Fun Family Activity on God’s Greatness

Do your children understand nothing is impossible for God – even today? There’s a fun family devotional and activity you can do to get your family talking about the amazing things God has done and can continue to do in the future. You will need a Bible, some art paper, sidewalk chalk and buttermilk.

Grab a Bible (preferably NIrV to make it easier to understand) and tell your kids the story of Elisha and Jehoash found in 2 Kings 13:1-14:22, and 2 Chronicles 25. Focus on the part of the story of Jehoash with Elisha and the arrows. Explain that although Jehoash had been evil, God still loved the people of Israel. When the king humbled himself enough to go ask Elisha for God’s help, Elisha gave him some instructions.

The king evidently did not have enough faith in God (or humility, the Bible doesn’t really tell us why he stopped so quickly) to strike the ground five or six times. As a result, the King would not be able to totally defeat his enemies and they would continue to cause trouble for the people of Israel.

Explain that sometimes it is hard to believe God will really take care of us and keep His promises. It is important to remember that God can do amazing things – even today.  God wants us to trust Him and pray to Him – even if we think it would take a miracle for God to say “yes” to our prayer. It’s important to believe God still works in amazing ways.

Ask your kids to share some of the amazing God works in the Bible. Older children may also be able to share stories of how they have seen God answer their prayers in amazing ways. With younger kids, you may want to share some amazing things you have seen God do.

Give everyone a sheet of paper on which they can draw. Tell them that normally when you draw with chalk it gets very dusty and makes a mess. If you dip the tip in buttermilk first though, the result is a creamy, dustless, no-smear drawing – amazing.  (Older students may be able to understand the analogy of us adding God to our lives to make our lives richer and fuller.) Have everyone use the technique to create drawings to remind them God is amazing. Have them title their artwork so they will remember the theme and display the finished works where everyone can see them.

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Do Your Kids Need Apologetics?

Apologetics are “reasoned arguments or writings in justification of something”. In the case of Christians, apologetics usually refers to answers to questions or criticisms commonly posed by people who aren’t Christians. Many young people raised in Christian homes may hear these questions or criticisms from teachers, peers, or even in the things they read and watch.

Some Christian young people may have even wondered about these same things themselves. The problem is that if they are brave enough to voice their questions and concerns, the reaction from other Christians can be extremely negative. Many young people have learned to leave those doubts unexpressed and unfortunately unanswered.

Those who do ask them may have been told some platitude that was formed years ago when the average Christian had no access to things like primary source documents from the early church. Now with the internet, Christians have access to primary source documents, archaeological finds and more within seconds. Unfortunately, many Christians don’t know those things are available or could help provide clearer answers than a platitude that could easily be demolished by a savvy debater.

Before you start immersing your kids in apologetics though, there are a few things you need to keep in mind.

  • Apologetics aren’t a replacement for Bible knowledge. Apologetics can help your child understand why Christians believe what they do, but your child still needs to read the Bible to be personally familiar with the scriptures. Apologetics often cover topics in broad strokes, while living a Christian life requires a more detailed, nuanced knowledge and understanding of scripture.
  • Apologetics aren’t the best way to understand how to apply scripture to one’s life. Although there may be some application principles in an apologetics reading, they don’t attempt to cover every application principle in scripture. The focus is generally on the things that confuse or upset non-Christians.
  • Apologetics are only as good as the person who researched and wrote/spoke them. Someone who doesn’t understand scripture or is holding on to some false teaching or man-made doctrine may have faulty apologetics, too. It’s important to screen anything before showing it to your kids or at least watch it with them so you can discuss any areas in which you believe the Bible teaches something differently.
  • Apologetics can prepare and protect your kids from common arguments against Christianity they may hear or read – often in college when you aren’t there to discuss it with them. A good apologetics resource usually addresses the most common questions and criticisms. They will have already explained to your child the answers that are well thought out and researched, using scripture and its underlying principles.
  • Apologetics can keep your kids from allowing someone to take one or two verses out of context and use them as an argument against the correct full picture given by the Bible in its entirety. For example, some people will say the Believers’ or Sinners’ prayer is a way to become a Christian – even though it was invented in the United States a couple of hundred years ago. They will pull out a couple of verses about faith saving you, ignoring the fact that every conversion involved baptism, Jesus himself was baptized, verses in Acts and Romans connect baptism to having your sins forgiven and the early church only accepted baptism by immersion for the forgiveness of sins as the way of becoming a Christian. Apologetics can point out the problem with a few verses pulled out of context and point your kids back to the full picture found in the Bible.
  • Apologetics are not a way for your child to share his or her faith. That involves sharing the story of Creation and the Fall and God’s plan for redemption. It means your child can tell the story of Jesus – especially about his death, burial and resurrection. It involves your child being able to share how he or she has seen God working in the world today. It also means your child can tell someone the joy found in the Gospel message and how to become a Christian. Bits of that may be found in apologetics material, but is not it’s central purpose.
  • Apologetics can prepare your kids to answer questions others may have when they share their faith with them. When your kids begin to share their faith, some people may have questions or concerns that are answered by apologetics. Those answers will help your kids stay calm and know how to answer them. It also keeps them from giving in to the temptation to answer with a platitude or a less than kind answer out of fear or frustration.

