Is Not Attending Church a Sin?

Pleasant Hill

I have had the discussion, more than once, about whether or not it is a sin to not attend church. Often the argument is thrown out that, “I don’t need to attend church to have a relationship with God. I can read my Bible from my home.” at which point the opposing side will counter with, “Do not forsake the assembling of ourselves” which is a play off of Hebrews 10:25 which, in its entirety says (this once I’m quoting in KJV so you can see the resemblance between the two quotes), “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.”

…and thus the argument continues back and forth with no one actually reaching an agreement or decision. So what, exactly, is the answer? Well, I’m not sure there is a solid one. First, there are too many extenuating circumstances to give a blanket answer. I can, possibly, address a few situations with my opinion and see if that helps.

First, one of my pet peeves is when anyone takes just a portion of the Bible and runs with it. I think that in order to fully understand what God is trying to tell us then we need to look (at least) at the passage as a whole. From here out I’ll be using the Holman Christian Standard Bible. The passage from Hebrews that is often used to as a defense of mandatory church attendance really should be backed up to, at least, verse 19 and reads like this:

19. Therefore, brothers, since we have boldness to enter the sanctuary through the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way He has opened for us through the curtain (that is, His flesh), 21 and since we have a great high priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water. 23 Let us hold on to the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. 24 And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works, 25 not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near. Hebrews 10:19-25 HCSB

To me, this passage speaks about so much more than just getting your butt to church on a regular basis. It also talks about the emotional experience of church. Well, what happens when something has affected that experience? Then where do you go and what do you do? What if you truly long to attend church (I’m not talking about just slackers, if you are slacking then turn off the tv and get your tail to church; there, I addressed that) but, rather, have had a spiritual battle that prevents you in one way or another from attending? What do you do then?

Well, I can tell you what my husband and I did.

Figure it out? That’s right, you keep trying. Either, you attend your church-despite the spiritual struggles-or you look for a new one. And, even when you go week after week after week and you still don’t find the one that you belong in, you go again until you hear God speak. I won’t lie and say that we were faithful and kept trying like we should, but I wish that we had. If we had, if we hadn’t given up and spent months at home moping, then we would have found the fellowship and love that we have now sooooo much sooner. I know how hard it is when you have been wounded spiritually, and I know that sometimes you need time at home to talk to God and pray; personally, I think that it’s ok to take that time. However, I do believe that God intends for us to be in church regularly to hear His Word, to be ministered to, and to minister to others. God will heal our wounds, if we’ll let Him.

Love,

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A Challenge for a Better America

Munch

One of the most wonderful blessings God has granted me is the bond of my family. Whether we are in the middle of a crazy whirlwind or celebrating a personal victory we are hand- in- hand facing it together. During moments where we cannot be physically with each other we are in constant communication letting the others feel our presence and love. We have lived through our share of tribulations and, through God’s grace, have learned how fortunate we are to have the family unit He knowingly chose for us.

My brothers and I have an especially close connection. Our unique raising (aka moving a trillion times) enabled us rely on each other more than I think traditional families do. Sure, we fought and tattled and tortured each other like other siblings do; but we also dropped our grievances instantaneously to defend each other’s honor, played for hours on end with green army men, gave up our last dime to buy gifts for special occasions, and drove (or rode a train through a thunderstorm) to spend a few needed moments with each other.

Since Josh is eight years younger than me, I was able to observe him as he changed from a toddling torture into the man he is today. I have watched him accomplish things that others said was beyond his reach. I stood in the doorway of our parents’ basement and watched him, as a young pre-teen, bent over misbehaving computers with the “Jones tongue” peeking out and his brow creased in determination. It didn’t take long for him to discover the computer’s ailment and breathe life back into his patient.

I remember the immeasurable pride I felt as I watched him build his business bit-by-bit. He started his business at only eleven years of age! He continued expanding it while finishing school (graduating at sixteen) and has managed to grow his company from a one man show to an imposing corporation that is quickly becoming known as “the” IT company/ managed service provider for businesses of all sizes (and has several locations around the state). He accomplished all of this while still balancing a personal life that gave me a beautiful sister and allowed me to become an aunt (several times over).

Though a decade or two has passed since I first spied on him, you’ll still find me leaning against his door frame watching him (in true awe and fascination) remote into a company’s system and resolve every concern while simultaneously answering three emails, participating in a conference call, messaging two different associates and talking with an employee who popped in his office to get Josh’s thoughts on a tricky repair or advice on life (sometimes he does all this while holding a sleeping toddler).

