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“When I gaze to the skies and meditate on Your creation—
on the moon, stars, and all You have made,
I can’t help but wonder why You care about mortals—
sons and daughters of men—
specks of dust floating about the cosmos.
Psalm 8:3-4 The Voice
What started out to be another routine and quiet Luther League meeting with the usual high school bunch, suddenly changed when an older member arrived with two male college students. They were big city guys from out of state, energetic and eager to share with us their stories…stories about how Jesus had changed their lives.
My interest in Jesus and the Bible and ‘all things religion’ was the reason I was in church on Sunday nights, meeting with other young Lutherans instead of being elsewhere; so I was eager to hear what they had to say.
What I didn’t expect were stories of life in an inner city where drugs and debauched lifestyles were common and where marijuana use often spiraled downward into heroin addiction and the unimaginable terrors that followed it. I was shocked. Our usual Sunday evening conversations were more conservative, light and much more sanitized. To my relief, the focus shifted and the two roommates began to share all that happened to them individually when they stepped through the doors of Teen Challenge Recovery Centers and heard about Jesus Christ for the first time. The rest of the evening was filled with story after story about how Jesus had changed their lives, helped them endure the painful recovery from heroin addiction, and now seemed to delight in miraculously answering their prayers.
Their stories were amazing; beyond amazing and yet I was appalled and angry.
“How could these two men who had obviously made such horrible, sinful decisions in their life, so casually talk about Jesus as if He were their personal, best friend? Compared to them, I’d lived a moral life, striving to be good and obedient and pleasing to my parents, teachers and to God. I didn’t drink, smoke, party or touch drugs; yet they were speaking as if they knew God better than I ever had. How was that possible?” I was troubled.
“How could anyone, especially former drug addicts, know God or Jesus that personally? He is holy, so holy, so unique and so distant.”
I was jealous as I thought about them knowing someone I had always longed to know. Then Steve McQueen came to mind. As one of his biggest fans, I had over the years collected and saved everything I could find about him; photos, postcards, magazine clippings with details of his whole life and career. I knew all about Steve McQueen…but I didn’t know him. I wondered what it would feel like to meet someone who did. That Sunday evening, sitting on the altar steps of Zion Lutheran Church, I came to the realization that my relationship with Jesus Christ was exactly like my relationship to my favorite movie star: I had a collection of information about Him but I didn’t know Him…not like these two young men did. I was discouraged.
If the hope of actually meeting Steve McQueen was so absurd, how could meeting Jesus, in this life, even be possible? Who in the world could introduce anyone to the Creator of the Universe??
As if to answer my unspoken questions, I heard one of the guests comment: “if you would like to know Jesus and have Him come into your life, all you have to do, is ask Him.”
“What? Ask Him? Just ask the Lord of Lords and King of Kings to come into your life?”
That sounded too simple, way too simple…but now I was hungry and embarrassed and everything inside of me was aching to know what these former heroin addicts knew so well. I quieted my heart and humbly listened to their every word. When the meeting finally ended with time to be silent before the Lord, I bowed my head, shut my eyes and uttered the most important prayer of my life.
It was simple and honest and direct:
“Jesus, I’ve believed in you all of my life. I’ve attended church and Sunday School and camp and Luther League meetings, I’ve sung in the choir, I’ve prayed and read the Bible; I’ve done all of that ~ but I’ve never asked you to come into my life…would you please come?” Before I could finish asking ~ He came. He came into my heart with waves of joy that overwhelmed my senses until all I could feel was His warm divine love. In one moment all of my self-righteous efforts and confidence in my own goodness melted before God’s divine grace. I met the Lord face to face.
That was 45 years ago…and though the names and faces of the two young men have faded from my memory, their story never has for it changed everything in my life. I’m still singing “amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me a former Pharisee” …and every time I stand under a star-studded Montana sky I am reminded that knowing Jesus Christ, the Creator of the Universe is the single, greatest treasure in all of existence.
I hope you have been blessed by these encounters. I would love to hear your encounter. You can email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are loving this series make sure to check out last years lenten series, “40 Encounters With Jesus.” Available in both Paperback and Ebook formats. ~Jen
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