Teaching Your Kids God’s Principles

Periodically, aspects of secular culture invade Christianity. It’s well disguised, because it is often promoted by theologians and the ministers who are taught by them. Unfortunately, many of today’s theologians are thinly veiled agnostics or atheists and it impacts how they view scripture.

One of the most common ways of currently undermining scripture is by claiming that much of it wasn’t written to apply to us. The argument is that an Old Testament prophecy only applies to the specific group of people to whom it was given. Or that a New Testament epistle only applies to the original person or church to whom it was written.

On the surface this sounds logical. If the people in Nineveh hadn’t repented when Jonah preached, God would have destroyed them. The specific prophecy wasn’t about the country next door.

Paul’s letters to Timothy, Titus or Philemon did indeed contain specific instructions for those people. If he wanted Barnabas or someone else to do something specific, I’m sure he would have written them, too.

What these types of theological arguments often miss though, is that in addition to specific commands, God has underlying principles. He knew some things stay the same over hundreds or even thousands of years, but other things change. He also may not have cared to list each person who would ever be covered by His blessings or every single possible sinful activity in a category.

When God makes a promise or gives a warning to a specific group of people, there are often underlying principles that apply to all of His people. When God says He loves His people – even in an Old Testament book – I don’t need my name mentioned specifically to know I’m included. When God repeatedly says He detests lies and lying, He doesn’t need to list every possible way a person could lie or obfuscate the truth for the principle to be obvious.

This rejection theology also ignores the fact that almost as quickly as scripture was written down, it was passed among the people to learn what God wanted them to do. They didn’t seem to think most of the books weren’t written specifically to them and therefore didn‘t apply.

We have strong evidence the gospels and epistles were quickly passed from city to city and congregation to congregation and were considered to be inspired by God. There is no evidence they assumed the commands and principles didn’t apply to them, even if they weren’t the original addressee.

Why is this so important to teach your kids? Because ignoring biblical principles is one of the most common ways Christians currently use to excuse their disobedience and their sinful choices. Teens have always had a talent for this. (“God didn’t specifically say it was wrong to get high on cocaine.”)

The ignoring of biblical principles has seeped into the lives of adult Christians now and even into pulpits. Listen carefully for how many times someone teaching, preaching or having a conversation says something like, “I know the Bible says xyz, but…”. The “but” is usually followed by some version of it wasn’t meant for me to obey, because if God had known what I know, He wouldn’t have said that. Or even worse, implying that God did not inspire scripture.

Teach your kids to remember those conversations between Adam, Eve and the Serpent in the Garden of Eden. Remember the argument that seemed to sway Eve? Satan basically claimed, “God only told you not to eat the fruit because…” and of course, “You won’t really die.” He was trying to convince her God’s rules were not meant for her. He wanted her to believe her wants were more informed, more important, than God’s commands and principles.

Satan’s tricks haven’t changed in thousands of years. We just tend to forget what they are and to be watchful for them. Teach your kids to watch for those biblical principles and not to believe the argument that biblical principles no longer matter to God or apply to them.

Simple Ways to Point Your Kids to God

A recent Barna study found kids and teens who grew to be faithful, productive Christians as adults had been exposed to an average of about 2 hours of spiritual content a day.

Before you start to panic, the good news is that it doesn’t all have to be formal instruction (Note: Sending your kids to a Christian school, doesn’t remove the need for you, as their parents, to provide spiritual content for them.) Things like praying and having people over to eat count towards the total.

In fact, there are lots of rather simple things you can do to increase your kids’ exposure to spiritual content each day. Here are a few of our favorites.

