#37-Scriptures & Family Interactions ft. Ezra Okoti

 In

Mentoring the Younger Generation

 

Ezra Okoti speaks on how his family of 6 has grown so much in their faith as a community, and how with a new bible reading routine, his children are eager to read God’s word.

Throughout the podcast, Ezra shares multiple methods and tools that anyone can use to mentor the younger generation in their community to be excited about a relationship with God.

 

“You have stories of Jacob and David and Goliath and Saul and all these big names. But the Bible is a story about God. And basically, I was just teaching my children, if you meet a new person and you want to know that person, what do you do? You introduce yourself and then you begin to exchange stories you tell each other. So, you’re exchanging stories, and that’s how you get to know someone, and you get to know their hopes, their dreams, their concerns about life and the future and the present and the past and so on. And so, I began just showing my children the Scriptures is a story about God. These are stories about him. So, yes, David is there, and Goliath is the and Saul is there. But these are God’s stories. And they will tell us about the past, the present. Tell us about the future and the promises and the cares that he has for us.

– Ezra Okoti

 

Topics Covered Include

  • Scripture impacting children
  • How to disciple children
  • Reading the Bible in 90 days

Show Notes

 

 

BCMB Pastor to Pastor
BCMB Pastor to Pastor
#37-Scriptures & Family Interactions ft. Ezra Okoti
/

 

Transcription

BCMB 037 - Scriptures and Family Interaction.mp3: Audio automatically transcribed by Sonix

BCMB 037 - Scriptures and Family Interaction.mp3: this mp3 audio file was automatically transcribed by Sonix with the best speech-to-text algorithms. This transcript may contain errors.

Ezra Okoti:
Now that we finished the Bible 90 days and we also finished the New Testament in 90 days, my children have been there's a fire that got lit in them by the spirit of God. It's just basically a work of God. And so she began life journalling, life journalling, life journalling, and 9:00 p.m. we have a standing appointment and she would come and sit down and talk about her day, would talk about the scriptures, we'd talk about God, and then I'd ask her, what would you like me to pray for you for? And she'd say, and then she would write her own prayer list. And so I'd ask her, Honey, you pray first and then after you pray, then I'll pray for you, because I want her to hear me asking God to help her with her struggles.

Welcome to the BCMB podcast, Pastor to Pastor. This is a podcast by the British Columbia Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches. We want to help equip and encourage pastors, churches and anyone else who wants to listen in and be more effective in their ministry. This is Episode 37 Scriptures and Family Interaction with Ezra Okoti.

Rob Thiessen:
Hey, everyone, welcome to our podcast today. My name is Rob Thiessen. I'm the conference minister for the B.C. Mennonite Brethren Churches and really delighted that you have chosen to spend the next 40 minutes to an hour with us. Really glad to have a friend here, long time friend Ezra Okoti and Ezra and I got to know each other back when I was pastoring North Langley Community Church, Ezra was a part of our staff team there for a little while. And he had been in Canada a few years already. But and his wife, Tamara, they were involved with young adults. And then I've watched the Lord lead Ezra through the years and now he's on staff here at Northview and playing a significant role as an executive pastor, overseeing staff, preaching here regularly. And so we're really blessed to have you with us, Ezra.

Ezra Okoti:
Thank you for having me. It's good to be here.

Rob Thiessen:
And you're going to bring that nice accent that you have from with your Kenyan English. It's going to be awesome. Previously, I had Dr. Radford, my guest from South Africa. And I just love talking to him, too, because they've got a unique accent as they do. Yeah. So, Ezra, let's start today by just having you share with our listeners a little bit of your journey, your faith journey, how how you came to know Christ and and also about the community that helped shape your faith. So talk to us a little bit about your story.

Ezra Okoti:
Yeah. Thank you so much for having me. Um, yes, I am Kenyan by birth, and I was blessed to be in a family of five, my mom, my dad and two brothers and myself. So five kids. My mom was a woman of faith. She loved the Lord Jesus. My father wasn't. And and so growing up, my mom used to read Bible stories for us. She bought this Bible story books with pictures in it and all that. And so she used to read these stories. And I remember when she was reading particularly the Easter story, I would get this lump in my throat every time you come to the death of Christ. And I always wondered, why do they have to kill the good guy like the hero dies? And yes, you would read about the resurrection, but it didn't matter because the gospel didn't really take root in my heart during those formative years. But I knew many Bible stories. Anyway, long story short, I go to a, I went to a Christian camp when I was in my second year of high school, and that's where I met the Lord Jesus. The camp was heavily subsidized by North American churches and German churches as well. So I only paid 50 cents for camp for an entire week. We got there on Sunday, stayed there the whole week and went home on Saturday. And a buddy of mine said, hey, you know, Ezra, go to camp. You know, there's good food, sports, a lot of fun. So I was very excited about going to camp. So I get there on Sunday.

