Are you looking to change things up with your kids this summer? Maybe you’re like us and you’ve read through your children’s Bibles several times over this year already. When I feel like my kids are starting to approach our devotional time at night bored with the same stories, I’ve found it can be really helpful to try something new a few times a week!
Here are 5 books I highly recommend as a way to change up your summer devotions with your kids!
This book is simple enough to read to a toddler and yet deep enough to start building systematic theology with your 7 year old. It has sections on who God is, the problem of sin, Jesus coming to help us, salvation, the Holy Spirit, why we go to church, and more. I love the questions on every page, colorful illustrations, additional reading suggestions, and all of the topics this book tackles.
I know what you’re thinking. An entire children’s book on prayer? If you think about it, your children learn what prayer looks like and sounds like from watching you. If I think long and hard about that, I quickly realize there’s probably a lot to prayer that I’m NOT teaching them.
Looking for ways to inspire your children towards kingdom work for Jesus someday? Your children need to read and hear the missionary stories of others. One of the most powerful tools you can give your kids is to show them the faithful lives of others who have given it all to follow Christ.
It might be the last one on the list, but it’s actually my favorite. This children’s version of Pilgrim’s Progress is phenomenal. Not only is the artwork incredible and the storyline well done, but they’ve included helpful discussion questions for each chapter you can do with your children.
“Family discipleship is leading your family by doing whatever you can whenever you can to help your family become friends and followers of Jesus Christ.” -Matt Chandler
by Emily Lehman
I was standing in the kitchen trying to clean up the last of the breakfast dishes when the sibling bickering began. It was usually over someone’s personal space being invaded (again), and this time was no different. I couldn’t push away the annoyance in my heart. Couldn’t they at least wait until I had a clean kitchen before they decided to fight? As I listened to my five year old daughter’s voice begin to amplify across the house, I was immediately convicted by her tone of voice. “I sound just like that when I’m frustrated,” I thought to myself.Without even knowing it, I had unintentionally taught my daughter ways she could respond to others. I was discipling her in ways I didn’t even know.
But just like our children learn their first words by listening and observing our conversations, so our children learn what it is to follow Jesus by finding us with our Bibles open in the early mornings. They learn what talking to God sounds like by hearing our prayers spoken aloud throughout the day. They understand what it is to walk in obedience to the Spirit of God in our lives as they see us living with open hands, extending generosity, and caring for our neighbors. They taste repentance when they see us confessing our anger and irritation to our spouses. They glimpse forgiveness when we stoop to their level and whisper, “Will you forgive me? Mommy shouldn’t have yelled like that.”
As I read the Old Testament, I am reminded of the responsibility Jewish families felt in providing both physically and spiritually for their children. Young Jewish children would not just hear a few things about God; they were to know the entirety of the stories. Beginning at age six, a child’s instruction in the Jewish synagogues would involve memorizing the first five books of the Bible (the Torah). They were to know everything from the miracles of Creation to the fatal deception in the Garden of Eden, the whispers of a coming Redeemer made in the covenant with Abraham, to the Great Exodus where God so faithfully delivered His people.
The Lord, knowing how quickly and prone to forget His people would be graciously instructed them, “Take care, and keep your soul diligently lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children.” (Deuteronomy 4:9)
Somehow in the passing of generations, our Christian culture has become obsessed with an individual “quiet time.” This idea that our pursuit of loving and knowing God is to be done alone, quietly, away from the presence of others (especially the noise and distractions of children). We can become easily convinced that our personal time in the Word and the discipleship of our children need to be two separate things altogether.
“Write these commandments that I’ve given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed at night. Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder; inscribe them on the doorposts of your homes and on your city gates.(Deuteronomy 6:6-9, the message)
As I meditate on these verses, I can envision moms reading aloud the gospel accounts of Jesus being the Bread of Life as their children’s hungry bellies are being filled with breakfast. (John 6:35-40)
I can see moms opening the curtains to let in the soft morning light as they speak of how Jesus is the Light of the World of whom the darkness will never overcome. (John 1:1-5)
As they sort the laundry and teach their children how to get the stains out of clothing, they are reminding them that Jesus is the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world. (John 1:29)
When they break up another sibling dispute, they gently instruct their children that the tongue is like a fire, with the power to destroy. (James 3).
