To My Son, After a Special Day

Dear Son,

You may not long remember what happened Saturday, but I won’t soon forget it. If you do remember it, your mind may go to some of the things that happened that you found a bit unpleasant. I know it was noisy, and the game lasted a long time, but I’m not sure I’ll ever forget our day.

I asked you if you wanted to go watch a basketball game, and I know you aren’t really into sports, but you decided to go anyway. Mostly, that was because you found out grampy was going to be there, too, but that’s okay. That’s part of what made it a special day. A boy needs his grandfathers, and you have two wonderful men there, as well.

The game was not a sell-out, and the play on the court was completely awful. I’m not even sure you realized that the game went into overtime, causing us to have to sit through more of the terrible shooting and sloppy passing.

But what I remember more is that is this: every time I looked in my rear-view mirror in the car, or in the seat to my right in the stadium, there you were. My son. My boy.

Every night, I thank God for you, and I pray words of gratitude that God has allowed me to be your daddy. You are a wonderful young man. But daddy gets too busy sometimes. At other times, I’m just tired. You don’t get all the attention and love you need, but daddy is trying to do better. That three-hour Lego project a few weeks ago wasn’t the easiest 180-minutes of my life. But the smile on your face upon finishing the fort was worth it. Taking almost 90 minutes to set up probably 200 dominoes a few days ago was an exercise in patience for both of us (especially when we had to rebuild a few lines that fell early). But, your joy at the falling tiles was a great few moments.

And then…Saturday. We left at 11AM, and didn’t get home until about 4PM. Five hours for you, daddy, and grampy to be together. You were bored a lot of the time, and you don’t like loud noises, but you made it through. You loved the band (that’s okay; daddy does, too), and thought it was amazing that people could hold other people up in the air to do cheers. You even liked some of the noises the crowd made, even if the guy sitting behind us was super annoying.

But, through it all, there was your sweet face. Every day, I see you growing more and more out of the “little boy” phase and into the “big boy” phase. I do not know what God has planned for you for your future, but I pray often that He allows me to be around for a lot of it. And I pray that you grow to see why days like Saturday may not have meant a lot to you, but they mean the world to me.

Thank you for a very special day, son. I love you.

Daddy

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Friday’s Family Friendly Finds {Valentine’s Day, 2014 edition}

Welcome to the re-launch of what used to be known as our Friday Links Roundup. With the new emphasis on our blog toward families, we are calling these posts our “Family Friendly Finds.”

Family Friendly Finds

This week, we have some great posts for you to check out over the weekend. Enjoy!

The Only Six Words Parents Need to Say to Their Kids about Sports–Or Any Performance [Fuller Youth Institute]

The Parenting Olympics [for the family]

Date Ideas for Every Season and Every Budget [Of the Hearth]

Leave and Cleave…My Spiritual Journey of Angst [Choosing Gladness]

5 Daddy Date and Mommy Date Ideas for Quality Time with Each of Your Kids [My Kids' Adventures]

Family Tweet of the Week

Video of the Week

What Did We Miss?

What family links, tweets, or videos did we miss this week? Contact us with links you’d like us to consider for future Friday’s Family Friendly Finds! You can also contact us if you are interested in writing a guest post for our site. We look forward to hearing from you!

Week in Review

Each Friday, we plan to link to the most-viewed posts from the previous week, in order of their popularity. Here’s where people were coming this week:

#5: Big News: Video Summer Series

#4: How to Lead Your Family in Home Devotionals

#3: Exciting News: The Faughn FAMILY Blog

#2: Why Wait for Valentine’s Day?

#1: Why Your Son Doesn’t Answer: Understanding a Boy’s Brain

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Book Review: Mansfield’s Book of Manly Men

Stephen Mansfield’s book that describes itself a “an utterly invigorating guide to being your most masculine self” was a book I looked so forward to reading. At first, I was very thrilled by what the pages contained. Mansfield begins with his “Four Manly Maxims” that are important for men to hold. I agree with them wholeheartedly, and he illustrates his four points very well.

For the remainder of the text of the book–which is the bulk of the material–Mansfield then shares many traits that men need to have in their lives. Traits such as humility, humor, presence and many others fill the pages. Each chapter, then, uses a historical figure to illustrate that masculine trait and how it made a difference. In theory, it was a good idea. To my mind, though, this stretched the book a little far. The chapters are very uneven, both in length and in their strength. Personally, I think Mansfield tried to do too much in one book by covering all these areas in addition to the “manly maxims” that are in the first part.

Overall, the book has some great material for illustrations and quotations. It is obvious that Mansfield has done his homework in collecting materials for each of his chapters. I would have rather the book dug more in-depth into the “manly maxims,” and the multiple chapters on qualities been another book. Trying to do both watered down an otherwise good and very needed book.

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Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers (formerly Booksneeze), in exchange for an honest review. I am not required to give a positive review.