Ezra Okoti:
And sure enough, all the things he told me about camp were there. Monday night, there was a preacher who preached and that was, I guess, the first time I heard the gospel clearly articulated. I believe he was preaching the Romans road. And I just knew this, this man is talking to me. He's talking to me. And I guess I just heard the still small voice of the Lord saying, "Ezra, I'm inviting you into a relationship." And so I repented and and embraced Christ, acknowledged him as lord and savior. So that was my second year of high school. And from then on, I was very much involved in our local church, youth group. And a lot of people really formed my, my, my faith there. And I kept on attending this Christian camp. We had many missionaries from the United States, some from Germany, even Canadians who are very involved. In fact, the gentleman who was the founder of the organization in Africa and Kenya in particular, he now lives here in Abbotsford. His wife, unfortunately, passed away recently, but he's here in Abbotsford. And so he and I fellowship together. So they were really instrumental in helping me learn how to do my devotions on a daily basis, learning to love the Lord Jesus, learning to understand the gospel and what its implications are in my life. They shaped me remarkably. And it was through their ministry to me that I discerned the call to vocational ministry. So I am totally indebted to to those who shaped my my spiritual life. I would also say, add into that my mother as well.

Ezra Okoti:
She has she is a prayer warrior. If I'm ever going through difficulties, challenges, struggles, I can always phone mom. And and I know that mom will pray. In fact, when I was the when Northview was going to replant what is now the mission campus, the church was going through some difficulties and challenges and they had two buildings, one one older building and a new building that was not finished yet. I hadn't talked to my mom at all about the potential of me being the campus pastor there, the planting, the replanting pastor. And my mom has a dream. And then she phones me one morning saying, Eze what's going on in your ministry, like, are you OK? Is everything OK? Then I say, Yeah, why? And then she said, she has this dream and she dreamt about the mission campus like she saw it in her dream and she saw the two buildings and she saw the challenges and the strife and the difficulty, and so she's unpacking all this to me and my jaw is hitting the ground on the other end of the line, and then I told her, mom, this is what's going on. And she says, OK, that is what the Lord was showing me. So I know what to pray for. And so my mom has been huge in my spiritual formation. So that is in a nutshell the way I came to faith and some of the people who were really instrumental in that in my own spiritual development as a young man growing up.

Rob Thiessen:
That camping ministry, that was the Word of Life camps. Yes. And some of our listeners might be familiar with that. I know that Pastor Carlin, he was very involved. Carlin Weinhauer was pastor at Willingdon Church years ago and very involved with that Screen Lake the was a connection there.

Ezra Okoti:
That's right.

Rob Thiessen:
And and a number of our people that I've had on the podcast of have shared stories about how camps impacted their- Norm Funk talked a lot about the role of Firs. So this is another plug for camps. I'm often telling our camps and families, prioritize camping for kids. Their lives are impacted. But you're sharing your background story dovetails into our topic for for the conversation today. And and what we want to share with our listeners is a really exciting and hopeful story of how children can be impacted through scripture in a family. And I think this is this conversation today comes out of just a chat that you and I had about a week ago where we were just connecting and seeing what the Lord was doing. And I asked you the question about what God had been doing in your family through this covid season. And you know, common question. A lot of people, you know, kids are at home. How does that work, working out of the office? I know Tamara, who used to work in our BCMB office. She's been at home, too.

Rob Thiessen:
So how how's the pressure? How's that going? And out of that conversation, you shared some things that I just really want our listeners to hear, because all of us in ministry or in life who are seeking to follow Christ, you know, it doesn't take very long if we're blessed with a marriage and children that we start asking the question, you know, how will I disciple my children? Will they follow the Lord and so many, so many Christian leaders, you know, it's not an uncommon story to find out the children of Christian leaders didn't end up following the Lord. And and and, of course, there's various reasons why they don't. And, you know, not everything is directly linked, that it's the fault of of of the father or the mother. People make their own choices. Young people make their own choices. But especially in today's world where there's such a bewildering sort of onslaught against young people, it feels like a big challenge to disciple children. So this is why I love this story. And for our listeners, I think you're really going to be blessed and encouraged, if not challenged by just a bit of this journey. So, Ezra, take us right into it. Tell us a little bit about your story. When I asked you the question, how has covid impacted your family? Tell our listeners what you told me.

Ezra Okoti:
Yeah. So obviously, covid has been a huge inconvenience for my children. They are very, they are social butterflies and they love getting getting involved with their friends and going to school and all those things. So my daughter last year was in grade eight and she's in French immersion, the French immersion system in in Abbotsford and she's also in band. She was in band. So in grade eight, French immersion students usually do a Quebec trip. And so they'll go to Quebec, Montreal and see the places and then drive into Ottawa and they would see the parliament buildings and so on. And so my daughter was really excited about doing this trip and also because she was on band, they would do a band trip to Southern California. So the trip last year was to go to San Francisco. And so she was so excited. Now, her brother, who's a year ahead of her, was in the same program. And so he had gone to Quebec and had gone to Ottawa and gone to Disneyland because his trip went to Disneyland. So he had come home and just kept telling his sister, you know, when you go to Quebec, this is where you go. This is what you do when you get to Ottawa, go to the store, go to that store. It was great. The hotels are this way and that way, the flights, whatever. So she was so pumped and so excited. So my wife and I had had to deal with our kids and said, OK, for this trip we are going to put five hundred dollars down and then you'd have to raise the rest.

Ezra Okoti:
Now, of course, we knew that if they couldn't raise the rest, we would cover it. So for both the Quebec trip and the band trip, it was it will be about forty three forty two hundred dollars somewhere around there. So we put 500 down and you told, okay honey, you got to raise the rest. So she did the paper route, she babysat, mowed the lawn, helped her grandmother with chores in the house, like so much stuff. And this poor girl was able to raise thirty seven. Thirty eight hundred bucks.

Rob Thiessen:
Wow.

Ezra Okoti:
And so we were so proud of her, and she's one of these individuals who she wants to do everything way early and make sure all her ducks in a row, perfectly. So she had already paid a big chunk of her trip and she was really excited to go. And then March 15th, that dreaded day, our whole world shut down and we are still in it right now. So because of the shutdown, it was spring break. And so I was telling her, you know, honey, don't worry, the world will be open, surely by the end of April we'll be done. I mean, we all thought the same thing. Her trips were in May. To make a long story short, the trips were canceled and she lost a good chunk of that money.

Rob Thiessen:
I remember hearing that on the news. They were talking about other students who lost that that money. Yeah.

Ezra Okoti:
Yes. So when she lost that money, she just began to spiral into this depressive state and she was wondering why God would allow this to happen. I would go into her room and should just be crying. And I kept talking to her, honey, you know. And I tried my best as a pastor and also as a father to speak encouragement to her, to pray for her. But the sorrow just went deeper and deeper and deeper. And as a father, I was basically powerless, wondering how am I going to get my daughter out of this spiral? So this was through April of last year. And then I guess the Lord gave me this idea. I was just praying for her and an idea just came to mind. There is a book by Dr. Bruce Ware, and that the book is called "Big Truths for Young Hearts." And so Bruce wrote this book to parents. He teaches a theology in a seminary level, but he had young daughters. And so in the evening he would go into the daughters rooms trying to put them to sleep at night. And then the questions come, you know, Daddy, if the dog dies, where does it go? And can can can God make a stone too big that he can't lift, you know, stories, like questions like those. And so Bruce decid- so he was taking time with his daughters, teaching them theology and teaching them, giving them a biblical worldview, helping them understand who God is.

