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“More Sword Drills, Please!”

(with Jill Nelson)

The first time I heard our young grade school-aged sons say they spent some of the Sunday school hour doing “sword drills,” I wondered if maybe they’d had a guest speaker from the Army. I’m only half kidding. Not having grown up in churches that had Sunday school, I had to ask them what they meant by the term. They explained that the teacher would announce an “address” (chapter and verse) for a Bible passage, and then all the kids would hold their closed Bibles over their heads, and once the teacher said “Go!”, they’d race to see who could find it first.

“How did you do?” I asked, doubtful if they knew the location of all but a few of the 66 books of the Bible. Thankfully their classmates were willing to lend a hand to these newbies who likely weren’t sure which Testament Zephaniah was in or the difference between an epistle and an apostle.

Fast-forward a handful of years and now our younger sons are among those leaning over to help newcomers at the sound of “Go.” As a teacher in the fourth grade Sunday school class, I’ve realized that growing up in Sunday school is no guarantee that children know where the books of the Bible are located or the difference between “chapter” and “verse.” We have students in our class who have been in church from birth, who still struggle to know their way around Scripture. And I’m more convinced than ever of the importance of knowing.

Years ago, when Jill was teaching 2nd-grade Sunday school, she ran into some push-back when she tried to make the case for Sword Drills. She says, “We were just beginning to strategically and intentionally present our children with a God-centered, Bible-saturated focus in our Sunday school classes. In order to maximize our classroom time toward that goal, we began moving away from the regular and time-consuming crafts to which the children had grown accustomed.”

“Some of the teachers were concerned that this wasn’t the best thing to do. ‘Won’t the children be upset?’ they wondered. ‘Won’t they grow bored if we don’t have some fun, hands-on crafts each Sunday?’”

Instead of eliminating crafts, they proposed an experiment: doing crafts every other week, then, on “no crafts week,” working on Bible skills during what would have been craft time. “I taught the children how to do Sword Drills,” she said. “We even had Sword Drill competitions with boys versus girls or teachers versus the children.”

Over time, guess what happened? The children started to complain, about the crafts. “Mrs. Nelson,” they pleaded, “can we do Sword Drills instead of crafts?”

Yes, it is possible to get children really excited about doing Bible skills activities in the classroom. That’s not to say that doing crafts is never an option—especially with younger children. Even older children can benefit from a craft that is geared toward helping them visualize and better understand a particular spiritual truth. However, craft or no craft, knowing God’s Word is essential for the Christian life. And knowing how to navigate it—to find what you’re looking for, is among the most foundational lessons a child can, and must, learn.

Are you giving precious, limited minutes to crafting on Sunday morning? Consider how you might maximize your classroom time toward things that will have a lasting, eternal, impact on your student’s lives. Taking class time to teach children basic Bible skills can be as fun, interactive, and “hands-on” as any craft. It’s certainly more important. It may even prove more exciting. Just ask those second graders.


Want some ideas to get you started? Here is a list of Bible and Memory Verse Activities, as well as detailed instructions for leading Sword Drills, you can use in your classroom or home.

 

Does Every Lesson Need to be a “Jesus and the Cross” Lesson?

Much has been said in recent years about teaching the Old Testament from a distinctly Christian perspective — seeing  Jesus and the Gospel in all of Scripture. But in this video, John Piper raises an important concern about turning this perspective into a type of simplistic interpretative formula. He says,

… the danger in making a beeline to the cross too quickly and too methodically and regularly is, number one, it’ll start to sound artificial. It’ll start to sound monotonous. It’ll start to be fanciful, because you’ll come up with really clever ways of doing things that aren’t really there and it’ll keep you from seeing important things that are there.

I believe Pastor John’s concern needs thoughtful consideration. I fully share his appreciation for the renewal of Gospel-focused preaching and teaching in the church. As a Sunday school teacher and parent, I experienced firsthand the gospel-less, deadly moralism that characterized so much of children’s Bible curriculum. But with this wonderful renewed focus on Christ and the Gospel, comes a new pitfall we need to avoid when teaching children.

Piper’s example of Elisha and Naaman serves as an excellent example. We need to give our children and students the proper Bible study tools so that they can dig deep into the text — mining it for its treasures. This takes time. It takes step-by-step training. But by doing so, we are giving our children a priceless gift; a gift that will serve them for a lifetime and will provide a wonderfully rich foundation for making them wise for salvation through faith in Christ.

At Truth78, we structure our lessons to foster these essential Bible study tools. We slowly and carefully lead children to discover the meaning of the text — asking questions, looking at context, drawing conclusions, etc. Once we’ve done that, we then point the students toward Christian application. In a lesson on Elisha and Naaman we might ask:  What does this story tell us about God’s character? What do we learn about man’s heart? How does the text apply to your own heart and life? Do you ever have a proud spirit? What does this look like? Is this pleasing to God? Why not? Has God provided us with an even greater blessing than physical healing? What is it? What does God call us to do in order to receive salvation through Jesus? etc.

