God Gave Us the Bible

One of the questions we get asked the most, is which Bible or Bible story book we recommend parents purchase for their children. There are a lot of factors to consider and what is best for one child may not work at all for another.

We are always interested when new Bible story books are released, as many parents use them for family devotionals. Recently, we were given the opportunity to review God Gave Us the Bible by Lisa Tawn Bergren. The book contains forty-five Bible stories “for little ones”.

The book is a pit of a puzzle. Although the length of the stories is shorter than story Bibles for older children, the vocabulary is more appropriate for them than very young children. Personally, I believe the length of the stories is too short for the aged child to whom the vocabulary might appeal. Children with that much sophisticated vocabulary can handle stories twice as long (or more).

The stories are also too short for a family devotional. Some Bible stories are only one page long – meaning a lot is summarized. It also means a lot of important details in stories are omitted entirely.

The other problem is the idea that the book is actually a book of stories a mother bear told other animals. While that can work for something like the principles shared in the Bernstein Bears books, it becomes a bit awkward in this context.

The young animals “listening” to the stories interject at times to make observations and ask questions. Young children are literal, concrete thinkers. So when a bear cub asks a question as if he or she were human, it just adds an unnecessary layer of confusion. The author could easily have used humans as those characters and eliminated the need for more explanations.

In the end, this book of Bible stories is fine. It’s just not great. If the children in your life find it interesting though, it’s worth exploring with them. Use it to help transition them to an NIrV Bible if they are old enough to read or another story Bible if they can’t.

This book was given to us for free in exchange for our honest review. An affiliate link is included for your convenience.

Are You Radiant?

You may have seen the new Christian movie in theaters, Overcomer. As part of the promotion for the movie, several authors were asked to write books that addressed a similar theme – seeing ourselves as God sees us.

Radiant is the book written for “teen girls and young women” by Priscilla Shirer. Shirer is a popular Christian speaker and author. You may also remember her from the movie War Room a couple of years ago. (Shirer also stars in Overcomer.)

I had actually participated in a couple of Bible studies using Shirer’s earlier pre War Room books. I was hopeful this new book would be as good as those earlier studies.

It’s important to note that you don’t need to see the movie, for the book to make sense. In fact, she only brings up the movie once in a rather brief reference.

Radiant is divided into four major sections, each contains several chapters. The book reads smoothly though. If I hadn’t noticed the table of contents, I’m not sure I would have realized the book was subdivided into sections.

Shirer’s style is effective, because it’s conversational. She weaves scripture with personal stories and the concepts she wants young women to understand about God wants them to see themselves.

Although many young women will be drawn to the sections helping them rid themselves of negative thoughts of their appearance and for some their very worth, I hope ultimately they pay closer attention to the later chapters.

I love how Shirer uses David to discuss the concept that God may indeed have large special good works planned for our future. She points young women though, to focusing on developing and sharing their gifts by serving others now, by being faithful in the every day chances God sends your way. Focus on being faithful now and God will eventually show you His will for the future.

I only have one disappointment with the book and unfortunately it is major. Shirer spends several pages attempting to encourage young women to become Christians if they aren’t already. Which would normally be great – except she gives them misinformation and never clearly tells them what the Bible teaches.

If we are following the example of Jesus, we will be baptized. If we follow the examples found in Acts, we will be baptized by immersion. Acts 2:38 is about as clear as any scripture can be : “Repent and be baptized for the remission of sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Also note all examples of conversions in the book of Acts and scriptures like Romans 6:3-5. Baptism does not exclude faith, it is the outward expression of faith that God requires of His people.)

Yet Shirer suggests the sinner’s prayer – not mentioned in the Bible, not even invented until a couple of hundred years ago. It makes me so sad that someone as gifted by God as Shirer is not giving young women the instructions God gave them for how to become a Christian. Not only that, but by not being baptized, they aren’t receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit – the very gift that could make it easier for them to see themselves as God sees them.

Other than that very unfortunate section though, the book has a lot to offer young women who are perhaps struggling with their self image and their place in God’s Kingdom. It’s up to readers to decide whether or not that section limits the usefulness of giving the book to the young women they know.

This is book was given to me for free in exchange for my honest review. An affiliate link is included for your convenience.

Shift Your Thinking For a Deeper Faith

What if by making small adjustments in how you think, speak and act, you could make larger strides in growing as a Christian? That’s the basic concept behind the new book, Shift Your Thinking For a Deeper Faith by Dean Del Sesto. It supposedly contains 99 ways to strengthen your relationship with God, others and yourself.

Quite frankly, I’m a bit torn by this book. The format means each potential change is addressed by reading a couple of quick pages. Each topic contains scripture, the authors thoughts, suggestions and a deeper thinking question. The list of topics is thorough and covers a lot of areas that can cause Christians issues. At least it would if such a list existed. Instead the reader is forced to read sequentially instead of having the ability to easily find segments they may need at the moment.

In some cases, the author provides a somewhat unique and helpful perspective. Most of the time the entries are more of a reminder of what we should already know (which granted most of us need from time to time.) A couple of entries were a bit concerning to me. I’m not comfortable with the idea that “God doesn’t answer every prayer” – when a more accurate description is that He sometimes tells us “No” or “Wait”.

I was really uncomfortable with the concept of Christianity as a “brand” and a “personal brand” – as if somehow it doesn’t matter what we do or don’t do as long as we call ourselves Christian. It may not have been the author’s intent, but in a world where God’s absolute truths are viewed as more and more irrelevant, this entry seems to feed into the problem rather than stopping it.

In general, this book could be helpful to many Christians to help them be a bit more intentional about how they live their lives every day. Just be sure to double check every thing by scripture – this is one case where there are a few things that just don’t seem to fit.

This book was provided to me for free in exchange for my honest review. An affiliate link is included for your convenience.

Where Do You Belong?

One of the more difficult things about Christian parenting – especially done the way calls us to do it – is that you are parenting on the edge of the bell curve. You are not only making parenting choices different from more secular parents around you, but you may be making choices radically different from other Christian parents you know, too.

It can become easy to feel like you don’t belong any where. This sense can be heightened if your family moves, changes congregations or has other factors that make you different from the “average” family.

Yet God created the church in part, because He knows his people need a supportive community around them. What do you do though, when it seems impossible to find those people to support and encourage you?

Back Roads to Belonging by Kristen Strong attempts to help readers find “your place and your people”. The book is divided into three main segments – wandering, finding and inviting. Within each there are several chapters devoted to different topics.

This book feels more gentle than many Christian self help type books. Although there are suggestions she makes to help you along the way, they are so subtly introduced, you don’t feel as if you’ve been given another to-do list to accomplish. Strong is empathetic without letting readers wallow too long in their loneliness.

Her suggestions are good advice and she does a great job of weaving scripture and Bible stories throughout the book. Her advice may not be terribly different than any other Christian book written on a similar topic, but there is something about her writing style that is soothing regardless of what she is suggesting. Somehow she can make a reader feel that she will indeed one day find her place and her people. Perhaps that is the greatest gift this book gives – the gift of restoring hope to those who feel lonely and isolated.

This book was given to me in exchange for my honest review. An affiliate link is included for your convenience.

Are Your Kids Wonderful?

Parenting is such a delicate balance. Not enough encouragement and constant criticism and your kids can develop poor self-esteem. Over do the praise and never correct your kids? Then their self-esteem is too high – just as bad for your kids (although in different ways.)

So where’s the proper balance for your kids to develop a healthy self image? As with most of the big questions in life, God has the answer. The balance is in seeing themselves as God sees them – so beloved that He sent His son to die on the cross for their sins – yet realizing their sin and need for that grace from God.

A new book (published as supplemental material for the new movie Overcomer) Wonderful, The Truth About Who I Am by Stephen and Alex Kendrick (with Amy Parker) is written to help elementary aged children tackle the ideas they have about themselves.

The book doesn’t address the movie, so I honestly can’t say whether or not it ties in well. It’s broken into ten chapters, each of which has several short entries of about two pages. That’s probably about right to encourage a child to read the book in smaller doses and take time to reflect before moving on to the next section.

Unfortunately, they don’t suggest that, so I’m not sure how many children will actually take time for reflection. Most young people need to spend more time in reflection, so it would have been great for this book to give them that gift by walking them through how to do that. They do have a couple of little areas with suggestions for kids to draw something specific from the chapter. In theory, this could be reflection, but I would imagine quite a few older elementary children will skip the drawing.

The topics are addressing various aspects of how a child may see him or herself and how God sees them. The Writing is straightforward without being condescending. The principles appear to be biblical – at least on the level the average child would read them.

Graphically, the book will look like an easy read to a child who flips through it. The type is a little larger, without appearing babyish. There are scattered illustrations and a few factoids spread throughout.

This book is a great introduction to a child who has never been taught how God sees them and wants them to see themselves. It’s also a good reminder for kids who may be struggling a bit. I wouldn’t say it’s at the level of a classic, but it’s good enough to be worth the read for most elementary students.

This is book was given to me for free in exchange for my honest review. An affiliate link is included for your convenience.