Winning at Home

Dan SeabornBy Dan Seaborn13 Minutes

Excerpt taken from WINNING AT HOME: Tackling the Topics that Confuse Kids and Scare Parents by Dan Seaborn.

Chapter 6
Developing an Appreciation for Scripture

 All Christian parents want to create a home environment where their kids learn about and appreciate Scripture, but many struggle to actually do it. There are plenty of factors that make it hard: families are so busy that there isn’t much time to be intentional about taking time to focus on Scripture; the messages from our world and culture drown out the truth of God’s Word; and it’s hard to find organic teaching moments that connect more than superficially. If you’ve been running into one of these barriers, or others not listed here, this chapter will give you some practical ways to help your kids engage with Scripture. Steve Norman will be joining me in addressing this topic. Steve and I have both served as pastors for multiple decades, and we both have four kids—so we’ve each spent time working to tackle this problem head-on and will share some of the practical ways we’ve engaged with Scripture in our homes. But first, we want to share a few “big picture” principles that guide how we engage with God’s Word.

 Basic Principles

As parents, we can only give away what we have. We’re going to start strong right out of the gate with a challenge to every parent reading this: If you want your kids to embrace, value, and digest Scripture, you have to set that example. You need to make spending time in the Bible a priority in your personal faith journey and in your marriage. The reality is that having your kids in church once a week or sending them to a Christian school is not a replacement for your personal relationship with God being lived out under your own roof. What your kids see, hear, and experience at home will be what they consider “normal,” so be sure to set a good example with your own reading of the Bible and applying it to your life.

Additionally, think about all the other things you’ve taught your kids over the years. You taught them how to talk, dress themselves, feed themselves, ride a bike, and swim. You taught them how to behave in public and how to share toys with friends and siblings. What all those things have in common is that you were teaching them a skill you already had yourself. You couldn’t teach your kids to talk until you knew how to talk. You can’t teach your kids how to shave time off their 50-meter butterfly if you don’t know how to do anything fancier than a dog paddle. In the same way, you have to be in the Word if you want to be able to teach your kids biblical truths. If you want your kids to value Scripture, you have to set the example by being ahead of them on the spiritual journey. You need to help lead and guide them as they grow, learn, and struggle.

For every parent reading this, we’d like to encourage you to take a moment to think about your own practice of reading, meditating on, and memorizing Scripture. Before you can apply it to our life, you have to know what the Bible says. As you read this chapter about how to help your kids develop an appreciation for Scripture, we’re challenging you to first evaluate your own. When you run into a dilemma, how many other sources do you seek out for advice before you turn to God or read His Word? When you’re confronted with the fact that your behavior is out of alignment with God’s standard, how do you react? Do you get defensive, minimize, or deflect? Or do you choose to submit and surrender, even when it’s hard and frustrating? None of us does this the right way all the time, but if you want your kids to grow in this area, you absolutely have to lead by example!

Scripture must be seen as dynamic and life-giving.

The Bible is God’s Living Word; it’s not a formula or a math problem. In other words, while  God’s truth is unchanging, we will hear what it is saying with fresh ears at different seasons in life. The Bible is not at all similar to a novel or a textbook that you can read one time and absorb all the useful or important information. If you’re having a hard time wrapping your head around this idea, think about how different verses about anxiety or mourning seem to jump off the page at you when you’re going through a tough time in life. Helping your kids learn this will have a huge impact on their understanding of when, why, and how to read the Bible.

If they think of it as just another list of rules rather than a way to actively hear from God, your kids won’t view the Bible as something to turn to when life is tough. They may actually start to view it like Job’s friends did while he was going through incredibly difficult times in life: as a way to explain why Job was facing such difficulties. But because Job’s relationship with God was personal—not just a religious intellectual understanding—He helped Job see that His Word reminds us that He is with us even in our difficulties!

Scripture should inform our family lives in moments of discernment.

This almost goes without saying, but life is confusing. And the Word of God is a gift in moments where we need clarity. The Bible speaks specifically to many situations we may find ourselves in—and when we can find that direction, it definitely makes it easier to know the way forward. But there are also lots of circumstances we will face that don’t have a clear-cut answer in the Bible—and that’s actually one of the reasons continually engaging with Scripture is so valuable. It gives us perspective on God’s character. The more we know what God is like and what He cares about, the easier it will be for us to use that information to make decisions when it’s hard to know what we should do. Books like Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Paul’s letters inform how we can navigate confusing moments in life.

Scripture should inform our family lives in times of crisis.

The Gospels, the Old Testament prophets, and Psalms are a huge gift to the people of God in times of trial. They remind us of the call of God as well as the reality of suffering. All of Scripture speaks to this, but these specific books really focus on God’s faithfulness and the Holy Spirit’s ability to empower us when we’re stuck. When it’s time to make tough decisions, our first response is often to depend on some of our deepest and most natural habits. That will usually mean we try to control as much of the situation as possible. When control and a quick fix are our goals, it’s tempting to put our faith to the side until we’ve dealt with the crisis. But if we can stay disciplined and avoid that initial impulse, we can set a better example for our kids to see as we instead choose to make these decisions through the lens of our faith and by taking God’s Word seriously.

Scripture reflection should be both meals and snacks.

Sometimes it’s good to have a verse to think about in the car, or a line that younger kids can sing. But it’s also important to make sure we’re hearing and appreciating passages of Scripture in context. Based on where our kids are in their developmental stages, we can pursue unique approaches to biblical engagement. People generally fall into two categories when it comes to discipline. Some are good about  taking a day-by-day, consistent approach to things like eating well and exercising. Others are much more all-or-nothing and try to “make up” for less healthy decisions with sweeping changes or extreme, short-term diet or exercise binges. What we’re advocating here is that you don’t approach reading your Bible that way. Instead, use a combined approach in which you consistently engage with Scripture, and also dig deeper sometimes as a family.

God meets us in Scripture through our highs and our lows.

 There is a temptation for Christians to pretend life is always great. Think of the phrase “I’m too blessed to be stressed.” When we hear those kinds of ideas over and over, it can make us think there’s something wrong with us if we’re discouraged, angry, sad, or worn out. We think we are supposed to paste a smile on our faces and be ready to tell anybody who asks that we’re doing great. But what we see in Scripture is a willingness to discuss the highs and lows of life.

We see Jesus mourning and experiencing agony. He mourned the death of His friend Lazarus before He raised him from the dead (John 11:33–36). He wept as He looked out over the city of Jerusalem and wished the people would repent and turn to God (Luke 19:41–44). In the Garden of  Gethsemane, He agonized over His coming crucifixion to the point that He sweat drops of blood (Luke 22:41–44). The fact that Jesus Himself experienced these deep negative emotions should show us that negative emotions in and of themselves are normal and healthy to feel. The issue we run into is that we often overreact when we feel a negative emotion, and we do or say something that we end up regretting. That definitely should be addressed, but it’s important to understand that Scripture has multitudes of references to people (and God!) experiencing negative emotions. In other words, the emotions themselves aren’t inappropriate, but our unhealthy responses are.

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