Review: The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child; Volume 1: Ancient Times (Story of the World: History for the Classical Child

The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child; Volume 1: Ancient Times (Story of the World: History for the Classical Child
The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child; Volume 1: Ancient Times (Story of the World: History for the Classical Child by Susan Wise Bauer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Excellent summary of history. Great combination of short, clear and accurate.

Written for younger children as a history text, it can be read aloud or given as a text with workbooks and tests.

- doesn't address the very beginning of creation, integrating it with Genesis 1-3.

- only covers Israel and Christianity in about 10 pages, out of 325.

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Review: Beyond the Summerland

Beyond the Summerland
Beyond the Summerland by L.B. Graham

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Written for middle school age from a Christian worldview, Graham mimics Tolkien in creating a fantasy world. Unity among men and other races against the bad guy is essential to victory.

This is the first of five, and I've only read this one, yet. They are lengthy and a bit wordy. Universe creation, character development, and plot motion are tricky to pull off all at once, and Graham leans toward the second. This creates the needed suspense of plot action, but there isn't much hinting at the broader world, yet. The literary style isn't as grand as the Inklings, but it's a decent accomplishment.

The violence is graphic at times (battle) but not gratuitous. It maintains clear gender distinction amidst battle strategy (i.e., no women in combat).

There are love interests, and the author dwells on them at length. The characters are several years older than the typical reader, which may cause problems for some (the characters can handle what they go through, but could the reader?). But generally it is very tame, and also helps readers think through how they should handle romance when it comes. It handles the relationships with maturity, upholding self-control and self-less-ness. It may be useful to have children read stories like this before they hit adolescence. Probably has more influence with the kids than the direct "date [or not] this way" book.

Unconventional plot twists added interest - no spoilers!

This is perfect if you don't know what to give your growing boy (12-15 ideal) to read, anymore!

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Review: Respectable Sins: Confronting The Sins We Tolerate Small Group Curriculum

Respectable Sins: Confronting The Sins We Tolerate Small Group Curriculum
Respectable Sins: Confronting The Sins We Tolerate Small Group Curriculum by Jerry Bridges

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Bridges takes us through several areas of behavior that we tend to tolerate and excuse away. Looking first at the sinfulness of sin, and the glory of gospel forgiveness, we then delve into things like unthankfulness, anxiety, discontent, pride, impatience, anger, judging others, and envy.

Bridges diagnoses the heart incisively throughout, with good definitions of each sin, biblical texts pointing to it, and real life stories of how these sins grip us and how to turn away from them.

He did well avoiding a morbid introspection (pointing to our standing with God in the righteousness of Christ, not based on how well we diagnose our respectable sins), while also getting specific about sinful patterns.

I used the small-group curriculum edition to lead a small group. The format was good - long passages of the book, then a few pages of study questions for individuals and a group. Some of the questions didn't foster much discussion, though.

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On Sharing Your Faith

When it is time to give an answer for the hope within us, keep these things in mind.

1. Reason has its limits
Apart from the work of the Holy Spirit removing blindness and hardhearted-ness, our arguments and rational proofs will not bring anyone into the kingdom. Trust not in your persuasiveness or compelling logic, but in the sovereign God who moves the king's heart like channels of water (Proverbs 21:1). Many people are convinced and brought to Christ less by logical arguments than by receiving compassion, grace and love from followers of the Lord Jesus.

2. The Christian faith is reasonable
At the same time, be diligent to have a reasonable, winsome case for faith. God may use this to bring people to Him, at His pleasure. Christian truth is not confined to reason (witness the doctrine of the Trinity), but the faith is not irrational, either.
The church's evangelism is greatly hindered, because we simply have not thought through ahead of time a 30-60 explanation of our faith, to present in casual conversation. So we say nothing, because we aren't ready.

3. Know your audience
Some people are just looking for a fight, or entertainment, or someone to mock. Don't beat your head against a brick wall. Don't throw pearls before swine. But don't scoff back, either. Always treat people respectfully, even if you are answering a fool according to his folly (Proverbs 26:5). Others genuinely want to know why you would go to all the trouble to go to church, as a for instance. You have more of an opportunity, though probably not time for a 15 minute speech. Do you know your unbelieving coworkers well enough to know their biggest objections to the faith?

4. Know your offense and defense
When you are asked why you do what you do or believe what you do, people often ask with a bit of guarded-ness, acting like they are fine how they are, as a self-defense mechanism, when they are really seeking answers. Be careful not to get overly defensive to a basic question asked with a hint of "you're kind of weird." At that point you are on defense, and that is fine. Assume the burden of proof when others are ignorant of the faith. Be willing to take the time to lay it out for them, if they really want to hear.

These kinds of conversations are two-way streets, usually, not the one-sided speeches we see in the book of Acts. Expect questions and push-back. Sometimes it's time to go on offense. Question their assumptions, which will be flawed somewhere, if they are questioning the faith. Point out the inconsistencies and illogical leaps they are making. It takes as much faith to believe materialism or to be agnostic, as it does to be a Christian. Show where they are asserting and assuming without proof, while they expect you to have a proof for everything. You can be on offense like this without being offensive.

5. Give it time
God usually converts people over an extended process of several conversations with more than one person. Our evangelism is stymied by our ego-centered assumptions that we have to convince, that we have to close the deal now, before they die tomorrow. Shorter conversations, asking to continue it later, takes the pressure off both sides, gives you time to pray, and the Lord will work in their heart in the meantime.