Tag Archives: family devotions

Gentle Encouragement for Parents at Christmastime

7 Dec

Christmas is a time that can really bring families together. But in reality there is often relational strife, unmet expectations, disappointments, stress, anxiety, and just a feeling of being burned out and broken at this time of the year. If you identify with any of that, I have a few simple tips for you that may help you make your way through the season with Jesus at the center and your sanity intact.

First, Christmas is a great time to start (or re-start) Family Devotions. Called by many names (Family Devotions, Bible Time, Family Worship) the practice of gathering your children at a set time each day to read Scripture and pray is an important part of the spiritual life of the family. There are many reasons not to do family devotions (schedules, busyness, etc.) but the benefits far outweigh the challenges. It doesn’t have to be complicated. For example, this year our family is listening to a short Advent devotional from desiringgod.org and praying for missions in preparation for the Lottie Moon Christmas offering. It’s nothing complicated. But it is very meaningful.

Second, bring your family to church at Christmas. There are lots of unique opportunities and special services at this time of year, from cantatas to dinners to candlelight services to the regular Sunday morning and Sunday evening services of the church. I think at Christmas you ought to get your family in church every time the doors are open. I believe this because you need a respite from the hustle and bustle of the season. I believe this because you need to re-focus at a time when so many things are clamoring for your attention. But most of all I believe this because your children are watching you. If you set aside church attendance because of the rush of the holiday season, what does that say to them about the importance you place on worship? And as a side note, if you have extended family staying with you this holiday season, don’t let them keep you from church. Show your children that you place a high priority on worshiping God and let that be your testimony to your extended family too. It is not socially inappropriate to tell family staying with you on Saturday night, “We are going to church tomorrow morning. We would love to have you join us, but if you decide to stay here there are things for breakfast for you in the fridge and we’ll be back around noon.” Don’t leave it to them. Have a conviction about the importance of worship and stick to that conviction. You might think I am just saying this because as a pastor I have skin in the matter of church attendance. But my conviction is that weekly worship with a local body of Christ should be a non-negotiable in the life of a believer, unless they are providentially hindered. I am not saying this is a set-in-stone thing or that you are a bad person if you disagree with me, but I do throw it out there for your consideration.

Third, give special attention to cultivating your marriage during the Christmas season. The holidays are a strange mix of frenetic activity and empty time, of well-worn traditions which break the daily routines of life. The holidays are a time that can push couples apart unless they are especially mindful of each other. Serve one another in the frenetic times. Connect with one another in the empty times. Enjoy traditions together, even if they are not your thing. Try to make sure your spouse’s life is made easier because of your genuine sacrificial love and service. Spend some time every day talking together, but guard your heart and your words. In social settings, let your words be full of grace toward your spouse, or else let them be few. Let the wife or husband you are in private be the same as the spouse you are in public, provided that you are seeking to be a godly husband or wife. If you are just living for yourself, let Christmastime be a time that leads you to repentance as you remember that God so loved that He gave. Let Christmas be a time that binds you together rather than breaking you apart.

Finally, don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Seek to enjoy this season for what it is rather than for what you hope it will be. Don’t be discouraged when things go wrong, because they always will in a fallen world. Enjoy the journey and don’t spend the whole season waiting for that one favorite thing you always do. And don’t forget those who are struggling with grief and hardship at Christmastime. Maybe the best medicine for your own soul will be to help somebody else.

I do not write these things as one who has mastered them. They are just principles I think are helpful for everyday living that I am striving to see at work in my own life. I hope you find something here that helps you enjoy this time of the year.

Behold Your God — Week Three, Day Five

16 Jun

I was encouraged and challenged by today’s study. When we get a fresh vision of the greatness and goodness of God, our families are affected. Families are drawn to begin setting apart time in the home to focus on God. We normally call this family worship or family devotions.

I have long been an advocate of family devotions, but a poor practitioner. My patient wife has been gracious to me in the fits and starts of our family devotions. My children have seen my inconsistency up close and for this I feel a great deal of regret. Few things in my life seem more of a spiritual battle than family devotions. Perhaps this is so because few things are more counter-cultural and few things are more spiritually significant for families.

I have done many things for family devotions through the years, but if I could encourage others in any way I would just say, just do something. If its reading the Scriptures and praying, reading a devotional book or a Bible story book, whatever it may be, just try to do something.

I must also say in closing that I appreciate the warning John Snyder gives in this lesson about making our lives too family-centered. I have observed instances where I feel the family is almost valued too much, as if the spiritual life can be contained totally within a family unit. This, apart from running contrary to the Scriptures, also tends to make people insular, isolated and sometimes judgmental.

To stay in the center of biblical tension we must value the family as an important part of God’s plan without making the family the center of everything we do in relation to God.

Family Devotions: Good Intentions vs. Good Practice

7 Dec

Over the last several years I have become convinced that gathering as a family for daily devotions is a vital element of the spiritual development of my children and the spiritual unity of our family. We started 10 years ago with a prayer journal, a Bible story book and a baby. Since then we have added three more babies,  gone through more different ways of doing devotions than I’d like to admit, and had times of great joy and periods of sad inconsistency (the inconsistency was mostly owing to my own failure to initiate devotions and make them a priority).

Can I find a Scriptural command which says, “Thou shalt have family devotions?” No. But principles about the spiritual nurture of our children abound in both Testaments (see Deuteronomy, Proverbs, the New Testament letters as a start). We are likely to short-change our children spiritually if we do not gather them together daily to read Scripture, pray and share our lives with God together.

So how do you get started?

1. Just do it. Sometimes the Nike slogan is right. Family devotions is one of those times. The most important thing you can do is begin.

2. Consider Your Audience. If you have three children under 5, they probably aren’t going to benefit very much from readings from Calvin’s Institutes. I remember one time I got the bright idea to read from A.W. Pink’s The Attributes of God for family devotions. My 10 year-old son enjoyed it, but the readings were intolerable for my younger daughter. I have forever spoiled her on A.W. Pink. I would hate for my children to grow up loathing classic Christian literature because I exposed them to it before they were ready. A good place to start with younger children is a good story book. The Big Picture Bible and The Jesus Storybook are good places to start. Using the Bible, along with these resources, can be very effective. For children in the elementary grades, I believe it is good for the Bible itself to begin to be central, but there are good resources to for this age as well. The book Long Story Short is a resource for elementary ages we have used that was pretty good.  There are two other things you need to consider in thinking about your audience: ages and time. If you have children at vastly different ages, try to engage each one during devotions. I really struggle with this, as sometimes the younger children get left behind, but it is a good goal to remember. I have found our family has about a maximum attention span for devotions of about 15 minutes at this point. Maybe in years to come we will see this expand, but this is where we are right now. Keep in mind the ages of your children and their ability to listen and interact when you plan devotions with your family.

3. Find a Consistent Time. For us, this has become the morning, but for years we had devotions at bed time. But for the last few months, we began to see that one night I would have a meeting, one night, my wife would be at a meeting, one night we would be at church, one night, one or two of the kids would be with the grandparents. So we came to realize that family devotions were only happening two or three times a week with the whole family together. Therefore, we moved to the morning, when we are all together. Maybe you don’t have a time when you can all be together. If that is the case, I want to plead with you to consider re-adjusting the rest of your schedule to make family devotions possible. Spiritually leading your children is more important than their extra-curricular activities, or yours.

4. “Don’t Grow Weary in Doing Good.” Galatians 6:9 applies to family devotions. Family devotions are a good thing. Don’t give up. Sometimes our devotions seem like a waste of time. Sometimes I am disorganized. Sometimes I know I don’t lead well. Sometimes, my prayers seem like lead balloons. Sometimes the kids get started giggling and it becomes difficult to rein them in together. But I don’t want to give up and I encourage you not to give up either. Sometimes devotions will be great, often they will be less than great. It’s OK. The long-term benefits of devotions for your family will make the drab days worthwhile.

A final word . . . Devotions are only one piece of the puzzle.

I urge you to have devotions as a family. If you lead your family in this way, you will bring great blessing to your children and God will be honored. But family devotions are only one part of the picture of a godly family. If you are at odds with your spouse constantly, even if you have devotions, they will be somewhat empty. If you have long-standing conflicts, devotions will be seen as hypocrisy rather than worship. If you have devotions but spend the rest of your time at home complaining or swearing or getting drunk or gossiping or watching junk on TV, you are undermining the spiritual progress of your family by your lifestyle. So devotions are good, but they are not a cure all for the family. They can help the spiritual progress of the family, but they can not guarantee that progress. Only the work of the Holy Spirit and the loving care of godly parents can foster such progress.

Tomorrow, I plan to deal with a question that may be on the minds of some who read this article. What do I do if I want to do family devotions but my spouse does not want to participate?

In the meantime, if you have any thoughts about family devotions that you’d like to share, use the comment tab below. What has worked well for your family?

%d bloggers like this: