A Bit Like the Busses…

Have you ever heard the saying that something is ‘a bit like the busses’? Basically, you can stand at a bus stop for a long time and nothing comes but then suddenly three busses come at the same time. Well, here are 11 short book reviews for you. This post has devotional material, academic books, Christian living, Church history and more. There will definitely be something in this post for you to enjoy, if you don’t think there is drop me a message and I’l recommend something else for you πŸ™‚

The Little Him Book by Peter Mead

One of the things that I’ve really struggled with over this time of lockdown is the fact that we can’t sing together as churches. Singing praises to God is wonderful and I ca’t wait to gather with my church family and do it again. But why do we sing? We sing because out of praise, adoration and out of joy. We sing because of who Jesus is. In this short book Peter Mead takes you to the Bible to see the amazing Saviour that we serve. Mead takes the reader through Jesus as Son, deliverer, baby, storyteller, miracle-worker, missionary, King, brother and bridegroom. Each short chapter is designed to help the reader see Jesus as he truly is. Mead says this about his book “This little book has one simple aim: to nudge you to think about Jesus – more than that, to find him at the centre of your identity, your worship, your affections and your life.” If you’re looking for a short book that will help you grow in your love Jesus, this is a good one to go for.

Being the Bad Guys by Stephen McAlpine

Living for Jesus isn’t always easy right? Christians can sometimes be painted as the bad guys, the worst people in the world. Our culture is different from those around us. Our thinking and our actions are different from those around us. But it goes even deeper than that, we are different from those around us. There was a time when Christianity was seen as normal, our views weren’t too strange. Now it’s a different story. In this book McAlpine speaks very plainly about some of the ways that Christians and the Church, should be different and the attacks that we will face because of that. However, the book also tells us about how to act in those situations in a way that glorifies God, is true to the Bible and is a witness to those around us. Is standing out for Jesus going to be costly? Yes! Is it really worth it? Without a doubt. This book will give you more confidence to stand out for Christ as you’re reminded of Jesus and the gospel. This is definitely a book that I would recommend, it will challenge and comfort you at the same time.

Who Am I? by Terry Johnson

Christian identity, it can sound a bit weird, but it is very important. In a time and culture that seems to be going through a bit of an identity crisis, Christians need to stand firm and know who they are. Johnson begins with creation, who we were made to be but also the fall and the damage that sin has inflicted on all of humanity. I like that this book doesn’t have a self-help ‘you be you’ kind of message, Johnson takes you to Scripture to show you the importance of knowing your identity as a Christian. The book is simple and easy to read, it is short (140 pages), I think that also gets the balance right between being deep enough but not too deep for your average reader. My one criticism of the book is that it maybe tries to do too much for the length that it is. There were points that could have done with a bit more unpacking and explaining.

10 Dead Guys You Should Know by Ian Maddock

Church history isn’t always a go to for many Christians. But, if that’s you, you’re missing out. Church history is so important because we can learn and grow from the experience, and the mistakes, of Christians who have gone before us. This book is a really good Introduction to 10 Christians from the past some of the more obvious ones that most Christians know about (Spurgeon, Hudson Taylor, Martin Luther) but also some that many are not as well-known (Athanasius, Anselm, Cranmer). The chapter aren’t long and each one will only whet your appetite for further reading and studying. Each chapter helpfully ends with a ‘further reading’ section highlighting some books that you can dive into if you want to know more. A bonus is that each chapter also begins with a cartoon picture of the historical figure, I’m still a bit of a kid and love a good cartoon so it’s a bonus for me. This is a good place to start if you want to get a flavour of some of the issues that have taken place in the history of the Church. This is an introduction to the individuals rather than an introduction to the study of church history.

Augustine of Hippo by Bradley Green

Augustine is a very interesting theologian. I’ve heard him claimed to belong to both Protestants and Catholics. Sightly confusing right? Well, here is an introductory book into his life and his influence. This is part of the Early Church Fathers series. Each book is designed to give you an overview of the historical figure. This book does not go into a huge amount of detail, but it does give you a bit of a whistle-stop tour of Augustine’s life. This probably isn’t the kind of book you want to be reading on holiday, it’s not hugely gripping, I wouldn’t call it a page turner. However, it is an introductory work on a man who influenced, and continues to influence, many people.

Basil of Caesarea by Marvin Jones

This is another addition to the above mentioned series from Christian Focus, this time focusing on Basil (not the herb!). As with the rest of the series, this book is an overview, an introduction to the life and influence of Basil of Caesarea. Like the other books in this series, I found this harder to read and it wouldn’t be my ‘go to’ book as an introduction to Basil. The book is okay, but at points it felt that Jones was writing to an academic audience rather than to Christians in the pew. I noticed that this is also the second edition of the book (the first was published in 2013), It’s interesting for a section edition to be written just six years after the first was published.

The Only Comfort in Life and Death
by Jonathan Lamb, Giacomo Carlo Di Gaetano & Pablo Martinez

There have been a number of books published as a response to the current pandemic. This one is written by three authors from different European countries all talking about the hope of the good news of Jesus that should act as an anchor in this time. I like this book because it’s written by three men with different experiences, from different countries and yet all united around the hope of the gospel. The first chapter is about finding hope in the midst of a pandemic. The second is about living out the hope that we have in Jesus. The third chapter is about the final hope that we have in the gospel and how to stand firm against thoughts concerning God that are contrary to Scripture.

Grace, Faith & Glory by Dominic Smart

Legalism is an ugly beast that raises its head in every church and is a real danger for every Christian. Legalism can take on many faces, but it is not far from any one of us. What exactly is legalism? “At its core, it is the attitude and practice of self-justification and self-sanctification. it teaches a way of righteousness and holiness that requires more dependence on this weak flesh than upon the victorious strength of Christ.”

This book is a torch that shines light on the hideous nature of legalism, but it also point you to the solution of that legalism. This book is a challenging read, there are times where you will feel uncomfortable and you should. Dominic Smart has gone to be with the Lord since writing this book, but as the faithful minister he was, he has left us a book that points us towards the grace of the gospel that is found in Christ.

Great God of Heaven by Sam Gordon

Daniel, it’s one of those books that so many Christians have turned to over the past year to try explain, for better or worse, what’s going on in the world today. But the main character, or focus, of the book of Daniel isn’t actually Daniel. It’s God. Sam has written this helpful walk through of Daniel in a simple, easy to read, devotional commentary style. It might sound like it shouldn’t work, but it does. Sam’s writing style is very relaxed and gives you a good amount of facts and information mixed in with stories and illustrations. This is a walk through of Daniel for Christians in the pew and it is good. My one reservation with the book, as with a previous one of Sam’s I reviewed, is that I disagree with him on eschatology (the doctrine of the end times). This has a particular significance in the book of Daniel due to the later half of the book being prophecy. Whilst we disagree, we are still brothers in Christ and we might get to glory and both realise we were wrong πŸ˜€

Therefore the Truth I Speak by Donald Macleod

In 430 pages Donald Macleod walks through 200 years of theological thought in Scotland. A seemingly impossible task, but he does it well. Now my job is to review that in under 200 words, that is impossible!

Donald Macleod is a student of history and a well of theological knowledge. This book is a fine combination of the two. Professor Macleod goes through key events, key people and their theological thinking and development between 1500-1700. This book is a bit niche and probably not everyones cup of tea. However, I quite enjoyed reading it over a few weeks. It is part of the Mentor imprint of Christian Focus which has book written for seminary students, pastors and other serious readers. This book will give you a good insight into the Reformation in Scotland and the context which it took place in. I like that Professor Macleod hasn’t written hagiography, but he draws out the flaws of the individuals along the way too. A niche, but an important read if you want to understand how Scotland became known as ‘the Land of the Book’.

A Radical, Comprehensive Call to Holiness by Joel Beeke & Michael Barrett

How to describe a book of 442 pages in one word? Ooooft (and that’s a good thing!). Personally, I really enjoyed this book. It is an in-depth study of the doctrine of sanctification that walks you through the Bible asking the questions how and why. How have we become holy and why it matters?

The great thing about this book is that it speaks in-depth about the tension between our status of holiness and the call to continue to grow in holiness. This book covers a lot of ground, here are the seven parts of the book to give you a taster;

  1. Holiness Defined
  2. Holiness Exegeted
  3. Holiness Practiced
  4. Holiness Promoted
  5. Holiness Tested
  6. Holiness Distorted
  7. Holiness Consummated

If you’re a seminary student, or a former student, who wants to be stretched. If you’re a pastor who is looking for a book that will both inform and push your soul to praise. If you’re a Christian who wants to wrestle more with holiness, what that means and how it’s done. This book is a good one for you. It is a big one, and a bit more on the expensive side, but there’s always a birthday or Christmas coming up right? I recommend grabbing a copy of this and reading through it slowly, to saver and learn as much as you can.

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