Reading for All

The accessible Christian reading and resources magazine from the Torch Trust.

2015 Issue 1

Reading for All is published by The Torch Trust for people with sight loss with an interest in accessible Christian reading resources.

Produced by Torch Trust
Torch House, Torch Way
Market Harborough
Leicestershire
LE16 9HL UK
torchtrust.org
Reg. Charity no. 1095904

© Torch Trust January 2015

Views expressed in the features are not necessarily those of the publisher.

Reading for All is also available in the following formats: email, audio CD, braille, and large print (17, 20, 25 and 30 point). Plus it can also be viewed on the Torch website.

Contact Numbers

For all general enquiries: 01858 438260

For library borrowers: 01858 438266

For all holiday enquiries: 01273 832282

For responses to our radio broadcasts: 0333 123 1255

Contents

In the Beginning ...

Happy New Year Everyone!

As I write it is one of those bright crisp mornings, beautifully frosty but freezing cold! If you’re like me at this time of the year, we start to hope for warmer, longer days and holidays. So to encourage that train of thought we are very happy to say that the Torch Holiday Dates for 2015 are now available in all media.

Of course Easter comes before the summer holidays and we have a nice new selection of titles to help you journey through Lent to a glorious Easter, again available in all media.

If you like to discuss your spiritual reading with other like minded people why not join a TorchTalk telephone group? There’s one especially for Lent.

We’ve included some of your lovely letters, thank-you. We would like to encourage more of you to write in, not just to comment on our services, but also to engage with some of the articles and features in Reading for All - do you agree or disagree and why?

Finally I’d like to announce a small change to the large print 17 point. The full colour edition, which is quite costly, will only be produced for promotional events and exhibitions and will also be sent to people representing or promoting Torch. The LP17 version will not have the illustrations but you can still access those on the Torch website.

Happy Reading!

Lydia Tebbutt Editor

Advert

Enabling Church

For people who are blind or partially sighted

With Worship for All, our free on-line, automated transcription service, you can create your own accessible church resources.

Accessible Bibles, Hymn & Prayer books

Torch has several Bibles, hymn & prayer books in accessible formats and a list of other organizations which supply more.

Courses for groups

Torch supports Alpha; Christianity Explored; Freedom in Christ courses and many more with accessible editions.

For more information contact Client Services

Back to Contents

Dear Editor ...

Mrs H of York writes, “Thank you for the audio books you send me which give me great solace, especially weeks I am not able to get to my church.”

Mrs R of Stapleford who contacted us on behalf of her mum said, “Your service is wonderful, helpful and loving. Thank you so much.”

A Torch Book Group who read Miracle in the Mine by José Henriquez said, “We all enjoyed this book. It held the attention even though we knew the outcome. It was a real spiritual encouragement seeing God at work. We thoroughly recommend it to others to read.”

Mr C of Lesmahagow said, “I have had (Magazines on CD and books from the audio Library) for many years and have so appreciated everything.”

Rev’d D of Wallasey borrowed God Meant it for Good by R T Kendall from the USB Library and writes, “Thank you. Beautifully read and a blessing.”

Mrs H of Bexhill read The God I Love by Joni Eareckson Tada on USB and writes, “Very moving story. Beautifully read.”

The Epsom Book Group said that they all loved the book Walking with the Celtic Saints by Kennedy-Jones and Seddon. They wrote, “We all loved this book because the monks were truly beautiful, gentle, compassionate ... and humble people ... We also loved the blessings and prayers at the end of each chapter and the chapters weren’t too long.”

Miss A M of Redditch borrowed Elijah: Anointed and Stressed by Jeff Lucas on USB and said, “This was very good. Thank you very much.”

The daughter of Mrs G of Didsbury, Manchester writes, “Very many thanks for the memory sticks of the New Testament and 2 Samuel on USB. Mum has been finding these so encouraging these last several months.”

D P of Tonbridge who is a member of the USB Library and has many of our magazines on CD and daily readings on USB writes, “Dear Friends, Thank you for looking after me during the past years. My darkness is not so black because of the light which you shed on it.”

Mr A of Manchester said, “Thank you for the great work you do ... My world would be such a different place without Torch helping me through on my spiritual path in life. I thank you so very, very much.”

Mrs D of Witney said, “I would feel lost without the Torch DAISY Library. I have benefited so much from receiving your books.”

