Reaching a child’s heart for Christ is something every Christian mom and grandma desires, right? This honest post by guest writer Barbara Reaoch appeared first here and is used by permission.
When I was asked to lead the Children’s Division at Bible Study Fellowship, I knew it was a great privilege. But how naïve and prideful I was to think my experience qualified me for the job. Teaching the Bible to women was good preparation, for sure, but I was unaware of the pitfalls in teaching the Bible to children.
Sadly, I was not clear about the difference between moralistic behaviorism and gospel-centered application.
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It seemed easy to say, “Stop sinning and start obeying.” Discipline issues were equally simplistic: “Stop acting like that and start behaving.” Kids need to learn obedience, right? And we need kids to obey for our own sanity. I was inclined to twist the beauty of the gospel of grace into a subtle deception called moralism. I needed to learn three things:
1. Moralism cannot reach a child’s heart.
It’s not hard to use Bible characters to teach a moral lesson. With the Bible character as the subject of the lesson, we can teach kids that they need to be righteous like Noah, faithful like Moses, and obedient like Abraham. Kids figure that if they live like these heroes of the faith they will earn God’s love.
But when we try to make kids into good rule-keepers, they decide one of two things. Either with pride in their hearts, they believe they have earned God’s favor. Or they see they will never be able to keep the rules and conclude there’s no use trying.
Truth: Moralism can only produce pride and fear in the heart of a child.
Moralism ends up making children think their relationship with God depends on them. If they are good enough, they win. If they blow it, they lose. Moralistic teaching breaks down when we read that Noah gets drunk, Moses gets angry, and Abraham lies. We may try to hide the fact that each of these guys struggled with sin, but the Bible doesn’t. God never says that good behavior is a prerequisite for His love.
2. Manipulation cannot reach a child’s heart.
If we simply want kids to obey, manipulation usually works. Kids respond to, “I can’t believe you would do that after what we just learned about Jesus.”
Or “You should be ashamed of the way you are acting.”
Or “Look at those people—you know the ones who ________ (insert the sin of your choice).” As if to say, “You better never be like them.”
Even worse, we use God to manipulate. “God is not pleased with you when you do that.” “It makes Jesus sad when you act like that.” “If you want God to be pleased with you, you will read the Bible, go to church, and obey your parents.”
We can easily manipulate kids because God has wired them to want to please us. Their behavior may change temporarily, but we are damaging their hearts. The only lasting and effective life changes happen from the inside.
No matter how hard kids work to keep clean on the surface, as they see their sin, they will think God can’t possibly love them. We twist the gospel when we imply that God’s favor depends on their behavior. Life changes are real when they come from the heart.
3. We reach a child’s heart for Christ through the gospel.
The gospel is the most important truth for us to teach a child. Paul emphasizes this in 1 Corinthians 15:3–4:
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.
Gospel-centered teaching says our behavior can never be good enough to make us right with God. Before we deserve it, God reaches out to us in grace and mercy. He forgives those who turn from sin and trust in Jesus. We receive His mercy instead of punishment for sin because God’s justice was met through the death of His dearly loved Son on the cross.
Jesus’ resurrection power gives us a new heart, a new mind, and new desires to live for God.
Gospel-centered teaching says God uses people who are weak and broken. Bible characters are imperfect. God did not choose Noah, Moses, and Abraham because of their character but because of His grace. God knows who we are. His love for us doesn’t change when we fail. His plan and His promises prevail in spite of our imperfections.
Truth: God reaches a child’s heart with the truth of the gospel.
Moralism and manipulation harden a child’s heart. But the gospel is God’s message of love and grace that transforms the heart of a child. Gospel-centered teaching wasn’t just for the Bible Study Fellowship children’s program. Something happened in my own heart as I became more amazed with the truth of God’s love and grace.
Joy and freedom are found in the discovery that God uses our weakness for His glory. He uses our brokenness to reveal His grace. This is a message of hope, not only for our children but for us all. As messed up as your life may be, there is hope. The gospel tells us this is true. To teach the truth of the gospel is to reach a child’s heart for Christ.
