The Meaning of Marriage: A Couple’s Devotional: A Year of Daily Devotions by Tim Keller and Kathy Keller. Viking 392 pages. 2019
This is Tim Keller and Kathy Keller’s third devotional book, with previous books on the Psalms (The Songs of Jesus: A Year of Daily Devotions in the Psalms) and Proverbs (God’s Wisdom for Navigating Life: A Year of Daily Devotions in the Book of Proverbs), both of which were excellent and I used as a part of my devotional reading.
The Kellers wrote The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God in 2011. In the “Introduction” of this new devotional, Kathy Keller indicates that it is not necessary to have read the earlier book in order to benefit from this new devotional. She then recaps some of the basic themes of The Meaning of Marriage, such as:
- The main problem every marriage faces is the self-centeredness in both spouse’s hearts, and
- The essence of marriage is a covenant, a binding promise.
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BOOK REVIEWS ~ More of this review and reviews of:
- Live in Grace, Walk in Love: A 365-Day Journey by Bob Goff
- Susie: The Life and Legacy of Susannah Spurgeon, wife of Charles H. Spurgeon by Ray Rhodes Jr.
BOOK NEWS ~ Links to Interesting Articles
BOOK CLUB ~ The Gospel According to Jesus by John MacArthur
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Kathy tells us that the purpose of this couple’s devotional is to provide an opportunity for sustained and practical reflection on love and marriage within a Christian perspective. The authors have both expanded on and broke down the themes and lessons into short meditations, looking at each concept in its various aspects and proposing application questions and practices. The devotional pulls out passages from The Meaning of Marriage and provides an opportunity to think out the personal implications of one very specific aspect of Christian marriage each day.
The devotional format is as follows:
- On the first week of each month, there is Scripture text regarding love, sex, and marriage, followed by a meditation on an aspect of the biblical teaching
- After that there is a reflection, which is a set of application questions, followed with a brief example of a prayer about the subject.
- On each day of the other three weeks of every month they begin with a quote from The Meaning of Marriage instead of a Bible verse, followed by a meditation and a reflection.
- Lastly, there is a “Thought for prayer” that gives some ideas for how you can pray the topic of the day into your heart and life.
While The Meaning of Marriage was not written only for married couples, the devotional is designed for married couples, as well as unmarried couples who are engaged or who are considering marriage. The devotional can either be read aloud to each other, or read individually. If it is read individually, each person should write down their thoughts, and regularly meet with their spouse to discuss their insights and findings.
I look forward to using this book with my wife Tammy as a part of our devotional reading.
Live in Grace, Walk in Love: A 365-Day Journey by Bob Goff. Thomas Nelson. 432 pages. 2019
I have enjoyed Bob Goff’s books Love Does, Everybody Always and even his children’s book Love Does for Kids. My wife and I saw him speak a few months ago, and he is every bit as authentic (and funny) as he is in his books.
This book of daily devotional readings picks right from his other books with his distinctive accessible writing that is practical, biblical and inspirational. Each reading begins with a short scripture passage and ends with a question to help you apply the reading. Each reading only takes a few minutes. This would be an excellent book to not only read for yourself, but also to give copies to friends and family members.
I’ve enjoyed adding Live in Grace, Walk in Love to my daily devotional readings.
Note: my only “complaint” is that each reading is numbered. For example, as I write this, today’s reading is 293. I much prefer that each reading be given a date, such as October 20, but that is a small complaint.
If you have enjoyed Bob’s earlier books, you’ll love Live in Grace, Walk in Love.
Susie: The Life and Legacy of Susannah Spurgeon, wife of Charles H. Spurgeon by Ray Rhodes Jr. Moody Publishers. 320 pages. 2018
This is a well-researched biography of Susannah “Susie” Spurgeon, the wife of the great Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon. The author writes that Susie was unimpressed the first time she heard Charles Spurgeon preach, finding his hair, suit, mannerisms, and provocative preaching style offensive. Susie was a new convert at the time, but a discouraged one. She was needing spiritual renewal, and Spurgeon sent her an illustrated copy of John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, a book he would read each year and at least one hundred times in his lifetime.
They would be married on January 8, 1856. So intense was Charles’ love for Susie, the author writes, that he feared idolizing her and thus hindering his relationship with God. He valued her as his wife, friend, and assistant in ministry.
