Our books this month are practical, Biblical and joyful.
BOOK OF THE MONTH: ‘Luke: An Expositional Commentary’, R.C. Sproul (2020)
What could be better than a book which encourages you to dig deeper into one of the gospel accounts of Jesus’ life? This book does exactly that.
Sproul’s writing is accessible and easy to follow — suitable for devotional use, and far less irritating that some commentary series with their unwieldy arrangements of material. This is not a ‘technical’ commentary, but there’s plenty of depth to make it worthwhile for the pastor who wants the insights of a respected scholar and pastor to assist his own grappling with the text.
The origins of the book in Sproul’s own preaching shine through, meaning there’s little time wasted on irrelevant details. And where he gets into complicated concepts, he’s worked hard to make them accessible and engaging. For instance, if you want an explanation of the pernicious heresy of Monothelitism, there’s a great one on page 537 which I think will make sense even if you’ve never heard the word before today.
Of course, understanding Monothelitism as a concept doesn’t matter in itself. But behind the philosophical question lies a better understanding of the person, character and nature of our Saviour. And that matters a great deal.
Benjamin Wilks, Covenant Church, Newmilns
‘Grace & The Grumblies’, Emily Shore & Katie Rewse (2022)
None of us can have avoided the cost of living crisis – at the checkout and on the news. Most of us are blessed with resources enough to cope with increased costs, but all too many families are simply not. In ‘Grace and the Grumblies’, young readers are introduced to Grace and her mum, and the superheroic efforts they make to keep the ‘grumblies’ at bay.
It is a children’s book about dignity, poverty and the support available to those who need it. It has been published by CAP (Christians Against Poverty) to explain its work and help take the fear and misunderstanding out of asking for help. It is delightful, sensitive, and a story every church and every child should read. Even if CAP doesn’t have a base in your town, you will have similar foodbanks and charities that work with the vulnerable. Jesus loves the poor and the downtrodden, and this book aims to offer that love to the families who need it most – and start conversations amongst the groups who can share it.
Miriam Montgomery, Free Church Books
‘Just Ask’, J.D. Greear (2021)
I am sure that we all wish praying was as easy as reading about it! This book by J.D. Greear does aim to make praying easier as we form a habitual daily prayer life. He deals adeptly with many of the barriers to prayer we experience and offers reasons why some prayers appear unanswered. He then challenges us to consider why we pray. We should pray, Greear argues, because of our affection for God; we should want to be with Him and talk to Him. We should not pray just to get something. This, to me, was the most useful section of the book. ‘If God is beautiful to you, however, then you will love to pray’, maintains the author. He then proceeds to demonstrate how the Lord’s Prayer (which he terms the Model Prayer) will aid us in our praying.
This helpful book, therefore, offers both principles of prayer and practical aids for praying. J.D. Greear writes in a modern vein, providing effective illustrations both from his life as a father and also a pastor. Overall, I found this book beneficial even though I was not totally convinced by the way it was structured.
Gari Lewis, Tabernacle Baptist Church, Llwynhendy
‘Truth on Fire’, Adam Ramsey (2021)
One sentence in the ‘Introduction’ of Adam Ramsey’s book ‘Truth on Fire’ immediately held me tight in its grip: ‘What if we didn’t have to choose between an intelligent faith and a passionate one?’ The next sentence made sure that the book didn’t let me go until I had finished it: ‘After all, a sharp mind with a cold heart is just as big of a fail as a heart radically on fire about nonsense.’ Hey presto, here was a book that spoke to a long journey of faith which has taken me, very much a ‘Feeler’, and my husband, who is absolutely a ‘Thinker’, across the Christian traditions until gradually we have become much better at celebrating who we each are before God, both as individuals and as a couple.
But of course, the mutual respect of differences is a lesson that never ends – and it’s because we’re still learning that this book, with wonderful warmth, quiet confidence, great clarity and an inspiration that is faith-building, is such a help. Adam Ramsey makes it abundantly clear that God loves both Thinkers and Feelers: he loves us to think intelligently about Him and He loves it when we come to Him and to each other with honest hearts, especially when those hearts learn to sing, whatever life’s circumstances, because we are so close to Him. In fact, an intelligent faith and a faith filled heart that sings are two sides of the same coin that is life in Christ. And the author speaks his message by enveloping us in the absolute truth of our good God who is almighty, ever present, all loving, all forgiving and always rooting for us.
In the end, ‘Truth on Fire’ left me pondering the potential beauty and power of individual Christians and church communities – in all of their glorious technicolour – that are really good at joyfully respecting and celebrating the coming together of both hearts and minds to worship God in Truth and Spirit……. however different that might sometimes look like and feel like from each of our norms. I reckon that it would certainly make God’s heart sing!
Catherine Knights, Church of England, Bishop Auckland
These books are only a small proportion of the ones we review. You can find all our reviews online at https://books.freechurch.org