As a Christian parent one of my strongest desires was for my children to know, love and obey God.  I knew that as their parent, I was called to disciple them.  So like we all do these days – we look for information, for the right information, for good information; resources that I could use to teach my children about God.  And yet time after time, God showed me that the best way to make my kids think about Him was to talk straight from the heart.  Let’s talk about that…

When you Teach Bible from your Heart, you Impact your Child’s Heart

One morning when our kids were young we settled down to our family devotions and the planned topic was “being a peacemaker”.  Josh who was about 8, asked if he could share a verse that he had read earlier in the morning. Immediately I knew that it was the verse for us to study and ponder for that morning instead of going ahead with the study we were working through. It was such an encouraging time – not only was the Word of God quickened to our hearts but our son was hearing from God and applying the Word to his life and being brave enough to share it with others.

This was a lesson from the heart.  I didn’t have time to prepare anything – it was simply us chatting over God’s word together.  Josh shared what was on his heart, what he had learnt about God that morning, and our conversation was guided by what was in my heart (the things that I knew, believed, valued, and acted on) because I walked with God.  

Another lesson from the heart would happen when someone asked a question.  If we are focused on the resource we are using to guide our Family Bible Study or Devotion time, then questions will be annoying interruptions, but when we are committed to teaching from the heart – questions are where we find the gold, questions come from the heart, and will lead you to a heart-conversation.  And there were times when I didn’t know the answers, so we would dig into the Bible Study tools (and you can find them for free online these days) and we’d find the answer – and get to know more about God along the way.  

But I think most of the time I used a resource or two to guide us.  The key to teaching from your heart when you are using a resource is for you, as the discussion leader (so to speak), to be prepared.  If you were leading a small group mid-week Bible study you wouldn’t rock up unprepared – neither should we when we are teaching God’s word to our kids!  

Depending on the resource will depend on how much time you need to be prepared but you need to know, what is the point of the lesson, or devotional, where is this lesson going.   You need to know at least one question to ask your children that is age appropriate, but more importantly heart directed.  How will your children internalise and grow from this time together in God’s word.  If you haven’t thought about that then you are likely just going through the motions, and your children will pick up on that too.  

 

Why Teaching from the Heart Matters

I’m reminded of the scripture Deut 6:4-7… it starts by saying “These words that I command you this day shall be upon your heart, and you shall teach them diligently to your children.”

I can only imagine what the parents felt – when God gave that command as they headed to the promised land. God clearly gave the instruction for parents to teach their children His Word. How does that command make you feel? 

There are two challenges to me in this verse:

  1. Are God’s words on my heart?
  2. Am I teaching them diligently to my kids?

When God said this He was talking about the law.  He told everyone to have His word on their hearts – and for the parents to teach their kids.  I believe that for us today, it includes the whole of the Bible – Old and New Testament.

So we need to hear God for ourselves – We need to know God’s word for ourselves – and we need to teach that to our kids.

What are you learning about God at the moment?

Are you prepared to talk about that with your kids?

It is a vulnerable thing for sure – and of course, we don’t always have to go into the details because sometimes our adult world is not for our children to bear (and that would include our heart issues that God is working on) but the word of God is applicable to all ages, genders, and nations.  There will be something in what you are learning that you can share with your kids.

I believe that we can teach the word of God as it stands to our kids.  We can be systematic, we can cover all the important theology that will help our children grow.  We can also teach the personal rhemas and lessons that we are learning as a Christian.  We can share our testimonies – the good things God has done in our life – all of this is teaching our kids about our God.

But there is one other way that God’s word can be in your heart – and that is when we ask God to help us guide our children’s hearts.  I believe God gives you the ability to understand your child’s heart, and you are in the unique position of knowing your child’s journey – and it is these insights that can direct you and the studies, or devotions, or readings, that you choose to do with your kids.  

 Don’t let Bible times become a head knowledge thing – the Word of God is alive and every time it is read, there is an opportunity for the Holy Spirit to touch a heart, and change a life.  Let this happen in your family Bible times.  

