I’ve been thinking about Fatherhood, and how it’s not just a breezy job with feet up, drink in hand (coffee, for instance) and sitting back enjoying the yard.
It’s a hard life. But it has intense joys. I can remember holding my first son for the first time. It was a breathtaking moment. Something I’ll never forget. A wiggling, happy, calm, real boy. One I would need to train, disciple, read the Bible to, love, hold, fight with playing around, see get a job, pray that he would start a family someday and watch go to school for the first time ever. The firstborn really does do this to a grown man. I have been working at being a better Dad for so long that I’ve come to realise that there’s no “set point” to settle on when becoming a parent. My wife and I have tightened our schedules, rearranged the way we do finances and shopping, changed houses and jobs, and even made huge mistakes with locations to live, but have grown through it all. It’s true that there’s no rigid, set way to do things as parents and wives and husbands either.
When I first became a Dad I thought that our kids would sit quietly listening to me reading out scripture, singing together with us during our family worship time, and ask questions about God frequently. But everything changes as time goes on. There are seasons for everything in a parent’s life. When we had 4 kids 5 and under it was like a marathon race to get to the evening so that we could sit, look at each other and breathe out for once.
But this phase did not last forever. Having read about the importance of appreciating kids and really walking beside them daily, teaching them all that Jesus commands and about who God is, changed my perspective on things. I was their Dad – their hero. The one who they want to play with, pray with, wrestle with, ask questions and harass for sweets after tea. I had to come to the realisation that these kids were not mine, but gifts from God to be cherished and taught scripture so that they could come to the knowledge of who God is, the plan for salvation, the gospel, sin, hell, death, God’s forgiveness, repentance and faith. My children were all going to face God one day, and be judged on their works and what they did with Jesus Christ in this lifetime. As adorable as they are, and the love they show me and my wife Peta, they are under my care as a kind of pastor of my family to reach them for Jesus and to make His name known amongst the culture, nation and town I’m in. There’s no escaping this fact, either. As lazy as I can get with singing with my family, reading the Bible and praying with them, they still need it. Their souls need care and attention, as much and more so than their physical needs. The Bible says that, “the soul that sins, it shall surely die.” This means that anyone that sins, will die eternally.
This in mind, I live daily knowing that my kids are given to me for a short time to train in righteousness, temperance and the judgment to come, but in a way that they understand. This affects the way I use resources to do this. We use lots and lots of funny voices in our house. I use them when reading stories, being characters or impersonating people. It gets them laughing and warmed up for the meaning of the story. Which brings me to my first point (I haven’t done a blog post with points before)
- Make the Bible exciting: There’s nothing like a good story, but scripture events really happened, exactly as they were written (the historical events that is) and telling these to kids should be riveting, exhilarating and fun when necessary. Serious when serious, fast when fast, slow when slow. The Bible has pacing. Use it as you’re reading something to your children! We use a great devotional by the Samuel Bagster family called “Daily Light on the Daily Path” It lays out a wonderful selection of intertwining verses on a certain theme from scripture with verses that are in context about that theme. Such as strength, endurance, suffering, heaven, Jesus birth, Jesus kindness, Jesus power etc. This we read when we can at teatime right after we eat main course. There’s time between courses to do this 5 minute reading and it’s very, very nourishing for all of us. Making the reading fun is half of the way there! Children can be captivated by scripture – if it’s important to you. The gospel is such a radical thing that it makes you love God, scripture and all the stories therein by transforming your sinful heart. So: if you love scripture, you’ll be able to tell it to your kids in an exciting way. Put on voices, act out bits, use props, use your hands. Even your tone to express the sorrow, joys, heartache and jubilation in each sentence. They’ll understand it.
- Schedule a short Bible reading time: Ours is after our main meal is over, right before we tackle the mountain of dishes we accumulate. We open up Daily Light, for an easy 1 minute reading, and explain what the verses meant in context. If they’re about Jesus being sad (like tonight) about things, we explain that He knew our pain, and understood our sorrows, and was tempted in every point like us, yet without sin. They hang on every word, and really take in everything. Tonight I even explained how Christ sweat drops of actual blood when He was agonisingly praying for us and about His impending crucifixion. This has occurred with real people on real death row awaiting a real execution. It’s completely scientifically plausible.
- Use the actual Bible: Yes, the Bible. Kids understand theology better when it’s from the actual scriptures, because then you’re teaching them what doctrines Jesus actually wants your kids to learn. He wanted kids around Him even when He was teaching and preaching! So why not now at your food-covered dinner table?! That’s the best time to settle down, crack open God’s Holy word and read it’s treasures. Oh, and don’t skip difficult passages, like church roles in Corinthians and Timothy, Hell, Jesus crucifixion and sin, because your kids need to be converted by the Holy Spirit from death to life. They don’t need to become moral people that are nice to all: they need their sinful heart completely replaced and covered by the blood of Jesus! Kids soak up exciting things, and there’s nothing more riveting than the grand story of scripture and it’s message being about Christ’s atoning death and resurrection, our fall and redemption, God’s majesty and His plan to rescue humanity from sin and death!
- At the forefront of your mind, remember: KIDS ARE PEOPLE TOO! They are little souls that are in a battle that’s unseen. Every TV show you put them in front of that contains content that mocks God, scripture and holiness sinks in. Each time you get lazy with your Bible reading it does come with a cost – you can’t get that time you missed out back! This isn’t to make you guilty; we’ve all missed days, but it is to encourage you that in your mind you must acknowledge their spiritual needs over your temporary sanity at times. What’s cool is that when you do put in that effort to do your family worship, sing those songs, download that new memory verse from http://www.biblestoryprintables.com/ and teach your children a great memory verse on not being anxious for anything, but in thankfulness submitting your requests to God – you are doing an eternal justice! You are training your children in righteousness! You are being a faithful mini-pastor Dad, and your home will hum because of it. There’s no greater joy than seeing my children think about theology and Jesus and asking important questions about it like “Where is God?” “Why is Jesus not here anymore?” And, “How do people rise again?” These are gold mines of cute opportunities to teach scriptural truth to your children whilst they’re still open enough to take it in before TV, evolutionists, sexualised movies and well-wishing activists take them for you. The enemy, the devil, is trying to get your kids minds also, so fight back with superior weapons! The Bible, and good honest family time together can be done even in today’s modern, busy, crazy world. It just takes time, tweaking, and prayerful patience. There are hundreds of rewards along the way in the form of what comes out of your children’s mouths. You’ll see!