Keep the heart fires burning -- go to church

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As the story goes, there was a member of a certain church who had been attending services regularly, but unexpectedly stopped.

After a several week absence, the preacher went to visit him. The host invited the preacher in from the night’s chill to a blazing fire in the man’s study.

Guessing the reason for the preacher’s visit the man sat and waited for the preacher to speak.

The preacher made himself comfortable in a chair, but said nothing. Both men just sat studying the flames around the burning logs.

After a few minutes, the preacher took the fire tongs and carefully picked up a burning ember and moved it to one side of the hearth by itself, then sat back in his chair, silent.

The host watched this in quiet contemplation as the lone ember’s flame flickered, then diminished to a faint glow. Soon the ember was cold and dead. Not a word was spoken.

After some time passed the preacher looked at his watch, realized it was time to go and stood.

But, before leaving he picked up the tongs and placed the dead ember back into the middle of the fire. The ember immediately began to glow and burst once again into flame.

As the preacher reached the door to leave, the host said with tears in his eyes, “Thank you for your visit today and especially for the fiery sermon. I will be back in church next Sunday.”

“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:23-25, NIV).

A kindly preacher encouraged my wife, Carole, and I to renew our practice of attending church on a regular basis. I distinctly remember him saying, “it is easy to get out of the habit of going to church.”

I was struck by his intentional use of the word “habit.” At the time “a habit” didn’t sound like a good religious reason for going to church.

But he was right. Following a routine or pattern is what often helps get us moving in the right direction for many “habits” in our lives.

When we get out of the habit of attending fellowship with other believers we miss the opportunity for being blessed.

The church is a place for encouragement and support as Paul states in these passages:

“We were like a father with his child, holding your hand, whispering encouragement, showing you step-by-step how to live well before God” (1 Thess. 2:11-12, Message). “Gently encourage the stragglers, and reach out for the exhausted, pulling them to their feet” (1 Thess. 5:13-14).

I am certain the Lord desires that your life glows brightly with the light of Christ.

Through His warmth and light you become the spark of His love through good deeds.

Set off apart and all alone our fire can quickly fade.

Together in the fellowship of Christ’s Church the warmth of love kindles the flame of hope, joy and love.

The Rev. Steve Lyons is pastor of First Christian Church, 518 S. Main St. in Milton-Freewater. Pastors in the U-B circulation area who want to write a column should contact Catherine Hicks at 509-526-8312, or by e-mail at catherinehicks@wwub.com.

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