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The Joyful Responsibility of Discipling Our Children

Parents desire many things to be true of our children as they grow and mature. For example, we want our children to be loving, respectful, caring, productive, motivated, resilient, happy, and more. All are good things and worthwhile goals and require some measure of our time and attention as we instruct and train our children toward these goals. But consider these words:

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.—3 JOHN 1:4

This simple statement can serve to orient all of our parenting. More than anything else, our children need to know, embrace, and walk in the truth—the truth of God. The truth revealed in His Word has the power to make them wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ—the truth that all-satisfying and everlasting joy is found in Him alone, the truth that saving faith will be evidenced by a life that submits to the Savior and walks in His ways. This goal and aim is reflected in Truth78’s Vision Statement:

Truth78 is a vision-oriented ministry for the next generations—that they may know, honor, and treasure God, setting their hope in Christ alone, so that they will live as faithful disciples for the glory of God.

If parents are to pursue this God-glorifying vision for our children, we must make sure to carefully prioritize and maximize our children’s spiritual instruction. While there is an important and God-ordained role for the wider body of Christ (the church) in biblical instruction, parents have the primary responsibility and the greatest opportunity to influence their children’s spiritual development. (See Deuteronomy 6:4-9.)  

I don’t think there’s a mandate to be found in sacred Scripture that is more solemn than this one. That we are to teach our children the truth of God’s Word is a sacred, holy responsibility that God gives to His people. And it’s not something that is to be done only one day a week in Sunday school. We can’t abdicate the responsibility to the church. The primary responsibility for the education of children according to Scripture is the family, the parents.1

R.C. SPROUL

One thing that often hinders parents in this regard is the pressure of competing demands on our time and energy. These are valid concerns. But consider for a moment these thoughts from Pastor Chap Bettis: 

“Where does discipling my child fit with the other priorities?” Surrounding us are parents making superhuman sacrifices for their children’s soccer practice, hockey practice (5 a.m. ice time?), academic progress, and music lessons (two instruments at the same time?). We can be tempted to follow them. While we may give lip service to discipling our children, the reality comes when we start prioritizing activities.

The apostle John expressed his heart for his spiritual children when he wrote, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 4). Here lies the crux of the matter: The first battleground of family discipleship is not my child’s heart—it is my heart. Each parent must decide whether he is more concerned that his child be accepted into Heaven, or “Harvard.” We all have “Harvards”—those worldly successes we desire for our children, but the question remains, “Which is most important to me?” Each parent must finish the sentence “I have no greater joy than…”

I would emphasize here that the challenge of priorities is often not the good versus the bad, rather, the good versus the better. Given a finite amount of time, energy, and money, what will you choose?2

CHAP BETTIS

As parents, our first priority must be our desire for our children’s spiritual development. Then we can order our time and energies accordingly. One way to do this is to establish a regular time of formal biblical instruction in the home through family devotions. 

Family Devotions Basics

At its core, family devotions simply involve setting aside a designated time in family life in which to be devoted to God together. Along with reading, interacting with, and instruction from the Scriptures, families often include a time of prayer, a response of worship (singing), and personal application.  

Truth78 Devotional Resources

Most families find it helpful to use published devotional materials designed specifically for families. At Truth78, we currently offer a variety of devotional resources to use in the family.

The Teaching Philosophy and Methodology of Truth78 Devotional Resources

We believe that there is an important progression involved in encouraging our children for a life of faith in Christ. To put it very succinctly: MIND HEART WILL. Children must first be presented with biblical truth for their minds to absorb, ponder, and understand. Knowledge of God and His Word is the essential first step for faith (Romans 10:17). You cannot trust, love, and act upon what you do not know. Next, that truth must go beyond mere knowledge. It must reach and transform the heart so that children might truly embrace, cherish, and love the truth—specifically love of God through faith in Christ. Finally, this love will affect the will as it comes under submission to Christ, producing decisions, choices, words, and actions that are pleasing to God. 

While we must fully acknowledge that only God can bring about this Spirit-wrought, grace-dependent transformation, we believe that it is our responsibility to guide, inspire, and implore our children to make a personal and sincere response to God’s truth in their minds, hearts, and will. Therefore, our devotional resources are designed to instruct the mind, engage their hearts, and influence the will.

Practical Tips for Family Devotion Times

For some, especially those who grew up in the absence of family devotion time, leading family devotions can feel intimidating and stressful. But there are also a variety of things that you can do to create a more conducive environment for your family.

  • Have a regularly scheduled (and child-friendly) time for devotions. 
  • Keep track of time—stretch your child’s attention span, but don’t exasperate them. 
  • It is preferred that (if possible) the father should lead the devotional time. 
  • Choose a regular place in your home—one with as few distractions as possible (no TV, etc.). 
  • Begin your time with prayer. 
  • Put any and all electronic devices (e.g. phones, tablets) out of reach. 
  • End in prayer. 
  • In order to motivate a younger child’s attentiveness, consider following your devotional time with a special snack or dessert.

1. From, “The Most Solemn Mandate in the Bible for Parents”, ligonier.org.
2. Bettis, Chap. The Disciple-Making Parent: A Comprehensive Guidebook for Raising Your Children to Love and Follow Jesus Christ. (Cumberland, Rhode Island: Diamond Hill Publishing, 2016), 17.

Four Resources for Moms as Disciplers of Their Children

I thoroughly enjoy watching my daughter and daughter-in-law in the throes of motherhood. There is never a dull moment! But amidst all the busyness – a good busyness – my hope and prayer for them and myself is that we not lose sight of what is most important in our mothering: To acquaint our children with the Scriptures so that, by God’s grace, they will be made wise for salvation in Christ and be equipped for every good work, all for His glory. In 2 Timothy 3:14-17, Paul reminds Timothy of the spiritual influence of his mother Eunice and grandmother Lois,

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:14-17).

Mothering with this aim in mind is both a wonderful privilege and serious responsibility. It will require us to provide our children with faithful biblical instruction as well as modeling grace-dependent Gospel-living. I love the way Charles Spurgeon encouraged mothers more than 100 years ago,

O 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)

At Truth78, our mission is to nurture the faith of the next generations by equipping the church and home with resources and training that instruct the mind, engage the heart, and influence the will through proclaiming the whole counsel of God. This includes equipping moms. Following are some resources that will serve moms as they nurture the faith of their children, including several booklets that could be included in a Mother’s Day gift:

  • Wife, Mother, Disciple-Maker
    Our vision of motherhood will shape our attitude, our actions, our influence, and the outcome of our mothering. Christian mothers are God’s ambassadors to their children, called to the ministry of reconciliation and discipleship. In this video, Sally unfolds a biblical vision for mothering and gives some practical suggestions for being effective ambassadors in our homes.
  • Mothers: The Disciplers of the Next Generations
    Mothering is a great work; a God-given opportunity to influence the next generations to put their trust in God. This booklet will challenge you to look on your mothering with a biblical perspective, to seize the opportunities God gives you each day to encourage faith in you children, and to rely on Him as your Sin-bearer and Enabler to do the great work He has called you to do.
  • Helping Children to Understand the Gospel
    This booklet explores how you can prepare the hearts of your children to hear the Gospel; discerning stages of spiritual growth; communicating the essential truths of the Gospel; and presenting the Gospel in an accurate and child-friendly manner. Includes a 10-week family devotional to help parents explain the Gospel to their children.
  • Praying for the Next Generations
    What kind of legacy do you want to leave for your children? Sally Michael encourages you to consider the spiritual inheritance you can give to the next generation through your faithful prayers. In this booklet, she equips you with a method for using Scripture to pray for your child, grandchild, or the children in your church.

Why “Truth78”?

Truth78 // Why Truth78

Yes, it’s official! Children Desiring God has a new name: Truth78. But in all honesty, I need to confess that this surprisingly “simple” name did not jump out at us quickly. Our leadership and staff spent months considering dozens of possibilities, but slowly, we all became convinced that Truth and 78 best represented our ministry’s heart, vision, and mission.

TruthThese words from John Piper, spoken at our 2011 National Conference, reflect why we landed upon “Truth” in our new name.

If one of the greatest tragedies for children in our age is the attitude that there is no such thing as truth, or that it doesn’t matter, then one of the greatest blessings we can give to children is the passionate conviction that there is such a thing as truth and that it matters at every point in life and eternally.

What is the sum of truth we want the next generation to be passionate about? The answer is: the Bible, with Jesus Christ the incarnate Word at the center. This is the sum of Truth.

The God who made everything, knows everything, controls everything, and has a purpose for everything—this God has spoken to us. He has not left us without the revelation of his will. He has not left us without wisdom. He has not left us without unfathomable knowledge, that none of us ever exhausts. He has not left us without a full and sufficient revelation of the way of salvation, the way of everlasting joy. He has not left us without a way to measure the truth claims of every life-shaping question we face. This is simply a priceless legacy for our children.

(From the message, The Sum of Your Word Is Truth, March 20, 2011.)

What about the 78? If you have ever heard Pastor David Michael share his vision for the faith of the next generations, he often (almost always, in fact) refers to Psalm 78. Here is an excerpt by David and Sally Michael from “A Heart for Ministering to Parents and Children,” a vision booklet written when David assumed his new role as a Pastor for Children and Family Discipleship back in 1996. (more…)

Chicken Soup for Children’s Ministry

Children Desiring God Blog // Chicken Soup for Children's Ministry

I don’t know about your family, but our family has been hit hard with the cold and flu season this year. We are tired and worn out! So I really appreciated the day my good friend Linda showed up at our door with some homemade chicken soup. Oh how good and soothing that soup was! Her thoughtfulness made us feel very loved and cared for. Encouragement from others goes a long way.

In children’s ministry, there are times we, too, need “chicken soup.” We need the “food” of biblical encouragement—words that soothe our souls, cheer our hearts, and build up our strength and resolve to persevere, especially during the hard times. We need to be reminded that the work we are doing, when done for the Lord and in His power, is never in vain. (more…)

Dripping Bible for the Next Generation

Children Desiring God Blog // Dripping Bible for the Next Generation

Recently, my husband and I were driving with four of our grandchildren. While waiting at a particularly long traffic light, Grandma (me) had finally had enough. “Stupid traffic light!” I muttered, none too softly. A while later, we sat at another traffic light. This time I kept my mouth shut. But in the backseat, 2-year-old Nate filled the void, saying, “Stupid traffic light!” He went home knowing a new phrase to say when waiting for traffic lights. (Won’t his mommy and daddy be glad!) He simply heard and repeated what Grandma had said. Grandma has a problem. Grandma spoke out of a grumbling, sinful heart.

Imagine for a moment if I had said something like this instead:

1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “give thanks in all circumstances;” even for long waits at traffic lights,for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (more…)

When a Child Goes Astray

Children Desiring God Blog // When A Child Goes Astray

Long ago and far away, I had this little equation in my parenting mind: If we do all the right spiritual ABCs with our children, then God will bring about saving faith in their young lives (by 7 years old)…and just like that, in no time at all, our children will become faithful, fruitful followers of Jesus, doing great things for the kingdom by the time they are 12! That’s the way it’s supposed to work, right? Needless to say my little “salvation equation” for my children was naïve, to say the least! Real-life experience showed a more complicated path. Sometimes that path was confusing, heartbreaking, and even terrifying.

Here are some words from Kim Shay that I found really heartfelt and hope-filled for parents who are experiencing concern over their child’s spiritual condition:

In a perfect world, Christian parents would teach their children the gospel, and it would be embraced quickly, and without incident. Children would go seamlessly from childhood to godly adulthood without a blip on the screen.
As we know, we don’t live in a perfect world. And the reality is that good Christian parents raise children who give them some sleepless nights and break their hearts. I know what that is like. If you have children who never gave you a moment’s trouble, praise God for it! But for those of us who have had children who stray or struggle in their faith, it can be extremely painful. We feel shame and guilt. We may feel anger. But we must not despair. For those who may be in the midst of that kind of season, here are some thoughts.
(more…)

Bible Reading Tips for Kids

Children Desiring God Blog // Bible Reading Tips for Kids

Bible reading plans for kids are great resources to help your children develop the habit of daily Bible reading. (See last week’s post here.) But along with a reading plan, here is a crucial reminder from Sally Michael for you to share with your children before they begin:

…you can read the Bible with your mind only and walk away with just information. You may know a little more, but it hasn’t changed you. You can also read the words but harden your heart against their convicting and healing power.

We are blind to the truth in God’s Word. Without the help of the Holy Spirit, we will read words but we won’t see spiritual truth. We are unable to open our hearts to the power of the Word of God. We desperately need God’s help.

(more…)

Encouraging Your Children to Read the Bible In 2018

Children Desiring God Blog // Encouraging Your Children to Read the Bible

A new year is soon upon us and, for many adults, it is a time to begin a new Bible reading plan for 2018. But what about your children? Do you have an age-appropriate plan for them? Are you helping them to include Bible reading as a regular, daily, beneficial habit? David Murray has an excellent post regarding this. He starts the post with this question:

“How can I get my kids to read the Bible for themselves?” I’ve been asked that by many frustrated Christian parents. I’ve asked it myself!…Here’s what I’ve learned from my own experience and from talking with many parents and pastors.

He then outlines six ways to encourage your children in Bible reading:

  • Make it a priority.
  • Make it a joy.
  • Make it a habit.
  • Make it do-able.
  • Make it accountable.
  • Make it Gospel-centered.

(more…)

Celebrating the Miraculous Time of Christmas

Children Desiring God Blog // Celebrating the Miraculous Time of Christmas

It’s often said that Christmas is a “magical” time for children. But a more accurate description should be that Christmas is a “miraculous” time as we ponder the miracle of the incarnation. So as we think and plan toward how we will teach about and celebrate Christmas with the children in our home and church, let us consider the importance of the doctrine of the incarnation. Consider these words from Jared Wilson from his article “The Christmas Miracle of the Incarnation of the Omnipresent Word.”

Every year at this time as we celebrate the birth of baby Jesus to the virgin Mary, I don’t suppose it occurs to too many merrymakers that what they’re really celebrating is the Incarnation. All of the other miracles are in service of that central miracle: God became man. And in becoming, through Spiritual conception, the man Jesus of Nazareth, the Word of God did not cease to be God. Baby Jesus, from the moment of conception to the straw habitation of the manger, was fully God and fully man. That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.

(more…)

Thanking God for the Life and Ministry of R.C. Sproul

Children Desiring God Blog // Thanking God for the Life and Ministry of RC Sproul

My early 20s were marked by a spiritual tsunami of sorts. It came about as I read The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul. God graciously used that book as a means to destroy my old, drab perceptions of who God is and what He is like. Sadly, even though I had been raised in the church my entire childhood and youth, I had not been taught the matchless splendor of God’s holiness. Sproul’s book was my first real exposure to the majestic holiness of God, a God who is worthy of all love, reverence, obedience, praise, and glory. And with that grand vision of the holiness of God, everything began to change. The authority of Scripture, character of God, depth of my depravity, essence of Christ’s redeeming work, and life in union with Christ, all came into clearer focus and have impacted every aspect of my life. (more…)

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