Thoughts on family worship

As expected, the lecture on family worship was one of the very best of the semester and I set my mind immediately to implement what was taught. Several aspects of the lecture I found particularly helpful. The first was the simplicity of the task. I have known of families who have practiced this but the idea had always been somewhat intimidating. It seemed something relegated to the super-spiritual club and I had resisted it, in part, due to my own shame and failure, and also because I did not want to do it simply because all the Christians-who-are-really-good-Christians do it. So it was with great anticipation that I looked forward to this lecture because I knew, in my heart, that it was the right thing to do and I wanted some guidance now, especially since I have two small children that I want to train for godliness. And so, back to simplicity: Read, Pray, Sing. Man, that’s easy. Could I have come up with this on my own? Certainly, but I had built it up in my mind to be this big deal and intricate plan that I’m sure I wouldn’t have the time to implement. So, to have Dr. Whitney spell out this very simple plan steals the mystique from it and makes it seem very doable and applicable.

Another aspect of the lecture that I thought was so penetrating and powerful was to acknowledge how many men simply feel ashamed. I feel ashamed that I haven’t been doing it and to mention to my wife that I want to do it is, in effect, an admission of failure. It takes a swallowing of pride to come to this point but my family is worth it. Any godly man, especially one who is in training for ministry, would have a hard time admitting such a neglect, but I appreciate so much Dr. Whitney’s acknowledgement of the shame aspect but then giving comfort in the fact that so few of us ever grew up in an environment where we see this modeled. Kudos.

What I have found after practicing it for these last few days is how easy it is to do and how, now that we’ve begun the practice, to add some of our own twists and additions. For example, after simply reading and praying for a couple of days, I thought of some modifications that would help. I have made a prayer list that covers a seven day span so that each day we pray for something different but repeat important concerns on that same day every week. Perhaps we can expand this and make it a month with the most important concerns coming up weekly and more ‘back-burner’ issues coming up monthly. Then I thought that we could take these requests and, after finalizing them, print them off and have the sheet laminated. Perhaps I can make it small enough to use as a bookmark in my Bible and use it to mark where we are in the scriptures.

I was amazed to see something yesterday: my daughter is only about 18 months old and she knows a few words but isn’t speaking full sentences yet. But we have taught her what a Bible looks like as opposed to other books and she sits and listens to the Bible being read during family worship. Since we started just this past Tuesday (after the lecture that afternoon) we have done it for four days so far. Yesterday, when I got up from the dinner table to retrieve my Bible, before I entered the room with it she had already started saying “Bible, Bible!” knowing that this is what comes next. Four days into this she recognized the routine and knew that her Father was going to read from the Bible. My heart melted because I began to feel more like a man; more like the leader of my home. I hope and pray that this will be something that she will always cherish and remember fondly times of family worship around the dinner table every evening. My wife and I have already determined, long ago, that the evening dinner with the family is to be guarded at all costs.

I am so glad for the lecture on family worship and hope that, over time, we can see our children learn to pray and seek the Lord because of this practice.

The Transcendence of God

Tozer laments how God is not treated with transcendence and awe but rather a familiarity that one uses when speaking with their best friend. The notion of a transcendent God is what leads to the fear of God. Even the idea of the “fear” of God is neutered now and taken to mean simply “reverence” rather than “fear.” But I was reading just this morning in Hebrews 10:31 that “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Consider that! The writer of Hebrews recognizes the transcendence of God to the degree that, even though Christians have been purified, it is still a dreadful proposition to cross him. Or as C.S. Lewis would write, “He is not a tame lion.”

Perhaps this is why the Psalms repeatedly appeal to the created order, the observation of the universe to grapple with the majesty of God. Psalm 19:1 says, “the heavens declare the glory of God, the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” And in Revelation the poetry and language is even more grandiose in describing God’s throne and his attendants. Of course, as Tozer himself says, we need to acknowledge that the Holy Spirit is allowing descriptions of God that are anthropomorphic, meaning that God is lowering himself to be spoken of in such terms as having a “throne” and being attended to by angels.

The Bible also describes God in this way in Acts 17:25: “The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for ‘In him we live and move and have our being’.” This is anthropomorphic language that God allows to be employed to describe Him while the reality of His nature is even far above such mean descriptors.

Or again in Psalm 8, “

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?”

We treat God like a gumball machine and have little regard for who he truly is: frightful, awesome, transcendent, majestic, severe, and yet humble, kind, patient, merciful. The English language cannot contain him and our trifling words can never approach him. Tozer is right in his description of most Christian preaching: “how strange to him and how empty would sound the flat, stale, and profitless words heard in the average pulpit from week to week.”

He is right to conclude that transcendent is the proper light in which to present God, and the proper response is self-evident: fall prostrate before him in worship. However, there is a great deal of clamoring in modern churches for preaching that is more “practical.” Were the transcendence of God put on display, no such desire for application would be needed; the application would follow as a natural consequence of the vision of almighty God.