20.05.2017
Children Can
No comments
Under Pressure Children sat in class are requested to accept that there is no difference between male and female, that gender is subjective and self-determined. In church, they learn that God made mankind male and female. Constantly pressured to compromise or fear being shunned, our children are placed on the cutting edge of modern dilemmas in this world. Sectors of society are trying to redefine tolerance – no longer do they want it to mean that I can disagree with someone’s opinion but still live with them. Now you are considered intolerant simply if you disagree. When the Bible is no longer the basis for our moral code, the potential for eroding Biblical values is endless. The self-appointed thought police take jurisdiction over any area of life they choose, even if it changes centuries of established wisdom and practice. In this context, are we raising a generation who will be able to continue to stand for God, with love, but without compromise? Every New Doctrine? Many children raised in church are finding themselves tossed backwards and forwards by every new doctrine that comes their way (Ephesians 4:14). In our attempts to make the program fun and engaging for the children we have deprived them of adequate nutrition. The Bible not only contains our moral framework, but our very reason for moral living, a relationship with the living God. If our children only feed on spiritual candy, we should not be surprised when they suffer from spiritual cavities. We should be encouraging our children to be still and meditate on God’s word instead we have fed them a spiritual diet that causes them to become hyperactive and gloss over truth. Some will argue that this is inevitable in a fast-moving culture, where attention spans of children are decreasing. I disagree. We shouldn’t give up in the battle before we have even started. Indeed, the more of God’s manifest presence the children experience, the more of God’s peace I have seen them manifest. At times, we have seen the Holy Spirit hold the attention of even very young children for far beyond their natural attention span. I am saddened travelling around the Western nations to see how weak our teaching has generally become to this next generation. At a time when Christian values are under attack we should be ensuring that our children are stronger to face the fight. Instead many children in the church are spiritually weak, unable to stand against the pull of the world. Not Yet Teachers? There is a famine in our land. It is not a famine for food (the obesity epidemic in Western nations makes that clear). Instead it is a famine for hearing God’s word. To rectify this we need to stir our children’s faith, a faith that comes by hearing God’s word. This is not a new thing. In 1 Corinthians 3:1-3 Paul speaks of his frustration that the believers in Corinth are still sold out to the world and so are not yet prepared for meat. The writer in Hebrews felt the same frustration: he wanted to feed solid food to the church, but he was having to feed them milk again. He writes in Hebrews 5:12 “In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again.” There are members in our churches who have been attending for a decade and yet still need to be fed milk teaching. Is this what is happening in our children’s ministries? Instead of children being released as teachers to impart all God has deposited in them over their years of ministry in the church, we are having to spoon-feed the basics to them again. Milky Teaching When you read the list of milk teachings in Hebrews 6, it provides a challenge for us all to step up to as we expect our children to grow in the kingdom. The milk teachings in Hebrews are: Repentance from dead words Faith in God The doctrine of baptisms Laying on of hands Resurrection of the dead Eternal judgement. Regular Feeding So how can we make sure we are feeding our children spiritual meat and not just sharing sweet stories? Teach doctrines, not just stories. When you tell a story, use it to bring out doctrine (teaching) on the nature of God and our relationship with Him. Delight yourself in God’s word. Let your children see you enjoying the word as you teach them with your Bible open. Share the revelations that God has given you from his word. Teach children to read the Bible for themselves, pulling the meat off the bone and chewing it over. This means they need to read God’s word regularly, study it (with skills we can help them with) meditate on it and live by it in their everyday lives. As an aside, while Bible reading notes can be helpful, they can also distract children from engaging directly with the Bible. Speaking with children, I have found that just because they read their Bible study notes, it does not meant that they are reading the Bible! Encourage families to read the Bible together. Encourage them to memorize scriptures, hiding God’s word in their hearts (Psalm 119:11). Encourage children to share testimonies. It may be a testimony of them learning a principle of God’s kingdom from the Bible and putting it into practice or of standing up for righteousness in school. This will encourage other children in the group to do the same.
28.02.2017
Children Can
No comments
Over the years, we surveyed the children under our care so we could look after them better and target the ministry to where they were at. Time after time the same concerning result would come back. No matter what we did there was a hard core of 20% of our regular church children, raised in Christian homes, who believed that you had to be good to go to heaven. Every month we made sure the Gospel message of God’s grace was included somewhere in our teaching programme. So much so that one seven-year-old even commented to his mum after church,  “Mum, I think I’m ready for adult church now.” “Why is that dear?” “All we talk about in children’s church is the cross and I know all about that.” Long pause while the mother processed this fact. “But that’s all we really talk about in adult church too!” Of course, we covered many topics over the months, giving the children as much of the meat of God’s word as we could, but this seven-year-old had clearly picked up our repeated emphasis on the message of God’s grace through the cross. We ran multiple outreach events where our regulars would come and hear the Gospel, yet still there was a hard core of children, who managed to unlearn the most essential message we had to share with them. Why did they still think that you must be good to get to God? I blamed the parents. I blamed the schools. Then I realized that we were partly to blame! When we taught the Ten Commandments as a guide for living and as God’s standard for the Israelites, the children heard a list of rules that they had to follow to be accepted by God. When we taught the fruit of the Spirit, the children heard a list of ways they were expected to behave (to be loving, kind, patient and so on). Even when we mentioned that this fruit came as a result of being rooted in God, some children heard that they needed to try harder to please God and so be accepted by Him. Some of the ways the children heard the wrong message were more subtle. When a leader struggles to keep discipline in the group, the children hear the desperate pleas of that leader to behave (perhaps even with a nod towards pleasing God with our behaviour). Before they even open the Bible and delve into the teaching the children have received the message: external behaviour is what we are looking for in this group, more than a relationship with Jesus. None of this is what we intended to say (or indeed what we are actually saying), but it is what some of the children heard. In fact, many of the Christian children’s DVDs do the same thing. If they are not retelling Bible stories, or even if they are, they are preaching good morals: love your neighbour, be kind to others, forgive other people. Now we are certainly not talking against good morals, or against raising good citizens to live in this world. However, the emphasis of our faith is not about doing good works, but about being with God. Being good will not save anyone from the consequences of their sin, only Jesus can do that! If there were any other way, God would not have put his son through the pain of death that Jesus endured. Being with God transforms us to become like Him, reflecting His image and glory as God intended the human race to when he first created them. In the New Testament letters we see this emphasis over and over again. The first half of many of the letters explain again the glory of the Gospel. This grace gives us freedom from sin. Take a look at Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, Titus (chapter 3), Hebrews, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, 1 John to see this worked out. Having emphasized strongly the message of God’s grace, urging God’s people not to depend on their works there is then a turning point in each of these letters. Bouncing off the springboard of grace they explain that because of this free gift of salvation we can now live in a way that honours the Lord. Romans 6:1-2 1What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? In Romans 12:1 Paul shows that a moral life is a result of a life with God, not a basis for it.  Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Take a look at Galatians 5:13-16 where Paul spells out the link between God’s gift of freedom and our desire to serve the Lord because of this gift. 13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. 16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. Every time we look at God’s plan for us to live lives pleasing to Him, we should always start by emphasizing God’s grace first. We love because God first loved us. Every time, our teaching should give this clear balance. Our children need to hear and know that now there is now NO CONDEMNATION for those who are in Christ. Let’s help our children grow with God, free from the bondage of religious expectations.  Then they will be free to live their lives in service to God. 
02.11.2016
Children Can
No comments
Tuned in or Zoned out? We are living in a day and age where the screen has power! iPads, smartphones, tablets and computers are integral parts of everyday lives, so that most of us don't leave home without at least one device on us. After all we may need to connect with others, complete everyday tasks, shop, educate and entertain our children. But there is one place where they should surely not be used. That short time of worship before the children leave for their own groups (because we believe in all generations worshipping together, right?) or even the whole service where the children's team volunteers have a week off, sees parents reaching for their devices. After all we don't want to be distracted from our worship? Some parents even come prepared with headphones, allowing their children to be zoned out, completely cut off from their surroundings. It’s time to reverse this trend. It is easy as parents to reach for the most pain-free option - after all we don't want our children to be fidgeting their way through the service. Yet in the Old Testament children were expected on occasion to sit through a reading of the entire Pentateuch (that’s the first five books of the Bible!). We can make the excuse that today’s generation of children simply cannot sit still because of over-stimulation, yet in doing so we are denying them the option to learn to be still and tuned in to what God is doing. We are allowing our children to miss out on an opportunity to tune into God. Not only that, but the same screens which grab the attention of our children, also serve to distract others around them. Now, I understand that some children struggle to sit still, I have a 4 year old daughter who not only struggles to sit still, but is still learning that asking me a question in her loudest voice during that quiet moment of waiting on the Lord is not the best thing to do. But I am determined to help my children listen to engage in the worship and to listen to the preacher, after all this is a prime opportunity for God to sow more seed into their lives. If we actively teach them to disconnect from church while they are sitting in the same room as the adult service we are not doing them any favours. In helping them to tune in to the service, it may distract me from giving my all in worship, but this is also a part of their discipleship. The more we help them, the sooner they will be able to listen, engage and even grow during the ‘adult’ ministry. After all it’s not exclusively for the adults - it’s for the whole church. The last time I checked my Bible that includes the children. After sitting through one service recently that the preacher confessed was not intended for children (the children's ministry had been cancelled with very little notice), my four year old repeated part of the end of the sermon that she had sat through as I tucked her into bed. 'Mummy, I know you and God both love me because I’m your daughter. The preacher had been speaking about the Father's love and my 4 year old had received the revelation of God’s love. Let’s not allow the 'prophets' Apple and Samsung to direct the future of our children. It’s something we can choose to be intentional about, but let’s not take the easy way out and allow our children to zone out from the service. If you don’t have children yourself, please be patient with any parents who choose not to take the cop out option, but instead try to help their children participate in the service. Perhaps you could even offer to sit with the children of that harassed mother who has made it to church and needs every single second of down time she can get. The Sunday service is a key time for the Church. Let's encourage our children to tune in, not zone out.
27.09.2016
Children Can
No comments
Parents think their children do it too much. Children want to do it more (they already do it more than six hours every day on average). The online world is drawing our children deeper in and while some embrace this without reservation and others shun every aspect of new technology, desiring the life of the Amish community, most of us are stuck somewhere in between these two extremes. Going out of town on rural retreats with a group of young people can be amusing. “What’s the wifi passcode?” is quickly followed by “What! No wifi!” Yet perhaps amusing is the wrong word. Surely bemusing even concerning is more appropriate. Surrounded by God’s creation, which shouts out, declaring the glory of the invisible God who is clearly seen, our children are not in sync with their surroundings, but looking for their next download fix. Could it be that a yearning for the virtual world is masking a desire for the spiritual? One of the greatest challenges in discipling this generation is to manage the screen time of our children. If you agree that our children should not be allowed unlimited, unrestricted access online, the question then becomes: Where should we draw the line? The previous generation of parents have mostly not walked this way before to be able to advise us – this was not a parenting discipleship issue a generation ago: children’s TV only lasted a couple of hours a day, the internet was not in the home and computer games took 45 minutes to load on cassette (if you don’t know what a cassette tape is google it!) only to crash after 30 minutes of playtime. We need to talk about it, seek God for wisdom and be proactive in rescuing our children from this trap of the enemy. With the advent of Pokemon Go, the blurring between the virtual world and the real world seems to be increasing further at the expense of the genuine spiritual. Satan loves to work in the counterfeit, producing something that seems spiritually fulfilling, but leads to a deadening of the senses. Excessive screen time damages the brain.[1] Satan wants to steal and destroy, but Jesus wants us to have life in all its fullness.[2] Instead of watching other people’s experiences, we should be experiencing God's life for ourselves. If we taking Philippians 4:8 as a guide to what we should be filling our head with, how does the world of virtual games and virtual friendships compare. This world is not even true. The more technology we have to connect to the more disconnected we become from each other. Are our children in a spiritual battle? Is there a battle going on for the souls of this generation? Yes! The enemy wants to destroy this generation of world changes, pulling them down and causing rapid cultural shifts away from Biblical norms. Many of these shifts are taking place through the media. Is the demonic realm real? Very much so. We are therefore called to be gatekeepers in our homes. Deciding what we will allow in and what we will resist. In an age of information overload this is a challenge. After all not every game is evil and the internet can be very informative, but whilst this is true let’s also not deny that for many young people the internet is at risk of becoming more important to them than the world around them. This generation of Christian children are called to stand out from the world. Jesus says that one way they will stand out as His disciples is if they love one another. That is real genuine relationships. Sin and isolation are a barrier to this. While gaming is not necessarily sinful it is isolating in nature. Even when played with other people around the world, there is not the capacity to reach out and touch each other or communicate genuine feelings. Virtual friendships are degraded to a shared experience over the internet, instead of genuinely walking through life’s bumps together. There is no way I can present a detailed and balanced argument for the dangers of the virtual world overtaking the genuine spiritual world we are a part of in 1000 words. What I hope this has done is to put into words what many instinctively feel. A child or young person who spends too much time online is in danger of disconnecting from the world around them in a way that is detrimental to their spiritual growth. So if you are concerned for this area what can you do? Define clear boundaries. Set a time limit, put on internet filters, do whatever you have to, so that you are a gate keeper in your home. In our home we have a weekly limit for screen time and a strict ‘no electronics upstairs’ rule that even the parents have to comply with. Many families have a no-electronic-devices-at-mealtimes rule. If this really is a defining issue for this generation then we should be prepared to model healthy usage, set clear boundaries and review them as our children grow and technology develops. Discern when it is becoming an issue for the children in your life. As Peter writes in 1 Peter 5 “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.” Discern if specific games are unhelpful in their wider journey with God and let’s fight for our children to have a deep passion for God, and to eagerly desire the best gifts.[3] Psalm 127 describes parents as warriors fighting on behalf of their children. Let’s fight the good fight of faith[4] on their behalf.  Discuss these concerns with the children around you. What do they think about it? More importantly what is God saying to them about it? With some studies showing that gaming can decrease a child’s ability to empathise with others and with the Bible commanding us to show love and put on love above all things, how can they make sure that love for others is more important to them than reaching the next level on their game. Use this as an opportunity to encourage them to seek God’s kingdom first[5] above everything else, knowing that this will lead to a fulfilled life. Train your children to hear and obey the Holy Spirit in this area of their lives, that they may discern what is pleasing to God and pursue Him with all their hearts. Distract the children around you with a balanced life. Encourage them to connect with the people in the same room as them, not just the people on their phone. Find healthy life affirming activities, not to overload the diary with clubs, but to enhance life together as a family. Let's fight for this next generation, rescuing them from the schemes of the enemy and releasing them into their divine destiny with God. [1] https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/mental-wealth/201402/gray-matters-too-much-screen-time-damages-the-brain [2] John 10:10 [3] 1 Corinthians 12:31 [4] 1 Timothy 6:12 [5] Matthew 6:33
