Faith and Closure: Avoiding Misconception and Error

Faith And Closure

Both faith and closure depend on sensory input. Unfortunately, senses alone create a fragmented and incomplete concept of our world. What do we do with those random bits and pieces of known and unknown? By nature, we fill in the gaps between what we know and what we don’t know from previous experience.

We define this human phenomenon of observing the parts but perceiving the whole as “closure.” Usually our definition of closure falls between the limited boundaries of ending a business or relationship. The full sense of closure reaches much broader than that, however.

As we begin life, our minds largely resemble a blank slate. Of course, our natural senses already became activated in the womb. Once we exploded into the world, sensory overload kicked into high gear. Bright lights and dark shadows, cold air and warm touches, unmuted sound (including our own screams of panic), and smells both pungent and subtle. Neither faith nor closure existed for any of us in those early moments of life.

“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”
1 Corinthians 13:11-12

See Like a Child

Paul affirms the ways of childhood give way to adulthood — as do thoughts, speech, and whole waft of other developmental attributes.

Faith

Most of us have played peek-a-boo with a child. The child saw our familiar face. Suddenly, we hid behind a blanket, causing the child brief but great concern. As soon as we showed our face again, the child responded with equal delight. Gradually, he/she learned that even though they could not see our face, we were present — hidden from view but with them.

Innocently, those first simple faith steps of a child began. Drawing from experience, he/she believed you were present and available. The child’s ability to create closure — to finish the picture in his/her mind even though all he/she saw was a blanket — required faith in its simplest form.

Spiritual faith follows a parallel journey as we learn that although we cannot visibly see God, His Presence is tangible and constant. Spiritual senses develop through similar childlike steps.

All too often, however, we take giant leaps in our attempt to “finish the picture,” recreating God in our minds.

In 1 Corinthians, the great love chapter, Paul warns us about this premature propensity toward closure. He reminds us that we don’t fully know the whole story, or see the bigger picture. At best, we see God and our world in fragmented pieces — like a half-painted portrait.

Glass Window

Other Bible translations phrase it this way:

  • “we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections” (NLV)
  • “now we see through a glass in obscurity” (BLB)
  • “we see through a glass, darkly” (KJV)

Yet despite our blurred context, we adopt faith and closure, framing everything and everyone around us by previous limited experience.

Mystery

Even though much of life (let alone God) remains a mystery, we involuntarily close the gaps of time and space between known and unknown with great leaps of faith. For Christians, faith is mandatory to our belief system.

Many people in Jesus’ day attempted to create closure apart from faith. They nullified the mystery of God by leaning toward presumption, misconception, or even error. Examples regarding Jesus are many:

  • Some accused Him of performing miracles through Beelzebul, the prince of demons. (Matt 12:24)
  • Religious leaders tried to stone Him, believing He was a mere man, claiming to be God. (John 10:31-33)
  • His own family thought He had gone completely mad — out of his mind. (Mark 3:20)

That’s only the tip of the iceberg of accusations and misunderstanding. Though people witnessed the miracles and heard His teaching, without both faith and closure they came to faulty conclusions of His person and ministry.

Iceberg

Seen and Known

To a lesser degree, we’ve all fallen victim to similar judgments and misunderstandings of our motives and actions. We’ve probably also been guilty of forming false assumptions about others. Paul offered the Corinthian church this wise advice,

“So don’t make judgments about anyone ahead of time — before the Lord returns. For he will bring our darkest secrets to light and will reveal our private motives. Then God will give to each one whatever praise is due.”
1 Corinthians 4:5

The Lord Jesus, who knows all things, will reveal every hidden piece, every secret portion. He will unveil the completed canvas. Then, there will be no misunderstandings, misconceptions or errors. Everyone will clearly see and be fully known. Faith and closure blending in perfect unity! No presumptuously filling in the gaps or judgmental conclusions.

Closure

Just as faith develops in a baby through experience over time, so does closure. The more we come to know the heart and ways of God, the longer we walk this journey called the Christian faith, the greater our perception of Him, our world, others, and even ourselves becomes.

Horse Tail

With both human and spiritual sensory inputs functioning to a greater degree, we become increasingly capable of successfully navigating the circumstances of life. Even then, we always remember that we only know and see in part.

Jesus’ disciples tripped and faltered as they continually attempted to bring closure where there wasn’t any. Some assumed they would sit at His right or left hand in His Kingdom (Mark 10:37). Others concluded the disciple John would never die (John 21:23). They often attempted to squish Jesus into their religious or political paradigms. Despite His warnings, they all believed they would never forsake Him (Matt 26:31-35).

We too dangerously combine faith and closure in misdirected ways. How few Christians in North American believe trouble and persecution will intrude upon their comfortable lives? Many believe Christianity equates to entitlement regarding health, wealth and ease. What percentage of the population falsely believe access to heaven comes through good behavior and honorable intentions?

Here we see faith without justified closure.

Jesus Christ

Only One Person capably closes such gaps — Jesus Christ! In Him is the pinnacle of both faith and closure, eradicating every misconception and all error. In Him is absolute fullness and completeness.

In every way, this familiar passage applies.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do and he will show you which path to take. Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom. Instead, fear the Lord and turn away from evil.”
Proverbs 3:5-7

Faith and Closure

When we direct our eyes and hearts exclusively to Him, allowing Him to reveal the full picture, we release the need for premature closure and by faith trust Him with all outcomes — large and small. Then, with childlike enthusiasm, we will rejoice as He reveals the full image both in our lives and in the lives of others.

We will never panic like a little child playing peek-a-boo. We will possess an assurance, fear from all doubt, He is forever present, though unseen, in the twists and turns of life. Only in Jesus Christ comes faith, knowing He will put all the pieces into perfect union and bring closure to the mysteries yet to be revealed.

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Overcoming Spiritual Impotency: Accepting Personal Responsibility

Overcoming Spiritual Impotency

Overcoming spiritual impotency starts by recognizing and accepting personal responsibility for both gains and losses. Impotent means “unable to take effective action—to be helpless or powerless.”

Before you get any wrong ideas, I’m talking in the broadest sense of living the Christian life at half-throttle, never reaching God’s full potential. Jesus set a high standard of ministry for His disciples,

“Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.”
Matthew 10:1

How wonderful to be called and given full authority to do the impossible! With opportunity comes responsibility.

Our Commission

Just a few verses later, Jesus spells out their mission more clearly,

Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.”
Matthew 10:6-8

Colt

As Christ’s followers, we are all called to “go” and “proclaim” the Good News of the Gospel. Each of us will carry out that mandate a little differently, depending on our situation and spiritual gift mix. We are all called to share God’s love with a world in need, however.

As well intentioned as I may be, I have been unable to reach the high mark Jesus has established. Although there’s a faint smattering of a few of these victories, I fall far short. I’ve been honestly seeking God and asking why. The lives of others depend on my overcoming spiritual impotency.

Pinpointing the Cause

Rather than focusing on the symptoms, we must go deeper to the cause of our powerlessness. God makes it clear, He desire us to freely give away all that we have received.

One day, Jesus invited His inner circle, Peter, James and John, up the mountain for an out of this world encounter with Moses and Elijah. Though the supernatural occurrence left them confused and questioning, they witnessed unbelievable things. Meanwhile, the other nine disciples weren’t idly waiting below. They were ministering — or rather they were unsuccessfully trying to!

” ‘You unbelieving and perverse generation,’ Jesus replied, ‘how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.’ ”
Matthew 17:17

Rodeo Horse

Ouch! How’s that for a scathing performance evaluation that no one desires to hear from their Superior? I feel the sting from this side of two thousand years!

It’s not just you and me working on overcoming spiritual impotency; the best of the best struggled too.

Matthew, who records the account, witnessed the suffering of this poor father and son. He felt the failure of his inability to set this young lad free from demonic possession and heal his troubled body and mind. Matthew knew that every Christ follower would face these same hurdles to effective ministry.

The First Problem

Signs, wonders, miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit become a visible testimony of our salvation (Hebrews 2:3-4). God delegated these things for us all, not just those in “ordained” ministry. So what keeps us from fulfilling our calling? What’s the problem?

Jesus spells it out in two words: “unbelieving and perverse.” We tend to emphasize the former and ignore the latter. Both are critical if we are going to be effective at overcoming spiritual impotence.

Unbelieving” goes beyond a littleness of faith. It also contains the aspect of not being worthy of confidence or being untrustworthy. Perhaps we have all experienced, either in our own lives or in the lives of others, a powerful sense of divine potential or excellence of calling. Yet, practically, we fall far short.

Wild Horses

I have to be bold in my self-evaluation, if I desire to overcome this malady of spirit. Can Jesus depend on me? Am I trustworthy with the gifts, abilities and opportunities He offers? Do broken, hurting people come to me and leave just as broken and hurting, or does Jesus pour out from me with healing and deliverance? Do I make excuses for my failures?

I can fully believe in God and the inerrancy of His Word, yet without verbalizing it, justify why healing won’t work this time, deliverance isn’t for me to get involved in right now, and don’t even mention raising the dead. These things belong to super-gifted, anointed Christians! Right? Here lives unbelief at the core. Yes, we know Jesus is present to heal, deliver and restore to life, but we doubt His willingness to do it here — through us.

Jesus uses the opportunity to build up their faith.

” . . . Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
Matthew 17:20

The Second Problem

The Bible tells us that God has already given to each of us a measure or quantity of faith. Beyond question, we possess at least a mustard seed sized amount (Romans 12:3).

Overcoming spiritual impotency depends on our willingness to deal with both problems Jesus addressed. He identified the second hindrance to vibrant ministry as being “perverse.”

Horse grazing

The dictionary says that “perverse” is

“showing a deliberate and obstinate desire to behave in a way that is unreasonable or unacceptable, often in spite of the consequences.”

The Greek word, διεστραμμένη (diestrammenē), means to distort, misinterpret, corrupt, or oppose. Literally, it means to be “wrong-headed, arising from stubbornness.”

I’m perhaps way more “wrong-headed” than I realize. Every time my thoughts don’t align with His thoughts, I’m wrong-headed. In every situation where I vainly think my ways will get it done, instead of leaning into Him, I’m wrong-headed.

I can’t sluff off my stubbornness to Irish genetics. Since the fall of mankind, wrong-headed thinking has led those whom God loves to “show a deliberate and obstinate desire to behave in a way that is unreasonable and unacceptable (to God and others), often in spite of the consequences.” No one can justly claim immunity in this regard.

The Solution

God never pinpoints a problem without offering the solution. The disciples recognized they hit a legitimate ministry wall of failure and limitation. They sought Jesus’ help in overcoming spiritual impotency.

“He replied, This kind can come out only by prayer and fasting.”
Mark 9:29

Powerful Horse

Prayer and fasting align both our hearts and minds to God’s. These two disciplines draw our spirit, soul and body in surrender to the sovereignty of God. Prayer doesn’t just change things — it changes us!

“He made known his ways to Moses, his deeds to the people of Israel.”
Psalm 103:7

During Moses’ daily times in the Tent of Meeting talking with God, he came to know God — His character, His attributes, and His nature. He saw clearly the ways of God.

The people who stood back and watched God from a distance only experienced God’s deeds. They saw His miracles, ate daily of His provision, and sat under the fire by night and the cloud by day. Still, they did not “know” God! They continued to walk in deliberate and obstinate disobedience, even while knowing what was right.

Be Free

When Jesus said, “This kind can come out only by prayer and fasting,” was he referring just to a demon in a child? Could He also have been referring to our unbelief and perverse tendency?

It’s not just the demon possessed who suffer. We all do! Prayer and fasting is essential for us to overcome spiritual impotency. Only God can set us free from every “unbelieving and perverse” way. Prayer and fasting releases us from our boxes of little faith and wrong-headed thinking. Then what we have so freely received from Jesus will flow freely to others.

Horse portrait

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Romans 12:2

The first month of the year is an excellent time to designate for prayer and fasting, resetting priorities and giving God first place. I’m asking Him what He desires to set me free from. Undoubtedly, unbelief and wrong-headed thinking hold prominent position on His list.

Unbelief originates in the heart; perversion flows from the mind. With hearts faith-filled and fully devoted to God, let’s endeavor to live with minds “clear-headed” free from every perverse way. Then we will gain the power to live victorious, bringing freedom and hope to those around us.

“The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray.”
1 Peter 4:7

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Setting Priorities: God or Money; Faith or Fortune; Wisdom or Wealth

Setting priorities between eternal and temporary remains a struggle for people of every social and economic strata. Written within the suffering of Job, we find his perspective on wisdom and wealth. Job successfully established his priorities with both God and finances. These are words spoken by someone whose wealth, even in today’s terms, would dwarf most other enterprises.

“People assault the flinty rock with their hands
and lay bare the roots of the  mountains.
They tunnel through the rock;
their eyes see all its treasures.”
Job 28:9-10

Job talks about the enormous effort people have exerted to uncover precious metals, like gold and silver, and rare jewels. Deep into the earth they’ve chisel to expose valuable treasures.

Treasure

Setting Priorities

How does the level of exertion while striving for wealth compare with the pursuit of wisdom? Which venture consumes more of our time and energy? More importantly, what do I worry about the most: spiritual hunger for God or the desire for greater financial security.

Recently, God tested where my heart was on the issue. I knew it was God because of the bizarre circumstances: an injury causing unemployment for my spouse with no compensation, unemployment insurance, or disability coverage; an empty rental unit and a mortgage to pay; and my employment closing. For three months, bills came without income to match.

We never lacked. God isn’t a God of lack. Although, we considered carefully every penny spent. God has seen us through many tough seasons, including financially. We have learned,

“The LORD Will Provide.”
Genesis 22:14

At such times,  will I base my decisions not on my financial position, but on faith, giving God my “Yes!” to whatever He asks?

Amethyst

Wisdom maintains faith to put God first. Often a financial crunch shows clearly how we choose to set priorities between God and money.

Wisdom

Job’s observation confirmed most people know more about gaining and maintaining wealth than they do concerning finding wisdom. A quick scan of the bookstore or “Google” reveals almost unlimited advice on creating wealth. His question still applies generations later.

“But where can wisdom be found?
Where does understanding dwell?
No mortal comprehends its worth…”
Job 28:12

Perhaps humanity’s search for wisdom pales in comparison to the feverish pursuit of wealth, because we don’t comprehend the value of wisdom. If we did, setting priorities between God and money wouldn’t be such a challenge.

Gold Jewelry

Job is the oldest writing in the Bible. The teachings of Jesus form some of the newest.

Heaven and Earth

Jesus reminded His listeners that everything we accumulate here will be left behind, so the wise invest in eternity.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth,
where moths and vermin destroy,
and where thieves break in and steal.
But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven,
where moths and vermin do not destroy,
and where thieves do not break in and steal.
For where your treasure is
there heart will be also.”
Matthew 6:19-21

Our hearts are intrinsically connected to our investment, whether here “on earth” or there “in heaven.” These storehouses don’t just vie for our hours, energy and focus, they fight for our devotion.

“No one can serve two master.
Either you will hate the one and love the other,
or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.
You cannot serve both God and money.”
Matthew 6:24

Pearl

What is my choice? God or money? Which captures my heart and devotion? Do I view life decisions from the perspective of heaven or earth?

Do I set my strength to break through whatever obstacle presents itself, the flinty rocks of apathy, lethargy, or complacency to seek wisdom and understanding?

God The Source

God is the source of all things. As Creator and Sustainer of all that exists, everything belongs to Him.

For from Him and through Him
and for Him are all things.
To Him be the glory forever! Amen.”
Romans 11:36

Any level of financial success achieved comes from God because “it is he who gives you the ability to create wealth.” (Deut 8:18) Haggai reminds us.

“The silver is mine and the gold is mine,
declares the LORD Almighty.”
Haggai 2:8

Whatever wealth we think we possess remains borrowed goods. It is far too easy to believe our accumulations came from strategic thinking, smart investing, or a solid work ethic. Not that these are wrong, but perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate true motivation!

A Gift

Wisdom endures. Wealth is temporary.  Solomon, the wealthiest man of his day and the wisest man of all time, speaks of wisdom as being a gift —

“For the LORD gives wisdom,
from His mouth come
knowledge and understanding.”
Proverbs 2:6

Job confirms that “God understands the way to (wisdom).” (28:23)  His circumstances convinced him that wisdom remains the rarest and most precious of any commodity. Job previously knew wealth plus wisdom; God was showing him wisdom, plus wealth. There’s a difference!

Diamonds

How do I know?

“The fear of the Lord —
that is wisdom,
and to shun evil is understanding.”
Job 28:28

Job, stripped bare of all security, comfort and wealth, felt God as distant. It’s the dark seasons, the tough road, the desperate places where God proves Himself near and enough. Setting priorities upon God proves the essence of our faith — the foundation of our trust.

When all else fades, the surpassing value of hidden treasures of wisdom and understanding outweigh all else. God is faithful! He can be trusted! Let’s learn from Job setting priorities sooner rather than later.

It starts with me. Here. Today.

God of Miracles – Final Chapter of Unlocking Legacy

In a world gone off course, I’m thankful for the God of miracles. He remains on the throne — unchanging, powerful and good. Though great kingdoms rule the earth and dangers invade from every side, God sits upon the throne above earth’s domain.

“After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me, like a trumpet said, ‘Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.’ At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with
someone sitting on it.”
Revelation 4:1-3

Today, lets all take a break from the stresses for some good news. News that God still hears the cries of His people and actively involves Himself in their lives.

The following is the final chapter of Unlocking Legacy: Taking your God-Given Territory Through Prayer. Unlocking Legacy is a compilation of personal testimonies from people of a variety of ages and nationalities. I pray you find this excerpt encouraging.

“Prayer does not equip us for the greater work;
prayer is the greater work.”
– Author Unknown


The prayer principles within this book are tangible and potent only because they are based on the inerrant Word of God. Everything about prayer originates from and rests securely upon the foundation of God—His divine character and faithfulness: God drawing us to Himself in a personal relationship; God turning His ear toward our faint cries and warring shouts; God empowering us to move with His power and through His authority.

The Bible describes faith as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb 11:1 KJV). The evidence of God moving through His miraculous power in answer to prayer could not be expounded in a few simple writings. However, this closing chapter includes mini-testimonies of prayer rooted in faith, becoming substance.

Miracles of Healing and Provision

Joy-Lyn could write her own book on the miracles she has witnessed God do in answer to prayer, but here are just a few:

“I was in the chemistry laboratory completing an experiment when I received a word of knowledge for the girl sitting across from me in the lab. I felt she was having a problem with the right side of her neck or shoulder, perhaps from a sports injury or gymnastics.

Healing in the Chemistry Lab

“When we were finished our work, I asked her about it. She did have an injury, but it was from softball. She was experiencing tension and pain on the side of her neck, running down into her shoulder. We prayed right there in the chemistry lab at the university. God touched her. She almost started crying and said, ‘That made my day!’

***

“A couple of years ago, my mom and I went to a garage sale in a little church across the street from our house. I thought I had a word of knowledge for one lady about her knee. ‘No,’ she said, ‘but my shoulder is in a lot of pain.’

“I asked if I could pray for her. ‘Sure,’ she said, ‘but I’m going to keep shopping.’ After praying, I asked her to test it out. Before prayer, she could only raise her arm parallel to the floor, but now she could raise it a little higher, although it still hurt.

