How to Change the Life of Your Family: Part Three

In a previous post, we saw the lives of individuals like Abraham, Moses and the nation of Israel, Joshua, and New Testament exhortations from the Apostle Paul. In another one we saw men throughout history who either promoted it or shared their experiences themselves.

In this post, I want to share with you some practical helps that will, prayerfully, enable you and your family to begin worshiping our great God. At some point, you will have to begin! But be of good cheer, many people have shared their experiences in order to help you be successful.

So, what does family worship entail? It is really simple. In fact, it can be summarized with three syllables: read, pray, and sing. (For a more thorough discussion of this, I recommend Don Whitney’s book Family Worship) Is it really that simple? Yes! It really is as easy as reading, praying, and singing. In order to help you though, I want to share some practical suggestions for each one.

Read

We begin by simply reading the Scripture. Depending on the age of your family (for instance, if you have little ones) you will determine what you will read. If you are a couple, read through the Bible. Purpose to work your way through a New Testament book, or a narrative in the Old Testament. If you are a family with young children, use a children’s Bible (I’ll share some helpful titles at the end). If you are entering the golden years of life, you may want to read larger chunks of Scripture. Whatever you choose, make sure it is Scripture.

As you have time, you may want to include books and other material. Working your way through historical documents and creeds can be quite enlightening and spiritually fruitful. Of course, the Scripture must always be found.

Pray

Everyone can pray. The father may pray one day, the mother the next, and the children in succession. Or you may want to choose a week for one member of the family. If you have children, this is a wonderful way to begin to teach them how to pray. No matter how your family worship occurs, make sure to pray. My soon-to-be five year old daughter is learning to pray simply through our time of family worship.

Sing

This may seem odd at first, especially if you have older kids (middle and high school students). However, Scripture is laden with passages discussing singing. Colossians 3:16 and Ephesians 5:19 both encourage disciples of Jesus to sing (among other things) spiritual songs. Family worship is the perfect place to “address one another…in spiritual songs” (Ephesians 5:19).

From a personal standpoint, this was what I dreaded the most. I enjoy singing, but I don’t really have the gift for it. My wife, on the other hand, does. When I hear my kids sing, it makes it all worth it. Find music that you enjoy and that is God-honoring, and then simply sing!

Some Suggestions

Many people think they must prepare lessons or materials ahead of time. This is not the case. If you are a couple, or have older children, simply reading through Scripture and offering a few comments is acceptable. If you have young children, I recommend one of the following:

The Big Picture Story Bible by David Helm
Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name Sally Lloyd-Jones
Gospel Story Bible: Discovering Jesus in the Old and New Testaments Marty Machowski

Finally, let me leave you with three suggestions Whitney offers:

  1. Brevity- be brief! A good average to follow is ten minutes.
  2. Regularity- keep it going! Make this a commitment every night.
  3. Flexibility- be supple! While maintaining consistency, do not be too rigid. Change up the time, the material, or whatever needs your family has. (taken from Don Whitney’s Family Worship, pages 50-51)

We will discuss some specific challenges and questions in the next post on this topic. I am praying that you will begin worshiping God as a family now!

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“The Conviction to Lead”: A Review

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I recently read through Al Mohler’s The Conviction to Lead: 25 Principles for Leadership that Matters. In my reading schedule I alternate between books addressing pastoral ministry with books that cover leadership.

The amount of materials discussing leadership is bountiful. Mohler laments the problem of the vast literature in the field and the sad lack of beneficial information. He writes, “The hunger for leadership had reached every sector of our society, including business, government, education, cultural institutions, and, of course, the church.” (Mohler, 2012) He writes shortly before this, “I had to create my own leadership studies program.” (Mohler, 2012) Why create your own? Because of the lack of good leadership books!

Overall the book is great. Dr. Mohler covers what I would call the ‘behind-the-scenes’ aspects of leadership. I am blessed to have a father who is a leader. In fact, almost everything I know about leadership and management has come from him. Many of the facets of leadership that Mohler deliberates on are the roots of true leadership. I won’t cover all the chapters, but a few stood out to me.

His chapter on worldviews is, in my opinion, one of the most important of the twenty-five. Noting the peculiar characteristic of Christian leadership, Mohler writes, “Christianity is a comprehensive worldview and way of life that grows out of Christian reflection on the Bible and the unfolding plan of God revealed in the unity of the Scriptures.” (Mohler, 2012) Leadership today, whether in the workplace or in the church, is in desperate need of a Christian worldview. Our own thoughts, on whatever issue, must be funneled through God’s truth. He writes further, “A God-centered worldview brings every issue, question, and cultural concern into submission to all that the Bible reveals, and frames all understanding within the ultimate purpose of bringing greater glory to God.” (Mohler, 2012) Imagine if our leaders maintained this worldview. How different would our workplaces look? How deeper would our churches be?

The next chapter that drew my attention approaches the subject of teaching. Mohler composes, “Every great leader is a great teacher, and the greatest leaders seize every opportunity to teach well.” (Mohler, 2012) I remember a manager I worked with during my days in retail. He took opportunities to help train me on a variety of tasks, ensuring I learned the reasons why we performed tasks the way we did. He helped me breach my own shortcomings and developed me into a more effective manager. Leaders, in the true sense of the word, do that. They move beyond the simple commands of “Do this…” or “Complete this project…”. They utilize every occasion to teach their associates. Mohler also wisely includes the historical development of education found through the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures.

The final chapter I would like to cover is the chapter entitled, “The Leader as Decision Maker.” This is certainly my area of opportunity (to borrow retail language). My personality thrives in a collaborative atmosphere. I desire unity through a task, and whenever I have two individuals or groups with diverging opinions, it is exhausting. I want everyone to be happy. Leadership demands that, at times, we must make decisions that will cause ill feelings. As we develop, we must execute what Mohler describes in serious language, “Leaders simply cannot avoid making important decisions, and effective leaders stand out because they are both courageous and skilled in making the right decisions again and again.” (Mohler, 2012)

I enjoyed his discussions on writing, reading, and death. His work covers the entirety of leadership, from beginnings to endings. I recommend it, especially to those who have not had positive examples in their lives. I also recommend it to the seasoned veteran. Scripture confirms the necessity of remembering (see Deuteronomy 6:20-23; 1 Chronicles 16:16; and 2 Timothy 2:8).

One downside to his book is also its strength: ambiguity. I believe his motive is to address leadership generally, in that the fields of leaders to which he is writing is vast. This is helpful because there are many different roles in which leaders find themselves. However, it also prevents some practical suggestions on how to carry out the various principles. Some principles lend themselves to practicality, such as his chapters on reading and writing. Other chapters are not meant to be practical, for example the chapter on believing. The bulk of the book could be practical, but its breadth of readership disallows this.

I definitely recommend the book. While it is not one that I would return to on a regular basis, I believe that the principles would prove quiet helpful.

God bless!

Church or Family: Who Develops Children?

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A vital question that every parent and guardian must ask is, “Who is the primary spiritual director for my children?” The answer to that question will have profound impact on your daily life. Typically, we see two places, or institutions if you will, where the spiritual development of children takes place: the Church and the home.

The Church, of course, is the meeting place of the people of God. We will go with Edward Hiscox’s definition of what a Church is, “A Christian Church is a company of regenerate persons, baptized on a profession of faith in Christ; united in covenant for worship, instruction, the observance of Christian ordinances, and for such service as the gospel requires; recognizing and accepting Christ as their supreme Lord and Lawgiver, and taking His Word as their only and sufficient rule of faith and practice in all matters of conscience and religion.” (Edward T. Hiscox, Principles and Practices for Baptist Churches, page 20) Hiscox’s wordy definition includes with it the idea of teaching and instruction. One of the main functions of the Church, then, is to teach individuals about the doctrines and practices of a Christian. (For a thorough treatment on the subject of the Church, see James Bannerman’s classic work, The Church of Christ: A Treatise on the Nature, Powers, Ordinances, Discipline, and Government of the Christian Church. Not only does he provide a detailed look at the subject, but he also provides an enormous amount of Scripture.)

The home, according to Scripture, is the very first institution which God created (see Genesis 1:26-30). In God’s initial creation, humanity was to procreate and cultivate the earth. Along with those two goals, the communication of God’s revealed truth existed as well. Notice particularly, God’s command concerning the tree (see Genesis 2:15-17). This would have been vital to pass on to Adam and Eve’s children. When we enter into the time of Abraham we see a commendable description given by God. God acknowledges that Abraham would transmit God’s truth to his children (see Genesis 18:19). During the Mosaic Law the home was to be the primary place of spiritual development (see Deuteronomy 6:6-9). Even the New Testament addresses the role of the home in the development of the spiritual life (see Ephesians 6:4).

Now, there are two statements that we can deduce from these thoughts:

The Church is not the home. The home is not the church.

These two statements seem to be self-explanatory. Most people that I talk with agree with each statement, at least in theory. Practically speaking, however, we do not believe either statements.

Today, the statements would read more like this, The Church is primary place of the spiritual development of my children.

Now, parents and guardians generally believe they are the primary developers of their children’s faith (for more detailed information about this, check out Barna). There are several reasons that parents do not engage in this life-changing endeavor. That will be the topic of our article today.

  1. Parents and guardians do not feel adequate to develop their children spiritually.

    The research of Barna concludes, “The survey data indicate that parents generally rely upon their church to do all of the religious training their children will receive. Parents are not so much unwilling to provide more substantive training to their children as they are ill-equipped to do such work.” (Barna) Parents and guardians may not have received the training during their own childhood, so the practical side does not exist. Churches have failed to help train and educate parents and guardians to develop their home into a greenhouse for spiritual growth. Parents and guardians have failed to seek out opportunities to learn more about this as well.

