Saturday, March 24, 2012

A Review of "Children's Stories" by J.C. Ryle

While I was at the Shepherds' Conference this year, I was trying to find some books for every member of my family.  My wife and mother-in-law were easy to shop for...there were plenty of good resources for women.  And I found plenty for myself...they gave us 19 free books and I bought a few more for my own reading.  But then I was struggling with trying to find books for my two sons.  They are 10 and 8 and I am very cautious about what I will let them read...especially when it comes to Christian writing.  There was the usual fare from Answers in Genesis, but we already have a lot of resources from them and I wanted to find something a bit different.  There were a few question and answer books, but I wanted something a bit more literary.  Well, as I was looking through the selection of children's books, I came across this:

Children's Stories

I don't know about you, but I love J.C. Ryle's writing.  Sure, there are some areas where I don't see totally eye to eye with him, but he wrote very clearly and addressed matters head on in his writings.  So, when I saw this book, I decided to get it for reading with the boys...and I surely was not disappointed.  Ryle works through 7 passages of Scripture with stories that are aimed at reaching the hearts and minds of children.

He doesn't choose easy passages, either.  He starts off with 2 Kings 2:23-24 and talks about how children who mocked Elisha wound up being attacked and eaten by she-bears.  He definitely doesn't hold back from talking about how God views those (even children) who mock His people.  When is the last time you heard a parent tell their children about the dangers of mocking Christians?  I'd say it is more likely that you'll hear parents mocking Christians in front of their children than to hear parents tell their children not to mock Christians.  How much do we need this message for our children today?

He then discusses 2 John 4 and how much of a blessing it is to mature believers to see children walking in the truth.  And conversely, how sad it is for mature Christians to see children who are not walking in truth, but pursuing the desires of the world.  We should be telling this to our children!  How much do they need to hear that they bring joy to our hearts when they are pursuing the truth of God and walking in His Word?  Again, I think we can all learn much from how Ryle addresses this story to children.

From there he moves on to Proverbs 30:24-28 and discusses how four little creatures are shown to act in a very wise manner.  Then he explains how even though children are little, they can learn from the examples of these four creatures and walk in wisdom themselves.  He shows how each creature in this passage walk in wisdom in different ways and how children can follow each of their examples to walk in the wisdom of God in their daily lives.  And can any of us say that we should not be teaching our children the exact same lessons from Scripture?  Every chance we have to point back to Scripture to teach life lessons about how to act wisely, we should seize upon it and show our dependence upon God's Word.

And Ryle even takes up Revelation 21:4 with the children in order to explain that while we have much crying and pain in this world, after we die we will either be in a place where there is nothing but crying and pain or in a place where there is no crying and no pain.  He also brings back the crying and pain in this world to its source, sin, and how all of the pain and suffering in this world are caused by sin.  And then he doesn't hold back in explaining that many people are indeed going to hell, where there is nothing but pain, crying, and suffering.  He takes the opportunity to tell children to read their Bibles, pray, to love Jesus, and to try to please Him.  How much do we need to be doing this with our children?  I found this to be quite an encouragement to me.  He also went on to describe the blessed hope for all Christians for the future without any crying, pain, or suffering that awaits us in heaven.  We need to also share this with our children so that they are looking upward and ahead instead of getting caught up in the circumstances of this sinful, fallen world.

He also takes up the subjects of being happy and content (1 Timothy 6:6), being fruitful in little things (Luke 16:10), and seeking the Lord early (Proverbs 8:17).  Throughout the whole book, he makes it clear that God wants for children to seek Him and follow Him and that there is no one too young to know and apply the truth from Scripture.  And Ryle is so direct in speaking with the children and letting them know that they are not too young for Scripture to apply to them.

This is the exact opposite view from how modern Christianity handles children.  These days people seem to think that the Bible has many parts which are much too difficult for children to understand or too harsh for them to handle.  Instead of taking that approach, I think parents should read through this collection of stories with their children and learn from Ryle how we can approach our children with the truth from various portions of Scripture.  I highly recommend this book for all parents and would suggest that we learn from Ryle how we can make all sections of Scripture clear and applicable to our children.  Let's work to make sure that our children understand the truth of Scripture before they leave our homes and go out into the world.

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