Christian Book Reviews Section (53 reviews, 25/7/11)
Here are a few book reviews of Christian books I have read. Hopefully this will help you in book decisions. Actually, these aren't all Christian books, but are 99% Christian.
Arguments rage about which Bible is the 'most accurate'. There are countless (mostly pointless, ludicrous & inaccurate) pages dedicated to the promotion of the King James (Authorized) Version of the Bible. While the rest of us get on with the job Jesus has actually called us to - evangelism and discipleship - here are some of the Bibles we've used and their strengths..
Contemporary English Version (CEV) - a very clear Bible based on accessibility. This, like the Youth Bible, can over-simplify some texts for the sake of clarity ('respect' not 'fear' the Lord, which is true but a little incomplete). However the Bible provides some fresh insights on existing Bible texts. I occasionally go to this Bible if I want to see if something can be put 'better' or 'clearer' than the NIV.
Proverbs 3.5-8: With all your heart you must trust the Lord and not your own judgement. Always let him lead you and he will clear the road for you to follow. Don't ever think you are wise enough, but respect the Lord and stay away from evil. This will make you healthy, and you will feel strong.
Matthew 28.18-20: Jesus came to them and said: I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth! Go to the people of all nations and make them my disciples. Baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to do everything I have told you. I will be with you always, even until the end of the world.
NIV Bible - not much that can be said. Yes, in some places the Bible could be put better and some of the English is beginning to show its age. However, God has used this Bible to do incredible and almighty things. So no diss!!
Proverbs 3.5-8: Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight (or 'will direct your paths'). Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.
Matthew 28.18-20: Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
NIV Bible (2011) - in 2011, an updated version of the NIV was released with what they believe is more accurate text, from updated understanding of Hebrew and Greek. Not everything is different, but there are some updates and new ways of saying things.
Proverbs 3.5-8: Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.
Matthew 28.18-20: Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
NIV Life Application Study Bible - an excellent and weighty tool. This has a commentary on many verses, at the foot of each page, called 'application notes'. It includes full-page excerpts of information on Bible characters called 'Personality Profiles' and introductions to each Bible book. There's also a section on the 'Harmony of the Gospels' which give 250 key events in the life of Jesus from across the Gospels. It includes comprehensive maps, a thematic index, countless cross-references on every page and a very good concordance too. Very complete and I use very little else now.
Proverbs 3.5-8: Trust in the Lord (Psalm 37.3,5) with all your heart and lean not on your understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths (1 Chronicles 28.9) straight (or 'will direct your paths') (Proverbs 16.3, Isaiah 45.13). Do not be wise in your own eyes; (Romans 12.16) fear the Lord and shun evil. (Job 1.1, Proverbs 16.6) This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones. (Job 21.24). [There is a large note about Proverbs 3.5 and 3.6]
New King James Version (NKJV) - Derek Prince preferred this version the best, overall !
Proverbs 3.5-8: Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD and depart from evil. It will be health to your flesh, And strength to your bones.
Matthew 28.18-20: And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.
The Amplified Bible (expanded edition) - the Amplified Bible does a great job of providing an amplified / wider understanding of well-known Bible passages and words. Often in the Greek (or Hebrew), the word means several things at once and doesn't have one clear meaning that can be summarised in one English word. What the Amplified Bible does it attempt to expand on the meaning of a word by providing the other relevant words that something could mean. So instead of 'love' it may say, love (God's love that is found in Chris Jesus). Very useful text to add to your normal Bible. I often hear Creflo Dollar use this version (on top of the KJV that so many black majority churches in the US strangely seem to favour). But no worries!!
Proverbs 3.5-8: Lean on, trust in, and be confident in the Lord with all your heart and mind and do not rely on your own insight or understanding. In all your ways know, recognize, and acknowledge Him, and He will direct and make straight and plain your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; reverently fear and worship the Lord and turn [entirely] away from evil. (Proverbs 8.13). It shall be health to your nerves and sinews, and marrow and moistening to your bones.
Matthew 28.18-20: Jesus approached and, breaking the silence, said to them, All authority (all power of rule) in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go then and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Teaching them to observe everything that I have commanded you, and behold, I am with you all the days (perpetually, uniformly, and on every occasion), to the [very] close and consummation of the age. Amen (so let it be).
The Message - the original 'street' Bible. Something totally different and more of a transliteration rather than a direct translation. Some people seem to have an issue with it because of this but not me. The Message is outstanding, fresh, unique and relevant. Occasionally, the non-US world may struggle to identify with some of the Americanisms, but just change some of the words and you'll be fine. This is not meant to replace your 'normal' Bible but to assist and breathe fresh life into existing Bible passages and stories, with a new 'live' dynamic in its writing prose. It does this with great effect. Awesome, love it.
Proverbs 3.5-8: Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
don't try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God's voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
he's the one who will keep you on track.
Don't assume that you know it all.
Run to God! Run from evil!
Your body will glow with health,
your very bones will vibrate with life!
Matthew 28.18-20: Jesus, undeterred, went right ahead and gave his charge: "God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I'll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age."
Youth Bible - excellent Bible for young people, especially in the 11-14s range. The language is clear and simple. Includes helpful life stories and links to various issues such as sex, self-esteem etc. Some of the translations are over-simplified, however. This begins to tell as young people get older and more questioning. But a great tool nevertheless. I still use mine.
Proverbs 3.5-8: Trust the Lord with all your heart, and don't depend on your own understanding. Remember the Lord in all you do, and he will give you success. Don't depend on your own wisdom. Respect the Lord and refuse to do wrong. Then your body will be healthy, and your bones strong.
