Book Review: Start with the Heart

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In Start with the Heart, Kathy Koch urges parents to address their children’s hearts instead of focusing on mere behaviour modification. Koch argues that what motivates children to change is rooted in the heart of the child thus parents ought to concentrate on taking steps to help develop their children’s character. The author points out the many important implications of having strong character and places special emphasis on how character breeds resiliency in responding positively to failures. Koch then explains how the biblical commands to put off what is sinful and to put on what is righteous are the key elements of transforming one’s character. Furthermore, the author highlights how parenting involves shaping the five core needs of children namely identity, belonging, security, purpose, and competence. In Chapter 5, Koch focus on discovering what is important in the eyes of our children and steps to aiding the child in learning activities that resonates with those values. Chapter 6 concludes the first part of the book by reminding parents on how to use their various roles as coach, referee, teacher, and cheerleader at the right moments to journey with their children towards maturity. In the latter half of the book, the author provides practical advice on how to foster character in our daily interactions. Chapter 7 involves learning how to communicate with children in ways that are positive, enthusiastic, optimistic, and encouraging. Chapter 8 discusses the importance of listening carefully so that our responses trigger the child to change through their own words and actions. In the next chapter, Koch explains how to properly compliment and correct in ways that encourage children to continue progressing in exhibiting desirable traits and attitudes. At the end of the book, there are several appendixes with lengthy examples such as a list of complimenting words and a list of character traits.

I recommend this book to all parents who hope to raise their children to become God-honouring, responsible adults. Undoubtedly, it is the Spirit who works in our children to bring about lasting change that pleases God. However, Koch reminds parents of their responsibility to nurture their children’s hearts so that their God-given talents, gifts, and abilities are fully utilized for His glory. I appreciate how the author always asks parents to first examine their own hearts before trying to scrutinize their children’s hearts. The most fertile soil in which the hearts of our children develop is through the power of God’s Word, the supernatural work of His Spirit, and the tender, purposeful words and actions of God-loving parents. Although our parenting may sometimes seem ineffective and disappointing, we can have confidence that God always gives enough grace to parents and children so that both mature in greater godliness and love for God and between family members.

In compliance with Federal Trade Commission guidelines, I received a review copy from Moody Press in exchange for a book review.


Book Review: Baptism

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In Baptism, Guy Richard provides a short overview of what baptism is and presents a case for infant baptism. Richard begins by first defining what baptism is, what it signifies, which modes of baptism is acceptable, and why we ought to be baptized. The author then moves on to outline his position on infant baptism based on biblical precedent, covenantal continuity, and connections between circumcision and baptism. Richard asserts that the household baptisms in the New Testament seem to indicate the entire household being baptized which would include children and servants. Moreover, Richard states that the new covenant Jesus establishes in the NT is the same covenant in essence as the Abrahamic covenant in the Old Testament (OT) but in an expanded, clearer form. As such, baptism serves a similar function to circumcision in the OT to mark out those who are the true children of Abraham. Since the Israelites were commanded to undergo circumcision, believers today should also baptize their children as recipients of God’s special blessings and privileges within the covenant community. At the end of the book, Richard discusses common objections by credobaptists and offers some practical applications in relation to baptism.

Although I agree with most of Richard’s points on baptism generally, there seems to be some weaknesses regarding the author’s arguments for infant baptism. I hope to examine what Richard posits as the meaning and significance of baptism and how these two fundamental elements are at odds with his position on infant baptism.

Firstly, in terms of definition, Richard defines baptism as a physical sign of the internal reality of a believer who has been regenerated through faith. In a similar way, circumcision was to be the outward symbol of the internal heart circumcision that God required of the Israelites. Richards acknowledges that in both circumcision and baptism, there certainly are individuals who do not exhibit regenerate hearts such as Esau and Ishmael. In both infant baptism and circumcision then, the objective would seem to be inclusion in the covenantal community which would be at odds with Richard’s definition of baptism as being the outward sign of the internal washing and cleansing of sin. This would mean then that infant baptism would not meet the definition of baptism as defined by Richards since there is no regeneration in the infant.

Secondly, in terms of meaning, Richard asserts that baptism primarily signifies the washing away of sin of which I fully agree. However, my question is: what does baptism signify for infants? Surely it cannot signify the washing of sin as all children are born sinners. This would then seem to imply that the baptism of children and adults are similar in form but different in substance. If so, then how do we reconcile this with baptism as described by Richard as a sign and seal of a believer who put their faith in Jesus? I understand those who undergo infant baptism often go through confirmation, but would this not further solidify the argument that infant baptism and adult baptism are different in nature?

Richard does clarify later in the book that infant baptism is the hope that the child will exercise saving faith in the future, the solemn promise of the parents to raise their children in the Lord, and the inclusion of the child in the covenantal community including its spiritual blessings and privileges. If that is the case, none of those three objectives would fit the definition of baptism that Richard himself puts forward at the beginning of the book.

Richard also argues based on OT precedent of Abraham circumcising all the males in his entire household that we should take this as example that we should baptize our children. It is apparent that not only the children but all males including servants of various ages were also circumcised. Does this mean that those servants also exercised saving faith in God like Abraham or were they baptized only because their master was? Assuming some of these males were adults such as Abraham’s trusted servant in Genesis 24, should it not be based on their own faith that circumcision is applied? If not based on their own faith, their circumcision would seem more a matter of their affiliation with Abraham and his household rather than a sign of spiritual regeneration which again would mean their “baptisms” would not fit Richard’s definition and meaning. Moreover, if based on Richard’s argument that infant baptism is for covenantal inclusion and spiritual inheritance, what spiritual privileges and blessings do these household servants inherit since they are not the biological children of Abraham and of which some were pagan foreigners?

Based upon my observations above, it would seem difficult to argue the case for infant baptism if it does not meet the definition and meaning that the author himself presents.

I recommend this book to all who are unfamiliar with the subject of baptism in general and infant baptism in specific. Despite my objections to the author’s arguments as stated above, I greatly appreciate Richard’s efforts to make this book accessible to a wide audience and his charitable approach to those who support believer’s baptism. As this book is introductory in nature, it is apparent that many of the arguments and counterarguments for both supporters and their opponents have not been fully fleshed out. As such, I encourage readers to increase their familiarity of this subject through reading the Bible, engaging the works of seasoned preachers and scholars, and praying for the Spirit to provide greater wisdom and enlightenment as this critical subject has immense significance to the Christian life.

In compliance with Federal Trade Commission regulations, I was provided a review copy of this book from Reformation Trust.

Book Review: Parenting with Words of Grace

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In Parenting with Words of Grace, William Smith urges parents to use words wisely to grow their relationships with their children. Smith explains how our mouth is the primary instrument by which we interact with God and those around us. As such, the words we choose to utter need to be carefully balanced with truth and love. Furthermore, Smith reminds parents that their role is to represent God in responding to their children when they walk in godliness or fall into sinfulness. Each conversation’s aim is to enable our kids to recognize their sinful hearts and their need for a Saviour. The author agrees that using our words intentionally to build up our children is hard work that takes much effort and time. However, our motivation and encouragement come from God who never grows weary in seeking us and giving us more grace when we ourselves fail. Moreover, the author warns parents against simply pursuing behavioural change as such change is not enduring. Rather, we should look to guide our children in experiencing and responding to God’s grace which is truly transformational. Parents ought to be quick in dispensing encouragement by identifying God’s work in their children’s lives and purposefully aiding their children to grow in areas where they are lacking. Conversely, parents ought not to speak hurtful, demeaning words that tear down the child’s spirit and cast God in a negative light. This does not mean that parents should avoid confronting their children’s disobedience. However, this is done not by using harsh words to guilt or shame the child but by acting as a mirror to help the child perceive the situation accurately. In doing so, we are not trying to impose our own selfish ways on how we think the child should act but to shed light on the situation and provide guidance on how to respond in a God-honouring way. In speaking honestly with our children, we are showing them that we care about them and that we ourselves also need the Spirit’s power to grow in godliness.

