Bringing Big Doctrines Down to Kid Size

How can we teach Bible doctrine to children in ways that they can understand?

By Crystal Bowman

CrystalBowman100As a Christian children’s author, my main message to children is that God loves them and cares about them very much. But I believe children can understand some deeper biblical truths as well. The word ‘doctrine’ describes what we believe and why. So how can we teach Bible doctrine to children in ways that they can understand?

  • Is God Real? Children can be taught that there’s a God in heaven, but we can go deeper when we explain the evidence of God’s existence in nature. In Our Daily Bread for Kids (Discovery House) I wrote a devotional “Can You See It?” which explains that even though we cannot see the wind, we can see what it does. Wind blows a sailboat across a lake. It blows the leaves on a tree and carries a kite through the air. Children understand these examples from everyday life. In the same way, we know God is real because we can see what He does. We can look at the sun, moon, and stars He created. We can see God’s beauty in rainbows and sunsets, and we can see His power in a mighty ocean. Children can have a greater awareness of God’s existence by learning to see Him in the world around them.

 

  • What Is Grace? The way to teach grace is to help children understand that God already loves us and we don’t have to earn His love. God gives us blessings we don’t deserve. It’s like getting a present when it’s not your birthday, or getting an A even though you got the answers wrong. One of my picture books Do You Love Me More? features a child who is trying to do everything right to earn God’s love. The mother finally explains to the child that God already loves him, but by doing good things we can show God that we love Him back.

 

  • What Is Faith? When teaching a concept such as faith, a writer needs to give examples of what that looks like, since concepts are concrete objects. Noah had faith when God told him to build a boat even though it had never rained. Abraham had faith when God told him to move to another country, even though God didn’t tell him where to go. Through sharing stories like these, children can learn what it means to have faith and trust in God.

Of course, there are many others Bible doctrines that young children can understand if they are taught with age-appropriate examples and kid-friendly language. Whether it’s kids’ devotionals, Bible story books, or picture books, writers can reach little children with big doctrines by using carefully chosen words—and that’s one of the challenges of writing for children!   

CrystalBowman100Crystal Bowman is a former preschool teacher, award-winning author, national speaker, and Mentor for MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers). She has written more than 100 books for children, three books for women, numerous magazine articles, and Bible study materials. She also writes stories for Clubhouse Jr. magazine and lyrics for children’s piano music.

She has written books for many popular children’s series, such as Little Blessings, The Berenstain Bears, and I Can Read. She is the co-author of Our Daily Bread for Kids, Our Daily Bread for Preschoolers, My Mama and Me, and M is for Manger. She and her husband enjoy living in both Florida and Michigan (wherever the weather is best!)

 

 

 

 

Most Significant Books Part 1

a3-thin-copy-973-x-200I follow the A3 blog-“Almost An Author.” Several weeks ago a post challenged me to list the ten most significant books I have read. At first I thought of that question “If you were stranded on an island alone what three books would you want to have with you?” I would have extreme difficulty picking just three, I think.

So I started my list. I quickly thought of ten, then another one, then two more…you get the picture. I scanned the spines of almost every book On My Shelf and finally settled on the list that follows.

Most of them are not about writing. They are about living. I hope you’ll be challenged to read a few of them for yourself. If you do, please let me know on my Facebook author page or by email at jean@jeanmatthewhall.com.

AND please share with us (in a comment) or (on my Facebook author page) a few titles that have impacted your life.

Roughly half the list follows. The next half will be right here waiting for you next Tuesday. Thanks for reading and for sharing your thoughts.

book-1209805_1280The Bible

God’s infallible, authoritative Word is the guide for my life. It lead me to salvation in Christ, and is the source of (hopefully) all of my decisions, and shapes my belief system and my worldview.

 

 

Disciplines of the Beautiful Woman by Anne Ortlund51fksy6rcpl-_sx316_bo1204203200_1

Helped me to organize and prioritize my life and my choices into three areas (God, Family, Others) which I later refined as two priorities; (1) My relationship and responses to Christ; (2) My relationships and responses to other people.

 

 

 

51csysefe3l-_sx302_bo1204203200_The Principles of Spiritual Growth by Miles J. Stanford

I read this the first time a few months after I accepted Christ. It revealed to me the depths of the Christian life and God’s desire for me to be more than “just” a Christian; and both challenged and equipped me to grow into a deeper relationship with Christ.

 

 

 

Keep a Quiet Heart  by Elisabeth Elliot91fk-cgvcgl-_ac_ul115_

This was one of the first devotional books I used as a maturing Christian. I’ve read it several times. Each entry encourages me to seek quietness and rest in my life.

 

 

512bzielreylDescending Into Greatness by Bill Hybels

Cemented for me one of the pillars of my life: the only way to greatness is to become a servant to God and to all the people who intersect my life.

 

 

 

 

Honest to God by Bill Hybels51wdafk7lzl-_sx326_bo1204203200_

Challenges me to live authentically and transparently before God and other people.

 

 

 

 

41ccck3jjel-_sx326_bo1204203200_Fit to Be Tied by Bill Hybels

Helped me to release the shame and guilt I lived with because my marriage wasn’t beautiful and harmonious. I am responsible to God only for MY part of our marriage. My husband is responsible to God for his part. The book also gave me hope that God will use our broken marriage for His glory.

 

 

 

Scribbling In the Sand by Michael Card51pci1e94kl

 

Challenges me to live and work creatively, and to allow God’s creativity to flourish in my life and overflow to bless other people.

 

 

On My Shelf Again

img_20170205_114710445_hdrThe books that belong On My Shelf have been packed in boxes and out of sight and reach for more than a month. And my “shelf” didn’t even exist. For this writer that’s kind of like trying to type or word process my words with both hands tied behind my back.

True, I can find almost any tidbit of information I want on the Internet. But, I miss my books!

I miss touching them, flipping through the pages, “accidentally” finding nuggets of gold as I scan the pages. I miss scanning their titles as they stand at attention (or, sometimes, at ease or even sound asleep!) On My Shelf. 

However, I am making progress.

Two weeks ago my NEW shelves arrived! I admired their brown cardboard containers as they acclimated to the environment of my office.

img_20170211_141226159_hdrA few days ago my son and grandson came to set those shelves free. Halelujah! Of course, the job was not without complications. What should have taken an hour to accomplish ate up three, almost four hours of their time.

But now My Shelf stands dutifully waiting to be filled.

Over the past few evenings I’ve been ripping into boxes and liberating my books. Just a few more boxes to go.

I’m an organizer. It’s in my DNA. It was joyous and satisfying last night to not only unpack my books, but to put them in the best possible order On My Shelf.

  • My Bibles (more than a few)
  • My Bible reference books and study guides
  • My books for personal and spiritual growth
  • My books about writing
  • A very short stack of anthologies that contain stories I have written (Yay!)
  • Picture books
  • Other children’s books and YAs (I love to encourage other writers by purchasing their books.)
  • A menagerie of reference books ( I know—use the Internet.)
  • Books on leadership
  • Classic fiction books and poetry
  • Notebooks from writer’s conferences and workshops I’ve attended
  • Books and notebooks for courses I have taught at church

See what I mean? I’m enamored with pages dotted with ink.

img_20170214_210822468As I read the titles it was so much like seeing old friends that I haven’t talked to in a while. Reading each title brought back some of the great things I’ve learned from those books. I remembered how those authors inspired, and continue to inspire, me. Some of these books dramatically changed my life.

Those thoughts led me to thank God for those people I’ve never met face-to-face. But I’ve met them on the pages of their books. I’ve seen inside their souls and minds. I’ve felt our kinship, or, our incompatibility sometimes.

Someday I pray that someone will step back from his or her Shelf and see my name on a few book spines. Someday I pray that someone will have similar thoughts of me and the impact my words have had on their lives.

Impact.

Encouragement.

Influence.

In a positive and godly direction.

THANKSGIVING Part 5

But thanks be to God, who always puts us on display in Christ and through us spreads the aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. I Corinthians 2:14-15 (HCSB)

What happens when an athletic team wins a big championship? There’s an even bigger celebration, right?

Confetti flies, Gatorade gets dumped on a coach, the athlete who scored the final points takes a ride on the shoulders of her teammates while touting a humongous trophy to everyone possible.

That shining trophy is then put on display for the world to see.

Do you know that, according to these verses (and others) WE are God’s trophies? That He circles the heavens showing us off and then puts us on public display for everyone who crosses our paths to see. We are His trophies. We are the reason for God’s victory parade.

That’s an amazing image to me. God saves us through Christ Jesus, then, He proudly puts us and every moment of our lives on display for His glory. When I consider that I have to give Him thanks for the good, the supposedly bad, and for the insignificant details of my life. I am the result of His victory in Christ Jesus.

But that’s not all I can thank God for.

The second half of these verses calls us Christians the fragrance of Christ among people who are believers in Christ and even among those who refuse to believe.

Without doubt my favorite part of our Thanksgiving Day celebrations is the aromas that fill our house.

  • the fragrance of turkey browning in butter and sage, onions and celery
  • the aroma of sweet potatoes sprinkled with brown sugar or topped with toasted marshmallows
  • the take-me-home smell of hot apples, cinnamon and nutmeg
  • the irresistible aroma of yeast bread in the oven

Where’s the kitchen? I’m ready to start baking!

Those beautiful, fragrant reminders transport me to home and happy memories of Thanksgiving Days past.

2 Corinthians 2:14-15 says we are, similarly, the fragrance of Christ. Much like the smell of mashed potatoes swimming in butter and gravy transports us to Thanksgiving Day, we Christians are to remind people of, and attract people to, the beauty of Christ.

We ARE the fragrance of Christ to remind those who believe in Christ, and to attract those who do not believe in Christ.

So, I must ask myself at this Thanksgiving season, how am I “smelling” lately? Am I a delicious aroma of Christ? Or am I a rotten potato detracting from Christ?

Am I a shining trophy for the Lord, or a chunk of tarnished brass?

I get to choose.

 

Thanksgiving Part 4

Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever.
 I Chronicles 16:34 (NKJV)

For me two words stand out in this verse of Scripture. MERCY, and FOREVER.

What would I do without the LORD’s mercy? I don’t deserve it. I can’t earn it. I have no legal claim to it. All I can do is ask Him for it. Ask Him to love me, forgive me and bless me in spite of my sins, in spite of my self-centeredness, in spite of my rebellion, in spite of my frailties, in spite of myself.

His mercy is totally underserved, but He pours it out on me anyway.

…not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, (Titus 3:5 NKJV)

And His mercy toward me and you, toward all humankind, continues FOREVER.

For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations. (Psalm 100:5)

But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, (Psalm 103:17)

With a little wrath I hid My face from you for a moment; But with everlasting kindness I will have mercy on you,” Says the Lord, your Redeemer. (Isaiah 54:8)

That’s HUGE to me. That’s something to be truly grateful for.

Thanksgiving Part 3

Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness,
And for His wonderful works to the children of men!   
Psalm 117:8, 15, 21, 31 (NKJV)

How many wonderful works of the LORD’s goodness can you name in 15 seconds? No pre-planning. No “warming up.” Just set the timer on your cell phone for 15 seconds and start naming the good things God gives us.

I tried it. Set my timer and started rattling off good things. I was able to mention 22 everyday things that we usually take for granted. Good things. Wonderful things. Things that God gives to all people, all of mankind, “all humanity” as the Holman Christian Study Bible says.

Moon, sun and stars, gravity, trees, mountains, earth, sea and sky came to mind immediately. Other things like family came a millisecond slower.

God gives good gifts to all humans regardless of their relationship to Him. Jesus said:

He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. (Matthew 5:45)

Psalm 107 lists numerous gifts God gives to those who do not yet love, trust and obey Him. He redeems them, He rescues them from distress, He brings them out of darkness and gloom, God heals them, He rescues them from hell, and He lifts the needy out of their suffering with no strings attached.

God is good to all people. So, all people should give thanks to the LORD. Why? Because He is good.

Those who live in darkness do not understand the wonderful works God has in store for them after they accept Christ. But they can understand that good things come from a good God. And they can thank Him for His goodness.

That’s a start. A place for people to begin their journey toward Him, the good God for all humankind. They can start with giving thanks to the LORD for His goodness to them.

THANKSGIVING Part 2

It is good to give thanks to the LORD.  Psalm 92:1 NKJV

Have you ever thought about how exactly giving God thanks is good?

It is surely good for God because it brings Him pleasure when we turn our thoughts toward Him.

It brings Him glory when we remember that “Every generous act and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights;” (James 1:17).

But, how is giving thanks to God good for us?

Giving thanks in general is good for our emotional and physical health. From a medical point of view Robert Emmons (a professor at the University of California) explains HERE the numerous ways being grateful is good for us.

According to Dr. Lawrence Rossen of MindBodyGreen there are five key reasons to cultivate a lifestyle of giving thanks: gratitude reduces depression, gratitude lessens anxiety, it improves sleep, it improves our heart-health and (ta-da!) improves memory.

I don’t agree with everything on these two websites, but they help me see a big reason why God wants us to be grateful to Him. I personally am tired of being told just to be grateful. I need to know to whom I am grateful. God has His own glory in mind when requiring us to give Him thanks, but He also has our welfare in mind.

I try to express gratitude to specific people, businesses, organizations or institutions.

But also to God. He is always The Initator of every good thing that comes into my life.

And He stands in the background allowing every other thing that comes my way. He is always near.

For this I know that “It is good to give thanks to the LORD.”

 

THANKSGIVING Part 1

November is a season of thanksgiving in our country. For Christians it is our yearly opportunity to give thanks to God, and our yearly reminder to live with gratitude to God and to other people every day of the year.

For the next few weeks I am laying aside the writing books ON MY SHELF and picking up the greatest book of all—The Bible. Each Tuesday I’ll share with you some scriptural reminders to give thanks. I hope my prayerful choices bless you and direct your thoughts toward God, the greatest giver of all times.

Please join the conversation by leaving your thoughts in the comments and by sharing this post on FaceBook or twitter, Buffer or Hootsuite, or wherever you can. Thank you in advance.

Today let’s remember I Thessalonians 5:18.

In everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

In everything?

Yes.

Does this mean we are bubbly and happy when terrible things happen to us and around us? I don’t think so.

But it does mean to me that I can, and should, thank God for every circumstance, every situation, because I know that God can and will use the best and the worst in my life for my good and for His great glory. That IS why He created us, isn’t it? For His glory.

He will stir all of the lovely and messy ingredients of my life together and pour out a beautiful cake that I can offer to Him in gratitude.

The Apostle Paul shared this and several other wonderful truths with us in Philippians chapter 4. Each sentence in this chapter is a jewel to study and pray over and incorporate into my life. Verses 11 –  13 contain not the least of these jewels.

…I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content—whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. For I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me.

A little or a lot. That isn’t just talking about money and creature comforts. It applies to companionship, to hope, to joy, to rejection and loneliness and all sorts of emotional and spiritual issues.

I can choose to be contented and thankful in everything.