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Adult non-fiction, Book Reviews

Worship Matters

by  Cornelis Van Dam 2021 / 327 pages The deeper I got into this book, the more I appreciated its simple title, Worship Matters. In this volume, Dr. Cornelis Van Dam has collected about two dozen of his articles about the church’s worship of our triune God. He addresses many worship-related topics: the meaning of the Lord’s day, the importance of preaching, the place of the Ten Commandments, the gift of congregational singing, the function of the second service, and much more. There are numerous “worship matters,” but what becomes even more clear from this book is that worship matters. From the first page to the last, Van Dam impresses on us the immense privilege and responsibility that are ours when we meet with God in public worship. God has been so gracious to reveal Himself through His Word, to tell us about the way of salvation opened by the crucified and risen Christ, and to transform us by His Holy Spirit. In humility and reverence, we then respond to God with praise, drawing near to the holy Lord with a desire to give Him our very best. Such a spirit of worship must characterise our entire life, but in a special way we may honour God together as congregation on the Lord’s day. Van Dam does not attempt to treat every aspect of Reformed liturgy, but the ones that he does are clearly and helpfully explained. For instance, he has excellent chapters on Psalm-singing, the public reading of Scripture, musical accompaniment, and the closing benediction. Time and again, his liturgical explorations demonstrate the truth of Article 7 of the Belgic Confession, where we confess the sufficiency of God’s Word, and where we state, “The whole manner of worship which God requires of us is written in at length.” Drawing on Old and New Testament alike, Van Dam shows the depths and riches of Reformed worship. In his study of worship matters, Van Dam also doesn’t shy away from some controversial topics. He evaluates the trend of removing the reading of the law from Reformed liturgy, or having people other than office bearers read Scripture in a worship service. He considers the question of whether we can still sing the so-called imprecatory Psalms, addresses the ever-sensitive topic of our Sunday clothing, and discusses the place of liturgical dance. I will leave these intriguing topics for you to read about and consider. Dr. Arjan de Visser contributes a convincing and timely chapter on being “An Attractive Church.” If we desire to be faithful in our prophetic task, we should think about what will truly (and enduringly) attract people to our churches. Should we be prepared to modify our liturgy and message to make them more accessible? Or does Scripture show that true attraction will be based on something else? When a book is good, one can always wish it was a little longer. And so I arrived at the last page wishing that Van Dam had touched on a few more worship matters. His chapter on baptism would have been nicely complemented with a chapter on the Lord’s Supper. A study of the offering would be welcome too, especially in a time when it seems that many of us “pass the bag” – perhaps it’s because of the trend towards a cashless economy, or it’s for some other reason. Just what is the Biblical importance of the offertory in public worship? But an author can’t say everything in a book, of course, and the ground that Van Dam has chosen to cover is valuable. This book would be useful for any church member to read and reflect on. It originates from the pen/keyboard of a professor of theology, but it is not a difficult or complicated book. Rather, its brief chapters are clearly written, carefully organized, and thoroughly Scriptural. While helpful for any church member, this book would also be beneficial for consistories to study together, maybe taking time each meeting to consider a chapter or two. For a consistory, it is inevitable that questions concerning the worship services arise. This might happen through their own discussions, or when members suggest different approaches. Sometimes we feel threatened by any talk of liturgical change—or conversely, we’re sure that such changes will remedy a range of our problems as church—but in any case, we should be ready to seek faithful and upbuilding practices for our liturgy. This book supplies us with solid Scriptural principles and directions for the worship of our great and holy God. It’s worth a careful read, because worship matters! Canadians can find it at Reformed Christian Books,, and elsewhere....

Adult biographies

FREE E-BOOK Gospel Patrons: people whose generosity changed the world

by John Rinehart 2013 / 170 pages Are you a giant? Church history is full of such people. William Tyndale translated the Bible into English. George Whitefield was used by God to spark the Great Awakening, while John Newton was the ex-slave trader who wrote Amazing Grace and helped William Wilberforce end the British slave trade. These were Christian giants; their stories well known. But, as author John Rinehart notes, not all of us are called to these leadership positions. Many are called to supporting roles. In Gospel Patrons Rinehart tells the stories of three people who enabled Tyndale, Whitefield, and John Newton to do their work. Humphrey Monmouth was the man who financed Tyndale’s translation work (and spent a year in the Tower of London as reward). Lady Huntingdon used her position and influence to have the richest in England come to hear George Whitefield preach the Gospel and she funded his work reaching the rest of England and America. John Thornton placed John Newton in an influential church and encouraged him to publish a book of his hymns, one of which was Amazing Grace. Their stories are not well known, but their roles were vital too. Most of us are not giants like Tyndale, Whitefield, and Newton, and we might think that we don’t have the funds to act like Monmouth, Lady Huntingdon or Thornton either. But while few of us have the funds they did, most of us are in a position where we can spare money or time to support worthy causes. In sharing these three biographies, what author John Rinehart wants us to realize is the importance of this supporting role. God has a part for each of us to play. And if we understand how important the “lesser” roles are, perhaps we will more willingly take them on, sacrificially donating our money and our time. If I were to offer one critique, it would be on the topic that Gospel Patrons doesn't tackle: making sure that who you give to is going to use your money to good ends. Christians need to be generous and discerning. That said, this is a short book with a tight focus – to encourage and inspire Christians to be generous – so maybe discernment in giving is a topic for a different book. Meanwhile, Gospel Patrons is a very readable, very challenging, and much-needed book. I highly recommend it for all ages. And you can download it as a free e-book here. TO EXPLORE FURTHER: If you want to get a flavor of this "gospel patron" idea, author John Rinehart has also written a series of articles and created some short videos, all of them freely available on his website Here are two examples that might be of particular interest: The Gospel Patron behind RC Sproul ...

Book Reviews, Children’s fiction

Hostage Lands

by Douglas Bond 2006 / 235 pages “When am I ever going to use this?” It’s a question that comes up frequently in classrooms around the world. And it’s a question Neil Perkins, a British lad, is asking about his Latin class. But while some students have to wait years to put the lessons they learn to practical use, Neil only has to wait until later that same day. On his way home from school he takes a nasty spill off of his ATV, creating a small crater where the machine lands. It’s in this crater that he discovers the leather -wrapped  tablets that are the focus of the majority of this book. These tablets are covered in Latin, so Neil, with the help of his underappreciated Latin teacher , starts translating them. He soon finds out they comprise a story told by a Roman centurion who lived two thousand years ago! Douglas Bond’s Hostage Lands is really two stories in one. The first is a short story about a boy named Neil who doesn’t like Latin, and doesn’t talk much with his dad. This accounts for only 6 of the book’s 37 chapters, serving mostly as an introduction and conclusion to the larger story about Roman Centurion Marcus Aurelius Rusticus. The Centurion’s story starts with his account of what he suspects will be a suicide mission into the lands north of Hadrian’s Wall, the territory of the savage Celts. Rusticus only manages to escape death with the help of a friendly Celt, Calum, who he soon discovers is a very different sort of man, for Calum is a Christian. I don’t want to give too much away about this book but would like to strongly recommend it. This is Douglas Bond’s very best book so far. Christian fiction is too often celebrated for the great message contained in the book, even when the artistry, the actually writing is poor. Bond’s book has a strong message – in it the Christian worldview is contrasted with worldviews that elevate power, the State or maybe honor to be supreme. However it is also a wonderfully written, thoroughly engaging story. I would think this is primarily a boy’s book, in the ten to early teens range, though a father may want to pick this one as a read aloud book because he’ll probably enjoy it too....

