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Reading the Bible through the Right Lens

Children Desiring God Blog //  Reading the Bible through the Right Lens

If you have attended the preconference at one of our Children Desiring God national conferences, you probably remember the teaching emphasis that “the Bible is first and foremost a book about God.” This emphasis can revolutionize the way you teach the Bible to children. But, has it also revolutionized your time with God in the Word?

In her book, Women of the Word, Jen Wilkin talks about “getting things backward” in her reading of the Bible. She states, (more…)

Why Should Children Be Taught the Ten Commandments?

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Consider these words by Sally Michael from the preface of the curriculum, The Righteous Shall Live By Faith: A Study for Children and Adults on the Ten Commandments:

…studying the Ten Commandments is not old fashioned and need not be legalistic or boring. The Ten Commandments have much to teach us about our great and glorious God. They reflect to us the perfections of God and His heart for His people. They are the foundation of God’s moral law. They show His children how to “walk in all His ways.”

The Ten Commandments have been part of the religious education of Western countries for hundreds of years and have often been part of the public school curriculum. It is only recently that they have been considered “outdated.”

We are in great need of moral absolutes in the 21st Century. The Ten Commandments stand as God’s great moral absolutes to a confused and troubled world. The Ten Commandments are as relevant today as they were when God gave them to Moses on Mount Sinai.

But the Ten Commandments are not only pertinent to our moral instruction, they can also be an instrument of conversion. For it is in God’s perfect law that we see our depravity. Understanding the requirements of God’s law serves as a mirror to show us our total inability to meet those standards.

A drowning man must first see that he is drowning before he can appreciate a life preserver. John Piper, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, has said that you must see your plight before you can recognize the rescue. The Ten Commandments show us our plight. Faith in Jesus’ atoning death on the cross is our rescue.

“In days gone by, children learned the commandments before they learned John 3:16, because only then did John 3:16 have real meaning for them. Likewise, John Eliot’s first translation work among the Indians was not of John 3:16 but of the Ten Commandments, and he preached his first sermon on them. Did John Eliot think the Indians would be saved by the Ten Commandments? Of course not, but the commandments would show them why they needed to be saved—they were law-breakers, and they needed a law-keeper to be their substitute.” (Ernest C. Reisinger. “Whatever Happened to the Ten Commandments?”, copyright © 1999, page 5)

So rather than a study in legalism, the study of the Ten Commandments is refreshingly freeing from legalism. It shows us that we can never gain heaven through works of righteousness, and it points us to grace—the grace of God to undeserving, inadequate, depraved sinners! There is no greater news than this—and there is no greater freedom from legalism than the perfect righteousness of Jesus freely given to those who trust in Him.

The Ten Commandments become the mirror of our soul and then our expression of a redeemed heart. The redeemed heart—the heart of flesh that Ezekiel says replaces the heart of stone—overflows in its love of God and expresses itself in walking in the ways of His commandments.

“I will run in the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart!”—Psalm 119:32

Did you know that along with a curriculum on the Ten Commandments, CDG also has a corresponding Family Devotional Guide which you can find here?

Christmas That Lasts

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No matter what your Christmas celebration may have involved, and no matter whether it exceeded or fell short of your expectations, here is a powerful reminder from Pastor John MacArthur,

Christmas should be simple, not complex, very simple. Christmas should be stripped of all of its trappings so that all that is left is the simplicity of God becoming man.

That is the only element in the Christmas seasonal celebration that has in it any lasting power to effect life. There is no real strength, no real peace or comfort or hope or love or promise or confidence for the future to be found in Santa Claus. There’s no lasting value in any earthly (more…)

God Moves Kingdoms for the Sake of His People

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Here are some words of great comfort and encouragement from Pastor John Piper:

Have you ever thought what an amazing thing it is that God ordained beforehand that the Messiah be born in Bethlehem (as the prophecy in Micah 5 shows); and that he so ordained things that when the time came, the Messiah’s mother and legal father were living in Nazareth; and that in order to fulfill his word and bring two little people to Bethlehem that first Christmas, God put it in the heart of Caesar Augustus that all the Roman world should be enrolled each in his own town? (more…)

Free Christmas Lesson

12-13 Blog Post 300During the month of December, it is easy to get pulled in a million different directions…school programs, shopping, parties, decorating the tree, traveling, visiting family, wrapping gifts, building snowmen…but it can be difficult to find time to focus on the true reason for Christmas.

Our challenge for your family is to set aside an hour in the next two weeks to learn about the miraculous event of Jesus the Savior being born. In most Christmas stories, the focus is always on the tiny baby, wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. Children relate well to that vision of God as a small, touchable and knowable baby Jesus. But, it is not the end of God’s revelation of His Son. Baby Jesus will grow up into a Man, the perfect Son of God, and His obedience will lead Him to a most painful, undeserved death on the cross.

