I’ll never forget the moment that, after weeks of battling the same problem with Elliott, I had a massive revelation.
“The Scripture doesn’t say that my parenting techniques will not come back void…it says, ‘The WORD will not come back void.'” (Isaiah 55:11)
I don’t know how I got two years into the whole parenting thing without ever having that thought occur to me, but it was profound for me, and surely an act of mercy from the Lord.
Elliott had (for the most part) been an incredibly kind and loving big brother towards Selah her entire 7 months of existence. But somehow, right around after he turned 2, he began experimenting with some behaviors towards her; as in, “What will happen if I kick her in the head as hard possible?”
Clearly, clearly…NOT OKAY.
She had JUST started pulling up onto furniture, and she loved being close by Elliott. So many times when he was sitting in his chair eating a meal or a snack, she would crawl over, pull herself up onto the chair, and he would kick her little head until she fell over.
We were at a loss. We had tried everything, and he wasn’t changing. If you know me, you know I have quite a bit of patience towards my kids regarding character development issues…I just recognize that many, many things will probably take YEARS for them to have true heart-change in. But, BUT…this particular issue needed to change IMMEDIATELY.
But, I’m not going to talk about exactly how he changed, because my point is something far more important: that THE WORD OF GOD WILL NOT COME BACK VOID.
Another “incident” had just occurred and I remember kneeling on the ground, holding Elliott gently by his shoulders and pleading with him to stop, using words like “being nice” and “that’s not nice” and etc., etc. I had just taught the Kids Church lesson a few hours earlier to Elliott and all of his little buddies and it was about the good Samaritan. I suddenly paused and that’s when the revelation hit me: Why am I using such “powerless” words, when I could be speaking the very words of Life, that are promised to return in power.
EVERYTHING changed about my speech that day. No longer do I tell Elliott to do things “because I said so” or “because it’s the ‘right’ thing to do”…but I am teaching him to act according to God’s Word. It is THE ONLY thing that will not return void.
This is our heart for our children:
9 For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; 10 that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing [Him], being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; 12 giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. 13 He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed [us] into the kingdom of the Son of His love, 14 in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. 18 And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. 19 For it pleased [the Father that] in Him all the fullness should dwell, 20 and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross. … 27 To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. 29 To this [end] I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily. [Col 1:9-20, 27-29 NKJV]
Yes, we MUST teach our children that ALL things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. Our children must form their worldviews around this Truth. And so they MUST know the Scriptures, and how THE SCRIPTURES should shape their thinking and their actions. This is a great endeavor, obviously, that will take a lifetime to begin to teach, but I am amazed at how much it has pressed ME to know the Word more, because I need to have a specific answer on my tongue! I need to be able to teach them what God says about the generous person when they are confronted with sharing issues. I need to be able to recite by memory what God says will happen when they obey their parents when we have a moment (or a hundred) of defiance in a day. I need to be able to tell them what Jesus said about love when they are not treating each other lovingly. I must know what He says, so they will know what He says. There was a season where I taught the kids a Proverb a day and it was so helpful for ME. I read one chapter a day, picked one verse from that chapter, wrote it up on the white board in our playroom, and taught it to them first thing in the morning. It’s amazing how many Proverbs are the solution to almost every conflict between the kids :).
I was struck by the simplicity of Romans 12 as a concise “handbook” for (some of) the ways of the Lord a few months ago, and decided I wanted to memorize a chunk of the chapter with the kids over the Summer. My goal was 13 verses, and we got through 6, which I was very pleased with :). We started out with Psalm 128:1 (“Blessed are those who fear the Lord, who walk in His ways.”), and I prefaced the whole series by talking about how we must understand that God says we will be blessed when we walk in His ways, and it is of utmost importance that we regard Him with utter holiness, with complete resolve that He is THE WAY. Then we went on to learn about what some of those “ways” are by memorizing Romans 12: 9-13.
