This episode begins our second year of “Books that Spark.” In this episode we focus mostly on some wonderful books to help us as parents, grandparents, and caregivers in discipling our children and growing in our own faith.
Books Discussed in This Episode:
Welcome to “Books that Spark,” a podcast for parents and caregivers, celebrating books, that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussion, leading to teachable moments with our kids. We are so excited to be going into our second year of this podcast. I hope that it has blessed you, and I hope that you will continue to listen and share with your friends about this podcast. I have lined up several authors who will be sharing with us. My goal is to have at least one special guest each month throughout this year. We’re going to have some exciting giveaways. So please share with your friends, invite them to join in, especially if they are moms and dads who have young children who are wanting to live out their faith and teach their children their faith. That’s the focus of this podcast–discipling our children. God has given us our children to be good stewards of them and to raise them and to help them to have the legacy of our faith. Because that is the core focus of this podcast, today, we’re going to spend some time talking about some books that will help us in discipling our kids. Now we can use anything. We can use any situation, any picture book we’re reading with our children, anytime that we’re eating a meal together, or spending time together. Opportunities arise for us to grasp those moments and use them as teachable or defining moments in our kids’ lives. It’s not that you have to do it with every book, and it’s not that every important conversation is necessarily the gospel and spiritual things. Sometimes we’re teaching our children how to be good stewards or good citizens, or how to take care of the things that they have. We teach a lot of important ideals and important principles for life in those opportunities. That is at the core of everything we’re doing here at “Books that Spark,” and it’s the core of everything in my blog. My blog is usually written more for you as a parent or grandparent or caregiver and how you can live out your faith and grow in your walk with God and how we can be better disciples, better followers of Christ. So I’m glad you joined us today. Let’s get started. I have found some amazing books for parents that I think are life-changing books that can really bless us and bless our families. These books that I’m sharing right now are for the parents.
There’s a great book called Rediscovering Discipleship: Making Jesus’ Final Words Our First Work by Robby Gallaty. And I was so blessed to get to go to his conference based on this book where he talks about discipleship. Maybe you haven’t grown up in the church. Maybe you’re not familiar with what we mean by discipleship. And I will also say some churches call it spiritual formation. I want to just give you a word of warning. Some churches talk about “spiritual formation,” and they simply mean discipleship. Some churches talk about spiritual formation, and they are getting into some new age theology, mysticism, meditating, not as the Bible says, but more as an Eastern style of meditation. So just be aware. If you look at what they’re talking about, and if it’s just straight on discipleship, they’re teaching you the word of God and helping you to grow as a follower of Christ, fantastic! But just be aware that many of the churches right now are using the term “spiritual formation” to mean something very different from basic discipleship. That’s one thing I want to talk about today because there is, I guess you could say, a division in the church because there are some churches that have gone back into mysticism and a new age way of thinking, and they’re bringing it into the church and the church is buying into it. And there are so many people who are coming out of that now who have found the truth and have been set free from that deceit. And they’re disillusioned by the church. They’re disillusioned by Christianity. Some have walked away because they just don’t know what to do. Others are seeking to find the real God and seeking to really grow as a believer who truly is following Christ now. And they don’t know what church to trust. And so it has really been a dangerous thing. We need to pray for the church as a whole, for each other. We need to pray for discernment and we need to pray that people will be reading their Bibles and know what it truly says. If you hear a teaching, there’s just this catch in your spirit that something’s not right, then research it or walk away and ask someone who knows the word of God better than you if you feel like you don’t know it well enough to know if they are on target or they’re a little off target. I’ve been a Bible teacher and a Christian for many, many years, and I’ve been a missionary and a pastor’s wife. And there have been times that I’ve taught something that I just got a little off track and had to go back and say, “Wait, I didn’t express that quite right.” We all make mistakes. And we are called to have discernment, to test the spirits, and then to also make sure that we’re staying true to the word of God. And sometimes we get carried away, and we say things we shouldn’t, or we add to it. And we’re not supposed to do that. Be wise in how you are discipled, how you’re taught and how you teach your children. And be aware of who is teaching your children and what they are teaching them.
So Rediscovering Discipleship: Making Jesus’ Final Words Our First Work–this book has two parts. The first part is “Know the Man before You Go on the Mission.” And so it’s knowing God, understanding the Bible from a Hebrew perspective, and understanding what it means to be a follower of Christ and who we’re following. And then the second part is about the method of making disciples. One of the things that Robby talks about is that discipleship actually starts with sharing the gospel. It actually starts before someone becomes a Christian. And if you watch in the Bible and you look at the example of Jesus, that’s exactly what he did. He shared the truth with his disciples, even before they realized who he was or truly understood what it meant to be a follower. You see that throughout the gospels. So this book is excellent. If you’re just wanting an understanding what being a disciple is, some good ideas of how to share your faith with others, and how to disciple others.
Now, if you’re wanting a resource for just sharing the gospel with someone, I recommend The Three Circles method, I guess you could say, of sharing the gospel. It’s very clear. And of course you can make it your own. It’s not like you learn a pat script and that’s what you follow. But this tells you the important parts of the gospel that we need to make sure we include when we’re sharing the gospel. And sometimes we only share a partial gospel and we need to share the full gospel. For instance, we talk a lot about Jesus’ death on the cross. And sometimes we forget to talk about the resurrection and without the resurrection, without him rising from the dead, we don’t have the gospel because lots of people die, but only Christ rose from the dead victorious over sin and death, giving us the option to know God and to be in relationship with him and have our sins forgiven. So the book that goes along with this is called Turning Everyday Conversations into Gospel Conversations by Jimmy Scroggins and Steve Wright. It is a very good book, and they have videos on YouTube of how to share your faith that are just excellent. So if we’re going to start with some background, those are the two resources I would recommend for getting a good foundation of how to share the gospel and what it means to be a disciple and to disciple others.
There are some wonderful books that we can read as parents to help disciple our children. One I really like is The Disciple-Making Parent. This is written by Chap Bettis, and this is just an excellent book full of biblical wisdom. It’s a comprehensive guidebook for raising your children to love and follow Jesus Christ. The Disciple-Making Parent deals with some very important topics, and they’re broken down into many different sections. So it talks about how to teach your children about different ideals, teachings that we should be teaching them to help them be followers of Christ: “nourishing your children in the word, teaching, talking, making heart connection a priority, keeping your hearts connected by skillful communication, enjoying life but not loving the world.” It has “the power of prayer and praying for your children and then teaching your children to pray.” There’s three parts to this book. The first section is “Foundational Issues.” It says, “In allowing us to create life and raise another human being, God has gifted us with an awe-inspiring privilege and responsibility. Your beautiful baby is an image-bearer of God. He or she is made to glorify God and enjoy an eternity with Jesus Christ. That’s what you have created, not just a baby, but a person who will live forever in heaven or forever in hell. Contemplating eternity torpedoes shallow parenting philosophies. The great commission, the north star to ensure this mission was clear. Jesus gave his disciples what has been called the great commission. All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the father and of the son and of the holy spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you and behold, I am with you always to the very end of the age, Matthew 28:18-20.” And then it says, “The great commission is a call for followers of Jesus Christ to reach out to our world, to our towns, into our neighborhoods, but in the great commission, there is also a call to make disciples in our own families. Parenting is a commission to do all we can to raise our children to become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ. The foundational parenting text is not Ephesians 6:1-4 or Deuteronomy 6:4-9, as important as they are rather. It is Matthew 28:18-20.”
Another one is called First Ask Why: Raising Kids to Love God Through Intentional Discipleship. And it’s hard to know which one of these is the right one to say, “If you’re only going to buy one book, get this one.” But I almost feel like this would be the one I would say that about. Sherry Wildman wrote this. And it really spoke to me too. Often we ask how, and we do this in our churches all the time. This is how we wind up with just programs instead of really meeting the heart needs and issues of our people who are in our church, because we’re always asking how, how are we going to do this? But first we need to ask why. Why are we discipling our kids? Then we can look at the how a little more clearly once we have the why figured out. Let me read just a little bit for you. It says, “Why intentionality is important: There are many reasons to purposefully and proactively nurture the spiritual development of our children. But let me highlight two that have guided my thinking as I’ve raised my daughters. First, our culture needs Christian kids who grow into Christian adults who can shine the light of Jesus in a dying world. Just read the headlines. Our world is in bad shape, yet God isn’t surprised by what’s going on. As God’s people, we are called to bring hope. As a parent, I feel the weight of responsibility to raise up a new generation that can speak hope into the lives of peers, coworkers, and neighbors. I cannot quit in this endeavor. So I intentionally pour my efforts into nurturing my daughter’s faith for the sake of the gospel. Second, intentionality is critical because our kids won’t just get it through osmosis. They have to see us model our faith every day. As I said earlier, I can’t just leave discipleship to chance. I’ve got to show my kids that my faith is real, that God is at work, and that the gospel is true. I do this by choosing each day to model a genuine, authentic faith in God. As Paul Tripp says, ‘I don’t mean that parents should preach to their children in the Sunday morning sermon style. I mean, you should look every day for every opportunity to point your needy kids to the presence, promises, power and grace of Jesus. Discipling our kids means modeling what true faith looks like.” This is why I like this book so much. It speaks to the very heart of my passion in my life and why I’m even doing this podcast. Why I even write the books that I write and why this is so important.
I have two more parenting discipleship books I want to share with you. One is called Intentional Parenting: Family Discipleship by Design. This one is where you have more of a plan of how to disciple. It says, “The big picture and a simple plan–that’s what you need to do family discipleship.” This one deals with the need. It kind of follows the Deuteronomy idea of how we can disciple our kids “in the kitchen, in the living room, in the bedroom, time to engage.” And this one’s a little more that way. There’s a lot of just genuine realness in this book. It’s helping you to design how you want to disciple your child– what will work for discipling your child.
And the last book of this type that I want to share today is called Family Discipleship: Leading Your Home through Time, Moments, and Milestones by Matt Chandler and Adam Griffin. In this book, it talks about the family that disciples, the foundation of that, modeling your faith, time, moments, milestones, and capturing those teachable moments and those opportunities. We have to really pour into our kids’ lives the truth of God and the truth of who they are in Christ. I want to read from part three of this book, the modeling part, it says, “Family discipleship modeling: serving as a godly example for your family, living out your genuine walk with God, and demonstrating true repentance where and when you fall short, observing your daily ordinary example of life with God, following Christ, will have one of the most significant spiritually formative impacts on your child. Some of your best lessons as a parent are going to be habitually gleaned by your kids, as opposed to explicitly explained. What you think, say, and do, your attitudes and actions as a Christian man or woman, make a profound impression on what your sons and daughters will think, say, and do as they grow into maturity. Your conduct is a visual aid for your family’s gospel literacy. Your life well-lived, walking as Jesus walked, can be more influential than a hundred lectures about your beliefs. Of course, in order to model following Christ, you must be following Christ.” We cannot impart to our children what we don’t actually possess and own in our own lives. We can’t give what we don’t have. That’s vital. If we are not following Christ, if we are not living out our faith like we should be, we need to repent. We need to ask God to help us to be stronger in our faith and in our walk and to be more serious about what we’re trying to do. It’s not a game. And it’s so important that we are faithful and living out what we truly believe, that we’re in the word of God. I can’t emphasize that enough. If we don’t know the word of God, we can mislead our children.
Then we have some great books besides the Bible that can just teach and reiterate stories of the characters in the Bible, devotionals of who God is and who we are in him. There’s one called The Promises of God’s Storybook Bible. It’s “the story of God’s unstoppable love” by Jennifer Lyell and illustrated by Thanos Tsilis. And this one is more a character study of the main characters in the Bible. It starts out with creation and Adam and Eve and all that they went through. And then it goes to Noah and then to Abraham and goes through the different characters in the Bible and how God’s promise of the savior goes through the entire Bible, the need for a savior, and then the promise of a savior. And each of these stories flows into the other one. It’s not like, you know, you open it up and read one story. It just keeps going through the entire Bible and shows the promise of God going from the Old Testament through the New Testament and clarifies God’s plan.
There’s one more I’d like to recommend. It is Case for Christ for Kids. It’s a 90-day devotional by Lee Strobel with Jesse Florea. If you’ve read The Case for Christ, you know, the story of Lee Strobel, how he was an atheist, a very staunch atheist, and his wife became a Christian, and they nearly divorced over that. And then he tried to prove that Jesus wasn’t real and wound up proving that his resurrection was true. And this book is written for children. So for today’s devotional, I want to read an excerpt from this book.
Since we’re talking about discipleship, let’s read the one called “Follow His Example.” It says, “Does your family go to church? ‘Of course,’ you might think, ‘I’m reading this book aren’t I. Doesn’t that show I’m serious about my faith?’ While it may seem obvious to you that followers of Christ want to attend church, research shows that’s not always the case. Four out of five American adults call themselves Christians, but only about one out of five attend church on Sundays. Some say they’re too busy. Others had a bad experience and don’t want to go back. Best-selling Christian author Max Lucado has often said, ‘God loves you just the way you are, but he refuses to leave you that way.’ Part of growing as a Christian means acting more like Jesus. If we accept God’s forgiveness and don’t change, then something’s wrong. Becoming more Christ-like takes time, understanding, and encouragement. Some transformation can be worked out on your own through Bible study and prayer, but a key component of true life change comes only through church. Our journey to become more like Jesus goes better when we learn from a godly pastor and build relationships with other Christians.” He has a section at the end of that part called “Examine the Case.” “If you attended church as a child, you’ll probably go to church as an adult. It’s not automatic, but studies show it’s more likely. Numerous times in God’s word we’re instructed to gather with other believers. It benefits us and is also good for God’s body. And if you need another reason to attend church, then remember that Jesus went to worship services. You follow his example every time you go to youth group. Luke 4:16 tells us, ‘Jesus went to Nazareth where he had been brought up and on the Sabbath day, he went into the synagogue as was his custom.’ Notice the words ‘as was his custom.’ It was Jesus’ habit to be in God’s house with other believers. And it wasn’t like he had to. Jesus understood everything about God and his word. He wasn’t going to hear anything He didn’t already know. Still, He made a point to go to church. We should do the same. And we shouldn’t simply do it out of obedience. We ought to attend church with anticipation, expecting that it will change us to be more like Jesus. This week before you go to church, ask God to show you something new during the service. When you prepare your heart before stepping into God’s house, you may discover something unexpected.” And then “The Final Word” is a scripture: Luke 4:16, “Jesus went to Nazareth where he had been brought up and on the Sabbath day, he went into the synagogue as was his custom.”
Thank you for joining us for “Books that Spark,” a podcast celebrating books that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussions, as we disciple our children and help them to follow Christ with their whole hearts. If you have your favorite things that you like to use in discipling your kids, that you would like to share with us, please add them to the comments on my blog, on my website at TerrieHellardBrown.com. We can encourage one another as we all seek to follow Christ and help the children in our lives follow Him as well.
Links to Videos and Other Resources:
Terrie Hellard-Brown writes and speaks to help children and adults find God’s purpose and plan for their lives. She teaches workshops and writes devotional books, children’s stories, and Christian education materials.
Her podcast, Books that Spark, reviews children’s books that spark imagination, emotion, questions, and discussion leading to teachable moments with our kids. Her podcast posts each Tuesday morning.
Her blog posts are published each Thursday and discuss living as a disciple of Christ while discipling our children. She challenges us to step out of our comfort zones to walk by faith in obedience to Christ.
For more information, visit her website at terriehellardbrown.com
Terrie uses her experiences as a mother of four (three on “the spectrum”), 37 years in ministry (15 in Taiwan), and 32 years teaching to speak to the hearts of readers.
Her motto is “Growing older is inevitable; growing up is optional” and keeps her childlike joy by writing children’s stories, delighting over pink dolphins, and frequently laughing till it hurts.