Sunday, May 31, 2009

Heroes from our past

Next Sunday begins a new series of messages based on the life and experiences of key men and women of the bible. The series, "Heroes from our past," aims to lift up the greatness of our God who chooses to work through frail vessels for his purpose and glory.

I hope you will not only pray for me and faithfully attend the preaching of these messages, but you will bring a friend to church.

Heroes from our past
June 7-Abraham: God is faithful Genesis 12: 1-9 Hebrews 11: 8-19
June 14-Moses: God’s power in weakness Exodus 4: 1-17 Hebrews 11: 23-29
June 21-Joseph: God meant it for Good Genesis 50: 15-21 Acts 7:9-16
June 28-David: God is holy 2 Samuel 12: 1-15 Acts 13:16-25
July 2-Ruth: God Redeems Ruth 1: 6-18 Hebrews 9:11-14
July 9-Esther: God Saves Esther 4: 1-17 Hebrews 11: 32-39
July 16-Paul: Chief of all sinners I Timothy 1: 12-17

Unconfessed sin

After reading Psalm 38, I am struck once again by the devastating effects of unconfessed sin in the human heart.(my heart included)

No specifics are given; we don't know the nature of his sin, or what he did to violate God's will. But one thing is clear: unconfessed sin is hard on the human spirit.

He knows God is not pleased. He prays, "O Lord, rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline me in your wrath. For your arrows have sunk into me, and your hand has come down on me.(38:1-2)

This is what the Holy Spirit's convicting power feels like in our hearts when we try to hide sin - the Spirit troubles us and we sense God's displeasure.

But this is a blessing in disguise. The day we no longer feel anguish of soul and deep remorse for our sinful actions, we should be very concerned.

For the rest of the Psalm the writer exposes us to some harrowing details about sin's effects:

-Physically, he feels undone...there's no health in my bones because of my sin. Unconfessed sin weighs on him like a ten-ton weight. He is utterly bowed down and flattened by its weight.

-Like a putrid infection, his sin festers and contaminates his soul.

-Emotionally, he longs for God's comfort, but he is alone without a friend in the world.

Relief of conscience finally comes in v.18: I am sorry for my iniquity; I am sorry for my sin. True confession of sin hides nothing; it agrees with God's verdict and runs headlong into the arms of God's mercy.

O God, may you be true and everyone a liar. We have all sinned and fall short of your glory. Forgive our rebellious ways; convict us, disturb us, afflict us with remorse and a longing for you. Open our eyes so we will see our sin, but also see the cross where Jesus died. We run to you for comfort, strength, and healing for our sin sick soul. As far as the east is from the west, so far have you removed our sin from us. Thank you Lord! Amen

Friday, May 29, 2009

Why Pentecost?

This Sunday is celebrated around the world Pentecost Sunday. Pentecost is the great festival that marks the birth of the Christian church by the power of the Holy Spirit. Pentecost means "fiftieth day" and is celebrated fifty days after Easter. Those are the basic facts.

I was with a farmer last week, and he took me on a walk through his field. He said he is praying for rain and he is worried that if it does not rain the young corn plants pushing through the dry sod will die. Since meeting with him I have prayed everyday that a steady, soaking rain would fall into the thirsty ground of his land and give life to the young plants. Today, it was beautiful to see the rain. I hope his field was soaked.

This is Pentecost. A steady outpouring of God's Spirit upon our dry, thirsty, listless, powerless lives. If God does not pour out his power upon our lives and our church, we will be barren.

Thank God, over two thousand years ago God poured out his Spirit upon all flesh so that the gospel might be joyfully shared with all people and nations, and that a great harvest of transformed lives be realized.

What does Pentecost mean in your life? What does this day mean for our church? We know it has something to do with the Holy Spirit; but how actively is the Spirit at work in our lives and in our church?

Make every effort to gather with other believers at First Pres this Sunday. Over the next few days before Sunday, join me in praying that God would be merciful and pour out his power and grace upon our feeble church in downtown New Castle.

Practicing the presence of God

I love the practical advice of Psalm 37. Instead of burning with anger over the actions of wrongdoers, remember that in the end evildoers will fade like the grass in the middle of summer.

This beautiful song of praise teaches us how to replace anger over the inappropriate actions of others with five godly actions:

1. Trust in the Lord, and do good

2. Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart

3. Commit your way to the Lord, trust in him and he will act.

4. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him. Do not fret over the one who prospers in his way.

5. Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath. Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.

Isn't this great advice for the times in which we live? May God help us act with unflagging devotion toward him. Read the rest of Psalm 37. This wonderful wisdom psalm will enrich your soul and order your steps in the way you should go!

Lord, help us resist the devil. Help us to humble ourselves under your mighty hand. May we trust you, delight in you, commit our way to you, be still before you and refrain from anger. We love you because your first loved us, amen.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Two foundational truths

Psalm 36 reflects on two foundational truths of Christianity. The human race is desperately fallen, but God is rich in mercy. The psalmist gives clear evidence to these truths:

The wicked or fallen person sins from deep within the heart. There is no fear of God. He commits secret and hidden sins; speaks evil slanderous words and does not reject evil but embraces it. Fallen humanity does not just have a few weaknesses. Humanity is in total, whole scale rebellion against Creator God. Therefore, humanity must be reconciled to God, for he is the One who now stands against us as judge.

The second truth in Psalm 36 teaches God's love is precious and steadfast. It extends to the heavens so that only God can save humanity and all creation. We take refuge under "his wings" and find a divine welcome mat!

I love v.9: For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light.

The answer to death is life and this life is in God's Son Jesus Christ. The answer to the darkness of sin is light and this light is Christ who illumines our darkened lives. John 1: 4 echoes the same truth: In Him [Jesus] was life; and the life was the light of all men!

Father, we were dead in our trespasses and sins. We did not have the ability to approach your throne. But you are rich in love and mercy. Thank you for rescuing us through your Son. By his light we see light; through his life we live. Amen

Sunday, May 24, 2009

You CAN make a difference

I want to introduce you to Leon McLaughlin. Leon works at a shoe shine stand in a large office building in Seattle. Several years ago, while traveling in Mexico, Leon met a woman who told him a story that changed his life. The woman had hosted an American tourist in her home. The tourist, when using her bathroom, noticed that the bathtub was filled with water, so he pulled out the plug to drain it, thinking he was doing the woman a favor. When he told the woman what he had done, she began to cry. He had just drained the only clean water she would have for a month.

Leon returned to Seattle, determined to learn as much as he could about the crisis caused by a lack of clean water in the developing world. He took his interest further by taking online classes in the repair and maintenance of water distribution systems and becoming an agent for First Water, a Georgia-based manufacturer of a filtration machine that can produce 740 gallons of clean water per hour.

Following a spate of flooding in Bolivia, Leon approached World Vision to see if the organization could use one of his machines to assist the thousands displaced by flood waters there. World Vision said it could, but they would need Leon to donate the machine and pay for its transportation and ongoing technical support and maintenance. Leon was not put off. He remembered that he was shining the shoes of some of the top lawyers, business executives, and bankers in the city. So he taped pictures of the flooded Bolivian community on the walls of his shoe shine stand to stimulate conversations, and then he began to talk to his clients about his dream, to help bring clean water to communities that didn't have it.

It worked. Through his shoe shine contacts, Lean was able to fund his first machine for Bolivia. World Vision Bolivia staff were so impressed with it that they soon ordered five more. An additional ten machines have since been ordered to supply schools and hospitals in Bolivia, and Leon is now setting his sights on other countries that struggle for lack of water.