Ezra Okoti:
And so Bruce wrote this book as a help to parents is just a little book as a help to parents when they are discipling their children. So I figured maybe I should do that. Maybe we should read this book as a family together each evening and I can begin teaching my kids theology. And then the more I thought about it, I said, no, scratch that. We will read that book later. Why don't we just do the Bible. Now as a habit, I read the Bible in 90 days cover to cover there's the YouVersion Bible app on your phone. So it has various Bible plans. There is a Bible in 90 days plan there. So when I was at Willingdon, I used to teach a Bible in 90 days course there. And then I came to Northview, taught some here with our young adults, and also the Mission campus. So I figured, why don't I do this with my with my kids? They all have their little tablets and things. So the YouVersion Bible thing can read to you, but then have to sit down and have the Bible and follow along. So we decided, well, from May 1st until July 30th, we will read the Bible word for word in 90 days.

Ezra Okoti:
We were all in lockdown anyway. So they had school. And then there were times when they just hang out, play video games, watch YouTube or Netflix or whatever. So I figured that the commitment is just an hour a day and then around the dinner table, we are going to discuss what they read. So they were all excited. I pumped them up and I told them, if you finish, there is money, you're going to get money. So I bribed them. Anyway, so we began reading from Genesis, that's about fifteen, sixteen chapters a day, and they were following along and they would bring their their questions around the dinner table. And I committed to teaching these children every single thing I knew about the Bible based on the text we read. And when you when you can create a group in the app and so you can follow along and see who read and who didn't read and all that stuff. And my kids had to come to the dinner table having finished their reading. And if they haven't finished reading, I say, OK, you just leave your dinner. There you go, finish and then you come back and finish your food. But it was so much fun as we went through book after book after book and showing them various themes.

Ezra Okoti:
You know, these are instruments of God and obstacles and how you're seeing the covenants and how they work. It was just remarkable for them to see the scriptures. Yes, you have stories of Jacob and David and and Goliath and Saul and all these big names, Samson. But the Bible is a story about God. And basically, I was just teaching my children, if you meet a new person and you want to know that person, what do you do? You introduce yourself and then you begin to exchange stories you tell each other. So you're exchanging stories, exchanging stories, and that's how you get to know someone and you get to know their hopes, their dreams, their concerns about life and the future and the present and the past and so on. And so I began just showing my children the Scriptures is a story about God. These are stories about him. So, yes, David is there and Goliath is the and Saul is there. But these are God's stories. And they'll tell us about the past, the present. Tell us about the future and the promises and the cares that he has for us. It was a remarkable journey and we were able to finish. And yeah, they all got fifty dollars for finishing.

Rob Thiessen:
Excellent.

Ezra Okoti:
The thing. Yeah, it was great.

Rob Thiessen:
Oh, that sounds like a phenomenal journey. And what a great what a great opportunity that that covid created really, you know, for, for your family. Right. Like a pause on the on the regular routine. That's amazing. So Ezra I just want to ask a couple of questions about some of the the challenges in that journey and for our listeners, you know, obviously, like your kids, the age spread, you were talking about, you know, early high school is your, are your oldest.

Ezra Okoti:
Yes.

Rob Thiessen:
And how about the youngest? How many children and what are the ages?

Ezra Okoti:
So I have four kids, so my youngest is two. So obviously she did not do this. Right. But the one the my my third born is nine and then followed by my second born who is 14 and then my first born is 15. So the three of them, the three older ones, my wife and I jumped into this bandwagon and we did it. And what is interesting, though, when we were done in July, the kids themselves turned around and said, guys, why don't we do the the New Testament in six- in 90 days? So it's a shorter read. It's about three three chapters, four chapters a day. But this time then the entire New Testament-

Rob Thiessen:
A deep dive in the New Testament.

Ezra Okoti:
Oh yeah. It was a wonderful, remarkable deep dive of the New Testament for sure. It was great.

Rob Thiessen:
So, you know, in this journey, what what what were some of the the tough questions that that the kids came up with? Like, you know, you said your dinner's turned into long dinners.

Ezra Okoti:
Oh, yeah, I know. Dinner sometimes, you know, when you're having dinner, usually eat 20 minutes, you're done. Our dinner sometimes would be an hour and a half long because each kid would have a list of questions that they would bring. So I'd have to put my theological mind on overdrive to answer all these questions. And it ended up sometimes a preaching session where I preach to them a specific text or whatever. Some of the hardest questions would be, at least the tough things for them to understand is God in the Old Testament, why on earth would he hardened Pharaoh's heart? I mean, surely God would have softened Pharaoh's heart, so that would allow people to leave. Why would God do this? Or you come into the Cannonite genocide. You know, the nation of Israel is crossing the Jordan, coming into the the promised land. And they are taking this and God is basically ordering them, you know, slaughter everyone, what is going on here? And then there's also the challenges when you see in the book of Judges, when it seems like God has already set up the covenant, a covenant renewal with Joshua at the end of Joshua. And then you come into Judges and judges are spanning over hundreds of years. And this people have totally forgotten God and everyone is doing what they see fit.

