Book Reviews

Here are some reviews of books by members of Castlefields Church:

SERMONS ON PROVERBS - C.H. Spurgeon

During Spurgeon's lifetime in the Christian ministry he preached many sermons on the book of Proverbs. Some of these have been taken from his printed sermons and put into book form (costing £9.64 for the paperback but only 77p on Kindle!!).

I read one sermon a day and found them to be a real blessing to my soul and a help in my Christian life.

One that particularly blessed me was his message on Proverbs 4 v 25, "Let thine eyes look right on and let thine eyelids look before thee" These words occur in a passage where the wise man exhorts us to take care of every part of our body. All the parts need to be carefully watched lest they become the cause of sin.

• The eyes, Spurgeon points out are the windows of light, some people walk around as if their eyes were shut.
• Some are awake mentally but they are not looking right on. They just star gaze looking for some new thing.
• Look forward, have something to live for and live for it. Get to know the right way and keep to it. Jesus said "I am the way".
• Let Christ be your way, look to Christ alone, do not look to any human guide. "Believe nothing" Spurgeon says "unless it can be supported by the Word of God".

Reviewed by Edna

THE PSALMS - Derek Kidner (Two volumes in the Tyndale Series)

I have just finished reading the Psalms in my reading plan and on this occasion, I had Kidner to help me!

He has written a commentary on the Psalms which you can buy in two small A5 paperbacks. Kidner is brief, technical and to the point, so in a few pages he helps you to get to grips with a particular Psalm. If like me you struggle with devotional commentaries and prefer something that helps you first understand the Scripture then I can recommend this commentary.

An example will show you the sort of things you will find! Psalm 1 describes two ways; that of the godly and of the wicked. Kidner in his typical pithy style reminds you the two ways run parallel for a time, then part company for ever - and - there is no third way. That last comment is typical of Kidner and I found it quite stunning.

Even better on Psalm 51 - but I leave that for you to discover!

Reviewed by Bob

BY GRACE ALONE - Sinclair Ferguson

This book is based on the Christian hymn, "O how the Grace of God amazes me". The hymn was written by an African Christian, E.T. Sibomana, during the Rwanda Revival in the 1930's and translated into English by an English missionary, Rosemary Guillebaud.

Sinclair Ferguson takes us through each of the seven verses of the hymn and applies it to the work of grace in the life of the Christian believer. The book is extremely uplifting and draws one to see how vitally important the Grace of God is in the life of the Christian, for without God's amazing grace we are nothing. It is God's grace that makes all the difference providing for the deepest need of lost men and women.

To me, the best chapter is on God's unconditional love, in which the author expounds in a wonderful way the parable of the Prodigal Son as recorded in Luke chapter 15.

A book that is to be highly commended.

Reviewed by Arthur

C.S LEWIS - A LIFE - Alister McGrath

Published to co incide with the 50th Anniversary of the death of Lewis in 2013, this book is really a re examination of Lewis by McGrath, building on material by previous biographers and writers but with new insights and research by McGrath himself (who is clearly a great fan of his subject!).

This is not a book for the general reader seeking a standard biography approach. McGrath is an academic and this book comes across in an academic way. There is great detail about things that this reviewer considered to be relatively minor matters - a lengthy passage for example about the exact date and time of Lewis's conversion experience. Some may find this all very intriguing and fascinating but it stops the flow of the story and takes us away from the reader's normal biography purpose of "getting to know the man".

The title of the book calls Lewis an "Eccentric, Genius and a Reluctant Prophet" and those descriptions make him someone who Christians of today find hard to associate with as a person. Much of Lewis's own written material is also hard to grasp and is of mixed theology. The personal spiritual journey of Lewis is bound up in much of his writing and admittedly, McGrath is helpful to the reader in this matter as we gain some insights into Lewis personal spiritual wrestlings . "Mere Christianity" and "The Screwtape Letters" are probably Lewis's best known works outside of such writing and McGrath also outlines what prompted Lewis to write such works.

