Family Discipleship Through Daily Conversation

“The galaxy has always been here,” answers my son. At seven years old, certain yet curious, he confronts the idea that God made everything, except surely not this. The galaxy is too big and concrete to have ever not been there. 

“Ry, do you remember when we read about how God created the sky, the sun, the moon, and the stars?” (Genesis 1:14-18) The time we spend at night reading from his Jesus Storybook Bible comes to mind. We have read this book from cover to cover many times, cuddling in bed, surrounded by his faithful stuffed animals. He remembers looking at the pictures of the expanse covered with tiny stars, but somehow the story now chafes with the idea that creating the universe might be “too great,” even for God. 

“The heavens!” he counters, “they have always been here because heaven is where God lives.” I can see his mind working as he sifts familiar ideas with a new perception of reality. I reply, “Remember how in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1)? But although he has heard this before, the idea that the heavens and the earth were created, and not eternal, feels impossible. 

He is right, it is impossible. Our limited human minds are incapable of comprehending the unlimited. But that doesn’t mean it’s not true. My son and I got to talk about “ex nihilo,” how God created “from nothing,” while I was at the sink washing dishes and he was avoiding homework. This is where discipleship happens in my home. 

Applying Theology

As a family we do make an intentional effort to have structured Bible study. God’s truth shows us how our sinful fallen nature affects how we think and act. We can rest in the truth of God’s gracious sufficiency as his power is perfected in our weakness. (2 Cor. 12:9)

But sometimes our theology seems impractical, and we find ourselves ill-prepared to walk alongside our children as they face opposition and experiences that challenge those ideas. When our children experience betrayal or witness the heartache around them, they may wonder if God is good. As we walk alongside our children, we meet them in the mess and show them how God’s truth is resolute, even there.

The world is scary. But “out there” is where truth comes alive, and where our children are asked to apply theology.

I went caving with my older son this year as a rite of passage when he turned 13. We had an idea of the depths of the earth before this trip, but our understanding broadened as we crawled, the abstract becoming reality as we squeezed and scaled down into the earth deeper and deeper and deeper. We marveled at what God had made. From the changes in temperature and pressure to the intricate formations, he created the “expanses” which extend to the depths. Dusty, weary, and bruised we emerged. Our ideas about God’s creation had been expanded. This, too, is discipleship.

So how do we take advantage of moments like these?

We look for them. 

Looking for God’s Wisdom

This “looking” is very intentional. Perhaps it should be easier than we make it, but I know my life feels fast and full. It becomes overwhelming at times to pause long enough to “look” as the next thing demands my attention. As our kids ask questions, we often feel uncertainty ourselves, as if somehow we have failed by not preparing them enough. Perhaps our own unanswered questions become exposed. This is why we must look and listen intentionally for a wisdom beyond ourselves. 

We read about having eyes to see and ears to hear and understanding of the heart throughout both the Old and New Testament. In Matthew 13, Jesus told his disciples they were blessed, for their eyes saw and their ears heard (v.16). In verse 11 we read that the “mysteries of the kingdom of heaven” were given to them as they walked and learned from Jesus. They were not merely tuned into what tickled their ears or what lit up their eyes, but they sought to hear and see what God had for them and to understand it. 

We too are blessed with an eternal blessing when we see, hear, and then believe “the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done” (Ps. 78:4). When Christ died, he took our guilt and shame to the grave with Him. When Jesus rose victorious over death and ascended to heaven, he sat down at the right hand of God. By Christ’s blood and through his Spirit we too can stand before God, wrapped in Christ’s righteousness. We can have fellowship with him. Through Christ, we have direct access to the God who made the galaxy, heavens, and earth. 

Direct access. To God himself.

When our children were little, they would come into our room at night during thunderstorms. They came without fear of being rejected. We too can come to God in our storms, including the storm of doubt and questioning. We can read the inspired Word of God. We can pray and commune with God. We can place ourselves under Christ as Lord and parent from that perspective. This intimacy with God cultivates our eyes to see and our ears to hear. 

In our homes we will also see and hear our children’s longings, fears, and problems. As parents it’s easy to rush in to fill those longing ourselves, fix any problems, and alleviate all fears. But we are not the hero. God is. What we see and hear becomes the starting point for family discipleship cradled by the gospel. 

Discipleship Through What We See and Hear

We hear one of our children in the backseat say how pretty the sunset is.

We carry the conversation toward God’s creativity, creation, or our limitations compared with God’s unlimitedness.

We hear one of our children is crying because of an unkindness done to them.

We show them love and comfort and then encourage forgiveness as the Lord has forgiven us.

We see one of our children sneak candy from the pantry.

We understand the offence is against God first and foremost and not ourselves. Understanding that we too are sinners, we encourage repentance in a loving way. 

As we disciple our children, I’m not saying to withhold consequences (as discipline can be the most loving response), nor am I saying that we should only respond with Bible verses (we probably should not do this). But we should respond with the heart of the gospel always. We are fallen and sinful, but we have hope because “God made Christ—who knew no sin—to be sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). When our ears and eyes are attentive to God, everyday conversation can lead to valuable discipleship. 

We listen. We offer our children hope. 

We listen. We point them to God. 

We listen. We help connect the things they experience with the truth of the gospel. 

We listen.

Angela Tiland has been involved with training Christians for over 15 years through her work with Worldview Academy. She mentors students, young adults, and moms through this ministry and also in her local church. Angela is involved in women’s ministry where she writes and teaches Bible studies. She readily opens her door to others and values genuine multi-generational relationships. Angela is a wife to her high school sweetheart, mom of three children, and calls Georgetown, Texas home.

More From This Author