Thursday, August 11, 2016

God Gave Us Thankful Hearts (children's book)

Lisa Bergren is the bestselling author of the God Gave Us... book series that usually feature a polar bear family learning about the many things God has given us. They're great books, and my kids have a few of them on their bookshelf.

She has a new book out this month just in time for the fall. It's called God Gave us Thankful Hearts. It features a new illustrator and new protagonists, a wolf family. The story involves a little wolf pup who's sad about the changing seasons and his friends going into hibernation for the winter. His mama teaches him that even when things don't go the way we want them to, God has given us much to be thankful for.

I read it to my 3- and 4-year-old kids and they enjoyed it. I'd ask them questions throughout and they showed they were following right along. They love reading with dad, but I'm pretty sure they liked the book too.

As dad, I'm glad the kids were taken in with all the pictures. The polar bear books sometimes lack a lot of detail (the arctic isn't exactly a splash of color), but these ones were packed with it. There were animals on every page and colorful backgrounds that hit all my fall nostalgia buttons. They live in a log cabin, rake leaves, walk through the woods, go fishing, go through a corn maze, and pick apples at an orchard, which they then turn into caramel apples.

I highly recommend this book. It breaths new life into the series and was a joy to read to my kids.

I received this book from the publisher for the purpose of review.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

A little book on discipleship

Some years ago Mark Dever, senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., wrote Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, which has grown into a ministry aimed at helping believers develop these nine characteristics in their churches. This ministry recently launched the 9Marks: Building Health Churches series. The books are made up of a little over 100 pages and are intended to provide a short, readable overview of each of the nine marks.

Discipling: How to Help Others Follow Jesus is the newest title in this series and was written by Dever himself. In it he answers the question, What does it look like to help others become more like Christ? To do this, he breaks the book up into three sections addressing the what, where, and how of discipling. Dever boils discipleship down to the basic idea of “deliberately doing spiritual good to someone so that he or she will be more like Christ” (p.13). He advocates for the primacy of the local church in discipling, and then rounds out the book with some solid principles for going about it.

I like these “back-to-the-basics” kinds of books, especially as a ministry leader. It’s so easy to get into the rut of how things have always been done or to be swamped by day-to-day responsibilities that we fail to step back and see the bigger picture. I need to be reminded to step back and assess how what I’m doing compares with what I ought to be doing. All those competing responsibilities mean time is tight. Being able to read a book like this in a day or two is refreshing and lets me do a quick course correction that a big, thick book on theology doesn’t.

The most impactful part of the book for me was the last chapter, where Dever talks about the importance of raising up leaders. He gives special emphasis to advancing trust and delegating responsibility. Pastors are charged with guarding the doctrinal integrity of their churches, and this can lead them to be too controlling over who can lead a small group or how independent others can be in their decision-making.

In short, I recommend the book in particular and the series as a whole. Besides, anything by Mark Dever is worth reading.

I received this book from the publisher for the purpose of review.