Ezra Okoti:
So and then you come to the Book of Kings that reads like a blur, like all this evil king, evil king, evil king, a good one who stands up but evil, evil, evil, so the kids were wondering how is it that people could forget God so, so quickly and yet God was so, so faithful and so right and so good. So it was an opportunity for me to to elaborate a little bit more and show them look at God's faithfulness, even in the midst of self, even the midst in the midst of faithlessness, you can see God's faithfulness in it. God is so constant and he so true to his covenant promises. And then he also gives me an opportunity to talk about human depravity and how we ourselves, we who love the Lord Jesus and yes, we are striving to live our lives in a manner worthy of the gospel. But how many times do we doubt how many how many times do we ask, is God going to do this? Is he going to? And then we we sometimes cling onto our small little idols called a bank account or reputation or whatever. So it was a wonderful time just to to unpack for the kids. This is the human condition and then to clarify the gospel to them.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah, well, you obviously felt up to it Ezra, you already listed a number of topics that I'm sure for some of our listeners are already kind of bewildered and shaking in their boots with thinking, oh right! Yeah. Those those tough questions, why maybe I should avoid this. So if if if a listener is listening and saying, well, you know, I like the idea of it, but I'm not sure I'm up for handling all those questions. I don't know if I have the answers. Really quickly, what sort of resources like you had told me, you committed to say, well, if I don't have the answer, I'll find out. And what sort of resources do you think would help people. Do any come to mind for you like that that aren't too in-depth, that are accessible for a person to have? You mentioned a book by Bruce Ware.

Ezra Okoti:
Yes.

Rob Thiessen:
Is that the kind of book that would be helpful to have on hand?

Ezra Okoti:
Yeah. So Bruce Ware's book would be a very good book to have on hand. But I will say a really great resource, just a simple accessible resource would be a good study Bible if you have a good study Bible or a good NIV study Bible, ESV, whatever NLT there are really many you pick whatever you want, the the questions the kids ask you nine times out of ten, you'll find the answers in the study Bible's notes. Yeah, yeah. So I found that to be a great resource. There's also a website that sometimes I went to. It's called gotquestions.org. And you can punch in whatever question you would want and it would give you a fairly good, theologically, biblically grounded answer. And then at the bottom of it, you'll get various articles and references and books if you want to read further on that particular topic. So that was also helpful as well. But I will say I will say as a pastor, obviously the questions will come from the kids, but it was a challenge for me to say, OK, I need to also be sharp and grounded in this because I have to be as as a pastor, I have to be able to teach. And so this means if I don't know the answer, then I'd better find it, because if it's not my kid asking, then it might be a congregant asking. And I have to be the chief theologian in my church if I am to shepherd well. So it it was me sharpening my my tools as you as it were in the ministry.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah. Yeah. I think definitely questions around the Old Testament, especially the God of the Old Testament, those in our generation now have become much bigger issues for people, maybe even you know, I don't know how it was for you growing up in Kenya, but I think in other parts of the world and other times in history, people have to have had much, far fewer questions about, you know, God's judgment. They understand it somehow or they have a context for it. But in today's world, Western world especially, they people just cannot make sense out of why God would judge people. I think there's a resource that I'm sure it's still in print. It's a book "What the Bible is all about" by Henrietta Mears. And this this this woman was actually a Sunday school teacher in in Southern California years ago. She influenced many Christian leaders, people like Billy Graham and other people. She a Presbyterian woman that taught a lot of it, had a big influence on Christians. She wrote a book called What the Bible Is All About. It's like a handbook. And there are a few other, you know, like even one volume commentaries that, yeah, that can can be an influence. I think of Phil Collins, who spoke at our convention this year.

