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Foundations: 12 Biblical Truths to Shape a Family
by Ruth Chou Simons
Learn More | Meet Ruth Chou Simons | Meet Troy Simons
A Word About Time, and Time in the Word
I remember when our boys were young and one of them was a horrible sleeper for a season, meaning we were up with him several times a night. One morning, flustered and angry over the exhaustion I felt, and excusing myself from any form of discipline or accountability, I looked over and saw Troy getting out of bed to spend time in the Word. I asked, "How can you afford to get up and read your Bible? I 'm so exhausted and fed up with the lack of sleep!" Troy gently (and without conveying shame or guilt) confessed: "Babe, honestly, I 'm not sure if I can afford not to."
To this day, every morning Troy gets up before the sun rises to "get his heart happy in the Lord" (a phrase from his favorite George Mueller quote). And the happiness must be contagious because each of our boys eventually trickles downstairs to join him, starting with our oldest man cub. They start every morning in an embrace, and when I catch it out of the corner of my eye, I get a glimpse of what it 's like when we meet with the Lord each day.
We meet with Him, go to the Word, linger in its pages, and pour out our hearts to God in praise and pleading. It 's not to merely be more knowledgeable, have more tools, be more literate, or do our duty. Those can 't be our only motivation; instead, we meet to enter into our Father 's embrace of intimacy, freedom, trust, and character—all of which we can 't know apart from knowing Him and spending time with Him in His Word.
Jen Wilkin says it this way in Women of the Word:
For years I viewed my interaction with the Bible as a debit account: I had a need, so I went to the Bible to withdraw an answer. But we do much better to view our interaction with the Bible as a savings account: I stretch my understanding daily, I deposit what I glean, and I patiently wait for it to accumulate in value, knowing that one day I will need to draw on it.
Relationship will always be a greater motivator than ritual. Relationship is a long-term investment. If you 're looking to be more consistent in your Bible time, if you desire for your children to develop a love for God 's Word, remind yourself that the Bible is a love letter and a hearty meal at your Father 's table. God is already there, waiting for you with arms wide open. We need to come, enjoy the feast and, as parents, show our kids by example where the feasting begins and why He is worthy.
But there 's also the matter of the physical time it takes. When is the right time to be in the Word? Where do we find it? Certainly no formula, time frame, or exact method will ensure the spiritual nourishment you need. Troy loves mornings; I don 't. But both of us must eat.
Spending time meeting with God and studying His Word may seem natural, easy, and enjoyable for "godly people," but the truth is, it takes work and an investment of time for everyone. Most things we want in life do...
It takes time to mine the depths of your child 's heart.
It takes time to confess, repent, and forgive within marriage.
It takes time to listen to the answers to the questions you ask.
It takes time to put as much into a relationship as you want to receive.
It takes time to not just talk about feasting in the Word but to actually do it
"It takes time" doesn 't necessarily mean that change comes slowly (though it may!)—it means that things that matter require a sacrifice of time. Time that you sometimes can 't find. Time that seems to slip away. Time that 's occupied by the must-dos of life. But if your life is like mine, you can 't afford not to make time to be in the Word. Deep relationships, maturity, growth, a disciplined life ... these things do not just happen.
The reality is that we demonstrate what is important to us by what we make time for.
If I want real conversations with my kids, I have to make time.
If I want my husband to know my heart, I must prioritize time to make it accessible.
If I want to know my Savior more deeply, I must sow seeds of time in His Word.
The only time I have to spend is the time that is still to come. I can 't reassign past moments or reprioritize yesterday 's minutes. But I can choose what I will value today by how I spend my time. Before the choices are made for me. Before time slips away. Before it 's diced and spliced and found insufficient.
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is (Ephesians 5:15-17).
Perhaps you, too, are taking inventory of what you value most ... knowing it 's about time.
Family Worship 101
Why Family Worship
Maybe the idea of family worship is new or foreign to you. Maybe you have a preconceived idea or ideal in your mind that it is either forced, cheesy, or unattaibable. Sometimes you can give up or not even try when you think you won 't be good at or do something perfectly. Here 's where we want to encourage you, starting with our why of family worship:
- Because despite our good intentions, the words we say to one another in passing can, at best, lack intentionality, and at worst, be misunderstood. Deliberate time together allows foe real communication.
