Book Review: “Reformation Women” by Rebecca VanDoodewaard

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A large majority of the most famous Protestant reformers are, indeed, men. There are many reasons for this, but it would likewise be a mistake to think that the Protestant Reformation was a movement instigated and propagated solely by men. Rebecca VanDoodewaard’s Reformation Women: Sixteenth-Century Figures Who Shaped Christianity’s Rebirth takes on the task of better understanding the role of women in the Reformation. While numerous women could possibly be selected, VanDoodewaard narrows down her research to twelve in particular. Some were fairly well-known, but others were virtually unheard of (to me, at least). At about 115 pages, this was a remarkably quick read. I finished more than half of it during down time on a weeklong missions trip, so it’s certainly not an intimidating size. For those interested in learning about women of the Reformation, who likewise want to be exhorted to Christian godliness, will find this concise book to be delightful.

By far, my favorite chapter was number one, which covered the life of Anna Reinhard. It is refreshing to hear of the personal details of what life was like for Anna and family in sixteenth century Switzerland, as the entire family pressed on to win people over to the Reformation. Many of VanDoodewaard’s citations are drawn from primary sources, though occasional secondary texts are referred to or quoted. VanDoodewaard makes it manifestly clear in her introductory remarks that she is not trying to follow the patterns of modern feminist historians, though she argues there is some good to be found in this recent historiographical movement. One thing that is probably most necessary to know from a historiographical perspective is the underlying motivation that VanDoodewaard seems to have in Reformation Women, namely, that this book is not merely to revise historiographical viewpoints of how women lived during the Reformation (in fact, that generally was not the case). And for that, professional historians might be a little disappointed. More so, this book could be lumped together in the “Christian Living” genre, since a great deal of emphasis is placed on finding these women  to be inspiring role models for Christian women today, and men as well. Furthermore, it is especially geared towards women in the “Reformed” theological camp. That is not to say that non-Reformed readers will find this book valueless, but there are noticeable criticisms of Catholics and Anabaptists that just did not seem to be as equally represented among those in the Reformed traditions. Overall, though, there is much to gain from reading Reformation Women, both for historical enrichment and spiritual encouragement.

***Disclaimer: Special thanks to Cross Focused Reviews for providing a free review copy. All opinions were my own.***

My Week in Rio Bravo, Mexico

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June 17th

Our trip appeared to have a smooth start. Thankfully, God provided the necessary finances. We drove safely to Charlotte, but by God’s providence, our flight was delayed close to two hours. Consequently, we did not make it to Dallas/Fort Worth in time to connect to McAllen, TX. Graciously, we received food vouchers and a hotel to try again next morning. For whatever reason, God did not want us in Mexico yet. Maybe it was so that our shuttle driver, Yousef, could receive a gospel tract? Maybe it was so that the team could bond more, or get extra rest? We don’t know for sure. Nevertheless, God is sovereign. He makes no mistakes. “In Him we live and move and have our very existence.” We trust that God will bring us to Mexico safely, and that His timing is perfect.

 

June 18th

God brought us safely here to Mexico. We trust God in His timing, as today, while having breakfast with a fellow team member, I shared a gospel tract with our waitress in the airport. In McAllen, TX, we were greeted by Pastor Efrain and the Daniel family—ministers in Rio Bravo. As we crossed the US-Mexican border, it was almost surreal—no other place have I been immersed in a culture with a different language than English. At ICCD, members from two local churches greeted us with great joy. Tossing confetti upon as, and preparing a delicious lunch, they considered us more important than themselves, which is truly Christlike love. Yes, the heat of the day can be exhausting (one member had a severe reaction), but God is good. For dinner, we had an amazing meal at a local restaurant. Clearly, we Americans stuck out, as three different people walked up to us from the street to either sell candy or roses. Today, we especially ministered to the local ministers and their families through games and fellowship. Tomorrow, our goal is to fulfill the call of missions: proclaim the gospel.

June 19th

Tonight was the first night of VBS. It was located in an “upper-lower” class neighborhood in Rio Bravo. We didn’t know how many kids would show up, especially since the local school denied our entrance to pass out fliers. A handful of kids showed up at six o’clock, but they kept on coming—all the way to 30! God was gracious in how the night proceeded. Though separated by language, my limited vocabulary allowed me to communicate on a basic level, and more so via an interpreter. I had the opportunity to teach a Bible lesson and even a memory verse, the latter almost entirely in español. We had lot of fun, and I even scored a goal in futbol…against third and fourth graders. Most importantly, the gospel was clearly presented. This is missions!

 

June 20th

Our team had a little extra time for rest and recreation this morning. Many of us took a ride on the zip-line. However, the men (not the women, though) have been bitten many, many times by what seems to be bugs. We have not narrowed it down to which bug, and why only the men have been affected, but a couple are covered in these bites. We don’t know why God allowed this, but we trust His plan, and pray for progress in treatment. VBS was good once again, where we saw at least five visitors. While my Spanish is limited, many of my third and fourth graders know me well as “Juan.” Overall, the night was exciting, and we earnestly expect God to be at work in these next few days as we preach the gospel and build relationships—even if we aren’t united by language, we are/can be through the work of Christ.

