Book Review: "The Fruitful Wife" by Hayley DiMarco


A friend gave me a copy of “The Fruitful Wife,” along with an enthusiastic recommendation. Unfortunately, that book sat on my shelf almost a year before I finally picked it up and opened its pages. I have to confess, I began to read it more out of duty than anything else, simply so I could tell my friend I had read it. Yet I wasn’t more than a few pages in before I broke out my highlighter, and my love affair with this book was born.

The book is well written and engaging. Hayley DiMarco herself writes honestly about her faults and struggles in applying Galatians 5:22-23 to her life. She is sympathetic and understanding of our struggles too, but she is no pushover. In typical Hayley DiMarco fashion, she zeroes in and gets to the heart of the issue time and time again. For example, she writes in her introduction, “People do things for lots of reasons, but whatever does not come from the Spirit, but from the flesh, is done out of pleasure seeking. In other words, when the flesh is our source of fruit, the motivation isn’t God’s glory but our own (page 15).” She uncompromisingly and unapologetically holds out the standard of God’s Word, while hunting down and pointing out our sin. Thankfully, she doesn’t leave us without help, but wisely and biblically provides counsel in how to put to death the deeds of the flesh and live a life for the glory of God.

Hayley DiMarco is wonderfully astute, possessing an uncanny ability to bring to light the motivations and attitudes that underscore our fleshly responses, like when she reveals that selfishness is tied to our lack of love or that our dearth of faith is why the Holy Spirit’s joy doesn’t reside in our lives. Time and again she presses on our sore spots to get us to take note, so healing can take place, like when she writes, “What ultimately our sense of justice is fighting for isn’t holiness but self-protection (page 108).” Or when she says, “We are so used to living by emotion that we oftentimes are closer to our feelings than we are to God (page 132).” Each chapter possesses fresh insights into the underlying reasons for the unfruitful of our lives.

This book was written for wives, but any woman would benefit from reading it. Hayley DiMarco has written a Bible study to go along with the book, available on her website, but I haven’t looked at it, so can’t comment on it. Below are just some of the spots I particularly enjoyed. I include them below to whet your appetite to read the book for yourself.

Chapter 1—Love

“Real love is content not to feel good all the time.” [page 22]

“It is, after all, only frustrating or difficult people that require patience. And with those who bring out our envy and competitiveness, love demands the opposite. When others want something we don’t want, when we are at odds, love doesn’t insist on its own way. When people push our buttons, love isn’t irritable. When they hurt us, it isn’t resentful.” [page 24]

“The love defined in God’s Word is not focused on self, but on denying self. …Love requires selflessness.” [page 24]

“The opposite of love isn’t hate, but selfishness.” [page 26]

“The fruit of the flesh always destroys and disappoints.” [page 37]

Chapter 2—Joy

“I have found that my lack of joy firmly rests on my inability to consistently agree with God.” [page 41]

“The lack of fruit in our lives doesn’t speak to our sad state and our miserable or mediocre life, but to a failure to grasp our purpose here on earth. Many a wise man has said that God’s goal isn’t to make you happy but to make you holy, yet too often we put our feelings above our faith. We imagine that the fruit of the Spirit was meant to completely satisfy us, but the true purpose of the Spirit’s fruit, and therefore your life, isn’t happiness but holiness.” [page 49]

“What then is the sin in joylessness? The question is a good one. It can be easy to be content with our lack of joy, but that is dangerous to our souls, because oftentimes it betrays our doubt in the One in whom we claim to believe. …Doubt about God’s ability to forgive, protect, comfort, counsel, or fulfill His promises is a sin and a stealer of joy.” [page 51]

“Joy is the evidence of faith, because joy insists that God is good and that, no matter what the situation, all is well because of Him who will never forsake you or leave you (see Josh.1:5).” Pages 51-52

“The Holy Spirit is never pessimistic. So as we listen to His voice, as we heed His direction, our lives become optimistic in outlook. As the Spirit of God informs our hearts and minds, we learn not to call conspiracy all that others call conspiracy, and not to fear what others fear, or to dread the future (see Isaiah 8:12). When the news demands fear or worry, as in Isaiah’s time, the joyful wife refuses to capitulate. When the end is near, the woman who keeps her eyes on Christ sees hope in the destruction rather than gloom or doubt.” [page 58]

“I want to be careful not to lose my smile.” [page 58]

Chapter 3—Peace

“When there is a lack of peace, when your heart worries, frets, fights, or fears, and peace is absent, your lack of peace points to doubt in God’s goodness, compassion, mercy, and love.” [page 74]

“Self-protection is the first peace-thief we encounter. This self-protective muscle is seen not only in our personal life but also in our relationships. It shows up in what the Bible calls “rivalries” (Gal. 5:20), which covers things like competition, contention, conflict, friction, and fighting. This sense of rivalry, or self-interest, steals the peace from both your life and the life of the one you feel compelled to beat. Standing up for ourselves promises safety and benefit, but what it brings is unrest, conflict, and dissension.” [page 75]

“The biggest peace thief of all is looking for peace in all the wrong places.” [page 77]

How to Live in Perfect Peace [heading is mine; list is Hayley’s]

1. Surrender to the vine.

2. Set your mind on the Spirit.

3. Be willing to lose.

4. Be willing to be ignored.

5. Don’t be easily offended.

6. Forgive the offender.

Chapter 4—Patience

“Patience is more than the ability to wait. It involves a capacity to resist the temptation to play God, not only in your life but in the lives of others as well. …Patience tolerates delay because it sees the hand of God in every event, and patience can suffer pain without complaint because to complain is to accuse God of some wrongdoing.” [pages 86-87]

“Impatience essentially speaks to the distaste we all have for interruptions to our comfort.” [page 87]

“Patience is the enemy of self, and this is as it should be. Patience denies self, gives it no voice, subdues it and insists that it wait its turn, something self is never good at. But the fruit of patience teaches self its proper place, the grave. God never intended for your self-life to lead your redeemed life, but to die to it.” [page 93]

“In an effort to turn the tide from impatience to patience we must quit complaining.” [page 98]

Chapter 5—Kindness

“Kindness is merciful, which means it doesn’t give people what they really deserve—distrust, retaliation, or rejection—but what they don’t deserve—compassion, sympathy, and forgiveness.” [page 106]

“Kindness is meant to nourish those around us, regardless of how well they nourish us in return. Unfortunately, many of us struggle with a strong sense of justice with regard to how we are being treated.” [page 107]

“What ultimately our sense of justice is fighting for isn’t holiness but self-protection.” [page 108]

“But in the pursuit of self-protection, self becomes our object of affection, our idol that must be protected and cherished above all else. In this broken state, God takes a backseat to our wounds and our precious heart.” [page 109]

“In marriage there are moments of great testing, pain, and struggle—moments when he hurts us, when he fails us, and when he sins against us—but consider that without these moments, kindness wouldn’t be dependent on the Spirit; it could manage quite well in the power of the flesh.” [page 116]

“A big part of kindness is moving away from the concept of equity or fairness. The life of kindness was never meant to be fair; if it was then God couldn’t offer any of us grace, because we have nothing to offer in return.” [page 118]

Chapter 6—Goodness

“The desire for perfection is written into the fiber of our beings. We long for perfection in the world around us, in the people we love, and within ourselves. And when we fail to find that perfection we were made for, we often resort to sinful tactics to attempt to change our imperfect condition to something more palatable. But perfection is attainable in only one place, in the life lived in Christ.” [page 127]

“We are so used to living by emotion that we oftentimes are closer to our feelings than we are to God.” [page 132]

Chapter 7—Faithfulness

“Faithfulness requires truth telling, it requires that we be honest with ourselves about our motives and our actions. It requires that we be honest about our sin and our propensity to want life to be all about us.” [page 148]

“Idolatry happens when we go to something or someone for the things we should go to God for. When we look for comfort, peace, hope, counsel, control, joy, rest, faith, or acceptance in the arms of anything or anyone other than God, we become unfaithful, because we immediately stop serving the faithful One and start serving either sinful man or sinful self.” [page 152]

“Faithfulness is more than not cheating on your husband; it is about not cheating on God by letting sin or idols become acceptable in our lives.” [page 158]

Chapter 8—Gentleness

“Humility is not bent on self-protection or self-assertion. It doesn’t lead us to self-indulgence or self-satisfaction. When we look out for self over God, when we consider our needs over His will, then gentleness turns to rebellion.” [page 164]

“This overwhelming drive to be the master of our own domains, to teach others in a spirit of disdain and judgment, to be quick to snap at their faults and weaknesses, and to disregard their feelings and deem our feelings as more important than theirs, rejects the gentleness of Christ and claims the pride of the world.” [page 164]

“The truth is that if God isn’t changing you, He hasn’t saved you (2 Cor. 3:18).” [page 167]

“The woman who sees God’s fingerprints on everything in the world, including insult and injury, cannot be destroyed, and doesn’t harbor or nurse wounds, for she knows that God’s hand is far greater and His will far more important and powerful than the hands, the will, and the power of man.” [page 168]

