On March 20, 2011, I began to teach a Sunday school series on the topic of prayer. As the result of the preparation I undertook, I became quite convicted of my own lack of prayer, speaking of both quantity and quality. Since that time, my prayer life has been changed greatly, by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. I’ve been reading an inspiring book of prayers by George Mueller with the documented answers from God for my class and it has led me to a greater faith and I have begun to submit myself more fully to His will. It is my desire to be wholly and humbly ready for whatever the wisdom of God allows in my life, and to honestly and earnestly seek Him and open my heart to Him. As the result, by His providential wisdom and mercy, I believe He supplied me with opportunity to fill the desires of my own heart this past week. Psalms 37:4, Proverbs 3:6.
Day 1: Monday April 11, 2011
I never leave my ringer on when I go to bed. I leave it on “alarm only” because for a number of years I got a lot of undesirable texts and calls while sleeping. So it came as quite a shock to me when I awoke to my phone “buzzing” at 5:45 am Monday. It was an unknown number; I assumed it was someone from my work, and I had better answer to see what was needed.
To my shock (and a little horror) it was my daughter’s principal. I couldn’t imagine what Bailey must have done to warrant a 5:45am Monday phone call. Thankfully, for Bailey’s sake, the phone call was unrelated to her school behavior. Mrs. Jones was calling to tell me that the High School Bible teacher, Mr. Jennings, needed a substitute. I couldn’t believe it. It had been almost 8 months since I’d put my name on a list to substitute teach. I have prayed at times that the Lord would allow me to teach His Word, and to make me accept His will in this regard.
I immediately went to prayer, asking the Lord to lead me. I decided that in His providence, this was indeed His will for me. I began to prepare for my day. I had no notes ready, no curriculum to teach, as the students were planning to give presentations. I notified my employer that I’d be late and I set off to school.
I was to teach four classes. First period was the Juniors and Seniors. Three of the students were from my church; this gave me some comfort. Not sure what to teach, and not sure how many days I’d have, I decided to give them something heady and challenging. I taught from Isaiah 53 about the doctrine of substitution. I had recently listened to a teaching that I’d enjoyed, and it was fresh in my mind. It seemed to go okay…but it felt odd to just walk into a room full of people, teach them, and then leave.
Second period was a joy. Seventh grade. These kids were raw. They listened well and were a fun group. Third period came. This was the ninth and tenth graders. Now it got interesting.
These kids were well-versed in the Bible and were poised to argue. Almost too ready…at times I questioned the authenticity of the argument, wondering if maybe some of them just liked to argue. Nevertheless, I was able to cram the teaching into the 40 minutes I had. By fourth period, with the eighth graders, I was excited and exhausted, and, after I finished with them, I went to my “real job.” With no idea how tiring this ordeal would be, I attempted to work almost a full day at work. I spent time in prayer on the way there, and in my office, asking God to work the heart of my boss in order that I might continue to teach. I needed to request the rest of the week off to be able to fill in for Mr. Jennings. Finally, before the conversation with my boss took place, I submitted to the Lord that His will ought to be done, that I was willing to obey my earthly master, and that I would not put up a defense or argue but rather trust that the Lord’s will would be done through my boss’s decision. After having become so willing to accept “defeat,” it came as somewhat of a surprise to me when my boss told me go ahead and teach for one week. Not only was I getting a chance to do what I love (minister and teach God’s Word), as well as practice to become a better teacher, I had the full confidence that the Spirit of God had ordained the whole deal and I was completely and utterly in His will.
Day 2: Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Well, any teacher knows that Day 2 actually begins on day one. I was talking to my wife, telling her that I had four more days with these kids! My excitement was only contained by my old age. My head was hurting, my body was tired. I had a honey-do list that wasn’t getting any smaller. I still had no idea what to teach them!
Now, several years ago, as I prayed for a wife, I prayed the Lord would provide me with a godly woman who loved Christ and obeyed scripture. I also prayed that she would be pretty. God was able to do exceedingly and abundantly more than I could ever have asked (Ephesians 3:20). My dear, sweet bride suggested that the best way to begin to earn the kids trust would be to open up to them and share my testimony of salvation. I had never thought of that, but I have heard that my testimony has an impact on folks, and they enjoy it. Little preparation was needed for this task, so I decided it made sense.
I read 1 Corinthians 13 to each class. I wanted them to understand that the purpose of my presence was out of a love for Christ and for them, and that I wanted them to see me as a real person, a sinner saved by a Big God, rather than just a substitute teacher doing his job. Without tooting my own horn, I wanted them to have an idea of the sacrifice it took for me to be there on the part of my family and my employer…that Christ may be magnified and exalted in their eyes (Psalm 34:3).
I shared my testimony with the seniors and juniors. For the seventh graders, I had to define some terminology for them, but they seemed attentive.
Somewhat unexpectedly, a 10th grader had taken something I had said the day before, and brought back a written response, using scripture. Sensing a potential ungodly debate, and not wanting to stray from our task at hand, I promised to read it and respond.
I cried the most in this class. The overwhelming love and kindness of my Savior toward me became more moving with each time I repeated my testimony, but by the time I told the last class, I was all cried out. I don’t know why, but I told the story with so much less emotion in this class.
By that afternoon, I was again exhausted. I drove to work and tried to work, wondering when I would have time to plan the next day’s lesson! At 2:15 I got an email from the principal. She let me know that I wouldn’t need to teach on Thursday because the students would have chapel 1st period…the remainder of the day would be study halls. I was devastated. I couldn’t imagine taking away their study halls. I decided to tell Mrs. Jones that I was not going to miss work to be a study hall monitor. Praise God who brought to mind the first email sent to me in which Mrs. Jones signed “Thank you for your servant’s heart.” How humbling, how convicting! I decided that I needed to submit to the will of my Father in Heaven, and to my principal. I had promised to sub for a man who desperately needed to take care of his family, so I decided I would do it to the best of my ability. I asked my wife to gather verses about having a good attitude and working heartily as if unto the Lord, for I needed them myself. And I thought the students would benefit from them as well.
Late that evening, I got a message from Mr. Jennings asking me if I would be the speaker at chapel on Thursday morning. I was overwhelmed with joy. Thank God because the self-loathing I felt because of my heart attitude earlier that day was great. Oh, the depth and riches of His love toward me! Even in the midst of my own pity party, He found it wise to grant me the grace to shut my mouth, and bring to me the very thing I wanted most, to preach to the students at chapel after worshiping together in song!
Unprepared to teach the next day, my wife suggested a Q&A session. Trusting that He has equipped me to know how to answer questions, and which questions to answer, I said yes. I saw it as sort of a training exercise; in case I ever engage in more formal public speaking, as well as an opportunity to truly open up the floor to the students, in order that I might speak to what is on their hearts and minds!
Day 3: Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Wednesday went well. I decided beforehand that I could no longer handle teaching and my other job, the same day. I did the question and answers session with the students, and I showed them the scriptures.
Prior to the seventh grade class starting, a student handed me a note. With fear and trembling I opened it and was surprised to see that she was encouraging me. She told me that she realized she needed to share the gospel with people she loved. Another girl told me I did a good job…this was encouraging..
The question and answer session for the tenth grade class went well as we discussed “who killed Christ.” The students were confused, taking some scriptural truths too far. I helped as much as I could. I got another note, this note denying the Trinity! I was overwhelmed with grief. I was praying daily for these kids and I want to see them saved, sanctified and growing in Christ. There were just so many of them and still so little time.
Day 4: Thursday, April 14, 2011
It was chapel day. The difference between teaching and preaching was faint and stark at once. The solemnity with which I prepared to worship and handle God’s Word in a chapel setting was real. I decided that I would try to be encouraging. I picked a topic that I thought would provide great comfort…assurance of salvation, or perseverance of the saints. I used John 10, John 1 and Romans 8:28-39 as my basic texts.
As we worshiped in song, I noticed that the words to the song we were singing tied in well with my sermon! I almost started crying as I thanked God for His providence to do what I couldn’t even ask. I preached. I referenced Matthew 7, the passage about how many will not enter the Kingdom, but I urged the truly born again believers in the room to continue to trust Christ alone as Savior and to be comforted that His grace is greater than all our sin. A couple people commented after and gave me kind words which encouraged me. God is too good to me.
To this point, these kids had heard the gospel 4 days in a row. We had studied the nuances of substitution and atonement, we had repeated the necessity of repentance and faith (and faith alone) as the condition for salvation and the importance of being born again. We’d discussed that the rebirth is a supernatural work that only God can perform.
I took the remainder of the day off work (my other job) and moved a refrigerator in my house. It took quite a toll on my body which isn’t getting younger. I couldn’t believe the week was almost over. I loved these kids. I really did. I asked God to make me love them and He provided. I do not wish to hide my love for them, nor am I embarrassed by it. I love them and I want them to be happy, resting in the only One who can provide for them truly. I want to see the believers among them emboldened to spread the gospel and defend what they believe biblically.
That afternoon a box arrived with LOTS AND LOTS of free tracts provided to me for the students on behalf of the Bezeugen tract club. All praise and honor and glory goes to Jesus Christ alone for this, as Bezeugen would agree, but God uses His people to do His Good will, and He took great pleasure to use my friends Carl and Mande Kalbfleisch to provide each student with a variety of great tracts.
Day 5: Friday, April 15, 2011
In the parking lot of the school, in my weakened state from the week…I lightly sprained my ankle. I was so hurt. My ankle was three times its normal size and I was about to teach…I thought, “walk it off, please.” I asked the Lord to give me the strength to survive the day. He did.
