In speaking of the nourishment of Scripture, Spurgeon conveyed:

“I have many an old book in my library in which there have been book-worms, and I have sometimes amused myself with tracing a worm. I do not know how he gets to the volume originally, but being there he eats his way into it. He bores a hole in a direct line, and sometimes I find that he dies before he gets half-way through the tome. Now and then a worm has eaten his way right through from one wooden cover to another; yes, and through the cover also. This was a most successful book-worm. Few of us can eat our way quite so far. I am one of the book-worms that have not got half-way into my Bible yet; but I am eating my way as fast as I can.”

What about you, dear Christian friend? Are you daily eating your way through Scripture for the nourishment of your own soul? One of the greatest struggles of believers is the maintenance of consistent daily devotions. And yet, any neglect of time in the Word or prayer is to devastate our spiritual health. This is an area of life that spiritual discipline must be cultivated in obedience to “exercise yourself unto godliness” (1 Timothy 4:7). Unless we develop a plan for this daily worship, and work it into the priority and routine of everyday life, it will be choked out by the tyranny of “the urgent”. Too often the desire to spend time with our Lord does not translate into consistent practice.

We need this habit to constantly re-tune our hearts to reality, reminding us that “the world passes away” (1 John 2:17). Paul told the Corinthians that “the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18). A. W. Tozer used to say the Bible world is the real world…when you spend time with the Lord, you’re in contact with reality, with the things that matter most, with the things that will last. It is a spiritual war in which we are engaged, even against the laziness of our flesh, and this means of robing ourselves for the battle of each day is a gracious provision by our Lord for us to stand in the evil day (Ephesians 6:10-18).

Further, this daily worship cultivates our relationship with our sovereign Lord, knowing “without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). We can’t short-circuit the process of developing a relationship. It takes time and effort. If its true in the physical realm, it remains doubly true in the spiritual realm. If we abide in Christ, we can bear fruit for His glory; and if we don’t, we won’t. This is the most important relationship that deserves and demands the most attention!

Philip Reinders reminds us, “There’s more to our struggle with the practice of prayer. The simple truth is we’ve oriented our lives around other practices. We’ve already created a form for our lives and have conformed our lives to work deadlines, the pace of parenting, school schedules, media rhythms, and soccer practices. These can be good, and yet the pattern of this world can sabotage a life of prayer—and to live without prayer is to be deformed, no longer conformed to Christ. But all is not lost. We’ve at least shown the capacity to form some habits, to practice regular routines. The beginnings of a healthy life of prayer are sometimes found in understanding the habit or practice-nature of much of the Christian life.”[i] Learn how much discipline is a part of a sanctified Christian walk. Perhaps you’d go to my YouTube channel for Discipline, a Tool for Godliness[ii] and Daily Discipline of Delighting in Our Devotions.[iii]

A middle-aged executive nervously organizes his weekly calendar, having heard that mid-management downsizing will begin next month. A young mother of twin toddlers struggles to get some time to herself, but the children keep waking each other up from their afternoon nap. A recent high-school graduate with a newly shaved head struggles for privacy in his bunk at boot camp. Each of these are busy people who want to walk with God, yet each is in an environment that makes it difficult to spend quality time with their Lord, through Bible study and prayer. Yet, they all must singularly prioritize a time of seeking His face before any other face each day. Whatever it takes to organize and structure routine habits, because it’s more of a heart matter than a scheduling problem. Our goal is an intimate and vibrant walk with Christ, but we won’t arrive there without this daily discipline of planned time in His Word, where He speaks to us, and in devout prayer, where we search and submit to His will.

Closely connected with this need for consistent, personal, daily devotional time with the Lord is the family’s pursuit of being Christ-centered, as they seek the Lord’s face in Bible study and prayer together.

Family Devotions

Donald Whitney begins his small book titled, Family Worship, by illustrating with a trip he’d made to England. There was a report on BBC radio about a government study which indicated that as a result of TV, technology, and the like, families rarely spend time together. The study observed that conversation between family members has “degenerated into an indistinguishable series of monosyllabic grunts.” The government’s best suggestion was having classes to instruct families how to talk and play together. Could it be that God has a much better plan for family time?

A family that prays together, stays together. Or as Thomas Brooks said, “A family without prayer is like a house without a roof, open and exposed to all the storms of heaven.”

Where are the men of God who are “raising up children in the nurture and admonition [instruction] of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4)? We are not only tasked with populating the earth by having children (Genesis 1:28) but to raise them in God’s Word. Consider the pictures that the twin Psalms of 127 and 128 give. The olive plants around our tables and the quiver full of children that have been trained well as warriors! We need heads of the home training the next generation Jesus’ ultimatum that, “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).

If only a single mom or only one believing parent or grandparent, like Eunice or Lois, who raised Timothy in the Scriptures, could simply recognize the powerful and eternal influence of one godly life on another. Churches seeking growth must be focused on raising young warriors in the truth, because strong churches are made up of strong families, and strong families are those that are centered on Christ.

Recently our church engaged in an expositional study of Psalm 85 in which we prayed with the psalmist for restoration and revival. Personal revival should, among other things, find its expression of Christian men in the devotional life of the family, men who are leading and initiating the worship of the family towards our triune God. It is not an option, but a necessity and is more than a token prayer at mealtimes.

Though I’m grateful for the practice of weekly worship impressed upon my life in my growing up years, daily worship was not stressed as equally important, nor was family worship ever once even considered. In Family Worship, however, Joel Beeke shares some his and his siblings’ recollections of his parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. They thanked their mom for her memorable prayers for them, along with their dad’s leadership on Sunday evenings in family worship. His brother recalls his oldest memory of teachings from Pilgrim’s Progress. At age 3, he was convicted that Christianity was real, so that, though he had strayed for several years, he could never question the reality of Christianity because of those well-driven nails early on.[iv]

Consider some pressing passages on the non-negotiable practice of family devotions. While there is plenty of discussion to be had on dealing with all the events of life devotionally, it is doubtful that the Word will be brought to bear upon the random issues of life without the consistent practice of formal devotions.

Read Deuteronomy 6:6-7 afresh: “These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.” Diligent teaching of the children entrusted to our care is a given. Yes, during informal times of conversation in life (while we sit in our homes and when we walk by the way), we talk about things important to us, like our Lord and our relationship to Him. And true, there are no times remise for talking of Him and His greatness. But habits are etched in the lives of our children by consistently praying and studying Scripture together, in a formal and structured time of worshipping the Lord together. Fathers leave their children a pattern of humble trust, teachability, and praise to our worthy Lord.

Consider Joshua 24. In verse 14 Joshua had just commanded Israel to fear the LORD, and in verse 15 stresses that the LORD wills to be worshipped and served voluntarily and deliberately in our families. Beeke gives some insight that when Joshua makes this declaration, he’s more than 100 years old. He also knows that his direct leadership over his own family is almost over, as he’d soon die. Further, much idolatry remained in the land and his family would be swimming against the stream, so to speak. Yet, his resolve remains undiminished, as he declares, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). There was undoubtedly regular teaching in the home, that developed such a family resolve. Family worship is a time to catechize our family in the truth of God, instructing in sound doctrine.[v] And the Lord blessed that resolve, as most of the nation followed his godly and zealous lead for at least one generation. “Israel served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that overlived Joshua” (Joshua 24:31).

Resources Addressing Family Devotions:

  • Family Worship by Joel Beeke
  • Family Worship by Donald Whitney
  • The Family Worship Book by Terry Johnson

Tools for Family Devotions:

  • A Christian Growth and Discipleship Manual by Wayne Mack
  • Pilgrim’s Progress or Little Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan
  • Read one Proverb per day, according to the date
  • Read through a Gospel or small epistle for a month
  • Read a stanza of Psalm 119 consecutively, noting the Scripture’s importance, what it does, & our view towards it; then turn it into prayer
  • The MacArthur Daily Bible (or any of his many devotionals)
  • Awake O Harp by William Varner (devotional commentary to guide thoughts in Psalms)
  • Handbook on Praying Scripture by William Varner (Releasing in 2023)

*This is just a sampling of many helpful resources that can be used for personal daily worship & also with your family together!

References:

[i] Seeking God’s Face: Praying With the Bible Through the Year, Philip Reinders, 14.

[ii]  https://youtu.be/Thupw1x714g

[iii] https://youtu.be/UsnsIlBTQfQ

[iv] Family Worship, Joel R. Beeke, 1-2.

[v] If interested in working through one I’d developed years ago, go to www.biblicalexpositor.org & under “document downloads” is the file “catechism.” https://www.biblicalexpositor.org/file/e40c8690-d92b-11ec-9713-237050f5d493

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