Recent books are reviewed below.
For more books in selected categories click the links under the 'Book Reviews' button on the left of this page.
For books on counselling and facing life's crises click HERE
Reviews may be used in your church magazine or website but please acknowledge re:fresh books & christian resources.
by Wm Paul Young
Cross Roads is the second book by Wm Paul Young, writer of The Shack. Published in June 2008, The Shack shot to Number One position in the New York Times Paperback Trade Fiction list, a position which it held for a remarkable 11 months.
Cross Roads has a similar style to The Shack but a very different storyline. A ruthless businessman suffers an injury which puts him in a coma, close to death. He experiences an in-between state where he encounters first the enigmatic ‘Jack’ (whom some readers may be able to identify) and then Jesus and the Holy Spirit, once again in an unexpected persona. In this dream-like state he is brought face-to-face with the implications of the decisions and actions he has made during his lifetime, and he is given one agonising choice to make for the future. He drifts backwards and forwards between the physical world and this dream-like existence. In the former state he is able to view life through the eyes of people with whom he would not normally rub shoulders, and experience lifestyles to which he was never exposed, while in the latter he has conversations with Jesus and the Holy Spirit, reminiscent of those experienced by Mac in The Shack. And at the end we have a final twist as he makes the decision to which the whole story has been heading.
This is a book to challenge our thinking about life and the impact on others of the decisions which we take. It is published in Hardback form by Hodder & Stoughton and is already climbing the New York Times bestseller lists.
Published by Hodder Faith. Hardback 256 pages. £14.99
Fabrice Muamba - I'm Still Standing
On March 17 this year, during a televised FA cup match, Fabrice Muamba suffered a cardiac arrest and collapsed without warning. For 78 minutes his heart stopped beating. The message went out “Pray for Muamba.” And miraculously he recovered.
I’m still standing tells his remarkable story, from the 11 year-old Congolese boy who was sent to England for his safety after the fall of President Mobutu, to his part in carrying the Olympic flame 13 years later.
He is open about his Christian faith. In the second paragraph, he declares “First and foremost I’d like to thank God for giving me health, happiness and family and also for making sure I received the specialist care I needed to save my life.”
Talking about his retirement from football he says “As long as I can breathe and walk, what more do I want to be able to do? God is with me and that’s what counts. I have an inner strength that helps me deal with the disappointments in life. That strength comes from my faith … Christianity for me is the biggest factor in my life in every way you can think of.”
Here is a book to give to any football fan. It is published by a secular publisher, about a well-known sporting character. But it says that faith is real and that prayer works.
Published by Trinity Mirror Sports Media. 254 pages, paperback. £12.99
A Survival Guide for Life
by Bear Grylls
Sub-titled "How to achieve your goals, thrive in adversity and grow in character", this is Grylls' 12th book. His books are written for a general audience so are not overtly 'Christian' but they do include a sprinkling of references to Christian faith.
This book has 75 propositions for living life to the full. So in a chapter headed 'Seek out the five Fs' he lists family, friends, faith, fun and follow your dreams and on faith he says "Jesus Christ has been the most incredible anchor and secret strength in my life" and he goes on to recommend an Alpha Course. In a chapter on worry he quotes Jesus' words "Cast your burdens on to me, for I care for you" and says "Even if you find it hard to believe for yourself, and even if you haven't quite figured out all the theological details ... Just claim Christ's promise over your concerns. Close your eyes and pass them upstairs to him."
This could make a good gift to a teenager.
Published by Bantam Press. 284 pages, hardback. £18.99
J.R.R. Tolkien: The making of a legend
by Colin Duriez
Publication of a new biography of JRR Tolkien, creator of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, is well timed. The Hobbit:An Unexpected Journey is is now showing in cinemas. This will be the first in a three-part series of movies based on JRR Tolkien’s classic fantasy adventure, The Hobbit. It is directed, co-written and produced by Peter Jackson who also produced the blockbuster trilogy, Lord of the Rings.
Colin Duriez’ book JRR Tolkien: The making of a legend traces Tolkein’s life from his early childhood, when he was orphaned at the age of 12, through his formative years when his Guardian forbade him to see the girl he loved, his service in The Great War and his years at Oxford. It describes his family life, his academic life and his writing. His friendships with other literary giants, most notably CS Lewis, and the formation of the Inklings group are well documented.
