Unapologetic: Francis Spufford

unapologeticI finally got my hands on this book at a discount price. It has had mix reviews and I must admit as I read the book, I had mix feelings about it. On the one hand, his honesty and plain speaking was really refreshing, it is raw and feels unedited and I think it works. But then it seems to lose its edge half way through and it slightly lost its way. There were lots that I didn’t agree with but there was also lots that I could resonate with.

The other thing that people pick up on is the swearing. I am not sure where I stand with this, I don’t know if the swearing added any value to what he was trying to say. I personally think some of it was making a point, it made the reader take note and listen but at other times I felt like it subtracted from what he was saying and he didn’t need to have it there.

I don’t want this to be a negative book review, but I wanted to be honest that most of the way through I just wasn’t sure if I liked it. On the other hand there were bits that were helpful, so I thought I would share with you 5 things that I appreciated about the book:

  1. The first couple of chapters are really helpful. It felt like his thoughts were spilling on the page and helping the reader to see that Christianity make sense, at least to him.
  2. He identifies the deep longings that we have as humans and the way that the world tries to offer us stuff, but it always lets us down.
  3. His chapter on suffering and all that’s wrong with the world was really insightful and helpful. It is down to earth and sometimes its something you need to hear – it is the less fluffy version.
  4. He explores what is wrong at the heart of humanity and the truth that we all mess up. He isn’t afraid to say that we all mess up, we all have a problem and we need a solution.
  5. If you want to read something that is just really honest when it comes to the deep longing and suffering questions then I think this book is worth reading.

Those are just some of my thoughts. It probably isn’t a book I would read again or even recommend to my friends. However there are bits in it that are worth quoting and worth using for illustrations. So all in all, this book and this review is rather mixed!

Would love to hear what you thought of the book – what did you enjoy? What didn’t you enjoy?

A Loving Life – Paul Miller

Loving lifeA loving life is a short book looking at the story of Ruth. I decided to read this book because several people told me it was good and it turned out to be a book I really needed to read. Sometimes you get those books that just hit the spot and spiritually nourish you, this was certainly one of those books for me.

Here are 5 reasons why I enjoyed A Loving Life:

1) Paul Miller unpacks the story of Ruth – If you have never studied or read the book of Ruth, then this little book is a great place to start. Miller goes through the story step by step and pretty much does a bible study through the book. Its engaging and interesting and it helped me get to grips with the story.

2) Love is not just a feeling – Miller really hits home that we are in a culture that regards feelings and how we feel when in love as our top priority. But he remarks that love is deeper, not just an emotion that quickly changes from one moment to the next. And in a broken world like ours, love needs to be deeper then just an emotion.

3) Love is about dying to yourself – Miller calls this Hesed love, which is written throughout his book. He highlights in Ruth the remarkable sacrifices she makes in the name of love. True love is about sacrifice and dying to yourself, which is so counter cultural where we see love as what we can get out of people and how that person can suit our needs.

4) God is gracious to Naomi – I loved how Miller highlighted Gods mercy and kindness to Naomi who was bitter about the events in her life. It reminds me that the Lord is really with us in every situation and is so kind to us even if we can’t see through the mist of life’s craziness.

5) Encouraging and Challenging – I was encouraged by how God uses each person in the story for an amazing outcome that benefited the whole of the human race (Jesus), I am encouraged by the Lords kindness and his working through each person in the story. I am challenged by Ruth’s sacrificial love, where she died to herself for the sake of Naomi, she never put herself first. I find this hard and it challenges me about what true love is and how to show true love.

I would recommend this book to you if you want to dig into Ruth, if you want to be challenged and encouraged by what true love is and if you want something that will nourish you.

You can buy the book at IVP here.

Jesus + Nothing = Everything

JesusNothingEverythingThis catchy book title was written by Tullian Tchividjian. This is a book about the Gospel and what Jesus has done for us. It is a refreshing book to read as it sits on the bookshelf amongst books that mostly tell you how to be a better Christian, leader, minister, pop star etc. I found it helpful to have my eyes cast away from myself and come back to Jesus. Tullian explains the heart of what it means to follow Jesus and what Jesus did on the cross was enough not just for salvation but for living as a Christian, every day.

Let me tell you 3 things I learnt / enjoyed about this book:

1. The Gospel isn’t just for non/new Christians. The Gospel is for the Christian, every single day. It is for the Christian that has been following Christ for 30 years, 30 days or 30 mins. The truth of the Gospel, what Jesus has done on the cross is something we need to hear and sink into our hearts everyday. It is too easy for me as I walk this road with Jesus to think that I now need to move on to “higher” and “better” things after I have grasped the basics of the Gospel, yet it seems that these basics are what I most need to hear because I easily forget them.

2. Your works can’t add to what Jesus has done. It seems we often believe the lie that the Gospel is enough for salvation but after that happens, we then need to work really hard to keep God happy or to stay in salvation. This is a lie. What Jesus has done on the cross is enough – we can’t add to it and we don’t “work hard” to pay back God. We rest in his salvation and when we do that, with our hearts being changed, we begin to produce fruit and good works.

We can rest in assurance that this equation is really true: Jesus + Nothing = Everything

3. Focus on what Christ has done for you, rather than looking inwards all the time: “To focus on how I’m doing more than what Christ has done is Christian narcissism” 

I would really recommend this book as it provides a great reminder of who we are in Christ and most importantly what Christ has done for us. It is a short read and really accessible for any reader.

5 things I learnt from The Cross of Christ

crossofchristI have just recently finished John Stott’s epic book “The Cross of Christ”. I remember receiving this book as a gift during relay and I spent some time in various chapters studying it and chewing on it. But I hadn’t actually read the whole thing from start to finish, so I embarked to do so this year.

Reading this book gave me a fresh reminder of the cross and what Christ had done on the cross. I want to share with you 5 things that I learnt or was reminded of from this book.

1. Christianity is nothing without the cross.

It is the lamb that is slain on the throne. The cross is the center of history and had been on the mind of Christ from the start. It is a stumbling block and most offensive to some people and to others it is a joy and the heart beat of Christianity.

Without the cross there could be no atonement, forgiveness of sins, evil defeated, salvation for sinners, suffering where Christ can sympathise with all our sufferings..and many more things that took place on the cross.

2. The cross impacts every sphere of our Christian living.

Why? John Stott says the cross is the:

ground of our justification (he has redeemed us from the curse),
the means for our sanctification (we have been crucified with him, the world to us and us to the world),
the subject of our witness (we are to placard Christ Crucified publicly before people’s eyes),
the object of our boasting (God forbid that we should boast in anything else!!)

3. We are enemies of the cross if it is not central to our Christian living

If the cross is not central to our Christian living then we are enemies of the cross and to be an enemy means:

self-righteousness (instead of looking to the cross for justification)
self-indulgence (Instead of taking up the cross to follow Christ)
self-advertisement (Instead of preaching Christ crucified)
self-glorification (Instead of glorying in the cross)

How true that is in my own life!

4. Love was the motivation of the cross

Reading this book reminded me afresh of the love of Christ for us. To take human flesh and walk among this earth in order to go to the cross for my sin and shame, to take on the punishment I deserved in order that I might be reconciled to the Father. It shows a great and deep love that I cannot truly understand.

If we were ever in doubt about whether God loves us, we need to look no further than to the cross – his love demonstrated for us there.

5. I need to be reminded of the cross daily

I forget so easily the triumph, victory, pain, weakness and sacrifice of the cross. I too easily become an enemy of the cross and become self-righteous and self-indulgent. I need to be reminded of the Gospel, what Christ has done on the cross.

I need to be reminded of this daily and I know my friends do too as we struggle through this life and our hearts become deceived and caught up in various things, we need to bring each other back to the cross.

If you have not read this book, I would recommend you do so. Don’t be put off by the size of the book, but instead take your time over it and enjoy the refreshing water that comes from it. Stott turns our eyes away from ourselves and what we must do, and places our gaze on Christ and what he has done. Wonderful.

Recent Book Reviews

Just thought I would flag up some book reviews I have been doing over at the Book Square Blog:

forwomenonly  1. The most recent book I have reviewed is called: For women Only by Shaunti Feldhahn: A book about relationships and the inner thoughts of men. It is a guide to help the wife or partner to understand their husband/boyfriend better. It touches on how to serve him well and what they really think about in certain situations.

 

2013-10-22 12.16.202. Connect – How to double your number of Volunteers: A book I wouldn’t normally have read but it proved to share some good insights about how to recruit and double your volunteer base at Church (and CU). There are lots to think about here and I hope to share some more thoughts on it soon.

 

communicating for a change3. Communicating for a change: How we communicate is important. How we preach or do talks that are communicating what we mean in a way that is interesting is often hard to do. This book is rather helpful in giving ideas on how to communicate better.

Collection of Webs: Summer Edition Pt1

For most of the summer holidays I have been away, taking a break from blogging. It has been a fun summer with a mixture of going away on an IFES conference in Poland, holiday times at home and parents visiting. But now I am back & I thought I would do a summer edition of Collection Webs. Hope you enjoy it!

