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Heart AND Brain Religion


I recently came upon these words by Nancy Pearcey. I think she points to what might be a weakness in many of our youth ministries and home discipleship plans:

As Christian parents, pastors, teachers, and youth group leaders, we constantly see young people pulled down by the undertow of powerful cultural trends. If all we give them is a “heart” religion, it will not be strong enough to counter the lure of attractive but dangerous ideas. Young believers also need a “brain” religion—training in worldview and apologetics—to equip them to analyze and critique the competing worldviews they will encounter when they leave home. If forewarned and forearmed, young people at least have a fighting chance when they find themselves a minority of one among their classmates or work colleagues. Training young people to develop a Christian mind is no longer an option; it is part of their necessary survival equipment.

The first step in forming a Christian worldview is to overcome this sharp divide between “heart” and “brain.” We have to reject the division of life into a sacred realm, limited to things like worship and personal morality, over against a secular realm that includes science, politics, economics, and the rest of the public arena. This dichotomy in our own minds is the greatest barrier to liberating the power of the gospel across the whole of culture today.

 (From the essay titled “Total Truth,” found at

I believe that every parent, teacher, and youth minister would greatly benefit from exploring this topic further. One way to do this would be to consider coming to our National Conference in April and taking advantage of one or both of these seminars:

Teaching Children and Youth to Stand Firm in a Hostile Culture
(Pastor Ron Rudd)

In this seminar we will look at our responsibility as parents and as the church in training our kids to be strong in faith and mighty in Spirit. What are the problems we face in the culture we live in? What do we do when we are accused of being over-protective and narrow-minded? When and how do we expose our kids to the evil in our society, or do we? We will also discuss why we cannot do this alone and where we must turn for help.

Deep and Wide: Youth Ministry with Theological Depth that Reaches the Breadth of Maturity (Joe Wittmer)
By taking a systematic look at the ministry of Christ and the role of the church, we can discover how to theoretically and practically reach students with “the whole counsel of God.” Whether an unbeliever, new to the faith, or spiritually mature, part of the shepherding responsibility of a pastor is to help navigate the next steps in growing closer to Jesus. In this seminar, we will look at how we can invite more people to hear and grow in the Gospel by meeting students where they are in their spiritual development and presenting deep truths of Scripture to them there.

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Too Much Sin Talk?


I do not have a definitive statistical study on this, but my guess is that if you were to do a word search encompassing all of CDG’s curriculum—from preschool to high school—the word “sin” would come up rather often. Probably even too much in the opinion of some. Sounds a little depressing, doesn’t it, especially when teaching children? It isn’t exactly a great promotional tool for encouraging children and youth to come to Sunday school: “Forget about fun and entertainment—We have a lot to tell you about sin instead! Come join us!” But that banner wouldn’t be telling the full story. There is a very good, “hope-filled” reason that we mention sin so often in our resources.

Here is a wonderful post from Ligonier Ministries that we at CDG heartily resonate with:

Every preacher knows that people do not like to hear about sin. People regard sin as a dreary, negative topic and prefer to think about more positive and comfortable themes. The situation is like that of a visitor to a leper colony, a comparison that is especially apt since the Bible uses leprosy as a picture of sin. The last thing lepers want to hear about is leprosy! They have to deal with it all the time, so they are not likely to gather in large numbers to hear someone speak about the nature and effects of leprosy. Since they are suffering, they prefer to listen to something entertaining to divert their minds!

So why should Christians dwell on sin? James Montgomery Boice answers: “It is simply because Christians are realists. They recognize that sin is an everyday experience and the number one problem of mankind. What is more, they recognize that the Bible everywhere insists upon this.”

However, Christians do not talk about sin simply as an exercise in realism, but because we have good news to bring. It is one thing to gather lepers to lecture on skin ailments. It is quite another to stand among those who are suffering and dying in order to proclaim the cure that will save them! Christians speak about sin because, in Jesus Christ, we have found and offer to others a cure for this all-pervasive plague.

(“Why We Talk About Sin” by Richard Phillips posted at

So yes, while we do use the word “sin” a lot (and its various synonyms) in our curriculum, it is used in the greater context of Gospel truth, pointing our students to the greatest news of all! All that talk of sin is vastly overwhelmed and out-numbered by our talk of…the love and mercy of God, Jesus redeeming work on the cross, the free gift of salvation, forgiveness of sin, eternal life with God,…and on and on!

