Motherhood & Family

Yes! I’d Recommend: Our Favorite Children’s Bibles


“We’re buying Todo lo que un niño debería saber sobre Dios?” Jeff asked me the other day as he looked over my shoulder into my online shopping cart. We’d already owned Everything A Child Should Know About God  in English– the only language I can read in. I defended myself, “It’s only $6! I’m sure we can find someone to give it to!” He laughed a bit at me and we now have two copies of the book sitting on our shelf as I look for Spanish-speaking children to gift it to.

Some people are always in ready position when it comes making recommendations about restaurants or coffee or entertainment or fashion. My friends know I jump at the chance to recommend Christian books, blogs, and sermons. This is not because I’m extremely well-read (quite far from it), but because I have seen the impact of well-articulated, truth-filled content on my mind, life, and worship. I am always excited to connect others with voices God has used to shape and strengthen me. Plus, I have inherited the habit of buying bargain books in bulk from my mom.

As one way to pass on great content, I am starting this series– Yes, I recommend! where I’ll periodically answer one of my favorite questions: “Do you have any recommendations for books/blogs/etc. on…?” These lists will be short and by no means exhaustive– I’m not even claiming to include the best out there– but will contain content I’ve found helpful. I hope you will find some resources here that edify you too.


For the first post in this “Yes! I’d Recommend” series, my favorite books to give away: Children’s Bibles!

Some of you may be Christian parents or children’s Sunday School teachers. As parents, we have been given the divine charge to bring up our sons and daughters in the wisdom and instruction of the Lord. Teachers have been entrusted with the difficult task of explaining big Biblical truths in simple ways for young minds. Central to fulfilling both callings is helping children know God’s word.

In Deuteronomy 11:19 (ESV), God says:

You shall teach [these words of mine] to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

And in Psalm 78:4 (ESV),

We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.

Talking with children about who God is through the Scriptures doesn’t have to be complicated. It isn’t meant to take place only in serious, special settings, but most often happens in the day-to-day grind of daily life. As we walk, talk, sit, lie, and rise, we are given opportunity to teach his words and tell of his deeds. And as you teach your children or students, you will likely be astonished at how much they understand as they receive God’s truth with precious faith.

In our home, we do Bible reading with the kids at night. Bedtime is what works best for us for now, and usually they read with Jeff, sometimes with me. Then, we pray together– I sometimes ask them to list what they want to praise God for (“God, you are…”), something they’re thankful for, and something they want to pray for. Sometimes Jeff or I pray aloud for them. Other times we all pray at the same time, or we pray and they repeat after us. Admittedly, we sometimes skip days or rush through, but I pray God is planting the seed of his Word in their lives which will bear fruit in years to come.

As adults, we often read the Bible piecemeal and forget that it is a gripping, grand narrative. We may fail to take time to read slowly or engage our imaginations. In doing so, we miss the impact of Biblical narratives which don’t just tell, but display to us the wonder of God’s power, the irrationality of our rebellion, the horrors of sin, and the beauty of our long-planned-for salvation. Reading to children of the “glorious deeds of the Lord” is good for our souls as well as theirs.

If you’re in the market for a children’s Bible, here are our family’s favorites in order of age/ reading level.

1. The Big Picture Story Bible (WTS | Amazon)

This was our go-to for many years because of the short text. Even at 2-3 years, the kids could sit through it, enjoying the big pictures. The book traces the theme of God’s Kingdom– his place, people, and rule– from Genesis through Revelation, showing how Jesus fulfills God’s promises as Savior and King. At two, before she could talk much, I would sometimes find our daughter flipping through a Bible saying “fwaioehgjkadlksj Sarah salihgdafoiquwr Abraham,” and I think it was from reading this storybook Bible. Our church also uses this book for teaching younger children, but it’s good for older kids too to get a grasp of some big Biblical themes.

2. The Beginner’s Gospel Story Bible (WTS | Amazon)

This is our newest addition, and we’re reading this during our homeschooling time. Each Bible story has one main highlighted point and one question to discuss. It’s great at presenting Scripture’s stories in ways that inform both children’s knowledge of who God is and how they are called to obey him– i.e. right thoughts of God and right living before him.

3. The Jesus Storybook Bible (WTS | Amazon)

The power to obey God does not come from knowing his laws, but knowing him. The Bible stories in this book, with their amazing illustrations, point to Jesus in every text. In seeking to make these connections to Christ, parents are helped to resist the temptation to turn Scripture into a book of morals. It is refreshing to see our children learn to understand the Scriptures with God, not human Bible characters, as the hero. The book highlights the love of God for sinners through the drama of Scripture, climaxing in the cross of Christ. Pastor Tim Keller has endorsed this book saying all Christians should read this, not just children! The Jesus Storybook Bible has been a staple in our home and church.

4. The Action Bible (WTS | Amazon)

My daughter will sit for hours listening to the audio version of The Action Bible while following along in the book, and her knowledge of the Old Testament is better than mine was as a college student because of it. This is probably be the most controversial item on this list because it’s a comic book. The characters look like they are from a superhero comic and the text reads like it, with obvious creative liberties taken. I make sure our kids know when something in the book isn’t in the Bible (for example, stories from the intertestamental period) and that God doesn’t really sound like a booming, slow-speaking comic book voice. But still, it has been wonderful for helping our girls be excited about the content of Scripture– even Old Testament history!

5. ESV Big Picture Bible (WTS | Amazon)

When our 6-year-old asked for a big kid’s Bible, we searched for a full-text ESV Bible (the version our church uses). This was our favorite in terms of format and pictures that weren’t too graphic or cheesy. It’s simple and the font is big enough for her to read easily. There are illustrations, but they don’t detract from the text and because they are cartoonish (vs. more realistic), I’m not as wary about how it will influence my daughter’s interpretation of Scripture. My favorite illustrations are the small ones above the headers depicting the theme of each book.

When training teachers in church, I’ve often stressed that just because we are teaching children doesn’t mean we can make up answers to their questions. The youngest members of our church are not too young to understand and need the truth of God. That’s why I value good resources for children so much– they explain God’s Word in simple, engaging ways while remaining truthful.

Though it is a weighty task, it is an awesome privilege to be among the first people to inform a child’s understanding of God. As we seek to instruct the little ones, so dearly loved by Jesus, may we do so with reverence and fear, gratitude and joy.


Did you decide to check out any of these books? Leave a comment and let me know what you think. I’d love to hear from you!


Church & Ministry, Motherhood & Family

One Way I’ve Thought (& Gone) Wrong & A Book Recommendation

“The things that we are doing every day when we are being productive—answering emails, going to meetings, making supper for the family—are not just things we are doing. They are good works…The activities of our everyday lives are not separate from the good works that God has called us to. They are themselves part of the good works that God created us for in Christ. And, therefore, they have great meaning.” – Matt Perman, What’s Best Next

As I wrote about in my last entry, I am passionate about right thinking about God and the Scripture because of the way that translates into worship and life. One way in which I have seen wrong/incomplete thinking and teaching play out in my life has been concerning the sacred-secular divide which is addressed in the doctrine of  vocation (calling). This is the theology of how the things we’re called to do in our various stations in life (e.g. as a child, student, mom, worker, etc.) are done to the glory of God. I’ve posted about this in bits and pieces in a few posts on motherhood, but I thought it may be helpful to show how the lack of a Biblical understanding of what the “secular” aspects of life had to do with living for God manifested itself, and point anyone interested in reading more to an excellent resource.

Here are the ways that my lack of understanding regarding the doctrine of vocation showed up in various stages in my life:

Half-hearted work: When God wakened my heart to the gospel in college and gave me a deep desire to live for his glory, I started pitting  “spiritual” activities  over and above the “non-spiritual” activities almost immediately. I was a student at the time as a biology major and my motivation for studying ceased once I didn’t want to go into the medical field anymore but wanted to go into ministry. I immersed myself in prayer meetings, Christian campus events, time alone by myself in prayer and reading Scripture, and talking about God but neglected my studies. God was really doing something new in me and I do believe that the desire to change my plotted life course was from God (changing majors and career goals), but my response in the way I treated school was not. But without seeing clearly what God had to do with my work as a student, it was really hard to be motivated because at the heart of it (though I may not have articulated it this way) I didn’t believe God thought it was important or that it had lasting spiritual significance.

A feeling of emptiness in doing ministry: A gospel presentation I heard when I was younger encouraged children to evangelize after they accepted Jesus by asking, “Do you know why God doesn’t just zap you up to heaven after you become a Christian?”  The given answer was “So that you can tell other people about Jesus!” Although as a Christian, I knew and was taught that the ultimate goal in life is to bring glory to God, the “you’re only still on earth to bring about conversions” thinking was reinforced in my life through different ministries and speakers that I have heard. Bringing about conversions were often put as the central means of bringing glory to God  because of the rationale that souls are eternal whereas other things are not. At one point when I was in ministry, I remember asking someone if they thought it was true that this was the only reason we were still on earth (to bring people to Jesus through evangelizing) and when they said yes, I just felt a sense of emptiness.  I believe I felt that way because as people, we were made for more. Yet at the time, I couldn’t refute the seemingly Biblical logic in the argument.

Guilt: As long as I was in ministry, I could feel fulfilled and guilt-free since my “work” was almost completely in the realm of things which I could see were meaningful spiritually. As a student in graduate school, I could also justify my studies in the potential good it would do in helping me have a platform for evangelism in the future. But when I became a stay-at-home mom stationed not in a foreign country for missions, but in Staten Island, the guilt came as did the questions of whether what I did mattered and why.

Confusion: Ultimately I realized there was a huge disconnect between my understanding of “living for the glory of God” and my everyday life as well as the everyday lives of most people I know. Just being told to “do everything for God’s glory” wasn’t helpful in that I did not understand 1. why everything could be done to God’s glory 2. what doing everything to God’s glory  practically looks like. Did it just mean being prayerful and having the right attitude when we did something? Did it mean it would have to be part of a chain of events that led to conversions of others (like, cook an egg so that you can have energy so that you can go to work to make money to give to a missionary)?

If you know me, you know that I get really excited about getting solid resources out to others. It is an extension of my passion about right theology that translates into giving away books I own (something I picked up from my mom),  sharing  online articles, referring people to different sermon series, and tweeting deals from Because I know a lot of people who love Jesus and yet have struggled with the same issue of trying to think Biblically about God and work (whether outside the home or at school or at home), I want to recommend a resource to you!

When I was wrestling a lot with issues of vocation and the theology of the everyday, I stumbled (providentially) upon Matt Perman’s blog was helped a lot by his theologically solid and practical writing. At one point I sent him a question I still had and his answer clarified things for me (will post this later!) So, when he invited readers of his blog to be part of the launch team of his new book (helping promote the book and receiving an advanced e-copy of it), I quickly called my sister and had her do it and then promptly requested to be part of it too. 

I’m still reading through the book, but already can think of many people it would benefit from it given our past conversations on work, ministry, and the Christian life. I recommend it to anyone feeling a disconnect between the daily tasks that they do in life as a mom/student/worker/etc. and living radically to God’s glory. There is solid Biblical theology of work and vocation throughout and it is centered on the gospel while not being disconnected from the practical.

Here’s a good description of the book from within the book itself:

Numerous Christian books give an excellent call to living radical lives devoted to the glory of God and the good of others, but they typically don’t go into much detail regarding how to weave this into the fabric of your life. This leaves us at a loss for how to apply these things consistently.

Many secular books on productivity, on the other hand, have a great framework for capturing your overall priorities in life and making them happen, but they don’t call you to set the right priorities based on what God says rather than on what you say.

We are going to solve that problem by showing how to find the God- centered, Christ-exalting passion of your life..then showing how to keep this at the center of your life and weave it into everything you do.

And here are some quotes that have been helped me thus far:

  • “Each of us is an individual, with unique talents and gifts. Productivity is not about trying to do good according to another person’s style, or with gifts we don’t have. As the parable of the talents shows, productivity is about taking the gifts and resources God has given each of us individually and making those talents useful for the good of others.”
  • “…We need to be creative because God is not simply a God of utility but also is a God of beauty. Putting thought into how we can serve people with creativity is simply an implication of the command to ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’”
  • “Just as we do good works from justification rather than for justification, we are also to do good works from peace rather than for peace.”