  2. Parents and guardians see the Church as the institution to develop their children spiritually.

    We return to Barna’s research yet again. When I mentioned that in practice parents and guardians believe the Church is the primary institution the research backs this up. Consider the following, “Related research, however, revealed that a majority of parents do not spend any time during a typical week discussing religious matters or studying religious materials with their children. However, about two out of three parents of children 12 or younger attend religious services at least once a month and generally take their children with them. Most of those parents are willing to let their church or religious center provide all of the direct religious teaching and related religious experiences that their children receive.” (Barna)

    Did you catch that? “The majority of parents do not spend any time during a typical week discussing religious matters or studying religious materials with their children.” (emphasis mine) This statement, besides being incredibly sad, reveals the truth that parents and guardians do not see their role to develop their children spiritually. The Church has accommodated to this by creating different classes, groups, and activities.

  3. Families are too busy to develop their children spiritually.

    One of the aspects of our culture today (I am speaking of the culture of the US) is busyness. We are constantly on the go, active, productive. Consider this paragraph from research conducted by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

    “Did you know that over the past 20 years, children’s free time for play and unstructured activities has declined by 12 hours per week? During that same period, time in structured sports has doubled, and passive, spectator leisure has increased 5 times, to over three hours per week. The impact this has had on families is profound: a 100% decrease in household conversations, a 33% decrease in family dinners, and a 28% decrease in families taking vacations.”

    In the past twenty years, free time has decline by 12 hours and structure activities have doubled. This, of course, has profound impact on the daily life of the family. If your child is involved in 3 or 4 extra-curricular activities, how will they have time to be educated in the truths of God? If you are involved with groups, book clubs, bowling, etc., every night of the week, how will you have time to educate your children in the truths of God?

These reasons are not exhaustive. They are also general in character. For example, a single mother working to provide for her children may not have a choice but to work extra hours in order to meet the needs of her family. I am discussing the family that consists of a father, mother, and one or more child.

 

In his book, Orange Essentials, Reggie Joiner notes the amount of time parents and guardians have with their children compared with the Church. He writes, “There are 8,760 hours in a year. The average parent has 3,000 hours in a given year to influence a life. The average church only has 40 hours in a given year to influence a life. (Reggie Joiner, Orange Essentials: Five Priorities for Building Faith in the Next Generation, pages 8-9)

Parents and guardians, do not shirk your responsibility to teach and train your children. The Church is a partner. We can work together for our children’s spiritual good. I have posted two other articles on how to conduct family worship. You can check them out here and here. This is the unique opportunity that God has given you.

How to Change the Life of Your Family: Part Two

In a previous post we looked at the biblical basis for Family Worship. It is my hope and prayer that you searched the Scriptures and found that God indeed wants our families to worship Him. Our God works through time, and as a result, history can become one of our greatest teachers. God thought history so important that much of the Old Testament, and a good deal of the New Testament, is recorded history.

Sometimes it is helpful to journey back through time and see how others lived. More importantly than cultural issues, our worship of God through our families is well-grounded in the history of the church. Tertullian and John Chrysostom, early church fathers, both believed and practiced the importance of Family Worship. Martin Luther, the Father of the Reformation, wrote, “Therefore such a house [in which family worship exists] is actually a school and church, and the head of the household is a bishop and priest in his house.” That is, the father is the ‘pastor’ of his ‘church’ (or home). Richard Baxter and Matthew Henry, both incredible men of God, were convinced that family worship was necessary for God’s glory. Jonathan Edwards, the greatest theologian produced by America, had this written about him, “Care for his children’s souls was, of course, his preeminent concern.” Edwards would ask his children age-appropriate questions about the Scriptures. Other men and women throughout history have invested in spiritual worship in their families.

I encourage you, as we work our way through the practical aspects of family worship in the future, to start praying and determining to begin Family Worship in your home. Make the care of your child’s soul your preeminent concern. Let it be said of us that, “I [God] have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice.” (Genesis 18:19)

How Worship Affects Everything

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I recently finished Paul Tripp’s Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family. While I hope to provide a more in depth review of the book, today I want to focus our attention on one principle that jumped out to me. With the recent emphasis in the discussion of transgenderism, Teen Vogue’s article on anal sex, and the confusion surrounding human sexuality in general, I was again impressed with the relevancy of Scripture.

