Christianity 201

February 15, 2016

The Purpose of Blessing

 

Today another new author: Robin Patchen lives in Edmond, Oklahoma and is the author of three books and blogs at Quid Pro Quills. Following today’s post is a link to a second part. Or you can click the link below to read this at source, and then come back here to find the link to part two.

Why God Wants to Bless You

I was in church a few weeks ago when the Lord whispered to my soul words I never thought I’d hear from God. “I don’t want to bless you.”

I immediately tuned out the pastor. “What was that, Lord?” Surely I’d heard him wrong.

Another minute or two passed while I waited. Finally, probably when God had my full attention, he continued: “I don’t want to bless you . . . for your sake alone.”

Oh. Phew.

Wait, what?

Then he brought to my mind a passage of scripture I’d memorized many years before. Psalm 1:1-3:

Olive TreeBlessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.

I’d first memorized those words when I was a young Christian. One of the reasons I loved it was that last line—“In all that he does, he prospers.” I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I thought of that in financial terms. Oh, I knew the verse didn’t necessarily promise me riches, but I figured my chances were much better to get rich if I followed God, and with all our financial woes at the time, prosperity sounded pretty good.

Through the years, I came to understand that the tree flourished because of its deep roots—a strong connection to God. It flourished because the river flowed near it—like the living waters of Christ that fill us and bless us. So the prosperity spoken of in verse 3 has everything to do with the blessings of being connected to Christ.

That Sunday in church, the Lord spoke again to my heart. “What does the tree do?” he asked.

I closed my eyes and imagined a tree like the Psalmist might’ve been looking at, one standing in the arid Israeli soil, maybe even a tree in an oasis in the desert. I had to dig pretty deep to some old science lessons, but I came up with a list.

A tree:

*Provides shade
*Acts as a wind barrier
*Provides shelter in a storm
*Absorbs rain that would otherwise runoff or evaporate
*Converts carbon dioxide to oxygen
*Becomes a home for birds, animals, and insects
*Provides fruit, which becomes food, then seeds to reproduce itself

There was more, though. Picture that tree in the midst of a desert, standing high above the sand. It shows people where the water is. A tree would be a welcome sight to a weary, thirsty traveler.

So if I live my life the way I should (see verse 1) and delight myself in God’s word (verse 2) he will make me like this tree. And what does this flourishing tree do?

*It provides shade from the world—protection from penetrating rays of judgment.
*It acts as a barrier as the enemy hurls his accusations like a strong wind.
*It provides shelter from the many storms of life.
*It absorbs nourishment, so others can grow nearby.
*It illustrates how God can convert the ugly output of our lives into blessing.
*It offers a shelter to anyone who seeks it.
*It feeds the hungry and, through its work, reproduces itself.
*It acts as a beacon, drawing weary travelers to the life-giving water of Jesus Christ.

And think about this: which of those blessings benefit the tree? None of them. God makes that tree flourish to provide his living creatures with what they need. In the same way, God blesses us so that we can love the souls he puts in our lives. He makes us to stand tall, so more of his weary children will find their way home.

God doesn’t want to bless you for your sake alone. He wants to bless the world through you. Soak in God’s truth, my friends. There are travelers seeking the living water, and you may be the only tree in their desert.


continue reading the follow-up article A Planting of the Lord

February 23, 2015

Understanding Spiritual Gifts

On the weekend, I discovered the blog Parking Space 23. They have multiple authors and go deep on many subjects.  In looking for something we could borrow here, I was impressed by this piece on spiritual gifts.  To read this at source, click the title below. When you’re done, click to the home page and look around at other topics they cover.

Two Misconceptions about Spiritual Gifts

gifts and gifts and giftsby Matt Tarr

We hear a lot about “serving” our church. But what does that actually mean? When I say “serve your church,” my intention is not to tell you about all the programs and ministries our church offers, and where there might be an opening for you to get plugged in. You may very well be the most “active” person in the church, performing the greatest number of tasks than any other person, while using your spiritual gift the least. And as such, you are not serving your church well.

The hypothetical is unlikely, but certainly a possibility. We would therefore do well to ask ourselves, “Is this ministry distracting me from using my spiritual gift, or is it providing me with an opportunity to use it?” Only when all the members understand the nature of their gifts and how they fit in to the corporate body will we truly see how the Lord can bless our church. That to say, this is an important issue for the health of our church – or any church. Of course, if you want to know how to serve our church by using your spiritual gifts, you’ll need to know what those gifts are – that’s the nature of this post. It answers the question, “what are spiritual gifts,” so you can ask the question, “what is my spiritual gift,” so you can ask the question, “How can I utilize my spiritual gifts at my church?”

Now, we need to recognize that there has been a lot of confusion about the nature of spiritual gifts. A LOT of confusion, so let me clear a few of them up.

  1. Spiritual gifts are not for your benefit.
    It may seem obvious, maybe even redundant for me to point out, but spiritual gifts aren’t for your benefit. Every believer has them, but the intention is that these gifts serve the body of Christ. In other words, they are for the body of Christ (the church) – to build it up. They are not for your personal edification, but for the edification of the church. That is not to say you won’t benefit from using them. You certainly will, but your benefit is not the objective – and if it’s become your objective, then my guess is that you’re not serving the body, but your body. It comes with thoughts like, “What am I gonna get out of this?” or, “How will this take away from what I want to do?” For others, this attitude might be better reflected by the way you answer this question, “Why am I doing this?” If it’s because it makes you feel good, or because it makes you feel important, then I’d say it sounds like you’re using your spiritual gift to serve your body. Again, this isn’t to say there won’t be personal benefit. There will be. Not only do you store up for yourselves treasures in heaven as you use your spiritual gifts, but you also nurture a deeper love for the church, resulting in greater joy as you serve. Not only that, but you’ll also increase in spiritual maturity as you use your gifts. Case in point – my primary spiritual gift is that of preaching and teaching. Do I gain a personal benefit from using my spiritual gift? Certainly! I count myself doubly blessed! There is great joy in studying God’s Word and I am regularly refreshed by it as I prepare for each Sunday’s message. But that’s not why I study. I study for the benefit of the flock. Any gift used for your personal benefit rather than the benefit of the body prostitutes and perverts that gift. We are given gifts to serve others.

    As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving on another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God (1 Pet. 4:10).

  2. Spiritual gifts are not talents.
    This may be one of the more misunderstood elements regarding spiritual gifts, if not the most misunderstood. We hear it often. “I have the gift of music.” “I have the gift of singing.” “I have the gift of media,” and the list goes on but you get the idea. A spiritual gift is something that’s supernatural – you wouldn’t otherwise have it except that it was given to you by the Holy Spirit – hence why we call them “spiritual” gifts. They are also imparted solely by God’s grace – hence why we call them “gifts.” These two statements are further strengthened by the two words used in the New Testament for spiritual gifts. First, there’s pneumatikos which means “spiritual,” and has its root meaning from the word pneuma meaning “spirit.” This is how Paul uses the word in 1 Corinthians 12, “Now concerning spiritual (pneumatikos) gifts.” He then goes on to say, “Now there are a variety of gifts, but the same Spirit (pneuma),” and “the same Spirit (pneuma) works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills” (vs. 4, 11). Secondly, there’s charisma. This isn’t talking about that certain je ne sais quoi that certain people carry themselves with. It means “gift,” coming from the root charis, meaning “grace.” That being said, we should understand spiritual gifts as just that – spiritually bestowed gifts of grace for the specific purpose of serving the body of Christ. Where a talent is something you’ve been born with, a spiritual gift is something you were supernaturally given by the Holy Spirit upon your conversion. There might be overlap in their use, but they are distinct nevertheless. That means while you might be using a talent in your church, that does not necessarily mean you are using your spiritual gift(s) in your church. In fact, your talent might even be distracting you from appropriately using your spiritual gift.

    Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly (Rom. 12:6a).

So, each believer has been given spiritual gifts, and if we aren’t using them, it’s to the detriment of the body. All the members are important, because each has a gift to serve the church.

For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing  e? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body ,just as He desired… Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it (1 Cor. 12:14-18, 27).

Now, there are two categories of spiritual gifts in that exist in the church today – gifts related to teaching, and gifts related to serving. 1 Peter 4:11 says, “Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”

Of course, the question at hand is obvious. Are you serving the body of Christ, utilizing the gifts you have been given by the grace of God to serve your church?

 

September 28, 2014

Apostle Peter Was One-of-a-Kind

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But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.'”
 ~Mark 16:7

Tell the disciples and Peter? Why is Peter given separate treatment? Isn’t he a disciple? Did his denial make him an un-disciple?

…In a way, Peter always has special treatment in scripture. Even among The Twelve, he is unique…

…California pastor Greg Laurie contributes regularly to the WND (World Net Daily) website’s Faith section. Click the title below to read this at source, and find links to other columns and Greg’s books. (Yes, that’s the original title!)

How you’re like a Fender Stratocaster

Awhile ago I read about a Fender Stratocaster guitar that sold for nearly $1 million at a New York City auction. I don’t know how much this type of guitar would cost if you were to buy it at a guitar store, but I guarantee that you wouldn’t pay almost seven figures for it. The reason this particular guitar sold for nearly $1 million was because Bob Dylan played it at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival in Rhode Island.

You Are UniqueAt the time, the folk music movement was all about acoustic guitar, and originally Dylan had started out playing an acoustic guitar. But at that festival he pulled out an electric Stratocaster and started playing, which was perceived by some as an act of treachery. Dylan’s guitar sold for such a high price because of its historical value.

Then I read another article about someone who paid $380,000 at a London auction for another Fender Stratocaster, but this one had been burned. Why would anyone pay $380,000 for a burned-out guitar? Because Jimi Hendrix had reportedly played it at the Monterey International Pop Festival and set fire to it during his performance.

You see, the value of a guitar depends on who plays it. If I played a Fender Stratocaster guitar, it would go down in value. But if Bob Dylan were to play one song on the same guitar, someone would pay a lot for the privilege of hanging it on his or her wall.

The same is true when God gets hold of a human life. When God works through a life, something wonderful happens. There probably was never a person with less potential to do anything for God than me. At the age of 17, I came to him with very little. Anything good that has come from my life has been something God has given and something God has done through me. It has been his blessing on my life.

Think about how different Jesus’ 12 disciples were from each other. There was Simon, a former zealot, who was dedicated to the violent overthrow of Rome. Then there was Matthew the tax collector, who was a Jew that worked for the Roman government and was perceived by his fellow Jews as a traitor. So Simon the zealot wanted to destroy Rome, and Matthew the tax collector was perceived as one who caved in to the power of Rome. They could not have been more opposite ideologically, philosophically and politically.

Then there was Simon Peter. Apart from Jesus himself, no name is mentioned more in the New Testament than Simon Peter. He was a central figure in Jesus’ three years of ministry and in the first three years of the early church. Jesus spent more time with Simon Peter than with anyone else. No other person speaks as often or is spoken to as often as Simon Peter, and no other disciple was as reproved and corrected as often as Simon Peter.

The thing with Simon Peter was that he said what he thought. You probably know people like that. They don’t know the difference between inside thoughts and outside thoughts. They verbalize everything. That was Simon Peter. If he was thinking it, it only would be a few moments until he was saying it. Of course, this got him into trouble on more than one occasion. For instance, when he was concerned about the reward he and his fellow disciples would get because they left all and followed Jesus, he did not hesitate to ask about it. We read of him saying to Christ, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?” (Matthew 19:27 NIV) That is a bold thing to say to Jesus: “We’ve given up everything. What’s in it for us?”

Then there was that famous occasion when Jesus was on the Mount of Transfiguration. Peter, James and John were there, and they all fell asleep. When they woke up, there was Jesus, shining like the sun. Two of the greatest prophets of the Bible stood on each side of him. Talk about a holy moment. But Peter decided it would be a good time to say a few words, so he actually spoke up and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters – one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah” (Mark 9:5). There was Peter, speaking his mind. And I love how Mark’s Gospel adds this little commentary: “He said this because he didn’t really know what else to say” (verse 6 NLT).

We can laugh at what Peter did and be critical of what Peter said, but no other apostle tried to walk on water. He was a commendable man. He was a courageous man. And church tradition tells us that when it was all said and done, he died a cruel death. Before he was crucified, he is said to have been forced to watch the crucifixion of his wife. Peter stood at the foot of her cross and repeated the words, “Remember the Lord.” After she died, he pleaded to be crucified upside down because he felt that he was unworthy to die in the same way his Lord did. This was a hero of the faith.

And although his given name was Simon, Jesus gave him a new name: Cephas, or Peter, which means “rock.” I wonder if the other disciples chuckled a little at that. A rock speaks of stability and dependability, but Peter was a little on the impulsive side. Yet Jesus gave him a new name because he knew what Peter would become.

When God looks at you, he doesn’t see you for what you are; he sees you for what you will be. You might see a blank canvas, but God sees a finished painting. He sees what you can be.

We all have different personalities, but God can use each of us. He can change each of us and make us into the people he wants us to be. And God can do a lot with a little.

December 7, 2013

The Person God Elevates

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Ps. 75:6 No one from the east or the west
    or from the desert can exalt themselves.
It is God who judges:
    He brings one down, he exalts another.

Every day here I always encourage you to read the various devotionals we find at their source blog. Today that is a necessity, because the original is very long, but very good (and it’s almost entirely scripture). It’s about the culture of celebrity pastors which now, dare I say, plagues us in North America.  The two excerpts below do not comprise the entire article, which also ends with a prayer. So here is the link to: Celebrity Pastors and the Glory of God from the blog Feeding on Christ by Joseph Randall.

…The Biblical and historical fact of the matter on celebrity pastors is this:  The LORD sovereignly chooses to make people great in the eyes of the world for the purpose of making His own name great and to be a blessing to the world through the Gospel.

He did so with Abraham:  “Now the LORD said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.  And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.’” (Genesis 12:1-2)

He did so with Joseph:  “The LORD was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master.  His master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD caused all that he did to succeed in his hands . . . But the LORD was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison . . . The keeper of the prison paid no attention to anything that was in Joseph’s charge, because the LORD was with him. And whatever he did, the LORD made it succeed.” (Genesis 39:2-3, 21, 23)

He did so with Moses:  “And the LORD said to Moses, ‘See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh . . . .’” (Exodus 7:1)

He did so with Joshua:  “The LORD said to Joshua, ‘Today I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with you.’” (Joshua 3:7)

He did so with David:  “Now, therefore, thus you shall say to my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel.  And I have been with you wherever you went and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth.’” (2 Samuel 7:8-9)

He did so with His own beloved Son:  “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:5-11)

He’s done it with Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Edwards, Spurgeon, Lloyd-Jones, and many other faithful preachers and theologians in our own day.

