Book Review: On This Day in Christian History: 365 Amazing and Inspiring Stories about Saints, Martyrs, and Heroes, by Robert J. Morgan
I received this book from Thomas Nelson’s Booksneeze review program and high hopes that it might be a creative tool for daily devotions. The creative twist here is that the story or event explained on each day actually took place on that day sometime in the past. For the right person, this daily devotional might be helpful and encouraging. The events and stories are well written, brief, and in most cases, interesting. A pastor or teacher might even find some of them to be useful in illustrating sermons or biblical lessons. Yet, I would hesitate to recommend it to my friends – it comes up short in several ways (in my humble opinion).
- While well written, the stories seem to have a randomness and a lack of enough context so that the reader can truly grasp the import of each event.
- Missing too is any theological context. Each vignette is presented without evaluation, almost as if there were no distinctions in theology. The Roman Catholic church, reformed churches, early fathers, puritans, evangelicals and the like are all treated equally without any comment. Politically correct if one wants to sell books, but frustrating. There seems to be little insight or comment about true Christianity and political Christianity, or cultural Christianity.
- As a daily devotional, it seems weak as well. While each entry contains a verse from the Contemporary English Version of the Bible, it seems to be more of an afterthought than an attempt to engage the reader with the truth of Scripture as it relates to the historical vignette.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com <http://BookSneeze.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
A pastor once wrote (I think it was Kent Hughes) about coming to understand his own need for encouragement, and how it moved him to write more affirming notes to his friends in the ministry. I can attest to the power of an affirming note (or, in today’s world, an affirming email). I started a “bad day” file sometime in the late 1970’s where I collected the few notes and cards from kids, parents, and others and I would revisit them on the darker days of ministry. I haven’t looked at them in a while since they are in storage in with the most of the rest of my ministry stuff. I do have a small collection of emails that I’ve save, and I have looked at them now and then, remembering that God has used me or my ministry in some lives.
I was reminded that lots of people could use encouragement. For example, just this week I thought of these:
- Most pastors and leaders seem to get far more critical notes and comments than they get encouraging ones
- I’ve talked to a number of unemployed men recently. Common threads in the discussion have been the sense that they have been forgotten, or that they have somehow become useless.
- There are a so many hard-working, committed, single parents who often feel like they are failing, no matter what evidence there might be to the contrary. Of course, a lot of married parents feel that way too!
- Or, how about the person in that minimum wage retail job whom everyone seems to think they can talk down to, now matter how well they do their work.
- And, how about all those people in assisted living homes. So many are lonely seem to be truly forgotten.
Most importantly, I’m reminded that it only takes a few minutes to jot off a note of encouragement to someone, or to just mention something we appreciate. A stamp is pretty inexpensive, email is even less.
Want to join me in encouraging someone each day this week?
A while back I read a blog post about a couple that interviewed for a ministry position. They would have been working with folks in a ragged and rough neighborhood where the woman had once been a homeless teen. It would be a tough ministry and brought back all sorts of not-so-pleasant memories. After some interviews and a visit, the couple was hired, and made plans to move. Then, just before moving, but after they had made all sorts of changes including closing out their lease and telling their children they’d be leaving friends, they were told not to come. Apparently they didn’t “look” holy enough to be on the staff of this church because they had tattoos.
One of my acquaintances was helping a church as interim worship leader. After a brief time he was asked to cover up his tattoos because he might offend someone in the congregation. The ironic thing was that he was doing significant favors for the church, giving up significant concerts he could have done, in places that embraced him as the great musician and person he was in Christ. And he was given far less compensation than he would have received elsewhere. He certainly was open to doing what was needed to minister, but it was amazing that his tats were more of a concern than his heart of service. I was somewhat embarrassed by the church.
Note well: Christians will almost always do ministry to people poorly when they get more concerned with the exterior rather than the heart.
By the way, I have no tattoos, and never will. I do, however, have some truly extraordinary sin you can’t see. I’m so glad for the saving and amazing grace of God!