Best Books of 2015 – Christian Sources & Summaries

Tim Challies has done us all a huge favor by compiling a “best books of 2015” list from various Christian sources. Some of these are repeats of what I have already posted (including Challies’ own list), but most are new.

I hope this list may also be of benefit to you as you consider what to read in 2016 also. And yes, I do plan to put together my own “best read books of 2015” this weekend.

Happy reading! Keep reading more and reading better! 🙂

I love book recommendations. So when various friends take the time to put together lists of their favorite books in 2015, I enjoy seeing not only what they recommend, but why. So I thought I would compile a variety of book roundups that I’m aware of for this past year:

For the rest of the list, visit the link below.

Source: Challies Dot Com | Informing the Reforming

Published in: on December 31, 2015 at 6:53 AM  Leave a Comment  

Best Nonfiction Books of 2015 | Kirkus Reviews

Kirkus’ editors have sifted through all of this year’s books to tell you which rise to the top. Check out the best nonfiction books of 2015.

Source: Best Nonfiction Books of 2015 | Kirkus Reviews

A few of the books deal with the world of writing and books – take special note of these:

THE HOUSE OF TWENTY THOUSAND BOOKS by Sasha Abramsky


“If you finish this brilliantly realized book thinking you need to own more books, you’re to be forgiven. A wonderful celebration of the mind, history, and love.”


Memoir of Jewish intellectual life and universal history alike, told through a houseful of books, their eccentric collectors, and the rooms in which they dwelled.

PALIMPSEST by Matthew Battles


“A fascinating exploration stylishly and gracefully told.”


An illuminating look at the origins and impact of writing.

Top 100 Editors’ Picks: Print Books – Amazon.com

Love ’em or hate ’em, Amazon is the major force to reckon with when it comes to all things bookish – print and digital. Whether you agree with their marketing strategy or despise it, one has to pay attention to Amazon’s picks for best books of 2015.

Below is a link to the “Top 100 Editors’ Picks” for print books for this year. Understand plainly that this is not endorsement of the books chosen. It is rather a broad picture of the culture in which we live and the books that the world about us finds “best”

That is not to say that there are not some worthwhile reads here – there are. Novels are not my preference, but history is. So a book such as The Wright Brothers by noted historian David McCullough is worth looking at and perhaps indulging in.

Here’s a summary of it by one reviewer:

An Amazon Best Book of May 2015: Most people recognize the famous black-and-white photo of the Wright brothers on a winter day in 1903, in a remote spot called Kitty Hawk, when they secured their place in history as the first to fly a motor-powered airplane. That brilliant moment is the cornerstone of the new masterful book by Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David McCullough, who brings his deft touch with language and his eye for humanizing details to the unusually close relationship between a pair of brothers from Dayton, Ohio, who changed aviation history. Bicycle shop owners by day, Wilbur and Orville taught themselves flight theory through correspondence with the Smithsonian and other experts. But the brothers soon realized that theory was no match for practical testing, and they repeatedly risked life and limb in pursuit of their goal—including when Orville fractured a leg and four ribs in a 75-foot plunge to the ground. McCullough’s narration of ventures such as this—their famous first flight at Kitty Hawk; the flight in Le Mans, France that propelled the brothers to international fame; the protracted patent battles back at home; and the early death of elder brother Wilbur—will immerse readers in the lives of the Wright family. Like other great biographies before it, The Wright Brothers tells the story about the individuals behind the great moments in history, while never sacrificing beauty in language and reverence in tone. – Manfred Collado

To view the entire list and to check out the rest of Amazon’s picks in all categories for 2015, visit the link below.

Source: Amazon.com: Top 100 Editors’ Picks: Print Books: Books

Top Books of 2015 – Tim Challies

It is that time of year when bibliophiles of all stripes post their favorites books of the year, and this week we plan to feature some of these posts – Christian and secular.

We begin with prominent blogger Tim Challies, an avid reader and faithful reviewer of books. He has a variety of books mentioned as his “top books,” and they are always worth considering.

