Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Please Tell Me a Story

If you are a longtime reader of this blog, you will recognize part of today's post as one that I wrote March 26, 2012. I believe the message is important and helpful so I am repeating some of it in the hopes that I can help you have ideas about how to do effective devotions with your children.

I am a big believer in stories. I think a story is a powerful way to get a point across. Think of how Nathan wove for David, the shepherd-king, the story of a family's pet lamb being taken by a rich man with many sheep. When David was outraged by this, Nathan said, "You are that man!" referring to his sin of adultery and murder. David realized it was true and he repented.

In believing stories are and effective way to teach, I must have the right idea because look at how Jesus did most of His teaching during His ministry on earth. And consider how much of the Bible is biographical and historical. We can learn much from the stories of others.

At a ladies' seminar I attended last year, the announced topic was "Simplify Your Life." Since I had agreed to be a table leader several months before I knew the topic, I went, even though I didn't really think wanted to hear about how to declutter my closet. (Not that I don't need that, but that's another topic; and that's not what she talked about anyway.)

What I found very interesting was the "Bible Stories" that the speaker told as examples, using the stories of women in the book of Luke. 

She said she wouldn't add anything to the stories, but she would tell them rather than read them. I checked the passage on one story and I discovered that she made no artistic embellishments, and in places, even used almost the exact words in my translation. But since she was telling the story, we listened closely. 

At the end of the story, she said there were five questions we needed to answer:

  1. What do I like about this story?
  2. What do I not like about this story?
  3. What do I learn about people from this story?
  4. What do I learn about God in this story?
  5. What can I apply to my life from this story?
As I thought about these questions I realized how great they are for teaching our kids or others to read and understand the Bible for themselves!

I've always used the questions:
  • What does it say? (Observation)
  • What does it mean? (Interpretation)
  • What does it mean to me? (Application)
But those questions can be a little vague, especially for people who are just learning how to study the Bible. These new questions, while they wouldn't work for every passage, help people because they are more specific

The first two are observation questions, but they give the reader something specific to look for. While looking for what he likes and doesn't like, he will pay close attention to the story. 

Don't feel squeamish about "not liking" things in the story. We can "not like" that David took Bathsheba into his bed when she was married to someone else, and "not like" that he had Uriah killed, while still understanding what God is teaching through the incident.

The next two questions are interpretation questions, again with specific lessons to look for. What do we see about human nature? Pretty much what we see in others is a lot of what we see in ourselves, so it is insightful to take the time to look at others and think about them.

Finally, there is an application question, something the reader can take with him through the day, something to actually do or change in his life.

How great would it be to do that with our kids? Stories fit every age. Perhaps your children are at the age where a Bible story book is they way to do devotions with them. Maybe you can read the incident from a modern translation round robin. Or you could even assign one child to read the story ahead of time and tell to the family. Then answer the questions, discussion style--each one who wants can have a say. Even young children will soon start to be attentive so they can tell you what they liked and didn't like.

You can let them not like the fact that David didn't recognize his own sin until he was confronted. But help them to also see that when he was confronted, he sincerely and wholeheartedly repented. And they can realize that Nathan being sent by God was an act of bravery and obedience. Just make sure that what they like and don't like is truly there--not things they add or conjecture.

With the lessons they learn about people and God, guide them with questions to lessons that are in keeping with the rest of scripture. And the same goes for how they want to apply it to themselves. The lesson of David is not that they can disobey and then repent without consequences in their lives!

photo credits RK Scott

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  1. Thanks! I think this will be great for my girls!

  2. Great post and wonderful ideas/tips. Thanks so much for sharing this with the Thrive @ Home Link-Up! Pinning it to our Pinterest board! :)

  3. Excellent. Thank you for encouraging us to use the "stories" to speak truth.

  4. Very thought provoking tips! Thanks so much for sharing on Busy Monday!

  5. Thanks so much for sharing it with Adorned From Above's Blog Hop. We can't wait to see what you share at this weeks party. Have a great week.
    Debi and Charly



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