John 12:24-26 - I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.  The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.  Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.
Hold On Loosely
In our scripture Jesus teaches his disciples he is going to die, but that he must if they would live. A kernel of wheat must die if it would produce many seeds.
Have you ever wondered why reformation and revival has not broken out across the church at large or yours in particular? There are perhaps many reasons, but one reason is we are holding on too preciously and tightly to our own lives, unwilling to die. Jesus said in order to reproduce many seeds we must die. Do we love our lives too much in this world?
My life for yours. Genuine, substitutionary, and sacrificial living. Following and serving our King wherever he may lead, to whatever end. This brings honor from the Father. This glorifies the Father. This universal principle is the rule, not the exception, because it reflects the very character of the Lord we worship.
My life for yours. God calls us as Christian parents to train and nurture our children in the Lord – when they rise, when they go to bed, as they live throughout the day, when it’s convenient, when it’s inconvenient. We must make sure our children are not merely “taught at” but saturated in the things of God each day, all day, because they are eternal beings and heirs of the King. “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”
Are you leaving a godly legacy to and for your children and your children’s children for a thousand generations? Are you dying so they can live – really live? Can you think outside your individual life to see how your own death will extend the Kingdom of God by producing many seeds? Will you believe the promises God has made regarding faithful, covenantal parenting? Your life for theirs and for a thousand generations after them. Talk about a payoff!
But this is hard. That’s why it’s called death. Death to self. It is intentional, committed, disciplined. It’s every day, all day. It’s the discipling of your children because it is your joy, blessing, and responsibility before God to do so. Your life for theirs. The Kingdom of God grows in such ways. Darkness is engulfed by light through such ways. Reformation and revival are ushered in through such faith and obedience. God promises blessings to such as these.
But First You Must Die
Do with less stuff if it means more time with your family. Play with your children at the end of the day, even when you are tired. Discipline your children, even when you would rather not. Cast a God-glorifying vision before your children of who they could be for Jesus. Read great stories to your children so their imaginations are ignited as they put themselves in the places of the characters in the stories. Tell them about the heroes of the faith who have gone before them, so they might see how others have given themselves for Christ and his Kingdom.
Teach your children who God is – his person, plan, power, and purpose. Drive home again and again what the gospel is and is not (after all, we’re not trying to merely make better citizens or “behaviorally correct” robots). Teach and show them God’s grace. They must learn what it means to know, love, and follow Christ. They have to understand that the Christian faith is a total world and life view that addresses every sphere of life.
Create A Christian Culture
We are called to create Christian cultures in our homes through the power of God’s Word and Spirit, so our children will bring that salt and light influence into every other sphere of their lives for Christ. This is first and foremost the responsibility of Christian parents, not others, not even the church. Our lives for theirs. We must die so they can live.
Can we let go? Of our wants, things, desires, passions – our very lives? We must if we would find real life – abundant life – eternal life. Life in service to the King is not our own. It’s better. Only in dying are we raised. Only in dying are more seeds produced, and therefore, more fruit. Our lives for theirs.
From our commitment and hard daily labor now, what might God do later in response? Might he use one of our children, (or one of our children’s children), to bring many to Christ, transform the culture, usher in reformation and revival in the church, extend the Kingdom of God as never before? We have every reason to believe he will! But we must die. We must fall to the ground and die. We must give our lives for our children’s lives, and for their children after them, so God may be pleased and choose to honor us by blessing those for whom we gave our lives.
My life for yours. Our lives for theirs. This is biblical faith.
· What makes dying to self so difficult, even for your children?
· What are some practical ways you can give your life for theirs?
· Write down some ideas of new things you can do to produce fruit in the life of your children.
· Discuss these ideas with two or three other men who will hold you accountable for putting your ideas into practice and who will pray for you and your children. Don’t wait to do this… start today.
