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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Dr. David Jeremiah » David Jeremiah - Stay Connected

David Jeremiah - Stay Connected

David Jeremiah - Stay Connected
David Jeremiah - Stay Connected
TOPICS: Church, Unity, Relationships, Loneliness, Living With Confidence in a Chaotic World

In his book, "Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community", Robert Putnam observes that, since the 1960s, Americans have become 10% less likely to be churchgoers and 25% to 50% less likely to be involved in any religious activities. In other words, there are now fewer church members and a great many are less active ones. People are not only staying away from churches, friends, they're staying away from community groups altogether, groups like clubs and service organizations, adult sports leagues.

Charles Colson notes that the age of personal computers has pushed individualism to a new level so that, rather than connecting with people face to face, they do it electronically through Internet, social networking, email, and instant messaging. Much of the time, with handles rather than names, and faceless anonymity replacing deep, knowing friendships. In the aftermath of September 11, 2001, people came looking for greater community. The same thing happened with the subsequent series of crises that followed. On the Sunday after 9/11, our large sanctuary here could not contain all the people who wanted to be a part of our worship services and, for a few weeks after that, we had record attendances but then as the thought of all that had happened began to settle in, we went back to our normal pattern of not coming to church.

Theologian Leonard Sweet writes that, "each of us lives on many levels and we need multi-leveled relationships with different kinds of people to be healthy and whole". So with the decline of extended families in our western culture, this becomes all the more important. Social networks have become all the rage. We suspect that people long for authentic community and perhaps they're looking for love in all the wrong places. Online friendship isn't ultimately satisfying and all of the studies prove that. It's possible to have 300 connections on Facebook, 200 following you on Twitter, and feel as if nobody knows you at all and that you're still all alone.

So during tough times, we're seeing a widespread craving for genuine soul-to-soul connection. How many online friends will come to visit us if we check into the hospital? How many will hold us accountable for living with godly integrity? Relationships, you see, were made by the Creator to provide the answers to the needs we have as individuals. In Genesis 2:18 we read these words: "It was our Creator who said this: 'It is not good that man should be alone'; and he brought Eve into the world to provide rewarding human interaction for Adam". You see, relationships, men and women, are part of our basic design. We require a relationship with God's only Son, Jesus Christ, in order to be saved. And after that, a great deal of our growth as believers comes through our accountability and our relationship with fellow Christians. Together, we become something much larger than we could ever be alone.

Now, according to the New Testament, we are the one body of Christ, an assembly of parts that only function in unison. We call this body the church. Have you ever noticed in the Bible the great 3:16 verses? I mean, verses that are located in chapter 3 and verse 16? Notice, John 3:16: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son". The world as all of us together. And then there's 1 John 3:16 which tells us: "We know love, because he laid down his life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren". In other words, God set the pattern, and we're to follow with each other.

And then, there's Philippians 3:16 which encourages us to, "walk by the same rule and the same mind," and what that passage is talking about is community. And then, of course, if you go all the way back to the Old Testament and Malachi 3:16, here's what you read: "Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, and the Lord listened and heard them; so a book of remembrance was written before him for those who fear the Lord and meditate on his name". That verse from the book of Malachi, the last book of the Old Testament, tells us that when God-fearing people begin to speak to one another, God listens to them and their conversation becomes part of eternity through what is called the book of remembrance.

Do you remember what Jesus said? He sums it all up for us. Jesus said, "Where two or three are gathered together, I am there in the midst of them". We can always experience the presence of God alone and we should do that every day. But special things happen, men and women, when believers gather together to share in Christ. There is a powerful and positive relationship among the three persons of the Godhead, as each glorifies the other, and any strong church or fellowship reflects this principle. When we love and perfect each other, we are reflecting the work of the Holy Trinity and participating in his ancient and everlasting love. The New Testament, as many of you know, has an incredible pattern of "one another" passages, "one another" tasks, encourage one another and love one another and bear with one another, just to name a few.

As we carry these "one another" responsibilities out, we begin to experience a unique form of godliness that can't be attained as separate human entities. We reflect the roles and the relationships of the Triune God, and we really do become the people of God, the body of Christ, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. So if we are going to be able to live courageous lives in these chaotic days, we are going to need to be calm in our hearts, compassionate toward other people, constructive in our relationships, challenged to grow, and connected to the church. We were created to live in community, not in isolation.

