10 Ways to Establish Reverence at Church

We have made great strides in helping non-churched people feel welcome to our church services. However, in this shift to be more seeker-sensitive in our worship services, we have lost a reverence for this sacred time. As we have sought to make all feel comfortable, we have allowed for distractions that interfere with others’ focus on God. What are some of these distractions that should be minimized in a church service? Talking, whispering, coughing, sniffling, cell phones ringing, texting, exiting for the bathroom, crying toddlers, sleeping patrons, wandering thoughts, people watching, bulletin reading, gum chewing, coffee drinking, doodling, dropping pens, and wiggling people. Then, there are the outside distractions such as sirens blaring and motorcycles roaring. These actions and noises cause people in the assembly to zone out rather than focusing on giving God the highest praise and honor He is due.
The architecture of the old cathedrals reflected a dedication to the worship of God. High ceilings, church bells, stained glass, and the symbol of the cross for centuries have pointed people to seek His honor and His glory each Sunday. My first memory of church was when I was around four years old, and I accidently created a very loud noise by falling during a moment of silence. My dad who generally was easy going gave me “the look” that spoke volumes immediately following my mistake. I learned at a very early age that there was a certain behavior expected during church which has remained with me to this day.
How do we ensure that our worship services are not field trips for our pleasure but rather services that assist the members to worship the one true God? How can we improve our church etiquette? The Bible states in Ecclesiastes 5:1, “Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifices of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil.” How do we ensure that it is “The Lord’s Day” and not “Our Day?” Here are just a few suggestions that can protect the House of God from being a house of distractions:
• Standing joyfully and reverently for the reading of the Holy Word. In Luke 4:16 Jesus stands up to read the Word.
• Dressing in our Sunday’s best clothing. It is true that God looks at the heart, but our hearts are reflected in the ways we speak and act including our dress. Looking like we just rolled out of bed or dressing immodestly speak loudly that God is not our first priority.
• Choosing worship songs that honor the true and living God rather than entertain us. Some of the modern praise choruses are self-centered, and we need to check our worship songs for subtle narcissism.
• Preparing the night before and waking up on time so we do not regularly walk in late and need to be ushered in while others have already begun to worship.
• Limiting our food and drink intake during the service. There are those who must have water or food due to health issues. However, most of us can sit in the one hour service without the need to get a drink of water, slurp our coffee, or eat a snack.
• Giving ourselves permission to stay home when we are truly sick. While many of us look forward to and are dedicated to the corporate worship of God, there are times when we are so ill that our sickness affects those around us.
• Reminding all of His people to silence cell phones before the start of the service.
• Sitting in the back if we choose not to use the nursery and have small children who may distract others.
• Instructing our ushers to save the last few rows for late comers.
• Praying for our pastors that they will set a tone of reverence.

Here are a few suggestions to help our children develop a holy reverence in the church setting:

• Having our young children use the restroom before the service begins.
• Teaching our adolescents that the church service is not the time to text or to be on social media.
• Instructing our sons and daughters to minimize their movements and develop self-control.
• Having our children, particularly our teenagers, to go to bed at a decent time on Saturday night so there is no tendency to fall asleep during the service.
• Encouraging our children to save their questions about the sermon for the ride home.
• Instructing our children to behave properly before and after the service not running or playing in the sanctuary or narthex.
It is a privilege to worship together. Let us do our best to ensure our house of worship is just that.
And let us consider how to stir up one 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. Hebrews 10:24-25

The Perfect Gift

Special thanks to my friend, Cheri Smolich, for sharing this beautiful poem.

THE PERFECT GIFT
By Cheri Smolich

To find the Perfect Gift
I walked for many a mile.
It had to be affordable, and
Of course, must be in style.
I hoped it would be multi-color,
For people red, yellow, black, or white—
Useable, here and now
To bring each owner daily delight.
Then Someone showed me something;
The greatest gift of all.
I couldn’t get it through the mail
Nor buy it at the mall.
“The Perfect Gift,” said Jesus, “is
Offered to you for free. The
Price of it you can’t afford
So it’s been paid by Me.”
The gift of God is Eternal Life
Through Jesus Christ His Son.**
This gift is not for me, alone,
It’s offered to everyone.
Reach out and accept it,
Take this gift today.
Thank Jesus for providing it,
Just bow your head and pray…

** Romans 6:23
romans-6-23

#MakeLifeCount

romans-14-10

The following blog was a Facebook post written last year by my friend, Harmony Welsh. May you be inspired to #MakeLifeCount!

Hey friends! As I’ve been reflecting on this last year, I honestly cannot believe another year has come and gone. Did your 2015 resolutions make it all through the year? Or did they dwindle and fade after the first couple months? Life is so short. Different seasons of life can seem like they will last an eternity; however, in the blink of eye, priorities, obstacles, highs & lows can all change. We have to accomplish the day-to-day necessities in order to survive, but do we honestly think about our actions? Or do we mindlessly go about running almost on automatic pilot. Majority of the time, I am guilty of the latter. At the end of the day, what truly matters? Think about the people in our lives—do we take them for granted? Or do we truly prioritize our relationships? Taking time to create memories and treasure moments with others brings fulfillment. Think about God for a moment. Maybe you believe in his existence, maybe you don’t. Maybe you have a strong relationship with him, maybe you don’t. Do we honestly take time to treasure God the way we treasure our human relationships and experiences? Francis Chan (You and Me Forever) phrases it this way: “The God who loans you life sees your every move, hears each word you speak, and knows your every thought. And this is a good thing. You are seen by God. Noticed. Known.” Wow!!! If I truly lived with this perspective at the forefront of my mind, my daily actions would be radically different. God longs to have relationships with us! Regardless of beliefs, at some point, every single one of us will die and stand before God. “‘As surely as I live,’ says the LORD, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.’ So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God” (Romans 14:10). This is a profound thing, friends, and not something to trifle with. As we prepare to close out 2015 and reflect on the year to come, may we ponder the brevity of life and the God who brought life into existence. We must live each day to the fullest potential and #makelifecount.

28 Years Later

Colossians 3 13
Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Colossians 3:13

You can listen to my interview with Shelley Hitz regarding this story at:

Broken Crayons Still Color Podcast

To fulfill a requirement to earn a middle school endorsement for teaching, I decided to take a necessary class entitled “Middle School Psychology.” It was a sixteen week class packed into eight weeks and strictly on-line. The first week we had three assignments. The first task was to introduce ourselves and post the information. The second job was to think back on our own junior high experience and write in depth what we were experiencing with regards to the social, familial, cognitive/intellectual, personal, and biological/physical domains for 6th, 7th, and 8th grade.
That first week I reflected on that time in my life, and many old memories resurfaced. As I pondered about my 6th grade year, I remembered how awful that year was. I wrote, “Intellectual/Cognitive- This was the worst school year. I struggled every night with my math class. I cried almost every night as my parents tried to help me. Their way of doing the homework did not line up with what my teacher was teaching even though they came up with the right answers, and I was caught in the middle. The reprieve came when the teacher had a baby, and the substitute taught in a way I could understand.” On Thursday of that week, I had written my reflections and relived many of the joys and pains of junior high.
On Friday morning, I checked the postings of the other students before going to breakfast with some friends. Shock overcame me when I read the name of another student who was THAT SAME 6th grade math teacher! This person was the one I was writing about, and the one who had caused a year of tears and pain. I immediately called one of my closest friends who knew me then. As we chatted about the unbelievable coincidence, I stated, “I have no idea what God is trying to teach me, but I know it must be something.”
That night I called my mom and said, “You are never going to believe who is also taking the same psych class.”
I repeated the statement to her that I stated to my friend, “I have no idea what God is trying to teach me, but I know it must be something.”
On Saturday morning I finished up the third assignment and began to work around the house before heading to my church’s ten year anniversary celebration. As I walked into my laundry room, I heard two words: “Forgive her.” I immediately knew what they meant. Forgive my 6th grade teacher for the year of pain her poor teaching caused me. In my mind a battle raged.
“I don’t have a problem with her. I have used this hurt for the good. I have used this hurt to be the best teacher I can be to my middle school students.”
I felt God say, “You DO still have a problem with her. This is obvious because you have a problem with her being in the same class as you.”
Then, I felt as though God said to me, “Have you changed in the past twenty eight years?”
I thought, “Yes. I have changed so much.”
God said, “Regardless of whether she has changed or not, you need to forgive her. However, do not put her in the box of your 6th grade wounded view. I have been working in her life these past twenty eight years as I have been working in your life.” I walked down my stairs promising the Lord that I would work on forgiving her.
Before leaving for church, I read the updated postings. One of the postings was from my former teacher:
“Tena,
You had wonderful literary references in your Discussion, and I always enjoy a Mark Twain quote.”
Her name
Had I not admitted my hurt, and my need to forgive her, I doubt I would have been able to freely accept her genuine compliment. I am so thankful for our God, a God, who uses an assignment to bring to the surface the hidden hurts from twenty eight years ago on a Thursday, brings the teacher who caused that hurt back into my life on Friday, and encourages me to forgive her on Saturday. That is a powerful God!

Gracious God, help us forgive. Amen.

Seven More Reasons to Memorize Scripture


psalm-119-105

We are instructed by God to meditate on His Word. This can be difficult especially when we are going through the busy days of life. Can we add meditation and memorization into our packed-filled lives? Are we blessed when we learn God’s Word? The answer is yes. I have found that when I combined my activities with meditation, I can change my thought process while still going about my day. What are some of the blessings and benefits of memorizing Scriptures? Here are a few:
8. To transform our hearts.
Accept instruction from his mouth
and lay up his words in your heart. Job 22:22
9. To develop our prayer lives.
If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. John 15:7
10. To have Godly guidance.
Your word is a lamp for my feet,
a light on my path. Psalm 119:105
11. To share our hope.
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. 1 Peter 3:15
12. To share the Good News.
So is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. Isaiah 55:11
13. To increase in success.
Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Joshua 1:8
14. To remind us of God’s Character.
Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Proverbs 30:5

Father God, thank you for the many blessings when we know your Word. Amen.

9781512726978_COVER.indd

With our fast-paced lifestyles today, it is often a challenge to make time to read God’s Word. Hidden In My Heart was designed to make the most of small fragments of time to reflect on verses of Scripture. You may keep this book on your nightstand, on the kitchen counter, or in your car. Regardless of where you read it, it will always remind you to meditate on a verse each day. There is an insightful daily verse beginning with Genesis in January and ending with Revelation in December. Hidden In My Heart walks you through the Bible day by day with at least one inspirational verse from each book of the Bible. This collection of daily Scriptures and accompanying space for personal journaling will enrich your daily walk with God by providing structure for your own reflection and meditation on God’s Word. May this book become as meaningful to you as writing it has been to me. And may you always be aware of God’s truths and His constant love for you. Tena

http://tenadegraaf.com/site/book-shop/

Seven Reasons to Memorize Scripture

isaiah-26-3-1

We are instructed by God to meditate on His Word. This can be difficult especially when we are going through the busy days of life. Can we add meditation and memorization into our packed-filled lives? Can we move from frustration to peace as we focus on God’s Word? The answer is yes. I have found that when I combined my activities with meditation, I can change my thought process while still going about my day. What are some of the blessings and benefits of memorizing Scriptures? Here are a few:

1. To become more like Jesus.
I have hidden your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:11
2. To receive blessings.
Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the LORD,
and who meditates on his law day and night. Psalm 1:1-2
3. To have peace.
You will keep in perfect peace
those whose minds are steadfast,
because they trust in you. Isaiah 26:3
4. To learn His Word gives joy.
When your words came, I ate them;
they were my joy and my heart’s delight. Jeremiah 15:16
5. To have hope.
For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. Romans 15:4
6. To stay safe.
The law of their God is in their hearts;
their feet do not slip. Psalm 37:31
7. To transform our minds.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:1-2

Lord, help us to memorize and meditate on your Word. Amen.

9781512726978_COVER.indd

With our fast-paced lifestyles today, it is often a challenge to make time to read God’s Word. Hidden In My Heart was designed to make the most of small fragments of time to reflect on verses of Scripture. You may keep this book on your nightstand, on the kitchen counter, or in your car. Regardless of where you read it, it will always remind you to meditate on a verse each day. There is an insightful daily verse beginning with Genesis in January and ending with Revelation in December. Hidden In My Heart walks you through the Bible day by day with at least one inspirational verse from each book of the Bible. This collection of daily Scriptures and accompanying space for personal journaling will enrich your daily walk with God by providing structure for your own reflection and meditation on God’s Word. May this book become as meaningful to you as writing it has been to me. And may you always be aware of God’s truths and His constant love for you. Tena

Hop over to the Book Shop to order your copy of Hidden in My Heart.