Here is a worship service that can be used at home personally or with your family as we follow the CDC guidelines during thisCOVID-109 pandemic.
We give praise to God today – enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise.
Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine
O what a foretaste of glory divine
Heir of salvation, purchase of God
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood
Perfect submission, all is at rest
I in my Savior am happy and blessed
Watching and waiting, looking above
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love
1 Praise the Lord, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
2 Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
3 who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
5 who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
All too often, in this great land of America, we seem to lapse into a state of ingratitude, taking for granted all of the blessings and comforts we enjoy. We revert into an attitude of self-satisfaction, expecting that peace and bliss will always follow us. Or during times of crisis and hardship we turn to grumbling. During all times we should, with sincerity of heart, count our blessings!
The song writer of Count your Blessings, Johnson Oatman, Jr., was born April 21, 1856, in Lumberton, N.J. His dad, a local merchant, just happened to be the best singer in town, with a rich, powerful voice. Young Johnson could not sing as well as his father, yet he grew up wanting to make some musical contributions of his own. At 36, he realized that he did have a musical talent – he could write songs for other Christians to sing. He wrote 5,000 songs and was happy that in his musical compositions he had found a way to “preach the Gospel.” Of the songs Oatman wrote, he seemed to claim as his own favorites, “No, Not One” and “Higher Ground.” However, people everywhere seemed to adopt another of his very special songs, “Count Your Blessings,” written in 1897. Almost immediately it began its meteoric journey. Oatman died in Norman, Okla. in 1922. Through his songs he continues to minister to millions.
Count Your Blessings
When upon life billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged thinking all is lost.
Count your many blessings every doubt will fly,
And you will be singing as the days go by.
Chorus: Count your blessings, name them one by one.
Count your blessings, see what God has done.
Count your blessings, name them one by one.
Count your many blessings see what God has done.
To God Be the Glory
To God be the glory! Great things He has done!
So loved He the world that He gave us His Son;
Who yielded His life an atonement for sin,
And opened the life-gate that all may go in.
Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord! Let the earth hear His voice!
Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord! Let the people rejoice!
Come to the Father, through Jesus the Son:
Give Him the glory! Great things He has done!
O perfect redemption, the purchase of blood!
To every believer the promise of God;
The vilest offender who truly believes,
That moment from Jesus a pardon receives.
Praise Him Praise Him by Fanny Crosby
1 Praise him! praise him! Jesus, our blessed Redeemer!
Sing, O earth his wonderful love proclaim!
Hail him! hail him! highest archangels in glory,
Strength and honor give to his holy name!
Like a shepherd Jesus will guard his children —
In his arms he carries them all day long:
Praise him! praise him! tell of his excellent greatness!
Praise him! praise him! ever in joyful song!
2 Praise him! praise him! Jesus, our blessed Redeemer!
For our sins he suffered and bled and died;
He our Rock, our hope of eternal salvation,
Hail him! hail him! Jesus the Crucified.
Sound his praises — Jesus who bore our sorrows —
Love unbounded, wonderful, deep and strong: [Refrain]
3 Praise him! praise him! Jesus, our blessed Redeemer!
Heav’nly portals loud with hosannas ring!
Jesus, Savior, reigneth for ever and ever,
Crown him! crown him! Prophet and Priest and King!
Christ is coming, over the world victorious —
Pow’r and glory unto the Lord belong: [Refrain]
Prayer: Thank you O God for your loving kindnesses and care. Help us to learn to praise you in all things. You are our portion – you give generously to all. Even when you give us the “bread of affliction” as we look to you – you are able to make all things work together for good. In sickness, loss of income, stolen vehicles, quarantine, loss of fellowship and a nation in crisis ….. we look to you and praise you. Amen
NT Scripture: John 20:24-31
Jesus Appears to Thomas
24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus[a]), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” 26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” 28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
The Purpose of John’s Gospel
30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe[b] that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
Message: Unless I see, I won’t believe
Today is St. Thomas Sunday – the day we retell the story of Thomas’s doubt. To believe that a human being who was executed by crucifixion and buried could possibly be raised from the dead is not an easy thing. Christianity does not portray the early disciples as gullible or naive to scientific facts. So, the Easter season brings us once more to the ground of our faith – the resurrection of Jesus.
