Old but not out!

There can be a tendency for us to write people off when they get past a certain age. This habit can on occasions even surface in churches too. In his book “Old, but not out!” James Taylor looks at what we can discover from the bible about serving God in older age.

The book looks at some inspiration men and women who continued to serve God faithfully and be used by Him in old age. We see the example of Abraham and Sarah, Caleb, Naomi, Simeon and Anna and also the apostle Paul at the end of his life. The author shows us important and valuable lessons that can be learnt from each of these bible characters. This is both an encouragement and inspiration to us that God can still use people whatever their age. Interestingly, the author also includes a chapter on Eli in which we are challenged not to allow our standards to drop in our old age.

I particularly like the way that James Taylor encourages the reader that they can still serve God in their old age. We may have retired but that does not mean the end of any ministry for God. He gives some interesting modern examples of how Christians are doing this. It’s inspiring to read about people in their nineties starting bible study groups!

Sometimes older people can feel that aspects of church services are very different to when they were younger. However, the author reminds us that our security is found in God.

Anyone who reads this book will certainly discover that older people are not “the church of yesterday.” Although this book is only 107 pages long there is a very good depth to it. I would highly recommend this book for readers of all ages!

 

Darwin and God by Nick Spencer

Many books have been written looking at Charles Darwin’s theories and the legacy he left behind. This book though, written by Nick Spencer, is not just another one looking at the debate in Christian circles between evolution and creation, but in it he has set out to actually examine Darwin’s own religious beliefs.

The author traces Darwin’s religious thoughts from various writings he wrote throughout his life including letters, notebooks, manuscripts and also his autobiography. Some of this material expressed views that Darwin carefully kept out of public sight during his life. However thanks to the wonders of modern technology these writings can now be accessed on line.

The book looks at the way in which his religious beliefs changed over the years and examines the sort of Christian faith that he grew up with, one which seemed to often epitomise the era in which Darwin lived. We see how he struggled to reconcile his religious beliefs with the scientific discoveries he made.

Nick Spencer also looks at how the death of Darwin’s favourite daughter Annie had a profound effect on his beliefs too. Darwin like many before him and since struggled to understand the hows and whys of suffering, and the author believes it was this that finally brought about the end of his Christian faith. We then see how in later years he moved to an agnostic position.

One of the characteristics of Darwin which impressed the author was the courteous way in which he dealt with those who disagreed with his views. And the book concludes with him reflecting that this courtesy is often missing from those who engage in fierce debate about evolution and religious beliefs.

For anyone who wishes to look closely at what Darwin did actually believe as opposed to what they think he did or did not believe then this book is a good read and may offer you some surprises.

The Road Home

The parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15 is one of my favourite bible passages and I am always keen to read any books that cover this amazing story. The Road Home, by J.John, is a book based on this parable which I read again last weekend.

J.John retells the story through the eyes of a servant who works for the father. He captures the heartache that the father experiences when the younger son leaves and the wonderful joy when he returns. We also see clearly the bitterness and anger of the older son too. The book concludes with the servant himself also discovering the father’s love, which deeply affects him as well.

I think that this is a very clever spin on the parable of the prodigal son. The introduction of the servant and another couple of characters works well. I found the book both moving and encouraging. The author through this story reminds us of the grace and forgiveness and extraordinary love of the father. I also like the fact that he reminds us that there are two sons in this story. There are lessons that can be learned through the rebellious attitude of the older son too.

Although I have read it before it was good to read it again. The book is a short one, only 95 pages and can be read straight through fairly quickly. This book is both encouraging for Christians and also challenging for those yet to experience the wonderful joy of returning to the father.

Thank God it’s Monday by Mark Greene

This is a well written and easy to read book for anyone struggling with what it means to be a Christian in today’s workplace. Greene believes that it is God’s will for Christians to work, although he makes no distinction between those in paid employment, such as the CEO of a large multi-national organization or the stay at home mum. He states that, whatever we do, we should seek first to honour God rather than our earthly bosses. Indeed he even suggests that, as all authority comes from God, our earthly bosses have been empowered by God to transform us and make us more Christ-like – a real challenge if you struggle to get on with your immediate supervisor!

Greene asks why there is generally so little preaching and teaching on workplace evangelism (although this may be due in some instances to the make-up of a congregation if it comprises mainly retired Christians or folk who may have little hope of gaining paid employment in particularly deprived areas). He reminds us that the success of any outreach is winning people for God not increasing individual congregations. Greene also addresses some of moral dilemmas particular to the workplace with practical examples dealing with such things as using office equipment and being asked to lie by your superiors.

Even since the first publication of this book the working environment has changed significantly with a long hour’s culture now almost the norm in many jobs. The author looks at this issue and the impact that it has on our lives. The book avoids offering any easy solutions but does challenge our attitudes to work, and those we work with, and warns against compartmentalising our lives.

I particularly like the fact that he is not afraid to share examples of when he has made mistakes and I am sure many of us can identify with him in this respect. This is certainly a book that I would recommend.

Vanya by Myrna Grant

In July 1972 a young soldier in the Russian army, Ivan Vasilievich Moiseyev who was a Christian, suffered a violent death. Myrna Grant records the events that led up to his death in the book “Vanya.”

When he joined the Russian army, at the age of 18 years old, Ivan had only been a believer for two years, but he had a Christian maturity way beyond his years. The night before he started his service with the army, Ivan told his father that God had told me to speak out for Him and not be silent. Ivan made the brave and very costly decision to follow that command from God.

It did not take very long after joining the army before Ivan ran into problems as a result of his faith. Throughout the book we read of the severe trails and punishments that he endured for being faithful to God. We also read about a number of miraculous signs and events that occurred which baffled those persecuting him.

There are numerous accounts of questioning he went through and pressure being put on him to deny his faith. However, not only did he refuse to deny Christ but bravely spoke out witnessing in His name.

Towards the end of his life Ivan sensed strongly that he was not going to survive the ordeal he was experiencing, Yet he preserved. At the end of the book there is a collection of letters he wrote to his family in the last month of his life which are very powerful. In these he speaks of his love for Christ and his determination to be faithful to Him.

Ivan was only 20 years old when he died and he had only been a Christian for four years. He paid the ultimate price for being loyal to his Saviour.

I’ve read this book a number of times and strongly recommend it. This is an amazing story and it’s very challenging to read about how brave and loyal Ivan was to Christ.

Daily Prayer 2

Daily Prayer 2, written by Nick Fawcett, is a book which provides a resource for anyone seeking a deeper walk with God.

Each day’s devotion follows the same format: read, ponder, ask yourself, pray, remember and close.

The first section, read, consists of the bible reading for the day. Ponder contains some thoughts and reflections from the author on the theme for the day. Then follows ask yourself, which normally has two or three questions for the reader to answer in relation to the theme. Next is the pray section which contains a prayer to help us respond to what we have read so far. Remember is a bible verse and the devotion finishes with close which is the closing prayer.

In addition to providing 365 daily devotions, there is also a supplement section which focuses on certain seasons of the Christian year e.g. Holy Week and Easter, which fall on different dates each year. There is also a devotion written for 29th February too!

I especially like the supplement section of the book, as it means that the reader can use this resource in whatever year they wish and still have relevant seasonal readings too.

One of the most striking features in this book in my opinion is the richness of the pray section. The author has a gift of writing some powerful and meaningful prayers which are very helpful. I find that he seems to be able to “hit the nail on the head” with his prayers.

If you are looking for a devotional book then this is one that I would recommend.

Scandalous

Scandalous is a book written by D.A.Carson that examines five New Testament pieces of scripture to discover what they show us about the death and resurrection of Jesus. The material in the book is taken from five addresses that the author gave at a conference.

The first chapter is entitled “The Ironies of the Cross” and is based on Matthew 27:27-51a. Through this passage we see the irony of what is being played out at the cross. For example: the man who is mocked as King is King. Matthew knows this and in the passage makes it clear to his readers. However, the mockers and the soldiers do not realise this, but the gospel writer knows this, the reader knows this, God knows it and Jesus knows it. He is indeed King of the Jews.

In the second chapter, “The Center of the Whole Bible” the author looks at Romans 3:21-26. He argues that this passage of scripture is not only key to understanding the letter to the Romans but the whole Bible itself. He does this by showing where the passage falls in the book of Romans and what Paul establishes through these verses.

The next chapter is called “The Strange Triumph of a Slaughtered Lamb” and is based on Revelation 12. The author believes that it’s important for us to consider Satan’s rage against the church so we can understand what is happening in Christianity today. He does this by explaining in this chapter: The Occasion for Satanic Rage, The Reasons for Satanic Rage and How Christians Overcome Satanic Rage as outlined in Revelation 12.

In chapter four, “A Miracle Full of Surprises”, we look at the events of John 11:1-53. These verses in John tell the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. D.A. Carson believes that we sometimes miss the element of surprise which is in this text as we have become superficially familiar with the Bible. He then breaks the chapter into four sections each containing surprising elements that we may have previously overlooked when reading this passage.

The final chapter “Doubting the Resurrection of Jesus” examines John 20:24-31 and looks at the apostle Thomas. The author starts the chapter by listing six causes of doubt. However, his argument here is that John is addressing the specific doubt of Thomas and not the universal answer to doubt. He then goes onto discuss: The Cry of a Disappointed Skeptic, The Adoration of an Astonished Skeptic and The Function of a Converted Skeptic.

Including the indexes at the back of the book, which includes a scripture index, the book is reasonably short at 173 pages. However, it is packed full of teaching on the cross and resurrection of Jesus that is clear, enlightening, encouraging and challenging. It is one of those books that should certainly be read more than once. If you are looking to read a book this Easter which reflects on the important events of Good Friday and Easter Sunday then I would recommend this book to you.