Knowing God is the first step to loving Him and living for Him.
It’s not surprising, then, that one of the greatest callings God has given parents is to teach their children to know Him. But how does that happen? How can parents pass along the knowledge of God that leads to faith to the next generation?
For centuries, parents have used the ancient method of learning and reciting questions and answers to teach the core doctrines of the faith. Through a regular rhythm of asking and answering questions about God and His ways, parents can introduce their children to God and help spark a hunger within them to explore the riches of the Scriptures for the rest of their lives.
Cornerstones provides parents with two hundred questions and answers about God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, sin, redemption, the church, restoration, and more. Each question and answer is written to make these foundational doctrines accessible for a child. Additional commentary is provided to equip parents to engage in meaningful conversations about God in everyday life.
|Publisher:||B&H Publishing Group|
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|Age Range:||3 Months to 18 Years|
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Q. What is God?
A. God is creator and ruler of everything.
When you stop and think about it, answering the question of what God is can be pretty challenging. Most of us are so familiar with God that we have forgotten what it was like not to know him. We can't remember when we asked that very question ourselves. That's why our immediate response to this question might be, "Well, God is just ... God." It's about the same response we give when our kids ask us what a food they have never had tastes like. "Well, pork tastes like ... pork." Or why the sky is blue. "It just is."
But when it comes to helping our kids understand what, or who, God is, they will want more than that. They'll need more than that. So where do we begin?
We could answer the question by sharing some of God's attributes — his love, glory, mercy, power, and so forth. But we would quickly realize that there are so many important characteristics of God that our definition would be way too long. It would feel like a laundry list of amazing attributes. Besides, many of God's attributes are pretty complicated themselves and thus would require definitions within our definition. We'll address God's attributes later because they are extremely important to knowing God, but for now, we'll set them aside in answering this fundamental question of what God is.
Perhaps a better approach in answering this question is to focus on one overarching description that is unique to God — a description that provides glimpses of his other important characteristics but that is simple enough for our kids to get their arms around. A description like this: God is creator of everything. After all, that is how God introduced himself to us:
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Gen. 1:1)
Now, that's a pretty simple definition, but when you think about it, it's packed full of helpful jumping-off points to talk over with our kids.
First, it hints at God's power. God created everything! The mountains, the oceans, every grain of sand on every beach in the world, all the animals, trees and plants, people, planets, the sun and moon, all of the stars — all billions and billions of them — everything. This is a God of whom we should be in awe!
Second, it sets God apart as being the only uncreated thing in existence. Everything else has a beginning, but not God. God is unique and special.
Third, it establishes that God has absolute authority over everything — including us. If God is creator, then he owns everything. And if God owns everything, then he gets to make up the rules and be in charge. That idea is critical, and the sooner we help imbed it in our kids' hearts, the better. That's why it is a good idea to add it to our definition.
What is God? God is creator and ruler of everything.
Short and sweet, but foundational truth for our kids.
Genesis 1:1; Hebrews 11:3
Q. Can we know that God exists?
A. Yes, we can know that God exists from evidence in nature and in the Bible and from an inner sense that tells us he does.
Believing in God takes faith, but not blind faith. There's a difference, and it's an incredibly important one. Blind faith says that we have to believe in something without any evidence. We believe it just because we believe it. But faith in God isn't like that. While we cannot point to evidence that completely proves God's existence, he has given us ample proof that makes our faith in God reasonable — rational:
Now without faith it is impossible to please God, since the one who draws near to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. (Heb. 11:6)
Much of that evidence is all around us for everyone to see — creation itself. Let's start by talking about something we are all familiar with — cause and effect. We know that everything has a cause. If you were to walk into the living room and see a broken lamp on the end table, a football on the floor, and your son standing with his hands over his mouth, you might ask, "What happened?" all the while having a pretty good idea of the answer. That's your intuitive awareness of cause and effect. The lamp just didn't fall over broken. There was a cause. And in this case, there is a pretty good chance the cause was your son playing ball in the house.
We see the same law of cause and effect in nature all around us. Trees grow where they are because an acorn once fell on the soil where they stand. Rivers flow into the ocean and don't run out because rain falls in the mountains to replenish them. A chicken is hatched because a hen laid an egg. Everything has a cause. A beginning. The same is true of the world as a whole. The world has a cause and that cause is God, who can be called the uncaused cause because he alone has no cause. This evidence for the existence of God was developed by philosophers centuries ago and is called the cosmological argument for the existence of God.
