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Book Review: The Church History ABCs

9 Apr

The Church History ABCs cover

This is a great book to use to teach children some interesting facts about important Church history figures (like Augustine, Calvin, Edwards, and Luther) as well as some lesser-known people (such as Anne Bradstreet, John Donne, and Antonio Vivaldi). Each page features a colorful illustration of the featured figure, along with a cleverly worded text about the person. For example, almost all the words used to describe Anne Bradstreet begin with b’s. Calvin’s page is the same, with lots of c’s. At the back of the book are several pages of additional interesting facts and information on each person, as well. For such a brief book, the authors did a great job giving lots of insight into each Church history hero. We found it to be very interesting for children and adults alike.

We have had great success using it as bedtime reading with our two boys, 4 and 1 years old. The oldest one recognizes when he hears names of Augustine, Luther, Calvin and others in seminary-life conversations, and he pipes up with a fact or two that he remembers about these great men. Good stuff!! I relied pretty heavily on this book, and a few other sources, to develop our “Reformation Party” around Luther last fall.

 

Book Recommendations

8 Apr

I am working on a variety of projects, so I don’t have time to do a complete review.

But, two books I am relying on HEAVILY, and that I HIGHLY recommend are listed below.

The Gospel Story Bible, by Marty Machowski, has been a God-send for our family. It’s so hard to find Biblical children’s Bible story books that are thorough and don’t take HUGE liberties with the text. I thought I was just going to have to write one. But thankfully, we found this! It is just about as complete in its selection of stories as I could wish, walks through the Bible from start to finish, quotes a great deal of scripture in its “retelling”, and always makes a neat connection to the New Testament and Jesus at the end of each story. The stories cover one or two pages each, at the most, and the pictures are brilliant and interesting. I think you’ll LOVE this as much as we do!

One Perfect Life

One Perfect Life by John MacArthur is the “Gospel Harmony” book I’ve been waiting for. It takes a complete, chronological approach to a survey of the life of Jesus. I love how each section has the Scripture readings featured. Cleverly, and astonishingly, all the passages have been woven together, and marked, so that you can read a compilation of say, The Beatitudes, from Matthew and Luke, seamlessly. It’s really, really wonderful! This should be Lent – Pentecost reading, yearly. Or just read through it regularly some time each year! Excellent, excellent, excellent.

Book Reviews

7 Sep

Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ – by John Piper

Short, sweet, and to the point. This brief book highlights the essential characteristics of Jesus. As always, Dr. Piper is faithful to the person of Jesus Christ as revealed and expounded in the Bible. A worthwhile read and reminder for any believing Christian, this would be an excellent book to use for daily meditation times or even for a longer study of a chapter a week. With an easily comprehended style, Dr. Piper paints a clear picture of just why we so love, honor and glory in our Savior. For those who question why Christians get so excited about Jesus, this book provides a clear explanation.

On Christian Liberty – by Martin Luther

This classic treatise from the great reformer is one of the clearest expositions and applications of well-known scriptures that I have ever read. Luther provides some excellent arguments against the Roman Catholic insistence of his day of “penances” and “indulgences” and its practical theology of salvation by works. Contrary to what some claim Luther advocated, he shows clearly his stance that works are not to be negated from the life of Christians, but are rather an outflowing of the changed heart of Christians. I would like to quote Luther here rather extensively as he gives some very lucid exposition on the role and nature of works in the life of both believer and unbeliever. But, suffice to say, you are better off to read it yourself. He addresses the topics of the freedom of Christians in all things and the servanthood of Christians to all men, the imputation of Christ’s righteousness and the atonement, faith’s role in making a person (and therefore his works) good or bad, and the abuses of the ignorant laymen by the ministers of the Church (something, which as prevalent as it was in his day, is not entirely dead in ours – his words in much of this treatise are very relevant for our times!), to name just a few! With the absence of sectional dividers such as chapters or headings, it is best to read this treatise in one sitting if possible. Otherwise, you will find yourself (as I did) re-reading significant portions of the book to recapture the flow of thought before moving ahead. However, if a one-sitting forray is impossible, there may be some comfort to know that re-reading is worth your while. In fact, if you are fortunate enough to read this treatise in one sitting, you will probably find yourself WANTING to go back and read it again, several times through!

Desiring God – by John Piper

I read this book a few years back and think it is about time again this fall to pull it out and re-read some sections. In this large volume, which has come to be known as his signature work, Dr. Piper outlines what he calls “Christian hedonism”, the belief that what Jesus and the whole of Scripture calls us to is a life of supreme pleasure and delight and rewards, found in God Himself, rather than one of gloomy negations and dismal servitude. He makes an insightful twist to the old Westminster Catechisms’ reply to the query: “What is man’s chief end?” Dr. Piper responds by changing the “and” to “by” in the response: “To glorify God by enjoying Him forever”. He says one of the most astonishing things we can see in the words of Jesus and overarching teaching of the Bible is that God desires not so much our service but to serve us. As God, He delights in being able to lavish His blessings on those who seek Him with all their heart. He is less interested in “raining on our parade” with a bunch of “Thou shalt nots” than He is in giving us cause to experience supreme delights and rejoice and glory in Him, to the complete satisfaction of our souls. The restrictions Divinity places on humanity are not to rob us of pleasure, but to give us boundaries in which we are safe to experience the greatest delights possible that He has planned and purposed for us. In short, Dr. Piper’s thoughts are not only very refreshing, but completely mind and heart altering on occasion. Using Scripture, he excellently reveals a God who is worthy of our worship and affection, one Whom we rightly regard as our greatest treasure. For anyone who has ever doubted the goodness of God, this is a must-read.

