Society is filled with voices trying to tell us what to think and how to live, and we often spend too much time trying to please the unpleasable. Too often, churches spend more time trying to charm the culture rather than serving our Savior. We seek to entice the lost with entertainment when they are drowning in it already, and we conform our talking points to mimic their topics of the day. The problem is we gain nothing by it; we compromise our calling, and the world maintains its displeasure.
Even in the time of Jesus, the world could not be appeased. In instructing us, our Savior once compared his culture to children in the marketplace calling out to their peers (Matthew 11:16). Kids in the public square do not contribute to the commerce, but they do begin to imitate their parents’ authority. Somehow, these children came to believe it was in their jurisdiction to tell other children what was important and how they should act. No matter how much their companions tried to appease them, they were never satisfied. These sham superintendents said, “we played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn (Matthew 11:17).”
Jesus went on to explain. He said John the Baptist came neither eating nor drinking, and they said he had a demon (Matthew 11:18). In saying John had a demon, they were showing their displeasure because he would not celebrate what they thought he should celebrate. Then came Jesus, eating and drinking and declaring the year of jubilee, and they called him a glutton and a drunkard (Matthew 11:19). Remember, you will never hit a moving target.
Regardless of how much we mirror the world’s patterns, unless we embrace their sin and reject the core teaching of Jesus, they will continue to condemn. Scripture calls us a peculiar people. We are not to conform to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). One of the things that made John the Baptist a great man of God was that he was not a reed shaken by the wind; he did not bow to cultural and political pressures. He also knew how to suffer discomfort when necessary. He was not a man in soft clothing seeking to live in earthly palaces (Matthew 11:7). He was a prophet of God fulfilling his calling no matter what it cost him. This is why the people came out to see him; it was because he was set apart from this world not because he was like them.
Perhaps it is time for us to pay less attention to world’s dances and dirges, and pay closer attention to the voice of our Savior. It is time to stop being reeds bent by the cultural winds. The Christian life has its place for feasting and fasting, but they seldom align with the passions of the world. Maybe it is time for us to live in a way that says we do not take our marching orders from the pretended authority of the children in the marketplace. We follow the Father. The one who’s feasts and fasts, unlike the world’s, can satisfy the soul, offer us peace, and lead us to glory.
Our culture seems to be described perfectly in 2 Timothy 3:2-4. It says, “Men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.”
As Christians, what is more important than the description of the culture is how scripture calls believers to respond in times like this. The righteous are not to be afraid of bad news; their heart is to be firm, trusting in the Lord (Psalm 112:7). Yet, many churchgoers seem to be at their whit’s end as they watch it all unfold. It is as if they believe this fiery trial is something strange (1 Peter 4:12). It seems we have had it so good for so long that we have forgotten what the Bible promised us. It says, “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. (2 Tim. 3-12).” In the west, Christians need to remember that the persecution of the church was not put to death; it was only made sick, and it is beginning to recover.
If you asked many believers if they would be willing to die for Jesus, they would say “yes,” yet the sad reality is more and more church members are indicating that even after COVID is no longer a threat, they would prefer to keep watching church online. Their couch and their coffee seem to be too much to sacrifice. Besides, with the world raging around us, our home feels safer, but being safe is not our calling.
If the troubles of 2020 are causing you to lose your spiritual nerve, it would be helpful to recall Paul’s words to Timothy in light of his fallen culture. Paul encouraged Timothy by telling him to “kindle afresh the gift of God that is in you (2 Tim. 1:6). That gift is the faith God has given us through the Holy Spirit. Our lives are to be marked by his presence. Instead of cowering in the corner, we are to remember that God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and self-control (2 Tim. 1:7).
Now is not the time to be ashamed of our faith, we must be willing to stand with those who are persecuted, and be ready to join them in their suffering if called to do so (2 Tim. 1:8): even as a criminal (2 Tim. 2:9). Remember, when the world comes after you, they will not say it is because you are a Christian, they will make up some other charge, and they will be charges of unlawfulness which will have accompanying penal codes. Countless Christians throughout history have been locked up and even put to death in such a manner.
