Today on the broadcast, Charlie Boyd, teaching pastor at Southside Fellowship in Greenville, South Carolina, tells Dennis Rainey about an exciting tool for teaching children the whole story of the Bible.
Today on the broadcast, Charlie Boyd, teaching pastor at Southside Fellowship in Greenville, South Carolina, tells Dennis Rainey about an exciting tool for teaching children the whole story of the Bible.
Bob: You've heard the expression, "You can't see the forest for the trees," right? There are a lot of people today who understand stories from the Bible, but they don't understand the story that the Bible is trying to tell. Here is Pastor Charlie Boyd.
Charlie: I went to lunch with a businessman who had moved down to the South from New Jersey, and he said, "I didn't go to church, my parents didn't go to church, my grandparents didn't go to church. I don't get it.
If God is so good, why is the world so messed up?" And I said, "Well, to answer that question, we need to go back to the beginning and ask another question, and that is what did God want when He started this whole thing? He created the world, created people – what was He after? What did He want?
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, June 30th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We're going to see what we can do today to help children and maybe even some parents better understand what God is up to. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us. I think I've told you before about times when I have been reading a story and, all of a sudden, in the middle of the story, something connects for you, and something that didn't make sense before makes sense? I'm thinking particularly of reading "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" for about the third time and, all of a sudden, going, "Oh, I get it. I understood the idea of the substitutionary atonement, which is a pretty lofty theological concept, but I understood it in my own terms as a high school student when I understood that Aslan was exchanging himself for Edmund so that Edmund wouldn't have to die and Aslan would.
Dennis: And you've done the same thing in the Bible when you read a Bible story, and you read through it several times, and you finally go, "You know what? I think I finally get the point here."
Well, we need help in looking at the Bible story, and, in fact, I think one of a parent's most important assignments, if not the most important assignment a parent has, is to introduce your child to God. Now, if you'd like to picture it, you take your child's hand in yours, as a parent, and you reach out to God in heaven using the Scripture, and you begin to introduce your child to who He is and, slowly but surely, try to put your child's hand in God's hand so that your child can know Him, trust Him, and then begin to obey Him all his life, and we have a new resource at FamilyLife that will enable you, as a parent, to do just that.
In fact, as I was thinking about this, Bob, this is kind of "Cliff Notes" for kids – a biblical Cliff Notes, a "Reader's Digest" of the very essence of what the Bible says. And we have one of our speakers from the Weekend to Remember, Dr. Charlie Boyd, who has been speaking with us now for over a decade. Charlie and his wife, Karen, live in Greenville, South Carolina. They have three children. He's a pastor there, and Charlie is also an author and a great friend, and I want to welcome you to the broadcast, Charlie, and just tell you a great job on this new book, "What God Has Always Wanted."
Charlie: Well, thank you, it's good to be here today.
Dennis: This book really is kind of a Cliff Notes for kids, isn't it – the Bible?
Charlie: It really is. Yeah, a lot of times I think we think of the Bible as 66 separate books, but it's really one book that tells one story. But what I have found, it's rather difficult for us to reduce that story down to just a simple story line, and so that's what we've tried to do in the book.
Bob: And you've had children as your target for this – why?
Charlie: Well, we started a while back videotaping testimonies and playing them when people were baptized.
Bob: Doing this at your church, right?
Charlie: Doing it at the church, right. And as I listened to children giving their testimonies, obviously, the children were saying, "Well, my mom or my dad talked to me about Jesus," or my teacher in Sunday school, and it hit me we're not really doing anything to help equip parents and teachers to share the Gospel with their own children and didn't have a resource, and so I went to one of my staff members, and I said, "You know, we've got to come up with a way to help equip parents to share with their own children," and she said, "Well, what are you thinking?" And I said, "Well, I think we need a book like this," or a booklet or something. And I went and I just kind of told the story. And she said, "You need to go write that down right now." And so I did, and then we began to work on it and had lots of people read it, and kind of tweak it, and so it's ended up the way it is today.
Bob: And would you describe it the way Dennis does, where it's the 30,000-foot view, the Cliff Notes, it's the one story of the Bible told from Creation to the coming of Christ, right?
