Friday, March 14, 2014

Book Review: What's Your Worldview?

Your worldview, that is, what you believe about the world, matters. James Anderson says:

"Worldviews are like belly buttons. Everyone has one, but we don't talk about them very often" (pg. 12).

"Your worldview shapes and informs your experiences of the world around you. Like a pair of spectacles with colored lenses, it affects what you see and how you see it" (pg. 13).

"What you think about...any...major issue of the day depends on your underlying worldview more than anything else...worldviews play a central and defining role in our lives. They shape what we believe and what we're willing to believe, how we interpret our experiences, how we behave in response to those experiences, and how we relate to others" (pg. 13).

James Anderson has written an interactive and engaging book:

"To help you identify and clarify your worldview.
To encourage you to consider the big questions and to think through some of the implications of various answers.
To help you appreciate that there are important differences between worldviews--and that not all worldviews are created equal!..." (pg. 14)

To accomplish his purposes, Mr. Anderson takes a unique approach. What's Your Worldview? might be the first question he asks, but it isn't the last. Anderson takes a Socratic approach, inviting his reader to a conversation and leading him (or her) to examine the beliefs he (or she) holds by asking 21 questions of his reader. Each of the questions, as well as what Anderson means by them, is expounded on one, short page. Like the old "Choose-Your-Own-Adventure" novels, the next page that you read in What's Your Worldview? depends upon how you answer the question posed by Anderson, at which point there is a page-and-a-half explanation of your worldview or another question to answer.

Of What's Your Worldview? Anderson writes:

"... it covers the most prominent and influential worldviews in Western culture today (plus a few more), and it highlights some of the most serious challenges faced by those worldviews. The book doesn't drill down all the way...[and] isn't meant to be the last word on worldviews...Rather, it's meant to be the first word in a fruitful conversation about maters of ultimate importance" (pg 98).

Additionally, Anderson has sought to write a book that helps his reader think critically about worldviews. He encourages his reader to examine the various worldviews (21) presented in the book, comparing them with one's own, noting strengths and weaknesses. I believe Anderson has successfully fulfilled his goals and has written a concise, thought-provoking work that will bless many. It also gives me some food-for-thought as I interact with those who don't share my own worldview.

*Thanks again to Crossway for providing me with a complimentary copy of What's Your Worldview? in exchange for my honest opinion!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Book Review: John Knox

John Knox (Christian Biographies for Young Readers) Greed. Corruption. False teaching. Murder. The problems in the early Church ran deep. History teaches us that this is exactly what happens when believers fail to read and study God's Word. Throughout history, God has used many men and women to call the Church back to the Holy Scriptures rather than the traditions of man. John Knox is one such man.

Long time readers of this blog need no introduction to Simonetta Carr or her "Christian Biographies for Young Readers".  As I've written before, Ms. Carr is one of my favorite children's authors due, in large part, to her commitment to "...go beyond the simple story of someone's life by teaching young readers the historical and theological relevance of each character" (from the Copyright Page). There is a purpose and depth to Simonetta's writing which exceeds that found in much of written material for children today. This is why I am excited that she has added another title to her lovely series!

In her latest title, John Knox, Ms. Carr introduces us to a humble man whom God used to purify and build His Church. Knox began life simply enough becoming educated at university and working a fairly quiet job as a notary. However, he lived during turbulent times, and his life didn't stay "quiet" for long. His story is a fascinating one as he moves from bodyguard to preacher, from chains to freedom, from country to country, facing rulers within and without the Church. During this time, he wrote books answering questions such as: "...What should we do in time of trouble?" (pg. 24) Knox could answer this question because he lived during times of much trouble. How did Knox answer this question? How did he respond to the troubles that he faced? How should we face trouble? How can we prepare our kids to face trouble? Studying history by reading books like John Knox will help all of us to be more readily prepared as we encounter the trials of life.

Like the other books in the "Christian Biographies for Young Readers" series, John Knox is carefully researched, informative, and interesting.  Ms. Carr includes a map and timeline to aid understanding. Once again, Matt Abraxas serves to further draw the reader into the story of Knox's life through his vivid artwork, and Ms. Carr includes appropriate, well-chosen photos to accompany her writing. Additionally, the reader will discover with Knox the exciting, good news of the Gospel that "...Christ did everything for our salvation, and the special offerings, good works, and prayers the church was requiring were not necessary to earn it" (pg. 6).

As we've come to expect from the "Christian Biographies for Young Readers" series, John Knox is a high quality, hardcover book with thick pages and a sewn binding, making it a sturdy, collectible title that will hold up well to many years of use.

Christian Biographies for Young Readers 5 Book SetI highly recommend John Knox and pray that many will be encouraged as they seek to serve God faithfully in the face of trouble and that they will grow in their understanding of the importance and value of studying church history as a result of this splendid work!!

You can find out more about Simonetta Carr's "Christian Biographies for Young Readers" here, including activity pages for several existing titles (Augustine of Hippo and John Calvin) and a study guide for John Owen.

*Many thanks to Cross Focused Reviews, Reformation Heritage Books, and Simonetta Carr for providing me with a complimentary copy of John Knox in exchange for my honest opinion!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Book Review: Filling up the Afflictions of Christ

"Few things inspire me to live radically for Christ more than the story of those who did. I pray that this will be the effect on you as well. The nations are in desperate need. And Christ is a great Savior" (pg. 10).
Filling Up the Afflictions of ChristFilling up the Afflictions of Christ is a book about three men who took seriously the command to take up their cross daily and follow Jesus (Luke 9:23). In it, Piper contends that "...suffering is part of God's strategy for making known to the world who Christ is, how he loves, and how much he is worth" (pg. 14). He seeks to explain, through the Scriptures, what it means to fill up the afflictions of Christ and to exemplify his primary thesis, "...that missionary sufferings are a strategic part of God's plan to reach the nations" (pg. 19), through the lives of William Tyndale, John Paton, and Adoniram Judson.

