For years we have heard the importance of family devotions. Taking time as a family each night to read a passage of God's word, spending a few moments in prayer, and growing as a family all sounds good and exciting but, we suck at it!
Anyone else in the same boat?
It's not that we don't want to do family devotions, believe me, we've tried. Over and over, we have tried to create some kind of regular opportunity to explore God's word with our kids. Some seasons we've done well, using various books, object lessons, or holiday themed devotionals. But in other seasons, well, we just failed.
But worse than not being able to lead family devotions, is the guilt and shame we often feel when we hear that we SHOULD be having family devotions. EPIC fail!!
1. Go To Church Together
As a family, we make every effort to be at church together as a family. Attending church together is our first act in training up our children. We've determined that our Sunday morning priority is worship. We believe that the role of discipleship is from parent to child and it begins as we attend church together. Worship, Sunday School, and youth group in the evenings. For us, Sunday means we are in church.
When parents make church a priority, it demonstrates the level of commitment they have in their relationship with God, and places God at the forefront of all things family. But more than church, or corporate worship, as parents, you need to also put a priority on Sunday school, Bible studies, the children's ministry, junior high ministry, and high school ministry among other church related activities. It's not just attendance, but participation. Involving yourself and your family, helps to show your children the importance of establishing a lifestyle that puts God first. It also emphasizes the significance of corporate worship, bible study, fellowship and what it looks like to be a part of the body of Christ.
Does it mean church is the ONLY thing we do on a Sunday? NO. But, it's the first and most important thing. Our teenagers know that they cannot work their part-time jobs on Sunday mornings. And while there have been one or two occasions, for the most part, they have been able to keep that commitment. Sports, very rarely have our kids missed church for a sporting event. We either miss the game or make arrangements that we attend an earlier service.
2. Use Seasonal Devotional Resources
One of the fun holiday traditions that we practice throughout the year is making use of holiday devotional resources. Whether it's a storybook or short devotional booklet, we use different resources that help our kids focus on the season or holiday that we preparing to celebrate. For example, each Christmas we read one of the Advent books associated with Jotham's Journey. We shared these books in a blog post titled, Celebrate Advent With One of These Books. These books are an incredible way to help your kids prepare for Christmas. There are a number of resources like these, and they are perfect for short-term family devotions.
Aside from published storybooks or devotionals, seasons like Advent and Lent, allow for the setting aside of the normal routines for something a little more holiday related. Both seasons have a time of preparation, four Sunday's in Advent, 40 days in Lent. As a family, you might decided to set something aside during this time. Maybe you choose to go out somewhere to serve as a family. Perhaps this it just a time where your families unplugs from their devices and committees to family dinner hour or game night or movie night.
However you decide to spend your time, be sure to take advantage of the time to talk about what that holiday season means to you, your family, and your faith. Explain why your faith tradition celebrates Advent or Lent. It's not always easy, but with a little work, you can create new traditions around the holidays.
Just this past week, our meal started with our daughter making the comment, "Did you know that when we poop, it's our body's way of getting rid of the waste? It's what we're learning at school!"
3. Engage with Your Kids as they are Growing Up.
Dinner time can be a special time for your family, and a great time to engage with your kids to talk about the things that are happening in the culture around them. Just turn on the TV and listen to the news, go to the movies, watch a TV sitcom or pay attention to the commercials; you will find plenty of material to talk about. From current events to music, movies, even products, our kids are growing up in difficult times. The dinner hour serves as a great way to talk about some of the issues and topics their seeing in the media. It might take a little homework on your part to educate yourself, but it will be a benefit for you and your time as a family. As you talk, you can discuss what they see happening from a Christian worldview.
Does it mean that every dinner is a topical debate or lecture? No. We don't have serious conversation at every meal. Just watch our family vlog as we sit around the table. It's not always hard hitting discussion. In fact, just this past week, our meal started with our daughter making the comment, "Did you know that when we poop, it's our body's way of getting rid of the waste? It's what we're learning at school!" Is poop appropriate talk at the table? Well, if it's what they're learning at school, yes!
The point is, make the effort to have dinner together as a family, but instead of stuffing our faces, take the time to slow down and talk! If you can't have a regular family dinner hour, use the time in the car, driving to and from sporting events or school activities or even while you're running errands to talk with your kids. Turn off the radio and have them take the ear plugs out, and talk. They might reject the idea at first, but keep at it. When they see that you are interested in what's happening in their world, they will begin to open up.
link for FOR THE FAMILY. There we have shared books, devotions, and other resources that we have found helpful!
As always, we want to hear from you. What do family devotions look like for you and your family? Do you have regular family devotions? Have you found an incredible resource that your family loves? We'd love to hear from you! Leave a comment below and share your story. Perhaps your story will encourage another family! And that's what this blog is all about!
- the higham family
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
What do you fear?
The dark? That creepy thing under your bed? The unknown of tomorrow? Death? Dying? The loss of a loved one?
Maybe you fear hardship; the loss of a job, financial security, dealing with difficult relationships, sickness or disease , raising difficult children, insurmountable debt.
Whatever the fear, for you it's real. It's something that you face on a regular basis. And if you're not careful, if could consume you.
As I have sat thinking upon verse 4, "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death," I wondered what that might look like. And the more that I thought about it, the more I determined that the valley is different for each of us. The imagery here is of the difficulties that we might face in this life and how they press in on us. Whether it's the news of cancer and a not so favorable outcome, or your spouse telling you they want a divorce, or a financial crisis bound to wreck our credit rating, or the painful loss of a child, these difficulties are some of the valleys we must walk through.
But David's words offer us a sure and certain hope. We are not alone. You see, David doesn't say 'if' I walk through the Valley... No, he suggests that we will. But when we do, our shepherd is with us.
The Bible talks often of how we will face trials, persecution, struggles, and difficulties. It's part of the life we live after the cusre. But it's also part in who we are as believers. God often uses those valleys in the shadow of death moments to refine us, strengthen us, and grow us to be more like His Son. It's sometimes a painful process, but the promise is, we don't have to go through those valleys alone. David says, even though we walk through difficult times, we can fear no evil, because our Shepherd is with us, leading us, protecting us, comforting us.
Would you take a few minutes today and think back to those valley moments? Look to see where God's rod and staff were evident. Sometimes we miss them in the moment, but after the fact we can see them. Thank Him for His protection. If you find yourself in the valley today, know that God is with you. And while it might be difficult now, remember what Romans 8:26-28 says...
"Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good." (Romans 8:26-28 msg)
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
~ Ps. 23:2
Sometimes when we read the Bible, I think we miss a lot of information simply because we don't always understand the imagery used by the writers. The biblical writers wrote to, for, and about the people of their day. Thus they used imagery and terminology that would have been very familiar with their readers. The reality of this is that very often we miss the intensity of the written word because we do not understand the culture innuendo.
For example, Psalm 23:2 talks about the green pastures that the shepherd leads his sheep too. Now, when we read this verse, we craft and image base on our understand of what a green pasture looks like. We've all driven through the country side to see sprawling fields of green grass spotted by grazing sheep, cows, or other farm raised animals. Thus when we think of green pastures, we think of food as far as the stomach can take. And so what we might come away saying, Because God brings us to the fields, surely he will be out blessing beyond our wildest dreams. But that's just not the case.
I came across this video as I was preparing to teach on the 23rd Psalm. I was immediately forced to rethink my understanding of what a green pastur looks like and how God provides. Take a few minutes to watch this teaching video from RVL|ON, called Green Pastures.
David saw God as his provider. Like a shepherd who leads his sheep to places to graze, drink, and rest, David trusted God to provide for his daily need.
You see, I think we in the western church too often jump to the idea that God is a god of wealth and riches and all he wants to do is make us wealthy and rich. So when we read verses like this one we consure up the image of sheep bedding down and enjoying the pleasures of lush green pastures and rolling hills of abundance. But what if what David states is true, and instead of wealth untold, the true riches we find in God are not the lavish spoils of this world, but the rich mercy, grace and love that come only from God?
Today, I want to encourage you to consider the pastures that God is leading you to. Chance are, there probably not what you thought of when you set out to walk with God. I know in my own faith journey, there have been a number of pastures that I wish God would never have taken me too. But it's in these pastures that we see to Shepherd caring for His sheep. Never once did I ever have to go without. Never once did God ever turn his back towards me. Never once did He ever reject me, even when I did all three to Him.
Take the time to recognize and remember how God provided for you and how you learned to trust Him to lead and care for you. If you are walking through a difficult time right now, learn from David, and trust that God is still leading you and He will provide for you. It what the Shepherd does.
The video clip shown here is from the RVL|ON teaching series, and can be found on the RVL|ON Youtube.com. You can learn more about Ray Vander Laan and his ministry by click here.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
~ Psalm 23:1
I remember as a kid learning the 23rd Psalm in Sunday School. I remember reading verse 1 and thinking, Why is God my shepherd, and why do I not want him? Now clearly that's not what the verse is all about, but when you're a kid, you miss the importance of the semicolon. You see, a semicolon is...
You see, as a kid, I missed the fact that verse 1, shares two separate thoughts. As an adult, I sometimes forget that these two thoughts are not what I thought when I was a kid. Yes, the Lord IS my shepherd, and in him all my needs are met.
The 23rd Psalm is one of those sections of Scripture that I think we too often misuse. Most of us would agree that when we think of the 23rd Psalm, we think of the comfort that comes at the bedside of someone ill or recited at a funeral service. For many these verses are a comfort and hope in a time in need. Now, I don't want to take anything away from that, but I don't think David thought, 'Hmm, this would make a great funeral reading...'
David spent years in the hills and wilderness areas around Bethlehem, watching over his families herds. As a shepherd, David shouldered the full responsibility that came with job. From providing the sheep with suitable grazing grounds to protecting them from the dangers that lurk in wild territories to being a constant presence of comfort and assurance for the sheep. David understood what it meant to care for, protect, and lead his flock. And when trouble came, David stood to face it, deal with it, and overcome it. Whether it was finding food and water or taking out a bear or a lion, David took care of his sheep. So when he writes, 'The Lord is my shepherd...' David is knows what he's talking about.
So what is he talking about?
David recognized God as his shepherd. What that means is, David saw God to be the one who cared for, protected, and watched over his life. Like every shepherd, God, assumes the responsibility to provide, protect, and to be a constant presence for his sheep. David expected God to do for David what David would do for his sheep.
Now for the semicolon. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. It's the responsibility of the shepherd to make sure that the sheep have what they need. The sheep don't go looking for food and drink, the shepherd leads them to where they find their food. It's the shepherd that provides. The sheep benefit from the shepherds care.
You see, I think what David writes is not a Psalm of comfort and hope, but a declaration of acceptance in knowing who God is and where he (David) stands. David says, God is the one who cares for me, and if he takes care of me, then I know, I will have all that I need. That is a significant admission that shows us the condition of David's heart. David looks to God for his needs for that day.
Can we say the same thing? Or more appropriate, do we believe the same thing?
Do you believe that the Lord IS your shepherd? And, do you believe that he WILL take care of your every need?
As you go through your day today, think on the truth of Psalm 23:1. Ask God to show you what it means to surrender to the loving lead of your Shepherd and how to trust in his daily provision for your life. And where there are areas that need the tender discipline of the Shepherd, ask God to make the changes needed so that you can believe the awesome truth of God's love!
Thanks for taking the time to read The Higham Family Blog. Each week we try to share new content about something we are learning, something we love, or something to offer encouragement to the family. We love to hear from our readers, so please share your thought in the comment section of each post.