Chapter 9—Self-control

“Am I too weak for self-control? Fortunately, self-control requires weakness. There must be a natural tendency to sin and to self-promotion in order for self-control to be practiced. It is meant for the human being, not the heavenly being, because self-control is the act of refusing to listen to and obey your flesh with all its passions, lusts, and sinful desires; and God has no such temptations. Self-control is necessary in the life of faith because self-control denies self rather than handing over control to self.” [page 182]

“How many more times do we turn our lives over to our self-will, firmly rejecting God’s will, without even noticing it? How many times do we become so distracted by regret, doubt, bitterness, or discontentment that we give up all self-control and become completely consumed with these emotions and thought patterns, completely abandoning the mindfulness of the Spirit that accompanies abiding in Christ?” [page 182]

“When our thoughts are focused on ourselves, we have set our minds on the things of the flesh, and from this comes the fruit of the flesh.” [page 185]

“When there is a lack of temptation, there is no need for self-control.” [page 187]

“It isn’t by your own strength and will power that you gain self-control but by turning your mind to the things of God, looking to Him, thinking of Him, and learning of Him. As you redirect your thoughts to the things of the Spirit, self-control, the ability to live out God’s Word, is the supernatural outcome.” [page 190]


“The truth is that every problem in your life has sin as its root. It may not be your sin, but somewhere at the bottom of it there is sin, and the prescription for the sin that seems to have mastery over us in found in the life of Christ and what He has already done. In every case, addressing our own sinful reactions, thoughts, feelings, and actions; confessing them as sin; and repenting from them bring onto us the glorious grace of God, and with that the freedom of forgiveness. And then we are able to move forward in the knowledge that though we are not perfect, we are His, and if we are His, then we have living within us all that we need for every fruit listed in Galatians 5:22-23.” [page 202]

Book Review: "The Food Ain't the Problem" by Carole Holliday

Are you a discipler? The Food Ain’t the Problem is for you. Are you counseling someone? The Food Ain’t the Problem is for you. Are you struggling with your weight? The Food Ain’t the Problem is for you. Are you struggling with any kind of well-loved sin? The Food Ain’t the Problem is for you. This one book contains the answer for each of those scenarios and more! Part systematic theology, part counseling guide, and part weight-loss primer, Carole Holliday writes with frank wisdom and loving compassion as she details the profound heart transformation that took place when she submitted her appetite to God. You won’t find a weight-loss book full of pep-talks, motivational slogans or quick fixes in The Food Ain’t the Problem. What you will find is real help that will transform your life as seek to grow in your love for the Lord and His ways.

Carole writes, “The beginning of this journey is to submit to God as your master. If that’s not your main focus, then anything you do after that just replaces the god of the results for the god of your appetite. …We need to value Him above everything we desire most (emphasis added)." This book is definitely for those who are sick and tired of being defeated, overwhelmed, and powerless to win the battle over food, and I would add, it’s for anyone who’s ready to do battle with any entangling sins.

John Owen said, “God’s work is to have full victory, and universal obedience, not just the sins that trouble our soul.” Carole knows all about that work of God that desires an obedient, tender heart, not just changed eating patterns. For years she searched and looked for a solution for her obesity. Nothing worked; nothing lasted until she arrived at the point where she “first started obeying God’s call to quit being greedy….” Slowly, persistently, Carole reveals the heart-work that must take place in each of us, if we’re ever going to conquer those persistent sins that wage war against our souls. There’s hope—hope for all who’ve struggled, for all who are weary, for all who are at the point of despair. Come and learn from one who knows the way out from unbelief to obedience because as Carole says, “Only an infinite God can replace your beloved sin. Anything else won’t last."

To whet your appetite for the book:

“The understanding that God’s loving heart surgery is the source of your weight transformation is what I’ll seek to offer in the pages of this book." Page 8.

“Interestingly, in the Bible the abnegation of obedience isn’t called disobedience, but rather disbelief." Page 50.

“It’s not that we just want to feel better about something in our frustrating or bored or sad situation so we choose not to do what He commands us to do, it’s that we think all those incorrect things about God and ourselves so the situation becomes more power than Him. Then the situation rules our life instead of God who showed His devotion to us when He sacrificed His Son for us." Page 51.

“I titled this chapter, ‘The Elephant in the Room’ because the reason so many of us have become fat and remain so is simply because of our greed. That’s the elephant: eating too much. …However I hope by now you understand in this book about weight, I’m more interested in losing the life-killing sin of fat in your heart than the fat in your saddle bags (although I want those gone too). Page 88.

“When I first started obeying God’s call to quit being greedy…” Page 89.

“I genuinely want to understand the fact that God is a God of love who sometimes relates to His people in ways that may seem not to support that idea." Page 99.

“Only an infinite God can replace your beloved sin. Anything else won’t last." Page 101.

“When we harbor a love for a pet sin, it causes us to be darkened in our understanding of Him (Eph. 4:17-24). Using my humble experience as an example: While I know I was saved all those years ago, the breadth of my understanding of God’s character didn’t expand until I finally began to repent of my greedy love of food and pursue sanctification in the area of my appetite. Seeing what I’ve gained, I’m ashamed it too me this long to trade my love of food for the love of the Father.” Pages 118-119.

“Remember, the world loses weight all the time, but only Christians are being transformed into the image of God." Page 158.

“You see, I continue to learn and grow in the process of losing and gaining and losing a bit more…and gaining some back. UGH. Yet, I will never be 312 pounds again, I know too much of God’s faithfulness and His commands to return to that sin like a dog to vomit. So while I’m not done and I keep working at my goal, God still digs away at my heart using my desire to lose this weight as the doorway to point out all the kinds of other hideous things I didn’t realize were lurking in my character." Page 173.

“Over the years I’ve been on this journey, I’ve learned there were four fronts I have to be vigilant about if I wanted to check my propensity to eat sinfully: Impatience (I’ll have it now), Ingratitude (I’ll have it all), Indecision (I’m not happy with what I have. I want more of what I have), and Intractibility (I want things the way I want them)." Page 202.

In speaking about food as a gift from God, “The thing about gifts is that no matter how good they are, they can turn into clutter if you have too many of them. Too many food gifts make FAT clutter." Page 222.

“We need to turn to God and resist the urge to control our lives when we don’t like our situations and food seems to be the only way to do it." Page 224.

“The beginning of this journey is to submit to God as your master. If that’s not your main focus, then anything you do after that just replaces the god of the results for the god of your appetite. In the end, we need to give up everything, even our expectations of a peaceful, healthy and happy life: “…in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ” (Phil. 3:8). As I’ve said throughout the pages of this book, all of those other things are merely temporary. We need to value Him above everything we desire most." Page 265.

Book Review: "Selina, Countess of Huntingdon: Her Pivotal Role in the 18th Century Evangelical Awakening by Faith Cook

I was first introduced to Lady Huntingdon when my husband bought me a biography about her entitled, Lady Huntingdon and Her Friends: The Revival of the Work of God in the Days of Wesley, Whitefield, Romaine, Venn, and Others in the Last Century by Mrs. Helen C. Knight. Rather than deter him, that “dainty” title most likely induced him to secure the book for me since the men named in the title were all great preachers from days gone by. Being collectors of old books we were delighted to receive our worn and aged copy from 1853—and then began my adventure with Lady Huntingdon.

Lady Huntingdon and Her Friends provides a peek at God’s stirring of the spiritual waters in England in the 1700s through preachers like John and Charles Wesley, George Whitefield, William Romaine, Henry Venn, John Berridge and a host of other faithful preachers of the gospel of God. The Countess of Huntingdon connected them all in her zeal to use her position and finances to spread the gospel of God in Great Britain. Lady Huntingdon and Her Friends is our introduction to this remarkable woman.  But it is Selina, Countess of Huntingdon: Her Pivotal Role in the 18th Century Evangelical Awakening by Faith Cook that adds the human details behind the deeds of faith. Faith Cook’s biographical skill has only increased with each book she writes, so it was with eagerness that I dived into her book on the Countess.  

The magnificent moving of God’s Spirit throughout Great Britain during Selina’s time is breathtaking to behold and makes one long for a similar revival in our land. Yet, the most compelling part of Selina’s story is the undeniable fact that one person can be of great use for the Kingdom. Selina lived with her eyes upon the Prize of Jesus Christ and endeavored to give whatever resources she had available for His use and pleasure. This alone makes her worthy of our admiration and respect. Yet, Selina, Countess of Huntingdon is a treasure trove of biographical anecdotes on some of the great men of faith as well. It may serve us best to close with words from the Countess’ own lips at the age of 62 at which age many are thinking of retirement. This concept was foreign and unwelcome to Selina who pressed on faithfully until she died at the age of 84. As you read her words, may they be your heart’s prayer as well, “O, that I may be more and more useful to the souls of my fellow creatures. I want to be every moment all life, all zeal, all activity for God, and ever on the stretch for close communion with Him.”

Book Review: "Green Leaf in Drought-Time" by Isobel Kuhn

Green Leaf in Drought-Time by Isobel Kuhn is the story of the escape of the last C. I. M. missionaries (China Inland Mission) from Communist China in 1953. Jeremiah 17:8 is the theme verse for the book and pictures the Lord’s gracious work in the Mathews family during their 2 ½ years of waiting and want. God says through Jeremiah, “For he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when the heat comes; but its leaves will be green, and it will not be anxious in a year of drought nor cease to yield fruit.” God reserved a special spot in His School of Faith for Arthur and Wilda Mathews and their little daughter, Lilah and we are invited to observe their lessons.

Green Leaf in Drought-Time is a missionary biography. And yet it is more. This little treasure of a book doesn’t merely recount the details of their sorrows and trials, their suffering and privation; it has a higher goal in mind. The Mathews and the book’s author, Isobel Kuhn, desired that God be put on display in the telling of their story. And so, the book reveals how God met with His afflicted children, ministered to their souls, and kept them safely under the shadow of His wing (Psalm 17:8; 36:7; 57:1; 63:7). Though they suffered from starvation, isolation, persecution, their spirits never shriveled from the hardships. They fulfilled the purpose God intended for them during those long and lonely days, and that was to manifest God’s sustaining grace in dire circumstances, so that the similarly beleaguered Chinese believers would take courage and persevere in their hardships.

I found my volume of Green Leaf in Drought-Time tucked away in a back corner of a used bookstore in downtown Louisville. Biographies of faithful saints who’ve led the way before me always catch my eye. I didn’t know anything about the Mathews’ story, but thought I’d give it a try. Inside the front cover of my book two names are inscribed: Arthur Mathews and Wilda Mathews. Wilda includes Proverbs 3:5,6 next to her name, while I can’t quite figure out Arthur’s verse reference. It looks like Is. 37:5 to me, but the verse itself doesn’t make sense. I guess I will have to ask him about it when I greet them both in heaven. After reading their story, their autographs give even greater value to my book. They are dear ones to me now and ones I look forward to calling “friend” in heaven.

Mathews Autographs

Oswald Sanders in the introduction to the book, writes, “God does not waste suffering, nor does He discipline out of caprice. If He plow, it is because He purposes a crop. This book shares with us the secret of that purposing and lets us see something of the crop.” Though we have not suffered in the difficult way that they did, the curriculum and lessons God has used in our lives has been very much the same in these last years. Their lessons have been my lessons. The truths they learned about the Lord, I have learned. Many times, I was moved to tears as I felt I was reading about God’s ministering work in my own soul. Yet they were far more victorious in responding with faith and hope than I can hope to claim. So I must say it was a privilege to read this book for it did what it purposed, it drew my eyes to our ever-near and always providing God.

The two excerpts that follow are examples of the “green” that sprouted in the drought-time for Arthur and Wilda Mathews. In a letter to her family, Wilda wrote in the midst of their trial: “The wonderful loving Father not only had love for His Son, but also had strength to help His Son. But He did not spare His Son. What a wonderfully trustworthy Son to His Father our loving Lord Jesus was! Why should we expect Him to spare us, both in the great sorrow of our hearts, the unutterable longings, and our present situation. Oh, may we prove trustworthy sons!”

Arthur’s family received these meditations in a much tattered letter that had been heavily censored by the Communists: “The Lord sometimes has to show us, not only the power of the one against us, but also the weakness of our own hearts. His battles are not won through strength and prowess, but through weakness thoroughly weakened, that refuses to do anything at all for itself but trust in His faithfulness—even when to trust seems folly.”

May their story of faith and hope in a great God find a fresh audience today. And may we show ourselves as faithful to seek the Lord and apply His Word to our hearts, no matter what our circumstances.

Book Review: "The Pursuit of God" by A. W. Tozer

Before there was John Piper urging this generation to delight in God, there was A. W. Tozer. Tozer wrote The Pursuit of God in 1949 yet this work remains timeless in its purpose, which as Tozer put it, “is a modest attempt to aid God’s hungry children so to find Him.”

Are you hungry for more of God? Do you long for a deeper and more intimate relationship with your Savior? Then you will find a sympathetic and helpful friend in Tozer. Tozer teaches us, reminds us, wins and woos us to a soul-satisfying, deeply respectful friendship with God Himself. Tozer could never be accused of elevating emotionalism and experientialism at the expense of doctrine and faithful biblical exposition for he reverently lifts up the Scriptures as the means to know the Lord more deeply. Tozer himself wrote The Pursuit of God to combat the trends of his day that elevated Bible study almost as an end in itself rather than the answer to knowing the Lord more deeply and fully. 

Even the chapter titles hint at the refreshing green pastures that await for anyone who forages here—“Following Hard After God,” “Removing the Veil,” “The Gaze of the Soul” to name a few. Yet I must warn you, there’s nothing new here. There’s no secret handshake. Tozer isn’t revealing some long held secret to the Christian life that only he has discovered; no, he simply showcases the Lord Himself as the Word unveils Him and eloquently urges us seek Him.

Tozer wrote, “With the veil removed by the rending of Jesus’ flesh, with nothing on God’s side to prevent us from entering, why do we tarry without? Why do we consent to abide all our days just outside the Holy of Holies and never enter at all to look upon God?” That is the question, isn’t it? Why do we loiter just outside of the Lord’s presence, content to live near Him rather than really know Him? The Pursuit of God pushes us toward the tent so that we will enter in.

Book Review: "Lady Jane Grey: Nine Day Queen of England" by Faith Cook

If you’re looking for a book to read this summer, might I suggest Lady Jane Grey: Nine Day Queen of England?

Faith Cook’s biography, Lady Jane Grey: Nine Day Queen of England, is for history buffs. It’s for anyone interested in the Puritans and how they impacted England through their preaching and godly lives. And even more importantly, this portrait of Lady Jane is for anyone looking for a role model of a young girl who stood fast in her faith in perilous times.

From the time of her birth Lady Jane was a political pawn in the hands of power seeking adults. Yet, the Lord surrounded this little girl with great Puritan preachers as her tutors, friends, and fathers in the faith. Faith Cook skillfully introduces the reader to the court of Henry the VIII, the political climate of the time, and the subsequent power struggle that ensued after Henry’s death and led to the tragic circumstances for Lady Jane.

This excellent book is a must read for anyone interested in the monarchy of England, the Puritan reformation, and how the Lord strengthened the faith of one young girl to withstand pressures most adults would find challenging. Lady Jane's story is a testimony that God’s ways are not our ways, that He uses pain and trial to sweeten our faith, and that all who are His will persevere until the end. 

Book Review: "50 People Every Christian Should Know" by Warren Wiersbe

I love reading biographies of godly men and women and just finished a treasure in the form of Warren Wiersbe’s 50 People Every Christian Should Know: Learning from the Spiritual Giants of the Faith. The title itself compels you to pick up this book, but its merits don’t end there. Wiersbe writes to introduce you to these believers, who in years past were the movers and shakers in their generation. Many are unknown to us today, though they were well known enough in their own time and looked up to by their peers.

Wiersbe’s goal for each rather short chapter (usually only 6-10) pages is to introduce us to these men and women of the faith, while summarizing their impact upon God’s kingdom. Wiersbe doesn’t whitewash these saints, yet neither does he point out all their warts and wrinkles. He writes with gentle balance as he peers respectfully at those who have finished the race. Many of these faithful believers left behind a written legacy for us to enjoy. Wiersbe does us a great favor by listing their works. Then he does all the sifting for us, pointing out the best ones to read and enjoy. 

Each chapter in Wiersbe’s book is like eating half of a warm, chocolate chip cookie; his goal is to tantalize you enough that you’ll get up off the couch and swipe the other half off the counter to relish. Wiersbe the Bookworm wants to beget other bookworms by whetting our appetite for more from each of these faithful spiritual giants. Take your time to read this book, but make sure you read it! The faithful saints discussed in the pages of this book have won the race and now wait for us in heaven, yet their stories and life lessons can impact us today. Let us follow the example of these 50 and run well—finish well—and then, may we stand shoulder to shoulder with them worshiping the Lamb of Glory.    

Book Review: "Treasures of the Snow" by Patricia St. John

I recently reread Treasures of the Snow by Patricia St. John, which I read to my kids when they were young. This treasure of a book has been too long buried in the drifts of time and obscurity, but it’s time it was dug out and reintroduced to a new generation of readers and families that can benefit from its lessons.

If you loved the book Heidi as a child, then you will love Treasures of the Snow. Like Heidi, Treasures of the Snow takes place upon the steep mountain slopes of the Swiss Alps, and like Heidi the story is set during simpler times. It’s within this idyllic setting that Annette vows to never forgive Lucien for his part in her little brother’s accident that left little Dani lame. Poor Lucien is overcome with sorrow and guilt over Dani’s accident, but Annette doesn’t care. She wants to punish Lucien, and so she does; yet she also learns that revenge leaves an unwelcome pain in her own heart. Her unforgiveness and Lucien’s despair are the backdrop for the sweet message of a Savior who forgives all our sin and who knows our sorrows. It’s obvious that Patricia St. John understood and loved children, for only a person like that could write a story that so poignantly depicts a child’s struggle to know Jesus Christ and to live for Him, even in trying circumstances.

Here’s an excerpt from the book where Grandmother explains to Annette how Jesus can take away her hatred:

            Annette’s eyes were fixed on Grandmother; there was a long, long pause.