Tony Anthony, 'Taming the Tiger'
Incredible testimony from Tony Anthony who was brought up by his brutal uncle in a Shaolin and Chinese martial arts and kung fu culture. His childhood is best described as being hard, with no love and full of beatings. He became a kung fu expert and used this skill all over the place, winning championships and ultimately moving on to become a hit-man and bodyguard. His was a life that many people don't know even exist, where violence is king. This landed Tony in a notorious Cypriot prison. However, it was here that God broke into this life and changed Tony completely - and in the process, many other inmates. Nevertheless, he had a setback, being imprisoned in the UK. But again, God used this to shape Tony, bring the gospel to many UK converts. Now, Tony ministers around the UK, sharing his story. I know someone who knows him. This story is real and powerful. (My only suggestion for change - I have not read the newly released 2006 version - is that there is quite a dramatic change between the 'non-Christian' and the 'Christian' halves of the book. I realise this is to be expected with such a great testimony, but a little more careful linking would really help, just an opinion!)
David Burt, '50 sketches about Jesus'
Lots of great sketches in here, most of them are very usable too! You may want to tweak, develop or let it inspire you. Very much like this website! There is a teaching point for each sketch. The start of the book contains many useful and essential nuggets of wisdom from David Burt too, gained through much experience. There is an allegation of raps being in this book (erm, no!) but there are some great rhymes.
Gary Chapman, 'The Five Love Languages'
Gary Chapman is a Christian and the director of Marriage and Family Life Consultants. In this really helpful book, he intersperses powerful and very moving testimony & story, with one simple message. The message is that we all need to be loved, but we all express it and need to receive it in different ways. If we can understand the 'love language' of our spouse / partner / friends / family, then we can revolutionise our relationships. Countless marriages have been improved and transformed through his books and work. Basically, there are 5 love languages: quality time (spending good time with your spouse); words of affirmation (active verbal encouragement and support); giving of gifts; acts of service (putting the bin out, doing the lawn etc); physical touch. We all major in one, or two of these areas (for me it is physical touch and words of affirmation). We need these things to help us feel loved and encouraged. If we learn what it is for others, we can love them through doing this and help keep them encouraged and loved. Simple yet inspiring and life changing stuff.
Jeff Chang, 'A history of the hip-hop generation'
This won't appeal to many of you. But Jeff Chang gives us a sometimes brutal and always fascinating look into the history of hip-hop culture. This journeys through the history of Black America, through the projects, the gangs, the troubles, social movements and the voice of hip-hop culture. We meet the pioneers and the players. This focuses much on the history and is less a present day record of hip-hop. But it contains insights to help us, warn us and even encourage us. Read and learn.
Ron Dunn, 'Don't Just Sit There.. Have Faith'
What is faith? I'm still trying to fully get my head round it. OK, we all know that faith is believing in God and trusting him. Others explain faith as the entire leaning of yorself on God. But how do we work this out in different areas? What does it mean to 'have faith'? This is an excellent and complete guide - with very real and practical life examples from Dunn's life and from the Bible (eg 'Believing God. A Case History'). I found it very encouraging about nothing being impossible with God, a challenge not to have unbelief as this hinders God, standing in Jesus' complete victory on the cross and faith leading to you acting with authority (in Christ) and passion. Dunn doesn't shirk away from the difficult issues (those that had faith, but didn't see things happen) from Hebrews 11, but encourages us that God is a rewarder of our faith and to verbally and physically manifest our faith in God. I think the teaching can best be summarised by this excellent phrase (p93), "Faith that pleases God believes that God is better than His best gifts." In short, seek the giver not the gifts. Seek God's face and not simply his hand.
Doug Fields, 'Purpose Driven Youth Ministry'
This book has become a staple for most youth workers across the US and UK. If you haven't yet read this book then you've missed out. This book genuinely challenged, encouraged and helped transform the youth work that I led. It is subtitled, '9 essential foundations for healthy growth' and it does exactly this. It is well written, very clear and full of the purpose that it promises. In addition to the excellent advice, there are practical guides, photocopiable resources, lessons from Saddleback Church and much more. Again, this is a book that is very highly recommended - essential even. Chapters are:
- The Power of God
- Potential Audience
- Planned Values
- Participating Leaders
- 9 different appendices
My only piece of advice to the reader of this is: make sure you follow the advice in an organic and instinctive way. I have seen youth ministries apply this in a legalistic, formulaic way. Please don't. This is intended to help you move forward and release your youth ministry, not to get you to conform to a set pattern. This is not the fault of the book at all, but the fault of those that wrongly apply the principles within. Grace, not law.
Edward W. Goodrick and John R Kohlenberger III -
'The Strongest NIV Exhaustive Concordance'
Excellent NIV concordance, in fact it's supposed to be the best. It has an exhaustive index of every word in the NIV; definitions for every Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek word in the Bible and more. Basically it's a big book with thin pages that is a massive list of words in the Bible and where you find those words. Then you can check out what the Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek says about those words - and what definitions they could have. It's basically what the Amplified Bible does to some extent, but with more depth. Use both together and you'll know more about the Bible and Biblical meanings than most. But hey it's not enough to just know it, start applying it!!!
Stephen Gaukroger, 'It Makes Sense'
This is the 1996 version. It has since been updated (2003). This book covers different sections of apologetics of the Christian faith. It is by no means complete but gives excellent and clear arguments, Biblically based, on believing in God, suffering, other religions, Jesus, the Bible, science, hypocrites, eternity and more. 11 chapters in all. Definitely a good little book that many people would read. Not in-depth but not meant to be. Small in size, big in wisdom.
Roy Goodwin and Dave Roberts, 'Grace Outpouring'
This has to be one of the most encouraging books I've read in ages. Before we even start this review I want to encourage every Christian to read this book! It's the story of Roy and Daphne Goodwin and their experiences at Ffald-Y-Brenin in Pembrokeshire. The stories and ways that the Holy Spirit has been moving in this retreat centre up a hill in West Wales will encourage and motivate you. It's hard to bottle the essence of the stories in this book except to say that God is moving in a special and unique way, impacting people miraculously. It is a place where people stop by, drawn in by God's power. Not yet Christian and Christian alike, God breaks people, convicts, challenges. God is doing amazing inner and outer healings, breaking through to people in prayer, dreams and revelation. People who don't know God are falling to their knees in repentance, recognising the reality of God. Ffald-Y-Brenin has become a house of prayer, a signpost to the nations and a visible revelation of the manifest presence of the Holy Spirit. Like the Goodwins, I believe that it is out of our desperate and passionate seeking of God that he moves. When you want God more than anything, want his Kingdom to come and want his presence and allow God to do things his way, he will work. He'll move in your own life first, shake you and break stuff off you. But the power of God tangible at Ffald-Y-Brenin is something all Christians should pursue. Out of this, God can move in our families, communities, churches and nation.
Pete Greig (with Dave Roberts) - Red Moon Rising
A totally inspiring book about the 24/7 prayer movement, its origins, calling, development and work today. Pete Greig has an incredibly easy-going and powerful style of writing, helped by Dave Roberts. There are incredible stories of God's grace, guidance, healing, you name it... If you want to see God move, get on your knees in full submission and be ready cos anything can and will happen. We journey with Pete all around the world to see what God is doing globally. Pete also documents the personal cost and his personal journey, not glossing over the struggles of having a wife not-yet healed. Its raw, real, incredibly encouraging and cannot recommend highly enough.
Joshua Harris, 'Boy Meets Girl: Say Hello to Courtship'
This Boy Meets Girl is a follow-up to the first book by Josh Harris called, 'I kissed dating goodbye.' The book points the Christian man or woman away from dating - an all-too common practice (even among Christians, and incredibly, even dating non-Christians). Instead, Harris encourages all believers to follow a pattern of courtship. This is a more steady relationship which is highly accountable and with clear boundaries in place. The first chapters contain real wisdom and some fantastic, moving stories. However, where the book really falls down is in its legalistic, almost obsessive rules for relationships (no kissing before marriage - even holding hands is almost frowned upon etc). This book would not have been written by a Brit! However, Harris shows that following God's plan and rules will lead to a more successful marriage. When compared to Derek Prince's book, however, it falls way short. Except in the great stories which will encourage and poignant stories - and its early chapters.
Andy Hawthorne, 'Mad For Jesus'
This book is one of the few books that genuinely inspired me. More than that it excited me about Jesus so much that I couldn't help dream dreams, jump around my room like a loony, write some more hip-hop and worship tracks to praise God. It raised my expectations and increased my faith levels. Honestly. This book is written by a man passionate for God and it makes you passionate for God. It tells the story of the vision of the World Wide Message Trust (as it was) and the Message Trust. It's a story of great faith, hope and achievements for God. What a book. I cannot recommend a book more highly than this. God is central, God is big, God is powerful. So is the vision of the Message Trust. This book has been updated since...
Andy Hawthorne, 'Diary of a dangerous vision'
This is the update of 'Mad for Jesus'. Existing chapters from the first book have been summarised, changed and even removed for the sake of space. New chapters included focus on the new projects of the Message Trust and its hope for the future - be that Eden projects across Manchester, visions for young evangelists and training. Another outstanding resource, highly recommended. Again, passionate and inspiring.
Tim Hughes, 'Holding Nothing Back'
Another great piece of work from Tim Hughes. This book takes some of the title tracks / lyrics from the songs on his 2007 album 'Holding Nothing Back' and other albums, as Tim digs deeper into worship, the awe of God and our right response in worship to who God is. This isn't so much a practical guide to worship leading but rather making the goal of life of complete worship, submission and true humility, concern for the poor - a life submitted to God. The book is full of moving stories, personal illustrations and plenty of Scripture. There are 8 sections - 'You are above and beyond understanding' - 'You opened my eyes to your wonders anew' - 'Creation joins as one to sing' - 'When silence falls' - 'You'll be the song in my heart' - 'I am yours, Jesus you are mine' - 'Living for your glory' - 'Christ in me the hope of glory'. Tim encourages us to be creative, to use the lament found in the Psalms, to look to the almighty works God has done in the heavens and in our lives. The book is very easy to read, accessible and yet deep all in one go. Highly recommended, as is his 2007 album which is full of very strong songs (can't find a weak one!)
Tim Hughes, 'Passion for your name'
A great book from Tim. What is refreshing is the ease of writing, the honesty, humility and openness with which Tim speaks throughout the book. This book is written primarily for music worship leaders and worship team members, in bands and musical groups, across the spectrum. It mainly focuses on bands but has essential nuggets for everyone. This is more than a music worship book, however. Tim rightly identifies that our relationship, love, obedience and passion for Jesus is at the heart of worship. We look at Bible characters, such as Tim's favourite character, David. We learn valuable lessons from the life of David, and much more besides. There is also a specific musical focus - band leading, choosing songs, musical dynamics, small group worship and more. Above all, Tim emphasises that what is essential is a heart for God. This transcends music ability, although we are challenged (like he is) to grow musically and in gifting. I found this very helpful and clear. It won't have everything you need, it may have lots you already know. But it is a great and easy read.
Selwyn Hughes & Trevor J Partridge,
'Through the Bible every day in 1 year'
This is a programme of daily readings through the events of Scripture in the order they happened. The book is very well laid out and clear. As it says on the description, it has the Bible readings in chronological order. This breaks down to many different sections, such as 'The story of the flood' and 'Jesus chooses the twelve'. It then has all the related Bible readings for that section. A fun and easy way to read through the Bible in a year.
J John & Mark Stibbe, 'A Barrel of Fun'
A quality book with many illustrations for talks, assemblies and sessions with young people and adults alike. Many of these may have been used, but you will find some really useful stuff. Everything is broken down under alphabetical headings such as 'identity' or 'love' etc. Some sections have more than others. There are some incredibly powerful stories in here. Occasionally it is a bit weak and could do with some more meaty personal testimony and better humour, but overall a very good book to have in the locker!!
J John, 'Look before you leap'
An excellent book from the man J John, looking at relationships, dating, courting and thinking carefully about a future spouse. This is a very personal book, written from great experience and from listening to and watching people. The book is non judgemental and yet brings home the Word of God and God's purpose for relationships and marriage. The 2 parts of the book look respectively at the foundations of marriage and considering & creating a marriage. We look at the different types of love (commitment love being the essential ingredient for long-term, as well as romance!) There is a very helpful section on making the right choice - especially helpful are 12 points to really look at within your potential spouse and yourself. J John advises that if you have any doubts in any of these areas, you should think, pray, talk and act carefully. Very helpful for anyone in a relationship or considering marriage. Hmm..
Tommy Kyllonen (aka Urban D) - Unorthodox
If you haven't heard of Crossover Community Church in Florida, then where have you been??! This is the first church that God called to be a hip-hop church. This fantastic book by Tommy Kyllonen, the pastor, is a look at 4 elements (like hip-hop originally had 4 elements): An unorthodox life (his story and that of Crossover); an unorthodox culture (looking at hip-hop); an unorthodox approach (ministry to the culture, looking at emergent church) and finally a short but helpful appendix section. If you want to be inspired, get this book. The first chapter is just so amazing. If you want to understand hip-hop culture, this will educate. If you want to see a new model of church representing the same awesome God we all serve, check that section out too. I have had a small measure of contact with Tommy and his wife Lucy and I want to say they are a humble and awesome couple who love God and what he's called them to do. I would support these guys and Crossover in whatever they did, but this book is genuinely excellent anyway. Get the CD that comes with it too, the testimony in some of the tracks is so moving and power-packed - as is the book.
Roger Love, 'Set Your Voice Free'
This is subtitled 'how to get the singing or speaking voice you want'. I picked this up as part of my own vocal training to improve my voice when both rapping and singing in the worship band. This comes with a great CD with many examples of how not to sing, along with how to sing. This includes exercises around the octave, and the octave and a half. Basically, Roger Love breaks down how to use proper diaphragmatic breathing and how to find your 'middle' voice. That is, the natural voice in you. He encourages us not to shout or strain with a throaty voice, but gives exercises to find our middle voice, no matter where the pitch of the note. Easy, very clear, practical. A bit too many stories and waffle about things that could be written more succinctly. But the quality of the exercises shine through.
John C. Maxwell, 'Developing The Leader Within You'
The journey of leadership brings its own challenge, as God's unique path for each of us takes its own twists and turns. What we can do is to stay open to God, his Word and Holy Spirit - and learn from other people who are further down the road than us. John Maxwell is a Christian and a leader in the world of business and the church. Although much of the principles in this book are aimed at the much larger US churches (compared to most of our smaller UK churches), the lessons are equally applicable. The book is easy to read, very clear and with so many principles and advice that it demands to be read more than once. Stories and anecdotes lace the pages to encourage us and make us think. At times, the book got quite business-like and American (not a criticism, simply a fact). But Maxwell gives us clear advice on what leadership is (he calls it 'influence'), how we grow in leadership (communicate more effectively, with the right people, be a problem solver etc) and the underlying facets such as integrity, self-discipline, vision, attitude - and the fact that leadership can be learned / grown in. The most excellent chapter (out of several) was the chapter on people being your biggest asset. We all learn in different ways I personally don't enjoy training or training conferences and learn by being released, watching others and growing on the job. However, this book recognises all of this and is quality stuff for those prepared to listen and learn.
Joyce Meyer - 'Battlefield Of The Mind'
Joyce's best-selling book was one that God specifically called me to read and it has made a great difference in my life. What is it? Well, Joyce looks at the mind and how it impacts our life, negatively or positively, taking Proverbs 23.7 as her foundation - "For as he thinks in his heart, so is he". There is a constant use of Scriptures, filling page after page with relevant Bible verses that Joyce encourages us to learn, speak out and bring our minds into agreement with our prayers and the Word of God. So many of us have battles in our mind - with wrong thinking, spiritual attack and self-doubt that comes from events in our life. But there is always a solution and the more we focus on God and his Word, the more we speak God's Word over our life and fill our minds with Christ - "But clothe yourself with the Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah), and make no provision for [indulging] the flesh [put a stop to thinking about the evil cravings of your physical nature] to [gratify its] desires (lusts)." (Romans 13.14, Amp). This is no self-help book, focusing on positive thinking. This is a God-help book, focusing on agreeing with what God says about who you are in Christ. We look at The Importance of the Mind, various Conditions of the Mind and 'Wilderness Mentalities.' Every section is full of help, relevant examples, testimonies and powerful Scriptures. One of the best and most powerful books I've read and a vital for every Christian.
Joyce Meyer - 'Enjoying where you are on the way to where you're going'
The premise of this excellent book is John 10.10, something which God has really been encouraging me about. In the Amplified Bible, this renders as, 'The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows).' Joyce teaches us that enjoying life is not based on our circumstances but is through an attitude of the heart. Often we don't enjoy life because of the way we are, the way we react and the things around us. Often it is not others that need to change, but us - soaking in the Word of God. Other times we may not enjoy life because we are waiting for the next thing (that God has promised), but not enjoying where we are now. This book is an aid to helping us. We look at life being a journey; making a decision to enjoy life; disposing of regret and dread; simplicity; coming to Jesus with a childlike faith (and trusting him in all circumstances - a biggie for many of us); legalism; religion and more. One of the best chapters is 'Joy in God's waiting room' where Joyce shows Biblical evidence for times of waiting, of being pregnant and birthing God's promises, of God arranging stuff while we cannot see (and continue to praise, thank him) and that God often moves suddenly. A very encouraging chapter that is worth the price of the book alone. Marked down slightly as some sections simply aren't relevant to me, but will be to others. If I were to mark this book on the strength of Chapter 11 and a couple of others, I'd give it a 5 easily.
Joyce Meyer - 'The Battle Belongs to the Lord'
Another solid offering from the very practical, Biblical and down-to-earth Joyce Meyer. Taking 2 Chronicles 20 as her basic foundation, Joyce helpfully guides the reader through overcoming life's battles through worship, with God's power being released by us knowing who we are and knowing who God is. The book is divided into 2 sections. The first section, mainly based on 2 Chronicles 20 where Jehosophat was told by God to take his position, stand firm and wait for deliverance as the battle belongs to the Lord. Joyce breaks this down into 4 sections - hearing from God, depending on God, taking your position and the Lord bringing the deliverance. I found this very helpful. The second and much larger chapter focuses more on worship, citing many examples of worship, dependency, prayer, wisdom and courage - with examples from Elijah and Esther among many others. Overall a very helpful book with around 200 pages and easy to read as ever.
Joyce Meyer - 'The Power of Simple Prayer'
Joyce Meyer ministries have a real focus on the power of confessing the Word of God, of renewing your mind and washing it clean with God's Word. Joyce also encourages people to believe the Word of God and to focus on God for who he is, not what he can give. 'Seek God's face and not his hand' is a common phrase. In this book, Joyce encourages us to talk to God about everything. She explains that prayer is way beyond mere religion, but about relationship. Prayer is communing and communicating with / hearing from God every day, just as the Bible encourages us when it tells us to prayer constantly. Joyce identifies that very often, we just need to pray simple prayers - God doesn't always need us to repeat things over. However, there is advice on different times / types of prayer - including petition / perseverance when God calls us to specifically keep on praying and believing until God's timing comes and breakthrough happens. Other areas covered include praise and worship, consecration and commitment, the Word and the Spirit, intercession and agreement. We also have a look at the keys to powerful prayer, and hindrances to our prayers. The book includes many personal testimonies and examples. Everything has a Biblical basis and is extremely encouraging. Initially I found it hard to get into the book, but this builds and builds in authority and anointing. Truly this does cover practically every aspect of prayer you can think of - and them some. Top stuff.
Mark I Pinsky, 'The Gospel According to The Simpsons'
If you like The Simpsons, you will love this excellent resource. It is funny, engaging and Biblical. What it does is deconstruct The Simpsons, characters and individual storylines and show how God is relevant to all of it. In some cases as we know, there are direct references to God in The Simpsons. This has been one of the unwitting keys to its success. This really is a very, very good book and highly recommended. Chapters are:
- Divine Imagery
- Personal Prayer
- Does Lisa speak for Jesus
- The Evangelical next door
- The church and the preacher
- Heaven, hell and the devil
- Moral dilemmas
- The Bible
- The Jews
- The Creators
David Pawson, 'Unlocking the Bible'
There are many books about the Bible, but there is none like this masterpiece from the man David Pawson. David has been a pastor, author and Bible writer for many years. The sheer vastness of his knowledge in this encyclopedia of a book is astounding. What is more stunning is the ease in which he writes so clearly and so engagingly. This book looks at each Bible book and tells the story of it, introducing us to many insights, links between books and everything in between. This is no verse by verse concourse. Rather, it outlines and summarises each book of the Bible with great interest and clarity. Very easy to read and you'll find wisdom in here that you could not find elsewhere in more 'normal' books. Beware though, it's 1342 packed pages long! 'A unique overview of the whole Bible.' Couldn't have put it better myself.
Derek Prince, 'Derek Prince on Experiencing God's Power'
This is an outstanding book from the late Derek Prince. Informative but clearly laid out and easy to read. This covers a few topics, some of which have separate books written by Derek (and Ruth) Prince:
- The Holy Spirit - good introduction to the person of the Holy Spirit
- God's Medicine Bottle - using God's Word to bring healing
- God's Remedy For Rejection - dealing with feelings of rejection, God's solutions
- The Marriage Covenant - the nature of marriage, by Ruth Prince
- God's Plan For Your Money - Biblical principles of money and giving
- Does Your Tongue Need Healing - dealing with the tongue
- How To Fast Successfully - principles of fasting, practical helps
- Shaping History Through Prayer and Fasting - examples of prayer and fasting
- Spiritual Warfare - great information on this, covering defensive and offensive weapons
Derek Prince, 'Entering the Presence of God'
It is quite strange when an author releases a book, after their death - but Derek Prince Ministries has been releasing a number of books taken from audio and teachings of the late Derek Prince. This book is one such example. In this we look at our attitude in God's presence; our response; in spirit and in truth; your body, soul and spirit; four blessings of the new covenant; four requirements of true worshippers; physical attitude of worship (the word worship in the Bible is always associated with a position of the body, or a physical manifestation from the tongue); the inevitability of worship and worshiping at the throne. Some of the pages give incredible understanding to worship ('Thanksgiving relates to God's goodness, praise relates to God's greatness, worship relates to God's holiness') and we are encouraged to 'enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise'. There is a very detailed look at the body, soul and spirit - relating to the layout and build of the temple in the Old Testament. This is very insightful, but I got a little lost at times in the depth and richness of the temple and what each part meant. The book is likely a compilation of different Derek Prince talks, stitched together. Nevertheless, very helpful book.
Derek Prince, 'Faith to live by'
I have struggled at times to understand the nature of faith. Yes, there is a faith when we come to know Jesus personally. But beyond this, what is faith really? Is it as simple as some charismatic preachers make it out to be, or is it more complex? Why were some Bible characters encouraged for their faith in Hebrews 11, what was it about their life? Derek Prince shows us that faith is both very simple, and very deep (as it always is with God). The book is full of the Word of God and encourages us to look beyond the English text into the Greek meanings of what is in the Bible. This gives new insight and discernment. So, what is faith? Well, in Matthew 19.26 Jesus said, 'With God all things are possible.' Then in Mark 9.23, 'All things are possible to him who believes.' Faith is the channel by which God's possibilities become available to us.
We look at faith, not sight (we live by faith, not by sight); faith versus hope (faith is something deep, beyond a mere 'hope'); faith as a gift (eg when Jesus cursed the fig tree, this is God's faith); faith as a fruit (to be worked out - 'faith comes' meaning we can grow in it); faith to live by; how faith comes (by hearing the Word of God, believing and obeying); faith must be confessed (by the mouth, Matt 12.34 saying the mouth speaks what the heart is full of); faith must be worked out and faith must be tested. This is an encouraging book and I intend to re-read it to really absorb what the Holy Spirit has revealed within its pages. If you want to understand and grow in faith, this book is one way that will really help.
