Reaching Their Hands with a Biblical Worldview

ID-10035106When I think of “biblical worldview,” I almost exclusively think of the mind—training children and students to think biblically about all of life. But Timothy Paul Jones reminds us that biblical worldview in not just about training the mind—it should also serve to train the hands.

In a biblical worldview, the training of children is worldview training. This training includes far more than merely increasing children’s biblical knowledge or involving them in a community of faith. Moses commanded the Israelites to teach their offspring to view all they did (“hands”) and all they chose (“forehead”), as well as how they lived at home (“doorposts”) and how they conducted business (“your gates”) within the all-encompassing framework of a God-centered worldview (Deut. 6:8-9).”Wisdom” in Proverbs was conveyed from father to child and included not only knowledge about God but also practical skills for engaging with the world in light of God’s truth. Skills in craftsmanship, leadership, and a broad range of other fields all fell under the heading of wisdom, which begins with “the fear of the Lord” (Exod. 31:3, 6; Deut. 34:9; Prov. 1:7). Persons outside the believing community may possess these skills, but only the believer sees them as God intended, as signposts pointing to the order and glory of God. There is no biblical warrant for separating the training of children into “secular” and “sacred” categories, with one handled by the world and the other superintended by parents. God is Lord over all of life.

(“How a Biblical Worldview Shapes the Way We Teach Our Children,” www.timothypauljones.com.)

(Image courtesy of Worradmu at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

Relationship AND Doctrine

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Lately, in both children’s and youth ministries, there has been a renewed emphasis on the necessity for having a genuine, heart-felt relationship with Jesus. This is well and good—a hearty “Amen!” But sometimes there may be a subtle (or not so subtle) message also communicated with this emphasis on relationship: Doctrine doesn’t matter that much. Or, doctrine “stifles” relationship. So what should we emphasize to children and youth? Here is a helpful note from John Piper:

Sometimes it is necessary to stress that Christianity is primarily a relationship with Jesus rather than a set of ideas about Jesus. The reason we do this is because no one is saved by believing a set of ideas. The devil believes most of the truths of Christianity. We need to stress that unless a person has a living trust in Jesus as Savior and Lord, all the orthodoxy in the world will not get him into heaven.

But if our stress on the personal relationship with Jesus leads us to deny that there is a set of truths essential to Christianity, we make a grave mistake. There are truths about God and Christ and man and the church and the world which are essential to the life of Christianity. If they are lost or distorted, the result will not be merely wrong ideas but misplaced trust. The inner life of faith is not independent from the doctrinal statement of faith. When doctrine goes bad, so do hearts. There is a body of doctrine which must be preserved.

(From sermon, “Contend for the Faith,” copyright ©2015 Desiring God Foundation. Used by Permission.)

(Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

Who Wrote the Bible?

God's Word Cover

In her newly released book, God’s Word , Sally Michael gives children a simple illustration to help answer the question, “Who wrote the Bible?”:

How would you put a screw into a piece of wood? What would you use? You would use a tool called a screwdriver. You would direct the screwdriver, putting it where it needs to be, turning it the right way, and stopping when the screw is tight. The screwdriver would not put in the screw by itself. Your hand would turn the screwdriver—it would direct and guide it.

This is similar to how the Bible was written. God was the author. But He used men to do the writing. They were like tools in God’s hands. God directed them so they would write His Word. God is the real author, but He uses men to write exactly what He wanted to be written.

(copyright©2015, page 20)

New Easter Resource for Families

Mission Accomplished book

Just released—Mission Accomplished: A Two-Week Family Easter Devotional by Scott James. Here is Sally Michael’s endorsement:

Scott James has provided families with an easy-to-use, yet spiritually enriching Easter devotional. Starting with the events leading to the cross through the ascension of Jesus, families are encouraged to read the corresponding Scripture, discuss the passage, and make application through questioning and activities. In addition, many selections include a rich hymn to use in family worship. This little book is a great tool for focusing the hearts of your family members on the reality of Jesus s redemptive mission.

Here is a more detailed description from the publisher:

Celebrate the Greatest Rescue Mission in History Nearly 2,000 years ago, a simple wooden cross and an empty tomb served as the setting for the greatest rescue mission in history the good news of a loving Father going to great lengths to save his broken children. Every year at Easter, with a joyful shout of Christ is risen! we declare again the climax of this great story. Although Easter Sunday only happens once a year, the truths behind it are big enough to shape our lives every single day. Starting on Palm Sunday, your family will spend two weeks (fourteen devotions) walking in time with Jesus as he finished the work his Father had given him. Extending your devotional time into the week beyond Easter Sunday will encourage your family to follow the risen Jesus as he calls his disciples on a Spirit-filled mission to spread the good news to all nations. Your family will learn that God calls every Christ follower to that very same task, promising that his power and presence will help us as we go. Each devotion takes just ten-minutes and is suitable for all ages of children. Included are suggestions for hymns to sing and family activities that give you a chance to remember and apply the truth that Christ is risen indeed! 

It is easier to speak smilingly about bunnies and baskets on Easter than it is to explore Christ s cruel death and miraculous resurrection. But for every parent who believes that Christ is risen indeed, there is Mission Accomplished. 

Fourteen theologically rich yet kid-friendly devotions connect well-known Easter stories to the overall biblical message of redemption. 

Starts with the Passion Week and extends into the week beyond Easter Sunday, walking kids through the immediate aftermath of the resurrection and then unpacking the implications of Jesus death and resurrection for our own lives. 

Great for busy parents and families, each day’s core devotion can be completed in just ten minutes.

Family activities are included to give parents options for helping kids of all ages to understand and apply Easter truths and can be completed in an additional ten minutes. 

Full text of classic hymns for your family to sing in worship.

Grasping Sin in Order to Grasp the Gospel

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One thing I always look for in reviewing Gospel resources for children—whether books, tracts, music, video, or curricula—is to see how the resource deals with sin, because if it doesn’t get sin “right,” it will probably have a distorted view of the Gospel. Overstatement? Here are some sobering words from D. A. Carson:

There can be no agreement as to what salvation is unless there is agreement as to that from which salvation rescues us. The problem and the solution hang together: the one explicates the other. It is impossible to gain a deep grasp of what the cross achieves without plunging into a deep grasp of what sin is; conversely, to augment one’s understanding of the cross is to augment one’s understanding of sin.

To put the matter another way, sin establishes the plotline of the Bible…

Sin “offends God not only because it becomes an assault on God directly, as in impiety or blasphemy, but also because it assaults what God has made.” (Cornelius Plantinga Jr., Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1995), 16. ) Sin is rebellion against God’s very being, against his explicit word, against his wise and ordered reign. It results in the disorder of the creation and in the spiritual and physical death of God’s image bearers. With perfect justice God could have condemned all sinners, and no one could have justly blamed him. In reality, the Bible’s story line depicts God, out of sheer grace, saving a vast number of men and women from every tongue and tribe, bringing them safely and finally to a new heaven and a new earth where sin no longer has any sway and even its effects have been utterly banished.

In short, if we do not comprehend the massive role that sin plays in the Bible and therefore in biblically faithful Christianity, we shall misread the Bible. Positively, a sober and realistic grasp of sin is one of the things necessary to read the Bible in a percipient fashion; it is one of the required criteria for a responsible hermeneutic.

(Excerpt from Fallen: A Theology of Sin, copyright © 2013, as republished on www.monergism.com)

Therefore, when reviewing a Bible resource for children, especially one that is presenting the Gospel, I ask questions, such as:

  • How is sin defined? Merely as disobedience? Or, also as horrendous rebellion against God?
  • What “weight” is sin given throughout the resource? Is it simply presented as a type of unfortunate prelude in the Fall that quickly and easily finds resolution? Or, is sin woven throughout the biblical narrative, giving the proper scope and depth of the problem?
  • How are the consequences of sin defined? Simply as a broken relationship with God that needs mending? Or, is there a proper understanding of God’s holiness, just wrath, and His righteous condemnation of sinners to eternal punishment?
  • Are children presented with the plight of their own sin? Are they challenged and encouraged to, with all seriousness and with an appropriate amount of time, consider their own standing before God?
  • Is the Gospel being explained in such a manner that children will be able to clearly see and understand how Jesus’ perfect life, death, and resurrection save us from our sin?
  • Is repentance from sin being emphasized along with the call to believe in Jesus?

