God’s Very Good Idea
What do you look for when you choose books for your children to read? An exciting story? Good illustrations? Of course, most children’s books have colourful illustrations, and a story which grips the attention of children (and adults—at least the first few times!) from start to finish. But how about a clear gospel presentation, good Biblical Theology and strong Ecclesiology? This is what you will find in God’s Very Good Idea written and illustrated by Trillia Newbell and Catalina Echeverri respectively. I thoroughly enjoy reading this book to my children, and here are the three reasons why I recommend you should read this book to your children:
1. Good Overview of the Bible
The book seamlessly paints the picture of the whole Bible from Creation to New Creation. Using simple language, the author starts with how all human beings were created to love God and love one another. Although we look different and have different preferences, we are all still wonderfully made in God’s image. The book then transitions to how things went wrong at the Fall—human beings no longer love one another and God as we were meant to. And having explained that we all are in need of God’s forgiveness, the book moves to how God’s solution to this predicament is through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. But it doesn’t stop there—it shows how God’s plan will come to ultimate fruition when we enter the New Creation and love God and one another perfectly. Having shown the climax of God’s plan for his people, the author shows how the church fits into the grand scheme of God’s plan.
I think this overview of the Bible, although simplified, is really clear and helpful to understand the Bible and God’s work in the world. It shows that the Bible tells one story—the story of what God has done, is doing, and will do to fulfil his plans for creation. I am sure that as parents read this book to their children, many (parents) will be able to make better sense of their Bibles. Thinking of the Bible and human history in the big categories of Creation-Fall-Redemption-New Creation has been beneficial for my own growth as a Christian, and God’s Very Good Idea helps me to pass this on to my children.
2. Clear Presentation of Biblical Gospel
Along with painting the big picture of the Bible, the book gives me another opportunity to share the gospel with my children. As we read, we not only enjoy the experience of spending time together doing something, but we can also talk about sin, forgiveness, and the cross of Christ. I like that while explaining our desperate situation to children, the author actually mentions the S-word – sin! Many of us (even preachers) shy away from talking about sin, but understanding sin and the need for forgiveness is crucial for children to see that they need Jesus. The author presents the problem, and also the solution—the death of the sinless Christ in the place of sinners. It is made very clear that Jesus’ work on the cross is the basis for our forgiveness, not our own efforts. And instead of teaching moralism, the book clarifies that it is with Jesus’ help that children will be able to live lives of helping one another and obedience. For a parent who wants to shepherd his children to understand their sin, cling to Christ, and be transformed from within, God’s Very Good Idea has been a very useful resource.
3. Celebration of God’s Plan for our Churches
The book also helps me to teach my children about the church. In our increasingly individualistic society, where everyone is concerned about themselves, and where church can be something you can stream online without ever meeting people, we need to understand what the church is. The church is not just an organisation to which Christians belong. Instead, as the book shows, it is a family which is fulfilling God’s purpose for the creation of humanity. This is something which most grownups need to understand. The church is not an optional extra in the Christian life—it is the place where God is working to fulfil his grand purposes for creation.
The author speaks of the church as a family, something which I think is really important for our children, and also for us to understand. As Indians, we grow up with a strong affinity and loyalty towards our families, and even our extended families. And so, we understand what it means to be a family. While it is good to have strong ties with our families, as Christians we should also be aware of our spiritual family—our brothers and sisters who have become children of God through the work of Christ on the cross. I think talking to our children about our “church family” is a good way to help them (and us!) understand that our spiritual family is worth spending our time and efforts.
Along with this, the book celebrates diversity. God created us all different—yet equally in his image, and the church should reflect this. To describe the diversity in creation, and also in the church, the author talks about “people who like reading books and people who like riding bikes, people with darker skin and people with lighter skin, people with curly hair and people with straight hair.” Whether or not our churches are diverse, we know that our society certainly is. Our society is divided by wealth, colour, states, language, class, and the unfortunate caste system. And God calls our churches to represent this diversity. This is sadly an area in which many of our churches fall short. We tend to cater to a certain class segment of society, and some of our churches are yet to leave the shackles of the caste system behind. Reading and understanding this simple book for children is helpful for children (along with their parents) to learn that we need to embrace people who are different and to celebrate diversity within our spiritual families.
My prayer for my children as I read God’s Very Good Idea to them is that they would understand that our sins can be forgiven by God because of what Jesus did. I pray that they would see that they can actually be a part of God’s very good idea by being part of the church. And I pray that they would learn to love people in the church in spite of all our differences.
I highly recommend God’s Very Good Idea, and I encourage you to read it to your children.
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