2015 Christmas Guide

On Black Friday, the holiday shopping season begins in earnest. I affectionately refer to this time as “The Season of Insanity.” And part of the insanity is caused by the seemingly unending array of choices. Lifeway and Christian Book Distributers alone recommend thousands of items. Don’t even think about amazon. Determining which Christian books and resources are good and which are religious fluff is hard. And who has the hours to do that?

Hi, there! Throughout the course of the year, I read and examine a ton of books and resources for the FBCE kids’ ministry. Below I have listed the best of the best. I hope my reviews make your Christmas a little less insane! And if you know of things that could be added to this list, leave me a comment below!

Christmas 2015 Guide


Ideas For Preschoolers

The Big Picture Interactive Bible Stories in Five Minutes.  – $10.74

Gospel ProjectBible Story in five minutes

This is one of my favorite preschool/kids’ Bibles because it doesn’t try to be a traditional kids Bible.  Starting with creation and ending with Jesus’ resurrection the book covers 12 important biblical stories.  By not being exhaustive, the book can recount each Biblical narrative as a story. The beautifully illustrated pages flow from one to the next. And last page always ties the story back to the gospel. And the best part for us with young kids is: the stories only last 5 minutes!

The Bible App For Kids Story Book Bible – $9.57

You VersionBible App Kids BIble

It has finally happened. An App has become a book! The Bible App For Kids Story Book Bible left the digital world earlier this year and is becoming an instant hit. Each of the book’s gospel-centered Bible stories can be read in about 1-2 minutes. But what makes this preschool Bible stand out from all the rest is its free digital content. You can download the “Story Book Bible App” for free and get access to even more Bible stories. You also can go to the bibleappforkids.com website and download coloring sheets, videos, discussions guide, and much, much more. With this one preschool Bible, you can teach your kids the scriptures across all platforms (print, mobile, and PC).  


The Big Picture Interactive Bible Stories for Toddlers – $9.99

Gospel Projecttoddler Bible

Divided into two volumes (one is Old Testament stories and one is New Testament stories) these Bibles are perfect for toddlers. Covering twenty Bible stories each, these books deliver gospel centered truth in a board format that your toddler eat on while you read!  


The Big Picture Story Bible – $16.98

David Helm with illustrations by Gail SchoonmakerBig Picture Story Bible

“The Big Picture Story Bible” is one of the better preschool Bibles. The pictures are large and simplistic. The stories are short and include some commentary. But for the most part the Bible follows the content of the Scripture closely. Some additions also come with a nice audio recording of the Bible. If you have younger kids on your list, I encourage you to give this Bible a look!


Everything a Child Should Know About God – $19.99

Kenneth N. Taylor with illustrations by Jenny BrakeEverything a child should know about God

This is a great little book that covers all the major doctrines and ides of the Bible in one-page devotions. Each devotion is accompanied by a picture and follow questions. The book is perfect for the child with a short attention span. If  you already have a great preschool bible and are looking to add another book to your preschooler’s library check out Everything a Child Should Know About God.


Ideas For Kids

The Big Picture Interactive Bible Story Book – $12.22

Gospel ProjectBig Picture Interactive Story Book

Created by the writers of the “Gospel Project,” our church’s Sunday school curriculum, this children’s Bible does an excellent job of presenting the whole counsel of God as seen by the pages devoted to Zephaniah and the Pauline letters. Each story is accompanied by a great illustration, interactive media (the gospel project app for kids), scripture references, an explanation of how the story relates to Christ, and a discussion questions. If your child is only going to have one children’s Bible on his or her self, make it this one!


The Biggest Story: How The Snake Crusher Brings Us Back TO The Garden – $12.57

Ken DeYoung with Illustrations by Don ClarkBiggest Story Every Told

The Bible is not just a collection of short stories. It’s one big story with a central theme. DeYoung’s book encourages us to rediscover this truth this Christmas. Seeking to explain the importance of Christ’s arrival, Pastor DeYoung walks he readers through the entirety of the Bible in a playful, elegant, and hopeful manner. With each chapter, DeYoung shows kids that all of the Old and New Testament are about Jesus. He is the Biggest Story! DeYoung designed his book to be read aloud on Christmas morning while the family relaxes by the fireplace. You may not have a fire place, but you will still benefit from adding this book to your Christmas traditions. It’s worth the read.


