Understanding God’s Remarkable Story
About the Guest
On the broadcast today, Charlie Boyd, author of the children's book What God has Always Wanted, tells parents how they can share the gospel with their children in a simple way that's easy to understand.
On the broadcast today, Charlie Boyd, author of the children’s book What God has Always Wanted, tells parents how they can share the gospel with their children in a simple way that’s easy to understand.
Understanding God’s Remarkable Story
Bob: If you had to sum up the message of the Bible in a sentence or two, could you do it?
Woman: Well, with commas and things, this would work – "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever should believe in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life."
Man: It's the story about Jesus.
Woman: That's a tough one.
Woman: I don't know.
Woman: The story of the Bible is God's lesson to us from Creation through to eternity. You didn't think I could do it.
Man: I don't know – do good.
Man: Well, if you live a good life, you will go to heaven, and if you don't, you will go to that other place.
Man: I would say …
Man: Are you ready? Sum up the entire Bible in one sentence.
Man: That's one word.
Woman: Oh, one sentence. I guess I wasn't listening to you.
Bob: Pastor Charlie Boyd found that a challenging proposition.
Charlie: It's not easy to reduce the big story of the Bible into something that's simple and clear to understand. The way I thought about that was I looked at the first couple of chapters in Genesis, and then I looked at the final few chapters in Revelation, and when you look at Genesis, and you look at Revelation, they tell the same story, and that is what God wanted in the beginning was to live in friendship with the people that He created.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, July 1st. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We're going to talk today about how we can help children understand how they can be friends with God.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us. When your kids were little, you used to read them children's books, didn't you?
Dennis: I did.
Bob: I know one of Barbara's favorites was "Goodnight, Moon." Did you read "Goodnight, Moon?"
Dennis: Several times. After about 50 times through it, it lost its sizzle. The moon kind of was eclipsed at that point.
Bob: The story never changed, did it? It always ended the same way.
Dennis: It did, it did.
Bob: It's fun – some children's books – we have a book that we read to our kids about the red ripe strawberry and the big hungry bear. Did you ever read that one?
Dennis: I missed that one.
Bob: It's one of those fun books where you get a chance to pull back, and you read about the big hungry bear, you know, and you have some fun reading stories like that. It's a fun part of parenting to engage a child's imagination by reading a storybook to them.
Dennis: It is, and, you know, one of the things I think parents need to take advantage of today, because there are more great tools and great books to read to your children today, especially spiritually speaking, around having faith in God and getting to know God than ever before. And we're real excited here this week to be announcing a brand-new tool and resource that's produced by FamilyLife called "What God Has Always Wanted."
Bob: It's a children's picture book. It's one that parents would read to their children, right?
Dennis: Right. But it's really more than that, Bob, it's a story of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, of what God really is looking for with us as individual people, and it's written in language that will appeal to anyone from ages 3 to about 99, all right, because I think a lot of adults are going to enjoy reading this to their children a whole lot more than "Goodnight, Moon," I promise you.
And with us in the studio is the author of "What God Has Always Wanted," Charlie Boyd. Charlie is a great friend. He used to be a pastor here in Little Rock. It's good to have you back in Little Rock, Charlie. Welcome to FamilyLife Today.
Charlie: Thank you, it's good to be here.
Dennis: Charlie is the teaching pastor at South Side Fellowship Church in Greenville, South Carolina. I went to Greenville once. I was supposed to go to Greenville, North Carolina, but I ended up in Greenville, South Carolina. That's another story, and we won't go there today.
Charlie and his wife, Karen, speak at our Weekend to Remember marriage conferences, they have three children, and you've been sharing with us this week why you wrote a book to help parents introduce their children to God. But just refresh our listeners again as to why you did that.
Charlie: Well, I had been hearing children give their testimonies and talking about how they came to faith in Christ, and it was no big "Aha!" but the fact is moms and dads and Sunday school teachers were all sharing the Gospel, trying to share the Gospel with their kids. And it dawned on me, as a pastor of a church that one of our basic tenets is we want to equip people to live out their faith, and it dawned on me we're not doing anything to equip parents to share the Gospel with their own children. And so that was the – that gave birth to the book.
