For many years, our family read the Bible out loud together. We did it for about a decade. It gave our children a love for the Word of God, and it provided them with an understanding of the sweeping history of redemption from Genesis to Revelation. It showed them where they fit in the world.
Why do this?
David gives the most powerful argument in Psalm 19:7-11,
“The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, Yea, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them Your servant is warned, And in keeping them there is great reward.”
What is the value of a deep understanding of the Gospel? What is the value of seeing the sweep of history? What is the value of knowing the whole counsel of God? What is the value of getting prepared to meet the trials and heartbreaks that are ahead? I believe that there is no better way to capture this value than to simply read the Bible as a family.
Here is my challenge: read the Bible with your whole family in 2018. Here are Ten Tips for Reading the Bible as a Family in 2018:
1. Resolve this issue right away: Can your children handle it?
Can they? Yes! Don’t be intimidated by the fact that your children are young. They may not get everything out of everything, but they will get something out of everything. You will find that they will understand more than you anticipate. Remember that Timothy’s mother taught him the scriptures from the time he was a child, “from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures” (2 Tim:315). Remember that God’s people have gathered for many hours to hear the reading of the Word of God (Nehemiah 8:1). Also, remember that most of the Bible is narrative – stories that children can love. Children are fully able to sit down and watch a video for an hour. Certainly, that is proof positive that they can sit and listen to reading for 20-40 minutes.
2. Prepare a heart of gladness
The entire Bible points to, “good tidings of great joy which will be for all the people.”
Parents who have a love for the words of scripture are the most powerful leverage points in children’s lives. The more you love the Word of God, the easier it will be for your children to hear you read it to them. It is contagious when you love the words and the stories of the Bible, believing that they are “pure,” “perfect” and “holy.” God promises that those who delight in the law of the Lord are richly rewarded, “He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper.” (Psalm 1:3).
3. Keep it simple
Don’t think you need to explain everything. When you are reading through the Bible in a year, there is no way you can carefully talk about and analyze everything in the chapters for each day. It’s simply too much material. When you are finished reading the chapter or the section, pick out one verse or one idea and talk about it. Be content with the big picture. I often asked questions like, “What was your favorite part?” or “What wonderful things did you see in His law?” (Ps 119:18).
4. Pick a consistent place and time of the day to read
Consistency is key. Why? Two reasons. First, we need orderliness to succeed, as the Psalmist said, “So teach us to number our days, That we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12). Second, because everything in your life will wage war against whatever time you choose. The Devil will throw every trick in the book to get you to divert your family from reading the Bible, including your own family members. Select an unbreakable time. Sometimes we found it helpful to read the Old Testament in the morning and the New Testament in the evening to break it up. I highly recommend it. This helps you to declare His “lovingkindness in the morning,” and “His faithfulness by night” (Psalm 92:2).
5. Be a good tour guide
Take your family by the hand and walk them through the corridors of saving grace. Marvel in the people, the places, the eras and the personalities God included in the history of saving grace. These are the markers on the highway of holiness (Isaiah 35:9). Point to the beauty as you read. Cultivate a spirit of awe toward the words and the stories. For practical help, check out the book, “Journey Through the Bible” which is a quick summary resource to help you understand the purpose of each book of the Bible. As you journey, stand in awe at the beauty, truthfulness and practicality that is displayed.
6. Have everyone read
One of the things we did in our family was to have each person read five verses going around the circle. If we had children who could only read a few words, we had them read one, two or more words. If they were too young to read, we would read a few words and ask them to repeat them. It was one of our methods for teaching them to read.
7. Sing about it
Sing a hymn that communicates the message of the book of the Bible you are reading. “Make known His deeds among the peoples! Sing to Him, sing psalms to Him Psalm 105:1-2. In “Journey Through the Bible,” there is a recommended hymn for each book of the Bible. Singing drives truth home and is a blessing to the soul.
8. Anticipate being slowed down by child discipline
From time to time, your reading may be slowed down by discipline problems. Children sometimes disobey or have bad attitudes. They may be mean to one another while you are reading. These things need to be dealt with on the spot. If possible, it is helpful if one parent leaves with the erring child to deal with problem, while the rest of the family continues reading. Don’t let this discourage you. It is a normal part of life. Sin patterns providentially come to the surface on the road to holiness. I believe that these things happen in order for parents to confront sin so that children are freed from their rebellion. “Consider it joy when you encounter various trials,” James 1:2.
9. Choose a method for reading the Bible in a year.
There are many methods to choose from. Choose one, and start January 1, 2018. Our family used John MacArthur’s schedule. It usually took us between 20 minutes to an hour to read each day, depending on the age of our children, and how much discussion (or discipline problems) we had.
10. Catch up when you fall behind
I predict you will sometimes fall behind. Our family did – many times each year. Don’t say, “We might fall behind so we shouldn’t try.” It is usually a mistake to neglect a great thing for possible failure. Yes, you will fall behind from time to time. Life happens! Our family used different methods at different times when we fell behind. Here are four ways the Brown family bounced back when we fell behind the schedule:
First, spread it out
Let’s say you’re 16 chapters behind. Add one extra chapter for the next 16 days and you’ll be caught up in sixteen days.
Second, grind it out
Just grind it out and read those 16 make-up chapters over a day or two. Take a couple of hours and read, read, read. Just “Git ‘er done!”
Third, listen up
Catch up by listening to an audio bible while you are driving or working around the house.
Fourth, jump ahead
Simply jump ahead to the section allocated for the current day in the schedule. Chalk it up to, “It’s not a perfect world, we are not a perfect family and sometimes we fall behind”. BUT, we are not giving up!”
So, here’s the big question
Are your children ready for the trials ahead? Do they know the true Gospel? Do they have a big vision of God? Do they have a Biblical vision of His love, truth and mercy?
Reading the whole counsel of God is the best training for the future.
Don’t let your children leave home without it.
Scott Brown is pastor at Hope Baptist Church in Wake Forest, NC and the President of the National Center for Family Integrated Churches. He has just released a new book called, “Journey Through the Bible,” which is a practical help for people who want to understand all the books of the Bible.