What a blessing it has been to work in support of the Chinese underground church and their missionary vision which they call “Back to Jerusalem,” in which God has called them to take the westward movement of the gospel the rest of the way around the world from China, back to where it began in Jerusalem. One of the most well-known spokesmen for this is Brother Yun, author of the book The Heavenly Man. Because our family lived for a time in Washington state, the American BTJ organization asked me to set up a speaking tour for Brother Yun in the Pacific Northwest.
The tours are set up based on invitations received through the BTJ website. These serve as geographic anchor points. Then we prayerfully seek other places to speak in order to connect the dots, ideally making efficient use of time and travel. After four or five months of emails and phone calls, I was not making much progress, so I felt like I should go there myself and meet people in person. I was excited to step out in faith, willing to just drive into a town and ask God where I should go. With this expectant attitude, my daughter Heather and I flew to Seattle.
The plan was to rent a car and spend the next week traveling all over Washington and parts of Oregon visiting prospects and praying for new ones. Heather was going to stay with friends, and I was going to devour audiobooks on my solo road trip. However, this dreamy picture came crashing down when the nice lady at the rental car desk handed my driver’s license back to me and said, “I’m sorry, I can’t rent a car to you. Your driver’s license is expired.” As soon as she said it, my mind flashed back to my birthday two weeks earlier. I had tried to renew online, but apparently I had already done that twice and needed to renew in person, which I forgot to do.
I looked dumbfounded at my license, and the lady seemed to brace herself for a fight. After a moment and a quick prayer I said, “You’re right. You can’t rent a car to me.” I then explained why I was in Washington and told her that God must have a better plan. I wanted to bless her and glorify God in everything. I went back to Heather, sat down, and explained the situation. She asked what we were going to do next. “We’re going to cry,” I said with a smirk. “Just kidding. We’re going to see how God is going to solve this problem. This is going to be exciting!”
That night was easy. Since we were staying with friends in Seattle anyway, we took the train almost all the way to their house. The next morning I borrowed a car from a friend whom I never anticipated seeing on this trip. But as a result of needing his car we got to spend time driving together, which was such an encouragement that it would have made the trip worth it by itself.
The next day Heather and I took an express bus to Bellingham from Seattle. As we were enjoying the gorgeous Pacific Northwest views, I noticed that we were cruising along past traffic in special bus lanes. We were making great time! It then occurred to me that I wasn’t driving in that traffic. The bus was so restful. At that moment God spoke to me quietly in that voice that isn’t a voice, “I have taken away your control so that you must rest in Me,” and a wonderful sense of peace came over me.
This raises an interesting tangent about hearing the voice of God. I could also say that the thought occurred to me, “God has taken away my control so that I must rest in Him.” While the sentiment and the accompanying peaceful feeling could certainly be a product of my own mind, it is no less true. The important thing is that I was blessed by a timely truth resulting in peace and rest. Does it matter how that thought came into my head? Was it external information presented to my mind, or was it a thought formed by the external influence of the Maker of my mind? The only other alternative is to say that it was just a figment of my own mind, independent of any external force, which is certainly what it felt like at the moment. But the subsequent events of the next week proved to me that this “thought” was a personal blessing from God, and not extraordinary prescience on my part. Indeed, seeing this experience in light of all that came after, confirms to me that it was truly God’s voice. (To see some of what did come after, you have to read “A Foggy Battle.”)
After I had been born again at age 16, I would often reflect on the days of my life before that. I could see certain events where God had been at work in me. At times the Holy Spirit brought conviction of sin, or at other times a heightened sense of reverence and wonder, and once or twice I heard the message of Jesus. In retrospect I can clearly see that God was drawing me (John 6:44), and in that sense, was speaking to me. In the same way, we can often see what God was doing (or saying) in retrospect, such as that realization/thought/voice on the express bus. But it is my growing conviction that God desires to have this kind of relationship with us all the time. He wants us to hear His voice in the present, not only in retrospect. After all, He calls us His friends and as such He shares His most intimate information with us (John 15:14-15).
Heather stayed in Bellingham with my childhood friends, Bryan and Jean and their children. Bryan took several days off work and volunteered to be my chauffeur. Wow! Not only did I get to all my appointments, but we had the unanticipated gift of fellowship as we visited old mutual friends together all over Washington state. Praise God for my expired driver’s license!