Blogroll: Children Desiring God
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There is wonderful variety displayed in the Christmas celebrations of our churches and families. Some are shaped by years of special traditions. Some are unique to our cultural backgrounds. But no matter what your Christmas celebration may involve, here is a powerful reminder from Pastor John MacArthur:
Christmas should be simple, not complex, very simple. Christmas should be stripped of all of its trappings so that all that is left is the simplicity of God becoming man.
That is the only element in the Christmas seasonal celebration that has in it any lasting power to effect life. There is no real strength, no real peace or comfort or hope or love or promise or confidence for the future to be found in Santa Claus. There’s no lasting value in any earthly gift or any earthly sentiment expressed. The tree always dies metaphorically unless it never lived because it was fake to begin with. No package and no party can really sustain a flickering life. No bright lights can lift up the downcast soul to a higher spiritual level….In the hour of need all Christmas has to offer is Jesus Christ. And He is utterly sufficient. Only He can fill the heart with hope in the time of doubt. Only He can fill the heart with lasting joy in the time of sadness. Only He can fill the heart with peace in a time of fear.
The very heart of our celebrations should herald and embrace these simple yet infinitely profound truths,
The angel said to Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. (Luke 1:35)
“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
We would love to offer you a free tool to help children focus on the true meaning of Christmas: “Jesus the Savior is Born” (from our curriculum, Jesus, What a Savior). This free lesson (or family devotional) includes lesson material, visuals, Student Workbook, Optional Activities, and Growing in Faith Together page. You may print or make copies of these materials for use in your home, church, or school. Enjoy!
The free lesson can be downloaded as a PDF.
No one wants to give boring presents for Christmas, especially not to children. But there is a gift that is often overlooked in its ability to captivate our minds and hearts. It is a one-of-a-kind gift that is beyond exciting because it is…
…sweeter than honey; more valuable than gold; a lamp and a guide; a hiding place and shield; a sword and strong defense; always right, true, and trustworthy; powerful; life-giving; hope-producing; more satisfying than food; unchanging; eternal; and more.
No other gift can compare to God’s Word! As we quickly approach Christmas and the coming new year, we have a wonderful opportunity to inspire families and the wider church body to pursue an intentional plan for reading and memorizing God’s Word together. I found these eight reasons to memorize Scripture by John Piper to be especially compelling:
- Memorizing Scripture makes meditation possible at times when you can’t be reading the Bible, and meditation is the pathway to deeper understanding. If you’re going to meditate on the law of the Lord day and night, you need to have some of it in your head.
- Memorizing Scripture strengthens my faith because faith comes from hearing and hearing by the word of God, and that happens when I am hearing the word in my head.
- Memorizing Scripture shapes the way I view the world by conforming my mind to God’s viewpoint on everything.
- Memorizing Scripture makes God’s word more readily accessible in overcoming temptation to sin because God’s warnings and promises are the way we conquer the lies—the deceitful lies of the devil.
- Memorizing Scripture guards my mind, making it easier for me to detect error. The world is filled with error because the god of this world is a liar.
- Memorizing Scripture enables me to hit the devil in the face with a force he cannot resist to protect myself and my family from his assault. What are you hitting him with? He is millions of times stronger than you, and he hates you, and your family, and your marriage, and this church, and God. How anybody walks through this devil-ruled world without a sword in their hand is beyond me.
- Memorizing Scripture provides the strongest and sweetest words for ministering to others in need. Have you ever been caught off-guard with somebody in need? You don’t need to be caught off-guard.
- Memorizing Scripture provides the matrix for fellowship with Jesus because he talks to me here and nowhere else. Sweetly, powerfully, authentically, really speaks to me here, and then I speak back to him in prayer. If have the Bible in me, we can talk anywhere, and it’s sweet. It is very sweet. (from “Your Deadliest Weapon Against the Devil—Eight Reasons to Memorize Scripture”)
At Truth78, we want to do everything possible to encourage Bible memory in churches and homes. Our Fighter Verses Bible memory program offers a variety of resources to help foster Bible memory in young and old alike. These resources provide inspiration, motivation, practical tools, and hundreds of carefully selected verses for memorization and meditation.
Get ready to memorize Scripture in 2019 by taking advantage of our special pricing on the Fighter Verses program. Use coupon code NewYear to get 15% off the following items (coupon valid December 11-18):
Foundation Verses (for individuals packs only)
- BONUS: If you’re looking for help for encouraging your children to participate in the worship service, give them a copy of My Church Notebook (Vol 1 and 2).
In a child’s mind, the thought of Christmas often conjures up the anticipation of gifts—lots and lots of gifts. “Can I get ____ for Christmas? Which presents are mine under the tree? When can I open them?” While there should be a sense of excitement, and there’s nothing wrong with wanting to give gifts to our children, it can often serve as a great challenge to the heart.
Hebrews 13:5—Keep your life free from love of money [toys, games, gadgets, etc.], and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Luke 12:15—And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions [toys, games, gadgets, etc].”
Matthew 6:21—“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Are we as parents and grandparents helping our children embrace these truths during the Christmas season? Or do the number and types of gifts we give feed an insatiable craving for more and better stuff? What will best point them toward true, lasting contentment? As parents, we need to be on the forefront of cultivating contentment in our children. Cultivating involves preparing the soil of the heart, planting the seeds of biblical truth, and praying for God to bring forth fruit. With that in mind, here are a few suggestions for cultivating contentment this Christmas.
- Cultivate an atmosphere that reflects the true meaning of Christmas with Jesus as the only means of true happiness and contentment. Many Christian parents are already doing this, but we don’t always fully appreciate the pull of the world on our children’s hearts and minds. That’s why we must be diligent and consistent in pointing them toward the immeasurable treasure of Christ. Consider using a Christmas-themed or Advent devotional (such as Why Christmas? by Barbara Reaoch, Prepare Him Room by Marty Machowski, or The Dawning of Indestructible Joy by John Piper). Fill your home with Christ-exalting carols and songs. Decorate with pictures and symbols that point to Christ’s birth and His redeeming work on the cross. By continually holding forth the greatness and worth of Christ, worldly treasures may diminish in our children’s eyes.
- Cultivate in your children a biblical view of possessions. Here are some basic truths to emphasize:
- Materials possessions are ultimately from God, belong to God, and are under God’s authority (1 Chronicles 29:12).
- God knows and graciously and generously provides for all of our needs (Matthew 6:8; 7:11).
- Possessions are temporary and cannot truly satisfy us (Matthew 6:19).
- The desire for possessions may become a dangerous snare (Luke 12:15; 1 Timothy 6:10).
- True, lasting contentment only comes through knowing, loving, trusting, and following Jesus (Philippians 3:8).
- Cultivate wise gift giving. More is not always better for children (or for us), nor is expensive always best. Talk with your children about having realistic expectations. If necessary, consider “de-escalating” gift giving and/or emphasizing gifts that are relational in nature. For example, give books or games that can be used together as a family. Give each child a special event night with mom or dad. These kind of gifts build memories that last far beyond the value of a toy or gadget. Plus, they cultivate a sense that our greatest treasure is itself relational—the treasure of knowing and loving Christ. You may also need to broach the subject—in a winsome way—with grandparents and other relatives.
- Cultivate an excitement for meaningful and generous giving. Use verses such as, “…remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’” (Acts 20:35), and “…God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7) to teach your children about the joy of giving to others. For example:
- Look into your church’s mercy ministries. Is there a family gift project you could pursue to fill a specific need? (e.g., the Samaritan’s Purse Christmas Catalog)
- Use the time before Christmas for your children to do an inventory of their toys, games, etc. Encourage them to give a few of their things to a ministry-based donation center.
- Encourage your children to give homemade and/or relational gifts (e.g., help Grandma clean her house, wash the dishes for Mom for a week, etc.)
- Cultivate an awareness of the comparison monster and the means to slay it. It’s amazing how often I find myself content with what I have until…I see something better that someone else has. Our children are prone to this same kind of covetousness. In addition to helping them develop a biblical view of possessions, we need to help our children recognize the comparison monster when it rises up, and put it to death.
- Remind them of all the unmerited goodness and generosity of God in their own lives.
- Talk about the importance of thankfulness. (See “Raising Thankful Children.”)
- Pray with them, asking for the Spirit’s help.
Again, we don’t want to diminish the joy of giving our children wonderful gifts at Christmas. Generous gift giving can be a means of teaching about the generosity of our heavenly Father. But I know that my family and I are all far too prone to seek contentment in the earthly gifts we desire and receive. More than anything, I desire to cultivate contentment in the only gift and treasure that will truly satisfy—Jesus Christ Himself!
If you would like to explore this topic further with your children, here are some discussion ideas:
- Read 1 Timothy 6:6-8, and ask: Did you bring anything into the world? Can you take anything with you when you die? What does verse 8 say that we should be content with? Why is this hard for us? If you lived in a very poor country where many people were starving, would it be easier to be content with having food? Why? How can you have this same attitude without having to be in that situation?
- Do you often compare what you have with what others have? Why? Do you feel that you need what they have in order to be happy? Why? If and when you feel this way, what are you saying about what you think will make you truly happy? Is this what God tells us will make us happy? Is God your heavenly Father? Do you trust Him to provide all that you need to be happy? Read Matthew 7:7-11. What kinds of things do you ask God for? Why do you ask for these things? Do you believe that God wants to give you good gifts? Do you complain about the good things God has already given you? Why is it sometimes hard to be thankful? Is it because God is stingy? Or is it because our hearts are not grateful? How could you focus on thankfulness to God this week?
- Make a “thank you” list to God for His many good gifts. What should a list like this remind us of? When feelings of wanting more and more “stuff” start to creep into your heart, do you stop to think about how generous God has already been to you? Do you thank Him for life and breath and everything else? How could stopping and remembering this list help you to fight against feeling discontent with what you have?
- Is God able to satisfy your every need? Therefore, if He withholds something from you, like having your own bedroom or a new iPad, is it because He isn’t able to provide you with these things? Why might God choose to withhold something from you? What better thing might God have for you? Give a concrete example of this.
- Read Philippians 4:12-13. What is the “secret” of being content? Why does Paul say that it is a secret? Are secrets easy things to find out? No, they are to be “found out” by actively searching for them. Can you be content through your own strength? Why not? On whose strength must you depend?
- What is your hardest struggle when you think of earthly treasures? What kinds of things “feed” this feeling? What do commercials, movies, books, and store advertisements tell you is worth “laying up”? How can you protect yourself from this in some measure? Do you do this, or do you continue to feed your appetite for earthly treasures?
- Have you ever received something that you were really happy and excited about? Did you feel as excited about it a week later? A month later? Two years later? Why not? What does this tell you about earthly treasures and the happiness they bring? Will this happen to heavenly treasures? Why not?
(These discussion ideas were adapted from the Truth78 curriculum, To Be Like Jesus: A Study for Children on Following Jesus.)
Truth78 is excited to announce a 1-day Regional Conference for Saturday April 13, 2019 at Eden Baptist Church in Burnsville, MN.
Please mark this date on your calendar and plan to spend the day with Truth78 – being encouraged, challenged, trained, and equipped to influence the faith of the next generation.What to Expect
David and Sally Michael (founders of Truth78, formerly Children Desiring God) will present a biblical vision for encouraging the faith of the next generation, highlighting the strategic relationship between the church and home in this privilege and responsibility.
There will also be breakout seminars on various topics for parents, ministry leaders, and children & youth ministry volunteers.
We plan to have our online registration available early in January. There will be a small registration fee to cover lunch and registration materials.
We look forward to seeing you then. Please contact us if you have any questions.
Recently, I listened as children from our church practiced singing for their Christmas program. I was delighted as the director carefully explained, stanza by stanza, the meaning of the words of a familiar Christmas carol. As a young child, I remember memorizing this carol with ease, but I had no clue what many of the words meant. Unfortunately, that was true for most of the Christmas carols I sang. For example, what did these verses mean?
“And makes the nations prove the glories of His righteousness” (Joy to the World)
“O come, Thou Rod of Jesse,” (O Come, O Come, Emmanuel)
“Hail th’incarnate Deity,” (Hark the Herald Angels Sing)
These words convey big biblical truths. If our children are to worship God in “spirit and in truth” (John 4:24), they need at least some knowledge and understanding of the truth. It is our responsibility to explain these truths with increasing depth as our children grow and mature.
This Advent season provides a great opportunity to help your children learn the theological richness of great Christmas carols. Wonderful family traditions and memories can be fostered by not only singing these carols together, but also by exploring their meaning. It can be as simple as choosing a carol or two a week, printing the words, reading each stanza, defining unfamiliar words, explaining the biblical truths conveyed, and then singing the carol together.
A really helpful resource for families that I highly recommend is: Christmas Carols for a Kid’s Heart (Volume 3 of the Hymns for a Kid’s Heart series).
You could also use these three short Christmas carol devotionals offered by Ligonier Ministries:
Don’t waste your Christmas carols this year!
“It is not enough to simply receive knowledge about God,” say David and Sally Michael in a new interview with Nancy Guthrie. Hear what is needed in order to raise the bar and help children set their hope in God.
Are you looking for something to occupy your children through the long, cold winter days? Wondering how to keep them busy during the coming school break? Have you considered how you can make Christmas more spiritually significant? One answer to all these questions is to give the gift of great books! One such book is The Prince’s Poison Cup by R. C. Sproul.
The Prince’s Poison Cup offers wonderful storytelling to pique a child’s imagination. It weaves a tale of a good and loving King and his beautiful kingdom, a devious enemy, tragedy, heartache, a heroic and victorious Prince, and a “happily ever after” for the King’s people. Every page has graceful illustrations to help capture a child’s attention. Most importantly, this book helps children understand a profound biblical truth—a truth at the very heart of the Gospel. In an interview published by The Gospel Coalition, Dr. Sproul explained,
In this day and age, the whole need for atonement is being ridiculed widely, not just in the liberal church, but it has made its way into the evangelical community as well. People are saying that satisfaction involves God in cosmic child abuse. They ask why we can’t just rely on the love of God—that there is no need to satisfy His justice and His wrath. Through this story I want people to understand that the wrath of God is real. It was necessary to satisfy God’s righteousness in order for people to be healed. Instead of our receiving the cup of wrath, it was to be drunk by Jesus in His people’s place. That is absolutely central to the gospel (“The Poison Cup: An Interview with R. C. Sproul”).
The book includes a number of interactive questions designed to help children better grasp this essential truth, connecting the make-believe story to biblical truths, and offering biblical texts to read and discuss. I can imagine cuddling with my grandchildren, reading the story on multiple occasions, and then using one or more of these questions each time. What might God be pleased to do through these discussions?
This is also a great book to read to your children at Christmastime. It reminds children why Jesus came to earth. It reminds them that the manger was meant to lead to the cross.
Our friends at Ligonier are offering our blog readers a free digital edition (epub and mobi) of The Prince’s Poison Cup using the coupon code TRUTH78, between now and December 31st.
I want to do better this next year! I want to step away from the commercialized insanity of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and even the commercialization of what some call “Giving Tuesday.” I have realized over the past several months how random, wimpy, and small my prayers are for the children that matter most to me. I want to do better next year for the sake of the next generation—my children, my grandchildren, the children of my church, and their children after them. I want to pray bigger, bolder, and more biblical prayers for them. I am wondering on this Giving Tuesday if there are 9,999 other people who would want to join me in this effort as we anticipate the beginning of a new year.
Because there is more to say than what I can explain in this post, I have written a small book called Big, Bold, Biblical Prayers for the Next Generation. I have also recorded a 5-minute video if you would rather listen than read. On this Giving Tuesday I want to give you a copy of this book and encourage you to read at least the first 29 pages, and consider praying such prayers at least once every week in 2019.
My desire to do better began about this time last year, when a sense of urgency was rising at Truth78 (formerly Children Desiring God) because of some significant financial challenges. I was feeling desperate. I prayed earnestly and intensely, and urged others to pray with us about these concerns.
Two thoughts were troubling me as we prayed. First, as urgent as the situation seemed, I had no assurance that God would solve the funding problems we were facing. God is not bound by some promise that guarantees the viability of our organization. In fact, we were prepared to accept the possibility that God might be pleased to accomplish his purposes for the next generation without Truth78.
The second troubling thought was that I was feeling more urgent about relatively small things than I was about the greater things. Why was I feeling more desperate about diminishing sales than about more than half of children growing up in Christian homes forsaking the faith? Why was I not feeling as desperate about the complacency that we see in the American church toward faithfully passing the truth on to the next generation? Why was I not feeling more desperate about our brothers and sisters around the world who lack any resources to help them with the instruction of their children?
Jesus’ words at the end of Matthew 6 caused a significant shift in my approach to prayer and to the little problems I was facing in ministry. Jesus exhorts us not to be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’…But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
This passage suggests that my first prayers should be for the greater things—the big things—the Kingdom-sized things, as I trust God for the smaller things. Not that I should neglect praying for the lesser things, but rather I should prioritize my prayers toward the greater.
I also realized that my lack of assurance was due to praying for things that were not necessarily linked to any explicit biblical truth or promise. When asking for financial blessings, there is a measure of confidence we can have based on God’s promise to provide for our needs. But compare that confidence to the confidence we have when we ask God to grant that every knee bow and “every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.” In other words, the more biblical my prayers are, the bolder I can be when I pray—which explains why, on this Giving Tuesday, I am inviting you to join me in praying big, bold and biblical prayers for the next generation. What might God be pleased to do if 10,000 people commit to praying big, bold, biblical prayers for the next generation in 2019? I can hardly wait to find out!
Share this book with others and encourage them to join us in prayer
We have created the following resources to help you share our free book, as well as the invitation to pray:
- Share the free download online through Facebook, Twitter, or email.
- Order print copies to share with your church, friends, and family. (Receive a discount when you purchase 25 or more copies.)
- Download a promotional flyer for print or digital distribution.
In the heart of every Christian grandmother is the desire for her grandchildren to know Jesus as their Savior. This was my heart’s desire seven years ago when I wrote the text to Jesus is Most Special. It didn’t start out as text for a children’s book about the birth of Christ. It was simply the expression of one grandmother’s heart that her granddaughter would know of God’s love in sending the Savior.
At the time, my elder daughter, Amy, and her husband, Gary, were living in St. John’s, Newfoundland with my eldest grandchild, Anna, who was then three years old. As I thought about the miles between us and pondered how I could nurture a spiritual interest and understanding in Anna’s heart, the Lord put it in my heart to tell Anna the Christmas story via the written word. I had no pictures to send her, so I suggested that Amy and Gary use a nativity set in telling the story.
From this little beginning came the Christmas when Anna and her family, which now included a sister and brother, moved back to the United States and we were able to spend Christmas together—this time with Anna and Katie participating in telling the Christmas story to the family using our nativity set, while baby brother Joshua looked on.
But God had much bigger plans than I did for this simple story about the most beautiful story in the world. Through His mighty and peculiar acts of providence, He has made this story available to you through the beautifully formatted and illustrated book published by P&R Publishing. Who but God would take something intended for a little three-year-old and multiply the loaves and fishes of that effort to feed a multitude? Who but God indeed? His ways are higher than our ways. He is faithful to tell His story to each generation.
May you this Christmas be part of this great work of declaring His “glorious deeds…and His might, and the wonders that He has done” to the next generation that they might “set their hope in God” (Psalm 78:4, 7).
Our hearts are full and we barely know where to begin to express our praise and gratitude for the goodness and mercy that has followed us every day of this year, as with every day of our lives. May we never spare you praise or cease to give You thanks for the daily blessings that we have received from Your generous hand.
Your laws were at work even while we slept. The earth kept turning at the same speed. The dawn came as it always has for thousands of years. Our hearts continued their steady beat. Our arms and hands moved in response to commands from our minds. Our ears and eyes coordinated with signals to the brain giving us sight and sound. We enjoyed houses that past generations would count as castles, a furnace that started by itself, gas that flowed, lights that came on, a warm shower, a hot cup of coffee, clothing for our backs that some would think fit for a King, food for our stomachs prepared and preserved and supplied in ways unimagined by some, family and friends that surround us, a door that opened to fresh air, and a sun rising upon a land unblasted by the horrors of war or political chaos in a nation which still, by your providence, knows peace.
