A Review: Exploring The Bible

exploring-the-bible-home“What do we do now,” is one of the hardest and yet most important questions that I face as a children’s pastor. A child has just made a credible profession of faith. He has joyfully affirmed that he is a sinner who has been redeemed by God’s mercy and grace through Christ death on the cross. He confesses that they are covered in Christ’s righteousness and have begun to take his first steps as a spirit filled believer. The child and his parents want this sprout of faith to turn into a solid tree. Now they are staring at me wanting to know what to do next.

Although a host of great books have been published for family worship (I encourage you to check out Marty Machowski’s Wise Up and/or Old Story New, David Helm’s Small Devotionals Big Beliefs, or Bruce Ware’s Big Truths for Young Hearts) few resources have been published to help kids develop great devotional habits. David Murray’s Exploring The Bible: A Bible Reading Plan For Kids fills this void. The 219 page book published by Crossway is a great personal devotional for kids.

What’s In The Book?

Divided into 52 chapters, the book exposes kids to the main themes of Scriptures over 365 days. Each week consists of a title, a description of the week’s theme, a brief snapshot verse that encapsulates the theme, passages to be read each day of the week, and questions designed to help kids think about what they are reading. The week ends with a scripture that helps the reader to review and with blanks for sermon notes. And engaging blue and reddish pictures help bring the stories to life as kids ponder what they have read.

Why I Like It

exploring-the-bible-2The greatest feature of this book is that it points kids to the realities of faith. Kids are encouraged to write down prayers requests, to daily read the Bible, and to take sermon notes. I love that this book is allows the Bible and the church to provide the content. Instead of centering kids spiritual lives on a good secondary sources and helpful illustrations, this devotional centers kids in the Word. The Scriptures alone produce sanctification and change in our hearts. For kids to continue to grow in their faith, they must learn to value the Scriptures and how to study the Scriptures on their own (2 Tm 3:16). David Murray’s book will help believing children develop the skills needed to study the Bible and will help them realize their need to ground their lives, actions, and attitudes in the Word.  Moreover, the book also has a place for sermon notes, reminding kids that they are not called to live in isolation. To grow in the faith, kids are encouraged to embrace both personal study and worship and cooperate study and worship.

Things To Consider

9781433556869While The book is a great resource, the book is not exhaustive. David Murray is seeking to provide his readers with an overview of the Bible. He skips over some historical moments, such as the Joseph narrative offering a brief explanation of what transpired. Murray does not skips over sections of the Bible because they are too hard to explain. He covers the theme of marital love in the Song of Solomon in a kid friendly manner. He skips to provide readers with a great sense of the Bible’s main themes. If you are looking for a book that will help your children read through the Bible in its entirety you will need to find another resource.

The book also lacks a table of contents. Parents will have to flip along with their children to keep up with their studies and to know what topics are coming up next.

Final Thoughts

I plan to recommend this book over and over again in the days ahead. David Murray points kids back to the Bible, using the Bible to provide children with a comprehensive understanding of the themes and purpose of God’s Word. Young believers seeking to grow in their faith and to develop a healthy devotional life will greatly benefit from this book.

If you have a kid who is looking to start doing personal devotions, I encourage you to place a copy of Exploring The Bible in their hands.


Review: Church History ABCs and Reformation History ABCs

AbC-church-historyMany of us do have no clue about our spiritual family history. Sure, some of us might remember the day our church first began or we might have photos of 51lCHRNwI7L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_the people who lead us to Christ. However, when we start to dig a little deeper into our family history looking at how the gospel made it from the New Testament era to the 21st century, we do not know where to begin. We struggle to recall who Augustine is, why Martin Luther is so valuable, and what William Tyndale did. Unfortunately, there is no ‘Church Ancestry.com, to help us reengage the men and women who propelled the gospel into the modern era.

Thankfully with the 500th anniversary of the protestant reformation only a few months away, two great new children’s books, The Church History ABCs and Reformation ABCs, have been published by Crossway to help us grasp our spiritual lineage. These two books written by Stephen J. Nichols, President of Reformation Bible College, and illustrated by Ned Bustard delve into the complexity of church history with the ease and simplicity of children’s story. Both kids and adults will find these resources engaging, interesting, and inspiring.

augustine-1As we read through the Church History ABCs,  we will encounter everyone from Augustine to Ulrich Zwingli. We will encounter small stories written in the first person that talk about the poetry of Anne Bradstreet, the books of John Foxe, and the about the martyrdom of Nicholas Ridley. As we work through the book’s 34 pages, we will gain a better appreciation for all the suffering and sacrifices that the former saints endured so that we could follow Christ. And if we want to gain a little fuller understand of the who the saints mentioned are and of what the colorful illustrations that accompany the words mean, we can flip to the back of the book and read a short summary of their lives.

9781433552823The Reformation ABCs is also a great book. Most of the pages focus on the men and women of the reformation, recounting the contributions of John Knox and many other. Other pages discuss Queen Elizabeth and how she persecuted the puritans, Westminster Abby and how it was the hub of conservative theology under Cromwell, and the 16th century and how the reformation even touched Michelangelo. The book gives the reader a great overview of all the key players, cities, and events that shaped the reformation.

If you have an interest in church history, have heard a lot about the reformations this year and want to know more, or simply want to gain a fuller understand of what it means to follow Christ, I encourage you to grab a copy of these books. They are easy to read, colorfully illustrated and full of great information. For example, did you know that the Scottish flag has an ‘X’ on it because the apostle Andrew was supposedly crucified in the X position? If you are like me and did not know this fact, then you are also probably like me and would find both the Church History ABCs and the Reformation ABCs informative and helpful. 

Oh and yes, your kids will like them too!

3 Tips For For Finding The Next Great Christian Resource!

booksHave there ever been so many Christian Books in print as now? I think not. Seemingly every day a new book, Bible study, and or instructional video is released with the seemingly magical ability to make Christendom great again. Read this, and you will be the best parent ever. Try this plan, and your besetting sin will disappear. Watch this…and well…your life will be better than ever before. And all these pleas connect with our hearts because we all want to grow closer to Christ. We all have spiritual battles. But at the end of the day, not all resources are created equal. And given the fact that few of us can devote large portions of our days to reading and studying, we do not want to squander our precious time on bad books. To determine which resources in your Christian bookstore are spiritual fool’s gold and which contain lasting truth, I encourage ask the follow three questions:

Who Published It?

Who published the book can tell you a lot about the book’s author. Obviously, all513cwpcnmjl-_sx340_bo1204203200_publishers want to sell you their books, curriculums, etc. (Hence all the marketing that often makes picking the right resources very difficult.) If an author’s books fly off the shelves, everyone wants to publish their materials. But with that being said, publishers often still have some convictions and guiding principles that narrow down their list of potential authors.

Publishers will only publish authors who reflect their view(s) of the world. For example, B&H Publishing (the publishing wing of LifeWay) and Crossway Publishing (They produce the ESV Bibles) and P&R Publishers (They publish many fantastic  theology books) make it a point to publish resources that are based on a literal and inerrant reading of the Scriptures. Publishers such as Zondervan and Tommy Nelson are a little freer with who they publish. For example, Tommy Nelson publishes books by Donald Miller (Blue Like Jazz) and commentaries by Dr. Thomas Schreiner (which are sound theologically and academically). And other publishers like, Faith Words –  who puts out all the Joel Osteen materials –  should simply be avoided. #FoolsGold anyone?

At the end of the day, seeing who publishes a book will not tell you everything you need to know. But it is a great starting point. Check on the publisher.

Who Endorsed It?

vertical-churchNow as a noted above, some publishers publish both good and bad authors. Just discovering who the publisher is not a fool proof. You need to explore a little more. You need to check the endorsements. If another author that you know and trust endorses the book, then you can be pretty sure the book is good. (At the very least your confidence in the book should be as great as your confidence in the one endorsing it.) If you are like me, you probably will not recognize all the names on the back of the book. I recently read Vertical Church by James McDonald (I highly recommend it). Thirty-seven people endorsed the book! The publishers want to get a wide variety of endorsements on their publication so that they can market it to the largest Christian demographic possible. That being said, do not worry about why some Anglican pastor you never heard of endorsed the book in your hand. If Dr. Albert Mohler, John MacArthur, and Paul David Tripp also endorsed that same book, it is probably one really good resources. If you don’t know any of the endorsers, that’s probably not a good sign.

Endorsements are never forced or fabricated. For example, the evangelist Greg Laurie once stretched the truth by saying John MacArthur endorsed his ministry. MacArthur quickly forced Laurie to retract the claim and to change his materials. Endorsements matter and are guarded closely by those who give them. Before you start flipping through the table of contents, check the endorsements. If people you trust stand by a publication or program, you can trust those resources. Check the endorsements.

Does Your Pastor Like It?

41gy-dowwdl-_sx313_bo1204203200_If you want to skip steps one and two, go straight to your pastor(s) and/or elder(s). Ask them, “who are your favorite authors?” Ask them to recommend books and resources that will help you.

Do not worry about bothering them. This is part of their job. They are called to lead and shepherd you, in-part by getting good resources into your hands and by protecting you from wolves in sheep’s clothing. Ask them for help! Most will love to direct you to great resources.

As a young college student, I knew I could trust C.S. Lewis, Francis Shaffer, and John Macarthur. But I did not have a clue about the other 99% of Christian literature filling the shelves of our local books stores. Thankfully, the pastors at the Bible Church of Little Rock did a great job of exposing me and that church to a host of godly authors. While at the Bible Church, I was introduced to J. I. Packer, C.J. Mahaney, John Piper, Ed Welch, Bruce Ware, Joel Beeke, and Don Whitney to name a few. I was given a solid foundation from which I could build my personal library. I hope and pray your pastors can and will do the same for you.

But if your pastor shirks this duty, I encourage you to fall back on points 1 and 2.

Alright, are you ready to pick out your next book?