Lessons Learned from Joshua

“Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you….Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD you God is with you wherever you go.” -Joshua 1:7,9

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There’s a humorous video I watched a while ago about a woman who goes to a counselor (Bob Newhart). The woman is plagued with fears.

After she spends some time explaining how he is afraid the counselor says he has two words which will solve all her problems. He pauses and then screams, “Stop it!”

It can be tempting to think getting over our fears is just that easy. If we could just simply stop, all would be better. It can also seem that is all the Lord was doing in this passage when speaking to Joshua.

Three times God tells Joshua to be strong and courageous. However, God does not end there.

He explains to Joshua how it can be possible.

God tells Joshua to follow His commands.

The Lord accompanies the instruction of being strong and courageous with an instruction to follow God’s other commands. He says to meditate on them day and night. He tells Joshua to keep the Law on his lips.

Joshua is expected to know the commands of God in and out, so Joshua can be fit to lead the people of Israel.

God says He will be with Joshua.

God does not look at Joshua and say, “Be strong and courageous. Now, I’ll be seeing you later.” He promises to stay with Joshua and go with him wherever he goes.

That has got to make Joshua stand up a little taller.

How it applies.

In  life we are going to come across situations which may make us uneasy. We may even be afraid to move forward.

I believe God has the same expectations of us as he did Joshua. We must continually find ourselves in God’s word. We need to know it in and out.

That is not going to happen overnight. It will take the rest of our lives. So we should start now.

When we are following the commands of God, He will be with us. The Holy Spirit was sent after Jesus’s ascension into heaven to be a guide. God is still literally with us wherever we go.

All we need to do is know His word follow the commands we find in it.

Does that mean we will never face hardship?

No.

The people of Israel were literally crossing into the promised land where they knew battles would be waged.

We will face plenty of battles. But when we follow God’s leading, we will come out on the winning side.

Because we know that, we can be strong and courageous.

Hearts, and Babies, and Lent! Oh My!

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Happy Valentine’s Day to one and all! Stores have been preparing us for this day ever since right before New Years.

We started seeing the red and pink candies and other sweets flood the aisles as well as over-sized stuffed animals.

Don’t forget about the cards!

And the day has finally arrived. I know Valentine’s Day gets a mixed response every year. You have the people who thrive on it. They cannot wait to surprise their significant other with showers of gifts to publicly display their love.

Others are less enthusiastic. You may hear, “You know, you should be showing your love every single day of the year. Don’t fall for the hype of doing it just one one day.”

Then there are groups of singles who tenderly refer to the day as “Singles Awareness Day.”

No matter what camp you find yourself, this year Valentine’s Day shares its time slot with another celebrated day.

Today is also the beginning of lent; also known as Ash Wednesday.

Now, I’ve never celebrated Lent. I think the idea of fasting so that we focus more on God is a great idea. I have been involved with activities leading up to Resurrection Sunday which are designed to help focus on the “reason for the season.

I’ve just never formally celebrated this Catholic turned denominational church tradition.

That being said, with Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday falling on the same day it makes for a wonderful illustration.

The purpose of the Lenten season is to prepare oneself for the coming of Easter. Easter, being the holiday Christians take special to remember the resurrection of our Savior; who came to the Earth to save us from our sins because of His great love for us.

Everything God has done for us, He has done out of love.

He made the world and made us to enjoy it because He loves us.

When we had ruined our relationship with Him as a result of sin he set a plan in motion so we could be reconciled to Him, because of His love.

Jesus chose to go through with death, even death on a cross, because of His love for us.

And today, as Christians, we can have communion with the Father through the Holy Spirit who resides with us, because of His love.

His love is unwavering. It is unconditional. His love is eternal.

That is something to celebrate.

As we hand out our tiny Valentine cards, and snack on candy, and go out to dinner with loved ones, let us remember the One who is love.

Whether we take part in Lent or not, let us choose this time to draw closer to the God who has given us the model of love in the first place.

For My Little Men

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Where can I even begin?

Where do I even start?

Telling the tale of the four little men

Who have forever changed my heart?

 

From the first time I got to feel you kick

From in your mother’s womb

My love for you began

It took root, blossomed, and grew.

