The Big Picture - Resources

I have found many great resources during my own journey to put the pieces together. I am indebted to  the authors of the resources below and recommend each of them. I have sought to find resources that can meet people at a variety of levels and have tried to give a good indication with each resource as to who and where on a journey each could be most beneficial. As I continue to put together my own series of posts about the Big Picture, these are some of the most helpful I have found. 

Kids/Family Resources

I believe one of the best ways to get a handle on the Big Picture of the Bible is through some of the well done Kids resources available today. In the introduction to a children's resource written by a seminary professor he says that he realized if he could not explain these concepts to his children, he shouldn't trying to teach them to future pastors. The strength of a solid children's Bible, or other Children's book that teaches the Big Picture or key concepts and doctrines, is that they have to explain it in plain language. What follows is a list of some that I have found particularly good at getting the point across in a way that is beneficial to adult and child alike. Everyone one of these I have read and, at least the picture books, have read with my 3 year old. It has been a delight to see the truths presented taking root in her heart.

The Big Picture Story Bible - David Helm
Well illustrated and easy to follow Helm puts the narrative of the Bible together in a wonderfully illustrated book. What really resonates with me is that this book was born out of a curriculum that was put together in his church. The hardcover edition also comes with 2 CDs containing the author's reading of the book. There is also a companion family devotional and small memory verse booklet available. My preschool aged kids love the Story Bible, but they are not quite old enough for the devotional. (Check out this interview with the illustrator)

What's in the Bible with Buck Denver
This 13 DVD series is put together by Phil Vischer, the creator of VeggieTales. Following the rise (and fall) of Phil's endeavours with talking vegetables (a story he tells in Me Myself And Bob which is a great read btw) he embarked on this project to teach kids the overarching story of the Bible. Using his creativity and gift for connecting with children, this series helps frame the whole story. Using puppets and animations and lots of fun, the series works from Genesis to Revelation over the course of the 13 DVDs. A couple thing I really appreciate about this series is there are little rabbit trails that help add clarity to the story. One of my favorites is the "Pirate's guide to church history" segments that help fill in some of the gaps between the time of Christ and today. Another positive aspect of this series is that Phil is actually in it, interacting his characters. He often comes in to fill in the important pieces, giving a sense of 'this part is important' when covering important topics. There is also a Church Edition of these DVDs that can be used as Sunday School curriculum. There is also a 14th DVD titled "Why do we call it Christmas" which helps explain the origin of many of our Christmas time traditions.

Jesus Storybook Bible - Sally Lloyd-Jones
Well written and well illustrated, this puts the story of scripture into a narrative for kids. The wording is carefully chosen and well done. My 3 year-old was kept captive by this one for nearly the entire new testament in one sitting.

What God Has Always Wanted: The Bible's Big Idea from Genesis Through Revelation - Charles F Boyd
This story book gives a single seating read through of the Big Idea of the Bible. This simple storyline explains in the simplest of terms, just what the title says "What God Has Always Wanted" telling how things were intended to be, how Adam and Eve fell, God's plan to save us and how we can dwell with Him in eternity.

The Bible's Big Story: Salvation History for Kids - James M. Hamilton Jr.
Another short picture book for kids. What is impressive about Hamilton is that this is not the work he would be best known for. He also wrote "What is Biblical Theology" which I have in the Grown-up Resources section as well as a hefty Old Testament Theology, which I have not yet read but plan too. The bottom line is, Hamilton is able to write at a scholarly level as well as a lay and children's level. He is able to present the story of the Bible in a clear and concise way while having incredible depth.

Big Truths For Young Hearts: Teaching and Learning the Greatness of God - Bruce A. Ware
This is a systematic theology aimed at teens and young adults. Really what it is, is a theology using fairly plain language. Ware is a seminary professor who says when he started teaching, he realized that if he couldn't teach his own 2 daughters the keys of the faith, he shouldn't be teaching pastors to teach people. Now that his girls are grown up they encouraged him to write what he had taught them so they could teach their own kids. Each section is short and deals with a single truth. The one weakness of this book is a function of its format as a simple theology is that it does not explore other interpretations of areas where are differing views. Though not really appropriate given the format and intent it is of note that he only presents one view on complementarianism/egalitarianism and a single view on the end-times. Both are a very small portion of the book and the book as a whole is certainly worth it, even if you disagree with Ware's position on those two points.

Grown-up Resources

When it's time for a more "grown-up" study the following are resources I have found particularly helpful and accessible and I have intentionally left works that would be considered "scholarly" off this list. Though most are written by scholars these are books written for the church and the person in the pew.

Story of God, the Story of Us, The: Getting Lost and Found in the Bible: Getting Lost and Found in the Bible - Sean Gladding
Sean Gladding has done us a great service by writing this book. This book is a narrative retelling of the Story of God that is both easy to read and draws the reader into the story. The Old Testament is told by an elder telling the story of their people while in exile in Babylon. The New Testament is told by a house church leader sharing with a curious seeker wanting to know why these Christians are so different. If you want to get a handle on the big picture of the Bible but find a novel much more accessible, this is the book for you.

What Is Biblical Theology?: A Guide to the Bibles Story, Symbolism, and Patterns- James M. Hamilton Jr.
This (relatively) short book is a great primer for overarching story of the Bible. Easy to read and easy to follow Hamilton helps put the pieces together. If you are looking for greater depth his scholarly 640 page Gods Glory In Salvation Through Judgment: A Biblical Theology is on my currently reading list and I've found it a very interesting read thus far.

The Epic Of Eden: A Christian Entry into the Old Testament - Sandra L. Richter
Written by a professor at Wheaton College this accessible book is intended to help Christians understand the story of the Old Testament. Using the analogy of a dysfunctional closet where you have an idea of what's in it but nothing is where it should be. The result is we end up grabbing something off the top of the hamper pile because the task of going through our closet to find the right pieces and figure out how to make them work is too daunting. Richter helps the reader by giving simple hooks to hang the Old Testament story on. By giving just 5 key people (Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses and David) and just 3 regions (Mesopotamia, Canaan/Israel/Palestine, and Egypt) to hang the events of the Old Testament on the pieces begin to fall into place. She also does a great job at bridging the cultural gap between us and the Old Testament times. She shows how God connected with His people in ways that made sense to them, showing one of the greatest things about God, He comes to us!