REVIEW: The Preschooler's Bible

Publisher David C Cook has a new story book Bible, The Preschooler's Bible. I was given a copy to review on my blog, and the publisher will also give-away a copy to one of this blog's readers.


Some things I appreciated about this storybook Bible:
  • Breadth of stories (101 in all)
  • Semi-realistic artwork (even my children remarked, "They all have dark skin.")
  • The questions at the end of each story fosters discussion between parent (or teacher) and child
  • Reference guide that is organized by who God is and what He does


Here are some things that didn't suit my fancy:
  • Missing the point of stories; for example, Noah and the ark becomes a story of man's obedience, and doesn't mention that the flood is a consequence for man's sin
  • Feminine, winged, & wimpy angels  
  • Many of the stories and the reference list of character values tends to have a feel of man-centeredness and moralism


As I've said before, I'm not a huge fan of storybook Bibles. Although the short stories and simple concepts can engage the young mind, it's important to include higher-level teaching when instructing and reading to children.

That being said, The Preschooler's Bible can be an effective tool for parents and teachers, as long as they add to or change some of the moralistic teaching. In addition, this storybook Bible can be a good "early reader" book for those children who are learning to read; (my almost-six-year-old son enjoys reading it on his own or aloud).

If you want a chance to win a free copy of this storybook Bible, leave a comment by Friday, November 2nd. Be sure that I have your email address (see my contact info if you need to send me a message).

If you don't win, or want to buy more copies, you can your own copy of The Preschooler's Bible through this Amazon link.

Related Links: 

Should Kids Have "Best" Friends?

If you asked our daughter if she has a "best friend," she would immediately name a girl whom we used to live across the street from. They had spent many afternoons playing together and many nights of stay-up-late sleepovers. They even have matching shirts that proclaim that they're BFFs. Since we moved three hours away, they don't see each other as much, but still stay connected through email and letters.

But Hannah has also made friendships with other girls in Allendale. And she has friends from our church back in Greenville that she gets to see when we have a weekend visit, or during student ministry retreats. While she enjoys their friendships, she is not tightly connected with any of them.

Is that a good thing? I wonder. Is it better to have "best" friends, or is it better for kids (and adults for that matter) to have a larger group of friends?

For the sake of perspective, I have to recognize that I come to this issue from the experience of never having a "best" friend before my wife. I never felt a need for in-depth friendship. I'm not saying I was right or wrong; it's just how it was for me.

Having a "Best" Friend

To be honest, I regularly felt (and sometimes still do) a bit envious when I hear others talk about the close friendships they have, or when I see (through the window of Facebook) so-and-so's latest weekend with old college pals.

There is something in me that yearns for community and intimacy with others. That desire for community has been crafted in us; we are relational beings created in the image of a relational God (Genesis 1:27). We are created for community -- for mutual love, accountability, and encouragement (Hebrews 10:24-25).

But two cautions come to mind:
  1. Don't let community with others take the place of your community with God, even a fraction thereof. No horizontal relationship (friendships, marriage, etc) can ever meet our deepest needs and expectations. 
  2. Don't let your spiritual maturity be dependent on human community. What will happen if and when those friends are no longer around you? What if you move, or have a falling out? If you find it hard to make new friends, you might have been overly dependent on that "community."

No "Best" Friend(s)

As I said, this is my background, so I can speak a little more from experience. While part of me felt like I was missing something by not having closer friendships, I also saw it's advantages.

Not being overly-connected with a few specific friends made it easier for me to fit in when I was around a variety of people. In elementary school, high school, and college, I had friends from all kinds of groups -- athletes, preps, academics -- you name it.

But what I had to realize was that I was missing out on community. There were certain seasons in my life (especially after college) where I knew I needed to specifically had to move towards other men. Sometimes it was asking a man to mentor me, and sometimes it was asking a peer to get together monthly to talk about life. Since 2000, I can think of at least 5 men that I met with regularly, for a season (usually 1-2 years,but one was for about 6 years). I look back on those times with fondness, knowing that they gave me community that I sorely needed.

Friends Are Great, But Jesus Is Better

There is nothing wrong with you or your child having a best friend. In fact, it can be a great thing, and to not have intimate community can be a sign of independence and pride. Rick Warren wrote,"The person who says, 'I don't need the church,' is either arrogant or ignorant." (I quoted this in this post about being a part of a church family.)

