Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Living Stones: A Book Review

We've mentioned before that Christian blogs are a great place to learn about authors that will help us keep our minds on pure and noble things.  One author that Helene and I have followed since before starting this blog is Casandra Martin.  Ms. Martin was a school teacher before becoming a stay at home mom.  Since then, she's continued to teach through writing.  One of the things she has done is write several Bible study books in a series she calls WOW, Women Opening the Word.  Her newest is called Living Stones, and she was kind enough to send me a copy of it to review for her here on Maidservants of Christ.  

The book is very similar to other Bible study books you may have used. It has the typical thirteen lessons, each lesson having four parts, which  makes it nice for people like me who struggle to make Bible study a daily part of their routine.  Four lessons gives lots of wiggle room!  Ms. Martin gives great advice on how to use this book as a teacher of a 45 minute or ninety minute class and how to get the most out of it when doing a study on your own.  One of the first things to impress me about the book is that the first piece of advice she gives is to pray throughout the study. I found that prayer was really helpful, especially when it came to her "challenges" at the end of each lesson.

Living Stones is a book about faith, so she challenges the reader to have "Living Stone" faith as opposed to "pet rock" faith.  Okay, I know what you are thinking.  That sounds cheesy.  I thought so too, at first.  One of my pet peeves in any kind of Bible study, be it a sermon, a devotional book, or a blog like ours is having a lesson built around a flimsy illustration.  But stay with me here.  Ms. Martin has the unique ability to use an illustration to help her readers remember her point while still getting to the meat of the Bible.  Faith is certainly a meaty topic, and she explores it through the lens of 1 Peter 2's discussion of living stones, as well as other stones in the Bible.  

For instance, did you know that as a "carpenter," Jesus probably worked with stone as much or more than he did with wood?  I didn't.  Our author points out that the word we see as carpenter is actually the Greek word tekton, which simply meant "builder."  It really made the description of Jesus building his living stones into a spiritual house that much more meaningful.  The book is peppered with lessons like this to make the Scripture come alive.

She doesn't leave any stone unturned, either.  She explores all of the hard parts of faith, like submission, forgiveness, and transparency.  Although always gentle, the author doesn't shy away from asking the hard questions.  This one hit me hard: "Examine your foundation.  What percentage of your choices, attitudes, and actions do you filter through the cornerstone character of Christ?"  Ouch.  However, I never left a study feeling down on myself.  Rather, I felt convicted and inspired to let my actions and choices be filtered through Christ more today than they were yesterday.  The author really has the heart of a teacher, not a judge.

Like a good teacher, she lets her readers find answers on their own.  Rather than banging me over the head with her ideas, she gave me the opportunity to read the Scripture for myself, and then asked well worded questions that subtly drew out the point she wanted me to see.  For instance, in one lesson, she gathered together several verses about the attributes of God, many of which compare Him to a rock.  She chose the verses carefully and then asked a simple question: "Why is having this picture of God as our Rock so vital to developing Living Stone faith?" From the Word and the question together, I was able to examine my own view of God and see where it was lacking.  

The reason my view of God is a little skewed at times is because I do not spend enough time in His word.  If you struggle like I do in making a daily habit of Bible study, I would recommend Casandra Martin's WOW books.  Talk to your Ladies Class teacher and see if they would be willing to use one of these books next quarter.  Although I didn't go through the book in a class setting, I know they would be a rich source of godly conversation and study in your classes.  Living Stones in particular is an excellent place to continue growing your faith to the point where Bible study becomes easier and more natural. 

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