Anselm of Canterbury

Anselm

Posted by Bambi

I have had my eye on Simonetta Carr’s Church History books for children, for quite some time.  Pricey, they are.  So when Cross Focused Reviews offered a free copy for a review, I jumped on the opportunity.

I believe one of the missing disciplines in the lives of Christians is the study of church history.  Studying church history produces in us a humility as we read of our Christian forefathers who served Jesus unto death.  It puts our own meager efforts in perspective when we read of martyrs, willing to give all.

Also, church history can help us see our error.  If we don’t read of the errors in the history of the church, we are doomed to repeat them.  Old heresies can creep up again and again and it helps to have a knowledge of them. Therefore, we have quite a few church history resources on our shelves here at home.  But aside from a few mediocre biographies, I just haven’t been able to find much for the 7-10 range to cut their teeth on.

Simonetta Carr’s Anselm of Canterbury delivered.  While the information can be dry, the story of Anselm is presented in an engaging way for younger students of church history.  Also, the illustrations are particularly beautiful.

Have you ever heard of Anselm?  I hadn’t either, but I have long been impressed enough with Carr’s collection of titles, to know that I should know who he is. <blush>

Anselm was a great theologian and deep thinker,  who lived during the time between Augustine of Hippo and Thomas Aquinas. That is, the 12th century.  Therefore, Anselm lived in a world quite different from ours. In Anselm of Canterbury, the big questions before Anselm, and therefore what Carr presents to young readers are, “Why did God have to become man? If God can do anything, couldn’t He have saved His people some other way?” With clarity and simplicity, Simonetta Carr presents Anselm’s Biblical answer to this question in a way that children can easily comprehend, without over-simplifying the concept.

Carr is certainly a gifted author, and the words of truth come off the page in an easy-going manner, not coming across as “preachy.”

While Carr’s books are said to be written to children as young as seven, I found that Anselm was way over my (almost) seven-year-old’s head.  Sarah Grace, who is eight, had more understanding, but honestly… it took some effort on her part.  However, by age 9-11 I think just about any kid would enjoy and benefit from the book, taking away knowledge they didn’t previously have.  In my opinion, the book is a great length for narrations if you are of the Charlotte Mason persuasion 😉

I would really love to add the rest of Carr’s titles to our shelves:

John Calvin

Augustine of Hippo

John Owen

Athanasius

Lady Jane Grey

I think Anselm of Canterbury is an excellent childhood introduction to the life of this great thinker.  You can purchase the book at one of our favorite book stores: Monergism Books.

The Law Of Rewards

bookss

Posted by Seth

In The Law Of Rewards, Randy Alcorn shows that actions we perform here on earth will play a major role in how we will live in the next life. He poses the question, ”Why would people keep money for themselves on earth to get the things that they desire, when they can help others and their church financially to invest in that prized possession that will be even better in heaven?”

After giving an example of a couple who came to his office wanting to know if they should give their money to the church and missions, or use it to build their dream house, Dr. Alcorn asks the question, ”Who would want to divert kingdom funds to build a dream house if they understood that either it will leave them or they will leave it? Instead, why not use your resources to send building materials to the Carpenter, our Bridegroom, who this very moment is building our dream house in heaven?”

He also answers the following questions:

Since God is our Father, not our employer, can we really earn eternal rewards? Wouldn’t that be putting God in our debt?

What are we missing if we do not give, especially to the needy?

How can pastors teach their congregations the art of joyful giving?

Is it always wrong to let others know how much we give financially to the Lord’s work? If we say anything at all about what God is teaching us about our giving, does that mean we will lose our rewards?

Once I’ve decided to give, how do I decide where to contribute money? How can I be sure that the money I am giving will be used with integrity?

Are we rewarded in heaven for leaving money to Christian ministries when we die?

This book centers around the fact that we cannot take our treasures with us to heaven, but we can send them on ahead to be there waiting for us when we arrive. The Law of Rewards is an easy read, and a great way to spend your time. I would recommend it for every Christian.

Luther {Movie Review}

luthermovie

“My conscience is captive to the Word of God. To go against conscience is neither right nor safe. I cannot, and I will not, recant.”

Posted by Shelbi

This past weekend some of us re-watched the 2003 movie Luther for the first time in several years.  Since I just finished reading Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, the Reformation period was fresh on my mind, and it was so neat to see the 16th-century world of Catholicism, popery, the Reformation, and in particular, the life of the movie’s hero, Martin Luther, come alive in this fantastic film.

Beginning with an unconverted Luther’s rash vow to become a monk, the movie follows his life until his Augsburg Confession of Faith is presented to the German Emperor, and ends with the following words:

What happened at Augsburg pushed open the door of religious freedom. Martin Luther lived for another 16 years, preaching and teaching the Word. He and Katharina von Bora enjoyed a happy marriage and six children. Luther’s influence extended into economics, politics, education and music, and his translation of the Bible became a foundation stone of the German language. Today over 540 million people worship in churches inspired by his Reformation.

The history is surprisingly accurate and not many liberties are taken with the facts. Although it is not very family-friendly (we watched it while the 8-and-under crowd were napping), us “big people” really enjoyed it.  ; )

Note: This movie is rated PG-13 for images of violence and would not be appropriate for most young children. Also, there are several instances of profanity.

The Lie: Evolution

the lie

Posted by Shelbi

“If Genesis cannot be taken literally, there is no foundation for Christian doctrine–therefore, Christian doctrine no longer has meaning.”- The Lie: Evolution, pg. 157

I’ve read several books by Christian creation scientists, all dedicated to refuting evolution (and showing how truly laughable it really is), while providing impressive amounts of scientific evidence for the fact that God created the universe about 6,000 years ago. I expected that Ken Ham’s “The Lie: Evolution” would be the same type of book, but it turned out to be something much better.

Subtitled “Genesis–The Key to Defending Your Faith”, Mr. Ham’s book does not go into the controversy over whether scientific evidence supports creation or evolution, but instead focuses solely on why this issue is so important, and what is happening to all the cultures of the world that have accepted evolution.

“The creation/evolution issue (is God Creator?) is the crux of the problems in our society today. It is the fundamental issue with which Christians must come to grips. This…is where the battle really rages.” -pg. 29

After making his compelling case that evolution is a religion, not science, the author moves on to the crumbling foundations of Christianity, showing how disbelieving Genesis 1:1 destroys the credibility of the rest of the Bible. In the chapter called “The Evils of Evolution”, he gives example after example of how morals cannot be preserved in a world that has rejected the truths of Genesis. The chapter “Evangelism in a Pagan World” contains a lot of practical advice on how to share the gospel with an unbeliever, specifically showing how the average person has no interest in the things of God until his confidence in evolution is shaken. My favorite chapter, “Twenty Reasons Why Evolution and Genesis Don’t Mix”, is a wonderful tool to use when talking with someone who claims to be a theistic evolutionist. Of course, an atheistic evolutionist doesn’t care how much evolution contradicts the Bible, but a theistic evolutionist (someone who believes God used evolution to create the world) will be forced to come to terms with the fact that there is no way to reconcile the two– you have to choose between them. Here are a few of my favorite excerpts from this chapter:

#1: No Death Before Adam’s Fall

“Evolution says death plus struggle brought man into existence; the Bible says man’s actions led to sin, which led to death. These two are totally contradictory.” -pg. 150

#5: Creation is Finished

“Modern evolutionary theory accepts that evolution is still going on (therefore, man must still be evolving!), so if a Christian accepts evolution he has to accept that God is still using evolution today. Thus, He is still creating. But God tells us He finished His work of creating. This is a real dilemma for the theistic evolutionist.”- pg. 154

#14: Evolution and Genesis Have a Different Sequence

“The basic tenets of evolution totally conflict with the order in Genesis. For instance, Genesis teaches that God created fruit trees before fish–plants on day three, fish on day five. Evolution teaches that fish came before fruit trees…. The Bible teaches that the earth was first created covered with water: evolutionary teaching is that the earth first began as a hot molten blob. There is no way that the order of events according to evolution and Genesis can be reconciled.” -pg. 160

#17: Adam Was Not Primitive

Those who believe in evolution speculate that as man evolved he first had to learn to grunt, then he had to learn to write. He had to use stone tools and learn about farming before he could develop what is called “advanced technology”. However, the Bible tells us Adam was not primitive, but a highly developed individual…Adam could obviously speak…he had a complex language (Gen. 2:20).”

