The Amazing Life of Elisha

“People ask me commonly: ‘What is your favorite book of the Old Testament?’ I reply, ‘Whatever book I am studying at the time.’” Dr. Bruce Waltke

The kids and I recently finished reading 2 Kings, and this time, even more than before, I marveled at Elisha. If you want to see the Spirit of God working through the life of a man…and be filled with hope knowing that this same Spirit dwells in you…read about Elisha.

I ran across this great article by Bruce Waltke. In it, he takes us for a swim (to the deep end) in the amazing life of Elisha.

Having Trouble Seeing?

“Bring your Bible with you to a friend’s house, choose a passage to read together, and ask the Lord to open the eyes of your hearts.”

I ran across this piece by Gloria Furman on the desiringGod blog. I found it both encouraging and challenging. I think you will, too. (And since we’ve been reading 2 Kings, the illustration really hit home.)

If you’re not familiar with Gloria, find out more about her and read more of her insightful writing at gloriafurman.com.

Understanding Job

Our pastor has recently been preaching on the book of Job (Fulkerson Park). This series has come at a good time for me, reminding me that nothing happens apart from God’s sovereign control. I have also been reminded of the first time the kids and I read Job together…

After a little more than two years of reading the Bible with my children, we arrived at the book of Job. When I say that Job was difficult, that might be an understatement. Job can be a hard book for adults to sift through, but reading this book to children was especially tough. 

The book of Job begins by describing Job’s remarkable wealth and his righteous character. Then suddenly we are transported to a scene in heaven and told of a significant conversation between the Lord and Satan. (A conversation not revealed to Job, by the way.) Satan is, at that point, allowed to test Job, and in this testing Job loses virtually all that he has. The first chapter concludes with Job’s amazing response to his situation.

Then we come to chapter two, where God allows Satan to test Job still further by attacking his health. When Job’s friends hear of all Job’s adversity, the Bible says, “they made an appointment to come to sympathize with him and comfort him.” When they arrive, they are so grieved by Job’s appearance that they take on the posture of mourning and sit with him on the ground for seven days and nights without saying a word.

So far it’s a riveting story, right? These first two chapters are completely captivating—the kind of reading that keeps you on the edge of your seat and wanting more.

Sure, but then comes thirty-five chapters (count ’em: thirty-five!) of extensive, extensive diatribes as Job and his friends discuss and discuss and discuss Job’s circumstances. Without a doubt, God gave us these thirty-five chapters, and there is much to be learned from this discussion. However, reading and searching for understanding of these chapters with small children can be incredibly arduous. Not too far into these thirty-five chapters, my daughter Maggie sighed and said, “Can we please read something else? He keeps saying the same thing over and over again.”

In an effort to keep my children’s attention and encourage them to press on, I began to tell them, “God is going to speak. Soon God is going to speak.” Of course, I started saying this about chapter 10. When does He finally speak? God speaks in chapter 38. Day after day, I would proclaim again, “Hang in there just a little while longer. God is going to speak.”

Then the day finally came when God was going to speak. We had, at long last, reached chapter 38. My children were mesmerized. They, along with Job, had been waiting for what seemed like forever for God to have His say, and now it was finally going to happen. I began with “Today is the day that God speaks.” There was complete silence. I actually had their undivided attention. Then I read the Lord’s answer to Job. All eyes were fixed on me as I read:

Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said, “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Now gird up your loins like a man, and I will ask you, and you instruct Me! . . .

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? . . .

“Have you ever in your life commanded the morning, and caused the dawn to know its place? . . .

“Have you entered into the springs of the sea or walked in the recesses of the deep? . . .

“Have you entered the storehouses of the snow, or have you seen the storehouses of the hail?”

I was about two-thirds into the chapter when Benjamin, only two-and-a-half, quietly asked, “Can we sing ‘He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands’?”

For a moment I was speechless. Like a typical mom, I was about to cry. In his childlike way, he understood the passage! He understood that God does have the whole world in His hands, even Job with all his trouble.

 

Together: Celebrating Children Expressing Appetites for God

Yesterday was a celebration for our family. All of our children — the children that I talk about in Together: Growing Appetites for God — were baptized by my husband, Wes.

Ward Family Baptism

I am so thankful and can only give the glory to God. The stories of these children are still being written . . . and only God knows and only time will tell what’s in store for them. But for now, we’re celebrating His hand on them and their desire to trust in Jesus as both Savior and Lord.

Here’s is a video that was shown just before they were baptized. In it, they’re answering these questions . . . Who is Jesus? What is sin? When did you know that you were a sinner and needed a Savior? What are you trusting in for salvation?

We hope this will be of encouragement to any Christ-followers who watch this . . . and if you don’t know Jesus in a personal way, we hope that you’ll just be open to Him.

Thanks for letting me humbly share what God’s doing in our home. We are far from perfect. But He is being good to us. I am so grateful.

Jesus loves me. This I know.

“Get Your Act Together and Then I’ll Save You”

Moses didn’t come to the enslaved Israelites and say, “If you obey these laws, then God will free you from bondage.”

No.

God sent Moses to lead His people to freedom . . . to rescue them.

It was AFTER they had been set free that God gave them the law and told them to remember what He had done for them and to keep His commands.

I recently read the Moses stories, and it’s pretty easy for me to get overwhelmed by the laws and sacrifices and miss what a great picture these stories reveal of Jesus and what he has done for us.

Jesus didn’t come to us and say, “Get your act together and then I’ll save you.” Aren’t you glad?

While you and I were still sinners, Christ died for us. While we were disobedient, He rescued us. He freed us from our slavery. Then He wrote His law on our hearts (that were once like stone). He gave us the Spirit to direct our gaze on Jesus and remind us of what He has done. He gave us soft hearts of gratitude and love–hearts that want to follow God.

The Old Testament has amazing pictures of Christ. And I love it when the Holy Spirit sheds light on the Word so I can see.

