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Imparting Truth with Exultation

Imparting Truth with Exultation

In his sermon, One Generation Shall Praise Your Works to Another, John Piper challenges us to not only pass on biblical truth, but to also do it in a manner that testifies to the greatness and worth of God.

It is the Biblical duty of every generation of Christians to see to it that the next generation hears about the mighty acts of God. God does not drop a new Bible from heaven on every generation. He intends that the older generation will teach the newer generation to read and think and trust and obey and rejoice. It’s true that God draws near personally to every new generation of believers, but he does so through the Biblical truth that they learn from the preceding generations. The Spirit comes down vertically (you might say) where the truth of God is imparted horizontally.
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Parenting and Teaching from a Thankful Heart

Parenting and Teaching from a Thankful Heart

Pastor David Michael recently shared these words from C.H. Spurgeon during Children Desiring God staff devotion time. I wonder what impact it would have on our parenting and teaching ministries if we carefully reflected on Spurgeon’s remarks and questions regarding Psalm 103:2—“Forget not all his benefits.”

It is a delightful and profitable occupation to mark the hand of God in the lives of ancient saints, and to observe

his goodness in delivering them,
his mercy in pardoning them,
and his faithfulness in keeping his covenant with them.

But would it not be even more interesting and profitable for us to remark the hand of God in our own lives? Ought we not to look upon our own history as being at least

as full of God,
as full of his goodness and of his truth,
as much a proof of his faithfulness and veracity, as the lives of any of the saints who have gone before? (more…)

Praying for the Next Generation and Your Volunteers

Praying for the Next Generation and Your Volunteers

Have you prayed for your children today? Do you only pray for them when you are with them? How often do you pray for or with your students on Sunday morning?

“It is easy for us to set our days on cruise control and completely push the Lord out. Prayer is our only vehicle that will give us wisdom, strength and the correct words to reach the next generation.” —Kristin Gilbert

In this seminar, Praying for the Next Generation and Your Volunteers, Kristin Gilbert discusses some of the obstacles we face that prevent us from having a fervent prayer life such as wandering minds, fear, laziness and busyness. She equips you with practical steps to fight these obstacles and encourages you to pray through specific areas of your children’s ministry as she shares testimonies of answered prayers in her church.

“When I step into my office, the first thing I do, before I open up my computer and see the list of emails, is to pray for 15 minutes. Schedule time into your day to pray.” —Kristin Gilbert

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Preemptive Wisdom + Drawing for a Free Devotional!

Preemptive Wisdom

In a recent “Ask Pastor John” post, John Piper addressed a question from a young man—a teenager— regarding his desire to be well-liked and popular while, at the same time, being concerned about being godly. Here was part of John’s response:

Preemptive WisdomI think being driven by coolness is deadly. The problem with wanting to be cool in our culture is that cool is almost always defined by the fool. So, it is almost always: Cool = Fool.

If you want to know what a fool is, read the book of Proverbs in the Bible. In fact, I think every teenager, especially boys, should read Proverbs over and over and over again, because of how clearly the Proverbs expose the stupidity of much that is considered cool… (more…)

The World’s Largest Puzzle and Its Infinitely Wise Creator

The World’s Largest Puzzle and Its Infinitely Wise Creator

This summer, my family and I stopped by America’s biggest puzzle store during a family adventure. Inside, puzzles covered tables and shelves, were fitted in special cases that lined the entire ceiling and were tucked in every nook and cranny. There were beginner toddler puzzles with two pieces, kids puzzles with firetrucks and princesses, 1000 piece puzzles of historical events, and 3000 pieces puzzles of beautiful nature scenes. Then we saw the big puzzle…32,356 pieces. The finished puzzle measured 17 feet by 6 feet and weighed more than 40 pounds. Many people have said a puzzle this size takes six months to a year to complete.

To me, attempting a puzzle that size is, well, puzzling. But, what if the the whole world—dirt, mountains, oceans, trees, flowers, sky, animals, birds, insects—was a puzzle you had to put together? Oh, and it is not a normal puzzle. It is one of those 3-D puzzles with moving pieces. You have to add layer upon layer to your puzzle to piece together each person along with every circumstance they will ever face. That is unimaginable.

O LORD, how manifold are your works!
In wisdom have you made them all;
—Psalm 104:24a

In The ABCs of God curriculum, Jill Nelson asks children:

What does it mean that God is wise? It means that He causes everything to work out perfectly. It is as if the world is like a giant puzzle with millions of pieces. God made each piece, and all the pieces fit together in order to make the world just as God planned it. God doesn’t make any mistakes. Because He is wise, EVERYTHING turns out exactly as He has planned it.

When we look at our lives, often all we can see is a mountain of puzzle pieces that do not seem to fit together. It is not our job to determine how each the piece of our life fits together or why we were given certain pieces. We need to trust that God is infinitely wise in each detail of our lives, especially when bad things happen or circumstances do not make sense.

In his sermon, “The Great Work of the Only Wise God,” Pastor John Piper defines wisdom this way:

Wisdom DefinitionWisdom is knowing what the greatest goal is in any situation, and what the best way is to achieve it. It’s different from knowledge, but it assumes knowledge. They overlap. You can’t exercise wisdom without knowledge; because in order to figure out the best way to achieve a goal, you have to have knowledge of many factors. On the other hand, you can have a lot of knowledge and not have wisdom. There are many brilliant fools. And many less-educated sages.

But we are talking about God’s wisdom, not ours. The difference is that he always knows the best goal in every situation, and he always has total and perfect knowledge of billions and billions of relevant factors in every situation that enable him to know the best way to achieve the goal.

Next time you sit down with your child to work on a puzzle, take time to discuss who is the master puzzle-maker who creates and fits together diverse pieces to reveal His perfect plan in creation and achieve his goals. You may also want to teach your children this song to remind them who alone is wise.

God Alone Is Wise

by John Piper
Sung to the tune of “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”

God alone is full of wisdom,
God alone knows every end,
God alone plans every pathway,
More than we can comprehend
Infinite! His wisdom soars,
High above our peace and wars,
Grasping all the mysteries,
Governing the galaxies.
Infinite! Our God is wise!
Let our boast in him arise!

Wise! He saves the lowly sinner.
Wise! He keeps his covenant.
Wise! His ways at Calvary
Silence ev’ry argument.
By his blood and righteousness
Jew and gentile he will bless.
None shall boast in any man,
All shall marvel at his plan.
Infinite! Our God is wise!
Let our boast in him arise.

 

 

 

Mothers as Disciplers of the Next Generation

Mothers as Disciplers of the Next Generation

Watching my daughter at home full time with four children, 5 years old and younger, is to watch a type of loving, synchronized chaos with moments of structured instruction thrown in. Here is a college-educated woman, who once worked with thoughtful adults, now deal with cute, but often unreasonable, little people. Yet through it all, she has fully and joyfully embraced this calling, knowing that it is a sacred calling to nurture the faith of the next generation. Mothers, listen to these encouraging words from Charles Spurgeon:

Charles Spurgeon QuoteO dear mothers you have a very sacred trust reposed in you by God! He has in effect said to you, “Take this child and nurse it for Me, and I will give you your wages.” You are called to equip the future man of God that he may be thoroughly furnished unto every good work. If God spares you, you may live to hear that pretty boy speak to thousands, and you will have the sweet reflection in your heart that the quiet teachings of the nursery led the man to love his God and serve Him. Those who think that a woman detained at home by her little family is doing nothing, think the reverse of what is true. Scarcely can the godly mother quit her home for a place of worship, but dream not that she is lost to the work of the church, far from it, she is doing the best possible service for her Lord. Mothers, the godly training of your offspring is your first and most pressing duty. Christian women, by teaching children the Holy Scriptures, are as much fulfilling their part for the Lord, as Moses in judging Israel, or Solomon in building the Temple.

