We’ve all heard it, or said it ourselves. “A strange thing happened to me.”
It’s something we say for anything out of the ordinary. For example, when you pick up the phone (especially back in the old days when everyone had a land line) and you haven’t talked to a certain person in weeks. You dial the friend’s number and there is no ring. Then someone on the other line speaks the word “Hello.”
It is your friend–the one you haven’t talked with on the phone for days or weeks–maybe even months. It’s your friend’s voice.
You say his or her name in a questioning inflection. They say, “Yes, it’s me,” and ask if it’s you.
Then you both say almost simultaneously: “I was just calling you.”
The phone didn’t ring because you dialed simultaneously and connected at precisely the right time that prevented a ring on either end.
That “strange-thing” scenario plays out in our brains over the course of our lifetime. We have deja vu moments–sensations that make us sense that we are reliving a previous moment in time. The brain glitches, or whatever they are, are rare, but they happen to most of us.
We might say, “I had a funny thing happen to me,” rather than, “I had a strange thing happen to me,” on these deja vu moments and other occasions when extraordinary occurrences take place in our lives. A movie with a title reflecting this sensation is the film A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.
But what we really mean when we use the word “funny” is that the occurrence is very out of the ordinary.
The above is to preface the telling of a strange thing that happened to me a week and a half ago. It is among the strangest of my experiences–perhaps second only to my brief visit to somewhere within the heavenly realm on Good Friday of 2011 due to my heart stopping three times because of a “widow-maker” heart attack–an event about which you are doubtless tired of my recounting…but it was so out of the ordinary and so absolutely a vision, not a dream, that I can’t help recounting it.
A friend of mine since junior high school days and I have kept in touch over these many years. He is a guy who is full of good humor, yet serious-minded when sound thinking is called for by life’s circumstances. He is one thing more. He is lost–doesn’t know the Lord for salvation.
My friend went to Vietnam, was a second lieutenant, led a squad of twelve men into the tunnels beneath those killing fields. They were charged with cleaning out the tunnels of Vietcong, the term for North Vietnamese, black pajama-clad jungle fighters.
He did his job, and, miraculously, after many missions, made it back home to America. He did get into drugs, not an unusual thing for those who fought in that war. He suffers traumatic psychological disorders. However, he is a very sound thinker, and always under control, having received much psychological help over the years since returning home. He earned a law degree during the early years of his return.
I have prayed for him for all these years–that he would be brought to the point that he would hear the words of my witness to him.
He always listened to my talk about Christ, yet, although very politely listening and agreeing that he acknowledged there is a God, never seemed to go deeply beyond a cursory acknowledgment of needing God in one’s life.
About six months ago, he called to tell me he was under a doctor’s care. He had been diagnosed with a form of lung cancer. They were attacking it with chemo and radiation. They had hope for cure.
I prayed more and more that he would come to genuinely want to accept God’s way to salvation–a thing I had gone over with him many times. I prayed the Lord would draw him to Christ in whatever way necessary.
To go back a bit farther in our lives, a friend of ours since childhood–a very healthy guy of about 70 at the time–suddenly developed a strange heart malady. This friend was a Christian, and very close to both of us over the years.
Howard, this friend with the heart disease, died in 2013 right before Christmas. My friend and I have talked about Howard many times since.
I continued to pray that the Lord would use Howard’s death, somehow, to bring my friend to understand what is needed for his own time of death, if he is to go to Heaven.
Mike called me about a month ago to tell me that he was now in hospice. The doctors told him they were out of options, which means he will doubtless pass away soon.
I prayed all the harder in the manner mentioned above.
A week and a half ago, Mike called me. There was a strange lilt to his voice. He said, “Terry, guess who I just was visited by this morning before dawn.”
I hesitated, not having a clue. My dying friend, his voice unusually serious, yet strangely expressive, made seemingly a hundred thoughts race through my head. I was silent.
“Howard,” Mike said.
“Howard?” I tried to think of who he was talking about.
“Howard was here. Right here at the end of my bed,” Mike said. “He talked to me.”
“What did he say?” It was all I could think to say. I knew he meant our friend who had died had, Mike thought, talked with him. I was then stunned into silence.
“He said, ‘Mike, you’ve gone to Sunday School and church your whole life. But, you’ve not heard a word. But, Mike it’s going to be okay. You’ve got to listen, though, in order for everything to be okay.”
Instantaneously, I jumped in. I said, “Mike, I believe you have had a genuine visitation from Heaven.”
I believe this, because at that moment I knew without any doubt what the words Mike had heard from Howard–or whomever the heavenly visitor was– meant. They were to give me an opportunity to speak directly to him in a way I had never been able to do so before.
I said, “Mike, I have to tell you that this is a message from God Himself, from the Lord Jesus Christ, who wants you to accept Him for salvation. You must listen to what I have to tell you. The Lord wants you to listen.”
I said, “You know I love you. I would never lie to you or hurt you. I want only the very best for you.”
Mike said, “I know that, Terry. I believe you.”
I said, “Then listen carefully, because this is directly from Jesus to you.”
I then went through the plan of salvation–how Jesus said He is the only Way to God the Father and Heaven.
Mike listened, and said he believed I was telling him the truth.
I said, “The Lord sent Howard–or whomever the heavenly being was–to you to make you realize this message is from Heaven above.”
Mike said, “When I started to ask Howard about what was going on with this…standing at the end of my bed, he said. ‘Mike, where do you think I am?'”
Mike said he knew then that Howard had come to him from Heaven. He knew Howard was a Christian–had taught Sunday School and lived a Christian life all the years of our lives together.
Let me tell you, by this time, I had chill bumps running all over me, chill bumps of happiness. The Lord had used our friend Howard’s heavenly image, in whatever way, to get Mike’s attention. God had directly intervened–had answered my prayers that Mike would truly listen to what God had been prompting me to say to him.
When we hung up, Mike had not yet committed to Christ for salvation–not verbally, at least. I told him that Paul the Apostle wrote that if he will confess with his mouth the Lord Jesus, and will believe in his heart that God has raised Him from the dead, he will be saved–will go instantaneously to Heaven and to Jesus when his heart stops in this life.
“Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved,” I told him in the simplest terms the Bible uses.
So, it was a “strange thing” that happened to both my friend Mike and me a week and a half ago.
But was it “strange,” really? God has moved Heaven and Hell to bring sinners to repentance by sending His Son to die for us. He is not willing for any to perish. For God to move in this way is not at all strange in God’s love for us. Miracles can be commonplace in His divine view of things.
Mike and I have just been blessed to be part of God’s increasingly miraculous interventions into this world during this time so near Christ’s return. He is about to intervene in an even more thrilling way–through the Rapture!
Pray that Mike will soon call again with some really good news.