BOOK OF THE MONTH: ‘Pastors and Their Critics’, Joel Beeke & Brian Hedges (Ligonier: 2020)
‘He who stands at the front will soon be kicked in the rear’ is a Dutch phrase quoted in the introduction of this book. Anyone in secular leadership knows this; everyone in spiritual leadership knows this. While I read it through the lens of ministry the lessons contained in this book have a wider application for how we handle criticism because humility, realism, grace and sober judgement are needed in all walks of life.
Within the context of ministry there is real, practical wisdom throughout this book in how criticism of our competence, conduct and even our character can be received, filtered and used by God to hone us into those who increasingly reflect our Saviour. How helpful then for the book to begin by noting how the ‘first person ever criticised was the only One who has nothing in Him worthy of criticism’. We have lots. When unhelpful, inaccurate and hurtful critique comes our way we need the self-awareness to recognise at least some truth in it. This book can be skim read but is likely to have far more impact to read slowly and allow the Lord to search our hearts, reactions and motives through it.
This book is available from www.amazon.co.uk
Alasdair M. Macleod, Smithton Free Church
‘The Rhyming Bible’, Bob Hartman (SPCK: 2019)
There are many children’s bibles out there, from first collections of bible stories to Catherine Vos’s remarkable work. ‘The Rhyming Bible’ is an excellent addition to the collection of any young family; the engaging rhymes bring a new perspective to familiar Bible stories without diminishing any of the gospel truth.
The Old Testament stories showcase the real breadth of God’s kingdom plan, from “It’s all good!” (Creation) to “If I die, I die” (unusually, Esther). However, it is in the New Testament chapters where this collection really shines. The stories chosen will be familiar to parents, but are thoughtfully presented to show children quite how beloved they are by Jesus. In “Rumbling Tummies” (Feeding the 5000) and “Waiting in Line” (Jesus and the children), kids will delightfully recognise themselves, whereas the last stories about Jesus’ death, resurrection and the coming of the Spirit really evoke the astonishment and physicality of these events. Plus, look out for the added bonus of a familiar song rhythm in one particular rhyming parable!
Bob Hartman is no stranger to excellence in Christian books for children, and it’s wonderful to see his skill and faithfulness outworked again here. Primary age children will love to read these stories again and again, either with or without a parent. Our son regularly asks for these stories as his bedtime stories, alongside his Bible – that’s just how much fun they are!
This book is available from eden.co.uk
Miriam Montgomery, Free Church Books
‘Luther and the Reformation: How a Monk Discovered the Gospel’, R.C. Sproul (Ligonier: 2022)
In his usual style of being able to take complex truths and present them in an easily understandable and readable way, R. C. Sproul has written, ‘Luther and the Reformation: How a Monk Discovered the Gospel’. It is a very short book but covers quite a lot of ground in its 113 pages.
The first part of the book is a summary of the life of Martin Luther. Sproul focuses on the main events of Luther’s life that led him to become a monk, pinning his famous 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, rediscovering the Gospel, and defending his writings before the Diet of Worms.
The second part of the book is a contrast between the Roman Catholic and Protestant views of Justification. Sproul grapples with the same issues that Martin Luther did over 500 years ago and demonstrates very clearly that the issues are still vitally important today. The question of how one is justified before God was at the heart of the Protestant Reformation and since it is a salvation question, it is always worthy of consideration in any age and time. Martin Luther stated that justification was the doctrine on which the church stood or fell. Sproul would agree.
R. C. Sproul, through the life of Martin Luther, challenges all readers to examine where they stand in relation to God and defends the truth that Justification is by faith alone in Christ alone. This book would be suitable for Christians at any stage in their walk with the Lord. Highly recommended.
This book is available from Mound Books
Allan Shearer, Dunblane Free Church
‘Immeasurably More’, Liz Parker (10Publishing: 2021)
This enjoyable book is a vivid, totally honest account of a MAF missionary family’s everyday life in Africa. It was extremely interesting to learn more about how MAF operates globally and to glimpse behind the scenes of various MAF team compounds. The author is a very good storyteller, who draws on her copious journal notes to give us an extremely detailed, comprehensive picture of her family’s life.
One of the things that struck me afresh was that, in order for MAF pilots to carry out their amazing work, it is the wives and children who often sacrifice most. Another thing I particularly appreciated was that the author is not ashamed or afraid to share her ‘un-Christian’ thoughts and feelings with the reader, even when she feels they do not reflect well on her. This ‘no-holds barred’ approach does not set missionaries apart from ‘ordinary’ Christians like us, so we can empathise readily with her and can consequently rejoice in God’s miraculous provision for the family time and again in the ordinary events of life.
The frightening account of the unrest in South Sudan and the subsequent escape from Juba was the part I enjoyed most in the book and, were this book to be made into a film, this would certainly be the exciting climax. From beginning to end, God is the central focus and it is immensely encouraging to witness Him doing ‘immeasurably more’ than the author’s wildest dreams. Read it and be inspired!
This book is available from 10ofthose.com
Judith Lewis, Bedyddwyr Cymraeg Tabernacl (Tabernacle Welsh Baptist), Llwynhendy