Books Read:

Summer is a great chance to read books, lots of books! Here is a snippet of some of the books I got to read:

Penelope_bookPenelope:

A very gentle and fun read about a girl called Penelope who goes to University. This is a very quirky story and you meet some interesting characters! A nice holiday read.

bravenewworldBrave New World:

A classic and brilliant book. Huxley wasn’t far off the truth when he wrote this about the future.

SilmarillionSilmarillion:

I am still reading Silmarillion and I think it is brilliant! There is so much in this story that is the same to that of the bible. It is a history of the creation of the world and we meet its creator. There

is a fall. There is good and evil. Wonderful stuff.

Creative:

It has been a rather creative summer for us, we have made homemade jam, homemade bread and lots of meals from scratch! Also my husband has done a step by step guide on how to do this DT project! How to make a Roman Catapult

What has also caught our eye:

Creative Bookmarks

How to make a Concrete Camera

Snaps from the summer:

2013-08-18 17.42.10 2013-08-24 14.54.49-1 2013-08-25 12.33.21 2013-08-25 12.54.46

A Fairy Tale Ending

http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/I really like fairy tale endings. The happy ever after. The smiles and the giggles and the sunset.

When I watch films I really yearn for a happy ending. But I feel guilty about that. The way films suck you in and you find yourself wanting the unhappy loser to find all happiness in the world, but at a great cost.

For example: when you have two people married to each other who have fallen out of love and then the handsome guy comes in and the wife falls for him. We yearn for her to find happiness. We don’t want her to be miserable and stuck in that relationship. We want her to have an Eat, Pray, Love experience. To leave and find herself and be happy.

This is because we don’t want to be stuck in misery. We don’t want to be in a rut of routine. We want a happy ending.

These films reflect something of our hearts desires. But the means are not always great. When I think about it I don’t really want that couple to get divorced or for that girl to change everything about her to find happiness in popularity. But I also don’t want to watch a story with a sad ending. An ending of despair and unrepair. It feels incomplete. It feels like a stain upon my soul. I want more.

So then adverts try to convince us that they hold the happy ending. They say that the happy ending is smelling nice, looking good, having an amazing sports car, being popular and drinking coca cola. A small part of us buys into that lie. We think these things will give us a happy ending.

I yearn, I drink and a part of me dies.

I think we are meant to yearn for happy endings. There is something in our fabric that makes our heart groan for completion. There is something that we love about the happy ever after in fairy tales. The struggle, the cliff hangers only to be resolved in a wedding and then a happy life after.

I think we all want that. We kid ourselves when we say we don’t. Probably because life is really hard at the moment and the reality is really painful. We can sometimes think: this is my lot, this is all life is.

But that isn’t true. I think our hearts are decietful at times, but they tell us something.
Out of the heart the mouth speaks.
In our hearts we want eternity to be a joyful fairytale wedding. If you’re a guy reading this, you may think that isn’t what you want. But would you want the alternative as eternal loneliness, boredom and sadness…? No one craves for that. In fact we do all we can to avoid it. Even with things that give us only a momentary relief.

wedding cakeThe Gospel is a bit like a fairy tale ending. Not that its fake. But it offers a happy ending. There is a wedding and a feast and beautiful bride and a smiling bridegroom. The wicked witch dies and all those who love the groom get to have a happy ending. I think we are all designed to crave this.

We want bad guys to lose and we want the good guys to win and be happy. We want evil destroyed and we want love to win. We want Spock to defeat Kahn and then get the girl after. We want Neo to beat the matrix (or Mr Smith) and bring peace to Zion. We want Will Smith in the pursuit of happiness to fight against poverty and get the job he desires. We want Frodo to destroy the ring and bring peace to middle earth.

No one wants evil to triumph. We want love to win.

Love does win in the Gospel. Death gets the sting taken out of it. Jesus triumphs through his suffering and blood on the cross. Then he invites us into the happy ending – to be part of that story. Its crazy cos we are all destined for the unhappy ending. But Jesus says we can be the bride, enjoy eternal happiness and we get to meet his dad, who is great. And there is NO evil stepmother.

My heart yearns for this. I was made for a fairy tale ending. But it can only come through and in Jesus. Lets share that story!

“Bilbo: Have you thought of an ending?
Frodo: Yes, several, and all are dark and unpleasant.
Bilbo: Oh, that won’t do! Books ought to have good endings. How would this do: and they all settled down and lived together happily ever after?
Frodo: It will do well, if it ever came to that.
SamL Ah! And where will they live? That’s what I often wonder.”
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring