Glorious God, Glorious Gospel
About the Guest
Pastor David Michael and his wife, Sally, co-founders of Truth78, have a strong passion to see parents discipling their children in the faith. Although children are often taught the main Bible stories about Noah, Samson, Jonah, and the like, which capture children's imaginations, the Michaels find that the main character of the story, God, is often overlooked. They encourage parents to talk to their children about God, and point out what He is doing in their lives.
Pastor David Michael and his wife, Sally, have a strong passion to see parents discipling their children in the faith. They encourage parents to talk to their children about what God is doing in their lives.
Glorious God, Glorious Gospel
Bob: Do your children know how to dig deep into God’s Word to find all of the riches that are there? Sally Michael says, “That ought to be a parent’s priority.”
Sally: I remember my youngest daughter—she was four at the time—and we were reading through a Bible storybook with her. I would just pepper her with questions: Why did this happen?” and “What do you think God was doing here?”—I mean, just constant questions. One day, she said, “Ooh, your questions are so hard.” I said: “That’s because I want you, when you go to the Word, to think about what it’s saying, and who God is, and what it means for your life. I want you to learn to interact with the Bible and think.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, November 19th. Our host is Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. How do we raise children, who are not just Bible readers, but Bible explorers? We’re going to talk about that today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. Back—this was many years ago—we surveyed a bunch of people. I think it was more than 70,000 people that we surveyed in churches all across the country. I remember one of the questions we asked was, “If you wanted help in parenting, what would be the issues that you would like help with?” We thought—sibling rivalry, disciplining your kids—
Bob: Yes; we thought it was going to be all those kinds of issues, but you remember what the number one issue was; don’t you?
Dennis: I do—spiritual life in the home.
Bob: Yes; “How do we help our kids understand the gospel, and respond to the gospel, and grow in their faith?”
Dennis: Recently, Barbara and I got away on a vacation. One of the things we were talking and praying about is what the couple who join us today have already done.
The concept is found in Psalm 78, where it talks about a generational relay race that every follower of Christ needs to run and needs to know how to make a good handoff to the next generation.
Bob: That’s the reason that the organization that this couple is a part of is called Truth:78—because of that Psalm.
Dennis: That’s exactly right. David and Sally Michael join us on FamilyLife Today. David/Sally, welcome to the broadcast.
Sally: Thank you.
David: Our pleasure to be here.
Dennis: David and Sally hale from Indianapolis, Indiana—David’s a pastor there. Sally is, really, one of the founders of Truth:78. She is the co-author, along with Jill Nelson, of a family devotional called Glorious God, Glorious Gospel.
I guess I want to ask you, Sally: “Where did this passion for making this handoff in this relay race come from in your heart? How did that occur?”
Sally: I did not grow up in a Christian home. I was saved at 12. My parents didn’t know the Bible themselves, so they couldn’t spiritually nurture me; but they did send me to Christian schools, which was a huge blessing in my life. When I had children, I wanted to make sure that they knew the Word of God.
We had taught Bible clubs before. We would always get frustrated with the material; because it was teaching good morals / it was teaching man-centered theology, I would say. We would keep having to change the material to teach it. We would just get so frustrated with it; because we really wanted our children and other children to really know the God of the Bible—not the men of the Bible—and not a God, who was very limited and small because He only has a few attributes like love and kindness—but in His full-facetted personality and character.
I think the Lord just kind of bred that in us. I have always had a passion, since becoming a Christian, of making sure that other children grew up with the truth that I did not grow up with.
Dennis: You had two daughters.
Sally: We had two daughters.
Dennis: Is this kind of how you taught them, at that point, then?
Sally: Yes; we would just open the Bible and read it—explain it to them. We went through different books. I think both of our children made a profession of faith with Ken Taylor’s, The Book for Children, because all he does is tell the Bible story; but then you can go in there and say—for example, the story of Moses and being found in the river by the princess—say, “Who put Moses right at that right place at the right time?”
Sally: You can help your children to see that God is a God of tremendous providences. God placed him there just at the right time. You could use that book and just insert theology in it, because all he does is tell a story.
Bob: As a kid, you’re intrigued by stories about a strong Samson, who could bring down the walls with his own strength, or about Jonah being in the belly of the fish, or about Daniel standing strong and brave against the enemies, and the three children in the fiery furnace—
—I mean, those capture the imagination of children.
David, you can understand why people, who have a heart to want to share the Bible with kids—they gravitate toward those stories because hearing about a lion, whose mouth is shut when you’re sent into the cave—that’s something that kids are waking up and paying attention to; right?
