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Review: Promise and Deliverance by S.G. De Graaf

Promise and Deliverance

It can be difficult to find a quality narrative Bible curriculum for teens and adults. The four volume Promise and Deliverance series by S.G. De Graaf, first published years ago, is still among the best. Many years ago Christianity Today called it “A landmark in interpreting the simple stories of the Bible” and that assessment is as valid as ever.

For years the author, Reverend De Graaf, led a weekly class for those who taught Bible to children, both at Sunday schools and at day schools. This book is the fruit of repeatedly answering the question, “How do we tell this Bible story?” and is helpful for teachers of little ones, for teens to study on their own, and also for anyone else who wishes to study the Bible.

So what is so special about the Promise and Deliverance series?  It focuses on the meaning of each story and on how to understand and share it….

You can read the rest of this review, with the links to  free downloads of all four volumes of Promise and Deliverance, at the Curriculum Choice. 

This review is linked to Saturday Reviews, Booknificent Thursdays, Raising HomemakersFinishing Strong , and Trivium Tuesdays.

Winter’s Beginning

fireplace

Sunday morning, some of the ‘raindrops’ did not fall, but tumbled and drifted in the wind, the winter’s first attempt at snow.

Our fire is burning and we have cups of tea standing around and there’s the promise of soup for lunch.  We make the extra effort to focus on warmth and coziness, sleep in a bit, put more vitamin D on the vitamin plate, and use the treadmill to warm up.

Winter, this gift from God, is one I do not want to receive.  But our heavenly Father has all things in his hands, even the weather and our every shiver, so in faith that it is a good gift, we give thanks…even though we also pray for some more lovely weather.

Review: The Marriage You’ve Always Wanted by Gary Chapman

The Marriage Youve Always Wanted

Gary Chapman, popularizer of the 5 Love Languages concept, has reworked an earlier book, Toward a Growing Marriage, into this helpful manual.  He states that the goal of marriage is a deep, total union of a couple on all levels—intellectual, social, spiritual, emotional, and physical.

From a Biblical viewpoint, Chapman deals with all the usual marriage topics and a few more:

  • What people expect from marriage
  • Why people have a hard time changing, and what to do about it
  • What love really is
  • Communication, its importance, and common difficulties
  • Practical life, i.e. who does what around the house
  • Making decisions
  • Sex
  • Parents and In-Laws
  • Money

At the end of each chapter there’s a list of questions to help both spouses apply what was discussed. Of course, it would be ideal if both spouses were to go through the book together, but even if one spouse learns from this book, a marriage will improve.

This book is practical while also discussing background causes—as well as solutions—for common difficulties. Over and over, Chapman points people to the Bible, but he also gives simple rules he and his wife live by such as, “When you are upset take turns 3-5 minutes long to talk without interruption, for as long as it takes to deal with the issue.”

However, this book is not only about marriage; it’s also about living a Christian life because that is the foundation to meaningful Christian marriages. Chapman helps people think about their own sins rather than their spouse’s, and he says: “Discipline yourself to live with a clear conscience toward God and your mate.”   In fact, he asserts that the number one principle of mental (and hence marital) health is to confess your sins and keep your conscience clear.  He also reminds us that we can only change because of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives and that the fruits of the Spirit are not the fruits of self-effort.

This is our 25th anniversary year and, providentially, it also seems to be my year for reading and reviewing marriage books.  Having read 6 marriage books within a year (listed below), I cannot help comparing them, and need to add a few caveats to my recommendation of this otherwise excellent book.

In the introduction, Chapman introduces a few sobering statistics about marriage—the very ones Shaunti Feldhahn has just debunked in her excellent book The Good News about Marriage. (I suppose that happens when books are published at about the same time.)  However, although Chapman does not belabor the gloominess, he does seem more pessimistic about the possibilities of change than Feldhahn in her other book The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages. And, while Chapman is very practical in some chapters, The Surprising Secrets is much more hands-on.

Also, Feldhahn encourages people to be realistic in their expectations and ask only for what a spouse can give; Chapman encourages them to aim for perfection. No wonder, if he aims for perfection, that he finds so many ‘problem’ marriages.

These three books would make good companion volumes, with Chapman’s The Marriage You’ve Always Wanted providing the Biblical basis and Feldhahn’s two books the practical aspects and the proof that a good (not perfect) marriage is not only possible but, for a church-attending couple, quite probable.

Other resources are available to accompany this book for small group or large event experiences.

Note that Chapman is touring Canada this fall. Locations and dates are available here.

Here is a list of the other excellent marriage books that I have read and reviewed in the past year:

My Beloved and My Friend,

Pure Love,

The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages,

The Good News about Marriage , and

The Meaning of Marriage (review coming soon).

This is yet another book in the in the 2014 52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge and is also linked to Saturday Reviews, Works for Me Wednesdays, Booknificent Thursdays, and Raising Homemakers.

Disclosure: A review copy of this book has been provided courtesy of Moody Publishers and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc., and is available at your favourite bookseller from Moody Publishers.  As usual I am not compensated for recommending any of these resources.

Civics: How Our Heavenly Citizenship Affects Our Earthly Countries

Supreme Court of Canada

Supreme Court of Canada, from Wikimedia Commons

One of our homeschooling goals is to raise citizens of the kingdom of heaven who care about their earthly country as well. We want to equip them to influence their culture for Christ…and this includes political action.

How can we equip our children to influence their culture for Christ?

  • Obviously, it begins with teaching our children about the Lord, reading the Bible to and with them, praying, and attending church together.
  • It also involves studying the ideas that influence our world, with their history, flaws, and implications. While this is an integral element of both classical and Charlotte Mason education, it can easily become part of any style of homeschooling.
  • And it involves keeping up with current events. My older teens keep up with the news, and Ambleside Online inspired one of them to write a short summary of the top 3-5 news events each week.  Note that because of the often brutal and depressing content, reading or watching the news is not appropriate for everyone.  However, even knowing only the basics of what is going on is enough for a person who wants to make a difference.

Why should we even bother trying to influence politics? Is it not enough just to preach the gospel? 

While our foundation is most definitely the gospel, Christians have a duty to work for God’s glory, truth, and will in all of life. Furthermore, without the freedoms of our western societies, preaching the gospel becomes a much more dangerous and difficult task.  Since Christianity and Biblical morals and freedoms are under attack throughout our world, we all can find some niche in which to use our talents.  Of course, as moms our primary task is to love our husbands and children, but many of us do have some time left over to be involved, with our families, in other matters.

How can we become involved?

No matter where you live, there are serious issues Christians can and should try to influence. We in Canada are blessed with dynamic organizations such as ARPA which help inform, equip, and mobilize Christians for political action.  Canada, for example, is currently facing some fundamental challenges to Christian living and worldview, as outlined on the ARPA website:

And of course, there is the shocking fact that no pre-born baby of any age has any legal protection under Canadian law. In fact, in Canada, it is legal to kill even full-term babies as long as they are not yet born.  (For more information and to get involved, see WeNeedALaw.ca)

How will these ideas about civics impact our homeschooling?

We parents need to help our teens understand the issues and show them how to get involved. In our homeschools studying civics should involve not only book learning but also practical work as our families learn to make a difference by actually making a difference.  So there will be hands-on work such as the March for Life, contacting politicians, or perhaps even helping a worthy candidate’s campaign.

But, of course, book learning is important too. As Nancy Pearcey pointed out in Total Truth, the battle is fought, and lost, in our universities, culture, and media before it ever reaches the political arena.  So we need to equip our children to think, analyse, and influence their culture in these pre-political ways as well.  Besides the study of Biblical thought and western civilization’s ‘great ideas’, your teens might be ready for some valuable resources I mentioned in an earlier post:

  • God and Government by C. Van Dam:   This book addresses issues such as the duties of governments and citizens “through the eyes of Scripture and against the backdrop of North America’s dual heritage of Christianity and humanism.”  Each chapter concludes with an extensive booklist, making God and Government a possible basis for an intense high school course as well as an enlightening resource for adults.
  • Christian Citizenship Guide by Michael Wagner:  A concise guide to Christianity and Canadian political life that discusses history, the human rights movement, and what you can do.
  • The Omnibus curriculum from Veritas Press:  Political thought and practice through the centuries are studied from a robust Christian point of view.  Very illuminating.
  • The Spiritual Danger of Doing Good by Greer and Haggard: An indispensable reminder for all of us, no matter what ministry we are involved in, to do good for the right reasons and in the right way.