Josh has never been one to halfway do anything. Whatever he does he puts all his energy and heart into and competes his project/ work with integrity. His life proves that if we work hard and believe in ourselves (and our support unit) we can make the impossible happen. He is the embodiment of the American dream.

Josh is passionate about several things. God, family, and our country. If he feels that any of those are threatened he will quickly come to their defense. Knowing this I was not surprised when he told me last night that he was creating a video challenging Donald Trump to a debate. Josh sees Trump as a bully, a man who pushes past those with weaker defenses to get what he wants without regard to consequences or who gets hurt. Trump is a threat to our country, not an asset, and needs to be put in his place. I, for one, think Josh can do it. What we need in this country are people with solutions, not people who parade around shouting that we have problems. WE KNOW WE HAVE PROBLEMS! How about coming up with realistic solutions and then working towards their accomplishments? This is OUR country, I say it’s time we take it back.

Love,

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My Prayer for America

My daughter’s latest obsession wavers between “Piglet’s Big Adventure” and “Toy Story”. She watches them constantly, quickly throwing out “‘Gain Momma!” as the last scene begins, even before the credits or the big “The End”. It’s gotten so that at any random moment I’ll find myself randomly humming one of their tunes or quoting a line from the movies (which leaves most people without toddler/Pre-school aged children looking at me as if I’ve lost my ever-living mind and trying to nonchalantly shuffle away).

It seems as ever since I’ve had Hila Fay my whole world view has changed. I catch myself doing the strangest things, almost as if I no longer have any control over my own body and the filter that goes between my brain and mouth has been stolen. A couple of weeks ago I was buying a soda at a gas station, when the attendant asked if I needed anything else. Before I could stop myself I snatched a cookie off the display and in a sing-song voice said, “Swiper no Swipey!” three times while the cashier looked at me as if I’d grown a third eye. So, it really should come as no surprise that when major events occur, like the craziness of this past week, I see Piglet and Woody analogies all around me.

As event after event was brought to light, first the marathon bombing then the ricin letters to political figures and the explosion in Texas, I wondered if the world had crazy, (“Somebody’s poisoned the waterhole!”) Never, in my life, have I seen such tragedies poured one on top of the other. The thought of my daughter growing up in a world surrounded by such malice and grief scares me.

The amazing thing about America is that just as quickly as the news reports that something devastating has happened, we begin to hear about the people rushing toward the scene instead of away. As one reporter said, “Americans doing what Americans do best. …]”. As I mulled that statement over, I thought of little Piglet upset because he believed he was too small to be of any help. Yet, when lovable Pooh was in danger Piglet raced in to “…do what [he] does best.”, save the day. We expect our policeman and fireman, our military and EMT’s to be there but immense patriotic pride floods over me as I watch countless everyday citizens right there in the thick of things not hesitating to help.

Our country’s history is filled with instances of citizens coming to each other’s aide. We put all affiliations aside and stand shoulder to shoulder (or, in today’s time, keyboard to keyboard) and tell the world to “bring it” because we are AMERICANS. We are a country built on comradery and rebellion. We may fight amongst each other, but like any family if someone else comes in to pick on or take advantage of another we will fight back in any form available to us.

Some fight with anger and vengeance, doing everything in their power to find the perpetrators and make them pay. Others fight by not letting the enemy win. They get up, forcing themselves to a quiet defiance by doing the very thing that was trying to be prevented; like going to work and conducting business as usual. Some Americans fight back by throwing themselves into the recovery. They run to the scenes, fighting flames and saving lives. They pick up debris and make mass amounts of food to feed the empty bellies.

This. This is the America that fills me with pride and lifts my chin. This is the America that I really wish we would see during campaigns when our politicians are busy name-calling, twisting truths and slinging mud. We fight back hard because we love hard, yet we also forget easy.

The news will move on to newer more current events (like who married/cheated on/divorced whom) and our united front will be forgotten as we sling insults to and fro because we simply cannot understand how to disagree with another person’s thought without insulting their being (and usually their intelligence, favorite football team and momma). Instead of sitting down with the realization that we all love our country but, just as in parenting, we have different ideas of the best ways to protect her; we complain about the opposing party and refuse to budge our stance.

To all the heroes of this past week, on behalf of those of us who really wanted to help but were unable; Thank You. To those of us that think the only way to deal with members of the opposing political parties or views is to demean and insult them; Stop it! All of this ridiculous bickering achieves nothing good, it only causes the divide to deepen. And, quite frankly, it takes your credibility away. All of your Facebook rants and name calling just causes people to snarl in disgust and remove you from their newsfeed, you aren’t changing any minds you’re just causing people to take you less seriously. You want us to believe in you? Fine take a note from Patrick Swayze in Roadhouse, “Be Nice” or Thumper’s Dad, “If you ain’t got nuffin’ nice to say….don’t say nuffin’ at all.”

