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Book Reviews (1st Half of 2020)

Six months have passed since 2020 began, and what a year it has been!

My reading choices have partly been influenced by what has been going on in my life at the time. For example, I wanted to learn more about more recent Church history after completing Hugh Osgood’s ‘School of Biblical Studies for Leaders’ course at the end of 2019 so I read ‘Defining Moments’. My quest to improve writing my memoir led me to read ‘Still Emily’. Being intrigued by the formidable Greta Thunberg led me to ‘No One Is Too Small To Make A Difference’. Both ‘Unleashed’ and ‘When Spirit and World Collide’ were inspired choices from spending a week at the virtual Spring Harvest Bible Conference.

Here is what I thought about each of these books in more detail:

Unleashed (Gavin and Anne Calver): Inter Varsity Press

Out of all the books I have red over the past six months, I would say that this is by far my favourite. It is both inspiring and challenging all at the same time. Gavin and Anne explore the first 12 chapters of the book of Acts, looking at how the early Christian church were empowered and unleashed into their communities and the world by the power of the Holy Spirit. Asking poignant and important questions along the way and exploring why and how the church today can and should be following the example of the early Church, Gavin and Anne have put together a very powerful book.

They encourage us to be living lives that are laid down for the cause of Christ, being filled and empowered by the Holy Spirit, and sent out, beyond the walls of the church, into the world around us to be used as vessels through which the Holy Spirit can work to bring about freedom, redemption and radical transformation in the lives of those we touch.

I would highly recommend this book, but be warned, you can’t help being challenged and transformed by it. The Holy Spirit can be found on every page!

Still Emily (Emily Owen): Sarah Grace Publishing

A smallish and unassuming book, it didn’t take me long to read. Although I would say this is more due to the outstanding talent of the author, Emily Owen, who has put together an utterly compelling memior that is both authentic and completely genuine as well as telling her life-story extremely well.

You are led through the highs and lows of Emily’s discovery, treatment as well as the aftermath of living life with a rare genetic disease, NF2.

After reading this book, I feel as though I ‘know’ the author because she has let me in to some of the most intimate and painful moments of her life – I suppose this is what marks it as an exquisitely written memoir.

I would highly recommend this book – it will profoundly touch your soul.

Defining Moments (Bill Johnson, Jennifer A. Miskov, PhD): Whitaker House

As I explained in the opening paragraph, I was inspired to read this book after completing a year long course on biblical studies. One of the modules looked at church history. I found this very interesting, although we did not dig into any detail on the course, so I bought this book to read more about some of the lives and ministries of key and influential people in more recent church history such as: John Wesley, Charles G. Finney; Dwight L. Moody, Maira Woodworth-Etter; Smith Wigglesworth; John G. Lake; Evan Roberts (Welsh Revival), Aimee Semple McPherson and Kathryn Kuhlman to name a few.

The more detailed stories of the individuals lives were very interesting. One can draw some comparisons between them and the section near the end of each chapter that highlights the prophetic inheritance that has been left as part of their legacy for the church contain some good insights.

However, it is obvious that this book has two authors and as each chapter contains a summary of events before digging into more detail of the person’s life, there are often times when information is repeated unnecessarily.

However, this book did leave me with an increased hunger for the presence of God and the works of the Holy Spirit.

When Spirit and World Collide (Jarrod Cooper): River Publishing

Jarrod Cooper explores a 1947 prophecy about revival attributed to Smith Wigglesworth and examines what it means for today’s church. He has some important insights and the Holy Spirit was stirring within me as I read this book.

It meshed well with the teaching from this year’s Spring Harvest Home and echoed some of the content of ‘Unleashed’ (reviewed above). One thing it emphasised is that we need to be hungry for revival and that it will take churches working together in unity, combining their strengths, whether they be ‘Spirit’ or ‘Word’ – this is where the power of the greatest revival we have ever experienced before will flow from.

An inspirational book that also contains some practical suggestions.

How Would Jesus Lead Worship? (Sara & Sam Hargreaves): Music and Worship Foundation CIO

I stumbled across this book a couple of weeks before it was launched and am glad I did. I have been the leader of musical worship for decades and have also recently started doing more preaching as well as service leading in my local church. This book is theological, practical as well as inspirational. It is written for the leader of musical worship, but also for those who lead worship in other contexts.

Perfect for those wanting to learn how they can grow int eh gift of leading a group of people in worship of God – this book also comes with a free 12 session downloadable video course. This makes it ideal for teams and churches to invest in.

A well balanced understanding of what worship is, this book is fantastic for anyone in Christian ministry.

No One Is Too Small To Make A Difference (Greta Thunberg): Penguin

The title is quite apt as you read it printed on a plain, unassuming, tiny book! This is a collection of speeches made by the infamous teenage eco-activist, Greta Thunberg. I was drawn to it because I had heard of Greta and had heard many different people’s opinions of her – but I had not actually heard anything of what she had actually said. I wanted to get to know Greta from her own words, not filtered through someone else’s opinion.

I was not disappointed. This collection of speeches made between September 2018 and April 2019 in places such as the World Economic Forum, the UN Climate Change Conference and rallies on the streets of major world cities is a powerful outline of what Great Thunberg believes and fights for.

Her ideas are well argued. It does sound like she keeps beating the same drum, as she keeps saying the same things again and again, yet if she want’s governments and world leaders to hear and actually act, she needs to keep beating it. Change happens slowly and one thing is certain, Greta is in this for the long haul. She is not afraid to speak truth to power and it is clear to see why her passion and her worlds have catapulted her to being the poster-girl for the green revolution.

Hearing Heart (Hannah Hurnard): Tyndale House Publishers

My wife encouraged me to read this book after she had just finished it and it is an example of a memoir. As I am writing a memoir at present, I am trying to research the genre to help me write my own.

Hearing Heart tells a compelling story of how the missionary, Hannah Hurnard came to faith as well as some of her missionary ministry. There are some interesting stories as well as a few deeper spiritual insights and life lessons. However, it was written a long time ago and the writing style is now dated which makes it quite difficult to read.

What have you read recently?

So these are the books I have read over the past six months. I would love to know what you have read recently, and if you enjoyed it or not?

Please do leave a comment in the comments section below.

Oh yes, and thank you for reading this blog!

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