- Because not everyone get to share what they are feeling unless there 's a deliberate invitation to do so (especially when you have a large family!).
- Because Deuteronomy 6:7 reminds us to speak of God 's Word and to teach it to our children: "Talk of them[God 's commands] when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise."
- ecause gathering together to confess, pray, forgive, and encourage isn 't just for church small groups or Bible studies! It 's for the community group in your own home. Worship isn 't something we do with a band and a preacher; worship happens any time sinners turn their hearts and hads and lips to praising God, for His glory.
What Do We Do?
There are two elements that we incorporate into every family worship time: God 's Word and prayer.
- God 's Word. As we talk about our days or other things that are going onin our family, we 're always looking for ways to address what 's brought with the truth of God 's Word. Even when the Bible doesn 't provide a specific answer for a specific dilemma or concern, it always speaks to the principles of the heart.
When you apply God 's truth to your deepest burdens as a family, you 'll find that the gospel isn 't good news just for salvation but for every moment, great and small, of your daily lives. And don 't forget to ask your kids if they know any scriptures that apply to what you 're talking about. This teaches them to address their problems by applying what they know of God 's Word. You 're helping them set up important patterns to fall back on for the rest of their lives.
- Prayer. Pray God 's Word, pray for one another, pray for yourself when you 're with your family. Humility finds it 's home in our hearts when we pray.
Beyond these two regular elements in our family worship, it 's sometimes clear that something is broken in our family—a place where sin has a foothold and has shown itself in our family relationships. When we 're dealing with raw feelings and out-of-control emotions, we need to turn to confession, forgiveness, and reconciliation. When we normalize repentance and forgiveness, we 're able to recall together what God 's Word says about each situation and work together to reconcile and restore.
- Confession. One distinction we make as a family is to focus onconfessing rather than accusing. There 's no question that we all have things to confront in someone else, but when we take a posture of confession and ownership, the time is always much more productive.
- Reconciliation. Reconciliation is always the goal—with one another and with God. Some children in our household are not yet saved, so they need to see how we wrestle with our own sin and the sin of others, and how we trust Christ for the remedy. No good ever comes from simply venting all that 's wrong with relationships or family dynamics. Real change and comfort occur when we submit to the transforming work of Christ through redemption.
Family Worship Logistics
The questions we are asked most often center on how to practically make family worship happen—the logistics. Needless to say, what works for one family won 't necessarily suit another. Here are some principles—not formulas—to keep in mind as you form your routine as a family:
- It doesn 't have to be formal or perfect. Sometimes we gather right after dinner, but most of the time after a long day we just circle up on the floor in someone 's bedroom before bed. Don 't strive for ideal—just start somewhere. As G.K. Chesterton was known to say: "If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly."
- Parents: Lead, but involve your kids. As parents, we lead the time, but we try to draw our children into leading with us. We ask them to read scripture and encourage them to ask questions that everyone answers. When you give your children ownership of the time, they 'll value it far more.
- Remember that children learn through observation. Our kids don 't always sit perfectly still, and sometimes they fall asleep while we talk! But don 't underestimate what your kids will get from the time simply by observing the people they love, love one another and love God.
- Make it engaging. Do what you need to do to get their attention. You don 't have to pull out the flannelgraphs, but don 't read Scripture monotonously either! Sometime, when we gather at the breakfast table, we play a dramatic audio Bible reading from Faith Comes By Hearing. When they see that you love the Word of God and the practice of prayer, and that you love them, they 'll be inclined to pay attention.
- Keep it simple...enough. We have always used big words—long before the boys could understand them—but we work to help them understand them in context. So, build bridges. Illustrate. Get anecdotal. The exercise of making the difficult passages of God 's Word understandable for your children will give you a better understanding as well. Like the Latin proverb "Docendo discimus" reminds us, "By teaching, we learn."
- Make a feast of the stories of Scripture. Look for ways to connect the stories of the Bible with your own family 's story. There is nothing more powerful than informing a child 's imagination with the truth of a story when they have critical decisions to make. For example, "This is just like when David had to..." or, "How about when Paul and Silaas were singing hymns after being beaten and..."
- Know your stuff. This doesn 't mean you have to know everything, but it does mean you should be prepared for what you 're going to talk about. Your knowledge isn 't so you can show off but so that your children will see you continuing to "grow in grace."
- Celebrate, and we mean, celebrate the gospel. Even when your family is struggling through conflict, discouragement, and challenging circumstances—celebrate the kindness of God in Jesus Christ. There is no greater truth for this life!
Just like yours, our family is a work in progress. We are not perfectly consistent with family worship. We can let laziness get the better of us, and sometimes we wait too long to reconcile or deal with hurts. We don 't always have the right attitude the first time, and no, our kids aren 't always respectful. Just like your family, our family needs Jesus, and we need to see His sanctifying work in each of our lives every day. That 's what family worship is all about—drawing close to our Father and one another as we grow in Christ.
RuthStradivarius violins are recognized the world over as unparalleled in sound, quality, and craftsmanship. I have never seen one in person, but I hear them spoken of in hushed and reverent tones amid conversations about extraordinary musicians and their instruments. I can only imagine the warmth and richness of sound that an instrument of that caliber makes. A single line of melody, played with precision and passion on such an exquisite violin, can cause an entire audience to hold its breath in anticipatory silence.
But imagine that same musical piece, played by the same talented musician, on an untuned Stradivarius. Depending on how out of tune the strings are, the melody would not sound as intended. No matter the quality, rarity, or renown of an instrument, a violin cannot declare the melody it ought without tuning at the hands of its musician.
The daily practice of worship, or drawing from the well of living water through the Word of God, is a tuning of heart that causes us to pour out the praise we were meant to sing with tour lives. As the old hymn says, "Come Thou Fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing Thy grace." Those of us who know the melody of redeeming grace and have been given a transformed heart—an instrument of praise—to worship Jesus in our everyday lives know that sometimes the melody doesn 't sound as sweet as it should because we are out of tune. We need our Savior to tune our hearts to His likeness day by day so that we can worship and sing God 's grace as we were made to do.
In the two decades I served as a youth pastor, preaching pastor, and then headmaster of a Christian school, I worked with desperate parents who 'd ask repeatedly, "What should I do to lead a family worship time?" "How do I teach my children to love the Lord?" "How do I get my kids to get along at home?" and "What can I do to influence our family culture?"
As a father of six young men, I understand the heart behind these questions. These families want what Ruth and I want: children who become followers of Christ, obey His commands, and fruitfully live out their faith at home and with others. Sometimes we parents want a formula—a magic prescription that will ensure well-behaved, happy kids and a God-honoring home. But there are no formulas or prescriptions that ensure such things. There 's only a call to know God and be transformed by Him.
Everything we desire for our families (for ourselves as parents, for our children...for our legacies) begins with heeding the instruction given to the Israelites in Deuteronomy 6 to remember and declare the faithful works of God and to "talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise" (verse 7). The Israelites were told to converse about the ways of God all the time, and that 's what we need to do because there 's no better place to remember and work out the truths of God 's Word than with the sinners—um, family members—we live with right at home. Each person in your family or a circle of influence (including you) needs the transforming power of God 's work in him or her. We as parents, leaders, and influencers don 't just teach God 's truths diligently because those around us need to hear them, but because we do too.
Family worship isn 't the mysterious unicorn of holy parenting. It isn 't an unattainable gathering reserved for respectable families with manageable children in clean shirts, hands folded reverntly. No, family worship is the intentional tuning of hearts through remembering, praising, believing, honoring, and exalting our holy God as a group of desperate people needing His power to love, forgive, encourage, and exhort one another.
We wrote these 12 resolutions—or family "rules"—not as rules we must work to keep, but as biblical foundations to rule our hearts. Whether you choose to use this book for your own growth as a parent, as readings for your family worship, or as a foundational resource within your faith community (the family of believers you walk with), our prayer is that you will find yourself, along with the people in your care, shaped and formed by these truths, intended to change you from the inside out.
- By grace,
- Ruth and Troy
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