Thursday, October 16, 2014

Apologia iWitness: TOS Review

Apologia Educational Ministries is a vendor that we have grown to trust over the years. While we have mostly used their science materials in the past, we were excited to see that they have a new series out for children that help develop their Christian worldview: the iWitness series by Doug Powell.

For my review, I received the following books:

iWitness Biblical Archaeology
New Testament iWitness
Old Testament iWitness

The first thing I noticed about the books is their size. Despite the big subject matter, the 6 inch x 9 inch books are non-intimidating. Each softcover book is full of fascinating graphics and limited text which cover the subject adequately without being overwhelming. Check out this interview with author Doug Powell for more information.

Old Testament iWitness

This provided an excellent summary of the OT books. It provided historical explanations for the different manuscripts. In addition to information about the original manuscripts, it also gives details about Latin Vulgate, Septuagint, and other ancient documents used for sources. Powell gives the best simplified version I’ve ever heard for how the Old Testament came into existence and how the canon was formed. Many Christians limit their Bible study to the New Testament only. But a book like this  can get young people started on understanding the Old Testament so they have a better grasp and a hunger to jump in and read it for themselves.

I appreciate how they distinguish the books of the Apocrypha as not being scriptural but used within the Catholic church and Greek Orthodox.

Some specific areas I'd like to highlight about the OT iWitness book:

*The introduction mentions how Christ is the fulfillment of OT promises and "He himself is the fulfillment of the law". I couldn't agree more. If we don't have a comprehensive grasp of the Old Testament we can never fully grasp the truths behind - and the necessity of - the Gospel.

*Canon Criteria/Canon Formation - This sections focus on why certain books are included and what the process was. This is critical for our children to understand from the perspective of apologetics (knowing why you believe what you believe!). 

*Timeline - At the back of the book, Powell includes a timeline which highlights major OT events, prophets, and kings. This is a quick, handy reference that I will definitely continue using.

New Testament iWitness

Powell does a great job of giving a summary of NT books. I felt like it was easier to read than the Old Testament iWitness. The layout seemed more open, while the text of the OT book seemed to be too tightly packed. I think it would have been better to add a couple pages to the OT book rather than making the text seem rather dense from a visual perspective. Small detail though. Another small detail is that the creative fonts made legibility more difficult; however I understand that it fits in with the style of the books.

The Canon Criteria section, like in the OT book, succinctly explains what things were required for a book to be included in the NT.

There were a number of great graphics throughout the book - like how the NT was copied and how many copies of the NT exist vs other historical books - that really complement the text well.

iWitness Biblical Archaeology

Powell does a fantastic job in the introduction at explaining something that some Christians fail to grasp: archaeological finds can support the accuracy of the Bible's history but they can never prove that the Bible is true. That's because all archaeology is being done by man's fallible hands. So when some current discovery seems to contradict what the Bible says, we have to keep in mind that God's Word is the absolute standard, not man.

This book is one that I want to show my archaeologist brother-in-law who actually has replicas of some of the artifacts pictured in the book. (including Caiaphas' ossuary which sits in my sister's house -- pretty cool!)

I did feel that Powell got a little carried away with the shroud at the end, but otherwise I think he did an excellent job with the subject matter.

How should you use these three books? While age 11 and up can read these independently, I really think they're best read as a family. With that approach you'll be able to discuss it as a family - and I know in our family that when we discuss it in a group we hear a lot of perspectives and questions that we wouldn't get otherwise. I have some kids that will read a book, have a question, and by the time I ask them what they read, they forget their questions! So take the time to read these three books as a family.

As Christian parents, we know that this is a frightening world in which our children are being raised. We need to be proactive about giving them tools to defend their faith and the knowledge to confidently face the world. Apologia is a great place to find resources and I'm glad to see that the iWitness series continues their great reputation for providing Christian apologetics that are accessible for the entire family.

