Many people enjoy using a devotional for their Bible time. They find it easier to read and there certainly are many devotionals out there that provide us with food for thought.
What begins to hamper a believer’s search for the truth is when they start relying on their devotional to provide them with what God’s Word says . . . instead of going to see for themselves what God’s Word says. In other words, it can hinder the study of the Bible on their own. They are tempted to have God’s Word fed to them on a sugar-laden spoon.
The problem is this. Sometimes that spoon contains good stuff, but also some bad stuff detrimental to the believer’s spiritual health. It has come through man, who is fallible; therefore it has the potential to contain error.
So aside from the fact that devotionals are great used periodically, as long as it doesn’t take away from the believer digging in deep to God’s Word as well – why do people reach for them so much, especially when they are looking for something for their children to use?
It is just like anything else in raising children. We sometimes get so burnt out that we look for the easy way out. But is that truly what the heart of a parent should look for – only what is easy?
Personally, it took some searching in our hearts to ask ourselves what it was that kept us from teaching our children how to study the Bible in depth. Was it laziness, apathy or busyness? Was it because it would take time away from something else we would rather do? Yet would we regret choosing the easy way out later when a child rejected God’s way, because they had not been taught how to love the truth and look for it until they found it? We noticed the tendency to use the blessings of Christian Day school and Sunday school as a crutch. The onus is on us parents to prepare the hearts of our children to search for and love God’s Word and Truth!
Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6
So we decided then and there that we would show them what it means to love this Truth, even if the truth sometimes hurts and we must change. We would show them how to find out this Truth for themselves. Especially if they would have a question in their later teen and adult years, we wanted then to know how to find the answers in God’s Word.
We didn’t want one of our children to say, “You never showed me how to find the truth. In fact, you never showed me the importance of finding it. And I never saw a love for the truth of God’s Word in your own life . . . therefore, why should I have any desire to search for it?” And then walk away from God.
Our children need to know this for themselves.
A faith can’t be passed on. And when a child discovers a truth for themselves, they are much more apt to love it and apply it.
So here is a challenge for you: when your children begin to read the Bible and are old enough to understand it, instead of giving a devotional to them, try sitting down with them to show them how studying is really done. Show them just how much you love the Savior and His Word!
- Begin with these items and resources: a notebook and pen for each child, a concordance and commentary, and a Bible. If you have a laptop handy, you might want to download eSword – a free Bible study program that has many resources available on it (concordances, commentaries, dictionaries, maps). If you have a smartphone, you can get the app called MySword. It is similar to eSword with what it has available. We use both of these.
- It’s good to start by asking the Holy Spirit to enlighten the Word to both you and your children. We need the Spirit’s presence in our hearts and lives.
- When studying like this, it is easier to study only a few verses. One child can read the selected verses while another child looks up the definitions of important words in your text via a concordance. Someone else can look up what the commentaries say on these verses. Yet another person can look up cross references (these are sometimes listed in the center column in your Bible).
- It’s also fun to do a topic search sometimes. This will help them in later years when they have a question on a certain subject, but have no idea how to go about finding out where it is talked about in the Bible. Esword has an excellent search function, and cross references are valuable for this as well.
- Maps are a great way to help children get a visual of what you are learning about. We are in the Sermon on the Mount presently. Our Rose Then and Now Bible Map Atlas book is awesome for visuals! It also has culture background and information on key characters in the Bible.
- Once you have thoroughly studied and discussed your verses or topic, it’s good for the children to write down either definitions of words or to simply rephrase what they learned in the verses. Sometimes it’s good to write down practical ways of applying what truth they learned!
This has been a deep burden of ours, not only for our children, but for others who seem at a loss to understand the most valuable Book ever written. We are currently working on a workbook for the book of Jude, which follows much of the same outline and tips listed above. Hopefully we can get that out soon!
But for now, let us each be faithful in taking responsibility to teach our own children how to love the truth and search for it until they find it.
Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” Matthew 7:7
He has promised. He will answer. But it’s up to us to do the searching.