The Experience

We are moving toward our Sunday, July 11 sermon, “Despising the Celebration,” which will be viewable online and based on 2 Samuel 6.

Today’s Text: Colossians 3:16-17 (NLT)

By Chuck Griffin

Wednesday, we considered the importance of approaching God reverently, acknowledging his holiness and our unworthiness to be in the divine presence. Thanks to Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, we are allowed to enter God’s presence despite our sins, and we find ourselves strengthened and sustained by the Holy Spirit.

So, what is the appropriate response to this remarkable turn of events? A celebration!

I think a lot of people struggle with worship because we don’t spend enough time celebrating. When we fail to celebrate in worship, we miss out on the joy of being Christian, a joy available to us regardless of our circumstances.

I know—we may not always feel like rejoicing. Poor? Sick? Lonely? Broken by sins committed? Victimized by another’s sin? Those aren’t ideal situations to be in, but our current circumstances brighten considerably when we put them in the light of what God has done for us through Jesus Christ. The temporary nature of our woes becomes obvious when the Holy Spirit begins to work in us through God’s word, giving us a taste of what it means to be citizens of an eternal kingdom.

The joy of the resurrection—first, Christ’s, and later, our promised own—is something God offers us whenever we immerse ourselves in his story and praise him.

We’re told in Colossians 3:16-17, “Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.”

God’s word begets gratitude, and with gratitude in our hearts, we sing and direct our celebration toward our audience, God. We can rejoice in such ways during appointed worship times, at 11 a.m. on Sunday, for example.

We also can celebrate when gathered in small groups. We can celebrate in our one-on-one time with God. God calls us to such celebratory experiences whenever we stand before him in worship.

Dear Lord, particularly as we have coped with Covid-19, we possibly have forgotten what it means to rejoice in our relationship with you. Help us to celebrate this Sunday, and every day.

Give Thanks! Exercise 4

Psalm 100

First, meditate for a bit on the Contemporary English Version translation of Psalm 100, linked above.

With Thanksgiving Day tomorrow, let’s circle back to the one whom we thank, and let’s remember again what God has done for us.

John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (NKJV)

However you may be in contact with others on Thanksgiving Day, it is my prayer that Christ is at the center of your celebration, remembered constantly as the source of your joy!

Life Talk devotionals will resume Monday, Nov. 30, God willing.

Give Thanks! Exercise 3

Psalm 100

First, meditate for a bit on the New Revised Standard Version translation of Psalm 100, linked above.

Sometimes we act like we shouldn’t focus on our stuff, but today we’re going to take a really good look at it. If you’re able, you may want to get up and walk about your home a little.

Look at your stuff closely. You possibly are so blessed with stuff that you have to look in boxes and such. Do you consider it all God-given? Is any of your stuff a burden?

Final question: Are you possibly missing some ways you can use your stuff for God?

Thanks be to God for any abundance we may have!

Give Thanks! Exercise 2

Psalm 100

First, meditate for a bit on the New King James Version translation of Psalm 100, linked above.

This is as simple as it gets, a count-your-blessings exercise. Make a list of all the people who love you. Remember, love in the Bible comes in many forms. The undeserved love poured out on us by God, the love of a spouse, the love within family, the love that flows through friendship, and the love we feel in community, like in a church, all count.

That’s it. Whether your list is long or short, remember you are loved.

Give Thanks! Exercise 1

Psalm 100

First, meditate for a bit on the NIV translation of Psalm 100, linked above.

Our first exercise in giving thanks is designed for Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The way some of us are restricted in our movements, it may take about three days to find an opportunity.

Having received eternal hope, let’s see if we can use little acts of kindness to inspire hope in others. Regular readers may remember something I wrote recently about how important little acts of kindness can be toward those who serve us in some way.

First, find a note card or piece of paper and an envelope. Write, “This Thanksgiving, I thank God for you!” Then, start watching for an opportunity.

You don’t have to go crazy with the next part—do what you can afford—but inside the note, put what would amount to an exorbitant tip. Maybe a $20 bill? Simply give it to a service provider: the girl at the drive-through window, the guy who puts your groceries in the trunk, etc.