Dennis: And, you know, it's really where the hand-off of faith ought to begin and needs to occur. In fact, personally, as I've become a grandfather now, I have eight grandchildren, I can pound the table that this is the responsibility of parents to introduce their children to who God is, and it's the responsibility of the church to train parents in how to do it; not to take the parents' place by establishing a Sunday school where parents don't feel the responsibility or the need to introduce their children to God, but to equip them. And your book, coming from a church, this is great, because your book actually – if a parent will read it to his child ages, what, 3 to 8, 9, 10, somewhere in there?
Charlie: Exactly, mm-hm.
Dennis: You can take a child through the story of the Bible in about 15, 20 minutes maximum. It's got great illustrations and the words are simple. But, as we've been talking about, this book is actually understandable for adults as well.
Charlie: It is. In fact, I've had my daughter, who is 18 – when she read the book for the first time, she said, "You know, I'm not sure I really understood this the way that you've presented it here." And she goes, "I don't think my friends understand this. They know what it means that Jesus died for our sins and promises to give us eternal life, and we can go to heaven when we die," but she really didn't understand the big story of the Bible.
Dennis: You have a page, Charlie, where you said God provided the people he loved with everything they needed to live in a friendship with Him. And on that page you have four quadrants – commandments to teach them – I assume that's about the Ten Commandments; priests to offer sacrifices for them – that's when the people broke the commandments; kings to lead them; and the last quadrant – prophets to correct them.
You know, when I got to this page – I've been to seminary, and I thought, "That is a wonderful summary of a huge chunk of the beginning of the Old Testament – commandments to teach them; priests to offer sacrifices for them; kings to lead them; and prophets to correct them. That's a great overview of what God did for His people, and you cover it all in one page.
Bob: And part of the challenge I know you had in writing this book, you've got your doctorate from seminary, you're conversant in Hebrew and Greek, right?
Charlie: Exactly, yeah.
Bob: You're trying to explain this in as simple a language as possible and trying to do it with accuracy and precision, and that can be a challenge.
Charlie: Oh, it's a tremendous challenge. I mean, I worked long and hard hours on trying to reduce this down into simple language, and then I've had probably 30 different people read it – children's workers, children's leaders, and about five of my professors in seminary to see if – I wanted to be accurate, but I wanted to be clear and simple to understand. But this is not easy to reduce the Bible into something that's one story and simple and clear to understand.
Bob: But what you've done, really, is the admonition that Paul gave to Timothy in 2 Timothy, chapter 2, when he said to Timothy, he said you want to present yourself as an approved workman who is able to – and the word there is to "cut straight" and it doesn't mean that you're supposed to slice-and-dice God's Word, but it's actually – when that word is used in other places in the Bible, it means "to make a straight path" in some direction.
So Paul is telling Timothy, you need to cut straight; that is, make the path as straight and as simple as possible for somebody to get from here to there. That's what makes you an approved workman. In fact, I was reading a commentary on that verse, and it was John Stott who said, "The goal of our presentation is to be plain on one hand and accurate on the other," and that's not an easy goal to achieve. That's why you have to be a workman to be able to do it, and yet that's what God's calling us to – accuracy and simplicity, and I think sometimes today some people make things so simple that it loses the accuracy. Others don't make it simple enough, and you've tried to steer the middle road here, and I think you've done a great job.
Charlie: Well, and cutting it straight, the way I thought about that was I looked at the first couple of chapters in Genesis, and then I looked at the final few chapters in Revelation, and when you look at Genesis and you look at Revelation, they tell the same story, and that is what God wanted in the beginning was to live in relationship, or live in friendship with the people that He created. And then you flip over to Revelation 21, and He says, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among people, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them."
And that's – when I looked at Genesis and Revelation, I then knew that everything else in between had to fit under that heading, that big story – that God wants to live with the people He's created. He wants to live in friendship with them.
Bob: And when the tabernacle of God comes and dwells among people, the full understanding of that comes in Christ and, in fact, you pretty much – the first half of the book is the Old Testament, how God related to people throughout the Old Testament, and then you introduce Christ's coming.
Dennis: Let me just read the way he concludes the Old Testament portion of his book. He's speaking about God's people here, Israel – "Rather than being God's own special people, they acted like people who didn't even know God. Even though the prophets urged the people to turn back to God, they still refused to love God and others with all their hearts. Those same prophets began to tell of the One who would come to make things right between people and God again. You see, God would not give up on these people He loved. God knew that as long as people lived their lives for themselves, they would continue to die and be separated from His love forever."
I thought that was so good, Charlie, because you wrapped up the Old Testament by really describing what is the ultimate problem for all of us as human beings. When we reject God, and we disobey Him, and we want to live our lives for ourselves, we're separated from His love. We don't enjoy Him, we don't walk with Him, we don't know Him, and boys and girls need to know that but adults do as well.
Bob: Well, and then as you move into the New Testament, you take a fresh approach to looking at the life and the ministry of Jesus in a way that helps understand how that fits into the whole story of God, because, essentially, He is the story.
Charlie: Yes. We know that people don't become Christians because they keep rules. I don't think we give it as much thought that people don't become Christians because they believe three or four sentences, three or four facts. They have to trust in a person, and so what I've tried to do in the book is to show enough about Jesus to show that He is God with us, and that He provides everything we need to live in friendship with God through His life and death and resurrection, and that He is the kind of person you would want as your friend, and you can trust Him.
Dennis: And yet he is Almighty God as well.
Dennis: And there's another page near the end of your book that I love because, again, you summarize, I think, the entire New Testament on one single page. You say "God has provided us with everything we need to live in friendship with Him," and there's four quadrants again – "A Savior to rescue us from our selfishness and death; the Bible to teach us; His very own Spirit living inside us to guide us – that's speaking about the Holy Spirit obviously; and then the church. You say "A church to encourage us and help us grow in faith."
Charlie, what you've done in your work here, I think, is really pretty cool, because it's easy to write 15 or 20 pages on something like this, but to summarize what God's trying to do in us on a page, "a Savior to rescue us; a Bible to teach us; the Holy Spirit to empower us; and a church to help us grow."
Bob, it's a great illustration of what we, as parents, need to be passing on to our kids of giving them a good theology of the church, of the Holy Spirit, of the Scriptures, and of our Savior, and that's what a parent needs to be doing with his or her child. They need to be introducing them to who God is and what God is up to in individual people's lives, and you put all that in the context of friendship, which, I like that because so much of Christianity today becomes legalistic around rules and regulations, and yet it's appealing because you're saying to a child, "God invites a friendship with you."
Charlie: Yeah, that's a difficult concept for some people to grasp because a lot of times we don't think about friendship with God as being a primary metaphor to describe our relationship with Him, and so one of the talking points in the back, I'd say there are several ways the Bible describes living in a relationship with God. God is our Creator, and we are His people; God is our King, and we are His servants; God is our Shepherd, and we are His sheep; God is our Father, and we are His children; God is like a Husband and we are like His wife. Friendship with God includes all these ideas. Most of all, friendship with God carries the idea of coming to know someone so well that you trust what they say.
Dennis: And, you know what? That's what He's trying to get us to do as adults.
Dennis: Not just kids but get to know him well enough that we can say, "You know what you're doing, God, I don't. I'm going to trust You even when the circumstances don't make any sense to me, but because Your Word says to make right choices and not wrong; to be wise and not foolish, I'm going to trust in You."
Charlie: And that really is the key. I think a lot of times when we think about what happened in the fall, we think about Adam and Eve simply disobeying a rule God made, but what they really did before they ever disobeyed is they quit trusting Him. They didn't trust His goodness, they didn't trust that He was fair, and so they broke faith with Him. Well, then Jesus comes along and makes it very, very clear – God coming in person, that the way back into the relationship through faith. So the relationship was broken by a lack of faith, a lack of trust. We enter back into the relationship with God through faith. It's very consistent.
Bob: And I have to ask you, Charlie, has writing this book changed the way you present the Gospel to grownups?
Charlie: Oh, absolutely. I wanted to know how to share this myself. I wanted to be able to think through the whole Bible and be able to share it simply. And so, yeah, it has definitely changed the way that I share, and I want to share a story-based approach with God as the main character in the story rather than just a few sentences that I say that people have to believe. That's what I've tried to do in the book.
Bob: And it's not that the facts are unimportant, there are things we have to believe in order to be saved. We have to understand who Jesus is and know about Him.
Bob: But it's not simply believing a series of facts, it's trusting a person.
Charlie: It's trusting a person, that's exactly right.
Dennis: And it's presenting that story in a compelling way with pictures, like you've got here. The artist that you chose to help illustrate this book – why did you select him?