Mrs C of Farnham said, “I joined the TorchTalk Bookworms and it was really excellent. Many thanks for this wonderful service.”

Mr P J of Ammanford writes, “Thank you. These free Mary & Joseph Announce CD’s are very good and came in time for the next TFG group.”

Star Letter!

Mr H of Belfast writes:

“Thank you. I have enjoyed reading the Reading for All, and also the Christian Today Digest. I find these magazines interesting and stimulating now that the dark days have engulfed us. With my advanced Glaucoma (and advanced years!) I am unable to read in the normal way. Your talking books are very helpful. If possible, may I borrow God Knows Your Name as I have listened to your interview with the authoress and it has whetted my appetite for more!”

[Thank you Mr H. We hope you will be equally pleased with this edition of Reading for All!]

To share your thoughts and views or to recommend a “good read” or to comment on any of the articles in Reading for All email library@torchtrust.org or call us on 01858 438266

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Torch Resource News

TorchTalk Bookworms

Do you like discussing what you’ve been reading? Well there’s a small group of people who all ring into the same phone number once a month and do just that – have a great time chewing over the merits of the books they have read.

Carol Eddon, who facilitates the TorchTalk group, invited Rev’d Lesley Bilinda, the author of The Colour of Darkness and With What Remains, which the group had read in previous weeks, to talk to the group.

Carol says that they were so taken with Lesley’s honesty. Lesley had lived through many extraordinarily difficult situations, in a completely different country and culture. Overall the TorchTalk group felt they learnt most about forgiveness and have become stronger as a result of this faith encouraging experience.

Bookworms are currently reading Catherine Campbell’s book featured in the last issue of Reading for All and considering which author they may next invite to join them!

We have seven TorchTalk groups running at present, including a men’s group and a Lent group.

If you would like to join a TorchTalk group and have access to a landline telephone, then give Client Services a call and we’ll give you all the information you need.

Do you go to a local Torch Fellowship Group?

If you do, Reading for All would really like to know what was the best meeting you went to and why?

If you would like to share your experience and encourage others to join, email us on: info@torchtrust.org or call us on 01858 438260

There’s something for everyone on a Torch Holiday!

It’s a fresh start at our newly refurbished Torch Centre and with a renewed holidays programme for 2015. We have even more holidays, bringing a greater variety of choices for you! Our new holidays include: Refreshed, Revisit Old Places, Friends & Fellowship, Feel & Touch, Five Senses, The Great Torch Bake Off, and a Fresh Look at Mark’s Gospel to name a few! We still have our favourite and popular holidays: Fact & Fiction (book week), Revival! (Easter), Keswick, Footsteps (walking week), and Rejoice! (Christmas) house parties. All our holidays include plenty of activities, some of which may include trips to places of interest, the theatre, and local towns.

So if you haven’t already received the Torch Holidays 2015 dates brochure, you can download it from the website www.torchtrust.org or give us a call on 01858 438260 and we’ll send you one or more in the medium of your choice: print, LP17, LP20, LP25 & LP30, braille or audio CD.

Advert

Moving Forward Weekend: A break for those who have recently learned they are losing their sight.

20-23 March 2015: To encourage, equip, and enable you on the next step of your sight loss journey. Price: £220

Cost includes all sessions, refreshments and full board. Hosted by Gail Millar, qualified Eye Clinic Liaison Officer. Sessions led by Christians who are professionals in their field.

To find out more or to book, please contact us on 01273 832282 or email holidays@torchtrust.org

More Moving Forward dates:

New Resources:

York Course: Praise Him by Paula Gooder

(Source: Woman Alive Feb. ’15 - Excerpt from: 60-second interview)

Dr Paula Gooder is theologian in residence for the Bible Society and lay canon at Salisbury, Birmingham and Guildford cathedrals.

“I was able to choose whatever subject I liked and wanted to focus on songs of praise. As a New Testament scholar, I have always felt that we don’t pay enough attention to the beautiful and inspirational poetic passages of the New Testament when we are thinking about our own praise. So I chose a few of my favourites. I just love the depth and passion that flows out of each one of these passages.

