Whenever I read the book of Exodus, I can’t help but picture a scene like this:
God and Jesus are hanging out in heaven, watching Moses step up and challenge Pharaoh. Moses thunders, “Let my people go! Or else…”
God rubs his chin and asks Jesus, “Or else what? Hmmm. How can I save My people AND tell a story that gets the attention of nine-year-old boys from every culture and generation, forever and ever, amen?”
Jesus leans in with a grin: “Three words, Dad: PLAGUE OF FROGS.”
The Bible is amazingly boy-friendly, if you know where to look. Its pages are packed with stories of flawed superheroes like Samson, exciting warriors like David, noble men like Joseph, and epic tales of battle, bravery, and adventure. By book two (Exodus), we’ve got gag-worthy plagues of frogs and bugs and blood. (And yes, I realize that not all boys love sword fights and bugs and such, but…humor me. I’m writing in broad strokes here, based on the boys in my life. And while we’re at it, yes, lots of girls will love these stories too—I sure did (I still do!). So there you have my politically correct disclaimer, ha!)
But first, we can’t talk about teaching boys to love the Bible without recommending The Action Bible. And by recommending, I mean BUY IT TODAY, IT’S THAT AMAZING! (No, I’m not getting paid to say that.) The Action Bible is comic-book-meets-graphic-novel-meets-Bible-superheroes-with-huge-muscles. My kids ADORE this Bible—my older kids have both devoured it cover to cover.
I could list scores of exciting stories here, but for now, let’s start with five, all from the Old Testament. (Heads up: All of these stories have some violence in them, so you’ll have to decide what is appropriate for your child.)
Here are five Bible stories boys love, with some simple questions for discussion and application:
1. Moses and the plagues (Exodus 7–12)
These five chapters cover the plagues, but the chapters leading up to the plagues make for thrilling reading, too, and chapters 13 and 14 will get you to the mind-blowing Red Sea crossing. For younger kids, think through how you want to handle the plague of the firstborn—it’s heavy, and may be hard for sensitive kids to handle.
Questions for discussion: Why was Pharaoh so stubborn? What do these plagues show us about the patience of God and the power of God? Do you think it was scary for Moses to stand up to Pharaoh? Does God notice when his people go through hard times and ask him for help? (Take a quick peek at Exodus 3:7.) Do you think God notices when you go through hard times and need his help?
2. Aaron and Hur (Exodus 17:8-15)
When we were little, my parents did a fun devotional where we acted out this story. My brothers held up my hands (oldest kid perk—I got to be Moses!), while my parents pretended to battle each other (hilarious).
Questions: Why do you think God wanted the battle to be won like this, with Moses’ hands held high? (Hint: Do you think he wanted the Israelites to realize that they always needed to rely on Him to help them win their battles?) What can we learn about teamwork from Aaron and Hur? Even though Joshua was the one leading the army, would he have been able to win the battle without help from friends like Moses, Aaron, and Hur? How can you be a better team player at school, at home, or in sports?
3. Elijah and the Fire from Heaven (1 Kings 18:16–46)
If you are unfamiliar with this passage, I recommend reading 1 Kings 17–19 to give yourself the story’s context, and also James 5:13–18, which illuminates an important lesson. This will prepare you to answer any questions your child may have.This Bible story is wild, with some intense moments and bloodshed (for younger kids, you could stop the story at verse 39). But there’s lots of high-energy drama, and even some humor.
Questions: What did Elijah mean when he said “How long will you waver between two opinions?” Have you ever been tempted to do what everyone else was doing, instead of following God’s way? Why did Elijah get the sacrifice all wet? What do you see about how powerful God is in this story? How many times did Elijah have to pray before God made it rain? What do you need to keep praying about in your life? (Read James 5:13–18 if you want to talk more about the power of prayer in this story.)
4. Gideon (Judges 6–7)
My son and I just read this story—he’s working on developing courage, and not worrying so much about what his friends think of him. He loved seeing how Gideon’s faith and courage grew over time.
Questions: Was Gideon brave when God first called him? How did God respond when Gideon had doubts and needed encouragement? Have you ever had doubts or questions about God? (If so, what are they?) Why do you think God kept making Gideon’s army smaller and smaller? How do you think Gideon felt when his army shrank from thousands down to 300? How do you think Gideon felt when God told him his battle plan? Who wins battles—people or God? Do you need God’s help to win any “battles” in your life right now?
5. David and Goliath (1 Samuel 17)
Of course, no list of Bible stories boys love would be complete without David and Goliath!
Questions: Why were all the Israelites so afraid of Goliath? What would have happened if Goliath had won this battle? Why was David so brave? How did David prepare for this battle back when he was just a shepherd boy, hanging out with sheep? How can faith in God give us courage? Are you facing any situations right now where you need God’s help to stand up for what’s right, or to be brave? (For another boy-friendly devotional that uses David’s story, see How We Helped Our Son Overcome a Gaming Obsession.)
I hope these stories help you teach your kids to love the Bible, and give them ideas for how to apply it to their daily life! If you try these discussions out with your family, let me know how it goes! I love hearing from you.
Every day it gives me hope and keeps me sane. Every day it saves me from my own angst, my sinful thoughts, my despair over this dark and dangerous world.
I’m working on diving deeper into the Bible with my daughters, especially my preteen (age 10). I want my girls to understand that the Bible is not just a holy book, formal and distant and vaguely frightening. I want them to know the Bible as God’s living word: A comfort we can rely on in daily life. A tool that teaches us who to be and how to think. A guide that helps us understand God. An insight into how deeply God loves us, even when we make mistakes.
Here are 13 scriptures to read with your daughter, divided into categories (these scriptures will speak best to girls ages 9 and up):
says the Lord, who has compassion on you. (Isaiah 54:10)
2.This scripture helped me survive high school—I read it a million times, and drew so much comfort and confidence from it, knowing that God loved me even when I felt all alone at school.
But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord who created you.
O Israel, the one who formed you says,
“Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.
I have called you by name; you are mine.
When you go through deep waters,
I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty,
you will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression,
you will not be burned up;
the flames will not consume you.
For I am the Lord, your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. . . .
you are precious to me.
You are honored, and I love you.
Do not be afraid, for I am with you.” (Isaiah 43:1–3, 4–5 NLT, emphasis added)
What’s important to God?
3. Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:34–40)
4. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22–23)
5. Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. (James 1:2–5)
Living a pure life in a dark world
6. How can a young person stay on the path of purity?
By living according to your word.
I seek you with all my heart;
do not let me stray from your commands.
I have hidden your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you.
Praise be to you, Lord;
teach me your decrees.
With my lips I recount
all the laws that come from your mouth.
I rejoice in following your statutes
as one rejoices in great riches. (Psalm 119:9–14)
7. For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. (Titus 2:11–14)
8. Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world. (1 Peter 2:11–13 NLT)
9. Don’t worry about the wicked
or envy those who do wrong.
For like grass, they soon fade away.
Like spring flowers, they soon wither.
Trust in the Lord and do good.
Then you will live safely in the land and prosper.
Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you your heart’s desires.
Commit everything you do to the Lord.
Trust him, and he will help you. (Psalm 37:1–5 NLT)
10. But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)
11. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. (1 Peter 3:3–4)
“Don’t let me fall, Mommy,” my two-year-old says, trying to muster the courage to let go and come down the slide. Her eyes are wide, her fists tense on the rails.
“I won’t,” I promise, holding my arms out with an encouraging smile. “I’ll never let you fall.”
Down she slides, nervous and squealing, my hands holding her steady and safe, all the way down. At the bottom she leaps up, cheeks pink with pride. “Again!”
Again and again she slides; again and again, I don’t let her fall.
I think about it on the ride home, my promise: I’ll never let you fall.
Because even though I meant it, it’s not entirely true. It’s not a promise I can keep, not a promise I should make. As much as I fight it, the day is coming when I’m going to have to break that promise. Let her try, all by herself. Let her take a risk. Let her take a fall.
I think about it at bath time, as I scrub the sandbox sand out from between her ticklish toes.
One day she’ll want to learn to ride her bike without training wheels, and at some point I will have to let go. For a few glorious wind-in-her-hair seconds, she’ll ride—she’ll fly—and then she’ll fall.
One day she’ll procrastinate so long she doesn’t get her homework done, and I’ll have to let her face the consequences of getting a bad grade.
One day she’ll try out for something, give it her best, put herself out there. They’ll post the list of names, and her name won’t make the list.
One day she’ll give a piece of her heart to a boy, and come home with puffy eyes and a broken heart.
I think about it that night, when I tiptoe in to watch her dream. I want to keep her here, safe in her bed, safe near my arms, safe from the world. I want to swaddle her body and heart in bubble-wrap, so she’ll never get hurt. But I know I can’t. I remember my husband the quarterback once telling me, “Great athletes know how to take a fall.”
