Fun Activity to Teach Kids About God’s Purposes

One of the interesting things about being a Christian is that sometimes while two things may seem the same, the one tied to God’s Will has different purposes. For example, a Christian and a non-Christian can help someone in need. Both may even claim they do it because they love the person. But for the Christian, there is an even deeper purpose – to point the person to God in hopes that they may one day decide to follow Him.

There is a fun family devotional you can do that will engage your children over a period of time, while also giving you opportunities to discuss God’s purposes with them. You will need a very large container of salt and a similar size one of baking soda, a Tupperware type container with a lid, a gutted fish and some rubbing alcohol. You may also wish to have some herbs that smell good.

Call your children together and ask them what they know about Egypt. Ask them if they know what a mummy is. Explain that the Israelites lived in Egypt for several hundred years. Joseph knew, however, that eventually the Israelites would return to the land promised to them by God. He wanted his body to be buried in his family cave when they returned. In order to perhaps make that easier and because they were living in Egypt, the Bible tells us they mummified his body. (Read them Exodus 50:26. Note that the body of Jacob was also mummified and carried back to the family tomb while Joseph was still alive.)

Explain that for the Egyptians mummification had to do with their false worship of manmade gods. They believed the person needed to have in his or her tomb what they would need in the afterlife. That included a well preserved body and their organs in a separate jar! Yet God’s purpose for the instructions Joseph gave about his body were different. He knew God would provide everything he needed in Heaven. His mummy and the request to take it with them when they left Egypt forever would serve God’s purpose of reminding the Israelites that the hardships they endured as slaves in Egypt would not last forever. One day they would take the mummified body back with them when they returned to the Promised Land to live.

Show your children the gutted fish. Explain that you are going to mummify the fish to better understand mummification and how it preserves living things. Show them how the organs have been taken out of the fish. Explain that the Egyptians removed all of the organs from the body because they might rot during the mummification process and ruin the mummy. They were usually placed in a jar near the mummy.

Rub the fish inside and out with rubbing alcohol (make sure your kids wash their hands well if they touch the fish). Mix enough salt and baking soda to cover the fish at a 50/50 ratio. Place some of the mixture on the bottom of the Tupperware container, then put the fish on top of the mixture. Cover the fish with the remaining salt/baking soda mixture, making sure every part of the fish is inside of the mixture.

Place the top on the container. You may want to place herbs near it to reduce any odors, just like burials in Bible times. Check the fish once a week and place it in a fresh salt and baking soda mixture. Full mummification looks like dehydration. It may take several weeks depending upon the size of the fish.

While you are mummifying the fish, talk about some of God’s purposes for Christians. What are some things we do that might look the same as what other people are doing, but have a deeper purpose given to us by God? Point out that most parents correct their children and give consequences when they disobey. For Christian parents, it is deeper than just correcting behavior, however. God’s purpose for Christians is for them to have “soft hearts” that obey, worship and serve Him. Your correction has a deeper purpose – to keep their hearts soft for God – instead of becoming hard, selfish and stubborn.

Each week when you change the mixture, revisit the topic. Share another story from the Bible when God had a deeper purpose for something. Other examples of pointing the people to the coming Messiah, like Jonah and the big fish, make great examples, but the Bible is full of them. Remember to also discuss the deeper purposes God has for the things they do in their lives.

God’s purposes are abstract and difficult for children to understand. Regularly discussing them and relating them back to the mummy of Joseph and the mummy you are creating can help them begin to understand the concept.

Christian Parenting on Offense

On every football team, there is an offense and a defense. Successful teams usually have an offense and defense that are both strong. If they have a strong defense but no offense, they will still lose because they fail to score. If the coach is so fearful of the other team scoring that he only focuses on defense, his team will rarely be successful.

Christian parenting can be like football. We can become so concerned with protecting our children from the evil in the world, that we forget to prepare them to go on offense against that evil. Don’t get me wrong. A strong defense is crucial in Christian parenting. (In fact, many parents need to work on strengthening their defense, too.) From a child’s – and especially a teen’s viewpoint – Christian parenting that is only defense appears very negative and restrictive. It’s unbalanced with the positiveness of also parenting for offense. No wonder many young people view Christianity as a never ending list of don’ts and can’ts.

