Archive - November, 2014

Have a Blessed Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving 2014

Happy Thanksgiving from the Children Desiring God family! We hope and pray that you will have a lovely day with your family and friends celebrating the many ways God has blessed you this year.

We continue to give thanks for the Lord’s grace to us, and for your continued support and prayers as we labor to spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things so that the next generations may know and cherish Jesus Christ as the only one who saves and satisfies the desires of the heart.

(Leaf image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

A Song of Thanksgiving

A beautiful hymn of thanksgiving – for today, tomorrow, and any day!

My heart is filled with thankfulness
To Him who bore my pain;
Who plumbed the depths of my disgrace
And gave me life again;
Who crushed my curse of sinfulness
And clothed me in His light
And wrote His law of righteousness
With pow’r upon my heart.

My heart is filled with thankfulness
To Him who walks beside;
Who floods my weaknesses with strength
And causes fears to fly;
Whose ev’ry promise is enough
For ev’ry step I take,
Sustaining me with arms of love
And crowning me with grace.

My heart is filled with thankfulness
To him who reigns above,
Whose wisdom is my perfect peace,
Whose ev’ry thought is love.
For ev’ry day I have on earth
Is given by the King;
So I will give my life, my all,
To love and follow him.

(My Heart Is Filled with Thankfulness, words and music by Keith Getty & Stuart Townend,
Copyright © 2003 Thankyou Music)

 

What is Christian Gratitude?

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Some words from John Piper:

Grace begins when one person is full and another is empty. One person is a have and the other a have-not. One is rich; the other is poor. Then grace comes into action as the emptiness of one is filled up by the fullness of the other. What we do not have is supplied by what he has. Our poverty is replaced by his wealth. And all that not because we deserve it, but because Jesus is gracious. His riches are free. Therefore, gratitude wells up in the hearts of those who “receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness” (Romans 5:17). This gratitude to Christ, which marks all true believers (Romans 1:21), is more than saying, “Thank you,” or trying to return some service; it is more than being glad you are free from condemnation; it is being glad toward Jesus for the riches of salvation and the way he made it ours. When the grace of Jesus penetrates the human heart, it rebounds back to God as gratitude. Christian gratitude is grace reflected back to God in the happiness we feel toward Jesus. 

(Sermon, “Grace, Gratitude, and the Glory of God,” ©2014 Desiring God Foundation. Used by Permission.)

(Image courtesy of Deb Spoons at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

Protecting Children from Affluenza

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Before millions of people have let their Thanksgiving meal settle, the race will be on to “shop-‘til-you-drop.” And along with it there may lurk dangerous disease, one that would love to infect your children: “affluenza.” Here is Randy Alcorn’s description:

An alarming number of children from Christian homes grow up grasping for every item they can lay their hands on. Children raised in such an atmosphere—which includes most children in America—are afflicted with a killer disease called “affluenza.”

Consider the typical American Christmas. When the annual obstacle course through crowded malls culminates on the Big Day, what’s the fruit? We find a trail of shredded wrapping paper and a pile of broken, abandoned, and unappreciated toys. Far from being filled with a spirit of thankfulness for all that Christmas means, the children are grabby, crabby, picky, sullen, and ungrateful—precisely because they’ve been given so much.

We love our children. So do their grandfathers and grandmothers, aunts and uncles, cousins and friends. All of us seem to think that love is measured by giving things. We say it isn’t so, but we go right on acting as if it were. Our children aren’t battery operated. Their deepest needs are spiritual, mental, and emotional, and these needs cannot be met by flashing lights and doll houses. This sometimes dawns on us, but we soon forget. Another Christmas, and again we immerse our children in things. In doing so, we mentor them in a perspective on life directly at odds with the Scriptures we seek to teach them at home and in church.

