Training up a child in the way he should go means proactively educating your child in the faith from the earliest moments of life. This is the model exemplified in Timothy who was taught the faith from his infanthood (literally, from the womb! [2Tim.3:15]).
Because God's desire is that we immerse our children in the Scriptures, it is necessary to have some tools to help us do that. I thought it would be a good idea to pass on some books that have my wife and I have found extremely beneficial for our kids (and for us!). The following have really impressed us:
The Mighty Acts of God by Starr Meade is the book that we are currently reading with our 8 year old daughter at bedtime. I put it first because it is foremost among the books we have worked through. Mighty Acts follows the Bible's narrative much like any other children's Bible storybook. However, it excels them for three reasons:
The first distinguishing mark is the way it is written. Each of the stories are told in such a way that not only captures the Biblical text in a faithful rendering, but also captures your child's attention. You and your child will be drawn into the story and made to feel the tension tighten and release in each chapter.
Secondly, it comes highly recommended because it does not focus on the individual Bible characters (i.e. Joseph was a good man). Instead it focuses on the character of God and the redemptive themes that come to light through each story. Your child will walk away not just knowing more about the love, grace, and omnipotence of God, they will actually feel like they know him personally.
Lastly, Mighty Acts trumps other storybooks because of its useful tools. Provided at the outset of each chapter is a Bible verse which captures the theme of the story and could be used for memorization. At the end of each chapter the book provides excellent discussion points so that parents can bring the application home even more. This last feature I have found to be worth the price of the book in itself.
The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones is another solid acquisition for your 4-7 year old. The subtitle to the book reveals the essence of its focus, "Every Story Whispers His Name." This book is phenomenal because it seeks to make clear how Christ is revealed in and through the whole of Scripture.
Through Jesus Storybook your child will come to see that God has one overarching plan. Moreover, they will see how each of the individual stories fits within that plan and comes to fruition in Christ.
What I personally liked about this book is that you come to build expectation for Christ as you work your way through the Old Testament, just like the saints of old would have experienced. Being as this is so, it would make for a good book to use in the Advent season leading up to Christmas.
For those of you who want something a little more substantial, check out Cathrine Vos' The Child's Story Bible. Unlike most story Bibles, Child's Story doesn't skip much. Vos takes you through virtually every narrative in the Bible. Along the way she sprinkles in some helpful commentary so you (and your kid!) come to understand some of the more challenging parts of the Scripture.
What I liked about this book is that my daughter got a much more comprehensive understanding of the Scripture. As a kid who get's Scripture read to her at the beginning of school in the morning, dinnertime, and bedtime (not to mention a couple of times a day each Sunday), she needed something more than the typical Creation, flood, and David and Goliath stories you normally get in a story Bible.
Some might be intimidated by the volume of Child's Story. It is a big book with lengthy chapters (It took us about a year to work through it). But this should not be a deterrent. The chapters can be broken up easily for nightly readings, and the pay-off in terms of content is superb.
After Vos, we wanted something a little lighter. So we jumped into Day by Day, which is, as you may surmise, a daily devotional for kids. We read this last year with my daughter (when she was 7) and I found it good, but probably directed more toward younger kids (say 5-6). We actually read a couple entries a day because it was so short.
If you are looking for a lot of a thorough analysis, you will be greatly disappointed with this choice. However, if you are looking for something bite sized, bed-time natured and emphasizing practical daily life kind of stuff, this is a good buy.
I will say that one downfall to this book is that, because it focuses so much on how kids should live before God, it sometimes has a "man-centered" feel to it. Parents can easily overcome this by pointing out the grace in each passage. Moreover, this book is, as I said, very kid oriented. It is helpful in getting your children to think about how God's law applies to their lives in particular (i.e. relationships with friends, obedience to parents, prayer, understanding how Christ is Lord, etc.).
Ok, let's jump into something a little more didactic. After years of going through the Bible and various storybooks, we thought it would be good to start giving my daughter some real training in Bible doctrine. So this year for her second grade Bible class we've been using Starr Meade's Training Hearts, Teaching Minds.
The Westminster Shorter Catechism was originally designed for the purpose of instilling the basic tenets of the faith in children. Meade's book is great because it integrates a weeks worth of lessons for each of the catechism's question and answers. This makes it perfectly conducive for memorizing each of the Q & A's. What's more is that you get to spend a week looking at what the Bible says about each particular topic.