(Image courtesy of Gualberto107 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

Teaching with Understanding

ID-10063645One of the most encouraging things we hear from teachers and small group leaders who use our curriculum is how much they are learning as they study the lessons. It may be that some biblical truth is being explored for the first time or in a different way. But more often, I think it’s a certain truth being explained in a way that is more easily grasped. I know this is true for me. For example, appropriate visuals and illustrations used for teaching children help me to more fully comprehend abstract or difficult concepts. Careful, accurate, yet simple definitions and explanations lead me to a deeper understanding of the text. When I understand something more fully, it helps me communicate to the children I lead. It also guards me from being simplistic in my teaching. Consider these words by R. C. Sproul:

A great teacher can simplify without distortion. This is the supreme test of understanding. If I truly understand something, I ought to be able to communicate it to others. There is a vast chasm that separates the simple from the simplistic. Jesus, the greatest teacher ever, taught in simple terms. But He was never simplistic. To oversimplify is to distort the truth. The great teacher can express the profound by the simple, without distortion. To do that requires a deep level of understanding. The great teacher imparts understanding, not merely information. To do that the teacher must understand the material being taught.

(“A Great Teacher Can Simplify without Distortion,” www.ligonier.org )

 (Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

Resources for Lent

Why EasterDo you desire your children and students to celebrate this coming Easter in a more significant manner, exploring the deep meaning of Jesus’ death and resurrection? Here are a few resources you might want to take a look at:

Devotional Materials

  • Why Easter? by Barbara Reaoch
    Great for families—four weeks of daily devotional material geared toward children

 

Books

 

 

 

 

 

 

Encouraging Children in Prayer

ID-10063141What kind of pray-ers will our children be? That is a great question to think about. If we want them to be serious about prayer, they must not only be taught but also shown how prayer is to be woven throughout everyday life. Here are some practical tips from Sally Michael to encourage your children in prayer.

  • Gather your children when you hear of a prayer need and ask them to pray with you. Example: When a problem comes to your attention, pray about it… “Susie, let’s pray for the people who were in the earthquake.” ™
  • Take advantage of unexpected moments for prayer—spur of the moment prayers. Example: When you see an ambulance, pray for the person who has the medical problem.
  • Ask your child to pray for you. Give him specific things he can pray for (e.g., “I’m having a hard time with a project I am working on for my job. Would you pray for me?”) ™
  • Give your child a list of topics to pray for (e.g., Sunday school, play groups, family members, etc.). ™
  • Instruct your child on the different kinds of prayer. For example, you could pray “I love you” prayers (adoration) or “I’m sorry” prayers (confession). ™
  • Encourage your child to pray out loud and practice this in different situations (e.g., visiting a sick friend). ™
  • Build regular prayer into your family life aside from meal times and bedtime. For example, on Saturday evenings you could pray for the the next morning’s Sunday school time.
  • Choose one or more topics for each day of the week. For example, on Monday pray for relatives. On Tuesday , pray for unsaved friends. On Wednesday, pray for church staff.

(Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

The Lord’s Supper and Children

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Sooner or later, a child who is regularly sitting through a Sunday morning worship service is bound to ask something like, “Why can’t I have a ‘snack’ like everyone else?” So it is not surprising that the second most-frequent question I am asked in children’s ministry is, “When should my child take the Lord’s Supper?” Since it is such a prevalent question, I have been encouraged to write an article on the subject.

A General Response 

When people inquire about children taking the Lord’s Supper, I have two perspectives to share with them. The first is that our communion services are open to all present, including children, who are trusting in Jesus Christ alone for the forgiveness of their sins and the fulfillment of all His promises to us (including eternal life); and therefore, children are welcome to participate in the Lord’s Supper:

  •  when they can understand its significance
  •  when they are able to give a credible profession of faith in Christ
  •  and when they consciously intend to follow the Lord in obedience

There is no test they take or class they attend to help establish their readiness. We simply leave it up to parents to decide when their young disciples are ready.

A Personal Response 

When our girls were small, we explained that they would be able to fully participate in the Lord’s Supper sometime after they were 13. Admittedly, this response was somewhat arbitrary and sounds a bit legalistic—but it was a simple response that they could grasp, and it was enough to settle the issue for them. There were, however, important reasons why we encouraged them to wait. I’d like to share six of them with you:

1. Wait for Understanding 

Probably the most compelling reason for us came out of 1 Corinthians 11:27ff where Paul warns us of the perils of eating and drinking in an “unworthy manner.” Though both of our girls confessed faith in Christ before their sixth birthday, we wanted them to be old enough to contemplate the significance of the Lord’s Supper. We wanted them to understand the meaning of the ordinance, and also have enough maturity to do the self-examination that Paul calls for in verse 28.

2. Wait for More Independent Thinking 

We decided that they should come to the Lord’s Table after they were baptized, and we did not want them to be baptized before age 13. The main reason for this is that children are thinking more independently as they enter the teen years, and therefore are more likely to embrace the decisions and commitments they make as their own. Our pre-teen decisions and commitments are often suspect in our minds as we get older. They are suspect in that we barely connect with the reason why we made the commitment.

At age seven, I have a very vague memory of raising my hand in Sunday school and indicating a desire to follow Jesus. I remember sitting on the bed with my Mom, praying and writing the date of my conversion into my Bible. I am at a loss to tell you, however, what it was that was so compelling to me. I don’t know if I understood what I was doing. I simply have no recollection now—neither did I have it when I was 13. Without that recollection it was difficult to have confidence in the decision I made. This is probably why I felt a need to “accept Jesus into my heart” again during my teen years.

It is not uncommon for those who were baptized during their pre-teen years to feel a need to be “re-baptized” when they are older. Therefore, it made sense for us to encourage our children to hold off on baptism until a time when it would be more meaningful to them—when they could more fully embrace the commitment behind this public declaration of faith.

Although we do not believe baptism must necessarily precede participation in the Lord’s Supper, it seemed more natural for our children to join the Lord at His table after they followed the Lord in the obedience of baptism. Since we planned for our girls to wait until at least age 13 to be baptized, it followed that they would also need to wait until then to take the Lord’s Supper.

3.  Wait for Significance 

Even though our girls would have “qualified” for baptism and the Lord’s Supper at an earlier age, we believe that waiting helped to impress on them the significance of these ordinances and the unspeakable privilege it is to participate in them.

4.   Wait for Anticipation 

Each time the tray passed them by, they could look forward to the day when they would join in this celebration. I believe that this period of anticipation made their first and subsequent experiences at the table sweeter and more meaningful to them.

5.   Wait for Memories 

We wanted our girls to remember their first experience at the Lord’s Table. Memories of the first decade of our lives are often fuzzy at best. Therefore, it made sense for them to wait until a time when they would more likely remember the experience.

6.   Wait for Maturity 

There is nothing particularly significant about age 13. We could have easily picked age 11 or 12 or 14. Sally and I simply wanted to draw a very clear line for our girls that would mark a definite transition out of childhood into young adulthood. As arbitrary as it may seem, we have seen tremendous value in having a tangible point where we begin to place certain expectations and to offer certain privileges that are associated with maturity. Hopefully, I have said enough for you to understand why we chose to save the significance of the Lord’s Table for the other side of the line.

Even though we may ask our children to wait for a season before they fully participate in the Lord’s Supper, it can still be a significant experience for them in their pre-teen years. We should not wait to teach them about the meaning of the celebration and how to examine themselves, confess their sins, and remember the Lord’s death until He comes.

My aim in writing this article is not to have all our children going through the proper religious motions at the “perfect” time (whenever that is). My aim and earnest prayer is that our children will know the sweet fellowship with the living Christ and experience His life-changing, soul-satisfying work in their hearts. May the Lord use our efforts in preparing our children for His table to nudge them into closer fellowship with Him.

(Image courtesy of smarnad at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

The Doctrine of God for Toddlers

God Never Changes coverI believe that it’s never too early to expose children to systematic theology. And what better place to begin than teaching children the doctrine of God? Even toddlers can be introduced to God’s attributes, such as His omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, immutability, etc. Here are six simple board books by Carine Mackenzie to help you get started in your own home or in the Sunday school toddler room:

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