  • Have faith conversations in the car. If you’re a parent, you probably spend a lot of time in the car with your kids. As you talk about life, make sure to point them towards God whenever possible. These spiritual discussions are a key factor in building a strong faith foundation.
  • Have drive by prayers. Don’t close your eyes if you are driving, but get in the habit of having short prayers motivated by things you see as you drive. Anyone can notice something and lead a drive by prayer for it.
  • Make time for family devotionals. You make time to read your kids lots of secular books and encourage them to read independently. Why? Because you have heard it will help them do better in school. Make an effort to read the Bible to your kids and encourage them to read it independently. Having a strong faith foundation is even more important than doing well in school.
  • Make worship services and Bible classes a priority. When you regularly skip church and Bible class for other activities, you send the message that those are things are good to do only if there isn’t anything better available.
  • Serve others and share your faith. Serving others and sharing your faith should be as much of your family DNA as your last name and your holiday traditions. You will initially do these things as a family. As your kids grow older, their individual service and faith sharing should be as common as what you do as a family.
  • Let your kids have their friends over. Hospitality is a major part of the home life of kids who grow up to be faithful Christians. It doesn’t have to be formal entertaining either. Letting them invite their friends to your house counts. So do visits by neighbors and extended family.
  • Do things with other Christian families. Don’t wait for your church to plan something organized. Meet another family at the park, take a hike with a group from church or grab a fast food lunch after church with others.
  • When you take your kids to a museum, look for sections covering cultures in the Bible. Many museums have sections with artifacts from the Egyptians, the Romans, the Assyrians, the Greeks and other cultures in the Bible. You may find lots of artifacts mentioned in the Bible like oil lamps, Torah scrolls, mummies (Jacob and Joseph’s bodies were mummified in Egypt), even some of the idols like Baal. (Note: In some museums, artifacts from Israel will be found in a section called Levantine or Levant culture.)
  • Take your kids outside. The Bible teaches us that creation points to God. Take your kids on a hike, to the beach, to an aquarium or zoo. Point out how amazing God is and how much He loves us.

Helping your kids build strong faith foundations and grow to their godly potential takes intentionality. Once you make the time though, the things you need to do are actually rather basic. Don’t let anything stop you from teaching your kids about God.

Teaching Your Toddler About God

You have just brought home a precious new baby. When should you start teaching him or her about God? As strange as it may seem, teaching your baby about God is a great way to start helping him or her build a strong faith foundation.

Science is constantly learning more about what babies might understand. Because they aren’t verbal yet, it’s almost impossible to know for sure. Many early memories are more like photos – visual since they haven’t learned words yet. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if these early visual memories and the first words they understand are about God?!

Babies and toddlers aren’t ready for complex ideas. Since much of faith is abstract, they may not fully understand even the things they can repeat about God. That’s okay. What is important is that they are hearing them regularly. These early concepts about God should be almost as familiar to them as basic information about themselves or their families.

So what are some of the things you should teach your baby or toddler about God?

  • God made everything. You can repeat this general statement as well as pointing out some of the many things God created one by one. Don’t forget, God also made the materials and gave people the intellect and talents to make the things we often call man-made, too.
  • God loves us. Everything in Christianity revolves around the idea of God’s love for us.
  • The Bible is a book with the things God wants us to know in it. Toddlers are a bit young to begin learning more details about the Bible. Those concepts can be introduced as they approach the preschool years.
  • Basic Bible stories. You can use a baby or toddler “Bible”. These reduce basic Bible stories to a few sentences. Some encourage toddlers to make movements to accompany the stories. Continue reading through these stories over and over. Repetition is important to help toddlers begin to remember some of the basics of these Bible stories.
  • Prayer is how we talk to God. Prayers with babies and toddlers should be short and simple. Rote prayers are fine, but it is also good to pray for things that are impacting your family in some way.
  • The Church is made up of Christians. We meet together to worship God and learn more about Him. Christians are a family of God’s people. It is important to begin teaching children from very young ages that the Church is the people, not just a building. They need to also regularly hear that Christians are a family of God’s people. It is also good for them to learn a couple of the basic purposes of our worship services.
  • God is good. God is the very definition of goodness. Children should hear that regularly from the youngest of ages.
  • Jesus is God’s son. Yes, the trinity is more complex than that. At this age though, you can begin introducing Jesus to them as God’s son.
  • God is smarter than any person. Many of the spiritual problems people have as they get older start with a lack of humility. They may not say it, but they think they are smarter and wiser than God. Teaching children from the very beginning that God is smarter and wiser than humans, can perhaps encourage them to remain humble as they grow older.
  • When we disobey God, it makes Him sad. Obviously, the concepts of sin, repentance, forgiveness and grace are much more complex. The first concept for them to understand is that our sins make God sad. For little ones, it is easier for them to understand obeying and disobeying than the idea of sin.
  • Our family loves God and wants to worship and obey Him. If this is true of your family, your baby or toddler needs to hear it regularly. Eventually, he or she will make an independent decision about whether or not he or she wants to become a Christian. In the meantime, they need to understand that just like Joshua’s family, your family follows the Lord.

Can a baby or toddler really understand all of these basic concepts about God? We may never know for sure. What we do know is that the more a child hears about God at home, the more likely he or she is to grow up to become a Christian. It’s worth making the time from the very beginning to teach your precious little one about God.

Fun Way Your Family Can Thank Others

For many, November has become the month of Thanksgiving. As a Christian parent, it’s important to teach your children to be thankful and encourage others throughout the year.

This fun family devotional is a great way to start the conversation. It also introduces them to part of a familiar Bible story that may be new to them. You will need a Bible and the materials you will use to complete whatever project you choose to do with your children as part of the devotional.

Read Exodus 4:16-5:6 to your children, or tell them the story. Point out that Moses wasn’t particularly excited to do what God was asking him to do. He knew it wasn’t going to be an easy task. The Israelites might reject him and Pharaoh would not be at all happy to hear what God told Moses to tell him.

Yet, Moses obeyed God. Things didn’t go well at first. Pharaoh kept changing his mind and was angry a lot of the time. There were plagues on the Egyptians. Moses may have wondered at times, what was happening. But he knew the way the Egyptians were treating the Israelites was horrible – especially since the Israelites were doing all of the hard work for them.

Moses probably went through most of his life without anyone thanking him for all of the things he did to obey God and lead the people out of Egypt. In fact, he probably heard more complaints than appreciation and encouragement.

There are many people in our world today who also have jobs where they provide help to others and hear more complaints than gratitude. Have your kids name some of the people who do “thankless” jobs. They may name categories of jobs or specific people they know. You may need to help them get started or add to their list.

Look carefully over your list. Are there thirty people on it your family can thank in a meaningful way for the next month? It doesn’t have to be time consuming, but over the course of a month, your family can appreciate and encourage more than thirty people who probably really need it.

What are meaningful ways to thank someone? Saying “thank you” is a start, but meaningful gratitude is a little more. Perhaps you want to make cards or write notes explaining why your family is so grateful for what that person or group of people does. Maybe you want to make them a baked treat or give them a small gift card. Your kids might want to make them a special craft or pick a flower or some apples to give them.

It doesn’t really matter how your family makes those “thank you’s” more meaningful. Just taking the time and effort to truly thank and encourage someone can make a huge difference in their lives and give them the strength to continue helping others. It’s a great way to reflect God’s love accurately and perhaps even multiple it.

Fun Way to Teach Your Kids About Gifts

Children love presents. It’s fun to get the things you want without having to work for them. Christianity is about the tremendous gift Jesus gave us, but it’s also about us giving generously.

How can you help your children begin to understand about God’s gifts to them and how they can share those gifts with others? There is a fun family devotional you can do to help even very young children begin to understand. You will need a Bible, plain white paper, various colored papers, scissors, markers and glue sticks.

Tell your kids the story of Joseph and the coat of many colors found in Genesis 37. Point out that the coat was a very special gift Jacob gave Joseph to show him how much he loved him.

Give your kids the paper and markers. Have them draw themselves large enough to cover the sheet of paper. Give them the colored bits of paper. Have them think of gifts God has given them that they can use to help others and show God’s love to them. Encourage them to think of talents they can use to serve others as well as material things.

They can write each gift on a strip of colored paper and used the strips to create their own coat of many colors to represent the gifts God has given them. Have them share their finished artwork. If possible, encourage them to share at least one of their gifts to serve someone within a specified time period. Then review the story and what they did when the deadline is reached.

Encourage your kids to use their gifts from God to serve others and share their faith whenever they can. It’s a great habit for everyone in your family to have!