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Psalm 78
. . . we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done. .
so the next generation would know them . . . and they in turn would tell their children.
Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

A Word in Defense of Chronological Study

In the "Perspectives on Children's Spiritual Formation" book review (posted September 26, 2007) I spoke of four perspectives of children's ministry. While each of the four methods are distinct, two of them lean toward teaching the Bible as a complete story and two of them emphasize topical teaching that aims for life change. In fact, increasingly there is a tension between two philosophies of children's ministry that is being played out as "chronological" versus "topical" teaching.

Those in the topical camp disparage their brethen in the chronological camp by suggesting that a bunch of head knowledge results in stuffy children who experience no life change. The chronological camp, meanwhile, complains that the topical folks aren't teaching the full story of redemption. The discussion is civil, but intense. It mirrors a similar tension in adult Bible study philosophy.

It is very fashionable to teach for life change and certainly our lives are changed by Jesus. But does topical children's ministry aim to change children or introduce them to the Life Changer Himself?

Psalm 111:7 says,
Great are the works of the LORD,
Studied by all who delight in them.

God in his love and mercy gave us the Bible to show Himself to us. Do I want my children to learn how to act like a Christian and change their way of life? Or do I want them to know God's works so well that they, like me, tremble and fall before Him crying out in their heart, "Woe is me!" as Isaiah did?

Children's ministry that has a primary focus of changing kids' lives is self-oriented children's ministry. It is in vogue to talk about life-changing experiences, but the only true life-changing experience is to experience the redemption of the Lord Jesus Christ and be brought to God the Father by the salvation of Jesus Christ.

In my own real-life experience, this sort of woe-is-me humility and life-change comes about by encountering God and His works as He choose to reveal them, in His complete Word.

Studying the Bible is not about stuffing my head with knowledge! It is about getting to know my LORD. Would we ever tell our spouses that we didn't want to hear their life stories because "it isn't relevant to me"? Or, "it doesn't really impact me?" God doesn't need our adoration and affirmation, He tells us stories of His works only in His mercy. Why aren't we listening?

Are you experiencing the full revelation of God by reading all of His Word? I love the Victory Bible Reading Plan which gives me a chronological reading of the OT, a daily Psalm or Proverb, an annual reading of the NT, and a reading of the Gospels twice annually.

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