Don’t Teach Finesse

May 1, 2017 at 2:54 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Previously I discussed the dangers of teaching the Bible to children the way we would teach fables, and of the danger of teaching them that the Bible is merely a sounding board for our feelings. Now we will see that we must also beware of the temptation to teach obedience to God as though it was part of a reward system, or a quid pro quo bargaining chip.

This is an especially dangerous teaching method because of the way even adults, through the so-called “health and wealth gospel” or the “Word of Faith” movement, have been seduced into this way of thinking: “I’ll obey You, God, but I need You to give me something in return” (good health and money being the two favorites). We see this train of thought subtly insinuated in promises to get blessings for giving, for ministry, even for faithfulness.

The problem is not really in teaching that God blesses, and even honors, faithfulness. The problem is in slapping our definition of “blessing” onto God’s greater and higher definition of blessing. Children who are taught that God is just aching to give them what their flesh craves are susceptible to developing a mentality of “gaming the system” – of trying to bribe or outsmart God.

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.

I Timothy 6:6-10

A love of money or any material thing (which amounts to the sin of greed) will bring sorrow instead of joy into the hearts of your children. Let’s teach our children that knowing and serving God is a blessing unto itself, and that even poverty and suffering may be counted as true blessings under His promises.

And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled. Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh.

Luke 6:20-21

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A One-Question Quiz for Boys

April 28, 2017 at 1:20 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments
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Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word.

Psalm 119:9

It’s one of the greatest Q&As of all time, packed into one clear and vital verse.

Q. How will a young man clean up his act and live right?
A. By purposefully and vigilantly moving through life with the Bible as his guide.

The psalmist asks and then answers his own question without hesitation, but are you and I convinced of this solution? I hope we are, because a wrong response has dire consequences: Psalm 34:16; Ephesians 5:3-6.

We sometimes use the colloquialism, “young men,” when we refer to boys – even those who are fairly far from the age (or maturity) of true manhood, and Bible does the same thing here, translating it from the Hebrew na’ar. Boys do not come into this world with clean hearts, and they do not start their journeys through life on clean paths. No, they start off with dirty, sinful, corrupt, and foolish hearts, bent toward heeding the world’s beckoning call to travel down its own dark, dangerous, deceitful, and disobedient alleys. Thus, the question in the first part of the verse presupposes that a young man’s “way” has need of purification (cleansing).

Thankfully, the Lord God Who reigns over this sin-sick world has provided a ready-made and easily-obtainable means for such cleansing. This antidote is not, however, a one-time vaccination or smoothly coated pill, quickly ingested and then forgotten. No, it is a remedy that requires young men to “take heed” – to look and listen carefully.

The Word of God is to be kept ever before their eyes. It is to be ingested through reading, and through attendance on teaching and preaching by trained and ordained men of God. Its principles and precepts are to be applied thoughtfully and rigorously as sign posts, warning lights, fuel for the journey, and dutiful directions at every twist and turn, every high-speed straightaway, and every providential detour along life’s course.

The Blessings and Hazards of Companionship

April 12, 2017 at 3:00 pm | Posted in Biblical friendship, Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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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 | 7 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 | 4 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.

The Gross-Out Factor for Kids

March 22, 2017 at 2:57 pm | Posted in Mark | 3 Comments
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Two of the difficult truths that parents must begin to teach children at a young age are:
1. They are not good kids.
2. Death is real.

A third is:

3. We have to love people who do disgusting things.

Jesus loved the people who didn’t love Him and who did the things He didn’t like. We have to do that, too.

And when the scribes and Pharisees saw him eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto his disciples, How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners? When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

Mark 2:16-17

Given a limited choice we would rather our children be grossed out by sin than attracted to it. However, we do not want them to be grossed out by sinNERS to such an extent that they are unwilling to love them. Jesus went to where the sinners were. He was not friends “with them” in the sense that He disguised what He thought of their sins, but He was a friend “to them” in the sense that He got very hands-on in their environment and lives.

Christian parents want their children to be surrounded by good influences, and that’s great, but a truly “good” influence is someone who encourages them to love people who are deeply mired in sin – even people who hate their Jesus, and who hate His Word. You can’t simultaneously show kindness and love to someone while giving them the impression that you are disgusted by who they are as a person. Lifeguards don’t swim out to a drowning person flailing in the sea, and immediately start telling him what an idiot he is for going swimming after eating a bucket of fried chicken and drinking a two-liter Pepsi.

Children Need to Know that Death Is Real

March 8, 2017 at 2:20 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 6 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 a 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

Next time I will discuss another difficult truth that we must teach our kids.

Our Kids Are Not Good Kids

February 20, 2017 at 5:12 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 9 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.

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

A Child’s View of God’s Supremacy

December 16, 2016 at 4:52 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments
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As Christian parents we should want the children that God has entrusted into our care to be utterly convinced of the absolute supremacy of God. And, although it may be hard for us to accept, the lesson that God is absolutely supreme may have to be learned in times of trial, struggle, darkness, and even affliction. Remember, we are raising these kids for Him, and, having entrusted them to us, He wants US to trust Him with them.

It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.

Psalm 119:71

We must bring the Scriptures to bear in our parenting, and we must confront our children with the Scriptures in times of suffering and despair. Learning God’s “statutes” (principles and precepts) will assist us in teaching them to find comfort in Him. They are just as important as a rod of correction in discipline, and more so in times of affliction that already involve pain, because we do not wish to inflict additional pain where pain has already been inflicted from above or allowed by God through circumstances.

And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

II Corinthians 12:7-10

Let us not, as parents, exhaust all our prayers on deliverance. Let us reserve some for the recognition – and acceptance – of humbling thorns in the flesh. And let us teach our children to pray through them, and recognize God’s strength supplanting their own perceived strength.

Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.

I Corinthians 10:31

We should think of this well-known verse as a reminder to try to utterly convince our children of the absolute supremacy of God, but, in its context, it is not so much a verse of victory as it is a statement of defiance by the Apostle in the midst of persecution. People were speaking evil of him and his teaching, and, rather than worrying about safeguarding or defending his reputation, he was concerned with God’s glory. For our children, the “whatsoever ye do” would include getting picked on and made fun of, as much as it would include a scraped knee, a lost purse, or the disappointment of not being invited to a best friend’s birthday party. There is no conviction of God’s absolute supremacy when we see Him only as supremely in charge of granting our favorite blessings.

Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.

Psalm 73:25

This is a general and true statement. No created being will make a good “God.” But it is also a desperate realization. Our children must learn to think Biblically. They must not see God as all they need (although He is), or even as all they want (although that would be great). They must see Him as all that they have. In a world of vanity, deceit, hypocrisy, anarchy, uncertainty, and unpredictability, God is the God of Heaven (eternity, the sweet by and by), but He is also of God of all the Earth (the nasty now and now). He’s the God of our church, our home, our car, our refrigerator, our little league team, our vacation, and our toy box. I’m no longer talking about just looking for illustrations or spiritual lessons; I’m talking about seeing God as supreme – both better than anything AND above anything AND truly our All-in-All.

One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple.

Psalm 27:4

God is so holy that no man can see Him and live. However, if we are doing our job as parents, our children should have a burning desire to see God – to “behold His beauty” – to “enquire” of Him and ask Him otherwise unanswerable questions. In teaching and preaching the Gospel to your children, tell them that God DOES want them to see Him – and look what great lengths He has gone to, to make it happen!

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