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Our Current Virtual Church Message

The Bus Stop

Julio Martinez leaned his body against the wind. In Chicago, in November, when the wind came in off Lake Michigan, you sometimes had to lean against the wind. They call Chicago "The Windy City." On this windy Friday in November, Julio was walking to his bus stop like he had done for thirteen years. Julio had pulled on his ski mask. Then he put on his hooded parka. The wind in Chicago they call "The Hawk" was even more biting when the wind chill got down to below zero like it was today. Julio has gotten used to the walk of six blocks every day. However, no one could get used to the wind and cold blowing through the canyons of buildings where the buildings create a wind tunnel.

Julio was two blocks from his bus stop and he noticed something unusual. The stop seemed to be lighted. There was a streetlight about 50 yards from the stop but today it looked like the bus company had put lighting of some kind in the stop. At 5:00 A.M., in the darkness of early winter, the glow around the bus stop was noticeable. Julio walked another block and a half and noticed there was someone in the stop. No one was ever at the stop at this hour of the morning except Julio. Julio walked up to the stop and sat down. Something else that was unusual was the stop was heated. Inside the shelter of the stop the temperature must have been nearly eighty degrees!

As Julio sat down, the stranger sitting in the stop with Julio said, "Good morning." Julio did not respond immediately because you never know about people any more. Julio had a healthy skepticism about strangers, having lived in Chicago all of his life. Julio responded with a curt "Morning." The stranger then said, "Like the warmth in here?" Julio responded and said "Yeah, I didn't know they put heaters in these stops." The stranger said, "I think it may be temporary. Like an experiment." After a pause, the stranger said, "I know your name. I know you are Julio. I came here to answer your questions. The big questions you have about your life." Julio was stunned. Here was someone Julio did not know who knew his name and who knew Julio was grappling with all kinds of profound issues in his life. Julio didn't say anything for a moment because he was trying to sort out how a perfect stranger knew who he was and knew he had enormous questions about his life. The stranger's voice had some kind of soothing quality. The man's voice had a kind of reassuring quality. So Julio said, "Who are you? How did you know my name?" The stranger said, "I am just a stranger passing through. I came to give you some answers about changing." Julio did not know what to say. Julio finally blurted out, "How do you know I have questions about changing?" The stranger smiled and said, "It's sort of my job. I came to answer some of your questions about changing and the pain you are in." It seemed the stranger knew more about Julio than Julio knew about himself. Julio said, "OK, tell me about changing and pain."

The stranger said, "You need to let God change you and shape you. You need to let God push you or lead you, especially in times when you are in pain. Let yourself melt down into the hands of God." Julio replied, "I am trying to do that but I have the pain thing I deal with." The stranger, who seemed to have the wisdom of God said, "Everyone needs to let God mold and shape him or her. To be molded and shaped, you need to melt down. Of course, I am speaking in terms of physical objects and comparing these objects to God's spiritual dimensions. When I try to speak about the spiritual world to you, there is a bit of a breakdown in communication. The spiritual world and the physical world are not always directly analogous to each other."

Julio replied, "I want to do God's will. I want to do what God wants me to do. I want to go where God wants me to go, and be who God wants me to be, but…" The stranger than said, "Yes, I know there is the word, 'but…' God wants every heart to do His will. There is a problem human beings have with being molded and shaped. People are like plastic, glass, and metal. Plastic, glass, and metal have to be heated up to a temperature where they will melt. When heated to their melting point, these materials can be molded and shaped to be beautiful. Pain and suffering, when taken into a person's life, melt a person down. However, some people do not take pain and suffering as a melt down kind of experience. Some people come away from pain and suffering full of bitterness, anger, and hatred. Often people come away from pain and suffering with bitterness, anger, and hatred toward God. When you rest in God, and you rest in His Son, then pain and suffering can melt you down so you find into His will. Once you are melted down, God can pour you out and you can be made into something beautiful. When you do not rest in God and in His Son, pain and suffering only turns you into an ugly mess. It is so important every person come to understand the full nature of Christ and the love He is. When people understand and possess Christ within their heart, the pain and suffering of life produces a beautiful person. Pain and suffering comes to everyone. The idea pain and suffering is reserved to just a few is not correct. What is important is not the fact of the suffering. What is important is for you to let suffering produce a beauty in you as a result of your putting yourself into God's hands. Then you can possess His love within you."

