the weblog of Alan Knox

stories

He said, “Pray that I understand the word of God better.”

Posted by on Feb 18, 2011 in church life, missional, scripture, service, stories | 1 comment

He said, “Pray that I understand the word of God better.”

I usually struggle with what to write about the time that I spend at the food pantry every other Thursday evening. First, I talk to so many people that it’s always difficult to choose which conversation(s) to write about.

Also, I’m not always the only person talking to these people. When we first started serving people who came to the food pantry, I was the only one who roamed through the big room where they were waiting, talking with them, listening to them, and praying for them. But, lately, several of my friends have been joining in the service. Last night, for instance, at one point there were five of us. (Of course, we still didn’t talk to all of the 300+ families who came to the food pantry.)

But, there is one conversation from last night that stood out. I was talking with two older ladies and a man who was about my age. While talking to them, I learned that they lived in a small town about 15-20 miles north of us. When I asked how I could pray for them, the ladies said things that I usually hear: health, family, or employment.

But, the man looked at me and asked, “Pray that I understand the word of God better.”

I prayed for them all, then I sat beside the man and talked to him further. He said that he was interested in getting together to read and study Scripture together. He told me that his father sometimes helps him understand Scripture, but he still struggles with it.

I asked him what version he reads. He told me. I’m not going to mention it here, because I don’t want to get inundated with search hits from well-meaning brothers and sisters telling me that that particular English translation is the only one we should be using. Suffice it to say that this version was translated into English 400 years ago (this year).

I suggested a couple of English translations that are more recent, and more easily understood. We really had a great conversation, and he even gave me his telephone number – which is rare. I often give people my number, but they don’t usually give me their number. (I’m sure there is still an issue of trust there.)

I’m looking forward to talking with this man again soon. I’m praying about how to approach this. I know that he does not gather with a group of believers regularly. I will probably ask one or two other mature brothers and one or two other new brothers to begin meeting with us to study Scripture and encourage one another. There are a couple of fast food restaurants situated in the middle of all of us that might make a good meeting place – at least at the beginning.

So, last night was a really good night. And, the conversation above is just the tip of the iceberg.

He really “got it”

Posted by on Nov 29, 2010 in discipleship, missional, stories | Comments Off

He really “got it”

A friend of ours has lived in Europe for the last two years. She will often send us email updates and prayer requests. Often, these emails tell us about the people that God has brought into her life.

Recently, I received an email from our friend with some wonderful news! One of her European friends had recently confessed Jesus Christ as Lord, and she wanted to share the news with us.

I asked her if I could share this story on my blog, and she consented. Here is part of the story:

S. was one through whom we were allowed to reap the harvest. He had been searching for a while and personally has a lot of interest in ideas, reading “literature” (such as the bible) and talking about spiritual things. He had always been very critical of what he grew up seeing in the Catholic Church and knew that what they present could not be the full truth. In the last year, God has brought several believers in his life through work and various other venues. He got to know a couple, G. and E., who are evangelical believers. E. is a professional cyclist and is also a member of our Christian athletes group. S., being a 26 year old sports journalist, met E. through work and recently wrote a book on his biography as an athlete.

I met S. one weekend in August at G. and E.’s house outside of our city. That weekend we were able to have several spiritual conversations and S. asked many questions, proving to have a soft heart desiring to understand the truth. We found out we lived only a couple stops away from each other on the metro and decided to hang out more. He joined the next “dinner group” we did at J.’s house with 4 of my other friends and absolutely loved the study. He began pouring through the Bible and would often call me and share with me what he read and how it impacted him. We spent a lot of time together and he very much became part of our “group.”

S. and another friend of mine who also participated in the “dinner group”, C., came over for dinner Saturday night. We had an excellent conversation covering all sorts of spiritual topics. I noticed S. actually answering many of C.’s questions. I could tell he was super close and it was just a matter of that final “click.” The next day, I read a message he sent saying he had asked the Lord to enter into his life, declaring that he believes, needs, and thanks him for everything he did for him on the cross. The message was beautiful and showed that he really “got it” all the way down to his heart. We talked today and he is as giddy as ever and had a joyful laugh throughout our conversation.

I love the way our friend combines relationship, intentionality, and patience. She actively pursues relationships with those that God brings into her life. Then she seeks opportunities to express the love of God through Jesus Christ. Finally, she waits for God to bring them to repentance.

This looks like a great “model” to me.

stories: Some things are more important than your plans

Posted by on Aug 26, 2009 in love, service, stories | 2 comments

This post is part of my “stories” series. In this series, I share stories of how people live their lives in response to the gospel and as a demonstration of God’s love in order to teach us and to provide an example to provoke us to love and good works. (See “stories: A New Series” for more information about this series.)

My blogging friend Joe (JR) from “More than Cake” gave me permission to publish his blog post “Some things are more important than your plans” as part of this series. Here is Joe’s post:

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Ready to give my final sales pitch of the day, I walked up to the long driveway hoping I could pull the day out of the dumpster and set one good lead. The door was open, so I knocked on the old brown screen door.

An older man come to the door asking, “who are you?”

“My name is Joe, how are you today sir?”

“Not so good.” he said with a surprising honesty. “My wife of 70 years just died on August 8th. We celebrated our 70th anniversary on July 8th.”

The man suddenly seemed older and more tired then when he first appeared at the door.

“I am sorry to hear of your loss.” I said.

The man asked, “What are you selling?”

I had a sudden and keen awareness that what I was selling had no meaning compared to the loss and grief this man was experiencing. “Nothing of importance, sir.” I paused for a moment and added, “May I pray for you instead?”

“Yes, please come in.”

The old man seemed glad for the company and walked with a bit more energy as he led me into his living room. We sat and talked for quite some time as my partner waited outside wondering where I had gone.

Gene was a kindly gentleman. He talked about his wife, his kids and how his life had changed since the death of his beloved wife. More than once, Gene’s eyes filled with tears as he looked off into the distance at nothing and contemplated moving on without Helen.

“I need to go, but can I pray with you now?” I asked.

Gene gladly accepted. I walked to his chair and took his cold hand in mine. I uttered what few words would come to mind… words of healing… words of hope… words of Jesus’ love for Gene and his departed wife Helen.

My conversation with Gene reminded me that there are many things more important than setting one more lead and earning a few more dollars.

What are the most valuable things in your life?

Do your daily choices reflect your values?

stories: Helping someone turn himself in to jail

Posted by on Aug 19, 2009 in service, stories | Comments Off

This post is part of my “stories” series. In this series, I share stories of how people live their lives in response to the gospel and as a demonstration of God’s love in order to teach us and to provide an example to provoke us to love and good works. (See “stories: A New Series” for more information about this series.)

A reader named John sent me this story:

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I intern at a church here in Oregon and was recently sitting inside the church when a young man came up to the door. He asked if we had a phone he could use and I pointed him towards it. The young man proceeded to make several calls to different people, telling them how he would not be seeing them for awhile, and asking them if they would take care of his things while he was gone, and if he could stay with them after awhile. Overhearing all of this I began to realize what the young man was going through. He had recently been kicked out of his house arrest from his mother’s house, and was on his way to turn himself at the county jail for a warrant he knew he had on him. He

I texted one of the pastors of the church who lived near by, and asked them to come over. I figured if this guy was going to turn himself in we might as well drive him over together, and truthfully I did not want to do this by myself. The pastor came to the church quickly and we talked to the young man. He was apprehensive about going to the jail because it was the weekend, which meant he would probably end up in the drunk-tank (a large collection room for people arrested over the weekend and waiting for the court to open on Monday). He talked to us about his situation, how he had been kicked out of his house arrest at home for getting drunk, had been living on the streets for several days at this point, and wanted to just get to the jail and relieve the stress he was in. We told him the smart thing to do was just get it over with before he is caught out on the street or gets into worse trouble. He was still apprehensive though, if he went in tonight he wouldn’t eat till the morning, and wouldn’t sleep at all.

Realizing he was hungry we offered to stop by any fast-food place of his choice on the way. This was the ticket. We all piled in my pastor friend’s car and were off for burgers, some sweet tea, and then the jail. The young man was less anxious as he ate, and was intaked finally at the jail for a warrant he had as a juvenile. The pastor friend and I have vowed to get reconnected with him, take a book or two to him (he learned to lvoe reading the last time he was in jail), and just try and be there for him as he gets out.

If you could ask your readers to be praying for the young man that would be great. His name is Josh and after he is released he will hopefully be going to live with his father in a different and better environment.

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If you would like for me to include your story in this series, please send me an email at aknox [at] sebts [dot] edu.

stories: Getting to See Community Transformation

Posted by on Aug 12, 2009 in community, service, stories | Comments Off

This post is part of my “stories” series. In this series, I share stories of how people live their lives in response to the gospel and as a demonstration of God’s love in order to teach us and to provide an example to provoke us to love and good works. (See “stories: A New Series” for more information about this series.)

Alan Cross (from “DownshoreDrift“) gave me permission to publish his post “Getting to See Community Transformation” as part of my stories series. This is his story:

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I got a call last night from the president of the Brighton Homeowner’s Association, the neighborhood of over 800 homes right behind our church. She asked me to come speak at their night out against crime event tonight. She told me that since we got involved in their neighborhood last year, crime has gone down and the neighbors are very happy. She said that she was speaking with a young man who was considering joining a gang last year. He said that after he started coming to the church and playing basketball and being around positive people, he didn’t want to do that anymore. He wanted to join the military now and make something out of his life. I don’t even know who the boy is. We might never know. He might just be one of the guys that comes and plays and prays with us when we get a chance. We have no idea what God is doing in answer to prayer and with just a little sacrifice on our part.

Several guys have gotten saved and others are growing in the Lord. I talked with one on Sunday who had been away for a few weeks. He said he had to get back to church and that he missed me. He said he missed all of us. I told him that I missed him too. Last week, two guys that we have been ministering to and that have come to Christ were leaving town for a couple of months. I didn’t realize that they were going to be gone that long. We had been playing basketball and there were a lot of people around, but I told them that I was going to miss them. They said that they were going to miss us too. I then told them that we loved them and that if they needed anything while they were gone to let us know. They said that they loved us too. We then prayed with one another before they left.

Each Monday and Thursday night, about 60-70 guys show up to play basketball. These are mostly all black teenagers. Many of them come from difficult backgrounds. Last week, when we went to pray before the games, there was a real since of sincerity about it. They keep coming back again and again. Something is changing.

I got a call a few weeks ago from a guy who needed help. We helped him. We are still helping him and I have been bringing him to church each week. God is working in his life little by little.

This afternoon, I got a call from a lady who was passing through town. The brakes went out on their car and they need brake pads. It costs $15. I’m leaving the church to bring her the brake pads that I’m about to go buy from Carquest. She called some other churches, even one who had a community ministry center, and they said they couldn’t help her. How do you tell someone who needs $15 brake pads to get home that you can’t help them?

I am not trying to say, “Look at what we are doing.” Not at all. I am just trying to say that seeing people’s lives change and ministering to people is no great mystery. You just do it. The hard part is in the deciding that you aren’t going to go do something else instead of help someone. That’s where surrender comes in and where we have to lay down our lives. That is where we believe Christ.

It seems that God presents us with a lot of opportunities to trust Him and serve others. We are often too busy or distracted to notice, however. Maybe that is why we aren’t impacting our communities.

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If you would like for me to include your story in this series, please send me an email at aknox [at] sebts [dot] edu.

stories: Helping others serve

Posted by on Jul 29, 2009 in community, fellowship, love, missional, service, stories | Comments Off

This post is part of my “stories” series. In this series, I share stories of how people live their lives in response to the gospel and as a demonstration of God’s love in order to teach us and to provide an example to provoke us to love and good works. (See “stories: A New Series” for more information about this series.)

As most of my regular readers know, my family spends time with some people in “The Neighborhood” – a government assisted housing project. Not only has this given us the opportunity to get to know and to serve some wonderful people, it has also given us the opportunity to help others serve.

For example, on most Saturdays when we go to the Neighborhood, one or two people go with us. Sometimes, these friends will end up spending alot of time in the Neighborhood. Sometimes, they’ll only go with us once or twice. Either way, we are able to help them learn to serve others and to help them learn how God wants them to serve.

Also, recently, several families that we know have started giving us vegetables to take to our friends in the Neighborhood. When we started going last Summer, we would buy fresh produce from a roadside produce stand. We divided the produce into small bags and gave a bag to each family that we talk to in the Neighborhood.

Starting last month, three different families have started giving us produce from their own gardens to take to our friends on Saturday. They’ve given us cucumbers, zucchini, squash, tomatoes, and peppers. Plus another family has offered to give us more vegetables, but our schedules haven’t worked out yet.

We’re grateful not only for the free vegetables to give to our friends, but we’re grateful that others are learning to think about how to serve others. Giving away part of the blessings that God has given to us is a great way to serve!

Finally, we have been completely surprised the last couple of weeks. When we went to our local produce stand, the lady that runs the stand offered us some baskets to deliver our produce in! This was great! The baskets are much better than the plastic grocery bags we’ve been using. Plus, she gave us some banana peppers to give away.

The next week, once again, she gave us some baskets, plus several cantaloupes and watermelons. In fact, we think she gave us more produce than we bought last Saturday.

We do not know the people who run the produce stand very well – not yet anyway – but we’re excited that they are also serving others through us. Plus, our friends in the Neighborhood have been very excited about the baskets. We also have the joy of telling them that our friends and the people who run the produce stand helped provide the fruit and vegetables.

So, when you are serving others, think about ways that you can include friends in your service. Allow your service to be a time for discipleship as well as service.

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If you would like for me to include your story in this series, please send me an email at aknox [at] sebts [dot] edu.

stories: Loving those who are hard to love

Posted by on Jul 22, 2009 in hospitality, love, stories | Comments Off

This post is part of my “stories” series. In this series, I share stories of how people live their lives in response to the gospel and as a demonstration of God’s love in order to teach us and to provide an example to provoke us to love and good works. (See “stories: A New Series” for more information about this series.)

My friend J. is a great example of making friends with and loving those who appear to be difficult to love. I’ve written about J. before in my posts “Pastor of a Restaurant?” and “stories: Gospel and community and pizza.”

J. works at a local Italian restaurant, and he’s become friends with many of his coworkers, even those that are (in his words) “a little rough.” They are not believers. He spends time with many of the young men, and even helps out when there are deaths or sicknesses in their families.

Recently, J. married R. He said that he was a little concerned about how she would handle his “rough” friends. He said they are the kind of friends who will come into the house without knocking.

He told the story of one young man who came into their house one afternoon after changing the oil in his car. As you can imagine his hands and clothes were covered in oil. When he came into the house, he left the door open and let in a few flies. R. was trying to kill the flies, and the young man decided to help. Instead, he left an oil streak smeared down the wall. R. thanked him for his help, then ushered him into their bathroom for a shower. J. said this is just the kind of love that this young man needed.

A few days later, the same young man and his girlfriend came to J. and R.’s house for a cookout. The girlfriend was just as rough as the young man, and her language was probably rougher. The young man told the girlfriend not to talk that way, because J. and R. were Christians. (Neither J. nor R. had ever told the young man to stop using certain words because they were Christians, so they were surprised.) The girlfriend became very quiet and withdrawn after the young man’s rebuke.

J. took the young man out back to finish grilling and left R. alone in the house with the girlfriend. By the time J. returned, R. had made the girl feel at home and welcomed. They were talking and laughing and enjoying one another’s company. When the young man and his girlfriend left that evening, the girlfriend hugged R. like that were longtime friends.

J. and R. are great examples of accepting and welcoming people into our homes who may be “rougher” than we would like. They are great examples of loving people and teaching them things they need to know (like when to take a shower). Plus, knowing J. and R., this young man and his girlfriend not only saw a great demonstrate of Jesus’ love and acceptance, they heard about Jesus as well.

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If you would like for me to include your story in this series, please send me an email at aknox [at] sebts [dot] edu.

stories: Serving the Servants

Posted by on Jul 15, 2009 in service, stories | Comments Off

This post is part of my “stories” series. In this series, I share stories of how people live their lives in response to the gospel and as a demonstration of God’s love in order to teach us and to provide an example to provoke us to love and good works. (See “stories: A New Series” for more information about this series.)

Last week, I wrote about my friend Maël (pronounced like Ishmael without the Ish) from “The Adventures of Maël and Cindy.” Maël and Cindy are great servants and great examples to the church. Our family has learned alot from them over the last several years.

Three years ago, they bought a foreclosure house. To say it needed alot of work would be an understatement. So, they began to work on it slowly while Maël was in school and worked. Not long ago, they made the decision to move to the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. Now, they need to finish their house in a very short period of time.

Several times, people gathered together at their house on Saturdays to help them work on the house. Others brought meals so the workers would not have to stop to prepare food.

On one of the days that friends were helping Maël and Cindy work on their house, one of their neighbors moved. The realtor came over to see what was going on. He was surprised that a church would spend so much time and effort on a Saturday to help out someone like that.

As I wrote last week, in a post called “stories: Maël’s grandmother,” Maël and Cindy had to go to Europe unexpectedly for two weeks because of the death of his grandfather and grandmother. Now that they’ve returned, they are even more pressed for time to finish their house.

Several people have volunteered to take them meals every day until the work is finished or until they move. Other people are coming over almost every day to help them work on their house. One of the groups that meets on Wednesdays for fellowship and Bible study have canceled their get togethers in order to go to Maël and Cindy’s house to help.

Now, this may sound strange. We are not excited that Maël and Cindy are moving. But, we are very excited about the way people are serving them. And, they are not just serving a little – this is hard, sweaty, tiring work. But, we love Maël and Cindy.

Do you know someone who is a servant? What better way to show your appreciation for their service and example than to serve them or to serve others?

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If you would like for me to include your story in this series, please send me an email at aknox [at] sebts [dot] edu.

stories: Maël’s grandmother

Posted by on Jul 8, 2009 in missional, stories | 1 comment

This post is part of my “stories” series. In this series, I share stories of how people live their lives in response to the gospel and as a demonstration of God’s love in order to teach us and to provide an example to provoke us to love and good works. (See “stories: A New Series” for more information about this series.)

Maël (pronounced like Ishmael without the Ish) from “The Adventures of Maël and Cindy” is one of my best friends, and has been for over six years now. We both have engineering backgrounds, and we both went to college at Ga Tech, although we went at different times.

Our family has spent alot of time with Maël and Cindy, and they are like close family to us. Since we’ve known them, Maël has asked us to pray for his family back in Europe. You see, Maël is French, but he was born and raised in Italy. He is the only believer in his family. He only heard and receieved the gospel after moving to the United States for college.

In the last couple of years, Maël has especially and urgently asked us to pray for his grandparents. They were both in bad health. He has had several times to talk to them, to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ to them, and to implore them to follow Christ. While his grandmother seemed interested at times, she would never move beyond interest.