©2010 Reformation Lady and Chandra E. Wellman. All rights reserved.

Book Review

3 Aug

9781581348330.jpg image by writer4him 

Treasuring God in Our Traditions by Noël Piper

This book is a good resource for anyone who wonders why traditions are important and/or desires to be purposeful about building meaningful, godly ones within his or her family.

We have a natural aversion to meaninglessness and chaos. Whether we like it or not, we develop routines, habits, ways of doing things that help make life more manageable, predictable, orderly, understandable, and perhaps more enjoyable. We systematize and traditionalize things to make the transfer of information more efficient and effective. Whether we are intentional about it, or haphazard, routines, habits and traditions become an essential part of our lives.

As Noël Piper puts it, “Traditions are a lot like heirlooms. Both probably have come to us through our families. Some you love; you can’t imagine life without them. Some you’re stuck with; you don’t know what to do with them. Both heirlooms and good traditions strengthen our sense of history and belonging. As Christians, our history is God’s story of drawing us into his family.”

She goes on to make a case for the importance of good traditions within a family. God, when He instituted the laws that were to govern the nation of Israel, intentionally set up days of celebration, remembrance and reflection. These were to be days to recall who they were and what God had done for them. They were days to teach their children the importance of the history of their nation and the character of the LORD their God. God also set up rituals and traditions for how things were to be carried out on these days, and for every other aspect of life and government. These traditions gave them a sense of collective identity, of “belonging”, a way to recall that they were part of something bigger than themselves, a meaningful and easily comprehended way of passing on information to the next generation, and often provided answers to the human question of “Why?” Not only that, but the anticipation of special occasions offered an opportunity to enjoy and rejoice together in the LORD, to truly drink deeply of the wonderful human capacity to delight in the bountiful creation and good Creator, refreshing and restoring the body, mind and soul.

In our self-absorbed, individualistic, warp-speed, high-stress, information-overload, over-socialized age, with shattered people and relationships on all fronts, and unanswered questions of “Why?” leaving open the interpretation of ethics, morality and truth to whatever the most convenient cultural or personal meaning is at the moment, the importance and necessity of good, godly traditions cannot be overestimated.  Without them, we are like ships adrift with no anchor, sails, rudder or oars.

In this book, Mrs. Piper provides suggestions for developing meaningful traditions for everything from daily family routines to special holidays/events, and weekly church worship times. She illustrates with practical examples from their own Piper family traditions and even recipes from her own kitchen! My favorite parts of the book are the “Especially” chapters, and the several pages of resource helps at the end. Whether you question (as I do) if it is even right to celebrate Christmas and Easter and birthdays because of the decidedly pagan cultural heritage and rituals they possess, or simply just want some ideas for a more organized and enjoyable family life, or anything in between, you are sure to find some helpful thoughts and wonderful suggestions in this book. It is an easy read, and a very engaging one at that!

©2010 Reformation Lady and Chandra E. Wellman. All rights reserved.

Book Review

17 Jul

Miracles by C. S. Lewis

You don’t have to know me long before you realize that one of my all-time favorite authors is C. S. Lewis. And if you have never heard of him, or have never read any of his works, let me take a moment to encourage you to ammend this oversight! He is one of the foremost lay-theologians/apologeticists of the 20th century and arguably one of the greatest minds to ever live. His writings are masterful and his exact though imaginative use of language easily places his work among the “classics” of literary excellence. Whether you are a Christian or questioner  or unbeliever, or just plain don’t care about that sort of thing, it doesn’t matter. You will find a great appreciation for and enjoyment of Lewis, even if he makes you “hopping mad” while you’re at it!

His most famous works include Screwtape Letters, Chronicles of Narnia, Mere Christianity and The Four Loves. If you have never read any Lewis, I recommend starting with his autobiography Surprised by Joy. This will help you to better understand his thoughts and allusions in the rest of his writings. Beyond that, where you begin is up to you. He offers quite a variety to choose from, everything from fantasy to poetry, to letters, to word studies to apologetics and theological treatises.

Which brings me to the book I want to recommend here, Miracles. I have been a Lewis fan for a long time and read much of his published work. So I was a bit surprised when my husband brought home a smallish book I had never heard of. It sat on our shelf for over a year before I decided to pick it up and read. What I found has astonished me. Of all the Lewis I have read, this is my absolute favorite. In fact, I would dare say it is in my opinion his most masterful work of apologetics. In it he provides some of the deepest and clearest defenses against common misconceptions and objections for the supernatural and natural, and for the essence and necessity of miracles as central to the Christian faith, that I have ever encountered. It is not easy reading, let me warn you. But if you really want to come to terms with some profound logic and insight for a better defense of the hope we have in Christ, for a deeper understanding of the goodness and glory of God, then this is a must read. And if you are a “questioner” and are looking for some reasonable answers to problems and objections you find with the Christian faith, look no further than this little book. What you will find there will certainly give you some real “food for thought” to chew on. Why this is not a better known and more talked-about book, especially in Christian thinking and apologetic circles, I do not know. It’s quite a shame it seems to have such a low profile among his other writings.

©2010 Reformation Lady and Chandra E. Wellman. All rights reserved.