Books of Faith and Hope

5th November 2017

The Challenge of Change by Phil Potter

Phil Potter, as Director of Pioneer Ministry in Liverpool Diocese, shares his experience of finding new ways of doing church.

Change, he acknowledges, is never easy and it's not something that everyone will embrace. Some people may come on board as change begins to happen, others may never come on board at all. Change can also never be independent of the past - whether that be the story of the church or the individuals who are a part of it. Changes takes time, commitment and a lot of energy. It's certainly not for the faint hearted.

Phil explores what it means to be a cell church. He asks us to consider what's at the heart of our mission:

The fact that we are all different will mean that each of us is called to be a missionary in our own particular way. Some of us will be called to build the church in familiar and inherited ways, which neverthless reach those currently outside the church. Some will begin to see their place of work with a more mission shaped eye, while others will get a fresh perspective on the potential in their interests and hobbies. Meanwhile, we all need to recognise the mission-shaped heart that is beating somewhere within each one of us. (p. 113)

Each chapter closes with questions for further reflection and wider discusion. This book is a starting point, but as Phil says himself, change is continual process. Enjoy the journey!

 

28th October ber 2017

Lighted Windows by Margaret Silf

This  is a great book to get hold of in time for Advent. It is separated into daily sections consisting of a Bible reading, a reflection by the author, who then invites us to reflect on our common quest to discover 'God-With-Us' Emmanuel, and then each section closes with a simple prayer.

Starting on 1st December and finishing on Epiphany, this is a purposeful and enjoyable book which will be a valuable companion for this busy period of the Christian calendar.

The final prayer is particularly beautiful:

Lord, you have revealed your love to me. You have commissioned me to make that love a reality in your world. You have anointed me to serve your people and transformed my brokenness into a strand of your wholeness. You have freed me from the captivity of my own self-absorption and you nourish my dreams with your own vision. Keep me rooted in you. Send me out with your seal upon my life. Return me to tomorrow's world, carrying the light of your mystery into every new beginning.

Amen.

 

4th September 2017

Where two or three by Margaret Withers

published by Church House Publishing

This book has been written to provide help and advice for churches with few or no children. Always advising the reader to reflect on the situation of their own Church, this provides some positive ideas for bringing the Church to the next generation. Suggestions include having (Saturday) monthly get togethers instead of Sunday Junior Church and including children more in the service by helping with the sound system, giving readings and playing instruments. Margaret Withers also encourages Churches to look beyond their own Church and work more collaboratively with other churches and schools in the community. 

A short and very useful and a book that can easily be digested by stewards, worship leaders, Sunday school teachers and interested Church members as they consider the best way to move forward.

 

28th August 2017

Time to Talk of God - Recovering Christian conversation as a way of nurturing discipleship

produced by The Methodist Church

For anyone who attends/has attended the Methodist Church and wishes there was deeper Christian conversation taking place, this is the book for you!

This book was produced after the Methodist Conference in 2005 so that the focus of the conference could reach a wider audience. It is as fresh and relevant today with guidelines for leading group discussions and there's also suggested questions. 

Visually this is easy on the eye and the layout gives the reader space to reflect and contemplate. Manageable in length, clear but challenging, this is a sound resource which would give a first time group facilitator the confidence to nurture discipleship through discussion.

Available from Methodist Publishing at a discounted price - what could be better!

 

21st August 2017

Holy Habits by Andrew Roberts

Holy Habits, written by a Methodist Minister, is about the call to follow Jesus and the adventure of discipleship. The book is divided into two parts, looking first at the nature of discipleship and then going on to explore the nurture of discipleship. At the end of each chapter there's a short user-friendly Reflection and Action section where we as Christians are invited to think about how we can move forward as discples on a personal level, on a local level and on a global level. 

This book is the basis for the Holy Habits monthly gatherings which take place in various churches in our circuit from September. I have no doubt these sessions will be interesting, enjoyable and extremely worthwhile. Do consider coming along. Click here for further details.

 

 

14th August 2017

Prayer Handbook -Jesus the First and Last produced by The Methodist Church

 

The Prayer Handbook is an annual publication and has prayers, written by Christians from across the world, for each day of the month. There's also a lectionary which suggests Bible readings, psalms and hymns for each day of the year, beginning on 27th August. You might want to consider submitting a prayer for next year's handbook - click here for full details

 

1st August 2017

Pocket Prayers for Parents complied by Hamish and Sue Bruce

 

This is a beautifully presented and really special book produced by Church House Publishing (and currently offered at a greatly reduced price!), with prayers for the day to day as well as the different times of life. It contains both traditional and modern prayers to help develop the prayer life of the whole family. 

