Monday, May 7, 2018

For the Love of Discipline - Book Review

"For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it" (Hebrews 12:11, ESV).

For the Love of DisciplineDiscipline. Does that word carry a positive or negative connotation for you? What is "discipline"? What does it look like in the context of parenting? Should one do it? If so, when and why?  Does discipline differ from punishment? If so, how? Perhaps few subjects carry the weight of this one, with a diversity of strong opinions running the gamut, and so, we tend to avoid talking about it, and yet, discipline is hard work and a thankless job with eternal consequences, so we could really use support and encouragement along the way. To this end, Sara Wallace joins the sea of voices with For the Love of Discipline.

Building upon the foundation laid by folks like Tedd Tripp (Shepherding a Child's Heart) and Elyse Fitzpatrick (Give Them Grace, previously reviewed here), Sara supplies practical applications for those who already have a solid foundation in applying the Gospel to a child's heart. She successfully combines sound theology and amusing word pictures for a book that is fun, gracious, and edifying. Again and again, Sara points parents to Christ's finished work and demonstrates the difference that the Gospel makes in one's parenting.

At approximately four and a half pages per chapter, For the Love of Discipline is a quick read that addresses some common parenting challenges. Among the questions addressed in this book are:

  • How do we use rewards in a way that addresses the child's heart, points him/her to the Gospel, and glorifies God as opposed to merely modifying behavior temporarily?
  • What is the difference between a reward and a bribe?
  • How do we celebrate obedience rather than simply doing "damage control" for disobedience?
  • How do we find the balance between too much or too little discipline?
  • How do we set realistic expectations with our kids?
  • Are there times when we should "let things slide" and just "let kids be kids"?
  • How should we respond when our child tells us, "No!"?
  • How do we handle tantrums in toddlers and bigger kids?

Additionally, Sara shares practical tools that are serving her in her parenting journey including:

  • the benefits of utilizing structure and routine;
  • how using stories and "word bundles" can be beneficial alternatives to lecturing;
  • how to navigate sibling relationships, teaching children how to be peacemakers rather than peace breakers, as well as, how to show love and serve one another.

Furthermore, Sara raises some thought-provoking questions for her readers throughout the book such as: "Who or what are you teaching your kids to fear?" and "Are you offering your kids comfort that will persist throughout their entire lives?" At the close of each chapter, Sara includes questions and/or activities for reflection to help her readers apply the chapter's content.

Like many books, I found some chapters more helpful than others, and there were places where I didn't agree or would do things differently, but all-in-all, Sara Wallace has written a wonderfully encouraging book with much practical advice that will serve parents as they seek to faithfully run the race set before them, planting seeds for the Gospel all along the way. While I wouldn't consider this a replacement for some more foundational parenting works (like those mentioned above), I'm grateful that Sara has added this Gospel-centered contribution that is personal, winsome, and warm! Sara's heart for God's glory shines through on every page, and I am happy to commend this book to others for their edification.

*Many thanks to P&R Publishing for providing me with an advanced reader copy of For the Love of Discipline, offering me the opportunity to share my honest opinion regarding the contents!

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Graciousness: Tempering Truth With Love (Book Review)

"Peacemakers are people who breathe grace to others in the midst of conflict. Since we cannot breathe out what we have not breathed in, this process hinges on our moment-to-moment relationship with God" (Ken Sande as quoted by John Crotts, pg. 68).

Zealous for truth. That's me. Expressing the truth with more zeal than love. Sadly, that is also me at times. This side of heaven, I imagine I will always be able to benefit from some practical methods for cultivating graciousness. That's why I was excited to read John Crotts' latest book, Graciousness: Tempering Truth with Love.

Crotts spends the first half of his book laying a biblical foundation by examining the Bible's commands for Christians to be gracious, setting forth the Lord Jesus and the apostle Paul as positive examples and the church at Ephesus as a cautionary tale of sorts. The second half of the book aims at highlighting practical ways to cultivate graciousness by considering our hearts, the value of others, and our actions, as well as specific suggestions for cultivating graciousness in community.

