Friday, May 29, 2015

Practical Ways to Teach Toddlers Biblical Truths

 Did you know a child’s basic moral foundation is set by age five[1]? Furthermore, the first three years of life are the most critical for shaping the brain’s learning structure[2].While science most often uses this information to support educational and social development it is also true of spiritual development. Additionally, even if your child hasn’t learned to communicate yet, he is learning at a rapid rate and makes a captive audience. So, introducing bible truths during the early years helps prepare children for future application of God’s word.
When we had children, my Christian brain, teacher brain, musician brain, and mommy brain all got together and started spitting out some ways to teach my young children about God. And I was amazed what came out. Some was natural and some was learned, but now I know all of it was a gift from the Spirit. I am so thankful God is using me to teach my children about him, and I want to share what has worked!

1.      Sing a “Thank You” song (to the tune of, “Head and shoulders, knees and toes”).
Scriptural basis: Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.” Psalm 8:2

Songs have a way of reaching into the deepest parts of our being and solidifying biblical truths. Use this song while playing or saying prayers.

Thank you, God, for loving me
Loving me, loving me
Thank you, God, for loving me
Thank you, God

Additional verse ideas
Thank you, God, for Je-sus…
Thank you, God, for saving us…
Thank you, God, for family…
Thank you, God, for everything…

2.      Quote scripture.
Scriptural basis: “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” Psalm 119:11

Simple verses like, “Love the Lord your God (Matthew 22:38),” “Love your neighbor (Matthew 22:39),” and “Serve one another (Galatians 5:13)” are great for encouraging good behavior and correcting bad behavior. Another option is to say, “Jesus says, ‘Love one another,’” to emphasize that Jesus expects obedience (not just mom and dad). And before you know it your child will be quoting the verses too!

3.      Find an appropriate bible story book.
Scriptural basis: “Train a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

Story time needs to consist of at least one bible story. There are several good books out there I recommend. First, The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers his Name works great for ages three to five (find it here at Amazon) because it explains how Jesus fits into each bible story. For babies to two-year-olds, we love the Read and Share Toddler Bible (here it is) because the stories are simpler, shorter, and there are even coordinating activities. Another idea is to let your child touch the bible as you read, thus giving him ownership of God’s word.

4.      Give God credit for beauty and blessings.
Scriptural basis: When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?” Psalm 8:3-4

The next time you go outside, look to the sky and say something like, “Wow! Look at the beautiful sky God created. You’re awesome, God!” And when blessings come, tell your child that God gives us good things because he loves us and takes care of our needs. For example, when God blessed us with the perfect family car a few months ago, we consistently reminded our boys that it was from him. Soon our oldest son started saying, “Thank you, God, for our van!” It was awesome to hear our child give credit to God.

5.      Reliably attend church.
Scriptural basis: And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:24-25

No matter what you do at home, your entire family needs the support and fellowship of other Christians. And don’t just send your kids to church – go with them. Make it a priority to worship together. Kids are experts on identifying hypocrites so don’t “preach” to them without following through in obedience in your own faith. The routine expectation of going to church is a necessity for your child’s growth in their understanding of Christ.

There you go, folks! If you have other ideas that have worked for your family feel free to share them in the comments.


Sunday, May 24, 2015

Josh Duggar's Sin: Heed Your Warning

This week it was reported that the oldest son in the reality show "19 Kids and Counting," Josh Duggar, had admitted to fondling minor girls when he was 15. According to CNN, Josh admitted his guilt to his parents and the authorities and then took the necessary steps toward healing and forgiveness (through counseling). But, as you can expect, the media is taking this story and running with it.

As they should.

Some people blame the media for fueling the fire in this story and discrediting the Duggar family. Others blame the "outdated" family upbringing that "limited" Josh's knowledge of sex and thus led him to act out in such a vile way. However, both views are entirely missing the point by not focusing on the deepest cause.

Sin is the issue here, folks. Sin.

It is a nasty defiler of everything good, everything holy. It is a destroyer of families, relationships, and reputations. It lies, steals, and cheats us out of experiencing real life by settling for cheap substitutions. It tells us to "do what feels right" and leaves us feeling worse than we did before. It corrupts the message of Christ by making us apathetic to not only our own sin but also to the sins of others. It discredits the truth by leaving room for faulty, human opinion.

I am not saying Josh Duggar is to be excused - he is completely responsible for his sin. No temptation to sin overtakes us unless we give it the power to do so (1 Corinthians 10:13). Furthermore, sin is rooted in our own selfish, evil desires and we are not tempted by God (James 1:13-15). Every bit of Josh's actions were on him, so there are consequences. Even though he asked for forgiveness from his victims and of the Lord, there are still repercussions. We can't expect unbelievers to welcome Mr. Duggar back with open arms after this revelation.

The Christian community is acting as if Mr. Duggar is being bullied by the press, and I disagree. While I agree the press' intentions in bringing this story to light is probably not entirely wholesome, I am more concerned that Christians expect a lost world to accept our sermon of mercy and forgiveness when we don't wholeheartedly extend the same mercy and forgiveness to the world. There is major hypocrisy happening, and the message of Christ continues to be blemished. So, instead of blasting one another, let's heed these warnings:

1. There are always victims to our sin. Sin picks out a receiver and lets the arrows fly. Most of the time we victimize ourselves, but we can also hurt others. Mr. Duggar's sin is a prime example of literally victimizing others. Also, Judas Iscariot's sin of betraying Jesus led to Jesus' death (John 18:1-3). Don't be deceived into thinking your sin won't (or isn't) hurting anyone.

2. We are forgiven from sin, but there are still consequences. It would be a mistake to think you won't have to face the aftermath of your sin. Yes, Christ's blood covers our sins and presents us righteous before a holy God, but there will always be loss involved with sin. Loss of freedom, loss of status, and even loss of reward to name a few. Even Adam and Eve lost their home and faced God-ordained struggles because of their sin (Genesis 2:16-17, 3:6-7 & 23). Some consequences are faced in this life, and the rest will be accounted for in eternity. That being said, Mr. Duggar is experiencing some consequences, and, unfortunately, so is his family (which leads us to the next warning).

3. Our sin affects others. In 1 Chronicles 21, we find King David telling his commander, Joab, to take a census of the troops, and it is very apparent that David's request was one of pride and arrogance because it was encouraged by Satan (verses 1-3). David soon realized his guilt, but the Lord sent a plague that killed 70,000 men! The king's actions left families without fathers, husbands, and sons. Even though David repented, others were affected. Similarly, Mr. Duggar's entire family and legacy is now affected. Our sins, friends, go so much beyond ourselves.

4. None of us are immune to sin. I hope no one misunderstands my quite frank evaluation of Mr. Duggar's sin: I am not saying he shouldn't be forgiven or allowed to move on from the horrendous event that happened in his teen years. Rather, I'm saying we should all take notice and take note. We can't allow sin to reign in our lives (Romans 6:12). It creeps in, makes us question everything we know to be true, and enters the ill-defended doors to our hearts. So, we need to be active in reading the word, memorizing it, and apply it to our lives so we can defend ourselves against Satan's whims. Don't be "devoured (1 Peter 5:8)!"

5. It takes a long time to earn a reputation back. Even after full repentance, forgiveness, and deliberate acts to make things right, it takes time to repair one's testimony in Christ. And, I would argue, sometimes it can never be fully repaired (at least not on earth anyway). Take the apostle Paul, formerly Saul, for example: After being one of the most influential proponents of Christian persecution in his day, he encountered Christ on the road to Damascus and became a believer (Acts 9:1-19). Immediately he started preaching, but his reputation made the crowds question his authority (verses 20-21). However, people started to trust him when they witnessed the power of God in Paul's life (verse 22). While Paul certainly wasn't a believer when he acted heinously, he was still held to his reputation for at least a certain amount of time. And the same is true of us. Keep in mind that your Christian testimony is at stake when you flirt with sin.

6. Pray for other Christians and help them conquer their sin. I have no doubt Mr. Duggar's parents prayed for him throughout his childhood and even more so once his sin was admitted, but they didn't just abandon him, or the victims, when the sin was discovered: they did what they could to help the healing process begin. James 5:19-20 says, "My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth, and someone should bring that person back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins." We all make lousy decisions, and some have bigger implications and earthly consequences than others, but our communal goal should be to help one another conquer sin. Through prayer, reliance on God's strength, and one another, sin can be eliminated.

7. Be thankful to God for conquered sin. While only the Lord knows if someone has truly won victory over a specific sin, we can be thankful for the times he's helped us in the past. When we doubt our ability to throw sin to the curb, that's when Christ shines brightest and his power is revealed (2 Corinthians 12:9). While Mr. Duggar may not be thankful for the resurfacing of his sin, he can still be thankful for no longer being enslaved by it. And the same is true for us.

People are watching us. Deal with sin, friends, so the message of Christ can be preached without hindrance.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Reason

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse! 10 Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. - Galatians 1:6-10

A conviction has been on my heart for quite some time. I have prayed, diligently seeking God's guidance and will for the action I should take. Welcome to Journey to Victory, my first step in teaching, equipping, encouraging, and admonishing fellow Christians. (Yes, you read that last one right - admonishing.) Because the world isn't the problem; ineffective Christianity is the problem. We have neglected our first love.

The majority of American Christians are failing. Miserably.

We've conditioned ourselves to comfort and good feelings, not daring to remind ourselves that God cares more about our holiness than our happiness. We've filled our lives with tasks that have nothing to do with Him, yet we want His blessings. We cry out to God to save our country, yet we cower in the corner to the culture's pressures and whims. We need to better repent and equip ourselves so we can be the bold force for holiness this world so desperately needs.

I love you, friends, so I'm going to say it: It's time to stop acting like children and pick up the cross.

And I'm not talking about the unique "crosses" we each carry every day - I'm talking about THE cross where a perfect Savior died. If we won't at least carry His cross, then nothing else matters.

1 John 2:15-17
15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father[d] is not in them. 16 For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.

Journey to Victory will speak truth when it is hard to hear. It will bring error in our Christian thinking to light and help us apply our faith in gospel-spreading ways. It is dedicated to equip and challenge believers. It will ruffle feathers. Any journey to victory takes perseverance, sweat, tears, and strength, and our Journey to Victory in Christ certainly isn't any different.

I welcome your prayers, requests, and comments. Also, I want guest posts from you! How has God gifted you? How can you equip other believers? Write about it, and send it my way. Just be sure you're living the life you're preaching, because the world has seen enough hypocrisy from Christians. The world needs to see Jesus.