Do you want to excite your children? If so, here are some kid-approved ideas: end school early, take them to a movie… or read them the book of Ezekiel for family devotions. Maybe you’re thinking, “Eric, the first two I understand but you lost me on the third one.”
In his book, Union With Christ, Rankin Wilbourne made the astute point that in the name of making the gospel understandable we have reduced it to such a level that it has lost its enchantment. Tragically, it’s become fire-insurance; a formula rather than a source of great joy that compels our every thought, word, and deed to God’s glory.
The Gospel Is Clear
The basic gospel message is clear and understandable. Even children understand on some level the fundamentals of God’s holiness, our sin, and the remedy of Jesus’ death on the cross. That would be the A,B,Cs of the gospel. But as Tim Keller has said, the gospel is not just the ABCs, it is the A to Z of the Christian life. It is the way we make all progress and grow as Christians. This is where the lights grow dim or go completely out for most people. How does the gospel message help us grow?
The Gospel is Mysterious
As Paul says to Timothy, great is the mystery of the godliness (1 Tim. 3:16). There is a mysterious element to godliness that should enchant us with God and engage our imagination. When you stop to consider it, there is a lot in Scripture about God and who we are in Christ that uses figurative—imaginary—language to help us understand deep spiritual truth.
Consider: how are we hidden in Christ (Col. 3:3)? How did we die with him on the cross and rise back to life with him (Rom. 6:1-3)? Our identity as members of Christ’s body, the church, is described in figurative language: we are body parts, we are hands, eyes, and ears (1 Cor. 12). We are an army (Eph. 6:11-18, 2 Tim. 2:3-4). We are the bride of Jesus (John 3:29, 2 Cor. 11:2). How do we grow as Christians? By focusing on the glory of Jesus, Paul says in 2 Corinthians 3:18. These are enchanting truths!
Kids Love Mysteries and Enchantment
Digging into these descriptions so that they provide meaning for us is not a simple case of “do this” and “don’t do that”. It requires something more: imagination, or perhaps enchantment. Ezekiel helps us with that. But before we go there specifically, let’s remember something about kids today.
Kids today absolutely love mysterious, enchanting books and movies. Until recently, I never appreciated The Chronicles of Narnia or the Lord of the Rings. When I’d watch those movies with my kids, I’d fall asleep trying to figure it all out. But C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, two Christian men whose works have enchanted millions of children and adults, understood that even with all of the clarity the Bible gives there is still an aspect of who God is and how we walk with him that captivates our attention and inflames our imagination.
I have no trouble getting my children to watch any of these movies over and over and over again. THEY have an easy time seeing the rich Christian symbolism. While watching, I will ask them a question about one of the characters and they’ll say, “C’mon dad, don’t you read your Bible? Aslan—the lion—represents God—duh.”
Use The Mysteries of Scripture to Engage Your Children
Enchantment and mystery are just tools: aspects of story that hook the attention of children and should hook us adults, too.
Ezekiel is a book that is rich in imagery (as is Daniel). Some of the imagery helps us understand how all-knowing God is and how all-powerful he is. Some of it helps us get a deep sense of how wicked our sin really is. Some of it, we can never fully understand its meaning. But that in itself brings us tremendous peace and joy. Would God be God if we as finite beings could fully understand everything about him and his ways? No. As it is, he has told us more than enough that is both clear and requires some imagination on our part. The rest we will learn through eternity in heaven.
When I started reading Ezekiel to my kids while on vacation, we were actually in the middle of reading the Gospel of John. When we were back home, I gave my kids the option to continue reading Ezekiel or to go back to the Gospel of John and their answer somewhat shocked me. To a kid, they wanted to read Ezekiel. They were tracking!
Even in Ezekiel, where we read a lot about judgement, we also read a lot that leaves us in joyful awe of our God and his incredible love, grace, and mercy. All of this is shown through God engaging our imaginations through these sometimes crazy, hard to explain visions. But when reading the Bible the way the Bible wants to be read (see podcast series on this) we can understand these passages that we normally would simply never read ourselves, or our children. They become incredible. Fun. And life-giving.
Reading the word of God should not be boring. The Bible features different forms of literature (history, law, narrative, wisdom, etc.) but they all have the same message. It’s about seeing God’s love, grace, and mercy. It’s about seeing Jesus and dazzling our kids with him. It brings joy.
A Tool to Help You
If you are thinking, but Eric, I don’t understand all those complicated visions in Ezekiel and Daniel. Fear not! Helpful tip: invest $35 in an ESV Gospel Transformation Study Bible. This is absolutely my hands-down favorite Bible. Ever. When reading Ezekiel, I read the chapter, then I read the commentary that goes with it. It is simple and we are all enjoying The Word which means we are also learning.
Your children might really be bored by your Bible reading but it doesn’t have to be that way! Listen to our podcast series, purchase an ESV Gospel Transformation Bible and read Ezekiel to your children! It will be a truly wonder-full experience.
Check out our recent podcast series “Reading the Bible the Way the Bible Wants to be Read”.
Looking for a way to jump start your family worship? Try our free 7 day family devotional!