Category Archives: Devotional

The Puritans Day by Day edited by H.J. Horn

The Puritans Day by Day: Puritan Quotations for Each Day of the Year. Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2016. 408 pp. $23.00. Purchase at Westminster Books for less.

Introduction

Originally published in 1928 by Stanley and Martin, Co in London as The Puritan Remembrancer and was edited by H.J. Horn. It has been reprinted by The Banner of Truth Trust for a new readership in the 21st century.

Summary

From the Banner of Truth’s website:

Here in The Puritans Day By Day, this unique selection from a wide range of reading, we have a noble army of memorable sayings. They have been drawn mainly out of the writings of the Puritans, men who excelled in their power of deep insight into both the word of God and the human heart, and who also had the rare gift of quaint and distinctive expression. The compiler of these ‘pearls of wisdom’ has traveled extensively through a wide range of devotional literature, and has provided us with a year’s supply of wise sayings that are as fresh and new as they are piquant and tender.

The Puritans Day by Day will be particularly helpful to young preachers, who would do well to keep this volume, with its careful ordering and its full indexes, close to hand. In days when minds are dull and spirits are weary, they will find it to be a rich source of mental and spiritual refreshment.

Review

Unlike other daily devotionals, this devotional is only quotes by (mostly) Puritans arranged in a topical order day by day. Each day has a seemingly random topic followed by a passage of Scripture. This is followed by anywhere from four to ten quotes dealing with that particular topic.

For example, on 3 April (I choose this date solely because that is my birthday) the topic is Holy Scripture, the verse is simply, “the holy scriptures” – 2 Timothy 3:15. Following are nine quotes from Thomas Fuller, Martin Luther, Thomas Watson, and Richard Sibbes.

As you can tell, this is not a devotional in the classic sense. What makes this devotional valuable is obviously the gathering of the quotes. Perhaps more importantly than that is the three indices at the back of the book. These include an alphabetical list of persons quoted, a canonical list of the Bible passages referenced, and an alphabetical list of the topics covered.

Recommendation

This resource is more than a devotional in my estimation. It becomes an excellent resource for rich quotable material. It is full of great wisdom and insight and will drive the reader to want to know more about the great God they serve. I use my copy for sermon prep (when you need that perfect quote) as well as for social media engagement (most of the quotes are tweetable).

Voices from the Past, Vol. 2 Edited by Richard Rushing

Voices from the Past: Puritan Devotional Readings, Volume 2. Edited by Richard Rushing. Edinburg: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2016. 432 pp. $28.00. Purchase at Westminster Books for less.

Introduction

The first volume was released back in 2010 and was well received by many. Richard Rushing, who served as the editor for both volumes, also edited the Pocket Puritan of Thomas Case’s When Christians Suffer released in 2009.

Summary

As with the first volume, this second volume is a daily devotional of Puritanical writings from over 25 different Puritan writers. There are 366 daily readings that are meant to be read day by day. Also, in one of the three indices there is a topical guide that will take you to a particular area of interest for the reader in the event that they have a specific need on any given day.

Review

While it is always difficult to review a disjointed work such as a daily devotional, it is easy to tell another person why they ought to read a particular devotion. In the case of Voices from the Past Volume 2, I would say that the depth, even in one page of text that the Rushing has selected for each day will hardly be surpassed by any modern day devotional.

Yes, there is a language barrier of sorts as the Puritans wrote in a form of English hardly used today, but these are so short of readings that this should pose no problem for the modern reader. In fact, the reader, in my estimation, will find that they are able to understand far more than they realize in a shorter amount of time than they anticipated.

One more reason I believe you should consider this daily devotional is the manner in which the Puritans handled the Word of God. Again, compared to modern day writing and preaching (most of the books by the Puritans were sermons adapted into books) the Puritans say more in one paragraph than many pastors and writers say in one sermon. Rushing has selected the choicest of sentences and combined them into one daily devotional. Regardless, the Puritans are known for their depth and should be modeled today.

