Spiritual Disciplines for our Children, part two

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.  We can raise up our “Timothy.”  His mom and grandma taught him the Scriptures, pointed him to Christ, and without any flashy programs or hip and trendy pre-packaged materials.  

Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness…pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.  Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called… 

1 Timothy 4:7, 6:11-12

Learning to Delight in Him

In this post, we continue by looking at ways to incorporate keeping the Sabbath holy, and using catechisms.  This series began here; where we looked at the discipline of prayer.  

The Sabbath was first instituted as a creation ordinance; mankind was commanded to work well for six days–to work in such a way as to prepare for the upcoming day of rest.  In the OT, they worked six days and then ended the week with a rest.

  In Christ, because of His resurrection, we begin our week with rest–we worship and find refreshment, and then go out to work well for six days.  

The Sabbath then is not only a command concerning one day, it is a pattern that establishes our our entire week in the rhythm God set for us.  When we raise children in this rhythm, rather than the busyness and self-centered choices of the world, they too will can flourish.  And our work and our rest will be done to His glory, from a heart full of awe and worship. 

We wonder sometimes if our children will ‘miss out’ if we do not do all the things our neighbors and friends do, but these fears are baseless.  They will miss out if they do not learn to cling to Christ.  They will not miss out if Saturdays are a work day rather than a play day that pushes work to Sunday.  They will not miss out if they grow closer to their Creator and Sustainer, and learn to do good work in its time, rather than being part of a traveling sports team, dance team, drama team, etc.  

We can find ways for them to partake in local opportunities that do not set our family choices for us.  Do we steward our time, or do our choices force us into a mold prohibiting us from fitting in a Sabbath?  My children have heard us pray and speak so often of the Sabbath, that it seems commonplace to them, rather than a shocking “What? Rest rather than chaos and catching up so Monday can happen?!”   The questions arise organically, because we speak freely of what we do and why we do it.  At breakfast the other morning my daughter asked another question about “why” and I love that she’s wrestling with this at a young age, before peer pressure seems insurmountable.

A bit of our “how”

On any given Friday and Saturday they see me plan, making lists.  They know there will be chores that prepare us for a peaceful Sunday.  If I know there will be a birthday party, family in town, or other entertainment options on any given Saturday, then my Sabbath preparations begin on Friday. 

I am not by nature a planner.  But in Christ, I cannot use this as an excuse.  No personality test, or new fangled way of ‘defining your type’ (which is not new, see here where Kevin DeYoung discusses this at length, a short quote of which can be found below) can tell you who you are, or reveal your true self. My own tendencies never define me, and as I grow in Christlikeness these will not hold me back.  His Spirit will change us, mold us, lead us to put off what is not good and put on what is. (https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevin-deyoung/enneagram-road-back-somewhere-else/

“I’m sure that some Christians will be quick to respond, “Sounds like a goofy book, but that’s not how I use the Enneagram.” I’m thankful for that. But then I’d encourage these brothers and sisters to dial back the Enneagram enthusiasm, like way back. If you want to scrap most of the Enneagram history, therapeutic baggage, and Catholic mysticism, I suppose you could still have a personality tool that might open your eyes to a thing or two. But then I’d glean a few insights quietly and distance myself from the seminars, the experts, the books, the articles, and the nomenclature of the Enneagram. If the Enneagram were another version of What Color Is Your Parachute? or Strengths Finder, that would be fine. But it has been, from its inception (whenever that was), infused with spiritual significance. And therein lies the danger.

Kevin DeYoung, accessed on 4/11/22.

For more on this, see this podcast by Alisa Childers:  https://open.spotify.com/episode/6Evig9h3tAxs6ieK77Ghh5…

Back to the topic at hand, I’m not a planner. But in Christ, I will become a better planner without giving you a number or letter as a reason for my scattered brained ways.  As someone who has the mind of Christ, and am commanded to imitate Him, I learn, and I am growing.  Thus I make lists, and though I would rather take life as it comes, I try to live orderly so that on Sunday, everyone has clean clothes to wear, food is already prepared, the house is clean (yes, peaceful surroundings enable your mind to enjoy His peace without as much of a fight to get at His peace).  

Then I can truly say, as instructed in Isaiah, that the Sabbath is a delight.  I can focus on worship without work (yes, a homemaker and home educator really has work to do, legit work) telling me “you need to be productive, why not just a part of a project?”   Neither work, nor selfish desires should draw us away from the gift of a day to rest, to delight in my God; nor should the desire to give our children their own desires.  

When I first stumbled upon the idea that the Sabbath was made for man, and it continues into NT times; I also learned from these same mentors that therefore I put aside non-necessary chores, and put aside normal work, and I pursue what I feel like I need–a nap, a game of ultimate frisbee, a hike in the mountains, dinner out at lovely restaurant, a road trip… The emphasis was partially good (no chores or work) but also selfish (where is the resting in Him, worship, even corporate worship and fellowship, time for spiritual disciplines that my regular work prohibits?).  It is possible to pass on a Sabbath keeping that does not point to Christ, that has little to do with finding our rest in Him.     

My children know they will get a Saturday morning list, they can work on in any order they choose.  They know there may be errands, they also know mom and dad may at any moment add to their list.  We  let them know how much we appreciate them, their work, and that they add value to this family.  We verbalize our delight in working alongside them.  We pray all through Saturday that God would prepare our hearts for corporate worship and rest.  

We’ve also created a fun “Sabbath playlist” on Spotify, because who doesn’t need a little motivation!  We speak often about the role of music in our inner life–how God uses it in our hearts, and how we can use it in worship and in resetting our minds on Him.  My children sometimes remind me to use the playlist–no legalism here, just good music to see us through the last hour or so before dinner when everyone is finishing up for the day.  

I’ve written elsewhere on the Sabbath, you can find that here:  https://abidedeep.com/?s=sabbath

On this day, more than others, I tend to listen to Scripture.  I love reading, but listening to it being read is such a blessing.  I put on the Bible App, free from the app store, have chosen the NASB (because it is a reliable word for word translation) and listen while I iron, or prep food, or put clean sheets on the bed.  I’ve noticed my kiddos often stop to listen with me.  We ought to be creating an atmosphere which organically allows for worshipping in Spirit and truth, this is but one way of doing this.  

Catechisms

In the Reformed tradition, catechisms are a great tool as we learn to study the Word, learn the doctrines of our faith, and meditate. The Shorter Catechism was designed for children, the Larger Catechism for adults; I find encouragement for my faith in both!

 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a worker who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.  

1 Timothy 2:15

From the age of almost three, we began with the first five questions of the children’s catechism:

Who made You?  God   What else did God make?  All things.  Why did God make you and all things?  For His own glory.   How can you glorify God?  By loving Him and doing what He commands.  Why are you to glorify God?  Because He made me and takes care of me.

These have led to beautiful conversations, questions about life, and a valuable frame of reference to point them back to when they need reassurance.  As we talk through the questions and answers, I’ll teach about the Scriptures from which these catechism questions arise.  We’ve made it through about sixty questions.  

As they get older, we are walking through a few questions from the Shorter Catechism and the Heidelberg Catechism.  Our plan is to provide them with a nice copy when they move out.  But for now we read, discuss, use them as a catalyst for prayer, for journaling prompts, for memorization and meditation prompts (because the Scripture references are rich!).  

Someday, when they are challenged in their faith, the answers will be lodged in their memory somewhere, and give them ways of answering the doubts and fears that arise as they interact with worldly, temporal, demonic, worldviews.  When they hear that marriage is a human construct, that gender is what you imagine it is, that the wrath of God is fictitious, that any nation actually is a “Christian nation,” that purity is oppressive, that God helps those who help themselves, that all good people (as defined by themselves) go to heaven, or that  there is any way to ‘make peace with God’ apart from the Cross of Christ, that God didn’t really create the world, He just set it in motion and lets us alone, or that Scripture is not God’s word and He really speaks to me in my own chosen special ways…

Oh beloved, there are so many lies that our children will face.  Will we build them up in their faith, so they can cling to the word of life, and abide in Christ?  This is our calling as parents.  

My children see me on any given Sabbath reading a question or two, journaling, looking up the Scriptures referenced.  They know catechisms are not just for children.  It is for any who are in Christ!

A few questions for your own enjoyment, from the Heidelberg:

Q 5: Can you keep all this [law] perfectly?  A: No, for I am by nature prone to hate God and my neighbor.  Romans 3:10, 1 John 1:8; Romans 8:7; Titus 3:3

Q 6:  Did God create man thus wicked and perverse?  A: No, but God created man good, and after His own image, that is in righteousness and true holiness; that he might rightly know God his Creator, heartily love Him, and live with Him in eternal blessedness, to praise and glorify Him.  Gen. 1:26-31; Eph. 1:6, 4:24; Col. 3:10; 1 Cor. 6:20

Q 7:  From where then comes this depraved nature of man?  A:  From the fall and disobedience of our first parents, Adam and Eve, in Paradise; whereby our nature became so corrupt, that we are all conceived and born in sin.  Gen. 3:6, 5:3; Romans 5:12-19; Psa. 51:5 

Q 8: But are we so far depraved, that we are wholly unapt to any good and prone to all evil?  A: Yes, unless we are born again by the Spirit of God.  Gen. 5:6; Job 14:4, 15:14-16; Isa. 53:6; Eph. 2:5; Titus 3:4-7.

Q65: Since then we are made partakers of Christ, and all His benefits, by faith only, from where comes this faith?  A: The Holy Spirit works it in our hearts by the preaching of the holy gospel, and confirms it by the use of the holy sacraments.  Eph. 2:8, 6:23; Phil. 1:29; Matt. 28:19-20; Rom. 4:11

In all you do, beloved, pray without ceasing, that in His means of grace we may pass on the disciplines that will help our children delight in our God!

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