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Helping Our Children Learn to Be Content

Helping Our Children to Be Content

Years ago, several of us from Children Desiring God had the great privilege of going to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to visit with our ministry partners there. As many know, Ethiopia is one of the poorest countries in the world. For those of us accustomed to western prosperity, it was an eye-opening and heart-transforming experience. One day of our visit we were taken on a walk through an area of the city that was built around the garbage dump—with people making their “living” by what could be gleaned from the trash. We saw dozens of children that day, including a group of children in tattered clothes playing with an old, dirty ball. What I found amazing about these children were the smiles on their faces and their giggles and laughs as they played together.

I wonder:  Would my grandchildren be content in this situation?

Would my children? Would I?…Honestly, would I be able to say with Paul,

 …for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:11-13 ESV) (more…)

Godward Recognition for Bible Memory

Godward Recognition for Bible Memory

Incentives. Prizes. Class recognition. All are legitimate ways to encourage and reward students for Bible memory. In my first-grade class, we always took a few moments every week to encourage Bible memory and acknowledge children who had memorized verses in the past week. We also took time to celebrate special milestones, such as when a child had memorized 25 verses. That said, there are some careful considerations I think we should take into account with all of the above.  Depending on our manner and tone, we can either serve to encourage God-honoring thankfulness, or self-centered pride. As much as possible, I want to foster the former, and not the latter.

Here is an example of what I mean by this: Suppose you want to recognize a child in your class for memorizing 10 verses. Along with this recognition and maybe even rewarding him or her with a small prize, consider saying a prayer of thanksgiving and encouragement such as… (more…)

A Good Reminder this Christmas

A Good Reminder This Christmas

Over the years, our family has made some drastic changes in how we celebrate Christmas in regard to gifts—a lot fewer “things” under the tree, tighter budgets, spiritually beneficial resources, homemade gifts, choosing a charity to give to, thrift store and garage sale finds, etc. And it has been wonderful for everyone involved! Here is a great reminder from Randy Alcorn:

Consider the typical American Christmas. When the annual obstacle course through crowded malls culminates on the Big Day, what’s the fruit? We find a trail of shredded wrapping paper and a pile of broken, abandoned, and unappreciated toys. Far from being filled with a spirit of thankfulness for all that Christmas means, the children are grabby, crabby, picky, sullen, and ungrateful—precisely because they’ve been given so much. (more…)

What Happened to Their “Faith”?

What Happened to Their "Faith"?

The older I get, the more I have seen this and wept. Sadly, too many of the students I once taught 15 and even 20 years ago have abandoned any pretense of the Christian faith. The great majority of these students grew up with godly Christian parents. What’s a parent to do? What’s the church to do? Last week Tim Challies had an important post, “Why Christian Kids Leave the Faith.”

Few things are sadder to witness than people who once professed faith leaving it all behind. This is especially true when those people were raised in Christian homes by God-fearing parents. These children were given every opportunity to put their faith in Jesus but determined instead to turn their backs on him. Why would they make such a tragic choice?

What Happened to Their "Faith"Several years ago Tom Bisset carried out a study of people who had left the faith. Wanting this to be more than a statistical analysis, he actually sat down with people to interview them and ask for detailed information on when, why, and how they abandoned their faith. As he compiled his research he arrived at the four most prominent reasons that people raised in Christian homes eventually leave Christianity behind.

• They leave because they have troubling, unanswered questions about the faith.
• They leave because their faith is not working for them.
• They leave because they have allowed other things to take priority.
• They leave because they never personally owned their faith.

…As parents we are to commit ourselves to the task of raising our children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord, to teach them the facts of the faith, to show how it answers our questions and meets our needs, to insist that the good news of the gospel must be personally apprehended. We do what God calls us to do, we do it to the best of our abilities, and we entrust the results—and our children—to God’s good providence.

whychristiankidsrebelA book I would recommend for parents is Tim Kimmel’s Why Christian Kids Rebel: Trading Heartache for Hope. Even if your children have not rebelled or shown any indication of rejecting the faith, this book has some very helpful biblical counsel for all parents to consider and implement in their parenting.

 

 

8 Practical Ideas for a Purposeful Thanksgiving

8 Practical Ideas for a Purposeful Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is tomorrow and many of you have probably spent hours cleaning your home for company, preparing the perfect turkey, planning a dozen side dishes, setting a beautiful table or traveling across country to grandma and grandpa’s house. But, have you spent any time planning how your family is going to worship God during your Thanksgiving day.

Here are eight practical ideas requiring little to no preparation to help your family have a purposeful holiday as you thank God for the blessings he has given you.

1. Anticipated Thanksgivings

This is one our staff loves to do together each year. Look back at your year and reflect on three to five things you are thankful for. Next, create a list of 3-5 anticipated thanksgivings—specific things you are committing to praying for over the coming year with the hope that next Thanksgiving, you can praise God for the answered prayers. Be sure to capture everyone’s answers (possibly in a journal or create a small booklet) so you can be reminded to pray throughout the year and down the road you can look back to see the evidences of God’s grace in your family’s life over the years.

2. Verses of Praise

Have your children create place cards for each person coming to Thanksgiving. On the back, have them write out a verse of praise for each guest to read during the meal. Great Thanksgiving verses to start with include: 1 Chronicles 16:8-9; Psalm 7:17; Psalm 79:13; Psalm 86:12-13; Psalm 100:4-5; Psalm 106:1; Acts 17:24-25; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Philippians 4:6-7; Colossians 3:15-17; and 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.

3. Hymn Sing

Close dinner with a short hymn sing. A newer favorite by Keith and Kristyn Getty is My Heart Is Filled with Thankfulness or sing For the Beauty of the Earth, a classic hymn by Folliot Pierpoint and Conrad Kocher.

4. Look Deeper

When thinking of what we are thankful for, it is easy to focus on the practical—family, friends, a warm home, good food or fun toys. While these are all wonderful things we can thank God for providing, take time to help your children think deeper to what they have been learning about God in family devotions or Sunday school. Encourage your children to think of an attribute of God, name of God, promise God has given us, Bible story or other truth they have learned that they are thankful for. Or, have your children recite Bible verses they are thankful to have treasured in their hearts.

5. Centered on Thanks

While you are waiting for the turkey to bake, work as a family to create a special centerpiece focused on thanks. If you have a pumpkin, take turns writing what you are thankful for on the pumpkin with a sharpie (a gold sharpie looks great on a white pumpkin). Or, cut out tags or leaves to write on and hang them on a garland or small tree. If you have a kids table at your family celebration, cover it with paper and supply the kids with markers or crayons to color pictures of what they are thankful for.

6. Nature Walk

After dinner, go for a family nature walk and look for things in creation that show the greatness of God. Thank God for creating the items you find from the biggest and most beautiful to the smallest or most simple.

7. Read the Easter Story

No, I did not get my holidays mixed up. The greatest gift we have ever been offered is the gift of salvation. Spend time reading about the crucifixion from the Bible or a children’s story book. Thank Jesus for taking the sacrifice for our sins and giving us the gift of eternal life.

8. Plan a Family Service Project for Christmas

As your family spends the day reflecting on all of the blessings you are thankful for, think about how you can share the overflow of your blessing with others during the upcoming Christmas season. Spend time as a family discussing a service project you could do together to help people in need. Here are some ideas for blessing friends, neighbors and those in need: go caroling at a local nursing home, volunteer at a local ministry, donate supplies to a crisis pregnancy center or food shelf, make a meal for new parents, include international students or someone with no local family into your Christmas plans, shovel your neighbors sidewalks, bake cookies for friends who need some extra encouragement or decide to set aside money from your family’s gift budget and donate it to a missionary family or international ministry.

Do you have any family traditions that help you focus on the goodness of the Lord in your lives? How do you share your thanksgivings? We would love to have you share those in the comments below.

They Need More than a Cheerleader

They Need More Than a Cheerleader

Melissa Kruger wrote this article for her sisters in Christ, but it also hit home to me as a teacher, parent, and grandparent. The same tendency to reduce Jesus to the role of spiritual cheerleader in ministries and resources aimed at women can easily, and oh so subtly, begin to pervade our children’s Sunday school classrooms and our parenting.

Please, please read the entire article, “Sisters, Jesus Is Not Your Cheerleader” in order to properly understand what she is saying and what she is not saying. As you read this excerpt from the article, think about how her points readily apply to teaching children and parenting in general.

They Need More Than a CheerleaderAnd, to be clear, Jesus does encourage. He offers words of strength to the weary and comfort to the hurting. In a world where we so often feel we don’t measure up, we need his encouragement daily. By focusing on only part of his message, however, I’m concerned that we’ve reduced Jesus to a spiritual cheerleader. And, in turn, that’s what we’ve become to one another. We offer words of affirmation, but not rebuke; words of forgiveness, but not repentance. We rightly celebrate his grace, but often forget to mourn our sin.