You have adorned us with the aroma of Christ. Our hearts have been purged of malice and made loving through your sanctifying grace. Kind deeds have been extended to those in need. Forgiving expressions and gracious actions have been extended toward enemies. You have brought fidelity to friendships and marriages, and allowed people to live in the security of dependable love. There has been sacrifice gladly given by parents for their children, children for their parents, friends for friends, and in our communities, our work places, and our schools.
How tender you have been in our foolishness—You have been patient and suffered long with our stupidity, correcting and disciplining only in measure and comforting us without measure. You have heard our prayers even when we have hardly prayed. We have been unbelieving but You have been faithful. We have been undeserving but Your grace has never failed. We’ve been in trouble often and You have been our helper. We’ve been in danger and You’ve never slumbered or slept. Not once have You failed to keep Your promises or to remember us for good.
But among all the blessings we will never stop praising You for our redemption; for the wonders of Calvary and Him who washed us from our sins in His own blood. We will never cease to praise You for finding us dead and making us alive, for reconciling with us when we were at odds with You; for lifting us out of the slough and mire of selfishness and worldliness into the love of divine and everlasting things. You delivered us from the power of sin and in the splendor of Your mercy You kept us and would not let us go away from You. You have preserved us even to this day and made with us an everlasting covenant which neither death nor hell will ever take away.
You have served us, not according to what we deserved but according to our desires and Your loving mercies. Another year’s worth of sins have been forgiven and in Your mercy, so many things we feared could happen have not come to pass. How gracious You have been, how tender Your mercy, how warm and constant is Your love. Thank You for every act of faith and good resolve that has come from our hearts this past year. Thank You for Your faithfulness in the prosperity that some have experienced and in the financial reverses of others. There is no end to our list, Lord. Only our lack of thought limits the list of things that we can mention in this moment.
Can we who are so rich in your mercies be so bold and dare to ask for more? We dare to Lord because we believe that there is more You wish to do. We ask that we and our children will remember the lessons learned in this past year and and that our faith would grow exceedingly because of it. May we who have experienced such goodness never entertain doubt. May we never be staggered by unbelief and may no affliction ever undermine our confidence in You. You are strong to keep your promises. You are an unchanging, unexhausted, eternal fountain of good things for Your people. May we never forget it. May we always say with David, “My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed: I will sing and give praise” (Psalm 57:7, KJV).
Even more we ask Lord that You complete what You have begun in us. More and more may the name of Jesus always be on our lips. More and more may we live talking of Jesus, walking with Jesus, and reflecting His image to the world. Stir in us and in our children a greater longing and hungering and thirsting after Christ. Let us live nearer to you. Give us greater love for You. Set loose from us the earthly things so that we may find our joy in You. Let Your Word dwell in us richly and let our souls overflow with heartfelt worship.
And Lord let Your light shine brightly in the dark places of this desperately needy world. Wherever your cross is lifted up in this generation and the next, let the power of your spirit be known so that sinners may believe and live. O Lord Jesus, the world has waited a long time! Come establish the righteous things, cast down all evil. Come and be King of Kings and Lord of Lords and to the king eternal immortal invisible, the only wise God be glory forever and ever.
For Jesus’ sake, Amen!
Imagine giving your children a beautifully wrapped package. They eagerly tear off the wrapping to find the treasures inside. What do they find? Simple cards with these words: A breath, A heartbeat, Air, Sunshine, Rain, A glass of water, A piece of bread…What might their reaction be? Would a smile come to their faces? Confusion? Disappointment? Complaints? Yet each of the cards should be a humble and joyful reminder of the daily, and even moment-by-moment, generous and gracious provision of God.
…he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.
The LORD is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.
Every person’s response should be,
…I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.
But how often do we actually “give thanks to the LORD”? How often do our children hear it from our lips? Will they grow up to be men and women who give heartfelt thanks to God?
We live in a culture where there is a spirit of entitlement—where we think we deserve all of these great things. If something doesn’t go our way, we feel like we’ve been robbed and deprived. And even when a person gets what they think they’re already entitled to, they’re not grateful for it. After all, “I deserved it!”
In contrast, Puritan pastor Richard Baxter wrote, “Resolve to spend most of your time in thanksgiving and praising God. If you cannot do it with the joy that you should, yet do it as you can…Doing it as you can is the way to be able to do it better. Thanksgiving stirreth up thankfulness in the heart.”
Baxter is right—expressing gratitude makes a grateful heart. Children who learn to say thanks become more thankful. Gratitude is a wonderful perspective-shaping habit. (“Combating the Spirit of Entitlement with Gratitude,” www.epm.org)
We cannot transform our children’s hearts to make them truly thankful. Even more so, we cannot bring about the redeeming work necessary to make them thankful children of God, in Christ. But we can train and guide them toward this goal. Here are a few things parents can do:
- Develop a God-dependence mentality in your children. Use verses such as Acts 17:25 to help your children understand our complete dependence on God. We cannot live for even a moment apart from His gracious provision.
- Emphasize that we are undeserving of any of God’s good gifts. One way to break the entitlement mentality is to show children what we actually do deserve: God’s righteous condemnation (Romans 6:23a; Ephesians 2:1-3). Yet, all of humanity experiences a measure of God’s gracious provision (Psalm 145:9). Therefore, we no reason to boast. Every good thing is an undeserved gift from God. God deserves immeasurable thanks.
- Point out the “ordinary” evidences of God’s goodness. Too often, we miss the thousands upon thousands of everyday evidences of God’s generous provision. Have your children see how long they can hold their breath. That is just one tiny example of the goodness of God. During the day, help your children to recognize these, and then give God thanks for them.
- Develop “thank you” habits. Outward habits taught at a young age are more likely to become ingrained in the heart as they age and mature. They are learning the “how” and “what” before they can truly comprehend the “why.”
- Model thankfulness. Our children learn a lot from watching us. Are we more likely to grumble about a situation, or verbally give thanksgiving to God no matter what the circumstance? Do we thank others in front of our children? Do we thank our children when warranted?
- Heartfelt thankfulness to God is not only what we should do, but also what will make us happy. As a family, search the Bible (e.g., use esv.org) for the words “give thanks,” “thankful,” and “thanksgiving.” How does God’s command to give Him thanks work for the joy of His people?
- Be intentional to include thanksgiving in prayer. Many times, we (and our children) fall into the habit of making our prayers long on requests and short on thanksgiving to God. Before praying with your children, ask them to note specific things from the day for which to thank God. Begin your prayers with praise and thanksgiving to God.
- Lead them in singing thanks to God. Singing great hymns and songs together as a family is a wonderful way to encourage thanksgiving to God—hymns such as My Heart Is Filled with Thankfulness, Great Is Thy Faithfulness, and Now Thank We All Our God, to name a few.
- Ask God for hearts that are more thankful. Let your children know that none of us—even Christians—are as thankful as we should be. We need the Holy Spirit’s help to make us more thankful.
- Teach them that a thankless heart is evidence of sin. Read and talk about verses such as Romans 1:21, “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”
- Remind them God has provided for our greatest need in Christ. Be careful to give children an eternal perspective on God’s good gifts. We need more than the material provisions God provides. We need Christ! Read and talk about verses such as 1 Peter 1:3-4, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.” Trusting in Christ for salvation is the only means of thanksgiving that is pleasing to God and satisfying to our souls.
By God’s grace, may we raise a generation of children who shine as a light in an ungrateful world! May they boldly, continually, and joyfully shout thanksgiving to God, through whom all blessings flow!
On Monday, November 19, FamilyLife is airing the broadcast “Glorious God, Glorious Gospel.” In the broadcast, Dennis Rainey and Bob Lepine interview David and Sally Michael about the devotional Glorious God, Glorious Gospel and focus on helping children dig deep into God’s word. To find out what time the program will air on a station in your area, visit www.FamilyLifeToday.com and click the Stations tab. To download the broadcast, visit http://familylifetoday.com/program/glorious-god-glorious-gospel/.
The needs of those in the next generation, the challenges they face, and the opportunities before them are great. What might God be pleased to do if His people come to Him with big, bold, biblical prayers of faith?
Big prayers are not necessarily long prayers. They are big in scope. Jesus’ words at the end of Matthew 6 suggest this. After pointing us to the “birds of the air” that “neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns,” and the “lilies of the field” that “neither toil nor spin,” Jesus says, “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’…But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you”(Matthew 6:26, 28, 31, 33).
It would follow from this passage that when we pray for the next generation, our first prayers should be for the greater things—the big things—the Kingdom-sized things, as we trust God for the lesser things. This does not suggest we should neglect praying for the smaller things, but rather we should prioritize our prayers toward the greater. In the example He gave earlier in Matthew 6, Jesus taught us to first pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,” and then He prayed “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:10-11).
It is certainly fitting to ask our heavenly Father to give our children a fun day, help them learn to share with their siblings, do well on their math test, heal them when they are sick, encourage them when they are discouraged, provide for their education, give them a godly spouse, and provide us with lots of grandchildren! However, too often, our prayers for the next generation are limited to our concern for the lesser things, and we neglect to pray God’s greater purposes for our children and their generation, and the generations to come.
When we focus on the big prayers, we are more likely to recognize that God addresses the smaller concerns in light of His greater purposes. In other words, when we are passionately seeking and praying for the greater things, we are more inclined to trust the faithfulness and wisdom of God when the outcome of the lesser things is disappointing. It may be that failing a math test is one of the means God will use to grant your child “all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord” (Colossians 1:9-10).
By God’s grace our most earnest and most desperate prayers will be the “big prayers” for greater things that conform to God’s heart and His unstoppable purposes for the next generation.
Bold prayers of the sort that I have in mind for the next generation rise from unwavering confidence in three realities: God is who He says He is, God always keeps His promises and accomplishes all that He sets out to do, and bold prayers are only possible “in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Ephesians 3:11).
It is difficult to be bold in prayer when we have no assurance that our prayers align with His promises and His purpose. I can’t pray boldly that my child will do well on his math test because, as I’ve already noted, it may be that failing the math test is more perfectly aligned with God’s will for my child. I could, however, boldly pray that the outcome of the test would have its sanctifying effect on my child because Paul states explicitly that God wills our sanctification (1 Thessalonians 4:3).
Not all boldness in prayer is necessarily godly boldness that pleases God. Ungodly boldness does not rise from humble dependence on Christ but from prideful confidence in who we think we are.
The reason we come boldly to the throne of grace is not because we are good parents or grandparents faithfully instructing our children in the faith and raising them in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Similarly, my bold confidence in prayer for the next generation is not rooted in my identity as a pastor, or my years of service in ministry to parents, children, and youth, or my involvement in an organization founded on the Psalm 78:7 passion for the next generation to set their hope in God. Bold prayers for the next generation arise from our confidence in Christ and all that He is for those who belong to Him.
Biblical prayers for the next generation resonate with the hearts of God’s people and often inspire vision and hope as we pray them. In John 15, Jesus makes an important connection between His Word and our prayers, as well as a breathtaking offer. “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:7).
Our big prayers for the next generation and the boldness we have in praying them stand on Truth revealed in the Bible. I am convinced that one of the ways the Holy Spirit has already helped us for those times when “we do not know what to pray for as we ought” (Romans 8:26) is by giving us a Bible filled with words of Truth and glorious promises that we can pray.
Even when praying with no one but God listening, my hope and confidence rise when I am praying the Word of God. Praying with my Bible open and letting prayer rise from reading God’s Word strengthens my faith. I have also discovered that having portions of the Bible memorized gives substance to both my private and public prayer. Also, since I am not naturally articulate, it is so helpful, especially in those spontaneous moments when I am called upon to pray, to have the words of my prayer flow from something that I have memorized.
The combination of the Word of God with prayer is a powerful force for advancing the glorious purposes of our King, for whom we are all ambassadors. May God grant us every grace we need to be alert with all perseverance and boldness in prayer and supplication so that the next generation might know the mystery of the Gospel, “the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God” (Psalm 78:6-7).
This post is excerpted from Big, Bold, Biblical Prayers for the Next Generation. Visit Truth78.org/prayer to download a free digital version of this new book, including over 15 sample prayers from Scripture, and to join a community of people committed to praying for the next generation.
The stores are already displaying Christmas decorations and stocking their shelves with an abundance of every imaginable toy and gadget. As you walk down the aisles, you can almost hear the toys and gadgets calling out: You really want this. You need this. You deserve this. This is what will make you happy! Our children and grandchildren are no more immune to the lure of new and exciting things than we are.
As a child, I received many wonderful Christmas gifts. I’m sure they brought me some level of enjoyment. But, interestingly enough, I cannot recall what these gifts were in any great detail. They have all dimmed from my memory. They were fleeting treasures that succumbed to the passage of time, indifference, boredom, wear and tear, and more.
Knowing this reality does not mean I am opposed to giving material gifts to my children and grandchildren this Christmas. But, more than all the wonderful gifts of this world, I want to give them something much more valuable that can serve as a means toward their everlasting joy.
What is this gift I want to give them? A treasury of prayers. Joel Beeke helps explain why:
The salvation of our children is priceless; their spiritual needs far outweigh their physical needs. They need our prayers—our earnest prayers with hearts aflame, both for their initial repentance and coming to Christ by faith, and for their life of ongoing growth in faith. Matthew Henry rightly declared that it is of far more value for parents who die to leave behind a treasury of prayers for their children than it is to leave behind a treasury of silver and gold.
(“Praying for Our Children’s Salvation,” ligonier.org)
I want to give them prayers that earnestly and continually call upon our sovereign, good, loving, and almighty heavenly Father to bring about the miracle of salvation in our children and grandchildren, and the children in our churches, neighborhoods, and throughout the world. Prayers that they will be joyful and faithful followers of Jesus. Prayers that they will be equipped for every good work. Prayers that they would love the surpassing worth of Christ more than anything the world has to offer. Prayers that they will proclaim the excellencies of Christ all their days, all for the glory of God.
This Christmas season, we would love to have thousands of you join us in concerted prayer for the faith of the next generations. Pastor David Michael has a special challenge to set before us:
…to see what God might be pleased to do
if 10,000 or more people invest time at least once a week to
pray a big, bold, biblical prayer from their hearts for the next generation.
Imagine this: thousands of parents, grandparents, and others leaving a priceless legacy of prayers for the faith of the next generation. Prayers that, by God’s sovereign will and grace, will serve their eternal joy—a joy that far surpasses any pleasures of this world!
Visit Truth78.org/prayer to download a free digital version of the new book Big, Bold, Biblical Prayers for the Next Generation and to join a community of people committed to praying for the next generation.
Are you telling your children the truth about death? How you answer the questions they ask about death and how you bring up truths about death that our culture may avoid are critical to how your children will value life in Christ.
This past September, my Grandmother died. She was 97 and had enjoyed a fruitful life. She became a Christian as a young mother and had no greater joy than seeing her children, grandchildren, great grandchildren walking in the truth. Her funeral was a wonderful celebration of her life and an assurance of her hope for heaven.
But in the days since the funeral, I recognized something was missing—something that I and my children needed—more honesty about death. A week after the funeral, I heard Matthew McCullough share a message drawn from his new book Remember Death.(McCullough is the pastor of Trinity Church in Nashville, Tennessee, a church that teaches the Truth78 curriculum.)
McCullough observed that in funerals we often focus on celebrating the life of those we love who have died and talk about our hope of seeing believers again in heaven, but too often we’re not honest about how awful death is and what it did to this person who was precious to us.
“I think there’s this tendency to jump, especially with kids, towards a resolution that bypasses some of the pain that we’re supposed to be honest about and to feel,” McCullough shared in a phone interview. “I try not to minimize the pain in death by just talking about heaven. I want to live in the now and to feel the not yet, that death is still an enemy that we’re waiting to see crushed.”
McCullough is also concerned that the culture around us relegates death to an end-of-life problem when, as he says, “in reality, according to wisdom literature of the Bible, death is an everyday, all-of-life problem because of the way it affects everything we touch.” He stresses that children are going to experience death and its symptoms one way or the other, but if we don’t talk to them about it, they won’t know what they’re experiencing or what to do with it.
He helps his kids see the reality of death as an everyday problem by talking about how pleasures fade. He tells them that the inheritance we’re promised in1 Peter 1 is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading but there’s nothing like that in his life right now and not in theirs either. As an example, he encouraged his family to reflect on how a recent vacation they enjoyed together didn’t last. “It was just a sweet precious time, but when it was over, they felt that. It hurt them. And it gave us a chance to talk about the sweetness of joy, but the fact that in this life joys fade and end, but in heaven they won’t.”
McCullough wants his children to know about death as an-all-of-life problem in order to impress on them that Jesus is their only hope in life and in death. “I want my children to fully engage with the goodness of this world. I want them enjoying God’s gifts, whatever He gives them, for as long as He gives them,” he says. “But if their heart is placed on those treasures, their heart is going to get broken over and over and over again. So what I want to do is try to help them see that the good things we have now are God’s gifts, but only foretastes of what He’s promised to give those who trust Christ forever.“
A significant theme in Remember Death is that honesty about death brings hope to life. Be encouraged that answering your children’s questions about death—and taking the initiative to teach them about death—from the truths of Scripture is not morbid, but a means for giving them an unshakable hope.
For further reading:
- “How Should We Teach Children About Death and Eternal Life?” by John Piper
- “5 Ways to Talk to Your Children About Death” by Jeff Robinson
I was looking back over the post below from two years ago, and it struck me: The “hard news from doctors” I referenced then is still hard news today. Back then, my nephew received a diagnosis that his cancer had returned. And now, two and a half years later, he still struggles daily from severe complications of a bone marrow transplant. How does a young man in his 20s not lose hope in the midst of a seemingly undefeatable illness? By trusting in Christ and placing his full confidence in His sovereign goodness! It may never be cancer that your children face, but their lives will be touched by suffering. May we diligently prepare them for that day!
It has been a difficult week for my extended family. Hard news from doctors. Difficult decisions. Pain and suffering. Tears and heartbreak. But there is something more. Underneath the life-shaking events is something unshakeable, something that changes everything. Christina Fox explains it so beautifully:
When the storms of life wreak havoc on all you know and love, what theological truths anchor your soul? What doctrines do you turn to when the world around you seems to give way under your feet? What truths about God bring you the most comfort when life is uncertain and nothing makes any sense?
Though all of God’s word is essential for us to read, learn, memorize, and study, and though all of God’s word teaches us all that we need to know to weather the storms of life, there is one theological truth that stands out in times of trial and suffering. There is one doctrine that brings everything into perspective and provides comfort and rest for our weary souls. The sovereignty of God.
…This truth calms our hearts because we know that there are no accidents or random circumstances. God ordains and orchestrates all things. And because God is our good, loving, and faithful Father, we can rest in his holy purposes for us. Even when we don’t understand what is happening, we can trust that God’s plan is good because he is good. He is making us holy and will use every circumstance to that end. As the Heidelberg Catechism says, “He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven; in fact, all things must work together for my salvation.” (“Theology That Comforts the Weary Soul,” www.desiringGod.org)
Will our children have this anchor for the soul when the storms blow? Will they have a solid knowledge and grasp of God’s sovereignty in ALL of life? If you haven’t already done so, I would urge you to acquaint your children with this important theological truth and keep bringing it to mind throughout their lives—showing how it applies to the many and varied circumstances. Go deep into the providence of God. Don’t wait until the storms come—it’s hard to teach someone to sail for the first time with gale-force winds blowing!
One way you can prepare your children is by reading together God’s Providence by Sally Michael. Each of the 26 short chapters provides insights into the sovereignty of God, as well as follow-up discussion questions for the whole family.
As a child, October 31 only meant two things to me: costumes and candy – lots and lots of candy! I wonder how many children, even children from Christian homes, think the same?
Often lost on this date is something vastly more significant: Martin Luther nailing his 95 Theses to the door of a Roman Catholic Church in Wittenberg, Germany, in the year 1517. With this act, Martin Luther sparked the great Protestant Reformation. As Christian parents and teachers, we must teach our children about this historic movement.
In his article, “5 Reasons to Teach Your Kids About the Reformation” Jeff Robinson summarizes the importance of the Reformation as followsand captuutres the urgency of passing it on to children,
The Reformation boils down to a recovery of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. We are justified by faith in the substitutionary death of Christ. That’s the gospel. Remove it and you derail the engine that propels the train of eternal salvation. Remove it and you leave the body of Christ without a beating heart. Remove it and the Christian faith evaporates like a summer mist. The gospel was the battleground of the Reformation. No wonder the seed of the serpent attacks it in every generation.
I want my children to know that without the gospel, they cannot make sense of life in a fallen world. Without the gospel, there’s no hope in this life or the next, no real purpose to our days and seasons. Calvin said justification is the hinge on which the door of salvation swings. I want them to keep a close watch on that door.
Parents and church: Let’s rise to the occasion and use October 31 as an opportunity to share with our children the great truths of the Protestant Reformation! May we diligently teach and remind our children the essentials of the Reformation, as expressed in what are called the “Five Solas”:
Sola Gratia: Salvation is by grace alone,
Sola Fide: through faith alone,
Solus Christus: in Christ alone,
Sola Scriptura: on the authority of Scripture alone,
Soli Deo Gloria: for the glory of God alone!
Toward that end, we would love to offer you a free family devotional lesson from our family devotional book, Glorious God, Glorious Gospel. This particular lesson explains the meaning of justification to children. You might also want to read “What Is Reformation Day All About?” together as a family.
When the next generations are asked, years from now, “What’s so special about October 31st?”, may their first response be, “That’s the date that Martin Luther sparked the great Protestant Reformation!” And by God’s grace, may they not only be able to recall what happened but also be walking in the truth of the gospel. No costumes or candy necessary.
Let’s face it: trying to get the children in your classroom excited about engagement with the Scriptures can be difficult. It just doesn’t seem as “fun” as doing other things. Plus, for a teacher, leading the class to actually read and study texts can be a laborious process. What do you do when you have a classroom full of wiggly, distracted first-graders who are just learning to read? What Bible study goals are realistic for your fourth graders? How can you help a child that isn’t from a Christian home and has no prior acquaintance with the Bible?
With these types of challenges, and many more, it’s very tempting to go an easier route and simply read texts to the students. But if that is all we do, we will minimize our students’ ability to rightly read, study, meditate on, and apply Scripture for themselves. Consider these words from the Apostle Paul to Timothy,
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).
We would like to offer some practical help and tips for incorporating strategic Bible reading skills in the classroom. By strategic we mean: meaningful, age-appropriate, actively engaging, and time-sensitive — skills that progressively equip and train children toward biblical literacy.
We have also developed additional resources that cover nursery — yes even nursery! — to youth, to help you. Print out the free handout The Importance of Biblical Literacy for the Next Generation.
Recently The State of Theology survey was published by Ligonier Ministries and LifeWay Research. Ligonier says the every-two-years survey is designed to “… take the theological temperature of the United States to help Christians better understand today’s culture and equip the church with better insights for discipleship.” The title may sound academic, but the report is essential, sober reading for every believer. For all its discouraging news, it is full of insights that have the potential, by God’s grace, to awaken American believers to the need for theological clarity. Ligonier concludes,
These results show the urgent need for sound biblical teaching and the bold preaching of the gospel. Millions of people do not understand the holiness of God, the reality of sin, and the one way of salvation in Jesus Christ. There is much work to be done, but it is our hope that these findings will serve the church in its efforts to reach more people with the faithful proclamation of the truth of God’s Word.
Note that the “millions of people” referenced above include professing evangelicals. I can personally attest to my own theological confusion as a young believer. I did not experience the regular faithful proclamation and teaching of the whole counsel of God until I was in my twenties. At that point, it was like a huge recalibration for my mind, heart, and will. I had to “unlearn” so many skewed notions I had of God and the gospel – it was mind-boggling and difficult, but ultimately wonderfully transformative.
What does all this have to do with the state of theology in children’s ministries? Simply this: What we do in children’s ministries will either serve to foster theological confusion or serve to bring gospel clarity. What we begin teaching about the Bible, God, sin, Christ, salvation, and the Christian life from preschool on, is informing and shaping our children’s theology both now and into their adult lives.
Here are a few implications for the church:
- Sunday school and similar programs that offer formal biblical instruction should be a high priority in the church. How many weeks per year does your church offer formal Bible instruction for children? In a typical Sunday school hour, how much time is spent in actual Bible instruction? In recent years, an increasing number of churches are reducing the amount of time designated to formal Bible instruction. Will our children be well served by this? You can read here about this scandal in our midst.
- Serious and careful thought should be given to the content of biblical instruction. It’s not just the amount of time given to biblical instruction that matters, but also the quality of that instruction. How does your church choose its curricula? Is there an overarching plan to present the whole counsel of God as children mature from the nursery into adulthood? What doctrines are taught? How are they taught? Are children simply “talked to” or are they being taught to actually read, study, and rightly interpret the Scriptures? That is why Truth78 has developed curricula that are undergirded and shaped by clear theological and philosophical distinctions.
- Sunday school teachers and children’s ministry volunteers need to be properly equipped and trained. Would you take your sick child to an ill-equipped and poorly trained doctor? Of course not. There are many eager classroom teachers and volunteers who long to be better equipped and trained. Yet, too often, once recruited, they are left on their own. Some thrive but many others struggle. Some teach well and communicate sound biblical doctrine, but some do not ever rise to this. We’re committed to improving teaching by widely distributing free training resources through our website.
- Pastors and elders should enthusiastically herald a God-centered, Christ-exalting vision for the faith of the next generation and carefully oversee children’s discipleship in the church. Decades ago, I met with our senior pastor to discuss the concerns I had about the curriculum I had been asked to teach in the kindergarten class. It was eye-opening for him. He had no idea that what he was preaching from the pulpit was being undermined in the Sunday school classroom. From that point on, he got involved and got the leadership involved, and everything changed. A vision for the faith of the next generation became a serious endeavor for the whole church.
- Churches need to partner with parents and equip and train them to disciple their children. As young parents, my husband and I didn’t have a good grasp of biblical parenting. Our backgrounds hadn’t prepared us nor were we in a church at the time that addressed this. We needed help! Does your church provide parents with resources, guidance, and training so they feel well equipped and encouraged in their role as Christian parents? Partnering with Parents, a free PDF offers practical suggestions for doing this.
- Catechisms should again be promoted in the home and church. For centuries, the church educated the next generation using catechisms. Pastor Joel Beeke explains why,
Creeds and catechisms are other valuable tools or methods by which we may communicate the truths of the Word of God to our children. These documents provide clear, concise definitions of basic doctrines and key words in easily memorized form so our children can hide them in their hearts. Bible references (“proof texts”) anchor these definitions in Scripture. The catechisms not only teach basic Christian doctrine, but also show us how to live according to God’s law and how to pray. When we catechize our children, they learn the basic truths of Christian faith and living, and we reinforce and deepen our own knowledge of them. (“The Blessing of Catechizing Our Children” at Ligonier.org)
Implementing the above points in our churches may feel like a daunting task. It will require a long-term commitment by the entire church. It will require us to be on our knees in humble prayer. We may need to have difficult discussions about our current programs and priorities. But the stakes are simply too high to ignore the issue. By God’s grace, as our children enter into adulthood, may we confidently be able to say to them,
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 3:14-15.)
At the start of the Truth78 launch event in April 2018, Ryan Fullerton, head pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church spoke about the experience of using Truth78 curriculum in Immanuel’s children’s ministry. What follows is drawn from his remarks. The full video is available online here (starting at the 7:34 mark).
It’s my delight to commend Truth78 ministries to you. We’ve actively used this ministry in our Immanuel Kids ministry for many years. We had the privilege of having David and Sally (Michael) with us to minister to the church and that was a great, great blessing.
I want to share with you from four very familiar verses, Ephesians 6:1-4. Let me read and then pray briefly and then speak briefly, but we know that God can use just a little word for a lot of good.
Children obey your parents in the Lord for this is right. Honor your father and mother. This is the first commandment with a promise that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land. Fathers do not provoke your children to anger but bring them up in the discipline and the instruction of the Lord.
This is God’s Word.
Father we pray that you would add your power, even a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, to the proclamation of your Word through this whole night. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.
These words were written to the Christians in Ephesus and these Christians lived in the kind of place you didn’t want to raise your kids. They lived in a deeply wicked and idolatrous city. The words we just read were not just written to the Christians in Ephesus, but they were written to the children of the church in Ephesus. The children that lived around the kids that are being spoken to in these verses would have been kids that match the description of children in Romans chapter 1, where it talks about people who don’t know God being inventors of evil and disobedient to parents.
We have here deeply countercultural words where children who would have been influenced in all kinds of ways, both by the adults and the children around them towards godlessness, are now being called to cultivate a 24 hour-a-day, 7 day-a-week God-fullness around their family and in every aspect of their lives. These words teach us two things about how we should minister to children today.
Speak to Children Directly
They teach us that like God, we should speak to children directly. Although Paul will later go on in this passage to talk to the dads and he’ll equip the families to equip their kids, Paul doesn’t feel that he’s always got to go through the dads. He just says straight to the children, “Children obey your parents.” You’ve got a teacher of the church actually being bold enough to go straight to the children, and he’s doing that in line with a massive biblical trend that runs throughout the entire Bible. God has often been pleased to speak at pivotal points in biblical history right to children. He comes in a still small voice to the boy Samuel. By his words he builds deep convictions into the teenager Daniel that will sustain him as he lives in Babylon. He comes by an angel and speaks to Mary, and when He speaks to Mary, she bursts out into such an outburst of Scripture that we know that Mary has been hearing from God in His Word her whole life long. All of this reminds us that God speaks directly to children.
Look for a moment how he speaks to them.
- Moral seriousness
He speaks to them with a moral seriousness: “children obey your parents in the Lord.” No fun and games, but a moral seriousness that indicates these are little ones, made in the image of God, who will one day face judgment or salvation by that same God.
He not only speaks to them with a moral seriousness, but He speaks to them the complexity of bringing the Old Testament and the New Testament together. He tells these children who live in Ephesus – not Israel – “If you obey God you’ll live long in the land.” By the time you’re in your teen years and you’re putting your whole Bible together and saying ok, so apparently, even though I don’t live in Israel, if I obey this command to obey my parents it will go well with me and I will live long in the land.
- Heart-engaging promise
And then He speaks to these children with a heart-engaging promise. He says, “obey your parents and if you do, it will go well with you and you will live long in the land.”
- Message to parents
Finally, he follows it up by telling the dads that they need to teach their kids to live like Jesus, to raise them in the discipline and the instruction of the Lord.
What we have here is the kind of ministry Truth78 tries to cultivate: a ministry that talks to children with a moral seriousness, understanding who they are as made in the image of God; a ministry that tries to put together the whole counsel of God and not just give it to the moms and dads, but also to the children; and a ministry that tries to engage the heart with a promise of how life can go better for you as you follow the Scriptures.
Any ministry that’s following the biblical pattern will speak directly to children with the deepest things of God.
Equip Children to Speak Truth
Not only do we like a curriculum that encourages us to speak to children the way God speaks to children, but we love a curriculum that encourages us to equip children. You’ve probably heard it said that children are the church of the future. That’s silly. If they’re saved, they’re part of the church right now. Of course, they will also be here in the future, but they don’t become the church at an age of accountability, or after they get their driver’s license, or once they can vote. Becoming the church means you have the Holy Spirit. And whenever that happens in a person’s life, that person has been engrafted into the Bride of Christ.
What Paul is doing here is aiming to equip children to deal with life with a moral seriousness, deal with life in obedience to God, deal with life pursuing wonderful promises from God. And then he wants these children to obey so they won’t just last, Lord-willing, five years or ten years in life, but they will have pursued a path in life that generally leads to the longest lives – maximizing their outreach into the future. That’s what God is doing in the church as we equip children by his Word.
I want to tell you three stories. The first one is about Ada, a sister here at Immanuel. She was on the bus with a young lady who does not have faith in God, does not believe in God. Ada did at this moment what many Christians do when they’re on a bus with someone who doesn’t believe in God – she shared the gospel and invited the young lady to church and tried to get her a Bible. That’s not remarkable; that’s what any Christian would hope to do. What’s remarkable is that Ada is seven and the bus she was on was a public school bus and the seven-year-old she brought to church is another little friend whose parents do not believe in God.
It’s the same kind of thing we see in Isaac. Isaac is a young man at our church who started sharing the gospel in his public school and telling the gospel to a friend of his, a young lady at school. Well, eventually that young lady came to church and brought her whole family with her. Isaac had learned what he’d learned through the curriculum of Truth78, through his mom during a home school year, reading him a Sally Michael book on God’s Promises.
The last story is about my own daughter, Jordana. Last year I found my daughter texting furiously – nothing exceptional there. But what was amazing is that she was in this texting debate with a Catholic lesbian, a secular friend, and a Mormon postmodernist. One of the girls had posted a pro-choice video and what ensued was a feverish grace-filled 1-million-characters-long gospel conversation where my daughter was simultaneously working with her Mormon friend to show her why abortion was wrong but against all of her friends to show why Jesus was the only way to salvation. And as I watched her make careful theological distinctions in this discussion I thought to myself, I did not teach her all of this. I probably taught her a fraction of what she knows. But Sunday after Sunday after Sunday after Sunday she sat under theologically rich teaching. The end result is children who can actually hold their own and shine like lights in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.
My hope is that Ada and Isaac and Jordan – and a whole generation – will have a long, long life that will go well beyond mine, to serve God. And I pray that they will make up the next generation of faithful laymen and missionaries and pastors to the next generation, and in all of this, Christ will get glory both in them and in the church. That’s my hope as we think about teaching the next generation in the church. May God add His blessing to our labors and to yours as we teach our kids deep theologically rich truth.