Book Review: A Neglected Grace

I recently finished reading a short book on family worship: A Neglected Grace: Family Worship in the Christian Home, by Jason Helopoulos.  It was recommended to me (and even a copy was given to me) by a good friend, but I neglected to read this little treasure until last week.  I am not what you would call an “avid reader.”  My goal is to read 26 books by the end of the year, and this was not one that I had planned on to help me reach that goal.  Yet, as it sat on my desk staring at me, I couldn’t help but think something was really lacking in our family worship time.  It was inconsistent, and honestly it was just boring.  So, I picked up this short book (109 pages, not including the appendices), and it has changed our family worship.  Below will be a quick review of what I thought the strengths and weaknesses were of this gracious help the Lord gave me by way of a friend.

Strengths:

  • It was short.  Most books on family worship are short; I mean how much can you really say about the subject?  I didn’t feel like I was wasting time on a subject with which I was somewhat familiar.
  • It was encouraging.  I have read a few books on family worship (in the distant past) and found that they were long on reasons why family worship was important and biblical, and why not doing it was to our own detriment, but they were not particularly encouraging and understanding how “new” to the West family worship is and how hard it is to be good at it and faithful with it.  Jason Helopoulos is gracious in these regards.
  • There are helps.  When one reads this book, he is likely to sense the passion its author has for FW.  He offers practical advice, and even puts various ideas in the appendices for structuring it.
  • Practical.  This may be too close of a word for the previous strength, but in this regard I simply mean that Helopoulos demonstrated what FW is and what it is not.  He wrote about what to look for and what to avoid.

Weaknesses:

  • Slow beginning.  The beginning of the book was a bit slow.  That’s not so much a weakness, but where else am I going to put this?  It is my fault.  If I am going to read a book, I read it cover to cover (ToC to epilogue, and skim appendices).  Helopoulos said that if I am familiar with the reasons for FW to skip ahead.  I didn’t.  I rehashed much of what I already knew.  For the person who is new to FW, these first 3-4 chapters will be a blessing, a strength and not a weakness.
  • A bit much for our FW.  Again, the author gives suggestions about the structure of FW.  We took his advice on some things but did what worked for us. While I love catechisms, I believe that it would put a drain on our family.  We left that out.  However, we did start singing together and memorizing Scripture, along with prayer requests and other suggestions as well.

The result? A brand new FW that my family is really enjoying and participating in.  Our sons don’t sing but our girls do.  Yet I’ve notice that both boys are reading the words as we sing (it’s a start).  They are excited to get down our song folders and get out their Bibles.  I was amazed at all the prayer requests.  As we discussed our chapter, there were questions, and excitement.  Where was all this a few weeks ago?  I would highly recommend Helopoulous, A Neglected Grace.  But don’t take my word for it; it is also recommended by Kevin DeYoung, Richard D. Phillips, Justin Taylor, Joel R. Beeke, and Don Whitney (back cover recommendations).

Book Review: Thoughts for Young Men

If there is one book I wish someone had given to me as a teenager it would be Thoughts for Young Men by J. C. Ryle.  To be honest, I probably would not have read it since I didn’t like to read at the time; that being said, this book should be in the hands of every teenage young man who is in your life.  Is there a birthday that’s coming up?  Buy the book as a gift.  Graduation? Perfect timing!  Christmas is only six and a half months away so why not an early Christmas gift?

Quickly: Ryle was a minister in the Church of England during the 19th century.  He had a love for God’s Word and God’s people that is clearly shown in this book.  His words in this book are not only for young men, but for anyone, however they apply especially to young men.  Believe me when I say, these are timeless truths that Ryle proclaims by pen and paper.  He understood that the heart and mind of young men in his day are the same hearts and minds of young men in any day.

But why should young men everywhere read this book from the 19th century?  Besides the reason that it is timeless, it’s not a hard read.  A thirteen year old would have absolutely no problem understanding what the author is writing.  If there are any “archaic” words, places or people mentioned, they are explained in short, concise footnotes.  But Ryle also deals with a whole gamut of issues that men face: pride, idleness, lust, Bible-reading and study, and the list goes on.  Nearly every paragraph is packed with wisdom that cannot, or at least should not, be dismissed.  I read this with a highlighter in my hand, but my problem was keeping myself from highlighting too much (it does no good to highlight the entire book).

I have read other short pieces by J. C. Ryle before, but this book has made me a fan.  I cannot wait to pick up another of his books to read.  I can only imagine what it may have in store for me.  He has definitely helped me in “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable–if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise–[to] dwell on these things,” (Phil 4:8, HCSB).