Friday, April 29, 2011

Faith of a Child- Chapter 5- How to Know if a Child is Ready to Become a Christian

What are some of the signs that we can point to and say that this child is really ready to accept Jesus Christ as their Savior? First of all, we need to evaluate as parents and teachers if they truly understand what it means to become a Christian (73). Our kids can memorize and repeat what they’ve heard their parents and teachers say, but that does not necessarily mean that they understand God’s plan for salvation (73). Here are a few questions that can help determine a child’s spiritual readiness:

1.      Can the child explain the basics of becoming a Christian in his or her own words? When explaining how one becomes a Christian, does the child use “good works” answers such as “going to church, reading the Bible, getting baptized, praying, being good, etc.”? Or, do his or her answers have any mention of their need for forgiveness?
2.      Does the child have an affection for Jesus or a strong desire to be close to Him? Does he or she show a passion to follow Jesus or just a basic knowledge of the facts about Him?
3.      Does he or she distinguish between salvation and baptism? It is normal for young children to identify the act of baptism as the actual salvation experience (74).

The point here is that we do not want our children to enter into the Christian life ignorantly (74). This is not to say that their heart is not ready until they have perceived all the facts. They may or may not have all their facts straight. The key element is their heart (74). Is their heart ready to trust in the Savior of the world for their own personal sins and shortcomings. If they are able to discern that, then there is a good chance they are ready to make a decision for Jesus. When talking to children about salvation, a good practice is to go slow and ask many questions to get an understanding of how much they are comprehending or not comprehending (75). Let them talk and make some assessments from that. Make sure that you do everything you can to inform them about what it takes to become a child of God by faith.

The second thing you should look for is an exhibition of brokenness over sin. Does the child demonstrate a personal need or desire to repent of his or her sin (75)? Does the child express a genuine shame and regret for the things that offend their Lord? Knowing what sin is is not the same as being ashamed and repentant of sin (75). If a child is not repentant but goes ahead and makes a decision to become a Christian, then his or her decision is premature and incomplete (75). Letting a child think that he can become a Christian without repentance gives him or her a false sense of assurance (Acts 2:38; 3:19). If a child is led to think that he or she can be a Christian without repentance, they do not fully understand the need for a Savior (76). They run the risk of living their life thinking that everything is okay when in actuality it is not. The Christian life is about coming humbly before God desiring forgiveness through the work of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection for our sins. This must be fundamental in leading a child to real and genuine salvation. Make sure that your children understand what sin is and that they have been partakers of sin so that they can understand the need for forgiveness (Romans 3:23).

The third thing to look for is the child’s seriousness about their commitment (77). As we know, children can often be silly, flippant, uninterested, and anything but serious when it comes to spiritual matters, or other things for that matter (77). However, as we also know, becoming a Christian is serious business. We must all consider the cost before taking up our cross and following Him (Matthew 16:24). As a child is contemplating the decision to follow Christ, he or she will eventually come to a point when it is very important to him or her (77). Listen to how they talk as far as their urgency and personal desire regarding salvation. They must reach a point of conviction where they realize that they need to do this (77). Otherwise, their decision will be shallow and doubted later on.

A forth thing that needs consideration is their making a self-made decision (78). It is not unusual for a child’s decision to be strongly connected to someone else, like a friend, relative, teacher, parent, or pastor (78). Questions to think about in this point include:

1.      Does the child demonstrate a personal desire to make this commitment with his or her life, or is he or she just being agreeable with those around them who want them to become a Christian?
2.      Is he or she influenced to make this decision because his or her family or friends have already done this?
3.      Does he or she feel left out of the family or peer group?
4.      Is this a way of getting some undivided attention or public recognition?
5.      Is this decision a result of a need to feel loved or appreciated?
6.      Does he or she have a mature understanding of the decision?
7.      Are there signs that the child has personally struggled about this?
8.      Has the child expressed that he has reached this decision after a personal evaluation of his life?
9.      What influenced him or her the most to make this choice?
10.  Has his or her decision come after realizing how much he or she needs and wants Jesus in their life?

A fifth and final consideration is making sure the decision to follow Christ has been sealed (79). There should be a time of consecration if at all possible to commemorate the choice to trust in Jesus. You want them to remember the time and place of their spiritual birth if at all possible. Give them reminders of that time and place to validate their decision and reinforce their commitment to Christ Jesus. This will go a long way in solidifying their faith in the long run.

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

1 Corinthians 15 Study guide for ABF 1 (1 Cor. 15:35-58)

Day Two – Read 1 Corinthians 15:35-49 (The Bodily Character of the Resurrection)
Paul now corrects those who deny the possibility of the resurrection because they assume that earthly life is completely incompatible with the heavenly spiritual existence. He grants that the principle of polarity between heaven and earth is valid, but the student (the Corinthians and many of us) fails to understand that transformation can occur. As our bodies die physically there is that spiritual life that springs forth just as a seed does when it grows and produces a new plant. Paul is teaching resurrection, which is far different from the resuscitation of the corpse. What is mortal will be changed by the power of God through Jesus Christ so that those who are raised will be given a body that is consistent with its new celestial habitat. The resurrection of Christ Jesus has revealed the foundation for a new reality: He “will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him (Rom. 6:9).”
Questions to ponder and meditate on:
-How does Paul relate the physiological principle of a seed to the spiritual principle of the resurrection in this passage?

·         Cross reference- Matt. 13:3-43, John 12:23-26, 1 Cor. 3:6-7; 9:11, 1 Peter 1:23, 1 John 3:9

-Explain in your own words the difference between the first man, Adam, and the life giving man, Jesus Christ:

-Why can Paul state in verse 49 that we shall “bear the likeness of the man from heaven?”

-What do words such as you’ve just read do to give you hope in this world?

Application: The Christian life is one of hope and growth. While our physical bodies get older and are definitely in the process of decay because of the natural order caused by sin, the spiritual person within is being renewed day-by-day and learning to conform with the image of Christ (Col. 3:10, 2 Cor. 4:16). This is called sanctification in the Bible and it is a process that we undertake as believers. One day it will result in our glorification, which is when our complete redemption will be realized and the curse of this earth will have no further power or dominion over us because we are, in Christ Jesus, given an imperishable body. Give God glory and praise for this amazing fact! We have a lot to look forward to!
Day Three – Read 1 Corinthians 15:50-58 (All Will Be Changed!)
Our victory is assured through our faith in Jesus Christ to complete this transformation into a new body, which is compatible with its new environment in eternity. God, by His awesome power, proclaims final victory over death on our behalf out of His love and compassion for us. Our work is not in vain in Jesus Christ!

 Questions to ponder and meditate on:
-Paul’s assertion in verse 50 that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” reiterates that a change must take place from our natural-sinful state of present being. What does it take for us to become imperishable in the sight of God?

-Is the passage from verses 51-53 clear indication to you that there will be some sort of rapture for the church? Explain your thoughts on this subject:

            * Cross References: 1 Thess. 4:16-17, Matt. 24:31
-How can verses 54-57 help us in our times of grief and sadness over loss?

-What are Paul’s final two exhortations to the Corinthians, and us, in verse 58? Comment on these two exhortations:

Application: We are to always stand firm letting nothing move us from our faith and always giving ourselves fully to the work of Christ since we know that eternal victory over the sting of death is ours because we belong to Christ and He will save us. What a joy and a hope this should give to us! This is certainly something worth communicating to others, in our family and our friends and even those we don’t quite know yet. Share the gospel of Christ! It truly is the Good News that overcomes the world and all its problems! Our work is not in vain!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Faith of a Child- Chapter 4- Understanding the Faith of a Child

The Bible teaches us that becoming a Christian is a “new birth” experience (John 3:3,7, 1 Peter 1:23). For children to get to that place of “new birth” in Christ by faith there are typically four stages in the faith developmental process. Understanding a child’s level of faith is a step in helping their faith grow and is revolutionary when we discover these principles (59). Do not be surprised when a child has one foot in one stage and the other foot in the next stage because transitions occur frequently and are part of the process (60). Let’s take a look at these four distinct stages that are probably indicative of your child or children.

1.      The Discovering Stage: Birth to approximately Five years old
Key Terms: first impressions, positive feelings, foundation building, sensory motor experiences
Our Role: cultivator (preparing the soil for seeds that will be planted later) (60)

In the first stage of life, a child is storing huge amounts of information into their being every day. They are naturally inquisitive and have immense desire to discover the world around them. They are figuring out life and all that pertains to it. They discover through their senses and emotions. As they formulate impressions of life, the effects will give them early impression of who God is (60). Their impression of God is directly related to their relationship with whoever is caring for them, especially their parents. The happy (or sad) feelings they get will open up the door of opportunity later on to receive the gospel when they can understand it completely (61). Deuteronomy 6:7 gives us the phrase “as we walk along the road.” This describes the most effective method of teaching stage one children because they experience life and learn much from their encounters. The daily experiences (planned and unplanned) mean a great deal to these little souls and they observe everything that is going on. Although they do not fully understand God’s grace and redemptive plan yet, they are in the process of learning and their cognitive facilities are starting to become aware of what life is all about. Help your preschooler discover the things of God in a fun, expressive way using all their senses. Begin to teach them the truths of the Bible in a way they can relate to and understand. It will provide everlasting benefits!

2.      The Discerning Stage: approximately Four to Eight years old
Key Terms: gathering facts, exploring the Bible, curiosity, asking questions
Our Role: planter (planting seeds through teaching, modeling, observing, answering) (62)

This stage is best described as a time of questioning (62). In the first part of this stage they will simply accept what they experience as a part of life without really thinking about it, but as they grow and progress they began to ask questions such as “Why did God do that?” or “How did God do that?” We need to foster their curiosity and give biblical answers to the multitude of questions they pose to us. As parents our worst mistake can be to avoid these questions and put them off. Please don’t ignore any question, even if it is a difficult one or one that may seem insignificant. Work with your children to find the answers and give them a reason for the hope that is in you and calling out to them in their young lives.
3.      The Deciding Stage: approximately Seven to Twelve years old
Key Terms: Conviction, struggle, faith, transformation
Our Role: caretaker (providing food for the new plant that it may grow) (63)

During this stage of faith development a child typically asks himself/herself “How does this affect me (63)?” “Does what the pastor (or teacher or parent) said apply to me?” “How does he know what I was thinking?” “Do I need to make a decision with my life concerning Christ?” “Am I going to follow Christ with my life?” “Do I have to make this decision public?” “If I decide to become a Christian, do I have to get baptized?” “My friends got baptized. Should I get baptized?” Kids begin to sort through all these questions and the information available to them to make their decisions (63). They begin to either accept or reject Christ Jesus in a very personal way. Children do feel this internal struggle in a real sense in this stage, which results in personal unrest, fear, and a real spiritual battle because there are opposing forces vying for control of them. Sometimes this struggle is not all that apparent in your child’s life, but it exists none the less. Encourage the child at this stage to trust God and let them know that you are there to help them too (64). Psalm 56:3 and Philippians 4:13 are great verses to teach your children if they are in this deciding stage and need the comfort of Christ Jesus. In the deciding stage the child moves from being curious to being convicted (64). If they are raised in a Christian home the norm is for them to want to be a Christian and this is your great opportunity to lead them to faith in Christ Jesus through taking the time and being concerned for their spiritual well-being. If your child has made a profession of faith earlier, you as a parent will see the transformation from curiosity to conviction in a powerful way as they begin to really discern the decision that they have made. It is a joyful struggle that needs care giving on your part.

4.      The Discipling Stage: approximately Ten years and up
Key Terms: establishing habits, consistency, maturity, growing deeper, doctrine
Our Role: pruner (shaping, encouraging, the growing plant) (64)

We begin discipling our children well before they accept Christ in the previous stages, but once they accept the Savior the intensity picks way up and should be taken very seriously both from you the parent and the child (64). The Christian life does not stop with a decision for salvation; it is only the beginning of a life walk with Christ Jesus. Children will not grow as they should unless we are intentional to help them memorize the Scriptures, read the Word of God, daily prayer, witnessing to others, inviting friends to church, giving of themselves, and other acts of kindness (65). Give your child the tools that they will need to cultivate a growing fellowship with the Lord and make it exciting and challenging for them to do this. Help them explore their spiritual giftedness and help them learn the Lord’s purposes and plans for their lives. Things should be kept positive, but don’t forget to rebuke and admonish your new little Christian in love when they make mistakes, and they will; you can count on that. The discipline you them shows that you care and is an example of how the Lord corrects us all (Hebrews 12:5-11). One important thing to remember is that you cannot teach a child to live the Christian life if you are not living it too (65). Be the model and example they deserve and the Lord desires. This is not to say that you will have to be perfect, none of us are that. Cultivate open discussions with your child in this stage as they mature and develop. Ask forgiveness of God and from others you may have wronged and sinned against. As you model a humble spirit, the child will see the grace and compassion of the Father in Heaven and realize that mistakes can and have been atoned for through the blood of the Lamb. Open lines of communication also help to release your child from covering up more important things as they grow into their adolescent and teen years. Parents need to know what is going on in their child’s life, and this begins to take shape in this stage as we do the work of pruning. Make these times regular and a priority in your life.

Question: How do we prepare children for salvation?

1.      Parents and teachers should start early teaching their children about God. Spiritual training should begin before a child is two years old at least.
2.      Parents and teachers should not wait until their children seek to know about God. Otherwise, this may never happen in their natural, sin-natured state.
3.      Parents and teachers should be positive and encouraging when their children express the desire to accept Christ. They may not understand completely yet, but encourage them to seek.
4.      Parents and teachers should not mistake a child’s curiosity with their conviction. Sometimes new parents will mistake false labor for real labor in the “new birth” process concerning salvation.
5.      There will usually be some sort of “kick in the womb” long before the spiritual labor of the “new birth” will actually begin. Look for clues that your child may be getting the Lord’s call on their life for salvation.
6.      Parents and teachers should not abandon a child as he begins making his decision to become a Christian. Their decision is not completely up to them. They need our wisdom, encouragement, evaluation, and direction at such a young age. Come alongside them and help them know Christ.
7.      Parents and teachers should not cease guiding a child once he decides to accept Christ. It is only the beginning of a spiritual journey that will one day end in Heaven.
8.      Parents and teachers should give a child’s decision some time to bear fruit. They should watch to see if the child begins to show outward signs of an inward conversion experience. Do reviews and check-ups to make sure they are convinced of their decision and are a “new creature” in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).
9.      Parents and teachers should pray earnestly for their children. There is no substitute for this.
10.  Parents and teachers should pray for themselves, asking the Holy Spirit to lead them and give them wisdom in working with the children (66&67).

Statistics tell us that a majority of children making a decision for Christ under the age of seven and a half tend to have doubts about their decision at a young age and strongly consider making another decision just to make sure later in life at some point (68). This happens for several reasons:

1.      They don’t remember much about the first experience. They base it too much on what their parents remember.
2.      They were not mature enough to see the whole picture. They felt they couldn’t have understood so properly at a young age and feel like that may have diminished their decision.
3.      They tend to have more doubts and need more assurance than those who accept Christ at an older age. Satan loves it when this happens since he is the author of confusion and tries to defeat Christians with this lie (68).

These problems can be avoided however in most cases if enough individual time is given to the child in order to help him understand and grow into Christian maturity (69). As we cultivate our relationships with our children, God’s Spirit can take over and bring salvation to them as soon as they ready and able to make a convicted decision to turn away from their sin and depravity to faith in the Christ who died for their sins and rose from the grave!

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

Friday, April 8, 2011

Faith of a Child- Chapter Three- How Much Do You Know About Today’s Children?

Welcome back. First all know this: Childhood in our culture has changed, but children have not changed at all (41). The characteristics of the twenty-first century child shaped by his/her culture looks like the following:

1)      They are high tech. They are being influenced heavily by the gadgets of our time designed to make life easier and less stress free. However, many times with our children, and for us as well, the bombardment of messages and signals coming at us from so many different directions causes confusion and mixed indicators. It has particularly devastating effects on our spiritual nature because all too often the Lord gets tuned out during the rigors of our busy schedule. What was meant to simply our lives and our children’s lives has complicated much of what we do. We could also mention here that our children our being influenced greatly by media philosophies of the world that reject the truths of God. It runs in opposition to what we are trying to teach as Christian parents. Our children are being robbed of their childhood right before our very eyes (42). In this instant information age our children are not taught the biblical principles and fruit of the Holy Spirit, especially in the area of patience and forbearance. They have trouble being focused and tend to have shorter attention spans than children of the past ages (42). It is becoming more and more difficult to capture their undivided attention (42). As a result of these quandaries we must consider how to best communicate with our children when discussing Christ. We have to know what we want to say, what the child needs to do, and how to keep the child’s attention so that the Lord can speak to them on their level (43).
2)      Today’s child is overexposed. They can obtain through the media and their environment inappropriate exposure to violence, materialism, gambling, the “Hollywood lifestyle,” movies and television programs that are way too unsuitable for their age (44). As discerning parents, we must be aware of when, where, and how our child uses the internet, e-mail, chat rooms, and texting. What we fill our minds with will have an effect on our lives. As one has said, “Garbage in, garbage out.”
3)      Today’s child in desensitized. Our children, like it or not, do not value human life as much as children of previous generations did (45). We are seeing a hardening of their hearts and love that is growing cold, much like Jesus prophesied (Matthew 24:12). This attitude can cause children to show little responsiveness to the sacrifice and pain of Christ’s death on the cross (45). How tragic this is! However, this should never keep us from sharing the gospel of Christ since its message has supernatural power and can touch even the most jaded youngsters (45). There is also the satanic attack on truth in our children’s culture. They are being desensitized by the relativism that plagues our modern society and it is having catastrophic consequences in our Christian homes. There is also the plethora of immoral actions by religious, political, media, and athletic leaders that takes role models and heroes out of the equation for us as parents to point to and leaves serious questions about God in the minds of children (45).
4)      Today’s child is nonrelational. Many of today’s kids have little or no time for friendships and they have no one to show them how to develop them. Gone are the days of simply “playing” and many kids don’t know how to just go out and create their own fun. They want to relate to father and mother figures, and they desire warmth and affection. But, too often they are deprived of the essential discipline and love in their experience. The ones they’ve loved the most have hurt them and let them down by neglect or abuse, which raises skepticism in their soul (46). That’s why we need to share with them the way, the truth, and the life of Jesus Christ (John 14:6).
5)      Today’s child is stressed. At home, at school, and even at church today’s children endure a lot of tension through activities and competition that they are probably not yet capable of handling. Too many parents are obsessed with developing child prodigies and put intolerable strain on their children.
6)      Today’s child is afraid. There has always been the fear of death, but today’s child especially wonders what will happen to them if they die (47). The bullying they observe at school and in the neighborhood intensifies this unhealthy fear along with the possibility of not being accepted by others (47). Kids are afraid of the future with a world in turmoil and seeking answers for the future (47). The environmental disasters and catastrophes exacerbate their uneasiness and threaten them constantly. There is a lack of trust because of the break-down of the family structure. They fear that God won’t love them because of all the rejection they’ve faced and won’t help them in their time of need. To combat this they need to understand the proper “fear of God,” which will rid them of all other fears, but sadly we live in a culture that doesn’t teach the “fear of God” anymore (48).
7)      Today’s child is angry. From parents who’ve mistreated them to teachers and leaders to classmates, siblings, and/or friends who’ve let them down, kids are fighting mad and don’t know how to properly release their frustrations. Many are even angry at God, the very One who is trying to save them from perishing (48). Children must learn how to give their pain to the Lord, talk out their frustrations in a safe environment, learn to value exercise and physical fitness (48). They must learn to pray and cast all their anxieties on the Lord (1 Peter 5:7). They need to be taught Scripture and to display the fruit of the Spirit in regards to self-control. They need disciplined behavior modeled for them by parents, teachers, and leaders (48).
8)      Today’s child is depressed. There is a sadness in many children’s eyes that show their frustration, loneliness, and hopelessness (48). They have questions that are not being answered, hurts that aren’t being healed, and emotions they cannot properly express for fear of being labeled. They feel like no one has time for them and their needs.
9)      Today’s child is very, very special and loved by God and needs Him. We know children are precious in His sight (Mark 10:14). He loves them and has a great plan and purpose for their lives. It is up to us as parents to help them understand this great love and compassion that the Father shows to us.

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