God Took Me by the Hand A story of God’s Unusual Providence by Jerry Bridges

God Took Me by the Hand is a short autobiography of the life of longtime servant of God and author Jerry Bridges.  Bridges, whose whole ministry was in conjunction with the Navigators (he recently passed away), uses his simple and clear writing skills to chronicle how an ordinary boy was greatly used of God.  The purpose of this book, he writes in the first chapter, “is to explain, illustrate and exalt God’s providence” (p. 12).  He accomplishes this goal, detailing how the Lord orchestrated his life step-by-step.  Bridges does not whitewash his life as he transparently admits times of failure, confusion, hurt, loss and doctrinal error.  But through it all God’s providence, defined as God’s “constant care for and His absolute rule over all His creation for His own glory and the good of His people” (p. 19), was evident.  And Bridges assures us that God’s providence is at work…

A Cloud of Witnesses, Calvinistic Baptists in the 18th Century by Michael Haykin

In a day in which Christian celebritism is rampant, and almost all biographies are written about the big names of the past, it is encouraging to read about a few “normal” Christians who served the Lord as faithfully as those we emulate today.  Michael Haykin has chosen in this little volume to highlight the lives of ten such individuals who ministered in England between the period of the “Great Ejection” of 1662 and the Great Awakening of the 1730s.  All of these short biographies are of people (eight men and two women) who were Calvinistic Baptists.   Each served faithfully for many years, had an impact on their time, but have been largely forgotten by church history.  An outstanding characteristic of the pastors showcased was that rather than seek personal fame they saw themselves as belonging to their church family, and it was to the local assembly (as well as the…

Her Heart Can See, The Life and Hymns of Fanny J. Crosby by Edith L. Blumhofer

This excellent biography of one of the most prolific and well-known hymn writers in church history is well researched, readable, educational and in many ways encouraging. Crosby was blind from early childhood but never let her lack of sight slow her down. She had an incredible ability to write singable poetry, some of which was political, patriotic, and sentimental. But she is known today for her many hymns (somewhere between 6,000-10,000) which reflected, and perhaps to some degree shaped, the evangelicalism of the 19th century. She lived 95 years (from 1820-1915), staying productive to the end, and died a national and Christian treasure. As with any good biography more is covered than merely the main subject. Blumhofer also carefully outlines the development and key changes in sacred music during the 1800s. Important individuals of the times, men and women most of us know little about now, were instrumental in shaping…

The Poetic Wonder of Isaac Watts,by Douglas Bond, edited by Steven Lawson (Sanford, Florida: Ligonier Ministries, Reformation Trust Publishing: 2013) 164 pp., hardcover $11.99; ebook, 145 pp., $7.20

The Poetic Wonder of Isaac Watts is the first book I have read in the “A Long Line of Godly Men Profiles” series, edited by Steven Lawson. Others in the series so far are books on Calvin, Edwards, Knox, Spurgeon and Luther and, if they are anything like this one, they will be a joy to read. The Poetic Wonder of Isaac Watts is part biography, part theology and part explanation of Watt’s lasting legacy as the “father of modern hymnology.” Most of Watts’ hymns were written to go with his sermons (p. 41); as a matter of fact his hymns have been called rhymed sermons (p. 46). Some have even credited Watts with bringing singing back to English-speaking churches (p. 57). Of course, when he introduced hymns to a Christian world in which many believed that singing anything but the Psalms was unbiblical he drew ample criticism. It was…

HEAVEN IS FOR REAL, a Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back, by Todd Burpo with Lynn Vincent (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2010), 162pp, paper, $16.99).

The movie Heaven is for Real opened in theaters on Wednesday, April 16 taking second place in the movie boxoffice for the week. This has renewed interest in the book which had already sold over eight million copies prior to the movie. Heaven is for Real is based on the 2010 best-selling book of the same title, which has moved back to the top of the New York Times bestseller list at #2 in in the “combined print and e-book nonfiction” category and #1 in the “paperback nonfiction” category. On Amazon.com, the Kindle version of the book is at #1 in the “Eschatology” category and #1 in the “inspirational” category. For the paperback version, Amazon.com has it at #2 in “Eschatology,” #4 in “Christian Living,” and #4 in “Religion and Spirituality.” These are astounding numbers for a book that has been on the market this long. The description for the…

Our Hymn Writers and Their Hymns, by Faith Cook (Darlington, England: Evangelical Press: 2005), 400 pp., paper $10.99

The stories behind our Christian hymns and the lives of the hymn writers have long fascinated me. Our Hymn Writers is perhaps the finest book I have read on this topic. Faith Cook has carefully researched her subject and provided her reader with a wealth of information which will not only enlighten but encourage the child of God. Cook begins with a chapter of short clips dealing with hymn writers in ancient times, such as Ambrose, Luther, Milton and Baxter. The final two chapters are similar in that she briefly details the lives and works of lesser known and more recent writers of Christian verse. The other thirteen chapters each describe in more detail the lives and hymns of one individual. These include: Watts, Newton, Cowper, Montgomery, Lyte, Bonan, Havergal and Crosby. Unlike most Christian songs being written today, many of the hymns of the past were written due to…

John MacArthur, Servant of the Word and Flock,by Iain H. Murray (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2011), 246 pp., Hardcover, $17.49

It is a bit unusual to write biographies about the living, a fact the author recognizes, but Murray apparently wanted to be the first to make such an endeavor for John MacArthur.  Iain Murray is a well-respected church historian and biographer and co-founder of The Banner of Truth Trust.  He has written a relatively brief but faithful account of the high points of John MacArthur’s ministry.  Very little concerning MacArthur’s personal life or family is found in these pages (one small exception being a chapter on his wife Patricia).  Virtually nothing is recounted about his children, either while young or now.  Nothing about family life, socializing with friends or other personal notes of interest are detailed.  This book, therefore, is not so much about MacArthur’s life as an account of his ministry.  In this regard we are given insights into his philosophy of ministry, preaching style, theology and personal convictions. …

The Life and Diary of David Brainerd edited by Jonathan Edwards, by Philip E. Howard, Jr., Grand Rapids: Baker, 1989, 285 pp. paper $12.00

The diary of 18th century missionary to the American Indians, David Brainerd, is too well known to need much critique from me.  It became world-renown due to the efforts of Jonathan Edwards who edited and published the diary and journal shortly after Brainerd’s death at the young age of 29.  It has since served as an encouragement for spiritual fervor and dedicated service to the Lord for the tens of thousands who have read it. Brainerd did not write his diary with the intent of others reading it.  As such it is a record of his personal struggles and triumphs in his walk with God.  No one, after reading the diary, could ever doubt this young man’s sincerity.  He desired to be all that God wanted him to be and served the Lord so mightily that it most likely broke his health.  But his constant morbid introspection is troublesome.  Even…

Churchill by Paul Johnson

Winston Churchill is surely one of the greatest men of the twentieth century.  In his lifetime he wrote and published nearly 10 million words and, most likely, as many words have been written about him.  So why another biography on the famous politician, author, orator and military tactician?  Primarily because an excellent and yet short account of Churchill’s life was needed.  In 168 well-written and enjoyable pages Paul Johnson has captured the essence of Churchill’s life.  Most of us do not have the time or interest to read thousands of pages on one man’s life, but a volume of this size is not only readable but gives all the details necessary to grasp who Churchill was and what made him the man who will be remembered throughout the ages.  Johnson does not paint Churchill without flaws, as he clearly shows the weaknesses of the man.  But his admiration for Churchill…

Andrew Jackson by Robert V. Remini

This is one of the most celebrated and helpful biographies of Andrew Jackson available today. Remini pulls no punches, painting Jackson as a great hero, a powerful President of the people, and yet deeply flawed in many ways. Of particular interest at our present time is to observe how an 18th century President dealt with an economic collapse and banking crisis similar to one we are experiencing in the 21st century. Perhaps our leaders could learn a thing or two from Jackson.

John Owen, the Man and His Theology Edited by Robert W. Oliver

John Owen is considered one of the greatest theologians of any era, yet until the reprinting of his Works in the mid 1960s few would have recognized his name (p. 72). John Owen, the Man and His Theology serves as a great introduction to this man and his influence on theological thought. It is written by five scholars, each examining different facets of Owen’s life. Chapter one provides a brief biography while chapter two is an overview of Owen’s theology. The remaining four chapters deal with particular doctrines to which Owen devoted much attention: the person of Christ, the Holy Spirit, the Scriptures (in reaction to the newly formed Quakers’ movement) and the church, respectively. Owen thought deeply about and wrestled powerfully with these doctrines and he has left us much to ponder. This excellent little volume goes a long way toward demonstrating why he and his work are still…

Jonathan Edwards, the Younger: 1745-1801 by Robert L. Ferm

While almost everyone knows of Jonathan Edwards, very few have heard of his son Jonathan Edwards Junior, although he was an influential theologian and pastor in his own right. His life began as the embers of the First Great Awakening were dying and ended as the flames of the Second Great Awakening were igniting. More importantly, he was a key player during a theologically volatile time, as Calvinism split into old Calvinist and New Divinity camps and the surge of Arminianism changed evangelicalism. Edwards was constantly in the mix of these theological debates attempting to defend his father’s New Divinity position, even as he altered it to a more legalistic stance. Like his father, Edwards also served many years as a pastor and for a short time as a seminary president, but his legacy lies in his contributions to the changing face of the American theological landscape during the second…

John Knox in Controversy by Hugh Watt

The title explains perfectly the content of this little book. This is not a biography of John Knox but rather an overview of four major controversies or confrontations that he encountered as he led the Reformation in Scotland in the sixteenth century. A fuller understanding of Knox’s life is needed to get a decent handle on the events found in this volume. Only a church history buff would find much interest in this work.

Women’s Diaries of the Westward Journey by Lillian Schlissel

If you are looking for a Louis L’Amour storyline, this isn’t your book. If you are looking for authentic accounts of the mid-1800s wagon trains on their journeys west and that from the perspective of the women travelers, you have come to the right place. As the title implies this is not a novel but true stories as found in the diaries of women who made this incredible expedition. What these women had to endure, how they managed (toting along numerous children and often pregnant), how they buried their young and sometimes their husbands on the trail and then stoically continued their journey, is like nothing portrayed in the movies. In our cushy little world it is hard to imagine anyone purposely putting themselves through such turmoil for any reason – but these pioneers saw things differently. To be sure the western migration was the fantasy of the men, but…

Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

For some reason this little story about the last days of a man dying of a terrible disease has hit the right buttons. It is the account of a 30-something yuppie who has sort of lost his way in life, but finding new insight about what is truly important from his former college professor. Every Tuesday the author travels to Morrie’s house to record his words of wisdom trying to discover where the author, and his generation, lost the path. The under girding philosophy that Morrie has to give is found in an oft’ repeated phrase, “Once you learn how to die, you learn how to live” (p.82). Tuesdays is a story full of pathos, and perhaps this is its appeal. Many have lost loved ones who seemed to have a better handle on life than they. Maybe we should have taken the time to listen a little more to…

Tolkien, a Biography by Humphrey Carpenter

With Tolkien mania on the rise again, Tolkien buffs will want to read this authorized biography. This is a well written, interesting biography that fleshes out Tolkien’s personal and professional life. Tolkien’s relationship to C. S. Lewis is detailed, including the part he allegedly played in Lewis’ conversion. Whether Tolkien himself was a Christian is doubtful. He was a Roman Catholic and extremely religious, but his relationship with Christ is not explored in this book. Those who like Hobbits and Middle-earth will enjoy this biography; all others should skip this one.

The Wolf from Scotland by William B. Forsyth

In the mid 1800s a pioneer missionary took the gospel to two Portuguese speaking nations: Medeira and Brazil. Dr. Robert Reid Kalley was in the same league as Hudson Taylor and Adoniram Judson as far as his effectiveness as a missionary, but he lacked the fame of his peers. This biography goes a long way towards remedying this slight. Kalley was a Scottish medical doctor who, due to health concerns of his wife, moved to the Madeira Islands off the coast of northwest Africa. There he modeled the medical missionary for future generations, brought many to Christ and established a vital church in Madeira which so enraged the Roman Catholic population that strong persecution ensued. The Kalleys had to flee to Scotland and the Maderian believers (which numbered over 2000) to the West Indies. Ultimately a large number of these relocated to Springfield and Jacksonville, Illinois. After the death of…

The Story of Billy McCarrell by Dorothy Martin

This little biography of the founder of the IFCA, while certainly not a comprehensive study of McCarrell’s life, is nevertheless well worth the time it takes to read — especially for those in the IFCA, and similar separatist organizations. In my opinion, Martin spends too much time with minor details that are not later developed. For example, the author writes of numerous trivialities of the McCarrell’s home life, while making only passing references to the Fishermen’s Club and McCarrell’s involvement with Wheaton College and the Moody Bible Institute. This reader would have liked to know of the impact that the Fishermen’s Club had in Chicago. I have heard that McCarrell and the Fishermen’s Club stood toe to toe with Al Capone — but whether that is true, our author does not say. It would have also been instructive to learn about issues that McCarrell may have faced as a member…

The Life and Times of Cotton Mather by Kenneth Silverman

I can’t imagine too many Christians wading through a 400+ page biography about a man that most of them have never heard about, but they should. If nothing else, they would gain tremendous insight about life in early America, especially the Boston society. Along the way they would learn much about one of the most interesting and prominent characters of the colonial times. Mather came from incredible stock; the uniting of the most honored families in early New England, the Cottons and the Mathers – both grandfathers being famous Puritan preachers in early colonial history. Cotton, obviously named after both grandfathers may seem like a strange name until you know that his own father, also a well-known minister was named Increase (Cotton named one of his sons Increase, and later had a grandson by the same name; how did such a name fall out of favor?). Cotton lived from 1663…

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin

Perhaps because it has been heralded as one of the finest of all autobiographies, I found Ben Franklin’s a bit disappointing. Not that it isn’t interesting, filled as is was with all sorts of trivia not usually found in the history books, but on the other hand, there is nothing outstanding or terribly exciting either. Mostly the autobiography tells of Franklin’s success in various enterprises and of his observations and hurdles along the way. On the disappointing side The Autobiography said virtually noting about his wife or children, nor are we given details about interactions with other famous patriots of the times. As a matter of fact the account ends in 1765, before the Revolutionary War and the founding of the United States for which Franklin plays such an important role. Of special interest to me were Franklin’s religious views. He was raised Presbyterian but soon parted company (pp. 117-118).…

That Man of Granite with the Heart of a Child, A New Biography of J. C. Ryle by Eric Russell

There has been a recent resurgence in interest in the life of John Charles Ryle. This is due largely to the reprinting and promotion of some of his many writings, especially the excellent book Holiness. Ryle was a nineteenth century English Reformed evangelical pastor, author and, for his last twenty years, Bishop of Liverpool. His ministry overlapped other well-known evangelicals, most notably Charles Spurgeon. What set Ryle apart ecclesiastically was his loyalty to the Church of England. Due to the increasing influence of the Oxford Movement, with its return to Catholicism, and the encroachment of liberalism, stemming from German Higher Criticism, the Church of England was a spiritual and theological mixed bag at best. Many of the finest ministers abandoned Anglicanism and joined the nonconformist movement. Ryle stood his ground. This is the story of Ryle’s uncompromising faith and his tireless efforts to lead and reform the Church of England.…

That I May Know Him by Vance Havner

There is just something about the preaching and writing of Vance Havner that relaxes the soul. This little book is vintage Havner: low key, tranquil, thought provoking. As Havner himself admits, his ministry did not major on interpretation but on application. He was not a profound expositor of the Word; he was a simple country preacher who had a way of saying things that caused a person to reflect. Havner was born, “before the family was let out by auto and the world let in by radio.” He advises us that, “In this day of peanut-butter-sandwich theology, what a price we have paid for passing up the moral beefsteak of books that are books indeed.” He believed that life was happier before the “Amen age gave way to the era of So What.” Yet there was a period in Havner’s life when he drifted toward liberalism beginning to see “man…

Sandy, a Heart for God by Leighton Ford

Sandy, the eldest son of evangelist Leighton Ford, seemed to be on his way to a promising life of usefulness and service for the Lord. But in God’s wisdom He chose to take this young man home following heart surgery. This is the story of Sandy’s short life as told through a father’s words. That being the case, one is somewhat surprised at the frankness of the account. Ford does not paint his son as the perfect boy with all of his ducks in a row. While he firmly believed that Sandy had a heart for God he had plenty of “warts” including a bad temper and at times a strained relationship with his mom. Sandy, a Heart for God is a quick look into the life, and death, of one young man who wanted to walk with God. It will probably make you cry. But hopefully it will make…

Peter the Great by Robert K. Massie

If you like history and biography you will love Peter the Great, but you have to like history a lot because this book is 855 jam packed pages. Here you will learn everything you ever wanted to know about Russian history from about 1680 to 1725, along with ample pieces of European life during the same period. Massie is a fascinating writer and produces a biography that reads like a novel. You will enjoy this book, and thank the Lord that you live in the 21st century.

Payne Stewart by Anastasia T. Stewart

Much has been made over the spiritual conversion of the late professional golfer, Payne Stewart. Yet, reading this tender biography by his wife did not convince me that Stewart was truly a Christian, although some evidence pointed that direction. He was definitely a family man, a great athlete, a world-class joker, and a man who enjoyed life. Hopefully, he knew the Lord as well. The life story of Stewart was written much as you would expect a loving wife to report. It is interesting and warm, but not likely to be of great spiritual inspiration. Those who would most enjoy the book would be those with a strong interest in golf.

John Adams by David McCullough

Have you ever read a book that was so good that you felt guilty reading it? Neither have I, but McCullough’s John Adams came mighty close. If you like history, especially American history, you just can’t live much longer without devouring this biography that reads like a novel. Not only does McCullough give the story of John Adams, and his wonderful wife Abigail, but also along the way he provides glorious insights into the people and events during perhaps the most important point in American history. Admittedly, this is a big book (650 pages) but this is the first book of comparable size that I have ever read which I wish were longer. As a matter of fact, I put off reading the last fifteen pages for three days because I just didn’t want it to be over.

In the Presence of My Enemies by Gracia Burnham

This frank, honest account of the kidnapping of missionaries, Martin and Gracia Burnham and Martin’s subsequent death, will break your heart and strengthen your faith. I greatly appreciate Gracia’s willingness to admit her depression and doubt during their ordeal. Yet, through it all the hand of God was evident in their lives. She looks back today with understandable sadness, but without bitterness. To Gracia the Lord is still good although her life has been forever changed. Her example, and that of Martin’s is encouragement to all. On the last day of Martin’s life he turned to Gracia and said, “I really don’t know why this has happened to us. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Psalm 100 – what it says about serving the Lord with gladness. This may not seem much like serving the Lord, but that’s what we’re doing, you know? We may not leave this jungle…

In the Footsteps of Faith by John F. MacArthur

This is a simple tour through the life of fourteen biblical characters who exhibited lives of faith. Some of the all-stars on display include Abraham, Moses, John the Baptist, Peter and Paul. But some lesser lights are also highlighted such as Rahab, Lydia and Epaphroditus. This is a straightforward, relatively uncomplicated book suitable for a Sunday school class or Bible study. It even includes a study guide for that purpose. I personally found the last chapter on Jesus Christ to be the most helpful.

I, Claudius by Robert Graves

If you like your history lite then I, Claudius is your book. Written as an autobiography of the life of Tiberius Claudius Drusus Nero Germanicus, who became Emperor of Rome in 41 A.D., I, Claudius is actually historical fiction. As such, there seems to be no way to measure the accuracy of the accounts given in this first part of Graves’s two-part series. Nevertheless, I, Claudius is interesting – it reads like a novel – and reveals the sordid details of the lives and times of the Royal family from Augustus until the time when Claudius ascended to the throne.

Hostage by Nancy Mankins

In 1993 three New Tribes Missions missionaries serving in Panama were kidnapped and ultimately murdered by Colombian guerillas. Nancy Mankins, the wife of one of the victims tells the powerful story surrounding these events. Hostage is really three stories in one: First there is an overview of the ministry that these missionaries had in the jungle tribe where they were being wonderfully used of God. In alternate fashion Mankins weaves the second story, that of the kidnapping and the events that followed. The third story, and the most important, is the honest struggle and triumphant faith of wives and children left behind. The result is a heartbreaking yet challenging account of three little known missionary families that understood that it is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.

Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners by John Bunyan

Grace Abounding is the celebrated autobiography of John Bunyan. Actually it deals very little with his life, family and ministry, including no mention of writing his best known works, Pilgrim’s Progress and Holy War. Instead, much like his Christian in Pilgrim’s Progress, Grace Abounding chronicles his spiritual pilgrimage. Fully two-thirds of the book details his tortured soul during his unconverted days. Under great conviction for years, Bunyan’s misery resembled that of characters out of an Edgar Allen Poe story: depressed, despairing, seemingly hearing voices and seeing visions. Truly Bunyan was in agony prior to conversion and, in fact, often afterward. Yet as he matured Bunyan saw even the “abominations in my heart” as means ordained by God for his good (p. 156). Still, Bunyan’s spiritual life is hardly self-described as jovial and permeated with peace. His was one of constant struggle—yet he remained faithful to his Lord even while imprisoned…

God Is My Delight by W. Phillip Keller

It would depend on your expectations as to whether or not this book would be appreciated by the reader. Biblical exposition it is not. Keller does sprinkle some Scripture throughout, but God Is My Delight is essentially not a study based upon the Scriptures. Rather it is a testimony of a man who has walked with God for forty years. He wants to tell us of the delight that this adventure has been – as a matter of fact the word “delight” is used several times in each chapter, as are the words quiet(ly) and gentle(ly). The book unfolds along these lines. Keller is describing his quiet, gentle, delight in God. There is much good to be said for that, and reading about the life of one who has lived this way is encouraging. On the negative side, his lifestyle would not be identifiable with most readers. Living a quiet,…

George Whitefield by Arnold Dallimore

It would be difficult to lavish too much praise on Dallimore’s two volume biography of the famous eighteenth century evangelist George Whitefield. This is the definitive work of Whitefield’s life and ministry, dispelling many misconceptions while showing the true character and impact of this most remarkable man. Along the way the reader also receives valuable insight into the lives of the Wesleys, Jonathan Edwards and the Moravians. This is one of the greatest biographies ever written.

David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The First forty Years 1899-1939 David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Fight of Faith 1939-1981 by Iain H. Murray

This two-volume work by Murray is surely the definitive biography on the life of the famous Welch preacher, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. In nearly 1200 pages of text Murray traces the life and ministry of this man of God, who in many ways was the final link between the modern church and the great eighteenth century English preachers. Lloyd-Jones’ legacy is somewhat uneven. On the positive side, he welded enormous influence in the effort to return evangelical preachers to sound doctrinal and theological preaching. His expositions of the New Testament epistles are legendary. He preached almost 400 sermons on the book of Romans before his health broke while preaching through chapter 14. The Doctor was an enthusiastic Calvinist and a strong supporter of the writings of the Puritans. On the negative side, MLJ was at times influenced by his Calvinism and Puritanism to go beyond Scripture. This is most evident in…

Constrained by His Love by L.J. Van Valen

Constrained by His Love is a biography of the life of 19th century Scottish pastor Robert Murray McCheyne, originally written in Dutch and translated into English by Laurence R. Nicolson. McCheyne is best known for his godliness, his passion for Christ and his powerful preaching. McCheyne was also instrumental in the so-called Disruption in which the theologically conservative ministers and believers separated from the Church of Scotland to form the Free Church in 1843. Unfortunately, McCheyne did not live to see the actual Disruption, dying just two months prior at the age of 29 and having ministered for less than 7 years. That a man who did not live to see his 30th birthday could have such a lasting impact for Christ is astounding, but such is the case. Van Valen’s biography has the feel of the old time biographies which emphasized the positive aspect of the subject—often to an…

Classic Christian Hymn-writers by Elsie Houghton

If you enjoy, as I do, the stories and personalities behind the great hymns of the faith, then this book is for you. Houghton takes a slightly different approach than most books on this subject — focusing on the hymn-writers themselves rather than on specific hymns. The result is an introduction to fifty individuals who have had great impact on our hymnology. Some personalities are universally known, such as: Martin Luther, Isaac Watts, John and Charles Wesley, John Newton, and Fanny Crosby. Others are unfamiliar to most, yet their stories are well worth reading. Perhaps the only real drawback to the book is the lack of attention to more recent hymn-writers — only four having lived in any portion of the twentieth century. But overall Houghton has written an inspiring and valuable book.

Character Counts by Os Guinness, Editor

Guinness chooses four outstanding men, from the past 250 years, to demonstrate the moral leadership qualities that are sorely lacking in our world today. These individuals, George Washington, William Wilberforce, Abraham Lincoln, and Alexander Solzhenitsyn all have left unmistakable footprints of integrity across the pages of time. By virtually any standard these are truly great men, and they are great because of their excellence of character. In an age that honors image and bows at the feet of spin-doctors, it is refreshing to be reminded that it has not always been so. And one can wish, if the Lord tarries, that we might once again live in a world in which integrity is back in style. That is not to say that all four of our heroes were true Christians. Wilberforce seems the best candidate, followed by Solzhenitsyn, Lincoln and Washington. This book however does not give any concrete evidence…

Arthur W. Pink, Born to Write, a Biography by Richard P. Belcher

The writings of Arthur Pink are well known to most students of Scripture; his life is not. Born to Write traces the sad earthly pilgrimage of this sensitive and dedicated man of God. At every turn his preaching and pastoral ministry was rejected, often due to his own attitudes and actions. As his public life soured Pink reacted by becoming progressively isolated. Toward the end of his days he refused visits even from friends. Yet, he never stopped writing his periodical, Studies in the Scriptures. While his writings never received wide readership during his lifetime (1886-1952) they certainly have since. Dozen of books, pieced together from his Studies in the Scriptures, have since been published. Born to Write is an unhappy chronicle of the life of a good man. It also serves as a warning to others, equally dedicated, and equally extreme in their reactions. While Pink’s theological works and…

America’s First Dynasty: the Adamses, 1735-1918 by Richard Brookhiser

Having read John McCullough’s wonderful biography John Adams, and having read one of the most celebrated of all autobiographies, The Education of Henry Adams (the great-grandson of John Adams), I was hungry to fill in the gaps in the Adams’ family history, and thus my motivation for reading this volume. Brookhiser gives equal time to the star members of four generations of Adamses: John, John Quincy (both United States Presidents), Charles Francis (ambassador to Great Britain and almost President) and Henry who shunned politics and devoted his time to taking potshots at life and writing history and novels. Compared to the other two books mentioned in the opening paragraph America’s First Dynasty is not a particularly great book – of course it is running in elite circles. Brookhiser had far too many opinions, many of them about as cynical as any Henry could come up with, to make this a…

Amazing Grace by Steve Turner

Steve Turner has done a great service to Christians everywhere. In the first part of his carefully researched book, Turner gives us an excellent account of the life of John Newton, the author of the famous hymn “Amazing Grace.” Here he covers much that is familiar, and at the same time corrects some common misconceptions. The second half of the book traces the history of “Amazing Grace.” It is fascinating to learn how the song’s tune has developed and changed, how the verses of the song have evolved over time, and how the hymn has grown in popularity over the years. Not as enjoyable was learning how “Amazing Grace” has been reinterpreted since the 1970’s to support the views of whatever unsaved person or group using it at the time. I am sure ol’ John Newton would be spinning in his grave if he knew what our postmodern society has…

Alexander of Macedon by Peter Green

Alexander, usually known as the Great, was truly great if we are speaking of military prowess. Perhaps the greatest general the world has ever known, Alexander had an insatiable desire to conquer. His motivation did not seem to lie in wealth but in the desire for power, the lust of battle, and the march toward deification. No army could stand against him, all other men were diminished in his presence, he was the ultimate conqueror. He conquered everything except himself, and this proved to be his undoing. Today we all but idolize men such as Alexander, however it is worth noting that at his death he was universally hated. He most likely died of poisoning, possibly at the hand of his tutor Aristotle, and the entire world rejoiced. As soon as he died his empire fractured. Green writes, “He spent his life, with legendary success, in the pursuit of personal…

A Spectacle Unto God by Don Kistler

This is the sad story of a courageous Puritan minister, Christopher Love, who got tangled up in the political upheaval in England during the time of Oliver Cromwell. Love stood by his convictions (the divine rights of kings) which were distorted into treason, resulting in his execution in 1651. The bulk of the book is made up of letters to and from Love’s wife and other friends. What stands out is not only sorrow but the great faith that Love and his peers had in the face of death. Love’s funeral sermon, preached by famous Puritan Thomas Manton, is also included and is a powerful biblical treatment on the subject of death. You won’t hear sermons like this at funerals today. Very interesting short biography.

A Passion for God, the Spiritual Journey of A.W. Tozer by Lyle Dorsett

If you prefer your spiritual heroes air-brushed and fitted with halos you might want to skip this most recent biography of A. W. Tozer. Dorsett paints Tozer as a man of God but one with more than his share of flaws. Tozer’s passion for God and his intolerance of superficial spirituality are legionary. Some of his books, such as The Knowledge of the Holy, and The Pursuit of God, are Christian classics which have had profound affect on generations of serious believers. In his lifetime Tozer was a most sought after preacher, calling his hearers to a deeper commitment to God. He was especially effective with high school and college age young people who heard a fresh and authentic voice in Tozer’s message. But there were at least three troubling elements in Tozer’s life. First, his involvement with the Christian and Missionary Alliance was far more active than most realize.…