Four Encouragements to Read the Bible Together as a Family

Four Encouragements to Read the Bible Together as a Family

family worshipIf I asked you to list the five most important activities that a family could do together, what would you say?

A few highly rated articles about activities families should do together reveal some interesting answers—and non-answers. For example, one article said to visit museums, take a hot air balloon ride, have a picnic, go treasure hunting, or start a YouTube channel for its top ideas.

Another article, this one published by a popular Christian ministry, listed 30 ideas but did not include reading the Bible as a family. One idea was to read books together but didn’t mention the Bible as one of those books.

While the ideas presented in both articles were useful, the reading of God’s word was highly conspicuous by its absence. Was it just an oversight? Or was it representative of how families value the place of God’s Word in the home?

For me, this is a concern and not just because reading the Bible as a family is the right thing to do. It is a concern because reading the Word is such a joyful time together as a family to meet God and see his infinite greatness and unconditional love for his people. It saddens me to think that any family could miss out on such a blessed experience!

The Irreplaceable Value of God’s Word

Jesus said in Matthew 4, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Paul says in II Timothy 3:16, 17, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” The prophet Isaiah says in Isaiah 40:8, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.”

What can be a more valuable family activity than reading the Word of God together? On the plains of Moab before entering the Promised Land God commanded Israelite parents to teach the Word of God to their children… day and night. In Psalm 78, the second-longest Psalm, God commands fathers to teach their children and their children’s children the works of God.

God’s Word, not our word, is powerful. God’s Word, used by God’s Holy Spirit, is able to accomplish what we need and want the most: our families to know Jesus personally and to walk with him in a way that others come to know him, too.

Many families know they should read the Bible together, but struggle to make it a reality. Therefore, it is the first pattern of four that I write about in my book, Real Hope for Your Home.

Following are four encouragements to help you establish or re-establish family worship as a pattern in your home. (I use the term “family worship” to represent the activity when the family gathers to read the Bible and pray together.)

  1. The goal is to see God’s love for his people

The goal of spending time in God’s Word as a family is simply to learn about how much God loves us. In other words, it is about developing a relationship with God. When this is our guiding principle, we will read Genesis to Revelation in a whole new light. The Bible becomes intensely interesting void of the boredom that comes from looking at God’s word as an encyclopedia, a theological textbook, or onerous list of dos and don’ts. When we see God’s love for us, it compels us to live obediently to him and all that entails, confession and repentance.

  1. Take a long-term view

There will be bad days. You will not want to read. Your children will complain. The discussions will be very dry and forced. You will get stuck in a place in the Bible and become bored. You might even just hit a bad patch in the family calendar when you will miss meeting days or even weeks. Guess what? God knows this! Because you are in Christ, he still rejoices over you and your family. If you are faithful, the pattern will prevail and consume all the bad days and weeks. But you can’t allow the bad days or no days to stop you.

  1. Vary what you do

Be wide-open to trying new ways of doing family worship. Read a book of the Bible, then read a devotional or other Christian book. Have different people read the passage of the day or pray. Share what you learn in your personal devotions. Or, have a family member share what they learned. Meet in a different room in the house. Meet at a different time of the day. There is no right or wrong way to do this.

Family Worship Podcast Season

To build on those three points, we offer a four-part podcast season on how families can establish time together around God’s word. Topics include: “The How and Why of Family Worship”. “How to Read the Bible with Young Children”, “How to Read the Bible with Older Children”, “Your Family in Worship at the Church”. Each podcast is only about 25 minutes long.

We are excited to provide this encouragement and equipping to families especially today as biblical foundations are under relentless attack. We need the solid foundation of God’s word in our homes now more than ever.

  1. Don’t give up!

The final point of encouragement is this: if you fail, remember that your righteousness is complete in Christ! His love for you has not changed. You have no reason to give up! Stay on the path! Believe what is true about you in Christ and let that compel you to keep seeking to be faithful.

 

Precious Freedom

Precious Freedom

is satan stealing your freedom?Thinking a bit more about your freedom these days?  A little frustrated?  Anxious?  Freedom is back in the national conversation.  Although that conversation is 100% political, I was predisposed to think about it spiritually in what may seem an unusual place, Mark 5.

Jesus and his disciples had just crossed the Sea of Galilee.  Upon arrival in the Gerasenes, they were met immediately by a man possessed by a legion of demons.  The conversation between the demon and Jesus is fascinating:

And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him. And crying out with a loud   voice, he said, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.”  For he was saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!”  And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion, for we are   many.”  And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country.  Now a great herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside,  and they begged him, saying, “Send us to the pigs; let us enter them.”  So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the pigs; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the sea.

This passage provides refreshing peace and rest for our weary souls.  About this, I will make two points.

First, in the exchanges between Jesus and the demon, we see that Jesus is in full control of Satan and his dark forces.  Satan must submit to God!

It helps to remember this at a time when so much evil is on public display.  It is a powerless feeling to watch what is happening to our nation.  But God is the sovereign ruler of the universe and is still in control.  We need not be afraid.  God is not the author of evil.  That God allows it is a deeper conversation beyond the scope of this article.  But we know from Scripture that God’s redemptive plan is not stymied by evil.

While we rest in his sovereign control, we can be thankful for the opportunity we have as the Church to creatively and powerfully give testimony to the hope that is within us.  Certainly, this is one way that God is using the current crises.  There is a great opportunity for people to come to know God personally.

If you are looking for a place to read in the Bible, please consider Mark, especially the first nine chapters.    These chapters are full of examples of Jesus’ absolute power over Satan and his demons, the forces of nature, sickness and death.  This is a perfect place to read during these times when the world seems to be spinning out of control.

Second, how many times have you read a passage like this and thought, “Why can’t change in specific areas of my life be as immediate?  Why can’t I be like that person?!”

It is in this kind of self-talk that Satan slithers in and does some of his most effective work.  He gets us to think about our battle with sin as something yet to be accomplished that WE must do on our own.  Indeed, we must apply effort but the effort is more in applying THE victory that has already been accomplished by Jesus Christ through his life, death and resurrection.

The power of Satan to force us to sin is already broken!  Jesus’ work with the demoniac did not make him sinless but it miraculously freed him from possession and sin as a controlling condition.  Those who are in Christ are like the demoniac in that we have been freed from sin’s tyranny.  How are we freed from sin’s tyranny in our lives?

Attracted as we are to our idols, the pleasure they offer us is replaced by a much greater pleasure: the pleasure of knowing The God Who loves us so much He died for us.  Do we remember that and act on it?  This is the locus of work in our daily battle with sin.  It takes Holy Spirit energized faith that is grounded in Jesus’ once for all victory.  Like the demoniac, we are free indeed!  Like the demoniac we are filled with the same joy.

We are free and might not know it.

When I listen to Christians talk about their struggles, sometimes it sound as if Jesus never came.  I wonder, “Do they know they are already free?”  I find myself asking this question in my own struggles at times.  Now, certainly we struggle with temptation and it is painful.  But Jesus has already accomplished the victory we need over our present sin.  Do we really believe that we are already free?

Ultimately, mercifully, and gloriously the freedom we need most is not given by politicians, but by God alone.  He alone has the power to free us from what troubles us most: our sin.  This is the only real message of freedom there is for us personally and as a nation.  We need it now more than ever.

Celebrate Faithful Training in the Home

Celebrate Faithful Training in the Home

celebrate family leadershipWhat would you say to a Christian who told you they wanted to get into major sin just so that they could repent thus giving them an experience that would affirm their faith as real?  The thought of such a thing seems completely insane—and it is.  But this sort of thinking is apparently alive and well in some churches and homes.  I am not making this up!  How can this be?

I remember speaking at a denominational youth and children’s ministry conference.  In talking about the struggles children who are raised in the church face, one of the other plenary speakers made a startling point that knocked the wind out of the 400 people in the hotel ballroom that day.

He said that a growing number of children raised in faithful homes in the church felt like their faith was not as authentic as others because the church seemed only to highlight the people with glory stories who were saved out of backgrounds in illegal drugs, gangs, or illicit sex.  He said that they felt like “second class citizens in the kingdom of God”.

This puts the spotlight on some glaring weaknesses in our churches and homes that need correcting.  One of these weaknesses is that we tend to celebrate either the people who blew up their lives and were miraculously “saved” or those who possess something extraordinary while we rarely celebrate ordinary, faithfulness in homes that by God’s grace and mercy avoids major sins.  Maybe this is because we prize entertainment.  And nothing entertains like a good story spoken by someone who has a story to tell or a pastor who is a good storyteller.  Ordinary faithfulness seems just, well, ordinary and nothing to celebrate.

Certainly, we should celebrate and give God glory for these exceptional stories!  But here’s the point: we should also find ways to celebrate ordinary faithfulness because this describes many people in the church, especially our younger members.  Faithfulness is not perfection.  We are ordinary, weak, struggling people.  More is accomplished in ministry through the ordinary than the extraordinary.

It is harder to maintain faithfulness when it seems like it doesn’t matter.  These days some young people apparently reason, “Why not just sow some oats and enjoy what the world has to offer.  Afterall, I can always come back later… and be a cause for celebration!”  While I don’t believe people think about it or verbalize it in just those words, I think it represents a very discouraged, bitter faith experience in younger generations who are increasingly leaving the local church.

It is wise to celebrate ordinary faithfulness.

If you are a faithful parent, here are a few encouragements to keep going!

  1. God sees your faithful efforts.
    In one sense, this is motivation enough to stay the course (Prov. 5:21).
  1. God is working through you.
    Even if outward fruit is lacking, God is still working. His word that we lovingly and gently proclaim does not return void (Isa. 55:11).
  1. God will reward you.
    God is a rewarder of the work we do heartily unto him (Col. 3:23-24).

If you are a church leader, here are a few ideas that will greatly encourage the parents in your congregation.  Before reading these, be encouraged that faithfully functioning homes can be vital supports to the church’s ministry!

  1. Teach on the importance of faithful training through a sermon or mini-series. *Consider sermons that include not only the commands to teach but the comfort and power God gives to do those commands.  See my notes on Deut. 6 and Psalm 78 in my book, Real Hope For Your Home.

  2. On some regular basis, dedicate an entire pastoral prayer (or segment of it) to parents being faithful in training their children.  Pray for families by name.
  3. Share victories with the church body (or in small groups) that commemorate ordinary training     efforts. “The Wallace’s just finished reading the Gospel of Mark.”  “12 year old Maria is going to recite John 3:16 as part of our service today.”
  4. Provide families with excellent devotional material, practical guidance, and accountability.

For more ideas on how to encourage churches and homes to work together, see my book, Real Hope for Your Home.