Archive - March, 2013

A Refuge in a Wildfire

Children Desiring God has developed a resource to assist parents in presenting the essential truths of the Gospel to children. Leave us a comment of any length on today’s post, and your name will be entered for a drawing in which five names will be chosen to receive the booklet, Helping Children to Understand the Gospel.

  • Topic: Comment to share your thoughts on today’s video
  • Deadline: Wednesday April 3rd, at 11:59pm
  • Prize: One of five booklets from Children Desiring God entitled, Helping Children to Understand the Gospel
  • Winners will be announced on Tuesday, April 9th.

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In this short video segment taken from his sermon, “The Centrality of the Cross,” Jason Meyer, Pastor for Vision and Preaching at Bethlehem Baptist Church, simply but powerfully tells and explains the story of Jesus’ death on the cross. And, to further our understanding, he gives a real-life illustration that will help both young and old alike.

 

Creative Uses for Helping Children Understand the Gospel

Since it was released in 2009, the booklet Helping Children Understand the Gospel has been used in a number of creative ways. Although it was written to help parents explain the Gospel to their children in an accurate and child-friendly manner, God has multiplied its usefulness to bless the church. Understanding and meditating on the truths of the Gospel is is not just for children, but for families, teachers, youth, young adults and grandparents, too!

In January 2010, Riverpark Bible Church in Fresno, California, used Helping Children Understand the Gospel to begin a church-wide, 10-week, “Ten Truths” study. After encouraging parents to read parts one and two of the booklet on their own, they kicked off the study with a sermon outlining the ten truths. In this video Pastor Dave and Sandy Parker share what they did and what happened:


If you are curious about the Ten Essential Truths of the Gospel that make up the devotional guide in the booklet, here they are:

Truth One: God is the sovereign Creator of all things.
Truth Two: God created people for His glory.
Truth Three: God is holy and righteous.
Truth Four: Man is sinful.
Truth Five: God is just and is right to punish sin.
Truth Six: God is merciful. He is kind to undeserving sinners.
Truth Seven: Jesus is God’s holy and righteous Son.
Truth Eight: God put the punishment of sinners on Jesus.
Truth Nine: God offers the free gift of salvation to those who repent and believe in Jesus.
Truth Ten: Those who trust in Jesus will live to please Him and will receive the promise of eternal life—enjoying God forever in heaven.

Telling and Explaining the Story of Calvary

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In yesterday’s post, we talked about the importance of giving children a proper context in which to understand the significance of Jesus’ death on the cross. Namely, they must understand something of God’s holiness, wrath, love, and grace. But how can we do this without unnecessarily “weighing” the story down with lengthy, deep theological explanations? Here is one suggestion:

Before or after telling the story of the crucifixion—the actual events—provide the children with a summarized context in which to understand why Jesus died on the cross. This summary could include some of the following truths communicated in age-appropriate language:

  • God created everyone and is the ruler over everyone. (Psalm 24:1)
  • All people are to honor God as their Ruler by loving, trusting, and obeying Him. (Deuteronomy 6:5; 10:12-13)
  • God is holy and righteous. He never sins or does anything wrong. His commands and rules are always right. (Psalm 119:137; Romans 7:12)
  • God’s commands show us that we are all sinners. We do not honor, love, trust, and obey Him as we should. (Romans 3:20, 23.)
  • Because God is holy and righteous, He hates all sin and is right to be angry at all sin. God’s wrath is His fierce anger at sin. (Habakkuk 1:13a; Romans 1:18a)
  • God has decided that the right punishment for sin is death and hell—experiencing God’s wrath forever. (Romans 6:23a; 2:5)
  • God is loving, merciful, and gracious. He is kind to undeserving sinners. He made a way for sin to be rightly punished and for sinners to be saved. (Psalm 145:8; Ephesians 2:4-5, 8-9)
  • Jesus is God’s holy and righteous Son. He is fully God and became fully human like us. But unlike us, Jesus never sinned. (John 1:1, 14; Hebrews 4:15)
  • Since Jesus is holy and righteous, He was able to be the perfect substitute for sinners. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
  • God put the punishment of sinners on Jesus and poured out on Jesus the wrath He has against sin. (Romans 3:25; 1 Peter 2:24; 1 John 4:10)
  • God offers the free gift of salvation to those who repent and believe in Jesus. (Mark 1:15; John 3:16-17).

Interested in a resource that helps tell and explain the meaning of Jesus’ death on the cross?  Check out Why Easter? by Barbara Reaoch. (Although written as a family devotional, portions could also be used by teachers in a classroom setting.)

Helping Children to Understand the Gospel

Helping booklet

The Gospel is the most important truth one generation can communicate to the next, and God calls parents and teachers to be wise sowers. This calls for accurate, discerning, and intentional practices of cultivating, teaching, and praying in the hope that God, who gives the growth, will work in children’s hearts to yield hundredfold harvests of faith.

This booklet was developed to help parents and teachers think about what elements should be considered when presenting the Gospel to children, including:

  • Preparing the hearts of children to hear the Gospel;
  • Discerning stages of spiritual growth;
  • Communicating the essential truths of the Gospel; and
  • Presenting the Gospel in an accurate and child-friendly manner

This helpful resource includes a 10-week family devotional to help parents explain the Gospel to their children.

Watch the blog later this week for a chance to win a free copy of this booklet!

If you don’t win one, you can also purchase the booklet. It is available in two formats: print and electronic.

Calvary: Holiness, Wrath, Love, and Grace

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Yesterday’s post talked about the importance of not allowing the story of Jesus’ death on the cross to become a “flyover” as it were between Palm Sunday and Easter. But as we tell the story of the cross, we must also give children a proper context in which to understand what really happened. The crucifixion narrative is grounded in some huge theological truths. Consider this helpful statement from Jerry Bridges,

The love of God has no meaning apart from Calvary. And Calvary has no meaning apart from the holy and just wrath of God. Jesus did not die just to give us peace and a purpose in life; He died to save us from the wrath of God. He died to reconcile us to a holy God who was alienated from us because of our sin. He died to ransom us from the penalty of sin—the punishment of everlasting destruction, shut out from the presence of the Lord. He died that we, the just objects of God’s wrath, should become, by His grace, heirs of God and co-heirs with Him.

(The Practice of Godliness: The Practice of Godliness: Godliness has value for all things, 1983, page 24)

And this statement from David Wells,

 … without the holiness of God, grace is no longer grace because it does not arise from the dark clouds of judgment that obscured the cross and exacted the damnation of the Son in our place. Furthermore, without holiness, grace loses its meaning as grace, a free gift of the God who, despite his holiness and because of his holiness, has reconciled sinners to himself in the death of his Son.

(God in the Wasteland: The Reality of Truth in a World of Fading Dreams, 1994, page 144)

Notice the words “holiness,” “love,” “wrath,” and “grace.” All of these words provide essential truths for understanding the story of Jesus’ death on the cross. Often, especially with children, we are tempted to skip over God’s holiness and wrath and jump right to His love and grace. But, as both men point out, God’s love and grace gain their proper meaning, richness, and depth in the context of His holiness and wrath. If children do not have a basic understanding of these attributes of God, Jesus’ death may seem like some sort of tragically unnecessary event, or we may risk minimizing their heart’s desperate need for a Savior.

Want some practical help to include these important themes in telling the story of Jesus’ death on the cross? Check out tomorrows post, “Telling and Explaining the Story of Calvary.”

Here is an excellent resource for your family or classroom: John Leuzarder’s book The Gospel for Children: A Simple, Yet Complete Guide to Help Parents Teach Their Children the Gospel of Jesus Christ

What should we teach children about the holiness of God?

This is a big topic! Thankfully Dr. Ware distills the essence of the issue using the following quote from A. W. Tozer as a jumping off point:

What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.

—A. W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy

Dr. Ware continues by saying,

That is true for us and for the next generation that we minister to and train – that we get God rightly. … We have to continually point the next generation to the revelation of God Himself, to see from Scripture just who He is.

What should we teach children about the holiness of God? from Children Desiring God on Vimeo.

The Cross is Not a “Flyover”

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This is Holy Week and, as a Sunday school teacher, I have always found it somewhat frustrating that in our teaching cycle Good Friday is situated between two joyous celebrations. If we are not careful and intentional, Jesus’ death on the cross can become a “flyover” between Palm Sunday and Easter.

Think about it for a moment. Both Palm Sunday and Easter lend themselves to all sorts of wonderful and exciting possibilities for the children—colorful crafts and activities, boisterous songs, and happy Bible stories. But what about the cross? It doesn’t lend itself to these naturally appealing activities, does it? The story of Jesus’ death on the cross is filled with pain, sorrow, betrayal, abandonment, and darkness. It is the story of a holy and righteous Father pouring out His just wrath at sin on His one beloved sinless Son. But without the cross there would be no reason to celebrate Palm Sunday or Easter.

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. (1 Peter 2:24 ESV)

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, (Ephesians 1:7 ESV)

Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. (Romans 5:9 ESV)

That is why our children need the “sad” story of Jesus’ death on the cross—the pain, the nails, and even the wrath and the blood—if they are to ever to truly understand, embrace, and celebrate Palm Sunday and Easter in their hearts. So let’s make sure that we leave plenty of room for telling and explaining the story of the Cross. May it never be a “flyover” in our church calendar, but may we thoughtfully, truthfully, and passionately proclaim its immeasurable significance.

Why did God…?

Teacher Tips

A question from a third grader after reviewing the biblical story of Adam and Eve’s sin in eating of the one tree…

“Mrs. Nelson, why did God put the tree in the garden in the first place?”

Thinking to myself: That’s a really good question! When did third graders get so smart? I wish I had Dr. Wayne Grudem on speed-dial. How can I stall while I try to think this through?

These days there is a lot of emphasis on teaching children through narrative and story. And while it is true that many parts of the Bible are written in narrative form (as in the case of Genesis 3), and good story-telling can be an effective means of teaching children, the fact remains that we also need to ground our children in sound doctrine. What is doctrine? Well, you could say that it is basically looking at what the whole Bible teaches about different topics—God, creation, man, Jesus, redemption, the church, etc.

But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. (Titus 2:1 ESV)

Take for example, that question from the third grader. The narrative in Genesis 3 makes for great story-telling. But the “story” itself does not answer the third grader’s question, does it? Nor does the story answer the question of why God was so angry because of “one seemingly little act of disobedience.” However, as you look through the whole Bible, you will see that much is revealed about the character of God—who He is and what He is like. And these truths are “collected,” as it were, in order to form the doctrine of God. For example, God is holy and righteous and is committed to His glory. God is also omniscient, wise, sovereign, almighty, merciful, loving, and good. This type of doctrinal framework can now help answer that third grader’s question, because the whole Bible has revealed to us important things about God’s character and purposes.

Therefore, teaching doctrine is vitally important because it informs us of core biblical truths of the Christian faith. It guards us from error, serves as a standard by which to test all things, and is extremely practical and applicable to daily living.

Do you have an intentional plan for presenting doctrine to the children of your church? Have you thought about these questions?

  • What essential truths of the Christian faith do our children need to know?
  • How should these doctrines be explained accurately at various ages?
  • Do the tools we now use provide our children with solid doctrine that is increasingly comprehensive in scope and depth as the children mature?
  • If we are using story-based materials, are we being careful to evaluate their doctrinal integrity?

If you haven’t done so already, it may be time to review and evaluate your teaching materials to see if your children are receiving a solid doctrinal foundation. Because, whether we know it or not, we are always teaching doctrine to children. They will create categories in their minds by what we teach them. So let’s keep it sound!

What does a solid doctrinal foundation look like? Here are two great resources for adults:

Friday Contest

So how would you answer that third grader’s question, “Why did God put the tree in the garden in the first place?” Email us your answers. We will highlight our two favorite responses in a future post, and the winners will each receive a copy of Dr. Bruce A. Ware’s Big Truths for Young Hearts: Teaching and Learning the Greatness of God.

  • Topic: Share your answer to the question: “Why did God put the tree in the garden in the first place?” 
  • Submit your answer to us via email at blog@childrendesiringgod.org
  • Deadline: Wednesday March 27th, at 11:59pm
  • Prize: One of two Big Truths for Young Hearts: Teaching and Learning the Greatness of God by Dr. Bruce A. Ware
    • We will randomly select two people who submit testimonies.
    • You may submit multiple answers, but only one counts as an entry.
    • We will notify you by email when you’ve won to receive your shipping information.
  • Winners will be announced on Tuesday, April 2nd.

Come and hear Dr. Bruce Ware, Professor of Christian Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, at our National Conference. He will be one of our plenary speakers and will also be leading a seminar titled, “Teaching Children to Know and Love God by Knowing and Loving Theology.” For more information click here.

How can parents and teachers encourage holiness without teaching legalism?

In this video, Dr. Bruce A. Ware helps us distinguish the difference between holiness and legalism as we teach and train our children.

The video includes this nugget, which gets to the heart of the matter:

The difference is this: Holiness is a life lived out of a sense of joy and authenticity, that living faithfully and obediently is the good life – is the life of joy and blessing. Whereas legalism is a kind of dutiful adherence to laws that my heart is not engaged in.

Biblical Wisdom: A Biblical View of Life

Teacher Tips

Some good words to think about from Paul David Tripp for every parent and everyone who ministers to children and youth…

What a teenager needs, if he is going to live a God-honoring life, is a thorough knowledge of Scripture that allows him to apply its commands, principles, and perspectives to the many different situations that arise in everyday life. He needs to be more than a person who has acquired biblical knowledge; he needs to be a person who is able to approach life with biblical wisdom.

I am convinced that many teenagers are unprepared for the spiritual struggle because they have never been taught to think biblically. They have been in Sunday school, so they know all the familiar Bible stories and they have memorized all of the favorite Bible passages, but these are not much more than isolated, unconnected biblical factoids to them. They haven’t been woven into a consistent, distinctively biblical view of life. The Bible isn’t a way of thinking to these teenagers. It is a book of moralistic stories, a book of dos and don’ts. The result is that, although they have lots of biblical knowledge, they have little biblical wisdom. They do not have a functional, useful, biblical view of life that would keep them from living foolishly.

We must disciple our children to think biblically, to interpret all the facts of life from a biblical perspective. We must teach them to always ask how the Bible can help them to understand whatever they are considering. 

(Age of Opportunity: A Biblical Guide to Parenting Teens, 2000, page 121)

Getting Practical: As his words demonstrate, imparting biblical wisdom will require a serious, well-thought-out, intentional, long-term plan. Here are a few suggestions for laying a firm foundation for  a “biblical view of life”:

  • Teach our children that God is the source of all truth, and His Word, the Bible, is truth—objective, absolute, universal, and unchanging truth.(Proverbs 30:5; Isaiah 40:8; Isaiah 45:19; John 17:17; 2 Timothy 3:16)
  • Emphasize that God’s truth is authoritative, and all people are under its authority. (Hebrews 4:12-13)
  • Provide them with a comprehensive study on the doctrine of God so they have a proper framework in which to understand His purposes in the world and in our lives. (Isaiah 44:24; Isaiah 45:7; Isaiah 46:9-11; Romans 11:33-36; 1 Timothy 6:15-16)
  • Stress that biblical truth is relevant to everything in life, and make connections between biblical truth and everyday experiences. (Colossians 1:15-19;  2 Timothy 3:16-17; 1 Corinthians 10:31)

For example, take Ephesians 4:29—”Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Then ask: How does this verse address how we communicate on Facebook ?

  • Instruct them how to evaluate all things through the truth of Scripture—What does the Bible have to say about…? And give them age-appropriate Bible study tools for finding answers in the Bible. (Psalm 119:15; Romans 12:2; Hebrews 5:14)
  • Constantly point them to the enlightening and transforming truth of the Gospel. The Gospel is not meant as merely a “one time decision;” it is a daily, ongoing work in the heart. (John 14:6; 2 Corinthians 4:6; Ephesians 2:1-10;  2 Thessalonians 2:13)
  • Teach them that embracing biblical truth and wisdom leads to true, lasting joy. Point out these benefits as they are experienced so you may encourage your child’s confidence in God and His Word. (Psalm 19:7-11; Jeremiah 15:16)
  • Consider incorporating a study on the book of Proverbs into your family devotions or your church’s curriculum

Need a family resource for younger children? Check out Get Wisdom! 23 Lessons for Children About Living for Jesus by Ruth Younts

Or consider these curriculum studies offered by Children Desiring God:

The Way of the Wise (for elementary ages)

Your Word is Truth (for youth/junior high)

Remember that in order to be entered into this week’s contest, you must enter before 11:59pm CST tonight in order to be eligible for the ESV Children’s Bibles.

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