Recommendation

I obviously highly recommend this resource. My hope is that this devotional, like its first volume, would be an introduction to the larger body of Puritanical works. From there, as you are introduced to the great depth of biblical exposition, I believe the foundation for a genuine revival will be laid and a sincerity of faith will begin to take hold within Christendom that has not been seen in over a century.

 

Held in Honor edited by Robert L. Plummer & Matthew D. Haste

Held in HonorHeld in Honor: Wisdom for Your Marriage from Voices of the Past. Scotland: Christian Focus Publications, 2015. 144 pp. $14.99. Purchase at Westminster Books or on Kindle for less.

Introduction

Are you ever disappointed in your spouse? Do you fight? Do you disagree about money, sex, or in-laws? What if the very struggles you are facing were addressed by thoughtful Christians hundreds of years ago?In Held in Honor, you will find 50 devotional reflections on marriage carefully selected from 2,000 years of church history. Alongside each inspiring historical quote is a brief introduction to the person quoted and an accompanying biblical reflection.You are not alone in your marriage. The Lord has provided encouragement, correction, and hope in his Word. Held in Honor aims to strengthen you by pointing you to the promises of God’s Word and by showing you how past generations have applied this life-giving message to their own marriages.

Summary

Divided into five sections and arranged chronologically throughout the history of the church, Plummer and Haste offer an historic view of the sanctity of marriage in a devotional format.

The eras include:

  • The Patristic (100-500)
  • Medieval (500-1400)
  • Reformation & Purtan (1400-1700)
  • Early Evangelical (1700-1900)
  • Modern (1900-Present)

Writings are included from stalwarts of the faith like Athanasius, Thomas Aquinas, John Calvin, George Whitefield, and C.S. Lewis. Also, some lesser known writers and theologians of years gone by include The Shepherd of Hermas, Hugh of St. Victor, Anne Bradstreet, Henry Venn, and Thomas Merton.

Each entry includes an extremely short bio, a selection from that person’s writings and a devotion that is meant to drive us to think deeply about our marriage.

Review

Phenomenal! This is a must read for all Christians today. There is such a rich tradition and heritage of biblical marriage in the church and we would all do well to be somewhat familiar with it. Through every selection, the reader will find one common theme: Marriage is a beautiful gift to humanity when understood in light of the God who gave it to us.

This work serves as an introduction for many to the giants of the faith that have gone before us. It will also serve as a wonderful reminder of the depth with which God has blessed those with the gift of marriage. There is truly something in this book for everyone.

Recommendation

I highly recommend this resource to all who are married and those who are considering marriage. The church is indebted to Robert Plummer and Matthew Haste for bringing these writings together in one volume.

Parables of the Deer by Carl Schmuland

Parables of the DeerSchmuland, Carl. Parables of the Deer: A Journey Toward Christian Maturity. Apopka: Reliance Media, 2012. 284 pp. $19.95. Purchase for less at Amazon.

Introduction

Carl is a retired engineer and former atheist with a lifelong interest in deer and photography. He lives with his wife, Mary, in Lino Lakes, MN.

After a dramatic Damascus Road conversion in 1986, he has had a passion to have a mature understanding of the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27); be prepared to concisely & rationally explain & defend the truth claims of Christianity (1 Peter 3:15-16); and make disciples for Jesus Christ equipping them to do the same (Matthew 28:19-20).

Summary

Written as a devotional, the 124 chapters each begin with a picture of various kinds of deer in various settings. Each chapter is designed to draw the reader closer to God while also teaching the doctrines and truths of the Scriptures.

The first part of the book gives a brief survey of the Bible while the second part looks at basic Christian doctrines. The third part examines apologetics and the need for evangelism. This third part comprises more than half of the book.

Review

This devotional is an interesting take the genre. Every chapter is rooted in Scripture but every chapter launches from a characteristic or attribute of the deer. Personally, I am not a deer hunter but I can see how this would appeal to those who are.

Carl covers a lot of ground in this book and offers some very good introductory points on many different topics. He even takes three days to explain the difference between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. He spends two days explaining the gospel in explicit language that everyone can understand.

