Friday, July 26, 2013

Oh, No! Don't Put Me in the Nursery!

I was helping a young woman in our church recruit nursery workers for our growing nursery. I had four kids already and #5 was well on the way, so I used our church nursery a lot, especially since my husband, the pastor, couldn't sit with me and help with the kids. So, I knew the value and importance of nursery workers. I went to *Stacy and asked her if she would be willing to take a turn in the nursery once every six weeks or so. Stacy was a mother herself, but her children were long out of the nursery stage and were all grown. I thought she'd love to help us out.

"Oh, no! Don't put me in the nursery. I've served my time in there. Sorry," was her response. I was a bit taken aback, but was too busy with my own family and other responsibilities to give it further thought that day.

But, later, I mentioned it to my husband. His response was, "Hmmm....okay, then, don't ask her again. Just let it go. She must have a reason."

I let it go and thought no more about it. Life continued in its busy way. My husband continued preaching his exclusively expository messages and the nursery, buzzing with babies, was not mentioned to Stacy again.

One day, several months later, Stacy came to me after church. She said, "Hey, I really want you to put me on the nursery schedule. Are you still looking for workers?  I see we have lots of new babies (and we had a set of twin baby boys, too!) and I'm very capable of helping out with that."

I said, "Sure. Would once every six weeks be okay?"

"No," she responded, "I'll just do it every week, during Sunday School. I'll be the nursery Sunday School worker. I mean, if that's okay with everyone."

Smiling, I said, "I do believe that will be okay with everyone involved! Thank you."

And Stacy joyfully served in that nursery during Sunday School for 12 years. Every single week. Without one complaint.

This, people, is grace at work.

If the idea of grace has to be demanded, begged for and hammered into people, it does not come. You may see behavior changes that people will make to avoid being hammered, but you will not see heart changes that transform people into humble, joyful servants.

Humble, joyful service comes only through grace. Grace comes only from the Lord Jesus Christ.

As King David said in Psalm 27:14, "Wait, I say, on the LORD."


I can't even express the joy that comes through waiting on the LORD. It is unspeakable.


(*Not her real name)

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Pastor, We Have a Problem.....

"Pastor, we have a problem," are not words my husband was thrilled to hear when his associate pastor said them to him. The church had been growing fast and that, alone, poses its own set of problems. When two pastors have to come together and solve another problem, it is not always easy.

As they sat down together to tackle this new problem, my husband was shocked to hear what Pastor Moises Rodriguez said. In his thick Mexican accent, in his broken English, he said, "Pastor, we have a problem. We meet on Thursday night for prayer and we found that we don't have enough time to study the Word and have prayer. We want to meet on Thursday for Bible study, then meet again on Friday for prayer. Can we do that?"

This type of "problem" was very common in their ministry together. "Yes. Yes. Meet on Friday for prayer. Yes," David responded to Pastor Moises. And they rejoiced together.

The church continued to grow, not only in number, but in grace among our new believers. As their faith was tested over the next few years, they stood firm. This congregation continues to grow and flourish, making time for prayer, Bible study, fellowship and meals together. Their young people are as involved as their older people. Their second generation is not going anywhere. The women are as involved as the men.

Praise be. Bring on more problems such as this one.
This all started with prayer. Simply prayer.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

A Friendly Atheist Teaches the Bible Well

Hemant Mehta, a self-proclaimed atheist, was recently a guest at a mega-church, Oak Hills Church in San Antonio, where Pastor Randy Frazee interviewed him about his atheism.

This entire interview is approximately 38 minutes long. It's worth every minute. I want to highlight a few of his statements as they stood out to me. These things stood out to me because they are things the Bible has already taught us, but are so often overlooked by modern preachers, teachers and churches. This atheist is teaching exactly what the Bible teaches!

 He stated that people, in their efforts to convert him to Christianity, often tell him he has to have faith to believe. He said that makes no sense to him.

A person without Christ cannot possibly understand or comprehend faith in Christ. Romans 10:17 tells us that "faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God." This statement is not random. This chapter in Romans is talking about Israel rejecting Christ; not believing He is the Messiah. Verse 16 shows that Isaiah felt this burden as he said, "Lord, who has believed our report?" Israel rejected Messiah as well as she rejected prophets who declared Him.  The cure for this is faith....which comes by hearing the Word of God. 

What this teaches us is that faith cannot be conjured up by human means. It comes through the Word of God. So, how could it possibly make sense to our atheist? It can't! That's a dead argument to a dead man. Dead men do not have faith.....that is, until it is gifted to no means of their own or by human persuasion. It is a gift. Don't tell a dead man he has to have anything.

He stated that he's heard all the arguments before; tell him something new.

One might argue that there is nothing "new" in the argument to persuade one to become a Christian. I beg to differ:

Psalm 33:3 - Sing unto him a new song.
Psalm 40:3 - He has put a new song in my mouth.
Lamentaations 3:22, 23 - It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.

So, there is a lot of "new" within the Gospel of faith. We simply are not accessing this newness when we tell others of Christ. To overcome this, we must persuade men with God's Word, not with men's words. Sharing concepts, ideals, traditions and/or empty words that are not backed up by outward practice just won't cut it.

He stated that if were ever to convert, it would have to be a personal experience, a personal encounter of his own with Christ. 

Bingo! Not one person has come to Christ without a personal encounter with Him. Not one. Not you. Not me. When a group of Greeks came to Philip in the book of John (12:21), they said, "Sir, we would see Jesus." They, too, desired a personal encounter. 

In summary, these three statements by this friendly atheist taught me this:

1. He's astute enough to recognize that he does not understand faith, revealing his unregenerate state. He's right. How can one without faith understand faith?
2. He's heard all man's arguments; they aren't making an impact. How could they? Man's arguments don't hold water.
3. He identified the Source of the faith he lacks, unknowingly acknowledging that this is what he needs, that a personal encounter with Jesus would seal the deal for him.
4. We cannot preach/teach on behavior, traditions, concepts or ideals. We must preach Jesus and Him crucified.

It's only just a matter of time for the friendly atheist now.  

Monday, July 8, 2013

You Wanna See Grace at Work?

I grew up living in fear. Between threats of harm, guns being held to my mother's head right before my very eyes, beatings that left me black and blue and the screams of my mother and siblings, fear was a constant companion of mine from as far back as I remember. My dad ruled with alcohol and terror, losing control so quickly that I would never see it coming.

So, I knew fear. Fear was my friend. It helped me, protected me, made me aware of impending harm and was as natural to me as my hands. I wouldn't think of going without my fear any more than I would think of cutting off my hands.

Then, when I was 18 years old, I heard about this man, Jesus, Who died for my sin....and I heard that he rose up from the dead.....and I was enraptured with that very idea. How could it be? How could it not be? I became a believer.

My fear remained.

I got married - to a Baptist preacher no less.

My fear remained.

I started having kids.

My fear remained.

By age 26, I had two kids.

My fear remained.

What did I fear? You name it. I feared everything.

I feared being home alone because I knew a gunman would know I was home alone and would strike at that time.

I feared going places because I knew a car accident could happen at any moment, killing me and leaving my children motherless.

I feared medicine because someone could have tampered with it and it would kill me.

I feared. Everything.

One day, I heard a news story about a couple who was killed by their disgruntled repairman. He left their 7-month-old daughter to fend for herself until her parents' bodies were discovered two days later. A horrid story, I took it personally. In my irrationally fearful state, I thought sure that same man could do the same to us. I had a 7-month-old daughter at the time. I grew increasingly fearful to the point where fear completely took over my life. I could barely function for fear.

It never one time occurred to me to pray about my fear. It didn't enter my mind that my fear could be wrong, irrational, unnecessary or "unChristian-like." It just was. My fear was there as much as my hair was on my head; it was part of me. I didn't even feel the need or desire to rid myself of it.

Enter grace.

One night, my husband was sick and could not get up and check the house for whatever noise I'd heard. While I hid most of my fear from him, nightly rounds through the house because I'd heard a noise were common. This one night, he was too sick to wake up. It was left to me to check the house. It took me an hour to check on the kids in their rooms then make my way downstairs. I started this trek down the stairs at 2:00 AM and ended up in the kitchen at 3:00 AM. I checked every door, every lock, every window, turning on all the lights as I passed them by.

Then, it was 3:15 AM, I was wide awake and scared out of my mind. I had no choice but to sit up all night for fear that my dreaded gunman would come because my husband was too sick to defend us. I sat up on the couch till 5:00 AM, totally alert and rigid, ready to protect my children from this awful gunman who would kill parents of babies and leave the babies alone for days.

At 5:00 AM, I thought it was finally safe to go to bed. After all, gunmen do their bloody work in the night. 5:00 AM is a safe hour.  I crawled back into bed, expecting to get three hours of sleep before the kids would wake up.

But, sleep would not come. Instead, I had an extremely startling thought. "What if a gunman killed you; you'd be in Heaven with Jesus; what's so bad about that?"

Ack! No, no! I thought aloud, "I can't leave my children motherless!!"

My next thought, "What? God cannot care for your children? He is God, after all; they are His children."

My thought-conversation continued with, "But we are just human! How could my children endure this?"

Then this:

"I will now lay me down in peace and sleep, for, Thou, Lord, only makes me dwell in safety." Psalm 4:8

"Be not afraid of sudden fear, neither the desolation of the wicked, when it comes." Proverbs 3:25

My next thought, "I don't need my fear! This is totally unnecessary! Whoa!"


I have never felt the fear since.

If someone had suggested to me that I needed to rid myself of that fear, I would not have listened nor taken them seriously.

If someone has told me that my fear was sin, I would have thought they were out of their mind.

If someone had told me I needed to pray about my fear, I would not have listened but would have thought they didn't know what they were talking about.

Only God can change a human heart.

No amount of persuasion would have taken my fear like grace did. In one fell swoop, with no fanfare, God, in His unthinkable, unstoppable grace, took my fear and I have lived free from it ever since.

This, my friends, is the living God we serve.

This, my friends, is what our God can do in your life, no matter what you are struggling against......or as it was with me, not struggling against anything at all. I didn't struggle with my fear. I just accepted it as part of me and had planned to live with it for the rest of my life.

God had better plans.

I had nothing whatsoever to do with it..

"It is God Who works in you to will and to do of His good pleasure."  Philippians 2:13.

Trust His grace.
No appointment necessary.
Read my full story here.
Praise be.