Derek Prince, 'Focusing on the orphans, widows, poor, oppressed'
This is a very short book, talking about something that became an increasing quest for Derek Prince through his life - caring for the orphans, the widows, the poor and the oppressed. When I first heard a talk on this, I began to understand more about the deep necessity for us acting to help the needy. This book summarises much of what I heard in short and clear chapters. We look at the life of Job, the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah, the teachings of Jesus and learn from Derek's personal experience. Like Derek, my heart has been really pumped for taking action in giving and loving others. There are so many ways we can get involved personally and by giving. Let me encourage you to make a choice to give today, full of joy and expectation for God to move in the lives of others. We were put here to make a difference.
Derek Prince, 'Foundations for Christian Living'
Another outstanding and comprehensive resource from Derek Prince. This is a very packed and very Biblical book to enable you and direct you in every area of your life. What I have consistently found with Derek Prince, is his ability to make Bible texts and lessons so incredibly clear. This includes areas where you have some knowledge and new insights. This book continues that ability. This is based on Hebrews 6.1-6.2 and includes the 6 doctrines on which we should build our Christian lives. Unfortunately, my copy is, er, being 'borrowed' by a Christian friend - which means I haven't seen it for a minute.. Oy, give it back!!
Derek Prince, 'God is a Matchmaker'
Are you single and thinking of investigating what God has to say about marriage and preparation? In this book, you will learn much as both Derek and Ruth Prince share their insights. Derek bases his teaching on God bringing Eve to Adam and 4 basic principles that accompany this. Alongside it, Derek shares several points for the men / Ruth for the women, about how to ready yourself for a relationship by your life of service and worship before God, and other people. This is not a guide like the many other guides, but more an excellent teaching manual on marriage preparation. I'd recommend this to single people, those thinking of marrying, about to be married, who are married - and parents. It really is that good. Especially moving is the story from Ruth Prince of how she met Derek and how God prepared them both. Interestingly, Derek and Ruth both prepared with personal lives of worship and submission to God. And God really moved in the Derek Prince Ministries when Ruth arrived. Truly behind every great man is a great woman. Now, where is she..?!
Derek Prince, 'Husbands and Fathers'
Although I am neither a husband nor a father, I wanted to read this book to learn about both so that I can be the best husband / father that God calls me to be (I pray) and to learn more about this. Of course, most of us want to be married and have kids (even those that can't bring themselves to say this). But we don't realise how much we need God's help in these 2 beautiful elements of life that God has appointed and anointed. In essence, the role of the father is threefold: priest, prophet and king. This translates to representing your family to God (priest), representing God to your family (prophet) and leading your family (king). Derek also looks at marriage being a covenant, discusses how lack of fathers (or negligent men) are society's greatest problem and the roles of husband / wife. There is encouragement for those who feel they have failed and for those who are fatherless. God is the perfect father. Helpful stuff.
Derek Prince, 'Promised Land'
The subtitle for the book is 'The future of Israel revealed in prophecy'. Derek Prince and his second wife, Ruth Prince both had a long history with the nation of Israel and its people. Derek was there when the state of Israel was born and they lived there, spent much time there as individuals and as a couple when married. This gives a very clear, reasoned and Biblical insight into God's purposes for Israel. We learn much about how the nation was miraculously born in a day, about how Bible prophecy was clearly fulfilled and how God promised the land in and around existing Israel to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. This book includes a chronology of events in Israel from 1947 to 2004. We also have a lot on the future of Israel in light of Bible prophecy and the words of Jesus. There's little doubt in my mind that Israel has a special place in God's heart and a significant role to play. Derek believes that the church and Israel are not one and the same but that both are massive in God's plan. Derek leaves us with a challenge that our attitude towards Israel matters to God.
Derek Prince, 'Receiving God's Best'
A short, small book from Derek with around 100 pages. The premise is helping the reader to understand how to receive God's best, God's richest blessings for their life. Although many of the principles contained are basic, Derek lays out 8 clear principles in his usual clear and Biblical way. To summarise, he quotes what he once heard someone say, "God gives his best to those who leave the choice to him' (in all areas of life). The 8 sections are summarised on pp101-102 as: (1) Want God's best. Do not settle for less; (2) Focus on Jesus; (3) Meditate on God's Word; (4) Make friends with the Holy Spirit; (5) Hear and promptly obey God's voice; (6) Be careful how and what you hear; (7) Be more concerned with the eternal than the temporary. Make sure your priorities are right; (8) Let God choose for you.
Derek Prince, 'Rules of Engagement'
Another excellent book by Derek Prince Ministries, looking at spiritual warfare and how to be a soldier, taking your rightful place in the battle under the Lordship of Jesus. The book is broken down into 4 sections: Building a soldier's character; Holy Spirit training; Battle in the heavenlies; Enduring to the end. In a way, this is another book put together out of separate talks, so needs the 4 independent sections of the book although they link together well. God is looking throughout the earth for people whose heart is perfect towards God. Where the Holy Spirit finds this, God delights to show himself strong in that's person's life through manifesting God's power, blessing and approval in that person. We need to understand the enemy, understand and be obedient to God, know the times and endure to the end. As ever, Derek writes clearly but with great depth. This is not an easy read, but essential stuff for the serious warriors!
Derek Prince, 'Self Study Bible Course'
Excellent Bible study course. Daily sessions taking you through many aspects of the Bible and life. This is broken down into 20 sections. Each section encourages you to look around both the Old and the New Testament and record your answers to Derek's questions in the spaces provided. At the end of each session there is a kind of 'answers' section which also gives you extra help and information about the questions and answers which is very helpful. In an average session you have about 24 questions, but some of these have more than one answer. Expect sessions to last for around 30-45 minutes depending on how fast a worker you are, and how closely you look. Each day has a memory verse (something that's died out in most churches), and the following day you are encouraged to remember the previous day's verse. There are 4 main sections (Foundations, Deeper Life, Israel, The Future). At the end of these main sections (which include a number of sessions), you are encouraged to review your progress. Sessions include the Word of God, God's plan for Salvation, water baptism, the Holy Spirit, worship & prayer, God's plan for healing, witnessing, God's plan for prosperity, Israel, Portraits of Jesus, The second coming, signs of Christ's second coming, God's kingdom established on earth.
