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May 21

Reading the Bible with Multiple Ages

Posted on Monday, May 21, 2012

“And so David had to flee from Saul-” I begin, the crumbs of a hastily eaten pancake still on my fingers.

“Mommy, mommy, mommy!” calls the three year old from one seat over.

“What Squishy?” I quickly ask.

She takes a dramatic pause, then- “And so Noah and Joshua and Moses, they built a big boat and Jesus likes to read books and-”

“Squishy, Momma’s reading right now, you can have a turn to tell your story when I’m done,” I interrupt her excited run-on sentence and then turn to 11 year old Mookie, “Can you please get her sketchbook for me?”

Mookie runs off to get the sketchbook and I search for my place on the page.

“Then he came to the Phillistines and-” I see a  7 year old  wander from his chair in search of more food.

“Drummer boy, remember, sit down and wait until we’re finished reading.”

Turning back to my page, I hear strange, unappetizing sounds and find the source to be the 9 year old’s nose.

“Eeww, Jellybean, go blow your nose,” I insist and find my place again just as Mookie slides back into her chair with the sketchbook.

“As I was saying, David fled the palace…,” and Bible time at breakfast begins.

Getting an uninterrupted ten minutes to read the Bible together is only one of the challenges of including God’s Word in our daily plan.  I also have to consider the best time of day and the best translation to suit four children, ages ranging from three to eleven years old.

The Story Bible at Breakfast

A friend at church recently mentioned that their family reads the Bible together threes times a day, at each meal.  We may not catch each meal and we may use some variations in the form of the Bible that we choose, but I do try hard to share scripture with the kids several times a day.

With particular thoughts toward my six year old, this year I pulled out The Story Bible by Catherine F. Vos to read each morning at the breakfast table (over and around the noisy toddler).

We’ve read Vos before but I have been surprised by how our morning reading of The Story Bible has led our hearts toward a truer understanding of God’s character.

We started in Genesis and I worried about the ho-hum reaction to hearing the stories the olders have heard so many times before, but instead all of us found ourselves saying, “Oh, I had forgotten about that,” or “I didn’t know that detail.”

The Story of God engaged each of us.

As we wind up the school year, we’re entering the story of Esther and plan to keep reading into the New Testament stories this summer.  ”Read the Bible!” the kids call out most days.

Narrating the Bible Plus Two Questions

After I read a short section, I ask one of the children to narrate what she heard in the story. Sometimes I’m tempted to skip over the 7 year old, not wanting to frustrate him (or, more honestly, not wanting to cause me to deal with any frustration) but I’m always rewarded when I ask. He may need me to lead him along a bit with questions to get him started, but I’m always amazed by what he’s retained.

Next I ask everybody: “What do we learn about _______ ‘s character (fill in David, Joshua, etc)?”

Then I ask: “What do we learn about God’s character in this story?”  For younger children, you might need to be more specific by naming the character trait, “How do we see God’s love in this story?”

I also read extra historical information from Journey through the Bible.

God’s Character through the Big Picture

By moving more quickly through the stories then we would in a regular Bible, we’ve been able to see the firm and unchanging character of God.  We’ve gathered stories of His power and might, which we’ve recalled regularly during prayers for sick friends and family members and other challenges our family has faced this past year.

Here’s are a few truths about God we’ve seen consistently through the Old Testament stories:

God hates sin (the flood, Adam and Eve, the Israelites, Jacob and Esau, Saul, idolatry of the Israelites).

God often chooses the man least fit for the job and works through him, so that God’s glory and power and not man’s power can be seen (Moses, Gideon, Moses, Joshua, Samson, David).

His patience and mercy, as with the Israelites.

His plans cannot be thwarted. (Balaam, Samson, Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar, Jonah).

Study the Bible, so that you can be discerning with an adaptation.

In case you decide to try a story bible, do remember that you will get less of God’s actual words and more of someone’s else-so choose carefully. Look at reviews and find the story bible with a good reputation for adhering to scripture.

You need to be a student of God’s word yourself, knowing the truth and being able to discern when the words of your story Bible don’t align with scripture. In those cases I read it aloud and then point out to the kids, “This is one person’s idea, she’s just sharing her opinion. What do we know about God to be true?” Or sometimes my olders will interrupt and voice a concern and share some scripture that keeps us on the right track.

We may have the Story Bible for breakfast, bit we also  read and memorize scripture almost every evening together and my 9 and 11 year old do their own Bible Studies during their rest time in the afternoon. The Story Bible is one part of a larger plan for studying God’s Word.

The lessons of The Story Bible are not just for kids.

God has used these stories not only for me to remind the kids of His power and might but also to constantly remind myself.  We are now in our 7th year of a turbulent health decline with my Dad.  Currently in a battle for quality care and dignity, I seem to face giants, but the Lord reminds me of story after story when He defeated the most impossible enemies.  He reminds me that He often strips back the power and army surrounding a man so that His glory can be seen.  He used the Story Bible to remind me of these truths and point me back to His scripture:

“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands.  And He is not served by human hands as if He needed anything because He Himself gives all men life and breath and everything else.” (Acts 17:24-25-this is a verse we memorized together with the help of Seeds)

More Resources for reading and studying the Bible

If your children are not ready for a Story Bible with mostly words and hardly any pictures (probably age 5 or 6 and younger) don’t miss The Jesus Storybook Bible, the author and illustrator have  the gospel through every story and picture.

Other resources for bringing the Word of God into your home: