We have a dog named Sox. Well, my wife has a dog named Sox! Sox is a tiny toy poodle. He is black with some white on his feet and under his chin. Like most dogs, Sox really gets sad when we leave the house and he has to stay home. Most of the time, he will crawl under the table and pout as we make our exit. At times, it is hard to leave him, because it's like leaving one of our kids. Actually, it might be better to take Sox and leave our kids!

Sox doesn't pout for long. He will sit on the top of the couch and look out the window until he sees the car turning into the driveway. Then, Sox runs to the door and starts jumping up and down. He barks and jumps and barks and jumps. He has the happiest look on his face. When we open the door, he goes straight for Sondra and jumps and barks. Sondra picks him up and he licks and licks and licks! It is a wonderful celebration for our dog, Sox.

I love our church gatherings because it is a time of celebrating our spiritual relationship with each other. We hug. Laugh. Sing. Pray. And, love! The church gatherings renew our spiritual life, strengthen our relationships, and give us the opportunity to put into practice the following biblical principle:

Our church gatherings must be a place of encouragement.

Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works (Hebrews 10:24 NLT).

When I was a kid growing up in St. Louis, the preachers would pound on the pulpits and scold those who did not put into practice the next verse:

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).

Church leaders would put a guilt trip on us if we even thought about missing a church gathering. However, this verse isn't talking about the sin of missing the church gatherings, but rather, the missed opportunity of encouraging one another to live for Jesus outside the meetings so they would be prepared for the coming of Jesus.

Our church gatherings must be a place of encouragement, love, grace, hope, freedom, and laughter. A place of celebrating our relationship with God and one another. A place of joy, and peace. A place where there is opportunity to grow spiritually and be fed the Word of God. A place where everyone knows our name! A place where we get the taste of heaven so much that we want more and more of it until we actually move there! A place where Christ is the centerpiece of our lives and where the Spirit is moving within us to empower us to be the encouragers to one another.