Daily Open Windows: Excerpts from the messages of T. Austin-Sparks (Four Stars)


Book Review: Daily Open Windows: Excerpts from the messages of T. Austin-Sparks

(Four Stars)

“The Kingdom is so much bigger than conversion.”

366 meditations on Christianity from the writings of a largely forgotten early twentieth-century British Christian evangelist. Each reading is self-contained and sufficient for both the dedicated worshiper and the inquirer, but assumes the reader a Christian. Exhortation over evangelism; holiness before works.

“The key to faith is this dividing of soul and spirit, or, in other words, the complete abnegation of self-interests.”

Austin-Sparks basic message involves Christian growth after conversion. He represents the strand of western Protestantism which returned to the basic Christian message or divided the church, depending on point of view. His ministry had a global impact.

“What, in the thought of God do Christians exist for? What does the Church exist for? There is only one answer … to be an expression of Christ. It is a reproduction of Christ by the Holy Spirit. Man cannot make, form, produce or ‘establish’ this.”

Quibble: the publishers seem to have been driven by a quantity-first measure. Many passages wander. Several could have been divided in two.

“So long as we are in line with God’s purpose His work can go on in us. What matters is not first of all our activity. God is more concerned with what is done in us than what we do for Him.”

(This review is of the paperback, but the cover shows on the kindle edition only.)

Book Review: Finding God in the Hobbit by Jim Ware (Four Stars)


Book Review: Finding God in the Hobbit by Jim Ware

(Four Stars)

“God can and does find us almost anywhere—that He seeks us in the most unlikely places and draws us to Himself even when we’re not looking for Him.”

A competent review of how a Christian reader may find divine content in J. R. R. Tolkien’s famous book. Basically a Christian commentary on the text by topic, not page-by-page.

“The world is a bigger place than I realized, Gandalf. I see now that it contains many things beyond the grasp of my puny imagination.” Gandalf laughed. “If that is your view, then I would suggest that your imagination is Continue reading

Book Review: The Christian’s Secret to a Happy Life by Hannah Whitall Smith (Four Stars)


Book Review: The Christian’s Secret to a Happy Life by Hannah Whitall Smith

(Four Stars)

“Perfect obedience would be perfect happiness, if only we had perfect confidence in the power we were obeying.” Hannah Whitall Smith

First published in 1874, Smith’s classic of Christian living pre-dates many subsequent Christian works.

“It is a fatal mistake to make our emotions the test of our oneness with Christ. If I have joyous emotions, I may be deluded by thinking I have entered into Divine union when I have not; and if I have no emotions, I may grieve over my failure to enter, when really I have already entered. Character is the only real test. God is holy and those who are one with Him will be holy also.” Hannah Whitall Smith.

Readers must understand that Smith defines happy differently than many of her contemporaries and many of us. If anything her life was far from easy or happy in the sense we use that word. Nevertheless this book has influenced Christians since.

“In 1870 Hannah Whitall Smith wrote what has become a classic of joyous Christianity, The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life. The title barely hints at the depths of that perceptive book. It is no shallow “four easy steps to successful living.” Studiously, the writer defines Continue reading

Book Review: The Holiness of God by R. C. Sproul (Three Stars)


Book Review: The Holiness of God by R. C. Sproul

Three Stars

“Our marks of piety can actually be evidence of our impiety.”

Disappointing for a supposed classic of theology. Expected better from R. C. Sproul. An important topic for Christians. Even given Sproul’s well-known Calvinist orientation, his writings betray poor scholarship and bias. Good discussion of meanings of original texts, such as the same word being translated as truly and pray.

“The justice of God is always and ever an expression of His holy character.”

His theological gaffs are funny. He reports Romans 8 “renew the mind” means “nothing more and nothing less than education.” He tells us “we are called to strive with all our might to produce this fruit [of the Spirit].” Strive? He reports to “make decision” to be born again is a “delusion.”

“Don’t ever ask God for justice–you might get it.”

The above errors can be excused as partisan politics (yes, theologians do it), but his attempt to discredit Arminian theology by labeling it semi-Pelagian is disingenuous. Masking the Arminian versus Calvinist dichotomy under different labels does nothing for Sproul’s credibility.

“If man is not made for God, why is he only happy in God? If man is made for God, why is he so opposed to God?” Blaise Pascal

Despite all that this text has many good thoughts and arguments.

“Almost every natural man that hears of hell, flatters himself that he will escape it.” Jonathan Edwards

Book Review: The Way of the Heart by Henri J. M. Nouwen Four Stars

Book Review: The Way of the Heart by Henri J. M. Nouwen

Four Stars

(Upon my second reading)

Arsenius, flee, be silent, pray always, for these for these are the sources of sinlessness.”

A valuable retrospective on the prayer life of the Desert Fathers, and Eastern Orthodoxy. Drawing on the main themes of solitude, silence and prayer, Nouwen offers an alternative to the western church’s going-through-the-motions approach to following Christ.

“Only in the context of grace can we face our sin; only in the place of healing can we show our wounds; only with a single-minded attention to Christ can we give up our clinging fears and face our true nature.”

The most jarring note is Nouwen’s 1981 malaise. All right-thinking folks of that era were full bore gloom and doom. Mankind was doomed; the only way out of the Cold War was a civilization, if not planet-ending global nuclear war. Remember Jimmy Carter donning his wool sweater and turning down the White House heat? And Reagan? All right-thinking folks were sure we’d just elected an idiot who would only hasten the apocalypse. Only it didn’t turn out that way, did it? Thirty years later much has changed and much hasn’t.

“I have often repented of having spoken, but never of having remained silent.” Arsenius

Book Review: How to Strengthen Your Faith by Andrew Murray (Four Stars)

Book Review: How to Strengthen Your Faith by Andrew Murray

Four Stars

“God does not require anything more than simple faith. However, He will not settle for anything less.”

Matthew Henry (1829 -1917) wrote this short volume to encourage non-believers into the Christian faith. However, it is also a valuable aid for believing Christians to examine and increase their faith.

“It is the Spirit of God who has broken your slumber and made you anxious to believe. Where there is someone who desires salvation, the Spirit will certainly work faith in him.”

This edition updates Murray’s prose to ease comprehension by modern readers.

“Faith can only come in this poverty of the soul. While your feelings of unworthiness and guilt cause so much darkness and anxiety in the depths of your spirit, it is by this means that you will be driven to your Lord.” Andrew Murray

A valuable addition to the reading of believer and seeker alike.

“Although you have no faith yet, take this word as a living seed into your heart, and it will awaken faith.”


Book Review: The Temptations of Christ by Arthur Katz (Four Stars)

Book Review: The Temptations of Christ by Arthur Katz

Four Stars out of Five

“We are born children, but we become sons.”

This short study, based on the Luke’s record, examines how the temptations of Jesus after his baptism are prototypes for both the trials we should expect and our best responses. Thoroughly scriptural, this teaching is both a challenge to selfless living and an encouragement to those who are experiencing troubles.

“We will not see the glory of God until there are sons and daughters who are willing to taste the death of humiliation, inexplicable disappointments and failures, because they are unwilling to commandeer God to their ends.”