Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Hiding His Word in their hearts

According to the neo-classical view of the child, my children are all in the 'grammar' stage of learning. This means their brains are, at present, wired for absorbing information. They soak it up like sponges: my 4yo son knows the names of each of the trains in the Thomas the Tank Engine books by Rev W Audry, my 3yo daughter can recite Luke 18:15-17 without fault, my 2yo is rapidly increasing her repertoire of nursery rhymes and kids' songs and my baby ... well, he's busy learning to wave and say "mama" as well as "dada". In all of this list of achievements, the only one that would be considered unusual would be reciting Bible verses. Yet this is one thing that I consider very important, because I see the value of hiding God's Word in my children's hearts.

We practise reciting our Bible memory verses together as a family each day at either breakfast or lunchtime. Often, the two older kids have the verse memorised before Jeff or I, because they are so good at taking things in. We use the Scripture Memory System described at Simply CM, reciting new verses each day until they are memorised and then practising them regularly to keep them fresh. We are working on some verses I chose because they support the major Christian doctrines with regard to who God is, how we know about Him, who Jesus is, what He did, sin and salvation. Occasionally I add in another verse I have come across it in my own private study that has really struck me, and we also plan to memorise such things as the order of books of the Bible.

Recently, my mother watched Anna recite Colossians 1:16 - For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. She warned me to be cautious, and on reflection I think she was very astute. It is essential that our children memorise the correct words of Scripture, and do not memorise mistakenly. When they are older and are relying upon their memory of certain verses, we do not want that memory to be faulty in what it tells them about God's Word.

It is also important that they understand what they are saying: that while the memorisation is indeed by rote, it is not forming knowledge without understanding. When we were learning Colossians 1:16, we discussed "authority" and its trappings. We also read aloud the picture book Possum Magic by Mem Fox (in which the possum Hush is first turned invisible and then visible again by Grandma Poss) and used this to explain what was meant by "visible" and "invisible". We explained that "created" means "made" and reminded the children of other verses that speak of God as the Creator, such as Gen1:1 and John1:1-4.

Another caution appeared to me from Exploring the History and Philosophy of Christian Education. "Bible memory games ... are important ... but they should never be seen as the end. They are simply the means to the end of balanced spiritual formation. ... Meaningful understanding and practical application must precede memorisation or we are guilty of creating modern day Pharisees." I want my children to be able to act upon what they know, so I need to train them to exercise their knowledge in their daily lives. So when Joshua came home a while ago to tell me "Our next door neighbour doesn't want Jesus to be his King. He says God didn't make the world, it was evolution." I reminded him that God has told us the truth in His Word, and we can be sure that He is the Creator, because Colossians 1:16 (and other verses) tell us this. Then we prayed together that Joshua could share the truth about God and His Son Jesus with our neighbour.

This is what it means to have His Word in their hearts.

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