01.07.2016
Children Can
No comments
The day Helen fell pregnant I noticed that all the advertising boards seemed to be advertising baby products for the first time. Had they not done so before? How did they time it to coincide with our first pregnancy? The answer of course is not in the advertisers. When you are not pregnant you do not notice the bombardment of advertising targeting new parents. This subculture is hidden from the rest of society in plain view as our antennae are switched off to pregnancy and the unborn. So why should we give attention and invest time in those who are not yet born within our church communities, even if we ourselves are not pregnant? Here are four simple reasons: 1. God is interested in people from before they are born. God spoke to Jeremiah and said, before I formed you in the womb I knew you and set you apart. God knitted us together in our mother’s womb. God is interested in us and engages with us from before we are born. 2. The enemy wants to destroy the unborn. We know that the enemy of mankind is seeking to steal, kill and destroy. Satan’s plan is to eradicate the next generation. If the enemy is fighting to destroy then we should be fighting on behalf of the children to bring life. The battle over abortion is the most obvious form of the enemy’s destruction. Many of us around the world have looked on in horror as Planned Parenthood’s strategies for making money out of selling baby parts has been exposed. Here in the UK we are far from innocent. When the chief executive of the Royal College of Midwives (responsible for helping babies be born) released a new position statement on behalf of all its members to say that abortion should be allowed for any reason at any stage of pregnancy you know that a battle is raging. Read more here. 3. It is the right time to start supporting parents. Parents are called to be the primary disciplers of their children. Where parents struggle to do this it is usually down to a lack of knowledge: how to fulfil the responsibility that God has given them. This is especially true in a society where the relationships between generations is breaking down and many Christian parents have not grown up in a home which modelled how to pass on their faith in the home. Many in the church want to help parents to fulfil their spiritual role with their children. The trouble is, inviting parents to a meeting, let alone a whole course, in the busiest season of their lives (namely when they are looking after small children) and when they have already developed patterns of parenting that are now harder to change can be an uphill struggle. When parents are expecting their first child, there is often a utopia of hope as to how their child will turn out and what kind of parents they will be. At this stage they are forming ideas of how they want their family to run and what values are important to them. This is the best time to come alongside parents and show them from the Bible the responsibility God has given them as parents to raise their children in the ways of God. Supporting parents and equipping families at this time will bear fruit for generations to come. 4. Life in the womb has an effect on life in the world. Numerous studies have shown how events during pregnancy can have a profound effect on people throughout their lives. As we bring children in the womb into the presence of God they can taste and see that He is good. That early relationship with God can be part of the spark that the Spirit of God will use to draw them on their lifelong journey with Him. After all a newborn baby know that God exists. As Romans 1:20 explains the invisible God is clearly seen. Verse 21 goes on to say: “because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” When young children encounter the God who is clearly seen and who they know, they have greater opportunity to go on to glorify God as He deserves. So don’t hold back from supporting ministry to unborn children and their families. Let’s work together to raise the profile of the unborn and concern for their spiritual lives and their future destinies. After all these children are God’s solutions for the problems of today’s world. The kingdom of heaven often starts as just a seed before it grows to something great. At this early stage of their lives this is when they need the most support and prayer. What can you do? We need people in our churches to be ambassadors for this next generation who will support pregnant families in the churches and community and encourage them to expose their babies to the presence of God and trust in God throughout their pregnancy, labour and indeed when their parents. We have seen when a whole church community takes this seriously from the womb it changes the perception of family and the children’s ministry of the church. If any of you are interested in being ambassadors you could: 1. Invite any pregnant people in your church to join us at Expectant – an event specifically for Christians parents who are expecting. You can find out more here: expectant.childrencan.co.uk. 2. Give out copies of Jesus, Your Baby and You in your church (you can buy 10 for the price of 5 from our website). 3. Start a womb ministry. Ask us for more information.