Last day. I had 40 more minutes per kid to make an impact. I taught about evangelism. I showed them a video of a wolf in sheep’s clothing getting people to repeat a sinner’s prayer, then declaring them heaven-bound. I asked the class what they thought. The seniors and juniors seemed to get it: no one is going to Heaven because they said a prayer. We discussed evangelism and the importance of personal holiness. What a great group of kids. It was gratifying for me to get to tell them that God had given each of them talents that they are to use for His glory, and maybe for reaching the lost, like fluency in another language.
My 7th graders arrived for second period. My favorites. They were such a fun group and I enjoyed them so. The teaching goes completely different from 1st period and that’s okay. I rolled with it. At the end, I brought a young man up for a one on one witnessing encounter. What a great opportunity. I was training a group of people, while evangelizing one person quite personally…but the whole class was hearing the gospel again as well!
After this, it got interesting. Third period. The ninth and tenth graders. We watched a few videos and began a good discussion, but it rolled around to this: “What about people in South Africa that have never heard of Jesus Christ, but they love God and worship God…do they go to Heaven or Hell?”*(see note at the end of the post*) The students were concerned when I said the Bible declares they will go to Hell. There wasn’t much time, but I tried to explain that since God is just, all people must inherit eternal damnation, and since there is no other name under Heaven by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12), no one apart from Christ will avoid God’s judgment.
Now the real shock that day came when we did the good person test and the person I witnessed to couldn’t communicate to me the true gospel…I thought the test would fail because she would know to say that it was Christ alone that saves…but she kept repeating that God would be impressed by her “good heart.”
The final discussion was about the perseverance of the saints. As I expected in a room with a few Catholics and Nazarenes, the idea of being sealed by the Holy Spirit (Jude 1:24, Romans 8:38-39) was just asinine.(**see note) Several students took umbrage with my teaching about assurance and perseverance. There were two main issues we discussed.
Issue one was that many students didn’t think it was right that you could be saved, then still commit a heinous sin and stay saved. This is called a religion of works and a salvation by works. People who believe they hold on to their own salvation aren’t really trusting Christ to have paid it all for their sins on the cross. They are still working to please God and are trusting in the flesh. This is not only unbiblical, but irrational if thought out. The idea that God doesn’t forgive EVERY sin when He saves you doesn’t make sense. In fact, why make a decision for Christ at all if you could later lose it? Why not just wait until later in life? I guess just in case you die unexpected, but really, the idea that when Jesus said “it is finished’ that he actually meant “it is begun, but I need sinful men to finish it” is blasphemy and ultimately demonic. I say this with all compassion and love for those who trust themselves for salvation, because I love the Truth and I love you, give it up, put your faith in Christ alone, He is Mighty to Save!
Issue two was that several people were not happy about the idea that they lacked the freedom of will to walk away from Christ at any time. If you are truly born again, you can’t unborn-again yourself any more than you can cause your rebirth. That’s the Truth, plain and simple.
Finally, I had a good last period with my 8th graders as we discussed several different questions. We even drew a Punnett square. My mathematical friends will understand what that is.
God visited us all week, and I trust He is with these kids now. He gave me the opportunity to go see them tonight and support them in their production of “Pride and Prejudice.” He gave me great pleasure by causing some of them to actually like me, or fake it really well. I trust that He will continue to provide abundantly, but I am ever encouraged to ask, as He knows so much better how to give good gifts to His children than men.
Dear Christian reader – be encouraged. God loves you. He actually does have a wonderful plan for your life. It is wonderful because is cannot fail to bring glory to His name. May your willingness to submit to this increase your faithfulness and your love toward Him and your brethren and nonbelievers alike.
*A note for those of you who are very concerned for “remote tribal people who never hear of Christ:” First and foremost, the judge of the earth will do right (Gen 18:25), and all men are condemned already (John 3:18-19), and without Christ there is no hope (1 John 5:12). But more importantly, if you are really so concerned with remote tribal villagers perishing, PUT AWAY YOUR VIDEO GAMES, CANCEL YOUR FACEBOOK ACCOUNT, SELL ALL YOUR BELONGINGS, LEARN THEIR LANGUAGE, GO TO THEM AND TELL THEM ABOUT CHRIST. Stop using these people as an arguing tool for you to cast doubt in the minds of people concerning the God of the Bible’s integrity and Goodness, and start doing something that shows you actually care for their well-being. The problem isn’t with God or His messenger; the likely issue is that you hate the message. You hate the God that would punish a “good atheist” or a “god-loving” man who never hears of Christ. Become a missionary and give up your life for these people.
**I mentioned specific religious groups for the purpose of helping people that are enslaved to these groups and hurting. If you love your religion, this blog is probably not for you. I am sorry if I am offensive, but not sorry to offend. It takes only an elementary look at the basic doctrine of these different religious bodies to see that we do not agree on the gospel, and thus, one or the other of us is condemned.