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Rebecca Stark (Yukon)

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Twelve Extraordinary Women: How God Shaped Women Of The Bible And What He Wants To Do With You
Twelve Extraordinary Women: How God Shaped Women Of The Bible And What He Wants To Do With You
by John MacArthur
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 20.90
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ordinary Women Made Extraordinary, Aug. 16 2007
First he wrote Twelve Ordinary Men, a book that contained character studies of the twelve disciples. Based on the success of that book, John MacArthur has given us another book written in the same format, only this time, the twelve people whose lives we read about are all women--women chosen for the important place each has in the story of redemption. The twelve women included are

* Eve
* Sarah
* Rahab
* Ruth
* Hannah
* Mary (the mother of Jesus)
* Anna
* The Samaritan Woman
* Martha and Mary
* Mary Magdalene
* Lydia

Twelve Extraordinary Women is a book I thoroughly enjoyed reading and I learned much more than I expected about the lives and characters of these women. They are all women "who were unremarkable in and of themselves." Rahab was a harlot, Ruth was a very poor widow, Anna was a very old widow, and a list of the descriptions of all of them would go on in a similar vein. What made these women extraordinary, as the subtitle suggests, was God's work in their lives, shaping them into faithful women--women who loved God.

My favorite chapter was the one on Mary and Martha. I have to admit that there have always been things in their story that puzzled me just a little. Honestly, the thought has crossed my mind that poor Martha got a little bit of a raw deal when she was admonished by Jesus. I admire people with the energy to buzz around making sure everything it perfect for their guests. Doesn't someone have to take care of those things?

Serving one's guests, writes MacArthur, is indeed a good thing, but worshiping Christ is of a higher priority: "Nothing, including even service rendered to Christ, is more important than listening to Him and honoring Him with our hearts." He goes on to point out that it is the inclination to make service more important than worship to that makes pietism and liberalism so dangerous, because making good deeds more important than sound doctrine and true worship corrupts the good deeds, since a deed is only good when it flows "from a true reliance on God's redemption and His righteousness."

This little summary of one of the lessons learned from the story of Mary and Martha gives you an idea of the sorts of insights that can be found within this book.

So yes, I recommend this book, because I'm betting you will enjoy reading and learning from it as much as I did. Twelve Extraordinary Women would also make a good gift, since it's an easy read and the subject matter would be of interest to most women.

It's a good thing to be reminded that God works extraordinary things through ordinary women. Seeing how God's character-shaping worked in the women of the Bible should inspire us to love "the God whom they trusted and served," which is MacArthur's own prayer for the readers.

By Faith Alone: Answering the Challenges to the Doctrine of Justification
By Faith Alone: Answering the Challenges to the Doctrine of Justification
by Gary L. W. Johnson
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 21.83
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Book of Essays, July 2 2007
This is a book of essays - nine in all (ten, if you count the introduction by Guy Waters) - responding to recent challenges to the historic Reformed understanding of the doctrine of justification by faith alone, concentrating on the New Perspective on Paul and the Federal Vision, but also engaging the classic Arminian position and Mormonism.

As might be expected from a book that consists of essays by various authors, the book is a little uneven. Some essays seem to be written with the interested lay person in mind, and others assumed much more prior knowledge on the part of the reader. In addition, since the essays were originally intended to stand alone, there is a fair bit of repetition of ideas and arguments.

That means there were essays I enjoyed reading, those that were beyond me, and those I just wasn't interested in. The first two essays engage the writings of N. T. Wright. While I found the explanations and arguments in these two chapters very interesting, I don't think I know enough about the issues to judge them. I also enjoyed several essays defending imputed righteousness and the active obedience of Christ, because this is a doctrine that seems to come up in discussions occasionally, and it was helpful to see it defended from scripture. The essays related to the Auburn Avenue or Federal Vision controversy were mostly beyond me. I'm not Presbyterian, and I don't know enough about the issues to even understand the essays.

If you are like me, and a bit of a novice on these issues, you might need a little more background knowledge before you would find this book completely useful, but if you are up on these things, my uneducated guess is that you'll find this to be a valuable book.

Feminine Appeal
Feminine Appeal
by Carolyn Mahaney
Edition: Paperback
61 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Seven Feminine Virtues, June 30 2007
Ce commentaire est de: Feminine Appeal (Paperback)
Feminine Appeal is based around what Carolyn Mahaney calls the seven feminine virtues listed for us in Titus 2:3-5:

"Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled."

Each of the positive characteristics listed in these verses--loving one's husband, loving one's children, being self-controlled, being pure, working at home, being kind, and being submissive to one's husband--is given a chapter of it's own to discuss ways to cultivate that characteristic. I'd say that this little book is one of the ways Carolyn Mahaney carries out the command in the first part of the quoted passage: that older women teach younger women how to behave in a way that promotes the gospel by showing how it transforms lives.

I always come to this sort of book with a bit of apprehenshion, because there are a couple of concerns I have about "how to live" books in general. I'm happy to be able to say that Carolyn Mahaney's managed to walk the tight-rope and avoid these possible weaknesses for the most part.

One concern I have is that the real life examples given in a book of this kind will set such high standards that they will be discouraging rather than encouraging to women who are young and inexperienced. I've always had a bit of a compulsive streak, and I read some books when I was younger that ended up being more of a hindrance than a help because deep down, I felt like I ought to be copying perfectly every example in the book, so I was not satisfied with what was good enough or with what worked best in my situation. That's the reason I'm glad I had at least a couple of real-life mentors, in addition to the books I read, because real-life mentors sometimes have dust bunnies under the kitchen table and children who misbehave, and seeing that helps the perfectionist sort--like me--avoid unrealistic expectations. While Carolyn Mahaney uses herself and her own life as examples throughout the book, she wisely lets us see some of her dust bunnies, reminding us through her choice of examples that these are characteristics that we will spend a lifetime developing, and that none of us shows these characteristics perfectly all the time.

The other fear I have with books like this is that we'll be given firm rules where scripture gives us only general principles. All women are different, with different talents, interests, and circumstances; and the virtues given us in Titus 2 can be lived out in many different ways that take into consideration our particular talents, interests, and circumstances. That's why I like that Carolyn Mahaney used example from various women in various circumstances throughout this book so that the reader can see different ways the principles can be carried out in individual women's lives.

Feminine Appeal gets my recommendation as a book that will be helpful for both young women looking to live out their faith in their lives, and for older women who want to take up the challenge to provide both good teaching and good example to younger women.

Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye?: Trusting God with a Hope Deferred
Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye?: Trusting God with a Hope Deferred
by Carolyn McCulley
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 19.57
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1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Book Full of Encouragement, June 30 2007
Carolyn McCulley has written Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye? for Christian single women, particularly for women who remain single beyond the time when most women are married. It's a book full of encouragement--encouraging the single woman to trust God with his plan for her life and to live her life fully for His glory.

I married quite young, so the situation of a woman who's never been married is not one I've experienced. I had to try to imagine what that would have been like, so I'm probably not the very best person to evaluate experientially whether this book is useful for someone living the single life. However, I can tell you that the wisdom found here is grounded in scripture, which tells you the most important thing you need to know in order to evaluate its usefulness.

After establishing in the first three chapters that singleness is a valuable gift from God, and that God is sovereignly working in all things to bring about his good his plan for our lives, Carolyn McCulley gets to what I consider to be the meat of this book: the nitty-gritty of living the life of a single woman for God's glory. And she bases it all in that famous passage of scripture from Proverbs 31--you know, the "Excellent Wife" passage.

Here's how she defends her use of this passage as the guide for the single woman:

"The role described in this passage is that of a wife, but her godly, noble character is what all women should desire. It will serve us in every season of our lives."

And she's right, of course. The passage may be about a noble wife, but what's noble in a wife is what's noble in any woman. The Proverbs 31 qualities are qualities of excellence, desirable for every woman in every situation. For example, the noble woman Proverb 31 is a hospitable woman. In the same way, a single woman can use her home to serve others. The excellent wife of Proverbs is generous with the needy, so the single women, too, can learn to look beyond herself and her own needs to consider how she can help meet the needs of others.

Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye? is peppered throughout with interesting stories and anecdotes, many from the author's own life; and thankfully, she's not afraid to tell the stories that make her look less than perfect. All this makes for a lively and engaging read, but one that's challenging and thought-provoking as well. If you're a single Christian woman who's trying to sort through the challenges of "a hope deferred", you'll want to read this book. Or if you know a single Christian woman who needs encouragement, recommend this book to her.

God Is the Gospel: Meditations on Gods Love as the Gift of Himself
God Is the Gospel: Meditations on Gods Love as the Gift of Himself
by John Piper
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 23.99
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars On the Ultimate Purpose of God's Saving Work, June 30 2007
The main point John Piper is making in God is the Gospel is that the ultimate purpose of the gospel it to bring us to God. The various gifts of the gospel--like our justification and the gift of the Spirit, among many others--are necessary steps to achieve this overarching goal of bring us to God himself.

Too often we focus on the gifts of the gospel without putting them in their proper place as things that work toward the ultimate gift of all: God himself. We are a little like children who focus on all of their birthday gifts without seeing beyond the gifts to the people who love them and gave the gifts to them. Of course, we expect our children to mature to the point where they see beyond birthday gifts to the people who gave them; and we ought to expect to grow as believers, too, until the many gifts of the gospel serve most of all to focus our attention on the God who gave them. We want to come to the point where we can say with the Psalmist, "Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you."

Here's a question John Piper asks in this book:

"If you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on earth, and with all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties you ever saw, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no human conflict or any natural disasters, could you be satisfied with heaven if Christ was not there?"

How you answer this question will tell you something about whether the ultimate purpose of the gospel is what you want most from it. As a tool for helping us see this point, and for goading us on to focus on the ultimate purpose of God's work of salvation, God is the Gospel is a valuable book.

That doesn't mean I didn't have a few problems with it. One of those problems is with the title of the book itself. The reasoning behind the title goes like this: The crowning purpose of the gospel is for us to enjoy God. What makes the gospel good news is that it gives us God himself. Therefore, God is the gospel.

Well, not quite. That's a bit like saying the journey is the destination. The journey brings us to the destination, the whole purpose of the journey is to reach the destination, but that doesn't make the journey equal to the destination.

It's little things like this, bits of not-quite-so-clear thinking that give me a few reservations about this book. I couldn't always follow the thoughts exactly and sometimes I couldn't understand how certain conclusions were reached, and that bothered me. And I regretted that, because I knew that the overall point of the book was important and one that we all need to grasp. However, if you are a Piper fan, if you've read others of his books and enjoyed them, you will probably enjoy God is the Gospel, too, and find it valuable to you.

Humility: True Greatness
Humility: True Greatness
by C.J. Mahaney
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 13.91
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Seeing the Truth about Ourselves, June 30 2007
Ce commentaire est de: Humility: True Greatness (Hardcover)
Finally, a book on every Christian's favorite subject!

Well, I suppose that's not quite right, is it? Most of us don't really want to be more humble. At least we don't want to be more humble unless someone notices how humble we are and congratulates us for it.

C. J. Mahaney defines humility as a realistic evaluation of ourselves in light of God's holiness and our sinfulness. Humility is seeing the truth about ourselves. I think I can say with confidence that there's not one Christian who oughtn't be more humble. When we assess ourselves, we are much more likely to evaluate ourselves as better than we really are, than we are to see ourselves accurately. Our problem is not lack of self-esteem, but too much self-esteem. So this is a book we all ought to be interested in, even though we might find the subject...well...humbling.

This is a short book and a quick read. The first two sections deal with the biblical reasons we ought to be humble and the biblical example of humility that we find in Christ himself. The last section is the largest section of the book, and it's the "how-to" of humility: What can we do to grow some in ourselves and in those we are responsible for.

This last section is where the strength of the book is. I'm not a big reader of "how-to" books, but this is not pop-psychology, but practical biblical advice. For instance, this section examines things like what we can do first thing in the morning to give us a humble outlook, what we can do at the close of the day to remind us of our dependence on God and his grace, and how we can encourage others.

I wish there had been more exegetical examination of the various scriptural texts that deal with humility--like my personal favorite: Philippians 2: 1-11--but that's probably just me wanting a book that's more the sort of thing that I really, really like to read. Practical is good, and Humility: True Greatness is nothing if not practical. It gives us the down-to-earth, bottom-line, nitty-gritty on a quality I need more of, and I bet you do, too.

