A Colorful Past: A Coloring Book of Church History

Here’s my interview with William (Bill) Boekestein about his book A Colorful Past: A Coloring Book of Church History. Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2018, paperback.

1. William (or let me just call you Bill), I really like your idea to teach church history to children through a coloring book. How did you come up with this idea?

While raising four children—the youngest is presently four—a lot of coloring books have come into our home. And it has been hard to miss how engaging coloring books can be for little children (and older people too!). Children don’t skim coloring books. They invest themselves in them. They roll up their sleeves, wrinkle their faces, and get to work! And as they work, they practice endangered contemporary disciplines like sustained noticing and plodding concentration. To get a child focused on a single idea for ten minutes is nearly a miracle today. So, it made sense to me to offer a book that introduces children to some of the great heroes of the faith, that great cloud of witnesses (Heb. 12), while they participate in an activity that they love. A Colorful Past

2. There are many Christian coloring books out there. What do you think is unique about your work? And what is the main thing you want your readers to take away from your book?

This coloring book is unique in that it is patterned after a mosaic. Each page is a unique snapshot in time; a figure of church history skillfully frozen into an image by the illustrator. That image is important. It helps understand the struggle and success of a special child of God. And that snapshot represents only a brief phrase in the life of that figure. But that figure’s entire life represents only a single tile in the vast mosaic of God’s amazing church.

So, I hope what makes this book special is how children and their parents can use it to soar like an eagle over the theological landscape of the past twenty centuries, seeing how God has built up Jerusalem (Ps. 147:2) with the living stones (1 Pet. 2:5) of highly flawed people. They can get the big picture of God’s work in history. But they can also swoop closer to the ground to ponder what made these forty-two historical figures unique, in the same way that they—the readers—are unique. To say it differently, I hope readers gain an appreciation of both the forest and the trees of church history by coloring this story.

3. Your book contains forty-two historical figures and only two of them are female (Monica and Lady Jane Grey). In light of this your readers might think that in the study of church history women are not as important as men. How would you respond to this?

There would be no important men in the history of the church if not for the love, nurture, and support of countless important women! We could have featured more women who made invaluable contributions to church history (a great idea for a future project!). But your question could similarly be asked of God’s list of saints in Hebrews 11 where named men outnumber women almost ten to one. Each of the named men was shaped by vitally important named and unnamed women. Jesus himself was helped in his ministry by women, many of whom are not named (Luke 8:1–4). So, in using this book, readers might reflect on how God mightily used also the mothers, sisters, and daughters of those who are featured, just as he is served by the amazing women in today’s church.

4. Judging from the contents of the book, it looks like you have a special interest in the sixteenth century period. Am I right? Please elaborate your answer.

There is no unimportant century in the history of God’s church. But something special happened in the sixteenth century. A reform movement, gathering force for centuries, shook the Roman Catholic Church and reintroduced a radical submission to Scripture and the life-saving doctrines of grace. The sixteenth century should be viewed, however, as the “golden-age” of the church. By God’s grace it is possible for Christians today to see even further than Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin (and others) because we stand on their shoulders.

5. What started you on the path to writing for children? And what has been one of your most rewarding experiences as a writer?

My first books were full-color introductions to the Reformed Confessions written for children (Faithfulness under Fire: The Story of Guido de Bres, The Quest for Comfort: The Story of the Heidelberg Catechism, and The Glory of Grace: The Story of the Belgic Confession). I wrote these stories to help my own children and the children of my congregation better understand the story behind the theology they were learning in the preaching.

Most of my books have grown out of, or were written in connection with, local church ministry. Not everyone will write books. But most people would experience such rewards as increased clarity and memory retention by committing their thoughts to writing. This has been my experience. I have also been gratified to receive notes from folks I’ve never met saying things like, “We are using your Bible Studies on Mark and have gained refreshing insights. Thank you!” Writing should serve a definite and defensible goal and be deemed worthy of the enormous commitment and sacrifices need to bring a book to print.

6. What were some of the challenges you encountered on the road to the publication of this book?

One of the challenges was rightly handling the realities of persecution. It is awkward to see Ignatius about to be mauled by lions, Polycarp bound to a pile of wood that would consume him, and Justin Martyr kneeling before the executioner’s chopping block. We hope we’ve handled these troubling realities with appropriate restraint. But we also hope that children will see in the sacrifices of these saints that Jesus is worthy of our calling to offer our bodies as living sacrifices (Rom. 12:1).

Another challenge was knowing how transparent to be about the faults of our “heroes.” We made the decision to alert readers of Charlemagne’s regrettable habits of forced conversions and womanizing. We could have talked about Luther’s anger or Zwingli’s sexual immorality early in his ministry. This is uncomfortable for us. We want our heroes to be pristine. But that isn’t reality. And sanitizing the lives of our forefathers (and mothers) isn’t good news for us. We need heroes who knew their sins and found salvation not through personally eliminating their faults but through faith in Jesus and his shed blood.

7. What book projects are you working on now?

I hope my introduction to the end times, The Future of Everything: Essential Truths on the End Times (RHB; 2019) will help readers better understand the importance of eschatology for Christian comfort and practical living. My friend Steve Swets and I are also editing a collection of essays for elders and deacons called Faithful and Fruitful (Reformed Fellowship; 2019) which should be a great encouragement to church officers as they carry out their important calling.

Note: Rev. Boekestein’s book is now available through Amazon. You may also want to purchase Amazing Grace, which is the first part of the series called “Stories behind Favorite Hymns for Ages 3 to 6,” available in the US through Reformation Heritage Books and in Canada through Reformed Book Services. Commenting on Amazing Grace, Rev. Boekestein says, “Why hasn’t this book been written before? If you want your children to grow in God’s grace, you will want them to hear this simple story of how grace saved a sinner just like them. I highly recommend this great book.”

Amazing Grace (front cover)

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The Gospel-Driven Tongue

The Gospel-Driven Tongue for promotion

This book has its origin in the pulpit of our congregation, Dutton United Reformed Church. From May 2012 to November 2014 I delivered a series of fifty-five expository sermons on the book of James, and five of these sermons were all about the tongue. With the encouragement of Dan Van Dyke, general manager of The Outlook (the journal of Reformed Fellowship, Inc.), I decided to submit the edited version of these five sermons to be published in installments in The Outlook. Having received good feedback from the readers, I was inspired to put these articles together as a book. I therefore want to thank all the board members of Reformed Fellowship, Inc., for granting me permission to publish these articles in book format and for agreeing to publish the book itself.

I also wish to express my special thanks to Josh Dear for editing my sermon notes to transform them from sermonic form into book form. I am also indebted to Linda Triemstra for polishing my manuscript and to Jeff Steenholdt for designing and typesetting this book.

A big thanks also goes to my dear wife Sarah for helping me improve the manuscript and for her being understanding as I used part of our family time to work on this project.  Finally, I am deeply grateful to God for giving me strength to complete this study.

Here are the endorsements for this book: Gospel-Driven Tongue Cover

“Finally—a simple, direct, practical book on the sins of the tongue… This little book is a must read for all Christians, so that we would do a far better job at bridling our tongues and being more consistently God-glorifying in our daily conversation….I pray that God will use Pastor Najapfour’s book to open our eyes, confess our sins, and change our conversation to that which pleases God, loves our neighbor, and serves to mutual edification.”

Dr. Joel R. Beeke, President, Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids, Michigan

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“I recommend this fine booklet on the need to discipline the tongue. It will be of real help to all who have a serious desire to make progress in sanctification.”

Rev. Maurice Roberts, Emeritus Minister in Inverness, Free Church of Scotland (Continuing) and former editor of The Banner of Truth magazine

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“Scriptural, straightforward, simple, and soul-searching, this small book is a must read for all God’s people as they seek to glorify God in their lives, especially through their lips. The study questions at the end of each chapter are also ideal for a group Bible study.”

Mrs. Nenita del Mundo, National Director, Student Missionary Outreach and president of Student Missionary Outreach Bible Training Institute, Philippines 

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Click here, if you are interested in purchasing a copy of this book.

 

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Child Dedication: Considered Historically, Theologically, And Pastorally

Here’s my new book scheduled to be released on May 22.

 

“I certainly recommend Najapfour’s booklet to those who may be wrestling with the issue. It is a fair, concise, and biblical treatment.” Child Dedication (book cover)

Dr. Michael Barrett, Academic Dean and Professor of Old Testament, Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary

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“I commend this book to you.”

Dr. Robert L. Plummer, Professor of New Testament Interpretation, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

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“Dedicating our children to the Lord is a good thing, but care must be taken lest too much emphasis is placed on the action of parents rather than on God’s action towards our children. It is our gracious God who takes believing parents and their children into His covenant and church. This booklet serves as a much needed reminder of this glorious fact.”

Rev. Cornelis (Niel) Pronk, Emeritus Pastor of Free Reformed Church, Brantford, Ontario

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“If you are wrestling with whether to dedicate or baptize your child, I commend Brian Najapfour’s little book to you. It will lead you in what Scripture teaches and lead you in raising your children in the fear and instruction of the Lord.”

Rev. Daniel R. Hyde, Pastor, Oceanside United Reformed Church, Oceanside, California

 

 You can buy the book here.

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FORTHCOMING BOOK: Spiritual Warfare: A Biblical and Balanced Perspective

Biblical_Warfare_front_2_2__55272.1378573386.315.315

My friend Rob Ventura has a forthcoming book, Spiritual Warfare: A Biblical and Balanced Perspective, which he co-wrote with Brian Borgman. This volume is scheduled to be released in January 2014. Click here to read Nathan Pitchford’s review of the book.

Here’s Joel R. Beeke’s endorsement:

“William Gurnall once said that the battle between Satan and the saints makes the most brutal war on earth look like child’s play. Yet so many Christians act like civilians on vacation instead of soldiers on the front lines. Borgman and Ventura, like experienced master sergeants, give us the Bible’s basic training on spiritual warfare. Drawing from the classic text in Ephesians 6, their teaching will both clear away false ideas about the spiritual battle, and equip Christians to stand firm to the end.”

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A Brief Purpose of “The Very Heart of Prayer”

The purpose of my book is twofold:  first, to demonstrate that while John Bunyan (1628-1668) historically belonged to the sectarian world, he can still rightly be considered a Puritan; and Book on Bunyan (picture)second, to reclaim Bunyan from scholars who not only dispute his identity as a Puritan but also overlook his rich and peculiar spirituality.

The volume has only three chapters. Chapter 1 carefully explores Bunyan’s religious identity, leading to the conclusion that he may be labeled a sectarian Puritan. Chapter 2 critically examines his theology of prayer, one important aspect of his spirituality. In this segment, I particularly scrutinize Bunyan’s treatise I will pray with the Spirit (1662). The analysis of this treatise shows Bunyan’s radical emphasis on the Holy Spirit’s work in prayer. It also shows both Bunyan’s sectarianism and Puritanism. Chapter 3 probes his teaching on piety, as found in A Holy Life (1684). This chapter demonstrates that Bunyan’s goal in all of his life was the pursuit and promotion of piety. Sadly, some scholars who put Bunyan within a sectarian context not only suspect his identity as a Puritan but also slight his rich spirituality. Chapter 3 seeks to recover Bunyan from such scholars who depreciate his piety.

I hope my work will create a thirst among readers to pray more—to pray with the Spirit, which for Bunyan is “the very heart of Prayer.”

Note: If you purchase a copy of my book from Reformation Heritage Books, you save $5.00.

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New Book on Jonathan Edwards

Book Cover for Jonathan Edwards-His Doctrine of & Devotion to PrayerJonathan Edwards: His Doctrine of & Devotion to Prayer has finally arrived. If interested, you can purchase a copy from Reformation Heritage Books. All the proceeds from the book will go to my mother-in-law’s medical expenses. Please pray for her as she is battling with stage four breast cancer. Thank you!

Recommendations for the book:

“In giving Jonathan Edwards to the church, God did her an inestimable favor. In giving Jonathan Edwards to the reader, Brian Najapfour has done the Christian a great favor.

Edwards rightly stands at the fountainhead of a great theological tradition. The depth of Edwards’ theology, however, often overwhelms the uninitiated. In response, the reader turns to shallower streams and dies instead of theological thirst. The great riches of Edwards await those who will swim against the current. Those who persevere find not only the majesty of his thought on such great doctrines as the will and sin. They find on the far shores of their efforts the gems, ideas and doctrines directly related to God’s call upon every Christian. Edwards’ theology of prayer is such a gem. Given the chance, Jonathan Edwards and this volume, Jonathan Edwards: His Doctrine of & Devotion to Prayer, promise to change the way we pray.”

Dr. Peter Beck, Assistant Professor of Religion, Charleston Southern University

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“Thomas Shepard, the Harvard man, once quipped that there are times in his life when he’d rather die than pray. No doubt we sometimes feel this way. This book on the man from Yale by Brian Najapfour will help remedy the problem of prayerlessness. For that reason alone I am grateful for this enjoyable read on the prayer life of Jonathan Edwards.”

—Dr. Mark Jones, Minister of Faith Presbyterian Church (PCA), Vancouver, British Columbia and Research Associate, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa

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“Brian Najapfour weaves together a beautiful tapestry of theology and piety, of doctrine and devotion, from the life, sermons and writings of Jonathan Edwards. You’ll end up knowing much more about this godly man; but, if you follow his example, you’ll end up knowing even more about God.”

—Dr. David P. Murray, Professor of Old Testament and Practical Theology, Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary

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“Historically informed and contemporarily relevant, Jonathan Edwards: His Doctrine of & Devotion to Prayer equips one in the life of prayer.”

—Dr. Adriaan C. Neele, Associate Editor and Director of the Jonathan Edwards Center, Yale University Divinity School

 

 

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A DEVELOPMENTAL APPROACH TO YOUTH EVANGELISM AND DISCIPLESHIP IN THE CONTEXT OF MARTIAL ARTS TRAINING

By Dr. Richard A. Guion (guest blogger)

In August 2010, I began to offer free martial arts lessons at Christ Fellowship Church (CFC) to interested young people. This was in response to the big potential of being able to reach out to so many teenagers attracted to the field of martial arts training. The goal was to lead them to Jesus Christ and make them His disciples. In the succeeding months, a good number of students enrolled.

However, it was evident that the potential of martial arts training as a context for youth evangelism and discipleship was not being maximized. After every martial arts class, I invariably just preached a mini-sermon. Later, I realized that the youth have peculiar developmental characteristics that necessitate specific methods if one is to successfully get through them and impact their lives. Unfortunately, what I was doing in the club was devoid of any consideration of this. Moreover, there was the foundational question of whether or not it is spiritually and morally acceptable for Christians to train in the martial arts and to employ force in defending oneself from threats to one’s physical safety.

So I decided to write my doctoral dissertation on this topic, seeing its vast potential to significantly enhance CFC’s martial arts ministry. I embarked on a serious investigation on youth ministry, adolescent development, martial arts vis-à-vis Eastern religions, the compatibility of martial arts and Christianity, and martial arts ministry. After many months of painstaking research and writing, I was able to develop a program that promotes a well-rounded and balanced growth in the essential areas of the Christian life, utilizes various elements of martial arts training, and is well-informed by an accurate perspective on adolescent development.

Based on the foregoing study, I conclude that martial arts training is a spiritually and morally valid endeavor for Christians to undertake, provided that Eastern religious elements are banned from the class and the essential purpose behind the practice of the said arts is self-defense or physical fitness and not to harm others. With regards to martial arts ministry, it is a very potent tool in reaching out to numerous young people drawn to martial arts training. This is especially true if the program takes into consideration the physical, cognitive, and psychosocial makeup of the youth, thereby adopting strategies that resonate with them.

Note: Sensei Denny Holzbauer, the grandmaster and founder of American Bushido-Kai Karate Association, an international martial arts ministry based in Oklahoma, U.S.A, is planning to publish my dissertation soon. Should anyone of you be interested in my dissertation’s topic, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

 

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Rev. Dr. Richard A. Guion (B.Th., M.Div., D.Min.) is the Senior Pastor of Christ Fellowship Church, a multiethnic congregation in Davao City, Philippines, which started out with Chinese-Filipinos and later on also attracted Filipinos and expats like Americans, Koreans, and Indians. His sermon videos are being broadcast daily on Skycable Davao Channel 39 (CFC) and Skycable Bacolod Channel 34 (MY Channel). His sermons can also be heard on The Edge Radio Davao 104.3 FM. Pastor Rich, as he is fondly called by church members, began learning martial arts when he was thirteen years old. He now has a black belt from American Bushido-Kai Karate Association (ABKA) and a black belt from Philippine Taekwondo Association (PTA). He has also received varying degrees of training in other arts such as jeet kune do, traditional aikido, combat aikido, kali, muay thai, and jujitsu.

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