Star Wars Theology

When I get to heaven, I’m gonna ask God if I can be C3-P0.

–Little Man (nearly 6)

Right after that, he made this Lego sculpture of C3-P0:

Note: If you came in search of actual Star Wars theology, I’m sorry to disappoint. But please check out this article that does discuss Star Wars Theology.

How to choose a Children’s Bible

There are nearly as many children’s Bibles out there as there are children. Well, perhaps that’s a slight exaggeration, but the fact is, trying to pick one out can be overwhelming. Or, underwhelming, once you start looking at them more carefully. There are so many options, and so few of them are good. I thought I’d share with you a few of the factors I look at when choosing a Children’s Bible, and then a couple of recommendations for good ones.

1. Is it interesting to your kids? If the kids don’t like it, the remaining questions here are null and void. If it won’t hold your interest it’s not worth the paper it’s printed on.

2. Is the content accessible to their ages? In other words, can they understand the language? Are the stories the right length for them?

3. Which content is there? Which stories are included? Children’s bibles range from lots of stories to just a few. Some children’s bibles – even the extensive ones – will limit themselves to the ‘easy’ stories, the ones that are easy to put at a child’s level. Others include the harder stories – like the crucifixion and other less happy topics. (And why is it that children’s bibles so seldom have the story about the donkey God made talk? Kids love that.)

4. Does the theology gel with yours? Any time you work with a paraphrase of the bible there will be room for an interpreter’s slant to come in. Some bible are equally applicable to Santa, Superman, and the Fairy Godmother as they are to God. Does the faith you want to instill come through in the text?

So, given those considerations, these are the 3 children’s bibles we love (age recommendations are mine, and might not correspond to the publishers’):

Toddlers

Each of the 17 stories in God is Great takes a 2-page spread with 8-10 lines of text – just enough for my toddler to digest. Each story focuses on one attribute of God – He was here in the beginning, He protects us, Nothing is too hard for God, and so on. The illustrations are delightful and I love how the focus is constantly on God. What’s more? My toddler loves it. (Ages 1-3)

 

Pre-K, Early Elementary

The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name is my all-time favorite children’s bible. I had a pastor once who said that everything in the bible is about Jesus, even if it’s not about Jesus. It either prepares people for him, foretells his birth and life, or defines a need for him. I didn’t fully understand that until I started reading this to my kids. It opens up a whole new outlook on redemptive history. Why else do I love this one? My kids love it. Bean read it cover to cover when she was 5, and she still likes to flip through the pages and re-read her favorite stories. Little Man takes it to school with him, asks me to read it at bedtime, and wakes up wanting to hear more. It covers tough topics – things parents might want to skip over when their little ones are really little, but tells every story framed in hope and thanksgiving for the God who loves us with a Never stopping, never giving up, always and forever love. (Ages 3-6)

Elementary

Someone gave us the NIrV Read with Me Bible when we were overseas in Moldova. I had low expectations, since I’d already found the Jesus Storybook Bible. And it’s true – this Bible doesn’t “whisper his name” like the Jesus Storybook Bible, but my kids preferred it for a good long time, and as it turns out, it’s a pretty great bible. It has 106 stories, which is huge as far as children’s bibles go. The illustrations are phenomenal, and the stories are told in a way that’s accessible, thorough, and engaging to young readers. (Ages 5-8)

Providence in retrospect

According to Crossway’s blog on their newly released book, Amazing Grace, “We often see the pattern of providence only in retrospect. We are often so overcome by grief or anger about our circumstances that we struggle to see how these experiences fit into God’s plan for us. Remember the story of Joseph? Surely Joseph wondered about the goodness of a God who allowed all of those things to happen to him. And yet through those trials, God raised up Joseph and saved the entire nation of Israel.”

Amen to that. (Month 27 of hubb’s unemployment)

Update: 1 week after I posted this, hubbs got a job offer. Providence.

Game changer

Hubbs is working on his MDiv now, and loving classes. Sometimes he brings home really cool things to share. Today was one of those days. In his Pastoral Counseling class his professor has a 20-something year old son with autism. Apparently his brain function is closest to that of a 7-year old.

One day dad was riding a bike with his son – it’s a two-seater, so they’re both on the same bike – dad in the front, and son in the back. As they were going around a turn the back wheel hit a patch of sand and started to slide. Dad leaned out of it to keep the bike up, but his son panicked and leaned toward the ground, struggling against dad. Dad finally brought them to a wobbly stop and turned to his son. With an angry face his son said “Dad! Don’t you ever do that to me again!”

The point of the story is that we’re all spiritually autistic. When we hit a patch of sand, God is in control. But so often we struggle against Him, fighting to regain control on our own – and remarkably mistaken. And we have the audacity to challenge the Creator of the universe – Why would you do that to me? Don’t put me through that again!

Hearing that was a game changer for me. How easy it is to think that I call the shots. “Ok God, I’m through with this. Time to change the scene. Time to ‘fix’ this and make it all better. But in reality, I’m the spiritually autistic kid, struggling against God’s sovereignty, against His power, and against His plan.

It’s time to sit back and enjoy the ride. Sway with Him through those turns instead of against Him. It’s time to follow His lead.

Paradigm shift in foster care

Years ago I read about a church in Woodstock Georgia that was disheartened by the foster care problem in their county. In fact, they were so moved that they made it their mission to provide sufficient foster families for all the kids in the county. And if memory serves correctly, they did. I always wondered how they did that, and what would happen if more churches took that approach.

Last week I came across Faith Bridge – they’re turning the way foster care is done upside down. It’s a church based model that connects families in a community-centric model. The goal is keep foster kids from moving around so much by provide support networks for foster families. How cool is that? I’m not sure if they’re behind that Woodstock, Georgia story I read, but I know they work in and around Woodstock now.

I never thought foster parenting would be something I could handle. But if I were in a community like this, I think I just might…

What do you think, part 2

I asked a few questions in my last post about God. And I got back a couple of answers, but I’m afraid a lot of people won’t like some of the answers I have to offer. Let’s look at it:

  1. Does God love everyone? Well, that’s a trick question really. Every creature on this planet is His creation, and as such God does love every single one of us, no matter how wretched and sinful. At the same time, there is plenty of scripture to attest that God has a special love for those whom He calls to himself.  Romans 3:19 (quoting Malachi 1:3) is a perfect example: “As it is written, ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.’” Psalm 11:5 says “The Lord tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.”  Telling the unrepentant they’re loved unconditionally by God is on one hand accurate, but on the other hand wholly misleading. We see love in human terms – when you love someone you’ll serve them, you won’t treat them in certain ways, your actions with them are limited by your love for them. God, however, is unlimited by His love. In other words, His righteous and unconditional love for us does not hinder Him from sending rain on the just and the unjust. His ever-pursuing love is reserved for the ones He has called to Himself though.
  2. Is salvation available to all people? Hmmm…  another trick question. There are Biblical scholars on both sides of this, meaning there is scripture to support both a yes and a no answer. I’d suggest, however, that the strongest Scripture lies on the side of No. I think my understanding of it is correct, but I welcome you to search God’s Word on your own and come to your own conclusion. Here’s how I see it. First off, man is completely sinful. Man is so sinful that he is incapable of choosing God on His own. God has to first draw us to Himself, otherwise we cannot choose Him. (1 John 4:19, John 6:44, 65, Rom. 8:29-30) He chooses who to call based purely on His righteous and just will, not based on anything we can do. The flip side is that there are others who He does not call to Himself and without that call, they cannot be brought into a redemptive relationship with Him. (1 Pet. 2:7-9) Therefore, salvation is not available to all.
  3. Does God get angry? And if so, at whom? God has a wholly righteous anger that we usually prefer not to think about. It’s just more pleasant to think of God as a warm fuzzy teddy bear sort of god who’s full of all things pleasant. And warm and fuzzy. His anger is directed not just at child molesters and mass murderers. Look at Isaiah 1. God gets angry when His people turn away from His will, when they reject His statutes. I’m afraid I’m guilty of that – I ignore the things that break His heart while I focus on whether or not I caught the last episode of Grey’s Anatomy. Does that mean I’m an object of His wrath? I’m afraid so, and woe to him who doesn’t fear God! At the same time, I find solace that I’m also an object of mercy before an ever-loving God. These are things I can’t take lightly, though it’s hard to keep them in mind when I’m surrounded by Tivo, Nordstrom’s semi-annual shoe sale, and other mundane things that attract my attention.
  4. Does God hear all prayers? According to Isaiah 59:2 our iniquities have separated us from God so much so that He doesn’t hear our prayers. (That is why we need His grace to redeem us and forgive our sins, so that He will listen to our prayers)
  5. Is God jealous? Yes, He expects our first and our best. Nothing else will do. If we love our spouse more than we love God, He is offended by that. If we love our children more, He is offended by that. Again, it’s easy to think of God as a friendly Santa Claus type with a jolly grin and arms open to all, but I’m afraid our culture – and even our Christian culture and our seeker-friendly churches – reduces God to a mere fraction of who He really is. He is Holy and righteous. He is jealous and angered by complacency.

You can agree with me on these things or not – it won’t hurt my feelings. My only hope is that if you haven’t considered them, look it up and see what you think after reading the Scriptures. If you’re looking for more verses, I’d point you here. It’s well laid-out and relatively easy to follow, I think.

What do you think?

Once upon a time, when I was going through real Life Issues this blog had thoughtful posts full of all the things that are truly important in life. Lately though, I’ve been immersed in work and the ho-hum day to day ongoings. I’ve been too busy to post most days, and when I do post it’s an innocuous (but hopefully at least mildly entertaining) something or other about my kids. Don’t get me wrong. They are entertaining and they fill my days with all sorts of meaning and joy). But I wonder… would you indulge me a minute to talk about things that matter?

My fear is that more people believe in pop Christianity than in what the Biblical truth. We have an image of God as a Santa Clause in the sky, the nicest guy we could ever imagine, or some hip sandal-footed saint who speaks softly and is filled with all types of warm fuzzies.

  1. Does God love all people?
  2. Is salvation available to all people?
  3. Does God get angry? And if so, does He get angry at his flock, or just the mass murdering types?
  4. Does He hear all prayers?
  5. Is God jealous?

Prayers from little lips

I have no real theological backing for this, but I really believe that there’s a special place in God’s heart for the prayers of little children. My kids fight over who gets to say grace at dinner time, and recently they’ve started watching Boz, a big green bear similar to Barney, only Christian. There’s a prayer at the end of ever Boz that they’ve memorized and they say that before ad libbing their own. It goes like this:

Thank you God as this day ends, for our family and our friends. Taking time to sit and pray, thank you God for this great day.

Then they name specific things that they’re thankful for from the day. Well, I was sitting in Bean and Bruiser’s room nursing Bruiser in the middle of the night when Bean started crying in her sleep. I gently shh-ed her, she quieted down, and then in a very distressed voice she whined the prayer. Followed by incoherent mumbling. It’s obvious to me that she had a nightmare, but I don’t know if the prayer was a part of the nightmare or her response to it. After all, I have tried to teach her to pray when she has a bad dream. Still, as I finished nursing Bruiser I went back to my room with a smile on my face. Apparently something we’re teaching her is sinking in.

And tonight as I was putting Little Man to bed he wanted to pray. And do you know what that sweet boy prayed for? He thanked God for his “great mommy,” his “great big mommy.” Hmm.

From the mouth of babes

Phobias bring nightmares, and that’s something we have a lot of in our house, especially with Bean.

We’ve found that praying with her usually helps calm her, so that’s what I did last night around midnight when she was in a tizzy over the ‘voices’ (bubbles from the humidifier). When we finished praying though, she asked (drumroll, please)

“Mama, can God stay with me tonight?”