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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)

 

Feeding All the Little Lambs

Leading All the Little Lambs

At Children Desiring God we strongly believe that God has ordained parents as the primary teachers and disciplers of their children. It is a sacred responsibility and privilege. All the many wonderful Sunday school classes and other children’s and youth programs in your church are no substitute for your calling to nurture the faith of your children. Consider these words from Charles Spurgeon:

Let no Christian parents fall into the delusion that the Sunday school is intended to ease them of their personal duties. The first and most natural condition of things is for Christian parents to train up their own children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Let holy grandmothers and gracious mothers, with their husbands see to it that their own boys and girls are well taught in the book of the Lord.

But…

  • what about the children who come to your church who do not have believing parents?
  • what about children who are receiving a minimal amount of spiritual nourishment in their homes due to a variety of factors?
  • what about children who live in a one-parent home—and that parent is doing the best he or she can but is overwhelmed with simply holding things together?

Even in Spurgeon’s day these were realities, and he does not neglect to address this with great tenderness and earnestness.

Where there are no such Christian parents, it is well and wisely done for godly people to intervene. It is a Christly work when others undertake the duty which the natural doers of it have left undone. The Lord Jesus looks with pleasure upon those who feed His lambs, and nurse His babes, for it is not His will that any of these little ones should perish. Timothy had the great privilege of being taught by those whose natural duty it is, but where that great privilege cannot be enjoyed, let us all, as God shall help us, try to make up to the children the terrible loss which they endure. Come forward, earnest men and women, and sanctify yourselves for this joyful service.

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

 Getting Practical

Check out our one-page guide, “Ministering to Children from Non-Christian Homes for some practical steps that can be implemented in the classroom setting.

Leading All the Little Lambs

Our Children and the Reformation

Our Children and the Reformation

A few weeks ago, I spent a significant amount time writing a lesson for children on the topic of “justification.” It was a struggle that required much Bible study, prayer, help from commentaries, and reading some heavyweight theologians. And then the struggle begins: make it readily understandable and engaging for children.

All of this came to mind this week when I read Jeff Robinson’s article, “5 Reasons to Teach Your Kids About the Reformation.” It’s a great and encouraging read for parents and teachers. Here are his five reasons:

1. I want them to know about God’s faithfulness to his church.
2. I want them to know reformation must continue.
3. I want them to know defending the Bible is dangerous, but worth the risk.
4. I want them to know God does extraordinary things through ordinary people.
5. I want them to know the gospel is everything.

His comments on this last point were especially encouraging to me:

The Reformation boils down to a recovery of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. We are justified by faith in the substitutionary death of Christ. That’s the gospel. Remove it and you derail the engine that propels the train of eternal salvation. Remove it and you leave the body of Christ without a beating heart. Remove it and the Christian faith evaporates like a summer mist. The gospel was the battleground of the Reformation. No wonder the seed of the serpent attacks it in every generation.

Our Children and the ReformationI want my children to know that without the gospel, they cannot make sense of life in a fallen world. Without the gospel, there’s no hope in this life or the next, no real purpose to our days and seasons. Calvin said justification is the hinge on which the door of salvation swings. I want them to keep a close watch on that door.

I highly recommend reading the entire article. The importance of the Reformation is not just for Christian academics and historians. The next generation of Christians—our children—need to keep its truths and convictions alive in each generation.

 

Mommy… Daddy… I’m Sad

Mommy... Daddy... I'm Sad

In between deep sobs, the voice of a caring mother is heard. “Gilbert, what’s wrong?”
With tears streaming down his face he replies, “Mommy, I’m sad.”
“Gilbert, why are you sad?”
“I can’t find nite-nite!” …Or, “I want to play with my cars longer.” Or, “I don’t want to leave Grandma and Grandpa’s house.”

To my 2-year-old nephew who is learning how to express his emotions in words, these sad situations feel very hard to him. Unfortunately, there will soon be a day when his tears and sorrow do not stem from something as simple as a lost blanket or shortened play time.

Your child may be saying “I’m sad” as they try to figure out why kids were mean to them at school. Why did my friend lie to me? Why does mom have cancer? Why was dad laid off from his job? Why does my sister have down syndrome? Why did our house get flooded in a hurricane? Why is there poverty and hunger in the world? What do words like terrorism, bombings, mass shootings and racial tensions mean? Why are Christians being killed for their faith? Why does God let bad things happen in the world? Why did God do this to me? Does God love me?

It is not a question of if your children will experience suffering, but when will your child experience suffering…and will his faith be strengthened or weakened through it? 

In a recent Ask Pastor John post, John Piper shared these three steps to prepare your children for suffering:

1. Teach your son a glorious, all-encompassing biblical worldview that puts suffering in its proper place.
2. Discipline him with appropriate firmness, and require of him self-denial.

3. Model for him trust and joy in the midst of your own suffering and sorrow.

As Pastor Piper expounded on these three steps, several points stood out to me. The first reinforces what my first grade class is studying in The ABCs of God. This month, they are learning that God is wise—He causes everything to workout perfectly; God is almighty—He is all-powerful; and God is sovereign—He has the right and wisdom and power to do all that He pleases. Here’s how Pastor Piper explains it:

God is sovereign, and nothing can stop him from doing what he wants to do most. “I am God, and there is none like me . . . saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose’” (Isaiah 46:9-10). He is stronger than the weather. He is stronger than storms and floods and lightning. He is stronger than animals: big ones that can attack you like lions and little teeny microscopic ones you can’t even see that can make you sick and even kill you. He is stronger than all the enemies that we have. He is stronger than everything. Children need to hear this. They get it. They will embrace it more quickly than we do, and they can handle the mysteries. Yes, they can. Don’t ever give the impression to your children that suffering exists because God is helpless.

John Piper Quote on SufferingKids do get it. Children studying My Purpose Will Stand learn it this way: “God is present and active in all creation. His eye is watching, His hand is working to uphold and govern all creation, to fulfill all His purposes for His glory and the good of His children.” God did not wind us up like a clock and step back to watch. He is not surprised by the decisions we make. God is not helpless. He has planned and is in control of every detail of our lives, including our suffering.

It is also crucial to teach children how God displays his glory through the Gospel as they learn to understand why suffering exists and why it effects them. I am thankful these following truths are woven into each of our curricula.

Make the gospel crystal-clear: God sent his Son into the world to suffer with us and for us. This means that, if we trust him, none of our suffering is punishment for sin. Christ bore all of our punishment for sin. That is the basis of our acceptance with God and our hope for heaven. And there will be no more suffering there. All the suffering, therefore, that comes into the life of a Christian is not because God is punishing him in his wrath—oh, let children understand this!—but, rather, it is God’s fatherly discipline for the sake of holiness as Hebrews 12:3-11 and 1 Peter 1:5 says.

Therefore, in all of our suffering, God is good. God is wise. God is loving, even though it’s painful, and he has purposes for us (Romans 8:28). We never explain suffering by saying God is helpless or that Satan got the upper hand or that there are mere accidents in the world. We always handle suffering, our suffering by saying, even though we don’t understand all the answers for why this particular suffering came or that particular suffering came at this particular time or this particular intensity—we don’t understand those particulars—nevertheless, we do understand what God has taught us; namely, that he is sovereign, that he is good, and that he always has purposes for our everlasting joy.

I strongly encourage you to listen to or read Pastor Piper’s entire post: How Do We Prepare Our Children for Suffering. He closes with these words:

The greatest challenge of parenting is not primarily remembering all the things that should be taught in the catechism, but primarily being a parent growing in grace and humility and trust and joy in all the ups and downs of life. Few things will have a greater power in our children’s lives to help them suffer as Christians.

Recommended Resources

If you would like to look at specific resources that help teach children about the sovereignty of God, the glorious truth of the Gospel and how to deal with suffering, we recommend the following:

God’s Providence: A family devotional guide

My Purpose Will Stand: A study for 6th grade students on the providence of God

Helping Children to Understand the Gospel: A resource for parents with 10 family devotions

Catechism: Out of Date or a Tried and True Teaching Tool of Eternal Truths: A seminar by Sally Michael

 
 

Romeo and Juliet. Gospel and Doctrine.

Romeo and Juliet. Gospel and Doctrine...and the importance of catechism

Simplifying the Gospel is like simplifying the story of Romeo and Juliet. If you simply tell the story as “Two mixed-up teenagers fall in love and end up dead,” you loose the depth of the story. The background of the feuding families, the secret marriage, Romeo’s banishment and the sleeping potion Juliet took gives the story meaning and heart.

If we fail to teaching the whole counsel of God to the next generation, we remove the depth and meaning from their faith. If all they have is simplistic Bible truths—just love Jesus and believe in the cross—how will our children’s faith stand strong when they are confronted with the skepticism of our culture?

In our zeal to preach the gospel, we can often overlook or ignore the doctrinal foundations that lead to an understanding of the preciousness of the cross. In our zeal to evangelize, we must not forget that the main purpose of the organized church is to make disciples who will evangelize the nations.

One of the best ways to teach children solid doctrine is through catechesis. This is an intense, intentional, systematic, doctrinal teaching which imparts our beliefs about God, our communion with God and our obedience with God. Catechetical instruction normally employs the Socratic method of teaching through questions and answers. By utilizing the art of asking questions to stimulate critical thinking, the resulting discussion can encourage reasoning, the discovery of logical relationships, the illumination of further understanding and ultimately, the embracing of the truths discovered.

There are a variety of catechisms which present a series of questions and answers pertaining to Christian faith. Almost all of them are based on the creed and confessions of the church and they communicate these truths—what the church believes to be true about God, the Bible, the message of the Bible and its major themes about man, Christ and salvation.

Catechetical teaching is not boring, rote memorization. It is designed to not only teach the mind, but to effect our heart, affections and actions. Studying a catechism with your child will encourage you both in critical thinking, discussion and investigation of the Bible. If taught properly, it will not leave your children with parroted answers to random questions, but an understanding, learning and embracing of the truth of the Gospel and the doctrines of the Bible.

To learn more about catechism and how to teach it, watch to Sally Michael’s complete seminar:

Catechism: Out of Date or a Tried and True Teaching Tool of Eternal Truths

Watch Seminar

Download Seminar Handouts

Sally Michael Quote on Catechism

VIDEO: “Believing the Whole Counsel of God: How Our Children Can Know the Bible is True” by John Piper

Persevering in the Whole Counsel of God

We are excited to be sharing the content from our 2016 National Conference. Check back next Wednesday to view the final plenary session (along with discussion questions and action steps) to help you better understand how to persevere in teaching the whole counsel of God to the next generation. 

Piper: Believing the Whole Counsel of God

What must take place in order for children to know that the Bible is true, and for them to believe the whole counsel of God? John Piper, seeking to answer that question, begins his message by defining what the whole counsel of God is. 

He notes that Paul was so consumed by his responsibility to declare the whole counsel of God, that at the end of his ministry he could say with confidence to the Ephesian elders, “I am innocent of the blood of all” (Acts 20:26).

Yet the declaration of the whole does not ensure that it will be embraced. Many saw but did not “see.” They saw with their physical eyes…but did not see with the eyes of their heart. What they should have seen…and what they were to see and we are to see is a “peculiar glory.” A peculiar glory that was and is revealed in…

  1. the creation.
  2. the incarnation.
  3. the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Dr. Piper explains why the Bible is self-authenticating in each of these areas. And when the miracle of new birth happens, whether for children or adults, they will say, “I cannot not believe that God did not make that.”

