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The Family Altar: Our Young Family’s Habit of Daily Devotion5 min read

“Get the blue book, Auggie!” 

These words mark the beginning of the end of each day at the Newberg house. Our three-year-old rifles through an old Lutheran Worship and calls it. “I am Jesus’ Little Lamb!” It would be a genuine miracle if he opened to the right page. August can’t read. Also LW 517 was torn out months ago courtesy of little brother Dietrich.

We sing all three verses by heart while Dietrich thrills to family-time and being in big brother’s bedroom. Then we remind Auggie to, “Sit up straight! It’s time to pray.”

“In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” 

He crosses himself and reverently presses his chin to his chest. His eyes remain open. Auggie has to see everything.

“Our Father who art …”

Everything has been said and sung in unison up to this point. Now Tessa (that’s Mom) prays, recalling the day, the extended family, and the neighbors. It’s Saturday, so we make a point to remember times we were angry or treated each other unfairly this week and we forgive each other. Then it is kisses and a Bible story for Auggie while Mom rocks Dietrich to sleep in the next room.

A time to count on.

It is 15 minutes altogether, the best and most reliable 15 minutes of the day. Reliable because with kids, friendships, and church work almost everything else — even dinnertime — is occasionally subject to change. In a few years we will shift our altar to the dinner table. For now, only one time can be counted on: bedtime.

Later, Tessa and I continue with some reading/listening. One of us reads out loud — usually me. The title is anything with short-enough chapters, like CS Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters and a prayer, the length of which will depend inversely on the length of our day.

We did not learn this routine from a pastor, nor at the seminary, but from lay friends of Tessa’s. Thank you, God, for Terry and Jeremy, James, Oliver, and Timothy! One time, while on vacation, we stayed overnight with them and they invited us to experience family worship. Without this experience, our nights might still be anchor-less, distracted, drifting and (shall I be honest?) selfish.

“As the head of the family should teach his household …”

Six parts of our small catechism begin with this paradigm-shifting caveat.

A family altar and family worship has reminded me that my first duty, and my most important parishioners, is right inside our home, waiting off-campus, and after office hours. This suits me, or maybe it suits Jesus, to work this way; unencumbered by the efficiencies of professional titles, calendar deadlines, and action items. In any case, we have come to know the home is a great place, a necessary place, for an altar. We are grateful.

“Jesus answered, ‘If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him’” (John 14:23 ESV).

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God’” (Revelation 21:3 ESV).


Concordia Publishing House (www.cph.org) offers a wide range of devotional resources. Check out Family Faith Walks by Kelly Haack, Devoted to God and Each Other by Deane Schuessler, We’re Not Blended – We’re Pureed by Lesire Brandmeyer and Diana M. Lintvedt, and Not Alone by Linda Bartlett.

Rev. Steve Newberg recommends Arch Books. He says, “I do not see how children’s Bible stories can come better than Arch Books. They are the perfect length, under $3 a piece, and rhyme (therefore easy to memorize)!” You may also want to review Little Visits at Bedtime by Mary Manz Simon, Chosen! Won!: Devotions for Teens by Teens, and Blessings and Prayers for College Students. www.cph.org


Putting into practice what we “resolved” to do!

2012 Michigan District Convention Resolution 1-01

“To Encourage ‘Life Together’ Through use of the Word of God and Prayer”*

Have you ever wondered when a District convention adjourns how certain resolutions will be carried out, especially when the language used in a resolution says, “that all delegates will be encouraged to …”?

The 2013 Michigan District All Pastors’ Conference, under the theme “Spiritual Disciplines” will encourage and assist District pastors in understanding and developing disciplines for their own personal, spiritual life. Dr. Martin Luther in his Large Catechism (15-19 Tappert) challenges all believers to develop specific spiritual disciplines and practices which would promote a God-fearing sanctified life. It is our prayer that as pastors learn and grow in this area of spiritual disciplines they will be able to lead the people of God more deeply in living sanctified lives in their congregations, families, and communities.

To guide our instruction and training in this area, Keynote Speaker Dr. John Kleinig, renowned professor from Luther Seminary in Australia, will lead participants in considering such spiritual disciplines as receptive piety, meditation, self-examination, spiritual warfare, fasting, and the family altar. In order to become more familiar with Dr. Kleinig’s teachings, please consider reading his book, Grace Upon Grace: Spirituality for Today (Concordia, St. Louis, 2008), or visit www.johnkleinig.com.

The conference, which will take place October 6-9 at Boyne Mountain, will also provide participants the opportunity for worship, reflection, meditation, and fellowship in order to be renewed and refreshed as sanctified believers in Christ.

*To read full text, download the 2012 Michigan District Convention | Proceedings at www.michigandistrict.org/convention.

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About the Author

Rev. Steven Newberg served as pastor at Lutheran Church of the Lakes, Addison for 8 years. He is currently serving in North Carolina.

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