Heavenly Father, it’s hard for me to die to myself. And when I see all that my Lord Jesus sacrificially did on my behalf, it makes me feel even more ashamed that I’m not willing to do a fraction of that for those I love most in this world. Please forgive me. Create within me, by your grace-giving Spirit, a deep desire to pursue this sacrificial life and give me the strength and direction to live it out the rest of my life. I want to love and glorify you as well as lovingly bless my children. Give me a sanctified self-forgetfulness so I may truly put others, my children included, before myself. Remind me often that, “unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” In the name of the One who gave his all that I might live. Amen.
This Week’s Prayer Guide
[You can use this prayer guide in your own personal prayer time. However, I encourage you to use it with a group of Christian men. Each week you should spend time praising God for who he is, confessing your sin to him (be specific) as well as expressing gratitude to him for his gracious forgiveness. Also, don’t forget to thank God for the many ways he has poured out his goodness in your life. Then, focus on the following areas of supplication, which will change from week to week.]
Petitions – prayers for yourself
· My personal mission field
Ø Help me to identify those people who make up my personal mission field.
Ø Enable me to begin sharing the gospel with those who do not yet know you.
Ø Empower me to disciple those who are young in their faith.
Ø Allow me to encourage those who are struggling in their faith.
Ø Please give me perseverance in all areas of ministry.
· Today’s events and interactions with others, planned and unplanned
· Other needs
Intercession – prayers for others
· My family
· For missionaries throughout the world
· For those seeking to faithfully minister to loved ones at home
· For those who share the gospel in the inner city
· For those who bear witness to Christ in places of power
· Other needs
Fear and Trembling
What is family worship? What does it look like in practice? I’m often asked questions like these. Family worship is one of my favorite things to talk about, and yet, there’s a danger in writing on topics like this, or parenting, or marriage, or any other topic in the same neighborhood. The danger is that the reader may begin thinking the writer has: 1.) Figured all this stuff out and, 2.) Is executing it perfectly. In my case, both assumptions would be a mistake. I’m learning with each and every new day. But I feel I have learned enough to add some value to other parents just starting out. And so I prayerfully pass it along.
Three Forms of Worship
The puritans used to distinguish three forms of worship: Private, Family, and Corporate. Private worship would include your “alone time” with God – in prayer, reading his Word, reading devotional literature, singing hymns, etc. Corporate worship takes place when a local congregation gathers together (usually on the Lord’s Day or perhaps a Wednesday evening) to sing, pray, receive the sacraments, and hear God’s Word read and exposited. Family worship, as you have no doubt guessed by now, is a combination of the two, (minus the sacraments), done in the context of the family.
How We Do It
My family typically has family worship during our breakfast time together. It’s a process that seems to be ever-evolving, but I’ll give you a sample of what we typically do.
Prayer and Scripture
Usually my wife or I open in prayer, thanking God for blessing us through the night, giving us life for another day, and bringing us together to worship him. We are presently reading through the Gospel of John, so I will read about half a chapter of that. John’s chapters are pretty long, so I have been hesitant to attempt to take on a whole chapter. When we have read Paul’s epistles, a whole chapter isn’t as demanding. An accompanying reason I don’t read a whole chapter at a time is because there’s so much rich content in each chapter. Just like a sermon, each chapter needs to be broken down into smaller bite-sized portions so that the family can talk in greater depth about what has just been read.
After I read the text, I try to lift one or two thoughts from it and share those with the children. Or, more often than not, I’ll ask them questions to make sure they got the key points. I once heard R.C. Sproul, Jr. say he always preached sermons to his children during their family worship time and that his sermons were generally 30…(long pause for effect)…seconds. Our “sermon” is not much longer.
After our Bible reading we move to a catechism. A catechism is simply a way to learn the Christian faith in a question-and-answer format. For example, the first question of our catechism asks, “What’s our primary purpose for being here?” Answer: “To glorify God and enjoy him forever.” We spend one week (in theory) on each question. There is a very brief devotional explanation of the question and answer for each day of the week. Before I ask a new catechism question, I review the last few questions, just to make sure the kids (as well as mom and dad) remember what we’ve already learned.