Adult fiction, Book Reviews

Time will run back

by Henry Hazlitt 368 pages / 1951 As novels go, this is intriguing. As economics textbooks go it is downright amazing. Like 1984... In Time Will Run Back author Henry Hazlitt envisions a future in which the communists won and have been in power for more than 100 years. As Henry Hazlitt himself acknowledges, his novel bears some similarities to 1984 (published two years earlier) since both take place in a dystopian future in which the government manages every aspect of citizens' lives. But Hazlitt didn't read 1984 until after he had finished the first draft of his own book, so no plagiarism was involved. Instead, as Hazlitt puts it, authors like Orwell, Aldous Huxley (and his Brave New World) and himself were: plagiarizing from the actual nightmare created by Lenin, Hitler and Stalin....All the writers had done was to add a few logical extensions not yet generally foreseen. In Hazlitt's envisioned future the government has not only taken over the capitalist West, but they've wiped away any memory of capitalism, even editing Karl Marx's books so that no one could deduce from them what sort of economic system it was that Marx was writing against. Into this setting Hazlitt places the ultimate outsider. The world dictator's son, Peter Uldanov, has grown up far away from his father, isolated on a Bahama island. When his mother and father split, he agreed to let her take Peter, so long as she agreed not to teach Peter anything about history, politics or economics. So when the world dictator calls his now adult son to Moscow and informs Peter that he is to succeed his father as dictator, father first has to bring son up to speed in these three key areas. Peter's education takes up the first third of the book, though there is some palace-intrigue as well: the second-ranking member of the ruling Politburo is eager to see Peter dead, but doesn't want to be caught doing the deed. ...and Screwtape Letters This first third bears more than a passing resemblance to C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters, with Peter's teacher filling the role of the elder Screwtape explaining to his younger devilish charge why they do things the way they do them. For example, at one point Politburo member Adams and Orlov, the editor of the world's state-approved and only remaining newspaper, explain to Peter how what is carried in the paper has nothing to do with the truth, but instead has to do with what is useful for the masses to hear. It turns out "what is useful" can be hard to determine. "It is for the Politburo to decide, for example, whether we shall say that the production record is very bad, in order to exhort and sting everyone to greater output; or whether we shall say that it is very good, in order to show how well the regime is doing and to emphasize the blessing of living under it." "These decisions are sometimes very difficult," Adams put in. "We often find that a zigzag course is best. For example, if goods are shoddy and fall apart, or if too many size nine shoes are made and not enough size eight, or if people cannot get enough to eat, there may be grumbling and complaints – or silent dissatisfaction. We must make sure that this unrest does not turn against the regime itself." "Therefore," said Orlov, "we must lead the complaints. We must ourselves pick scapegoats to denounce and punish." In the middle third of the novel Peter takes on the role of the ultimate benevolent dictator. He wants to help his citizens, so he tries desperately to figure out ways to make socialism work. He has the help of his country's greatest minds, and near absolute power, so he is in the best sort of situation to make it work. But try as he might, they can't make it work. The biggest trouble Peter keeps running into is trying to figure out the value of what they are making. They have no money (since no one buys anything, but is instead given what they need) so they can't use price to calculate how valuable one product might be compared to another. And if they can't calculate value, then they also can't determine if the country is producing more overall this year vs. the last. Sheer tonnage is one proposed measure – that could use that to compare how much grain they grew from one year to the next. But even this falls short, because grain can come in different qualities. How then should they evaluate things if one year more grain is produced but of a lower quality, and in another year there is less but of a higher quality? Which was the better year? After ruling out tonnage as a helpful means of measuring output, one alternative after another is proposed only to have the shortcomings of each then exposed. The alert reader will see where this is leading: what this socialistic  economy lacks are markets in which the value of a product is assessed by consumers as a whole. In the final third of the book Peter gets more desperate and more radical in his efforts to make real improvements and give citizens real freedom, and he ends up discovering some economic principles that really help: open competition, property ownership, and the rigorous prosecution of cheats and swindlers. To help his citizens he is forced to invent capitalism! Conclusion Though the book is most obviously about communism, the warning Hazlitt offers here - that freedom and prosperity cannot co-exist with an economic system that prioritizes equality of distribution – is directly applicable to communism's democratic twin, socialism. This book sat on my shelf unread for many years because I didn't believe a world-renown economist could also be a credible novelist. I was wrong. There is a conversation here and there that gets bogged down by the economic lesson Hazlitt is trying to teach, but overall this is not just readable, but engaging and entertaining, able to stand up to comparisons with 1984 and Brave New World, which themselves are not read for their wonderful prose, but rather for their insightful investigations of human nature in the face of tyranny. So this is a readable, intriguing and important novel with a few slow bits. And as an economics textbook, there is none better – Hazlitt makes a strong and compelling case for the free market. The e-book can be had for free here. Note to Teachers: How Time Will Run Back is better than 1984 and Brave New World Though 1984 and Brave New World are important books, they both have sexual content (Brave New World more so) that can make them problematic to discuss even in the high school setting. Sex is also discussed in Time Will Run Back but in a way that parents and teachers may find more palatable: brief mention is made of how the government manages even citizens' sex lives, mandating that no one can pair up for longer than a month, lest they form familial bonds that compete with the bonds they should have to the state. But this is sex at is most boring - nothing titilating here. I believe you'll find find Hazlitt's offering a worthy substitution for either of these other two - just as engaging, as insightful, as thought provoking, and without the sexual content....

Adult fiction, Book Reviews


by Joseph Bayly 1981 / 216 pages In this dystopian novel, Joseph Bayly takes us to a not-so-distant future in which abortion for disabled children is mandatory, euthanasia is compulsory soon after 75, and Christians are so confused about Romans 13 they think God wants them to submit to even these demands. When Jonathan and Grace Stanton’s six-year-old son Stephen falls off his bike, they don’t know what to do. The fall was minor, but their son has hemophilia and he needs treatment. But the law says he shouldn’t exist: had his condition been diagnosed prenatally the State would have required that he be aborted. Stephen survived only because he mother never visited a doctor during her pregnancy, and when the time came a friend helped her have a home birth. Now the Stanton’s wonder what the State might do, even six years later, if they bring their son in to see a doctor. Do they dare find out? Winterflight was written over 40 years ago, but it got my heart racing – it all seemed far too probable for my liking. Abortion is already being used to “cure” genetic disabilities like Down Syndrome and while it isn’t mandatory, pressure from doctors and culture are such that in some countries 98% of Down Syndrome children are killed before birth. When it comes to killing the elderly, we don’t demand their deaths at 75, but we are already exploring the cost savings that can be had from their early departure. In countries where euthanasia has been legal longer, there are regular reports of involuntary killings. In Canada, attempts are already being made to make involvement on some level mandatory for all doctors. But what hits closest to home is Bayly’s portrayal of the confused Christian response to these government abuses. When Grace’s elderly father is told he must report soon to be euthanized, their misunderstanding of Scripture has them thinking that they need to obey the governing authorities even in this, since those authorities are appointed by God (Romans 13:1). But at the same time, in saving their son, the Stantons show that on some level they do understand we must sometimes defy the State. Is their confusion realistic? We’d never march ourselves off to the local euthanasia clinic just because the government demanded it. But why would we resist? Do we understand on what biblical basis we could reject such demands from the “governing authorities”? During World War II there was confusion on this point among some good Reformed Dutchmen. Among those who joined the Resistance, some felt guilty about it because they were worried that in acting against the Nazis they were resisting God’s chosen rulers. The confusion persists today. Even as we know the government shouldn’t mandate euthanasia – even as we recognize that there are limits to their power – many Christians will still turn to the government asking it to solve our problems. We understand the government has limits, and yet we’ll also ask them to do more and more. We are double-minded.. And that’s what makes this book such a fantastic read – the discussion it’ll prompt is one we need to have. Cautions There are just a couple cautions to note. First, there is a small bit of language – I think “damn” might be used two or three times. Second, without giving away the ending, when the book was first published some Christians misunderstood the ending as being prescriptive – they thought the actions of the book’s confused Christians were what we should do. So it’s important to understand that’s not so. These are confused Christians, under enormous pressure, acting in a confused way and the author is not endorsing their actions. In fact, the book is primarily about warning us not to do as they do. Conclusion This is a fantastic dystopian novel, as prophetic as they come, and certainly unlike any other Christian fiction you’ve read. The topic matter is weighty, but because there’s nothing graphic this could be appropriate for as young as early teens. However the younger a reader might be, the more they’ll need a guide to steer their interaction with the story, and particularly the not-at-all happy ending. It would also make great book club material, with fodder for some fantastic discussions....

Adult non-fiction, Book Reviews

Great books to give any grad

School is nearly done, and for some young men and women, this is the last classroom work they'll be doing. But that doesn't mean they are done with studying. God has a whole great big world for them to explore, and a command to follow to "be fruitful and multiply," and to make the most of both they'll have a lot of learning yet to do. What follows are a few book suggestions intended to help with that ongoing process. These are the sort of reads that, if given a chance, will hook almost anybody. Some of our kids might be less than interested in reading now that they've graduated, and that's okay. Maybe they'll come across a great mentor, or listen to some good podcasts or the Bible as they go for a jog. Learning doesn't just happen through reading. But reading is a way to learn from some of the very best teachers. And all five of these titles are instructive indeed...and accessible. If you want to help your son or daughter make the transition from learning as it was fed to them by their teachers to learning that is self-driven, then you won't come across better starter books than these. All five are more serious books, meant to help the reader think God's thoughts after Him. A couple are particularly readable, at just a hundred or so pages. Two more are commentaries that work great as daily devotionals. And the last is a book that I wish I had read a long time ago, about life as a gift from God that is meant to be spent. If you do gift one of these, take a moment to explain to the graduate why this book is worth their time. It doesn't need to be more than a sentence or two, but that pitch will greatly increase the odds that they actually do open it up and dive in. The Christian Counselor's Commentary on Proverbs by Jay Adams 1997 / 231 pages While the title might have you thinking it is just for Christian counselors this would make a great gift for anyone. But why is this a good gift for grads in particular? As young men and women step out from under the protective shadow of their high school teachers, they aren’t supposed to go it alone. And what better mentor could they find than Lady Wisdom (Prov. 1:20-21)? So this is recommended because it is an exceptional tool for understanding and applying the wisdom of Proverbs. What Adams gives us here is a commentary that can be read as a devotional. It includes the complete text of Proverbs on the top half of the page, and a verse-by-verse commentary on the bottom. I've used this on my own, and also used it at dinner with the family to quickly get a feel for two or three proverbs. I could scan Adams' brief explanations even as the kids were still cleaning off their plates, and then read and discuss the passage with everyone. Proverbs is a unique book in that it should be read only a few verses at a time because there is so much packed into each verse, and Adams is such an insightful guide! Commentary on John by R.C. Sproul 2009 / 414 pages Remember the last time you were doing an essay for your bible study group and you understood almost all of the passage, but were confused about one verse... only to discover that was the only verse your commentary didn't address? I've had that happen repeatedly, but it doesn't happen with Sproul – he actually explains the verses you need help with. Another great feature here is that Dr. Sproul has included the whole text of John, leading each of his chapters with the passage he's going to explain. That means your graduate can throw just this one book into their backpack when they want to bring something along to do a little lunch-time bible study. While we don't normally think of commentaries as a front to back read, this is so engaging it could and should be. Sproul pairs insight with anecdote to craft a commentary that could also be used as a great daily devotional read. Sproul has written a number of commentaries, and while I’ve only read two – Acts is the other – I'm confident you could buy full sets, and give each of the grads you know a different one. Then if any of the recipients marry (as does happen now and again) the couple won't have a duplicate, but instead two different Sproul commentaries. Wouldn't that be fun? Death by Living: Life is meant to be spent by N.D. Wilson 2013 / 190 pages This is almost poetry, but the good sort. It is highly readable, explaining how the going might well get tough. It shares to the young Christian that it is the normal state of things to have sleepless nights, baby spit-up on your shoulder, overflowing honey-do lists, neglected household chores because you were helping at some church event, and so on. And it’s okay. Because, as the subtitle says, life is meant to be spent – God gave us our lives to live them out. A strangely but profoundly comforting book, and one that issues a challenge as well. Wilson's Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl is also fantastic. Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung 2009 / 150 pages This quick read packs a mighty kick to the rear to use the talents God has given us, and not act tentatively, too afraid to make a mistake. This will be a fantastic gift to anyone who is having some difficulties trying to figure out what they should do next. I’ve given this out at least a half dozen times and gotten a lot of thank-yous from recipients who appreciated both the clarity and the boot to the backside. The Grace and Truth Paradox by Randy Alcorn 2003 / 92 pages Imagine if this Sunday the service ended right after the reading of the Ten Commandments. You’ve just been confronted with the Truth that you’ve offended God with your many sins and deserve eternal punishment… and then that’s it, the service is over. Wouldn’t that be dreadful? In The Grace and Truth Paradox, Randy Alcorn notes that this is what Christians do too often – we present the world a graceless Truth. Or, if we remember to be Gracious, we do so by minimizing the Truth. For example, some graceless Christians are eager to shout out the Truth about homosexuality. But if that Truth is presented without Grace then instead of prompting homosexuals to ask us to Whom they can turn for help, they are sure to run from us. Other Christians, determined to act with more Grace, do so by downplaying the sinfulness of homosexuality – Truth is sacrificed. Once again, instead of leading homosexuals to repentance, our interactions with the world lead to the furtherance of sin. Alcorn’s little book packs a huge wallop and would be of great benefit not only to graduates but their parents too. It really is a book everyone should read as we all have problems, one way or the other, in presenting a “Graceful Truth.” Alcorn also has a larger, but every bit as important book, called Heaven, that would also make for a great grad gift....

Adult non-fiction, Book Reviews, Uncategorised

Counterfeit Gods

by Timothy Keller 2009 / 240 pages John Calvin once said, "The human heart is an idol factory. " It makes sense that God's prohibition of idolatry is the first commandment. The reason: we are all idolaters, and every violation of the commandments is also the breaking of the first commandment - desiring some created blessing so much that we are willing to do anything to get it, without caring how God wants us to use his blessings. The brilliance of Tim Keller's Counterfeit Gods is that it takes this plausible idea, and makes it compelling, by showing how idolatry in action has played out both in the Bible and in today's world - and shows the solution. Keller introduces the concept of idolatry as an explanation of the suicides of executives in response to the economic meltdown of 2008 and the utter disillusionment of Beatrice Webb and H. G. Wells after the rise of Hitler. The first chapter shows how the understanding of idolatry makes sense of one of the most puzzling stories in the Bible from the life of Abraham. Keller also looks carefully at the lives of Jacob and Leah to analyze our own and our culture's idolatrous attitude to sex and love. He examines how the first sight of Jesus casts down the idol of greed in the life of the tax collector Zaccheus - an idol institutionalized in our day as "the culture of greed." Our culture's idolatry of achievement and success as ways to validate yourself is critiqued through the Biblical example of the Syrian general Naaman. The self-glorification of Nebuchadnezzar foreshadows our own and our culture's idolatry of power. Finally, Keller shows how the hidden cultural idols of profit, self, and nationalism can even subtly diminish our service to God, as the latter two did especially in the self-righteous ministry of Jonah. All these exposures of the idols of our hearts would be merely disheartening (pun intended) if, as Keller shows, God did not provide a Way of escape in the person of Jesus Christ. Keller shows how setting our hearts, eyes, and ears on Him and His kingdom counsels and comforts us, in two main ways. Using counseling case studies, Keller shows how the fact that Christ has shared our suffering turns the loss of even the genuine blessings of loved one, prosperity, success, and the approval of others from causes of sinful despair to sources of sorrow in the midst of hope. Most of all, we can resist the incursion of idols into our hearts by learning to make Christ our true and lasting blessing - the Way, Truth, Life, food, drink, and love of our hearts. I'll note I cannot recommend everything that Keller has written. The Reason for God, in particular, shows a willingness to accommodate Biblical interpretation truth to the supposed authority of secular evolutionary scientific theory. I noticed that Keller used no examples from Adam to Noah in Counterfeit Gods, perhaps he doesn't quite know how to fit them within his theistic evolutionary framework. However, the Biblical examples he does use are applied to ourselves and our culture in insightful, practical, and comforting ways. Thus, while I cannot recommend The Reason for God (because arguably, and ironically, it makes an idol out of secular science), I highly recommend Counterfeit Gods....

Adult non-fiction, Book Reviews

How in the world did we get here?

by Jim Witteveen 2022 / 183 pages Ten years back, anyone who’d said that cultural forces already in play would soon have our public schools teaching boys can get pregnant… well, he would have been dismissed as a nut. What Jim Witteveen shares in his new book about an “open conspiracy” among the power-hungry will at first sound so outrageous as to be unbelievable too. But make no mistake, this is fact, not fiction. Chapter by chapter, Pastor Witteveen highlights ideologies and organizations that would seem to have little in common: global warming catastrophists, sexual hedonists, the public school system, overpopulation proponents, evolutionists, Big Tech, and Big Government. They are united, though, in their arrogance that they know – and God does not – what is best for all the rest of us. While their utopias differ, the route forward is the same for them all: a quest for more and more power so they can implement their vision. And, as Witteveen details, these ideologies and organizations are grabbing hold of the reins of power. If that was all he shared, this would be quite the devastating read, so thankfully, the conclusion is all about a way forward for God’s people that explores the many opportunities that exist to faithfully honor and obey our Lord as we contend with the forces marshaled against us. How in the world did we get here? will be a slap upside the head to the many sleepy Christians who haven’t yet recognized we are in a battle, and who consequently haven’t yet answered God’s call to go out and contend. Timely and much-needed, what Witteveen has given us is made all the more valuable for its brevity and accessibility – everyone should read this, and most everyone will be able to. Contact the author at to pre-order. For more on the book, check out Lucas Holtvluwer's interview Pastor Witteveen in the latest Real Talk episode. Watch it below on YouTube, or find it on your favorite podcast platform at ...

Adult non-fiction, Book Reviews, Uncategorised

Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl

Wide-Eyed Wonder in God's Spoken World by N. D. Wilson 2009 / 203 pages The world is a wild ride, isn't it? The fun starts already in the title of N. D. Wilson's book. Those of you who have ridden the Tilt-a-Whirl will recognize the analogy to our own spinning planet with an axis that is 23.5 degrees off the vertical. Of course, the world is not just physically askew; it is off-kilter in just about every way you can think of. The presence of evil in the world is the argument that is typically thrown at Christians whenever we affirm God's claims on all of us. Wilson makes some important points throughout his book that undo (or cut through) this Gordian knot. First, he asserts that evil is not a "thing," not a noun; rather, it is an adjective describing that which displeases God. Because He is good, whatever displeases Him is evil. Secondly, in response to those who then wonder why the world is still such an unpleasant place, Wilson does not use the oft-quoted answer that this is the best of all possible worlds; rather, he says, this is the best of all possible masterpieces, the best of all possible stories - and we are not, in our egocentricity, the best of all possible critics. Rather than setting ourselves up as critics of God's story, Wilson insists, we need to learn to be good characters - to approach life with wonder, to laugh at ourselves and our often gloriously ridiculous place in the story - to glorify the Author, rather than to try to rewrite His work. What makes Wilson's work so amusing is that he is willing to follow his own advice To give just two examples: When Wilson's son gets his wish of having a butterfly land on him, but Wilson warns him that "lightning does not strike twice" - that the butterfly will not be coming back, Wilson enjoys how God makes a fool of him by sending the butterfly to land on his son's shoulder a second time. Wilson laughs just as much when he trips over the step that he is sure must have moved as he does when the seeming squashed frog inexplicably springs back to life. In the end, Wilson reminds us that it is the end that we have to cope with – our own earthly end, and the end of all current earthly things when the Author (the same one who became a Word in His own story) returns to wrap up the current chapter with His judgments on His cast of characters. This is far too brief a look at a book that spends as much time mocking Christian sentimentality as it does attacking atheist defiance of our Author, but if Wilson helps you better understand and cope with our crazy, tilted world, you'll want to check out his documentary of the same name! ...

Articles, Book Reviews, Teen fiction

Rediscovering Gordon Korman

Gordon Korman famously wrote his first book, This Can’t Be Happening at Macdonald Hall!, when he was twelve years old. By the time I was twelve, he’d written a dozen or so more – which was fortunate for me, because I was eagerly reading and re-reading them all. Why did I love his novels? They were funny; they were quirky. There was also an essential good-naturedness to them that appealed to me. Although the characters got into plenty of trouble, at heart they were usually kids with integrity, showing loyalty, generosity, and kindness. As time went on, Korman continued to write prolifically and successfully. He still wrote some of the humorous novels for kids and teens that had made him famous, but he branched into other genres as well, writing, for example, several sports series and adventure trilogies. By now I had more or less outgrown his books . . . but I still had a soft spot for this favorite author, and occasionally checked out his new releases. I found many of them less memorable than his earlier “classics”; and some of them seemed edgier, with less likeable (though more realistic) characters. I was troubled by one teen novel called Pop (2000) – a book Korman was particularly proud of – because of the eventual suicide of the aging, dementia-stricken former football star, which is portrayed as a sympathetic, even noble act. Although I nostalgically looked forward to sharing my old favorite Korman novels with my own young kids, I wasn’t so sure about his newer ones. Then, within the last six or seven years, a few new Gordon Korman books caught my eye – books like Slacker (2016), Restart (2017), The Unteachables (2019), and more. Nephews and nieces were raving about them, and soon I was hooked too. They felt like a new era of Korman novels – like the novels I would’ve expected this talented author to grow up to write. Some of Korman’s recent books are more or less pure silliness, but clean and positive, with creative storylines, fun characters, and some laugh-out-loud lines. Others are surprisingly serious, dealing with topics like the realities of war and the Holocaust, as well as domestic abuse (some of these books are definitely not for younger readers). Single parents and broken families are presented matter-of-factly, though not glamorized; many of Korman’s characters are struggling with life changes such as their parents’ divorce. In general, the characters feel a bit “older” than some of the kids in our communities, as the seventh- and eighth-graders are often quite caught up in social media and sometimes in girlfriend/boyfriend relationships. Unfortunately Korman does occasionally (though rarely) use God’s name in vain. In both Restart and Linked, for example – award-winning and otherwise commendable books – there is a flippant use or two. To me, Restart marked the real beginning of Korman at his thoughtful best, as he deals with interesting questions about good and evil, human nature, character, and choices; and Linked addresses deep questions about the purpose of life, religion, and faith, as the main character searches for what’s real and meaningful. So I regret that I can’t wholeheartedly recommend these two. Here, though, are a few others I can. Slacker 2016 / 240 pages Cameron Boxer is all about video gaming. When his parents get concerned that he’s missing out on real life, he starts a fake school group, the Positive Action Group, to appease the adults in his life. Unexpectedly, the “PAG” takes off, dragging the unenthusiastic gamer along – and, of course, surprising him by showing how much more satisfying a purposeful, other-centered life can be. One of the strengths of this (very funny) book is how Korman gets into the heads of his characters, and especially of the underachieving adolescent Boxer, whose life choices (i.e., gaming above all) make perfect sense to him, and who is honestly miffed when real-life concerns “disturb his lifestyle.” By the end, thankfully, Boxer is able to reflect that PAG “started as a hoax, but . . . ended up the realest thing about me.” Operation Do-over 2022 / 320 pages Twelve-year-old Mason made one big mistake – he betrayed his lifelong best friend over a girl they both liked. Five years later, through a mysterious time warp, he finds himself back in time, to just before the fateful incident occurred – with a unique chance for a “do-over.” He takes the chance, with the benefit of hindsight and some extra maturity, to change several things in his life this time around: try out for a team, stand up to a bully, treat a classmate better, and even keep his beloved dog from a premature death. (Interestingly, he realizes he’s not able to prevent his parents’ divorce, though he tries.) As in Restart, Korman leaves his readers with some hopeful and encouraging ideas: our “fate” isn’t predetermined, and we can make choices that change our trajectory and lead to a more positive future. The Fort 2022 / 256 pages This novel, Korman’s milestone 100th book, is a serious (and a moving) one, and although the characters are eighth-graders, the topics are pretty weighty for middle-school readers. A group of friends discover a Cold-War-era bunker in the woods, and it becomes their secret hide-out. All of them are dealing with difficult issues – OCD, family breakdown, the challenge of fitting in, family members with drug addictions – and one of them, unknown to everyone else, has a violent stepfather at home. For him, the fort becomes his literal escape, and the novel largely revolves around his story. Korman writes the different chapters, powerfully, from the points of view of the different characters. Despite the serious subject matter, we see friends showing loyalty and self-sacrifice, and are again left with the idea that positive change is possible. Conclusion Although Korman has said he’s “not a message kind of guy,” he is interested in the power of stories to help readers explore ideas and see things from different perspectives. And even if he’s not pushing a particular agenda, books do inevitably communicate something of the worldview of a writer. In the case of Korman’s books, there are a lot of hopeful takeaways for young readers: people can change, and we can make choices to change our futures for the better. Understanding and empathy can triumph over bullying and racism. Our lives can and should be about something bigger than ourselves, and grappling with what that means is a worthwhile pursuit. Positive messages, and true . . . but so incomplete. Now my oldest son is nearly twelve. (And yes, he’s been enjoying many of my old favorite Gordon Korman books.) As he and his siblings and peers grow up and confront the big questions of life, I’m grateful that we have more complete answers, and real hope, to offer – far beyond anything they’ll find in a Korman novel. At the same time, books like Korman’s have their place – as thought-provoking reads, or sometimes just as well-written stories that bring joy and make us laugh. And I know that I, and my kids, are looking forward to seeing where Gordon Korman takes us in the books to come....

Book Reviews, Teen non-fiction

Daughters of God: finding our identity in Him

by Christina Feenstra 2022 / 198 pages This workbook of six chapters is “a course to help young women find their value and self-worth in God and what He says, instead of in the world.” Christina is a grade five teacher in southern Ontario and has developed this course for young teenage girls to find their way in the world. It is primarily meant as a group study but can be used singly. She uses many Scriptural passages and the three Forms of Unity for the girls to look up, to study and apply to their own lives. As daughters of God, we are created in His image, living for His purposes to the glory of God's Name. We belong to the body of Christ and thus are members of a community of believers.  This book teaches young girls how to love God and to show thankfulness by loving their neighbor. Each chapter begins with a Bible reading, a prayer followed by questions, a study, and ends with things to focus on during the week.  She makes good, practical suggestions such as keeping a journal to record devotions; to record five things daily for which we are grateful.  Because we are temples of the Holy Spirit, we need to take good care not only of our Spiritual needs but also of our physical needs by eating well, exercising, and getting enough sleep. I highly recommend this book for the young sisters in our churches. I'd even recommend it for the older sisters, especially the chapter on forming good habits, to review their own lives in the light of God's Word....

Adult fiction, Book Reviews

The White Rose Resists: a novel of the German students who defied Hitler

by Amanda Barratt 2020 / 320 pages In Amanda Barratt’s novel The White Rose Resists, a candle is being lit in the midst of the Nazi darkness that has cast its shadow upon the world. The White Rose was a group of five college students and a professor operating in Munich, Germany. Their goal was to combat the Nazi propaganda that was blinding the German people. The White Rose accomplished this by printing and distributing leaflets, giving a voice to the truth. Their leaflets detailed and denounced the atrocities that were being committed against the Jews across Europe. The group called for the students of Germany to rise up against Hitler. I really enjoyed this novel. Barrett does a terrific job bringing this historic resistance group to life. She was able to blend fact with fiction to create a cohesive narrative of what this group may have experienced. This Christian author weaves in a message on God’s sovereignty. Members of the White Rose grapple with their faith and ultimately come to the knowledge that God’s will must be done. They place their trust and hope in Him to give them the strength they need to pass through their trials and tribulations. When darkness has seemed to triumph, God, in his sovereignty, begins lighting candles so that the darkness will not overcome the light. The White Rose was one of many candles that God used to bring down Hitler and his Nazi regime. This book is a great read for teenager and adult alike. The only criticism I have to offer is that the author blended several German words into the narrative. Initially, this was quite distracting but improved as the novel progressed....

Book Reviews, Graphic novels

The Murder of Abraham Lincoln

by Rick Geary 2005 / 80 pages Author and illustrator Rick Geary has created a series of graphic novels about Victorian-era murders. While I don't think I'd be much interested in reading others in the series (I don't feel a need or a desire to learn about Lizzie Borden or Jack the Ripper) The Murder of Abraham Lincoln is a title I would recommend to anyone interested in American history. It starts with Lincoln presenting his second inaugural address. Geary gives a brief accounting of the end of the Civil War, and intersperses it with parts of Lincoln's speech - it is a great opening to a great book. We are then told a little of assassin John Wilkes Booth's background, and his motivations, and are introduced to the co-conspirators. The last third of the book takes place after Lincoln is killed, and shows us the man-hunt for Booth, as well as the country's reaction to the assassination. A graphic novel is a compelling way to tell this story, first because Geary uses this format to show us the layout of Ford's theatre (where the assassination took place), escape routes, and other maps, and second because pictures, properly used, can tell, if not a thousand words, at least a couple hundred or so. This volume is only 80 pages, but there is a lot of information packed into it - it gives readers a great feel for the time, and insight into the still brewing conflict that had almost split the country asunder. The only concern I have with this volume is that it casts some suspicion on Secretary of War Edward M. Stanton. The author doesn't directly accuse Stanton of having a hand in the assassination, but he does raise questions about him: "Was he guilty merely of overzealousness in the execution of this office - or do his actions indicate an intent more nefarious?" I'm only passingly familiar with other accounts of Lincoln's life and death, but have never heard these questions before, so I wonder how legitimate they might be. But Stanton is a relatively minor character in this story, so this is only a minor concern. I would recommend this book for anyone 12 and over (the illustrations have been done with restraint - there is no gore to speak of) and I'm sure adults will enjoy it, and find it educational as well....

Book Reviews, Teen fiction

Urchin of the Riding Stars

by M.I. McAllister 2021 / 299 pages This was so good I just had to read bits of it out loud to my wife. It's an animals-with-swords tale, the hedgehogs, otters, moles, and squirrels all living together in the same island kingdom under the good King Brushen. But all is not well in the kingdom of Mistmantle – there are “cullings” being done to the newborn handicapped children. This is quite the somber subject for a children’s book, and as the culling are considered for the elderly too, it’s clear that the author is speaking to both abortion and euthanasia. The young Urchin is very much opposed, but his heroes, Captains Crispin and Padra, don’t seem to be doing anything to stop it, and the third captain, Husk, seems to be enjoying it! So who are the good guys then? Who can Urchin turn to for help to save these children? It turns out some of the good guys are indeed good, but, on the other hand, some turn out to be really, really bad. This a fairytale that takes seriously the Chesterton quote about dragons: “Fairy tales, then, are not responsible for producing in children fear, or any of the shapes of fear; fairy tales do not give the child the idea of the evil or the ugly; that is in the child already, because it is in the world already. Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon.” There is evil in this book, and that might even turn off some of its target preteen to early teen audience. But it gets to be quite the rollicking adventure soon enough, full of courtly intrigue, conspiracies, and heroes being heroic. I think the author is Christian, and the God of this story is referred to as “the Heart.” This spiritual element isn’t huge, but it is persistent, and doesn’t stray into anything weird or wacky. I know this will be a book I’ll enjoy reading to my kids. An otherwise entertaining second book in this Mistmantle Chronicles series is marred by an agenda-pushing, albeit passing, mention of a female priest. The first book stands well enough on its own, so in our house, I think we’re going to start and stop with number one....