When they are treated differently because of the color of their skin, they teach their children the promise that God is ransoming people from every tribe, language, people and nation. (Revelation 5)
As often as they are sitting at home (at the kitchen tables), walking by the way (pushing the strollers), and lying down (tucking kids in for the night) they are finding ways to point their children to the greatest story ever told.
Just a few days later, I was standing in my kitchen preparing breakfast when I heard my 3 year old squeal, “Mommy look at the sky! God painted us a picture today! Look at all the colors He used!” You too my friend, have the greatest opportunity in the world to disciple your children in what it looks like to walk with Jesus. It will not be found in one significant event in time, but rather in those small, ordinary, everyday moments that are all around you.
5 practical suggestions from one mom to another.
Have children’s Bibles available and accessible at all times to your children. Have a copy of God’s Word they can look at, touch, and experience. Keep it in the same place in your home so they know where it is.
When your children are little, read from their children’s Bibles together every day (starting from the beginning and working to the end.) Teach them to see and understand the storyline of Scripture and the promises of God to His children.
Model the spiritual disciplines in front of your children. If your children are never actually seeing you read and study your Bible how will they know that you do? As you do your Bible study time, encourage your littles to look through their own picture Bibles.
As your children get older, set aside a time each day to teach them what studying God’s Word looks like. Read a passage of Scripture together, write down some verses that stood out to them, ask questions, and pray together.
Make conversations about who God is and what He is doing normal, ordinary, and expected.
Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever. 2 As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people, from this time forth and forevermore. 3 For the scepter of wickedness shall not rest on the land allotted to the righteous, lest the righteous stretch out their hands to do wrong. 4 Do good, O Lord, to those who are good, and to those who are upright in their hearts! 5 But those who turn aside to their crooked ways the Lord will lead away with evildoers! Peace be upon Israel!
I would love for you to join me in a short study of Psalm 125 (as a simple addition to your own Bible reading plan.) What do I needto join? See below for your free download of the study guide. I would also encourage you to print off a copy of Psalm 125 or use your Psalms Scripture Journal for this study! Stay tuned for more posts on why I chose Psalm 125.
As I’ve read the Bible over the years, these have been some of my most used and loved tools that have helped deepen my understanding of Scripture. These resources are helpful for anyone, whether you’ve read the Bible for many years or have picked it up for the first time.
Bible Gateway is at the top of my list because it is by far my most usedBible study tool. I typically use Bible Gateway to look up passages of scripture in different versions. My favorites to use alongside my ESV are the Amplified, New Living Translation, and the NIV.
The Olive Tree is probably the most helpfulBible study tool I own. I downloaded the app several years ago and purchased my ESV Study Bible through it. If you don’t own a study Bible, I highly recommend buying one. The commentaries, maps, book introductions, and cross references have made inductive Bible study possible for a mom who has never attended seminary.
The Gospel Coalition Courses are my favorite resource I have come across in recent years. This page is loaded with free courses on every book of the Bible. I’ve personally used many of their Old Testament courses and love how they highlight gospel glimpses, whole Bible connections, and personal implications.
The Dwell App is my backup tool for a busy day. On those mornings when I didn’t wake up before my kids or things just seem extra loud, I love to use Dwell to listen through the passages of Scripture I’m currently studying. They recently released 7 new plans for listening through the Bible in a year. If I was driving or commuting a lot to school or work, this app would be at the top of my list.
PrayerMate is the most creative app I’ve ever used. I have prayer lists created for my family, my friends, my church family, my neighbors, my community, the world, and more. This app helps rotate through these different names and lists so that I am consistently praying for all these different categories.
The Bible Project is the mostkid friendlytoolI use. As I begin or finish studying a book of the Bible, my kids will often join me in watching the videos that summarize the main points and themes. If you haven’t used the Bible Project, make this the year!
Of all the gifts I have received over the last few years, this is definitely the most treasured. I transitioned from a small, compact ESV Bible to this journaling one and LOVE IT. Even though I journal in a notebook alongside my Bible study, I still like to write down important notes that I want to remember in my Bible.
Even though I have a journaling Bible, I love my Psalms illuminated scripture journal. This year was my first time trying out one of these and here’s what I found. I spend a lot of time in the psalms and this tool has allowed me the extra room for writing that I started lacking in my journaling Bible. Because it’s a single volume book, it has helped me see the psalms and their layout in a new light.
I hope this post gives you some new and fresh resources for your Bible study time this year. I would love to hear from you and what tools you would add to the list!
This blogpost does include affiliate links when appropriate, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you click through to make a purchase. All words and opinions are my own.
I became a Christian when I was 17 years old. I don’t remember exactly where I started in my old King James Bible, but I do remember that inductive Bible study – studying the context, meaning, and application verse by verse – caught my interest almost immediately. Books that I had grown up hearing a thousand times came to life for the first time. In college I spent hours on the fourth floor of Illinois State’s Milner Library pouring over the minor prophets. I listened to Matt Chandler preach through Habakkuk and my life and Bible study methods were never the same again.
Life may have changed alot since I was that 22 year old single college student, but one thing has not. I love studying the Bible book by book, piece by piece, bit by bit. My life goal is to have studied every book of the Bible inductively.You might be surprised that the person linking many “Read Through the Bible in a Year Plans” has never actually done one and probably never will.
For me, reading through the Bible in a year overwhelms me before I begin. Several chapters a day, every day, even with catch up days, is often unrealistic for a stay at home mom with 3 littles if my purpose is to do more than just read, but also to meditate and study.
I don’t want to just read the stories of the judges, I want to know WHY they are there. I want to know how these stories are pointing to Jesus, the Greater Judge. I want to know why the genealogies are placed so strategically in the text and how these people are chosen to be part of the line that leads to the Messiah. I want to read the chapter and have the time to see the repeating words, the phrases that speak of what God is doing, and seeing the many themes like blessing/ cursing, eating/ drinking, the Sabbath, and many others repeated over and over again. I want to know the whole story, but mostly I want to know the story well and accurately, so that my heart can be transformed.
And so I slow down. Every year I’ve begun to make a Bible reading plan, tailored to life in the season I’m currently in. I take time to write down the books I want to study next year and any resources I might use to help me. Some years I try to envision how the entire year might look (see my 2021 plan below), and others (like the year we had 3 kids 3 and under) I only listed a few books I wanted to get through.
2021 Bible Reading Plan
Old Testament Storyline & The Story of the Church (Acts)
Life Goal: Study every book of the Bible inductively
(January) Finish1 Samuel (11 Week Study) + Psalms/ Proverbs
(February-March) 2 Samuel (11 Week Study) + Psalms/ Proverbs
(April)– Start Easter Readings | BeginActsas a family
(June)– 1 Kings + Psalms/ Proverbs
(July)– 2 Kings + Psalms/ Proverbs
(August)- Ezra/ Nehemiah + Psalms/ Proverbs
(September)– 1 Chronicles + Psalms/ Proverbs
(October)– 2 Chronicles + Psalms/ Proverbs
(November)– Esther + Psalms/ Proverbs
(December)– Advent Study + Psalms/ Proverbs
There’s no magical number of books you need to study, or how long it should take you. Some years I only got through 3-4 and others like this (when my kids are finally sleeping all night!) I hope to get through as many as 10. Any books I’m not able to get through will roll over into the next year (2022). I hope these suggestions help you!
Choose 3-5 books you want to study. If you have never studied a book inductively (verse by verse) see my resource page (coming January 2021) for places to start.
Challenge yourself to have a varied list. It should include books from BOTH the Old and New Testament. If you read mostly the New Testament this year, make your focus more of the Old Testament.
Don’t be focused on timelines. Choose a book to start studying and whenever you’ve finished move on to the next. It doesn’t matter how long it takes you! The benefits of having a list prepared ahead of time is you don’t waste time wondering where you should read/ study next. You’ve already decided!
Incorporate quick reads or weekend studies. Having a study plan doesn’t mean these are the only places you’ll read! I will often do a quick read of other books of the Bible during the weekend or on a day when I need a break from my current study. These are great times to read through one of the epistles (it really will only take you a few minutes!) or the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John). I also pair Psalms and Proverb readings with whatever book of the Bible I’m studying.
Keep track of your progress and record when you’ve finished. This doesn’t need to be anything fancy, but you should evaluate every month how you’re doing. Is it taking 20 weeks to do an 11 week study of a book? While timelines aren’t the most important, you also might need to re-think your plan. I suggest writing down each book you’ve studied in a journal so that at the end of the year you can look back and see what you’ve finished. I’ve personally started using the Growth Roots Journal which has a section for recording this.
I’d love to hear from you!
Do you make a Bible reading plan or want help doing so? I would love to help you get started!
“If reading the Bible can be compared to cruising the width of a clear, sparkling lake in a motorboat, studying the Bible is like slowly crossing that same lake in a glass-bottomed boat. In order to truly understand the fullness of meaning of any written work, in-depth study must be done.” (Donald Whitney)
The holidays have a humbling way of showing the true conditions of our hearts don’t they? There’s perhaps no greater time in the year that reveals whether or not we struggle with things like anger, irritation, ingratitude, selfishness, or bitterness than Christmas. The “most joyous time of year”can sometimes feel like the most JOY-LESS time of the year.
It’s in this season we are faced with our year’s worth of prayers; and whether or not we feel like God has answered any of them. Some situations in our lives have not gotten better but instead have gotten harder! We are reminded of the flaws and imperfections in our families, and oftentimes it’s not the “for better” we are overwhelmed by, but the “for worse.” The expectations of the holidays can be crushing, especially when you can’t deliver all the experiences or gifts. Somedays I feel like my emotions are a see-saw; high on the holiday cheer in the morning, and low in joy and thanksgiving by evening. But know this friend: no amount of meal planning, early gift buying, extra house cleaning, or holiday minimalist tips will fix these emotions and struggles we feel deep in our hearts. Instead of a blog post on the top 3 ways to improve your mood this holiday season, I would like to offer you 3 attributes of God that can transform your heart, even when your circumstances don’t change. ATTRIBUTES OF GOD
1. God is unchanging. “But you are always the same, you will live forever.” (Psalm 102:27) Did you stop to think about the truth that in all the unrest we were met with this year, nothing about God or His ways changed? He was still JUST as faithful, JUST as merciful, JUST as gracious, JUST as forgiving, JUST as sovereign, and JUST as holy. His Word did not change, nor did His desire to be involved in all the details of your life.
2. God is faithful. ” Your faithfulness endures to all generations; you have established the earth, and it stands fast.” (Psalm 119:90) Faithful- to remain loyal and steadfast; steadfast in affection or allegiance. This is exactly what God is to those who love Him and keep His commandments. He is faithful to His promises, faithful to His people, faithful to His plans, and even faithful to eternity.
3. God is good. “You are good and you do what is good.” (Psalm 119:68) As John Piper writes, “God is good. God alone is good. And all good comes from God. Settle in your heart: as long as you have God, you miss nothing.”
Whenever you find yourself fighting for joy this advent season, I encourage you to write down these 3 attributes on sticky-notes and place them somewhere visible. In your moments of discouragement remind yourself, “God has not changed. God is faithful to me. God is very, very good.”