March 16, 2014

Review: John Knox (Christian Biographies for Young Readers)

Since our family was introduced to the ministry of 20schemes more than a year ago, I've been intrigued by all things Scottish. Like much of Europe, the history of Scotland is so rich -- especially their religious history. This history is often neglected today, both here and in Scotland.

Simonetta Carr's John Knox (Christian Biographies for Young Readers) is a great introduction to one of our most important Scottish church fathers. This book is geared for children, and the lush illustrations will help to draw the reader into the story. Some are photographs of historical artwork, but many are the artwork of the talented Matt Abraxas. The book is beautifully bound and could easily be a coffee table book (but one you'll actually read).

I have a confession to make. I read children's books. And I like them. There, I've said it. I enjoy reading Beverly Clearly, Rick Riordan, and Lois Lowry. But I read this book completely guilt-free because I learned so much about not only John Knox, but also about the 1500s in Western Europe, especially church history.

(Another confession. I had to take this book so away from my pastor/husband so that I could read and review it.)

This is not a dry history book. Carr makes John Knox come alive as the reader walks with him through from young adulthood through his death. While the history presented is important, I felt that the biggest takeaway from the book was the priority Knox placed on bringing the gospel to the common people which, at that time, involved much more than just preaching and evangelism. It required attempting to change the law of the land, and even risking imprisonment and death when taking a stand. I couldn't help but wonder if today's Christian leaders would be willing to take such a stand.

This book is for:
  • Parents and grandparents who would like to help their children develop a better understanding of church history and Christian faithfulness
  • Homeschoolers who would like to supplement both their history and Christian studies
  • Church leaders who would like to share an important part of church history with their
    congregations, as well as a good example of faithfulness under persecution
  • Moms who just like reading good children's literature (wink!)


Cross Focused Reviews provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for a review; however, the views stated here are my own. This review has also been posted on Amazon.com and Goodreads. This post contains affiliate links.

March 7, 2014

Review: Captivated: Beholding the Mystery of Jesus' Death and Resurrection


When I was given the opportunity to receive a copy of Thabiti Anyabwile's new book, Captivated: Beholding the Mystery of Jesus' Death and Resurrection, I eagerly jumped on it. Anyabwile has been a vocal supporter of 20schemes, of which we're a part. I'd heard

For me, this quote from Chapter 1 sums up the premise of the book:
The truth of Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection is a daily reality for those who believe in Him. Yet from time to time, that daily reality requires extended contemplation and reflection, and we should ponder its meaning so that it does not become daily neglected. (emphasis mine)
This is a short book, only ninety-five pages over five chapters, but it's packed. Each chapter is followed by a list of helpful questions "for further gazing and reflection." Here's how it breaks down:

Chapter 1: Is There No Other Way? Anyabwile places the reader right in the Garden of Gethsemane, giving a real sense of the sorrow and suffering that Jesus experienced, including the failure of friends and difficult answer to his prayer in Matthew 26:42. He then asks -- and answers -- "Why is this the only way?" ("This" being the cross.) This is important not only for the gospel, but for our understanding of the very character of the Father as we, too, experience sorrow and suffering.

Chapter 2: Why Have You Forsaken Me? While much could be said about this chapter, I think this quote sums up the answer to the question:
The Father's abandonment of Jesus leads to the sinner's adoption. God abandons one perfect Son in order to adopt millions of sinful sons. It is the only abandonment with any honor and redemption.
This abandonment is explored further as Anyabwile shares more deeply about the nature of the Father's abandonment of the Son through the rest of the chapter.

Chapter 3: Where, O Death, Is Your Victory? Anyabwile explains from Scripture exactly what death is and how Jesus' death "means victory over death for those who believe." The gospel is shared in the last few pages of this chapter, making this a good book to share with both believers and unbelievers.

Chapter 4: Why Do You Seek the Living Among the Dead? This was the question that the angels asked the women who had come to the tomb to prepare the corpse of their beloved Jesus for burial. Anyabwile shares how this simple question is a sanctifying redirection, both for the women and for us.

Chapter 5: Do You Not Know These Things? It's important how you know what you know, as many means are insufficient ways of knowing the truth about Jesus and the resurrection. Physical senses, facts, and Bible study are all insufficient means without our eyes being opened by God himself. My favorite takeaway quote from this section:
Sitting in a church for twenty years does not make you a Christian any more than putting rocks in an oven makes them biscuits.
If you've been a Christian for a long time, this book will encourage you to think about the meaning of Jesus' death and resurrection in a fresh way. If you're a new believer, it's my hope that this book will help you learn more about what this death and resurrection means for you today. And if you're one who wonders what all the fuss is about this man called Jesus, please read this book and pray for God to open your eyes. And let me know; I'll pray for that, as well.






Additional resources:

You can watch a trailer for this book here.

You can listen to an interview with the author here

Cross Focused Reviews provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for a review; however, the views stated here are my own. This review has also been posted on Amazon.com and Goodreads. This post contains affiliate links.