9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. [Rom 12:9-13 NIV]
It was SO HELPFUL in my daily parenting, because not only did I have specific (powerful!) language (that won’t return void!!!!) to use with the kids during conflicts and disrespect, but because it helped form my prayers. Many times throughout the day, my prayer is, “Oh, dear, Lord. Have mercy.” (Anyone else have prayers like that during the day??) But when I am focusing on a specific Scripture a day or a week, my prayers are filled with more vision and more faith. “Oh, Lord…please turn Elliott’s heart to TRULY honor his sister above himself.”
Since we’ve entered the “3s,” whining has been one of our biggest battles. I will admit, when I am SO worn out from the constant whining, I usually just look at Elliott with pleading eyes and beg, “You’re killing me. You’ve GOT to stop whining!!” Hmm, as you can imagine, not the most effective or mature parenting technique :). So I was SUPER excited when we hit the verse that tells us we are never to be lacking in zeal. Finally, I had biblical language to tackle this whining monster. I did lots of role plays with him and we acted out what it looks like to be lacking in zeal and what it looks like to keep our spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Oh, my, did it help, thanks to the grace of God!!! The monster FOR SURE still rears its ugly head daily, but Elliott’s taken a lot of ground.
So, my mama friends–I wanted to share the Scripture verse cards that I made in case you’d like to use them! (Why reinvent the wheel?!) We worked on one verse a week, and usually by the end of the day or at least by day 2, Elliott had each one memorized. Selah (at almost 2) runs around singing, “Walk in His ways!!” which I LOVE. Yes, my dear, that’s exactly right…let’s be devoted to walking in His ways.
Click on the picture below to download all 6 verse cards!
Want to do this with your kids but not a “natural” teacher?
YOU CAN DO THIS!!! I promise!!! Here are 6 simple tips for you:
1. Read the Word and allow the Lord to STIR YOU!
If you are excited, they will be excited, too. If you know me, you know this comes awfully naturally to me–you KNOW that if something has changed my life, I will tell you about it so it can change yours, too!! 🙂 More often than not, I have taught my kids a new verse just because I was reading the Word and was so stirred I couldn’t help but share it with them. Even if we don’t do an entire “lesson” on the verse and memorize it, I trust that it’s being deposited in their hearts. When this happens, I call them over and say, “Kids! Come listen to this!!!! Listen to what God promises us!!!” So, this may go without saying, but when God has stirred YOUR heart with His Word, that is the first step for your childrens’ hearts to be stirred as well. When they see YOU moved by His word, it shows them practically what a changed heart really looks like.
2. Call your kids over to come sit down and learn the Word of God!
If you have carpet squares or one piece of paper for each child or a chair for each child or SOMETHING the kids can sit on so they know their job is to sit and listen, that is VERY helpful.
3. Songs, Visuals, examples and role-plays are helpful!
I always try to have my bible with me so they can really SEE that everything I’m teaching them comes straight from the Word of God. (I remember getting to college and re-reading the bible with new eyes, and being SHOCKED at how much Scripture I knew from songs, liturgy, etc, that I hadn’t realized was SCRIPTURE! Isn’t that crazy?! But it held a WEIGHTINESS to it once I found out it was THE LIVING WORD OF GOD versus just some lyrics to a song that a writer scribbled on a piece of paper. It is SO important to me that my kids understand that the things I say and the rules I give them come from GOD, not just my own good ideas.) Even when I have a verse card printed out, I read the verse out of my bible first. Then, I show them the verse card and talk through each word/phrase with them, pointing out how the pictures show the meaning of the words. We then hang it up where they can see it.
My kids are YOUNG (almost 2 and 3) so I need to use lots of visual and acting to help them understand the meaning of each verse. Obviously, the older your kids are, the less visuals and acting you will need, but these things are still VERY useful for teaching ALL kids how to really APPLY Scripture to their daily lives.
Here’s an example:
Verse: Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.
What I said: Okay, kids, listen to what God says: “Love must be SINCERE.” Can you say “sincere?” Sincere means really, really, really MEANING what you do. So if you ask me to play with the toy I’m playing with and I say, “Fine! Take it!! Hmmph!!!” and throw the toy at you, I did the “right” thing, but I wasn’t loving you like God defines love. My love wasn’t sincere. Now if you ask me to play with a toy I’m playing with, and my heart really DOES want you to have the joy of playing with it, too, then my heart sincerely wants to love you. In that case, I could say, “Oh! You want to play with it, too?! Sure!!” That means my love was sincere, and that means I am walking in God’s ways.
Since my kids are so little, I keep the “lesson” to less than 5 minutes long. I had to break the initial teaching of this verse up into two days since the idea of “sincere love” was complex enough to fill 5 minutes. The next day we talked a lot about what evil is, and what it means to run away from it (lots of funny role plays!!) and what it means to CLING to something that is good.
SING!!!! How much easier is it to remember something when it’s put to music??!! I hope you know about Seeds Family Worship…they are AWESOME. They sing Scriptures! We have listened to “The Good Song” probably hundreds of times: “Blessed are those who fear the Lord, who walk in His ways!” The kids and I often worship together, singing at the top of our lungs, dancing around our living room, sometimes with instruments in hands. I love worshiping the Lord with my kids!!!
4. Teach it on day 1 (and sometimes day 2) and then use the language of the Scripture as often as you can throughout the week (and forever!).
I only had the kids “sit” for a “lesson” on the days that I initially introduced the verse and its meaning, which took 1-2 days. Then, the “teaching” of it was much more “organic” throughout the week in that I would point out how that Scripture occurred throughout our day. Anytime the kids do something according to the Scripture I am sure to point it out to them. “Oh, Elliott! The way you just shared that toy with Selah was truly sincere love! Thank you for loving her so sincerely! That blesses God and it blesses me!! How does your heart feel when you see how blessed Selah is?! Isn’t it awesome to walk in God’s ways??!!”
Or, if they were having a hard time, I would use the same biblical language with them. The MOST often used one this Summer has been: “Oh, buddy…are you devoted to Selah in love right now? Are you making sure that you are honoring her above yourself?”
It’s SO HELPFUL for them to see how the Word is in all things and before all things…they need to understand how Scripture is RELEVANT to their daily lives and actions, and they need to SEE how to apply it. Like I said earlier, this will take a lifetime, so we’d best start early!! 🙂
We would say our verses together every time we were driving or sometimes when we were sitting and playing and we would always tell Daddy when he got home from work what our verse of the week was. This is actually Elliott’s favorite verse and I catch him ALL the time saying, “Hate what is evil, cling to what is good.” YES!!
5. Always, in everything, teach them about Christ
There is no sense in teaching any of these things without also teaching the Gospel. Our children must understand that it is only by the grace of God that we can escape sin, thanks to Jesus Christ. We have worked hard on this with Elliott. I’ll never forget one day that I looked at him and said, “Elliott, you are the only one who can choose to obey. You’ve got to do this. You’ve got to choose to obey!” And before I had barely finished talking, he interrupted me and said, “NO!! Jesus and GOD help me obey!!” I remember taking a deep breath, realizing that my frustration had gotten the better of me, and told him, “Buddy, you are right. Let’s pray together. We BOTH need the Lord’s help to obey Him.”
6. PRAY, never-ceasingly
The moment I knew I had to start training, teaching, and disciplining Elliott (long before he was 1), I have been faithfully praying for HIS HEART to turn towards obedience to God. The LAST THING IN THE WORLD we want are children who “do what the bible says” but do not really LOVE God. Scripture is so clear: When we love God, we obey His commands. Children are so tricky because we must teach them to obey (“…train your child in the way he should go…”) long before they have a sincere love for God. But I am faithful to pray for their hearts to turn EVERY time I teach, train or discipline. Because it’s not ME that’s going to turn their hearts to love the Lord; it’s the Holy Spirit. So, I would exhort you: Never teach without praying. Always pray as you teach.
Remember the verse from above: For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; 10 that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing [Him], being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God…
KEEP ON KEEPING ON, MAMAS!!!! May the Lord fill you with STRENGTH!!! And FAITH!!!! May YOU, by the grace of God, never be lacking in zeal but keep your spiritual fervor as you serve your children and in doing so, are serving the Lord!!!!!