It is his fictional writings (The Narnia books in particular) that endears us most to Lewis and probably causes most Christians to want to know something about their writer. Because of the detail that comes first, I'm afraid that most readers will probably book the book down well before they even get to any detail about the inspiration and writing of those books!

In summary this is rather too technical a work for the general reader but if you are a real Lewis "fan" like MCgrath, go ahead and give it a go!

Reviewed by David F

THE NEW CALVINISM CONSIDERED - Jeremy Walker

The front of this book includes the words " A Personal and Pastoral Assessment" and when we read the book we find that is exactly what it is!

As a Pastor in the UK, Jeremy is very interested in, and in some ways concerned about, a movement that is gathering pace in America where a number of well known Pastors and Conference Speakers are espousing the Doctrines of Grace (summed up by the term "Calvinism") and mixing this with aspects modern culture in what is sometimes an unusual mix! The preaching of a 40 minute Bible based and well articulated sermon straight after a performance of "rap" and "hip - hop" music in the same service of worship is surely something that would make many Christians in conservative Evangelical Churches in the UK raise their eyebrows at least!

Jeremy is forced to "name names" as this movement is not really a movement at all, it is not a denomination or even something held together by anything tangible except by interconnected personalities who seem regularly to appear to preach in one another's pulpits and Conferences and to endorse each other's books and blogs. This is a "personal" view and not all may agree with everything that he says but Jeremy is irenic in spirit and seeks to be fair in his assessment - but without ducking the need to be robust in his warnings and concerns.

I think that everyone who is concerned about the future of evangelicalism in the UK, in its wider sense and in our own local churches, should know what inevitably is heading our way across the Atlantic. Many of a younger generation in particular are internet savvy as far as listening to preaching and following music trends, blogs and websites are concerned. In view of this, Jeremy's book sounds out genuine concerns and gives us some helps to steer us through the cultural changes ahead that will challenge churches in the UK.

The book will inevitably have a shelf life of only a few years, as things are moving very fast in today's world. The issues raised by the book are for today, and we need to ensure we have a sound grip on our understanding of what is the right content and approach to worship, and to Christian living in these days. Today will inevitably lead us into tomorrow and it will be hard to regain lost ground if we head off in the wrong direction both personally and in our churches in these important areas.

Like Jeremy, all Pastors must be aware of today's cultural challenges but also like Jeremy, they need to stand firm on matters of truth and of practice with their feet firmly planted in Scripture. Maybe you are not a Pastor - it matters not, its where you should be too!

Well worth reading - it will not take you long (113 pages) and you will value the short biographies of many of the main personalities of this movement which are in the back of this book.

Reviewed by David F

THE WORKS OF JOHN OWEN VOLUME 6 – TEMPTATION AND SIN

As a Christian have you mastered your own sinful nature or do those besetting sins keep returning? The honest answer is that those sins do keep returning to trouble and perplex us. What should we do, can we obtain any help in this matter?

Providentially I came across Volume 6 of John Owen on mortification of sin. He is a 16 century theologian with a fearsome reputation in terms of his learning. Many of the volumes he wrote are apparently very difficult to read. Volume 6 however is quite different. He writes as if it was written yesterday with great skill and insight into the character of sin and how we are to anticipate its devious behaviour. There is no other book that describes the working on sin in such graphic detail. I found his descriptions true to life and so helpful. I return to this book regularly and like any good book it has become a friend .My notes and underlinings are scattered throughout my copy.

I have a paperback copy but also managed to download a copy to my kindle, so if you are in the electronic age it will cost you just a few pounds.

Reviewed by Bob

DON'T WASTE YOUR LIFE by John Piper

Certainly the title of this book grabs our attention, particularly when we see so many people today frittering their lives away on passing trivialities. Piper's aim however is not necessarily to speak to the "world out there" although, the gospel is in the book, but to the Christian. His appeal is particularly to the young Christian setting out on their "new life" but constantly bombarded by the culture and standards of today's materialistic society.

