Category Archives: Christian

The Day Between by Abigail Wilson

The Apostle Paul said, “…we exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint…” These truths – which are much more easily read on paper than experienced in one’s own life – are given full display in Abigail Wilson’s new memoir The Day Between. The story of a troubled pregnancy with twins is told with an easy pace and sympathetic voice that draws the reader deeper into the life of its author. All the while, the story is continually turned to reveal how God is concerned about the minutiae of every moment. Moving and rich, Wilson’s journey cannot help but make one be thankful for all the good in their life.

A true life account of a mother’s struggle with twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome might not make it easily on to your stack of books to read; however, you would be missing on a heartfelt tale of love that is full of suspense and insight. We have all had those moments of waiting – whether it’s for the next shoe to drop or for the next period of life to start. The Day Between shows how even in the most trying times grace and help are able to be found. There are no hollow encouragements here, but strong words borne from experience. The weight of this tough time of life is balanced though by Wilson’s free flowing words and self-effacing humor. The reader never feels like the load is more than they ought to carry even if the author feels that way herself. It’s a testimony to the prayer: “…the nearness of my God is my good…” (Psalm 73:28).

No real spoiler – the story has a happy result. It always does when there’s new life.

 

8.5 stars out of 10

 

photo: Anna Middlebrook

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The Everlasting Man by G.K. Chesterton

Christian apologists come and go with their books of the month, but few 20th Century writers could get to the heart of Christian thinking like G. K. Chesterton. His solid understanding of the world and how it should work provide channels of rationality that have been seeming lost by so much modern rhetoric. In fact, he simply pulls back the curtain on what so many think of as logical facts to reveal that they are, in truth, just crafted suppositions. A book on how to think rightly that ends up pointing to the divinity of Christ might not seem like the next book to put on your shelf, but if you’re a thinker – regardless of viewpoint – it will help you do that better.

In Protestant circles (and without), C.S. Lewis rightfully gets tons of praise as the preeminent apologist for rational Christian thought. However, Chesterton with an equally broad body of work has written some of the most accessible books on the depth of the Christian thought life. His treatise Orthodoxy reveals that truth is always simple and complicated and should not be disentangled. The Everlasting Man at its core is a blueprint for why so much highly touted science is in fact unsupportable by facts. Objective criticism is always needed to make a logical progression, but more and more, thinkers are turning to the subjective whims of thought to provide insight. Chesterton methodically presents why present day thinkers need to return to a true logic to understand our world.

Starting with the caveman, Chesterton reveals how more and more stories are told about the “prehistoric” man – as if the scientists don’t realize that prehistory means that we don’t know the stories. Supposition and conjecture to develop theory is always important in scientific endeavor, but there’s a point where many believe a whole stack of theories equate to reality. Many might believe that Earth resides in the arm of the Milky Way more than they would believe that there’s beautiful gardens in the city. But one you could go and prove, and the other will remain a supposition – even if it is true. While in no way reading like a textbook – it is always engaging – little by little the reader starts to see that there’s purpose behind science. This purpose is not always to reveal truth. You can help make it be though.

I will add that Chesterton does point truth seekers to the fount of Truth. He tries as best he can to show how the divinity of Christ is the logical way to understand the progress of the world. It’s not done in a Josh McDowell-like stacking of facts. He does it by asking you to think objectively and refrain from self-made rhetoric. Whether he ultimately succeeds is your call, but I felt like it was worth reading about.

 

7 stars out of 10

 

Photo credit: Irish Dominican Photographers via Visual hunt / CC BY-NC-SA

Opened Heavens by Jessie Penn-Lewis

In the autumn of 1900, Jessie Penn-Lewis gave a series of addresses at the Quiet Days for Christian Workers gathering in Peekskill, New York. Seven of these talks were collected into the pamphlet Opened Heavens. An additional lecture received its own printing known as Much Fruit. The focus of talks was the need for “Visions of God” to be given to the church to rightly see how one should live. These “visions” were not some height of ecstasy or prophetic dream, but rather they are to be a right understanding of the Scriptures as they pertain to God. In summary, if we rightly perceive the Lord in the Bible, then we will rightly know how to live.

The pamphlet is probably pretty heavy to those who are familiar with the easily accessible Christian writings of today. It starts with a call to the Christian to seek revelation about the persons of the Trinity. It then leads to an urging for a complete denial of self and total service to the will of God. Finally it ends with an exposition on the work of Christ and how the reader should endeavor to partake in it. The language is lofty but the teaching cuts to the quick of an open heart. It has become increasingly harder in a day of instant self-gratification to lay your desires down for others – even more so for a God that calls for your whole life. Penn-Lewis does not ask for a casual faith nor does she want mediocre acknowledgments of the need. Her message is for a total life laid down.

I had the slightly uncanny experience of reading this book on the beach in Puerto Rico during an anniversary trip. Living the high life in the midst of beautiful, rich people gives a perspective to the thrust of this book that was a little unsettling. I was able to relax and get some well-deserved rest, but I was also encouraged by this tract to push deeper in my spiritual life – to get to the point where I could say with Ezekiel, “The heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God.” (Ezekiel 1:1) A stern but ultimately encouraging read for those looking for a clearer grasp of the Godhood.

5 stars out of 10

George Whitefield by Arnold Dallimore

There may be no person who spoke directly in person to more people in the history of the world as George Whitefield. If just for this single fact, a biography of his would be a must read. However, during the 40 years of his preaching ministry, the western world (and by its effects the entire globe) changed immensely during the movement known now as the Great Awakening. This period has wide ranging effects including the establishment of major denominations, the push for the abolishment of slavery, the development of media, the rise of democracy, and the establishment of the United States. The central figure of this time was George Whitefield.

This volume by Arnold Dallimore is an abridgment of his much longer comprehensive biography of Whitefield. I highly encourage you to read the unabridged version if you want a full perspective on the evangelist’s life. But, if you need a quick yet substantive overview of the man’s life, this book will fill your needs perfectly.

Whitefield was converted in his early college years, and from a short time afterwards, he began preaching evangelistic messages in England. His eloquence and power displayed in his sermons quickly had many flocking to hear him. Seeking to maximize hearers for the gospel of Christ, he turned to “field preaching” in London parks. Tens of thousands began to turn out to hear his messages. There may never have been larger crowds that have ever been able to hear a single man unamplified. The force of his message to turn to Jesus and to follow His will quickly began to have great effects in reforming London society. But only after a few weeks, Whitefield left on his first of 13 Atlantic crossings to take the good news to America.

His life is filled with many ups and downs. The love of America for him, his support of orphans, the influence he had on British nobility contrasted with his constant illness, his skewering by the press, his troubles with the Wesleys. Through it all, he kept a singlemindedness that nothing could make him stop from extending the invitation of Christ’s love for sinners. The relating of his climbing out of bed to preach from a balcony to eager listeners the night of his death shows the power Whitefield had 40 years after he spoke for the first time.

Revival literature should encourage and strengthen the seeking heart. This book does both. Whitefield’s life is a testimony of God’s keeping grace even in light of extremely difficult pressure. If men thought he was too proud, he humbled himself further; if others wanted control, he submitted to them; if though completely spent of all strength a one would ask for a word about the Living God, he would share and not rest. He talked to millions 300 years ago. A man used by God can change the world, and George Whitefield is the proof.

7.5 stars out of 10

photo: National Black Robe Regiment

Invasion of Wales by the Holy Spirit through Evan Roberts by James A. Stewart

I recently read The Awakening of Wales by Jessie Penn-Lewis who was an eyewitness of the Welsh Revival of 1904 and 1905. After talking to some friends about that account, they loaned me James Stewart’s attempt to document the times from a perspective of a couple of decades. For the most part, Stewart succeeds in capturing the essence of God’s work in Wales by compiling many firsthand anecdotes and including more personal information about Evan Roberts than he allowed in his lifetime. While not as fresh as Penn-Lewis’ recounting, this short book still has the life of the revival on it.

The book concentrates on the preparation that had been done in the country through many prayer groups in the years leading up to the outpouring. There were numerous groups of three or four people whose hearts burned for a moving of God among the people. When it finally came, the society was transformed. Sports and entertainment lost their appeal. Businessmen and tradesmen alike found their way to the packed meetings. The young and the old would remain at worship until well past midnight. Stewart documents not only how rapidly the country transformed but how peacefully it did as well. All things were in order.

A great benefit to this book is the transcription of one of Evan Roberts’ actual sermons. This gives the reader a vivid picture of what was being taught more than a hundred years ago in Wales. While not to be emulated without the life that the Spirit had given the man, the salient points of the life of the cross and complete reliance upon God are lessons for all ages. The prayer to Jesus was always being made – “Bend the church. Save the world!”

5.5 stars out of 10

Evidence Not Seen by Darlene Deibler Rose

Every once in a while you read a book that slaps your self-pity on the nose – and this is a good thing. This true story about a young missionary woman in New Guinea during World War II will definitely give the reader a check on their pride. Darlene Deibler shares with openness and grace the struggles of moving to New Guinea to reveal the gospel to primitive peoples and then serving four years in a Japanese internment camp. The story is equally heartbreaking and beautiful as she and the women of the camp overcome with a patience and steadfastness rarely observed today.

Evidence Not Seen reads as a primer for those who feel called to missionary work – at least on this point: God’s plan for your life may not be yours but His is ultimately better. Mrs. Deibler relates how she married the much older missionary C. Russell Deibler to be swept to the Dutch East Indies where they were convinced they would set up a strong mission base in remote New Guinea. However, after working tirelessly for a few years to make this a reality, the Japanese army invaded the islands and forced the Deiblers into separate internment camps. Here Darlene found her new mission was to preserve a positive attitude among fellow prisoners and to share and cultivate faith in God in the camp. She suffered trials constantly: disease, forced labor, deaths of loved ones, torture, and deprivement. Through all this, she rested heavy on her relationship with Jesus. His promise to her to “never leave her or forsake her” was the iron for her soul. Though she could never see the endgame for God’s plan for her, she willingly followed his lead and found great reward.

Ultimately this book speaks to power of simple daily faith. To be a hero for this day, you do not have to be mighty – just faithful. The little kindnesses given have a cumulative effect. The daily study of the scripture ground the soul. The prayers whispered in the corner establish a connection to Christ that can be unshakeable. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1

7 stars out of 10

photo: west-point.org (Japanese POW camp – not Mrs. Deibler’s camp)

The Awakening in Wales by Jessie Penn-Lewis

Revival literature is a genre all its own. Surely it resembles other Christian writings in its main focus on Jesus and His work in the earth. However, no author – no matter how hard they try – can capture the tone that an eyewitness of a great moving of God can relate. It’s simply because the experience of seeing revival firsthand turns knowledge into understanding. Thankfully, Jessie Penn-Lewis was an eyewitness to the Wales Revival of 1904 and 1905. This little treatise on the movings of the Spirit is a well documented ledger of the awakenings that took place all over this small country. She is able to spread just a little ember of that fire that burned so brightly there; and maybe, this flame of hers will reignite again.

I have a special place in my heart for stories of revival. Maybe it’s because I’m looking for one for the world, or maybe it’s because I need one so badly for myself. Either way, to read tales of how Christ moved with power among the world bringing honor to Himself is glorious. I love missionary tales too (you’ll probably notice plenty on this site as time goes on), but seeing the church on a mountain top is always a precious encouragement. There’s a reason why we read Nathan Cole’s George Whitefield Comes to Middletown every October. We’re looking for fresh fire to fall from heaven.

This tract is a relatively basic overview of places, times, and events. There’s a short description of the call of Evan Roberts to the position of primary evangelist for this time. Christian conferences and town prayer-meetings are described. The words she uses are plain, but there is an authority in them. God’s Spirit moves in among the humdrum recollections of this and that. What a lesson for Christian writers who try to write an intriguing yarn or catch readers with a salacious hook. The simple truth is good enough. Penn-Lewis knows that and delivers it without decoration.

It is hard now a hundred and ten years later to see all the fruit that came from this shaking of Wales. The most obvious are the songs. The 1905 Wales revival is known as a “singing revival”. Many of the Welsh tunes are still with us today. They capture the pre-eminence of the message of Calvary and being filled with the Holy Spirit.

Dyma Gariad

Here is Love, vast as the ocean

Loving kindness as the flood,

When the Price of Life our ransom

Shed for us His precious blood;

Who His love will not remember?

Who can cease to sing His praise?

He can never be forgotten

Through Heaven’s eternal days.

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On the Mount of Crucifixion

Fountains opened deep and wide;

Through the floodgates of God’s mercy

Flowed a vast and gracious tide;

Grace and love, like mighty rivers,

Poured incessant from above,

And heaven’s peace and perfect justice

Kissed a guilty world in love.

7.5 stars out of 10