Mary Sanders, a Southern Baptist missionary in Africa, once described a regular meeting she had with a new Christian in Somalia. The regular appointment was secret because the area was predominantly Islamic and often very intolerant of Christians. On this particular evening, Mary reviewed the memory verse that the young Somali convert had been learning. Here was the verse: Psalm 118, verse 24: "This is the day which the Lord hath made; and we will rejoice and be glad in it". After reciting the verse, Mary and her convert began to discuss the verse and what it meant. And then they sang the familiar chorus that is based upon that verse.

And the young man was delighted. The idea of singing raised a question in his mind and he looked at his discipler, Mary, and he said to her, "When there is more than one Christian, what other things do you do"? Mary realized as he asked that question, that he had no idea of corporate worship. He had no understanding of music and praying together and Bible study. All these things that she took for granted were unimaginable to someone whose experience was limited to private Bible study and prayer for fear of the persecution that would come if he met with other believers.

Well, this series of messages is about what on earth we should be doing in times like these. And it's built on the framework of passages about the return of Christ. So the Bible teaches that we should be living every day with an attitude of expectancy and the New Testament writers had to preach that same message. Where is it in the Bible that we find this priority of being connected to the church? Where is that written? Well, if you open your Bibles to Hebrews chapter 10 and verses 24 and 25, here's what you will find: "And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching".

That is the passage which is the central passage in the New Testament for the importance of staying connected within the church. We follow daily events and we realize that this present age could end very soon and that Christ's return should be approaching. And when we realize that, the motives that we have should be stronger than ever to be busy with our Father's business. And it's very clear that part of that business is to stay connected to one another through the fellowship of the church. We are to devote ourselves to one another and to begin preparing the body of Christ as we prepare ourselves for that day when he arrives to reclaim us.

"As we see the day approaching," says the book of Hebrews, "as we understand that Christ is coming back," says the writer, in the words of Hebrews, "in that situation we should not be separating from one another but, rather, we should be gathering together more frequently instead of less frequently". Hebrews 10:24-25 constitute the New Testament's central statement on the importance of the church. By the way, in the course of this message, you're going to notice that this is one of my favorite words: connectivity. I love that word. 'Course, in the current environment in which we live, people hear that term and they think of computers and networks and the Internet and the world of business. Our world of spiritual business is the ultimate connectivity, the kind Jesus described to his disciples when he said, "I am the vine, and you are the branches. And he who abides in me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without me you can do nothing".

In that marvelous analogy, we are all interconnected through our attachment to the true vine, Jesus Christ. And, friends, I wanna impress upon you today that you cannot afford to be cut off from each other or from the vine that sustains you, that feeds you and helps you to grow. "As we have connectivity with him and with one another, we begin to bear much fruit," according to John chapter 15. I wanna make a case today, if I can, for the importance of the church and for the importance of the church as never before in these very crucial and difficult ages in which we live. The Bible says: "As we see the Day approaching, we should gather together with great urgency".

Now, let's go back to this passage of Scripture in Hebrews chapter 10 and let's unpack it and find the principles that will help us get this truth in our hearts and, hopefully, in our walk as well. Notice, first of all, the imperative of connectivity. Let's take a closer look at this passage and discover what that means. Notice the wording: "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some". Now there are three exhortations given to us by the Lord through the writer of this passage in Hebrews, which are set apart by the words: "Let us". Hebrews 10:22, for instance, says: "Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance". This is our responsibility to God: coming to him, wholeheartedly.

Hebrews 10:23 says: "Let us hold fast the confession of our hope". This is our responsibility to ourselves: to live hopefully. And Hebrews 10:24 says: "And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works". That's our responsibility to one another. And we fulfill it by Hebrews 10:25: "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together". You see, for the writer of Hebrews, worship attendance wasn't an option, and it isn't an option for us. Take a close look at the first generation of believers and you will see how strongly they felt about it.

According to the book of Acts, our document of that particular time, these first Christians assembled in two ways: they came together publicly, and they came together privately. One was the more formal expression of the church, and the other was the more informal and intimate expression of the church in homes. Just think with me for a moment about their connectivity in public meetings. Those first Christians, according to Acts 2:46 were "continuing daily with one accord in the temple". Did you notice that I said, "in the temple"? Isn't that the last place you would expect Christians to gather in the wake of hostility against Jesus? I mean, you'd think that the followers of Christ were looking for trouble by gathering there.

