God’s Gifts Won’t Make Our Kids Happy

Regardless of their budget, culture, or age, parents enjoy seeing their kids happy. They take them to Disney World, build those ridiculously hard to assemble Little Tikes Toys, and even buy them a goat. They do all this and more becaue they love their kids. Jesus put it this way,

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him.

In a very real sense, we love giving our kids things because this reflects the heart of our creator. It’s a natural impulse because God create us to follow him. god's good gifts

But as with all human impulses, this impulse can become tainted by sin. As we try to give our kids good things, we can sometimes miss the mark. We can sometimes give them things that actually lead them away from Jesus. So how do we ensure that we give them the right things all the time?  We look to Jesus.

Look To Jesus

In Mark 3:7-10, we discover that Jesus is really popular. He was more than trending on social media. His ministry blew the roof of the media world of his day. The stories of miraculous healings and exorcism had reached a fevered pitched. People from all over the ancient world were flocking to Jesus. They were all desperate to touch him and be healed. And what did Jesus do? He withdrew. He got into a boat and sailed a little way out to sea. That’s right, Jesus put an end to the healing frenzy. He stepped away from some of the neediest people of his day. And why?

He wanted to offer them something more. He wanted to give them eternal life. While Jesus knew that healing was a blessing, he also knew that his blessing did not save. God’s good gifts of heal and wealth did not fix people’s sin problem. And so, Jesus withdrew to preach, to teach, and to offer them that which never expires. He offered them himself, eternal life, peace with God.

As parents, we need to learn from our Lord and savior. We need to realize that good gifts do not equal God. We need to understand that paying for a kid’s college education, buying them a car, or sacrificing everything for their sports career does not equal their salvation and happiness. And we need to come to grips with the reality that it is possible to focus on and enjoy God’s good gifts and yet miss God.  As Jesus later said in Mark 8:36,

For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?

From Gifts Back to God

So how do we keep our kids focus on God? How do we be like Jesus and make sure our audience knows that Jesus and not cars, careers, or trophy’s satisfies? First and foremost, we preach the gospel. We teach our kids at home via family devotions, conversations, and our actions. Second, we pull back worldly gifts when we see them leading our kids away from Christ. If the gift of a great education leads our child to sloth, if a car makes our child irresponsible, and if focusing on their sports career leads them to boasting, we pull all these things back. Again none of these things are wrong or evil or bad. But if they lead to sin, we should pull them back in hopes of refocusing our kids on Christ.

At the end of the day, we will all reach a point when God’s good gifts stop having value. We will all die. And when death comes, what will our kids be trusting in? Will they be trusting in God’s gift or the savior who came to seek and save the lost?

It’s Hard to Keep Christ in Christmas

CHrist in Christmas BLogI spent many a Christmas morning squirming in my seat as my Dad read the Christmas story. Jesus was good and all but the gifts were right there across the way under the tree. Happiness was so close but still we had to wait. A few minutes later, the candles were lit, the songs were sung, and we were off to open presents.

Keeping a Christ centered focus is hard even at Christmas. We have to overcome our faulty perceptions of the world. We all long for heroes atop tall steeds, charging across the battlefield. We fawn over movie stars who earn millions on the Big Screen via the good looks and handsome charm. And we appeal to  credentialed Ph.D.’s for advice and counsel. We naturally want to follow the powerful, beautiful, and intelligent.

 Christ comes wrapped clothes and laid in a manger. He appeared lowly. He wasn’t even allowed in the inn. He humbled himself. And now he calls us to die to self and to put the needs of others before our own. We find this strange. We naturally reject the message of the nativity that calls us worship Christ. We love ourselves. We want the gifts of God that will magnify us and our ego.

And so this Christmas season, we must not be surprised to see the world get wrapped up with gifts, commercialism, and self-exaltation. We must not be surprised to see our kids value Christmas traditions more than Jesus. 

After all, Santa strokes the modern ego far more effectively than Christ. He gives gifts to good girls and boys. And we all like to think of ourselves as good. In fact, most of us can actually attain the Santa standard. Seen anyone get coal lately? The doctrine of self-forgetfulness is offensive to our nature even at Christmas. But is it true. And there is no life apart from it. To truly live, we must die to ourselves.

We must fight the world perceptions. We must seek to be lowly like our savior. We must seek to put others before ourselves. To keep Christ in Christmas, we must remember who are savior was. Then we must seek to be like him.

2014 Christmas Gift Guide

2014 Christmas Gift GuideAs a children’s & preschool pastor, questions about children’s Bibles and other kids resources start to pop up around me like Christmas trees in living room windows. In an attempt to answer a few questions and to save parents, grandparents, and the occasional aunt from having to sift through endless internet reviews, I offer you a few recommendations for the following resources: preschool & children’s Bibles, parenting & family books and kid’s books, as well as Bible buying guidelines for older children! If you have other suggestions please leave comments below!  
 

Preschool Bibles

big picture board bookThe Big Picture Interactive Bible Stories for Toddlers

Gospel Project

Divided into two volumes (From the Old Testament & From the New Testament) these Bibles are perfect for toddlers. Covering twenty Bible stories each, these books deliver gospel centered truth in a board format that your toddler eat on while you read!
 

website ready books the big picture story bibleThe Big Picture Story Bible

David Helm with illustrations by Gail Schoonmaker

“The Big Picture Story Bible” is the best children’s Bible designed for preschoolers and younger children. The pictures are large and simplistic. The stories are short but have a high fidelity to the content of the Scripture. If you have an infant or early preschooler on your list, I encourage you to give this Bible a look!
 

Children’s Bibles & Devotionals 

 

website ready book the big picture interactive storybook bibleThe Big Picture Interactive Bible Story Book

Gospel Project

Created by the writers of the “Gospel Project,” our church’s Sunday school curriculum, this children’s Bible does an excellent job of presenting the whole counsel of God as seen by the pages devoted to Zephaniah and the Pauline letters. Each story is accompanied by a great illustration, interactive media, scripture references, an explanation of how the story relates to Christ, and a discussion questions. If your child is only going to have one children’s Bible on his or her self, make it this one!
 

website ready book the gospel story bibleThe Gospel Story Bible

Marty Machowski

The author has done a wonderful job of representing the entirety of scripture in his children’s Bible. Beginning in Genesis, Machowshki covers every major Bible story. Each lesson is accompanied by Scripture references and discussion questions. The biggest benefit of this Bible is that is can be used with Marty’s two family discipleship books, “Long Story Short” and “Old Story New,” creating a great family worship and/or Sunday school curriculum for children of all ages! If you have room for another children’s Bible, get this one!
 

thoughts to make your heart singThoughts to Make Your Heart Sing 

Sally Lloyd-Jones & Jago

This beautifully illustrated book is a great devotional for kids of all ages. It’s pictures are beautiful enough to capture a baby’s attention, and the content consistently points to the beauty of Christ in a creative but truthful manner. This devotional makes a great addition to every kid’s bookshelf.  

 

For Parents:

 

big-truths-for-young-hearts1Big Truths For Young Hearts

Bruce A. Ware

Written by a seminary professor for his two little girls, the book breaks down the deepest doctrines of faith into bites that children can easily digest. This child styled systematic theology book will be an encouragement to parents and children alike as they seek to understand humanity, God, and the Bible. It’s one of my favorite books to handout.
 

beside still watersBeside Still Waters

C.H. Spurgeon

Though I am not generally a fan of devotionals, I picked up this one at the recommendation of Dr. Stuart Scott. And this book has quickly become my favorite devotional. Complied from the expositional writings of the famous preacher, C.H. Spurgeon by Roy H. Clarke, this devotional is stock full of timely encouragement taking straight from the scriptures. This is a great resources for tired parents and everyone else.
 

books website ready treasuring ChristTreasuring Christ When Your Hands are Full

Gloria Furman

This book is short enough for a busy mom to handle and provides sound gospel-centered truth on the realities of motherhood.  Motherhood is a hard but important job, and Gloria encourages the worn out women of God who are called to the task! The gospel provides everything a mom needs to relieve stress and overcome misguided expectations. Ladies this is perhaps one of the best books available for moms! 
 

books website ready shepherding a childs heartShepherding A Child’s Heart

Tedd Tripp

Tedd Tripp shows parents how to discipline for the purpose of discipleship. He gives parents the scriptural foundation and the practical methods for addressing a child’s sinful heart. Tedd Tripp’s book is a great resource for parents both new and old.
 
 

books website ready show them JesusShow Them Jesus

Jack Klumpenhower

This book is written by a lifelong Sunday school teacher for Sunday School teachers and for anyone working with kids either at home or at church. This book is full of practical wisdom concerning how to teach the gospel to children in way that is both Biblical and relational. Jack’s focus on the gospel challenges and reenergizes our hearts to reach the next generation for Christ.
 
 

what is the meaning of sex

What is the Meaning of Sex?

Denny Burk

Use wisdom when giving this book as a gift. But don’t be scared by the title.  If you are looking for a book that discusses marriage, homosexuality, and birth control all in one place, this is your book. By sticking his nose deep into scripture Denny Burk helps Christians to think through many popular misconceptions about sex and tastefully helps believers grasp God’s plan for our lives!   
 

For Kids:

the-chronicles-of-narnia-focus-on-the-family-radio-theatre-463x400Focus on the Family Radio Theatre Drama

If you spend large amounts of time in your car, are fond of road trips, or have middle school children who refuse to read, you should give Focus on the Family Radio Theatre a listen. It brings classic works such as “ The Chronicles of Narnia,” “The Hiding Place,” and “Ann of Green Gables” (just to name a few) to life with fantastic performance by a host of professional actors and actresses!
 

poison cupThe Prince’s Poison Cup

R.C. Sproul

Beautifully illustrated as R.C. Sproul’s other children’s books (The Priest With Dirty Clothes, The Donkey Who Carried a King, The Barber Who Wanted to Pray, etc.) this book tells the story of Christ’s death through a medieval parable. The beautiful story is laced with the power of the gospel and makes a great addition to every child’s bookshelf.
 

princes and the kissPrincess and the Kiss

Jennie Bishop

Beautifully illustrated, the book presents the splendor of chastity in a fun, thoughtful manner that can be enjoyed by young girls and appreciated by those leaving the ranks of elementary school!
 

Tips For Buying Your Child’s First Bible:

  1.  Avoid paraphrases. Several would-be Bibles, such as, the “Living Bible” and the “Message” take several interpretive liberties when translating Scripture. Though more grown up in nature, these Bibles are similar to children’s Bibles. They typically capture the idea of the passage or story, but bear little resemblance to the original text.
  2. Find an accurately translated Bible. For example, the “King James” Bible, the “New King James Bible, the “English Standard Version” of the Bible, the “New American Standard” Bible, and the “Holman Standard” Bible were all translated in such a way that the English words you find on their pages parallel the text of the original languages of the Bible.
  3. Give your child a readable Bible. If your child does not enjoy Shakespearean plays or cannot read old English, please do not give your kid a Bible with thee’s and thou’s. Hand your child the Bible that you consider to be the easiest to understand. Personally, I like the “New King James” (NKJV) and the “English Standard Version” (ESV) the best. However as Bibles aimed at children go, I think the new Holman Standard Big Picture Interactive Bible has perhaps the best and most helpful notes for kids.  
  4. Do not fret about the frills. The Bibles listed above have been published with notes for kids, teens, babies, soldiers, and for every other type of person. Although the notes and packaging are nice, the Bible’s ability to transform lies in the content of the Word not its appearance. If you choose a themed Bible, look over the notes to make sure you agree with them.