Friday, 29 April 2016

Isaiah by the Day

This book gives me a headache - on what shelf should I put it? It calls itself a 'devotional commentary', but it would be difficult to comfortably put it in either (or fit it in as a matter of fact because of its size.  At 22 x 17cm it is a big 'un). For the moment I have settled for devotional.  It is certainly not a verse by verse commentary, and would not be useful to consult in this way.  But at the end of each of the 71 sections Motyer has divided the book up into (for convenience sake), there is a paragraph of reflection.  This is usually excellent.  Well composed and concise but full of matter for mediation, application and prayer.  It has not been a drag to use this book for daily readings. They are fairly long, but fascinating, although not perhaps for everyone.  It depends on whether you are willing to accept the author's own translation of the prophecy of Isaiah.  Do you want to read it in an unfamiliar rendering, or would you prefer to simply follow what you know? The advantage of proceeding with the former is that Motyer, with his skill as an Old Testament scholar, adds many snippets of translational notes and historical references.  He has also translated and set out the text in a form so as to reflect its literary style, and give a feel for the original language.  Motyer's passion is to enrich people's experience of Isaiah, and in this he succeeds well. This is a nicely produced hardback edition and would make a suitable gift for anyone who would like to be considered as a student of the Bible.
Isaiah by the Day, by Alec Motyer, published by Christian Focus Publications, £14.99

Monday, 21 March 2016

Life, the Universe and Everything

I came to this book interested, but not overly enthusiastic.  I hadn't read Rob Slane's previous book (although it does sit on our shelves), nor do I usually like the often cringe-worthy style of imaginary conversations in defending a point. However, I have to say I was very pleasantly surprised and even gripped! Rob Slane is obviously a man who has walked the atheist walk and talked the talk.  He knows the arguments inside out and is well placed to write on this topic. Not only that, he writes well.
So in the book we follow the conversation between an atheist (Alex) and a Christian who happen to be sitting together on a train and discover many similarities and many obvious differences between themselves. In this way we cover the main atheistic objections to Christianity:
Objection 1: If God exists, prove it
Objection 2: Science has disproved God
Objection 3: If God is so good, why does he allow evil?
Objection 4: You don't need to believe in God to be moral
Objection 5: What is truth?
Objection 6: Christianity is irrational
Objection 7: Religion is just a crutch for people who can't face reality
Objection 8: Nobody believes the Bible any more
Objection 9: Christianity has failed to fulfil its promises
Objection 10: Give me one good reason why I should believe what you believe
The topics range widely and we read discussion about Richard Dawkins and Charles Darwin, from Epicurus and Francis Schaeffer to Bertrand Russell and his teapot. We consider the vulnerability of humanist ethical standards, the reality of living with no absolutes, the relativity of subjective truth and the irrationality of a purposeless universe. I found the book fascinating and informative without being too heavy. I would happily give the book to older children as well as adults; Christian, atheist or agnostic.
And by the way, the conversation style is so realistic I even admit to finding myself wondering what happened next to Alex and whether there will be a sequel!
A Christian and Unbeliever Discuss... Life the Universe and Everything. by Rob Slane, Day One Publications, £7

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

A Clearing of the Mists

In Pursuit of Wisdom upon the Scottish Hills.
Martin Haworth is a previously unknown name to me, but he reveals something of his journey to faith in this deeply reflective book. His has been a varied life: brought up in Manchester (Mancunians beware page 31!), dropping out of University to a back-to-nature job in forestry in Scotland, but also at other stages working in business in the Middle East, then starting up a guesthouse in the Scottish Highlands, before feeling a call to missionary work in the Philippines. He has always had a passion for the great outdoors, and the mountains of Scotland have drawn him back again and again to them, not only to complete his round of the 'Munros' (all the peaks over 3000 ft high to the uninitiated), but also for spiritual reasons. He would be the first to refute the idea of valid spiritual experience deriving solely from lonely mountain fastnesses, without regard to the Creator of those wonderful high places, nevertheless here his soul has been refreshed in God. Out of these times he draws some twenty one chapters of 'guided meditations'. Their titles, such as 'Seeking Direction', 'In Adversity', 'Being Approved', and 'In Fear of Man' give a flavour of the topics he explores, relating them to particular ascents he has made on well known, and some less well known, mountains of Scotland (hand drawn maps helpfully included). Haworth has some great tales to tell: most of his walks were solo (not to be copied!) and many were in demanding but rewarding winter conditions. Hill walkers of all standards from pootlers to scramblers will respond to his enthusiasm for the wilds. It is good to come across a book of this type, which has a christian perspective on it, and aims at magnifying the glory of God as seen in his creation, as well as deriving lessons for life's pathway. The meditations and their applications are not all of the same quality: there is some navel gazing and some doubtful theology to be sure, but there is also much to chew slowly and thoughtfully on. Here is your invitation to create a 'mountain panorama' of your life (and draw it if you wish, see page 249!) Note: many Bible portions are quoted in full, unfortunately from the NIV.

'A Clearing of the Mists' by Martin C Haworth
Christian Focus Publications
£8.99 p/b


Thursday, 11 February 2016

Elizabeth Prentiss - by Sharon James

Just occasionally, publishers get book covers horribly wrong. We all know you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but we all sub-consciously do it.  So, we are very pleased to see that Sharon James' biography of Elizabeth Prentiss has a new dust-jacket.

The contents have not changed and the price is the same, but because we still have a copy of the book with the older dust-jacket we are selling it cheaper. Instead of £15 you can have it for £10.  Use voucher code MORELOVE when you order online, or quote this code to order by phone/email.
Tip: The book without the dust-jacket looks great!

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Virtually Human

We live in an era when our information is increasingly provided by a search engine, and our interactions are via social media. Technological advance is hailed with optimism and increases in pace. But are we somehow being changed by the tools we develop? Are we becoming less human - more impersonal - in synch with a virtual world? But we hardly have time to frame these important questions, let alone find answers, before the next wave of technology hits us. This tends to provoke knee jerk reactions, either to look back to 'better days', or to embrace the change uncritically. But, as the authors put it in this book, 'the questions technology poses are not simply technological questions.' They are the old questions touching on the nature of human life. The big technology firms like Google and Facebook know this, and their advertising strategy is to provide consumers with a vision of human flourishing.
Here, immediately, a biblical perspective is required. What is the true vision for human life? Only in Jesus Christ are we set free and set right. All other stories are just that - stories. Fallen man seeks to set himself at the centre of the universe and put God out of the picture. The greater the power of the technology he develops, the more he magnifies evidence of his Fall in its employment. The internet and its related technologies provide unprecedented power, and these are now embedded in modern life.
Therefore in this book we are bidden to challenge attitudes and behaviour with scriptural truth. Personal ego, consumer culture, 'image', use of time and knowledge, empathy, community etc are all under the microscope. Parents may read this book with their children's online habits in mind, but will be reminded that their own interaction with the internet is to be examined first. We all want to be connected and in control, but unless we set some boundaries, we are in danger of being continually distracted, and failing to relate to real people in the here and now.
The authors are good at pointing out uncomfortable truths for us! But even if it is a rough ride at times, and I wouldn't go along with all the theology, be sure to engage with these issues, which a digital world thrusts upon us.

Virtually Human. Flourishing in a Digital World.
Ed Brooks and Pete Nicholas
p/b £8.99.

What a telling quote - 'When Facebook tells my friends that I am at home with my children, my children will tell you that I am actually on Facebook with my friends!'

Saturday, 16 January 2016

New resolution to read more?

Have you made a New Year's Resolution to read more? If you have, now would be a great time to join our online reading club Reading Together (ladies only).  We are just about to get going on a new book - Spiritual Mindedness by John Owen.  The idea of the reading club is to support and encourage each other to read books that we would normally find difficult or too time consuming.  Just a chapter or 2 every couple of weeks is all we ask - and you can keep up with everyone else by checking back on the blog & reading the posts and comments.  The blog is for subscribed members only. Have a look at the details on this new book and just send me an email ( if you fancy joining in.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Zion's Pilgrim

Robert Hawker was the vicar of Charles, in Plymouth from 1778-1827. He was concerned to engage the attention of his flock beyond the church walls with an extensive writing ministry, which is most well known for his Poor Man's Bible Commentary and Morning and Evening Portions. Altogether it ran to 10 volumes when his collected works were first published in 1831. He inventively adopted a different literary form in Zion's Pilgrim to provoke interest whilst instilling sound teaching. It appears his thoughts ran along similar lines to those of John Bunyan, and indeed this composition of his has been favourably compared with Pilgrim's Progress. It has the same theme - tracing out the life and experiences of a pilgrim (cf. Hebrews 11:13). However it must be said that in terms of literature it is far short of Bunyan's standard, although arguably reaching greater heights theologically. Hawker has a style that is quaint, his characters and plot are almost ludicrously contrived, but for the serious and discerning reader there is much meat on the bone here. His Pilgrim starts out and almost immediately encounters a neighbour - the Moral Man. Hawker's familiarity with the methods and reasonings of Pilgrim's antagonists is evident. He does not set up straw men to knock down, but we recognise in them the age-old arguments subtly brought forward. These deepen with the Moral Preacher at church, then shift when entering the home circle of a 'pious' family. But he is helped to progress by meeting a Traveller and through his introduction to a very different kind of prayer meeting and the (inevitable) Poor Man who ministers at it. Here we find a very different kind of religion, and one which begins to enter into Pilgrim's case. There are yet many adventures leading to his conversion, and after to an advanced age, but all are subservient to Hawker's purpose of instruction in the vital principles of a revealed faith. There is a savouriness about these truths which transcends the shortcomings of the form into which they are cast, and well repays persevering reading.
The edition of Zion's Pilgrim still available to purchase new is a paperback volume within Gospel Mission's Select Works set, which sells separately at just £6.95. They are reproductions of the originals, which is short of desirable, as this book could do with some reformatting. Introducing chapters would be helpful for a start!
Zion's Pilgrim by Robert Hawker, Gospel Mission, £6.95