I am impressed with the undertaking and the ability he has to explain difficult doctrines in a clear and concise manner. In the end, 124 days after beginning this devotional, a Christian will have a solid foundation on basic Christian beliefs.

Recommendation

If you are a deer hunter or know someone who is, you would enjoy this book. Given that it is definitely written for this particular audience, I would only recommend it to those who enjoy the outdoors. It would make a great gift this deer season.

 

Grief Undone by Elizabeth W. D. Groves

Grief UndoneGroves, Elizabeth W.D., Grief Undone: A Journey with God and Cancer. Greensboro: New Growth Press, 2015. 224 pp. $17.99. Purchase at Westminster Books for less or for Kindle.

Introduction

Elizabeth Groves teaches Hebrew at Westminster Theological Seminary. She has written Becoming a Widow. She also has four children and four grandchildren.

Summary

With eighty-nine chapters in only 224 pages, one quickly realizes this is more like a diary of the author’s journey that emphasizes her husband’s battle with cancer. The book is divided into a number of subsections such as life before (the cancer), winter ’06, spring ’06 until his death in winter ’06-’07.

The largest portion of the book is Elizabeth’s immediate life following the home going of her soul mate and husband (chapters 61-83) and then a final section looking back on this most difficult period in her life (chapter 84-89).

Review

Grief Undone is a diary chronicling all the human emotional, mental, physical and spiritual struggles every human faces in life. In this case, it was the all too common battle against cancer. To that end, it must be noted how difficult it is to critique one’s raw emotions and their own personal experiences since it is so personal and private.

Perhaps that is what makes this work so valuable. On every page, you see the struggles of the flesh. You witness first hand the life of a believer in the midst of terrible strife. And on every page you see God-given faith and perseverance. You see humility. You see courage to face the world with a satisfaction of knowing that the God you worship is sovereign over cancer and other illnesses. Further, you see that there is a comfort in knowing that though this cancer may take your life in this world and, as is the instance for Elizabeth, leave you “by yourself” to await your own home going, it is not the end by a long shot.

The faith and hope poured into these words on the pages in this book are a comfort to the believer today. Why? Because we all must struggle with sin and the effects of sin in this world. Elizabeth Groves has written a wonderful and transparent book that will be an aid to all pilgrims striving to get to the Celestial City.

Recommendation

If you have cancer or know someone who does, I highly recommend this resource to you. If you struggle with the trials and tribulations of life, I highly recommend this resource to you. While Elizabeth is certainly someone we can all learn from in dealing with cancer and death, she ultimately points us to the One who helped her and will help you.

Duck Commander Devotions for Kids by Korie Robertson & Chrys Howard

Devotions for KidsRobertson, Korie and Chrys Howard. Illustrated by Holli Conger. Duck Commander Devotions for Kids. Nasville: Tommy Nelson, 2015.  223 pp. $16.99. Purchase at Amazon and on Kindle for less.

Introduction

I have confessed to not being a fan of Duck Dynasty let alone having ever watched an episode. I have, however, reviewed another resource from this marketing juggernaut: The Duck Commander Faith and Family Bible. Now, the wives are at it penning a devotional for children.

Summary

Comprised of 103 devotions that are two pages in length, each day begins with a verse from the NIV and then springboards into a short devotional meant to drive home a particular point. Many of these devotions begin with a snippet of information about the Robertson family or a reference to an event in one’s life that many (if not all) children have experienced.

Each devotion concludes with a prayer as well as a “Duck Commander in Action” section where the child is directed to some activity to help implement and cement the lesson for that day.

Review

While one may charge that the devotionals border on moralism (don’t most of today’s devotionals?) I think it would be wise to understand that they are writing to a young audience that seems to be more and more void of morals than ever before.

I was impressed with the regularity in which they pushed children to trust in Christ. At the end of the 103 day/week devotional there will have been many topics discussed. All of them will appeal to both your child’s imagination and drive them, Lord willing, to a deeper understanding of what it means to walk with the Lord. At the very least, they will begin to see how it is genuinely impossible to do all that the Lord commands us!

