I’m going to start this blog off with some reviews of what I have been reading this year, and what I thought of it. I’ll do it a month at a time to keep the posts from getting too long
Read in January 2004:
Streams of Living Water (Richard Foster)
Rating: 4/5 – Thought provoking and inspiring
Examines a number of “streams” or “traditions” of Christianity, evaluating their strengths and weaknesses, highlighting their particular emphases through examples of famous Christians from church history, and examines their Biblical basis. The Contemplative, Holiness, Charismatic, Social Justice, Evangelical and Incarnational traditions are each given this treatment. I found the biographical sketches very inspirational, and he ably demonstrates that each of these streams does genuinely have something to teach the others. The one possible weakness is that he overlooks the fact that many of these streams, and indeed the example people from them would have very serious theological differences between them. Despite this, I can highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to get a broader picture of the body of Christ. It also contains a very useful dictionary of significant characters from church history who fit into each of these streams.
The Message of Ruth – Bible Speaks Today (David Atkinson)
Rating 3/5 – Good historical insights and practical applications
As with all the BST series, this will help the general reader get a good broad feel for the message of the book. The necessary historical background is filled in, and the author is always looking to draw out lessons for us.
Matthew for Everyone Part 1: Chapters 1-15 (Tom Wright)
Matthew for Everyone Part 2: Chapters 16-28 (Tom Wright)
Rating 4/5 – Jesus the first century Jewish Messiah
The format of these two small volumes is ideal for working your way through the Gospel of Matthew at a rate of about a chapter a day. Each chapter is broken down into chunks of about 10 verses, which Wright has himself translated into English. He then comments on each section, starting with an anecdote, before helping us understand the verses in question in their original historical context. This is of course, Tom Wright’s speciality as he is arguably the leading evangelical scholar in his field of historical Jesus studies. Be prepared for some surprises as he doesn’t always interpret a passage quite how you had heard it before. After reading this, you will have a much better understanding of some of the key issues (e.g. exile, temple, Messiahship, kingdom) that are required to appreciate the gospels properly.
The Awakening (Friedrich Zuendel)
Rating 3/5 – The Lord moves in mysterious ways
This is a biography of a 19th Century German pastor, Johann Christoph Blumhardt who had to deal with a woman in his church who was demon possessed. This resulted in a rather unusual two year “fight” with the forces of darkness, before he saw breakthrough. As a result there was a tremendous spiritual awakening in his village. Some of his methods caused theological controversy at the time, and still raise issues today, but for Blumhardt himself, he was simply trying to do what was right in what for him was uncharted territory. This little book will certainly cause you to spend some time thinking.