Charlie: Well, I actually came across Dennis Davis when we were visiting some churches in Nashville, and he was designing children's space, and we were currently building children's space, and so we had him come down to talk about some things that we might partner with him on, and when I began to talk with him, I found out that he had illustrated "The Beginner's Bible" back in the late '80s. And so I began talking to him about this particular book. He read it, he loved it, loved the concept, wanted to do it, and I had a very particular style that I wanted to do in the book because I want the book to be appealing to ages 3 to 8 or 9, and so I showed him examples of the style, and he said, "I think I can do that."
And so I had him draw me a picture, and illustrate it. He sent it to me, and I said, "You're the man," and so we embarked on our journey together.
Bob: And you've been pleased with the way it turned out, haven't you?
Charlie: Oh, I absolutely am.
Dennis: And I just want to take a moment, and I want to ask you, Charlie, I want you to commission the parents and the grandparents to not only read this book to their children and grandchildren but to introduce them to the King of kings and Lord of lords. Would you commission them right now?
Charlie: Yes. The Bible tells parents, instructs parents, to teach their children about who God is and what He has done for us and what He promises us. And so that's not a job that we should leave to someone else. It's great that we have churches that come alongside us to help us …
Dennis: … right …
Charlie: … and that's why we've provided this resource for parents and teachers. But, as a parent, do not relegate this responsibility to someone else. It is your privilege and your responsibility to introduce your children to Jesus Christ.
Dennis: You know, Charlie, I'm going to predict something here. I am so excited about this book, I think God is going to use this book to literally see tens of thousands of children come into a right relationship with Himself. I have a tremendous heart and always have had for children to come to faith in Christ, and for some reason today, I don't know why it is, but it doesn't seem that there is enough emphasis on explaining who God is, how the Bible works, who Christ is and what the Gospel is in the simplest terms to children so they can believe in a way that's going to result in their eternal salvation. And I think you've put that together in your book and, personally, I'm excited, Bob, that we get a chance to partner in this work, and FamilyLife has a chance to publish it.
Bob: Well, and we've already heard from a lot of our listeners who have contacted us saying they'd like a copy of this book to use either to read to their own children or their grandchildren to use in a Sunday school setting or in a homeschooling setting.
If you'd like to get a copy of the book, "What God Has Always Wanted," go to our website, FamilyLife.com. On the right side of the home page, you'll see a box that says "Today's Broadcast," and if you click the button that says "Learn More," it will take you to an area of the site where you can find out more about Charlie's book, "What God Has Always Wanted."
There is also information there about the book by Susan and Richie Hunt called "Big Truths for Little Kids." We talked about this recently on FamilyLife Today, and many of you contacted us to get a copy of that book. It takes children step-by-step through important doctrines from the Bible and helps them learn them in a way that makes it easy for them to understand what the Bible is talking about.
So, again, there is more information about both of these books on our website, FamilyLife.com. On the right side of the screen where you see "Today's Broadcast," click the button that say "Learn More." That will take you to the area of the site where you can get more information about these books or order online, if you'd like. Or if it's easier, just call 1-800-FLTODAY to place your order. 1-800-358-6329, that's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, and when you contact us, we'll make arrangements to have the resources you need sent out to you.
You know, anyone who has ever prayed the Lord's Prayer or used it as a pattern for prayer knows that part of what we pray is "forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors." The whole issue of forgiveness is a key idea in biblical Christianity, and yet it's often a very difficult thing for people to do, especially folks who have been profoundly wounded by others.
We had an opportunity recently to have a conversation with Nancy Leigh DeMoss, who is the host of the daily radio program, "Revive our Hearts," and who has written a book called "Choosing Forgiveness." We talked with her about this whole concept, and this month we are making a CD of that conversation available when listeners help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today with a donation of any amount.
You can make your donation online or by phone. If you're donating online at FamilyLife.com, when you come to the keycode box on the donation form, type in the word "forgive," and that way we'll know that you'd like to receive this CD of our conversation with Nancy Leigh DeMoss. Or call 1-800-FLTODAY, you can make your donation by telephone and just mention that you'd like the CD on forgiveness. Again, we're happy to send it to you this month as our way of saying thank you for your support of the ministry of FamilyLife Today. We appreciate your financial partnership with us.
Well, tomorrow we're going to talk about one of the attributes of God and how we can display that particular attribute in our own lives. We're going to talk about generous giving. "God so loved the world that He gave," but are we generous givers? Randy Alcorn is going to join us tomorrow to talk about that. I hope you will as well.
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.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas – help for today; hope for tomorrow.
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