She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.—Matthew 1:21

To help you and you family focus on the bigger picture of Christmas, Children Desiring God is giving you a free copy of “Jesus the Savior is Born” which is a lesson in our revised version of Jesus, What a Savior. This lesson focuses on three main ideas:

  • God loves His people and desires to save them from their sin.
  • God was faithful to send Jesus as the promised Savior.
  • God reveals His greatness to humble people.

The free lesson can be downloaded as a PDF here: Jesus the Savior is Born. We pray it will be a blessing as you and your family celebrate our Savior this Christmas.

This free lesson includes the Lesson Material, Lesson Visuals, Student Workbook, Optional Activities and Growing in Faith Together pages. You may print out or make copies of this lesson for use in you home, church or school. Enjoy!

 

 

Encouraging Contentment at Christmas Time

This grandma almost “lost it” the other day. I was shopping with my daughter and grandchildren at IKEA. As I walked down the aisles with 2-year-old, David he kept repeating over and over and over again, “Cars and trucks. Cars and trucks…” It was his way of reminding me that he wanted grandma to find him and buy him a new car or truck (preferably both!). You see, it was not enough that he already had about a zillion cars and trucks at home—he wanted more. But grandma didn’t buy him another car or truck, and somehow he survived the day.

Every day is a challenge to teach our children (and ourselves) biblical contentment:

“…for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.”
(Philippians 4:11)

“But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.” (1 Timothy 6:8)

“Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.'” (Hebrews 13:5)

Christmas time presents even greater challenges for being content with what we have as we are bombarded with catalogs, billboards, commercials, and all manner of slick advertisements that entice us with the message: You need this in order to be happy. Therefore, as we move into this season, it might be a good time to give our children a refresher course on contentment by reminding them of these foundational truths:

    • Our possessions are from God, belong to God, and are under God’s authority.

“I am the LORD, who made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself,” (Isaiah 44:24b)

“…Whatever is under the whole heaven is mine.” (Job 41:11b)

“Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all.” (1 Chronicles 29:12)

    • God knows all of our needs and graciously provides for our needs.

“…for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (Matthew 6:8)

“…he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.” (Acts 17:25)

    • God is good to all and will not withhold any good thing from His children.

“The LORD is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.” (Psalm 145:9)

“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11)

    • Possessions are temporary and cannot truly satisfy us.

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal,” (Matthew 6:19)

“He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity.” (Ecclesiastes 5:10)

    • The desire for possessions may become a dangerous snare.

“…’Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.'” (Luke 12:15)

“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” (1 Timothy 6:10)

    • True contentment comes from knowing, loving, and trusting Jesus.

“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11)

“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ…” (Philippians 3:8)

The following are a few practical discussion ideas for applying these truths to the heart:

  • Read 1 Timothy 6:6-8. Did you bring anything into the world? Can you take anything with you when you die? What does verse 8 say that we should be content with? Why is this hard for us? If you lived in a very poor country where many people were starving, would it be easier to be content with having food? Why? How can you have this same attitude without having to be in that situation?
  • Do you often compare what you have with what others have? Why? Do you feel that you need what they have in order to be happy? Why? If and when you feel this way, what are you saying about what you think will make you truly happy? Is this what God tells us will make us happy? Is God your heavenly Father? Do you trust Him to provide for you all that you need in order to be happy? Read Matthew 7:7-11. What kinds of things do you ask God for? Why do you ask for these things? Do you believe that God wants to give you good gifts? Do you complain about the good things that God has already given you? Why is it sometimes hard to be thankful? Is it because God is stingy? Or is it because our hearts are not grateful? How could you focus on thankfulness to God this week?
  • Make a “Thank you” list to God for His many good gifts. What should a list like this remind us of? When feelings of wanting more and more “stuff” start to creep into your heart, do you stop to think about how generous God has already been to you? Do you thank Him for life and breath and everything else? How could stopping and remembering this help you to fight against feeling discontent with what you have?
  • Is God able to satisfy your every need? Therefore, if He withholds something from you, like having your own bedroom or a new iPad, is it because He isn’t able to provide you with those things? Why might God choose to withhold something from you? What better thing might God have for you? Give a concrete example of this.
  • Read Philippians 4:12-13. What is the “secret” of being content? Why does Paul say that it is a secret? Are secrets easy things to find out? No, they are to be “found out” by actively searching for them. Can you be content through your own strength? Why not? Whose strength must you depend on?
  • What is the hardest struggle you have when you think of earthly treasures? What kinds of things “feed” this feeling? What do commercials, movies, books, and store advertisements tell you is worth “laying up”? How can you protect yourself from this in some measure? Do you do this, or do you continue to feed your appetite for earthly treasures?
  • Have you ever received something that you were really happy and excited about? Did you feel as excited about it a week later? A month later? Two years later? Why not? What does this tell you about earthly treasures and the happiness they bring? Will this happen to heavenly treasures? Why not?

(Discussion ideas adapted from the CDG curriculum To Be Like Jesus: A Study for Children on Following Jesus.)

(Photo courtesy of blackstock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

The Story of Christmas—From the Beginning

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The following is very good reminder from Dr. Albert Mohler as we make preparations to share the Christmas story in our classrooms and homes:

So, where does the Christmas story begin? In the Gospel of John we read: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.” [John 1:1-3]

The prologue to John’s Gospel points to creation and to Christ, the divine Logos, as the agent of creation. Yet, with language drawn directly from Genesis, John begins his gospel “in the beginning.”

In other words, the Christmas story begins before the creation of the world. As we celebrate Christmas and contemplate the Christmas story, we must be very careful not to begin the story in Bethlehem, or even in Nazareth, where Mary was confronted by Gabriel with the message that she would be the mother of the Messiah.

We must not even begin with Moses and the prophets, and with the expectation of the coming Son of Man, the promised Suffering Servant, and the heralded Davidic Messiah. We must begin before the world was created and before humanity was formed, much less fallen.

Why is this so important? Put simply, if we get the Christmas story wrong, we get the Gospel wrong. Told carelessly, the Christmas story sounds like God’s “Plan B.” In other words, we can make the Christmas story sound like God turning to a new plan, rather than fulfilling all that he had promised. We must be very careful to tell the Christmas story in such a way that we make the gospel clear.

Excerpt from Dr. Mohler’s article, “Where Does the Story of Christmas Begin?.”

Traditions and Our Children

I have really enjoyed Noël Piper’s book Treasuring God in Our Traditions . As the holidays are fast upon us, I would highly recommend this resource for every family. Noël not only gives great ideas for celebrating “especially” traditions like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and birthdays, but she also discusses the importance “everyday” traditions that help point our children God-ward. Here is an excerpt:

You shall teach [God’s words] to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. (Deuteronomy 11:19)

When I get caught up in the biography of a person I admire, my family hears all about this person for days. Whatever someone says seems to remind me of some  event in her life. So mealtime conversations are filled with stories that flow from my own fascination. As we are filling our hearts and souls with God’s Word, what will be more natural than the same sort of spillover onto our family?

But are we really talking about tradition here? Isn’t this passage about teaching and about God’s Word? Yes, and one of the main features of traditions is repetition. Of course, we wouldn’t say that sitting or walking or lying down or rising up, no matter how frequently they’re repeated, are traditions. But those activities represent the things that we do most often, and they are named as reminders to do the most crucial thing we can do for our children—teach them the words of God. God wants us to remember to see him in the most mundane parts of our lives. And what we see, he wants us to talk about with our children. When that level of significance is added to the ordinary repetitions of life, a tradition is created.

Sitting, walking, lying down, and rising up are so insignificant that we don’t even give them a thought. But I pray that my children will look back at “insignificant” times and ask each other, “Remember trying to catch Mom and Dad before they got up in the morning so we could snuggle with them, and how lots of times Daddy prayed out loud before we all got out of bed?” or “Remember when we asked questions, and somehow the answers always came back to God?”

Things like that don’t just happen. They come first from our own hearts that are tuned in to God. Then they happen because we plan to include our children in the God-air we breathe. Without planning, we’ll practice our Bible memory just once or twice and then no more. We’ll do lots of good things, but only a couple of times. One of the great strengths of good traditions in our lives is the repetition—not something done once, then something else, then another thing altogether, but good things done regularly, dependably, until they become habits.

(Taken from Treasuring God in Our Traditions by Noël Piper, © 2003, pages 24-25. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.org)

What Our Children Should Understand About Work

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Today is Labor Day in the United States, and you might want to consider using it as an opportunity to instruct your children about a biblical view of labor. Here is a quote from famous English author Dorothy Sayers that could serve as an interesting discussion starter:

The only Christian work is good work well done. Let the Church see to it that the workers are Christian people and do their work well, as to God: then all the work will be Christian work, whether it is Church embroidery or sewage-farming.

And here are three main ideas for further study and discussion:
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Fall Gear Up: Prayer—What if…

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In his booklet Utter Dependency on God, Through PrayerPastor Bud Burk beckons us to consider some “what if” questions regarding prayer in our classrooms. Here are a few of his “what if…”

What if the prayer environment in our classrooms (like Sunday school) was real and growing to the degree that parents began to ask a second question next to the first after each class time, the first being “what did you learn today”? What if they began asking questions like, “were you with God today—did you spend time with Jesus—what did the Spirit say to you while in prayer and in the Word”?

What if children knew that we expected God to be present in our classroom, because our expectation shaped how we prayed while among them?

What if the ministry to the next generation God has placed you in was known for its obvious God-glorifying

  • Word ministry: We teach children the Bible.
  • Prayer ministry: We help children listen to and pray to the God of the Bible in Jesus’ name.
  • What if your ministry could be summarized by Psalm 119:2, “Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart,”?

(more…)

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