( Sermon #1866, “The Sunday School and the Scriptures,” www.spurgeongems.org)

Mothering Booklet CoverDo you know a busy mom who needs some encouragement as she seeks to nurture the faith of her children? Here is a resource to consider, Mothers: Disciplers of the Next Generations. This affordable booklet, written by Sally Michael, will challenge moms to look on their mothering with a biblical perspective, to seize the opportunities God gives them each day to encourage faith in their children, and to rely on Him as their sin-bearer and enabler to do the great work He has called moms to do.

Mommy… Daddy… I’m Sad

Mommy... Daddy... I'm Sad

In between deep sobs, the voice of a caring mother is heard. “Gilbert, what’s wrong?”
With tears streaming down his face he replies, “Mommy, I’m sad.”
“Gilbert, why are you sad?”
“I can’t find nite-nite!” …Or, “I want to play with my cars longer.” Or, “I don’t want to leave Grandma and Grandpa’s house.”

To my 2-year-old nephew who is learning how to express his emotions in words, these sad situations feel very hard to him. Unfortunately, there will soon be a day when his tears and sorrow do not stem from something as simple as a lost blanket or shortened play time.

Your child may be saying “I’m sad” as they try to figure out why kids were mean to them at school. Why did my friend lie to me? Why does mom have cancer? Why was dad laid off from his job? Why does my sister have down syndrome? Why did our house get flooded in a hurricane? Why is there poverty and hunger in the world? What do words like terrorism, bombings, mass shootings and racial tensions mean? Why are Christians being killed for their faith? Why does God let bad things happen in the world? Why did God do this to me? Does God love me?

It is not a question of if your children will experience suffering, but when will your child experience suffering…and will his faith be strengthened or weakened through it? 

In a recent Ask Pastor John post, John Piper shared these three steps to prepare your children for suffering:

1. Teach your son a glorious, all-encompassing biblical worldview that puts suffering in its proper place.
2. Discipline him with appropriate firmness, and require of him self-denial.

3. Model for him trust and joy in the midst of your own suffering and sorrow.

As Pastor Piper expounded on these three steps, several points stood out to me. The first reinforces what my first grade class is studying in The ABCs of God. This month, they are learning that God is wise—He causes everything to workout perfectly; God is almighty—He is all-powerful; and God is sovereign—He has the right and wisdom and power to do all that He pleases. Here’s how Pastor Piper explains it:

God is sovereign, and nothing can stop him from doing what he wants to do most. “I am God, and there is none like me . . . saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose’” (Isaiah 46:9-10). He is stronger than the weather. He is stronger than storms and floods and lightning. He is stronger than animals: big ones that can attack you like lions and little teeny microscopic ones you can’t even see that can make you sick and even kill you. He is stronger than all the enemies that we have. He is stronger than everything. Children need to hear this. They get it. They will embrace it more quickly than we do, and they can handle the mysteries. Yes, they can. Don’t ever give the impression to your children that suffering exists because God is helpless.

John Piper Quote on SufferingKids do get it. Children studying My Purpose Will Stand learn it this way: “God is present and active in all creation. His eye is watching, His hand is working to uphold and govern all creation, to fulfill all His purposes for His glory and the good of His children.” God did not wind us up like a clock and step back to watch. He is not surprised by the decisions we make. God is not helpless. He has planned and is in control of every detail of our lives, including our suffering.

It is also crucial to teach children how God displays his glory through the Gospel as they learn to understand why suffering exists and why it effects them. I am thankful these following truths are woven into each of our curricula.

Make the gospel crystal-clear: God sent his Son into the world to suffer with us and for us. This means that, if we trust him, none of our suffering is punishment for sin. Christ bore all of our punishment for sin. That is the basis of our acceptance with God and our hope for heaven. And there will be no more suffering there. All the suffering, therefore, that comes into the life of a Christian is not because God is punishing him in his wrath—oh, let children understand this!—but, rather, it is God’s fatherly discipline for the sake of holiness as Hebrews 12:3-11 and 1 Peter 1:5 says.

