Archive - March, 2015

Words of Love


Here is music to my ears: My 1½-year-old granddaughter has learned to say, “I love you.” What a gift to see her smile at me, and then say those words! And of course I respond with, “I love you too, Elizabeth!”

But those aren’t mere words. Those words express the deep, heartfelt affection I have for her, evidenced in a myriad of ways—hugs and kisses, play time, reading time, zoo visits, and ice cream…and on and on.

But love for her also will compel me (and her parents and teachers) to speak words to her that she will not want to hear—words that are hard, but true; words she needs to hear, like…

…when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9, ESV)

These are not pretty words and, at first glance, not loving words to share with my granddaughter.

The images the Bible uses to talk about God’s judgment against sin are truly horrifying. It’s really no wonder the world reads the Bible’s descriptions of hell and calls Christians “sick” for believing them.

But that misses the point. It’s not as if we just make these ideas up ourselves. We Christians don’t read, believe, and talk about hell because we somehow enjoy the thought of it. God forbid. No, we talk about hell because, finally, we believe the Bible. We believe it when it says that hell is real, and we believe it with tears when it says that people we love are in danger of spending eternity there.

(Greg Gilbert, “What is the Gospel,” copyright©2010, pages 57-58)

If we truly love our grandchildren, children, and students,  we will speak the truth about hell to them. Not in an overly graphic or morbid way, but simply, plainly, and truthfully using the Scriptures and age-appropriate explanations. For a younger child it may be saying something like,

Hell is a place where sinners will experience God’s great anger forever. There is nothing more terrible than hell. It is worse than spankings, or being afraid of the dark or being apart from daddy and mommy. It hurts more than a bad tummy ache or a scraped knee. A person can never ever be happy in hell—not even for a minute. It is all terrible pain and sadness, all the time. We are all sinners. We all deserve to be sent to hell.

We won’t speak those words to merely frighten them—although hell should frighten—but, more importantly, so that they rightly see and understand their predicament as a sinner before a holy God and then, by faith, experience these precious words:

He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:13-14 ESV)

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Sermon Notes: Yes, they Can!


Have you ever watched a 6-year-old take notes during the sermon…real notes and not just creative doodles? Impossible, you say? Well, think again. With a little help and encouragement, you can start your children on a life-long habit of taking sermon notes. All you need is a sermon notebook—6” x 9” in size with wide rule lines and a stiff cover might be a good start—and a pencil or pen. For added interest, let your child pick out the notebook and pencil or pen, and designate these as his or her special “Sunday Sermon” tools. Then follow these simple and practical guidelines from Sharon L. Bratcher in her article, “Sermon Notes and Songs for Small Fries”:

As you listen to the sermon, write in the notebook a simple sentence that you have just heard the minister say. Remember to write it in the type of lettering that little George will be able to read, in the size that he is used to. Then hand it to George and tell him to copy it. If he is a beginner, he will take awhile to do so. When he hands it back to you, smile, and listen to the sermon for a moment, and write another sentence…

Depending on the age and patience of your child, you can decide whether to have him write 5 sentences, or 10, or more. As he improves, he will be quicker and will accomplish more. He may keep it up throughout, or he may tire. I usually found it beneficial to “push” my child to do just one more after he said he was getting tired of it. This helped him to develop endurance.

After the service, take the notebook home. If you will take a few moments to read it over when he is present, and to show it to your spouse, he will see that this is important to you, and it will help him to strive to do it well. If he is able, you might even have him read it as a part of your family Bible reading time…

This activity also gives him something very worthwhile to do during worship…It says to him that he is capable of taking sermon notes, just like the “big people” do…

 As his notebook progresses, you could use it during the week to help him remember what he learned on Sunday. If you are enthusiastic, he will be also.

 (Found at )

(Image courtesy of Paul at



Beyond “Fun”


More often than not, if you search on a church’s website for information about their children’s ministry, you will come across the word “fun.” The “fun” may include creative activities, high-energy singing, Bible memory games, and Bible stories told using drama. These all can have their proper place. I am not opposed to children enjoying their time in the classroom! But I think we need to be very careful in not making “fun” what characterizes our children’s ministry. It is not to be the end aim and goal. What happens in our classrooms should be a holy endeavor—set apart—whereby we are aiming to help children encounter something beyond fun. Carefully consider these words from Pastor John Piper:

Those who have seen and savored the holiness of God and justice and wrath and grace of God, can never again trivialize worship…I don’t like to use the word “fun” for what we do in worship—or in ministry for that matter. It is a sad commentary on the superficial condition of our times that one of the most common things said about good experience in ministry and worship is that “we are having fun.”