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Your Family and the Church

ID-100327503The older I am, the more disheartened I am in learning of the number of children from Christian families who grow up and leave the church. Some of these young adults have not necessarily abandoned the faith, but they have, for all practical purposes, abandoned the church. I wonder if some part of the reason for this is that we have failed to adequately explain what the church is and its necessity in the life of every believer. In other words, we sometimes forget to intentionally talk about these things with our children. Here are some really helpful words from Tedd and Margy Tripp:

God designed the means of safely delivering our children gradually from the primary community of the family to the broader family that supports the worldview of the family. That is the church. Family life and church life are intended to run parallel over our child’s developmental years. This will encourage their movement from our family community to the church community, where God the Father, Christ the brother, and earthly sisters and brothers in Christ become their personal experience.

Think of the elements of family life… and reflect on life in the body of Christ. In a culture where everything regarding the church and God is suspect, we must understand and practice biblical church life that gives meaning, purpose, dignity and divine intention to human life. God has designed the church community to safely extend all the ministries of the family for the nurture and development of our children and us. We should discuss these thoughts with our children. The church is an essential element of the culture we provide for our children.

(From Instructing a Child’s Heart, copyright©2008, pages 136-137)

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Star Wars, the Classroom, and a Biblical Worldview


The year I spent teaching 7th-8th grade was eye-opening for me. One of the surprises was the size of the role television and movies played in the lives of students in this age group. Why is this true for so many students (including many adults)? One reason is that visual media has a unique ability to captivate our hearts and minds. And with that captivation comes the ability to influence how we think and feel.

This Christmas season, many of our students will be eagerly going to the movie theater to see the newly released Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Most will judge the movie simply in terms of its entertainment value: it’s fun, exciting, has great special effects, etc. These are all valid means for evaluating a movie, but they shouldn’t be the only means, or even the main means. Let’s guide our students beyond this and help them to evaluate everything—even the movies they watch through the lens of Scripture.

One way to do this is to encourage your students to evaluate a particular movie in light of verses such as:

Philippians 4:8 (ESV)—Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Colossians 2:8 (ESV)—See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.

Additionally, other resources that provide background information about a movie can further develop our students’ perspective. At Ligonier Ministries, Peter Jones has a timely article regarding the philosophy behind the newest Star Wars movie. His article is titled, “Star Wars and the Ancient Religion.” I would highly recommend that parents, teachers, and small group leaders read the entire article. It will provide you with valuable information about the movie and some great points to discuss with your students. Here is how he begins:

The appearance of a new episode of the Star Wars film series is an important moment for Christian witness. To be sure, we can shrug our shoulders, since Star Wars is old news. Or we can enthusiastically introduce our grandchildren to what we might think is a beloved, harmless yarn. Or we can—and should—discover in the series an occasion to sharpen our presentation of the gospel message and help our children and grandchildren, and anyone else who might be interested, to understand the culture in which they live.

…Answering questions of morality and spirituality was the goal of George Lucas when he created Star Wars. In the 1970s, in the heyday of secular humanism, people were hungry for spiritual truth. Lucas realized that stories were more powerful than intellectual theories—especially for children. He intended to produce a children’s fairy tale set in outer space as a “teaching tool” for the re-creation of “the classic cosmic mysteries.” In so doing, he influenced audiences young and old and deeply affected the last few decades of Western civilization. The new films will no doubt extend that influence into the next generations.

As millions of people stream, perhaps naively, into theaters this weekend to reconnect with the powerful Star Wars adult fairy tale, most of them will be unaware of the worldview that gives this saga its structure and coherence…

Later in the article, he adds:

I believe there are good reasons for viewing this film. We can certainly respect its artistic and entertainment value. Galactic battle scenes and human drama are entertaining. But also, by seeing this movie, Christians can sharpen their understanding of both contemporary culture and their appreciation of the Christian faith, allowing them to see in antithetical clarity both the Christian message and the message of Star Wars in order to present the gospel in a fresh way for our time.

(Found at Another helpful resource is an article by Albert Mohler, “Star Wars and Christian Truth—A Collision of Worldviews.”)

Also, in case you want to examine the topic of biblical worldview further with the youth of your church, you may want to check out our 40-week curriculum: Your Word Is Truth: A Study for Youth on Seeing All of Life Through the Truth of Scripture.

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They Need the Whole Counsel of God

A lot of thought and prayer goes into choosing the focus of our national conferences. “Persevering in the Whole Counsel of God—What’s at Stake for the Next Generation” is no exception. This recent video clip from Dr. Russell Moore, “You Need the Whole Bible (Even If You Don’t Know Why),” really gets to the heart of the matter. Whether or not you plan to attend our conference (and we would LOVE you to come!), this three-minute video is a must see.


Trust in God and Be Faithful


Over the years, I have read a lot of great Christian parenting books. My favorite, thus far, has been William Farley’s, Gospel-Powered Parenting: How the Gospel Shapes and Transforms Parenting. It contains 200-plus pages of biblical parenting wisdom. But for those parents who need some quick, practical parenting reminders this week, Monergism has posted a wonderful (and short) article by Geoffrey Kirkland, “5 Reminders for Christian Parents.” Here are his five reminders with a few choice quotes:

  1. Be a faithful Christian. (Piety)

Perhaps the simplest and most foundational reminder that I could proffer to Christian parents is simply to be a faithful Christian. Live what you speak. Practice what you preach. 

  1. Pray with fervent earnestness. (Prayer)

The preeminent weapon that every Christian parent possesses is prayer…Pray with fervency and ask God to save and sanctify and to convert and change the souls that God has entrusted to you for the short years they live under your care. 

  1. Impress Scripture on their minds and hearts. (Priority)

…Children are never too young to learn nor are they too old to have Scripture impressed upon their hearts and minds. Parents, in all your doings for and with your children, always remember to bring God’s truth to bear in conversations, in hardships, in discouragements, in uncertainties, and in triumphs! 

  1. Urge them to consider eternity. (Perspective)

Life is too short to focus solely on the here and now. Eternity is so long that it behooves us to speak much and speak often of heaven and hell with our children. Urge them to consider their souls…Show them Christ! Give them the gospel! Urge them to repent of sin and trust in Christ! Urge them to lose their lives now so as to gain them eternally! 

  1. Remember growth takes time. (Patience)

…The hearts of our children must be like a field that produces a vast harvest with much tending, care, work, labor, and effort…A seed in the ground takes time to grow into a large plant and so it is with our children’s hearts. Don’t grow weary in doing good. Growth takes time. Be diligent! Be constant! Be fervent! Be sober-minded! Be encouraged! Trust in God and labor for the souls of your children!

 You’ll greatly benefit from reading the entire article here.

A Child, Catechism, and Cancer


In his article, “In Peace or Crisis, Instruct Your Children in the Lord,” William Ross makes a heart-felt and biblical plea to parents to take seriously the catechizing of their children:

Most days my wife would review a chosen verse, helping our son, Amos, remember and recite it, and each night we worked on one of “his questions” before bed. Nothing complicated, just a simple “repeat after me” approach in small chunks at a time, reviewing the ones we’d done already. He absorbed them much faster than we expected. By June Amos could zip through a handful of Bible verses, and no fewer than 30 catechism questions and answers. What a joy it is to watch your child grow in the knowledge of the Lord!

And what a firm foundation it builds for times of trouble!

Everything changed abruptly, almost without warning. Several weeks ago, I was hiking in Kentucky with friends when I got a phone call from my wife, who was at the emergency room with our three-year-old son. Shortly after that, we wept together in utter shock as I listened on speakerphone to a doctor telling us that Amos had a tumor in his head. By the time I made it back to California, where we had gone to visit family from Cambridge where we live, he was 40 minutes from his first of two brain surgeries.

It’s cancer…

Let me make my point very clear: Parents, I exhort you to teach your children about our God, both from Scripture and with the organized instruction of a children’s catechism. If you haven’t started, now is unquestionably the right time. Laying the rock-solid truth of Scripture in the foundation of your child’s soul can never begin too early. Although there aren’t any shortcuts, it isn’t as hard as you might think. And regardless of how daunting it may seem, Scripture commands us to teach our children about our wonderful God. Speaking from experience, no task proves more rewarding.

(found at

2016 National ConferenceAre you looking for more help in implementing Bible memory and catechism in your home in order to prepare your children to stand firm in the Lord through life’s joys and sorrows? Consider attending the following seminars at our 2016 National Conference, April 14-16, 2016:

The Power of the Memorized Word in the Fight of Faith

Presented by Brian Eaton

Believers have access to the most powerful weapon to fight the fight of faith—the Word of God. Learn how you can wield the sword of the Spirit through the discipline of Bible memorization. You will hear testimony of God’s goodness through His Word, and leave with practical tools to help you, your family, and your church begin and sustain a Bible memory program.

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

Presented by Sally Michael

For centuries, the church has educated the next generation through the use of catechisms. Why have we departed from this mode of instruction? Was it a good departure? What is the benefit of catechisms? What is the content of the catechism? Should we restore the use of catechisms, and if so, how do we do it? These questions and more will be answered in this seminar.

Learn more about the 2016 National Conference and   Register Now

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Voices from the Past

John Angell James

John Angell James

From The Sunday School Teacher’s Guide by John Angell James in the year 1816:

The ultimate object of a Sunday School teacher should be in humble dependence upon divine grace, to impart that religious knowledge; to produce those religious impressions; and to form those religious habits, in the minds of the children, which shall be crowned with the SALVATION OF THEIR IMMORTAL SOULS. Or, in other words, to be instrumental in producing that conviction of sin; that repentance towards God; that faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; that habitual subjection in heart and life to the authority of the scriptures, which constitute at once the form and power of GENUINE GODLINESS.

Here then you see your object, and you perceive that it includes every other in itself. To aim at anything lower than this, as your last, and largest purpose; to be content with only some general improvement of character, when you are encouraged to hope for an entire renovation of the heart—or merely with the formation of moral habits, when such as are truly pious may be expected, is to conduct the objects of your benevolence with decency down into the grave, without attempting to provide them with the means of a glorious resurrection out of it. To train them up in the way of sincere and undefiled religion, is an object of such immense importance, that compared with this, an ability to read and write, or even all the elegant refinements of life, have not the weight of a feather in their destiny.

(found at

A Gospel Legacy for My Grandson


“Read this one, Gramma. My book.” Those words were spoken by our 4-year-old grandson David as he chose a Bible story to be read before putting him to bed. The “My book” he was referring to was God’s Gospel. When I first gave him a copy, I explained that I had written it for him, and then read the dedication to him:

For my grandson,

David Glenn House.

May the words of this book help you to “taste and see” the good news of the Gospel in the hope that you would trust and treasure Jesus with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength.

There are many legacies that I want to leave behind for my children and grandchildren. But by far the most important is a legacy of faith, grounded in the Gospel.  A rich, deep, biblical faith that knows and embraces the essential truths of the Gospel, truths regarding:

  • the holiness of God
  • His good and sovereign rule over us
  • the total depravity of man
  • the unmerited mercy of God
  • the incomparable worth and work of Jesus
  • God’s wrath poured out on His Son for our forgiveness
  • the meaning of true repentance and belief
  • the joy of eternity celebrating Jesus

I will be the first to admit that David’s book isn’t a masterpiece of storytelling. My words, illustrations, and explanations are not perfect nor can they adequately reflect the majestic beauty of the Gospel. It is simply this grandma’s attempt to explain the greatest news in the world to a young heart and mind. And though the some of the words and concepts are still beyond his 4-year-old comprehension, my hope and prayer is that God’s Gospel will begin to peak his interest in tasting and seeing that which is perfect and truly able to give him eternal life: God’s Word—the Bible.

“but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name”  (John 20:31).

Choosing Solid Content over Bells & Whistles


In her interview for CREDO magazine, Sally Michael was asked:

In all your years of ministry, what is the #1 mistake one might make when structuring and developing a children’s Sunday school curriculum in a church for the first time?

Here is her answer:

I think the number one danger is making a curriculum choice based on the “bells and whistles” that make children’s Sunday school fun at the expense of good content. To evaluate material based on interesting graphics, video content, or the number of activities, rather than on evaluating the biblical content of the material and how it is presented is to err on the side of entertainment, rather than focus on real learning. Real learning involves engaging the mind, not providing active or entertaining components. The goal of the material should be to present solid truth and promote spiritual growth.

Another problem that is prevalent is allowing current trends to inform your content, rather than carefully formulating a scope and sequence that emphasizes correct doctrine and the full counsel of God. When that happens, the material becomes “lop-sided” and children receive inaccurate, insufficient, and sometimes even potentially spiritually harmful  teaching. 

(From the article, “Jesus What a Savior”)

Her last observation is another reason for the focus of our 2016 National Conference on persevering in the whole counsel of God. Watch pastor David Michael’s invitation to the conference here.

(Image courtesy of digidreamgrafix at

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