As the book opens it is almost autobiographical, drawing on Piper's own experience but he soon comes to a point of summing up what he means by a "wasted life". A quote from p37 captures this.

"God created us to live with a single passion to joyfully display his supreme excellence in all spheres of life. The wasted life is the life without this passion. God calls us to pray and think and dream and plan and work, not to be made much of, but to make much of Him in every part of our lives"

Chapter 5 contains his views on what he calls "risk taking" and the chapter heading sums it up - "Risk is Right - Better to Lose Your Life Than to Waste It". It is quite racy stuff and again will appeal perhaps to younger people because he asks, "Where are the young radicals for Christ?"

Piper certainly tries to be practical rather than simply quoting his theology. For example, he calls TV, "One of the greatest life wasters of the modern age" and goes on to say, "...of course the internet is running fast to catch up."

Another example of practical application is his Chapter titled, "Making much of Christ from 8 'til 5" with six helps to the Christian seeking to live for Christ in their daily work place.

If you want to really challenge yourself about "wasting time", then maybe this is a book for you.

Reviewed by David F

BEYOND THE EDGE - 100 STORIES OF TRUSTING GOD

One hundred years ago on the 16th October 1913 C.T Studd who in his younger days had been a well known English cricketer started a work in what was then the Belgian Congo to bring the gospel to the people of that land who knew nothing of the Lord Jesus Christ.

From this has sprung up a mission, WEC International which now numbers nearly 2000 workers in many different lands who seek to tell of Christ and of His saving work on Calvary's Cross and to demonstrate His love in their daily lives.

The volume, "Beyond the Edge” tells in some 360 pages, 100 testimonies of what God has done down from the early years of the mission right to the present day in the lives of those who have carried the message of the gospel forth.

It shows that God is still at work in our days, as He was in the days of the early Church, in the lives of His people and in bringing men and women to confess Him as Saviour and Lord of their lives.

A book to enliven one’s faith, demonstrating that God can be trusted in any and every situation.

Reviewed by Arthur

THE LORD OUR SHEPHERD by J Douglas Macmillan

This slim book is the contents of a series of Conference Addresses given in a Christian Conference in 1979. If however that sounds very uninteresting and even boring I would assure you that such is not the case!.

The four talks deal with that most familiar passage of the Bible, the 23rd Psalm, loved by men and women down through the centuries of time. I have read these talks several times and the writer brings the Psalm to life in a way that few others can do. A passage that is so familiar suddenly in reading this book brings to life truths that as a Christian I had never ever seen before.

What makes the writers messages so interesting is that he himself worked as a shepherd for twelve years before becoming a minister. He is therefore able to speak of what it is like to shepherd a flock from first-hand experience and apply those truths of working as a shepherd to what the Psalmist David has to say in this wonderful Psalm.

It is a book to be relished and enjoyed by all who know and love this part of the Bible. Borrow it or buy it, you will not be disappointed.

Reviewed by Arthur

RESCUE SHOP WITHIN A YARD OF HELL by Stewart and Marie Dinnen

It is C.T. Studd, the English Cricketer who left his home and a gave away a vast fortune to serve the Lord Jesus Christ in China, India and then in Africa who is reputed to have said,

“Some wish to live within the sound, Of church or chapel bell I want to run a rescue shop Within a yard of hell “

This book written by Stewart and Marie Dinnen, one time International leaders of WEC International tells of the birth of Betel, part of the work of WEC which works among Drug Addicts and Alcoholics bringing them to see their need of the Lord Jesus Christ who can and does deliver from the bondage to drink and drugs that they were enslaved to.. The work was started in Spain, ( Betel is Spanish for Bethel) in 1985 and now has centres in< Spain, Portugal, Italy, Germany, France, Central Asia, Australia, Ukraine, Mexico, USA, Russia, Finland, Bulgaria, North Africa, Czech Republic, Ireland, Mongolia, Argentina,, Brazil and the UK... Whilst Betel did not come to the UK until 1996 where the first centre was opened just south of Birmingham. there are now centres in, Nottingham, Birmingham, Derby, Watford and Manchester.

This book tells the thrilling story of how this work commenced and how the Lord has been pleased to bless and to use it . A book that will thrill your soul as you read of what God does in the days we live in.

Reviewed by Arthur

FOLLOWING THE SHEPHERD THROUGH THE 23RD PSALM by Peter Jeffery

In this short book the author, Peter Jeffery seeks to explain in fourteen short chapters the meaning of this very familiar portion of Scripture..

Being so familiar we may think that we know the Psalm and that there is no need to seek to study it. Such however cannot be the case for as Pastor Jeffrey shows a study of the 23rd Psalm is worthy of our study for it has a great deal to teach us and we can profit greatly from what Gods servant David has to tell us. The author shows to us that the Psalm is to be appropriated not by all and sundry but by those who know and love the Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour and their Lord. It is only such people who can call the Lord their shepherd and can rejoice in the comfort that this brings.

A book to be commended and which will repay careful study.

Reviewed by Arthur

HEAVEN and HELL by Edward Donnelly

What happens after we die? Is there a heaven? Is there a hell? If these places do exist, what are they like? Who goes to heaven and hell?

These are questions which we need to be able to answer. We need to be sure what the future holds and this is an excellent book to answer many of our questions and to challenge us as to our current spiritual condition before God.

Edward Donnelly pulls no punches, although he balances this with a feeling of warmth. He begins by first explaining the awful reality of hell, so that we may be warned to flee from it, and so that the glorious reality of heaven may shine all the brighter for those who have trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation.

The book is clear and simple, with plenty of helpful analogies to help us with our understanding. There are scriptural references to support all the points being made and the author makes it clear throughout that although there are things we do not know about heaven and hell, there is enough detail given in the Bible to ensure neither reality is to be emphasized to the neglect of the other.

It is a book which challenges our current priorities. It challenges us as to whether we are truly saved. It challenges us, if we are Christians, as to our love towards those who are currently on the way to hell.

This is an excellent guide to the biblical teachings on heaven and hell and is accessible to all – I would heartily recommend you to read it and prepare yourself more fully for the life to come.

Reviewed by Lee

PORTRAITS OF FAITH by Joel Beeke

Here is a book which I cannot speak highly enough of, the best book that I have read this year.

Dr Beeke speaks of the faith of five Bible Characters, Adam and Eve who demonstrated a childlike faith; the Shunammite woman who showed forth a submissive faith; the Canaanite woman whose faith was one of maturity and Caleb whose faith persevered over many years.

I found the book was one that uplifted me and inspired me to know more of God. It was however a great challenge to my own faith and how short it often falls in relation to what the Lord would have it to be.

Buy or borrow it, read it and be truly blessed.

Reviewed by Arthur

"I DID IT HIS WAY" by Hugh Hill

Hugh Hill tells the story of how, as a successful business man but an alcoholic, God met with him and his wife in a remarkable way.

Having started the book I found it difficult to put down as he recounts how God had worked in his and his wife's life bringing them to a personal knowledge of Jesus Christ as their Saviour and Lord.

The work of his printing company was revolutionized as he sought to apply Christian principles to the business, refusing to print for the drinks trade but printing rather those things that were wholesome and good.

Later the business went bankrupt through no fault of Hugh and he worked first for a Christian printer on the South Coast before going into the Christian Ministry where he Pastored three churches before his retirement from the Christian Ministry in 2007.

The book also gives the testimonies of four people from vastly different backgrounds who Hugh was instrumental in leading to the Lord during his years in Christian service.

The overriding theme for me in the book was; what man could not do in the life of Hugh, his wife Joyce and their family; God did ! Having once been enslaved to alcohol, God delivered him and drew him to Himself. To God be all the glory!

This is a book which is well worth reading, one that will warm the hearts of Gods people and one from which many can learn a great deal.

Reviewed by Arthur

THE HIDING PLACE - Corrie ten Boom

The Hiding Place is an incredible book about the years when Corrie ten Boom was hiding several Jews in her house. It is considered one of the greatest Christian testimonies of our time, and it has inspired millions. The actual story itself is fairly simple. Corrie, sister Betsie and their father hid several Jews in the Second World War. For two years, these Jews were safe, but on the night of February 28th 1944, Corrie and her family were arrested. Corrie and Betsie were taken to a concentration camp, where sadly, Betsie died. However, like many times in the Bible, God helped Corrie pull through. After Corrie came out of the concentration camp, she found the courage to speak at many church services and conferences. She met one of her jailers a few years later, and he asked for forgiveness. Corrie, however, had to ask the Lord’s help to be able to forgive him. What was amazing about this was that when she shook his hand, she felt an overwhelming current of love for him.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who thinks they are going through difficult times. I say think because that problem will not be as bad as the things Corrie had to suffer. I would also say that this book is more for females, and if girls are wanting to read it, that they would start at the age of 10. It wouldn’t harm men to read it, and if younger children want to read it too, then maybe their parents could read it to them. Overall, I think this book is absolutely brilliant and I recommend it highly.

Reviewed by Chloe, age 14

BLIND FAITH – Joan Waste, Derby's Martyr by Pat Cunningham

This little book, written by a Derby author, is the sad story of the martyrdom in 1556 of a young woman called Joan Waste.

It is amazing to think that, in 1605 Guy Fawkes tried to murder the King by blowing up the Houses of Parliament - for this crime he was hung and from that year on bonfires were lit and effigies of Fawkes burnt in celebration of his failure!

Forty nine years earlier, a 22 year old blind woman, Joan Waste was suspended by a rope above a bonfire and slowly burnt to death. What kind of ghastly crime had this young woman committed to deserve a form of execution far worse than that suffered by the traitor Guy Fawkes? Joan's “crime” was to desire to have the Bible read to her.

Joan was born blind and lost both of her parents when very young. Everyday she would go and listen to Bible readings and sermons. During this time she became a converted Christian through faith in Jesus Christ as her Saviour.

Joan was hungry for the Word of God and decided to buy a Bible of her own, even though in her day they were very expensive and she was very poor. Eventually she saved enough money and bought herself a New Testament. Now she had just one problem - she couldn't read it because she was blind!

Joan would ask people to read her Bible to her. Sometimes they would do this for free, sometimes they would charge the poor, impoverished girl a “days pay” to read her a few chapters. But God’s word meant so much to her that she willingly made this sacrifice.

Joan didn't just read the Word, she lived by Gods Word and His Commandments. When godly King Edward VI died and was replaced by Mary, new laws were made that forced people to worship God as men saw fit and not as God commanded. Many people did what Mary said for fear of punishment, but Joan was faithful to God.

On the 1st August 1556 Joan walked to her place of execution, comforted on this final journey by the hand of her brother Roger. Joan died when the rope holding her above the flames finally burnt through and she plunged into the fierce heat of the fire below. The place of her death is now called Lime Avenue, a quiet residential street off Burton Road.

This is a book for everyone who lives in Derby (and beyond) – we should never forget such things happened in our country – especially as today the persecution of Bible believing Christians is again gathering momentum.

Reviewed by David H

THE TITANIC'S LAST HERO by Moody Adams

In this centenary year of the sinking of the Titanic there will no doubt be a plethora of books, films and memorabilia available. The Titanic hit an iceberg in the Atlantic Ocean on her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York and sank within three hours during the night of 14th April 1912.

Some accounts are full of fiction and mythical anecdotes and it is hard to discern what is fact and fiction. The epic film starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, for example, carries many factual inaccuracies and is more of a fictional love story based loosely around the historical event.

This book is sub titled, “A Story of Courageous Heroism and Unshakable Faith” and is factually correct throughout in its content.

It tells the story of John Harper, a Baptist Pastor travelling to a conference in New York. He was accompanied by his 6 year old daughter and his grown up niece.

Undoubtedly there was much heroism on that terrible night but this story needs to be read as it carries an eternal dimension and a tremendous challenge to the reader. I recall that a previous edition carried the sub title, “A startling true story that can change your life for ever”. That is quite a claim and yet I do not think that it is overstated.

I will not spoil the read for you; simply to say that the heroism and selfless sacrifice of John Harper is but a shadow of the immense sacrifice that is at the heart of the Christian gospel.

What better book to buy in this anniversary year. It may change your life!

Reviewed by David F

WITH GOD ON THE STREETS by Robin Oake

On 14th January 2003, Detective Constable Stephen Oake attempted to assist a colleague who was being attacked with a knife during a raid on a suspected terrorist group in Manchester. Sadly DC Oake was shot dead by the attacker.

This autobiographical book is written by Stephen’s father, Robin and includes details of this tragic loss of his son.

Robin was born in London two years before World War Two broke out. He tells us of his school days at Chipstead County Primary School and Reigate Grammar School. As a youngster he attended Crusaders (a non-denominational Christian Organisation for young people) and Sunday School.

It was at Crusader camp that he talked with the leader of the camp about how he could become a Christian. He recalls how they knelt down and prayed and Robin asked Jesus to forgive his sin and that evening he became a Christian.

When the famous evangelist, Billy Graham came to London in 1954, both his mother and his father went forward at one of the gospel meetings. Robin tells of the joy from then on, of being part of a truly Christian family.

Aged 20, he became a Police Constable, starting his career at Albany St. Police Station and learning to deal with crime on the streets of London. In 1961 he was married to Chris, a hospital nurse, at Purley Baptist Church.

Robin Oake asked of himself, “Can a committed Police Officer be a strongly committed Christian?” This book gives us the answer to that question and you can read how Robin’s personal faith has enabled him to serve both crown and country in London and also in Manchester.

The tragic death of his son did not deter Robin from carrying on his career, which saw him appointed Assistant Chief Constable in Manchester. Prior to his retirement he also served as Chief Constable with the Isle of Man Constabulary and was responsible for the policing of the visit of Her Majesty the Queen to the Island.

Whoever you are, you will find this book easy to read and of great interest.

Reviewed by Margaret

Editor’s note - If you enjoy this book you could also read: "Father Forgive: The Forgotten "F" Word" by the same author.

DEATH IN THE CITY by Frances A. Schaeffer

This book was written in 1969 but is just as relevant today and was republished in 2002. Francis Schaeffer was, perhaps more a Christian philosopher than purely a theologian but Dennis Lane who writes the foreword to this book observes that, “Few Christians have had greater impact during the last half of the 20th century than Dr Francis A Schaeffer. A man with remarkable breadth of cultural interest and with penetrating insight into post Christian, post modern life.

Schaeffer says we live in a post-Christian world. He then goes on to describe how Christians should function in such a world using the biblical context of the Books of Romans, Lamentations and Jeremiah. Schaeffer has looked very hard at what is wrong with our society and has produced a thought-provoking analysis. He then looks through the Scriptures for a time that is parallel to our own and then uses the wisdom of God to provide answers for our troubles today.

The introduction to the book says that, “Death in the city is not a book about economics or sociology. It challenges us to become aware on a much more foundational level of the basic Biblical proposition that ideas have consequences. People act on the basis of their worldview. Where there is no living God as the true beginning of the universe, affirmed by thought and practice, there would eventually be no safety, no court to appeal to, for the human being in thought and practice”.

As well as containing penetrating analysis, in many ways the book strikes a practical note. For example, Schaeffer challenges the Christian to be a “teller” of the Gospel to the world around – not just to preachers & missionaries but every Christian. He says “All the church is to be made up of tellers. Not everyone is to be a Missionary, not everyone is a Minister, but there is no Christian who doesn’t have laid on him the admonition of Paul to be a debtor. Everyone is bound to be a teller in his own place, in his own calling, according to the individual vocation which god has given him”.

This book has made me think really hard about the nature of our society and how it can be remedied. It has also driven me to the Bible to look for God's prescription for our society

Reviewed by David H

Further reviews will be added shortly