Julio was silent for just a moment. Then Julio replied, "I have my frustrations with the pain and suffering issues. Shouldn't there be an easier way to get me into the shape God wants than using pain and suffering?" The stranger said, "I can't answer most of the coulda, woulda, shoulda questions you like to ask. That being said, getting people to conform their life to God is a painful process. You were made in God's image but there were blemishes or deformities. The blemishes or deformities are called sin. To get rid of the blemishes or deformities requires a total melting down and a total reshaping through a molding process. Conforming your image into the shape of Christ requires a lot of personal inventory work. Conforming requires you not only be honest about your sin, but you also must be willing to undergo reshaping. For some people, the conforming process takes a whole lifetime. In your case, you not only are to be conformed into Christ's image, you are to also communicate His love, mercy, and compassion to others. If you look at where you have traveled, and you look ahead to where you can go, it will appear you are not making progress. You must remember when you look ahead you are looking at infinity. However, being molded and shaped has not been the major question on your mind, has it?" Surprised the stranger knew so much about him, Julio said "No, my questions are about the new work I am doing. I have conflicts. I know what God wants me to do. I will continue to do what I have been doing according to His direction for me. I am conflicted about the where's, how's, and the money issues."

The stranger replied, "I am not going to give you every answer. I know you want every answer. I know you are frustrated. However, I will give you some pointers. If you always try to do God's will, He will bless you and your family. If you are always making every effort to be honest and true, God will bless your life. If you intentionally communicate God's love, in any way, shape, or form, He will bless you. One of your biggest frustrations is about what you send out to others in the world. Remember people are starving. Jesus fed people physical and spiritual food. Jesus healed people. Yet, most of these people did not realize who Jesus was. Jesus did not feed people or heal them as part of an attention getting scheme. Jesus fed people and healed them because He loved them. People need spiritual wisdom and spiritual food. Unfortunately, people can find salvation but live a messed up life here on earth. God does not like or bless this kind of witness. It is like a student getting straight A's in schoolwork but turns into a drug dealer or prostitute when the person's school years are over. People of every persuasion would say this former student is wasting his or her life in sinful endeavors. For you, it is critical for you to know people will get God's message of love from your work. Remember, millions of people need open hearts and minds to God's love and truth. Some people, like you, are given the orders to feed people so these hearts and minds can be opened. Other people are given orders to communicate God's love and truth in other ways. Every person is to communicate God's love and truth in a way God has designed for them to do. Imagine what a different world you would have if everyone communicated God's love and truth. However, do not despair. Remember, even if you reach only one person in your life, then all the work you have done for God will be worth the effort. There is always a larger picture in your life you cannot always see. In the larger picture, one soul is incredibly precious. One soul brings all of heaven into rejoicing when this one soul comes to Christ Jesus. What I have given you and told you will not make you feel any better in terms of your pain. However, it is good you experience the frustration you are feeling. Your frustration can mold you and shape you into God's image for you."

Julio thought for just a moment. Julio glanced across the street for just a second. Then the lighting in the stop went away. The warmth went away. And when Julio glanced over to where the stranger was sitting, the stranger had disappeared. Julio didn't know for sure who the stranger was. However, from the answers the stranger gave, Julio knew who the stranger served.

Hebrews 13:2 Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it. (NIV)

This story is fiction but contains an incidence or incidences of truth that could be true for you. The message first appeared in November, 2008, in the Virtual Church web site at http://www.findthepower.com

 

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Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (RSV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Copyright © 1952 [2nd edition, 1971] by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Shepherd's Care Ministries author and webmaster, Rev. Patrick Kelly, is affiliated through ministerial ordination with Church of God Ministries, Anderson IN 46018