After many years of trying to use ready-made devotionals aimed at children for family devotions, I am abandoning them. First of all, there is a certain dumbing down of the mysteries of Scripture and delights of investigation by the study of it. We sometimes never get past what the writers say. Second, the stories are sometimes inapplicable or plain corny. Finally, while they refer to Scripture, they do not often encourage self study or a pondering wonderment. My kids finally just said give us Scripture. Now some of that may be because they perceive it to be shorter, but I have to think some of their desire is to deal with Scripture on its own terms and find their own answers.
So this week my wife gave us all six scriptures, taking Luke 1 and dividing it up into 4-6 verses a day. We're going to try and read it in personal devotions each day and think of one application we can share at the dinner table or at some coming together that day. For three days now I have done this. It takes about 5 minutes. I tried to come up with a 2-4 word imperative phrase for each passage. What surprises me is that it's not difficult at all, even when you are dealing with a passage that is simply an incomplete piece of historical narrative. However, given the counsel of 2 Timothy 3:16-17, a verse that commends the usefulness of all Scripture, why am I surprised?
Pursue the truth. In Luke 1: 1-4, something you might skim by as an introduction to the "real" book, Luke says that while many have written up the truth of the Gospel stories, stories handed down to him, he himself "carefully investigated everything from the beginning." Luke made the truth his own by pursuing it himself. So while I may benefit from the insights of others, in the end I need to pursue the truth myself, investigating things I have a question about on my own. It also was a good reminder that the Christian faith and church tradition I have passed down to my children is mine, not theirs', at least not until they make it their own. They may do so and not wind up looking doctrinally precisely like their parents, nor need they. (I raised little Calvinists but need to let go of that if need be!)
Persevere in faithfulness. In Luke 1:5-10, we are told of the priest Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth, and what stood out to me was that they were "upright in the sight of the Lord," and yet "they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both well along in years." In that culture, barrenness was stigmatic, and there must have been some (and maybe they were among them) that questioned why God did not bless them, and yet they persevered. The lesson to me is to persevere in faith, even for a lifetime, even when there is no fruitfulness to perceive, and in spite of evidence to the contrary.
Pray unceasingly. In Luke 1:11-17, the angel of the Lord appears before Zechariah and tells him that he will have a son, John (the Baptist), and not just any son but one who will be a "joy and delight" and who will bring back to the Lord many of the people of Israel. The angel says "[Y]our prayer has been heard." The implication is that all of those barren years the prayer for a child had been made, unceasingly, and heard. It tells me that I need to pray unceasingly and doggedly, even about the same thing, for as long as it takes. I have a few things to "worry" God with daily!
As it goes, this week we have had different things that have kept us from discussing these verses as a family. And yet, I'm eager to do so. I hope my children are as well. One of them recently asked me "why they had to read the Bible since they had already read it." Maybe an exercise like this will show them why. It sure reminds me of the ability of Scripture to speak afresh into your present circumstance no matter how many times you read it. I'm old. I should know this by now.