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The Gospel Alphabet—Sin

The Gospel Alphabet—Sin

Read Part 1: Giving Children a Gospel Alphabet
Read Part 2: The Gospel Alphabet—Teaching the “Antecedents”
Read Part 3: The Gospel Alphabet—A Robust Doctrine of God
Read Part 4: The Gospel Alphabet—Who We Are in Relation to God

I love the scene in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King where Frodo and Sam are making their last, desperate effort to destroy the one ring in the depths of Mt. Doom. What makes the final destruction of the ring so incredibly magnificent and satisfying is the context. Before that, we have been taken on a long journey that has introduced us to the magnitude of evil, despair, and ruin brought about by the ring and its influence. You don’t simply go from a peaceful, idealistic life in the Shire to the triumphant destruction of the ring. The story would have lost its grandeur and appeal if author J.R.R. Tolkien had simply done the latter.

But now consider the story communicating ultimate reality to us as revealed in the historical narrative of Scripture, and consider these 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.

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The Gospel Alphabet—Who We are in Relation to God

The Gospel Alphabet—Who We are in Relation to God

Read Part 1: Giving Children a Gospel Alphabet
Read Part 2: The Gospel Alphabet—Teaching the “Antecedents”
Read Part 3: The Gospel Alphabet—A Robust Doctrine of God

“I can do it all by myself” is a comment we hear increasingly from our 5-year-old grandson. Whether it is brushing his teeth, getting dressed, or buckling himself in his car seat, he is slowly but surely moving toward a healthy type of independence necessary for adulthood. As parents, we strive to progressively instill this in our children.

However, as good as this goal is for our children, we must at the same time help them grasp and pursue a greater level of dependency. “I can do it all by myself” can be dangerous and deadly! How so?

In the previous post in The Gospel Alphabet series, I spoke of the necessity of giving our children a robust doctrine of God. Understanding who God is and what He is like is crucial for children knowing who they are. For example, consider Genesis 1:1, which most of our children have easily committed to memory,

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. (ESV) (more…)

The Gospel Alphabet—A Robust Doctrine of God

The Gospel Alphabet—A Robust Doctrine of God

Read Part 1: Giving Children a Gospel Alphabet
Read Part 2: The Gospel Alphabet—Teaching the “Antecedents”

Consider for a moment what children can learn about the nature and character of God from the Old Testament:

  • There is only one God.
  • God is eternal and unchanging.
  • God is the Creator of everything.
  • God rules over everything and everyone.
  • God chooses a special people for Himself.
  • God makes special promises to His people.
  • God is faithful and always keeps His promises.
  • God is holy and righteous.
  • God is jealous and deserves all honor, love, trust, obedience, and worship.
  • God knows everything.
  • God is all-powerful.
  • God is everywhere all the time.
  • God is wrathful toward sin.
  • God is just.
  • God is loving, compassionate, patient, and merciful.
  • God is the Savior of His people.

These truths, taught to our children, lay the foundation for understanding the person and work of Jesus in the Gospel. Here is just one example of what I mean by this:

For in him [Jesus] all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,—Colossians 1:19 (more…)

The Gospel Alphabet—Teaching the “Antecedents”

The Gospel Alphabet - Teaching the "Antecedents"

Read Part 1: Giving Children a Gospel Alphabet

Here is a really important insight from J. Gresham Machen:

…when men say that we know God only as He is revealed in Jesus, they are denying all real knowledge of God whatever. For unless there be some idea of God independent of Jesus, the ascription of deity to Jesus has no meaning. To say, “Jesus is God,” is meaningless unless the word “God” has an antecedent meaning attached to it…Jesus revealed, in a wonderfully intimate way, the character of God, but such revelation obtained its true significance only on the basis both of the Old Testament heritage and of Jesus’ own teaching.

(Christianity and Liberalism, copyright©2009, pages 48-49)

For children to rightly grasp the biblical truth that “Jesus is God,” and also the meaning of His saving work accomplished through the Gospel, we must teach them some crucial “antecedents.” By way of illustrating this in relation to teaching children, let’s imagine these antecedents to be the alphabet. (See Giving Children a Gospel Alphabet) (more…)

Giving Children a Gospel Alphabet

Giving Children a Gospel Alphabet

We all know and appreciate the progression of a child’s ability to read and write. To begin with, it’s an informal process as infants and toddlers listen to the conversations of those around them and begin to pick up bits and pieces of language—words and their meanings. But at the same time, we also understand the need for intentional, age-appropriate teaching. For example, we help young children connect the objects they see with corresponding words. We speak to them at “their level.” Then more formal instruction takes place as we teach them individual letters. We demonstrate how to spell and sound out simple words. Next comes constructing sentences and applying the rules of grammar. On and on, step-by-step, this process slowly progresses. Over time, both the formal and informal instruction serve to produce a vibrant, functional literacy.