            Annette broke the silence.

            But, Grandmother,” she said, drawing her stool nearer and leaning against the old woman’s knee, “if you hated someone you could not ask Jesus to come in, could you?”

            “If you hate someone,” said Grandmother, “it just shows how badly you need to ask Him to come in. The darker the room, the more it needs the light.”

            “But I couldn’t stop hating Lucien, said Annette softly, fingering her long braids thoughtfully.

            “No,” said Grandmother. “You’re quite right. None of us can stop ourselves thinking wrong thoughts, and it isn’t much good trying. But Annette—when you come down in the morning and find this room dark with the shutters closed, do you say to yourself, ‘I must chase away the darkness and the shadows first, and then I will open the shutters and let in the sun’? Do you waste time trying to get rid of the dark?”

            “Of course not!” said Annette.

            “Then how do you get rid of the dark?”

            “Well, I pull back the shutters, of course, and then the light comes in!”

            “But what happens to the dark?”

            “I don’t now; it just goes when the light comes!”

            “That is just what happens when you ask the Lord Jesus to come in,” said Grandmother. “He is Love, and when love comes in, hatred and selfishness and unkindness will give way to it, just as the darkness gives way when you let in the sunshine. But to try to chase it out alone would be like trying to chase the shadows out of a dark room. It would be a waste of time.” [Pages 153-154]


Quotes from Treasures of the Snow by Patricia St. John

            [Lucien shares his story with the old man of the mountain and the old man tells Lucien his story] “You tell me there is no way to start again, but you are wrong. I have sinned far, far more deeply than you have done, and have suffered in a way that a boy like you can know nothing about. But I believe that God has forgiven me and I am spending my days working to give back what I owe, and striving to become what God meant me to be. It is all I can do—it is all anyone can do. Our past we must leave to God.” Page 130

            “Best of all, it was the birthday of the Lord Jesus. Although Dani did not talk about it very much, he thought about it a lot. It made him strangely happy to know that he shared the birthday of the perfect Child.

            “What could I give to the Lord Jesus for a birthday present?” he had asked, resting his elbows on Grandmother’s knees, and looking up into her face.

            “You can give your own self to Him,” Grandmother had answered, pausing a moment in her knitting. “And you can ask Him to make you very loving and obedient. That will please Him better than anything.”

            So throughout Christmas Dani strove to be loving and obedient, in order to please the Child whose birthday he shared, and his love just overflowed to everyone. He tidied Grandmother’s workbox, and wiped the dishes for Annette; in the afternoon he went out to the shed and visited the cows, murmuring Christmas messages into their silky ears. And at the end of the day, when he knelt to pray, he whispered, “I hope I am giving You a happy birthday, Lord Jesus.” Page 145

            “Grandmother, what does it mean when it says that Jesus knocks at the door of our hearts [Revelation 3:20]?”

            “It means,” said Grandmother, laying down her knitting, and giving Annette her whole attention, “that the Saviour sees that your life is full of wrong things and dark thoughts. He came down and was crucified so that He might bear the punishment of those wrong deeds and those dark thoughts instead of you. Then He arose so that He could come into your life and live in you, and turn out all wrong thoughts, and think His good, loving thoughts in you instead. It is like a man knocking at the door of a dirty, dark, dusty house and saying, ‘If you will let me in I will clear away the dust and the darkness and make it beautiful and bright.’ But remember, He never pushes in—He only asks if He may come in. That is what knocking means. You have to say, ‘Yes, Lord Jesus, I need You and want You to come and live in me’—that is what opening the door means.”

            Annette’s eyes were fixed on Grandmother; there was a long, long pause.

            Annette broke the silence.

            But, Grandmother,” she said, drawing her stool nearer and leaning against the old woman’s knee, “if you hated someone you could not ask Jesus to come in, could you?”

            “If you hate someone,” said Grandmother, “it just shows how badly you need to ask Him to come in. The darker the room, the more it needs the light.”

            “But I couldn’t stop hating Lucien, said Annette softly, fingering her long braids thoughtfully.

            “No,” said Grandmother. “You’re quite right. None of us can stop ourselves thinking wrong thoughts, and it isn’t much good trying. But Annette—when you come down in the morning and find this room dark with the shutters closed, do you say to yourself, ‘I must chase away the darkness and the shadows first, and then I will open the shutters and let in the sun’? Do you waste time trying to get rid of the dark?”

            “Of course not!” said Annette.

            “Then how do you get rid of the dark?”

            “Well, I pull back the shutters, of course, and then the light comes in!”

            “But what happens to the dark?”

            “I don’t now; it just goes when the light comes!”

            “That is just what happens when you ask the Lord Jesus to come in,” said Grandmother. “He is Love, and when love comes in, hatred and selfishness and unkindness will give way to it, just as the darkness gives way when you let in the sunshine. But to try to chase it out alone would be like trying to chase the shadows out of a dark room. It would be a waste of time.” Pages 153-154

            “What is the matter, Annette?” said Grandmother suddenly. “You look unhappy.”

            Annette didn’t answer for a long time—and then she said, “Grandmother.”

            “Yes, my child.”

            “Grandmother, you said that if I asked Jesus to come into my heart He would make me fond of Lucien, and send away the thoughts that didn’t like him. And last week it was all right. But now when I see Dani with his leg hurting, and remember he used to be so strong, all these thoughts come again.”

            “Yes,” and Grandmother, “I expect they do. Everyday of your life ugly, angry, selfish thoughts will knock at the door and try to get in again. Don’t try to push them back yourself; ask the Lord Jesus to meet them with His love. Think about the love of Jesus all you can. Read about the love of Jesus everyday in your Bible—and if you keep your heart full of it there just won’t be room for those thoughts to stay.” Page 188-189

Book Review: "The Thought of God" by Maurice Roberts

 "The Thought of God" by Maurice Roberts is the perfect book for daily reading or going through together in a discipleship group. The book contains thirty chapters for your soul's nourishment; thirty chapters to read daily in a month; thirty chapters to challenge and encourage your walk; thirty chapters to provoke thought and prayer. Don't miss reading this easily accessible book as there's enough meat within its pages to satisfy even the most ravenous thinker. Below are some of my favorite quotes from each chapter. Reading the quotes in the different chapters reveals the book's charms far better than anything I could say about it. Enjoy!

Chapter 1 The Thought of God

"All men are good company in fair weather but the storms of life prove spiritual character."

"The thought of God should be the Christian's panacea. It should cure all his ills at a stroke."

"The art of good thinking is to carry thought to its logical conclusion. ...The mere thought of God should end all anxiety. Then why in my case does it not? Because I fail to carry thought to its proper conclusion."

"It must follow from what has been said that the degree of a Christian's peace of mind depends upon his spiritual ability to interpose the thought of God between himself and his anxiety. ...For it is not outward circumstances that can drag us down, but our own reaction of despair to them, when we fail to perceive the hidden hand of God in all events."

Chapter 2 O The Depth!

“But our age has been sadly deficient in what may be termed spiritual greatness. At the root of this is the modern disease of shallowness. We are all to impatient to meditate on the faith we profess. We cannot say, 'O the depth!'”

“It is not the busy skimming over religious books or the careless hastening through religious duties which makes for a strong Christian faith. Rather, it is unhurried meditation on gospel truths and the exposing of our minds to these truths that yields the fruit of sanctified character.”

“It is the besetting sin of our age to trivialize sin.”

“The Christian stops making progress as soon as he stops repenting.”

“Let courage characterize our witness for Jesus and let us pray for a larger vision of God's purpose. Only in that way will our modern churches rise above the shallow spirit of this age.”                                                                              

Chapter 3 The Still Small Voice

In this chapter Maurice Roberts shows how God's gentleness ministers to His children.

In speaking about Elijah after he responds fearfully to Jezebel's threats, Maurice Roberts writes: “But the prayer for death, as so often with tired preachers, is but the effect of disappointment and a sense of failure. In His exquisite care, Jehovah surrounds him with special providences and experiences which reveal the measure of his preciousness to the God who called him to this difficult ministry.”

What, after all, is the highest expression of God's greatness and glory? It is not His outward displays of vast energy in the material world, wonderful as these are, but His inward acts of grace, performed silently in the hearts and lives of men.”

“The grace of God is His infinite power used gently and for our eternal good. There is something overwhelming about an infinite, all-powerful Being acting with infinite gentleness.”

“The most important acts of God's power are those which, all unnoticed by man, touch the secret springs of his soul and heart. Regeneration, sanctification, repentance, growth in grace–all are the product of divine omnipotence acting with marvelous gentleness and love upon man's inner being.”

“God saves no man to his harm. And God saves none against his will. Grace makes the sinner willing.”

Chapter 4 Ceasing from Man

In this chapter Maurice Roberts reveals the overt and sometimes subtle ways we exalt man, rather than giving God the worship He deserves.

“All pride, all human haughtiness, all boasting in man's achievement is a fearful forgetting of God Almighty and a dangerous provocation of His holy Name.”

“What lies at the very heart of all sin is self-flattery, that good opinion of ourselves which loves to be praised by our fellow-creatures.”

Addressing churches and pastors who curry men's favor rather than God's, Roberts has this to say: “The gospel minister should be heard, and not seen. He is 'a voice crying in the wilderness.' He is there to proclaim a message on behalf of his Master. He is not in the pulpit in order to ingratiate himself with the people at the expense of the truth which he proclaims. His voice, delivery, dress and bearing ought all to be consistent with the gravity of his message, which must be to humble man and elevate God in sinners' eyes.”

“Those are the best services and that is the best singing where God is treated with most respect. He is the best preacher who most often impresses those present with the realities of another world.”

“Pride follows our heels more closely than our very shadow. It cannot be beaten away or bribed away. It is a cancer of the soul. It acts like acid upon our graces. It swells us up with ludicrous self-importance. It chokes the life of prayer, stifles our usefulness, and will, if not brutally treated, sap the spiritual life within us almost to death.”

Chapter 5 The Interpretation of Providence in History

“A man's theology always determines his view of providence.”

“The way a man interprets providence proves his real theology.”

“Post tenebras lux [After darkness, light] is more than a slogan. It is an interpretation of providence. Indeed, it implies a vital creed.”

Chapter 6 Our Need of Faith at This Hour

“Faith is not merely the instrument of justification. It is the principle of the whole Christian life.”

“Our temptation is to neglect the soul–to fail in the cultivation of faith.”

“The great call of the hour is surely to become men of far sturdier faith than we have yet attained to. The examples of such men of faith as [Jonathan] Edwards, whose youthful 'Resolutions' shaped his whole life and ministry, ...are a standing reminder to us at this hour that the most useful ministries are those most full of faith, expectation of blessing, and felt enjoyment of His presence.”

Chapter 7 Christ the Lover of Our Souls

“We were not meant to live without spiritual exhilaration and the Christian who goes for a long time without the experience of heart-warming will soon find himself tempted to have his emotions satisfied from earthly things and not, as he ought, from the Spirit of God.”

“The believer is in spiritual danger if he allows himself to go for any length of time without tasting the love of Christ and savoring the felt comforts of a Savior's presence. When Christ ceases to fill the heart with satisfaction, our souls will go in silent search of other lovers.”

“The irreverent prayer is atrocious because it is a contradiction in terms. Prayer is by definition a treating of God as His majesty demands.”

“Let us recall in the midst of our busy life that we may do ourselves and the cause of God great harm by our neglect of the soul.”

“The overwhelming concern of the Christian's life must surely be to live unto God, upon God and for God. What else can the familiar words mean where the apostle Paul tells, us, 'For to me to live is Christ?'”                                                       

Chapter 8 Better Than Wine

“There are, therefore, compelling reasons why every Christian should pause frequently in life and ask himself if, amidst all the duties of his calling, he has a felt enjoyment of the love of Christ in his heart or whether, amid the welter of his conflicts and strivings, he ought honestly to confess to himself and to the Lord that he has left his 'first love' (Revelation 2:4).”

“When all due allowance is made for the difference between one Christian's temperament and another's, we must surely come back to this, that the more we appreciate the love of Christ towards us, the more comfort we shall have along the way to glory. Christ has loved us 'with an everlasting love' (Jeremiah 31:3). He has in love given Himself for us to be 'a propitiation for our sins' (1 John 4:10). Very soon we shall see Him in His glory and enjoy His love eternally. It is therefore only fitting that here and now we should seek from God a frequent enjoyment of that love. He who experiences it will both renew his strength and reinvigorate his soul.”

Chapter 9 The Christian's Refreshing

“The Lord Jesus Christ was not ashamed to be found asleep in the boat (Mark 4:38). His people therefore do not need to feel ashamed when, after exhausting service, they too must yield their aching bodies to a period of necessary rest.”

“There are certain warning signs which should tell us that we need to relax and to unwind. One such sign is when our mind becomes incapable of facing any aspect of our work with pleasure. ...When all the joy has gone from our work, it is usually a sign that the time has come to rest. ...When we inwardly fight with all the world and all our thoughts turn into battles, it is a sign that nature is overstretched. When we feel that death is our only comfort... When Christ seems to be a harsh Master and the promises of Scripture to be hollow, then it time to draw aside and seek a season of quietness.”

“We in our feverish world, perhaps more than those before us, need to wait on Christ for this comfort [of spiritual refreshing] and enlivenment of soul. Let us apply frequently to Him for it, for our own good and the good of others.”

Chapter 10 The Surpassing Love of Christ

“The Bible's message to us involves the breathtakingly good news that 'God is love.' Such a statement, were we not made of stone, would be so welcome to us in this dark world of misery that we should run to trumpet it from the housetops. Only our chronic deafness makes us so unresponsive to such transcendentally glad tidings.”

“The reality is that the God who pities both can, and wishes to, lift man above his miseries on earth. More still, He has acted in history, in the person of His Son Jesus Christ, in just such a way as to solve every problem, lift every burden, unloose every bond and remove every misery when we come trustingly to Him.”

“Where shall we begin if we are to speak of the love of Christ? In marvelous kindness to us He looked past the fallen angels, leaving them irrevocably in their sins, and laid hold of mankind, who were far lower in the scale of created excellence. Let no one suppose Christ to have needed our love, our fellowship or our devotion. As God He was eternally sufficient unto Himself, and as the Son of God He knew eternally the ineffable fellowship of the Father and of the Spirit. When therefore He stooped to clothe Himself with our weak humanity, He undertook an action of such philanthropy that the whole angelic world must have gasped and stilled its wings in breathless adoration.”

“But let us see Christ in His life on earth, the holy and great God-Man, 'trailing clouds of glory' from the cradle to the cross.”

Chapter 11 “Our Unpopular Lord Jesus”

“Sin has made us all mad as well as bad. For we are so stupefied and besotted with our love of sin that we fail, till we are converted, to see that Christ is the only true friend we sinners have.”

“To run away from Jesus is to turn away from the fountain of all grace and love. To be religious but not to crown Christ as Lord of all is to insult God and injure ourselves eternally.”

Chapter 12 “At Home in the Heavenlies”

“The act of God in our regeneration is so momentous that no single category of thought is sufficient to describe the changes it brings about in and for us. It is an eruption from death to life, a translation from darkness to light, an initiation from folly into wisdom, a second birth and begetting, a transition from a broken covenant to a saving convenant, a manumission from thraldom and tyranny into glorious freedom, an immigration from the land of nonentity into full citizenship–in a word, a coming home to God.”

“To be in the heavenlies is to be in the very suburbs of glory. We do not yet see the sights that we shall see hereafter. But we are already aware of them. Like villagers who have traveled from the countryside towards a great capital city and become aware of the distant hubbub of the city while they are still on its outskirts, and before they reach the city gates, so believers are already conscious of the stir within the celestial city into which they have not yet quite entered.”

“The point we need to see is that the state of grace is nearer to the state of glory than it is to the state of sin. Believers are nearer in character to God and the angels than they are to unregenerate and lost sinners. The good that they will is greater than the evil which they do. This is so because grace in believers is more truly their character than indwelling sin.”

“There is no continuity between the states of sin and of grace. But there is great continuity between grace and glory. If God has delivered us from sin to grace, much more will He translate us from grace to glory.”

“We must strive to cultivate daily a demeanor and a bearing of heart and mind which are consistent with our heavenly position in Christ. Of Richard Sibbes it was said that 'heaven was in him before he was in heaven.' This is true in a measure of all the regenerate. But the great Christians of the past and their writings are supremely valuable because they share with us the secret of a consistent spirituality. They were in heaven as to their affections long before their souls got there.”

Chapter 13 “A Time to Afflict the Soul”

“There is a time when the believer becomes aware that he is spiritually dead. …The deadness which periodically afflicts the believer is never total but always partial. It is, however, a serious disease of the soul and weakens him in every way.”

“Another lesson we learn from our periodic deadness is that the Lord Jesus Christ will hide Himself from us when we do not genuinely desire Him. It is a moot point as to whether Christ ever withdraws from His people without provocation. But there can be no doubt that when we cease to value His communion and fellowship He may withdraw His felt presence from us.”

“Repentance ought to be a believer’s daily and hourly companion. Brokenness of heart and tenderness of spirit should be the hallmark of our whole character. Every emotion we have needs to be sweetened and purged with this spirit of penitence.”

“There is only one attitude possible for us if we mean to get to heaven. We must wage a ceaseless warfare against sin within us all the days of our life. Therefore, whenever we are overtaken in a fault or whenever we find that our souls have fallen fast asleep, we had better resort to violent measures to extricate ourselves before a greater mischief befalls us. By this advice, we mean that we must we must then afflict our souls before God and plead in earnest to be aroused from slumber.”

Chapter 14 “The Management of Our Pride”

“The art of being a Christian is very largely the art of managing the corruptions of our soul.”

“But only divine grace can enable a man to govern his own spirit and to mortify his instinctive love of human praise. The best Christian is the one who best manages his soul and most ruthlessly strikes the serpent of pride with the sword of mortification.”

“It is greatly to be feared that we do not take seriously the call to ‘humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God’ (1 Peter 5:6).”

“Happy is the believer who has learned to ‘glory only in the cross of Christ’ (Galatians 6:14)!”

Chapter 15 “Redeeming the Tongue”

“When the Christian comes to the end of his pilgrimage, one sin he will regret is his idle speech. It is assumed that no true believer allows himself to go on in outward sins such as drunkenness, theft or immorality. It is assumed, too, that the believer is concerned to put a stop to all inward sins, not least to sinful thoughts. But there is reason to believe that our sins of speech are specially in need of correction.”

“Our sins of thought bring us much shame inwardly; but our sins of speech expose us to shame in the eyes of others. Our sinful words are our sinful thoughts verbalized. They are audibly broadcast. They reflect the corruption within us as in a mirror. They do harm to ourselves and they do harm to others.”

“Our folly, formerly known only to ourselves, is now apparent to all men.”

“There is a wide difference between the everyday conversation of one Christian and another. All believers speak the language of heaven; but not all speak it equally consistently or fluently.”

“There is a two-fold duty placed before us in these words: to refrain from careless and unprofitable talk and to study to build one another up by well-chosen, soul-fattening conversation.”

Archbisop Ussher engaged in soul-fattening conversation. He once said to a friend, “A word about Christ ere we part.” What if we put that into practice in every conversation, with each new person? How would the heaven be perfumed with our God-exalting conversation?

Chapter 16 “A Dose of Moral Courage”

“The task of the pulpit is to sharpen blunted convictions in those who hear us and to renew their confidence in the things they have believed out of God’s Word.”

“Whatever weaknesses a minister may have, however, let him not be spineless. A spineless prophet is a contradiction in terms and an unnatural monster.”

“The pulpit’s task is to declare the sinfulness of sin and the one divine remedy for its removal.”

Chapter 17 “Glorying in Our Infirmities”

“It is a sign of passing beyond the stage of infancy in the life of grace when we have learned to glory in infirmities. The apostle Paul tells us that this was a leading feature of his life: ‘Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me’ (2 Corinthians 12:9).”

“But it (the infirmities and afflictions the apostle Paul was experiencing) was God’s way of leading him to see the entire life of grace in a new light. He perceived that there lies a paradox at the very heart of all true Christian experience.”

“When Christians ‘glory in infirmities,’ they make a kind of appeal to Christ to be their compensation. In confessing their weaknesses, believers are warranted to expect that the Lord will infuse into their souls an additional degree of grace to sustain them in their felt weakness and need.”

“No serpent suns himself more proudly than fallen man in the warmth of his own importance. …This tendency is in every Christian, even the best. Its presence in our hearts should be a constant source of mortification and horror to us.”

“If we are to take Paul the apostle for our guide, we must avoid glorying in ourselves and in our strong points as we would avoid a plague. That was what the false apostles of Paul’s day were doing. It was what he refused to do at all costs. Paul tells us the reason why he will glory only in his weaknesses, infirmities, trials and sorrows. It is so that ‘the power of Christ may rest’ upon him (2 Corinthians 12:9).”

“The conclusion seems inescapable. The way to grow in strength is to diminish in self-importance.”

Chapter 18 “Satan’s Advantages from Christians’ Frailties”

“The general rule of operation used by Satan, it would appear, is the obvious one of striking against God by means of His closest friends and most honored servants. In this way Satan endeavors to inflict as great a blow against heaven as possible and to injure God’s work from the least-expected quarter.”

“The devil has proved masterful in exploiting the excesses or shortcomings, the over-enthusiasm or thoughtless incaution of eminent preachers and churchmen in the past. No doubt they aimed at perfection in all things. But in that they missed the mark they gave occasion to Satan to push their errors to undreamed of lengths. This he has done contrary to their intentions at the time, but by a skillful use of their respected names and using their authority among all the lovers of orthodoxy. …Hence we must not only watch our weaknesses, but our strengths as well.”

“Satan is expert at starting fires with other men’s matches and leaving them to get the blame for it.”

Chapter 19 “Where Have the Saints Gone?”

“Sin has had two remarkable effects on our critical powers. It has made us super-sensitive to the faults of others and insensitive to our own. We are born experts at seeing the shortcomings of our neighbor. But a spiritual long-sightedness renders us oblivious to the same shortcomings in ourselves.”

“Robert Burns was no saint but he felt the need to exclaim: ‘O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us to see oursels as others see us!’”

“If we could see ourselves as we should, what would we see?”

“We live in an age in which Christianity has parted company with holiness. Religion has become a thing rather of the mind than of the soul.”

“There will be no marked growth in Christian holiness if we do not labor to overcome our natural disinclination towards secret spiritual exercises. Our forefathers kept honest diaries where the soul’s battles were recorded. Thomas Shepard, Pilgrim father and founder of Harvard, wrote in his private papers, ‘It is sometimes so with me that I will rather die than pray.’ So it is with us all. But this honesty is not commonplace. Such men climbed high only as they labored with sweat and tears to cultivate the soul. We, too, must ‘exercise ourselves unto godliness’ [1 Timothy 4:7].”

“There is good to be got from our spiritual exercises which nothing will make up for if neglected. It is in soaking our spirits daily in Scripture to the point of fatigue and in daily secret wrestlings with the Almighty to the point of tears and crying that the soul is made strong.”

“Real holiness is not the pale and passive medieval kind but that which kindles with a consuming passion in the regenerate soul and cries, in the face of our decadent and indifferent society, ‘Let God arise! I shall give Thee no rest, O Lord, till Thou come!’ Such saints this world sorely needs. Perhaps more now than ever.”

Chapter 20 “Where Godliness is Leaking”

“Godliness is soon lost. It is a delicate plant. A great preacher does not always have spiritual sons and does not often have spiritual grandsons. The saintly parent cannot guarantee godliness in his children, still less in his grandchildren. Holiness is vulnerable in this world.”

“If we are to maintain and preserve the spirituality of our homes and churches we must act decisively and purposefully. We ought therefore to begin with the conviction that neither health nor happiness, wealth nor education, nor any other thing is comparable in importance to knowledge of God.”

“Generally speaking, the fault of Christian parents in this day is not to expect enough of their children in terms of the work and study which they do. The Christian parent needs to correct this imbalance. The biblical ethic is in the words: ‘six days shalt thou labor’ [Exodus 20:9]. That is to say, work is the main business of life and play is very secondary. …Work is a blessing in many ways, not least because it leaves less room and strength for mischief and temptation.”

“Good parenting is vitally important for the good of the overall cause of God in the world. Not for nothing does the Bible tell us the names of the mothers of so many Old Testament kings. Most of us are either made or marred by our mothers. Good parenting can only be done by the parent.”

“It was a good saying of an old divine: ‘We have filled our children’s bones with original sin and we must spend all our strength rooting it out.’”

“Christian character is largely formed, where it is correctly formed, in the secret place. This is why it is all-important for the believer to attend to his private devotions each day.”

“It is as we meditate on the Word of God and hold communion with Him in private prayer that the soul is transformed, we cannot say how, ‘from glory to glory’ [2 Corinthians 3:18].”

Chapter 21 “The Fellowship of Saints”

“A great deal of what passes for ‘fellowship’ is often no more than human friendship such as men might have in a club or lodge. It is good and necessary but not equivalent to the precise thought conveyed in God’s Word by the term ‘fellowship.’”

“A believer’s duty is to promote true fellowship by all the means open to him in this life. He should also regard it as his privilege and duty to improve the quality of his fellowship as far as he can.”

“It will help our fellowship meetings when we come together with some well-prepared spiritual thoughts to share with one another. Let each of the group keep a little manna by him in his pot which he can share with his fellows in company. This is to be the fruit of his own study, reading, meditation and recollection. And let us talk of the sermon!”

“Fellowship is the place where the religion of the heart is much promoted. Here we draw forth from one another those deep counsels which lie hidden in the soul. Experiences of God in providence, enjoyment of God in secret, the answers to prayer, the hand of God in guidance—these are matters on which true fellowship feeds.”

Chapter 22 “The Supreme Grace of Christian Love”

“No religious act is of any value in God’s sight if it does not accompany and flow from Christian love.”

“But the quality of man’s actions, Paul reminds us, is to be measured at last not by what men see, but by what God sees in them of love to Himself.”

“God takes special notice of the way and manner in which men think of Him as they attend to His service and worship.”

“The reason why there is so little brotherly love among religious people is that there is so little real love of God in us. The former is the visible index of the latter. It ought to be one of our main reasons for wishing to live another day upon earth, that we have a duty to grow in love.”

“A man has developed in holiness by the degree to which he has learnt to do all things on a principle of love.”

“Love is the only sure balsam for a church’s wounds. Where love reigns among believers, sin is virtually expelled. Where each strives to love his brother as himself, to esteem his brother in honor more than himself, to put his brother up and himself down, to speak generously or not at all, to conceal pardonable faults and to draw a veil over shortcomings, what room can there be for discontent or division?”

“Then let every Christian take up the duty of Christian love with ten-fold seriousness. Our life’s work must be to call down heaven’s help upon ourselves that we may bend towards the great command to love one another.”

Chapter 23 “When Good Men Fall”

“Christians cannot fall away; but they can fall far.”