Book Reviews, Teen fiction

The Always War

by Margaret Peterson Haddix 2011 / 197 pages When my 13-year-old got a gift certificate to the local bookstore, it was an excuse for the two of us to spend some serious time perusing the shelves. But after an hour we’d discovered there wasn’t much there for her that she hadn’t already read. The teen books were either silly stories about teen crushes, or weird stuff about witches, demons, and vampires. We finally settled on something with a cover that looked almost liked some 1950s nostalgia, only to later discover one of the key characters had two dads. Another trip to the same story ended up with a decent book, but on the final page the author noted he uses “they/them” pronouns. Third try was the charm... sort of. We found something by a preteen author I'd heard was quite popular, and whose books I'd seen in our Christian school library. But while the book we settled on – Margaret Peterson Haddix’s Found (2008, 314 pages) – wasn't bad, I appreciated it more for being harmless than stupendous. It’s a time travel adventure/mystery, with a bunch of adopted children trying to figure out where they came from. There’s the typical cautions – kids acting behind their parents’ backs, along with a couple passing mentions of evolution – but none of the newer cautions needed. Peterson isn’t advocating for amputative surgeries on youth or adults (as the fellow with the “they/them” pronouns implicitly is, by pretending that gender is changeable), or for alternative lifestyles. The biggest caution I’d have concerns the fact that this is just the first of Peterson’s eight-book The Missing series, and at roughly 300 pages each, even if they all turn out to be mostly harmless, that’s a lot of cotton candy for any kid to be ingesting. I’ll also add a concern about whether this would be good or bad for adoptive kids to read, as the topic of adoption, and kids searching for who they are, is a big part of the story. Finally, as just a general caution on the author, I do know another book  (Double Identity) by this author that features a female pastor as a major character. So it was more like one thumb up for this one. But while I'm not going to be continuing with that series, it was still good enough for me to check out more Haddix material. And now I've found one I think worth recommending. The Always War is a mystery of sorts, set in a world like our own, yet one that has been in a constant war for the last 75 years. We come along for the ride with Tessa, a girl who still reads old stories, even though no one else does anymore. She's at a celebration for a young war hero, a pilot named Gideon, that doesn't go as expected – instead of accepting his award for bravery, Gideon runs off. Why would a hero run away from his adoring and appreciative fellow citizens? Well, as Tessa slow begins to discover, Gideon doesn't think he's a hero, because he did his arial combat, not from the sky, but from behind a computer – he was flying a drone. And he has discovered that instead of hitting a legitimate military target, he seems to have hit a civilian marketplace. Distraught, Gideon is determined to fly down to the marketplace to offer his repentance, for whatever that's worth. And Tessa comes along for the ride. But he has to go behind the military's back, work with black market privateers, and sneak past his own border guards. Then, when they arrive, nothing is as he expected. There are no angry grieving crowds to meet him. In fact there's nothing at all! So what's going on? What's actually real? I don't want to give too much more away but will just add I found it an intriguing story. The mystery lasts most of the book, which means that this requires a reader with some patience. As for concerns, God is not a part of this world, and seeing as one of the themes of this story is about discerning reality from what authorities tell us is real, that the characters simply rely on their own wherewithal makes a bit too much of Man. But that's the biggest problem. I think kids aged 12 an up might find this of interest, but, again, only if they appreciate figuring out a mystery bit by bit - they will need to have some patience....

Adult non-fiction, Book Reviews

Anglo-Genevan Psalter in Four Part Harmony

compiled by Carl Oosterhoff 2022 / 241 pages Singing songs in harmony is a tradition going back to before the time of the Reformation. The Reformation resulted in Lutheran hymns and Genevan psalms, also published in harmony at that time. However, the British Anglican church started the tradition of singing harmony within the church service. Subsequently, the Great Awakening preachers-musician teams brought this tradition to North America. The Anglo-Genevan Psalter in Four-Part Harmony is a new publication containing 150 psalms and a few hymns in four-part harmony. This is the first edition published with the lyrics of the (Canadian Reformed) 2014 Book of Praise. The harmonizations have different styles from several periods and by various people. When using it, the letter-size spiral-bound book is helpful for singing and accompaniment. The font size is good to read, and the spaced-out notes make it easy to follow each voice. The layout is similar to a traditional American hymnal but on a larger piece of paper. People familiar with singing in harmony will not have much difficulty singing from this selection. I suspect that also home schools and Christian schools can teach children these harmonies. To that end, a suggestion: when you first begin practicing singing in harmony, perhaps start with just two voices rather than all four at once. And sing one stanza until the individual voices become familiar. There are a few points that I like to highlight. Psalm 119 includes an alternate harmony with the melody in the tenor, which is a delightful variation. Some of the tunes have a lower pitch than in the Book of Praise, which makes it generally easier to sing. In the Book of Praise some Psalms have the same tunes (for example Ps. 24, 62, 95 and 111) but each here has been given a different harmony. Now, I would have kept the harmony the same for all of them, to benefit the singers, but it does mean there are more harmonies to choose from. The Anglo-Genevan Psalter in Four Part Harmony is an excellent addition to any home. And if the pianist or organist is playing the harmonizations, this book could be used in a church setting too. Why not try it in your home school, or suggest learning a few songs at your bible study? And, of course, at choir – I would not be surprised if an average choir can almost sight-read this music. Copies can be ordered by emailing [email protected] or find it at,, and

Adult biographies, Book Reviews

The Vow

by Kim and Krickitt Carpenter 2012 / 183 pages This is Exhibit #1 in why you should never judge a book by its movie. If you've ever wondered what it meant when a Hollywood film said it was "based on a true story," if The Vow is any indication, it doesn't mean much at all. Both the book and film tell the story of a couple whose marital vows are put to the test after a horrific car accident leaves the wife with no memory of marrying, or even meeting, her husband. The real-life couple is Kim and Krickitt Carpenter, both Christian, which impacts every part of their story They met each other when Kim, a baseball coach, purchased some team uniforms from the company where Krickitt worked. Krickitt always loved her family, which is why Kim went to her father to ask for permission to marry his daughter. They saved sex until after they were married and had a big traditional church wedding with family and friends. They said their vows before God and his people. After the accident, Krickitt briefly stayed with her parents, but the couple never considered divorce, and three years later they had a second wedding ceremony and renewed their vows. In the film the couple have been renamed, with Leo owning a recording studio and Paige a vegetarian artist who hates her family and hasn't spoken to them in years. So, of course, Leo doesn't ask Paige's dad for permission to marry his daughter because Leo doesn't even meet his father-in-law-to-be until after the accident. The couple lives together before marriage and has sex long before marriage. Their marriage ceremony is an impromptu one that takes place in an art museum, it includes lots of giggling, warm and fuzzy promises, and is interrupted by museum security guards. After the accident the couple eventually divorces, only to later get married once again. So why such a departure from the real events? It turns out the film’s two primary scriptwriters, Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein, never met the Carpenters, and never even read their book. Kohn noted: gave a couple of lines about the true story and allowed us to go invent a movie that we liked.... I think if they told us too much we’d feel responsible to those details. But we felt responsible to nothing. The irony is, while the scriptwriters decided to depart from the real story in order to make it more interesting, the end result was a movie that didn't feel authentic. The vows Leo and Paige made were frivolous, done seemingly as a lark, and the sort that couples facing far easier trials break every day. In this secular setting why would Paige feel any reason to keep promises to a man who, after that accident, she doesn't even know? The true story teaches the meaning of faithfulness, both in how Kim refuses to turn his back on Krickett no matter how much she has changed, and even more remarkably in how Krickett decided to keep promises she didn't remember making, to a husband she didn't know, because she knew she had also made those promises to God. Now that's a story. But it’s clearly one that Hollywood could never do justice to. At 183 pages the Carpenters’ book is a quick, fun read. It may not be great literature, but the story itself is extraordinary… and so much better than the “inspired by true events” Hollywood version. A version of this originally appeared in the July/August 2017 issue....

