Faith Matters: The answer that came with a knock on the door

  • Pastor Robert Emberley in the Community Bible Church in Northfield. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Robert Emberley in the Community Bible Church in Northfield. May 9, 2017. Paul Franz

  • Community Bible Church in Northfield. May 9, 2017. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

Community Bible Church
Friday, May 19, 2017

(The following is a submission to The Recorder's weekly column, “Faith Matters.” Each Saturday, a faith leader in Franklin County offers a personal perspective in this space. To become part of this series, email religion@recorder.com or call 413-772-0261, ext. 265.)


“In the beginning, God ... ” The first phrase in the Bible gives a reminder that has helped me as I move through life. Like an overloaded washing machine flies out of balance, usually with a thumping sound that should not be ignored, I have found that my life without God at the center does not function well. In fact, only the Creator has the sufficient gravity to keep everything orbiting as it should. Putting lesser things where only God should be is a sure way for your existence to spiral out of control.

Prompted by these first words in God’s written revelation, I seek to begin each day with a morning walk during which I review my day in prayer before God. Whether you are stepping into a new day or a new company — in every new beginning, start with God.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6)

I enjoy walking outside while I pray. Being outside provides me with a front row seat to the glory and strength of the One I am approaching. “Oh, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.” (Jeremiah 32:17) Walking outside while I pray also serves a more practical purpose, as I find that if I pray inside, sitting or kneeling with head bowed and eyes closed, before too long I am “resting in the Lord”!

Scripture tells us that prayer changes things (James 5:17-18); that God works through the prayers of His children, and I certainly believe that. But what I have discovered mostly is that, through prayer, God changes me. “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

Has God ever spoken to me while I talked with Him? No, not that I heard. But He has used other ways to communicate His care that I have found better suited to a walk of faith.

So I will end with a story of one way He did this for me.

About a year ago, during one of my morning prayer walks, I asked God if He would provide some tangible encouragement for our efforts at Community Bible Church — that even in the midst of challenges, I would have a sense that what we have been seeking to do is important and somehow making a difference.

We’d been here six years — sending down roots, establishing friendships, praying (“God, make us — as a church — what you want us to be and show us what you want us to do”), teaching, living, learning, rejoicing when a few have met Jesus, turned and followed Him with steps of newly formed faith — the weakest faith gets the same strong Christ. And I sensed we were at the end of the beginning. What the next steps would bring I couldn’t know; but if the first years had been any measure, it would be, as my son Ben had said when we moved to Northfield, “an adventure” ... the ongoing adventure of leading and loving a church and a community on behalf of Christ in New England.

Back to my prayer ... and the answer that came with a knock. Here’s how I described the events at the time.

On Friday, in the middle of science class with my youngest son, Joel — we homeschool — (Bill Nye the Science guy video on nutrition — taking notes, laughing, reviewing information from yesterday on the digestion system — “waste is what is left after your body squeezes all the nutrients out of your food.”) ... there was a knock at the front door. As I went to see who it was, my wife Wendy surmised, “Maybe Jehovah’s Witnesses?” “Or UPS!” Joel added. He is always waiting for some important package to arrive from an Amazon purchase.

At the door, an older gentleman stood (baseball hat with a farm equipment logo of some sort on it, flannel jacket, his wife sitting in the car, smiling) with a business-size envelope in his hand. He said — he had a slow, purposeful, pleasant tone — “Are you the Rev. Emberley of the Community Bible Church here in Northfield?”

“Yes ... yes, I am.”

“Well, here is a gift for your church, and also an extra $100 ... for someone who needs it.”

He said this as though he knew what it was like to be “someone who needs it.”

I didn’t open the envelope, but thanked him and asked for his name. He hesitated, and, like he was about to reveal a secret, said, “Al.”

He walked back to his car. I closed the door and told Wendy and Joel about my encounter with Al. They did not need my recap because their radar-like ears had pulled it all in through the open door from the kitchen. Then I looked in the envelope. I counted out on the table $1,000 in crisp “Benjamins” and one more “for someone who needs it.” At that moment, the only thing bigger than Joel’s wide eyes was his grin. He said something like, “Oh, my word. That’s amazing, Dad — wow, just wow!”

I went back to the door and that beautiful couple was just backing to the end of the driveway. I waved my arms and called “thank you!” and gave them a thumbs up. They looked happy — as blessed givers always are.

Who is Al? I have no idea. But on that Friday, he was Jesus answering my prayer — the Chief Shepherd charging His underling to advance His name.

I imagine budgets will always be tight for our little church and we will have our share of challenges (big and small), but I am learning that being in a place of dependence is a great place to be. It is an adventure ... an adventure under the watchful care of a Father who is eager to give good gifts to His children. And sometimes he has “Al” deliver them.

About Community Bible Church

The photo above shows our church building at the corner of Route 63 and South Mountain Road (781 Millers Falls Road). However, our Sunday morning service takes place at 10:30 a.m. at 239 Main St., the former Dolben Library Auditorium on the former private school campus. Most Sundays we have a 6 p.m. prayer meeting at the church on Millers Falls Road and a 4:30 p.m. Bible study. We also have a weekly teen group meeting. Call or check the our website for details and schedule. You can listen to Pastor Emberley’s sermons online at bit.ly/2qNybAS. For more information, email rwemberley@gmail.com or call 413-498-4404.