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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.)

 

 

You CAN Do Catechism!

Children Desiring God Blog // You CAN Do Catechism

One of the new seminars at this year’s national conference was on using catechisms for teaching children—especially in the home. In the future we will have this seminar by Sally Michael available on our web site. But until then, here is an excellent article for parents (take note fathers!!!) to encourage you to get started: “The Importance and Practice of Catechism: Fathers-Instruct Your Childrenby Dr. Kim Riddlebarger. He concludes his article with these practical reminders:

First, be consistent. The best way to learn a catechism is simply to keep at it! Take “the tortoise” and not “the hare” approach. You cannot teach your child a lengthy catechism in a couple of weeks! But over time—if you keep at ityou’ll be amazed at how much children will remember and comprehend.

Second, be creative. One of the greatest obstacles to catechism is boredom. Simply reading the question and then expecting your children to recite the memorized answer is no fun for them, and they’ll come to hate the whole idea. Go ahead and stress memorization, but whenever you can, relate the catechism to the Scriptures. Most catechisms give Scripture proofs. And if you discuss the question and answer with your kids, and then relate the catechism to real life situations, current events or to movies and TV, your kids will get the sense that theology is of great value in navigating their way through life…

Third, don’t panic. Many people tell me that they are new to this and there is always the pressure to make up for lost time. Go slow. Quality time is always better than rushed and tense sessions where the kids are tired and the parents are frustrated. Do what you can when you can and have realistic expectations. Even a small amount of catechesis is better than no catechesis.

Last, the more that you know about the catechism the easier the whole process will become. You may have to get a commentary on the particular catechism that you use, and you may have to spend some time preparing to catechize. Being an effective teacher means being a faithful student. You cannot teach what you do not know…

1. (“Fathers, Instruct Your Children” was originally published as “The Need to Recover the Practice of Catechism” and was revised for use by Christ Reformed Church. Re-printed by permission, © 1995 Modern Reformation / ACE)

Declaring the Whole Counsel of God to the Next Generation

Vroegop Header

We were honored to have Mark Vroegop launch our Children Desiring God conference with his message on Declaring the Whole Counsel of God to the Next Generation. Mark guided us through six ways we can model our ministry after Paul’s ministry. Video of the conference keynotes will be available at a later date.

Acts 20:17-38

This passage is important because in the final moments of a person’s life, you hear the distillation of his ministry to a people. What do we hear from Paul in these moments? How do his words relate to ministry to children and youth?

Six Ways Our Ministry to Children and Youth Should Be Modeled After Paul’s Ministry

1. Personally

Teaching in a life-on-life context. Declaring the whole counsel of God is a personal, life-on-life issue. The word of God transmitted through the life of another person is not just a tool, but the foundation of personal ministry.

2. Seriously

Teaching has culpability because James says that those who teach will be judged with greater strictness. Paul’s ministry was of such a character that he would know he was innocent if any of them were eternally lost. This suggests that innocence on the part of a teacher is possible. But, there are many people who have never considered the question of how to declare the whole counsel of God in teaching. Because of this, some teachers are guilty.

Children Desiring God Blog // Mark Vroegop Header

3. Faithfully

Teaching with courageous consistency. To “shrink back” from the whole counsel of God would be to not have faith in the entirety of the message of the Bible. To faithfully teach the Bible is to teach every part of it, not just the parts we like.

4. Thoroughly

Thorough teaching is the kind of teaching that encompasses biblical Christianity in a unified, balanced and comprehensive way. Nothing important is left out. Unified teaching connects the content of the Bible to the redemptive arc of the Bible, and demonstrates that all of those things relate. Balanced teaching helps children to know what it most important. It means that you teach the “ands” in the Bible; that the paradoxes of God’s character matter. Comprehensive teaching wrestles with big-picture questions that span the length of the canon.

5. Urgently

Paul was aware of the dangers all around and he urged teachers to be on guard. He knew what the human heart was capable, and he knew the devices of the enemy, which made teaching the whole counsel of God all the more important to him. Today, we live in a postmodern culture, in which truth is under attack. Knowing the whole counsel of God helps us stay grounded in truth in the midst of this culture. We must declare the whole counsel of God urgently because the voices in our culture are getting louder, and more distinct from Biblical truth.

Confidently

We are in good care when God is sovereign and the Word of God is a part of our lives. God is sovereign and his word still has power. The Word not only gives life, but helps us persevere to the end. The grace of God and the Word of God guarantees that our children who love Jesus will persevere to the end.

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.

On Not Shrinking, but Upholding, Embracing and Declaring

On Not Shrinking, but Upholding, Embracing and Declaring

Paul’s declaration in Acts 20:27, “. . . for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God,” are richly inspiring, yet deeply sobering words.  Why inspiring?  Why sobering?  Let’s take the latter first.

These are deeply sobering words because they imply that, due to what is contained in “the whole counsel of God,” there may be sources of temptation to shrink from declaring to others the very content of these words.  More specifically, to declare the whole counsel of God requires that we overcome both the fears of external resistance, and the deep discomfort of internal inclinations, that lead us to seek to avoid disapproval by others.  In a word, we see that faithfulness to the whole counsel of God is an issue, at bottom, of the fear of God vs. the fear of man.  Whose approval do we most long to receive?  Whose opinion do we most value?  Whose assessment weighs in heaviest in our own hearts and souls.  (BTW, “most” and “heaviest” are important terms in these questions since it is simply impossible to care not at all—nor should we—about the opinions or assessments of others.  So, the question is not whether we care about what others think, but whose opinion and assessment matters to us the very most!  Here is a test of faithfulness to and worship of the true God vs. idolatry in the very ways we assess what others think about us).

But, why should this be?  What is it about “the whole counsel of God” that would elicit such fears and deep discomforts?  The answer is obvious once one considers the content of “the whole counsel of God” in contrast with the values, commitments, and moral sensibilities of the culture in which we live.  That word of God in its fullness contains many teachings and truths that are at one and the same time, glorious, beautiful, humbling, strengthening, and awe- and hope-inspiring, to those who have the eyes of faith, and also deeply offensive, seemingly foolish, and fully at odds with the zeitgeist and wisdom of our culture as it divines what is good and right and fulfilling.  Paul is conveying this notion when he speaks of the word of the cross as foolishness to those perishing but to us who are saved, it is the power of God and the wisdom of God (1 Cor 1:18-25).  Again, he speaks of the gospel as emitting one aroma which to some is the fragrance of life, whereas to another it is the stench of death (2 Cor 2:14-17).

Children Desiring God Blog // Bruce Ware QuoteBecause we live in a culture where what is truly (as God knows these to be) right, good, and wise is considered wrong, bad, and foolish, while what is truly (as God knows these to be) wrong, bad, and foolish is considered right, good, and wise – due to this sinful and Satanic (recall he excels in deception above all else) inversion of truth, faithfulness to proclaim the actual content of the Word of God is to invite scorn, ridicule, and rejection from the cultured despisers—Schleiermacher surely was correct here—of biblical religion.  Hence, there will inevitably arise within our hearts, as with the heart of the Apostle Paul, a temptation, even a stubborn inclination, to “shrink from declaring” what that word actually says and teaches—a betrayal of the truth that Schleiermacher and a host of subsequent liberals have done right down to the Brian McClarens and Rob Bells of our day.  So we are faced with one of the ultimate and most central questions of our lives as Christians and particularly as Christian ministers – will we fear man and so shrink, or will we fear God and so not shrink from declaring the whole counsel of God?  Choose this day whom you will serve.  We cannot not serve both the Word of God and the wisdom of men.

But Paul’s words, “. . . for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God,” are also deeply inspiring words, for they call to mind the story of a remarkably faithful while violently opposed life lived for the cause of Christ and his gospel.  Often when I read Paul’s description of the suffering he endured in his ministry of the gospel (see especially his record of affliction and opposition in 2 Cor 11:23-29) I call to mind also these words in Acts 20:27.  There is a connection between the two that should be obvious to all.  His was not the kind of affliction due to foolishness and sinfulness that Peter warns against (1 Pet 3:17b) but rather of the affliction that comes from the offense of the truth and doing what is right that Peter commends (1 Pet 3:13-17a).  It was his very not shrinking from declaring the whole counsel of God that resulted in the massive opposition, suffering, hardship, and agony that Paul endured.  Yet, because he knew with all of his heart that the truths which he taught and for which he suffered were life-giving and hope-building, he could suffer even with joy—recall this theme in his letter to the Philippians which he wrote from prison.  Indeed, because of the inestimable glory of this truth, he could even consider the fullness of his own suffering as merely “momentary, light affliction” (2 Cor 4:17) in contrast with the eternal weight of glory awaiting all who knew and embraced the wonders of the truths he faithfully taught from the whole counsel of God. Incredible. Almost unbelievable.  Yet, this indeed makes perfect sense because (but only because) Paul knew the words of truth he embraced as his own, the words of truth he proclaimed without compromise, the words of truth for which he suffered, were the very words of life.

Do you know the whole counsel of God as the very words of life?  Do you uphold and embrace every aspect of the whole counsel of God as God’s own word and words, and therefore as true and right and glorious and good?  Do you accept the inevitable opposition which comes with faithful proclamation of those words?  May God grant us hearts like the Apostle Paul’s, to proclaim with joy what may bring us opposition, knowing that, in the end, we await the words “well done” from the One who embraced and proclaimed the truth most faithfully, and who, as a result, suffered most fully.

Bruce A. Ware
Professor of Christian Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

2016 National ConferenceWe are excited to welcome Bruce Ware back for a third time as one of our keynote speakers at the Children Desiring God National Conference. He will expound on these issues and help us answer these questions as he teaches on Exploring the Fullness of the Whole Counsel of God. We hope you will join us April 14-16 in Indianapolis! Learn more and register now!

Free Fighter Verse Devotional for Your Family

The Fighter Verses Study

In yesterday’s post, I quoted Albert Mohler, who made a passionate plea for Christians to pursue serious Bible knowledge. Parents, here is crucial portion from Dr. Mohler’s words:

Parents are to be the first and most important educators of their own children, diligently teaching them the Word of God. [See Deuteronomy 6:4-9.] Parents cannot franchise their responsibility to the congregation, no matter how faithful and biblical it may be. God assigned parents this non-negotiable responsibility, and children must see their Christian parents as teachers and fellow students of God’s Word.

There are many good resources available to help parents “mine” the Word of God with their children. The new Fighter Verses Study Guide is one of these resources. How does it help in the mining process? Here is an example from Fighter Verse 4:

Part 1: In Awe of God

God’s Wisdom and Knowledge

Think about an incident or situation in which you or another person responded with amazement or awe, perhaps a time when you saw someone doing an amazing stunt. What caused that feeling of, “Wow, that is incredible!”? The apostle Paul had the same sense of awe, but for a totally different reason. This is how he expressed his awe:

Romans 11:33-36—Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! 34“For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” 35“Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” 36For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

  1. What is Paul in awe of? 

 

  1. What is the difference between wisdom and knowledge? 

 

Here is one illustration that shows the difference between knowledge and wisdom:

  • Knowledge is knowing that motorcycles can be dangerous. Wisdom is having the good sense to wear a helmet and to drive carefully.

Complete the “wisdom part” of the next few examples. 

  1. Knowledge is knowing that icy roads can be slippery. Wisdom is… 

 

  1. Knowledge is understanding that if you disobey your parents you will be punished. Wisdom is… 

 

  1. Knowledge is understanding that paint can stain a wooden table. Wisdom is…

 

Wisdom is taking your knowledge and making good decisions and right actions because of what you know. It is taking the information you have and making a good choice in what you do.

Paul understands that God has more than just knowledge. God uses the knowledge He has to make good decisions. That is why he says:

Romans 11:33b—How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

  1. What does unsearchable mean?

 

  • God’s judgments—or His decisions and plans—are so wise that we can’t even understand the goodness and rightness of them. They are “inscrutable” or mysterious to us.
  • We cannot clearly understand the ways of God. His understanding is so great that we wouldn’t understand an explanation of why God does what He does. We just wouldn’t “get it.”

 

  1. When we say, “Oh, my!” what does that mean? 

 

  1. What does Paul mean by the expression, “Oh, the depth…”?

 

  • “The depth” shows Paul’s amazement at the extent or the amount. He is in awe of how much wisdom and knowledge God has.

 

As you can see, the directed questions and comments slowly walk you through the text to discover the meaning.  But it doesn’t stop with this short example…Enjoy this passage further by downloading the entire week’s study material here. It’s filled with other helpful questions, explanations, illustrations, application, prayer points, etc. By God’s grace, you and your family will have a deeper and richer understanding of the passage, leading to a greater love and awe of God and desire to walk in His ways.

Now Available: The Fighter Verses Study!

The Fighter Verses Study

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

The Fighter Verses Study will help guide you through key Scripture passages and arm you with tools to strengthen your faith in Christ and equip you to fight the fight of faith. The study can be used as a family devotional, small group discussion or personal study. Thought provoking questions throughout each lesson will spur you on to dig deeper into Scripture as you support and encourage one another through the battles of life. The year-long study coordinates with the verses in Set One of the Fighter Verses Bible memory program.

Sample: The Fighter Verses Study, Set One

Scope & Sequence: The Fighter Verses Study, Set One

Order your own copy today!

 

The Fighter Verses Study Resources

THE FIGHTER VERSES DISCUSSION GUIDE

The Fighter Verses Discussion GuideFor Fathers, Small Group Leaders, Teachers, or Individuals

The Discussion Guide includes 52 lessons, each based on a verse or short passage. Lessons include an introduction to the context of the verse and two or three parts looking at different sections of the text. Each part includes questions that will lead you to a better understanding of the verses. These can be answered personally or discussed in a group. At the end of each part are application questions, prayer points, and an encouragement to journal and memorize the verse.

Also available in a 13-week Study.

 

THE FIGHTER VERSES STUDY GUIDE

The Fighter Verses Study GuideFor Study Participants or Individuals

The Study Guide includes the same main content for each of the 52 lessons found in the Discussion Guide. The Study Guide helps participants in a family or small group study ponder and understand each week’s Scripture passage through guided questions which can be answered personally and discussed as a group.

Also available in a 13-week Study.

 

THE FIGHTER VERSES COLORING BOOK

The Fighter Verses Coloring BookFor Children (Ages 2-102)

The Coloring Book gives children of all ages a visual representation of each of the 52 verses along with a key truth statement to focus on. This is a great resource to help younger children engage during a family or group discussion of the study and it encourages them memorize the verse along with the whole family. These original illustrations include a blend of powerful Bible stories brought to life; children in real-life, modern-day moments; and beautiful nature scenes.

Note: The Coloring Book can be used alongside The Fighter Verses Study, by children memorizing Fighter Verses, or by itself as an encouraging, Bible-based coloring resource for children.

THE FIGHTER VERSES JOURNAL

The Fighter Verses JournalTo Record Your Reflections, Insights, and Action Steps

Use the Journal in your personal quiet time with the Lord to reflect on the Fighter Verses and record truths that have made an impact on your life, actions steps you want to take, or how God is using the verses you memorize in your everyday life. The Journal sets aside two pages for each passage and includes the verse written out along with a short paragraph to explain the verse or challenge you as you study.

Note: The Journal can be used as an extension of The Fighter Verses Study or by individuals who are simply memorizing the Fighter Verses and want to incorporate it into their personal study or devotional times.

 

 

Coming Soon: The Fighter Verses Study

Fighter Verses

The Fighter Verses StudyDo you long to have the Word of God engraved on your soul; to be instructed, counseled, and convicted by Scripture; to have your worldview shaped by the Word, and not by the World? Memorizing the Word makes it possible to meditate on the Word, which carries the potential of shaping our thinking and our affections.

The Fighter Verses Study is a year-long devotional for families, small groups, classes and individuals. Each week’s lesson is based on a verse or short passage that will equip you to “fight the fight of faith.” A series of questions, which can be answered personally or discussed in a group, will lead you to a better understanding of the verses. You will be challenged with application questions, inspired by prayer points and encouraged to journal and memorize the passage. Verses line up with Set 1 of the Fighter Verses Bible Memory program.

The Fighter Verses Study will be released in November…stay tuned for more details in the next few weeks!

Learn more about The Fighter Verses Study

View the Study Sample

Read the Scope & Sequence

 

 

Now Available: God’s Gospel

God's Gospel family devotion book on salvation

We often think about what our children will inherit from those who have gone before them.

But what about the one inheritance that will last forever?

Christian parents have already faced the reality of their own sin, helplessness, and need for a Savior. And, though our young children’s lives often seem simpler than ours, their spiritual predicament is every bit as real. They are never too young to hear God’s good news for them as they face eternity–but as a parent, you may be wondering how to explain it to them in a way they can understand.

We are excited to announce the release of our favorite author’s first book. In God’s Gospel, Jill Nelson continues the Making HIM Known family devotional series as she demonstrates that even young children can learn about the gospel in full detail. This full color, illustrated book is perfect for parent to read with 5- to ten-year-old children. God’s Gospel has 26 chapters that are the perfect length for a family devotion time or one-on-one story time. Each chapter also includes several application questions along with an activity suggestion.

As you read through God’s Gospel, you and your children will discover God’s plan of salvation, starting with his very first designs for creation and moving through what went wrong, how important and hopeless our situation truly is, and what the wonderful news of our Savior’s sacrifice means for us.

Don’t just prepare your children for this life–prepare them for the one that matters most!

Take a look inside:

Read the First Chapter

View the Table of Contents

Order you own copy today!

 

You may also be interested God’s Word.

 

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