However, there is no reason for us to fear. Jesus has abolished death, so be strong (2 Tim. 1-10). If we are unable to look at the attacks on biblical truth in our culture through the lens of the resurrection, then it is proof that we need to kindle our faith afresh. Are you spiritually minded enough that you would be willing to suffer hardship like a good soldier (2 Tim. 2:3)?
Repentance starts at home. The Lord knows who are his, and everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness (2 Tim. 2:19). Even if the world calls us a danger to society for doing it. If we cleanse ourselves from these things, we will be a vessel of honor, sanctified, useful to the Lord (2 Tim. 2:21). As we see what appears to be the slow collapse of the culture around us, it is time for the church to be a city on a hill. It is time for Christians to be salt and light. The way we do that is not by following the world’s pattern of grasping for power. We are to confront the culture with the love of Christ. This means to love our enemies, bless those who curse us, be meek, humble of heart, and be willing to be persecuted for his name’s sake.
Why would we do that? The love of Jesus. We love our great Savior, and we love the ungodly. We understand them because we used to be them. We have been lovers of self, unholy, ungrateful, and unloving. We know that the sexually immoral, the idolater, the adulterer, and those who practice homosexuality will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9-10). More than that, we understand that such were some of us, but we were washed, we were sanctified. The wrath of God that stood over us for our sins, Christ bore on the cross as our substitute. We have been justified in the name of Jesus (1 Cor. 6:11).
Jesus has blotted out our iniquities and removed our death sentence. What else could we need? What else could we want? What else do we have to fear? Because of his great love for us, we deny ourselves, take up or cross, and follow him (Matt. 16:24). We are no longer debtors to the flesh to live according to its dictates (Romans 8:12). By the spirit, we resist our sinful desires because we have a greater love: Jesus Christ. The world is living according to the flesh, and those who live according to the flesh will die (Rom. 8:13). The wages of sin still hangs over them. We cannot, and we will not participate in their ways. We will not go back to the bondage now that Christ has set us free.
We will call the lost world to salvation in Jesus, even if many in this world hate us for it. We will continue to the point the way because it is what they need more than anything. If they must go to hell, let us make them leap over our dead bodies to get there (C. Spurgeon). Greater love has no one but this, that someone would be willing to lay down their life for them (John 15:13). As we share in the suffering of Christ, our pain will be a present reality of how much he loves them. There is no wrath or torment that man can throw our way to make us move. There is no peace this world can offer that can compare to the peace of God and the eternal glory that awaits.
The world may do terrible things to the Church, but, in a fallen world, times of trial and persecution are often when the gospel shines the brightest. Persecution will indeed blow away the tares among us. I fear many professing Christians have forgotten our calling. They have lost the plot and traded it in for a life of pursuing earthly pleasures. In times of trouble, we will see many go out from us because they were never really of us (1 John 2:19). At that point, we will not hate them for their betrayal; we will see their lost spiritual condition, love them, and call them to find salvation in Jesus in the same way we do for all the lost. The chaos of our culture is not a threat to our witness; it is a prime opportunity for it. Indeed, all who desire to live for Jesus will be persecuted, and through it, our great God will be glorified as we confront the world with the love of Christ.
We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. -Romans 8:28
Oh truth most divine. Oh words most consolatory! All things under the government of an infinitely great, all wise, righteous, and beneficent God, work together for good. What that good may be, the shape it may assume, the complexion it may wear, the end to which it may be subservient–we cannot tell. To our dim view it may appear an evil, but to God’s far seeing eye it is a positive good. His glory secured by it, and His end accomplished–we are sure it must be good.
How many whose eye traces this page, it may be whose tears dampen it, whose sighs breathe over it, whose prayers hallow it, may be wading in deep waters, may be drinking bitter cups, and are ready to exclaim, “All these things are against me!”
Oh no, beloved of God, all these things are for you! “The Lord sits upon the flood.” “The voice of the Lord is upon the waters.” “He makes the clouds His chariot.”
Be not then afraid. Calmly stay your faith on this divinely assured truth, that “all things work together for good to those who love God.” Will it not be a good, if your present adversity results in the dethronement of some worshiped idol; in the endearing of Christ to your soul; in the closer conformity of your mind to God’s image; in the purification of your heart; in your more thorough fitness for Heaven; in a revival of God’s work within you; in stirring you up to more prayer?
Oh yes! good, real good, permanent good must result from all the Divine dispensations in your history. Bitter repentance shall end in the experienced sweetness of Christ’s love. The festering wound shall but elicit the healing balm. The overpowering burden shall but bring you to the tranquil rest. The storm shall but quicken your footsteps to the ‘hiding place’.
In a little while, oh, how soon! you shall pass away from earth to heaven, and in its clearer, serener light shall read the truth, often read with tears before, “All things work together for good to those who love God.”
In light of all the uneasiness caused by coronavirus and its fallout in the economy, I thought it would be helpful to post this timely wisdom by Isaac Watts.
Fear is an excellent provision of God to guard us from many dangers when fixed on a proper object and proper degree. When God is the object of our fear, we are able to maintain a holy awe of his majesty, and it awakens a constant desire in us to please him. But when fear ruffles the spirit, throws the soul into unrest, and turns us from a steady course of duty, it becomes a sinful and forbidden passion.
For some, fear is a constant tyrant over them. This ought to stir them up as far as possible to shake off this bondage that robs them of comfort. May the Spirit help the following methods to be happily successful.
1. Keep your faith awake and living.
Remember you are under the special eye and protection of your God and Savior! Brighten your faith and hope daily by a frequent examination of your hearts, and walking before God. Commit your souls into the hands of Jesus and his Spirit for pardoning and renewing grace. A living faith gives divine courage. Faith is a noble shield to ward off fear, and our helmet is the hope of our salvation.
2. Take heed of defiling your souls with sensuality.
Guilt will create fear and fill the soul with perplexing tumult of thoughts.
3. Consider the covenant of grace as a blessed treasury.
Here is an armor of defense found for every assault and danger! Get a large acquaintance with the promises of the gospel, that in every special time of need you may have a suitable word of refuge and support. In special seasons of trial keep your mind fixed upon some single promise that is most suited to the present danger or suffering, and to the present taste and relish of your soul. Fixing and living on a particular word of grace for the whole day will let it abide on your heart and whisper to your soul the divine sweetness in the dark and solitary watches of the night. In a fresh assault, fly to the word you have chosen for your refuge and meditation.
4. Pursue the spirit of prayer, and moral strength and courage will descend upon you!
Address the throne of God with earnestness and faith, and cry to the God of your salvation without ceasing. He gives renewed strength for the battle, courage in the midst of tears, and he can preserve and secure us in the most extreme peril. He may repel the most imminent danger, and rebukes the spirit of fear to gain moral courage. While at the mercy seat, keep an eye on Christ Jesus your mediator, advocate, and the captain of your salvation. He is engaged to see you brought safely home to heaven. Many a feeble Christian, in coming to the mercy seat with overwhelming fears, has risen from his knees with a heavenly calmness and composure! The army of fears has vanished, and he has gone out to face the most formidable of his adversaries with divine resolution and courage.
5. Wean yourself more from the flesh and the delights belonging to the mortal life.
Learn to put off a little of that sinful tenderness for self which we brought into the world with us. One of the first lessons in the school of Christ is self-denial (Matthew 16:24). We must subdue this self-love and softness if we would be good soldiers of Jesus Christ and gain a spirit of sacred courage and resolution. We must be dead to the things of the flesh and sense if we would gain a victory over the complaints and groanings of nature.
6. Endeavor to keep yourselves always employed in some proper work, that your fears may be diverted.
If our thoughts and hands are idle and empty, we lie open to the invasion of our fears from every side. The imagination at leisure can sit and brood over its own terrors. Lack of occupation exposes the mind to frightful images that fancy can furnish.
7. Keep your eye on the hand of God in all the affairs of men.
View his powerful and overruling providence in all things, including your most troubling fears. Learn to see God in all things, and behold him as your God, and the distressing fears within you will have little influence to awaken the passions of your soul. Do thunder and lightning frightening you? In whose hands is the thunder? Who directs its flashes and every sweeping blast of wind or fire to its appointed place? Do political upheavals awaken your fears? Rejoice and stand firm amidst the tumult and the shaking of the nations (Psalm 46).
Perhaps personal dangers threaten your good name, estate, flesh, or your life. The presence of God is a universal spring of comfort and courage, and a wide-spreading shield against every mischief. Does slander, poverty, or sickness frighten you? Remember that diseases are your servants of our Lord Jesus, and he can bid pains and anguish of body go or come as he pleases. None will tarry with you beyond his appointed moment. He is a wise physician and he will deal tenderly with you. Are you afraid of persecuting enemies? These are but instruments to execute his divine purposes and are chained under the sovereign dominion of Christ. They cannot move or act beyond his permission! We are all immortal till our work is done!
8. Recollect your own experiences of the goodness of God in carrying you through former seasons of danger and sorrow.
Remember how high the tempest of your fears has sometimes risen, and how God has sunk them at once into silence. Remember how extreme your danger has been, but the eye of God has found a path of safety for you! He has led you as one blind by the way you didn’t know, and has made darkness light before you, and the crooked straight!
9. Consider the divine command to put aside fear.
Remember that exercising faith and showing courage are duties as well as blessings! “Fear not” is often repeated because God knows very well how prone our feeble natures are to become frightened at every appearance of danger (Matthew 10:28). The Lord of hosts alone is the proper object of our supreme fear. He will overrule and abolish all other fears. The fear of the Lord is an effectual cure for sinful fear. Christ chided his disciples when they were afraid in the storm. For a Christian to give himself up to the wild tyranny of his fears is contrary to the very spirit and design of the gospel (2 Timothy 1:7). Remember that you are the sons and daughters of God. It is below your dignity to yield to this slavery. Your Father himself reproves, and your Redeemer forbids it.
10. Consider the many advantages that arise from a courageous spirit in the midst of dangers.
It establishes your feet on a solid rock in the midst of the storms; it motivates you to practice every duty; it prevents many of the mischiefs you fear; it will preserve the soul and serenity and calmness under painful events of providence; it will make sorrows lighter, and the heaviest afflictions become more tolerable.
If we give in to fear, it throws the whole frame of our nature into tumult and confusion. Fear is a dreadful bondage of the soul, and holds the man in chains. It feels the smart of those very evils that frighten us at a distance that may never come near to us. When afraid, the very sufferings which are prevented by the mercy of God we must endure in our thoughts we must feel the pain of them by indulgence and excessive fear. But always remember, Jesus can support me in the heaviest distressed. He can bear me on the wings of faith and hope, high above the turmoils of life.
God, who is revealed to us in the Bible, is not diminished when we deny his existence; we are. Think for a bit about this very moment of your life. Right now, your mind, without a sound, is receiving communication from my mind, and I made this communication silently as well. Of course, the same thing could have occurred if I projected a series of sounds through the air that rattled against your eardrums.
You are a being of body and spirit. You have an intricate muscular and skeletal system keeping you from collapsing. A respiratory and digestive system is supplying a circulatory system that is nourishing your muscles and bones, and your nervous system is controlling all of it. Some of the acts you are doing at this moment, like reading, are voluntary, but thousands of acts are involuntary. You continue to do them without even thinking about it.
With all of this going on, your mind is processing hundreds of little shapes into words that have meaning. You then continue to process the specific sense in which I intended those words by analyzing how I have linked those words together in sentences. All of this happens in mere seconds. Your ability for communication and knowledge is miraculous.
There is even more to it than that. Your non-material conscious mind is analyzing and judging what I have written to determine if it is trustworthy. To do that, you are relying upon a universal, transcendent, unchanging reality known as the laws of logic. These laws are an expression of God’s mind in creation, and our ability to think thoughts after him is a communicable attribute. If these laws are not universal, transcendent, or unchanging, there is no reason to place our trust in them, and trusting them is what we are doing. In denying God, the naturalistic worldview cannot account for such universal realities as the law of logic.
On top of that, you are judging this post for its moral content. As you agree or disagree, you are determining whether my words align or violate a standard of right and wrong. You cannot do otherwise. As a created being, you are a moral creature. You have your creator’s law written on your heart. Many try to deny this reality by explaining it away as evolutionary programming, but simply because something has been programmed, does not mean it is right. You can never get from what is, to what ought to be in a naturalistic worldview. Yet, those who deny their reality as beings made by a personal God and deny the reality of moral truth will continue to contradict themselves and live as if morality is a universal reality which all people should follow.
Though we often violate what we know to be right, this moral reality is such a part of our human nature it is the very reason most of you can read this post in safety. Societal structures built upon these moral truths protect you. For those of you who are not safe right now, you know that it is wrong. Your sense of justice, and ours as well, rises within to correct it. We are praying for you. The idea of justice is not some fanciful whim, it is reality and properly understood is grounded in truth.
I have barely begun to scratch the surface. Time does not permit me to go into any depth to the fact, that, while you are reading this, gravity is holding you to a large planetary body, and that globe is spinning through space orbiting an intensely massive burning star that is supplying your body with heat, food for your digestive system, and thousands of other benefits. God is not only our Creator, he is also our Sustainer.
Believing that matter came from nothing, that life came from non-life, that conscious personhood came from non-personhood, that truth is a mere social construct, and that there are no moral absolutes, violates every semblance of logic, truth, and communication you have been using to process and judge my writing. I agree with Francis Schaeffer when he said, “I am more certain of the existence of God than I am of my own existence.” God does not cease to exist when we deny him; we do.
You may know a sheep from a swine, when both have fallen into the same mire, and are, in fact, so bemired, that neither by coat nor color can the one be distinguished from the other.
How then distinguish them? Nothing more easy!
The sheep, a type of the godly, strives and struggles to get out of the muck.
But the swine, in circumstances agreeable to its nature, wallows in the filth.
What the true proverb says has happened to them: The dog returns to its own vomit, and the swine, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire. – 2 Peter 2:22
For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! – Romans 7:22- 25
Futility. That is what every attempt at rebellion against God entails. Every railing of sin, every shaking of the fist in His face, results in the same thing. Nothing. We serve an unchanging God and nothing can diminish His perfections.
For I, the LORD, do not change. – Malachi 3:6
Thomas Brooks once said, “If it could be carried by votes, God would be voted out of the world; for the language of the carnal heart is, “Leave us alone! We have no desire to know Your ways!” (Job 21:14).”
We live in a society that attempts to determine its own truth and morality. They vote in and enact many laws that call evil good and good evil (Isaiah 5:20). Yet, truth and morality will never be established by popular vote. All of the world’s statutes that celebrate sin and punish good will never alter the word of God.
The counsel of the LORD stands forever. – Psalm 33:11
The doctrine of God’s immutability should do two things for the believer. First it should leave us in awestruck wonder since it so far beyond our full comprehension. The second thing it should do is comfort us. Just as no sin can diminish His perfections, neither can our excellencies increase them.
With this knowledge all believers can let out a huge sigh of relief. We sometimes live as if the existence of God is up to us. We sometimes feel like we must be His protector. We are not God, and living like He is dependent upon us is exhausting. He has called us to find our rest in Him, not for Him to find His rest in us.
The best thing we can do is point people to the place where his excellencies are most clearly seen: the word of God. Too often we feel that we must be creative and come up with something new in order for the Lord to be known. All the while, we neglect the revelation He has given of Himself: scripture.
If you are in Christ Jesus, you are as secure as His being. He alone is the rock of our Salvation that will never be moved (Psalm 62:6). May we point the world to His perfections through His word with a confidence that is not derived from our abilities, but in His immutable splendor.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. – Hebrews 13:8
Out of the 60 books I read this year, eight were given five-star ratings. Here are my favorites regardless of the genre and in no particular order.
The Autobiography of Spurgeon – Vol. 1 – Charles Spurgeon
This book is significant in length and full of thoughts of a man filled with the Spirit of God. Not only will you learn more about his story, but it will be delivered to you in a way that exalts the living God. If you are one to underline or make notes in your books, be sure to have a pen ready because this book is full of great spurgeonisms.
Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus – Nabeel Qureshi
I pick up this book because I was moved by hearing of Nabeel’s untimely death near the end of 2017, and I am so glad I did. Not only will you be moved by a beautiful true story of conversion, but, along the way, you will also pick up several apologetic arguments delivered in an accessible and engaging way. As a fellow Christian, I was given a glimpse into the heart of my brother in Christ as the Lord patiently called him to himself over the course of several years. I highly recommend this book.
The Letters of John – Colin Kruse
Ligonier lists this book as their number one commentary on the letters of John, and I can see why. Even if you don’t agree where he lands on every issue, Kruse’s clarity and precision are unmatched. This commentary is perfect for anyone who will be teaching through the letters or simply studying alone at home.
The Trinitarian Devotion of John Owen – Sinclair Ferguson
I picked up this book because I wanted to learn a little more about a man of faith I admire, and I ended up being ministered to. Sinclair Ferguson presents some of the biblical truths that centered John Owens life in such a way that it had me rejoicing in those truths as well. It is a short and easy read, and you won’t be disappointed.
Voices from the Past – Richard Rushing
A little over a year ago I received Voices from the Past, edited by Richard Rushing, as a gift, and what a gift it was. This devotion is a collection of writings from great Christian writers like John Bunyan, Jonathan Edwards, John Owen, and Thomas Watson et. al. If you are looking for substance in your daily reading, this is the book for you. Rarely will a day go by where you are not given something that spurs you on in godliness. It will comfort you where you need to be comforted, and it will convict you where you need to be convicted.
The Gospel Come With A Housekey – Rosaria Butterfield
What an encouraging book this is. I enjoyed this book more than her autobiography, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert. In this book you will be challenged to put your gospel love into practice by opening yourself and home in a way that focuses more on the people present than the usual way it is done, being more attentive to our homes than the people to whom we are ministering. This book will challenge you.
The Diary of David Brainerd – David Brainerd
This is not a book to read quickly. I read it over the course of a year. Since these journal entries, some sections will start to seem repetitive if you try to read it in a short time, but if you read it over a more extended period, you will be able to marinate in the mindset of this godly man. You will be reminded daily that we are part of something much bigger and we should be redeeming the time.
The Four Disciplines of Execution – Chris McChesney and Sean Covey
I tend to read several business books a year in the desire to be better at my job. However, few of them end up making it to the top of my list. This is one of the few. If you are responsible for leading a team to accomplish big things, this book will help you get it done.
Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter – Liz Wiseman
When we become lifted up with pride, and think we deserve something good at God’s hands–it is impossible to satisfy us. But with the humble is wisdom, quietness, gentleness, and contentment. He who expects nothing, because he deserves nothing, is sure to be satisfied with the treatment he receives at God’s hands.
The proud man is like a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke. He is turbulent and fiery. He alienates friends; he makes enemies. He has much trouble and sorrow–where the humble man passes quietly along. Pride and contentment do not go together. Neither do contentment and carnal ambition.
“Do you seek great things for yourself? Seek them not!” (Jeremiah 45:5)
Our actual needs are not many; but the ambitious create a thousand desires and demands, which are hard, if not impossible to meet.
He who is carnally ambitious, will not be content with whatever he gains, because each elevation widens his horizon, and gives him a view of something else which he greatly longs for. And so he is tossed from vanity to vanity–a stranger to solid peace.
Are you ambitious for the things of this world?
Then you are your own tormentor!
I always enjoy spending time in Port William, but this time was a bit more tragic. Wendell Berry has a way of taking what appears to be an ordinary, well-lived, life of a man in Kentucky and showing you the hidden tensions and pressures that are at work. Sometimes the seemingly trivial choices we make have profound emotional repercussions, even if no one else will ever see them. To borrow a metaphor from Andrew Peterson, they are like mountains on the ocean floor.
Jack Beechum is nearing the end of his life, and Berry gives us insight into the memories he holds, even while that memory appears to be fading to those around him. As always in Berry’s writings, the expression of Jack’s tragedies and triumphs will be tied to his land in multiple ways. I have read most of the Port Williams series, and Jayber Crow and Hannah Coulter still top my list. The first half of this one left me wondering if this would be my least favorite, then it began to come together. This book may now be my third favorite, not because of the enjoyment it gave me, but because of the glimpse it gave me into the emotional complexities of life. It functioned more like a warning shot than a target at which to aim. While at the same time, it did not fail to leave a little hope in its wake.