 

 

 

 

24th July 2017

Now and Then, a Memoir of a Vocation by Frederick Buechner

Frederick Buechner is an ordained Presbyterian minister, who coupled his early ministry with teaching and then went on to minister through his writing. His autobiography takes us from New York (where he attended theological college) to Exeter and then Vermont.

It was the quotes in Philip Yancey’s book (see the review from 3rd April below) which initially drew me to ‘Now and Then, a Memoir of Vocation’.  Buechner writes poetically with subtlety while paradoxically reflecting the depth of life in a simple manner. There are numerous phrases which place a mirror to our own lives, to our own selves, and at times as readers we might think, ‘Ah ha, so that is what it’s all about’, at other times, we might realise that our confusion is part of the human condition.

Listen to your Life, Buchener writes, all moments are key moments. And God is present with you, whether you call on him or not.

 

22nd June 2017

You are my God by David Watson

This, David's autobiography, clearly comes before his book 'Fear No Evil'. Here we read of his spiritual leadership journey, and the transformation of St. Michael le Belfrey, a church building in decline, into a vibrant Church.

David's account is honest and the path he (and his family) followed was not an easy one. As he says himself at the start, he has left out painful references which are of no help to anyone. Nevertheless, the journey is remarkable, including living in extremely humble domestic arrangements and then later, sharing his family home with many individuals as they gave time and energy to the work of the Church within the community. His firm belief that people should stay within the established churches, rather than breaking away and forming new fellowships, has always been controversial. In his own words:

Often I say to those who are impatient with the stuffiness of their traditional church: 'If you want more life, give your life; if you want more prayer, give your prayer: if you want more love, give your love...'

These wise words can be applied to changing our churches and/or to changing our lives. After reading David Watson's autobiography, you may well feel stirred to do both. 

 

31st May 2017

Transformed Living by Dave Smith

This book focuses on Paul's second half of his letter to the Ephesians and is technically a follow-on to 'Transformed Life' (which looks at the first half of the letter).

The book consists of 50 daily devotionals, with opportunities to reflect and respond as well as a focus for each week and a verse to memorise. The weekly themes are as follows:

  • Living worthy, keeping unity
  • Unity and maturity through diversity
  • Purity
  • Live in love and light
  • Live in wisdom and by the Spirit
  • Life in the home and workplace

This book is a valuable personal read, however it has also been designed for use in group settings and there are additional free materials - sermon outlines, small group videos and small group studies - available. See the Transformed Life website for further details.

 

17th April 2017

Fear No Evil by David Watson

David's contribution as an Anglican priest, evangelist and author is nothing less than remarkable. As curate, he revived St. Cuthbert's in York, and then the hugely increased congregation was transferred to the larger  St. Michael le Belfrey, the Church beside York Minster, where his legacy of vibrant worship lives on. This book was written during David's final months as he lived with liver cancer. The account of his journey gives only a brief glimpse of the realities of his illness, and instead we are inspired by his ever deepening faith and the way he brings what really matters into sharp focus:

'If we really want to see the Kingdom of God amongst us, we must let it begin with our own hearts. We need to bow our wills to Christ's authority and bend our minds to his word. He calls us to love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, and to love our neighbours as ourselves. The rule of the Kingdom is love, and love learns to trust whether it understands or not.' (p.87)

David quotes a man called Henry who suffered horrific gunshot injuries to his face during a guerilla attack in Uganda. While recovering from ongoing extensive treatment, Henry was unable to speak, but he could write David a message when he went to visit. The message said simply:

God never promises us an easy time. Just a safe arrival. (p.113)

A safe arrival. What could be better than that? 

 

10th April 2017

Easter Uncut

In a mere 74 pages, Carl Laferton takes us through Easter week using excerpts from the Bible (with additional notes) to tell us what really happened and then explaining why it really matters to us today.  The reader can easily relate to Carl's personal anecdotes, which are subtly dovetailed with more profound considerations:

'We only have one life each, none of us can see what lies ahead, and many of us know that there are other people that depend on our decisions and efforts. It is quite scary when you think about it. Life is like driving in the dark with broken headlights and no satnav or map. But here is a leader who can tell us what life is about. We can be confident that his directions are the best route to follow. We don't need to hope for the best, we can know what is best.' (p.20)

This book makes a great gift, partiularly to those starting on their journey of faith. At the close, Carl provides some suggestions for the next steps. 