When you also Christian parent on the offense, your parenting is more balanced and your kids get a healthier, more accurate view of the Christian life. So what elements are included in a Christian parenting offense?

  • Preparation to explain their beliefs in ways that can be heard. Christian parenting offense means your kids are equipped to answer questions others may ask about their beliefs. They don’t have to know all of the answers, but they should feel comfortable answering common questions. They should also know how to find accurate, biblical answers when they don’t know them. Apologetics materials can help you teach and train your children in this area. Remember, their answers should always be given with love, even when sharing hard truths.
  • Preparation to ask questions that build relationships and open doors to faith sharing and service. Some children will learn this skill more easily than others, but even the most introverted child should be able to carry on a friendly, bridge building conversation.
  • Gift discovery, development and use. Every child has at least one concrete gift God has given them to serve God. For some children, this talent (don’t worry about spiritual gifts for now, focus on concrete talents) is easily identified. For others, it may take experimenting with several possible talents before finding the ones God gave them. Help your children discover these gifts and find ways to not only develop them, but also use them to serve God… NOW.
  • Preparation for sharing their faith. Do your children know the overarching story of the Bible? Can they explain why Jesus needed to come to Earth? Can they sketch out the life of Jesus? Are they able to explain in detail the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus? Can they explain what someone needs to do to become a Christian? Are they able to explain what a disciple of Christ living a Christian life “looks like”? Can they explain the positive difference being a Christian has made in their lives?
  • Ability to discern the felt needs of others and find ways to serve them (while also sharing their faith or strengthening the person’s faith). Many Christians are like the priest in the story of the Good Samaritan… they either block out or choose not to notice when others are in need. But truly serving others requires discernment as well as noticing needs. What people think they need and what they really need may be very different indeed. Your children need to be the ones who notice needs and find ways for those people to be served. They may not be able to meet each need personally, but they need to know how to partner with others in their congregation to get the needs of others met.
  • Practice in spiritual disciplines. For your children to be healthy spiritually, they need to regularly engage in prayer, Bible study, Christian fellowship, scripture refection and more. Don’t make them sound like chores, but activities that will help them reach the full potential God gave them.
  • Development of a passion for fulfilling their mission from God. Passion can’t be taught, but it can be caught. If you are passionate about serving God, worshipping and obeying Him, serving others and sharing your faith, your children are very likely to catch that passion, too.

Have you been playing only defense in your Christian parenting? It’s time to add some offense to your coaching. It can make a huge difference in the Christians your children become.

Fun Ways to Use Gardening to Teach Your Kids About God

Have you ever noticed how many parables contain some element of gardening in them? Growing things is a great way to teach your children about a lot of biblical principles. You don’t even have to own land. Container gardening works well, too. All you need is a little sunlight or even artificial lighting and any sort of container that can hold soil.

The more you involve your children in the process of planning, planting and caring for your garden, the more they will understand and remember what you are trying to teach them. Start by determining where your garden will be and what plants you will grow. If you want them to learn about plants in the Bible, you can find online lists of plants mentioned in the Bible. (Note: To be really accurate, use botanical names when ordering plants and seeds. Many modern varieties may differ from those mentioned in the Bible.)

Or your family may decide to use the produce in your gardens to serve the food insecure in your area. Talk to local food banks and ask what fresh produce would be most appreciated by their clients. Vegetables like carrots, tomatoes and peppers are fairly easy to grow and are used in a variety of common recipes. They also do well in container gardens.

If your children are older, they may want to help research not only what plants are mentioned in the Bible, but also historic recipes containing those foods and which parables, proverbs and other scriptures mention plants, gardens and/or vineyards. You and your children can also discuss how the lessons you learn while gardening illustrate other scriptures that may not directly mention plants or growing things. For example, you may want to talk about what happens when a plant is denied something it needs to grow well. Then explore what they will need to grow spiritually. What would happen if they denied themselves one of those things?

The great thing about gardening is that it is a year round process. Even in winter, planning your garden and starting seeds indoors can make it easier to garden in the Spring. What kind of preparation do they need to be able to use their gifts to serve God when He wants them to use their gifts for a good work He has planned for them? Why does procrastinating about important early tasks impact the garden (and their lives) negatively?

Gardening is a great spiritual tool for teaching, application principles, mentoring, service, faith sharing and more. So grab a seed catalog, a Bible and your kids and start planning your garden!

Will Your Kids Try to Rewrite the Bible?

Growing up in Virginia, I learned a lot about Thomas Jefferson. You can say a lot of things about Jefferson, but I always thought eccentric was an apt description. Did you know that he believed the Bible would benefit from his editing? As a deist, Jefferson thought of Jesus as a great teacher, but did not believe in miracles and other parts of scripture…. so he just edited them out. The resulting “Thomas Jefferson Bible” is a thin volume that totally changes how one would view Jesus, his authority and his commands.

Many Christians, when they first hear about Jefferson’s “Bible”, probably assume he was an arrogant man to think he should even consider editing the inspired Word of God. Yet, your very own children may one day grow up to write their own version of scripture. They may not be as overt about it as Jefferson. They will even deny they are changing anything at all. Rather, they will explain that their advanced knowledge has given them a better understanding of what the scriptures they are targeting “really” mean.

While the meaning of some scriptures may very well be debated until Jesus returns, the motivation for reinterpreting many scriptures is often suspect. It is especially concerning when a verse that clearly states “do not” do something in very clear language is taken through a series of supposedly logical loops that turns it into “absolutely do” the thing that is clearly forbidden.

Even more concerning is the underlying attitude. Someone recently asked a very important question, “When we attempt to reimagine scripture, are we more concerned about becoming who God wants us to be or is the greater concern finding a way around a verse so that we have the freedom to do what we want to do with no consequences?”

I suspect, that even if your children are correct about their new interpretation of scripture, a Thomas Jefferson attitude does not please God. Teaching our kids what it really means to make God the Lord of our life can help them avoid the temptation to write their own version of the Jefferson Bible.

5 Hidden Times to Teach Your Kids About God on Busy Days

What’s the number one excuse Christian parents give for not teaching their kids about God at home? I haven’t done an official survey, but I am almost positive the answer would be lack of time. Yet some of the busiest parents I know find ways to teach their kids about God daily. They may not have extra hours in their day, but they have learned how to use some hidden time wisely and point their kids to God even on the busiest of days.

Where are these little nuggets of time you can use to teach your kids about God? Here are five of our favorites.

  • Car time. Busy days usually also mean a lot of time in the car. You could probably do an entire family devotional in one trip, but there are other ways you can use this time as well. Try doing drive by prayers with your kids when you pray for the people and things you notice on your drive. Ask them about their day and talk about the things God would want them to know about the choices they made or need to make. Play music that is based on scripture and sing along – they will memorize Bible verses easily when they are lyrics to their favorite songs.
  • Fast food time. You may not sit down at the kitchen table to a home cooked meal, but you can still have meaningful conversations at the table in a fast food restaurant or even in the car in the parking lot if you went through the drive through.
  • Required reading time. Many schools require students to read a certain number of minutes each day. They rarely assign specific books. Why not let your child read from a children’s Bible, the NIrV version of the Bible itself or one of the many Christian books written for children? Some churches still have libraries where you can borrow Christian books for free.
  • Snack time. Many children have an afternoon snack. Instead of tossing the food at them and going about your business, sit down with them. Even on the busiest of days, you can spare five minutes to have important conversations with your kids while they eat their snack.
  • Bedtime. Once children reach school age, many parents stop doing bedtime prayers with their children. Yet most still tuck their children in and have some sort of bedtime ritual. Consider praying over your child, reading a few Bible verses, telling a Bible story or reminding your children “who they are and whose they are” instead of some secular affirmation in your bedtime routine. Those five extra minutes of time spent with you and God can also help calm and soothe your kids, making it easier for them to sleep.

Be creative. If one of your children is waiting with you during the activity of another – you’ve got a nice block of time. Children too old for naps, benefit from an afternoon rest time when you can rest with them for a few minutes, talking about the things God wants them to know. Find what works best for you and your children, but find time somewhere… because even if you attend church and Bible class regularly, your children will still need to get the bulk of their spiritual education from you.