"O God, thou art my God; early will I seek Thee: my soul thirsteth for Thee, my flesh longeth for Thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is; to see Thy power and Thy glory, so as I have seen Thee in the sanctuary. Because Thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise Thee. Thus will I bless Thee while I live: I will lift up my hands in Thy name." (Ps. 63:1-4)
Morning seems to have been one of David's favorite times to call on the Lord, I guess it's mine too. Starting each day in God's presence before the busyness of a hectic schedule consumes the hours results, for me at least, in a more peaceful day and enables my thoughts to more readily turn towards the Lord. "Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay side every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God." (Heb.12:1, 2)
Like so many families we have made it our habit to have family Bible time both morning and evening. It is a time for reading, studying and discussing the Word of God. Possessing a true and genuine love for the Scriptures, both of our parents and especially Dad, as the spiritual leader in our family, have sought to instill in the hearts of us children that same love. Dad's overriding emphasis has always been, read the Word then read it again and yet again. Eph 5: 26 says that Christ gave Himself for the Church "That He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word," If we want the word to cleanse us then we've got to read it.
Through the years, our family has sought to emphasize Scripture reading and Scripture hearing. Family Bible time and personal Bible time are two avenues for this. Another is the playing of Scripture tapes at bedtime. God's Word tells us that faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Rom10:17). Also, without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb 11). Thus, if we want to be pleasing to God, we had better get some faith, and the only place to get it is by hearing the Word of God. Through faith, men of old gained approval, and guess what? Men of today gain God's approval the same way (and women too)! To be sure, just getting God's Word into our heads is not enough. We must get it into our hearts. "Thy Word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against Thee." Getting God's Word into our heads is only the first step, but it is the first step.
By emphasizing Scripture reading and study we have seen many benefits in the lives of our children. We understand that the Word is living and active and powerful. We also know that as truth it is the milk and meat that feeds our spirits. It gives life. It never returns void. It is used by the Spirit to teach us.
But mostly we just know these things in our heads. As with all truth, God wants us to know them in our hearts. For in the heart, truth is transmuted into life – living active truth that changes lives.
This is really very key. When you read (study) the Word and it touches your intellect, it is only knowledge with little profit. This intellectualism may interest your children for a season, but it cannot sustain them for it does not feed their spirits. Christianity is Christ – He is Spirit and must be worshipped in Spirit and in truth. The Word must live for us and in us or it is only intellectual or emotional. When we imbibe the Word on the level of our spirit, it becomes ours and produces life. Once you have that, Christianity is a vibrant relationship with the God of the universe. It is Christ living His life in and through you. It is His Spirit leading you into all truth – opening the Word to you in all its intricate fullness. It is abundant joy and peace that passeth understanding. It is life eternal here and now.
Over the years we have watched our children watch us to see if what we have is real. One by one they have chosen Christ based on the teachings of God's Word – not just for justification but for Lordship as well. They have embraced its truths because long exposure to it has proven its value and their need. They have taken Him as their own Lord and gone on to find Him true.
Before you deceive yourself, mine are not perfect, that is why they needed Christ and continue to need Him day by day. They are learning to be lowly, empty vessels whom the Lord can fill with Himself. Isn't that what Christianity is all about – Christ. He is all and in all. PERIOD. It is God's inspired Word that leads us to these truths. They are life to all who receive them – in the heart not just the head.
It is exciting to take our hands off our children and step back and watch God direct them in His Ways. Yes, we teach, we instruct, we rebuke, but we also allow God to deal with them to their eternal profit. He does this through His Word. Read it often. Study it. Memorize it. Meditate on it and obey it. Then you will see what God will do with it.
Of all the children in our house, I, as the eldest, have had the most opportunity and exposure to other people. Growing up in a family that believes in reading and studying the Scriptures has provided for some interesting experiences. Although I am still largely unfamiliar with catechisms, I find that I am able to answer most of their questions. As my knowledge was gained directly from the Scriptures, I am not limited to answering the questions found in one particular catechism.
Another question I am asked to answer is "does my exposure to the Scriptures protect me from outside influences". Well, that is a hard question to answer. I have never known anything other than what I have, so I am not ready to make a comparison. My knowledge of the Scripture has little influence on my life by itself, but combined with my relationship with Jesus Christ, I want to honor Him. In that way I would say 'yes' my knowledge of the Scripture is like a hedge. As a quick side note, life is a complete whole, if some part of it is weak or lacking, it will create a serious vulnerability. It is by God's grace and mercy that I am a Christian and leading a 'clean' life.
Over the years our Bible times have changed due in part to us children growing older and in part to the change in circumstances and needs presently facing us. As we children grapple through the Lordship issue and come to walk with God for ourselves, family Bible times can become more interactive as more and more individuals share different thoughts and input into the study. Dad and Mom are no longer the only participants.
Hebrews 3:13 says "But encourage one another day after day while it is still called today lest any of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin." 1 Corinthians 10:12 Although we often fall sadly short of this exhortation, it is none the less our deepest desire to encourage and provoke each other to an ever deeper, living and vital relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
The glamour and beauty of this world often draws our eyes and hearts out after itself. We are surrounded by all these things which we love and admire and for many of us those things for which we desire and dream. Our hearts so easily run after other lovers (people, things, position…) that I fear God often has to say of us what He said of the children of Israel. "Thus says the Lord of Hosts; I was jealous for Zion with great jealousy, and I was jealous for her with great fury." (Zech. 8:2) Although we can all walk through the steps of reading the Word and studying it, it must go much deeper in order for lip service to turn into heart service and for the motions to turn into life. "If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.
We usually start family Bible time around 7am. Because of the choices that have been made over the years, Dad works right next to where we live and therefore does not have to leave for work until 9 most mornings. This enables him to have Bible time with us before he leaves. Summertime is a more flexible season for us with lots of long days so we allow Bible time to shift around according to our needs.
Before breakfast each morning our family gathers in the living room for an hour to an hour and a half of Bible time. We begin with a hymn, which we sing all week long in order to learn it better, encouraging our non-reading members to join in on the chorus. Then we turn to the passage of Scripture for the day, picking up wherever we left off the previous morning. If it's a new chapter we will read it all, otherwise we read what we discussed the day before to get the context of the passage and then read through the next paragraph or two. Dad then reads the section for the day one verse at a time, discussing with us the concepts portrayed and helping to relate them to our lives in a way that the whole family can understand.
Often during family Bible time, we read a whole chapter of Scripture before going on to discuss it verse by verse. To do this we divide up the number of verses by the number of readers then each person reads aloud his/her portion of the chapter in turn. This makes it so that each person can read a portion of Scripture. It is also a good incentive for us to read along and pay attention because we know that our turn is coming soon.
Sometimes for family Bible time we go around the room and each person reads his number of verses. In this way the whole chapter is read aloud. Then we will go back through, having the first person read their verses again and making any comments they have on them. If anyone else has a thought on those verses, they can then also make comments and add to the discussion. Next the second person will read and comment on his verses, and so on through the whole chapter. Sometimes we will spend a day on a chapter but other times we will study the same chapter all week. We have found this method of group study useful because it incorporates almost everyone in the discussions, and thereby it helps everyone keep focused on the topic at hand.
Our family Bible study is based on the truth of the Bible as the final authority. When we study the Bible, we pick several points to discuss. Things like the lives of the people, or how this portion fits with other verses, or the problem with which God was dealing. In addition to this, we often discuss how to apply it to ourselves. Why did God write this to us? Where do we fit in to the picture? And how do our lives need to change? Although all of this discussion can be done purely from the intellect, out of the mind, we must realize that spiritual truths are spiritually discerned and we must therefore cast ourselves upon the Lord seeking His wisdom and the teaching of His Holy Spirit to lead us into His truth and the life which He gives which necessarily results in much good fruit and the glorifying of His name.
To ensure that no book of the Bible is overlooked, our family reads through the entire Bible, book by book. Morning Bible times are devoted to the New Testament, and evenings to the Old Testament. In this way we become familiar with each book of the Bible. When we have read through one of the Testaments, we pick up again at its beginning. It takes somewhere between one and two years to read through the Bible in this way, so each year or two we re-familiarize ourselves with the entire Bible. "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works" (II Tim. 3: 16)
For quite a while we read five Psalms and a Proverb each morning as a family. In Proverbs, in particular, we children would watch for specific topics to show up, one month we would watch for what God said about fools, the next it might be wisdom or what befalls the lazy person, it helped to narrow our thoughts because we were looking for something specific. While there are many benefits to doing this, we prefer to read through the Bible so we get the input from other books as well.
Evening Bible time is much more flexible. We usually divide it into two separate sessions. When we had very little children, Dad would read them a story out of His old Bible story book from when he was a boy. Now, however, with our youngest almost eight, we all read from the Scriptures. During the school season, Dad has Bible time with the younger children before our evening classes begin that way they can go to bed on time. The rest of us have our Bible time after classes are over just before we turn in for the night. We keep up this practice throughout the year, though when we do not have such a strict schedule to keep, it is more flexible.
Every evening Dad conducts a Bible study for us older children. Right now (Nov. 2006) we are reading in Ezekiel. We usually read two chapters, then discuss anything that particularly stood out to any of us. Each night Dad also reads to us one section from the book A Closer Look at the Evidence (or another creation science book).
Each evening Dad has Bible time with the three of us younger children, Caleb, Ammi and me. The first I can remember of this was Dad, after reading a Bible story to us would ask, "Were you listening?" Then he would ask each of us a couple of questions. That was evening Bible time for the three of us in the early days. Now we read through the Bible, one chapter each day. Sometimes there are questions. Sometimes just comments, but usually we read just a chapter. That is evening Bible times for the three of us now.
As little children, many of us found Bible times boring and hard to pay attention to. Of course, the stories were fun and we knew them by heart and enjoyed hearing them again, but when it came to the heavier passages of laws, prophecies and spiritual teaching it went right over our heads. We didn't understand them and really didn't care. Though we had to sit still and quiet through Bible time, we didn't always (maybe not even often) pay much attention. With maturity and the work of God within our hearts, we each begin to understand more and desire to hear and learn from His Word. But in the meantime there is still a very real benefit for those who are exposed to the reading of Scripture.
After evening Bible time is over and everyone heads to bed we usually will turn on a Scripture tape to listen to as we fall asleep. We have a tape-recorder that we keep in the hall between the boy's and girl's rooms that way we can all hear it at the same time. It takes a measure of discipline to narrow your thoughts in and listen to the words being read. One amazing benefit that I have discovered is that I never ever dream when I fall asleep listening to Scripture. It does not matter what portion the tape is from, it can be Leviticus, Nehemiah, Matthew or Romans, it makes no difference whatsoever, I never dream but rather have deep undisturbed, restful sleep.
So whether it is in the morning, at noon or at night, the Word of God is a powerful life changing instrument which God will use, if we allow Him to do so, to reprove and correct us when we have done wrong, to teach us His truth, to encourage us and conform us to His image and to reveal to us a little bit of Himself and the infinite plan that He has for us. No one has ever plumbed the depths of God's incomprehensible Word or discovered the limit of His love and mercy for each of these have no end. "And ye shall seek Me, and find Me, when ye shall search for Me with all your heart. And I will be found of you, saith the LORD:" (Jer. 29:13,14a)
For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall My word be that goeth forth out of My mouth: it shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. (Is. 55:8-11)
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