Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Coincidence? Or is it God?

Creation Of Life Hands - Leonardo Da Vinci

Dear Friends,

Last Monday, I drove into the Office Depot parking lot and saw the shiny black Hummer with the personalized “JESUS” license plate. I smiled because whenever I see that car, I know that my friend Cornelius is nearby. The first time I saw the Hummer, it was parked at Smart & Final and I want to meet any person who would have a JESUS license plate. I had no idea who owned it but I figured that anyone bold enough to have that license plate, I’m going to be able to recognize as a man of God. (Yes.. I suppose that does sound sexist and it could have been a woman, but the military-style, black H2 Hummer oozed testosterone and I knew it was a guy.) 

I recognized him instantly in the bread aisle as he walked toward me pushing his overloaded shopping cart. An African-American man about my height, weight and age, I knew he was the man I was looking for when I saw the large, chromed, bishop-sized cross that he was wearing. I was wearing my cross and so these two brothers in Christ took one look at each other and instantly connected. He’s ex-military, loves the Lord  and still grieves over the loss of his wife from cancer seven years ago. We’ve met up several times now at Smart and Final – he’s frequently there and loading up his cart – he serves twenty-one meals a day at his home. Cornelius lives at and manages a home for six developmentally-disabled adults. He is their caretaker, mother/father and friend. I call him their “pastor.” He doesn’t think of himself that way but he is their spiritual shepherd. The only difference between him and a megachurch pastor is the size of their church. His commitment to those God has called him to shepherd is unconditional and unwavering. He’s doing what Jesus would do. I see his heart and see a true man of God.

I hadn’t seen Cornelius in several months and was happy to see him at Office Depot on Monday where we talked for a few minutes. As I drove away, I was thinking that the next time I saw him there was something that I needed to tell him and I had something to ask him. Knowing it could be awhile before our paths crossed again, I prayed that I would see him soon. Three days later, I drove into the Smart and Final parking lot and saw a black Hummer with a personalized license plate that said, “JESUS.” Many people would call that a “happy coincidence.”

Not too long ago it was during my morning prayers that I heard my phone ping that a text had arrived. I pray so early in the morning that the only other ones awake and praying with me are professional monks and insomniacs. But my sister lives three time zones away so she’s finished her breakfast before I hear the roosters crow in my neighborhood’s pre-dawn darkness. She was texting me with the latest good news from her doctor. It was the answer to what I had just prayed about for her. Many people would call that a “happy coincidence.” 
A theologian once said that "Those who believe in “coincidences” are blind to the possibility that there is far more going on the spiritual realm than we know about or perhaps even care to know about."
Frederick Buechner is a Bible scholar, theologian, Pulitzer Prize finalist and author of over thirty books. He writes that, “ a rule people see only what they expect to see. Angels are powerful spirits whom God sends into the world to wish us well. Since we don’t expect to see them, we don’t. An angel spreads his glittering wings over us, and we say things like, ‘It was one of those days that made you feel good just to be alive,’ or ‘I had a hunch everything was going to turn out all right,’ or ‘I don’t know where I found the courage.’” Or perhaps your prayer time is interrupted by your sister texting you with good news that’s the answer to what you just prayed moments ago. Who was responsible for the timing? The Holy Spirit? An angel messenger? I don’t know. But I do know it was no coincidence. 

Coincidence is defined as a remarkable concurrence of events or circumstances without apparent causal connection. Scientist and physicist Albert Einstein had a more intellectual definition. He said, “Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous!” 

Last week, Rhianna was talking to the owner of an automotive repair shop about his faith. He told her that he became a Christian six years ago and said that he used to believe in coincidences but he no longer does. When we see, hear and study the Word of God, our worldview and perspective about life changes and what was once seen as coincidence we now understand as His providence. The sovereignty of God refers to His Kingship. His rule and reign over Nations and the Heavens – over you and me. The providence of God refers to when He uses the power of His sovereignty to bring about the miracles that astound and delight us and to leave His fingerprints all over the pages of our day-to-day life. That word providence is not mentioned in the Bible but the biblical concept of providence is interlaced throughout the entire old and new testaments. Psalm 103:19; Proverbs 16:33; Daniel 4:35; Romans 8:28

God's providence is one area in which Christians and the rest of the world part company. Providence means that God has not abandoned the world that He created but works within His creation to manage all things. The world at large, even if they acknowledge God to have been the world’s Creator, thinks that God does not now intervene in human affairs. They think that miracles do not happen, prayers are not answered and things just happen as a result of circumstance and coincidence. But when you know God’s sovereignty and providence, you know there's no such thing as good fortune or a serendipitous twist of fate. That’s why, when the “happy coincidence” happens in our lives, we look up toward the heavens and say, “Thank You God! To You be all glory and honor and praise!”

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