Handing Down the Spiritual Disciplines of our Faith, part 4

This is the final post in a series about handing down the spiritual disciplines of our faith to our children.  So many grow up in church, but never encounter these wonderful practices until college.  Or, as they are hungry to taste and see that the LORD is good, yet never instructed on ‘how,’ sadly they turn to new age and mysticism and to creating their own smorgasbord approach to religion.  

Women who choose the good portion (see here) can pass the spiritual disciplines of the faith onto the next generation.  We can, and it is more simple than we may at first imagine.   We contend for the faith, once for all handed down (Jude)…and we hand it down. 

Not Merely Informing Them

Our faith is not merely information to be learned, it is that and so much more.  We who are truly “in Christ” have union with Him, and are ushered into communion with Him.  Communion with our Triune God.  He created us with inner and outer man, or body-mind-soul.  So as we instruct our children, we need to show them ways to love the LORD our God with all their heart, soul and might.  

Deuteronomy 6:4-7  “Hear, Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! 5 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. 7 And you shall repeat them diligently to your sons and speak of them when you sit in your house, when you walk on the road, when you lie down, and when you get up.”

As we have His words, and ponder how to speak of them…There will come a time to teach them that sometimes we cannot keep going without a seeking His refreshing work in our outer man.  We need to tell our children about how we are whole beings, always connected, never compartmentalized; and that God will take care of us, inner and outer man.   

This means that organically, as it seems fitting for the situation, we: teach them to control their breathing, which impacts how our brain responds to stress; teach them to step outside, and find refreshment in His creation; teach them the benefits of exercise on releasing endorphins; or about how music can impact the way we process our feelings. 

Do not downplay the physical and mental needs that impact our whole being.  But, do not make the physical and mental the sum total either. We seek His refreshing work for our whole person. We need to talk about and model this ‘whole-being’ spirituality so that they understand that apart from seeking His means of grace, the physical and mental are incomplete.    

We have habits for the whole person.  

Without turning any of this into a program or curriculum, what do we model? We exercise, we pray and meditate, we eat healthy, we sing and rejoice, we practice thanksgiving, we get lots of outdoor time, we touch the earth and marvel at all His creation and breath deeply, we play instruments, we nap, we play games and laugh. 

We also pour out our hearts before Him.  We present our bodies as a living sacrifice, and learn how to possess our vessel with honor.  We listen, and muse upon His words.  We set our minds on things of the Spirit.  We learn how to ‘be anxious for nothing’ and seek help when it seems too difficult.  We devote ourselves to those things He tells us to be devoted to:  prayer, fellowship under His Word in our local church body, and meeting pressing needs.  

And all of this, in the power of the Spirit!  None of this should be in the flesh.  None should be considered “the only important habit.” We train our children to find the strength to obey in His power, so we pray with them:  fill us with all power according to Your glorious might…  (Colossians 1).  It was the power of the Spirit that enabled Jesus to obey, it is that same power, by His indwelling Spirit, that we obey. We walk in the Spirit.  


When we pass on the spiritual disciplines, we have to also train our children in the practices that help their minds and bodies, so that they might be able to pray, to focus on reading, to journal, to study, to meditate on and memorize passages when they want to. Knowing that their bodies and minds may be working against them, they can care for their bodies and minds, so they can pray without ceasing, remember His words, and delight themselves in their Lord.

When we pass on the faith, and the practices of our faith, we must consider that all of life is to be lived to the glory of God.  This means we as a family will talk about, and make it normal to talk about, “is this to the glory of God?  How so?”  “Did you enjoy God today? Tell me about that.”  As we normalize this conversation, it will become part of their internal running dialogue.

I am careful to use words that the world does not use, and to explain the words we use differently–because there is no correlation between the world’s ways, and the Spirit’s leading us.  God has revealed in His Word what we ought to ‘practice,’ no need to muddle it with adopting the world’s words.  

Thus, I do not practice ‘mindfulness.’   Rather, we set our minds on the things of the Spirit, we set our minds on Christ above.  I do not use just the word “meditate” I add the context–from Psalm 1, from Psalm 119 (and many other Psalms), from Romans 8, Colossians 3 and Philippians 4.  We muse upon God’s Word.  

Silence?  An interesting study to ponder the times of silence in Scripture.  These were rare, and did not involve emptying the mind, but rather literally, not speaking.  Silence is not absence of thought, but focusing on His Word without allowing our minds to speak out “but, what about…?!!”  (That “but what about??? can be brought about in times of study, another beautiful means of grace, or spiritual discipline).

We are not created by God to have empty minds.  So we do not strive for empty thoughtless silence, but for being still and knowing He is God.  We listen to Him in His Word, not merely “listening” as we sit and wait for Him to drop a thought into our ‘empty’ mind…  The mystery is in our inability to control the Spirit!  He never expects that each of us will find our own way of listening, or our own path to hearing new words.  But as we abide in His words, He will teach and guide and grow us.

With little ones, this “being still and knowing He is God” may only last a few minutes. But you are beginning them on the lifelong journey of walking with Jesus, a few minutes is a great beginning! 

“But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.” 

2 Corinthians 11:3

To teach our children this simplicity and purity we pass on what Scripture teaches.  Simple, God is simplicity–He cannot be torn apart, dissected, put into categories…  And so we delight in the whole of Scripture, without creating complexities that do not exist.  We also do not need to create complex programs; this is meant to be lived out in our normal lives, not plugged in as an extra-curricular.

As Eve was deceived, so Paul fears that others will be.  As Eve wanted to know things apart from depending on God, so we run into the same temptation on an almost daily basis. Independence from God runs deep in our old self; we must crucify this notion daily. We even compartmentalize which parts of the Universe we need knowledge from God, and which parts we can study on our own. He is the Source, and all our endeavors apart from Him are vanity, chasing after the wind.


Pure, purity.  Do not mix in worldly ideas.  Do not adopt worldly practices and “redeem them for Christ.”  Do not add, do not believe someone who contradicts and ‘updates’ Scripture. The thing about false teachers is that they tickle the ears, they speak and it is soothing, they know to tailor the message to your felt needs in the moment.  It is easy to give in, if you are not abiding in His words.  If a false religion has practices that you enjoy, are you willing to set those aside, and teach your children to seek Him and His grace in ways that He has revealed?  (Answering His call to “seek” is such a passion of mine, it is the first chapter in my book, Deep Simplicity!) 

How we are starting: Conversation, and Journaling

Converse throughout the day, especially at mealtimes.  Normalize those conversations.  Let them know that questions are always welcome.  “Come, let us reason together…”  Isaiah 1:18. Then on Sundays, converse about the worship, about the lessons we are learning, about the Word preached.

Pass on the love of journaling, which helps reflect, helps personal narration and learning and creating neural connections…  Taking notes (sometimes just a word, or a reference, or a phrase, not a detailed outline) will help the mind stay engaged.  If we help them stay engaged, they are more likely to grow, and persevere in the faith.  

Set them up to be able to enjoy the worship service on Sunday.  A “Sunday book” for littles (idea taken from “The Cottage at Bantry Bay,” a lovely book geared towards 2nd-4th grade readers.  The mom sends her littles with a ‘Sunday book’ and I thought–why not!) to look at, or copy verses from.  In entering fourth grade, my eldest received a journal for taking notes.  Sometimes I notice him simply writing out memory verses rather than paying attention, but it warms my heart!  

Be willing to remind, and to train.  This is not about “sit still and listen or I will issue discipline.”  This is a training–training them to be able to pay attention.  Difficult for any without training!  Difficult especially for adults who love their devices.  You may think it is no big deal, but how often do you willingly set the phone down, and say “For the next hour, I will not touch that thing.”?  Are you on your device at meal time?  Or while your children are talking to you?  Or while “enjoying the great outdoors?”  You will not be able to teach them to pay attention to a sermon–they will copy your addiction, they will be distracted even if no devices are available. 

 So as we train our children, we practice at home, and we also remind throughout the service.  We use gentleness, and patience, because of how patient God has been with me!  The service is punctuated with me having to, every now and then, say “a bit quieter with the pen please” or “please don’t ask your question while the pastor is praying” etc.  Or I touch their arm, and whisper “we’re praying” so they will join in. Then our lunchtime table has questions about “what do you remember?  What can you tell me about…”  

Some of my favorite memories are conversations like this with friends, or small groups. What if our families had these conversations, and this ethos flowed out into our children’s future friendships and families, and our grandchildren…

These conversations can lead to them feeling the freedom to ask questions, and isn’t that what we want?  It also leads them to musing upon the Word heard and preached, which not only works toward that lifelong habit of meditating on His word, but also helps move those thoughts from short term memory to long term memory.

How can we, this week, commit to focusing on the atmosphere we are creating at home? Is it an atmosphere where we can freely talk of God’s character, love, sovereignty, glory?  An atmosphere in which we talk about what Jesus says the church is, what friendship really is, how to work for God’s glory, how to have a godly worldview, how to “live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age” (Titus 2)?  And an atmosphere in which our children feel the freedom to wonder, to speak, to delight in growing in knowledge without shame or fear of reproach. 

As they grow, and doubts enter in, will they feel comfortable bringing them into conversation with you?  As they grow, and they question their purpose in life, and their future, they may very easily converse, as you have all along invited them to. 

Deuteronomy 6:4-7  “Hear, Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! 5 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. 7 And you shall repeat them diligently to your sons and speak of them when you sit in your house, when you walk on the road, when you lie down, and when you get up.” 

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