Just a Simple Idea to Get You Going

If you’ve been considering reading the Bible to your children, but are somewhat intimidated or overwhelmed by the idea, consider starting with the Jesus Storybook Bible. This amazing book by Sally Lloyd Jones walks you through Bible stories with a focus on seeing Jesus. This is a wonderful tool to help you get into the rhythm of reading Bible stories, especially with very small children. And check out the videos that go along with the stories:

The Bible and Your Family

I’ve been sharing transcript excerpts from my time on Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss last year . . . today, we hear from some of my friends too. Thanks for being here and for staying faithful in following Christ in His Word. Here’s that transcript:

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: When you consistently read the Bible, it requires you to make changes to your life. The point of reading the Bible isn’t just a read, it’s to act on what it says. As Carrie read the Bible with her children, she and her husband, Wes, was confronted with an important realization. Now that our kids know this book, they’ll know when we are not obeying it. That led to a series of practical decisions, and we’ll hear about some of those today.

Carrie has written about her adventures through the Bible with her kids in a new book called,Together: Growing Appetites for God.

I’m so pleased that Revive Our Hearts can help promote this book as part of our new True Woman Imprint.

I hope you’ll get a copy at ReviveOurHearts.com. I’ll be back to explain how you can do that after Carrie continues the story of one mom committed to getting God’s Word into her children.

Carrie Ward: We gave my mom a coffee mug that had the dwarf Grumpy on it. I remember mom showing us the mug and it said Grumpy underneath it. I think it for her birthday, or some occasion, and the idea was that she’s grumpy without her cup of coffee. She took it as a joke and at the time; I thought nothing of it.

When we were in Deuteronomy, we read this long string of commands: Anyone who attacks their father or mother, is to be put to death. And in the middle of that string of commands,
anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.

In the middle of reading that, my son said, “Is giving Grandma a cup that says Grumpy, dishonoring? And I was like, Ouch. I sat back and thought about it for just a minute, and thought. Well, we gave her that in jest, and she took it that way. She received it and it was just something for humor, and I believe that is the way she received it. But at the same time, I wanted to be sensitive to his conscience that said this could be dishonoring.

It made me really stop and think. I probably wouldn’t give her that coffee mug again because for one thing, I wouldn’t want to dishonoring to my parents, and for another thing, I would not want my children to have any kind of feeling of guilt or have their conscience undermined by something I did.

So it really made me stop and take a second look at my own life and my own habits. That happens often when you read through Scripture. You come to a point where you know that you don’t live this out perfectly, and you know your kids have seen you not live this out perfectly. So you have to remind yourself that you are forgiven, and I also have to ask my children’s forgiveness and be ready to do that and be ready to live out what we’re reading. 

Leslie: As the Ward’s read the Bible each day and ask God to help them live it out, they were challenged to make a big sacrifice. Wes and Carrie knew about a family who needed a car and they made plans to give one of theirs away. The kids loved this car.

Carrie: It was going to be a sacrifice, not only that we would have to rearrange our schedule, but also, just the sentimental nature of having something that you liked and then giving it away.

Leslie: On the morning that Carrie gave the news to the kids that they were becoming a one-car family, their Bible reading gave them important perspective.

Carrie: We had been reading in 2 Corinthians 8 the morning before where Paul is urging the people to give as they had promised. It talks about giving, and suddenly it hit me. I could use that to help explain that we were giving away the Suburban.

I sat down with them and reminded them of what we had read the day before. Then I explained that their dad and I felt prompted to give away the Suburban and that we already had someone picked out, a special family that could use this car. So there were a lot of questions, and we had a lot of conversation about it. I honestly didn’t know what we were about to read that day. So we opened up the Bible and we read 2 Corinthians 9:6, “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.”

It’s the passage that’s often titled in the Bible, “The Cheerful Giver.” It really walks you through how and why to give. “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Cor. 9:7)

It would have been perfectly fine for me just to say we feel like God is prompting us to give and we’re giving this. But God was really not only prompting us to give but teaching us how to give at the same time. So He used His Word that day to show and confirm in me that this was the right thing to do, but to also show me how and why, and to teach our children how and why you give.

“And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written: “They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.’” (2 Cor. 9:8-9)

Leslie: The Ward’s discovered that the Bible not only confronted them, it not only guided their actions, it also brought them comfort.

Carrie: We had probably already been reading Scripture for three years when a circumstance came about where I really saw the Lord using His Word in our life. I became pregnant with our fifth child. About nine and one-half weeks in, we miscarried and this was a real devastating blow to me. It’s a very emotional thing to go through. Our kids were really small, and they didn’t quite understand what was happening.

Then about six months later, I became pregnant again. About ten weeks or so in, I miscarried again. The first time we miscarried I was kind of asking questions, and contemplating God and why this happened. The second time I was just numb. I didn’t want to talk about it, and I didn’t want to discuss it, but I knew my children would take it harder this time than they had before.

After we heard the news and we came home, Wes found a quiet moment and brought us in the living room. He was going to share with them what had taken place. At that point I really didn’t want to hear it again. I really didn’t want to discuss it. I really didn’t want to be telling them because I knew this was going to have more of an impact on them this time.

He said, “I want to tell you something. But first, I want to read something to you.” So he read from Job. He read about the devastating things that had happened to Job. Then he read that initial response from Job which was, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord (Job 1:21).

And honestly, I didn’t have those Job kind of words really in my heart, but then Wes prayed for us. I don’t remember what he prayed exactly, but it really felt as though he was standing before the Lord saying what I couldn’t say, and teaching our kids what they should say. I really  felt like, having already read Job, our children had that framework of knowing what had happened to Job and knowing that even in the suffering, that God is still with them, that God is still faithful. So God really used that verse and that knowledge that we already had to remind me of His sovereignty and to demonstrate to our children of His sovereignty. 

“O that my words were recorded, that they were written on a scroll, that they were inscribed in an iron tool on lead, or engraved in rock forever!” (Job 19:23-24)

Leslie: Here’s some thoughts on Job from Maggie Ward.

Maggie Ward: It seemed like he really believed that there was going to be a Messiah and even though nobody really had said it, how did he have a clue when he was way before Jesus.
“I know that my redeemer lives, and in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, and yet in my flesh I will see God.” (Job 19:25-26)

Leslie: As Carrie Ward read the Bible to her young children morning after morning, it wasn’t just affecting them, it was also influencing other women who were watching Carrie’s example.

Maggie Paulus: Well, I actually got to be in Wes and Carrie’s small group at our church.

Leslie: This is Maggie Paulus. She heard about the Ward’s adventure through the Bible before her son was even born.

Maggie Paulus: We were just starting to raise our family. I was kind of picturing into the future what it would be like. So what I mostly just enjoyed was that the reality is that they don’t sit still, you just get a little bit in at a time. That planted a seed in my heart that it was a possibility that I could do that with my kids even at an early age.

I didn’t have to wait until they were seven or eight and sitting still. The Bible says you reap what you sow, so I know if I just feed my hunger even if it’s just a little bit, and I sit down just a few minutes a day and read the Word, not just for myself but for my little kids, that just creates in me more desire for His Word.

My personality is very random, and I get distracted really easily. Sometimes I read these blogs of these women who are hyper-organized. They have their schedules, and they have their routines. It is really hard for me to get into the rhythm of things. But just hearing Carrie’s stories, it still grows that desire in me that I can do it. So even if I haven’t done it for a few days, I still know that I can just try again—just start over again.

The neat thing is, I haven’t actually done it for a few days but this morning after breakfast, I sat down and gave my kids little sippy cups with chocolate milk at the table. We’re still in Genesis, and I was at the part where God rescues Lot from Sodom and Gomorrah, and the craziest thing happened. He actually sat and listened through the whole chapter, and then he wanted me to read it again. After I read it the second time, I kept telling him a little bit more of the story. Then he wanted me to read it again, which is nothing short of miraculous, because he knows that after breakfast he gets to go watch a movie or go get to play with his trains. So I was just in awe that he would be so interested. It was getting in his heart, and you could just see his little mind thinking, his little eyes were imagining what was happening.

What an incredible privilege it is in our country just to have the Word and to be able to read it out loud. Of course, the Word has been such an anchor in my life. I want my kids growing up knowing that it’s there and that the Lord speaks to them through His Word. I don’t want it to be a weird thing that you only do on Sunday or when you hit rock bottom that you go to it. I just want to introduce them to it at an early age so that it just becomes an every day part of life like playing or eating.

Leslie: That’s Maggie Paulus. A mom who is trying to instill in her three-year-old a love for God’s Word. She’s been encouraged to start when her children are young by her friend, Carrie Ward, who’s just released a book about reading her Bible to her children. It’s called Together: Growing Appetites for God.

Michele Wilson is another mom who’s been influenced by Carrie. Before she had a family, Michele enjoyed a rich, consistent time in the Bible. But after getting married and having four kids, she found spending time in God’s Word very challenging.

A few months ago Michele started reading Carrie Ward’s blog called, AnEverydayMama.com. That inspired her to begin an adventure with her young kids through the New Testament.

Michele Wilson: Reading Carrie’s blog and praying and asking God, “How do I even start, Lord? I feel like I have failed at this so many times, where do I begin?” It was a very sweet moment. Not long after that prayer, I think it was the next evening, my little three-year-old walks up with her small little children’s Bible and says, “Mommy, will you read this me?”

I knew at that moment that I needed to just start right there. So I gathered all four of my children and I said, “We’re going to start reading through the Bible.” And they all cheered and said, “We’ve been wanting to do that.”

So I pulled them into the bed with me, and we read just a short four or five verses together. We talked about it and just had a wonderful time. So the next morning we gathered in mom and dad’s bed again and started reading. We read probably for two maybe three weeks like that each morning in mom and dad’s bed. Then one of the boys turned and looked at me and said, “This is so great, can we start reading through the Scriptures with Dad?”

I said, “Let me think about that. Let me talk to Dad and see how we can incorporate Dad into this time.” We came up with after dinner would be a perfect time. “Let’s just stay at the table and read through the Bible together.” So we’ve been reading through the Bible for two-and-half months now. Now my three-year-old and my six-year-old argue over who will pick up the Bible or the iPad for Mom and Dad to read Scripture.

Around the same time God gave me the desire to read through the Scriptures with my children, He was placing in my husband a desire to meet with several men to pray—and they just happened to be praying for our children and their wives. I think that really set this tone for our household. Then my children were challenged through their Sunday school class to start reading through the Bible, but they never told me that until after we were already reading the Bible. I think that there was something—God was already speaking to each one of us to prepare us for this family time.

I think the biggest thing is I gave up so many times. I didn’t persevere through. I would think that if we didn’t sit down and read for fifteen, twenty, thirty minutes, that we were failing.  Really, whatever amount of time we’re reading the Scriptures, God uses. So that was really important for me to understand in my own heart, that His Word would not go away void. If it’s five minutes their attention span can hold, then it’s five minutes. But as we’ve done this over and over, now they sit still for thirty minutes, and they want more. So we just gauge the evening according to where our children are, and that’s okay.

Leslie: Michele Wilson has been seeing how valuable it is to spend time as a family in God’s Word. She’s been encouraged by reading a blog by Carrie Ward. It’s called AnEverydayMama.com. Carrie has also just released a book called, Together: Growing Appetites for God.

Carrie Ward told us that after spending years trying to be more disciplined in her Bible reading, what she really needed was a greater hunger. Carrie’s friend, Andrea Salzman was going through a similar struggle. She felt like her hunger needed to grow. When she heard that Carrie was reading the entire Bible with her small kids, Andrea asked Carrie for advice.

Andrea Salzman: I was discouraged personally because it was hard for me to be in the Word. We had little kids, and sleep was precious, and it was just hard to do.

Carrie: I knew that there were other people out that struggled in this area, but probably more came to light as I talked with people, as I gave my testimony.

Andrea: I remember just being frustrated and saying, “Carrie, how do you even do that?”

Carrie: People would come up and probably relate more to what I was going through than I had previously thought. You think you’re the only one struggling until you share it. Then you find out that it’s not just you. 

Andrea: And she said, “Andrea, you pray for a passion to be in the Word.” I started praying for a passion to be in the Word, and it’s been amazing since that time to see what God has been doing in my life. I started saying, “Okay, well if Carrie started reading with her kids, I’ll just start reading with my kids. I’m going to pray that we get a passion for the Word because right now, it’s not very exciting.”

