This morning as our men gathered to pray, my heart was being drawn to remember all our young people who grew up in this congregation and have gone out to form their own lives. Some have remained faithful to the Gospel we worked so hard to instill in their hearts and minds, and some have not.
We have had this picture in our minds of trying to do things in such a way that our children would become so intertwined into the life of the congregation that as they grew older, God would have many “strings” to pull, to draw them to Himself. We continue to pray for all our young people that God would just keep tugging on those strings, reminding them of His love, and of our love for them.
A couple days ago, my children and grandchildren gathered for a day of fellowship, playing games together, and eating together. We had so much fun. Watching the small cousins interact with one another is really a treat. Watching how the aunts and uncles love on each other and the little ones is a blessing. Seeing the joy and excitement as they visit is a dream come true for Judi and me. We strived to instill the idea that the potentially best friends they would ever have could be their siblings. God has honored that desire.
During the evening, they set a fire in the firepit for roasting hot dogs. As the wood was pretty wet, they worked hard to dry it out enough to burn well and put more pieces up on the edge of the pit to dry enough to be ready to re-supply the fire, if needed.
We noticed that one of the drying pieces had begun to burn. It wasn’t in the fire, but it was close enough that it picked up the heat from the fire and was kindled. As I was putting it down, I remembered an old cliché about the proximity of wood to a fire, and the relationship that would develop. It goes something like this: “For the wood to burn hot, it needs to stay in the fire. If it is removed, it will gradually cool and stop burning.”
The cliché says it much better than I did, but the reminder was effective, nonetheless. If I want my faith to burn hot, then I need to keep close to where the fire is burning.
Those times when we feel like we just don’t have the desire or the energy to join with the family of God in worship and the encouragement of the spoken Word can be dangerous to our faith. There may be times, when we just feel that we can’t go to the worship gathering. I remember some of those. When Judi died, there were times where I just wanted to stay home and grieve…alone. Yet, it was in those times that my faith most needed to be bolstered by the faith of other believers.
I went to church…even if I wasn’t going to be preaching or leading the worship. God faithfully met me there and loved on me through the other members of the congregation. The strings He had tied around me, through the lives of the others in the congregation, were used to bind up my wounded heart and to help me cling to the faith with my faith. God brought healing to my soul…over time…as I neglected not the assembling of the brethren.
We’ve been praying for our descendants in this manner. May the Lord draw upon the strings He has been tying around their hearts, drawing them close to Himself.
But I also pray that for those who are currently a part of this congregation (as you might want to do for your congregation), that the Lord would not allow us to “neglect the assembling of the brethren.”
It doesn’t take long for an occasional “excused absence” to become a regular “excuse-to-be-absent.”
As the distancing of the relationships that begins to grow as we miss out on opportunities to gather develops, we find the heat of our desire to gather to worship God diminishes. As our hearts cool toward the assembly, there is a very great danger that our hearts will cool toward God.
“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:19–25, ESV)
Last week, I discussed the amazing grace that God has given us to be able to enter directly into His presence…boldly. Today, the encouragement is that we would “draw near” to God, “not neglecting [the opportunities we have to meet together], as is the habit of some.”
We need the encouragement and the warmth that comes from being close to one another in our faith.