Charlie: Absolutely, yeah, it is the big story of the Bible. I think a lot of times when we talk about the Bible story, we put ourselves in as the main character but, really, God is the main character, and so that's one of the things that we've tried to do in the book, of talking about how what God has always wanted is to live in relationship with the people that He's created. In the book we call it friendship. God wants to live in friendship with the people that He's created. Abraham was called "the friend of God." Jesus said to His disciples, "I no longer call you servants but I call you friends," and so God wants to live in friendship with us, and He provides everything we need to live in friendship with Him. And so He is the main character. He takes the initiative, He shows us His love, He is with us, He is for us, and we need a way of communicating that clearly with kids.
Dennis: It's interesting, this is a book for children three to 8, 9, 10 years of age, and yet, I have to tell you, as I was reading through this – again, Cliff Notes …
Bob: It's a children's book is what it is.
Dennis: It really is a children's book, but it's a story – Cliff Notes, I guess, doesn't really tell a story, as such, but this book is really the essence of the Bible story from start to finish, from Genesis through Revelation, and I have to admit, I started, Charlie, and I kind of was going, "I want to see what he puts in," and then I began to notice, "What's he leaving out?" And I thought you did a great job of kind of hitting the peaks along the way, the high points of what God did all the way through the Old Testament to the time of Christ, then the life of Christ, His death, His resurrection, and then even the Book of Revelation.
Dennis: It's a lot of fun. Have you read this to kids to see what their response is now?
Charlie: Oh, yeah. We've read it to children, and the response is very good, and what's amazing is I've given copies of it to parents to have them read with their children and get the feedback from them, and the interesting thing is, the parents come back and say, "My child really enjoyed this, but I have to be honest with you, I really got as much out of it as I think they did." And I've had many adults, a businessman, in fact, said, "I never understood the Bible this way. I never understood it this clearly until now."
Bob: I was reading a quote by John Stott recently, and he said "Churches today are in danger of fumbling the Gospel." And, frankly, he said that in a book that he wrote about 30 or 40 years ago, and you look back over the last 30 or 40 years, and you wonder is that still the case? And I think, to some extent, it is the case that we have let go of the essence of the Gospel message.
What you've tried to do in this book is make a clear Gospel presentation because there are a lot of people today who are Christians who could not clearly articulate the big story, could they?
Charlie: Oh, that's right, in fact, my concern with children is that we assume that in church they're going to get the story but, generally, in church what they get are Bible stories, but they don't get the Bible's story, the big picture.
And so then we just zero in on, "Don't you think that you would like to ask Jesus into your heart?" And this might sound heretical, but I don't think that's the best way to lead a child to Christ – to have them pray and ask Jesus into their heart. It's just not in the Bible. The Bible doesn't tell you to ask Jesus into your heart. It says to trust Him that He is who He says He is, and He will do what He says He will do, and He died and rose again to make that come true for you. And so it's a trust relationship, and I really believe that if a child can understand what it means to trust a parent or a friend to keep a promise, then they can understand what it means to trust Jesus to keep His promise.
Bob: And we ought to be clear here, it's possible for a child to hear the Gospel and to savingly believe, right?
Bob: But it's also true that there are a lot of children who make a profession of faith, and they really haven't understood what they're saying.
Bob: It's because maybe when they were seven, they didn't really understand the message of the Gospel.
Dennis: It was C.H. Spurgeon who made the statement about a child – "He who knowingly sins can savingly believe."
Dennis: So if a child knows that he is disobedient and has sinned against God, he can then turn from that sin to God's provision for that sin, Jesus Christ. And, personally, I think there is a need within the church today, Bob, back to your quote that you gave a few moments ago, there is a need today within the Christian community to commission parents to do this job.
Dennis: Now, it's not that the church shouldn't do it as well, but my mom led me to faith in Christ. I learned a lot about God from my dad in his Sunday school class as well as from his life and from him as a man but, you know, I don't hear enough emphasis today within the Christian community being placed upon Mom and Dad to carry the burden that I believe is spoken of over in Deuteronomy, chapter 6 – "These words shall be on your heart, and you shall teach them diligently to your sons and to your daughters." And I think that's what you're helping moms and dads do with this book – you're giving them a very simple big story of the Bible so they can talk to their children about the whole panorama of the Bible in probably less than 15 minutes.
Charlie: Exactly. I think there is an assumption that parents know how to share the Gospel. We think that's a simple thing to do, but to make something clear to a child is more difficult, I think, than we think, and when we invite a very young child to ask Jesus into their heart, children think in very concrete ways. So they're thinking of a miniature Jesus, a flannel-graph Jesus, coming into a Valentine-shaped heart. And that doesn't get across the message that I have this "my way" kind of attitude in me, this selfishness, this sin, and that I need a savior to rescue me from that selfishness.
