Church is a Population…Not a Destination

I’ve been there…done that…got the scars and have enough t-shirts to open a re-sale shop.  I have allowed burn-out, offenses, preferences, apathy, and valid soul wounds to make me want to step away and “take a break” from the fellowship of Believers…or at least slip in after worship starts, sit on the back row and not be an active participant for awhile.  At least that’s what I “tell” God I want to do…usually about once a year.  It typically goes something like this:

Me:  God, I am so hurt by/frustrated with/tired of blah, blah, blah...

God:  (Silence as I feel His gaze…)

Me:  But it’s just not fair, God!  Why do so many who profess you get to sit back and float through their saved journey on a life preserver while they watch a much smaller number of Christ-followers towing them along behind by a rope as they simultaneously swim against the current and fight off sharks?!?

God:  (Still silence as I feel His gaze more intensely…now with a raised eyebrow.)

Me:  (squirming now as I always, almost immediately feel the turning of my heart back to His Kingdom)  I know…I knoooowww…I have tasted and seen that…You. Are. Good.   You are goooooooood, God, and I would be miserable in that back row [and distracted].

God then usually speaks to me about keeping my focus on Him and not on those around me.  And He boldly, tenderly, firmly, lovingly leads me to where I need to be.  He sustains and strengthens my spirit, encourages and instructs my mind, counsels and heals my heart, and establishes my position in His perfect will.

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Taking a Texas-sip-swig of ((COFFEE)) and opening my Bible to Hebrews 10…join me?

As Believers, we are not excluded from experiencing hurts…even within the church body…and especially if we are engaged in Kingdom ministry and spiritual warfare.  While involvement in God’s Kingdom plan is fruitful and fulfilling, there are moments…days…seasons of tribulation.  In ministry, we put up/contend/serve with people.  Heck…if we are living life, we put up/contend/serve with people.  We deal with people who are broken, wounded, and at all different levels of maturity in their faith…if they have a living faith at all!  This will often provide times of frustration and makes us more “vulnerable” to hurt because when we minister, we are in relationship with others…and sometimes others’ broken places bump into / collide with our own.  And even more (not) fun is the truth that as we actively and intentionally engage in spiritual warfare, we will become a favored target of the enemy.

Hebrews 10:23-25…”Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.  And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some…”

At times, it may be tempting, inviting to “give up” and raise the flag of spiritual service surrender.  Often, too often, Believers get weary, hurt, or angry, and just quit church – church as they understand it – altogether. What they may not realize is that they have not quit going to a destination at an address on a scheduled day at a scheduled time.  Rather,  according to the translation of this text, they have given up and “abandoned, deserted, utterly forsaken” the population…the “assembly of Christians.”

www.awoldetroit.com
http://www.awoldetroit.com

This is not saying every Believer is bound to attend every assembly every time the church building’s doors are unlocked.  This verse is not addressing the LOA (Leave Of Absence) that is sometimes merited or necessary to attend to family needs, physical healing, personal spiritual retreat and restoration, but this verse is about going AWOL (Absence Without Leave) out of disobedience or rebellion.

Hebrews 10:25b, 32…”…but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching…But recall the former days in which, after you were illuminated, you endured a great struggle with sufferings:”

Gathering together with a population of Believers to worship God and study His Word – no matter whether the address is a building OR a parking lot OR a home OR in a shelter OR under a bridge – serves a most vital purpose in the health and growth of a Christian.  It provides us an opportunity to encourage each other, equip and be equipped, practice accountability, pray [not prey, that’s for another post], fellowship, and meet the needs of others.  Verse 25 not only exhorts us to encourage each other, but to a greater degree, more willingly, and more consistently as we recognize these latter days.

This is what you are missing if you are not assembling. I. 💙. My. Church.
This is a sample of what you are missing if you are not assembling.
I. 💙. My. Church.

Instead of remembering where God has brought us from, what he has brought us through, and where He is taking us to, we too easily get distracted and discouraged by the day’s (or season’s) training ground called testing and tribulation.  Hey, I have not ever enjoyed or been successful at eating healthy alone, exercising alone, doing life alone.  Same precept, my friends. We assemble with other Believers to encourage each other in the Word, in deeds, and in love (v. 24).  We. Were. Never. Meant. To. Do. Life. Alone.