Ages: Reading level is ages 11 and up, but it can be read aloud to the entire family.
Price: $14 each

Find Apologia at:

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And find more iWitness reviews at the Schoolhouse Review Crew.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

At Least It Makes for a Good Blog Post

Okay, this is the view from my house as I look toward the end of the driveway. Take note of how difficult it is to identify the individual at the gate, even in bright sunlight.

On Saturday we had this crazy, little, yappy stray dog standing down at our gate. All. Day. Long. It was one of those really irritating little breeds that has no useful purpose except for coyote bait. I'm sorry but someone had to say it.

It was driving our dog, Prince, rather crazy. Frankly, it was driving me a little crazy too because we already have:

  • 12 chickens
  • 9 cats
  • 5 puppies
  • 2 dogs
  • Innumerable snails that my teenage daughter has decided to raise in her bedroom

While all the animals do live outside (not counting the snail farm), we feel that we have reached our non-money-producing-animal limit.

All day long the children were sneakily trying to pet and/or feed this irritating little yappy dog which insisted on staying at our gate. So I encouraged it to leave several times by giving it firm, swift, forward motions with the tip of my shoe. Some non-discerning people would possibly call it a kick.

Don't judge me.

But that yappy dog refused to take a hint.

So it was after supper, nearly dark, and I was pulling clothes off the clothesline when I heard Prince (yes, the Great Pyrenees father of the puppies) going crazy again and I could just tell by the sound of the bark that it was because of that yappy little stray dog again.

So I walked around the back side of the house and was rather surprised to see my teenage daughter way down at the gate -- even in the semi-darkness I could tell she was holding that dumb dog. Of all the nerve, I thought. I can't believe she is petting that dog. It's never going to leave, and we're going to be stuck with another animal around here.

"HEY! PUT THAT DOG DOWN!" I yelled at the top of my lungs, using my last ounce of energy for the day to make it obvious that I was really upset now. I mean, isn't it reasonable to reprimand a child of yours that has directly disobeyed?

I think y'all know where this story is headed.

It wasn't my daughter. It wasn't even one of my sons. In fact, it wasn't anybody I even knew.

It apparently was the neighbor lady from down the road who had finally found her poor, little, lost dog that had been missing since the day before.

I can still feel my face turning red.

You know how you talk really fast when you're embarrassed? I was walking as fast as I could toward the gate trying to quickly explain to this lady why I was yelling at her for taking her poor little dog home.

Did I mention I can still feel my face turning red?

Apparently the lady was not feeling charitable toward me despite my perfectly logical explanation so as I quickly walked toward the gate, she was just as swiftly walking down the road away from me.

I'm sensing we're not going to be friends.

When I told my children the story, my teenage daughter - between her wild peals of uncontrollable laughter - managed to console me by saying, "Don't worry, Mom. She probably just thought you weren't running on all four cylinders."

Thanks, dear.

Maybe I can give the neighbor lady an extremely fast-growing puppy to express my apology. Or an extremely fertile mother cat. Or an extremely non-productive hen.

Because nothing says, "I'm sorry" like another useless pet.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

But As For Me

One of the great things about reading through the entire Bible is that you get to see themes repeated throughout scripture. If you limit yourself to always reading isolated passages, or even just one book at a time, you really miss out on some amazing, rich truths that God is just waiting to show you.

Take this phrase, for example - "But as for me". The psalmist always uses these words in contrast between negative circumstances and how he is choosing to respond to it. He doesn't "just have faith" like we so often hear - his "but as for me" is a direct and intentional choice to rely on God even when everything else seems wrong.

"But as for me, I shall sing of Thy strength; 
Yes, I shall joyfully sing of Thy lovingkindess in the morning,
For Thou hast been my stronghold and a refuge in the day of my distress."
Psalm 59:16

"But as for me" jumped out this last time I was reading through the Bible. It really helps me to keep notes as I'm reading - I do it on the back of my reading chart - so I can make a note of references I want to go back and study in depth later.

