Being There

Practical, Pastoral and Penetrating. This book is a great help to anyone wanting to know how to support someone through trials, or even just how to be a biblical friend.

Writing from personal experience Dave, a pastor on the Arabian Peninsula, has written a book that will both encourage those who are struggling and guide those seeking to help them. It begins with two chapters that encourage a biblical and gospel oriented approach to the struggles of life. The remaining chapters deal with seven practical areas setting out how to be a friend and help to someone in pain.

There were three things I particularly appreciated about this book. First, the size. I know size isn’t everything, but I find it matters especially when it’s a book I would want to give to others. This book is big enough to get to the heart of the real issues, yet at the same time not too big that it would scare anyone.

The second thing I really appreciated was the gospel heart of the book and its author. This isn’t a book offering a quick fix for any situation or a checklist of spiritual friendship. Rather it works from the foundation that Jesus is the answer to all our situations and then seeks to encourage us to be friends that both know Jesus and point others to him.

Then, third, this book is a gold mine of wisdom gleaned from others. Don’t get me wrong, it is so much more than a collection of quotes, but the ones that are there are worth reading and spending time meditating on. I was particularly challenged and encouraged by the passage quoted from Horatius Bonar’s, ‘Words to winners of souls’.

In his pain Job had some ‘friends’, but they did not serve him well. Here is a book that will help us to think through and work out how we can be more helpful to people around us who are suffering. It is sure to both challenge and encourage.


The Joy of Fearing God

As the author acknowledges in the opening paragraphs of this book, the title, ‘The Joy of Fearing God’ might be considered by some to be a strange one. Fear to us conjures up many negative connotations, so how can it be associated with that far more positive word, joy?

This book takes us on a journey. First, we explore what it means to fear God. It is not merely shaking our knees at the thought of God; it is something far grander and bigger. The next step, which forms the centre of the book, is to take in something of the greatness of God. I found many helpful things in Bridges approach in this book, but for me this was by far the most beneficial. The broad sweep of God’s power, holiness, majesty and grace was enlightening, breath-taking and at times simply mind blowing.

The final part of the book focuses on the practical matter of how we might live in the experience of the joy of fearing God. Here the author draws on many years of experience in Christian living to give a grouping of chapters that are bound to both challenge and encourage anyone who is seeking to grow in the knowledge and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.

If you are looking for a book that will make you think more deeply about God, will move you in the light of his majesty and will help you to grow closer to him, then this is a book worth reading.

Who made God

whomadegodIt’s the day before your holiday and you have a major decision to make. What is it? You have to decide what books to take away with you. Maybe it’s the library books that you’ve just got out. Some good novels, some easy reading and don’t forget some books with some theological and spirtual substance to them. But which ones?

This year I had left the decision late and after a quick look at the pile of unread books I decided to take Edgar Andrews’ book, Who made God? I’m glad I did.

On the front cover we are told that Andrew’s book is ‘Thoughtful, readable, witty, wise’. This is a fair reflection of the content. Yet, at times you might find the wittyness a little unnecessary, that’s personal taste I guess.

‘Who made God’ differs from other apologetics books in that Andrews does not set out to argue the existence of God. He summises that the Bible doesn’t seek to persuade us that there is a God, but states this as a fact that can be proven in what we see around us. This is the approach that he models as he takes on the voices of atheism that so often bombard our consciousness.

We are constantly reminded through the media and other channels that science has disproven or killed God. This is the battlefield into which Andrews steps with his arguments. He begins by showing the shortfalls and limits of science. Andrews is a reputed scientist, this is not a bashing of the discipline, but a clear and thoughtful reminder that science deals with material things and, therefore, cannot be used to disprove or prove the non-material.

After his initial chapters, Andrews delves into some of the fascinating discoveries of science over the last couple of centuries. The book is advertised as one that can be read by scientist or layman alike. To a point I would agree. However, the more scientific you are the easier you will be able to follow what Andrews is talking about. I found myself having to read and re-read on several occasions. Yet, it is worth the effort as your mind will boggle at the amazing complexity and uniformity God has placed in his creation.

The assumption at the end of the last paragraph is Andrews main point over and over again. Atheists, such as Dawkins and others, are trying to argue that modern scientific discovery is making it impossible for people to rationally believe in a God. Andrews over and over again argues that this is a fallacy. As he shows us the discoveries of quantum mechanics, thermodynamics, DNA etc. he shows the holes in the arguments of the atheist leaving us with no other place to turn but to accept that there is a creator God who sustains the universe by his power and word.

This is good book and worth reading. As a christian I found myself greatly encouraged in my belief in God. I am sure that it would also be a good book to give people who are searching for answers and are struggling with the thought of God because of the statements they have heard from Dawkins and other atheistic scientists.

Total Church – a review

When you pick up a book with a title such as this one and the strapline, “A radical reshaping around gospel and community,” you will probably approach it either with great suspicion or with the expectation that it is the answer to all your problems. After reading it, I can assure you that it is not an off the wall book, but one where the authors are seeking to be firmly rooted in scripture. Similarly, while it will get you thinking, it won’t solve all the questions you might have about how we should ‘do church’.

The authors, Chester & Timmis, set out their stall in the introduction. They want to express a model of church that gives priority to both the gospel word and the gospel community. The book begins by pointing out from the Bible that both of these are important if we are to grow as churches and reach out to the community around us. I found their arguments helpful and convincing. The rest of the chapters are set aside to show what this dual emphasis would look like in these various areas of church life: Evangelism, Social involvement, Church planting, World mission, Discipleship & training, Pastoral care, Spirituality, Theology, Apologetics, Children & young people and success.

This is not a ivory tower book – all theory and no practice. As the authors paint the picture of what ‘total church’ might look like they draw heavily on their own experience and examples. This serves to earth their thoughts in reality, but it also brings tension and moments of, “I wouldn’t do it that way”. I am not sure that community has to mean communal living, or that being part of the community means getting a part time job so that you have more time to give. To be fair to Chester & Timmis, they don’t set out to say this is the only way of doing it, but you might get that impression from the illustrations. This being said, the principles they advocate, I would say, are rooted in scripture and the application they made of them I found stimulating and challenging.

It is good to be made to think, this book does that. It is good to be made to think differently, this book achieves this without leaving a firm anchorage in the word of God. It is good to be made to think practically, you may not agree with every application made, I didn’t, but it makes your mind run in useful channels.

counterfeit gods

Good books come in many shapes and sizes. Some stretch you intellectually. Others warm your heart. Then there are those that lay you bare and put you back together again. That is just how I feel having read Tim Keller’s latest book, Counterfeit Gods.

The book is essentially a book about idols. Not the ones carved out of stone that sit in little temples or in the corners of houses. These are the 21st century idols of dreams, money, sex, success and power. Idols that are just as real and just dangerous.

There were two aspects of this book that I found particularly helpful. The first was Keller’s God given ability to use the Bible to lay open the human heart. He does not merely state and prove that these things are idols in our culture and in our hearts. He serves us by delving deeper to show the insecurities and false desires that make us grip these gods so tightly.

The second aspect that I found helpful was that Keller continually points us to Jesus. How should we deal with idolatry in our lives? Keller points out that we need to do more than identify and remove the idol. We must replace it with Jesus. That’s helpful, it’s also hard as we are reminded at the end with this quote from John Newton:

If I may speak my own experience, I find that to keep my eye simply on Christ, as my peace and my life, is by far the hardest part of my calling.

the reason for God

Tim Keller is the pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church, Manhattan, New York, a city full of doubt and scepticism concerning God and the gospel. In this book Keller draws on this experience to gently take people on a journey which ends by pointing them to Jesus.

The book is split into two parts. The first deconstructs the questions that people raise against God and Christianity, such as suffering, the exclusivity of Christ, the nature of the Bible and science. Like any book you may not agree with everything he says, but his method is thought-provoking, well-considered and a challenge to those who would seek to share the gospel and those who need to hear the gospel.

The second part gives reasons for belief in God. Keller is humble in his assertions, but also very clear. As he looks at areas such as the world around us, inbuilt morality, sin, the historicity of the cross and the resurrection he slowly builds his case that belief in God and specifically belief in the God of the Bible makes sense.

If you want to engage doubting or sceptical friends today, this would be an excellent book to read or maybe even to give away as a gift.

For a fuller review at click here

culture shift

When I read the subtitle I knew that I had to read this book.

I had just built this website, come up with a name and written the tagline ‘engaging today’s world with timeless truth’. Then I saw the advert for this book and the words ‘engaging current issues with timeless truth’. Two options, tear up every copy of the book and hope no one notices or be open, get the book and make it the first book review. I took the latter.

Anyone who is familiar with Al Mohler’s blog will be used to his incisive analysis and very fair appraisals of today’s culture. I was not surprised to find this book in a similar vein, especially as the chapters began life as articles on his blog.

The chapters are short. They can be read in 5 minutes, 10 if you want to digest them some more. They are also far ranging in their content matter. Public law, political correctness, terrorism, torture, education, post-modernism (or should it be post-postmodernism), abortion, suffering and racism are all given the ‘Mohler treatment’.

Often Christian books about culture can be 1. very defensive or 2. un-questioning. I think it is fair to say that Mohler avoids these extremes allowing us to see the good, or at least the reasons for what is happening as well as seeing where the culture around us is different to and opposed to God’s revealed truth.

For me, there was only one slight negative. It is not a negative about the content of the book in any way, but about reading the book in a British context. These chapters are addressing American culture. Yes, there is a real cross over, but not a complete cross over between the two cultures. This doesn’t mean, don’t read this book, but you will need to think through the application a little more carefully. Not a bad thing!

If you want to read a more lengthy review click here