The first time I was ever cognizant of God’s direct involvement in my life was July 9th 1982 at 10:30 pm. That Burning Bush experience not only miraculously saved my life, but changed me forever. I’d like to say that ever since I periodically hear the audible voice of God and have angels guiding my every step – but that would be untrue. In fact, I’ve never heard the audible voice of God, nor seen an angel nor, well you get the idea. Some of my Christian acquaintances lay claim to such wondrous experiences. Would my faith be increased if I spectated such a supernatural occurrence? Perhaps! But I am completely satisfied with God’s level of involvement in my life, and have no reason to doubt either His love or His leading.
I know without a doubt that He speaks to me and leads me in varied (and sometimes unusual) ways. He speaks to me when I read the Bible and receive an understanding of a particular passage that is new or refreshing to me. He speaks to me when another seeks my advice about a spiritual or even secular matter – then draws out wisdom and knowledge that I wasn’t even aware had been deposited somewhere in my memory bank. And over the past few years I find He speaks to me most vividly while I am writing – whether it be my blog, a FaceBook post, a teaching or a book.
Coincidence is a word I’ve come to banish from my vocabulary
God is constantly confirming His guiding hand in my life. Just a little over a week ago I was led to write a short article on the differences between the generations. I led off with the 16th century writer John Donne’s famous words, “No man is an island,” and proceeded to encourage the young and the old to work as one body, to help one another and share their unique perspectives on life. Then this past weekend, as the youth pastor spoke to our congregation in lieu of our main pastor who was out of town, he delivered a message that paralleled my blog. I listened in awe of how my amazing Lord works to reach His people. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wondered if a local, or even a visiting minister was reading my material and using it as an outline for his or her message that week. At other times I’ve heard a speaker one-up me on a message that God had been dealing with me to put to print. It is situations like this that confirm that the Holy Spirit is directing each of us in our separate endeavors.
I have many friends and relatives who must think me foolish for my expression of such beliefs and the complete trust I place in both God’s written Word and in what He speaks to my heart. I find myself praying that each would have a Burning Bush experience of their own. But would it really make a difference? I guess it depends on the individual, and their own state of open-mindedness.
I believe God speaks to each one of His children through “unusual circumstances of life,” a phrase I prefer to “coincidences.” Coincidence is a word that the skeptic uses to deny that there might actually be a supernatural realm impacting his or her life. Most people are deaf to God’s voice; some because they find it hard to fathom that they are worthy of such a Dad to child relationship with the Creator of the universe; others because acknowledgement of such a relationship would complicate their lives and require them to consider what Daddy might expect of them.
A Biblical example of how God values and desires a relationship with each of us
Last week I heard a beautiful Biblical example of the extremes God will go through to get a single person’s attention and turn their life around. The lesson must be important because it’s related in three of the four Gospels, Mark, Matthew and Luke. It begins with Jesus and His disciples ministering in Capernaum, a city on the northern coast of the Sea of Galilee. In spite of His exhaustion from a day of preaching and healing the multitudes, Jesus was led to cross over by boat to Gadara on the eastern shore, a land inhabited by pagans and by Jews who didn’t obey the Law of Moses. En route He fell asleep. All three writers explain how a fierce storm came up that so frightened even the disciples who were fishermen by trade, that they awoke Jesus. He calmed the storm and rebuked the disciples for their lack of faith. As they arrived at their destination, they were met by a naked crazy man who lived in the tombs. His behavior is explained as that of a man possessed by multiple demons: “No one could bind him, not even with chains, because he had often been bound with shackles and chains. And the chains had been pulled apart by him, and the shackles broken in pieces; neither could anyone tame him. And always, night and day, he was in the mountains and in the tombs, crying out and cutting himself with stones.” Jesus cast out the demons and the man returned to his right mind. Jesus got back into the boat and prepared to go back to Capernaum. The man who had been demon-possessed begged Jesus to take him with Him; however, Jesus told to him to go home to his friends and tell them what great things the Lord had done for him.
Jesus and the twelve Apostles had journeyed for hours across dangerous waters just to set one man free. Then He delegated to that new believer the task of evangelizing the entire region. Had it been me, I’d at least have left a couple of the disciples behind to guide the man for some period of time to make sure he knew what he was doing. But Jesus saw something special in the man’s heart and trusted him to go about the Father’s business. The man’s BB experience changed him forever.
Some of us need these Burning Bush experiences to coalesce all the doctrine and traditions and spiritual words we’ve heard about the Lord into a firm statement of faith. Even the Apostle Thomas after three years of following Jesus and observing all the miracles, found himself challenged to believe what his compatriots told him about Jesus’ appearance following His resurrection: “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” So Jesus gave him that opportunity. But after Thomas was finally able to come to grips with the truth, what was Jesus’ response? “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Blessed indeed are those who have been graced with great faith independent of charismatic experiences. But it should be encouraging to know the depths God will use to reach your loved ones and draw them into His Kingdom. So don’t feel guilty about asking God to provide those supernatural encounters – if that’s what it will take.