David: And everybody knows kids love stories. I think, as we were raising our children, the disconnect between what children are typically taught from the Bible and what the Bible really teaches of God—that disconnect was what drove us toward this passion to—out of Psalm 78 there—just teach the truth to our children. We’re hiding the truth by ignoring the main character of the Bible.
Dennis: There’s a command in Psalm 78 to do two things. It is a generational handoff; but it is a command to us, as parents—and, I believe, grandparents—to not only pass along the truth of God’s Word, but also the experience of God—
Dennis: —in a person’s life. I think there’s where a lot of children aren’t seeing their parents connect the dots. They may hear parents talk about the truth of God’s Word but they’re not hearing the parents talk about “How Jesus Christ invaded my life,” and “Let me tell you how He did that this afternoon.”
Bob: There is a danger, don’t you think, of telling kids stories from the ancient writings that make it sound like: “That’s back when God lived, and when He was active in people’s lives,” and “It doesn’t fit our modern lives.”
To show them what the Bible says about how God has worked in the lives of men and women throughout history; but then, to tell them your own story of how God’s worked in your life—
—that really ties it all together; doesn’t it, Sally?
Sally: Yes; I think God is still writing a testimony in our own lives and hearts of His people. We, so often, don’t share that testimony with our children. I think, even as we read the Bible, as adults—so often, we just read it—and we read the words and, “Oh, those are good truths,”—but to stop and say: “Okay; what does this mean in my life?” “What is God saying to me?” “How is He leading me?” “What do I need to change?” “What do I need to obey?” “Is there a promise here for me to hang on to?” Then, what you have seen from the Word—what the Lord is working in your heart—just open your mouth and talk about it with your children. Then weave Him into all of everyday life.
You can say to a child; for example, who’s facing a piano recital—who’s a little nervous about that piano recital—you can say to that child: “Oh, you’ve practiced really hard.
“You know what to do. You feel a little nervous; but when you get up there, your fingers are going to remember. You’re going to know how to play that piece.” And you’ve just turned that child only to her own strength.
An alternative way—that a Christian parent really should guide a child—is to say:
I understand that you’re nervous and you’re afraid, but you know what? I’m going to give you a verse—it’s Psalm 125:1-2: [Emotion in voice] “Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion which cannot be shaken but endures forever. As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds His people both now and forevermore.”
So you know what? You take that verse, and you walk up to that piano and you say, “Lord, I am in Your hands.” And when you play, you play for Jesus, knowing that He is there with you—He is behind you; He is in front of you; He is beside you. You put your hands in the hands of Jesus, and you play for Him. No matter how you play—no matter how your piece comes out—you will not be shaken; because you are standing on the Lord.
Bob: Sally, you got emotional, just recalling that verse.
Dennis: Why is that verse so meaningful in your heart?
Sally: I think the promises of the Bible—they are so precious—they are so precious, and they speak to all of our experiences in life. If we live our lives focusing on those promises, we’re going to live life very differently. We’re going to bring God into all of life.
I got, I think, the best compliment I’ve ever gotten in my life this summer. We had our three grandchildren for two-and-a-half weeks by themselves, which was really wonderful; because it was such a wonderful time for us just to spiritually nurture them. My ten-year-old granddaughter said to me one day, “Grandma, I think you can take any subject and turn it into a conversation about God.” [Laughter] I said to her, “Katie, that’s because everything in life is about God.”
I think that’s what sometimes Christian parents don’t do. You know, we’re talking about being nervous at a piano recital. They don’t relate that to who God is—
—His constant presence with His people; His faithfulness to guide them, to be with them, to help them in their weakness. We tend to turn children into, “Okay; you’re strong enough yourself.” They’re not; they need the Lord.
Dennis: I’ve got a friend, who shared a story—he’s a grandfather too. His teenaged grandson came to him and said, “Grandpa, I’m not sure I want to play basketball next year on the varsity team.” His grandson, I think, was a junior in high school. The grandfather could have kind of blown that off, but you know what he said to his grandson?—I thought, “This is what we’re talking about here.”
He looked this grandson in the eye and said: “You know what I want you to do? I want you to encounter Jesus Christ. I want you to go get, face to face, with Him and ask Him what He wants you to do,” because he said: “I was looking at my grandson’s face, and he was troubled. He had anxiety; he was worried.” He said, “I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I knew the One who could.”