Thankful Thursdays {February 13, 2014}

Thankful Thursdays

Welcome to our first ever “Thankful Thursday!” As we mentioned on Monday’s post, Thursdays are set aside for prayer requests. The concept is simple: leave a comment below and at a set time, we will pray for those you have listed.

NOTE: Today, we plan on praying at 3:00PM Central, so please leave your comments by then.

So, who do we need to pray for? Leave a comment and let us know!

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Why Your Son Doesn’t Answer: Understanding a Boy’s Brain

Nearly anytime I see a report that trumpets some great discovery about how males and females are different, I have to laugh. Does it really take a scientific study to tell us something that any trip to the park or the mall would make abundantly clear?

However, some of the information about why there are differences really is interesting. One of those has to do with the way a boy’s brain is wired. It helps to explain some of the difficulties we as parents might face in raising a young man.

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To those of us without a medical degree, the brain has “gray” and “white” matter in it. Doctors have very fancy terms, but I can grasp the two colors! A study by Richard Haier and Professor Simon Baron-Cohen “discovered that male brains utilize nearly seven times more gray matter for activity while female brains utilize nearly ten times more white matter.” (1)

What does that mean?

The gray-matter parts of our brains are very localized, almost like cubicles in an office building. Each one does one task and focuses on that task. So, when a boy is doing something, these “localized” portions of his brain are focused on that thing. It is one reason why, if your son is playing a game and you try to talk to him, he may not even notice you. It could be that he is not being unsympathetic or uncaring. It could just be that his brain really is “tuned in” to what he is doing.

White-matter portions of the brain, in the other hand, are far more interconnected. Think of a major interstate exchange in a big city, and you’ll have some idea of the picture. Girls use these parts of their brains more, which is why they can usually transition more quickly from one thing to another than boys. Simply call your children, who are playing a game, to the dinner table, and usually the girl will come more quickly than the boy. The reason is because her brain is more wired to make such quick “switches” between thoughts and activities.

What does this mean for our sons? Of course, every child is different, but let’s look at some general applications from this simple knowledge.

Focus on One Task. This is not a bad thing. The typical boy can focus on one thing, but will often work at it for-seemingly-ever to figure something out. He may be impatient when he can’t do something well, but he’ll stay at it more often than girls. This is a good trait for his future, because he will be more likely to stay with a job until it is done.

Fear of Failure. This is a negative of this almost “tunnel vision” approach boys have. He may give up very quickly on a task because he thinks he cannot complete it. He would rather use this strong work ethic in something he can “win.” By the way, this helps to explain why so many boys are virtually (or literally) addicted to video games. Once they find one they can improve on, they will play for hours. However, if he doesn’t finish “level one” in a try or two, he may give up. Obviously, we must work with boys to help them overcome this fear and to learn that failure is okay, so long as he gives his best effort.

Patience. Obviously, all children need patient parents, but boys are often picked on because they don’t “drop what they are doing” and “get here right now.” Of course, they need to learn responsibility and the need to see the desires of others, but boys naturally will be slower at transitioning from one task to another. Give him a moment to come out of “his world” and into what you need him to do. Work with him in getting quicker at these transitions.

Relational Struggles. Boys can seem, and can literally be, oblivious to what others are doing, even in the same room. Because they have this tendency, we jump on them and can fail to help them develop the ability to be more aware of not only the presence of others, but the needs of other people. This is a struggle that will continue, but it can be improved. It has to be molded, however.

We never want to “excuse” a boy’s behavior, simply because this is part of his natural makeup. Parents do need to understand his mind, though, so they can know not only what they want him to become, but also where they are starting.

QUESTION: What are some other positives and negatives of a boy using his “gray matter” so much?

(1) This post is based upon some research found in the book Raising Boys by Design by Gregory L. Jantz and Michael Gurian. It is a book I highly recommend for parents or for those who counsel families. You can get a copy from Amazon here. (The quotation above is from page 21.)

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Photo credit: Nathanial Burton-Bradford on Creative Commons

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Why Wait for Valentine’s Day?

Valentine’s Day is Friday. (Husbands, read that sentence again!)

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Leah and I have never made a huge deal of the holiday, but we always go out on a date and enjoy some time with the kids. We don’t buy extravagant gifts, but I do still ask her to be my valentine. Of course, now Turner asks her, too, so I have some competition!

I hope you are planning something special for the day, but I’d like to ask: why wait until Friday? Why wait until Valentine’s Day?

You don’t have to wait to tell your husband or wife “I love you.”

You don’t have to wait to get a little surprise gift.

You don’t have to wait to get a sitter and go out to eat.

You don’t have to wait to send a romantic text or email.

You don’t have to wait to add a few extra seconds to a kiss or hug.

Holidays are wonderful, and they do help us mark certain dates as special. Valentine’s Day should help focus us on our marriage and how blessed we are to have one another. But shouldn’t that be true each and every day?

Take a moment today and do something “just because” that too many folks will wait until Friday to do. Make it more like Valentine’s Day before Valentine’s Day ever comes.

