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Feeding the family in God’s Word

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Fall 2020 brings a new parenting season for Stephanie and me. We just sent our third son to college. The house is much more quiet.

We’re not empty nesters yet. We still have our 13-year old Autumn to keep us young and to liven up the home.

We started teaching the Bible to our oldest son over twenty years ago. Looking back, I can see that each child gets a different mix of Bible exposure depending on the seasons of Bible engagement that Stephanie and I are experiencing.

If you have multiple children, the important lesson is this. As long as moms and dads are consistently growing and feeding themselves from the word of God, each child will get something beneficial… even though it may be different.

There are some things we taught our oldest son that the younger one did not hear. And there are themes our younger son experienced that the older brothers did not.

My oldest son remembers discussions about archangels and David’s mighty men. My youngest son doesn’t remember these discussions. My youngest son got a heavy dose of the book of Revelation in his high school years – the oldest brother, not so much.

My oldest memorized scriptures and attended children’s Bible classes at church. The younger one missed the scripture memory classes but has sat through more big-picture teaching of the Bible. Our middle son caught some of both ends.

And Autumn – she’s likely to get some different experiences based on the nuances of mom and dad’s evolving Bible engagement journey. But while the content and Bible engagement formats may vary, there are some common elements.

Feeding your family God’s Word is like feeding your family nutritionally. Just as we enjoy different types of meals, we need different ways to engage the Bible at home. Following are forms of spiritual food we have relied on over the years to feed our family.

[Warning: there are some flaws with the analogy – spiritual food and physical food. If you’re a nutrition geek, organic snob, or sugar cop – try not to overthink these comparisons. I trust you’ll get the big idea.]

We need solid, nutritious food. Meat, potatoes, vegetables, bread. We eat solid spiritual food when we engage the Bible – directly, wholly, fully.

We do this by reading the Bible. I call it “raw” Bible reading. Make sure some of this food is without all the extra spices and sauces – no commentaries, study guides, talking head videos, cartoons or podcasts. These add-ons are OK and sometimes helpful, but learning to read the Bible plain is worth so much.

The older the children become, the more of their diet should be solids. As soon as children are able to read, we encourage them to take bites… reading with mom and dad, or on their own.

Eventually they graduate to volume reading. Maybe it’s reading through the book of John – a few chapters a day. Or it could a New Testament reading challenge. Or a one-year Bible reading plan.

Or maybe it’s my 60-day Power Read challenge – reading the Bible from cover to cover in 60 days. (Yes, kids can read the entire Bible – check out some videos).

And while I’m a fan of the Bible apps and digital reading formats, I prefer some time with the hand-held Bible. One that sits in the lap, and rests on the nightstand. And if it collects dust at times, that’s normal. A dusty Bible is a reminder that it needs to be opened and read.

In additional to raw Bible reading, these solid intakes might include a book study with a small group or church group – studying Philippians or Romans or Revelation. Or maybe it’s an Old Testament survey course at church.

Just spending time in the Bible – this is solid food. Taking big bites, chewing it up. This is how children learn to navigate their way around the pages. This is where they learn how to find the book of Ruth… or Micah… or Ephesians.

This is where children gain the confidence that the Bible can be read. It doesn’t mean that they understand it entirely – but they’re not scared of it. The book is familiar to them.

As they become young adults one day, they will understand and appreciate how the Bible provides the core nutrition that keeps them spiritually alive.

(Another way to say this is – a diet without solids is how you become spiritually dead.)

We need snacks, too. We all like snacks, don’t we? Especially children. These are the munchies between the meals.

Again, try not to let your nutrition concerns ruin this illustration. For normal folks like me, this is popcorn, cereal bars, chips & queso, etc. (If you have to, think of dried fruits and nuts.)

These are the Bible stories before bed, short devotions at the breakfast table. It might be reading directly from the Bible – but it doesn’t have to be. It might be sharing a Bible story or passage from memory. It might be reading from a daily devotion booklet, or even an inspirational social media post.

Bible snacks are breaks throughout the day that keep our Bible appetite strong and always looking forward to the next solid meal.

(Snacks are great. But a diet of only snacks and no solid food – not so great.)

We need water. We take sips of water all day long. This helps to wash down the solids and allow nutrition to travel through the body.

This water consists of the spoken biblical ideas and principles shared at home constantly throughout our days. These are the words of biblical encouragement, prayers at meals and before bed, scriptures that we quote from memory, basic everyday conversations as a family. This spiritual water reflects the theology and doctrines that we believe and hold true.

It’s when a child disobeys and we take time to explain sin and separation from God. It’s when daddy gets angry and needs to model forgiveness. It’s when we learn of a tragic death – and we speak truth of eternity, heaven and the afterlife.

These discussions are sipping water from the cup of truth that permeates our belief system about God.

You don’t need a Bible in your lap to share this kind of living water. It flows from your mouth. It comes from your heart and soul. It’s your family’s deepest thoughts, beliefs and convictions about God. You naturally pour out this wisdom for your children and they learn to drink it, too.

You can post these ideas and beliefs on notes on the bathroom mirror or the refrigerator (“God loves you”). You text them to your teens or college students before their big chemistry exam (“God has plans for your life”). You provide these sips into the conversation at meals, while driving across town in the family van, or just before going to bed (“honey, God sees you and hears your prayers”).

It’s important that we authentically live a life consistent with this holy water. If not, our children will find this water to be bitter – and they’ll spit it out.

We need sweets. Who doesn’t like a sweet treat of ice cream, cookies or candy? Yes, these are different than snacks.

Sweets are like rewards. They bring us together. They make life fun. And they allow families to rally around the very thing we treasure – God’s holy word.

We can’t live on sweets alone but they sure make life interesting. This includes watching Christian movies (or cartoons), attending Bible museums, enjoying a Christian concert.

For our family, these have been trips to the Creation Museum (Answers in Genesis ministry has fed our family lots of sweets); live theatre shows (the story of Samson… or Moses); box office movies by the Kendrick Brothers (Courageous, Facing the Giants), home movies during holidays (Christmas, Easter) featuring the gospel or crucifixion stories, etc.

These are fun activities for the family that keep us inspired and growing together in our faith. We wash them down with water (our shared and spoken beliefs) and we complement them with the solid foods (reading of the Word).

Word-based families are always finding ways to feed the family. Be creative. Seek variety. And have fun.

Give yourself grace as needed (parenting is not a journey of perfection). But don’t be lazy either. Without spiritual food, our children will starve.

These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:6-9)