To our elected officials, see my previous point to my fellow ranting citizens then throw in a good-sized dose of the heroes courage and tenacity. Quit pointing fingers, twisting facts and gloating in each other’s downfalls. Stop leaving behind messes for others to clean up, covering up your “malfunctions” and worrying about what so-and-so is doing and start finding solutions, biting the bullet and concentrating on your own behavior.

Despite the atrocities of this past week the best side of many Americans shone brightly. True courage and selflessness was highlighted as everyday citizens, policeman, fireman and military (and, yes, even some politicians) worked together to save lives, protect others and bring closure to a weeping nation. This is what we, as Americans, do best. We rally. We stand together with Ole’ Glory proudly waving behind us, unifying us and reminding us of our proud heritage and promising future. We come to each others aide. We weep at the pain we see engraved in our neighbor’s face and we believe in “the American Dream”.

It is this side of America that I pray my daughter grows up to be a part of. These qualities of bravery, kindness, hope and empathy: these are the footprints I pray we leave behind for our children, our nieces and nephews and for our grandchildren. I pray that we once again remember our daily childhood pledge of being “[… ONE nation…]” and join together to create the country that our forefathers envisioned. I pray, for the sake of every member of our future generations that somehow we remember that WE are the UNITED States of America.

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Accountability Partner

Almost six years ago, I met my best friend.  I was out on my very first coon hunting trip with some longtime friends of mine and they took me down the road to meet their brother and sister-in law.  Introductions were made first to Terry, who stood by the dog box lifting the howling hounds in, then to Carla his wife.  She had her back to us as we walked up, and I had to cough back a laugh as she turned around.  Here stood this tiny woman, decked out head to toe in camo for the hunt and as she turned around we had to take a step back and give her pregnant-bulging belly room to sway.  I stood and smiled politely as I was given the accustomed introduction.  “Carla, this is Melonie the preacher’s daughter.”  Instantly a contagious smile spread across Carla’s face, “Howdy!  I’m Carla, the drunk’s daughter!”

Immediately, I liked her.

Almost two years would pass before her and I would become “bf’s” (best friends).  We visited a each other a couple of times in the in-between, each time drawn as if a magnetic force pulled us together.  I was pleasantly surprised when her family started attending our church.  I was absolutely THRILLED when I got a call from her sister-in-law saying that Carla had accepted Christ that evening after church.  I waited what seemed like days, really about ten minutes, before calling and congratulating her.  We talked for hours and created a bond that exists to this day.

Carla and I are many things to each other: confidants, partners in crime, sisters, and shopping pals (or lately, internet window-shopping pals).  Most importantly, from the very beginning we have been accountability partners.

Proverbs 27:17 tells us, “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.”  (NLT)

For years now, we have done our best to help each other “tow the line”.  When we see each other stray, we loving do our best to get each other back on track.  We even have a “vent” rule.  When one of us is really upset, we call the other up, and without a greeting just say: “Ok, I’ve got to vent.”

The rule is that no matter what the other says, right or wrong, we listen empathetically as the other gets it out of their system.  Then, inevitably, after the angered friend has calmed down you’ll hear the other say, “Alright, now you wanna know what I really think?”

When one of us is “on fire” the flames quickly spread to other, and when one’s flame begins to flicker as we allow Satan to creep too close the other friend is there to help rekindle that flame through their prayer and direct, but loving, confrontation.

We have discovered that a friendship, like any other relationship, is not always easy.  We have had our ups and downs.  Periods have gone by where we barely went to the bathroom without talking, then spells where months passed and we didn’t so much as whisper.  I have found, through all our times, that my relationship with the Lord has been the deepest when I have had her by my side softly saying, “You wanna know what I really think?”

There have been many times when I have been tempted to take the low, easy road; to give up on my faith or just have a moment of weakness, that I have stopped short for fear (or foreknowledge) of Carla’s reaction.  Just knowing that she was there with every intention of holding me accountable for my actions have shown me the truth in Solomon’s words.

 James 5:19-20 says, “My brothers, if any among you strays from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his life from death and cover a multitude of sins.” 

As Christians, we are called to be a support to other Christians.  We are to love them, and give them our ear, but when necessary hold them accountable for their actions.  As hard as this can be, especially in a society where the popular mandate is to never offend, it is a necessity (and, speaking from experience, a true Godsend).