How to Study the Bible with Your Grade-School Children (in app. 500 words)

If the thought of opening the real Bible (not the children’s storybook Bible) with your children intimidates you, here’s the help you need! It’s a simple Bible study method to engage you and your children in studying His Word. It requires no weekly preparation and it should be fun.

But first, it’s okay…

…to laugh with the Bible. Have fun; be creative; stretch your imagination. For example, what kind of face do you think Zacchaeus made when Jesus looked up in the tree?

…that you don’t have a degree in Bible. The Word of God is accessible to all. Plus, your kids don’t need a lecture on transubstantiation. They need to know what it means to take the Lord’s Supper/Communion.

…if you or your kids can’t answer all the questions. Everyone can try. You will all get better at it after some experience.

…to use the “grown-up” Bible with your children. Just find an easy-to-read translation such as English Standard Version (ESV) or New International Readers Version (NIrV) and start reading!

Before your first study time, choose a book of the Bible. Start with a gospel such as Mark or Luke—lots of stories. Read the introductory material in your study Bible. That will help you answer questions about the author and situation.

The “How To”

Pray together.

Ask for understanding, patience, listening ears, no distractions, etc.

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. -John 14:26

Use stories.

Read one story, along with any preceding transitions or introductions. Then have someone else retell it or act it out. Try letting a child read the story, then you retell it.

(Next time, review previous weeks, then read the next story. Make it like a series so everyone catches the bigger picture.)

Ask interactive questions.

Use interrogatives to discuss the story. Answer the questions together.

  • Where are they?
  • When does this happen?
  • Who is there?
  • What actually happens?
  • How did people respond?

Now take it deeper.

  • What did it mean to the people who were there?
  • Why did the author include this story?
  • What connections do you see to other stories/Scripture?

Finally, application.

  • What have we learned?
  • What do we need to do about what we’ve learned?
  • What action do we need to take (as a family or individually) in response?

These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. -John 20:31

Create a ‘take-away’.

Find an object to remind you of this story, have someone draw a picture of the story, or (if everyone can read) display an application phrase in a prominent place for the week.

Extend the discussion.

Talk about the story and application as you have opportunities throughout the week.

These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. -Deuteronomy 6:6-7

Family devotions without a devotional book: How to Study the Bible with Your Kids (in <500 words)  <-click to tweet

Try this out, then leave me some feedback. I’d really like to know what you think!

Content and Context (part 8) – Paul’s letters

This week we tackle the thickest, most chocked-full book of the Bible: Romans. There is no way to adequately present the content and context of this book with six bullet points (although I gave it a try). In it, we find the foundations of our theology, an understanding of Israel’s place in the New Covenant, and connections to much of the Old Testament. I don’t necessarily like reading Romans because there are very few stories, but when I study it, I find so much to “chew” on and so many areas in which to grow spiritually.

After Romans, the Corinthians and that set of four small books (You know, the ones we learned using acronyms such as ‘Go Eat PopCorn’ or ‘General Electric Power Company’) feel comforting and simple. If you want to dig into Paul’s writings with your children, I suggest you start with Ephesians or Philippians. They are straightforward, and Paul employs some word pictures that help us all understand our faith. What is more, it’s not too hard to memorize big chunks of verses here such as The Armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-20) or the Christ hymn (Philippians 2:5-11).

Did I leave out something important? What changes or additions would you suggest? Let me know in the comments section below.

PAUL’S LETTERS (part 1)

Romans

  • About: system of salvation, God’s big plan
  • God is knowable and He has a clear plan for our salvation.
  • Big stories: God judges everyone, Romans Road, victory for believers
  • Author: Paul
  • Time: about mid-way through Paul’s ministry; prob. ad57
  • “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’” Romans 1:16-17

1 Corinthians

  • About: cultural influences in church, Christian/church behavior
  • God intends for his church to represent His purity, mercy, and love.
  • Big stories: church practices, spiritual gifts, “Love is…”
  • Author: Paul
  • Time: shortly before Romans; prob. ad55
  • “For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.” 1 Corinthians 1:25