Throughout the book one sees the strong faith which influenced much of Tolkien’s thinking and was to play a part in the conversion of CS Lewis. But while Lewis’s fantasy writings were allegories with a clear Christian message, Tolkein’s were more symbolic of the battle between good and evil.
Duriez identifies the many locations, incidents and influences in Tolkein’s life which are reflected in his writings. These are illustrated by six pages of colour photographs of some of the locations.
An ideal gift for any Tolkien fan!
Published by Lion. Paperback 240 pages. £8.99
by David E Stevens
Resurrect, the first novel by new author, David Stevens, is a corker. In an attempt to avoid crashing into an urban neighbourhood, a US Navy pilot ejects too late from his burning aircraft but is given the chance for a new life with a new mission – to save the world from a global catastrophe. The author (himself a US Navy F-18 fighter pilot) combines a fast-moving story with technically-informed description, romance and ideas to promote thought about spiritual issues. The storyline is refreshingly different, the spiritual content is subtle and unforced, and the ending wraps up the story satisfactorily whilst leaving the door open for a sequel. The book has an impressive list of endorsements including a former NASA astronaut and a US Navy Admiral.
Published by Monarch. Paperback. 382 pages. £8.99
Mud, Sweat and Tears
by Bear Grylls
Bear Grylls is the sort of man every boy aspires to be - known all over the world for his daring adventures presented in the television series man vs wild, shown in the UK as Born Survivor. He is a former member of the SAS. At 23 he became one of the youngest people to climb Everest, only 18 months after a horrendous parachuting accident when it was feared he might never walk again. In 2009 he became the youngest-ever Chief Scout at the age of 35. He makes no secret of his Christian faith and has helped promote the Alpha course.
Mud, Sweat and Tears is his autobiography. It concentrates on his childhood, his SAS Selection, and the ascent of Everest in May 1998. It makes only brief mention of some of his other exploits, such as the first unassisted crossing of the North Atlantic in an open rigid inflatable boat, the Guinness record for the highest-ever formal dinner party, suspended below a balloon at 25,000ft, the navigation of the Northwest passage in a rigid inflatable boat, or the many death-defying feats for his television broadcasts. It reveals a maverick character who revels in crazy exploits and yet has a sensitive and vulnerable side. It also reveals a caring, family man.
The book is clearly written for a general audience. It does not have a lot to say about his Christian faith but one chapter (chapter 25) is devoted to the role of his Christian faith and there are a number of other references, for example he talks about the strength that he found from that faith after his parachuting accident.
This is a book packed with adventure. But it is down to earth, and the language can be quite raw at times. Bear Grylls is not your stereotypical Christian!
There is also an abridged version for younger readers (left) which is ideal as a birthday present or confirmation gift for boys.
Normal Edition 472 pages plus 52 colour pictures. £7.99
Junior Edition: 341 pages plus 52 colour pictures £6.99
Gunning for God
Why the New Atheists are Missing the Target
by John C. Lennox
In recent years atheists have become much more militant in their attacks on faith. People like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens have mounted their attack with a fervour that has more in common with some of the more extreme tele-evangelists than with serious scientific enquiry. More recently they have been joined by Stephen Hawking and the French philosopher Michel Onfray.
John Lennox is a Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford and has engaged in public debates with Dawkins and Hitchens. He has also written two earlier best-selling books - God's Undertaker and God and Stephen Hawking. His writing is both erudite and accessible - ideal for anybody wishing to understand more of the 'New Atheists' arguments or anybody troubled by their specious claims.
In Gunning for God he takes the battle to the New Atheist camp. After a lengthy introduction, which should not be ignored, he addresses some of the key arguments used by Dawkins and his supporters to attack Christian truth. Here is a highly intelligent man - not one of Dawkins 'dumb heads' - who believes not only in the reality of God but in some of the long-held protestant doctrines that some prominent Christians now appear to be questioning. His chapter on substitutionary atonement is reason to buy this book in its own right!
Published by Lion. 248 pages paperback, £9.99
by Billy Graham
In his 93rd year, the veteran evangelist and Bible teacher writes honestly about old age and the prospect of dying. "While I choose not to dwell on the past or relive my youth, there are times I long to hike up into the hills with my children or stand in the pulpit to deliver a Gospel message. But the walker, wheelchair and cane near my bed remind me that chapter in life is past" he writes.
This is an honest, down-to-earth, and throughly Biblical look at many aspects of old age. Billy openly discusses many of the heartaches of old age and frequently refers fondly to Ruth, who died in 2007. But he encourages his readers to embrace the 'Golden Years' and see their situation as the next stage in fulfilling God's calling for their lives. The book is packed with practical advice on preparing for times when our mental faculties may not be what they are today but at the same time it trumpets a message of hope that the best is yet to come. 182 pages, Hardback, £12.99
What God said about eternity,
and the things we've made up
by Francis Chan and Preston Sprinkle
What do modern evangelicals believe about Heaven and Hell? Some popular writers like Rob Bell have raised troubling questions. Francis Chan is a modern evangelical who writes in an accessible style for modern Christians.
In Erasing Hell he looks honestly, sensitively and Biblically at the concepts of judgement, Hell and eternal punishment. He admits that he doesn't want to believe that everybody doesn't go to Heaven. He finds the idea of judgement, the wrath of God and eternal punishment hard to swallow - but he accepts them because he finds them in the Bible and he believes that God's ways are higher than ours. We should let God be God and believe that the Judge of all the earth will do right. The book examines what Jesus said, what Paul, Peter and Jude said and what the book of Revelation says. He also explores how this should affect our lives and our attitude to those who do not believe.
Erasing Hell is relatively short - chapters concentrate on one core theme, followed by notes that are sometimes almost as long as the chapters and are well worth reading. There is also an appendix with frequently asked questions.
This is an excellent book for anybody troubled by Rob Bell's Love Wins or by others who question the long-held understanding of Heaven and Hell.
Does God Believe in Atheists? by Dr John Blanchard
An updated edition of John Blanchard's weighty volume, now available in paperback.
This is not just another book about Science and Faith but an encyclopaedic (719 page) examination of atheistic thought, from the 'Golden Age' of Greek philosophy to Dawkins and Atkins. Well-known author and teacher, John Blanchard, discusses the influence of thinkers like Kant, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Camus, Sartre and Russell; looks at secular humanism, materialism, relativism, determinism and existentialism and examines nine world religions and fourteen major cults. He argues that true science and true religion are not enemies but friends.
God and Stephen Hawking by John C. Lennox
Stephen Hawking had, until recently, kept apart from arguments about God and science, saying that belief in a Creator was not incompatible with science. But in his recently-published book The Grand Design, co-authored with Leonard Mlodinow, Hawking argues that the Universe can create itself out of nothing, leaving no place for God in modern scientific thought.
In God and Stephen Hawking, Oxford professor, John C. Lennoc, challenges this view, pointing out some of the inconsistencies in Hawking’s argument. Early on, Lennox points out that Hawking claims that philosophy is dead but then uses a philosophical methodology himself. Lennox then looks at Hawking’s argument that “because there is a law of gravity, the universe can and will create itself out of nothing”, his M-theory, and his arguments about the Multiverse. In a final chapter on science and rationality, Professor Lennox shows that Hawking’s arguments are more philosophical ideas than science and in no way disprove the existence of God. He proceeds to affirm his own belief not only in the Creator but also in the centrality of the resurrection of Jesus to Christian faith – a belief that he shows is no more fanciful than Hawking’s theories about the origins of the Universe.
God and Stephen Hawking is a small, readable book written for the thinking lay-person, and priced at £4.99.
The Twelfth Imam by Joel C Rosenberg
The latest novel from Joel C. Rosenberg, author of The Last Jihad, The Ezekiel Option and Inside the Revolution, is described as the first in a new political thriller series. Set against the background of an Iran which is arming itself with nuclear weapons to support the imminent return of the Muslim Messiah, the Mahdi or Twelfth Imam, this is a fast-moving thriller.
CIA operative David Shirazi, finds himself in Tehran racing to prevent the threatened nuclear holocaust. But there is more to challenge him as he hears reports of appearances by the Mahdi, accompanied by miracles and healings, and encounters former Muslims who have had visions of Jesus Christ.
The book shows an extensive knowledge of Islam and its teachings. A rather abrupt ending leaves the door open for future volumes in the series.
The Constantine Conspiracy by Gary E Parker
This is a conspiracy theory novel. Wealthy playboy, Rick Carson, finds himself on the run, suspected of murdering his father. But it is not just the law that wants him. Meanwhile the first law enforcement officer on the scene, the attractive Shannon Bridge, seems determined to help him evade his hunters. Is there more to her than meets the eye?
