Book Review – ESV Family Devotional Bible

ESV family devo

I am always trying to find ways to make the Bible accessible for my children.  I have also been trying to find ways to do family devotions with more fidelity in my household.  I requested to review the ESV Family Devotional Bible as a way to find more tools to help with that.

I received the hardcover edition from Crossway.  It measures about 5.4 inches wide by 8.6 inches high.  It has a sewn binding, which enables it to lay flat from beginning to end, with one brown ribbon bookmark.

The text itself is in black 9-point font.  Section headings, chapter numbers, page numbers, and scripture references at the top corners of each page are in a blue font.  The words of Christ are in black.  The pages are about normal thickness for most Bibles, meaning there is some ghosting of text.  If you were to write in it, it would probably show through at least a little.

Devo 6

Throughout the Family Devotional Bible, you will find 130 stories from the Bible, retold in an easy-to-understand way.  I read through all the entries from Genesis and Matthew and found them faithful to the text.  Each story includes a beautifully illustrated picture to go with the story, as well as the text reference the story is based off of.  There are three “Questions for the Family” with every story.  Usually, two questions are text related, to guide readers through thinking about the stories themselves, and one question is more application driven, helping readers to apply God’s word to their lives.  This can vary occasionally, but that is the overall pattern.  There is also a key verse that could be used as a memory verse for each story.  (I apologize for the blurry pictures.  I am still working with my phone camera to get things clearer.)

Devo 2

 

Devo 3

Devo 4

The Bible includes an Index of Devotions in the back, to help locate the devotions throughout.  It should be noted that while the devotions cover the big picture of the Bible, quite a bit is left out, as it is not narrative.  The following books have devotions in them, with some having more than others: Genesis (20 devotions), Exodus (8 devotions), Numbers (2 devotions), Joshua (3 devotions), Judges (3 devotions), Ruth (1 devotion), 1 Samuel (6 devotions), 2 Samuel (2 devotions), 1 Kings (4 devotions), 2 Kings (3 devotions), 2 Chronicles (1 devotion), Esther (1 devotion), Jeremiah (1 devotion), Daniel (2 devotions), Jonah (1 devotion), Matthew (13 devotions), Mark (10 devotions), Luke (20 devotions), John (13 devotions), Acts (14 devotions), Philemon (1 devotion), and Revelation (1 devotion).

Obviously, if a family plans on just reading the devotions and not the text of Scripture, most of the New Testament will not be covered, and quite a bit of the Old Testament.  I do understand that the epistles, being letters and not narrative, would be very difficult to cover.  I wonder if they could have had various pictures of Paul or Peter writing with a summary of main points of the epistles and questions to ask?  True, it wouldn’t hold a child’s attention like a story, but even as an adult I find myself having to reread the epistles multiple times to understand where they are coming from.  I wonder if they had been introduced to me in summary form as a child if I would have had a better grasp on them as I grew into adulthood?

There are 9 maps included in the back.  One distinct feature of these maps is the inclusion of icons to represent small cities, large cities, springs, mountains, and ports.

Devo 5

There is no concordance or dictionary in the back, nor is there a reading plan that I could find.  This is interesting since the flyleaf that came with the Bible says the goal of this Bible is “guiding your family through the entirely of God’s Word.”  The Crossway page for this item goes even further saying that it does so “over the course of a year.”  Usually, if something is geared toward guiding a reader through the Bible in a set time, some type of reading plan to break it down and keep readers on track is included.  I think it could have been helpful to have that in this Bible.

As I was looking at the pictures and reading through some of the devotions, I kept feeling like it was familiar to me.  I remembered that my young daughter bought an ESV Seek and Find Bible for her children’s church.  I pulled it out and looked and, sure enough, the pictures are identical from the ones I looked at (one was flipped, however).  The devotional writing was nearly identical, with a few changes here and there, and the questions were also nearly identical, with some replaced with new questions.  The Seek and Find Bible, however, also included “Related Bible Readings” with each devotion, something the Family Devotional Bible does not do, although the product page states that it includes “suggestions for additional reading.”  It does tell readers where to find the next devotional reading, but that doesn’t seem to fit the description.

Overall, I do like the Family Devotional Bible.  I can definitely see using its devotions as a way of helping my children understand key Bible stories.  I really like the questions that are included with each reading.  I wish I had questions like that for every chapter of the Bible (or nearly every chapter).

If you are looking for a Bible to help break down key stories to relate to your family, this is a great choice.  If you already have the Seek and Find Bible, however, you  may want to pass on this one, as there are very few differences between the two.

*I was provided with a complimentary copy of this Bible from Crossway in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review – “Blotch” by Andy Addis

Blotch

Trying to determine the best way to explain the gospel to my children has been an ongoing question for me.  I want to be sure that they are accurately understanding what happened when Christ died on the cross for their sins, especially if it seems they are wanting to give their lives to Him.

That is why I was excited when I heard about Blotch: A Tale of Forgiveness and Grace by Andy Addis from B&H Publishing Group.

The book traces the story of Blotch, a boy who has spots on his skin, as does everyone around him.  The spots increase as people do more things they shouldn’t.  He goes on mini quest to try to determine how to get rid of the spots.  In the process,  he meets several different groups of people: the Hiders try to cover up their spots, the Pretenders act as if the spots do not exist, and the Pointers blame others for their spots.  Obviously, none of these groups help Blotch get rid of his spots.  Finally, he meets the King, who explains that he is able to take away the spots if only Blotch will acknowledge his wrong and believe that the King can help him.  He does, his spots appear on the King while disappearing from himself, and he goes on to tell others that their spots can be taken away if the go to the King in belief. As he is leaving, he looks back and the spots that were on the King are now gone as well.

I thought it was a great story, and a great way to present substitutionary atonement in a way young children can understand.

The back of the book has a recommended family discussion guide.  It recommends taking 5 days to read the book (one chapter a day).  Each day’s discussion includes an activity to make the meaning of the story stand out to children, as well as questions to discuss with them.  For example, the first day it has the family crumple paper into balls to throw at a basket, yelling “hit” or sadly saying “miss” depending on whether someone makes it or not.  This is then tied into the idea of sin meaning to “miss the mark” of God’s standards.  There is a section on “A Parent’s Guide for Leading a Child to Christ,” to walk them through the gospel and pray a sample prayer, if your child decides he or she is ready to turn to Jesus.  It also includes follow up items for after a child decides to repent and trust Jesus.

There are great illustrations by Tatio Viana throughout this 64-page hardcover book.

While I have not read the book yet with my children, I look forward to doing so.  If you are looking for a book to help explain the meaning forgiveness through Christ’s sacrifice, I strongly suggest you consider Blotch.

*Note:  I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.  

Family Worship

family praying

One area I have really done a poor job on is being the spiritual leader of my family.  While I read the Bible and study a lot for my personal edification, I have never really done well at reading it with my family.  For a while, we used The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones, and I loved it, but it was very hit-or-miss.  I also have not done a good job at praying with my family.

This is something that has convicted me for quite some time.  I wanted to remedy it, but I was not sure how.

A week or so ago, Crossway Publishers posted a link to sign up to receive emails for a five-day mini-video series by Don Whitney on family worship.  I immediately signed up.  The videos are around 5 minutes long each, and provide a basic overview of family worship.  I would recommend others sign up for it if they are able. (I posted a hyperlink in the text above to make it easier for those interested.)

The three aspects of worship that Whitney encourages families to practice are Scripture reading, prayer, and singing.

So far, we have read the Bible and prayed together briefly every day for the past week and a half or so, with only one missed evening.  For us, this is a huge step!

I decided to read through the gospel of Mark with my wife and children.  So far, we have read through four chapters of the gospel in the ESV.  I try to stop and explain the Scriptures as we go.  This has also been eye opening as I realize how many things I either don’t know or never thought about in such a way as to be able to explain it to a 6-year-old and 4-year-old child.

I then ask everyone if there is anything they would like us to pray for, and we take a couple of minutes to pray together.

We have not yet tried singing together (more than one time with just my children and me, but that didn’t go so well).  I hope to try to add that soon.

I’m also working on memorizing a little with my children.  I am starting with the Lord’s prayer from Matthew 6.  That, too, has been more sporadic than the reading and praying, but I am taking baby steps.

Honestly, this still feels a bit unnatural and uncomfortable.  I hate that I have to type those words, but it’s true.  I believe that with time, it will be an expected and natural part of our family life.  I was encouraged the one night we missed the time of family worship when, as I was tucking my son into bed, he reminded me that we didn’t read the Bible.  I apologized to him and told him we would the next day.  The fact that he asked was exciting, as it showed that it is becoming routine to him.