Sticky Situations: 365 Devotions For Kids and Families – $11.71

Betsy Schmittsticky situations

The best thing about this devotion is that makes the scriptures relevant for kids. It shows kids that the Bible has the words of life and the words needed for everyday life. Here’s how the devotion works: Each day begins with story about homework, dirty clothes, or some other sticky situation. Then, the author asks the reader what he or she would do listing several responses both good and bad. Lastly, your kids are encouraged to look up the scripture verse listed at the bottom of the page to discover God’s solution to the situation. To make sure everybody stays on track, an answer key and additional discussion questions are located in the back of the book. This collections of 360 practical devotions is second to none.


The Ology: Ancient Truths Ever Knew – $26.99

Marty Machowskithe ology

If you are looking for a colorful book that explains theology to grade schoolers and middle schoolers without babying them, you need to grab a copy of The Ology. The book explores the subject of God, scripture, humanity, salvation, the church, and many other topics. Each section contains colorful illustrations, well written explanations of big theological truths, and tons of scripture references. You can use the book either as a family devotional or hand it off to your middle schooler and let him or her start learning the scriptures anew!


Heaven For Kids – $9.17

Randy Alcornheaven for kids

Have your kids ever asked you about heaven? You probably heard the questions: “Will it be boring, will our pets be there, how do we get there, etc.?” If they have, grab them a copy of Heaven for Kids. Based on Randy Alcorn bestselling book, Heaven, Heaven for Kids provides thoughtful answers to the above questions and many more. Each chapter is filled with stories, analogies, and scriptural explanations that bring the reality of heaven into full view. Get a copy for your kids and help them start thinking about eternity! 


Ideas For Parents

Big Truths For Young Hearts: Teaching and Learning the Greatness of God – $11.55

Bruce A. Warebig truths for young hearts

Written by a seminary professor for his two little girls, the book breaks down the deepest doctrines of faith into bites that children can easily digest. This child styled systematic theology book will be an encouragement to parents and children alike as they seek to understand humanity, God, and the Bible. If you want to get one book this year that increases your understanding of God, this is it. By far, this is one of my favorite books to handout to parents.  


Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full: Gospel Meditations For Busy Moms – $9.88

Gloria Furmantreasuing Christ

This book is short enough for a busy mom to handle and provides sound gospel-centered truth on the realities of motherhood.  Motherhood is a hard but important job, and Gloria encourages the worn out women of God who are called to the task! The gospel provides everything a mom needs to relieve stress and overcome misguided expectations. Ladies this is perhaps one of the best books available for moms! 


Shepherding A Child’s Heart – $12.56

Tedd Trippsheparding a childs heart

Tedd Tripp shows parents how to discipline for the purpose of discipleship. He gives parents the scriptural foundation and the practical methods for addressing the issues that often define the parent-child relationship. But instead of focus on outward changing, Tripp goes deeper and looks at the heart. He shows parents how to reach their little sinners with the gospel. Tedd Tripp’s book is a both a practical and biblical resource for parents.


Show Them Jesus: Teaching the Gospel to Kids – $15.54

Jack Klumpenhowershow them Jesus

This book is written by a lifelong Sunday school teacher for Sunday school teachers and for anyone working with kids either at home or at church. This book is full of practical wisdom concerning how to teach the gospel to children in way that is both Biblical and relational. Jack’s focus on the gospel will challenge and re-energizes our hearts to reach the next generation for Christ.  


Is God Ant-Gay? -$7.99

Sam AllberryIs God anti Gay

Homosexuality is daily becoming more applauded in our society. As Christians, we need to know how to address the issue in a loving, compassionate, and truthful manner. Is God anti-gay? gives us the biblical knowledge to do just that. The short 84-page book helps us answers several of our culture’s questions about homosexuality such as, “Jesus never mentions homosexuality, so how can it be wrong?” And, Allberry goes beyond addressing the sins. He shows his readers how to extend grace to the sinner. Grab a copy today!

For Fun

apples to apples bibleApples to Apples (Bible Addition) – $21.89

If you want a fun, family friendly game that is sure to create some laughter grab a copy of Apples to Apples! You deal every player a hand of cards and then turn over a green card such as “heavenly.” Each player submits their card that best represents the card played, such as “Ruth; Camels, Samson.” The players then vote to decided who’s card best represent the word players. It’s time to grab some apples.   


catch phraseCatch Phrase- $21.99

Set the timer, pick a category, and go! You then try describe the catch-phrase on the screen without using any of the words in the phrase. If “Christmas” were the word you were trying to say, you would say something like, “We celebrate it every December 21.” But don’t take too long as times money. And if the devise in your hands when the timer goes off, you lose. The game is one of my family’s favorites. I hope your family will love it too!


51zhk2pdjWLFocus on the Family Radio Theatre Drama – $9.99 – $27.99

If you spend large amounts of time in your car, are fond of road trips, or have middle school children who refuse to read, you should give Focus on the Family Radio Theatre a listen. It brings classic works such as “ The Chronicles of Narnia,” “The Hiding Place,” and “Ann of Green Gables” (just to name a few) to life with fantastic performance by a host of professional actors and actresses!


The Prince’s Poison Cup – $15.35

R.C. Sproulprince and the posion cup

Beautifully illustrated as R.C. Sproul’s other children’s books (The Priest With Dirty Clothes, The Donkey Who Carried a King, The Baber Who Wanted to Pray, etc.) this book tells the story of Christ’s death through a medieval parable. The beautiful story is laced with the power of the gospel and makes a great addition to every child’s bookshelf.


Princess and the Kiss: A Story of God’s Gift of Purity – $10.62

Jennie Bishopprincess and the kiss

Beautifully illustrated, the book presents the splendor of chastity in a fun, thoughtful manner that can be enjoyed by young girls and appreciated by those leaving the ranks of elementary school!

Playing With Water

SalvationSeries_PlayingwithWaterA Shhh..splash flowed by a showering of water radically interrupted the pastor’s orderly explanation of baptism. As he tried to recover, ripples of laughter echoed through the congregation who just saw the latest baptism candidate show off his cannonball skills in the baptistery. Although I did not see the faces of the boy’s parents, I can imagine they probably had a few streaks of embracement on them. And quite frankly, most parents would be embarrassed to see their child turn baptism into a juvenile joke for quick amusement. As parents, we have a responsibility to both encourage our children to publicly display their faith and to help them understand the spiritual significance of baptism. How do we do guard against cannon balls? Well first and foremost, we must explain the gospel to our children. Our three foot tall man and our four foot tall woman cannot truly believe or rightly interact with the baptism pool without an understanding of salvation. With a right view of God in place, we then have to help them understand exactly what baptism is, means, and does.  Put on your goggles and let’s dive into the: who, what when, where, and why of baptism!


Admittedly, a host of opinions about baptism have circled around the church for ages. And I have been both sprinkled as an infant and submerged as an adult. Today, I do not intend to set the world aright with this short blog post. While infant baptism is practiced in many Bible believing churches in an effort to establish a child’s spiritual heritage, I believe baptism is more than a baby dedication tool.

I think believers’ baptism is a more faithful and accurate fulfilling of Christ’s command to baptize “them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit” (Matt 28:18-20). The word baptize always means immersion or “to dunk” when used in the Greek. Moreover whether it’s the believers at Pentecost, the Philippian jailer, the Ethiopian Eunuch, or anyone else, baptism as recorded in the Bible is always a direct expression of faith by those who have repented of their sins upon hearing the gospel. As the theologian J.L. Dagg wrote, “the apostles and their fellow-laborers required repentance and faith as qualifications for baptism” (p. 69).So who gets baptized? Those who have repented and believed on the Lord Jesus Christ should be baptized.

A Quick Caution

In our effort to faithfully practice baptism, we must be careful not to make the church ordinance, “the basis of division among Christians” (Grudem, p. 967). Rather we should seek, as Dr. Bruce Ware’s encourages us, to:

“be gracious with those of different practices…let’s work to understand and follow as best we can what the Bible teaches. Baptism matters, to be sure. But the truth that baptism points to matters even more” (p. 205).

Even though they sprinkle, we can and should still fellowship with Presbyterians, Lutherans and others who affirm the gospel. Let’s be careful not throw the church out with the baptism water.


Baptism is a physical sign established by Jesus to picture what happens in our hearts when we believe on the finished work of the cross (Romans 6:3-7). Christians go under water to symbolize that they have died with Christ from sins of this world. Then seconds later, they pop out from the water, revealing that they have been given new life “through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him [Christ] from the dead” (Col 2:12). The ordinance of baptism is a beautiful picture and public declaration of how God redeems the lost.


The easy answer is: “As soon as a person repents of sin and confesses Jesus as Savior, he/she should be baptized.” We see both Philip and Paul baptizing new believers shortly after they confess Christ (Acts 8:36; 16:33). And when adults who have counted the cost of following Christ embrace Jesus as their Savior, they should be baptized quickly.

SalvationSeries_BaptismClassforParents6But we also want to protect the waters of baptism from religious cannon ballers who pursue the sacrament either hoping to please parents or to appease the Christian culture. Before the onset of the middle ages, the church responded to this dilemma by requiring baptism candidates to attend a three year training class (catechizing) to ensure that they understood the faith. Today, the church expert, Mark Dever, recommends that children should not be baptized until they reach an age of maturity during the end of their high school years (Dever & Alexander, p. 106).

At FBCE, the staff follows a more Grudem-esk view of baptism believing:

“It is impossible to set a precise age that will apply to every child, but when parents see convincing evidence of genuine spiritual life and also some degree of understanding regarding the meaning and trusting in Christ, then baptism is appropriate” (p. 982).

In short, we will baptize children upon a credible profession of faith. We define a credible confession as the ability to clearly articulate the gospel, the nature of baptism and one’s personal testimony, citing the evidence of good works. We also want to know if the child’s parents have noticed their child displayiing the grace of God in her life. Once a child has met with a pastor, written out her testimony, and demonstrated her love for God in her daily life as observed by her family, the FBCE staff will baptize a child. Admittedly the process is rather elastic, taking weeks and even years to complete. But as Pastor Art Murphey noted, “Children need time to understand and show signs of maturity before they are baptized” (p. 127). Baptism is not a race to see who can get the wettest the fastest.


Being the doorway into the blessings of church membership, baptism should always occur within the context of the local church (I Cor 12:13). The location of the baptism matters little. As long as your local church is present, an ordained church member (pastor, elder, or deacon) performs the baptism (signifying that church affirms the work of Christ within the heart of the person being baptized) and immersion occurs, a baptism is truly a baptism.


We are to pursue baptism as a sign or act of faith. Going under water does not save; nor, is dunking necessary for salvation. As I Peter 3:21 makes clear, “the removal of dirt” does not produce salvation. Moreover, the thief on the cross repented and was never baptized. Yet, he was promised eternity by Jesus (Luke 23:43). Regardless of our or our children’s piety, their baptism will never save them.

Rather, baptism is act of obedience in faith. If you “confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved,” then you will naturally want to follow all of Christ’s commands (Romans 10:9). What is Christ’s first command after repent and believe? It is to be baptized (Acts 2:38). In the New Testament, all who trust Christ eagerly identify with their Lord and Savior via the waters of baptism.  Christians go into the waters of baptism proclaiming that God has already regenerated their hearts.

Recommend Resources:

Manual of Theology: Second Part A Treatise On Church Order. Dagg, J. (1990).Harrison : Gano Books .

. The Deliberate Church: Building Your Ministry on the Gospel. Dever, M., & Alexander, P. (2005)Wheaton: Crossway Books.

Systematic Theology . Grudem, W. (1994).Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House .

The Faith of a Child: A Step-by-Step Guide to Salvation for your Child . Murphey, A. (2000). Chicago: Moody Publishers .

Big Truths For Young Hearts: Teaching and Learning the Greatness of God . Ware, B. A. (2009). Wheaton: Crossway.

Onesies: The Doctrine of Salvation

SalvationSeries_Onesies_2Being the hopeless romantic that I am, I decided to go above and beyond for my wife’s past birthday. I searched and dug until I found the perfect gift that made flowers and Godiva chocolate seem like gumballs. I presented her with a Chicago Cubs onesie for our recently conceived son (Since the two were still one, I thought it an appropriate gift). Because my wife is amazing, she was wowed by my gift! She was also quite amused and not for the reason you are thinking. You see, it seems that the great “onesie” creator decided to make onesies in more than one size. Who would have thought? Recent predictions project baby Witkowski to be wearing the Chicago Cubs onesie sometime around the year 2016.

               chicagocubsI have since learned that onesie sizes go from preemie to adult XXXL. In a much, much more grandeur way, the free gift of salvation also does not have an age limit or time sensitive restrictions. The seven-year-old child comes to Christ in the exact same way as the seventy-seven-year old man. They both only need to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ to be saved! Becoming a Christian is easier than choosing the correct onesie. God has done all the work.

God Does It All

               Because God is holy, sin must be punished (Is. 13:11). And our punishment for sin is death in this life followed by eternal separation from God’s love in hell. This is our fate. To avoid death, we have to be perfect. If we commit one sin, we are doomed (James 2:10). And as anyone who has kept a class full two-year-old onesie wearing babies can tell you, perfection is impossible as our very natures are corrupt from birth.

Jesus Pays For Us

But being fully man and fully God, Christ lived a perfect life. He offered himself on the cross as a sacrifice for our sins. Knowing that we deserved divine judgment, Jesus intervened in human history following the plan of God the Father. By surrendering himself to the cross, Jesus lifted the burden of sin from the shoulders of believers. He who was perfect became sin for us (II Cor. 5:21). He was, as Romans 3:25-26 makes clear, our penal (legal) substitution. In the eyes of God’s divine justice, Jesus us took our punishment. He experienced God’s wrath for our sin and felt the eternal separation from God’s love that we deserved. He was the perfect sacrifice for our sins. By his wounds, we were healed (1 Peter 2:24).

God Calls Us

               Because we are corrupt from birth, we do not naturally seek after the salvation that Christ made possible (Rom. 3:10-12). “If God were to leave it up to us, not a single person would ever want to be with God, and no one would ever desire to do what pleases God” (Ware, p. 172). But, God in his mercy actually seeks after his children! In Romans 8:30, Paul tells us that Christians are called by God! We begin to question our allegiance to the lust of the flesh, to the lust of the eyes and to the boastful pride of life because God is calling us and drawing us to himself through scripture, other believers, nature, and the happenings going on around us.

The Holy Spirit Regenerates Us         

But God does not stop with calling! He also transforms. He saves us. John 1:13 reports that we were saved, “not by blood nor the will of flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” God takes our hearts of stone and makes them hearts of flesh (Ez. 36:26). As Ephesians 2 makes clear, we were dead in our trespasses and sins. Having worked as a hospital chaplain, I’ve seen many dead bodies. And dead bodies are a tad unsettling because they sit lifeless in the bed with eyes and mouths frozenly open. But no sounds come out; no muscles twitch. In the same way, we are spiritual dead, lacking all power to respond to the gospel. But God who is rich in mercy made us alive. He gives us hearts of flesh enabling us to respond to the gospel with belief and faith.  He regenerates our hearts, infusing them with life by his power.

Jesus Justifies Us  

And when the Holy Spirit regenerates us, we get the righteousness of Christ (II Cor. 5:21). SalvationSeries_BaptismClassforParents2Those who believe in Christ are fully justified from all sins both past and future. Christ becomes our sin, and we get his righteousness. We are no longer are under condemnation. When God looks at us, he sees only the righteousness of his son.

God Adopts Us

And it gets better! Because we have been clothed in the righteousness of Christ, God makes us his sons and daughters (Rom 8:15-16). We now have the privileges that come with being a member of God’s family. We are led by the Holy Spirit. When we fall into sin, God’s disciplines us so that we flee lawlessness and return faith stronger than before. And lastly, being adopted entitles us to a divine inheritance full of imperishable heavenly rewards. Praise God for his love and mercy!

So What Now?

If you are like me you are probably wondering, “What roll do we play in our salvation if God does everything?” Are we as irrelevant as an onesie on a fashion walkway?  The answer is no. We repent and believe (Acts 2:38)! As Dr. Bruce Ware explains,

“The only thing we can rightly do, and the one thing we should do, is this: we should bow our heads and admit before God that we are helpless to save ourselves. We are unable to make ourselves come alive…But that’s not all. We also know that God is kind and that he comes to those who are humble before him (see Isaiah 57:15)…We should put our hope in the kindness of God, his mercy toward sinners, and his power to save those who admit they cannot save themselves…He alone is our hope” (Ware, p. 160)

Embrace Jesus who saves!

Recommend Books:

Ware, B. A. (2009). Big Truths For Young Hearts: Teaching and Learning the Greatness of God . Wheaton: Crossway.