After our catechism question, we move to a devotional that “hits the kids where they live” in a more obvious way. I qualified that statement the way I did because I believe reading Scripture and studying catechism questions are essential for discipling our children. But in our day and age, those two things are often seen as “irrelevant for life.” I think it’s all in the delivery.
After that, depending on our time, we may sing a hymn or the Gloria Patria, recite the Apostles’ Creed and Lord’s Prayer, and lastly, pray for our day and any prayer concerns we know about.
That may sound like a lot, but actually 15 minutes would be our absolute longest. And even that would have sporadic intermissions of telling my youngest son to get back in his chair or to quit stealing his sibling’s bacon.
When you first begin family worship, it may feel a little mechanical and awkward. Trying new things usually feels that way. But trust me, you do get into the groove after a while. And best of all, the kids love doing it. Ours even remind us if we forget. You can’t beat that!
First of all, you will need to figure out a pattern of family worship that fits your family. Our way isn't the "right" way. It’s our way. Besides that, it changes from time to time to fit the needs and/or demands of our family. There's an old saying that goes, “the one you use is the one that works.” That's true with family worship.
Secondly, family worship isn't the only way to disciple your children. In fact, it shouldn't be. However, if you want to take the Bible’s admonition seriously to disciple your children, then I believe this is a wonderful and effective way to do it. Besides that, it's fun! And, it’s the best investment in eternity you can make.
Did your family have family worship when you were growing up or is this a new concept for you? If you did, what were some of the things you did together as a family during that time? Do you have a favorite memory from that time? If you are now a parent, do you practice family worship with your child(ren)? If not, why not? If so, what are some things you do as a family? There are many parents who would like to start doing family worship together but don’t know how to get started. If your family does family worship, perhaps you could share your experiences and ideas with someone who would like to start it with their family.
Grace and Truth,
Genesis 7:1 - The Lord then said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and your whole family, because I have found you righteous in this generation.
All in the Family
God works through families. He blesses through families. In the Old Testament we learn he even curses through families. This is the covenantal nature of God’s work throughout Scripture.
Noah found favor with God (Gen. 6:8). Noah was found by God to be a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and walking with God (Gen. 6:9). Because God saw Noah in such a condition, Noah’s whole family was blessed – his wife, sons, and daughters-in-law.
We find God’s covenantal faithfulness in the New Testament as well. The Syrophoenician woman’s daughter was possessed by an evil spirit (Mk. 7:25). So the mother went to Jesus and begged him to deliver her daughter from it. After testing her, Jesus rewarded the mother for her persistence and faith by healing the daughter from the spirit (Mk. 7:29). The child was blessed because of the mother’s faith. This is often how God works.
Psalm 128:1-4 reminds us of this.
Blessed are all who fear the Lord,
who walk in his ways.
 You will eat the fruit of your labor;
blessings and prosperity will be yours.
 Your wife will be like a fruitful vine
within your house;
your sons will be like olive shoots
around your table.
 Thus is the man blessed
who fears the Lord.
Noah was blessed in such a way. So was Abraham. So was the Syrophoenician woman, Lydia, and the Philippian jailer.
Dying That Others May Live
If this is how God works, does it not then behoove us to pursue righteousness and blamelessness for all we are worth? Should we not desire to walk with the Lord daily? Wouldn’t fearing the Lord be wise? The personal blessings that would flow from such a sacrificial life seem reason enough. But the covenantal blessings on your children and your children’s children make this both obvious and compelling. Even in the land of rugged individualism, we can grasp this.
In light of this, let us resolve to give our lives for our spouses, our children, and to all to whom we can minister. Our lives for theirs. It is only in this kind of death we will find life – for ourselves and for our families.
What are three ways your faithfulness impacts the life of your family? Your unfaithfulness? There’s an old saying that one’s faith is more often “caught” than “taught.” Pray about how you can start living more faithfully before your family. Call a family meeting and share your ideas with them. Sharing and brainstorming together can be a wonderful time for your family to grow closer to one another.
Grace and Truth,
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