Adult biographies, Book Reviews, Sexuality

The secret thoughts of an unlikely convert

an english professor's journey into christian faith by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield 2012 / 150 pages 13 words: Post-modern, lesbian activist, university English professor becomes Reformed Christian homeschooling pastor's wife. Intrigued yet? There is so much to love and so much to learn from this book. One of the biggest lessons is in how God got the attention of this professor. After she wrote an article in the local paper critiquing Promise Keepers she "received so many letters... I kept empty Xerox paper boxes on both sides of my desk, one for hate mail, and one for fan mail." But one of the letters she received wasn't so easy to categorize. It was from a Reformed pastor, and instead of commending or condemning her, it was "a kind, inquiring letter." The pastor wanted to know "how did you arrive at your interpretation? How do you know you are right? Do you believe in God?" The letter concluded by inviting "me to call its author to discuss these ideas more fully." After a week of repeatedly throwing out the letter and then digging it back out of the recycling that's what she did. As you might expect from an English professor the writing is delightful. She is also no quiet convert, and her pointed questions uncover wonderful Christian truths but also unmask the shallowness and hypocrisy that is such a prevalent part of the Church. One caution: In the course of her conversion the author is confronted with, and takes on so many different theological issues (adoption, homeschooling, the Regulative Principle, etc.) it's likely readers will find some point on which they disagree. But for a discerning adult, that is a minor issue. And to them this book is highly recommended....

Book Reviews, Teen non-fiction

Risk is Right: Better to lose your life than to waste it

by John Piper 2013 / 51 pages How often do you take risks? If you’re anything like me, it’s not often. I like to maintain status quo and to never feel that pit in my stomach when the the outcome of a decision is in limbo. I like to feel safe. John Piper in his short book, Risk is Right, sets out to destroy this myth of safety. We live in a world full of uncertainty. No matter how hard we may try to eliminate risks from our lives, it is impossible. But as Christians, we need never to be afraid of risk, for we have the ultimate security, salvation through Jesus Christ! This one thought should release the chains that hold us from risk, we have been freed to honor Christ in this life and in death.  That is not to say that safety is wrong. We don’t need to be adrenaline junkies, looking for the next adventure to get our blood pumping. Rather, the safety that comes from cowardice is wrong. Queen Esther risked it all when she approached King Ahasuerus without being called. Esther did not know the outcome but trusted that God was powerful enough to save both her and her people. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego could have bowed down to Nebuchadnezzar and guaranteed their safety. Instead, they refused, handing the outcome of their lives to God. It is right to risk for the cause of God, and refusing these risks, because of cowardice is wrong.  I recommend this short book to everyone. We live in a culture that is so risk averse that “two weeks to stop the spread” became two years. We wanted safety so badly, that even as it became evident the government wasn’t able to provide it, we settled for having at least a false sense of security. This book knocks away such crutches so we can live a life worth living, by finding our security in Christ.  A bonus: you can download it for free here....

Adult non-fiction, Book Reviews, Economics

Economics in One Lesson

by Henry Hazlitt 1946 / 193 pages Universal basic income, a four-day work week, and government-funded daycare are just a few big-ticket proposals that are gaining momentum nationally, and even within our own church circles. All these proposals boil down to getting more while doing less. Promises have been made that middle and lower class families will not have to pay a cent more in taxes but the wealthy 1% will do all the heavy lifting.  In Economics in One Lesson, Henry Hazlitt argues that all these policies can’t deliver what they promise. He argues that many of these proposals only focus on a special interest group in the present and fail to consider how the proposal will affect the general populace both now and in the future.  For example, when a government announces a multitude of public “make-work” projects, at first glance these projects seem like a good idea, or at least seem like they couldn’t do any harm. The citizens get: An employment opportunity  Tangible infrastructure But Hazlitt warns that although these benefits look attractive, there are many indirect consequences that are not considered.  First, someone must pay for these employment opportunities. For every dollar spent on a public work project, a dollar will be taken away from a taxpaying citizen. Not only are the citizens as a whole worse off, there is now less money for them to create new jobs. Second, now that the infrastructure exists it is easy to assume that without that piece of infrastructure the country would be worse off – having a bridge would seem obviously better than not having a bridge. But in reality, one thing has been created instead of others. Instead of the government-built bridge there could’ve been citizen-built houses, or cars, or dresses and coats. All of these items are unrealized because the bridge is now standing. Although Hazlitt wrote this over 70 years ago, many of the issues he deals with are just as relevant as ever. We should be wary of governmental promises to ease our daily tasks. Our sinful nature yearns for an easy life; that is why these promises are so alluring to us. However, as Christians we are not called to an easy life. That does not mean that we should always seek out the hard way, but we shouldn’t become entangled in false promises of an easy way. To get Economics in One Lesson as a free pdf book, click here....

Adult fiction, Book Reviews

Father Brown and the Ten Commandments: Selected Mystery Stories

by G.K. Chesterton 2017 / 249 pages An heiress of a large fortune has fallen to her death, and suicide seems the obvious explanation. But then along comes a short man in clerical dress with an explanation that shocks everyone. This short man is Father Brown, Roman Catholic priest, who doubles as an amateur detective. Brown often finds success in his investigations because of his perceptive understanding of human nature. Brown also uses his unimposing character and position to gain valuable information from witnesses who see him as only a priest. This information, often overlooked by even the reader, helps Father Brown bring the criminal to justice. Brown was a creation of G.K. Chesterton, who was Catholic himself, but whose apologetic writings are much appreciated by Protestants too. His Father Brown character has been featured in over 50 short stories. This collection of mysteries is focused around the Ten Commandments, taking on the commandments one by one. I enjoyed all of them – each story is just 20-30 pages long, which is great if you don’t want to commit to reading a novel. And Chesterton still manages to build enough suspense to leave the reader shocked by the criminal and their motive. Two cautions: first, G.K. Chesterton wrote over one hundred years ago so his vocabulary may be less accessible to younger readers. Some of Chesterton’s characters use racial slurs (Agar Rock in The Scandal of Father Brown) and there are a couple uses of “salty” language. I have never been a huge fan of mystery novels but found myself thoroughly enjoying each story. I look forward to picking up another collection of Father Brown mysteries....

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