Rob Thiessen:
He was telling us that he came to Christ when he was around 17 or 18 and he gave his heart to the Lord at a service. And at the end of the service, they went forward for counseling or whatever he did. And he said the guy who walked with them gave him he said he gave him a F.B. Meyer commentary on the Bible and said, go. And so he and then Phil, Phil hauled it out and he still has it. He said "This commentary by F.B. Meyer, this discipled I was discipled by reading this. I had my Bible and this commentary." So don't I think the word is don't be overwhelmed. Just of course, there are questions, but the Bible is is an accessible book and there's lots of good teaching. And we can we can venture into this. So there was a lot of tough questions. What was what was a couple of the highlight passages? Like what would you say, your kids really, which stories just really knocked it out of the park for them? Um, you know, do any any stick out for you? Did they have favorites like book of Ruth book of Esther or the Kings or what parts got them most excited?

Ezra Okoti:
Yeah. So the Book of Esther was a hit with my girls specifically. Like how this woman was so bold and courageous, basically at the she she she was staring death in the face. Yeah. When she now comes to the king asking, wanting to ask for this favor to say, hey, Haman is doing this terrible thing and all my people will be killed. That was a phenomenal story for my children, my, my girls in particular, that really stood out, obviously stories, the the flood was a big one because they're trying to understand, OK, so a global global flood local flood? Like, how did that happen? And then a big startling one was Habakkuk. When the prophet is praying, chapter one, the prophet is praying, asking God, you know, Lord, Lord, why all this injustice? Why all this craziness happening? I'm crying out to you. You're doing nothing. And then the Lord's answer was, I will do something in your day that even if you were told you wouldn't believe. I am sending the Babylonians. And so I unpacked what that meant, you know, these impetuous people, that was quite stunning for them to actually see the Lord's judgment. Coming up on his people and his discipline and how he drags them into into the promised land and then connecting that with Jeremiah and what Jeremiah is telling the people after these impetuous Babylonians come and totally tear strip of the nation of Israel. So creating those connections and actually showing them how the story flows and working through the minor profits as well and showing them, see, this is Amos and this is where he's at, and this is what he's saying and this is what's going on, and this is the context. As they began to see those pieces fall in place oh the penny was dropping beautifully. It was so much fun.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah. So a big part of it is a continuity of scripture. Yeah, I think of a course that I had when I was in college. I still have this old book. It's called The Unfolding Drama of Redemption. And it's it's just a short book that walks you through the story, you know, the sweep and story. And yeah, it seems like so many people nowadays have no concept, even Christians they have no concept that the Bible is like a continuous unfolding story. They think of it as a well, like some people nowadays, you know, like the book, what you know, how the Bible actually works or something by Peter Enns you know, well, it's a confusing book written over a huge expanse of time by a lot of people from different cultures. And it's tough to make sense of.

Ezra Okoti:
Right.

Rob Thiessen:
And you're like, well, that's an interesting perspective or or it's, you know, a phenomenal and miraculous story of God's intervention in human history with a with a continuous and an evolving theme that leads to a climax.

Ezra Okoti:
No kidding.

Rob Thiessen:
And and so that's great that your your kids capture that. How do you feel that that this journey for the kids, you know, how do you see it impacting their lives?

Ezra Okoti:
That's a great question. So going back to my daughter who missed this trip and things like that and was really spiraling. So as we had gone through the second month, so we began in May, June and around June, I asked her, so we are now around the 60 day 70. I asked her, honey, so how are you feeling now about the trip? Because you were really feeling bad. And she says, well dad, that I kind of like forgot about it. And I mean, I'm just enjoying family. And yeah, the Bible in 90 days is really good. And she had the, she had the most questions written down on a piece of paper asking now that we finished the Bible 90 days and we also finished the New Testament in 90 days. My children have been, there's a fire that got lit in them by the spirit of God. And I cannot claim any any accolades from that. It's just basically a work of God. They love youth Bible study, not youth, not youth night, not event, no youth Bible study where they actually sit down and study the Bible. And I guess one of the reasons why is in some cases, they might even know a little bit more than the youth leader who is leading the study because they had the opportunity to to sit down with dad, who unpacked a lot of theological terms and showed the entire picture and how it works together. So there was this just passionate desire for them to study the word. Now, one of my children was also struggling with just truthtelling and things like that. And so it led me to say, hey, honey, why don't we do this? Uh.