Leon works three different jobs to support his "habit" of helping others. His goal in life is not to make money, but to help people. It's very refreshing in the corporate world. Leon did not allow himself to be overwhelmed by the magnitude of a problem. Instead, he brought the loaves he had and offered them to help others. For more information about Leon and other great stories of people making a difference for Christ, read the book, The Hole in our Gospel: What does God expect of us? The answer that changed my life and might just change the world by Richard Stearns, president of World Vision, U.S.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Did he really say it?

You have heard the quote, St. Francis of Assisi supposedly said, "Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words." Personally, I have never liked the quote because it is not based in reality. The gospel is good news; it's a message spoken for all to hear; it has specific content. I encourage you to read this article that sets the record straight. Click here to read.

Love in action

This past weekend, I saw the body of Christ respond in a godly and helpful way to another member of our church in crisis. When Bill Eckles lost his precious wife, Dorothy, so many of you stepped forward with cards, calls, visits, cleaning the church and getting things ready for the funeral service. Many of you brought food to the church the day of the service, and of course our deacons came out in force and served the family and all their guests after the memorial service. I felt proud, grateful, encouraged, hopeful and convinced that the church's greatest gospel message comes through loud and clear when we do what Jesus said: By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. John 13:35
Continue praying for Bill during this time of transition.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Dealing with difficult people

Generally, we all like to know that we get along with everyone. But this is not always possible. For reasons known and unknown, people will dislike us in overt and hidden ways.

Some of us have a strong and intact ego to absorb difficult people and their negative ways. For others, knowing that someone is disingenuous, or malicious in their attitude toward us is too much to bear.

What do you do when you discover that someone hates you, or is actively seeking your downfall? This happens frequently in the church, at work, in the home and wherever one finds people congregating.

When David found out that people were fighting against him and seeking his destruction, he did not resort to revenge. Instead he turned to God in prayer. Psalm 35 shows us how to faithfully pray through situations where people seek our emotional and physical harm.

Essentially, he asks God to be his defender. Contend, O Lord, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me! 35:1

David tried to be helpful and supportive when some of these same people were down on their luck. He thought they would return the favor when he was in trouble. Unfortunately, when these people heard that David was in trouble they rejoiced. How sad. (see 35: 13-16)

I am curious: share some of the ways you deal with difficult relational issues in your life. Read the Psalm and ponder what new clues might be gleaned. Take a moment and share for the benefit of everyone.

Father, you promised that you would give us peace that can never be taken away. Your word tells us that as much as lies within us, to live peaceably with all people. Through the power of Christ's indwelling Spirit, help us to return kindness and love in the face of hate and meanness. Amen

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Psalm 34: Taste and see

Psalm 34:1 could be the mission statement for our lives. Can you think of anything more grand, more encompassing than blessing the Lord at all times? Can you imagine praising God continually with your mouth?

After announcing his mission in life to bless the Lord at all times, the singer invites all the humble to join him in song: Let us exalt his name together.
Don't miss the interconnection between worship as lifestyle, and worship within community. My sense is that the richness of personal worship enriches worship in community. The idea of worship as purely an individual, private act is foreign to the bible.

I hear people imply that the Psalms are so redundant (read boring). How many different ways can one talk about and worship God?

If God is the ground and center of our lives, and if we are called to respond to God's grace and mercy, then eternity will never be enough to know God and worship his great name.

The rest of Psalm 34 outlines specific ways and instances of God's kindness. I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears (34:4). This is well-spring of our worship. We cried to God in our distress and he delivered us from all our fears.

And then you have to read v.8: O taste and see that Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him. I hope you have some time today to read Psalm 34 from start to finish.

Father, even if we had a thousand tongues to praise your name, it would not be enough. You are beautiful beyond description; you are wonderful in all your ways; you are good and your mercy endures forever. Grant that we would taste and see and know that you are good. Amen

Friday, May 15, 2009

Clayton's Story

This video is well worth your time. Click here to view!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

7 reasons to praise God

Psalm 33: 1-3, invites us to worship God loudly, vigorously, and skillfully using human voices and handmade instruments. Why such exuberant praise? This is a hymn of praise to the God who made all things, who rules all things for his own purposes, and who has chosen a people to be his own for the sake of the whole world.