Work Excellence: A Biblical Perspective Of Work
Work Excellence: A Biblical Perspective Of Work
by Charles M. Garriott
Edition: Paperback
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4.0 out of 5 stars Rethinking Work, June 30 2007
This book is short, easy to read, and conversational in style, but not shallow. There was probably nothing in it that I didn't already know at some level, and yet I found myself constantly rethinking my attitude toward work throughout the book. It is peppered with biblical stories, and principles relating to work in the life of a Christian are drawn from the stories. Each chapter ends with a few questions to help the reader reflect on how to apply those principles to his own life and work.

The chapter titled Conflict, for example, draws its principles from the story of the fall. Since the fall, our work experiences are marred by the results of God's wrath against sin. Our work is not going to be easy. There will be an element of struggle and futility in it, and we will experience conflict and tension. This is something that we need to accept about our life and work in a fallen world.

Yet we are not left without hope. The struggle within our life and work are temporal things, and they point us to the hope of the gospel.The gospel has no meaning without the recognition of the pain from sin that ignites the anger of God. Our hope is in Christ alone, and not in the absence of pain. We can find comfort in Christ from the suffering we experience in our work, and reconcilitation and forgiveness in the conflicts that arise there can be found in him, too.

Keeping these two basic biblical principles in mind--the fall mars our work experiences, yet there is hope in Christ--Garriott gives us a few questions to answer for ourselves at the end of the chapter, including, "What are the 'thistles' that exist within your work?" and "Are there relationships at your place of employment that need to be addressed with grace and forgiveness?" Finally, we are given a short prayer to pray regarding the effects of the fall on our life and work.

Each of the eleven short chapters in the book follows this same basic format: an examination of the principles, questions to help us think about how we might apply them to our own situations, and a prayer to pray. It's simplicity and subject matter make it a valuable book for almost any believer. Who isn't just a little dissatisfied with their life and work? Who doesn't need a reminder of our obligation to use the talents we have been given in a way that brings God glory? The format would also make it suitable for use in a discussion group setting, using the questions for reflection as starting points for group discussion.

Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth: An Analysis of More Than 100 Disputed Questions
Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth: An Analysis of More Than 100 Disputed Questions
by Wayne Grudem
Edition: Paperback
15 used & new from CDN$ 23.38

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive Defense of Complementarianism, June 30 2007
This is some book! By that I mean that Evangelical Feminism & Biblical Truth is about as comprehensive a treatment of the issue of the proper biblical roles of men and women in the home and in the church as anyone could hope to find--856 pages, 80+ pages of which are bibliography and indexes, 8 appendices totaling over 200 pages, and 536 pages of text--all painstakingly documented and referenced.

Grudem argues for the complementarian viewpoint, which holds that the equal value and dignity of the sexes do not mean that men and women have the same God-given roles in marriage or the church. (I would consider myself a complementarian--although not necessarily a studied one--so I was not reading this book as someone whose bias is critical of this viewpoint.) However, no matter what your personal view is--complementarian or egalitarian--if you are interested in this issue, you will find this book invaluable for the careful documentation of the arguments for both sides. I wish everyone writing books arguing for a particular viewpoint were as fair as Grudem is in his representation of the arguments of the other side. In fact, he solicits comments from any egalitarian author who thinks he has unfairly quoted or summarized their arguments, giving an address for their complaints to be sent to.

In the first two chapters of this book, the positive case for the complementarian viewpoint is given. In the bulkiest section of the book, chapters 3-12, Grudem systematically answers the arguments made by egalitarians. If you've heard the argument made, you will undoubtedly find it set out for you in this section, right alongside Grudem's evaluation of the claim. There are 118 egalitarian claims examined in detail in this middle section of the book. Even if you don't read this section clear through from start to finish, you should find it handy to have as a reference, no matter where you hang your hat on this issue.

The two summary chapters of the book contain Grudem's argument that evangelical feminism tends to lead to other liberal positions within a church, and an overview of the viewpoints held by the various denominations and parachurch organizations. He ends the text with some of his personal observations and opinion as to how and why egalitarianism is advancing in the church and what complementarians ought to do about it.

