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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at / Published Life BPC 8am service, 2000-06-11

Text: Deuteronomy 11:16-19

It is a joy and privilege once again to be able to bring the Word of God to all of you. We have been doing a series of studies on Strengthening the Christian Home. And our topic for today is Family Devotions. Family devotion is also called family worship or the family altar. Whatever term we use, it refers to the family's practice of devotion to God, as distinguished from the individual's devotion to the Lord. Before we learn the steps of having family worship, it would be useful for us to ask why devotion should be a family matter at all. We all know from the Scriptures that the Christian faith is based on a personal relationship with God. No one is saved merely by being born into a Christian family. Salvation and devotion must be personal, and each of us must ensure that we know Christ personally and are walking with Him.

However, the scriptures also teach that there is a familial aspect to devotion. In an earlier message we had seen that many of the promises given in the Scriptures deal with families. For instance, when God made the promise to Abraham, He said, "And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed." (Genesis 12:3) When Peter delivered his first gospel sermon at Pentecost, he proclaimed: 'Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.' (Acts 2:38,39)

When Paul and Silas brought the Gospel message to their Philippian jailer, they said to him, 'Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.' Earlier on in the same chapter (vv.14,15) another family was saved - that of Lydia, a seller of a purple dye from Thyatira. The Lord opened her heart when the Apostle Paul preached the gospel, and she and her household (family) were baptized. Her house thus became the meeting place of the first church at Philippi. It is because of the fact that the promise of God is extended to families and, that household baptisms are recorded in the NT, that we practise infant baptism in our church. We believe that baptism is a sign of the covenant that God has made with His people, a covenant to bless not just individuals but their families as well.

And our part in this covenant is to build our families in godliness, to cultivate Christian homes that are faithful to the Covenant, or what we will call 'Covenant homes.' Why use this term? Because it is common to hear people today saying that they come from a "Christian home", and what is commonly understand by this is that all or most of the family members profess to be Christians. But one can have a Christian home and yet not have a covenant home. And therefore we want our homes not be only be Christian homes but Covenant homes as well.

The Covenant home is a home that has at least 3 characteristics: It is firstly a home where the father, mother, sons and daughters are all growing in their love and commitment to Christ. Secondly it is a home where all family members look to God for help whenever they have to deal with any problem or difficult situation in life. And thirdly it is a home where family members praise and thank God for His daily blessings. But how can such a home be realized? It cannot come about without effort. Effort must be made to cultivate love and devotion to God in every member of the home.

This morning we want to deal in detail with how to do this by having regular family devotions. If we understand the covenant concept- that it applies not just to the individual believer, but to the believer's family, then having family devotions would be the logical outworking of that concept. In the passage of scripture that we read awhile ago from Deuteronomy 11:16-19, we see some steps that Israel was commanded to take in order to maintain their devotion of God.

The first step is mentioned in v.16 - "Take heed to yourselves, that your heart be not deceived, and ye turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them;" The Israelites were to be careful not to be deceived into idol worship, because the environment that they were going to have shortly, was an idolatrous one. The Canaanites worships many different gods and Israel was told to be careful to destroy all of them - every shrine, altar and idols had to be eradicated from their living environment.

The second step is mentioned in vv. 18,19 - "Therefore shall ye lay up these My words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes. And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up."

Here the Israelites were told to keep the Word of God well and impart it to their children. They were told to take the initiative to communicate the Word of God in their homes, whether it was at times when they were sitting down to eat with their family, or walking, lying down to rest or rising.

From these verses, we can derive two basic steps for our family devotions: The first step is to Provide a home environment that is conducive for Family Devotions. Although there may be no idols or altars to other gods in our homes, we are going to see that there are many things in the home environment that can gravely affect our family's devotion to God. The second step is to Prepare to Lead in Family Devotions. We need to lay up God's Word in our hearts and teach them to our children regularly and consistently. Let us begin with the first step:

I. Provide a Home Environment that Is Conducive for Family Devotions

The home environment very often turns out to be the most important influence in a person's life. But unfortunately today, we are witnessing the invasion of the home environment by the world. The Christian home today faces powerful influences from the world. And we cannot close our eyes and pretend that these strong influences are not there.

