Sometimes I treat God like a spouse who I am just giving obligatory time to. I show up for the date nights but then live this married life without Him. Maybe you can relate. There are days where I spend time reading the Word and uttering a few prayers before rushing into my day, only to completely forget that I am living this day with Him. He is the One giving me each breath I take. He is the One I am to be serving and loving and thinking about.
While a relationship with Christ does consist of reading my Bible and praying, those things are not the end goal; God is. Bible reading and prayer are just tools to help me in knowing Him better.
Our earthly marriages are similar. I would never say that date nights are all that my marriage consists of. While they are good and extremely helpful, they do not make up the bulk of the day/week/month. No, most of married life is spent in the sharing of everyday moments, walking and talking with my spouse.
Our union to Christ is the same. Our relationship with Him is not made up entirely of early morning devotions. No, we walk together through the good and the bad, the big and the small. He is ever-present with us whether we’re desperately asking for His help or praising Him for His goodness. We can praise, worship and enjoy Him all throughout our day for He is always with us. Best of all, He has promised that He will never leave or forsake us. It’s a life-long, eternal commitment. We are His bride. He is our Bridegroom.
Does your heart sometimes feel so crowded, busy, and burdened down on Sunday morning that when you finally get to church, you find that there is little room for drinking from the teaching and preaching from the Word? Not only that, but the busyness of your heart then makes it difficult for you to be intentional about speaking truth into the lives of those around you? Does Sunday morning ever just feel hard to you?
I know I often feel this way. I am guessing that many of you do as well.
In my recent post, Believer, the Local Church is for Your Spiritual Good, I shared some reasons for why regular gathering with believers in a local church setting is for our spiritual good. We need the local church for spiritual instruction and growth, we need it for mutual encouragement, and we need it for accountability–to keep prodding each other on towards godliness as we look towards Christ’s return.
As a follow-up to that post, I want to provide a few considerations of ways to be a little more intentional about prioritizing Sundays and preparing for Sunday morning so that our hearts are ready to learn from the Word and edify and build up those around us.
1. Preparing starts on Saturday
In considering ways to prepare for Sunday morning, I want to suggest that preparing our hearts for Sunday should start on Saturday, if not even earlier in the week.
Doing this requires a little bit of a mindset shift since we often view Saturdays as our day off, our day to sleep in, our day to have a slow morning, our day to work on projects around the house, or our day to just enjoy doing life together as a family. While none of these things are bad, it is often easy to do these things and neglect the other good things that we should be doing as well–the regular, everyday responsibilities that we would normally be doing if it were a weekday.
Are there routine tasks that you normally do on weekdays but then find easy to let slide on Saturday? Perhaps being intentional about keeping up with those tasks is one step towards eliminating the chaos that culminates on Sunday.
To be a little more specific, here are some ways that I try to use my Saturday to prepare for Sunday:
2. Clean up the kitchen
Nothing makes preparing meals more difficult than a messy kitchen, so while it is easy to slack off on cleaning up the kitchen on Saturday, resist the urge. Before you go to bed, clean off the counters so that when you work on breakfast in the morning, you’re not having to work around dirty dishes. A clean kitchen goes a long way towards having a good start to the day!
3. Clean up common areas
Once again, having common areas picked up from all the random toys, diapers, and who knows what else that get scattered from one end to the other makes for one less thing to crowd your Sunday morning. When you’re scrambling to find that missing shoe, you might have a better chance of finding it if there aren’t a dozen other shoes to trip over on your way to look for it.
In general, a picked-up home helps make life so much easier!
4. Simplify breakfast
While it is tempting to try to make a nice, hot breakfast on Sunday, it really can make for a busier morning than it needs to be. I am learning to make Sunday morning breakfast be meals that take little to no time to get on the table. Personally, my family favors having a hot breakfast, so two of my favorite recipes to make for Sunday morning are baked oatmeal and bran muffins, both recipes that are best when mixed up the night before! These can then bake while you read for a few minutes or finish getting ready for the day. Coffee cakes or breakfast egg casseroles also do well when mixed up the night before! (And of course, cold cereal or pop tarts can also do the job of filling empty tummies!)
If time, however, isn’t an issue for you but you find yourself spending way too much time trying to figure out what to make, make a meal plan so that, come Sunday morning, you know exactly what you’re making instead of having to deal with the “What should I make for breakfast? Oh, what should I make?” predicament.
Finally, for the ultimate breakfast hack: find the meal that your family likes and is super easy to make and then make that every Sunday morning!
5. Quiet your heart before the Lord
It is easy to rush, rush, rush on Sundays when you know that you have a deadline for when you all have to get out the door. But preparing your heart before the craziness begins is an important step towards preparing for success in the more practical areas of the morning. I know sometimes it is literally impossible to squeeze in even just five minutes of Bible reading, but if at all possible, plan on Saturday to make sure you have even just a few minutes on Sunday morning to quiet your heart before the Lord.
This may look different for each person. For one person, it might mean listening to a chapter of an audio Bible as you get ready; for another, it might be bringing to the Lord the burden that has been crowding your heart over the past few days; for yet another, it might be getting up a little earlier to sit down to read the Word for fifteen minutes or taking a minute to intentionally review that memory verse that is stuck on the kitchen window sill.
Whatever it may look like for you in your particular season of life, make it a priority to remember that today–Sunday–is the day that we have set aside to gather with the saints to build each other up and to sit under the teaching and preaching of the Word.
As the weekend comes around each week, these are some of the ways that have helped me use Saturdays to help prepare my heart for Sundays. In no way are these ideas fool-proof or exhaustive. However, I hope that you might find one or two to be helpful in eliminating some of the Sunday morning craziness, allowing your heart to worship, learn, and serve alongside fellow believers with genuine joy and love!
Do you ever feel like gathering with fellow believers on Sunday mornings is a habit that you do because it is just that–a habit? I know I can feel that way sometimes. However, despite our tendency to get caught in the routine of it, God designed gathering with the local church to be so much more than a habit or an opportunity to socialize! He designed the local church for our good!
All throughout the New Testament, we read about the local church: we read about who should be in positions of leadership, specific practices to have within the local church, as well how we should serve in the local church and interact with each other, to name just a few topics. As we consider what Scripture teaches about the local church, one overarching theme woven throughout it all is that gathering with the local church is for the spiritual growth of the believer.
But what exactly does this mean? How is physically gathering with a group of other believers supposed to affect one’s spiritual growth?
Here are three reasons to consider:
Spiritual growth is designed to happen in the context of the local church.
Ephesians 4:12-13 tells us that the spiritual leaders of the local church are given “to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” The picture of the universal church being a body takes on flesh and blood in the context of the local church: each member takes on a role and a function for the healthy functioning of the local body of believers. In his excellent book What is a Healthy Church Member, Thabiti Anyabwile sums up this passage with this simple statement: “Ephesians 4:11-16 offers a pretty strong argument that participation in the body of Christ is the main way in which Christ strengthens and matures us” (pg. 91).
And so we believe that attending and participating in a local church is the particular means that God has given us for the growth and edification of every believer.
Spiritual growth is designed to happen while we sit under the teaching and preaching of the Word of God.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us that “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good word.” We see here the role that Scripture plays in a believer’s spiritual growth: God uses Scripture to complete and equip the believer. While it is vital that a believer be reading the Word throughout the week, God has designed the local church to provide spiritual leadership and instruction for the growth and maturity of the Body, as we’ve already seen from Ephesians
Spiritual growth is designed to happen when we worship and fellowship with the believers.
In Ephesians 5:19, we are instructed to address “one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart.” When we open our mouths and speak words of praise to God for His enduring faithfulness, steadfast love, and never-ceasing grace and mercy, we remind each other of God’s work in each of our lives.
When we sing of the dark valleys that God takes His children through and also the tender compassion He has towards His children, we encourage each other to keep pressing forward with our eyes on the Savior who walks beside us.
When we sing of the cross that saves, we rehearse to each other who we once were and who we have now become because of Christ.
Indeed, there is incredible spiritual worth in lifting our voices together in song to build each other up in songs and hymns and spiritual songs. We must not take this task lightly.
However, as much as we know in our minds the importance of this regular gathering with the saints, it is easy to let it slip, isn’t it? Hebrews 10:24-25 warns us to guard against getting lazy in encouraging each other through this intentional gathering: “And let us consider how to stir up on another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
Because of this tendency to slack off on gathering together for instruction, mutual encouragement, and accountability, we must make church a part of our regular, weekly rhythm. Our weekly gathering together with fellow believers is important for our spiritual growth and maturity, both for ourselves and for the other believers around us.
The next time you find yourself going through the motions as you head to church, remind yourself of God’s divine purpose for the local church in your life and thank Him for it!
2020, a year marked by quarantines, changes, masks and unrest. Yes, my life has looked a lot different this year than I could have ever anticipated, but this one truth in particular has kept coming back to me; the resurrection of Jesus Christ changes everything. This truth has flooded my soul with peace and brought my heart to worship over and over. With so much fear and talk of death this year, I can’t help but be reminded that we live in a fallen world. Covid-19 is just one by-product from the curse of sin. And yet, Jesus Christ came to conquer sin and death! He willingly died on the cross and rose again so that I could experience life, both now and forever.
As a follower of Jesus I do not need to fear death like I once did because “He is the way, the truth and the life” and for the believer who has trusted in Him, “to die is gain.” The Bible tells us that one day God will make all the crooked paths straight, wipe every tear away and that “in His presence” we will find “fulness of joy.” After a year filled with many sorrows, this truth is comforting to me. However, the true life He offers isn’t reserved only for eternity. As a follower of Jesus I also get to experience life from Him, every single day. Jesus Christ has given me access to the Father through His own death and resurrection so that when I am afraid, when my soul feels empty, when my heart finds it hard to love, I am able to go to my God and He calms, fills and energizes like no other.
Over the past 9 months I have listened to the following song many times and it has been just one of many reminders to not forget what Christ’s work has accomplished for me. Because He lives, I can face tomorrow and all of eternity without fear.
When I think of 2020, I think of COVID: the two are pretty much synonymous. So when I think about what was one truth that carried me through 2020, I cannot help but tie that to the one truth that carried me, and continues to carry me, through COVID.
When COVID first hit the headlines and our country went into lockdown back in March, it struck fear to the very core of my being. There were so many uncertainties and unknowns about it (and do I need to add that there still are many unknowns?) that my mind was racing with all the potential outcomes of how it could affect my family. Add into the equation that I was expecting our second child, and the question marks about bringing a new life into this world in the middle of a pandemic loomed at the forefront of my mind.
But God in His mercy, chose to use those days to remind me of His tender care towards His children. Through trivial events like a broken-down vehicle, browned hamburger that spilled all over the floor, and an IGTV devotional clip that I happened to watch, God reminded my anxious heart that He cares about these things that weigh on our hearts because He cares about us, His children. Matthew 6:25-34 points out the futile nature of worrying. Why is worry and fear so futile? Because “if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?”
Will he not much more?
God cares for the most everyday and mundane things in the world–the birds and the grass–but we so quickly forget that it is us, humans, who are made in His image. We are His prize creation, not the birds and the grass.
We are the ones for whom He sent His Son to die for on the cross, not the birds and the grass.
We are the ones who will one day live in eternity in His presence, not the birds and the grass.
Why then, are we so foolish to think that God would care for the birds and the grass, but not us?
Will he not much more?
God is our Father and He promises to care for us. When we are tempted to doubt His compassion and care for us, James 1:17 reminds us that “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” In 1 Peter 5:7 then, we find instruction on what to do when our hearts are troubled and anxious: we are told to cast “all [our] anxieties on him, because he cares for [us].” [emphasis added]
Is there any doubt that God will always take care of us?
Grabbing hold of these truths of God’s sure and steadfast care for me, His child, during those beginning weeks of COVID was such a balm to my anxious heart. Yes, there might be still be great pain and sorrow in store for me and my family. Yes, life might become less comfortable than what I’m used to it being. But I can still rest in the truth that God is my Father and He will care for me.
God’s got this.
I’ve said these words many times over the past year. I say it as much to myself as to my listeners.
My heart has needed the truth of God’s sovereign control more than ever during 2020.
I love planning, making lists and crossing things off my calendar as complete.
It has been so good for me to take an eraser to my plans and say “if the Lord wills, I will do this or that”.
This past year has exposed my heart’s desire to be in control. In the midst of our world feeling strange and swirling with unknowns, it has shown me that I never was in control in the first place. Rather, it was a feeling of control. Yes, 2020 has been hard but it has been good for my heart to recognize that no matter my feelings, no matter the circumstances God is, has been, and always will be in total control. His plans will always be fulfilled. God’s sovereignty is a truth I have always known but 2020 has made this truth come alive; a truth which I cling to and find rest for my soul in.
Do you ever just feel like your life is on a continual loop? Like you are just stuck in the same pattern day after day? It is often hard to avoid that as we muddle through our adult life with routines of work, school, parenting, and so much more. Whether we like it or not, we as humans tend to establish patterns in our lives. I have found that some people thrive on patterns while others grow weary of them. I am of the nature to implement routines and patterns wherever I can. It gives me a sense of stability and sense of control. But for those like my husband, it can become laborious and downright exhausting.
These outward patterns can be more easily identified, but recently I have been giving a lot of thought to the inward patterns of the mind. Sometimes I see these inward patterns displaying themselves as I go about my outward daily routines. When I pick up the same toys off the living room floor for the 8th time in one day, it is easy to become discouraged and frustrated. when I am putting the 3rd load of laundry into the washer, I begin to feel like no one notices all the work I do around here. When I wash yet another sink full of the never-ending pile of dishes, I begin to feel the weight of all the things I need yet to accomplish while knowing the kids tugging at my leg will never allow me to get it all done. As I allow these routines and thoughts to weigh me down, I am setting my pattern of thinking for the day. I am becoming the “Negative Nelly” that I rather emphatically deny to my husband that I am.
Have you ever argued with a 3-year-old? It’s a daily occurrence in our home right now. These tiny humans are the worst to argue with because they have little to no logic. It takes all the brain power you can muster to answer their question, “why can’t I have fruit snacks for breakfast?” for the biiiilllllionth time. You know they already know the answer but it is useless, and exhausting, and you just cannot understand why they keep asking… honestly! But imagine that same 3-year-old representing our negative thinking, the thoughts we have running through our minds at lightning speed with no finish line in sight. We logically know that we cannot expect our house to be immaculately clean all the time, or our children to never pick fights. Yet somehow, we cannot resist the urge to groan every time we see the toys all over the living floor, we cannot help but roll our eyes and yell “knock it off!” every time we hear the kids fighting in the other room. It becomes instinctual to react a certain way without even really knowing what we are doing. Just as our toddler is not taking the time to process the answer you give over and over, we are not taking the time to process what a messy house really means, or why our kids are frustrated. We habitually default to the same thoughts over and over because we have trained our minds to do so.
I am certainly no expert on the brain nor its patterns, but it is becoming painfully obvious to me that this cognitive loop of negative thinking has directly impacted my daily routines and has taken over my attitudes. I was reading through an interesting book on this topic called “Switch on your Brain” by Dr. Caroline Leaf, a Cognitive Neuroscientist. She says “As we think, we change the physical nature of our brain. As we consciously direct our thinking, we can wire out toxic patterns of thinking and replace them with healthy thoughts.” She also says, “When you think, you build thoughts, and these become physical substances in your brain.” So this is what a leading cognitive neuroscientist has to say about the patterns of our thinking, but what does the Bible have to say, and does it fit with the science?
Here are some verses that relate to our mind:
“For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he” -Proverbs 23:7 So science is proving what Scripture already says.
“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” -Romans 12:2 God changes the way we think, and it is good and pleasing and perfect! Perspective!
“Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” -2 Corinthians 10:5Take every thought captive… is it even possible? God’s Word says it is. But how?
“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things”. -Philippians 4:8 Replace! Replace! Replace!
These verses are great to keep at the forefront of our minds when trying to combat our negativity. However, even with Scriptures like these in our minds, it can be a struggle to actually carry out the “replace method.” One very important key, I believe, is found in implementing Psalms 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God.” There is great power found in stillness, something most Americans, and many Christians, and especially moms, have no time for. When we have no time for prayer and meditation, our feelings, emotions, and thoughts will continue to call the shots. Take time to slow down, to be still before God, asking Him for His power to course through your mind as HE transforms your thoughts. This may not be an hour or two every morning. It could just be slowing down when we feel the negativity rising, and breathing a “Thank you God” in sincerity, knowing that God will continue to transform us from the inside out.
There are other Scriptures that highlight the power of our thoughts, but I hope you see the truth behind God’s timeless words. What you allow into your mind often decides your reality and ultimately your legacy. I am reminded of this verse in Exodus 34:7 which says “Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.” Sobering when we remember that not only do your thoughts shape your life but that they could also influence the lives of your children, their children, and generations after that. This is a heavy thing to consider, but isn’t it true that we often take on the energy of the other people in the room? If our children are hearing all our negative thoughts out loud, it is likely they will take on our negative attitude. I think it is safe to say we had better start working on our patterns of thinking!Our thoughts can determine our reality. So, as we continue to vacuum, dust, fold laundry, and do all those other mundane tasks, what do you choose as your reality? Are you going to let the frustrations of your day take over your thoughts and life? Or are you going to heed God’s Word and allow Him to transform your inward patterns of thinking as you take on the never-ending loop that is life.
This post was written by Rachel Poborsky. She is the sister of Chrystal Stauffer and the author of “RaisingPobos.” You can find her over on Instagram or Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/raisingpobos/