What’s Missing in Family Worship

Children need heavy doses of rebuke and praise. Sometimes the parent should do this one-on-one. Elsewhere he should reprove and honor publicly. I’d like to argue that this latter category is best done at the dinner table or, even better, at Family Worship.

Reams of Rebuke

We assign the word “foolish” to terms like grin, mistake, idea or decision. Scripture appoints the word to “child”. “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child” (Pr 22:15). Folly is part of a child’s nature. Foolishness fills a youngster’s heart the way stars fill the sky. The darker the sin, the easier to see the folly. But even when the child is at his cutest and best behaved, foolhardiness—though hidden—is still there, like stars on a sunny day. Adam put it there (Ps 51:5). Special grace and common grace have yet to chisel off the edges.

So parents should expect to rebuke their children often, especially when they are young and especially from the lips of Dad (Pr 13:1). It is a child’s natural inclination to say and do stupid things. I remember telling my wife that if we tallied up for the day all the actions of one of our young children, probably 90% of them would be wrong. This is why parenting is such hard work. This is why millennials are having pets instead of children. You can put newspaper down for puppies. It doesn’t work as well for kids. Continue reading

Thanks, Dad

“Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart” (Pr 29:17).

Thank you for driving our family to church each Sunday,
    for staying married to mom,
    for sending us to a Christian school,
    and for taking me with you when doing errands.
Thank you for rising before the sun each day,
    for teaching me how to throw a curve,
    for laughing with me till our sides hurt,
    and for spanking me when I did wrong.
Thank you for coming to all my games,
    for teaching me how to drive stick,
    for paying all the bills,
    and for being strong physically.
Thank you for fixing the cars late in the Wisconsin winter,
    for taking us on vacations,
    for leading our family to the church pew,
    and for taking in your mother-in-law and sister-in-law even though it was tough.
Thank you for playing to win each time you laced em up,
    for showing me the difference between a forward and a guard,
    for shoveling the snow each January morning,
    and for giving up your drinking buddies.
Thank you for showing me how to bait a hook,
    for haggling till it was practically free,
    for teaching me how to bowl a 6-7-10 split,
    and for sharing Christ in every eulogy you gave.
Thank you for teaching me what a good pizza crust tastes like,
    for not moving an inch when a tough guy tried to intimidate you,
    for dancing the jitter bug with momma on the kitchen floor,
    and for reading a good bio because I recommended it.
Thank you for wearing Gravel and smelling like a man,
    for playing flag football in your forties and anchoring left tackle,
    for rebuking me publicly for disrespecting mom,
    and for teaching me to rub some dirt on it.
Thank you for trying a soul patch in your sixties and laughing at yourself when it bombed,
    for commending my sermons when they bombed,
    for pop riveting the car floors to save some money,
    and getting Brenda braces instead of me.
Thank you for rolling your eyes at guys who praise themselves,
    for teaching AWANA with a pocket full of candy,
    for not playing the victim over what your father didn’t do,
    and for singing loudly like no one was watching.
Thank you for coaching every baseball team I played on,
    for not shaving your chest hair,
    for making me drive junkers in high school,
    and for still wearing a suit when the deacons donned polos.
Thank you for opening your home to our family of nine,
    for teaching me the Boston crab,
    for showing me how to ask questions in Sunday School,
    and for supporting me in my move to Africa.
Thank you for being a man,
    for being a Christian,
    for being a model,
    for being Pap.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I love you.

Who’s to Blame for Fatherless Homes?

So you want to blame the legacy of slavery for fatherless homes? You want to ascribe guilt to your coach or political party? How about wealth inequality? Your sinful uncle or the playboy athlete? Should we blame far away jobs or the poor example of our own family?

If you’re looking to blame someone for the plague of fatherless homes today, don’t accuse your father or political leaders. Go all the way back to the source.

Blame Adam.

Sin is to blame for fatherless homes and sin came from Adam. When our human father bit into the forbidden fruit, he passed sin onto every human that followed. His sin became our sin (Rm 5:12). Adam was humanity’s best chance to score the free kick. He was humanity’s best player. If he couldn’t do it, no one could.

He failed. In Adam’s fall, we sinned all. We’re born bad, despite what your mother tells you (Jn 8:44). We are not sinners because we sin. We sin because we are sinners. Not fair? We don’t want fair. We want mercy. Continue reading

S-P-R-E-A-D: A Family Worship Guide

“Our home doesn’t practice family devotions because we don’t have enough time.”

Well, God’s mighty hand has now given the whole world plenty of time. Corona will either expose this excuse as a lie or push Christian families into the godly habit of morning and evening Family Worship.

Start with one gathering a day. Assemble at a time when concentration is high. Aim for 15 minutes and see where it goes. Be sure all the readers in the family have access to a Bible. Get everyone involved.  Continue reading

(10) Family Worship Creates Good Habits

The Puritans said the benefits of family worship are so great they are “impossible to describe.” Nonetheless, in this series I’ll be attempting to highlight ten of its advantages.