Now, you may ask, 'How do these influences get into our homes?' Through the various media that are found in every household: The television, the radio, the internet, CD or cassette player, books, magazines, journals, newspapers, pictures and posters on the walls and even calendars. Now all of these can be very useful to us, and keep us informed about what is going on around us.

We cannot afford to live in the world today without being informed through the various channels of media available to us. But if we are not careful about regulating what we allow these media to bring into our homes, then our home environment could very well influence our children to think, feel, speak and act the way the world does, instead of the way they should. All our efforts at having family devotions would then be a waste of time and effort, because the world which comes right into our homes through all these media speaks to them with a louder voice. Covenant homes must be guarded from becoming such an environment - so filled with the world that God is crowded out of them.

Dearly beloved, what kind of music pervades your homes from the radios, tapes and CDs players that you have? What kind of decorations and pin ups do you have on the walls of your home? What kind of books and magazines do you fill your bookshelves and magazine racks with? And what kind of television programmes get air time in your home environment? Remember that all of these will make a deeper impression on your children and even on yourself, than you think. As adult believers we should be able to discern between what is good and what is bad, but we need to understand that the mind of a child is like a sponge: it will soak in most of what it hears, sees and reads.

What then can we do about this? I would like to suggest three things we can do, in order to provide a home environment that is conducive for Family devotions: Firstly, carefully regulate what the media brings into your homes. Assess the songs that are played and the programs on TV; assess the reading material that are lying around the house: are they going to have a destructive influence? Choose only those songs and programs that will not teach the wrong kind of principles and values to your children. Be selective when you buy books, comics, magazines and even games for your children. Quickly review each one of them. Monitor the websites that get accessed on your home computer.

You need to function like a censorship board to prevent minds from being polluted and poisoned by the filth that is being communicated through the media today in the name of freedom of expression. Remove whatever pictures or reading material that communicate undesirable values and attitudes from your home. If you are not sure how to decide, just think: If Christ were to come into my home, what material would I want to remove?

Secondly, be ready to give your child the right perspective they should have on the world's standards and values. Inevitably, you cannot stop all of the world's influence from coming in some way or other. But you can teach your child to choose what is good and to reject what is bad. How do you do this? You can do this by expressing your own comments and remarks on what they see, hear and read in the media. Sometimes your child may ask you, 'Daddy what do you think of this?' Well you don't have to wait for them to ask this. Just indicate your approval or disapproval appropriately, but always immediately if you want to have the best impact.

Thirdly, fill your home with books, magazines, tapes and pictures that are educational and edifying, and that communicate the right attitudes and values. You can drown out the world's influence in your home simply by increasing the output from good and enriching media. And if you want to do even better than that, then get Christian books, tapes, magazines, games, posters, and calendars for your home. Invite Christians to your home as guests. This will teach your children to prefer the company of believers. In all these things, your objective is to create a home environment that is conducive for cultivating devotion to the Lord, and for enhancing the time you spend together in family devotion.

Having seen the first step in having family devotions we can now proceed to the second step which is to:

II. Prepare to Lead in Family Devotions

Some may say, "We don't have time for family devotions, and anyway our children can learn God's Word when they go to Sunday School." Well it is true that God's Word is powerful and effective when taught by any person. But a tremendous difference can be made in a child's life by whom the child learns the Scripture from. A child is more likely to remember and regard principles and values when they are taught to him by his parents than when they are taught to him by his Sunday School teacher. To hear the same truths from the lips of one's parents adds assurance, confidence and familiarity to the child in what he learns.

I thank God that I was taught Basic Bible truths by my parents when I was a little child - 3-4 years old. If you are a parent or plan to be parent, please remember this. It is most important that you make time to have devotions with your family. No matter how busy you are, you need to do this. A story is told about a young man who stood at the bar of a court of justice to be sentenced for forgery. The judge had known this man from the time he was a child, because this man's father had been a famous lawyer. 'Do you remember your father?' asked the judge sternly, 'that father whom you have disgraced?' The young man answered, 'I remember him perfectly. When I went to him for advice or companionship, he would look up from his work and say, 'Run away boy, I am busy. My father finished his work, and here I am.' That famous lawyer had neglected his son, with awful results.

Please do not let this happen in your own family. If you are a parent, remember that you have an important duty to your children: The duty of inculcating moral and spiritual values in them, as well as healthy spiritual habits: Your children must learn from you how to love God and His Word, how to do basic things like giving thanks at mealtimes and at bedtime, and also how to do their quiet time. Remember that you are your children's spiritual leader or mentor, seeking to bring them to faith in Jesus Christ. And one of your duties as a Christian parent is to have regular family devotions.

Now, those who have not had family devotions before, like newly wed couples or new parents many may not know exactly how to have a family devotion. For their benefit I would like to spend the rest of our time dealing with the way to conduct family worship. These points are taken from Dr. SH Tow. First of all --

A. Some Practical Considerations:

1. Find a Place: Your sitting lounge or some convenient place. (The dining table)

2. Find a time: 'No Time' is no good excuse! (We used to have it at bedtime, but now find that meal time is better.)

3. Find a Leader: Father, mother, or some mature leader.

4. Find a Song: Be a singing Christian, not a sinning Christian! (The book "Every Home a Godly Home" is designed for providing to provide resources for Family devotions.)

5. Read a Bible Passage: Read together a portion of God's Word. Use RPG or some daily Guide. (There are some books in our bookroom that provide material for family worship: Jim Cromarty, A Book for Family Worship, A Book of Family Reading, vols. 1-3. These are useful for older children. If you have younger children, you could use the booklet "Questions and Answers on Eternal Life" that is published by our church.) Apply the portion of God's Word to some situation in life.

6. Pray together: God hears and answers prayer. 'Men ought always to pray and not to faint' (Luke 18:1). Seek God's blessings for the family, for the church, for friends and loved ones.

7. Enjoy fellowship. As believers, we have fellowship one with another, and with God the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ (1 John 1:3). What a blessed fellowship!

B. Some Advice:

1. Do not be too ambitious. This is not a formal full-scale worship service. 10 minutes is quite good. Remember that we want to train our children to love worshipping God, not to dread it. Don't make elaborate plans.

2. Don't hurry. Everyone is bound to be busy and wanting to hurry off for something: to do housework, homework, to get ready for a meeting or appointment. Why is it important not to hurry? Because it is more important to have Quality time than just to get over with the family worship time.

3. Remove all distractions so that there will be full attention: Turn off the TV or sound system. Put away toys. Leave phone off the hook. No one should leave unless there is a good reason. No one should be talking or whispering to one another.

4. Variety is important. - Strict discipline is good, but there is no need to be too rigid. On some days you can spend more time on Bible reading than on other things. On other days you can spend more time singing, or praying. Do whatever your children will be interested in doing. Sing songs that are familiar to your children - eg short choruses. This will help them to look forward to having family devotions.

5. Get everyone to participate. Eg. Prayer time - assign items to each member of the family. Encourage children to ask questions and to tell how they feel about God, about church and Sunday School. If someone in the family can play the piano or guitar. Encourage him to provide some accompaniment for singing.

6. Use the Question and Answer Method to Teach. E.g. using the booklet 'Questions and Answers on Eternal life' printed by our church. Do one question a day. Read through the answer the first time round and explain the meaning. The next time, just ask the question and get the child to answer. Give each child a turn to answer the question. Some memorization projects: Books of OT, Books of NT, Ten commandments, Lord's Prayer. verses: Jn 3:16, Jn 14:6, Ps 23

This evening we have seen two steps to having Family Devotions. The first is to Provide a Home Environment that Is Conducive for Family Devotions, and the second is to Prepare to Lead in Family Devotions. And finally, when we have done all that we possibly can, we still need to commit our family to the Lord's hands, and pray that He will guide all family members in the right direction. Let us be faithful to do our part then, while we trust in the Lord to do His part.

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

October 15 & 22 - The Cost of Discipleship

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. Matthew 16:25