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Short Notes

Reviewed by Paul Beasley-Murray.

The Awesome Journey: Life’s Pilgrimage (SPCK, London 2015; 134pp; £8.99; ISBN 978 0 281 07294 1), by David Adam, contains a series of reflections on the Biblical experience of pilgrimage: each section ends with a series of practical exercises – ‘pause, presence, picture, ponder, promise’. This is a book to be read slowly – and not at one sitting. 

First published in the USA in 2014 under the title of When the Church was Young: Voices of the Early Fathers, Who were the Church Fathers? (SPCK, London 2015; 304pp; £12.90; ISBN 978 0 2810 7412 9), by Marcellino D’Ambrosio, a popular commentator on religious issues, is a delightfully spirited introduction to “the great Christians writers who passed on and clarified the teaching of the apostles from approximately the second the eighth centuries”, and in so doing brings church history very much to life.

A Vital Ministry: Chaplaincy in Schools in the Post-Christian Era (SCM, London 2015; 152pp; £19.99; ISBN 978 0 334 05219 7), by John Caperon, who has been both a head and a chaplain of a large Church of England comprehensive school, is a passionate plea for Christians to take seriously the ministry of school chaplaincy. Well-researched and well-written, this is a ‘must’ for any minister considering working in a school.

Under the Marylebone House imprint, SPCK of London are publishing a highly enjoyable  series of clerical ‘mysteries’ by Kate Charles, a former chair of the Crime Writers’ Association, who has a wicked understanding of Anglican clergy. These ‘mysteries’ include A Drink of Deadly Wine (first published 1991, this edition 2015; 260pp; £8.99; ISBN 978 1 910674 079); The Snares of Death (first published 1992, this edition 2015; 284pp; £9.99; ISBN 978 1 910674 09 3); Appointed to Die (first published in 1993, this edition 2015; 272pp; £9.99; ISBN 978 1 910674 11 6); A Dead Man out of Mind (first published in 1994, this edition 2015; 236pp; £9.99; ISBN 978 1 910674 13 0); Evil Angels among them (first published in 1995, this edition 2015; 270pp; £9.99; ISBN 978 1 910674 15 4); and False Tongues (2015; 278pp; £8.99; ISBN 978 1 910674 05 5)). These are great holiday reads!  

Also under the Marylebone House imprint is The Corpse in the Cellar (2015; 234 pp; £8.99; ISBN 978 1 910674 17 8), by Kel Richards, features C S Lewis as an amateur sleuth. Although not in the same league as the books by Kate Charles, it amused me and kept my attention until the end. Under the same imprint is another fascinating and witty novel about the Church of England and its clerics, Unseen Things Above (2015; 262pp; £9.99; ISBN 978 1 910674 23 9), by Catherine Fox, who happens to be wife of the Dean of Liverpool. All these books would make wonderful Christmas gifts for ministers and their spouses. Marylebone House is to be congratulated on its publishing!

Barefoot Ways: Praying through Advent, Christmas and Epiphany (SPCK, London 2015; 119pp; £9.99; ISBN 978 0 281 07318 4), by Stephen Cherry, the new Dean of King’s College, Cambridge, provides a series of prayerful poems for meditation. I particularly liked A Pastor’s Prayer for use on 19 January, which includes the lines: “Let me look and listen with/sufficient calm,/sufficient kindness/sufficient humour, that something might unfold in their depths/that something might be eased;/that something might be freed”.

Postcards from the Edge: Finding God in Hard Places (IVP, Nottingham 2015; 135pp; £7.99; ISBN 978 1 78359 205 0), by Ian Coffey of Moorlands College, consists of character studies of Ruth, Elijah, Esther, Jeremiah, John the Baptist, John Mark, Paul, and Peter around the themes respectively of loss, despair, courage, inadequacy, doubt, failure, fear, and imprisonment. A good resource for preachers!

Peter’s Preaching: The Message of Mark’s Gospel (Bible Reading Fellowship, Abingdon 2015; 302pp; £9.99; ISBN 978 0 85746 350 0), by Jeremy Duff, an Anglican vicar who taught New Testament at Oxford, is a lively exposition of Mark’s Gospel for ordinary Christians which makes for interesting reading. Ministers preaching their way through Mark will also find it a helpful resource.

James R Edwards of Whitworth University, Spokane, Washington, has already proved himself a highly insightful commentator of Mark’s Gospel in the Pillar New Testament commentary series. His commentary on the Third Gospel in the same series, The Gospel According to Luke (Apollos, Nottingham 2015; 831pp; £44.99; ISBN 978 1 78359 268 5) is therefore greatly welcome. Here is a wonderful blend of scholarship and pastoral sensitivity. This is a book every pastor should buy!

The Accidental Executive: Lessons on Business, Faith and Calling from the Life of Joseph (Hendrickson, Peabody, Massachusetts 2015; 202pp; £16.99 hardback; ISBN 978 1 61970 621 7), by Albert M Erisman of the Center for Integrity in the School of Business, Government, and Economics at Seattle University, argues that there are three levels of insight that come from looking at the life of Joseph: (1) we can learn about moral questions related to our work: the temptations of money, sex and power; (2) we can gain insights into the technical aspects of business: leadership, planning, execution and globalization; and (3) it deals with the big questions for people in business: finding a career, seeing meaning in our work, and building the bridge between our faith and work. Although I have hermeneutical reservations about the approach, I can see this imaginative approach appealing to many Christians seeking to relate their faith to the world of work!

Jeremiah for Everyone (SPCK, London 2015; 269pp; £9.99; ISBN 978 0 281 06138 9), by John Goldingay, is yet another welcome volume in the ‘..for Everyone series. Combining personal anecdote and theological insight, this is a great tool for individual or group Bible study.

40 Questions about Baptism and the Lord’s Supper (Kregel Academic, Grand Rapids 2015, but available in the UK through Alban Books of Edinburgh; 331pp; £14.99; ISBN

978 0 8254 4277 3), by John Hammett and Benjamin Merkle, both professors at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, is an excellent guide for students preparing for the ministry. It is important to note that this is not a textbook just for Baptist students! 

Part of the Apollos Old Testament Commentary, Ruth (Apollos, Nottingham 2015; 166pp; £19.99 hardback; ISBN 978 1 78359 307 1), by L Daniel Hawk of Ashland Theological Seminary in Ohio, is evangelical scholarship at its best. Preachers will appreciate the detailed exegesis as also the theological exposition.

First published in 2006, Introducing Mental Health: A Practical Guide (Jessica Kingsley, London, 2nd edition 2015; 200pp; £16.99; ISBN 978 1 84905 596 3), by Caroline and Connor Kinsella, is an easy-to-read and jargon-free introduction, revised and updated, reflecting the latest knowledge on mental health conditions, good practice and the law. Although written primarily for students and practitioners in the mental health field, ministers can also benefit from this comprehensive guide.

The Circle of Peace: an Antidote to Distress (SPCK, London 2015; 148pp; £10.99; ISBN 978 0 281 07211 8), by Ken Lewis, a psychologist, and Trevor Dennis, an Old Testament specialist, aims “to provide a helping hand for people who want to experiment with making changes in their lives against the shimmering background of God’s extraordinary, yet hard to grasp and hold, unconditional love.” Insightful and pastoral, with stories and practical exercises, this is a great book to recommend to people suffering from worry, depression and low self-esteem.

Modern Orthodox Thinkers: From the Philokalia to the Present (SPCK, London 2015; 382pp; £25; ISBN 978 0 281 07127 2), by Andrew Louth, Professor Emeritus of Patristic and Byzantine Studies at Durham University, is an outstanding introduction to the development of orthodox thought in the last 250 years. Here we learn that the publication of the Philokalia in 1782 suggested a way of “approaching theology that had at its heart an experience of God, an experience mediated by prayer, that demanded the transformation of the seeker after God” – that is indeed a challenge!

The Crucified God (SCM, London 2015; 362pp; £19.99; ISBN 978 0 334 05330 9), by Jurgen Moltmann has been republished to celebrate the 40th anniversary of its original publication. The book, regarded as the first theological work written in Germany ‘After Auschwitz’, includes a new short five-page foreword by the author, but is otherwise unchanged. In a world where suffering, death and despair remain potent, the message that ‘God was in Christ’ still needs to be heard.

Available in the UK through Alban Books of Edinburgh, Ethics and the Elderly: the Challenge of Long-Term Care (Orbis, New York 2015; 206pp; £25.99; ISBN 978 1 62698 131 7), by Sarah M Moses, argues for a society where older people are not just objects of care, but also ‘subjects’ who are encouraged to grow and develop and serve others.

Multifaith Care for Sick and Dying Children and their Families: a Multidisciplinary Guide (Jessica Kingsley, London 2015; 224pp; £16.99; ISBN 978 1 84905 606 9), edited by Paul Nash, Madeleine Parkes and Zamir Hussain, contains a series of informative essays covering Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism, Judaism and Buddhism. In the first instance this will be of help to hospital and hospice chaplains.

40 Questions about the Historical Jesus (Kregel Academic, Grand Rapids 2015, but available in the UK through Alban Books of Edinburgh; 407pp; £12.99; ISBN 978 0 8254 4284 1), by Mervin Pate of Ouichita Baptist University, is divided into four parts: (1) Background questions about the ‘historical’ Jesus (e.g. Do the Gospels present an accurate description of the life of Jesus?  Is Jesus’ life confirmed by non-Jewish & Jewish sources?); (2) questions about Jesus’ birth and childhood (e.g. When was Jesus born? Did Jesus do miracles as a child?); (3) Questions about Jesus’ life and teaching (e.g. What did the baptism of Jesus signify? What does it mean that Jesus was transfigured?); (4) Questions about Jesus’ crucifixion (e.g. What is the significance of the triumphal entry? Who was responsible for Jesus’ death?). Although this conservative guide to the historical Jesus breaks no new ground, it could be a great resource for any preacher wanting to preach a series of sermons dealing with ‘questions about Jesus’.

Practical Help for Stressed Christians: Your Questions Answered (SPCK, London 2015; 143pp; £9.99; ISBN 978 0 281 0724 422), by Andrew and Elizabeth Proctor, is a lively workbook with stories and meditations, and deals with such questions as ‘I know I’m overstressed, but how do I stop?’, ‘How can I stop my church stressing me out?’ and ‘How can I carry on when I feel swamped and disillusioned at work’. A small group wanting a break from Bible study per se, could find this a helpful book to study.

The Message of Worship (IVP, Nottingham 2015; 293pp; £12.99; ISBN 978 1 78359 296 8), by John Risbridger of Above Bar Church, Southampton, is another welcome addition to the expository series of Bible themes which are part of The Bible Speaks Today. This will be a great resource for preachers.

The Spirit of St Francis: Inspiring Words on Faith, Love and Creation (SPCK, London 2015; 178pp; £8.99; ISBN 978 0 281 07431 0), edited by Alicia von Stamwitz, is a wide-ranging collection of ‘thoughts’ by the present Pope Francis. Full of quotable quotes, I liked the piece entitled ‘We have lost the 99’, in which the Pope urges Christians to go out and preach the Gospel, rather than staying at home with the one sheep, combing its fleece!

A Wee Book of Iona Poems (Wild Goose Publications, Glasgow 2015; 75pp; £6.99; ISBN 978 1 84952 423 0), by Kenneth Steven, consists of a number of short haiku-like poems, which will appeal primarily to those who know and love the Holy Island of Iona.