“I would encourage everyone to get involved in group Bible study. If you find the right group for you, it will be the best experience in the whole of your Christian journey. There is absolutely nothing to beat getting together and reading the Bible for challenging and deepening your faith, and your encounter with God.”

www.yorkcourses.co.uk

Available from Torch in braille and LP25 point: Price £4.00

Also for your Lent reading

The Journey by John Pritchard:

Looking through the eyes of the disciple John, The Journey follows Luke's chronology from Luke 9:51, as Jesus “set his face to go to Jerusalem.” Absorbing, exuberant and effective, it offers daily (weekday) readings for Lent, from Ash Wednesday to Good Friday, with a poem for each Saturday. It is suitable to use individually or in groups.

Available in braille, DAISY, USB and LP25 point to loan and for sale in all media except USB price £7.19

And for you to give away ...

Unconditional Love from Christian Publishing and Outreach:

A simple tract in less than 300 words.

Available in braille, LP24 point and Audio CD all free!

More Lent & Easter Reading

If you can’t see anything you like here, do give Client Services a call as we have many more Lent and Easter titles in a variety of styles and formats. We also have a list of Courses for Groups and Individuals if you would like to encourage your home group or prayer group to engage with the Bible in a dynamic way.

Advert

Spring Harvest

Loss of sight doesn’t mean you can’t join in!

Torch will be supporting Spring Harvest at both the Minehead and Skegness sites again this year.

There will be an on site braille and giant print facility enabling blind or partially sighted people to participate in the worship at the Big Top evening events.

And braille & giant print versions of the Theme Book.

There are three weeks running at Minehead between Saturday March 28th and Friday April 10th and one week at Skegness from Monday April 6th to Friday April 10th

For more details go to: www.springharvest.org

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Author Profile: Michele Guinness

Brought up in a practising Jewish family, and married to a Church of England minister, Michele worked in the UK media for many years. Her last job was as Head of Communications for the National Health Service in Cumbria and Lancashire. She retired to concentrate on writing and speaking.

Michele regularly contributes to local radio, and to a number of magazines. She has also written twelve books. Her latest publication, a thriller, is her first novel. Set in 2024 Archbishop tells the story of Vicky Burnham-Woods, the UK’s first female Archbishop of Canterbury.

Ann Barraclough, our transcriber posed some questions to Michele.

Why did you choose the election of Britain's first female Archbishop as the topic for your first foray into fiction?

I had had the idea of writing about the first woman Archbishop of Canterbury for over 20 years. I thought it would make a great subject for fiction as it would tackle so many key areas - women in ministry, pressures on leaders, marriage and motherhood, the future of the Church of England - many things I found fascinating and had touched on before. To do it as a novel would give me a very free hand.

You portray a society in which the C of E plays an important and very public role in helping the underprivileged. Do you foresee this happening, and do you believe the church should become disestablished in order to do this?

The C of E is already the leading institution in the country in the fight against poverty and for justice for the underprivileged. We at St Mark's [in Gillingham, Kent, where Michele's husband Peter was Minister until he retired recently] had a Food bank, CAP money course, Recovery course for people with addictions, Faith and Light group - for adults and one for young people with special needs, a cafe for people with mental health problems, and a good relationship with our local MP in supporting through government Christians suffering persecution. No need at all for disestablishment to do all this - but it may have to come if we had a very secularist government one day. Not in our Queen's reign - she'd be gutted as she takes her role as head of the church very seriously.

Do you really fear that Britain's democracy could be threatened in the not-too-distant future by draconian government legislation?

I don't think Britain's democracy would ever be knowingly threatened (unless we had an Islamic state!) - but secularism means that all sorts of odd things are done in the name of tolerance. There is great dislike of anything seen as fundamentalism - even if it's confused with evangelicalism, and governments do introduce some silly legislation when they are afraid. So who knows?

Are you as pessimistic about the future of Britain as the book suggests?

Yes, I think I am fairly pessimistic about the world generally in human terms, but optimistic when I think about the Kingdom of God - Christ coming to reign forever, and I hope that comes out in the book, that all we do now will contribute to the new world where there will be no more tears or pain or suffering.

Books by Michele Guinness

available to loan or purchase from Torch Trust

Archbishop: A Novel in DAISY or USB 25:35 hours £13.00 (Unabridged)

Autumn Leave in DAISY or USB 7:05 hours £8.00

Chosen in DAISY or USB 12:18 hours £8.00

The Heavenly Party in DAISY or USB 11:41 hours £10.00

A Little Kosher Seasoning in 5 braille volumes; DAISY or USB 12:49 hours £10.00

Child of the Covenant in 3 braille volumes; DAISY or USB 5:40 hours £3.00

Promised Land in 4 braille volumes £8.00

Please note that USB’s are for loan only.

