Wrestling with The Word

Wrestling with The Word

Authors Kate Bruce and Jamie Harrison
Publisher SPCK £12.99
Format pbk
ISBN 9780281076482

A book written for Readers by Readers which neatly summarises our preaching responsibility in two tasks: One – put into words what people know in their hearts; Two – put into words what God feels in his heart. So, no pressure then!

There are many books on preaching from all manner of angles and approaches, almost to the extent of Ecc 12:12: ‘Of making many books there is no end’ But this one is a bit different. It reproduces 15 sermons by noted preachers, followed by helpful critiques that highlight how they dealt with elements within passages deemed ‘notoriously difficult.’ These include Matt 27:51-28:8, Judges 11:28-40 and Dan 5:1-31. Accessible in style, practical in approach, not swamped by homiletic terminology, this is a refreshing and encouraging book to have to hand whenever you are preparing your next sermon.




A Good Year

A Good Year

Author Ed. Mark Oakley
Publisher SPCK £9.99
Format pbk
ISBN 9780281077038

An imaginative look at the church’s seasons, ably edited and introduced by Mark Oakley. The book began as a series of talks given at St Paul’s Cathedral on what constitutes a ‘good’ season: not just the changing colour of the altar frontal, but a fruitful exploration of each part of the Christian year. Seven bishops (Sarah Mullally, Rowan Williams, Libby Lane, Justin Welby, Stephen Cottrell, Stephen Conway and Karen Gorham) provide meditations for the varying times and seasons. Inevitably, some are better written than others: the poetic force of Williams rather shows up Lane and Mullally; Welby is superbly pragmatic and down to earth; Cottrell is surprising and original. Conway relies on the reader’s knowledge of various artworks (not reproduced) which is a slight limitation. A useful book to give to an enquirer or new Christian unfamiliar with the shape of the church year. The book might also be useful for a discussion group.




Acts – A Commentary (The New Testament Library)

Acts – A Commentary (The New
Testament Library)

Author Carl A. Holladay
Publisher WJK Books £60
Format hbk
ISBN 9780664262815

This is an extensive commentary, over 600 pages long, but quite readable despite its length. It is, however, one that is intended for the theological student rather than the general Christian reader. It considers that the author of Acts, whom Holladay does not consider to be a former companion of Paul, had access to some historical documents of the early church as well as traditions concerning Paul and others. Holladay treats Acts as a historical novel with the text shaped more by the Septuagint, by literary tradition, and by the author’s evangelistic intent than as a historical record. As a result, one ends up with a history of the early church where it is unclear as to what might actually have happened. This is an academic commentary concentrating on literary style over devotional content.


New Testament Commentary



Companion to the Old Testament

Companion to
the Old Testament

Author Ed. Hywel Clifford
Publisher SCM Press £19.99
Format pbk
ISBN 9780334053934

The aim of this admirably concise and focused ‘companion’ is to propose and put into practice ‘a fresh model for approaching the Old Testament… explicitly Christian’, but ‘…not written in a religiously or denominationally partisan manner.’ A chapter is devoted to each of the five divisions of the Old Testament – Pentateuch, History, Poetry & Wisdom, Prophets and the Apocrypha – each sub-divided into Introduction, Interpretation and Application summaries (which defines this ‘fresh model’). These summaries further sub-divide into insightful and accessible perspectives of Early, Reformation and Modern Christian thought and understanding. The Conclusion is one of most comprehensive listings of paper and virtual resources this reviewer has seen, covering thematic and theological subjects with thoughtful commentary on their strengths, weaknesses and denominational bases/biases.
In concert with Drane’s Introducing The Old Testament and the Alexander’s Lion Handbook to the Bible, you will have ‘a cord of three strands…’ (Ecc 4:12) to begin confidently navigating the pools, streams, rivers and seas of the Old Testament. Highly recommended.


Old Testament Analysis


Money and Possessions

Money and Possessions

Author Walter Brueggemann
Publisher WJK £27.99
Format pbk
ISBN 9780664262808

In a market-propelled society, dominated by the power of money, preachers may be reluctant to tackle attitudes to money and possessions as too culturally sensitive. In this survey of scripture, Brueggemann invalidates any such reluctance as Biblically unsupported. In this incisive, elegant, and counter-cultural interpretation he argues cogently that the entire Bible has more to say about money and possessions than many other topics. He reveals a consistently urgent narrative message throughout scripture that all money and possessions are a gift from God, meant for the benefit of neighbours, albeit a gift marred by predatory economics that result in economic inequalities, oppression of the poor and vulnerable, and persistent exploitation of the ‘have-nots’ by the ‘haves.’ His exegesis is peppered with brief contemporary parallels to underline this core scriptural theme. A few social justice parallels might raise some readers’ eyebrows but this very readable, not highly technical book would be a very useful resource for Bible study and for preachers willing to tackle the topic.


Biblical Analysis, Social Policy


The gift of leadership: according to the Scriptures

The gift of leadership: according to
the Scriptures

Author Steven Croft
Publisher Canterbury Press £9.99
Format pbk
ISBN 9781848258655

True leadership is a difficult gift to define and systematise; and it is a relief that this slight book (92pp) despite its title, is not yet another volume that attempts to do so. Nevertheless, here are some valuable pages that will encourage, restore, and feed well those who find themselves both knowingly and surprised to be in such roles.

Rich in real-life experience and embedded well in scriptural example, Croft takes various characteristics of leadership (e.g. hope, pain, chaos, change, covenant etc.) and insightfully reflects on them in ways that will invoke further self-reflection.

Not a textbook then, but self-described as a ‘companion’ for the journey of leadership; a book to dip into and be deeply refreshed by when facing the challenges and joys of leadership – not only for those who exercise leadership in church situations, but enriching for all Christians who exercise such roles in their everyday living.




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