by Pastor Tim Burt
Lord, I don’t know how to teach Stephanie to know and love you. I need your help. Please show me the way.
That was the cry of my heart to the Lord. I really wanted her and my future children to know the Lord. When you pray a prayer like that, you really don’t know how the Lord is going to answer it. Often times you forget you prayed a prayer like that and don’t even know and realize it when your answer finally manifests before you. Hindsight almost always helps you see things more clearly.
One evening, when Stephanie was just eight months old, I was sitting in our family room watching television. I had her sitting on a blanket next to me, surrounded by baby paraphernalia—all the things she could stick in her mouth and bite on and play with to be happy. She was sitting there, adorable and content. And I was enjoying a TV program. Each time a commercial would come on, I would lean over and play with her for a couple of minutes until my show was back on.
As this was going on, I suddenly experienced what would become a life-changing moment. I heard the Lord speak to my heart. Is this the way you’re going to raise your daughter—between commercials? I was stunned when I heard this. I just sat numb for a minute. I turned off the TV and continued to sit still. The presence of the Lord was there with me. Stephanie continued to sit quietly and content.
As I was sitting there, I had a sudden flashback to the Sunday morning of Stephanie’s baby dedication. The Pastor was teaching from Genesis 18:18-19. “Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him. For I have chosen him, because he will command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just, so that the LORD will bring about for Abraham what He has promised him.” That day, I had pledged in my heart to do what made God so pleased with Abraham. I promised to purposefully raise my children to know and follow the Lord.
These words stood out as though God was saying them to me in that moment. “For I have chosen him, because he will command his children…to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just…” I was instantly convicted that playing with Stephanie between the commercials wasn’t how I would help my children know God. I went upstairs to talk with Renee about my experience with the Lord. She agreed completely, and that night we made a pledge to the Lord. We would not turn on the television until after Stephanie (and eventually our other children) had been put to bed. Instead, from the time dinner was over, we would play with her (and eventually all four children,) and then spend a good hour each night finding fun little ways to teach her (and them) about the Lord.
When Stephanie was about four years old, we felt impressed to get involved in helping with children’s ministry at church. (By that time, we had just had our third child.) We learned many things about effective ministry to children and taught the children at church two Sunday night services a month for eight years. We had great fun in doing so. The side-benefit was that we were taking the skills we learned about ministering to children at church, home to minister to our own children. It was great. It was fun. It was life-changing!
We used puppets at church to minister to the kids, and it was one of their favorite parts of the Sunday School class. We ended up buying some animal puppets that we named and developed personalities for. Renee and I would do funny little puppet shows with a moral and biblical truth—often reflecting something that was going on in their lives (whining, fighting, sharing, etc) or in our home. Our kids loved it and eventually wanted to create puppet shows of their own.
We’d also memorize scripture together—another thing we learned at church, rewarding the children when they had learned a new verse by heart. We always read from different kinds of Bible books that were age appropriate. We often played children’s music about the Lord and occasionally watched Christian children’s videos that taught the Bible. We loved our evenings together and would close each night praying together. Each one of the kids would pray from their heart to the Lord out loud.
As I look back, God’s leading us in all these ways was the beginning of how God answered my prayer. I prayed Lord please teach me how to teach my children to know and love you, and He did! He showed us how without us realizing it—by leading Renee and me to help serve in children’s ministry. One of the promises of God that we clung to in faith was Isaiah 54:13 NKJV, “All your children shall be taught by the LORD, And great shall be the peace of your children.” The Lord fulfilled this by teaching us how to minister to them! The Lord gave us fun ideas that the kids loved and could learn from, and they really came to know and love the Lord!
Each child is unique in how they learn, but the promise is—“All your children shall be taught by the Lord…” You’ll be involved in the process, and He will show you how to teach them as you seek Him. And then, when they leave the house as young adults, you will continue to cling to this promise and pray for them all the days of your life! And P.S. this is my beautiful daughter Stephanie today, a missionary and Pastor with her husband and two daughters to Lima Peru, and to much of the continent of South America!
In closing, whatever it is that you know the Lord wants you to do, but don’t know how to do, simply pray in faith and ask Him to help you! He’ll work in you and through you despite your lack of confidence. He will because He has given you that great commission to train your children in the Lord!
In His love,
Pastor Tim Burt
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