The Blessing of Humility {A Tyndale House Publishers Review}

51iAuTrahBL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

Over the last year, I’ve spent much of my time reading and studying the book of Matthew.  As such, the “Sermon of the Mount” has had content that I have pondered frequently.  So, when I received the opportunity to review the book, The Blessing of Humility: Walk within Your Calling, I knew that I wanted to read it.

Author, Jerry Bridges, passed away earlier this year, but he was a prolific author and many people seem to enjoy his devotional and applicational exegesis of passages.  I will confess that this is my first experience with Mr. Bridges’s work, and after a perusal of his list of best-selling books, I’ve added several to my “to-read” list.

The Blessing of Humility begins by posing the idea that humility and love are the two most important character qualities (by selection of times mentioned in the scriptures) for the New Testament believer to possess. Mr. Bridges posits as his thesis that the beatitudes are truly pictures of humility in action. So, taking this approach, Bridges spends the remainder of the book examining each of the beatitudes and and comparing scripture with scripture to see how we can applicationally apply these precepts to our lives.

This book is short.  It’s about 95 pages before the discussion guide. If you’re reading it, you could probably read straight through the book in an hour or two.  However, the weight of what Mr. Bridges is saying really only begins to sink in with repeated reading and reflection.  There are so many things that I could say about this book, I could probably write a chapter length treatment, so I decided to just give you three examples.

First, I realized in the chapter on peacemaking, that the reason why I’m not a peacemaker with my children is that I’m holding grudges against them for their childish behavior.  I had foolishly put conflict in my relationship with them down to their fault, and I realize now that it’s the evil in my heart towards them and the times I’m withholding love because of my sinful behavior and unforgiveness.

Second, in the chapter on meekness, Bridges makes a brief exegesis of a verse I’m very attracted to in Ephesians 4.  In his book, his conclusion is that most of the time we harm each other far more with our speech than with our actions.  (Guilty here!)  He takes just a little time to point out that in Ephesians 4 that there are two absolutes that Paul gives for our speech in this verse: (1) NO corrupting Talk (2) ONLY such as is good for building up.  I truly felt the weight of my own sinfulness here.

Third, in the chapter on being poor in spirit, there was a quote that I loved so much that I had to take a piece of paper and hand-letter it to tape into a page in my Bible.  I find that the further I walk in the Christian life, the worse of a sinner I feel like.  Bridges reminds us that we aren’t really sinning more; it’s just that we’re becoming more and more aware of the sin that we already had in our lives.

My permanent reminder from this book!
My permanent reminder from this book!

So, at any rate, I thought this was a fantastic book.  It’s well worth reading, and I would recommend it to anyone.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

NJKV Teen Study Bible

_225_350_Book.1907.cover

I’m always on the search out for a good new Bible, so I was delighted to get a chance to review the NKJV Teen Study Bible this month.  It’s designed to be a usable Bible for everyone, with special advice and meanings for teens.  Here are a few of the features:

  • We Believe–This unpacks the Apostles’ Creed to reveal where and how in the Bible this is based.  This is probably my favorite thing about this Bible.  There’s a four page spread in the front that discusses what the Apostles Creed is, and it also has a copy of it with the Biblical references (phrase by phrase) marked in it.  When you turn to the corresponding Bible page,  there is a short article and more Biblical references to explore.  This would make an excellent little Bible study!
  • Panorama–A big picture view look at each book of the Bible.  Imagine this as a sum-up of the theme of an individual book of the Bible in just a sentence or two.
  • Key Indexes–There are indexes in the back that are arranged topically where you can look up the article in the Bible related to the topic that you are looking for devotional advice on.
  • To The Point–Reveals what the Bible says about pressing issues.  Some of these include: “God Keeps his Promises,” “Our Cross is Different,” and “There is a Hell.”
  • Dear Jordan–This is a Q&A type sidebar where different topics of practical application to teens are addressed.  For example, the first one I turned to dealt with why we shouldn’t smoke pot.  Another one I read looked at abortion.  I felt that these columns were well done and relevant for questions that teens have about the Bible.
  • Instant Access–These are personal and devotional applications from Bible passages.  These are short, well-done, and gives your teen a chance to apply what the Bible says to themselves and to reflect upon it.
  • Q&A–These test your knowledge on Bible trivia.  The question is on one page and answer is on the next page.  My son will really enjoy this feature of this Bible when he has a chance to page through it.
  • Bible Promises–Highlights Bible verses worth remembering.  These are just the verses written in a decorative circle.  It’s a nice visual feature to highlight verses, but I would have like to have seen these actually discussed in sidebar or article format.
  • Book Introductions–There’s an overview for each book of the Bible. These are brief, just a couple of paragraphs and a short outline of each book.

