Blogroll: Children Desiring God
I read blogs, as well as write one. The 'blogroll' on this site reproduces some posts from some of the people I enjoy reading. There are currently 6 posts from the blog 'Children Desiring God.'
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One of the things I’ve noticed about children’s and youth ministry in the past few years is a renewed and increased evangelistic impulse—an urgency to teach children about Jesus and the Gospel so that they might be saved. This is a wonderful change from the all-too-common emphasis on Gospel-less moralism of the past. My concern, however, is that sometimes for the sake of urgency—wanting our children to get saved as soon as possible (a really good desire)—we may be minimizing the very foundation on which that salvation depends. I found this illustration, from an article over at 9Marks, to be really helpful:
Let’s say, for the sake of illustration, that you are on a ship sailing to a faraway town to warn the people of impending doom. If you don’t get there in time, everyone dies. Needless to say, you want your ship to sail as fast as possible. You avoid any excess cargo that might slow your progress. You don’t waste time worrying about clean decks or polished brass. The urgency of the task requires you to operate with efficiency and leanness.
People…argue that the urgency of the Christian mission requires us to trim our theological sails and jettison the heavy freight of doctrinal precision.
…Doctrine is not freight on the ship. It’s the hull and mast.
A church’s doctrine determines the character and quality of its witness. Its theology shapes its goals and the way it tries to achieve those goals.
So the question is this: does disciple-making require churches to know and teach doctrine?
Critics of doctrinal necessity sometimes snidely remark that surely God is not going to open up people’s heads on the last day to ensure the right doctrinal formulas are inside. No, probably not. But he will ask them something like, “Were you trusting me? The real and true me, and not a made-up version of me?” In other words, God is very much interested in whether we are trusting in certain truths, because with God doctrinal truth is personal truth.
To experience Christ’s salvation, a person must believe and trust real truths about the real God. If someone has not turned with his or her whole heart to God and trusted him, he or she cannot be saved (Rom. 10:13–17). Doctrine is required for salvation!
So, along with a renewed evangelistic impulse in our ministry to children and youth, let us also have a renewed discipleship impulse that must concern itself with a slow, progressive, precept-by-precept teaching of doctrinal truth. These essential truths are the hull and mast of the ship!
Recently, my husband and I were driving with four of our grandchildren. While waiting at a particularly long traffic light, Grandma (me) had finally had enough. “Stupid traffic light!” I muttered, none too softly. A while later, we sat at another traffic light. This time I kept my mouth shut. But in the backseat, 2-year-old Nate filled the void, saying, “Stupid traffic light!” He went home knowing a new phrase to say when waiting for traffic lights. (Won’t his mommy and daddy be glad!) He simply heard and repeated what Grandma had said. Grandma has a problem. Grandma spoke out of a grumbling, sinful heart.
Imagine for a moment if I had said something like this instead:
1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “give thanks in all circumstances;” even for long waits at traffic lights, “for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
Colossians 3:17 says, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Let’s thank Jesus for traffic lights that help keep people safe!
Psalm 118: 24 says, “This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Let’s sing a song while we wait for the light to change.
Our children, grandchildren, and students are listening. Especially when they are young, they will simply repeat what we say. What will be better for their souls—and our own? To be quick to speak with complaints, frustration, and impatience? Or to speak with the life-giving words of Scripture? In order for the latter to happen, we must be Bible-saturated people who are continually, by the power of the Spirit, being transformed by the Word. We must know the Word and apply the Word to every situation.
Here is an important illustration and reminder from Pastor David Michael about raising up the next generation to “drip” Bible.
Many of you have asked for a less expensive and less bulky option for the Student Coloring Books in the He Established A Testimony and He Has Spoken By His Son preschool curricula. Our New Format Student Coloring Book answers both of these concerns. The Original Student Coloring Books include a copy of the Parent Resource Page next to each coloring page. The New Format Student Coloring Books have removed these Parent Resource Pages since they are already included in the Teacher’s Kit 3-ring notebook and Resources CD for churches to email to or print and send home with parents. The resulting New Format Student Coloring Books are much leaner – they are less expensive, lighter weight and thinner for those who store the books in the classroom during the week, and remain excellent resources for both classroom and home use.
The New Format Student Coloring Books are now available! We expect that most customers will be excited about the change but recognize that others may have some of the Original Student Coloring Books on hand. These users may want to order additional copies of the Original Students Coloring Books so that all children in a class have the same version. The Original Students Coloring Books will be available through the end of 2018. Users of electronic Student Coloring Books will be able to choose between the Original Student Coloring Book and the New Format.
Tips for effectively utilizing the New Format Student Coloring Books and Parent Resource Pages:
- The Student Coloring Books are best used after the Bible story to reinforce what was taught. As the children are coloring/decorating their coloring books, talk with them about the lesson, being sure to recall/reinforce the Key Themes that were emphasized by the teacher. In addition to crayons, markers, or colored pencils, you can provide various add-ons such as star stickers for the picture of Abraham looking at the stars, red yarn on the picture of Rahab and the walls of Jericho, jewel stickers for a king’s crown, etc. You could also create a schedule of the memory verses as a check-off list or sticker chart and tape it inside the front cover of the Student Coloring Book as a reminder and also as a record of when any incentives were given out. Alternatively, download these memorization charts from FighterVerses.com.
- The Parent Resource Pages are designed to connect church and home so that parents can discuss the lesson and go deeper with their children. Some churches print and send home paper copies each week, or send a weekly or monthly email with the pertinent pages attached. Another option (our favorite) is to print an entire year’s worth of Parent Pages, adding a cover page showing which lessons are scheduled for each week, and give the packet to each family. You can include additional information about the class – perhaps the lesson schedule, Scripture memory schedule, contact information for classroom volunteers, etc. If you provide an annual packet, it is important to give parents at least monthly reminders to review the lessons with their children and to help the children with the Scripture memory passages.
Our customer service team is always available to consult with you about how best to use our resources in your setting. We would love to hear from you and to pray for your ministry to the next generations.
Children intuitively know that they need many things in order to exist. So it is relatively easy to teach them that it is God who ultimately provides for these needs. What’s more difficult to communicate to them is the self-sufficiency of God—that He needs absolutely nothing! He alone existed from all eternity, fully complete in Himself.
The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.—Acts 17:24-25
One way we can help our children grasp this important attribute of God is to be careful with the language we use. For example, it would be in error to teach children: “God created people because He was lonely.” The implication being that God needed our fellowship. Or, “Jesus chose Peter to be His helper.” The implication being that God needs man’s help in accomplishing His purposes. Instead, use language in keeping with God’s self-sufficiency. For example, “God created people for His glory—to show His greatness and worth. He created us to be receivers of His goodness and love.”
Another way to help our children is by contrast: look for opportunities to humbly acknowledge the vast chasm between God and man.
- He is completely independent, and we are completely dependent.
- He is the sovereign Creator, and we are His creatures who live under His rule.
We can also emphasize the great freedom in this truth. For those who trust in Christ, we can freely receive all the benefits that flow from the self-sufficiency of God. We don’t need to work for God as if we need to fill-up any deficiencies in God. Think of the weight on a child’s mind and heart if he feels he must “help out” God somehow. By continually pointing children to God as the One who is providing, we can encourage them to rest in His self-sufficiency. This becomes extremely important in light of the Gospel. We must rest in the sufficiency of what Christ has done on our behalf. There is no working for salvation.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.—Ephesians 2:8-9
Long ago and far away, I had this little equation in my parenting mind: If we do all the right spiritual ABCs with our children, then God will bring about saving faith in their young lives (by 7 years old)…and just like that, in no time at all, our children will become faithful, fruitful followers of Jesus, doing great things for the kingdom by the time they are 12! That’s the way it’s supposed to work, right? Needless to say my little “salvation equation” for my children was naïve, to say the least! Real-life experience showed a more complicated path. Sometimes that path was confusing, heartbreaking, and even terrifying.
Here are some words from Kim Shay that I found really heartfelt and hope-filled for parents who are experiencing concern over their child’s spiritual condition:
In a perfect world, Christian parents would teach their children the gospel, and it would be embraced quickly, and without incident. Children would go seamlessly from childhood to godly adulthood without a blip on the screen.
As we know, we don’t live in a perfect world. And the reality is that good Christian parents raise children who give them some sleepless nights and break their hearts. I know what that is like. If you have children who never gave you a moment’s trouble, praise God for it! But for those of us who have had children who stray or struggle in their faith, it can be extremely painful. We feel shame and guilt. We may feel anger. But we must not despair. For those who may be in the midst of that kind of season, here are some thoughts.
- Don’t Take All the Blame…
- Don’t Compare Them to Others…
- Don’t Ask “What Will People Think?”…
- Be Discreet…
- Focus On Your Own Walk With Christ…
- Trust God With the Burden…
(from “They are our children, after all”)
I would really encourage you to read the entirety of the article and see how she expands upon these six points.
I would also add and emphasize:
- Keep teaching the Word of God (Deuteronomy 6:6-9) and modeling the Gospel to your children, even if they seem bored or hostile to it. The message of Christ is what ultimately saves (2 Timothy 3:15-17; Romans 10:17).
- Be earnest in prayer. Only God can bring new spiritual life to dead sinners. Too often, I relied on my own “great” parenting efforts, thinking it would somehow bring about salvation in my children. Instead, I needed to humbly cry out to God and trust in His sovereign grace.
If you would like more guidance on how to more effectively pray for your children, here are three practical, Scripture-based resources:
- Praying for the Next Generation
- A Father’s Guide to Blessing His Children
- Utter Dependence on God, Through Prayer
Bible reading plans for kids are great resources to help your children develop the habit of daily Bible reading. (See last week’s post here.) But along with a reading plan, here is a crucial reminder from Sally Michael for you to share with your children before they begin:
…you can read the Bible with your mind only and walk away with just information. You may know a little more, but it hasn’t changed you. You can also read the words but harden your heart against their convicting and healing power.
We are blind to the truth in God’s Word. Without the help of the Holy Spirit, we will read words but we won’t see spiritual truth. We are unable to open our hearts to the power of the Word of God. We desperately need God’s help.
(ESV Children’s Bible, page ix, © 2005)
While acknowledging our utter dependence on God to bring about understanding and transformation, we can give children some tips that may help them experience the rich benefits of God’s Word. I’ve adapted the following from what Sally Michael and I wrote for the ESV Children’s Bible:Pray
We must approach the Word of God with the prayer that God will open our minds and hearts (Psalm 119:18, 34).Meditate
You will get so much more out of the Bible if you think about what you read (2 Timothy 2:7). Read a short section, and then stop. THINK. Ask yourself questions about the passage, such as:
- Who is speaking? To whom is he speaking?
- What do the words mean?
- Do the verses that come before and after help me to understand this passage?
- What does this say about who God is and what He is like?
- Does this passage say how we should act toward God?
- What does this say about what people are like?
- How does this passage point to our need for salvation in Jesus?
- Is there a command to be obeyed, or a promise to trust?
- How does this passage show the greatness and worth of God—God the Father, Jesus the Son, the Holy Spirit?
Remember that as you read God’s Word, God is speaking to you. The stories in the Bible tell about things that happened in the past, but they are also intended to give understanding today. We should always respond to the Word of God. Sometimes our response may be recognizing an action we need to take, or an attitude or idea we need to change. It may be a prayer that comes from our heart, a decision we make, or a sinful attitude or action we must confess. After discovering what God is asking of us in his Word, we must then go and do it (Hebrews 4:12; James 1:25).