Nature gives us another helpful piece of evidence for God's existence in its complex design. From the intricate and precise orbit of the planets, to the finely tuned balance of the food chain, to the inner workings of the human body, to the cellular composition of a plant, nature shouts design. And where there is design, there is a designer. Just as we would look at a wristwatch and know there is a watchmaker behind it, we can look at creation and know there is a creator behind it. This is known as the teleological argument for the existence of God.
But we can see God's fingerprints in creation all around us even more plainly. The majesty of a mountain range stirs our hearts, and we just know there is an even more majestic Creator behind them. The mind-boggling size of the universe hints at the infinite size of the Creator who spoke it all into existence. The beauty of a field of wild flowers hints at the unmatched beauty of their Creator.
Nature gives us a good start in knowing God exists, but the Bible provides even more. The Bible was written by more than forty authors who wrote over a span of fifteen hundred years, on three continents, in two main languages. And yet the Bible records one cohesive story of God without contradiction or error. History and archaeology support what the Bible records, and there is greater manuscript evidence for the Bible than any other widely accepted work of antiquity. We can know God exists because the Bible is his story and it is amazingly reliable.
And that takes us to the third type of evidence for the existence of God — our inner sense that he exists. While some may not want to count this as viable evidence for God, it should not be dismissed. First, almost every culture in the world has some awareness of a supreme being or power behind creation. While not everyone knows who God is, almost everyone has an awareness that there is a God. Second, our personal experience with God matters. Skeptics may be able to poke holes in the philosophical evidences of God and rationalize creation with natural causes, but a person's experiences with God cannot be discounted or disproven.
When we put all of this together, we are left with a compelling argument that it is more rational to believe that God exists than to believe he does not.
Romans 1:20; Hebrews 11:6
Q. How many gods are there?
A. There is one true God, and only he deserves worship.
One of the most important passages for the Jewish people in the Bible is known as the Shema. Shema is the Hebrew word for "listen" or "hear," the first word of Deuteronomy 6:4 which begins the passage:
"Listen, Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one."
The Shema is part of the Law that God gave to Israel after he delivered them out of slavery in Egypt. For hundreds of years before that, God's people had lived among a people who worshiped many different gods, and God wanted to set the record straight that there is one and only one true God who is to be worshiped.
It shouldn't be surprising, then, that the Ten Commandments begin with, "Do not have other gods besides me" (Exod. 20:3). God knew that one of the most important truths his people needed to grasp was that all the other gods that people believed in were false. The gods of the Egyptians. The gods of the Hittites, Assyrians, and Babylonians. The gods of the Greeks and Romans. All of the gods that his people would encounter were to be rejected.
Unfortunately, they didn't take this to heart. God's people fell into idolatry over and over again, even creating some of their own false gods, such as the golden calf while Moses was receiving the Law from God (see Exod. 32).
We are no different from the people of Israel in needing to remember that there is one true God who alone deserves worship. There are still religions that worship false gods all around us: Hinduism with its multitude of gods, Buddhism, Islam, and New Age religions, to name a few. It is common today to suggest that all of these religions, and Christianity as well, worship the same god just by different names. But that is not what the one true God says. He is the one true God alone. Every other god is not simply another way to know him; they are all false gods that drive people away from him.
But those are not the only gods we need to avoid turning to. Sometimes we worship gods that don't take the form of a physical idol. Money. Possessions. Sports. Family. Friends. Work. School. Entertainment. Happiness. Ourselves. We are worshipers by nature. We will worship something, whether that is the one true God or the false gods that we find or create. This is why the Shema and the first commandment are so important for our kids to understand. They will be tempted to worship plenty of other things besides God, just like us. But there is only one true God who deserves their worship and our worship. And he is glorious and easy to worship when we know him.
Deuteronomy 6:4; Exodus 20:3
Q. In how many Persons does God exist?
A. God is one God in three Persons.
God is one. We have seen how this truth is clearly taught in Scripture and how important it is. If only it were that easy! God is one, all right, but he is one in three Persons, a teaching often called the Trinity, or the triune nature of God.
So what does the Trinity mean exactly? What does God being one God in three Persons look like? Let's start with what we know:
There is one God, not three.
Each of the three Persons of the Trinity is fully God.
Each of the three Persons of the Trinity is distinct; God is not one person in different roles.
The three Persons of the Trinity perform different acts in time, and even though each of these acts is ultimately done by one God, the Bible distinguishes among the Persons in their actions toward us.
That's about it. If it still isn't clear, that's OK. This is one of the most baffling mysteries of the Christian faith that theologians have been trying to understand for centuries. Books have been written on it. Councils have met to debate it. And yet, we still don't understand much about it at all. And again, that's OK. If we knew all the answers to the questions about God — if we fully knew him — he wouldn't be that amazing, would he? He'd be rather ordinary. So while not having satisfying answers to questions like this one may be frustrating, we can also be grateful for them because they remind us of how much greater God is than us! Our kids don't need us to give them an answer for every question they have; they need us to give them the right answers to their questions when we know them, and they need us to help them wonder in awe at God when we simply don't know them.