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Three Great Gospel Resources—Part 3

CHGOEPThe past two blog posts were designed to familiarize you with two wonderful resources for equipping parents and teachers in the all-important and joyful mission of communicating the Gospel to the next generation. William Farley’s, Gospel-Powered Parenting: How the Gospel Shapes and Transforms Parenting and Art Murphy’s, The Faith of a Child: A Step-by-Step Guide to the Salvation for your Child definitely fit the bill in assisting us toward that goal. And I believe reading them in that order will provide clear foundation and logical flow the thought and application. The third resource on the list comes right from Children Desiring God: Helping Children to Understand the Gospel. You might say that this resource is intended to get down to the “nitty-gritty” details of sharing the Gospel message with your children. This 88-page booklet is divided into three main sections:

Part 1—Preparing Children for the Gospel

Keeping in mind that God is ultimately sovereign over the salvation of our children, how can we as parents and teachers encourage the proper conditions that make for more receptive hearts and spiritual growth in our children?

Part 2—Presenting the Gospel to Children

o   Understanding what the Gospel truly is (and isn’t) and outlining foundational themes that undergird the Gospel message.

o   The need for truthfully and accurately presenting the Gospel within the context of the whole counsel of God in an age-appropriate manner.

Part 3—Family Devotional Guide: Ten Essential Truths of the Gospel

Ten essential Gospel truths are identified. These represent key truths that our children must know and embrace. Each truth is presented as a separate devotional (10 in all). Each devotional includes the following elements:

o   Key Scriptures to read and discuss.

o   A child-friendly explanation of the Gospel truth.

o   Concrete illustrations and hands-on activities designed to help children grasp the truth.

o    Personal implications to reflect upon and respond to.

o   Additional reading recommendations for parents.

o   Prayer prompts.

o   A special word of encouragement for parents.

Here is a list of the 10 essential Gospel truths presented in the booklet:

  1. God is the sovereign Creator of all things.
  2. God created people for His glory.
  3. God is holy and righteous.
  4. Man is sinful.
  5. God is just and right to punish sin.
  6. God is merciful. He is kind to undeserving sinners.
  7. Jesus is God’s holy and righteous Son.
  8. God put the punishment of sinners on Jesus.
  9. God offers the free gift of salvation to those who repent and believe in Jesus.

Those who trust in Jesus will live to please Him and will receive the promise of eternal life—enjoying God forever in heaven.

 

Three Great Gospel Resources—Part 2

Faith of a ChildYesterday, I stated that parents and teachers have no greater responsibility and privilege than to pass the Gospel on to our children. The first recommended resource for equipping us to do just that is William Farley’s book Gospel-Powered Parenting: How the Gospel Shapes and Transforms Parenting. Today, I’d like to highlight the second resource, The Faith of a Child: A Step-by-Step Guide to the Salvation for your Child by Art Murphy. In one sense, you could say that this book picks up where Gospel-Powered Parenting leaves off by giving more “particulars” about when and how to share the Gospel message with your children. Especially helpful is pastor Murphy’s chapter on “How to Know if a Child is Ready to Become a Christian.” As to the overall aim and flow of the book, Pastor Murphy writes:

My main purpose is that parents and others who affect the lives of children will be better equipped and more confident to lead their children to a real relationship with Jesus.

…Early in my ministry as a children’s pastor I realized that most parents, teachers, and pastors struggle with the issue of children and salvation. I struggled too. There are many questions to consider.

    • How can we know if a child is ready to become a Christian?
    • How much does a child have to know? How much should he understand?
    • At what age are children mature enough to make this commitment?
    • When should we start explaining the gospel to children?
    • What must a child do to become a Christian?
    • How much should we be involved in a child’s decision?
    • When should a child be baptized? [He holds to the credobaptist position, baptizing only those who are able to make a profession of faith.]
    • What is the purpose of baptism?
    • What can churches do to help raise children to follow the Lord?
    • What help should churches provide for children who have expressed a desire to become a Christian?
    • Should the church leave a child’s decision to become a Christian completely up to the child and his parents?
    • What should we do when a very young child wants to become a Christian?

Throughout the book, Pastor Murphy tackles each of these questions with biblical, wise, and experienced counsel. I wish that this book would have been in my hands before raising my own children! However, I have since benefited greatly from it as a Sunday school teacher and as a grandparent.

Here is a list of chapter titles:

  1. Building a Strong Spiritual Foundation for Your Child
  2. What God Says About Children and Salvation
  3. How Much Do You Know About Today’s Children?
  4. Understanding the Faith of a Child
  5. How to Know if a Child Is Ready to Become a Christian
  6. Leading Children to Christ
  7. The Roles of Parents and Teachers
  8. Children and Baptism
  9. Children and Discipleship: The Church’s Role

Tomorrow I will highlight my third highly recommended Gospel resource.

Three Great Gospel Resources—Part 1

Gospel-Powered ParentingSomeday our children will stand before King Jesus and hear Him say one of the following:

“Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” (Matthew 25:34b)

“Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”  (Matthew 25:41b)

We have no greater responsibility and privilege than to pass the Gospel on to our children. It is the only means of salvation. If our children are to inherit the kingdom, they must embrace the Gospel and trust in Jesus. Therefore, we must give the greatest care to present the true essence of the Gospel.

This week, I want to highlight and strongly recommend three resources—one per day—that I believe should be in the hands of every parent and teacher for better equipping us to communicate the Gospel. (more…)

What Our Children Need to Know about God’s Wrath

ID-1007128There is an important post over on the Desiring God website by Joseph Scheumann: “Five Truths About the Wrath of God.” I appreciate his very thoughtful and “balanced” approach—putting to rest some very common misconceptions. I think this article would help every parent, teacher, and older student. Here is how he begins:

The doctrine of the wrath of God has fallen on hard times. In today’s world, any concept of God’s wrath upsets our modern sentiments. It’s too disconcerting, too intolerant.

We live in a day where we have set ourselves as the judge and God’s character is on trial. “How can hell be just?” “Why would God command the Israelites to destroy the Canaanites?” “Why does God always seem so angry?”

 The fact that so many people struggle with these questions, and many more like them, means that more than ever right thinking is needed about the doctrine of God’s wrath. It is needed for motivation for Christian living, fuel for proper worship, and as a toolbox to confront objections to Christianity.

He then identifies these five biblical truths:

  1. God’s wrath is just.
  2. God’s wrath is to be feared.
  3. God’s wrath is consistent in the Old and New Testament.)
  4. God’s wrath is his love in action against sin.
  5. God’s wrath is satisfied in Christ.

 Read how he explains these truths here.

(Image courtesy of Dan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

Biblical Literacy for Preschoolers

ID-100275763The title might seem a misnomer…“literacy” for children who are non-readers??? Well, let’s start with a definition of what I mean by biblical literacy:

Biblical literacy is the ability to rightly read and understand the Bible, using the proper tools of study, thereby becoming well acquainted with the Bible’s character (innate qualities) and content.

Obviously the vast majority of preschoolers cannot read, but they can become increasingly acquainted with the Bible’s character and content. Here are some tips for teaching biblical literacy to preschoolers:

  • Use the Bible as you teach, even if you are not reading directly from the text—have your Bible open to the corresponding text. Show the children that the story is from the Bible by pointing to the text that you are going to read.
  •  Look for opportunities to read directly from the text—even if it is only one verse from the story. When you do this, emphasize that you are reading from the Bible,

“I am going to read from the Bible now. This is what God says…”

  •  Expand and continually review key biblical themes—repetition encourages memorization.

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Reflecting the Beauty of the Church to our Children

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The world is very quick to point out the failings and imperfections of Jesus’ Bride, the Church. As parents, we must be very careful to give our children a picture of the church that is grounded in biblical truth, the beauty of Christ, joyful community, and yes, sometimes painful reality. But let’s be diligent to make sure we focus on the first three, and not simply the last.

Here are some thoughts to consider from Tedd and Margy Tripp:

The family of God gets the reputation we live out in our homes. Children are prepared for their experience of the church family by their experience in our own families…Our experience of those sensory family relationships gives meaning to spiritual relationships.We must train our children to think of the church as their spiritual family.

Church isn’t the place where you are obligated to go, but the place you want to be, just as you want to be with your family. Your spiritual responsibilities aren’t what you have to do, but what you love to do, out of the same kind of commitment you feel toward your family. Psalm 122:1 is our song as we prepare for the Lord’s Day, “I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD.’”

(Instructing a Child’s Heart, copyright©2008, pages 134-135.)

(Image courtesy of phanlop88 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

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