christian encouragement

In Christ: The Grafted Fig

By Laurel Senick

summer-2724279_1920.jpg

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful; I know that full well.” Psalm139:14 NIV

Figs are my favorite food especially when they are in season. I love to stand under the branches each summer and eat to my heart’s content. I said heart not stomach because eating fresh figs fills me with joy. Walking with Jesus also fills me with joy and thankfully I don’t have to wait until Jesus is in season. 

There was a brief time when my walk with Jesus lacked joy. As a relatively new Christian I believed that as a child of God I had lots of work to do but wasn’t quite sure what. I had happily surrounded myself with other believers and assumed that there was a certain mold of Christian that pleased my Father best. Innocently I studied the other believers and began comparing myself, trying to be like them. Feeling inadequate, I tried on one outfit after another. Often, I felt like a phony. Not religious enough for some and too religious for others. I didn’t seem to fit in until I learned a lesson in horticulture. 

One spring morning at our local Farmer’s Market I chatted with a fellow fig lover who sold fig saplings at his booth. He chuckled at my fig exuberance and told me about a man he knew who collected figs, more than a hundred varieties from all over the world. He had a large fig tree on his property, and he would graft the different figs he’d collected onto this one tree. The tree was planted in a large greenhouse so other varieties from warmer climates could survive. Each year when the tree produced its fruit, every branch he had attached emerged just as it would have on its own variety. Can you imagine it? More than 100 different figs all with their own unique shape, color and flavor fruiting on the same tree.

Suddenly I realized that God never intended me to be like any other child of God. The revelation exploded in my mind like a bite of fresh summer fig. God desired that I would bring all the qualities that he designed in me to His family. Grafted in through Christ’s precious blood, I am now the righteousness of God through Christ in my own unique way. 

Now as a more mature child of God, something new has fruited in my spirit. My husband, Don and I have been ministering at the Harbor, a recovery detox center. Time and again we hear the cry of a broken child of God who feels like they have disappointed God one too many times. They are afraid to ask again for forgiveness. In their hearts they hope and pray this is the last time they ask, but it might not be. Already after only the five months that Don and I have been going we have seen a handful of unfortunate souls return. 

I think it is true what Paul said in Romans 6:1, “Does this mean that now we can go ahead and sin and not worry about it? For our salvation does not depend on keeping the law, but on receiving God’s grace! Of course not!”  But I also believe any sincere effort to quit sinning is met with the grace and mercy of God. Yes, we may fail repeatedly but just as Jesus tells us to forgive our brother when he comes to apologize 70 times 7 times, is God not more faithful than us? Of course! 

I think some would read the story of the prodigal son and note that when the son returned and was perfectly restored, he never strayed again. And maybe he didn’t. But having been a believer for forty of my fifty years I can tell you that this is not true for me. Praise God he is able to rescue and restore us over and over again. It is his loving kindness that leads to repentance and his discipline that trains us in the way we should go. God always is good and for our good. Because he is a good, good Father. 

In Christ: Right Where I Need To Be

By Lindsay Few

By Lindsay Few

I’ve adopted a new daily mantra. I didn’t intend to do it. It started when I realized I was repeating this little phrase any time I started to get the tightness of stress in my chest; the shallowed breathing and high blood pressure of too much to do and too little time. 

The phrase: “I’m right where I need to be.” Sitting in traffic. At the kitchen table. Choosing to work on what’s in front of me, even when I’d rather play. I’m right where I need to be. Scripture is a great place to go for words that will shape your mindset. (Perhaps 2 Corinthians 5:16-17, Ephesians 1:3, for identity reminders.)

I didn’t realize this was an identity check until I explained it out loud in community group. Then I could hear it. Being physically and mentally present in each moment is essential to living out of my identity in Christ. Being grounded in the present moment frees us from both shame of the past and anxiety of the future. My tendency is to try and get my identity - my “self” all figured out, and then go on with life. But that’s not how it works at all. Going on with life is how we live out who we already are. The daily decisions reflect where Christ has shaped and changed us -- or where He’s yet to.

