Library and Reviews

We have a selection of Christian books available for our congregation to borrow. They are arranged as follows:

  • Books to help non-Christians2015-03-28 17.36.26
  • Basic Teaching
  • Creationism and Evolution
  • Christian Life
  • Church Growth
  • Christian Biographies
  • Other Religions

Book Reviews

Latest additions to library:

The Pursuit of God by AW Tozer 1948. Paperback 100 pages

Tozer was a pastor in Chicago when he wrote this classic. He had detected among Christians a thirst for a real relationship with God. He realised that it is not mere words which nourish the soul, but God Himself, and unless and until the hearers find God in personal experience they are not the better for having heard the truth. He saw the Bible as not an end in itself but a means to bring men to an intimate and satisfying knowledge of God, that they may enter into Him, that they might delight in His presence, and may taste and know God Himself in the centre of their hearts. The book describes his pursuit of this goal and practical guidance for us to follow.

I like this quote: ‘The modern scientist has lost God amid the wonders of the world; we Christians are in real danger of losing God amid the wonders of His word’. Here is another quite: ‘A spiritual kingdom lies all about us, enclosing us, embracing us, altogether within reach of our inner selves, waiting for us to recognize it. God Himself is here awaiting our response to His presence. This eternal world will come alive to us the moment we begin to reckon on its reality.’

9780978479916[1]

Amy Carmichael

Amy Carmichael – Beauty for Ashes.  A biography by Iain Murray 2015. Paperback 156 pages

In Isaiah chapter 61 we read the prophesied mission of Christ which includes the promise that He would ‘give them beauty for ashes’ (verse 3). This indicates that, through faith in Christ, our lives can be transformed from ashes to something beautiful. This message has been given to the Church and was well taken up by the subject of this new biography – the missionary and author Amy Carmichael. She was born in Northern Ireland in 1867, schooled in England and then spent over 50 years of her life, without returning home, serving mainly low caste girls and boys in South India. She died there in 1951.

This is (in the words of John MacArthur) ‘a love story of the noblest kind. It is an enriching consideration of a woman’s relentless love for her Saviour, her Bible, her friends, and most uniquely, her love for lost, suffering and desperate sinners – to whom she gave her life’. How appropriate is the subtitle of this inspiring biography because through her ministry many lives were transformed from ashes to beauty.

Books to Help non-Christians:

Right with God  by John Blanchard, 1971. Paperback 126 pages.
This popular evangelist is author of many books which explain Christianity simply and expertly answer many of the questions being asked today. This is one of his earlier books designed to help, in a straightforward way, those searching for a personal faith in God.

Ultimate Questions by John Blanchard,1987. Paperback 30 pages.
This popular evangelist answers many important questions about God, the purpose of life, our problems etc. It is good to read this so we in turn can answer questions from our friends, relatives, colleagues and neighbours. Chapter headings include:  What is God like?, Who am I?, What went wrong? Where do I go from here? Why the Cross?, How can I be saved?

Is God past his sell-by date?  by John Blanchard, 2002. Paperback 234 pages.
This popular evangelist is author of many books which explain Christianity simply, and expertly answer many of the questions being asked today. This book makes an excellently argued case for the existence of God and helps to put science in its right place. In particular, it well presents the case against the theory of evolution. Perhaps the most useful chapter at this time is ‘Where was God on September 11th?’ Here is an extract:

When an atheist claims that an all-powerful God could overcome evil and that an all-loving God would do so, the person who believes in God agrees, but adds that as it is not happening at present we can be certain that it will happen in the future. The day is coming when God will make a cosmic moral adjustment. Perfect justice will not only be done, but it will be seen to be done. The wicked will no longer prosper, the righteous will no longer suffer, and the problem of evil will be fully, finally and obviously settled beyond all doubt and dispute.

Good News for Bad People  by Roy Hession, 1989. Paperback 173 pages.
We are bombarded with good advice, whether it be about our diet, exercise, weight or many other things. But we are weak and find it difficult to heed. What we want is good news – and there’s very little of that in the papers or on the TV. The Gospel of Jesus is therefore particularly wonderful news because it promises much – eternal life – but doesn’t require us to do anything or improve ourselves before receiving it. It is for all of us, however bad we are. It is truly good news for bad people. This book explains simply the theology behind the effective message of  Jackie Pullinger in Chasing the Dragon and David Wilkerson in The Cross and the Switchblade (both in the Bailgate Christian Library) among drug addicts and gang members. It shows that if we admit our sins, however bad they are, have sorrow for them, intend to not repeat them, and trust that Jesus died to pay the penalty that they deserve, then we are welcomed into new life with God. That we have to renounce our rebellion against God (i.e. our sins) is well illustrated by a lesson from British history:

The French admiral defeated at the Battle of the Nile came on board Lord Nelson’s flagship to make his surrender. Dressed in his finery and with a smile on his face, he extended his hand to Nelson, but Nelson did not extend his. “Your sword first”, said Nelson. The French admiral withdrew his sword from its scabbard and handed it hilt first to Nelson, who took it and snapped it across his knee; only then did he shake hands.

Basic teaching:

Truth for All Time – a brief outline of the Christian faithby John Calvin 1537. Translation by John Olyott 1998.  Paperback 76 pages
Peter, at the end of his second letter, urges us to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. It therefore behoves us all to learn more about our faith. Here is an easily accessible and simple summary of the Christian faith by one of the greatest of systematic theologians, John Calvin. He starts by explaining certain basic truths about God and man. He then comments on the Ten Commandments. In discussing faith he takes us through the Apostle’s Creed, and in discussing prayer he leads us through the Lord’s Prayer. There is then a section on Baptism and Holy Communion before a final short section on church order and her relationship with the state.  This is recommended especially for those new to the faith, but will also refresh and be enjoyed by those long in the faith.

All of Grace by C H Spurgeon, c. 1880. Paperback 128 pages.
Spurgeon was the greatest of Victorian preachers both from his pulpit of the Metropolitan Tabernacle at the Elephant and Castle in London, and from his pen. The doctrine of grace (i.e. the unmerited, undeserved favour of God towards us) is a priceless treasure which all need to appreciate. In this unequalled work, the writer wished to compel us by his words to come to Jesus and receive this grace. To set the scene, he begins the book by telling a story:

A minister called upon a poor woman intending to give her help; for he knew that she was very poor. With his money in his hand, he knocked at the door; but she did not answer. He concluded she was not at home and went his way. A little later he met her at the church, and told her that he had remembered her need: ‘I called at your house, and knocked several times, and I suppose you were not at home, for I had no answer.’  ‘At what time did you call, sir?’ ‘It was about noon.’  ‘Oh, dear,’ she said, ‘I heard you, sir, and I am so sorry I did not answer; but I thought it was the man calling for the rent.’

Spurgeon then continued by saying to the reader: ‘Now it is my desire to be heard, and therefore I want to say that I am not calling for the rent; indeed, it is not the object of this book to ask anything of you, but to tell you that salvation is ALL OF GRACE, which means, free, gratis, for nothing.

The Attributes of God  by Arthur Pink, 1975. Paperback 92 pages.
Do we appreciate how great our God is? Are we aware of his many wonderful attributes? Do we marvel at them and extol them? Or is our God too small? Arthur Pink was a Nottingham boy. He had an international ministry in USA, Australia and Britain during the first half of the last century. In this book he devotes a separate short chapter (4-5 pages) to each of many of God’s attributes such as his power, self-sufficiency, sovereignty, unchangeableness, holiness, faithfulness, patience, mercy, wrath, grace, love and goodness.

Not by Chance – learning to trust a sovereign God by Layton Talbert  2001. Paperback 236 pages
We sing “He’s got the whole world in His hands….”. Do we actually believe these words? Do we believe God is sovereign, that He really is in charge? This book shows that the Bible certainly teaches this and also well illustrates the fact in the accounts of Joseph, Moses, Esther, Job, our Lord Jesus Christ and many others. Providence is the term used for the actual outworking of God’s sovereignty. It can be divided into preserving providence, by which God continuously preserves and maintains His creation, and governing providence, by which He guides and governs all events, including the free acts of men and their circumstances, and directs all things to achieve their appointed ends. The teaching of God’s sovereignty raises questions such as how can we also have free-will, why are we asked to petition God in prayer, and why does God allow suffering? Although an element of mystery remains, the author deals with these topics very helpfully. After reading this book you will view all the events of your life in a different light.

Absolutely Basic   by Horatius Bonar and JC Ryle. Paperback  95 pages.
This book consists of the simplified versions of writings by two great Victorian evangelical preachers. Both are classics and together describe the twofold work of God that is needed to make us Christians – the sacrificial death of Jesus in our place and the change that God works in those who trust in Jesus’ sacrifice.

The first is Horatius Bonar, well known as a hymn writer. The title of his section is ‘Righteous Forever’ and the central theme is the substitutionary work of Jesus Christ. Bonar explains that, in Jesus, God has provided the only way to deal with the problem of our sin. Jesus lived the life of perfect obedience to God, and was the only person to completely satisfy all the demands of God’s holy law. He then died the death that all sinners deserve. Because He was perfect, God accepts his death instead of the death of those who put their trust in Him. Thus, anyone who puts their trust in Him receives a legal pardon from God, and the perfect righteousness of Jesus becomes theirs.

The second is by RC Ryle, Bishop of Liverpool. The title of his section is ‘The New Life of the Christian’ and explains the necessity, nature and cause of the new birth, and its marks or evidences in the life of a Christian. He concludes by saying:

‘I want to address myself to the consciences of everyone, whether young or old, rich or poor, careless or thoughtful. I know that there is nothing popular or agreeable about the teaching of the new birth. It strikes at the root of all compromising half-and-half religion, but still it is true. There are many who would like very much to escape the punishment of sin, but who will not strive to be free from its power; they want to have God’s favour, but care little about God’s image and likeness in themselves. Their talk is of pardon, but not of purity. They think frequently of God’s willingness to forgive, but little about His warning that we need to be renewed. But this is ignoring half the work that Christ has died to perform. He died that we might become holy as well as happy. He purchased grace to sanctify as well as grace to redeem. Forgiveness of sin and change of heart must never be separated. ‘What God has joined together, let  man not separate’ (Matthew 19,6). The foundation of God stands firm: ‘If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ’ (Romans 8,9).

This book is readable and provides teaching on two basic aspects of our Christian faith.

Seven Sayings of the Saviour on the Cross  by AW Pink. Paperback 153 pages
Although written in 1919, this book by the Nottingham-born teacher and writer is still very fresh and is a classic treatment of what Jesus spoke whilst suffering on the Cross. Much attention is rightly given to the Sermon on the Mount and other addresses given by Jesus during His three year ministry. However, what He spoke on the cross is often overshadowed by the great solemnity, sacredness and significance of the occasion. This is a shame because every word He uttered is of immense significance and is expertly explained in this book.  It gives wonderful insight into Jesus’ thoughts, concerns and feelings at this critical time and provides much for us to meditate upon. As the author says: ‘His words make known to us some of the attendant circumstances of the great tragedy; words which reveal the excellencies of the one who suffered there; words in which is wrapped up the gospel of our salvation; and words which inform us of the purpose, the meaning, the sufferings and the sufficiency of the death divine.’

The Suffering of Man and the Sovereignty of  God by CH Spurgeon edited by KJ Allen  2001. Paperback 378 pages
CH Spurgeon was the greatest of Victorian preachers. His sermons are just as valuable today as when first preached. This book contains 25 sermons from the Book of Job. Here is an extract from one of these sermons seeking to explain the validity of two important, apparently contradictory truths – God’s Sovereignty and man’s responsibility.

Many have failed to understand how everything, from the smallest event to the greatest, can be ordained and fixed, and yet how it can be equally true that man is a responsible being, and that he acts freely, choosing the evil and rejecting the good. Many have tried to reconcile these two things, and various schemes of theology have been formulated with the object of bringing them into harmony. I do not believe that they are two parallel lines, which can never meet; but I believe that, for all practical purposes, they are so nearly parallel that we might regard them as being so. They do meet, but only in the infinite mind of God is there a converging point where they melt into one. As a matter of practical, everyday experience with each one of us, they continually melt into one; but as far as all finite understanding goes, I do not believe that any created intellect can find the meeting-place. 

It would be a very simple thing to understand the predestination of God if men were just clay in the hands of the potter. That figure is rightly used in Scripture because it reveals one side of the truth; if it contained the whole truth, the difficulty that puzzles so many would entirely cease. But man is not only clay, he is a great deal more than that, for God has made him an intelligent being, and given him understanding and judgment, and, above all, will. I venture to suggest that it is impossible for us to understand how predestination should come true in every jot and tittle, and fix everything, and yet at the same time there should never be, in the whole history of mankind, a single violation of the will of man, so that he acts, according to his own will, just as if there were no predestination whatever, and yet, at the same time, the will of God is, in all respects, being carried out.

In order to get rid of this difficulty, there are some who deny either the one truth or the other. Some seem to believe in a kind of free agency which virtually dethrones God, while others run to the opposite extreme by believing in a sort of fatalism which practically exonerates man from all blame. Both views are utterly false. We are bound to believe both sides of the truth revealed in the Scriptures.

Authority by Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones, 1958. Paperback 94 pages.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones was perhaps the most influential preacher of the mid-20th century from his pulpit at Westminster Chapel in London. Many of his sermons and addresses have been published. This book consists of three addresses given in Canada on the subjects of The Authority of Jesus Christ, The Authority of the Scriptures and The Authority of the Holy Spirit. He felt that, at a time when many deny that truth is absolute and can be defined, it was timely to remind Christians that we can know the truth as revealed in Scripture and rely on the Authority of Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Here is a quote from the chapter on the The Authority of Scripture:

The authority of the Scriptures is not a matter to be defended, so much as to be asserted. I am reminded of what the great Spurgeon once said in this connection: ‘Thee is no need for you to defend a lion when he is being attacked. All you need to do is to open the gate and let him out.’ We need to remind ourselves frequently that it is the preaching and exposition of the Bible that really establishes its truth and authority. I believe that this is more true today, perhaps, than it has ever been for the last two centuries. There is nothing that really explains the whole world situation as it is today, except the Bible.

Every Word Counts by Tom Barnes 2010.   Paperback 164 pages.
Many Christians today pay only lip service to the Bible being the word of God; often they are not sure what it means. This book explains both what it means and how vitally important it is to accept the Bible as the very word of God. It is written for the person who wants to find out how they should view the Bible and whether it should be treasured and trusted. It explains that:

‘The Holy Spirit moved men to write [the Scriptures]. He allowed them to use their own style, culture, gifts and character, to use the results of their own study and research, to write of their own experiences and to express what was in their mind. At the same time, the Holy Spirit did not allow error to influence their writings; He overruled in the expression and thought and in their choice of words. Thus they recorded accurately all that God wanted them to say and exactly how He wanted them to say it, in their own character, style and language’.

And again that:

‘Our ultimate conviction that the words of the Bible are God’s words comes only when the Holy Spirit speaks in and through the words of the Bible to our hearts and gives us an inner assurance that these are the words of our Creator speaking to us.’

The author gives much evidence for accepting that the Bible is the very word of God, and rightly concludes that since God cannot lie, the Bible is without error (as originally given). To believe or disbelieve the Bible is to believe or disbelieve God.

Where is God when things go wrong? by John Blanchard
We live in what has been called ‘a world with ragged edges’. Earthquakes, volcanoes, floods, hurricanes, tsunamis, fires, famine and other natural disasters kill millions of people and injure countless others, sometimes wiping out huge numbers within a few hours. Every day, accidents claim an untold number of victims. Planes crash, trains are derailed, road vehicles collide, ships are lost at sea, buildings collapse, bridges give way, trees fall, machinery malfunctions. To make matters worse, disease cuts relentless swathes through humankind, causing immeasurable weakness, pain and fear, while ‘man’s inhumanity to man’ brings a terrible toll of suffering. Yet the Bible claims that God is in sole and sovereign control of everything that happens in the entire universe, that he ‘works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will’ and that he is ‘compassionate and gracious’ and ‘abounding in love’. Is there any way in which all of this can hold together? The answer may surprise you. Read this book.

Where do we go from here? by John Blanchard
This book may become more widely used than anything John Blanchard has written since Ultimate Questions, which now has over fifteen million copies in print in fifty languages. The reason is obvious. Where do we go from here? is the final question all humanity faces, and this booklet tackles it head-on. Exactly what does happen to us when we die? The immediate future of the body is fairly obvious, but what about the spirit or soul? Is it annihilated or reincarnated? Is it conscious or unconscious? Do we face endless pain or endless pleasure? Is there a ‘second chance’ to put things right? Do we have to wait until after we die to find out?  This booklet answers these and other questions biblically, clearly and in a user-friendly way. Here is an ideal resource to share with people who have no grasp of the Christian message.

The Purposes of the Lord’s Supper  by Peter Masters 2008. Paperback 24 pages
We regularly celebrate Holy Communion once or twice  a month and there is a tendency to take it for granted without reminding ourselves what it’s all about. And yet Paul stresses the importance of taking it seriously – ‘Whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.’ (1 Corinthians 11,27). This small booklet shows us the important symbolism of the Lord’s Supper and that it’s chief purpose is to remind us of the centrality to the Christian faith of Jesus’ atoning sacrificial death on the cross. It helps us to prepare ourselves for Communion and provides a rich basis for thought and prayer at the Communion Table and will thus enrich our participation.

Creationism and evolution

The Lie – Evolution (Genesis – the key to defending your faith)
by Ken Ham  2008. Paperback 172 pages
Genesis is the foundation of Christian doctrine and is referred to many times by Jesus (including mentions of Adam, Abel, Noah, Abraham, Lot, Isaac and Jacob). And yet it is the book which gives many Christians the most difficulty because it is not compatible with the theory of evolution. The theory of evolution is presented as fact in schools, in countless TV natural history programmes, and in the newspapers. This intimidates Christians who want to believe the story of creation as given to us in the book of Genesis and results in much doubt. However, if we can’t believe in the truth of such a foundational book as Genesis, what can we believe?

This very helpful book by an Australian scientist, who has had an effective ministry in the USA, shows that evolutionism is a religion; it is not science! Religion is ‘a system of belief held with ardour and faith’. Creationism is a religion but one based upon the revelation from the all-knowing Creator who was there when creation took place. Evolutionism, on the other hand is based upon the words of men who were not there and who, by their own admission, do not know everything and are biased against God and His Word.

This very readable book will help many Christians to renew or strengthen their faith and confidence in the complete trustworthiness and truthfulness of the Bible, even the book of Genesis.

Darwin on Trial  by Phillip Johnson. 1993. Paperback 170 pages
The author is a professor of law at the University of California at Berkeley who specialises in analyzing the logic of arguments and identifying the assumptions that lie behind those arguments. Although a Christian, his purpose in writing this book is to examine the scientific evidence on its own terms, being careful to distinguish the evidence itself from any religious or philosophical bias that might distort our interpretation of that evidence. The result is rather shocking and shows that the theory of evolution is based on faith rather than fact and that the main proponents are naturalistic scientists who believe that the natural world is all there is and there can be no outside or supernatural influence. Because they cannot think of any other natural explanation for the diversity of the various species, they have decided the theory of evolution must be true and therefore don’t see the need for positive confirmation. Rather, they engage in a circular argument – naturalistic evolution is (for them) the only conceivable explanation for life, and so the existence of life proves it to be true! A fascinating book which should be read by all Christians who are inclined to accept the theory of evolution.

