About The Day God Spoke To Me On A Bus Bench

I was in my 20’s, and living in the LA area. I was young in my faith, and took great pride in what I thought of as an admirable “balancing act”. When I was at church, or around other Christians, I acted like a Christian. When I was around unbelievers, I acted like an unbeliever. I thought I was doing a great job of maintaining the two sides of my double life. From the way I acted around my unbelieving friends and coworkers, there was no way they could tell I was a Christian. From the way I acted in church and around fellow Jesus-followers, they would have no idea how far from Christlike my other life had become.

… until God spoke to me and made it clear that what I was not fooling Him.

One morning, I woke to a clock-radio that was playing static. Not surprisingly, I had slept through the static for sometime. A glance at the time showed what I suspected – I was going to be late for work. To add to the fun, I had a roaring headache. I scrambled around, throwing on the first outfit that caught my eye, and went out to my car. Battery dead. Swell. Called for a tow, and was told it would be 2-3 hours. Not wanting to miss at least a half day of work, I decided to take a bus to work and attend to my car later. As I left my apartment building, my sweater snagged on the heavy metal security gate. I disentangled my sweater, which began unraveling in one spot, slammed the door and yelled something like, “God, why aren’t you doing anything for me today?”

I stomped down to the corner, crossed the intersection (stomping, sulking, and full of attitude all the way) and sat down on the bus bench. A glance down the street showed that the bus was not yet in view, so I began rifling my purse for something to occupy my time. I found a small Bible with snap-closure and began rifling through it thinking, “I don’t even know where to start.”

Suddenly, I heard a voice that sounded like it was coming over my right shoulder. It said, “James!” in a very firm, clear tone. I jumped and looked behind me. No one. I looked at the woman sitting on the other end of the bench, and thought, “It doesn’t look like she heard anything. Get a grip, Theresa!”

Then, I heard the voice again, “James!”

“OK,OK, I’ll read James” I thought. Then, “Where is James?” After consulting the table of contents I found James. “Where do I start?” I thought. I started with chapter 1 verse 1 and began to read. When I read verses 7 and 8 I froze, I gulped and read verses 7 and 8 again.

“That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord, he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.”

My life was unstable. I was completely double-minded. Suddenly, things I had done for the purpose of “fitting in” with unbelievers came to my mind and I was ashamed. Clearly, I was not honoring God with my life and my choices. I was far more concerned with pleasing people than pleasing God.

I was like a person walking with one foot in a river and one foot on the bank. Sooner or late, you either pull your foot out, and commit to being fully on the bank, or you are driven downstream by the current.

I saw how my compromises were becoming more and more antithetical to the Christlike character that God’s Word tells us we are to strive toward. I was being pulled downriver, and I needed to pull my foot out and commit to the bank.

I recommitted my life to Christ and began to behave the same way regardless of who I was around. My behavior change made it clear to my unbelieving friends that I was a Christian. I no longer spent evenings and nights getting drunk in bars. I no longer watched movies that were explicitly sexual or contained rampant profanity. There were many other changes as well. The changes in my behavior meant that some friends didn’t understand me anymore, and couldn’t relate to my life or my choices. It also meant closer and deeper relationships with fellow Jesus-followers. More importantly, it began a season of growth in my spiritual walk and a much closer and deeper relationship with Jesus Christ.

Some people might try to convince me that I was hearing things. Or that I had heard someone preach from James and had forgotten it but it was in my subconscious. No matter how you try to explain it away, I know what I heard. The voice was unlike any other I have ever heard. Clear, firm, loving, powerful. More powerful and clear than any human voice.

I don’t know why God chose for me to hear His voice, when others have not. I only know that I heard Him and I am humbly and immeasurably grateful that He spoke to me on the bus bench that day.


The Fullness of Time

I love the phrase ‘the fullness of time’.  Gal 4:4 says, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son.”

Webster’s Dictionary defines fullness as, “complete especially in detail, number or duration.”  When time was complete in detail, number or duration, God sent His Son.

 As the holiday season is approaching, I’ve been thinking about the timing of the Savior’s birth.  What made the Roman Empire the time complete in detail, number or duration?  Why was it the perfect time for such a miraculous event to to happen?

 The time of the Roman Empire was perfect for several reasons.  The Romans built roads and ships, making travel easier than ever before. Believers could reach much more distant places to share the Gospel that at any previous time.  The Roman Empire created a sense of unity in the world.  Roman rule being enforced by mighty soldiers created a peaceful era where travel was safer than before.  Roman rule made the Jews particularly hungry for a Messiah, making people more aware of the fulfillment of prophecies concerning the Messiah.  Roman soldiers were deployed to remote areas of the empire.  Some Roman soldiers heard and believed the Gospel, and shared it as they were re-deployed to other areas.  The spread of the Gospel to Britain was caused by Roman soldiers who had become believers in Christ being stationed in Britain and sharing their faith.

 Also, there was a unifying language.  The Romans had conquered militarily, but the Greeks had conquered culturally.  As a result, virtually the entire world spoke Greek.  Therefore, believers could share the Gospel with people in other countries.  At no previous era in history could the Gospel have been shared in one language and understood by all.

 After the fall of the Roman Empire, regions reverted to their native tongues.  Greek was no longer a universal language.  Even today, although we Americans may arrogantly assume that people should understand us no matter where in the globe we travel, there are many places where no one understands English.  Also, had God sent His Son during the modern era, people would explain the virgin birth by saying that Mary was artificially inseminated, a procedure that did not exist during the Roman era.  

Think of it.  The one era in thousands of years where the Gospel could be spread more easily than ever before, and universally understood. That is awe-inspiring! 

We may wonder why two thousand years have passed, and Christ has not returned for us.  At times, it seems like He is late.  He is right on time.  He will come again “in the fullness of time”.  Look at all the elements that were in place when He sent His Son.  He knows what He is doing.  He will return in the fullness of time.

Objects May Appear Larger Than They Actually Are

There are times when I have something in my teeth that feels like it’s the size of a large pebble but, when I extract it, it is merely a speck.  Same thing with a booger or a splinter.  Have you ever felt like you had a plank stuck in your finger yet, when it is removed, are surprised by how small it is? 

Sometimes our lives, our issues, our joys, our sorrows seem immeasurably large.  When we look at them in context, they are really much smaller than they appear.  Each of us is a tiny speck in the universe. 

The history of the universe is like a giant tapestry.  There is a pattern.  An unbelievable beautiful, intricate amazing pattern.  We do not see the beauty of the pattern when we focus on our own  tiny part  of the pattern.  Imagine yourself standing among the fibers of a tapestry.  It may look to you like you are surrounded by black.  Or that there is a lovely blue, but why is there this speck of orange over here?  The orange doesn’t fit.  If we could see it all through God’s eyes, we would see the whole pattern.  And, if we could see the whole pattern, we would see the purposes of the things we think are unnecessary or just don’t fit.

 This is where faith comes into play. We have to trust that God, who is the weaver of the most breathtaking pattern ever made, a pattern whose beauty is beyond our imagining, knows what He is doing.  Things that may seem out of place, or even unspeakably ugly to us, are part of a pattern.  That pattern, that plan, is far larger than we are. 

Take your focus off of your own life for a time.  Walk in the woods and explore the glory of God’s creation.  Look at how the food chain works.  There is a perfect balance there.  It may seem ugly when we see a wolf tear apart it’s prey, but it is part of a pattern of perfect balance.  It fits. 

Look at the planets and how they revolve around the sun.  Look at our own planet and how God placed it just the right distance from the sun to allow for life.  To close to the sun, you burn up.  Too far away, you freeze to death.  In the words of the fairy tale, Earth’s distance from the sun is “just right”.  There is a pattern in the solar system.  A grand, beautiful pattern. 

Look at any ecosystem.  Explore a lake, river, mountain range, plains, desert, whatever.  Notice how all life in that area supports each other.  Animals eat plants.  Animals eat each other.  Each individual ecosystem is self-sustaining (apart from their need for the sun) and it is beautiful how all things that each species requires is met by the other species (plant and animal) in that ecosystem.  Again, a grand, beautiful pattern. 

I am not disregarding our responsibility for our own actions.  It is true that much of the ugliness in this world is caused by sin.  Our world is damaged, sick, because of sin.  But, even the ugliest of man’s sins can be used for a greater purpose, to fit in a grand pattern. 

I’m not saying that our issues don’t matter.  God cares about even our smallest issues.  I’m just saying that we often look at them from a wrong perspective.  If you look at a tapestry through a magnifying glass (how it would look if you were a speck standing among the threads) and it looks ugly.  If you back up and look at the whole tapestry, it looks beautiful! 

It’s a matter of perspective.

Correction with Love

Sometimes, it is necessary to tell someone that they are going down the wrong path.  Scripture mandates that Christians be accountable to one another.

In preparing my Sunday School lesson this week, in Galatians 3:26-4:20, I was struck by Paul’s loving concern for the Galatians.  Even while admonishing them for following false teachers, he clearly shows his love.  How does he do this?

  • He entreats them.  He does not demand that they change, he pleads with them.
  • He calls them “my little children” because they are his beloved spiritual children
  • He clearly states his wish to be with them
  • He clearly indicates his concern for them.

Matthew 18:15-30 tells us to tell a fellow believer his/her fault between you and him/her alone.  Tweets are not between you and him/her alone.  Comments on an internet forum or page are not between you and him/her alone.  Facebook posts are not between you and him/her alone.   Talking to others about the person’s fault is not between you and him/her alone.

If the person does not listen and mend their ways, then go to the church leaders.  If he refuses to listen to you or to the church leaders, “treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”  In other words, do not associate closely with him/her in your personal life.  Associate only as you must for business/professional purposes.

Nowhere in this passage does it say to publicly excoriate the errant person.  Nowhere in this passage does it say to berate them or show hatred toward them.

We are called to love one another. John 13:34-35 says we are to love one another as Jesus first loved us.  Jesus loved us sacrificially – He gave His life for us.  Jesus loved everyone, sinners and saints.

God hates sin, but loves the sinner.

Let us love one another.  Even, or maybe I should say especially, when we are correcting one another.  Correct fellow believers with love.  Correct them privately first.  Then go to church leaders.  Then distance yourselves.

But always correct with love.  Love one another.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”  John 13:34-35 ESV

Why Do I Believe In A God I Cannot See?

I have been asked this question a few times over the years.  I will begin with a question:  Do you believe the wind exists?  Of course – everyone believes that the wind exists.  You cannot see the wind, yet we know it exists.  How do we know the wind exists?  Not by seeing the wind itself, but by seeing the effect the wind has on other things.

  • We see leaves dancing around, so we know there is wind.
  • We see branches bending and swaying, so we know there is wind.
  • We see tumbleweeds rolling around, so we know there is wind.
  • We feel the wind moving our hair, caressing our face, so we know there is wind.

We don’t believe there is wind because we see wind.  We believe there is wind because we see what wind does.

It is t he same with God.  We cannot point and say, “There is God, standing over there!”  But we can look at what God has touched, and continues to touch, and see the effect God has on other objects.  We can see creation – God’s handiwork.  Look at all the marvels God created with but a breath, a whisper here, a shout there.

We can see lives touched by God, and see the effect His touch has had on their lives.  We can see a lost, damaged person become whole.  We can see a person whose life was once steeped in wickedness striving to live a life that honors Christ.  They do not do so through their own power, but by the Holy Spirit.  Changed hearts, changed lives are everywhere.

I know that God is real because I have seen the changes He has made in my life.   I am not who I want to be but, praise God, I am not who I was.  I can feel the Holy Spirit living within me, and comforting and instructing me.

Hear what God is saying.  He is calling you.

Look and see what God has done, and is still doing. It is all around you.

Open your heart and feel what God can do!