Piper draws heavily from well-written, classic biographies including: WilliamTyndale: A Biography by David Danielle, John G. Paton, Missionary to the New Hebrides: An Autobiography Edited by His Brother, and To the Golden Shore: The Life of Adoniram Judson by Courtney Anderson. In doing so, he whets the appetite of his reader to digest these 440 to 530-page tomes. However, for those who are limited by time, Filling up the Afflictions of Christ is a concise, easy-to-read, thought-provoking, and encouraging summary of the lives and ministries of these men.

Piper highlights God's providence and the importance of theology and doctrine. He includes relevant warnings for our day. Furthermore, the reader will be encouraged to count the cost of following Christ and to persevere in the midst of criticism and opposition, regardless of whether fruitfulness is readily apparent.

Perhaps one of the most rewarding themes throughout Filling up the Afflictions of Christ is that Piper demonstrates how theology shapes practice. Of John G. Paton, Piper writes: "The courage to risk the loss was remarkable. But the courage to experience the loss and press on alone was supernatural" (pg. 60). He then quotes Paton's autobiography to give the reader a "...glimpse of the theology that we will see underneath this man's massive courage and toil" (pg. 60):
"I felt her [his wife's] loss beyond all conception or description, in that dark land. It was very difficult to be resigned, left alone, and in sorrowful circumstances; but feeling immovably assured that my God and father was too wise and loving to err in anything that He does or permits, I looked up to the Lord for help, and struggled on in his work" (pg. 60-61).
Again, Piper illustrates how theology informed Paton's practice resulting in a peaceful demeanor in the midst of harrowing journeys and significant trials. He writes: "The peace God gave him in these crises was not the peace of sure escape but the peace that God is good and wise and omnipotent and will do all things well" (pg. 78). Piper continues to quote Paton's autobiography, allowing Paton to "speak" for himself.

Likewise, Adoniram Judson's theology informed his practice during times of suffering. Piper purposes " stress that this deep confidence in God's overarching providence through all calamity and misery sustained him [Judson] to the end" and quotes Judson to drive home the point:
"If I had not felt certain that every additional trial was ordered by infinite love and mercy, I could not have survived my accumulated sufferings" (pg 87).
In spite of the fact that bringing the Gospel to the Nations cost Judson several wives and children, Piper confirms that "...a rock-solid confidence that God is sovereign and God is good" sustained him. Judson recognized that "...all things come from his [God's] hand for the good--sometimes the incredibly painful good--of his children"(pg. 88).

Filling up the Afflictions of Christ is faith building. As Piper recounts the life stories of Tyndale, Paton, and Judson, we see "...that 'the blood of the martyrs is seed,' the seed of new life in Christ spreading through the world (pg. 25). We readily see God's faithfulness as we examine the fruitful results of the sacrifices of these men. We are encouraged as we see again and again that the Gospel is powerful and effective; it "...can and does transform the most unlikely people and their societies" (pg. 68). Additionally, studying the lives of the saints who have gone before us allows us to witness some of the benefits of trials, further building our faith for the trials we are sure to encounter. Piper quotes Paton to reveal how opposition drove him close to God in prayer (pg. 59). Paton's faith stirs my own. Reflecting on a time when he sought refuge in a tree while being pursued by cannibals, Paton writes:
"Never, in all my sorrows, did my Lord draw nearer to me, and speak more soothingly in my soul, than when the moonlight flickered among those chestnut leaves, and the night air played on my throbbing brow, as I told all my heart to Jesus. Alone, yet not alone! If it be to glorify God, I will not grudge to spend many nights alone in such a tree, to feel again my Savior's spiritual presence, to enjoy His consoling fellowship" (pg. 82).
Filling up the Afflictions of Christ is filled with helpful and inspiring words. It shows the influence of godly parents who are devoted to prayer, models prayers of faith, and reminds the reader that there is much more to life than comfort and ease. And yet, Tyndale, Paton, Judson, and the women in their lives were just ordinary men and women. It was encouraging to read that they had doctrinal and emotional struggles, darkness of the soul, and second-guessed the motives of their hearts during times of trouble. Piper successfully relays the story of each of these lives in such a way that the reader is able to identify and relate and therefore, be greatly encouraged.

Piper closes with a reminder that "life is fleeting" and a plea to "be a part of what Judson and Christ died for" (pg. 106). He writes:
"Are you sure that God wants you to keep doing what you are doing? For most of you, he probably does. Your calling is radical obedience for the glory of Christ right where you are. But for many of you, the stories in this book are among the hundred things God is using to loosen your roots and plant you in another place. Some of you he is calling to fill up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ, to fall like a grain of wheat into some distant ground and die, to hate your life in this world and so to keep it forever and bear much fruit...The question is not whether we will die, but whether we will die in a way that bears much fruit" (pg. 106-107)
 While Filling up the Afflictions of Christ contains a challenge and call to evaluate our lives, it is also so much more. It is an encouragement to run the race that is set before us, as the author of Hebrews so eloquently writes:

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God" (Hebrews 12:1-2, ESV).
"If we must suffer along the way to put Christ's sacrificial love on display, it will be a small price for the inheritance to come" (pg. 117).

I highly commend Filling up the Afflictions of Christ for your edification and the building up of the Body of Christ!

*Many thanks to Crossway for providing me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion!