By / May 26

As a dad to three children now between the ages of 16 and 12, I’ve been thinking about Bible storybooks for a number of years. During that time, not only did I read many such books to my children at various ages, but I also had the privilege of writing a preschool storybook Bible and accompanying curriculum: God’s Love: A Bible Storybook (2012, the Kindle version is available for free). Trying my hand at writing a book of Bible stories for children helped me appreciate the challenges of summarizing the stories of God’s Word in a way that faithfully captured both the events (facts) and their connections to the rest of the Bible (themes). 

Some storybook Bibles focus on mainly retelling the facts of biblical events, while others also add an emphasis on a passage’s thematic connections. Some more “thematic” storybooks showcase the gospel or Jesus, while others highlight God’s love or “how the Snake Crusher brings us back to the garden” (see below). In addition to the descriptions below for each storybook, I’ve also assigned a “Thematic” score to each book. (A “1” indicates the book has practically zero interest in themes/connections, but sticks with retelling the facts of the stories. A “5” indicates that the stories, while attempting to be factually accurate, also significantly emphasize how the stories fit into the larger story of the Bible, often using a particular theme.) I’ve also added information about the ages each book might best fit. 

(Note: The score for “age” is based upon the youngest age at which the book is aimed to be read. With one exception—The Action Bible—the age score indicates the age of a child to whom a parent is reading a book, not the age at which children would read the book for themselves.) 

1. The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones 

This beautifully written and illustrated children’s story Bible has become a classic. The stories focus on Jesus and the beauty of the gospel—it’s like reading the best Tim Keller sermons, but for kids. (The author, a member at Redeemer in New York City, where Keller pastored for decades, gladly acknowledges his influence.) You may enjoy this storybook as much as your children, or even more. The book features 21 Old Testament stories and 23 New Testament stories, with each story spanning about 5-8 pages, featuring lots of illustrations, and a few paragraphs of text. 

Age: +4 read to/+9 read by themselves. 
Thematic Emphasis: 4 

2. More than a Story (two volumes: OT & NT) by Sally Michael 

If you’ve ever visited a historical site, you’ll know how an expert tour guide can make all the difference. With decades of Bible study and teaching, Sally Michael now puts a masterful guide to God’s Word in your hands. Packed with Scripture, this book is more than a story because it tells the true story of what God is doing in his world. If you use these books, you can lead your family on a life-changing tour of God’s Word. Volume One features 90 OT stories and Volume Two features 66 NT stories, with each story spanning about five pages and containing a few small illustrations and mostly text. 

Age: +6 read to/+9 read by themselves. 
Thematic Emphasis: 3 

3. Child’s Story Bible by Catherine Vos 

Catherine Vos, wife of the famous theologian, Geerhardus Vos, brings a steady hand to faithfully retelling the stories of the Bible. First published in 1935, the Child’s Story Bible has stood the test of time, having been recently redesigned, with 26 new color illustration, by P&R Publishing. The book features 110 OT stories and 93 NT stories, with each story spanning about three pages of mostly text. 

Age: +5 read to/+8 read by themselves. 
Thematic Emphasis: 1 

4. The Big Picture Story Bible by David Helm 

If you want your child to get a glimpse of how the whole Bible fits together, this is the storybook Bible for you. The author, Pastor David Helm, has taken the best of biblical theology—as taught by scholars like Graeme Goldsworthy—and summarized it for very young children. The fun and age-appropriate illustrations also help children see connections among the stories. The book features 11 OT stories and 15 NT stories, with each story spanning about 10-20 pages, each of which contains an illustration and just a few sentences. 

Age: +2 read to/+6 read by themselves. 
Thematic Emphasis: 5 

5. The Gospel Story Bible: Discovering Jesus in the Old and New Testaments by Marty Machowski

Beautifully illustrated, this storybook faithfully retells Bible stories but always with a one eye on the gospel and the other on how it applies to life. Covering 156 stories, each one spans two pages, features bright and colorful artwork, and contains 5-7 paragraphs of text. Each story ends with a few questions to discuss. 

Age: +5 read to/+11 read by themselves. 
Thematic Emphasis: 3 

6. Seek and Find Bible Story Board Book by Sarah and André Parker 

This board book, Seek and Find by Sarah Parker (and illustrated by André Parker), will captivate young imaginations with stories from the Old Testament (volume one) and the New Testament (volume two) as they seek and find dozens of “hidden,” fun elements in each captivating illustration. This series, the Where’s Waldo? of Bible storybooks, mixes Bible learning with hours of fun! Each volume of this board book covers eight Bible stories, with one paragraph of text and lots of illustrations. 

Age: +2 read with. 
Thematic Emphasis: 4 

7. Bible Stories Every Child Should Know by Kenneth Taylor 

Some Bible story books are more story than Bible—but this wonderful update of Kenneth Taylor’s classic lets the Scriptures speak. Parents and children will love the simple and direct retelling of stories from Genesis to Revelation. With fun illustrations and family discussion questions, Bible Stories Every Child Should Know points even the youngest hearts to the good news of Jesus Christ. The book features 120 stories, with each story featuring several illustrations and spanning about 2-3 pages. 

Age: +4 read to/+7 read by themselves. 
Thematic Emphasis: 1 

8. The Action Bible: God’s Redemptive Story, illustrated by Sergio Cariello 

This is a Bible comic book, which dramatically retells stories from the Bible using exciting illustrations by Sergio Cariello. The text for this award-winning book is penned by authors (unnamed), writing for the publisher: David C. Cook. Middle-grade readers will enjoy over 230 stories, covering both the Old and New Testaments. Each story lasts about 2-4 pages and states which Bible passage the story is based upon. 

Age: +9 read by themselves. 
Thematic Emphasis: 2 

9. The Biggest Story by Kevin DeYoung 

Like God’s Big Picture Bible (mentioned above) but for an older readership, The Biggest Story also focuses on telling a unified story of God’s Word. In 10 chapters, this stunningly illustrated book tells the story of “how the Snake Crusher brings us back to the garden” (the book’s subtitle). This book is a work of art (illustrations by Don Clark), and its unifying gospel message will fill hearts with wonder and worship at its beauty. Each chapter is packed with illustrations, spans 10-12 pages, and contains about 35-45 sentences. [Note: Kevin DeYoung has also published, The Biggest Story Bible Storybook, also illustrated by Don Clark, which includes 104 stories and spans 528 pages!]

Age: +4 read to/+8 read by themselves. 
Thematic Emphasis: 5  

10. The Beginner’s Gospel Story Bible by Jared Kennedy 

Once I started reading The Beginner’s Gospel Story Bible, I could hardly stop. Jared Kennedy retells favorite Bible stories with a freshness and clarity that toddlers and preschoolers (and their parents) will love. Open this book with your little one, and watch eyes light up, fingers point, and smiles start to spread. Every page pops with bright colors and playful illustrations. Best of all, each of the short chapters will point your child to Jesus. The book features 52 stories, with each story containing 15-20 sentences, featuring lots of illustrations, and spanning about 6 pages. 

Age: +3 read to/+6 read by themselves. 
Thematic Emphasis: 3 

Bible Storybooks—Honorable Mentions:
The Tiny Tots Bible Story Book by John Walton and Kim Walton
The Promises of God Storybook Bible by Jennifer Lyell
The Big Picture Interactive Bible Storybook (from The Gospel Project) 

By / May 12

Authenticity is the ideological currency of our culture. 

Many preachers and evangelists of the 20th and 21st centuries have rightly emphasized absolute truth. Often, as these faith leaders died or were discovered to be hypocrites (for some, in that order), so did confidence in their message. People witnessed leaders who preached something that didn’t actually change or affect their lives, and as we slid closer to postmodernity, Christianity became just another option in a sea of belief systems. 

Yet behind the grandiose, post-truth taglines like “I’m living my truth” or “What’s true for you isn’t true for me,” there is a deep longing for truth with a favorable outcome. Truth worth believing in produces positive, long-lasting change.

So as our leaders-at-large dwindle to a handful of still-trusted (or not-yet-distrusted), who is left to tell the truth? To share authentic, deep, abiding faith? We are. And it’s time to start telling our stories. 

The power of storytelling

Lee Strobel, prolific author and former skeptic, says it wasn’t just the facts that led him to faith in Jesus, but the stories of those he spoke with and studied. First, the “winsome” changes he saw in his wife intrigued him. He interacted with scholars who shared their own personal faith stories. Even the 12 disciples’ changed lives moved Lee to consider Jesus. 

The Bible tells us that our stories, when paired with the gospel of Jesus, have incredibly powerful effects. Revelation 12:11 says the life-changing gospel ultimately defeats Satan:  “And [the saints] have conquered [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.”  

Our stories don’t enhance the gospel; it’s the opposite. The gospel infuses our stories with an incredible, true, and certain hope for those that need it most. Our stories hold a power the devil cannot withstand. 

God created our brains to process stories differently and more effectively than facts and data. It’s nearly impossible for our brains to ignore a good story. Well-told stories can create a closeness between the storyteller and the listener, making storytelling a natural relationship-building skill. 

Your story of how the gospel changes your life can go where a tract, a preacher, or any other kind of evangelism method or tool often cannot. Your story can open doors and pave the way in friendships where the gospel can be explained — and lived out — in personal and authentic ways. And yes, our stories include flaws and our imperfections, but these allow us to share how Jesus loves and heals us deeply and uniquely. Our evangelistic tone shifts from “You need Jesus” to “We need Jesus, and he is bigger than all our sins and mistakes.” 

Share your story, share Jesus 

Being ready to tell our stories whenever we’re asked (1 Pet. 3:15) means we have to know how the gospel has changed our lives. It also means we have to be willing to listen to others’ stories, and to do so free of criticism so that we can earn the right to be heard. 

Storytelling is more than a buzzword or a societal phenomenon; it’s a way we can share how Jesus is real and awesome and trustworthy. Storytelling is a sacred art which helps us engage our culture for the gospel of Jesus, honestly and genuinely. Through the Holy Spirit, may our stories point to the trustworthiness of Jesus rather than a leader’s platform or charisma. 

In a world that is increasingly skeptical of leaders and official narratives, our authentic stories may go farther than previous evangelism methods. But our message is the same: Jesus Christ crucified, raised, bringing abundant life, and coming again. 

By / Mar 11

Moses was about to die. His 40-year journey in the wilderness with the Israelites had undeniably proven God’s people needed a circumcision much deeper than the flesh. They needed a circumcision of the heart—a fundamental revolution of their innermost being that was resistant to loving God (Deut. 10:16). This need would echo throughout the Old Testament until the Savior came, followed by the powerful indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.

As Moses laid before the people of Israel “life and death, blessing and curse” (Deut. 30:19) he made sure to not leave the future generations of Israelites without testimonies of God’s holiness, righteousness, and faithfulness. He promised that the day would come when “the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live” (Deut. 30:6). But until then, he called three lasting witnesses against Israel’s chronic unfaithfulness: heaven and earth (Deut. 31:28), the Book of the Law (Deut. 31:26), and . . . a song (Deut. 31:19). 

The centrality of God’s Word

The Book of the Law, which Moses wrote down at God’s direction, was to be put alongside God’s very presence—the ark of the covenant (Deut. 31:26). It was to be read aloud by the priests to the whole congregation of Israelites every seven years at the Feast of Booths “that they may hear and learn to fear the LORD your God” (Deut. 31:12). God also instituted this tradition for the sake of the children who didn’t yet know God’s Word (Deut. 31:13). 

The community commitment to hearing God’s Word wasn’t only a concern every seven years. God had called Israel to “teach them diligently to your children” inside and outside of the home (Deut. 6:7). The Word of God was to be central in the life of his people—“it is no empty word for you, but your very life” (Deut. 32:47). It was vital that God’s people passed down the testimonies of his redemptive work in Egypt and his faithfulness in the wilderness from generation to generation. 

The Song of Moses 

And how would these testimonies get passed down from one generation to the next? The Song of Moses. God told Moses:

Now therefore write this song and teach it to the people of Israel. Put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for me against the people of Israel. For when I have brought them into the land flowing with milk and honey, which I swore to give to their fathers, and they have eaten and are full and grown fat, they will turn to other gods and serve them, and despise me and break my covenant. And when many evils and troubles have come upon them, this song shall confront them as a witness (for it will live unforgotten in the mouths of their offspring). For I know what they are inclined to do even today, before I have brought them into the land that I swore to give. (Deut. 31:19–21)

Though this song’s stated purpose was rather bleak, it ended with a triumphant proclamation of God’s future restoration of his people (Deut. 32:43). And this word of warning and judgment and hope would find residence in the mouths of generations of Israelites, carried on by a melody. 

God and the arts

God created the arts. He is, of course, the greatest artist of all time (and before time). Nature—God’s general revelation of himself—undeniably communicates his power and creativity (Ps. 19:1–6). And the Bible—God’s special revelation of himself—undeniably displays even more profound aspects of his creativity and glory (Ps. 19:7–11). 

The Bible is one grand story of God’s incredible redemptive work in history, which centers on the person and work of Jesus Christ. And this grand story is communicated through various text types, from law to discourse to narrative to poetry. Just as God didn’t communicate his Word solely through the Book of the Law but through the Song of Moses, God didn’t communicate the truth of who he is and what he has done through one literary genre. He filled the Bible with various literary masterpieces, which help us to feel, experience, and remember his glory.

The art we create in the Body of Christ, then, isn’t meant to replace Scripture’s centrality in our lives. Rather, the arts are meant to help us emotionally connect to the words of Scripture. Whether visual or poetic or storytelling or musical, the arts help bring color to our imagination as we read the Bible. They help us engage our senses in such a way that we feel we can almost embody the text

Do you remember how you learned the alphabet? I bet it was through a song. By putting melodies or rhythm and rhyme to Scripture, memorization becomes much easier. The Song of Moses illustrates this, as do the Psalms. 

Children and the arts 

But of course, any Sunday School or elementary school teacher could have told you the importance of the arts in their curriculum. When I had the privilege of teaching during Sunday School for four to six year-olds for about five years, I learned that what especially stuck with them were the songs (with a few dance moves thrown in there), the chants, and the storytelling through visuals and crafts. 

Now that I’m a mom of a five-year-old, I’m learning once again that it’s not my lectures about God’s Word that she tends to recite later on. It’s the storybooks and the YouTube animations that retell Bible stories and, of course, the songs. Apparently, children still learn best by singing, as they did in Moses’s day. 

How can we faithfully teach God’s Word to our children and the next generation? Moses tells us, “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (Deut. 6:7–9). 

In other words, make the Word of God your constant meditation, conversation, and yes, song. Utilizing the arts and the gazillion children’s Bible resources out there, share his Word with the little people in your life. 

By / Dec 24

In today’s society, children will grow up with far more access to technology than previous generations. Each piece of art that they will come in contact with tells a certain story. With this in mind, how can parents use the gifts of story and song as a way of shaping families and their children? At our National Conference, Russell Moore lead a panel discussion with Sally Lloyd-Jones, Andrew Peterson, Randall Goodgame, Phil Vischer on what role the arts can play in family life.

By / Feb 24

I was young when I first saw the Academy Award-winning film, “To Kill A Mockingbird” on VHS. I certainly didn’t understand every aspect of what was happening in the story, but what I picked up on had me in tears. It was my first encounter with real injustice. The book has since become my favorite novel of all time.

Stories have always connected with people. This is likely one reason why Christ so often spoke using parables. He could have told his audience how bad they were and how much God loved them, but to hear of an ungrateful son who wished his father dead and squandered his wealth leaves a much greater impact when the jilted father comes running to embrace his son and welcomes him home.

Themes at the Oscars

Whether the themes of a story are specific or universal, they are what draw an audience in, create empathy, move us, and at times, even promote personal change. This is part of what makes movies so popular and influential in our society. So what are some of the themes of this year’s Oscar nominated films?

“Arrival” expresses our desire to communicate and be understood. It also touches on grief and the difficult choices we make and must live with.

“Fences” rails against racial injustice while also giving us a protagonist who struggles deeply with his own vanity and selfishness.

“Hacksaw Ridge” shows a man persecuted for his beliefs as he tries to honor God.

“Hell or High Water” laments human poverty, unfair lending practices and the irony of the health, wealth and prosperity gospel.

“Hidden Figures” puts on display the ugliness of racial inequality and misogyny, while also promoting the dignity and worth of every image-bearer.

“La La Land” is a testament to joy and love. It reminds us to dream, hope and create, with the knowledge that the pursuit of dreams often involves difficult choices.

“Lion” shows us the beauty of different people and cultures, while also causing us to long for our true home.

“Manchester by the Sea” puts us in the middle of a man’s unrelenting grief and regret. And though forgiveness and grace are available, they are often difficult to accept.

“Moonlight” touches on what it is to be poor, gay and a minority. Life can be incredibly difficult, but when we look back we can all find glimpses of grace and moments of kindness.

Relating to themes as a Christian

We may not be able to relate to every single theme that comes up in each of these nominated films. But the ones that have played out in my life cause me to look higher. We should go to God with our pain and grief. We can lament the injustice of the world and cry out to him. We can forgive others as we are forgiven by him because of Jesus’ sacrifice. We can love those who are different than us because Jesus calls and empowers us to do so.

The nine Best Picture nominees may not be for everyone. As with all forms of art, believers are to be discerning when choosing whether to view them. There are themes and worldviews in some of these films that we won’t agree with. But part of the audience’s role is simply to listen. We can hear an argument for an opposing worldview without agreeing with it, and in doing so, perhaps we are opening more doors to conversation and empathy. We can recognize and lament the effects of beliefs contrary to scripture. Ultimately, we wrestle with these themes and worldviews. We accept what is honest and true and discard what is not.

In his forthcoming book Movies are Prayers: How Films Voice Our Deepest Longings, film critic Josh Larsen assumes every cinematic story is a way of communicating to God about this world. Whether the filmmaker intends it or not, they are communicating things such as lament, thanksgiving, praise, yearning, confession, reconciliation or joy, to name a few. As viewers, understanding and wrestling with these themes can better help us understand the art we take in. These themes can help us understand ourselves. They can help create an empathetic space in which to better love and care for those made in God’s image. And though we may not be able to see all of the themes playing out in our personal stories, we can certainly trust the One who leads the way into our next chapter and point others to his story.

By / Aug 25
By / Mar 30

His birthday came and went this week with little fanfare. John Tyler’s life dates back to the inaugural year of Washington’s presidency, and his own presidency commenced two decades prior to Lincoln’s. But unlike the first and 16th presidents, whose esteemed memories are marked by calendar and commemoration, the 10th U.S. president is little remembered, if not largely reviled. For many, his memory begins and ends with the catchy campaign slogan of 1840, “Tippecanoe and Tyler too.”

But the all-but-forgotten antebellum figure leaves behind living reasons to remember him today: two grandsons, along with the president’s 18th century home that’s still in the family’s care.

And imbedded in the Tyler family legacy are lessons for us on slavery and bondage and freedom and a home—schoolmasters reminding us of a bloody yesterday and pointing us toward a bright tomorrow.

Tyler’s ‘quiver’ full of children

Born on March 29, 1790, President John Tyler would have turned 226 on Tuesday, and April 6 will mark the 175th anniversary of his swearing-in to the Oval Office upon the sudden death of his predecessor, William Henry Harrison, who succumbed to pneumonia after just 31 days in office. “His Accidency,” as detractors dubbed the Virginian who replaced Harrison, fathered 15 biological children with two wives over the course of a 45-year span. He breathed his last on January 18, 1862, at age 71.

Yet, remarkably, Tyler grandsons Lyon Gardiner Tyler Jr., 92, and Harrison Ruffin Tyler, 87, still walk among us today. Late-age procreation helps to explain: President Tyler fathered son Lyon at age 63 with a second wife 30 years his junior; in turn, Lyon fathered Lyon Jr. and Harrison in his 70s with a second wife 36 years younger. Like father, like son, one might conclude.

The two grandsons serve as living reminders that our history as a nation, blood stains and all, is not all that distant, and that our struggle for her soul is still very much alive. Home and family, the Tyler grandfather-grandson legacy further remind us, stretch beyond brick and mortar and bloodlines and mortality. They reach forward into eternity.

I was reminded of these things not long ago.

‘Conversations’ with grandfather Tyler

“Closed for a private event,” the apologetic voice explained. The news came as a disappointment. I had hoped to walk the weathered wood floors and roam the ornate rooms of President Tyler’s Sherwood Forest Plantation home just outside Williamsburg, Virginia, during a recent visit. Instead, a peek through the windows would be the closest I’d get to gracing the door of the 300-foot-long residence, the nation’s longest frame house. Nor would I find grandsons Lyon and Harrison seated on the front porch, waiting to greet this uninvited guest.

But as I ascended the front steps, I envisioned the brothers there—heirs of history eager to relay stories of their grandfather from a bygone era. Lyon and Harrison, of course, never knew their grandfather. They didn’t get to ask him about Washington and the founding, about Lincoln and emancipation. Yet they heard the stories from their father.

John Tyler was a man of presidential firsts—first to assume the presidency upon the death of the chief executive; first to marry while president (his first wife died in 1842); first to be subject to impeachment proceedings; and first to govern the nation without a party (the Whigs forsook him).

Tyler was also the first (and only) president to later become a sworn enemy of the United States with his election to the Confederate House of Representatives in 1861. And President Lincoln, a political rival, ensured Tyler became the first former president to receive no official recognition from the White House upon his death. Put another way, in the Union’s eyes Tyler was decidedly not, as Henry Lee eulogized of General Washington, “first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen.”

John Tyler was, in one sense, a man between the times.

Slavery and freedom, then and now

In the mid-19th century, slavery ripped the fragile fabric of the American experiment woven with the “self-evident” truth, expressed by Tyler’s one-time mentor Thomas Jefferson, “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” The “house divided” that Lincoln long lamented had not yet truly united. Freedom fashioned friends only among the fairer-skinned. Millions, meanwhile, stood on the outside looking in.

As I stood on Tyler’s Sherwood Forest doorstep, peering in, on that overcast March day, I thought about the slaves who labored on the 1,600-acre plantation, some of whom would one day find freedom. The price to secure that freedom meant, tragically, the blood of more than 600,000 slain.

My mind journeyed back further still. I thought about the children of Israel, enslaved for 400 years in Egyptian bondage before finding freedom from their chains. The blood of lambs, painted across their doors as a symbol of a Lamb to come, secured that freedom.

In the absence of a word from the Tyler grandsons, my mind hearkened back to the voice of Moses, relaying the Lord’s commission to the Israelites standing at the edge of the Promised Land. His was a command to “love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might,” a charge they were to pass down to “your son and your son’s son,” to teach “diligently to your children” (Deut. 6:1–9).

Family and freedom in Christ

Still standing at Tyler’s door, I thought, too, about the freedom to which Moses and the children of Israel pointed with that blood across the doorposts. That freedom was not bought by the blood of animals or common men. Nor was it a struggle between North and South, a Civil War of Tyler’s and Lincoln’s time. It was, instead, a cosmic war between the powers of heaven and hell, and the victor was and is the person of Jesus Christ.

He was the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy, he announced, “to proclaim liberty to the captives” and “to set at liberty those who are oppressed” (Luke 4:18). This deliverer paid, with his own blood, the price for original sin common to all of us through Adam’s blood.

By his resurrection, he broke the bars of death and breaks our chains of sin, no longer to “receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear.” He goes yet further, granting “the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ . . . and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:15–17).

What this Man called the Door opens to us, I remembered at Tyler’s door, is a freedom and a family, a Father and the fortune of his Son.

Jesus Christ was—and is—a Man between the times. More than that, he rules outside of them, seated supreme, inviting others inside.

The chains of our forefathers

I’ll leave it to others to write the history of the man called “His Accidency,” a man who stood between the times, at water’s edge, of slavery and freedom. But whatever the 10th president’s legacy, let us learn from the bloody final days of Tyler’s time and look forward to a day beyond Lincoln’s and our own, one in which wars shall cease and God alone shall grant a “just and lasting peace.” No more shackles, no “house divided.”

The living presence of two of the 10th president’s grandsons is, if anything, a reminder that our history is not all that distant after all; that our forefathers didn’t always get it right. Many of them carried troubled consciences over America’s “original sin” to their graves.

And, today, many find themselves, like President Tyler, a person without a party. Wars and factions may demand as much of us. But let none of us die a man or woman without a home. Each one of us can dwell as son or daughter in a Father’s house with “many rooms”—space aplenty for innumerable quivers full, like Tyler’s (John 14:1–4).

The future land of the free is the home of the forgiven and the Man truly called brave. Christ’s ascension to the highest of thrones was anything but accidental, and it required the death of no life but his own, of his own accord.

Retelling our story

Ours is a bloody history, to be sure, but one the next generations need to hear. Let none of us wear the chains of our past, but let’s not forget them, either. And let’s point those coming behind us to the freedom we’ve found.

We should tell them our national story, yes, but let’s not neglect our spiritual one: that we were once “slaves to sin” and that “the slave does not remain in the house forever,” but that “the son remains forever”—and sons now we are, set free by the truth in God’s Son (John 8:34–36). Let’s tell them we have, in Christ who “is faithful over God’s house as a son,” found freedom, a home (Heb. 3:6).

May fathers and grandfathers—mothers and grandmothers and all who have left their chains—be faithful to share that story with children and grandchildren everywhere. May our story become their story. And may none of them, none of us, die an outsider looking in.

There are, after all, no grandchildren in that “house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Cor. 5:1). Only sons and daughters, adopted and set free—free indeed.

By / Mar 3

South Korean pastor Lee Jong-rak could hardly fathom the reality of what he was seeing in the streets of his city.

What could compel a woman to leave her newborn alone in a cold alleyway, destined to die a harsh and cruel death?

He decided to do something about it.

The baby box

Pastor Lee, who leads a home church known as Jusarang Community in Seoul, built a “baby box” and invited all those who would otherwise abandon their newborns to entrust them to his church’s care. The baby box is a warm, safe receptacle where an infant can be left anonymously. Most of the children left in the box have special needs, birth defects or disabilities.

Focus on the Family’s newest film, “The Drop Box,” tells the inspiring story of this man who has made caring for “unwanted” babies his mission. It explores the motivation behind this sacrificial work, as well as the physical and emotional toll it takes.

To date, more than 600 babies have been left in Pastor Lee’s care. No matter their condition, when the babies are received, they aren’t anonymous additions to a bustling orphanage. Pastor Lee and others at Jusarang treat each of these precious children like a member of the family.

Where does such a perspective come from?

Could it be love?

The boy who started it all

God loves each of those broken children the same way he loves the so-called “perfect” child. And in Pastor Lee’s heart, that love was awakened by God at the birth of Pastor Lee’s own son, Eun-man.

Eun-man was born with severe physical deformities and cognitive disabilities. He spent the first 14 years of his life in a hospital. His twisted limbs are unable to bear his weight. Eun-man, now in his late 20s, has been confined to a bed his entire life and needs constant care.

Pastor Lee is very honest about his reaction when he first saw his son.

“When Eun-man was born, I asked God at that moment ‘Why?’ Why did he give me ‘that kind of baby’? Why didn’t he give me a healthy baby? That thought immediately came to my mind. But it wasn’t even 30 seconds before I repented, ‘God, I am sorry. Thank you for giving him to me.’ So step by step, with faith, prayer and his words, I lived. That’s how I started this work.”

Through Eun-man, Pastor Lee learned the worth of each human life, even those that many might consider to be of diminished value.

That conviction helps drive the work that has saved hundreds of lives and touched thousands of others. That it’s still going on, despite all the challenges Pastor Lee faces – exhaustion, pressure from the local government to close the box, health problems including high blood pressure and diabetes – is a testament to God’s faithfulness and the strength He provides.

The courage to love recklessly

“The Drop Box” will inspire you and it has a unique message for almost everybody.

Churches will be reminded of the impact they can have if they’re willing to venture out into the community and love recklessly. Some families might receive the inspiration or confirmation to adopt. Prodigals may be inspired to come home and freely receive the extravagant love of God the Father.

No matter what God may have in store for those who view the film, I know their lives will be positively impacted after meeting Pastor Lee and the children of Jusarang.

