Posted in book recommendations, book review, valley of vision

Book review: Don’t like devotionals? Then I have THE one for you, The Valley of Vision

Christians often speak of “Devotions” or of doing a “devotional.” defines devotions this way:

Devotions are times when you focus on the person of God in prayer and/or the Bible and set your heart and mind on his divine truth. Devotions are quiet times of reflection, confession, examination, and worship. Our devotions must be Christ centered and seek to move us into a more intimate and personal relationship with our Lord.

GotQuestions defines devotions:

Daily devotions” is a phrase used to describe the discipline of Bible reading and prayer with which Christians start or end their day. Bible reading can take the form of a structured study using a devotional or simply reading through certain passages or perhaps reading through the Bible in a year. Prayer can include any or all of the different prayers—praise, confession, thanksgiving, petition, and/or intercession. Some people use prayer lists for their daily devotions.

There are lots and lots and lots and lots of devotion books out there. Some are good, some are great, and some are bad-to-demonic. Jesus Calling is at the top of the bestseller lists but falls under the umbrella of “imperiling your soul” category.

Excellent devotionals would be,

Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest
John MacArthur’s Drawing Near (or any of his others)
Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening series or Faith’s Check-book
We Shall See God: Charles Spurgeon’s Classic Devotional Thoughts on Heaven by Randy Alcorn

They can be found online for free as well as in hard copy.

I own or owned all of the above. Yet I have never been able to get on the devotional bandwagon. I read the bible and pray, listen to sermons and read theology books, but I’ve never consistently been able to devote myself to a devotional.

Until I found The Valley of Vision.

This is a collection of anonymous devotional prayers written by Puritans. The book description says,

The strength of Puritan character and life lay in prayer and meditation. In this practice the spirit of prayer was regarded as of first importance and the best form of prayer, for living prayer is the characteristic of genuine spirituality. Yet prayer is also vocal and may therefore on occasions be written. Consequently in the Puritan tradition there are many written prayers and meditations which constitute an important corpus of inspiring devotional literature. Too often ex tempore prayer lacks variety, order and definiteness. The reason for this lies partly in a neglect of due preparation. It is here that the care and scriptural thoroughness which others found necessary in their approach to God may be of help. This book has been prepared not to ‘supply’ prayers but to prompt and encourage the Christian as he treads the path on which others have gone before.

Yet the book really defies description. Just as John Bunyan’s 1678 publication of Pilgrim’s Progress is thought to be “as important as the Bible as a Christian document”, and “one of the most entertaining allegories of faith ever written,” The Valley of Vision remains one of the most important and influential prayer books ever penned and published.

Testimony after testimony speak to the book’s moving language, the convicting attitude, the poetic yet humble manner in which the words both pierce and comfort.

A Reviewer at Banner of Truth said,

In the mornings when I endeavor to set my heart on God, it is often difficult to awaken my mind and heart when still shaking off the lingering effects of a night spent sleeping. After a brief prayer, I have found the prayers in the book kindle the flame in my heart to seek His face anew. Often, after I’ve read through a prayer, slowly and deliberately, I’m left with tears standing in my eyes, and an “Amen” whispering from my lips. In my heart I say to the Lord, “Yes. Make that my prayer too, Lord.” When you have difficulty finding the words to pray, this book can be used of the Spirit to bring them out for you. I thank God for these prayers. They are timeless, and a means of grace to me.

Or this testimonial,

The prayers in this book just touch my soul and enrich my spirit every morning. This is a must have for those who are truly born again.

Or this one,

“I cannot commend enough The Valley of Vision, which is a compilation of over two-hundred pages of Puritan prayers (each of which are one page in length). I pray through one of these prayers every day. Sometimes the prayers are so meaningful and relevant that I will pray through the same prayer for days. This is a wonderful aid to supplement one’s own prayers. Indeed, these prayers will also teach one how to pray, and, at the same time, they teach theological truth. I cannot think of any Christian who would not benefit from these prayers.” – G. K. Beale, Professor of New Testament and Biblical Theology, Westminster Theological Seminary

Here is but one sentence to give you a taste:

Lord Jesus, give me a deeper repentance, a horror of sin, a dread of its approach. Help me chastely to flee it and jealously to resolve that my heart shall be Thine alone.

Uniformly, the reviews and comments on The Valley of Vision contain effusive praise for the theology, the writing, and the simply beautiful devotion each author had for our tremendous Savior. The prayer devotionals are sophisticated yet accessible, timeless and powerful. I add my commendation to the chorus of praise echoing through the centuries, and urge any and all who truly want a deep, moving, and powerful devotional to purchase The Valley of Vision today.

The Valley of Vision: A collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions

Available through Banner of Truth Trust, Westminster Theological Seminary Bookstore, and


Further Reading:

Appreciating the Genius of Puritanism

Posted in book recommendations

Book recommendation: In The Footsteps of Faith

I was given a gift certificate to, and one of the books I purchased is In the Footsteps of Faith, by John F. MacArthur. The book blurb says,

“By highlighting the defining moments of their lives and discussing the impact of their responses to tough times and to God, John MacArthur unveils lessons of faith and servanthood from beloved men and women of the Bible.”

In the Footsteps of Faith examines the lives of several men and women of the bible. * Noah * Abraham * Moses * Rahab * Hannah * Jonah * Mary * John the Baptist * Peter * Paul * Lydia * Timothy * Epaphroditus * Jesus

I’ve read the first two ‘faith bios’, (Noah, Abraham) and I enjoy the book very much. I recommend it highly. I don’t like marking my books with pen or highlighting, so I use a colored transparent post-it kind of arrow to stick on the paragraph or sentence I want to return to. Just in the first two bios I have a ton of sticky arrows poking out of the book. It makes the book look like a porcupine. But there are so many gems to mark, …like this:

We base our present lives and future destinies on invisible realities. It has always been that way for followers of God.

Faith in Him is the only means God has ever provided for people to be justified. Faith is never the ground for justification, the death of Christ is. Faith is simply the channel through which God applies His saving grace.

Anyone who trusts in physical circumcision, or any other such work or ceremony, in order to be made right with God places himself under the law’s impossible demands and voids Christ’s sacrificial death on his behalf.

When faith does weaken, it is often because we allow doubt to cloud and undermine it.

Of course these read better in context. The point is, what a blessing to have a storm day when it’s quiet, with no power and thus no internet distractions, to read an edifying book and ponder the majesty and mysteries of Christ and His followers who went before us.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8)

Posted in book recommendations, purity

Book recommendations, and a review of "The Last Seven Years"

I’m reading a novel now, called “The Last Seven Years” by Carol Balizet. It was written in 1979. The author novelizes the time immediately prior to the rapture and goes through the next 7 years of the prophesied Tribulation. I am about a third of the way through and I am enjoying it very much. I find it so interesting that despite being published 33 years ago, and perhaps written some time before that, the events she is showing as the status quo on earth prior to the rapture are exactly the conditions we are experiencing now. It is spooky, really. She even nailed the colony collapse disorder. Though CCD was known beginning in 1972, the proportions of bee disappearances didn’t reach drastic levels (with attendant impacts) until 2006.

It is interesting to read such conditions as an extended and inexplicable heat wave, that, combined with astronomically high utility bills people cannot pay, means people are suffering in heat and tempers are short. That the inflation of food is so high that grocery stores are fairly empty and robbers wait in the parking lots to steal housewives’ bags. That the police are so overwhelmed with crime that vigilante ‘protective agencies’ are springing up. That nudity, drugs, and immorality are such a part of the landscape that people barely detect it any more. That parents are hesitant to discipline their rebellious teens because the public schools have a powerful agency called Student Rights Services where parents can be arrested on the basis of child complaints.

It takes a special author to be able to project ahead the conditions from three decades ago. Her book was written before even the strong emergence in the US of the homosexual agenda, but the book shows the ill effects of a culture adopting and accepting all manner of perverse lifestyles.

I liked the way she handled the rapture itself. A giant meteor hit the island of Cyprus, and causes global earthquakes and tsunamis. It was during the height of the impacts that the people disappeared. Some were seen leaving, by having a white glow just before disappearing, others were simply not found when the rescuers came to clear rubble. In that way, the disappearance of millions were just part of the general havoc and in some cases, not even the primary news.

It was interesting to read that in the aftermath the officials were writing a news report, and were developing theories on where the disappeared people went. The usual theories that we are familiar with were discussed. The one that was discussed the briefest amount of time and given the least credence was the rapture. It was stated that there were a good many clergy remaining, along with their congregations, so a Christian rapture couldn’t be the answer. Sad!

The book is out of print but available through sellers on Amazon and of course your local Inter-Library loan would be able to get it for you. It is my kind of book.

What is NOT my kind of book are most Christian novels. I’m not a sentimental person and usually avoid books with quilts on the cover, or sisters, or sunsets. I loathe triteness. An essay I’d read this morning linked from Challies titled Master craftsmen 2012 Books Issue talks about how Christian novels are not all treacly or badly written, that they can deal with mature themes and have a gritty undercoating but remain moral and sensitive. A list was offered of recommended books. You can click on the master Craftsmen link for that reading list and synopses of each book. I haven’t had much luck with enjoying a recent Christian book lately, except for the classics that are on his list, such as CS Lewis, John Bunyan, Tolkien, and several others. I remain skeptical. But the list is there for you to check out, it’s a long one, and likely there will be something on it for your quality summer reading.

I do recommend John Grisham, who doesn’t write Christian legal thrillers but his Christian background produces a moral book clean of language and sexuality. They’re just good stories. I’ve enjoyed Frank Peretti’s This Present Darkness. Actually one book with a sunset on it was pretty good. It was authored by Tracie Peterson and Michale Landon Jr called One More Sunrise. It was very well written. Another good series is the Tides of Truth Series by Robert Whitlow. They are slow moving but then again, in the summer, it is a slow moving time anyway 🙂

A non-Christian series I really enjoyed was the Barker and Llewelyn novels starting with Some Danger Involved by Will Thomas. They are clean but gritty underbelly detective novels of the early Victorian era. Thomas promises his next Barker and Llewelyn is due out soon!

As I finish Balizet’s “Last Seven Years” I’ll let you know if the later portions hold up with continued good writing and good theology. Don’t settle for bad theology! I know it is a struggle these days, and women are swooning over Justin Bieber and watching Magic Mike. Stay pure.

Guard your purity! #1
Guard your purity! #2
Guard your purity! #3