The point is not that Christians can’t be light-hearted. You are probably sick if you can’t be light hearted. The point is, there is time and season for everything under the sun. And something should happen in corporate worship, before the face of the infinitely holy God, that calls forth a different vocabulary than what you experience at the amusement park.

(From a sermon titled, “The Present Effects of Trembling at the Wrath of God,” ©2015 Desiring God Foundation,

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As If Parenting Wasn’t Difficult Enough


When it comes to new digital/media technology, I have a tendency to stick my head in the sand. I’m still having a hard time figuring out how to use my “dumb” phone, and the thought of a “smart” phone overwhelms me. Getting on Facebook almost gave me an anxiety attack—but now I like it, and I post daily Bible verses to encourage my friends. My son introduced me to Google Earth, and now I can explore the galaxy—how amazing that is!

But with all that wonderful technology comes new challenges, especially for parents. It is crucial that you teach your children and young adults to navigate the world of technology in a God-honoring way. Last week, Tim Challies posted an article titled, “Parenting Well in a Digital World,” in which he offered some very helpful counsel for parents:


Read the whole article here.

(Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at

How Big is the God of Your Sunday School?

God is So Big for Blog

Years ago, Dr. Bruce Ware wrote an excellent book titled, Their God is Too Small, in response to the false teaching of open theism. Open theism denies God’s omniscience and immutability. Like all false teaching, it “downsizes” the greatness and worth of God. It attempts to make God smaller and more “palatable” for the sinful, self-centered human heart. In the end, it also undermines confidence in God and praise and worship of God.

One should pause and wonder: Is the God we teach in our homes and Sunday school classrooms too small? Do we sometimes, without even intending to, make God smaller than He has revealed Himself to be? Are we giving our children something akin to a Happy Meal version of God?

These types of questions were what first motivated us to produce resources for the local church. The glorious majesty of God being preached from the pulpit was, at times and unintentionally, being down-sized in the children’s Sunday school classrooms. As our pastor preached big truths about God from texts such as Acts 17:25, “nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything,” we were teaching children that Jesus needed helpers. Ouch!

Hence, here is one of the distinctions we are committed to promoting at Children Desiring God:

A Big Vision of God 

Our curricula aims to acquaint children with the incomparable majesty of the triune God by digging deep into His divine character as revealed throughout Scripture. We believe that children should be taught the beauty and grandeur of His manifold perfections. In completing our scope and sequence, children will have learned and explored, with increasing depth, more than 20 distinct attributes of God.

Carefully examine the curricula and resources you use. Observe what is being taught in the classrooms from preschool to high school. By the time your children and students reach adulthood will they know and understand what it means that God is…

  • Almighty
  • Beautiful
  • Blessed (happy)
  • Creator
  • Eternal
  • Faithful
  • Good
  • Glorious
  • Holy
  • Incomprehensible
  • Jealous
  • King
  • Love
  • Merciful
  • Omnipresent
  • Omniscient
  • Patient
  • Righteous
  • Savior
  • Self-existent and self-sufficient
  • Sovereign
  • Spirit (invisible)
  • Unchanging (immutable)
  • Wise
  • Wrath


Imitating What They See


Here’s some good and sobering parenting advice from Randy Alcorn:

Teaching our children the truth is absolutely necessary, but it is not sufficient. The solid foundation for a life is not just hearing the words of God, but doing them (Matthew 7:24-27). By our own example as their parents, we must teach our children God’s truth, demonstrating it in application and obedience. The truth that time must be spent with God must be demonstrated by the time we spend with God. The truth about Christ’s forgiveness must be shown as we seek and grant forgiveness in our home. The truth that evangelism is important must be demonstrated by our efforts in evangelism. As parents, we must model our stated convictions with courage and devotion. Otherwise what we do will speak so loudly they won’t hear a word we’re saying. Sometimes our children will fail to listen to us. Seldom will they fail to imitate us.

(“Training Our Children,” )

(Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at


Families Together in Worship


One of things that brings a smile to my face every Sunday morning is the presence of little children—even some 2-year–olds—sitting with their parents in the corporate worship service. They are not all perfectly behaved, and sometimes their parents look a little frazzled by the end of the service. A few children won’t make it all the way until the end and will be taken out by a parent. And, once in a while, a child who should be taken out is left in the service. But these are very minor inconveniences compared to the wonderful benefits of having children in the corporate worship service.

Here, John Piper gives some reasons why children should be in worship:

There are three reasons, at least, why I have urged that, at the latest, from first grade on the children join their parents in worship. First, we live in a day in which pressures from all sides are on the family to be fractured and atomized. Fathers are worked to a frazzle and so are too dogged to spend quality time with children; mothers are lured away from their little children to the work force; children have their own activities, and the one thing that pulls them all to the same room makes zombies out of them all: the television. Stir into this a general cultural mood of “me first,” and my rights and my self-realization, and you have got a powerful anti-family milieu. In this atmosphere, the church, as the preserver of biblical principles, must find ways to say “no” to these pressures and affirm the depth and beauty of familial bonds. But where and how? It seems to me that the high point of our corporate life together is the place to start. Let’s make worship a family affair as much as we can.

Second, five-, six-, seven- and eight-year-olds will gain tremendously from being in worship. Many six-year-olds have made professions of faith after sitting through a worship service. But even where most of the sermon goes over their heads, the children profit. They learn more theology and piety from the hymns than we realize, they come to be comfortable and at home with the form of the service, they experience from time-to-time the large and awesome moments of quietness or the blast of an organ prelude or fervor of an old man’s prayer. Week-after-week they see hundreds of adults bowed in worship, and unless we teach them otherwise, they will grow up thinking, “This is where I belong on Sunday morning, and this is the way one behaves in Sunday worship”…

Which leads me to my third reason for wanting the children in worship. I want us, as a church, to say, “No!” to the lackadaisical attitudes toward child training and the harmfully low expectations placed upon children in our day…The expectation that a six-year-old sit quietly to the honor of God one or two hours a week is not a high expectation, and we should demand it of our children.

( “The Children, The Church, and the Chosen,” ©2015 Desiring God Foundation, )


Here are some additional resources for encouraging your church and providing practical tips for parents:

(Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at

Youth Ministry: Set Apart or a Part?

Most churches heartedly affirm the importance of a thriving youth ministry within the local church. However, unless we are intentional, youth ministry can also be mistakenly viewed as a separate entity apart from the wider church body. So it’s important that we ask, “Are the structures and programs we have in place serving to help or hinder incorporating our young people into a bigger and more biblical vision of what it means to be a community of believers?”

Pastor Jon Nielson has some good diagnostic questions for youth ministers to think about. These questions also apply to parents and the wider church leadership:

  • Does our ministry compete in any way with the priority of corporate worship for students? 
  • Do our youth leaders intentionally encourage intergenerational relationships for the students? 
  • Does our ministry generally support or compete with the discipleship work of godly parents in our congregation? 
  • Are students encouraged to choose between youth ministry involvement/leadership and service in other areas of the local church? 
  • Does the youth ministry hinder, in any way, the preparation of young men and women to engage in local church contexts as adult Christians? 

 (“Does Your Youth Ministry Mess with Christ’s Bride?”,

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Singing the Catechism

The other day while spending time with my grandchildren, I created a simple little song to emphasize that God made everything. They helped me add various verses to include the different animals and things God has made. Later, while driving them home, 3-year-old David began singing the song aloud. With just one 10-minute exposure to a new song, he had it memorized. Not surprising since it is well documented that music can help children and adults alike to memorize.

Now imagine your children memorizing something much more substantial: the Catechism (read here why that’s important). Jim Scott Orrick has created a great resource bringing together music and the Catechism: “The Baptist Catechism Set to Music.” Here is a brief overview:

  • CD format
  • 114 questions from the Baptist Catechism (a Reformed and Baptistic question & answer teaching tool)
  • musical pieces are simple and brief, serving as a helpful memory tool

You can listen to a sample here:




Reaching Their Hands with a Biblical Worldview

ID-10035106When I think of “biblical worldview,” I almost exclusively think of the mind—training children and students to think biblically about all of life. But Timothy Paul Jones reminds us that biblical worldview in not just about training the mind—it should also serve to train the hands.

In a biblical worldview, the training of children is worldview training. This training includes far more than merely increasing children’s biblical knowledge or involving them in a community of faith. Moses commanded the Israelites to teach their offspring to view all they did (“hands”) and all they chose (“forehead”), as well as how they lived at home (“doorposts”) and how they conducted business (“your gates”) within the all-encompassing framework of a God-centered worldview (Deut. 6:8-9).”Wisdom” in Proverbs was conveyed from father to child and included not only knowledge about God but also practical skills for engaging with the world in light of God’s truth. Skills in craftsmanship, leadership, and a broad range of other fields all fell under the heading of wisdom, which begins with “the fear of the Lord” (Exod. 31:3, 6; Deut. 34:9; Prov. 1:7). Persons outside the believing community may possess these skills, but only the believer sees them as God intended, as signposts pointing to the order and glory of God. There is no biblical warrant for separating the training of children into “secular” and “sacred” categories, with one handled by the world and the other superintended by parents. God is Lord over all of life.

(“How a Biblical Worldview Shapes the Way We Teach Our Children,”

(Image courtesy of Worradmu at

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