This past Sunday I challenged Normandale Baptist to get serious about worshipping God. I introduced our new resource called “Echo” which gives a family or an individual five simply studies that relate back to Sunday’s message. Some of you have already commented how helpful it has been for your family’s devotional time.
If only it was that easy.
Carving out time for your family to study the Word of God together is nigh impossible if you have kids in school, parents headed for work or the pressing hour of bedtime. But it must become an integral part of our life together if we are to lead our children as God intended us to do!
Some of you asked how to make this time better for your family. Here are some practical ideas we discovered over the years.
Make the Time – Devotional moments never happen on accident. You have to plan for it. Consider your schedule and find moments where this works. In our family, our nights are crazy. Between football, swim team, church and meetings, we could never make an evening time together work. We ended up discovering that we could carve more time for devotional gatherings in the morning. Yes, everyone has to get up a little earlier, but for our family, this is much better and the typical evening chaos doesn’t squeeze our devotional time out in the evening.
Make the Time Special – The Word of God is not a cute story. It is the precious Word of God. Consequently, it shouldn’t be paired with How Dinosaurs Say I Love You or other literature. Make sure your family time in the Word of God is somehow different than “story time”. This is essential if your kids are in the pre-school age range and are learning the difference between pretend and real. While you should enjoy all kinds of books and literature with your kids, just make sure it is different than your family devotional time.
Make the Place Special – The location can be just as important as the place. For my family, I love reading the Bible together at the table. Breakfast is finished, the kids are excited about school and we can stop together, at the table, to read the Bible. This prompts time to discuss questions or ideas and then think through how we can apply what we learned for the coming school day. Along with a great line of Christians through the centuries, the table has become our sacred space.
Make the Focus of the Time Special – Friends, there are many devotionals on the market today. But please hear me. God speaks to us primarily through His Word. I appreciate the men and women who author devotional stories and other literature to move us, but if I could make one plea for your family devotions – Anchor it in the Word of God! In reading and studying the Word of God, we deepen in our Worship of God and consequently grow in our Faith. Read the text of Scripture. Ask some good questions of yourself and apply. You can do this! You can lead your family to study the Word of God!
Get Ready to have Setbacks – You are going to mess this up. You are going to miss days. It’s ok. You are going to have mornings or evenings that fall apart. Your kids will act up, you might get frustrated… who am I kidding? You will get frustrated! This is a regular struggle in the dynamics of a family’s life! Don’t let this defeat you! Your kids learn more when they see you recover and start back fresh that morning or even next day. Don’t get defeated! Take the setbacks and keep rolling forward. Show your family that God is the Great and Worthy of worship!
I know. You must be thinking, “How nice for the Pastor’s family. There’s no way we could do this.”
You can! You can get into the word together and make a difference in the life of your child.
Perhaps this might help. Let me give you an overview of our week so far:
MONDAY: Devotional time was interrupted by a child who threw a pencil in anger which led to an interruption of our time together while I took care of disciplining him.
TUESDAY: Chaos ensued and we missed devotional time altogether. A child couldn’t find the appropriate school shoe, another lied about wearing socks and another child needed to change the bed-sheets after an accident. It was NOT a fun morning. We had to miss our time together.
WEDNESDAY: One or our sweetest moments of devotion this month as we read the Word. The kids connected to the Bible story, asked great questions and self-applied the text. It was incredible!
Truth be told, I needed today. Tuesday discouraged me so much I was ready to throw in the towel, but then I would have missed Wednesday! Parents, our job is to connect our kids to the Word! To Lead them and shepherd their hearts ever closer to the Savior! Let’s act in boldness and get our families in the Word! The end results are worth it!
What are some of your ideas for family devotions that might be an encouragement for others?
NBC debuted its new program, “The New Normal” last night. Produced by Ryan Murphy, “Normal” tells the tale of a gay couple that secures a surrogate from Ohio to bear them a child. As the surrogate arrives in California with a child and acerbic grandmother in tow, we are introduced to the “New Normal Family.”
Family organizations have decried the show as another example of the erosion of traditional family values. Hollywood and other leaders see the show as a shining example of how the understanding of “family” is shifting in our culture. What may have been “traditional” or “normal” in eras past cannot be said of the family unit today.
Unfortunately, the idea of family is being eroded. What once was extremely abnormal is now sanctioned or outright encouraged. From a Hollywood director affirming incest as an appropriate expression of love to California’s push for new laws to allow for multi-parent families, traditional values have been shoved to curb as irrelevant at best and bigoted at worst. By highlighting aberrant family structures and making them the new normative definition, the idea of family will never have a solid foundation and simply shift with every cultural tide.
As Christians, we should not be shocked when those who do not embrace Jesus Christ reject his design. And it’s not just in the arena of family where God’s design is rejected. It’s in our business practices that elevate financial gain above people. It’s in our medical practices that overlook the value of life at all stages of development. It’s in our political structures that service power brokers and ignore those who truly need help.
None of this is new. Christians in every era have dealt with the realities of broken systems. On some level it reminds us that this life is not the ultimate goal. We have a promise of eternity with the Creator; and much like creation groans for redemption in Christ, so do we! Even so, come quickly Lord Jesus!
The Apostle Peter, writing to the churches of the first century, warned them that Jesus, the Great Cornerstone of our faith, would be a “stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” (I Peter 2:8) In other words, Jesus himself will trip people up. Jesus’ definition of “normal” flies in the face of what humans want to make normative. When “they stumble because they disobey the word as they were destined to do,” don’t be surprised.
Ok. So we can expect rejection from those who reject Christ. Even Jesus told us the world would hate us because it hated him first. (John 15:18) But what should we do about this? Many of you are feeling more and more uncomfortable with this world and the shifting values you see.
Actually, that’s great! You should feel uncomfortable. We are not called to be “Normal” in the sense that the world wants to define the term. Continuing with Peter’s encouragement to the churches, watch this:
We don’t belong here! Peter calls us “strangers and aliens” (2:11). For many of us, we are so caught up in this life and this place, we forget that our inheritance is eternal and is found in Christ himself! The stuff of this world never compares to the riches of the Glory of Christ! We live differently because that is who we are! We are God’s possession and chosen by Him to be a royal priesthood! (2:9)
Ultimately, we have a higher standard of rules to follow – the rules of God’s Kingdom! Our sexual ethics, our business practices, our very lives are supposed to be examples of the reality of Jesus as Lord so unbelievers “may see your good deeds and glorify God”! (2:12) When our lives point to the reality that we are marked by Jesus, it sends shockwaves through our culture! When our marriages show Christ’s love, when our parenting shows Christ’s love, when our businesses show Christ’s love, when our lives show Christ’s love, God uses us! Peter makes it clear: “this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.” (2:15)
As we increasingly look abnormal to our society, rejoice! We are living as God intended. We are following His definition of Normal.
It just happens to be weird to the “New Normal” crowd.
John Mark Yeats