 

June 21st

The sun was scorching hot this morning as I helped reinforce wiring along a chicken fence. I cut my fingers, I got sun burn in the 106 degree heat, and experience digestive problems as a result of this. We followed the instructions of a Mexican man named Aurelio, who is in charge of the landscaping work of the ICCD campus. It’s humbling to think of how hard this man works—truthfully I wonder if I caused more or less work for him. Although I felt sick to start the VBS, I prayed that God would allow me to lead the third and fourth graders well, especially since I was teaching the evangelistic Bible lesson. As I taught, I believe God spoke through me. Pastor Salvador gave a fervent evangelistic invitation to close the teaching time, and several responded positively to the pastor. God kept me healthy through it all and was active in our group. Xochitl (pronounced So-chee), an ICCD, Spanish-speaking missionary even commented that my lesson was “very good,” and that the kids listened so carefully in my group and in the other two (grades 1-6 in all). We finished the night at a surprisingly modern ice cream shop, which was a nice treat. While my health weakened after a three-hour night sleep, I am joyful for God’s powerful presence this day!

 

June 22nd

After a more relaxed morning than usual (for most of us), we visited the homes of three deaf children associated with ICCD. At the first house, one man (uncle of two deaf kids) provides for his family by driving buses, yet is the only one who sleeps on the floor while the others have their own beds. The family of the second home is supported by the father’s taco stand business. ICCD played a major role in helping deaf children acquire necessary skills for making a decent living, and especially to know Jesus. At VBS we had a record-high attendance, with several more responding positively to a gospel invitation. Afterwards, Pastor Salvador invited us to his beautiful home for an extraordinary evening. We had a delicious dinner, accompanied by bottled sodas (Coke, apple, and strawberry), sweet desserts, and even a Mexican mug filled with their country’s famous candies. He makes $13 per month from his church (after having a very good paying job, where he was laid off), yet provided a night I will not forget.

 

June 23rd

As we walked along the streets of Nuevo Progresso, a US-Mexican border city, it was quite obvious that we American were prime targets for local vendors. I bought a backpack from one man for a price he said was $2 cheaper than the guy next to him (not an uncommon sales pitch in Nuevo Progresso). I liked it so much that I returned for a second. When he asked me if I could take out of the filling on the latter occasion, I realized he only had one arm (the other attendant helped the first time). Many Mexicans struggle to make ends meet, with some having more obstacles than others. We finished our VBS week with over forty students in attendance. Our hosting church prepared hot dogs for everybody and provided each leader from my home church, Colonial Baptist of Blue Ridge, VA, with certificates of ministry. It was hard saying goodbye to my Mexican brothers- and sisters-in-Christ, as well as those who have not received Jesus.

I will miss the “jokesters,” Refugio and Cesar.

I will miss the bilingual and warm-spirited Justin.

I will miss the kindness of Enrique.

I will miss the passionate messengers of the gospel, such as Salvador, Efrain, and Edgar.

I will miss the delicious food from the ladies who were so hard working in the kitchen, before, during, and after meals.

I will miss the fun fellowship with the Daniel family.

I will miss the unifying partnership in the gospel from both my Mexican and American hermanos y hermanas.

To be sure, I am extremely eager to be back in Roanoke, Virginia with my family and the comforts of the US, like air conditioning and fewer bugs. This has been a trip I will hold in my heart forever. I have been admonished to speak the gospel with much more earnestness. I have been reminded, and in many ways, taught, of how huge God truly is. His providential work in missions outshines beauty that can be found in art and nature. God does not desire that Mexicans be left in ignorance, as pertaining to the gospel. By taking part in this trip, I am thankful to have been privileged to be one of the few that have preached the gospel to the precious people of Rio Bravo, Mexico.

Help Me Get to Mexico!

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I am excited to announce to the world that I am planning on going to Mexico this summer (2017) for a missions trip opportunity through my local church, in coordination with International Christian Centers for the Deaf (ICCD). There, our team will work with one of the largest unreached people groups in the world–the deaf–in a very needy country. This trip will be a little over a week long in June, so it won’t be long until I cross the border to Rio Bravo, Mexico. Of course, in order for me to get there, I will need to raise some money, most of which will go towards the plane ticket cost. Although I plan to send out a prayer letter to people I personally know, anyone can help financially contribute to this cause in one simple way: buy one (or more) of my paperback books!

From the time I started selling two of my books on paperback and until the goal of $1,000 is reached, ALL of my royalties earned from the sale of these books, The Other Reformers and A Brief History of Virginia, will go to a fund for the Mexico trip. The books are quite low in price, so the royalty is not incredibly large, but every bit helps!

