Don’t Teach Feelings

April 18, 2017 at 2:57 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments
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Last time, I discussed the problem of teaching Bible stories to children as though they are fables. Now we will see another concern that surfaces in many children’s Bible lessons: the emphasis on feelings.

Bible lessons are not therapy sessions. They are not really supposed to be opportunities for children to explore their emotions or feelings. Often, a children’s Bible lesson will have an “application” section so that the teacher can ask the child, “How do you think Jonah felt when was about to be thrown overboard? How do you think Jesus feels when you disobey?” And so forth.

Our feelings are not trustworthy, and it is better that our children understand, at a very early age, that the Bible is a book of absolute truth, not a sounding board for our opinions or feelings.

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?

Jeremiah 17:9

A child should not be encouraged to see himself as the hero in every Bible story. Quite the opposite: he should be encouraged to see himself as the SINNER in every Bible story. Our feelings (just like our wills and our intellects) are fallen. That are bent toward self-glorification, self-justification, and self-interpretation. The hard thing about teaching children is not building up their self-esteem. The hard thing is replacing it (not tearing it down) with esteem for God. Our job as parents, or as children’s Bible teachers, is to utterly convince them that He is absolutely supreme. This task will face its toughest obstacle not in convincing them that He is supreme over the weather, the government, their earthly heroes, us, or even death and the grave. It will be convincing them that He is absolutely supreme over THEM.

He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered.

Proverbs 28:26

“Just trust your heart,” says Walt Disney. “Follow your heart,” says Cinderella or the little mermaid. “Listen to your heart,” says OprahNO! Trusting and following your heart will make you a fool and may cut you off from God’s help. In grace, you will fail quickly, but in His judgment He may let you have your own way, and you do not want to have your own way over God’s way. Walk wisely and you will figure life out on your own? No. Walk wisely and you will learn from experience? No. Walk wisely and you will be what? DELIVERED, which means rescued by someone more loving, more powerful, more wise, more SUPREME than you.

Let’s teach children Bible truth, not feelings. Then their God-given feelings will focus on Him – where they belong.

The Blessings and Hazards of Companionship

April 12, 2017 at 3:00 pm | Posted in Biblical friendship, Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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“Don’t cave in to peer pressure.”
“Don’t run with the wrong crowd.”
“Be a leader, not a follower.”
“If your friends all jumped off a cliff, would you do it, too?”

Such are some of the worldly cautions about carefully and wisely choosing your friends. The Bible says it like this:

He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.

Proverbs 13:20

The Lord tells us to “walk with” wise men. This is obviously not a reference to the physical act of putting one foot in front of the other. It is a reference to those with whom we spend time on a daily basis, and with whom we form bonds of friendship. We are to join ourselves to friends who are “wise,” and those who are truly wise are those who follow the teachings of God found in the Bible.

The flip side of this advice to walk with wise men is the warning to avoid the companionship of fools. Fools are those who refuse to acknowledge God.

The consequences of ignoring Proverbs 13:20 are dire. Those who fall in with a company of fools are not promised a period of trial-and-error, or even a second chance. The outcome of making a wrong decision about our friends is “destruction,” and destruction, in the Bible, is a thing that may come suddenly, without warning. Destruction speaks of finality and utter obliteration. It is a serious warning.

For those of us with junior high or high school aged children, we need to be especially careful of modern Christendom’s “youth group” or “teen ministry” mentality, which says that children (characterized in the Bible as “simple” or “foolish”) need to find their primary sense of belonging with others of their own age. The children which God has entrusted to our care need to “walk with” and learn from men and women of “wisdom:” those who have reached a level of Christian maturity that causes them to base their attitudes and actions on Scriptural principles and precepts.

Don’t Teach Fables

April 5, 2017 at 11:10 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments
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The are various ways to teach Bible stories (which are true, factual, historical events) to children, and various techniques that can be used. This is not going to be a lesson about how to use sock puppets, or how to talk in a funny voice to keep kids’ attention, or how to string out a story over several weeks with carefully designed “cliffhangers,” so they will want to come back each week to find out what happens next. There are people who are far better at those things than I am.

No, this is about the actual teaching of Scripture. Teaching means that you are focusing on what they are actually learning, not just making sure they are having fun or being entertained. Nor am I talking about showing off Bible knowledge, or giving out prizes for participation or accomplishment. I’m talking about actually finding out what God wants us to know about a particular Bible story: Why did God put this in there and command us to read and study it?

Therefore, the first thing to keep in mind when teaching Bible stories to children is: Don’t teach fables. Bible stories are not fables. They are not fairy tales, and their purpose is not always to teach a “moral lesson,” although we usually can glean moral lessons from them.

The problem with avoiding the fable-teaching method in children’s Bible studies is that you will be hard-pressed to find a children’s curriculum or lesson book that DOESN’T use this method. Take the story of Jonah for example.

“Jonah was told by God to go where? Nineveh. But he didn’t want to go there, did he? No. Where did he go instead? To Joppa and then to Tarshish. And when he boarded the ship for Tarshish, what happened? A big storm that resulted in him getting thrown overboard. What do we learn from this? That if you disobey God something bad will happen to you.”

That’s true – as far as it goes – but remember, there are people disobeying God all over the place like crazy, and they seem to be doing fine. Several of them hold the highest government offices in our land! The story of Jonah is not like the boy who cried wolf – he did something bad so he ended up facing the consequences.

Try this instead: “What happened to Jonah when he was thrown overboard? Did he drown? No, God sent a big fish to swallow him up. That’s terrifying, but it turned out to be better than drowning, because he lived in the fish’s belly for how long? Three days… hey, wait a minute… hmmm, that reminds me of someone else who was supposed to be dead, and went down somewhere for three days.”

Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee. But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.

Matthew 12:38-41

It turns out that the Holy Spirit, when describing what happened to Jonah, was not really primarily teaching a lesson about the consequences of disobeying God, or even about how God can comfort you when you are scared and alone, or even about how God controls His creation (weather and animals). No, what He was primarily teaching is that we all have disobeyed God, and we deserve to be thrown into the sea to die, and we have absolutely no ability to save ourselves, but God can save us, because He Himself went down into the grave (the “belly of the earth”) and rose again in His Own power. Furthermore, just like Jonah’s testimony of coming back from the dead was the sign that supported his preaching, for us, the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead is our “proof” that everything that Jesus said about our sin and His salvation is true.

We don’t want our kids to think of a cartoon man and a cartoon whale, and definitely not a cucumber swimming around with a talking tomato.

We want them to think of a real man and a real fish that God used to get people ready to recognize Jesus – the Christ – Who would one day fulfill what Jonah and the whale typified: sin, death, burial, resurrection, and Gospel preaching!

The Most Important Children’s Ministry Tool

April 3, 2017 at 4:01 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments
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There is a whole industry out their geared toward the production of material for sale to churches, under the heading, “children’s ministry.” From coloring books, to puzzles, to visual aids, to movies, to action figures, to entire programs with point systems set up to award patches, trophies, candy, and prizes for attaining participation and memorization goals, there is no shortage of items available for those who would like organize, institute, or carry on with, a “children’s program” at his or her church.

The Holy Spirit, however, reminds us that the most important “material” needed in the evangelism, instruction, and training of children is found between the covers of God’s Holy Word: the Bible.

And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

II Timothy 3:15

If you are a Christian parent, then I suppose there may be some value in having a shelf filled with work books, color-in-the-lines representations of Noah’s Ark, and attendance awards, or a wall covered with certificates of merit for knowing all the hand motions to “I’m in the Lord’s Army, yes sir!” but do not neglect the most valuable teaching and learning tool ever invented for the edification of little (or future) disciples of Jesus: the Scriptures.

Even the Children

March 20, 2017 at 1:47 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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Psalm 148 is a psalm which commands us to praise the Lord.

Praise ye the Lord. Praise ye the Lord from the heavens: praise him in the heights.

Psalm 148:1

In fact, it commands all of creation, the whole universe, to praise the Lord.

Praise ye him, sun and moon: praise him, all ye stars of light. Praise him, ye heavens of heavens, and ye waters that be above the heavens. Let them praise the name of the Lord: for he commanded, and they were created.

Psalm 148:3-5

Kings and rulers, “ordinary people,” men and women, the young and old, all types of people are commanded to praise the Lord. This makes sense, but it is not limited to those with any sort of advanced understanding of how they are to worship. No one is exempt, regardless of maturity level or even sentient intelligence, for that matter. We would do well to remember this in our corporate worship services. There can be a temptation for those of a more advanced understanding to seek to eliminate the distraction of those who might not worship with the same mindset, decorum, or sophistication. However, it is clear that the Bible would not have us give in to this temptation. If even the seas, mountains, birds, and cattle can praise the Lord, how much more should we encourage our children to worship alongside us!