After you have done so, say a prayer of thanks for that person.

How Shall We Give Thanks?

By Chuck Griffin
LifeTalk Editor

Psalm 100

A psalm of thanksgiving.

Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth!
    Worship the Lord with gladness.
    Come before him, singing with joy.
Acknowledge that the Lord is God!
    He made us, and we are his.
    We are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving;
    go into his courts with praise.
    Give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good.
    His unfailing love continues forever,
    and his faithfulness continues to each generation.

Our national day of Thanksgiving is a week away. Many of us won’t have our usual experiences, particularly where family gatherings are concerned.

We still need to give thanks, however—powerfully! Even in these less-than-ideal times, we remain a blessed people. I believe the freedom and hope we experience here flows from God.

Today’s psalm, which we will continue to meditate upon until next Thursday, reminds us of the deepest meaning of Thanksgiving. Thankfulness has to be directed somewhere, and God is the most appropriate recipient.

God is, after all, the source of life. God holds the blueprint of the universe, and it is drawn in the color of love.

God saves us despite our turning away from our creator. Lift up praises each day for Jesus Christ, his death on the cross, and the hope we receive in the resurrection!

During the days leading up to Thanksgiving, I’m going to offer us a short exercise in thankfulness to try each day. Check back here, or subscribe by entering your email in the subscription box found on any page of Methodist Life.

Lord, may a new sense of thankfulness overwhelm us this day and all the remaining days we have. Amen.

Four Parts of Worship: Celebration

By Chuck Griffin
LifeTalk Editor

So, we’ve talked about what it means to gather ourselves in search of God, and we’ve talked about how God is consistently present through Scripture. What is an appropriate response to God’s presence?

A celebration! The third part of worship is like a thank-you, praise-you party thrown for God, where we declare the Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer to be worthy of honor.

Again, it’s one of those reasons I like to put the declaration of God’s word up front as much as possible in a worship service. I think a lot of people struggle with worship because we don’t spend enough time rejoicing, and it’s hard to celebrate until we’ve really heard from God. When we fail to celebrate in worship, we miss out on the joy of being Christian, a joy available to us regardless of our circumstances.

I know—we may not always feel like rejoicing. We may have entered worship thinking about being poor, sick or lonely. We may be broken by our sins or feeling victimized by the sins of others. Those aren’t ideal situations, but our current circumstances brighten considerably when we put them in the light of what God has done for us through Jesus Christ.

You see such celebratory worship in the Old Testament. One example would be the story in 1 Chronicles 16:1-6, when David returned the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. And before these more formal acts, there were exuberant acts on the way to Jerusalem: sacrifices, singing, dancing and music.

Celebratory worship continues in the New Testament, particularly after the victorious nature of Christ’s work on the cross is made clear in the resurrection. We’re told in Colossians 3:16-17, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

God’s word begets gratitude, and with gratitude in our hearts, we sing and direct our celebration toward our audience, God. 

I know not everyone rejoices and celebrates in the same way, just as people will enjoy a party in different ways. I’ve always been more of a wallflower at a party. That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy parties; it just means I’m not necessarily going to put a lampshade on my head.

You may be a fairly laid-back, reserved person in worship. A lot of people feel awkward jumping up and shouting “Amen!” while holding their hands up in the air. Thank God for the worshipers who do such things; they are a great help to worship in general.

If you’re reserved in nature, ask yourself this: Am I celebrating? Does that joy regarding Christ’s gift wash over my soul, at least as a quiet, tender experience?

Do I let the music take me back to the revelation of God I’ve just heard, connecting my emotions to my logic? Do I understand the prayers we lift up corporately are an open door to heaven? When I come to the table for communion, am I expecting to meet the one who will feed me for all eternity?

God calls you to such celebratory experiences whenever you stand before him in worship.

Lord, our loss of exuberant celebration is perhaps the greatest denial we suffer right now. Help us to better celebrate you in our private time and family time, and assure us of our return to a celebratory congregation soon. Amen.