I feel like this is a really nice Bible, and if you have a teenager that you are looking for Bible for, this should make your shortlist.  It has good, solid advice without being overly intrusive or talking down to teens.  I think it’s a fun Bible, but serious too.  Perfect for teens, and not a bad choice for young adults.  I would definitely recommend it for both the teens that I teach Bible to, and will be keeping it on my shelf for my children as well.

Disclaimer:  I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Bearing Witness {A FlyBy Promotions Review}

51C0M7mo0fL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_

I’ve always enjoyed tales of Christian history.  I find myself edified  by hearing the discussions over doctrine, the stories of the spread of the gospel and the stories of those who have suffered or died in Christ’s name.  So, when I received the opportunity to review Plough Publishing House’s new book, Bearing Witness: Stories of Martyrdom and Costly Discipleship, I was sure that it would be a book that I would enjoy reading.

I was not to be disappointed.  Bearing Witness is a book that traces four periods of Christian history with martyr stories and stories of those who were persecuted for their religious beliefs. Although I wouldn’t classify all the martyrs covered as Anabaptists, the book does focus on martyrs of the Anabaptist tradition.

The book is separated into four sections.  The first covers early Christians such as Stephen, Polykarp and Perpetua.  The second section deals with martyrs of the reformation such as William Tyndale, Jakob and Katharina Hutter and Dirk Williams.  The third section is the early modern witness, including martyrs and persecuted Christians such as Ahn Ei Sook, Gnadenhutten, and Veronica Lohans.  The final section covers such people as Clarence Jordan, the Wurmbrands and Sarah Corson. Not all of the people are equally famous, but what is equal is their passion for Christ and willingness to give all in his service.

The stories were not equal in length.  Some stories are only a couple of pages, and others are quite lengthy.  Some stories are also more engaging than others for me.  There were a couple of  times with the conscientious objectors that were persecuted where I was literally saying, “Come on, guys.  Just go work on the farm and grow the plants or be part of the medical unit.”  However, an important cornerstone for much of the Anabaptist movement is nonresistance and pacifism.  As such, doing that would have violated their consciences and been a sin for them. However, because I don’t share that conviction, it was so frustrating, even for me as a Christian, to see them suffer what I would feel was needless persecution.

The chapter at the end on Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria and their persecution by Boko Haram discusses how many martyrs there are as a result of the Anabaptist pursuit of nonviolence.  Many of us Americans think of martyrs as a thing of the past or as an isolated incident, and yet the evidence of this book and others like it prove that danger in Christian service is a constant danger for many Christians around the world.

This is a book best read over time.  I think that one or two of the stories a day would be a great balance from this book so that you have time to digest and think about what you’ve been reading.  As a homeschool mom, I intend to put this book on my shelf to share with my children in their high school years as part of their education in church history.  It’s a great resource for learning about martyrs of both the past and present.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

My Favorite Things This Week

Motivation sunk to an all-time low for homeschooling this week.  I had a dental appointment and  got new tires for my car on Monday, we had AWANA awards on Wednesday, and the children know that all their friends are starting summer break this week.

Couple that with not having any real break (other than Christmas break) in their homeschooling over the past two years due to our product review schedule, and I have some very anxious and overexcited children who know they’re going to get a few weeks mostly off.

So, anyway, we’re limping towards the finish of our homeschool year.  I’m trying desperately not to start any new projects, products or studies, and we’re still plugging along at some of the work we’ve been doing.  At any rate, here are some of my favorite things from this week.

Connor has been watching Veggie Tales in the House over the past couple of months, and he’s really enjoyed an episode where Larry Boy eats sardines, and it gives him horribly stinky bad breath.  So, of course, Connor has to try his own sardines and see if they taste good and if he gets bad breath too.  Here is is trying them.

Sardines

Surprisingly he likes them fairly well.:-)

My hubby and I are serving in our church’s children’s church this month, and he’s teaching a curriculum package he really likes called Faith Studios.  This week’s lesson focused on Moses’s parents and their faith.  As part of the lesson the children made bulrushes, so of course, the first thing Ellie does with hers is to put it on her head as a hat.  She looked so cute that I just had to take a picture!

bulrushes

On Monday, I went to the dentist for a follow-up cleaning and periodontal mapping after some fillings and root planing.  I’ve been dealing with some gum issues, and just a major dental nightmare, so the dentist is an every three month thing with lots of attention at home right now.

At any rate, my mom kept all four of my children on Monday afternoon so that I could get the dental stuff done and get new tires for my car.  Good news was my gums are starting to look better! Yay!  I also no longer have to pump up my tire every other day and my wheel doesn’t vibrate when I drive on the interstate any more.  So, Monday was a good personal day for me.

I loved this picture of both my youngest and my oldest enjoying the outdoors at my Mom’s house by playing on their tablets.  They’re so much alike.

outside

I’m also really enjoying Bennett’s new worldview curriculum. He’s using the first of Apologia’s books, Who is God? along with the note booking journal.  I just have to tell you guys that I’ve decided to use this as our middle school worldview/Bible curriculum for all the kids as they grow.  I think it’s a solid foundation for us after reading the four books and looking through it.

This week we talked about optical illusions and the importance of seeing clearly when we’re talking about the truth and how we live our lives.  It’s a powerful analogy for anyone.

optical illusions

I’ve also been experimenting with WriteShop A for the little two this week.  I planned on using it for Connor last year for writing curriculum, and I never ended up working it in, but this year would be the perfect year for both of the little kids to use it.

Once we finish with unit one (on animals), it is my intention to shelve the curriculum for the summer and bring it back for both the little kids to work on in the fall.

I really like this picture of Ellie with her panda (her favorite animal) drawing.  It’s perhaps the hardest that she’s ever worked on a drawing, and I’m pleased not only with the result, but with the hard work she put in.  Next week, we’ll be working on editing and publishing this project, and then we’ll put aside WriteShop for about 6 weeks.  They’ll be doing it as the bigger two work through Student Writing Intensive.

panda

That about does it for all my favorite things for this week.  How was your week? Are you schooling year round or heading toward a summer break?

Hunting Hope’ by Nika Maples (Plus a Giveaway and Live Webcast)

At twenty, Nika Maples learned that when hope was all she had, she claimed it boldly while defying all odds to recover from a devastating stroke. The lessons from that struggle are powerful and universal, and she shares those lessons in her new book, Hunting Hope. Doctors warned that she had as little as 48 hours to live, and—if she lived at all—she would never walk or talk again. There was no hope on the horizon. So Nika started to hunt for it. Today, she not only walks, but she speaks to audiences everywhere about the power of hunting hope when a situation appears hopeless. She says hope remains camouflaged in the daily mundane. If we are not looking for it, we will miss it, though it is right before our eyes.

Celebrate the release of Hunting Hope with a $200 Getaway Giveaway (details below) and a live webcast with Nika on May 26!

hunting hope-400

One grand prize winner will receive:

  • One copy of Hunting Hope
  • A $200 Hilton gift card to give a hope hunter the chance to rest

Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on 5/24. The winner will be announced at the Hunting Hope live author webcast on 5/26. RSVP for a chance to connect with Nika and other hope hunters, as well as for a chance to win other prizes!

hunting hope-enter

RSVP today and spread the word—tell your friends about the giveaway via FACEBOOK, TWITTER, or PINTEREST and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 26th!

NKJV Study Bible, Personal Size, Paperback {A BookLook Blogger Review}

_225_350_Book.1937.cover

I very seldom turn down the chance to review Bibles.  After all, I love every single one.  I like the feel of the thinner paper, the notes I inevitably end up jotting into the margins, the study notes and sidebars as well as knowing that I can hold in my hand the very words of God.  So, it was no surprise to me that, when I saw the NKJV Personal Size study Bible appearing on BookLook Bloggers’ Review List for this month, there was soon a copy heading toward my house.

The NKJV Study Bible has been available for a while in other formats, but this is its first release in a softcover edition.  As far as Bible features go, this one boasts:

  • A full color page design
  • Thomas Nelson’s complete cross-reference system including the NKJV translators’ notes
  • Over 15,000 clear, readable, verse-by verse study notes
  • Bible times and culture notes
  • Redesigned, full-color in-text maps and charts
  • Articles on key doctrines of the Bible
  • Word studies with Strong’s numbers
  • Book introductions, outlines, and timelines
  • Harmony of the Gospels, index, concordance, and redesigned color maps

I picked up and began flipping through the Bible.  At 2 3/4 pounds, it has a heavy feel to it.  You’re not going to forget you’re holding this one!  I was also a little discouraged that the Bible didn’t lay flat when I opened it to begin glancing through.  The margins are also small for someone like me who likes to take notes, so it’s not going to be a note taking or journaling Bible.

However, once I got over the aesthetic and margin size disappointment, I was able to stand back and take a better look at the actual contents, and I found myself to be pleased.  The Bible is full-color.  I spent most of my time, as I looked through this Bible for review in the book of I Corinthians, and the introduction includes a photograph of  modern-day Greece viewing towards the Gulf of Corinth.  The introduction also includes two pages of introduction, an outline to the book, a timeline of the events where this letter fits into the timeline of Paul’s life and a drawing and description of Corinth in the time of the apostle Paul.  All of these were very interesting and informative.

As I took the text of I Corinthians, I saw that about half (and sometimes less) of each page is covered in the actual Biblical text.  The remainder of the page includes cross-references, translation notes, verse-by-verse study notes, sidebars and word studies.  This is a really great Bible to help explain the text as you go through your studies.  My favorite portion of all of these had to be the Greek word studies because, other than my Bible, my most gone for resources is my Vine’s dictionary.  I also love all Bibles that have center margin cross-references.  They’re a basic tool that makes Bible study so much easier, but I am finding that more and more of Bibles I review are beginning to omit these great tools for study.  The notes and sidebars that I have looked at are all excellent, and I feel like, despite some aesthetic complaints, that I’m going to enjoy using this Bible in my personal studies and teaching.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Jesus Called–He Wants His Church Back {A BookLook Bloggers Review}

_225_350_Book.1875.cover

When I saw the title of the book Jesus Called–He Wants His Church Back, I laughed outloud, and knew I had to read the book.  I’ve read many books over the past few years about the American church and why the authors feel like, in their opinion, the American church is dying, so I knew that this book would be in the same vein, calling for a more radical faith and reminding us what the purpose of the church is.

In Ray Johnston’s case, he begins by building a compelling case of how American culture has lost it’s distinctive Christian flavor, slowly, one degree at a time over the past seven decades.  He also explains why worldview is so important, and how few professed Christians in the United States affirm a Biblical worldview.

The rest of the book is spent detailing the author’s opinion on how Christians can be more motivated, more committed and better followers of Jesus. This includes a lot of lists.  In fact, every chapter is organized into lists with titles such as, “five tips to breaking free from the idols of safety,” “three things that are killing your spiritual life,” and “six things early Christ followers majored in.”

I’m not a huge fan of list making, so I will freely admit that seeing the continual lists really exhausted me after a while.  It also made me feel like I was at a pep-rally on the 20 steps to be a better Christian or the 37 ways I’m deficient as a follower of Jesus. (Note: Those aren’t actual lists in the book.)  So, I was not a fan of this aspect of the book, and I found myself tuning out of portions of the book after I’d read a few of the lists through.

I also find that I’m beginning to feel uninterested in this style of book and the related sermons that we hear. I find that most Christians are doing the best they can, and as they grow in their relationship with the Lord, he will guide and direct him. They just have to be open to it. I don’t think these lists do anything truly for us except to make us feel like we can be super Christians if we are able to check certain things off a list.  I also think that, by design, these kinds of books make people feel like spiritual failures because they feel that they aren’t “doing enough.”  I don’t think any of that is the author’s intention.  I think he just wants to point out what he sees as wrong in our culture and suggest some ideas for correcting it through the church, but I still think the net effect is to make one feel more than a little “less than” as they meander through the pages of this book.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review from the publisher.