Satan hates godly families with a passion, and he will do whatever he can to bring them to ruin. If we look around, He has caused already many a family wreck. If we will have a fiery family altar, the devil will not be able to touch us. He will not bring such a family to shipwreck. Saints, we must contend for fiery family altars! A broken down, neglected family altar will not have the fire falling upon it.
There are accounts in the Bible where altars had to be repaired. One is in 1 Kings 18:30-38. “And Elijah…repaired the altar of the Lord that was broken down…” Then when the altar was repaired, sacrifice and prayer was offered up. Then something happened. Then the fire fell. Oh, the effects of a fiery family altar!
We say, “I want my children to be on fire for God, to have a vision. I want them to be able to resist temptation and have victory over the enemy.” Then we better do something. It will happen when we have repaired the family altar.
To repair the family altar, sometimes we have to break down things first and clear them out of the way. We read that in Israel’s history, too. When under a corrupt king, they fell into idolatry, with false gods, false altars. When reforms came, they tore down the wrong altars and the idols, then built and repaired the altar. We want to look at ways where our family altars may be repaired. I read several good, instructional points in a book that I’m including in here.
Fathers, it is your duty to call the family together. It’s not mother who needs to run after you or the children for devotions.
Is there a break down of the fear of God in your family worship? The Bible says that God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints. When you gather your family together, it’s a small assembly of saints. God is greatly to be feared in that assembly. That means Johnny cannot lay on the floor and push around his truck, and Lisa can’t be stretched out on the recliner. Susie can’t bring her juice to sip on, because the fire won’t fall! The children cannot be giggling and interrupting. We must clear some things out of the way. The devil would love to pour buckets of lightness on our family altar to keep the fire from falling.
If there is a lack of the fear of God, go right to the foundation–your own relationship with God. Are you walking in the fear of God day after day? Is your life, your example before the children, holy, holy, holy? It will be difficult to have an exemplary life if you are always joking.
There is a special call to the fathers. “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” Eph. 6:4. Ye fathers! Instruct your children! Instruct them how to worship in the fear of God. Instruct them how to sit and how to kneel because, even our very posture indicates and reveals if there’s a lack of the fear of God. Ye fathers, you are given special authority to train your children how to worship.
Faithful Abraham instructed his children. Wherever he journeyed, “he pitched his tent and there he built an altar unto the Lord.” God knew he could trust Abraham fully. Gen. 18:19 states, “I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord…” Because Abraham taught them, “they shall keep [it] to do justice and judgment.” They will not only hear father and then go and do their own thing. They will DO it! Abraham saw to it that his household followed God. Can God speak so about us? The family altar needs a strong father.
Is there a breakdown of sweet, precious unity in your family altar? That church in your house has to endeavor to keep the unity as much as we do when we assemble with the congregation. We must endeavor to keep the unity in the spirit with our children. We can’t worship with one another if one brother is sitting beside the next and there’s thick air between them, or attitudes and feelings that are negative. How could we worship? How could we expect the fire to fall? It won’t fall! There’s something in the way.
Fathers you must see to it that nobody is at odds with one another. That goes for mother and father too, because we’ll go away empty if that’s how we think we can assemble. The hearts of the fathers turn to those of the children and we have a stronger bond through family worship.
Mention one another’s names in prayer. Mother can say, “Lord we thank you for Father. He’s been faithfully going to work and caring for all of us.” And Father can say, “Lord, we thank you for Jimmy and Johnny and Susie. We’re so glad you gave them to us. Help us to raise them to your glory.” The children will feel that they’re appreciated and all will have loving fellowship in unity. If you find your altar is sagging on this point, you can repair it.
Does the joy for family worship need some repair? “Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people.” Isa. 56:7. “Joyful in my house of prayer.”
The children are joyful when they get to go visiting the saints, or fishing with daddy, but when Daddy calls, “Children, time for family worship!” the little faces droop. That altar needs repair. They are not “joyful in my house of prayer.” We want to not fault the children so much for that wearisome attitude. Something has gone wrong.
