by Cory Kasperson, 7Ten Pastoral Resident
Who knows where God will lead you on any given day?
A few months ago, in mid-August, I was putting together a sermon for our young adults in 7ten about the love of Jesus. The series was called, “Love Is_____”.
The whole point of this series was to slow down and ask the question “how did Jesus actually love people?”
The main point of my message was to talk about how Jesus loved people by putting Himself in other people’s shoes. He teaches us to do the same thing. “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12). There is also a story in Mark 10:46-52 where Jesus asks a question to a man born blind. It’s a question we so often avoid. “What do you want me to do for you?”
We like to control our love by telling others what we can do for them. When we ask others what they want us to do, we lose control of the situation and that gets too risky.
I was putting this message together on a Sunday night before I had to teach it on Tuesday and for whatever reason I could not get my message crafted. Something was missing. After sitting at my kitchen table longer than I wanted, I began to get frustrated that God “wasn’t helping me”. This lead me to get up and go for a walk to pray and blow off some steam and re-focus. I decided to go on a longer walk down a path beside my housing track and for about 10-15 minutes I prayed over and over: God please give me a story for this message. I prayed that sentence looking down at the ground repeatedly until something caught my eye. I looked up and made eye contact with a man who was experiencing homelessness. Right there in that moment as I was making eye contact with this man God said to me, “Here is your story and what I have for you the rest of this evening.” Immediately my heart started to say something like, “God I have this message to write and I am crunched on time,” which is exactly why God had this moment planned for me. The Spirit was prompting me to practice doing to others what I would have them do to me before I taught about it.
I walked up to the homeless man, introduced myself, and asked what his name was. He said his name was Dean and that he came from California to Arizona. He ventured hundreds of miles even though he had nowhere to stay because he wanted to see his daughter Tiffany who was in prison. Welling up with compassion inside for Dean, I said, “You must really love your daughter to travel to Arizona in the summer heat without a place to stay just so you can visit her.”
At this point, I was about to tell Dean what I could do for him until God said, “Cory, what was the question you were going to teach 7ten to ask others when loving someone?”
Convicted, I hesitantly and nervously asked Dean, “What can I do for you?”
He then went on to say that he was trying to get back to California by bus but didn’t have the money. He needed about $30 more. I told him I would take care of it and then started to walk away. Jesus lovingly stopped me again and reminded me about what I was going to teach on Tuesday. Do to others as you would have them do to you. Jesus then said, “Cory, if you were in this man’s position what would you want others to do for you?” Reflecting on this question, I realized I would probably want a shower, food, clean clothes, and a place to sleep other than a concrete bench in the Arizona heat.
Excuses started welling up inside me as compassion fought against stubbornness in my heart.
I don’t have time for this. Dean could be dangerous. What if he takes advantage of me? This is going to cost more than I want to give. All those excuses started to lose their grip as I knew deep down this was what God was asking me to do. He wanted me to do what He’s been asking all His people to do from the beginning: love your neighbor as yourself. I asked Dean to walk with me back to my house where he could have some of his needs met.
It was now dark out as Dean and I walked the 3/4 of a mile back to my house. Walking side by side along the path, this is where things started to shift in my heart from suspicion to compassion. I began asking Dean about his story and started listening about his life, his burdens, his regrets, and his hopes. I realized how human he was. When you see someone as a burden or inconvenience, it’s so easy to forget that they are created and loved by God. As Dean continued to share about his life, the compassion of God started to have its way in me. I became overwhelmed and Jesus’ words from Matthew 25:40 took deeper root in my heart. “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for Me.”
Immediately in that moment I realized I ultimately wasn’t serving Dean. I was serving Jesus, my King. For the rest of our walk, side by side, I felt like I was walking next to Jesus Himself. The presence of God was more tangible in that moment than in most moments of my life.
Loving the vulnerable is loving Christ Himself.
At that point, my heart had completely changed, the presence of God was so close to me, and we finally arrived at my house. I told Dean I am a Christian and work for a church. He paused for a moment and then said, “You know what’s interesting? Two weeks ago I met a Christian who told me about Jesus who loved me, died for me, and that forgiveness can be found in Him.” It was evident God had already been setting up encounters to love Dean, and tonight was another part of that story.
I invited Dean into my house where he could take a shower and tracked down a clean shirt for him. After freshening up, he had some conversations with my wife and I when he reached into his wallet and pulled out a picture of his family. In the picture was his divorced wife and his two daughters. Pointing to one of his daughters he paused and said, “She wants nothing to do with me anymore.” He paused again for a moment and after taking a deep breath said, “I wish I could go back to this moment.”
My heart was crushed because I knew he was saying that he wished he could go back to a moment where he was loved.
After some more chatting I gave Dean the money he needed and took him to a local hotel where he could sleep comfortably before his long trip back to California. I helped him get his stuff to the room and was about to leave when Dean said, “You know, it’s really interesting how I met a Christian two weeks ago and here I am meeting you.”
I responded with joy and a smile on my face, “Dean, Jesus is coming after you.”
Returning to my house hours after my initial walk, I sat down at my kitchen table and God said, “Now you’re ready for your message.” Jesus was right. My heart was now ready.
- The story of God’s pursuit of the least, the last, and the lost was something 7ten needed to hear.
- God’s pursuit of Dean was something 7ten needed to hear.
- God’s pursuit of those last on everyone’s list was something I needed to hear.
Who knows what God will do with us and through if we open ourselves up to His leading?
About Cory Kasperson
I was born in southern California, but have also lived in Montana and Washington until my family found themselves led by God to Arizona when I was 8 years old. I don’t remember the exact age I came to know the Lord, although I do remember having a deep love for Him from a young age. My walk with Jesus has had its ups and downs, but along the way God has been beyond gracious and patient with me, which I am so grateful for.
I started attending Redemption Gilbert once I graduated high school in 2014 and immediately dove into the life and community of this church from the start. My first year at Redemption Gilbert marked one of the biggest years of spiritual growth I’ve ever had in my life. It was also the year that I felt moved by Christ to take steps towards vocational ministry. I graduated from Grand Canyon University where I got a degree in Biblical Studies and met my beautiful and lovely wife Crystal who I married in June of 2018. I love this church community and am so blessed to serve here.