Lessons I learned at home have shaped my life. Many of those principles were not taught with words; they were lived out in the context of daily routines. Looking back, I was the beneficiary of choices my parents made for themselves. I suspect none of us understood the full implications of what was unfolding in the moment.
After a long day with farmers, horse breeders, and pet owners, Dad would walk through the front door, hug my mother, and help gather my brothers and me for dinner. Sitting down for dinner together was a family tradition that was unassailable. My mom invested in the effort to have dinner ready. My dad invested in the effort to ensure three boys were present and accounted for. I didn’t realize it at the time, but dinner was the clearinghouse of the day’s thoughts and activities. It was a learning forum, a calendar review, an intentional parental intervention, and a nourishing meal. House rules established that presence at the evening dinner table was mandatory for those who lived in the house, no matter our age.
It was the after-dinner habit that left a lasting impression on me. When dinner was complete and the kitchen cleaned, my parents would typically sit down and read their Bibles, often with a dialogue about whatever they were reading. No one was watching, and there was no enforcement involved. They simply chose to read their Bibles. I noticed. I didn’t participate but wondered about the unusual behavior. I realized it was something that mattered to them, not because of public perception but because it was something they attached value to.
Without issuing a family edict, they communicated a life-changing value to me: the pursuit of God was worthwhile!
I was aware enough of my friends’ families to understand that my parents’ choices were focused in less traditional paths. Most of their time was spent managing a small business, wrestling horses, maintaining a home, or corralling three boys. But when they had discretionary time — and there was not a great deal of it — they frequently directed their effort toward God. I expected more fishing, ball games, or boating.
Sometimes circumstances would dictate that we’d miss church. As a substitute, we would have family time. Someone would read a Bible story, then we’d ask questions. It was always pretty relaxed. More energy was spent on wrangling boys than on the exegesis. I remember a time we read the portion where Jesus turned water into wine. One of us asked if God still did that, and if so, could we pray for it. To my great surprise, my dad grabbed a coffee mug, filled it with water, and said, “Pray away!” To our disappointment there was no emerging merlot, although I’m pretty sure we would not have been encouraged to imbibe even if our prayer had been answered. It was my dad’s permission to pray that surprised me. I was expecting a discussion on alcohol. My dad gave me permission to treat the Bible as a how-to guide — another significant nudge in the development of my faith.
My parents attempted to practice what the Bible said, but even more, they taught us to believe it, to treat the things contained in its pages as if they were still possible.
Honoring God in the home, devoting time and attention to Him, didn’t feel like a unique approach back then. Our home had a faith component because we’d experienced God’s grace. We understood how much we’d benefitted from His goodness, how He spared my mom’s life and paved the way for our family to come to faith. As a result, there was no confusion about whom my parents served in the home. It’d be God first and everything else second. Although I was tempted to leave the faith behind from time to time in my early college years, as an adult, I found myself drawn back to God. Those early lessons were more profound than I had realized.
What You Do in Private Matters
We live in a society that’s increasingly exposed. It seems nothing is private, and our entire lives are monitored and tracked. And so, we crave private spaces. “What you do in the privacy of your own home,” society says, “is your business. After all, it doesn’t impact anyone but you.” This is an understandable response to our highly surveilled lives. Truth be told, though, who we are in private and what we do in our home are the primary contributors to who we can become beyond our home.
Our traditional approach to faith relegates God to a sixty-minute time slot on Sunday mornings, and reserves the rest of the time for ourselves. And the awkward truth of the modern age is that we have been reluctant to open our lives more fully to God, while we have willingly opened our lives to 24/7 connectivity for entertainment and diversion.
Who we are in private matters, and it will always come to light. In fact, Jesus taught,
There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. — Luke 12:2
So the goal of our spiritual lives should be to let our public expressions of faith emerge out of the incubator of our private lives, because when they do, we’re living the kind of life Christ rewards. How do I know? Because Jesus taught as much in the gospel of Matthew, saying that if we do what’s right behind closed doors,
your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. — Matthew 6:4
It is a wonderful promise.
Private discipline will be rewarded in the open. Each time we choose a God-response behind closed doors, we are making an investment in a better future.
The Reward of Honoring God in the Home
How could you live a life of private devotion?