QUESTION: Why do we wait for holidays too often to show our spouse how special they are? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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Photo credit: Esparta Palma on Creative Commons

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Book Review: “In the Secret Service”

Jerry Parr is considered to be the man who saved the life of President Ronald Reagan when the President was shot early in his time in Washington. This book is simply the autobiography of Parr.

The book reads simply enough, as Parr walks the reader through the major crossroads and events of his life, from childhood through a quite interesting life in the Secret Service. Parr helped protect leaders from both political parties, and also became acquainted with a few world leaders, so he has some interesting tales to tell. Of course, there is some obvious restraint in the stories, which the reader will have to understand is necessary, but the stories that are told are quite fascinating.

I had two reservations with the book. The first was because of a preconceived idea. I had thought the book would be more about the assassination attempt of Reagan, but that only serves as a small slice of the material. It doesn’t detract from the overall book, but the reader needs to know that the book is not about that event, but about the life of Parr.

The second reservation is about the second part of the book. Admittedly, it is much shorter than the first, but in it, Parr talks about his religious life since leaving the Secret Service. There is a lot of false doctrine in this section, but it still helps to see that this man has a religious bent.

Overall, history buffs will find this book an interesting read, and those in the ministry will probably find some good illustrations. It’s a quick and interesting book.

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Disclaimer: I received a free copy of In the Secret Service from Tyndale Blog Network in exchange for this review. I am not required to give a positive review.

Exciting News: The Faughn FAMILY Blog

Today, we have exciting news for you. Today, we are starting “The Faughn Family Blog!”

Wait a minute…what? I thought that was the name of this site anyway.

Well…it is.

But today, we are announcing that we are going to begin emphasizing family in far more of our posts. For some time, we have divided our posts up, with most of the posts being about either “church life” or “family.” However, starting today, we want to turn the emphasis of the blog more toward family.

How do we plan on doing that? Here are 6 ways we hope to help your family through this new emphasis.

1. Two or three posts about family each week. Of course, the basis of our blog will be our blog. That will not change, but the emphasis of our posts is going to turn dramatically toward family life. The posts will come out on Monday, Tuesday, and/or Wednesday. We usually only post on two of these three days, but we might get to all three some weeks. The posts will be about all sorts of family issues, from marriage to single living, from managing money to parenting, from home devotionals to extended family, and more. In fact, you will probably not notice a huge change in our style, but we just want to emphasize family far more than we have in the past. While we may not be “that family,” we are “for the family,” and we like to “focus on the family.” So, our goal is to help your family.

Before moving on, I will say that we will probably write about other subjects at times, especially when we want to react to a “hot button” issue. Our greatest emphasis, however, is going to be on family, and we will do our best to focus most of our posts on that broad subject.

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2. A new giveaway for email subscriptions. To help undergird this home and family emphasis, we have changed the eBook we are giving away to those who subscribe via email. Since Godly love holds families together, we are now giving away our eBook Understanding the Love Chapter, which is an in-depth study of 1 Corinthians 13. Every person who signs up to receive our blog via email (which is totally free) will also receive the entire eBook absolutely free. If you’ve never joined our mailing list, we’s love to have you! Sign up here and we’ll send the eBook asap!

Thankful Thursdays

3. Thankful Thursday. A couple of weeks ago, I tried something on Facebook that I had wanted to do for some time. I simply took prayer requests and had a time listed when I was planning to stop and pray for all those on the hearts of those who wanted to comment. Something about doing that lit a fire in me, so we are moving that idea to our blog. Most Thursdays, we will simply post a reminder to share your prayer requests in the comments of that week’s post, and we will also list a time when we will pause to pray for those you have listed (usually late Thursday afternoon). We hope you like this idea, and we pray that it helps bring some “community” to our readership.

Family Friendly Finds

4. Friday’s Family-Friendly Finds. In past years, we used to have a Friday Links Roundup, which was one of the more popular series of posts. We are resurrecting that idea, but the goal is to emphasize more family links. While every link will not be about family issues or resources, that will be the major emphasis of our Friday posts. By the way, if you want to follow other links that we like (in other words, non-family related links), make sure you follow me on Twitter or follow Leah on Pinterest. We send out information and links to all sorts of things that you’ll find interesting.

5. Super-secret stuff still to come. We have some other ideas up our collective sleeves, but we can’t reveal them yet. I will say, though, that we may not only be producing written posts all the time. Again, this part of our update is still a work in progress, but we hope to have lots more to share very soon.

6. Guest posts! For the first time in a long time, we are going to begin allowing true guest posts. These must be about family, and must be encouraging in tone. We will hold the right to accept or reject any post, but we hope this encourages our readership with more writers. If you are interested in writing for us, contact us.

We do not know how long we will keep this emphasis, but we are really excited about it. We hope you are, too, and we hope you find our emphasis on the home and family to be helpful to you and your home. Over the course of the next day or so, our blog will basically look the same, but some of the information on the sides will change to reflect this new emphasis.

So, welcome to The Faughn FAMILY Blog!

QUESTION: What are your thoughts on this new emphasis? Share your comments below!

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Why Is Everyone So Angry?

Have you noticed that we live in an angry world? Many people feed themselves on TV news programs that are basically one so-called “expert” shouting at another so-called “expert,” with neither one giving an inch. Violence is out of control in many places in the country. Bullying and cyberbullying are at nearly epidemic levels in our schools.

And no one seems to know why.

Maybe it’s because they haven’t read their Bible lately.

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Now, we must say that anger is not a sin. So long as anger is directed at sinful actions and is handled in a proper manner, anger is a God-given emotion and has its place.

That said, we constantly see anger that is out of control and completely misplaced. Anger leads to violent acts and cruelty on a seemingly endless basis. Yet, for all the “experts” who try to tell us various reasons for this growth in anger and violence, you won’t see someone point to the Scriptures.

Surely the Bible doesn’t have the answer for this problem, right?

Oh yes it does.

In Ephesians 2, Paul is writing about the grace of God and how it saves us. But, before he writes about that salvation, he spoke of what we were saved from. Some of the descriptions include “dead in trespasses and sins” and “following the course of this world.” As he draws that part of his discussion to a close, though, Paul writes,

Among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. (Ephesians 2:3)

Did you catch that? Everyone has anger within him/her. But until we are saved by Jesus, we are going to express that anger (here called “wrath”), “like the rest of mankind.” Why? Because that’s the desire of my flesh.

Ever hear someone say, “I’m hot-headed; that’s just who I am”? We all have heard that, and maybe have said it. Paul is saying that those words are, at least to a point, correct.

On the flip side, have you ever heard someone say, “I’m just hot-headed, and I can’t help it”? Yep, we’ve heard that one, too.

And it’s here where the line is drawn between our culture and Christianity. Christians would actually agree with that statement, in part. However, the Bible teaches that, while I of my own doing cannot “help myself,” Jesus can. It takes trusting that He is able to bring peace and control into my life. And, while I may still fail at times to control my anger, Christians who are living faithfully should be the most peaceful and controlled people on earth.

Why? Because we are no longer fulfilling the angry desires of the flesh. Instead, by the grace of God, we have been saved through faith. And in that great act, “We are [God's] workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works” (v.10).

If people would just look at their Bibles, a lot of “experts” would be out of a job. God has told us why everyone is so angry, but He has also told us how to solve the problem.

As always, the problem is us, and the solution is Jesus.

[NOTE: We have a very exciting announcement about the blog coming on Monday. We hope you check back in for this big news, or to be sure you don't miss it, why not not just subscribe (for free) by email? That way, you'll never miss a post, including the exciting news we'll let you know about on Monday!]

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Photo credit: Matt Erasmus on Creative Commons

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How to Lead Your Family in Home Devotionals

[Note: The following in the manuscript I am using for a lecture at the annual Freed-Hardeman University Bible lectures on the theme "How to Lead Your Family in Home Devotionals." Although much longer than my usual blog posts, I hope you find it encouraging.]

It is 8 PM and your home is still and calm. The children have already cleaned their rooms so that a maid would be jealous of the perfection of their work. They have taken their showers, and you are sure that there is not a single germ or speck of dirt to be found anywhere on their bodies. Their teeth are gleaming white, and you are certain that the dental floss has removed every last molecule of plaque from between their teeth.

Now, the children gather on the couch in a room that is so well-kept you are just certain that Southern Living is going to knock on the door to take photos of the room for their latest feature article. The children wear smiles because they know that daddy is going to take the next 45 minutes to expound unto them the deep-seated nuggets of truth of the prophecies of Ezekiel, and this is what they have waited all day to learn. Forget the time outside, playing tag with the friends from up the street; hearing these lengthy discussions about the intricate nuances of the Hebrew language in poetic prophecy—that’s where it’s at!

If you are sitting here today, and this describes your home devotionals, then I’ll just say this: You need to be down here teaching this hour! Because the picture that we painted above may sound wonderful and may sound ideal, but it is certainly not what most—or any—of us experience when we try to have devotionals in our homes.

Before moving on, let me make this remark by way of introduction. This was a difficult topic to discuss in the lectureship book. That volume is usually filled with quite scholarly material, and this is not as much of an in-depth subject. What I tried to do, then, was lay a deeper foundation in the book that you can go back and read at your own leisure. In this hour, our goal is to talk a bit more about the practical side of things. We also want to share a few resources—among countless ones we could share—that might help you if you need such for your home.

It doesn’t matter what you call it. It could be a devotional. In our home it’s “Bible time.” For some, it’s family worship, and there are many other names. The point of this effort, though, is simple: it is dedicating a few moments on a regular basis to focus the entire family on God and His Word. In fact, that last sentence is going to serve as our working definition as we consider “How to Lead Your Family in Home Devotionals.” So, here is that statement again: A family devotional is dedicating a few moments on a regular basis to focus the entire family on God and His Word.

Using that description as our working definition, we will discuss 6 areas this afternoon that should help us as we seek to lead our families. I would like to state that this track on the lectureship is called “Especially for Young Families.” I am going to emphasize those homes in this lecture, but I will try to point out some things that can be useful if your children are a bit older. Of course, much of what we will say is true across the demographics, but our examples will mostly be considering those who are younger.

With that said, let’s use our working definition to consider how to lead our homes in this area.

1. Dedicating. We will not spend a lot of time on this first section, but it needs to be said and emphasized: For family devotionals to occur, there must be dedication to this idea as important. I am not going to suggest this afternoon that, if you haven’t been having devotionals or if you are hit-and-miss with them, that you are lacking in your spirituality. I don’t think you would come to a session like this, or to this lectureship as a whole, if you lacked in spiritual dedication.

What I am suggesting is that you must be dedicated to the importance of family devotionals if you are going to not only have them, but keep them going. For that to happen, it must be something that is not just in your head, but in your heart. And, if we are honest, only the Lord can truly change a heart. Spend time in prayer about your devotionals and your willingness to lead them. Pray for wisdom in how to handle these devotionals, and ask humbly for God to give you the wisdom and the patience to keep going when there are days that don’t go well.

Why? Trust me: not every devotional will go well. In fact, probably only a small percentage will go exactly as you had planned. When you are used to working at things and having them go according to a plan, it is easy to get discouraged when things don’t work out as you might like. That’s when your dedication must kick in.

Before moving on, I will add this quick thought. Married couples, you both need to be dedicated to this idea, too. If one is on fire to have home devotionals and the other won’t even turn off the TV to take part, the kids are going to pick up on that very quickly. One of you may be more interested than the other (in fact, that’s only natural), but both of you need to be dedicated to the idea that this is important.

2. A few moments. Now, at this point, some of you may question my faithfulness, because I am going to tell you that these family devotionals should not last more than a few minutes. For some of us, especially us preachers, we might think that we should work up a 45-minute exposition of some relatively unknown passage dealing with prophecy or with how to handle uncleanness (after all, you have small children, and uncleanness is a constant!), but if we are realistic, we know that these long expositions are not really how best to teach in this way.

The fact of the matter is, especially when your children are smaller, you can accomplish so much in very little time. In our home, most of our devotionals last about 10-15 minutes, and I would say that they are more often closer to the 10 minutes than the 15. We do not go by the clock, but that seems to be about the average range.

Why such a short period of time? There are a couple of reasons. One is that we are busy, just like you are. We try to keep our calendars pretty clear, but if we are going to be active in the work of the Lord, good citizens, and also have a good family life, those calendars are going to fill up quickly. We all understand that. Some people hear the idea of having a family devotional and think, “It’s just something else to do.” That’s one reason these need to be brief. We are already so busy.

But I also suggest a shorter period of time because so much can be done in a short period of time. I want you to think back to the last day of work you had before going on vacation last year. Maybe you were leaving on a Friday to head off to the mountains or away on a cruise. Think back to that Thursday then; the day before you left. In just your first 10 or 15 minutes, how much did you accomplish? For most of us, on days like that, it is a tremendous amount of work.

Why? Because we are clear about what we need to do. The same is true in your family devotionals. We’ll talk more about focus in a few minutes, but it helps in keeping these times brief if we have a plan. Would you rather your children (or you, for that matter) know one thing really well, or barely know a few random things? Take a few minutes and focus on that one thing.

Also, consider the majority of educational programming your children watch. Most of the shows may be the same length, but they move between scenes quickly. They get in, teach a lesson, and get out. And we all need to recognize that, for a great number of kids, it works. It’s not a bad way to approach considering the length of our devotionals.

3. Regular basis. Here is where most of us struggle. We decide we are going to start having home devotionals. Maybe you make that decision as a result of this session today, or just as a result of being around this wonderful group of people this week. We get the energy and motivation to start something like this, and we say, “Next week on Monday night, we are starting this.” And, wouldn’t you know it? That’s the day little Susie comes home from school with a fever. And you forgot that there was an all-hands-on-deck meeting at work that night. Before you know it, it’s been a month since you made the decision to start having devotionals and you have yet to have your first one.

So, how are we supposed to stay in a regular schedule when life is so chaotic? Let me offer a few suggestions to help.

                *Do not be confined to a specific place. I’ll admit that we aren’t perfect at this, but there have been a number of times where we have done our family devotional in the car. Maybe it’s a short drive across town, but just singing a few songs or reviewing a Bible story can happen in the car. If you decide that you can’t have your devotional in any location other than your living room or around the dining room table, it’s going to be much more difficult to get in a rhythm. After all, for most families, how often are we in the same location—even at home—at nearly the exact same time every night?

                *Schedule more than one per week. Think with me for a moment. If you say, “Our devotionals are going to be on Monday nights,” and then you miss a Monday night, it’s a full 14 days between devotionals. Just missing one or two can easily get you out of the regular practice because it is so long in between times together. Instead, if you try to have 2 or 3 each week and you happen to miss one, it is much easier to stay in regular practice. Of course, there are other reasons to have a devotional more than once each week, but this is a wonderful extra benefit.

                *Put it on the calendar. Full disclosure: this is not something we literally do. Leah and I share a Google Calendar and you will not find “family devo” or “Bible time” on the calendar. The reason is that we are just in the habit of doing this. If you are not, though, put it on your calendar, or set your phone to remind you at a certain time each day to have your devotional. It is remarkable how, what we put on our calendars seems to get done. Also, if you put your Bible time on the calendar and someone calls and wants you to do something, you can honestly say, “I already have a commitment for that time of the evening. Can we choose a different time?”

                *Remember: brevity! If you are trying to have hour-long devotionals, you are going to struggle to carve out the time on a regular basis. But, no matter how busy you are, if you are only looking for about 15 minutes a couple of times each week, it’s much easier to stay in rhythm. Even if it’s time in the car, it’s not hard for most of us to find that kind of time. And, I’ll just say it, if it is hard to find 10-15 minutes, maybe we are too busy, and this can be a great time to triage the calendar and do some evaluation!

Before we leave this idea of our devotionals being on a regular basis, I would also add that we need to consider what time of day you want to have your devotionals. We have been assuming in this lesson that these times will be in the evening, but that may not work well for your family, and you’ll get frustrated and quit. Maybe daddy is involved in shift work and it would work better for the family to meet around the breakfast table a few minutes before the bus comes or before homeschool begins. If you homeschool, maybe dad can come home for lunch and that’s when the devotional can happen. Maybe it’s right when the kids get home from school. Or right when dad and/or mom get home from work. Maybe it is as soon as everyone is done eating supper. The key is to make this your family devotional time, making it best fit the life of your family.

4. Focus. I want to camp on this fourth point for a little while, because this is so key. It is here that we’ll share some resources as well in just a moment.

In reality, this is the key to what our assignment for this session is: “Leading Your Family in Home Devotionals.” If those who are leading are not focused, then how can we expect the devotionals themselves to have focus? Now, as we’ve said throughout, life is chaotic and every devotional period is not going to perfectly follow some amazing “script” you plan out. There are going to be some very frustrating evenings, and there are going to be times when you just aren’t feeling like keeping things on track. But I would challenge you: make this the exception rather than the rule.

What are some ways to focus? The best way is to ask one question: “What do I want my children to learn right now?” Now, I know, there are probably 100 or more answers to that question. After all, every one of us, no matter the age of our children, wish we could just open up their heads and pour in wisdom and knowledge, because we see so many areas where they need to learn, grow, and mature.

But, in answering that question, try to focus your thinking on just a handful of things that you want them to grow in at this stage of their life. Here are a few areas you might want to consider:

 

  • Maybe it is simply knowing accounts from Scripture better. This could be the case if your children are small, or if your family is new to Scripture. There is no shame in saying that you’d like to know more about some of the great stories and people of Scripture, and we all surely want our children to know them better.
  • Maybe it is Scripture memorization. Family devotionals are a wonderful time to memorize a few verses together, especially if they are verses about a certain area in which you want your children to improve. Psalms and Proverbs both contain verses that are practical and quite easy for memorization, even by smaller children.
  • Maybe it is just worshiping together. This can be so helpful if your children struggle to act well in worship. Taking a few minutes to sing together and pray together is a great way to teach them about the wonderful nature of worship, as well as helping them learn how to act in worship.
  • Maybe it is morality. Especially as your children age, devotionals provide a great way to focus on how to handle certain moral situations. Just remember to point them to the Scriptures, and not some type of situational ethics or selective morality. But teach them to look at situations through Biblical glasses and to think about how God would have us handle difficult decisions or struggles.
  • Maybe it is leadership. For boys, family devotionals can be a tremendous way to practice leading in worship. They can learn to direct singing, read Scripture, or lead a prayer in front of just their family, who they know will support them, but also help them improve. For young ladies, she can learn how to read out loud to someone who is in the hospital or she can prepare the materials for a devotional, so that she is learning about preparing Bible lessons for class settings.
  • Maybe it’s service. One great way to spend family Bible time is in doing an act of service for someone else, and talking about the importance of helping others. It could be writing or making a card, or helping mommy pack some cookies for a neighbor who is sick. All the while, the conversation is about why we do things like this. We are teaching that this is done in the name of the Lord and to His glory.

Are you beginning to see that the possibilities are quite long? This is by no means an exhaustive list, but maybe you see something that makes you think of your own children and something you would really like to place some emphasis on.

At the beginning of 2014, our family laid down what we would like to do in our family devotionals. We’ve had them for some time, but we tried to think realistically about what we could do each evening, and how that would help our children where they are right now. So, at our house, here is how we are currently striving to handle our devotionals. You’ll notice that there are a few different areas of emphasis, but we like the variety during the week.

*Monday night is Bible review. This works well for us for a couple of reasons.

One is because we can take something from a Bible class on Sunday or Wednesday and make it useful for our home. You know all those zillions of pieces of paper and crafts that those wonderful Bible school teachers help your children make? They send them home, and then you aren’t sure what you are supposed to do with them, right? For most of us, we can’t keep all of them, but maybe you can keep a few and use them in this way. Leah builds a small notebook for each of our kids of some of the projects, worksheets, and crafts. At times, we use these for review, while at other times, we think of something else for them to draw, make, or just tell to review that part of Scripture. Sometimes, we just talk about a Bible story, and we even let the kids act them out at times. When daddy is Goliath, things get a little interesting!

Monday nights being review night also works well for us because at least one Monday night each month, I have a meeting at the church building, and Leah can handle the devotional on those nights with or without me. In fact, she is far more talented in this area than I am, so if I cannot be there for the devotional, I know it’s going to go very well. We’ll talk more in a few moments about the whole family being present, but we all know there will be a few times where that just isn’t possible. We try to think about that in these plans.

*Tuesday night is KidSing night. At Lebanon Road, we have KidSing on Sunday evenings before services. This is much like a pew packers program, but our emphasis is on memorizing Bible facts. We take the cards that Glenn Colley makes available on the West Huntsville Church of Christ website (which I’ll give in a moment). I modify them slightly and on Sunday evenings before services, I review these cards with our K-6 group at Lebanon Road. We really want our children to know these cards well, so we take Tuesday nights to rehearse the cards in our home devotionals. If our kids have been paying attention in KidSing, this doesn’t take long. If they haven’t, these can be some frustrating nights.

*Thursday night is object lesson night. We have yet to start these on a regular basis because Thursday nights are also our nights to either (1) have guests over for a meal, or (2) Leah and I to have a date night out. So far in 2014, we have had a lot of guests, which is great. However, on nights we are home, we will take an object lesson and present it to the kids. Again, I’ll give you a resource in a few moments, but these are simply taking a common object and developing a moral and devotional thought from it, much like Jesus did in teaching through parables.

*Saturday night is worship night. For us, these are simply brief evenings where we sing a couple of songs and maybe read a passage from the Bible or something else that reminds us of a Biblical principle. These evenings are brief, but the emphasis is on helping us begin to prepare our minds for worship on Sunday.

Is that how you have to do this in your home? Of course not, and this is a new way we are holding our devotionals in 2014. I doubt it’s perfect, and I’m sure that, as our children get older, it will change. I just wanted you to see that we are trying to remain focused on a few areas and stay regular in doing these things with our children.

Now, I will also say that we need help in this. Leah and I will admit that we are not perfectly creative, and to come up with this much stuff on a regular basis is not easy. So, we turn to resources. Let me give you a few that we have used through the years, and there are countless others that are out there to help.

  • The One-Year Children’s Bible. When our kids were smaller, they got this book for Christmas, and we read through it. Now, we did not read every day, but sometimes read a couple of entries in one evening. We did, however, read through this book in about a year. It’s a great way to get the children used to seeing the whole picture of the Bible. You may have to edit an entry or two throughout the year, but not many. Each of the 365 entries takes about 2 or 3 minutes to read, making it great for small children.
  • Family Devotionals” by Kaio Publications. These are CD-roms that have object lesson you can print out from a pdf format. Currently, there are four CD’s available, and each one has 30 short devotionals on it. The ones currently available are “object lessons from the yard,” the kitchen, the garage, and the house. More titles are coming, by the way. But, right there, you can have 120 print-and-teach devotionals ready to go. The goal is to eventually have 360 devotionals in the complete set, but 120 is enough for most of us to get started!
  • KidSing cards. You don’t have to have a pew packers or KidSing program at your congregation to use these cards in your family devotionals! You can get them for free at http://westhuntsville.org/youth/KidSing.php. Or just look at those and decide on your own areas of Scripture to emphasize for memorization in your family devotionals.
  • Hannah’s Hundred. We love these CD’s and a lot of the songs we sing are memory verses from them. We also make up a few of our own, which the kids love. Each of these CDs helps the children (and you) learn 100 verses of Scripture. These are perfect for the nights when you are traveling and need to have your family devotional in the car.
  • Acts by the Numbers. This is a resource on our family blog, but it is also something we did at Lebanon Road in 2013. These provide a fact-sheet for each of the 28 chapters of the book of Acts. Each sheet talks about one chapter and has 1 summary statement, 2 memory verses, 3 review questions, and a 4-minute activity. I will admit, in reviewing these, a couple have a mistake on them, but I think you’ll still like them as a quick-printable devotional idea for your family. These are totally free at our website.
  • Lads to Leaders rulebook. You may have noticed that some of the things we have discussed are quite similar to some of the events at Lads to Leaders. You may not be involved in Lads, but that’s okay. That’s not what I’m saying in this lecture. Some of the events are good ideas for some areas to emphasize in your home devotionals, and can be tailored to fit what you do.
  • Devotions for the Children’s Hour. Kenneth Taylor, who paraphrased The Living Bible, wrote this collection of short devotionals for kids. We use this sometimes on Saturday nights, but I will say that you’ll skip or reword quite a few lessons. There’s a lot of “chaff” to be removed, but you can get a lot of good ideas from this book. Lessons are things like “Why do some people not believe the Bible?” and “Why can I trust God?” This is a good idea book, but you’ll have to do some editing for doctrinal reasons.
  • Finally, as your children age, I would suggest selecting good books from some of our brotherhood companies to work through as a family. Those famous “13-chapter” books often contain a good amount of material that maybe you divide up over the course of 2 or 3 evenings to discuss.

The key is to ask around for help. There are nearly countless resources online that can help you with whatever areas you wish to place your focus on. Ask a Bible school teacher, or call a brotherhood bookstore. If you like crafty stuff, head to Pinterest.

No matter what, get focused. Decide what you want your children to learn at this stage in their life and then lead them in learning those things.

5. Entire Family. I mentioned to you that there are a few evenings where I cannot be present for our family Bible time, but those are exceptionally rare. We take this time as a family very seriously. This is not something that should be done by part of the family. Family devotionals are a time that need to be enjoyed, yes; but they also need to be expected.

Dads, I’ll just speak to us for a second. This needs to be an area where your leadership shines. You may not be too creative, but just your emphasis in being present and showing leadership will teach volumes. In fact, it may teach more than the actual lesson being presented during the devotional time. Please make this a priority and be present a vast majority of the time, but also be involved. Let your kids see you read the story or sing the song. Memorize the verses with the kids and help them when they struggle to understand. You won’t regret leading in this way.

Moms, may I speak to you for a moment? Your husband needs your support! It may add something to your day to help get something together for the devotional, but wouldn’t you love to have a man willing to lead his family in this area? Help him come up with ideas and offer your area of expertise. Maybe you can help with a craft or printing out a worksheet. Maybe you can help select some resources for him to use. Maybe you can run (shall we call it) “crowd control” when the devotional isn’t going as well as you might like.

If you have older kids, let me speak to you. This is a time when you will strongly need to evaluate when you have your devotionals. Teenagers will be heavily involved in so many things. Maybe they are an athlete, or they are great in the band. Maybe they have a job. Whether they are in public school, private school, or homeschool, they will be busy. It may be time to move the family devotional to the morning or to just after dinner. But do not let them off the hook just because they are busy. If they can get away from this now for being busy, they have a ready-made excuse to never start devotionals in their own home one day. This is about family and it is about priorities, and being together as a family for this purpose must be a priority.

6. God and His Word. Here is where we will end, because it needs to be the focal point of everything. We haven’t mentioned a single Bible verse yet, but we want to change that to help us draw our thoughts to a close this afternoon.

In Deuteronomy 6, we know the passage that says that the Israelites were to instill the law of God on the hearts of their children. Starting in verse 4, Moses wrote, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and will all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, 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. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” That’s one of those great Old Testament emphasis passages that grounds us in the importance of our work as parents and leaders of the home.

But we see it lived out in another well-known passage from the New Testament. Paul wrote to a young preacher, sometimes called his protégé, named Timothy. As he did, Paul wrote about the sincere faith that was in Timothy, but that was first seen in his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice (2 Timothy 1:5). Knowing that heritage of faith, it is no wonder that Paul would write to that same man these words in 2 Timothy 3:14-15: “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”

I know those verses do not say, “You must have family Bible time.” I get that. But I also know that my children will likely place emphasis and value in what we do as parents. I want them to see that we place emphasis in God and His Word, and in learning that together. I want them to see that we place value and emphasis in meeting together as a family to do that.

My children need to see that our family gets together to focus on God regularly, so that I can instill into their lives what they need at this point in their growth and development.

Why? Think of what the passages in Deuteronomy and 2 Timothy teach us. We need to place this emphasis…

Because this world needs more who

Number one: have the commandments of the Lord on their heart,

Number two: are willing to teach their children who will teach their children,

Number three: are acquainted with the sacred writings,

Number four: firmly believe those writings,

                And number five: are saved by the message of Scripture.

As long as I live, I will pray for my children and their spiritual growth and maturity. But, practically speaking, I’ve only got a few years to have them right there with me where I can guide them so closely. When those years have flown by—and they are flying by—my children will head out into a world that does not have the commandments of God on its collective heart, that will not teach children (my grandchildren) the Scriptures, is not acquainted with the sacred writings, clearly does not believe them, and—tragically—will be lost because of that.

Why, then, would I ever hesitate to focus as much as I can with these wonderful treasures that God has given to me? You may call it a devotional, or Bible time, or family time, or any number of other names.

But whatever you call it, treat it as sacred, and God will bless your effort.

Let’s not just have family devotionals. Let’s lead them.