Finally, Hebrews 10:35-36…”Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise:”

If we do not throw away free and fearless confidence…cheerful courage…boldness…assurance…He promises that our faithfulness will be rewarded.  As we respond to and walk out God’s revealed will for our individual and corporate lives…we patiently endure and remain constant – even and especially in moments of hurt and seasons of trial – then we will receive the promise (❤️) of eternal rewards in His presence.  🙌🏻

Should you find yourself today in a position of isolation…not attending the assembly because of past hurts or offenses…set apart from other Christians instead of set apart for the Lord…don’t waste another breath of eternity (😳) and repossess the territory of your heart and mind and will that you have surrendered to the enemy.  Evict satan and take it back!  Reclaim and resume your intended and most valued purpose for the Kingdom!

After assembling with my Jesus guys and gals this past Sunday...
After assembling with Jesus-following brother-guyfriends and sister-girlfriends on a recent Sunday…

Learning and growing with you…

Tammy Sinclair

Oh yeah…our current series…click ((here)) to listen to the first three messages!

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“The [Harder] Hardest Thing, Revisited”

Here I am.  Wife.  Mother.  Grammy.  Sister-girlfriend.  Educator.  And…um…struggler.  Yes, I am struggling.  And in the midst of my sweet-tea drinkin’ and reflectin’ self this afternoon…because it is like 158 degrees outside and too hot for ((COFFEE))…God – the God who remembers EVERYTHING – has reminded me of a season of struggle I worked through in 2011.  I naïvely thought…believed…that I had mastered that struggle.  Apparently not.  I think that was just a practice drill for the battlefield I am in right now.  Let me take you back to 2011 to provide some context, then I will back up my truck and unload…(insert flashback harp music as we travel back four years)…

Texas-style sweet tea...with real sugar. It's that kinda day.
Texas-style sweet tea…with real sugar and not that fake stuff. It’s that kinda day.

“The Hardest Thing…” — 5/7/11

“Train [dedicate] a child in the way [path, journey, manner, direction] he should go, and when he is old [shows age] he will not turn [depart, be removed, leave undone] from it.”  Proverbs 22:6

Giving birth was relatively painless…thanks to modern medicine and epidurals. Even the long nights of interrupted sleep was temporary.  Dealing with broken bones, stitches, stomach viruses, sibling rivalries, and responsibility for raising five children can be exhausting.  Living with and raising four teenagers right now is quite trying at times…okay…almost every day; but, nothing…nothing has been as difficult as the parent-place I find myself in currently.  [psh…I had no clue]

The hardest thing as a parent is learning how, when, and to what degree to let go, release our children, one-by-one, to make their own choices, discover who they are, and grow outside my protective (sometimes over-protective) presence.  Proverbs 22:6 provides me comfort and confidence.  I have dedicated our children to the Lord…trained them in and with the Truth through words and action…shown them the narrow path — how to recognize and follow it.  Now I have to “put my faith where my mouth is.”

As our second child prepares to graduate from high school in three weeks, I am reminded of this Scripture when I start to mentally and emotionally hyperventilate.  “…and when he is old, he will not turn from it.”  I am compelled to rest in the assurance that all of our kids know Jesus Christ as their Savior.  Whatever choices they make, I must pray that they will be drawn closer to Him.  I must love our children unconditionally as Christ loves me.  I must trust God to protect them when I cannot.  I must have confidence that no matter what choices they will make, even those poor choices, God’s conviction and grace will abound (just as it does for me).

I pray that our children will desire God more than they desire any person or position.

I pray that our children will serve God before they serve man or themselves.

I pray that our children will seek and do God’s will – His absolute best for them – before they seek and do my will or any other man’s will.

I pray that our children will crave the Word of God more than they crave the words of others.

I pray that our children will hold to the teachings and foundation that they have received and not depart from it for very long or very far or at all.

I pray that our children will learn from our mistakes and embrace our successes to make them better parents than we have been.

At the end of the day, I can rejoice in the fact that God has carried us “Thus far…”  We are blessed with kids who love the Lord beyond their layers of hormones, testosterone, arguing, and just plain ‘ole “teenagerness”… and for that, I am grateful.

Me and the oldest son who
Me and the oldest son in 2011.  I look like I’m trying to figure out whether to smile or cry. My son appears less emotionally confused than me.

(Insert harp music as we travel back to this very day…)

As I read those words of a former, much more whimsical and poetic version of myself, I am walking…no, tiptoeing…through a minefield of hazards designed by the enemy, packaged by the world, and delivered by our culture.  You see, just four years ago I was an emotional case because our child had successfully completed high school and was transitioning into adulthood.  Since 2011, we have watched two more of our five children graduate high school, and each time I’ve experienced less sorrow and more joy.

Today, however, this very moment and breath, I am emotionally wrecked and heartsick.  While all of our children are secured for eternity in salvation, we have contended with them and for them through their tag-teaming seasons of walking out of God’s best for their lives.  It’s like…they turn 17 and take their brains out to play with them like Play-Dough…or something like that. (Seriously.)  Mr. Husband and I have always been age- and situation-appropriately open with our kids about our past failings and poor choices, which include such sins as addiction, promiscuity, rebellion, and self-pleasing living in the years before we knew Christ.  They know that we have been well-acquainted with the world and the temptations of the enemy.

So, the hardest thing (revisited) is watching our kiddos choose to walk down some of the same crooked paths we have taken.  It’s hard to know where those paths can lead and be ignored or dismissed when we try to offer this wisdom.  It’s hard to watch our children engage in physically, emotionally, spiritually self-destructive behaviors/relationships.  It’s hard to let go and let God handle it in His most perfect way and His most perfect time for His most perfect glory.  It’s hard to set that boundary for our (barely legally adult) child by saying, “If you cannot respect our values while you live under the protection of our roof, then you have to live somewhere else to enjoy your unhealthy, self-destructive choices.”  It. Is. Hard.

A very, very, very crooked path. (Photo cred: www.internetmonk.com)
A very, very, very crooked path.
(Photo cred: http://www.internetmonk.com)

Two of our children eventually came back to their Father’s house and are in better and growing places.  Another is realizing some things and slowly making his way back at the same time another of our five has completely rebelled and walked away.  A fifth one watches…and I pray 🙏 is learning what choices not to make.  I pray.  I intercede.  I do spiritual warfare.  (Can I be real?)  I cry.  I (occasionally) cuss.  I get angry at the enemy…real angry.  And I pray some more.

My soul is a hot mess over our kids right now.  But I know.  My spirit knows.  I know that God is faithful.  I know that He is “far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named” (Eph. 1:21).  I know that our children are in His hand and cannot be snatched out of it.  I know I have confidence that because God has begun a good work in our kids, He will also complete it until the day of Jesus (Phil. 1:6).  God doesn’t leave things unfinished.  We do.  He doesn’t.

This will be my closet posture to usher in breakthrough... (www.worldoncampus.com)
This will be my closet posture to usher in breakthrough…
(www.worldoncampus.com)

I’ve gone long on this one, but I also know that there are other heartsick parents out there with prodigal sons and daughters.  Let me leave you with this prayer, and let’s invade the heavenlies together to contend for our kids:

Abba and El Elyon, You are my shield and strength…deliverer and redeemer…rock and peace.  You are El Roi and see the grieving of my heart.  The height and depth and breadth and width of my love for the kiddos You have entrusted to our care is not even a whisper compared to the love You have for our kiddos.  You understand the groaning of my heart when I can’t pray words.  You absorb my mom tears into Your presence and translate them into Kingdom prayers.  

According to Ephesians 1, I ask you to give my prodigal child the spirit of wisdom and revelation in his knowledge of You…that the eyes of his understanding would be enlightened with Truth…that he would discover the hope of his calling and the glorious inheritance that is meant for him.  Cause him to run into Your people, encounter Your Word, feel Your presence, and heed Your counsel.  Expend his prodigal-ness quickly…cause him to reach the end of himself and find himself at the foot of Your throne.  Cultivate in him the seed of salvation that’s already rooted…cause shoots to spring up and fruits of the spirit – love, joy, peace, long suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control – to grow into the fullness and abundance of Your sanctification work.  

Thank You, Lord, for the promise that Your Word does not return void, but it accomplishes the purpose for which it is sent out.  I approach as one covered in Jesus’ blood and sealed by Your Spirit.  So be it!

Learning and Growing With You ~ Tammy Sinclair

((For additional prayer for the prodigal based on Hosea, go here.))