“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” – 3 John 4 (ESV)
This past Wednesday as I was studying the Bible with both my sons in our breakfast nook, I experienced a very thankful moment as I considered the work that had been done at that table through the years. For a moment, I saw them as they once were, when we first started studying in the breakfast nook together.
The breakfast nook in our home has really been the place where we have eaten family meals and done Bible study since we first moved to Wilson in 1987. Our children were ages five (Stephen), two (Jonathan) and one (Erin) when we first arrived. We wanted to establish a regular time to teach them the Bible, so we decided to make it part of our dinners together every evening.
Yet, because our children were so young and at various stages of development, we came up with a game we called the “Bible Quiz” to keep their interest. The game went like this. I would tell a short Bible story in my own words, then I would ask questions from the story to each child. I was careful to match the difficulty of the questions to the child’s age. If they got the question correct, I gave them a penny. The first child to receive five pennies won that evening’s Bible Quiz. We even made Bible Quiz Jars for each child to store their pennies and kept them prominently on the kitchen counter as a daily reminder.
If I told the story of creation, I would ask little Erin, “Baby girl, who created us?” “God?” She would answer with an uncertain face. She was always a little shy in her answers at that age. Plus, I’d have to “shush” her older brothers who always wanted to answer for her. Then, I’d give her a penny, noting that she was now in first place. To which both boys would shout about how easy her question was and how it wasn’t fair because she had gotten to go first.
Then, I’d get more specific, “Fini (Jonathan), what was the name of the man and woman that God created?” He’d answer confidently in his little scratchy voice (he sounded like an old man at that age), “Adam and Eve!” “Right!” I’d say. “Here’s your penny. Now, you’re tied with Erin.”
Finally, I’d get to five year old Stephen. “Phanos, yours is a three-parter. Are you ready for it?” “Yessir.” He’d respond (If he didn’t, I wouldn’t ask the question until he did). “OK. Who was the first son of Adam and Eve, who was his younger brother, and what did he do to his younger brother?” Looking up thoughtfully at the ceiling for a moment, he would then look at me and answer, “Cain was the older brother. Abel was the younger one. And Cain murdered Abel.” “Right!” I would exclaim, tossing a penny his way for him to catch. “Hey, I only get one penny? That doesn’t seem fair” (He was always concerned about fairness). I’d respond, “Yeah, life isn’t always fair son. Get used to it.”
We played the Bible Quiz game after supper every evening for years. If we forgot, one of the kids would complain. They loved it. But it got more complex…
Because we had taught them so many stories, certain questions became standard features of our nightly repertoire. As Erin got older, she started getting more questions like, “Who were the three Hebrew children who got thrown into the fiery furnace?” Or “Name the four gospels.”
By the time Jonathan was eight years old, he and Stephen were starting to get questions on the same level. For instance, I’d ask, “Once their was a Babylonian king who trembled in fear when a disembodied finger wrote on his palace wall… What was the king’s name, what was written on the wall, who interpreted the writing, and what did the writing mean?” Both boys would start jumping up from their chairs, waving their hands, saying “I know! I know!” before I even started asking the question part. “OK, Fini, what’s the answer?” He was starting to outgrow the old man voice now, he’d confidently respond, “The king was Belshazzar. The writing on the wall was ‘Mene, mene, tekel, parsin.’ Daniel said what it meant. And it meant that you have been weighed in the balance and found wanting and your kingdom will be divided between the Medes and the Persians.”
“Come on, Dad.” Stephen would complain. “You know that we already know that one.” As I tossed a penny Jonathan’s way. “Give us something harder next time.”
And the questions have gotten harder. . .
Fast-forward to this past Wednesday, I was sitting at the breakfast nook with my sons again. I study with my teaching team here every Wednesday to prepare sermons for our church’s two locations. This coming Sunday, Jonathan, who is our Rocky Mount pastor and a chaplain in the NC National Guard, has his monthly weekend of service. So, we needed to cover his pulpit this weekend and Stephen, our pastor of worship and youth, volunteered.
There we all sat, studying the same Bible in the same breakfast nook. Jonathan was busily looking up the verbs in the Greek. “Dad, take a look at this word “adoption” in Galatians 4:5. It has the same root as the Greek word for “son.” Did you know that?”
“Hmm…” I started to respond.
Then Stephen interrupted before I could answer with, “Dad, I’m not sure you saw how the phrase ‘put on’ Christ in Galatians 3:27 implies clothing. It’s like Paul is saying we are ‘clothed in Christ.’ I think we really need to work this out in our application. Don’t you?”
“Hmm…” I began.
Then, it happened. In my mind’s eye, these two grown men sitting in my breakfast nook studying the Bible with me, appeared as two little boys, just as they had looked so long ago.
“Well Dad, are you still with us?” Both their faces seemed to say, as they looked my way, wondering why I was taking so long to respond to their questions.
“Yeah. I’m here. What was your question again?” I finally replied.
Now today, I’m sitting here at the same breakfast nook thinking about all the great meals and Bible studies we’ve had here together. I can imagine no greater joy than to live to see my children “walking in the truth” of God’s Word!