We were a party of six piled into a big red truck looking for a good Bible class the night we headed toward the church of Christ in Seffner. We’d landed in this truck together as a result of several weeks previously having set up a bit of a commune of sorts, in DeFuniak Springs having met up with our aforementioned close friends, John and LeAnn Elliott, and their three children Georgia, Jackson and Charlie. We’d moved on from our gorgeous spots at the Twin Lakes Camp Resort and were now parked close to one another in two RV Parks in Thonotosassa, Florida. It was unlikely the stress of all the 911 calls that were being made on a regular basis to the problematic neighbors of the Elliott’s at the Spanish Main RV “Resort” to be the cause of John’s immune system being down that night manifesting itself in a head cold, but regardless there we were, LeAnn at the wheel and Mark and I chuckling at the kids needlessly white knuckling it, as no amount of a good driving record on her part was going to convince the children that she could handle Big Red like dad did.
We stopped on the way at a taco joint in Brandon that Mark and I were curious about named Jimmy Hula’s that advertised itself as serving up “Food Nirvana” including the Burnt Reynolds Burger, Tree Hugger Tacos, and the Juan Jovi Burger. We enjoyed the surf hut vibes and fun music and then drove a little north to our Bible class.
Upon our entry, the congregation in Seffner was as full of surprises as Jimmy Hula’s had been! First, there was Marc Gibson --- one of preachers that serves alongside Mark on the live Facebook program Answering Religious Error, every Tuesday night and Wednesdays at noon when they answer anyone’s Bible Questions live on air --- which can get as hairy and interesting as it sounds, and is therefore quite the bonding experience among the panel of preachers. I should have seen Marc Gibson coming -- his presence was no surprise to my husband, but I must have been too distracted by Tree Hugger Tacos to remember to ask Mark ahead of time, “So do we know anyone from this congregation?” We were also delighted to bump into Lanna Rainwater --- a talented young woman who had grown up in a congregation across town when we lived in Beaverton, Oregon, but was working at Florida College now, along with her husband Tom. What a nice surprise!
We sat down and enjoyed a Bible class around how beautifully Jesus fulfilled the prophecy of The Davidic Covenant (2 Samuel 7; 1 Chronicles 17:11-14; 2 Chronicles 6:16; Luke 1:32,69; Acts 13:34; Rev. 3:7 ) when He to opened up the Kingdom of God to all of every nation that would draw near to God. The highlight of the class was around this reading from Revelation 3:7-13.
“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:
He who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens, says this:
‘I know your deeds. Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a little power, and have kept My word, and have not denied My name. Behold, I will cause those of the synagogue of Satan, who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—I will make them come and bow down at your feet, and make them know that I have loved you. Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, so that no one will take your crown. He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; and I will write on him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”
The point was made that since this Steward of the house of God today inhabits every characteristic necessary to be the ultimate Steward. He is holy, He is 100% pure. He lives apart from sin and all evil motives and He is true, reliable and completely trustworthy, and it is He alone who has the Key of David, for “It is He who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens.” Revelation 3:7. It is therefore through Jesus alone that we have access to the Father. And although our culture would say otherwise, It is exactly as Jesus said, when He announced, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” John 14:6. There is no other way to the Father. There is only one Steward at the gate to the Kingdom of God, and all are encouraged at the Seffner congregation to joyfully enter that spiritual Kingdom.
After class, an inspiring story was told of a young woman the speaker had met in San Bernardino years ago who had been involved in all kinds of addictive sin, but like many listening to this story, she had been in it with her eyes open long enough to realize she wasn’t finding the satisfaction she’d been expecting. So she shows up one day at a worship service, exhausted by the consequences of her choices, knocking on the doors, so to speak, of the Kingdom of God we had talked about during class. She asked entry and it was given to her, just as Jesus had promised. She sought and she found. She knocked and the door was lovingly opened, for it is the Gatekeeper Himself who had promised, “For everyone who asks, receives, and he who seeks, finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8). And from that day forward, she went on to discover for herself how beautiful life can be when it is transformed under the merciful reign of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Concluding our time together singing the hymn Power in The Blood, seemed quite apropos, given the conversion the brother who had told the story had witnessed in the life of the woman he had helped in San Bernardino--- a conversion not unlike the transformation I’d witnessed myself in my own husband’s life over four decades ago when he too cold turkeyed more vices than you’d care to know about, all in one night and never looked back. There's truly power in the blood.
After the closing prayer, when we’d tidied up our pew, I turned to see with whom the Steward of the Kingdom of God would have me connect, for I often pray for His Providence to direct me to the hearts whom He’d have me encourage and be encouraged. And there she was. My friend of about 30 years, Martha Cox, beaming that beautiful smile to me from her wheelchair, and I could not wait to reconnect with her having not seen her for several years.
I always know two fabulous things when I sit down across from this friend of three decades: This will be no little chat, and it certainly will contain no superficial “small talk”. Sure enough, we ended up talking about things that perhaps all Christians should eventually get around to: things that hurt and things that matter.
I was surprised to learn she and her husband Bob were also living nomadically, traveling around the country visiting family, friends, and congregations, and were somehow managing to do so while juggling the countless hassles of Martha’s advanced Multiple Sclerosis. This accomplishment is beyond impressive, but Bob and Martha have always inspired the world by making the most of whatever hand they were dealt. For example, for decades Martha has, with intention, used her condition as an opportunity to minister to the souls of her caregivers as they tended to her physical needs, to try her best to draw them into a relationship with their God through studying His word with them. She would also spend the day connecting on the phone whoever needed encouragement, whether church family or beyond. In short, Martha has always “done what she could” (Mark 14:8) It’s hard to measure the fruits of such labor in the Kingdom of Heaven, but such is not ours to measure anyway, is it? I only know with certainty I’m by far not the only one who, when engaged in conversations with Martha Cox, leaves both inspired and improved.
We were about the last ones to exit the building, but before we parted, I demonstrated to Martha how voice to text could perhaps help her stay socially engaged with the world who continues to need her good influence, and she was eager to learn more. As we said our “Good-byes” we thanked God for both giving us people who love us, as well as people we can love. That’s what it's all about, isn’t it?
Seffner Church of Christ
621 East Wheeler Road
Seffner, Florida 33584