By Grace Alone

The real life struggles of a Christian mom

A Wake-up Call March 14, 2010

Last week, I had the privilege of hearing a very powerful testimony.  “J” and “E” were visiting my church from the mission field in Turkey.  E is a native of Turkey who is working with J, an American, to reach both Turks and Kurds living in Turkey.  Here’s what I’m sure will be an inadequate synopsis of E’s story:

E grew up in an influential family in Istanbul.  At the age of 12, he felt empty and started searching for truth in the holy books of major world religions.  He started with the Koran.  He then read the Old Testament and the New Testament separately, since he had been taught that Jews believed the Old Testament alone, and Christians believed only the New Testament.  He also explored Buddhism, but none if it seemed right.  Finally, he saw a book titled “The Holy Bible” at a bookstore.  The woman working at the bookstore explained to him that Christians believe the Old and New Testaments together.  So he read them again, this time taking note of all the connections between the two, the prophecies made in the Old Testament and fulfilled in the New.  At the age of 14, E put his faith in the God of the Bible and His Son, Jesus Christ.  At that point in his life, E had never met another Christian.

E was forced to make difficult choices and suffer for his faith.  He was kicked out of his parents’ house as a teenager because of his faith.  He has been imprisoned for telling others about Christ.  E and J are now ministering to the Kurds, a highly discriminated-against group in Turkey.  For awhile, it was illegal to write, speak or listen to anything in the Kurdish language, Kurmanji.  J and E are trying to provide a way for Kurdish Christians to worship in their own language.  They have held one worship service so far, in the storage room of a church whose pastor was willing to let them meet there.  There is no guarantee that they will continue to be able to meet in that storage room.  It is unusual and unexpected for them to receive any help from the Turks in this endeavor.

After E shared his testimony, he had some tough words for us as we sat comfortably in our pews.  He said the church in America is sleeping and needs to wake up.  He said he doesn’t want to have to send his grandchildren over here to evangelize our grandchildren someday.  And he is absolutely right.

In America, we have the awesome privilege of worshipping in our own language, at our choice of a church, and without fear.  We don’t have to watch the door anxiously, waiting for soldiers or the police to appear.  We have beautiful buildings that are kept warm in the winter and cool in the summer.  We have facilities for Sunday school classes, youth group meetings, basketball games and yoga classes.  We have extensive children’s ministries, music ministries, Vacation Bible Schools, youth programs, college ministries, and on and on.  And yet the church in America is shrinking every day.  Children who are raised in the church are leaving in droves.

Thinking about E’s words, I am more firmly convinced that the American church at large has put its faith in all the wrong things.  We are trusting in our buildings and our programs.  There is nothing wrong with these things.  They can be used for good.  But that is not where our faith should lie, because on their own, they are powerless to change lives.  The power lies in the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.  E did not grow up in Sunday school.  No one outlined spiritual laws for him or loved him to Jesus.  Again, I’m not saying there is anything wrong with these things.  But E’s testimony shows where the true power lies:  in the Gospel of Christ, given to us in the Word of God and made clear to us by the Holy Spirit.

I spend a lot of time worrying about who my kids spend time with now and who they might choose to spend time with when I’m no longer in control of their every waking minute.  I want them at Sunday school, children’s church, Bible study, and Christian schools and preschools.  And E’s testimony didn’t change my mind about that.  But it did remind me that these things are simply tools.  Without God’s Word and the Holy Spirit, these things are powerless to change my children’s hearts.  My own Christian pursuits are also powerless unless I am digging into God’s Word and living by the Spirit.

What are you trusting in:  for yourself, your church, your kids?  Are you attending a church that preaches the Gospel of Christ?  Is His Word preached, or is it an accessory in the worship service?  For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.  Romans 1:16.


Who Are You Praying For? March 8, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Marissa Henley @ 9:21 pm
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I’ve been asking a lot of people questions about prayer lately.  My BSF leader was kind enough to loan me a CD of a talk given by Dr. Chuck Lawless at a recent conference.  Dr. Lawless was speaking on Genesis 18-19 as an illustration of the power of intercessory prayer.  It definitely changed the way I view this passage of Scripture and the importance of intercession for others.

In Genesis 18, Abraham petitions the Lord regarding the righteous in the doomed city of Sodom.  He starts by asking the Lord, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it?” (verses 23-24).  The Lord answers, “If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake” (verse 26).  Abraham continues to ask the Lord, what if there are 45 righteous found there, will He spare the city?  What about if there are 40? 30? 20? 10?  The Lord agrees to spare even a few righteous who might be found in the city.

Then in Genesis 19, we see that Abraham’s nephew, Lot, and his family are living in Sodom.  Before God destroys the city, He sends three angelic visitors who tell Lot to escape the coming destruction:

As morning dawned, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Up! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, lest you be swept away in the punishment of the city.”  But he lingered. So the men seized him and his wife and his two daughters by the hand, the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city. (Genesis 19:15-16)

Lot and his family should have perished.  God, in His mercy, sent the angelic rescuers.  And even still, Lot lingered.  The Scripture doesn’t tell us why he lingered, but obviously he was being drawn in some way by the sin around him.  Maybe it was his material possessions, maybe there were friends he was leaving behind.  Whatever the reason, his lingering should have cost him his life.  But the Lord showed mercy again, and Lot was rescued.

Here’s the part I’ve never noticed before at the end of this passage:

So it was that, when God destroyed the cities of the valley, God remembered Abraham and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow when he overthrew the cities in which Lot had lived. (Genesis 19:29, emphasis added.)

God remembered Abraham.  God remembered Abraham’s pleading on behalf of his nephew.  And God answered by rescuing Lot, both from the consequences of the sin of the city and the consequences of his own sin when he lingered in Sodom.

In his lecture on this passage, Dr. Lawless posed the question:  when do we start praying for others?  Usually, it is when they are already in the midst of a trial or entangled in sin.  In addition to those circumstances, we should be praying before the trial hits, before sin ensnares.  We should especially be praying for our children, that God would seize them and bring them out when they are lingering in sin.

This passage teaches us that intercessory prayer is powerful.  Lot didn’t know it, but he needed a prayer warrior petitioning the Lord on his behalf.  The image of Lot being seized by the angels has been an encouragement to me as I pray for my loved ones.

Who are you praying for?  How well are you fulfilling the weighty responsibility of praying for your spouse, your children, your pastor, your friends?  What a privilege to be used by God in such a powerful way in the lives of those we love.