Sunday, May 5, 2019

Book Review -- Jeanette Li: The Autobiography of a Chinese Christian - translated by Rose Huston

 Surprised and delighted was I to find this autobiography of Jeannette Li back in print. It was thirty eight years ago that I stumbled across the Banner of Truth edition of this book in a church library in Maine and read it with fascination.  This new Crown & Covenant edition is printed on good quality paper and is of a larger size than the Banner of Truth edition. Each chapter title includes a wonderful pen and ink drawing. The middle of the book contains a number of photographs.

This new edition includes a forward by J. Bruce Martin, President of The Reformation Translation Fellowship. It contains a very helpful history of RTF in China and a wonderful summary of the Gospel being spread while Christians were under great persecution by the Chinese and Japanese. I found it a great reminder for the need of the church in America to remain constant in prayer for these brothers and sisters in Christ.

Although this book is an autobiography, it clearly shows some character development. The book starts with Li’s childhood and stories of her understandably childish behavior. It includes her struggle with alcohol, her struggles with her circumstances and her spiritual growth, her long service as director of an orphanage and ends with her gutsy, but spiritually mature encounters with officials in trying to leave China for America to be with her son in her old age.

Li serves as a wonderful example for us in how to struggle with God in prayer. One example of this is her grief at the death of her mother. On pages 68 and 69 she describes her prayer life during this time as one of complaining. Yet God, by his Spirit and by Li’s great familiarity with scripture, reminds her of God’s listening ear and his love, mercy and wisdom. She then sings from Psalm 37.  What a wonderful pattern for us to follow: scripture memory, prayer and psalm singing.

I loved the short chapters in the book. It allowed me to focus on a single theme/incident and to ponder them between readings. Her confidence in God and persistence under difficulty encouraged me in my own difficulties at the time I was reading the book.

Chapter 31 includes a story about the difficulty of Chinese to give up idols. It contains an extended dialogue that serves to model an apologetic against idol worship.

Chapter 35 on the children of Daigang includes stories of guidance received as a result of prayer and the role of earnest, constant prayer in missions work.

Chapter 36 includes a story of how Li’s strong but polite stand against worshiping idols and other Gods brought her respect from some of the Japanese officials.

I am so glad I had the chance to reread this book again after 38 years. What a wonderful testimony to the faithfulness of God, and of Christians under persecution. I will be praising God more often for his faithfulness to them and praying more earnestly for Christians now under persecution.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Book Review - Haunted Man by Charles Dickens - Abridged and Annotated by Dave Swavely

What a great find this is! This annotated and abridged version of Charles Dickens’s Haunted Man made it possible for me to read this not so well known classic profitably and with pleasure. Swavely’s introduction has several features that prepare one for reading, understanding and appreciating the theme of the book. He explains why he took out some language that was not necessary to the flow of the story and reduced the length by removing about 4,000 words to make it read smoother. I was therefore encouraged to slow down and appreciate some of the lengthier conversations. The “Who’s Who” section prepared me for the characters as they arrived in the story and helped me to keep them straight. My mind, therefore, was freed up to contemplate the message behind the story. I was surprised by the depth and breadth of the theology and the spiritual issues discussed.
Swavely’s afterward is a great addition to the work, helping me to make a number of connections I missed. It would be particularly helpful for those who are struggling to see how a good God uses hard times and man’s sin for his own glory and our happiness.
This is a book that I will reread as it clearly requires a little more thought than most fiction. This annotated and abridged edition encourages me to do this.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

My Favorite Books for Model Prayers

In chapter 1 of D. A. Carson’s book “A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Priorities from Paul and His Prayers”, Don Carson explains 8 lessons he has learned from scripture and from more mature Christians.  One of these lessons is learning to listen to some good model prayers. Here are some excerpts from that section of chapter 1.
“Most of us can improve our praying by carefully, thoughtfully listening to others pray. This does not mean copying everything we hear. . . . Not every good model provides us with exactly the same prescription for good praying, exactly the same balance. All of them pray with great seriousness; all of them use arguments and seek goals that are already portrayed in Scripture. Some of the seem to carry you with them into the very throne room of the Almighty; others are particularly faithful in intercession, despite the most difficult circumstances in life and ministry; still others are noteworthy because of the breadth of their vision. All are characterized by a wonderful mixture of contrition and boldness in prayer.”
Models prayers have different personalities.  Some are chatty others formal, some use a simple vocabulary while others are erudite and others reflect the geography or time period they were written. However, good model prayers will in some reflect the priority of scripture. Learn from these prayers, not to copy, but to inform and shape your own praying.
  1. The Pastor in Prayer: A Collection of the Sunday Morning Prayers of Charles Spurgeon
  2. My Grandmother is … praying for me: daily prayers and proverbs for character development in grandchildren by March, Ferris and Kelton
  3. The Lutheran Book of Prayer: 1951 edition
  4. Everyday Prayers: 365 Days to a Gospel-Centered Faith by Scotty Smith
  5. The Collects of Thomas Cranmer by Barbee and Zahl
  6. Great Souls At Prayer: Fourteen centuries of Prayer, Praise and Aspiration, from St. Augustine to Christina Rossetti and Robert Louis Stevenson selected and arranged by Mary W Tileston
  7. The One Year book of Personal Prayer by Tyndale House
  8. Prayers from Plymouth Pulpit by Henry Ward Beecher
  9. A Diary of Private Prayer by John Baillie
  10. The Book of Common Prayer – The Anglican, Episcopal and Presbyterian churches all have one.
  11. A Simple Way to Pray by Archie Parrish
  12. New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional by Paul David Tripp
  13. A Method for Prayer by Matthew Henry
  14. Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions by Arthur Bennett
  15. Face to Face: Praying the Scriptures For Spiritual Growth by Kenneth Boa
  16. Prayer Portions Sampler for the Family by Sylvia Gunter
  17. The Divine Hours: Prayers For Summertime by Phyllis Tickle
  18. God is No Stranger by Sandra Burdick

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Book Review - Next Life by Dave Swavely

I am not sure what either the Apostle Paul or the Apostle John meant my being “caught up”, but I think their experience had a different focus than protagonist Pastor Tim Carler. I think the Bible describes the IS as being more about worshipping God while we wait for the Second Coming, than in being ministering spirits to the living. That aside, this truly was a very interesting read.

Unlike other fiction books that attempt to describe the intermediate state, the conversational style of the author interacted with scripture in competent ways. It was usually quite clear what was mere speculation and what had biblical support. Although I liked the biblical references that explained his understanding of what was happening, the net effect was to have a good story that kept getting interrupted with explanations.
I did like the way the book ended. In closing the book, Dave Swavely describes the evidence he finds for the events he participated in as a ministering Angel.  Particularly interesting and helpful was the backup data he found for Hitler’s decision to invade Germany.

As a book of fiction that gets us thinking about heaven, this is a worthwhile read. 

Monday, August 20, 2018

Book Review – The Mona Lisa Mirror Mystery by Latayne C. Scott

Here is a book that is short, clear, inexpensive, with substantial content and written for teens. Being only 78 pages, it can easily be read in two evenings. If you like the fantasy novels of Madeleine L’Engle or C.S. Lewis then you will probably like this book.

While I was not particularly drawn to the everyday conversation between the main character Addy and her teenage friends, I was drawn to the art history of the painting of the Mona Lisa as Addy was ‘whooshed’ back into time when she looked at the painting. Here is Art History told as a story, which made it more memorable then reading it in an Art History Book.

A side theme included an apt apologetic for the truth claims of the bible. When Michaela, one of Addy’s friends says the bible is “A book [that] can be true, have truth in it, without being real” we get treated to a developing dialogue between Addy and her dad and Addy and Michaela which eventually leads to the apologetic Lee Strobel uses to prove the historicity of Jesus Christ. Well done without being preachy.

While this book is a fantasy, the book also portrayed the reality of living in a broken world. One of Addy’s friends has weird behavior around an Uncle, which I think too predictably turns out to be because he is a sexual predator. This part of the story is written without details, but does reveal the value in telling parents when inappropriate behavior is taking place.

All in all, a good read, even for this 70 year old reviewer!

Friday, August 3, 2018

Book Review - Departing In Peace: Decision Making At the End of Life by Bill Davis

“Decisions at the end of life create deep anxiety for those involved. But it is possible to find peace and comfort amid the hard choices”– The Publisher. 
This book is undoubtedly the best book I have found on the subject. First, the author has had extensive experience on hospital ethics committees and has taught bioethics at Covenant College and Pastoral & Social Ethics at Reformed Theological Seminary. Second, his experience as a Ruling Elder in the Presbyterian Church of America has given him experience advising parents and children in making Biblically based end of life decisions. Third, the biblical analysis and practical advice offered have been read-tested, both in the hospital and in the classroom.
Dr. Bill Davis says “This book aims to make a more detailed biblical case for the principles found in the 1988 PCA Report on Heroic Measures, and to give more practical guidance about how to apply those principles, especially in the hospital setting of today.”
To give you a flavor for the type of advice Dr. Davis gives, the heart of the instructions he left with his doctor is the desire not to have medical means used to keep him alive unless the means are humanly likely to restore to him the ability to enjoy “the ordinary means of grace”. He says this because, in his words, “The delight of reading God’s Word and hearing it preached, the unity found in taking the sacraments with other believers, the peace and involvement known in corporate prayer, and the thrill of singing God’s praises together with God’s people are more fulfilling to our whole selves than anything else on earth.”  
While the book tends to be pretty detailed, it is quite readable and full of very practical advice. One of the chapters include six true stories. In this chapter Dr. Davis sets up the end of life situation, then works through the situation asking the kinds of questions the person or loved ones ask. He gives several options for answers and discusses the pros and cons of each, with his suggested response.
The book includes study and discussion questions at the end of each chapter, but the real bonus is the free and extensive lesson plans for a four-class series available at the publishers (P&R Publishing) website.
What follows are a few more endorsements.
“This book combines mature biblical teaching with the brass-tacks practical questions that we all face with the death of loved ones. These are the things that we don’t usually think about until they happen. I highly recommend Departing in Peace as essential preparation.”  —Michael Horton, J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics, Westminster Seminary California
“Dr. Davis is an exemplary teacher and guide. His personal experience with end-of-life issues and his experience as a guide to others are invaluable for those who want to be ready.”  —Richard R. Pesce, MD, MS (ethics), FCCP, FACP, Medical Director of Critical Care, Memorial Hospital, Chattanooga
“This book by Bill Davis fills a real gap in the literature. . . . Departing in Peace deserves to become the go-to book for those seeking solid guidance on difficult end-of-life decisions.”  —James N. Anderson, Associate Professor of Theology and Philosophy, Reformed Theological Seminary, Charlotte
“This book is a fine reflection on crucial issues of life and death. As we would expect from Bill Davis, it is careful, thoughtful, and biblical, and it will be genuinely helpful to families and pastors.”  —W. Robert Godfrey, Professor Emeritus of Church History, Westminster Seminary California

This book along with several other new books can be seen at Somethin's Brewin Coffee Shop in DeMotte. I also am always adding books to the list of recommended books at

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Check out my list of recommended books at

Also -  for those who live in DeMotte, Indiana be sure to visit Companion Books Bookstall at Somethin' Brewin Cafe on Halleck Street where you will find used and discounted books!