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 (Manna 51: Family Focus)
Setting up the Altar
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Setting Up the Altar

Translated from Holy Spirit Monthly—Issue 318


Bible-reading, textual analysis, sharing of thoughts…for the past twenty-some years, at least one evening per week, the house of my in-laws has been livened up by sounds of hymn-singing, Bible-reading and prayer. Specifically, every member of this family knows that Thursday night is our “family altar” time.

My mother-in-law used to be a caretaker for one of our church chapels. Twenty years ago, our churches in Taiwan held services every night. When this was no longer practiced, my in-laws gathered family members for worship on the evenings when the church did not have services. Over the course of this long span of time, this tradition has seen much relocation of family members and change in the content of the worship sessions. Nevertheless, the practice of holding services never once stopped. Such robustness of practice can only be attributed to God’s mercy and abidance.


In the past, I had only heard about family services. After more than six years of marriage, I finally saw with my own eyes the benefits that come with building the family altar, for I truly experienced the love of God and His blessings for those who obey the teachings of the Bible.


            I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also. (2 Tim 1:5)

After becoming a mother myself, I realized the difficulties in educating children. Deuteronomy 6:7 states that we have to be “diligent” in imparting God’s laws to our children. The responsibility of a child’s religious education cannot be simply left to teachers in church, because the child spends a far greater amount of time at home with his parents and other family members.

In ancient times, Job placed great emphasis on the family altar, rising early in the morning to offer sacrifices for fear that his “sons [had] sinned and cursed God in their hearts” (Job 1:5).

In this day and age, where all kinds of information can be readily accessed, young minds are especially prone to influences of dubious nature. Parents cannot but pay due attention to the spiritual growth of their children. Attempting to take remedial actions after their children have sinned against God may be too late.

The weekly family service serves as a good opportunity for me to be updated with their thoughts and happenings in their lives, and to provide guidance based on the words of God. Sometimes, we have discussions of current world events, and the Bible is used as a point of reference for exchange of ideas. This has been shown to help develop a child’s analytical abilities.

Surely the best gift that a parent can ever give to a child is a firmly-rooted understanding of God’s teachings—that children may have God’s abidance and protection all their lives.


Over these past twenty years, our family service has seen many changes in faces. After the death of our great-grandmother, three generations remained. A considerable number of us have gone to China due to job commitments, but we have had newcomers. Babies have grown up, bringing a breath of newness to our group.

Having regular gatherings, we reap many spiritual benefits from sharing across generations and extended families.

Different Age Groups Contribute in Different Ways

My father-in-law (Elder Chen Heng-Tao) was a former full-time minister. He has a lot of spiritual insight and experiences to share. Whenever we hit a point or issue in the Bible that we don’t understand, he is the best candidate to turn to for explanation. What is amazing is his ability to cater to various types of audiences and edify them accordingly.

The teenager at home often defies any objective evaluation of her faith that one may use. But through her questions and sharing during the family services, I received glimpses into her life of faith and, through time, managed to bond with her.

Little toddlers may not appear to have much to contribute. They even need adults to keep them under control during services. However, their simplicity and obedience are a form of edification, for the Lord Jesus says, “whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it” (Lk 18:17).

Bonding Between the Generations

Each family service is followed by fellowship, where snacks are served. The warmth of the conversations is always accentuated by the fragrance of the hot teas and snacks.

Sometimes, we have special birthday cakes for the birthday boy or girl. Such celebrations convey the care and love of the family members and generate many beautiful memories for all present. Scenes like these are reminiscent of what is depicted in Psalms 128:3: “In the very heart of your house, your children [are] like olive plants all around your table.”

During fellowship, we often use the time to make phone calls to connect with those in the family who have moved away due to job or family commitments. As each person takes his turn to be on the phone, we can all feel the warmth that binds us to those who are miles apart.

Even for those who have left us, the memories linger. My grandmother passed away two years ago, but she is always remembered—where she used to sit, her favorite hymns, and scenes of her surrounded by the great-grandchildren.


            “Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them” (Mt 18:19, 20).

The shortest route for a Christian to receive God’s blessings is simply to obey and hold fast to God’s promises. By holding family services, one makes Christ the Lord of one’s house. God will strengthen family ties and grant peace and blessings to all in the family who fear the Lord.


My grandmother-in-law and my in-laws have played a big role in the progress of my faith. Their diligence in attending services, come rain or shine, always inspires me to never stop worshipping God. There are times when the attendance at family service is poor. Even when only two or three people show up, these elderly members enthusiastically sing hymns, pray and worship. I have gradually become influenced by their zeal for attending services.

While some would say investing one’s time in other things can bring greater benefits, I would say these people have no idea what blessings come with worshipping God. My wish is for my children to keep up with this tradition.

An important component of our family service is the sumptuous meal that comes before. My mother-in-law has been the self-designated chef for more than a decade. We, the younger generation, have tried relieving her of this heavy task by volunteering to host the family services at our homes.

However, it has proven too much for us, as we all have our jobs in the day. Cooking for a big party is not at all easy, but my mother-in-law has relentlessly taken this task upon her own shoulders. I wonder when I will ever be able to take over this wonderful service of love and endurance. May God bless her for her labor.

“So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another” (Rom 12:5). The progress of the church is built upon the prayers of all the believers and their efforts at evangelism and service to one another.

The family is the fundamental source of influence for any believer. As the Bible says, “if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?” (1 Tim 3:5).

When every household places the Lord Jesus as the Lord of the house, every believer can be built up through the family altar so as to be better vessels for God’s use.


Setting up the family altar definitely brings only benefits to our lives and faith. I wish for everyone to establish a family altar and to let the Lord be the Lord of their home. May our gracious and loving God bless every family that loves Him with strength, joy and grace unbounded!

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Publisher: True Jesus Church