As we move into the 9th month of COVID-19, I realize that I haven’t physically been in church for over 7 months. I never would have thought I would find this to be true for me. Sunday Worship (Sabbath) has always been highly important to me. Now I am finding out why.
Worship services have always been the highlight of my week. Beautiful music drawing me up close to the breast of God. And teaching and preaching that enlightens my mind and heart. Friends and family. Hugs and kisses.
Family Reunions are the Best
My mind goes back to my childhood days and our yearly family reunions. What a joy! Aunts and uncles, cousins, and grandparents everywhere on Aunt Julia’s farm. Tons of hugs and kisses.
And food! Long tables of the best homemade food you have ever seen including a huge pot of Aunt Mildred’s dumplings. Towards the end of the day ice cream cones. Oh my goodness! What a day!
Church Homecomings are a Close Second
Mostly a tradition in the south, church homecomings in the churches Mike and I served had a homecoming every fall. Again, EVERYONE came out for a day of remembrance and celebration.
We started with a time of fellowship as people arrived. Maybe some breakfast food! Then the preaching! We usually invited a pastor emeritus to come and preach and reminisce. We would also bring in a gospel quartet to sing through the afternoon. Of course, this was after we ate way too much good southern cooking. My Goodness!
Sabbath is like a Taste of Heaven
These reunions are just a smidgen of what heaven will be like. Think of the joy and celebration there will be! Friends and family old and new… and then all the patriarchs that we have been looking up to all our lives. We will finally have made it HOME.
I have heard that a poll was taken that found that people had a really off-skewed vision of what heaven is or what it will be like. If you want to know the truth you can read Revelation 21 for a description. It will be anything but boring. It won’t be a long boring church service. Actually, the truth is that our Sunday Services ought to be a picture of heaven that increases our desire to find our way to heaven.
I recently was given Jon Tyson’s book, Beautiful Resistance, to read and review. It is another of those books where I found myself highlighting every page. While Jon covers a myriad of other disciplines in our lives, his chapter on the Sabbath made me realize that every Sunday should be like a taste of heaven. Just a little practice for what is to come. Never a drudgery but something we always look forward to. Here’s his taste of what heaven will be and what the Sabbath should be:
We are called to feast on beauty. To fill our hearts with painting and photography and poetry and literature and nature. We are called to feast on friendship. To enjoy the company of friends and family and drink deeply from the well of belonging. We are called to feast on God, to again “Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8)
The Sabbath is filled with sensory delight and wonder that remind us, if even for a moment, that Jesus is making all things new. (Revelation 21:5)
Pastor’s Wife (retired) & Chronic Pain Warrior blogs about how to make it through anything by relating her own life experiences to her writing. She is passionate about her love for the Lord and desires to spread that passion to others. She has a great desire to encourage women who are following behind her.
It’s somewhat ironic in this year of Coronavirus that to observe the Feast of Tabernacles is to guarantee blessing from God in part to avoid plague. And no so strange to be eating out of doors.
Feast of Shelters Reminds me of our American Thanksgiving
However, I see that we privileged Americans take this day very lightly. The Jews observe this feast for 8 days. The first and last days are specifically for praise God. We barely give it a day. And most of us squawk at going around the table sharing what we are thankful for. We have pretty much forgotten the holiday other than a day off from work to watch football games and start getting ready for Christmas.
The Point is Thankfulness
The Air we Breathe
As Americans I would say that even the poorest among us have much to be thankful for; however, we have become so privileged that we take nearly everything for granted. We need to stop and remember that God is our Source of Shelter (and everything else)
The Home we Live in
The tradition of Feast of Shelters is to go out of your home, into the country, and set up tents for the week. It’s about getting out of our comfort zone and remembering all the blessings of God. Now some people enjoy camping, but not this girl. At one point I would have been willing to experience this time of worship. Now with my health issues, I’m not so willing to get out of my comfort zone. I am pricked in the heart when I consider what am I willing to give to God in return for His providence.
As we can see in this year 2020, MIllion Dollar HOmes can be turned into nothing as we see millions of acres burned up in California or homes washed away by a hurricane. We can also lose house and home just as quickly due to job loss or ruined crops. Indeed, we depend solely on God
What We Really Need
Sukkot asks us to temporarily go outside, look around at God’s creations, “dine out doors” with your family, your children and perhaps even your grandchildren, in a sukkah from which you can gaze up, see heaven above and be reminded of God as well as your blessings.
I wonder, if we decided to stop and take the time to get out of our comfort zone and be still long enough to look into the heavens, would we realize how blessed we truly are.
This Bible study is exciting and moving, even for a seasoned Christian as myself. I get so blessed connecting the traditions set forth by God in the Old Testament to the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Like the A-Team said at the end of each episode, “I love it when a plan comes together!”
My heart is being pricked of late because I seem to forget to start my prayers in adoration towards God. I am afraid that too often I jump right into the “Give me” part which should be the last thing we do.
I learned an acronym years ago that leads us into prayer and reminds us of the four major parts of prayers.
It’s called A.C.T.S.
A – Adoration – just plain praise for the Father. It’s what He is looking for. It’s why we were created.
C – Confession – We need to come to Him daily confessing our sins, asking forgiveness for where we blunder, mess up, outright sin against Him. We’ll talk more about confession at another time.
T – Thanksgiving– Oh, never forget to thank God for all He has done. If the only thing He did for us was to save us from sin and death, we should be thanking Him over and over again.
S – Supplication– Finally, in the last position, our requests. I’m afraid that all too often we go straight to this part of prayer.
Start Your Prayers with Adoration
Consider this: When we pray, first approach God’s throne with humility and in awe of how great our God is; how worthy He is of our praise. We can do this through the singing of hymns or even just meditating on hymns of praise. We can also adore him by quoting scriptures, such as this prayer in 1 Chronicles when Solomon was dedicating the Temple to God.
23 Let the whole earth sing to the Lord! Each day proclaim the good news that he saves. 24 Publish his glorious deeds among the nations. Tell everyone about the amazing things he does. 25 Great is the Lord! He is most worthy of praise! He is to be feared above all gods. 26 The gods of other nations are mere idols, but the Lord made the heavens! 27 Honor and majesty surround him; strength and joy fill his dwelling.
28 O nations of the world, recognize the Lord, recognize that the Lord is glorious and strong. 29 Give to the Lord the glory he deserves! Bring your offering and come into his presence. Worship the Lord in all his holy splendor. 30 Let all the earth tremble before him. The world stands firm and cannot be shaken.
31 Let the heavens be glad, and the earth rejoice! Tell all the nations, “The Lord reigns!”
1 Chronicles 16:23-31 NLT
Here’s A Thought
You know, I’m thinking, Why not just wake up each morning with scriptures like this one. Memorize it so that you can speak it out to Him in praise every morning to get your day started. Then sing the Doxology or another hymn of praise. I would bet that your days will go a lot better if you started this practice.
Need Even More Help Adoring our God?
I have always loved the prayers of Anne Graham Lotz. She knows how to bring us into the presence of God. Some of her prayers series are on You Version and you can actually listen to her prayer. What a great friend to enter His presence with!
Now she has published a book with about a month’s worth of prayers. She uses scripture, as I have suggested above. She offers repentance which we all need to be doing, personally and collectively. I’m trying to get into the habit of using this book to start off my quiet time each morning.
I still love the old hymns and this one is a favorite; however, the further you sing, the more consecration you need. I wonder if this might be why people no longer want to sing the old hymns… TOO CONVICTING?
In contrast, this hymn could be my life song of commitment. Giving God everything I have… my hands, my head, my voice, my moments, my silver, my gold. I want to trust that He has the best in mind for me. I truly believe if I let it all go and place it in His hands that He has something even better to give me in return.
This hymn was written by Frances Havergal (1836-1879) was an unusually gifted and passionate saint. The daughter of a church rector, she was raised in Worcester, England and attended schools in England and Germany. In her love of learning, she grew to become an able scholar (even becoming proficient in both Hebrew and Greek) and a talented singer and pianist.
Perhaps you will be interested to know the origin of the consecration hymn, “Take my life.”
I went for a little visit of five days. There were ten persons in the house, some unconverted and long prayed for, some converted but not rejoicing Christians. He gave me the prayer, “Lord, give me all in this house!” And He just did! Before I left the house every one had got a blessing.
The last night of my visit I was too happy to sleep and passed most of the night in praise and renewal of my own consecration and these little couplets formed themselves and chimed in my heart one after another, till they finished with, “Ever, ONLY, ALL for Thee!”
This year we are facing a completely different Easter than any other year in our lives. I’ve celebrated different Easters but not like this… everyone in their own homes.
I am so grateful for the ability to gather together electronically. But you may say, “It won’t be the same”. However, this morning I happened upon a shared video of chapel service at my Alma Mater (Asbury University). The chaplains were still having chapel for the students even though they were spread all across the nation.
One chaplain noted that in a certain language the word “crisis” not only means impending trouble but “opportunity”. We have an opportunity to make something wonderful of this time. We can create new traditions and memorable moments together in our little families right in our living room.
Sure we may not have new dresses or egg hunts and candy, but maybe, just maybe, or attention will turn to the hope of Easter. The Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life. That He can restore hope and joy to our lives that may have been missing for a long long time.
Below I share several links to other suggestions for celebrating in place this Easter. But before that, I share this prayer from Romans 15:13…
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
With Easter coming up, I thought I might share a few tips on how I made it through Sundays with children. Regardless of how often you make it to church, Sunday worship with kids can be a challenge. Sometimes it can make you wonder why you bother going to church at all. Check out why regular worship is important here.
The day is completely different from any other day of the week and likely the night before was different as well. I remember Sundays when we arrived at church a bit frazzled just from getting ready for church.
Keep Reading even if you have no children, some of these steps all of us can take to improve our worship time.
Start Preparing Early in the Week
Check with the church office to see if anything is going to be different this week.
Will there be Children’s Church or Nursery Attendants available for your child?
Do the children remain in the service for a portion of the service?
What are the service times? Some churches change the time on special days.
Saturday Preparations for Worship with Kids
Plan a simple breakfast that is easy to serve and clean up. For us, muffins and milk or orange juice usually did the trick.
If you have babies or toddlers, clean out and re-stock the diaper bag.
Decide what everyone is wearing. Our daughter, by 4 years of age, was pretty obstinate about what she would wear. But we found that if we planned this with her the night before, there wasn’t a fight on Sunday morning.
Is everything clean and pressed; down to the shoes. Avoid having to find socks and shoes (or shoelaces) and hairbows at the last minute. When everything is laid out and ready to put on, it takes much less time and aggravation to get everyone dressed and in the car.
Lay out everything you need to take with you (Bibles, lesson books, etc) Have them ready to grab as you walk out the door.
Get your bath and hair washed. For as many as possible, do this Saturday evening. Especially with large families and/or few bathrooms.
Keep Saturday evening sacred. In the Jewish faith, the Sabbath begins at sundown, the day before. I see a lot of good in this because it keeps us from staying out late and being too tired for worship in the morning. So we tried to stick to the rule that everyone gets home by dark. It’s not always possible, but this definitely helps the whole mindset of preparing for worship the next morning.
Sunday Morning Schedule
Plan to arrive at least 15 minutes early. This keeps you on time even if something goes awry. Children do much better if they are not being rushed. This also give you a few minutes to visit with friends or just get your mind focused on worship.
Arise early and enjoy a cup of coffee before you start getting the kids going. Typically, worship starts later than the start of school or work days. Why not rise at the same time to make the morning more enjoyable?
Turn on some upbeat worship music. In one home we lived in, we had an intercom. I piped the music through the house. This was everyone’s wake up call or at least notification that I would be coming around to get them out of bed.
Breakfast for the children. If you cook something, such as bacon, this could be another way to get them rolling out of bed. I know it works for teenagers. 🙂
Get dressed. I never figured out which was better.. dress the kids first or myself. I’ve had that fail either way. LOL! Maybe get dressed and put on an apron! 🙂
Assign others to help with the littles. You’ve laid out the clothes so this shouldn’t be difficult.
Give a 10-minute “Time to get in the car” call. Start looking over everyone to be sure they are fully dressed, teeth brushed, hair combed, etc.
Again, leave 15-20 minutes earlier than needed.
Church Arrival & Worship with Children
Use the restroom. Non-negotiable rule. This keeps them from having to get up during the service to use the restroom. This is a no-no in our family. If you must take them out because they are disruptive, do so and get them calmed down. Then return to the service. If you don’t they will learn that you will take them out if they get disruptive. Children CAN learn to be quiet and respectful in church.
If you are a regular, watch for newcomers and greet them.
Find a seat. I suggest in the front half of the sanctuary. There are fewer distractions. Sit as a family. Another non-negotiable.
Prepare your heart for worship. Pray silently. Read some scriptures. The bulletin may have the pastors’ text. Go ahead and read it over to begin thinking about it. If the bulletin has the scheduled songs, meditate on the words of these songs.
Instruct your children during worship. They should learn to sing/sit/stand/pray along with the congregation. No toys or coloring during this part of the service.
Smaller children can have non-distractive toys or a book/coloring book. Save that container of Cheerios for the last few moments of the service when they are getting restless and the pastor is making his final point or call for decision.
Encourage your school-age children to take notes. You could even set up rewards for doing so. As a children’s minister, I created a small booklet for the children to take notes on days we stayed in the service. Such as this one. I gave them a small prize after church if they showed me their work.
After Worship Activities
Don’t rush out. Greet those around you, especially newcomers. Go straight to the ones you don’t know. They will leave quickly, especially if no one speaks to them. Your friends will be around and you know how to contact them anyway. If you need to speak with them, give them a quick, “Don’t leave before I talk with you.” greeting and then head to the visitors. If you are a visitor. Wait around a bit. Give people a chance to find you. Or just go ahead and speak to someone near you.
Clean up around you. Pick up bulletins, papers and anything you brought with you. Most churches have volunteers that do the cleaning. No one gets paid to do this, so help out and clean up your own mess.
Here’s a hymn that is familiar to most of us through the Billy Graham Crusades. George Beverly Shea found this poem lying on his piano, left there by his mother, who hoped it would change the course of his life. George created a tune to go with the poetry and that is the song we know today. It indeed did change the course of his life as a musician on NBC, he gave it up to travel and sing with the Reverend Billy Graham. I’d Rather Have Jesus became one of the most loved songs that he sang.
I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold;
I’d rather be His than have riches untold;
I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands;
I’d rather be led by His nail-pierced hand
Than to be the king of a vast domain
Or be held in sin’s dread sway;
I’d rather have Jesus than anything
This world affords today.
I’d rather have Jesus than men’s applause;
I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause;
I’d rather have Jesus than worldwide fame;
I’d rather be true to His holy name
He’s fairer than lilies of rarest bloom;
He’s sweeter than honey from out the comb;
He’s all that my hungering spirit needs;
I’d rather have Jesus and let Him lead
Story Behind the Hymn
American hymnals give Rhea Miller credit for the song but Swedish believers so that is was written by Prince Oscar C. A. Bernadotte sometime after the woman he loved introduced him to Christ. She was a commoner and the story is told that he gave up his lineage to the Swedish throne to marry her and serve God.
This morning I rose to see that today’s praise is PRAISE. The word alone brought joy to my heart. My first thoughts went to the Doxology. A song we sang every week at the United Methodist Church I grew up in.
Today in the YouVersion Bible app the Verse of the day was about praise as well. It was King David’s prayer as the people brought their offerings as they collected for building the temple. It’s a beautiful prayer found in 1 Chronicles 29. Go read the entire prayer. I’ll give you a piece of it here. Continue reading →
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