The Unquenchable Flame

September 10, 2009

unquenchableThe Unquenchable Flame

Michael Reeves



ISBN : 978-1-84474-385-8


Thank you Evangelical Times! If you hadn’t sent me this book to review, I may never have picked it up, and that would have been a great shame.

 The Unquenchable Flame is a clear, easy read; lively and humorous in places, it’s ideal for kindling an interest in the Reformation and the events that have shaped Christianity in Europe. However, don’t be fooled into thinking this book lacks depth, it’s crammed full of important details and useful insights. Reeves has written a book that is both light in style and deep in content.

The book charts a time when the World awoke to the sound of God’s Word. Beginning with the pre-Reformation state of Europe, before there was even a hint of discontentment with the Roman Catholic Church, the author shows how the LORD worked in the hearts of men like Erasmus, Luther, Zwingli and Calvin, convicting them of the Supremacy of God’s Word over the Pope’s. These men, and many others, fought to release Christians from the false teachings of Roman Catholic Church, and introduce them to a salvation that could not be bought or earned but was graciously given by a personal God who spoke directly to them through his Word.

Michael Reeves succeeds in bringing the Reformation to life and making its significance unmissable. One of the book’s strengths is that it glorifies God rather than the men he chose to use. The Reformers should certainly be admired and their example followed, but the example they set was one of devotion to following Christ.

What makes this book different is its very human portrayal of the Reformers. Much of the humour in the book comes from stories of their home lives. Mrs Luther, for instance, was one of a group of Nuns convinced of Salvation by faith alone. Luther helped these nuns escape the convent, and found them all husbands. He married Katie because she was so feisty no-one else would have her!

This book has an interesting feature; the main text is interspersed with added informative asides. Every few pages there is a grey box of text giving some additional detail about a person or event that may not link directly with the chapter, but is interesting nonetheless. Although I enjoyed the additional reading I found myself wondering if I should stick with the main text of the chapter or read the text box!

I enjoyed this book very much, and it’s certainly encouraged me to find out more about the Reformation. Anticipating this response, IVP have set up a website with some additional resources and suggested further reading.


Christmas Evans

June 12, 2009

Christmas Evans – no ordinary preacher

Tim ShentonChristmas Evans

Day One

£8, 154 pages

ISBN: 978-1846251306


One thing is certain, this book is a real conversation started. Whenever I left my copy on the coffee table, visitors would pick it up and ask in bemused tones “What sort of a name is Christmas Evans?”.

I knew a little about Christmas Evans before reading this book, but as I read I realised there’s far more to this one-eyed Welshman, dubbed ‘the John Bunyan of Wales’. I learnt of the far reaching effect of his ministry all over Wales and that we have Christmas Evans to thank for the Gospel witness in Anglesey today; it might be fairer to call him the ‘remarkable itinerant evangelist of Wales’.

This book is the story of how God can transform a poor, uneducated, illiterate man with a difficult childhood and a fiery temper into a faithful husband, caring minister and mighty man of God. It inspires and challenges. Even after God had reformed Christmas’ character, he faced many struggles during his life, both in his ministry and in his home life; by not glossing over these incidents, Tim Shenton allows the reader to see the real man. The way God remained faithful to Evans through adversity and doubt is something we can all relate to.

I enjoyed reading this book. It gave me a fuller understanding of my Christian heritage and I was encouraged to read of the way the LORD worked in Wales during the time Christmas Evans was ministering His Word.

I don’t possess a particular interest in history, so this wouldn’t have been a natural choice for me. Though I enjoyed and benefited from reading it, this book would be of most interest to those who are keen Historians. Some knowledge of Welsh geography might also be useful, you may need to practice pronouncing your double l’s before reading it aloud!