“I asked if I could pray again, ‘Okay,’ she said, ‘I’m shopping, but go for it.’ I prayed again and asked her to check it a second time. She lifted her arm all the way up and gasped, ‘Who . . . are . . . you?’ as she backed up.

“ ‘It’s Jesus! It is all Jesus!’ I said.

“She turned around and quickly left. I walked away laughing and thought, ‘We’re in a church. I don’t know what you expected.’ It goes to show that healing isn’t as normal as it should be.

***

“After my first year of university, I needed a job and applied to several places but didn’t receive any response. I started praying about it.

“I already knew that tithing was not an option but an important biblical principle. I had tithed before but wasn’t diligently keeping track of every source of income. Up until then, I hadn’t made tithing a priority in my spiritual walk.

“After I prayed for a job, the Lord quickly and clearly said, ‘You start tithing and I’ll give you a job.’

“That was on a Tuesday. Immediately, I took the time to figure out, as far back as I could remember, what I hadn’t tithed from and tithed on that income. By Friday, I was offered a job.

“I received a random phone call for an employment opportunity that I hadn’t even applied for stating, ‘We think you would be good for this position.’ That was probably the quickest answer to prayer I’ve ever received.

“As soon as I obeyed, God provided!

***

“At work, I was picking up a couple of kids from visiting their mother. When she helped put the kids into the car, I asked if she experienced headaches. After confirming it, we prayed together. Immediately, she felt a lot better. The Muslim girl I was working with that day got to hear the prayer and see this woman’s healing. Then I invited the woman to come to church with me.

“ ‘Sure,’ she said, ‘I’d like that.’

“ ‘Great! I’ll pick you up tonight.’

“That evening I went to the women’s shelter to pick her up and waited for twenty minutes but she never came to meet me. I was about to leave when another lady walked in with crutches. We started talking and I felt led to pray for her. She was in a lot of pain and had been on crutches for ten years because of a failed surgery. After I prayed, she tested it out. It was somewhat better but not completely, so we prayed again.

“She ended up walking pain-free without her crutches and then gave her heart to Jesus. Another lady, who had come into the lobby, heard the prayer, saw the miracle and began thanking God.”

It is really cool when God shows up at work! Even though Joy-Lyn wasn’t completely accurate with the words of knowledge, when she stepped out in faith, trusting God, He graciously healed those around her.

A Family Prays Together

BreAnn shared,

“I haven’t always felt comfortable praying for others but as I learned to trust the Holy Spirit, I became more willing to pray.

“I have seen several significant answers to prayer. My whole family  started praying for my uncle when the doctors believed he had a tumor in his neck. Surgery was performed, but they found it was actually a lymph node, not cancer, and it was resolved. Praise the Lord! That was my earliest loud answer to prayer.

“For several years, I was struggling with knee pain and had to go down the stairs one at a time. When a young girl prayed for me at a youth retreat, I felt something hot in my knee. That ongoing knee pain hasn’t returned. Now, I can walk down the stairs normally.

“Our child is one hundred percent a miracle and an answer to prayer. My husband and I were told we would never be able to have children on our own. We both felt no urgency to look into in vitro fertilization or adoption. God gave us a great deal of peace to continue praying and waiting on Him. We became pregnant by the hand of God within three months. Our child is nothing short of a miracle!

“I realize that not everyone’s prayers get answered like that even though they are far more faithful than we are. God hears every prayer. Not a sparrow falls to the ground without God seeing and knowing (Mt 10:29). Sometimes our desires are fulfilled before our eyes, at other times ‘no’ or ‘wait’ is an answer.

We say with confidence that our prayers are answered because we know who we are praying to.

“We have a God who cares deeply for us. Sometimes the tangible answer we experience is God’s peace during imperfect circumstances. We may never understand how God chooses to answer our prayers.”

Leaning on Others

Emmanuel actively pursues spiritual gifts. The list of miracles he has witnessed in his young life spans far.

“I keep pressing in to see God move miraculously in the lives of others. I don’t create doctrines based on my lack of understanding, however.

“For years I prayed for people with one leg shorter than the other to be healed without seeing results. Nothing! Even though I was frustrated, I knew that God wasn’t the issue, but I was. Then I asked a friend who often sees healing in this area to pray for me. The very first person I prayed for after that was healed. Now at least ninety percent of those I pray for with that condition are healed.

“If the door hasn’t been opened to me, I knock again. Then, I keep on knocking (Mt 7:7-8). For me, to pray without ceasing means to not give up (1Thes 5:17).

“There was a fellow in serious condition in the hospital. I don’t think I have fought for someone’s life so much in prayer. I kept in touch with his mother and knew he was getting worse instead of better. The doctors gave him no hope of recovery. He was in a coma and given twenty-four to forty-eight hours to live. I, and many others, kept pushing through in prayer. Not only did he recover, but he gave his life to the Lord. He’s alive and well today.

“That is a recent example of praying for someone without immediate results. It doesn’t mean we pray 24-7, but we pray without giving up. Although we should all make intentional time for prayer, that should not be the only time we pray.

God is a Good Father.
He doesn’t inflict pain to teach us a lesson.
That would be abusive! God is so gracious and wonderful.


“Even though I have seen many others healed, I have rarely been healed of anything. My theology is that God always desires to heal. He takes ugly situations and transforms them into something beautiful.

“We need to be deeply grounded in the Word of God; otherwise, we will lower God to meet our pain. If we anchor ourselves in the Word, we won’t diminish God in any way. I’m okay with not understanding why God sometimes heals and doesn’t at other times. Even though I don’t understand, I keep pressing in to see and know Him more.”

God Provides

Caleb shared,

“Prayer is a two-way conversation involving both talking to God and listening for Him to speak. Even in insignificant things, I ask God for help.

“Not that long ago, I lost my wallet. After coming home from a restaurant, I couldn’t find it anywhere. After looking everywhere to no avail, I prayed, asking God to put it in a place where I could see it. A little while later, I noticed it on the living room couch, clearly visible.

A Missing Wallet

There is no supernatural lifestyle without prayer.

“When I was in Grade 12 my marks weren’t amazing. I wanted to find a job so I could buy a car. I didn’t plead or demand, but simply prayed only once, ‘Jesus, if You want me to have a car You’re going to have to give me one.’ I didn’t tell anyone that I prayed. Shortly after, a former pastor called and offered me a car. Was that a coincidence? I don’t think so. When we allow the Holy Spirit into our lives and conversations, we will see things happen.”

The Miracle of Sensing God’s Voice

Sometimes, just hearing God’s voice is the greatest miracle, as Karen discovered.

“A little while ago, God unusually demonstrated His love to me, thereby increasing my faith.

“My husband and I were driving to the city on a beautiful, sunny fall day. All was quiet and the view picturesque. With my husband behind the wheel, I silently enjoyed the ride, gazing blissfully out the window of the car at the splendid fall colors. Amongst the other trees, a smaller brightly colored red tree seemed to stand out, catching my attention and filling me with awe.

“ ‘Wow!’ I said to myself, ‘Do I ever like that tree! It’s gorgeous!’

“ ‘Thank you,’ I heard, ‘I like that one too. It’s one of my favorites.’ The voice came so quickly and unexpectedly, I was surprised. Did I hear right? Yet, I knew beyond a doubt that it was not my own thoughts.

“For days I marveled at what had happened. It made me feel oddly special—like a secret shared between two people who love each other. I wanted to share it with others, but I knew that it wouldn’t mean the same to them as it did to me.

“Since then I’ve wondered why He would speak to me about something so insignificant. How many times had I begged and longed for a word from God, without hearing anything? Now, out of the blue, when I wasn’t even praying, He spoke so clearly to me.”

Miracles Through the Prayers of Others

Jewell experienced healing of an arm injury.

“I had a bad accident and received a “dinner fork” fracture to my wrist. I was in a cast for a long time and had also gone through many painful procedures trying to get it to release. Nothing helped. Because it hadn’t healed properly, I had limited use of my hand.

“While working at a summer camp, all the counselors gathered around me to pray after their morning meeting. Most of them knew I had received a spinal injury and broken ribs from a serious accident. Because they loved me, they wept as they prayed over me. Everyone, except for one fellow, prayed for my spine and the pain I was enduring. He prayed for my wrist and arm.

“I had been seated on a chair encircled by all these young people. When they finished praying, there was a complete circle of tears shining on the floor around me. They asked if I felt any different. Though I was encouraged by their prayers and felt so blessed by their love, I didn’t feel any change physically.

“I continued the day, performing my duties as best I could. Later in the evening, since there was usually someone who needed a nurse’s attention after the games time, I was sitting by the medical cabinet waiting. While I was waiting, I went to flex my arm to stretch it.

First Aid Kit

“I was shocked! For the first time in a year, my wrist had full flexibility in both directions. I suddenly realized my wrist was completely healed. It hasn’t bothered me since.

In God’s perfect time, it only took a minute.

“That year, there were several other healings that occurred at camp including a girl who had experienced multiple concussions. It was an exciting time for the campers to witness God perform physical healings.”

Beyond All Expectations

Christie shared a miracle of provision.

“I had applied to enroll in a university program but was reluctant to take out any student loans. I said to God, ‘I’m not spending money on this program. If I’m going back to school it has to be paid for.’

“I was informed that I would need to retake an exam to qualify for the program. Because of my schedule, I didn’t have time to study. I asked several people to pray for me as I rewrote the exam and for the finances for the program.

“The way things worked out, the administrators didn’t care about my grade score on the exam. They also decided that they would cover the cost of the program, plus my rent and utilities. School is very expensive, so it was a big deal to have all my expenses covered. I saw the provision of the Lord as He gave me everything I needed.”

Obedience Before the Miracle

Visions, both her own and others, have impacted Yogeswari’s life resulting in miracles.