In doing so, we miss out on life-giving realities in our relationship with Jesus and one another. It’s the friends willing to call me out in my sin and say hard things whom I trust the most. They’re the ones I return to time and again for advice and wisdom—precisely because they recognize that who I am isn’t all I need to be.

Jesus speaks to us in a variety of ways—he teaches, commands, rebukes, calls, and exhorts. When we reduce Jesus to our personal rah-rah section in the bleachers, we miss out on the faithful friend we so desperately need. If you’re mainly hearing “you’re great!” (cue Tony the Tiger) from your devotional or women’s ministry, I invite you back to God’s Word, where we hear the voice of Jesus in a diversity of ways.

(www.thegospelcoalition.org)

Questions to ask in regard to our children’s and youth ministries in particular:

  • Do the resources we use—curriculum and other books—present the variety of ways that God speaks to us in His Word in a balanced way? Do they continually point to the greatness of God, or do they tend to make much of us instead?
  • In teaching children, does my teaching style tend toward the “rah-rah, you’re great” in an unhealthy and unbiblical way? How can I take steps to have a more balanced and biblical approach? (It’s possible to also teach with the other extreme—too little exhorting or encouraging. This is also unhealthy and unbiblical.
  • For my own devotional life, do I carefully select materials that bring me to God’s Word in such a way that I see the whole counsel of God being communicated through a diversity of commands, rebukes, calls, and exhortations? How can doing so better help me as a parent and teacher?

 

They Will Worship

51r089y1dml-_sx330_bo1204203200_Here is a great reminder from Tedd Tripp:

Parenting is not just providing good input. It is not just creating a constructive home atmosphere and positive interaction between a child and his parent. There is another dimension. The child is interacting with the living God. He is either worshiping and serving and growing in understanding of the implications of who God is or he is seeking to make sense of life without a relationship with God.

If he is living as a fool who says in his heart there is no God, he doesn’t cease to be a worshipper—he simply worships what is not God. Part of the parent’s task is to shepherd him as a creature who worships, pointing him to the One who alone is worthy of his worship.

(Shepherding a Child’s Heart, copyright©1995, page 22)

This is our heartfelt desire at CDG—we want to assist parents and churches by creating resources that point children toward the incomparable greatness and worth of God, with the hope and prayer that they become God worshipers. We long to point the next generation to Jesus, so that they might come love and trust Him as the only One who saves and satisfies the desires of the heart.

By God’s grace may our children join in this everlasting song:

“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!”

 “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”

(Revelation 4:8b,11 ESV)

 

The Holy Weight of Teaching Divine Truths

744px-constitution_of_the_united_states_page_1

The United States Constitution, ratified on June 21, 1788

Years ago my family visited the National Archives. There, in the main rotunda, housed under heavy glass and dim lights, you can view the United States Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights—documents that changed the course of history. We approached these documents with a sense of somber reflection, understanding something of the lofty ideals and great sacrifices behind the words. However, that somber reflection was rudely interrupted by a group of junior high students joking with their friends, running and goofing around, totally oblivious to the documents they had supposedly come to see. Apparently no one had taught them about an appropriate decorum when in the presence of weighty things.

Weighty things…I have spent the past two months writing lessons for children. Consider some of the topics: God’s holiness and righteousness, sin and judgment, the Gospel, justification, sanctification, submission to Christ, living in a manner pleasing to the Lord…All are topics of utmost, eternal importance for our children—the difference between heaven and hell, their everlasting joy or everlasting misery. These are no trifling matters. These topics, all revealed in God’s Word, are the weightiest things in the universe.

This is a constant reminder for me: Teaching children involves a holy weight. It is holy because our teaching is meant to point to and reflect the holiness of God—the one true God who is utterly unique, one-of-kind, beyond compare, majestic, and perfect in every way. It is a weight because the things we teach are meant to land on the heart, mind, and will with an appropriate seriousness meant to encourage life-transforming impact that is honoring to a holy God. We are dealing with divine priceless truths! This is true whether we are teaching 2 year olds or 12 year olds.

This changes the way I prepare a lesson, the way I pray over a lesson, and the way I present a lesson.

Does that mean there is no room for creative fun in the classroom? Are engaging illustrations out-of-bounds? Do lessons need to be presented in a drab, somber tone, and never with joyful exuberance? No, I am not suggesting any of this. I believe our curriculum has attempted to strike an appropriate balance in this regard. We use numerous, age-appropriate, child-appealing, illustrations and visuals in our lessons, but all are designed to help and encourage our students to grow in their understanding of and reverence for the triune God and the amazing gift of salvation offered in Jesus Christ. These are divine, priceless truths indeed! Let’s strive to teach our students in such a way that they learn an appropriate decorum when in the presence of weighty things!

Supporting Missionary Kids from the Classroom: Brothers, Pray for Us

Supporting Missionary Kids from the Classroom: Brothers, Pray for Us

What is a missionary? Where do they live? What are they doing in a different country? Are their kids like me? Why do we need to pray for missionaries?

Can the children in your Sunday school classes answer these questions?

For many children, it is hard to understand the world outside their city, let alone in a different country. As teachers and parents, we have the opportunity to instill a passion in our children to spread the Gospel to others in their everyday life and to over 1200 unreached people groups around the world. As the church, we have the honor of sending and supporting missionaries along with their children.

One way to combine these goals of educating the children in our church and supporting our missionary families is to adopt missionary kids into the classroom to get to know them, learn more about their family’s ministry and consistently support them in prayer.

To start with, find out which missionary families your church supports and what grades their children are in.

  • If you are in a larger church with multiple missionary kids in each grade, assign one or two to each small group. This helps the students in your class build deeper relationships with the missionary kids and focus their prayers.
  • If you only have a few missionary kids, you could pray for each child as a class.
  • If there are no missionary kids in your grade, consider adopting a missionary without children who could use some extra encouragement. Or, choose an unreached people group or country to focus learning about and praying for.

It can be helpful to choose a team member in your class to champion this project and be the main communicator with the missionary families. Have them contact the missionaries to welcome the missionary kids into your class and begin getting to know the families. Be sure to sign up for their regular prayer letters or email updates so you have the latest information on how to support the families.

Supporting Missionary Kids from the Classroom: Brothers, Pray for UsPrayer is one of the easiest and most important ways to support missionary families. Some general prayers that all missionaries need include: for the Gospel to be spread through their ministry, that they will be protected from the attacks of Satan, for protection in travels and everyday life in a different country, peace within their family, a good school and friends for their children, guidance in countless decisions, and unwavering faith.

Here are a few ways for your class remember to pray for your missionary kids:

  • Hang up a map or bulletin board in your classroom with pictures of each of the missionary families in your classroom and show the country or general area they live in.
  • Put a picture of the missionary kid each small group is praying for on the lid of their small group supply box to help remind them to pray each week during small group time.
  • Set aside time as a whole class once a month to spend a few minutes in prayer for all of the missionary kids.
  • Make bookmarks or cards with the missionary kid’s photo and specific prayer requests for children in your class to take home and put in their Bible or on their refrigerator so they can pray for the missionaries with their family during the week and over the summer.

Read Part 2 of this post for some practical tips on how you can teach your class more about missions and simple ideas for connecting with your missionary kids.

Please remember to be sensitive to the political situation of each country your missionary families are in as you write or talk about them. To protect the safety of many missionaries, you may need to be very careful with certain terminology, names and locations. Please double check your missionary’s specific guidelines by talking with your church’s missions department or the missionary’s sending agency.

 

 

Teach the Bible and Pray for Faith

Teach the Bible and Pray for Faith

Charles Spurgeon shared these words for Sunday school teachers and parents:

The Holy Scriptures must be made the means of your salvation through faith. Know the Bible, read the Bible, search the Bible, and yet that alone will not save you. What did our Lord Himself say? “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and they are they which testify of Me; and you will not come unto Me that you might have life.” If you come not to Jesus, you will miss eternal life. Searching the Scriptures is able to make you wise unto salvation “through faith which is in Christ Jesus,” but not without that faith. Pray, you Sunday school teachers, that you may see this faith worked in the children whom you teach. What a blessed groundwork for faith your teaching of the Holy Scriptures will be, but never mistake it for the building itself, which is of faith alone.

(From a sermon titled, “The Sunday School and the Scriptures, No.1866.”
Found at www.spurgeongems.org)

Teach the Scriptures and pray for faith. This is a great call for parents and teachers. Teach, yes, but bathe that teaching in God-dependent prayer, pleading with our heavenly Father to bring about faith in Christ alone for our children and students.

Here are two encouraging and practical resources to consider:

Utter Dependency on God, Through PrayerUtter Dependency on God, Through Prayer

The first part of Utter Dependency on God, Through Prayer is primarily directed to adults for their growth in the faith. The second part provides practical guidance to those who lead children in prayer—primarily in the classroom, but also in the living room. Eleven strategies for integrating prayer into your interactions with children serve as a springboard for creative and visionary thought as you meditate upon Scripture, seeking God with all of your heart, through prayer.

Praying for the Next GenerationPraying for the Next Generation

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.

 

Teach the Bible and Pray for Faith

 

 

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