Recommendation

As far as devotionals go for children, this is pretty nice. I found it interesting and very engaging as well as full of biblical truth. I can recommend this devotional as long as it is part of a larger Bible reading plan for the entire family.

Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ by John Piper

Seeing and Savoring Jesus ChristPiper, John. Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2001. 142 pp. $9.99. Purchase at Westminster for less or on Kindle.

Introduction

Note: I read and am reviewing the 2001 edition. What is pictured and linked to is the 2004 revised edition which is a paperback.

John Piper needs no introduction. For those that have never heard of please check out his ministry’s website, Desiring God. You can get most every book they have free in PDF as well as all of his sermons and podcasts.

Summary

Divided into thirteen chapters, Piper takes the reader on a journey from understanding the ultimate aim of Jesus to nuggets of truth as to what what Jesus came to do. Along the way, you will learn the deity and excellence of Christ while also considering His power and wisdom.

As Piper brings the reader to the apex of the joy of Christ, he also shows us the glory of Christ as he helps you to consider the anguish and saving sacrifice of Jesus. He concludes with meditation on Christ’s resurrection and His promised Second Coming.

Review

I read this book because in a recent podcast, John Piper stated that if he were to recommend any one book of his to read first it would Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ. That caught me by surprise a bit. I had read this years ago when I first came to Christ but had it sitting on my shelf collecting dust. I decided to reread it and now understand why Piper says he himself rereads this book often.

Each chapter is short and can be read devotionally or, quite honestly in one night. I chose to read the book in the morning after my daily Scripture reading. My discovery was that it quickened my heart to the things of God in such a concerted effort that I could not help but meditate on Christ throughout the day.

Each chapter was saturated with Scripture and every chapter ended with a concerted prayer in to help one converse with God. I usually do not read these prayers as I find it often difficult to pray someone else’s prayer, but these were different. I found the prayers to be a spring board to deeper communion with God.

Recommendation

It would be easy to say that if Piper recommends this book, I recommend this book. Too be honest, it was because he stated that he rereads this book often to be reminded of Christ’s glories. If John Piper needs a reminder, then so do I, and I think I can safely assume, so do you. Please get yourself a copy and read and reread this quality devotional that will draw you to Christ.

The Dawning of Indestructible Joy by John Piper

Indestructible JoyPiper, John. The Dawning of Indestructible Joy: Daily Readings for Advent. Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2014. 98 pp. $7.99. Purchase the print copy at Westminster Books for less or on Amazon Kindle for $3.99.

Introduction

John Piper needs no introduction though to my surprise I have not reviewed a book by John Piper since 2011. I have, however, read many in that time.

Summary/Review

This is a twenty-five day devotional meant to stir your heart to a greater and deeper joy in God. Each devotional is maybe 4 pages long at most. Though in those few pages, your mind will be set squarely on the riches of the grace and mercy of God through His Son, Jesus Christ.

Unlike many devotionals meant to help you feel good about yourself, Piper writes so that we might begin to understand that it is not about us but instead all about God. Every devotional is a meditation kick-starter that will leave you pondering the glorious truths of God all day long.

Recommendation

I personally have always enjoyed Piper’s works. They are challenging and wonderfully written in such a way that you are driven to your knees in worship of an awesome, holy, and loving God. I highly recommend The Dawning of Indestructible Joy to all. This is the perfect antidote to being weighed down by the cares of the world.

 

The Blessed and Boundless God by George Swinnock

The Blessed and Boundless GodSwinnock, George. The Blessed and Boundless God. Edited by J. Stephen Yuille. Grand Rapids, Reformation Heritage Books, 2014. 119 pp. $10.00. Purchase at Westminster Books or Amazon Kindle for less.

Introduction

George Swinnock was an English Puritan who lived from 1627-1673.   You can get a succinct introduction to this divine by reading Trading and Thriving in Godliness, a book in the Profiles in Reformed Spirituality Series published by Reformation Heritage Books.  Also, I have reviewed The Fading of the Flesh and the Flourishing of the Faith in this same Puritan Treasures for Today series. J. Stephen Yuille edited both of those works as well.