This sort of training is absolutely necessary at some point in your kid's education. Years ago a survey was done and it found that most all of college freshmen who grew up in the church and in Christian homes knew virtually nothing about the most basic Christian doctrines. Meade's work provides a great place to start your child on a much more sound track.
A dip in some church history may also be a good change up from your typical Bible storybook reading, especially if you are a homeschooling family. While I have not delved much into these yet, the History Lives series looks like an excellent resource for introducing your children (ranging 8-12 years old) to our great heritage.
You might ask why I promote a series of books that I have not yet read. I do so because I want to help broaden the scope of our young people's Bible knowledge. While there is never a substitute for the Scriptures, we should not limit our reading to the Scriptures. If we are going to know His Story, we must look at what God was doing after the close of the book of Acts.
As well, learning about the history of the church is important for gaining a well rounded Christian worldview. As Solomon said, "There is nothing new under the sun." All the errors we face today were most likely already tackled by our forefathers in the faith in earlier centuries. Letting your child become familiar with some of these events will allow them to see how the Bible has been applied, challenged, and defended through the ages.
Finally, back in the world of family devotions, let me suggest our latest read as a family: Long Story Short: Ten-Minute Devotions to Draw Your Family to God. I do have a little beef with the length of these studies. It is very short and maturity in the faith will take much more quality time in the study of Scripture. However, the book is very well written and the short is right to the point. Best of all, the point is always theologically sound. Long Story Short is more than a children's story Bible. It unfolds the redemptive and theological implications of each of the stories of the Bible. What happens is that you and your children come to understand the flow of Scripture. The Bible becomes God's Story of our redemption and less a book of moralisms.
The book includes a Bible passage for reading, a short explanation, and a few questions for children for review and discussion.
With the culture swirling down the gutter, people sometimes ask, "What can we do to change it?"
Here's my answer: Get married, have lot s of kids, and train them in the fear of the Lord. In one generation we will take the majority. In a second generation we have effectual dominance of the culture.
This next week I get to speak about one of my favorite subjects: my kids and our experience in adoption.
Mark Hamilton, one of our elders at Providence Church, teaches a course on ethics at the university as part of his philosophy core. In it he has one section designated to the issue of abortion. He asked me to come and talk about the flip side of it (i.e. adoption).
If you are interested, the synopsis of my talk is listed here.
I was asked to participate in today's Election Day Prayer event that is being held downtown. It is put on by Southview Church and the Coalition, a conservative political group here in town. My segment of prayer is to focus on the topic of families. Here is what I plan to say...
As we bow our faces before you we acknowledge that a renewal in our country requires a renewal in our marriages and families. We know that we cannot have the former without first having repentance and reformation in the latter.
We confess that our nation is broken because our homes are broken. We suffer oppression from Pharaohs and Caesars because we have not first had godly mothers and fathers.
So we pray that you would grant us renewal at the grassroots level. May there be a reformation in our land, where we take to heart what it means to be united in the covenant of holy matrimony. May we begin to see that there is nothing more patriotic than the fidelity of a husband and his wife. May you grant us fathers and mothers who, instead of slaying their children, will instead love them and cherish them all their days. May these parents then take up their responsibility to train their children them in the fear of you and not further the decay of our country by handing them over to schools where atheism and relativism are the rule.
As we stand here today, we pray “God save the home.”
But yet, we know that as the king goes, so goes the nation. And for this reason we pray not just for a grassroots revival, but we also pray for our leaders and the policies that they make.
Lord, we ask that you would grant that those who would win out these elections would be restrained from instituting policies that further the destruction of marriage and family in our land. Instead, may they be made to do what is just and promote what is in accord with rule of King Jesus.
We pray that policies that strike against godliness would be revoked. You know how our nation permits (and even encourages) things like divorce, sodomy, and abortion. Moreover, our leaders continue to wrap the chains of debt around us. They oppress our families with heavy taxation. They rip apart families with their welfare programs. All this leads only to death at every level.
So we pray, like our forefather’s before us “God save the king.”
Finally, We pray “God save the church.” Where is the light to be found for our families? It is not in the pure preaching of your word and in the revelation of Biblical Truth. Father, we know that families will only rise out of the ashes when you unleash the gospel and unveil the fullness of its saving power. So we pray that you would raise up godly men to preach your word and send them throughout our nation as heralds of Your eternal kingdom.
All this we pray in the strong name of our King and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
If I ever was asked what tips I would give regarding preaching, topping the list would be sex. Sex helps a man in so many ways. In particular, it gives him clarity of mind. Sexual satisfaction provides a man with a much needed release that allows him greater focus. It may sound like some new age cult when I say this, but it puts a man back in "balance."
Over the years, my wife and I have found that, as a result, sex makes preaching and sermon preparation much easier and... (pun not intended)... stimulating. And I would assume that this applies to the productivity of any man in any line of work.
All this is to say that women need to be aware of how much men need regular sexual fulfilment.
I've written before about Keeping the Marriage Bed Hot (not to mention the sermons I've preached on the topic). I've even dedicated a whole church newsletter to the topic.
But recently my wife forwarded me a couple articles she found on her blog reading list which have to do with the wife's duty to her husband sexually. Specifically, they deal with stirring up the desire even though she is fatigued after a day of wifing and mothering. My wife said they should be kept on hand for marriage counseling purposes. But I link them here for your reading (pun intended...) pleasure:
The buzz on the local news feeds today focuses on Galion's public pool. Two homosexuals were denied a family pass because they did not fit the definition of a family as defined by the Galion city ordinance.
We need to keep in mind too that Galion likely forbids pedaphile rapists from wading in the kiddie pools. This is simply outrageous!
Seriously though. This is just another step our culture is taking to baptize perversion and normalize sexual deviance in our contemporary postmodern age. The cry of our day is that you can't put definitions on me and you can't say what is right and wrong.
The link above also shows the WMFD coverage of the city council meeting. In it a council member wears a big cross around his neck and claims to be a conservative Christian who has definite views regarding marriage. HOWEVER, he says, this issue is...wait for it..."about the children and their being able to use the pool."
With "Christians" like this in leadership is there any way the ruling will stand? Not hardly. The weak kneed man has no interest in standing for what is right. If he had any real concern for children he would remain faithful to the Scriptural command regarding marriage and family. He could easily say, "Homosexuals are free to use the pool, but we are not going to change our laws to acquiesce to their perversions."
All this is to say that Providence Church, unlike many other churches today, won't be dying out anytime soon.
What I also like is that this picture displays something of our church's unity. These families came forward on Sunday for a child dedication. They took vows to raise their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord, and I had the great opportunity to close this part of the service by praying for them.
Sure, I would have prefered that they baptize the children too. I believe that paedo-communion is Scriptural. As a matter of fact, I think it is quite a serious thing to "neglect or contemn" this rite. They don't though. So we have to deal with it. In the midst of our diversity, we seek to love each other. We accept each other in the Lord despite our quibble over water's application.
These two dynamics of our church home here in Ashland is just some of what makes it such a great place to worship.
Providence Church is a dual confessional church, which means we allow for either infant baptism or infant dedication if the family is of a credo baptist persuasion. This morning we had a child dedication. This was the prayer that I offered for the occasion:
You sent your own Son into this world as the child of Mary and Joseph. And in the same way you commit to us the joy of raising children.
We thank you for the life of Josiah and Nevin, which now have been entrusted to the care of these parents. Help us to remember the weight of this great privilege and to assist them as they raise them in the fear and admonition of your name.
Grant Matt & Rachel and Mike & Renata all grace and fill them with your Spirit, so that they may love these precious gifts and help them walk in the way of God. Equip them with the patience, strength and wisdom to impart our most holy faith at all times. Guide them to speak what is in accord with sound doctrine, to use the rod of discipline with the most affectionate skill, to exemplify repentance, and to hold forth the gospel in all its purity.
And in so doing, may Josiah and Nevin grow in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man. May they hold fast to Christ all their days and seek first his kingdom and his righteousness. May there never be a day that they did not know Christ as Lord and Savior. And may you shine the light of your love upon them even now.
For we ask this in the strong Name of Jesus.
My sister-in-law has recently started a photography business. The picture to the left is just one sample of how skilled she is with a camera.
I had the pleasure of designing her website and absolutely loved having the opportunity to look at these fantastic portraits. One thing's for certain, Erika has a real knack for a fine mix with the colors. The photos integrate so well with the backgrounds.
My wife recently visited and Erika did a photo shoot with our newborn son. I can't wait to get the pics back because I know they are going to be great shots.
If you are in the Grand Rapids area, make sure you check out Spark of Life Photography.
The hit Disney movie, Frozen, has taken the US by storm and it’s hit song, “Let It Go!” can be heard on every elementary school playground around the country. Even my 2 yr old could sing some of the song before she ever saw the movie!
As I heard bits of the lyrics float past my ears, something didn’t sit right with me. But, I decided to hold judgment until I heard the song in the context of the entire movie. This weekend, my girls and I watched Frozen together and “Let It Go!” struck me as a song that espoused a lot of popular philosophies about a life contrary to the Bible’s teaching. I decided to look at 3 main themes and dissect them in light of the Bible.
First, Elsa laments the fact that she’s always had to be the “good girl.” “Don’t let them in, don’t let them see, be the good girl you always have to be” and “Let it go! That perfect girl is gone!”
I do believe that this is a cry of a lot of children in the church today. As Christian parents, we have done our children a great disservice if we have only emphasized outward behavior without a heart turned to Christ. Our children need to know that they can’t be the “good girl” or the “good boy” because we are all infested with sin. We need to be constantly pointing our children to Jesus as their Savior and Redeemer who alone is good and perfect. We all need to be humble enough to confess our sins to God and to one another (James 5:16, I John 1:8-10), not pretending to be without sin like the Pharisees (Mt. 23:23-28).
I feel badly for Elsa and her situation and can only pray that my girls will not feel this need to put on “perfect airs”, but instead will put on Christ.
Then, we get to the heart of the song, the rousing “let it go” chorus. The music crescendos as Elsa sings “Let it go, let it go, Turn away and slam the door. I don’t care what they’re going to say…” I’m assuming that Elsa is letting go of her gift/curse of freezing things. Are we supposed to just let go of whatever is “trapped” inside of us? Is that being true to ourselves?
The Bible encourages self-control (Gal. 5:16, 5:22-25) which seems the antithesis of letting it go. In my own observations of myself and other people, letting go of inhibitions only leads to sorrow. Elsa also says she doesn’t care what people are going to say, which is a very prevalent thought pattern today. “Be true to yourself and don’t worry about anyone else” is what we often hear.
Should we as Christians care what people think of us? My study of Scripture and an article by John Piper leads me to say “Yes” and “No”. If people are saying things against us because of our walk for Christ and stands we take for His Kingdom, then no, we don’t care what the world says (Gal. 1:10, I Thess. 2:4, I Tim 3:2). However, the Bible does put some importance on what others perceive about us (Prov. 22:1, Rom 15:1-2, I Peter 2:12). As John Piper stated, the most important question we can ask of ourselves is, “Is Christ honored in our lives?” (Phil. 1:19-20). So, Elsa lets it go, but she is still miserable, trapped in her ice castle. Doesn’t sound so exhilarating does it?
Finally, Elsa claims “it’s time to see what I can do, to test the limits and break through, No right, no wrong, no rules for me, I’m free!” I would hope this would make any Christian squirm. This statement is what feminists, homosexual activists, atheists, and many other groups want us (and our children) to believe. Their theory is that rules constrain you and keep you from happiness. Is this what God tell us in His Word?
No, in John 8:31-36, Jesus talks about by abiding in His Word, we will know the truth and that is what sets us free. He goes on to talk about being a slave to sin and that Christ comes to set us free from this bondage. Romans 6:16-23 also talks about being slaves to sin until Christ changes us and we become slaves to righteousness. Our all-knowing, all-powerful sovereign God has given us rules to live by, not to makes our lives miserable but to give us a full life.
I’m sure all of us can personally attest to the misery we feel when we live how we want, whether it’s letting our anger take control or eating too much or worrying about the future. We can also tell sobering stories of friends and family who threw off all inhibitions and are now realizing that their choices weren’t as freeing as they first thought. I believe this is shown in the movie – Elsa ends up needing Anna and the others and she experiences great joy when they are reunited. I don’t think “Let It Go” would make a good finale song in the movie, because Elsa found the emptiness of her life following the philosophy she promoted.
So now what? Am I banning all things Frozen from my house? No! I plan on using these observations as lessons to go over with my girls. I want to hear their opinions and see if they can discern what the Bible says. I want to hear if they feel trapped trying to be the “good pastors kids.” Then, I'll encourage them that the things they need to be letting go of are things like our selfishness, greed, envy, unkind words, etc.
And as they try to do this, they need to continue to flee to Christ, the only One who will never let them go.
[This is a special guest post by Elizabeth, my beloved wife. It is her first post in the blogosphere, and, I hope, not her last.]
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.