Bonus discovery! If I’m running “I’m right where I need to be” through in my mind, and it turns out that that my life doesn’t sync with my mantra, then it’s easy to course correct. Getting up when I want to hit snooze (again). Put my focus to the task at hand rather than spacing out on Facebook, Zillow, Poshmark, etc.  Make the choice that reflects who I am becoming as Christ transforms me, not who I once was when I thought I had to do it all on my own.  

What about you? What identity truth are you telling yourself? How is this shaping your days? 


More Than Enough

cosmos-flowers-1138041_1920.jpg

By Laurel Senick

“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”  Luke 6:38 NIV

When I began tithing my life differed greatly from what it is now. I was a single, newly born-again believer who lived paycheck to paycheck. I had a small amount of debt from a credit card and from my first computer a huge Apple desktop. Does anyone have desktops anymore? Dave Ramsey, the finance guru, would have called that a dum-dum purchase. But at the time I didn’t know who he was.

I actually think it was helpful to have some debt when I started tithing. It took more faith to give, which built muscle. God had shown me he was faithful with whatever I gave him. My home, my sexuality, and my boyfriends were the major struggles in my eyes. Funny, finances came last. The last frontier of a life submitted to God? Maybe it’s that way for everyone, like the wild wild west of religion! But in my tithing journey there have been a few defining moments.

In those pre-tithe days, my car was one oil change from its grave; that is, if I were ever to get one. Did I mention I’m tough on cars? Finally, when it kicked the bucket a friend directed me to Engine Angels, a ministry born from a dad helping his daughter fix her car. Then this dad went on to fix his daughter’s friends’ cars and then their friends’ and so on. Engine Angels will let you buy a car that has been donated and inspected, at Blue Book value, paying whatever you can afford every month at no interest. Being a single female with a job is all you needed to qualify.

What a miracle my ‘87 Grand Prix, fondly nicknamed Big Blue, was to my worried soul. Driving on and off the beach with the foam straps and surfboard—this eye-sore was one of the ways my husband Don first noticed me. Who could have thought of that but God! I was learning God’s goodness by trusting him with my tithe.

The next defining moment was after Don and I were married and the company I worked for suddenly shut its doors. While the owners skipped town, most of us finished out the work week with our special needs clients knowing we wouldn’t be paid. Days before our church had just completed a money series, prompting Don and I to spruce up our budget - including a heftier tithe.

Despite the absence of my paycheck we trusted God and gave the full tithe that would have been included with my check. God says test him in this whole money thing you know. Not only did God provide an opportunity for me to pray for my co-workers during the crisis of losing our jobs, but by the end of the next week another company had adopted all our clients and us. Suddenly, I had my old job at a new company and this one provided health insurance. We cannot out give God. I wonder how often we miss out on this promise.

Recently I had a doozy of a faith test. I didn’t realize my automatic draft for tithing had stopped until I began working on a new budget and realized I hadn’t tithed in eight months. Uh oh. Suddenly I had to make a decision. There was no extra money sitting in my account. That money was G.O.N.E. I spent it even though it wasn’t my intention not to tithe. Surely someone should have let me know, right? Oh, I had excuses, lots of excuses. Trust me—it was a battle. “The money in my savings account is mine,” I whined.

I can just imagine God getting quite a chuckle watching me wrestle this out. I wonder if he thought, let’s see if she really trusts me. He must have whispered something like, “Don’t forget you’re mine, dear daughter. Have I ever forgotten the lilies of the field or the hairs on your head?” Because I remembered His faithfulness and I knew what to do. I knew all the times when it made little sense to give but somehow, I always had enough. More than enough.

“‘Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.’” Malachi 3:10-11 NIV


Devoted: Serve Others

Left to Right: Ryan Ivey, Jason Miles, Dana Hebert & Natalyn Bachek

Left to Right: Ryan Ivey, Jason Miles, Dana Hebert & Natalyn Bachek

Google says it perfectly. Quoted from Merriam-Webster, of course: “The friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.” Hospitality. To be hospitable.

Hopefully if you are reading this, you’ve walked through our doors at Live Oak and experienced our Hospitality Team greeters. Whether rain or shine, a team of bright, shining faces will welcome and open the door for you before our service begins. If you’ve missed us, then chances are you are late 😊 but no need to worry, we’ll catch you at the end of service! The goal of our Hospitality Team is to be the first welcoming face of Live Oak to usher you into our family. Not only will you catch us at the front doors, but behind the coffee bar, helping you find your seat or just generally showing you around the place.

Of course, we have the PERFECT example of hospitality in Jesus Christ. He is and was the end-all, be-all in hospitality and welcoming those around Him. He was friendly and generous to everyone he came across, no matter their beliefs, background or way of life. In Acts 2:42-47 we enter a scene of exuberant excitement for what is going on. When I read these verses, my heart jumps a little and my mind is set at ease. We find a large group of people who are following Jesus and are literally dropping everything they’ve ever worked for to follow this amazing Teacher.

“That day about three thousand took him at his word, were baptized and were signed up. They committed themselves to the teaching of the apostles, the life together, the common meal, and the prayers.

Everyone around was in awe—all those wonders and signs done through the apostles! And all the believers lived in a wonderful harmony, holding everything in common. They sold whatever they owned and pooled their resources so that each person’s need was met.

They followed a daily discipline of worship in the Temple followed by meals at home, every meal a celebration, exuberant and joyful, as they praised God. People in general liked what they saw. Every day their number grew as God added those who were saved.” – Acts 2:42-47 (The Message).

Can’t you feel the high energy of this group just from these few verses? They are utterly enthralled by their new-found way of life and want to shout it from the rooftops. Recently at Live Oak, we’ve been focusing on a sermon series called “Devoted,” all revolving around this passage of scripture and focusing our gaze on being like this ecstatic group of followers. We want our love for Jesus to ooze from us like it does for these people, not just on Sundays, but every day. To be so consumed with Jesus’ love that it naturally radiates from us and invites others to investigate.

With our hospitality team, this is a way we can naturally serve others and welcome them into our Live Oak family. To share our love for Jesus and people on a regular basis to all who walk through the doors. From that first hand shake to the second cup of hot coffee or an empty chair beside us in service, our mission is to connect and truly create relationships that allow us to do life together and not alone. We really do believe that God made us to do life together and these relationships not only bring us closer together, but closer to Him.

Our hospitality team usually consists of eight to ten people who serve regularly, anywhere from every week to once a month – whatever works in their stage of life. Each Sunday we meet for fifteen minutes to go over the day and pray for the service ahead. From there we go to our spots and prepare to greet people or assist them in finding their way around Live Oak. A natural, organic feeling can be felt when serving on our hospitality team, as if you are just hanging out with friends you haven’t seen all week. A lot of times our team consists of people who serve regularly and many deep relationships start from serving the same day each month with someone else, allowing comfortability and a family atmosphere to form.

We hope that each Sunday we represent a culture that supports a “friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers,” and pray that strangers will cease to exist as soon as you walk into our doors.

Pictured above are a few of our hospitality leaders that are willing to help in any way to make your time at Live Oak as natural and comfortable as possible.


Devoted: Give Generously

tulips-4030194_1920.jpg

By Lindsay Few

Have you ever felt greed sink its teeth into you? Wrap its tendrils around you like a pestilent vine, growing more quickly than you thought possible? I have. Let me tell you.

Very early into marriage, Brian & I went shopping for our first grown up purchase: A new couch. We were both still in school and we worked both a patchwork of breakfast, lunch and dinner shifts waiting tables. We were officially broke as a joke, but we lived accordingly: We spent sparingly, tithed 10% and had carefully saved up $500 for the big purchase.

