Tag Archives: christianity

Long Story Short

This is a post written by my husband and posted on our mission website, GospelLife.  I wanted to share it here as well:

One of the most exciting and challenging aspects of being a dad is leading family worship.  Fathers have the duty and privilege to train their children in the fear of the Lord, and the best way to do this is little-by-little, consistently over time.

To help with this task is the new book Long Story Short: Ten Minute Devotions to Draw Your Family to God.  The current volume covers the Old Testament.   The New Testament volume is still forthcoming.

I have read the introduction and a preview of the first two weeks of devotions, which are available here.  Let me outline a few reasons why I am excited about this resource and why you should check it out too:

It is simple. You don’t need an hour every night.  All you need is ten minutes, five times a week–fifty minutes a week.  Furthermore, all that is needed for dad to prepare is a simple read through–at most five minutes.  That makes discipling your children not feel like such an impossible undertaking.  You can let the Word of God transform your children’s lives with only fifty minutes a week.

It spans age ranges.  The author explains in the introduction how with some tweaking the material can target children from four to teenagers, and also how to use the material when you have a combination of ages and maturities.

It is creative. Every week begins with a creative activity or object lesson to introduce the week’s topic.  Almost every day contains an illustration to help the kids understand.

It is systematic and comprehensive. The entire curriculum for both Old and New Testaments will take a family three years to complete.  The topics and stories are intentionally chosen to give your child a comprehensive knowledge of the Bible.  Once you have finished the three years, then it is time to start over again since about every three years your child reaches a new developmental stage.  They will be able to think about the stories and questions in a way that is different and more complex than in the previous cycle.

It combines teaching of stories with teaching of the Story. This is probably one of my favorite parts.  It is hard to find resources that both teach the details of individual Bible stories and show how it connects to the great Narrative of Scripture–the Story of Jesus.  One night of every week is spent showing how the current topic connects to Jesus.  Many resources simply give Bible stories with moral lessons, but the story of David and Goliath, for example, is not about having courage in the face of adversity.  It is about how God’s anointed king is empowered to destroy the enemies of God, which points us to King Jesus.  In the “Introduction to Parents,” the author explains:

A man-centered gospel is always threatening to supplant the cross-centered gospel we read in the Bible. But if we trade Jesus, who bore our sins and received the wrath of God, for a Jesus who is merely a good example, we don’t have the same gospel. If we remove a call to repentance and replace it with an invitation to be God’s friend, we’re not passing on the treasure of the gospel in accordance with the Scriptures (p. 1).

So, you can trust this resource for both Bible knowledge and Gospel-centrality.

It gets children to use their Bibles. This is not a Bible storybook.  Bible storybooks have their place, but this is a book to be used alongside your Bible.  Children will turn to and read directly from the Bible rather than just being told about what the Bible says.

It is not based in a  particular translation. When quoting from Scripture the book uses the ESV and NIV, but the questions and answers are not bound by the words of a particular translation.  So, you are free to use whatever translation your family chooses.  In my opinion, it is best to use a single translation throughout a child’s life rather than using a “simpler” translation like the NIV or NLT when children are young, and then graduating children to a more literal translation like the NKJV or ESV.  Gone are the days when all English speakers read, know, and quote from the same translation.  However, in your home, it is good to be consistent, and thereby plant the words of Scripture firmly in the minds of children.  Children will passively memorize Scripture through repetition, just like many of us who grew up in Christian homes can almost quote verbatim passages from the KJV that we have never tried to memorize.  Therefore, I think it best to stick with one translation throughout a child’s life, and I think a literal translation is best.  We use the ESV in our home, and this resource allows for that choice.

Jude is still too young to use this book yet, but we are looking forward to the time when we can give it a real test-drive.  However, those of you with children a little older should go ahead and check it out.  God will bless you as you are faithful to teach your children the words of Scripture and bring them before the throne of God in prayer.

Preview and Buy Online

 

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Foxes Have Holes…

October 20th (I know, I’m a little behind in posting this) officially marked a milestone in Jude’s life.  It was the longest that he has ever lived in one house without moving.

For those of you who aren’t intimately familiar with our lives, we decided before Jude was born that we were going to follow God’s call to serve in the country of Moldova for two years following Josh’s graduation from Bible college.  Jude was born in February 2009, and four months later we moved to live back and forth between our parents’ houses for three months before leaving for Moldova in September.

Because of Moldova’s visa requirements, before we got our green cards, we were only allowed to stay in the country for three months, and then we had to be out of the country for three months.  So in December, we packed up and moved back to our parents’ houses for three months.   Back to Moldova in March, we lived for three more months in our tiny apartment on the camp property where the school is.  Then, on May 20th, we moved down the road into our current residence where we are house and dog-sitting for an American family we work with who are back in America on furlough for eight months.  We have now lived here for five months.

Whew!  That made me tired just typing all of that, much less living it.

So why have we put our son (and ourselves) through so much moving and instability?  Because Josh and I resolved a long time ago to follow God’s call no matter what, and we know that this is what he has called us to do.  Throughout it all, we have clung to Matthew 8:20- “And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’”  When we follow Christ, he doesn’t promise us a life of ease and stability.  What he does promise us is that, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39).

