Book Review – “The Good and Beautiful Life” by James Bryan Smith

beautiful-life

I am always looking for fresh ways to explore who God is and how to live the Christian life.  When I originally read The Good and Beautiful God, I found some fresh ways of understanding who God is.  That book is the first in a three-book set by James Bryan Smith.  After finishing the first book, I wanted to continue to expand my views by reading the next book in the series, and InterVarsity Press graciously agreed to send me a copy of The Good and Beautiful Life.

Where the first book attempted to help us reexamine our views of who God is, The Good and Beautiful Life sets out to help us get a better sense of how to put on the character of Christ, to borrow from the subtitle.

Smith draws a lot of his inspiration from Dallas Willard, and, as I understand it, Smith’s three books are a sort of “curriculum of Christlikeness” that Willard encouraged him to write.  If you are familiar with Willard, you will certainly sense a lot of the same ideas coming through Smith’s writing.

The book takes the Sermon on the Mount and breaks it down by representing it as Christ’s blueprint for what a disciple’s (or to borrow Smith’s term, “apprentice’s”) life should look like as he or she increasingly follows Jesus.

The chapters follow the Sermon on the Mount in order, tackling ideas such as learning how to live without anger, without lust, and without vainglory, as well as learning how to bless those who curse you and living in the kingdom day by day.

After each chapter is a brief “Soul Training” exercise to try to apply the material to one’s life and help the process of inner transformation.

At the end of the book is a 32-page appendix that is a small group discussion guide to help walk small groups through that material as a way of supporting and encouraging one another to grow.

Smith points out throughout the book that the idea is not one of changing one’s outward life only (or even primarily).  The real focus is on allowing Christ to change one’s inner self so that the outward actions follow as a natural result.  It brings back the idea of Christ’s talking to the Pharisees and explaining that rather than cleaning the outside of the cup and dish while leaving the inside dirty, they should have cleaned the inside first, and the outside would have been clean also.

There are a few areas where I am not sure I agree with Smith, but I am still considering what he has to say.  For example, he tackles the idea of casting one’s pearls before pigs and argues that Jesus is not saying to withhold something precious from those who don’t deserve it (pages 192-195).  Rather, he interprets it as saying that pigs cannot digest pearls, so they will get hungry and turn on the owner, whom they can digest.  The idea being that the pearls represent condemnation and judging and that people cannot “digest” that, or handle it, so it won’t help them but will leave them starving for help.  Based on most interpretations I have read, Smith is definitely in a minority view here, and he acknowledges as much in the book.  I have to say that I am not totally convinced by his view yet, although it would make the passage flow better.  But to me, pearls always represent something expensive and precious (pearl of great price, the gates of pearl in Revelation, etc.); this would be one of the only places, if not the only, where that would not apply, especially if Smith’s view is correct, as judging and condemnation could not be interpreted as precious.

Overall, however, I found this book very refreshing, and there are many great ideas to take away from it.  Where Willard provides a lot of the theoretical side of kingdom living, Smith works more on the practical side, so combining Smith’s work with Willard’s will give a more well-rounded idea of the type of kingdom living they advocate.

If you are looking for a “curriculum” for Christlikeness, this book (and this series) is a good one to consider.

*Note: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Questions

questions

This Lord’s day, I am finding myself asking many questions.  Hard questions.  Questions for myself primarily, but questions that may help spur others on to deeper reflection as well.  Questions like these:

Why does our church life not seem to look like what we see in the book of Acts?  A church that is thriving, growing exponentially, and confronting the world because of how different the love of believers was for each other and for the world?  What are we doing wrong?  Is church just a social club for us; somewhere we go out of duty or because our friends and family go there and that is where we click?

When we sit down to read the Bible, what are we doing?  Are we reading it as God’s revelation to us of Himself and how to have a relationship with Him that reaches out to help others?  Or are we reading it merely out of obligation, to check off a box on our daily spiritual to-do list?  Do we really believe that as we know the mind of God we will be transformed more into His image?  Do we even read closely enough to remember what we read an hour after we finish?  Do we hunger and thirst for the word of God, or do we just coast by, reading when we are able?

When we pray, do we really believe we are communing with the God of the universe?  Do we really believe that the Spirit who rose Jesus from the dead dwells within us, and that we have access to the very throne of God by the grace of God which is ours in Jesus Christ?  Do we truly believe that prayer makes any difference, or do we merely pray as another part of our to-do list?  Do we stay in constant communion with God throughout the day (praying continually), or do we just set aside a set amount, no more and no less, to pray?  If the latter, how would our spouse feel if we did the same thing?  Do we believe that God loves us and wants to guide us through our lives as any loving parent would?

Do we really believe that Jesus’ death not only set us free from the wages of sin but also offered us a new life that begins now, an eternal kind of life that is being made stronger in us as we follow Him?  Do we really believe that Jesus came not just to forgive our sins but to take away our sins, increasing our level of holiness and purity day by day?  Do we believe that God actually wants to change us to be more like Christ, not just in totality when we die but in stages now as we live?  Or do we make excuses for ourselves when we give in to temptation to anger, lust, gossip, jealousy, worry, etc?

Do we really believe we are called not just to make converts, but to make disciples, people who will learn to follow Jesus in their lives, walking and talking as He would if He were living their lives in their place?  Do we realize that this is not just a command for us to reach out to strangers, but to disciple everyone we are able, especially those closest to us, such as our spouses and children?  Do we realize that to do this, we need to do more than just teach doctrine; we need to demonstrate a lifestyle of following Christ so that others may follow our example as we follow the example of Christ?  Are we allowing the seriousness of this expectation to influence our daily lives?

I could go on with questions, but that is quite a list as it is.  These are personal questions, so no one person can give an answer for someone else, as it will be different for each of us.  These are questions I am pondering in my own life, and they are hard hitting to me.  I hope that reflecting on them will help you in your walk as well.

Are We Blameless, or Are We Settling?

perfect

I both love it and dislike it when the Spirit convicts me.  I love it, because I know He is doing a work in me.  I dislike it because it is extremely uncomfortable.  I want to start by saying as clearly as I can, I have not arrived at what I am talking about on this blog post; I am learning and praying and studying, even as I am writing to encourage and challenge others.  With that said, let’s dive in.

My pastor today was preaching on the latter half of Romans 7.  He takes the minority view (as do I) that the latter part of Romans 7 is not referring to the normal Christian life.  Rather, he views it as Paul’s pre-conversion life, with parts of Romans 6 and 8 describing the Christian life as being one that is dead to sin and victorious and overcoming in Christ.  This message built in my life on a book I read this last week.

This last week was my Spring Break, so I had quite a bit of time to read and think.  One book I read was a reprint of a book by Andrew Murray.  The original title was Be Perfect, but the reprint is called God’s Gift of Perfection.  In the book, Murray explains that the Bible describes certain people as being perfect and wholeheartedly devoted to God.  Granted, he was using the KJV, and modern translations often use other terms, such as mature (in the New Testament) and blameless (in the Old Testament).  But the same ideas will hold true if we replace perfect with blameless.

In the Old Testament, Noah was described as being blameless in his generation.  Job was described as being blameless.  God commanded Abraham to walk before Him and be blameless.  Moses commanded the Israelites to be blameless.  Hezekiah could pray to God and say that he walked before Him with a whole heart.  We are also told to love the Lord with all our heart.

Here is my question (for myself, as well as for anyone who reads this): Can we say we are blameless?  Can we say we are living before God with a whole heart, or with wholehearted devotion to Him?  Can we say we love the Lord with all of our heart?  If not, why not?  Hezekiah could, and that was before Christ’s death and resurrection and the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Are we living blameless (or at least striving for blamelessness), or have we settled for something less?

Andrew Murray wrote:

In God’s record of the lives of His servants, there are some of whom it is written: his heart was perfect with the Lord his God. Is this, let each reader ask, what God sees and says of me?  Does my life, in the sight of God, bear the mark of intense, wholehearted consecration to God’s will and service? Does my life burn with the desire to be as perfect as it is possible for grace to make me? Let us yield ourselves to the searching light of this question. (You can find a copy of the text here; I believe it is public domain, now.)

Murray’s questions are hard-hitting.  I love the fact that Murray puts the question as one of what God knows about us, not what others may say or think.  God sees through our actions to our thoughts and heart.  He knows deep down who we really are.  Does God see us as blameless?  Does God see us as pursuing blamelessness (what Murray and the KJV called perfection)?

Murray points out that being blameless does not mean there is no growth.  He explains that a child may be able to do something perfectly for an 8 year old, but that he or she would do that same thing differently to do it perfectly as an adult.  The question is not “Are we as perfect as we will ever be?” but “Are we as perfect as we can be given our knowledge of God and His will and our growth?”

