Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Faith of a Child, Chapter 2- What God Says About Children and Salvation

First, the Bible teaches us that children are a gift from the Lord. Psalm 127:3 states that “Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from Him.” I know there are times when our children try to try our souls, but they are our most precious resource to be cherished and loved with all our heart. They deserve our love and devotion in raising them up to be people of God. Don’t ever believe the lie of Satan that you would be better off without your children. God says they are valuable and a prize of His favor upon you (Psalm 127:3-5).

Our children are easily influenced and directed (30). Jesus recognized this as He would welcome them to come and rebuked the disciples for hindering their coming to listen in to what He was teaching (Luke 18:16). In fact He compared the Kingdom of Heaven to children because they simply believe and trust. We as parents have a shot at developing our children in their faith while they are young, before the peer and ungodly influences of the world get their skeptical worldview in upon them to sway and take away true faith. Make the most of your opportunity. Your days are numbered with your young ones. They grow up fast and you want them to establish their faith at an impressionable age. Train them up right and the proverb says that when they are old they will not depart (Proverbs 22:6).

Children are responsive and sensitive to the things of God (31). He is near their humble hearts. Children are teachable, dependent, obedient, trusting, faithful, absorbent, accepting, loyal, and submissive at a tender age (31). It is at this time in their lives that they can be easily led and influenced for God. This means that we as parents must be careful to teach, model, and discipline our children in God’s Holy Word even if it is demanding of our time and energy. Jesus indeed took time with children (Mark 10:16). He took the children in His arms and nourished them with a blessing. They were valuable to Him (32). It was Christ’s warning that we are not to hinder young children in any way (Matthew 18:6). If we acknowledge the value of young children and encourage and teach them from the time they are infants, they will be drawn to the Savior (33).

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 says, “4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.  5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.  6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.  7 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.  8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”

Notice here that verse seven says to “impress” these commands on our children. Winning your children to Christ begins at home! God expects and even commands that diligent action be taken to instruct your children in the ways of the Lord. Don’t count on church, a Christian school, or some religious media to train your child. You have the God ordained responsibility first and foremost to evangelize your children.

Now we must consider what the Bible says about the age of salvation. The Bible is plain that we are sinful from birth (Psalm 51:5). Even King David, who was a man after God’s own heart, could make this claim, so it would be unwise for us to think that our children are angels with a good nature. This is contrary to sound biblical teaching and our own experience when we think about it. But, God has a plan and is at work drawing them back to His side right from the beginning. One may ask, “When infants and young children die, do they go to Heaven?” 2 Samuel 12:23 gives us the best support from Scripture to say yes, indeed, they do go to Heaven. In this passage David has lost his infant son and came to peace with it because he knew that one day he would “go to” his son. This gives us indication that God receives young ones into His presence in what can be termed “an age of grace.” They will eventually reach “an age of accountability,” when they will be able to either accept or reject God’s plan of salvation of their own volition. Therefore, when children are old enough and start recognizing their sin and the things they do wrong before God and man, they need to be taught that these sins have consequences before a holy and just God. It is at this point that the plan of salvation can be presented to give them an opportunity to make a free choice on their own in favor of faith in Christ Jesus. We as parents must be careful not to force this issue, but children can be saved.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Faith of a Child, Chapter 1- Building a Strong Spiritual Foundation for Your Child

Have you ever been a part of a construction project? Maybe you’ve built a new home or your place of business built a new building. Maybe your church experienced growth to the point of expanding with a new building. The process, while it can be taxing, is a wonderful experience as you see the new building slowly take shape and the original vision is realized.

God has given us the awesome blessing and responsibility of helping Him build the lives of our children (17). God has a specific design for each person that He has created (Jeremiah 29:11, Psalm 139:13-17). He provides the blueprint for our children in His instruction book, which is His Word, the Bible.

God expects us to lay a solid foundation just as any good building will require a sturdy groundwork. Hurrying this process we know would be futile and create disaster down the road when the winds and storms hit. Therefore, a solid foundation is critical both to a building and our child’s success.

Have you ever watched a movie and found out later about the props they used to make the background buildings look real? They are a fa├žade of the real thing. Often our children can give the appearance of being Christians because they have learned all the right information, yet they still have not entered into a true relationship with Jesus Christ as their Savior (18). We all know in the building process, what is on the inside is vastly more important than the cosmetic appearance on the outside for a building’s durability and strength. In Jesus’ day, He rightly saw that some were “hypocrites” because they gave the appearance of something special, but inside they were not (Matthew 23:27).

In laying a good foundation for your child’s spiritual success, make sure you help your child see the difference between knowing about Jesus and actually following Jesus (18). You not only want your child to know the definition of sin, but it should be your desire for them to be truly repentant of their sin and have that personal-convicting sorrow that will turn them away from themselves to a living faith in the crucified and resurrected Savior. But what will help us provide this solid foundation and the building blocks we need to ensure every opportunity for their saving faith? Here are several “building block” things to think about:

1.      Children Need a Godly Home- Is the presence of God evident in your lives? Children are not fooled by talk, they observe, and they know if you are yielded to the Lord in your home or not. Do you have family devotional time set aside that is dedicated to the Lord with stories from the Bible and important discussion on their level? Create an atmosphere in your home that says God is number one, top priority. Work hard to establish the right heart attitudes and have directed purpose for the things that you choose to do. Through their parent’s example, children will learn trust, patience, forgiveness, unselfishness, dependence, commitment, and love (20). Of course the opposite can also be learned if we as parents are void of the Holy Spirit’s control of our lives.
2.      Meaningful Relationships- It takes time to develop strong friendships, quality time. Build your relationship with your child by spending the necessary time to truly get to know them and relate to them in meaningful ways. This builds trust and compatibility.
3.      Good Habits- When we help children develop good habits, we shape their personality, character, and behavior (22). Children who are submissive to parental authority find it much easier to submit to God’s authority (22). Children need our discipline and boundaries so that they can become good decision makers in their lives. Raising disciplined children means that we as the parents must also live disciplined lives and know our weak spots (Hebrews 12:5-11).
4.      Being Positive about Life and God- Teach your children to be positive, constructive, and victorious (not in a competitive way though). Christians who whine, complain, judge, fight, and criticize are not very attractive to the world and are not appealing to their children either (24).
5.      Godly Role Models and Heroes- Your children look up to you whether you realize it or not. Statistics continually prove that you as parents are the greatest influence in your child’s life. Scary to think about sometimes, isn’t it? We must also be careful to make sure they distinguish between a hero and an idol. A hero is real and endears them to live out Godly principles. An idol on the other hand will take them from faith in the living God and is a fake substitute for the real thing. We as humans are naturally drawn to idols and therefore we must be careful about the influencers of our children. Pay special attention to their media influences in this day and age. Also, remind your children that heroes are not perfect, only Christ is that, and that is why He is ultimately the One we look to for our role model.
6.      Open Communication- As we spend time with our children, make sure that there is meaningful conversations about spiritual things. Encourage your children to talk about God and ask questions. And remember; give them your undivided attention during these times, which will communicate its importance. A good goal to shoot for is 15 minutes a day with your child in uninterrupted conversation to discuss anything they want.

Now, let’s talk about the church for a few moments. The church can be a good partner in building a strong foundation for faith in your child’s life, but it makes a horrible substitute. You as parents are the ones that God has given authority to in the raising of your children and that is to be taken very seriously (Deuteronomy 6:4-8). The church’s role is to assist you in helping your child come to faith in Christ Jesus. If a church is dead and does not care about your children, a careful assessment of that needs to take place and a possible move may need to be in order. Jesus said, "Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these (Luke 18:16).” You as a parent may even want to get involved in the ministry to children in your church if God is so calling you in that direction.

Art Murphy, The Faith of a Child: A Step-by-Step Guide to Salvation for your Child, Chicago: Moody Press, 2000.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Faith of a Child

One of our greatest desires in life after we become a child of God is to see our own children come to that place of decision for Jesus Christ in their own lives. This devotional’s purpose is that parents and others who affect the lives of children will be better equipped and more confident to lead their children to a real relationship with Jesus (9).

Questions to consider with regard to the salvation of our children.
-How can we know if a child is ready to become a Christian?
-How much does a child have to know? How much are they required to understand?
-At what age are children mature enough to make this commitment?
-When should we start explaining the gospel to our children?
-What must a child do to become a Christian?
-How much should we be involved in a child’s decision?
-When should a child be baptized?
-What is the purpose of baptism?
-What can churches do to help raise children to follow the Lord?
-What help should churches provide for children who have expressed a desire to become Christians?
-Should the church leave a child’s decision to become a Christian completely up to the child and his/her parents?
-What should we do when a very young child wants to become a Christian (10)?

The answers to these questions will be dealt with in our upcoming devotional series. I hope you will tune in!

Our goal should not be “How early can we get this child to make a decision to follow Christ?” Our goal should be “What can we do to help this child want to follow the Lord and make a lifelong commitment to Him (13)?”

Leading a child to Christ should be viewed as a journey through the stages of their development and levels of understanding.

We should consider ourselves as shepherds in regard to our concern for our little ones. A shepherd does not ignore his little lambs (15). They deserve extra special care and attention, instruction and protection.

Psalm 127:3-5a says, “Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one's youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.” Our children are a tremendous blessing to be cherished, nurtured, and strengthened in the admonition of the Lord. It is my prayer that we will all become stronger as we learn together through the Holy Spirit’s leading.

With help from:
Art Murphy, The Faith of a Child: A Step-by-Step Guide to Salvation for your Child, Chicago: Moody Press, 2000.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Kid's Camp Update

Want everyone to know our Kid's Camp registration is now fully under way here at Fellowship. A $50 deposit will hold your child's spot, grades 3-5 completed this school year. Cost is $200, but we are hopeful this will be reduced by our golf tournament fund raiser on May 21st.

Camp will be June 20-24 at Riverbend Retreat Center in Glenrose, Texas. We will be joining several other big time churches for an awesome week of spiritual growth and playful activities.

We have brochures with FAQs and registration forms in the church lobby for pick up. Also, information on the golf tournament is in a brochure in the church lobby. Looking forward to a great camp!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The World We Live In

I was reading the news on the internet this morning when I came across a story that caught my attention. A government minister in Pakistan, Shahbaz Bhatti, had been gunned down and killed in a car outside his parent’s house in Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital city, by al-Qaida and Taliban terrorists. This was the only Christian in Pakistan’s federal Cabinet, so the loss is devastating it would seem to the minority Christians in Pakistan looking for a voice in government policy and direction.

Of course this news is bleak and saddens our hearts to grief for our Christian brothers and sisters in this persecuted portion of our world, but it is a reminder of what is required of good soldiers of the cross. By every indication Bhatti expected this assassination and prepared for it. He is a modern example of laying down one’s life for his friends (John 15:13, 1 John 3:16). As early church father Tertullian said, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” He in fact was right. The Bible gives us the picture of “the seed” in reference to our resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15, a great chapter I hope you will dig into for strength, comfort, and hope.

It is my prayer that the Lord will move in this horrific situation to bring Himself glory and for the saving of many souls in Pakistan and the regions that surround this maligned country. We need to band together in prayer and support for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ. Love will conquer all and this situation has the potential to give more people freedom of expression and faith. Let’s pray that it does.

For further information regarding this story check out:

Have a blessed day in Christ Jesus! He is our only Hope!