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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Seasons of Faith Books Review

Seasons of Faith is a new four book series by CBH Ministries, better known to many people as Children's Bible Hour. The four books are adaptations of radio scripts, and the stories chosen reflect different stages, or seasons, in a Christian's faith. CBH's website explains it this way:
The Seasons of Faith illustrated books encourage children to learn about their
faith in God. Spring: This is a time when people experience new life in Christ.
Faith develops and Christians begin to share the Salvation message with others.
Summer: The season when faith grows under God’s love and care. Fruit is
witnessed and triumphs are gained through applying His Word and striving to be
the best we can be in Christ.
Autumn: Times of struggle and temptation, peer pressure, making mistakes, and scary transitions happen during this season. Even though it might seem like nothing good can come from this time, God has promised us He will be there. He will teach us how to forgive and then grow in grace.
Winter: This season is the most difficult. Deep struggles, mourning, trying to
make it through difficult times, or the death of a loved one can pull us away
from God. He teaches us to lean on Him for comfort and peace.

As part of the TOS Crew, we received all four books to review. Each is soft cover, with full color illustrations and each is available for $10, which includes the book and a "listen along" CD complete with the little chime to tell you when to turn the page (although it is subtle enough that it does not interfere with listening to the story if you aren't reading along). The CD's are narrated by Uncle Charlie (apparently a CBH long time character) and he does a great job of making them interesting to listen.

Race with Midnight is the "spring" book. Here is the plot summary: "Becky spends spring break on her cousin Sarah's horse farm in Montana. Taking horse rides amidst the beautiful mountains and valleys, Becky tries to share her faith with Sarah as she talks about God's creation. Will Sarah listen? "

You Can't Come In is the "summer" book. In it, "Adam and his new friend Zack decide to build a tree fort one warm summer day. After zooming down a hill and falling into a muddy pond, Zack asks Adam about going to church and salvation. Will Adam be able to explain his faith to Zack?"

Seventy Times Seven is the "fall" . It deals with forgiveness, and "When Brad accidentally breaks the ice cream shop’s sign, the owner forgives Brad. But when his best friend Doug ruins Brad’s favorite baseball cap, will he be able to forgive Doug?"

Braving the Storm is the "winter" book. "When Thomás moves away from his neighborhood and into a mobile home in his grandparents’ backyard, he misses his friends. There’s nothing to do around the apple orchard with no friends, his dad works a lot, and his little brother was hurt in an accident. All his sister wants to do is play with her dolls. Will Thomás be able to rely on God to get through the difficult times? "

The pros: Although it is a tad cliche, the books represent a broad spectrum of ethnicity in their characters. I appreciated that, since ALL the people of the world are God's children. Beyond having the story and illustrations in book form, my kids and I really appreciated the CD. Uncle Charlie was very easy to listen to, and we enjoyed the CDs very much. The books are all deeply Christian in their content, and each of them spells out the "ABCs (Admit, Believe, Choose)" on the last page.

The cons: This review is a personal struggle for me, because I hate to not totally LOVE something that is Christian and that so clearly has a heart for spreading the gospel. But I am not in love with this series. Most of my hang-ups are with the first two books. To start with my pettiest of issues, the books are illustrated by 2 different people, and I don't care for the illustrations in the first two books nearly as much as those of the second illustrator who does the third and fourth books. But leaving pettiness aside, my issue with the first two books is that they are not engaging stories at all, but really just a method to convey the salvation message. I guess maybe I should appreciate that, but I don't. I want books to be good reads, and so do my kids, and so will kid who haven't heard the gospel before. That's the whole point of a book-to tell a story. I think the first two books focus too heavily on evangelism at the expense of writing a book that is actually interesting to read. And my even bigger issue is that that evangelism in the story is left to a child to do. It is a heavy burden to bear to expect a child to lead a person, or a whole family, to Christ, and it burdens the child who reads it too by implying THEY should be doing that as well. Personally, I don't think we see a Biblical example of Jesus relying on children to bring adults or even other children to a saving faith, and I think the reason for that is that there is more to evangelism than just conveying the gospel. New believers must be "plugged in" where they can get fed and grow, and children are not capable of that level of follow up. I don't want to at all put God in a box, or imply that He CAN'T work through children, but I don't see that as the Biblical model. And I am disturbed that CBH's mission includes this statement: We honor and respect the family unit. Therefore, whenever feasible, we will partner with parents to aid in the evangelization and discipleship of their children. At the same time, where appropriate, we will also partner with young people in spreading the Gospel to other young people who need to hear. (emphasis mine)

Again, I believe the targeting of children to evangelise to other children is not sound doctrine since it fails to account for the guidance of those new believers to a meaningful relationship with Jesus. Too many "Christians" came to faith as a child, and that was as far as they ever got. There is so much more to a true relationship with Jesus, and so much more to a real saving faith.

The Bottom Line: These books are available individually, and I very much enjoyed the second two, "Seventy Times Seven" and "Braving the Storm". They transcend the heavy salvation message, and offer sound counsel about how Christians should act and react to our daily circumstances. I would recommend checking them out. The first two books I have too many reservations about to be able to recommend them.

To check out Seasons of Faith Books, go HERE. To see what other members of the TOS Crew had to say, go HERE. I would definitely recommend checking out what my Crewmates have to say, since I am sure not all of them share my reservations.

Legal Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Crew, I received all four books for the purpose of giving my honest review. These books are the only compensation I received.

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