tale in Churchill’s Ministry Of Ungentlemanly Warfare. 

This book reads like a classic spy novel, but it is the actual historic record of saboteurs, weapons makers, and out-of-the-box plotters who absolutely frustrated Adolph Hitler’s war plans at nearly every turn. The start of World War II caught so many by surprise that they were woefully unprepared to confront what appeared to be the invincible German military. Some in the British government hit upon the idea of fighting a guerrilla-style war to slow down the Germans’ advance. 

Mr. Milton does a marvelous job of following six key gentlemen in the way they created new weapons, new training regimens, and new fighting styles. Everything they did was so unconventional that the traditional leaders in the British government and military hesitated to give their support to this special ministry, and even went out of their way to thwart their efforts. Fortunately, Mr. Churchill was all-in on this group and cleared out the roadblocks for them. 

Whether you enjoy fictional spy novels or non-fictional accounts of historical events, I’m confident you will thoroughly enjoy Churchill’s Ministry Of Ungentlemanly Warfare. 

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How Christianity Changed The World (book review)

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Alvin Schmidt claims, “No other religion, philosophy, teaching, nation, movement—whatever—has so changed the world for the better as Christianity has done.” And I quite believe him. He lays out the evidence to back up this bold claim in his book How Christianity Changed The World. 

A few years ago I presented a series of messages to make the case for the resurrection of Jesus. One of the pieces of evidence I presented was the cultural engagement of Christians whose lives had been transformed by a personal relationship with the resurrected Jesus Christ. Alvin Schmidt’s book is like taking this single point of mine and putting it on steroids! 

Using the reports of first-person observers from the first century all the way through present day, Mr. Schmidt shows how there is not a single part of the culture that hasn’t benefitted from the involvement of those who live out the Christian principles they have discovered in the Bible. From the care of the sick and elderly, to the elevation of women and marriage, to art, and architecture, and music, and medicine, and science, and education—every sphere of life has been improved by practicing Christians. 

I would highly recommend reading this book and then keeping it close at hand to share with those ignorant or skeptical of the claims of Christianity. As William Barclay noted, “Anyone who asks the question, ‘What has Christianity done for the world?’ has delivered himself into a Christian debater’s hands. There is nothing in history so unanswerably demonstrable as the transforming power of Christianity and of Christ on the individual life and on the life of society.” To that, I add a hearty Amen! 

Please get a copy of How Christianity Changed The World for your library. 

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Reading The Bible With The Founding Fathers (book review)

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

You know how they say, “Never judge a book by its cover?” Well, I did that with Reading The Bible With The Founding Fathers, and I judged incorrectly. My son gave me this book as a gift and I thought I would be reading passages of Scripture that our founding fathers had highlighted in their Bibles. Although that wasn’t the case at all, I was delighted to be wrong. What Daniel Dreisbach has given us in this book is a masterpiece of American history that I so thoroughly enjoyed devouring. 

This book is about the Bible’s influence on not only the founders’ thought process as they contemplated independence from Great Britain, but also as they formed our own republican form of government. It’s also about the common lexicon that the colonists had with each other because the Bible was the most well-read book in the American colonies. This allowed our founding fathers to speak in figurative language that rang true to the hearts of their fellow Americans. 

Mr. Dreisbach often takes us back to Europe and the Protestant Reformation era to help us understand how biblical thinking had coalesced and gained strength in the minds of the mid-eighteenth century Americans. Things like did the Bible sanction rebellion against the king of England, or could principles for a sound government structure be found in the pages of Scripture? 

Reading The Bible With The Founding Fathers is a fascinating and eye-opening read. Not only to help us understand the foundational thoughts of our great country but also to see the role that biblical literacy still plays in our governmental operations today. This book is extensively footnoted, so the curious reader can dig even deeper than Mr. Dreisbach has already taken these topics. 

For Christians who want a better understanding of the Bible’s place in the republican form of government in these United States of America, I would recommend reading this book alongside your Bible so you may ponder for yourself how much of our civic framework is supported by a proper understanding of Scripture. 

P.S. Another great study of our founding fathers is Faith Of Our Fathers.

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UPDATE: I share some quotes from this book here.

Resurrection Appearances Of Jesus

Jesus gave us ample evidence of His bodily resurrection. This is a recreation of a chart found in The Quest Study Bible:I also previously shared an infographic from The Infographic Bible. The historicity of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus is firmly established making it a historically verifiable event.

Thursdays With Spurgeon—The Plan Of The Cross

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.

The Plan Of The Cross

What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. (1 Corinthians 2:12) 

     The course of our fallen race has been a succession of failures. Whenever there has been an apparent rise, it has been followed by a real fall. Into ever-increasing darkness the human mind seems resolved to plunge itself in its struggles after a false light. When men have been fools, they have danced in a delirium of sin. When they have been sober, they have given themselves up to a phantom wisdom of their own that has revealed their folly more than ever. It is a sad story, the story of mankind! Read it in the light of God’s Word and it will bring tears from your very heart.

     The only hope for man was that God should interpose. And He has interposed, as though He began a new creation or worked a resurrection out of the kingdom of death. God has come into human history and here the bright lights begin. … See yonder avalanche rushing down the steep mountainside? Such is humanity left to itself. Lo, God in Christ Jesus throws Himself in the way. He so interposes as to be crushed beneath the descending rocks. But beloved, He rises from the dreadful burial. He stops the avalanche in its terrible path. He hurls back the tremendous mass and changes the whole aspect of history. … 

     The plan of the Cross is to conquer death by death, to remove sin by the endurance of the penalty, to work mightily by suffering terribly, and to glorify Christ by shame.

From Grace For Grace

This sermon reminds me of the poignant words from Isaac Watts—

When I survey the wondrous Cross 
On which the Prince of Glory died, 
My richest gain I count but loss, 
And pour contempt on all my pride. 
Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast, 
Save in the death of Christ my God! 
All the vain things that charm me most, 
I sacrifice them to His blood.
 

All of man’s attempts to control his universe, or determine his fate, or even make himself acceptable to God have been an abysmal failure. So God Himself stepped in, but He came in a way that no one could have imagined and no one could claim as their idea. The prophet Isaiah said it this way, “The Lord looked and was displeased that there was no justice. He saw that there was no one, He was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so His own arm achieved salvation for Him, and His own righteousness sustained Him” (Isaiah 59:15-16). 

It is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone that we have hope of our salvation. And for that we give all glory to God alone. Sola Deo gloria!

 

Why We Pray For Government Leaders

…the Lord filled them with joy by changing the attitude of the king of Assyria so that he assisted them in the work on the house of God, the God of Israel (Ezra 6:22).

King Darius didn’t just allow the Israelites to worship God at the temple, he assisted them in reestablishing worship at the temple! He did this because God changed his attitude. 

Nearly 60 years later, King Artaxerxes did the same thing for Ezra: “the king had granted him everything he asked for, for the hand of the Lord his God was on him” (7:6). Artaxerxes gave Ezra and the returning Israelite exiles…

  • … authority 
  • … provisions 
  • … tax exemptions (vv. 14, 20-22, 24) 

Ezra says again that this was all due to God putting this in Artaxerxes’ heart: Praise be to the Lord, the God of our fathers, who has put it into the king’s heart to bring honor to the house of the Lord in Jerusalem this way (vv. 27-28).

Daniel declares that all of the world leaders are in that position of leadership because God placed them there. The apostle Paul teaches us that government officials are God’s servants and that we are to pray for them (Romans 13:1-7; 1 Timothy 2:1-2). 

God can change the attitude of even the most hard-hearted, godless leader. Not just change their attitude, but give God’s people favor with that leader. 

Don’t become frustrated—pray. 

Don’t get discouraged—pray. 

Pray, pray, pray for all of God’s servants who are in leadership over us. God has a plan. All of history is His story, and He will change attitudes so that His servants fulfill His plan. 

King And Commoner

In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah, the Lord moved the heart of Cyrus… (Ezra 1:1). 

Ezra begins as 2 Chronicles ends: with the proclamation of Cyrus allowing the Israelites to return to Jerusalem. 

The Babylonians defeated the Assyrians, who were then defeated by the Medes, who were themselves defeated by the Persians under Cyrus II. This was a powerful man who claimed “all the kingdoms of the earth” as his possession. (v. 2). 

Yet this conquering king who was called Cyrus the Great had his heart directed by God. 

Among the Israelite exiles that returned to Jerusalem were princes, priests, Levites, servants, and common people of every stripe. These exiles were rulers of nothing. 

Yet these people also had their hearts moved by God (v. 5)—42,360 of them, to be precise. 

The same God who moved the heart of the most powerful king on earth also moved the hearts of common people. God had a plan to fulfill and He knew exactly which hearts to move at the precise time to bring about His purpose. God is sovereignly in control. All of history—including all the people in history—is His story. 

The king is not too powerful and the common citizen is not too small to be used by God. 

Let me make that statement more personal: All of the “great” people on earth today are not too powerful to be used by God, nor are you too small to be used by Him. 

Will you say “yes” when He moves your heart to action?

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