Susie gave birth to twin sons, Charles and Thomas, in September of 1856. They would be the couple’s only children. With Charles’ frequent absences for ministry work, Susie bore much responsibility for training of her sons, and her influence on Thomas and Charles should not be minimized. Eventually, both would serve in pastoral ministry. After his father’s death, Thomas returned to London to serve as pastor of the Metropolitan Tabernacle from 1893 to 1908. Charlie would also go into the ministry and labor as a pastor in Greenwich and then later serve in ministries that his father created.
The family lived a comfortable, upper middle-class life. When Charles died in 1892, there were at least six servants in their home, probably several more.
Susie suffered significant physical pain, which may have been caused giving birth to the twins, and would eventually lead to surgery. The operation gave some relief to Susie, but it was not entirely successful.
During his frequent absences from Susie, for ministry, and for his own physical and emotional healing, at places such as Menton on the French Riviera, Charles wrote love letters to her almost every day. He longed for her to come to Menton as well, but her poor health didn’t allow that. Susie remembered their frequent correspondence as a means that God used to help her through her tribulations. But after her affliction set in, it was only on rare occasions that Susie returned to the Metropolitan Tabernacle to hear Charles preach.
Amidst her trials, Susie discovered comfort, delight, and purpose in a ministry that became her “life work”, serving as “Mrs. Spurgeon’s Book Fund”, a means by which she ministered to poor pastors throughout the British Isles and in other places by providing books (primarily, though not exclusively, written by Spurgeon) for them. The Book Fund began in 1875. Over the next twenty-eight years, the fund distributed 200,000 books free of charge to needy pastors whose libraries were essentially bare. Mrs. Spurgeon’s Book Fund blessed pastors who, in turn, blessed their congregations. The books most desired from pastors sprang forth from her husband’s works such as Lectures to My Students, The Treasury of David, Sermons.
Charles would preach for the last time at the Metropolitan Tabernacle on Sunday, June 7, 1891. On October 26, 1891, a long-time dream came true for Charles. On that day, Susie accompanied Charles to Menton, the first and only time that she visited Menton with her beloved, and they enjoyed three months of happiness before Charles death on January 31, 1892 at age 57.
Something that helped Susie through her sadness and suffering was writing. She wrote about her suffering to glorify God, not to exalt her loneliness, physical sufferings, or emotional turmoil. Through her writing, she let people see her weaknesses, struggles, and hardships. The widow years of Susie Spurgeon were a mixture of joy, grief, suffering, and productivity. As a widow, she published five stand-alone books, numerous pieces for The Sword and the Trowel, and was heavily involved in the translation and dissemination of Charles’s sermons.
Like Charles, Susie was a Calvinistic Baptist, believing and finding comfort in the doctrines of God’s sovereign grace. She was responsible for planting Beulah Baptist Chapel, Bexhill-on-Sea, and encouraging John S. Hockey to serve as its first pastor.
In the late winter of 1900, Susie underwent another surgery, and, like her first one in 1868, its nature was not revealed. Susie died on Thursday, October 22, 1903, and was later buried alongside her husband.
Susie’s legacy is cast in love for pastors. Beyond the books, she often ministered financial aid and supplied clothing and other resources. The author states that Susie’s greatest legacy is her ministry to, and love for, her beloved husband and her advocacy of his writings and ministry.
An “Afterword” was written by Susie Spurgeon Cochrane, great-great granddaughter of Susie Spurgeon.
- The Top 20 Books Christian Leaders Need to Read in 2020. Brian Dodd shares this helpful list of books for leaders to read. Thus far, I’ve read the books on the list from Tim Keller, John Maxwell, Steve Robinson and David Platt.
- Why You Should Read Frederick Buechner. Russell Moore reviews the new book Reading Buechner: Exploring the Work of a Master Memoirist, Novelist, Theologian, and Preacherby Jeffrey Munroe.
- Tony Evans Study Bible and Commentary. Tony Evans has become the first African American to have both a study Bible and a full-Bible commentary with his name.
BOOK CLUB – Won’t you read along with us?
The Gospel According to Jesus by John MacArthur
This week we look at Chapter 3: He Calls for a New Birth. Here are a few of my takeaways from that chapter:
- Not everyone who claims to be a Christian really is.
- Salvation was never a reward for human works; it has always been a gift of grace for repentant sinners, made possible by the work of Christ.
- People have always stumbled over the simplicity of salvation.
- Salvation is impossible apart from divinely wrought regeneration.
- The test of true faith is this: Does it produce obedience? If not, it is not saving faith. Disobedience is unbelief. Real faith obeys.
- Jesus is the only source of salvation. Those who do not believe in His name are condemned, excluded from eternal life.
- No matter how sincere, how religious, how immersed in good works, everyone must be born again.