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A Good Reminder this Christmas

A Good Reminder This Christmas

Over the years, our family has made some drastic changes in how we celebrate Christmas in regard to gifts—a lot fewer “things” under the tree, tighter budgets, spiritually beneficial resources, homemade gifts, choosing a charity to give to, thrift store and garage sale finds, etc. And it has been wonderful for everyone involved! Here is a great reminder from Randy Alcorn:

Consider the typical American Christmas. When the annual obstacle course through crowded malls culminates on the Big Day, what’s the fruit? We find a trail of shredded wrapping paper and a pile of broken, abandoned, and unappreciated toys. Far from being filled with a spirit of thankfulness for all that Christmas means, the children are grabby, crabby, picky, sullen, and ungrateful—precisely because they’ve been given so much. (more…)

What Happened to Their “Faith”?

What Happened to Their "Faith"?

The older I get, the more I have seen this and wept. Sadly, too many of the students I once taught 15 and even 20 years ago have abandoned any pretense of the Christian faith. The great majority of these students grew up with godly Christian parents. What’s a parent to do? What’s the church to do? Last week Tim Challies had an important post, “Why Christian Kids Leave the Faith.”

Few things are sadder to witness than people who once professed faith leaving it all behind. This is especially true when those people were raised in Christian homes by God-fearing parents. These children were given every opportunity to put their faith in Jesus but determined instead to turn their backs on him. Why would they make such a tragic choice?

What Happened to Their "Faith"Several years ago Tom Bisset carried out a study of people who had left the faith. Wanting this to be more than a statistical analysis, he actually sat down with people to interview them and ask for detailed information on when, why, and how they abandoned their faith. As he compiled his research he arrived at the four most prominent reasons that people raised in Christian homes eventually leave Christianity behind.

• They leave because they have troubling, unanswered questions about the faith.
• They leave because their faith is not working for them.
• They leave because they have allowed other things to take priority.
• They leave because they never personally owned their faith.

…As parents we are to commit ourselves to the task of raising our children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord, to teach them the facts of the faith, to show how it answers our questions and meets our needs, to insist that the good news of the gospel must be personally apprehended. We do what God calls us to do, we do it to the best of our abilities, and we entrust the results—and our children—to God’s good providence.

whychristiankidsrebelA book I would recommend for parents is Tim Kimmel’s Why Christian Kids Rebel: Trading Heartache for Hope. Even if your children have not rebelled or shown any indication of rejecting the faith, this book has some very helpful biblical counsel for all parents to consider and implement in their parenting.

 

 

They Need More than a Cheerleader

They Need More Than a Cheerleader

Melissa Kruger wrote this article for her sisters in Christ, but it also hit home to me as a teacher, parent, and grandparent. The same tendency to reduce Jesus to the role of spiritual cheerleader in ministries and resources aimed at women can easily, and oh so subtly, begin to pervade our children’s Sunday school classrooms and our parenting.

Please, please read the entire article, “Sisters, Jesus Is Not Your Cheerleader” in order to properly understand what she is saying and what she is not saying. As you read this excerpt from the article, think about how her points readily apply to teaching children and parenting in general.

They Need More Than a CheerleaderAnd, to be clear, Jesus does encourage. He offers words of strength to the weary and comfort to the hurting. In a world where we so often feel we don’t measure up, we need his encouragement daily. By focusing on only part of his message, however, I’m concerned that we’ve reduced Jesus to a spiritual cheerleader. And, in turn, that’s what we’ve become to one another. We offer words of affirmation, but not rebuke; words of forgiveness, but not repentance. We rightly celebrate his grace, but often forget to mourn our sin.

In doing so, we miss out on life-giving realities in our relationship with Jesus and one another. It’s the friends willing to call me out in my sin and say hard things whom I trust the most. They’re the ones I return to time and again for advice and wisdom—precisely because they recognize that who I am isn’t all I need to be.

Jesus speaks to us in a variety of ways—he teaches, commands, rebukes, calls, and exhorts. When we reduce Jesus to our personal rah-rah section in the bleachers, we miss out on the faithful friend we so desperately need. If you’re mainly hearing “you’re great!” (cue Tony the Tiger) from your devotional or women’s ministry, I invite you back to God’s Word, where we hear the voice of Jesus in a diversity of ways.

(www.thegospelcoalition.org)

Questions to ask in regard to our children’s and youth ministries in particular:

  • Do the resources we use—curriculum and other books—present the variety of ways that God speaks to us in His Word in a balanced way? Do they continually point to the greatness of God, or do they tend to make much of us instead?
  • In teaching children, does my teaching style tend toward the “rah-rah, you’re great” in an unhealthy and unbiblical way? How can I take steps to have a more balanced and biblical approach? (It’s possible to also teach with the other extreme—too little exhorting or encouraging. This is also unhealthy and unbiblical.
  • For my own devotional life, do I carefully select materials that bring me to God’s Word in such a way that I see the whole counsel of God being communicated through a diversity of commands, rebukes, calls, and exhortations? How can doing so better help me as a parent and teacher?

 

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)

 

The Holy Weight of Teaching Divine Truths

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The United States Constitution, ratified on June 21, 1788

Years ago my family visited the National Archives. There, in the main rotunda, housed under heavy glass and dim lights, you can view the United States Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights—documents that changed the course of history. We approached these documents with a sense of somber reflection, understanding something of the lofty ideals and great sacrifices behind the words. However, that somber reflection was rudely interrupted by a group of junior high students joking with their friends, running and goofing around, totally oblivious to the documents they had supposedly come to see. Apparently no one had taught them about an appropriate decorum when in the presence of weighty things.

Weighty things…I have spent the past two months writing lessons for children. Consider some of the topics: God’s holiness and righteousness, sin and judgment, the Gospel, justification, sanctification, submission to Christ, living in a manner pleasing to the Lord…All are topics of utmost, eternal importance for our children—the difference between heaven and hell, their everlasting joy or everlasting misery. These are no trifling matters. These topics, all revealed in God’s Word, are the weightiest things in the universe.

This is a constant reminder for me: Teaching children involves a holy weight. It is holy because our teaching is meant to point to and reflect the holiness of God—the one true God who is utterly unique, one-of-kind, beyond compare, majestic, and perfect in every way. It is a weight because the things we teach are meant to land on the heart, mind, and will with an appropriate seriousness meant to encourage life-transforming impact that is honoring to a holy God. We are dealing with divine priceless truths! This is true whether we are teaching 2 year olds or 12 year olds.

This changes the way I prepare a lesson, the way I pray over a lesson, and the way I present a lesson.

Does that mean there is no room for creative fun in the classroom? Are engaging illustrations out-of-bounds? Do lessons need to be presented in a drab, somber tone, and never with joyful exuberance? No, I am not suggesting any of this. I believe our curriculum has attempted to strike an appropriate balance in this regard. We use numerous, age-appropriate, child-appealing, illustrations and visuals in our lessons, but all are designed to help and encourage our students to grow in their understanding of and reverence for the triune God and the amazing gift of salvation offered in Jesus Christ. These are divine, priceless truths indeed! Let’s strive to teach our students in such a way that they learn an appropriate decorum when in the presence of weighty things!

A Vision for Leading Children in Worship

A Vision for Leading Children in Worship

Read Part 2 of this post: Practical Tips and Resources for Worship Leaders

Have you ever wondered why we sing in Sunday school? Is it a time-filler or a way to keep the kids occupied? Or is there purpose behind it?

We lead children in worship, first and foremost, because God is worthy of worship.

  • I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised…—Psalm 18:3
  • Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable. One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.—Psalm 145:3-4
  • Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.—Philippians 2:9-11

Secondly, we were created to worship and we are training children to be worshippers of God.

  • But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.—1 Peter 2:9
  • After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes…crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”—Revelation 7:9-10

“Worship” is the term we use to cover all the acts of the heart, mind and body that intentionally express the infinite worth of God. This is what we were created for, as God says in Isaiah 43:7, “Everyone who is called by my name, and whom I have created for my glory…” That means that we were all created for the purpose of expressing the infinite worth of God’s glory. We were created to worship.
—John Piper (“Meditations on Daily Worship,” at desiringGod.org)

How we worship our great God will vary greatly, but it is important that we remember some basics, and the rest should fall into place as we seek God on the specific “hows” of worship. We must worship in spirit and truth by engaging both the heart and the head, the emotions and the mind. And our affections for God must be rooted in truth for worship to be biblical.

Another thing to remember is to talk and sing to God, not just about Him. Don’t get me wrong, it is important to teach songs about God to help our children learn about Him and to equip them to preach to their own souls, but we must be careful to remember that true worship is communion with God, not just learning about him. (See “Talk to God, Not Just About Him” by John Piper, desiringGod.org)

Read Part 2 of this post: Practical Tips and Resources for Worship Leaders

 

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

 

 

Hope-filled Labor in the Classroom

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I have given up. The white flag has been raised. I worked so hard to keep away the pests, disease, deer, and other harmful critters. The weather didn’t cooperate either. It feels as if my efforts to prepare, plant, and harvest produce from my garden have been in vain. Why even bother with gardening anymore?

Sometimes it is tempting to have a similar attitude as we face another year in the Sunday school classroom. So much labor is involved—preparing lessons, worship songs, special activities, and more. And yet, even in our pray-soaked diligence, we know that some children and youth will seem uninterested in the truths of Scripture. They may even appear indifferent to our earnest calls for them to “repent and believe in the Gospel.” Or, while demonstrating a genuine trust in Christ, we may feel disappointed by their lack spiritually maturity and slow pace of growth. Does that mean our labor is in vain?

Here is a verse filled with hope:

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:58, ESV)

…in the Lord your labor is not in vain!

“In the Lord”—

  • Trusting in His sovereign goodness
  • Being confident that He loves our students more than we do
  • Believing that He alone has the power to bring about new life
  • Knowing that we are called to be faithful to “sow and water”—faithfully teaching and explaining the truths of the Bible—while depending on God to give the growth
  • Teaching from a heart that is filled with joy in Christ
  • Prepared to share the hope that is within us
  • Always mindful that everything we say and do in the classroom should reflect the greatness and worth of God, His majestic holiness!

Will any of us demonstrate this perfectly in our classrooms this year? No, but the God who calls us IS perfectly faithful to complete His sovereign will. That difficult, uninterested, indifferent, 8-year-old boy might just grow up to be an extraordinary man of faith 30 years down the road.

So, labor hard “in the Lord” in your classroom this year, and don’t give up. In the Lord, our earnest but imperfect teaching skills, worship leading, and small group discussions are not in vain. I fully believe that in the future—maybe not until heaven—we will be amazed to see the harvest that God was pleased to bring about through the grace-dependent efforts in our Sunday school classrooms.

(Image courtesy of radnatt at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

Important Electronic Resource Update for Ministry Partners

CDG-for-web

Thank you so much for your partnership. We really appreciate you and consider it a wonderful privilege to minister together. We trust and pray that the Lord is strengthening you during this very busy season as you prepare for fall programs.

One item that may not come to your full attention during this time is the license agreement for our electronic resources. If you have not recently done so, we would be very grateful for you to carefully review these agreements.

We love the fact that Children Desiring God is a non-profit ministry. Some implications:

  • We place a higher priority on serving you and the church rather than simply engaging in a financial transaction.
  • This philosophy compels us to offer an electronic distribution policy built on trust, foregoing a more technologically advanced and costly compliance system.
  • We need your help in carefully complying with this policy to allow us to keep costs lower and provide ongoing revenue for the development of more resources—including a growing number of free resources to better equip and train parents and ministry workers.

Here is a quick reminder…

Electronic Workbook license—each is licensed for one student for the duration of the year in which the curriculum is taught. When the curriculum is taught in the future, new licenses are needed.

Electronic Teacher Guide/Leader Edition license—each is licensed for one teacher, small group leader, or other classroom volunteer. Five volunteers requires five licenses. If two teachers alternate weeks or months, they would each need their own license. The policy allows a license to be reassigned in future years, knowing different adults will volunteer from year to year. However, when the license is reassigned, the PDF must be deleted from the original user’s computer and any printouts passed on to the new person or destroyed.

Posting on your website

Please do not post electronic workbooks or teaching materials on any website, including your church website. Some people have done this not realizing it is a copyright infringement as it makes the materials accessible to non-licensed users.

If you find that you are out of compliance, feel free to contact our Customer Service Team (info@childrendesiringGod.org or 1-877-400-1414), and we will be happy to assist you.

If you are interested in knowing why we have structured our electronic licenses this way please read more.

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:

 

 

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