Machiavelli first said, “Never waste the opportunity offered by a good crisis.” Winston Churchill popularized Machiavelli by saying “Never let a good crisis go to waste” Republicans and Democrats differ on many things one thing they both agree on is more power and more influence is better than less. A crisis therefore, allows politicians to consolidate power and expand influence. To use their strength to grow stronger by preying on the weaknesses of others. A crisis is an opportunity for them to boast in their strength.
For the Christian the idea of not wasting a crisis is altogether different, rather than projecting strength at the expense of others you boast in your weakness. Paul says in 2 Corinthians that as Christians, servants of God we commend ourselves not in our self-confidence not in our success but actually in our weakness.
In my last post I made the case for systematic theology and why kids need it. I know many of you might be thinking that there is no way that you could teach your kids systematic theology because you don’t really even understand it yourself. Take heart you are not alone. The good news for you is there are many resources that are now available to help your kids and you understand the basic framework of our faith.
Theology is something that is scary for many parents as many of them were never taught theology because much of it was assumed when they were kids. Their parents assumed they understood things about God. The most important thing about our kids is what they think about God. Because that’s true we can leave nothing to chance.
So where do we start. I would not start with Systematic Theology for kids under 6 or 7 for them I would read them books that tell the large story of God as a Redeemer. To do that I would recommend the following books
The Jesus Story Book Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones
The Biggest Story by Kevin DeYoung
Once kids have an understanding of the big picture of scripture the parts will make sense. When your kids are between 7 and 8 I would working through a systematic theology with them. There are three that I would recommend this list is by no means exhaustive. I have broken them up into younger, slightly older and older again this is for connivance what is important is you find what works for you family and do that.
Everything a Child Should Know about God by Kenneth Taylor
The Ology by Marty Machowski
Big Truths for Young Hearts by Bruce Ware
Bible Doctrine: Essential Teaching of the Christian Faith by Wayne Grudem
I know what you are thinking “Isn’t that a bit much for kids?” 50 years ago I would have agreed with you even 20 years ago. Today is a different day. There are many reasons for this, but I think DA Carson’s analysis is most concise in this matter. He says,”One generation knows the gospel the next assumes the gospel the third generation denies the gospel.”
When I was growing up as a kid, and I believe even my first few years as a children’s pastor we lived in a season where the gospel was assumed. As a kid, there were no sports or school activities on Wednesday night so kids could go to youth group. Stores were closed on Sunday so people could spend time with family and observe the Sabbath. We lived in a culture that Christian ideas thoughts and standards for better or worse pervaded our country. In the south, this is still true to some extent. I think the feeling when I was growing up was that you didn’t need to give kids as deep of a grounding in doctrine and truth because it was everywhere. There was stuff you learned for sure, but I think many things were assumed. As parents and as pastors we can no longer assume anything. We live in arguably the most secular age our country has ever seen. We must proactively teach our kids the stories of the Bible but also the truth underneath the stories and most importantly the person to whom those truths and stories point.
That is the context for why we need to teach our kids systematically here are a few reasons why it matters.
Most leaders if they are honest will tell you one of their biggest fears is they would give their life and energy to someone or something only to be forgotten once they move on. I have thought about this a lot lately what will people take away from your contribution to your church, family, field.
Here are a few random thoughts I have been thinking and praying over.
1. When I leave a conversation do people think I am important or did I make them feel important
2. The people you poured into will always outlast anything you build.
I have been thinking a lot about the whole Halloween debate. The difficulty with these types of debates is the Bible doesn’t address them so we pick sides and dig in. I know he did a lot of things that angered the “evil” Pharisees. It is easy to point to the Pharisees and say how they represent all the things we disagree with and our position is represented by Christ. But you know what, sometimes I find myself being a Pharisee. I find that I often seek my value in myself by rule keeping alone, actually one of the more scary realities is that it’s generally when I feel I am not a Pharisee that I am most in danger of being one.
A Pharisee to me is someone who has the outward appearance of the values that Jesus came to model with none of the inward convictions he lived out.
I think we need to take a hard look at what is meant when the Bible calls Jesus a friend of sinners.
In his book The Life You’ve Always Wanted John Ortberg talks about Pseudo-Transformation. It is powerful. I think to some people Halloween has become a “boundary marker of salvation.” Here is a short excerpt from his book, powerful stuff.
The great danger that arises when we don’t experience authentic transformation is that we settle for what might be called pseudo-transformation. We know that as Christians we are called to “come out and be separate,” that our faith and spiritual commitment should make us different somehow. But if we are not marked by greater and greater amounts of love and joy, we will inevitably look for substitute ways of distinguishing ourselves from those who are not Christians. This deep pattern is almost inescapable for religious people: If we do not become changed from the inside-out – if we don’t morph- we will be tempted to look to external methods to satisfy our need to feel that we’re different from those outside the faith. If we cannot be transformed, we will settle for being informed or conformed.
Here is where the gospel meets our messy reality.
Is your life primary marked by Love and Joy or by what you do or do not do? When we understand that Jesus kept the law perfectly for us, something we could never do and is not doing, it changes us. We move from law-keeping to be righteous to a thankfulness that Jesus paid it all on our behalf. That gratitude pushes us to live a life of devotion and holiness not because we are better than everyone but because we are painfully aware of our deep need for daily grace. It’s the gospel that frees us not to be absorbed into what Paul calls “meaningless debates.” My advice as someone who has been a kids pastor for nearly two decades, a parent for over a decade, and a sinner saved by grace for four decades, is this go: trick-or-treating or stay home. Do what you feel that you should do for your family. If you feel, you should go then do that. If you feel you should stay home, do that. Neither is wrong, but both can be. How is that? By treating those who don’t participate as weird or thinking you are better because you don’t participate. Both show a failure to live in humility.