“Few are the Christians in or out of Scripture who can stand up to a rigorous scrutiny of their personal record and still emerge with no blemish visible to the eye of their fellows.”

“There is nothing half so bitter to a good man as the realization that he has brought disgrace on the Name of the Lord. That is truly the wormwood of the soul. It is as near as the believer will ever come to the miseries of hell. When a good man falls and he becomes conscious of his fall, he does not need to be scourged with the tongues of men. His own conscience will heap coals of fire on his head.”

“There is only one safe course to follow and that is the unglamorous one of taking heed to the injunction, ‘Watch and pray.’ Dull, uninventive and old-fashioned as that may read to some who name the Name of Christ in our day, this is the only sure route by which to win a blameless reputation.”

“The root of our folly and the cause of our falls is pride. ‘Pride goeth before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall’ [Prov. 16:18]. The words come readily to mind and are as readily forgotten. Pride is a more deadly sin than man recognizes on this side of eternity.”

“Pride in man’s heart sets up a rival in the soul to God’s very existence and authority.”

“It follows that the best and the safest course is to study humility. There ought to be nothing flashy or cock-sure in the Christian. …The man of God, however, ought to see that humility is the spirit of heaven itself and the mind of Christ.”

“’He that is down need fear no fall,’ declared Bunyan sagely. That is the golden rule.”

Chapter 24 Christian Friendships

“Christian friendships are no doubt ordained to draw forth from us the highest powers of our soul and so to lead to our greatest usefulness and sanctification.”

“Friendship is far more beneficial to us than admiration because it makes sanctifying demands upon our character.”

“It [friendship] corrects our angularity and rubs off our corners. The recluse is the first to fall into eccentricities. The more we are with ourselves the more we become like ourselves. It is only when we come back into the circle of our godly friends once again that we realize how awkward, or else opinionated, we have become as Christians.”

“Healthy Christian character, which is full-orbed, well-rounded and rich in good fruits can best be formed within the circle of sanctified friendships.”

“It is a common proverb that ‘a man is known by his friends.’ This is not surprising because, as the Romans put it, ‘a friend is a second self.’ That is to say, our intimate friends are what they are to us because they are essentially like us in all that is morally important. We choose our friends, not by accident, but because their souls mirror ours and their minds vibrate in harmony with ours.”

“Our best friends are those whose company most makes us afraid to sin.”

“The temptation we all have is to keep to the company of those who only admire us and never dare to stand up to us.”

“We generally prefer keeping a criminal silence to giving a well-timed rebuke. But when we do so, we do not act as friends should.”

“To start the day with a short phone call or a brief letter from an esteemed saint can be the difference between a day of victory and triumph, and a day of depression and temptation.”

“Depression dislocates all the parts of the soul and paralyzes our creative powers.”

“Sin makes men ‘hateful and hating’ [Titus 3:3]. Let us see to it that we have grace to be good friends one to another for life, or rather, for eternity.”

Chapter 25 “The Prayer for Revival”

“Weakness in prayer is a feature of our times. One chief cause is no doubt the widespread neglect of Scripture. For all our modern privileges of books, prosperity and education our prayers fall conspicuously short of biblical standards, not merely in point of utterance but of urgency.”

“God’s lovingkindnesses to the church are not purely voluntary. They are indeed gracious but not voluntary. God’s mercies to worldly men are voluntary. He is laid under no obligations to do them good. But it has pleased God to lay Himself under obligation to us in Christ to do us good and to bless us. Such mercy, though gracious, is, in a proper sense, a matter of necessity. For if He has sworn to do us good for Christ’s sake, then He is bound by the terms of His own infallible veracity to make good His covenanted promises.”

Chapter 26 “Until the Day Break…”

“The reason why men without an eye to the day of judgment are unfit for present service is not that they lack ability perhaps or energy, but because they lack a true sense of direction. Not to see by faith the imminence of the end is to be blind to what are the priorities of life.”

“No class of persons in this world should be more moved by the thought of the Last Day than Christians. It should be our constant topic of thought and our frequent theme in conversation. It is a theme which we ought to rehearse again and again in our minds till it shapes and molds our entire character. For in the end nothing will matter like appearing well before the judgment seat of Christ.”

“The present life is marked for the child of God as a place of darkness and shadows. He is made aware of the imperfection of all things here below. He finds the shadow of sin upon the best of men. There is scarcely a church where some shadow of error is not to be found. There is not a preacher free from the shadow of frailty. There is not some relationship without its shadow of sorrow. There is not a home without its shadow of trouble. There is not an hour of life in which the shadow of past failure or future fear has no part. If it were not for the hope of the great day soon to dawn, the believer would be on the verge of despair many a time. But the sum of all a believer’s sad yesterdays is as nothing to him when he remembers the glory which is to be at the Lord’s return."

“The physical presence of Christ will slake our thirst for ever in glory. The spiritual presence of Christ must slake our thirst in part in this present life.”

Chapter 27 “When the Trumpet Sounds”

“A Christian should take each day cheerfully as the gift of God and seek to glorify God each day, so that when he comes to die he may have nothing to do but die.”

“This [weakness] will be entirely changed in the day when the believer is glorified. Body and soul will then be filled with power to live eternally, without such encumbrances as illness, sleep or rest. We shall be fitted for an unending Sabbath of worship. We shall have all needed power of will to do what we long to do. The absence of that power now causes us to say with Paul: ‘To will is present with me; but how to perform…I find not’ (Romans 7:18). In glory we shall will to do the will of God and we shall find strength to match up to the full measure of our desire and of our endeavor, which will then fully comply with the divine demand for perfect holiness.”

Chapter 28 “Heaven—The Home of Saints”

[In heaven] “there will be nothing to disquiet or ruffle the endless peace and security of the redeemed. They will be saved both ‘to sin no more’ and to fear no more.”

“Heaven will be a world of sanctified excitement.”

“How much more will the redeemed in glory commune one with another in the upper world when all their present failings and imperfections are gone forever! There at long last, with the Lord Himself and with angels will the ransomed of the Lord hold sublime converse. Each word will add to the comfort of heaven because there will be no ‘idle words’ there and no ‘corrupting conversation.’ All eyes will be directed towards the vision of the Lord Jesus Christ and the other persons of the ever-blessed Trinity. Every thought will then be captive to him. God will be in every heart, mind and imagination. All hearts will beat in a common unison. The Almighty Jehovah will be the goal of every man’s aspiration and every desire for God will be reciprocated by Him. A sacred fellowship will be held between God and his people which no fear of sin, Satan or death will every mar.”

Chapter 29 “Heaven—A Perfect State”

“It is the hallmark of entire holiness fully to delight and to acquiesce in the will of God.”

“The memory of our past sins will not cloud our joy in heaven as believers because we shall have a complete sense of assurance that they are pardoned through the death of Christ.”

“There will be some Christians in heaven whom we did not particularly like on earth. There is no doubt that this is true. But in heaven all the imperfections which here make us unlovable and unlovely will be wholly removed. There all the redeemed will be ideal companions and utterly compatible each with each other. They will forget the differences of the past. …They shall all ‘see eye to eye’ and be consumed with holy delight in one another’s company. The motes in their eyes will be gone, and because they will ‘know even as they are known’ [1 Corinthians 13:13], they will be beyond all possibility of further disagreement or disharmony.”

Chapter 30 “The Happiness of Heaven” 

“Whatever of ecstasy or delight we may have known in this life will be immeasurably surpassed by those of heaven.”

“All happiness is the enjoyment of God in one way or another. Of course, people are not aware of this. They usually look no further than the momentary sense of pleasure which they feel. But the Christian knows that ‘every good gift’ is from God (James 1:17) and that therefore we should thank God for everything. Those who do not thank God for their pleasures will one day eternally lose them. Moreover we have no right to enjoy anything which God forbids in His Word. To do so is to set out on a path which leads, not to happiness, but to disaster. …Without God there is nothing to enjoy.”

“The happiness of heaven will exceed that of earth also in that it will not fade. All our joys here are limited and fading but there they will be endless.”

“All the time the Christian is on earth God takes steps to limit his happiness and to put a brake on his pleasures. This is because we are now in a state of preparation and progressive sanctification. If we had too much pleasure here we should be content with our present lot. We should ‘reign as kings’ (1 Corinthians 4:8) without God and should make an idol of this life. Hence He wisely and kindly puts a thorn in the nest and a crook in the lot. He skillfully breaks our foolish schemes over and over again until we learn at last to seek our true happiness only and always in Him. Here on earth, God empties us out from vessel to vessel.”

Book Review: "Rescuing Ambition" by Dave Harvey

Some authors you read simply because of the author. I’ll read anything by J.C. Ryle; Charles Spurgeon, and Jerry Bridges because of their writing style, sound doctrine, and practical application. Dave Harvey seems to fit in that category too. I started reading his book Rescuing Ambition because I so enjoyed his other book, When Sinners Say “I Do. Though I wasn’t quite sure what the book would be about, I trusted that I’d find some good meat to chew on, no matter what its subject. I wasn’t disappointed—and you won’t be either when you dive into this book. Don’t be put off by the title if that word “ambition” scares you. Rescuing Ambition is a book about following Christ. It’s about entrusting the Lord with all your hopes, dreams, and aspirations. The “rescue” comes when we wait upon the Lord to bring those goals and hopes about rather than ramrodding them through ourselves. If you like praying about what you’re reading, being prodded to examine your heart, and encouraged to press on in your walk then you’ll enjoy this book. And then there’s the “I-can’t-see-the-page-because-I’m-laughing-so-hard” bonus of Dave Harvey himself whose stories usually pack a convicting wallop at the end. Rescuing Ambition is a pleasure to read that leads us to live lives pleasing to the Lord.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from one section of the book:

“To be alive is to have delayed ambitions.” Page 71

“Delaying the fulfillment of our dreams seems to be part of refining and rescuing ambition.” Page 71 

“How we live when ambitions are delayed significantly shapes who we become. God uses the wait to teach us to walk in a manner worthy of our calling.” Page. 71

“Waiting is God’s backhoe in the excavation of our ambitions. Waiting unearths and brings to the surface what we really want.”

  • Waiting purifies our ambitions.
  • Waiting cultivates patience.
  • Waiting redefines our definition of productivity. 
    • God defines productivity differently. For God, productivity is wrapped up in transformation, in who we’re becoming, not in what we’re accomplishing. Pages 73-74 

“Waiting is often God’s reorientation program aimed at our definition of success. He lovingly empties our misguided preoccupation with accomplishment and fills it with ambitions to know Him and be like Him. God isn’t beyond slowing our walk to remind us that only He is omnipotent, and we’re not; only He is omnicompetent, and we’re not; only He exists without need for rest, and we don’t.” Page 74

“God loves us so much He’ll intentionally fence us in to keep us on His road. That can be hard, I know. It’s never easy to stare at a fence suddenly blocking the path we want to take. But God fences our road to keep us moving in His direction.” Page 78.

“We find no peace in life until we’re convinced our path is His way and our place is His choice. That’s so important it’s worth repeating: your place is His choice. Fences and all.” Page 79.

Book Review: "Be Still, My Soul: Embracing God’s Purpose and Provision in Suffering", edited by Nancy Guthrie

A friend sent me Be Still, My Soul: Embracing God’s Purpose and Provision in Suffering and I’m so glad she did! Twenty-five short chapters, twenty-five authors, and twenty-five ways to address trials, troubles, and afflictions. Some authors I wasn’t familiar with and some chapters were more pertinent to me, yet every chapter had some meat for me to sink my teeth into and gain some soul-nourishment.

Here some snippets: “All our hurts are temporary (Philip Yancy).” “Suffering lobs a hand-grenade into our self-centeredness, blasting our soul bare, so we can be better bonded to the Savior (Joni Eareckson Tada).” “Suffering must be borne in order for it to pass (Dietrich Bonhoeffer).” “The God we had, we lose, and then it cost so much bitter conflict of soul, before refined and purified in our knowledge of God, we grasp another, and now the only true God in the place thereof (Abraham Kuyper).” “The devil, things, and people being what they are, it is necessary for God to use the hammer, the file, and the furnace in His holy work of preparing a saint for true sainthood (A. W. Tozer).” “Our afflictions reveal our state of mind: when we see outward crosses as the greatest evil, God is not our main happiness (Thomas Manton).” “You do not find one godly man who came out of an affliction worse than when he went into it; though for awhile he was shaken, yet at last he was better for an affliction (Jeremiah Burroughs).”

There’s more, way more, in this little tome to encourage and strengthen your soul if you are going through trials. If someone you know is besieged by afflictions then by all means send them this book. The sweet fellowship of sufferings (Philippians 3:10) we can enjoy from the contributors of Be Still, My Soul will only be surpassed when we meet them in heaven and all will be just as it should be.

Book Review: "Transforming Prayer: How Everything Changes When You Seek God's Face" by Daniel Henderson

             No doubt about it, Daniel Henderson challenges you to consider your prayer life in his book, “Transforming Prayer: How Everything Changes When You Seek God’s Face.” I found myself exhilarated, convicted, discouraged, wistful and ultimately, prayerful, as I moved from one engaging chapter to the next. The first two-thirds of the book lay the foundation for engaging in worship-based prayer so that about halfway through I was more than ready to get to the nuts and bolts of worship-based prayer—just how does one engage in worship-based prayer?

            Worship-based prayer is what this book is all about and Daniel Henderson explains it this way: “Worship-based prayer seeks the face of God before the hand of God.” He goes on to explain what that means, saying, “I have learned that if all we ever do is seek God’s hand, we may miss His face; but if we seek His face, He will be glad to open His hand and satisfy the deepest desires of our hearts (page 27).”

            Daniel Henderson is quick to say he’s not against prayer lists or bringing our requests to God, yet he wants to remind us that prayer is our opportunity to come to face-to-face with the living God. Daniel Henderson provides a nice balance in teaching about this aspect of our worship, while not falling headlong into emotionalism. He encourages us to pray scripturally and biblically (and explains how in the latter part of the book). Daniel Henderson explains, “Eastern religions, and even some teachers of the Christian faith, propose that the best way to hear from God’s Spirit (or maybe some other spirit) is to empty your mind, accompanied by various breathing exercises. That might be a great way to get a D in Prayer. Rather, the Scriptures affirm the best way to hear from the Spirit is to fill the mind with the Word of God, accompanied by careful reading and meditation on the sacred text. That’s the best way to receive what the Spirit is speaking clearly (page 118).” (Incidentally, George Mueller prayed in a similar manner.)

            This book was worth the time I spent reading it as it challenged me to take a good, hard look at my attitudes toward prayer and the God who hears my prayers. Daniel Henderson longs to see believers enjoy a deeper and more life-tranforming relationship with the Lord. One of the things I’ve taken away from this book is that there is no “secret” to an amazing prayer life or a quick fix. Prayer, worship-based prayer, God-honoring prayer means we come to God seeking Him, longing to know Him, and in the course of that conversation, we share our requests and concerns with Him.

Here are some of the sections I marked in the book, besides the ones I quoted above:

            “The world is not transformed by relevant Christians, strategic Christians, visionary Christians, leadership-savvy Christians, wealthy Christians, attractive Christians, educated Christians, active Christians, or articulate Christians. These are all interesting qualities, and might be helpful on occasion—especially in building big religious organizations and selling books.”

            “Ultimately, the world is transformed by sanctified Christians through whom the life of Jesus becomes a mystifying manifestation. …People changed by Jesus cannot help but change the world.” Pages 35-36.

            “We read the biblical texts that tell us ‘it is good for me to draw near to God’ (Psalm 73:28) and that we should ‘draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith’ (Hebrews 10:22). We read the promise that if we draw near to God He will draw near to us (James 4:8). Yet the reality of this seems threatening and unachievable.” Page 41.

            “Countless believers have learned to pray, from a counterproductive tradition, forms of prayer passed down through the generations without much critical evaluation and biblical investigation. Some traditions in prayer rely mainly on ‘prayer lists’ and others on rote expressions, rather than upon the leading of the Holy Spirit. The primary content of many prayer gatherings is juicy information about other people rather than the foundation of God’s Word. We tend more toward discussions about the problems of people than the real experiences of the presence of the Problem Solver. Most believers know that something is amiss in these gatherings, even if they cannot put their finger on it. As a result, individuals and congregations flounder in their commitment and enjoyment of prayer. My friend David Butts, chairperson of America’s National Prayer Committee, says, ‘The reason most people do not attend prayer meetings at their church is that they have been to prayer meetings at their church.’” Pages 42-43.

“The heart cannot taste what the eyes have not seen.” Brazilian proverb. Page 44.

            “In considering these truths, we must search our souls about the things that trigger our prayers. What values shape our requests? Are our motives honoring to Christ? To what degree are ‘earthly treasures’ and the ‘god of mammon’ infecting our prayer life? Amid all our worries about our health, finances, family, job, education, and ministry concerns, are we seeking first His kingdom and not our own.” Pages 80-81.

            “Let God be magnified!” Page 90.

            “Early in his journey of loss, pain, and interpersonal attack, Job said the right words and struggled to do the right thing. In the end, he realized that he needed a deeper revelation of God in order to comprehend His glory (Job 42:1-6).” Page 95.

            “Puritan William Law added great application for us: ‘Read whatever chapter of Scripture you will, and be ever so delighted with it—yet it will leave you as poor, as empty and unchanged as it found you unless it has turned you wholly and solely to the Spirit of God, and brought you into full union with and dependence upon Him.’” Page 116 (quoting William Law’s, The Power of the Spirit).

            “A. W. Tozer described this reality: ‘The man who has struggled to purify himself and has had nothing but repeated failures will experience real relief when he stops tinkering with his soul and looks away to the perfect One. While he looks at Christ, the very things he has so long been trying to do will be getting done within him. It will be God working in him to will and to do.’” Page 142 (quoting A. W. Tozer’s, The Pursuit of God).

            “It is worship-based prayer that cultivates a deep repentance in His presence, a growing desperation for His power, and an unquenchable passion for His renown.” Page 204.