Encourages and enables parents of children 6-14 years of age to teach through the whole of systematic theology in an understandable, chapter-a-day format.
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About the Author
Bruce A. Ware (PhD, Fuller Theological Seminary) is professor of Christian theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has written numerous journal articles, book chapters, book reviews, and has authored God's Lesser Glory, God's Greater Glory, and Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
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God's Word and God's Own Life as Go
God Has Made Himself Known
Has anyone ever kept a secret from you? Maybe it was a birthday present or a special trip you were going to take or what your mom was planning to fix for dinner. If you've had this happen to you, then you can understand how important it is for others to tell us things that we cannot know unless they make it known. No matter how much you might want to know the secret, until someone tells you, you just cannot know what it is.
It is this way with knowing who God is. The only way that we could be thinking together about the greatness of God in this book is because God has shared with us the secret of who he is. We cannot discover who God is or figure him out on our own. We aren't smart enough to do this, and God is way too big for us even to try. One of the very first things we must learn about God is very humbling, and it is this: unless God had decided to show us who he is, unless he had chosen to make known his own life and ways, we simply could know nothing — yes, nothing! — about him. We are dependent completely on God's kindness and goodness to make himself known to us, and for this we ought to be grateful every day of our lives. After all, there is no one more important and more wonderful to know than God. So how thankful we must be that God did not keep to himself, as it were. Rather, he showed us in rich and wonderful ways just who he is.
The Bible talks about several different ways that God has made him-self known to us. One of the ways God has shown us some things about himself is through the world he has made. Psalm 19:1–2 says, "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge." And in Romans 1:19–20 Paul adds, "For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse." As these passages teach, some of the very qualities of God's own life are shown through the world and the universe that he fashioned.
Think with me about some of the qualities of God that we can see by looking at different parts of the world in which we live. When you look closely at a flower, for example, you can see the knowledge and wisdom and beauty of God. How very, very smart God is! God is the one who figured out how to make living things grow, and they all grow according to a lot of very complicated rules that he put into every living thing. The flower we are thinking about came from a small seed, was planted in the ground and watered, and in time grew to be a beautiful, colorful flower. All of its beauty, and each of its parts, has come to be because God has designed just exactly how it would grow from that seed to the full flower. Indeed, God's knowledge is vast, his wisdom is beyond our ability to understand, and his beauty is shown in all of the beautiful flowers, butterflies, trees, and mountains of our world.
We've thought about something on the small side — a flower — so why don't we also consider something big. Think with me about the stars you can see at night. Maybe you live in the country where there are not many city lights, or maybe you've taken a trip out into the woods or to the top of a mountain. On a clear night, when you see all of those stars, it sort of takes your breath away, doesn't it? And to think that we can see only a very, very small number of the stars that are actually there. Just in our own galaxy (the Milky Way) where the earth and solar system are located, scientists estimate that there are about ten billion stars. And the Milky Way is an average-sized galaxy in a universe that contains hundreds of millions of galaxies. Wow! We cannot understand all of this, but it shows us how great and expansive and powerful God is — he made this universe simply by speaking it into existence. Yes, the heavens surely do tell us of the glory of God. His power and wisdom and beauty and greatness — indeed, his Godness — are all seen through what he has made.
Do you remember the story of Job? Job was a very wealthy and powerful man, but to test Job, God allowed Satan to take nearly everything from Job, even giving him sores and boils on his whole body. Job wondered why this happened to him, and he came very close to blaming God. Toward the end of the book of Job, God confronted Job and humbled this man who nearly accused God of doing what was wrong. God asked of Job, "Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements — surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy? Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb, when I made clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band, and prescribed limits for it and set bars and doors, and said, 'Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed'?" (Job 38:4–11). Consider the greatness of the universe God made, and how detailed and exact everything is that God has fashioned! We truly do learn much about God's greatness and glory just by noticing the world all around us.
Another way God has made himself known is through how he has made us, his human creatures. Many things about our own bodies — how amazing are our eyes and ears and heart and brain and on and on — also tell us about God's wisdom and power, just as with the rest of creation. But in addition to this, God has made us with a deep inner understanding of things that are right and things that are wrong. When we lie to our brother or sister or to our parents, we can tell inside of us that this is wrong to do. When we clean up our room or take out the garbage when our mom or dad ask us to, we know in our heart that this is the right thing to do. Where did this inner understanding of right and wrong come from? In Romans 2:14–15 Paul writes, "For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them." His point is this: people who don't even have someone telling them that it's wrong to lie or wrong to steal or wrong to murder still know in their own hearts about these things. God has taken something of his own standards of right and wrong and placed them in every human heart. So, not only is God powerful and wise and great, he also is holy and righteous and good. When we do wrong, we have no excuse, because we know from the inside that we should do what is right. God put this into our lives so we would know about right and wrong and so we would know that we are held responsible for what we do. But this also tells us about God — he always does what is right and good and worthy of praise. God is both great, and he is good.
Questions for Thought
1. Can you think of some parts of creation that show just how great or powerful or wise or beautiful God is? What do they show about God, and how do they do this?
2. Have you ever noticed that little voice of your conscience within you warning you not to do something wrong or encouraging you to do what is right? Can you think of any examples from the past week when you noticed this?
Psalm 19:1 —"The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork."
God Talks — The Bible Is God's True and Lasting Word
We've just learned that God has made known to us something of himself both through the world he has made and through the sense of right and wrong that he put into every human life. God's greatness, wisdom, power, and beauty are shown in the created world. And God's holiness, righteousness, goodness, and justice are shown through the senses of right and wrong we all have. So yes, God is both great, and God is good. He acts with power, but he always does what is right.
Notice, though, that both of these ways that God has made himself known to us come through his actions — we know he is great and good because we see these qualities shown in what he has made. But there is another amazing way that God has made himself known to us, and it is this: God talks! One of the first things we learn about God in the opening chapter of the Bible is that God is a talking God. For each of the days of creation, he brings about what he makes by speaking. Have you noticed this? The first one comes in Genesis 1:3, "And God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light." And the words, "And God said" are repeated in verses 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24, and 26, where each of the special acts of creation are brought about when God speaks. We learn from this that God's word is powerful and active, and it is meant to create what is new and glorious, not only to instruct.
Knowing that God is a talking God helps us understand better one of the most important and precious possessions we have in all of life — our Bible. We can far too easily ignore the Bible or spend too little time reading it and learning from it. But when we realize what it really is, we desire to spend much more time learning just what the Bible says. Why? Because the Bible is where we hear what God says. Yes, it is true. What the Bible says is what God says; as the Bible speaks to us, God speaks to us. One of the most important ways that God has spoken is through the very pages of the Bible itself. Consider with me a few verses that help us see this.
Paul describes the Bible this way in 2 Timothy 3:16–17: "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work." Notice that Paul says "all" of Scripture — not just part of it, but all of it — comes from God. So we should see the Bible as a different kind of book from any other book there is. In the entire Bible, God tells us what he wants us to know. Not just parts of the Bible come from God, but all of it is God's own word to us. Also, notice that the Bible is "breathed out by God." This is a way of saying that it comes from God's own mouth. God speaks and breathes out the very books that form the Bibles that we have. Of course, human writers are responsible for writing these books also (we'll say a bit more about this in a minute), but here Paul's main point is that the Bible should be seen as God's Word.
Look next at what Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 2:13: "And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers." This helps us because Paul shows that the word spoken to these Thessalonian believers really was God's Word, even though it was spoken to them by Paul. So the Bible is the word of certain men, to be sure. But because God is working through those men as they speak and write, the Bible is really "the word of God," as Paul says.
But how can the Bible be from men but really from God? How can we be sure that humans who spoke and wrote actually have spoken and written what God wanted them to express, so we can be sure that the Bible really and truly is God's Word? Our answer comes from a very helpful statement by the apostle Peter. In 2 Peter 1:20–21 Peter writes, "no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit." Here is our answer. The Holy Spirit of God, who lives in the lives of all of those who trust in Christ, did a special work in producing the Bible. As Peter says here, the authors of Scripture, who spoke forth the prophesies of the Bible and all of its teachings, were "carried along by the Holy Spirit" as they wrote. So, what they wrote was not as much from them as it was from the Holy Spirit who moved them to write what they did. In this way the Bible is from human authors but even more from God. God, by his Spirit, worked in these writers so that these "men spoke from God" as they wrote the books that we now have in our Bibles. This doesn't take away from the fact that Moses and Isaiah and Paul and Peter and many others wrote different books of the Bible. But it means that with these books, unlike any other books, God worked by his Spirit to make sure that what they wrote would be exactly what he wanted.
Go back again for a minute to something else that was said in 2 Timothy 3:16–17. Not only does Paul say that all of the Bible is "breathed out by God" and so is God's Word, he also says that the Bible is "profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work." His point is this: because the Bible is from God, it is also very helpful and useful in causing us to grow as we should. Or think of it like this: because the Bible is what it is (it is the Word of God), it can do what it does (it is profitable to help us grow and be equipped for every good work). But if the Bible were not really the Word of God, we could not be sure that it would work in these positive ways to help us to grow. What the Bible is (the Word of God) enables it to do what it does (help us to grow).
God is a talking God, and how thankful we should be that he "talked" into the very pages of the Bible all of the teachings that he wanted his people to know. How foolish we are when we forget to read and study this book. But how wise and blessed we are when we go to this book constantly for instruction, guidance, correction, and help with living life as God wants. We should thank God every day that the Bible is his Word, that the Bible has the power to help us grow. And we should commit ourselves to knowing the Bible better all the time, so we can learn all that God has for us and live in ways that honor him and bring blessing to our own lives.
Questions for Thought
1. How important is it to believe that the Bible is fully God's Word while it also is the writings of different human authors? That is, why does it matter that the Bible is from God but was also written by men?
2. Since the Bible really is God's Word, that is, since God really talks to us through what is written in the Bible, what should our attitude be to listening to the Bible when it is read? When reading the Bible for ourselves? When hearing the Bible taught and preached?
2 Timothy 3:16–17 —"All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work."
God Is God Apart from Us
God is so amazingly great, so perfectly strong, and so completely different from everyone and everything else that he is able to live fully as God without any help from anyone or anything. God doesn't need air to breathe or food to eat or water to drink. He doesn't need help with the work that he decides to do. Rather, God always has, within his own life, everything he needs for being who he is as God and for doing all that he chooses to do. He doesn't need anything at all in the whole world, even though everything in the world needs God. So, God is God — completely and perfectly — without anything in the world helping God to be God.
It is hard to think of God this way, but it is important to learn that this is who God really is. Everything else, and everyone else, in all of the world has to depend on certain things or on certain people. If we listed all of the things we need — things that we don't have in our own lives but must receive in order to live and to do what we want to do — we would be amazed at how long the list would be. But God has no such list! Nothing in the entire world can add to God or can give to God something that he lacks. He has everything — yes, everything! — that really is good, and he has all of this within his own life as God. There is not one single good quality that is not contained within God's own life as God. Anything you can think of that really is good — all truth, all wisdom, all power, all kindness, all love, all righteousness, and every other good thing — is in the very life of God, and it always has been this way. It is simply impossible for God to lack any good thing, because by his very life and being he is the one who has everything that truly and really is good. So, God is God, fully and completely, apart from us and apart from the world that he has made.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Big Truths for Young Hearts"
Copyright © 2009 Bruce A. Ware.
