(If you’d like to read the previous articles in this series, please do so.)
Sitting on my desk in front of me is a “gold brick” with the words “Outstanding Performance” engraved on top. I was awarded this treasure in 1983 for my many hours of “meritorious” work at my corporate job. My gold brick has become very meaningful to me, but not, perhaps, in the way you might think. The brick is actually solid brass, even though it has the look and feel of gold. Funny what a striking analogy it is, being as deceptive in its true value as my hours to earn it were deceptive in their true (eternal) value.
For me, it has become a symbol of how my normal daily work is about as worthless as a fake “gold brick.” It has become a frequent reminder of how easy it is to have misplaced priorities. When it comes to eternity, the hours we men spend at work are basically wood, hay, and stubble. “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire” (1 Corinthians 3:11-15).
Just think, the work we believe is so important that we spend eight hours a day on (and then some) is all going to be consumed in eternity. This work, which becomes most men’s identity, will burn. It won’t even give off bright colors and fancy sparks that dazzle the eye like we have just seen on the Fourth. The flames will simply devour all our precious effort, and nothing will be left of eternal value as we stare at the ashes. Of course, it is our responsibility to provide for our families, so the real work of eternal value can be carried forth. Plus the money we earn can be used to further the Kingdom of God. In general, however, the work we spend so many hours a day doing will count for nothing in eternity.
How easy it is to be deceived into thinking our important work occurs during the for-pay job, but the work we do at home isn’t as important. That is backwards! Finally, when we come home to our family, that is when we have the opportunity for gold, silver, and precious stones. The question is—are you creating more wood, hay, and stubble when you come home, or is it gold, silver, and precious stones? We each have a choice with our hours at home with our families.
I have come to realize that the time I spend with my family, leading them in the ways of the Lord Jesus, is when something of value is produced. Discipling my family for the few hours I have available in a day is the primary investment I have for something that will last for eternity. I feel that even if I were in the ministry full time rather than having a secular job, my time with my family would still be my opportunity to spend those minutes on something of the greatest value.
I would have to put high on my list of time spent well, with an eye on eternity, as our family altar. I absolutely love those moments and look forward to them. I know that when I’m discipling my family and washing them in the water of God’s Word, instead of a fake gold brick, I’m building using gold, silver, and precious stones.
I believe a lot of dads want to lead their family in evening worship, but next to misplaced priorities the greatest roadblock is that they don’t know how to do it. I would like to make this Corner practical and share how we have ours. I’m sure there are other, better ways, but for the sake of being brief, I will tell you what I am familiar with doing.
I will usually have our family worship time right after dinner is cleaned up. That way I know nothing else will get in the way. We do first what is most important to us, and so it makes sense that devotions occur in our first available time after dinner. However, the main point is to find a time that works for you and to which you can be consistent.
We only use the Bible for family altar even though we have a wide range of ages. I have come to realize through the years that even the young children will learn a great deal from Bible reading although some of it is beyond their understanding. Whatever book of the Bible we are in, I purpose to do my best to make it interesting. I constantly try to reveal Jesus Christ to my family and show them how Scripture applies to our everyday lives.
When we first began family worship almost twenty years ago, I would read the chapter we were going to read during my personal Bible reading time, before our common worship. I would jot some notes down and think about the verses so I was prepared. I used a study Bible with comments, and they helped me feel more comfortable in understanding what we would be reading as a family. Even now there are times I won’t know an answer. I think that is something we dads have to come to peace with and share with our family. We don’t have all the answers. However, I am willing to do some study and see what I can find. Even then, with some questions, I may have to wait a few years, or perhaps even until heaven, before I finally get an answer.
Frankly, if you are at all unfamiliar with the Bible, don’t let that stop you from leading family devotions. Go out and buy a good study Bible. Ask around for recommendations, and then buy one. It is worth the investment. Just do it.
Where to read is simple. Start at the beginning of the New Testament and read a chapter a night. I prefer to go slowly and have everyone enjoy it, rather than to race through several chapters. We come away with new understanding rather than plowing ahead simply to cover more ground.
Everyone reads two verses as we take turns around the room. For fun, Jesse, our youngest reader, always gets to start, and Anna reads the last verse. It is a little silly, but when it works out perfectly that the last verse falls in sequence where Anna is sitting, visitors have been surprised to hear the word “perfect” being uttered around the room as we realize it has come out perfectly for Anna to get the last verse. There is nothing real spiritual about that; we just have a good time in the Word of God.
As we read, everyone is supposed to be looking for a special verse that they would like to apply to their life. For variety, we cycle through the family, starting with the youngest, so that each night someone different gets to share his verse first. Then, after telling everyone his verse and application, he gets to pick which way we go around the room for the others to share their verses.
After everyone has had his turn, I ask if there are any confessions. It is my desire that when we wrong another during the day, we would confess that sin to the other person right away, but that doesn’t always happen. This provides an opportunity to confess sins, forgive each other for sins committed (Matthew 6:14), and avoid bitterness in the home.
Finally, the person who shared his verse first is the one who gets to pick a hymn for us to sing. We sing that song, and our family altar is over. Many families will pray during family worship, but we have chosen to have our time of prayer when we put the children down for bed. However, that is the beauty of it. Do what fits your family and is pleasing to the Lord.
Do you love the Lord Jesus and His Word? If so, then a daily family time in the Word is just a natural extension of your love. It is not difficult, but it does require consistency, which will come from proper priorities. What are you creating with your time—wood, hay, and stubble, or gold, silver, and precious stones?