Perhaps, as he mentions, you have some Christmas gift money to spend. Books are always a worthy investment! 🙂

Here is Challies’ introduction to his list this year:

2015 was a pretty good year for Christian readers, and today I want to share some of my top picks from the year that is swiftly drawing to a close. Let me offer a few caveats: First, these are almost certainly not the best books of 2015 in any objective sense; rather, they are my favorites, the ones that have remained in my mind and impacted my life since I read them. Second, they are in no particular order. And finally, at the request of several readers I am posting this list before the end of the year because some people would like to refer to it as they do their Christmas shopping. Enjoy!

pastors-handbook-helopoulosOne of his highlighted books is one that also comes highly recommended from one of our young pastors. Here’s Challies notation on it:

The New Pastor’s Handbook: Help and Encouragement for the First Years of Ministry by Jason Helopoulos. This is a book by a young pastor for other young pastors. In forty-eight short chapters Helopoulos provides counsel on knowing and heeding God’s call, on starting out strong in ministry, on the pitfalls young pastors face, and on the joys of ministry. The biggest section is comprised of very practical tips and pointers on a selection of pressing issues: caring for family, reading, leading, busyness, friendship, suffering, and many more. Ultrapractical and stuffed full of timeless wisdom, it will prove valuable to many pastors. (Buy It | Read My Review)

For the rest of his list, visit the link below.

Source: My Top Books of 2015

Published in: on December 29, 2015 at 7:18 AM  Leave a Comment  

Finding Contentment – Melissa Kruger

TT-Dec-2015Contentment is a great subject to occupy our minds and hearts at the end of this year 2015, and the December issue of Tabletalk directs us to this very matter with its theme “Contentment.”

One of the featured articles is the one linked below, penned by Melissa Kruger, wife and mother married to Dr. Michael Kruger, president of Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, NC.

She lays out a wonderful summary of what it means to find contentment in this age of greed, covetousness, and discontent.

Here is part of what she says in her introduction:

…Culture may view contentment as something we gain through relationships, wealth, power, and privilege, but the Bible sets forth very different qualifications for contentment. Biblical contentment unfolds from the Spirit’s work in a believer’s heart, mind, life, and hope. These four qualifications set an eternal foundation for unwavering contentment that holds steady through life’s seasons and storms.

From there she gives those four (4) foundations “for unwavering contentment,” the first of which is this (the most important one!):

A Trusting Heart

The cornerstone of contentment is a heart that trusts the Lord. Jeremiah 17:7–8 confidently asserts:

Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.

This passage, alongside similar imagery in Psalm 1, presents a lovely picture of contentment. The tree’s ability to flourish is independent of circumstances because it has an enduring source from which to drink. Whatever season may come, the tree is always bearing fruit.

On the eve of His death, Jesus furthered this imagery when He taught His disciples: “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Just like the tree, we possess an everlasting source from which to find nourishment. We abide in Jesus by spending time in the Word, seeking Him in prayer, and walking in obedience to His commands (John 15:7–11). Jesus is our fount, providing the strength, refreshment, and encouragement we need to withstand any and every circumstance we may face, while still bearing the fruit of contentment.

Apart from Christ, we are dry branches, parched and thirsty, always craving more. Jeremiah 17:5 warns, “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord. He is like a shrub in the desert and shall not see any good come.” It is impossible to have biblical contentment apart from abiding in Christ.

By trusting in Jesus, we do not have to fear either abundance or hardship. When dificulties and trials come, His strength is sufficient. When joys and pleasures come, His grace enables us to rejoice in the Giver of all good things. A heart that trusts in God can joyfully proclaim with Paul, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13).

To read the rest, visit the link below. To read another fine article on this subject, “Our New Affection” by Dr. Sinclair Ferguson, visit the Ligonier link provided with the title.