But consider whether that friendship is centered around the gospel. In Community Is Formed and Sustained by the Gospel, authors Tim Chester and Steve Timmis caution us to not try to "do" community:

Sometimes people place a big emphasis on the importance of community and neglect the gospel Word. Community then becomes a goal toward which we work. But Peter says human activity cannot create life that endures. An exclusive focus on community will kill community. It is only the Word of God that creates an enduring community life and love.

Here are a few questions for you to ponder (and to help your child think through):
  • For those who do have "best" friends: 
    • When a trouble comes up, do you first turn to God or to friends?
    • Are you content being alone? When was the last time you had a time of extended solitude?
  • For those who don't have "best" friends:  
    • When a trouble comes up, do you first turn to God, or do you first try to solve the problem yourself?
    • When was the last time you were vulnerable with someone else, by sharing your dreams and hurts?
"As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another."  Proverbs 27:17

Related Link:
**image courtesy of lorenkerns via flickr

PHOTOS: South Carolina State Fair

Last year was my first trip to the South Carolina State Fair in 18 years. I predicted that it wouldn't be that much longer until my next time.

This past Saturday, I proved myself right.

We spent about 5 hours at the fair, and had another fun and not-to-expensive time, due to:
  • Free admission (again, due to our kids being 4-H members), 
  • Buy-one-get-one-free rides until 1PM,
  • Being with grandparents. We got rid of allowed Elijah to spend the weekend with them, too.
  • Completely-unhealthy lunch and snacks. The best was the steak quesadilla from the booth run by the local restaurant San Jose's.


Here are 10 more photo memories:

On the Crazy Mouse. After Hannah screaming, "I don't want to do this!" 12 seconds into the ride, she enjoyed it.

After getting off the Tilt-a-Whirl, Sender's first words were, "I hated it."

Climbing up the Fun Slide. Elijah won the race down.

The kids helped hold the flag as it was being raised.

Hannah and Elijah going up on the Sky Ride.

Sender and I followed behind.

My wife and my parents down below.

Joanna brought some artwork by kids from Allendale. Here's one piece by a kindergarten student.

The hat Hannah sowed won 1st place!

Somehow, all three of the ceramic plates our kids made won 2nd place. Tie?

Can I convince my kids to not go next year?

The Bible Is NOT an Instruction Manual

In Judaism, the Scriptures are revered. When I went to a Hebrew private school for four years, I was taught to never to place anything on top of the Bible, or to put it on the floor. And instead of throwing away an old Bible, you were to bury it.

Christians can also have a similar respect for the Bible, though not usually in the same forms I described above for Judaism. But we surely think highly of the Bible, or why would have so fourteen copies of it in our homes?

But I think we also can put too much of an emphasis (or, rather, a wrong emphasis) on this book. We can argue whether it is The Inerrant, Infallible, Inspired Word of God, but let’s not change its purpose.

It concerns me to hear pastors, leaders, and parents teach, "The Bible is God's instruction manual." Why? Because this misses the big picture of His story. It aims to make the Bible about us, instead of about Jesus. God’s word is the revelation of His plan of creating, sustaining, and redeeming the world for His glory.

This Bible is not an instruction manual, like a textbook. If your child wants to learn math, he needs his math book. If you want to find some new art projects, get on Pinterest. If you want to fix your washing machine, check out YouTube. But don’t use the Bible as your easy-fix-it reference guide.

If you are hiking or camping, you probably want some field guides, to help you identify plants and animals, so that you can be safe. But don't think you can live a safe and moral life by using the Bible as your pocket guidebook. You live a moral life by surrendering to the will of Jesus, not by being able to look up Bible verses in a concordance.

And on this topic, let’s also not reduce Jesus, and put Him in a safe and helpful box. "How's that?" you ask?

Do you want to know the only thing worse than an atheist who reduces Jesus to a great moral teacher? A Christian who reduces Jesus to a great moral teacher.

Related Links:

**image courtesy of ba1969 via

Thoughts on Halloween for a Christian Parent


Last year around Halloween, we were part of 3 trunk-or-treat events in Allendale. As I wrote last year, this was a great way to connect with our community.

But I know that Christians have mixed thoughts about this holiday. These perspectives run the gamut of:
  • Halloween is a pagan holiday, so we should not celebrate it.
  • Halloween is just a fun thing for kids, so don't sweat it at all.
  • Let's tweak and Christian-ize Halloween so our kids can dress up and get candy, while we can also find a way to attach God's truth to it.

Do you agree? Are there other perspectives of Halloween?

Here are some articles I read in 2011 to help think through what this means for your family:

Hallowing Halloween (from Ministry Matters)

Gives a good history of Halloween, including the intersection with Christianity. Then, gives five ideas to help you hallow Halloween. This article concludes with,
All Hallow's Eve is your opportunity to focus on the powerful theme of life in the presence of God, both now and forever. Then Halloween again becomes a hallowed time of joyful community on earth now, and a reminder of the promise of life in heaven. Its time to put the "Hallow" back in All Hallow's Eve.

Halloween and Hot Chocolate (from Family Matters)

I've seen this idea before -- providing hot cocoa in one's garage -- which gives a chance to serve and connect with the adults who are taking kids trick-or-treating.
If we want to foster community and have influence where God has placed us, we have to first believe and behave like we want community with those around us!

Sent into the Harvest: Halloween on Mission (from Desiring God)

You'll be challenged by considering these 30+ "What if" questions, including:
  • What if dads led their households in a fresh approach to Halloween as Christians on mission?
  • What if those of us taking this fresh approach to Halloween recognized that Christians hold a variety of views about Halloween, and we gave grace to those who see the day differently than we do?
  • What if we hallowed Jesus at Halloween by pursuing gospel advance and going lovingly on the attack?
  • What if we resolved not to join the darkness by keeping our porch lights off?
  • What if thinking evangelistically about Halloween didn’t mean just dropping tracts into children’s bags, but the good candy? 

For more thoughts on Halloween, check out My Halloween Theory, by Tim Challies. He gives three reasons why this holiday has surged in popularity, the chief of which is a longing for community.

Related Link:

The Cripplegate: For Non-Conformists Like Me

I seem to always be slow on the trends. I'm not just talking about fashions, since I don't even register on that scale at all. But what do you expect for a guy whose standard apparel in college was shorts, t-shirt, socks, and sandals?

I'm behind on things like technology. During my first year of college, my roommate and I didn't have an answering machine. We didn't have a DVD player until November 2006. I got my first cell phone in 2007.

I'm behind on books. Something in me almost refuses to read popular books. I didn't peruse books like The Prayer of Jabez, A Purpose Driven Life, and Radical until 3 or 4 years after their peak. I find pleasure in being out of the popular path. Or, maybe I just like being hard-headed.

I recently came across a new blog, called the Cripplegate. The first thing that appealed to me was that it bucked common beliefs. It's written by a team of Christ-followers who present theological ideas, many of which do not conform to "tradition."

Here are a sampling of posts. I hope you will enjoy them as much as I do.

Whom Shall I Fear? Rescuing Daniel from the Children's Books 
The great impression on Darius was not Daniel’s example, Daniel’s faith or Daniel’s courage, but rather the sovereign God that Daniel served.   Do you fear and tremble before a sovereign God?  Is that what you usually think of when you think of Daniel and the Lions’ den?  I’m all for helping kids get a good night’s sleep, but let’s not be satisfied with answering the question “Where’s God when I’m afraid?”  Let’s ask the more important question, “Who’s afraid of my God?”

A Message for Vanderbilt's Leadership
This demonstration of white collar persecution has succeeded in lighting a fire under their faith. Essentially, you have brought the gospel to life for them. You have turned these students into fervent prayers for Vanderbilt, interceding for the students there and for the gospel. You have provoked them into becoming fervent evangelists. They know now first hand that they are surrounded by people who are alienated from God.

Reliable Source Reveals November's Election is Already Fixed
What is this reliable source?  — the Bible.  And no, I am not advocating some secret code contained in Scripture.  I’m sure if you rearranged the letters in some verse in the book of Revelation, you could spell Mitt Romney, Barack Obama or Cap’n Crunch!  No, the Bible does not reveal who the next president will be, but it does reveal that the outcome has already been fixed by a sovereign God.

