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.
I was asked about how we should understand the text about the stoning of the rebellious son in Deut. 18.:18-21. Here's a quick run down of my observations:
If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and, though they discipline him, will not listen to them, 19 then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gate of the place where he lives, 20 and they shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This our son is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.’ 21 Then all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones. So you shall purge the evil from your midst, and all Israel shall hear, and fear.
Notice that he's a drunkard (a pot head) and rebellious. The charges are likely indicating extreme cases, rebellion possibly being crimes (and not just that "He won't go out and get a job"). It would seem to me that the combination of drunkard & rebellious indicates a person who is violent when high, to the point of threatening his parents.
Such would parallel other texts of Scripture that talk about the son who deserves death because he "strikes" his father and mother.
Also, both parents have to be in agreement: so there is a great deal of exasperation after all attempts of reconciliation and mediation have been attempted. Their discipline is being rejected. So there is a high level of noncompliance by the kid. A child who is so stubborn that he rejects all forms of discipline & exhortation is one that is extremely hardened and is likely a threat to others in society, let alone the parents themselves.
It is also significant that the text says that Israel would see and "fear." The mere threat of legal action might straighten him out to some degree.
The elders also would provide a fair trial to determine if the kid really deserved death (i.e. this is about the limits of parental jurisdiction & keeps a balance of power; i.e. parents can't be judge, jury, & executioner.)
One point is sure, the parents are not allowed to harbor a criminal. We hear so many parents today say, "He's a good boy" when he in fact has committed many crimes (even murder). These parents are to be concerned with justice and not favor the life of their kid when he deserves death.
All in all, the Lord's law is just and good and should be implemented in societies that desire order and wish to preserve the social stability of the community.
Are you interested in finding out more about home education? We invite you to attend our Introduction to Home Education meeting.
We will introduce you to some of the benefits of home education, walk you through the steps of how to begin homeschooling, give an overview of what services/resources are available to area homeschoolers, and answer any other questions you may have.
The meeting is free & open to the public. The time and location will be based on your feedback in the Registration form (click button below).
We encourage you to forward the invite to your friends, family, and churches. Email me with any questions.
One of the Hopewell members made this pulpit for our morning services. I call it the Cadillac of pulpits. It has a sweet dual tier for holding the manuscript and a bible.
It was a pleasure preaching from it this past Lord's day. I wanted to stand there all day. It was like having a comfy pair of pants that you didn't want to take off. I can't wait to stand there again this Sunday
Here's a super interesting article that deals with the tassels which were to hang from a Jewish man's clothing.
The families of Hopewell Church, along with a handful of visitors, joined together in their first morning worship service this past Lord's Day. All expressed joy and were greatly edified by the time spent in the presence of God.
During the service 9 young people made a first time public profession of faith. Teaching elder Matt Timmons gave a message entitled, "Professing the Faith" for the occasion. The message was drawn from 1 Timothy 6:12, "Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses."
Prior to the service Timmons noted that a handful of families gathered together 200 years ago to form the first church in Ashland. These families were also dedicated to the Reformed faith and had taken the name "Hopewell Church."
A new pulpit was constructed for the service by member Dave Lillo. Others were acknowledged for having a hand in making the service possible.
We recognize most of all the sovereign hand of God and the immense grace of His Son in allowing us the blessed opportunity to gather together.
Paul tells us that faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ. This points out the importance of sound exposition of Scripture and the necessity of attending to it as much as possible.
I firmly believe that one of the main reasons Christians in America have such paltry faith is because they despise preaching. They rather have small groups and individual reading plans. They want fellowship times and movie discussions. They will watch a DVD series on any topic and will form classes for women, men, children, divorcee's, alcoholic recovery, etc.
These may have their place, but they do not compare to sitting under a minster who will faithfully preach the gospel and expound Scripture. Speaking of the officer executing his authoritative duty of preaching, Paul said, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news."
This beauty is one of the reasons I want churches to reinstate evening services. If people want to grow in Christ, then they should demand that the doors be opened for worship as frequently as possible so that they might sit and hear the truth proclaimed.
If we desire to grow in Christ and become strong in faith, let us see every opportunity to hear God speak and allow the Spirit to minister to our hearts. Let us love the pulpit with a great affection and gravitate to it as the fountain of life.
Hopewell is just three weeks away from starting morning services! It has been amazing seeing all the pieces coming together. There have been millions of details to work through, but--by God's grace--everything is falling in place. Our musicians are lined up, our equipment has been ordered, and our venue has been solidified.
Speaking of venue...We have been blessed with a great place to meet. We will be gathering at the conference room at Hedstrom Plastics (100 Hedstrom Drive in Ashland). As you can see from the pics below, it is a beautiful, warm, spacious, and bright place to meet.
If you are looking for a Reformed or Biblically sound church where you can enjoy expository preaching, encouraging Christian fellowship, and great food (yes, we have the best carry in lunches, ha!), we welcome you to join us.
Be sure to check out Hopewell's webpage: hopewellashland.com
O blessed and most merciful Father,
We acknowledge this day our sins and shortcomings before you and confess our having forfeited every right to any and all good. We, by our guilt, have provoked you to anger, incurred your just indignation, and made ourselves liable to your eternal and righteous curse.
Yet, knowing that we deserve not the least of your favors, we humbly as that you would have compassion on us, and, through your infinite goodness and according to the riches of your grace, we pray that you would pardon the bounty of our sins and forgive all our trespasses.
We hold not back the depth and breathed of our evil. We readily confess and grieve the full bounty of it. We, poor sinners that we are have sinned each day, in thought, word, and deed. We have sinned against heaven and against our neighbor. We have sinned both intentionally and unintentionally. We have both by way of omission and commission; having left undone those things which we were commanded to do and having done those things which we were forbidden to do. We have sinned both because of our ignorance and lack of understanding and despite having had the light of nature and the gift of greater revelation.
There is not one commandment that we have not transgressed, and there is not one person within our purview who we have not offended in some way.
And knowing that our sins are so numerous that cannot even begin to be counted, we fly to you and hold only to the precious blood of your dear Son, who gave his life for sinners such as us. We have no grounds to ask even for the least of your favors, except by the cross upon which He died. Indeed, we would hold our tongues and submit to the just penalties of our condemnation had it not been for the gospel and the promise we have by it for full and complete reconciliation.
So God, with the hope of salvation that has been procured for us by our Friend and Savior, Jesus Christ, we pray that we might be restored to a right relationship with you. We trust that you will blot out all our sins and cast them as far as the east is to the west, never to be remembered again or counted against us.
We put our hope in your promise that you will cleanse us and fill us with the strengthening power of your Holy Spirit. And we look to you not just for the renewal in righteousness that we so desperately need, but also for the further affirmation of your saving love and tender mercy.
For all these things we pray in the Strong name of our blessed Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Assurance of Pardon: Acts 13:38
“Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man—the Lord Jesus Christ—forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything.”
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.