There are some unlikely elements to this story about a 1700 year-old conspiracy to wipe out Christianity - not least that the future of Christianity worldwide could depend on the wit of two individuals - but it makes for a gripping, fast-moving yarn.
The Last Christian by David Gregory (Fiction)
Science fiction novel set in ad 2088 where religion has all but died, indeed it is deemed a hate crime to proselytise any faith. Missionary, Abigail Caldwell returns from the jungle a sole survivor of a mysterious disease, determined to fulfil her Grandfather's mysterious request to re-introduce Christianity to America. Her life is in danger from a leading artificial intelligence industrialist, whose technological breakthrough in artificial brain transplants enables people to potentially live forever. She struggles to adjust to a society where technology and materialistic desire, consume mankind.
This book combines a great sci fi adventure story with a powerful message of Faith and hope together with a warning to Christians today to evaluate how they live their lives and share Jesus.
John Stott's Farewell
The Radical Disciple is billed as John Stott’s final book. Once listed by Time Magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the World, John Stott is now 88 and resident in a care home for retired clergymen but his latest book demonstrates that his thinking is as incisive as ever and his concern is for God’s people to live fully-committed lives. In The Radical Disciple, he lists eight often-neglected characteristics of Christian Discipleship.
In a final “Postscript: Farewell”, quoted below with permission, John Stott makes the following statement:
Looking ahead, none of us of course knows what the future of printing and publishing may be. But I myself am confident that the future of books is assured and that, though they will be complemented, they will never be altogether replaced. For there is something unique about books. Our favourite books become very precious to us and we even develop with them an almost living and affectionate relationship. Is it an altogether fanciful fact that we handle, stroke and even smell them as tokens of our esteem and affection? I am not referring only to an author’s feeling for what he has written, but to all readers ... let me urge you to keep reading, and encourage your relatives and friends to do the same. For this is a much-neglected means of grace.
Of course, there are millions of our sisters and brothers in Christ around the world who would dearly love to have books to read to help them grow in their discipleship. Yet they have almost none, while we in the west have more than anybody can read…
ALSO IN STOCK
Inside Story - The Life of John Stott
by Roger Steer
John Stott was almost certainly the most influential Anglican of the 20th Century. In this new biography, Roger Steer charts John Stott's life, including the famous confrontation with Martyn Lloyd-Jones at the Second National Assembly of Evangelicals in October 1966.
Test of Faith
Is God a delusion? Has science removed the need for faith? How do we relate to scientific discoveries?
The Faraday Institute for Science and Religion has produced an excellent series of resources for churches, schools and universities including a book containing the testimonies of ten leading scientists, a three-part DVD and small group study materials.
Click HERE for a detailed description.
C.H. Spurgeon the people's preacher
by Peter Morden
In C.H. Spurgeon the people’s preacher, Peter Morden presents an enthusiastic and sympathetic portrait of the great Baptist preacher. He describes not only the man who moved thousands through his spoken and written sermons but also the vulnerability of a man who was sensitive and even subject to bouts of depression; a man who struggled with ill-health, and a man who passed through “a horror of great darkness” after the Surrey Gardens Music Hall disaster in which seven members of his congregation perished.
The book and an associated film are published by CWR.
For a more detailed review click HERE
Street Pastors by Les Isaac with Rosalind Davies
In April 2003 the first team of Street Pastors ventured out onto the streets of Brixton in the London Borough of Lambeth. Today, only 6½ years on, there are around 150 teams with over 3,000 Street Pastors working in the UK including 27 teams in London boroughs. Now, the initiative seems poised to go international.
Re:fresh books & Christian resources has an introductory offer of £1 off Les Isaac’s new book, Street Pastors. The book does more than just chronicle the conception, birth and development of Street Pastors. It examines the social issues that challenge the Christian Church in 21st Century Britain. It discusses the role of what it calls the Urban Trinity – The Police, Local Authorities and the Church – and the challenge to the Church to engage with the community without losing its Spiritual identity and purpose.
Street Pastors describes the painstaking research and negotiations by Les Isaacs and his colleagues at the Ascension Trust prior to the launch of Street Pastors. This included visits to Jamaica, Boston and other trouble spots where Christian initiatives were already in place. It looks at the response of the Metropolitan Police and other forces, which often shifted from an initial unease to full cooperation. This is summed up in the words of one senior police officer “All my concerns were centred around safety and liability, because we had a duty of care to Street Pastors. Yet there was another side of me that thought, this is so very different and out of the ordinary, it might just work!” The need for Street Pastors was given tragic significance three weeks before the official launch when, on 1 January 2003, two girls were fatally injured in the cross-fire of a gun battle between rival gangs in Aston, Birmingham.