Therefore, in all of our suffering, God is good. God is wise. God is loving, even though it’s painful, and he has purposes for us (Romans 8:28). We never explain suffering by saying God is helpless or that Satan got the upper hand or that there are mere accidents in the world. We always handle suffering, our suffering by saying, even though we don’t understand all the answers for why this particular suffering came or that particular suffering came at this particular time or this particular intensity—we don’t understand those particulars—nevertheless, we do understand what God has taught us; namely, that he is sovereign, that he is good, and that he always has purposes for our everlasting joy.

I strongly encourage you to listen to or read Pastor Piper’s entire post: How Do We Prepare Our Children for Suffering. He closes with these words:

The greatest challenge of parenting is not primarily remembering all the things that should be taught in the catechism, but primarily being a parent growing in grace and humility and trust and joy in all the ups and downs of life. Few things will have a greater power in our children’s lives to help them suffer as Christians.

Recommended Resources

If you would like to look at specific resources that help teach children about the sovereignty of God, the glorious truth of the Gospel and how to deal with suffering, we recommend the following:

God’s Providence: A family devotional guide

My Purpose Will Stand: A study for 6th grade students on the providence of God

Helping Children to Understand the Gospel: A resource for parents with 10 family devotions

Catechism: Out of Date or a Tried and True Teaching Tool of Eternal Truths: A seminar by Sally Michael

 
 

VIDEO: “Believing the Whole Counsel of God: How Our Children Can Know the Bible is True” by John Piper

Persevering in the Whole Counsel of God

We are excited to be sharing the content from our 2016 National Conference. Check back next Wednesday to view the final plenary session (along with discussion questions and action steps) to help you better understand how to persevere in teaching the whole counsel of God to the next generation. 

Piper: Believing the Whole Counsel of God

What must take place in order for children to know that the Bible is true, and for them to believe the whole counsel of God? John Piper, seeking to answer that question, begins his message by defining what the whole counsel of God is. 

He notes that Paul was so consumed by his responsibility to declare the whole counsel of God, that at the end of his ministry he could say with confidence to the Ephesian elders, “I am innocent of the blood of all” (Acts 20:26).

Yet the declaration of the whole does not ensure that it will be embraced. Many saw but did not “see.” They saw with their physical eyes…but did not see with the eyes of their heart. What they should have seen…and what they were to see and we are to see is a “peculiar glory.” A peculiar glory that was and is revealed in…

  1. the creation.
  2. the incarnation.
  3. the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Dr. Piper explains why the Bible is self-authenticating in each of these areas. And when the miracle of new birth happens, whether for children or adults, they will say, “I cannot not believe that God did not make that.”

Dr. Piper also made four observations/encouragements for those who influence the next generation:

  1. Children begin believing the Bible because their parents believe the Bible. 
  2. Build as much Bible into them as you can.
  3. At some point, God moves in His elect children to open their eyes, by a supernatural power, and their hearts perceive a peculiar glory of God.
  4. As they mature, they have a growing capacity to see and savor Christ, and we have a great responsibility to connect them with the astonishing, peculiar glory.

 

Questions for Reflection

  1. How did Dr. Piper define the whole counsel of God?
  2. Do you agree with his argument that as interesting and helpful as apologetics can be, there has to be something more at the root of belief then answers to questions?
  3. If only by a miracle we see with the eyes of our heart, what role does the whole counsel of God play in the miracle?
  4. Regarding the ministry to children in our churches and home, is there a shift away from teaching the whole counsel of God? If so, why do you think so? If not, what evidence would you offer?
  5. Discuss this quote from Jonathan Edwards: “Unless men can may come to a reasonable solid, persuasion and conviction of the truth of the gospel by the internal evidences of it mainly, by a sight of its glory, tis impossible that those who are illiterate and unacquainted with history should have any thorough or effectual conviction of it at all.” How does this encourage you in your ministry to children?
  6. Dr. Piper ended his message by saying this about children: “If they see the glory…they cannot not believe. So, what are practical ways in which we can help our children see the ‘peculiar glory’?”

 

Further Reading

What’s Your Plan for Teaching the Whole Counsel of God by Jill Nelson

 

View Other Plenary Sessions

“Declaring the Whole Counsel of God to the Next Generation” by Mark Vroegop

“Exploring the Fullness of the Whole Counsel of God” by Bruce Ware

“Holding Fast to the Whole Counsel of God Under Pressure to Conform” by Albert Mohler

 

Exploring the Fullness of the Whole Counsel of God

Exploring the Fullness of the Whole Counsel of God

We were honored to have Bruce Ware join us again for the Children Desiring God National Conference as he guided us through Exploring the Fullness of the Whole Counsel of God. Bruce broke the whole counsel of God down into two categories—breath and the depth—to help us further understand its meaning. Video of the conference keynotes will be available at a later date.

Breadth

Bruce shared to steps to keep in mind as he discussed understanding the breadth of the whole counsel of God. First, we need to be a people who come to understand the whole of Biblical content. He recommends using a good study Bible. This can help you understand the historical and cultural background of each book of the Bible, so you can have a better understanding as you teach the Scriptures. When Paul wrote the words, “All scripture is God-breathed…” he had in mind everything that had been written in the Bible, and everything that would be written. Therefore, we ought to pay attention to each of the 66 books of the Bible in teaching.

Secondly, we must learn to see the unity, continuity and development of truth throughout the story of the Bible. As we examine this story, there are many words and themes that are threaded throughout the Bible as important markers along the road. By tracing these key words and themes throughout the Bible, we can see the story that God intended to write developing. However, we do not to just see the developing story within each individual book, but to see the developing story throughout the entire Bible. These things are all-important in shaping both our own worldview, and that of the next generation.

Bruce Ware

Depth

We need to grow in an in-depth understanding of passages of Scripture. We cannot sacrifice knowing and understanding the flow of the passage for committing it to rote memory—but that is not to say that memorization is bad. Bruce commends thinking of memorization as a by-product of meditating. Reading and studying the Bible slowly is important in the growth of our Christian lives—the glory is in the details.

Believers also need an in-depth understanding of Biblical doctrines. We must have a resolute commitment to side with the Bible even when that decision goes against our culture. That means, in part, embracing paradoxes in God’s character. Our culture sometimes over-emphasizes aspects of God’s character at the expense of others, and we must not teach his Word that way. The cultural understanding appeals to us in the sense that our culture hates certain aspects of God’s culture, but we cannot shrink back from talking about them. For example, our culture hates the idea that God ordains our suffering, but the Bible says that he does. This doctrine gives Christians hope because it gives our suffering meaning.

What does this mean for you and your ministry to children?
Consider asking these questions:

  1. How can I grow in my understanding in each of these areas?
  2. How can my affections be more stirred, and my heart more moved by these truths?
  3. How can I be used in the lives of the next generation to commend to their heads and hearts the breadth and depth of the whole counsel of God?

 

Gospel “Poles” and the Whole Counsel of God

Gospel "Poles" and the Whole Counsel of God

My family enjoys camping…old-fashioned tent camping. We have a very large tent that my children affectionately call the “Taj Mahal”. The frame of the tent is a series of poles that must first be assembled and then threaded through the proper sleeves of the tent fabric. This takes time. There is no short-cut. But when every pole is properly in place, you simply pull on the guide ropes and the tent goes up and takes its proper shape.

This illustration can be helpful in demonstrating the importance of communicating the Gospel within the whole counsel of God. There are “poles”—key doctrinal truths—involved in properly understanding the significance of the Person and saving work of Christ. As parents and teachers, we should consider how to carefully and intentionally walk through and explain these preceding doctrinal truths with our children. In doing this, the full extent of who Jesus is, what He has done, and why He did it, will make more sense to our children. The Gospel of Jesus will take on its proper “shape” so to speak.

This tent illustration was a feature in my recent seminar “Communicating the Gospel Within the Whole Counsel of God” at the National Conference. In the near future, the entire seminar will be available online for you to listen to. But until then, you might be interested in this seminar handout which outlines 9 key doctrinal themes for communicating the Gospel.

(Note: If you attended this seminar at our conference, please download the handout noted above. The handout distributed at the conference had a section missing.)

 

 

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