A Great Resource for Helping Kids Read the Bible

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The greatest responsibility we have as parents is to model a vibrant love for Jesus and to train our children in the faith. Of course, learning to read the Bible daily is an important Christian discipline that we want our children to develop. To help our kids learn to read the Bible daily, we must model a deep commitment to daily time in God’s Word ourselves. The power of our example in this regard can’t be overstated. Our kids need to see that we are dedicated to spending time with God every day.

To help our children learn this important discipline, we also need to provide an easy-to-read translation of the Bible. The Christian Standard Bible is an excellent version for kids as it provides a good balance of faithfulness to the original languages and readability. Also, providing some tools will help children navigate Bible reading. An excellent resource is David Murray’s Exploring the Bible. This book is designed for children ages 6 -12 and takes kids through key passages of the Bible over the course of a year. Also, it includes space for children to write prayer requests and take sermon notes.

Parents, God has given us the incredible responsibility of training our kids in the faith. Let’s take this responsibility seriously and make time to help our kids learn to read the Bible. Grandparents, I hope you’ll use your influence in the lives of your grandchildren to foster a love for the Word as well.

Note: FBCU folks, you can find a copy of Exploring the Bible in our library and purchase a copy in the office for $5.

Will Our Kids Love Jesus and Follow Him? (Part Two)

Wise Father

Last week, I wrote about the importance of passing on our faith to our children (Part One). Spending time together in family worship is a crucial part of this faith training. Here are some tips for family worship:

Keep it simple and fun

  • Keep a manageable time (10 -15 minutes)
  • Don’t lecture. Encourage family discussion
  • Strive to maintain an enjoyable and fun atmosphere; make it a special family time

Set a regular time

  • Encourage everyone in the family to plan for this time
  • Find a time that is not hurried or pressured (if that’s possible)

Have a plan

Here’s an outline to help you as you plan your family devotional times.

  • Pray (1 minute)
  • Read the Word (7 minutes)
    • What’s the main idea of the passage?
    • How can we live out this truth?
  • Sing a song (2 minutes)
    • Pick a song that is related to the biblical passage if possible
    • If no one in your family plays piano or guitar, use YouTube
  • Pray (5 minutes)
    • Write down prayer requests in a family prayer journal
    • Ask for a volunteer to pray for each request

Strive for consistency

  • Meet daily or as many days each week as possible
  • Strive to have all members of the family present, but proceed even if not
  • When schedules don’t work out, don’t give up. Keep trying.

Click here for more resources for family worship.

Will Our Kids Love Jesus and Follow Him? (Part One)

Rejecting Christianity

Your elementary child comes home from school asking if God really created the universe. Your teenager tells you that God seems mean to limit marriage to a man and woman. Your college student says that she no longer believes in Christianity in light of the various world religions.

In today’s world, holding to the Christian faith is more challenging than ever. Undoubtedly, our faith will not be reinforced by other cultural forces as it might have been in the past. Consider the fact that nearly every cultural institution has capitulated to the sexual revolution, even the Boy Scouts.[1] In fact, much of the culture not only doesn’t support traditional Christian beliefs but instead is openly hostile to biblical faith.

If our children remain steadfast in the faith, it is vital that dads and moms take faith training of their children seriously. Without a firm commitment to teach and model a vibrant love for Christ and to teach a biblical worldview to our children, it is very unlikely that they will hold to the Christian faith as they mature. Consider this biblical admonition:

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”      – Deuteronomy 6:4-9

A crucial tool in passing on the faith to our children is family worship. In family worship, parents and children gather together daily or several days a week to read the Word, pray, and sing. This time might be at breakfast, around the dinner table, or even a few minutes before bed.

Next week, I’ll post some practical tips for leading family worship.

[1] Richard Gonzalez, “Boy Scouts Will Admit Transgender Boys,” NPR, January 31, 2017, accessed March 15, 2017, http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/01/31/512541372/boy-scouts-will-admit-transgender-boys.

