Saturday, October 15, 2011

Book Review: The Most Important Thing You'll Ever Study by Starr Meade

Homeschoolers have lots of choices when it comes to good curricula. Sonlight, Abeka, My Father's World, Bob Jones Press, Alpha Omega, and so on. Our family has had very limited exposure to the Bible portion of these same curricula and still believe the foundation to teaching the Bible to our children is direct reading of the text, one-on-one discussion, prayer, and making personal application.

This workbook series by Starr Meade will meet a need for incorporating Bible exposition into home school study plans.
  • Five workbooks targeted for middle school to early high school, providing a survey of the entire Bible
    • Volumes 1-2, Old Testament
    • Volumes 3-4, New Testament
    • Volume 5, Answer key
  • "Students can either use the text as a supplementary companion to their own reading of Scripture, or they can simply use the study guide to move through the Bible from beginning to end."
  • These workbooks are very word intensive. You won't find a lot of fancy graphics, color schemes, charts, timelines, basic maps, internet links, etc. 
  • The studies are designed to be read along with chapters of the Bible, about 3 chapters per study section.
  • They are arranged in chronological order.
  • Tests and assessments provided are typically short answer, fill in the blank, and matching.
  • Not much commentary is provided. This is not a Bible handbook and does not seem to be geared toward life application although it would be difficult NOT to get life lessons by simply reading the Bible. However, students of this age may need a bit of help to cross the bridge to application.
  • It is designed to be done at the student's own pace and can easily fit a 1-year or 2-year plan.
  • Future editions could prove helpful if they include key doctrinal words, highlighted and defined for appropriately for this age level.
I have two sons who are ages 13 and 11, and while we haven't used it with them personally, I am eager to find some time to do so. For more information on this workbook series, visit this link:

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Pilgrim Ascends the Hill called Difficulty

I beheld then, that they all went on till they came to the foot of the hill Difficulty, at the bottom of which there was a spring. There were also in the same place two other ways besides that which came straight from the gate: one turned to the left hand, and the other to the right, at the bottom of the hill; but the narrow way lay right up the hill, and the name of the going up the side of the hill is called Difficulty. Christian now went to the spring, Isa. 49:10, and drank thereof to refresh himself, and then began to go up the hill, saying,

"The hill, though high, I covet to ascend;
The difficulty will not me offend;
For I perceive the way to life lies here:
Come, pluck up heart, let’s neither faint nor fear.
Better, though difficult, the right way to go,
Than wrong, though easy, where the end is woe."

The other two also came to the foot of the hill. But when they saw that the hill was steep and high, and that there were two other ways to go; and supposing also that these two ways might meet again with that up which Christian went, on the other side of the hill; therefore they were resolved to go in those ways. Now the name of one of those ways was Danger, and the name of the other Destruction. So the one took the way which is called Danger, which led him into a great wood; and the other took directly up the way to Destruction, which led him into a wide field, full of dark mountains, where he stumbled and fell, and rose no more.

Bunyan, J. (1995). The pilgrim's progress : From this world to that which is to come. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

Book Review - The Hidden Smile of God

The Hidden Smile of God by John Piper

This book is a compilation of three biographical studies (John Bunyan, William Cowper, and David Brainerd) which seeks to display what Piper calls "the fruit of affliction" in the lives of each man. Each of these men suffered in varying degrees but all suffered greatly. Bunyan was imprisoned for 12 years for preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ without state approval. Cowper suffered the harsh realities of parental loss and constantly struggled with depression, suicidal tendencies, and fear of finally being rejected by God. Brainerd endured great physical suffering (tuberculosis) for the last seven years of his short life and spent much of it in the wilderness preaching to Indians. Each of these men endured their suffering as part of the wise bestowment of God. They did not reject it as a cruel turn of events, nor did they have a blind eye to the realities of the pain which was present with them, but saw it through biblical lenses as a normal experience of the Christian life.

If we were to look at our day and compare the concerns of modern Christianity with those of previous generations, then we might not be surprised at the level of soul strength which so often seems to be absent. This book and the message of these men's lives was a tremendous encouragement to me as I have looked at suffering in my own life. Don't read it because you're a Piper fan. Read it because the men he holds out to us had a powerful impact on Christendom precisely because of how they handled affliction. Piper is great at peeling back the layers of our own hearts so that a word of truth and conviction can be implanted.

Book Review - Walking in the Spirit

Walking in the Spirit by Kenneth Berding

This short book gives a practical explanation of how the believer is exhorted to live in relation to the Holy Spirit as described in Romans 8 and summarized by the phrase "walking in the Spirit." You might call it "the Romans 8 guide to Spirit-filled living."

The chapters are organized by the major exhortations:

  • Walk in the Spirit. (4; cf. Galatians 5:16)
  • Set your minds on the things of the Spirit. (5-8)
  • Put to death the deeds of the body by the Spirit. (13)
  • Be led by the Spirit. (14)
  • Know the Fatherhood of God by the Spirit. (15-17)
  • Hope in the Spirit. (18-25)
  • Pray in the Spirit. (26-27)

What I liked about the book:

  • a helpful explanation of how biblical metaphors work (pp. 21-22) and why they are needed
  • illustrations from his personal life: how being filled with the Spirit causes us not to desire that which would satisfy the flesh, 
  • clear explanation of biblical concepts like flesh, mindset, mortify
  • The author is careful not to make walking in the Spirit formulaic and encourages us to learn as we do it.
  • An appendix is provided which gives an overview of Romans 8 and helps us to see that the chapter is not simply about the individual.
  • short, very readable and accessible; study questions at end of chapters

I would recommend this book to people who want to know what it means to live a spiritual life in Christ, to small groups, and church members of denominations where the Holy Spirit is seldom discussed. This book is not an exhaustive treatment of the subject but brings out important truths that every believer should know.