The story is told of a man named John who had once been faithful to attend his church regularly, but had grown lackadaisical recently. The Pastor knew that he hadn't seen the gentleman in a while, so he went for a visit.
John greeted the Pastor and welcomed him in, directing him to the chair beside the fireplace. He asked the Pastor what brought him to visit, but the Pastor didn't say a word... .he simply grabbed the fireplace tongs, picked up a hot coal from the fire, and set it away from the fire, out on the hearth. Both men then watched the coal.
While the fire roared on, the coal which had been red hot began to lose it's heat. It gradually lost it's red color, and then cooled off so that it became cool to the touch. The Pastor picked up the coal, and handed it to John for a moment... neither man said a word.
Then the Pastor reached out and took the coal back from John, and returned it to the roaring fire... and in just a few short moments, the coal once again glowed red hot, as the pile of flaming coals caused it to heat up again.
The Pastor then got to his feet, put his hat on, and shook John's hand. At that point, John looked at the Pastor with tears in his eyes, and told him "Thank you for coming, Pastor, and I'll be back in church this coming Sunday!"
Now some of you reading this aren't able to attend church services on a regular basis due to poor health. But for those who CAN attend services, but don't for one reason or another, consider this: Do you need to re-examine your reasons for not going? If it's hypocrites, yes the church is filled with them - do you also stay away from your workplace because of hypocrites there? Do you tell yourself that you can worship God just as well camping, or golfing, or on the lake, as you can in church? If so, you aren't fooling anyone but yourself - and definitely Not God!
If you feel that God's Word isn't being preached in truth, then find a church where it IS - church isn't a cure-all for all of our problems, but it IS a place that you can be surrounded by those who will listen, and those who will pray for you... and you will hear Bible teaching there that you will not hear on the lake!
So again I ask you - what's your excuse? I pray that as you examine this area of your life, that God would move in your heart and give you an intense desire to return to the sanctuary of the church - and that you can once again find the joy of worshipping God with other believers!