In the words of my old college president, Dr. David Miller, "Sit down, I've got a story to tell ya." I remember Dr. Miller sharing this well-worn phrase as an introduction into many stories of God's goodness and faithfulness. This is definitely that. I couldn't make this story up, folks. So grab a cup of coffee and get comfortable...
Five years ago a nice family moved next door to us. I think I freaked the mom out a bit when I popped outside with a big grin on my face, eager to meet my new neighbors. Her name was Mackenzie. I quickly tried to befriend her and she was friendly enough with me. I could tell she was a bit cautious, though. Her daughter was my oldest daughter's age, so immediately had something in common. I'm pretty sure her daughter came to Avery's birthday party the weekend they moved in!
I admit I felt a little funny when I would visit with Mackenzie and another neighbor of ours. I stuck out like a sore thumb with them. They had so much more in common, being non-believers and VERY tan! We spent a lot of time in our front yards with all the young children and I grew a deep compassion for these women, but I still felt very awkward in most conversations.
Mackenzie and I spent time together on our own and I quickly grew a very soft spot in my heart for her. I was quick to tell her of my faith in Christ and worked very hard to show her that I loved her where she was at.
She allowed me to begin taking her children to Vacation Bible School and our evening children's ministry once a week. The kids ate it up and came with me for 2 years every week. One day, a year and a half ago, she told me she and kids were thinking about coming to church on a Sunday morning. My heart skipped for joy!! I called that Saturday and suggested they come the next morning and they did. Later, the kids told me that they went shopping for church clothes the afternoon after they attended that morning.
A dear friend at church told me I should think about meeting with Mackenzie once a week and try to disciple her. Honestly, I hesitated. I had a child at home all day with me and my life felt so busy with family and church ministry. But I asked Mackenzie if she would like to meet once a week and do our church's Book of John study with me in my house. She said yes immediately. God opened up the time and my heart for that and I'll never regret that decision. It was in the second week of our study when she gave her heart to Christ. Right at my kitchen table. With my whole body shaking and tears pouring out of both of our eyes. The next morning, Mackenzie called me and said she's never woken up with so much happiness before. Everything was different!
Her husband, Brian, started seeing changes in her. In that first week, a moment happened in which her old self would have yelled immediately. Instead, she sat down on the stairs and prayed. Out of surprise, Brian observed later, "you didn't even yell..." So Mackenzie and I spent the whole school year studying the life and teachings of Christ and working through her new-found faith. And praying for Brian.
The spring came around and Brian agreed to play softball on our church coed team with Mackenzie. So Rich and I left the team we have played on for several years in order to start a new team so we could play with Brian and Mackenzie. We grew more of a friendship with Brian. Since I was singing in the Easter production, I asked Brian to come see it. As it turned out, Mackenzie wasn't able to come, but Brian brought his kids and came alone, just because he had told me he would. He later came to church for Mother's Day, upon request of his wife. I think he came every week after that.
Soon after that, Brian came over for a talk with Rich and I with some questions scribbled on a piece of paper. They were some very understandable questions with everything from "why do bad things happen to good people?" to "how do you explain dinosaurs?" We answered what we could and sent him with a copy of "A Case for Christ" by Lee Strobel. Brian read it cover to cover and loved it.
They attended a class at our church on the fundamentals of our faith during the fall. As a result of that class, Brian was able to ask our Pastor Justin all of his questions. I'm so thankful for the role Justin played in their lives as Brian was so close to making a decision for Christ.
We're nearing the end (really just the beginning), folks. A few months ago, Mackenzie wrote down a few verses from Ephesians 4 that God had used to encourage her in a struggle she was going through. Brian saw it and knew that she was working through those verses. Can anyone be surprised that Pastor Carl opened up to Ephesians 4 that Sunday? That did it. Brian could no longer pretend that everything that was happening was coincidental. The next week he came over to return the book and told me he prayed his first prayer for someone else that day. It was for me. He had seen me upset with a friend and prayed for my encouragement.
And now here we are. Last night the couple was baptized. I couldn't wipe the huge grin off my face. Wow.
I will never be the same! Knowing this couple has changed my life forever! I will never look at anyone again without wondering what God has in store for them, regardless if they are believers or not. He is mighty, indeed!
Folks, here's the deal. When you share your faith with someone... when you tell someone the good news of Christ... that they are loved and cherished by the Creator of the Universe and a way has been made for them to know Him and have the security of the promise of Heaven... NEVER be surprised that they decide to believe you! It's truth! You should be surprised if they don't take you up on it on the spot!
I'm hooked, man. God has lit a fire underneath me to share His good news and I'm not stopping!Who's with me? :)