grace

In Christ: The Grafted Fig

By Laurel Senick

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“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. 

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