 

3rd April 2017

Soul Survivor by Philip Yancey

Philp Yancey shares his journey of  faith in an honest, very real and though-provoking way. As well as telling his own story, he dedicates individual chapters to the lives of inspiring and faith enhancing individuals including G.K. Chesterton, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr and John Donne.

Yancey quotes from Frederick Buechner's book Now and Then to remind us of the deeper meaning of our everyday lives:

If I were called upon to state in a few words the essence of everything I was trying to say both as a novelist and as a preacher, it would be something like this: Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way into the lonely and hidden heart of it because in the last anaysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.

 

27th February 2017

Where is God When it Hurts? by Philip Yancey

The author begins by exploring how well-meaning phrases said to those who are suffering pain, can be most unhelpful and frustrating, creating an awkwardness between the sufferer and the would-be comforter. After explaining the physiological reasons for pain - it both protects us from dangers and alerts us to ailments - he goes on to examine pain and suffering in the Bible. Philip Yancey makes it clear that pain is not a punishment from God and urges us to think about how we respond to pain rather than trying to place blame. Yancey shares the stories of Brian Sternberg and also Joni Eareckson Tada, promising active individuals who suffered life changing injuries from their respective accidents, and he also he shares the stories of others who have undergone extreme persecution.

Towards the end of the book, the author asks his own question one final time, 'Where is God when it hurts?' and he concludes:

'He has been there from the beginning, designing a pain system that, even in the midst of a fallen world, still bears the stamp of his genius and equips us for a life on this planet.

He transforms pain, using it to teach and strengthen us, if we allow it to turn us toward him .'

 

20th February 2017

Original Jesus – by Carl Laferton

This highly accessible, relevant and extremely brief book – a mere 62 pages – aims to get us to think about what Jesus really did and why he really matters. With direct quotes from and full references to the Bible, the reader is encouraged to read the evidence again and come to their own conclusions.

At the close of the final chapter, we are reminded that:

There’s nothing you have done that is so bad that you can’t ask for a place in his kingdom. There’s nothing you have done that is so good that you don’t need to ask.

Why not speak to him now?

Why not indeed.

 

 

13th February 2017

The Bible in 100 Pages by Phil Moore

To get so much in so few pages, you’d expect the print to be miniscule. Thankfully it isn’t! The introduction immediately grabbed my attention:

Life is short and life is busy. It’s very easy to miss the big picture. Some people spend their whole lives climbing up a ladder, only to discover far too late that the ladder has been leaning against the wrong wall.

This concise and coherent overview brings all the pieces together and also serves as an introduction to further and deeper reading of The Bible itself. It certainly isn’t intended as a substitute.

Relevant and accessible, this is a short read with the potential to have life changing impact. Definitely not to be missed.  

 

6th February 2017

The Shack by Wm Paul Young 

Having read a review of the film adaptation of 'The Shack' in a Christian magazine, I was prompted to read the novel, which had until then somehow passed me by. It begins with an unthinkable event, that of the disappearance of a young girl, and certainly seemed more like crime fiction than a ‘faith-enhancing book’, which is how Bear Grylls refers to it.

As the story progresses, the father - Mack -  is called back to the shack, a dilapidated building in the woods, where his daughter had been taken a few years earlier. And there he gets to know God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

Theologically this has been controversial, although it is a novel and does not pretend to be a theological paper. It has moved many people and no doubt drawn them closer to God. Throughout the story, there is an exploration of what it means to have a relationship with God, what it means to forgive and to be forgiven and how faith and love bring inner peace.

There are some really moving quotes throughout the book. Towards the close, the Holy Spirit character explains to Mack and indeed to all of us:

‘…if anything matters then everything matters. Because you are important, everything you do is important. Every time you forgive, the universe changes; every time you reach out and touch a heart or a life, the world changes; with every kindness and service, seen or unseen, my purposes are accomplished and nothing will ever be the same again.’

Beneath the final chapter heading, the author quotes the resonating words of Oswald Chambers:

Faith never knows where it is being led,

But it knows and loves the One who is leading.

 

23rd January 2017 

The Seven Stories that Shape Your Life by Gerard Kelly

Have a notepad and pen ready for this one! The Seven stories are as follows:

  • Creation (walk with the Worldmaker)
  • Vocation (depend on the Dreamgiver)
  • Liberation (be changed by the Chainbreaker)
  • Formation (hold on to the Heartseeker)
  • Limitation (find strength in the Faithbuilder)
  • Incarnation (follow the Footwasher)
  • Restoration (be filled by the Firestarter)

This book lays out the journey of our lives and each of the seven stories resonate with our past experiences and encounters, as well as providing guidance for the future. Periods of exile, Kelly advises us, have a place in God's plans. And, if you didn't already know, the command that is most frequently made in the Bible is, 'Do not be afraid'. 

This is a book which will move you intellectually, spiritually, emotionally and also practically in terms of the way that you live your life.  Kelly says that God 'sees the good in me, and will not waste it. He asks me to see the good in others, and to fight for it.'

This really is a book that will draw you nearer in faith. What could be a better winter read?

 

9th January 2017

Being Disciples – Essentials of the Christian Life

by Rowan Williams

This short book, just 86 pages, is one that can be enjoyed in a single reading and then revisited for further consideration and indeed action. As Rowan Williams points out, there is no self-help book written for how to be a saint, and he explores what it means to be holy. It’s not just about being extremely good, but it is about changing the landscape of those you meet in a positive way, by ‘throwing a new light on it’.

He makes some interesting points about the right to choose in modern society – lots of choice is presented as being very positive in our modern world, however, he argues, these choices are rather superficial (such as the choice between certain products) and ‘we fail to ask the deep questions about the direction of the desire at the root of our being…We lose touch with the notion that the most important freedom is the freedom to be ourselves and the freedom to grow….’ (p.31)

His reflections on individual identity are extremely poignant and reassuring. We don’t need to worry about making sense of our story, of understanding it and seeing all of it to confirm our own identity. The gaze of love of the divine witness holds together ‘all that you have been and are’.

The Church Times calls this book ‘gold dust’ and says it’s a book to be read again and again.

I couldn’t agree more.

 

2nd January 2017

Things Hidden - Scripture as Spirituality

by Richard Rohr

The author, who is a Franciscan Priest in New Mexico, tells us that spiritual wisdom comes from both outer authority (what we are told) and inner authority (prayer and our inner journey). There are plenty biblical references which we are advised to read directly and contemplate to deepen our own understanding.

The author tells us that we can’t always get it right, but we can be connected to The Significant Other. He talks about the ‘great themes’ of Jesus – forgiveness and inclusion - and advises us to beware of accusing others or throwing stones, as the word Satan does in fact mean ‘the accuser’.

In the final part of the book, the author considers the cross:

The cross is about refusing the simplistic win-lose scenario and holding out for a possible win-win scenario. The cross is refusing to hate or needing to defeat the other … (p. 203)

With the phrase ‘how you get there is where you will arrive,’ we are encouraged to travel faithfully.  And on completing the book, I John 2:21 (which is quoted before the Contents page) resonates particularly strongly:

It is not because you do not know the truth that I write to you,

but rather because you know it already.

 

19th December 2016

The Invisible Church – Learning from the Experiences of Churchless Christians

by Steve Aisthorpe

The author puts forward the case that the fall in attendance at morning worship does not reflect a decline in Christianity, as many people live out their Christian faith without going to an actual Church (hence the term ‘invisible Church’). Some of the points Steve Aisthorpe raises as to why Christians don’t attend Church prompts interesting discussion and personal reflection for those of us who do. At times, some of the author’s findings may feel a little critical. However, the essential point is that love should be at the centre of all things we do as Christians, whether that is within or beyond the Church as we know it.  As 1 Corinthians 13 reminds us, Love never fails.

1 Corinthians 13   New International Version (NIV)

13 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

 

5th December 2016

Advent for Everyone - A journey through Matthew

 by Tom Wright

Endorsed by the Archbishop of York, this book is a great way to prepare yourself for Christmas. 

The daily readings begin on the first Sunday of Advent, and for each of the four weeks, there is a different theme: watching, repenting, healing and loving. At the end of each reading, there are questions for further reflection or discussion.

Extremely accessible, this book is also a satisfying read for both the individual and for study groups. As Archbishop John Sentamu says: If you do nothing else in your preparation for Christmas, read this book!

 

 

7th November 2016

Called By Name

A short publication available from the Methodist Church website: 

http://www.methodist.org.uk/who-we-are/membership/called-by-name

'Called By Name' is a great introduction to the Methodist Church as well as being initial preparation for membership. The book is easily digested and interspersed with poignant quotes from the Bible. 'Our Calling', which is the vision of the Methodist Church today, is clearly explained and endorsed with quotes from John Wesley and modern songs.