First published in 1999, and revised in 2003, this new edition of Evangelical Truth: A personal plea for unity, integrity and faithfulness (IVP, Nottingham 2015; 157pp; £8.99; ISBN 978 1 78359 284 5), by the late John Stott, remains as relevant as ever – not least at a time when evangelicals appear to becoming ever more ‘tribal’.  

First published in 1972, The Hiding Place (Hodder and Stoughton, London 2015; 224pp; £7.99; ISBN 978 0 340 86353 4), by Corrie ten Boom with John and Elizabeth Sherill, this classic of inspirational faith in the toughest of circumstances deserves to reach a new audience.

First published in 1996, Jesus and the Victory of God (SPCK, London 2015; 741pp; £40; ISBN 978 0 281 07405 1), by N T Wright, deals with the self-understanding of Jesus, and will no doubt bless a new generation of theological students. This is thoughtful lucid New Testament scholarship at its best.

The Children’s Bible: 101 Favourite Bible Stories (SPCK, London 2015; 142pp; £9.99 hardback; ISBN 978 0 281 07407 5), written by Sally Ann Wright and illustrated by Carla Manea, has been produced for 7–9 year olds. It is a lovely book and deserves to sell well.

Inferior Office? A History of Deacons in the Church of England (James Clarke, Cambridge 2015; 179pp; £25; ISBN 978 0 227 17488 3), by Francis Young, is a work of careful historical research, which also raises questions for the office of deacon in today’s Church of England.

First issued in hardback in 2012 Faith No More: Why People Reject Religion (Oxford University Press 2015; 224pp; £14.99; ISBN 0 978 0 19 024884 0), by Phil Zuckerman, is a study of growing American ‘apostasy’ – one recent study found that only 53% of Americans born after 1981 believe in God. In spite of the rise of secularism, the author is not convinced that a continuing decline in religiosity is inevitable: “If the potential ravages of global warming begin to manifest themselves with greater frequency, if the gap between rich and poor continues to grow, if more and more Americans lack decent jobs, adequate health care, good child and elder care, and if the economy tanks for significant stretches – in short, if life in the decades ahead becomes harder and more precarious for most Americans, then I am sure that apostasy will remain decidedly uncommon”!

Part of the Theology of Work Project, Provision and Wealth (Hendrikson, Massachusetts 2015; 89pp; £6.99; ISBN 978 161 97066 20), is an excellent Bible study book for home groups. Chapters include ‘Restoring the economic sphere’ (Collosians 1.19-12); ‘Gratitude and contentment’ (1 Corinthians 4.7 and Phillipians 4.11-19) and ‘Changing our personal lifestyles (Acts 2.42-47 and Luke 14.1-14).

First published in 1979, then revised in 2011, Hodder and Stoughton have re-published another edition of the Anglicised NIV Life Application Study Bible (London 2015; 2416pp; £29.99 hardback; ISBN 978 1 444 79293 5). This is not a study Bible for ministers, but more a devotional tool for church members.

When Silence Speaks: the spiritual way of the Carthusian order (DLT, London 2015; 211pp; £12.99; ISBN 978 0 232 53202 9), by Tim Peeters, is an English translation of a book originally published in 2007 in Dutch, presenting a warm and sympathetic view of this Order of solitary monasticism. A beautiful and fascinating read, but of little value to working ministers, except in its presentation of the value of time spent alone with God.

Faith in Older People (Grove Booklets, Cambridge, Evangelism Series 110, 2015; 28pp; £3.95; ISBN 978 1 85174 938 6), by Robin Rolls, is a disappointing read, lacking in insight and creativity perhaps because the author himself is still in his early mid-years.

Paul Beasley-Murray

Senior Minister of Central Baptist Church, Chelmsford<br>and Chair of Ministry Today

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You are reading Issue 65 of Ministry Today, published in November 2015.

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