Michele’s website: micheleguinness.co.uk

Advert

Have you ordered your copy of Premier Christianity audio magazine?

“Packed with lots of helpful articles looking at the stuff of life and death, an exclusive column from Jeff Lucas, five pages of book and music reviews, and lots more”

Available on DAISY & USB from Torch Trust.

Call Client Services on 01858 438260 or email info@torchtrust.org to get your free subscription!

Back to Contents

In Your Quiet Time

Our look at accessible Daily Bible Reading Notes

Every Day With Jesus from CWR

Now back and recorded in the UK instead of Australia!

The March/April edition is entitled The Servant and picks up on the theme of the Servant Songs in Isaiah. In the same way all roads lead to Rome we discover how all roads in the Old Testament lead to Jesus!

Available in DAISY CD or USB

And from SU - Daily Bread

Now also recorded in the UK!

The February/March edition ends with the build up to Easter after a journey with Elijah and Elisha in the Old Testament and Peter in the New Testament; Peter's section is subtitled Lessons from a Fisherman.

Available on DAISY CD or USB or Braille

For Giant Print Readers - The Upper Room from BRF

The Upper Room is a unique publication which has a worldwide readership of some three million. Each daily meditation includes a Bible reading, reflection and prayer.

Questions for small group study are also included for each week.

See also the “Explore Daily Bible Reading App” article.

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Leaving an Impression: James Brookman

James Brookman works in the audio transcription department co-ordinating the volunteers who produce our audio books and daily Bible reading notes. Before joining Torch James worked as a civil engineer and a physics teacher. He is married to Sarah and they have 3 teenage boys.

R4A: James, besides the Bible which Christian book first made a lasting impression on you?

James: Chasing the Dragon by Jackie Pullinger; I read it when I was 17 after Jackie visited my church youth group in Reigate - she amazed all of us at the time, and the book made an even stronger impression - I often still think of what God was doing through Jackie amongst the drug gangs of Hong Kong even 33 years later.

R4A: What's your favourite Christian genre?

James: Autobiographies – because I love stories about real people especially when God is at work. But I also love devotional books, which help me understand God's love and the Bible through modern stories and humour. Anything by Philip Yancey is great, and more recently we've added a couple of books by Andrew Wilson, which really get you thinking.

R4A: What book do you most often recommend to people to read?

James: That's easy, The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom - the story of her life in a concentration camp in World War 2. In particular the response of her sister Betsie to a brutal humiliation by one of the guards is truly inspiring.

R4A: Do you have a favourite author?

James: Also easy, John Ortberg. His devotional books like Everybody's Normal Till You Get to Know Them and God is Closer than you Think are written with such humour that you don't realise how hard hitting they are - until it suddenly strikes you several hours later.

R4A: What medium do you like to read in and in what situations?

James: Print on real paper would always be my preferred medium, especially because I read very fast and it allows me to scan ahead. I also like reading my Kindle with a backlit screen - wonderful on both beach and bedroom. I used to enjoy listening to audio books in the car on my one and a half hour journey into work but the traffic is so bad nowadays I find I can't concentrate on both, or maybe I'm getting too old to do both!

If James´ book choices have left an impression on you, here are the formats they’re available in ...

Chasing the Dragon by Jackie Pullinger in 4 braille vols and 4 giant print vols to loan and for sale price £8.00.

God Stories by Andrew Wilson in 4 braille vols; 3 giant print vols; DAISY & USB 9:07 hours. For loan only.

Incomparable by Andrew Wilson on DAISY & USB 9:03 hours. Price £9.00.

The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom in 4 braille vols; 4 giant print vols; DAISY & USB 10:11 hours. Price £8.00.

Everybody’s Normal ... by John Ortberg in 4 braille vols; 4 giant print vols; DAISY & USB 8:05 hours. For loan only.

God is Closer ... by John Ortberg in 3 braille vols; 3 giant print vols; DAISY & USB 4:38 hours. For loan only.

Call Client Services to add any of these to your Bookshelf or to order a copy.

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Gadgets & Gizmos & Apps

Our occasional look at technology

Bose Mini Soundlink

Review by Christo Thiardt who is a braille reader

Dimensions:

Portable speaker with Bluetooth capability plus cabling. Battery life on full charge: 8 hours plus.