2 Corinthians

  • About: the challenges and joys of Christian ministry, God’s high standards
  • God’s calling involves both blessings and difficulties.
  • Big stories: jars of clay, ministry of reconciliation, Paul’s “pedigree”
  • Author: Paul
  • Time: shortly before Romans but after 1 Corinthians; prob. ad55
  • “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:17-18

Galatians

  • About: justification by faith, freedom in Christ
  • God provides salvation to all people, separate from the law.
  • Big stories: Paul’s calling and apostleship, faith v/s works, fruit of the Spirit
  • Author: Paul
  • Time: possibly the earliest Pauline letter we have; ad48/49 or 53
  • “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:26-28

Ephesians

  • About: the purpose and goals for the church
  • God wants His followers to know and follow through with His plans.
  • Big stories: unity of all believers, husbands & wives, armor of God
  • Author: Paul
  • Time: while imprisoned in Rome; ad60
  • “I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:17b-19

Philippians

  • About: perseverance, joy, humility
  • God’s presence and blessing are unaffected by human circumstances.
  • Big stories: suffering for the Gospel, Christ’s humility, everything a loss in comparison to Jesus
  • Author: Paul
  • Time: while imprisoned in Rome; ad61
  • “I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:20-21

Colossians

  • About: refuting false teaching
  • God’s provision of Christ is completely sufficient for our salvation.
  • Big stories: supremacy of Christ, freedom in Christ, life in Christ
  • Author: Paul
  • Time: while imprisoned in Rome; ad60 (same as Ephesians)
  • “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority.” Colossians 2:9-10

 

Content and Context (part 7) – Gospels and Acts

We return to our Content and Context Series today (see the beginning *here*)—just in time for the Advent season. It’s the perfect opportunity to focus on Jesus’ life and purpose on earth. Simply pick a gospel and start reading; you can’t go wrong! Then, when it’s time for New Year’s resolutions, turn to Acts. The early church models the called-out life in a way that remains relevant today. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you where you need to make a change.

Of course, all the Gospels are specifically and intentionally about Jesus. All tell about the miracles He did and the parables He told, all provide details about His crucifixion and His resurrection, but each has a specific audience or purpose and each is told from a clear point-of-view. That’s why it’s so great to have four of them. We have a much fuller picture of Jesus’ life, ministry, death, and resurrection. For this outline, I have tried to differentiate the four so you (and your children) can see God’s purpose in each. As we approach Christmas, I pray that a fresh understanding of Jesus blesses your holiday season.

THE GOSPELS AND ACTS

Matthew

  • About: Jesus as the expected Messiah
  • Through Jesus, God fulfilled the Old Testament Messianic prophecies and provided a Savior for His chosen people.
  • Big stories: Jesus’ birth, Sermon on the Mount, Great Commission
  • Author: Matthew/Levi (a disciple)
  • Time: when Jesus was on earth
  • “All of this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ (which means ‘God with us’).”  Matthew 1:22-23

Mark

  • About: Jesus as teacher and miracle-worker
  • Through Jesus, God gave us wisdom about life on earth and modeled suffering.
  • Big stories: John the Baptist, Greatest Commandment, Passion Week (1/3 of the chapters)
  • Author: John Mark (based on Peter’s preaching)
  • Time: when Jesus was on earth
  • “Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. ‘Abba, Father,’ he said, ‘everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.’” Mark 14:35-36

Luke

  • About: Jesus as world-wide Savior
  • Through Jesus, God made a way for every person (regardless of gender, politics, social status, etc.) to be saved.
  • Big stories: Jesus’ birth & childhood, Jesus’ focus on women/social
    IMG_6563.JPG
    the author’s childhood Bible     (c) Carole Sparks

    outcasts/Gentiles, parables (more than any other Gospel), Emmaus Road & Ascension

  • Author: Luke (a doctor who traveled with Paul)
  • Time: when Jesus was on earth
  • “Jesus answered them, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.’” Luke 5:31-32

John

  • About: Jesus as Son of God and Son of Man
  • Through Jesus, God demonstrates His love toward us and we are connected back to Him.
  • Big stories: Nicodemus, “I am” statements, Lazarus raised, upper room discourse, Peter’s restoration
  • Author: John (a disciple)
  • Time: when Jesus was on earth
  • “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” John 20:31

Acts

  • About: the early church, the life of Paul
  • God uses believers to spread the gospel across continents.
  • Big stories: Pentecost, Stephen’s stoning, Peter’s dream, Paul’s conversion/missionary journeys/trial
  • Author: Luke (a doctor who traveled with Paul)
  • Time: the 30 years following Jesus’ ascension
  • “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8

 

Content and Context (part 5) – Major Prophets

It’s really all about God, isn’t it? When I started this content and context listing, I wanted to write the summary sentence for each book so that the focus was on God. That hasn’t been hard. Here in the Major Prophets, with their intense and personal connections to Him, it has been even easier. If you want to see what I’m talking about, go back and look at those summary sentences (the second bullet point under each book title) in previous posts; you can clearly see God’s active presence in each time period and situation. This is why history is actually His Story. Beautiful!

If you are new to this blog, find the original post that started the series *here*.

MAJOR PROPHETS

Isaiah

  • About: judgment, promises
  • God uses Isaiah to voice His promises for the restoration of His people.
  • Big stories: Isaiah before God, promise of Immanuel, prophecies about Jesus
  • Author: Isaiah
  • Time: fall of Israel (Amos, Hosea, Micah)
  • “It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” Isaiah 49:6

Jeremiah

  • About: Judah’s approaching exile (Did you know this is the longest book in the Bible?)
  • Through Jeremiah, God forewarns and demonstrates how Judah will be judged.
  • Big stories: Jeremiah’s calling, visiting a pottery studio, a king burns Jeremiah’s scroll of prophecies, fall of Jerusalem
  • Author: Jeremiah
  • Time: before fall of Judah (King Josiah, Daniel, Habakkuk)
  • “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.’” Jeremiah 29:11-12

Lamentations

  • About: mourning, loss (It’s a collection of laments, after all.)
  • God’s people mourn their punishment but remember that God is faithful.
  • Big stories: the people feel deserted
  • Author: maybe Jeremiah
  • Time: immediately after the fall of Jerusalem
  • “Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:21-23

Ezekiel

Ezekiel spoke as God had commanded. There was a sudden rattling as the bones came together, bone by bone, to form skeletons. – Slide 5

The valley of dry bones (c) freebibleimages.org

  • About: God’s sovereignty and omnipresence
  • With Ezekiel as His spokesman, God removes the tangible centerpieces of Israel’s religious life.
  • Big stories: Ezekiel’s call, the valley of dry bones and restoration of the temple
  • Author: Ezekiel
  • Time: fall of Jerusalem and Babylonian exile
  • “Therefore say to the Israelites, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: It is not for your sake, people of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name…Then the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Sovereign Lord, when I am proved holy through you before their eyes.’” Ezekiel 36:22-23

Daniel

‘I see four. And they are loose and walking around. The fourth man looks like the Son of God.’ – Slide 40
In the fiery furnace (c) freebibleimages.org
  • About: Daniel and his friends, long-range prophecy
  • God uses a few faithful men to make His glory known in a foreign nation.
  • Big stories: fiery furnace, lions’ den, interpreting kings’ dreams
  • Author: Daniel
  • Time: late in Babylonian exile
  • “The king said to Daniel, ‘Surely your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, for you were able to reveal this mystery.” Daniel 2:47

Content and Context (part 4) – Historical Books cont. & Wisdom Literature

Have you ever tried to summarize the Psalms in one sentence? That’s a doozy! I made an attempt below as we continue our content and context chart for the Books of the Bible. (Find the first post, with explanation, *here*.)

I would still like to hear about some well-done resources for helping our children learn the Bible.  Take a minute to comment if you know of something helpful.

HISTORICAL BOOKS (cont.)

Ezra

  • About: rebuilding the temple
  • God uses pagan kings and exiles to maintain His name and His place.
  • Big stories: exiles return to Jerusalem, temple is rebuilt, Ezra goes to Jerusalem and leads the people
  • Author: probably Ezra (a priest and teacher)
  • Time: about 50 years after Judah went into exile
  • “Let the temple be rebuilt as a place to present sacrifices. … Also, the gold and silver articles of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar took from the temple in Jerusalem and brought to Babylon, are to be returned to their places in the temple in Jerusalem.” Ezra 6:3-5

Nehemiah

From that point on half the men did the work while the other half stood guard with swords, spears, bows and amour. Those who were building also carried weapons. – Slide 11

half worked while half stood guard                      (c) freebibleimages.org
  • About: rebuilding the wall
  • God helps returning Israelites rebuild the wall around Jerusalem despite fierce opposition and their own sinfulness.
  • Big stories: Nehemiah asks permission to go to Jerusalem, opposition and discouragement delay the rebuilding of the wall
  • Author: possibly Ezra
  • Time: contemporary with Ezra but slightly later
  • “When all our enemies heard about this [rebuilding], all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God.” Nehemiah 6:16

Esther

  • About: rebuilding the people’s faith (notice the theme in these three books?)
  • God delivers His people through the courage of one faithful woman.
  • Big stories: Esther pleases the king, Esther pleads for the lives of her people
  • Author: unknown
  • Time: same as Ezra
  • “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14

WISDOM LITERATURE

Job

They sat down with him for seven days and nights, and no one said a word, because they saw how great his suffering was. – Slide 28
Job with his friends (c) freebibleimages.org
  • About: justice, suffering, Job’s faith
  • God permits Job to suffer and be tested for His glory.
  • Big stories: Job loses everything, God declares Himself to Job and his friends
  • Author: unknown
  • Time: probably contemporary with Abraham
  • Job “said: ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.’ In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.” Job 1:21-22

Psalms

  • About: songs of prayer and praise
  • God enjoys the praise of His people; He comforts and guides us.
  • Big stories: God’s presence, the priority of His Word, praising all His attributes
  • Author: King David and others
  • Time: Moses through Solomon or later (Genesis-1 Kings)
  • “How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” Psalm 119:9-11

Proverbs

  • About: sayings of warning and advice
  • God expects younger people to heed the guidance of their elders.
  • Big stories: avoiding folly, parenting well, the noble wife
  • Author: King Solomon and others
  • Time: same as 1 Kings/2 Chronicles
  • “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Proverbs 1:7

Ecclesiastes

  • About: finding wisdom and meaning in life
  • Life is meaningless without God as one’s ultimate source of understanding.
  • Big stories: a time for everything, pointlessness of life
  • Author: possibly King Solomon
  • Time: possibly same as 1 Kings/2 Chronicles, Proverbs
  • “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.” Ecclesiastes 12:13

Song of Songs (formerly Song of Solomon)

  • About: physical love between a man and woman (Yeah…I’m not putting a picture on this one!)
  • God delights in the amorous attraction of a faithful couple.
  • Big stories: interaction between lovers
  • Author: possibly King Solomon
  • Time: possibly same as 1 Kings/2 Chronicles, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes
  • “Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot sweep it away. If one were to give all the wealth of one’s house for love, it would be utterly scorned.” Song of Songs 8:7

Content and Context (part 3) – Historical Books cont.

This week, we have the entire history of Israel’s monarchy—from the first grumblings for a king such as all the other nations have (1 Sam 8:5) to the exile, with some repetition thrown in for good measure. These were originally single books (not 1st and 2nd), which explains the naming.  There are so many great stories and examples (both positive and negative) here!

Take one book a week or one a day and help your children learn not just the order of the books in the Bible but something of their content and historical context.

HISTORICAL BOOKS (cont.)

1 Samuel

  • About: Samuel, Saul, and David

    008-david-jonathan
    David & Jonathan (c) FreeBibleImages.org
  • God uses a priest to establish the Israelite monarchy, which becomes the lineage of Jesus.
  • Big stories: Hannah, Saul v/s David, David & Jonathan
  • Author: unknown
  • Time: after Judges
  • “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7b

2 Samuel

  • About: reign of King David
  • God establishes David’s kingship through many challenges.
  • Big stories: David becomes king, Bathsheba, Tamar, Absalom’s conspiracy
  • Author: unknown (same as 1 Samuel)
  • Time: immediately after 1 Samuel
  • “The God of Israel spoke, the Rock of Israel said to me: ‘When one rules over people in righteousness, when he rules in the fear of God, he is like the light of morning at sunrise on a cloudless morning, like the brightness after rain that brings grass from the earth.’” 2 Samuel 23:3-4

