Archive - February, 2016

The Home: Inward and Outward

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What characteristics mark your home life? Do the rhythms of family life reflect a healthy and biblical understanding of your immediate family, the church, and the world? In a recent post on the Ligonier Ministries website, John Tweeddale gives us an important reminder:

When thinking through a theology of home, there are two equal but opposite errors that we must avoid. In the first place, we must not give the impression that life at home in a fallen world is everything. When we do, we are guilty of a misappropriated eschatology. Yes, we must tend to the gardens of our homes. But we must also populate the pews of the church and venture onto the highways of the world. The command of Jesus to “go” in the Great Commission pushes those of us who are tempted to withdraw into the quiet habitats of home to see that when we settle for heaven on earth, we domesticate the kingdom according to our tastes and traditions…

If one tendency we have is to idealize (and idolize) the home, then the other mistake we must avoid is marginalizing it. We must not give the impression that life at home in a fallen world means nothing. This is the error of an overly privatized sociology. In the modern world, we have fallen into the deathly trap of believing that who we are in private has little to no bearing on what we do in public. Conviction and character are severed from policy and productivity. As a result, what someone does in the confines of the home is viewed as irrelevant to success in the workplace. As Christians, however, we understand that the prayer closet and the kitchen table are vital places for developing excellence in every area of life…

The home is not a neutral zone for acting upon baseless desires, nor is it simply a bastion for maintaining traditional values. One of the primary purposes of the home is to cultivate Christlike virtues that animate who we are in private and facilitate what we do in public…

(“Worldview at Home,” www.ligonier.org)

I would encourage you to read the entire article here.

(Image courtesy of everydayplus at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

 

Now Available: Part B of The Fighter Verses Study

Children Desiring God Blog // The Fighter Verses Study Part B Now Available

Children Desiring God is excited to announce the release of Part B of The Fighter Verses Study. This devotional equips families, small groups and individuals to fight the fight of faith and they study and memorize Scripture.

The Fighter Verses StudyThis 13-week study includes verses 14-27 from Set 1 of the Fighter Verses Bible memory program. Each part of the series is an independent study that can be done by itself or together as a year-long study. Each of the 13 lessons is based on one of the Fighter Verses and includes an introduction to the context of the verse; an in depth look at each part of the verse with questions that will lead you to a better understanding of the text; application questions; prayer points and an encouragement to journal and memorize the verse.

Resources for Part B include a Discussion Guide for group leaders or individuals and a Study Guide for group participants. A Journal and children’s Coloring Book to accompany the study are also available.

We pray that The Fighter Verses Study Part B will help you, your family or your small group discover the joy of mining the Word of God as you learn together to observe, interpret and personally apply it. And may God’s Word be imprinted on your mind and firmly established in your heart!

Learn more about The Fighter Verses Study

Download a Sample of the Study

View the Scope & Sequence for Part B

Order Now!

“Ever since the beginning, the Fighter Verses plan for memorizing Scripture has been part of my spiritual warfare, helping me fight unbelief and Satan and sin. …What could be more valuable than teaching families not only to know the Scriptures, but also to linger over them as they discuss and color, and to pray them into reality.”

–John Piper, Founder and Teacher, desiringGod.org

Diamonds, or Rock Candy?

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A while back, our family visited the National Gem Collection in Washington, D.C. It contains an amazing display of some of the world’s most beautiful gems—diamonds, rubies, emeralds, sapphires, and more. Each gem is carefully displayed to reflect its many dazzling facets. Each stuns the eyes of the beholder. The value of the collection is beyond comprehension. A priceless national treasure…and yet just infinitesimal—a drop in an infinite ocean—in comparison to the greatness and worth of God!

In his classic work, The Knowledge of the Holy—The Attributes of God: Their Meaning in the Christian Life, A.W. Tozer writes:

What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us…Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God.

The heaviest obligation lying upon the Christian Church today is to purify and elevate her concept of God until it is once more worthy of Him—and of her. In all her prayers and labors this should have first place. We do the greatest service to the next generation of Christians by passing on to them undimmed and undiminished that noble concept of God which we received from our Hebrew and Christian fathers of generations past.

(copyright©1961, pages 1, 4)

Too often, the church has fallen short of this obligation, especially in regard to children. It has mistakenly assumed that children do not need, nor can they grasp a biblical vision of God. So the many-faceted, brilliant treasure of who God is, is “brought down to size” and diminished. Sadly, children are given something akin to a piece of rock candy—a gem look-alike that tastes sweet for a moment, but soon dissolves and leaves them dangerously malnourished and “un-awed.”

What about your own church and it’s ministry to children and youth? Do the classes, programs, curricula, etc. rightly reflect and communicate the beauty and awesome grandeur of the incomparable greatness and worth of God? How would you go about evaluating this? Are there specific changes that could and should be made in order to elevate the concept of God in children’s and youth ministries? (And also in our homes!)

Parents, here is something you can do toward that end: Encourage the children’s and youth ministry leaders at your church to attend at our National Conference. The line-up of the following plenary speakers—Mark Vroegop, John Piper, Bruce Ware, Albert Mohler, David Michael—reflects our deep desire to pass on to the next generation… “that noble concept of God that we received from our Hebrew and Christian fathers of generations past.” Here is a special invitation you can pass on to your children’s and youth ministry leaders.

(Image courtesy of Boykung at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

 

 

 

 

Don’t Miss Out on the Blessings

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Years ago, a woman extended her sympathy to me because I couldn’t participate in adult Sunday school classes. Why “couldn’t” I participate? Because I was teaching first-grade Sunday school instead. She really seemed taken aback when I told her, “There is nowhere I’d rather be!” (with my first-grade class, that is).

That incident came to mind as I read the article, “The Blessing of Teaching the Children,” by Nick Batzig.  Although he is articulating what many of us already know to be the case based on our own experience from years of teaching, it was refreshing to hear it from a young pastor:

Here are four of the blessings that pastors and congregants can glean from working to bring the deep truths of the Scriptures to the ears of the next generation of those in the church:

  1.  The blessing of remembering the central truths. As we teach about the nature of Scripture, the Godhead, creation, providence, the fall, sin, the person and work of the Redeemer, the work of the Holy Spirit, the benefits of salvation, the church and eternity, we ourselves are reminded of what is of most importance to our own faith and life…
  2. The blessing of growing in your ability to break down the deep truths. Another of the great blessings of teaching doctrine to the children of the church is that we have to learn to break down, rather than water down, the truth. We often underestimate what children can learn and understand. We also forget that it is the work of the Holy Spirit to give that spiritual understanding that comes from saving faith…
  3. The blessing of watching the children of the church process God’s truth. …Children are often listening far more attentively and thoughtfully to what is being taught in Sunday school than we imagine.
  4. The blessing of knowing that you are planting seeds of truth for life. By God’s grace, we sometimes get to see fruit borne early on in the lives of those children to whom we labor to teach the truth of God’s word. There are some who manifest soft and believing hearts and very, very young ages. It is rewarding to see God redeeming and spiritually maturing a child…However, the reality is that we will sometimes—sadly even often—not see the fruit that God will bring forth…Nevertheless, of this much we may be sure, we are planting and watering seeds in little minds.

(From “The Blessing of Teaching the Children,” at www.alliancenet.org)

(Image courtesy of Paul Gooddy at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

 

Vroegop on “Why Do Children Need to Know the Whole Counsel of God?”

Children Desiring God Blog // Why Do Children Need to Know the Whole Counsel of God

Listen Here

Hi, my name is Mark Vroegop and I am privileged to be the lead pastor at College Park Church in Indianapolis. I’m also privileged to be one of the plenary speakers at the Children Desiring God National Conference coming up April 14–16.

The theme for the conference is really important. We will explore how to connect the whole counsel of God to the next generations. In the book of Acts, chapter 20, the apostle Paul said to the Ephesian elders that he did not shrink from declaring to them the whole counsel of God. What that means is that over a two and a half year period, Paul helped the people of Ephesus understand the significant realities of who and what God is, as communicated through the revealed Word of God. And it means that creation, the fall, redemption and restoration are key themes that are woven throughout all of Scripture.

The teachings of the Bible should not be viewed as little marbles in a bowl, but rather as a string of pearls all connected together. As it relates to children, it is incredibly important that they understand who God is as their creator, the nature of the fall, and that they are sinners. Then, that they would know the connectedness between their own sin and the need for a savior through Christ–and also that there is coming a day when Christ will return and restore everything that is wrong in the world and make it all right again–that Jesus is indeed coming again. So all of these themes–creation, fall, redemption and restoration–are part of the whole counsel of God. A child has to know that God is creator and that they are accountable. They have to know they are a sinner and that they need a savior.

Children Desiring God Blog // Why Do Children Need to Know the Whole Counsel of GodYou know, my wife has been teaching our kindergarten Sunday school class here at our church for a number of years. In particular, one of the lessons that she teaches is on the Ten Commandments. It is remarkable–when she comes home from teaching that very first lesson, she reports that when she has asked the children “How many of you know that you are sinners?”, invariably, the vast majority of them do not know that they are sinners. But you know what they do know? They do know that their brother or sister is a sinner. The reason we need the whole counsel of God is to help little children be convinced that they, in fact, are human beings who are in rebellion against God. What’s more, in order for them to know that, they need to know who God is and know the beauty of what the cross is all about. The Bible is more than just a collection of stories or an encyclopedia of biblical truth. It is theology stacked on theology stacked on theology stacked on theology. It is the whole counsel of God.

We are going to dig into that theme and see the significance of not only what it means for the Bible to be the whole counsel of God, but how vital it is that our children understand that truth from a very early age. I hope you will come and join us because this theme, this concept of the whole counsel of God, is vital for the health of the church, for the spiritual life of our children and because our culture needs the next generation of believers to understand the whole counsel of the Word of God.

2016 National ConferenceWe are excited to welcome Mark Vroegop as one of our keynote speakers at the Children Desiring God National Conference. He will expound on this topic as he teaches on Declaring the Whole Counsel of God to the Next Generation. We are also thankful for the generosity of Mark’s church to host our conference and are excited for you to experience College Park Church’s hospitality. We hope you will join us April 14-16 in Indianapolis! Learn more and register now!

 

Exposing Children to Family Life

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Recently, I had the great joy and privilege of holding my 8-month-old grandson in my arms during a family gathering. His big eyes were busy observing everything around him…

  • Family, other well-known faces, and strangers were seated all around him.
  • People were bowing their heads, with eyes closed, being very quiet.
  • A man up front, with his eyes closed, was talking earnestly.
  • Grandma stood up with everyone else and started singing, and some people raised their hands.
  • The man up front opened a book and read from it while everyone else listened.
  • A basket was passed around, and people put something in it.

As you have probably guessed, the “family” I am referring to is the family of Christ, gathering to worship the Lord together. Little baby Nate was being exposed to the Sunday morning corporate worship service—a crucial element of family life for every believer. Even at 8 months old, he is seeing and hearing the normal rhythms of life in the body of Christ. What a privilege to expose him to this at such a young age! And though his parents take Nate to the “restless” child room during the sermon, he is gaining something invaluable during his time in the worship service. And hopefully, with intentional training and encouragement, by the time he is 4 or 5 years old he will find it perfectly natural to experience the entire service along with his parents.

Here are a few thoughts from Pastor David Michael:

…consider three of the convictions that feed our desire for children to be present when the church gathers for worship.

  1.  Children are absorbing more from a worship service than we think they are. 
  1. Lifetime habits and attitudes are more easily formed and more likely to endure if established early in life.
  • The habit of regularly participating in corporate worship.
  • The habit of listening. If we help children develop good listening skills when they are young, even if they do not understand everything being said, they are more likely to benefit from the ministry of the Word as their minds mature and are able to grasp more complex ideas.
  • The habit of self-control. 
  1. Important values are reinforced.
  • Like every human being, children are created for worship, and when they gather with us for worship they contribute in ways that are unique to children and can benefit the whole assembly.
  • The presence of children in our worship services helps to reinforce to our children that they are included in our fellowship, and the Body Christ is established by faith and not by age.
  • The presence of children in our worship services also reminds the church body of our responsibility to teach our children to fear the Lord and diligently teach them what we have learned of God and the life of faith.

(from “Children in Worship Services: Disciples or Distractions?www.hopeinGod.org)

2016 National ConferenceAs a member of the family of Christ, I am so excited that Pastor David and Sally Michael will be addressing this extremely important topic at our National Conference this year. After attending these two seminars, I believe you will be convinced (if you are not so already) that not only should children be in the worship service, but also the great blessing it is to have families together in worship.

“Let the Children Come to Me” in Worship (led by David Michael)
Like every human being, children were created for worship, and one of the strategies for raising a generation of worshippers is to include them in worship services of the church. Another strategy is to create a separate, more “child-friendly” worship experience for children until there is sufficient maturity and understanding to worship with the adults. In this seminar, we consider a biblical perspective on this topic and some practical strategies for welcoming and involving children in the corporate worship services of the church.

Strategies for Engaging Children in the Worship Service (led by Sally Michael)
This seminar will discuss the difficulties of involving children in the worship service and propose solutions to solve those difficulties. Practical suggestions will be given that parents can use to enfold their children in corporate worship, as well strategies children’s ministry leaders can employ to train and encourage parents to have their children involved in the worship service.

(Image courtesy of Tuomas_Lehtinen at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

Resist the Smorgasbord!

Resist the Smorgasbord: Strategies for Teaching the Whole Counsel of God

I once read a book in which the Christian author likened the method often used in the church for discipleship to a smorgasbord—various classes and small groups are offered for people to pick and choose from, mainly based on personal preferences, perceived needs, and “hot topics” of the day. His point was to urge the church to resist this tendency and strive for a more vision-driven, biblical, structured, long-term discipleship strategy. Such a strategy takes into account and incorporates the whole counsel of God and builds in stages—precept-by-precept.

I wonder if we sometimes have a similar “smorgasbord tendency” when it comes to planning for and choosing curriculum for our various children’s and youth ministry classes: What seems good this year? What will the children like? What will peak their (or the teacher’s) interest?…I think we can, and must strive for a more vision-driven, biblical, structured, long-term discipleship strategy—one that seeks to incorporate the whole counsel of God from nursery to high school.

What does this actually look like? To begin with, we believe that there are six basic elements or disciplines that should be included in this long-term strategy:

Elements of Teaching the Whole Counsel of God

  1. A story-based chronological overview of the Bible, which introduces children to the main character of the Bible—God—and acquaints them with key people, places, and events.
  2. A biblical theology that focuses on the main storyline of the Bible, where God progressively reveals His redemptive purposes, which come to their complete fulfillment in the Person and work of Jesus Christ.
  3. Systematic theology that teaches foundational doctrines, which summarize the Bible’s teaching on various subjects.
  4. Moral instruction—the commands of Scripture, which communicate ethical instruction, guiding us in the righteous ways of God.
  5. An explicit presentation of the essential truths of the Gospel, leading to a clear understanding of saving faith.
  6. Bible study methods to provide the necessary tools for rightly reading and interpreting Scripture.

A strategic, long-term plan makes curriculum choices at the various grade levels with these basic elements or disciplines in mind. It asks questions such as: Over the span of nursery to high school, are our students receiving the whole counsel of God? Are we introducing these elements at age-appropriate levels? Does our overall strategy reflect a proper biblical balance?

2016 National ConferenceIf you long to explore this topic further and want practical help in structuring a plan for the children’s and youth ministries of your church, I would love to have you come to my seminar at our National Conference in April…

Making a Strategic Plan for Teaching the Whole Counsel of God

This seminar will present an overview for planning and implementing a scope and sequence in your children’s and youth ministry that serves to thoroughly acquaint your students with the whole counsel of God. Starting in the nursery years and moving through high school, we will explore options and strategic goals for various age groups.

Piper Answers: What is the Whole Counsel of God?

Children Desiring God Blog // What is the Whole Counsel of God?

As children’s ministry and youth pastors, teachers and parents, it is critical for us to not only teach children the Gospel, but to not shrink back from teaching them the whole counsel of God. John Piper helps us understand what this means:

 

 

Join us at the Children Desiring God National Conference where we will have the opportunity to spend three days together exploring this meaning further, discovering the glorious truths found with in the whole counsel of God, understanding the ramifications if our children do not understand the whole counsel of God and equipping each other to teach the whole counsel of God to children and youth. We look forward to welcoming back John Piper as one of our five keynote speakers to discuss Understanding the Whole Counsel of God: How Our Children Can Know the Bible is True.

 

Children Desiring God Blog // What Is the Whole Counsel of God?John Piper is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College and Seminar. For over 30 years, John served as senior pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. He’s the author of more than 50 books and more than 30 years of his preaching and teaching is available for free at desiringGod.org). John and his wife, Noël, have five children, Barnabas, Karsten, Benjamin, Abraham and Talitha, and twelve grandchildren.

 

We hope to see you April 14-16 in Indianapolis! Learn more and register now!

 

 

Profound, Yet Simple

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Teachers, here is encouragement from R. C. Sproul to really know and understand the biblical concepts you are teaching your students:

Certain assumptions are made in the classroom. The first is that the teacher knows more about the subject than the student. It is, in general, a safe assumption. The second assumption is that the teacher cannot communicate his mastery of the subject all at once. To educate (as the Latin root suggests), we must lead students “out of” ignorance into knowledge. That knowledge moves in increments, from the simple to complex.

…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.

(From “A Great Teacher Can Simplify without Distortion,” www.ligonier.org)

For the above to happen, we need to take our call to teach the Bible to children very seriously. Too many times, curricula and/or teachers assume that we need to be “simplistic” with children. Hence, there are shallow lessons that never dig deep into the profound truths of Scripture. Or, a teacher may have good, solid curricula but may fail to adequately master and understand the material before teaching. That is why it is so important for teachers to use good curriculum and spend a serious amount of time in prayerful study to understand the material.

Teachers, I would like to extend a special invitation to you to come to our National Conference this year. As a long-time teacher, one of the seminars that would be on the top of my list to attend would be:

Practical Tips for Teaching with Passion and Purpose (Tim and Amy Bell)
Join us as we discuss teaching children about our Great God with enthusiasm. Come explore classroom ideas and encouraging tips for knowing your lesson, knowing your students, and managing your time well. We’ll also touch on how to work better in ministry teams and partner with parents in order to leave a Godly legacy for coming generations. Whether you are a new or seasoned teacher or volunteer, this seminar will give you ideas you can use in your class.

(Image courtesy of Rawich at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

Don’t Toss Aside the Hull and Mast

ID-100210207One of the things I’ve noticed about children’s and youth ministry in the past few years is a renewed and increased evangelistic impulse—an urgency to teach children about Jesus and the Gospel so that they might be saved. This is a wonderful change from the all-too-common emphasis on Gospel-less moralism of the past. My concern, however, is that sometimes for the sake of urgency—wanting our children to get saved as soon as possible (a really good desire)—we may be minimizing the very foundation on which that salvation depends. I found this illustration, from an article over at 9Marks, to be really helpful:

Let’s say, for the sake of illustration, that you are on a ship sailing to a faraway town to warn the people of impending doom. If you don’t get there in time, everyone dies. Needless to say, you want your ship to sail as fast as possible. You avoid any excess cargo that might slow your progress. You don’t waste time worrying about clean decks or polished brass. The urgency of the task requires you to operate with efficiency and leanness.

People…argue that the urgency of the Christian mission requires us to trim our theological sails and jettison the heavy freight of doctrinal precision.

…Doctrine is not freight on the ship. It’s the hull and mast.

A church’s doctrine determines the character and quality of its witness. Its theology shapes its goals and the way it tries to achieve those goals.

So the question is this: does disciple-making require churches to know and teach doctrine?

Critics of doctrinal necessity sometimes snidely remark that surely God is not going to open up people’s heads on the last day to ensure the right doctrinal formulas are inside. No, probably not. But he will ask them something like, “Were you trusting me? The real and true me, and not a made-up version of me?” In other words, God is very much interested in whether we are trusting in certain truths, because with God doctrinal truth is personal truth.

To experience Christ’s salvation, a person must believe and trust real truths about the real God. If someone has not turned with his or her whole heart to God and trusted him, he or she cannot be saved (Rom. 10:13–17). Doctrine is required for salvation!

(Mike McKinley, “In Poor Communities Does Doctrine Matter?,” www.9marks.org )

So, along with a renewed evangelistic impulse in our ministry to children and youth, let us also have a renewed discipleship impulse that must concern itself with a slow, progressive, precept-by-precept teaching of doctrinal truth. These essential truths are the hull and mast of the ship!

(Image courtesy of Witthaya Phonsawat at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

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