A Larger Plan

I state in the Introduction of Lead Serve Love that 1 John 2:6 is my favorite verse. It is so because it marks a special moment in my life, shared here with you now from a 2009 post during my earliest blogging days:

Six years ago I was traveling with my good friend Alistair Deakin who had suggested I read the book “The Jesus I Never Knew” by Philip Yancey (I loved the book and consider it among my favorites). Alistair is a man of deep and open faith and I admire him; he perhaps was the one who planted the seed that has since grown into my curiosity today about God.

I, a southern gentleman, helped a number of people load their bags into the overhead compartments of the plane we were on. It happened that a church group of elderly black women were also on the plane and I lifted bags for many of them who sat near me, and later when we landed I retrieved them and gave them to their respective owners. As the church ladies were exiting, one touched my hand and asked if I was a minister. I smiled and said “No,” but she smiled and told me that I should become one.

Alistair overhead the comment, jokingly rolled his eyes and in his best British humor whispered to me that he didn’t have the heart to tell the woman what a real pagan I was. I forgot all about this event until Monday night.

Monday night was the first night of training for the new ministry I’ve joined, the Stephen Ministry, named for Stephen the Minister in the book of Acts. It is a ministry that serves as listeners and advisors to anyone in need of a shoulder to cry on or a confidant to spend time with during troubled times. With my background in counseling, I felt led to become a respondent to this calling.

During the meeting the trainer said that after we finished our training we would become commissioned, we would become Stephen Ministers, and once a Stephen minister, always a Stephen minister.

Suddenly that day on the plane and the feel of that woman’s touch on my hand came to mind. I remembered I was embarrassed for a moment by her question. How I wish now that I could look at her proudly and say that I took her advice – I’m becoming a minister.

Later in the training I noticed a banner on the back wall behind our trainer. It was 1 John 2:6: “Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did.” It was the only thing I wrote down in my notebook all evening.

The last thing we did Monday night was to take a self-assessment of our readiness to become a Stephen Minister. It was only a few questions you answered on a 1 to 10 scale; 1 describing having or being the least of that particular attribute, 10 describing having or being the most of that particular attribute. Two questions jumped out at me: the first was “Are you full of faith?” I gave myself an 8 (as I’ve admitted, I have much improving to do). The second was, “Are you Christ-centered (do I keep Christ at the center of all I do)?” On this I sadly gave myself a 5.

It was then that I knew the banner quoting 1 John was there for me to see, to remind me of my mission to align my actions with my thoughts, to Live the Word. And maybe even the woman on the plane, I thought, was one of the other many little events that have fallen into place and led me to this point in my life.

As I write this I abandon my old thoughts that things happen by random chance and man is left to decide by his free will what to do. Rather, now I believe things occur as part of a larger plan and man is left to decide by his free will whether he will acknowledge and accept that which is put before him by God.

I have chosen to publically acknowledge and accept what I can now so plainly see. What do you choose to do?

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I am a depraved, morally bankrupt wretched sinner through and through. I’ve attended church sporadically most of my life, haven’t spent a minute in seminary and only recently gave the Bible more than a cursory review. I’ve attended exactly one theology class and I dropped out of that. However, in spite of my moral infidelity, I’ve come to be filled with the Holy Spirit. I’ve learned my salvation isn’t the result of what I do, but rather what Jesus has done on my behalf. I didn’t find the Holy Spirit, He found me. And in our relationship I have invited Him to change me, to use me for His purpose, to conquer my will with His own. Praise the Lord, for even an unworthy, chronic sinner like me can experience and give testimony to His glory!
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