Friday, August 22, 2014

Book Review: Good News for Weary Women

The title of this book grabbed my attention right away; what busy, working mother isn't weary and in need of a little good news?

However, this book doesn't address the sort of general weariness that busy women experience from just getting through the day.  The author is primarily interested in the bondage women face when they're trying to please God through their to-do lists, clean houses, committee meetings and endless other activities.

I count myself fortunate to not have experienced much of the pressures that Elyse Fitzpatrick discusses in this book: the checklists, bad advice, and burdens heaped upon women in order to feel worthy. 

Some of the bad news that women receive include pressure that a godly woman should:
  • Always have a clean, well-decorated house
  • Always have well-behaved (and groomed) children
  • Always be willing and ready to pursue romance and intimacy with her husband
  • Make all their food from scratch
  • Study the Bible and pray every day...without fail
  • Don't speak up or ask too many questions in church
Fitzpatrick counters this with the Good News that a woman's highest calling is to believe: to rest and rejoice in the work that Christ accomplished.  When we seek to earn God's favor--or become "good enough"--through our own actions, we fall into the trap of legalism and heap unnecessary burdens on our shoulders.

Fitzpatrick is careful not to swing far in the other direction (It doesn't matter what you do.) and she acknowledges that women find joy in homemaking and serving.  But she endlessly cautions against pursuing any activity because we believe it will lead to salvation or greater holiness.

I love how she explains that some of our American Christian beliefs are actually closer to Karma than Christ and how we sometimes take something that pleases God (X) and feel that, if we add to it (Y) we somehow make God happier. You don't have to belong to a legalistic church to have heard that.

Each chapter contains question for discussion and reflection and this would make a fantastic book study for a women's group.

Highly recommended for its Scripture-based advice, warm writing style, and thoughtful end-of-chapter questions.

Good News for Weary Women: Escaping the bondage of to-do lists, steps, and bad advice
Elyse M. Fitzpatrick
Tyndale House Publishers
2014

I received a copy of this book from the Tyndale Blog Network in return for an honest review.



Saturday, June 28, 2014

Book Review: Know the Heretics

If you've ever heard of the Gnostics or Pelagius and wondered what they had to do with church history and heresy and how they're relevant today, author Justin Holcomb has written a book for you. 

Each chapter in Know the Heretics provides historical context, why the teaching was heretical, what the orthodox church's response was and how knowing about each heretical theology is relevant today.  Holcomb closes each chapter with discussion questions for a small group and a brief bibliography for learning more.

Chapters include:
Judaizers
Gnostics
Marcion
Docetists
Mani
Sabellius
Arius
Apollinarius
Pelagius
Eutyches
Nestorius
Socinus

By arranging the heresies historically, Holcomb also instructs readers on how the church had to define beliefs on the character of God, the nature of Christ, the persons of the Trinity, and the means of salvation.

This is not an easy subject and this book, though brief, is not a quick read.  However, Holcomb provides enough information to begin a study on each historical heresy.  It's particularly good that he includes a section on contemporary relevance, since some of these heresies refuse to die and persist in modern churches, particularly churches that are moving away from using established church creeds and historical study.  Whether you always agree with Holcomb's conclusions or not, this is the sort of book that makes you think about what you believe, about what your church is teaching, and about the message of contemporary Christianity in light of the historical church.

Recommended.

I received a copy of this free from Book Look Bloggers in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Book Review: Zondervan Essential Atlas of the Bible

One of the most fascinating classes I took in seminary was Historical Geography of the Bible a.k.a "The Maps Class."  We studied the Bible through the study of the land and the ways that people moved and settled in the Holy Land. It really added a new dimension to my personal Bible study.
This atlas provides a similar service.   The first few chapters of the atlas discuss the geography of the Middle East which is useful for understanding why some of the events unfolded the way they did.   Subsequent chapters take readers through Biblical history with maps and charts detailing the movement of the Patriarchs, the conquest of Canaan, the kingdom united and divided, the time between the Testaments and the time of Jesus and the early church.

I was pleasantly surprised to see the amount of information that Zondervan packed into this 160 page atlas. (It's a bookshelf book that would fit into a tote bag--not a coffee table book.)   Readers have around 200 detailed maps and photographs to examine, plus color charts, tables, and graphs that provide historical context and relevant information for each section. Carl Rasmussen's articles on the different periods of Biblical history are detailed and his writing style is easy for laypeople to follow. He provides ample Biblical citations and explains where archaeologists are still trying to determine location for Biblical events.

This is much more than just an atlas to look up places on maps. The articles are a helpful companion as you study the Bible and the Scripture index helps locate maps and charts relevant to a passage.  

Highly recommended.   An essential reference for anyone who's serious about Bible study.  Also useful for anyone planning a trip to the Holy Land.

I received a copy of this atlas from Booklook Bloggers in return for an honest review.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Book Review: Schools in Crisis by Nicole Baker Fulgham

Schools in Crisis is one of a series of "Frames" published by the Barna Group. Each of the Barna Frames provides data-driven information about a particular social issue or trend. The Frames are meant to be an overview, a discussion starter, and possibly a springboard to action for a group of interested people.

This particular frame focuses on America's public schools. Barna's research found that 46% of Americans think public schools are on the decline and fewer than half of Americans view public schools favorably.  While more than 77% of Christians believe that they should get involved in public schools, many are unsure how to get involved or feel that schools don't want Christians to be involved.

Author Nicole Baker Fulgham introduces readers to the world of students at low-performing (mostly urban) schools and the need for Christians to take an active role in mentoring, tutoring, and otherwise supporting schools as they work to overcome overwhelming social and educational problems.

The final chapter briefly introduces us to a church in Oregon that has gotten involved and provides advice for finding ways for churches to partner with schools in crisis.

I was interested in this Frame because I work at an urban school that is succeeding, largely through the efforts of dedicated staff and numerous volunteers who support teachers and students.  My own church partners with several local schools to address the needs of children who run the risk of going hungry on the weekend when no school breakfast or lunch is available.

I applaud Nicole Baker Fulgham for her call to Christians to engage this social problem head on.  She invites Christians to get involved directly through volunteering, but also encourages Christians to take on the role of advocate with local school boards and state and local governments to provide better funding and to learn about the social issues that impact the community.

Although Schools in Crisis is brief--a mere 72 pages of discussion--it packs in a good deal of well documented research and personal stories.  I agree with Fulgham; this is an issue that Christians should engage--not to throw stones at public schools, but to help lift up the teachers, staff, and students in at-risk schools.

This is a social issue that impacts everyone in America, whether you have children or not. Highly recommended.

I was provided with a copy of this book by HarperCollins Christian Publishing in return for an honest review.