"The bible stories come to life with vivid action verbs, catchy illustrations, and the brevity necessary for the attention span of the little people we chase around all day. "
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review
Do you have toddlers running amok in your home? Are you a friend, grandparent, Sunday School teacher, or nursery worker in your local church? If so, you’re probably well aware that Christian books for children are in high demand. Reading to children is vital, and teaching them the scriptures is even more necessary.
Have you ever read a children’s book about the bible that just so slightly missed the mark? Maybe they told most of the story correctly but passed over a detail that was vital. Perhaps they paraphrased the story well but failed to point to the gospel.
This is a problem. We want our children to know God’s word accurately. We also desire that they come to faith in Christ and not rely on themselves or some inherent goodness which the scripture clearly teaches they don’t have (Romans 3:10).
Steph Williams’ Little Me, Big God series does a wonderful job of blending accuracy with engagement. The bible stories come to life with vivid action verbs, catchy illustrations, and the brevity necessary for the attention span of the little people we chase around all day.
The series contains three wonderful books:
Each book has “Notes For Grown-Ups” and the biblical text from the New International Version, making these books a wonderful tool for family worship, preschool class, or reading time for the little ones in your life.
Grab a set of the Little Me, Big God books and buy another set for someone who has little ones! It’s well worth the investment to see children being saturated in the scriptures!
" It’s a blessing to soak up over forty years of strong biblical exposition and preaching from a man who has seen firsthand the powers of scripture and big prayers."
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review
Prayer is a massive endeavor. It also reveals a lot about us. Robert Murray M’Cheyne’s quote is timeless: “What a man is on his knees before God, that he is, and nothing more.” There is nothing more vital to our faith than prayer.
Yet it seems that prayer often falls to the wayside. Why does something so important take the backseat for smaller, often insignificant things in life? Put simply: our view of prayer is too small
In Pray Big: Learn to Pray Like an Apostle, Alistair Begg lays out a path toward bigger, more enjoyable prayer. God makes prayer grand, and we have the ear of the universe’s Creator and our Redeemer. This should impact not only that we pray, but also how we pray. Begg brings us into the prayer life of the Apostle Paul to give a glimpse of how Paul prayed.
This devotional read is not a theology of prayer, rather it’s an exposition of the posture of prayer. Rather than pointing to human ability or man-centered boldness, Begg calls for dependence and genuine spiritual intimacy with the Lord. He then lays out five great qualities of prayer found in Paul’s prayers for the church in Ephesus:
Paul displays each of these elements in his bold and powerful prayers in Ephesians 1:16-21 and 3:14-21. Begg hinges the book on these prayers, keeping us anchored to the text of scripture as we work through the elements on big prayer. It’s a blessing to soak up over forty years of strong biblical exposition and preaching from a man who has seen firsthand the powers of scripture and big prayers.
Praying big means praying in faith that God can and will do what He has promised for our sake, the sake of others, and the glory of His Holy name. This is all made possible through the faithful Father, sacrificial Son of God, and sanctifying Spirit of God. We pray big because our God is big. If the apostles, a ragtag bunch of sinful men could pray this way, so can we!
At just over 100 pages, Pray Big is the perfect book for your devotional time, a small group, or some one-on-one discipleship. Learn to pray. Teach others to pray. Do it all for the glory of Christ.
"If we let the world raise our children, we can’t be surprised if they come to love the world rather than God."
Into The Laps Of Our Children
The text message saddened and angered me. It astonished me to read, “Wow, Mr. Ratburn on PBS kid show Arthur is gay. He married a man on the show”. Kid shows often stay neutral on these issues, so I searched for myself. Sure enough, Mr. Ratburn came out as gay and got married in the “Arthur” season premiere.
I watched “Arthur” as a kid. My children did, too.
The Ratburn episode illuminates a grander reality in America. American Christians aren’t surprised by gay marriage, nor are we oblivious to the reality that gay marriage is legal and now being embedded as a cultural norm. However, alarm bells ring when homosexual marriage sneaks into our living rooms and whispers a contradictory worldview in their ears.
Homosexuality has appeared in children’s television before—in fact, a 2005 “Arthur” episode featured a friend with two moms. Doc McStuffins had an episode featuring an interracial lesbian couple and Sesame Street’s Bert and Ernie have also been confirmed as a gay couple.
Homosexuality as a cultural norm is no longer something “out there” waiting for our children when they enter the real world. It is barging into our living rooms and demanding that we say something.
Gay Marriage is a Sin Problem
Am I just an alarmed, far right bigot indoctrinating my children with an ancient text? Some readers will say that I am. Is this post uttering intolerant hate speech and teaching our children to hate homosexuals? To many, it will be read that way.
That is far from the truth. Homosexual marriage decimates Scripture’s proclamation that “a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). Instead, people have replaced God’s special revelation with an alternative that doesn’t even allow for natural procreation.
In all of American history, heterosexual marriage was considered the norm, even by secular Americans. The tides have completely turned.
Homosexuality is not the unforgivable sin (Matthew 12:31-32). Numerous other sins will keep people from inheriting the Kingdom of God, such as sexual immorality, idolatry, adultery, greed, drunkenness, reviling, and swindling (1 Corinthians 6:9–10). There are more lists, and we are all on them. There is none righteous (Romans 3:10).
But the same Jesus who died on the cross for those other sins also died to save homosexuals who will place their faith in Christ and turn from their sin. The same Spirit who brought us from darkness to light can do the same for homosexuals. The same Father who loved us and gave His Son for us can do the same for homosexuals.
All sinners, whether gay or straight, can run to Christ for forgiveness and repentance. The Scriptures still hold true that “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
Parenting On Guard
I need to repent of being too lax with television consumption in my home. We don’t even have cable, so I convinced myself of some illusionary control that slipped from my hands in an instant.
If you’re a Christian parent concerned with your child’s worldview, join me in guarding our children. This doesn’t mean living in a “Christian bubble” pretending that sin doesn’t exist. Rather, proactively instill a biblical worldview through conversations and discussions using Scripture as the foundation.
In response to “Mr. Ratburn and the Special Someone” we must commit to using much wisdom and diligence in protecting our children from anti-biblical worldviews. How can we do this?
Guard the worldviews that enter your homes. As our culture embraces abortion, gay marriage, transgenderism, and other sins as normal, Christians must engage with the world’s perspectives and refute them with Scripture. Talk about the Bible with your children when “you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Dt. 6:7). If we let the world raise our children, we can’t be surprised if they come to love the world rather than God.
Guard the media your children enjoy. Change the media appetite in your home. Rather than cherry-picking which hot ticket sins to guard them against, families should ask of every show, “Does this hinder my child from the glory of God and His work in the gospel?”. Any shows that normalize sin should be removed from our watchlists—at least until our children are old enough to teach them discernment. Christian alternatives such as Pureflix, JellyTelly, and RightNow Media might sound corny, but holiness will never be cool to the world.
Be bold like Joshua who said, “But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve... But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).
Guard against losing the gospel. We will fail our children if we don’t give them the gospel. Sin is in their hearts, even if they’ve been rescued by our Savior. Stop treating them like they’re innocent little angels who could never do wrong. It’s simply untrue. Every human being carries the sin of Adam—even our beloved kiddos. Like their parents, they deserve to be punished for their sins by the Holy God of the universe.
But God, in lovingkindness sent Jesus to save people from their sins. But God gave His Holy Spirit to turn our dead, stony hearts into living, bleeding hearts alive to His goodness and glory. But God calls all people, gay or straight, to repent and believe in His Son. He will rescue any sinner who cries out, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner” and places their full hope in Jesus.
God can reconcile the worst of sinners to Himself. If He saved us, He can save anyone. Ask Rosaria Butterfield. Ask Jackie Hill Perry. Ask Peter. Ask Paul. Ask Solomon. Ask David. Ask Rahab. Ask Abraham. Ask Noah.
How will you and your family respond to the moral shift that is working its way into our homes?
Is it tough to imagine that people with abundance struggle with contentment? Shouldn't the wealthy and most successful people be the happiest? The opposite seems true as Americans are becoming less happy rather than more. If you're reading this blog post, you may even be one of them. I'm one of them. The shock value really sets in when you consider that, according to Global Rich List, a net income of $2,700 per month places us among the top 1% of the richest people in the world.
Why does it still feel like we don't have enough? Why doesn't prosperity automatically equal contentment? Why doesn't success render us the most joyful people in the world?
The Answer is a Secret
The answer lies in Philippians 4:12-13:
“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.”
Tucked neatly in Paul's encouragement and thanksgiving for the Philippian church and their generosity is the mention that his circumstances have taught him a vital lesson—contentment. What seems so elusive to us here in the West was attained by Paul. We too can learn this "secret" which impacted him.
In what circumstances did Paul learn contentment? We often forget that Paul learned contentment both in times of frustration and in times of favor. When Paul was brought low, was hungry, and was in need, he learned to be content. In times of abounding, having plenty, and experiencing abundance, Paul also learned contentment. It was "in any and every circumstance" that Paul learned the "secret" of contentment. For a culture stricken with affluenza—extreme discontentment, malaise, and distress due to the pursuit of success and wealth—the gospel is the only cure.
The Symptoms of Affluent Discontentment
Before we get to the cure, it's necessary to point to some of the symptoms of discontentment that plague the successful or affluent:
- excessive spending
- continual dissatisfaction with work
- grumbling and complaining
- apathy and malaise regarding life in general
- envy of others' possessions
For those who require a more spiritual list, we see:
- being hyper-critical of your local church
- dressing up complaints with spiritual jargon
- irritability when things don't look as they should
- lack of joy
- inability to rest
If the Holy Spirit taught Paul contentment in any and every circumstance, He can do the same in us. When I'm tempted to despair of the discontentment in my heart, I remember that the source of Paul's contentment was Christ. He learned contentment by forsaking his strength and entrusting all things to Christ who gives him strength (Philippians 4:13). Rather than developing stoicism or willpower, Paul leaned on Jesus in his weakness. By grace, we can do this too!
The Cure for Affluent Discontentment
How do we cultivate Christ-centered contentment when things are going well?
Remember how you got here. When we are abounding, reliance on God can fade into the background. We get used to the daily bread, good grades, promotions, positive behavior of our children, or successful daily devotions. When comfort becomes the norm, we can subtly slip into thinking that it was by our intellect, athletic prowess, personal charm, or work ethic that we have found success. This is all futile. The God who created the world gave us this success, and He deserves the credit for even the smallest morsel.
Rely on Christ daily for strength. One of the greatest daily habits we can build is asking God for help with what we think we can do on our own. Jesus meant it when He said, "apart from me you can do nothing". We are in grave danger of dethroning God in our hearts and placing ourselves or others in His place—especially in seasons of affluence and success.
Rest in Christ's finished work. Too often our cravings for success stem from a heart that desires approval before God and men. Since hard work often leads to success and approval, and success and approval lead us to work harder, we endlessly work harder to achieve more success and approval. The cycle either continues or we burn out. Rather than living in this hamster wheel, we need to search our hearts and ask whether we truly believe Christ did enough. We need to ask ourselves the hard questions: Did Christ truly earn God's approval for us? Or do we need to add our work to His work?
Rehearse the gospel daily. In light of resting in Christ, we need to meditate daily on the gospel. We need to remind ourselves that apart from God's grace we are sinful enemies of God. It is only by His grace that we have been freed from sin and given the spiritual gifts we desire to steward well. When we succeed with those gifts, we need to be reminded that it's through God's grace we are able to do anything.
Reflect the glory of God in your words and actions. If the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, our success should always aim to give Him glory. When we are thriving, we have the opportunity to point to Christ. The accolades and rewards that were once mountains to conquer become platforms that we can use to reflect glory back to God.
No Direct Flights
When I travel, I love direct flights with no layovers. Sometimes this either isn't possible or simply isn't cost effective. When considering contentment, I can see that there is no direct flight between success and contentment. Honestly, the seasons that I find success are often the seasons that I am the most discontent. In those moments, I need God to say, "take care lest you forget the LORD your God" (Deuteronomy 8:11).
Through meditating on scripture and seeing the example of successful godly people, I've realized that most content people are those who know Christ—not themselves—as the source of every success.
A version of this article originally appeared at For The Church.
I often wonder how I can wake up in the morning and not give God a second thought.
On so many mornings, I feel a gravitational pull to reach for something, anything, but God. Email, music, social media, sports, blogs, and news can’t seem to wait, even though they are infinitely tiny compared to the Creator and Sustainer of the universe. Worse yet, they eclipse God, numb me to spiritual reality, and set the tone for the whole day. My body may be awake on these days, but what about my soul?
The rulers, authorities, cosmic powers, and spiritual forces in the heavenly places never take a day off. Neither can we. Self-righteousness lurks in the shadows of a victorious social media debate while gossip pursues as I describe the flaws of others. Anger pulls up next to me as I come to a screeching halt and spill coffee in my lap. I know this is true, but sometimes I’m unaffected by these realities.
Each day we are battling not only the schemes of the devil but also the world and the flesh. As soldiers sleep with one eye open, so must the child of God. We don’t have the option to walk in a drowsy stupor as though we are lounging at the beach on vacation. Rather, we are like the soldiers who landed on the beaches of Normandy — ready to bring utter destruction to our sin.
Keep Your Heart with God
How does God call us to live in light of the reality of spiritual warfare? His word is clear: “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23). One of the most important, and neglected, duties of the Christian is to be watchful. Puritan John Flavel aptly stated that “the greatest difficulty after conversion is to keep the heart with God.”
To be watchful is to slow down and take notice of our hearts in light of God’s word and the gospel. God calls time and time again for us to watch carefully over our souls so we won’t fall into sin. He knows that our flesh is weak, so he exhorts us to sit day and night at the gates of wisdom, allowing the Scriptures to permeate our souls and reveal our need for his grace. He knows that in the moments that we look away from Christ, we are like David whose heart was sinfully captured by the beauty of Bathsheba. The call to keep our hearts is the call to zealous care for the most precious part of who we are.
Watchfulness in the WordIt’s easy to find watchfulness throughout Scripture. In the Old Testament, we see that the Israelites were commanded to watch themselves closely so they wouldn’t fall into idolatry (Deuteronomy 4:15). In the Psalms, we get a glimpse of a watchful heart seeking after the Lord (Psalm 5:3; 59:9; 119:148). In Proverbs, the wise man watches daily at the doors and gates of wisdom (Proverbs 8:34).
In the Gospels, Jesus called his disciples to “watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees” (Matthew 16:6), to be watchful for the Bridegroom to return (Matthew 25:13), to be watchful, awake, and prayerful in these last days (Luke 21:34–36).
In Paul’s epistles, saints are called to watch out for those who cause divisions and obstruct the gospel message (Romans 16:17), to be watchful and take heed lest they fall (1 Corinthians 10:12; 16:13), to watch against falling into sin while helping a brother in transgression (Galatians 6:1), and to be watchful in prayer (Colossians 4:2). Peter calls for believers to be watchful because Satan is prowling and desiring to devour us (1 Peter 5:8).
All of this talk about watchfulness can conjure up images of exhausting legalism. It sounds so puritanical, doesn’t it? I can hear groans from the crowd, “I thought we were free in Christ? Won’t excessive watchfulness negate grace and rob us of our joy? I don’t want to be overly introspective. That’s depressing!”
Jesus has an answer for these groans. His Father is glorified when we bear much fruit, and fruitfulness brings us fullness of joy (John 15:8–11). By abiding in him and receiving grace, we have help to keep our hearts with vigilance. But what does that look like?
First, we abide in Christ. If apart from him we can do nothing (John 15:5), then we must do everything with him and in his power, acknowledging our utter dependence on Christ. We need to preach the gospel to ourselves daily. This could be as simple as praying, “By grace, I’m both a sinner and a saint. Lord, give me the strength I need to glorify you in this moment and the rest of this day.” As we humbly acknowledge our reliance on Christ, we will find ourselves leaning into his strength in times of temptation and trials.
Second, we regularly examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5). Do you seek your own kingdom? Is there sin you refuse to repent of? Are you looking to Christ with faith? To prevent morbid introspection, we would do well to heed the advice of Robert Murray M’Cheyne and take ten looks at Christ for every look we take at ourselves.
Third, we follow God’s word. Jesus didn’t pull out his Bible when Satan tempted him. He quoted the Scripture, in context, directly from his mind. We need to commit to more than just reading our Bibles. If we slow down and memorize God’s word, we can take it with us everywhere we go. As we are meditating on and applying the Scriptures, we are being shaped and led by the Spirit of God.
Lastly, we walk with the saints. We are not vigilant by ourselves or for ourselves. We are the body of Christ. As members, we should certainly watch over our own hearts and be aware of sin that could lead us to fall away from God, but we also need to love the Christians in our lives enough to warn them when we see them falling into sin. It’s easy to build and maintain superficial friendships, yet it’s more valuable to be accountable to other believers who are willing (and not afraid) to push us toward godliness daily.
Starting in the Morning
Though I haven’t mastered the art of keeping my heart, God used a season of anxiety, depression, and suffering to open my eyes to this great need. Each morning is still a battle. I don’t win the battle every time, but I’m much more aware of what is at stake.
As the Spirit works in me to make me more Christlike, I keep fighting and watching with more zeal and vigilance. Keeping our hearts is costly, but we fight with the strength of the One who transforms them.
This article first appeared at desiringgod.org.