Summary

This work was a meditation on Psalm 89:6, “For who in the heaven can be compared unto the Lord? who among the sons of the mighty can be likened unto the Lord?”

According to Yuille, “In chapters 1-30, he proves his doctrine by demonstrating God’s incomparableness in His being, attributes, works, and words. In chapters 31-45, he applies his doctrine by demonstrating how God’s incomparableness informs, counsels, and comforts us” (p. xiv).

The work is further divided into five parts: God’s incomparable being, God’s incomparable attributes, God’s incomparable works, God’s incomparable Words, and the application.

Review

Most chapters are three to five pages in length and pack a week’s worth of meditative material. On one hand, you can read this as I did…in one sitting. It took maybe an hour and fifteen minutes to read. The problem with this was I felt like I was drinking from a fire hydrant. Swinnock led me, even reading so fast, to a glimpse of God that I will savor for the rest of my life.

One of the quotes I underlined and shared was, “The only thing that can be known of God is that He can never be fully known.” That seems to beg the question of why should we even try to know about God. The answer is, we ought to so fill ourselves with the thoughts of God that we more and more are conformed into His image. Swinnock does his best to aid that conformity.

Recommendation

I said above that I read this in one sitting. While I do recommend this resource to everyone, I would recommend it more as a devotional as it can serve as a 45-day devotional. I believe the publication of this work in 2014 should be to the 21st century what Tozer’s Attributes of God was to the 20th century.

New Testament Essentials by Robbie Fox Castleman

NT EssentialsCastleman, Robbie Fox. New Testament Essentials: Father, Son, Spirit, and Kingdom. IVP Essentials Series. Downers Grove, 2014. 151 pp. $17.00. Purchase at Amazon and on Kindle for less.

Introduction

Robbie Castleman is professor of Biblical Studies and Theology at John Brown University. She previously served on the staff of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship with an emphasis in graduate students. The IVP Essentials Set is a series of in-depth workbooks that can help spiritual growth. Books include topics such as discipleship, leadership, and evangelism with more on the way.
This particular edition “introduces the New Testament in three parts: 1) The Revelation of God in Jesus, 2)The indwelling of God in the church by the Holy Spirit, and 3)The present and coming Kingdom of God.

Summary

Designed as a 12-week study divided into three parts the first part focuses on Jesus Christ as the rull revelation of God. The five chapters include Jesus as the Messiah, as Lord of Heaven and Earth, and looks to His work and His teaching culminating in Christ as the Incarnate and Risen Savior.

The second part is a 3-week study of the church and the importance of understanding the Holy Spirit as indwelling her and giving her the power and ability to change the world. The third part spends 4-weeks looking at the present kingdom of God and a general understanding of the His coming kingdom.

Each week there is a memory verse (always good) rooted in a Bible study. The Bible study is an in-depth look at a particular passage that will take an evening to accomplish. Further, there is a reading that acts as a teacher explaining the passage with particular application. Following the reading, there are more questions designed to implement and establish the lesson being taught.

Finally, the author helps the reader connect the New Testament to the Old and applies it our personal lives today. There is a “Going Deeper” section that recommends yet another book to read.

Review

This work is not for the faint of heart. It is, however, designed to draw the reader into the Word of God in a deep and meaningful way. This is not a study you can finish in 10-minutes and feel as though you accomplished something. Rather, this is a 12-week study that will take you a full 12 weeks to finish.

This study is well written, and in my estimation, a very thorough work meant to put your faith and mind to work. It is biblically centered with a premise that God’s word is sufficient for life and unchanging. The various sections of the study can be done one per evening throughout the week and discussed together as a group.

As part of a larger series, this work can and does stand alone. It will, however, cause you to want to investigate the rest of the series.

Recommendation

For the new believer, this study can be considered indispensable. For the mature believer, this study can be a refresher. For all believers, this study will enhance and deepen your understanding of these four subjects. If you are looking for a solid Bible study for yourself or small group, you will find what you are looking for here in New Testament Essentials.