WJD – Moving Past WWJD

What Would Jesus Do? It’s a fine question as long as we remember one thing: We aren’t Jesus. Ok, I know most people know this, but we often forget it. We often see life as a maze and Jesus as our guide. Our thinking goes like this:

“Should I turn down the street marked anger or go left and walk down forgiveness lane? I Know I’ll ask Jesus. We’ll Jesus would forgive. Forgiveness lane it is!”

The problem with this thinking is that we cannot be Jesus. We cannot in our own strengthen reason ourselves to obedience by looking at what Jesus did. And we aren’t supposed to. As Jack Klumpenhower writes,

What a tyrant Jesus would be if he lived a perfect life and then as his main message, told us to be like him. What a setup for failure.”

Why Jesus Came

Thankfully, Jesus did not come to expand the law. He did not come to guilt trip a bunch ofbracelet kids into behaving well. “You got mad and threw your bat…Yeah, Jesus wouldn’t have done that. You stop that now.” No, Jesus came to live a perfect life for us. He came to do what we could not. He came to fulfill the law. He was baptized, he was tempted, and he perfectly obeyed God in all things so that he could become our substitute.

And here is the great news, the heart of the gospel, God the father is “well pleased” with his son. God accepts Jesus as our substitute. Everything Jesus has done honors, glorifies, and satisfies God the father, including Jesus’s death on the cross. By pleasing God, Jesus recues us from our sins. If we believe on him, Jesus gives us his righteousness and then takes our sin. He pays the full penalty for our sin. Because God is well pleased with Jesus, He is well pleased with every man woman, and child who repents of their sin and embrace Jesus.

How To Respond to Jesus’ Life

The point of Jesus’ life is not to guilt trip kids into cleaning up their rooms. The point of Jesus’ life is to call kids and everyone to repent on believe in Jesus. As our savior, Jesus is perfect. He is God. He is fully deserving of our trust. Let’s truth him!

Obviously the kid that trusts Jesus will want to follow and obey him. The child that loves his savior we want to be like him. He will, like the disciples, leave this world behind and seek after Jesus. He will stop lying, cheating, and fighting and start reading, praying, and serving. But there is a huge difference between the kid who obeys and the kid who loves. One is trying to impress from a heart of shame and guilt Jesus and feels oppressed. The other is seeking to follow Jesus from a heart of love and experiences joy.

So instead of challenging our kids to think about WWJD, let’s challenge them to think about WDJD (What Did Jesus Do). He live and then died to pay for our sins. When our kids struggle with lying, let’s direct them back to the cross. Instead of shaming them into being good, let’s call them to repent and trust the God who saves, the God who makes us all things new.

Are you ready to living by WJD?

Sunday School is Broken?

Sunday School is brokenReally? Who broke it? The simple but hard answer is, “We did!” Whenever we present a Bible story apart from the gospel, we break, undermine, and destroy the positive features of Sunday school. Now hopefully, you and I are not guilty of hiding God’s grace on a regular basis. But all across America the awesome message of repentance and forgiveness is being regularly missed by our church kids. If we hope to reach the next generation for Christ, we need to grapple with this stark reality by becoming even greater champions of the gospel. And here is why:

Earning F’s

A recent study of churchless Americans revealed that 60% of them have not progressed beyond their childhood faith (Barna & Kinnaman, pp. 61-62). In other words, most people who currently don’t go to church shaped their ideas about Jesus, society and the world (in part) while munching on crackers and looking at pictures of Jesus during Sunday school. And if most who avoid church like the plague thought that salvation was through Christ alone by faith alone, we would have done well. Unfortunately, this is not reality.

Learning the Wrong Things

Most unchurched people think salvation is a matter of works (p. 72). Do this and this, and avoid that movie, and you are ready for heaven. In short, bunches of kids are coming into our churches, flying around our children’s center, and then going out the door with the wrong gospel. Perhaps phenomenon explains why 90% of all 13-yr-old kids claim Christ but only 3% of our youth actually subscribe to a biblical worldview (Barna, pp. 39, 41). And when these kids grow up and want to get more serious about their faith, the largest group of them (31%) will try to obey the Ten Commandments more faithfully (Barna & Kinnaman, p. 134). They double down on their efforts to work themselves to heaven. There are no two ways about it; many of our church kids are getting the gospel.

Why Don’t Kids Learn?

Gospel-Gods-Plan-for-Me-poster-thumbnailThere are three big reasons kids aren’t getting the message:

  1. Some simply don’t listen. I had many excellent Sunday school teachers as a child (some of whom still pray for me). But as an unsaved kid, I found daydreaming about baseball and toy soldiers to be more interesting that children’s Bibles. Kids who tune out now will naturally struggle to recall the gospel when they are grown.
  2. Every kid is born a sinner. Apart from the grace of God, no kid can understand the gospel or embrace any truth. All will either think the cross is foolish or objectionable (I Cor. 1:23). And to cope with their sin before salvation, kids often either consciously or unconsciously alter the glorious truths of the gospel to make their own sin more manageable. I.e. surely I can work my way to heaven and please God without transforming faith. Now to find an old lady to help across the street to make up for stealing that pack of gum.
  3. Teachers are misrepresenting Christ. We could actually be teaching that the gospel consists of self-motivated obedience. Remember David? You need to be brave. Remember Paul? You need to be bold and sacrificial. We forget to mention that obedience can only be achieved through the power of Christ. And perhaps, we promote a works salvation because that’s what we actually believe.

Over 50% of church people self-identified more with the Pharisees than with Christ.

So, over 50% of us good church folk live as if God made us extra special holy people; we think ourselves inherently better than the unchurched (p. 179). As a result, some of us have undoubtedly stopped teaching that we are all (or were) wretched sinners daily opposing God and in need of unearned grace. And we forget that God alone saves and equips us to do good works. It’s quite possible many of our kids aren’t getting the gospel because we have taught salvation by works alone. As one lifelong Sunday school teacher recently said,

If kids are leaving the church, it’s because we’ve failed to give them a view of Jesus and his cross that’s compelling enough to satisfy their spiritual hunger and give them the zeal they crave” (Klumpenhower, p. 52)

Keep the Gospel in Church

Admittedly, we cannot keep every child from wandering off from classroom into the sea of churchlessness. Only those kids who have encountered the risen savior will embrace local congregations when grown. We are not responsible for what people hear and believe. God’s got that under control.

But God will hold us accountable for what we say.  We can and should faithfully teach the gospel. The preached word (and not our gimmicks or bands) is the hope of the next generation and of today’s churchless. Even around 23% of the unchurched get this truth and long for better Bible teaching (Barna & Kinnaman, p. 99). The gospel of God is the complete and only good news we have to offer. If we want to fix our Sunday schools or keep them humming well, we must faithful teach the gospel yesterday, today, and always.

Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. – I Timothy 4:16

Works Cited

  • Barna, G. (2003). Transforming Children Into Spiritual Champions: Why Children Should Be Your Church’s #1 Priority . Ventura : Regal .
  • Barna, G., & Kinnaman, D. (2014). Churchless: Understanding Today’s Unchurched and How to Connect with Them. Austin: Tyndale House.
  • Klumpenhower, J. (2014). Show Them Jesus: Teaching The Gospel to Kids. Greensboro: New Growth Press.

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.