Between Worlds by Marilyn Gardner

Between Worlds Essays on culture and belongingBetween Worlds Essays on culture and belonging by Marilyn Gardner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A collection of essays regarding growing up as a third culture kid, this book started off with stories that sent me back in time to my own childhood growing up on the mission compound in Bangladesh. The Muslim call to prayer, hot chai, vacation to the beach – memories of my own experience came back in reading of the author’s own childhood experiences in a country not so far from where I myself grew up. The essays are divided into sections, dealing with topics all TCKs (third culture kids) can easily relate to: home, identity, belonging, airports, grief & loss, culture clash, and good-byes. Ah, the inevitable good-bye!
“invisible immigrant” – looking like you should belong but not really knowing the culture of your passport culture. It’s not obvious that don’t belong so your cultural taboos are more blatant.
“If there is a common thread of experience among third culture kids it may be paralysis in the cereal aisle.” The overwhelming feeling of walking into a Walmart after being overseas for several years – that “whoa!” feeling resonates.
Well written, the words flow in this book, bringing alive my own memories of the many good-byes, the wondering of who I really was and the friend in college who helped me to navigate this new culture that I was now part of. If you are a third culture kid or are raising a third culture kid, you will find this book speaks to your soul. There are also helpful tips for dealing with culture shock and also recognizing that grief looks different for different people.
Definitely recommended!

*I received a copy of this book free from the author. Many thanks!

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A Young Woman’s Guide to Discovering Her Bible by Elizabeth George


A Young Woman’s Guide to Discovering Her Bible
by Elizabeth George
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is geared toward teens, middle school, high school and college-age young women. In a fast-paced, constantly changing world, the Bible is a solid foundation to hold on to and the author shares practical ways for young women to dig into the Bible for themselves.
The different types of literature in the Bible are explained and sample passages are given. The inductive study method of observation, interpretation and application is explained. As part of observation, the 5 WH questions are talked about – asking of the text who, what, when, where and why. Then the author takes us through a passage asking these questions to practically do what was just explained. Checking the context of the passage is talked about as well as comparing Scripture with Scripture. Cross-references are given to help make clear the passages being talked about in the book.
This is a hands-on, very practical book for teen girls to understand better how to study the Bible. The application questions are real and probing, getting them to realize how Scripture is relevant for their daily lives and the challenges they face at home and school and elsewhere. This would be a great study for youth group ladies to do together. I would recommend getting the physical book rather than the kindle version as there is space to make notes and write answers to questions, which doesn’t work as well on the kindle version.

*I received a copy of this book free from the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for my review.

Questioning the Bible by Jonathan Morrow

Questioning the Bible: 11 Major Challenges to the Bible's AuthorityQuestioning the Bible: 11 Major Challenges to the Bible’s Authority by Jonathan Morrow
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

We live in a world that doesn’t accept the Bible as the inspired Word of God. In this book, the author takes us through the evidence to show how we can trust that the Bible is really from God. He answers the objections that the world gives for not believing the Bible. Some of these objections include errors in manuscripts, seeming discrepancies in the Gospels, and the lack of belief in miracles. In an increasingly hostile world, young people are being assaulted with reasons not to believe the Bible. Doubts are normal and the author assures the readers that it’s okay to have doubts. He then goes on to give valid reasons to answer some of the objections raised in this post-modern world.
This was an excellent apologetic tool for answering critics reasonably and without using the Bible itself to prove its authority. There is ample evidence to trust what the Bible tells us and the author gives great reasons and questions to ask critics in helping to refute their objections. There are conversation starters at the end of each chapter as well as additional books to read for digging deeper into the subjects addressed in that chapter. For those wrestling with how to answer the world’s criticisms about the Bible, this book gives great information and resources for refuting the objections.
I would recommend this book for youth pastors to help in preparing young people for the assault they will face on their faith when they enter college or the workplace. Also for those who wrestle with doubts themselves, this book gives encouragement to face those doubts and look for real answers. Anyone who desires to better answer the critics should read this book to be better prepared to defend their faith and to realize that it is not just a blind faith but a faith based on reasonable evidence. The bottom line – read this book!

*I received a copy of this book free from the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for my review.

Why Church History Matters by Robert Rea

Why Church History Matters: An Invitation to Love and Learn from Our PastWhy Church History Matters: An Invitation to Love and Learn from Our Past by Robert F. Rea
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As someone who is interested in church history, I already have a desire to read it and learn more about it. But for many, the topic is not of interest and seems to be unimportant. What difference does it make anyway? This book addresses the need to learn about the past so that we can better understand our own present. We have our own worldview and presuppositions that affect how we interpret Scripture. Rather than just relying on our own beliefs and how we came to those beliefs, it is important to see what beliefs were taught throughout the years of Christianity and how those beliefs came about.
The author talks about the circles that we use in determining and evaluating our own beliefs. First is our close friends, then our church, then our faith group or denomination, others with shared theological perspective, contrasting theological views, other cultures and finally those across the centuries who have been Christians. This allows us to get the bigger picture and to see where errors may have come in and how these are addressed in other circles.
Another benefit of studying church history is to see how others used exegesis in the past in their interpretation of Scripture. We all come to the Bible with our own presuppositions and blind spots. Studying church history allows us to see how the early Christians and those that followed them used exegesis to interpret Scripture passages. By seeing the different methods, our eyes are opened to see beyond our own cultural viewpoint.
Studying and knowing church history also helps us in various aspects of ministry – such as worship, missions and ethics. Seeing how these things were done in the past helps us to evaluate our own practices and see if we can improve or not. Knowing past ethical struggles that past Christians faced helps us realize that many of our own ethical struggles are nothing new but have been argued over the centuries. We can learn from past Christians how to handle these issues.
For those who already love church history, the main benefit to this book is providing arguments to encourage others to read and study church history. For those who don’t see the importance of church history, this book provides some solid reasons why we should learn it.

“Why does church history matter? Church history helps us celebrate the body of Christ!”

*I received a copy of this book free from the publisher in exchange for my review.

From God to Us: How We Got Our Bible by Norman Geisler and William Nix

From God To Us: How We Got Our BibleFrom God To Us: How We Got Our Bible by Norman L. Geisler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Beginning with the definition and explanation of inspiration, this book takes us through a readable, comprehensive explanation of how we got the Bibles that we hold in our hands today. At first, what it means that the Bible is inspired is explained. Not only what inspiration is, but also what it isn’t (dictation for example). The authors then take us through how the canon of the Bible (the Bible that we currently use) was developed, beginning with the Old Testament. The Old Testament came about because of how the Jews determined whether or not a book was considered canonical, that is, inspired of God and authoritative. The current 39 books of the Old Testament that we currently have were all determined as canonical before the time of Christ. The books of the New Testament, however, took longer but were determined by the 4th century. It was interesting to read of some of the controversies over what books should be included and how the final 27 became part of our current Bibles. The Apocrypha was also discussed.
Next the actual transmission of the Bible was covered, regarding the development of language and writing and what type of materials would have been available during the different time periods that the Bible was written. All the different manuscripts were discussed, and what is currently available to us today, including the fact that none of the original manuscripts of the Bible have survived. The Old Testament has fewer copies of manuscripts but they are more reliable, while the New Testament manuscripts are many and have more variants. The whole field of textual criticism was discussed, part of which is a little over my head. 🙂 While I don’t completely understand textual criticism, it was a needful part of the book in describing how we have our current Bibles.
Getting the Bible from its original languages translated into other languages was the final section of the book. Eventually the topic of the Bible being translated into English is discussed. At least one of the early translators of the Bible into English was actually killed for his efforts. How much we take having our Bible for granted in this modern world! The plethora of current modern translations was also discussed and why they came about.
Overall, this was a very thorough look at how the Bible came to be. It is amazing to see how God has preserved His Word down through the centuries so that we can have the Bible today to help us know Him and to grow in our Christian walk. While parts of the book got bogged down a bit in technical details, it was quite readable and provided a wealth of information for the reader to learn what all is involved in getting our current Bible.

*I received a copy of this book free from the publisher in exchange for my review.

Dynamic Women of the Bible by Ruth A. Tucker

Dynamic Women of the Bible: What We Can Learn from Their Surprising StoriesDynamic Women of the Bible: What We Can Learn from Their Surprising Stories by Ruth A. Tucker
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I would give this book more stars for the actual writing as it was well-written. But my lower rating is due to some of the liberties I think the author took in the unknown background information of biblical characters. Each chapter tells the story of a different woman in the Bible, but adds potential details and information that isn’t clear from the biblical text but might be possible for the culture and time period when the woman lived. It helps to bring the stories of these women alive, imagining their everyday life and what the circumstances might have been like for them.
However, I think in some cases the author went too far in her implying things that aren’t specifically mentioned in the text but perhaps could have happened due to the culture of the time. For instance, she implies that Ruth and Boaz most likely slept together during the night when Ruth went out to the threshing floor. Though it is possible in that culture, it doesn’t seem likely from the Bible’s depiction of Boaz and Ruth’s character. I felt that was an unfair implication.
The author also seems to be biased a bit against men and that bled through in some of the stories with comments made that seemed out of place. For instance, in the story of Esther, the author makes note and complains that Esther is never described as great in this book, but rather Mordecai is given honors and elevated in the king’s palace. That is how God inspired Scripture to be written. If the author has a problem with that, then the problem is with God!
There were also some facts or comments made in the stories that were actually not at all what the Bible says. It’s one thing to embellish and speculate about details not in Scripture to help bring the characters to life and make the story real. But when actual details are given in the Bible, we are not free to change those details. For example, in the story on Elizabeth (Zacharias’s wife and the mother of John the Baptist), in talking about Zacharias returning from his temple duties unable to speak and trying to communicate with his wife what happened, the author says: “If he could have responded, he would have told her that he lost his voice because he had irked the angel. All he had done was to ask Gabriel how he could be sure all this would happen since he and his wife are so old. But not liking the question, Gabriel struck him mute.”
Um, no, that’s not why he was struck mute. Luke 1:20 states, “And behold, you shall be silent and unable to speak until the day when these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their proper time.” (emphasis mine)
Overall, the book has stories that make you think and ponder some of the characters portrayed in the Bible and what their lives were like that we don’t have specific details about. But in several of the stories, I felt the author’s speculations went too far. Some of the tone of the book seemed to be negative toward men which also made me dislike the book. So, while the book does make one think, I would not recommend it for others to read. Thus the low rating.

*I received a copy of this book free from the publisher in exchange for my review.

The Theology of the Westminster Standards by J.V. Fesko

The Theology of the Westminster Standards: Historical Context and Theological Insights (A Refo500 Book)The Theology of the Westminster Standards: Historical Context and Theological Insights by Crossway Books
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I saw this book was available for review, I could not resist! And I was not disappointed.

The book begins with the historical background of what was happening during the time of the Westminster Assembly – which produced the Confession and Catechisms. Context is important as these things do not happen in a vacuum and part of understanding the Standards involves knowing what was going on during that time.
It then dives in and starts doing commentary on the Confession. Starting with the treatment of the doctrine of Scripture, then of God and the decree, spending a great deal of time on the doctrine of predestination. Then the covenants are discussed – the covenant of works and the covenant of grace. In each chapter, this book basically gives commentary on the Confession and Catechisms and what they meant in the context of what was happening historically and theologically at the time of the Assembly. Some of the way things are worded has much to do with beliefs they were countering, particularly in regards to what the Roman Catholic church was teaching.
In addition to commentary on the actual Confession and Catechisms, this book provides some insight into the debates that went on during the course of the Assembly. Not everyone at the Assembly agreed on every doctrine and sometimes what was put down was worded in such a way as to cover more than one view on a particular issue. Notes from the Assembly and even a journal of one of the attendees lend insight into behind the scenes discussions on particular topics. This book contains very fascinating information and also provides what different theologians at the time believed on different doctrines.
I did find some of the book and subject matter a bit over my head in being academic. The average reader might find it difficult to get through. But for theologians and scholars, avid readers of church history and theology, this book is a wonderful commentary on the background and details of the Westminster Standards. I have some friends in mind who I think would really enjoy it!

Quotes:
“The Confession’s opening chapter identifies the well from which all doctrine is drawn, and this reflects one of the chief tenets of the Reformation’s principle of sola Scriptura. Scripture alone is the sole arbiter of Christian faith and practice in the church.”
“…summarizes the early modern Reformed doctrine of Scripture, codifying key doctrinal principles such as the analogy of Scripture, the limits of the canon of Scripture, the sufficiency of Scripture, and the vital importance of good and necessary consequences.”

*I received a copy of this book free on Kindle from the publisher in exchange for my review.

Make Mature Multiply: Becoming Fully-Formed Disciples of Jesus

Make Mature Multiply: Becoming Fully-Formed Disciples of JesusMake Mature Multiply: Becoming Fully-Formed Disciples of Jesus by Brandon D. Smith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A collection of articles/essays about the various aspects of discipleship – evangelism, discipling, and training others to disciple. This was a great resource to read. I particularly liked the articles dealing with discipleship in the home and the importance of teaching our own children the gospel and discipling them in the faith.
Our task as believers is to make disciples – it is the task that Jesus left for us to do and the reason we remain on this earth after we are saved. How do we go about doing this? First we must share the gospel, trusting the Holy Spirit to bring souls to Himself. Then as others come to faith, we are to teach them all that Jesus commanded, which includes making disciples. They then go on to disciple others.
Various authors write the different chapters and each chapter stands on its own. A quick read and valuable resource.

*I was given a copy of this book free through the publisher in exchange for my review.

Lots of quotes from this one:
“We also need to declare the facts about Jesus to correct popular ideas about him. There are numerous ideas about Jesus, displayed in world religions and pop culture. It’s therefore imperative that the expositor understands the doctrine of Christ and salvation. The expository evangelist recognizes that there’s no separation from theology and evangelism. Every evangelist does theology. The only question is whether or not they’re doing good theology. Present the real Jesus to people.”

“In proclamation we’re announcing the facts, and in teaching we’re explaining the facts.”

“Make disciples of Jesus by proclaiming him like an evangelist, warning like a prophet, teaching like a theologian, and applying wisdom like a sage.”

“…we have lost wonder over the story and glory of God. Failure to worship God leads to a failed desire to bring our neighbors to worship him with us. We need to recover the gospel in a way that sets God’s glory in the center of all of life.”

“The notion that spiritual training is primarily the job of the church and, in particular, teens the responsibility of a student pastor, is simply not taught in the Bible. Deuteronomy 6 puts the responsibility for the spiritual training of a child squarely on the shoulders of parents.”

“Any person can modify behavior, but a true disciple of Christ lives with a transformed heart that sees other human beings as lost souls in need of Christ’s redemption.”

“Sanctification is both an event and a process of the Holy Spirit whose principle means is Scripture.”

“Redemption is an identity change, not just behavior modification.”

“No one is capable or skilled enough to do what God has called them to do. But the Holy Spirit empowers us for the tasks and God is glorified in using us.”

“Music helps us remember and hold to the truth of God because our songs about God combine both the intellectual truth about God and our emotional response to those truths. Singing about God gets his truth stuck in our hearts, and as it dwells there richly, it draws us into deeper communion with him.”

“The church was never intended to be an end in itself; rather it is called to reproduce and fulfill the Great Commission to make disciples.”

The Atheist’s Fatal Flaw by Norman Geisler and Daniel McCoy

The Atheist's Fatal Flaw: Exposing Conflicting BeliefsThe Atheist’s Fatal Flaw: Exposing Conflicting Beliefs by Norman L. Geisler
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book started out rather depressing as it was mostly written giving the atheists’ viewpoints. Using the atheists’ own arguments, the authors build a case to show that the logical conclusion to atheism’s objections to the existence of God end up contradicting each other. Some of the arguments were a little over my head, but overall the conclusion becomes clear. Atheism’s main objection to the existence of God is the problem of evil. Yet in order to get rid of the problem of evil, God would have to limit man’s freedom or human autonomy. Which of course the atheist is not at all in favor of. So the argument against God is shown to be contradictory and self-defeating. Atheists’ own arguments show that they don’t have a problem with societal interventions against evil, but they are resistant to God having similar interventions. So it comes down to their objections being against God rather than the intervention itself.

This was a quick read with a lot of quotes by atheists that can be then turned around and shown to be inconsistent with their own worldview. For those needing some help in the apologetics department to counter atheist claims against God, this book has some helpful information.

*I received a copy of this book free from the publisher in exchange for my review.