A few weeks ago, we heard the bad news that Maël’s grandfather had passed away. Maël and Cindy’s passports had expired, so they were not able to travel to France for the funeral. The family asked Maël if he would write the funeral. He did, and someone read his words expressing his desire to see his family understand and accept the gospel.

After the funeral, Maël and Cindy received their renewed passports and flew to France to spend time with his grandmother. She was not doing well after her husband passed away, and the family did not think she would live much longer.

A few days after their flight, we received this email update from Maël:

We have some encouraging news. We had several opportunities to talk to my grandmother. I asked her if she was ready to die, and she answered that she was ready, meaning she wanted to, but when I asked her, she was not sure if she was in a right relationship with God. So, I shared the gospel with her yet again. We talked about having a relationship with God and being adopted by the Father. I asked her to think about it.

The next day, I asked her if she had thought about it, and she said that she had and she thinks that she believes what I believe. So I asked her if she wanted to have a relationship with God and be adopted by the
Father. She smiled and said yes. We then prayed with her to receive Christ as her Lord and Savior.

At her age, and with her physical and mental condition, I pray that it was a sincere desire. I made sure that she understood this was not about pleasing me, but about her relationship with God, and that God knew if she really believed it in her heart. I have come to learn from my European brothers and sisters, that in this culture, we have to put much faith in God as to the outcomes of the sharing of the Gospel; whereas this is true anywhere, the reality of it and the need to draw comfort from that fact is much more striking here.

Maël told us that he and Cindy planned to fly back to the United States the next day. However, when they got to the airport, their flight was full, and they were not able to leave. That evening – the day after Maël’s grandmother had expressed interest in “having a relationship with God and being adopted by the Father” – we received another email from Maël:

My Grandmother just went to be with her new found Lord.

Yes, Maël’s grandmother had died the very next day. We don’t always understand God’s timing. But, I’m thankful for his patience, and I’m thankful to have a friend like Maël who was always loving and consistent in his proclamation and demonstration of the good news of Jesus Christ to his family.

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If you would like for me to include your story in this series, please send me an email at aknox [at] sebts [dot] edu.

stories: Caring for friends and their dogs

Posted by on Jul 1, 2009 in love, service, stories | 2 comments

This post is part of my “stories” series. In this series, I share stories of how people live their lives in response to the gospel and as a demonstration of God’s love in order to teach us and to provide an example to provoke us to love and good works. (See “stories: A New Series” for more information about this series.)

In this series, I usually write about ways that I serve other people. Today, I want to do something a little different. I’m going to tell about how some friends served me, my family, and some other friends recently. It may seem insignificant to some, but it was very significant to us and our friends.

Last week, our family traveled to Alabama and Georgia to spend time with our family. Some friends of ours (the H. family) volunteered to take care of our house and our dogs while we were gone. It was very hot, so they said one or more members of their family would stay at our house so they could let our dogs go outside and come inside regularly during the day.

The week before we were planning to leave, Maël’s (pronounced like Ishmael without the Ish) grandfather passed away. Maël’s family lives in Italy. He was not able to travel back for the funeral, but he wanted to go back the week after the funeral in order to spend time with his grandmother.

This means that Maël and Cindy would be away from home the same week that we were away from home. They also have two dogs. So, our friends, (the H. family), offered to take care of their dogs and their house while they were gone as well.

The four members of the H. family traveled back and forth between our house and Maël and Cindy’s house and their house. Each night, some of them would sleep in each house. They were willing to spend time away from one another for a week so that they could care for their friends and their friends’ dogs.

Why would they do this? I’m convinced they were willing to spend their week traveling back and forth between houses to let our dogs in and out of the house, and spend their week sleeping in different houses because they love us and because they love Maël and Cindy.

Demonstrating love is not always about doing the great things (although this was a very great things for us)! Many times, demonstrating love is simply about knowing the people and serving them in the way they need and desire to be served.

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If you would like for me to include your story in this series, please send me an email at aknox [at] sebts [dot] edu.