Bob: And that rescue is expressed in terms of relationship and friendship. The metaphor from beginning to end is that God created us for relationship, for friendship, as you say, that He has always pursued friendship, that our "my way" attitude has alienated us from God, and that Jesus came to reestablish the friendship between God and His creation.
Charlie: Right, and we enter into that friendship with Him by taking Him at His Word, by trusting that He is who He says He is, and He will do for you what He promised He would do.
Dennis: One of the things you've done in your book that I really like was you provided some definitions for parents around some of the basic words of the Bible. For instance, "sin," "heaven," "hell," and you've talked about those words like "faith," in some fresh ways that parents can explain what faith is to a child or what sin is to a child, just as we've talked about it here.
I think many parents, Bob, when it comes time to introduce their children to God feel woefully inadequate. They really don't feel like, "Well, I've not been to Dallas Theological Seminary like Charlie Boyd has, so, man, I could never do that. They might ask me a question I don't know the answer to."
Bob: Well, and you know this, as well, Charlie, we live in a culture today not just with children, but with teenagers and adults we operate in a vocabulary that when we throw the words out, we think they communicate, and they don't always communicate with folks. You take a concept like heaven, for example, and there is a conception of heaven that may not be the biblical idea of heaven, and you may have to stop and explain, "Here is what I'm talking about when I talk about heaven," right?
Charlie: Right, and that's why we put these talking points in the back of the book, because I assume that as a parent reads and re-reads this book to their child, there's going to be questions, and so just like heaven, for example, we write in the back that heaven is the place where Jesus is. Before He died, He told His disciples that He was going back to heaven to prepare a place for them so that when they died, they could come and be with Him. The Bible describes the Kingdom of Heaven as a party where everyone is invited. In heaven, we will enjoy God and His love forever. All the things we like about this world will be many times better in heaven.
Dennis: And then you also go on to define and describe hell, which isn't talked about much today in the Christian community, but, in my opinion, it was part of, frankly, how I came to faith in Christ. It was vividly portrayed and painted for me as a child, and I think children need to know about a place called "hell." Read the definition for that.
Charlie: Right. "People are free in this world to live for themselves alone and not for God if they want to. Hell is the place where people go who choose not to live in friendship with God. If people don't want to live in friendship with God now, God will not force them to live with Him after they die. According to the Bible, people who will not trust God are tormented by the fact that nothing they do can ever change anything."
Bob: Listening to that, I've just been listening to some tapes recently from Elisabeth Elliott, and she talked about how Adam and Eve bought a different plan. They decided that Satan had a better plan for life than God did, and they went with his plan. And, again, it was just a fresh way of hearing that described, and I think that's what you've done and what needs to be done in the culture. We've got to find some fresh ways to articulate the message of the Gospel. We've got to somehow cut through the …
Charlie: The jargon.
Bob: And get to where the message makes sense to folks. Half the time, I think, we present the Gospel and people go, "I don't understand. You were talking some other language I don't understand. How can I put my faith and trust in something that I didn't even understand what you were saying," right?
Charlie: Right. Well, that's really the seed bed for the whole book, because about five or six years ago I went to lunch with a businessman who had moved down to the South from New Jersey, and he said, "I didn't go to church, my parents didn't go to church, my grandparents didn't go to church. I moved down here. People go to church on Wednesday night. I don't get it. Would you explain it to me?" And so I tried to explain it to him in the way that I had always been taught and the way I was comfortable, and he goes, "Well, I'm sure you're sincere about what you believe, but I don't understand a thing" …
Bob: I'm hearing the words but, ding, ding, ding, ding, it's not making any sense.
Charlie: "I'm not understanding a thing that you're saying." And so he said, "Let me just put it this way – if God is so good, why is the world so messed up?" And I said, "Well, to answer that question, we need to go back to the beginning and ask another question, and that is what did God want when He created the world, created people – what was He after? What did He want?"
Bob: So this children's book is really a conversation you had with a businessman?
Charlie: It grew out of that because I realized exactly what you just said, and that is we have to find new ways of sharing the Gospel in ways that people with little or no background can understand.
Bob: And if you had two minutes to do that with someone today who just walked up and said, "I've heard about Jesus, I've heard about Christianity, but I don't get it," and you had two minutes, what would you tell them?
Charlie: Well, basically, I would tell them that God created us for relationship with Him, and, early on, our first parents decided that they wanted to do it their way instead of God's way, and that is why the world is the way it is today because when people live their lives their way, that's what the Bible called "sin." That's selfishness, that "my way" kind of attitude.
Bob: And it messes everything up.
Charlie: And it breeds – it goes from one generation to the next, and what we see in the world is in us, and the Bible does tell us that we have to answer to God for that. But the Bible goes on to tell us that Jesus came to make the original offer of life with God in person, and He lived that "with God" kind of life, showed us what it was like, then He died and rose again to make it possible, and He promises that anyone who trusts in Him, He will forgive their sins and give them life both now and forever.
Bob: That's pretty simple, pretty clear, don't you think?
Dennis: It is, and God reached down to planet earth and to people and said, "You know what? I'm going to show you how you can know me, because I'm going to become a man, and then I'm going to live a perfect life, die on a cross, and do for you what you can't do for yourself, which is pay the price for your sins." Then, as you said, Charlie, come alive again from the grave to be able to offer us eternal life.
It occurs to me right now there might be a person who maybe they're understanding for the first time what the offer is that God makes; where He invites you to place your faith in His Son, Jesus Christ, to be your Savior, and to cleanse you of your sins. And, you know, you can receive Christ right now where you are. You don't need to wait to do it. In fact, I'd encourage you not to wait. The idea of someday spending eternity in heaven and being with God where Jesus is, I think, is a great offer, and why would anyone want to wait for that? Why would anyone want to wait to receive the greatest gift you'll ever receive in all your life – forgiveness for all your sin? Simply do that right now in prayer.
"Lord Jesus, be merciful to me, a sinner," and pray that prayer, and on the basis of God's Word, I can promise you that His story and His promise are sure. They're the truth. He will forgive you, and he will give you eternal life.
Bob: And if you want to understand that story and understand what it means to have a relationship with Christ, if you want to pray a prayer like that and, in the process, trust Christ, there's a book we'd like to send you that we'll send you at no cost. It's called "Pursuing God," that explains clearly what we've been talking about today, in the same kind of clear language that, hopefully, we have used here today.
You can call 1-800-FLTODAY, and say "I'd like a copy of that book, "Pursuing God," and we'll be happy to send it to you. Again, it's at no cost to anyone who wants to establish a relationship with Jesus Christ. And then for parents who want to make sure that their children understand the big story of the Bible, we'd encourage you to get a copy of Charlie's book for children, which is called "What God Has Always Wanted." And one of the things I like about the book is that in the back you do give simple explanations for words that we sometimes take for granted as we talk about themes like sin or faith or eternal life or forgiveness or the Holy Spirit. You spell out for parents and for children these concepts in very basic language.
Kids are going to love this book, and I think parents are going to appreciate what it communicates as well. The book is called "What God Has Always Wanted." Go to our website at FamilyLife.com, and on the right side of the home page, you will see a box that says "Today's Broadcast." If you click where it says "Learn More," that will take you to an area of the site where you can find out more about Charlie's book.
There is also information there about Susan Hunt's very helpful book called "Big Truths for Little Kids," which can help you systematically teach your children important biblical and theological concepts. Again, all the details are on our website at FamilyLife.com. Click the box on the right side of the home page that says "Today's Broadcast," and it will take you to the part of the site where you can find out more about these books, and you can order them online, if you'd like, or call us at 1-800-FLTODAY – 1-800-358-6329. That's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY.
You know, one of the big ideas in the Bible is the whole idea of forgiveness – God forgiving us for our transgressions against Him for our sins, and our decision to forgive others who have wronged us. There are a lot of questions that come up in people's minds about the subject of forgiveness and, Dennis, you and I had an opportunity to sit down not long ago and talk with our friend, Nancy Leigh DeMoss, who hosts the daily radio program, "Revive Our Hearts," about the subject of forgiveness.
She has written a book called "Choosing Forgiveness," and this month we would like to make a CD of that conversation with Nancy available to listeners who make a donation of any amount to help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today. You can make your donation online at FamilyLife.com, or you can call 1-800-FLTODAY and make your donation over the phone.
If you're donating online, when you come to the keycode box on the donation form, type in the word "forgive" so that we know to send you the CD with Nancy Leigh DeMoss on choosing forgiveness, or call 1-800-FLTODAY and make your donation over the phone. Ask for a copy of the CD about forgiveness. Again, it's our way of saying thank you when you support the ministry of FamilyLife Today this month with a donation of any amount.
Now, tomorrow we're going to continue to talk about the big story of the Bible and how we can know it and share it with others including our children. I hope you can be back with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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