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Help for Dad’s doing family devotions

September 30, 2010

This comes from the Irish calvinist over at www.irishcalvinist.com.

Ephesians 6:4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
The Scripture is pretty clear on the fact that we have a responsibility to be training our children in the truth. Christian fathers in particular have a responsibility to be leading and training their families in the Revelation of God.

Many men struggle in the area of family devotions. It is kind of like evangelism, we know we have to do it but it is the doing it that is the problem. Because I have echoed the Scriptures command for you and me to act like men and because some folks have requested that I talk about it, this is a quick guide to doing family devotions.

What follows is not an exhaustive how-to manual but rather some things that we do in trying to “teach them diligently” (Duet. 6.4) as God has commanded. Most of these things are things that we do, I am not saying that everyone has to do them, but rather supply suggestions in effort to be helpful.

-1- Be in the Word yourself
If you are going to teach your family to love the Word of God you better love the Word of God yourself. God’s design in commanding men to lead their families in the truth is to be preserving faithfulness throughout generations not modeling self-dependence and hypocrisy.

If you have not gone to the well of truth to draw fresh water from heaven than do not pretend to have something to say to your family. Instead, retire to a place where you can open up the Bible and drink from the fountain of grace that you might be fueled to speak of how impressed you are with Christ. You must know the Jesus you speak of, and not just know him but love him; this love is birthed by divine grace through the word of God and sustained by the same means.

-2- Choosing a Topic
In our family we usually go through books or sections of books of the Bible. We have been most recently going through Mark’s gospel, but I felt the need to work on teaching my family to pray more biblically, so we have been working on the Lord’s prayer in Matt. 6.
I have found that narratives are great for our family due to their ages. This also forces me to continually explain the context and themes of the book. I am learning too!!
You may have something that needs to be dealt with in your family. Family devotions are a great place to do this. Study as the leader and communicate what the Bible says and apply it to specific circumstances.

-3- Open the Bible
This is always a good thing! When you as the leader open the Bible you show your submission to what God says and you are modeling faithfulness to the Word. You may have the text memorized, it doesn’t matter, open the book and read it. Show your family you love the Bible. Your own handling of the Scriptures expresses your view of the Scripture. Is it authoritative? Then you must open it up, interact with it and submit to it as you endeavor to apply it.

-4- Have a set time
It is good to set a routine for when you will read together. We like to read in the evening after dinner or before bed. I have brought the Bible out to eat with us to read and talk while we wait for the food. This encourages your family not to fear man and shows them that their Dad/husband loves the Bible.

-5- Talk about the Word all the time
As a family we may not sit down every single night and do a devotion, however, there is not a day that goes by that I do not speak to my kids about God. I want to make sure that the climate in my home is Christ centered therefore everything is a sign to point to Jesus. With little children their discipline is within the context of the gospel, for we are not trying to teach morality but Christianity! Their framework for obedience must be a holy and righteous creator and an accountable humanity. The only way to have this work right is within the context of the gospel.

My wife is a great help here. She talks about the Bible all the time with our kids during the day and we talk about it at night. It is important to create a climate that supports the sufficiency of Scripture and our dependence upon God.

-6- Make it fun
Family devotions should not be like doing chores. We don’t want to be all cantankerous and mean hitting our kids with a 45 minute running commentary on the book. Instead I have found it helpful to use a lot of illustrations that apply to my children’s lives. I have used action figures to explain a narrative, made up rhymes about “Elijah who likes to play with fy-ahh!” And “Ehud was a tough dude” …kids remember stuff like this.
I have also found it helpful to pause a lot and ask question of individuals. My 11 year old son could sit and listen to a sermon but my 4 year old girl will listen for 4 minutes and then start day-dreaming about a pink Pegasus. I have to reel here in frequently and ask her a question. Sometimes it is as simple as, “What did Jesus say to the woman?” Other times I’ll make a statement like, “Jesus heals people to show that he is the King, he is God, and he has power” then I’ll ask Alaynah (4), “why does Jesus heal people?” It is good to keep asking questions.

-7- Make application
After teaching the passage to your own heart make specific applications to your family’s. You may ask them questions like, “What can we do tonight, tomorrow or this week to live this scripture out?” and then being sure to follow up on that.
The time you spend in the word will serve to be a great resource for instruction in the days and years ahead.

-8- Addressing your wife
Your wife is your helpmate but she is also your responsibility as the husband. You are to lead her and teach her as well (Eph. 5.25-29). Sometimes the tendency is to spend so much time on the kids that you forget about your wife. It is good to involve your wife by asking her questions. The kids get to see that Mom knows and loves the Word too.
One thing to consider is that simply being a leader is a huge edifying factor for your wife. During devotions your wife gets to see first hand that her husband is a man! It shows that you love God and your family.

Something else to consider: more than likely, your wife rarely gets to sit down during the day. So, to sit with the kids and rub their hair or scratch their back while you do a devotion has several effects: your wife gets to hear God’s word, to learn something, to get time to be with the kids, to rest and to see you lead. How edifying is that?

-9- Teaching Prayer
Devotions are a great time to teach prayer. You as the leader can model biblical prayer. However, this is not the only time. I try to pray whenever I feel compelled to. This may be driving or some odd time during the day. It is good to teach your kids dependence upon God throughout the day not just during “quiet time”.

This is also a great opportunity to teach. Sometimes one of our kids will get loose with an unbiblical prayer and I often stop them and instruct them biblically and help them to think and pray in a way that God has prescribed. What do you do if your 5 year old prays for Satan to be saved? This is a great time to make personal application based upon what God has prescribed. Our recent study in Matt. 6 has really helped this.

-10- Gospelize your family
Remember that the whole point in doing this is to point your family to Jesus. Therefore, it is right to continue to explain and apply the gospel. Talk about the gospel all the time. Remember that your kids are young, they have not been dwelling upon the gospel for years, they probably don’t understand it like you do and they need to hear it! For we learn in Romans that “faith comes by hearing and hearing from the word of Christ” (Rom. 10.17). So since the gospel “is the power of God for salvation” (Rom. 1.15) and we want our kids to be saved, then what should we be telling them?

-11- Remember that this is a command
God does not ask us to lead and teach our families, he commands it. This is a regal decree from the King of heaven to us as his followers and leaders of our families. Therefore we must be good stewards of our time, pouring into our kid’s hearts and lives the unsearchable riches of Christ.

If you are struggling with this discipline then resolve today to get started; and the best way to get started is to get started. Open up your Bible read it and apply it to your life. Go home tonight and tell your family that you want to read the Word of God to them. And then do it again tomorrow, praying that God would water his word.

Hopefully this proves helpful.

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