Les Isaac’s book provides a valuable insight into the work of Street Pastors, and the lesser-known “School Pastors”, from the throbbing streets of London, Birmingham and Manchester to rural Sussex. The story of the growth and impact of Street Pastors in such a short time presents a challenge to Church leaders and individual Christians to think whether there are other ways in which God may be calling his people to engage with the needs of the community and bring the love of Christ to the streets, homes, businesses and institutions in our country.
And yes – there is mention of Street Pastors, Kingston!
Making the Connection by J John
Making the Connection is an attractive new booklet exploring how we can know God, re-connect with him and stay connected. With its emphasis on the Bible, prayer and community with other Christians this makes an ideal gift for people still searching for God, and those who have recently committed their lives to him. In 64 pages costing only 99p, (Authentic) J. John has produced a concise, practical and yet comprehensive introduction to a relationship with God.
Highly re:commended by re:fresh!
Our Father by Richard Coekin LOCAL AUTHOR
On the same subject of connecting with God is a new book from IVP, Our Father written by local minister, Richard Coekin. Jesus knew that when we struggle to pray we need a fresh appreciation of God, far more than techniques and challenges,. We need to glimpse his magnificent character and plans. As we see the Father described in Jesus' prayer, we find ourselves lifted in wonder to delight in him. This book is all about enjoying God.
Faith & Doubt by John Ortberg
John Ortberg's latest book looks sympathetically at the whole issue of doubt and uncertainty in the Christian life. He candidly describes grappling with his own doubts and suggests how we can use uncertainty to deepen our faith and intimacy with God.
“Doubt can motivate us to study and learn” he says. “If I leap, if I trust, I do not know for sure what will happen … If I don’t leap, if I don’t trust, if I don’t hope, if I don’t ask, I will never soar. I will never know. I will grow old standing on the side of that cliff”.
Darwin and God by Nick Spencer
This year marks the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of his Origin of the Species.
Darwin and God is the first full-length account of Darwin’s religious beliefs to be published in the UK. It presents the moving, compelling and tumultuous story of one of the world’s greatest scientists.
Nick Spencer draws on Darwin’s writings to explore his view of design, purpose, morality, the universe and the human mind. He argues that, although Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection did undermine his Christian convictions, it was the age-old problem of suffering - first in theory, then through the dreadful loss of his favourite child - that caused his faith to break down.
Books about Money issues
In the current economic climate there is a need for clear guidance on Money issues. The books listed below (most of which are new) fall into two groups - the first two are for a general readership with no overt Christian content and are specifically intended to help people with money problems. The other two are intended for Christians, designed to give a Biblical understanding of money issues.
The sixty minute debt buster by Katie Clarke with Rob Parsons
Don’t be misled by the title. Unless you are a speed reader this 125-page book will take longer. But it is worth it! Although it is published by Lion Publishing and has the name of a well-known figure in evangelical circles, this book is written for the general public with no Biblical references or Christian allusions. This makes it ideal for counselling Christians and non-Christians alike. Katie Clarke is a lawyer who specialises in debt.
It is written for those who are facing debt, repossession of their home or bankruptcy and seeks to offer a way through. Throughout it is packed with useful advice that will help anybody whether they are in debt, struggling to keep out of debt, or seeking to help others. It gives guidance on assessing your situation, with the all-important income, expenditure and debt forms; It talks about practical ways to save money on “essentials”; it takes a hard look at credit cards, credit cheques, and consolidation loans; and it gives advice on responding to final demands and prioritising who to pay and how much. Each chapter ends with a valuable “sixty second page” summarising the essential points. It includes many useful websites for the computer-user and has a list of agencies able to help with advice and counselling. 125 pages, £6.99.
The Money Secret by Rob Parsons
This is another book written for the general reader. Rob Parsons needs no introduction to many – The founder of Care for the Family, author and speaker who conducts seminars for businesses and church leaders. The Money Secret was first published in 2005. In his own style Rob takes us on a journey with Amy, a young lady on the verge of suicide, as she learns “the money secret”. It takes us through much of the same material as The sixty minute debt buster but in a narrative style that will appeal to the less analytically minded. And, yes, it also includes income/expenditure forms, checklists and useful contacts. 210 pages, £6.99.
