Archive - November, 2013

Grace and Truth—Truth and Grace

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 ESV)

In his book, The Grace and Truth Paradox: Responding With Christlike Balance, Randy Alcorn makes the following observations that are helpful in examining our hearts, and also in examining what we teach and the manner in which we teach it to our children and students,

Truth-oriented Christians love studying Scripture and theology. But sometimes they’re quick to judge and slow to forgive. They’re strong on truth and weak on grace.

Grace-oriented Christians love forgiveness and freedom. But sometimes they neglect Bible study and see moral standards as legalism. They’re strong on grace and weak on truth.

Countless mistakes in marriage, parenting, ministry, and other relationships are failures to balance grace and truth. Sometimes we neglect both. Often we choose one over the other.

A paradox is an apparent contradiction. Grace and truth aren’t really contradictory. Jesus didn’t switch on truth and then turn it off so He could switch on grace. Both are permanently switched on in Jesus. Both should be switched on in us.

What would Jesus do? There is always one answer: He would act in grace and truth.

Truth without grace breeds a self-righteous legalism that poisons the church and pushes the world away from Christ.

Grace without truth breeds moral indifference and keeps people from seeing their need for Christ.

Attempts to “soften” the gospel by minimizing truth keep people from Jesus. Attempts to “toughen” the gospel by minimizing grace keep people from Jesus. It’s not enough for us to offer grace or truth.

We must offer both.

 (copyright©2003, pages 17-18)

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 ESV)

Lullaby Theology 101: Singing the Whole Counsel of God

By Sarah House

At two years old, David is finding his singing voice. From the backseat he warbles about “The Wheels of the Bus,” and in the bathtub he chirps out “The Itsy, Bitsy Spider.” But yesterday I found him on our bed, thumbing through daddy’s Bible, singing “Jesus Loves Me.” We got out the ESV Bible my parents gave David when he was born and sat on the bed, looking at the pictures and singing the songs he had learned about God. One of those songs was Praise Him, Praise Him, All Ye Little Children:

Praise Him, praise Him, all ye little children,
God is love, God is love;
Praise Him, praise Him, all ye little children,
God is love, God is love.

I’ve sung this many times around a circle of unruly toddlers and over crying babies in the nursery. When David was born, I started singing it to him at home as he sat in his chair and watched me cook, wash dishes, and fold laundry. Singing truth is a great way to redeem the “mundane” time, putting into practice the commands of Deuteronomy 6:4-7 with children while getting ordinary things done. Rhythm and simple melody make truths easier to learn and brings cheerfulness to otherwise boring chores (really boring chores if you’re only three months old and can only sit and watch).

However, as I worked and sang through my small repertoire of baby praise songs, I began to notice what a small picture of God I was painting for David. There is no doubt that God is love, and that it is important for the smallest and most vulnerable people to know that—but God has many other attributes as well. Having spent six years teaching The ABCs of God  to first grade students at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, I could think of at least 35 other words about God…Almighty, Creator, Faithful, Holy, Jealous, Righteous, Merciful, Wrath, Patient, Sovereign, Wise, Incomprehensible (my students’ favorite word), to name only a few. These are also truths David needs to know.

I started to list all of the one-syllable, simple adjectives describing God that I could substitute for “love” in the song: good, wise, just, kind, strong, big, near, great, king, etc. I began to add more verses to Praise Him, Praise Him All Ye Little Children. Even though the song grew much longer, the view of God became much bigger and grander. And that is just what a little child needs…

  • He needs a God who is good—who always is good, does good, and gives good things like fields full of dandelions, little sisters, puppy kisses, and even medicine and flu vaccines.
  • He needs a God who is wise—to send rain to water the grass at the park, to make rules about obeying mommy and daddy, to make it dark for nighttime.
  • He needs a God who is strong—who never grows tired or crabby, who cannot be stopped from doing His purposes, who can carry His children through all of life, even when earthly daddies can’t.
  • He needs a God who is big—bigger than anything he is afraid of (the dark, owls, mommy leaving, etc.) and bigger than himself, a God who is the boss of everyone, including toddlers.
  • He needs a God who is near—who is everywhere all the time, even in the middle of the night when parents are sleeping.
  • He even needs a God who is just—who is the standard of right and wrong, who judges and disciplines rightly.
  • He needs a God who is great—a hero who never fails, never grows boring, and really deserves to be worshiped and followed.

We love to sing about the love of God to children because we so want them to experience His love, to know His tender care, and to see His smile of favor. God is love, and that’s a good place to start, but we can’t stop there because the Bible doesn’t stop there. What toddlers don’t need is another warm and fuzzy “god bear” to cuddle for comfort. They need God. When fears, confusion, and rebellion come as threatening storms into his world, David needs the Lion-Lamb God of the Bible, who not only quiets His children with His love, but who vanquishes enemies with a mighty hand. If we truly want our children to truly praise God for His love, we must place His love within the whole counsel of God, including big words that toddlers may not fully understand for a while.

It will be a long time before David can read all the words the Bible uses to describe God, but until then he can learn to sing them and say them. The words he learns now will prepare his brain and his heart for deeper teaching when he is older. But even now, his little ears are listening, and his young mind can understand more than we imagine. So we sing, and pray that he will come to love and trust the God all those important words are about.

November 1st Friday Contest Winners

Congratulations to Casey and Mary, the winners of our November 1st Friday Contest! They will be the first to receive our revised Jesus, What a Savior! Student Workbook as soon as it is printed.

Check our blog this Friday to see what we’re giving away this week.

The Importance of Biblical Convictions

The following are some good words from Dr. Paul Tripp:

I am afraid that many of us are so busy making decisions for our children in order to keep them safe that we do not teach them to develop their own set of internalized biblical convictions. It is one thing for a teenager to do what is right under a watchful eye or under the threat of punishment. It is quite another thing to see the independent, unpressured, heartfelt exercise of personal conviction. As we are preparing our teenage children to go out into this darkened, fallen world and live a godly life, it is mandatory that we make the development of internalized convictions one of our primary goals.

Dr. Tripp then outlines six characteristics of biblical conviction:

  1. A biblical conviction is always based on a study of, submission to, and application of Scripture.
  2. A biblical conviction is always predetermined.
  3. A biblical conviction will not change with the circumstances.
  4. Biblical convictions are inflexible.
  5. True biblical conviction is bold.
  6. True biblical conviction is always lived out.

(Age of Opportunity: A Biblical Guide to Parenting Teens, copyright© 2001, pages 128, 132-133)

The Memorized Word and the Fight of Faith + Friday Contest

It is always encouraging at Children Desiring God to hear from those who use our resources. The following testimonies are from churches and parents using the Fighter Verse Scripture memory program. This first testimony comes from a mother in Minnesota:

“My son [5 years old] and I do personal devotions in the morning before going to school…along with the Foundation Verses and/or Fighter Verses. Well, last week, as we were coming home from school, he asked if he could climb “his” tree, and I reminded him the three things he needs to do as soon as we get home: take his school shoes off, put his backpack away, and change from his uniform into play clothes. I felt him tense for a second and then relax. As we entered the house he said, “Mom, I was going to argue with you but the Holy Spirit reminded me one of the verses hidden in my heart, and so I didn’t! I obeyed!” I asked him which Bible verse that was, and he said, “Do all things without grumbling or questioning.”…We’re celebrating the work of the Holy Spirit in his heart, and glorifying God!

This next testimony comes from a children’s ministry leader from a church in Wisconsin that started a weekly memory program using first the verses from CDG curriculum, and then from the Fighter Verses Scripture memory program:

One day [a six-year-old girl from this church] lost her temper as her father was disciplining her. After correcting her, he talked with her about the importance of self control. Her eyes got big and she said “Daddy, that is just like one of my Sunday school Verses.” He asked her which one and she said “Proverbs 14:29: Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly” Needless to say, her dad told me this story with tears in his eyes.

Finally, this testimony comes from an associate pastor’s wife in Alberta, Canada:

A few months ago we ordered a pack of Fighter Verses for ourselves, believing that God was stirring us to know His Word better. After we received our pack, we ordered 20 more to give to friends and family as we were led. My husband recently preached a sermon on knowing the Word and offered our last 2 verse packs to whoever wanted them. The first 2 people out the door asked for them! Many others asked where they could get a pack. Due to the response, we ordered another 20 and made them available at church this morning. Again, they disappeared quickly, and others were asking if we have any more coming. We are so excited and encouraged to see our church respond in this way.

Friday Contest—If you, too, would like to start using the Fighter Verse Scripture memory program, we  plan to give away a free copy of Fighter Verse Pack (a two-ring binder containing five sets of verses, 52 passages each). Simply leave us a comment about why you would like to receive this resource and your name will be entered in the contest. Leave your comment by Wednesday, November 13. We will randomly select the winner on Monday, November 18.

