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.

iGods: How Technology Shapes Our Spiritual & Social Lives

igodsbook Today the world is literally at our fingertips. We can call, text, email, or post our status to friends and family on the go. We can carry countless games, music, and apps in our pocket. Yet it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by access to so much information and exhausted from managing our online relationships and selves.*

Digital Technology is in the fabric of our world, we use it everyday to function as a society, to keep in contact with people and to run businesses. Craig Detweiler explores the history behind some of the companies that have really shaped the way we live our lives. He goes behind the scenes of Apple, Google, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Amazon. He looks at how these creative companies changed the way we work, shop, build communities and walk with Jesus. While unfolding the history and aims of these companies, he also reveals some of their effects – both good and bad on our lives.

This book is challenging and what I think is rather unsettling about all of this, is that we don’t really know the long-term impact of online shopping, social media and a library full of information we can pick up whenever we want. There have been hints of the potential good that can come out of it all, but also on the other end of the scale, there could be destruction of real face to face communities where isolation is rampant, shops closing down and people losing jobs and an overwhelming amount of information at our finger tips that allow us to be jack of all but master of none. 

facebook-markzuckerberg

It was helpful to have Craig Detweiler bring in a Christian perspective that not only highlighted some of the warning signs of using such technologies, but also celebrating the triumphs and good things that these companies have achieved. It was enjoyable and interesting to read. As someone who did a degree in Computing and IT around the time when Facebook was beginning to establish itself, it is interesting to see how much they have grown in the last 10 years and where technology may be heading next!

And what about our spiritual lives? As Craig says:

“Where shall we express our hopes and fears? If we post our concerns on Facebook, we may forget to cast our cares on the Lord, the one who sustains us in our sorrows.”

This is easy to do as I wake up every morning and turn on my phone instead of getting on my knees in prayer. And yet it connects me with people in the world that need prayer, it links me to find information about certain theological topics quickly so I don’t have to try to find it in the local library. There is a balance.

googleBut more than ever, Christians must be vigilant. With the enemy prowling round like a roaring lion, we need to be awake and engaged in what we are doing. We can not be caught up in the promises of Facebook and the advertising of Google where we can become our own igods – omnipresent on Facebook and omniscient on Google. Falling into a trap that I can be a certain way on social media but different face to face. That as I create my profile, I can fashion it and craft it to bring the best out of me and get people to admire me.

I am the centre. I am the igod.

Suddenly Jesus falls out of focus.

I would recommend this book to you, even just for an understanding of how these companies came about and how they have changed over the years. I think Craig Detweiler writes well and raises some good points, both good and challenging about the digital technology we use every day. And as he brings in a Christian perspective, it can help us have a bit more wisdom about what we do with digital technology and how much we should use it.

You can buy this book here.

*Quote from http://bakerpublishinggroup.com/books/igods/345171

Serving without Sinking

Have you ever had that moment where you are just really fed up of serving? At first it was a joy but now it’s just boring and repetitive. It feels like you are the only one who is serving while everyone else has gone home. And no one praises you or encourages you. Day in and day out it you slog away and you’re tired. You’re tired of it all.

Does that sound familiar? If it does, can I recommend a book to you? I know, another book to read – but it has been one of the most helpful books I’ve read on serving.

servingwithoutsinkingServing without Sinking – by John Hindley is a book that is Christ focused. In fact you spend over half the book looking at Jesus and how He serves you. This really makes you examine your heart and the motives of your heart towards serving. You could be like the person I described above where you are just fed up of serving and you feel very discouraged and tired of it all. Then this book will remind you how Christ serves you first and how he delights in you. It will melt your heart to see the love that Christ has for you. With this in mind it changes the way you think about serving from a “I should do” or a “I have to” turned to a “I want to” and “I delight to” Why? because every bit of service – making tea, printing music, washing tables, welcome team is all serving Jesus and we can do that because he first and foremost serves us.

Or perhaps you are someone who isn’t like the person above – maybe you only serve to get recognition or you just can’t be bothered to serve others. John Hindley reminds us what kind of master we have – He is good and kind and he calls us to serve him. Again he calls us to this only after he has first served us. He is a serving master who loves his servants, servants who are sons and daughters of his Father. He calls us to serve with a glad heart – looking to Christ and not for recognition from others. We can do this because we have the Lord who knows us and a Father who sees what we do in secret.

I found this book to be good news for my heart. It’s a short book but with a deep focus on Jesus. I feel like it is something we all need at the moment.

You can get the book at the Good Book Company.

Ali Bolton has read and reviewed the book here.

Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing

2013-04-15 20.18.42At first glance you may think this book is a children’s book. But once you delve into the beautiful pages you soon realise this is a book for all ages. “Thoughts to make your heart sing” is a collection of stories, thoughts with bible passages and illustrations written by Sally Lloyd Jones and Jago. Sally also wrote the story book bible which is a fantastic book and this would make such a great companion to that book.

Each page is filled with stories that truly does make your heart sing. And the songs you will be singing will be about Jesus. They are heart-warming thoughts about our wonderful saviour and what he has done for us and how he cares and loves us. They are simple and short yet piercing and captivating. I really love reading the stories.

The illustrations are brilliant and drawn by Jago. They really capture the message of each thought and story and they are just really nice to look at as you read the book.

ttmyhsThis is the kind of book you could use in your devotional time. You can open the pages when you feel a bit lost and lonely and be reminded of Christ. You could also read the stories to your children and show them the wonder and beauty of Jesus.

I would recommend this book for every Christian and I would also think it would be good to give to a non-Christian as well. Tim Keller says:

“I would urge not just families with young children to get this book, but every Christian–from pew warmers, to ministry leaders, seminarians and even theologians! Sally Lloyd-Jones has captured the heart of what it means to find Christ in all the scriptures, and has made clear even to little children that all God’s revelation has been about Jesus from the beginning–a truth not all that commonly recognized even among the very learned.”

 

A New Name Review

I finally got my hands on Emma Scrivener’s new book – “A new name – Grace and Healing for anorexia”. This is such a good book that I read it in a day and just found myself very moved and challenged by Emma’s story. When you pick up this book you may thinking that it isn’t for you because you don’t have anorexia, but as my friend Emily wrote on her blog – “So why read A New Name? Because we are all sick, and we are all sinners. And Jesus is the one who has come, like light into a dark, cold place, to bring life and freedom by giving us Himself.”

This is a story that all of us could read and on different levels identify with whats going on. I think Emma is a fantastic writer, her words grip you on every page and she carries you along her story that can make you laugh or move you to tears. She is honest and open and that’s what I like about it, she connects with the audience and isn’t afraid to paint the real picture of anorexia and the real picture of having idols.

The part that captured me most was when Emma met Jesus and saw the Lion and the Lamb. As I read her experience it seemed truly breath-taking. It reminded me of who Jesus really is – a husband sacrificing himself for us and inviting us  to be with his Father who has his arms wide open for us. Emma found her identity in Christ. This is a wonderfully testimony to read and she is honest in saying it’s not all over, she isn’t riding off into the sunset with a Happy Ever After Flag…she is still fighting and from her blog she is not hiding her battles but she is reminding us who she is in Christ.

This is why all Christians and non christians should read it. We are all broken and all running after idols that never satisfy us. Emma is really honest about this, yet often we aren’t. Often I am not – I want to hide away my sin and idols. But what Emma has taught me is that my identity isn’t in them but in Christ and those idols don’t own me because I am free in Christ, therefore I don’t need to hide or prove myself to anyone and neither do you. She shows us that there is always hope and that Jesus will never leave us.

Buy this book. Read her blog. Encourage her and be encouraged that Jesus loves you and your identity is in him.