The seasons of the Christian calendar begin with Advent, and follow with Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, and then Easter – which is 50 days until the season of Pentecost.
The season of Easter of 7 weeks allows us to focus on 2 ideas:
- Resurrection Appearances that convinced the disciple-skeptics
- And Jesus teachings on the Holy Spirit who was to be given; the baptism with the HS
There are basically 11 different references in scripture to the appearances of Jesus that followed his resurrection – and one more if we include Paul’s encounter on the Damascus road. That first Sunday’s empty tomb, visitation to Mary, Peter, Emmaus Road, and the upper room were a blast of encounters and assurances. Then for a full week there was no reported sighting of Jesus until that next Sunday which was the visit when Thomas’s skepticism was shattered by reality.
The resurrection appearances turned fearful doubters and skeptics into believers. The physical reality of Jesus provided the proof, verification, and evidence, that burst into faith. And God still provides the evidence people need in order for them to believe …. If they will.
Jesus told Thomas blessed are those who believe without seeing …. And yet everyone needs some “evidence of truth” or a revelation of truth that enables them to believe – if they will.
The old book, “Evidence that Demands a Verdict” by Josh McDowell, helped provide the underlying rational that helped me overcome doubt. Other apologist like Ravi Zacharias, John Lennox, Lee Strobel, C.S. Lewis, and Hank Hanegraaff have brought further revelations to solidify and buttress faith in the midst of a culture that seems to deny evidence. When people build a fortress of unbelief – an unwillingness to listen to “evidence” – then they will not believe.
Evidence by itself will not convince a person who does not want to believe. Jesus told the religious leaders that if they will not believe the scriptures about him then they should believe the miracles. But Jesus also said that if people will not believe the scriptures, they would not believe even if one was raised from the dead. And it was so – the religious leaders refused to believe even though the Roman guards reported otherwise.
If people will not believe – if any evidence only further hardens their heart to unbelief and obstinate rebellion – like it did to Pharaoh, then God will not and cannot provide a revelation of truth – their mind is closed to truth. Pilate even doubted there was such a thing as truth.
And such doubters live today.
A recent headline read: “God Did Not Stop the Spread of the Virus,” Humans Did.” The story reported a Governor said something that sounds bizarre and outrageous to those who believe. But to skeptics it sounded perfectly rational. The governor said that the progress being made against the coronavirus has nothing to do with God. “Our behavior of social distancing and closing businesses has stopped the spread of the virus”. He of course was referring to the fact that it seemed like the virus had peaked and fewer were reported ill. We also find that the most dire predictions did not come true. But we do not credit God for intervening – we say we had the wrong models.
Many, like the governor, give no credit to the many prayers of the nation – people calling on God for help to fight the virus, help for healing, and for strength and insight to the medical community. Do we give any credit to God for answering prayer – or is it just that we did not have the right models?
Many people do not understand how God works in the world and they miss the evidence right before their eyes.
When tragedies occur, people are quick to blame God. But when the outcomes are good, humans take credit. It is called human ingenuity, creativity, hard work, perseverance, pulling together, etc. that enables us to “beat the enemy”. Humans all too often can act like they are self-made creatures. None of human workings are attributed to God who has given intelligence and has given different gifts and talents. Its as if people were blind to the way God works – his providence.
Providence is one aspect of the evidence that God is real and active in the world.
Providence is an occurrence that happened at the right moment that seemed to just happen; something that defies human explanation. Believers see it as God’s intervention. Unbelievers call it fate or destiny or an unexplainable random act.
- It was not God but the sudden blowing wind that blew a path through the Red Sea and caused a sand storm that hindered the Egyptian army from attacking.
- It was just good military strategy and the understanding of sound-wave technology that Joshua employed when HE caused the walls of Jericho to fall.
- George Washington’s revolutionary army was “saved” from annihilation by a mysterious fog that allowed them to escape across the river – just a quirk of fate and shrewd military awareness to take advantage of the weather.
- Vaccines to illnesses just came about by human intelligence and hard work – not God.
But believers see the hand of God at work, who along with the human actors, work together. Many times, God works his will in our world by working together with human beings.
God designed a world full of potential and placed man on the earth to be the stewards who would work with God to care for God’s garden – to oversee, nurture, and with works of creativity develop the potential that abound within the natural world. Like scientist George Washington Carver who went into his laboratory each day asking God to revel to him the secrets contained within the peanut. Carver developed approximately 300 products made from peanuts: flour, paste, insulation, paper, wall board, wood stains, soap, shaving cream and skin lotion. Medicines made from peanuts included antiseptics, laxatives and a treatment for goiter.
God is still wanting to work with his stewards to discover the secrets to the various diseases and viruses. Many of the diseases came into the world by sin and sin’s curse – a world that is fallen and waits for the liberation from its bondage to decay. Death and decay abound when humans do not use their gifts and talents to heal but use them to create death and use the potential of natural world for self-gain or power to dominate or exploit others – then the potential has been turned to evil.
The skills of a surgeon can be used for evil – to terminate the unborn, or to “harvest” healthy organs of prisoners and captives to sell on the black market; or those same skills can be used for good – to remove cancerous tissue or replace a knee.
So many times, the good that God wants done in the world – his providential care – is thwarted by those who live in rebellion and unbelief. They refuse to seek the good and offer their talents to serve others.
To the doubters:
- Are you so unaware of the role faith plays in leading countless doctors, nurses and first responders to risk their lives to save others?
- Are you aware of how many people, alone in their apartments, have sustained themselves through prayer and the knowledge of a loving God?
- Do you not know that God is the source of all wisdom, without Whom there would be no life-saving medicines?
Our founding fathers strongly believed that God had a central role in creating and sustaining this great country. And as Ronald Reagan once said, “If we ever forget that we’re one under God, then we will be a nation gone under.”
How is God’s love and care expressed in the world? Through physical arms of his people. Through their talents and skills and hard work. God wants to love you through others. God want to use you to express his love and care to others.
We can close ourselves off to God’s love and providential care by refusing to allow others to love us and not seeing how God works alongside people to give care. God seeks to rescue us through others …. their gifts, talents, inventions, medicines, procedures, etc. all are evidences of God’s providence – he is at work through people. God uses governors and politicians, doctors and truck drivers, grocers and teachers to give care.
We can also close ourselves off from working with God for the good of others. We are made in Gods image and we were created by his design to do good works which he planned from the beginning. When you allow God to use your gifts and talents – God is at work through you. You become part of the evidence that demands a verdict. Your life and testimony of faith are opportunities for God’s revelation of truth to open eyes of unbelievers.
Many, like Thomas say, “unless I see, I won’t believe”. Your gifts talents and service may be the evidence they need that God will use to help them believe. You will be God’s providential care for them.
Believers see the hand of God at work in all things – his providence. All of creation testifies … if we are willing to believe – God will provide the insight.
The Song Redeemer testifies to the truth – God is active each and every day.
Redeemer Nicole C. Mullen
Who taught the sun where to stand in the morning?
And who told the ocean you can only come this far?
And who showed the moon where to hide ’til evening?
Whose words alone can catch a falling star?
Well I know my redeemer lives
I know my redeemer lives
All of creation testify
This life within me cries
I know my redeemer lives, yeah
The very same God that spins things in orbit
Runs to the weary, the worn and the weak
And the same gentle hands that hold me when I’m broken
They conquered death to bring me victory
Now I know my redeemer lives
I know my redeemer lives
Let all creation testify (aaah)
Let this life within me cry
I know my Redeemer, he lives
To take away my shame
And he lives forever, I’ll proclaim
That the payment for my sin
Was the precious life he gave
But now he’s alive and (aaah)
There’s an empty grave
And I know my Redeemer (lives) he lives
Prayer: We thank you O God for the gift of faith – for opening our eyes to see; that we, along with Thomas, can exclaim “My Lord and my God”. Help us now to be your servants that allow you to use us to open the eyes of to others. We give you our gifts and talents.
Blessings on you