That’s why we’re encouraging church groups to go together, to buy out theaters, and watch “The Drop Box” as a community. Take in the message and engage in conversation afterward. Let that dialogue give birth to dreams, and let those dreams turn into good deeds that visibly demonstrate God’s love to a hurting world.

“The Drop Box” debuts at select cinemas nationwide on March 3, 4 and 5. The special event includes an exclusive panel discussion featuring Steven Curtis Chapman and his wife, President of Show Hope, Mary Beth; Brian Ivie, Kelly Rosati, Focus’ vice president of community outreach and myself.

Tickets are available at

See you at the theater!

By / Nov 24

We live in a time where we are exposed to more news headlines than at any time in human history. In the ancient days of news, anchors checked the AP newswire for stories and reported on them and people in their homes watched or people in their cars listened to radio. Today, everyone, is essentially checking the wire, all day, through social media. We also live in a time when it’s has never been easier to publicly express an opinion. Before the Internet, if something happened, you might have picked up the phone to call someone or perhaps you might discuss it at work, around the water cooler. But today we are all pundits, all with commentary on what is happening right now.

Quite often this new reality is leveraged for good. If a disaster strikes, more people can be informed than in previous generations. Social networks can be good conduits for raising money for important charity, for networking and communicating with wider groups of people. In many ways, the new paradigm has flattened leadership, forcing organizations to be more transparent and less hierarchical. All this is good.

Still, followers of Christ need to think through how they process the news, particularly how we react to the headlines that come across our screens every day. Here are three tips I think that might help:

1. Don’t react to headlines, get the full story. I think James 1:19  is instructive here. If I could paraphrase, I’d say we should be “swift to hear, slow to tweet, slow to outrage.” We often get it backwards. Two things work against us slowing down and getting the story right: confirmation bias and our need to be the first and most clever to speak. First, because we can tailor our news intake (more on that below) to our specific point of view and bias, we tend to gravitate to news headlines that confirm what we already want to believe about people and personalities we might not favor. Secondly, there is a human instinct to want to be the first to comment and to have the most clever reaction (measured in retweets). There is an inherent danger in being so reactive to headlines. If you have not read the full story and, perhaps, ready other stories about the topic, a quick reaction can make you appear foolish. It also works to divide the body of Christ. There is nothing wrong with principled, sharp engagement with news stories. Christians need thoughtful commentary on cultural events, but we need it to be critiquing things that actually happened, not caricatures of things that happened. There’s a difference here. Before you start a brushfire online, before you email your allies with damning information about someone with whom you disagree, before you forward and post negative things, make sure you are actually getting the full story.

2. Don’t consume news from only one point of view. It’s a good habit to follow, on Twitter and in our other consumption of news, people from other “tribes” (though I hate that word now) and from other ideological perspectives. It’s good to have a mix of people in your twitter feed: advocates, opponents, and straight-up journalists. This gives you a much more nuanced view of what is actually going on. It also keeps you from tin-foil hat conspiracy theorists that seem to dominate on all sides of various issues. You should also have an operating principle of not reacting to a story unless you’ve read two or three versions of it from diverse news outlets. In other words, don’t just take the news story that best confirms what you already believe about something or someone. Get the full picture here. I can think of one story in particular that I thought was newsworthy, even worth commissioning an article for ERLC. But then I asked a few folks, read a few more articles, and realized there was more to it.

3. Try to see the human side of the news. This is especially important when news stories involve personalities, whether politicians or preachers. There’s a lot of tabloid journalism out there, both in the larger culture and in the church world (unfortunately). Remember that the person you are about to destroy online with a clever hashtag probably has a family who can google their name. Do you want to be the one who caused their daughter pain? Followers of Christ should operate by different principles. This should have two effects on our public witness: First, when expressing public disagreement, we are to consider every person, even those with whom we viscerally disagree, as people created in God’s image and worthy of respect (James 3:9; 1 Pet. 2:17 ). We’re also supposed to be especially charitable to fellow Christians (Gal. 6:10 ). Secondly, to knowingly spread false witness about someone by not getting the facts right says to the world that we don’t value some humans like we value others. It’s also sin. All of us are wise to consider our platforms and how we are influencing those who follow us.

This article was originally published here.