Dangerous Journey, Part 1

Welcome to our Pilgrim’s Progress Read Along, part Redeemedreader.com’s Reformation Month celebration!  We’ll be pursuing two tracks over the month of October, 2011–this one for younger kids and Janie’s read along for older kids and adults.  See Pilgrim’s Progress: Introduction to read her commentary.


If this book looks like something your kids could easily understand, skip on down to the next section.  However, if this book looks a teency bit impossible, this part of the intro is for you.

Pilgrim’s Progress, even the picture book version I’ve chosen, is a dense story. On the first real page of the story (p. 8), I counted at least 14 words my kids didn’t know. But even if your kids are like mine, that doesn’t mean they won’t benefit immeasurably from reading it with you!

And here’s how: I taught both my children to speak very early and my Kindergartener to read on a third grade level with a simple approach. In the context of reading, it goes something like this: read, summarize, ask.  Read a small section of the text.  Tell your child in simple language what it means (i.e. translate for him).  And then ask him a question to help him engage.

Want to hear how it sounds?  I’m attaching the audio of me reading the first few pages with the girls.  Please, please don’t listen to it, though, if you want the RIGHT way to read to your kids.  Every parent is gifted differently, and I’m sure the Lord will lead each of us to share in different ways with our kids.  But if you want encouragement, and you want to hear that it really can be done, then the audio is for you.

One last point—the more you do this, the easier it will be.  We try to read the actual Bible to our kids at least once a day, since it stretches their minds in so many ways—helping them encounter the Lord Himself through His Word, as well as rich vocabulary they would never encounter in kids’ books.  I hope by hearing how you can effectively read to your kids above their grade-level, I can encourage someone to read the Bible to their kids.  If so, this series will have been well worth our time.

Which is actually a great tie-in to Christian’s Bible reading…so, enough dawdling!  To the Celestial City!

Chapter One: The Slough of Despond


Today’s Theme: The Burden of Sin

There is so much rich allegory in the first few pages, I’ve opted to begin with the visual on the title page: a man reading a Bible with a burden on his back.  (See above.) Christian actually doesn’t start his journey until a few pages in, and the text itself doesn’t give much to help kids get oriented, so I think this image is worth dwelling on first.  (In fact, the original PP spends a lot more time drawing out Christian’s state prior to his journey, so I hope I’m in keeping with the spirit of the text.)

Critical to this picture and the story, we see 1) Christian has read God’s Word, 2) he is now burdened by his sin, and 3) he’s worried because he is under God’s judgement.  While there is plenty more in the first chapter that can be mined (and I’ll go through some of it below), this will be my focus in the notes and the activities.

FYI, this Saturday I’ll focus more on “the journey” and teasing out how Christian is called to rid himself of the burden and find the Celestial City.

Devotional Application

When we read the Bible, it tells us of our sin.  It also tells us that the punishment for sin, apart from Jesus, is death.  But there is hope for Christian–and for us–because Jesus has already made the most dangerous journey, through death on a cross, to take away the burden of sin from His children.

Bible Verses

  • Proverbs 1:7:  God and His Word teach us our true state: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.”
  • Ephesians 3: 23: Sin as a burden we all carry: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God….”
  • Romans 6:23: The punishment for sin apart from Jesus is death: “For the wages of sin is death.”
  • MEMORY VERSE: Ephesians 3:23-24:  No need to make them wait for the plot resolution.  Why not finish the Ephesians 3:23 quote for a hopeful note to end on?  (See audio below for a version in song.)  “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”  [powerpress]


  • Object Lesson: The Burden of Sin–Find a heavy object in your home and let your children try to carry it on their backs.  I chose a wooden chair turned upside down and helped my children try to walk with it propped on their backs.  If they can hold the object themselves, give them some mission such as walking around the house or to their room and back five times.  Then introduce the word “burden” and ask them, has sin ever felt like this to you?  Has it ever made you sad or upset when you told a lie or hurt someone else?  That’s just how Christian felt–“burdened” and sad because he had broken God’s law.
  • Drawing Activity:  Draw a circle with bumps like Christian’s burden on a piece of paper.  Then ask your child to draw pictures of his own sin inside the circle.  He might draw lips for lying, a toy he has snatched or coveted lately, food he has complained about having to eat, or the word “No” for times he has not obeyed or talked back when asked to do something.
  • Make a Book: Click here for a public domain illustration you can print out.  I’ll include one to color each chapter, so that if you staple them together at the end, you’ll have your own Pilgrim’s Progress picture book.  If you want to include text, you could have your child write one of the Bible verses to go along with the picture, or just let him summarize the chapter and write it for him.

Reading Notes

I’ll start with a few of the important allegories in this chapter, aside from the ones listed above.  My guess is that Janie will cover some of these in her read along, so check her post for good insights, too.  As an overall approach, though, especially with the bad guys, I try to explain them with a kid-friendly definition as well as a story from my own life or asking them to supply a story.  How have I been obstinate?  How have they been pliable?  Ever not cleaned up their room to not play a little longer with your sibling?  I really want them to see these villains as encapsulating some part of every man’s character.

  • City of Destruction–I explained destruction today as “tearing up” something.  Probably not that technically sound, but my kids are only 5 and 4, so that’s the best I could do on the spot within their vocabulary.  Bible reference:  Sodom’s destruction and Lot’s escape, Genesis 19.
  • Evangelist–My kid-friendly definition is “someone who tells people about Jesus.”  Bible reference: One good and short example is Philip in Acts 8,  “Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ.”
  • Obstinate–Someone who is wrong but won’t change his mind, no matter what.  Pharoah is a great example.  See Exodus.  Ever been obstinate?  Ever found it hard to forgive someone, even though God had forgiven you?  A great point for sharing about your sin.
  • Pliable–Someone who just does what is easy.  (easily bent or swayed.)  See Peter when he denies Jesus in Mark 14:66.  He just says whatever is easy at the moment, and regrets it later.  This is great one to ask their kids if they have ever gone along with another kid even though they knew it was wrong.
  • The Slough of Despond–Bunyan doesn’t give a lot of info on this one, but one online dictionary says despond is discouragement.  My kids don’t know that word, so I told them it’s a place of despair and giving up.  That’s something we know A LOT about at my house.  Have your kids ever laid out on the floor in despair of having to clean their room?  Ask them about how they felt.  My guess is the pictures of Christian kind of sum it up.  Bible Reference: Peter after he betrayed Christ is another good example of this. Mark 14:66-72.
  • Mr. Worldly Wiseman–My littlest ones says it’s someone who knows what to do when he cuts his finger, but doesn’t know about God.  (ha)  Perhaps a little more pointedly, he’s someone who despises God’s Word and offers some other way to God.  A great question here is to ask your kids how they can go to heaven?  Anything other than Jesus’s blood and righteousness is the answer of Mr. Worldly Wiseman.  Bible Reference: Simon the Sorcerer who tried to buy spiritual gifts from the apostles.  Acts 8: 18-19.
  • Mr. Legality–Someone who offers to help Christian get relief from sin with more/better laws.  If a horse can’t fly, would it help to tell him to try harder?  Of course not.  Likewise, we need something besides law to be saved. Luke 18:9-14.  I’m also guessing the mountain represents Sinai, but didn’t bring that out to my kids at this point.
  • The Wicket Gate: a small door into the place Christian will find Christ and lose his burden.  Matthew 7: 13.  “Enter through the narrow gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction…”


So, I hope this has given you guys some good ideas!  I’ve drawn a lot of info from a squidoo site, if you’d like more activity ideas or would like to let your kids watch a video of the book.

And I do have a question for you guys, too.  What did you learn about YOUR sin in reading chapter one?  Which character besides Christian did you relate to most?   Any good stories come out?  I think if I’m honest, in the flesh I’m probably Pliable much of the time….

To read the next installment of this read along, go to Part 2Part 3 is also up.  


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  1. Kirsten on June 19, 2012 at 3:24 pm

    This is awesome! Thank you for putting this all together!

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