Christian Book Reviews

I just finished "Things We Couldn't Say"  by Diet Eman, published in 1999.

The book, "Things We Couldn't Say" is simultaneously hopeful and fearful; the author can lament the situation while resting in the love of God.

Diet Eman and her fiance, Hein Sietsma, watched from the beginning on Nazi occupation in the Netherlands, wondering, "what is starting here?" to  "what can we do?" to "what *SHOULD* we do?"

Diet Eman is in the company of Corrie Ten Boom - in fact, at one point they were in the same prison camp.  If anything, Eman was more involved in the Resistance Network than Ten Boom was.

Why did she do what she did?

As a Reformed Christian, Eman's philosophy of the resistance was based in her faith in God and that faith spurred her into action.  At her most exhausted and in her moments of deepest fear, it was God that carried her.

She wrote: 

When I opened the book [the Bible] that night at the end of February 1945, it said, "Being exhausted, yet keeping up the pursuit" (Judges 8:4). Even after what I had said of wanting out, even after that humiliation, the physical exhaustion, the deep despair I felt, those words were my new marching orders. The next morning, I swung my rucksack over my shoulders and was off again.

 Most authors put the "why I wrote this book" at the beginning. 

 The author puts her reasons for writing in the postscript - she wanted to forget. When Corrie Ten Boom come to the town Eman was living in (Grand Rapids, MI) Eman began being convicted that 

...every time I opened the Bible something like "Tell the great things I have done" stared me in the face. Then a pastor who knew that I had been in the same prison as Corrie asked me to speak to his church. I wanted to scream, "No, I want to forget," but I didn't dare. So I went, but it was very difficult.  (Diet Eman;James Schaap. Things We Couldn't Say (Kindle Locations 3502-3504). Kindle Edition.)

Friends and family began to encourage her to write her story as a sort of therapy. She needed to write and the world needed to know.

All those years between WWII and when she told the story, she kept her diaries and letters and those of her fiance, Hein.  She shares those notes and fills in the blanks with her memories.

We read along as Diet goes from an innocent child, to a young woman in love with a young man, and then she becomes a confused Dutch woman unsure of what to do in the face of an invading force and then she launches into the Resistance.

Diet spent months in a Nazi prison camp, where she wrote:

And also, I forget to see that this all happens with God's permission. I keep on staring at the injustice which our country and people are suffering, but I forget that you bring your trials on this earth because you deem this necessary, otherwise it would not have happened. (location 412)

 Why does it matter?

As I write this review, I'm listening to the radio.  I am writing with the memory of last Wednesday, when a mob of people stormed the Capital Building. The President has been banned from a couple of social media platforms and an entire social media network (Parler) has been removed from app stores and has had their website taken down by their ISP.  Senator Ronis in "facebook jail" for unknown reasons.  

Reports of people who were merely present at the protest - on the fringes, *NOT* part of the mob who stormed the gates - being turned in by grandchildren and getting fired from their jobs.  For peaceful assembly!

Diet wrote:

What will this year bring us? Peace? Liberty? Reunion? Lord, you know it already! This time last year, when we were all together, we would never have thought that all this would happen! But you knew it. And we still have to give you thanks, for in some way this is necessary for the big plan you have for this world.

The Biden Administration is about to begin. I watch who is being "cancelled", who is being fired, and who is being silenced.

 My husband posted:"When you tear out a man's tongue, you are not proving him a liar. You're only telling the world that you fear what he might say."- George R.R. Martin

This book is a "must read"

 The book has a tragic story, but the way that's it's written catches at the heart.  Going back and forth from Hein to Diet, reading their diaries and letters, one can see how each person reacts to an event (the queen of the Netherlands escaping to England)

Reading the book, while watching our own current events unfold is unsettling.

Read it...think on it...and (I think) be prepared to ponder where your own "line in the sand" will be.

I recently read through “Tough Topics” by Sam Storms, who wrote the book in order to answer some of the basic, but hard questions believers ask.

That is my aim in this book: to articulate good theology in order to put worried minds at rest. All of us are familiar with the sorts of problems and questions and doctrinal conundrums that plague the human mind and agitate the human heart, questions like the one lingering in the thinking of Lucy: Will God ever flood the entire earth again?

In my experience these nearly forty years of Christian ministry, I’ve seen countless people worried and angry and fearful and just plain confused when it comes to some of the more perplexing issues that life poses and the Bible provokes,

The book flows easily, and addresses some of the topics that can torment a believer, like “what happens when my baby dies” and “will I enjoy heaven if my loved one goes to hell?”

The book promises to addresses these topics and more, offering to help remove doubt that Christianity could leave us in “limbo” about things that can weigh on our minds. Very shortly after I finished the book, a pastor friend came to me and asked, “what would you tell somebody who had a baby that died?” I answered “I have a book for you...” (he never gave it back...which is why I have a kindle version and -another- paper copy)

Believers struggle with these questions. When I was considering the “reformed” question, I had dinner with a seminary student. One of the first questions I asked was “what about babies who die?” That man did not have an answer that satisfied.

This book offers a primer on the questions we might not want to have asked...

I liked this book and will keep a couple of copies on hand to loan. I will, however, make a note to those I loan it to that Storms is a continuationist, and there are chapters on the “charismatic gifts” that make that clear. I may not agree with him on those chapters, but he does make his view clear in a consistent and lets his readers know how he came to those conclusions;  a good thing.

Bottom line is that this is a good book. I didn't rock my world, but it's a great reference tool, and primer for “tough topics.”

[relatedratings=null]This year I read through "God Is In the Manger" for Advent.

Book Description:

These forty stirring devotions will guide and inspire readers as they move thematically through the weeks of Advent and Christmas, from waiting and mystery to redemption, incarnation, and joy. Supplemented by an informative introduction, short excerpts from Bonhoeffer's letters, and passages from Bonhoeffer's Christmas sermons, these daily reflections are timeless and moving reminders of the true meaning of Christmas. Now repackaged in a beautiful hardback edition, it makes the perfect holiday gift.

For me, reading the words of Bohnhoeffer, many of them from prison, reminded me of that different time. We have felt for a while that the USA is on the verge of some version of that "different time" and the words of encouragement from prison resonated.

Each day there was a devotional, a few words from Bohnhoeffer, and a Scripture passage.

I would do this one again, and will buy a couple over the year so that I'll have some to give away.

Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties, and Roots by J. C. Ryle. It's $.99 and the best buck I've spent in a while.

I have a loosely structured reading plan that includes very recent "Christian living" books and (at the same time) less recent, or even very old writings. I have benefitted a lot from going back in time, to a less "cluttered" written landscape.

A book on holiness, written more than a century ago, brings a clarity to the purpose of holiness. We've forgotten what holiness means, much less the role that holiness should play in our lives.

In the introduction, D. M. Lloyd-Jones (Westminster Chapel) wrote

The characteristics of Bishop Ryle's method and style are obvious. He is pre-eminently and always scriptural and expository. He never starts with a theory into which he tries to fit various scriptures. He always starts with the Word and expounds it. It is exposition at its very best and highest. It is always clear and logical and invariably leads to a clear enunciation of doctrine. It is strong and virile and entirely free from the sentimentality that is often described as "devotional."

The Bishop had drunk deeply from the wells of the great classical Puritan writers of the seventeenth century. Indeed, it would be but accurate to say that his books are a distillation of true Puritan theology presented in a highly readable and modern form.

The Puritans had so much to say! If Ryle boiled it down, that's great.

And in a Christian reading landscape that is full of "fluff," the "anti-devotional" writing is a welcome dive into the deep. I read devotionals and have found depth and peace and instruction - but rarely. You cannot find depth in a five minute swim.

Ryle says that a wrong view of holiness are generally traceable to wrong views about human corruption; in order to have a correct view of holiness, you have to have a correct view of sin.

This quote is one that I need to keep around and blog about later:

Justification is the act of God about us, and is not easily discerned by others. Sanctification is the work of God within us, and cannot be hid in its outward manifestation from the eyes of men.

Also...Don't EVER be ashamed of holiness. Not in front of the world, not in front of other Christians.

and, on spiritual warfare:

Let us remember that if we would fight successfully we must put on the whole armour of God, and never lay it aside till we die. Not a single piece of the armour can be dispensed with.

We can never forget that we need the WHOLE of the armor...

anyway...I'm going through the kindle book, looking at the highlights and they remind me of thoughts I had about the book...

If you are so inclined, click through the link and buy the book...

"Crossing Oceans" by Gina Holmes was predictable, with some curves that sat nicely with me.  Sad, yet satisfying ending.

The main character, Jenny, is dying of cancer.  Taking her daughter to her childhood home to wrap up loose ends, more than a few surprises are thrown her way.

Confronting past sins, while avoiding new; trying to make old wrongs right; confronting fears along the way and making peace with enemies.

Like a lot of fiction, this is 'brain candy' - and very tasty.  Don't expect meat and you'll be happy with the snack.