You may have heard someone try to explain the Trinity with an analogy such as water and perhaps tried to explain it to your kids the same way. Water, it is said, can be a solid, a liquid, or a gas — three states but one substance. Or the Trinity is like a man who can be a husband, a father, and a son. Or the Trinity is like an egg with the shell, the white, and the yolk. While these illustrations can certainly be appealing, we need to be careful with all of them because they end up teaching something incorrect about the Trinity.
In the water analogy, water takes one form at a time, but the Trinity is three Persons at the same time, all the time. The man is one person who has three different roles in life, but the Trinity is three Persons. And none of the three parts of the egg is completely an egg, but each Person of the Trinity is fully God. In an effort to make the Trinity clearer, we may accidently give our kids the wrong understanding about it, so it's probably best not to try to explain the Trinity with an analogy. Instead we should be content to wrestle with what the Bible teaches us, knowing the Trinity will remain a mystery that we must accept in faith.
But just because we cannot fully understand the mystery of the Trinity doesn't mean we shouldn't try. Some have made that mistake, but it's important that we grow in our understanding of the Trinity as best as we can because it provides us with safeguards for understanding God properly. Remembering that God is one protects us from worshiping false gods, as we have seen. But remembering that God is one in three Persons is critical for recognizing the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ as God. If God were not one in three Persons, then our very salvation itself would unravel.
The Trinity also reveals something fundamentally important about God — that he is relational in his essence! From eternity past, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit have enjoyed a perfectly fulfilling and satisfying relationship — a relationship of complete love, harmony, and unity. God did not create people because he was lonely and craved relationship. He already had perfect relationship within his triune nature! Instead, he created us — at least in part — so that we would be invited into that relationship and experience it ourselves.
That's why the doctrine of the Trinity matters — because it reminds us of God's kindness to create us to be in relationship with him and then to rescue us from sin and death to restore that relationship when we broke it. The Trinity reveals the heart of the gospel to us — the heart that we pray connects with our kids' hearts.
2 Corinthians 13:13; John 14:26
Q. Who are the three Persons of God?
A. The three Persons of God are God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
The three Persons of God are the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. But how do we know that? Or to be more precise, because God the Father being God isn't really in question, how can we know that the Son and Holy Spirit are God? Well, to be quite simple about it, we can know the Son and Holy Spirit are God by observing that they both demonstrate the qualities of being God.
First, here are some of the divine qualities we see in the Son. Jesus demonstrated omniscience, or knowing all things, when he knew the thoughts of others (Mark 2:8). He claimed to be able to forgive sins, which only God can do (Mark 2:9–11). He received worship, which is only appropriate for God to do (Matt. 14:33; 21:9; 28:9; Rev. 5:8–10). He is described as being eternal (John 1:1–2), the creator of everything (John 1:3; Col. 1:16), and the One who holds all things together (Col. 1:17). These are all qualities only God possesses, so if Jesus possesses them, he is God.
And now here are some of the Holy Spirit's divine qualities. The Spirit is eternal (John 14:16). He is omnipresent, or not confined to being in one place at a time (Ps. 139:7–8), and he is omniscient (1 Cor. 2:10). And like Jesus, the Holy Spirit is recognized as God (Acts 5:3–4). Again, the Holy Spirit possesses qualities that reveal he is God.
So we can see that there is plenty of evidence for the Son and Holy Spirit being God. But actually, we could have just turned to one verse to verify that the Son and Holy Spirit are God — Matthew 28:19. These are the final words of instruction Jesus gave his disciples, that we call the Great Commission:
"Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."
As Christians, we are instructed to make disciples and baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit — placing them as equals while at the same time reminding us that these three Persons are different.
Knowing that Jesus is God is, of course, essential for salvation. If Jesus were not God, he would not have been able to live a life of total obedience to the Father and pay the penalty of sin for others in his death. But we cannot look past the importance of the Holy Spirit being God too. Because the Holy Spirit is God, he is able to be with all Christians permanently and encourage, comfort, and guide us as we, and our kids, so desperately need.
God the Father is God. God the Son is God. God the Holy Spirit is God. Fully and in perfect harmony.
Matthew 28:19; Ephesians 4:4–6
Excerpted from "Cornerstones Parent Guide"
Copyright © 2018 Brian Dembowczyk.
Excerpted by permission of B&H Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
The Church And Last Things,