I gladly recommend this book to Christian parents who feel challenged in using their words to build up their children. Indeed, the same principles that Smith offers to parents would be applicable to all Christian who want to grow in the gospel. As much as we feel that we are more spiritually advanced than our children, our shared need for Jesus to help us defeat sin and live in holiness is identical. Smith reminds us that parents are not trying to grow miniature versions of themselves but to nurture their children into becoming godly image-bearers who will eventually become their spiritual peers. Thus, parents and their children are walking together to experience the forgiveness, grace, mercy, and love that God bountifully lavishes upon us through His Son. Our daily conversations with our kids are invitations for them to run to our Saviour who always speaks truth to us through His Spirit and His Word.

In compliance with Federal Trade Commission regulations, I was provided a review copy of this book from Crossway.

Book Review: Parenting with Loving Correction

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In Parenting with Loving Correction, Sam Crabtree argues for the necessity of raising children with love, care, and discipline. The author asserts that proper discipline is a critical means by which we bring up children to become mature Christians that contribute to the church and society. Crabtree defines discipline as being the corrective response of a parent to steer a child towards compliance of established standards whenever the child’s behaviour, actions, or words contravene those pre-determined requirements. The first part of the book explains why discipline is so crucial to child-rearing and the profound implications of appropriate discipline throughout a child’s life. Next, the second part discusses the building blocks to proper discipline: ensuring discipline is God-centered, speaking truth in all circumstances, and rewarding obedience instead of disobedience. In the final part, the author shares pragmatic advice on how to handle general and specific situations with godly discipline. There are several nuggets of wisdom that the author insists upon throughout the book worth highlighting. Firstly, Crabtree argues that discipline must be dispensed quickly so that the child knows the parent is serious about addressing misbehaviour. This includes not allowing children to hijack the teaching moment by bickering, negotiating, or redirecting the core issue at hand which is disobedience. Secondly, the author urges parents to clearly outline what acceptable behaviour is, stick to the established standard, and follow through with the corrective action without deviation. By doing so, children will know what is expected of them and have no excuse for ignorance or forgetfulness. Thirdly, despite the book’s main focus on parenting with firm discipline, Crabtree emphasizes that generous positive affirmation at all times is just as important in shaping and growing parent-child relationships. Lastly, Crabtree states that discipline is no substitute for transformational heart change that comes from the Spirit regenerating young hearts to respond to the gospel. However, this is no excuse for abandoning corrective discipline prior to and after a child’s profession of faith.

I greatly recommend this book to all parents but especially to those who have young children as discipline is critical in the early stages of a child’s life. In our current culture, disciplining children is often viewed negatively as being abusive or harmful to the development of the child. Moreover, many parents tend to fear that corrective discipline will irreparably damage their relationship with their children. Contrary to such attitudes, Crabtree argues that when we do not discipline our children in the fear of the Lord, we are being unfaithful to our call as stewards of God’s gifts to us. Furthermore, we are also harming our children’s view of the authority of God and other legitimate authorities in their lives may it be teachers, bosses, or government officials. In doing so, children grow up to become adults who are malicious and spiteful towards anyone or anything that attempts to correct or subdue them. By administering consistent, appropriate discipline and lavishing loving affirmation, parents are fulfilling God’s will to use them as His primary agents to raise children who will honour, praise, and glorify Him.

In compliance with Federal Trade Commission regulations, I was provided a review copy of this book from Crossway.

Book Review: Cozy, Snowy Cuddles Touch and Feel

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In Cozy, Snowy Cuddles Touch and Feel, readers follow a young polar bear cub as it romps along to visit different animals sharing warm cuddles as the winter weather approaches. Each page flip introduces another animal family along with a short two-line rhyming passage. Furthermore, there is an area on the animal’s outer coat that has been designed for touch-and-feel of which each animal is unique such as the leathery texture of the seal’s fur and the smooth consistency of the moose’s hide. The animal characters are drawn with a more cartoonish style to attract younger audiences likely around ages two to five. Even the surroundings such as the snowy terrain and wintery sky are vibrantly illustrated which will most certainly captivate both children and parents.

I would recommend this book as a fun, interactive book to introduce preschoolers to the change between the seasons of fall and winter. The words are relatively simple so those who are just beginning to learn words will understand most of the text without much difficulty. Moreover, children of all ages will enjoy rubbing their fingers on the various coats of each animal. Thus, this book would be an excellent choice as a bedtime story for those wintery nights where warm cuddles and kisses are most cherished.

In compliance with Federal Trade Commission guidelines, I was provided a review copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers.

Book Review: I Can’t Believe You Just Said That

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In I Can’t Believe You Just Said That, Ginger Hubbard helps parents navigate the deep-rooted heart issues that trigger kids to blurt out various kinds of hurtful words. Hubbard reminds parents that merely trying to curtail or repress sinful speech would never be effective as the source of evil is the heart that is unwilling to yield to God’s commands. In a practical manner, the author tackles an extensive list that many parents would immediately resonate with including teasing, lying, and bickering. Each chapter begins with a short anecdote to illustrate how the issue wrecks havoc in the family. The author then attempts to decipher what is going on inside the child’s heart to gain an understanding of the motivations behind the child’s verbal outburst. Next, Hubbard provides tangible steps that parents can take to engage the child in honest conversation to help kids see their own sinfulness in light of what the Bible says relating to that type of behaviour. To help parents grasp how to use God’s Word in such conversations, she incorporates in each chapter many relevant passages of Scripture from both Testaments and encourages parents to memorize Scripture for such purposes. Moreover, the author reminds parents to rely on the work of the Holy Spirit to transform their children’s hearts so that obedience to God becomes a joy and not a burden. Despite the pragmatic suggestions the author provides, Hubbard is also careful not to provide strict guidelines that are inflexible but asks parents to assess their specific situations by being sensitive to their children’s specific age, personality, and maturity. Furthermore, the author reiterates throughout that God is ultimately in control of our children’s lives and we can go to Him for strength and wisdom when we despair.

I would happily recommend this book to all parents who are dealing with the daily frustrations and challenges of taming their children’s tongues. After reading the book, I find that what Hubbard writes concerning children applies just as readily toward parents. Just as kids like to complain about inconsequential matters, adults often complain just as much concerning trivial issues. Thus, the journey of parenthood is for parents to learn to recognize that their own sinful hearts need to be changed by God first before attempting to help children navigate their own. As parents, we need to submit ourselves to the power of God’s Word and Spirit to purify and transform our hearts so that what comes from our mouths is wholesome and useful for the building up of others especially our children. By doing so, we demonstrate to our children how much we need to rely on God to make radical changes from within that leads to a life of holiness and grace in our actions and speech.

In compliance with Federal Trade Commission guidelines, I was provided a review copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers.

Book Review: Night Night, Farm Touch and Feel

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In Night Night, Farm Touch and Feel, Amy Parker and Virginia Allyn bring children on an evening tour of the barn as farm animals prepare for bedtime. The pages are vibrantly illustrated with bright colours and attractive touch-and-feel features incorporated into the artwork. The animal characters are drawn in a cartoon style performing their nighttime routines such as taking baths and donning their pyjamas. Each page flip features a specific farm animal may it be cows, cats, or chickens along with a few cute mice sprinkled on every page. There are typically four lines on each page flip with a rhyme and ends with the respective animal sound (e.g. “moo moo” for cows). However, the words may be quite challenging for younger children but would be a wonderful opportunity for parents to read the book out loud as part of the child’s nighttime routine.

I would recommend this book to parents looking to establish a nighttime routine with a fun book full of colourful artwork and interactive touch-and-feel elements. One weakness is that not all the rhyme schemes work out in the book which may be distracting to the reader. Nevertheless, this book would be a fantastic addition to any child’s early library as young kids learn to say good night to God which would hopefully develop into a nighttime prayer and form part of their nighttime routine as they grow older.

In compliance with Federal Trade Commission guidelines, I was provided a review copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers.