Sunday, July 7, 2013


1.      Check your motivation.  There are right and wrong reasons for going to church.  Guard against the spirit that would view church attendance with a sense of mere obligation or duty.  You were Spirit-led with love for Jesus to first enjoin yourself to the fellowship of believers.  Be motivated in attending church by that same Spirit-empowered love for Jesus, His truth, and His people (Cf. John 14:23; Psalm 119:140; John 13:34-35; 2 Corinthians 11:3; Revelation 2:4-5).

2.      Set apart Sunday as “The Lord’s Day” (Cf. Revelation 1:10).  According to statistics church attendance is declining to an all-time low in our country.  It is the “habit of some” to forsake assembling together with other believers (Hebrews 10:25).  They and the church both suffer harm as a result and the testimony and ministry of the church is diminished.  Christ loves His church and He bids us to do the same (Cf. Acts 20:28; Ephesians 5:25).

3.      Anticipate Sunday worship with the saints and encourage others to do the same (Cf. Psalm 122:1).  We anticipate the prospect of attending various kinds of special events (sporting events, concert, etc.)—in our excitement we might even count down the preceding days and tell and invite our friends—let’s anticipate church with an even greater degree of anticipation.

4.      Be mindful of Satan’s attempts to distract or detour you from Sunday worship (Cf. 2 Corinthians 11:3).  The endeavor to do God’s will and work in our lives is always met with spiritual opposition.  That’s true whether we determine to pray, study to obey God’s Word, or go to church.  It’s easy to generate countless reasons and excuses for dismissing these spiritual disciplines.  See church not as an obligation to fulfill but a privilege to delight in and be excited about.

5.      Pray for the Sunday gathering of the saints (Cf. Ephesians 6:18-19).  The Spirit of God must be the “worship leader” if our worship is to be pleasing to God (Cf. Philippians 3:3).  Pray for yourself and others—that we might be Spirit-led to behold the glory of Christ and hear and respond to His truth (Cf. John 16:14).

6.      Get a good night’s sleep the night before.  We instinctively know that to be at our best we must get adequate rest.  A last Saturday night will likely translate into a drowsy and inattentive Sunday. 

7.      Arrive at church early.  Most wouldn’t think of showing up late for work, yet church frequently doesn’t rate the same degree of punctuality.  An attitude of anticipation will work to overcome reasons for delay.

8.      Go to church, not with the intent to be served, but to worship God and serve others (Cf. Philippians 2:3-4, 21).  In our self-worshipping culture it is easy to think of church in a similar way—to go to church to be served by others.  But Christ has called us a different and better way of life.  He is our example.  To have the mind of Christ is to put the needs of others ahead of one’s own.  “He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’ (Acts 20:35).”

9.      Don’t let minor offenses, etc. get in the way (Cf. Ephesians 4:32; 4:27).  You’ve no doubt heard that little ditty, “To dwell above with saints we love, Oh that will be glory; to dwell below with saints we know, well that’s another story.”  The fact is that the Spirit has put us into the body with other blood-bought (1 Corinthians 8:11b), Spirit-indwelt brothers and sisters.  Learning how to forgive others is an important aspect of growing in Christ.  Sometimes people avoid fellowship because they have refused to forgive.  Don’t let the Devil use your own bitterness to lead you away from fellowship.  You are going to be with the saints above for a long time—it’s best to learn to love them here below.

10.  Actively look for ways to encourage and serve others (Cf. Hebrews 10:24-25).  “Out in the highways and byways of life many are weary and sad.”  That’s true not only outside but in the pews.  How precious is a word of encouragement or demonstration of concern to someone who is struggling!  Proverbs 15:23, “How delightful is a timely word!”  Pray for and look for ways to encourage. 

11.  Make it a point to greet/welcome visitors and new attenders.  I remember visiting a church, years ago, where I was never greeted—indeed my presence amongst them was never even acknowledged.  By way of contrast I once attended a church in Uganda where seemingly every member greeted and hugged me and my fellow visitors.  Determine to “pay special attention” to every visitor no matter their status or attire (Cf. James 2:2-3).

12.  Engage yourself in the corporate prayers (Cf. Acts 4:24).  Don’t go to church as a spectator, but as a participant.  The early church “lifted their voices to God with one accord” in prayer when confronted with an urgent need.  Enjoin yourself “in the Spirit” in times of corporate prayer (Ephesians 6:18).

13.  Engage your mind, will, and emotions in the singing.  Sing with enthusiasm (Cf. Colossians 3:16).  In our entertainment crazed culture it is not surprising that some think that the purpose of music in the church is to entertain.  But music in the church is for worship.  To be pleasing to God it must be “in Spirit and truth” (John 4:24).  Worship in singing is the result when we are Spirit-filled and richly indwelt by God’s truth (Cf. Ephesians 5:18-19; Colossians 3:16).  The most enthusiastic singing I’ve experienced has been in settings where there were no song books, no sound systems, and only a drum for accompaniment.   Sing songs of praise to Jesus as if you mean it.  God is far more concerned with what comes flows from our hearts though our lips than what comes out of the sound system.

14.  Listen to the sermon with the intent to obey (Cf. James 1:22; Revelation 1:3; Psalm 1).  God’s word repeatedly promises to bless those who listen to it and then obey what it teaches.  It is not enough to merely hear it taught (Cf. Matthew 7:24-27).  J. I. Packer, “Congregations never honor God more than by reverently listening to His Word with a full purpose of praising and obeying Him once they see what He has done and is doing, and what they are called to do.” 

15.  Examine everything carefully, but not with a critical spirit (Cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:21; Acts 17:11; James 2:13).  Any good Bible teacher deems it a good thing when his teaching is met with Spirit-led discernment.  Subservient to the authority of the Word his goal is not adherence of his audience to him, but to the Word.  Take care to listen measuring what you hear against the standard of God’s inspired Word (Cf. 2 Timothy 3:16).  Our guide must always be “What does the Word of God say” when it comes to matters of faith and practice.  That being said, be careful to guard against a “critical spirit” which would call into question the motivation and every detail of those who serve in the body of Christ. 

16.  Consider taking notes (Cf. Acts 17:11; 2 Timothy 2:15).  It is good practice to listen to a sermon with a Bible open and a notepad in hand.  Look up referenced verses so that you gain familiarity with your Bible.  Write down important points or verse references that you want to refer to later.  We once had visitors from California who attended our church.  They had taught their two children (ages 10-12) to listen carefully to the sermon and take notes.  At the end of the service they showed me what they had written.  They both had drawn pictures which illustrated the main point of the sermon along with relevant verses that spoke to their hearts.  It can help in listening to write things down.

17.  Endeavor to take home at least one truth from Scripture that God can use to change you (Cf. Psalm 119:18; 139:23-24; Hebrews 4:12).  God’s Word is living and active and able to penetrate deep into our hearts.  The Spirit of God applies the Word of God to our hearts that He might transform us into the very image of Christ.  The process is step-by-step and the Spirit is well equipped to speak to us in our particular point of need.  Be responsive to the truth in a spirit of humility (Cf. Isaiah 66:2b).

18.   Find ways to teach and admonish others in the truths that you learn.  Truth is imparted to be passed on (Ezra 7:10; 2 Timothy 2:2).  Growth to maturity in Christ is a corporate affair.  It is as we are “speaking the truth in love” that we “grow up in all aspects into Him” (Ephesians 4:15).  Being richly indwelt with the Word we are to “with all wisdom (be) teaching and admonishing one another” (Colossians 3:16).  The gathers for edification and scatters for evangelism.  We gather that we might be prepared to scatter, taking the truth with us.  Throughout the week we will likely have countless opportunities to “speak the truth in love” (and especially the gospel) with others.  View Sunday as the opportunity to be instructed and encouraged that you might prove yourself to be a blessing to someone else in your coming week.

Friday, July 5, 2013


John 8:36, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

Independence Day reminds us of the beginnings of our great country and the high price that was paid to win our freedom.  Divine providence led a group of men to deliberate and declare their freedom.  They signed their names to a document knowing full well the cost that would be borne.  Freedom was costly then and remains so in our day.  Ronald Reagan once said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”  Sadly, in our day, the freedom envisioned by our founders and won by the blood of patriots is waning.  The great light of freedom that has been a beacon to the world does not burn so brightly anymore.

Nations come and go.  Political freedom is relative.  Many in the world today have no freedom to worship as they please or express their own ideas.  What we take for granted, others only dream of.  But political freedom is earth bound and transitory.  It prospers or vanishes at the hands of those who wield power and yearn for more.

Jesus spoke of a greater freedom that He alone can provide—freedom from the penalty and power of sin.  That freedom was won for believers at a higher cost—the precious blood of the only begotten.  The true Independence Day took place two millennia ago on a hill and a cross.  Jesus uttered his own Declaration of Independence on that day when He cried “It is finished!”  In dying once-for-all for sin Jesus has done all that is necessary so that a sinner can be set free from sin.  He alone has the power to transform a rebel sinner into a worshipper of God.

True freedom is not the freedom to do whatever we want, but the freedom to do what we ought to do—what we were created to do.  It is for this freedom that Jesus came and died.  It is to this freedom that He saves.  To be free indeed is to be unleashed from the dominion of sin and set free to worship Him who alone is worthy of all praise and adoration. 

Thank God for those who sacrificed their lives for the cause of freedom, but ever more so should eternal thanksgivings be made for the Lord Jesus and His willing sacrifice on the cross.  His cause of independence will never wane or falter and cannot be thwarted by earthly powers or the spiritual forces of darkness.

Pastor Jerry