Because now, I get up in the morning where I used to sleep. I get up in the morning and I read the Bible and I pray. I found out that I didn’t have enough time, so I had to get up earlier in the morning to read. So just the fact that Carrie encouraged us to be in the Word and to pray for a passion for the Word is so exciting to me, because I prayed and it happened. Then we started encouraging other friends that it’s okay even if you have little kids, even when your sleep is hard and you’re exhausted, if you can just get a little bit of the Word, God’s going to grow it and grow it and grow it.God delights when we’re seeking Him, and He delights to answer those prayers. 

So I think it’s just helpful to start. It can be a couple of verses a day, and just watch what God does, because He delights in us knowing Him. That’s when I started thinking, “Carrie started really young, reading the Bible with her kids. I could do it, too. It was encouraging, also, to remember Carrie saying she would be tossing Cheerios to their youngest while they were reading the Bible. I thought, ‘Okay I could do that.’”

So we started at breakfast, and we started reading at breakfast with the boys as well. I love it when they ask me to read another one. When we hit the book of Ruth, they didn’t want to stop. I said, “Okay, guys, we really need to get on with our chores.”

And they were like, “No! Just one more chapter, Mom, just do one more.”

And I said, “Alright.”

And we just did the whole book, all the way through. They sat through it all and that was neat.

I think when we started reading through the Bible, we started memorizing  Scripture at the same time. I’m amazed at how they picked up verses so fast. I’m horrible at memorizing. It’s been great, because I’m memorizing things as they’re memorizing. I don’t think if we hadn’t started reading the Bible together, I don’t know that we would have picked up the memorizing at the same time, and that’s been encouraging. 

One day Ethan, our youngest, was crying or fussing about something. I couldn’t get to him. I was doing something. I could hear Caleb who was three at the time. He was starting to sing to Ethan. He would sing, “Don’t be afraid. It’s okay. God is good, and He loves you. You can trust Him”

He just repeated it over and over again. I thought, “Okay, they’re starting to get the fact that God is good, and it’s sinking in.” Even whenever the kids are afraid at night, they’ll say, “Mommy, can you find me a verse?” If I find a verse about fear or whatever it is the problem is, I’ll write it on a  Post-It note and stick it right next to their bed.

We arranged their bedroom and they were like, “No, no! I forgot my verses!” And they ran over to the wall and peeled them off and moved them over by their beds. So just the fact that they are starting to see that Scripture is precious.

I’m praying that they just get a passion for being in the Word of God and seeing that it’s not a dry book, that it’s a duty for a Christian to do, but that this is a love letter from our Savior. It’s telling us about our God, and it’s personal. That’s what I’m hoping; that’s what I’m praying that they see. 

Excerpted from Revive Our Hearts.

My First Days Reading the Bible to My Kids

This week I’m sharing thoughts from my time on Revive Our Hearts’ with Nancy Leigh DeMoss. Reading the Bible for me was always a struggle. Getting the Word IN ME — and my kids! — is what the story of “Together: Growing Appetites for God” is all about. Here’s an excerpt from that interview with Nancy. We pick up where I am talking about the early days of reading the Word to my kids . . .

Carrie: After the morning that my older two kids acted out Cain and Abel, this became a regular routine. We would read a story (the Old Testament is so rich with stories). We would read something, and they would almost immediately be in the living room acting it out.

They would have acted out this section of Scripture. There was Moses and Joshua. Then when we came to David, there are a lot of David’s stories that can be acted out—David and Goliath, David meeting Saul in the cave, David playing the harp and Saul throwing the spear at David. There were just a lot of stories through that section that they could act out.

“Goliath looked David over and saw that he was little more than a boy, glowing with health and handsome, and he despised him.”

That’s the great thing about kids. They sort of put themselves in the story. They don’t just hear it, they turn around and play that way.

“And he said to David, ‘Am I a dog, that you come at me with sticks?’”

Those dramatic stories in Scripture really pique their interest and their curiosity, and hearing the story and being excited about the story is a good thing, I think.

Graham: “Am I a dog?”

Carrie: David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.” (1 Sam. 1:44-45 NIV). They wanted to act it out because they thought it was an interesting and exciting thing to watch what God did.

“This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head.”

Maggie: “I come to you in the name of the Lord.”

Carrie: This was very encouraging for me, and it was also helping to reinforce what we’d read. It reinforced it in me and I felt like it was reinforcing it in their lives as well, because they would play that after we read it, and it was very encouraging.

That went on for months because that whole section of Scripture is so full of stories that are ready to be acted out.

Leslie: When Carrie and the kids arrived at Psalm 105, it reminded them of the story of Pharaoh and Moses that they had already read back in Exodus.

Carrie: “Let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice. Look to the LORD and his strength; seek His face always. He sent Moses his servant and Aaron whom He had chosen. . . . They performed his signs among them, his wonders in the land of Ham.” (Ps. 105:3-427-28).

Leslie: When breakfast was over that day, Graham took on the role of Pharaoh. Maggie and Benjamin were Egyptian guards. Emma had arrived by this time and played the role of an Egyptian baby. The curious thing was, no one wanted to be Moses. They all pretended to talk with the prophet who remained invisible. 

Graham:  “No! Send him away!”

Carrie: “He turned their waters into blood, causing their fish to die.”

Graham: “Blood, blood! Go get him!”

Carrie: “Their land teemed with frogs that turned up in the bedrooms of the rulers.”

Graham: “Frogs! Brings me Moses! Graaaagh!”

Leslie: Finally Pharaoh very dramatically experienced the death of all the firstborn of Egypt.

Graham: “My son! My son!”

Carrie: “He struck down all the firstborn in the land, the firstfruits of all their manhood. He brought out Israel, laden with silver and gold, and from among their tribes no one faltered.” (Ps. 105:36-37).

Leslie: Then he rallied his troops to chase the Israelites across the Red Sea.

Graham: “They’re crossing the Red Sea! Let’s go after them!”

