Archive - June, 2016

No Sin, No Gospel


Last year I wrote a post titled, “Grasping Sin in Order to Grasp the Gospel,” which included this quote 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…

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

Question: Are we helping our children and students understand the massive role of sin in the plotline of the Bible? Interestingly enough, one of the questions we sometimes get at CDG relates to the prevalence of “sin talk” in our curriculum—especially in the younger grades. Is all this depressing talk of sin really necessary for these young children? Why not go right to the solution instead? Because, as Dr. Carson states, “It is impossible to gain a deep grasp of what the cross achieves without plunging into a deep grasp of what sin is.” That is why we believe children—even young children—need a biblically serious and sober view of sin. Hence this CDG distinction:

We believe that in order to fully embrace the Gospel, children must first come to an appropriate understanding of the true nature of sin and the offense that it is to God’s holiness. Sin is no trifling matter. It is not simply a matter of “mistakes” or disobeying rules. Its consequences go far beyond a broken friendship with God. Our curriculum takes our total depravity very seriously, as well as God’s righteous wrath and condemnation. Therefore, lessons dealing with sin and God’s judgment use texts, illustrations, and explanations that convey these truths in an appropriate tone and manner. Children are challenged to think deep and hard about their standing before God and Jesus’ call to repent and believe.


24 Things Your Children Should Know About God’s Providence

Lately, I find myself reflecting more and more on these words from the hymn, This Is My Father’s World:

This is my Father’s world. O let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.

 These few simple words carry an inexhaustible and unshakeable source of hope. They remind us of an often forgotten rock-solid reality—God is the ruler yet!

 As our children and grandchildren increasingly face a hostile world, one that seems “oft so strong,” what will come to mind? What thoughts will lead and guide them? Will they reflect upon the glorious truth that God is, indeed, the ruler yet?  And furthermore, will they know and understand the nature and extent of that rule so that they will have an unswerving confidence in Him no matter what the circumstances in their lives and world?

That is why it is so crucial for our children to learn of God’s providence—His active rule over all things. There are at least 24 things we should teach them about God’s providence:

  1. God is actively involved in the universe and sustains it.
  2. God has the right, wisdom, and power to govern the world.
  3. God has a plan for all creation.
  4. Everything God does has a purpose.
  5. All God’s purposes are right.
  6. God will accomplish His purposes.
  7. God is never surprised.
  8. God’s providential works are often hidden from man.
  9. God’s purposes are far-reaching.
  10. God acts for His glory—to show His greatness and worth.
  11. God controls nature; all of nature is subject to His will.
  12. God is sovereign over human life.
  13. God controls rulers and nations—they are subject to His will.
  14. God’s Word—the Bible—accomplishes His purposes.
  15. God is sovereign over the heart of man.
  16. God planned Jesus’ death to solve man’s sin problem.
  17. God is at work in the world saving lost sinners.
  18. God works through the evangelistic works of His people as they proclaim the Gospel.
  19. God is sovereign over Satan and evil.
  20. God’s providence extends over pain and suffering.
  21. God rules over disasters and calamities.
  22. God rules over man’s way and all circumstances.
  23. God’s plans fit together perfectly, and His timing is perfect.
  24. God causes all things to work together for good for His children.

Each one of these concepts is presented and explored in the curriculum titled, My Purpose Will Stand: A Study for Children on the Providence of God (grade range: 5th-6th, 40 lessons). Click here for the lesson scope and sequence for the curriculum. Or, especially for families, consider the book, God’s Providence, which is a devotional tool adapted from the curriculum.

5 Reasons We Need to Encourage Active Learning


Imagine a group of third graders in their Sunday school classroom. All are happily engaged—busy hands, feet, and voices—participating in a Bible lesson. This is active learning on display, right?…Maybe, but maybe not. It depends on your definition of “active learning.” Here is a definition from Sally Michael that I think gets to the heart of what we at CDG mean by active learning:

Active learning involves children’s minds interacting with the subject matter; they are thinking—discovering, imagining, questioning, organizing, analyzing, evaluating, drawing conclusions, and applying the material.

Yes, this may at times involve active hands, feet, and voices, but the emphasis is on the mind. Why do our children need this type of active learning? I believe there are at least five reasons.

 1. The text of the Bible requires it. (2 Timothy 2:15)

The Bible communicates its message through…

  • The simple and complex
  • The concrete and the abstract
  • The straight-forward and the paradox
  • Historical narrative and symbolic poetry, metaphors, allegories, etc.

John Piper: “Education is cultivating the life of the mind so that it knows how to grow in true understanding. That impulse was unleashed by God’s inspiring a Book with complex demanding paragraphs in it.” (from “Why God Inspired Hard Texts,” ©Desiring God Foundation,

 2. Christian discipleship requires it. (2 Timothy 2:7; 3:14-15)

Albert Mohler: “Christian faithfulness requires the development of the believer’s intellectual capacities in order that we may understand the Christian faith, develop habits of Christian thought, form intuitions that are based upon biblical truth, and live in faithfulness to all that Christ teaches. This is no easy task, to be sure. Just as Christian discipleship requires growth and development, intellectual faithfulness requires a lifetime of devoted study, consecrated thinking, and analytical reflection.” (from “The Glory of God in the Life of the Mind,”

3. Active learning is a key motivator and guide for the proper application of biblical truth—true faith and heart transformation.

Learning most powerfully transfers and transforms when the material taught has meaning to the student’s life and experience. (from “Creative Bible Teaching,” copyright©1998, page 115)

Here’s a very simple example: Suppose a lesson includes reading the following:

 Exodus 20:15—“You shall not steal.”

This is simple and straight-forward. It is concrete. A young child can hear this and recite it back to you. But the mind will become more actively engaged and more interested in the concept when it is related to a real-life scenario such as:

What if someone was trying to sneak candy from a store without paying for it?

Now young ears perk up—candy! A child begins to think, “I know about candy. I like candy. There is a lot of yummy candy at the store. But Mom has to pay for the candy before I can have it. Sneaking candy without paying is wrong. But why?”

The mind has now become active. The child is pondering and analyzing. The child is motivated to hear more. Now the teacher has a means of connecting God’s truth to a child’s life. “You shall not steal” takes on a whole new meaning, as it can be applied to numerous situations and circumstances in life. When a child discovers this for himself, the “light goes on” in his head.

The child is excited by what he has learned and will be more motivated to apply it to his own life.

4. Active learning gives our children a strong defense of the Christian faith.
(1 Peter 3:15)

Nancy Pearsey: “As Christian parents, pastors, teachers, and youth group leaders, we constantly see young people pulled down by the undertow of powerful cultural trends. If all we give them is a “heart” religion, it will not be strong enough to counter the lure of attractive but dangerous ideas. Young believers also need a “brain” religion—training in worldview and apologetics—to equip them to analyze and critique the competing worldviews they will encounter when they leave home.
(from “Total Truth,”

 5. You cannot love, trust, or worship that which you do not know.
(Mark 12:30; Romans 12:2)

John Piper: “There is an odd notion that, if we use our minds to grow in our knowledge of God, mystery will diminish and with it a sense of wonder and reverence. I call this notion odd for two reasons. One is that, no matter how many millions of ages I use my mind to know more and more of God’s majesty, his glories will never be in danger of being exhausted. What is not yet known of God by finite creatures will always be limitless. You honor this truth more by shameless growth in the knowledge of God.

“And the second reason I find the notion odd that thinking about God and knowing more and more of God jeopardizes our worship of God, is that without knowing him we can’t worship in a way that honors him. God is not honored when people get excited about how little they know of him.” (from “The Life of the Mind and the Love of God,”

(Image courtesy of digitalart at

How Will Our Children Learn to Honor God?


Pastor Andrew Murray

Here are some thoughtful reflections from Pastor Andrew Murray (b.1828, d.1917) regarding the importance of the fifth commandment:

The young child is guided, not by reflection or argument, but by feeling and affection. He cannot yet realize and honor the unseen God…The child can only honor what he sees to be worthy of honor. And this is the parent’s high calling—always so to speak and act, so to live in the child’s presence, that honor may be spontaneously and unconsciously rendered…

Above all, let parents remember that honor really comes from God. Let them honor Him in the eyes of their children, and He will honor them there, too. Let them beware of this sin, honoring their child more than God; it is the sure way to grief for parents and children together. But from parents, who in everything seek to honor God, children will learn to honor God and them together; the parent who teaches his child to obey the fifth commandment has guided his feet into the way of all God’s commandments. A child’s first virtue is the honoring and obeying of his parents.

(“The Children’s Commandment” quoted from Your Child’s Profession of Faith by Dennis Gundersen, copyright©2010, page 118)

A Great Summer Read


As parents, grandparents, teachers, and mentors it is the deep longing of our hearts that our young people come to genuine saving faith in Christ—the sooner the better. But often our sincere longings may carry mixed signals and/or misunderstanding. For example, our eagerness for them to be saved may become outward pressure on them to please us. Or, our children and students may simply be showing spiritual curiosity, which we mistake as a profession of true faith. What’s a parent or teacher to do?

