Family Altar (Bible Time)
title "family altar" simply means family Bible study and worship time. Every
Christian family should have such a time daily. It is amazing how few families
really take this seriously and practice this routinely. It is the best guarantee
to have Christian children with good moral standards that do not drift through
the teen years, to have a family that has a witness for Christ in the community,
and to have a family that takes the church seriously and enjoys going to
all the services.
It is well to remember the great command that the Lord gave to Israel.
"Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord
thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.
And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:
and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children and shalt talk of
them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way,
and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up"
Worship of the Lord is first of all vertical and then horizontal and begins
in the home and takes in the whole family.
I. What Is the Purpose of the Family Altar?
- To worship God together and learn more of His ways. What could be a better
purpose. Children should learn to worship God in their early years that
they might have respect for Him in the later years. They need to learn
how to regard Him and to realize that He is the Creator, Holy, and to be
honored in all that we say and do.
- To honor God's Word, develop respect for it, and to live by it. James
says, "But be ye doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving your
own selves" (James 1:22). Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, "Man shall
not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth
of God" (Matthew 4:4). Home is a good place to practice the exhortation, "Let
the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing
one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace
in your hearts to the Lord" (Col. 3:16). In these days when we have put
the Bible out of our schools, we need to put it back in our homes and teach
our children from it.
- To establish the family in the faith, personal convictions, and doctrine.
Children and young people need convictions to stand up against their peers.
They must understand their faith and know something of good Bible doctrine
so they know what they believe and why. The home makes a good Bible school
where the children can be grounded as they face the humanistic, evolutionary
philosophy of [our modern society].
- To pray over family problems and needs, burdens the children may have,
and that they may have confidence in the God that answers prayer in the
everyday things of life. All the members of the family have personal needs.
It would be good if they could learn to share them openly and take them
before the Lord together. There are school needs, boy and girl friend problems,
problems with play mates, character problems such as timidity and fears
of all kinds, questions about amusements, finances. Teenagers have deep
needs and hate to express them for fear of being misunderstood or embarrassed.
Their problems are big problems to them and must be considered. Mom and
Dad have needs of all kinds. Financial needs, Dad's work needs, the car,
moving, and all kinds of things can be prayed through with God. All the
family needs to know they can have confidence in Him and that He will hear
and answer prayer.
- To pray and intercede for others such as the pastor, missionaries, sick
folk, unsaved loved ones, the neighbors, fellow believers in need, the
church, our president, the shut-ins, those who are in trial or going through
persecutions. Children who can learn to pray openly at home will have no
problem praying publicly in the church weekly prayer meetings as they grow.
II. Practical Suggestions That May Be of Help.
- Search out methods that will appeal to all age levels in the family.
Different ages have different interests and what may appeal to one will
not appeal to another.
- Vary the methods so as to keep family time from being boring and from
being cold routine. Interest for all should be maintained so monotony does
not kill it.
- Do not make it a time of forced listening to the Bible, of bitter participation,
or unhappy endurance while you drone through whole chapters of the Bible
beyond family comprehension and then drag the family through a long dry,
routine prayer. If they participate in bitterness, they will abhor the
family altar time.
- Make it a delightful, happy, interesting time filled with enthusiasm
so that the whole family looks forward to it with real expectancy.
- Do not make it so long that the children despise the time it takes. Better
have it short and sweet, vital and satisfying, so their appetites hunger
- Let all participate and become involved. Those that can read should take
turns in reading as well as in prayer. Even the little tots can say a few
words in prayer even if they cannot read. They can be taught songs in which
all can take part.
- Take time for discussion, answering questions, solving problems, and
for self expression. All have some. Children especially are inquisitive
and want to know.
- Do not spend time in criticizing or gossiping. There is nothing that
will sour the whole thing more than engaging in tearing something or someone
apart. This is not time to air church problems unless for a matter of prayer.
Make sure that you do not have roast preacher. Remember it is a worship
- Let the children that are old enough conduct the family worship time
some time either in the whole or in part. Let them do it their way and
express themselves. It will create interest in it for them. This is also
a good way to develop them spiritually and in self confidence. They should
be encouraged in what they do or say and not be belittled.
- Have the family altar when it is most convenient for all. Supper time
is usually best for all before the various activities of the evening begin.
III. Possible Methods That May Be Used.
- Paragraph Bible study. Rather than read a whole chapter at a time which
may be quite long and hard to retain, do just a paragraph a day. Let all
the members of the family suggest a title to the paragraph according to
its content. Let each one list some things they observe in the paragraph
such as places, people, things, special words, etc. This can be great fun
for the children and a real challenge to all. It is like observing things
in a room or in an automobile ride. When you have gone through the paragraph
like that, then investigate spiritual lessons that may be learned. Let
each one make it personal and tell what they have learned for themselves.
- Read Bible stories from the Bible. They supply answers to different family
needs and give a challenge to spiritual living.
- Go through the miracles of Christ. You could do one a night and learn
something about Christ from each miracles and especially let each one learn
something for himself. Study the miracle as to where it was, the occasion,
what happened, who was involved, and then personal lessons.
- Study Bible characters. This can be good for a different kind of study
for the sake of variety. Read about the character in the Bible and study
his weak and strong points and discuss how you may learn something from
him or her. You can see yourself in Bible characters and learn many precious
- Study Bible doctrine. Everyone should know the basic doctrines of the
Bible. All the family should be grounded in the truth. You could follow
the doctrine by means of a good concordance or perhaps taken from a book
on basic doctrines of the Bible.
- Bible book study. This might be more difficult and might be better for
older ones rather than children. Take one Bible book at a time and find
out its theme, major divisions, lessons, key chapters and ideas, etc.
- Great chapters of the Bible may be used. If not done this way, one can
go through a Bible book chapter by chapter. To read a chapter a day could
well be done if the children are not too young so they can comprehend.
Learn the key verse in the chapter, get the key word, study any special
promises, see how Christ is seen, look at the important doctrine in the
chapter, break the chapter down into its paragraph parts if you can to
get the structure of the chapter, study what sins should be avoided and
what things a person should do and what lessons can be learned.
- Devotional books for various age levels. You can buy such books in a
local Christian book store or send for some from a Christian publishing
house. They are written for various age levels. Children enjoy these and
find them very interesting. There are books for primaries, juniors, teens,
etc. [Discernment needs to be used in selecting titles. One suggestion
is A Family Devotional Guide by Pastor Clarence Sexton. Each booklet (12
volume set available) covers thirty-one stories of the Bible. You read
the story in the Bible, answer questions about it, and memorize a weekly
- Major verses. This is a good method for variety. Just take a verse a
night for a period of time and scrutinize it as to what it means for each
one. For example, you might take a series of verses on great promises in
the Bible such as on prayer, salvation, victorious living, Christ's second
coming. Try to memorize the verse.
- Bible games. This can be very interesting and add challenge to the family
altar and can be very appealing to the young folks and keep the family
altar time from being boring. Use Bible games that teach a lesson and from
which you may learn something helpful for Christian living. [see Bible
- Have a map study. After all, salvation is also geographical and children
might learn where certain countries, rivers, and mountains are and what
happened there such as the law on Mt. Sinai, crossing the Red Sea, and
Christ walking on the water. Show them where it took place and draw some
lessons from it.
- Use pictures. This is a wonderful way to interest children. Many Bible
story books have many pictures in them that tell a story for the child.
- Object lessons. Visual aids of all kinds can be used. Be creative and
use whatever object you may have handy to teach a Bible truth. Christ readily
used object lessons such as the sheep and goats, the rock, water in the
well of Samaria, etc. There is no end to object lessons.
- [Read short biographies of godly servants of the Lord Jesus: missionaries,
evangelists, pastors, etc. Good sources are the Christian
Biographies and Missionary
Biographies on this Web site, as well as Profiles
in Evangelism, a book of 46 short biographies available from Sword
of the Lord Publishers.]
- [Listen to dramatized biographies of godly servants of the Lord Jesus. Stories
of Great Christians— Dramatized biographies of godly servants of the
Lord Jesus available as complete DVD set or individual CDs. The following
are recommended for all ages: James Chalmers, Franny Crosby, M. R. DeHaan,
Mr. and Mrs. Robert Moffat, D. L. Moody, Ira Sankey, Billy Sunday, William
Tyndale and John Wanamaker. The following are recommended only for young
adult and older: John Bunyan, George Mueller, John Newton, and Charles
- [Read wholesome short stories. Let each member of the family who can
read take a turn reading. The Children's
Corner on this Web site includes Carrying
Light in Darkness, Children
of the Bible, Menna of Nepal, True
Stories by the Doctor and True
Stories of God's Love. See also Strange
Short Stories and articles on the wonders of God's
- [Have Scripture memorization for the family
during the summer months. Even a 3-4 year old can learn ten verses during
the summer if you select the right verses, and by the time a child is five
years old, he can learn Psalm 23. Try it, make it fun, and you will be
amazed at what your family can accomplish!]
- Use gospel songs [Eph. 5:19.] You should always sing if possible. [Have
a hymnal, such as Bible Truth Hymns, for each
member of the family. Learn the great hymns of the faith. There are also
many traditional choruses that can be sung. Sing the Books
of the Bible song to learn the books of the Bible.] You can also teach
from the songs that are sung and there are stories behind the hymns available
[for example, 101 Hymn Stories and 101 More Hymn
- [Listen to sermons of fundamental preachers/evangelists/teachers on audiocassettes.
One suggestion would be the album "Unforgettable Voices," available from Sword
of the Lord Publishers, which contains preaching by John R. Rice, Bill
Rice, Curtis Hutson, Lester Roloff, Bob Jones, Sr., J. Frank Norris, Paul
Levin, Harold Sightler, Harry Ironside, G. B. Vick, Oliver B. Greene, and
B. R. Lakin. The Lord can use His preached Word in the lives of each family
- [Read God's Word together. Select a book of the Bible appropriate for
your children's ages and have each family member read 2-3 verses as you
go around the room. You can read anywhere from 1-2 chapters to an entire
epistle such as Philippians each night. Let the children help choose what
book of the Bible to read.]
- [Have a Sword Drill, which is a fun way
to learn the books of the Bible and where they are located, by turning
quickly to a specific verse in the Bible.]
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