Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Book Review: Wondrous Works of God

Wondrous Works of God: A Family Bible Story BookWhen I first saw an online retailer advertising Mighty Acts of God by Starr Meade a few years ago, I thought to myself, "Seriously! Do we really neeeeed another children's Bible? Why shouldn't we just read God's living and active Word to our children?" However, providentially, I came across one of these Bibles, and I have to say, "Mighty Acts of God is one of my favorite children's Bibles!!!" As a result I was extremely excited when Starr Meade authored a second Bible story book, Wondrous Works of God, to share even more of the Bible with young people. What makes these two volumes unique? Why would I urge every Christian parent to read these books to their children?
Mighty Acts of God: A Family Bible Story Book

There is much to love about Wondrous Works of God and Mighty Acts of God. I love how Starr Meade consistently makes doctrinal concepts accessible to young people (and to me!). These Bible story books are clearly coming from the Reformed camp which makes them unique.  Children will read: that God created all things to show his glory (pg. 18), that "...the love between a husband and wife gives us a picture of the love Christ has for his Church" (pg. 19), what sin is, about God's character (He is merciful, gracious, holy, faithful, etc.), that God "sees every wicked thing done in secret" (pg. 22), and that "God's power and wisdom are so much greater than our own that we can trust him, even when what he does seems wrong to us" (pg. 25). Starr Meade explains what a covenant is, how Abraham was able to intercede for Lot, and how Christ intercedes for us. She also highlights doctrinal concepts like God's providence and sovereignty, perseverance of the saints, and the like. Clearly, Meade emphasizes God's character in a way that is unique among children's story Bibles.

Like several other Bible story books, Meade's Mighty Acts of God and Wondrous Works of God  keep the focus on the grand narrative of the  Redemptive story line of the Bible throughout both volumes. For example, in the account of Korah's rebellion, we read that "Sinners cannot approach a holy God without a priest to offer sacrifices to pay for their sin, and that priest must be the one God has appointed…" After reading about Aaron being God's chosen priest during the time of Moses, Meade writes about our Great High Priest: "The Lord Jesus Christ is the perfect High Priest appointed by God. The only way to God is through Christ" (pg. 59).

Wondrous Works of God and Mighty Acts of God aren't sanitized, dumbed-down story Bibles; they have depth!!! Starr Meade does not merely introduce our kids to good role models nor does she shy away from the truth of God's Word; she tells the hard stories! In each account, we learn something of God's character, something of our nature, and/or something about what God has done for us in Christ. We read about wicked Ahab, Jezebel, and Naboth and see that life in this world is not fair but that there will be a judgment day at which point every evil deed will be punished. We learn to count the cost of following Christ, and we are reminded that God promises His children a future far better than any that might be lost in this world. We read about Hosea and Gomer and learn about our unfaithfulness, God's love and grace, and the promised new covenant. Again and again, we see that God carries out His purposes for His glory because He is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. A moralistic story Bible holds out no hope for our shortcomings. However, this is NOT what you will find here. Starr Meade is honest about God's holiness, our sin and need of a Savior, and about Christ. She shows her reader a great God.

There is some overlap between Mighty Acts of God and Wondrous Works of God, allowing them to stand alone or to be used as a complement to one another. Some topics, such as the Passover, are mentioned briefly in Mighty Acts of God (essentially Volume 1), but are covered more thoroughly in Wondrous Works of God (and vice versa). In this example of the Passover, Starr Meade does an excellent job showing how the Passover points forward to Christ in a way that would not have been immediately obvious to a child reading the account in Exodus with no additional commentary.

The Publisher recommends these books for children, ages 4-10. My four-year-old has a rather short attention span and prefers the story-telling format of The Jesus Storybook Bible, however, my six and up crew really love Mighty Acts of God and Wondrous Works of God. Westminster Books and Amazon have lengthy samples which will give you an idea of what to expect from these excellent Bible story books. I like to have my kids begin reading from God's Word as soon as they are able, but I still read story Bibles to them because I think that the additional commentary is beneficial to aid their understanding, assist them as they make connections between passages and concepts, etc. Bible story books should never be a substitute for reading God's Word, however, I think they are valuable in helping our children comprehend Scripture more deeply. I love Meade's Mighty Acts of God and Wondrous Works of God for their unsurpassed theological depth.  It is such a joy to have such God-glorifying, Biblical resources available to aid young people in understanding God's character and work!!

*Many thanks to Crossway for providing me with a complimentary copy of Wondrous Works of God in exchange for my honest opinion! I've been enjoying Mighty Acts of God for quite some time now, and it is exciting to be able to expand the content! :)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Book Review: Glimpses of Grace





Again and again, God used Glimpses of Grace to remind me that my experience is simply ordinary; and that's a good thing! My struggles, trials, and challenges aren't all that unique; they are, in fact, common to human existence. Some days ARE hard. Some seasons ARE lonely. Sometimes, we hide in the closet and let the tears flow freely. It's all normal in a broken world. It's okay. God has given us grace in Christ and continues to supply all that we need.

Glimpses of Grace: Treasuring the Gospel in Your HomeGloria Furman and I have been reading a lot of the same authors. The influence of John Piper, Milton Vincent, Wendy Alsup, D.A. Carson, John Calvin, Jeremiah Burroughs and many others was evident throughout Glimpses of Grace. Gloria isn't uncovering new truths in  her book but simply restating the one, essential truth about what God has done for us in Christ again and again and again. She faithfully applies this Biblical truth to home life with a conversational tone and sense of humor that helps her reader treasure God, savor the beauty of Jesus, and keep her eyes on the Gospel by which we can behold the glory of God (pg. 67). She reminds her reader of the importance of taking "...pains 'to study Christ.' We study Christ because we've been saved for the purpose of being transformed into his image, and in our beholding, the work of transformation occurs" (pg. 68).

Reminiscent of John Piper's book, Future Grace, Gloria Furman reminds us to look back and to look forward (pg. 85) and persevere:
"Faith looks backward to the cross and believes that Jesus has purchased every spiritual blessing for us with his blood (Eph. 1:3). Faith also looks forward to the reward of all that God has for us in Christ. This is the kind of faith that changes the way you live today and makes you into a homemaker whose goal and delight is in God and in being conformed to his image" (pg. 165).
I'm not sure if it was my "mommy brain" reading the book, Gloria's "mommy brain" writing the book, or some combination of the two, but there were several times that I had difficulty following Gloria's train of thought. This doesn't necessarily diminish the content of Glimpses of Grace; it just made me feel a little scatterbrained at times as I tried to wrap my mind around what the author was trying to communicate. It sort of reminded me of walking in on the middle of something; I wasn't always sure where it started or how I got quite where I was, but it was beautiful nonetheless.

Gloria sees and communicates the Gospel clearly in many little life moments and shares these anecdotes with her readers. These chapters are encouraging to those who are seeking to "preach" the Gospel truth to themselves again. This is not a practical "how to" book, but an example of how one mom seeks to apply Gospel truth on a daily basis in her home. I think Glimpses of Grace will prove an edifying read to all who desire to savor the beauty of Christ afresh (pg. 58).

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

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Book Review: Anselm of Canterbury

Anselm of Canterbury (Illustrated Christian Biographies for Young Readers)Long time readers of this blog need no introduction to Simonetta Carr or her "Christian Biographies for Young Readers".  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.

In her latest title, Anselm of Canterbury, the big question before the reader is, "Why did God have to become man? If God can do anything, couldn't He have saved His people some other way?" With clarity and simplicity, Simonetta Carr presents Anselm's Biblical answer to this question in a way that children can easily comprehend, without over-simplifying the concept. Being a gifted author, Simonetta conveys these truths as she relays the captivating story of Anselm's life without being "preachy" (as some might say).

Like the other books in the "Christian Biographies for Young Readers" series, Anselm of Canterbury is carefully researched, informative, and interesting.  Ms. Carr includes a map, photos, and a timeline to aid understanding. Additionally, the detailed artwork by Matt Abraxas serves to further draw one into the story of Anselm's life. Ms. Carr includes appropriate, well-chosen quotes to accompany her writing. One will also find a clear Gospel presentation throughout Anselm of Canterbury.

As we've come to expect from the "Christian Biographies for Young Readers" series, Anselm of Canterbury is a high quality, hardcover book with thick pages and a sewn binding making it sturdier than many books published today. This makes it a collectible title that will hold up well to many years of use.

Christian Biographies for Young Readers 5 Book SetI highly recommend Anselm of Canterbury and pray that many will grow in their understanding of the necessity of the incarnation and of the importance and value of studying church history as a result of this fine 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 and Reformation Heritage Books for providing me with a complimentary copy of Anselm of Canterbury in exchange for my honest opinion!