Ezra Okoti:
You and I meet at 9:00 p.m. every evening, but then we are going to go through the book of James and we're going to go through the book of the Gospel of John. And we're going to just go paragraph by paragraph, paragraph by paragraph. And these are the three things you need to find from this and begin to Life Journal. And so she began life journaling, life journaling, life journaling. And 9:00 p.m. we have an, a standing appointment. And she would come and would sit down and we would talk about her day, would talk about the scriptures, we'd talk about God. And then I'd ask her, what would you like me to pray for you for? And you'd say, and then she would write her own prayer list. And so I'd ask a, honey, you pray first and then after you pray, then I'll pray for you, because I want her to hear me asking God to help her with her struggles of all, with her struggles, truthtelling or whatever it is. And my goodness, Rob, you should see this girl like, wow, what an amazing work of the spirit of God in her life. I will not say that I'm not going to sit here and say it is easy. It's not easy. It's it's a grind every day. It is tough. Sometimes I'm tired and all that. But we have a standing commitment every day. 9:00 p.m. she's there. I'm there. And we pray together. And it's just remarkable to see faith grow in in my kids.

Rob Thiessen:
That's beautiful. That just reminds me, I think it's in the book of James where the promises, you know, whatever a man sows, he will reap and and you sow good seed, you will reap good seed and a good harvest. And the word of God always brings brings forth good fruit. And.

Ezra Okoti:
Amen to that.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah, this story is good evidence of that. Some of our listeners may have been teenage kids, and I'll think of one shorter and not not maybe not as epic and as good a story as you have. But years ago, our family made a trip to Europe together. And my children, there were three of them with us on that trip. My older daughter was married already by that time, but we went with, with the teens on a trip in Europe and we visited quite a few countries. And along the way I had like a devotional that was geared towards people and events of history, reformation history, European history, and highlighting many characters like these kind of books are available, you know, the stories of of Pascal or or Beethoven or Bach or other philosophers or Michelangelo or other artists. So we visited places and in in Rome and I had handpicked sort of devotionals before we hit the road each day to see sights.

Rob Thiessen:
And and the kids really loved that. Like, we we talked about the impact of faith and the people, people of science, philosophy, music and art and how they were impacted by the gospel. And and that also really, really sparked interest in kids, helped them to realize, oh, thinking people have a deep faith in God. And so there's many ways to, you know, to to engage your kids at different stages in life. And so, you know, whatever whether your kids are in the teen years or later into college or young people, there's each story, like you said, you were a kid. Your mom opened a Bible book with pictures and she planted good seed in your life. Mm hmm. So this is yeah. This is such an important thing Ezra, because I know, you know, as we we get through life and we're following Christ and I think, you know, those of us who've, you know, parents and I like I have grandchildren already and we really start to ask, how will how will my kids do? How will the next generation do? Have I have I taught them well? And like we said, there's it's a challenging time. It's not it's not an easy time for kids to grow up. Amen?

Ezra Okoti:
Totally. I would say for, it wasn't easy to begin teaching my kids because at times you wonder, OK, yes, I'm a pastor. Will they really listen to me will the-

Rob Thiessen:
Things you are afraid of?

Ezra Okoti:
Exactly. There were all those fears, but I had to get over myself.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah.

Ezra Okoti:
We were locked down in our house and so, OK, let's give it a go and see. And we started and it was a lot of fun.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah, that's a good point. I think there's always fears that come up in our mind. I wrestle with them too. Oh maybe this is over the top. Maybe, maybe my kids will feel like they're, you know, I'm preaching at them.

Ezra Okoti:
That's right.

Rob Thiessen:
And and, you know, your kids are actually delighted and encouraged. Tell us about how like how did your partnership with Tamara, like how did she contribute and how did you work together on this project?

Ezra Okoti:
Oh, that's great. Great question. So my wife Tamara was also obviously reading with us. And so she would also bring her questions to the table and she would ask me, okay, what about this and what about that? Sometimes you play devil's advocate just for that to get to get the kids to see. It's not a bad thing to ask tough questions and to also ask questions that might come across as you're doubting what the scriptures are saying.

Rob Thiessen:
You sound very pleasant about that. Now, I can just imagine my wife would do something like that to me, too, and I'd be looking at her like, thanks for that.