And He does so now with whomever He pleases:  “The LORD kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up.  The LORD makes poor and makes rich; he brings low and he exalts.  He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor.  For the pillars of the earth are the LORD’s, and on them he has set the world.” (1 Samuel 2:6-8) …

 

The article continues:

1.  Let us remember that the LORD doesn’t need us:

“Whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.” (Psalm 135:6)

“Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear.” (Isaiah 59:1)

“The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.” (Acts 17:24-25)

“God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.” (Matthew 3:9)

2.  Let us remember that the LORD grants all mercies, ministries, and positions in His Church as He sees fit:

“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” (Romans 9:15)

“For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” (1 Corinthians 4:7)

“For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” (Romans 12:3)

 “Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart.” (2 Corinthians 4:1)

“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ . . . But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose . . . But God has so composed the body . . . And God has appointed in the church . . . .” (1 Corinthians 12:12, 18, 24, 28)

3.  Let us remember that the LORD delights in and lifts up the humble:

“The LORD lifts up the humble; he casts the wicked to the ground.” (Psalm 147:6)

“For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.’” (Isaiah 57:15)

“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5)

“The greatest among you shall be your servant.  Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:11-12)

“If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” (Mark 9:35)

4.  Let us consider all other preachers (and people!) better than ourselves:

“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3)

5.  Let us seek the LORD to build our ministry or all is vanity:

“Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.  Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.” (Psalm 127:1)

6.  Let us forget about ourselves and exult in the glory, beauty, and satisfaction of Jesus Christ alone – Who is the greatest and most famous One, but was made nothing on that cross so that we might have all in all in Him!

“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.  Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith – that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:7-11)

August 16, 2011

Concurrent Events

I know I repost from DailyEncouragement.Net frequently, but I really enjoy their writing.  This one was rather short and on the surface really simple, but I kept being drawn back to it; as it really got me thinking about how God both orchestrates events and uses events in our lives.  I had to steal borrow a picture from this one for it to make sense, so I hope that in exchange, you’ll consider linking directly to their site to read this, where it appeared Friday under the title, Wrong-Way Concurrence.

Last week I shared a photo of an interstate directional sign I took along our journey and inquired as to what “spiritual” lesson there might be in the photo. It happens to be an example of what is known as a “wrong way concurrence”.

Now in highway verbiage a concurrence occurs when two numbered routes use the same section of road. For instance in our area US Routes 11 and 15 run together through central Pennsylvania so that for awhile you are on both 11 North and 15 North at the same time.

A wrong way concurrence occurs when two routes run together but in apparently opposite directions. In the case of the photo there is a section where you are on I-81 north and I-77 south at the same time near Wytheville Virginia. The routes run concurrently seemingly in opposite directions based on the signage! (See below for a Google map)  

In his book, “The Invisible Hand”, theologian R.C. Sproul points out that “the doctrine of concurrence refers to historical events in which the work of Providence has been acted out through human agencies. This means at the same time human agents are acting, God is acting in and through them.”

Today’s story is found in John 6:1-13 and recounts an occasion when a great crowd had followed Jesus to the east side of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus then instructed His disciples to provide a meal for the thousands who had gathered rather than sending them home to eat. Trouble is, He gave no instructions on how they were to successfully carry out this impossible feat. Philip, who apparently had some accounting background quickly calculated, “Eight months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” (Rather impressive math, since this was before they had “smart” phones.)

Another disciple, Andrew, brought a boy to Jesus who had “five small barley loaves and two small fish”. Now I find the preciseness in the description interesting, especially the designation “small” in both cases.  I suppose the boy’s mother had packed him a lunch adequate for his needs. Perhaps he, in his simple logic, approached Andrew with the offering of his lunch. Andrew probably felt a bit foolish suggesting this meager offering to Jesus so he followed it up with this sensible question,  “but how far will they go among so many?”

Jesus didn’t answer him or try to reason with him. He had the people sit down and performed a mighty miracle of multiplication.

Today we need to understand that God is active even in the most mundane parts of our lives in ways that may seem senseless, such as the boy’s tiny contribution. This little boy had no idea when he took his lunch that day that he would be memorialized in Scripture, but the Lord used his tiny portion to feed a vast crowd of 5,000, with leftovers to boot!

God is still working in the “mundane” today.  And he’s still working in ways that may be similar to a wrongway concurrence. This little boy should give us incentive to heed the words of Paul: “Be very careful, then, how you live–not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15,16).

Small, seemingly insignificant, acts of faith and obedience have a major part in the mosaic of God’s master plan for our lives.  We may desire to do something great for God, but often His plan is the simple day by day acts of obedience to Him in following His leadings, both large and small.  We’ll just have to wait and see how it all fits together.  May the Lord help us, like the young boy and Andrew, to do what is within our power and trust God for the results!

Be encouraged today,
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

February 19, 2011

Sometimes When Giving, We Receive Even More

This week we’re catching up with some devotional bloggers we met up with this past summer.  Jennifer Slattery shares a personal story with a narrative that many readers here have experienced in similar but different ways.  This appeared on her blog under the title, The Beauty of the Broken.

I was eight, maybe nine, and on my way to school when I noticed a woman taking her trash to the curb. She held the black bag in one hand and a walking stick in the other, scanning the ground with her “eyes” as she went. I ran to her side, ready to rescue this blind lady, little did I know that God had sent her that day to help me.

She smiled at me and nodded, then humbly allowed me to carry her trash to the curb. It wasn’t until a few days later when I was sitting at the breakfast bar in her kitchen that I realized the humbled love she showed to me that morning. As I watched her answer her phone, make popcorn in the micro (for me) and flitter around her kitchen with more ease than a sighted woman, I was slightly embarrassed by my offer to “help” her only days before. She let me help her not because she needed it, but because doing so would form a connection–a point of contact.

Before long, I was at her house nearly every day. I don’t remember exactly what we talked about. I do remember the popcorn, and the tremendous joy that filled her home. I remember watching her husband and son very closely, curious by their rather silly antics and the ease with which they interacted. But what I remember most was the overwhelming sense of being loved and accepted as day after day Mr. and Mrs. Neighborhood (my name for her and her husband) showed me love.

She died a few years later, not knowing how the story would end–not knowing the chain of events her allowing me to carry her garbage started, not knowing the impact those afternoons had on me. She didn’t understand fully until she got to heaven, and although I don’t believe God caused her blindness, (it was the result of a stroke), I know He used  it to bring her and I together. And through her, I got a taste of the love of Christ.

I wonder if she were standing on the edge of eternity, able to see into the abyss, and asked to choose between her sight or my salvation, I wonder what she would have chosen. Actually, I know what she would have chosen. She showed me daily.

But even now, Mrs. Neighborhood’s story doesn’t end. Every time I write, every time I pray, every time I cuddle up with my daughter, a Bible spread between us, we are seeing the fruits of her service (and other amazing women God placed in my path as I was growing up.)

And it all started because she let a little girl help her.

I thought of her this morning during church as I read 1 Thessalonians 2:1-7

1 You know, brothers and sisters, that our visit to you was not without results. 2 We had previously suffered and been treated outrageously in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in the face of strong opposition. 3 For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. 4 On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts. 5 You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed—God is our witness. 6 We were not looking for praise from people, not from you or anyone else, even though as apostles of Christ we could have asserted our authority. 7 Instead, we were like young children among you.

Her visits with me were not without results. The results just wouldn’t be seen until many years later, long after she’d passed. And she wasn’t concerned with the praise of men. To the contrary, she humbled herself and allowed a young child to help her.

Her life was the very first domino in a beautifully intertwined display, except the story really began long before then, with another domino set in motion in her life, and the domino set in motion in the life that loved on her. Each life, each domino, was but a tiny, yet powerful, part of a glorious, life-saving story that will one-day unfold before us. When we stand in God’s presence, surrounded by an innumerable family of believers, each one but another domino that set into motion another chain, everything will all make sense and all we’ll be able to say is, “Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!” (Revelations 7:12 NIV)

~Jennifer Slattery