I think this example illustrates something very important about teaching the Gospel to children. There is a place and necessity for both informal and formal instruction. Children Desiring God curricula would be an example of formal instruction. By design, formal instruction will take a somewhat different (and much slower) approach. It incorporates an age-appropriate, step-by-step progression. But that’s where the misunderstanding and frustration may enter in. Take for example these concerns that are sometimes expressed about our curricula: (more…)

2 Timothy 2:15 Students

2 Timothy 2:15 Students

Here are is an exhortation from David and Sally Michael from their conference message, “A Vision for Biblical Literacy in the Next Generation”:

Children need to learn how to rightly handle the Word through incremental age-appropriate instruction in studying Scripture through the use of inductive Bible study skills.

Exposure to the whole counsel of God is vital, but children must also be taught to rightly understand the Word. Our children and young people need the same prodding that Paul gave to his spiritual son:

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.—2 Timothy 2:15 (more…)

The Call to Make Disciples

The Call to Make Disciples

Before ascending into heaven, Jesus gave every Christian in every century a commission with eternal significance:

…”All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”—Matthew 28:18-20, ESV

Our calling is very clear—to “make disciples.” This is the greatest work in which to invest our lives! Christ’s mandate to us is to see spiritual interest awaken, new birth come forth, and then foster steady steps toward maturity in Christ…but it is a mandate wrought with privilege and true joy. (more…)

Beautiful or Beastly? Which is it?

Beautiful or Beastly? Which Is It?

As a 10-year-old, my daughter loved the Disney animated movie Beauty and the Beast. Last weekend the much anticipated, hyped, and controversial Disney live-action version came out. It is amazing to note the cultural changes that have come about in the intervening 26 years between the two movies. Would I bring a 10-year-old daughter to this new version?

Before making a decision, I would want to read Jasmine Holmes’ very helpful article for parents, “Do You Trust Disney with Your Kids?” Here is a really important point she makes:

My parents never took me to see a movie without looking into it first. When I got older, it was my job to do some research to see what we were getting into before we went. The fact that we need to exercise care with the agenda mass media puts forth should not be new to us as Christians. If this is our awakening that we can’t trust anything Disney to go directly to our kids, has not our awakening been long overdue? How naïve would we have been to assume we could trust Disney until now? (more…)

What Are They Reading, Watching and Listening to?

What Are They Reading, Watching and Listening To?

Here is a simple checklist from the Teacher’s Guide for the Your Word is Truth youth curriculum with questions based on Philippians 4:8. These questions can serve as a guide in helping you discuss and evaluate books, television, movies, and music with your children and students.
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Digital Bibles for Teaching Children?

Digital Bibles for Teaching Children?

Here is a pertinent observation and question left by one of our blog readers recently:

I have been told that this generation of children will no longer use an actual Bible, but rather a tablet or phone, and that being able to use a Bible is not as important as it was ten years ago. The same goes with concordances and other Bible helps. Do you agree? What practically do you think is the best way to teach children?

Great question! And yes, I do have some thoughts about this. But before I give my opinion, it’s first helpful to reflect upon the nature of the Bible itself. For example:

  • The Bible is “God-breathed” and divinely inspired.
  • The Bible is inerrant and completely trustworthy.
  • The Bible is the full canon of Scripture—all 66 books—given to us in written form.
  • The Bible is characterized by its absolute authority, clarity, sufficiency, and necessity.
  • The Bible is God’s one Word to us, communicating one main, unified, overarching message, through its diverse 66 books.

With these truths in mind, it is readily apparent that the Bible is utterly unique and separate from any other story or book. That is why I still love the designation “The Holy Bible.” That said, I fully believe the Bible’s words are authoritative and true whether we read them to our class from a Smartphone device, iPad®, or in “old-fashioned” printed form. God’s Word is God’s Word. The medium we use does not change or alter that. However, there is something we should not lose sight of: The medium we use cannot be completely disassociated from the message. What do I mean? Here is an example: (more…)

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