The Importance of Assembly

This is week six, I believe, of church online. Six weeks of not being able to gather with our respective church families to lift our voices in praise and worship. I know I’m not the only one who misses being in church, but I also understand and support the need to stay home and keep ourselves and one another safe. I am reminded this morning of this passage from the book of Hebrews:

“Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”

Hebrews 10:24-25

There are a myriad of passages in Scripture that discuss the importance of God’s people gathering together. The focal point of Israel’s relationship with God was the tabernacle – the place where God was present among them and where the people went to be in His presence. The psalms talk about gathering together to offer worship and praise in the presence of God. Jesus, and the apostles after Him, preached and taught people assembled in homes and in the local temples. We read about thousands who gathered to hear Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and His miraculous feeding of over 5,000 with just a few loaves and fishes. And, in Acts chapter two, the apostles received the gift of the Holy Spirit as they were gathered together soon after Jesus’ resurrection. Indeed, Scripture is abundantly clear on the importance of God’s people assembling for worship, prayer, preaching, teaching, and edification in the Word of God.

Here, the writer of Hebrews emphasizes the importance of gathering together for the purpose of encouraging one another. Not just pastors and teachers encouraging the flock, but all of us reaching out to one another, shaking hands, embracing, offering words of comfort and encouragement to one another. The well-known phrase, “Don’t go it alone” comes to mind. As we assemble to offer worship and praise to God, we also serve as ministers to one another in a “strength in numbers” kind of way. The world is replete with people and things that seek to draw our attention away from God. As we assemble in church, we are reminded that there is a vast community of believers of which we are a part. This walk with God is not a solo effort; we are all in this together. Assembling regularly serves to strengthen our faith and prepare us to go into the world and live lives that honor the Lord.

Indeed, I miss going to church. Having said that, I am thankful to God for the technology that allows church to come to me. The last few Sundays, I have virtually visited several churches around the world via their online worship services. Many are pastored by dear friends with whom I attended college. This technology, truly, is a gift from God and I celebrate it. And I will continue to celebrate it until the day, hopefully soon, that I can once again walk through the doors of Grace Presbyterian Church in Houston and worship once again in the presence of my church family.

Stay safe, my friends. Soli DEO Gloria!

Image credit: You Version Bible App

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Taste and See…

Yesterday morning I emailed my work team under the subject line, “WFH Week 5” and I stopped in my tracks. Week 5!? We are going into our fifth week of working from home?? Good grief, where has the time gone? It seems it was just yesterday that my wife and I were enjoying Ramon Ayala’s performance at Rodeo Houston (it was March 8), and now, all of a sudden, here we are. Week 5.

I enjoy reading on social media about the various ways people are spending their time as they do their part to flatten the curve. Seems that crafts, puzzles, games and conversation are making a comeback. And that’s good.

Taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him.

Psalm 34:8

Here is something else to consider as we shelter in place: how about starting a Bible reading plan? These are strange and stressful times. Many around the world are out of work or furloughed. The COVID-19 death toll continues to rise and the economic fallout will be felt for years. People are worried. People are scared. People are angry. Fact is, we are living through a most challenging time, with many long-term ramifications. Scripture offers abundant hope, comfort and reassurance as it conveys God’s revelation of Himself to His creation. I begin every day with my Bible reading plan. And when I miss it, I miss it.

The You Version Bible App offers a plethora of reading plans of various lengths and topics from which to choose. It is also the source of the Scripture images I share here. I am currently working through Pastor Nicky Gumbel’s Bible-In-One-Year reading plan for the second time. God truly does speak to us through His Word.

Indeed, taste and see that the Lord is good. I double-dog dare you.

Soli DEO Gloria!

Take Time to Pray…

Like so many working professionals, I’ve been ordered to work from home to help “flatten the curve” and slow the spread of Coronavirus. I’ve never worked from home full time before, and I’ve always said that I prefer to go into the office; I feel I’m more productive there. After last last week, however, I am quite pleased with the productivity I have delivered, but I also find it difficult to shut down the computer and walk away from work for a while. Indeed, my normal routine is way out of whack!

One of the areas that has suffered most is my treasured morning time. In “normal” times – is there any such thing? – my day begins in Scripture and prayer. But I have quickly fallen into the work from home habit of firing up my laptop first thing in the morning to make sure something hasn’t happened overnight that needs my immediate attention and, Viola!, my work day begins as my Bible time fades into the background.

But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.

Luke 5:16

Yesterday, I read this account in Luke about Jesus’ ministry. It seems that, everywhere He went, there were crowds. Crowds demanding His time. Crowds seeking a miracle. Sick people in need of healing and demon-possessed people needing release. As I read about this, I could relate. If I let it, my work will take up all of my time and energy, especially in these trying times. If I’m not careful, I could work myself into a state of exhaustion and ineffectiveness.

But then along comes this little verse. Jesus needed a break. Jesus needed to refresh and reenergize. Jesus needed to talk with His Father. Indeed, Jesus – the Son of God – needed to pray. And to meet that need, He removed Himself from crowd to seek solitude with His Heavenly Father. Yes. Jesus needed to pray.

If the Son of God needed to take time by Himself to pray, what about me? And what about you?

I love it when God speaks to me through His Word. Upon completing my daily reading yesterday, I opened my Christian Planner and I updated my prayer list. Then, I prayed through it.

I have many good friends who work from home full time. They offer some good advice that I am applying, beginning today (second Monday working from home):

  • Go to bed at your normal time
  • Set your alarm and get up at your normal time
  • Take a shower
  • Brush your teeth
  • Dress for work
  • Take your breaks
  • Walk away when you need to
  • Leave your work in your home office at the end of the workday

In other words, establish your routine and stick with it. Of course, these days, there are interruptions. These are strange and trying times. Duty may call at odd hours as I do my part to help my employer manage through this. But, this morning, I set my alarm, brewed my coffee, read my Bible, said my prayers and wrote this post. This feels good. This feels right. And, who knows, I may come to love this working from home gig. Just maybe.

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image credit: YouVersion Bible App