I look forward to sharing from what I read (whether in person or more on this blog) and am praying that this book will get into the hands of anyone who would find it helpful for them in living their lives unto God with much joy.

Here is the link to the book on Amazon: What’s Best Next

And here is a great WTS bookstore deal if you want to read a physical copy! What’s Best Next- WTSbooks

Taking Heart, Truth & Orthodoxy

I cried reading this this morning

I haven’t cried reading a book for a long time, but as I read this today, I did with gratitude that I, having been redeemed by Christ, am given the grace to live and act in a way that pleases my Heavenly Father. The fact that he would be moved  by my obedience- done in love and with his aid… that is so precious to me.

We can think it’s a mark of spiritual sensitivity to consider everything we do as morally suspect. But this is not the way the Bible thinks about righteousness. More importantly, this kind of spiritual resignation does not tell the truth about God… Our God is not a capricious slave driver. He is not hyper-sensitive and prone to fits of rage on account of slight offenses. He is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love (Ex. 34:6). “He is not hard to please,” Tozer reminds us, “though he may be hard to satisfy.”

Why do we imagine God to be so unmoved by our heart-felt attempts at obedience? He is, after all, our Heavenly Father. What sort of father looks at his daughter’s homemade birthday card and complains that the color scheme is all wrong? What kind of mother says to her son, after he gladly cleaned the garage but put the paint cans on the wrong shelf, “This is worthless in my sight?”…There is no righteousness that makes us right with God except for the righteousness of Christ. But for those who have been made right with God by grace alone through faith alone and therefore have been adopted into God’s family, many of our righteous deeds are not only not filthy in God’s eyes, they are exceedingly sweet, precious, and pleasing to him. (p. 69-70)

–  The Hole in our Holiness- Keven DeYoung,  (bolded mine)

Taking Heart, Truth & Orthodoxy

A story for those who struggle

The point is, there are stories in the Bible, in history, and in our own lives that do not appear to have happy endings of cheerfulness. These too are not without hope and are designed by God’s sovereign and merciful wisdom for the hope of those who fear they are utterly alone in their misery… The examples of God’s patience in history will not serve their saving and sustaining purposes if we do not tell the stories—like the story of William Cowper. (The Hidden Smile of God, John Piper p 117)

There are times when people share their amazing stories of God’s spectacular display of power in their lives to deliver them from quickly and decisively from their difficulties and struggles- miraculous healings, prayers answered for the desire of their hearts. I hear those stories and praise God, encouraged that he is working and hears his people. But then there are the stories that leave me in tears, awestruck with no words, and wanting to worship. When I hear these I literally feel the weight of glory on my heart and am strengthened in my faith. They are stories of believers who have suffered much and say, “God was and is faithful” and they are stories of those still struggling today and in the midst of the pain desire to say the same.

I do not enjoy seeing others suffer, and I don’t think that knowing that God uses all things in the end for our good makes the experience of suffering less painful. But in the last year or so, I found that when sisters have talked about their struggles in faith and life, some cases in the midst of great inward trials, that even in my feeling their sadness with them, praying for their circumstances to change, something about their perspective would leave me refreshed, encouraged, and worshipful. They didn’t necessarily articulate this, but in what they did say it was evident that in their very real struggles they still desired to seek God and still believed that he was good. Though they prayed for change, their hope was not in what God could do but in God himself. All this even though they didn’t understand why, even though it was hard, even though sometimes they felt like they were barely hanging on. When I heard from them I could see God so clearly at work. Only God can do that in a person. Only God can give, sustain, and refine a faith that is more precious than gold (1 Peter 1:7)- that continues to believe God is good when the world would say to curse him.

I believe that the stories (testimonies) we tell and listen to as Christians shape the way we think about suffering and what we believe real faith looks like in trials. If most of the ones we hear are about sudden, miraculous deliverance from trouble and temptation in answers to prayer, that shapes our expectations and hopes a certain way along with the idea of what great faith is. If we only hear stories about how it “ended up okay in the end” but don’t see others acknowledging that it is hard to go through, that will also teach us to respond one way. Or if we only hear of those with mighty faith that never wavered, we can just automatically count ourselves out. I have seen the effects of an incomplete view of the Christian approach toward trials, temptations, and suffering on the lives of those around me shaped by such stories. There are those that walk away because they felt God didn’t pull through when they really believed that he would answer. There are some who live in shame believing that if they loved God enough and had enough faith then they wouldn’t face such great temptations, or inward trials, or have desires for things that God may not grant them. And there there are some, like me, hearing only stories of great perseverance and faith, often feel inspired but also discouraged just because my faith is not so great.
That is why personally, the stories that are the most strengthening for my own faith and lead me to worship most often are those that are about don’t look on the outside like they are victorious or end in decisive successes. They are also those that show temptation and trials for as hard as they really are and even to be expected for the Christian and in this life. They show those that aren’t strong in themselves to bear the hurt and pain. They show weakness and suffering accurately and still in them, that God works in a person to keep them calling out to him. In these stories of weak people (they are the ones I can relate to), God ends up being displayed as the only sufficient sustainer of faith. And they are precious to me because I struggle so much to trust God and they remind me that in the final equation, what matters is not freedom from inward temptation and struggles in this life, but the faithfulness of my God to help my weak faith in the sure promise that he is good and that when he returns, he will make all things right.

All this to say, if you’ve never read about the life of William Cowper, I highly recommend John Piper’s short biography of his life here: Insanity and Spiritual Songs in the Soul of a Saint or here:  The Hidden Smile of God  (book with short bio of Cowper, Bunyan, and Brainerd.) This blogpost has been in my head for a long time because of how much I wanted to recommend his bio and I wanted to articulate why it was so powerful for me to read it. William Cowper wrote one of my favorite hymns and many others- and he struggled with depression, suicidal thoughts (followed through with attempts), and despair throughout his whole life until the very end. The trials and suffering are so real and dark, but in it all there are glimpses of an even deeper hope.

Truth & Orthodoxy

There Really Is A Tree

This quote from Tim Keller’s new book Every Good Endeavor sums up well why in the past year or so, the vision and promise of the church as the future perfect Bride of Christ has constantly strengthened me to not lose heart in ministry. It explains why lyrics like “Dear dying Lamb Thy precious blood shall never lose it’s power til all the ransomed church of God be saved to sin no more!” have been so moving and Scripture like “‘O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” and 2 Corinthians chapters 1-5 have been so precious to me. The “tree” and “leaf” that Tim Keller writes about has to do with a story he summed up earlier, but the quote should make sense nonetheless:

Whatever your work, you need to know this:  There really is a tree. Whatever you are seeking in your work- the city of justice and peace, the world of brilliance and beauty, the story, the order, the healing- it is there. There is a God, there is a future healed world that he will bring about, and your work is showing it (in part) to others. Your work will only be partially successful, on your best days, in bringing that world about. But inevitably the whole tree that you seek- the beauty, harmony, justice, comfort, joy, and community- will come to fruition. If you know all this, you won’t be despondent because you can get only a leaf or two out of this life. You will work with satisfaction and joy. You will not be puffed up by success or devastated by setbacks. (p. 30)

And here’s another one that has to do with what I’ve been learning as a stay-at-home mom (I have been writing a blog post on this in my mind for a while now…):

Everyone imagines accomplishing things, and everyone finds him- or herself largely incapable of producing them. Everyone wants to be successful rather than forgotten, and everyone wants to make a difference in life. But that is beyond the control of any of us. If this life is all there is, then everything will eventually burn up in the death of the sun…Everyone will be forgotten, nothing we do will make any difference…Unless there is God. If the God of the Bible exists, and there is a True Reality beneath and behind this one, and this life is not the only life, then every good endeavor, even the simplest ones, purposed in response to God’s calling, can matter forever. (p. 29)

Looking forward to getting into this book more!

P.S. If you buy Every Good Endeavor right now from (link above), you get 70% off your first copy! $8.09! Whoohoo! I’m reading my copy right now.