Matt and Beth Redman, 'Blessed Be Your Name'
A small and short book, written from personal experience at the difficulties in life and the pain. The question is whether we are going to worship God in life, despite the difficulties that come to all of us. We take a closer look at some of the laments in the Bible, some of those Psalms that we'd rather skip past. Yet they have spoken to me, to others so much in times of trouble and dark night's of the soul. There are also 2 very moving stories from the many letters Matt receives. These 2 are accounts of how Matt and beth's song, 'Blessed Be Your Name' really helped families who had lost children. There are 2 pictures of the 2 children involved. Very powerful, as I also lost my brother and my mom also suffered a miscarriage between myself and my brother. Along with other hard times, I can relate to some of the pain Matt and Beth have suffered. Still I will say, 'blessed be the name of the Lord'. The book doesn't quite carry the true anointing of the song, but may be that book that helps you (to help others too).
Matt Redman, 'Facedown'
Another small and short book and in the words of Tim Hughes, 'a beautifully crafted and poetic book.. (with) profound insight into the glory of God.' So true. Matt has produced a gold nugget of a book here, short as it may be. There is nothing of the practicalities of worship in this book unlike some of his others. This is about the glory of God and our response to this. Once we have a revelation of who God is, we cannot help respond in worship, reverence and by falling facedown. Some of the most beautiful and exquisite writing I have ever read can be found in Chapter 3, 'Mysteries so Bright' where Matt does an awesome job of defining some of God's character. Worth the price of the book alone. We are left marvelling at God's grace at the end of this book and inspired to agree with David Crowder who is quoted in the book as saying, 'I want to build cathedrals. I want to use words and notes rather than stone and mortar'. Profoundly beautiful words, just like this book.
Patrick Regan, 'Conspiracy of the Insignificant'
Patrick Regan heads up the schools / community project XLP in London. Having heard Patrick speak at 2 of our youth events and met him at following training events, I can thoroughly recommend this excellent and challenging book. It's a fantastic read and even more encouraging to see how a real servant of God has seen God move through his and other people's lives. The urban environment is a tough one, but Patrick encourages us with real and moving testimony both good and difficult. It is a clear example of how our lives laid down and fully submitted to Jesus will bear much fruit.
Roberta Roberts, 'Is That You Lord'
I wasn't able to complete reading this book. However, I have read through much of it and flicked through other parts. This is subtitled, 'practical methods for learning spiritual discernment' and it really is a pretty neat book. This book helps us discern what is God's voice in the many situations our lives face. This is Biblical and practical and has an easy read through its 11 chapters. The one area I would improve (personally speaking) is simply the hybrid typeface which doesn't make reading a great pleasure!
J Oswald Sanders - 'Spiritual Leadership'
Some books are very key to your life's discipleship. This (updated edition) of thus classic leadership book is one of them. As someone in leadership and wanting to grow further in serving God, it contains some useful insights and some humbling realities. Not only is this book like a practical manual for leadership, it is soundly Biblically based. The book reads well without having the 'grab-me' effect of some books. But it more than makes up for that spiritually-speaking. So many areas of leadership are covered, it would be hard to write about every area. There are sections on what leadership is, the fact that it is a noble cause for those willing to take up the challenge of serving others for God. Life lessons from two of the New Testament's key leaders, Paul and Peter are included - as are Old Testament stalwarts like Moses, Jethro and Joshua. We sweep effortlessly through all the angles of leadership - standing ahead in prayer, really using time wisely and reading well. Life leadership lessons flow aplenty - improving leadership, delegating and a highly challenging section on the cost of leadership. Through the book, life and Bible examples energise the text. What you're left with is what Charles Colson calls 'the best book on Christian leadership I've read'.
Kerry & Chris Shook, 'One month to live'
If you haven't caught their ministry out of Fellowship of the Woodlands in Houston on TV, you've missed out. Kerry (the bloke) and Chris (the woman) Shook are a vibrant and clearly loving couple (I think!) who have written a book sub-titled, '30 days to a no-regrets life.' There are 4 main headings in this easy to read book (Live Passionately; Love Completely; Learn Humbly and Leave Boldly), broken down into 30 sub-sections to cover the 30 days. This book is not aimed at being a rigorous interrogation of the Scriptures, but a Biblically sound guide and overview to living life with meaning and purpose. Although aimed at Christians, this book would easily be readable in places like the States where people are generally more open to a faith-based approach to life. Kerry & Chris Shook use some great visual props at the church (one time constructing a whole pirate ship, another time a motorbike track, other times something more simple). What they excel at is using everyday things and applying the Bible practically to those things. This book is full of that, using life illustrations with the life-giving Word of God. It is a little light if you're looking for Biblical exposition, but this well-written book is full of character, love and genuinely helpful life principles.
Efrem Smith & Phil Jackson, 'The Hip-Hop Church'
Great book on the influence of hip-hop culture and its need to be redeemed, not dismissed by the church. This focuses on the US scene, mainly from an African American perspective. But there is much in here for everyone and I would strongly recommend this for anyone into hip-hop, wanting to incorporate it in church (and not before time). It's also insightful for youth workers, working both in suburban and urban communities (white males buy 70% of the hip-hop music. Half of all Christian US teens purchase hip-hop). The writers are experts in their fields of both youth work, and hip-hop culture. There are 3 main sections:
- Why should the church care about hip-hop?
- Understanding hip-hop culture?
- Bringing hip-hop into your church
Leonard Sweet, 'Soul Tsunami'
Basically this is a book about the church and its existence in the post modern (or indeed the post post modern) world. This is a very deep book that raises many insights. However, I have to say that at times it loses itself in its own complexity. Like an academic thesis, it goes to great lengths to use words that no-one uses or has even heard of. But this still includes insights that you'd be hard pressed to find anywhere else.
'The Relevant Church' (many authors, relevantbooks.com)
This book from the well-known Relevant Magazine authors, takes a look at 15 different models of church around the US. All of these feature creative, inventive and unusual ways of doing church - at least to those used to traditional models of church. These include hip-hop, skate church, 24/7, artistic, comedy, creative arts and new media expressions of church and missional communities. Each church gets a few pages only. But it may be a place you want to look if you feel called to new expressions of church and want some knowledge of how others do it and started up.
Frank Viola and George Barna, 'Pagan Christianity'
This is a well-hyped book, promising to expose the Pagan roots of many aspects of the Christian church today. Indeed, the authors have done their research, using and quoting a variety of sources to evidence their views that there are pagan origins of church. However, where this book falls down is in the interpretation of the Bible, the (non-malicious) misuse of Bible verses and using the Bible as a tool to support personal preferences with other ideas rejected as being less Biblically valid. The purpose of Scriptural interpretation must be to reveal God’s truth, rather than to simply support a pre-existing thesis. The sections on worship, the sermon and the Sunday service are all poorly argued from a logical point of view and include using Ephesians 5.19 and 1 Corinthians 12 out of context, plus simply misinterpreting 1 Corinthians 14. The conclusions we end up with are simply the author's preferences of how things should work in church and unfortunately undermine much of the arguments made. Unfortunately, we are left with a book with valid points to make, a genuine heart to challenge us in what we do and why - but that ultimately fails to offer truly rigorous solutions. Despite this, hopefully the conclusions made in this book will enable people to uniquely think and hear what the Holy Spirit is saying to them, rather than going with the latest fads in Christian thinking. We have written a rebuttal of some of what appears to have been written in the book. Click to find this as a PDF
David Watson, 'One in the Spirit'
A stunning book from this deceased yet outstanding Bible scholar and author. Brilliant book on the person of and the role of the Holy Spirit. This opened my eyes in so many ways and taught me so much. 130 pages but packs the wisdom and insight worthy of many more pages. I'm not sure this book is printed any longer, except as part of other of his books put together. The typeface is a little ye olde serif typeface. But what a fantastic book on the Holy Spirit!
Andrew White - Faith Under Fire
Andrew White is the 'Vicar of Baghdad' in Iraq. This review is short and sweet. Buy this book, it shows you true Christianity beyond the health & wealth selfishness of many TV preachers and churches. GOD TV are currently doing 'Behind the Screens' with Canon Andrew White (and the Salvation Army paper, 'Salvationist'). The story of Andrew's life, the way God has used him in Iraq, Israel, 'Palestine' and across the Middle East is awe-inspiring and jaw-dropping. The powerful way in which God is working in Iraq despite the horrific persecution of many and the terrible violence and corruption, is extraordinary. The faith of the people and especially of the children and young people is beyond description. There are stories of heartache mixed with incredible stories (Imam's sending people to the church because that's where people get healed) and answered prayer will inspire you to give yourself more to God. Unbelievably inspiring, absolutely essential book. Forget some of the selfish pride-filled books you can sometimes find on the Christian market, this is selfless faith, this is life in Christ.
David Wilkerson, 'Have you ever felt like giving up lately?'
A powerful book (now out of print I believe), for those who have felt hurt in church life or have been hurt. The first chapter, 'When you hurt' is incredibly powerful and moving. I certainly related to some of the words and appreciated the tender and understanding words from David Wilkerson. Sometimes this is hard to find, but this level of empathy can bring a measure of healing for people in itself. We look on when we feel like giving up and other times when many go through dry spells & God seems distant. We learn that you can't depend on others for happiness - this comes from you and from God. Others and encouragements can help of course (!) but can never be the only key. He has an interesting chapter of carrying the cross. His insightful interpretation is this is when we come to a place where we can no longer carry something. Just as Jesus needed Simon of Cyrene to help carry the cross to Golgotha, so we have a place where we need Jesus to step in and carry this cross for us. There are sections on fighting temptations and getting rid of sins that entangle. Two more encouraging sections look at not condemning yourself (we're far harder on ourselves than God often is), the fact that God has not forgotten you, no matter how you may feel. It loses its way towards the end of the book and I lost track of what was being said. But as with many books, there is so much goodness and help in there.
Mike Yaconelli, 'Messy Spirituality'
A great book from the late and great Mike Yaconelli. This book does what it says on the tin - giving us a book that we can all relate to. A book that challenges us and yet one where we take a journey with Mike through our own messy spiritual lives - lives that God uses, redeems and transforms. There are some great and encouraging stories within and Mike's style is easy to read, fun and engaging. Chapters include messy spirituality, odd discipleship, little graces and God's annoying love.
Mosab Hassan Yousef - Son of Hamas
The young people in my church are currently looking at inspiring men and women from history and the present day. Mosab Hassan Yousef is one of those kinds of people. He was the son of one of the founders of the terrorist Islamic organisation, Hamas. His story is of an encounter with a British evangelist and his journey towards faith in Yeshua, the only hope for peace in the Middle East. He takes us behind the scenes of Hamas, of the deeper complexities of the Palestinian issue (and speaks out against some of the lies pedalled by liberal Christians). We learn about the corruption of Yasser Arafat and Islamic political organisations from hisfirst-hand knowledge, of how Mosab experienced brutalities on both the Israeli and Palestinian side. Mosab was also recruited by the Israeli Shin Bet and saw some incredible break-throughs against Islamic terrorists. He has suffered personal loss and hate, but his book is an inspiring book on the work of God in the complicated, brutal and yet hope-filled Middle East. All US peace processes will fail, only Jesus can bring healing and peace! Book ends fairly abruptly but you're taken on an incredible behind-the-scenes journey of Hamas, the PLO, Israel, Palestinian Territories and more. Awesome.