Sturdy metal construct with front/back speaker projection.

Top: six rubber buttons with middle to raised (left decrease volume and right increase volume).

Right side: two sockets with top for hard cabling and bottom power supply.

Advantages:

1. Beautiful deep yet clear sound.

2. No wiring to trip over or snag when used in Bluetooth mode.

3. Very portable and protective carry case available (optional).

Disadvantages:

1. No sound feedback on pressing top row of buttons except for AC input connecting.

2. Easy to steal!

Comment: I have used this amazing little speaker for ten months. The quality of sound is remarkable and easily emulates a far bigger and diverse system.

Uses:

Listening to output from my laptop metres away with no wiring.

Using with DAISY player listening to talking books.

Fantastic for listening to all sorts of music - in the bathroom, bedroom and outside on the patio, or even in the back of the car!

If you do not have a Bluetooth compatible device you can still connect it to your sound producing devices via the cable provided. It is a joy to listen to!

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Explore Daily Bible Reading App

Review by Iain Lackie who is registered blind

For a long time now I have been looking for a good set of Bible reading notes, which, would be fully accessible. I have been using Explore from The Good Book Company for a number of years now with some degree of success. However, using the downloadable large print version of the notes has all the problems which, can be associated with even accessible pdf files. However, now that I have my iPhone I decided at last to give the Explore notes App a go. If you are an iPhone user and want to use these notes, this is definitely the way to go. The App itself is free, but it will cost you £1.49 to download each month’s notes. The good news is though that the notes are fully accessible with Voiceover. Not only can you read the notes, but you can also link directly to the Bible passage about which the commentary is made and any Bible passage mentioned during the day’s note. If you are using an iPad rather than an iPhone, the screen is split between the comments and the Bible passage to which you link.

If you are an iPhone or iPad user, this is definitely worth investigating. If you want to give it a go, download the App and the trial free set of notes to see how you get on with it.

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General Literary News

Kindle sales have “disappeared”, says UK's largest book retailer

(Source: Telegraph 6th Jan 2015)

Waterstones has admitted that sales of Amazon's Kindle e-book reader had “disappeared” after seeing higher demand for physical books.

The UK's largest book retailing chain, which teamed up with Amazon in 2012 to sell the Kindle in its stores, saw sales of physical books rise 5% in December, at the expense of the popular e-reader.

Kindle sales had “disappeared to all intents and purposes”, Waterstones said.

James Daunt, chief executive, told the Financial Times that the resurgence in popularity of hardback and paperback books was due to Waterstones refurbishing some of its 290 shops.

Head office also handed more control over what stores sold, to the managers running them, so they could cater their stock to local tastes.

“We used to try and run exactly the same bookshop in Blackpool as in Hampstead. That, my youngest daughter would tell you, is probably not sensible,” Mr Daunt said.

Waterstones, which expects to break even this year, plans to open at least a dozen more shops this year as the e-book revolution appears to go in reverse.

Amazon launched the Kindle, which is now in its seventh generation, in 2007. Sales peaked in 2011 at around 13.44m, according to Forbes. That figure fell to 9.7m in 2012, with sales flat the following year. It is estimated that Amazon has sold around 30m Kindles in total.

At the same time, British consumers spent £2.2bn on print in 2013, compared with just £300m on e-books, according to Nielsen.

London bookstore Foyles has reported a surge in sales of physical books over Christmas.

US book giant Barnes & Noble is looking to spin off its Nook e-reader business, which is estimated to be losing $70m a year. Meanwhile, core sales, excluding Nook, rose 5% in the most recent quarter.

Last March, Tim Waterstone, who founded the bookshop chain in 1982, argued that the printed word was far from dead, adding that he had heard and read “more garbage about the strength of the e-book revolution than anything else I’ve known”.

“The e-books have developed a share of the market, of course they have, but every indication – certainly from America – shows the share is already in decline. The indications are that it will do exactly the same in the UK," he told the Oxford Literary Festival.

What Makes Fiction Christian?

(Source: Together magazine Jan/Feb 2015)

Bedford’s Central Library was the venue for the 2014 Christians in Library and Information Services Annual Lecture last October. It was a fascinating two-hander by Tony Collins, Publishing Director for Monarch Books and Lion Fiction, and Penelope Wilcock, established author of poetry and fiction, including The Hawk and the Dove series. Their theme was Christian fiction, seen from both the publisher’s and the author’s point of view.

