Worship While Having Fun

child playing soccer
photo by Markus Spiske

In this series of lessons, we’ve looked at what true worship is — that it is more than playing church when we come together to assemble. It is part of who we are everywhere we are. We’ve considered worshipful living while at work as well as in our home lives. We’ve looked at worshipful living in our school communities both as students and parents, and today we’ll be looking at worshipful living at something we might not usually consider – while engaged in our free time and while having fun.

A Life Meant to Be Enjoyed

Fun is an attitude, and the challenge is to keep a Christian attitude while having fun. This may be the most difficult time to stay Christ-like in our conduct. Hebrews 5:14 reminds us that we should have good discernment as mature Christians, even when entertaining ourselves. In the moment, we may not always do such a good job choosing between good and evil; we may be around people who are not the best influences; and we may give into peer pressure to prevent killing the fun.

God means for His people to enjoy their lives, and we see His people engaged in celebration and joy numerous times in the Old Testament. In the New, we even see Jesus’ first miracle taking place at a wedding celebration. To follow God is not to renounce the joy of this life. Ecclesiastes 11:8 calls on us to rejoice in the days in our lives. Verse 9 tells us to rejoice in our youth, and verse 10 calls on us to remove pain from our hearts. A joyless life will do nothing to bring others to Christ, and a joyless life is full of wasted opportunities to lift others up and to celebrate all God has given us.

Our Example in Recreation

We should be known by the example we set. We should have fun on our terms, rather than the terms of others. There are limits to the type of fun we should have, and when we engage in sin for entertainment, it takes away from our worshipful living. There is plenty of joy without sin, and Proverbs 13:9 tells us the light of our righteousness should always shine. I Peter 4:3-5 tells us we will give up some activities and some friends when we submit to following God, but we can be an example to them of joy without immorality.

So what do we do for fun? Who do we choose to be around? Do these choices reflect our Christian values? If someone will not be your friend because you abstain from sin, then you don’t need that influence in your life. They may think you are mean, a jerk, or a prude; but being a Christian is between you and God, not between you and them. Romans 12:1-2 calls on us to be living sacrifices. This means we won’t be like those around us. It means we won’t even be like our former selves. Philippians 1:10 admonishes us to keep ourselves spotless for Christ’s return.

Conclusion

We need to evaluate who we are when having fun. We have to define ourselves, our opinions of ourselves and our boundaries. We must refine ourselves, making sure our choices then reflect the definition we have of ourselves. Finally, once we define and refine ourselves, we must *be* ourselves. We are Christians no matter where we are; we must always be setting a Christian example to those around us; we need to make good choices about those we spend time with. As living sacrifices, we can succeed even while having fun if we decide how we will reflect Christ in the choices we make.

lesson by Mike Mahoney

Worship in Social Media

Photo by Thom Weerd

We’ve been engaged in a series called “Worship 24 x 7,” and we’re looking at how to live in context of the Bible guiding every aspect of our lives. In this lesson, we’re going to examine how we live spiritually while engaged in online activities. How do we present ourselves as Christians in our modern culture of online communications?

Two caveats before we begin:

  1. I’m restricting this lesson to how we behave online socially. We could go into whole separate lessons about moral conduct online in the context of file-sharing, downloading pirated media and games, and visiting questionable websites; but those discussions can wait until another lesson. The focus of this lesson is social conduct.
  2. This lesson is not coming from someone who is afraid of the modern web or who sees it as inherently evil. I don’t get confused every time Facebook changes the shade of blue or moves a button. I know my way around social networking and have fallen into and climbed out of many of the pitfalls we’ll be talking about.

Potentials and Dangers

Social networks are amazing things. What began in the nineties as forums for small groups to congregate has blossomed into a mainstream phenomenon where parents, children, teachers, grandparents, and entire masses of people can reach out to each other and connect more easily than ever before. Through a variety of services, we can share pictures, bookmarks, links, hopes, fears, ideas, and so much more with our new online communities. The potential for communication is greater than in any point in history, for a few taps of our thumbs can take those messages and share them with the entire world.

We build up our own pages to ourselves where we feel a sense of empowerment behind the anonymity of the keyboard. We are not, however, truly anonymous. People actually see these things we post and share — but we forget that those things reflect on us as Christians. See, along with this great ability to share ideas and knowledge across the globe comes a false sense of security and bravado. We aren’t talking directly to someone. We don’t see how our words and our comments affect others, so we grow bold in the things we share or approve of online.

A Reflection of Our Hearts

What we need to remember is that everything we do online reflects upon our character. When I post a tweet, it reflects my character. The same is true when I compose an email or forward one sent to me by someone else. It’s true when I send text messages, when I share someone else’s material in some way, when I write comments under a status update or blog post, and when I quote someone else. When I write, share, or endorse something online, it demonstrates where my heart is — perhaps more accurately than any other venue because of that perceived anonymity I allow to embolden me.

What I write is a form of speech. It is verbal language put into a visual medium, and the Bible has much to say about our verbal conduct. In Luke 6:43-45, Jesus speaks of fruit born by good and bad trees; every tree is known by its fruit. He then draws a parallel to our speech in relation to our hearts. If we are pouring out negative and hateful things from our mouth, what does that say about our hearts? In the parallel account of this lesson in Matthew 12:33-36, Jesus goes on to say that we will be judged by our careless words. Few settings are a greater temptation for careless words than when we are online. It’s so easy to simply hit a button without taking a second to think about how this will reflect on our Christian walk.

Ephesians 4:25-29 asks us to put away falsehood in our lives, to control our anger, and to only speak such things that are beneficial for encouragement. Then there’s James 3, where the apostle writes about the power of the tongue, and he paints a picture that portrays our tongues as nearly uncontrollable. James asks why we think we can curse our fellow man with the same mouth we praise God. He calls it a contradiction, and that same contradiction exists when we post mean-spirited, hateful, and unmerciful things online. That’s where the wisdom spoken of in verses 13-18 comes in. We have to be wise about what we post.

Some Practical Tips

So what are some things we can do to avoid tarnishing our reputations as Christians online?

  • Think about who is seeing your posts, especially on Facebook. Let’s avoid airing out relationship problems, becoming involved in personal arguments, and otherwise imposing our dirty laundry on others.
  • Is what you’re about to share even true? This is especially dangerous when sharing someone else’s post or forwarding an email — substantially more so when the topic skews political. Before you go sharing a juicy bit of outrage, you should see if it passes the Snopes test. Then you still probably shouldn’t share it even if it does.
  • Ask yourself what Jesus would endorse. I’ve seen Christian hit the Like button on statuses and groups that convey hateful attitudes, that portray misplaced priorities, that even use coarse language. Think about it, do you think Jesus would endorse a group called: “If you’re going to burn our flag, wrap yourself in it first?” Are we (like I Timothy 5:22 warns against) laying our hands hastily on others?
  • Ask yourself if your post is encouraging. Honestly, I know which public figures you hate; I know what laws and bills make you bitter; I know which celebrities get under your skin; I know which groups make you angry. It’s so easy to be negative, but we need to try to avoid it and rather share things that edify and encourage.
  • I’ve already touched on this, but texting or tweeting foul language is no better than saying it. And, no, I don’t give free passes for abbreviations. Let your words (and acronyms) reflect your spirituality.
  • Don’t post things that require disclaimers. “I don’t approve of the hateful way this person says this, but he makes a good point.” No he doesn’t. If it has to be done coarsely, rudely, or hatefully, then it’s not worth sharing, and the points made probably aren’t all that good at any rate.
  • If you wouldn’t be willing to say something you’re writing to someone’s face, then don’t write it. I’ve received messages and emails from Christians that simply turn my stomach, and I’ve never heard them talk that way in conversation. Hold your emails to the same moral standard as your spoken conversations.
  • Finally, consider the focus. What does your Timeline say about your priorities? Mine says I’m about 10% spiritual. That’s not good, but it unfortunately does better than a number of Christians online. Would anyone know you’re a Christian by the focus of your online conduct?

Teach the World

We can go on and on about the dangers of social networking. Some of you won’t even touch sites like Facebook because you’ve seen the harm that can come through them, but there is so much potential for good. There is so much potential for seeing opportunities to help others in need. There is so much opportunity for edification and encouragement. There is so much opportunity to lean upon one another for support in ways that would have been impossible in the past. Let’s not squander these opportunities by misusing our time online, and let’s not lose out on opportunities to encourage because we are afraid.

Most importantly, social networking gives us the opportunity to share God’s word like never before. My Bible study blog gets visits from all over the world. Our congregational site and blog gets visited by people all over the world. We’ve been visited over 8,000 times in just the last week and over 50,000 times since the new site was launched. When you post to Facebook or other social networks, you are reaching out to friends and family who may live hundreds or thousands of miles away, who might otherwise only know you through annual Christmas letters. The potential is astounding. The opportunities are endless. Let’s use them well. Let’s teach the world. Let’s make each other better. Let’s save souls. Let’s be living sacrifices to God even when we network online.

lesson by Robert Smelser

Worship at School

girls studying from a notebook

We’ve been studying about worship the last few weeks at our congregation, and we’ve emphasized time and again that worship is more than what we do when we gather together with our congregation. Worshiping God is something we do in how we conduct ourselves everywhere. Hebrews 13:15-16 and Romans 12:1-2 both call on us to be living sacrifices, reflecting God in our lives.

We’ve already studied about the topic in broad strokes, defining true worship and what a life of worship looks like. We’ve studied how to conduct ourselves in the workplace, and we’ve discussed worshipful living at home. In this lesson, we’re going to look at the school community and how we worship God in our conduct both as students and as parents.

The Power of Example

The most powerful tool of worship we have as students is that of our examples. We’re familiar with I Timothy 4:12 that tells us to be an example in speech, in love, in conduct, in faith, and in purity. Ecclesiastes 12:1 reminds us to serve our Creator in the days of our youth. What do others see in you at school? What kind of example are you setting in front of your peers, your teachers, custodians, instructional assistants, and anyone else with whom you interact? Does your speech, your attitude, your online conduct, your choices, your work ethic cause them to despise your youth?

I Thessalonians 4:1-2 is an admonition that we know how we should be living. This includes at school. Parents, this applies to us too. We adults have to ask ourselves what our children’s peers see in us. Do they see parents who conduct themselves in a Christlike way? Do they see a family that puts spiritual matters before physical? What do they see in your conduct when you are at a school game, picking up or dropping off your child, when they visit your home? Even more challenging, what do the teachers of that school see in you, and what example are you setting for your child when you are away from school?

The Power of Choice

My wife, when she was young, had a sign posted to her bedroom door that read, “I am the most powerful person in my life.” It served as reminder to her that she had the final say in what she let herself get drawn into. It reminded her that no friend — casual or romantic — could control her. Nor could any situation take control of her life. It reminded her that she had a choice over whether or not she was going to end up in a bad situation, and, if that situation was indeed out of her control, it reminded her that she had a choice how she would react to it.

As students, we choose who we hang out with, and I Corinthians 15:33 simply states that bad companions will drag us down. Their influence will wear on us. Yes, we might believe we can change someone, that we can be the example they need, but we also have to realize when the burden is becoming too heavy to bear. II Corinthians 6:14 warns against being unequally yoked with unbelievers. If our companions are dragging us away from Christ, despite our best efforts, maybe it’s time to choose different friends.

Now we can’t always choose who we’re going to be around because our classes are set by others. The teams, clubs, and arts we choose will dictate who we are around a great deal of time, but that again comes down to choice. I made the difficult choice in high school to abandon theater because of the complete immorality of several of the kids I was around much of the time and the content and dialogue in some of our productions. It was tearing me down, and I had to focus elsewhere.

Coming back to parents, we need to be involved enough with our kids’ lives that we can see when something is bringing them down or influencing them in a bad way. We need to be setting a good enough example and have such a relationship with our children that we can talk and offer advice. At times, we have to be able to nudge them reach the right conclusions themselves, and we need the wisdom to know when our kids need to handle something themselves. We would all do well to remember I Corinthians 10:12-13 that assures us we can overcome any struggle or temptation or discouragement laid before us. It comes down to the choices we make.

Worship in Practical Conduct

Here, then, are some practical things to consider in our conduct at school.

Students

  • What is your work ethic at school? How do we act when we’re in a class we don’t want to take? Do you, as Paul instructs Ephesians 6:5-7, work as if you are serving God?
  • How do you treat those you don’t like? How do you treat teachers you don’t like? Do you participate in making fun of others when your friends get going? Do you get dragged into being a bully, unintentional or otherwise?
  • How do you respond to those who are mean to you, teacher or student? Matthew 5:38 – 48 teaches we should never return evil for evil.
  • What activities and social events are we letting our selves participate in? Do we go to parties  or dances where we know we’ll feel pressured to conduct ourselves in an improper way? Do we join clubs that will perpetually take away time we should be devoting to God?

I’m not saying here that you can only have friends who are Christians. I’m not saying you are eternally lost for attending prom. I’m not saying you can’t be in band, orchestra, on the football team, or in theater. I am saying is this, though: be careful that your choices do not make your spiritual walk unnecessarily difficult. You’ll be faced with some difficult choices, but remember to stay on God’s side, and remember that there is always a way to do the right thing

Parents

  • How do we conduct ourselves around our kids’ teachers? Do they see us arguing with or undermining those teachers? How do you think that will affect their effort and behavior in class?
  • Do our kids hear us badmouthing their school and their teachers at home? Again, how will this affect their attitude at school if they see a bad attitude from us?
  • Do we send messages to our children that we don’t value an education by letting them miss school for reasons of convenience — for vacations or other things we don’t want to schedule? Do we rob them of time to complete their homework? If your kids see you don’t value their education, how much will they value it?
  • On the other hand, do we send a message that we don’t value God because we let every practice, concert, or school event take priority over worshiping God and studying from His word?
  • Are we familiar with the friends our children choose and the activities in which they participate? Do we take the time to discuss the challenges they face? Do we let them know we care, or do we just sit back and wait for them to voluntarily come to us?

I think the biggest challenges we face as parents are those raised by our inherent protectiveness. We have to realize that we are only ever getting one side of those stories that trigger our protective instincts, and, whether they intend to do so or not, our children’s versions of events, whether they be six or sixteen, are biased for themselves. We have to be calm and Christlike in the face of school challenges, and we have to show we value their education as much as we want them to value it.

Conclusion

By the time you graduate from your senior year in high school, you will have spent at least 15,120 hours at school – that is, if you don’t start until first grade and never participate in any extracurricular events ever and your school day is only seven hours. We will come in contact with hundreds, if not thousands, of individual souls during that time span, every one of those souls we have a chance to bring closer to Christ.

Our own spirituality will be continually tested. If we choose to walk in Christ’s footsteps, even if we would rather do things that would take us away from Him, and even when we are around people we don’t like, then we can worship God through our conduct in our school communities.

lesson by Robert Smelser