Leslie: Pharaoh and his servant, his little sister, began the chase across the living room and into the dining room, then “Pharaoh” collapsed, acting as if the waves of the sea were engulfing him. His little sister didn’t remember this detail and kept running.

Graham: No, Maggie, you have to stop. You are drowned in the sea!

Leslie: One day during their morning Bible reading time, Carrie and the kids read about Solomon dedicating the temple. The presence of the Lord descended and filled the temple in the form of a cloud.

Carrie: ”When the priests withdrew from the Holy Place, the cloud filled the temple of the LORD. And the priests could not perform their services because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled His temple.” (1 Kings 8:10-11)

Leslie: That made a big impression on Graham, who was five at the time. He wandered into a bathroom where a hot shower had filled the room with steam.

Graham: There’s a cloud in here.

Leslie: He didn’t understand water vapor. The only way he knew to explain it was by relating it to Scripture.

Graham: I thought God had descended on the temple!

Leslie: Everybody who reads the Bible finds some passages more challenging than others. Carrie found that reading Isaiah with four small children could be . . . challenging.

Carrie: There was a certain mood—you could almost feel it—when we were reading Isaiah for the first time (because there is so much judgment and wrath).  It was difficult reading when you, yourself, don’t understand everything that you’re reading, and you’re reading to small children. There was sort of a solemn tone at our table.

Leslie: But then they reached Isaiah 19. After working through some very serious chapters, they were struck with the incredible hope in this passage.

Carrie: It was just like what we had read before, where there was wrath and judgment, and brother was going to be against brother, and there were going to be things about the land like the sea drying up, producing no fish, and that kind of thing.

And so it was feeling like what we had read before. I really didn’t sense how attentive my children were until we reached the middle of that passage, and it says, “But I will send the Savior,” and suddenly my son just jumped out of his chair and yelled, “Yeah!”

That’s not in my son’s nature to be expressive like that. So when he came out with a big “Yeah” it was like, “There’s going to be a Savior!” I was telling a friend that story, and she said, “Shouldn’t that be all of our reaction to Scripture? That we all give a big ‘Yeah’ about the Savior?”

So it was encouraging to see that it was sinking in, but also to see the reaction to the Redeemer.

Leslie:  By consistently reading the Bible morning by morning, Carrie and the kids’ appetites for God’s Word were growing. The more they read, the more they wanted to read.

Carrie: We were reading in Psalms one day, and there was a reference to a David story that was in 1 Samuel, and so my kids were eager to go back and read the story that brought about this psalm. We went back to 1 Samuel and began to read this story about David.

As we finished that story, my kids said, “Can we read another one?” Particularly, my oldest son wanted to read more. So I would read another one, and then I wouldn’t hardly get finished and he would want us to read more. We kept reading, and we went to the next story of David.

There’s a whole string of stories that are very exciting, to see what God was doing in David’s life. As we were reading these stories in 1 Samuel about David, I looked up and before I knew it, it was eleven o’clock.

We had started reading at breakfast, and here it was almost time for lunch. I said, “This is great, but we just can’t read anymore.” And he understood that it was no longer the right time to keep going, but when he left the table he said, “Can we do this again one day?”

That was really encouraging, to see them delight in reading and reading God’s Word, and hearing these stories and to want more.

Leslie: For Carrie and the kids, it made sense to read the Bible during breakfast, growing appetites for God’s Word while feeding their appetites for food. But each family needs to figure out the best time for them to read the Bible together.

Carrie: I know there are some women who probably could not do this in the morning with their children; they’ve got to get to a job, they’ve got to get their kids to school. I know there are some women who this particular time frame would not work for them.

But I would encourage them to look at their schedule and find a time that would work for them. That could be after school, that could be in the evening when their kids are getting ready for bed. That could be at dinner time when you’re all together. It could even be in the car.

You could get the Bible on CD or download an audio Bible and listen with your children. You may not feel like you can be the reader but you could certainly listen with them.

I think there are other ways that you could incorporate this into your routine. You may have to give up something in order to fit it in, but I think it would be worth it. I think that would be again where I would say, pray that God would give you wisdom and a plan to know how you could implement this in your family.

It may not be just like the way I implemented it in mine, but I think there’s a way that you could do this. I think you could get to know God with your family through His Word. Be creative.

Leslie: When Carrie Ward began reading the Bible each morning to preschoolers, she had to make a lot of practical decisions. For instance, how much detail do you include when the Bible deals with mature themes?

Carrie: There were a number of times when I would come upon a passage of Scripture, and my mind would just be spinning as I would stop reading and try to figure out, “How am I going to explain this on a level that they will understand without giving them more information than I am ready for them to have? Or use words that I’m not ready for them to be using?”

I would try to just sum up some passages, and often it’s just changing one word, summing up one sentence. Usually, it doesn’t require a large amount of editing or anything.

I certainly didn’t want to take away from the story or the Scripture. I just didn’t want to arm them with things they weren’t ready for, or even weigh them down with information they weren’t ready to have.

So I might just remove a word, or change one sentence, or just sum up one passage in my own words, to help them get a feel for the story and not lose the essence of the story, but not weigh them down with things that I didn’t think they were ready for.

That was my way of handling it, and with the violence—I read most of the violent passages—and my kids didn’t react. They were fine. There was only one violent section that my kids just cringed, and I realized I probably shouldn’t have read that, but it was too late then.

Most of the time, I’d just go ahead and read. The stories that were dealing with more intimate details of relationships, I would try to sum up in my own words. I think every parent has to do what they’re comfortable with, and what they feel like their children are ready to handle.

We have to deal with those topics as parents, anyway, so you have to deal with that when you’re ready, when you feel like your children are ready. I think every parent’s going to have to make that call as they read through Scripture.

Leslie: Carrie and her children discovered that reading the Bible together is a perfect time for families to have fun and laugh together.

Carrie: We were reading a story where there is the king of Judah, the king of Israel and the king of Edom, I believe it is, going up against the Moabites. “So every man, young and old, who could bear arms was called up and stationed at the border.”

Then my youngest daughter said, “What does that mean to bear arms?” And I came back with, “It means anyone who can handle a gun,” not realizing what I had said. I just kept right on reading.

They were all looking at me with puzzled expressions when my son said, “There were guns in the Bible?” I thought, “Oh, no.” So, it’s often either my fumbling and my reading, or just their take on what we read that gets us tickled.

[Laughter]

Nancy: As Carrie continued reading the Bible with her children, and Wes would come into work and tell us about ways the kids were growing, how they were engaging with the Scripture, how they were being creative with it, and just how God was using this in their family; it was such a joy to see the heart and the hunger that was growing. Carrie was growing, and Wes was growing, and they were growing as a couple, and their kids were developing a heart and an appetite for God.

You don’t see that real often in families, especially with young children, and it was very encouraging to me to see how that family was getting to the Word and the Word was getting into them. I remember talking with Wes at one point and saying, “It’s great you guys are reading the Bible. Carrie’s reading with the kids, and you’re talking about spiritual things.”

“If I were a parent today,” I said—and you’ve probably heard people say things like this—“If I were a parent” (that’s the kind of line parents usually don’t want to hear) “I would get my children memorizing boatloads of Scripture because they memorize it so easily. It’s so much harder as you get older, to keep those things in your head.”

Then I went on to say, “In fact, I think I would encourage my children to memorize the entire book of Proverbs before they leave home.”

Well, that’s a big challenge and a big chunk. And I’m not saying that a family is any more spiritual if their kids memorize the book of Proverbs, but I think there are kids who could do that.

Just think what a wealth that would be for those kids to be able to take into their lives with them: the wisdom in Proverbs on sexual relationships and moral purity and marriage, and what it means to be a man, what it means to be a woman, how to get wisdom, how to deal with finances, laziness, hard work. There are so many different things that would be impressed on their hearts, concepts and biblical truths that would take root in their hearts before they go into adulthood.

Song:

I seek you Lord, with all my heart;
Don’t let me stray, Lord, from your commands.
I hide your Word in my heart
That I might not sin, Lord, sin against You.

Your Word is a lamp to guide my feet;
Your Word is a light unto my path;
Your Word is hidden in my heart;
That’s where it will always be,
‘Cause Your Word is living deep inside the deepest part of me.1

Leslie: Yesterday we heard how Carrie Ward got the idea to read the entire Bible to her preschoolers, one chapter a day. And when she estimated how long that would take, the project seemed intimidating.

Carrie: It was going to take me eight years to read the Bible, and that was overwhelming.

Leslie: But the end of their adventure drew near ahead of schedule. As they neared the end of Revelation, Carrie’s husband, Wes, began preparing to commemorate this big accomplishment.

Wes Ward: It wasn’t just me. We both wanted to make the last day of reading the Word a celebration because it is a big deal. For Carrie, on the first time through, it was significant in her pilgrimage and it was something that we wanted to put into the minds of our children, that this is something that is to be  celebrated.

Carrie: We got up earlier than the kids would normally get up, and we fixed a larger than normal breakfast to celebrate. 

Graham: We got up like we normally do, and then had breakfast, and we all read the last chapter of the Bible.

Carrie: “The Spirit and the bride say ‘Come!’”

Maggie: Dad was there when we finished it.

Wes: It’s a great use of a vacation day.

Carrie: “Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.” (Rev. 22:16-17)

Wes: We think a lot of holidays and markers and birthdays, and this was a significant marker we wanted to celebrate.

Carrie: “He who testifies to these things says, ’Yes, I am coming soon.’” We just enjoyed the day together and celebrated. This was a real marker for us. “Amen! Come Lord Jesus!” (v. 20)

Wes: I also wanted to put something into their hands that was a tangible remembrance of what God did.

Maggie: Mom and Dad bought all four of us new Bibles.

Wes: I wanted them to have a legitimate Bible of their own, whenever they began to read on their own, that that would be their home in studying Scripture.

Carrie: I knew that he had purchased new Bibles for all the kids. I didn’t know that he had purchased one for me also. He had written an inscription in each oneand so he read it to each of the kids as he gave them the Bible.

He had written an inscription in mine as well, thanking me for doing this with the kids, but also congratulating me because this was my first trip through the Bible, too. “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.” (v. 21)

It was significant that, after such a long time of struggle, and having never felt like I could succeed in this discipline, to have finally read the entire Bible. It’s what I have for years professed to believe, but to have finally actually read the entire Bible was huge for me. Then to have that coupled with the fact that I got to share it with my kids made it even a bigger moment for me.

Nancy: What a reason to celebrate. Imagine holding the same sort of celebration with your family, knowing that you and your children have read all of God’s Word together.

Excerpted from Revive Our Hearts.

 

My Story and Can Young Children Understand the Bible?

Not long after “Together” came out, I recorded an interview for Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss. This week I’m going to share with you bits of that interview. In case you just got the book and have recently discovered the site, it’s really good to meet you! Welcome! Here’s more of my heart from that interview:

Leslie Basham: Carrie Ward grew up going to church. She heard good preaching and had good teachers, so she learned a lot about the Bible, but she struggled to read it for herself.

Carrie: As a young child, I didn’t make an attempt. As I grew older, I made attempts, but they weren’t very successful attempts. I continued to be active in youth group. In college I was active in a campus ministry . . . that type of thing . . . but as far as personal study, I would always try, and it would fizzle.

Leslie: It seemed like someone always had a new piece of advice that Carrie should try.

Carrie: I would hear someone offer a technique or new method, or how to keep a journal while you’re reading through the Bible, or that type of thing. I would think, “Well, I’ll try again.” I probably read Genesis several times.

When I became an adult, it was pretty much the same practice. I would try to read the Bible. I would feel a certain amount of guilt and frustration that I didn’t have this habit.

Leslie: This became a source of condemnation for Carrie.

Carrie: I felt those around me had the practice down. Why couldn’t I? Why couldn’t I keep this habit going? I knew it was something I should do, so what was I doing wrong that I couldn’t maintain it?

I felt there were certain things about my nature that were strikes against me. I was a slow reader, not particularly a morning person, and those seemed like things you need to have in order to be successful.

Leslie: Carrie felt like there was a gap in her knowledge about God’s Word.

Carrie: There were parts of the Bible I had never read. I had been in church my entire life, so it’s not as though I wasn’t familiar with a lot of the parts of the Bible, but there are some parts of the Bible that really aren’t preached very often, and so there were parts of the Bible that I had never before read.

Leslie: And Carrie felt like knowing God’s Word was important for integrity.

Carrie: I say that I believe this, and yet I haven’t read it.

Leslie: Carrie was also aware that she really needed to know what the Bible said.

Carrie: I think it was a gracious thing that God put me in a place where I heard the Bible, I heard teachers who were faithful to teach. When I was in Sunday School, I heard preachers who were faithful to preach the Word. That was a gracious thing, but I found myself inadequate to give a reason for the hope that is in me.

I worked in a secular atmosphere before I had my children. They would often give my their views and I could give my opinion, but my opinion is not going to have the power that God’s Word would have. I felt very frustrated and very inadequate to speak truth into their lives because I didn’t have it in me.

Leslie: When Carrie and her husband Wes began to have children, this question took on a new importance. How could Carrie pass on a love for God’s Word to them when she was struggling with her own consistency?

Carrie: When I began to have children, I didn’t have a plan. I knew that I wanted them to be in church, I knew that I wanted them to know about God, obviously. I’d come to faith as a child, so I had a sincere desire to know God.

I think when they were younger we did read them storybook Bibles. Nancy DeMoss had given us Leading Little Ones to God, and we went through that. I was eager to go through that, and it was actually very beneficial for me as well as for them. It wasn’t as if we weren’t doing anything. We were active in  church also.

But at the time, I wasn’t consistent in reading the Bible myself. I didn’t really have a plan of how to do that, at least in the beginning.

Leslie: Wes was working with Revive Our Hearts, and Nancy Leigh DeMoss gave Wes and Carrie a copy of her book, A Place of Quiet Rest. It describes why time with God and His Word is so valuable.

Carrie: I don’t know that she intended the way it struck me, but it really pointed out a lack of devotion in my life.

Leslie: I imagine that many listeners can relate to the way Carrie felt.

Carrie: I think often it was about duty and not the relationship, about what I felt I should be doing to measure up as a believer, and not about seeking God.

Leslie: Hearing from Carrie reminds me of a conversation we once aired on Revive our Hearts.Nancy was talking with Janet Pope:

Janet Pope: What if I said to you, “You are so disciplined in eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day. You rarely miss a day.” And you would say, “No it’s not discipline. I’m hungry.” And so, I would say to you, “It’s not that you are lacking discipline. It’s that you are not hungry.”

Leslie: Carrie Ward was about to discover this. After spending years trying to become more disciplined, she was about to discover what it was like to become more hungry.

Carrie: I got some news from a friend that was really devastating to me. It’s the kind of news that when you receive it, you have this knot in the pit of your stomach. It sent me into a season of prayer that was more intense than I had prayed in a long time.

Wes: Carrie was sleepless for a lot of nights, and that was very unusual, because sleep comes more easily to her than it does to me.

Leslie: This is Carrie’s husband, Wes.

Wes: It was a common new habit to have her up in the middle of the night.

Carrie: Really weeping over this situation . . .

Wes: . . . and earnest prayer and concern, so there were some times it was a concern that led to prayer, and other times it was just up praying over the concerns.

Carrie: I think it was really what God used to grow in me a hunger to know Him, so that it wasn’t so much of fulfilling a duty as it was getting to know God. And I think, really, that time of prayer is what I would pinpoint as when God really started to work—and I was praying for something else. I wasn’t praying God would help me read the Bible. I was praying for something else. But I think that time of prayer that was extended really softened my heart to what He wanted to say to me and made me more receptive to what God needed to teach me.

God began to grown in me a hunger to, not just fulfill a requirement, but to know Him. That manifested itself in a desire to read the Bible.

Leslie: Carrie Ward says your hunger for God’s Word can grow too. You can cry out to God just like she did.

Carrie: I would hope that someone would not have to go through something devastating in order to have a hunger for God, but I would say, pray about it. I would say, call out to God and ask Him to give you a hunger and to open up His Word to you, and keep trying.

I would definitely say I don’t want you to have to go through the devastating experience, but I do want you to call out to God and ask Him to change your heart. I would encourage the prayer.

Leslie: Now that Carrie’s hunger for God’s Word had grown, she needed to figure out the practical next step. How was she going to feed that hunger?

Carrie: So I tried the usual things you’re supposed to do, which is get up early and read your Bible. I was facing the same struggles I had faced my entire life. Having three children under four, no matter how early you get up, they’re going to get up, too.

They have this sense that you’re moving, so one of them would need me. I can remember a couple of days actually hiding out in the bathroom, thinking I could get a little bit of time reading and praying, but Wes would need to get ready for work, and so it wasn’t actually working very well even then.

I was afraid that I was going to fail once again.

Leslie: Carrie also had a growing desire to teach the Bible to her children.

Carrie: I was actually on the lookout for a children’s Bible that had more texts taken directly from Scripture and more stories in it.

Leslie: Then the idea came to her: Why not involve her young children in her desire to read the Bible every day?

Carrie: So my plan was to read one chapter a day, five days a week, and go from Genesis to Revelation.

Leslie: Could a four-year, a two-year old and an infant get anything from the actual text of the Bible itself?

Carrie: It crossed my mind that, if I haven’t been successful in reading the Bible myself, what makes me think I can be successful at reading it to preschoolers? That did cross my mind. But there was something in me that wouldn’t let go of the idea.

But, as I’m explaining my plan, I’m thinking, “How long will this take? So I got out my pen and paper and did the math on it, and I factored in days that we might be sick and we might not be able to read. It was going to take me eight years to read the Bible, and that was overwhelming for a person who is a slow reader and not very disciplined and all these things.

Eight years seemed overwhelming. But at the same time, the desire didn’t go away. I said that night, “I want to do this.”

Wes: There was a resolve that seemed different.

Carrie: I have to think that God gave me the idea and was keeping that fueled.

