Monday, January 10, 2011

Preschool Devotional Resources

Are you looking for some resources to help your family get into the habit of sharing a regular devotion time together? If so, you may be interested in looking at these books published by The Good Book Company.

Beginning with God: Book 1This is a very basic book designed to be used with The Beginner's Bible or a similar children's Bible. It is a simple tool to guide parents in regular Bible time with preschoolers. It contains key Biblical truths to read and discuss with young children. It also has prayer points at the beginning and end of each lesson to help you and your child cultivate the discipline of prayer. There are activity suggestions to help the parent/teacher make the lesson more memorable and to help continue the conversation beyond the formal reading time. My kids are constantly bringing this book to me and asking me to read them another passage because they like placing the sticker (included with the book) on the page once the lesson has been read.

Like Beginning with God, this resource is designed to be used with The Beginner's Bible and  includes prayer points at the beginning and end of lessons, Biblical truths to read, and discussion questions from the story. Each lesson also has a sticker and coloring page. It's not too late to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas with a resource like this!

These two are very basic for pre-schoolers containing the overall content of the Bible stories. I would recommend using these with The Jesus Storybook Bible or The Big Picture Story Bible so as to help the little ones see the Gospel in all of the Bible. The greatest asset of these guides (in my opinion) are they prayer points and activity suggestions. I think they would be especially helpful to those who aren't comfortable doing this type of thing with their child.

Personally, I would like to have seen more reference to the Gospel in these books.  However, they do state the truth about Christ's Lordship clearly. Check out the book samples at the links above and see if these might be a good fit for your family!

*Many thanks to The Good Book Company for sending me these books in exchange for my honest opinion!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Book Review: real-life discipleship

Putnam’s major presupposition in real-life discipleship is that there are five stages that comprise the spiritual growth process (spiritually dead, spiritual infant, spiritual child, spiritual young adult, spiritual parents). He outlines characteristics of each of his stages, as well as, ways to recognize which stage people are in and what people in each stage need to know. Putman lists topics one might cover with a disciple as well as recommended reading but never specifically discusses how to practically utilize either. The curriculum detailed in the book is the use of Bible storying in a small group context.

Putman rightly recognizes: that spiritual growth is a process; that we have to look at the heart motivations behind people's actions; and that humility is one of the most important character traits of a mature believer and leader. However, there are parts of the book which could be strengthened.  Although, sharing the gospel was mentioned, it was not expounded upon where it should have been primary. For example, Chapter Seven, "Moving the Spiritually Dead Toward Life", was particularly disappointing and weak. It spoke more about sharing your testimony and answering an unbeliever's questions than about sharing the gospel. Furthermore, certain aspects of this book (such as the spiritual growth process noted above) needed to be better grounded in Scripture.

Also noteworthy is that real-life discipleship contains no gender distinctions. While our knowledge of God in the discipleship process will be similar, application of that knowledge will often differ. Since Putnam defines a disciple as: " who is following Christ (head), being changed by Christ (heart), and committed to the mission of Christ (hands)" (pg. 29-32), I would expect some treatment of varying roles would be appropriate.

All-in-all, I think that there are beneficial things to be gleaned from real-life discipleship, as well as, some food-for-thought. However, it is not the only book one will want to read on the subject and seems geared more towards church leaders.

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from NavPress Publishers as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commision's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Monday, January 3, 2011

Book Review: By Grace Alone

Do you find the grace of God astonishing and amazing or have you begun to take God’s goodness and love for granted? The goal of By Grace Alone is to help the reader see afresh the amazing nature of God's grace. This book is a helpful reminder of the truth of the Gospel. I found it easy to read yet thought-provoking, convicting yet encouraging. Here, for example, are some of the questions with which this book deals:

  • Do you deserve to go to heaven?
  • Must you strive to do better in order to be accepted by God?
  • What is your greatest need?
  • What does a relationship characterized by grace look like?
  • Does God want what is best for us? How can we know?
  • What is the cause of every failure in the Christian life?
  • Why is it significant that Jesus was charged with treason and blasphemy?
  • Why does the Christian no longer continue in sin? What does this mean? What are the implications of this teaching?
  • Why is grace so amazing?

I will not share how he answers all of these questions lest I discourage potential readers from reading the book for themselves. However, I will tell you how Ferguson answers the question, “What is your greatest need?” He says, "Your greatest need is to have your sin and your guilt exchanged for pardon and new life" (pg. 62).

Ferguson does not shy away from speaking the truth in love as he deals with these (and many other) topics as they relate to grace. For example, when writing about how we know that God is "for us" and how that knowledge shapes our actions, Ferguson states:

"After all, if you really believed that the all-kind Creator of the universe wanted to bless and enrich your life, would you not seek Him? For all their protestations that they believe in a God of love, deep down people believe the opposite. They fear that God is out to destroy their lives. They do not trust Him; they do not love Him; they do not obey Him; they do not worship Him; they do not want Him. They too [like Adam and Eve] have exchanged the truth about God for the lie" (pg. 96).

The grace of God is awesomely amazing; we cannot meditate on it too frequently. By Grace Alone is a great tool to help believers reflect on Scriptures about grace and understand them more fully.

*Many thanks to Reformation Trust for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion!