Category Archives: Books on Monthly Theme

Talks On The Song of Songs — Book Review

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Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153), a French abbot and reformer, was a founder of the Cistercian monastic order.  He spent 18 years writing sermons which served as a commentary on the Song of Songs.  He died before completing an exposition of  the entire book. He only made it through the third verse of Chapter 3 in 86 sermons!  Bernard saw the bride in Song of Songs as a representative of both the individual soul and the entire Church;  The Bridegroom is, of course, Christ. The book became for him, an allegory of the spiritual life, and more personally his own life with God.

This book is not easy reading, and not for everyone.  The copy I have is edited and modernized by Bernard Bangley and is still slow going.  I used it as a devotional years ago, reading one small section carefully each day.   Here’s an excerpt from the very beginning:

You have studied, denied yourself, and meditated constantly for a long time.  I am sure you are prepared for a diet of solid spiritual food.  The Song of Songs is tasty bread.  Let’s break it and enjoy a substantial meal.

The Song of Songs is a book we don’t often study or spend time with.  You might give this book a try and find it well worth the effort.

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100 Days With Jesus–Book Review

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This little gem of a book would make a wonderful gift for a friend.  It includes a presentation page, thick glossy pages and a beautiful photograph with each reading.  The author, Diann Cotton, first got the idea when she found a page in her Bible listing over 250 names and attributes of Jesus.  She began studying one or two a day, hoping to know Jesus better by the end of the year.  Her own research, prayer and reflection led to the book.

100 Days with Jesus by [Cotton, Diann]

Perfect to be used as a daily devotional, each reading includes a name or description of Jesus, the scriptural basis for the name, a definition, prayer and reflection question. The entries are ordered alphabetically, so you can easily find a particular name. The questions could easily be used as a journaling tool if that is part of your daily routine.

Interested in learning more, or purchasing this book?  Click on the link below:

https://beta.lifeway.com/en/product/100-days-with-jesus-P005793050

Out of the Depths — Book Review

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Out of the Depths” is the autobiography of John Newton, author of the beloved hymn “Amazing Grace.”  Don’t pick this book up because you want to hear more about Newton as a hymnist — it’s just not there.  Instead, the book focuses on his spiritual journey.

Out of the Depths by [Newton, John]

Born to a devout mother who dies when he is seven, Newton strays from the faith.  As a young man he becomes willful, arrogant and disappointing to his father.  His life reads like some of the great stories of the Bible.  He is runs away like Jonah, is shipwrecked and beaten like Paul, and like the prodigal son finally comes home to God, his Father.  He experiences both wealth and want, becomes a sea captain, a slave trader, a servant (little better than a slave himself) and finally a pastor.

Here is what he had to say about his life:

“They (true believers) are as one body, animated by one spirit;  yet their experiences, formed upon these common principles, are far from uniform.   The Lord in His first call, and His following providential actions, regards the situation, temperament, and talents of each and the particular services or trials He has appointed for them.  All are tested at times yet some pass through the voyage of life much more smoothly than others.  ….We must not, therefore, make the experience of others in all respects, a rule to ourselves nor our own a rule to others.  ….My case has been extraordinary…it is to be expected that after such a wonderful, unhoped for deliverance as I had received, and after my eyes were somewhat enlightened to see things aright, I should immediately cleave to the Lord and His ways with purpose of heart and depend no more on mere flesh and blood.”

This book was a fairly easy read and I enjoyed it (the copy I had was revised and updated for modern readers).  Each of us, like Newton, has a faith journey and we should spend some time reflecting on it.  How has God led you to the place you’re at today?  I’d like to hear about that.

The Case for Christ – Book Review

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I just finished reading the book “The Case for Christ” by Lee Strobel and I felt I should mention this book to others.  I love reading articles and books that confirm the Bible in history, and Lee Strobel’s book fits that description perfectly.

A movie has been made from this book and I have to tell you that I haven’t seen the movie, yet.  I’m more a book person and will read the book, if available, before I see the movie.  I’m always asked how the movie compared to the book and usually I have to say that there is always more details in the book.

Now, this book is wonderful for anyone who is wanting to include historic facts to their evangelism.  Lee Strobel, who was once an atheist, goes on a quest to prove Jesus didn’t exist.  His wife came home one day and told him she was now a Christian and he had to prove how wrong she was.   Lee, who is a well known investigative reporter, starts interviewing the experts from all over the country, bringing all the questions and doubts that he and others have raised.  At the end of each chapter there is a list of questions for deliberation or for group study.  Lee gives a full list of citations and a topical index at the end for further study.

The book is in three parts: Examining the Record, Analyzing Jesus and Researching the Resurrection.  In each part is the transcripts of his conversations with each expert.  It’s not what I would call an easy read.  While you are reading you need to pay attention to what is being said.  However, the book flows and pulls you into Lee’s quest up to the part where he makes his own decision to follow Christ.

For any skeptics that are reading this I would encourage you to pick up the book or, at least, see the movie.  For the Christians reading this, I would encourage you to read the book so that you can add some of the references to expand your knowledge of Biblical history.

“Ancient Words” a song by Michael W. Smith kept playing in my head once I got about halfway through this book.  Here are the lyrics and a link to hear the song.

“Ancient Words”
Holy words long preserved, For our walk in this world
They resound with God’s own heart, Oh, let the ancient words impart

Words of Life, words of Hope, Give us strength, help us cope
In this world, where e’er we roam, Ancient words will guide us home

[Chorus:]
Ancient words ever true
Changing me and changing you
We have come with open hearts
Oh, let the ancient words impart

Holy words of our Faith, Handed down to this age
Came to us through sacrifice, Oh heed the faithful words of Christ

Holy words long preserved, For our walk in this world
They resound with God’s own heart, Oh let the ancient words impart

[Chorus:]
Ancient words ever true
Changing me and changing you
We have come with open hearts
Oh, let the ancient words impart

Here is a youtube video of the  song.  I apologize if there are ads; you can’t get away from them these days:

 

A Moment To Breathe – Book Review

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A Moment to Breathe

 

 

During this time of year we all need just a moment to breathe.  I think this devotional book would be good for that reason.  The full title is: A Moment To Breathe; 365 Devotions that Meet You In Your Everyday Mess.  This book is from the (in)courage community.

The days are numbered so you can start anywhere; starts with Day 1 and goes through to Day 365.  Each page is a page of encouragement for everyday living. The stories are true to life and show examples of how we, as women, can live our lives helping and encouraging others.  Each start with a bible verse (indexed in the back of the book) and ends with a thought to take with you during the day or for meditation.

I think it would be a great addition to any woman’s library.

 

http://www.lifeway.com/Product/a-moment-to-breathe-P005796426

Be Kind at Christmas

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I’ve been using a devotional recently called “The One Year Daily Acts of Kindness Devotional” by Julie Fisk, Kendra Roehl, and Kristin Demery.  These women were concerned about the attitude their children displayed about Christmas — begging for the newest toy, complaining about what they couldn’t do or didn’t receive.  They decided to combat this tendency each family would do one kind act each day during the Christmas season and post about it on social media to encourage others.  Their report?  It changed them all much more than they expected.  They saw their relationship with God grow as they put their faith into action with simple acts of kindness.  It evolved into the devotional which gives many good suggestions for intentionally showing kindness.  Here are some of the Advent Acts of Kindness listed at the end of the book:

  1. Write encouraging notes to place in your children’s lunch boxes
  2. Buy or make treats for your coworkers
  3. Send cards and supplies to servicepersons or veterans through organizations like Operation Gratitude or the USO
  4. Babysit for free for a single mom or young couple so they can have a night out
  5. Take cookies or other homemade gifts to your neighbors
  6. Drop off boxes of tissues at a local school to help replenish their supplies
  7. Write a note to a business, recognizing an employee by name and commending them for excellent service
  8. Invite someone who may be lonely to dinner
  9. Donate pet food to the local humane society
  10. Go caroling in your neighborhood or at a local nursing home

See the source image

These are only a few suggestions to be found in the book, and once you start, you will be able to come up with lots of ideas of your own.

Christmas has become a time that is often filled with stress and rudeness.  Shoppers are harried, store employees tired out and irritable, travelers impatient.  Why not go against the flow and spread  kindness instead?

“And the King will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, as you did to one of the least of these, my brethren, you did it to me.”  Matthew 25:40

God Is In the Manger

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This quote is from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Book, “God Is In the Manger.” I’m planning to request it from our local library, so you may see a review later this month!

“Jesus stands at the door knocking (Rev. 3:20). In total reality, he comes in the form of the beggar, of the dissolute human child in ragged clothes, asking for help. He confronts you in every person that you meet. As long as there are people, Christ will walk the earth as your neighbor, as the one through whom God calls you, speaks to you, makes demands on you. That is the great seriousness and great blessedness of the Advent message. Christ is standing at the door; he lives in the form of a human being among us.”  

The Marriage Feast of the Lamb

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 “Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready;  it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure–for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.  And the angel said to me ‘Write this:  Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.'”  Revelation 19:7-9

I just finished a book that I picked up, never imagining it would have anything to do with our monthly theme.  It’s called real SEX (subtitle: the naked truth about chastity) by Lauren Winner.  I ordered it from the public library because I have read other books by this same author.  She was a Jewish girl who converted to Christianity, and her first book, Girl Meets God, is about that spiritual journey.  She is very honest in describing her own sins and struggles, and she tackles difficult theological questions in a way that, for me at least, clarifies and illuminates.

Lauren says she began real SEX determined to talk about the issue of premarital sex;  how it is a difficult teaching for all young, single people, and particularly for someone like her who was already sexual active at the time of conversion.  She didn’t intend to write about marriage.  However, as she got into her subject, she came to the conclusion that she couldn’t talk about premarital sex without talking about marriage.  That’s because the real reason to avoid sex outside of marriage has to do with what God intended marriage to be.