Excerpted by permission of Good News Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Introduction: On Raising Children to Know and Love God through,
Raising Them to Know and Love Theology,
1 God's Word and God's Own Life as God,
God Has Made Himself Known,
God Talks–The Bible Is God's True and Lasting Word,
God Is God Apart from Us,
God Is God with Us,
Some Truths about God's Richness That Make Him God,
Some Truths about God's Kindness That Make Him God,
2 God as Three in One,
There Is Only One God,
One God in Three Persons,
The Father Is God,
The Son Is God,
The Holy Spirit Is God,
How the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit Relate,
3 Creator and Ruler of All,
Who Made the World? God (the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) Did,
God Rules the World He Has Made,
God Provides All Good Things in the World,
God Controls All Bad Things in the World,
Our Responsibility in the World God Controls,
Pain and Suffering in the World God Controls,
4 Our Human Nature and Our Sin,
Men and Women, Boys and Girls-God's Masterpieces,
What It Means to Be Made in God's Image,
Other Features of Being Human,
How Sin Came into Our World and What Sin Is,
How Sin Has Spread to All People,
The Punishment for Our Sin,
5 Who Jesus Is,
A Person Who Was Alive Long Before He Was Born,
The Incarnation-God and Man Together,
How Jesus Emptied Himself in Becoming Also a Man,
Jesus Lived in the Power of the Spirit,
Jesus Resisted Temptation, Living a Sinless Life,
What Christians of the Early Church Came to Believe about Christ,
6 The Work That Jesus Has Done,
Jesus' Death Shows God's Justice and His Mercy toward Our Sin,
Jesus Paid the Full Penalty for Sin,
Jesus' Victory over Satan by His Payment for Sin,
Jesus' Resurrection: The Proof That Christ's Death for Sin Worked,
Jesus Is King over All,
But Is Jesus Really the Only Savior?,
7 The Holy Spirit,
The Work of the Holy Spirit in Old Testament Times,
Old Testament Promises of Future Spirit Transformation,
The Spirit on Jesus and on Jesus' Followers,
The Holy Spirit Gives New Life in Christ,
The Holy Spirit Unites Believers Together in Christ,
The Holy Spirit Fills Believers to Live for Christ,
8 Our Great Salvation,
God's Kindness and Wisdom in Choosing Some to Save,
"Sirs, What Must I Do to Be Saved?",
Declared Right in God's Eyes When We Believe,
Made More Like Christ through All of Our Lives,
Saved by Good Works? No-Saved for Good Works? Yes,
But Must People Know about and Believe in Christ to Be Saved?,
9 The Church of Jesus Christ,
Jesus Is the Lord of the Church,
A People of the New Covenant,
Communities of Christians Who Worship and Serve Together,
Baptism: Picturing Jesus' Death and Resurrection,
The Lord's Supper: Remembering Jesus' Death and Resurrection,
Growing the Church through Making Disciples,
10 What Will Take Place in the End,
Knowing the Future Helps in the Present,
What Happens to Grandma When She Dies?,
The Promise-Keeping God and the Salvation of Israel,
Jesus Will Come Again,
The Suffering of Hell and the Joys of Heaven,
God's Greatness and Glory Shown Forever and Ever,
What People are Saying About This
"This is a great book for children and their parents on the classic doctrines of the faith. I heartily recommend it to every parent!"
Dennis Rainey,President and CEO, FamilyLife; Host, FamilyLife Today; author, Stepping Up
"My conversion and discipleship as a young girl were significantly influenced by my parents reading to our family a book that taught biblical doctrine to children in a systematic way. The church today must be intentional in passing on to the next generation the core and precious beliefs on which our Christian faith rests. To neglect that responsibility is to leave those who come behind us vulnerable to every wind of (false) doctrine and to risk their rejecting our faith altogether. Big Truths for Young Hearts is a rich resource for parents, teachers, and others who care about helping the next generation know and love God and his ways. In addition to being a theology course for children and young people, it is also a great refresher course for adults."
Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author; Teacher and Host, Revive Our Hearts
"Imagine a respected theologian devoting himself to training a new generation of pastors and scholars in the seminary classroom. Now imagine him driving home at night to teach that profound theology in simple terms to his children at their bedsides. Now imagine this father compiling those bedside conversations into a book available to all pastors, parents, and children alike. Imagine no more. My friend Dr. Bruce Ware has done it."
C.J. Mahaney, Senior Pastor, Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville
"I praise God that this book has been written and that a person of Bruce Ware's theological stature has taken seriously the potential of theological training in the first two decades of life. Although this tool can serve different instructional venues, I cannot help but see the gift this is to Christian parents and to dads in particular who are charged with the spiritual instruction of their children. The foreword alone is worth the price of this book and more than enough inspiration to follow Bruce's example in the faithful instruction of his two daughters. What Christian father would not want to be remembered by his adult children as a man who loved the gospel and who faithfully imparted the truth on which they now firmly stand. Dear brothers, imagine the impact on future generations if our children could grasp what has taken some of us decades to understand. Take this beautifully written, Bible-saturated, God-centered, theologically comprehensive summary of the truth and teach it diligently to your children, and until your children leave your home talk of it when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up."
David Michael,Founder, Children Desiring God, Minneapolis, MN
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
In Big Truths for Young Hearts, Bruce Ware talks about the basics of the faith for young people. I hesitate to say children, because I think of children as 10 years of age and younger. The topics that Mr. Ware covers are God's Word, the Trinity, God as Creator, Human Nature and Sin, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, salvation, and the church. He covers all the bases. All the subtopics are important ones that young adults need to understand. The short essays address the questions well and thoroughly. They would be more easily read independently than aloud. If you wanted to read them aloud as a family, I would read ahead and consider where you wish to pause and discuss. I would also read while encouraging your children to stop you when they don't understand so that you might pause and address their questions. This book might also be a good reference for you as a parent if your children ask questions that you aren't sure how to answer or can't remember the biblical references for (as often happens to me). You could also use it to guide your family worship and ground your children in sound doctrine. It is important for them to know what they believe and understand God's Word. It is easy to get carried away by emotions and experience and the scripture says that Proverbs 22:6 NIV Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it. That is our hope as parents--that if we teach our children, then they would choose as adults to walk with the Lord. And it is our responsibility. I have been pondering the question of how much we should teach our children and want them to learn and understand. How much can they understand? Sometimes we expect too little of them, but we can also expect too much. This is a book that will help you answer a lot of tough questions kids can face about God as they grow up and want to understand. What we and our children believe about God, the Bible, and who God is will help us all when our hearts fail us. Doctrine--what we believe about God--matters. This is a book about doctrine. It isn't a Bible story book. It may be a book that you will pick up with your fifth grader and realize that it is not connecting with them. So, you set it down for a year or two and come back to it when they are older and more mature--emotionally and intellectually. I find that is the case with many good and helpful books. It is also a book that may help you understand how to explain the basics of the Christian faith to someone who doesn't believe in God when they have questions. I find that often books written for children are very helpful. This is a book with much potential, whose purpose depends on the person in whose hands it is. For my family, it will probably be a reference more than a read aloud devotional. I may also hand it to one of my children to read if they have specific questions. I know many families for whom I think this book would be a great fit for family worship times and devotionals. Please note that I received a complimentary copy of Big Truths for Young Hearts from Crossway Books for review.
They say the true test of understanding a subject is being able to teach it to others. I¿ve discovered through parenting that being able to teach a subject to children is an even greater test. You have to strip concepts down to bare basics in order to build further understanding on top of this foundation. For many topics this is a challenge, perhaps none more important and challenging than theology. We want to instill a knowledge, love and understanding for the things of God in our children, but quite honestly often stumble and search for the right words to teach them.In Big Truths for Young Hearts, Bruce A. Ware does a phenomenal job of presenting these truths of Scripture in a manner that is understandable to children. The book, targeted to children ages 9 and up, covers the following topics:-God¿s Word and God¿s Own Life as God-God as Three in One-Creator and Ruler of All-Our Human Nature and Our Sin-Who Jesus Is-The Work that Jesus Has Done-The Holy Spirit-Our Great Salvation-The Church of Jesus Christ-What Will Take Place in the EndEach topic is covered in six, bite-size chapters, with a couple of discussion questions and a relevant memory verse at the end of each chapter. While Ware writes from a more Reformed theological perspective, much of what he presents is very basic doctrine and does not go into doctrines such as election, predestination, or various interpretations of eschatology. Because of this, he is able to focus more on the fundamentals of the Christian faith without getting bogged down in what, for the target age group, could be very confusing nuances.I appreciated the respect that he shows to his young readers and their parents by not watering down each topic with the overuse of illustrations. Too many children¿s books oversimplify the truths of Scripture to make the book more appealing. Ware goes straight to the Scriptures in patiently discussing and explaining harder-to-grasp truths. I will say that this book is probably not one that an average 9-year old could sit down to read alone and understand completely. I would recommend, as Ware does in his introduction, that parents and children read it together, allowing time for ¿discussing these rich truths.¿ (p.14) It is also good for discussion in group settings such as in a Sunday School class. Our church uses this book for a Wednesday evening children¿s class and both teachers have commented to me that the book is an excellent resource.Big Truths for Young Hearts is an excellent book for teaching the fundamentals of faith not only to children, but for any person seeking to get a better grasp of Biblical doctrine. I would highly recommend this book without reservation.(Many thanks to Crossway for providing a review copy of this book.)
Our whole childrens' ministry at our church is going through this book. Great turnout so far.
As a Children's Director I recommend this book to have as a resource in your own personal library and as a parent it is a must have. Using this book with your children will give them a true understanding of our GREAT GOD.