Marriage, Theology, Prayer, Self Harm and Following Jesus

I haven’t been keeping up with my normal weekly pattern of book reviews lately. Maybe you noticed, maybe you didn’t. Regardless, I have a plan that I keep to. But the past month or soo I’ve taken it a bit slower. However, even though the reviews haven’t been coming out, I have still been reading. I’d like to give you a few short reviews of some of the books I’ve been reading this past month…

Marriages are Made in Heaven by Steve Donald

Are marriages really made in heaven? Is there a Mr or Mrs Right for everyone out there? What about those who divorce, did they marry the wrong person? What will marriage look like in the New Creation?

As I saw this book, I thought a lot (if not all) of these questions would be asked and answered. In this book I was hoping to find some practical and pastoral advice for everyone, both married and single. But I was a bit disappointed. The book is a very surface level look at the topic of marriage, and focused more on God’s sovereignty and other topics than it did on marriage.

Personally, and this is very subjective, I thought the book was a little boring and longwinded. It’s not a book I would recommend on marriage, because it is very surface level and it asks more questions that it answers.

Daniel Seer Extraordinary by Brian Russell

I enjoyed this devotional commentary on Daniel. Some commentaries focus on the academic background, some on the contemporary readings of the book. Some commentaries thrive on the ‘controversial’ passages, especially in Daniel, whilst others seek to expound the whole of the book in the same amount of detail. I really liked this book because it got the balance just right. This would be a really helpful companion to your devotional life or a guide if you want to understand Daniel more. Obviously, there will be things that you disagree with (try find a book that you agree with 100%!), but I found this book helpful and it explained different positions well and charitably.

Self Harm; The Path to Recovery by Kate Middleton & Sara Garvie

Self harm is not an easy topic to read about, discuss and understand. It’s not easy for the sufferer or for the carer. This is the first book I’ve read on the topic and I thought it was really good. This book gives insights into a topic that, largely speaking, remains hidden in the world. The book was first published in 2008, so the statistics and things are out of date, but the advice in it is great.

This book helpfully gives states on self harm in the UK and explored why it is such a prevalent issue today. It also goes into the motives and emotions behind why a person would consider self harming and how to understand their situation and frame of mind better. Throughout the book you get to listen to real stories of people who self harmed regularly, they explain why they started and how they are now. There are also practical tips of all kinds (for both the sufferer and the carer) on how to deal with self harm.

I genuinely found this a helpful book, even to just try to understand my own history with self harm and to try understand what was going through my head at the time. I wouldn’t agree with everything the book says, obviously, but it is very helpful. My one big criticism of the book is that there is very little to zero biblical material. The book is published by a Christian publisher, and whilst self harm isn’t in the Bible, I would have appreciated some biblical wisdom for both the suffer and carer of those who self harm.

Just Ask by J. D. Greear

This is a good, popular level, book on prayer. There were many things in the book that challenged me and pointed me to Scripture. Greear’s style is very accessible and conversational, you’ll finish the book in no time. It is an easy read. The book is written for those of us who aren’t happy with our prayer life, so pretty much most Christians.

It’s written in two parts; 1) why we don’t pray, and 2) how to pray. I think this book is helpful, but I’m not sure it adds anything new to what is already out there in the publishing world. There were also a few things in the book that I wasn’t a fan of, like his list of “don’t do’s”; don’t keep repeating God’s name, don’t say “just” all the time and don’t ask God to “be with us” because He has promised to already, to name a few. Whilst I understand personal preference on these matters, I would agree with some of them, it felt a bit like Greear was being flippant with prayers and wanting people to pray his style and way.

So, the book challenged me at points and was a bit flippant at others. It is accessible but doesn’t bring anything new to the table. Maybe I’m becoming a grumpy old man, I don’t know?!?!?

Immeasurably More by Liz Parker

This is the story of the Parker family and how the Lord used them on the mission field, but also how they experienced Him in their every day lives. Pick up this book and you’ll journey with the Parker family and their work with MAF (Mission Aviation Fellowship) in Africa. So many Christian biographies glorify wonderful experiences, but skirt over the ordinary. People like to hear about the highs, but not so much about the lows. So many biographies and autobiographies neglect to talk about the difficulties, especially in missionary circles. This book doesn’t do that. Liz Parker gives you an insight into their family life, struggles and all. It’s definitely worth getting a copy to have as a holiday read.

Truth on Fire by Adam Ramsey

This book is one of the best books, if not the best book, that I have read this year. Ramsey speaks about his different experiences of churches in the past, how some were emotions driven with little truth, or to the other extreme, biblically sound yet void of life. But it doesn’t need to be that way. In this book Ramsey reminds readers that God doesn’t tell us to choose between truth and emotions, or between head and heart. This book is an invitation to enjoy God in all of His glorious fullness. In each of the twelve chapters, Ramsey tells the reader a truth about Go and then speaks about how that truth is lived out in our lives.

I have so so many highlights in this book it’s unbelievable. We need to let the truth of who God is set our hearts ablaze with praise and adoration. This book will point you to see the greatness of God and the wonders of the gospel. Buy it, or even better buy a few and give them away for people to be encouraged, challenged and called to worship God.

Church for Grown-Ups by John Benton

What does Christian maturity look like, both for individuals and for churches? How can we strive for maturity as God’s people? Benton asks these questions in this short book in order to help us wrestle with what the Bible says. I think that this could be a helpful book for people to think about, especially after multiple lockdowns and the Covid19 situation that we find ourselves in. Benton takes the reader through the book of Philippians to help us grow up in our faith in Jesus and to live lives of holiness and godliness for Him.

It Will Cost You Everything by Steven Lawson

In this book Steven Lawson unpacks a few verses in Luke’s Gospel, some of which would be considered the ‘hard sayings’ of Jesus. The whole point of the book is to help the Christian see what it takes to follow Jesus and the cost involved. I get what Lawson is doing, he is trying to push Christians to see the reality and difficulties of the Christian Life. But I did walk away feel that he didn’t make much of the role that the Holy Spirit plays in the every day enabling of the Christian to run the race. The tone of the book also felt like a football coach shouting to ‘try harder and be better’ from the side of the pitch. I have benefitted from Lawson’s ministry over the years, but I wasn’t a huge fan of this title.

2 thoughts on “Marriage, Theology, Prayer, Self Harm and Following Jesus

  1. This is so helpful. I was interested in reading something about the cost of following Jesus written by an author today, but I might stay clear of Lawson’s latest book. I don’t need a beating up haha. I love so much of the biblical teaching that comes out of Ligonier etc, but often I want to know how the Spirit is at work too in it all. It seems that Truth on Fire might be a great help in this – balancing both. Thanks for another great post!


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