Mandy Baker Johnson

Living without Shadows

Category: Book Reviews (page 2 of 6)

Good Christian books I can recommend

A Bird, A Girl, and A Rescue

This book has so much that would appeal to eight to twelve year old readers. Set in the fictional African country of Rwendigo, the main character is young Kiisa who is off to boarding school for the first time. Her father leaves her with a special gift which becomes more important to Kiisa as the story goes on. Her growing relationship and dependence on her father’s gift is akin to knowing God and growing in faith.

This book is a mix of African legend with Christian undertones and modern-day guerrilla warfare. I couldn’t help but be reminded of the school girls kidnapped by Boko Haram. Yet even though touching on serious issues, the book remains light, focusing on friendship, loyalty, courage and standing up to bullies. Kiisa loves playing football and makes a great goalie.

Young readers will enjoy the fun and adventure aspects of the story. Older readers – and adults – will hopefully gain a little insight into the tension of living in a politically-corrupt area with the ever-present danger of guerrilla warfare.

I enjoyed reading A Bird, A Girl and A Rescue by J A Myhre. I have given it **** on Amazon and am grateful to Cross Focused Reviews for providing me with a free copy to review.

 

 

Gospel Transformation Bible

Do you like bargains?

Some people are fab bargain hunters, I’m not normally one of them. But today I am.

10ofThose are doing a one-off promotion of the new ESV Gospel Transformation Bible. The usual retail price is £50 or £60, but 10ofThose are selling them for £7 and £9. Wow. It’s first come, first served, so I’d advise you to get in there quick!

There are lots of great study Bibles on the market, but this one is unique in that it traces each Bible passage back to Christ. A number of Bible scholars have contributed to this product and the study notes are full of both scholarly insight and pastoral wisdom.

I enjoy using different versions of the Bible in my personal studies and readings because I can get slightly different insights, so I’m looking forward to getting my own copy of this ESV Gospel Transformation Bible.

The cover designs are also appealing to me: there is a choice of attractive leather-look and genuine leather covers in different colours, as well as in Tru-Tone. What’s not to like?

It’s also worth thinking about the fact that Christmas is only 104 sleeps away, and these would make great presents…. 😀

Here’s what Jonathan Carswell at 10ofThose and Adrian Reynolds of the Proclamation Trust have to say about this fantastic product:

Heaven, How I Got Here

Heaven How I Got HereThis is the story of the thief on the cross by Colin S Smith. It is a short book based on part of Luke’s account of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The book opens at 6 am on the day the thief was to be executed by crucifixion. Each short chapter is based on a period of time – one gripping chapter is about a single minute – during Good Friday.

The author imagines the thief’s background and childhood, explores how the condemned man might have felt on execution day, and his changing reaction to Jesus. As the thief’s eyes were opened and realisation dawned as to who Jesus really was, the reader can follow his thought process. Colin S Smith explains the gospel simply and clearly, cleverly woven as the thief’s own thoughts.

I enjoyed reading this book. I find well-researched fiction based on an event or person from the Bible brings the account to life, particularly if it stays true to the culture of the time. Heaven, How I Got Here did that for me.

It would be a blessing to any follower of Jesus this Easter, but it would also make a perfect read for someone exploring what Easter is all about.

I have given this book **** on Amazon and am grateful to Cross Focused Reviews for providing me with a free copy to review.

 

1 Samuel For You

I thoroughly enjoyed reading 1 Samuel For You by Tim Chester. The only downside was that because I was under time constraints to join this blog tour, I was unable to ponder the thought-provoking and heart-searching questions at the end of each section. So I’ll have to go back and do that!

There are thirteen chapters and each one is divided into two sections, and both sections contain three or four questions for reflection. I liked the way the chapters are clearly set out with appropriate headings and sub headings, allowing the reader natural pauses to digest what has just been read. Another thing I appreciated was the fact that words that may be unfamiliar to some readers were linked to a glossary (I was using my Kindle). Tim Chester is clearly a writer who puts the ‘cookies on the bottom shelf’, ensuring the information being shared can be understood by all readers.

The book opens with the story of Hannah’s distress over her barrenness, the subsequent answering of her prayers in the form of baby Samuel and her outpouring of praise to God who brings down the proud and lifts up the humble. This theme of pride and humility is woven through the rest of the book as it follows the lives of the different characters:  Samuel, Eli, the rise and doom of King Saul, and the rise of King David. The author highlights Saul as being like the first Adam who fell and David as being a type of Christ who is the second Adam.

Saul is not the promised second Adam. He is the old Adam revisited…. David will be God’s choice. And from his dynasty will come the new Adam, the snake-crusher.

The author also offers pastoral insights and little golden nuggets of wisdom through the book. These are a few that I particularly valued:

…excuses do not bring true freedom and forgiveness. Freedom and forgiveness come through honest repentance.

