Christian Standard Bible (Csb)

Broadman & Holman Publishers

Another English Bible translation with so many people groups yet to have their first? The Christian Standard Bible (CSB) is a major revision of the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB), first released in full in 2004 (Holman is the publisher’s name) which is especially popular in the US, regarded as “the Southern Baptist Bible” and preferred by some to the gender-inclusive NIV published in 2011.

Its translation approach is described as “optimal equivalence”, halfway between a word-for-word translation such as the NRSV and a sense-for-sense one, such as the New Living Translation. As such it directly competes with the NIV.

The 100 or so scholars involved in its translation come from a traditional complementarian evangelical viewpoint as shown in this Bible's rendering of Genesis 2:18: “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper corresponding to him’” (CSB) compared to the NIV’s “The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’”

The CSB is also clear in its belief that Paul is condemning all homosexual activity, and not just male prostitution, in its rendering of 1 Corinthians 6:9.

I wasn’t convinced of the merit of all Old Testament quotes in the New Testament appearing in bold, or with the haphazard translation of Christos (sometimes Messiah, sometimes Christ).

Should you buy it? This edition is beautifully made. There is a basic concordance and maps, though no additional notes on Bible books. If you are looking for an additional translation for Bible study work you may well enjoy it, but I doubt that its merits will supplant the popular NIV 2011, or the scholars’ favourite, NRSV, any time soon. AP



Fleeing Isis Finding Jesus 

Charles Morris and Craig Borlase 

David C Cook

“Is this the end of Christianity in the Middle East?” This is the question that Charles Morris and Craig Borlase seek to answer in Fleeing ISIS, finding Jesus. Flitting between travelogue and interview, the result is an affecting, if inelegant, account of what the authors call “the golden age of Muslims coming to Christ”.

As he travels through Jordan and Iraq, Morris hears the testimonies of displaced Christians. Morris is an honest and humble narrator, but is by his own admission “constantly putting [himself] in the shoes of the person [he is] interviewing”, diminishing them to his own interpretation of the look in their eye. As if to bolster the drama, events are made significant in retrospect, until even a dusty bottle on the pavement becomes a portent that “somehow… seemed significant”.

The book hits its stride once it passes the halfway mark and the authors present some compelling images. By seeking answers in human stories, not statistics, Morris and Borlase create a picture of Christ’s sovereignty in the midst of persecution. But while the result is surprising and moving, the subjects of the picture are sadly out of focus. HS


Between Heaven and The Real World 

Steven Curtis Chapman 

Fleming H. Revell Company

Fans of Steven Curtis Chapman’s Grammy award winning music will be lining up to read his autobiography - but what about the rest of us? A good memoir offers not only a vivid story but universal truths that transcend the specific situation.

Unfortunately, much of the prose is stilted, with lists of increasingly famous concert halls and musicians I’d never heard of. But in the latter third the book redeems itself by focusing on Chapman’s journey of adoption and the tragic death of his daughter. It’s a poignant and beautiful challenge to seek God in the midst of heartbreak.

Chapman’s American evangelical zeal and love for God are crystal clear, and he confesses his flaws rather than attempting to justify them. We witness the blessings of his success but also the pressures on marriage and family. Like David, that most famous songwriter of the Bible, Chapman pours out his heart to God in the midst of personal tragedy, and finds comfort there.

He evaluates his singing voice as ‘not great’, but recognises his Godgiven gift to write music. Chapman's lyrics stir hearts and make grown men cry.

The most powerful parts of the book are the lyrics of the songs where he distils his emotional and spiritual response to hardship. In prose he stumbles; in poetry he soars.

If you’re a fan, you’ll love it; if not, start halfway through - or maybe just buy his music. TM


Scripture Doodle

April Knight

David C Cook

Scripture Doodle is a six week devotional journal that combines a daily Bible study with creative expression.

Knight, a professional artist, guides us through the process of ‘scripturedoodling’, teaching us the basic skills we’ll need to start. 

