Certain questions on how to observe the Sabbath day with your
children have come to me in the recent while. This study is to
help answer those questions. It is a study ONLY designed for TWO
parents (though single parents can take the overall principles
given) within the Sabbath observing Church of God, that have
children under the age of 18 years old.
LET ME BACK UP
I was raised in the late 40s and 50s in a Church of England
school. Reading the Bible was the first half hour of our day in
school. I was taught that the Ten Commandments were to be obeyed.
I also attended a local "Congregational" church, as it was called
back then, and was also taught to obey the Ten Commandments. I
was a sincere "church goer" all of my young life. My parents were
not church attenders, and I was not given any religious training
by them at all. But they were happy to see me go to a "religious"
school and to Sunday school each Sunday. I was never taught by
anyone that Sunday was NOT the 7th day of the week, so I believed
it was, and that all Christianity I knew was observing the 7th
day of the fourth commandment of the great big Ten Commandments.
Now, back in the 40s and 50s in England, there was no
"Supermarket Malls" - in fact most shops did not open on Sunday.
The "movie" theatre never opened on Sunday either. There was no
"soccer" games or "cricket" games played on Sunday back then.
And things like "boy scouts" (which I was a member of for years)
or "league" games of sports of any kind was not done on Sundays,
So, I went to church on Sunday. Although I was never taught in
any "matter of fact way" that Sunday was God's Sabbath day of
rest and was to be kept holy, it was pretty hard back in those
days to do much of what many might consider "unholy" in the way
of activities. So I went to church, came home and relaxed for the
afternoon, maybe listened to some music, maybe played my guitar
(when I was 11 years old and older), went for a walk, and that
was about it until evening time. Now and again as I got older I
went back for the Sunday evening "service" but often I did not. I
relaxed and watched the Sunday evening TV shows.
That's about how I spent Sundays all my life until I left for
Canada at age 18, and then discovered within the first year from
my Canadian landlord that Sunday was not the 7th day of the
week, but that Saturday was. I just about collapsed in a faint.
But it was indeed true as I discovered by going to the public
library and reading the reference books in the religious section.
Well to cut a long story short, I already knew what the 4th
Commandment said, and I already knew that the Ten Commandments
were never "done away with." I accepted the real 7th day
Sabbath. It was not long before I came into contact with the
Seventh Day Adventists church. One thing I could see from them by
teaching and by EXAMPLE was that they sure knew how to observe
the Sabbath WITHOUT it being a drag on their children, and
WITHOUT them letting their children do just whatever they
pleased, as if it was another ordinary week day.
And that is where I want us to go back to. Reading what God's
says about His day, and our BASIC ATTITUDE TOWARDS IT! God does
not give us dozens of verses and teaching to "do this" and "do
not do that" for His Sabbath day. He gives ONE great OVERALL
principle along with the words of the 4th Commandment itself,
which are pretty plain, as not doing your regular secular work on
the Sabbath, for you and your household servants and even your
cattle (they get to rest also on the Sabbath day).
The ONE basic principle is found in Isaiah 58: 13-14.
"If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, from doing
your pleasure on my holy day; and call the Sabbath a
delight, the holy of the Lord, honorable, and shall honor
him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure,
nor speaking your own words. Then shall you delight yourself
in the Lord, and I will cause you to ride upon the high
places of the earth, and feed you with the heritage of jacob
your father, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken it."
Please note first...THERE IS GREAT BLESSINGS PROMISED FOR SABBATH
Now, sometimes I've made the mistake of telling people not to
"seek their own pleasure on the Sabbath" and that does not often
seem to help, because they can turn around and say, "Well, for me or
my child watching a ball game on the Sabbath is just making the
Sabbath a little more of 'a delight'." And of course the same
thing then can be said about ALL KINDS of things, as long as it
does not mean you "get paid" for some work you are doing. I guess
it could mean "cutting the grass and doing all the garden work"
on the Sabbath would be okay, if it means it makes your Sabbath a
little more of a delight. We could go on and on with many things
for people to do, if it makes their Sabbath to them, more of a
delight. What is a delight for one person, is not for another.
Watching the "football playoffs" or "hockey playoffs" for one is
a delight, while maybe going around to the back-yard
"flee-markets" or "camping out with unconverted relatives or
friends and drinking beer" - who ain't wanting you to come close
to talking about the Bible, is a delight for others.
No, viewing it from that point is not going to work at all very
well. What I want you to focus on is God saying the Sabbath is
holy, and honoring Him....delighting yourself in HIM.
It is to be a whole day (of about 24 hours) of DELIGHTING in the
LORD. Our minds, our thoughts, even our words, which the Lord
says are not to be our everyday words (and this can be one of the
hardest things for us to guard against, just continuing to talk
"shop" as they say about how to fix the lawn-mower, to what our
nasty boss did to us this last week, etc. etc.) and to delight in
It is to be a day of DELIGHTING in the Lord. It is a day when we
put aside all of our troubles and problems, our worries, our
frustrations, our anger, our .... well whatever just needs to be
put away for 24 hours. It's not always easy to do. We are human,
and we sometimes slip. I've been observing the Sabbath for
decades now, and I'll admit to you, I have sometimes had to give
myself a big kick where it hurts the most, and I've said to
myself, "Well you sure messed up the Sabbath some, this time
around" Thankfully, our Father in heaven is very merciful and
SLOW to anger. If we can admit we messed up someway, then He
knows we are repentant and we really do want to do right and do
want to please Him. It's the attitude we must have if we are
truly His child. Then we know we can have His love and His grace,
that Jesus is there to plead for us as our High Priest at the
Father's right hand.
We need to set our minds to want to DELIGHT in the Lord on the
Sabbath day, and that does not mean we have to sit and read the
Bible all day, or pray all day long. Or as one new convert said
to a minister, "Well I stay in bed all day, for the commandment
says we must rest and do no work."
HOW TO DELIGHT IN THE LORD
ON THE SABBATH
Jesus, did not stay in bed all day on the Sabbath. He did attend
church services. If at all possible so should we. Some for
various reasons it may not always be possible all the time, every
single Sabbath to attend services. Sickness, just plain "under
the weather" for whatever reason, or unexpected circumstances,
may keep us from attending services. But generally we should not
forsake the assembling of ourselves together, as Paul admonished
in Hebrews 10:24-25.
Jesus went for a walk through the fields on the Sabbath day. But
He did not try to climb Mount Everest on the Sabbath, or go visit
the Titanic at the bottom of the sea. I use a little humor here,
but I hope you get the point.
Sure, it should go without saying that reading the Bible and
prayer and meditation on God's laws and words are to be an
important part of Sabbath observance. Hopefully, if we teach our
children and set them a good example, they will also like to do
those two things. Looking back on my young life, I'm so thankful
that as a kid and teen, I did like to do those two things. And I
loved to wander out in the creation of God and marvel at all the
beauty I could see in the earth, waters, and sky above.
It is a good habit for parents to get into having a SPECIAL
Sabbath meal as a family. Usually this will be on Friday evening.
Persons of the household can plan ahead and decide on the
different dishes of food they will have. Some of the children can
help perhaps make some of the food or deserts before hand. It
giveS the children something to immediately look forward to as
the Sabbath comes. Most people and children love to eat,
especially when it's something kinda special, and not something
they have every day of the week. It takes some effort and
planning, but I've seen it done over and over again in some
families with great results for the children to enjoy the coming
of the Sabbath.
After a nice lovely Sabbath evening meal, it is probably a good
time for the whole family to relax and enjoy some Scripture
reading, or one of the many Bible stories found in the word of
God. A good time also to ask the children what educational
lessons from school or life they may have learned in the last
week, talk about them, and maybe try to get everyone trying to
expand on the Christian principles of it all. It is important to
teach the children that they even as children have something to
contribute to the edification of everyone, including adults.
Some of my most memorable times in Sunday school as a child
was the teacher getting us to participate in principles of life
and what the attitude of Christians should be towards the various
things the teacher would bring up. It exercised the mind to think
as God would think, and it taught us that we as young children
had something to contribute for the betterment of all.
There are many other things that the children can do "in the
Lord" before bedtime. There are so many "Bible" things in the
Bible Book Stores and/or at the Seventh Day Adventist book
stores, that it is out of the reach of this study to try and list
them all. The various "religious" things you can obtain for the
very YOUNG to older TEENS is fantastic in this age we live. Yes,
you will need to be careful and select what is appropriate for
your child's age.
As one lady told me once, "I have some of these Bible games,
videos, books, etc. ONLY for the Sabbath hours. Some they can
only have on the Sabbath, and not during the week. This helps to
make the Sabbath that extra special day of the week."
It worked very well for her and her 5 children as they grew. It
certainly is I think a very good principle to employ with your
It's now Sabbath morning and if you are able to attend church
services you should. Most Sabbath observing churches have their
services in the morning to early afternoon. So you are up and
getting ready to go.
A wonderful day to teach your children that on one day of the
week at least, they dress in the very finest. I know times have
changed, but when I was a child, most children loved to dress in
their best at least once a week. Sure, God can accept anyone in
any clothes, and it would seem today in some circles that's about
it, any clothes. But children taught to put on their finest one
day a week, will really look forward to it, most children are the
same if given the chance.
When I was in the "boy cubs" and later the "boy scouts" I just
loved to get my uniform on that one evening a week. I would stand
in front of the mirror and just admire the uniform and hat, and
go to the meeting feeling a little special, just because of what
I was wearing.
If you are in the situation where you and your family cannot
attend a church service, you should still have your children
dress in their very best. Again it help teach them that the
Sabbath is special, and it also gives them something to look
forward to, but you do need to teach them to "like" to dress in
their very best, it does not come, in most cases, automatically.
You will need to develop some kind of "home service" with your
family if you cannot attend with a congregation. Today there are
"tapes" or "videos" or DVDs available for sermons or instructive
Bible topics or documentaries of many Bible themes. Again, you
will have to exercise discretion on which ones will be best
suited for your family.
If you and your family are off to church services, then a good
part of the day hours of the Sabbath are gone with such an
activity. You will visit and have fellowship, your children
will visit and have fellowship with other children.
What will your family do when this part of the Sabbath day is
over? Well there could be, on a nice weather day, a visit to the
park, a nice Sabbath walk, as Jesus often did with His disciples.
It is not wrong to throw ball for a little while, or frisbee, or
take a leisurely boat ride if you have a boat and are close to a
But if you remember the movie (if not go rent it) "Chariots of
Fire" you will remember the man who was going to run for England
in the final of the 100 yard dash. The final was going to on
Sunday, the day he thought was God's Sabbath, and he refused to
run, because to him this was the Sabbath day, and the Sabbath was
not for delighting in and spending hours to prepare and then run
in the Olympic Games.
You may, if close to the hills, take a car ride and then walk
some of the trails, and make it a family game to see what
"nature" things of interest you can find. Talk about God and
His wonderful creations.
You may want to invite some of the elderly person/s of your
congregation to return to your home for a visit and afternoon
lunch or evening lunch. That's a good time to have your children
hear lessons of life and Christianity from those older people. A
good teaching tool to bridge the gap of generations, so there
will be no generation gap for them or for you to try and bridge
later in life.
In the nice weather you may want to have an outdoor picnic with
your family and another family or two.
If all these things are not possible for whatever reason, then
you must try to make the remaining hours of the Sabbath, after
the service, interesting for all members of the family, in ways
that are still within "delighting yourself in the Lord."
Once more I will say that the Seventh Day Adventists certainly
have discovered over the decades, how to make the Sabbath
interesting for children of all ages, yet within the
spiritual aspects of delighting in the Lord. They have many
things in many different ways to enjoy the Lord and His Sabbath
rest, for all ages. Some Bible games, puzzles, books, stories
etc, all the family can participate in, as well many that
individuals on their own can enjoy, again for all ages.
One of the keys is to try and make the Sabbath DIFFERENT,
INTERESTING, ENJOYABLE, for the whole family, but within the
principle of "thou shalt delight thyself in the Lord" - if you
do, God has said you shall "ride upon the high places of the
You will be heading for the Kingdom of God.