This approach is more time-consuming in the classroom. And it requires teachers and parents to take the long view: We’re introducing children to the God of the Bible — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We’re helping build a solid Gospel foundation beneath them. We’re helping them learn to mine the immeasurable riches of the Word of God for a lifetime. We’re doing this because we want them to be able to “rightly handle the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).

We may not be making a beeline to Jesus and the cross in every lesson, but we are diligently training children as we acquaint them 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 3:15-17).

As we teach the whole Bible, we pray the children in our classrooms and in our family rooms will be made wise for salvation so that they may, like Timothy, be faithful to continue in faith.

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To learn more about our approach to teaching the whole Bible, please see these resource:

The Theological and Philosophical Foundations of Truth78 Teaching Resources

The Great Story and the Single Verse by John Piper

Jesus in Every Old Testament Passage? Parts 1 and 2 (The author discusses the merits and cautions of a “Christ-in-every-passage” approach to studying and teaching the Old Testament.)


Video Transcript (lightly edited)

You asked whether every lesson needs to be a Jesus lesson. Like if you’re in the Old Testament with Elisha, does it always have to go to the cross? That was the gist of the question. And it’s the same with preaching. I just wrote a book on preaching and I’m concerned about this. The Gospel Coalition is evidence of a renewal of gospel focus in the church and a lot of pastors think you’ve got to get to the gospel even if you’re preaching on tithing or something. I would say the danger in making a beeline to the cross too quickly and too methodically and regularly is, number one, it’ll start to sound artificial. It’ll start to sound monotonous. It’ll start to be fanciful, because you’ll come up with really clever ways of doing things that aren’t really there and it’ll keep you from seeing important things that are there.

Let me give me give a quick illustration right off my front burners. I’m reading through the Bible, and this morning I’m reading in 2nd Kings 4 and 5, the story of Elisha and the leper Naaman, and Gehazi. Here’s the gist of the story. This little servant girl says, “You should go to Israel and get the Prophet Elisha to heal you from your leprosy, Naaman.” And he goes to his king [of Syria], and the king writes a letter to the king [of Israel], and sends Naaman, and the king [of Israel] says, “I’m not God that I can heal this leprosy” – which  gives you a clue what the story is about – and Elisha hears that, and he goes to the king and says, “I’ll show him there’s a God in Israel.”

Now that’s the point of the story: “I’ll show him there’s a God in Israel. Tell him to come to me.” He goes to him; Elisha won’t even go out the door. He sends a messenger out to tell this big shot from Syria, “Go wash in the Jordan, see you later.” This guy’s ticked and he will not go. Now I think we ought to teach kids “pride keeps you from getting blessings.” I think that’s in the text and intentional, because his sidekicks argue, “Look, he’s asking you just a little simple thing. Would you just humble yourself and do it?” And when he comes up out of the water, it says his skin is like the skin of a child. This is about childlikeness receiving blessings from God.

So that’s lesson one that you might miss if you say, “He got washed in the Jordan from leprosy; Jesus will wash you from a worse disease,” end of lesson. Not a good way to end the lesson and miss all the points.

Here’s the second point: As soon as he sees he’s clean, Elijah says, “I’m not taking any money for this. We don’t sell good news here.” Now you’re going to talk about gospel preachers on television with these kids, ok? “We don’t sell we don’t sell the gospel. I’m not taking anything from you — you go back and worship the true God.” Gehazi, the servant of Elisha, says, “that’s crazy,” and he runs after him and says, “My master said he did, by the way, want some clothing and some of your silver.” And he says, “Oh sure, give it to him.” And when he goes back, Elisha says to him, “Did you think this was a time for getting silver and clothing?” And Gehazi had leprosy for the rest of his life.

Greed. Greed and pride. The story is about greed and pride. And if we run to the cross from the dipping in the river, before we see the point of the story, and tell these kids, “You’ve got to be childlike, you’ve got to be humble, if you’re gonna know God, you’ve got to not love money, and if you know preachers who preach for money, they’re not real preachers.” You’ve got to say that. Now when you’re done you can say – I mean the three songs you sang at the beginning of  Sunday school might have been all about Jesus. That may be all you need. We’re about Jesus every weekend in this room. Nothing comes to you but with Jesus – if you say, “How do you become humble? How do you become free from greed?” Then you dig into sanctification, and the cross, and the blood, and the power of the Holy Spirit, and the glory of the Father.

So my caution with that movement, in preaching on Sunday morning, and in teaching kids is – there’s a real good impulse behind it because we’re not mere Jews and we’re not mere Muslims, therefore we shouldn’t read our Old Testaments and interpret them in a way that a Muslim and a Jew would be happy with our interpretation. Which means we’ve got to be Christian. And so you do get there. But how you get there – please, don’t miss the awesomeness of Deuteronomy or 2nd Kings.

 

5 Ways to Get More from Your Curriculum This Fall

Fall is fast approaching, which means many Sunday School and Midweek children’s programs will launch soon. Besides recruiting volunteers (often a huge task), there are many preparations that should occur well before the first day of class. Don’t lose heart. Some thoughtful pre-planning can go a long way toward a fruitful autumn.

Pray

This is a crucial component in all aspects of ministry. We need to pray for qualified, passionate, and caring teachers, small group leaders, and worship leaders. We also should pray for the curriculum implementation – for leader preparation (not only of the lessons but their own hearts), receptive hearts of the students, good communication with parents, etc.

Plan

Given time constraints, it’s helpful to know what’s most helpful for launching a successful curriculum cycle.

  • Order early to help this process go smoothly. (We work with a print-on-demand warehouse that takes 3-4 business days to print, package, and ship materials; shipping times are in addition to that.)
  • Read introductory materials in the Teacher’s Guide or Leader’s Edition to learn how to use and prepare the materials, provide suggested classroom schedules, etc.
  • Create a schedule (or spreadsheet) of what lessons will be taught each week, including the lesson title and memory verse. This will help leaders in their preparation, and doubles as a communication tool with parents so they know what to expect, or what was covered in case of an absence. The scope and sequence page in the preface of each curriculum is also a useful guide.
  • Think through classroom management before the year begins and share your plan with your teaching team.

Prepare Visuals

Preparing all visuals before the year starts decreases stress on teachers.

  • Laminate visuals to make them more durable for years of use.
  • Put each lesson’s visuals in a manila folder labeled with the lesson number and store them in a crate or file box. (Remind teachers to return them for future use.)
  • For the curricula with electronic display options, be aware of which visuals still need to be printed.

Organize Student Materials (Coloring Books, Workbooks, Notebooks, Student Journals)

These supplemental materials are a key component of the curriculum for moving head knowledge to heart application. They are helpful tools while leaders review, apply, and lead the children to further understand the lesson. (Consider giving leaders a copy of the workbook. At least in older elementary, it’s helpful for the leaders to go through the workbook ahead of time to make sure they know the answers.)

Partner with Parents

Parental involvement is essential for fruitful instruction. Decide on the best way to communicate with parents. You could:

  • Print out the Parent Resource Pages for the entire year (available in the resource files in the Classroom Kit). Put them either in the visuals folders mentioned above or use a similar system where they are readily accessible by lesson for the teachers to send home.
  • Email the Parent Resources Pages weekly. This is not only a helpful reminder, but ensures that the resource actually gets to parents.
  • Email a month’s worth of Parent Resource Pages with a newsletter sharing prayer requests and evidences of God at work in the classroom.
  • Send home spiral-bound GIFT (Growing in Faith Together) booklets at the beginning of the year (available for purchase for our revised curricula, and as the GIFT App).
  • Encourage parents to use these resources during mealtime discussions. Periodic email reminders about using them might keep the parents on task. Parents of multiple children might focus on a different child’s curriculum each day or each week.
  • Invite parents to participate in the classroom. For example, one teacher gave families an opportunity to be the “family of the week” to introduce parents to the class, find out more about the family and their child, and provide an opportunity for the children to pray for this family.

If you have any questions about using the curricula, please contact our Customer Care team. We’re always happy to help (info@Truth78.org; 877-400-1414).

May the Lord bless you as you prepare for the next season of ministry, sharing God’s glorious Word and Gospel with the next generation “so that they should set their hope in God” (Psalm 78:7).

 

 

Why Children Need a High View of God

I still remember reading A. W. Tozer’s book, The Knowledge of the Holy, back when I was in my freshman year of college. In the preface of that book, Tozer writes, “The view of God entertained among evangelicals these days is so low, so beneath the dignity of God as to constitute idolatry.”

How important it is to know God rightly.

What is needed for children to see how true and how glorious, how joy producing is the Christian faith? What will produce in the next generation faithfulness, strength of character, willingness to serve sacrificially—a willingness to go anywhere the Lord might want them to go to be witnesses for Him? What will it take to bring this about in them?

There are many answers to that question. But there is one that is of the upmost importance if children are to grow and have the strength of faith and a joy in the Lord. Consider six reasons why we must pass on to the next generation a high view of God.

First, it’s true.

Do we not want our children to grow and to know God as He is? And not present God in barely bigger than human terms? We want them to see his majesty, His glory, His independence. We do not want them growing up thinking, Boy, it’s a good thing that God has me on His side because I know He needs me to get the work done that needs to be done.