Tony kicked off with a run-down on Christian fiction production in the UK, which is surprisingly different from Christian fiction production in the United States. This is because much Christian fiction comes from the pens of evangelicals, who are the Christian mainstream in the US, and this is reflected not only in the publication of Christian fiction, but in the writing of it too.

What makes fiction Christian? Firstly, it should be written by a Christian, and secondly, it should have a thread of redemption running through it, affirming the best things in life: goodness, truth, forgiveness, a spirit of service. When Tony considers publishing a novel, he is looking for writing that promotes these qualities, but without an overtly Christian agenda.

Penelope spoke about the process of writing Christian fiction; she felt that it can’t help putting out a message – all stories do. She agreed with Tony that humans are moved by stories, as they wouldn’t be by doctrine. And stories have the added advantage of being able to present a debate without having to present a logical ending. Dogmatism has no place in Christian fiction (rambling monologues being a particular turn-off).

Key to a good novel is authenticity, with the author getting inside a character or a situation, and the reader finishing the novel feeling moved to compassion.

Advert

Christian Resources Exhibition has a new venue for 2015

CRE International 2015 will be at the ExCel London on 19th - 22nd May

The exhibition and programme will include:

See more at: www.creonline.co.uk

Come and visit the Torch stand in the Caring and Enabling Zone

Back to Contents

On View & on Their Way

Reviews that have inspired us to transcribe or not ...!

(Source: Church Times 31st October 2014 Canon David Adam – former vicar of Holy Island reflects on being roused from sleep and oblivion)

Judy Hirst’s book A Kind of Sleepwalking presents us with an alarm call to awake. In Walden Henry Thoreau wrote: “To be awake is to be alive. I have not yet seen a man who was quite awake.”

Most of us have areas of life where we are not truly awake; or we have chosen the safe and habitual path, which is often soporific. If we are alive, we cannot avoid being confronted by suffering, loss, and grief. If our eyes are open, we will discover that our lives and others’ are full of wonder.

We should be aware of the new, of awe, and of the “otherness” in all our dealings. If we are afraid of death, it is likely that we are afraid of living fully.

God is not seeking our obedience as much as our love, expressed in our relationships with each other and the world. Irenaeus said: “The glory of God is a living man.” This is for us to explore.

These are the great themes of this book: it is a call to be fully awake, to live life abundantly, and involves looking at all the above issues. Each chapter has suggestions for discussion, a Bible passage for reflection, and a closing prayer.

Lucy Mills in Forgetful Heart confesses her own forgetfulness. “I don’t just forget ordinary trivial things. I forget about who I really am, and what has been done for me. I forget the one who made me and redeemed me. I forget to love and to be loved. I forget the things that are really important.”

Her main aim, however, is in the subtitle: Remembering God in a distracted world.

This is a book full of wisdom and personal experiences, and explores passages of the Bible.

There are four parts. The first looks at memory and then at various distractions. The second deals with the history of forgetting, within the scriptures and ourselves. God remembers even when we forget. Part three, “Ripples of Forgetfulness”, is concerned with “compassion fatigue”, and how we close our minds, owing to overload. Alongside this, we all need to be able to forget, or normal life becomes impossible.

Part four, “The Art of Remembering”, looks at methods of using our memory, and explores the grace of God.

Both books are concerned with the opening of eyes and hearts. Both emphasise the need for attentiveness for making real contact with others, for love, and for remembering. Both are excellent for study groups and personal reading.

[This title is also reviewed on goodbookreviews.org.uk]

What are we to make of Joyce Meyer?

(Source: Evangelicals Now Nov. ’15 - Karen Soole Chair of Northern Women’s Convention)

She is the director of a multi-million dollar ministry, she preaches at packed-out stadium tours, she is a #1 New York Times best-selling author, she came in at 17 on Time Magazine’s list of the 25 most influential evangelicals in America, ahead of J I Packer, she influences millions through TV broadcasts and the sale of her books and this influence is not just in America, but spreads into Europe too.

She is coming to London next spring. Her popularity may be linked to her personal story that shows she is a survivor, who has come through hardship, or maybe it is her no-nonsense presentation, or perhaps it is the attractiveness of her message to hurting people. I confess that when I came to review her latest books I approached them with scepticism, not least because of my concern about her multi-million dollar lifestyle. So I tried hard to read these books with the following question in my mind – if I picked these up at a local bookstore and knew nothing of Joyce Meyer, would they help me to follow Jesus?

Addicted to Jesus

Joyce’s prayer for her readers is that they discover God for themselves through her writing. In The Approval Fix she writes: “I want you to become addicted to Jesus and to the Word of God”. In You Can Begin Again she is clear that: “deep and abiding relationship with God is the foundation and source of every new beginning”. In both books she talks of Christ’s death, the offer of new life, gospel transformation and the need to submit to the word of God.

Just when I concluded she never mentioned sin, only talking of mistakes and failures, she mentioned sin. When I thought she only promised success, she qualified it by saying that we will not always have mountaintop experiences and at times God disciplines us. The gospel she describes is positive and affirming, she points to grace in Christ and the encouragement of God’s love. She declares the transforming power of God to change our lives: “turn the construction of your life over to God – he’ll build something beautiful”. The problem is that, despite everything she says about wanting us to develop a relationship with God, ultimately what her gospel promises is psychological health, greater confidence, deeper emotional stability and recovery from past hurts and failure. It is not a gospel that looks forward to the day when Christ is seen to be head of all things and his kingdom is established. Instead, it is rooted in the here and now. Her teaching is ultimately prosperity theology combined with popular self-esteem psychology.

Despite putting in a few caveats here and there, she suggests that if you get right with God you will achieve success now in whatever sphere you put your mind to: You Can Begin Again is littered with illustrations of personal achievements, from Joyce’s own life to individuals who got Olympic gold medals, Hollywood careers, or an international fast food chain. Both books follow this formula: God loves you, get right with him and you will be happy. Of course on one level this is true, but it misses out entirely the call to take up our cross and follow Christ; there is no cost, no sacrifice.

Man-centred hermeneutics

Her books are full of biblical quotations and illustrations from the lives of biblical characters: for example she uses Ruth as someone who chose to break free and not be a victim. Her hermeneutics are man-centred and not God-centred. She completely fails to appreciate Ruth’s commitment to God and her place in God’s plan of salvation. Each character that she studies, from Moses to David, is dealt with in the same way: they are used as examples of moving from failure and weakness to success rather than seeing what God was doing in the history of salvation. She fails to see Christ in the pages of Scripture. Instead it becomes a manual for self-improvement.

Does it matter whether women in our churches read this sort of material? Does it do harm? Yes, it does. John Piper once said that “wimpy theology makes wimpy women” and it is true. This teaching will not build strong foundations for the women in our church families. Not only that but it will lead some astray with its false promises and wrong perspective. It encourages self-centeredness, not Christ-centeredness. Joyce writes that we should partner with Christ to pursue our goals but the problem is that she encourages us to pursue our goals.

Sadly I concluded that the gospel of Joyce Meyer may be one that our itchy ears like to hear, but it is not the one that the NT proclaims. These books are seductively dressed in gospel language but they do not point us to Christ or help us walk closer with him. This gospel has no place for discipleship that involves suffering and endurance. I don’t think Christians in Iraq or North Korea would find her message very credible.

You Can Begin Again by Joyce Meyer; Pub: Hodder & Stoughton. 197 print pages; £13.99 ISBN 9781 444 785 364

The Approval Fix by Joyce Meyer; Pub: Hodder & Stoughton. 139 print pages; £8.99 ISBN 9781 444 785 6654

Joyce Meyer titles available from Torch:

Approval Addiction available in braille, DAISY & USB to loan only.

Battlefield of the Mind available in braille, DAISY, USB & LP24 to loan and for sale in braille, DAISY & LP24 price £8.00

The Penny (fiction) available in braille & DAISY to loan only.

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Hot off the Press!

A selection of titles newly transcribed and ready for loan.

Daisy & USB

Archbishop Justin Welby by Andrew Atherstone - Genre: Biography

At the End of the Day by David Winter - Genre: Spirituality

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Braille

At the End of the Day by David Winter - Genre: Spirituality

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Large Print (24 point)

From Whitewashed Stairs by Maureen McKenna - Genre: Autobiography

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Missing Being Mrs by Jennifer Croly - Genre: Autobiography

New Name, A by Emma Scrivener - Genre: Autobiography

For more information about these titles or to add any of them to your bookshelf email: library@torchtrust.org or alternatively, contact a Torch librarian on 01858 438266

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