 

They say each child is different

As the years tick by, I find that’s true.

But there are plenty of similarities,

Like the first time I held each of you.

 

Your blue eyes melted the world away

I never wanted to put you down.

Well, I say blue eyes;

The youngest does have brown.

 

My little ones are no longer babies

Their boys on their way to being men

And that’s a scary thought

As I think back on where I’ve been.

 

“Dad, I’ll take over for you

When you’re old and grey.

I’ll do all the work you do

When you can’t do it someday.”

 

Words like these leave me a reminder,

These boys are watching me.

They want to be like their father.

And dear God, that is scary.

 

So I strive to be the kind of man

I hope my boys to be.

I want to be a great example

For their young, pure eyes to see.

 

Boys are allowed to love fiercely;

It’s alright to let that part of you shine.

Love is boisterous, wild, and an adventure;

But it is also tender and gentle when it’s time.

 

Be passionate for what is right.

Stand up, and don’t back down.

Be informed of your convictions,

Don’t change them because of someone’s frown.

 

Yet never, ever hesitate

To admit when you are wrong.

The pain you feel will be real

The freedom though, a beautiful song.

 

I’d be a fool to think

I could give all the advice my boys need

In a few simple rhyming stanzas

Posted online for others to see.

 

Each day I’m learning lessons,

About myself and ways I need to be better.

So when my boys ask, “what’s a man?”

I can give a complete answer.

 

These boys and their eight little hands,

Have a tight hold upon my heart.

And I pray each and every day,

For a renewed chance with each of them to start.

 

I hope as each one of them grows,

That I’ll be growing too.

So as they follow in my steps,

Their foot always fits in my shoe.

 

Aim for the Prize

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.” 1 Corinthians 9:24

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Not everyone understands running.

It’s not that they don’t understand the physical aspect of it. People know how to put one foot in front of the other and move in a forward motion.

Most people understand that anyway. Three year olds are a little iffy.

People often do not understand the desire to run. They make fun of those out jogging or when they know a runner they give them grief over it.

I get it though. Running is difficult. There’s nothing else to focus on, just your own breathing, and the sound of your feet against the pavement. When breathing becomes labored and legs start to ache, it is not easy to keep going.

Which is why it is so important to have a clear goal. While running a race, there is a prize at the end. While training for the race, the prize is always on your mind. Each run is one step closer to being able to claim the prize.

A runner will also set himself up for success by adapting disciplines to follow while training. One may go without soda for an extended period of time. The runner may restrict his diet, allowing his body the best chance for recovery and more sustainable energy.

Everything the runner does is in preparation to attain the prize.

Our journey of faith is the same. In a few different places, Scripture refers to our faith as a race. In the verse above, Paul says to run to obtain the prize.

Much like a runner we have to keep the prize in focus, or else we begin to wonder why we are running this race in the first place. Obstacles come up in life which can easily distract us. These obstacles sometimes seem to have a more instant prize and payoff. It can be easy to jump off the track and run to these distractions.

Eyes on the prize.

There are also obstacles which can hurt us. Painful events in our life pop up and can leave us wondering why we even started running in the first place.

Eyes on the prize.

Scripture also outlines a way of living God expects from us. Some people feel the rules are unfair. Some have begun to say they are for an old way of life and God does not expect us to follow them. However, we do not find that distinction in Scripture. So when we begin to wonder why we are keeping with these disciplines:

Eyes on the prize.

Running is not easy. Keeping the faith is not easy.

It is worth it though. Keep your eyes on the prize.

What is Family Friendly

A few days ago my wife and I came across an ad for an upcoming TV series.

We laughed. We liked the actors. There were a few cute moments in it. At the conclusion of the preview we turned to each other and declared, “We will definitely be watching that!”

We were into it.

As I thought back on the preview, a line popped back in my head. I replayed the video just to make sure I was remembering correctly. Sure enough, towards the end, the line flashed on the screen.

A new family comedy.

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Almost immediately, the inner dialogue began in my head. It looks like a show my wife and I will enjoy but will it be one we can enjoy with our children? What age group of kids are they considering when saying it will be for families? Does “family comedy” mean the same thing to ABC that it means to me?

Important Questions.

I know the topic of what we as parents allow our children to partake in is a hot topic.

What is family friendly? What is alright for our kids to be enjoying?

Some families cut out TV altogether. I’ve had friends and family who have fallen into this category. People are quick to make fun of this option but I’ve never known the decision to be made in haste.

The media we consume has an effect on us, especially when we consume it passively. When we are not giving any thought to what we are watching or reading it begins to shape us. This is especially true for children who are still learning about the world.

Some parents decide to preview kid shows before allowing their kids to watch. This way if there is content within the show the parent deems inappropriate they can then decide how to proceed. Should the child be kept from viewing the content at all? Or should the child be allowed to see the show followed by a discussion of what happened on screen?

I also know of some parents who take a back seat, passive approach to TV viewing. They never worry about what their kids are watching, how much, or what kind of content is shaping the mind of their child.

My parents definitely did not fall into this category. Had they known we were watching, “Dude, Where’s My Car?” at a friends house when we were in Jr High, they would not have been happy.

(The story actually continues. We had not told them where we were going so they had been worried and looking for us. So we ended up grounded from going outside and TV for about a week after that…and it was during the summer.)

What is okay for my kids to be watching?

As parents it is important for us to give thought to what our children are reading or watching. Otherwise someone, or something else will be raising your children. Here’s a few things to think about when it comes to media consumption.

Worldview. One thing which lurks below the surface of any form of media is a worldview. Every form of media has an underlying worldview. This post is being written as a result of my worldview. The more we read a particular worldview the more we are to let it shape us, especially when we are taking part in it without even realizing it. Be aware.

When watching or reading ask the question, “What is this trying to teach me about the world?”

Inappropriate material. Parents fall all over the place on what is too inappropriate for their children. While watching a show with a 5 year old is it okay for him to hear a string of four letter words? What about racial slurs? Sexual content? As stated before, the things we watch influence us and children are even more impressionable. Where will you draw the line?

It may seem nit-picky but its an important conversation to have with our spouses. Otherwise our kids are going to learn all about the world through media and we are going to get left behind.

Conversations on the go. This last one is ground breaking stuff, but talk to your kids. Ask them questions about what they are watching. After watching a show ask what they liked or didn’t like. Did they learn something?

Having regular, ongoing conversations with our kids helps to know what they are thinking and feeling. It helps us to parent better. And when kids know you are interested, they are more likely to come running when life starts getting hard.

So what is family friendly?

The line is never going to be the same for every family, but each family needs to have a line. It will help us to parent better and will keep the years and lessons from just ticking by.

Don’t just sit there and let someone else raise your kids. Decide to do life as a family and enjoy it all together.

What guidelines do you have in your home for family friendly content?

 

 

Count it Joy

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” -James 1:2-4 

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Life comes at us hard. There is not a person alive who has not faced (or will face) hardship of one kind or another.

I remember one individual in my entire life who had said they had never faced a difficult situation. I was working at a church camp as a member of our college camp team. One of my responsibilities was to help lead a small group of students every evening to kind of discuss practical ways to implements the ideas the students had been learning about all day.

One of the other leaders asked the question if anyone had ever faced a difficult situation in their lives (fully expecting a unanimous “yes”). One girl in the group shook her head.

“You’ve never had any kind of hardship?”

“Has there ever been a time when you have questioned your faith?”

“Nothing has ever happened which has made you sad?”

No matter how the question was worded, the girl was pretty adamant that nothing in her life had ever been difficult. Which, if true, is great for her!

However she’s in the minority. Most people have face trials or difficulties in our lives. Some of us have had enough to cover for several lifetimes.

The Bible is pretty clear that, even as Christians we will face trials.

In the book of 1 Peter, we are told how to handle trials and to not be surprised when they pop up.

Jesus even taught that, “in this world you will have trouble.”

Then, we have James here who tells us to count it joy when we face trials.

Joy!

What an outlandish thing to say. For most of us, when we begin to face trials we do not respond in joy.

We respond in questioning God.

“Why me?”

“What did I do to deserve this?”

“How will I ever get through such a terrible ordeal?”

But we are instructed to do differently. Instead of self-pity, we are to find joy in the situation. Rather than constantly asking questions (although there’s nothing wrong with questions, even David did that) let’s look for the ways God is working.

We are given the “why” for the command as well: “for you know the testing of your faith produces steadfastness [perseverance].”

Then, this steadfastness leads to us being mature and complete.

Trials are difficult to face when we go through them, but the results are a stronger and wiser person who is closer to God.

So when your faith is tested, rejoice.

When you face a trial as a result of your faith, count it joy.

Then keep pushing forward and watch the work God is doing in your life is completed.

Watch as the seed of faith grows into a strong tree producing fruit.

Being a Parent is…

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Today I have been a body pillow and a moist towelette.

A candy dispenser.

A personal assistant.

I was a master gamer.

A joke teller.

A boo boo kisser.

Being a parent is difficult to explain.

It’s easy to go from one extreme to another in a matter a moments.

The whole world is going great. Everyone is happy and content. The kids are playing peacefully as I lounge on the couch sipping a nice hot drink.

Suddenly, out of seemingly nowhere, everyone is crying, including myself because I have spilled my coffee all over myself and I have a steaming burrito all over my lap.

Where did the burrito even come from? We don’t have any such food anywhere in our house!

Then, as quickly as the storm swelled, it calmed.

The children are all in separate rooms, reading or putting together a Lego set quietly in their own corners of the house. There is no keeping up with the constant fluctuation of moods and situations in a house of six people.

Some days it feels like I am just along for the ride.

Parenting can be overwhelming.

Sometime being a parent means I’m just a victim of the raging storms tossing within the walls of my home. It can be easy to feel at a loss when the realization hits of how little control I have on any particular situation.

That is not to say I do not have any control. However, in some seasons it certainly feels like all I’m doing is hopping along for the ride.

Being a successful parent does not hinge on one good or bad day.

Don’t get so caught up in the chaos of any one particular moment during the day with your kids, over even a chaotic day during a week.

Or perhaps it’s been a crazy month during the year.

We spent much of December with someone in the house sick. It felt like the sickness held onto our family for so long because it moved through the house so slowly.

That can be overwhelming. If I allow it, sickness can make it feel like I am doing a terrible job as a parent.

I didn’t play any games with my kids this week.

I did not prepare any meals.

There were absolutely no vegetables consumed in our house.

Dishes were piled high.

Plus I had to keep telling the kids to get out of the same room as me because of a headache or to stop trying to cuddle because my body felt like it was already on fire.

It could be easy to look back over the course of that week and think, “Wow, I am an utterly rubbish parent.”

Or, I can look back and realize people get sick and it changes the dynamic of how we work for a time.

Life changes quickly in a house with small children.

Realize you cannot be in control of all of the changes and make the best decisions you can along the way.

And don’t forget to give yourself some grace.

There is so much good in parenting.

I cannot begin to explain how many bad days at work have immediately been made better by the smile of a toddler.

There is no feeling like walking in the door after a several hours away to the exclamation of “Daddy,” followed by the patter of little feet as a child rushes to wrap his arms as far around you as possible.

When a small voices says things like, “I love you,” completely unprompted the entire world melts away.

Their love is unconditional.

It never ceases to amaze me how much these kids want to be like me.

“I will take over your job when I’m older.”

“My favorite part of the day was cuddling on the couch.”

“Can we play a game?”

“When will you be home tomorrow?”

All of these are reminders of a small one who wants to be like us and wants to spend time with us.

That’s pretty amazing.

There are a lot of ups and downs in being a parent. 

Unless you’ve had children it can be difficult to understand.

One thing is true, though.

Being a parent is:

exhausting.

rewarding.

frustrating.

a roller coaster ride.

The best thing ever.

 

The Power of the Full Moon

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As he arrived he stepped from his car and down the path to the front door of the dimly lit structure. He interlocked his fingers with nervous anticipation and shook out his shoulders to relieve the tension which was mounting.

He approached the old, wooden door. It was a sturdy looking door, one which had been chosen wisely to keep the things inside in, and the things outside out.

His right hand trembled as he reached for the knob. He quickly reached up with his left to steady his hand, trying to stop the trembling.

When he steadied one hand with the other he realized he could feel his heart beating throughout his entire body. The steady thump coursed through each limb. He could hear it too.

The story of the Tell Tale Heart played through his mind as he fought back the idea that he had done anything wrong.

This was not the first time he had arrived at this very door. It was a familiar sight to him, except one thing was different. Tonight, he arrived as the full moon rose into the starry night sky. It shone brightly against the newly fallen snow.

It would be beautiful, if his mind and heart were not reminding him of the power which came with the full moon.

Werewolves.

Vampires.

Ghouls of every kind.

The stories of the terrors of the night ran through his head with the speed he wanted to run from the door.

It wasn’t from any of these beings he was fighting the urge to flee on this night.

He reached for the door and twisted the knob to the right. It felt cool in his hand, the brass almost sticking to his skin.

Then he was met with the cry:

”Daddy!”

He was rushed by numerous little creatures. The arms and legs which rushed him and tackled him to the ground were too numberous to count.

As the man went down he caught a glimpse of his wife standing one room away, helpless to do anything. Her hair was standing in many different directions; he was sure he saw many different colored objects lodged and tangled in her brown hair.

Her eyes were glazed over. The little minions had been around her ankles and climbing on her and over her all day. Her strength was zapped.

At least the last thing he would see in his life was something so beautiful.

He had received texts throughout the day calling out for help.

“Why won’t they just sleep.”

“They are constantly feeding. I’m not sure how much longer I can sustain them.”

“Please hurry home. The house is just about in shambles.”

She had called out to him so many times yet he had been just as helpless to help her as she was him in this moment. The full moon had changed the tiny humans into something beyond human.

Each moon cycle they develop super human strength, screeching abilities, speed, tantrum powers, and the paradoxical need to be cuddled and run around all at the same time.

Hours and hours later the man and his wife crashed on the couch. They had been turned into creatures of their own, resembling mindless zombies. They starred blankly at the wall, laughing into the silence.

They had survived.

Theirs was the victory.

The battle was won.

Suddenly, at the same time, they heard, “Give it back! That’s mine!” The scream was followed by crying and more screaming.

No. No, no, no, no, no.

The man and wife held each other and cried at the horrors they knew headed their way.

It was going to be a long night.

Abraham’s Impossible Request

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My hands are trembling.

My heart is still racing.

I rushed home after the experience and I’ve been laying in my tent, sweating, and battling my labored breathing ever since.

I had the boldness to request of my Lord to change His plans and I have not recovered from the encounter.

He came to me.

I’ve heard the Lord speak before on a couple different occasions. He’s promised me great blessings through my descendants. Each time I’ve heard from Him I feel full of life.

Never do I leave feeling full of myself. If anything I feel full of Him. There’s definitely not anything special about this old man.

But now, my Lord came to my dwelling! He came with two others and allowed me the blessing to provide a meal for him. What an honor it was.

Then He told me of His plans to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. Why He chooses to share anything with me I will never understand. I have never been able to wrap my mind around His desire to treat this white haired fool as a companion.

Where my mind is boggled though, my heart is warmed.

At least it usually is.

When he shared His plans this time my heart dropped into my stomach.

You see, my nephew left me a while back. We were having difficulties and I gave him his choice of land. He chose the better, just as I figured he would, and we separated. Since then he has gotten into some trouble which I have had to help him out of and then he decided to live in the most vile city on earth.

Which is why my heart sank when my Lord revealed He would destroy the place my precious nephew lives.

He may be a fool, but he is family.

It took all of my courage to speak up on that hillside. I asked the Lord if He found fifty righteous if He would spare the city.

As I remember the moment it was only a few seconds He took to reply. It was as if He anticipated my request.

Of course He did.

But while in that moment, those few seconds were like hours and I regretted even asking.

Then, He granted my request. I was filled with such joy!

The joy was short lived though when I realized there was no way even fifty righteous lived there. Without thinking I asked about forty five.

Again the Lord granted my request.

We volleyed like this a few times until I requested she spare the cities if there were only ten righteous.

It was a ridiculous request.

Impossible.

Why would He spare so many wicked for the sake of so few?

My whole body trembled and tears streamed from my eyes. There was a tightness in my chest as the words squeaked through my lips. What a fool I am. It was like I heard Lot telling his men, I am nothing but an arrogant fool.

The Lord though, smiled, with tears of His own streaming down His cheeks, and grated my request.

Then He was gone.

Now I lay here in disbelief praying for there to be ten. If there is any way my family survives this terror, I pray he appreciates it.

I hope he learns because I cannot continue to live my life being ripped apart on his account. It hurts too much.

Yet, I’ll do it every time.

May the Lord have mercy on him.

Thank the Lord for His mercy on me.

Don’t forsake the Assembly

I used to be a full time Student Minister. I had my own office with my name on the door and everything.

It was pretty spiffy.

Some of my responsibilities were to organize, plan, and lead youth group events. I was to lead special events as well as regular weekly youth group times.

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Ive always loved the church. She’s not perfect by any means and there have been plenty of people in a congregation who I have not liked at all.

But the Church, I’ve never understood not wanting to be a part of one.

When we were traveling home from Thanksgiving this last week we drove sixteen and a half hours on Saturday. I made a comment about how I was surprised by the small amount of traffic.

My wife replied, “your family may have made it home for Sunday when traveling but most other people don’t start going home until Sunday.

It was true. My parents did get us home in time for church. If we didn’t, chances are we were finding a church while we were on vacation.

And I grew to love it.

I missed gathering together with other believers and getting into God’s word together. I missed the discussions and the questions. I missed the passion that others bring to the table and the ideas that they have about putting God’s word into practice.

But it got me thinking about why going to church is important. What’s so important about going to some building we have made or picked out and meeting with all these other people? Here are some reasons why going to meet with other believers, going to church, matters.

We were not meant to be alone

In the very beginning God made Adam. Yet the creation was not finished. God saw that it was not good for Adam to be alone, so He crafted for him a mate. Now I know this account is used for marriage, as it should be, but the message is clear: we are not meant to be alone! Even if we are married, we still need other relationships; relationships with likeminded poeople living with the same purpose. The church provides those kinds of relationships.

We cannot figure it all out on our own.

The Bible is a book that people have been trying to completely figure out for roughly 2000 years. As we read it there may be times we come across a passage that we do not completely understand. This is where a preacher or even another Christian friend comes in handy. They can come along side us to explain a verse. They can also help us to discern what it is God wants for the next stage in our lives. They can pray for us and with us. They challenge us to trust in God.

The early church was doing it.

In the book of Acts we are told of the activities of the early church. One verse that stands out is Acts 2:46. It says, “Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart”. They actually were meeting in the temple and in each others houses on a daily basis! Can we really not get up to meet with others one or two days a week? How selfish!

The Bible commands we do it.

In Hebrews 10:25 we are told to not stop meeting together. It is really quite straight forward. Meeting together at the assembly is something that the writer of Hebrews commanded that his readers do. When we do something that the Bible commands us not to or when we don’t do something the Bible commands that is called a sin. So by forsaking the gathering together we would be sinning. To give up church because you don’t think you need it week after week would be a habitual sin.

I know a lot of people who claim they do not need to go meet with other believers. They can be great Christians all on their own. So rather than spending Sunday or Wednesday going to gather with other believers they spend it sleeping in or doing an activity that they just want to put above God.

It’s funny how people who say and do this are really just showing a lack of discipline.

I understand that no church is perfect. When you get a group of people to meet together regularly there is going to be conflict from time to time. There are going to be sins found out.

I am also not discussing missing a week of meeting. Sickness happens. Traveling will take place. Occasionally sporting events may fall on a day designated for gathering (which I have my own opinions about).

This post is discussing the habitual neglect of meeting together with other believers. That’s where the problem is found.

For us to look at a command in the Scriptures and turn our noses up to it because we just don’t want to listen is wrong. There is a book by Joshua Harris called Why Church Matters. If you are struggling with this issue I would highly suggest you read it.

The Church is the Bride of Christ. He loves it so much. I cannot get along with someone who loves me but hates my wife. How can we hate the Bride of our Savior?

What other reasons do you have for going to meet with other believers?