Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Idols of a Mother's Heart - A Book Review

Idols of a Mother’s Heart
"It had been one of those 'terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days.' The kind where nothing went the way it should. I must have corrected the kids every five minutes. I refereed fights, cleaned up mess after mess, repeated instructions, and tried to create order out of chaos. I was exhausted, irritated, and impatient.
Sitting at the dinner table that evening, it was my oldest son's turn to give thanks. When I heard him say, 'And God, could you please help mommy to be patient with us?' I realized I wasn't the only one affected by our difficult day. I was part of the problem" (24). 
"Before I had children, I considered myself a patient person." Who can't relate to that? Motherhood is hard. Seeing our sinfulness exposed is harder. Applying the good news about Christ's life, death, and resurrection to our lives is glorious! Christina is a wise and relate-able companion for the journey.

In Idols of a Mother's Heart, Christina Fox begins by laying a strong, Gospel foundation which remains central throughout the book. She writes about how we were created to glorify, enjoy, worship, and image God and about how things went terribly wrong. She follows Tim Keller in defining an idol as:
"...anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give. A counterfeit god is anything so central and essential to your life that, should you lose it, your life would hardly feel worth living. An idol has such a controlling position in your heart that you can spend most of your passion and energy, your emotional and financial resources, on it without a second thought" (Tim Keller as quoted by Christina Fox, pg. 56).
Christina then moves to help her readers identify and dethrone idols. To this end, she offers heart-probing diagnostic questions and reminds us that idols fail again and again and again to deliver on the promise of ultimate happiness, pointing us to Christ who is all-satisfying.
"As much as we seek happiness in the idols we pursue, they can never give us the joy we find with Christ...the infinite abyss can only be filled by an infinite and immutable object, that is to say, only by God Himself" (78).
While I am aware of several other books on this subject, many of them cater to a male audience and/or perspective and focus on idols like sex, money, and power. Christina has thoughtfully applied the same truths found in those excellent books to the area of motherhood, specifically addressing the common idols of: children, achievement and success, comfort, control, and approval. Idols of a Mother's Heart is a welcome addition to other works on this subject!

Idols of a Mother's Heart a Scripture saturated book that is full of sound doctrine. Each chapter closes with rich prayers, insightful questions, and Scriptures for further study and reflection. I love that Christina is humble, real, and transparent with her readers. Idols of a Mother's Heart is a useful book to encourage us daily so that we might not be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. It is my joy to commend it to you!

**Many thanks to Christian Fox for sending me a complimentary copy of this book!! These are my honest thoughts!

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Amazing Grace - A Book Review

Amazing Grace recounts the story of John Newton and one of his most beloved hymns in an engaging way for children ages three to six. It has a large font with just the right amount of text per page to match the (generally short) attention spans of this age group. Additionally, the authors seek to retain the listener's attention by asking simple questions along the way. Although simple enough for this age group, these questions are not simplistic and have the potential to lead to helpful discussions about family, discipleship, companions, rebellion, fear, prayer, God's forgiveness, and grace. Additionally, these questions may serve to draw listener's into Newton's story and make him more relate-able. Best of all, each of these components leads the child on a journey to see themselves, like Newton, as a sinner in need of God's forgiveness freely offered through Jesus Christ. Amazing Grace paves the way afresh for the Good News of Christ's life, death, and resurrection.

One note: Like many Christian resources, this book seems to summarize Gospel. It's closing pages say:
"Do you know what 'grace' means? It means God gives us what we don't deserve. Because we sin, we deserve God's punishment. But when we believe in Jesus and ask for forgiveness, God forgives and saves us..." (39).

While it is essential to believe in Jesus, the question may remain, "What are we to believe about Jesus?" Unfortunately, due to brevity, this didn't seem as clear as it could be in this book. I would encourage everyone reading this book to go one step further with their kids and read First Corinthians 15:3-4:
"For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures..."

This will help present the Gospel more clearly to one's listener(s). The book closes with three suggested questions for discussion, and a fourth would complement these well: "Why can God give sinners grace?" (The First Corinthians passage above answers this question well: Because Christ died for the sins of all who would believe, and God accepted His sacrifice.)

As soon as we finished Amazing Grace, my kids asked me if we had the next book in the series. We thoroughly enjoyed this title, and I am happy to commend this title to you, my readers.

If you're in Canada, you can purchase this book through Reformed Book Services.

*Many thanks to Biblical Spirituality Press and Reformation Heritage Books for sending me a complimentary copy of this book!! This is my honest opinion.

Monday, December 3, 2018

God Counts - A Book Review


In this engaging, illustrated children’s book by Irene Sun, young readers learn how numbers declare the glory of God, discovering Bible stories and the truth, beauty, and goodness of our sovereign God through numbers and patterns. With countable illustrations and an easy-to-learn structure, children who are always seeking, finding, tracing, and counting numbers will be captivated by God Counts.

Through simple language kids will understand, God Counts shares theological truths and helps children become familiar with Scripture, exploring the patterns of creation, numbers in the plan of redemption, and the intimacy of a personal relationship with God. This children’s book explores how God counts every fish in the sea, every star in the sky, every hair on their heads, and every tear in their eyes.

By discovering numbers in God’s world and in his Word, parents help their children foster a deeper love and knowledge of who God is and how he counts them as his. Families will be enriched as they learn together how numbers magnify God—just as a telescope magnifies the stars—and each numbered lesson points to a larger redemptive story of Scripture. On each page, the illustrations engage readers, displaying not only a picture but a mosaic of patterns. 

This playful children’s book serves as a beginner’s theology book for young readers who love numbers and patterns, introducing the Trinity, the God of order, the holiness of God, the problem of sin, the rescue and love of Jesus, and much more. Children who love to count will be filled with wonder, leading them to understand deeper truths about God, themselves, and the world around them.

God Counts is colorful and contains much biblical truth. It's fun to count various objects with littles throughout the pages of this book. I appreciate that it included Scripture references. At times, the organization seemed a little random and scattered to me. It goes from:

to humans as image bearers
to the Trinity, cross, & resurrection (without mentioning sin)
to the beauty of creation
to new creation
to God speaking
to sins that God hates
to God's presence with us (like Joshua)
to the rescue of his children (like Noah)
to imaging God through the Holy Spirit
to God seeking his lost children
to forgiveness (of the disciples)
to eternity
to infinity.

One concern that I have about this book is that God Counts seems to assume that preschoolers are saved and heaven bound which could lead to a false assurance of faith if parents aren't careful to balance out what is presented here. God Counts lacks any call to repentance and faith. That being said, Number 11 does lend itself well to this discussion when it mentions that Judas did not return to Jesus for forgiveness, but the other eleven disciples did return and were forgiven. The final number reads:

"Twelve tells us we will live with God forever"

and the book concludes with:

"God counts all of your steps
Until you walk with him side by side.

God counts all of your days
Until you see him face to face..."

While there is much to commend in this book, in light of these particular issues, I would only recommend this to those who are grounded well enough in Scripture to balance out what they read with their listeners.

*Many thanks to New Growth Press for sending me a complimentary copy of this book! This is my honest opinion.