What a challenge it is to condense the teachings of the whole Bible down into some more “manageable proportions” to suit certain needs.
I recall that some years ago Readers Digest came out with a condensed Bible – which I don’t think ever caught on. Serious Bible readers don’t like important things being left out. Last Tuesday evening the History Channel’s version of The Bible managed to cover from creation to the fall of Jericho in about 90 minutes – if you don’t count the commercial breaks. Again, what I found unsatisfying was what was left out – and the big omission was the Saviour (e.g. Gen.3:15) – it presented a Christless Old Testament story. No amount of enthralling cinematography can make up for that.
Of course we have, for many generations already, been busy with abbreviated versions of the Bible. I’m talking about children’s Bibles: Everything from Kenneth Taylor’s “The Bible in pictures for little eyes” to “The big picture story Bible” by David Helm, both of which I’ve found helpful. We expect to have an abbreviated Bible for our little ones. That’s not only because there are some R-rated stories in the Bible that are just not suitable for small children but also because we want to tailor the story to their level of understanding.
My own experience over the years as a parent has been that, when it comes to children’s Bibles and devotional material for kids, much of what was well presented was not Biblically sound and much of what was Biblically sound was not well presented. Today there is a huge market for children’s Bibles and children’s devotional material and the choices for parents are now so wide that it’s hard to know where to begin. The temptation always is to select something merely because it looks good and is presented well.
While we were in New Zealand recently we had dinner one night with a family who were using the book, “Long Short Story” for their family devotions. Merle and I are just at the stage where we have gone through our present children’s Bible with our daughter a number of times and we were ready to try something different so when we came back we bought a copy.
So far, from our limited use, I’m impressed. Each day’s lesson has a summary about what is being taught, a brief Bible reading (from the real Bible!) some comments and then questions for discussion with a concluding suggestion for prayer. The subtitle of the book is “Ten-minute Devotions to Draw Your Family to God”.
The author, Marty Machowski, is a father of six children, so he’s ample opportunity to trial his devotions with his own family. The back cover has a glowing recommendation from the Rev. Albert Mohler, the well-known president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary who is committed Calvinist.
Let me share just two examples of being encouraged by the approach of Long Short Story. The first week’s devotions deal with creation but it includes a day in which the focus is Christ, the One through whom all things were created. On another day there is a brief study of Psalm 1 – about the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked. Machowski rightly points out that this Psalm is a picture of the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s this kind of Christocentric view of the Old Testament that you won’t find in the movie version of The Bible. But then I guess that we couldn’t really expect a thoroughly Biblical view of the Bible from Hollywood, could we?
If you have primary-school age children do them and yourself a favour and get a copy of Long Story Short. Pre-schoolers may need some selective adaptation and even teens may still appreciate the approach taken by this book. We purchased our copy from Koorong for $25.00. That’s a great investment in the spiritual wellbeing of the children that the Lord has entrusted to you.