We walked into a discount furniture store ready for the occasion. Immediately our budget, which had seemed generous, looked measly next to the brand new sofas and loveseats. This was disappointing. Could we afford anything at all? We almost walked right out... but then decided it couldn’t hurt to look around a little, right?

As we looked, we got a little more comfortable. We test-sat and imagined lounging happily at home (while trying to ignore the salesmen circling like birds of prey). We found one - could it be the one? A sprawling brown leather number; shiny and new - especially compared to the free giveaway couch we were replacing - and it was marked with a “sale” tag. Emboldened, Brian asked about the price. “$2,000,” the salesman answered, glad to help. (*Gulp*) But wait! He could give us no-money-down financing. We could take it home today and pay nothing until later! Were we interested? Uh, yeah, we definitely were. The smell of new leather filling our nostrils, we looked at each other, almost giddy with the possibility. It seemed too good that we could have a couch worth four times what we could pay! I think we both began to realize that maybe it was too good. “We’ll think about it and come back,” we said.

Driving home we chattered about how we would position the couch in our living room; how happy we’d be with this fancy new upgrade. Back at home, we grew quiet. How quickly we’d been lured into wanting - no, needing! - the couch once we’d found it. Backing out now would be such a let down. Yet, knowing how easy it could be to abandon our $500-budget plan; seeing how effortlessly we’d both moved from a mindset of stewarding each dollar carefully to “must-have-it-now” spooked us.

We decided not to go back for the couch. The tentacles of greed seemed wrapped up in it. Instead, we agreed to take half our budget and put it toward the capital campaign at our church. Giving $250 felt huge, but we wanted a hard break from grabby greed. A reset of trusting God and stewarding well what He provided.

Generosity is one of the best antidotes to the poison of greed. But why give to the church, specifically? Many say that buying lunch for a friend or donating to a favorite charity “counts” as tithing. These things may be generous, but they aren’t tithing.

Following Jesus means loving Him; treasuring what He treasures. The Church is high on that list. Scripture refers to the Church as Christ’s bride, and the level of care that indicates is clear: “No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church. And we are members of his body.” Ephesians 5:29, 30. He loves His bride enough to die for her.

If we say we love Jesus, but fail to also love His Church, we are missing out. This is what made it easy then to give to our church: In giving, we partner with God to build up what he loves. Giving reminds us that our lives are not just our own, but are part of something bigger. We are invited to build God’s kingdom right here in our own church body. God doesn’t need anything we can give, for as He says, “the world is Mine, and the fullness thereof.” (Psalm 50.) It’s all His anyway; we are graciously invited into the mission of building His kingdom on earth. The more we trust Him into the details of our actual life; into the details of our dollars, the more we can live the fullness of life He invites us into.

  • Start with a consistent percentage

  • If you’re unsure of “where the money goes” at church, ask!

  • Ask God how he wants you to give. Notice how He shapes your heart as you do what He says

Epilogue: A couple of weeks later, Brian stopped by Pier One to look for a couch. They had one on sale; additionally discounted since it was the floor model. It was $250 exactly and felt to us like a gift from God.  


The Interview Series | Sam Marsh

By Natalyn Bachek

sam marsh.jpg

You’ve seen her on stage either wailing away on the drums, playing guitar or singing her heart out leading the praise band. She’s got a powerful musical gift and a heart for ministry, but what is behind that shining, welcoming face?

I had the pleasure of recently having lunch with Samantha “Sam” Marsh, surrounded by the Thanksgiving hustle and bustle of Whole Foods. We scarfed down our ultra-spicy brussel sprouts, of which neither of us could leave a crumb behind, and I got to really take a peek into Sam’s life and see how the Lord has shaped her path and led her right to Live Oak.

Sam was born in England, moved to New Jersey at the age of two then swiftly moved to Charlotte, North Carolina. Sam grew up riding horses, working at a horse barn and ultimately falling in love with music by learning to play the trombone at an early age. 

Sam got accepted to Appalachian State University in Boone, NC, and continued her love of music by being a music major until, in Sam’s own words, “God decided to close a door.” She ended up finding out that a sharp pain in her jaw was not just a quick fix, but after a winding road of doctor’s evaluations and inevitably a surgery, the diagnosis was a broken jaw. This may have stopped many in their tracks, leaving them wondering what to do next, but with Sam, the Lord allowed this instance to mold and shape her. This is where her relationship with the Lord really started to grow and was ultimately the beginning of her relationship with Him.  

From there on out, she switched her major to religion studies and was introduced to an amazing campus ministry at App State called Campus Christian Fellowship. It was there that she began an internship with CCF. After graduation, she accepted an internship with CCF and moved to Missouri to work on the campus of Missouri University of Science and Technology. There Sam led three hundred students (wow!) and a thirty-member worship band regularly, but she missed her “home state,” and moved back to Charlotte to enroll at Gordon Conwell University for Seminary. 

It wasn’t until she was settled in Charlotte that she was offered a full-time position as the Women’s Minister for CCF at a little-known school called UNCW in Wilmington, NC. Although this was a full-time gig, Sam accepted and was able to still remotely complete her seminary schooling on the side (She is still powering through her seminary classes with graduation in the future!). Although a much smaller ministry than the one she previously ran in Missouri, Sam says that this is more her pace, as she leads fifteen UNCW students weekly. This allows for her to individually engage in each of their lives. Most of these students are international students and one of the perks is that Sam is involved with taking them shopping every Friday in the big CCF van. They all load up and head to our local Walmart to get necessities and form relationships off campus.

All in all, CCF and UNCW brought Sam to us at Live Oak through an invitation from her roommate one random Sunday. (THANK YOU FOR BEING THAT VESSEL ROOMMATE!) We are so very thankful the Lord led Sam our way and that her God-given talents can be used to engage more people each week. She is part of a much bigger picture that we only can see a hint of, but we know that God has it all planned out for his glory.

Fun facts about Sam:

- All of her extended family still lives in England

- Loves to skate & longboard

- Self-taught drummer!

How we can pray for Sam:

- Several months ago, Sam tragically lost her mom. Please be praying for healing and peace for her and her family. That she would lean on God daily for strength during this grief process.

- CCF Ministry at UNCW and all the students Sam encounters 

The Interview Series | The Herrings

By Laurel Senick

IMG_99221.jpg

Aubrey, how did you and Jonathan meet?

Jonathan and I were introduced by friends through Overflow at Port City Church. He was in the band, and I was very hesitant because I wanted to be single forever. He talked me into it, and here we are.

How did you know Jonathan was the one?

I knew Jonathan was the one because I knew if I got married it would be to someone named Samuel. He told me after dinner on our first date that his name was actually Samuel, and that was pretty much that.

Is there a place you’ve always wanted to travel?

We both have a desire to visit New Zealand next I think. Aubrey has traveled to Germany and England, which were high on her list, and she would love to go back, but it’s always nice to go somewhere together that neither of you have seen before.

In what unexpected ways has Harrison your fourteen-month-old son changed your life?

Aubrey: I’m a completely different parent than I thought I would be. I’m learning a lot about discipline and responding to Harrison by looking at the way God corrects us and comforts us. He’s gentle and responsive, and that’s the sort of mom I want to be. God doesn’t necessarily punish us for our mistakes. He shows us what’s right and redirects us.

Jonathan: As cliché as this sounds, I have a new understanding of unconditional love. You always hear people say that when they have their own kid, but it’s really true.

Was there a dramatic beginning in your life with Christ?

We were both raised in the church, and while we have had our ups and downs, Jesus has always been there as a constant.

Your small group recently did a spiritual gift study. Can you share a little about your Holy Spirit gifts?

Aubrey: My spiritual gift was giving. It made sense when the bible study explained this gift brings the ability to see through money schemes, and that someone with this gift is good with budgeting. I also have the desire to help others financially, whether it be through a gift or through teaching.

Jonathan: My spiritual gifts were prophecy and teaching. I enjoy learning the ins and outs of things on a theological and philosophical level and sharing that information with others. Also, any practical skills or hobbies that I find entertaining, I also love to share that with people (If they are willing to listen).

You’ve brought Financial Peace to Live Oak. In what ways do you see this program helping people and glorifying God?

Living in debt is stressful and not the way God intended it. This program can help us all move away from being slaves to our money and teach us to live with financial freedom. Having a plan seems like it will hold you back, but it has been the thing that has always made us feel more secure in actually spending our money, because we know we have planned for every expense, so it won’t throw something else off.  

What do you believe about tithing and how has it impacted your lives?

We strongly believe that tithing is an exercise for us to remember God gives us what we need and cares that we are taken care of. He tells us to remember the lilies of the field and that they are clothed better than Solomon in his temple. We are saying, “I know this isn’t mine and I don’t need it.” Knowing that gives you the ultimate sense of freedom from anxiety with finances.

How can Live Oak family pray for your family?

Please pray for our future. We each have new jobs which are relocating us to Raleigh.

- We will miss this sweet family that is moving to Raleigh. Please hug and kiss them good bye when you see them. Laurel Senick


A Wedding, A Funeral

THE FOLLOWING IS THE FIFTH IN A SERIES OF BLOGS, EACH WRITTEN BY A DIFFERENT MEMBER OF OUR LIVE OAK CHURCH FAMILY.

Abbey and Brian Nobles 

Abbey and Brian Nobles 

By Abbey Nobles 

If anyone knows my husband Brian and me, they know we love to travel, meet people, eat delicious foods, and tell our experiences through fun and engaging stories. So when we told our friends that we saw, felt, and embraced the glory of God, I’m sure at first they pictured us experiencing this while walking on a crazy Icelandic glacier, or relaxing under the Balinese sunset, or even enjoying the delights of a French vineyard, but that was not the case. In July of 2017 we witnessed one of the most powerful displays of the glory of God either of us had ever experienced.

Recently, Pastor Brian Few did a “Jesus Is” series which defined the different aspects of who Jesus is: the Glory of God, the Creator, Sustainer, Humility, Wisdom, Love, Savior, King, Freedom, and Judge. It is still crazy to me to think that in this one single event, once we saw the glory of God, we stood witness all of the aspects of Jesus Brian talked about. Every. Single. One.

In July 2017, my brother and his fiancee asked Brian, my Brian, to play the guitar and me to sing the song, “Your Glory” by All Sons and Daughters, at their wedding during a moment of worship. Brian and I had a hard time practicing and needed inspiration, so for the weeks leading up to the wedding we would drive to Pender Memorial Hospital where my grandmother was a resident on the nursing home floor and practice for her.

My paternal grandmother, Nannie, suffered from dementia from 1999 to 2017. She went through the traditional phases of progression, from babbling speech and nonsensical talk to only smiles and high fives. She was always enchanted by music, so captivated, her spirit would speak the Psalms when she could not speak herself.

She would do what Psalm 100:1-2 says, “Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth! Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!”

It was the day of the rehearsal dinner and Brian and I went to practice our song one last time for my grandmother before the wedding the following day. On this particular day she was almost unwakeable. This wasn’t unusual. I can remember my dad multiple times weeping at her bedside, thinking it was the end, yet something inside of her pulled through, she still had purpose.

She still had meaning. She still had things to teach us. This new lesson, her last lesson, was about the glory of God. Psalm 101:1 “I will sing of steadfast love and justice; to you, O LORD, I will make music.”

As I brushed her soft white hair and kissed her pale and wrinkled skin, I tried to rouse her. She would not budge. Brian said, “Let’s go on and practice, she will hear us.” He started playing the guitar while I stared hard at the words on my phone to distract myself. My voice cracked as I sang the first verse:

“My life is Yours

And my hope is in You only

And my heart You hold

'Cause You made this sinner holy

And holy, holy”

My voice cracked more, she was still in a deep slumber, tears came to my eyes as I stared at my grandmother’s peaceful body slumped in her wheelchair. I stroked her soft hand and tried to push through. Other family entered the room and I tried not to look in fear of a total breakdown. I felt their warm presence, I felt the peace of God in this moment, I felt comfort, but the coming words I could barely sing:

“Cause Your glory is so beautiful

I fall onto my knees in awe

And the heartbeat of my life

Is to worship in Your light

'Cause Your glory is so beautiful

'Cause Your glory is so beautiful”

Getting to the chorus I had to stop. I had to weep. An RN I never knew and will never forget came in the room and gave me the biggest hug, she completely embraced me and said, “Baby girl you sing your heart out, you sing for your grandmother, you will do great, I know you will.”

That evening after the rehearsal dinner with so much unity and joy among the bride and groom, we got the call that Nannie had passed. The last song I sang to her would be the last song she heard on this Earth.

And I felt the glory of God in that moment.

I embraced my family, I prayed in the Spirit feeling like God had called me to be a leader in that moment. We knew her death was timely and perfect. Part of God’s glorious perfect plan.

The next day I sang for all the angels to hear. I sang, and I knew she was there singing too. The wedding continued, and joy abounded. More joy filled my heart knowing Nannie’s purpose on this earth had come to an end, she was now singing in the fullness of His glory.

That is how the glory of God works: untimely for our flesh but perfect in the spirit. It is often fraught with earthly misunderstanding, our minds not fully comprehending the Spirit.

But Jesus holds all things together, He is the Glory of God, the Creator, Sustainer, Humility, Wisdom, Love, Savior, King, Freedom, and Judge.


 

God’s Grace Remains

By Natalyn Bachek 

THE FOLLOWING IS THE FOURTH IN A SERIES OF BLOGS, EACH WRITTEN BY A DIFFERENT MEMBER OF OUR LIVE OAK CHURCH FAMILY.

Kenny and Natalyn Bachek 

Kenny and Natalyn Bachek 

The year was 2013. A warm day, but a cool night. The excitement was felt in the air as if it was almost tangible. I in white, he in gray, and others wore their casual best. With Edison lights swinging in the background, we shared our love publicly and vowed each other our forevers.

Who would have ever thought that those naive twenty-somethings would turn out to be the best love story I could have ever dreamt of or prayed for? I never thought it could happen to me nor did I know something like that existed. You always read about love in a mushy gushy novel (as if this isn’t mushy gushy, I know) and never think about it actually being reality. The nerd that I am considers marriage our own little “club” that only Kenny and I are members of and with our secret handshake and inside jokes, I finally feel like a cool kid at the lunch table.

Insert the sappy love music… I promise I’ll stop.

Walking down the aisle, I knew what we had was special, but I didn’t fully understand it until entering into something so sacred. It was as if a veil was pulled away from my eyes. I finally saw how extremely blessed I was that my husband was the one I was made for and him for me. Not to say that I have ever described marriage as easy, but it has been a privilege to figure it out together.

Needless to say, no one ever sat me down and really given me the details about marriage. The “ins and outs” as you would say. I mean, how could they? Marriage is completely distinctive and varies from couple to couple. What Kenny and I experience can be completely different than the couple sitting beside us on Sunday. What we did find out through premarital counseling and spending time with some really wise people, is that marriage truly has wings when it is centered around God. And we soon learned that the hard way.

When I say the hard way, I mean God graciously nudged us and continued to do so for several years after we made a really big decision without Him. This decision had to do with buying a new house and gutting it to the bones. Those naive twenty-somethings I mentioned earlier, thought they had it all figured out and jumped into something without seeking God first.

Whoops.

It wasn’t until almost three years later of arguments, deadlines, and strained relationships that we started to see a clear view of what went wrong. While sitting in a Live Oak service one Sunday, the series was centered on vision and what a life without vision is like. It was as if all the oxygen had been sucked out of the room and I was the only one that had noticed. That was it: No vision meant no God and that was exactly what we did.

The initial step towards our future should have been with God leading us, not us dragging God behind us on a leash. We truly believe that through prayer and wise counsel, God would have lead us a different way, but oh the amazing journey He has brought us on! Though the renovation may have been the hardest thing we have gone through as a couple, this obstacle has matured us as individuals but also a team. The fact that God’s grace remains at the end of every day and renews every morning, is just enough for us. No matter how far we may stray, we are firm in the belief that He will make all things new according to HIS plan, not ours. Without this rocky time in our lives, we never would have seen it or grasped it in the unique way that we do.

God is just that way though. He is never pushy and always approaches us with a gentle spirit even after we’ve forgotten Him with naive minds. Even after we run from His spirit or His word. Even then. He’s still there.

 

Bio on Kenny & Natalyn Bachek

  • Married for five years

  • Attending Live Oak for six years

  • Have a dog-son named Nash

  • Kenny works in clinical trial research

  • Natalyn is a Dental Hygienist

  • Kenny is a two handicap in golf

  • Natalyn is an avid runner

  • Both are die-hard NC State fans

  • Both love Seinfeld & Friends

Happy Birthday, Live Oak!

Written by Lindsay Few 

“We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.” Romans 12:4

Yesterday we celebrated Live Oak Church’s 6th birthday. Tomorrow we celebrate my daughter’s 13th birthday. Two hugely momentous occasions in my world. It’s impossible for me to separate the two.

In ministry, as in parenting, one cannot do the job perfectly. That’s just not in the realm of possibility for any long-term human task or calling. No one will finish the entire thing regret-free. If you don’t believe this, please get at least six years into a job and get back to me then. Best I can tell, it’s all a matter of doing the best you know how, while continually asking the Lord for gracious portions of wisdom and humility.

And this is not a bad thing -- in fact, it’s God’s own good purpose. It will never cease to amaze me that a church made of human beings is His Plan A for spreading His love across this world. Christ himself imparted the message, brought the Kingdom near and sent His Spirit, saying, “In fact, it is best for you that I go away…”, (John 16), charging his remaining 11 disciples, blessed and blundering, “Go, and make disciples of all the nations.” (Matthew 28) The mission has not changed, though at times it is hard to find the beauty Christ sees in His Church through all the mess we’ve got it twisted up in.  

You can hardly believe how nervous we were 13 years ago, bringing that little joy nugget home. We had no idea how to be parents. Parenting called to a deeper place in each of us; required us to love and to give selflessly, endlessly. And it called out deep joy; the joy of seeing someone you love that much grow; memories and milestones.

Turns out watching Live Oak grow from the ground up is not too different. There is the call (for all believers) to love, serve, and give to the church body. There is disappointment; but then there are so many moments of joy. Memories, milestones, lives changed by Jesus. And in both cases, life bigger than just myself may be harder, but is truly so much better.

In all things, we are promised, “I am with you always. Even to the end of the age.” This is the energy in all we do: Christ with us. His presence and power -- glorious news! Because in all of my best attempts I still wish I could do the job perfectly. I cannot. Yet in my weakness He is strong. (1 Corinthians 12) Jesus knows every shortcoming of my faulty self, and He promises that the good work -- the refining process He began in me -- will eventually be completed. (Philippians 1:6)

He calls this naturally grouchy, disorganized, peace-and-quiet & comfort-loving introvert into a home filled with family; a church filled with family. Gently, God has led me from a teeny-tiny comfort zone into wider places. From this vantage point, I look at His beloved Church. I see so many lives woven together into this community. For this, the body of believers, He gave His life. From this vantage point, six years into the mission of Live Oak Church, I see her brokenness and beauty, and I just love her.