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Tools for Dads (And Moms, too!)

Big thanks to a very special guest columnist–my very own husband, Joshua Caleb Hutchens– for this awesome post!

Fatherhood comes with great responsibility.  American culture portrays dads as either stern and distant or goofy and unreliable.  Contrary to these depictions, it is the father–not the mother–who has the primary role in teaching the children about God.  When Moses commands Israel, “You shall teach [God’s commands] diligently to your children,” he is speaking directly to fathers–the heads of the households and clans (Deut 6:6).  This is why he can say that God is the God of their fathers (Deut 6:3).

Proverbs is essentially an entire book focused on the father-child teaching relationship.*  Proverbs 1:8 says, “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching.”  So, while Proverbs recognize the indispensable role of a mother, the father is portrayed as the primary teacher of wisdom (a.k.a. the fear of the Lord).

We fathers tend to think of our role as provider in material ways alone.  It is our job to “bring home the bacon.”  We need to remember the words of Jesus:

“Do not lay up treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matt 6:19-20).

Material things are precarious and temporary.  The spiritual treasure is eternal and of far greater worth.  If we provide for our families materially but do not provide for them spiritually, then we have failed.

Like every job of fatherhood, a dad needs a good set of tools to instruct his children in the fear of the Lord.  So, for this father’s day I’d like to share a few tools that our family has found helpful in beginning to teach Jude about God.

Hymns

I start with this one because it is free.  In my humble opinion, few modern songs can come close to the theological and emotional depth of hymns, especially the really, really old hymns.  We put together a PDF document of lyrics, titled Lullaby Hymns, of the hymns that we sing most often when putting Jude to sleep.  If you don’t know the tune, NetHymnal can be really helpful since they have the tune for tons of hymns online for free (as far as I know, this is the only website today still using those midi files that we all thought were so cool in the 90s).  We also enjoy Indelible Grace, a group committed to helping churches recover old hymns.  We know many of the hymns in our Lullaby Hymns collection from listening to their music.  Or if you can read music, just pick up an old hymnal.  Whatever you do, sing hymns to and with your children.  Fill their little minds with lyrics about the greatness and the love of God.

The Big Picture Story Bible

There really is nothing like this story Bible on the market today.  It doesn’t focus on individual stories like Noah’s Ark, Joshua and the Battle of Jericho, or Daniel and the Lion’s Den.  It tells the “big picture story” of the entire Bible.  This focus on “the forest rather than the trees” is something that you really must do as a teacher.  The Bible isn’t a book of isolated and unrelated stories like Aesop’s Fables.  It is a book with a single story about God establishing his kingdom.  All the individual stories are encompassed in the grand narrative.  Children must be taught the big story, and this book does exactly that in a way that is understandable for kids and enjoyable for parents.  The illustrations are great and will keep your kids’ attention.

The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name

Now of course it is also important for your children to know the individual stories of the Bible.  This book is great for doing just that.  The problem with many story Bibles for little ones is that it ends up moralizing the story.  The story of David and Goliath is given the meaning of courage in the face of adversity, while in fact the story points to Jesus by showing how God conquers his enemies through his anointed king.  An important question to ask yourself when teaching the Old Testament is–”Would a conservative Jew agree with me or want to kill me?”  It is obvious in the book of Acts that the Apostle’s interpretation of the Old Testament caused the latter reaction.  The Old Testament wasn’t meant to teach us how to be nice moral people.  It points to Jesus.  This book tells the individual stories in a captivating way with wonderful illustrations, while at the same time showing how each story points to Jesus.  We gave our copy away and are excited that our parents are bringing another when they come visit next month.

Seeds Family Worship

We’ve just discovered this in the last couple weeks.  This group puts Bible verses (from the NIV) to music.  The value of putting things to music for memory is universally recognized.  So far, Seeds has five CDs based on themes like faith or courage.  The songs are not the annoying children’s tunes that drive you bonkers.  They are enjoyable to listen to, and except for the reserved use of children’s voices you wouldn’t even know that it is children’s music.  CDs are fairly priced and also available on iTunes.  If you can’t afford them all at once, you can still listen online for free.

Big Truths for Young Hearts: Teaching and Learning the Greatness of God

Admittedly, we haven’t used this with Jude much yet since it has older children in mind, but we have already been familiarizing ourselves with this book.  It is theologian Bruce Ware’s attempt to reconstruct the many conversations he had with his daughters about God and theology.  He explains things clearly and uses some great illustrations.  It will be a great resource for family worship in the future, and I would highly recommend it for anyone wanting to read a short overview of systematic theology in layman’s terms.

“Slugs & Bugs & Lullabies”

This CD is mostly fun.  It is a great combination of songs about God, silly songs, and lullabies from daddies.  It has everything from the song “God Made Me,” where they sing, “God made me like he made the sea; he filled it up with green and blue.  He sent his Son, his only one, to fill me up and make me new,” to “Bears,” where they sing, “Bears, bears, they got no cares.  Bears don’t drink from a cup.”

“How I Pastor My Family”

This is a short article by Pastor Justin Hyde of Christ Church Brenham, Texas.  It has some interesting suggestions and encouragement for dads.  If you are a dad, then you are the pastor of your family.  You will lead your family spiritually.  The question is–in what direction?

There are many great children’s resources out there.  These are just the current tools we use with our son.  Even though he is just sixteen months old, it is never too soon to begin teaching.  I suspect he is understanding much more than we can know and than he can communicate.  All of these resources will be helpful at least through early elementary school.

Other resources that are on our wish list that you might also find helpful include:

Mighty Acts of God: A Family Bible Story Book

Books by Debby Anderson

Books by Carine Mackenzie (especially the “Learn about God” series)

The “Big Book” Series by Sinclair Ferguson

*Some scholars believe that Proverbs was based on the teacher-pupil relationship since teachers were often addressed as fathers and likewise called their students sons.  Even if this is so, that such language was adopted for the teacher-pupil relationship only serves to prove the point that fathers are instructors.

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Too Young to Date?

This is awesome.  More Christians need to be telling their children this:

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To Santa or Not To Santa?

This is the question we, and many other young families I know, are asking ourselves this Christmas- should we “do” Santa or not?  There are a lot of solid Christians on both sides of this issue, and it is a personal decision for every family.

I recently found a thought-provoking article by Thabiti Anyabwile explaining why Santa is not a part of his family’s Christmas.  You can read it here. I particularly like his response to this common objection:

A fair number of parents have, almost in panic, expressed concern that should there be no Santa Claus their children would not have fun at Christmas…  No doubt Christmas is fun. Even as parents, we get great delight from seeing our children’s faces as they rummage through the boxes and gifts. But the implication here is that Christmas without the trappings, Christmas exclusively focused on the birth of the Savior, is boring. The argument implies that there is no anticipation associated with awaiting the celebration of Jesus’ incarnation.

He also, in another article, gives some tips for parents who choose not to do Santa on how to equip their children to answer the inevitable question, “What is Santa going to bring you this year?”

One very important point that Thabiti makes for those of us who choose not to do Santa, is that it must ALL be done in a spirit of humility.  How easy would it be to look at other families who do believe in Santa and decide we are more holy than they are?  That is just not true.  I know plenty of wonderful Christians who do Santa with their children.  And I have already noticed in trying to explain why we are choosing not to do Santa, it’s VERY difficult to do so without sounding self-righteous.  And honestly, even the most humble attempts will still put some people on the defensive.

To sum up the foundation of why we are not doing Santa, I quote one of Thabiti’s Q&A that he gives in the second article:

Q: “What’s wrong with believing in Santa?”

Ans: “Others can.  But I think it’s better to believe in real things that are wonderful and beautiful, like Jesus.”

ETA: I just found a really good video on youtube of John Piper preaching about the story of Santa vs. the Gospel of Jesus.  Watch it here.

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Church Gives Pastor New Truck

Bro. Ricky Cunningham has faithfully served the congregation at my husband’s home church- Hardin Baptist Church in Hardin, Kentucky- for 25 years. Over the last 25 years the congregation has grown from 60 to more than 1,500 (in a town with a population of only 500!  And he’s no easy-believism preacher, either 🙂 ). To show their appreciation, the church members took up several offerings and surprised their pastor with a brand new truck!

What an incredible testimony of faithful Gospel preaching!

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More Modesty Questions

Hmmm… great thoughts, and thank you to those who commented on my previous post. I’m still mulling over it. Modesty is so multi-faceted.

I agree with what all of you said. I guess more specifically what I’m thinking about is how do we make the jump from

” but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart,”

and

“Now the body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.”

to

“short skirts, low cut tops and body hugging outfits are not what we are going to wear.”

I don’t disagree with it! I’m just thinking about it.

How much do we take into account cultural changes/differences? Like the story I heard about the middle eastern women who threw their skirts over their heads when a man walked in the room because in their culture it is more shameful for a man to see your face than your legs (that story could be totally wrong, I don’t know), or how men in Bible times wore robes that we would essentially consider dresses (and horrific for a man to wear) today.

Is there a way to say that X, Y, and Z are immodest forms of clothing? Or is it completely up to one’s conscience? What if a girl says, “You know, God just hasn’t convicted me about showing cleavage and midriff.” Do you tell her to pray about it some more and He’ll show her differently? 😀 How far do you take that? What if I say, “You know, God just hasn’t convicted me about wearing a headcovering/only dresses/no makeup/a burka/you name it.” Do you tell me (or think in your head) that if I would just pray about it God would show me differently?

I know there is SO MUCH more to modesty than just clothing, and I know they are all tied to one another, I’m just thinking in a more concrete way right now.

I think that a lot of my wrestling with the practical aspect of this comes from having been essentially a modern-day pharisee before I became a believer, and I projected what I thought was right onto everyone else. So it’s really difficult for me not to want some across-the-board standard for what is and is not modest so that I can enforce it in my own life and on others. I know that’s not right! I’m just thinking outloud mostly. 🙂 Thanks to anybody who has endured to the end of this rambly post!

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