I guess my caution is that we can quieten the work of the Holy Spirit by pushing through with a plan, and not being sensitive to what He has to say to us – or our kids.

When we use bought resources and curriculum we sit down to teach our kids but we have our nose in a book – we are delivering the information written in a book and we deliver the lesson, day after day because that is what the author planned. It is the same for a devotional reading.  There is a danger that we focus on delivering the information instead of teaching their hearts. We don’t have the time, the patience or the awareness to deviate and to optimise the heart things that are happening (or need to happen) in our kids in that moment. 

When we teach from what is on our heart, we teach out of relationship.  We teach out of our relationship with God and we teach out of our relationship with our children.  Both these aspects will affect the words, tone, application, of what we have to say – and to be honest – it will be received differently too. There is no joy in just delivering information – I wanted the times we came together to read the Bible to be life changing, relevant to where my children were at in their Christian walk.

 

Practical Tips for Heart-centered Teaching

When I look back on our parenting years & our homeschooling, the most fruitful, most alive, most significant devotional or Bible studies came when I set aside the list of ‘doctrines’ the kids should know by certain ages, or I put aside the series of  Bible studies outlined in a certain curriculum and instead asked God – “What do my kids need to learn?  Where do they need to grow?”

Being a Christian parent means we pray a lot – and God gives us answers.

 When I say, teach from your heart, I’m not talking about having no plans or not using resources at all; it is about sitting down with your kids knowing that what you are about to read and think about is relevant to where they are at.  Discipleship is not just ticking the Bible study box.  Intentionally discipling your children needs some prep, but a purchased sequential curriculum or Reading plan can often distract us from speaking and teaching freely, addressing the heart needs as we see them or as  God shows us.

So there are two aspects of teaching from your heart

  1. Teaching because the word of God is in your heart – you know it, you believe it, you live it.
  2. Teaching because you know this is the right lesson, the right word for your child’s heart.  

 

When we needed a new study or direction my prep would start with the prayer – what do my children need to learn to continue to grow in their love of God, their knowledge of His Word and their ability to make wise choices?   I would look for resources that helped me help them do just that.  

Sometimes we’d use a resource in its fullness, other times we would dip, and yet other times I decided we’d had enough and needed to move on regardless of how much we had covered or completed.

 The challenge to me was to have a time with God that was life-giving, that had meaning and application, not just doing the lesson from the book one day after the next.  

 Which meant I couldn’t plan too far ahead.  There is no way to plan ahead when you don’t know how your child is going to grow in spiritual maturity, or what questions or stumbling blocks they will face.  I needed resources to help me, but i also needed the freedom to make changes and move onto another resources that matched our constantly changing heart-needs.

 

You are Equipped to do this!

With so many resources out there, so many books, DVD’s, study courses for every age it is easy to feel intimidated or to feel like you are not qualified or equipped.  But God has equipped you with everything you need to do the job ahead of you.  God has sent the Holy Spirit to teach and remind you of all that Jesus taught and commanded.  The Holy Spirit is with you to strengthen you and encourage you to obey all that Jesus commanded.  

James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

 God will give you the wisdom you need to disciple your children.  

  Whether you have a carefully chosen book or structured lesson plan in front of you or not, the real issue is have you thought about this passage of God’s word beforehand – not just intellectually, but have you let the lesson from God’s word touch your heart and change you?  Because when the Word of God changes you – you have something to pass on to your kids – regardless of the resources you do or don’t use.  This means we need to be learning, studying, growing ourselves before we teach anything to our kids.

We don’t need to be perfect, we just need to be real in our relationship with Jesus.

Our Family Bible study time can easily become just the good thing that a Christian family does – or it can be about discipling your children – teaching, guiding, encouraging them to love Jesus and understand God’s Word.   And that happens when the word of God is in your heart – and you teach from your heart.

 

Heart-focused Action Step

I think the biggest challenge to parents when it comes to discipleship and our children is that we continue to grow in our faith – that we grow in our knowledge and obedience to Jesus.  

We listen to the lie that says we aren’t perfect, that we make mistakes, that we don’t know enough, that we don’t have time to do it properly.  These are lies that will make you ineffective as a Chrisitan parent.

The truth is that as you walk with Jesus, as you get to know Him, love Him more and more – that is what will be communicated to your kids.  If we focus on those lies, we aren’t teaching our kids the love, mercy and grace message of the gospel – we are teaching them a performance based faith.  And we all know we don’t want that!

So as you reflect on Deut 6:4-9 and if you are familiar with this passage, don’t just gloss over this) Listen, and ask God to speak to your heart.

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.

Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.

These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.

Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.

Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

Are you doing this?  

I don’t ask you this to make you feel guilty.  But rather to remind you, prompt you and encourage you to do it. 

What part of this passage do you need to respond to?

  • Do you need to hear the call to love God with your heart, soul and strength?
  • Do you need to have God’s word on your heart?
  • Do you need to talk about God’s word to your children?
  • Do you need create a family culture of always being aware of God in your lives?

And remember – If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.  James 1:5

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God’s Word in Your Heart

Though we may have to do our Quiet Time, or Bible Reading time differently in different seasons of motherhood – we can still prioritise spending time in God’s word.

Audio, music, podcasts.

My favourite was keeping my Bible open in the kitchen and reading it as I walked past. Read it for a moment while you make a cup of tea, read it for a moment before you unstack the dishwasher.

But I also had times where I read while I fed a baby, I read while I had a toddler beside me (interrupting me), I read early in the morning, and I read after lunch time.

Though at times it is hard – the reality is – we make time for what is important to us.

 

Don’t believe the Lies

Sometimes, fear whispers in our ears, “You’re not equipped.  Your kids deserve better!”

Don’t believe the lies.

But we do have to continue to grow in our faith – that we grow in our knowledge and obedience to Jesus.  

When we listen to the lie that says we aren’t perfect, that we make mistakes, that we don’t know enough, that we don’t have time to do it properly.  These are lies that will make you ineffective as a Chrisitan parent.

The truth is that as you walk with Jesus, as you get to know Him, love Him more and more – that is what will be communicated to your kids.  If we focus on those lies, we aren’t teaching our kids the love, mercy and grace message of the gospel – we are teaching them a performance based faith.  And we all know we don’t want that!

What steps do you take to ensure your own spiritual growth and development as you guide your children in their faith journey?

The Bible Changes Hearts

Whenever we read the Bible there is an opportunity for the Holy Spirit to touch our heart and change our life.

Is this your expectation? Every time you read the Bible there is an opportunity for the Holy Spirit to speak to you.

Same for your kids. Teach them to expect to learn something about God, and how to walk with Him.

We need to have this as our expectation whenever we read God’s Word.

Do you feel inadequate as a Christian?

I think there are three things that make us feel an imposter or inadequate as a Christian:

  1. We compare ourselves with someone else.  Comparison is a thief!  When we compare ourselves with someone else we never see the whole picture, we compare only a snapshot of our life.  We used to have a book that was a collection of photographs taken at the same time around the world – the diversity of people’s experiences is incredible to see.  Comparisons is simply not truth and we need to guard our hearts.
  2. We focus on our sin. When we focus on our sin we are focusing on ourselves, not on Jesus.  We are to keep our eyes on Jesus; He promises that He loves us, forgiven us, and is with us.  We completely ignore this when we live in constant condemnation.
  3. We pretend.  We can pretend that we have it together, that we are a good Christian and do all the right things but we know the truth.  And knowing that we aren’t living in truth is exhausting, and we condemn ourselves even while putting on a good looking front.  We say we know no-one can be perfect, but we put that expectation on ourselves.  We need to be honest and real in our walk with Jesus.  That is the whole point of having a relationship with Jesus – his love, mercy and grace!

We need to keep our eyes on Jesus and the things He says are true.

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