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How to Behave in a Worship Service

In this Psalm, we learn not only how to worship God enthusiastically, but why we should do so

When I was a boy, I grew up in a war zone. I lived halfway between Chicago and St. Louis, in the heart of baseball country. I remember many playground brawls erupting between Cardinals' fans and Cubs' fans. I remember coming home from grade school a few times with bruised knees, skinned hands, and even a bloody nose or two because I defended my beloved Cardinals. To me, rooting for the Cubs was second only to blasphemy.

One of the highlights in my life was the first time when, as a boy, I got to go to St. Louis with my folks. We drove 160 miles because we had tickets to see the Cardinals play. It was an outstanding experience, and I've been hooked on baseball ever since.

But something happened that day that puzzled me. About ten minutes before the first pitch, two couples took the seats right in front of us. Even as a boy whose eyes were on the baseball field, I couldn't help but notice that they were dressed like they were going to the opera: A couple ladies with long dresses, a couple gentlemen who were wearing sportcoats. I thought that was a bit odd.

During the game as my brothers and I would jump up and yell, I noticed the two ladies in front of us would turn around and give us looks meant to kill. Things got even worse when my brother spilled popcorn in one of the lady's pouffy hairdos. This was the 1970s. Every time we jumped up, we would get that same look.

The experience was capped off during the stretch. This was bat night, and all kids 12 and under received a 30, Adirondack baseball bat with a Cardinals logo. One of my brothers decided to step into the aisle and take a practice swing, and hit gentleman number two on the head. The apology was not graciously received, and the two couples left during the stretch just ...

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Steve Mathewson is pastor of the Evangelical Free Church of Libertyville, Illinois, and teaches preaching for the doctoral programs at Denver Seminary and Western Seminary, and the Master of Divinity program at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

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The enthusiasm of a young baseball fan is a great model.

- Illustration: Mathewson grew up a diehard Cardinals fan, so enthusiastic he'd get in fights with Cubs fans. When his family drove 160 miles to a Cards game, he and his brothers were wildly enthusiastic, while the elegantly dressed folks in front of them stayed silent. Mathewson asks, "Which fans behaved properly?"

I. What's the right attitude when we come to worship God?

We gain insight into the answer from Psalm 100.

The psalm alternates between a call to praise and giving reasons for the praise.

The psalm shows us we ought to worship with enthusiasm and excitement.

Silence is sometimes appropriate in worship, on solemn or reflective occasions.

II. What kind of a joyful noise are we to make?

When told to "enter his gates with thanksgiving," that means public thanksgiving.

- Illustration: A woman at a church picnic has made an incredible peach pie. You could privately tell her how good it is, but the "thanksgiving" in this psalm would push you to tell everyone at the picnic about the great pie, to thank her publicly.

- Illustration: After dozens of resumes and hours of interviews, you finally land the perfect job. Yes, you thank God privately, but you also stand before God's people and say, "I want to tell you what God has done for me."

To "enter his courts with praise" means we excitedly boast about God.

III. Why be enthusiastic in our worship?

"Know that the Lord is God": He made us, and we are his. That's a good reason.

"For the Lord is good": I can trust him. That's another good reason.

"His love endures forever": It's a covenant love. Still another good reason.

- Illustration: Ancient Israelites loved bird watching. They were disgusted by the ostrich, who ran away at any hint of danger. But they admired the stork, who stayed with its eggs no matter what, even if a predator came. The took the Hebrew word for "loyal love" — hesed — and changed a couple letters to name the stork hasidah, because they were enthralled by the stork's staying power.

"His faithfulness continues through all generations": Still another reason.


Even when we don't feel like worshiping, we can reflect on the character of God. That should make us enthusiastic.