Here’s the hard truth: the hardest place in the world to take your faith is home.
The people you live with day in and day out have seen you holler and cuss and kick the dog across the room. They probably have seen you watch things you ought not watch, might know just how addicted you are to your iPhone, and certainly know your propensity to overwork. The people in your home know things about you you’d never want leaked. So when you tell them of your commitment to seek the Lord, to make honoring Him a priority in your home, they may break out in laughter. They may even look at you with derision. That’s okay. We all have to start somewhere. But as you begin to honor God in the home, my guess is that they’ll like the changes they see. They might even decide to join you.
My parents made a decision to honor God in our home, even when no one was looking. It wasn’t perfect, of course. There were times they lost their tempers and grew impatient. I’m sure there were times they didn’t read or watch the most spiritual things. Still, my parents led by example, honoring God in the private moments of their lives, and as a result, I took their faith seriously.
“Sure, but you’re a pastor,” you might say, “and you have supernatural willpower as a man of the cloth.” Not so. I’m just as flawed as the rest of you, and just as capable of missing the mark. The flip side of that coin, though, is that you’re just as capable of honoring God in your home, even if you are alone. Take Melody, for example, a single woman in our church who made a commitment to honor God in her home. Being unmarried and living alone, she shared how easy it’d be to live a life of public faith, all while hiding her private life from others. “I’m the gatekeeper,” she said to me during a meeting. “I could easily slink behind that gate and hide. I could watch whatever I want, say whatever I want, and do whatever I want.” But she made a decision that, as the gatekeeper, as the one responsible for what comes in and out of her home, she would do her best to guard her mind and heart by keeping out anything that might dishonor God. And this private devotion expresses itself in public, in the way she serves, in her attitudes, and in the way she loves others.
So whether you’re married with children, single and living alone, or the stepparent in a blended household, no matter what your situation looks like, it’s up to you to lead the way in honoring God in the home.
If you haven’t been doing your part, I’m inviting you to take an incremental step in the right direction. What might that step look like?
- Repent of the times you haven’t honored God in your home, the times you’ve ignored God, the times you’ve lost your temper or lashed out, or the times you’ve allowed things into your house you shouldn’t have.
- Choose to protect your home from anything that dishonors God.
- Offer a simple prayer each day as you come home from work: God, may You be glorified in my home tonight, and may I live with integrity.
Make the commitment to honor God in your home and see what happens.
You cannot cause everyone in your home to choose God’s best. You can only determine to honor God within your own heart and entrust others to God’s watchful care. Honoring God is not about growing beyond temptation and human frailty; it’s about learning to invite God into your weakest moments and trusting Him to enable you to overcome. God’s faithfulness to respond to your invitation changes your future. When you develop a foundation of honoring God in the quiet places of your life, it provides the momentum for honoring God in the more public parts of your journey. The transforming power of the Holy Spirit begins from the inside out. Your faith is determined by an inward choice, not by outward obedience to rules. So, too, your intent to honor God in your home is a first step to experiencing His power in a broader way.
An Exercise of Intent
- Behind closed doors, when no one is looking, are you honoring the Lord? If not, what are the things that distract you, that keep you from living a life aligned with God’s heart? In your journal, make an honest list of the distractions, then commit to eliminating them.
- What would your husband, wife, or children say about the life you live in secret? Would they say you do your best to honor the Lord, or that your private life is not aligned with the expression of your faith? Make a sincere assessment, and if you haven’t been honoring God in the home, talk with your spouse and family members about the changes you could make.
- In your journal, list three ways you can be intentional about teaching your children to honor God in your home. And do those things for the next one hundred days.
A Prayer for My Home
Heavenly Father, You are the initiator of home and family. I pray that Your presence would fill my home. Give me the wisdom to make choices behind closed doors that bring Your great blessings into my life. I know nothing is hidden from Your sight. Direct my steps so that they are pleasing to You. May the peace of God and the joy of the Lord fill my home each day. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Excerpted with permission from An Intentional Faith by Allen Jackson, copyright Allen Jackson.
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We live in uncertain times, worrisome for so many… and isolated now with the COVID-19 virus epidemic keeping many of us quarantined. What better time to dig in deep to the Lord and put our faith into practice. Our families are watching! Come share your thoughts with us on our blog. We want to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily