Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Book Review: The Next Story

"Discernment is not  a matter of simply telling the difference between right and wrong; rather it is telling the difference between right and almost right." -- Charles Spurgeon



Honestly, I wasn't really interested in reading a book about technology. However, technology is a huge part of my husband's life (as an IT specialist), so he asked me to order The Next Story after watching the book trailer. While I wasn't interested in the subject matter, I absolutely love reading books with others and discussing the ideas therein, especially with the love of my life. Since it was important to him, I decided to seize the opportunity and read along. I am so glad that I did!

The Next Story is an important book for all of us who are living in the world but not seeking to be of the world. As Christians, we should use technology in a decidedly different manner than those who are not living for the glory of God. Challies asks, "How has the digital explosion reshaped our understanding of ourselves, our world, and, most importantly, our knowledge of God?" (pg. 12).

He writes: "...every technology brings with it both risk and opportunity" (pg. 36). We must realize that technology, like all other created things, "is prone to draw your heart away from God, to distract you and enable you to rely on your own abilities rather than trusting God" (pg. 24). However, "it is not the technology itself that is good or evil; it is the human application of that technology" (pg. 25).

Challies wisely realizes that "...for most of us, avoidance [of technology] is not an option, nor is it necessarily the most biblical, God-honoring response...Our task, then, is not to avoid technology but to carefully evaluate it, redeem it, and ensure that we are using it with the right motives and for the right goals" (pg. 32). He writes: "We need to seek to understand how a technology will change and shape us before we introduce it to our lives" (pg. 61). It will change the way that we think with regard to content (what we think) and process (how we think).

Challies raises a lot of great questions; some of which he answers, while others are left for the reader to answer as a means of personal application. This isn't a book that legalistically dictates when you can use technology, for how much time, etc...though Challies does recommend that the reader set boundaries.

The Next Story deals with many practical issues including communication, distraction, thinking, and idolatry, all the while encouraging the reader to examine his/her heart and teaching how to apply the Gospel. Although Challies examines each of these topics (and others) specifically with regard to digital technology, the content of this book could easily be applied more broadly and is relevant to us all.


All in all, this book is an interesting and thought-provoking title and an excellent choice for those wishing to think Biblically about technology and living life to the glory of God. Highly recommended!

*Many thanks to Zondervan for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Book Review: Knitting Knee-Highs

Knitting Knee-Highs: Sock Styles from Classic to Contemporary [Book]

Knitting Knee-Highs by Barb Brown is an interesting book with lots of neat patterns. While the explanations are relatively straight-forward, this is an intermediate to advanced level project book. One will need to be familiar with basic knitting terminology as this knowledge is assumed in the volume. Familiarity with knitting, purling, decreasing stitches, slip stitches, and using markers is a must. "The aim of this book, and the projects, is to encourage you to make each pattern your own" (pg. 19).

One note about this particular book is that the pictures are a bit on the sensual side. What I mean is that the facial expressions on many of the women are alluring, the skirts and shorts are mostly not finger-tip length, and there are several low-cut tops. For conservative folks, the skirts and shorts that the young models wear to display the knee-high socks are likely going to be too short. Although many folks won't have a problem with this, I think it is worth noting for those who are a bit more reserved. 

*Many thanks to Thomas Nelson Publishers for providing this book in exchange for my honest opinion!

Book Review: ESV Seek and Find Bible

"For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12, ESV).

ESV Seek and Find Bible
 ESV Seek and Find Bible (TruTone, Blue)ESV Seek and Find Bible (TruTone, Lavender)

While I love The Big Picture Story Bible and The Jesus Storybook Bible, nothing compares to the Word of God. For "...faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ" (Romans 10:17, ESV). However, newcomers to the Bible often have a difficult time seeing the unified theme therein. Consequently, I am excited to have The ESV Seek and Find Bible to read with my little ones. It is an excellent resource to help bridge the gap between Gospel-centered story Bibles and God's living and active Word!

What sets this Bible apart from other Bibles is that each retelling brings the story back to what God has done for us in Jesus Christ. There is a clear Gospel message throughout these stories.

