Is This Real Life?

I am blessed that my testimony includes a moment where Jesus spoke directly to me. At least, I know that’s what happened. On Sept. 4, 2016, I was dealing with a serious forgiveness issue: I was unable to forgive myself for things I had done. I was on the brink of accepting Christ, but my inability to forgive myself was blocking the way. After an hour-long meeting with a pastor, I was much closer to forgiving myself. On the drive home, I stopped in traffic behind a car with the personalized license plate: 4GV 4GT. Ramona had to explain to me what it meant: “forgive and forget.” I call it my text from God. It was the moment I knew Jesus was real, He forgave me, and I could forgive myself. I never looked back. You may not be surprised to learn that this story is often met with skepticism. People believe I saw the license plate. But some people doubt or outright reject the notion it was a communication from Jesus. I even had a pastor friend fall into that category. It turns out that in Acts 12 we discover I’m in good company.

The Apostle Peter has been jailed as Herod moves against the Jesus movement:

The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists. Then the angel said to him, “Put on your clothes and sandals.” And Peter did so. “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me,” the angel told him. Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision (Emphasis mine). They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went through it. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him. Then Peter came to himself and said, “Now I know without a doubt that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from Herod’s clutches and from everything the Jewish people were hoping would happen.” Acts 12:6-11 (NIV)

Peter was being physically led out of jail by an angel of God and it feels so surreal to him he doesn’t realize it’s happening. He thinks it’s “a vision,” which we might call a hallucination. It’s not until the angel walked him a block away that he realized it actually happened! But the disbelief doesn’t stop there and it doesn’t remain exclusively Peter’s:

When this had dawned on him, he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying. Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant named Rhoda came to answer the door. When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, “Peter is at the door!” “You’re out of your mind,” they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, “It must be his angel.” But Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished. Peter motioned with his hand for them to be quiet and described how the Lord had brought him out of prison. Acts 12:12-17 (NIV)

I’ve read that passage many times and was well aware of the disbelief of those at the house. But, somehow, I managed to miss Peter’s until I read it again recently. In both cases it took physical evidence for belief to come: Peter had to realize he was standing in the street and not in a jail cell. His fellow disciples needed to see for themselves he was at the door.

Our days are filled with God moments. As believers, we need to understand that every bit of good fortune that comes our way is by the hand of God. There are no coincidences in God’s economy: none. As for my text from God. From a friend’s cellphone app, I would learn that the white luxury car sporting the plate was registered to the Milwaukee area. I have never seen it since. And if Ramona hadn’t reminded me to stop and get the car washed (at the very last second possible), we never would have pulled behind that car at a stoplight.

It wasn’t a hallucination, nor a coincidence. It was Jesus, blessing us with an amazing gift that brought me to Him and would eventually launch me into serving Him as my full-time vocation. That’s real life. That’s Jesus.

This post is republished with permission from Oakbrook Church, De Pere, WI.

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