But I also think it’s important for you to hear from my kids and wife about what they think of family time. So… today you’ll hear from my son, Aaron, who is almost 20 years old. I’m going to ask him questions… followed by his responses…
ME: Aaron, how long do you remember our family practicing family time?
AARON: The earliest memories I have are when I was 5 or 6 years old, and we did family time then.
ME: What are your impressions of what was like in those earlier years?
AARON: In the earlier years it was centered around simply doing things as a family. We would sing songs, play games, memorize some Bible verses, but we didn’t do studies in the word. It was always something I looked forward to.
ME: And how did the way we did family time develop as you grew older?
AARON: As I grew older it shifted from an emphasis on simply spending time together to an emphasis to spending time together in the word, which was helpful. It helped develop my personal skills of Bible study, and thinking critically about what is taught in the scriptures.
ME: As your younger siblings came along, what things do you think were helpful in including everyone, no matter their age?
AARON: In the discussion times, my parents would specifically ask the younger kids questions about the text. From simple 1 to 2 word answers to basic concepts, just to get them to grasp the basics of what each passage was teaching. I also think it was helpful for the younger kids to hear their older siblings sharing their thoughts and feelings. I feel like my younger siblings were able to know me a bit better through that. Also, assigning the younger kids reading was helpful to get them engaged in family time.
ME: Do you think that regular family time/family worship is important for Christian families? Why?
AARON: Yes, I do. I feel that the more time a family spends together in the word and in worship, the closer they will become both spiritually and emotionally. The fact that I grew up hearing my parents’ hearts and desires that flowed out of the scriptures helped me to accept their beliefs as my own because I saw the truth in them from a young age. I’m very close to my siblings and I feel that family time played an important role in that since we were able to discuss the scriptures and learn about each others’ hearts.
ME: You said that your parents’ beliefs became your own. Tell me a bit more what you mean by that.
AARON: Instead of my belief being something that was “forced” on me, that I was required to believe simply because my parents believed it, it has become something that I personally see as biblical and from the Lord. I believe that family times played a key role in helping me see that, simply because from a young age I was mentored and discipled in the scriptures.
ME: Was family time the only time you feel that discipleship of that kind took place?
AARON: No, family time was not the only time… but it was a routine, scheduled time in which it did take place, adding stability and constant growth to my spiritual life. More in-depth, specific discipleship was done in a one-on-one context but the general basic principles were taught to me through family time.
ME: If a Christian family had never practiced family time, how would you suggest they begin?
AARON: It may be wise to begin with a few family game nights, just to get used to spending time together as a family. But I think you should fairly quickly move into not only games, but also Bible study so as not to make them dependent on entertainment for family connection. I think before a family begins practicing family time, the parents, being the leaders, must first make sure it’s something they are committed to and believe in. I remember, especially in my younger years, sensing my parents’ excitement about family time and their desire to continue it, which in turn made me excited about it. I feel that if they were not truly excited and committed I would not enjoyed or seen the benefit of family time.
ME: Do you have any suggestions regarding things we could have done better in family time?
AARON: I think we could have been more consistent. Though we were fairly consistent, I do remember times when we stopped for periods of time, which made it hard to start again – because once we were out of the routine, we kids typically had something else in its place that we didn’t want to give up.
ME: Any final thoughts or comments about family time?
AARON: Family time truly has brought my family closer together. In my opinion it’s not something that is merely a tool, but rather a necessity. I highly encourage people to do a family time!
Anyone who has attempted a regular family time/family worship time knows… there are some hurdles to overcome. This post is designed to address some of the most common:
Q: How long should family time be?
A: We shoot for 45 minutes to an hour… though sometimes we go longer if the discussion with the older children is going well. As a general rule, short and sweet is better than long and laborious!
Q: How do you make the family worship time relevant given the diversity of ages among the children in the family? In other words, how do you keep it engaging for both teens and elementary ages and below?
A: Not easily. But seriously, there are some things you can do to help bridge the gap between the growing intellect and understanding of pre-teens and teens, and the still child-like reasoning of younger children. Here are some of the things I’d suggest:
- Talk about this issue with the older children beforehand. Let them know that you want your family time discussions to be relevant to them, but you also want to make sure you don’t leave the younger children behind. Help them understand the need for everyone in the family to profit and grow, not just those who are older. You’ll be teaching a great principle of bearing with each other and serving those who are “weaker.”
- Enlist the help of the older children in teaching, explaining, and helping the younger children with their understanding. As has often been said by teachers, you learn more by teaching than by being taught. This will hold true to some degree for your teens as well.
- Be on the alert for words being used (sanctification, salvation, born again, etc.) that you know the younger kids won’t get right away. Stop and ask them if they know what the word means. If they don’t explain it on their level (or have one of the teens do it).
- Include the younger children who are readers by having them read some of the passages you are discussing (smaller passages).
- Watch for ways you can apply the principle being discussed (trusting God for example) to the level of the various aged kids. Ask the teens application questions relating to peers, use of media/technology, work, personal responsibility, etc. Ask the younger kids application questions relating to sharing, loving their classmates, being responsible with their chores.
- During your prayer times, have the kids ask for requests from the ones sitting near them (older or younger) and then pray together about those things, allowing the one who asked for the requests to lead in prayer for that issue. You’ll be teaching concern, prayer, and faith, along with building unity among your family.
- If your older children are showing interest in a subject beyond what your younger children are capable of understanding, wrap up the family time a bit early – let the younger kids go do their thing – and resume the conversation with the older kids. We’ve found this to be necessary on a number of occasions… and both sets of kids are happier as a result!
- If your younger children are on the very young side (toddlers, etc.) you might tell them that during family time they will be allowed to color, draw, or play quietly with legos, etc. while you discuss things with the older kids… but they MUST remain quiet and listen! This requires that you already have discipline of your kids well in hand… but it is an option that works well in some instances.
Q: How do you decide what you will study/discuss?
A: For us, it’s typically been a matter of prayer between my wife and I, then we simply pick a passage or topic. Although there have been many times where we knew the children were struggling with a specific issue, so we targeted our discussion around scriptures that addressed those things. When you do that, don’t feel that you have to do it “under the radar” at all. Simply tell your kids that you’ve noticed the struggle (whatever it is) and wanted to look together at what the Bible says about that issue. Use it as an opportunity to teach humility, and eagerness to discover God’s heart about a subject!
Q: What do you do when particular children simply won’t (fill in the blank… sing, read aloud, participate, etc.)?
A: In a situation like this, the issue has little to do with family time and a lot to do with the way that child has been taught/disciplined up to that point. It may sound idealistic (but it’s not), but in a home where proper parental authority and love have been taught and practiced well, you won’t have these kinds of issues.
So what do you do? You get help with your overall parenting… from someone you can trust on the subject. There are a few really good books on the subject, such as Shepherding a Child’s Heart that are helpful in developing a right mindset, but in the end, I’d suggest you find a “parenting mentor” to help you… someone whose children and home you admire and would like to emulate. Ask them to teach you, and humbly receive their instruction.
Understand, if the child who is showing resistance is older (pre-teen, teen) – you’ve got a rough road ahead. The foundational work that should have been done to prevent the attitudes you are seeing is long overdue. You’ll have some re-training and willfulness to overcome. But the Lord can guide you there… don’t lose heart!
These are some of the most common issues. But there are likely many more… if you’d like to send me a question about a particular situation… I’d be happy to give it a shot!
I recently received an email from a guy (Let’s call him “Bill”) who is also serving in full-time ministry, and has done so for years. He asked my opinion on his situation and agreed to let me post his question and my response here… I’ve changed his name, and abbreviated his initial question for the sake of time…
My wife and I were led to a church in our community back in October 2007, a 57 year old church. Our senior pastor had been with the church 22 years and is the current chairman of the denominational Ordination Committee. In May 2009 he was aware that I had interviewed and was offered the pastorate in Washington but I had turned it down. He recommended to the church board the need for me to help him with community outreach, evangelism and visitations. I was voted Associate Pastor (non paid) by the board.
In October 2009 the church fell into a hostile split over years of issues that surfaced. After our senior pastor resigned, those of us who supported him all agreed it didn’t seem to make sense to “scatter”. After prayer and meetings we went forward to launch a church plant. He and I discussed the need for me to continue as the AP.
My gifts are helps… I get out there and shake people’s hands. I have done outreach evangelism and visitations for the last 14 years. I have served in the pastorate for 6 years. I’m ordained, bi-vocational at this time and am completing my 6th year at seminary. The church plant is 1 1/2 years old, 50 members, and Baptist.
Last June when our “steering team” gathered, Pastor discussed my role (non paid) and sought support of the team. There were 5 opinions that my role was not needed. Their explanations were vague. I had an opportunity to explain my calling, in love, and indicated that whether the church needed another pastor or if I was led to pastor in another church, I was prepared to meet that calling. I was left very disappointed.
Since our launch date, we meet once a week for service with an occasional potluck, and have 3 groups that meet weekly for Bible study. Pastor does not do outreach to the community, evangelism, visitations. I do, and have tried to encourage men or women to accompany me and experience the shelters or programs where I mentor and give scheduled sermons. No one has accepted to date.
Pastor asks me to give the sermon when he takes a vacation or needs a break. To date, my pastor still needs help. He hasn’t brought it up with the board and I don’t feel it’s wise to force my calling. So I have laid my prayers to the Lord, seeking my calling to pastor in this church or with another church.
It’s obvious Carey, that they have closed the door and do not need a second pastor, and in many ways this is where I feel slighted by my senior pastor’s lack of support in my growth in the church. Yes, I have presented my feelings to him through conversations over a cup of coffee and letters. I feel slighted.
Don’t get me wrong. I am submissive to God’s plan and purpose, His will be done. I receive this wholeheartedly and follow the teachings in 1 Corinthians 7:17-24. I am content but feel the doors have closed at this church, not by God, but by those on the board. I still feel slighted.
Going forward, I truly feel despite my position, I have remained faultless in this church and have given my all in all for the Lord. There are other churches currently reviewing my profile. Should I get an invitation to meet with one of them, my wife and I made the decision to inform our senior pastor as soon as possible.
Please keep me in your prayers. I feel unsupported by this church, used, and hurt. I have been very gentle about this though feeling very “to myself” and helpless.
Sadly, folks within the church do make hurtful and inconsistent decisions – sometimes based on entirely unspiritual or unbiblical reasons. It sounds like you have given your all and have been very faithful in your efforts to support and help lead this local church. Even the Apostle Paul was mistreated and maligned at various points along the way. But he sets us a good example in saying that he is honored to fill up in his body what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ. Bill, it’s not easy, but you have to endure this with faith in the Lord and mercy for the sheep. Only Christ can help you to do that adequately. I’d suggest you spend some time meditating and praying over 1 Peter 2:21-25. Asking the Lord to help you do exactly what He did as described in these verses. Then, begin looking for His next venture for you and your wife. The church board clearly has a different idea (right or wrong) of what the church needs than you do, and you would be wise to move on as the Lord opens doors.
Most Christians have heard this one. Most Christians have said this one. I think at one point I’ve actually said it too. But I’ve come to see that the Bible NEVER affirms it to be true….
“God will never put you in a situation you can’t handle.”
And if you buy that one, I’ve got some wonderful swampland in Florida you should consider buying…
The more I read the scriptures, the more I realize that this quote is blatantly false. In fact, it’s worse than that… it’s exactly opposite of what God typically does or what we see regularly demonstrated in the scriptures. Think about even the most well-known accounts from the scriptures…
- God’s command to Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egyptian slavery (who wound up handling that one? Uh… God)
- God’s command to Noah to build the ark (Who wound up bringing all the animals to the ark? Uh… God again)
- How about David’s fight with Goliath (David was confident he could kill Goliath because he was such a “dead-eye” shot with a sling… right? READ IT FOR YOURSELF)
- Jesus’ command to us to “be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). Which of us is up for that one?
Though very well-meaning, isn’t this quote really saying more about OUR ability than it is God’s? Since when has God been all about telling us how wonderful WE are? how much WE can accomplish on our own? what good hearts WE have?
So back to the quote in question…
Q; Well-meaning? A: Perhaps.
Q: Accurate? A: Not on your life. In fact, it’s more akin to humanism than to Christian faith…
The interview with Chuck Swindoll that I’m linking to below was originally conducted for Leadership Journal – and is an invaluable help to church leaders. As leaders in the church of Jesus Christ, we MUST evaluate every decision, every method – in both it’s short term and long term impacts. I think Chuck is RIGHT ON in his assessment of what has happened over the last 20 years or so.
Read prayerfully, thoughtfully, and carefully. – HERE’S THE ARTICLE
I recently had a person ask me how to deal with the depression that so often besets people during the holidays… I thought the question and answer might be helpful to many, so here they are!
Q: The Holidays are a very bad time for me ,I suffer depression,anger,hurt, etc. (In short I dread to see them come & would like to hide in a hole till they are over)! Could you give me some advice & readings on how I can get through this time of the year better & easier? I try to be a good Christian but this time of year is very stressful ! Any advice you can give me will be greatly appreciated ! Thank You !
- God loves us! So much so, that He sent His Son Jesus to bear the penalty of our sin! That is a tremendous love – that outweighs all other loves AND all disappointments. “If God is FOR us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31 – read the whole chapter to re-emphasize this truth in your mind!)
- Jesus took our punishment – there is no more for us to bear! Our guilt is gone and we stand “naked and unashamed” before our Creator! To enable us to be completely free of our sin so that nothing stands in the way of us being WITH God in genuine fellowship is the reason Jesus came as a little baby! It’s ample reason to celebrate!
- Jesus has given us HIS righteousness! When the Father looks at us, He only sees the goodness of Jesus – imputed/given to us as OURS! (2 Corinthians 5:21). Soak yourself in this passage as well, and see how the Lord begins to refresh your spirit with the good news of what He has made of you through Jesus!
- You have a wonderful future ahead, all because of Christ! The eternity that is ahead for believers in Jesus, will far outweigh any difficulties or depressions we face. Our hope is secure and sure! (Colossians 3:4, 1 Timothy 4:10, Hebrews 10:23, Philippians 3:13-15)
- If any of your depression stems from unresolved “wrongs” that have been done to you, go to 1 Peter 2:21-23 and soak in the truth of how Jesus handled the same thing. He was mistreated, but did not do the same in return. Instead He entrusted Himself to the Father, who is ultimately faithful to judge such things. You can rest, assured that God knows, and God will take care of the wrongs done in due time.
- Get out and do something FOR someone else this holiday season. Let the power of Jesus’ life in you reach out to impact somebody else. It’s hard to stay focused on your own sadness when you see others blessed by tangible things you’ve done for them through your faith in Christ. Make this kind of outreach an exciting thing… maybe even doing your best to keep it all completely secret! Become a distributor of Jesus’ grace to those in need – and see what Jesus does with your depression as a result!
- Adopt a new “family” if you need that. You’ve actually been given a new family in the church. Spend time with others who know Jesus well and express His joy. Enjoy the season together, truly celebrating the season of Christ’s arrival to the earth. Make some new memories of Christmas that in time, will help you to overcome the depressive feelings.
I recently had a friend write and ask me about a situation where she was being told by some Messianic Jewish friends that Christians are supposed to keep the Old Testament Law – all 613 of them! I wrote her a reply and my wife told me that it would make a good blog – so here it is! Thanks for the question A.C.!
HOW SHOULD A CHRISTIAN VIEW THE OLD TESTAMENT LAW?
#1 – We HAVE to differentiate between issues regarding what it takes to be saved from issues that are centered around other things (which could be myriad). If someone insists that we must keep the law in order to make God happy, that is quite different than someone who insists that we have to keep the law to be saved. The first is an emphasis on how we are to be sanctified, the other is an emphasis on how we are to be saved. I think you understand that. We make that distinction all the time regarding other things (pre-trib, spiritual gifts, worship style, etc.). Where it comes to a head for you (I think) is whether you/your family should be sitting under a teaching that is telling you something about the “how” of sanctification/pleasing God AS a Christian, that you disagree with. If you can recognize what you disagree with and why, and can agree to disagree with them and still glean what is good from their Jewish ways and history, I would have no problem with that. You obviously are discerning enough to “eat the meat and throw away the bones.” The question you’d have to wrestle with in that case is whether you feel your family is discerning enough to do the same, or whether you will be able to discuss it with them in a way that enables them to see why what they are hearing there is NOT true. There are Christians all over the world who believe differently about these kinds of side-issue things having to do with Christian living (i.e. “What type of clothing is modest and godly?” “What kind of music honors God?” etc.). This one just has a “Jewish” tendency/flavor to it. Are we going to separate from ALL Christians we believe come up with an unBiblical answer to those kinds of “side issue” questions?
