Surprised by Hope, Tom Wright

This book by Tom Wright investigates the resurrection, ascension and second coming of Jesus and ‘heaven’ from a thoroughly biblical point of view and explains how first century Jews would have understood Jesus’ teaching. It smashes commonly held misunderstandings by putting teaching back into its original context.

Wright also looks at the commonly held misunderstandings of today’s UK/US cultures and helps us go back to the biblical grounds for our theology of Christ’s return, where He is now and what happens to believers after death.

As I read it for the second time, I’m realising how deeply engrained my wrong understandings can be, as I’m still getting it wrong even though I’ve read the book before!

Today I’ve been reminded that Jesus’ parable of the talents is about the first coming of Jesus not the second. Wright explains that, although early Christians quickly reinterpreted it to refer to the second coming, the original hearers heard it to be about God coming back to the Jerusalem temple after the exile, in the person of Jesus.

When I Don’t Desire God, How to Fight for Joy, John Piper

dgJohn Piper has a ministry called ‘Desiring God’ and he has written various books about desiring God that I haven’t read.  This one caught my eye because it’s about when we don’t desire God – something that we may find hard to admit and even harder to do something about.

Piper says that ‘God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him’ and he calls the doctrine surrounding this ‘Christian Hedonism’ (don’t stop reading because I used the hedonism word!).  In his words, ‘Christian Hedonism is a liberating and devastating doctrine.  It teaches that the value of God shines more brightly in the soul that finds deepest satisfaction in him.  Therefore it is liberating because it endorses our inborn desire for joy.  And it is devastating because it reveals that no one desires God with the passion he demands.’

He opens by telling us why he wrote the book.  He had had an ‘unbiblical bondage of fear that it was wrong to pursue joy.’  Having understood that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him, ‘What had once seemed like an inevitable but defective quest for the satisfaction of my soul now became not just permitted but required. …I was free to pursue my fullest joy in God without guilt.’  The flip side of this, he explains is that we are not just permitted to pursue joy in God, we are commanded to and therefore not doing so ‘would be indifference to the glory of God, and that is sin.’

That was all on the first page, and having read that maybe you are thinking what I thought – ‘Well now I’m kind of committed to reading the rest of the book to find out what the pursuit of joy looks like, because I sure don’t know…’

Perhaps I should stop here, and just let you read the book!  I’ll give you a few ideas of what’s in it first…  Having unpacked the difference between desire and delight and reviewing the gospel message, he helps us to see how reading God’s word can satisfy us in him (and thus bring glory to God) and how prayer can do the same.  He also devotes a chapter to how our 5 senses help us to sense God if we are listening to them, an experience of the glory of God that we maybe missing out on.  He ends with a chapter about depression and spiritual darkness, which is really helpful.  This book is a good primer on all these subjects, and worth reading just for that (but please don’t read it just for that – read the whole thing!).

Addictions, A Banquet in the Grave, Edward T. Welch

addictionsI haven’t read many books on addiction, but of those I have, this is certainly the best.  The title refers to Proverbs 9 v 13-18.  Whether you are struggling with your own addiction or with that of a family member or friend, this book will really help you to understand the spiritual war that is raging over the addict and how Christ can set them free.

Welch describes the nature of addiction and recovery from a Scriptural viewpoint and the book is filled with quotations from Scripture that are incredibly relevant, but which most of us would of we brainstormed it together.

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Foreign to Familiar, Sarah Lanier

foreign to familiarRelevant to anyone involved in cross-cultural mission, including talking to your next-door neighbour, this isn’t the usual type of book we review here at the Highfields Book of the Month slot, but I understand that the author is a Christian and the topic is relevant to anyone involved in cross-cultural mission, including talking to your next-door neighbour.  So here we go…

This book aims to give you a general understanding of two broad generalisations of the world’s cultures, so that you can avoid making simple cultural mistakes.  Lanier says that there are ‘hot-climate’ and ‘cold-climate’ cultures, and you can pretty much work out which one your country is in just by the climate.

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Why bother with Church? Sam Allberry

why botherSam Allberry’s book ends with the question, ‘Why on earth would I not bother with church?’, and by the time you’ve read it, it seems a very reasonable question.

One of the Good Book Company’s ‘Questions Christians Ask’ series, this little book is jam-packed with what the Bible says about why we should bother with church.

Allberry begins by explaining what church is: it’s not a gathering of 2 or 3 believers over a latte, a building or a denomination.  It is God’s family.  He reminds us that the local church is not a part of the universal church but that it is the church of God in a particular locale.  ‘Church is… not a meeting you attend but a body you belong to.’ (p30).  He addresses some tricky questions, including ‘Hasn’t the church done more harm than good?’ and ‘Why are there so many denominations?’ and gives very clear answers, which we would do well to be able to articulate, since they seem to come up so often in ministry to prisoners.

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Walking With God

walking with god

Doing a lot of reading about suffering for something I’m writing atm, and finding Tim Keller’s book really helpful.

‘while Christianity never claims to offer a full explanation of all God’s reasons behind every instance of evil and suffering – it does have a final answer to it.’ Keller 2013, p 158.