My prayer is that my children will grow up knowing and believing God’s word.  That they will learn to pray from me, and will desire to talk to God on their own.  That they will feel comfortable asking me questions on the Scriptures, and that I will be able to help them wade through those questions in a way that is faithful to the Bible.  And that ultimately they will carry on this tradition with their own families in the future.

If you have not set up a time for family worship, I would strongly encourage you to do so.  We need Christ to be central in our home, and what better way to start than to set aside a time every day to learn about and talk to Him as a family?

If you already have a time of family worship, I would love for you to comment and let me know what you do.  Since we are just getting started on this endeavor, I am open to ideas and suggestions!

Blessings!

Book Review – “Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World” by Kristen Welch

Grateful Kids

It seems that a sense of entitlement is the natural state of affairs in our society.  I wish I could say that it was limited to children, but adults live with it, too.  Honestly, I struggle with it more than I would like to admit.  As a result of struggling with it myself, seeing it in some of the students I teach, and seeing it in my own children, when I had the opportunity to read and review Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World by Kristen Welch (published by Tyndale House Publishers), I jumped at the chance.  Boy, am I glad I did!

The book is about 240 pages, including notes.  There are three appendices: “Cell Phone Contract Between Parent and Child,” “Christian Parent Manifesto,” and “Recommended Resources.”  There is also a discussion guide before the notes.

Welch does a wonderful job of discussing the ways in which are children are entitled, and provides many helpful ideas of how to help our children become more grateful.  The book’s focus, however, is on what we, as parents, need to be doing ourselves to ensure that we are communicating a grateful attitude in our homes, as we cannot expect from our children what we are not living ourselves.

Chapter 1 deals with the subject of wants versus needs.

Chapter 2 tackles the idea of how times have changed and how it is necessary, as parents, to be sure that we are instilling a biblical worldview in our children that is counter to our society’s constant desire for more.

Chapter 3 talks about seven ways that we, as parents, have struggled in raising grateful children and provides instruction on how to do fix it. A few of the reasons we falter on the issue are “We Want Our Kids To Be Our Friends” (p. 51), “We Are Afraid To Say No Because of the Fallout” (p. 53), and “We Don’t Want Them To Feel Left Out” (p. 57).

Chapter 4 talks about how our homes often become child centered, and the ways that this negatively impacts our children.

Chapter 5 discusses ways parents need to take precautions and think through the issue of technology use with their children.

Chapter 6 talks about helping children learn obedience and to go against the flow of our culture in terms of expectations.

Chapter 7 talks about “Living Out God’s Love In Your Home” (p. 129).  This chapter was especially good, laying out ways to be sure that our homes are centered around Christ.  This is, in some ways, the key stone to everything else discussed in the book.  If Christ and His word are not central to our homes, then going against the flow in society as discussed in the other chapters simply doesn’t make sense.

Chapter 8 reminds us that we have to choose to be grateful.  The chapter briefly discusses the benefits of gratitude before giving some practical ways to cultivate gratitude in our lives and homes.

Chapter 9 puts the information from the other chapters into practical use, providing “Seven Steps to Raising Grateful Kids” (p. 176).  Some of the ideas are teaching children to value hard work, teaching them the value of money, and teaching responsibility and how to manage consequences.  All of the steps are much needed in our society.

Chapter 10 is titled “Dear Parents.”  Rather than being a traditional summary and wrap-up chapter, this chapter reminds parents that the things discussed in the book are difficult to follow through with and that they may cause difficulties in the home and in the children’s lives.  How could we expect less?  When we ask our children to go against everything the culture around them teaches, there will me misunderstandings, loneliness, and push back.  But, as the author points out, that is what we should expect as followers of Christ.  I like the fact that the author doesn’t sugar coat this; instead, she calls it like it is and helps parents figure out how to prepare children for it and deal with the issues as they come up.

Each chapter ends with a section of helpful tips called “Going Against the Flow.”  There are always a few notes directed directly to parents, followed by some ideas for putting the ideas from the chapter into practice with toddlers/preschoolers, elementary students, and tweens/teens.  It is very helpful to get some practical insight on how to apply what you are learning as you read.

I would highly recommend this book to all parents.  My only regret is not having this book earlier, perhaps even before we had children in the first place.  Already I have shared portions of the book with my wife, and she plans on reading it herself.  We may even read it together.  This is definitely one book I plan on keeping and passing down to my kids to read as they get older.

If at all possible, buy this book and read it prayerfully.

Note: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.