Again, I’d like to point out that this is not a “scientific” book— there is little to no discussion over whether science points to evolution or to creation. This book is written to Christians, with a strong emphasis on the need for the church to defend Genesis intelligently and articulately, realizing the extreme damage evolution is doing to our society.

However, I would like to recommend several books written by Christian creation scientists that deal with the evidence for creation vs. evolution. My favorite is The Evolution of a Creationist by Dr. Jobe Martin, which chronicles the author’s journey from a committed teacher of evolution to a committed teacher of creation, and all the overwhelming evidence that caused him to (unwillingly at first) change his mind. Another good one is Refuting Evolution by Dr. Jonathan Sarfati, as is Darwin’s Black Box by Michael Behe. Darwin’s Black Box is especially interesting because the author does not claim to be a Christian and admits that he does not know how the world was created or who created it (he seems to favor aliens as the most likely candidates!) but after studying the design of the universe, he confesses that he finds evolution absurd in the highest degree and shares all the reasons that brought him to this conclusion.

The Lie: Evolution has become my favorite book on the subject, though, and I hope you will find it just as intriguing!

Elizabeth Prentiss: More Love to Thee

more love to thee

Posted by Bambi

After reading Stepping Heavenward several weeks ago, I have now officially become obsessed with Elizabeth Prentiss, adding all of her books to my 2013 booklist.  (My list continues to grow at a faster pace than what I am reading at.  So many books, so little time.) But I had to get more insight into this fascinating woman of God before I dove into the rest of her works, so I borrowed from our local library Sharon James’ biography of Elizabeth Prentiss.

Biographies are not typically my first choice of genre, but Sharon James is a terrific biographer.  She also wrote the biography My Heart in His Hands about the life of Ann Judson, which I have also read and loved.   I was a little familiar with James’ style already.

Understandably, the book begins with the birth of Elizabeth.  The type of parents she had, as well as siblings and homelife, are described and lend understanding to the early circumstances that shaped such a woman.

Elizabeth’s father was a pastor.  He had a great influence on her life, even though he died after suffering a long illness of tuberculosis when Elizabeth was only nine.  Her father wrote, “O what a blessed thing it is to lose one’s will.”  Undoubtedly this submission to God and the devoted heart of her father, made its mark on Elizabeth, and therefore into “Katy” of Stepping Heavenward…and therefore into me.  I was struck by what an amazing influence and generational legacy a father can leave to his child, even in such a short time.  The nine years of fatherhood that Edward Payson faithfully devoted to his daughter has inadvertently effected millions of people!

In a letter written to his sister Eliza just weeks before his death, his words here give us a glimpse of such a man as fathered Elizabeth Prentiss:

Were I to adopt the figurative language of Bunyan, I might date this letter from the land of Beulah, of which I have been for some weeks a happy inhabitant. The celestial city is full in my view. Its glories beam upon me, its breezes fan me, its odors are wafted to me, its sounds strike upon my ear, and its spirit is breathed into my heart. Nothing separates me from it but the river of death, which now appears but as an insignificant rill, that may be crossed at a single step, whenever God shall give permission. The Sun of Righteousness has been gradually drawing nearer and nearer, appearing larger and brighter as He approached, and now He fills the whole hemisphere, pouring forth a flood of glory, in which I seem to float like an insect in the beams of the sun, exulting yet almost trembling while I gaze on this excessive brightness, and wondering, with unutterable wonder, why God should deign thus to shine upon a sinful worm. A single heart and a single tongue seem altogether inadequate to my wants; I want a whole heart for every separate emotion, and a whole tongue to express that emotion. But why do I speak thus of myself and my feelings? why not speak only of our God and Redeemer? It is because I know not what to say—when I would speak of them my words are all swallowed up.

Can any of us even imagine being born into such a home as this? 

Once Mr. Payson died, the family scraped to make ends meets.  Louisa, the older sister, moved away to teach school and support the family.  A few letters exist that Elizabeth wrote to her sister:

May 18, 1828.

My dear sister:—I thank you for writing to such a little girl as I am, when you have so little time. I was going to study a little catechism which Miss Martin has got, but she said I could not learn it. I want to learn it. I do not like to stay so long at school. We have to write composition by dictation, as Miss Martin calls it. She reads to us out of a book a sentence at a time. We write it and then we write it again on our slates, because we do not always get the whole; then we write it on a piece of paper.

(Incidentally, because the homeschool mom in me is always present, when I read things such as this it reaffirms to me that the best way to teach a child to write is this method of copy and dictation.  What a marvelous writer this method made of Elizabeth Prentiss!)

As a young woman, Elizabeth was already known as having pious character and a public devotion to Christ.  She had already been contributing stories and poems to The Youth’s Companion, a New England periodical, for several years.  In 1838 she opened her own girl’s school.

Although the details of Prentiss’s life were fascinating, more so to me was her spiritual journey.  Her profession of faith, her time of spiritual depression, her lessons learned through the suffering after losing two children within one month (one infant, one four-year-old)…all of these made the soul of Elizabeth Prentiss, and James does an outstanding job of giving readers a full picture of her.

These words were found written on a scrap piece of paper, indicating the grief Elizabeth felt, yet her trust in God:

MY NURSERY. 1852.

 I thought that prattling boys and girls

Would fill this empty room;  

That my rich heart would gather flowers  

From childhood’s opening bloom.

One child and two green graves are mine,

 This is God’s gift to me;  

A bleeding, fainting, broken heart—   This is my gift to Thee

To a friend, just a few months later, who was also recently bereft of two children she wrote:

Is it possible, is it possible that you are made childless? I feel distressed for you, my dear friend; I long to fly to you and weep with you; it seems as if I must say or do something to comfort you. But God only can help you now, and how thankful I am for a throne of grace and power where I can commend you, again and again, to Him who doeth all things well.

I never realise my own affliction in the loss of my children as I do when death enters the house of a friend. Then I feel that I can’t have it so. But why should I think I know better than my Divine Master what is good for me, or good for those I love! Dear Carrie! trust that in this hour of sorrow you have with you that Presence, before which alone sorrow and sighing flee away. God is left; Christ is left; sickness, accident, death can not touch you here. Is not this a blissful thought?… As I sit at my desk my eye is attracted by the row of books before me, and what a comment on life are their very titles: “Songs in the Night,” “Light on Little Graves,” “The Night of Weeping,” “The Death of Little Children,” “The Folded Lamb,” “The Broken Bud,” these have strayed one by one into my small enclosure, to speak peradventure a word in season unto my weariness. And yet, dear Carrie, this is not all of life. You and I have tasted some of its highest joys, as well as its deepest sorrows, and it has in reserve for us only just what is best for us. May sorrow bring us both nearer to Christ! I can almost fancy my little Eddy has taken your little Maymee by the hand and led her to the bosom of Jesus. How strange our children, our own little infants, have seen Him in His glory, whom we are only yet longing for and struggling towards!

Reading Elizabeth’s own words during her loss of her two children, gives much insight into the beautiful scenes of Stepping Heavenward as Katy loses her child.  No wonder Prentiss could compose such a soul-stirring scene…she had lived it herself.

As the book encompasses the life of Elizabeth, there are details and beautiful accounts of her reaction and service during the Civil War, as well as political observations she made.  Throughout Elizabeth Prentiss: More Love to Thee, details are also given each time one of her books were written, published, the public’s reaction to it, how Prentiss balanced her writing with caring for her family, and also unique–the input her husband had on characters of her stories.  She recounts once to a friend that the character she loved most in one story, George did not, and so she changed it.

I now feel that I know Elizabeth Prentiss a bit better. Her love and devotion to God, her habits of selflessness and humble service to others, and her lifelong pursuit of holiness have made her one that I look forward to meeting in Heaven one day.  Her story as a Christian, a pastor’s wife, a mother and a writer is a beautiful testimony of the work of God in the life of a woman who, while still sinful, was fully submitted to him.  Sharon James’ biography gets five stars from me.

Sketches From Church History

sketches

Posted by Kevin

I love church history. In March of 2010, as I inspected the book table at the Generations With Vision Family Economics Conference in Castle Rock, Colorado, I came across what I knew would prove to be a great tool to teach my family about our Christian heritage – S.M. Houghton’s Sketches From Church History: An Illustrated Account of 20 Centuries of Christ’s Power (Banner of Truth, 1980). The book is what it claims to be – a ‘sketch’ of church history. For example, the life and work of one of my favorite reformers, John Knox, is covered in just a few pages, whereas larger church history works may have several pages or even a chapter devoted to his life. Certainly there are whole books that detail his work to reform his native Scotland, but let me get back to the ‘sketch’. The book’s 250 pages are divided up nicely into 50 chapters of roughly 2 – 5 pages each. Perfect. I think it a great resource for fathers to use in walking their families through an introduction to church history. If you are constantly looking for tools to use in your family’s discipleship as I am, and you have a desire to educate your family in church history, I think you will find the book to be of great value. (Sketches, along with its accompanying Student Workbook by Rebecca Frawley, can be purchased from Monergism Books.)

Let me give you a taste for what you’ll read. Referring to one of the major turning points in the history of the Church (indeed of the world), the year 311 when Constantine rose to power in the Empire and signaled the end of the centuries long, severe persecution of the Church, Houghton writes:

Was it a change for the better? Yes, and No! Persecutions ended, for the Emperor
now became a defender of the Christian faith… Churches were built for Christian
worship, and bishops and preachers received liberal salaries from the State. The
Christian Sunday was recognized as a day of rest on which ordinary work was
forbidden and even Christian soldiers were permitted to attend the services. All
this was certainly a great blessing for the people of God; it was a great calm
after a severe and prolonged storm. But with toleration came danger. It now
became on honor and a distinction to be a Christian. The best positions in the
State and community were given to them. The Christians became leaders
everywhere. It was only natural that many pagans turned to Christianity, not
because their hearts were converted to the living God, but to gain position and
promotion. Jesus would have said to them, ‘Ye seek Me because ye did eat of the
loaves’ (John 6:26); that is to say, to seek earthly gain. ‘Woe unto you when
all men speak well of you’ (Luke 6:26) ran another word of warning. Most
certainly worldly men were undesirable members of the Church.
And how the outward appearance of the Church changed! If peace came to the Church, so too
did worldliness…Quality was sacrificed to quantity. The fire of persecution had
kept the Church pure; toleration resulted in the introduction of elements which
boded ill for the future. (pgs. 20-21)

Ashamed of the Gospel

books5
Posted by Kevin

This book ranks somewhere in the bottom half of my top ten all time favorites. In terms of shaping my understanding of how the church is to unashamedly proclaim the gospel in the midst of our ‘seeker sensitive,’ contemporary church culture, it ranks first. Now in its 3rd edition, John MacArthur’s Ashamed of the Gospel continues to challenge pastors to fulfill their God-given calling by unashamedly preaching the word of God in the context of the local church. In a day when there is no end as to how pastors are taught to build their churches using this ministry or that one, Ashamed of the Gospel powerfully sets forth the God ordained means of true church growth and preservation: a man called and gifted of God, proclaiming the word of God in the power of the Spirit of God. No gimmicks required.

Here’s a small taste to whet your appetite:

“Evangelicals everywhere are frantically seeking new techniques and new forms of entertainment to attract people. Whether a method is biblical or not scarcely seems to matter to the average church leader—or church goer—today. Does it work? That is the new test of legitimacy. And so raw pragmatism has become the driving force in much of the professing church. When Charles Spurgeon warned about those who ‘would like to unite church and stage, cards and prayer, dancing and sacraments,’ he was belittled as an alarmist. But Spurgeon’s prophecy has been fulfilled before our eyes. Proclaiming the gospel message of redemption for sinners and teaching the Word for the maturing and holiness of believers should be the heart of every church’s ministry. If the world looks at the church and sees an entertainment center or country club, we’re sending the wrong message. If Christians view the church as an amusement parlor, the church will die. “ 3rd edition, pages 82, 83.

Having first read the book more than ten years ago, I try to read through it every couple of years to remind me of these things.

I have greatly benefited from the speaking and writing ministry of John MacArthur through the years, and while there are certainly points where I find myself at odds with his stated doctrinal positions, I heartily recommend this book as a stirring reminder to pastors of how to go about the privileged calling of preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, and for Christians in churches everywhere to expect no less.