Dennis: About a week later, he got together with his grandson again and said, “What’s up?” And he said: “Well, I think I’m going to play basketball. I think that’s what He wants me to do.” Those may not sound like a big deal; but when we have an encounter with Jesus Christ ourselves; and then, we can introduce our children / our grandchildren to have an encounter with Christ, that’s passing on our faith in a living fresh way.
David: Yes; what we try to emphasize is God-centered orientation. When we’re telling Bible stories, tell the stories in a God-centered way. It’s amazing how, in a world that’s very self-centered, it’s a very counter-cultural approach to raise our children with the orientation that God is the center of the universe in a world that wants to tell them, “You are the center of the universe.”
Bob: David, the ministry you give leadership to—Truth:78—
—that’s a new name for a ministry that some of our listeners may have heard of before. Tell us a little bit about the organization.
David: Yes; they may have heard of Children Desiring God, which is 20 years old now. That’s where we started, back when these passions were emerging. We created Children Desiring God as a way to provide God-centered resources and to make them available for the church.
Fast-forward 20 years, after some reorganization, we needed to come up with a new name. Came up with Truth:78 mainly because Psalm 78 has been a signature text that has defined our ministry over the years and this focus on teaching what is true about God. Putting those two realities together—-truth and 78—we’re linking it to Psalm 78.
Bob: Sally, this devotional is just one of the tools / one of the resources you’re making available.
I have to tell you—I love this devotional, and I love the work you have done. When I first saw it, my first thought was, “Okay; well, Chapter 1—that would take me a week, maybe longer to go through.” This is not a devotional, where you sit down, and read a story, and read a verse, and then pray a prayer at the end. You’re trying to creatively pull parents and kids, alike, into understanding who God is.
Sally: I think we’re very intentional about the discipleship of children—I think the word, discipleship, is really important—where we are making disciples. I think, so often, Christian parents tell children what to believe. What you want to do is—you want to train them to look at the Word themselves, and understand for themselves, and interact with the Word of God so that it becomes their own—it’s personal for them. We’re really pushing parents to interact around the Word.
We’re hoping that—as they use the guide to interact, ask questions of the text, ask questions to apply—
—they will, then, learn to do that in all of life. We start with the mind—and we give them text to interact with and content to interact with—but we don’t want to stop with the mind. We want to go to the heart; so then, we start with application questions: “What does this mean in your life?” “Is there a promise for you?” “What is God saying to you in this passage?” or “How can you apply this to your life?” Then, move to the will, which is where obedience comes in: “Okay; what steps are you going to take in response to what you have heard and what you have learned?” We really do want to start dialogues—spiritual dialogue between parent and child.
David: One of the things we emphasize is just the importance of Christian parents teaching their children to think. Rather than just giving them something to believe, we want them to understand why they believe what they believe. I’ve actually learned this from Sally—that one of the most effective tools for helping a child think is by asking questions and interacting with them.
That’s why a devotional that just lays out the information—the child hears—but have they really thought and taken that truth and made the application? The interactive dimension of this is really important.
Bob: In Session 1, one of the things you point out is that there are more than 3,000 verses in the Bible, where God reveals something about Himself to us—3,000 verses, where He discloses who He is. Then you say, “What does that tell us about God?”
I’m just thinking—that observation and that question at a dinner table could be all it takes for that evening for you to engage around: “Well, this is a God who wants to be known. That’s why He’s telling us so much about Himself. This is a God who is not hiding anything.” You could explore all kinds of things that come out of that:
“If this is a God who wants to be known, and if He is as great as He says He is, where do we go with it?”
I’m just imagining dinner table conversations, with kids around—something as simple as that—where you spend—you could be in Chapter 1 of this devotional for eight or ten days before you ever get to Chapter 2. It would be a rich time.
David: Exactly, that’s often the way I hear parents using it; and that’s the way, in our own experience with our grandchildren, that’s the way—
Bob:—you’ve used it.
David: —we’ve used it.
Sally: The whole idea of interacting with children—you can do this at a really young age. I remember my youngest daughter, Kristi, who is now 34—but she was 4 at the time—and we were reading through a Bible storybook with her. She and I would sit there, and I would just pepper her with questions. We couldn’t get through a story in it because I would sit and: “Why did this happen?” and “What do you think God was doing here?”—I mean, just constant questions.