When the Misson Becomes Protesting
At the end of the day, the church must mourn over the rampant sin in our nation, including abortion. However, let’s trust our Lord by sticking to his mission (disciple-making) with his prescribed methods of teaching the word and gospel-centered, day-in day-out ministries through the local church as our best approach to this and every other issue. It will be through individual lives changed by the gospel that people will choose life instead of abortion.

Be a Part of a Local Church

From The Purpose Driven Life (Rick Warren), Day 17:
"The person who says, 'I don't need the church,' is either arrogant or ignorant. The church is so significant that Jesus died on the cross for it."

Warren goes on to give another 6 Biblical reasons why you need a church family:
  1. A church family identifies you as a genuine believer. (John 13:35)
  2. A church family moves you out of self-centered isolation. (I Corinthians 12:26)
  3. A church family helps you develop spiritual muscle. (Ephesians 4:16)
  4. The Body of Christ needs you. (I Corinthians 12:7)
  5. You will share in Christ's mission in the world. (Ephesians 2:10)
  6. A church family will help keep you from backsliding. (Hebrews 3:13)
Here's a question to ask yourself:
"Does my level of involvement in my local church demonstrate that I love and am committed to God's family?"

Related Link:

"Nothing Sexual"

Lego people and sex. Yeah, this is going to be a good post.

So, two of our kids are playing with their immense Lego collection. Apparently, they made a house, and one said something about putting the boy and girl being in the same bed. The other one said, "OK, but nothing sexual."

My wife heard this as she worked on the computer (I was reading to the third child). She pulled me aside and explained what happened. And she turned it over to me.

So I pulled aside Child to talk. It took some prodding to get Child to remember and repeat what was said. Our conversation continued something like this:

Child:  I think I said, "Nothing sexual."
Me:  Do you know what that word means?
Child: I think it has something to do with love and marriage.
Me: You're right. But it's more than that. Where did you hear it from?
Child:  I guess I just heard it around.
Me:  From other kids?
Child:  Yeah. Is it an inappropriate word?
Me:  No. It's not inappropriate. But God does want sexuality to stay in the context of love and marriage. Some people treat it outside of marriage, and that is not honoring and pleasing to God. But inside of marriage, it's a wonderful thing. Does that make sense?
Child:  Yes.
Me:  So, we can talk about it. Nothing to be embarassed about. But it's probably not best to use it in front of other kids. OK?
Child:  OK. Can I go play now?
Me:  Sure.

Should I have been upset that my kids picked this up from their peers? No way. As with this Birds and Bees conversation, we see conversations about sexuality as one bigger conversation, that continues over years and years.

Related Links:

Favorite Tweets for September

Hope you had a wonderful month. As you can tell (from the picture to the right), our family is warmed up and ready to rumble.

Here are some favorite Tweets from the past month. You can follow me at @EspinosaJoey.

From Others:

@DavidAllstonDo you spend more time criticizing politicians than you do praying for them? If so, you are missing the point and disobeying Jesus  

@jamesmacdonaldIf u can't pick the fruit, don't bruise it - only God can ripen a person's heart to the Gospel. Vid podcast: 

@JimGaffigan"Checking Twitter" is Internet for "Wasting Time." 

@mwbuckingham At work, the difference between time and money is that, while you spend both, 
you can never earn more time. 

@MoneyTrailGiving your kids an allowance can save you money in the long run via

@givethemgrace:  The best example we can give is one of repentant sinner. We don't have it all together, kids know it, show them where to run when we fail.

@ChrchCurmudgeonWorship team practice. Vocalists are working on their "pained grimace" look.

@JamieTheVWM:   If you only love people when things are going your way... well... you're like a child - because that's what a *child* does. #GrowUp

From Me:

Picking up a kid on the team to take him to school. Missed the bus. My Buick is like a taxi nowadays. #happy

2 weeks ago, I thought I jammed a finger. Turns out I tore a tendon in my knuckle. I'm such a klutz, I get hurt COACHING football.

This gap in assistance for #adoption needs to be closed.

My seatmate, Jahmarion, borrowing my hat on the way to the game. Go #AFTigers

Hannah's choice for dinner = Chinese take out.

Jon Stewart on 'Mrs. Jesus' // Thanks for this laugh,