Considering the Implications of the Transgender Decree

President

The sexual revolution that began in the 1960s continues with almost breathtaking velocity. On Friday, the president issued a decree that requires all public schools to permit students to utilize the restroom or locker room according to their gender identity [1]. If public schools are indeed required to conform to the president’s order, biological boys will be able to use girls’ restrooms and change in girls’ locker rooms and vice versa. One wonders where the sexual revolution will lead next.

The implications of such a policy are troubling at many levels. Of course, privacy and safety are obvious concerns. If this policy moves forward, and it most likely will at least eventually, we have to recognize the powerful influence these kinds of policies will have on shaping our children’s understanding and thinking about identity and sexuality.

From a biblical perspective, gender is a good gift from God and is a part of God’s plan for creating stable families and nurturing the next generation (Genesis 1:27, 28; 2:24). When a biblical understanding of gender and the family breaks down, the result is brokenness and pain at an individual level and ultimately instability at a societal level.

How did we get to this place? The answer can be found in Genesis 3. When Adam and Eve rebelled against God, all of creation and every human heart were broken by sin. Thus, struggles with identity and gender are reality in a fallen world. The answer is not to abandon the Bible’s teaching on the nature of humanity and sexuality. Instead, we must compassionately point people to the Gospel, to the hope and healing that are found in Christ and in Christian community.

As the culture continues down the path of the sexual revolution, Christian parents must recognize that a secular understanding of human nature and sexuality are almost certainly going to be persuasive to our children. Consequently, we must be intentional in teaching and training our children in a biblical understanding of human nature and sexuality. Are you intentionally discipling your children?

Also, for those who are married, we must model a God-honoring relationship with our spouse. A godly family will be compelling to our children. Finally, each one of us must love Jesus in a way that our children see the reality of the Gospel and Christ’s work in our lives. This kind of genuine faith that is lived out before our children is critical in passing a love for Christ and commitment to God’s Word to the next generation.

[1] Julie Hirschfeld Davis And Matt Apuzzo, “U.S. Directs Public Schools to Allow Transgender Access to Restrooms,” New York Times, May 12, 2016. 

The Fifth Commandment and the Goodness of God

Grandfather and Granddaughter

The fifth commandment instructs children to honor their parents. Ultimately, the fifth commandment points to God’s loving concern in establishing the family. The family structure provides for the care and nurture of children and of the infirmed and elderly. [1]

In thinking through the implications of the fifth commandment, we’re reminded that God is a loving Father. Deuteronomy 32:6 says, “Is not He your Father who has bought you? He has made you and established you.” In fact, Jesus taught the disciples to pray by addressing God as Father (Matt 6:9). As Father, He loves us, guides us, disciplines us, protects us, and the list could go on.

Second, the fifth commandment reminds us that our hearts are stubborn. Throughout Scripture, children are encouraged to honor and obey their parents. For example, Proverbs 1:8 says, “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.” In Paul’s letter to the churches at Ephesus and Colosse, he reiterates the importance of children obeying parents (Eph 6:1, Col 3:20). In fact, the charge to honor parents doesn’t end at adulthood. We are called to respect our parents even as adults (Prov 23:22). Moreover, we have responsibility to care for aging parents (Jn 19.25-27, 1 Tim 5.8).

Third, this commandment reminds us of the blessing of a Christ-honoring family. God has graciously established the family to provide for the nurture and instruction of children. In Deuteronomy 6:4-8, God calls His people to love Him wholeheartedly and to pass on their faith to the next generation. In Ephesians 6:4, Paul emphasizes the father’s role in proper discipline and instruction of children. Thus, the family provides the context for the nurture of children and is the means by which the gospel is passed on to children and grandchildren. As children see their parents’ and grandparents’  love for God and commitment to Him, their hearts and lives are shaped.

Fourth, this commandment reminds us that in Christ, we’ve been adopted into God’s very own family. In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul writes, “And I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me” (2 Cor 6:18). Even if a person has no children, God places those who trust in Him in a spiritual family with brothers and sisters in Christ who provide support and help. This is the good news of the gospel that our stubborn hearts can be transformed in Christ and that we can be members of God’s own family.

In our days, the family is clearly under assault. With the rise of the hook-up culture, cohabitation, and rampant divorce, children are left bearing the weight of the consequences of adult decisions. But God has given us a better way. He intends for one man to marry one woman, to stay married, and to nurture children in the faith. As these children grow into adulthood, they continue to honor and eventually to care for their aging parents.

As believers, we must strive to keep families together; we must refuse to “throw in the towel” when the going gets tough. Of course, when family difficulties arise, the fifth commandment reminds us that in Christ we have a loving Father who provides forgiveness, strength, help, and hope. Indeed, the fifth commandment prompts us to recognize the goodness and kindness of God in establishing a family structure that promotes human well-being.

 [1]The structure for this post is based on recommendations from Ray Ortlund, “Preaching the Ten Commandments,” The Gospel Coalition, April 16, 2015.

Considering What “Marriage Equality” Will Really Mean

Happyness of three couples

Today, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments regarding the definition of marriage. The Court is expected to render a decision on June 26. Based on the Court’s recent actions and inaction, it is likely that the Court will declare a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. However, we want to continue praying for God’s mercy in this matter.

Some will ask, “Why do you care? Why not allow two adults who love each other to be married?” That argument sounds reasonable, right? However, consider the logical conclusions of this argument, and you’ll quickly discover that there is no stopping place. In other words, if marriage is no longer defined as a relationship between one man and one woman with the obvious biological realties connected to procreation, then marriage can and eventually will mean anything.

To put it another way, if a loving, same-sex couple can be married, why not a “throuple” or three-some in their meaningful, loving relationship? Or why not four? Could a father marry his adult son? Could widows and widowers group together in various arrangements, marrying to share social security and savings?[1] And the list goes on. If marriage is severed from the biological realities associated with procreation, there will be no end to innovation. What does marriage equality mean in these contexts?

If marriage is redefined, then marriage ultimately loses all meaning. Rampant divorce and the culture of cohabitation have already done irreparable harm to children and families. The redefinition of marriage will be another momentous step away from the stability of family structure. Why do we care? Love of neighbor compels us to care. Marriage was instituted by God to provide a healthy context for the nurture and instruction of children (Genesis 1.27-28, Ephesians 6.4). When we abandon God’s good provision, children will suffer. Ultimately, society as a whole suffers as the structure and stability of family gives way.

Anderson, George, and Girgis are exactly right, “Marriage plays a fundamental role in civil society because it is characterized by sexual complementarity, monogamy, exclusivity, and permanence. These marriage norms encourage men and women to commit permanently and exclusively to each other and take responsibility for their children.”[2]

Am I a bigot and mean-hearted for praying and hoping that the Court will not take this next step in furthering the erosion of the family? That’s certainly what I’d be called by many people. As believers we must remain faithful to God’s Word even when it feels awkward as it certainly does in today’s cultural climate. God’s Word and love of neighbor compel us to remain steadfast even in the face of opposition. Will you join me in praying for God’s mercy in this matter? God can change the hearts of kings (Proverbs 21.1). Perhaps, He will.

[1]Hadley Arkes, “The Jujitsu of Same-Sex Marriage: One Last Surge of Reflection for the Court,” First Things, April 14, 2015.

[2]Sherif Girgis, Ryan T. Anderson, and Robert P. George, What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense (New York: Encounter Press, 2012).

Teaching Your Little Ones Great Truths about God

Book Cover - Everything a Child Should KnowUndoubtedly, a parent’s responsibility to pass on the faith to their children is of utmost importance. From a biblical perspective, parents are primarily responsible for training and discipling their children (Deut. 6.4-10, Ps. 78.1-9, Eph. 6.4). The church should walk alongside parents as a support in strengthening the faith of children.

On occasion, I come across a resource that will help parents in this essential task. Recently, I became aware of a new book, Everything a Child Should Know about God by Kenneth Taylor. This book helpfully presents major truths about God in a simple and easy-to-understand way. It would be a great addition to family worship times or to the bedtime routine. We have a copy available in our library or you can order it from Westminster Bookstore; I don’t think it is available on Amazon yet.