The Money Revolution by John Preston
This booklet is written for Christians to help them think Christianly about money. It is based on the premise that how we spend, or save, our money is an expression of our faith. It is written as a workbook and establishes five principles about money, stewardship and accountability, applying these practically to everyday living in the 21st century. Mortgages, student loans, credit cards, insurance, extended warranties, interest-free payment terms, consolidation loans, savings and pensions are all examined. There are forms for calculating personal finances. And the final chapter looks at Christian giving, including an exhortation for every Christian to make a will.
This is a small (64-page) booklet at a modest price - £3.00. There is even an associated website with downloadable spreadsheets, group study aids, sermon notes and a PowerPoint presentation based on the five main principles. Stuck to the cover is a credit-card sized card, that can be kept in a pocket or wallet, with a reminder of the five principles plus six “pointers to good spending”.
Money - A CWR Life Issues Bible Study by Keith Tondeur
Publication of this latest in the CWR Life Issues Bible Study series was brought forward because of the present economic climate. Written by the founder of the money education charity, Credit Action, it is intended for small group study or personal use. It could also be used by a couple or in a one-to-one study.
Four studies cover:-
Handling Money God’s way
A Materialistic World
Giving, debt and saving
While there are questions for discussion within each section, the approach is more didactic with Bible teaching and application looking at principles rather than specific issues such as those mentioned in the reviews above.
The Shack by William Young
The Shack has rightly been described as a “publishing Phenomenon”. A Christian book, initially rejected by all the major American Publishers, it went on to occupy the Number One Position on the New York Times Paperback Trade Fiction list on June 8 2008 and held that position for 11 months.
It is a novel about a man whose daughter is abducted; he receives a letter from somebody claiming to be God inviting him to return to the scene of his daughter’s death. Some readers will be uncomfortable with the way in which the book represents God, but the dialogue as the hero, Mack, confronts God conveys the message powerfully. It tackles a variety of issues, but paramount is “how can God allow such suffering?” Young himself knew abuse as a child. The frequent references to a time known as “the Great Sadness” in the hero’s life will strike chords with many readers and the message about forgiveness carries a hard but necessary challenge.
The Reason for God by Timothy Keller
The Reason for God flows from Keller’s ministry in a Manhattan Church, founded in 1989 to reach out to a generation of sceptics, critics and cynics, and now serving a congregation of more than 5,000. The book is in two halves. The first half tackles some of the big questions that hinder faith in God – Why does God allow suffering … how could a loving God send people to Hell … why isn’t Christianity more inclusive … how can one religion be right and another wrong … why have so many wars been fought in the name of God. The second half of the book (which I found intellectually more satisfying) looks at reasons for faith – the evidence for God, the problem of sin, the true story of the cross, the argument for resurrection and our response. Keller’s approach is apologetic with relatively few Bible references and quotes, and yet it is rooted in Scripture as one would expect from a writer of the reformed school. The extensive section of ‘notes’ at the end is more than just a bibliography, often expanding helpfully on issues raised in the main text.
Did you think to pray? by R.T. Kendall
The latest book from R T Kendall based on 20 years of his own experience of prayer. Arranged in five parts, chapters cover subjects such as:-What prayer does for God, others, and us; the Bible, Holy Spirit and prayer; praying without a sense of God; How to pray, Advanced lessons in prayer, praise, fasting, faith and feeling, praying in the spirit, the mystery of prayer – answered and unanswered. Written with pastoral sensitivity and honesty about his own struggles, this book offers down to earth, practical ideas on deepening our prayer life.
“Before you left your room this morning, did you think to pray?”
What kind of God by Michael Ots
Responses to 10 common accusations against God. Michael Ots is a young man passionate about sharing his faith through university missions and this book has grown out of some of his lunchtime discussions with non-Christians. “How can God be good when he authorises war, allows suffering, represses our sexuality, punishes his own Son, lets a hypocritical church represent him and excludes people on the basis of their beliefs, condemning them to hell? His final chapter turns the question round to the reader or seeker “Awesome, loving and amazingly gracious, what kind of person would reject a God so good? This book can be dipped into and includes helpful suggestions for further reading on each topic. Suitable for giving to students or seekers and having available at courses where Christianity is being explored.