David encourages us to remember how God has delivered us in our personal histories, and ultimately through the cross and resurrection.

Envy is the mother of malice and gives birth to murder.

If we glory in God, then we do not need to manoeuvre for prestige, nor will we envy the success of others. If we find identity in Christ, then how we compare with others or what they think will not matter.

I wholeheartedly recommend this book. It is very readable, and it would be possible to simply enjoy reading through and gaining an oversight of 1 Samuel, or to use as part of your own devotional time, or in a study group. It truly blessed me and I’m looking forward to reading it again more slowly, as part of my regular devotions.

My grateful thanks to Cross Focused Reviews and The Good Book Company for providing me with a free copy for the purpose of writing a review.

 

Christ Or Hitler?

Christ or Hitler

Christ or Hitler? is a collection of stories – in loose chronological order – about the life of Wilhelm Busch, who was an evangelist and pastor during the Nazi regime in Germany. It has been compiled and translated by Christian Puritz.

The book opens fairly dramatically with Busch’s house burning down during an air raid at the same time as him having an altercation with the secret police, which is a good hook to draw the reader in. We are then introduced to his parents, for whom he evidently had great respect and who, in his eyes, could do no wrong. Busch seemed to have a happy childhood and a fulfilling ministry. No matter what situation he found himself in, he took the opportunity to share His love and passion for Christ.

Busch’s ministry was filled with adventures, since he rubbed shoulders with all kinds of people, but he handled the different situations in which he found himself with a great deal of boldness, humility and grace. His encounters with the gestapo and imprisonments are not the main thrust of the book; it is more about what everyday life looked like during the time Hitler rose to power and ruled Germany.

I thought the translation was excellent, although it does not paint quite such a clear picture as if written and read in the mother tongue. It would provide some insights into life in Nazi Germany for anyone with an interest in this area.

I am grateful to Cross Focused Reviews and EP Books for providing me with a free ecopy of this book for the purpose of writing a review.

Eternity Changes Everything

Eternity Changes Everything

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Stephen Witmer‘s book Eternity Changes Everything. He has a pleasant, chatty, easy-to-read writing style and his passion for his subject shines through on every page. For me, it ranks right up there as one of the best Christian books I have read on eternity in terms of getting me excited about where I am headed and how that changes life now.

A theme  that links together the later chapters is that of a tightrope walker: ‘The central point of this book is that Christians are meant to live, and can live, in a healthy, exhilarating, joyful, productive, frustrating, painful, challenging tension between restlessness and patience.’ The author uses a graphic of a tightrope walker balancing between ‘contentment’ (because of where we are headed) and ‘dissatisfaction’ (because we’re not there yet) and in each future chapter, he adds to this picture. I was impressed that the graphic worked perfectly on my Kindle and was well-aligned with the text.

Pastor Stephen draws out wonderful insights from the Scriptures in this book, and links Old Testament types with New Testament truths beautifully. He is clearly a gifted teacher with a deep love and respect for the Scriptures and for the Lord.

This book doesn’t just raise our expectations in seeing the new heaven and earth as a certain reality to look forward to, it also challenges as to how that truth impacts our lives in the here and now. This is not a book full of theory, but one of practicality – our lives are meant to be impacted. Pastor Stephen does not take for granted that all of his readers will be believers, and he creates opportunity for his readers who don’t know Jesus to put their faith in Him. For believers, he encourages us that because we are citizens of heaven and our identity is in Christ, our lives are changed and we experience ‘restlessness with patience’ as we anticipate our future. The result of this is that as we learn to need the world less, we end up loving the world more.

It’s a miracle whenever unlovely things and unlovely people are loved with heavenly love. As citizens of heaven extend the love of the new creation into the here and now, this world sees a better world to come.

Eternity changes everything is a book I am already recommending to my friends as a resource that will encourage, inspire and teach. I loved its contemporary style and that it is jam-packed full of biblical truth. I’m very grateful to Cross Focused Reviews and The Good Book Company for supplying me with a free e-copy of this book for the purpose of writing a review.

Life in Christ

Life in Christ

Life in Christ by Jeremy Walker looks at what it means for someone to be ‘in Christ’. It is a relatively short book of 176 pages with eight chapters, each chapter considering a different aspect of being in Christ:

* Looking to Jesus
* United to Christ
* The Unsearchable Riches of Christ
* Sons of God
* The Jewel of Assurance
* The Marks of God’s Children
* A Work in Progress
* A Life in Review

Walker builds a foundation of salvation before considering the wonderfully rich benefits of being in Christ and warning of the very real danger of Christians – even people who have followed Jesus for many years – not comprehending the ‘jewel of assurance’ and their sure standing before God.

Walker quotes extensively from the writings of the Puritans throughout and, indeed, his own style of writing is remarkably similar to that of the Puritans, with what may seem unfamiliar turns of phrase and choice of words to the modern reader. The book tries very hard to be both informative and practical, with questions for discussion and reflection at the end of each chapter. While it is aimed more at the mature believer, it could be adapted for group study/discussion as well as individual study.

I enjoyed Walker’s chapter on assurance:

Assurance will take away those crippling doubts and crushing fears which hinder the saints…. The assured believer is also a convinced and courageous believer. When we do not know where we stand, we do not know how to act. To know who we are helps us to follow a right course without quibbling or cavilling.

In his final (inspiring) chapter, Walker examines the life of Paul and what being ‘in Christ’ meant to the apostle. Walker encourages Christians to be grounded in Christ, make certain of who they are in Christ, and then devote themselves fully to Him, so that at the end of their lives, like Paul, they can finish well.

Walker has given two interviews about Life in Christ on the Janet Mefford Show and the Confessing Baptist Podcast.

I am grateful to Heritage Books and Cross Focused Reviews for providing me with a free copy of this ebook for the purpose of writing a review.

 

 

A Hope Deferred

A Hope Deferred

A Hope Deferred by J Stephen Yuille tells of his and Alison’s twenty two year journey of struggling with infertility and of their eventual adoption of a little girl from China. Through their experiences, they have gained a deeper appreciation of the biblical doctrine of adoption. This book beautifully combines the sharing of their heartaches and joys with looking at the ‘six blessings of adoption’ from Romans 8. The chapters regarding the blessings of adoption are headed:

  • Cleansed Sins.
  • Renewed Affections.
  • Satisfied Longings.
  • Answered Prayers.
  • Sanctified Afflictions.
  • Defeated Enemies.

It reminded me a little of Colin Urquhart’s excellent book In Christ Jesus in the way Stephen seeks to ground the reader in the gospel as he unpacks what Romans 8 says about adoption. He writes: ‘[God] doesn’t need to love us, nor does he need us to love him. Simply put, he doesn’t gain anything from loving us…. it should comfort us, because that’s the kind of love we need. We need someone to love us who doesn’t actually need us.’

‘Adoption is rooted in God’s sovereign grace. By definition, grace is undeserved and unmerited. By forgiving us our debt and lavishing his inheritance upon us, God puts the immeasurable glory of his grace on display for all eternity. In the plan of redemption, his main purpose is the glorifying of himself. The means he has designed for achieving that end is our adoption.’

I was blessed by reading A Hope Deferred. It is packed full of biblical truth, written in an accessible style. I think it would be ideal for a Christian at any level of spiritual maturity, but would be particularly helpful to a new believer or one struggling with their identity in Christ.

My grateful thanks to Shepherd Press and Christian Focus Publications for providing me with a free ecopy of this book for the purpose of writing a review.

Red Like Blood

Red Like Blood

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Red Like Blood by Joe Coffey and Bob Bevington. There are eighteen chapters in the book, each considering a different aspect of grace. In every chapter, the co-authors share their own stories of how God has touched and changed them through grace. Bob’s story of his extra-marital affair and subsequent divorce is the backdrop for the book. When God went after Bob, the result was an explosion of grace which touched not just Bob’s life but many others, including that of his ex-wife. Joe is the pastor who demonstrated grace by unreservedly accepting Bob back into the church.

Red Like Blood has a very conversational, easy-to-read style. I know I’ve said it before in my book reviews but you really do feel as though you are listening to these stories from old friends over steaming mugs of tea and chocolate biscuits. At times I laughed, sometimes I cried. Above all, hope and faith grew in me that God can change even me by His wonderful grace. The best thing I can do now is to share the notes I made while reading it, along with a few quotes from the book itself to hopefully show you how good it is!

I loved chapter 4 ‘The Appearance of the Unseen God’ because it reminded me of how much God loves me and the fact that He initiates ‘exquisite’ moments with me. ‘…if Jesus was here on earth it struck him that Jesus would want to hang out with him.’

From chapter 6 ‘Independence and a Toothpick Cross’ where Joe considers a tiny model of Jerusalem: ‘…a god who will come down and die on a toothpick cross in the middle of an obscure town, in the middle of an obscure country, in the middle of an obscure planet, in the middle of an obscure galaxy is exactly the kind of God I need.’

The title of chapter 9 ‘The Math of God’ could have been off-putting to a mathematical dunce like me, but it turned out to be a fantastic read, reminding me that Jesus is my treasure and the way to get to know God better is through suffering. Bob quotes part of a talk by Joni Eareckson Tada (a quadriplegic since a diving accident in her teens): ‘God happily shares his gladness, his joy flooding over heaven’s walls, filling your heart in a waterfall of delight which then streams out to others in a flood of encouragement and then erupts back to God in an ecstatic fountain of praise. He imparts a new way of looking at your hardships. He puts a song in your heart.’