So who are some people who are well known for producing strong apologetics materials? *Lee Strobel has plenty of “Case for” books that many have used over the years. The great thing about his materials is that most of them come in adult, teen and child versions. Sean Mcdowell has videos that can be found on RightNow Media. They are short and easy to understand. Many churches have free subscriptions you can use. J Warner Wallace is a former police detective whose apologetics use forensic science. He also has videos on RightNow Media and several books that are often on sale in the ebook format. Ravi Zacharias is also popular, although I haven’t had time to explore his materials.

Apologetics are not a substitute for teaching your kids the Bible and helping them understand and obey it. They can however, give you some important tools to help strengthen your kids’ spiritual foundations in specific areas. It’s worth exploring them with your kids.

*Please be aware that apologetics writers are human and capable of making mistakes. There is no substitute for the absolute truths found in the Bible. Compare everything they say to scripture for yourself and teach your children to do the same

Fun Ways to Focus Your Family on Reflection

The Bible has a lot to say about reflecting or meditating on God’s Words. Philippians 4:8 also tells us about the types of things about which we – and our kids – should be spending our time thinking. Deeper thinking can help kids put together the pieces of what a Christian life is – what God is calling them to do – who He wants them to be.

Unfortunately, most of us were never really taught how to meditate, reflect or do deeper thinking – even about God and His Words. While some with a more analytical personality may naturally do these things, for many of us it will be a learned spiritual discipline.

Learning anything requires practice if we want to become good at it. Which means if we want our kids to practice thinking more deeply about God and His Words, we need to have engaging activities to help them better understand the spiritual discipline and practice it.

Here are some ideas to get you started.

  • Take your kids to a beautiful sight in nature. After you’ve explored, sit down and talk while you rest or enjoy a snack or picnic. Ask thinking questions like, “Why do think God gave us so many beautiful things to enjoy?” or “What is your favorite thing God created for us?”. Older children and teens might enjoy thinking questions like, “How do you think God wants us to be good stewards of His Creation?” or “What do you think God wants us to do when He said mankind was to have dominion over everything He created?”. Hopefully, some deeper questions will send you all back to the Bible for a deeper dive into what else God may have to say on a particular topic.
  • Allow a few extra minutes at bed time for reflection. Talk about what they thought went well that day. Ask them where they think God would want them to do something differently if the same things happened again or how they saw God working during the day. There are all sorts of deeper questions you can ask. Remember though that kids will see this as a way to stall bedtime. Or your conversations may be so good you lose track of time. If that happens, think of ways to put a comma in the conversation until the next night or have the discussions on nights that don’t require an early wake up time the next morning. (I’d suggest making bedtime earlier, but we all know how well that will be received!)
  • Have family dinners. You may have seen “table talk” cards that are encouraging conversation at the dinner table. Often, these are just deeper thinking and sharing questions. You can easily make your own set of table talk cards. They don’t have to all be spiritual in nature. Sometimes a simple conversation will gradually lead to talking about much deeper faith type subjects.
  • Solve mysteries, logical fallacy stories and logic puzzles together. Technically this is a purely secular activity, but it teaches your kids to look past the obvious. Often things that are said which are negative about God and all things Christianity seem logical and reasonable on the surface. Dig just a tad deeper and the logic falls apart. We also need to be aware that just because a Christian may use poor logic when explaining something in the Bible doesn’t necessarily mean they are wrong in their conclusion about what God wants. Logical fallacy stories are a great way to have these conversations. Ultimately, your kids need to understand they need to keep checking everything by the Bible and what it actually says. (The Fallacy Detective Series was one of our favorites when our daughter was young.)
  • Have fun “what if” conversations. The topics don’t matter. Watch for opportunities as you have these conversations to mention things God would want them to know on the topic. For example, if your question is “What would you do if you won a million dollars?”, you can work in all sorts of comments about generosity, helping others, being good stewards and more.

Have fun with it, but spend time focusing your family on God’s Words, commands and principles. Spend time encouraging your kids to think about the plans God has for their lives, how to use the gifts He gave them and other important spiritual topics. Reflection is a great way to encourage spiritual growth in your family. It’s definitely worth your time and effort.

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Focusing Your Family on Reflection

When you think of spiritual disciplines, what comes to mind? Perhaps you think of prayer or reading the Bible. Hospitality and fasting may also come to mind. If you’ve been working on getting your family focused on some of these as a way to strengthen your children’s faith foundations, great!

One spiritual discipline doesn’t get talked about much in Christianity – at least in Western cultures. That’s the idea of reflecting or meditating on God’s Words. Often in the West, meditation is associated more with religions like Hinduism, so many Christians avoid the topic entirely.

To avoid all of the debate and confusion, let’s call it reflection or deeper thinking. The Bible actually has quite a bit to say on the topic. Many of the verses on reflection or meditating on God’s Words are found in Psalms. My favorite verse though is Philippians 4:8. “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

This verse is great for a couple of reasons. First, it addresses the idea of reflection or deeper thinking in a practical way we can understand. Instead of sitting in a lotus position repeating a meaningless phrase, this verse tells us the types of things we – and our families – should be thinking about constantly. It also tells us by the process of elimination the things our families should spend a lot less time thinking about every day.

Secondly, the next verse gives us a model for reflection and deeper thinking. “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” Reflection is more than just reading a good verse and repeating it over and over.

Reflection is ultimately thinking about the things God has said to us through scripture, what those words mean, how to live them and then practicing them. Reflection is then thinking about how practicing what God has commanded went that day and repeating the original process.

Why don’t we do this more often? Why aren’t our kids taught to do this? Because reflection requires time, attention and for most people quiet and solitude – things our culture rarely provides. Reflection requires being intentional and creating the time and space for it to actually happen.

What often happens to us and our children is that if there is free time or quiet, we become uncomfortable. Instead of filling it with the things God wants us to fill it with, we fill it with noise. The noise may be actual noise, but it can also be metaphorical noise. Instead of reflecting on things that can strengthen our faith and help us be more godly, we fill the time with meaningless things.

Teaching our kids to reflect on God’s Words, on all of those good things in Philippians 4 requires even more intentionality. We have to fight against the natural inclination of children to be in constant motion. We have to fight the cultural expectation that every moment is planned for our kids with activities and lessons. We have to take the time to find ways to guide our children in reflection and then help them practice it.

Tomorrow, we will share fun ways to help you and your kids spend time in reflection and deeper thinking. Until then, pull out your family calendar. Where can you carve time each day for your family to engage in reflection? Do you need to let go of some activities to make room for your kids to learn how to think more deeply about what God wants from them and for them? It’s a spiritual discipline worth finding the time to learn and practice as a family.

Tips for Focusing Your Family on Hospitality

When was the last time you had someone in your home that didn’t live there? If you are like most Americans, it may have been awhile. A quick read through the New Testament though and you will notice it seems like people were regularly inviting others to come into their home for a variety of reasons.

Barna recently published research that had an interesting twist. They found Christian homes that worked actively with their children on spiritual things by praying and studying the Bible were not as successful in raising children to be active Christians as those that did those things and also practiced hospitality. The authors of the study aren’t sure if the hospitality made the difference or the types of people who were hospitable made some sort of difference, but they felt hospitality was key.

If you aren’t used to having others into your home, the idea of hospitality may make you break into a cold sweat. You may be fearful of people seeing your messy house, judging your decorating choices, hating your cooking or a hundred other nightmare scenarios.

Actually, most visitors to your home don’t really care about any of those things (unless perhaps your house was recently condemned by the health department!). They are just thrilled to be invited somewhere. They feel special someone thought of them and liked them enough to include them. Oh, they may pick at some food, but that’s probably more about them than your cooking.

In fact, make it easy on yourself if you are concerned. Invite people over for ice cream. Or popsicles. Or muffins from Costco. Use paper plates. Serve take out. Eat a picnic in your yard on plastic picnic cloths.

Evidently, it doesn’t really matter whom you entertain either. Family counts. So do your kids’ friends. So let them have that sleepover they’ve been begging to have. Let your daughter plan a tea party for her grandmother. Invite the neighbors to bring a lawn chair and sip lemonade as you watch the sunset.

Why does hospitality matter? We may never really know for sure. What we do know is that it is something God has always encouraged His people to do. Plus it’s a great way to build relationships that will give you opportunities to serve others and share your faith. Or to encourage Christian brothers and sisters. Best yet, it teaches your kids how to truly show God’s love to others. It really is worth taking the time to focus your family on hospitality.