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“Quality Time”

Hebrews 10:24-25
Bob DeGray
June 27, 2010

Key Sentence

A compassionate community invests time in each other.


I. Intentional Time (Hebrews 10:24)
II. Together Time (Hebrews 10:25)
III. Encouraging Time (Hebrews 10:25)


I’m sure you’ve heard of ‘quality time.’ Wikipedia says “Quality time is an informal reference to time spent with loved ones which is in some way important, special, productive or profitable. It is time set aside for paying full and undivided attention to the person/matter at hand.” Based on that definition I’m all for quality time: intentional time, intended to be valuable. But some have used the excuse of quality time to justify investing only a limited amount of time: “we don’t have much time together but it’s quality time.” This led Frank Kittle to observe that there is no quality time without quantity time. Even intentional time can’t be achieved in a nanosecond.

How does this fit in with our current series, ‘compassionate community?’ Well it’s clear that one of the goals of community is to develop strong ‘love one another’ relationships. It should also be clear that time spent together is the central ingredient in the development of any relationship. So if we are going to be a compassionate community we’ll need to prioritize spending time together. And it ought to be quality time, it ought to be intentional time.

So I’m looking for Scripture to poke all of us this morning. The most painful poke is the reminder that though we’re all busy, too busy, Scripture nonetheless has the right to call us to the best uses of our time. I believe this Scripture is calling us to be intentional about our time together, to strive to make it quality time. And what is the Scripture that’s supposed to do all this hard work in our lives? It’s just two verses. It teaches us that a compassionate community invests time to encourage each other.

Hebrews 10:24-25: Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 25 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.

These are great verses. We first see that to love and care for each other requires conscious effort: ‘Let us consider how we may spur one another on.’ I’ve always loved the fact that the author says ‘let’s think about this,’ ‘let’s be intentional about this.’ It isn’t something that just happens without thought: we have to set our minds to it, and plan it. We plot, scheme, strategize about how we can help others. And notice this whole command is in the plural: literally we ourselves think together. We don’t need the y’all Bible to see this: your Bible says ‘let us consider.’ It’s a group activity: scheme together.

And what are we supposed to scheme about? How to spur one another on; how to provoke each other to active love. Provoke isn’t a gentle word. The root means sharpen or goad. The picture of someone putting spurs in the sides of a horse is a good one. We’re supposed to consider how to goad people into community: What will motivate so-and-so to get involved in a small group? How can we encourage this person? How does God want to use that person?

And the goal of our thinking, the goal of our goading, is love. Spur one another on to love. Now in order to understand this, remember that love is more than an emotion – not less, but definitely more. C. S. Lewis reminds us: It would be quite wrong to think that the way to become "loving" is to sit trying to manufacture affectionate feelings. . . . The rule for us all is perfectly simple. Do not waste time bothering whether you "love" your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this, we learn one of the great secrets: When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love them.”

A community is bonded together by acts of love, of compassion. We are attached to the people who show love to us, and maybe even more to the people we show love for. Let me give a personal example from many years ago: the week Our daughter Ruth was born, her sister Hannah got the flu. Gail had to take care of the new baby, and so I took care of Hannah. She was thirteen months old and very sick: fever, vomiting, diarrhea. I had to change her clothes, my clothes and the bedding every couple of hours. And what did I feel for her at the end of that time? Frustration? Anger? No. Love. Caring for her like that bonded me to her in a special way. That’s how love works.

Let’s stimulate each other to active love, to love compassionately expressed. This doesn’t have to be as gut-wrenching as sitting with a Laura Pinard while she fights her last illness. It can be as simple as babysitting for a mom who has a doctor’s appointment; cooking for a wedding, as so many did for Courtney Foster’s wedding yesterday; helping someone to diagnose a car or put up a fence It could be partnering to do what talked about last week: volunteering at the CPC, tutoring at an elementary school or becoming CASA volunteers, or any compassionate justice cause: but doing love and good works together.

It doesn’t always mean work: it could be inviting a family over for popcorn and a movie; meeting up with someone to go to a ball game; opening your home to a family new to the church. On a more intimate level, it means interacting in caring ways: listening to the frustrations of a struggling parent; praying for a friend whose job is stressed. It means asking people how they are and really listening to the answer; calling someone and asking what’s going on in their life; taking time to meet and talk and pray with a friend who is struggling.

We are called to be intentional, to consider what will spur others on to love. But all such schemes require something very simple: you’ve got to show up. Your schemes have to transform themselves into actual time. Verse 25: “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing.” Apparently some among the readers of Hebrews had developed the habit of not meeting with other Christians. Like many today, they had isolated themselves, and thought they could live the Christian life without contact with others.

But it’s obvious they could neither love nor be loved if they didn’t show up. So the instruction here is “don’t neglect to meet together.” Don’t forsake it, don’t abandon it, don’t leave it behind. The word used for meeting together comes from the word synagogue, which was the meeting place for all Jews outside Jerusalem. Over the centuries the Jews had been scattered across the nations. But wherever they went, if there were ten or more of them, they would meet - synagogue - on the Sabbath, to read the Torah and to pray. The word is actually strengthened here. A Greek prefix is added that intensifies it: really meeting together; emphatically meeting together.

In order to become an intentional community we’ve got to have time on task. This does mean having a commitment to being here on Sunday morning. This may be the only time you get to see your brothers and sisters in Christ. Furthermore, this is the time when we actively worship God, and where at times we sense his presence in a special way. And that’s important because it reminds us that the bond between us is not merely natural affection or common interest. The church isn’t a club or a fraternity. Rather the bond between us is supernatural: it comes from our mutual relationship to Christ.

You can see this if you look at the verses in context. Beginning at Hebrews 10:19, the writer summarizes what he has taught, and emphasizes our life together in Jesus: “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.”

We share a supernatural relationship with Christ. We share faith. We share hope. So we ought to join together for worship. We ought to show up on Sunday morning, because in worshiping together, we uniquely express our shared life, and we consciously come into the presence of the one who has given it.

But meeting together can’t be limited to this. There are other very effective ways to invest your time. First is meeting together in small groups to share, pray, study and minister. Small groups are perfectly suited to compassionate love. Once again this summer we’re meeting as small groups on Sunday morning, and that’s good. But I really think the prime time for regular groups to meet is during the week, and we hope to have more groups meeting together that way this fall. You can’t spur on everyone in the church body to love and good deeds, but you can positively provoke one another in a small group.

So I encourage you not to consider small group a burden but a privilege, a place to refreshed by the love that we share with one another. As we met across this spring in the marriage small group at our house, I more and more felt that way, looking forward to just being with the people on Wednesday nights.

Third level of meeting together: Informal and social activities. This might be an adult social sponsored by the women’s group. A baby shower. A pot-luck lunch. A camp out. And many more not officially sponsored by the church: meals, games, athletic events, trips. These are great times of meeting together because they are relaxed, because they may give us time to open up to each other, and because they give us the chance to laugh. I’m guilty of being so serious that I sometimes forget to take time to have fun with people.

Fourth level of meeting together? One on one. This might be as simple as getting together for lunch, or taking kids to the park, or even working on the car or painting someone’s garage. but these informal contacts require commitment, because it usually seems easier to do it yourself or be by yourself, or because you may feel that you’re imposing on someone. And of course even better than these informal and infrequent one on one contacts, is the regular prayer partnership or discipling relationship. Many of you get together regularly to share and pray. Individual relationships offer opportunity for accountability and openness, beyond even what can be achieved in a small group.

So meeting together includes worship, small group, informal fellowship, and one on one relationships. And you’re sitting there thinking ‘I’d love to do those things if I only had the time.’ I’ll admit I don’t know your schedule. I don’t know how you can fit this in. But I do know it’s important enough that you ought to try, and that the benefit is not just to others but to you personally.

So we are to intentional invest time. We are all to think about what may spur others on to love and good deeds, and then to not neglect meeting together to put these plans into practice. Finally, we are to be careful to use that time to encourage, to build up rather than breaking down.

Verse 25 again: 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. The key word is encourage: it could be translated exhort, urge, appeal, console, cheer up. Let me walk you through a few of the places this word is used in Scripture to give you a feel for what we are called to do: One of the clearest uses is Matthew 5:4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. As the Lord comforts those who mourn, whether over sin or over loss, so you comfort one another. This is key encouragement.

2 Cor. 5:20 We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. The word is translated ‘implore’: this is a desire on our part to see others walk with the Lord. We plead, we challenge. And we do it from Scripture. In Thessalonians, after Paul has described the rapture and the coming of the Lord, he says: Therefore encourage each other with these words. We encourage each other with the words of Scripture.

But the focus is always positive. Acts 11:23 - Barnabas visits the church at Antioch “When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord.” We are to encourage, to tell people of the godliness we see in their lives, inspire them to keep on and to remain faithful. And it’s clear by the way the word is used, that much of this encouragement comes through our speaking. We consciously seek to say things that will build each other up, and draw others closer to the Lord.

One of the things that has jumped out at me lately is this contrast between encouraging right behavior or simply criticizing wrong behavior. The latter often does more harm than good. This is true even on the abstract level: I’ve been studying the tension between the emergent church and traditional evangelicalism, and I’ve rapidly grown weary of emergent writers who seem to focus entirely on how horrible the church is but offer no solution. But a positive book I read on the subject really encouraged and inspired me.

On a more personal level, I’ve been thinking about my relationship with Laura Pinard over the years. She had a lot of struggles. Things did not always go the way she hoped. And a lot of people tried to help her and did help her. But the role I often found myself taking, was to be the cheerleader, the encourager, applauding the positives and helping her move on past the negatives “well, I’m sorry that didn’t work. Let’s try this; let’s try something else; let’s keep trying.” Do you play the role of cheerleader in someone’s life? Do you play that role not just in the life of someone doing well, but also someone struggling? We are called to encourage one another.

OK, so what do these two verses say? First, that you need to think about this: Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. We think about how to provoke ourselves to it, and we show it in practical ways. Second: in order to love and care, or to be loved and be cared for, you’ve got to show up. Let us not neglect to meet together. And third, when we meet together, in addition showing love by our deeds, we also want to encourage with our words. We want to build each other up from Scripture. So it’s a simple program: be intentional in the use of your time: spend it in compassionate community, loving others and building them up.

Now before we finish, I want poke you where it hurts: in your things to do list: Does it have these kinds of things on it? Practical things like ‘make cookies for the Smiths’ ‘Invite the Jones’ for dinner’ ‘Help the Thomas’s with their car’ Relational things like: ‘Attend small group Friday’ ‘Meet with John for lunch Tuesday’ ‘Go bowling with the Littles’ Encouraging things like: ‘Bake for Courtney’s wedding or comment on Bobby’s facebook.” Concrete things, things you can really write down, really cross off. Let me encourage you to spend a little quiet time with your things to do list this week.

But let me remind you that it’s not quality time when you write it down, but when you actually invest it. And God may have different quality time in store for you than what you intended. And let me also remind you that it’s not about doing all these things, but having the things you do reflect this emphasis. Finally remember that no matter how practical you make this, it is still not something you do in your own power. It’s Christ who brings us together. It’s as his people we love and care for one another. He’s the center of all true ministry or fellowship that we share.

Paul says this well in Ephesians: “Through Jesus we all have access to the Father by one Spirit. Consequently, we are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”

Intentional encouraging investment of your time builds compassionate community.