"... Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching." (Hebrews 10:25 KJV)
Half an hour after the alarm's blare, I was still groggily staring at the ceiling, body aching, mind refusing to focus. Gritting my teeth, I squeezed my eyes shut and rolled over, shoving as hard as I could to force myself upright. Then sat there, gathering strength for the next effort.
My mental cheerleading section woke up suddenly. "Sunday morning! Get moving. Church in an hour."
I groaned in response. "Humph! Just what I need today, sure. Perfumes. Aftershaves. Walking into church feels like bathing in the stuff, the air's so thick with it. Bet I'm sick two more days if I go. No way. I'll catch a Service on the Net."
This had been going on for months. The extreme allergies weren't new. The chronic illness that caused them had been with me for decades. But this winter had been rougher, the illness worse. And mornings were the hardest.
I cradled my head in my hands, thinking of all the Services I'd missed lately ... Wishing I had the initial zeal of 18 years ago, when first saved.
Back then, whenever those church doors opened, I was there to praise and honor the One who had given me life, and to fellowship with my newfound brothers and sisters in the Lord. If I passed out into semi-consciousness from allergies, I was happy I was at least passing out on the church floor, and could still hear those words of life spoken by the preacher, through mental fog. I cared not about the days of low strength and symptoms that would follow that initial exposure.
Nothing could stop me.
However, (still in those early days), the week I had the flu, with high fever, was when I fully realized it was the Holy Spirit enabling me, and nothing of myself. I'd gone to sleep that Saturday night, telling myself this was one Sunday I was going to have to miss. I hadn't eaten for days, and could barely hold myself upright. Didn't even bother setting the alarm.
Next thing I knew, I felt as if Someone were lifting me into a sitting position, I sat up so fast. The clock showed it was 20 minutes before Service; and even though still flushed with fever, I began dressing, and was soon out the door, without a second thought.
Those were the days!
But eventually, I "matured". Learned I could go to the "altar" in the privacy of my own home -- that the Lord heard me there. Learned it was considered "legalistic" to feel a person should be in church every Service. Learned Evening Services were regularly cancelled for Christmas, big TV football games, the kids' softball game playoffs, etc. Learned that lots of great brothers and sisters in the Lord prioritized family get-togethers from time to time Sunday mornings, instead of church attendance.
I learned to stop being "so overzealous".
In fact, as the years went on, I started seeing fewer churches bothering to hold Sunday Evening Services at all. Soon, Wednesday nights started disappearing too. (After all, Wednesday IS a big sports night at the schools, and "our kids can't miss the games" ...).
Then I began seeing so many little country churches closing down completely, all across the land ... not enough people attending regularly. Younger couples -- the lifeblood of the churches -- often too busy to come, (usually having to work more than one job, "and with all the kids' activities, you know") ... The elderly getting too tired and TV Services easier ...
Today, I felt reminded of the parable about the man who invited many to come to his "great supper". "And they all with one consent began to make excuse ... (Luke 14:18 KJV) *
I pictured the trend progressing, until the time of His Return. ... "... Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8 KJV)
An image came to mind: The Lord coming back, tears in His eyes, finding "Humph!" written over the doors of decaying churches, filled with cobwebs ... moldering song books scattered across empty pews.
That's what gave me strength to stand and shakily shuffle across the room ... "Father, forgive me. Fill me with Your Spirit again, I pray ... and get me to church."
* “And when one of them that sat at meat with Him heard these things, he said unto Him, Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God. Then said He unto him, A certain man made a great supper, and bade many: And sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready. And they all with one consent began to make excuse. The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come. So that servant came, and shewed his lord these things. Then the master of the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind. And the servant said, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room. And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. For I say unto you, That none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper.” (Luke 14:15-24 KJV)
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