God Appoints Times and Places—and Snowstorms
Last week I took a trip to Little Rock, Arkansas to record three programs about my book If God Is Good with Family Life Today radio. The show will be airing probably in late spring or early summer. (Bob Lepine and Dennis Rainey, pictured here, are great brothers, and Eternal Perspective Ministries considers it a privilege to support Family Life Ministries, www.familylife.com.)
I had asked my Facebook and Twitter followers for prayer for divine appointments on my trip, and want to share how God faithfully answered those prayers. So this will be a longer blog than usual.
On Tuesday’s flight to Denver, en route to Little Rock, I sat in a window seat. Jackie, the woman on the aisle, had read some of my books and talked to me about them. Between us sat Joel, a seventh grader, a fine young man caught in the middle of our words about our Lord Jesus. I gave them both the Touchpoints: Heaven book and gave Joel my email address, encouraging him to contact me if he wanted me to send him The Ishbane Conspiracy.
When we arrived at Denver, the airport was buried in a blizzard and was in a pandemonium, with people stuck and half the flights cancelled. I arrived at B20, then had to walk to B90 (it seemed like two miles) to catch my flight to Little Rock. I got there, confirmed it was the right gate, and sat down to eat a sandwich. It was crowded so I offered a seat to a woman named Charlene, and ended up giving her one of my books. She seemed very excited and said she would read it on the plane.
After a pleasant conversation, I said goodbye, stepped over to my gate where boarding was supposed to start momentarily, and saw it now said “Toronto.” I asked, “What happened to Little Rock?” They said, “Everything’s messed up with the snow. Little Rock was moved to Gate 52.” I hurried back down a concourse I didn’t need to have traveled up, thanking God for His sovereignty and kindness in sending me “two miles” out of my way to meet Charlene, and give her a book with the gospel of Jesus. How else would I have met her when we shouldn’t have been anywhere near each other?
I spent six more hours in Denver, four of those in the plane on the tarmac, in the snowstorm, waiting for de-icing. Afterward, I gave one of my books to Diana, the flight attendant who bonded with us because of being trapped in a plane on the ground for half the night. I checked into my hotel in Little Rock at 4 AM.
Would I have planned it that way? No. God had a better plan, and part of the reason the snowstorm hit Denver was for Charlene, Diana, and me, and maybe for the gal at the front desk of the Little Rock hotel I gave the Heaven booklet. And in eternity I’m going to hear some stories of what God ended up doing in some lives (including mine). Being tired when speaking and doing radio programs was a very small price to pay.
Meanwhile divine appointments continued. When I spoke at Family Life Wednesday morning, they announced that a long-time beloved staff member, Debbie, had died of cancer the night before. One brother stood up, held up my Heaven book and said, “Debbie read this book and was in a small group study, and it was a great encouragement to her. And in God’s perfect timing, the morning after she entered Heaven, the author of this book is here with us to talk to us about Heaven.” It was a moving time, with lots of tears, and I felt very privileged to be there to talk about the place where Debbie (I look forward to meeting her) is now with her Lord.
After speaking to Family life and recording the programs, I was taken to meet with forty or so international students, from a number of countries, including Iraq, Iran, India, Peru, Kenya and Rwanda. I was introduced as the author of books about Heaven, and they were invited to ask me questions. I also shared, of course, about how the Bible says we can get to Heaven. What a great opportunity, and what a great bunch of students, including Muslims, Hindus, and Christians.
One young man from Iraq followed me outside afterward. He shook my hand then said, “Do you really believe that trusting Jesus is the only way for someone to go to Heaven?” I said yes, reminding him that it wasn’t an idea I made up, but that I’d quoted Jesus as saying, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father but by Me” (John 14:6). Since Muslims believe Jesus was a prophet, that means he spoke the truth. And if he spoke the truth, then He is the only way to God.
I was struck with the earnestness in the eyes of this young man, and the sincerity of the question. And I thank God for the wonderful people who give of themselves to serve these international students, who will follow up in further conversations. They don’t just speak the gospel; they live it out, and students are drawn to their love and authenticity.
After arriving in a non-snowy Denver on the way home Thursday, I gave a Touchpoints: Heaven book to a guy named Richard I sat next to as we ate sandwiches in a sports bar. On the plane I sat by a sixty-five year old lady, Rene. When I offered to give her one of my books on the topic of Heaven, she said she couldn’t take it because she was a Jehovah’s Witness. I said, “Don’t you believe what the Bible says?” She said yes, but that she believed the Bible teaches that God made people to live on the earth in a resurrection, not to live forever up with the angels. I said, “Right, you mean the New Earth.” She said yes. I said, “I agree the Bible teaches life forever on a New Earth, and that’s exactly what the book is about!”
She seemed amazed that I believe in a New Earth, but I assured her that the Bible clearly teaches it. I went on to share the basis on which we will be accepted into God’s presence and will be able to live forever on that New Earth. I went to John 1 and other passages about the deity of Christ and talked about that if he were less than God then his redemptive sacrifice for us would be less than enough, because only God’s own holiness can satisfy Him. We talked about salvation by grace, not works. And she ended up telling me that since I believed in a New Earth she would read that book after all!
Thank you, Lord, for putting me in these places and with these people where your Holy Spirit was at work. Please do a work of grace in their lives. And in the kingdom, may I one day sit beside some of them where they come from the east and the west to sit at a feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. And above all, with You.