Resting my hand on my daughter’s back, feeling the rhythmic rise and fall of her breathing, I rethink my promise. My role. The gifts I want to give her in our precious few years together.
The gift of knowing that everybody falls.
The gift of knowing it’s okay, maybe even good, to fall.
The gift of knowing she needs to fall, because falling is part of risking and growing, of living and loving.
The gift of knowing how to take a fall; how to fall in such a way that she’s hurt but not broken.
The gift of knowing how to get back up after a fall. How to wipe away the dirt and blood and tears. How to stand once more on shaky legs, take a deep breath, and give it another go.
The gift of not wasting her falls. Of letting them make her stronger and better, braver and wiser.
Maybe the best promise I can make my daughter is that if she falls—when she falls—for as long as I live and as long as she lets me, I’ll still be there at the bottom, waiting. Still loving her. Still liking her. Still believing in her. When she’s young, I’ll be there with bandages, with tissues and shoulders she can wet with her tears. When she’s older, I’ll be there with stories of my own falls, so she knows she’s not the only one. At every stage, I’ll be the one cheering loudest when she picks herself up and tries again.
I lean down and whisper a new promise in her dreaming ear, “When you fall, you won’t be alone.”
She sighs and blinks up at me, bleary-eyed. I sing lullabies until she falls asleep.
My kids blew past me toward the door, an early-morning tornado of jackets, back packs, and lunch boxes.
“Come on,” called Mr. Tall, Dark and Handsome, jiggling his keys. “We’re going to be late!”
“Wait! I want kisses!” I said. “That means you! And you! And you!” My three older kids clattered back into the kitchen, planted kisses on my cheeks, and then rushed to follow my husband out to the van.
When the door slammed shut behind them, my two-year-old looked at me in horror. “Mama kiss Dada!” she said.
I blinked at her for a moment, not understanding. I heard the sound of the van pulling out of the driveway.
“Mama kiss Dada!” she insisted, her voice becoming frantic. She tried to pull me toward the door.
Then I realized: She was right. I hadn’t kissed my husband. I chuckled, trying to justify myself. “You’re right, but Daddy is coming right back, so that’s why I didn’t kiss him.” Even to my own ears, the words fell limp, a lame excuse. Little Miss stared me down, authoritative even in her bare feet and plaid nightie. I was not off the hook. “Mama kiss Dada.”
I felt a blush creeping across my cheeks. “You’re right,” I said. “I should have kissed Daddy. I’m sorry.”
Little Miss seemed to accept this. We went back to our oatmeal. Ten minutes later, the door banged open again. My husband was home.
Before he’d even rounded the corner, Little Miss rounded on me. “Mama kiss Dada! Mama kiss Dada!”
Laughing, I stood up. “Okay, okay, you’re right! I’ll kiss him!” I walked over to my husband and planted one, two, three firm kisses on his lips. He kissed me back with a baffled half-smile.
I turned back to my daughter, who stood watching us. Weighing me. “There. Are you happy now? Mama loves Dada, see?” When she still seemed unconvinced, I wrapped my arms around him and snuggled into his chest.
She smiled her approval and toddled off to find her toys.
That day, she reminded me of several truths I had forgotten, lessons I’ll carry with me always.
The secret most kids won’t tell you
Our children have a secret, and it’s this: Kids love it when their parents are in love. Older kids and teens may pretend to be embarrassed by our kisses, but secretly, they love it. It makes them feel safe. Happy. Like they are a part of something special.
When my brother was young, he invited a neighborhood friend over. My parents walked into the room and gave each other a little kiss, and the neighbor boy said, “Ew! Your parents kissed! My parents never kiss!” My brother grinned and bragged, “Well, my parents kiss all the time!” My parents’ affection was a source of confidence and security for him—and for all the kids in our family. I want to give my own children that same gift, that same confidence, through my marriage.
Keeping the home fires burning
But let’s be honest: It’s all too easy, once kids come along, to neglect our spouse. To forget about even the simple things that keep us connected and close. We don’t do it on purpose, of course, but once a baby enters our world, our first and best cuddles and snuggles and kisses start going to the baby. When we walk into a room, our eyes slide right past our husband, hungry for another drooly “Mommy-Is-My-Whole-World” smile from our chubby-cheeked cherub.
And at first, our husband doesn’t mind. For a season, he’ll gladly serve as our Baby Gear Sherpa, the carrier of car seats and diaper bags and Pack-n-Plays. For a time, he’s happy to take a back seat while we figure out the whole new-baby thing . . . but before long—sooner than we think—he needs the front seat again. He needs and deserves our deliberate attention, our devoted affection—not just the leftovers. Not always the afterthoughts. Song of Songs 8:6 describes a passionate romance so beautifully: “Love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like a blazing fire, like a mighty flame.” Every fire needs fuel to keep burning. If it runs out of fuel, even the strongest of blazes will die down to ember and ash. We have to keep stoking the fire of our marriage—nurturing it, coaxing it back to life when it ebbs, feeding it fresh fuel.
I get it: This is easy to write about, and not easy to do.Believe me, I know! As a survivor of four New Baby Adjustment Periods, I totally get it! I can’t tell you how many times my husband has turned to me after a few months of me disappearing into New Baby Land, and gently said, “Come baaaaack to meeeee!” Which of course made the post-baby hyper-hormonal version of me cry and feel terrible (which in turn made Kevin feel terrible and wish he’d never said anything), but also reminded me that I was a wife before I ever became a mother. So please don’t read this and feel guilty . . . It’s hard for EVERYONE. It’s complicated. We all have to figure it out in our own messy way, and give each other jumbo-sized packages of diapers grace. But here are a few strategies Kevin and I have tried over the years—I hope they give you some helpful ideas.
Five simple ways to stoke the marital flame, even with little ones in the house
These five simple tricks can help you connect with your spouse, even on chaotic days with babies and young children underfoot:
Remember simple acts of daily physical affection. Don’t underestimate the power of hugs and kisses to keep you feeling connected and close.
Use timers to set aside “Mommy and Daddy Time.” Tell the kids you need a few minutes to talk uninterrupted, and set a timer. The kids can’t come back into the room with you until the timer goes off.
Schedule sex. I know, this does not sound romantic in the least, but IT HELPS, especially when kids are young and life is crazy. We have found that if we wait for the stars to align—kids in bed early, house clean enough for me to relax, me not wearing exercise clothes covered in spit-up, both of us rested enough to be willing to stay up a little later, both of us “in the mood” at the same time—um, they will never align. But if we both agree ahead of time that on such-and-such a day, we will work together to put the kids in bed on time, get the dishes done and the house put back together so I can stop cleaning, shut down all the computer and phone dings, and meet up for an interlude in the bedroom—then as long as one of the kids doesn’t start vomiting, we actually stand a chance! We might go really wild and light candles and play mood music.
Build sacred Mommy-Daddy time into your schedule at a set time each day, so your children get used to it. (This idea comes from John Rosemond’s book New Parent Power.) Kids know, “This fifteen minutes always belongs to Mommy and Daddy, not to me.” You could try early-morning coffee together, before work and school. If mornings are too hectic at your house (like they are at mine), try setting aside a time slot right after you get home from work, or right after dinner. (When kids get older, we can even let them clean the dinner dishes while Mom and Dad catch up on the day! Let’s all take a moment to daydream about how fabulous that’s going to be . . . )
Buy yourself an extra half-hour on evenings when you need time to connect. How? Put kids to bed early with a book and a flashlight. They’ll think it’s a treat to read in bed—it’s kind of like they’re getting away with something—and you can start some early couch-cuddling before you turn into a pumpkin.
Strategies like this are especially helpful for the time of life when we have small kids in the house. But this isn’t just a new-baby issue. The older my children get, the more I realize that this is an ongoing struggle. Older kids mean a busy life and crazy schedule packed with homework, sports, friends, and activities. We will all have to re-learn how to put our marriage first in the preschool years, the elementary years, the preteen years, the teenage years, the empty-nester years. At every stage, it takes a conscious effort to give our marriage the attention it deserves—to give our husbands the attention they deserve.
My wise two-year-old saw what I didn’t see. My husband comes first, not last. No matter how late we are or how busy life is, everybody deserves a good-morning kiss . . . and every kiss counts.
Hi! I'm Elizabeth, and Lizzy Life is all about clinging to Christ in the chaos of daily life. As a minister, speaker, and novelist (The Thirteenth Summer), I love finding humor in holiness, and hope in heartache. I live in North Carolina with my preacher husband and four loud children. I believe the recipe for a happy life is simple: laugh-cry daily, pray continually, caffeinate constantly. My new book, When God Says "Wait," is now available from Barbour Publishing. READ MORE.
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