29.04.2016
Children Can
1 Comments
How to Not Die Last year, while I was in the middle east, a lady from Iraq came and spoke with me. We have helped our children to learn how to pray, and many of them are becoming intercessors. Now we want to help them to evangelize. I have one question for you: How can we help our children to evangelize without being killed? This is not a problem that we often face in the West, indeed it was humbling to learn so much from her zeal and focus for the kingdom. Yet even as she spoke the Holy Spirit whispered the answer: We must teach our children to be Spirit-led. Many of us have shown our children how to lay hands on the sick. We may even have taught them and prayed for them so that they can hear the Holy Spirit speaking to them. But in both these cases, although the children have connected to the Holy Spirit, they have not been led by the Spirit. Instead they have chosen to listen and to pray in response to our instructions. These are great first steps in their journey with God, but now it is time for a Spirit-led generation to emerge. What would it look like? A Spirit-led generation obey God’s leading and hold to God’s principles no matter where they are. Imagine a generation ready to obey God any moment of the day, even if it meant changing their plans (Acts 16:6-7). Earl's Court Station One day, John was stood waiting for a London underground train to arrive at Earls Court tube station. As he waited for the train, he heard the Holy Spirit speak to him and instruct him to go to a different platform. His train was still quite a few minutes off, but it was a good five-minute walk within the station to get to the other platform. John obeyed and, as he stepped onto the other platform, he saw a girl from his school that he had been praying for over the past few weeks. They got chatting and he had just enough time to lead her to Jesus before her train arrived. Sprinting back to his platform, he arrived just in time to step onto his own train. His act of obedience – and indeed the immediacy with which he acted – resulted in one more soul being added to the kingdom.” Excerpt taken from p89, The Josiah Generation, by Olly Goldenberg. What can we do to help our children become Spirit-led? Here are three simple things we can do to help our children: 1. Encourage them in their daily personal walk with God. We can encourage the children to spend as many minutes a day in prayer as they are years old. Of course this is not the end point of discipleship, but we have found that this is an achievable first step for children as they establish a habit of prayer and reading the Bible. Many children who get into the rhythm of this, find themselves spending much longer times with the Lord. If your children are not sure where to start then why not get hold of a copy of our resource The Spy Kit, which has been created to help start children’s quiet times with the Lord. Jesus took time out to pray (Luke 5:16) and we need to help our children to do the same. When we meet with the children we can ask them how their times with God have been this week. How many days did they manage to pray for as many minutes as they are years old? Was there anything that stopped them from doing that? Do they need any help? As we talk through these issues we are helping them to build a stable relationship with the Lord that will put them in a place where they can be sensitized to the leading of the Spirit. Galatians 5:16 shows us that when we choose to let the Holy Spirit lead us, it changes everything. 2.       Help them to learn to recognize God’s voice. Take time each week to give our children an opportunity to hear God speaking to them. If they are following God they will be able to hear His voice (John 10:27), though God may speak to them in a different way than He does to others. As they learn to hear God speaking to them at home and in their church they will be more likely to recognize when God is speaking to them at school or in the park. My father was born in the Sudan and has a very different accent to my British one! If he were to call you up, you would probably not recognize his voice the first time he spoke to you. If, however, he called you every day for a month, not only may you consider taking out a restraining order against him, but you would learn to recognize his voice. The more we stop to listen to God the more we learn to recognize His still small voice (1 Kings 19:12) and know that it truly is His Spirit leading us. 3.       Share testimonies of God at working through each other. As we hear stories of how God has used others during the week, it encourages us to expect God to do the same through us. Testimonies are powerful – give space for the children to share what God has done for them and keep a record so you can look back and remember. Revelation 19:10. The Israelites were often encouraged to speak of and remember what God had done for them (Exodus 12:14). Of course it is still a choice that our children have to make. They have to choose to be led by the Spirit and therein lies the heart of discipleship: are we prepared to take up our cross daily (Matthew 8:34), become living sacrifices (Romans 12:1) and truly give our all to God? Let's allow God to work through us and help raise His army.
01.04.2016
Children Can
No comments
Effective learning Do we teach our children Bible memory verses effectively? Will they remember those verses a year from now (or even next week)? These questions have bothered me for some time. As we travel through Africa we see children aged five who know huge portions of Scripture. When we travel through the Western nations we find that often many children raised in the church do not know John 3 verse 16! This is not the only verse in the Bible, but surely it is the first one that most people should learn, with the whole Gospel packed inside. When it comes to teaching verses I have vacillated on other questions too: What version of the Bible should we teach our children memory verses from? Which verses should we teach them? Over the years I have swung between these two options. I love the short sentences of the ICB: For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son.  God gave his Son so that whoever believes in him may not be lost, but have eternal life. This element of our ministry to children is essential to laying a foundation in our children’s lives for their future walk with God. Knowing verses from the Bible allows for: ·         more effective intercession ·         better preparation for sharing the Gospel with other people ·        an opportunity to chew on a Bible verse more deeply, changing our character and revealing God’s nature, during the course of a day. Even if they choose to walk away from the church at some stage in their life, they will never be able to walk away from the word of God that has been hidden in their hearts. Which verses? So what verses should we teach our children? After years of experimenting and considering this questions, this is my conclusion. Teach the same verses over and over again until the children really know them. Let’s allow our children’s brains to be saturated in the Word of God. Jumping from one verse to another each week will not help them to build up this store of knowledge. Here are my top ten verses that are a great place to start: Matthew 28:18-20 John 3:16 John 14:16 John 15:4 Romans 3:23 Romans 6:23 1 Thessalonians 5:17 2 Timothy 3:16-17 James 6:16-18 1 John 1:9 After that let’s encourage our children to learn chunks of Scripture as well as other key verses. Here are some great passages to start with: Psalm 23 Psalm 1 Matthew 5-7 Currently many people around the world are learning a whole Gospel by heart. Whether it is with YWAM under their http://www.wordbyheart.org/ or a Bible School in China preparing saints for persecution in Bible college (see the Heavenly Man by Brother Yun). Children have an incredible ability for memorization and as we encourage them to learn the Scriptures we are providing them with a store to feast on in the future. One Sri Lanken church has challenged their older children to learn the whole of Proverbs over a few months. The girl who was telling me this has learnt up to chapter 29 so far! What version should we use? Should we teach the verses from a children’s translation of the Bible or an adult’s version? If we use a children’s version, they will be able to understand it more easily and will be able to find it in their Bible as they read through it. If we use an adult version, this is something that will last them for life and will potentially match future versions of the Bible that they will use. On the other hand, children are capable of learning: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (NKJV) Or “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (NIV) One of the key reasons for teaching memory verses is that they will last for life. As such I think the children should learn the adult version. We may need to explain some of the words to them, or even read them the same verse from a children’s Bible to help them understand it, but the verses we are encouraging them to imprint in their memories. This leads to the next dilemma – which adult version should we choose?  Different congregations have their own favourite version. This will in part be dependent on the church culture. Whichever version you choose for your setting let me encourage you to: Continue to encourage children to use a child-friendly version of the Bible for their own devotional times. Use the same version for all the verses. Jumping between versions ultimately gets confusing for everyone. I reiterate we can explain tricky sections of a verse to the children and they are able to learn more complex words. Use a version that leans towards word-for-word translation rather than paraphrase: Lean towards the NKJV and the NIV rather than the Living Bible or the Message. The chart above shows where many of the popular versions lie on this spectrum. The children’s versions are great for their personal devotions and even for Bible studies together. These versions help the Bible to become more accessible to them now, instead of having to wait until they are older. What method should we use to teach? All of them! Let’s use music, rhythm, visuals, cards, rewards, drama, rote learning. Different methods will help the verses to stick with different children. Remember the only wrong learning method is the one that you use every week! What tools are available? A quick search on google will bring up lots of options to help you. Here are three that may be of help to you:   Make your own memory verse cards: http://www.mcscott.org/ http://www.seedsfamilyworship.com/ full of Scripture songs and resources for every generation. Take up John Hardwick’s Big Bible verse challenge to learn 52 songs in one year (all songs are set to music with visuals and are available for free on youtube.com). See  http://johnhardwick.org.uk/general/bbvc for more information. Whatever we do, let’s make sure we are not neglecting the important aspect of memorizing Scripture as we encourage the next generation to hide God’s word in their hearts that they may not sin against Him (Psalm 119:11). For God’s word is a light to their feet and a lamp to their path (Psalm 119:105).
02.03.2016
Children Can
No comments
Helping Young Children to Connect with God It’s Biblical Young children can connect with God. Jesus used a small child as a visual aid to show that the kingdom of God belongs to people who can be like the children. John the Baptist in the womb responded to the presence of Jesus in the womb (Luke 1). God points out to Jeremiah, the prophet, that before God formed him, He knew his future destiny (Jeremiah 1:6). When we work with the youngest of children we can have the great impact on their future lives. Moses and Samuel both grew up in less than perfect places, yet both had godly mothers who nurtured them in the first few years of their lives in preparation for their future destiny. When we work with children in our toddler groups, any opportunity we have to allow them to connect with God is a potential life-changing opportunity. So how can we help them to connect with God? The Word of God One Easter we taught some toddlers about how Jesus swapped everything at the cross. One person came on with a naughty sign around their neck. When they came to the cross Jesus swapped their naughtiness for his goodness. For another Jesus swapped their sadness at the cross. For a third Jesus swapped their sickness. We then invited all the children to come and swap bad things for his good things at the cross of Jesus. One four-year-old, who had regressed to wearing nappies for school. The week after this teaching her mother said, “Quickly put your nappy on. It’s time to go to school.” The girl replied, “No, mummy. Jesus swapped my nappy at the cross.” From that day on she no longer needed to wear nappies. One month later a two-year-old boy was being told off by his mummy. When she had finished reprimanding him, he turned to his mum thoughtfully and gazed at her through his big brown eyes. “Mummy, Jesus swapped my naughtiness at the cross.” Wondrous Worship It’s not just the Bible that changes their lives, children’s worship is also significant. Psalm 8:2 says “Out of the mouths of babes and nursing infants God has ordained strength to silence the foe and the avenger.” In other words when young children praise God, it is not cute, it is powerful. One day, in a crèche programme, there was chaos all around. It was one of those days when it felt like everyone was crying. The leaders had done everything they could think of to calm things down, without success, and now they had moved into survival mode waiting for the session to end. One two-year-old stood in the middle of the room and started to speak. “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus loves us every day. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus loves us every week.” By the time she had finished the whole room was calm. She knelt down and sang a new song to God. Her praise had changed the atmosphere. Imagine the power of praise being taken from the toddler groups into the homes of their families. Let’s Be Intentional As we minister to the children and families week by week, let’s remember that God can use us to ignite a spark for Him. As we worship God using the songs we sing, many children will copy us. Let’s also be intentional about what we say to the children, speaking words over them that match what God thinks about them. When Jesus blessed the children it was not simply a nice phrase to say it was a life changing moment in their lives. There is power in the words of blessing that we speak over our children. Together, in this often godless society we can raise a generation who can be part of the solution to turn the tide of our nation.
31.12.2015
Children Can
No comments
A surprise gift  We have been blessed on our travels to meet so many wonderful people from around the world. As we travel your come to see that each nation has its cultural strengths and weaknesses. Here in the UK we have many wonderful strengths in our culture. But there is also a weakness that can easily drift into our church life. When an unexpected parcel arrived one day it made us realise this weakness even more. The package was from America. We were confused as we were not expecting anything, but paid for it to be forwarded to us. On opening it was a framed A3 sized Glass framed Certificate. Three months earlier I had spoken in a small seminar as part of a global Pentecostal congress in Israel. The certificate was to honour us for our participation in the event. My wife laughed at how ridiculous it was to send something so over the top to us, but God stopped her in her tracks. God’s loving discipline came to her: “They are honouring you,” God said. “I want my church to honour one another.” 1 Peter 2:17 Show respect for all people. Love the brothers and sisters of God’s family. Respect God. Honour the king. It is so easy to take for granted the people around us? The people who quietly serve within the church, who go unnoticed week in week out who don't ask for recognition but keep everything going. Our volunteers, our friends who go the extra mile for us without asking. Those people who make that extra effort to make your stay just a little more comfortable and enjoyable. If we, the church, can truly honour one another in love from the platform, behind the scenes and at home, we will see God’s kingdom more tangibly. Instead of fighting one another, ministries will thrive, people will be saved, ministries won’t be comparing themselves to each other or considered second rate due to the age or type of people they relate too. We are all one church, belonging to Jesus, working towards the same goal for all generations. Let’s ensure that this year that we honour all people in action, word and deed. As we honour each other in the body of Christ we are honouring Christ himself. As we love the bride so we are showing love to the bridegroom. So how can we honour people? Let’s value each member of the church community. Notice those who are serving faithfully and thank them (perhaps with a card or an award). Honour members of the church community who have managed to turn up to church against the odds. The message should be you are great, you have a place here and we appreciate you. Romans 12:10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honour one another above yourselves. Honour our leaders who will have to give a special account before God by speaking well of them behind their back and being open with them to their face. Honour them with your prayers and with your support for the work that they do in the kingdom and the sacrifices that they make. 1 Timothy 5:17 Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine. Honour people by using your gifts to build the kingdom. Don’t shy away from exercising the spiritual gifts God has given you (even if you feel like you have been burnt by others in the past). These gifts are given for the benefit of the whole church. Romans 12:3-6 For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them. Remember the weakest and the most vulnerable deserve special honour. The youngest and the eldest members of church should feel their value expressed through us as we love them. 1 Corinthians 12:22-23 No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty. Those around you may not be perfect (yet) but they are part of God’s kingdom and worthy of honour. What a privilege it is to value those whom Christ valued enough to die for. Let’s make this year a year where we seek to honour and build one another up in all that we do. Some more Bible passages to consider:  Leviticus 19:11 Do not steal. Do not lie. Do not deceive one another. John 13:14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. John 13:34 A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. John 13:35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. Romans 1:12 That is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith. Romans 12:10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honour one another above yourselves. Romans 12:16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Romans 13:8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. Romans 14:13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way. Romans 15:7 Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. Romans 15:14 I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another. Romans 16:16 Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ send greetings. 1 Corinthians 1:10 I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. 1 Corinthians 11:33 When you come together to eat, wait for each other. 1 Corinthians 12:25 There should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. Galatians 5:13 You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. Galatians 5:15 If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. Galatians 5:26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. Galatians 6:2 Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ Ephesians 4:2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Ephesians 4:16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. Ephesians 4:32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 5:19 Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, Ephesians 5:21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Philippians 2:3-5 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus. Colossians 3:9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices Colossians 3:13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. 1 Thessalonians 3:12 May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. 1 Thessalonians 4:9 Now about brotherly love we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. 1 Thessalonians 4:18 Therefore encourage each other with these words. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:13 Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. 1 Thessalonians 5:15 Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else. 2 Thessalonians 1:3 We ought always to thank God for you, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing Hebrews 3:13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness. Hebrews 10:24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Hebrews 10:25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 13:1 Keep on loving each other. James 4:11 Do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. James 5:16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. James 5:9 Don't grumble against each other, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door! 1 Peter 3:8 Live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. 1 Peter 4:8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:9 Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 1 Peter 5:5 Be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." 1 John 1:7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. 1 John 3:11 This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. 1 John 3:23 And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. 1 John 4:7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 1 John 4:11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 1 John 4:12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
28.11.2015
Children Can
No comments
So Jesus was born in a stable because there was no room in the inn. The little town of Bethlehem could find nowhere for this young couple. This is the story our children will act out in nativity plays across our nation. The angry innkeeper with the synthetic beard shouting “Go away” as he slams the door in the face of the young couple. (Usually ‘Mary’ has a cushion shoved up her jumper for special effects). But it’s not what really happened. Earlier this year I had the privilege of going to Lebanon and meeting some of the most hospitable people on this planet. Middle Eastern culture would not reject a pregnant lady and expect her to stay on the streets to give birth. Not only that, but Joseph was also a descendant of David. He would have been in a celebrity in Bethlehem, David’s town, where some distant relatives would still have lived. When it says there was no room in the inn, the word for inn is katalyma. This is the same word that was used for the place where Jesus ate the last supper. It was the guest room of a house, not a fully functioning hotel. If life was really that bad, Mary had time to pop down the road to stay with her relative Elizabeth, who would have happily taken care of this young mum-to-be. But she didn’t need to because Mary was well looked after. The hosts may have had no room in their guest room but they happily welcomed the pregnant mother into their own home so they could take good care of her. When the shepherds came and saw the messiah they didn’t exclaim, “This is totally unacceptable. You cannot have the king of the Jews in this place. Please come and stay with us in our home. Our surroundings are humble but it is better than here.” They simply worshiped him. These shepherds had a huge flock to look after. Most flocks would have been small, perhaps 20 or so sheep and the sheep were kept inside at night. This flock was so big that it had to be kept in the fields. This can only mean one flock: the flock that was kept for the temple, lambs being reared for sacrifice. Jesus was born with these shepherds as the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. It may even have been that Jesus was born in the same place where the sacrificial lambs were born, to prevent the house from becoming unclean. Interestingly the shepherds were not given detailed directions from the angels they were just told they would find him lying in a manger. All this points to God’s sovereign plan that Jesus came to replace the sacrificial system to die once for all in our place. One day he would be led, like a lamb to the slaughter. No wonder Mary had so much to treasure in her heart. Let’s let the children and young people we work with treasure God’s great plan for them this Christmas time and may many, many more people discover this Christmas the Christ-child who was destined to die for our salvation. If you want to read more on this, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes by Kenneth Bailey is a great starting point. All of Jesus’ life was weaved into the Jewish culture and understanding of the day. As we share this with the next generation let’s encourage them to discover just how many prophetic sign posts God put in place before Jesus came. You can discover more about this in our DVDs on Jewish feasts and Jewish Insights. Merry Christmas to you and your family.