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.

Guard Your Heart: Purity in a Sex-Crazed World

 

Late night internet addiction or working late

As we continue our journey through the Sermon on the Mount as a faith family, Jesus’ teaching about sexual purity ought to echo in our minds.We have a tendency to think of purity in terms of external actions, but Jesus will have none of that. Purity is not merely about our behavior but about what is going on within our own heart. Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:28 make this clear, “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

In a culture like our own that celebrates sexuality as ultimate, we must be incredibly careful to guard our hearts. In reflecting on Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:27-30, three areas deserve attention.

First, we must be careful about our looking. When we see something that would draw our hearts away from purity, we must look away fast! Whether in person or online, second looks compromise the purity of our hearts. In the face of temptation, we must run! Think Joseph, not David (Gen 39:7-12, 2 Samuel 11:1-4).

Second, we must be careful about our thinking. Jesus’ words remind us that lustful thinking itself is adulterous. In other words, even if the external action of adultery does not occur, if the heart is filled with lust, we are guilty of adulterous intent. We must be careful in what we think about (Phil 4:8).

Third, we must be careful about our responding to sexual sin and temptation. Jesus says that gouging out a right eye or a cutting off a right hand is preferred to sexual impurity. What He means is that we must respond to sin and temptation radically. We can’t play games with our sinful hearts. We must take whatever action is necessary to flee temptation and pursue purity.

We must recognize that knowing Jesus and being close to Him is better than any sinful counterfeit. We must remind ourselves that in God’s presence, “there is fulness of joy” (Psalm 16:11).

What are some practical ways to guard our hearts?

  1. Develop a plan for purity (Job 31:1; When are you most tempted by sin? How can you make changes to lessen or eliminate temptation in those times? Are there places that you need to avoid to maintain a pure heart?, etc).
  2. Confess sexual sin to a mature believer of the same sex (James 5:16).
  3. Do whatever it takes to flee sexual temptation (1 Thess 4:3-4; Change to a flip phone, get rid of the internet, quit going to the gym or the pool, etc).
  4. If you are a believer, recognize that your body is God’s temple (1 Cor 6:19-20).
  5. Help other believers maintain purity (1 Thess 4:8; avoid edgy or questionable joking, immodesty, etc).
  6. If you’re married, maintain intimacy with your spouse (Prov 5:18-19, 1 Cor 7:3-5, Hebr 13:4).
  7. If you are a parent, be diligent in protecting your child’s heart by setting a good example in this area and by using internet filters, parental controls, etc (Prov 5, Eph 6:4).

Click here for information about tools to protect yourself and your family online.

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.