Jesus Loves the Little Children

The recent 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, bringing with it the realization that over 50 million children have been aborted in America since 1973, has made me consider again how God views children.  Why did I tell the Children’s Ministry volunteers at our church recently that if they are involved in Family Ministry, they are involved in a ministry that is close to the heart of God?  How do you think about your own children?  Is it true that God has a soft spot of affection for little children?

I could give you verse after verse right now that affirms this truth.  Every verse about little children in the Bible is positive.  But to see what God thinks about children, we simply need to look to Jesus who is God incarnate.picture 14

I used to wonder if the paintings that we often see of Jesus holding children on his lap were true.  Does it really say that in the text?  “And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them.  But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God … And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.” (Mark 10:13-14, 16)

“They were bringing” has the idea of a habitual action.  This often happened in Jesus’ earthly ministry.  But how did the Lord punctuate his rebuke to the disciples?  He “took [the children] in his arms,” which could also be translated, “hugged” or “embraced” them.  When Jesus wanted to show what God thinks about children, he hugged them.  This is a picture of Jesus that we need to remember whether we’re thinking of the unborn, Family Ministry, or our own children.

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Christian Parenting Reminders from Jason Helopolous

I needed to read this today and I hope that it is an encouragement in your parenting as well.  Click here for the entire excellent blog post from Jason Helopolous at the Gospel Coalition.

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Some of my greatest joys in life stem from being a parent to two delightful children. However, some of my greatest struggles in life also stem from being a parent to these same two children. There are days that I cannot imagine anything more rewarding and other days that I want to get into the fetal position and remain there for a week. Here are a few reminders for me and all the other Christian parents out there:

Affection and Love: We can never show our children too much love. I have yet to meet the adult who tells me, “My parents just showed me too much love!” But sadly, I have often heard the reverse. Shower your children with affection. May they know our warm embraces and messy kisses!

Have the Right Goal in View: As Christian parents, our goal in raising our children is not primarily to prepare them for going out into the world as fully functioning adults. Our goal, as Christian parents, is to prepare our children for eternity! This should shape all that we do in our homes.

Focus on My Responsibility: But having said that, we can’t “force” our children to be faithful, less sinful, or more righteous. That isn’t our responsibility. Our responsibility is to be faithful in our own charge as parents. In that regard, I can surely hinder or help their sensitivity to Christ, growth in sanctification, understanding of grace, and maturing in character, but I can’t guarantee it, secure it, or determine it. Let’s be faithful in what we do have responsibility for and spend less energy trying to control that which we don’t have responsibility for.

Keep Your Eyes Forward: We can be prone to look over our shoulders. What will OUR parents think? What will others at church think? What will my pastor think? Our children are disobedient and we find ourselves cringing inside and looking to see if anyone else was watching. And when we see others looking on, immediate concern grips our minds. Will they think my children are disobedient or bad? Will they think I am a terrible parent? Stop! We aren’t parenting for others’ approval. We are parenting for the good of our children to the glory of God. Let’s keep our eyes looking forward and heavenward for the good of our children and the glory of God.

Don’t Get Too High nor Too Low: Children change, so let’s not get too high or too low by what we see in our child’s character, actions, or soul in any given day or during any given period. Let’s rejoice some. Let’s mourn some. But let’s do so with restraint.

Run the Right Direction: God knows a thing or two about wayward children, so let’s seek Him who has an understanding ear. What grace we need in parenting and what grace is given in Christ. May we run to Him with our frustrations, struggles, trials, and failures. He should be our first counselor and comforter.

Christianity not Morality: Morals are good, but not in and of themselves. Let’s teach our children and pray for a morality that flows from a heart changed by God’s grace. For many of us, our default is to slip into morality parenting, rather than Christian parenting. The former is focused solely upon outward behavior, the latter is focused upon inward change which will manifest fruit  in moral outward behavior.

Lastly and Most Importantly, Count the Blessings: Let’s thank God everyday for our children. Even on those hard days, find the blessings amidst the chaos! Count every blessing that comes as a parent. Let it fill us with wonder that the Lord of the Universe has given us the privilege of having these little souls under our care. What a blessing. Thinking on that may even help us get out of that fetal position.

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[HT: Jason Helopolous]

Six Philosophical Pillars of a God-Honoring Children’s Ministry

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1) God’s Love for Children (Luke 18:15-17)
God has a soft spot for children as seen in Jesus’ counter-cultural attention to children.  As I have looked at every verse I can find in the Bible about children, it is clear that God speaks unequivocally positive about children.  If you are involved in Children’s Ministry, you are involved in a ministry that is close to the heart of God!

2) The Priority of Parents (Deut. 6:4-8, 11:18-20, Eph. 6:4, Ps. 78:5-7)
As I looked at every verse in the Bible I could find about children, what was even more clear than God’s love for children was the sheer quantity of verses that call parents to raise their children to know and love God.  The Bible speaks loud on this:  parents are called to be the primary disciplers in their children’s lives.  The church should support, encourage, and equip parents,  but never usurp their God-ordained role.  How that looks in each church context will be different, but if you are involved in Children’s Ministry, do you communicate with the parents in a way that recognizes them as the primary disciplers?

3) The Centrality of the Gospel (recognizing children’s spiritual potential before God; Ps. 8:1-2, Matt. 21:14-16, 2 Tim. 3:15-17)
Children’s Ministry is a ministry of evangelism!  Teaching children is probably the greatest evangelistic opportunity in any church in terms of the quantity of people within a ministry that are unsaved.  Don’t assume that all of the kids are saved, even if most of them come from Christian homes and have been coming to church for years.  Constantly press the truth of the Gospel and their need for Christ upon their hearts and minds.  For those who don’t come from Christian homes, hearing the Gospel from you may be the only time they ever do.

4) A Bible Focus (Is. 48:11, 2 Tim. 3:16)
We have an amazing opportunity in Children’s Ministry to teach children God’s Word.  I love talking to my son about Sunday School, seeing that things my wife and I have taught him are being reinforced or expanded.  I love seeing children from the community hear the Bible for the first time.

In every lesson that you teach, ask yourself if two things are present:  Is the character of God taught correctly?  Is the Gospel presented or is it tied in?  The main character of the Bible is God!  If they’re in awe of God (who God is and what He does as taught in the Bible), they will want to know Him (the Gospel).

5) Servanthood (Mark 10:42-45)
We should have a radiant attitude of servanthood in Children’s Ministry as we serve families, interacting with kids and encouraging parents.  Both children and parents will pick up on this Christ-like attitude.  In most churches, there is probably no greater chance to serve the church in the number of opportunities available than in Children’s Ministry.

6) A Kid-Appropriate Manner (1 Thess. 5:14, Phil. 2:3-8)
Jesus cared for people as individuals–He had no one system of discipleship.  God hard-wired children with imagination and a bent towards fun and energy, so if you are involved in Children’s Ministry, you must have fun!  Think of the condescension of Christ: He went from Heaven to earth; He became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14).  Certainly we can condescend to the children we teach by having fun with them, using our imagination with how we teach while still being ruthlessly Bible and Gospel-centered, and thinking hard about our word choices as we teach them.