Thursday, September 30, 2010

Dr. Sproul's Books for Children

 

R. C. Sproul has written some helpful books for children. These books are "designed to present deep biblical truths to children on their own level." Each book presents a different aspect of God's character and serves as a wonderful conversation starter. The latter two even include discussion questions and Scripture references at the end of the story.  However, if you could only purchase one of these books, I think that The Prince's Poison Cup best communicates the Gospel of Jesus Christ and is therefore, the most beneficial. You can see a brief synopsis as well as the artistic talent in the video below.




 There are two things in particular that gave me pause in The Prince's Poison Cup that warrant further discussion. The first is the depiction of the deceiver in that he looks evil. This is a very common portrayal among children's books, however, I think it deserves special acknowledgment because often, sin and temptation do not look evil to us.

The second point worth discussing is on Page 20 in a section that parallels Christ's time of prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. In Dr. Sproul's story, his Prince trembles with fear as he considers whether there might be another way of rescuing His people. I would want to clarify that, although Scripture does say that Christ trembled, it never attributes fear to Christ. In Matthew 26: 37 & 38, Christ is described as sorrowful and troubled. Mark 14:33-34 describes Jesus as greatly distressed, troubled, and sorrowful. Luke 22:44 describes Jesus as being in agony. Furthermore, 1 John 4:18 states: "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love" (1 John 4:18 ESV). Christ was perfected in love and perfectly trusted His Father in spite of the coming punishment He was to bear for the sins of His people and so, I do not think he could have been fearful. I could be wrong, but just to be cautious, I would try to use more Biblical language to describe Christ's trembling and sweat in the Garden as we are representing His character. (Please note: Dr. Sproul is not necessarily attributing fear to Christ in this book but rather to his fictional Prince character who parallels Christ.)

I would not allow these two issues to prevent me from purchasing this book. It does a great job of communicating Gospel truth in a clear, concise manner to children. Due to the longer paragraphs, I would recommend these books for children who have longer attention spans (probably starting around age four to six, depending on the child).

(Many thanks to Reformation Trust Publishing for granting me a review copy in exchange for my honest opinion!)

Pictures taken from wtsbooks.com and Ligonier Ministries

Monday, September 27, 2010

Reading Classics Together

Now that I've finished When I Don't Desire God by John Piper, I'm joining Tim Challies and Leslie Wiggins in reading The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul. This book has been on my reading list for a little while (sadly, ever since this blog post). We're starting on October 14. Will you join us?


Friday, September 24, 2010

The Big Picture Story Bible


  The Big Picture Story Bible by David Helm (Crossway)
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 9.3 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.6 pounds
  • Publisher's Recommended Age: 4-8 (Younger if you're willing to carry it around for them. ;)

Pros:

  • Short text and big pictures on each page hold shorter attention spans well
  • Frequent questions in the narrative engage child
  • Clearly communicates that man sins because he doubts God's goodness
  • Represents God's character well (ex. love and faithfulness)
  • More accurate pictures than most children's Bibles (i.e. the Temple w/ lampstands, tables for showbread, altar, the Heavenly City, etc.)
  • Thick, heavy-duty pages

Cons:

  • The large size of this Bible is both a pro and a con.  It's great to have the large text and pictures, however, it is very hard for a two-year-old to carry around.
  • Unnecessarily simplistic in terminology, at times (i.e. boat instead of ark)
  • Oversimplifies the Passover: "Moses told God's people to take lambs and sacrifice them. He told them to put the blood over their front doors. The blood of the lamb was God's great sign." It goes on to tell of the Lord passing over the families that had blood over their doors; however, it fails to answer the question, "Why?" This is a great opportunity to pause and explain the "why" further (there had to be a blood sacrifice for sin), correlating it to Christ. (This Bible does, however, mention the "blood sacrifices for sin" in the temple in its New Testament section.)
  • Fails to include Bible references with section titles.

Overall, this is a great resource for helping children grasp the big picture of redemption that is found throughout the Bible. The pros definitely outweigh the cons. I highly recommend it!

Book Review: "When I Don't Desire God"


Have you ever gone through a period of time in which you had little desire to read your Bible? Or maybe a time when you pondered which book to pick up next but just felt kind of "blah" about the whole thing? I went through a phase like this about six months ago. I was more aware of my failures than God's grace. I knew that I needed to focus on what God has done for me through the blood of Jesus Christ rather than reading another Christian living title that would reveal my many shortcomings in my marriage, parenting, and every other area of my life. A short time later, I began reading When I Don't Desire God by John Piper. It was hard reading for this sleep-deprived mama, and it was slow going a lot of the time. However, it was well worth the effort. God used this book to encourage me greatly. It was comforting for me to realize that "...no one ever desires God with the passion he demands" (pg. 13). Ironically, when I realize that I don't desire God enough, I'm actually in a better place spiritually than when I think I'm doing well, even if I do feel worse.

This book is classic Piper; he's singing the same tune: "...God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him" (pg. 19). The first half of the book is largely foundational and philosophical while the latter portion is immensely practical. For example, we all know that the greatest commandment is to love God with all of our heart, so why is Piper writing a whole book about fighting for joy?  I'll let him answer:

"The apostle Paul said, "If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed" (1 Cor. 16:22). Love is not a mere choice to move the body or the brain. Love is also an experience of the heart. So the stakes are very high. Christ is to be cherished, not just chosen. The alternative is to be cursed. Therefore life is serious. And so is this book" (pg. 19).

As for the practical, there's nothing essentially new here: we fight for joy mainly through God's Word and prayer.  However, Piper does have many helpful insights as to how the Word and prayer help us in our fight for joy and how to use them to this end. As usual, Piper says many thought-provoking things making this a book in which you’ll likely want to spend some time. I’ll leave you with a quote that was meaningful to me in my situation; may it whet your appetite.

“The fight for joy always involves both [prayer and meditation]. Prayer without meditation on the Word of God will disintegrate into humanistic spirituality. It will simply reflect our own fallen ideas and feelings—not God’s. And meditation, without the humility of desperate prayer, will create proud legalism or hopeless despair.

Without prayer we try to fulfill the Word in our own strength and think we are succeeding and so become proud Pharisees; or we will realize we are not succeeding and will give up in despair” (pg. 149).
 Have you read this book? If so, what most spoke to you?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Raising Real Men


I recently came across this book via Grace and Truth's Facebook page. It comes highly recommended by a number of godly folks including Tedd Tripp, author of Shepherding A Child's Heart. For those of you who might be interested, LeaAnn @ Whatever State I Am is having a giveaway on Saturday for this particular title. For those of you who have already read this book, what did you think? For others, what book do you feel has most benefited you as a parent?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Free Scripture Songs


Mark and Stephen Altrogge of The Blazing Center are offering eight free Scripture memory songs to their subscribers. They have an encouraging, cross-centered, though-provoking blog that you may want to check out, if you enjoy reading blogs. You may find it a means of grace as I have over the past years.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Gratituesday: Biblical Teaching and Resources

My morning, thus far:
  • Read my Bible
  • Consulted resources to help me understand challenging parts (visions in Zechariah ;)
  • Pondered the strengths and weaknesses of the latest book that I am reading (A Way With Words by Christin Ditchfield) while getting my children some breakfast
  • Looked at a map reminding me to pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters
In all of these things, I am incredibly aware of God's kindness and provision. He has given me a heart that desires to grow in Christ-likeness, and He has given me enabling grace as well as the Holy Spirit to bring about change in my life. He has allowed me to have a great number of Biblical resources available to me as well as incredibly Biblical, Christ-centered, Gospel-focused teaching to help me discern what is best. Not everyone can have hundreds of books on their shelves that help them better understand the Scriptures. May we not take these things for granted today and pray for those who are struggling to even have a Bible in their homes!

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.
(2 Peter 3:18 ESV)

Join us for Gratituesday at Heavenly Homemakers!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Shepherding A Child's Heart Testimonial

For those of you who are interested, I recently did a video testimonial for Shepherd Press on Shepherding A Child's Heart by Tedd Tripp. Here it is, followed by a transcript.



Shepherding A Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp is the first Shepherd Press title that I encountered. God used it as a means of grace to begin transforming the way that my husband and I parent. What sets Shepherding A Child’s Heart apart from other parenting books on the market is its unwavering focus on the Gospel of Jesus Christ and how the Gospel influences everything in parenting from our goals to our methods.

Prior to reading this book, I had been greatly influenced by the concepts that I encountered in my psychology courses at a “Christian” university as well as those same concepts presented in “Christian” parenting books. After reading Shepherding A Child’s Heart, I realized that the counsel that I was following was incredibly unbiblical and detrimental to my children’s souls. Positive reinforcement and time-outs affect behavior but for the wrong reasons. When we use those methods and methods like them, we essentially contribute to developing good little Pharisees; we teach our children to consider consequences before they obey rather than obeying out of a love for God.

God also used Tripp’s book to confront me with my own heart. Often, my desire in disciplining my children was that I would have well behaved children for my own ease and comfort. God used Tripp’s book to show me how to apply the Gospel to my parenting. When my children sin against me, there is a greater problem; they are sinning against God. The most important thing that needs to happen in the lives of my children is reconciliation between my children and God. Each time my children sin, I have the opportunity to share the Gospel once again. My goal since reading Shepherding A Child’s Heart is that I would be an ambassador of God’s kingdom and an agent of reconciliation between my children and God. I cannot change my children’s hearts, but God can use me as an instrument of grace in the lives of my children to change their hearts.

Training children isn’t merely about behavior modification; it is about being used by God to present the Gospel to our children clearly and frequently. Shepherding A Child’s Heart is filled with Biblical teaching to help me apply God’s Word to my parenting. It contains many practical examples of how to apply Scripture and Gospel truth in our day-to-day parenting and is a means of grace to which I regularly refer as I seek to honor God in my parenting.

A Book Review: Sammy and His Shepherd


Elizabeth Hankins' Review of Sammy and His Shepherd by Susan Hunt:

Susan Hunt is a gifted writer. I've read several of her books and, like the others, Sammy and His Shepherd did not disappoint.  In this book, she seeks to help her readers understand Psalm 23 through Sammy, a compassionate, young sheep and his nameless friend outside of the sheepfold. Sammy tells his friend of all that his Shepherd does for him, and his friend finds herself longing to be cared for in much the same way.

Susan had wonderful insights into the caring of sheep reminiscent of Phillip Keller's book A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 (though, truth be told, I have not read Keller's book in its entirety). As an adult, I find Hunt's book to be particularly refreshing. It is filled with Biblical truth and told in an engaging manner. Sammy and His Shepherd is unique in that it makes Psalm 23 understandable to children. I don't know of any book quite like it for this age group.

When we got to the end of the book, my daughter exclaimed, "That's the end!" She then proceeded to ask if there were other books in the series and was quite sad to realize that there are no others continuing the story of Sammy, his friend, and the Shepherd. However, she excitedly pronounced that she would write her own story to continue where this one left off.

The one concern that I have about this book is that Ms. Hunt seems to expect that the children to whom she is writing are converted. This is evident in a "Talk About It" section filled with discussion questions and prayer suggestions. I say this is a concern because we do not want children (especially those growing up in the church) to assume that they are saved when they have not personalized their parents' faith; we don't want to give them false assurance.

There was also one point in the story that I think might be misleading doctrinally. It has to do with who initiates salvation. However, I won't expound upon that for fear of spoiling the plot. ;)

All in all, the story was well done. I believe Ms. Hunt was successful in what she set out to accomplish: making Psalm 23 more clear to all ages. There is a level of depth in this Psalm that I have missed all these years. This is a book that I will read again and again to my children without getting bored! Highly recommended!

(Many thanks to Reformation Trust Publishing for granting me a review copy in exchange for my honest opinion!)

For more information on this book, check out Challies interview with the author.