Well, don't forget, men and women, that most of the first Christians were also Jewish. The temple was the greatest symbol of worship and spiritual community and they could not imagine any other place to meet. And of course, as you look closer and examine the language in Acts chapter 2, you will discover that it was actually in the temple courts where the believers met. The crowds were tremendous in the wake of the Resurrection and most people believed that the only place in Jerusalem that would have been big enough for such a crowd would have been the court of the temple. This matter of gathering together is highly significant. The phrase is actually a interesting word. In the language of the New Testament, it only occurs a couple of times: once here in Hebrews and again in 2 Thessalonians.

In the second letter to the Thessalonian church, Paul used it this way. He said, "Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to him". From these uses of the word, we learn that there are two gathering togethers, one on earth when we gather together as the body of Christ, and one coming in the future when we are all gathered together to go with Jesus Christ into heaven. And I want you to understand something very important, that the two gatherings are equally important in the mind of God. One day we're gonna be gathered together with Christ and ushered into the kingdom. But the Bible says we're to gather together now, an anticipation of that time. Regardless of the stern warning in Hebrews, many believers today don't seem to take church attendance very seriously.

As a pastor, I hear words all the time, like, "Oh, I'm spiritual but I don't particularly need the church or institutional religion". When somebody tells me, "I've learned to worship God on the golf course," I'm tempted to reply, "That's a good trick, and just about as easy as playing golf in the church auditorium". I would love to see ordinary people of our day approach the sporting events which are so popular with the same attitude they bring to Christian fellowship. Sometime ago, somebody sent me an anonymous email with a tongue-in-cheek sampling of what it would be like if people approached sporting events like they approach church, and here is a list of the reasons for no longer attending professional sports games. Are you ready? Here they are.

1: Every time I go, they ask me for money.
2: The people I sit by aren't very friendly.
3: The seats are too hard and uncomfortable.
4: The coach never comes to call on me.
5: The referees make decisions I don't agree with.
6: Some games go into overtime and I'm late getting home.
7: My parents took me to too many games when I was growing up.
8: My kids need to make their own decisions about which sports to follow.

They're pretty lame, aren't they? Pretty lame for the sports events of our day, and even more lame for our excuses in not going to church. Now, I understand that it's true that some people can't go to church. I mean, there are people who have no ability to get out. Maybe they don't have transportation or perhaps they're infirm and they can't leave their home. And of course, that's the reason why we have a radio and television ministry. We minister to those people, but we never allow that to be an excuse for not going to church, if indeed they are able.

In fact, if you all listen to my radio program, you know that almost every Friday as we break for the weekend I make a little announcement to those who are listening and tell them, "Listen, don't you ever use 'Turning Point' as an excuse for not being involved in the church. 'Turning Point' radio was never meant to replace your church, so be sure to go to church this weekend. Find a church where God's Word is taught and Christ is honored and go there, be an encouragement to your pastor and a blessing to the other people".

I believe that sincerely because I think that's the priority of the Word of God. So, in the New Testament, there was connectivity in public meetings. But they also gathered privately and I find this very, very significant. They came together in their homes. The last part of Acts 2:46 says this: "Breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart". Now, isn't that a wonderful description of what goes on today in many home Bible study and fellowship groups in our church and many other churches around the country and around the world?

You see, the early church had this perfect balance between corporate worship in the temple court, and dinner meetings in individual homes. Every day, there were brand new believers in Jerusalem, coming to the large gathering and funneling from the large gathering into the small groups. And when they went to the small groups, they were encouraged to gather in the temple in corporate worship, and that's the balance we should have in our churches today: coming together in our massive groups for majestic praise and worship and teaching of the Word of God, and then during the week, getting together with others in smaller groups where we know everybody by name and we can discuss the things of God and grow, and our growth becomes exponential when we balance it out with these two strategies.

Back in the early days of our Small Group ministry here at Shadow Mountain when I was totally involved with the teaching and the training, we decided to call our groups back then 2020 Groups. And we called them 2020 Groups because we felt like the impetus for Small Groups came out of the book of Acts chapter 20, verse 20. Here's what it says: "I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house". Spiritually speaking, it's a good way to have 2020 vision. In the church, in the Small Groups, following the pattern of God's holy Word.

Small Group ministry is commonplace in churches today but I think the very first network was in Jerusalem and the groups were led by the apostles and the leaders that were growing up in the church, and it was an incredible way for believers to mature and to grow. You see, you come to a church as big as ours, or many of the large churches in this nation, you can walk in and sit down in a pew or in a theater seat and you can sit there and leave and no one will say anything to you. I mean, it's a sad truth but it often happens. And if you're not careful, you get lost in the process. But when you come and you get encouraged and then you go to your Small Group, those two strategies help you to grow and become more like Christ which is our goal.

When we think about all the good things that come out of church fellowship and all the good things that come out of Small Group ministry, we can't help wondering why anyone would ever wanna live without it if they were a Christian. We come together out of obedience to God, but we do it also because it gives us strength and joy and it gives us sustenance and patience and productivity. So here's your assignment, class. You need to be in church every Sunday, and once you get into church, you need to find a Small Group where you can meet with others and grow in your faith. And by the way, make sure your Small Group is built around the core teachings of the Word of God and not just a gathering together of people to discuss what they don't know, which is often what happens in Small Groups. Well, that's the imperative of connectivity.

Let me talk with you for a moment about the importance of connectivity. What are some of the things that happen because we are connected? I have a friend by the name of Joel Rosenberg who tells about a rapidly growing church in Iran, made up of converts from Islam, and the pastor broadcasts his weekly worship service and teaching via satellite. People are eager to hear these sermons and lessons because they worry about what would happen if the secret police were to catch them attending a Christian church. They don't dare play Christian music in their homes or sing praise songs aloud because the neighbors could turn them in. So they depend completely upon the pastor's broadcasts for their worship and fellowship in the Word.

We could be like the people in Iran someday where we have to secretly worship the Lord out of fear of gathering together publicly. Well, when we come together, what are the side benefits? What are the motivations? What happens when we come together privately and publicly? Well, if you go back to the book of Hebrews, you'll get some clues. First of all, we promote love between one another. Hebrews 10:24 says: "Let us consider one another in order to stir up love". Here's the phrase again: "one another," one of Paul's favorite phrases. He uses it 38 times in his letters. And we find it occurring 68 times from Acts to Revelation.

The New Testament, you see, is a "one another" book. Being together reminds us of the needs we have. We share the concerns of our hearts. We laugh and we eat together, and we worship at the throne of grace, side by side, and in the process, God seems to knit our hearts together in love. Then human love increases our love for that same God who started the whole process in the beginning. Now, in this passage of Scripture, we're told that when we come together, one of the purposes is to stir up love. And I love that little phrase because the words "stir up" should be perhaps translated by the words, "to provoke or to incite". In the Greek language it suggests an exasperated fit. The choice of words would seem kind of strange when you put it together with love and good works. But it's very intentional. Fellowship should have an energy that provokes everyone toward God's work. We should get stirred up when we get together with God's people.

I remember back some years ago when Reggie Jackson was still playing baseball. They used to call him, "The straw that stirs the drink". He loved to call himself that, by the way. He was sort of cocky and outspoken, and he had a knack for keeping the adrenaline flowing among his teammates. Hebrews is telling each of us to be the straw that stirs the drink in fellowship together as we stir up love among God's people. I envision a church that is, if you'll pardon the expression, stir-crazy. A place in which people rise from their beds each week with a relentless purpose. "By the grace of God," they think, "I'll find a way to show love to a new friend today. Lord, give me a word of encouragement, guide me to just the soul who needs to hear that word. My life is filled with blessings and I'm going to be a blessing to at least one person throughout this day".

So the first thing that happens when we come together is, we promote love. Secondly, when we come together, we provoke good works. That's what it says. And we do better things together than we can do by ourselves. Together, we can attempt great things for God and expect great things from God. Together we can reach out to the whole world in providing financial and intercessory support for multitudes of missionaries. Together we can link up with radio and television and Internet and print media, and literally, we can touch every person on planet Earth. Being among the people of God should be provocative. It's not a retreat from the world, but it's kind of a pep rally, and the sermons should bring on an exasperated fit to go tell people about the Lord.

The music should inspire the soul, provoke us to bring our friends to hear the Word of God and the music. And hearing what God is doing overseas or on the other side of town, should stir us up to go and help. Let's be certain we're clear here, men and women. We are not saved by good works. It doesn't help us to get to heaven because we do these good things. We are saved not by good works but we are saved for them, aren't we? Throughout the history of the church, it has always been at its best when it has been blessing the world that is around it. As soon as churches became free and clear throughout the Roman Empire, Christians began to help the sick.

Saint Basso built the first hospital in Caesarea of Cappadocia and soon, institutions like that began appearing in many cities around the world at that time. There's a book called, "How Christianity Changed the World," by Alvin Schmidt, and he tells in his book how Christians had been erecting hospitals for nearly four centuries and then the Arabs took the example and began to do the same thing.

Ladies and gentlemen, our faith has not been provided for us so that we can consume it upon ourselves. We have been called to be productive Christians. You all know if you listen to me preach much that Philip Yancey is one writer whose books I read from cover to cover. And he wrote a book called, "Reaching for the Invisible God". And in that book, he tells about a time when a man came up to him after a speaking engagement and said to him, "Mr. Yancey, you wrote a book titled, 'Where is God When it Hurts,' didn't you"? And Yancey acknowledged that he had indeed written such a book. And the man says, "Well, I don't have time to read your book. Can you tell me what it says in a sentence or two"?

After some thought, Philip Yancey replied to his questioner, "Well, I suppose I'd have to answer your question with another question: where is the church when it hurts? You see," he explained, "the church is God's presence on earth. The church is his body and if the church does its job, if the church shows up at the scene of disasters, if the church visits the sick and staffs the AIDS clinic and counsels the rape victims and feeds the hungry and houses the homeless," he said, "I don't think anybody will be asking, 'Where's God when it hurts?' because through the body of Christ God's presence will be experienced". So, when we come together in the church, we promote love. When we come together as a church and we're connected, we provoke good works.

And then thirdly, when we come together as a church, we provide encouragement. Notice in Hebrews 10:25, what the Word says: "Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is, but exhorting", grab hold of that word, exhorting. The word is often translated by the word "encouragement". It's the same Greek word. The Bible says that when we come to church we're not just to promote love, we're not just to provoke good works, but we're to provide encouragement. We're to encourage one another. We should constantly be in the process of finding someone in the church that we know may need a word of encouragement and providing that word so that they can grow and be blessed.

Oh, do you know the power of encouragement? I can tell you personally that there have been times in my life when a word spoken at the right time and in the right way has lifted me up and helped me go on when I felt like quitting. And I'm sure I'm not unusual in that respect. When the church goes about its business and becomes a greenhouse for inspiration and evangelism, you cannot stop it from growing or from turning the world upside down. I mean, who wouldn't wanna be a part of a place that makes everyone stronger and more confident? In our time, the world has all of the discouragement it needs. We need men and women who are part of the body of Christ, who understand that part of our role is to be encouragers.

Marriage and parenting seem harder than ever these days. We're brewing a culture of despair and that's just fertile soil for the church to step in and provide real encouragement, real relationships, real love through the authentic power of Jesus Christ. Men and women, nothing can come close to competing with the hope and the peace that we have to offer to this world, and especially in these days which are considered dark days by some. We can be the light. We can be the encouragement. We can be the salt if we will just take our responsibility seriously. Yes, I know the church as we experience it has its faults. But remember, the church as God sees it is perfect and it's spotless because of the cleansing of the blood of Christ.

I've always been fascinated by the life and ministry of Charles Spurgeon. Charles Haddon Spurgeon was the prince of preachers whose preaching took England by storm during the 1800s. I recently found a new biography about his life. I didn't know there were any others than the ones I had already read. But this biography had some stuff in it that I had not ever heard before, especially about Spurgeon's conversion. As a teenager, Charles Haddon Spurgeon was a non-believer. He was planning to become a farmer and he decided to study Latin and Greek instead. And he didn't know where his career was going, where his life was going, but at the school in Newmarket where he was studying these languages, his life was impacted by one particular individual.

No, it wasn't a professor or an instructor, and it wasn't a classmate or a friend. Charles Spurgeon had his life changed by the school's cook, an elderly woman by the name of Mary King. She invited Charles to attend her church one day, and that led to many conversations with her about his faith. And eventually, he was set on the path to salvation. Years later, Spurgeon heard of Mary King's retirement and he supplemented her income from his own pocket. Here's what that story says to me. If a cook from the kitchen can prepare the path for the greatest preacher of the century, what does that imply God might do through you or through me?

