Flourish – Lydia Brownback
Subtitle: How the Love of Christ Frees Us from Self-Focus
In the age of “self-help” and “self-care”, Lydia Brownback’s latest book is definitely not one of them. Although, it kind of is, in that the aim of the book is ultimately to help you find happiness and live a more fulfilling life… to “flourish”.
The main difference is that you’re not going to accomplish that by trying to look within to unleash your inner strength. In fact, Brownback would advise that you choose the better option. Forget about yourself entirely and look to Christ instead!
She sets the tone at the beginning of her book by reminding the reader of what Paul tells Timothy in II Timothy, chapter 3:
“But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty.
For people will be lovers of self…” (verses 1-2)
And how does Paul go on to warn Timothy?
“Avoid such people.” (verse 5)
Brownback tells the reader that we too are now living in these last days before Jesus’ return.
Rather than trying to hammer in her reader’s head that they ought to think more about Christ and less about themselves, the author is a bit more ambitious. She wants to use this book to train the reader to think and come to this conclusion for themselves.
Not only that, she wants the reader to learn the necessary tools to be able to make discerning decisions going forward based on biblical understanding to differentiate between these two mentalities.
The way she goes about doing this is by using a 3-part structure in each of the 6 chapters.
Each chapter focuses on a common area where people may be tempted to focus too much on the self:
- 1. Self-Consciousness
- 2. Self-Improvement
- 3. Self-Analysis
- 4. Self-Indulgence
- 5. Self-Condemnation
- 6. Self-Victimisation
Within each chapter, Brownback then goes on to divide the content into 3 smaller sub-sections:
- i. Dig (going deeper into the heart of the issue)
- ii. Discern (gaining clarity on the biblical mindset required to tackle the issue)
- iii. Flourish (conclusion of the matter and what it looks like to embrace Christ over self)
With this simple formula, she proceeds to walk the reader through various examples of what each mentality might look like in everyday life. What the author does extremely well is show the reader how the solution to each of these problems is to think more of Christ rather than self, through specific biblical passages. That’s where true freedom from the bondage of self is found — in Christ.
This is a short book, quite light, and a relatively easy read. That said, it has real substance and is structured in a very helpful way to equip the reader to think for themselves going forward.
Even in the title (using trendy buzzwords/phrases like “flourish” and “free us from…”), I think this book effectively draws in people who need to read this most — those who may find themselves drawn to the self-help trend.
I also really enjoyed how she didn’t limit herself to providing obviously silly examples of first world problems so that she can easily debunk them. In the chapter on self-victimisation, Brownback shares the story of a woman who was forced into marrying a Taliban fighter when she was a child and suffered much abuse as a result. The author doesn’t shy away from addressing tough things and deep pain.
Brownback does an excellent job of listing countless everyday examples throughout the book to illustrate her points. She also embeds various passages from the Bible throughout to support her argument. I think at times the book is a bit example-heavy and Bible light. That said, I think the balance she strikes is still adequate in encouraging her reader to think more biblically when it comes to the struggle of finding freedom from self in Christ.
I’d recommend this book for Christians who have gone down (or have been tempted to go down) the self-help book route.
by Michelle Cheng
We are so excited that our Teaching Ephesians book has just been published in Indonesia. We are so thankful to our friends at UFM and also Langham for making this possible. As always we want to thank Christian Focus for their continued partnership in this project.
Please do pray with us that this volume might be greatly used to equip pastors and build up churches in the region.
Women and God (Hard Questions Beautiful Trust) [Kathleen Nielson]
Not another book on Women! You may exclaim? But this one is well worth reading; even if you are a man! Kathleen is a very able Bible teacher who loves God’s word and is passionate about explaining and applying it well. In this book she tackles the relationship of Women with God by taking a journey from Eden to Eternity. God’s unfolding good purposes for women from beginning to end, in the fallen state that we find ourselves and through the rescue that is found in Christ.
This book beautifully affirms women by faithfully extolling God’s goodness in His word and His grace in the Lord Jesus. This is a book that refreshingly refutes the unhelpful stereotypes of women as ‘trampled doormats,’ as well as correcting skewed interpretations that diminish the distinctive differences between men and women. Kathleen simply and clearly explains some of the trickiest passages in the wider context in which they are written and graciously tackles the challenging questions that are raised. God’s beautiful truth is shown to speak relevantly and affirmingly about and to women.
Kathleen avoids unhelpful labels, heady jargon and unnecessary theological debate making this an accessible read. I will be highly recommending this book to all the women in my church family. It tackles many of the usual topics and more: Fallen Women; Strong Women; Women and Sex; Women’s Bodies; Marriage; The Church.
It is concise and yet thorough and different to other books tackling similar issues. I am struggling to think of a weakness or reason not to read this book. This book will enrich your understanding of Women and their relationship with God and renew your love of God and His Word.
This would be a great read for any Christian woman (or man) in your church.
Buy your copy now at at great price from The Good Book Company: https://www.thegoodbook.co.uk/women-and-god
By Rebekah Brown
Neil & Nigel on International Adventures…
Nigel Styles (Cornhill Director) and Neil Watkinson (International Director) are away on an adventure, please pray for them. They are away this week in a majority-Muslim country running a preaching conference for 60 enthusiastic church planters, training them in preaching. These pastors have had no preacher training whatsoever so this is an amazing opportunity for us to help them in the task that God has called them to.
Please do join with us in praying for this conference, specifically:
- Pray for safety as the country is volatile
- Pray for helpful translators at all of the sessions who communicate well and clearly
- Pray for a willingness in all the delegates to work hard in the workshops
- Pray for excitement and understanding of Mark and Titus as they are taught
- Pray for Long-term fruit and gospel advance in this country and surrounding region
Two Christmas Giveaway Books….
Good news, great joy – (Evangelistic Christmas Booklet) by William Taylor
This is a short and clear gospel explanation which expounds the message of Christmas from Luke 2:10-11. William has three clear points: Firstly, Christmas and History – Christmas was a real historical event about the real historical person; Jesus Christ. Secondly, Christmas and God – The coming of the Lord Jesus Christ – the divine royal ruler; God himself. And thirdly, Christmas and Rescue – Jesus Christ is God’s eternal rescue plan for those who trust in Him and submit to His rule; receiving His forgiveness and life forever.
This is a great little booklet that is clear, engaging and accessible for someone who is not a Christian. It is also a useful explanation that will help the Christian to appreciate afresh the good news of the Christmas message. Equally, this is an equipping little resource that models a short evangelistic Christmas talk from a couple of verses that draws on the wider context of Luke’s gospel. There is no fudging of sin and judgement and yet it is full of grace and hope.
It includes personal testimony, plenty of illustrations and a call to respond at the end. It takes 15 minutes to read and communicates the good news of the gospel clearly and concisely. It is certainly worth gifting away to friends, family and guests at those Christmas services. At 50p each you can afford to give it away abundantly.
Christmas Jackpot – How to get really rich this Christmas (Evangelistic Christmas Book) by Adrian Reynolds
In this highly illustrative, ‘Rags to Riches’ evangelistic booklet, Adrian uses 2 Corinthians 8:9 as a springboard to explain the gospel. He takes a staged approach to unpacking this, under seven punchy sections:
1. Christmas is expensive but this book will give you “a sure-fire way to get rich”
2. If God is God, then He owns it all – He’s rich beyond imaging
3. Riches to Rags – God becomes human
4. You are poorer than you can imagine
5. Rags to Riches – Jesus takes our poverty (sin and death) to make us really, really rich (eternal life)
6. His gift for you – Grace guaranteed
7. Claim your gift now! – Call to respond with an example prayer
Adrian has a very easy to read style that makes this very accessible to someone who is not used to engaging with the bible. The gospel is explained clearly and compellingly. The book is teeming with illustrations and there is lots of humour contained in its 48 pages. It is also a roller coaster for the reader, at points it is humorous, at others incisive and at others hard hitting and serious.
I think put into the hands of the right person it is a terrific resource though probably worth reading yourself before giving away. At £1 each if you buy over 100, it is certainly well worth utilising at carol services, baby and toddler groups and nativity services for the many guests we pray might join in church activities this Christmas and hear the gospel.
Two great talks from Autumn Ministers 2018…
At our Autumn Ministers Conference 2018 at the beginning of this month we were great blessed by two talks from Andy Mason on the subject of Love and Joy in pastoral ministry.
They were challenging, heart warming, encouraging and real and if you had a spare hour it would be very worth your while tuning in.
You can find the link to the two talks here:
The Belgian Bible Convention (31st August & 1st September)
Sometimes we are discouraged by the state of the gospel in the UK. Churches closing, a hostile public square and a cultural drift away from Biblical norms to name but a few of the signs. However, having spent some of this Summer in Belgium, just two hours on a train from London, my conclusion is that things in the UK could be a lot worse.
Belgians, according to polling data would be around 60% ‘Christian’, most of these would be Catholics, although catholicism on the whole in Belgium is in decline (72% down to 53% over last 35 years), and protestantism is on the increase (2.5% up to 6.2% in the same period). However these numbers drop off dramatically when focussed on those under 40 years of age. This is the broad picture of self-identification across the country though the proportion of evangelicals within that would be minuscule.
Against this decline however there are some very encouraging signs of life and growth. The International Baptist Church of Brussels and International Bible Church of Jubrise are great gospel outposts doing terrific work of proclaiming the Bible to their majoritively expat congregations. The Institute Biblique Belge is also doing a phenomenal job of training and equipping francophone evangelicals for ministry. There are also some great French speaking churches particularly the Protestant Evangelical Church of Woluwe and their church plant into Etterbeek. So though the backdrop is bleak there are some encouraging bright spots, I am sure that there are many faithful brothers and sisters doing other great work elsewhere in Belgium.
Our PT Belgian Bible Convention run in association with IBC Brussels was encouraging. Around 60 people attended some or all of the conference from 11 different churches, the age range was diverse and as is symptomatic of Brussels the number of nationalities present was in the teens. Everyone greatly enjoyed the sessions with Andrew Sach digging into 1 Kings and seeing new things in very familiar passages. We looked at the life of William Tyndale a hero of the faith who both lived as a fugitive in Belgium (Antwerp) and was imprisoned there for 2 years (Vilvoorde). We had seminars on Women’s Ministry, Small Groups and Writing a Bible Talk and finished our time looking at the nature of gospel work from Acts 20:17-38. People were encouraged and had fresh enthusiasm for their Bibles.
We are thinking about repeating the Convention, but moving it slightly later into October as the beginning of September is a time of great transition in Brussels.
Thank you so much to all of you who prayed for this fledgling event and please continue to pray for the country of Belgium that the gospel would bear fruit and grow across this strategic nation.
Cornhill 2018/19 – We’re off and running…
This week is the first week of the new year at the PT Cornhill Training Course in London.
It has been great to see all the new ‘F1’ Monday and Tuesday students arrive and begin to settle in. There are around 120 entering the course for the first time. Then this morning (Wednesday) there are over 70 beginning their ‘F2’ year on a Wednesday. It was straight into teaching with Andrew Sach giving a refresher of all that they learnt about Bible Handling last year.
In total we are excited that we are training over 200 students across the 3 year groups and very thankful to local churches for trusting us with their people.
Tomorrow our ‘Core’ students arrive back. There are 22 of these guys spending two days a week honing and sharpening their comprehension and communication of the Bible.
Also two of our graduating students from last year have joined the Pastors Training Course in Scotland (run by Cornhill Scotland). They have just finished one of their residential weeks in Ayrshire.
Please pray for us at Cornhill:
Pray that there would be rich fellowship between the students and tutors that would spur them on in studying and serving the local church.
Pray for Nigel, Stephen, Andrew, Carrie and Gwilym as they do the bulk of the teaching and the external teachers who are generous with their time in helping out.
Pray that in all our endeavours we would strive to help people preach and teach the Bible clearly, powerfully and faithfully across a wide range of contexts and for many years to come.
Pray particularly for our many international students who are now only settling into Cornhill but also life in the UK. We have students from Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe joining us this year.
Thank you all so much for your continued interest and partnership in the gospel.
A Better Way to Live [Graham Hooper] – a review by David Jackman
The practice of personal Bible study seems sadly to be on the decline in many of our churches. So, as pastors, we need to be aware of good quality resources to stimulate the individual members of our
congregations to pick up their Bibles for themselves, in order to
develop their understanding and personal application of God’s unchanging Word.
One such excellent resource, out of Australia, is “A Better Way To Live” by British author, Graham Hooper.
Graham is a Consultant and former Senior Executive for a global infrastructure company. His work has taken him to more than 20 countries. Now retired and living in Melbourne, he speaks and writes regularly on matters relating to Christian faith in daily life. His first book, “Undivided: closing the faith life gap” was published by IVP in 2013.
Graham brings a life time of experience in the business world to bear on the central challenge of developing a life of wisdom and integrity amid all the pressures of contemporary life.
The book comprises of 52 studies in Proverbs and Psalms which combine careful, thoughtful exposition of the Biblical text with reflections and applications to everyday life. Each of these studies is fresh, engaging, challenging and strengthening.
In his Preface, Graham writes, “There is nothing quite so attractive and so powerful as a godly life …. a way of integrity, love and faithfulness; a way of worship, thankfulness and hope – a better way to live”. That is exactly what these compelling studies portray. They can be used at whatever speed most suits the reader, and probably for many they could form a full 52 weeks of personal learning and development. He continues that the way of practical godliness is “better than the bleak emptiness of secular materialism; better than a vague spirituality which has no substance; better than mere formal religion …. it is about God calling us to live for him in a world that rejects his authority.”
This is a book of authentic spiritual strength and conviction. It has been forged through a life-time of experience and it is this connection to the realities of everyday life which makes it such a valuable tool.
I have worked through the studies myself [DJ], with great enjoyment and profit. I would warmly recommend it to anyone as a valuable tool in helping us live ‘better’ for God before a watching world. It deserves a central place on every church bookstall. The book is published in Australia by Acorn Press, but is available on Amazon, Kindle and Book Depository.
Echoes of Exodus – Alistair Roberts & Andrew Wilson
Echoes of Exodus – Andrew Wilson and Alastair Roberts
The message of Echoes of Exodus really reverberates.
The basic premise is that the Exodus is the overture of the Bible, and its echo is heard throughout the entire Bible. In just 22 short chapters Wilson and Roberts write a delightful book explaining the symphonic nature of Scripture seen in the rich melody of the exodus.
The book is divided into four main movements. Movement one hones in on the book of Exodus all the way through to Joshua. Movement two is the prequel to the Exodus looking at the exodus themes foreshadowed in the great events of Genesis particularly in the lives of Joseph, Jacob, Abraham & Noah, casting these seismic events as exodus-esque episodes. Movement three is a panoply of other Old Testament stories resonating with exodus themes, with an all star cast including, David, Absalom and Achan. Lastly in movement four the crescendo builds to show exodus in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and cascading out into the book of Acts. The finale of this movement shows that only at Christ’s return will the exodus truly end.
This book is very readable, very thought provoking and brilliantly written. The chapters are short, the ideas are deep and, the questions at the end of each chapter help to consolidate the learning and stretch the reader. It is an ideal book to give to people to encourage them to mine deeply, unearthing the inexhaustible treasures of the Bible.
Echoes of Exodus will help people in their personal devotions, thrill Bible study groups and be a wise guide to the preacher. It is clear, careful and captivating. Echoes of Exodus is beautifully set so the symphony of Scripture can sound from its pages into the hearts of the reader.