What’s your hold up?

stayclose_togodHEBREWS 10:19-25
     So, friends, we can now—without hesitation—walk right up to God, into “the Holy Place.” Jesus has cleared the way by the blood of his sacrifice, acting as our priest before God. The “curtain” into God’s presence is his body.
     So let’s do it—full of belief, confident that we’re presentable inside and out. Let’s keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps his word. Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching.

I’ve been in church, just about, all my life.  My pops was a deacon in the church for years, using his trade and craft as the church “handyman”.  Later on, he stepped up into a role as an elder to help the church with less physical repair and more spiritual maintenance;  But he’s always had the servant’s heart that a deacon should possess.  My mom is a Jesus freak!  She has always encouraged me in the ways of God.  My older sissy, Michelle, and I have nicknamed my mom “Our holy spirit”.  We laugh and still joke to this day about it.  My mom would sit with me almost every night and teach me how to pray — “Our Father, Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name…”  All she has ever wanted is just to be used by God, to bless others.  Anything from teaching children in Sunday school, to feeding the less fortunate by running our church’s food bank.  My amazing parents raised me the best they knew how, and they made sure that the church was a big part of our lives.  They made sure church was a part of our HOME.

As I grew older, I learned to love the church and people of God.  I always had the calling of God on my life to be a worship leader.  As some of you know, the stage is like a second home to me.  I love performing, playing music, singing, and even more, I love watching the people smile, dance, and sing along.  I started leading worship when I was 14 or 15 years old for youth groups, special events, and then started filling in for our Worship Leader when she couldn’t make it.  I’ve been on staff at several churches from my late teen years into my mid 20’s in worship leading roles.  (SIDE NOTE:  I met my wife in one of those churches in 2009 when I was 25)

I will take y’all back to 2011 to my last worship leading position.  I loved what I was doing, but honestly, I had lost my passion for the church and leading.  The last 4 churches I was at didn’t treat me too well.  Don’t get me wrong.  There are no good guys or bad guys in this story.  There was just a lot of expectations on my part and theirs that weren’t met.  I wasn’t perfect by any means.  I made a lot of mistakes; I make a lot of mistakes.  It just seemed like every position I was in, I kept seeing all the behind the scenes junk and it kept dimming my faith in the people of God.  So, I found myself after my last position, telling my wife, who was just my girlfriend at the time, that I think I’m ready to move on from the church.  I’m tired of everything I’m seeing and then getting no grace or forgiveness for my “bad judgement calls”.  So January of 2011, I just walked away from the church.  I didn’t walk away from my faith, or so I thought I didn’t.  I didn’t turn my back on God, or did I, and not realize it?  I remember telling Hannah, “I won’t go back to church or pursue another church position until God puts it in front of me.  I will not search anymore!”

Fast-forward to late 2015… God started doing something within me.  I actually was getting scared, because since I left the church in 2011, I just kind of put the God stuff a little lower on my priority list.  (Hannah and I always encouraged each other in the Lord, and would have “Jesus talks” but my spirit never seemed right.)  I found myself thinking a lot about how my life was when I was in church and surrounded by the things of God more.  I started missing that life.  I felt myself drifting from God, and then found myself playing music in the bars, BUT God used me a lot in those situations (Rom 8:28) regardless of whether I was clean or not.  Even in my own selfish desires and wants, God still loved me, and used my life to bring Himself glory.  I held onto that and carried it with me.  I really started searching my own heart, and Hannah was praying for the same things.  “We want your will to be done in our lives, God.  We want to draw close to you, God.”  We prayed time and time again for Him to rescue us… We just knew that there was an urgency inside that wouldn’t let up.  That was the Holy Spirit telling me, “Ok, Erik, time to come home and lead your family with integrity”  We just didn’t know how it would happen.  We kept praying and praying, and Alabama kept coming up in conversations with friends and family.  I did miss home and I missed seeing my family a lot.  But we knew Alabama would never be in the question unless God provided a way to get back there.  So, the praying and the trusting continued.  We just told each other, let’s keep doing what we are doing until something happens.  Something happened… God opened a door here at Friendship in Athens, AL.  I don’t know why one night I felt the need to update my resume’ except, now, I feel like it was the perfect timing of God.   Cling to Him… HE will rescue you.  He’s got you.

After 5 years of being out of the church, I have found my passion again for God, His people, His ways, and the lost, and it continues to deepen everyday.  The passage I opened this blog with talks about “spurring” each other on to worship, and not “avoiding it like some do”….  We need to encourage each other on a daily basis to worship together and not avoid it…  Join a church… and don’t just sit there.  GET INVOLVED.  Become a part of your community and ask God to show you how you can be a blessing to Him and to others.  I don’t think in my past life that I left God, I just feel like I let so much other stuff in that I lost my flavor.  Staying connected and being active in your church family isn’t necessary to get into Heaven… But take it from my experience… Surrounding yourself with Godly people can reap the fruit in your life to be more effective for the Kingdom!
Stay close to God by staying close to His people.
They will fail you.
They will disappoint you.
We don’t worship and serve for their sake —But because God, alone, is worthy.

 

Erik Smallwood
www.eriksmallwood.com

About Erik Smallwood

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