Monday, December 24, 2012

Learn to Make Better Decisions

A Review of "The Best Question Ever" by Andy Stanley

Can one question really help you make the right decisions in every area of your life?  Andy Stanley says, "Yes!"  Whether a decision involves your love life, employment options, or everyday activities, one simple question can inform your decision.  If you are tired of regrets, tired of making apologies, and tired of fixing your mistakes, learn to make better choices the first time.

Stanley brings a pastor's perspective and experiences to this book.  Many of the problems he saw/sees in his office could have been avoided if the party/parties had asked a simple question.  While it is a bit annoying that he does not reveal the actual question until several chapters have elapsed, it is well worth the wait.

One quote from the book really sums up the problems in most of our lives: "…while nobody plans to mess up his life, the problem is that few of us plan not to."  Ouch!  He's talking to me.  I recommend this book for inclusion in every church library, pastor's study, and counselor's resource collection.  It is also a useful read for everyone else.  Consider giving it to a high school or college student facing many decisions.

I received a free review copy of this book from Waterbrook-Multonomah publishers.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Great Stories Relate to the Greatest Story

A Book Review of  "Finding God in The Hobbit" by Jim Ware

Though "The Hobbit" is not an allegory, it is a great story.  Great stories are great because they reflect in some ways our own stories.  "The Hobbit" is about journeys, friendships, and the struggle against evil.  We love or despise the characters because they tell us things about our own souls.

In "Finding God in 'The Hobbit'" Jim Ware brings his knowledge of theology and literature together in an exploration of Tolkein's classic children's tale: a tale that came to be beloved by readers of all ages.  In each chapterhe shares a story from the book and relates it to our own life journeys.  As Ware says, "God meets us…in that miraculous place where the Word becomes Flesh; the place where we…find ourselves swept up into the plot of the greatest Story of all." (p.166)

This quality hardcover book would make a thoughtful gift for anyone who loves English literature or Tolkein's work in particular.  Its small size (about 8 x 5 inches) makes for convenient reading, too.

I received a free review copy of this book from Tyndale Publishers.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The World Needs Fearless Women

Book Review: "Fearless Daughters of the Bible" by J. Lee Grady

This beautiful and engaging book has 15 chapters, each about women from the Bible who courageously followed God's call even when it went against tradition.  These women were willing to be misunderstood, to endure danger, and to walk by faith, not by sight. 

After profiling each biblical woman, Grady gives modern examples of women who displayed the same character traits as the biblical example.  For instance, in Chapter Two we meet the daughters of Zelophehad.  They appealed to Moses because of the unfairness of inheritance laws that would cause their father's name to disappear from their tribe because he had no sons.  Almighty God told Moses these women were right.  The law was changed to conform to God's ruling.  The modern example for this chapter was Rosa Parks, who also faced obstacles and challenged the unjust practices of her day.

Each chapter ends with "A Message from your Heavenly Father" in which Grady describes a blessing or affirmation God offers his daughters.  The author is father to four daughters and has an obvious passion for encouraging women to become all God made them to be.  This would be an excellent book for a Bible study class or as a graduation gift for a young woman.

I received a free review copy of this book from Chosen Books, a division of Baker Publishing Company.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Day Reading: American Patriots

American Patriots by Rick Santorum

This short book is an encouragement to the reader.  Have you ever thought that you couldn't do anything important for your country because you were too young, too poor, too old, or otherwise disqualified?  Read this book.  Chapters are short, so this book could also be used as a read-aloud for classroom or homeschool history enrichment.

Instead of telling us more about the famous figures of the American Revolution, Santorum gives us snapshots of the lives of ordinary Americans who did extraordinary things in the name of freedom.  They were not stopped by the fact that they were women, or youth, or enslaved, or illiterate.  They simply did what they believed was right.  They did what they could.

In an era in which the media emphasize celebrities, it's time we all celebrated the many around us who make unsung contributions to our families, communities, and country.  I'm glad I got to know the people portrayed in American Patriots.

I received a free review copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Book Review: Embracing Obscurity

The premise of this book is that we are each one in 7 billion.  That doesn't mean we are insignificant, only that our obscurity can serve God's purposes just as another person's fame can.  This is something to ponder in a culture where people will do almost anything to get their face on TV for a moment and will consider that "face time" more significant than years spent serving their families and communities.

Most of Jesus' years on earth—thirty years out of thirty-three—were lived in obscurity.  He was a dutiful son, a carpenter, and a worshipper of God.  Even in  his three years of what we would call full-time ministry, he did not seek out fame.  Instead he embraced the life of sacrifice among a persecuted minority in the oppressive Roman Empire.  Although God in the flesh, He "made Himself of no reputation."  See Philippians chapter 2 for a fuller exposition of Jesus' voluntary obscurity.

Humility is a virtue greatly undervalued today.  It is time for us as God's people to truly be more like Jesus in this respect.

I received a free advanced reader copy of Embracing Obscurity B&H Publishing Group.  This book is also available as a Kindle edition.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Undaunted: The Autobiography of Josh McDowell

Josh McDowell is a man with a gifted intellect who overcame a childhood that would destroy many children.  His is a story of God's power to redeem lost years and create beauty from ashes.

Many are familiar with Josh McDowell as a powerful speaker and uncompromising defender of the Gospel.  Now Josh opens his heart and lets us in on the story of a life shaped by poverty, abuse and neglect.  His story will speak to anyone who has ever turned away from a God they thought was indifferent or even cruel.

Young Josh rejected God because he could not reconcile a loving God with the abuse he suffered from an alcoholic father and enabling mother; nor could he accept that God had stood by while he was sexually abused by a hired hand in his own home.  Josh rejected God with a passion and taunted Christians when he went to college.

The Christians he taunted were happy to have discussions with him.  Finally, they challenged him to disprove the resurrection—after all, to disprove the resurrection is to discredit the entire New Testament.  Josh took up the challenge, traveling to Europe and conversing with scholars until he finally had to accept that the resurrection was a real event.

Once Josh knew the truth, he applied his formidable intellectual gifts to advancing the Gospel and was transformed into the Josh we know today.  Along the way, he teaches us lessons in forgiveness.  He not only forgave his parents, but forgave the man who sexually abused him for years.  Undaunted is a story of triumph over tragedy.

I received a free review copy of this book from Tyndale.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Raising Good Children in a Decadent Culture

Here is my Motherhood Manifesto in which I declare my intentions to raise children who transcend the popular culture. Parents, decide now to empower your children by recognizing your power to prepare them to build a better world.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Finding Strength in Weakness

InSignificant tells the story of Chris Travis' two years of teaching at the worst middle school in New York City.  This pastor became a math teacher in order to serve those in the inner city.  Though he thought he was ready, he learned just how unready he was—and how sufficient God is.  This quote is one of my favorites:
 "Some days I could go into that awful school and deal with the stress for the sake of the kids.  Some days I couldn't.  On those days, I did it for Jesus." (p. 58)

As we realize our weakness and become more dependent on God, He does significant things through us.  Any moment, any small task, can matter for eternity.  To become significant, we must give up everything—comfort, pride, independence—for the sake of the One.

Travis refers to The Lord's Prayer, in which Jesus teaches us to pray "us, your, our, we…" instead of "me, my, mine."  Chris also points to the parable of the talents and gives examples of the ways God used some of his interests and skills in ways he never would have imagined.  Even a card trick, rusty karate skills and a knack for cartooning were used by God to bless his students, some of whom blessed him in return.

I received a free review copy of this book from Bethany House publishers.  It would make a great gift for teachers and student-teachers.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Teaching Kids the Skills Needed for Independent Living

Cleaning House is more than just another book about organizing your home.  It is really a book about empowering your children to become competent in important life skills.  A hundred years ago, a typical teen could run a farm or a household.  Now too often we find them clueless about simple things such as savings accounts and laundry.

As a somewhat "free-range" parent, I enjoyed this book.  I see helicopter parents all around me—doing their kid's projects, dousing everything with hand sanitizer, paying their teen's speeding tickets, etc.  I, too, am sometimes guilty of picking up after kids who could pick up after themselves. Wyma's book comes along and brightens my day with her candid accounts of teaching her children to cook, clean bathrooms, get a real job, and throw a party.  She inspires us to give kids the gift of competency.

Well done, Kay Wills Wyma.  The entitlement mentality ends here and now—in our own homes!  I thank Waterbrook Multnomah for sending me a free review copy of this book.

You can read the first chapter here.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Reading: Essential to a Constitutional Republic

The decline of serious reading is associated with the loss of freedom in America.  People don't understand the gift they were given when the founders created a new form of government--the constitutional republic.  Ann Coulter has addressed the problem of Republicans who don't read.  I am sure there are plenty of nonreaders among Democrats as well.  My educated guess would be that Libertarians probably read the most (just quiz them on the Constitution, Federalist Papers, or anything related to freedom and you'll be impressed!) and the non-affiliated read the least (that's why they think  "all parties are the same.")

I'm afraid Ann is right about nonreaders.  That's why nobody knows the historical record of Marxism, appeasement, disarmament, and religious intolerance.  That's why people think the government can fix everything and take care of them.  That's why they don't even know what's in the Constitution that was written to protect them FROM the government.  Most of them no longer even understand that they NEED protection from the government.  That's how freedom dies--through ignorance and laziness.

If you are reading this, I'm hoping that makes you a serious reader.  May I suggest the following:

Modern Times by Paul Johnson for a bloody history of the twentieth century.  Give a copy of this book to your Marxist acquaintances and defy them to defend the historical record of their deadly philosophy!

Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt is economics for the math-anxious.  Understand the concepts without doing regression analysis.

The Antitrust Paradox by Robert Bork is an excellent, detailed study of just one of the failures of progressivism--a perfect example of good intentions that have bad consequences.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Book Review: Abducted by Janice Cantore

This story combines action and suspense with just a hint of romance.  A kidnapped baby, a possible marriage reconciliation, a runaway teen and a problem roommate are just a few of the elements in this novel.  Janice Cantore weaves faith in and out of the plot in a natural, unforced way.  Both the Christian and non-Christian characters have struggles and misunderstandings that eventually get resolved.

The law enforcement situations are believable (Cantore was a cop) and the novel is well written to sustain suspense.  You won't want to put down the book until all the plot twists are untwisted.  Nothing will happen quite the way you expect—just like real life!

This would make a good addition to the fiction collection in your church library.  Be sure to get book #1, Accused, and look for book #3 in 2013.  Look for this book at or you rlocal Christian bookstore.

I received a free review copy of Abducted from Tyndale House Publishers in return for my review.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Greater by Steven Furtick

On sale September 4, 2012:

Are you feeling stuck in mediocrity?  Do you want to do great things?  Steven Furtick urges us to focus not on great, but on greater.  Beyond good enough and beyond human definitions of greatness is God's plan to do things in our lives that are greater than anything we could do without Him.

Using the life of Elisha as the pattern and example, this book leads the reader to dream big dreams and start with small steps. Like Elisha burning his plow before he followed Elijah, we need to get rid of things that tie us to our lesser life in order to follow God's call.  Furtick gives examples of people who gave up things that seemed great in order to pursue a greater calling.  He also shows that things we might not consider great may be part of our becoming greater in God.

Read an excerpt from Greater.

My favorite chapter is entitled "Digging Ditches."  In II Kings chapter 3, we find an army dying of thirst and two kings turning to Elisha for help.  The message from God is to "make this valley full of ditches."  God could have sent rain immediately, dropped water bottles from heaven, or created a reservoir out of nothing, but he tells them to dig ditches.  Do they really believe He will send water?  Fortunately for Israel, they trust the message and dig ditches all night long.  God then fills them with water.If you are waiting for something greater, ask yourself if you need to be digging a ditch.

The chapter "A Little Oil" is likewise a life changer.  When a prophet's widow is facing creditors who will take her sons as slaves, Elisha asks her "What do you have in your house?"  Instead of saying "nothing" she remembers there is a little oil.  In a variation of the ditch story, she is directed to borrow jars, which God fills with oil.  Are we moping around waiting for God to move when we should be out borrowing jars for him to fill?  Are we using what He has already given us?

Greater is a book for individual edification or for class study.  Discussion questions are included at the end of the book. I would recommend this for youth as well as adults.

I received an advance reading copy of this book from Multnomah Books in return for my honest review.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The End by Dr. Mark Hitchcock

This 500-page volume is an overview of Bible prophecy for the twenty-first century reader.  Hitchcock discloses his own views at the beginning of the book, so the reader knows what to expect.  After explaining why prophecy is so important (27% of the Bible is prophecy), he then covers opposing views as well as his own.  Hitchcock makes the case for his futuristic, pre-millennial, pre-tribulation rapture interpretation, citing Scripture and rebutting other views with a combination of humility and scholarship. 

Dr. Hitchcock wants the reader to understand why he holds his views, so the book includes an introduction to sound hermeneutics.  He explains principles of biblical interpretation while applying them to three key passages in prophecy: Daniel, the Olivet Discourse, and the Revelation.  He reveals patterns and sequences in these passages that give a chronology of the end times.

Short, meaty chapters address signs of the times, the Rapture, the Tribulation, the Millennium, the Judgments and Heaven/Hell.  This book does not disappoint.  As the cover says, it is "A Complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days."  The appendices include recommendations for further reading and plenty of notes.

I recommend this as a great resource for serious laity and for beginning college students in Christian Studies programs.  Hitchcock's writing is clear and complete.  He covers deep subjects without overwhelming the reader with "seminary speak."  My one small gripe was his use of the New Living Translation, which is a bit too casual in tone for my taste, but that did not detract from my enjoyment of this enlightening book.

I received a free copy of The End  from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Creative Geniuses Hated School and Textbooks

This short article says it all for those of us who remember school as a prison.  If that was your experience, you were in good company: Einstein, George Bernard Shaw and Richard Feynman felt the same way.  George Bernard Shaw's description of textbooks alone is worth reading this article:

"With the world's bookshelves loaded with fascinating and inspired books, the very manna sent down from Heaven to feed your souls, you are forced to read a hideous imposture called a school book, written by a man who cannot write..."

Yes, those who love learning, yet hate school, others felt your pain.

Friday, July 6, 2012

How Can We Attract Gifted Teachers?

I have written an article exploring why gifted students do not go into education and suggesting how the profession might change to attract the gifted.

Children Need Gifted Teachers

Monday, July 2, 2012

Book Review for Independence Day Reading: Fearless by Eric Blehm

Fearless is more than just another book about the Navy SEALs.  It is the story of one man's journey from deep despair to peace with God, from failure to elite warrior.  Adam Brown's story is the timeless story of the prodigal son.  This is a book for fans of military literature as well as families seeking hope for their own prodigals.  Detailed accounts of SEAL training can be found in a number of books, but Fearless is the story of a SEAL, a husband, a father, and a friend.

Eric Blehm masterfully weaves Adam's personal story with the story of his life as a SEAL.  Blehm was careful to get details from the lips of Adam's childhood friends in Arkansas, his family, and those with whom he trained and fought.  The timing of the book was providential; many who told their stories to the author were killed on August 6, 2011, when their helicopter was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade.

From football standout to drug addict, from recovery through boot camp and BUD/S, you will find yourself rejoicing in Adam's growing faith and marveling at the love displayed by his wife and parents.  This honest account includes his stumbles as well as his triumphs, since Adam wanted his story known in its entirety as a testimony to the power and sufficiency of the grace of God.

I received a free copy of this book from WaterBrook-Multnomah Publishers for review.  Read the first chapter for yourself right now.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Introverted Learners Take Note!

Quiet by Susan Cain: A Book Review

Teachers and parents need to read this book before engaging in a program to "fix" a quiet, shy or sensitive child.  Adults who have been criticized from childhood for not being social enough or aggressive enough will finally find in Susan Cain somebody who understands and affirms their temperament.  Cain is both an introvert and a passionate advocate for the quiet souls in American schools and businesses.  She includes stories of real introverts, past and present, so readers can learn from their struggles and achievements.

Eleven well-researched chapters (50 pages of end notes) discuss the biology and psychology of temperament, offer practical advice for both introverts and extroverts about communicating with one another, and point out cultural differences (e.g. Asians value introverts while Americans marginalize them.) If this were not enough, Quiet also gives practical advice for structuring offices and classrooms so that introverted workers and students can think and create without being intimidated or overwhelmed. If you have been the victim of an open office floor plan or a "collaborative learning" classroom, Cain feels your pain!

I appreciate finally finding someone who does not consider introversion a disorder to be "cured" but an alternate, equally valid way of thinking and working.  Susan Cain understands how I could once pretend to love the loud, back-slapping atmosphere of a consulting environment while inwardly wishing I could just go work in my office with the door closed—forever!  She even includes a chapter about introverts and church.  I learned I'm not the only one who doesn't want to go to women's conferences where I have to play games, spill my guts to the whole class or engage in "team-building exercises."  Should I be considered less spiritual if I prefer just a few close friends or would rather work in the kitchen or library than teach a large group?

My one slight irritation was her use of Al Gore as one of her examples.  Yes, use him as an example of an introvert; however I don't think his inconvenient "truth" deserved two pages in this excellent book (especially since Susan Cain's positions are backed by more credible, non-politically-motivated research than Gore's.)  Otherwise her stories are winsome and cover a variety of cultures and lifestyles: immigrants, politicians, business leaders, lawyers and little children.  Her story at the end of the book about her grandfather was especially touching.  He was an introvert and a greatly loved rabbi.  I know I would have loved him, too!

Read an excerpt from Quiet to see if Susan Cain speaks to you. I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Homeschooling: Power to the People!

Great article on the increase in homeschooling among African-Americans.  Parents have to be proactive and make the best choice for each child individually.  I'd like to thank the pioneers of homeschooling who spent the eighties lobbying and even going to jail so that today's parents have the advantage of legal homeschooling.  Thanks also to all the great publishers and writers who produce outstanding curriculum for independent learners.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Is Rich-Poor Gap a Result of the Information Age?

Charles Murray's latest book, Coming Apart,  explores the widening gap between the American upper class and lower class.  This gap is largely a result of cognitive sorting, a phenomenon described in an earlier book by Murray and Herrnstein (The Bell Curve.)  Because brains are worth big money in the information age and brainy people tend to marry and live among others like themselves, they are increasingly isolated from the rest of society.  Murray traces behavioral trends since 1963 that have made the United States a very different place from the country founded in 1776. 

From the beginning, America has taken pride in being a classless society, at least as classes existed in Europe and Asia.  When asked to describe themselves, Americans of most income levels have self-identified as "middle class" even if they were really among the working poor or the higher income brackets.  Until recently, pride kept the poor from admitting their struggles and propriety kept the rich from vulgar displays of wealth.  The celebrity culture, as seen on reality TV, and the entitlement mentality, e.g. the Occupy movement, are fairly recent developments.

The four key behaviors or "founding virtues" studied by Murray are: industriousness, honesty, marriage and religiosity.  His research into these four virtues shows alarming trends, given that these virtues have been shown to be tightly linked to economic success.  The new lower class is increasingly characterized by low rates of marriage, labor force participation and religious or civic engagement and by high rates of crime.  At the same time, the new upper class continues to marry, works long hours, and at least pays token visits to a house of worship—although they are reluctant to suggest these virtues to the lower class for fear of appearing judgmental.

Murray concludes with two possible scenarios.  The pessimistic view sees America fail as a republic when current trends continue.  The optimistic view hopes that advances in neuroscience and genetics will show unequivocally that the assumptions of the welfare state are faulty and cause real damage to the human mind and soul.  In this view, the welfare state is replaced by a return to the virtues that made America possible in the first place.

I received this book free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Book Review: The Resignation of Eve by Jim Henderson

When I picked up this book I was expecting to read about burnout among the hardworking female volunteers in our churches.  What I found instead was a quantitative and qualitative study of what women think about their roles in the church today.  The Barna Group did the quantitative part of the study.  Jim Henderson then found women in different locations and denominations and listened to their stories.  Henderson organizes these women into three groups: 

                1. resigned to accept their roles, including women who are content with being excluded from certain roles because they believe it is biblical and those who tolerate limitations as a trade-off they are willing to accept for the sake of harmony/husbands/children;
                2. resigned from the church, including women who went to parachurch organizations where they had greater freedom to use their gifts and women who were failed by the church (heartbreaking stories of abuse) and

                3. re-signed, including women who pushed back and carved out a niche in which they could use their gifts in service to the body of Christ.

I found this book to be thought provoking, especially since I am in a church where women play important roles, but are not ordained.  Since my spiritual gifts are not in any area that would require ordination, I had never really thought much about the issues this book raises.  Henderson challenges men and women to think about women's needs and women's gifts in light of how Jesus treated women. This is must reading for church leadership in every denomination, since Barna warns that service by adult women in churches declined 20-30% between 1991 and 2011.

I reviewed this book for Tyndale House publishers in return for a free copy of the book.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Attention Public Schools: Why not Value Achievement over Attendance?

This Diane Tran case in Texas has got my blood boiling. For those not familiar with the case, Tran was sentenced to 24 hours of jail time by Judge Lanny Moriarty for oversleeping and missing school too much. Nobody in authority seems to care that Tran was abandoned by her divorcing parents and worked a job and a half to help her older brother stay in college and to help support her younger sister. Nobody in authority seems to care that Tran is an honor student. She is unfortunate enough to live in a state with compulsory attendance until age 18, so she got turned in by her helpful high school "education professionals."

While there are many issues involved, including finding the deadbeat parents, my focus today is on the whole idea of universal compulsory attendance laws. Why should the state care how many days a kid goes to school as long as there is proof said child has mastered the curriculum? Why should high school honor students on track for graduation even be subject to compulsory attendance laws? The answer is simple: government-controlled schools are paid according to how many kids are occupying seats. Obviously if compulsory attendance laws were about academic achievement, kids like Tran would be cut some slack.

Gifted children suffer from compulsory attendance laws. Depending on the state, gifted children are trapped with all other children in boring, repetitive classes until the age of 16 to 18. Homeschoolers suffer from compulsory attendance laws because these laws are used as justification for state oversight of home and private schools. Compulsory attendance laws are a burden on responsible parents and responsible students.

Who benefits from compulsory attendance laws? Labor unions benefit as young people are kept out of the work force and public schools benefit because they get paid for body counts, not for educational outcomes. End of rant—for now.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Viral by Leonard Sweet: A Must Read!

While Leonard Sweet has written this book specifically to help the body of Christ minister to today's culture, the information in this book can also help parents and teachers  bridge the technology/culture chasm that separates them from their kids.  Technology has not just changed the devices we use for communication--it is changing the ways we think, communicate and relate.

Sweet dubs the emerging culture TGIF: Twitter, Google, iphone, Facebook.  The two groups of Christians he addresses are the Gutenbergers and the Googlers, the word-based Christians and the relationship-based Christians.

Gutenbergers, named for the inventor of the printing press, value the written Word of God.  Over the past several centuries they have expanded global missions, translated the Bible so that diverse peoples can read the Word for themselves, created an impressive array of church programs, and given humanity big ideas like religious toleration, the rule of law and freedom of speech. They tend to value individual effort and the accomplishment of goals.  Their methods were amazingly effective in many ways for the culture that preceded the recent revolution in communication technologies.
Googlers, named for the dominant search engine on the internet, value relationships.  In many ways, Googlers seek to reestablish the human relationships that formed the backbone of pre-industrial societies—and to accomplish it using cutting-edge technologies.  Like neighbors over picket fences, they read each other's tweets and status updates.  They are lost if their phone battery dies and they lose connection with their network of friends.  While Gutenbergers fear that Googlers' relationships are shallow, many Googlers would counter that they interact with their family and friends more regularly than a workaholic Gutenberger.  Through blogs, tweets and social networking profiles, Googlers can create a network of influence and relationships that can lead to opportunities to advance the Kingdom.

If the church is to reach a lost world, it must reach the world as it is, not as it was.  Gutenbergers like myself need to learn the culture and learn to value human relationships over church programs, people over policies.  Working together, Googlers can help the Gutenbergers enjoy relational evangelism (the kind Jesus did) and avoid nasty legalism.  Gutenbergers can learn the language of the new culture while maintaining their rightfully high regard for the Word of God and helping Googlers achieve depth as well as breadth in their lives.

I highly recommend this book for bookish curmudgeons and iphone addicts alike.  Sweet's writing style is conversational, but he includes enough footnotes to let you know he's not just making this stuff up.  This book is practical and theoretical, broad and deep--great reading for everyone.

Please be aware, I received an electronic review copy of this book free from the publisher, Waterbrook-Multnomah.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Book Review: Unashamed to Bear His Name by R.T. Kendall

According to Kendall, "The most predictable thing in the world is to be scandalized or stigmatized for your total commitment to Jesus Christ." So why do we act surprised when it happens? In this book, Kendall shows us we are in good company when we are misunderstood, gossiped about, ridiculed, slandered, libeled and even assaulted and killed. Didn't those things happen to Jesus, the apostles, the prophets, and believers of all the ages?

The scandal is the gospel itself—the true gospel, not the prosperity gospel, which actually attracts people despite (or because of) its falseness. The real gospel offends because it is exclusive (Jesus is the only way) and it includes bad news (you are a sinner, bound for hell, with no way to save yourself.) The true follower of Jesus must be unashamed of this.

Old Testament examples abound as Kendall makes his case. Noah accepted the shame and stigma of building a boat miles from the sea. Joseph lived through prison after Potiphar's wife spoke vile lies about him. David accepted the scorn of his wife, Michal, refusing to apologize for dancing as he brought back the Ark of the Covenant.

Especially helpful in accepting our own stigmas is his exposition on Mary and Joseph. There was the stigma of suspicion—the assumption that they had conceived Jesus before they were married. There was the stigma of no vindication—Joseph died without seeing Jesus resurrected, and Mary died n a world where most people believed the lies about Jesus' body having been stolen instead of resurrected. Their vindication comes in eternity, not in time.

Are we willing to bear the name of Jesus and the stigma that accompanies it? Are we willing to live without vindication on earth? Kendall lays out the case for why we should be unashamed of the shame.

I received a copy of Unashamed to Bear His Name free for review from Chosen Books.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Book Review: The Jesus Mission by Stephen K. Scott

Stephen K. Scott has presented an excellent account of Jesus' incredible mission to Earth.  The mission was planned before the foundations of the Earth and was implemented to perfection.  Learn about the 27 missions Jesus completed and the 4 missions Jesus gave to His followers.

Scott searched Scripture and found 11 primary missions:  missions that tell us why Jesus came.  They include: to testify about the truth and to do His Father's will.  The 16 tactical or supporting missions include: to perfectly fulfill the law, to heal the blind and to raise Himself from the dead.  Jesus' mission could only be performed by Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit.  If he failed, we all would die in our sins.  Reading about these missions will overwhelm you with gratitude toward the God who initiated these missions on your behalf.

I especially liked Part 3, which Scott begins by stating, "You can't follow Jesus if you are not sure about who He is." Scott then has a word for our world today: Jesus was not a socialist (or Santa Claus or anything else we decide we'd like him to be.)  He cites the parable of the vineyard owner (Matt. 20:1-15,) the parable of the talents (Matt. 25:14-30) and the story of the servant in Luke 17:7-10.  Jesus will not accept the labels we place on Him to fit our own agendas.  He knows His mission and He knows our mission.  We need to be doing our part of the Jesus mission instead of twisting Jesus into an image we find more to our liking.  In light of all He accomplished for us, how can we refuse the mission He has given us?
I received a review copy of this book for free from Waterbrook-Multonomah publishers.  You can find it at Lifeway.

The Jesus Mission by Steven Scott (Ch. 1 excerpt)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Another Book Review: Angels are for Real

Review: Angels are for Real by Judith MacNutt

This book, with its endnotes and references, would be good for launching an independent study about angels: Are they real? What do they do? What does the Bible say?
Good:  The author shares heartwarming, reassuring stories of believers being ushered into heaven by angels, preachers and missionaries protected by angels, and people experiencing miraculous healing or deliverance from imminent danger.   Especially interesting are eyewitness accounts from the Yom Kippur War in which thousands of "Israeli soldiers" were seen on Israel's borders and stayed there until the real solders were able to arrive with their arms.  The surprise attack by Israel's enemies on their highest holy day did not surprise the God who made a covenant with Abraham!

The anecdotes are combined with scripture references to angels: seraphim, cherubim, fallen angels and other messengers.  Quotes from early church fathers are included as well.  MacNutt also quotes from the apocryphal books, but not nearly as much as she quotes from scripture.  References are provided so you can do further research as you wish.
Of possible concern to some readers is MacNutt's charismatic perspective.  You may not agree with everything in this book.  Of course, what is the point of only reading books that agree with you and never present you with any questions or challenges?  The combination of stories, scripture and scholarly research means this book offers something to everyone.

All in all, this is a well-written and well-researched book.  The author studied from Genesis to Thomas Aquinas to Billy Graham.  She gives anecdotes form Catholics, evangelicals and charismatics of all ages.  I am more confident than ever that God has His hand all around us—His Spirit, His Word and His angelic servants.
I received a free copy of this from Chosen Books for review.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Dug Down Deep: A Great Introduction to Christian Theology

Why study doctrine?  Joshua Harris gives the best reason I've heard yet on page 76 of Dug Down Deep when he says"…Why spend time figuring out a way to hold on to church attendance and Christian tradition and even Christian morality while not really believing much of anything about Jesus except that he was a really great guy?"  Doctrine tells us what we believe, which in turn tells us why we do what we do.

This book is an introduction to the fundamental doctrines of Christian faith for those who do not want to wrestle with a systematic theology textbook.  A chapter by chapter study guide makes Dug Down Deep an excellent teaching tool for mature middle school students through adults.  Harris concentrates on the non-negotiables of the faith, such as the deity of Christ and the authority of Scripture, while avoiding denominational distinctives, making this book appropriate for most churches.

Especially meaningful to me was Harris' account of the familiar story told about the railroad conductor who is forced to flip a switch and kill his son, trapped in the gears, in order to save a train full of people.  I heard this supposed illustration of God and Jesus when I was younger and was always bothered by it.  Joshua Harris explained why it bothered me:  Jesus was not helpless and trapped!  His death was not a tragic accident.  Jesus chose, before we were even born, to lay down His life out of His great mercy and love.

Finally, Harris concludes with a call to "humble orthodoxy" rather than using doctrine as a club against one another.  On page 217 he states: "Here's what deflates my arrogance faster than anything else: trying to live the truth I have."  Indeed, we should all think of this when tempted to pride!  This is a book I will place in my church library and recommend to pastors and teachers.

You can find this book at

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Is Your Child Gifted?

Check out this Hub for information on giftedness, Einstein Syndrome (one cause of late-talking children) and twice-exceptionalism.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Family Farm: An Independent Learning Classroom of Highest Quality

Farms, 4-H and FFA are as American as apple pie, the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.  Children on farms learn independence, get healthy physical exercise and learn how plants and animals grow.  Unfortunately, the federal government is now targeting grandparents and others who let their young relatives work on farms.  Read about this outrage, then determine to be more vigilant than ever about your freedom.  Powerful people want to control your lives in the name of "safety" and "education."  Don't let them!

Your rights as an independent learner and a free human being are worth preserving and defending.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Fierce Beauty: Recommended Reading for Women

In a world where advertisers are encouraging girls to aspire to be Disney Princesses and supermodels, Kim Meeder steps in with a reality check for Christian women.  In Fierce Beauty she paints a picture of a woman, surrounded by enemies who would destroy her, facing a choice:  the crown of a princess or the sword of a warrior.  When she takes up the sword instead of the crown, she finds that the warrior is more beautiful than the princess—fiercely beautiful.

Meeder presents this material in three sections: The Problem, The King and The Warrior.  Each concept is illustrated by compelling stories from Meeder's adventurous life.  Tragically orphaned at a young age, she found that Jesus was able to bring her through adversity. 

Many of the stories come from her work at Crystal Peaks Youth Ranch, a place where she and her husband rescue abused horses and work with troubled children.  You will be touched by the story of the horse that suffered unspeakable physical pain, yet survived to be a witness of hope to children who ride him.  You will weep over the beautiful girl who gave her best, was tried by fire and received her gift back again.  Learn how the smile of one girl saved the life of a teen was minutes away from walking out of school and committing suicide.

There are many ugly things that happened to the people and animals in these stories. God took what was meant for evil and made good things happen, again and again.  In each story, Meeder gives us a picture of how we behave and how God reacts.  She encourages us to put aside the crown we believe is so beautiful, take up the sword to fight for truth and encourage others, and look forward to the day we receive an incorruptible crown.

This book includes discussion questions for each of the three sections and would be a suitable study for a women's group or for high school girls.  Because some of the stories involve violence and cruelty to animals, I would not recommend it for younger girls unless they are studying with their mothers or guardians.

You can buy this book from Lifeway.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Independent Learning through Smart Internet Searching

I have written three lesson plans for teaching students (or yourself) to do internet research that goes beyond the first page of Google results.  Homeschoolers and other teachers can feel free to use them.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

1981 Flashback

Read my 1981 high school graduation speech to see what the hopes and concerns of graduates were back then.  The article includes some fun eighties links to news, music and timelines.