"But as for me, I will declare it forever;
I will sing praises to the God of Jacob."
Psalm 75:9

Do you ever feel like you're going through a particularly dark time? A time when you're just not hearing from God? I think most Christians have and I certainly include myself in that group. Even when we are pouring ourselves into Scripture and prayer, these times can be overwhelming, distressing, and very discouraging.

I believe that's when we need to cling even harder to the truths behind "But as for me".

  • People may fail me and disappoint me, but as for me I will hope continually and will praise Thee yet more and more.
  • I may be hitting a wall of unanswered prayer, but as for me, I shall sing of Thy strength.
  • Everywhere I look I feel overwhelmed by discouraging circumstances, but as for me, I will make the Lord my refuge.

It's as if the absolute truths that never change - because they're based on God's character - are the things that get us through those dark times.

"But as for me, I will hope continually,
And will praise Thee yet more and more."
Psalm 71:14

This next one is my absolute favorite. Hang on, because it's a great one --

"But as for me, the nearness of God is my good;
I have made the Lord God my refuge,
That I may tell of all Thy works."
Psalm 73:28

Did you get that? The nearness of God is my good - King David doesn't just say that the nearness of God is good. No, he says, "The nearness of God is my good." It's possessive and it makes God's presence even more of an absolute.

That's really what it comes down to for me. I can't rely on my emotions or how I may feel that God is not answering my prayers or listening to me. I must rely on what I know to absolutely be true. But as for me, I'm going to ignore human logic and live knowing that He is my refuge and that His nearness is my good.

I know some of you are going through some really rough times right now - I'm right there with you. May the Lord strengthen you and may you be able to determine today - even when all seems wrong --

"But as for me, I will hope continually
And will praise Thee yet more and more."
Psalm 71:14

Friday, October 3, 2014

Donkeys and Other Friday Morning Nonsense

Let's take a quick Friday survey:

Raise your hand if you were woke up this morning by a nine year old girl announcing, "There was a donkey at the front gate but don't worry -- Dad and Prince chased it away."

What? I was the only one?

Okay, good. Because that's definitely the weirdest pronouncement I've ever had at seven o'clock in the morning.

A mother should really be allowed to drink her coffee before she has to hear about stray donkeys being confronted by a Great Pyrenees. Although I'm sure the neighbors were entertained by a forty-three year old man running down the road after the aforementioned donkey.

Ah, the joys of living in the country.

In other morning news, apparently my two oldest boys are not impressed with their mother waking them up by loudly playing "Rise and shine and give God the glory, glory!" on the piano. They didn't even appreciate the fact that I was playing by ear and that I modulated from the key of F into G between verses. Ungrateful wretches.

They would probably prefer the donkey wake-up call. Or by a two year old painted like a ladybug.

Alrighty then. You can tell this is going to be one of those highly productive days, can't you?

I have learned though that my five year old has discovered the key to being highly productive: get other people to work for you! See the above shot where she convinced her two year old sister to pull her in the wagon.

Although the two year old has a mind of her own . . .

Then I had to snap these shots of her and her seven year old brother earlier this week: she was trying to build a house using various creative building materials and she discovered the easiest way to do that was to coerce her big brother into carrying everything for her.

She'll be a great wife some day.

Speaking of our Great Pyrenees (okay, that was a few paragraphs ago), 
here's a picture of his nearly 2 week old offspring.

All together, now: Awwwwwwww.

The advantage of being the parent of puppies is that they can't say anything embarrassing about the parents.

Take last night for example, we had been reading in Isaiah, and our 5 year old daughter burst out -- yes, the highly productive one -- with a completely irrelevant question --

"Why was Isaac blind?"

I figured she was probably remembering the Bible story where Isaac's son Jacob tried to trick him into giving the birthright to the wrong son and was successful because Isaac was blind.

So I just answered, "Sometimes when people get really, really old they start to lose their sight."

And those pretty brown eyes looked at me in childlike innocence and asked,

"Like you, Mom?"

And with that lovely comment, I promptly sent her to bed.

Have a great Friday! May all of your mornings be donkey-free and may your vision remain clear until you're older than 42.

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