Archive - February, 2015

New Easter Resource for Families

Mission Accomplished book

Just released—Mission Accomplished: A Two-Week Family Easter Devotional by Scott James. Here is Sally Michael’s endorsement:

Scott James has provided families with an easy-to-use, yet spiritually enriching Easter devotional. Starting with the events leading to the cross through the ascension of Jesus, families are encouraged to read the corresponding Scripture, discuss the passage, and make application through questioning and activities. In addition, many selections include a rich hymn to use in family worship. This little book is a great tool for focusing the hearts of your family members on the reality of Jesus s redemptive mission.

Here is a more detailed description from the publisher:

Celebrate the Greatest Rescue Mission in History Nearly 2,000 years ago, a simple wooden cross and an empty tomb served as the setting for the greatest rescue mission in history the good news of a loving Father going to great lengths to save his broken children. Every year at Easter, with a joyful shout of Christ is risen! we declare again the climax of this great story. Although Easter Sunday only happens once a year, the truths behind it are big enough to shape our lives every single day. Starting on Palm Sunday, your family will spend two weeks (fourteen devotions) walking in time with Jesus as he finished the work his Father had given him. Extending your devotional time into the week beyond Easter Sunday will encourage your family to follow the risen Jesus as he calls his disciples on a Spirit-filled mission to spread the good news to all nations. Your family will learn that God calls every Christ follower to that very same task, promising that his power and presence will help us as we go. Each devotion takes just ten-minutes and is suitable for all ages of children. Included are suggestions for hymns to sing and family activities that give you a chance to remember and apply the truth that Christ is risen indeed! 

It is easier to speak smilingly about bunnies and baskets on Easter than it is to explore Christ s cruel death and miraculous resurrection. But for every parent who believes that Christ is risen indeed, there is Mission Accomplished. 

Fourteen theologically rich yet kid-friendly devotions connect well-known Easter stories to the overall biblical message of redemption. 

Starts with the Passion Week and extends into the week beyond Easter Sunday, walking kids through the immediate aftermath of the resurrection and then unpacking the implications of Jesus death and resurrection for our own lives. 

Great for busy parents and families, each day’s core devotion can be completed in just ten minutes.

Family activities are included to give parents options for helping kids of all ages to understand and apply Easter truths and can be completed in an additional ten minutes. 

Full text of classic hymns for your family to sing in worship.

Grasping Sin in Order to Grasp the Gospel


One thing I always look for in reviewing Gospel resources for children—whether books, tracts, music, video, or curricula—is to see how the resource deals with sin, because if it doesn’t get sin “right,” it will probably have a distorted view of the Gospel. Overstatement? Here are some sobering words from D. A. Carson:

There can be no agreement as to what salvation is unless there is agreement as to that from which salvation rescues us. The problem and the solution hang together: the one explicates the other. It is impossible to gain a deep grasp of what the cross achieves without plunging into a deep grasp of what sin is; conversely, to augment one’s understanding of the cross is to augment one’s understanding of sin.

To put the matter another way, sin establishes the plotline of the Bible…

Sin “offends God not only because it becomes an assault on God directly, as in impiety or blasphemy, but also because it assaults what God has made.” (Cornelius Plantinga Jr., Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1995), 16. ) Sin is rebellion against God’s very being, against his explicit word, against his wise and ordered reign. It results in the disorder of the creation and in the spiritual and physical death of God’s image bearers. With perfect justice God could have condemned all sinners, and no one could have justly blamed him. In reality, the Bible’s story line depicts God, out of sheer grace, saving a vast number of men and women from every tongue and tribe, bringing them safely and finally to a new heaven and a new earth where sin no longer has any sway and even its effects have been utterly banished.

In short, if we do not comprehend the massive role that sin plays in the Bible and therefore in biblically faithful Christianity, we shall misread the Bible. Positively, a sober and realistic grasp of sin is one of the things necessary to read the Bible in a percipient fashion; it is one of the required criteria for a responsible hermeneutic.

(Excerpt from Fallen: A Theology of Sin, copyright © 2013, as republished on

Therefore, when reviewing a Bible resource for children, especially one that is presenting the Gospel, I ask questions, such as:

  • How is sin defined? Merely as disobedience? Or, also as horrendous rebellion against God?
  • What “weight” is sin given throughout the resource? Is it simply presented as a type of unfortunate prelude in the Fall that quickly and easily finds resolution? Or, is sin woven throughout the biblical narrative, giving the proper scope and depth of the problem?
  • How are the consequences of sin defined? Simply as a broken relationship with God that needs mending? Or, is there a proper understanding of God’s holiness, just wrath, and His righteous condemnation of sinners to eternal punishment?
  • Are children presented with the plight of their own sin? Are they challenged and encouraged to, with all seriousness and with an appropriate amount of time, consider their own standing before God?
  • Is the Gospel being explained in such a manner that children will be able to clearly see and understand how Jesus’ perfect life, death, and resurrection save us from our sin?
  • Is repentance from sin being emphasized along with the call to believe in Jesus?

(Image courtesy of Gualberto107 at

Teaching with Understanding

ID-10063645One of the most encouraging things we hear from teachers and small group leaders who use our curriculum is how much they are learning as they study the lessons. It may be that some biblical truth is being explored for the first time or in a different way. But more often, I think it’s a certain truth being explained in a way that is more easily grasped. I know this is true for me. For example, appropriate visuals and illustrations used for teaching children help me to more fully comprehend abstract or difficult concepts. Careful, accurate, yet simple definitions and explanations lead me to a deeper understanding of the text. When I understand something more fully, it helps me communicate to the children I lead. It also guards me from being simplistic in my teaching. Consider these words by R. C. Sproul:

A great teacher can simplify without distortion. This is the supreme test of understanding. If I truly understand something, I ought to be able to communicate it to others. There is a vast chasm that separates the simple from the simplistic. Jesus, the greatest teacher ever, taught in simple terms. But He was never simplistic. To oversimplify is to distort the truth. The great teacher can express the profound by the simple, without distortion. To do that requires a deep level of understanding. The great teacher imparts understanding, not merely information. To do that the teacher must understand the material being taught.

(“A Great Teacher Can Simplify without Distortion,” )

 (Image courtesy of Ambro at

Resources for Lent

Why EasterDo you desire your children and students to celebrate this coming Easter in a more significant manner, exploring the deep meaning of Jesus’ death and resurrection? Here are a few resources you might want to take a look at:

Devotional Materials

  • Why Easter? by Barbara Reaoch
    Great for families—four weeks of daily devotional material geared toward children









The Doctrine of God for Toddlers

God Never Changes coverI believe that it’s never too early to expose children to systematic theology. And what better place to begin than teaching children the doctrine of God? Even toddlers can be introduced to God’s attributes, such as His omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, immutability, etc. Here are six simple board books by Carine Mackenzie to help you get started in your own home or in the Sunday school toddler room:

Prodigal Children and Students


Know any unbelieving children and teens? Does one of them live in your own home? Is there any greater sorrow for a Christian parent than having a child who rejects the Gospel? Here is an important article by Burk Parsons, “Hope for Prodigal Children.” This article is not just for parents. It is also important for teachers. One of the most dangerous things we can do concerning prodigal children and students is to deny their unbelief and pretend that everything is okay. As teachers, it may be that we are prone to assume belief in our students—especially children from “good Christian homes,” or children who seem to know all the “right answers” during the Bible lesson. Whether our own children or the students we teach, consider these words from Pastor Parsons:

My greatest concern, however, is for those parents who are not burdened for the souls of their prodigal children. Because their children were raised in good families with good Christian principles, having been taught the way they should go in life, many parents have concluded that they are just fine despite their prodigal lifestyles and unbelief. They may rightly believe that God is sovereign and that He is the only one who can save their children, yet they have forgotten that God has ordained the ends as well as the means to those ends. As such, He calls parents of prodigal children of every age not to presume their salvation and pretend everything is spiritually fine, but to pray for their salvation, preach the gospel to them, and plead with them to repent and believe. When Christian parents don’t face up to the difficult reality that they have prodigal children who are wasting their lives by chasing after the temporal pleasures of the world, they likely won’t face their children with the truth of the gospel, and, what’s more, their children won’t face the difficult reality that they are facing eternal condemnation.


As teachers in the classroom, one simple way to “not presume” the salvation of the students in our class is to be careful in the language we use. For example, we should be careful not to use unqualified statements such as, “We trust in Jesus.” “Jesus has saved us and made us children of God.” “Jesus has given you eternal life. You will live with Him forever.” Instead, use language that encourages students to examine their own hearts and points them to Gospel truths, such as, “If you are trusting in Jesus, you are a child of God. Jesus has promised eternal life for everyone who trusts in Him. Are you trusting in Him? What does this look like in your life?…”

(Image courtesy of artur84 at

Generations Worshiping Together


Looking back through the past two decades, I am so thankful to God for a church family and pastoral leadership that encouraged families to worship together in the corporate church setting. One of the things that helped both old and young to be “comfortable” together was wise worship leaders who had the foresight to point us beyond musical styles. Consider these thoughtful words from Bob Kauflin in his article, “The Legacy of Asaph—Learning to Sing in the Same Room”:

How many of our thoughts about music and worship revolve around what we like, what we prefer, what interests us, and what we find appealing? And how often is that attitude passed on to the next generation, who then focus on what appeals to them?

I suspect this may be one of the reasons churches develop separate meetings for different musical tastes. In the short run it may bring more people to your church. But in the long run it keeps us stuck in the mindset that musical styles have more power to divide us than the gospel has to unite us.

How do we pass on biblical values of worship to coming generations when we can’t even sing in the same room with them?

We have to look beyond our own generation, both past and future, if we’re to clearly understand what God wants us to do now. Otherwise we can be guilty of a chronological narcissism that always views our generation as the most important one. As Winston Churchill insightfully wrote, “The further back you can look, the further forward you can see.”

Enough thinking about ourselves and what kind of music we like to use to worship God. God wants us to have an eye on our children, our grandchildren, and even our great grandchildren.

We have a message to proclaim: “God is good, for His steadfast love endures forever.”

Let’s not allow shortsightedness or selfish preferences keep us from proclaiming it together.


Our family, which now includes grandchildren, is still worshipping together. My children have a great heritage of both old hymns and new spiritual songs. Whether with an organ or piano, guitars and drums, the excellencies of God are being proclaimed and celebrated. I hope and pray that this legacy will continue for my grandchildren and their children.

(Image courtesy of photostock at

What I Learned from a 3-year-old


One of the great benefits of ministering to children is the way God uses them to minister us—for example, their wonderful excitement over simple gifts of God, gifts like blowing bubbles. Oh, that we might express that much excitement and give thanks to God for every good gift! There are also times that children are like “mirrors of the heart,” showing us things we, as sophisticated adults, have learned to cover up with proper and respectable outward behavior.

This hit home the other day as I observed my 3-year-old grandson. He had been over for a visit when his mother informed him it was time to put on his jacket and get ready to go home. He didn’t want to, and he proceeded to have a “melt-down,” evidenced with all the characteristic actions of a child who wants his own way. When his mother reminded him of Ephesians 6:1, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” (ESV) David’s response was to lie down on the floor and repeatedly wail, “But I don’t want to obey! I don’t want to obey!” What a sight! This child needs Jesus!

But after David went home, I got to thinking: Although I don’t lie on the floor and wail out, “I don’t want to obey!” that is often what my heart is expressing to God. My outward behavior is much better disciplined than a 3-year-old, but too often my heart is having a big-time temper tantrum. My 3-year-old grandson served as an important heart mirror for me that day. He showed me: This adult needs Jesus, too!


Is a Biblical Worldview Enough?


I am an enthusiastic proponent of giving our children and students a biblical worldview. They should know how the Bible is relevant to all of life. They should be taught to think biblically about everything: education, government, music, technology, sports, culture, other religions, etc. I am all for using solid resources that train and equip our children in this endeavor. But here is a really good reminder from Stephen Altrogge:

…the older I get, the more I realize that it’s not enough to give my children a biblical worldview. I’ve seen too many of my childhood friends grow up to reject the biblical worldview that was so furiously drummed into them as children. I’ve seen too many people make choices that they know are in direct contradiction to the worldview they embraced for so many years. I’ve seen too many train wrecks to think that worldview alone is enough.

Worldview is important, but it’s only one part of the equation. A biblical worldview helps a person think correctly. But we are not purely intellectual beings. We don’t operate solely based on ideas and thoughts. We are flesh and blood, with passions, desires, and longings. We feel things deeply and desire things strongly. Our intellects and desires are intricately interwoven, interacting with and informing each other.

If I’m going to be an effective, godly parent, I need to appeal to my kids affections as much as their intellects. They need to see that the Bible makes sense, but they also need to see that Jesus is supremely delightful.

(“A Solid Worldview Won’t Save My Kids” at

 You can read the entire article here.


Gospel Truth: God’s Creator Rights

What is the Gospel cover

Here is a book I highly recommend for every parent and teacher: What is the Gospel? by Greg Gilbert. As I read it, I gave up putting Post-it® Notes on pages to mark memorable quotes—too many! Pastor Gilbert carefully explains the essence and “essentials” of the Gospel. In doing so, he also reveals some important “blind-spots” in how the Gospel is sometimes understood and communicated. In my experience, many of these blind-spots are often found in children’s resources. For example, he highlights the necessity of communicating the truth of God’s Creator rights from the beginning:

None of us is autonomous, and understanding that fact is key to understanding the gospel. Despite our constant talk of rights and liberty, we are not really as free as we would like to think. We are created. We are made. And therefore we are owned.

Because he created us, God has the right to tell us how to live…

Some understanding of this is absolutely necessary if a person wants to understand the good news of Christianity. The gospel is God’s response to the bad news of sin, and sin is a person’s rejection of God’s Creator-rights over him. Thus the fundamental truth of human existence, the well from which all else flows, is that God created us, and therefore God owns us.

(copyright©2010, page 42)

How are we doing in conveying this important truth to children? Yes, we are to rightly emphasize that we are made by God and, as such, are His unique, special, and beloved image bearers, but…

  • Are we also giving children a proper and humbling view of God as our sovereign Ruler?
  • Are we teaching them what it means to be under God’s absolute authority in every aspect of life?
  • In our explanation of sin, do we point out the grave offense of our rebellion against God’s sovereign, good, and loving rule? For example, do we point out that sin is much more than simply doubting God’s love and goodness? At its depth, sin is something like shaking your fist at your Creator and telling Him, “I will not obey! You cannot tell me what to do!”
  • Do we portray Jesus in all His divine authority? Do we use titles such as “Lord” and “Master,” as well as Savior?
  • When we present the good news of the gospel, are we giving the children the proper sense of Jesus’ authority when He commands: “Repent and believe in the gospel”? In other words, it is not simply an invitation to respond in a certain way but also a command from your sovereign Creator.

One way we can begin helping our children in understanding God’s Creator rights is to give children a robust understanding of the attributes of God. When children are taught that God is almighty, eternal, holy, righteous, omniscient, sovereign, etc., they can better understand the great divide between God and creature, showing His absolute good and loving authority and our utter dependence on Him. As they recognize the incomparable greatness and worth of God, submission to His authority is more likely to be seen as a delight, and not simply a duty.