Young, Restless, Reformed

June 12, 2009

Young, Restless, ReformedYRR

 Colin Hanssen                   


156 pages, £9.99

ISBN number  978-1-58134-940-5


Young, Restless, Reformed has just started making waves in the UK. I heard about it from a friend who had been told “You must read this book – it’s about you!”, and true enough it is about him, and many other twenty-somethings I know. In fact, as interviewees were introduced, I found myself wondering if some of my friends were leading double lives.

Colin Hanssen, a journalist for Christianity Today, set out to study what has been labelled as a “resurgence of Reformed Theology amongst the youth of America”. He spent two years visiting conferences and churches across America and interviewing the movers and shakers putting Calvinism back on the map.

I was intrigued by this book, and curious to see how the author would go about his research – would he remain impartial? Would he confine his interviews to big names only – Piper, Mahaney, Driscoll? Would it all descend into hero worship and Arminian-bashing?

All my questions were answered ‘No’.  Hanssen did interview some of the most influencial men in Young Evangelical circles, but those interviews were balances out by conversations with regular young people who attended the churches and conferences he visited, folk in their twenties who are passionate about reformed theology. The temptation to be dazzled by those big names is dispersed by Hanssen’s down to earth descriptions of John Piper’s home life or C.J. Mahaney’s in his youth. All of the well known men interviewed in this book testify to the influence of their own heroes – C.H. Spurgeon, Jonathan Edwards, Martyn Lloyd Jones. And no-one lashes out at those who hold a different view point, although their views on Arminianism are clearly expressed. Hanssen even interviews a few men who are well known for their objection to the teachings on John Calvin and gives clear descriptions of the differences between the two doctrines. Having said that, Hanssen is certainly not impartial. It’s very clear that he stands firmly in the TULIP camp.

I found this book very stimulating – the title sums up the readership perfectly. The only real downside was that some of the references would be lost on a British audience, and a few of the chapters refer to ministries that are not well known in the UK like Campus Outreach or the PCA. This is after all a book about the youth of America, and won’t necessarily resonate with their British counterparts, but I do think that the stories in this book will ring true with many young Evangelicals in the UK, as we are already seeing a similar return to reformed theology and a hunger for Calvinistic teaching here.

If there’s more Piper than Pop music on your iPod, if you’d rather read a Puritan Paperback than a self-help guide, and if you loved the mix of reformed teaching and contemporary worship at New Word Alive – this book is for you.

Holding Hands Holding Hearts

June 12, 2009

Holding Hands Holding Hearts: Recovering a Biblical View of Christian DatingHolding hands holding hearts

Sharon & Richard Phillips

P&R Publishing

183 Pages

I picked up Holding Hands Holding Hearts with a slight sense of foreboding. I do not generally enjoy books on Relationships. I often find them either too sentimental or overly regimental. Even Christian books sometimes read like self-help guides or can give different views on dating depending which sex you belong to. But having been promised that Holding Hands Holding Hearts was worth a read, I gave it the benefit of the doubt. I was not disappointed.

It’s often said that the Bible doesn’t have much to say about dating, but according to Sharon &Richard Phillips, authors of Holding Hands Holding Hearts, that’s not strictly true. Their answer to the question ‘What does the Bible has to say about dating?’ is “Nothing.  And Everything!”  This book is about exploring God’s design for our romantic relationships through the guidelines he sets out in his Word. 

The book is written in two parts – firstly (and crucially) looking at ‘A Biblical View of Dating and Relationships’ – bringing out specific lessons from Scripture on how men and women relate to each other , how God intended love to be, and the model of perfect love that we see in Christ Jesus.  Having looked at those things, the authors then go on to the more practical matter of ‘Biblical Wisdom for Dating and Relationships’. Questions about commitment, sex, marriage, the first date and singleness are dealt with sensitively and openly, with every answer backed up with Scripture.

I can gladly recommend this book, and have already done so to a number of friends, both male and female, who have also found it very helpful.  Richard & Sharon Phillips have used their many years of experience in ministering to Christian Singles and their own experience of marriage, as well as their knowledge of God’s Word, to produce a very accessible and valuable answer to one of life’s mysteries.