 

 

 

 

10th  October 2016

Church Uncorked – Leadership that releases our potential

By Catherine Cowell and Sean Kennedy

Although aimed at leaders (in the widest possible sense) within the Church, this is book is an enlightening read for anyone who feels they have something to contribute. The first part of the book explores the concepts (and realities) of the hierarchical leadership model, known as the institution-centred Church, and also the opposite, convincingly put forward by the authors, which is the person-centred Church. The second part of the book focuses on how to lead in a person-centred way. Lightly peppered with recognisable quotes from people such as Stephen Covey and Albert Einstein, the model and guidance can also easily be applied to virtually any workplace.

Towards the end of the book we are invited to ponder being 95 years old. We are asked to imagine sitting in a rocking chair reflecting on our life with a sense of satisfaction and achievement. What would that life look like, we are asked? And what do we need to do between now and then to try to achieve it?

Both inspiring and thought provoking, this book is both a ‘nudge’ and a warm embrace of encouragement to release the potential in ourselves and also in others. 

 

 

26th September 2016

The Essentials of Methodism – What Every Methodist Should Know

By James Reuteler

This book gives an overview of the origins of Methodism in both England and the United States. The author explores three basic documents (The General Rules, The Methodist Articles of Religion and the Evangelical United Brethren’s Confession of Faith) to explain Methodist theology. I was particularly interested on the Chapter ‘The Method in Methodism’ which suggests that maybe the transformational focus of Methodism (that of discipleship, as developed in the early Class Meetings of the 18th Century) doesn’t always get the same emphasis as the transactional focus of the Church. (The transactional focus is more concerned with the social aspect of Church and also concerns stewardship). Certainly something for reflection/discussion!

The book provides useful diagrams and an outline of the Church calendar. It closes with the Covenant Prayer:

I am no longer my own, but thine.

Put me to what thy wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.

Put me to doing, put me to suffering.

Let me be employed by thee, or laid aside for thee,

Exalted for thee or brought low for thee.

Let me be full, let me be empty.

Let me have all things, let me have nothing.

I freely and heartily yield all things

to thy pleasure and disposal.

And now, O glorious and blessed God,

Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

Thou art mine, and I am thine. So be it.

And the covenant which I have made on earth,

Let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.

 

5th September

A Complaint Free World by Will Bowen

A fascinating book complimenting Brother David’s message about gratitude (‘A Good Day’ – see below) beautifully. The book reminds us how negative complaining is – it supresses not only our joy and potential, but also the happiness of those around us. The author (also a Minister)  Will Bowen, urges the reader to go a full 21 days without complaining (or gossiping or being sarcastic) as this is the amount of time it takes for behaviours to become entrenched. There are many famous quotes in the book and also examples of ordinary people who stop complaining, which has a positive effect on their lives and the lives of their loved ones, friends and co-workers.  If you can go a full 21 days without complaining (i.e. complete the 21 Day Challenge), you can download a certificate from the website to acknowledge your graduation! Most people have to restart over and over again (if you complain at any point during the 21 day challenge, you go back to Day 1) but in the end, the consensus seems to be, it’s life changing. Let’s try it! Good luck!

www.acomplaintfreeworld.org

 

22nd August

Miracle Valley by Jim Wilkinson with Chris Spencer

Hollybush Christian Fellowship is something of a phenomenon to those who know about it. Located between Thirsk and Northallerton it has provided Christian witness to many many people since the late 1960's.Founded by a farmer Jim Wilkinson, and his wife Cynthia, this book tells the story from humble beginnings. A fascinating read which celebrates the power of prayer, and reminds us  to listen to God. Although there were challenges on the journey of the fellowship, there were numerous miracles. A  great testimony.

http://www.hollybush.cc/

 

 

 

15th August

A Good Day by Brother David Steindl-Rast

 "You think this is just another day in your life. It's not just another day; it's the one day that is given to you today. It's given to you. It's a gift. It's the only gift that you have right now, and the only approrpiate response is gratefulness."

 

In this book, Brother David Steindl-Rast encourages us to be grateful - as this is the key to leading a happy life. 

 

This book has beautiful photos to help you focus on the words that are written and would make a great gift, especially to those who are new to Brother David's message. The message itself is widely available on the internet and indeed, great powerpoints are also freely available. If you do nothing else today, be grateful, and be inspired.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Zl9puhwiyw