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Don’t Toss Aside the Hull and Mast

Children Desiring God Blog // Don't Toss Aside the Hull and Mast

One of the things I’ve noticed about children’s and youth ministry in the past few years is a renewed and increased evangelistic impulse—an urgency to teach children about Jesus and the Gospel so that they might be saved. This is a wonderful change from the all-too-common emphasis on Gospel-less moralism of the past. My concern, however, is that sometimes for the sake of urgency—wanting our children to get saved as soon as possible (a really good desire)—we may be minimizing the very foundation on which that salvation depends. I found this illustration, from an article over at 9Marks, to be really helpful:

Let’s say, for the sake of illustration, that you are on a ship sailing to a faraway town to warn the people of impending doom. If you don’t get there in time, everyone dies. Needless to say, you want your ship to sail as fast as possible. You avoid any excess cargo that might slow your progress. You don’t waste time worrying about clean decks or polished brass. The urgency of the task requires you to operate with efficiency and leanness.

People…argue that the urgency of the Christian mission requires us to trim our theological sails and jettison the heavy freight of doctrinal precision.

…Doctrine is not freight on the ship. It’s the hull and mast.

A church’s doctrine determines the character and quality of its witness. Its theology shapes its goals and the way it tries to achieve those goals.

So the question is this: does disciple-making require churches to know and teach doctrine?

Critics of doctrinal necessity sometimes snidely remark that surely God is not going to open up people’s heads on the last day to ensure the right doctrinal formulas are inside. No, probably not. But he will ask them something like, “Were you trusting me? The real and true me, and not a made-up version of me?” In other words, God is very much interested in whether we are trusting in certain truths, because with God doctrinal truth is personal truth.

To experience Christ’s salvation, a person must believe and trust real truths about the real God. If someone has not turned with his or her whole heart to God and trusted him, he or she cannot be saved (Rom. 10:13–17). Doctrine is required for salvation!

(Mike McKinley, “In Poor Communities Does Doctrine Matter?,” www.9marks.org )

So, along with a renewed evangelistic impulse in our ministry to children and youth, let us also have a renewed discipleship impulse that must concern itself with a slow, progressive, precept-by-precept teaching of doctrinal truth. These essential truths are the hull and mast of the ship!

 

 

Dripping Bible for the Next Generation

Children Desiring God Blog // Dripping Bible for the Next Generation

Recently, my husband and I were driving with four of our grandchildren. While waiting at a particularly long traffic light, Grandma (me) had finally had enough. “Stupid traffic light!” I muttered, none too softly. A while later, we sat at another traffic light. This time I kept my mouth shut. But in the backseat, 2-year-old Nate filled the void, saying, “Stupid traffic light!” He went home knowing a new phrase to say when waiting for traffic lights. (Won’t his mommy and daddy be glad!) He simply heard and repeated what Grandma had said. Grandma has a problem. Grandma spoke out of a grumbling, sinful heart.

Imagine for a moment if I had said something like this instead:

1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “give thanks in all circumstances;” even for long waits at traffic lights,for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (more…)

Communicating to Children the Self-Sufficiency of God

Children Desiring God Blog // Communicating to Children the Self-Sufficiency of God

Children intuitively know that they need many things in order to exist. So it is relatively easy to teach them that it is God who ultimately provides for these needs. What’s more difficult to communicate to them is the self-sufficiency of God—that He needs absolutely nothing! He alone existed from all eternity, fully complete in Himself.

The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.—Acts 17:24-25

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When a Child Goes Astray

Children Desiring God Blog // When A Child Goes Astray

Long ago and far away, I had this little equation in my parenting mind: If we do all the right spiritual ABCs with our children, then God will bring about saving faith in their young lives (by 7 years old)…and just like that, in no time at all, our children will become faithful, fruitful followers of Jesus, doing great things for the kingdom by the time they are 12! That’s the way it’s supposed to work, right? Needless to say my little “salvation equation” for my children was naïve, to say the least! Real-life experience showed a more complicated path. Sometimes that path was confusing, heartbreaking, and even terrifying.

Here are some words from Kim Shay that I found really heartfelt and hope-filled for parents who are experiencing concern over their child’s spiritual condition:

In a perfect world, Christian parents would teach their children the gospel, and it would be embraced quickly, and without incident. Children would go seamlessly from childhood to godly adulthood without a blip on the screen.
As we know, we don’t live in a perfect world. And the reality is that good Christian parents raise children who give them some sleepless nights and break their hearts. I know what that is like. If you have children who never gave you a moment’s trouble, praise God for it! But for those of us who have had children who stray or struggle in their faith, it can be extremely painful. We feel shame and guilt. We may feel anger. But we must not despair. For those who may be in the midst of that kind of season, here are some thoughts.
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Bible Reading Tips for Kids

Children Desiring God Blog // Bible Reading Tips for Kids

Bible reading plans for kids are great resources to help your children develop the habit of daily Bible reading. (See last week’s post here.) But along with a reading plan, here is a crucial reminder from Sally Michael for you to share with your children before they begin:

…you can read the Bible with your mind only and walk away with just information. You may know a little more, but it hasn’t changed you. You can also read the words but harden your heart against their convicting and healing power.

We are blind to the truth in God’s Word. Without the help of the Holy Spirit, we will read words but we won’t see spiritual truth. We are unable to open our hearts to the power of the Word of God. We desperately need God’s help.

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Encouraging Your Children to Read the Bible In 2018

Children Desiring God Blog // Encouraging Your Children to Read the Bible

A new year is soon upon us and, for many adults, it is a time to begin a new Bible reading plan for 2018. But what about your children? Do you have an age-appropriate plan for them? Are you helping them to include Bible reading as a regular, daily, beneficial habit? David Murray has an excellent post regarding this. He starts the post with this question:

“How can I get my kids to read the Bible for themselves?” I’ve been asked that by many frustrated Christian parents. I’ve asked it myself!…Here’s what I’ve learned from my own experience and from talking with many parents and pastors.

He then outlines six ways to encourage your children in Bible reading:

  • Make it a priority.
  • Make it a joy.
  • Make it a habit.
  • Make it do-able.
  • Make it accountable.
  • Make it Gospel-centered.

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A Child in a Manger and the Truthfulness of God

Children Desiring God Blog // A Children in a Manger and the Truthfulness of God

Christmas is almost here, and many of us have been focusing on the birth of Jesus in our classrooms and homes. As we do this, let’s use this as an opportunity to also focus on how all the events and details surrounding His birth point to the faithfulness and truthfulness of God. For example, have your children consider these two verses written about 700 years before the birth of Jesus:

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.—Micah 5:2

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.—Isaiah 7:14 (more…)

Thanking God for the Life and Ministry of R.C. Sproul

Children Desiring God Blog // Thanking God for the Life and Ministry of RC Sproul

My early 20s were marked by a spiritual tsunami of sorts. It came about as I read The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul. God graciously used that book as a means to destroy my old, drab perceptions of who God is and what He is like. Sadly, even though I had been raised in the church my entire childhood and youth, I had not been taught the matchless splendor of God’s holiness. Sproul’s book was my first real exposure to the majestic holiness of God, a God who is worthy of all love, reverence, obedience, praise, and glory. And with that grand vision of the holiness of God, everything began to change. The authority of Scripture, character of God, depth of my depravity, essence of Christ’s redeeming work, and life in union with Christ, all came into clearer focus and have impacted every aspect of my life. (more…)

The Beauty and Ugliness of Christmas

Children Desiring God Blog // The Beauty and Ugliness of Christmas

Childhood memories leave a lasting impression on our lives. In walking down memory lane, here are some of my own childhood memories regarding Christmas (in no particular order):

  • a Christmas tree in the living room
  • special decorations, lights, and candles
  • singing Christmas carols
  • a Nativity set in which baby Jesus was placed in the center
  • presents!
  • family gatherings
  • yummy meals and treats
  • sitting by the fireplace with hot cocoa
  • the Christmas Eve service at church
  • celebrating the birth of Jesus

All beautiful and wonderful memories to instill in a child. But there is something very important missing from this list…something not impressed upon me as a child. Something we all need in our Christmas. What could this possibly be? Consider the following thoughts: (more…)

A Gift That Keeps On Giving for a Lifetime

Children Desiring God Blog // A Gift that Keeps on Giving for a Lifetime

As a child, I remember the excitement I experienced as I watched the growing number of presents being placed under the Christmas tree. How many had my name on them? What was in that huge one? Would I receive the gift that I had been dreaming of? And yet, years later, I don’t really remember any of those gifts. All those tangible, child-delighting things have faded from memory. I am sure they were readily enjoyed for a time, but they didn’t have any life-long impact.

Along with some fun gifts, have you ever considered giving your children something that will provide a means of greater and longer lasting joy? Then consider giving your children…a catechism! Yes, a catechism. Not at the top of their “wish list”? Probably not even on the list. But consider the following words from Sally Michael:

Perhaps the reason many people have a negative opinion regarding catechisms and doctrinal teaching is that there is a prevalent misunderstanding of catechesis. What so often comes to mind are thoughts like: “rote memorization,” “boring,” “dry,” “lifeless,” and “mechanical.”

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