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Clay Texture
  • Reverend Ho Kum Weng

building a family altar

Updated: Feb 17

And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” - Acts 16:31

"But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” - Joshua 24:15

... for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? - 1 Timothy 3:5

Based on the three verses above, it is clear that God values our families, and therefore, we should value our families too. There is a wealth of spiritual knowledge and wisdom we can glean from the full context of the verses above, but for the purpose of this sharing, let's focus on the concept of the family altar.

The Temple altar, found just outside the sanctuary, had a very important role during Old Testament times. Different kinds of offerings would be brought to the altar — burnt offerings, grain offerings, peace offerings, sin offerings and guilt offerings — to maintain the Israelites' connection with God and to remind themselves of their need to live holy and set-apart lives. On some occasions, the priest would lead this time of worship as a holy meeting, including times of confession and repentance, the proclamation of God's Word and pronouncement of a blessing on the people. Such a scene later became the foundation of congregational worship in Second-Temple Jerusalem times (New Testament), after the redemption of our sins and restored relationship with God through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ.

The early Church began with family

And all the people gathered together in their houses with one accord, breaking bread. - Acts 2:46

The concept of a family altar began with a small worship service in the home of believers, a service that would begin with praise, the reading of the Word of God, and a time of prayer with the whole family. 

Today, however, we live in a society where the very construct of "family" faces many challenges from secular culture and the media. Furthermore, many Christian families are distracted by busyness and worldly values. How can we swim against the tide, relying on the Lord to overcome materialistic and self-centered values, and revitalizing the sacred space of the family altar?

Unity is certainly a necessary ingredient in a God-centered family. A harmonious home is not just beneficial to its inhabitants, but also acts as a powerful witness to the watching world. The unity of husband and wife lays the foundation for a stable home, giving their children an anchor and hope for their future marriage and family. A harmonious parent-child relationship ensures that faith beliefs and core spiritual values will be handed down from one generation to another. 

A family that is truly blessed is united in their desire for the Lord, committed to understanding the truth of God's Word, and is one where each family member seeks God's guidance and help in all matters. 

So how can we build a family altar in our own homes today?

Building a family altar is about setting aside a time for the whole family to worship God together. This may be easier for Christian families where the children have been attending church since they were young and recognise what it means to fear God and worship Him. Yet setting aside such times regularly is never easy. All of this requires God's blessing and leading every step of the way. 

The power of life-on-life testimony is very real. Parents are the first teachers of their children, and model for them what it means to follow God in all areas of their lives. Rather than our children copying the behaviours and values that the world presents to them, it will be far better for them to imitate positive Christian examples in their own families, built on a foundation of mutual faith.

The family altar is not a time for feasting, and certainly not meant to become a gossip session, but is meant to be a time of meaningful worship together, modeled after the church's worship program.

1. Worship

Sing songs of praise and listen to hymns together. Choose songs that are often sung in Sunday worship or Sunday School, so that your children will become familiar with them.

2. Read the Bible

If you are not sure where to start, begin with reading the passage for the day from your devotional or your children’s devotional, preferably limited to 1-3 scriptures a session, to remind them to respect and look to God for guidance. If your child is already a teen, you can consider systematically reading the Bible together, chapter by chapter.

3. Apply what you have read

Ask questions to guide your children in understanding the text and its context. As the Holy Spirit leads each one to share their observations and learnings, lead your family to apply the truth in their lives.

4. Pray for each other

Let each family member share the highlights and lowlights of their week, and pray for one another.

5. End the time with the Lord's Prayer.

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