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Star Wars, the Classroom, and a Biblical Worldview

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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 www.ligonier.org. 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.

(Image courtesy of nongpimmy at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

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

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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

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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 www.thegospelcoalition.org)

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

(Image courtesy of Stoonn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

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 www.monergism.com)

A Gospel Legacy for My Grandson

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“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

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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 FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

Looking Backward to Minister Forward

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Are you looking for some dynamic new teaching device or technique to transform your Sunday school classroom? Is there a new model of youth ministry everyone is raving about? Is your church thinking about revamping family ministry to appeal to a more media-driven culture?…It does the church good to be thoughtful and forward thinking in our approach to ministry. But sometimes we forget that the most important wisdom regarding these questions and decisions comes by looking backward, and not by what’s trending around us. How so?

In preparation for an upcoming seminar titled “Catechism: Out of Date, or a Tried and True Teaching Tool of Eternal Truths?,” Sally Michael has been reading Grounded in the Gospel: Building Believers the Old-Fashioned Way  by J. I. Packer and Gary A. Parrett. Here is a quote that impressed her:

…we tire ourselves out by constantly striving to reinvent the wheel. Is the current state of discipleship lamentable? It may well be so in many of our churches. But rather than looking for the latest technique, program, marketing scheme, or impressive model, we would do well to stop, take some deep breaths, and carefully reconsider our course. God’s words uttered through the prophet Jeremiah many centuries ago seem apt for us today:

Thus says the LORD: “Stand by the roads, and look and ask for the ancient paths where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.” But they said, “We will not walk in it.” (Jeremiah 6:16)

We agree with the widespread conviction that many evangelical churches are in need of deep change today…Our premise, however, is that the surest way forward is to carefully contemplate the wisdom of our past….In the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments we find an abundance of wisdom for building believers who will live to the glory and honor of our God. There are models and mandates, principles and practices that are as relevant for ministry today as they ever were. Church history also provides us with numerous examples of vibrant, fruitful seasons in the lives of God’s people, when true disciples were truly being made, when whole communities were alive with and for God’s glory. We do not disdain the idea of looking around at contemporary models to find guidance for our own ministries of disciple making. But we do suggest that this not be our only source for wisdom, or even our primary source. Instead, we would counsel, let us look back before looking around. 

(Grounded in the Gospel: Building Believers the Old-Fashioned Way, copyright©2010, pages 24-25)

If this quote leaves you wanting to hear more on this topic, consider joining us for Children Desiring God’s 2016 Children’s Ministry Leader’s Conference, to be held April 14-16, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

 

Don’t Settle for Earthly Success

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Here is a great reminder from Timothy Paul Jones:

Every child is an eternal soul whose days will long outlast the rise and fall of all the kingdoms of the earth. They, their children, and their children’s children will flit ever so briefly across the face of this earth before being swept away into eternity (James 4:14). If these chil­dren become our brothers and sisters in Christ, their days upon this earth are preparatory for glory that will never end (Daniel 12:3; 2 Corinthians 4:17–5:4; 2 Peter 1:10-11). That’s why our primary pur­pose for the children that we educate in our churches and homes must not be anything as small and miserable as earthly success. Our pur­pose should be to leverage children’s lives to advance God’s kingdom so every tribe, every nation, and every people-group gains the oppor­tunity to respond in faith to the rightful King of kings.

(Family Ministry: Your Child is Far More Than Your Child,” www.timothypauljones.com)

(Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

Will Our Children Know the Trinity?

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One of my concerns with the current emphasis on “seeing Jesus in all of Scripture” and of focusing Bible teaching almost exclusively on what it says about Jesus is this: Are we inadvertently minimizing the essential doctrine of the Trinity? Please don’t misunderstand: I am NOT saying that we should minimize Jesus! Rather, I am wondering if, in doing so, we have sometimes failed to show our children and students the importance of recognizing and understanding the triune nature of God and why it is essential to the Christian faith. As Dr. Bruce Ware has stated,

This doctrine is, at one time, a very significant distinguishing doctrine of the Christian faith. In another sense, it is a doctrine that is crucial for us in understanding much other doctrine of the Christian faith. Let me give you just one example…Think, for example, of salvation as we think of that as Christian people. Do you realize that it must be a Trinitarian God who saves if there is to be salvation from sin for sinners? Here is why. When you think of how salvation worked; it required that the Father send His Son into the world. Now, why is that? Because the Son had to come who was both divine and human. He had to be divine so that the payment for our sin would be of sufficient value to pay for all of our sin, for all time. A payment was made in full. He had to be human so he would take our place in dying for sin. It required that the Son submit to the will of the Father and receive the wrath of the Father against His own Son so that God would be satisfied, propitiated is the word that is used in Romans 3, as His Son made the payment for our sin. The Son who comes must live His life as a human being and He must live sinless and carry out the will of the Father every single moment of every day of His life. To do that the Holy Spirit comes upon Him so that He is empowered by the Spirit to live the life that He lived, to speak the things that He spoke, and perform the miracles that He did. He did so in the power of the Spirit so that He could go to the cross as obedient and sinless. Here we have the doctrine of salvation, which requires the Father being the One who sends the Son and judges sin in the Son, the Son who comes, who is at one in the same time both God and man, and the Spirit who is God empowering the man Jesus to live the life that He lived. The Trinity is required for salvation to be true.

(From, “The Doctrine of the Trinity” from www.monergism.com)

This is one reason we tweaked our distinctions this past year in order to reflect our desire to keep the Trinity central in our vision, mission, and teaching:

  • A Big Vision of God

Our curricula aims to acquaint children with the incomparable majesty of the triune God by digging deep into His divine character as revealed throughout Scripture. We believe that children should be taught the beauty and grandeur of His manifold perfections. In completing our scope and sequence, children will have learned and explored, with increasing depth, more than 20 distinct attributes of God.

  • The Centrality of God in All Things

Every lesson in every curricula aims to magnify the triune God above all—His name, fame, honor, and glory. We believe that children will find their greatest joy when they esteem God most. Therefore, the lessons use language, illustrations, and applications that point children toward God-adoration. Furthermore, the curricula challenge children to see that every aspect of life is to fall under centrality of God and His sovereign rule.

This commitment will not mean emphasizing Jesus less in our teaching. Hopefully, it will mean that our children and students gain a bigger and grander vision of who Jesus is in light of His triune nature as we see Father, Son, and Holy Spirit magnified together as the one, true God.

This week, I took this test posted by Tim Challies—to see how well I understand the doctrine of the Trinity. I commend this test to all parents, teachers, and senior high students.

(Image courtesy of Tuomas_Lehtinen at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

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