It begins with pre-drawn sketches you can colour in or add to and later (as the ‘doodler’ grows in confidence) progresses onto blank pages left for you to express the verse creatively. 

If you’re a creative, this journal is a great exploration of how you can not only use your gifting for God’s glory, but also interact with him on a more intimate level through his Word.

This book is about worshiping God, not about creating a masterpiece. Knight compares these scripture doodles to a young child giving their parent a picture: the parent doesn’t care that it’s not perfect, they love it because it is their child who has created it as an expression of love. Our drawings all have a place on God’s fridge! AM


The Shadow Doctor

Adrian Plass

Hodder & Stoughton

The Shadow Doctor deals with issues of belief, suffering and spiritual warfare in a straightforward yet profound way.

The novel’s protagonist Jack works for a church counselling others while battling his own doubts and secret struggles. Jack’s beloved grandmother recently died and left him a letter describing her chance meeting with the mysterious Shadow Doctor and enclosing his contact card.

The Shadow Doctor (known as Doc) appears to be a real person, but there’s so much that is hard to understand about him. Is he a prophet, an angel, Jesus himself or just a good man with an instinct for helping others?

The novel has traces of Plass’s trademark wit. It also contains deep truths that slowly creep up on the reader. This novel successfully avoids Christian cliché or easy answers and develops into a tale of faith and hope. It’s not timeless - mentions of UKIP, Greggs and the Nissan X-Trail ground it firmly in this decade - but its themes will speak to anyone grappling with following Jesus in a broken world. CN



The Parish Handbook

Bob Mayo 

SCM Press

Despite the rather gushing notes on the back cover from some eminent Church types, The Parish Handbook is not actually all that inspiring. To be fair to the authors, Rev Bob Mayo himself notes in the introduction that his book spells out “the art of ordinary living…at the heart of parish life” and that’s exactly what it does.

A collection of themes from A-Z guide the reader through the bread and butter of parish ministry, concluding each chapter with a prayer and reflection from Cameron Collington. Mayo’s wealth of ministerial experience is evident, but tends towards the idealistic, seemingly harking back to a bygone age of the village vicar out on his bicycle among the flock.

Despite this, Mayo makes some good points and highlights the reality of parish ministry with many personal and poignant stories.

Mayo’s ministry has clearly been founded on a deep love of scripture and this comes across with every chapter absolutely chockfull of biblical references. For new Revs and ordinands it makes a good foundation, with plenty of information and experience to be guided by, but I’d suggest it’s one for the bookshelf to dip into from time to time, rather than a one-sitting read.

Mayo notes, “it is now time for the parish church to rediscover its radical authentic missionary self”; perhaps he’s right and authentic he certainly is, but I’m not convinced this book shows us anything particularly radical. JM


Life Hurts

Dr Elizabeth McNaught

Malcolm Down

Dr Elizabeth McNaught was diagnosed with anorexia at 14 and spent periods of her teenage years in hospital and community care. Now a doctor, she tells her story with helpful insight.

Lizzie reflects honestly on her story, weaving in medical understanding and years of experience of the disease, its lasting effect on herself and those around her and the long road to recovery.

Because the story hinges around her teenage years, it will hopefully encourage young people battling eating disorders. When I was a teenager, my friend who was battling anorexia tragically committed suicide. Lizzie’s insight may help other young people avoid heading down the same heart-breaking path.

Parents, pastors and youth workers should all consider reading this brilliant book. It offers helpful insight into some of the signs and symptoms as well as practical ways to care for those who are suffering. RJ



Jumble Sales of The Apocalypse

Simon Jenkins


If a mug whose picture of Jesus loses its beard when you pour water in seem like it’s been missing from your life, this book is for you. Simon Jenkins is the editor of Ship of Fools, the online home of Christians who enjoy an indulgent chuckle at the amusing aspects of church life. He is a special kind of hero, because he trawls the internet for glorious weirdness so you don’t have to.