In the first chapter of Malachi, we read of sacrifices that were brought unfit for the altar and how the priests found the duty wearisome. “For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering…” “Ye said also, behold, what a weariness is it! And ye have snuffed at it, saith the Lord…”
One commentator said when cattle don’t like their food, they snuff at it and won’t eat it. Is there any snuffing in your home? “…Ye brought that which was torn, and the lame, and the sick: thus ye brought an offering: should I accept this of your hand? saith the Lord.” You came with half a heart, and a dreary attitude and sat there, not responding, just a dull spirit. “Should I accept that?” asks the Lord. He will not! You’ll get up thinking you’ve done your duty in family devotions, but you’ve deceived yourself.
Fathers, see to it that family devotions is a joyous time. Don’t make it too long and drawn out. Make it short and spicy so the children will have a thirst for more. They’ll beg you to go on a little more. Daddy says, “that will be all for tonight, but tomorrow, Lord willing, we’ll gather again.” The next night Dad calls for devotions, the children put away their toys and say, “We get to hear the rest tonight!”
If you pick up your heels your children will pick up their heels. If you drag your feet, your children will drag their feet. You say, “It’s such a challenge! How do I do it?” Everything that’s worth fighting for takes labor, takes prayer. The Holy Ghost will help us, and we can help one another and ask, “How do you do it? How do you get it to be inspiring?”
Wives, encourage your husbands. If your husband is living the life and trying his best, it’s our duty to support him! Do it openly!
Children and young people, you too have a duty. This family altar needs to be stoked. You have to do your part. You can’t just sit there. Nobody asks a question, nobody has an answer. That’s not very encouraging for Dad. You need to come with a stirring in your soul.
The Lord wants to do something for us. We read in Revelation 8 how the angel (Christ) was standing at the altar sending up incense with the prayers of the saints and how He takes the censor and casts fire into the earth, which is the hearts of men, women, and children. God still is very desirous to pour down fire upon your family altar.
Lift up your eyes fathers, mothers; your home field is white for harvest. There’s work to do! You are living with immortal souls under your roof, and they need daily preparation for heaven. Their character has to be formed into more godliness and their mind directed into more spiritual heavenliness.
You ask why it is not enough for everyone to have their own secret prayer. That would be the easiest thing to do, and secret prayer is extremely important for the children and the parents. All need time alone with God, but it doesn’t take the place of family worship. In the family gathering, you can tell how your children are doing spiritually. You listen to their prayer to see if it’s just a mumbling and always a repeat of the same words and phrases–no heartbeat in it. That child is not doing well spiritually. Praying but not praying. Saying prayers but not praying. They can also learn to pray by hearing you or their older siblings pray.
Listen to the content of their prayer. If it’s very selfish, you can instruct them to not think just about themselves, but to express thanksgiving, to pray for others, the ministry, the persecuted church in other lands, and the salvation of all souls.
Make room for the family altar. If we will not, other altars will be set up in place of it and it will cause us tears and misery, parents! The devil will try to sweep it out the door. “Well, today we go shopping so we’ll skip family devotions, and tomorrow we have singing practice so we’ll get home later and we’ll have to just do away with it.” Whatever you do, going visiting or having visitors, we too easily allow excuses and it ought not to be. That should be one of the last things we’re willing to sacrifice or forfeit. Whether you do it in the morning or whether you do it in the evening, depending on the family schedule, once a day, or twice a day, do it daily as far as is within your power.
“They made me the keeper of the vineyards, but mine own vineyard have I not kept.” Cant. 1:6b. We’re working in the vineyard of the Lord and involved in all kinds of things that are important, but don’t neglect your own vineyard, because it too is the vineyard of the Lord.
Cornelius was likely a busy centurion, yet he feared the Lord with his whole house and prayed always to God.
David was a busy king. One day, after busy public worship, “David returned to bless his house.” He remembered his house.
So we, too, want to keep our own vineyard and have the fire fall on our family altar. We want to make it so that when the time comes for our children to leave home, they will go with a keepsake in their heart; a flame burning in their heart. Maybe it was ignited one time, or many times, at the family altar. We want to give them precious memories of the family altar. That’s a better inheritance than a hundred thousand dollars.
Dear ones, if we will become diligent and repair the family altar, it will help repair us. If we will have a fiery family altar, our children’s souls will be ignited. There’s nothing as beautiful as a holy family gathering around the family altar. Let us take the challenge.
Taken from a message preached by Elfie Tovstiga in Aylmer, Ontario, Canada in 2008.