One day she said, “Ooh, your questions are so hard!” I said:
“That’s because I want you to think. I want you, when you go to the Word, to think about what it’s saying, and who God is, and what it means for your life. I want you to learn to interact with the Bible and think.” At the end of that year, she was asking me questions I couldn’t answer; [Laughter] so I could have said, “Ooh, your questions are so hard!” because—
Sally: —she had learned to think; she had learned to interact. That’s a process that a child learns by you exposing them and stretching that brain muscle so that they stretch for answers. Then you teach them: “You know what? When you come to the Word, you come with a prayer; because you’re not wise enough to figure this out. You need God and the Holy Spirit to help you. I’m going to ask you hard questions, but you better ask God for the answers.”
Bob: I just love the fact that you’re helping parents and children—not simply memorize rote facts that they find in the Bible or “I can repeat back the story to you,”—
—but “Let’s think critically; let’s interact critically.” There needs to be more critical thinking skills about every area of life in our kids; but when it comes to the Scriptures, this is how young people will get engaged and know for themselves: “This is how I believe,” if they’re challenging what they are reading with critical thinking skills.
Dennis: And to Sally’s point—here’s what most parents are feeling right now: “I could never do what Sally’s done!” because she’s become a very well-trained teacher. Yet, every Christian has the Holy Spirit—
Dennis: —and He teaches. He is referred to by Jesus—in John, Chapter 14—as the Helper. To Sally’s point—if you don’t know what you’re doing, ask the Helper—
Dennis: —for help.
David: And if you don’t know what you’re doing, join the club with the rest of us. [Laughter]
Dennis: Exactly; exactly. I just remember what Dr. Hendrix said in class one day:
“Bore your children with Shakespeare; bore them with this and that from education, but never bore your children with the Scriptures.” He said: “It’s alive!
Dennis: —“It’s sharper that any two-edged sword.”
And we should add electricity to our dinner table, like Bob’s talking about, when we ask these questions and not let the question dribble out and die. Press into the kids—force them to think, like Sally was talking about.
Bob: Share a little bit about some of the other things—you’ve got curriculum that churches are using—other resources available; right?
Sally: We’ve written Sunday school curriculum all the way up through tenth grade—a mid-week scope and sequence, as well, not quite up to tenth grade but close. We have started on devotional books that parents can use with their children; storybooks; a lot of parenting resources; the Fighter Verse Program™, which is a Bible memory program.
Bob: We’ve got a link on our website at FamilyLifeToday.com to the Truth:78 website, where people can see the resources you’ve got available.
Dennis: And Psalm 78:4 says, “Don’t hide the truth about God and the experience of God from your children.”
Dennis: I just was reading it here and I was thinking, “How do we do that?” You can hide something on purpose, or you can hide something by neglecting to teach it. What I want to challenge parents to do is to take, really, what David and Sally have created here and find a way to interact with your family and use your dinner table—recapture it—for some sound discussion and stimulating conversation, but don’t bore them with the Bible.
Bob: You’re going to have to start having dinner together now as a result of this. [Laughter] When you do—whether it’s dinner or breakfast, or after dinner, or bedtime, or whenever you get the family together—have some conversations that engage your children in thinking about God—thinking biblically; thinking theologically.
The book that Sally has coauthored with Jill Nelson is a great resource to help you with the right kinds of conversations. I’ll just say—from my own experience with this book, and with kids, you can’t get through a whole section in one sitting. This is just a little piece at a time. But a few of these questions—a few of these illustrations, or thoughts, or crafts, or the things that have been put into this book—will help you teach your children to know who God is and to know what His plan is for our lives.
The book is called Glorious God, Glorious Gospel. There’s a companion coloring book for young kids to be engaged as you go through these sessions. We’ve got both the coloring book and the book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. I’m going to encourage you—if you’ve got elementary-aged kids, pre-elementary, even junior high / senior high kids, get a copy of this book. Next time you’re having dinner, pull it out and read a couple of paragraphs, and start a discussion around your dinner table.
You can order the book from us, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call to order: 1-800-FL-TODAY is the number. Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com or call to order: 1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
Speaking of engaging your children around biblical ideas, especially during the holidays—FamilyLife® has put together a resource that we call “The Twelve Names of Christmas™.” We’ve taken different titles for Jesus and made kid-friendly Christmas tree ornaments that you can use during the Christmas season as a way to introduce your child to whose birthday we’re celebrating—the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the Lamb of God, the Lion of Judah. Each of these ornaments is designed for your kids to be able hang on the tree. You can have a conversation with them about what each title for Jesus’ name means.
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Now, tomorrow, we’re going to talk about how men can protect their moral integrity—their moral purity—especially in a culture or a world that keeps pushing them away from God’s view of sexuality. Roger Fankhauser will be with us here to talk about that tomorrow. I hope you can be with us as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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