If we could only realize the extent to which he has used ordinary, available human beings for his greatest purposes, many millions of people owe Mary King a vote of gratitude because Spurgeon became a Christian and through his ministry and through his preaching, many have come to know Jesus Christ as their Savior. I realize there are times when all of us need to be encouraged as well. Don't forget that the very best source of encouragement is the Word of God. Open the Bible often. Call upon God and he will begin to speak to you through the Scripture and provide encouragement for you.

Well, we've looked today at the imperative of connectivity and the importance of it. I wanna finish up with the incentive of connectivity. The writer of Hebrews tells us that our faithfulness in church attendance should increase as we see our Lord's return on the horizon. If there were no promised Coming of the Lord Jesus, the condition of the world itself would be all the incentive we needed to cling to the wonderful fellowship of God's people. But we know something, don't we? We know that Jesus is coming back and I want to be found faithful to everything that matters to him, including his church, including being a part of that institution which he founded for the benefit of his people and for the glory of his Son, Jesus Christ.

So, even in the midst of national crisis, when worship attendance temporarily surges, the habit of most is to find other things to do, I have been so frustrated as I've watched this happen during my lifetime. Sunday is the new Saturday. In what is being called a post-Christian America, church attenders are now in the minority compared to Sunday golfers, Sunday joggers, late sleepers, who don't see any reason at all to get up and go to church. "So as we see the Day approaching," the writer of Hebrews tells us, "we should be motivated to build the body of Christ into something that glorifies God".

Ladies and gentlemen, the church is not a building. It is not even the people. It is actually, the living presence of a holy God in a fallen world. It is the tangible evidence of an invisible hope, dressed in the skin of all the people who have found that hope. If there ever was a day when we needed the church, this is it. If there ever was a day when greater opportunity was available to invite faithless friends, we have it now. This is the opportunity for us to make the church of Jesus Christ a priority in our lives, for us to, as the strategy says, stay connected.

I wanna close today with a story that I read some time ago. There's a legend about a church in Southern Europe called, "The House of Many Lamps". It was built in the 16th century with no provision for artificial light, except for a receptacle at every seat for the placement of a lamp. In the evenings, as the people came to church, they would carry their own light with them and when they entered the church building they would place their lamp in the receptacle as they began to worship. If someone stayed away, his place remained dark. If more than a few stayed away, the darkness seemed to spread and it took the regular presence of every member to light up the church.

So let me just ask you to think about that in your own case. When you forsake assembling, when that little light of yours is not allowed to shine, you leave a spot of darkness and, if enough people heed your example and take Sundays off, a great darkness begins to fall across the House of Many Lamps. It was a cold and blustery winter evening when a husband and wife made themselves as comfortable as they could before the crackling fireplace, as they awaited the arrival of their pastor. He had made the appointment earlier in the day and the husband steeled himself against the anticipated rebuke.

They have previously been in the habit of attending every service, every week, and they had fallen off in their attendance. Over the past year, they had rarely made it, maybe but once a month. And they used to say to one another and to their friends, "We're just as good as some people who go to church twice every Sunday, and I'm going to make it clear to our pastor tonight that I don't have to be there every weekend and every service". And he was pretty blustery about his claim.

Well, the doorbell rang and the pastor entered. Remaining in his overcoat, he walked directly to the fireplace, took up the tongs, lifted a brightly glowing coal from out of the fire, placed it on the hearth, and still silently stepped back to watch. Well, the husband eventually joined him in this silent observation. After a very long time, the once red hot glow turned into a cold dark mass. Finally, the pastor turned to the man and gave him a look that spoke volumes. And the man got the message. Like that coal, we burn brightly when we are together, but we burn out when we stand alone.

As for me, here I stand, squarely on the side of God's church. As a young man, I gave my heart to Christ and my hands to the church. I have had wonderful days in the church, as well as a few painful ones, if you will. But if Christ comes tomorrow, I want him to find me faithfully serving in the fellowship of the saints, the gathering of the holy priesthood in the church of Jesus Christ. And I want to encourage you as you think about what we have talked about today, as you go through these disconnected times, as you go through this time of chaos, here's a strategy right from the Word of God. Listen carefully. Stay connected. Stay connected to the church.
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