We live in an age where the prevalent philosophies, ideas and lifestyles contain no absolutes. Professing Christians marry unbelievers, divorce is on the rise, co-habitation and homosexuality have become the norm. The established church (as an organization) of the West is quickly disintegrating into a state of apostasy. Discernment among the laypeople is pathetic because they have lost the knowledge of what God’s Word says. It is imperative that we ground our future generations in the truths of Scripture (Proverbs 1). Truth is a knowable, objective reality.
As a family, we must take the time for family worship as a way and means to instill God’s Word in the minds and hearts of our children. This was God’s mandate to His children that His Word would not be lost in prosperous times to come (Deut. 6:5–7).
This is more than the church’s or school’s responsibility—it is our duty as parents, as professing Christians to know, share and live God’s Word for our families. It should be our earnest desire (Ps. 119; II Tim. 3:16). We need to establish a time for our own personal devotions and encourage the older children to do so. We need to constantly re-evaluate our own example. Do our lives show the reality of God’s presence? Do we use our conversation, our choices of activities, our handling of difficult times as opportunities to share our faith with our children?
With the frantic pace of our whirlwind society, days fly by before we realize that we vaguely remember the last time we opened our Bible with the family. The priority of family worship has become a thing of the past. The ambition to gain every opportunity this grand life offers has squeezed out the time necessary for family worship. Our goals for leisure and recreation have become obsessions at all costs. As we budget money to remain solvent, we should also budget our fur\e to stay spiritually alive and alert.
Agree on a time when the family is to be together. Usually mealtime (AM or PM) works. If schedules are too hectic, maybe something has to go. Fifteen years from now, Joey’s success as a high school football player won’t be nearly as important as his grounding in the Word of God for a solid foundation upon which to bring up the next generation. If Dad can’t be there, then Mom it is up to you, or vice versa. Today (it’s not too soon or too late), re-evaluate your priorities and set aside at least one or two times a day for family worship. Guard that time slot with your life (i.e., calls waiting can wait and so can Suzy’s date).
Along with Scripture, the necessity of prayer as an ingredient to family worship is a “must.” James W. Alexander in his Thoughts of Family Worship asks, “…can you possibly endure a life without so much as one common prayer as a family? Have no call for domestic thanksgiving? No daily mercies? No special deliverances? No long-continued exemption from evil? It is monstrous that a Christian household should, on these paints, be absolutely silent; we scarcely know how it can be so.”
How can it be so? Reread the parable of the sower. It seemed so simple when we were young; but as we grow older, the world seems to spin faster and, with all its enticements, has lured us away from the Word of God in our family life. Our choice to set a special time aside will be our stand against liberalism and the compromises it carries with it in this age.
In addition to the time element and the practice of prayer, we need to conscientiously make this a meaningful experience. At least once a day the Bible in its purity should be read—pick a system; be consistent. Questions which highlight special verses, and subsequent discussion help to reinforce the lesson (for moms and dads too). Take into account the ages and needs of your family. Sometimes pre-schoolers need a simple picture Bible story book. If mom or dad are willing to take the time to sit down with their little ones, they are always happy and willing to listen, recite or sing. Here is an opportunity to “make memories.” Start young—the babies can be rocked to sleep to psalters as well as anything else. Three and four-year-olds love to memorize. Besides making memories, you will give your children the solid knowledge of God to carry them through the storms and calms of life.
Use discernment when you choose your devotional material. In this day of advertisement, where anything can be published, it can be confusing. I once made the mistake of buying what was touted as an impressive Bible Story book only to discover that it was anti-semitic and Jesus was pictured as a blonde! Many devotional helps (especially the highly promoted ones) are watered down and insipid. The following list contains a few solid books and devotional helps that you may find helpful as well worth your while.
Mrs. Connie Sikma, member of Seventh Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, MI, is the mother of 4 children and a part-time English major at Calvin College, pursuing a secondary degree in education.
1. Bible Doctrine for Younger Children by J.W. Beeke is a two volume series which spans the elementary age group. See the book review for more indepth information.
2. Children’s Story Bible by Catherine Vos is a classic Bible story book in three volumes. This collection is a straightforward narrative of Bible stories.
3. Come, Ye Children by Gertrude Hoeksema and published by Reformed Free Publishing, 1983, is a Scriptural narrative coming from the Protestant Reformed Church. It is Biblically accurate and at the end of each story there is an application to remember.
4. Leading Little Ones to God by Marian Schoolland, published by Eerdmans Publishing, 1982, is a classic written for ages 3 to 7. It includes lessons about God, the story of salvation, becoming children of God, prayer, God’s church and things that are to happen.
5. Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon was written by the most famous Calvinist preacher in 19th century England. It is appropriate for the older family that prefers a short devotional with their Bible reading. This obvious classic can be obtained through any Christian bookstore.
6. McCheyne’s Calendar for Daily Reading (tract) is a helpful guide for systematic Bible reading for private devotions as well as family devotions. You can obtain this tract by writing The Banner of Truth Trust, p.o. Box 621, Carlisle, PA, 17013.
7. Tell Me about God (for ages 3–7) by Susan Harding was published by The Banner of Truth, 1987. Using the letters of the alphabet, Susan Harding’s simple stories in the doctrine of God include a Scripture passage, text, Bible song, a simple catechism question and a short lesson to read.
8. The Children’s Bible by Anne DeVries was published by Concordia Publishing House. Each story is written to include the promises of salvation from a Calvinistic perspective. It is appropriate for ages 4 and up.
9. Thoughts on Family Worship by J.W. Alexander was written over 100 years ago on a topic that is never out of date. Information on this book can be obtained through Trinity Book Service, P.O. Box 569, 160 Changebridge Road, Montville, NJ, 07045.