Working it out by Ian Coffey
God, you and the work you do. Can mending a gatepost bring glory to God? Does ironing help you grow as a disciple? With lively Bible teaching and real-life stories, Ian Coffey shows how work was part of God’s good plan. Whatever your work, God is interested in it, can transform it, and use it – for his glory. Each chapter ends with three or four questions to help you apply what you read.
Love one Another - by Gerald L. Sittser
This book examines the “one another” statements from the New Testament. Drawing on his own pastoral experience of the best and worst of church life, Gerals Sitser shows us what the love Jesus commanded actually requires of us. As you glance through the book, memorable quotes catch your attention. Here are a few. “However costly forgiveness is, it does not compare with the cost of unforgiveness.” “Jesus envisioned a community of disciples who would dare to move downward instead of upward.” “Bearing burdens is a mandate given to the whole Christian community, not just professional people-helpers..” There are chapters on welcoming, forbearing, forgiving, confessing, serving, encouraging, bearing each others’ burdens, being subject to one another, stirring up one another and admonishing each other. The discussion guide at the end that would make this a suitable book for personal or group study – or even a series of sermons to the whole church.
The Living Church by John Stott
“I have a dream of a living church” says John Stott. That dream of an 86 year-old Evangelical Statesman is described in his 50th book – The Living Church. It is particularly relevant to pastors and preachers but has much distilled wisdom for anybody who is concerned about the relevance of the church in the 21st century.
Stott describes the characteristics of what he calls the “authentic” or “living” church, applying the principles of the first-century church to a post-modern age. “Much of what we recognize as traditional today was itself once revolutionary and even ‘emerging’” he says.
God’s vision for the church is a learning church, a caring church, a worshipping church and an evangelizing church, he argues from Acts 2:42 and 47. Nothing radically new there, and yet we need to hear it afresh. As Stott expands his thinking, one is challenged to take a fresh look at our mission.
Three fascinating appendices reflect defining principles of this great man of God – Why I am still a member of the church of England looks back to his famous 1966 dispute with Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones and shows why his position has not changed; I have a dream of a living church is a Martin Luther King-style declaration of his vision for the church of Christ; and Reflections of an Octogenarian presents his own convictions and priorities as a man of God.
Understanding Barack Obama
The Faith of Barack Obama by Stephen Mansfield
164 pages, hardback, £13.99
Barack Obama, like his predecessor in the White House, professes a Christian faith resulting from a real conversion experience but his brand of faith-based politics is radically different.
Obama has stated categorically that he has “a personal relationship with Jesus Christ”. He affirms his belief in “the redemptive death and resurrection of Jesus Christ” and says that his faith gives him “a path to be cleaned of sin and have eternal life.” However, his views on civil unions for homosexuals raise a number of issue. Meanwhile his voting record on abortion issues seems to conflict with his professed ambivalence on the subject.
Stephen Mansfield takes a balanced look at Obama. Written during the run-up to the Presidential election, The Faith of Barack Obama, explores the influences on Obama, including his atheistic mother, his Muslim stepfather and the controversial preacher Jeremiah Wright through whom he came to faith. It discusses Obama’s pathway to the Presidential nomination against the background of his faith and his multi-racial parentage, and it contrasts Obama’s Christianity with that of George W Bush, John McCain and Hillary Clinton.
Barack Obama is seen as “helping to give voice to a religious left, just now reclaiming its voice in American culture …a new generation who are deeply religious, philosophically postmodern, and passionately oriented to social justice.”
The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama
375 pages paperback, £8.99
If you want it in Barack Obama's own words, his bestselling book The Audacity of Hope includes a chapter on faith. The title is borrowed from a sermon by Obama's friend and pastor Jeremiah Wright.
First published in the United States in 2006, The Audacity of Hope spells out Obama's vision for a new, less partisan, face to political and civic life in America. He reviews recent political history in the USA, looks at common values that might unite, discusses the Constitution and examines the forces that influence political and civic life - money, the media, special-interest groups and the legislative process. He then goes on to look specifically at issues of faith, race, foreign policy and family life.
The political and religious scene in America is different from our own and yet what happens there has a powerful impact on what happens worldwide. Barack Obama seems destined to be a major influence on both sides of the Atlantic for years to come.
Christians are called to pray for those in authority. These books can help us understand the new world order and so pray more intelligently for World Leaders.