Friday, 28 February 2020

Trusting Through the Tears

Keren Baker and her family have experienced many trials of different kinds: bereavement, chronic illness, mental health issues and financial difficulty, to mention a few. Trusting Through the Tears was written to show how God's grace has shone through the trials of their lives. This is not just their story though, and in fact it doesn't give much detail on their particular trials, but it does have much to say on the care and compassion of the Lord they trust.  The practical elements of coping with the difficulties of day to day life is woven in amongst the spiritual necessities of handling trials. Indeed we are exhorted to focus on the spiritual when all around us is falling apart, but we are also given practical ways of doing this from Keren's own experiences.
We read about the need to be honest in our weakness and how this weakness will show forth the glory of God better than any show of 'false' strength we have in ourselves.  We also learn about how to combat loneliness, with very real examples of how loneliness can be a problem even in a crowd.  The practicalities of prayer when struggling mentally or emotionally is not glossed over and we are shown the necessity of recognising the sovereignty of God and submission to the mystery that may surround our circumstances. Peace is considered: what this really means and feels like in a seemingly chaotic situation. The definitions of comfort and true joy in all these things is another topic, plus a recognition that a sense of brokenness can actually in truth, mean a fuller wholeness.
The chapter that really resonated with me highlighted the beauty of spiritual depths found in those who have suffered and the spiritual fellowship that can be found there.  It was a reminder to look for those depths in ourselves and others, and not to be satisfied with the shallowness of so much of our routine conversation. The ugliness of suffering causes the beauty of grace to shine ever brighter and will bring a richness to relationships that would not otherwise be there.
I hesitate to write this, but this is a very 'British' book (there is a subtle difference between British and American authors, which is not to say that one is better than the other 😉). In a practical and realistic way, it has a lot to teach us about trials and how we grow through them. I have found it helpfully thought-provoking and would recommend it to those who are suffering or those who are supporting the suffering (which should be all of us!).
Trusting Through the Tears by Keren Baker published by Evangelical Press.

Thursday, 30 January 2020

Reading Recommendations...

Our latest eBulletin has been sent out with some new reading recommendations & offers...
In particular this book 'Counting the Cost' has been proving popular and is well reviewed.  It is a sober and inspiring testimony of God's help and grace given while enduring the most terrifying ordeal.  British missionary doctors David and Shirley Donovan were taken hostage with two others by a crazed gang in Nigeria and held to ransom.  Their gripping story is interwoven with their search for meaning in it, and what they came to learn of the sovereignty, yet nearness, of God through it.  It challenges the flabby Christianity too often evident today, and is a humbling and searching book to read, and to confidently recommend to others.

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Friday, 10 January 2020

God Sings! (And Ways We Think He Ought To)

The curious title of this book reflects Zephaniah 3:17, which reveals that God in some sense sings with joy over his people.  Douglas Bond has turned back to non-fiction again in this his latest book, and is concerned with how and what the church should be singing back to God in worship.   He has clearly thought long and hard, and visited many churches, to research this issue, which has great practical impact right across all denominations.  Bond is a hymn enthusiast with a love and appreciation of music.  But he is not concerned with merely lobbing grenades over the divide between those who favour contemporary worship music, which has had a huge take up in the last few decades, and those who hold to traditional hymn music.  Even though it becomes apparent that he comes down on the side of the latter, his concern is rather with genuine enquiry than with recrimination.  A compelling part of his investigation is his concern to analyse the church music scene using biblical principles.  Hence Bond critiques ‘high art’ music as well as ‘folk art’; ‘solemnity’ as a criteria for hymn singing as well as 'emotion'; psalm-only convictions as well as culture-sensitive ones.  However, as this is achieved in his lively and familiar style of writing it doesn’t feel too intense to be useful in a book of this size and purpose. In following out his view of hymn composition as the most exalted form of poetry, he gives profitable space to the analysis of some of Isaac Watts’ and Augustus Toplady’s hymns. And he justifies his concern over contemporary lack of formal poetic education, and the way music takes priority over words, by taking a look at one of the most successful modern worship songs, '10,000 Reasons' by Matt Redman.  Just one gripe I have with this book is that it is not well edited in my opinion.  Only at the end of the book where the acknowledgements are placed, does it become clear that it began life as a series of articles and lectures over a period of years.  This explains the small degree of repetition, but it is regrettable nevertheless. But don’t let that itch put you off - this is a good theological guide to the sung praises of God.
God Sings! by Douglas Bond, Scriptorium Press, £11.99

Thursday, 24 October 2019

Joy in the Sorrow

Suffering.... No-one is immune to it, but everyone reacts differently to it. Joy in the Sorrow is a collection of stories from Christians who have suffered. Matt Chandler, pastor of a large American church, introduces the book and includes his own experience of having a brain tumour. But then the remainder of the book is written by various members of his own congregation. Not well known Christians, but 'normal' everyday Church members who have walked through deep trials and have learnt to rejoice through them. These stories show the greatness and goodness of God in his gracious, personal dealings with each believer. From the death of a young child, to the death of a young spouse; from chronic physical illness, to long-term mental health issues; from family breakdown, to childlessness. Each story is a clear testament to a God who sanctifies suffering, who walks with his people through trials; who teaches, guides and directs in these difficult pathways.
This is a moving read, but well worth it.

Joy in the Sorrow - How a Thriving Church (and its Pastor) Learned to Suffer Well by Matt Chandler, published by Good Book Company, £8.99.

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

The Fruitful Home

It is always a pleasure to read an Ann Benton book. Her style is down-to-earth and practical when writing on family matters, whether it is caring for young children or elderly parents. Her latest offering is no exception.  'The Fruitful Home' is based on her many years of parenting and running parenting courses.  She writes according to the principle given in the letter to Titus - as an older woman teaching the younger. The emphasis of the book is that of the importance of creating a gospel culture in the Christian home, and the necessity of weaving our faith into every aspect of our lives.  This may seem obvious but Ann shows how the current culture or trends can creep in and subtly squeeze out Biblical principles in the busyness of everyday life.
Beginning with Psalm 128, Ann shows the importance of a sound Biblical ethos to undergird all of life in the Christian home. Whatever mistakes are made, if the gospel essentials are there then the home will flourish.  This is the basic premise.  Ann then digs into the foundations to look at the building blocks of the home; the Structure, the Substance and the Story. With these sound foundations in place, Ann then continues on to look at the furnishings, the day to day living out of Sorrow, Sympathy, Service, Sharing and Sojourn.
This is a helpful little book, not an onerous read, and when read with thought, one that will give much profit. For Christian parents, those who truly love and fear the Lord, this book is a gentle reminder to maintain the Gospel culture in the home and stand against the worldly culture that frequently knocks at the door.

The Fruitful Home by Ann Benton, £4.99

Monday, 5 August 2019

A Holiday Attraction in Yorkshire

Last Saturday I paid another visit to the National Coal Mining Museum (, which has a splendid visitor centre and attracts a good tourist interest, if the numbers I saw then are anything to go by. However I was disappointed by the paucity of books on sale in the gift shop. The few there looked dry and uninspiring, and it seemed to me that they are missing a great opportunity. Surely there must be many more books on and around the mining industry and its social history for adults and children. And not only non-fiction but quality fiction too. I'm convinced it would add great value to the gift shop.
But it struck me that the NCM's location near Wakefield is only 4 miles away from the bookshop by road - we are on its doorstep, as it were. Hence a visit to the museum could be comfortably combined and enhanced with a visit here on the same day! And to continue the mining theme of the day, amongst our great range of titles, we have a little gem of a book for children called 'Pitfall!'

This is a wonderfully evocative book set in the industrial revolution with a lovely story of disaster and salvation - well told in a modern style. What makes it stand out are the abundant illustrations. The stark black and white artwork perfectly captures the grimness and grime of the times, and of the hard lot of children then. And the imagination is as powerfully stirred also by the depiction of the light of God's grace shining in a dark place.
As you may have gathered by now, I highly recommend it! Especially at £2.95.
So add the NCM + bookshop combination to your list of holiday must-sees when in Yorkshire, and you won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Summer Reading Club - Staff Recommendations

If you follow us on our social media sites you will notice that we are regularly posting 'staff recommendations' for your summer reading.  Our latest recommendation came from Jeremy and was for Patrick of Ireland - His Life & Impact by Michael Haykin. Here is a repost of Jeremy's original review when the book was first published in 2014...

Of the Early Church Fathers perhaps none is so remembered in the secular world than (St) Patrick, and few so neglected by evangelical Christians!  It is therefore a joy to discover anew this beacon of Celtic Christianity, reclaimed from outrageous legend and Romish gloss by Michael Haykin.  Whilst it would be going too far to claim the true Patrick (died c. AD 460) as an evangelical - indeed anachronistic - yet his faith seems sound, and certainly orthodox.
Haykin treats as suspect almost all historical data apart from the two different documents definitely ascribed to Patrick - his 'confessions' and a letter to a British chief.  From these we learn that although Ireland was the backdrop for the most significant features of Patrick's spiritual life, he was in fact from Britain.  He was carried captive to Ireland by pirates while a youth, converted during this time, and then managed to escape back to his homeland.  Later he made the momentous and courageous decision to go back to Ireland, now freely as a missionary to bring the gospel of Christ to those who had once been his captors.
Patrick was not some superstitious monk, but a humbly educated man with an intense devotion to his Old Latin Bible.  Haykin provides an assessment of Patrick's belief in the inerrancy of scripture and of its place in the development of his thinking about ministry, mission and doctrine.  Another chapter helpfully discusses Patrick's theology, particularly his Trinitarian creed.  Today's evangelical, who perhaps assumes the Trinity and gives scant thought to it, would be shamed by the fervent commitment of Patrick to the correct understanding of God's nature and being.  Celtic Christians like him were certainly not primitive or doctrinally flabby!  This is recommended reading.  One criticism would be that there is some repetition of material due to the way in which the book is arranged, with Patrick's life and times followed by more detailed specific studies of his thought.
This is the first in a new series edited by Michael A G Haykin called 'Early Church Fathers'.

Don't forget that you can take advantage of our Summer Reading Club to get 25% off all your purchases over the summer - all you have to do is spend an initial £15! The club covers secondhand books as well as new books so you could pick up some real bargains. Click Summer Reading Club to see all the details and more staff recommendations.