Book Reviews

Our books this month feature three from the Banner of Truth, and one from a very familiar author to readers of The Record. We hope you enjoy them all! 

Our books this month feature three from the Banner of Truth, and one from a very familiar author to readers of The Record. We hope you enjoy them all! 

BOOK OF THE MONTH: ‘God is God & You are You’, Thomas Davis (2023) 

Right from the outset, Thomas Davis acknowledges that most of us find evangelism, sharing our faith, difficult. That is often because we have come to believe that evangelism is about being skilled in clever techniques and having the right experience. While experience is undoubtedly helpful, and no doubt skills can be honed, Thomas Davis helpfully helps us to see that as we step out to witness to others there is ‘a tidal wave of incredible theology backing you up every step of the way.’ The book then very helpfully helps us to see who God is and who we are so we can become better and brighter witnesses. 

In the first half of the book, Thomas Davis helpfully reminds us of who God is. He uses the encounter between God and Moses in Exodus 3 to remind us that God is sovereign, that God takes the initiative, that God is powerful, and that God is compassionate. He helps us to see that when we come to understand these truths and rest in them, evangelism does not become easy, but we lose our fear and these truths change our perspective. Understanding more of who God is gives us gospel confidence, a sense of utter dependence on God, an encouragement to obey the great commission and a belief that we should never give up. The book then helpfully shows us the central place that truth plays in evangelism before reminding us of the glory and beauty of the gospel message. The first section closes with helpful chapters on grace and eternity.  How we share the gospel is just as important as the truth we share. The gospel must never be shared through gritted teeth. As Davis says ‘…the message of grace must be communicated with grace.’ 

The second half of the book looks at who we are. We can be tempted to believe that if we were somebody else, if we were in a different location or if we had extraordinary skills, we could then be effective evangelists. Davis reminds us that God can use us in all our sinfulness and frailty. I found the chapter on witnessing particularly helpful. We are reminded that we are not called to be the judge (casting verdicts on people), we are not called to be the defence (confronting people every time we feel our faith is threatened), nor are we called to be the press (talking about people and their sins rather than talking to them about the gospel). We are called to be witnesses – to testify about Jesus Christ. So often we end up talking to people about the church, church services, the state of society but we are called to talk about Him, in all his glory and beauty. The remaining three chapters are a helpful reminder of the nature of evil, the nature of humanity and a final chapter on the theology and nature of the church. We live in a society where evil is acceptable, entertaining and, as Davis points out, useful to many people. A Biblical understanding of evil, people and the church are all important as we seek to understand evangelism.    

This book is excellent for three reasons. Firstly, it is readable. Rev Davis writes clearly, directly and pastorally. Secondly it is short. It is ideal for young people and new Christians who are not used to reading lengthy books on the theology of evangelism. Lastly, this book is encouraging.  It reminds us of the kindness and compassion of God who loves sinners and who uses frail vessels to carry the great news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

This book is available from Christian Focus Publications.

Andy Murray, Livingston Free Church 

‘Living The Psalms’, David P. Murray (2023) 

This little book is a treasure trove of all the things you didn’t know about the Psalms. It is easy to pick up, easy to read, and so very easy to apply. As David Murray digs deep, we discover Christ, how to praise Him and listen to Him as our Worship leader, not only independently but also with all the other people of God’s household. They teach us how to pray; how to be theologians without ever writing a single essay; seeing the shadows of things to come; visualizing the word pictures that describe God, such as the sun; hearing the desperate pleas of sadness, strife, the rawness of relationships. 

Yet in the midst of this the song writers teach us how to praise a loving God, who is our Redeemer, our promise keeper, and our counsellor. Perhaps this last description surprised me the most, that ‘Psalm Therapy’ is used not only by Christian Counsellors but by ordinary people as they talk with each other. They witness through the words written by singer songwriters from three thousand years ago and still speak to us today. Murray finishes his book with some very practical advice on how to read the Psalms each day, how to use the Psalms in worship and in singing them out loud. He gives a template on how to analyse a Psalm, using a five-point structure which I found most helpful.   

It is an inspiring book that motivates the reader to take a Psalm a day, the same Psalms that Jesus read, sang, and quoted because they were written for Him and about Him.  What better way to start your day! 

This book is available from Banner of Truth

Ruth Aird, Trinity Community Church, Penicuik 

‘Refreshment for the Soul’, Richard Sibbes (compiled by David B. Mackinnon) (2022) 

‘Refreshment for the Soul’ is a compilation of a year of daily readings from the writings of Richard Sibbes, the Puritan pastor, who lived between 1577 and 1635. The compiler, David B. Mackinnon, has undertaken a valuable task in presenting these readings drawn from various works by Sibbes. Reviewing a collection of daily readings poses a particular challenge: do I treat them as the reader would – one-by-one each day? Or should I try to read as many as possible together in order to return my review quickly? Fortunately, David B. Mackinnon has come to my aid by grouping a number of the selections thematically on a particular subject, eg How to humble ourselves (three readings) or Christ in Us (five readings) etc. This I found to be extremely helpful both in reviewing but also in understanding and applying such truths to my own life. 

The book contains many valuable insights into the Scripture and much real and earnest encouragement to live a life worthy of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Where necessary, Mackinnon has updated the occasional antiquated word and shortened some of Sibbes’ longer sentences and paragraphs and I found each section to be accessible and useful. Sibbes’ writings ought to be read assiduously by every Christian and Refreshment for the Soul is a great way to become acquainted with his valuable writings. 

This book is available to purchase from Banner of Truth.

Gari Lewis, Tabernacl Baptist Church, Llwynhendy 

‘The Character of Christ’, Jonathan Landry Cruse (2023) 

The Christian is called to a life that is marked by an increasing conformity to the person of Christ. ‘Be imitators of me, as I imitate Christ,’ writes Paul (1 Cor. 11:1), clearly marking the Christian life as one of imitation and emulation of the life of Christ. Yet what does it look like to imitate Christ? Is it primarily outward oriented or inward oriented? In the ‘Character of Christ’ by Jonathan L. Cruse, we are shown how the character of Christ is made available for all who believe by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit through whom we grow in the fruit of the Spirit. An increase in our ‘love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control’ (Gal. 5:21-22), that is, an increase in our Christ-likeness, is evidence of a truly transformative and saving faith in our lives. 

Chapter-by-chapter, Cruse helpfully examines each fruit of the Spirit in turn and how Christ is the ultimate display of what each of these character traits looks like in action. While the fruit of the Spirit takes root inwardly, this fruit is displayed outwardly in our interactions with others. As Jesus says, our fruit reveals our root (Matt. 7:15-19). Do you long to look more like Christ? Read this (short!) book to learn how the fruit of the Spirit are made manifest in the life of Christ – and trust that the Spirit of God is at work in your life too, establishing the root and growing the fruit that we might go and do likewise. 

This book is available from Banner of Truth.

Colin Fast, Tain & Fearn Free Church