Reviews on 4 'books for everyday life'

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Reviews on 4 'books for everyday life'
Reviews by Fiona Lloyd, the Chair of the Association of Christian Writers

1. Welcome

There’s a couple of sentences in the introduction to Jen Oshman’s book, Welcome, that really made me stop and think. ‘As we have been welcomed,’ she writes, ‘so we must welcome. Our God, who made space for you and me, asks us to make space for everyone, so that they can hear and respond to his good news.’ This short passage encapsulates the message of the book: we must look for ways to welcome others because God first welcomed us.

Oshman goes on to explore what this looks like in practical terms. Welcome is a book that challenges the reader to recognise the differences in culture, personality and upbringing that shape the people we meet, both at church and elsewhere. It is only by accommodating difference – and being willing to change ourselves – that we are able to offer a Christ-like welcome.

Although the book is easy to follow, it can make for uncomfortable reading at times (in a good way). Oshman invites us to examine our own prejudices and to be willing to step outside our usual comfort zone in order to reach out to others. There are questions and prayer-prompts to help with this process, as well as useful small group discussion guides at the end of the book. Welcome is a challenging and timely book.

2. He Loved Them

He Loved Them, by Jessica Thompson, also considers the theme of difference (and would sit well alongside Welcome). In this book, Thompson looks at the different people Jesus met and how He responded to their various problems. The author focuses not so much on differences of culture and upbringing, but rather on different needs. She talks about those who were fearful, discouraged or fainthearted, and how Jesus did not condemn them but met them where they were.

I suspect that most of us would identify with at least one of the characteristics described in this book, and it serves as a powerful reminder of God’s love for us no matter what our circumstances or how much we may feel we have let Him down. However, it also prompts us to remember how much God loves those around us. He Loved Them encourages us to share the compassionate heart of Jesus with the broken and downcast in our society. I found this book very moving, and I would recommend reading it slowly and prayerfully.

3. Bless-ed

There’s an old hymn that starts ‘Count your blessings…’, and this neatly sums up the theme of my third choice, Bless-ed, by Larry Dixon. This is designed as a fifty-two-week devotional, although the chapters are short, so it could easily be read in one sitting. Dixon starts off by sharing how he met his friend, ‘Mike’, who is not a Christian. This motivated him not only to pray for his friend, but also to look at some of the ways his own faith had changed his perspective on life.

Each of the fifty-two chapters focuses on a particular blessing that we have as believers, such as the blessing of a forgiven past. Dixon spends a few pages sharing what each blessing means for us, using plenty of Scripture references to support his thoughts. Every chapter ends with suggestions for further reading/discussion, along with prayer and action points. For those who want to dig into this a bit more, it would certainly be worth spreading the chapters out over a longer period of time. Even though I didn’t agree with everything Dixon said, I still found Bless-ed to be helpful encouragement to reflect on the blessings we have in Christ.

4. Is Kindness Killing the Church?

Is Kindness Killing the Church? by Hugh Osgood offers a new slant on church unity. Using the seven churches mentioned in the early chapters of Revelation as inspiration, Osgood describes seven typical churches we might come across in the 21st century. These are the Conciliatory Church, the Conforming Church, the Comprehensive Church, the Curious Church, the Concerned Church, the Courteous Church and the Confident Church.

Osgood paints a brief picture of each of these, comparing them to stereotypical churches we might find in a small urban setting today. The book makes regular reference to the Revelation churches, drawing parallels (and distinctions) with modern churches. The author also includes a Revelation-style letter to each of these current-day churches and challenges the reader to think about how they would respond. There are strengths and weaknesses in each of these models, he argues, and we need to take these seriously if we are to grow in unity and agape love for one another (and so draw others in). Is Kindness Killing the Church? offers a valuable counterpoint to modern complacency and disunity.

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Bless–ed (Paperback)
Larry Dixon
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He Loved Them (Paperback)
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Is Kindness Killing the Church? (Paperback)
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Welcome (Paperback)
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