Why Your Kids Want You to Read Ezekiel to Them

Why Your Kids Want You to Read Ezekiel to Them

Manners and sanctification


May 18, 2023



Family Worship


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!

The Mystery that Transforms

The Mystery that Transforms

Manners and sanctification


April 27, 2023



“Great is the mystery of godliness.”   1 Timothy 3:16

Was it needing an inspiring conclusion to my 12-week Youth Sunday school class? Or, was it re-reading Rankin Wilbourne’s fabulous book, Union With Christ? Actually, I think it was both. For me, it was one of those moments where I learned another way to grow in the joy of the gospel. I would like to share this with you in hopes that it encourages you—and your family—as it did me.

Do You Like Mysteries?

Mysteries have a way of captivating our attention—and our imaginations. In my youth class, I played a short clip from the movie, Voyage of the Dawn Treader (based on the book by the same title by C.S. Lewis). The kids were riveted to the screen and knew the movie’s details with perfect recall. C. S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien (Lord of the Rings), both Christians, masterfully used mystery and imagination to captivate hearts with the awesomeness of God and his redemptive works in Jesus Christ.

Paul said in 1 Timothy 3:17, “…great is the mystery of godliness.” In saying that, Paul was most definitely—not—flirting with New Age religion (something can be mysterious without being mysticism). He simply caught what we today miss despite reading over and over again, all of the imagery Scripture uses to describe us and our union with Jesus.

Paul Was Excited About a Mystery

Paul was clear on the gospel’s message and how to apply it. But at the same time, he acknowledged there was a mystery to it, too, that brought him joy. Consider the overflow of joy he demonstrates in both of his breathless prayers in Ephesians in 1:15-23 and 3:14-21. Both prayers involve long sentences that as you read them leave you wondering how he prayed them without passing out from lack of oxygen. But the joy of Jesus did that to Paul. It left him breathless.

In Ephesians 1:18, he prays that the Ephesian church would “have the eyes of your hearts enlightened that you may know… the riches of his glorious inheritance”. In 3:18 he prays that they will know the breadth, and length, and height and depth of God’s love. Paul is actively trying to engage our imagination by praying this way. Imagination is required in order to grow in our understanding of who we are in Christ.

Is The Gospel Without Mystery Still The Gospel?

I agree with Wilbourne that one reason the gospel has less impact today is that in our efforts to be clear we have stripped away this mysterious aspect of it. Mystery and imagination actually engages hearts in a way that connects with people today—youth especially.

God is big, awesome, and infinite. What kind of God would He be if He and his many works could be fully known with our finite minds? There is a lot of mystery in God that goads our seeking him. We were made to be enchanted. But there is more to the power of this realization than that.

WE Are In The Mystery

God actually has united us to himself in Christ. Our union with Christ is something that is in many ways a mystery. We died with him and we rose with him (Rom. 6:1-2). We are “in Christ” (2 Cor. 5:17). These are awesome theological statements—and mysteries—that incredibly describe us.

To read statements like this in Scripture like we read directions in how to put together a piece of IKEA furniture almost misses the point. Our imaginations should race with excitement to contemplate the boundless meaning of such descriptions of wee people like us.

Greater Joy Awaits

To think thusly, is to be left with greater joy. And this joy is the nectar of the Christian life. It compels us to know God better. To know God is to love God. When we love God, Jesus says (John 14:15), we will keep his commandments. It’s a pretty good deal, isn’t it?

As we read the word together as a family, how are we dealing with these mystery-imagination passages? Are we digging into them, perhaps being silent as we contemplate? Or, do we brush over them in order to get to what we can more easily and quickly understand: the dos and don’ts that we value as more helpful? The opportunity they provide is boundless. They should transfix us.

Transformation Through “Transfixation”

This a lot like what Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 3:18, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” This is a mysterious statement that inflames our imaginations.

Our transformation is not owed to our obedience. It is owed to the Holy Spirit who mesmerizes us with the unsurpassed beauty—and mystery—of God in human flesh and our union with him.

Do you find this intriguing? Is a ray of sunshine bursting through the grey clouds of a menial Christian life? Let’s boldly go there with our children.

The Gospel Helps Us Win the War Against Idolatry

The Gospel Helps Us Win the War Against Idolatry

Manners and sanctification


Republished from May of 2016



We are Pleasure Seekers
God created us with a desire to seek joy and pleasure (Psalm 16:11, Phil 3:1, 4:4). Our lives are a moment by moment search for treasure that can bring us joy and pleasure (Luke 6:45).

Did you wake up this morning wanting raw liver for breakfast? Did you drive to work today hoping to wreck the car or to catch the flu. Why not? Because God created you to seek treasure—what brings you joy and pleasure.

God himself is the one who alone can rightly and completely meet these desires for us. When we find our joy in him we are glorifying him.

Because of sin, the flesh seeks to find that pleasure in idols rather than in God (Acts 7:39-43, Rom. 1:22-23, Eph. 4:22). Calvin rightly called our hearts, “A perpetual forge [factory] of idols.”

Whether we consciously realize it or not, we naturally act based on what we think is best for us even if what we want to do is sinful and therefore bad for us. Sin deceives us by tempting us to believe that we can find joy and pleasure in an idol rather than God (Eph. 4:22).

The work of becoming more conformed to the image of Jesus Christ is one that involves discerning these idols in our hearts and by faith, applying the gospel to defeat them.

That God created us to seek joy and pleasure is incredibly freeing and ultimately helpful in our relationships

First, it helps us see that God loves us and wants us to be happy. Satan wants us to believe that God is holding out on us and that true joy and pleasure is found in his counterfeits.

Second, it changes our purpose in relationships. Our ultimate goal is not to be morality police who spy out any vestige of joy in people’s lives. To the contrary, our job really is to help them find greater joy which involves eradicating insufficient sources of joy. Do we tell people this? Do they sense that this is really our driving desire for them? Like the elders of the church, do we see ourselves as “workers for your joy” (2 Cor. 2:14)?

How encouraging to be able to say to a struggling spouse, child, or friend that your purpose is to help him or her to find greater joy the way that God created him/her to find it. This might sound rather impractical. For this message to stick, it needs to be delivered regularly outside the heat of battle. How often do we emphasize this message to ourselves and to each other?

It’s the question that we all need to ask ourselves each day: “Where’s my joy today?” If we cannot answer, “Jesus!” and live in light of that, then we will struggle to defeat the idols that rule our lives.

Note: it is not inherently sinful to seek joy or pleasure in something. (For instance, I get a lot of joy in my dates with my wife). The problem comes when we depend upon that thing to meet our need for joy. (Do I get angry when I can’t go on a date? Or do I get depressed if the date does not go the way I had hoped). The only way for us to keep our desires in proper alignment is to believe each day that all of the joy we need we already have in God alone. If our joy is fundamentally in God alone, and we live more consciously of this fact, then we do not need to find it anywhere else. Within this context, we can truly enjoy whatever God provides as a gift from him. Further, we can still be joyful if we don’t get the thing we want. And we don’t lose our joy if we get what we want but it is broken or taken away.)

The Gospel Moves us to the Frontlines of Ministry

The Gospel Moves us to the Frontlines of Ministry

Manners and sanctification


Republished from May of 2016





The gospel helps church leaders with one of their toughest challenges: that of moving people (husbands, wives, singles, youth, and children) from the sidelines to the front lines of ministry. Here’s how.

What is Ministry?

First, what is the “ministry” that we want them to be engaged in? Ministry is much more than merely teaching a Sunday school class, or showing up for a project. Ministry is the application of the gospel to life, in life. This is in fact what we see in Jesus’ example and it is the overwhelming picture of ministry that we glean from most of the New Testament. We may not all be called to teach a class, but we are all called “to speak the truth to one another in love” (Eph. 4:15-17).

Our Ministry Confidence is in the Gospel Itself, Not Our Abilities, Plans or Programs

We begin with Paul’s words in 1 Cor. 1:17+18; 2:4-5.

 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ, be emptied of its power.

 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

 My speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

Paul’s message was the gospel and his confidence was in the gospel message itself, not his skills and abilities, to bring about the desired goal – the transformation of people’s lives to God’s glory. In other words, Paul believed in a fully sufficient gospel.

Christians are on the Ministry Sidelines Because They are not Placing Their Confidence in the Gospel

Because so much ministry is centered on Sunday and people with teaching gifts (Sermons, Sunday School, Programs), rather than every day life, people have completed their self analysis and concluded that they have nothing to offer…and sit in exile on the ministry sidelines as a result.

Such cases reveal a dependence on their own abilities (or lack thereof) for ministry effectiveness. But  God calls us to minister. We are a kingdom of priests (1Pet. 2:9)! We are to speak the truth to one another in love (Eph. 4:16). We are a house of living stones (1 Pet. 2:5)! And Paul reminds us in Romans 1:16 that the gospel is, “the power of God for salvation” (justification, sanctification, and glorification). We are all, A-L-L,  gospel ministers.

A heart that truly believes the all-sufficient, powerful gospel and that seeks to help people apply the riches of our redemption in Christ to life will minister effectively because it is the Holy Spirit who actually takes our applications of the gospel truths and makes them efficacious in the life of the believer.

How to Move People’s Confidence From Self to the Gospel

1. Teach people what ministry really is: It is not merely teaching a class (something which they may never do), etc., but it is proclaiming the gospel to one another in life so that we grow up into Christ as individuals and as a local body. This ministry is everyone’s responsibility.

2.  Equip people to do number one above. Teach them how to apply the gospel to the heart by faith in life.

3. Teach and remind people—often—that it is the gospel that makes them sufficient to minister. The gospel calls them, the gospel equips them, the Holy Spirit uses the gospel to bring transformation in His time.

4. Publically highlight and develop a greater emphasis on the everyday life ministry that is taking place. Most people view “real ministry” as that which is done by professionals, not what THEY do in their relationships. This is a hard change for people to understand and act on. It takes a very intentional effort to make the change.

5. Examine your own example as a leader. Is your example one that clearly demonstrates that you believe that “the little guy” can do real, effective ministry? Are you always in the spotlight? Do people see you minister through your own weaknesses that find strength in the gospel? Or are you always seen as the guy for whom ministry is effortless and the guy who never struggles?

6. Begin to graciously and patiently hold people accountable for doing this ministry.

7. Remind them that the gospel is their strength.

God’s Discipleship Pattern in Scripture

God’s Discipleship Pattern in Scripture

Manners and sanctification


Republished from May of 2016




The latest research reveals that 75% of the children raised in evangelical churches are leaving the faith. It appears that the church is hemorrhaging its children out into the culture. Did Peter know something that we don’t when he preached, “For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off…”(Acts 2:39)?

Having been a children’s ministry leader, and having met many children’s and youth ministry leaders over my 21 years of ministry, I can say that the efforts of the men and women who faithfully and lovingly serve on staff are not in question. In fact, the problems we see cannot be laid at the feet of these programs.

I submit that perhaps there are biblical principles that we’ve lost sight of. A renewed focus on these principles could make the difference in seeing Peter’s promise move from elusive dream to reality.

On one hand, Children’s and Youth ministry leaders increasingly are saying, “We’re doing all we can, but we can’t disciple children in one hour per week. We need parents to step up to the plate.” On the other hand, parents are maxed out, stressed out, and sometimes checked out of the daily process of making kingdom disciples of their covenant children.

The Word of God Provides The Solution In a Simple Pattern

What does God’s word tell us about how He expects us, through the power of His Holy Spirit, to establish covenant faithfulness in the home? I begin with a short story.

I remember one Christmas Eve getting quite frustrated with putting together a toy for my son. I finally, humiliatingly, after two hours of exasperation, found the directions and actually read them to learn that I had missed an important step. I imagine anyone reading this has had the same experience at some time or another. In some cases, the pieces are all there, but they aren’t put together in proper order. Either way, successful completion of the project remains elusive, until we read (or re-read) the directions.

What we need to do is “re-read” the directions for making disciples.
Very simply, it looks like this:

The Simple Pattern for Covenant Faithfulness in the Church and in the Home

1. There is a presupposed pattern in scripture, submitted to, pursued, and applied for God’s glory and our good, which rightly applied is not two but one central motive.

2. The aim of this pattern is heart-level obedience. (True godly desires verses bare-legalistic duty-oriented behavior).

3. Heart-level obedience is lived out through heart-level relationships with God and one another (“You shall love the Lord your God…and your neighbor”) which are the ultimate end to which we are all accountable.

4. This heart-level obedience and these relationships are not indiscriminate but maintained along covenantal lines (e.g. marriage and family).

5. The primary methodology of growth in regards to heart-level obedience and heart-level relationships is speaking the truth (the gospel) in love within these relationships, for which we are all accountable to know others and to be known by them.

6. This growth, otherwise referred to as sanctification or renewal in the likeness of Christ, involves putting off the old man with its lusts and putting on the new man (Christ in you). The love that comes from Christ to God and others, being rooted in the accomplishment of Christ and applied by faith, makes covenant faithfulness not only possible but expected, and not a burden but a joy.

7. God’s design is for each household to have a spiritual leader or ‘head of household’ (husband, father, single mother, or woman unequally yoked to a non-believer) who is tasked with the responsibility of overseeing this heart-level transformation for their households.

8. Overseers (elders) are men assigned to see to it that this transformation is being faithfully maintained in the broader Household of God (the Church). Practically speaking, overseers accomplish their jobs primarily by equipping and graciously holding responsible those (heads of households) whom God holds accountable.

How to Re-emphasize This Pattern

I will begin by stating what this pattern does not require. It does not require a jihad against church programs. Truth is, these programs can actually help facilitate the re-establishment of this pattern. But let’s be clear, absent this simple pattern being vigorously, intentionally, and faithfully maintained, these programs carry a load they were never intended to carry and as we have seen cannot fabricate covenant faithfulness.

What this pattern does require. Required is the vigorous, intentional, and faithful maintenance of this pattern because it represents what God has already clearly revealed in His word to guide us.

The place to start is with the establishment of this basic pattern of covenant faithfulness in the entire body of Christ. The big picture is beautifying the Church: the Bride of Christ. Do we really believe Ephesians 4:15-16? Are we building each other up by speaking the truth to one another in love? Faithful shepherding—and accountability—by the elders of the heads of households to fulfill their role is a clear biblical element that must be re-established if we are to accomplish covenant faithfulness and produce kingdom disciples.

Equipping spiritual heads of households to pursue covenant faithfulness in the home is not a ‘nice-to-have’, but a primary, foundational and absolutely mission- critical element in the church’s ministry.

This represents an exciting opportunity for elders, ministry leaders, head of households.
Scripture has given us a simple pattern that we must live in order to see Peter’s promise realized in our time…and beyond.