Jenkins plunders libraries of Church history, theological education and a lifetime’s experience to bring us honest, odd and often very funny reflections of Christian life.

The unnecessary cartoons and references to news that is now old are an anachronistic distraction. But if you’re looking for a witty, easy read that will introduce you to stories and ideas you’ve not encountered before – and if you are able to see the silly side of Christian (and barely Christian) practice and paraphernalia, this will give you many a wry smile and some spit-your-tea-into-yourJesus-mug laughs. JL





The Fuel Music

Former Delirious? guitarist Stu G has amassed an impressive list of names for this 18-track record, which is inspired by the Sermon on the Mount. All of the artists, including Michael W Smith, All Sons & Daughters and Hillsong United, work with Stu to produce and sing high-quality original songs around themes of justice, mercy and blessing.

Stu has spent over a decade producing this album, a book, Words from the Hill (NavPress, 2017) and a forthcoming documentary film based on the Beatitudes. Audrey Assad’s meek-themed ‘I will be your home’ features the vocals of Syrian refugee Hassan Al Zoubi. ‘In the middle’ is a guitar-driven track about peace-making “where the bullets fly” while ‘Make a little trouble’ sees Propaganda rap about “the love that makes all things new”.

Delirious? fans will be delighted to hear Stu’s first collaboration with Martin Smith since the band split – ‘Holy troublemakers’. The sound draws heavily on the band’s final album Kingdom of Comfort. This is an outstanding release.



Jaci Velasquez

Integrity Music

Having released more albums than you can count on both hands, you might expect this latest effort from Jaci Velasquez to sound a little jaded. But you’d be wrong.

Both of the album’s covers – ‘Great are you Lord’ and ‘Great is your faithfulness’ – have been given the full Velasquez treatment, so they sound fresh yet familiar.

‘Rest’ is inspiring and challenging as we’re encouraged to focus on God’s “words of mercy over all the noise”. ‘Praise the king’ expounds the gospel clearly without being the least bit cringy. And that says a lot for a modern worship song.

Trust, which is also available in Spanish, doesn’t skirt around the challenges of life, but the overall theme is one of overriding hope that can only be found in Jesus.

The album is full of catchy songs. I soon found myself humming away, and that’s not a pretty sound. You might want to listen to this album alone if the joyful sound you’re making is only joyful to yourself. JT


The book that changed my life


Rees Howells –


Norman Grubb

I’ve read this book at least six times. It has been my go-to book over the past 20 years whenever I needed reminding of how the kind of rapport with God enjoyed by our biblical heroes is still possible today – if we’re willing to make the sacrifice.

Rees Howells was a product of the great Welsh revival of 1904. Born into a poor mining family he developed a relationship with God of such depth that his life was one of total surrender to the Divine purposes. To gain a position of intercession, he had to be stripped of everything that the world could use to distract or ensnare him. In the words of the author, “intercession so identifies the intercessor with the sufferer that it gives him a prevailing place with God. He moves God. He even causes Him to change His mind”.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. If you’ve lost your spark, been beaten down by the world and need a glimpse of the incredible possibilities which are open to us when we live the life of true surrender, then read this. It will change your life.

by Steve Maltz


REVIEWERS: SAM HAILES is deputy editor of Premier Christianity magazine • ANDY PECK is a tutor at CWR • HANNAH SMITH is a library assistant, writer and youth leader living in Suffolk • TANYA MARLOW is the author of Coming Back to God When You Feel Empty and co-author of Soul Bare • ANNA MCGARAHAN is a West End performer, volunteer youth worker and worship leader • CAROLINE NEWBOLD is chaplain of Lady Margaret School and associate minister of St Stephen’s Church, Ealing • JULES MIDDLETON is an Anglican curate, wife, mum and author of the blog ‘Apples of Gold’ • RUTH JACKSON is deputy editor of Premier Youth and Children’s Work and head of youth apologetics at Premier • JONATHAN LANGLEY is a journalist and former DJ • JOY TIBBS is a freelance writer and editor •