Setting Up the Altar
Translated from Holy Spirit Monthly—Issue 318
“IN THE NAME OF OUR LORD JESUS, WE BEGIN THIS
SERVICE. LET’S SING HYMN…”
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.
SWEET AROMA OF OUR OFFERING
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.
BUILDING BLOCKS OF CHILDREN’S VIRTUES AND REVERENCE
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.
ESTABLISHING THE FOUNDATIONS OF FAITH THROUGH
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
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
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
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.
GOD’S BLESSING IS DEFINITE
“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.
THE ALTAR AND I
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.
KEEP THE ALTAR GOING
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!