The tenth benefit of homes gathering daily to read Scripture, sing and pray is that it builds good habits.

Tradition!

Last week we learned the father should always lead in family worship, even if he’s not regularly the primary teacher. This will create family customs worth keeping.

Though the truths from Fiddler on the Roof came from “tradition”, they ultimately come from the Bible. It’s OK if a child says: “This is just they way we do things.” Later he’ll connect it to the Scriptures.

Who, day and night, must scramble for a living,
Feed a wife and children, say his daily prayers?
And who has the right, as master of the house,
To have the final word at home?
The Papa, the Papa! Tradition.
The Papa, the Papa! Tradition.

Perhaps the greatest benefit of consistent family devotions is that it makes the worship of God normal. It’s not unusual or forced. Parents must raise their children to feel a kind of uneasy grief (but not surprise) when they visit a Christian home where family worship is not present. Continue reading

(9) Family Worship Distinguishes Gender Roles

The Puritans said the benefits of family worship are so great they are “impossible to describe.” Nonetheless, in this series I’ll be attempting to highlight ten of its advantages.

The ninth benefit of homes gathering daily to read Scripture, sing and pray is that it distinguishes gender roles.

Why doesn’t mama preach?

A child may ask his father why women shouldn’t preach from the pulpit or pastor a church. He replies: “Because Scripture forbids it” (1Tm. 2:11-12; 1Cor. 14:34). Then he asks why mother or his older sisters sometimes teach the Bible story in family worship. He says: “Because the Bible encourages it” (Titus 2:4).

Family worship vividly applies the many Scriptural passages that speak about the roles of men and women.

The woman’s role in family worship

Scripture encourages women to help teach the family at home. Timothy was taught the Bible from his youth (2Tm. 3:15). These lessons didn’t come from his father, who was an unbeliever (Ac. 16:1), but from his godly mother and grandmother (2Tm. 1:5). The command to “train up a child” in the Scriptures is for both parents (Pr. 22:6).

Though women should not formally teach the Bible to an assembled group of Christian men, they may teach anyone in informal settings. Priscilla sat down with her husband at the kitchen table and helped teach Apollos in Acts 18:26. The woman at the well taught the whole town in John 4:28-30. Even there, however, she wasn’t leading. Women shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions or make comments at Bible studies. The family will see this at home worship. Continue reading

(8) Family Worship Improves the Nation

The Puritans said the benefits of family worship are so great they are “impossible to describe.” Nonetheless, in this series I’ll be attempting to highlight ten of its advantages.

The eighth benefit of homes gathering daily to read Scripture, sing and pray is that it Improves the nation.

You can’t straighten oaks

Individuals compose a nation. Godly individuals make good countrymen. Because family worship helps form godly individuals, it also improves the nation. A tree cannot be straightened 20 years out. So raise your saplings early at home with God’s word.

It infuses character in her citizens

Will a country not benefit when its citizens are learning daily character in the home like promptness, obedience, focus, and empathy. Won’t the streets be safer at night if the young men are at home being shaped by their fathers in prayer and Bible study? If children never learn to obey their fathers, they will struggle to submit to police, bosses and other authorities. Continue reading

(7) Family Worship Strengthens the Church

The Puritans said the benefits of family worship are so great they are “impossible to describe.” In this series I’ll be attempting to highlight ten of its advantages.

The seventh benefit of homes gathering daily to read Scripture, sing and pray is that it strengthens the church.

Five ways family worship strengthens the church

First, she’ll receive countless prayers to God on her behalf. J.W. Alexander wrote: “It is not a small thing for any congregation to have daily cries for God’s blessing on it ascending from a hundred firesides.” Matthew Henry encouraged his flock to turn their homes into little churches. This was not to replace the church but rather to fortify it.

Second, interested congregants will fill her pews. Daily family worship has whet their appetite for the main course of public worship. They say: “I open my mouth and pant, because I long for your commandments” (Ps. 119:131). Daily home worship is the appetizer for the main course of Sunday corporate worship. Continue reading

(6) Family Worship Edifies Visitors

The Puritans said the benefits of family worship are so great they are “impossible to describe.” In this series I’ll be attempting to highlight ten of its advantages.

The sixth benefit of homes gathering daily to read Scripture, sing and pray is that it edifies visitors.

Family Worship has vanished

Don Whitney once asked a class of 115 seminary students: “How many of you grew up in homes where family worship was practiced?” Seven raised their hands. Again: “How many have visited in homes where you have seen family worship taking place?” No one raised a hand.

Motivate your guests toward imitation

Family worship is rare even in Christian homes. So when guests come over, don’t put your lamp under a basket. Show them the beauty of this sacred gathering. Most have never been a part of such a thing. Many will leave earnest and motivated to establish such a practice in their own home. Continue reading

(5) Family Worship Teaches Empathy in Trial

The Puritans said the benefits of family worship are so great they are “impossible to describe.” Nonetheless, in this series I’ll be attempting to highlight ten of its advantages.

The fifth benefit of homes gathering daily to read Scripture, sing and pray is that it teaches empathy in trial.

Godly homes aren’t naive

A wise pastor has said that to make a child love his home is to secure him against a thousand temptations.

Good parents should use family worship as a tool to make the home attractive to their children. But this doesn’t mean covering them in bubble wrap or shielding them from the pain and suffering in the world. On the contrary, godly homes talk about suffering a lot and use family worship to create concern for those who are experiences trials.

Four ways family worship teaches empathy

First, it quickly points the family to prayer. The first reaction to those in trial should be intercession. “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray” (Jms. 5:13). The Lord says: “Call upon me in the day of trouble” (Ps. 50:15). Those in the home who are suffering learn to ask for prayer. Paul did it (2Th. 3:1) but this isn’t easy for most people. In family worship, petitioning for prayer should be effortless. “In my distress I called upon the Lord” (Ps. 18:6). Continue reading

(4) Family Worship Captures the Most Formative Years

The Puritans said the benefits of family worship are so great they are “impossible to describe.” In this series I’ll be attempting to highlight ten of its advantages.

The fourth benefit of homes gathering daily to read Scripture, sing and pray is that it captures a child’s most formative years.

Get them early

We are most impressionable in our youth. One Puritan wrote: “It is common sense to put the seal to the wax when it is soft.”

I thank the Lord for my godly upbringing. While in college I once did evangelistic work with a young man who was converted just a few years prior. He was in his mid-twenties and had great zeal for Christ. But as a new convert, he was not aware of some of the most basic Scriptures. Hymns I had learned as a child he didn’t know. Even some of the children we taught had surpassed him in some areas of theology. What an advantage I had.

I’m also thankful for the many Scriptures I was forced to memorized as a child—“forced” the operative word since I would rather have wasted my time on trivial matters. My parents and teachers did right in compelling me to commit hundreds of verses to memory. I grew up with the KJV and still can quote the majority of Scripture I know only in this version.

Four ways fathers fail their children

First, fathers create bitterness in their children when they ignore the child’s spiritual formation. We know Paul intentionally singles out fathers to teach their children (Eph. 6:4b) because he had previously mentioned both parents in vv. 1-2 and it was typically the responsibility of the father in the Greco-Roman and Jewish world to educate and discipline his children. Continue reading

(3) Family Worship Improves the Mind

The Puritans said the benefits of family worship are so great they are “impossible to describe.” In this series I’ll be attempting to highlight ten of its advantages.

The third benefit of homes gathering daily to read Scripture, sing and pray is that it improves the mind.

The family learns to focus

I read recently about the terrible working conditions during the Industrial Revolution. The people worked 12-16 hours a day. A boss would often fine employees if he caught them gazing out the window. Children eight years old and up worked dangerously long days and were punished if they “made faces” at one another. This is a cruel way to teach focus.

Family worship is the sweet and joyful way to educate children how to maintain their intellectual concentration. Solomon pressed upon his boys the importance of focus. “Tune your ears to wisdom, and concentrate on understanding” (Pr. 2:2, NLT). You’ll find some practical ways to do this below. Continue reading

(2) Family Worship Rewards Future Generations

The Puritans said the benefits of family worship are so great they are “impossible to describe.” Nonetheless, in this series I’ll be attempting to highlight ten of its advantages.

The second benefit of homes gathering daily to read Scripture, sing and pray is that it rewards future generations.

The reward of compound interest

Fools think only about today. “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” (1Cor. 15:32). Imbeciles spend it all immediately, while wise men invest it and watch their earnings grow. In the same way, the Christian worldview looks to the future–to children and grandchildren. In family worship, fathers teach their children’s children. The placard above his home is: “All that is good, pass on.” Continue reading

(1) Family Worship Creates Family Harmony

Though the Puritans said the benefits of family worship are “impossible to describe”, I’ll be striving to highlight some of its blessings and advantages.

The first benefit of homes gathering daily to read Scripture, sing and pray is that it creates family harmony.

John Paton was the great missionary to the cannibals of the South Seas.

His father was resolute to lead the family in morning and evening prayer, Bible reading, catechism and singing. If this family worship had been mere homework or simply a job to check off, the Paton children would have rebelled against such hypocrisy. Instead, this sincere worship solidified the children’s bonds with their father and with each other. Paton wrote in his Autobiography:

“None of us can remember that any day ever passed unhallowed thus; no hurry for market, no rush to business, no arrival of friends or guests, no trouble or sorrow, no joy or excitement, ever prevented at least our kneeling around the family altar, while the High Priest led our prayers to God and offered himself and his children there.” (p. 14)

Harmony through unity

“Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity” (Ps. 133:1)! How many millionaires would give all their wealth for peace in their home? Most people would rather be poor and unified than rich and divided (Pr. 15:17). Continue reading