Book Review: The Transforming Power of the Gospel

Many think the Gospel is this: the “Good News” of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus so that we can go to heaven. That is certainly part of the gospel. But what about that transforms us?

Jerry Bridges devotes a whole book to addressing that question. The Gospel doesn’t start and end with heaven. The goal of God was not to save us from hell, although He does do that. The goal of God in sending Jesus was to reconcile us back to Himself. And then to give us Jesus-power to live the Christian life, for Him, and for all to see, that others may know Him and be reconciled back to Him as well.

This Gospel isn’t just for unbelievers. It is for Christians. We need a higher and better concept and grasp of the Grace of God. Jerry Bridges will practically help you see yourself for who you really are and by contrast, see God for whom He really is.

Read this book and see what a daily embracing of the Gospel looks like. See how spiritual disciplines will move you deeper and closer in your relationship to the Gospel and to Christ Himself. See how we are responsible to live out the commands of Jesus, while at the same time depending “on the Holy Spirit to both do His own work and enable us through His power to do the work we must do.”

Rating: B+
Definitely Worth Reading
 

Title: The Transforming Power of the Gospel
Author: Jerry Bridges
Length: 192 pages
Genre: Spiritual Life

Book Review: The Gospel Story Bible

Wow, I am incredibly behind in my reading. I can’t fully blame it on this, but I will try: I am reading a 17th century classic and it’s tough. It’s one of the best books I have ever read so far, but it is tough in parts, nonetheless. Every other sentence I have to read and re-read. So it is setting me back some. I will have to play catch-up here soon with my 2012 Book List. In the meantime, here is a great Children’s Bible that is worth reading DAILY with your children.

I have praised the Jesus Storybook Bible in the past. It is a great Children’s Bible and we were reading it without missing a night. Then we discovered this one and bought it for our kids for Christmas. We haven’t read the Jesus Storybook Bible since December 24th. We will return to it, when we are finished with this one. We love it and so do our children. And to be honest, the (true) stories in here are a little longer and more complex, adding in more facts and bringing in more details to each story. I would say the age recommendations on both are accurate. This one sometimes goes above my 4 year old’s head. But it also has a smattering of stories that our other Children’s Bible’s do not include, like Rahab and Ruth, for example. And it’s always nice to mix it up to keep it fresh and hold their interest.

But what I love most about this Bible isn’t the variety or the fact that we haven’t read it before. It is the Gospel-Centeredness of it (as the title would imply). Written by a Pastor, the last paragraph of every story brings it back to Jesus, salvation, Christ’s work, God’s plan. It never leaves it at David and Goliath and the author doesn’t let you put your kids to bed teaching them moralistic lessons on how to not be like Samson or how Noah was so good and that’s why God saved him but killed all the others. He brings it back to what the Bible brings it back to, what the Gospel brings it back to, and that is JESUS.

Thank God that there is yet another children’s Bible that shows Christ on every page.

Rating: A. Highly Recommended!

Title: The Gospel Story Bible: Discovering Jesus in the Old and New Testaments
Author: Marty Machowski
Length: 328 pages
Genre: Kid’s Bibles

Book Review: Twelve What Abouts

Whether you hold to Reformed Theology or not, this book is well worth the read. It’s super short, but straightforward. It’s not the writing itself that is compelling; There is not much lofty speech or poetic language involved. But in nineteen (short) chapters, the author humbly gives Biblically sound answers to twelve common objections raised by those who have concerns or questions about Reformed Theology or Calvinism’s position on God’s Sovereignty and Election.

If you have ever thought the doctrine of Election or Predestination was unfair or that it painted a picture of a different God than the one you know, I would advise you to do three things:

1. Pray. Admit that you have blind spots, like all of us do, and humbly ask God to reveal the truths of the Word with you. Drop fear and defensiveness and anger and ask that He may reveal what the Scriptures really say and really mean, and that you may judge all opinions, positions, and stances by Scripture alone.

2. Read Scripture like you have never read it before. Read with unbiased eyes. Read without the traditions of man’s influence upon you. Get a new bible and don’t read the notes that you have written in your old one. Read John 3:16 and direct the Greek language used therein. Read all of the passages again that have given you trouble in the past. Really study and dig in. Read someone else’s take on it, besides the commentators, theologians, or Bible teachers you already listen to or read. So read the passages used as a defense against election, and study them. Then, read passages like Acts 13:48: “As many as were appointed to eternal life believed.” and Romans 9 (the whole chapter) and 2 Timothy 2:25 where it states that repentance is a gift. Read Jesus’ many words regarding election in the Gospels.

3. Read a book like this one (or this one!) Read someone’s detailed defense to objections raised.  It is helpful, even if you leave unconvinced. It is helpful to hear from “the other side.” To know, not where you think they stand, but where they truly stand. To let the words come out of their own mouths. That’s only fair, right?

Rating: A. Highly Recommended!

Title: Twelve What Abouts: Answering Common Objections Concerning God’s Sovereignty in Election
Author: John Samson
Length: (Kindle edition only)
Genre: Apologetics (of sort)

Book Review: What Did You Expect?

Despite the completely uninspiring, flashback-to-1950’s cover (which has now been redesigned for release in April), this was a seriously incredible and highly valuable book. Paul Tripp offers really wise, humble, godly, and gospel-centered advice for marriages… that is also intensely practical.

Most often I have found that marriage books to be either one or the other: very Biblically based, with 15 Scriptures on every page but lacking practical, take-home advice in a big way or not so philosophical but all practical, wreaking of pop-psychology and failing to appeal to God’s love and the Story of Redemption as it applies to our lives and relationships. Not so with this book.

For example, at one point in the book he says (I’m paraphrasing), “You don’t have a communication problem, you have a self-love problem.” He goes on to say (I’m not paraphrasing here), “It is self-love that makes you more committed to what you understand than to understanding your spouse. It is self-love that cause you not to listen well. It is self-love that makes you unwilling to wait until you are sure that you have understood your spouse. It is self-love that keeps you from viewing your spouse’s words, perspectives, desires, and opinions as valuable. It is self-love that fills your brain so full of what you think and know that you have little room for your spouse’s thoughts. It is self-love that makes you value your own way more than you value real functional understanding between you and your mate.”

See what I mean? Gospel-centered: showing that our problem is that we don’t trust in the Cross of Christ for our marriages; instead we are trusting in ourselves and loving ourselves. Jesus tells us to take up our cross, but instead we take up a sword because we’re ready to fight. And Practical: The Gospel is not some etherial thing that isn’t applicable to daily life in your marriage (though, neither does it offer Encyclopedic-type help). And it isn’t something that was just for when you became a believer; it isn’t just for getting saved, it is for living saved. So the Gospel there in a highly practical way for every day, every fight, every miscommunication, every lack of trust, every grumpy word, every personality difference and every disappointment in your marriage.

I haven’t read stacks of marriage books. But I have read a few (although, I have not yet read Mark and Grace Driscoll’s “Real Marriage” or Tim and Kathy Keller’s “Meaning of Marriage” that are on my 2012 Book List). Hands-down, I would recommend reading this one above all the others that I have read to date. If you are married, getting married, or know someone who is married, this book should have a place on your shelf (after having a place in your hands and heart). I WILL be reading it again, as it is so rich and useful for my own marriage and also for other relationships in which I need love, self-denial, communication, etc… Paul Tripp and God’s Word are presented in such a way as to humbly bring me back to the Cross.

It deserves an A+++++, truly.

Rating: A. Highly Recommended!

Title: What Did You Expect?: Redeeming the Realities of Marriage
Author: Paul David Tripp
Length: 288 pages
Genre: Marriage

Book Review: Bloodlines

I read this book at the same time as reading The Help, which was a great move. This book is as timely in 2012 as it would have been in 1800 or 1964 as our issues have only slightly improved, but haven’t been radically changed or resolved. The book is moving as it tells John Pipers personal story of the racism he carried in his heart growing up in the South.

He begins the first few chapters by discussing the two-sided coin of personal responsibility (changing your life and culture with jobs, improved morality, etc…) and structural intervention (civil rights, government, etc…) when it comes to addressing the problem in this country. He quotes many people on both sides of the responsibility fence, including Juan Williams and Bill Cosby, as well as many academics. But after discussing the very large and present problem and just what everyone thinks we should do about it, he offers one and only one solution to the Christian for dismantling racism in the heart and in the culture: the Gospel.

Some may argue that there are other solutions to eradicating racism. Some things are beneficial and can advance love and acceptance of other races. Activism, education, social awareness, diversity in our schools and neighborhoods and churches can all benefit us. But the Gospel is the only thing that can, in an instant, change a person’s hate to love.

John Piper argues for the Gospel as the answer by presenting at least 9 different ways the Gospel is powerful against racism. I’ll give you #1 as an example. The Gospel is the only thing that has power against Satan and the workings of the evil one. You and I are not stronger than he is. He loves racism, loves hatred. He wants to see races continue to be segregated and separated by hate and fear, misunderstanding and ignorance. So if we, with all of our hope and personal responsibility and all of our structural intervention, aren’t stronger than Satan, there is no way that any of our programs or attempts will eradicate anything.

Read the book for reasons #2-9 that the Gospel is powerful against this issue.

You may not think there is anything to eradicate in your life or heart. You may not see yourself as a real racist. If you are white, you are the majority (at least for now) in this country. Imagine what you would feel and live like if you moved to Nigeria. Growing up as a minority may create a different outlook, different speech in your home, etc… Ask yourself a few questions: Do you ever tell racial jokes? What would you think, deep down in your heart even, if your daughter married a black man? What if there were only African-American people on TV shows that you watched? What if you eventually are the minority in this country? These questions need to be addressed personally and then find their answer and their resolve in the Gospel.

Bloodlines is available for free in PDF from Desiring God.

Rating: A. Highly Recommended!

Title: Bloodlines: Race, Cross and the Christian
Author: John Piper
Length: 304 pages
Genre: Spiritual Life

Book Review: Bringing the Gospel Home

The best book on evangelism I have read to date.

Randy Newman is witty and funny and completely not dry, which makes this book easy to read and really enjoyable.

He takes a different approach. He talks about many different tactics, but the overarching theme is that evangelism to your family or close friends can take time and when faced with conversation topics that clearly point to the BIble, don’t give cheesy, annoying Christian answers. Ask more questions, listen to them talk. See where they are at. Ask if they are interested in talking about spiritual things with you further. Don’t jump in and just offer your two cents on the matter. Don’t do a drive by evangelism where you get in, get out and get on with your life and the conversation. Be calm, be slow, be passionate, be patient, be loving.

There is only one remotely negative thing I can say about this book, and it’s almost not worth mentioning because it may be due to the author’s personality. It truly is the only thing holding this A back from an A+. The book is filled with stories. And he really inserts a story right in the middle of a paragraph without any warning. It illustrates his point perfectly, but there is just no introduction to it at all. No, “let me give you an example.” He just goes right into it, over and over again. Granted, he would be giving intros and segues every third paragraph because there are so many real-life examples in this book. But I felt like I got whiplash a little bit from his change of direction without any prep. The thoughts in this book don’t necessarily build upon one another. You could rearrange most of the book and it would still be readable because it seems to be a lot of scattered thoughts and helpful advice, but not necessarily with continuity. I don’t mind this at all; it’s actually kind of refreshing. But it was different.

The book is straight to the point. In a lot of books, I end up skimming because there is a lot of filler. Almost like they are trying to meet a word count. But I felt that this book said everything it needed to say and everything that was written in it needed to be there.

It was so helpful in my perspective on Evangelism. I will be taking much of his advice to heart and putting it to use. Not to robotically “share my faith” but to be better used by God with unbelievers and further the Kingdom, for His fame. If you share this heart, pick up this book.

It is still available for free in PDF from Desiring God.

Rating: A. Highly Recommended!

Title: Bringing the Gospel Home: Witnessing to Family Members and Others Who Know You Well
Author: Randy Newman
Length: 224 pages
Genre: Spiritual Life/Evangelism

2012 Book List

I know this may seem like I am trying to be an overachiever! Especially since I didn’t even complete my 2011 Book List! My husband said I need to limit myself to 40 so I don’t fail… but…

There are 52 books on this list. I KNOW, okay? But does it matter that I have already started a few and it’s not even 2012 yet?! And if I read one per week (which is do-able), I will finish the reading list by the end of the year. Having 52 books and 52 weeks may make it easier on me to stay on task… I’ll know when I’m behind anyway if I didn’t finish a book that week. Anyway, some of them are small and some are more of a reference type book than a read-from-cover-to-cover book. Some are even coffee table books that you can peruse while you’re waiting for your tea to steep.

So that is my goal and I am intent on reaching my goal. One note: The list is subject to change because almost every day Gospel eBooks comes out with free and inexpensive books for your Kindle or eReader. So I may replace some here and there, depending on what pops up. This year I also plan to do short reviews for all (or nearly all) of the books.

Without further adieu:

PARENTING/FAMILY
Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids With the Love of Jesus Elyse Fitzpatrick
Loving the Little Years: Motherhood in the Trenches Rachel Jankovic
Bringing Up Boys Dr. James Dobson
Gospel-Centered Family Ed Moll & Tim Chester
Teach Them Diligently: How to Use the Scriptures in Child Training Louis Paul Priolo
The Joy of Family Traditions: A Season-by-Season Companion to 400 Celebrations and Activities Jennifer Trainer Thompson

EDUCATION
The Core: Teaching Your Child the Foundations of Classical Education Leigh Bortins
Life Skills For Kids Christine M. Field

HEALTH
The Whole Soy Story: The Dark Side of America’s Favorite Health Food Kaayla T. Daniel
The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice and Sustainability 
Lierre Keith
Good Calories, Bad Calories Gary Taubes
Gut and Psychology Syndrome Natasha Campbell-McBride
Great Cooks and Their Recipes: From Taillavent to Escoffier
Anne Willan

HOME/HOSPITALITY
Living Organized: Proven Steps for a Clutter-Free Home Sandra Felton
No Ordinary Home: The Uncommon Art of Christ-Centered Homemaking Carol Brazo
One Bite at a Time: 52 Projects for Making Life Simpler Tsh Oxenreider
Open Heart, Open Home: The Hospitable Way to Make Others Feel Welcome and Wanted Karen Mains

MARRIAGE
Sacred Influence: How God Uses Wives to Shape the Souls of Their Husbands Gary Thomas
The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God Tim and Kathy Keller
Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Friendship & Life Together Mark and Grace Driscoll
What Did You Expect?: Redeeming the Realities of Marriage Paul David Tripp

BIOGRAPHY
Legacy of Sovereign Joy: God’s Triumphant Grace in the Lives of Augustine, Luther and Calvin (Swans Are Not Silent series- Book 1)
John Piper (Free PDF here) 
The Roots of Endurance: Invincible Perseverance in the Lives of John Newton, Charles Simeon, and William Wilberforce (Swans Are Not Silent series- Book 3) (Free PDF here)
Contending for Our All: Defending Truth and Treasuring Christ in the Lives of Athanasius, John Owen and J. Gresham Machen (Swans Are Not Silent series- Book 4) John Piper (Free PDF here)
Portrait of Calvin T.H.L. Parker (Free PDF here)

CLASSIC WORKS
Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers John Owen
Imitation of Christ Thomas A Kempis

MINISTRY
Planting Missional Churches
Ed Stetzer
Breaking the Missional Code: Your Chuch Can Becmome a Missionary in Your Community Ed Stetzer
Counsel from the Cross: Connecting Broken People to the Love of Christ Elyse Fitzpatrick
Community: Taking Your Small Group Off Life Support Brad House
Vintage Church: Timeless Truth and Timely Methods Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears
Ten Most Common Mistakes Made by Church Starts Jim Griffith
What is the Mission of the Church? Kevin DeYoung

SPIRITUAL GROWTH
Cross of Christ John Stott
Bloodlines: Race, Cross and the Christian John Piper
Jesus + Nothing= Everything Tullian Tchividjian
Bringing the Gospel Home: Witnessing to Family Members, Close Friends and Others Who Know You Well Randy Newman (Free here from Desiring God)
Disciple: Getting Your Identity from Jesus Bill Clem
The Gospel and Personal Evangelism Mark Dever and C.J. Mahaney
A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World Paul E. Miller
The Soul-Winner: Or How To Lead Sinners to the Saviour Charles H. Spurgeon
A Meal with Jesus: Discovering Grace, Community, and Mission around the Table Tim Chester
Gospel Wakefulness Jared Wilson
 The Cross-Centered Life: Keeping the Gospel the Main Thing C.J. Mahaney
A Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life J.I. Packer
Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life Donald S. Whitney
Death by Love: Letters from the Cross Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears
A Hunger for God: Desiring God through Fasting and Prayer John Piper
Holiness of God R.C. Sproul

APOLOGETICS
Jesus Among Other Gods: The Absolute Claims of  the Christian Message Ravi Zacharias
Christianity at the Religious Roundtable: Evangelicalism in Conversation with Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam Timothy Tennet
The Gospel in a Pluralist Society Leslie Newbigin

Fruit From the Vine: Freedom

I just completed a full season of Master Chef on Hulu. In about a week. Talk about obsession!  I felt sort of like an alcoholic. “I promise, just one more drink.” and “I can’t have a drink until noon. That proves that I’m not an alcoholic, because alcoholics drink before noon.” “I can’t watch Master Chef until nap time, not in the morning. That would be obsession for me to watch it when I wake up.” I would get up in the morning and think, “what do I have to do today so that I can watch as much Master Chef as possible.” I had a dream about being a Master Chef. I started trying to chop fast like one and cut my finger tip off. Literally, off. I am still recovering.

And not that it is wrong to watch TV, or to spend your time doing something other than reading the Bible and praying. There is freedom and liberty, of course. We don’t live under condemnation, we have been freed from the Law and from guilt. So it’s not wrong to have activities in my life and spend time doing things I enjoy. In fact, it is a good thing. God gives us interests and desires and passions and talents. We should do things we love for His glory and our joy. But I am really good at using these true and valid points to justify any behavior. Even though I was neglecting spiritual things to feed my flesh, I was justifying it in a way that really let me off the hook. And let me say, just to be clear, it was NOT WRONG for me to watch those episodes. It wasn’t even wrong for me to watch 3 per night (shorter than a movie? Less time than most Americans watch TV each night? But we’re not comparing people to people here, are we….) However, for me, it included neglect of spiritual things. It is my number one desire to commit myself, fully, passionately, whole heartedly to Jesus. But if I were to be honest, the cares of this world can at times choke out the spiritual seed in my daily life.

The truth is, if I want to know Him, really know Him, I need to spend time with Him. If I were to spend 6 nights out of 7 away from my husband, eventually there would be degeneration in our relationship. I have the freedom in a marriage to not spend every free moment with my husband. But I also have the freedom to spend it with him. If I want to know him, to know all about him, his likes and his dislikes, and to progress in our relationship, I have to sacrifice in another area to free up my nights to spend by his side.

So it is with Jesus. We are His Bride and so the same thing applies. While I may be permitted and have freedom to spend my time doing other things, I know that if I really love Him, I won’t give Him a measly 2% of my time. I really love chef TV shows. I really love cooking competition. So I give it my time. I want to really love God, as commanded, with all my heart, all my soul, and with all my might. I can’t do that without some sacrifice. Without some energy expenditure.

Proverbs 8 speaks of Wisdom, saying, “wisdom is better than jewels, and all that you desire cannot compare with her.” And again, “I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me… my fruit is better than gold, even fine gold, and my yield than choice silver…. Blessed is the one who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors.” (Proverbs 8:11, 17, 19, 34)

To seek diligently requires a cessation of seeking other things. To watch daily and to wait, requires focus and one to pay attention. You will necessarily neglect some other things in your life. But the goal is to get something that is better than anything else, anyway! Better than chef TV, better than novels, better than jewels, better than fine gold!

In Acts 8, Peter shares the Gospel with the Ethiopian Eunuch, baptizes him, and then Peter gets transported to another town. Where he rests and relaxes because he has freedom in Christ to do so. No, he “preached the gospel to all the towns”. Not that it would have been wrong for him to chill after doing some Gospel work. But he has a passion and a drive for Jesus, for the Gospel, for men to be saved. He works and sacrifices and neglects other things for this better thing.

Matthew 11, same thing. “When Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in their cities.” (Matthew 11:1) Jesus just taught a class to twelve people. He doesn’t rest from His work because he already checked off his spiritual thing for the day. He continues, preaching and teaching the Gospel. Because that is what He came to do: seek and save sinners, bring the lost home, show people the Father. “But that’s Jesus,” you say. Well, don’t you want to be like Jesus?  Isn’t that the goal?

Let me make sure to clarify again. I am not saying you shouldn’t ever watch TV, movies, read novels, go rock climbing, scrapbook, play sports, play video games (well…), work out, decorate your home, spend time in the internet or phone, etc. I will most definitely be watching the next season of Master Chef. But I am saying, check yourself. Make sure that you are not neglecting the Best Thing for a lot of little things that in the end, won’t reward and definitely won’t satisfy. Not like Jesus does.

Fruit From the Vine: Would You Be Thankful If…

While taking a shower, I found myself complaining in my heart a little that the water wasn’t quite hot enough. It was almost there but I like the water so hot that it just about burns my skin. I then realized I was being completely fickle because a lot of the world doesn’t have hot water at an immediate turn of a knob like I do. Well, a lot of the world doesn’t even have water pumped by electricity. And a lot of the world doesn’t even have water to bathe in. Let alone, water to drink! So I began to thank God. “Thank you God for the blessing of hot water. For the blessing of water. Period.”

I began to think of something I have been sporadically doing, my thankfulness journal. Another idea that we had for our family was to make a blessing jar where everyone can add a written blessing to the jar throughout the year, reflecting on the blessing we have received from God, and then we read them at year end. These ideas are great and I think they can give you eyes to see the little things around you that are God’s blessings. They are a great remedy to a complaining spirit. However, in our egocentricity, it often stops here! We are so thankful for God’s gifts. But we forget that GOD gave them. HE is the giver and the goal and the end of all our wants.

I am concerned for myself and for many. If I didn’t have any hot water, or didn’t have any water at all for that matter, would I still be thankful? Not for God’s blessings, but for God Himself? If I were visited by trial like Job or had a thorn in my flesh the Lord would not remove, like Paul, would I still be thankful? If there was literally nothing to be thankful for in my life, would I still be thankful? Because there are many who don’t have the things I have to be thankful for… yet they are still able to thank God and are truly thankful. Because they have HIM.

I would love to use scripture to expound here. And I started to. But then I read a few pages from John Piper’s book, “God is the Gospel.” I can’t put things like Piper can. I must add his words here as they hit home for me on this Thanksgiving. In a few paragraphs, you will see how we are to regard the Gospel as the gift of God Himself over and in all His saving and painful gifts (and pleasant gifts, too):

“The gospel has unleashed the omnipotent mercy of God so that thousands of other gifts flow to us from the gospel heart of God. I am thinking of a text like Romans 8:32: “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” This means that the heart of the gospel—God’s not sparing his own Son—is the guarantee that “all things” will be given to us. All things? What does that mean? It means the same thing that Romans 8:28 means: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” God takes “all things” and makes them serve our ultimate good. It doesn’t mean we get everything our imperfect hearts want. It means we get what’s good for us.

Compare this with Philippians 4:19: “My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Every need! Does that mean we never have hard times? Evidently not. Seven verses earlier Paul said, “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger,abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (vv. 12-13).  This is amazing. God meets “every need” (v. 19).

Therefore, I have learned how to face “hunger” and “need” (v. 12). I can do “all things” through him who strengthens me—including be hungry and be in need! I conclude from this that for Christians everything we need—in order to do God’s will and magnify him—will be supplied. 

According to Romans 8:32 this was secured by the gospel. It is stated even more strikingly in Romans 8:35-37. Here the love of Christ guarantees that we will be more than conquerors in every circumstance, including the circumstance of being killed.  “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Astonishing! We are more than conquerors as we are being killed all day long! So nothing can separate us from Christ’s love, not because Christ’s love protects us from harm, but because it protects us from the ultimate harm of unbelief and separation from the love of God.  

The gospel gift of God’s love is better than life. “Neither death nor life …will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38-39). In fact, not only can death not separate us from the love of God, it is, along with every other hardship, a gospel gift. Listen to the way Paul says it in 1 Corinthians 3:21-23, “Let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” All things are yours—including death! Death is included in our treasure chest of gifts from God through the gospel.

So in one text Paul says that we are “more than conquerors” in death. And in another text he says that all things are ours, including death. I take him to mean that because of the truths of Romans 8:28 and 8:32 God takes every hardship and makes it serve us, including death. Death is “ours”—our servant. The fact that we are “more than conquerors” means that death doesn’t just lie dead at our feet after the battle—it is taken captive and made to serve us.

And how does death serve us? How does the blood-bought servitude of death bless the children of God? Paul answers, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain”(Phil. 1:21). Why is dying gain? He answers two verses later: “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.” Being with Christ after death is “far better” than staying on earth. That is why we are more than conquerors when death seems to triumph. It becomes a door to better fellowship with Christ. 

Because of the gospel, God promises to “give us all things” with Christ (Rom. 8:32). The “all things” turns out to include not just pleasant things but terrible things like tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, sword, and death. These are all gospel gifts purchased for us by the blood of Christ. 

Death is a gift because it takes us more quickly to the great good of the gospel—seeing and savoring the glory of God in the face of Christ. What about these other gifts—tribulation, distress, and so on? How are they benefits that are bought by the gospel? How are they part of the “all things” in Romans 8:32 and 28 and Philippians 4:13? The answer is that in the merciful sovereignty of Christ, empowered by his own blood, these sufferings accomplish the greatest good of the gospel, a more pure and authentic and deeply satisfying seeing and savoring of God in Christ. 

…This is not the design of the devil. It is the design of God. Paul’s life-threatening suffering was designed by God to keep him close to God. The aim of the gospel is not an easy life. It is deeper knowledge of God and deeper trust in God. God did not spare his own Son. Therefore all things are yours— “the world or life or death (or thorns in the flesh or life-threatening persecution) all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” These are gospel gifts because by the blood of Christ they help bring about the goal of the gospel. This goal is not our ease or wealth or safety in this age, but our dependence on Christ and our delight in his glory.”

I treasure this. My heart rests here. Not because it is easy to read or believe, but because it is true. And I am full of thanks for this Truth– whose Name is Jesus.

Children’s Gospel Resources

It’s hard to find kids Gospel-centered resources are really on mission, centered around Christ and not just teaching morals and about “being good”. Here are some that we have found and can recommend to you. I am sure there are many more out there and I can’t wait to discover those, too. If you have any recommendations for me, please comment!

All of these books are good for toddler and preschool age (since that’s where we’re at), though I think they can go far beyond that.

BOOKS

Our #1 and #2 spots go to the Bible for kids:

The Jesus Storybook Bible

AMAZING… for you and your child. See Christ in every story of the Bible!


The Big Picture Story Bible

Also a great Bible. The two Bibles have different stories in them and they are good in different ways. This Bible looks at the Word of God as a whole, not separate stories like Jonah or Daniel in the Lion’s Den (both of those stories actually aren’t in here). The goal of this Bible is to look at Redemptive history as a whole- the Why’s and the How’s of Jesus’ coming to Earth to save us from our sins.