Then there are the previously mentioned appendices, which are almost a book in themselves, and just as interesting and informative as the regular text of the book. They include, for instance, two lengthy works on the meaning of the Greek word translated head. If you've heard many egalitarian arguments, you know that the meaning of this word figures large in their arguments.

To sum up, if this is an issue you care about, then you'll want to read this book in order to make sure you have a full grasp of the arguments on both sides. And your library is lacking if you don't have this book as a reference to draw from. If you, like me, are not a scholar, you'll appreciate that while Wayne Grudem is a scholar--and this is a very scholarly piece--it is still quite readable and understandable for the nonscholar.

Total Truth : Liberating Christianity From Its Cul: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity
Total Truth : Liberating Christianity From Its Cul: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity
by Nancy Pearcey
Edition: Hardcover
16 used & new from CDN$ 21.27

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Very Dense Book, But Worth the Effort, June 30 2007
I hope that my calling Total Truth dense won't scare you away from it, because what Nancy Pearcey has given us in this book is too valuable to avoid just because it's not a quick read. Besides, in this case, dense doesn't mean difficult to understand, only that there's lots to take in.

Why should you care about this book? Why will you find it valuable? Unless you've been living under a bridge in Norway eating billy goats, you've heard the word worldview bandied about lately. We've all got one, you know. What is your worldview? How did you get it? How do you evaluate a worldview? How do you apply your worldview practically and personally? These are all questions that this book will help you answer.

The sort of questions in the study guide are probably more useful for group discussion than for someone just reading through it on their own. However, if you are buying Total Truth (and you should!), I'd suggest getting the study guide edition even if you plan to just read the book by yourself and never discuss it with anyone. I guarantee there'll be a question or two in there that'll get you going and help expand your understanding of the principles in the book.

Praying Backwards: Transform Your Prayer Life by Beginning in Jesus' Name
Praying Backwards: Transform Your Prayer Life by Beginning in Jesus' Name
by Bryan Chapell
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 18.30
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Devotional Book with Substance, June 30 2007
If I'd seen this book in a bookstore and read only the title, I'd have passed it by without a second glance. I hate gimmicks, associating them with shallowness, and this title sure sounds gimmicky to me. There is a reason for the title. Praying Backwards is all about praying in Jesus' name--you know, that little phrase that we like to tack on to the end or our prayers as an afterthought--and what praying in Jesus' name really means.

It's a devotional sort of book, but devotional in the best sense. This book's got substance, not only encouraging and instructing us to pray boldly and persistently, for instance, but giving us the biblical reasons that we ought to. I'm not going to say that this book transformed my prayer life--my prayer life was transformed more in the circumstances of my husband's illness and death--but it reminded me of many of the things I learned about praying in those difficult times.

And I needed the reminder. Depending on God for everything is something that comes naturally when times are tough, but when things get better we once again begin to fool ourselves into thinking that have just a little control over our own lives, and that robs our prayer life of the richness of total dependence on God. When times are tough, we are not afraid to say, "Lord, have your will, no matter what it is", but when things run smoothly again, that's a much more difficult prayer to say and mean.

I wish I hadn't been reading this book with a deadline. I would have read one chapter a day, or even one chapter a week, so I could concentrate on putting each principle into practice before I moved on. It's a book that would be better savoured than skimmed, and I'm going to try to reread it more carefully later as I have more time.

The feature I appreciated most in Praying Backwards is the written prayer at the end of each chapter--a prayer that puts the chapter's key thought into the words of a prayer. Each one was moving to read and moving to pray. The feature I liked least was that title. I'm afraid it will put off the sort of people who would be drawn by the substance of the book, and those who would be attracted to the cuteness of the title might not be willing to do the hard work of reading it or putting its principles into practice.

But if you let the title put you off, you'd be missing a valuable book for any Christian to read. Prayer is another one of those things we probably don't think enough about, and we too easily let our prayers become rote, or even nonexistent, and we lose out on the blessings--confidence, peace, and joy--that come from shaping our prayers to conform to those words we always tack on to the end of them: "In Jesus' name, Amen."

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