Wes: You could see it in her eyes that there was something different, and she wanted to make this thing happen.

Carrie: The idea wouldn’t go away.

Wes: I really think that was born out of that heart condition that said, “I need the Lord. This Word is very true.” And not only do the recent circumstances need my interest in prayer, but I need it for myself; I need it for my kids.”

Carrie: Genesis chapter 1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth . . .”

Leslie: Since this plan was the result of a growing hunger for God’s Word, it seemed appropriate that Carrie and the kids would read the Bible each day while eating breakfast.

So the day finally came when Carrie, Graham, Maggie, and Benjamin began their journey through the entire Bible. Carrie doesn’t remember the exact conversation, but does remember that it was chaotic . . . something like this . . .

Carrie: “Thus the heavens and the earth were completed, and all their host, and . . . “

Emma: Mom, can I have some more toast?

Carrie: Um, sure, just a second . . . “By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.”

Benjamin: Do we have to take a nap today?

Carrie: Yes, God rested and so should you. Where was I? “Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it because in it . . .” Where are you going?

Benjamin: I need to wash my hands.

Carrie: Can you wait just a minute?

Maggie: Mom, I spilled!—ew—sticky it’s sticky . . . !

Dog: Woof woof!

Carrie: And I felt like I was reading out loud to myself much of the time.

Emma: Mom, can I have more juice?

Carrie: And I wondered if it was going to work. So, the first three days were chaos and had me feeling like, “I don’t know if we can do this.” I was so motivated to try.

Leslie: Then the fourth day came along, the story of Cain and Abel.

Carrie: “Now Cain said to his brother Abel, ‘Let’s go out into the field.’ While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother and killed him. The Lord said to Cain, ‘Where’s your brother Abel?’ I don’t know,’ he replied. ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’” (Gen. 4:8-9)

Leslie: Carrie began cleaning the dishes after yet another discouraging Bible reading session, but then she heard something in the next room.

Benjamin: God, here’s my offering of vegetables.

Leslie: Her kids were playing, acting out a story.

Emma: It’s my offering. It’s a sheep.

Leslie: It wasn’t one they had heard on TV or in a movie. They were acting out the story they had just heard during their chaotic breakfast.

Benjamin: I need to get him . . .

Leslie: Carrie was so happy that it didn’t even bother her that both kids wanted to play the role of Cain.

Benjamin: I want to be Cain this time.

Maggie: But you were Cain last time.

Carrie: So they were both wanting to whack each other with some invisible farm tool. Both your kids wanting to be Cain is probably not something a mom should be excited about, but I was very excited at that point, because I knew that they were hearing. They were acting it out in great detail, so I knew they were really hearing what I was saying, even though it didn’t look like they were listening. That was really a gracious thing God did to help give me a boost to keep going.

[Sound of children laughing while playing]

After the morning my older two kids acted out Cain and Abel, this became a regular routine. We would read a story—and the Od Testament is so rich with stories—we would read something and they would be almost immediately in the living room acting it out.

Leslie: One story that captivated this family was from 1 Kings 13.

Carrie: ”Now, when the king heard the saying that the man of God cried out against the altar in Bethel, Jeroboam stretched out his hand from the altar, saying, ‘Seize him.’”

Leslie: During breakfast, Carrie read this story about a king who had established idols in Israel.

Carrie: ”But his hand which he stretched out against him dried up so that he could not draw it back to himself.”

Leslie: The kids were fascinated that this king’s hand withered, and they kept repeating the story.

Benjamin: “Seize him.”

Leslie: . . . Curling their hands toward their chests and then crumpling to the floor.

[Children screeching]

CarrieThat’s the great thing about kids, they sort of put themselves in the story. So they don’t just hear it, they turn around and play that way.

“The king said to the man, ‘Please entreat the Lord your God and pray for me that my hand may be restored to me,’ so the man of God entreated the Lord and the king’s hand was restored to him and became as it was before.”

And this was just very encouraging for me, and it was also helping to reinforce what we read. It reinforced it in me, and I felt like it was reinforcing in their lives as well, because they would play that after we read it, and it was very encouraging. That went on for months because that whole section of Scripture is so full of stories that are ready to be acted out.

Benjamin: I come to you in the name of the Lord.

Nancy: I remember when Carrie and Wes first started talking about the fact the she was reading the Bible aloud to their children. Most parents are thinking, “How in the world can they possibly understand this? How is this going to make a difference in their lives?”

But I remember thinking, “This is so wise, this is so great to be indoctrinating the children, impressing this in their heads and hearts when they’re so little—that this is what they’re teething on, the Word of God. You think how different that is from what most children are teething on today—it’s anything but the Word of God.

Wes: It’s so cool to know that they’re getting this foundation that is going to serve them so well for the rest of their days. They don’t realize that yet. But the older I get, the more I wish I had in me what I know they’re getting in them. Actually, I benefit from what is in them already because when I come home, they’re like little walking concordances.

I can’t tell you, and connect all the dots with Scripture like they can. Hopefully they’re going to start making the theological connections, but right now it is the story connections and the sweep of Scripture and how different things fit together . . . they get that a lot better than I do.

So, I can ask a question about a certain character, and they’ll be able to tell me where that character shows up in Scripture or what the details of the story are exactly.

Carrie: Those dramatic stories in Scripture really pique their interest and their curiosity, and I think that just reinforces the story in their minds. Later we’re going to build on that, and we have built on that. But that initial hearing the story and being excited about the story is a good thing, I think. They want to act it out because they thought it was an interesting and exciting thing to watch what God did.

Excerpted from Revive Our Hearts.

Back to School

Such a busy but good summer! In the last few months, as you can tell, I’ve not focused as much on the blog as I have on my family. And now like you, likely, we’re back in the swing of school. We’re finding our groove each day . . . how about you?

Out of curiosity, if you went through “Together” during your summer reading, I’d love to know what you thought. Drop me an email, connect via a social account, or comment below.

Maybe you just picked it up. As you travel through it, feel free to ask a question or two. I’d be really happy to help you in your journey. I’m no expert, but I’m very interested to see you succeed as you seek the Lord alone or with your kids!