The writer gives 7 solid reasons for worship that employs heart, hands, voice:
1. God's word is upright
2. Everything God does is perfect and righteous
3. God loves justice and righteousness
4. The earth is full of God's steadfast love
5. God is creator of everything that exists
6. God's will prevails over the nations
7. God sees and knows everything that we do

May your heart be full of joy and contentment as you walk with God through this week.
Father, we love you. We need you. We lay our lives before you in adoration and surrender. We employ our hearts, our hands, our instruments, our voices, our bodies as instruments of praise to you. You are worthy, O God. Amen

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Summer in the Word

How many of you eat once per week? Do you know anyone who goes to a restaurant and eats only one meal for an entire week? I don't know of anyone who survives on one meal per week. Food, regular intake of food is critical to good health and survival.

How many people do you know who read the bible once per week in church? I can safely say that there are millions of Christians in America whose only "spiritual meal" happens on Sunday, if they make it to church that weekend.

What does it do to the spiritual health and survival of that Christian who only takes in spiritual nourishment once per week?

If we wouldn't eat one meal per week, why do we limit our spiritual intake of God's word to a Sunday sermon. Would you like to increase your intake?

I would like to help you with that. Beginning June 3rd, and every Wednesday at 7:00 PM, I am inviting as many people as possible to join me at the church for bible study, prayer, and worship.

All you need to bring is your bible and a desire to take in the word of God. Is this something you would support? Let me know.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

This weekend our family will travel with me back to my Alma mater and celebrate my induction into the college's hall of fame for basketball. I am glad to receive the award, but I am even more grateful that my wife and children will be part of the festivities.

A couple weeks ago, my college basketball coach, Coach Morley called me to congratulate me. He was one of the most disciplined, focused, and exacting men I have ever known. He intimidated me and I can honestly say I did not enjoy his practices. They were long, rigorous, mentally challenging, and intense.

What I didn't realize then, as I do now, was that Coach Morley was not just preparing us to play and win basketball games. He was more interested in grooming us physically, spiritually, and mentally to be men of stature. By pushing us to run those three miles before or after practice, he was teaching us how to extend the limits of what we thought our bodies could endure. He wanted us to be athletes, scholars, and men fully devoted to God.

As much as I refuse to accept the thought that my basketball days are pretty much over, the lessons learned will stay with me forever. Don't quit. Work hard. Be prepared. Push yourself. Set high goals and go after them. Basketball is a microcosm of life (one of his favorite sayings). If you fail don't stay down; get up and try again. Be on time. Learn to laugh at yourself, and so much more.

I am still an athlete in my approach to everything I do. I am intense about the things that matter; I never feel sorry for myself; I am not intimidated by others; the greatest room in the world is the room for improvement; stay humble; allow others to give input into your life. Love God as the center of your life.

When I accept the award on Saturday, I do so with gratitude for my coach and the influence he had on all us.


Did you know there are seven penitential psalms within the 150 psalms? To be penitent, is to feel regret, sorrow, pain for one's offenses and sins. The 7 penitential Psalms are: 6, 25, 32, 38, 51, 130, 143

32:1-2, David blesses God for taking away his sin. Only forgiven people are truly happy. Don't try to compel forgiveness from God. Forgiveness richly flows from the abundance of God's kindness and mercy. When it comes to our sin, God is not an accountant - God keeps no record of our wrongs! (Am I glad for that)

We, or others, tend to keep a record. In 32:3-4, David recounts the physical toll of unconfessed, unforgiven sin on his body. When he kept silent about his sin he lost spiritual vitality.

But once he confessed in 32:5, God forgave the iniquity of his sin. How do you spell relief? C-O-N-F-E-S-S!

On the basis of the painful experiences he went through, he is now qualified to minister and encourage others. In 32:6-7, he encourages everyone to pray to God. In other words, don't make the mistake of covering your sin. Adam and Eve tried to cover their sin by hiding. God invites us openly confess our sins. Why? God sees everything. By confessing our sin we honestly and humbly seek the Lord and so receive his mercy. There's no way to escape the all-seeing eyes of God.

In 32: 8-11, David ends by praising God. Many sorrows come to those who rebel against God, but for those who trust in the Lord, they will only find steadfast love surrounding them. Here's our daily worship response to God's forgiveness: Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for Joy, all you upright in heart!

Lord, thank you for this great and indescribable gift of forgiveness. Sometimes it's hard to believe that you keep no record of our wrongs. Sometimes it's hard to believe that through the blood of Jesus Christ, your Son our sins are forgiven. When we feel condemned by ourselves, the devil, or others, help us always to look to the cross and believe the words of Psalm 32. And then help us to extend forgiveness to those who have wronged us. Thank you for these great and precious promises, amen.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Saving Faith

This is so sweet to my soul, I had to share it with you. May you be blessed as I was!

Saving faith is the hand of the soul. The sinner is like a drowning man at the point of sinking. He sees the Lord Jesus Christ holding out help to him. He grasps it and is saved. This is faith (Hebrews 6:18)

Saving faith is the eye of the soul. The sinner is like the Israelite bitten by the fiery serpent in the wilderness, and to the point of death. The Lord Jesus Christ is offered to him as the brazen serpent, set up for his cure. He looks and is healed. This is faith (John 3:14).

Saving faith is the mouth of the soul. The sinner is starving for food, and sick of a sore disease. The Lord Jesus is set before him as the bread of life, and the universal medicine. He receives it, and is made well and strong. This is faith (John 6:35).

Saving faith is the foot of the soul. The sinner is pursued by a deadly enemy, and is in fear of being overtaken. The Lord Jesus Christ is put before him as a strong tower, a hiding place, and a refuge. He runs into it and is safe. This is faith (Proverbs 18:10)
J. C. Ryle, Old Paths, pp. 228f.

Bitter with the sweet

Have you ever heard someone describe life as a mixture of bitter and sweet? Or, “I have to take the bitter with the sweet?" What they are saying is, "I must learn to accept life’s misfortunes as well as its joys."

Psalm 31
is a combination of sorrow and praise. In v. 1-2, David opens with a prayer request. The tone of his prayer shows his trust in God: In you, O Lord, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame; in your righteousness deliver me! Incline your ear to me and rescue me speedily! Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me!

In v. 3-8 he goes down memory lane recounting the faithfulness of God. God has seen his affliction, and God has known the distress of his soul. Since the Lord stood with him in the past, he is confident God will help in this present crisis. Did you notice 31:5? Who said these famous words—into your hands I commit my spirit? Isn’t this amazing, that we are reading the same bible Jesus read!

In v.9-13 he presents a laundry list of concerns to God. We can do the same. We can bring all our anxieties and cares to the Lord, because he cares for us.

He moves quickly from the bitter back to the sweet v. 14-15: But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, you are my God. My times are in your hand: rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors. He knows the problems of his life, but he also knows God's power. Every moment of his life, the sublime and the mundane, are in God’s hand.

He goes back to praying specific requests in v. 16-18. In 19-24, the psalm closes with great assurance that the God who has made promises in the past and kept them will keep them into the future. The last verse invites us to be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord!

We cannot predict what the future holds. Job knows a thing or two about adversity. He said, but man is born to trouble as sparks fly upward Job 5:7. Why is life filled with such pain and sorrow? Remember, this world is in rebellion against God. Until Christ returns with new heaven and new earth, our lives will be a mixture of bitter and sweet. David teaches us to accept this reality by placing our times in God’s hand.

Faithful God, you are the One that we lean upon. You said that not even a sparrow can fall to the ground without you knowing it. All of life is before you. We have so many questions; many disappointments and unresolved issues in our lives. Help us to trust you in the dark. Even when we can't find our way, help us to trust your hand. As David said, our times are in your hand. For this we are grateful, amen.

Monday, May 4, 2009

How to worship God

According to the title, Psalm 30 was composed for the dedication of the temple. The theme of the whole psalm is one of personal thanksgiving for God's repeated care and deliverance over the course of life.

Put on your thinking cap and imagine this worshiper standing in the temple keenly aware of his purpose for being there. He is not bored; he is not there to be entertained, his sole objective is to extol or lift up the Lord.

In verses 1-3 he gives three reasons for magnifying the Lord:
1. Deliverance from the attacks of foes
2. Answered prayer in desperate circumstances of life
3. Rescue from impending death

He then encourages his fellow worshipers to do the same. He leads by example. He tells them to sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name.I like the realism of these people. As they come before God they know both the anger and kindness of God. God's anger is but for a moment, and his favor lasts for a lifetime. Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes with the morning.

God is the one who prospers and makes them strong. According to verse 7, if God hid his face they would be terrified.

In Psalm 30, worship is based on the faithfulness of God. Compare your worship experience from this past Sunday. What was your attitude? Did you wait to hear a style of music to set your feet tapping? Did you wait to hear a funny story in the sermon? Did you fall asleep out of sheer boredom? Or did you gather with fellow worshipers intent on extolling the Lord?

At the end of the Psalm, David said you turn my mourning into dancing, you have helped me put off my heavy mourning cloths and clothed me with gladness. Was it the music that brought him this release, or was it the presence of God?

This is true worship. God, not music is the source of singing, dancing, praising and prayer.

We have so much to learn about what it means to be the people of God at worship. The good news is we have this entire week and this coming Sunday to improve the way we worship the Lord. Let's move beyond superficial, consumerist, entertainment-based worship. How might we bring more focus and depth to worship where God is the object and the subject?

Precious Lord, forgive us for turning worship into an idol. You have no musical preferences, special times, or place for acceptable worship. You delight in worship that is inspired by grateful recognition of all you have done for us. Amen

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Decline of Reading

A recent report released by the National Endowment for the Arts indicates that fewer Americans every year are bothering to read books, and those that do, read less well than a generation ago. The report, To Read or Not to Read: A Question of National Consequence, examined data on reading habits and comprehension skills, and the story conveyed in the data is principally one of decline. Young adults in particular show a declining interest in reading. In just 10 years, from 1992-2002, the percentage of 18- to 24-year-olds who read for pleasure dropped by 12%, down to just 52%. In 2005, only 35% of twelfth-graders were reading at or above a proficiency level, a rate of decline of 13% since 1992. The numbers for 35- to 44-year-olds fell by 11%. Even college graduates are reading less well. In 1992, 40% of those with a bachelor’s degree were judged by the Department of Education to read at or above a proficiency level. By 2003, that number had dropped to 31%, a 23% rate of decline in 11 years. And American families are spending less on books than at almost any other time in the past two decades.
The cold statistics confirm something that most readers know but have mostly been reluctant to declare as fact—books change lives for the better!

What books have you read this past year, are reading, or books you plan to read this year?

Friday, May 1, 2009

Getting ready for Worship

Here are Ten Practical Preparations for Hearing the Word of God this coming Sunday Morning

Take heed then how you hear; for to him who has will more be given, and from him who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away. Luke 8:18

1. Pray that God Would Give You a Good and Honest Heart

The heart we need is a work of God. That’s why we pray for it. “I will give you a new heart” (Ezekiel 36:26). “I will give them a heart to know Me” (Jeremiah 24:7). Let’s pray, “O Lord, give me a heart for you. Give me a good and honest heart. Give me a soft and receptive heart. Give me a humble and meek heart. Give me an fruitful heart.”

2. Meditate on the Word of God

“O taste and see that the LORD is good” (Psalm 34:8). On Saturday night, read some delicious portion of your Bible with a view to stirring up hunger for God. This is the appetizer for Sunday morning’s meal.

3. Purify Your Mind by Turning Away from Worldly Entertainment

“Putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21). It astonishes me how many Christians watch the same banal, empty, silly, trivial, titillating, suggestive, immodest TV shows that most unbelievers watch. This makes us small and weak and worldly and inauthentic in worship. Instead, turn off the television on Saturday night and read something true and great and beautiful and pure and honorable and excellent and worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8). Your heart will unshrivel and be able to feel greatness again.

4. Trust in the Truth That You Already Have

The hearing of the Word of God that fails during trial has no root (Luke 8:13). What is the root we need? It is trust. Jeremiah 17:7-8 says, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, and whose trust is the LORD. For he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream.” Trusting in the truth is the best way to prepare yourself to receive more.

5. Rest Long Enough Saturday Night to be Alert and Hopeful Sunday Morning

“All things are lawful for me, but I will not be enslaved by anything” (1 Corinthians 6:12). I am not laying down any law here. I am saying: there are Saturday night ways that ruin Sunday morning worship. Don’t be enslaved by them. Without sufficient sleep, our minds are dull, our emotions are flat, our proneness to depression is higher, and our fuses are short. My counsel: decide when you must get up on Sunday in order to have time to eat, get dressed, pray and meditate on the Word, prepare the family, and travel to church; and then compute backward eight hours and be sure that you are in bed 15 minutes before that. Read your Bible in bed and fall asleep with the Word of God in your mind. I especially exhort parents to teach teenagers that Saturday is not the night to stay out late with friends. If there is a special late night, make if Friday. It is a terrible thing to teach children that worship is so optional that it doesn’t matter if you are exhausted when you come.

6. Forebear One Another Sunday Morning Without Grumbling and Criticism.

“They grumbled in their tents; they did not listen to the voice of the LORD” (Psalm 106:25). Sunday morning grumbling and controversy and quarreling can ruin a worship service for a family. When there is something you are angry about or some conflict that you genuinely think needs to be talked about, forebear. Of course if you are clearly the problem and need to apologize, do it as quickly as you can (Matthew 5:23-24). But if you are fuming because of the children’s or spouse’s delinquency, forebear, that is, be slow to anger and quick to listen (James 1:19). In worship, open yourself to God’s exposing the log in your own eye. It may be that all of you will be humbled and chastened so that no serious conflict is necessary.

7. Be Meek and Teachable When You Come

“Receive with meekness the word implanted, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21). Meekness and teachability are not gullibility. You have your Bible and you have your brain. Use them. But if we come with a chip on our shoulders and a suspicion of the preaching, week after week, we will not hear the Word of God. Meekness is a humble openness to God’s truth with a longing to be changed by it.

8. Be Still as You Enter the Room and Focus Your Mind’s Attention and Heart’s Affection on God

“Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10). As we enter the sanctuary, let us come on the lookout for God, and leave on the lookout for people. Come with a quiet passion to seek God and his power. We will not be an unfriendly church if we are aggressive in our pursuit of God during the prelude and aggressive in our pursuit of visitors during the postlude.

9. Think Earnestly About What Is Sung and Prayed and Preached

“Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature” (1 Corinthians 14:20). So Paul says to Timothy, “Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything” (2 Timothy 2:7). Anything worth hearing is worth thinking about. If you would take heed how you hear, think about what you hear.

10. Desire the Truth of God’s Word More Than You Desire Riches or Food

“Like newborn babies, desire the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation” (1 Peter 2:2). As you sit quietly and pray and meditate on the text and the songs, remind yourself of what Psalm 19:10-11 says about the Words of God: “More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.”

From Desiring God Ministries: The Pursuit of God in Corporate Worship