#2 – The other issue has to do with what role the law should play in our lives as believers in Christ. Your Messianic Jew friends may or may not EVER agree completely with you on this, and you’ll have to reach a point where that is O.K. with you if you want to continue your association with them… you can trust them to the teaching of the Holy Spirit. That doesn’t mean that as you get this doctrinal issue more readily understandable to yourself mentally you shouldn’t speak the truth in love when you have appropriate opportunities. It just means that if you hit a brick wall you will in some ways have to leave it with the Lord. So – let’s look at the issue of the law as it relates to believers…
First, I’m going to make a distinction scripture only alludes to but nevertheless is clearly true… and that is that the law had different components to it: Levitical, civil, & moral. The Levitical was the “how to”s on the sacrificial system and issues of religious ceremony. The civil law had to do with things like public health, laws to govern society well, punishments for law-breakers, etc. The moral law had to do with individuals and their personal obedience before God (adultery, murder, covetousness, etc.). The difficulty is that the Torah weaves them all together with no clear distinctions like I’ve made here, but nevertheless those 3 types of law are clearly present. The Levitical law is no more, because there is no longer need of sacrifice – Christ was the final and perfect sacrifice for all who believe (Hebrews chapters 9 & 10 are KEY here). The civil law is no more, because God’s people are no longer comprised ONLY of a political entity known as Israel, but rather “one new man” who is comprised of both Jews and Gentiles, spread all over the world in various places and countries (Ephesians 2:11-22).
BUT, the moral law of God still remains, at least in part because it flows out of His character, which is unchanging and eternal… and we as His children are to imitate Him (Ephesians 5:1). But it’s the HOW of keeping that moral law that makes all the difference!
In one sentence Jesus both affirmed the Law and also emphatically stated that He would fulfill it Himself (something people had NEVER been able to do on their own up to that point – and still can’t… (Matthew 5:17-18). And He did fulfill it by His perfect life of obedience (Hebrews 4:15). As a result of that fact, Paul teaches us that as partakers of the righteousness of Christ we are not to consider the law as our master, but rather to understand that when we walk by the guidance and control of the Spirit of God, the righteous requirements of the law are fully met in us (Romans 8:3-4 – read it carefully and slowly). So in a way, your Messianic friends and you can fully agree on this – we DO need to keep the moral law because we are God’s children! But you my friend are going to do so via a means OTHER than personal effort or legalism…
My understanding of what that type of life looks like practically comes from the book of Galatians. Jesus gave us His Holy Spirit to be our Teacher, Guide, and Help (John 14, John 16). When we hear, listen to, and obey the Spirit, we accomplish what the moral law of God requires – automatically (Galatians 5:18, 22-23). That’s because the Spirit NEVER leads us in a way that is contrary to the moral law of God – which seems to be a no-brainer to me, since the Spirit IS God. So in effect, we don’t have to worry about these lists of 613 laws to obey, we only need to cultivate a listening ear and an obedient heart so that when the Spirit of God leads us, we obey.
So, does that mean we should not read/learn from/teach the Old Testament law? Not at all! I can glean TONS from a good sermon about one or all of the 10 commandments (for example) in terms of what it LOOKS LIKE to walk in the Spirit in a particular area. That helps me to be more conscious of what the Spirit might be saying or how He might be leading at any given time. It may also be a means the Spirit uses to convict me about an area where I’ve been disobedient or resistant to His leadership. But I should not take what I learn as a “rule” for me to follow. THAT would be living a life guided by law, not the grace of the Spirit (Romans 6:14). So we are live by the Spirit, in close relationship to Jesus through the Spirit… not by our own efforts to keep the law or any other rules.