The HEART of the Matter

The Heart of the Matter

Complete the following checklist for your own children or the children in your class:

I want my children to…

  • Be attentive listeners
  • Act respectfully toward their teachers
  • Be honest and compassionate
  • Grow up to be responsible men and women
  • Have a good job in the future
  • Get married and have a family some day
  • Be actively involved in a local, Bible-believing church
  • Memorize Bible verses
  • Be biblically literate
  • Be able to recite the Catechism

If you checked all the points, you are probably not alone. What parent and teacher wouldn’t want this for their children? But is anything important missing from this list? Of course, and you probably spotted it—true saving faith, a heart that trusts and treasures Jesus above all. And what is tremendously sobering is that the above checklist can be achieved without sincere, life-transforming faith. Consider Jesus’ words:

This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me;”—Matthew 15:8

These are fearful words from Jesus, full of warning, cutting to the heart and soul. He spoke these words to the highly religious people of His day. Men who had vast amounts of Scripture memorized—men who were the “church” leaders of their day. But they did not really know or honor God. Their hearts were ice cold and hard as stone.

The Heart of the MatterThese words are for us to and for our children, too. We should be mindful of these words every time we lead a devotion or teach a Bible lesson to our children. Because if we merely seek to instill more and more Bible knowledge into the mind, without regard to the heart, we may serve to encourage them to become little “Pharisee factories.” That is not to say that the mind does not matter. We should be instilling more and more biblical knowledge into our children. But we should never forget that genuine saving faith and heart-transformation is the goal of that knowledge.

For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. (Romans 10:10 ESV)

But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. (Psalm 13:5 ESV)

I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart. (Psalm 40:8 ESV)

Getting Practical

While it is true that we cannot bring about heart transformation in our children, we can and should encourage a right heart response. How? Here are a few suggestions:

  • When teaching a Bible passage or story, challenge the children to personally respond to what they have learned.

Example: Jesus and the Feeding of the 5,000

How has Jesus provided for your needs this week? Do you need anything besides food? What other kinds of needs do you have? Do you believe that He can provide for these other needs? What do you think that your greatest need is? Have you experienced His provision for this need? How has this changed the way in which you live?

Example: Israel Grumbling in the Wilderness

What had God previously done for Israel? How should they have responded toward Him? Do you ever act like Israel? Does your heart ever grumble toward God? Why? How should you respond toward God in a difficult situation? 

  • Be careful about using inclusive language that assumes belief in the children you are teaching. Inclusive language (“We trust in Jesus”) may inadvertently provide an avenue by which children “opt-out” of personal heart response.
  • Help children make connections between biblical truth and their own experiences. Explain to them what it might look like to embrace a particular truth and act on it.
  • Share from your own faith experience so that the children will see that God’s Word is effective and transformative and can be applied to real-life situations.
  • Look for opportunities to clearly point children to the Gospel, clearly communicating what it truly means to trust Jesus and love Him as your greatest treasure.

Want more inspiration and practical help in teaching toward the heart? Watch David and Sally Michael in their message, “A Vision for Encouraging Faith in the Next Generation.”

 

 

2 Timothy 2:15 Students

2 Timothy 2:15 Students

Here are is an exhortation from David and Sally Michael from their conference message, “A Vision for Biblical Literacy in the Next Generation”:

Children need to learn how to rightly handle the Word through incremental age-appropriate instruction in studying Scripture through the use of inductive Bible study skills.

Exposure to the whole counsel of God is vital, but children must also be taught to rightly understand the Word. Our children and young people need the same prodding that Paul gave to his spiritual son:

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 Continue Reading…

The Call to Make Disciples

The Call to Make Disciples

Before ascending into heaven, Jesus gave every Christian in every century a commission with eternal significance:

…”All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”—Matthew 28:18-20, ESV

Our calling is very clear—to “make disciples.” This is the greatest work in which to invest our lives! Christ’s mandate to us is to see spiritual interest awaken, new birth come forth, and then foster steady steps toward maturity in Christ…but it is a mandate wrought with privilege and true joy. Continue Reading…

Beautiful or Beastly? Which is it?

Beautiful or Beastly? Which Is It?

As a 10-year-old, my daughter loved the Disney animated movie Beauty and the Beast. Last weekend the much anticipated, hyped, and controversial Disney live-action version came out. It is amazing to note the cultural changes that have come about in the intervening 26 years between the two movies. Would I bring a 10-year-old daughter to this new version?

Before making a decision, I would want to read Jasmine Holmes’ very helpful article for parents, “Do You Trust Disney with Your Kids?” Here is a really important point she makes:

My parents never took me to see a movie without looking into it first. When I got older, it was my job to do some research to see what we were getting into before we went. The fact that we need to exercise care with the agenda mass media puts forth should not be new to us as Christians. If this is our awakening that we can’t trust anything Disney to go directly to our kids, has not our awakening been long overdue? How naïve would we have been to assume we could trust Disney until now? Continue Reading…

What Are They Reading, Watching and Listening to?

What Are They Reading, Watching and Listening To?

Here is a simple checklist from the Teacher’s Guide for the Your Word is Truth youth curriculum with questions based on Philippians 4:8. These questions can serve as a guide in helping you discuss and evaluate books, television, movies, and music with your children and students.
Continue Reading…

Teaching By Example

Teaching By Example

In her seminar titled, “Teaching Children the Fear of the Lord,” Sally Michael reminds us of the importance of teaching from a heart that loves and embraces the truths being taught.

Like so many spiritual things, the fear of the Lord is better “caught” than “taught.” Children very often pick up our attitudes—those we respect, they tend to respect. Our attitude toward God is also sensed by them—not so much by our words, but by our actions, and our heart affections; it is very easy for them to sense what we feel, to honor what we honor, and to disregard what we disregard.

So the first step we must take in helping our children to fear the Lord is to examine our own hearts. Here are a few questions we can ask ourselves:

• Am I humble and contrite before the Lord, respecting His authority over me, and recognizing His infinite greatness?

• How seriously do I take the word of God? Do I tremble at God’s Word? Do I diligently apply it to my life, obey its commands conscientiously, take its warnings seriously, and heed its teaching? Do I take in the whole scope of Scripture, even the hard truths and stories? Continue Reading…

Digital Bibles for Teaching Children?

Digital Bibles for Teaching Children?

Here is a pertinent observation and question left by one of our blog readers recently:

I have been told that this generation of children will no longer use an actual Bible, but rather a tablet or phone, and that being able to use a Bible is not as important as it was ten years ago. The same goes with concordances and other Bible helps. Do you agree? What practically do you think is the best way to teach children?

Great question! And yes, I do have some thoughts about this. But before I give my opinion, it’s first helpful to reflect upon the nature of the Bible itself. For example:

  • The Bible is “God-breathed” and divinely inspired.
  • The Bible is inerrant and completely trustworthy.
  • The Bible is the full canon of Scripture—all 66 books—given to us in written form.
  • The Bible is characterized by its absolute authority, clarity, sufficiency, and necessity.
  • The Bible is God’s one Word to us, communicating one main, unified, overarching message, through its diverse 66 books.

With these truths in mind, it is readily apparent that the Bible is utterly unique and separate from any other story or book. That is why I still love the designation “The Holy Bible.” That said, I fully believe the Bible’s words are authoritative and true whether we read them to our class from a Smartphone device, iPad®, or in “old-fashioned” printed form. God’s Word is God’s Word. The medium we use does not change or alter that. However, there is something we should not lose sight of: The medium we use cannot be completely disassociated from the message. What do I mean? Here is an example: Continue Reading…

Imparting Truth with Exultation

Imparting Truth with Exultation

In his sermon, One Generation Shall Praise Your Works to Another, John Piper challenges us to not only pass on biblical truth, but to also do it in a manner that testifies to the greatness and worth of God.

It is the Biblical duty of every generation of Christians to see to it that the next generation hears about the mighty acts of God. God does not drop a new Bible from heaven on every generation. He intends that the older generation will teach the newer generation to read and think and trust and obey and rejoice. It’s true that God draws near personally to every new generation of believers, but he does so through the Biblical truth that they learn from the preceding generations. The Spirit comes down vertically (you might say) where the truth of God is imparted horizontally.
Continue Reading…

Helping Children Understand the Cost of Following Jesus

Helping Children Understand the Cost of Following Jesus

Years ago my son stepped through the doors of an Army recruitment office. He was given a wonderful and glorious picture of army life—one filled with financial benefits and exciting adventures. You’d be crazy NOT to join up. But, unbeknownst to the recruiter, our son had been given a prior “recruitment” talk by a good friend and mentor who had been in the army for 20 years (including two, year-long deployments into war zones). He gave our son a much more realistic and truthful picture. It was with this latter understanding that our son signed up. He counted the cost and joined because he was committed to a cause he believed in, knowing that hard work, self-sacrifice, suffering, and war was ahead.

I wonder sometimes if we are prone to a subtle type of recruitment mentality when we present the Gospel to children. Please don’t get me wrong—the Gospel IS the most glorious news of all, and we should be gladly sharing with our children and students the truth of the incomparable benefits and all-satisfying joy of trusting in Jesus and following Him. Jesus alone is “the way and the true and the life.” But, do we also help them understand that there is a cost in following Jesus? Continue Reading…

What Might God Do in Your Backyard This Summer?

What Might God do in Your Backyard this Summer?

What are your summer plans? Perhaps you will visit relatives, take a vacation, or soak up the sun at a neighborhood pool or lake? These are all great opportunities, but summer also affords us a unique opportunity to spread the Gospel through backyard Bible clubs.

Every member of your family can take part in the wonderful ministry of a backyard Bible club—whether it be extending invitations, teaching a lesson, leading singing, supervising a craft or game, or just loving the children who come. Continue Reading…

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