Darwin’s  Black Box  by Michael Behe. 1996. Paperback 253 pages
The author is a professor of Biochemistry in Pennsylvania. He exposes the implausibility of the theory of evolution to explain the origin of complex biological mechanisms which do not function unless all the various parts are present. The theory depends on individual chance mutations of genes conferring a benefit for survival and reproduction, but there is no way in which the necessary individual mutations can confer benefit unless they are all in place. He usefully refers to a mousetrap to illustrate this, and gives real examples such as the blood clotting system. The book is in three sections and is accessible to non-scientists if they omit the middle section which contains a lot of biochemical detail.

The Dawkins Delusion  by Alister McGrath. 2007. Paperback 65 pages
The author is professor of Historical Theology at Oxford University but had previously been a research scientist in the field of Molecular Biophysics. This book was a direct response to the popular book by fellow Oxford Professor, Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion. Dawkins is a leading evolutionary scientist and has been called the high priest of scientific atheism and in that book he criticises every form of religion and is out to convert his readers to atheism. His contempt for Christians was evident in his recent TV series on Darwin. McGrath exposes the fallacy of much of Dawkins’ arguments against the existence of God and in so doing he weakens his scientific reputation. He concludes that Dawkins’ book is a work of theatre rather than of scholarship.

The Christian Life

The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis, 1942. Paperback 160 pages.
This popular Christian author (who wrote the Narnia books including the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe) opens our eyes, in an amusing way, to the possible subtle ways in which the devil works on us (his ‘patients’), and he makes the devil more real to us. In the preface he warns us that: “There are two equal and opposite errors into which we can fall about devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. The devils themselves are equally pleased with both errors.” The book consists of 31 short letters from a senior devil to junior devil in response to his reports. Here is an extract:

I see only one thing to do at the moment. Your patient has become humble; have you drawn his attention to the fact? All virtues are less formidable to us once the man is aware that he has them, but this is especially true of humility. Catch him at the moment when he is really poor in spirit and smuggle into his mind the gratifying reflection, “By jove! I’m being humble”, and almost immediately pride – pride at his own humility – will appear. If he awakes to the danger and tries to smother this new form of pride, make him proud of his attempt – and so on, through as many stages as you please. But don’t try too long, for fear you awake his sense of humour and proportion, in which case he will merely laugh at you and go to bed.

The Calvary Road by Roy Hession,  1950. Paperback 79 pages.
This simple, easy-to-read book (ten chapters of about eight pages each) has had a profound effect on many Christians. It is described in the foreword as one of the most important and strategic books in the history of the church. Over a million copies have been sold worldwide. The truths expressed lie at the heart of all movements of revival by which God has restored His church to new life when it has been dry and needy. In particular, this book reveals that sins are not just gross offences such as murder and adultery, but wrong attitudes and anything which springs from self – self centredness, self justification, self consciousness, self aggrandizement, pride, touchiness etc. Helpfully, it reminds us that at the centre of the word ‘SIN’ is ‘I’, that proud, stiff-necked letter which needs to be bent to the ‘C’ of ‘Christ’. Only by recognizing, acknowledging and repenting of our sins before God at the foot of the Cross on Calvary, where Jesus died to pay the penalty that our sins deserve, can we have fellowship with Jesus and be filled with His Spirit. These truths are not novel but at the very heart of Christianity and need to be stressed in every age – and no more so than today.

Saved in Eternity  by Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones, 1952. Paperback 187 pages.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones was perhaps the most influential preacher of the mid-20th century from his pulpit at Westminster Chapel in London. Many of his sermons and addresses have been published. This is the first of four books containing sermons on John chapter 17 which were delivered between 1952 and 1953. The prayer of Jesus which comprises John 17 can truly be called the Lord’s Prayer because it was his actual prayer (as opposed to the model of prayer he recommended to his disciples in what we normally call ‘The Lord’s Prayer’). Here we look deep into Jesus’s concerns and approach to God. In expounding this passage, Lloyd-Jones explains the purpose of prayer and also wonderfully displays God’s great Plan of Salvation and reveals our eternal security in Jesus. This is basic Christian doctrine which is explained in Lloyd-Jones’s characteristically simple style.

We would see Jesus  by Roy Hession,  1958. Paperback 130 pages.
This book is linked to The Calvary Road. It’s central message is that the ultimate aim or purpose of our lives is to have close fellowship with Jesus. We were made for this and will never be complete without it. The book shows how Jesus is the Way to this and also the Door to the Way (at the foot of the Cross on Calvary). He is everything we need. We are thus encouraged to abide in Him:

The word to “abide” simply means to “dwell” or “remain” or “continue”. God has placed us in His Son, united us to Him as a branch to the vine. Let us simply remain there, dwell there, continue there, abide there in Him. If we do this, then He on His part promises to dwell, remain, abide in us. “Abide in Me” is the condition which we are to fulfil. “I in you” is the promise which He will fulfil. It is as if He says, “If you dwell in Me, I will dwell in you”. And when He is living again His life in us, His fruit and victory cannot but be manifest, for He never fails.

When I saw Him by Roy Hession, 1975. Paperback 87 pages.

When I Saw Him 2010 reprint by Roy Hession

Reprinted in 2010

This is a classic which is still in print almost 40 years after being written. It is not unusual to meet strong Christians today who were greatly influenced through the late Roy Hession’s evangelistic ministry and this will come as no surprise to anyone reading this small book. He presents helpful and practical insights into the effect of seeing the Lord on four important Bible characters: Isaiah, Paul, the Disciples and Joshua. For instance, in describing Isaiah’s vision in the temple (Isaiah chapter 6) he draws attention to Isaiah’s vital conviction of sin:

In Isaiah’s early years he frequently pronounced woes on others: ‘Woe unto you that do this … Woe unto you who do the other’. Truly his message is important, but there is no woe pronounced on himself. It is not until chapter 6, when he sees the Lord high and lifted up, that he says, ‘Woe is me! For I am undone .. mine eyes have seen the King’. All those years he had been working not only without vision but without a broken spirit, pointing the finger at others , condemning others, but not seeing himself. We can be doing the same, criticizing others, pronouncing woes on others, without having been humbled to say, ‘Woe is me! For I am undone’ – and that because we have not seen what Isaiah saw. As a result revival has not yet begun in our hearts, for the Lord is only near those of a broken and contrite spirit, ‘to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of contrite ones’ (Isaiah 57,15).

This and the other accounts have great application for our lives as we seek to better worship and serve our Lord in humility and love. Set out in six short chapters it is very readable and highly recommended.

Humility the forgotten virtue by Wayne Mack  2005. Paperback167 pages
CS Lewis, in ‘Mere Christianity’ asserted that pride is ‘the essential vice, the utmost evil. It is the one vice of which no man in the world is free, and of which hardly any people imagine they are guilty themselves’. Wayne Mack, in this book, effectively demonstrates the truth of this and much more about pride. Although firmly based on Scripture, he also reminds us of an early event in the Christian life of John Bunyan’s pilgrim, when he had to descend into the valley of humiliation. This represents the humbling experience that God brings into our lives to destroy the sin of pride and help us develop godly humility. He defines humility as an attitude wherein we recognize our own insignificance and unworthiness before God and attribute to Him the supreme honour, praise, prerogatives, rights, privileges, worship, devotion, authority, submission and obedience that He alone deserves. He then goes on, in separate chapters, to show the ways humility towards God and other people shows itself in practice, and then gives practical advice, starting with the need for ‘an absolute awareness and acknowledgment that we are utterly dependent on God’.

There are searching questions at the end of each chapter together with self evaluation inventories for us to score ourselves. For example we are invited to score from 1 to 4 the following two (out of thirty three) questions about ourselves: a) I accept and submit myself to God’s revealed will even if it is difficult and might cause others to criticize me and lose respect for me when I do so;  b) I am willing to serve others and not be upset when I don’t receive appreciation for what I’ve done.                                                                                                           Read conscientiously, this will be a life-changing book.

Developing a Healthy Prayer Life  by James and Joel Beeke 2010. Paperback 99 pages
Daily prayer is an essential part of the Christian life and yet many find it difficult and don’t persevere. This book consists of 31 three-page chapters which are suitable for daily study for a month. It provides helpful advice and encouragement. If you want to be more devoted to meaningful prayer this may be the book for you.

Steps for Guidance by Peter Masters 1995. Paperback 184 pages
How do we find God’s guidance for our lives? Some say it comes by dreams, visions and ‘words of knowledge’. Others say that God doesn’t have  a specific plan for the lives of His people and that He allows us to please ourselves as long as we take decisions in a wise and moral way. This book presents the time-honoured view that Christians must seek God’s will in all the major decisions of life and outlines six.

What You Should Know about Your Conscience by Peter Masters 2009. Paperback 18 pages
The conscience, though very real, is mysterious. This small booklet explains vital facts including how it functions, what happens when it is abused, and what trouble it can cause. It shows the biblical way of unburdening the hurting conscience.

The Pursuit of God by AW Tozer 1948. Paperback 100 pages         Tozer was a pastor in Chicago when he wrote this classic. He had detected among Christians a thirst for a real relationship with God. He realised that it is not mere words which nourish the soul, but God Himself, and unless and until the hearers find God in personal experience they are not the better for having heard the truth. He saw the Bible as not an end in itself but a means to bring men to an intimate and satisfying knowledge of God, that they may enter into Him, that they might delight in His presence, and may taste and know God Himself in the centre of their hearts. The book describes his pursuit of this goal and practical guidance for us to follow.

I like this quote: ‘The modern scientist has lost God amid the wonders of the world; we Christians are in real danger of losing God amid the wonders of His word’. Here is another quite: ‘A spiritual kingdom lies all about us, enclosing us, embracing us, altogether within reach of our inner selves, waiting for us to recognize it. God Himself is here awaiting our response to His presence. This eternal world will come alive to us the moment we begin to reckon on its reality.’

Church Growth:

Resourcing Renewal – shaping churches for the emerging future. by Martyn Atkins  2007. Paperback 267 pages.
This is an important book by the President of the Methodist Conference (who paid a short visit to Bailgate in January 2008). Having been Principal of Cliff College, Martyn Atkins has now been appointed to the new post of General Secretary of the Methodist Church.

He explains that there is a pervasive dissatisfaction within traditional churches with a gradual realisation that they no longer appeal to those outside and are unable to even attract, engage or keep their children or grandchildren. One of the problems is that we are now in state of post-Christendom – Christianity is no longer central in our country’s thinking and the church has been marginalised and no longer considered relevant. The gap between church and the surrounding communities and wider culture grows even greater and yet most churches are not facing up to it. In terms of church life this often results in a kind of siege mentality in which the life of the local church – often as it is fondly remembered, rather than as it actually is – provides haven and security for its established members, who sustain its life for as long as possible. Key members of many local churches quietly confide that they no longer feel they know what it’s all about – the money-raising for the survival of a questionable status quo; the general level of apathy about things they consider really important; the annual round of meetings and religious routine. They sense that ‘there has to be more than this’ and so they pray and wait.

This is the diagnosis with which few would disagree. What about the prescription? Martyn Atkins suggests a ‘mixed economy’ consisting of both revitalized traditional churches and fresh expressions of church. He feels that the best way of renewing and energizing established congregations is to prayerfully think again about the missionary nature of the church as taught in Scripture and accordingly to adapt to attract those it wishes to serve. Unless outreach is central to a church’s thinking, it will not survive. It is a harsh irony that sheer investment in the local church over many years makes church folk susceptible to automatically assuming that the routine life and ministry of the church is seeking God’s Kingdom, and that simply keeping ‘the show on the road’ sharing in the mission of God. And it is because this temptation is so common and so debilitating to renewal that the missionary nature of the Church requires to be rehearsed and reviewed over and over again.

Does size matter? Do we need larger or smaller congregations? Larger churches are often successful because they are well resourced. They are able to provide quality worship, attractive spirituality, good leadership, consistent preaching, wide participation, appropriate environments, effective Sunday schools, pastoral care and opportunities for Christian growth and discipleship. They tend to use their resources well, investing in projects and ministries that are outward-facing, mission-focused and community-sensitive. Most are openly committed to making more disciples of Jesus, and engage in innovative ways of encountering people in evangelism and witness. Their premises are tasteful, pleasant, and inviting with cafés, book-rooms and prayer chapels. On the other hand, small home groups have advantages in terms of fellowship and opportunity to invite friends, neighbours, family and colleagues. Perhaps both are needed.

Reading this book prompts one to consider how this could be applied to our situation – in Lincoln, at Bailgate. We all need to think and pray about this. However, it seems clear that whatever changes are made, any renewal will be temporary unless priority is given to outreach.

