Archive - December, 2014

New Year’s Resolution for Parents

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As a parent, have your child’s behavior and spiritual condition ever caused you to be concerned about how this will reflect upon you personally? Whether or not you are into the idea of making resolutions for the coming New Year, every parent should resolve to put away any notions of “reputation-based” parenting. What is reputation-based parenting? Consider these thoughts:

Reputation parenting is primarily concerned with the spiritual reputation of the parent. You do what you do as a parent with the goal of having others see you as a respectable Christian parent.

We seek compliments from others for how great a parent we are and how well behaved our children are. Those words ensnare our hearts and build pressure in the lives of our children.

Because of that, we should strive to recognize the insidious way it entangles our home life. Think through the way you interact with your children.

    • Is your first reaction to disobedience, “What will people think of me?”
    • Is your main concern that your children “do the right thing”?
    • Is your greatest fear that they rebel?

Whether we’d like to admit it or not, reputation parenting is our default mode of parenting. I recognize that deplorable facet of my own heart.

Our parenting must be saturated in the gospel and that cannot and will not happen if we are concerned with our reputation.

(From “Parenting with Sanctification, not Reputation, in Mind” by Aaron Earls at thewardrobedoor.com, found through a link on Tim Challies’ blog, www.challies.com.)

Read the entire article here.

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

Children and Youth in a Digital Age

ID-100189240Now that Christmas is over, there will probably be new digital gadgets visible everywhere—including in the hands of your children and students. As parents and teachers, let’s be very careful how we navigate the waters of the digital age. For example, consider these words by Dr. Albert Mohler in response to a warning by the American Academy of Pediatrics:

It should tell us something that the nation’s pediatricians are alarmed about the media exposure of our children and teenagers. We should know that “there is no such thing as an educational program” for very young children and that what children really need is face time with parents and the experience of hands-on play.

Christian parents must consider this research carefully and candidly. We know that every technology comes with its own dangers, and the technologies of the screen offer subtle dangers as well as more obvious problems. We must prepare our children and teenagers for life in a world filled with screens, and this will be no easy task. But it starts with parents exercising control and preventing the alarming levels of screen exposure this research reveals.

 (“In the Danger Zone: Raising Our Children in the Age of the Screen”, www.albertmohler.com)

And here are Dr. Mohler’s comments on other research,

Scientists are beginning to document the effects of digital exposure on the brain. They are finding that everything from phone calls (remember those?) to e-mail and text messages exacts a toll on the brain’s ability to concentrate and focus. Furthermore, they have identified a physiological reward for digital stimulation—a “dopamine squirt.” That little squirt of dopamine in the brain serves as a physiological pay-off for digital stimulation, and it can be habit-forming.

(“Meet the New American Family, Digitally Deluged”, www.albertmohler.com)

Summary:
Parents, take heed! Carefully and intentionally prepare and train your children and youth for the digital age. As a first step toward this goal, here are several short articles by Dr. Mohler that are must reads for parents:

(Image courtesy of Tung Photo at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

Mid-Year Refresh

Yes, it’s almost time to celebrate the new year, but for many Sunday school teachers we are closing on “mid-year”—the halfway point of the school year. Don’t miss out celebrating this milestone. Consider having a mid-year “refresh” get together for your children’s and youth ministry teams. As a teacher, I have always found this gathering to be a great encouragement. Elements you may want to include during this time…

  • corporate worship through the singing of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs
  • a short message reiterating what it means to be “vision-driven” in ministry (see video below as an example)
  • a time for testimonies recalling evidences of God’s grace in the classroom
  • breakout training sessions for specific classroom roles (teachers, worship leaders, small group leaders, etc.)
  • round table to share ongoing concerns and possible solutions
  • concerted prayer together
  • provide a meal and/or special treats

Here is Pastor David Michael giving a brief synopsis of what it means to be “vision-driven” in ministry:

 

Christmas Carols as Opportunities for Teaching Great Truths

ID-100152931I don’t know about you, but all the children I know love to sing Christian Christmas carols. The familiar tunes and the special events surrounding the Christmas season give these carols a special place in their hearts. Most children are able to memorize the verses with amazing ease. But let’s not miss a great opportunity when we teach children these carols. Many carols (and the kind I would recommend) convey big truths—truths that we should take the time to carefully, yet as simply as possible, explain.

Singing hymns about the coming of Jesus Christ is one means of education. Children are made aware of the weighty dignity of great themes, learning the meaning of words in their context. And it doesn’t matter if these things take time to absorb. It was T. S. Eliot who argued that fine language can communicate before it is understood. You can explore the rhythm and workings of the language through Christian hymns.

(“Singing Christmas Carols
” by Geoff Thomas, www.banneroftruth.org)

(Photo courtesy digidreamgrafix at freedigitalphotos.net.)

 

The Gift of Scripture Memory

On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me nine Fighter Verses…Actually, this year you and your loved ones can learn more than 50 Scripture passages together with help from the Fighter Verses Scripture memory app for mobile devices. The Fighter Verses app is being featured as the ninth of 10 key apps to help you follow Jesus more faithfully this Advent and in the year to come on the Reformapp.net website.

Click here for more information on the Fighter Verses app, and go to Reformapp.net to see the other nine apps being featured this year.

Christmas: News and Joy

Here is a helpful message from John Piper, “Make This Christmas Special.” In it, he gives some very practical advice for parents about how to focus on what is most important at Christmas.

The Beauty and Ugliness of Christmas

ID-100127571Childhood memories leave a lasting impression on our lives. In walking down memory lane, here are some of my own childhood memories regarding Christmas (in no particular order):

  • a Christmas tree in the living room
  • special decorations, lights, and candles
  • singing Christmas carols
  • a Nativity set in which baby Jesus was placed in the center
  • presents!
  • family gatherings
  • yummy meals and treats
  • sitting by the fireplace with hot cocoa
  • the Christmas Eve service at church
  • celebrating the birth of Jesus

All beautiful and wonderful memories to instill in a child. But there is something very important missing from this list…something not impressed upon me as a child. Something we all need in our Christmas. What could this possibly be? Consider the following thoughts:

There is lurking behind every beautiful scene on every Christmas card, every lovely sentiment of Christmas, somewhere behind all of that is something very vile and very ugly.  The most wretched, heinous, hideous reality in all of the universe. And I really believe that to have a proper understanding of the beauty of Christmas, you must have a proper understanding of the ugliness of Christmas….

The heart of Christmas is this: Christ came into the world to save sinners. Christ was manifest to take away sin. “You shall call his name Jesus for he shall save his people from their sin.” And the real beauty of Christmas is to understand the ugliness that it cures…

Sin disturbs and disrupts every human relationship, whether between man and man, man and creation, or man and God. Thomas Watson, the great Puritan writer, said, “Sin has turned beauty into deformity and the wicked takes more care to have his sin covered than cured.” Men are much more prone to excuse their sin than they are to examine it. And so it’s fitting that at this time of the year when men would cover their sin with all the beauty of Christmas that the covering be torn off, if but for a brief moment, to reveal the ugliness that is behind it all.

You see, the reason that Christ was born was to be the savior who came to deliver men from sin. If there were no sin, there would need to be no Christmas. So we cannot divorce the two and we cannot hide behind the fantasy. We cannot hide behind the smokescreen of Christmas cards and all the rest. Sin must come to the forefront. 

(Excerpt from a sermon by John MacArthur, The Ugliness of Christmas, www.gty.org)

So, as we consider making memories this Christmas that will leave a lasting and life-changing impression upon our children, let’s remember to carefully teach our children the real reason why Christmas is so beautiful.

(Image courtesy of Feelart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

Will Our Children Know What Truth Is?

ID-100291434 Here is a simple exercise to do with your older children and students this week: Ask them: “What’s the truth?” Write down their answers. Next, read Steven Lawson’s great post at Ligonier Ministries titled, “The Moment of Truth: Its Reality” in which he notes and defines eight characteristics of truth. After doing this, go back and discuss your children’s answers in light of his article. Here is a summary of his eight points:

Truth Is Divine

God is the author of all truth because God is the truth. All things are measured by God Himself—by Himself—to determine what is in conformity with truth and what is non-truth. God is the final judge of all truth. 

Truth Is Absolute

Truth is sovereign. Truth reigns over all. Truth is the definitive standard by which everything is measured.

Truth Is Objective

Truth is conveyed in clearly defined words—and words that have a definite meaning. Truth is black and white. Truth is narrowly defined by God’s Word…Truth is fact; it is not feeling…Truth is found in specific words with specific meaning in the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of the living God.

Truth Is Singular

…What God says to one generation is true for every generation. The Bible speaks with one voice. It sets forth one plan of salvation, makes one diagnosis of the problem of the human condition, presents one history of redemption, and offers one Savior.

Truth Is Immutable

Truth never changes. What was true in the Garden of Eden is true throughout the Old Testament, is true in the times of Christ, is true in the expansion of the church, is true down through the centuries, and it is true today because God never changes.

Truth Is Authoritative

Truth has the right to make demands upon our lives because it is the truth of God. Truth possesses the right to rule our lives.

Truth Is Powerful

Truth alone convicts…Truth saves…Truth sanctifies. It conforms us into the image of Christ. Truth encourages. Truth comforts.

Truth Is Determinative

Your eternal destiny is determined by the truth.

(Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

 

A Crying Baby in a Manger

ID-10029114I have a confession to make: For the past two decades I have tampered with the words of a beloved Christmas carol. Well, to be honest, I’ve only changed two words, but those two words are significant in my mind and drive home a huge theological truth.

The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes,

But And little Lord Jesus, no such crying He makes…

Baby Jesus crying just like any other baby who is startled by a load noise. Not a sinful type of cry that comes from frustration or anger, but simply a human baby communicating. Amazing truth:

Baby Jesus, fully God…“in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,” (Colossians 1:19)

Baby Jesus, fully human…just like us.

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death…Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. (Hebrews 2:14, 17-18 ESV)

Because Jesus is fully God, it seems right to think of Him as a “perfect” baby—one who never even cried. But as Hebrews makes clear, Jesus took on full humanity. He was born and became like us. Jesus cried as a baby. He grew hungry and sleepy. He needed His diapers changed. In Jesus, God did not come to earth as some intangible spirit, but a real flesh and blood man. That was God’s plan. Jesus can sympathize with our weaknesses because He has worn frail flesh. “And little Lord Jesus, such crying He makes.” But more importantly, His humanity gave Him the means to die and destroy the one who has the power of death so that in Him what might have eternal life.

So this Christmas, when you sing this beloved Christmas carol with your children use it as a teaching moment. You don’t necessarily need to take my radical approach and change the words, but make sure that your children know and understand the true and crucial meaning of the incarnation.

Baby Jesus, fully God.

Baby Jesus, fully man.

(Image courtesy of Nutdanai Apikhomboonwaroot at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

Not All are Merry

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As we minister in our classrooms this Christmas season, it is important that we recognize that not all children may be merry. Some have experienced terrible loss that will be felt by the whole family—maybe the recent death of a beloved grandparent. Others will feel the turmoil and stress of a broken home or fighting parents. Maybe daddy has lost his job and money is tight. A few might be fearful and lonely because daddy is a soldier, fighting a war far, far away—he won’t be home for Christmas. Whatever the source of their sadness, here is a good reminder from Dr. Albert Mohler:

Is Christmas also for those who grieve? Such a question would perplex those who experienced the events that night in humble Bethlehem and those who followed Christ throughout his earthly ministry. Christmas is especially for those who grieve.

…The baby Jesus was born into a world of grief, suffering, and loss. The meaning of his incarnation was recognized by the aged Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, who prophesied that God had acted to save his people, “because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:78-79).

…The great truth of Christmas is that the Father so loves the world that he sent his own Son to assume human flesh and to dwell among us, to die for our sins and to suffer for our iniquity, and to declare that the kingdom of God is at hand. This same Jesus was raised from the dead on the third day, conquering death and sin. There is salvation, full pardon from sin, and life everlasting to those who believe and trust in him.

…Christians bear a particular responsibility to surround fellow believers with this confidence, and to minister Christmas joy and love to those bearing griefs. We stand together in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, declaring with the Apostle Paul that nothing, not even death, can separate us from the love of God. We bind one another’s hearts, respect one another’s tears, and remind one another of the blessed hope. For, it was Christ himself who promised that our “sorrow will turn into joy” (John 16:20).

(From – And Them That Mourn”—Celebrating Christmas in the Face of Grief and Sorrow.)

This does not mean that we must strike a somber note in the classroom by removing or minimizing celebratory elements or activities. But it should cause us to think about how we might acknowledge the realities of suffering, sorrow, fear, loneliness, etc. even while many other people are merry and happy. (No doubt, Mary and Joseph weren’t all “jolly” on the road to Bethlehem, nor their flight to Egypt!) But in that acknowledgment, we must also gently point children to the life-giving, hope-filled, joy-producing message of the Gospel. Furthermore, consider practical ways to reach out to a child who is experiencing grief: Talk to the parents and ask them, “How could we encourage your child this Christmas?”; send a special note or give the child a phone call; give a gift to the family (e.g., provide the child with a special opportunity to participate in a lesson, etc.). Whatever you choose to do, make sure to acknowledge the grief, extend compassion, and point to our only hope, Jesus, in whom there is everlasting joy!

O come, O come, Emmanuel,

And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.

O come, Thou Day-spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.

Rejoice! Rejoice!

Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

(Image courtesy of Artur84 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

 

 

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