Counseling Hope to Your Heart,
HOPE: People seeking help desire HOPE. Makes sense, doesn’t it? Today’s guest blogger is Joshua Waulk, founder of Baylight Counseling in Florida. His wife, Christy, is one of our Heart2Heart Counselors listed here on my website’s biblical counselor directory for women. They often counsel together.(Edited for length.)
In my work as a police officer, and now a biblical counselor, I have found that one common thread running through most, if not all, interactions with people seeking help is their desire for hope. Whatever circumstance they face, the hurting seek the assurance that things can change for the better.
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The hurting also expect that I, as either a first responder or counselor, would be trustworthy. Additionally, they want me to either dispense hope or ensure them of a basis for it.
Hope, as it turns out, has much to do with why those in crisis or trauma call the police or seek wise counsel. My ability to earn the confidence and trust of the counselee is largely dependent on my skill in communicating that life can get better.
Plans fail for lack of counsel,
but with many advisers they succeed. Proverbs 15:22
Whatever else the counselor seeks to accomplish in the life of their counselee, the responsibility to impart Christ-centered hope in each and every session is of first importance (1 Thessalonians 5:14).
Above All, Give Hope
Counselees in a trial of any kind want the very best outcome and resolution. We are not surprised then to observe people of all beliefs and faith systems expressing, in some way, a longing that the pain and trials of life have an answer.
In any counseling scenario, the absence of hope will be detrimental to the prospects of success in counseling.
Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. Proverbs 13:12
Dr. Wayne Mack writes that “biblical change cannot take place without hope.” He goes on to say that hope that is unbiblical, of the type offered in non-Christian settings, such as secular counseling and psychotherapy offices, “will inevitably crumble.” Mack’s words are remind us that not all hope is created equal (Matthew 7:24-27).
Substance of Hope
The substance of hope in biblical counseling, regardless of the facts and circumstances of a given case (i.e. marital infidelity, physical sickness, addiction, depression/anxiety, etc.), is the timeless, matchless, eternal word of God (Hebrews 4:12; 2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Yes, we celebrate the advances of science and medical technology in the treatment of true diseases of the brain. But we also are persuaded of scripture’s centrality to the offering true soul care (Psalms 119:105).
Dr. Robert Jones writes that what makes biblical counseling biblical is the counselor’s vision for God’s redemptive work in Jesus Christ. He writes,
The Bible does not merely inform our counseling, as if it were simply one source of truth among several…the Bible drives our counseling.
Indeed, as the many theories of secular psychology are constantly refined, and new, even competing theories are developed, Christ and His Word remain the same (Hebrews 13:8; Isaiah 40:8).
How Then Shall We Counsel
In an era of exploding medical advances, it is improbable that any one counselor would display omniscience in the latest discoveries and understanding of how to apply all available scientific data on every possible counseling topic. (This is particularly those not trained in the practice of medicine).
This begs the question, then, about how the clinically informed biblical counselor ought to approach his or her work. Are we striving toward becoming dispensers of clinical data or conduits of gospel-driven, Christ-centered hope?
Dr. Heath Lambert writes that today’s biblical counselor leaves the practice of medicine to those who know how to provide it. The biblical counselor also recognizes that spiritual problems do not have physical remedies. So the counselor’s task, through training and education, is to become adept at discerning the difference between the physical and the spiritual.
When counselees see that their counselor is interested in the wellness of their whole person and is not only concerned with identifying sin and memorizing Bible verses, as some outside of biblical counseling have suggested, hope is extended and confidence is instilled.
Hope-giving counselors who are committed to biblical change lead hopeful counselees.
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Join the Conversation
How do you intentionally instill biblical hope in your counselees?
Preparation is a first step in becoming the best mom ever. God shows you the way. He guides your steps.
Becoming the best mom ever is within your reach. This doesn’t demand perfection. Not at all. If it did, we’d all fail! But it may require a shift in your approach as you. . .
Read the first post in my “Becoming the Best Mom Ever” series. There are four more to come. 🙂
To become the best mom ever who shepherds her child’s heart, you need to:
2. Recognize you’re in a war.
3. Assume your role as a benevolent dictator.
4. Yield to God.
P Is Preparation!
My preparation for motherhood lasted nine months, but my labor was a different sort: paperwork! Nine months is EXACTLY how long it took from from finishing adoption paperwork until precious, newborn Laura snuggled in our arms.So far, so good. Right?
But when Laura turned 3 weeks old, she screamed out of no where. I checked her diaper. Nothing. I offered her her bottle. Not interested. I gently bounced her. She screamed louder. When she finally fell asleep, I read every book I could get my hands on.
The diagnosis: Colick!
Four months later she outgrew this stage, and I learned the value of preparation, big time. I began reading AHEAD to the next stage of child development so I could handle it better.
Preparation doesn’t solve every parenting dilemma but it helps immensely. Your two most important preparation tools: knowledge and wisdom.
Getting Knowledge and Wisdom
King Solomon wrote in Proverbs,
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. Proverbs 1:7
You’ll find knowledge and wisdom in the pages of Scripture. So read the Bible, soak in the truth, pay attention to the moms and dads in the Bible, what they did right, and what they did wrong. This prepares you for shepherding your child’s heart.
You can get wisdom from other sources too, such as parenting books from Ted Tripp and Lou Priolo. I highly recommend these five books:
Shepherding a Child’s Heart
Instructing a Child’s Heart
The Heart of Anger
Getting a Grip (for teens)
I use these books often in counseling hope to moms (in person and by Skype). Plus, another helpful tool I incorporate in counseling is this Thought Journal..
Around the time I inhaled Tripp’s and Piolo’s books, I was facing backtalk from my eldest and craziness other kinds from my two youngest. The middle child argued. And the youngest whined! (And I’m a biblical counselor, for crying out loud. . .I was crying!)
It’s little wonder I prayed and prepared, and prepared and prayed, and read parenting books more times than I care to admit. Now my children are adults. We survived! If I can, you can. We moms must stick together, right?
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My next post in this series at my website centers on recognizing that you’re in a war.
Join the Conversation
How have you prepared to shepherd your child’s heart? What help do you need?
Counseling Heart to Hope (and Healing!)
. . .
Isn’t it true that addiction may look harmless?
Yet anything that enslaves you harms you. Thank God, He empowers you to overcome an addiction.
Hard work helps. Workaholism harms.
Eating good food — satisfying. Bingeing for comfort — sad.
Clothing your kids in cute outfits rocks. A shopping addiction hurts.
Driving her minivan to the mall, Karrie* told herself she’d buy only one outfit for her seven-year-old daughter. She had made this promise last week and broke it. “I can do it this time,” she pep-talked. Three hours and many shopping bags later, she collapsed on her couch and cried. “I can’t do anything right.” (*not her real name)
Her challenge? Overcoming an addiction by loving God most of all.
What’s an Addiction?
An addiction is a bondage of the heart and body to something that produces immediate pleasure or relief. This bondage becomes increasingly destructive over time. It rules the heart, promising the sensation of pleasure and the avoidance of pain.
Addictions have an object, such as:
- Visual stimuli like pornography or television;
- Ingested substance like food, alcohol, or pills;
Indulging in addiction brings short-term pleasure. But in the long term, the soul and body experience pain and decay. Relationships suffer. Bank accounts shrink. And the lie of “just one more” deceives.
If you think Christians are immune to addiction, think again
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. When our craving conflicts with Scripture, we don’t always live according to what we say we believe. Karrie says “Jesus is Lord” at church on Sunday, and on Monday she itches to shop. Her husband says he loves his wife yet views pornography.
This disconnect is described in Scripture. In Romans 1, the apostle Paul says,
“We all know many things about God and his law, but we suppress those truths when they interfere with our wants and desires,” writes Ed Welch in Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave.
“As a result, it is as if we practice two religions. We believe one thing, but really believe another. . .(that) we can make the laws we live by, not God.”
When you or I reject Christ’s rule, we become enslaved to something. We exchange the wonderful for the unholy because we want self-rule. The created thing enslaves us. We become cold to God.
How to Get Free
Most important to overcoming an addiction: Invite a stronger power to rule. Consider Jesus’ question,
Or how can anyone enter the strong man’s house and carry off his property, unless he first binds the strong man? Matthew 12:29
Here are two more important ways to overcoming addiction:
1. Pray to be mastered by nothing but the Lord and pursue knowing Christ.
2. Confess your sin and repent, or turn away from addiction. You cannot go half-way. You need to totally eradicate it.
If you love Christ, then you have everything you need to overcome an addiction
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His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” 1 Peter 1:3
Yet spiritual battles cannot be won alone. Addictions like to stay private. God invites people dealing with addictions of any sort to share their struggle with the church of Christ. The church is people who say Jesus is Savior and are growing in their love for God and one another.
Yes, the church is full of sinners. Yes, some churches have significant problems. But a Bible-believing group of believers will welcome the hurting and help them.
And some people struggling with addictions want the advantages of biblical counseling too.
If you’re interested in someone coming alongside you, listening to your story, and helping you find hope in Christ, please contact me or one of the vetted biblical counselors listed in Heart2Heart Counselor Directory.
For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them. Matthew 18:20.
Blessings of hope for your heart,
At my black belt Karate test, the strange thing happened. Near the end, after breaking four wood boards — elbow strike, front kick, palm strike, and hammer kick — I proclaimed Christ.
As it turns out, the black test test was a faith test!
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In this short article, you’ll learn–
- A key passage of encouragement to share your faith.
- 3 simple steps to proclaiming Christ wherever God leads you.
Have you, too, proclaimed your faith in an unlikely place? Perhaps at your children’s secular school? Or among friends at a coffee shop? Or while waiting in line at Starbucks?
Key Passage of Encouragment
Scripure commands you and me to be prepared to give a reason for our hope.
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. 1 Peter 3:15
I never expected to share my faith at my black belt test. I had gotten into karate for two reasons: to learn self-defense and to do an activity with my then 10-year-old daughter. We both earned orange belts. But she quit. And I kept kicking, blocking, punching, and flipping by little heart out.
Empowered to Speak!
Seven years and many colored belts later, as the black belt neared its end, the ten or so testers peppered us students with questions. And I remembered the passage: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for your hope.”
So when I heard the questions, they seemed to come from an evangelism playbook. And God encouraged me to share the reason for my hope.
The black-belted Kungfu Panda lookalike queried, “Lucy, How have you incorporated the philosophy of ying and yang in your karate?”
and spoke my heart.
Indeed, God’s word empowered me to speak his truth!
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“This is a difficult question,” I began. “I know how to answer the question the right away — yin and yang means balance, and all that — but I don’t believe it.
“So I’ll tell you what I do believe.
“I asked my orginal sensei if I could use nail polish to paint over the ying-yang symbol on the school patch. He said, ‘Yes.’ So I painted it yellow then drew the Cross on the circle. My strength comes from Christ.”
3 Simple Steps for Sharing Your Faith
Let’s consider 1 Peter 3:First, look back at the scripture from 1 Peter 3:15. This scripture reveals the three simple steps.
First, revere Christ as Lord.
Simple and profound, put Jesus first in everything you say and do. Read the bible regularly. Spend time with other believers at church and in community groups. Pray. Worship him. Sing hymns.
Second, be prepared.
Listen to God speaking through the bible and through the Holy Spirit so that when you get a chance to share your faith in word and deed, you are ready. Determine now that you’ll have an answer for your hope. People will notice your smile, your willingness to help. May I encourage you to jot down a short testimony?
Follow these prompts. I put my answers in parenthesis. Feel free to make your answers more complete, if you’d like. I’m showing you a bare-bones approach.
Before I became a Christian, I used to (be self-righteous). I was (miserable).
Then I learned who Jesus is and now believe in him.
Now I (have faith in him alone). I am (content in Christ).
Third, do this with gentleness and respect.
No one likes a lecture or to be treated “less than.” So when you share the reason for your hope, take care to share your story winsomely. Your tone makes an amazing difference.
Proclaiming Christ as God Leads
As I reflect on my black belt test, I believe it really had nothing to do with becoming a black belt afterall. Maybe just maybe the true test was this: Would I proclaim Christ in front of 100 people?
What do you think?
Please take a moment to leave a comment or to share this post online. Sharing is caring.
Sharing hope with your heart,