Click here to buy The Other Reformers from Amazon.com

 

Click here to buy A Brief History of Virginia from Amazon.com

History of Colonial Baptist Church (PowerPoint Presentation)

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Click Here to Download PowerPoint

Recently, I had the privilege of teaching a small Sunday school class at my church in Blue Ridge, Virginia. As the picture above denotes, I’m a member of Colonial Baptist Church, an independent Baptist congregation that has existed autonomously for several decades, though its origins lead back to the early 1800s. The topic I spoke on for a few months was “Church History,” beginning with the Early Church and concluding with an overview of North American church history, and even Colonial Baptist itself. To see the PowerPoint slides I used, click on the link above. Unfortunately, this PowerPoint only captures part of what I spoke on in class, but hopefully this will peak the interest of those familiar with this church.

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Book Review: “A Syntax Guide for Readers of the Greek New Testament” by Charles Lee Irons

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Earlier this year, in the summer, Kregel published a new book by Charles Lee Irons, “A Syntax Guide for Readers of the Greek New Testament.” It may seem like a daunting task to come up with a syntax guide for literally every book of the New Testament, moving in canonical order, verse-by-verse, but that is what Irons has attempted. Some may question whether or not such a resource would even be valuable, considering the amount of editing one would have to do in order to complete this project in about 600 pages. However, I do believe that this book can be quite beneficial for students of the Greek New Testament.

While exegetical commentaries would likely cover much of the available information on syntax, not everyone is interested (or able) in buying expensive works for meticulous New Testament research. Others, perhaps a majority of Greek New Testament readers, are reading it for preaching and teaching. I see Irons’s book as a useful tool for such readers, who would like a handy guide for reading not the vocabulary, or data on parsing, but syntactical information. Yes, it is pretty advanced material, but it’s certainly comprehensible for students that have studied Greek for a couple of semesters (and have retained their Greek). Overall, in my time reading through “A Syntax Guide for Readers of the Greek New Testament,” I have found some very helpful syntactical insights that I would likely have missed simply using Greek tools found in traditional Bible software and textbooks.

***I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. All opinions were my own.***

Book Review: “Discovering the Septuagint: A Graded Reader,” by Karen H. Jobes, ed.

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New Testament Greek has experienced an explosion of popularity as of late. I would have to think that the accessibility of resources (online and others) have contributed at least a little. And while there are numerous helpful contributions that have been published, physically or digitally, recently, less can be said about the Septuagint (LXX hereafter). As most students of the Bible probably know, much of the New Testament, when quoting the Old Testament, incorporated the LXX. Although it would still be recommended for purposes of exegesis to know Hebrew for the OT and Greek for the NT, having a handle on the LXX is something that many intermediate and advanced students of Greek could benefit from studying (including me).

Karen H. Jobes has made a considerable effort to contribute to this apparently vacant field of biblical studies by writing, along with several contributors, Discovering the Septuagint: A Guided Reader. Since the OT is enormous, she obviously couldn’t write a reader on the entire Tanakh, but has selected passages ranging from the Pentateuch, to Ruth, Esther, the Psalms, Hosea, Jonah, Malachi, and Isaiah. Each chapter/section offers a really helpful, yet brief, introduction to the passages that are about to be translated. And then, like most “readers,” the author(s) parses sections of each version found within the passage being studied. Not every word is unpacked, so having a significant knowledge of Greek vocabulary would be important, but the exegetical observations are quite fruitful in my estimation. For those more used to reading the Greek New Testament, this study of the LXX really is different, but a nice change. One thing I would point out in my reading of this book is that it is not a “devotional” nor devotionally-focused, but it doesn’t claim to be either (in case some may have expected there to be more personal application). Overall, I see this text as being tremendously beneficial for a college/seminary course in the LXX as an introductory book, though I’m sure veterans in the LXX could find use in this as well.

Presidential Election Scorecard

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As most people know, this 2016 election race has been extraordinary. In the state of Virginia (where I live), there are five people that will be listed on the ballot for president. I have created a “scorecard” to help me, as well as my American Government students and others, try to figure out where each candidate stands on the important issues. You can download a Microsoft Word file by clicking this link. Also, the scorecard has been pasted to this blog post below (though the formatting may not be as clear). Despite two presidential debates, and one VP debate, so many of the policies have not been clearly articulated. Please use this scorecard to help you better understand the candidates and the issues.

Presidential Election Scorecard

Childcare & Education

Economic Policies Foreign

Policies

Health-care Abortion (Pro-Life/Choice) Military Views Personal Liberties Elect-ability

TOTAL

(out of 80 pts.)

Hillary Clinton

Gary Johnson
Evan McMullin
Jill Stein

Donald Trump

 

  • Instructions: You are required to research each of these five candidates, and look up their personal views from their websites on these government-related topics. You will then grade these candidates on a scale of 0-10 on each topic. The scores are based on your opinions of each candidate’s views, with the score of “0” meaning that you greatly disagree and the score of “10” that you greatly agree. Tally up your scores to see which candidate received your highest score.
  • Websites (candidates are listed in alphabetical order):