I think chapter 10 on ‘Eating Work and the Search for Satisfaction’ was my favourite in the whole book and has stayed with me since reading it. Joe states: ‘Everyone needs to feel loved and everyone needs to feel important. Let’s call it security and significance.’ Using red and green M&Ms – candy-covered chocolate sweets – to represent love (red) and feeling important (green), he challenges you to ponder where your priorities truly lie and what you are really living for. Are you stingy with your red M&Ms? Do you try to get as many green M&Ms as possible? ‘Jesus claimed he came to provide us with life and that life was going to be abundant. This life would flow out of us in a river of red and green. And then he went and died on a cross to give us that life.’

Bob shares honestly about being addicted to porn since his early teens, and how he found freedom by discovering that God is infinitely more satisfying than giving in to temptation. ‘Porn addiction is a ball and chain. Neuroscience has demonstrated it has the same effect on the human mind as heroin and is equally difficult to break away from.’

Red Like Blood is summed up: ‘This is a book about brokenness and grace and redemption. There are a thousand ways to be broken and only one way to be made whole. There are two amazing things about Christianity. The first is the power and magnificence of grace and what it does as it sinks deeper and deeper into a soul. The second is the plan of God to allow us to participate in his plan to heal the world.’

I unreservedly recommend this book, which is suitable for anyone to read since it doesn’t contain any religious jargon. Thank you to Cross-Focused Reviews and Shepherd Press for providing me with a free ecopy for the purpose of writing a review.

 

 

Three Decades of Fertility

Three Decades of Fertility

 

Three Decades of Fertility: Ten Ordinary Women Surrender to the Creator and Embrace Life was a fascinating read. Each chapter is written by a different woman sharing her story of how she and her husband decided to stop using contraception and to give their fertility over to God’s control. They are all open and honest about their plans and dreams for their lives. Some, like Natalie and Stacy, embraced the idea of children and being full-time mums, while others, like Sue, were feministic in their views and had no intention of ever having children. Indeed, Molly, who planned to go to the mission-field, firmly believed that she and her husband ‘would be most effective for God’s kingdom if [they] were unencumbered with children’.

While each woman’s story is unique, they all have one thing in common: at some point in their lives, they decided to trust God with their fertility and welcome the results. These couples recognised that children are gifts from God, and believe that it is not up to us to say: no thanks God, we’ll decide how many children we want and when. Because if children are gifts, it is up to the Gift-Giver to decide when they arrive, how many are given, and how long we may keep them.

A brave step to take, especially in today’s society where children are not always seen as precious or valued, where abortion and child abuse are common-place. These couples had to deal with other people passing judgment on them and their larger-than-average families. They have been perceived as ‘irresponsible’ in having babies into their forties. But, for all the couples in the book, it has grown their faith in God – in His promised provision as creator and Father. These are just ordinary couples who do not have huge incomes, but who have seen God provide for all of their needs. Some did not stop at having their own children but reached out and adopted others.

For someone who has never been pregnant and is infertile, this book provided an intriguing insight into that mysterious world of pregnancy and labour. I admired the women’s honesty in sharing their aches and pains and battles with morning sickness. Some of the women ended up spending the second half of their pregnancies on enforced bed rest while others seem to breeze through the whole nine months. Those who suffered miscarriage share about it honestly, explaining not only how they dealt with it individually but as a family.

Some of the women have had periods of infertility while others have now reached the end of their child-bearing years, and they discuss their feelings of grief and the need to accept each new stage in their lives. I realised that the grief over not being able to get pregnant is as real for infertile couples as it is for those who already have a family yet long for another baby.

At the end of each chapter, the women answer various (very personal and searching) questions such as: how do you deal with the fear of increased miscarriage, infant loss, or birth defects? How do you balance life with older kids and babies? Is it being greedy to want more babies at the risk of not being able to meet the needs of the rest of the family? How do I deal with extended family members, friends, and even the medical community who disapprove of our continuing to want more babies as we get older?

The last couple of chapters are contributed by professionals who look at maintaining good health during pregnancy – physically, mentally and emotionally – and the role nutrition plays in aiding fertility and supporting the body during pregnancy, post-fertility and the menopause.

I loved this book. I couldn’t put it down. It’s radical and compelling. What these women advocate makes sense. But they do not push their biblical conclusions on the reader, they just share their journey with God. I have already ordered a second copy of the book as a present for a friend. I think one of the most important things this book says is: it’s okay to have a large family, so enjoy your gifts from God whether they arrive through pregnancy or adoption.

I believe that each of the women who has contributed her story to this book also writes at Visionary Womanhood.

I am grateful to Cross Focussed Reviews for providing me with a free e-copy of this book for the purpose of writing an unbiassed review.

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