A “Divine Appointment,” and some recent preaching/teaching
A couple links if you’re interested, then a story about a divine appointment I had recently.
I preached this past Sunday at Calvary, on “Faith in the Faithful One,” from John 14:12 and 1 John 5:1-5. Part of our “Greater Than” series, looking at Jesus’ words in John 14:12. You can download the video of the sermon here or the audio here.
On Monday, I spoke at Elements (our weekly college student gathering) on Love, Sex, & Relationships. You can read notes from the talk at our website, here. I think I’m starting to like the students’ notes of my talk better than my own!
Now, the story. Have you ever had a “divine appointment?” That’s a meeting, encounter, or event that you didn’t schedule, but God undoubtedly did. I had one of those a couple weeks ago when President Obama came to Penn State.
Obama’s appearance was a hot ticket, and I hadn’t planned on waiting in line for hours to get one. But when my friend Brian Reece called me the night before with the offer of a ticket through his connections, I jumped at the chance.
I showed up the next morning with a few thousand other people and we waited in line for all the necessary security checks, then just waited in the stands in Rec Hall for the President to arrive. All told, we had nearly 3 hours to burn off. I got to chatting with the woman sitting next to me. Mostly small talk. I could tell she was a foreign grad student, probably Chinese–not uncommon at Penn State.
After people-watching and doing the requisite social media check-ins, I looked over and saw she was reading a pamphlet of the Gospel of John. She was in the middle of John 3. I said, “I see you’re reading the Bible? What do you think of it?”
She replied “It’s interesting, but I have a lot of questions.” Sensing that this could be an interesting conversation, I said “It’s funny you should say that. I’m a minister. What are your questions?”
“This is a story, right?”
“Yes, it’s a story. I believe it’s a true story.”
“Does it dishonor the god if I read it as just a story?”
“Well, I think the story was written to get you to think, to get you to ask why so many people believe it’s true.”
From there, we talked about Jesus being both God and man, and some of his claims to divinity through the “I AM” statements in John.
At one point she said, “So this says Jesus is God, what’s the point?” I responded, “Imagine you were God. Would you do it this way? Would you reveal yourself and save the world this way? Why do you think God would do it this way?”
From there we talked about the significance of the Cross, and the difference between the Gospel and Religion. (Being from communist China, both of those were foreign to her!). She was really tracking with our conversation, and at times stopped so she could think and ponder her next question.
Being packed in the stands, we were having this conversation in the hearing of several other people. I could tell some were listening. Before long, Obama arrived, and our conversation came to an end. Afterwards, we exchanged emails and said we’d meet again to continue our conversation. I discovered she knew a couple Christians, had visited Calvary a couple times, as well as some international ministry at Penn State. When I told her that I occasionally preach at Calvary, she said “What is preach?”
I walked away and realized that while it was cool to hear the President in person, the highlight of my day had without a doubt been sharing the Gospel with this student. I felt a bit like Philip after his encounter with the Ethiopian eunuch. Without my planning, I had been whisked away to share the Gospel with someone already reading Scripture, asking “What does this mean?”
Later I found out that my friend Brian had felt prompted by the Holy Spirit to offer me that ticket, thinking “Maybe Steve will get to have a significant conversation with someone.” My wife Jess also felt compelled to stop and pray for me that morning, without knowing why.
This kind of thing doesn’t happen to me every day, but it was a reminder that God is always working, always setting up divine appointments. It was a reminder that there are people all around us who want to know what the Gospel is. Truly God can do–and is doing–”greater things” through his people!