January 22, 2007
The Airplane Seat Ministry
I do not like flying Ė If humans were meant to fly,
God would have given us wings. It just isnít natural. How can something
that weighs a zillion pounds rise above the clouds?
But flying gets me to where Iím going faster than driving or going on horseback. And I have discovered that Godís eyes are on those steel birds just as they are on the sparrows. It seems that almost every time I travel by air, the Lord has me sit next to someone who is looking for answers to spiritual questions. Just like Philip was sent to the Ethiopian eunuch and then transported through the air to his next destination, God is still in the business of divine appointments.
The most recent example of this happened a couple of weeks ago, just after Christmas. I was headed for Dallas on United Airlines and was to change flights in Denver. The week-end before the Denver airport had been shut down due to a terrible blizzard and so I checked the weather the day before departure. Sure enough, Denver was under a winter storm watch and the airlines was recommending that passengers avoid Denver and were allowing us to change our itineraries to avoid landing there, without charge.
I wanted to avoid what I had just watched on the news -- travelers being stuck in Denver for days waiting for the weather to clear up. I was given a new travel plan in which I would leave Oakland airport a couple of hours later than my first itinerary and would change planes in Los Angeles instead of Denver. But I would have to sit at LAX for two hours for my connecting flight to Dallas and instead of getting to my final destination at noon, it would be more like 5 oíclock p.m. Bummer.
As usual, I prayed before boarding the plane, asking the Lord for a safe flight telling Him that if there was anyone needing to hear the Gospel, to sit me next to him/her. The flight from Oakland to LAX was on a small jet plane that had only two seats on each side of the aisle. I had an aisle seat and a woman around my same age sat next to me by the window. She was real friendly.
Even before the plane got to the runway, she opened the conversation with, "Where are you headed?" I told her I was going to a Bible prophecy conference in Dallas and she was delighted. "Oh, I love prophecy," she responded. "I find Nostradamus so fascinating."
"Oh no," I thought to myself. "Lord, open this ladyís eyes and give me the words to speak." I knew the flight to LAX was going to be eventful.
Her name was Rebecca and she told me that just recently she had taken an interest in the after-life because of the recent suicide of her teenage nephew. She had sought out psychics with the hope of making contact with him beyond the grave. She said one of her favorite psychics was Montel Williamís frequent guest and she read all her books.
My spirit was stirred and I told her that these psychics, if they really had contacts in the spirit realm, were not in touch with the good side. I explained to her how they have their spirit guides which are nothing but demons, fallen angels who give them information to amaze people with. I told her that the Bible warned that the devil comes as an angel of light and his emissaries come as messengers of righteousness. I gave her the story of the rich man and Lazarus and told her that the dead do not cross over, and anytime a ghost appears in the likeness of someone who once lived, they were deceiving spirits posing as the dearly departed ones.
As we talked, I noticed the man sitting in front of me had put his seat back and was cocking his ear to listen to us. My usual reaction when I notice someone eavesdropping is to speak more softly, but I immediately felt compelled to talk even louder.
Rebecca asked me many questions about Bible prophecy and I told her about the Lordís warning in Matthew 24 that many deceivers would increase in the time before His return. She told me that when she was a teenager she had responded to an altar call and committed her life to Christ but that she had immediately walked away from that. I told her that she needed to recommit her life to Jesus Christ and get familiar with the Word of God so that she wouldnít be susceptible to the deceiving spirits she was listening to. She said, "I think the Lord sent you to me." I said, "I think youíre right."
I told her about how when the people in the book of Acts repented of their sins and received Christ as their Savior that they burned their books and amulets. She showed me the fairy amulet she was wearing and said that she had a whole library of such books and that as soon as she gets home she was going to get rid of them. I suggested she burn them in the fireplace so that they would deceive no one else. She agreed to do that.
She asked me about the belief in reincarnation, to which I responded by telling her about the Resurrection and the Rapture for those still alive. I refuted the myth of reincarnation telling her that it is appointed once for man to die and then the judgment. She had not understood that our bodies would be resurrected because she thought that after death spirits just roamed between heaven and earth and lost their physical form forever. She was relieved to learn that isnít the case.
The Q&A session went on for the entire flight and when we landed she was so thrilled to have a real purpose and meaning back in her life. She wept over her own straying from that true commitment she had made as a teenager. She was anxious to examine the URLs I gave her of solid Bible teaching web sites.
The Listenerís Reaction
When the plane came to a stop at the gate and the "fasten seatbelts" sign went off, the fellow who had been listening in threw off his seatbelt, bolted up out of his seat, making a full turn as he did. He looked right at me, staring at me for an uncomfortable time, not saying a word. I just smiled at the tall skinny man and gathered my belongings. I may never know until eternity dawns just what that meant. The Lord might have opened up his eyes with the Word that will not go out void, or the passenger might have been responding with contempt that I would discount his false belief system. It was hard to interpret the look of astonishment in his face. But I knew in my spirit that the Lord was speaking to both him and her and I was just His chosen mouthpiece.
Rebecca and I said our good-byes at LAX and as I waited for my connecting flight, I was praising the Lord for the next two hours. Reflecting on what just happened really blew me away. The Holy Spirit was so much at work in that ladyís life; I just knew that I knew that He was drawing her to Himself. God is still at work in the highways and byways.
The connecting flight to Dallas should have only been a three-hour trip, but I sat in my seat in the back of the plane for the next ten hours and still didnít get to Dallas that day. As we were beginning our landing pattern, DFW Airport closed down due to tornado activity in the area. We had to land in Wichita, Kansas and sat on the tarmac for three hours awaiting orders. DFW did not reopen, so our plane was sidetracked to Chicago where we would be put on another flight the next morning. We got there around midnight and I took them up on their offer for lodging, just to have to double back in the morning for a 9 am flight to Dallas.
On that horrible long plane trip, I sat next to a well-dressed businessman who was reading a "Christian" motivational get-rich book called, "The Greatest Salesman in the World." He was not open to any biblical discussion whatsoever. He seemed to be a man who could pull himself up by his own bootstraps. Another businessman walked by us and commented to the guy on what good reading that book was.
The contrast between that woman in the byways and the man in the mainstream was striking. I could really see where the Lord was working and where He was passing by.
When I arrived at my destination I found out that had I not changed my itinerary and had I stayed with my first connecting flight in Denver, I would have reached my goal without any trouble. Denver had not closed down, and Dallas was open earlier when my initial flight would have arrived. When I would begin to kick myself for not sticking with my first booking, I had to stop myself knowing that God had a purpose for me to be on that flight from Oakland to LAX. Grumbling about the inconvenience was unthinkable!
Only one of the five speakers at the conference made it to Dallas on that first day of the conference. The others were stuck in various airports around the country. The one speaker had to take all the timeslots that day to fill in for the others stuck in airports.
When I arrived and spoke to Dave Hunt, one of the speakers, I told him about Rebecca. He laughed, and said that the Lord consistently puts him next to the people He is trying to reach. Dave said that on the way in God had put him next to five different individuals who needed to hear what God put in his mouth to say. We summed it up that this was a new calling Ė the airplane seat ministry.
We shared stories of how the Lord has done this so many times during our travels. When I travel with friends it hardly ever happens. But when I travel alone, I am free to talk to whomever God sits me next to. I got an email once from a man I had spoken to around ten years earlier who wrote to tell me that after leading him to the Lord on the airplane he has since gone on to go to Bible college and is now pastoring a church. What a privilege and honor that God would use us in such a way.
Heavenly Father, thank You that You use Your servants as mouthpieces to speak Your Word to others. Give Your travelers safety in the air and continue to reach out to travelers who are captive audiences for Your proclaimers of truth. We know that faith comes by hearing and hearing the Word of God, so we ask that You send more of Your servants to preach the Word in the highways, byways, and airways. Give us the baptism of boldness to boldly go and proclaim the truth while we still can. Thank You for the honor of being Your chosen vessels in reconciling men to Yourself. Help us to lift up Your name whenever and wherever we can. In Jesusí name, Amen.
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