Dear Friends in Christ,
As Lent approaches, it is good for us to consider our devotion life. What is a devotion life? It means that you read God's Word, and you pray to God on a regular basis. This is vital for the Christian life, since faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God (Rom 10:17). It is important for us to remain in God's Word, not just on Sunday mornings. But I would like for you to consider one great benefit of reading God's Word. That is this: Reading God's Word regularly keeps you down to earth.
This might seem silly to you. God's Word is from heaven, after all. How can it keep us down to earth? It does so because God's Word is true. It is honest. It isn't a bunch of fairy tales. The Bible is real life. It is about a real life God who created a real life world with real life people who fell into real life sin, and he promised a real life Savior.
The things that we imagine to be down to earth are often just cover-ups for reality. We dream about being able to buy some property, so we save up for it. Or we dream about our children being good enough athletes. So we put them in every sporting activity we can think of. We live in a world that tells us all that we're special and that we all have great potential. But in reality, we are all pretty ordinary. Even if we were to get that big house, become great athletes, and get all the fame and fortune in the world (not likely), we would still be living a dream, ignoring the reality that the Bible always tells us about. As long as you ignore your sin and the reality of God's anger against it, then you are not living in reality.
Reading the Bible everyday gives you a glimpse into how God deals with real people. The pattern is often very similar. Man sins, God punishes man, but then God is also merciful to man. We learn more than we can count how much we fail and how much God saves.
We also learn the reality of the devil and all other demonic forces. All the things we call "real life" are just distractions from the reality of the devil and his angels who want more than anything to strip true faith out of your heart. He does this both through getting you to fall into temptation to sin, or getting you to embrace false doctrine. Those who don't think that doctrine matters all that much are not living in the real world. If you think that it is acceptable to "agree to disagree" or to avoid the topic of religion with your wife, with your children, with your family and friends, then you are living in a made-up world of fools' gold. If you live your life assuming that the devil and his angels are not actually constantly at work through deceiving masses of people to believe in themselves rather than in Jesus, then you are not living in reality.
Repent, and come back to reality. Listen to God's Word. If you have been missing church, use Lent as an opportunity to come more often. The following are good tips for daily devotions.
First, begin each morning by praying the Lord's Prayer. And end each day by praying the Lord's Prayer.
In the morning, read God's Word after your pray. In the evening, read God's Word before you pray.
I would recommend reading from the daily lectionary, which you can find at www.sanctus.org. Or you can purchase "Treasury of Daily Prayer" from Concordia Publishing House."
If you have children, I would recommend for your evening devotions reading from "The Story Bible" also from Concordia Publishing House.
Every month we have a new hymn of the month. I usually make copies of the hymn, so you can take it home and sing it. During your devotions sing through this hymn. If you have children, have them repeat each line two times, and try to memorize with them at least one stanza from every hymn. But if you have not taught them this already, I would recommend first teaching them the one stanza hymn "On My Heart Imprint Thine Image." If you want a copy to take home, please speak to me, and I will provide you with one.
A great place to have devotions is at the dinner table when you are finished eating. Here you can review portions of the Small Catechism. This is an especially good time to have devotions, since it sparks conversations and questions from your family members. And you grow together as a family.
Finally, if you are the husband or the father, then YOU lead the devotions! Don't have your wife do it, unless you are not able to be there, or you aren't able to talk for some reason. I know that we men can get lazy. It's easy for us to allow our pious and eager wives take over what we should be leading. But God has called us to be the heads of our homes. And this is the primary way you exercise that headship. You are to teach your household! Wives, if your husband is not leading your household in devotions, then respectfully remind him of his duty from God. You might think, "What difference does it make who does devotions?" Of course, if the man of the house is not available or is not a Christian, then someone else needs to do it. But in the meantime, order matters. It matters because God instituted it. It speaks volumes whether mom leads the prayers or dad leads the prayers when both are present. After all, St. Paul specifically tells the men to do this (1 Tim 2:8), and he specifically tells the fathers to instruct the children (Eph 6:4). Of course this doesn't exclude the mothers from praying with their children and teaching them the gospel. After all, moms are usually around the kids much more often than dads (Titus 2:4,5). But to ignore this order instituted by God is to have your head in the clouds of this materialistic, chaotic, progressive culture. God has instituted this order so that we might be down to earth and not puffed up, thinking that we are something when we are not.
It is good to be down to earth, especially since God came down to earth in the person of his Son. He saved us by being down to earth, in the flesh, facing the reality of our sins, and bearing the real punishment that we deserve. When we remain in his Word and learn from him, then he keeps us grounded so that he might comfort us with his salvation. He keeps us honest about our sinful condition so that me might find our righteousness only in the merits of his Son who gave himself for our sins and now gives himself entirely to us in his Word and Sacraments. In this way, we are given the confidence to confess our Lord and call on God in prayer.