“My Favorite Verses” books
We only have one of these so I can’t vouch for the whole series, but this is such a good book! We’ll be getting a few more eventually so I will update if anything is wacky.
The Church History ABC’s
So cute– and we are learning as well! Short little biographies (a paragraph) on different people who made an impact for Christ throughout history. A is for Augustine, T for Tertullian, etc… We love this book!
“Big Thoughts for Little Thinkers” Series
There are 3 of these, The Gospel, The Trinity, and The Mission and they are really simple and well written! Kids love them and they have good illustrations.
The Squire and the Scroll (for boys)
and
The Princess and the Kiss (for girls)
I have not personally read the Princess book, but the Squire and the Scroll is a big hit with boys who want to slay dragons with swords! And has a great message about guarding your eyes and your heart and so forth.
Jesus Wants All of Me
This is a cute little devotional for kids. They are REALLY short and have a cute picture on each page for the kids to look at while you are reading the few sentences to them. It is an adaptation from Oswald Chambers’ “My Utmost for His Highest”. I can’t say I have thought every page was this life-changing, all important gospel message and some pages are quite silly, but I think it is overall very good!
(Let me clarify by saying you don’t really have to use discernment when reading, its just that not all of them are lessons you need to really teach your 3 year old…. but most are about Jesus so thumbs up for that!)
My 1st Book of Questions and Answers
This is a Chatecism book for kids. The first questions go something like this: “Who made you?” God. “Why did God make you?” To glorify Him and enjoy Him forever.
This books helps you to give your child biblical answers that are simple and concise. We read this book over and over with our son so that he gets these answers down in his head. Periodically throughout the day, while he is playing or what not,  we will say, “Who made you?” and then “Why did He make you?”, etc… Though these are rote answers and mostly memorization for a child of his age, it is important for him to know the Truth, before He even truly believes it in his heart.
The Beginners Bible “I Can Read” Series
This series of books is really simple and has absolutely nothing controversial to say in it, being very positive and upbeat (i.e., “Jesus loved many people. Jesus had lots of friends.”) But they are books for beginning or pre-readers so it is appropriate. They are cute and well-liked by kids.

TV Shows and DVD’s

There is a LOT for kids in the way of Biblical and Gospel Centered and they are so fun and well-made! Here are some of our favorites:
Storykeepers– these are 1 hour long cartoon episodes about the early Church (persecution in Rome). It is all about this one family trying to teach others about Jesus while not being fed to the lions by Nero. This is definitely on the top of his request list if we ask our son what he wants to watch.
Little Buds ABC’s and 123’s. These say for ages 2-6 but I think they are even good for younger. We started watching these when our son was around 1. He loved them then and he loves them now!
Hillsong Kids worship. There are a few songs that aren’t totally up to the standard of “Christ-centeredness” like the lyrics, “I am happy to be me” (not that this is necessarily bad for a kid to be happy to be themselves, it’s just not worship…) But overall this is great and there are songs where these young kids are really worshipping with hands raised and hearts given to God. It’s neat for young children to see other kids doing this.
God Rocks– A mix of animation and real people singing Scripture songs and storylines to encourage kids to love God and love others. We watch them on TV but they do have DVD’s. Another one of the all-time favorites! He knows so many verses set to song because of these half-hour episodes (and the videos are pretty sweet for kids, too)
Friends And Heroes– similar to storytellers as far as the time period. Setting Biblical stories up in a historical context.
Nest Family Animated Stories from the Bible (and Animated Heros) are SO GOOD. Really, they are super cheesy and you wouldn’t think your kid would like them in this day of amazing animation, but they do! The songs are over the top and we laugh at them over and over again (The Joseph one… there is a song about dreams that goes, “Dreams, dreams, pools of subconscious”) This is a valuable resource. Really, we have considered cancelling cable but we may be keeping it for this very reason. The DVD’s are typically $20-$30 to buy (though, they have sales, like the one right now for Easter- $7.99).
For those without TV… and money… search for all of these on You Tube and see if you can find them there. (All of these are on cable channel TBN, too.) For those with some money, you can get most of these on Amazon, as well. Try getting used if they are out of print.
That’s all I have for now…
A note to the amount of money it is to buy things like this for your kids. Yes, it can cost you some, but aren’t all good things worth it? We spend money everywhere else for our kids, but what about investing in their spirit from a young age? We go to the Library and get a ton of books there, but you [usually] can’t get these types of things there! I encourage you to do what you can to make this a priority in your kids lives!
There may be a Part 2 of this post at some point in the future as we review and acquire additional books and resources.
Be blessed and enjoy learning and reading about the Good News with your family!