I think that we have allowed ourselves to be convinced that because we are still tempted and we still stumble on occasion, perfection is so unattainable that we just wait for it to happen to us when we are glorified and don’t need to strive for it now.  Because we all struggle and so many stumble, we just accept that we are always going to struggle.  The wording is usually something like, “We all sin in thought, word, or deed every day, so we just accept God’s forgiveness and try to do better, but we won’t be perfect until we reach Heaven, so we just accept where we are.”  I realize that many make a statement like that out of a desire to avoid trying to sound like they don’t need Christ’s forgiveness or God’s grace, and they ultimately want to avoid coming across as “holier-than-thou.” While most people making statements like those have good intentions, my personal belief is that you would be hard pressed to find scriptural support for that view. Granted, James does say that we all stumble in many ways.  But Scripture also says God is able to keep us from stumbling.  The emphasis in Scripture is toward holiness and blamelessness, not toward continuing to stumble.  God tells us to be holy for (and as) He is holy. (Leviticus 11:45; 1 Peter 1:15-16)  We are to strive for holiness.  (Hebrews 12:14)  We are to be perfect, as our Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:48, even though this is often taught as a verse to show that we cannot be perfect)

Are we settling?  Are we allowing ourselves to become comfortable in certain ways of living, thinking, talking, and acting that are not in line with how we should live as followers of Jesus?  Are we permitting sins to stay in our lives and justifying it by saying we will never be perfect this side of Heaven?  If so, we need to step back and re-evaluate what the word of God says we are to do and how we are to live.

We should be increasingly growing to be more like Christ Himself.  We should be striving to be holy and perfect and blameless, to be able to say we serve the Lord with a whole heart (wholeheartedly).

Andrew Murray later writes:

“To take Jesus as Master, with the distinct desire and aim to be and live and act like Him–this is true Christianity. This is something far more than accepting Him as Savior and Helper.  It is far more than acknowledging Him as Lord and Master.

A servant may obey the commands of his master most faithfully, while he has little thought of rising up through them into the master’s likeness and spirit.  This alone is full discipleship, to long in everything to be as like the Master as possible–to count His life as the true expression of all that is perfect and to aim at nothing less than the perfection of being perfect as He was . . . .

With the perfect love of God as our standard, with that love revealed in Christ’s humanity and humility as our model and guide, with the Holy Spirit to strengthen us with might, that Christ may live in us, we will learn to know what it means that–everyone who is perfect will be as his Master.”

Murray, here, is expounding on Luke 6:40.  The KJV says perfect, where most translations now say fully trained.  The idea is the same, no matter which wording is used.  We are to continue following Christ and increasingly become more like Him.  Combined with the Old Testament idea of blamelessness, we are to pursue perfection actively.

Discipleship, as Murray mentioned above and as Willard explains throughout his writings, is to increasingly pursue Christ as His apprentices, learning from Him and becoming increasingly like Him, living as He did while on Earth.

Are we living with wholehearted devotion to God, and can we pray, as Hezekiah did, that we are?  Does God see us as blameless, not just because of Christ’s sacrifice for us, but because of our own lifestyle through the grace of God and power of the indwelling Holy Spirit since our decision to follow Christ?  If not, let us repent and ask God to enable us to live a holy life, one that is striving for blamelessness.

Again, that is not to say we will never grow.  Are we living blamelessly in light of what we know about God’s will right now?  We will always be learning, and we will always have room for growth in light of our increasing knowledge of God and His will.  But are we living up to what we have already attained?  (Philippians 3:16)

Let me leave you with some wonderful promises from God’s word, in 1 Peter 1:3-4: “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.” (ESV)

May God’s grace strengthen you as you pursue Him and pursue blamelessness in Him!

Book Review – “Habits of Grace” by David Mathis

habits

Lately I have been greatly desiring to grow in the spiritual disciplines as a means of growing closer to God and being transformed into the image of Christ.  I have read books by Dallas Willard and Don Whitney in the past.  When I heard about Habits of Grace by David Mathis (published by Crossway), I was excited to read through it.

In many ways, this book is very similar to many books that are out on the spiritual disciplines.  There is, however, one thing that makes this book distinct.  It breaks the disciplines down broadly into three categories: Hear His Voice, Have His Ear, and Belong to His Body.  Mathis explains that the organization of the book is intended to “help Christians young and old simplify their various personal habits of grace, or spiritual disciplines” (location 194, Kindle edition).

The first category covers Scripture reading, study, meditation on Scripture, and memorization of Scripture.

The second category covers prayer (both individual and corporate), fasting, and journaling.

The third category covers fellowship, corporate worship, listening to preaching, baptism, the Lord’s supper, and listening to rebuke (a very interesting addition, and one I found very inspiring).

There is a separate section that covers missions and evangelism, managing our money, and managing our time.

I appreciate the Bible-centered focus of this book.  Whitney’s book is similar.  Not all books on the disciplines emphasize the importance of Scripture by referring to it throughout the book.  Habits of Grace, however, keeps the word central.  There is also an emphasis on the grace of God being the central means of our growing in the disciplines.  It is God’s working in us, not our striving on our own power, that enables us to be transformed into the image of Christ.

As I have been memorizing Scripture recently, the chapter on memorizing really hit me.  I also like the chapter on journaling.  Mathis does a good job emphasizing how journaling can be an extension of meditating on Scripture and prayer to God.  I have always focused on journaling as primarily a way to record what I am thinking or doing, so this focus was an interesting one for me to consider.

One of the most powerful chapters to me was the chapter on using time wisely.  I have been struggling lately with feeling like I often waste too much time, and this chapter really hit home to me how important it is to see our time as a gift from God to be stewarded just as we might steward our money or possessions.  I would like to read this chapter a few more times to really internalize it.

I highly recommend picking up Habits of Grace if you are looking for a short, Bible-centered book on spiritual discipline.  You will not regret it.

*Note: I received a complimentary digital copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Living Out the Word

man

I apologize that it has been so long since I wrote a post that was not a review of some sort.  Things have been very busy with work lately.  (Perhaps I should read Crazy Busy again.)

I did want to make a quick post just as an encouragement.

I finished memorizing Philippians finally, and I have had some time to reflect on the memorization process, especially meditation, as well as the idea of applying what I am learning.

As I was reciting the other day, I felt a check in my spirit about whether or not I was living out what I was memorizing.  Here I am reciting phrases like “do not be anxious for anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7, ESV) and “Rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4, ESV), and I found myself wondering if I am actually doing this?

Am I living the Scriptures and letting them transform my mind (see Romans 12:1-2), or am I just storing up information that is not making a difference in my life?

All of the memorization, reading, and study we do means nothing if it does not bring about life change.  That is the goal, after all: to know Christ more intimately and to be transformed into His image.

This comes about not just by memorizing Scripture but by meditating on it, praying it, and making a conscious effort to apply it and live it out rather than just hoping something will happen without my actively putting forth effort.

Sure, life change comes about as a result of grace, but like Dallas Willard said, “Grace is not opposed to effort; it is opposed to earning.”  God’s grace enables me to put forth the effort it takes to walk in the Spirit and live out the word.  I am to “work out [my] own salvation with fear and trembling, because it is God who works in [me], both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12-13, ESV).

I want to encourage you to actively begin committing Scripture to memory.  Take it with you in your heart and mind so that you can think about it throughout your day and let it seep deep down into your soul to change you into the image of Christ.  Then make a concentrated effort to live out what you are memorizing.  You will never regret aligning your life with the living word of God.

Book (and DVD) Review – “Living in Christ’s Presence” by Dallas Willard

Living in Christ's

I have long been a fan of Dallas Willard.  He has a way of presenting things that opens our eyes to ideas we have missed or misunderstood to a greater or lesser degree in Scripture, especially as it comes to discipleship and the kingdom of God.

Living in Christ’s Presence is a book based off of a conference Willard spoke at before he passed on to glory.  I have had the privilege of reviewing both the book and the DVD based off of this conference.

It truly serves as a summary or overview of many of Willard’s ideas that have been presented in other books, articles, and speeches.

The topics covered (taken from the Table of Contents of the book) are as follows: How to live well (eternal life begins now); Who are the experts on life transformation?; How to step into the kingdom and live there; Experiential knowledge of the trinity; Understanding the person (including the invisible parts); The importance of Christian disciplines; and Blessing.  Anyone who has read much of Willard will quickly notice that these are major themes covered throughout his other books.

Interestingly, while Willard’s name is the only one on the cover of the book, John Ortberg has contributed over half of the material in the conference and book.  The chapters alternate between Willard and Ortberg presenting, and after each presentation there is a discussion between Willard and Ortberg (and in one case a Question and Answer session with Ortberg).  Ortberg has been jokingly referred to as “Dallas Willard for Dummies,” so I am not surprised at his inclusion in the conference.  I wonder why he was not listed as author anywhere on the book, however.  He is listed as co-contributor on the front of the DVD case.

As mentioned above, the conference came first, and the DVD is a recording of it.  The book has been edited lightly (very lightly) from the conference to make it easier to read.  For the most part, however, one can follow word-for-word with the DVD by reading along.

In this case, I actually think I prefer the DVD to the book.  The tone of Willard’s and Ortberg’s presentations and discussions is lost somewhat in the book.  In some instances, this tone of voice and way of presenting the material is very beneficial to understanding what is said and intended.  That is not to say the book is not good, and for somewhat who wants to be able to quickly reference something that either speaker said the book would be invaluable.  But if I could only have one, I think I would opt for the DVD.

While I generally like Willard’s and Ortberg’s material, there is one major concern I have had with Willard’s writing, and this concern was brought out here very strongly.

Now, before I discuss this concern, I want to point out that Willard himself does not claim to be perfect in everything he says.  Willard states clearly, “Now, while saying as much as I am, I am probably going to say one or two things that are wrong.” (p. 13)  Based on my understanding of Scripture, I think he certainly did at one point, and the error is possibly a big one.  So I wanted to take time here to make others aware of it before they purchase the book or DVD.

In part of an extended discussion between Ortberg and Willard, we find this exchange:

John: When people say, “I believe in God, and I want to believe in God, but I have doubts sometimes; I want to follow Christ, but I fail sometimes; I am not as certain as I want to be,” can they say with confidence or integrity that they know Christ? What needs to be true in their life, in their mind and their life, for them to be able to say they know Christ?

Dallas: Put his words into practice and find them to be true.

John: Is it possible that somebody might know Christ but not realize that they know Christ?

Dallas: Oh, yes. Many people know things, but they don’t know that they know. That’s the nature of knowledge. Like children, for example, or unsophisticates of various kinds–they don’t even know what knowledge is. But our lives are filled with knowledge. You know something when you are able to deal with it as it is on an appropriate basis of thought and experience. (p. 31)

I wanted to quote it at length to catch as much of the context as possible.  It sounds as if Willard is leaning toward some form of inclusivism, that is that people can be Christians and not realize that they are.  While I think most of us would like that to be true, I find it very difficult to reconcile that with Scripture.  I realize God is loving, and that God does not want anyone to perish, but the Scriptures about Christ’s being the only way and needing to confess Him seem too strong for me to be able to easily dismiss them (see John 14:6, Acts 4:12, and Romans 10:9-10).  In addition, I don’t think we ever see anyone in the New Testament who is considered saved without their willful acceptance of the life and death of Christ on their behalf and their willful submission to Him as Lord and Savior.

I realize Willard is not the only one to hold an inclusivistic view, and I understand the idea is that God’s grace is so large that He will accept people by His grace and mercy based on their response to the light they have, but that He does so in such a way that it is only through the sacrifice of Christ on their behalf, with God applying that to them without their conscious, willful acceptance of it. I also understand that with Willard’s view of salvation being more about entering a kingdom life now than about “God seeing to it that individuals [don’t] go to the bad place” (p. 10), it leans away from salvation as a one-time decision to avoid punishment for sins and begin a life of submission to Christ.  As a result, the issue I am bringing up is based on a certain perspective of salvation that Willard doesn’t seem to hold to.  I may be misunderstanding Willard here, but it seems that is how Willard’s argument works.

Following along with this, Willard confronts the idea that “God is mad all the time” (p. 33). This helps understand his view above, regarding following Christ without knowing it, as he doesn’t seem to look much at the idea of the wrath of God.

Admittedly, God’s wrath and God’s love are hard to reconcile.  But we cannot ignore them.  Scripture says that those who don’t believe in Christ are “condemned already” (John 3:18, ESV) and that “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” (Romans 1:18, ESV), among other passages.  Perhaps I am misunderstanding “wrath” here, but I don’t think we can just dismiss it by pointing to God’s love.  God is love, that is true, but God is also holy and just.

In reality, these are the only two things that really stood out to me in the entire book.  The rest of the book is great!  But to some people, those will be two major issues to overcome, and that is why I have spent so much time on them.  As long as people read Willard discerningly, there should be no issue.  Willard also thinks, talks, and writes so deeply that it is possible I am completely misunderstanding him here.  I have not read everything Willard has written, so I am open to correction.  That is why I would not let this part of the presentation scare people off from reading the book.  It is, however, something important enough to take some time on.

Overall, the book is a great reminder, however, about living in the presence of Christ and His kingdom.  In a day when discipleship is still marginalized, and attendance at church or subscribing to a certain set of beliefs is lauded as being the determining factor in being considered a Christian, Willard and Ortberg sound a much needed call to awaken us to the reality that living the kingdom life is so much more.

Willard points out, “One of the problems that many Christians today have is that, since they are Christians, they have found it and they stop seeking.  But seeking is the way we live.  We never get beyond seeking” (p. 71).  Amen!  What does this mean? “To seek the kingdom of God is to look for it to be present and for it to be an action, and then to identify yourself with that action” (p. 74).

Later in the book, Ortberg brings in the ideas of spiritual disciplines to help us understand how to seek the kingdom and live in it.  He reminds us that disciplines are about training, not trying (see p. 139), and he goes on to lay out a very succinct explanation of how to practice disciplines in our lives, both in areas of ommision and commision.  For someone looking for a very brief overview of the disciplines in the overall context of living in the kingdom of God as a follower of Jesus, this chapter is wonderful.

The section about blessings, what they are and how we give and receive them, was also very enlightening.

One final reason to consider getting the book as well as the DVD is the inclusion of a study guide in the back, written by Gary Moon.  The study guide is a great way to walk through the material either individually or with a group.  With Willard’s work, you really do need to slow down and find ways to process it all, as it is both broad and deep at the same time.  A simple skim of the material will not be nearly as beneficial as a thoughtful pondering of the ideas he presents.

If you are looking for an overview of Willard’s thoughts in one place, either as a summary or an introduction, Living in Christ’s Presence is a good purchase.  If you can only choose one, I would encourage you to get the DVD, but both together make a nice set, and they complement each other very well.

Note: I was provided with a complimentary copy of the book and DVD from InterVarsity Press in exchange for my honest review.  

 

 

 

Family Worship

family praying

One area I have really done a poor job on is being the spiritual leader of my family.  While I read the Bible and study a lot for my personal edification, I have never really done well at reading it with my family.  For a while, we used The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones, and I loved it, but it was very hit-or-miss.  I also have not done a good job at praying with my family.

This is something that has convicted me for quite some time.  I wanted to remedy it, but I was not sure how.

A week or so ago, Crossway Publishers posted a link to sign up to receive emails for a five-day mini-video series by Don Whitney on family worship.  I immediately signed up.  The videos are around 5 minutes long each, and provide a basic overview of family worship.  I would recommend others sign up for it if they are able. (I posted a hyperlink in the text above to make it easier for those interested.)

The three aspects of worship that Whitney encourages families to practice are Scripture reading, prayer, and singing.

So far, we have read the Bible and prayed together briefly every day for the past week and a half or so, with only one missed evening.  For us, this is a huge step!

I decided to read through the gospel of Mark with my wife and children.  So far, we have read through four chapters of the gospel in the ESV.  I try to stop and explain the Scriptures as we go.  This has also been eye opening as I realize how many things I either don’t know or never thought about in such a way as to be able to explain it to a 6-year-old and 4-year-old child.

I then ask everyone if there is anything they would like us to pray for, and we take a couple of minutes to pray together.

We have not yet tried singing together (more than one time with just my children and me, but that didn’t go so well).  I hope to try to add that soon.

I’m also working on memorizing a little with my children.  I am starting with the Lord’s prayer from Matthew 6.  That, too, has been more sporadic than the reading and praying, but I am taking baby steps.

Honestly, this still feels a bit unnatural and uncomfortable.  I hate that I have to type those words, but it’s true.  I believe that with time, it will be an expected and natural part of our family life.  I was encouraged the one night we missed the time of family worship when, as I was tucking my son into bed, he reminded me that we didn’t read the Bible.  I apologized to him and told him we would the next day.  The fact that he asked was exciting, as it showed that it is becoming routine to him.

My prayer is that my children will grow up knowing and believing God’s word.  That they will learn to pray from me, and will desire to talk to God on their own.  That they will feel comfortable asking me questions on the Scriptures, and that I will be able to help them wade through those questions in a way that is faithful to the Bible.  And that ultimately they will carry on this tradition with their own families in the future.

If you have not set up a time for family worship, I would strongly encourage you to do so.  We need Christ to be central in our home, and what better way to start than to set aside a time every day to learn about and talk to Him as a family?

If you already have a time of family worship, I would love for you to comment and let me know what you do.  Since we are just getting started on this endeavor, I am open to ideas and suggestions!

Blessings!