Strength for the weary

Derek Thomas is becoming one of my favourite authors because of his ability to simplify core doctrinal truths into bite size chunks that are accessible and easy to read.

In Strength for the weary Thomas takes the second half of Isaiah and touches on some of the key themes and explains the context in an uncomplicated way. Thomas speaks on some of the amazing truths that are packed into the book of Isaiah and brings them out for the reader to see God in all of His glory. Thomas finds that balance between teaching people well and making it as easy to read as possible.

Isaiah is a huge book which can sometimes be daunting for people to read in their own devotional times with God, but Isaiah is packed full of great truths about the character of God, the way He deals with His people and His commitment to them.

Strength for the weary is a helpful book because it addresses the fact that often times Christians are hurting and weary, often we can find it difficult as we journey through life wrestling with the Bible and thinking through the role that God should be playing in our lives. This book was a helpful reminder of who I am as a person and who God is. So often I can focus on my situation and question God’s plan but this book is full of truths about God’s comfort and care for His people.

This book is not a commentary on the latter chapters of Isaiah and it also doesn’t deal with every passage (It’s only 141 pages!) but I was slightly disappointed that chapter 58 wasn’t discussed in more detail. Having spent some time on the topic of fasting (which is the topic of Psalm 58) I must say that some of the applications linking fasting to believers today was lacking in this book. This was slightly disappointing because fasting has become a somewhat ‘forgotten discipline’ among many Christians today, and fasting can help people rely on God in their times of weariness. However, I do understand that not every topic could be discussed, nor could every passage be studied in depth.

The final chapter of the book was particularly helpful as it has a discussion on the New Heavens and the New Earth and the teachings on that glorious future from Isaiah’s perspective.

If you want a book which will give you a big picture view of God and his relationship with His covenant people, if you want a book which will unpack the deep theology of Isaiah and if you want a book that will encourage you through your own times of weariness pick up this short book and have a read.

Rating 4/5

How Does God Treat His Friends?

Ever since I can remember Job has been one of my favourite books in the Bible. I have read it numerous times, studied it, listened to many sermon series on it and read a number of books and commentaries on it. However, after each reading I was still left with questions, and I know that I am not the only one.

When people suffer often I have heard people pointing them towards the book of Job, this can be helpful but it can also bring up more questions.

So when I came across another book on Job that I hadn’t read yet, it was a must. I devoured Fyall’s book in 2 days and loved every second of it.

How does God treat His friends? is a small book that is packed with understanding and has so much scholarly work behind it that it is unreal.

Fyall has done a great job at opening up the book of Job and making us accessible and understandable to people.

I found some of my questions answered, some more questions planted and some great insights gained from this small book.

One of the things that Fyall does really well is being he book of Job alive. He explains the characteristics of the speeches of Job’s friends, he speaks to the difficult questions of God and suffering, he speaks at length about Satan’s involvement in suffering and applies Job really well.

Fyall draws the readers attention to the gospel of Mark to help the reader apply the book of Job through the person of Jesus.

If you want to understand Job, want to think through suffering and God’s role in it, or if you’re looking to learn more about wisdom literature that also looks at the historical context of the time, read this book.

There are so many books on Job that are ok, but I must say that this was really was a delight to read. The book is short but packed with powerful truths, the book is full of helpful insights on ancient culture, literature yet it is not academic.

Rating 4/5

Broken Works Best

When you pick up a book that has the subtitle of ‘when God turns your pain into gain’ you think that you’re buckling up for a cheesy ride.

However, Campbell does a great job when it comes to the topic of suffering.

Sometimes when authors write about suffering and pain they forget to live in the real world. Campbell does a great job of opening up this difficult topic with her own story and the story of others who have suffered horrendous pain in their lives.

Instead of focusing simply on physical pain which is a result of living in a fallen world, like many do, she writes about the pain that we will suffer for Jesus.

I always find in times of pain and suffering the place to go is to God and learn from what His Word has to say, to rest in the knowledge of His sovereignty and His care. I also find it helpful to read the stories of other who have suffered, to learn how they ‘dealt with’ their pain and what they learnt about God in the process.

If you are suffering and want to read a book that contains biblical truths, challenging insights and an attitude of praise and devotion to God I encourage you to read this book.

Campbell’s story is riddled with pain and suffering, yet she explains how through all of it she was taught to depend on the Lord. She speaks of how God spoke to her, through His Word, in both the good and difficult times and speaks of the comfort that memorised verses were.

Many authors can try to dodge to question ‘why?’ But Campbell takes it head on and uses her own story to tell the tale.

Her pain of loosing two daughters at such a young age, her pain of not seeing them be independent and healthy made me feel for her and pray for their family. As difficult as it all was, and without a doubt still is, I was touched by how both Catherine and her husband are using their story to touch people’s lives.

Jesus is the great shepherd who cares, loves and teaches his sheep. We might not understand why certain things happen, but Campbell encourages us through stories from the Bible and other people that we should learn from and not waste our pain.

Rating 4/5

The End of Religion

I picked up this book because a friend of mine wanted a review on it, and once I received it in the post and read, on the back of the book, ‘sick of religion? So was Jesus’ I was intrigued.

Reading a sentence like that got my attention alright, and so I took the book with me on holiday to read.

At the beginning of the book Cavey says that Jesus should be the focus of our attention, and I completely agree. However, the way he leads people into this conversation is quite strange. Cavey starts by discussing some of the big shifters in the world, people who have said/done things that have changed the world. Quite rightly Jesus is one of them, but I wouldn’t put them on the same par. Cavey says that church history and Christians today often follow their institution or denomination as opposed to following Jesus’ teaching. Sadly this is true in many cases, but Cavey doesn’t pick up on any of the difficult stuff that Jesus talks about. For example, there is no mention of hell (something that Jesus spoke a lot about), there is no mention about why Jesus had to die on the cross and how his death paid the punishment for sins.

I think that Cavey’s main message is ‘let legalism die and let’s follow Jesus’ this is a message that I can wholeheartedly get behind. He rightly point out that religious acts or rituals can become habits and no longer challenge us. But, the whole approach of the book is slightly disconcerting. His exegesis suggests that he is reading his own idea into the bible, instead of allowing the Bible to shape his view.

Although Cavey speaks about Jesus he doesn’t explain the necessity for people to come to God through Jesus, he doesn’t say clearly that Jesus is the only way to God. Rather, he speaks in a way that one could understand, without critically thinking about it, that simply following he teachings of Jesus is enough to be made right with God.

I found myself reading the book and thinking ‘I think this is what he means… or I hope that this is what he means’.

Sin is only mentioned at the end of the book, and the consequences of believing in Jesus or not aren’t stated at all.

I’m afraid that anyone could pick up this book and believe that if they do a good job in life, then God has got there back, that people can be good Christians without going to church and joining fellowship with fellow believers.

However, this is contrary to the message of the Bible.

I don’t believe that Cavey is trying to mislead people, but I think that in his approach of trying to be so accessible to all readers means that he has lost the fact that the gospel is exclusive, you either believe it or you don’t.

I’m not one to tear people down for their work, because I am called to love my fellow brother in Christ, but I cannot recommend this book. I wholeheartedly agree with the whole ‘let legalism die’ idea, but in his approach of this topic he has blurred lines that I think are quite important.

Should Christians be careful to not become like the Pharisees? Yes.

Should we strive to live as Jesus taught in the gospel? Yes.

Does that means that we walk out the church because history shows that a lot of people have misapplied the Bible? No.

Rating: 1/5

Heaven on Earth

There are so many books on the market today about heaven, and rightly so because as Christians heaven is where we will spend eternity. There are so many things on this planet and in our lives that point to the glory of Heaven and the New Heavens and the New Earth.

There are so many false-ideas about what heaven will be like, who will be there, where heaven will be, and the list goes on and on. Whether they are a Christian or not, most people ask the question at some point in their lives ‘what happens when I die?’

Thomas says “For all the skepticism that abounds in our time, people still want to know what happens after death.”

So many of the books that can be found on Christian bookshelves contain a lot of speculation, but not many of them derive their ideas from the Bible. Don’t get me wrong, there are good books out there on heaven, but they are vastly outnumbered by the not so good ones.

From the many books I have read on the subject of heaven, Heaven on Earth is the best. Not only does Thomas engage with what the Bible teaches, but he also says where speculations begins and does not explore further.

As I read this book I found my own ideas of heaven and the New Creation being corrected, and it made me think about where I got my ideas from.

Because heaven is the focus of many Christians in this world, because we have our eyes fixed on our eternal home, we tend to believe many things that aren’t necessarily in the Bible. Thomas corrects such views with good and faithful Bible handling, with a pastors heart and with the rigorous mind of a theologian.

If you have questions about heaven, and if you don’t now you will at some point, read this book and be captured by the glory of the Lamb. Read and eagerly wait for the chance to worship and work for our Creator for an eternity, but don’t forget that we live in a world where many people will not see heaven.

Reading books like Heaven on Earth excite me about the world to come, but they should also put a desire in our hearts for more people to hear about this glorious place where Christians long to dwell.

There are people in this world who have big questions about life after death, and as Christians, we have answers to some of their questions they will only know the truth if they are told.

Do we know everything about heaven? No!

Will be ever know everything about heaven? Probably not!

Should the idea of heaven excite us as we consider an eternity spent in the presence of our perfect God? Yes!

Should the teaching of heaven encourage us to tell others? Absolutely! Why would we want to such an amazing truth to ourselves?

Rating 4/5