Here are some of the features listed by Crossway (excepting text in red which are my additions):


  • More than 130 full-page, full-color illustrations - These are nice, realistic paintings.
  • Simple Bible story retellings for each illustration - Often with a clear connection to Christ's work on the cross
  • Age-appropriate introductions to each Bible book
  • Key Verses to memorize 

  • Illustrated profiles of more than 50 major Bible characters
  • Illustrated facts about Bible objects, structures, and places
  • Simple Reflection Questions and Related Bible Readings to help children begin to understand and apply God’s Word and to keep children engaged, encouraging them to dig deeper into Scripture One of my favorite features which aids in fruitful discussion. :)
  •   A simple dictionary to help young readers learn the meaning of Bible words 
  • Kid-friendly maps (complete with interesting and understandable legends ;)
  
seek-and-find-interior5
ESV Seek and Find Bible Features


Click here if you would like to see the book of Ruth which is characteristic of the project.

Or, you can watch a video discussing the distinguishing features of this Bible here.

There are some things that I would have done differently. For example, I would have preferred that the words of Christ be in red because I think this makes the dialog easier to follow, especially for children. However, that is a small thing. Another note concerning the ESV Seek and Find Bible is that it focuses on communicating how familiar Bible stories are connected to Christ. Personally, I would like to have seen some commentary in more challenging sections like Leviticus and/or the prophets. (I know that this might seem a little far-fetched for those of you who are not accustomed to reading the Bible this way, but the connection between Leviticus and Hebrews is astounding and can be communicated at a child's level, as seen in the Herein Is Love Commentary Series for children.) Perhaps, Crossway will undertake this in their next project. :)

All in all, this is an excellent choice for a children's Bible. It is a a blessing to have a Christ-centered Bible that is not watered down. This is the Bible that our family chose for our son as a Christmas gift, and I would not hesitate to purchase another copy. It is a solid starting point!

*Many thanks to Crossway for sending me a copy of this Bible in exchange for my honest opinion!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A Place for Weakness Reflections - Chapter 1

"...man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward" (Job 5:7).

On Sale at Westminster Books
Grab a hot beverage and join us. :)
     



Preface:

I come to this book as one who has suffered little in this life. Sure, there have been some hard times, but they have been minimal. When I read the Bible and church history and see/hear the experiences of other believers around me, there is a little twinge of fear in my soul. Will I be able to honor God amidst deep suffering in this life when my time comes?

I come to this study with a desire to grow. I don't want to fear suffering; I want to trust in God's sovereignty and rest in His goodness regardless of my circumstances. He will give me the grace that I need, moment by moment. I pray that the Lord uses this study to deepen our faith in Him who walks with us through the valleys of this life for our good and His glory!

Reflections:

I found Horton's use of Luther thought-provoking:

"...being a theologian of the cross--which is the general vocation of every Christian--requires three things: oratio (prayer), meditatio (study), and tentatio (trials)" (pg 17).

I had considered that prayer and study were staples in the Christian life. However, as Stephen Altrogee wrote in The Greener Grass Conspiracy, I often "treat God like some sort of divine dentist" (pg. 31), especially  when it comes to trials. Although I know Second Corinthians 12:9, I have not yet gotten to the place where I boast gladly in my weakensses. However, there was a smaller glimmer of longing upon reading this:

"without the trials, faith is not really roused to grab hold of the God of promise" (pg. 17).

IF trials are the only thing that will rouse me "to grab hold of the God or promise", then I pray that God brings trials. Thomas Watson writes:

"The wise God hath ordered our condition; if he sees it better for us to abound, we shall abound; if he sees it better for us to want, we shall want; be content at God's disposal...one condition of life will not fit every man, no more than one suit of apparel will fit every body; prosperity is not fit for all, nor yet adversity...The wise God sees that condition to be bad for one, which is good for another; hence it is he placeth men in different orbs and spheres; some higher, some lower. One man desires health, God sees sickness better for him; God will work health out of sickness, by bringing the body of death, into a consumption. Another man desires liberty, God sees restraint better for him; he will work his liberty by restraint; when his feet are bound, his heart shall be most enlarged" (pg 21).
Oh that I would trust our wise, Heavenly Father knowing that He is always good to me!

"Understanding who God is, who we are, and God's ways in creation, providence, and redemption--at least as much as Scripture reveals to us...is the most serious business...it's a matter of life and death...It's about living, and dying, well" (pg. 19).
"And so we need to learn from God's Word how to meet trials, apart from which more tough times will only tend to reinforce what we already believe, whether it's good or bad theology" (pg 21).

May we all grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! To Him be the glory both now and forevermore!!

If you'd like to join the discussion, 
Read Chapter 2: “Good News for Losers” for Wednesday, May 11.

Thanks for reading!