Well one really helpful resource is Pastor Dennis Gundersen’s book, Your Child’s Profession of Faith. In just 120 pages he deals with a difficult topic head-on, offering wise, biblical, and practical advice. Here are his chapter headings:

  1. Putting the Issue on the Table
  2. A Parent’s Greatest Concern
  3. The Intellectual Maturity of Children
  4. The Changeableness and Instability of Children
  5. The Likelihood of Deception in Children
  6. Childhood: A Time for Patient Cultivation
  7. The Manifestations of Faith
  8. When Your Child Is Ready for Baptism
  9. Some Concluding Counsels

Although written specifically for parents, as a teacher I found his counsel very insightful in working with children in a classroom setting. So children’s ministry leaders, pass this recommendation on to your ministry volunteers as well. Buy a copy and pass it around!

A Banner to Fly Over Your Parenting and Children’s Ministry


What if we were to take this statement and make it a type of banner to fly over our parenting and children’s and youth ministries in the coming years?

Our aim is not to take a child’s low views of self and replace them with high views of self. Rather our aim is to take a child’s low views of God and replace them with high views of God. Our aim is not to take a child with little sense of worth and fill him with a great sense of worth. Rather our aim is to take a child who by nature makes himself the center of the universe and show him that he was made to put God at the center of the universe and get joy not from seeing his own tiny worth, but from knowing Christ who is of infinite worth.

(“Predestined for Adoption to the Praise of His Glory,” by John Piper, ©Desiring God Foundation,

Think of how countercultural and even counterintuitive this is…and yet it is so radically biblical and life-giving for our children! In many ways, our resources have been developed underneath this sweeping banner. For example, our first two distinctions are:

  • 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.

  • The Centrality of God in All Things

Every lesson in every curriculum aims to magnify the triune God above all—His name, fame, honor, and glory. We believe children will find their greatest joy when they esteem God most. Therefore, the lessons use language, illustrations, and applications that point children toward God-adoration. Furthermore, the curricula challenge children to see that every aspect of life is to fall under centrality of God and His sovereign rule.

Every resource we develop seeks to do these things—from nursery and beyond. Two resources in particular are designed to give children a “high view” of God by carefully focusing on His divine attributes and character.

The ABCs of God: A Study for Children on the Greatness and Worth of God (1st – 3rd Grade, 40 lessons)
The ABCs of God was written to present children with the beauty and awesome grandeur of the incomparable greatness and worth of God. Toward this end, this curriculum uses the framework of the alphabet to teach children key attributes of God and other words that define His character. These are deep doctrinal truths that answer the most important questions for each of us, namely, “Who is God? What is God like? How should I respond to God?”

(Note: The revised version of The ABCs of God will be available Summer 2016. Watch the blog for further updates.)

How Majestic Is Your Name: A Study for Children on the Names and Character of God (5th – 6th Grade, 40 lessons)
The names of God in the Bible are a reflection of His character, which is so glorious that He cannot be described by a single name. His character is communicated in hundreds of names progressively revealed in the Bible. But the focus of How Majestic Is Your Name is not the many names, titles and references to God. This are merely the structure to show the greatness of our God. Each lesson presents glorious truths about God and encourages students to see and rejoice in His goodness and greatness.

Is your church already using one or both of these curricula? Have you and your children been encouraged as you have seen a great and marvelous view of God and the surpassing worth of Christ? We would be delighted if you would share an encouraging testimony with us and others.

(Image courtesy of photoexplorer at

Why Choose CDG Curriculum?


One of the surprising (but delightful) statistics from our recent National Conference was the number of attendees who are new to the ministry of Children Desiring God. For them, the conference served as their first real exposure to our vision, mission, and philosophy. At the conference, they got a high-dose, jam-packed introduction to our ministry. And yet only a relatively small portion of the conference was focused on our curricula, and this was intentional. Why? Because the curricula is NOT the vision of CDG. Rather, it serves as one tool for accomplishing the vision. We believe that it is a valuable and helpful tool, and of course we would be delighted if you would use our curricula in your churches and/or homes.

We also know that there are other wonderful curricula out there to choose from. So why choose CDG? Here are some distinctions we offer:

Our curriculum is committed to…

  • A Big Vision of God
  • The Centrality of God in All Things
  • Doctrinal Depth, Accuracy, and Clarity
  • Faithfulness to the Gospel
  • A Serious and Sober View of Sin
  • A Scope and Sequence that Aims to Present the Whole Counsel of God
  • A Rigorous Study of the Bible and Training of the Mind
  • Age-Appropriate Visuals and Illustrations that Enhance the Learning Experience
  • Personal Application that Encourages a Proper Response in the Mind, Heart, and Will
  • Excitement for God’s Global Purposes
  • Maximizing Classroom Time with Biblical Teaching and Spiritual Discussion
  • Assisting Parents in Discipling their Children
  • Stewardship of Resources

To read a further explanation of each, click here.


Using Foundation Verses in Your Parenting


Back when my children were younger, there was a phrase I often repeated: “Give me a verse.” This was usually in response to a sinful attitude, word, or action presenting itself. It was my way of reminding them (and myself) that all of our thoughts, emotions, words, and actions need to be shaped and come under the authority of Scripture. For example, suppose a hypothetical grandson of mine is complaining about having to eat his vegetables before getting a cookie for desert. Mommy reminds him of a verse he knows:

Do all things without grumbling… (Philippians 2:14, ESV)

Or suppose that same child is mad because he didn’t get things his own way. He wants to be the boss! Mommy reminds him of a verse he has memorized:

No one can serve two masters… (Matthew 6:24, ESV)

God is the boss! You must do things His way, and not your own way. Verses like these can then be used to help children understand their sin nature—“What is it that makes us want to grumble and complain? Why do we want to do things our own way instead of God’s way?”—and provide wonderful opportunities to share Gospel truths with them, such as, “We are sinners. We need Jesus!”

But “give me a verse” should not be used only as a means of correction. Our children should also be able to call to mind verses that remind them of God’s goodness and greatness in the very “ordinary” experiences of daily life. When my 2-year-old granddaughter delights in playing outside on a beautiful sunny day, mommy could ask, “Who made the beautiful sunshine?” and then remind her of a verse she has memorized:

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1, ESV)


Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above… (James 1:17, ESV)

All of the above presupposes that they first have verses memorized. And it’s never too early to begin Bible memory. My daughter and son-in-law are using the CDG resource, Foundation Verses, to introduce their young children to Scripture memory, and as a parenting tool. The resource includes the above four verses, plus 72 more. They are strategically chosen Bible verses for children 2-5 years old. The ring-bound pack includes 76 short verses designed to lay a firm Scriptural foundation of basic biblical truth that will pave the way for faith response. Each verse has a picture prompt to help non-readers remember the passage.

You can find out more about Foundation Verses here.

What’s Your Plan for Teaching the Whole Counsel of God?


It is a well-known fact in my family that I am a stereotypical procrastinator. I stall as long as possible before getting things done—even really important things! Long-term strategic planning is not my natural mode of operation, as I would rather wait and then be motivated by the “tyranny of the urgent.” But when it comes to the spiritual education and formation of our children and youth, this type of approach is not at all helpful or biblical. It puts off what should be very carefully planned and implemented.

For example, think ahead for a moment and ask yourself this long-term question: By the time my children and/or students reach adulthood, will they be able to answer these key questions?

  • What’s in the Bible?
  •  Who is the Bible about?
  •  What’s the main message of the Bible?
  •  What are the essential doctrines (truths) of the Christian faith?
  •  How are we to live?
  •  Why do we need to be saved?
  •  What must we do to be saved?
  •  How should we read and understand the Bible?

These types of questions cannot be readily or adequately addressed by a hit-and-miss approach. Rather, they require implementing a carefully constructed strategic plan—a plan that encompasses teaching the whole counsel of God. What does that look like? How and where do you begin?

This was the topic addressed in my seminar, “Making a Strategic Plan for Teaching the Whole Counsel of God,” at our National Conference this year. Here are two helpful resources from that seminar to assist you in making your own strategic plan: The seminar handout and the accompanying seminar PowerPoint presentation, which includes two charts showing the available from CDG curricula, from nursery to high school, and how each fits into the long-term, strategic plan.


24 Things Your Child Should Know About the Bible…in a Book

God's Word Cover

Last week, I highlighted the curriculum I Stand in Awe: A Study for Children on the Bible, which teaches children about the nature and main message of the Bible. But what about a resource that might be a better fit in a home setting, such as a family devotional tool? Consider the book, God’s Word, which is adapted from the I Stand in Awe curriculum. God’s Word is a captivating, child-friendly resource for parents to use to approach the Bible with their children, and also to involve their children in reaching for the Bible themselves.

Each of the 26 chapters is only four pages long and displays a full-color illustration. It is written specifically to be read by or to children, with an engaging style that will help them understand the concepts presented. Furthermore, each chapter ends with personal application questions and a tangible activity to put the truths learned into practice.

As a parent and grandparent, I find this resource to be a great way to introduce children to the basics of the Bible. After reading through it with your child, not only will they be better equipped to answer the question, “What is the Bible?” but they will also be challenged, encouraged, and hopefully drawn to trust and treasure the Author of the Bible.


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