Dr. Piper also made four observations/encouragements for those who influence the next generation:

  1. Children begin believing the Bible because their parents believe the Bible. 
  2. Build as much Bible into them as you can.
  3. At some point, God moves in His elect children to open their eyes, by a supernatural power, and their hearts perceive a peculiar glory of God.
  4. As they mature, they have a growing capacity to see and savor Christ, and we have a great responsibility to connect them with the astonishing, peculiar glory.

 

Questions for Reflection

  1. How did Dr. Piper define the whole counsel of God?
  2. Do you agree with his argument that as interesting and helpful as apologetics can be, there has to be something more at the root of belief then answers to questions?
  3. If only by a miracle we see with the eyes of our heart, what role does the whole counsel of God play in the miracle?
  4. Regarding the ministry to children in our churches and home, is there a shift away from teaching the whole counsel of God? If so, why do you think so? If not, what evidence would you offer?
  5. Discuss this quote from Jonathan Edwards: “Unless men can may come to a reasonable solid, persuasion and conviction of the truth of the gospel by the internal evidences of it mainly, by a sight of its glory, tis impossible that those who are illiterate and unacquainted with history should have any thorough or effectual conviction of it at all.” How does this encourage you in your ministry to children?
  6. Dr. Piper ended his message by saying this about children: “If they see the glory…they cannot not believe. So, what are practical ways in which we can help our children see the ‘peculiar glory’?”

 

Further Reading

What’s Your Plan for Teaching the Whole Counsel of God by Jill Nelson

 

View Other Plenary Sessions

“Declaring the Whole Counsel of God to the Next Generation” by Mark Vroegop

“Exploring the Fullness of the Whole Counsel of God” by Bruce Ware

“Holding Fast to the Whole Counsel of God Under Pressure to Conform” by Albert Mohler

 

VIDEO: “Holding Fast to the Whole Counsel of God Under Pressure to Conform” by Albert Mohler

Persevering in the Whole Counsel of God

We are excited to be sharing the content from our 2016 National Conference. Check back each Wednesday to view a new plenary session (along with discussion questions and action steps) to help you better understand how to persevere in teaching the whole counsel of God to the next generation. 

Holding Fast to the Whole Counsel of God Under Pressure to Conform

In this message, Dr. Albert Mohler connects our need as parents to “hold fast to the whole counsel of God under pressure to conform,” to the experience of the Israelites as they were about to enter the Promised Land. 

In Deuteronomy, Moses gave his last address to God’s chosen people. He addressed a generation that had not lived under the cruelties of Egypt, nor experienced their culture. Now on the brink of the Promise land, Moses knew what was at stake for them and their children. Would they default to and become like the dominate Canaanite culture, or would they hold fast, choose to follow God, and experience the blessings and favor He gives to His children? Dr. Mohler, teaching from Deuteronomy 6, uses three words to encourage and challenge Christian parents and children’s ministry workers on the importance of 1) teaching the whole doctrine of God, and instructing with 2) discipline and 3) diligence to battle against the pressure that we and our children will face to conform to the culture of the day.

Questions for Reflection

  1. How would you compare the culture of the Canaanites to the culture of our day?
  2. Why did Dr. Mohler emphasize the need for teaching specific doctrine?
  3. Discuss Dr. Mohler’s quote, “We have to make sure they [our children] find themselves in the storyline of Scripture, knowing themselves in that story, otherwise they are going to be in some other story.” As a follow-up to this question, in what ways could you help your children see themselves in the story of the Exodus?
  4. Dr. Mohler, after making the point that the cultural pressure to conform is not new, said, “Christian parents have had to be faithful in whatever culture we’ve lived in. It is so pervasive, they exaggerate the newness but underestimate the urgency.” Have you fallen prey to the newness, or have you underestimated the urgency to teach your children the whole counsel of God? If so, what practical steps could you take?
  5. Dr. Mohler, in reference the “whole” counsel of God said, “no one is upset with the Golden Rule…It’s the word whole that is a big problem.” What cultural norms or trends are increasingly in conflict with Scripture?

 

Albert Mohler Quote

 

Further Reading

Resist the Smorgasbord: Strategies for Teaching the Whole Counsel of God

39 Questions and the Whole Counsel of God

Gospel “Poles” and the Whole Counsel of God

 

View Other Plenary Sessions

“Declaring the Whole Counsel of God to the Next Generation” by Mark Vroegop

“Exploring the Fullness of the Whole Counsel of God” by Bruce Ware

 

 

VIDEO: “Declaring the Whole Counsel of God to the Next Generation” by Mark Vroegop

Persevering in the Whole Counsel of God

We are excited to be sharing the content from our 2016 National Conference. Check back each Wednesday to view a new plenary session (along with discussion questions and action steps) to help you better understand how to persevere in teaching the whole counsel of God to the next generation. 

Declaring the Whole Counsel of God to the Next Generation

In his message, “Declaring the Whole Counsel of God to the Next Generation,” Pastor Mark Vroegop encourages us to declare the whole counsel of God to our students and children. In the first portion of the message, he urges us forward by explaining what is at stake and why this is such a crucial issue for parents and the church to address. But how do we actually go about teaching the whole counsel of God? Pastor Vroegop goes on to highlight and explain six “how’s” that should characterize our teaching.

We must declare the whole counsel of God…

  1. Personally
  2. Seriously
  3. Faithfully
  4. Thoroughly
  5. Urgently
  6. Confidently

 

 

His message is a timely and urgent call to parents, teachers, ministry leaders, pastors, and elders. Pastor Vroegop provides us with a wealth of biblical and practical wisdom. I was so encouraged by this message! Here are some follow-up questions for pondering.

For Further Thought

  1. Does our current children’s and youth ministry vision and philosophy include an emphasis on teaching the whole counsel of God? How might we go about evaluating this? (Recall his explanation of unified, balanced, and comprehensive teaching.)
  2. Does my own heart and life reflect the importance of knowing and embracing the whole counsel of God? What areas might be “weak” points for me, and what steps can I take to begin to grow in these areas?
  3. How would I rate myself on his six “how’s”? How would I rate our children’s and youth ministries? How could I appropriately and helpfully address any concerns?
  4. Are there teachers, parents, or other ministry leaders who would be blessed by this message? What could I do to graciously encourage them to watch this?

 

We must declare the whole counsel of God

 

View Other Plenary Sessions

“Exploring the Fullness of the Whole Counsel of God” by Bruce Ware

 

 

Where the Bible?

(This article was originally posted March, 2013)

I began teaching Sunday school more than 25 years ago. I currently teach first grade. What’s the biggest difference I see in my classroom today compared to 25 years ago? Bibles. Bibles everywhere. A Bible in the hands of every child. Bibles being opened, and eager faces and busy fingers trying to find Isaiah 44. And when they find it (and many still need extra help), you would think that they had just won a great prize. In reality, they have found a treasure greater than anything they could imagine: God’s own Word!

It wasn’t that Bibles were in short supply 25 years ago, or that first graders couldn’t read back then. No, it was something more significant—an unspoken philosophy embracing the idea that: The Bible is too difficult for young children and too boring for older children. The Bible itself—the actual text—isn’t really all that necessary or clear or sufficient for contemporary culture. So Sunday school curriculum adapted itself to this new way of thinking and, for the most part, the Bible disappeared from our Sunday school lesson times and was replaced by a sheet of paper that gave teachers an “easy to prepare” scripted, summarized Bible story.

But somewhere along the way, many of us started to notice something. There was no longer authoritative power in our teaching. Many children were entertained, but not many seemed changed. And the weekly “easy to prepare” lesson became a chore for the teachers who longed for something deeper and more soul-satisfying.

At CDG, we have a vision for the next generation—a vision of sponges, soaked full, super-saturated. Not, real sponges of course, but children. Children soaked full and super-saturated with the Word of God. Children who see the Bible being read and hear the text explained. Children who learn how to read the Bible for themselves and know how to properly study it, and then interpret its meaning. We long for a generation of Bible-saturated children who come to embrace God’s Word as sweeter than honey, more precious than gold, more exciting than any game or activity, more powerful than anything in their lives, more long-lasting and life-transforming than any new electronic gadget, and more soul-satisfying than the closest friend.

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(2 Timothy 3:14-15 ESV)

Getting practical: So what steps can we take to make the Bible more “visible” in our classrooms? Here are a few suggestions to start:

  • Always teach with an open Bible, even if you are summarizing a story for preschoolers.
  • Whenever possible read directly from the Bible. Even preschoolers should hear the actual text read at times. Where the Bible uses simple, straightforward language, read it.
  • In kindergarten, start to teach children the books of the Bible through song.
  • Beginning in first grade, encourage each child to bring his or her own Bible to class. Make sure it is a “real” Bible and not a storybook or paraphrased version. Communicate with parents and, if necessary, assist them in purchasing a Bible for their child.
  • Offer small incentives (candy, prizes) for children who remember to bring their Bibles to class.
  • Require children of reading age to look up selected texts and read them aloud during the lesson. Do this according to their age and skill level. Most first graders can, with some help, look up and read one short and simple text per lesson. By third grade, most children can handle multiple texts of varying lengths.

Want some additional tips for specific age levels? Print out this free handout from Children Desiring God: The Importance of Biblical Literacy for the Next Generation.

You can also watch this delightful illustration as Pastor David Michael envisions of the effects of a Bible-saturated generation:

 

 

What We Mean by Gospel-Centered

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What comes to mind when you see the term “Gospel-centered” applied to children’s and youth curricula? For some, this description depicts a curriculum in which every single lesson presents an easy-to-recite, step-by-step overview of the Gospel that students are encouraged to affirm. For others, there is a belief that every lesson must explicitly connect to Jesus’ redeeming work.

At CDG, we believe being “Gospel-centered” entails understanding and committing to the following in our resources:

The central message of the Bible culminates in the Person and work of Jesus—the Gospel—in which He brings sinners near to God. The Gospel is simple, yet amazingly profound, freely offered, yet extremely costly, and should be communicated as such. We believe this is best done by repeatedly drawing attention to essential Gospel truths found throughout Scripture: God is the sovereign Creator and Ruler; God is holy; man is sinful; God is just; God is merciful; Jesus is holy and righteous; Jesus died to save sinners; etc. Every lesson presents one or more of these essential truths, and every curriculum, as a whole, clearly and explicitly presents the Gospel to children.

Note that last sentence for a moment: Every lesson presents one or more of these essential truths, and every curriculum, as a whole, clearly and explicitly presents the Gospel to children. This is a very important distinction that is often misunderstood. We believe that these “essential truths”—found from Genesis to Revelation—are crucial for a right understanding of the Gospel for our children and students. These truths and doctrines anchor the Gospel within the proper context of the whole counsel of God.

So, while there is a place at times for a type of easy to recite, step-by-step overview of the Gospel, it is not the norm in our lessons. And yes, connecting Old Testaments themes and events explicitly to Jesus and His redeeming work is crucial to do at times and in age-appropriate ways, but not exclusively and not at the expense of giving our students a systematic teaching of essential Gospel doctrines.

Here are three free, resources that can help both teachers and small group leaders better understand our approach in our curriculum and its implementation in the classroom:

Communicating the Gospel within the Whole Counsel of God
This six-page handout highlights the key points from my 2016 National Conference seminar of the same title. It provides a foundational rationale for our desire to see the Gospel presented to children within a more comprehensive biblical context.

Sharing the Gospel With Children
This two-page resource (tucked away in the Appendix section of our curriculum) gives some practical suggestions for sharing the Gospel in the classroom setting.

10 Essential Gospel Truths
This is a handy one-page summary of 10 Gospel truths that we believe are essential for children to know and embrace. Each truth statement has one or more accompanying texts. Teachers and small group leaders can use this as a guide for instruction, review, and discussion with their students.

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