I love all kinds of music. I don’t even mind the occasional country song or two. The problem is that I’m completely ignorant when it comes to knowing the names of the artists producing the music I like. This became very apparent when I recently discovered that several songs I like all come from the same band - even the same album - which is “Sigh No More” by Mumford & Sons. Now that I finally own that album I’m playing it all the time, so much so that my boys (Maddox and Liam) will randomly start singing “Rain down, rain down on me, and I will hold on, I will hold on, so rain down, rain down on me.” They sing that song over and over, which for now is really cute. Mumford & Sons' song Thistles & Weeds contains the following lyric: Plant your hope with good seed, Don’t cover yourself with thistle and weeds. Rain down, rain down on me.
Because of their love of that song, Maddox (my 5 year-old) recently asked “Dadda, what’s a thistle?” Honestly, I didn’t know what a thistle looks like, so I Googled it and discovered that they are those thorny weeds with the purple flower tops that sprout up all over Reno. This turned into an amazing discipleship opportunity with Maddox, because it immediately reminded me of Jesus’ words in Matthew 13:3-9:
“And he told them many things in parables, saying: ‘A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.’”
I was able to explain this parable to Maddox in a way that he would understand, really focusing on the seed that fell among the thorns. I explained how there are people and things that try to choke out the “good seed” that has been planted in us, similar to how thistles and weeds will kill nearby flowers because they drink up all the available water. I then taught him, like the song says, that we must “hold on, hold on” to Jesus with all that we’ve got. For some reason this really fascinated Maddox, so I took advantage of this opportunity to disciple my son. We spent the next hour looking at different pictures of thistles, all the while I was answering his many questions.
When thinking of “family devotion time,” what comes to mind?
Many people think they’ve got to carve out an hour of their day to read the Bible to their spouse and/or children and then close in prayer. Usually, then, they beat themselves up for failing to meet this expectation. If you read the Bible to your kids every night that’s great, but my hope is that your view of family devotion is not simply narrowed to this short scope of time. That actually is not devotion at all. Rather, what you are teaching your children is that faith is a segmented part of their life, simply relegated to an hour in your day (if that).
"Devotion is a lifestyle."
Devotion is a lifestyle and there are examples all around us that can be used to point to the goodness and love of God as well as the overarching story of the Bible (Creation - Fall - Redemption - Restoration). The question is, do you see them? Are you yourself devoted first and foremost to the Lord? By that I mean do you wake up thinking about God and His love for you in Christ? Is Jesus often on the forefront of your mind? It must start with you, before you can expect to lead your family in devotion to God. This is exactly what Deuteronomy 6:4-9 teaches:
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
It starts with you. Do you “love the Lord your God” with your entire being? If so, then you will naturally teach your kids about the Lord every opportunity you get. If you are “sitting around the house” watching your kids' favorite super hero movie for the hundredth time, are you asking yourself how you can take something they enjoy and show them how it is a shadow and a picture of the true Super Hero? When you are out and about “walking by the way” do you see things that point to God’s beauty in creation, or do you see things that are fallen and in need of a Savior? If so, then point those out to your kids, talk about them with your spouse. When your kids “lie down” for bed, is saying good night to Jesus part of their routine? When you “rise” in the morning are you teaching them to look to Jesus for strength and guidance for their day?
The great thing about leading a life of family devotion is that it can look different every day; it doesn’t have to be just one way. However you choose to disciple your kids, I pray that Proverbs 22:6 will be true for all of us: “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
Here are some recommended resources that I use with my boys:
- The Big Picture Story Bible by David Helm is great for toddlers and preschoolers.
- The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones is great for elementary kids. You can also visit their website (http://www.jesusstorybookbible.com/) and watch an animated version of one of their stories each week.