What would Jesus say about your Church? by Richard Mayhue 2002 Paperback 198 pages
Jesus Christ, the head of the Church, has a definite blueprint for His Church. We can learn a lot of what he commends and what he condemns in His Churches from His letters to the 7 early churches in what is now Turkey which we find in the first two chapters of the book of Revelation. Paul Mayhue examines the letters to each of these churches, as well as Paul’s letters to the churches in Thessalonica, Philippi and Corinth, and the account of the Churches in Jerusalem and Antioch that we find in Acts. From all this, 38 commendable features and 23 condemnable features are identified so that we can assess our own church. Can you imagine Christ writing a letter directly to Bailgate? His thinking about the Church has not changed. What would He say about us in the light of what He wrote to these first century churches? This book helps us make that assessment – if we have the courage!

How to give away your faith by Paul Little. 1971. Paperback 143 pages
Although a little dated and written primarily for American college students, this book is full of helpful and practical observations and advice on sharing our faith. Sharing our faith is a daunting prospect for many British Christians but a vital one. Without effective preparation and forethought we will flounder. In Peter’s first letter we are told to be ‘ready to give a defence to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you’.  A number of practical, basic principles are offered. For instance, we must have social contact with non-Christians; if we don’t know any non-Christians, how can we introduce them to Jesus? Also, we must be prepared for the sort of questions non-Christians might ask. This experienced student evangelist list 7 basic questions which, in his experience, are asked again and again. They may not all be the ones the people we meet ask but his answers are very helpful and should prompt us to consider and prepare answers  for questions which we are more likely to be asked. Predictably, the questions include Is Christ the only way to God?, Why do the innocent suffer? What about the heathen? and Isn’t the Bible full of errors? We might consider such questions as Why do you go to church? and Why are you a Christian? Outreach is one area in which Bailgate is not very effective. This little book is highly recommended.

Biblical Strategies for Witness  by Peter Masters 1994. Paperback 154 pages
For many of us, witnessing to others about our faith is daunting and we’re not even sure how to go about it. This book is full of encouragement, establishing the fact that God really does use human instruments. It presents Jesus’ own methods for challenging different types of unconverted people. As we read this book it may surprise us to see just how much detailed and practical guidance is stored in the Gospels and the Book of Acts for all who engage in personal witness and preaching.

Christian Biography:

John Wycliffe – the Dawn of the Reformation by David Fountain  1984. Paperback 132 pages
Martin Luther is rightly celebrated for his courageous stand against the false teaching and practices of the Roman Catholic Church at the beginning of the Reformation in the early 16th century. However, John Wycliffe stood for the same ideals 150 years earlier and has been called the Morning Star of the Reformation and the Father of the English Reformation. The Bible was his authority and he opposed everything in the church which was not consistent with its teaching. He organised a band of laymen called Lollards who travelled round the land faithfully preaching the Gospel. He produced the first complete Bible in English translated from the Latin and hand-written, before the introduction of the printing press. For all this he was severely persecuted and, even in death, the church took revenge by digging up his body, publically burning it and throwing his ashes in the river Swift near Lutterworth. This is a stirring, challenging and instructive account of his life and beliefs.

He shall with Giants Fight – a biography of John Bunyan  by Anne Arnott, 1985. Paperback 157 pages.
The Pilgrim’s Progress is one of the most influential and popular of Christian books and one of the best selling books in the history of English literature, and has been translated into many languages since first published in 1678. This biography of the author, John Bunyan, shows how the events of his own life shaped his spiritual vision, as he learnt what it means to suffer for Christ, as well as to know the loving support of others. He suffered depression and a great sense of unworthiness for two years. He then demonstrates the truth of Luke 7,47 [‘To whom little is forgiven, the same loves little’] that our love for God is in proportion to the realisation of our sinfulness. As soon as he realised that all his sins had been forgiven and such a great burden taken from him, he was relentless in God’s service.

A Burning and Shining Light – a biography of David Brainerd  by Denise Stubbs, 1997. Paperback 269 pages.
John Wesley was so impressed by the life and witness of David Brainerd that he abridged a biography by Jonathan Edwards and recommended it to all his preachers. And yet this influential missionary to the North American Indians died before the age of 30 in 1747. His commitment to God, his desire for holiness, his desire to live only for the glory of God, his love for the Indians, and his steadfast religious principles fill one with admiration and can still inspire us today. This biography which includes descriptive narrative and engaging dialogue brings to life this hero of our faith. His necessarily simple but effective preaching of the gospel is a good example to us as we struggle to witness in our conversations:

“The Bible tells us that all men are destined to die”, he proclaimed. “Where will you go when that day comes? Will you go to heaven or hell? If you do not know Jesus Christ as your saviour, you will go to hell. But if you confess your sins and put your faith in Jesus Christ as your only hope for salvation, you will live forever in the presence of God. And no other place is more beautiful, more peaceful, more glorious than the presence of the one, true God.”

George Whitfield – a biography by Arnold Dallimore, 1990. Paperback 224 pages.
George Whitfield was a friend of John and Charles Wesley and a member of their Holy Club at Oxford. During his time at Oxford he was greatly influenced by reading a book called The Life of God in the Soul of Man by a Scotsman, Henry Scougal, and came to realise he lacked a living faith and then became burdened by his sin. After struggling for many months in 1735 he came to the end of his tether and then had a wonderful experience as he was born again. He describes this as follows: God was pleased to remove the heavy load, to enable me to lay hold on his dear Son by a living faith, and by giving me the Spirit of adoption, to seal me, even to the day of everlasting redemption. O! with what joy – joy unspeakable – even joy that was full of and big with glory, was my soul filled, when the weight of sin went off, and an abiding sense of the pardoning love of God  …. Broke in upon by disconsolate soul!

He was a new person and after ordination became one of the greatest of preachers. His forthright Biblical sermons met opposition by many clergymen and he began preaching in the open air. His oratory was envied by the greatest actor of the time and his voice was so clear that it was estimated that he could be heard by a crowd of 30,000. He ignited the torch of revival in Great Britain and then travelled widely in America where he was instrumental in the Great Awakening. He was welcomed by Jonathan Edwards in Massachusetts and also had a long friendship with Benjamin Franklin who described his preaching as follows: ‘He had aloud clear voice, and articulated his words and sentences so perfectly, that he might be heard and understood at a great distance. He also described the effect of his preaching when asking for funds to build an orphanage in Georgia: ‘I did not approve of the building. I silently resolved that he should get nothing from me. I had in my pocket a handful of copper, three or four silver dollars and five pistoles in gold. As he proceeded I began to soften and concluded to give the coppers. Another stroke of his oratory made me ashamed of that, and determined me to give the silver; and he finished so admirably that I emptied my pocket wholly into the collector’s dish, gold and all’.

This great Christian leader deserves to be better known and this book is an excellent and inspiring introduction.

Spurgeon– a new biography by Arnold Dallimore, 1984. Paperback 239 pages.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon is acknowledged to be the greatest of Victorian preachers. He was converted at the age of 15 in a small Methodist village chapel during the simple preaching of a stand-in for the minister who was snowed in. The text was ‘Look unto Me and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth’. Spurgeon said that he had been waiting to do fifty things to please God, but when he heard that word ‘Look!’ it seemed such a charming word and he simply looked at Christ and for the first time put his faith in Him. This was a great turning point in his life and he began effective preaching in Cambridgeshire. He came to the notice of churches in London and he was invited to be the pastor of New Park Street Baptist church at the age of 19. His preaching soon attracted thousands and he had to preach in a public concert and lecture hall which accommodated 5000 and, even then, hundreds were turned away. He disturbed the complacency of the religious life of the day and met much conflict. His preaching was characterised by great earnestness: He spoke out against the kind of minister who before preaching can be a jolly fellow, happily greeting the people, and who after the service can gather jovially with them at the door, having fair words for all. His place at such a time, he declared, is with God, weeping out the failure of his preaching and pleading that the seed sown in hearts might take root and bring forth fruit unto eternal life.

He eventually moved into the new, much larger, Metropolitan Tabernacle at Elephant and Castle. During this flourishing preaching ministry he also opened an orphanage and a college for preachers. He produced and contributed to a monthly periodical, The Sword and Trowel (which is still published four times a year) and he was a prolific author.  Throughout these successes he suffered greatly from ill-health and from great opposition to evangelical truth precipitated by the publication of Darwin’s Origin of Species which led to the teaching, in direct contradiction of Scripture, that life had not originated by divine inspiration but by blind chance. Simultaneously, the Christian foundations were also undermined by what was called Higher Criticism which led to attempts to explain away the miracles of the Bible and reduce it to the level of a merely human book. These ideas were taught in universities and permeated all the denominations including his Baptist Union. He took a clear stand in favour of Scripture and his church reluctantly left the Baptist Union saying that ‘a new religion had been originated which is no more Christianity than chalk is cheese, and this religion, being destitute of moral honesty palms itself off as the old faith with slight improvements, and on this plea usurps pulpits which were erected for gospel preaching.’ On writing to Baptists in Canada he explained: ‘The inspiration of the Scriptures is the point assailed, and with it all true religion stands or falls. May you be kept from this dread tidal water which is rolling over this country’.

He was thus a beacon for Biblical Christianity throughout his ministry. When he died in 1892, it was estimated that 50,000 paid respects at his coffin and many thousands lined the streets as the funeral carriages made the 5 mile journey to Norwood cemetery. Church bells sounded along the route and even the pubs were closed. Many books by Spurgeon are still in print and it is hoped that reading this biography will encourage further exposure to the inspiring teaching of this courageous and faithful man of God.

The Cross and the Switchblade by David Wilkerson, 1963. Paperback 214 pages.                         A classic which has sold over fifty million copies in 30 languages. The story of a young pastor of a country church in Pennsylvania who had a burden for the youths caught up in crime and drug addiction in New York. By faithfully trusting in the Holy Spirit for all his needs he was able convert gang leaders through his loving concern and the bold preaching of the simple gospel. This led to the founding of the Teen Challenge organization which now has centres in many big cities.

Here is an example of how tough gang members were changed:

Next morning a phone call from the police came. My heart sank. And when I stumbled out to the phone, the words I heard didn’t make me feel any better. The lieutenant asked me if I knew the Mau Mau gang, and when I said that I did, he asked if I’d come right down. When I got to Edward Street Precinct, sure enough, there were half-a-dozen boys from the gang. I walked past them briskly and introduced myself at the desk. What happened next I shall never forget.

The desk sergeant called the lieutenant, and the lieutenant assembled the whole force. The lieutenant stuck out his hand. ‘Reverend’, he said, I want to shake your hand’. I took his offer, and he pumped me firmly. ‘How did you do it?’ he asked. ‘These boys declared war on us a few months ago. They’ve given us nothing but trouble for years. Then this morning they all troop in here and you know what they want?’ I shook my head. ‘They want us to autograph their Bibles!’

I looked at Nicky and Israel and the boys who were with them. They grinned at me.

Run Baby Run – the story of Nicky Cruz    1971. Paperback 240 pages
Those who enjoyed reading David Wilkerson’s The Cross and the Switchblade will find this equally inspiring and exciting. It’s the story told by Nicky Cruz (a key subject of The Cross and the Switchblade) of his amazing transformation from New York gang leader to evangelist after David Wilkerson sought him out. Although the events took place 50 years ago in New York, they have a great relevance to London (and other UK towns) today with teenagers finding ‘family’ life in gangs and committing horrific knife crimes. We need Christians who, like David Wilkerson, are prepared to minister to the gangs and risk all that that entails, and a church willing to support and encourage them.

The Hiding Place  by Corrie ten Boom, 1971. Paperback 221 pages
The exciting story (made into a feature film) of a Dutch Christian who helped hide Jews from the Nazis and was subsequently imprisoned with her sister, Betsie, in the notorious Ravensbrook concentration camp. It demonstrates the expression of Christian love and forgiveness, and the sustaining power of Scripture in a remarkable and unforgettable way:

The blacker the night round us grew, the brighter and truer and more beautiful burned the word of God. “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us”. I would look about us as Betsie read, watching the light leap from face to face. More than conquerors  …. it was not a wish. It was a fact. We knew it, we experienced it minute by minute – poor, hated, hungry. We are more than conquerors. Not “we shall be”. We are! Life in Ravensbrook took place on two separate levels, mutually impossible. One, the observable, external life, grew every day more horrible. The other, the life lived with God, grew daily better, truth upon truth, glory upon glory.

Tramp for the Lord by Corrie ten Boom. 1974. Paperback 191 pages
Those who enjoyed Corrie ten Boom’s first book, The Hiding Place, will want to read this sequel. It is an equally gripping true story of this concentration camp survivor’s mission to share with the world her experience of God’s love and power in the most appalling of situations. As well as addressing large meetings around the world, this 80 year old used every opportunity to share her faith and experiences with those individuals she met, and accounts of many of these encounters are given. The book is written with an honesty which admits her weaknesses and demonstrates her reliance on God. This  inspiring book is easy to read, with 35 short chapters of 2-8 pages.

Chasing the Dragon by Jackie Pullinger, 1980. Paperback 236 pages.
It is 40 years since Jackie Pullinger, an English musician in her twenties, arrived in Hong Kong with ideas of being a missionary but having been unable to get support from any missionary society. This is her amazing story of trusting God and relying on the Holy Spirit in her successful work among the drug addicts and gangsters in the Walled City. Through her boldly speaking of Jesus Christ, even brutal Triad gangsters were converted.

Here is an encounter with a young Chinese boy called Christopher who had attended her youth club in the Walled City and had embarked on a life of gambling and crime and was about to be initiated into one of the Triad gangs in the Walled City:

“Christopher, who do you think Jesus came into the world for?” He didn’t reply. “Was it for the rich or the poor?” I continued. “That’s easy – I know that one. He came for poorer people” he said. “But does he love good people or bad people?” I probed. “Jesus loves good people, Miss Pullinger”. “You’re wrong” I said. “Do you know, if Jesus was alive today, he’d be here in the Walled City sitting on the orange boxes talking to the pimps and prostitutes down here in the mud. That’s where he spent a lot of his time. In the streets with well-known criminals – not waiting in a neat clean church for the nice guys to turn up”. “Why did he do that?” Christopher asked incredulously. “Because”, I said slowly, “that is why he came – not to save the good people, but to save the bad ones – the lost ones – those who have done wrong”. Christopher stopped suddenly – he was clearly overwhelmed by what he had heard. He asked to hear some more and I told him the story of Naaman who was washed clean from leprosy. I then finished up by saying, “It’s so simple – all you have to do is come to Jesus to be washed clean”. Christopher had his eyes shut and he seemed to be talking quietly, not to me but  to Jesus, admitting how he had failed in his life and asking Him to make him clean. Sitting by that dusty, noisy roadside, he became a Christian.

The Heavenly Man – Brother Yun 2002. Paperback 347 pages.
An inspirational and heroic story of a radical Christian in the house churches of China. Although now only 48 years, Brother Yun has suffered prolonged torture and imprisonment for his faith. Despite this he has been able to praise and thank God in every situation. He reveals that, had he not been imprisoned, he wouldn’t have been able to witness to and convert so many prisoners and the warders. He also had a vision for evangelising the countries on the old silk routes from China and moreover, he is now fearless in his proclamation of the gospel because there is nothing that he hasn’t already suffered:

We are not ignorant of the fact that these nations don’t welcome the Gospel. We have come to understand that the past 30 years of suffering, persecution and torture for the house churches were all part of God’s training for us. The Lord has perfectly fitted us to go as missionaries. There is little that any of the Muslim, Buddhist or Hindu countries can do to us that we haven’t already experienced in China. The worst they can do is kill us, but all that means is that we will be promoted into the glorious presence of our Lord for all eternity.

Also, he sees the Chinese government in a different light to what we would expect:

We never pray against our government or call down curses on it. Instead we have learned that God is in control of both our lives and the government we live under. God has used China’s government for his own purposes, moulding and shaping his children as he sees fit.

Heroes of the Reformation by Gideon and Hilda Hagstotz 1996. Paperback 307 pages.
There is a growing tendency to forget the importance of the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century and what it stood for. This book contains a brief summary of the life of 43 Christians who felt impelled to make a heroic stand against the corrupt Roman Catholic Church and suffered greatly so that salvation through faith alone by grace might be widely taught. Of the English Reformers, William Tyndale stands out:
His translation of the Bible was the fulcrum on which balanced the entire English Reformation. He was the kingpin, as it were, that held together the framework of spiritual advancement in England during the 16th century. And with his translation, furnishing the chief source material for the Authorised Version of 1611, Tyndale’s influence upon English literature likewise became greater than that of any other man.
For daring to translate the Bible he was hounded through Europe and eventually hanged and burnt.
This book is one for dipping into to be inspired, encouraged and informed.

Men of Purpose by Peter Masters 1989.  Paperback 167 pages.
When Christianity is under constant attack and derision by such as Richard Dawkins as well as the media, it is reassuring and comforting to be reminded of the Christian faith of many universal heroes who achieved fame in science, the arts, and industry. This book has a short biography (approximately 15 pages) of eleven such men. They include Michael Faraday, the pioneer of electricity, Henry Heinz, the founder of the food empire, Felix Mendelssohn, the brilliant composer, Philip Bliss, the hymnwriter, Fred Charrington of the brewery family, Lord Kelvin, the great physicist, Sir John Fleming, the father of modern electronics, and Daniel Defoe, the author of Robinson Crusoe. These biographies will be  a source of encouragement and inspiration.

Amy Carmichael – Beauty for Ashes.  A biography by Iain Murray 2015. Paperback 156 pages
In Isaiah chapter 61 we read the prophesied mission of Christ which includes the promise that He would ‘give them beauty for ashes’ (verse 3). This indicates that, through faith in Christ, our lives can be transformed from ashes to something beautiful. This message has been given to the Church and was well taken up by the subject of this new biography – the missionary and author Amy Carmichael. She was born in Northern Ireland in 1867, schooled in England and then spent over 50 years of her life, without returning home, serving mainly low caste girls and boys in South India. She died there in 1951.
This is (in the words of John MacArthur) ‘a love story of the noblest kind. It is an enriching consideration of a woman’s relentless love for her Saviour, her Bible, her friends, and most uniquely, her love for lost, suffering and desperate sinners – to whom she gave her life’. How appropriate is the subtitle of this inspiring biography because through her ministry many lives were transformed from ashes to beauty.

Other Religions:

Islam – The Challenge to the Church by Patrick Sookhdeo 2006.
Paperback 102 pages.
Christians like to think the best of people and especially those who are religious. But we also have to face reality especially with regard to the spread and growing significance of Islam throughout the world and in our own country. Already, Islam is  a great threat to the Christian church in much of Asia and Africa, where Christians are persecuted and treated as third rate citizens. In the West, as a result of immigration and a high birth rate, Islam is exerting an increasing influence and there have been moves to adopt their own Sharia law here. To deal with this challenge, the church needs to properly informed. This book, written by a former Muslim and Director of Barnabas Fund, explains the history of Islam, what Muslim’s believe and how Islam differs from Christianity. Here is one quote:

‘Christians must not let themselves forget the basic truth that it is faith in Jesus Christ which God is looking for, not faith in general. In a secular, materialistic culture, it is tempting to think that Muslims and Christians can be allies against the overwhelming godless hedonism which surrounds them both. But Christians must always bear in mind that Islam denies the heart of the Christian faith, and that its very creed – which resounds from minarets five times a day as the muezzin calls Muslims to prayer – was formulated to deny the deity of Christ and the finality of his revelation. When the muezzin calls ‘There is no God but God’, he is saying that Jesus is not God and when he adds that ‘Muhammad is his messenger’, he is saying that Jesus has been superseded by Muhammad.