Source: Finding Contentment by Melissa Kruger | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org

Prayers of the Reformers (11) – Confession and Hope

prayersofreformers-manschreckOn this final Lord’s Day of 2015, we post two more prayers from the book Prayers of the Reformers (compiled by Clyde Manschreck; Muhlenberg Press, 1958). Both are taken from the section “Confession and Penitence” and I include the headings below as they appear in the book (I have slightly edited the prayers by adding paragraphs).

Both prayers are fitting for our reflection and petition as we come to the close of the year and as we worship this day in the presence of our God.

Without God, nothing [Martin Luther]

O God, where would we be if thou shouldst forsake us? What can we do if thou withdrawest thy hand? What can we know if thou never enlightenest? How quickly the learned become babes; the prudent, simple; and the wise, fools! How terrible art thou in all thy works and judgments!

Let us walk in the light while we have it, so that darkness may not overcome us. Many renounce their faith and become careless and weary of thy grace. Deceived by Satan into thinking they know everything and have no need, they feel satisfied and thus become slothful and ungrateful, and are soon corrupted.

Therefore, help us to remain in the ardor of faith that we may daily increase in it through Jesus Christ our real and only Helper.

Amen.

 

Confession and hope in Christ [Otto Wermullerus]

O almighty, everlasting God, merciful Father of heaven, thou hast created us after thine own image, and endowed us with exceeding plentiful gifts. Yet notwithstanding all thy benefits, we have in many and sundry ways contemned and transgressed thy commandments. All our days are passed forth with grievous sins. We fear and flee from thee, as from a righteous judge. All this, whatsoever it be, we freely acknowledge and confess, and are sorry for it from the bottom of our hearts.

But, O heavenly Father, we cry and call for thy great mercy: O enter not with us into judgment; remember not the sins of our youth. O think upon us according to thy mercy, for thy name’s sake, and for thy goodness, which hath been from everlasting. Vouchsafe to grant us thy mercy, which thou according to the contents of the gospel hast promised and opened through thy beloved Son, that whoso believeth on him shall have everlasting life.

Now is our belief in Jesus Christ, even in the only Redeemer of the whole world. We utterly refuse all other comfort, help and assistance; and our hope is only through Christ to have pardon of our sins and eternal life. Thy words are true; be it unto us according to thy words: O let us enjoy the benefits of the passion and death of thine only-begotten Son. Take for our sins the satisfaction and payment of our Lord Jesus Christ, according to our own belief. Of this our faith thou shalt thyself, O Lord, be witness, and all thine elect.

Our last will also shall it be, by thy mercy, to die in this faith. Though we now, by occasion of pain, lack of reason, or through temptation should fall away, suffer us not yet, O Lord, to remain in unbelief and blasphemy; but help our unbelief, strengthen and increase our faith, that sin, death, the devil, and hell do us no harm. Thou art stronger and mightier than they: that is our only trust and confidence.

Amen.

Christmas 2015 – The Gift of Gifts

Christmas-2015From our home to yours, wherever you are, we wish you a bright (with the Sun of righteousness!) and blessed (from the God of boundless, sovereign grace!) Christmas!

Below we post another prayer/devotional from The Valley of Vision (Ed. by Arthur Banner of Truth, c.1975, p.16) fitting for this Christmas Day.

May it feed our souls, directing us to the Gift of all gifts, Jesus Christ, and filling us with praise to the Giver of the greatest Gift, our Father in heaven!

O Source of all good,

 
What shall I render to thee for the gift of gifts,
thine own dear Son, begotten, not created,
my Redeemer, proxy, surety, substitute,
his self-emptying incomprehensible,
his infinity of love beyond the heart’s grasp.

 
Herein is wonder of wonders:
he came below to raise me above,
he was born like me that I might become like him.

 
Herein is love;
when I cannot rise to him he draws near on
wings of grace,
to raise me to himself.

 
Herein is power;
when Deity and humanity were infinitely apart
he united them in indissoluble unity,
the uncreated and the created.

 
Herein is wisdom;
when I was undone, with no will to return to him,
and no intellect to devise recovery,
he came, God-incarnate, to save me to the uttermost,
as man to die my death,
to shed satisfying blood on my behalf,
to work out a perfect righteousness for me.

 
O God, take me in spirit to the watchful shepherds,
and enlarge my mind;
let me hear good tidings of great joy,
and hearing, believe, rejoice, praise, adore,
my conscience bathed in an ocean of repose,
my eyes uplifted to a reconciled Father,
place me with ox, ass, camel, goat,
to look with them upon my Redeemer’s face,
and in him account myself delivered from sin;
let me with Simeon clasp the new-born child
to my heart,
embrace him with undying faith,
exulting that he is mine and I am his.

 
In him thou hast given me so much
that heaven can give no more.

Published in: on December 25, 2015 at 7:44 AM  Comments (1)  

PRC Synod Makes Doon Press!

While poking around in some PRC archive file cabinet folders yesterday, I came across this news clip from the Doon Press:

PRC-Synod-DoonIA-Press

I found the full Synod picture in the PRC Acts for that year – elders included – lots of familiar names and faces here, no doubt. Just a little younger look than many of us are accustomed to.

Which raises the question – for you to guess! – which year was this PRC Synod of Doon held?

PRC-Synod-Doon-Acts-pic

Maybe along with that we could ask our readers, when did the PRC Synod last meet in Doon?

 

Published in: on December 24, 2015 at 6:34 AM  Comments (2)  

Christmas Song – Thelma Westra

PoemsofPraise-TWestraAs we continue to meditate on the Wonder of grace, the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ during this week of Christmas, we consider a poem written by Mrs. Thelma Westra, a fellow church member at Faith PRC.

It is taken from her  collection of Christian poetry titled Poems of Praise (self-published), and is titled “Christmas Song” (p.58). The piece may also be sung to the tune of Psalter #278.

The shepherds, watching in the field
On that first Christmas night
Were startled when the Lord revealed
A wondrous heav’nly light.

An angel, robed in white array,
To them this message brought:
‘Fear not, for unto you today
A miracle is wrought!

‘The very Son of God and man
Has been brought forth on earth,
So hasten now to Bethlehem
To witness of His birth.’

So we today proclaim the praise
Of Him Who came to die
That we may live, and voices raise
In praise to God on High.

God’s Messenger of the Covenant – R.Hanko

Coming_of_Zion_s_Redeemer -LgFrom his recently published commentary on Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi (The Coming of Zion’s Redeemer, RFPA, 2014) comes these thoughts from Rev.R. Hanko (Lynden, WA PRC) on Mal.3:1ff., which reads, “Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts.”

He is identified not just as God’s messenger, but as the Messenger of the covenant. This identifies him both as the fulfillment of all the promises, the one of whom every other messenger was only a type and forerunner, and also as the one who would by his work bring God’s people into the full enjoyment of their covenantal relationship with God and who would establish that covenant on everlasting foundations, so that the relationship between God and his people could never again be interrupted.

But Christ is the messenger of the covenant not only because he takes away that which separates God and his people, that is, their sin; not only because he, by his Spirit, actually receives them into fellowship with God; but also because he is in his own person the one who unites us to God. He is the one in whom dwells the fullness of the Godhead bodily and the one whose bone and whose flesh we are, so that in him we live and walk with God and are joined to God. He is Immanuel, God with us.

That he is the one in whom we delight stands in stark contrast to the unbelieving question of chap.2:17. When he does come, unbelief is cured, doubt is turned to faith, and disbelief becomes delight, by his gracious work as God’s messenger.

This is all promised by Jehovah of hosts, the one whom all things serve and in whose army they march. Nothing, therefore, can prevent the coming of the Messenger of the covenant. Nothing can stand in the way of his work. Nothing can spoil or interrupt his work, not the rise of the Roman Empire, not the apostasy of Judah in the days following Malachi’s prophecy, not the rise of Pharisees who would be his bitter enemies, not even the temptations of Satan. All things would serve him (pp.475-76).