1 Kings

(c) FreeBibleImages.org
Solomon’s Temple (c) FreeBibleImages.org
  • About: King Solomon, divided kingdom, Elijah
  • God blesses Solomon, but later kings squander those blessings despite prophetic warnings.
  • Big stories: Solomon asks for wisdom, building the temple, Elijah & prophets of Ba’al
  • Author: unknown
  • Time: immediately after 2 Samuel (starts at the end of David’s reign)
  • “God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore.” 1 Kings 4:29

2 Kings

Elijah taken in a chariot of fire  (c) FreeBibleImages.org
Elijah taken in a chariot of fire
(c) FreeBibleImages.org
  • About: Elisha, exile
  • Prophets warn of judgment by exile but most kings refuse to heed God.
  • Big stories: Elijah’s chariot of fire, King Josiah renews the covenant
  • Author: unknown (same as 1 Kings)
  • Time: immediately after 1 Kings through Judah’s capture
  • “The Lord warned Israel and Judah through all his prophets and seers: ‘Turn from your evil ways….’ But they would not listen and were as stiff-necked as their ancestors, who did not trust in the Lord their God.” 2 Kings 17:13-14

1 Chronicles

  • About: blood lines, King David
  • God chooses David, who rises to power as a military ruler and prepares for building the temple.
  • Big stories: 1/3 of the book is genealogy; David’s military prowess, heart for God, and collection of temple materials
  • Author: possibly Ezra
  • Time: from Adam through the death of King David
  • “What more can David say to you for honoring your servant? For you know your servant, Lord. For the sake of your servant and according to your will, you have done this great thing and made known all these great promises.” 1 Chronicles 17:18-19

2 Chronicles

  • About: King Solomon, other kings of Judah
  • Solomon’s wisdom and power were soon forgotten as the kingdom fractured, leaving Judah with a series of kings—some good, some evil.
  • Big stories: building the temple, Solomon’s wisdom, schism and exile
  • Author: possibly Ezra
  • Time: King Solomon through going into exile
  • “The Lord, the God of their ancestors, sent word to them through his messengers again and again, because he had pity on his people and on his dwelling place. But they mocked God’s messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets until the wrath of the Lord was aroused against his people and there was no remedy.” 2 Chronicles 36:15-16

Content and Context Clues for the Books of the Bible (part 2)

Here’s the next installment for teaching our children the content and context of the books of the Bible! Click here for the context of this series.  Come back next week for all the Old Testament 1sts and 2nds!

HISTORICAL BOOKS

Joshua

  • About: battles, conquest
  • God leads His people to take over the land He promised to them.
  • Big stories: battle of Jericho, conquest of Canaan, division of the land
  • Author: Joshua or someone close to him
  • Time: immediately after Deuteronomy through Joshua’s death
  • “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

Judges

  • About: leaders of Israel
  • Repeatedly, God’s people turn away from Him; God sends judgment; the people ask for help; God sends a deliverer (a.k.a. judge).
  • Big stories: Deborah, Gideon, Samson
  • Author: unknown, possibly Samuel
  • Time: after Joshua and before King Saul
  • “Whenever the Lord raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; … But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their ancestors…. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways.” Judges 2:18-19

Ruth

  • About: love and devotion, redemption
  • Ruth, a widowed Moabite, becomes a part of Jesus’ lineage.
  • Big stories: Ruth follows Naomi, Ruth meets and marries Boaz
  • Author: unknown
  • Time: same as Judges
  • “But Ruth replied, ‘Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.’” Ruth 1:16

Books of the Bible – Pentateuch

The Pentateuch (First 5 books, the Hebrew Torah)

Genesis

  • about: beginnings—of the universe, of faith
  • God makes the world and chooses a people group.
  • Big stories: Creation, Noah, Abraham/Isaac/Jacob (a.k.a. Patriarchs), Joseph
  • written by: Moses
  • time: prehistoric, early civilizations
  • “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” Genesis 1:31a

Exodus

  • about: Moses, covenant
  • God delivers His people from Egypt and makes a covenant with them.
  • Big stories: the Exodus, Ten Commandments, golden calf
  • written by: Moses
  • time: 400 years after the end of Genesis
  • “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.” Exodus 20:2-3

Leviticus

  • about: sacrifices, celebrations
  • God sets up a system of sacrifices and celebrations for His people.
  • Big stories: Levites as priests, lots of instructions on how to live
  • written by: Moses
  • time: same as Numbers
  • “I am the Lord, who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy.” Leviticus 11:45

Numbers

  • about: census, wilderness
  • God’s people refuse to enter Canaan, so God forces them to wander for 40 years.
  • Big stories: 12 spies (Joshua & Caleb), water from a rock, Balaam’s donkey
  • written by: Moses
  • time: immediately after Exodus (Ex 40:17, Num 1:1)
  • “The Lord is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished.” Numbers 14:18a

Deuteronomy

  • about: history, laws
  • Moses reviews the whole story and reminds the people of God’s covenant and laws, then leadership transfers to Joshua.
  • Big stories: Moses’ final speech, Joshua’s succession
  • written by: Moses
  • time: just before entering the Promised Land, after Numbers and before Joshua
  • “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” Deuteronomy 6:4-5

ABCs and the Books of the Bible

ESV and NIV study Bibles (c) Carole Sparks
ESV and NIV study Bibles                                                                        (c) Carole Sparks

A B C D E F G…

My children attended primary school overseas. Things were different. I remember pointing at the letter ‘b’ and asking my son, “What’s this letter?”

He proudly replied, “That’s buh.”

“No,” I corrected, “That’s bee.”

There was a slight argument, but he was five years old, so I won…at least in the moment.

He also didn’t learn the letters in alphabetical order. He learned them in order of difficulty to write: straight-lined letters first, curvy letters last. His handwritten ‘O’ is still sad.

I was frustrated, but I chalked it up to cultural differences. But now, as much as it pains me to admit it, his teachers were on to something. Never in my adult life has anyone asked me to identify a letter by its name. Every day—even as I type this right now—I use the sounds the letters represent to read and write. As for order, the only benefit to knowing alphabetical order, besides singing the ABC song, involves looking things up in a dictionary. I’m a whiz at that, let me tell you! My son? Not so much, but he’s improving. Dictionaries are going the way of the abacus, unfortunately: obsolete, although some of us refuse to admit it. For that reason, I’m not too worried about this skill either.

My son reads incredibly well, so I really can’t be critical of his primary school teachers. He simply learned the content of the letters without memorizing their titles first.

Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers…

In teaching our children about the Bible, one of the most straightforward tasks involves teaching them the list of books contained within the Bible. I’ve even heard songs to help with this—no small task given some of the difficult names in both the Old and New Testaments. (“Chronicles” rhymes with what? Bionicles? They aren’t in the Bible.) While there’s nothing wrong with it, I wonder if this in-order skill serves even less purpose than letters in alphabetical order. It might help our children become excellent Bible Drill participants (Do they even have that anymore?), but how does it help them become stronger Christ-followers?

Our children need to learn the content of the books in the Bible along with the titles of the books. This is easy with books like Esther, but what about Joel? Esther is about a woman named Esther, but she didn’t write it. Joel is written by a guy named Joel, but it’s not actually about him. Confusing! And then there are books like Ecclesiastes, Zephaniah, and Leviticus. Their titles give us no clue as to their content.

I wouldn’t make this critique without also suggesting a solution. So for the next several weeks, come back for a series of posts listing the books of the Bible with some content and context clues. (Look for the first one later today.) Like the times tables, there’s no other way to learn these except to memorize them, but also like the times tables, these facts will be useful forever! Use them in weekly devotions, homeschooling, or however you want. Use as much or as little of the information as you find helpful. At our house, we put each title on an index card with extra information on the back and hung them on the wall by the breakfast table, one per day. Then we quizzed the kids in different ways.

Once all the books of the Bible have been listed and posted, I’ll move everything to a separate page on this blog so you can access it easily.

Hope it helps.

Why it’s more important to teach our kids the content in the #booksoftheBible rather than just the names of the books. Via @Carole_Sparks #IntentionalParenting (click to tweet)

Walk Thru the Bible has some great resources similar to this, but with pictures! What other resources have you seen? Tell us about them in the comments section below.