Teaching Students to Ask the Right Question

Here is a good reminder from Pastor John MacArthur:

A biblical perspective of truth also necessarily entails the recognition that ultimate truth is an objective reality. Truth exists outside of us and remains the same regardless of how we may perceive it. Truth by definition is as fixed and constant as God is immutable. That is because real truth…is the unchanged and unchanging expression of who God is; it is not our own personal arbitrary interpretation of reality.

Amazingly, Christians in our generation need to be reminded of these things. Truth is never determined by looking at God’s Word and asking, “What does this mean to me?” Whenever I hear someone talk like that, I’m inclined to ask, “What did the Bible mean before you existed? What does God mean by what He says?” Those are the proper questions to be asking…The task of the interpreter is to discern that meaning. And proper interpretation must precede application.

(The Truth War: Fighting for Certainty in an Age of Deception, copyright © 2007, pages xx-xxi)

Video Resource for Young Adults

I am always on the lookout for good resources to use in teaching teens and young adults—resources that will not only grab their attention but also “ignite” spiritual discussions in our homes and classrooms. Here is the description of one such video resource from the team at Igniter Media:

Follow—Throughout the course of his public ministry, Jesus knew both the adoration and desertion of the crowds. Today, just as 2,000 years ago, the gospel asks a question that demands an answer: Will we follow? This video powerfully illustrates this truth through the dynamic lens of a 21st-century social network.

Creative Ideas for Prayer Times with Children

Prayer

In our intergenerational resource, the Lord, Teach Us To Pray Family Devotional Guide, author Sally Michael gives some excellent suggestions for varying your mode of prayer with children in order to keep them engaged. Most of these suggestions can be used in both the home and classroom:

  • Pray “sentence prayers”—each person prays a sentence or two and prays at various times.
  • Pray topically—pray about a certain topic; then mention another concern for prayer; pray through several requests.
  • Place prayer requests on slips of paper and draw to determine who will pray for each request.
  • Gather around a person, lay hands on him and pray for him.
  • Pray in pairs.
  • Take a prayer walk—stop at critical spots to pray.
  • Pray over requests in missionary letters.
  • Pray with a map.
  • Pass out pictures of friends and family—each person can pray for the person pictured.
  • Write out your prayers.
  • Suggest a “prayer starter;” others finish (e.g., “Lord you are so good because…you send rain on the good and bad alike…while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us…”).
  • Go outside and pray with your eyes open.

Photo Credit

Keeping God the Main Thing in Our Children’s Behavior

Everyday Talk

Does this type of situation sound at all familiar? (Parent to child): “Now look at what you’ve done! Because you didn’t do what I told you to do, and were goofing off instead, we’re going to be late for church! I’m teaching Sunday school today. Now I’ll have to walk in late. Do you know how that makes me feel?”

As a parent, I’ve been there and done that more times than I can count. I’ve put myself—my feelings, my convenience, my reputation before others—at the center of my child’s disobedience. So when I came across these words from John Younts, I was very convicted and very helped:

Parents, when you give in to anger, resentment or self-pity at your child’s bad behavior, you make yourself the center of the problem. You are loving yourself first and most. You must love your kids enough to show them the danger of their behavior. They need to see that their first problem is with God, and secondarily with you…You must be more concerned for them than for yourself, and you must be concerned most of all for God. By modeling patience, love, self-control—all the fruits of the Spirit—you teach your children how extraordinary God is.

(Everyday Talk: Talking Freely and Naturally about God with Your Children, copyright ©2004, page 64)

Reaching the Heart + Friday Contest

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When children come to Sunday school, we hope they will learn many things about God. While facts are good and important for them to learn, head knowledge is not the ultimate goal of our curriculum. We want to help children move from head knowledge to heart knowledge. Children not only need to know the truth of God’s Word, but more importantly, they need to respond to and act on it.

Students Workbooks are the tool we have designed for this very purpose. Not only do workbooks help reinforce the main ideas presented in the lesson, using them in a small group setting will help engage children and enhance the application process.

In the revised Jesus, What a Savior! Student Workbook, kindergartners will enjoy hands-on activities such as Dot-to-dot, coloring, matching, mazes, tracing letters, and cutting and pasting. While children are completing the workbook pages, small group leaders engage them in discussion based on questions provided in the Teacher’s Guide.
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