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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.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A New Affection

I am bereft, humbled
Poured out, empty
Weeping, trembling
Joyful, ecstatic.
Glorying in His grace,
By His grace I see His glory.

I wrote these words last Friday while I was attending the Children Desiring God conference. Not great poetry, but it gives you a sense of how I felt Friday night after singing praise and worship music. I sat down, jotted down those words, and then listened to Paul David Tripp deliver the plenary session for Friday night.

There are so many things that I could tell you about the conference, but it is overwhelming and can't possibly carry the weight in my retelling as it did in the first telling. The combination of prayer, Scripture reading, Bible teaching, theology studying, and worship singing cannot be reproduced here.

However, I would like to share a few key thoughts that will stick with me and shape the way I think about God and His God-Centeredness and how that should impact all we do, especially when we teach children.

John Piper's Keynote Address, Thursday, April 30.
Pastor Piper spoke about the God-Centeredness of God and what this central truth means to us. "If you make much of God because He makes much of You, than you are making much of you." (According to my notes from Piper's talk. Read the notes (nearly a transcript) from his message, as posted on the Desiring God website, here.)

Bruce Ware, Plenary Session, Friday, May 1
Bruce Ware's talk, Biblical Foundations for the Centrality of God, is well summarized on the Desiring God blog post here

His talk left me thinking: Am I really embracing the full revelation of God in Scripture? Or do I form my understanding of Him on only common passages? Am I willing to accept His full revelation?

In this session, Bruce Ware recommended "The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God" by D. A. Carson for help in understanding God's love.

Paul David Tripp, Seminar, Friday, May 1
Later on Friday I attended Paul David Tripp's seminar on "Conflict." A few of the notes that I jotted down (these are more or less quotes from Dr. Tripp, hastily written as I listened):

If a set of instructions were enough, Jesus wouldn't have come. We deny the Gospel in our approach to children's ministry and don't even know it.

There will be a time when threats no longer motivate. There will be a time when manipulation no longer motivates. (For example, offering an ice cream party for the Sunday School class if they memorize the Bible verses teaches a skill for moral economics and cost/benefit analysis. He learned the verses to stimulate himself, not out of his love for God. Me here: I agree with this principle, but also know that God's word in kid's hearts is valuable, even if their young and immature motives were not selfless.)

James 4:1
What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?

When it comes to conflict, I am my greatest problem. My anger comes from an intrusion on me.
James 4:2-3
You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.
  • Human conflict is rooted in spiritual adultery and idolatry.
  • I get angry at people who are in the way of what I want.
  • You will never get over anger unless you embrace the theology of James 4.
James 4:4-5
You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, "He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us"?
  • I serve a jealous Redeemer who will fight for the allegiance of my heart and rescue me from myself. Dr. Tripp stated forcefully: "Your Redeemer will not share your heart!"
  • He'll put difficult people in your life to expose how idolatrous your life still is!
  • Conflict is not solved horizontally. The problem is not that I don't love you enough; I don't love God enough.
  • We need worship re-alignment, not anger management.
Four Things that Happen if You Don't Embrace James 4
1. Moments of ministry turn into moments of anger.
  • God always puts difficult people in our life in His grace.
  • Children fighting exposes their need for God's rescue.
2. I personalize what is not personal.
3. I will be adversarial in my response. (Respond to sin with sin.)
4. I'll settle for situational solutions that don't get to the heart of the matter.
  • Your goal is not to enforce peace (in your classrooms or home), but to be an instrument of the Prince of Peace in the hearts of children.
  • Don't give lectures, but ask questions that lead the children to heart understanding.
  • Our goal is to rescue them from the bondage of the moment.
Bruce Ware, Seminar, Friday, May 1
I also attended Bruce Ware's seminar "Big Truths for Young Hearts." The seminar title is shared with the title of his new book, Big Truths for Young Hearts. This book is a compilation of theology talks that are meant to be read aloud to our children. Dr. Ware wrote the book after many people encouraged him to put into a book all the talks that he had with his daughters over the years, as he taught them theology each night before bed. Although they were young when he began, he didn't shrink from teaching them at bedtime the big truths that he taught seminary students during the day.

In the seminar Dr. Ware presented the progression of truth that takes place in children (and adults) as they come to faith in Christ:

Knowing Him -----> Loving Him -----> Living for Him (Applying His Truth) 
----> Transforming your Habitat (our cultural environment)

If we skip from knowing God to applying His truth without loving Him, it is pharisaical, hypocritical, and legalistic. And yet, it is the knowledge of God and theology (the study of God) that provides the fuel for loving Him, fuel that is ignited by the Spirit and burns as love (a Jonathan Edwards illustration).

Thomas Chalmers, a 19th century preacher, gave a sermon entitled "The Expulsive Power of a New Affection." In this sermon Chalmers teaches that godliness is not something that we achieve by aiming to avoid evil and worldliness. Instead, as we are filled up with the love of God we find there is no room for our old affections and loves of the world.
The best way of casting out an impure affection is to admit a pure one; and by the love of what is good to expel the love of what is evil. Thus it is, that the freer gospel, the more sanctifying is the gospel; and the more it is received as a doctrine of grace, the more will it be felt as a doctrine according to godliness. (From "The Expulsive Power of a New Affection" by Thomas Chalmers.)

Paul David Tripp, Plenary Session, Friday, May 1
Excellent notes on this talk by Dr. Tripp are posted on the Desiring God blog here. You will definitely want to click the link and review "Five Things That Are True About Every Child." Number 3: They are Worshipers. All children worship. But what are they worshipping?

David Michael, Plenary Session, Saturday, May 2
2 Corinthians 4:1
Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart.

Notes on David Michael's closing address here, on the Desiring God blog.

As I write, audio is not yet available on these sessions, but after they are posted on the Children Desiring God website, I'll add the links to this post.
UPDATE: Audio has been added to the Children Desiring God Conference 2009 web page.
Scriptures from the ESV.


Laura said...

Wow... this conference sounds exceptional. All in children's ministry should attend such a conference.

Something you mentioned rings true for me...

"Am I really embracing the full revelation of God in Scripture? Or do I form my understanding of Him on only common passages? Am I willing to accept His full revelation?"

With a desire to read through the entire Bible this year, I've made my way through Numbers and into Joshua. There are parts of the revelation of Him that cause me to rethink the God I've created from those familiar passages. Am I willing to accept His full revelation? My answer has to be yes, even through the difficult.

Blessings to you as you finish up your school year. We have a vacation scheduled and then a few loose ends to tie up before our Open House for grandparents. All in all a good year...

Oh, and thanks for the link to the book by Bruce Ware. It may just link up to what my husband and I are studying, too.


Mrs. Edwards said...

Re: "My answer has to be yes, even through the difficult." Amen to that.

It wasn't until I read through the whole Bible and read through all of Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy...Ezekiel, Hosea, Job, and the rest that I realized just how selective my understanding of God was. Now I've come to see that I can never stop reading the whole Bible over and over because of my feeble and forgetful mind.

Thanks for reading. I appreciate your thoughtful comments.

MOHeather said...

I enjoyed reading through your notes on the conference. I almost went to the conference! :) It was a last minute fill in for someone who couldn't go from our church and it didn't work out. However, I have really enjoyed reading the transcripts from the speakers. What a line-up! The group that went from our church was super-fired up about re-focusing our children's ministry and maintaining it's gospel-centeredness and not child-centeredness. We are using the curriculum Generations of Grace in Sunday School and I really love teaching from it.

Your note about external rewards hit me as well. I have begun to struggle with Awana a bit this past year. I agree that getting scripture into the heart's of our kids is a high priority, but I have had moments of discomfort as I've signed off sections for kids who want to know how many Awana bucks they just earned. Sigh.

God has given me the opportunity to teach our Sparks large group time this year. I am praying fervently about how to teach in such a way to present the gospel clearly week after week while reaching unchurched children and new believers in the faith.

Thanks for your thoughts on the conference. I hope to go sometime in the next few years (if they have it again).


Mrs. Edwards said...

I really smiled when I read, "I almost went to the conference," because it didn't surprise me!

Yes, the reward conundrum is vexing. On the one hand, Tripp is quite right. On the other, kids (and adults) need the Spirit blowing on them (so-to-speak) to ignite their faith. Wouldn't it be just as well to tuck away Scripture in poorly motivated kids, saved away for the day in which the Holy Spirit opens their eyes? I don't have the answer to this, but figure that the upside outweighs the downside.

The CDG conference will happen again in 2011. I hope to see you there! :)

If you have the time to print off the Chalmers sermon and read it, I'd love to hear what you think. It is pretty dense, but worth the effort if you are inclined!

Thanks for commenting!

Laura at By the Bushel said...

Read today's post and went to Desiring's link of the book. 'Glory...' Wow. That was wonderful. I skipped over here, having some eye-opening moments. 'settling for situational solutions, without getting to the heart of the matter.' ...
All so relevant- thank you.

Mrs. Edwards said...

Glad you found this. It really impacted me!

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