Graciousness is well written and offers wise counsel. For example, Crotts advises his readers not to merely read books about graciousness but to read biographies about those who exemplify it and adds this beautiful explanation:

"Theoretical kindness provides instruction, but lived kindness adds authenticity and tangibility to principles" (pg. 127).

To that end, Crotts makes excellent reading recommendations. The influence of outstanding works such as Ken Sande's Peacemaker, Paul Tripp's War of Words, David Powlison's Speaking the Truth in Love, and Donald Whitney's Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (among other titles) can be clearly seen within the pages of Graciousness.

All-in-all, if you are looking for a book that will remind you afresh of the truths of God's Word and the Gospel which will help you to infuse your conversations with graciousness, you will find this to be a worthwhile companion. It is a short, easy read in which Crotts handles Scripture faithfully and is a good, general primer on the subject. Crotts writes: "Raw conviction without gospel hope produces despair" (pg. 130). Readers are likely to find both within the pages of Graciousness.

*Many thanks to Cross Focused Reviews and Reformation Heritage Books for sending me a complimentary copy of Graciousness in exchange for my honest opinion!

Here are some additional excellent books that have helped me cultivate graciousness in specific areas:

  • General - Practicing Affirmation by Sam Crabtree (This book does a really great job of practically demonstrating ways that we can affirm others when we are particularly tempted to be critical, especially when it comes to unbelievers with whom we have very little in common and even often find ourselves in disagreement. It has been a number of years since I have read this book, but I can still helpfully recall examples from this book. The illustration that I probably mentally re-visit most frequently is one in which he strikes up a positive conversation with a pro-choice protester while on a pro-life march. It's quite the conversation and wonderfully instructive! For more of my thoughts on this book, you can read my review.)
  • Marriage - When Sinners Say, "I Do" by Dave Harvey
  • Parenting - Everyday Talk by Jay Younts

Friday, December 1, 2017

Book Review: The Beginner's Gospel Story Bible

Image 1

Notable features of The Beginner's Gospel Story Bible by Jared Kennedy from the Publisher:

  • Gospel-centered Bible stories expressed in ways that speak to toddlers and preschoolers.
  • Children will learn the good news of God’s love for them.
  • Traces God’s perfect promises through fifty-two Old and New Testament stories.
  • Brightly colored illustrations by Trish Mahoney highlight each story and add fun [teaching] elements [such as counting, opposites, patterns, and object recognition] to keep young children’s attention.
  • Each story ends with a question that parents and caregivers can use to reinforce the message.

My Thoughts:

There is much to love about The Beginner's Gospel Story Bible by Jared Kennedy. As noted in the Publisher's description, this book has a lot of visual appeal and fun elements that make it a joy to read with toddlers and preschoolers. These engaging teaching elements combined with frequent questions make it a delightfully interactive book. The Beginner's Gospel Story Bible also contains a lot of amusing words and interjections like "Pop!", "Sssluuuurrrrrp", and "Hooray!" Most importantly, the entertaining aspects of this book are not an end in themselves but a means to communicating the glorious truth of the Gospel to young people: they are sinners in need of a Savior, Jesus Christ. Throughout the story Bible, key truths to remember, most often pointing to God's character and work, are highlighted in bold letters, and each lesson seeks to point to Jesus Christ in some way. While the connection to the larger redemptive storyline wasn't always clearly demonstrated and the main point of the Biblical account wasn't always the focus of this author's retelling, this story Bible was generally faithful to the text of the Bible and clearly presented the Gospel throughoutThe Beginner's Gospel Story Bible is a fun and worthwhile addition to the libraries of those with toddlers in their lives.

(Please note, The Beginner's Gospel Story Bible does contain artistic depictions of Jesus Christ.)

**Many thanks to New Growth Press and Litfuse Publicity Group for sending me a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion!