Last week’s post ran so long I had to cut it short in order to attend to other business. But close readers may remember a promise I made to finish up the subject. Since posting our intentions, several of our readers have suggested other children’s devotional guides or related materials that we might want to recommend. Even though I’ve only had time to look at one of these closely, the others are certainly worthy of your attention. Most are designed for use by the whole family, but could be used by individual children or parent-child read-alouds.
“In this book we’ll practice ‘seeing,’” according to the introduction. That’s a good summary: the author’s purpose is to help children trace God’s footprints through all He has made. That was an important preoccupation of the Psalms after all; we could do much worse than teach our children to think the same way about the world around them. The Introduction draws on Romans 1 and the idea of “general revelation” as a springboard to, first, opening our eyes to creation and, second, recognizing how God reveals himself in what He has made.
After the Introduction, Starr Meade uses the first chapter of Genesis as a structure for the remaining 46 readings, which are divided among the six days of Creation. For example, under Day One: Light and Water, the readings are titled “No Darkness at All! The Holiness of God,” “Light for Life: Jesus is the Light of the World,” “God Owns the Light: the Ninth Plague,” “God Owns the Water: An Ax Head Floats,” “Can’t Live Without It! Jesus and the Woman at the Well,” and so on. As you can tell, the scriptural references skip all over biblical chronology, so this guide is probably most useful for kids who already have a sense of the Bible timeline. (For chronology, see the author’s Grandpa’s Box, an overview of redemption history told through objects in the box belonging to said grandparent.)
I love the applications, which encourage kids to think from different angles about the God they may have encountered more traditionally in Sunday school and standard devotional guides. To encourage personal reflections, each reading includes the scripture reference and two or three questions and/or activities. The author manages to include some poems as well, such as Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s “Aurora Leigh.” The additional readings also help change the angle of the usual approach. God’s Mighty Acts is not a standard devotional guide, because the readings are not designed to correspond to any particular day or week of the year. But as short (2 pages each), relevant reminders of God’s greatness, it’s worth reading through and passing down. And once the kids are done with creation, let them read God’s Mighty Acts in Salvation, also by Starr Meade. I haven’t been able to look at it closely, but it looks like a winner. The structure is a little different: instead of a thematic approach, we march straight through the letter to the Galatians, taking up the great theme of salvation by faith alone a few verses at a time. This appears to be not only an excellent way to explain complex theology but also a child-friendly introduction to the idea of scriptural exegesis. May as well start ‘em young!
Susan Hunt is rightly renowned as a Bible teacher and women’s ministry leader. Discovering Jesus in Genesis and Discovering Jesus in Exodus continue her story-based series books featuring the brother-and-sister duo Caleb and Cassie. Susan Hunt (and her son Richie) come from a covenantal perspective, which sees Bible history as an unfolding of God’s covenant promises, finally and fully completed in Christ. The Covenant perspective is the first principle of these books. The second is, “God is the reference point for all of life.” Third, God’s children are empowered by the Holy Spirit; fourth, God’s children are adopted into His family; and fifth, God’s children are obliged to reach out with his love and faithfulness. Part One delves into Reformation history with Caleb &Cassie, their friend Daniel, and their older neighbor John Knox, who shares stories of his Scottish heritage (and namesake). Thus having a laid a covenantal foundation, Part Two moves on to “Glory Stories” from the Old Testament, alternating with real-life applications acted out by Cassie and Caleb and their friends. There are 36 readings in all, so it might work as a weekly devotional through the school year. (Give a listen to our podcast interview with Susan Hunt from last year!)
These 78 devotions are intended to be led by parents, with applications and object lessons covering the entire scope of Old Testament history. Each chapter includes a brief scripture reading, a teaching, discussion questions, and application activities for five days a week—which leaves some wiggle room to make up lost days on the weekends. There are plenty of hands-on applications and questions that will stretch the imagination and lead to some lively discussions. The book has no pictures—and doesn’t need any, since it’s more a discussion guide than a personal devotion. But it looks like older children could read through the lessons by themselves with almost as much benefit. Marty Machowski is the author, more recently, of the Gospel Story Bible (with pictures!) which we didn’t manage to cover in the Story Bible review. But I’m making a note of it for a future post.
Leading Little Ones to God, by Miriam M. Schoolland. William B. Eerdmans, 1995, 184 pages. Age/interest level: 4-up.
This book has been around so long it can be considered a classic. It was published when my kids were already teenagers, so I didn’t encounter it at the time (I guess that makes me more of a classic). For those who haven’t browsed the book, the material is divided into fourteen sections with headings meant to lead from very basic concepts (Part One: Looking For God) through God’s greatness, God’s law, God’s love, God’s work in Christ, How we become children of God, God’s Church, and finally, God’s plan for the afterlife. The individual readings (86 in all) use a standard format: a read-aloud devotional, scripture reference, discussion questions and prayer, but the author adds classic hymns and Psalms set to familiar hymn tunes. It’s a comprehensive treatment of orthodox doctrine, in language that small children can understand. Well worth a look—then wait a few years, and go through it again!
Little Pillows and Morning Bells, by Frances Ridley Havergal. Solid Ground Christian Books, 2004, 103 pages. Age/interest level: 3-6
Talk about classic: Little Pillows and Morning Bells was originally published in the 1880s as two books. Monergism Books informs us about the author: an English lady who committed her life to Christ at the age of 14, a gifted linguist and musician who never married but devoted herself to prayer and a writing ministry. “Little Pillows” is a collection of devotions to be read at bedtime, while “Morning Bells” helps little ones greet the day. I haven’t had the opportunity to look at the text, but it comes highly recommended, through Emily, by an older friend with impeccable judgment.