God meant marriage to have three qualities.  It is unitive — that’s the whole “one-flesh” idea.  Marriage is a school for learning how to become “one” in relationship with another person.  It is procreative — and therefore, the building block of the family and of society.  Finally, it is sacramental because it is a meant to represent the union between Christ and the church.  Check out this reading from Ephesians 5:

“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.  This is a profound mystery–but I am talking about Christ and the church.”

Marriage teaches us, the church, what the kingdom of God will be like in eternity– an intimate union with Christ.  With this idea, I’m finally going to come to the point of this post.  One of the authors’ conclusions deals with a question we’ve all had to deal with about heaven.  The fact that there will be “no marrying or giving in marriage.”  This has always bothered me.  After a long, life of being married to one man, in heaven he’ll be just another guy?  How can that be? It doesn’t seem right.  Well, as Winner explains, in heaven the only marriage will be between God and His church.  As part of the body of Christ, we’ll be joined to each other and to Him in a union that is so complete, we won’t need anything else.  Earthly marriage simply points to this greater unity we as believers can look forward to. It’s a way for us to practice intimacy and unity right now.  Awesome, isn’t it?

I’m looking forward to that Marriage Feast more even more now than I did before.  What about you?  Have you really thought about marriage in this way?  Does it help your understanding of Biblical teaching about marriage?  I’d like to hear others comment.

Who Are We Really?

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I’ve found myself thinking about this blog post and feeling that I would like to avoid writing it.  ( I’m preparing a Sunday School lesson on Jonah, the prophet who tried to run away from God, and boy, can I identify).  However, the Holy Spirit keeps nudging me to put it out there, so here goes.

The Hunger Games

Have you read the book, or watched the movie,  The Hunger Games?  I bet almost everyone has.  It’s the story of a young girl, Katniss Everdeen, who through her abilities and virtue, triumphs over an evil government, and becomes a symbol of freedom that motivates others. It’s a story we all want to identify with, especially here in America.  That’s how we see ourselves, right? The land of the brave and the free?  Individualists who broke away from the control of England to establish a country where liberty is  guaranteed and everyone has an opportunity to work hard and succeed.  Hunger Games fits well with the story we tell ourselves about who we are and how we came to exist as a nation.  I suppose that’s okay as far as it goes.

Unfortunately what struck me, particularly when I saw the movie, was the thought that we’re not Katniss, we’re the people in the capital;  the people who are living an extravagant, gluttonous lifestyle, while outside our borders people starve.  Look up the statistics.  Did you know that 16% of the worlds’ population (this is pretty much the U.S., Europe and Japan) consume 80% of the natural resources?  Americans comprise 4% of the world population, but operate 1/3 of its’ cars and use 1/4 of its’ energy.

You may tell yourself that at least we’re not drafting people to compete in a murderous game for our entertainment.  Think again.  We haven’t quite gotten to that level, but we’re more than willing to view many “reality” shows that encourage conflict, lust and greed for our enjoyment.

Here’s the naked truth.  We live in the capital and we are those evil people.  We have no hope of isolating ourselves from sin, our own and that of society.  We don’t need a Katniss;  we need a savior.  Come Lord Jesus.

 

 

Eat This Book

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“I went to the angel and told him to give me the little scroll;  and he said to me, ‘Take it and eat;  it will be bitter to your stomach, but sweet as honey in your mouth.’  And I took the little scroll from the hand of the angel and ate it;  it was sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it my stomach was made bitter.”  Rev. 10:  9-10

If you’ve never read anything by Eugene Peterson, you should.  Peterson is professor emeritus of spiritual theology at Reagent College, Vancouver, British Columbia.  He is author of the popular modern paraphrase of the Bible, The Message.  

Eat This Book, has been sitting on our bookshelf for some time and I decided that as it went along with our November theme, now was the time to delve into it.  As usual, I’m not disappointed with Peterson’s work.  It deals with the topic of “spiritual reading.”  According to Peterson we need to read the Bible not just for information;  not just for inspiration and comfort; not just as a guide for ethical living.  We need to “eat” the Bible –digest it, and take it into our lives so that it nourishes us and affects us on a very basic level.  Most of the time, we use the Bible to help us in our life;  we need to take the Bible in so that it uses us — instead of making the Bible part of our lives, we need to become part of its’ life and narrative.

In the quote above from Revelations, an angel gives John a scroll to eat;  first it is sweet, but it becomes bitter.  According to Peterson, when we become Christians, our first taste of Scripture is wondrously tasty — however, as we continue in the Word, we find that there are many things that are hard to digest, understand and accept.

“We are fond of saying that the Bible has all the answers.  And that is certainly correct.  ….But the Bible also has all the questions, many of them that we would just as soon were never asked of us, and some of which we will spend the rest of our lives doing our best to dodge. …you can’t domesticate this book to what you are comfortable with.”  from Eat This Book

I hope some other authors and readers will take a look at Peterson’s book this month.  You’ll be challenged to a whole new level of reading the Scriptures.