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Vacationing and Church

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

Fresh from a trip to the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina, I’m back at the grindstone and going through the usual post-vacation routine of throwing away mail, returning email and phone calls, and finding out what I missed while I was away. I thoroughly enjoyed this year’s vacation and hope I get the chance to go back to the Blue Ridge Mountains soon. It’s a part of the world where real people lead ordinary lives in beautiful country. I like places like that.

My family and I encountered lots of people on our trip. The Southern charm is alive and well in North Carolina, so it was easy to encounter the locals. There was the security guard at the gate of the community where we stayed, a man whose occupation boxed him into a little world that measured six-by-six and who welcomed any chance for conversation. There were the country girls where we went horseback riding, and the hippies in downtown Asheville. But the friendliest people we met were found in the little church that met in a nearby town.

Sunday morning, my family showed up for services at the small congregation and doubled the attendance (there were 12 of us). We received a grand reception–it was the only church I have ever attended in which every member made an effort to greet me. Granted, there were only 12 people there, but some of them could have hid from us if they wanted to.

I learned that the preacher had been there for 28 years. He was not supported by the congregation, as far as I could tell. In fact, he told me that he started preaching there when his predecessor left on an interim basis, and the church never got around to hiring a full-time minister.

The atmosphere was respectful but laid back. During the Bible class hour the preacher’s PowerPoint slide showed that his sermon would be about “Jesus in the Psalms.” But when he took the pulpit, he quickly shut down the presentation and announced that his sermon on Jesus and the Psalms needed a little more work and he would talk about something else.

After the morning services, somebody remarked about all the extra singers and said, “We should move our singing night to tonight.” Without a moment’s hesitation, the preacher said that would be great, and that night we had a singing. The first five song leaders were, you guessed it, my father, my three brothers, and me. Evidentally, they normally didn’t have a bass, because after one particular hymn with a prominent bass lead, a man who had been sitting in front of my brother Barton turned around after the song was ended and shook his hand saying, “That was wonderful!”

Afterwards we enjoyed a fellowship meal that had been prepared, it seemed, in honor of our arrival. We had never felt so honored while visiting a congregation before.

I’ve heard of families conducting their own worship services while on vacation, and certainly my family could have done that. All the men in my family are able to teach, lead songs, and lead prayers. But we preferred to pay the local brethren a visit instead, and I am glad we did. Not only were we an encouragement to them, but they encouraged us. Also, if we had kept to ourselves that week we would not have met those wonderful brethren in the mountains of North Carolina. I may never see them again, but they have left me with memories that I will cherish forever.

Whose Day Is the Lord’s Day?

Thursday, October 5th, 2006

This month’s issue of The Gospel Advocate carries an article by Tom Holland entitled, “The Lord’s Day Is Under Attack.” I read the piece with enthusiasm. Personally, I am fed up with the way some Christians allow the world to tell them how to spend their Sundays. It is time for us to take the first day of the week back.

Holland’s article contains several good quotations, but I liked this one by Philip Schaff, from the first volume of his eight-volume series, History of the Christian Church:

A proper observance of the Lord’s Day is a wholesome school of discipline, a means of grace for the people, a safeguard of public morality and religion, a bulwark against infidelity, and a source of immeasurable blessing to the church, the state, and the family. Next to the Church and the Bible, the Lord’s Day is the chief pillar of Christian society (p. 479).

In other words, society is doing itself in by keeping its people from church on Sundays.

Everyone wants a piece of the Lord’s Day these days. The employers want it, especially those who employ young people. The coaches want it. For some reason weeknights, Fridays nights and Saturdays are not enough for athletic games. They have to have Sunday, too. The golf courses, amusement parks, malls and resorts want it as well. What about the Lord? Does anybody care what he wants?

These attacks on the Lord’s Day would be powerless if it were not for weak Christians who allow themselves to be influenced by them. Bosses need to be told that Sundays are off limits. And the coaches need to come off their high horse. They’ll stop scheduling practices and games on Sundays when the players stop showing up. Parents may ask, “But what if my child doesn’t get to play?” I can think of worse things.

This isn’t just about making time for an assembly. This is about honoring God. God must be honored above all else–nothing is more important. He is “the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords” (1 Tim. 6:15). If we refuse to honor him, how can we expect him to bless us?