Both young men, and maidens; old men, and children:

Psalm 148:12

Why should the Lord be praised by so inclusive a throng? Because:

Let them praise the name of the Lord: for his name alone is excellent; his glory is above the earth and heaven.

Psalm 148:13

Children Need to Know that Death Is Real

March 8, 2017 at 2:20 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments
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Last time we talked about a key Bible theme that must not be ignored by parents when teaching the Bible to our children. In fact, it must be emphasized. Here is another:

2. Death is real.

It is also scary.

And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:

Hebrews 9:27

Death should be scary because it is a result of sin, and God absolutely hates sin.

But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

Genesis 2:17

Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:

Romans 5:12

Sadly, when we teach the standard “children’s” Bible stories – baby Moses in the Nile, the parting of the Red Sea, Jonah and the big fish/whale, Daniel in the lion’s den – we tend sanitize them and gloss over their fuller meanings, when, if we look at them faithfully, the fact of death comes up organically and realistically.

Look at the story of Noah’s ark, for example. What must we do to make this a happy children’s fairy tale? Well, to start with, you have to skip the prologue.

And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.

Genesis 6:7

And most of the actual story, for that matter.

And they that went in, went in male and female of all flesh, as God had commanded him: and the LORD shut him in.

Genesis 7:16

All in whose nostrils was the breath of life, of all that was in the dry land, died.

Genesis 7:22

To make it what our modern culture thinks of as “child-friendly,” you have to limit it mainly to just talking about a few animals, and cut straight to the rainbow.

I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth. And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud:

Genesis 9:13-14

And even then you have to be careful about reading too far!

And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh.

Genesis 9:15

The story of Noah’s ark is not a Disney story. It’s not like the man who tied balloons to his house so he could float away from death to magical place.

Noah and his family were not in there petting kitty cats and singing rain rain go away, little Japheth wants to play. They were probably covering their ears against the screams of terror outside… and they were resting wholly in one thing and one thing only for their salvation: God and His Word.

Have you ever told the children that God has entrusted into your care that the only reason Dad and Mom can laugh and smile and play with them – the only reason that they are looking forward to getting older instead of dreading it – is because Jesus has defeated death for all – BUT ONLY FOR ALL – those who have trusted Him?

Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.

I Corinthians 15:24-26

Our Kids Are Not Good Kids

February 20, 2017 at 5:12 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments
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As Christian parents we must talk to our children about some hard truths and difficult subjects that are page one headline material in the Bible, even though it might be tempting to shield our children from these truths when they are very young. The temptation is there because, in our sentimentalism and worldly conception of “love,” we do not relish the idea of giving them information that might make them uncomfortable. However, they need to know, understand, and believe that:

1. You are not a good kid.

According to the Bible, children come into the world as simple, but not virtuous. They are ignorant, but not innocent. As parents we don’t want them to be “wise” ABOUT sin, but we do want them to be humbled by the truth that they ARE sinners.

Yea, in heart ye work wickedness; ye weigh the violence of your hands in the earth. The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.

Psalm 58:2-3

We think of using these verses about wickedness when witnessing to strangers (and we should), but look at Psalm 58:1 and see to whom they are addressed: “the congregation” (which would include the children of God’s covenant people).

The Bible makes it clear that children are not exempt from the classification of “wicked sinners.”

Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.

Psalm 51:5

And the LORD smelled a sweet savour; and the LORD said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done.

Genesis 8:21

Why is it so important for our children to understand that they are not inherently “good?” Because we want them to be looking for a Savior, not a participation trophy. We want them to humble themselves in the sight of the Lord, not to hear that they have something about which to be proud. We, as their parents, are charged with the task of utterly convincing them of the absolutely supremacy of God.

For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.

Romans 14:11-12

As a Christian father, I do not want the children that God has entrusted to my care to have self-esteem; I want them to have “God esteem.” I do not want them to have self-worth; I want them to recognize God’s worth. Children will not naturally want to admit they are evil, but it’s true. They are not basically good – they are basically evil – just like Dad and Mom. They will love God more truly and deeply when they understand that they themselves are not the initiators, nor the instigators, of God’s love for them. We ONLY love God because He first loved us. And He ONLY loves us because He is love.

Next time we will face another difficult truth for children.

Wary Watching

February 16, 2017 at 4:32 pm | Posted in Biblical farming, parables, Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Usually when we see the word “watching” in the Bible it refers to something more than just idly looking at something. It typically has the connotation that we think of in connection with a night “watchman,” someone who is actively trying to stay alert, awake, and on guard, keeping a lookout for some sign that could mean either trouble or glad tidings.

Because the Bible sometimes uses the metaphor of farming in connection with Biblical evangelism, we have already noted that good farmers are concerned with planting, watering, and weeding. It would be nearly unthinkable to imagine a farmer, whose livelihood depended on a successful harvest, planting with care, watering diligently, pulling up weeds with zealous regularity, but failing to keep an eye on his crop, being oblivious to harmful insects, marauders, bad weather on the horizon, or sundry other forms of trouble that might befall his fields of produce. Therefore, we might apply the same principle to evangelism.

Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; And ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately. Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them. And if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants. And this know, that if the goodman of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through. Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not.

Luke 12:35-40 (emphasis added)

No one likes to get caught loafing. Because the Lord has given us a serious responsibility, and because we know the time to accomplish it is limited, and because we know that the day of accounting could come unexpectedly, we need to be serving Him faithfully, diligently, actively, obediently, and warily.

Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;

Ephesians 6:18 (emphasis added)

We do well to pray, but our custom of praying with our eyes closed must not be a hindrance to our engagement in the reality of spiritual warfare.

praying-with-eyes-closed

Faithful farmers hope that God sends rain, protection, and favorable conditions, but they also know that He expects them to be on guard, prepared to spring into action at the first signs of infestation, unexpected trouble, or the ripeness that means it’s time to harvest.

Kingdom Teaching for Children

February 14, 2017 at 4:07 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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God’s kingdom will never merge with this world’s kingdom. God’s kingdom is already far greater than any kingdom of this world, and God’s kingdom will one day overcome this world in a very visible way. As Christian parents we want our children to start, from as young an age as possible, thinking more about God’s kingdom than this world’s kingdom.

And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.

Deuteronomy 6:7

“In thine house” means during casual times of conversation, including play and relaxation, but also during formal times of family worship. “By the way” means outdoors, but also in social settings and commercial transactions. “When thou liest down” means a review of the day’s activities, events, and lessons, including the expressing of gratitude and confession of sins. “When thou risest up” means prioritizing God (demonstrating our conviction of His supremacy), in addition to consciously consecrating our bodies and that day’s planned activities to Him.

Give ear, O my people, to my law: incline your ears to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in a parable: I will utter dark sayings of old: Which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, shewing to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done.

Psalm 78:1-4 (emphasis on Verse 4)

We should glean spiritual truths from redemptive history and use them as teaching tools for our children.

Furthermore, we need to be training our children to grow mentally, physically, spiritually, and socially.

And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.

Luke 2:52

Notice the order: God and then man. Here are some areas and activities where we can talk to our chldren, and teach them about the importance of that order:

I. Look for examples in nature and daily life

II. Talk about what happened in church
A. Preaching
B. Baptisms
C. Lord’s Supper
D. Singing
E. Offering
F. Prayers
G. Fellowship

III. Rehearse history lessons with them
A. The history recorded in the Bible (redemptive history)
B. Church history
C. Personal history
1. Your ancestors’ personal histories
2. Your own personal history
3. Their personal history

The Privilege of Patriotism

January 13, 2017 at 4:25 pm | Posted in The Family of Faith, Uncategorized | 3 Comments
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There are both responsibilities and privileges that come with being a part of the family of faith. Last time we looked at the privilege of citizenship. Now we will see the responsibilities that come with the privilege of patriotism.

Patriotic citizens of an earthly nation are loyal to their nation; patriotic citizens of God’s nation and family are loyal to their King and to each other.

He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.

Matthew 12:30

Patriotic citizens of an earthly nation are willing to work for the good of their nation; patriotic citizens of God’s nation and family are willing to sacrifice themselves for their King and each other. Patriotic citizens of an earthly nation “hope” that their leaders will do a good job so they can support them; patriotic citizens of God’s nation and family KNOW that their King will always do what is right and good.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.

James 1:17

Next time we will see the privilege of participation.

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