I continue my series of posts for fathers of young children. With you in mind, I write these infrequently knowing how busy you are. Welcome!
This is definitely a “God, Jesus, Bible” topic. You gotta have it. If I were the devil, I would: 1) want you to think of the Bible as something you have to do in a burdensome way, not something you get to do in a refreshing way; 2) think of reading the Bible as a heavy, difficult thing; 3) make you feel guilty for not trudging your way through. This way, when you actually take it up, you’re already a bit tired, likely trying to rush, and most interested in doing the minimum to get rid of that guilt.
Before you can open the Bible to your kids you need to open it to yourself, and if it’s a burden for you it will be the same for them. You can only give what you have. Jesus says “my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:30). When the disciples ask him how to pray, he tells them to form a prayer chain and pray continuously one hour each for 24 hours. Oh wait, I had him confused with someone else. He told them to pray for about 45 seconds: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen” (Matt. 6:9-13).
We’re free to pray longer as Jesus did occasionally, so long as we don’t “heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do.” We can also read our Bibles a lot, and as long as it’s done for good reason, the more the merrier. But if you read 3 1/3 chapters a day you will read the entire thing in a year. I did the math: 1189 chapters / 365 days = 3.33. Studying the Bible is great. If you want to get dictionaries and pick apart verses, more power to you. But first you just read. If Jesus Christ wrote you a letter–heck, if your senator wrote you one–you wouldn’t crawl your way through it, dictionary in tow. You’d move through it steadily to get to the end and then reread. Four chapters should take less than ten minutes, probably closer to five. This sort of daily dosage will set you up for spiritual steadiness. It’s a great place to start. Do that for a month and then kick it up to seven chapters a day in 15 minutes. You’re going to get the flow, see connections, stay awake, and even when you remember nothing, like I do about my own sermons, you’ll be healthily impacted.
I get asked fairly frequently about devotional helps and aids for family worship. How do I teach my kids the Bible? Men feel overwhelmed at the task and the barrage of “resources” put out by Christian publishers. For those who profit from these, more power to you. I find them overdone, unnecessary, and often really cheesy and weaksauce. It might sound odd, but I’m really thankful for a pastor I had in college who told me he never consistently had “family worship.” His family would read Scripture together when the kids were young and always had lively dinner discussions. He loved the Bible and I see his grown kids still loving it. I only knew him when he had older kids, but this approach has largely worked.
As a family, we read the Bible, paragraphs typically at a time, sometimes a chapter, at meals. Interesting things often come out in discussion about it. My eight-month old squeals and drools. It’s part of our normal routine, a little at a time, and we get through large portions of the Bible that way. It’s light and easy just like he said, and I see the kids’ desire to hear more which is the critical thing in the long run. The kids need to see you interested in it on your own time, enjoying it, and making the Word part of your everyday routine.