It was Jeff’s idea that I go to church. He also invited another friend, who came not so willingly. He had backslidden from the Lord. Church was not on his top-ten list of places to be. Be that as it may, we crept into the sanctuary, landing on an old wooden pew towards the rear of the room.

love_people1From the back row we observed a holy host of hippies. The redheaded banjo player was truly a sight with his unkempt ‘Rip Van Winkle’ beard. Accompanying him on guitar was another longhaired fellow. There were aisles of people like this: all young, hairy and disheveled. Perhaps the one who stood out most was the young man in the wheelchair. His frail body was twisted like a pretzel. He couldn’t have weighed more than eighty pounds tops. Yet there was something about his countenance. He almost glowed.

Then there was the preacher – a leathery-faced, silver-haired saint. With a voice as rugged as his looks, he captured our attention instantly. He spoke about Jesus with passion and conviction. Following his fiery sermon, he invited anyone who needed prayer to come to the altar. That’s when my backslidden friend went forward to make peace with God.

There were others who went forward, including the cripple in the wheelchair. My heart sank once I saw him rolling up the aisle. It took every ounce of strength he had.

“What was the point of this?” I thought. Did healing truly await this sorry soul? Surely he had been down this path before, only to be let down time and time again. Such thoughts did not deter him, however. He pushed forward. And with every push, my heart sank deeper. Surely, he was destined for disappointment.

I watched intently as the young man scooted his wheelchair alongside my broken friend. Low and behold, I witnessed the incredible. That frail fellow lifted his toothpick arm. He then placed his boney hand upon my friend’s shoulder. “Can I pray for you.” he whispered.

No miracle could have blown my mind more than what I saw at that magical moment. If there was anyone in need of prayer, it was the young man in the wheelchair. And yet, he was willing to deny himself and claim his cross for a backslider. As a new believer, this spoke to me volumes. It was as if Jesus tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Remember this always. This is true Christianity.”

I reflect back on this memory often. It’s a steady reminder that following Christ means losing self. We are to be others-minded and come alongside those in need. We are to offer our hand that they might feel God’s touch through us. That’s where the real blessings are. They are not within as we suppose. We lay hold of them by reaching out.

“He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:39)

“Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” (Matthew 16:24)

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