The Bible is a common fixture in many homes today, but this was not always the case. Between the invention of the printing press and the Reformation's emphasis on putting scriptures into the everyday life of the family, the Bible is most popular and most translated book in the world. No longer available only for experts and clergy to interpret, it is in the hands of everyday people to study and live by. More than children's stories and Latin phrases uttered in a cathedral, the Bible can be the focal emphasis of family life.
Scripture itself recognizes the importance of God’s word in the life of the family. Moses gave instructions on mentoring faith to the next generation:
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with 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” (Deuteronomy 6:4-9).
It is good to go into church to worship and study the scriptures, but God's words are meant to travel with us. God’s word was not meant only for Sundays, but to be ingrained into our hearts and lives. God’s commands were meant to dwell within us and guide our lives as they permeate our everyday ups and downs. In our coming, in our going, in our sitting around, in our lying down, it is God’s word that provides the framework. All aspects of family life can benefit from being guided by God’s heart.
Our days begin better when we begin them with the recognition that God is in control. As we lay the day’s activities before God in prayer we have entrusted God with handling the challenges of the day and freed our hearts from worry. When our our kids were in school, for example, we prayed a blessing over them each morning to start our adventures on the right foot, recognizing the day belonged to God and embracing our role as his ambassadors.
Talking about God’s word as we sit at home around the dinner table is a great opportunity for growing closer to God and one another. Protecting daily family time is important enough, and including some time for scripture makes it more powerful. As we study God’s word, we discover who God really is and we learn to embrace the calling that God has placed on our life. It is only appropriate to be fed spiritually after we have been fed from mom’s casserole dish.
Sitting around at home creates opportunities to talk about how we see God in our play. As we watch TV together, we can discuss the biblical themes we see acted out. We asked our kids to think deep about movies they watched to discern how much the film's story reflected God's story. What does evil look like (is sin someone else's fault, for example?), and how did the film resolve those struggles (do power or force of will solve most problems, or do we need a savior, for example?). Chilling out together offers natural opportunities for mentoring faith as you spend time looking for God sightings in the everyday.
Moses wanted the time spent on the road to be filled with faith conversations as well. It is in our comings and goings that God blesses us with unique opportunities to see his hand at work. God blesses us with teachable moments to point others to how God is at work in this world establishing his kingdom. Riding in the car was a way that my children learned many songs of faith that they still carry with them today. A devotional book in the car can be a way to direct your family to God as you make the morning school commute. Look for ways that you can honor God in your travel time.
As we close our day it is only appropriate to end our day with God in the manner that we began it. We closed the day noting the moments when we saw God at work in our world and noting God's loving care. Bedtime prayers with my little ones were great reminders to give thanks for all of the ways that God had walked faithfully with us.
Scripture journeys with us throughout our days serving as our comfort, encouragement, and guide for the path. We have the blessing of God’s word in our homes and in our lives. Take advantage of this blessing from the Reformation and open the Bible today!
Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra
Dr. Robert Ritzema