In the eleventh chapter, Tripp discusses the principle of ‘false gods.’ (Tripp, 2016) The principle is, ‘You are parenting a worshiper, so it’s important to remember that what rules your child’s heart will control his behavior.’ (Tripp, 2016)

The chapter develops how this principle fleshes out in our children. Tripp touches on a point that has profound implications: worship. He states, ‘Worship is a tricky word for most of us, because when we think of worship we tend to think of formal religion….But worship is not just a religious function; it is a human function. Worship is something everyone does every day.’ (Tripp, 2016)

Applying to our children, this enables us to understand why they do the things they do. Branching out from the focus on children, and this enables us to understand the state in which we find our country.

Think about it: we were made to be and are worshipers. Tripp wisely writes, ‘It’s the fact that we always live in service of something or that we always live in control of something.’ (Tripp, 2016) Why are individuals confused about their gender? (Let me state that there are some genuine issues underlying some instances of gender confusion and identity. I am discussing the willful abandonment of a gender at birth for the opposite gender.) Why are people desiring to be with the same gender, sexually? Why are magazines proving teenagers ages 12-17 how-to guides for anal sex? Because we are worshipers.

Paul, in his masterful work of the book of Romans, captures this truth exquisitely:

 ‘For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature;  and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.’ (ESV, 2007)

There are several points worth noting.

  • Rather than creation impressing God’s truth upon their hearts, their unrighteous acts suppress the truth.
  • These individuals knew God but rejected Him.
  • Because we are worshiping beings, our need to worship something still exists.
  • Our rejection of the worship of God results in the worship of creation, including humanity.

Our need to worship something does not dissolve with our failure to believe in God. As a result, we worship something or someone. How does this look like in our society?

We are confused about sexuality. We are worshiping ourselves, our good, our pleasure, when we step outside the God-ordained boundaries for sexual gratification. You see, sex is a good thing. God created it for our enjoyment as well as the natural means of increasing the population of the earth (see Genesis 1:28, 31; 2:24; Proverbs 5:15-19; and Hebrews 13:4). However, when we forsake worshiping the one true God, our worship moves to another, and in our society, sexual gratification is near the top.

We have “exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator” (Romans 1:25, ESV). We have forsaken the worship of our Creator for us, the creature. If I choose to be another sex, then I change it, because my desire overrules even nature itself.

How does this understanding help us? In several ways:

  • It should cause us to have an enormous amount of grace with each other.

    If God made us to worship Him, and by our nature we avoid Him (see Romans 1:18-25 and 3:10-20), then it is only the incredible grace of Jesus that changes us (see Ephesians 2:8-9). Those who receive grace should be the most gracious, as we know the depths of our sin and the absolute wonders of His grace. That means we should be patient, kind, and loving. 1 Corinthians 13, the ‘love chapter’, details how the grace of Jesus should look in our lives. Are we sharing grace with one another?

  • It should help us understand why people do the things they do.

    I have heard people say, ‘How can they do that? What are they thinking?’ They (and we too) do it because they were meant to worship! They (and we too) were created by a gracious Father to spend our lives in awe and service to Him. By the fall, they (and we too) ignored the truth of creation that should lead us to the Creator and instead place ourselves on the throne of sovereign rule. They (and we too) seek to serve their god, themselves. Whether that means we change our sexual identity, our sexual orientation, or even the ages when we offer advice for sexual acts, we worship something. In our interactions with others, knowing why they do certain things can help us minister from a position of knowledge rather than stupidity.

  • It should help us understand our own false worship.

    Sexual sins are not the only expression of our need to worship. Our jobs, positions, titles, money, rest, people, television, mobiles, and much more are all expressions of our need to worship. The question is not, “Do I worship sex? (or insert any other thing)” The question is, “Do I worship God and God alone (see Deuteronomy 6:4-5)?” It is so easy to see the splinter in our brothers and sisters eyes and completely ignore the telephone pole in our own (see Matthew 7:1-5).

  • It should help us to pray.

    God desires to restore Creation (see Romans 8:18-25 and Revelation 21-22). In fact, it was the motivation for Jesus’ incarnation (see Ephesians 1:3-10 and Colossians 1:15-20). Jesus came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10). It is God’s desire to restore everything so that it will once again be ‘very good’ (see Genesis 1:31). We, as recipients of this incredible grace, should pray for others. We, who experienced the bondage of sin and Satan, should zealously pray for those within it and his grasp. Our hearts should ache with a desire to be tools to help place the God who deserves all worship into the hearts of those who are failing to worship their Creator.

It always amazes me, though it should not, just how relevant the Scriptures are. It also amazes me just how depraved we (I am in the list too!) are. Finally, I am overwhelmed at the grace of our Lord, who ‘shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.’ (Romans 5:8, ESV)

There are several good resources that are available if you wish to discuss this matter further.

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary provides a good article discussing Teen Vogue’s deplorable post.

For a good discussion on the topic of transgender, see Samuel James’ article on the Gospel Coalition.

Finally, check on the Christian Post’s article. You’ll find some helpful discussion there as well.