Friday, September 15, 2017

Book Review: The Book of God

     Is the Bible from man or from God? Is there any evidence that it is different from other books? With the many years that have passed and the number of translations that have been produced, how can we be sure that the Bible we have is the same as the authoritative, infallible original? Are we sure that we have all of the books that should be included or are some missing, only yet to be discovered? There are many questions that can be asked of the Holy Scriptures.

The back cover of The Book of God: How We Got the Bible is reminiscent of the formatting of the text at the beginning of a Star Wars movie, an interesting way to entice people to read about the story of The Book of God. It certainly captured my attention. Upon arrival, I left this book on our coffee table to see how long it would take for someone to peruse it. Given the graphic novel format, it wasn't surprising to find that it didn't take much time for The Book of God to garner some attention for itself from my children, which was more than I could say about the other, slightly outdated "How We Got the Bible" book that we were scheduled to read. Clearly, this presentation won my kids over and makes this book unique among other books containing similar information.

     The Book of God: How We Got the Bible is comprised of four parts: "The Production of the Bible (How the Bible Was Written)", "The Process of the Bible (How the Bible Was Selected)", "The Preservation of the Bible (How the Bible Spread)", and "The Proof of the Bible (How the Bible Has Survived and Is Trustworthy)". Ben Avery did a good job of honestly answering many questions surrounding the Bible, concisely summarizing this information and offering a gentle introduction to the subject. I commend it to those seeking to be better educated concerning the substantial evidence that confirms God's hand in preserving His Word for our generation.

*Many thanks to Kingstone Comics for providing me with a complimentary copy of The Book of God: How We Got the Bible in exchange for my honest opinion!

Monday, August 28, 2017

Review: Classroom Friendly Supplies Pencil Sharpener

Every year, the kids look forward to filling up their school boxes with fresh supplies. Among the various items, we usually pick up some inexpensive pencil sharpeners. We have also tried more expensive, electric pencil sharpeners. Typically, these quickly became a source of frustration rather than a useful tool and didn't offer a satisfactory solution with lead frequently breaking and/or jamming the sharpeners and motor burnout being our top issues. So, this year, we decided to try something different. Thankfully, an elementary school teacher has been in our position and was offering a solution to our pencil sharpener woes.

After testing this pencil sharpener from Classroom Friendly Supplies, we are happy to say that we have found a useful sharpener for our homeschool. This pencil sharpener is sturdy with metal and heavy duty plastic components, so we anticipate that it will hold up well with long-term use. The website has useful videos and images that demonstrate how to use it, how to remove occasional jams, etc. (We found that our colored pencils tended to jam the sharpener slightly more frequently than our pencils.) This sharpener makes a very long, sharp point.

This is a useful hand crank pencil sharpener, and we are grateful to have it in our service. We commend it to you if you're looking for an alternative to unreliable pencil sharpeners.

If you are interested, you can learn more about these pencil sharpeners at the Classroom Friendly Supplies website.

*Many thanks to Classroom Friendly Supplies for providing me with a complimentary pencil sharpener in exchange for my honest opinion!

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Book Review: Reformation Women

"Death comes when our work is done, not before or after" (pg. 113).

Rebecca VanDoodewaard has done the church a wonderful service in revising, expanding, and correcting James I. Good's 1901 work, Famous Women of the Reformed Church. Originally appearing as a series of magazine articles, each chapter succinctly presents the life of one saint as a "…biographical sketch--an introduction to a woman who could be the subject of an entire book" (pg. xv). Through Reformation Women, VanDoodewaard successfully whets one's appetite to learn more about the cloud of witnesses who have gone before us!

In her Introduction, VanDoodewaard attempts to set the stage by detailing "…major events, documents, and figures…to provide a larger context" (pg. xvii) so that each chapter can focus on a specific woman. Unlike many modern works, she selected "…believing women who helped form our Reformed faith but who are largely unknown now" (pg. xi). Throughout Reformation Women, VanDoodewaard highlights the beauty in the diversity of God's people:

"A range of personalities, abilities, and positions gives us a sample spectrum of what faithful, strong service to Christ and His church looked like then. These same principles and examples are invaluable for helping women today bear fruit within the broad boundaries that God gives us in His Word" (pg. xi).

Within the Preface and Conclusion, VanDoodewaard considers some of the characteristics that were common to all of these believing women: they were devoted, faithful, brave, compassionate, and self-sacrificing; given to hospitality; stewarded their intellectual abilities to understand Scripture, theology, correspond, etc.; and sought, above all, to glorify Christ and build His Church. They weren't always right, but God was faithful to use them to influence, protect, and multiply His church. Reformation Women illustrates that change truly is a process, not an event. VanDoodewaard honestly allows us to see both the good and the bad in the lives of these saints so that God gets the glory rather than merely elevating humankind.

One of the things that I appreciate about this book is its emphasis on truly biblical womanhood. Through these women, VanDoodewaard shows us that "Real femininity is strength--a uniquely feminine strength that is tough and ladylike" (pg. xiii). She shows us what Christ-centered, healthy marriages look like (and some unhealthy ones!). She shows that there are times when it is appropriate for a woman to submit to her husband and authorities (church and government) and times when she should obey God rather than man. These women were not doormats or mindless. Education was a high priority with God's Word being of utmost importance. For example, Charlotte Arbaleste was involved in an odd case of church discipline in which,

"She genuinely believed that the local church was overstepping its bounds and was willing to argue the point to keep her biblical freedom and clarify procedure. She could only do this with integrity because she knew her Bible and church polity. The fact that she was a woman in no way diminished her responsibility to understand the denomination's ecclesiology and to speak out when it was being abused" (pg. 59).

We desperately need examples of women who submit to godly leadership, as well as, examples of women who know when to stand their ground and fight for what is right, regardless of the consequences.

The "…women of that day were not just sitting around waiting for their husbands to do things: they were reading, writing, and ruling. They were teaching children, sheltering refugees, and balancing husbands. They directed armies, confronted kings, and rebuked heretics" (pg. x). They comforted, encouraged, served, and studied. As VanDoodewaard records:

"These women were not hanging out on social media or mommy blogs, waiting for spiritual maturity to happen. They actively pursued it: Bible reading, prayer, attendance at worship (often several times a week), fellowship with the saints, theological study and discussions, and conscious self-denial matured them into usefulness that God blessed. Personal projects, comfort, and plans were subservient to the mission of the Great Commission" (pg. 113).

Reformation Women isn't a book that seeks to merely entertain the reader but is immensely practical. Many chapters close with a practical application for modern Christian women, and the Conclusion fittingly brings the book to a close by outlining seven application points that will strengthen the church today based on common facts about these women's lives. Among them, she shows how these women were able to live the way that they did:

"Their goals were not a great weekend, or seeing kids through college, or even helping with grand-children. Their goal, in different spheres, was the establishment and flourishing of a strong and faithful church that would be there long after they were gone. Because they were aiming for things beyond their life spans, it gave perspective and purpose to their everyday actions. Thinking long term gives us the ability to act meaningfully in the short term" (pg. 113).

That being said, Reformation Women isn't a "preachy" book. These women's stories are absolutely fascinating. Filled with accounts of joy, sorrow, and humor; victory and defeat, loyal friends and plotting enemies, I could hardly put this book down. VanDoodewaard highlights both unusual deeds (fleeing in disguise, preventing war, enduring persecution, and resisting arranged marriages) as well as everyday faithfulness in the mundane. It is encouraging to see how God faithfully intervenes in people's life circumstances to bring them to the Gospel and use them for His glory, especially when it seems unlikely from a limited, human perspective.

Throughout this book, I found myself longing for more details and jotting down questions for further study. Mrs. VanDoodewaard successfully whetted my appetite for further study, indeed. I would love to know more about how these women balanced their many responsibilities, educated their children, managed their homes, etc., and because her sources are well-documented in footnotes, I know just where to turn for additional information!

Most importantly, VanDoodewaard uses Reformation Women to point us to Christ and His all-sufficiency in the midst of life, whether that's joy or sorrow, peace or anxiety, prosperity or poverty, comfort or persecution, affliction, exile, and/or death.

I'm grateful that Rebecca's husband brought her Good's book, as well as, other resources and supported this project with peanut butter cups and pizza for supper. I pray that many will be encouraged to faithfully use what God has given them and where He has placed them for His glory and trust that many will be blessed by Mrs. VanDoodewaard's labor and sacrifice! :)

*Many thanks to Cross Focused Reviews and Reformation Heritage Books for sending me a complimentary copy of Reformation Women in exchange for my honest opinion!