Book Reviews- February/March

Here are four books to help you spring into spiritual strength. Be encouraged by biblical truths and real-life witness in abundance.

BOOK OF THE MONTH: ‘A Tale of Two’, Donald Mackay (2022) 

Donald Mackay (Knox Church, Perth) has hit on a unique and fascinating treatment of Biblical biography. By pairing individuals from the Old and New Testaments, he has crafted forty insightful character studies. 

Readers will discover well-known pairs such as Abraham and Lot, Elizabeth and Mary and more obscure pairs such as Athaliah and Jehosheba. They will be introduced to stories of intrigue, family jealousy and deception, as well as to uplifting accounts of miracles, faith and endurance. 

There is much for the reader to learn in these short studies. In contrasting the lives of Jacob and Joseph, for example, we see that it was through the line of Jacob the deceiver and not through Joseph the faithful that the Lord’s redemptive purposes were to be worked out. The stories describe fallen human nature as well as grace overcoming evil. Throughout, all the tales of these Biblical characters are underscored by the Lord’s sovereignty. 

Who are the two traitors, the two rogues, the two sceptics, the two patriots and the two pastors? Only by reading this informative study will you discover! 

The chapters are short, well written and very readable. The author successfully paints the big picture while at the same time including detail which reflects a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures and interesting background information. You will want to go back to the Bible to re-read these stories! Highly recommended as a devotional study. 

This book is available from Mound Books

Evan Macdonald, Glasgow City Free Church 

‘Tears and Tossings’, Sarah Walton (2022) 

This book about suffering is based on Psalm 56, verses 8-9. There are nine short chapters, and the author shows how our tears are ‘held by God Himself’. Her personal story permeates the book, and her experiences are used throughout to highlight the hope that there is in Jesus. To this end, she demonstrates from biblical examples how our sufferings are never pointless or hopeless and consistently points us to the One who has borne all our sufferings Himself.  

So many things have gone wrong in her life, and she is excruciatingly honest about her struggle to endure as a Christian. ‘I knew what it’s like to feel like…a problem to be fixed’ is how she puts it in Chapter 5. However, in His kindness, she has proved God’s nearness whilst living with almost unbearable burdens at times and has experienced His special encouragements ‘at just the right time and in the most unexpected ways.’ 

The book seems to be written primarily for unbelievers as it has an evangelistic thrust throughout, but it is certainly very helpful to all. The chapter I appreciated most was Chapter 5, as we all have cracks in our lives; fault lines which could render us useless and hopeless unless they lead us to the only One who can fully heal us, either in this life or in the next. Read and be encouraged in your struggles.   

This book is available from 

Judith Lewis, Bedyddwyr Cymraeg, Tabernacl, Llwynhendy 

‘Remember the Sabbath Day’, Lewis Branch of DayOne/LDOS (2022) 

Remember the Sabbath Day is an interesting book published by Day One on the subject of keeping the Lord’s Day and its relevance for today. The book has various authors who are all former or current ministers of Presbyterian Churches on the Isle of Lewis and Harris and members of the Lord’s Day Observance Society. There is a good flow of ideas from author to author. The first chapter is by Stephen McCollum, who writes on the first Sabbath. This is followed by chapters on the Sabbath and the law of God (Paul Murray), the Sabbath as a day of rest (Greg MacDonald), the relationship of the Sabbath and Biblical revelation (Malcolm Macleod), the Lord’s Day as a day for worship (Alasdair Macleod) and the great anticipation of an eternal rest (Iain Smith). The introduction (George MacAskill) and conclusion (Andrew Coghill) assert the great need to observe the Lord’s Day in a positive, encouraging, and relevant manner.   

In an age of declining church attendances, Sunday trading, a move towards a single Sunday service and little interest in observing (a day for the Lord and to honour Him, not to do as I please) the Lord’s Day, this book is timely and to be commended. My only caveat is that it is perhaps “preaching to the choir” and those who believe that the Sabbath is for the Jews only or that the 4th Commandment is not binding for Christians today or those whose faith ‘is kept so private, personal and secret that nobody else should be exposed to its teachings’ are not likely to be convinced by the arguments presented here. Also, readers familiar with Walter Chantry’s book “Call the Sabbath a Delight” or Daniel Wilson’s “The Lord’s Day” will find much overlap with this publication.  

On a personal note, perhaps more helpful would be a book which suggests practical ways/activities for individuals, couples, families and the local church to fill their time profitably on the Lord’s Day and so “call the sabbath a delight” (Isaiah 58:13).   

This book is available from DayOne

Jenson Lim, Dunblane Free Church 

‘The Lies We are Told, The Truths We Must Hold’, Sharon James (2022) 

The world around us can often feel overwhelming and chaotic with all the different voices trying to tell us what and how to think and act. We live in a world that seems so far from what we see in scripture, and yet we often don’t know how to engage with it from a Christian point of view. Sharon James’ book is a helpful tool to both understand the lies that the world is telling us and to give us confidence that we can combat those lies with the truth of scripture.   

The first part of the book looks at the lies we are told, and it goes through the ideas that our culture presents as truth: there is no God, no absolute morality, no universal truth and no universal humanity. James takes us on a whistle-stop tour through the development of these ideas through history and seeks to highlight the reality of what these ideas mean when worked out in practice. It is a fascinating and sobering read.  

In the second half, James turns to the truth we must hold and shows how each of these lies is combatted by the truth of scripture. We begin with the fundamental truth that there is a God, and from there, we have a basis for morality, absolute truth, human flourishing, and ultimately, we have a future where every knee will bow to Christ as King. It ends with a chapter entitled ‘What Should I Do Now?’ which helps to outline how we take this truth and hold it against the lies of the culture around us. She shows how the truth of scripture brings light to a dark, chaotic world and seeks to help Christians have confidence to speak the truth against these lies.   

James refers to her book as a ‘basic primer’ on these topics and points to many helpful resources for those who want to dig deeper. It’s a great place to start for those who are trying to make sense of the culture around us and want to hold out the truth of the gospel. 

This book is available to purchase from Mound Books

Carrie Marlow, Free North Church, Inverness