On Saturday, on Chewing the Fat , my friend Dave wrote that someone had told him that he had offended God in a presentation he gave.
The post prompted quite a few comments; mostly, including my own, along the lines of , "Be very careful if you dare to say you speak for God," and "How often does God really give people message for others anyway, when he is quite able to speak to them directly?"
But as I sit here listening to the thrumming of rain on our roof and the slapping, plopping and dripping outside, my mind wanders in a slightly different direction to two occasions on which God compelled me to communicate a message. I guess that since the instances were about 20 years apart, it isn't exactly an everyday occurrence, but... sometimes he does urge us to speak to others instead of doing it directly himself.
God is God and he doesn't have to explain himself; sometimes he uses humans!
The first time was in the 1970s. We knew a Jewish man, Jack, the brother of someone who lived with us (we were house parents to people with disabilities at that time). Jack had brown eyes that twinkled with humour, and distinguished looking white hair. He was kind, generous, funny, and not particularly religious. He developed pancreatic cancer and the disease progressed quickly.
I remember it so clearly, even now. I was a young mom with a very busy life, and one particular day I had exactly ten minutes for my "quiet time," before I had to leave for a meeting. I opened my Bible to quickly read from the beginning of 1 Peter chapter 4 (verses 1-8). But the verses leapt off the page; they stopped me in my tracks, and I knew that I was supposed to send the verses to Jack. "What?" I thought, "These verses aren't a good choice for someone of the Jewish faith!" They were not what I would have chosen at all, they talked about Christ. If this was God, wouldn't he have chosen something more fitting from the Old Testament? But very clearly, God affirmed that I had heard him correctly.
I was much more shy then than I am now, but when I got back from the meeting, before I could change my mind, I wrote Jack a letter and explained what had happened, and I included the verses. The letter slipped from my trembling hand into the yawning mouth of the mailbox. Gone! No turning back.
I had read a passage where the apostle Paul spoke of being willing to be a fool for Christ's sake, and that is what I was sure I was.
A week or so later, Jack called to speak to his brother. I was so embarrassed to hear his voice on the other end of the telephone. But he thanked me for my letter. He said that it had deeply touched him. I know that whatever I replied was brief and expressed the fact that the letter was not really from me.
It was not long before Jack died, and Paul was asked to be a pallbearer at his funeral. One of Jack's sisters took Paul aside and told him that Jack carried the letter in his pocket until he died, reading it and rereading it. When he became too weak to hold it, he had someone read it to him.
I wondered if I should have done more than just send that letter, but I know that I did what God told me to do. Perhaps it was a link in a much longer chain. One day I will know.
The other occasion?...Well, that's another story for another time!
1 Peter 4:10-11 (The Message)
The Message (MSG)
Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson
7-11Everything in the world is about to be wrapped up, so take nothing for granted. Stay wide-awake in prayer. Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything. Be quick to give a meal to the hungry, a bed to the homeless—cheerfully. Be generous with the different things God gave you, passing them around so all get in on it: if words, let it be God's words; if help, let it be God's hearty help. That way, God's bright presence will be evident in everything through Jesus, and he'll get all the credit as the One mighty in everything—encores to the end of time. Oh, yes!