We want them to realize from their very earliest years how much they need God, but how He doesn’t need them at all. My goodness, the privilege that it is to be related to this God who loves them so deeply. So, indeed, to know God rightly, is to know Him both as other than us and near to us. Both as transcendent in the glory of His holiness, His Majesty, His power, His dominion, His sovereignty. And, amazingly, to recognize His love and goodness and kindness and mercy, His forgiveness, His tenderness. It’s true that God is great and it’s true that God is majestic and merciful.

Second, a high view of God enhances our understanding of his love and His mercy and His grace.

Here’s what happens if you approach the love of God without understanding the glory and the greatness of God. When the words come to your ears, “God loves you,” what do you think? Well of course He does! Aren’t I worth it? I mean, who wouldn’t love a wonderful person like I am?

We live in a culture that is so filled with a sense of entitlement that we bring it into the Christian faith. We start thinking that we deserve this love of God that we hear about. I think one of the biggest problems we have in our churches, broadly speaking, is we have this rush to the divine immanence. We rush to talk about the love of God, the grace of God, the mercy of God, the forgiveness of God—all of which are true—all of which are glorious. But because people typically do not have a high view of God, they hear those things and they think in terms of entitlement: Well of course.

But if you realize God is holy, that He is perfectly pure in all of his ways, then you hear the love of God very  differently. You hear it the way Isaiah must have understood it in Isaiah 6, after he saw the glory of God’s holiness, His majesty, His power, His might, and His purity. Then realized his own sin before God as the basis by which God then came and brought to him forgiveness and grace and mercy.

What a difference that makes! This is not entitled mercy; entitled grace. (That’s an oxymoron, by the way. Grace is unmerited favor.)  But you stand in awe and wonder that that great God would deem it good and right to love the likes of me.

Third, it promotes deep and authentic humility.

We do not want our kids growing up thinking, How great I am. We want our kids growing up thinking, How great God is! We all need so much to understand how little we are, how weak we are, how foolish we are. But incredibly, God in His mercy and grace, through His son Jesus, has brought us to the One who is great, who is wise, who is knowledgeable, who is able to provide everything we need out of the infinite fullness of His bounty. A true humility is grounded in a high view of God.

Fourth, it strengthens living and vibrant faith.

One of the most important elements of faith is a confidence that God is able. Nothing could thwart His power. Nothing could hinder Him from accomplishing whatever He chooses to do. This big view of God that sees His strength and His might—His sovereign majesty—is one of the resources that is absolutely necessary to believe in God. If you don’t think that He can do it, you’re going to look elsewhere. You’re going to go horizontal quickly and look for help from this or that other person, this or that other scheme. What will lead us to go vertical is the conviction that God is the one who is able to bring about anything that He chooses to do.

In addition to being certain that God can powerfully bring about what He chooses, faith requires knowing that He always chooses the best. He knows perfectly what needs to be done, and no one can match His wisdom.

The third ingredient necessary for faith in God is a confidence that He is for us; that He really does love and care for His people. Confidence in the power of God, and the wisdom of God, and the love of God is necessary for faith. A high view of God is absolutely critical then for a living and vibrant faith.

Fifth, a high view of God provides the resources necessary for times of suffering and affliction.

I don’t know what people do during times of suffering, whether for themselves or close friends or family members, if they don’t have a confidence that God’s ways are best, and that He is working through the suffering to bring about the good that He has designed to come to pass. That’s everything. I’ve heard so many people say, “When you’re talking to someone going through suffering, don’t bring up Romans 8:28.” And my response is, “Why in the world not?”

Why hide from them one of the most glorious teachings in the Bible that has everything to do with strengthening the faith of suffering Christians? God works everything together for good. Wow. He can do that? Oh yes He can!

A high view of God enables us to believe that God is in our suffering for good. We may not see all He is doing in this life, but we know His character. We know that He will never fail in accomplishing any of the good ends that He has designed. So indeed, we believe God during those times because we know who He is. Like the song says, “When we can’t trace His hand, we trust His heart.”

Sixth and finally, it elicits genuine and sustained worship of the God to whom alone belongs all glory.

To realize why it is that God alone should be worshiped requires a high view of who God is. Otherwise, our tendency is to think that something else out there ought to be receiving our worship, or perhaps, I ought to be receiving it.

Whatever there is that is worthy of worship, is what we ought to worship. Whatever is truly honorable, ought to be honored. Whatever is praiseworthy ought to be praised. The only way we can answer the question, “Who is it that deserves praise, that deserves honor, that deserves worship?” rightly is by knowing who God actually is. He alone is the One worthy of that honor, and glory, and worship. And when we know who God rightly is, and we worship Him, we are changed.

God has so designed us that we instinctively, naturally seek to become like whatever we esteem most highly. Did you know that about yourself?  Look at what you love; you adore; you treasure. Guess what you’re looking at? You’re looking at a reflection of what you are becoming. God wants us to see Him as eminently worthy of our deepest affections, our genuine love, our highest worship. In so doing, what happens to us? We long to take on the character of the One we adore.

May God help us to be tools in His hands in the life of the next generation, to see them develop a high view of God; to know Him rightly and to enter into the joy and the truth of the Christian faith, that they might in turn pass that on to the generation that follows.


This post was adapted from the message Bruce Ware gave at the Truth78 launch event in April, 2018. You can watch the full event here.

 

Helping Children Pray

Following is part two of Truth78’s interview with Bible teacher, Nancy Guthrie. Nancy and David Guthrie experienced the death of two of their children and now lead respite retreats for parents in similar seasons of suffering.

Steve Watters: How do we help children pray for things and especially pray in the midst of difficult situations?

Nancy Guthrie: This is a very significant and personal question for me because when our son was in second grade, he had a sister who was only going to live a short time. He went to a Christian school and every day at the end of the school day, they prayed. So what do you think all those kids prayed for? They prayed that Hope would live.

I remember picking up Matt from school and waiting in the carpool line. And he hops in the car and immediately he says, “Mom, is there any chance Hope might live?” And I knew why he was asking. I knew they were praying for that every day. And he’s thinking it through, which is great. He’s thinking it through, “Should I expect that?” And I said to him, “Well, Matt, here’s what I know. I know no children have ever lived very long who have this condition that Hope has. But here’s the other thing I know, I know that Hope is in God’s hands. And whether she’s here with us, or she’s home with Him, she’s in God’s hands.”

So I think the challenge for us in helping kids know how to pray through these things is really the challenge we have with adults knowing how to pray for these things. And that is: we are oriented primarily to ask God to take this suffering away, rather than being oriented to pray and ask God to use the suffering in our lives to conform us to His image. That’s His purpose in it. He wants to use it to discipline us, to mature us. He wants to use it to give us the opportunity to live out genuine faith.

There are lots of verses in Scripture that say, “this happened, so that” and those verses are answering the question, “Why?” Both with adults and with children, my plea would be, “Look at what the scriptures say God intends to do in and through suffering, and pray for God to accomplish those things.”

That’s a whole kind of reorientation. I suppose a kid is going to state the request, “pray that this happens.” And sometimes we just ask. Isn’t it great that God is our father and we can just ask Him for what we need? But I love the Westminster Catechism which says that prayer is asking God for what He’s promised to give, not just for what I want. And, and you know what? He has promised to give sufficient grace. He’s promised to give divine power. He’s promised that His holy spirit would work for us. And so those are the things we should ask for.

A child might say, “Teacher, I want you to pray that God will give my family a new house to live in.” That was one that was in a class I was in recently. I said, “Would you give this family a new house? But more than that, Lord, would you give them contentment with what you are providing right now with what you’re providing to them?

In children’s ministry we have the opportunity to train children not to focus on prayer being solely asking God for these things or these situations that we want, but instead for inviting God to work in the situations we don’t want.


When Jesus responded to the disciples’ request to teach them to pray, He gave them the Lord’s Prayer as a model. He shows us what should be in the believer’s heart when he comes to his Heavenly Father in prayer. For an in-depth look at how the Jesus teaches us to pray, consider our 13-week study for children and adults, Lord, Teach Us to Pray.

 


Read Part 1 of our interview with Nancy Guthrie: Helping Children Prepare for Suffering

Help for Turbulent Teens

It’s a problem that affects millions of teenagers; likely someone you know in your own church or family. What is it? Interior angst. Loneliness. Depression. Fear. Despair. All these and more are part of the emotional roller coaster that goes with the changes and development of adolescence.

This is an age-old problem that should lead to maturity and growth. But teens today are missing key supports that made it less volatile for generations past. So says Dr. Albert Mohler in his commentary last week on a report released by the Centers for Disease Control,

The biggest alarm here has to do with the interior lives of America teenagers . …Words such as fear and despair among American teenagers should grab our attention in a hurry. The official behind the report, Dr. Jonathan Merman of the CDC, gave the bottom line in the research with remarkable clarity. He said, “An adolescent’s world can be bleak.”

…We cannot possibly redefine adolescence so that teenagers not undergo stress and strain and also both happiness and pain. … but what we can do is make certain that they never endure an experience, these trials and passages of life alone, or without the support of parents, or without their family, or without the support of the church…

To one degree or another, in any given situation, young people give evidence of a wide array of emotions: loneliness, love, sorrow, shame, regret, discouragement, gladness, awe, anger, fear, zeal, confidence, delight, pain, and praise. Too often however, these emotions are left unshaped by the reality of God and His Word. In fact, our culture encourages it: Young people are told to “follow your heart” (i.e. your subjective feelings), they are given self-esteem pep talks to alleviate shame, they are encouraged to set their delight in fleeting pleasures, they are told that they are the measure of themselves. All of this is destructive to their souls.

Instead, their feelings need to come under submission to God and His Word. Their feelings need to find their way to their Creator as they pour out their hearts to Him, humbly longing for His life-giving mercy. This is the path to everlasting joy, as well as the way to walk in it.

 In his sermon, Songs That Shape the Heart and Mind—Psalms: Thinking and Feeling with God,”, John Piper said,

One of the reasons the Psalms are deeply loved by so many Christians is that they give expression to an amazing array of emotions…

More explicitly than all the other books in the Bible, the Psalms are designed to awaken and shape our emotions in line with the instruction they give. What happens when you read and sing the Psalms the way they are intended to be read and sung is that your emotions and your mind are shaped by these psalms.

Parents and teachers have a vital opportunity and responsibility to introduce teens to the Psalms so that they might experience the Psalms’ heart- and mind-shaping power. Truth78 has developed a new curriculum for this potentially turbulent season to help churches take their teens to God’s Word, the only place where true hope and help is found. We are excited to introduce our new youth curriculum, “Pour Out Your Heart Before Him—A Study for Youth on Prayer and Praise in the Psalms,” by Sally Michael.

She writes in the preface to the study,

Though God is the Supreme Ruler of the universe, He also dwells with His people in close, intimate fellowship. What we discover through walking in relationship with God through Christ is that He understands every emotion of the human experience, so we can freely pour out our hearts to Him. He will, with Shepherd-like love, comfort and calm our troubled hearts.

The Book of Psalms was written under God’s hand by real people with real problems, who knew that the way to true soul satisfaction comes through pouring out their hearts before God, lifting their eyes to Yahweh, and opening their mouths in praise to Him. The Psalms not only reflect Israel’s story, but our story as well as we walk in a new covenant relationship with the God of Israel.

Not only does God understand every human emotion, but He also resolves every human emotion through His presence and character, making Him worthy of our heartfelt adoration and praise. He turns worry to peace, despair to hope, distress to deliverance, weariness to praise, brokenness to forgiveness, envy to contentment, and anger to justice.

The Psalms lead us to trust in the triune God, the Creator, the unchanging Source of Truth, rather than the worthless idols of the human heart. This is a God we can praise from generation to generation, as we delight in His testimonies and rest in His shepherd-care.

Pour Our Your Heart Before Him is a faithful guide for the season of change and growth that faces every teen. Whatever emotions your youth are juggling, the Psalms are a haven they can run to. Learn more about our new curriculum.

 

The Three Ds of Deuteronomy 6

When it comes to understanding and articulating cultural shifts in light of biblical truth, Dr. Albert Mohler is a welcome source of clarity, exhortation, and encouragement. Joe Eaton wrote a summary of Dr. Mohler’s message Holding Fast to the Whole Counsel of God Under Pressure to Conform from our last National Conference, which pointed to three Ds from Deuteronomy 6 that we, as parents and teachers, can take to heart. 

The dominant culture tends to replicate itself in each new generation. This is why Paul calls us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12). The last thing that should surprise us is that our children are going to grow up to look like the culture around them…unless a great work is done. Deuteronomy 6 tells us how we can influence our children biblically to remain steadfast in an ungodly culture. Three key words guide us through this text.

1. “Doctrine”
What this passage teaches us about how we must teach is that teaching must be inescapably theological and central. Another crucial aspect of teaching is what narrative you are teaching. We need to make sure that we teach our children that we are not here by accident; God did a saving work that brought us into being, and a saving work that brought us into covenant with him. This is the narrative we must teach. If we don’t know that our redemption story is infinitely greater than worldly stories, we will not effectively reach the hearts of our kids.

2. “Discipline”
We are facing a situation in which our children are going to become Canaanites if we don’t impart truth to them in such a way that helps them own it, and sometimes that will mean going against the culture or their own desires. Helping our children learn discipline in this way will serve them always.

3. “Diligence”
Every opportunity is an opportunity to teach your children, whether effectively or ineffectively. Don’t give up; you’re going to have to teach your children the same things very often, because your children don’t always retain things very well.

Cultural Pressure to Conform
The cultural pressure to conform to the evils of our culture is so pervasive that Christians have begun to underestimate the urgency with which we ought to fight it. This pressure has always existed and has grown since the Garden of Eden.

Whole Counsel of God
We need to be teaching our kids that God is God, and his Word is ultimate no matter what our culture says. We need to be diligent to teach our kids the truths that are particularly disputed in our culture right now, because those are the truths that will become hardest for them to believe when they face cultural pressure to conform.

Holding Fast
Don’t spend time lamenting what we believe might have been lost in our culture. Remember that Jesus is going to hold us fast as we seek after him. Let’s hold fast our confession, and teach our children to do the same.


Indestructible JoyThis message is included in the book Indestructible Joy for the Next Generations, which is available for purchase in print or as a free download for anyone who signs up for the “Joy for the Next Generations” e-newsletter.

 

Teachers: Is This Book on Your Summer Reading List?

Summer is an ideal time for reading to refresh and energize the soul. For anyone who teaches children and youth it’s also an opportunity to become a better teacher. At only 152 pages, Teaching to Change Lives: Seven Proven Ways to Make Your Teaching Come Alive  by Dr. Howard Hendricks is filled with practical, biblical, seasoned wisdom that is helpful for both new and experienced teachers alike. At Truth78, we highly recommend this book. Our curricula’s teaching philosophy and methodology closely mirrors the principles found in his book.

Here is a brief summary of the seven principles, or “laws” Dr. Hendricks describes followed by examples of how Truth78 curricula implements each:

The Law of the Teacher— If you stop growing today, you stop teaching tomorrow…You cannot communicate out of a vacuum. You cannot impart what you do not possess. If you don’t know it—truly know it—you can’t give it.

Truth78 encourages teachers to take time to prayerfully study each lesson and make your own personal application.

The Law of Education—How people learn determines how you teach.

Truth78 incorporates a teaching philosophy, methodology, and format that is age-appropriate, interactive, and teacher friendly.

The Law of Activity—Maximum learning is always the result of maximum involvement. That’s true, with one condition. The activity in which the learner is involved must be meaningful.

Truth78 encourages students to interact, first and foremost, with the text of Scripture: questioning, organizing, analyzing, evaluating, drawing conclusions, and applying God’s Word. Interactive illustrations and other activities are also used to help students better grasp biblical truth.

The Law of Communication—To truly impart information requires the building of bridges. All communication has three essential components: intellect, emotion, and volitionin other words, thought, feeling, and action. If I know something thoroughly, feel it deeply, and am doing it consistently, I have great potential for being an excellent communicator.

Each lesson of our curricula includes material that serves to instruct the mind, engage the heart, and influence the will.

The Law of the Heart—Teaching that impacts is not head to head, but heart to heart. To the Hebrews, heart embraced the totality of human personality—one’s intellect, one’s emotions, one’s will. Teaching happens when one total personality, transformed by the supernatural grace of God, reaches out to transform another personality by the same grace.

Each lesson includes a significant “Small Group Application” section to encourage and challenge students to personally embrace and apply God’s truth to their lives. Spirit-dependent prayer with and for the students is an essential aspect of this time.

The Law of Encouragement—Teaching tends to be more effective when the learner is motivated to learn. As a teacher—a motivator—you want to help people develop into self-starters. You want them to do what they do, not because you ask them or twist their arm, but because they themselves have chosen to do it. One of the best ways to trigger this choice is to help the learner become aware of his need.

Our lessons are written to fuel spiritual desire by giving students a big vision of the greatness of God and His all-surpassing worth. We continually point students to see that eternal, all-satisfying joy is found in God alone, through faith in Christ.

The Law of Readiness—The teaching-learning process will be most effective when both student and teacher are adequately prepared.

Truth78 provides curricula components and other training to help teachers prepare for the lesson. Additionally, we include practical resources and ideas for helping students in preparation for the lesson material.

These descriptions are too brief to do justice to his main points and practical applications. I urge you to read the whole book. And if you’re a ministry leader, consider buying several copies this summer to pass on to your teachers and small group leaders. It is a wonderful training resource.

 

True Faith Takes Mind, Heart, and Will

As a parent and teacher I find these words from Jesus especially sobering,

This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me… (Matthew 15:8-9)

And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it. (Matthew 7:26-27)

We can teach our children and students a lot of biblical information–and so we should. We should acquaint them with as much Scripture as possible; it is the only means of making them wise for salvation in Christ and living in a way that is pleasing to Him (2 Timothy 3:16-17). We want their minds to know, understand, and be able to rightly interpret the Bible. However, as Jesus’ words remind us, it is not enough to simply receive knowledge about God. The child who has memorized the most Bible verses in your class, or is always first to find a passage in the Bible, may have a heart far from the Lord. Genuine faith in Christ also involves the heart and will. To leave these unaddressed in our teaching is dangerous–eternally dangerous.

That is why we at Truth78 create resources that aim to instruct the mind, engage the heart, and influence the will. Instruct, engage, and influence–words chosen carefully to define our responsibility while humbling admitting our complete dependence on God to renew the mind, transform the heart, and empower the will of the children and students in our care.

Watch this informative and inspiring 12 minute video in which David and Sally Michael explain the role of the mind, heart, and will in the faith of the next generations. They also give practical examples from their teaching experience of how you can encourage these three aspects of faith in the lives of children.

A Vision for Encouraging Faith in Christ in the Next Generation 

 

12 Reasons to Choose Truth78 Curriculum

After an unusually long, cold winter, it’s finally summer! But churches are already thinking ahead to the fall. What will they teach the students next year; the current curriculum or something new? There are many varied reasons for choosing one curricula over another. Here are 12 reasons why you should consider teaching the Truth78 curricula:

  1. Vision-Oriented—our philosophy, methodology, scope and sequence, and lesson content all are aiming toward one main goal: That our students 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. (Download our Truth78 Viewbook for a more thorough introduction to our vision, mission, and curricula.)
  2. Whole Gospel-focused—Our hope and prayer is that every student will come to salvation in Christ and live as faithful disciples. Therefore, we believe that great care must be exercised in communicating the Gospel. Our students need the whole, rich foundation of the Gospel taught to them. A foundation which honors and exalts Christ by inspiring love, trust, obedience, and worship of Him as the essence, means, and goal of the Gospel is explained precept-by-percept. While each curriculum, as a whole, presents the Gospel message, not every lesson presents an “explicit” Gospel summary.
  3. Written by teachers, within the classroom setting—Sometimes a lesson looks great on paper but teaching it in a classroom with a live audience of students can be a very different experience. Our lessons have been developed and taught in the classroom and have been reviewed by other teachers and small group leaders before being published.
  4. Encourages both teacher and students to study the Bible—We place a very high premium on biblical literacy. Therefore, as soon as children are able to read, we believe they are ready to interact with the text of Scripture, using their own Bibles. Our curriculum helps teachers guide students in developing essential Bible study skills.
  5. Nourishes teachers—It’s hard to teach something that hasn’t enriched you first. Though our lessons are written for children and youth at age-appropriate levels, they are meaty with theological truths. This isn’t because we are especially clever, but because the lessons focus on revealing and explaining the Word of God. The Word provides teachers with spiritual food as they meditate on the lesson throughout the week while preparing to teach.
  6. Trains children and youth to thinkIt’s one thing to give children information to recall. It’s entirely different to engage their minds in critical thinking – the kind of thinking that prepares them to truly understand, embrace, live out, and defend the Christian faith for a life-time. Our interactive teaching style (asking questions, posing scenarios, etc.) helps train students to think critically and biblically.
  7. Aims for heart transformation—The mind is a conduit to the heart from which springs genuine faith and love for Christ. Too often children’s and youth curricula fail to engage the heart in any deep and meaningful way. Our curriculum has been designed to spend a significant time engaging students’ hearts in responding to God’s truth. While it is only by God’s sovereign grace that true heart transformation happens, we give teachers a variety of suggestions for leading discussions that prod students to sincerely and personally respond to God’s truth.
  8. Serious joy—We would never use the word “fun” as one of our curriculum distinctives. However, we offer something better than fun: Serious joy. We study the most important truths in the universe: The truth of God in the Word of God. God is holy and so is His Word. That’s why there is a certain demeanor and serious tone to our lesson content and format. But that doesn’t mean that the lessons are dry and boring. Our God is NOT boring. Therefore, when appropriate, there is plenty of room for creativity, laughter, excitement, colorful imagery, loudness, etc. But it’s all meant to point toward the majestic and awesome glory of God, where we find true, lasting, all-satisfying joy.
  9. Great customer service—Switching to a new curriculum can be a daunting task. There are a variety of issues to address and “one size fits all” in children’s and youth ministry. Truth78 is blessed to have an experienced team of people who have decades of experience in classroom ministry with our curriculum. They love serving people and finding answers to your questions and solutions to your concerns.
  10. Keeping the main thing the main thing—Unfortunately, for an increasing number of children, the Sunday school hour is one of the few times during their week that they receive formal Bible instruction. We want to use that limited time in order to focus on the main thing: Making them wise for salvation in Christ by acquainting them with the Scriptures. Therefore, our curriculum maximizes spiritual instruction and makes other activities secondary.
  11. Theological balance over the course of the entire scope and sequence—If our students are to be taught the whole counsel of God, they need to see and understand the Bible through a variety of disciplines: Bible survey, biblical theology, systematic theology, moral and ethical teaching, and an explicit Gospel presentation. Our scope and sequence has been carefully designed to introduce these disciplines in balance, not neglecting one for another. All serve in helping children and youth develop a robust faith.
  12. Gives parents “meat” to feed their children—Each lesson is accompanied by a GIFT (Growing In Faith Together) page. Not only do they give parents a summary of the lesson, they also give various ideas for follow-up discussion, helping parents discern their child’s spiritual condition and encourage faith in Christ and loving obedience to His Word.

 

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