May our Lord be glorified as we try to teach our children how citizenship in our earthly countries is influenced by our heavenly citizenship. 

This post is linked to Finishing Strong, Trivium Tuesdays, Works for Me Wednesday, Raising Homemakers and the Carnival of Homeschooling.

Disclosure:  As always, I am not compensated for recommending resources.

Review: Jonathan Edwards by Simonetta Carr

Jonathan Edwards by Simonetta Carr

When many ideas about God, life, and the world were being questioned seriously for the first time in centuries, Jonathan Edwards grappled with them, both in his life and his teaching. His answers to these questions greatly influenced the age he lived in and have also left a mark on the way we think today.  In this insightful biography, Simonetta Carr shows us the life, times, and work of this great man of God.

As a youth, Jonathan spent many happy hours in the college library and in Creation, pondering the nature of light, rainbows, and forest spiders. He was both studious and serious, agonizing over questions of faith and greatly comforted at seventeen when the Holy Spirit filled the words of 1 Timothy 1:17 with meaning for him:

“Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever.”

Simonetta traces the life of this gifted man through his studies, his marriage, his ministry, the Great Awakening, and more, including details that make him come alive. Did you know that when Edwards would go riding for exercise, he would take along paper and ink and pin his notes to his coat, and that his happy wife Sarah would unpin them and organize them? Or that when he was asked to be president of what would become Princeton University, he objected because of his health, his bouts of depression… and his inadequate knowledge of higher math?

Edwards did not live in an ivory tower but very much in the nitty-gritty of everyday life. God gave him many opportunities to make his faith real as he worked in the Great Awakening, was fired from his congregation, evangelized natives, faced danger from war, suffered poor health, watched family members die, and grappled with a workload that was too heavy for him.

In this biography we are also introduced to the English preacher George Whitefield and the young missionary David Brainerd, both of whom greatly influenced Edwards’s family and ministry.

The book ends with a touching letter from Jonathan Edwards to his daughter Mary, in which he talks at great length about how important it is for her to live closely to God, especially ‘considering what a dying time it has been with us in this town about this time of year in years past.’ That simple quotation puts the whole book in context; Edwards lived in a time when death was an everyday reality, and this fact sparked the beginning of the Great Awakening.

Nowadays almost all Christian ideas are being seriously challenged. Jonathan Edwards lived when such questions were just beginning and spent much of his life answering them.  Just like Augustine, Aquinas, and Schaeffer, he tried to equip Christians during a major influx of ungodly ideas.  We can be very thankful for God’s work through him.

Simonetta’s clear writing and the many illustrations, including Matt Abraxis’s luminous paintings, make this a fascinating introduction to the life and times of Jonathan Edwards. A map, a timeline, and some miscellaneous facts round out the book.  I highly recommend Jonathan Edwards for all those studying church history, American history, and the great ideas.  It will appeal to teens and adults as well as those in the target age range of 7-12.

For more information and a preview, visit the Christian Biographies for Young Readers website.

To read about other great thinkers who helped Christians deal with new ideas, I recommend these books I have reviewed:

Augustine of Hippo by Simonetta Carr (another accessible introduction)

How Should We Then Live? by Francis Schaeffer (a clear, insightful history of ideas)

This review is linked to Saturday Reviews, Booknificent Thursdays, Raising HomemakersFinishing Strong , and Trivium Tuesdays.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Reformation Heritage Books via Cross-Focused Reviews for the purpose of this review.

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