Ezra Okoti:
Thank you for that one. Yeah. So she sure would do that. But I also saw that around the dinner table, my kids would ask a question and then I would answer it, but then my wife might either soften it because I went too theological on them and so she would soften the answer. She would give illustrations to show, hey, remember when this happened? And then she would articulate the story and then the penny would begin to drop for the kids, but also away from the dinner table. The kids, when they are reading, they would go and ask their mom various questions. And so it wasn't just around the dinner table where those conversations were had. It would be in the vehicle driving to a specific place. It could be them shopping. My my wife takes my other daughter horseback riding. So when they are there at the stables, she would they would have these conversations. So my wife was instrumental big time. And I would also say. When you read the scriptures, the scriptures begin to poke certain personal things in your life and application points, and so the kids then sometimes would feel comfortable to go and unpack those things with mom. Mm hmm. And so Tamara then was able to take from what we are reading and then apply to that specific situation and then they would pray together. So she was a great ally, a great teammate, a great leader around the dinner table and also around just our family life.

Rob Thiessen:
Yeah, and that's so important. It's a team project. And in each family, each marriage, people are uniquely gifted. Right. And so working together as a team is important. Have you like did you experience ever that the kids started answering each other's questions?

Ezra Okoti:
Oh, yes. Oh, yes. Sometimes it would be that would be what would be called like an easy question that would be out there. And so Caleb might ask a question and then say, OK, you answer that question or whatever. And so they would begin answering each others questions that was a lot of fun and then a fun thing that we did, we would do Bible trivia. And so sometimes I would say, OK, if you answer these questions, 100 bucks straight up. Now, of course, I am going to ask you a tough question. And then knowing that you will not get the answer. But the point would be to get them to really think deeply about what they are reading. Of course, I never lost my money, thank God. But but it was a lot of a lot of fun. A lot of fun indeed. Yes.

Rob Thiessen:
That's great. Well, this has been a really good conversation Ezra. Thank you so much again. And I wonder if as we wrap up, you would be would you be willing to to offer a prayer for our listeners that God would really guide them in how they can disciple those that are in their own family in their own context? Maybe it's maybe it's friends. Maybe you're an aunt or an uncle and auntie and uncle and you or your grandparent and and maybe the Lord is speaking to to you as a listener about taking up this challenge to to more intentionally disciple those that are in your life. So, yeah, pray for us Ezra, appreciate it.

Ezra Okoti:
I would love to. Lets pray. Gracious father, we thank you so much for the opportunity you've given us to approach your throne of grace. And also, thank you for this opportunity you've given me to interact with Rob a little bit on this podcast, but also to interact with our listeners who are listening. Father, as people who are shepherding your flock in our various churches, Lord, the weight of ministry can be heavy. And sometimes when we come home, the last thing we want to do is engage in theological conversations, because that's the world we're steeped in. And yet, Father, you have blessed each one of us with families, with spouses and children and grandchildren from for some of us nephews and nieces. So, Father, I pray that you'd remind us that those who are family members who are near and dear to us, you've also commissioned us to disciple them. So, Father, I pray that you'd fill us with your Holy Spirit. Grant us grace, strength, boldness, wisdom. A love for your word, but Lord, we would speak your word, the hearing of those who we care about the most, the dear ones whom you have entrusted into your ca- into our care, Father I pray for all the pastors who are listening.

Ezra Okoti:
And, Lord, I know that there's an element of fear sometimes or maybe the kids have grown up a little bit and they want nothing to do with us. Father, you know who that person is. So Lord, I pray that you would begin to work in the lives of our pastors and their families, that Lord there would be reconciliation happening there if there's discord there. And I pray, Father, that you would move our pastors, to, to try something to just begin somewhere. Lord, but they may disciple those whom you have entrusted into their care. Father I pray for myself. I pray for all of us pastors and leaders of churches. That Lord, you'd help us to be faithful not only in our ministries, professionally, so to speak, but also to be faithful with the ones whom you've entrusted to us. Command ourselves, not to your father. Thank you again for the enormous honor you have granted us to partner with you in the Gospel. Help us, Lord now also shepherd those who are part of our family in Jesus name. Amen.

Rob Thiessen:
Amen. Amen. Thank you so much Ezra. Well to our listeners. Thanks again for giving us an hour of your time. And as we've prayed that it might be fruitful in your life, we'll look forward to our next time together. For now, have a great week.

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