“When my husband lost his job, our daughter was six years old. We decided not to have any more children because, in India, there are no child benefits. Parents have to pay for everything including all medical and educational expenses from kindergarten through university. Without my husband working, we couldn’t afford another child.

“My pastor’s wife had a vision. ‘God is trying to give you something and you’re abandoning it. That’s why your husband has lost his job.’

“ ‘What? How could my husband’s losing his job be related to me not planning on having any more children?’

“She said, ‘Don’t ask questions. Tell God that you will let your son be conceived and that you will have this child. Then there won’t be any further problems with him finding a job. Please promise God that you will receive the child He wants to give to you.’

“That’s what I did. Our son is a promise. Not that we didn’t face problems, but my husband immediately found a very good job. When our first child was born, we had to pay for everything. With our son, my husband’s employer paid for everything including a cesarean section. God gave us a son and paid every expense.

“When I was pregnant, I prayed, ‘The son of David is going to come to me. I want Solomon’s wisdom for this child.’

“A while later, a pastor prophesied over our son, ‘You are a son of promise. You are having David’s promise in you.’ That pastor confirmed it, even though it was something only my husband and I knew. I know my son will be a person of praise and prayer, just like David was. Our son knows he is a child of promise.”

Many Prayers Later

God answered Kristina’s lifelong prayer in several ways.

“My maternal grandmother was Ukrainian Catholic. Maybe she knew the Lord, but I didn’t know for sure. As a little girl, I always tried to share the Lord with her. In her late eighties, when I was in Bible college, she was in a nursing home and started having heart problems.

“I was concerned. I tried to share the Lord so many times with her. She was either hard of hearing or had selective hearing. I’m not sure which! One day after visiting her in the nursing home, I walked back to our house and was almost home when the Lord said, ‘Go back and tell her about Me.’

“I was so mad, ‘I have told her so many times about You.’

“I tromped back to the nursing home, went into my grandmother’s room and sat on her bed. It wasn’t even close to a heartfelt explanation of the Gospel. ‘Grandma, you are a sinner. We’re all sinners. Jesus died on the cross for you. He rose again. You need to ask Him into your heart. Do you want to do that?’

A Miracle for Grandma

“I tromped back to the nursing home, went into my grandmother’s room and sat on her bed. It wasn’t even close to a heartfelt explanation of the Gospel. ‘Grandma, you are a sinner. We’re all sinners. Jesus died on the cross for you. He rose again. You need to ask Him into your heart. Do you want to do that?’

“She said, ‘Yes.’

“I was kind of dumbfounded and hardly knew what to do but led her through the sinner’s prayer and left.

“My grandmother had struggled with anxiety throughout her lifetime. Because of the heart problems she was having, I prayed, ‘Okay God, she has received You. Please don’t let her struggle with fear and depression right now. Please, can we see some tangible results of You in her life.’

“The first of three answers to my prayers was that she came to know Jesus.

“Second, my grandmother’s new-found passion was playing bingo. She loved playing bingo and would give the quarters she had won to the visiting grandchild of the moment. My Mom called me up one day when I was back in Bible school to tell me that my grandmother passed away. To me, an answer to prayer is that my grandmother, who wrestled with fear, died doing the thing she loved—playing bingo. Furthermore, she had just won her second game; they put the money in her hand; she smiled, hung her head and went home to be with the Lord. There was no pain or fear in this new Christian lady.

“The third answer was that the Catholic priest from grandmother’s town was too busy to do her prayers and we were able to have our little Baptist church pastor who knew and visited her in the nursing home, come to do the prayers. All of my mom’s siblings, nieces and nephews came. At my grandmother’s prayers, my family, who didn’t know the Lord, heard the Gospel being shared by our Baptist pastor.

“My grandmother appeared to be hard of hearing, but this pastor said at my grandmother’s little service, ‘I visited Mary many times and shared the Lord with her. Recently, I asked her, “Do you want to receive the Lord?” ’

“She said, ‘Kristina and I already dealt with that.’

“Somehow through my obligatory actions, ‘Okay God, I’ll go share  with my grandmother,’ she got it. Through whatever hearing matters were happening, she understood. God answered my very special lifelong prayer in several ways.”

The Simplest Prayer

Prayer wasn’t a daily practice when Keith prayed for his wife.

“My wife experienced hip pain constantly. It was uncertain the direct cause but no doubt a heavy physical workload was a contributing factor—handling hundred-pound grain bags, flipping and rolling out hay bales by hand, gardening and a multitude of other strenuous tasks.

“Her father had undergone both shoulder and hip replacement surgery. The enemy taunted her, that she would soon end up the same way. Each night she would crawl into bed struggling to find a comfortable position to sleep.

“We can’t remember whose idea it was, mine or hers, but someone decided it was time for prayer. I laid my hand on her hip not knowing how to even pray. Before I could say a word, I felt an intense heat flowing through my hand. She felt nothing but peacefully went to sleep.

“The next morning, she woke up completely healed. She never experienced any pain or discomfort in her hip again. God did it. He answered my silent prayer and it only took a minute.”

God’s Grace

The Love Bus is an inner-city ministry bringing food and necessities to prostitutes and gang members. I don’t join this dedicated group of volunteers often, but each time I do, I learn as much from the street people as from the workers.

“I arrived early to help prepare the sandwiches and fruit that we would be taking along with us. We had a brief time of prayer and received final instructions before heading out for the night. We were told not to let the neighborhood children, who would be the first to bombard the bus, take all the food before we reached the streets.

“Sure enough, while we were loading the bus, children started clambering up the steps looking for food to take home with them. It wasn’t long before I began to resent their demands. We gave each child a drink of hot chocolate and a supply of food before escorting them back off the bus.

“I honestly had to go and sit at the back of the bus for a few minutes just to repent of my nasty attitude. It was obvious these children didn’t have much to call their own; critical judgment had no place in God’s work.

“Soon the bus was rolling through the core area of our city, stopping to welcome anyone onto the bus for a warm cup of coffee, hot chocolate or something to eat. The Love Bus offers protection, safety, love and dignity to everyone.

Inner City Mission

“Several hours later, a man and woman entered. Age is hard to determine on the streets; it isn’t measured by years, but rather by experience. The trauma of inner-city life distorts and molds people leaving little room for normalcy. Before leaving the bus, they both received prayer, hugs as warm as the coffee, and love enough to carry them through the night. They stood outside chatting with the driver for a while.

“Soon the driver re-entered asking if we could change our route and head outside the normal area to give this couple a ride. We all agreed. Back on the bus, they came.

“I slipped over beside the woman, beginning a conversation. She had been in the hospital because she had shot up with a deadly cocktail of substances. Within hours, they quickly released her to fend for herself. Her legs were still grossly swollen from the effect of the self-inflicted potion.

“ ‘They feel like shattered fiberglass hockey sticks—each splinter tearing at me with terrible pain.’ she explained.

“At that moment, I forgot that she was a drug addict, heading to get another fix. My heart reached out before my hand touched her leg, as I asked, ‘May I pray for you?’

“Together we prayed for the swelling to dissipate and the pain to be removed from her body. I asked her to test her legs and see if there was any change. She stood on them for a moment before sitting back down, ‘Yes, they’re a little better.’

“I explained that God is so big and loving that He doesn’t want to make things just a little better but bring complete healing. She agreed to allow me to pray again, before testing her legs a second time. Now they were almost completely better and the swelling had gone down considerably. One more time we prayed.

“This time when she checked her legs, they were completely pain-free. For the first time that night, a giant smile spread across her face, deepening the wrinkles on her cheeks and exposing blackened teeth. Joy and unbelief mingled with gratitude, ‘God did it! He took my pain!’

God showed up on the most dangerous streets in the most dangerous city in our nation. How awesome is that!

“Soon we were at their desired destination. Again, I moved to the back of the bus for a time of solitude. Tears of gratitude oozed from my heart down my cheeks. Never before had I witnessed God’s love so tangibly as on the night He healed a little prostitute and drug addict. The greatness of His love and goodness stretched beyond my ugly attitudes and her destructive habits, exposing itself to a world gone mad.”

Miracles in Spite of Ourselves

Fortunately, God’s desire to intervene in people’s lives is far greater than our handicaps and hang-ups. Prayer’s effectiveness is never dependent on our ability, but rather on God’s availability to move. Helen shares her personal experience.

“We get to be co-laborers with Christ. How exciting is that? He shows me something and I get to pray with Him. We may think we should pray for someone, but real prayer is God moving on us to pray. I need to be hearing what Holy Spirit is saying so I can be more effective.

“Having said that, I remember being at a training on prayer but was sicker than a dog that night. I was paired up with a girl who had a bad foot. Honestly, I couldn’t have cared less about her foot. I just wanted to go home. I felt as dry as toast, prayed for her foot and she was healed.

“I thought, ‘God, You are good.’ I didn’t care less. She was ecstatic!

“Someone said to me later, ‘You must have felt elated?’

“I said, ‘No! I was shocked.’

“I really didn’t want to be there and didn’t want to be praying. The answers don’t depend on us. God is so anxious to answer prayer He will use anybody He can find. We are not always in the right mood. Sometimes we don’t feel like we’re connected to God at all. We don’t have to sense Him or feel Him. He is the One who does it!

“I would like more faith in prayer to ask bigger and not limit God. He is beyond what we could think or imagine.”

Miracles While Shopping

I’ve had my own dry as toast experiences.

“A couple of years ago, I had been to a discipleship class and was hurrying to pick up groceries before the store closed. I was overtired and anxious to start the hour trek home. Even though the class should have given me a more godly attitude, I think I forgot the Christian part of me behind when I left the building.

“The icy Arctic wind  swept across the parking lot, blasting its cold onslaught against anyone brave enough to be outside. As I reached the door of the grocery store, a woman and small child approached, asking for money. Because panhandlers often frequent this spot, I had grown suspicious of their stories and motives.

“Annoyed I invited them inside the doorway, selfishly wanting to escape the chill myself. She explained how they traveled across the country when her husband was offered a job here. However, by the time they arrived, the position had already been filled.

“The whole family—father, mother and five children—were now living in their van. They had no food or money to provide for the essentials. Her story neither impressed nor convinced me. I sized them both up—a desperate woman and her young daughter, perhaps five years old.

“Welcoming her to pick up a couple of baskets to fill with groceries, I told her that I didn’t have money, but would buy them enough food for a meal. We went through the fresh produce picking up groceries. She cautiously began filling her basket, asking for permission for each item she chose.

“Halfway through the produce aisle, she talked about having a bad headache. My attitude was so crappy, I thought, ‘If you are taking advantage of me, the least you can do is let me pray for you.’ Thankfully my words didn’t match my thoughts that night, so I expressed it more like, ‘I believe in Jesus Christ and I have seen Him heal many times. May I pray for you?’

Miracle in the Produce Aisle

“The woman was dressed in Middle Eastern garments, so I’m not sure what her religious beliefs were. She was so desperate, however, that she agreed to let me pray.

“Honestly, the prayer was probably no more than ten words, ‘Lord Jesus, heal this headache and take away all pain.’ I asked her how she felt.

“She rubbed the back of her neck and twisted her head from side to side. A huge smile erupted on her face as she exclaimed, ‘It’s better! The headache is completely gone!’

“You would think that having God do a miracle in the supermarket would jolt me out of my “ugly mode,” but alas, it didn’t. That is until I saw her little girl jump up and down like a pogo stick with excitement, chanting and singing, ‘Mama is better! Mama is better!’ Then I began to comprehend the stress and pain this woman had been experiencing.

“This little one skipped and danced through the store as she joyously helped fill the baskets with vegetables, fruit, cheese, meat, bread, milk, cereal, and healthy snacks for later. With the baskets filled and my list complete, we headed for the checkout. After paying for all the groceries, I left the store first.

“From my car, I waited and watched for them to come out. Soon they appeared and walked across the parking lot toward a large white van. Before they reached their destination, the van door slid open as a clatter of youthful activity spilled out into the snow. Now several children bounced up and down with excitement reaching into the overflowing bags.

“Finally, as I saw the unhindered joy and gratitude of the entire family, my heart melted. I was
the least likely candidate,
     the worst example of servitude,
          the poorest display of God’s goodness,
               the stingiest prospect of generosity,
          the grumpiest host for His Presence
     and yet,
“God still used me to bring healing to a woman and provide for a family.
I can never claim the credit for anything God does through me.


“Even on my best days, when I think I have it all together, I fall far short of what God desires. Why He chooses to use the frailness of humanity to display His presence is beyond understanding, but He does. He just needs someone, anyone, who is willing to be used.”

Miracles at Work

I sat at the reception desk of a thriving manufacturing company. This Tuesday started like any normal morning. All the employees except for me were in a weekly safety meeting. No sooner had the meeting begun when two young salespeople entered, one male and one female.

Explaining to them that the manager would be busy for a while, I welcomed them to be seated until the meeting was over.

“It wasn’t difficult to overhear their conversation. The young man had been in an accident twelve years ago. Ever since that time, chronic pain and restricted mobility had hindered him from doing many of the things he once enjoyed. They chatted for some time about the injury and his prognosis.

“I had witnessed God heal back injuries and knew that He could do it again. Listening to the young man’s discouragement prompted me to speak. ‘God doesn’t heal every time I pray for people, but I have seen Him heal enough to know that He can and will. May I pray for you?’ I asked.

“The salesman appeared more than a little shocked by my forthrightness, but hesitantly agreed. I said the shortest prayer asking God to heal every part of his spine and remove all pain. Then I asked him to test it out. He looked at me like I was bordering insanity, but stood up and cautiously tried a few movements. The surprised look on his face proved there was a change. He now had more mobility and less pain than just a few minutes before.

“Spurred on by the evidence of God’s touch, I asked if I could pray again for him.

“With reluctance, He agreed. I briefly thanked God for what He had already done and offered another quick prayer. I was concerned workers would soon be rushing through the reception area and bring an end to what God was doing for this young man.

“When I asked him to test it again, he was obviously annoyed but rose to his feet muttering something to the effect that I was being pushy. If pushy was what it took to release a man from twelve years of pain, then pushy I would be. This time the pain was completely gone and he was able to bend down and touch his toes—something he wasn’t able to do previously. For a full minute, he twisted his torso back and forth, and from side to side. He reached and stretched. Even though he was now pain-free and able to move unhindered, he remained almost unphased by the whole encounter.

“However, the young woman with him was ecstatic. Her eyes grew bigger with each prayer initiative. She knew she was witnessing a miracle. She had been his partner for long enough to know the extent of his injury and the limiting effects it had had on him. His restricted movements and the draining nature of chronic pain had previously hindered his ability to function normally.

“Though the young man never gave God credit for touching his back that day, the young woman left with her faith elevated.”

One cannot separate the miraculous from the Word of God and maintain the integrity of the Bible. From the first words in Genesis to the closing chapter of Revelation, God is evidenced by His supernatural workings and power.

The Bible

Jesus, the express image of the Invisible God, (Heb 1:3) “was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him . . .” (Acts 2:22). Don’t miss the reality of this profound statement. As a man, not God, Jesus relied upon His Father to work through Him. But unlike us, He was a man fully yielded and obedient to God.

Jesus sent out His disciples, giving them authority and power to teach as He taught and do the works He had been doing. Astonishingly, He said they would do even greater works than His (Jn 14:12).

“He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well . . . Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them, and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.”
Mark 16:15-20

Signs, wonders and miracles marked not just the lives of these apostles, but also many other faithful servants and followers of Christ. The writer of Hebrews affirms,

“This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by the gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.”
Hebrews 2:3-4


“The miraculous element in Christianity and the fact that God can act in this world of ours is essential to the vitality of Christianity. Without this aspect, prayer becomes meaningless . . .” 1

God has not and will not change (Heb 13:8; Jas 1:17). In our day, in this generation, God is moving in an increasing measure through the same signs, wonders and miracles we read about within the pages of the Bible. He is calling ordinary women and men, boys and girls, young and old together, anointing them through the Holy Spirit to turn hearts to Himself. God has not suddenly become powerless and silent; signs and wonders continue to follow those who believe. The miraculous is the abundant fruit resulting from the seeds of prayer.

Despondency and neglect of faith followed those who “refused to listen and failed to remember the miracles (God) performed among them” (Neh 9:17). Continuously as I interviewed people of all ages, they joyfully remembered and shared God’s grace and goodness witnessed through answered prayer, often in ways they least expected. Remembering
     reignites the flames of our first love,
          realigns us with the faithfulness of God,
               redirects our focus to the Source of life,
                    rekindles the passion of His Presence,
               restores the deep reservoir of faith,
          re-energizes our desire to pray and to keep on praying. Remembering is critical to all vibrant faith.

We cannot and will not be silent about the good things God has done. He still sovereignly moves among us by His Spirit.

***

Notes

  1. Bill Johnson and Randy Clark, The Essential Guide to Healing: Equipping All Christians to Pray for the Sick (Bloomington, Chosen Books, 2011), 88.

Take Courage! Don’t be Afraid

Take Courage

When Jesus says, “Take courage! Don’t be afraid,” fear dominates and faith is hard to find. Jesus doesn’t suggest; He commands. “Take courage!”

I, like the disciples, often find myself in a “boat” not of my own choosing, tossed by waves stronger and bigger than I. It is in those times, I too must learn to “take courage.”

I find many things about Mark’s biblical account of one stormy night intellectually troubling. Let me name just a few.

Not My Boat!

I’ve experienced firsthand the consequences of running ahead of God. Those times remain burned into my memory bank. Too often, I get a hint of God’s direction, turn up the throttle and embark on the voyage before He gives full instruction. Fortunately, I’m gradually learning to follow rather than race full steam ahead. But . . . 

“Immediately Jesus made his disciples
get into the boat and go on ahead
of him to Bethsaida,
while he dismissed the crowd.
After leaving them,
he went up on a mountainside to pray.”
Mark 6:45-46 

Boat calm water

Do you see that? Jesus made them get into the boat. He made them go on ahead of Him. Everything in me screams, “No! Don’t do it! Wait for Jesus!” But in obedience they step into a boat, not of their own choosing, but by divine instruction. They leave without Jesus, going ahead of Him.

This time, it must be okay, right? After all, they are obeying the Master. 

Every follower of Jesus is in a boat. It’s not our boat, but HIs. He has pointed the way and released us to “Go!” To the best of our ability, we follow. Even though He wasn’t physically with them in the boat, Jesus interceded for them on their journey; He intercedes for us on ours.

“. . . Christ Jesus who died —
more than that,
  who was raised to life —
is at the right hand of God
is also interceding for us.”
Romans 8:34

Not My Wind!

Night came and with it a fierce wind.

“Later that night,
the boat was in the middle of the lake . . .
He saw the disciples straining at the oars,
because the wind was against them.”
Mark 6:47-48

Eventually the winds of adversity press against all desire to follow Christ — to obey His leading. Strain as we might progress becomes slow if not impossible. We usually face it “in the middle” of our calling, “in the middle” of our journey. 

Boat Storm

Ferocious winds have been blowing against the church of Jesus Christ since those earliest disciples stepped into their shaky boat. Perhaps never in the course of the Christian church has she faced such extreme adversity on a global scale. Oppression and dark times surround us. It is spiritually “night.”  The majority of people live with no concept of God.

The other day I sat on the grass with a new young visitor who stopped for a chat while I was in my garden. Though a new acquaintance, around 10 years old, it became obvious as he talked just how disconnected from society and reality his young life was. Raised by video games, formed by cultural influences, hurt by abandonment . . . My heart ached for him. And a generation like him. 

Cold, harsh winds blow ugly and cruel.

Not Alone!

“Shortly before dawn he went out to them,
walking on the lake.
He was about to pass by them . . . ”
Mark 6:48-49

Jesus came! He sees our dilemma and comes to our aid too. He comes to where we are — our places of straining, places of fear, places of hopelessness and futility. 

The next line shocks me, “He was about to pass by them.” How can these two passages sit so close together? He comes, but would also pass by unless we notice — unless we call out to Him, unless we acknowledge His Presence.

They all saw Him coming. They all cried out in terror. Yet, they all missed recognizing Him as their help and hope. Until He spoke. 

Faith

Take Courage!

At the sound of His voice, they knew Him. Through the familiarity of His voice, they recognized Him despite the dark, and above the wail of the wind.

“Immediately he spoke to them
and said, ‘Take courage!
It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
Mark 6:50

“Take courage!” He commands. Fear never leaves voluntarily. When we take courage, fear has to go. Whether the winds willingly subside at the Presence of Jesus or not, courage is ours to possess — ours because Jesus offers it to us.

“Take courage!” Jesus says, as He holds out His hands to us and enters our circumstances, climbing into our rickety “boats.” “Take courage!” He says, as He tells our personal storms to be still.

Calm Sunrise

The best place to be in stormy or safe times, is beside Jesus in the boat, any boat. Perhaps now like never before, the spirit of fear has swept upon us from every direction, threatening health, stability and security. 

No Fear!

When we receive the courage Jesus offers, fear immediately dissolves like mist in the sunshine. I can think of no greater time in the history of church to be alive and in His boat — going where He sends us. The opportunities ahead rise wider than the Sea of Galilee. Will storms come? Probably. Will it take everything we have to strain ahead? Most certainly. 

When these men crossed over to the other side of the lake, multitudes, anticipating their arrival, were excited to see them and ready to receive ministry. 

This is such a picture of where the church is heading! We are almost there. We’re with Jesus, crossing over to new territory. The spiritually hungry still flock to receive all that Jesus provides. 

They ran throughout the whole region and carried the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went — into villages, towns or countryside — they placed the sick in the marketplaces. They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed.”
Mark 6:55-56

Jesus

My little visitor on the grass, searching for someone to care and some reason to live, became my personal reminder. He didn’t come running or begging, but he did come hoping. 

Jesus heals, delivers, and supernaturally touches lives right here — in our own villages, towns, countrysides and mega cities. Though much of the journey remains confusing to me, this I know and am certain of — Jesus is with us. We live in a season of miraculous encounters.

Take courage! Don’t be afraid! Get excited! 

 

My Fair Share! A Measure of Faith!

We all possess incredible ingenuity for obtaining our fair share. Preconceived paradigms of what constitutes fair varies greatly from person to person.

Whether a pie, chocolate bar or some other precious portion, our children eyed the division process with intense scrutiny. Nobody wanted the smallest piece; each hoped for the largest slice; all at the very least, desired their fair share. Generosity sometimes prevailed, but not always.

To settle any disputes, we established a simple rule: the person creating the divide received the last piece. The extra care and concentrated effort to ensure fairness often bordered on humorous!

Fruit Food Apple Refreshment Dessert Fresh - Pixabay - OCC Public Domain

Too Little or Too Much

I’m glad God portions to each of us what we need. No one receives too little or too much. I’m reminded of the children of Israel in the desert gathering manna. God supplied. They gathered. Some gathered little, others gathered much, but all received sufficient quantity (Exodus 16).

Whatever the need, we can trust God to supply. There are no shortages in His Kingdom!

“For by the grace given me I say to everyone of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.”
Romans 12:3

The King James Version says, “God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.”

Apple Pastries Cake Puff Pastry Apple Turnover - Pixabay - OCC Public Domain

The Passion Translation says it like this: “God has given me grace to speak a warning about pride. I would ask each of you to be emptied of self-promotion and not create a false image of your importance. Instead, honestly assess your worth by using your God-given faith as the standard of measurement, and then you will see your true value with an appropriate self-esteem.”

Paul hits the target, doesn’t he? Hiding behind the expectation of “more,” whatever the more looks like, pride lingers and demands.

Look Up

As long as we focus on “the piece” we don’t possess, we lose. The Roman church had as much trouble understanding the concept of fair as I sometimes do. Paul encouraged them to look up before they looked around.

“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them? For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever? Amen.”
Romans 11:33-36

Muffins Pink Cream Delicious Pastries Eat Tart - Pixabay - OCC Public Domain

Now with a realigned perspective of God’s majesty, Paul gives a grand, “Therefore . . .” (12:1-2). Because of who He is, therefore, worship Him. Therefore, offer yourselves sacrificially and holy unto Him. Therefore, change your mindset and begin thinking like He does.

A Measure of Faith

Just like with my children or the children of Israel, I sometimes attempt to “gather” more than my fair share, stashing it away for another day. God knows exactly what I need — for today and tomorrow. He also knows faith is one of our greatest needs.

So He “has distributed” to each one a measure of faith — our fair share! This word “measure” or “metron” in Greek means “a portion, measure off or allotted” (1). Thayers Greek-English Lexicon says it this way, “a determined extent, portion measured off, measure or limit” (pg 408).

Fruit Dessert Food Drink Snack Smoothie - Pixabay - OCC Public Domain

God knows more than anyone what is necessary. He assures us that the smallest portion, even mustard-seed-sized, will suffice. We humbly receive and draw from His rich resources

“. . . in accordance with the faith God has distributed . . .”
Romans 12:3

I have it! You have it! We all possess a measure of faith — a grace gift. No one claims credit for a gift received. Because He has predetermined exactly what I, or you, or we, need, no gloating or boasting allowed! All the faith I operate under came from Him, to be used by Him, for His glory, and the furthering of His kingdom.

Fair Share

Paul connects our portion of faith to our portion of service to others in the body.

“We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith, if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.”
Romans 12:6-8

What God first gives to us, we willingly and liberally give to others.

Where do I struggle, needing faith the most? In the great faith chapter of Hebrews, I’m reminded that “without faith, it is impossible to please God” (11:6). That means I need faith everywhere, all the time, to live life honoring to God.

 Apple Pie Woman Kitchen Baking Food Delicious - Pixabay - OCC Public Domain

What demands the most faith from me? Right now, I’m assisting in a new church plant. Honestly, my humanity didn’t want to go there! I knew it would require far more than my aging body was comfortable to give. I understood all too clearly how much work establishing a new church would require, and definitely needed increased faith to step into the fray!

In everything I do, faith forms the foundation: in prophesying and speaking boldly into my culture; in serving others; by accurately teaching the Word of truth; in sacrificially offering encouragement to those carrying burdens and weighed down by pressures; in generously giving of my time and resources; or through being God’s hands of mercy.

God gives His fair share of faith to accomplish whatever He asks of me. But, whatever the portion, little or great, God intends it for the good of others. It’s in the activation of our faith that God’s purposes are fulfilled.

The Piece in the Middle

It’s significant that God sandwiches this little passage about faith between a beautiful doxology of worshiping Him and serving others. It illustrates the purpose of faith clearly!

I can’t claim credit for the faith I possess. I daily open the gift of faith, drawing from the measure He distributed, pouring it lavishly out to others. As I do, faith never diminishes. Actually, the flow increases, becoming fresher and sweeter through use.

Cooks Confectioner Children's Sweets Cake Baking - Pixabay - OCC Public Domain

We will never exhaust the measure of faith God has already given to us. Though we spend our entire lives tapping into and drawing from the rich resource, it continues to flow.

In humility we lay ourselves low, worshiping Him and serving others, until the beauty and fragrance of faith reaches and touches countless lives. Faith comes from God and operates through Him for His praise.

Let’s take the measure of faith He has given us and use it today for His intended use, combining it with the gifts He graced upon us. Oh, what God will do. Trust me, we have more than our fair share!

**********

References:
(1) Spiros Zondhiates, Th.D., Ed., The Complete Word Study Dictionary, For a Deeper Understanding of the Word; New Testament, (AMG, Chattanooga, 1992), 975

Unmasking The Myths; Is This Prayer? Childlike Faith

(Unedited segment of Chapter 3 Unmasking the Myths: Is This Prayer? to be published 2020. Unmasking the Myths is the first of three books on prayer containing over 70 interviews from people around the globe. Their stories and experiences give insight to the power and effectiveness of prayer.)

“All along, prayer has been the Holy Spirit
planting love in me for Jesus.” 

– Meg

As young as seven years old, Kevin wondered if God was real. Even though he went to church and took communion, Kevin felt there was a huge distance between God and himself. As a young boy, whenever he had trouble falling asleep, he would reflect on God. Yet, he felt confused.

By the time he turned 16 the confusion had turned to fear. Though he assumed he was a Christian, he honestly didn’t know what that meant. Only three years later, he was heading in the wrong direction fast.

“Back home from my first year of university, I was working for the town. However, Because of a severe spinal injury from playing hockey, I couldn’t do anything without being loaded up on prescription pain killers. When I came to the end of that summer, I had no money left. I was drinking daily and spending every penny at the local bar. I was on a destructive path.

Here I was a 19-year-old guy who couldn’t even stand up straight or sit down. I was depressed. I didn’t want to go back to university the way I was. Everything was on a bad track, although I maybe wasn’t aware of it at the time. My family had been set free from alcoholism. However, I was on my own journey of recovery after being raised in a dysfunctional home.

I met Merodee and beyond a question fell in love with her at first sight. She and her sister were crossing the street right in front of my oncoming vehicle. I slammed on the brakes to avoid hitting them. We held eye contact as she passed by.

Shortly after that, I invited her to a football game. Merodee brought some Christian music with her and without saying anything she took my music out of the cassette player and put her in. We listened to her music all the way to the football game and back again. Since she left those tapes in my car, that’s all I listened to for the next couple of days. I was so enamored by Merodee that her music absolutely captivated me.

A little while later, I drove out to an old country church and parked outside the locked gate. I sat there, a nervous wreck, feeling very emotional.

All of sudden, the palpable presence of God entered my car.

I started to talk to God and He started to answer me. I knew at that moment, without anyone ever telling me, what to do to be in a relationship with Him. Confessing my sins, I asked Him into my life. It was such an incredibly emotional experience I couldn’t even drive. I probably sat there for half an hour, unable to leave.

I didn’t understand anything, except I knew it was God and that He wanted to have a relationship with me. When I cried out, He was immediately there, closer than anything I had ever felt. I don’t know if I had any other impression except knowing that what I needed was God.

That was the beginning of prayer for me when I felt the presence of God for the first time. Looking back, I can close my eyes and still see everything and feel the same feeling, though not with the same emotion. Before that, I didn’t even know if I believed in God. Yet He revealed himself to me in an unforgettable way.

I’m a little naïve to what the Lord delivered me from. I can’t imagine where that track would have led if I hadn’t encountered God in that particular season.

Afterward, I phoned Merodee and told her what had happened. She yelled into the phone, ‘You’re saved!’

‘What does that mean?’ I asked. I didn’t even know.”

*****

Yoge began her relationship with Jesus while living in her home country of India.

“When I was young, my grandmother was experiencing many problems. Someone welcomed her to church and told her about Jesus. They said, ‘If you pray there, everything will be all right.’

As a result, my grandmother was the first one in our family to accept Jesus and become a secret worshiper of God. When I was about four years old, she started taking me to church too, but I didn’t realize what was going on. Maybe God chose me then, but it took many years for me to come to Him.

In India, our work also determines our religion and cast. My private math tutor belonged to our cast. He was the one who helped me realize who Jesus was. If he wouldn’t have been from our cast, I wouldn’t have listened to him when he said, ‘You need to know that you aren’t worshiping a real God, but worshiping idols instead. You shouldn’t do that.’

I thought, ‘I know you. Why are you saying that our god is not a god?’ I asked, ‘What happened to you? What made you convert to Christianity?’

He said, ‘No, it’s true! We are all idol worshipers.’

‘Okay, let it be an idol.’ I said, ‘We’re living a sophisticated life, doing what we want to do. Compared to other people, our standard of living is very good. What is there to blame this god for?’

He said, ‘It isn’t the idol that is giving this to you; it is your living Father who is providing for you.’ 

‘How can you prove it?’

He continued, ‘What if you have a kitty and think your pet is a god? One day the pet dies. You cry because you aren’t ready to believe that your pet is dead. You say to the dead kitty, ‘I feel hungry and don’t know what to do.’ You’re asking something dead to give you food. Will that dead pet give you food or your mother who is listening to you cry? Who will give you food?’

‘Obviously my mother,’ I said, ‘the dead pet can’t give me food.’

‘Yes!’ he said, ‘The Living God is the One who provides all these things you’re asking for. Still, you believe that your dead kitty is giving you food. It is not the dead kitty but your living mother who feeds you. In the same way, when you are worshiping and praying to an idol, your living Father God in heaven listens to you and provides you with all the good things that you ask for. It is the living God not dead idols that give you all these things. Your Father in heaven is watching you, knowing what His daughter needs, but sees that she doesn’t know who to ask.’

While he was talking to me, he was weeping bitterly. He spoke a simple word but it was completely anointed. His weeping touched me deeply as I carefully listened to his words. God gave me the understanding that I had been praying to an idol, while He, my living Father, was beside me providing whatever I asked for.

As I walked home, those thoughts rewound in my mind. I closed my eyes and started crying as I realized what I was doing when I worshiped our god. I knew that what I was doing wasn’t good and asked forgiveness from my living Father in heaven. ‘I’m not going to worship idols anymore.’ I said, ‘I am going to live my entire life for You.’

I started going to church every Sunday, but soon my Dad discovered that I was worshiping Jesus. One day when I came home from church, he was ready to throw a brick at me to kill me. Because we were religious leaders in our cast, he said, ‘I will definitely kill you. I won’t allow you to live as a Christian.’ He also threatened to pour kerosene on me and burn me. The second time, he did pour it on my head, but my grandmother came and saved me.

Before going to church each Sunday,
I was mentally prepared for the beating
I would get when I returned home.

From the day I became a worshiper of Jesus Christ, I was crazy about God. I literally felt like He was sitting right beside me, talking to me. People wondered what happened and told me to limit my worship and devotion to God, but I never wanted to.

I couldn’t believe that all this time I had worshiped lifeless idols. When I came to God, I knew, beyond a doubt, that He was alive, sitting with me and talking to me. I felt Him moving all around me. Whatever I asked for in prayer happened. How do you deny that? No one can deny it!

That’s how my journey with Jesus Christ began.”

*****

For Shelly prayer was a natural overflow of the relationship she entered into with God. She tells her story,

“I had made so many bad decisions that eventually landed me into an abusive relationship with someone who completely isolated me. I had never felt so much hatred. Feeling devastated, I didn’t know there could be so much darkness. I would wake up thinking I was in a nightmare, but it was real. To him, it was a big game; he was grossly unfaithful. It was like I was trying to get out of my own skin and away from the pain, but I couldn’t get free.

In desperation, I made an appointment to go through the steps of freedom through a ministry called Freedom in Christ. It was during those sessions that I received Jesus Christ as my Savior and began a personal relationship with Him.

After two sessions lasting nine hours (spending most of that time on forgiveness), I forgave him and everyone else in my life. It was like everything dropped off me. In its place, I could feel God’s love being poured inside me.

As God’s incredible love overwhelmed me, I instinctively knew that a relationship with Jesus Christ was where I wanted and needed to be forever. Looking back, I remembered experiencing that same kind of love when I was four years old.

I walked away totally changed—no longer consumed by hatred but overwhelmed by God’s love. I had all kinds of grace for this man, tried to help him and prayed for him. But I got out.”

*****

As a child, Rachel moved to Canada where she became a Christian.

“I was born in China and lived there for eight years before coming to Canada. We didn’t hear about the name of Jesus or Christianity in China. There were posters about evolution everywhere. I was afraid that one day I would turn into a monkey in a cage instead of a human being.

In China, school is very competitive, but you are supposed to be friends with everyone in your classroom. One week before we left China, I was involved in an argument with a classmate over an origami crane I had made. She found my crane and turned into a frog. When I discovered my crane had disappeared, I became angry. Normally, I wouldn’t start a quarrel, but this time I did.

In China, if a dispute arose, a class monitor would come to the class to help settle the problem. The girl told the monitor that I lost my crane out of irresponsibility, so when she found it she made it into a frog. She kept crying and won the sympathy of the class monitor. I ended up having to permanently leave school because of the argument.

‘Okay, I will leave,’ I thought, ‘but where will I go.’

Actually, God used this incident to prepare me to move away. Right after the dispute, I discovered that my Dad and I were soon leaving to live in Canada. My grandmother, the first Christian in our family, had been praying for us to receive Christ.

God, by His sovereign will works through people in unusual ways. We had a friend from China who enrolled at Trinity Western University because a consultant who did not know Jesus specifically told her to go to this Christian University. It was there that her favorite memories developed and that she first learned about Jesus. Even though we don’t always understand how God moves, whether through arguments, class monitors or unbelieving consultants, God is working in our lives.

As a child, I would believe whatever my Dad told me. When I was little, he told me that Buddha held the earth. We didn’t know about Jesus then, but when we came to Canada, Dad became a Christian. Dad told me about Jesus and why He had to die for our sins. Until then, I thought Jesus was a rebel. When God started to speak to me through my Dad, I considered becoming a Christian. I didn’t ask Jesus into my heart yet though.

My first impression of Jesus was that He was like Santa. You could ask Him for something and He would give it to you. Later, I found out that He is bigger than that. He is God and works the big picture. He desires for us all to come to Him so He can give us His grace.

I started to change when I was nine years old and Jesus became personal. I began to pray, but at first, my prayers were self-centered. Then I realized my parents also had needs. I started to pray for people to be healed and began to understand Jesus’ love for others.”

No matter what age, stage or circumstance of life, the prayer of committing one’s life to the Lordship of Jesus Christ is the most powerful, miracle-working prayer anyone could pray.”

*****

Unmasking the Myth

The myth that declares that any god will do has kept many people from committing their lives to Jesus Christ and finding the love Shelly spoke about. 

“We can always have a non-god to go to instead of God.”
– Karin

Only Jesus can create the profound change Charlotte, Kevin and millions of others have experienced. Jesus desires for everyone to come to know the one and only true God.

“Now this is eternal life; that they know you,
the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”
John 17:3

This same intimate relationship with God that these people have spoken about, is available right now to any who will sincerely come to Him.

“He longs for everyone to embrace his life
and return to the full knowledge of the truth.”
1 Timothy 2: 4 TPT

God is waiting for everyone to embrace Him and the life He offers. God loves us and has an incredible plan for our future, regardless of our past (Ps 139:16). He desires for us to have a fulfilling exciting life right now and forever—a life connected with Him (Jn 10:10).

Kate asked,

“Does any other god communicate back to you? What other god responds to you like the Lord God? Does any other god give you life? Can another god forgive your sins?

Jesus Christ is life. He gives us an unbelievable life now. Eternal life! Life is found in Jesus Christ alone. In Him is everything I need to exist—love, joy, peace and so much more. I don’t want to look anywhere else or to anything else. Time is too precious to waste pursuing other so-called gods.

God is a life-giving Spirit. When You know that your spirit is made alive by God’s Spirit, that’s it! You don’t need anything else.

The ultimate, Almighty God, is available. He is the One and only living true God. Until you meet Jesus, you don’t know what you are missing.

To communicate with Almighty God is incredible.
Knowing that He wants to have
fellowship with us is very humbling.
It is the ultimate relationship to have.”

Only one thing keeps us from experiencing this vital relationship with Him. God is holy and perfect. Only those who are without sin can come into His presence and enjoy His wonderful plan and experience His presence. Every one of us has sinned and comes far short of God’s perfect standard (Rom 3:23).

God provided the solution for restored intimacy with us through Jesus Christ, his perfect Son. Jesus died on the cross to take our punishment and pay the price for our sins (Rom 5:8). It didn’t end there! On the third day, Jesus rose from the grave as the giver of life for all (Rom 6:23).

The Bible says that by repenting and confessing the Lordship of Jesus, we can then live in a relationship with God. It sounds too simple for such a complicated problem. (Rom 10:9-10) However, God said that by personally accepting His provision and committing our lives to Him, He makes everything new.

The root of every prayer journey
is a relationship with Jesus.”

– Jan

Like a baby begins to walk by taking small steps, we begin the fascinating journey of faith through a seemingly small prayer spoken from sincere hearts. If you want to take that life-changing step today, He is only a prayer away.

*****

“Dear God, I confess that I have sinned against You and others. I choose today to believe that Jesus died on the cross for the forgiveness of my sins. I turn from the way I have been living to follow You. Please forgive me and come into my life. I trust in You and desire for You to be my Lord and Savior from this day forward, in Jesus Name (Rom 10:13, Jn 20:31). Thank You Lord, for all you have done for me. Thank You for Your love and the gift of your saving grace.”

*****

“Only one prayer causes jubilation in heaven and mourning in hell. That one prayer is asking God to come into our lives.”
– Meg

 

Seeing is Believing – Look up in Faith!

For many people, like me, seeing is believing. First we look up, and then we rest in the enduring fabric of faith we find in God. Faith weaves through the pages of biblical history uniting man and God. It’s a history filled with divine encounters passed down from generation to generation.

My grandchildren delight in passing on the exciting things they are doing and showing me their recent accomplishments.  Their experiences mark milestones of achievement or are just plain fun things they want to tell me about. They are happy to share; I’m equally happy to listen and encourage them.

On the other hand, I have stored more than a few bone-headed blunders in the “open-at-your-own-risk” file! Seeing is believing there too. During those episodes, I hoped no one witnessed my absent-mindedness. Even I can’t believe how or why I stumbled into such predicaments.

I’m not alone! Israel had just about had enough of circling the wilderness. Even though God had faithfully led and cared for them the whole way, instead of gratitude, they were growing impatient.

“They spoke against God and against Moses, and said,
‘Why have you brought  us up out of Egypt
to die in the wilderness?
There is no bread! There is no water!
And we detest this miserable food!'”
Numbers 21:5

Look Around

Actually, I empathize. There are days when I’ve thought, “Enough is enough! God where are you?” Thankfully, my words aren’t recorded for everyone to examine in microscopic detail.

This wasn’t the first time complaining rose among this discontented mob. They had experienced the severe consequences of such mumbling before. You would think they had learned their lesson, but they were human — just like me!

How many times do I know better, but look at my self-made circumstances and grumble? The depraved condition of my own heart expresses itself: dissatisfied, malcontent, self focused, entitled, glum, disheartened… The longer I look at my surroundings the worse it gets.

“Then the LORD sent venomous snakes among them;
they bit the people and many Israelites died.”
Numbers 21:6

We reap what we sow! Their sharp poisonous words reaped the consequences of equally sharp venomous bites by deadly serpents. God allowed them to see the snakes and feel the poisonous effects of their actions. Seeing is believing and so is feeling!

Look to Man

Instead of looking up to God, their first response was to point their rigid fingers toward their leader. Their second response was, “Help! Get us away from the problem!”

“The people came to Moses and said,
We sinned when we spoke against the LORD and against you.
Pray that the LORD will take the snakes away from us.’
So Moses prayed for the people.”
Numbers 21:7

It’s a familiar refrain from fallen and broken humanity. Yet, even when it is obvious how wrong we have been, we refuse to look up to God for help. We choose rather to look for another savior, someone else to rescue us from our trials.

God neither removed them from their circumstances, nor did He remove the snakes.

The Serpent

The Israelites witnessed the effects of mankind’s fall in the most tangible of ways. I hear the silent echo of words spoken to the first serpent in the garden of Eden.

“And I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel.”
Genesis 3:15

Here they were sinning like their original parents, Adam and Eve, feeling the serpent’s poisonous bite. God neither removed the serpent from the garden, nor from the wilderness. He doesn’t always remove our situations that strike with equally deadly force today either.

A Savior

However, God doesn’t leave us helpless or hopeless, but provides a permanent solution to our temporary problems.

“The LORD said to Moses,
“Make a snake and put it up on a pole;
anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.”
Numbers 21:8

Talk about faith! Look up at a man-made bronze snake hanging from a pole and you will live! What does looking have to do with halting poisonous venom? Only one look brought life — it worked! Seeing is believing when we take time to look up.

“…Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and
looked at the bronze snake, they lived.”
Numbers 21:9b

Jesus, the Savior of the world, compares this very act to Himself.

“Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness,
so the Son of Man must be lifted up,
that everyone who believes
may have eternal life in him.”
John 3:14-15

Faith looks up and believes. We are like the people in the wilderness being struck by a deadly serpent. We too desire safety, away from the evil intentions of our enemy. Rather than remove the enemy, God still provides a solution — look up in faith and believe!

Faith Looks Up

“Looking” and “believing” are synonymous. When the Israelites looked at the serpent, they believed in their Deliverer. When we look to Jesus, that same faith rises within us.

“Faith is the gaze of a soul upon a saving God.”
– A.W. Tozer

Without faith there’s no approaching God, no forgiveness possible, no deliverance available, no spiritual life obtainable, no community of believers accessible.

“Without faith it is impossible to please (God)”
Hebrews 11:6

Jesus represented active faith. He looked up to the Father, doing only what He saw the Father do, speaking only words He heard the Father speak. When faith looks up everything else falls into place.

Unfortunately, we bend our gaze toward each other — mirroring ourselves in smug content. We try the same things other churches try, imitating explicitly, with very little variation. It is all a substitute for looking up to the real Savior Jesus Christ.

If only we would recognize that seeing is believing. Faith actively looks up!

Eyes to See

The serpent’s strike of the heal has inflicted us all with near-sightedness. We are blinded even in our looking.

Faith gazes outside of human perspective. With eyes inside the heart, we look intently upon the all-seeing God. When we look and see, we find One sitting upon the throne.

“At once I was in the Spirit,
and there before me was a throne in heaven
with someone sitting on it.”
Revelation 4:2

If there is one verse that speaks peace to my troubled heart, it is this one. Someone, The Savior, remains on the throne. When I feel the poisonous strike of the enemy upon, my marriage, family, church, community, nation or world, I know there is still One upon the throne. No one and nothing can remove Him from His position of ALL authority and power.

Seeing is believing! So in prayer, I look and see as faith moves within me stirring up peace beyond understanding, joy unquenchable and love irreversible.

Faith is a heart action beholding God from the inside out. We look up to Him, by looking into His Word, the Bible. Our gaze refocuses as we soak in His Presence. Nothing can replace these solitary times of meditation and prayer, seeking His face.

At the root of all faith resides the habitual intention of looking up, gazing upon, and beholding God. While our outward eyes know there are serpents among us, with inward eyes we see the solution, our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Look up! Seeing is believing!

Greater Things than These – The God of Greater and Greater

God exceeds all expectation. What if greater things than ever before are coming our way? Greater than anything experienced to this point in history. The bible reveals sufficient evidence to cause us to believe that what lays ahead is far better than anything in preceding times.

“Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me
will do the works I have been doing,
and they will do even greater things than these,
because I am going to the Father.”
John 14:12

The disciples witnessed Jesus perform many miracles, heal the sick, raise the dead, calm storms, cast out demons and feed multitudes.  He taught scripture with indisputable authority, confounding His strongest opponents. After Jesus’ resurrection and ascension into heaven, His followers continued to teach and perform supernatural miracles. They were ordinary men doing extra-ordinary works through the Holy Spirit.

“When they saw the courage of Peter and John
and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men,
they were astonished and they took note
that these men had been with Jesus.”
Acts 4:13

The only explanation for the supernatural works of God moving through natural man was they “had been with Jesus.”

Glory to Glory

The Kingdom of God refuses to remain stagnant. In fact, “The Kingdom of Heaven has been forcefully advancing in spite of great opposition. (Matthew 11:12) Everything originating through God contains the seed of reproductivity and increase.

Entering the Presence of God caused Moses’ face to radiate with God’s glory. All who looked at him were overcome with fear and awe. Paul tells the Corinthian church even greater glory is coming.

“And we all with unveiled face,
beholding the glory of the Lord,
are being transformed into the same image
from one degree of glory to another.
For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”
2 Corinthians 3:18

Far greater things — expressions of God’s glory — awaits us. Why? Because of Jesus’ finished work on the cross.

Strength to Strength

One of my favourite psalms talks about the people of God triumphing over adversity as they continue to pursue His face. Even in the Valley of Baka (Valley of Weeping), they leave behind places of refreshing for others who have found the journey difficult.

“They go from strength to strength,
until each appears before God is Zion.”
Psalm 84:7

Only God provides us with that kind of momentum, ever-increasing levels of spiritual strength. capable of propelling us to finish well. Listen closely to these words,

“He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
…walk and not faint.”
Isaiah 40: 29-31

Although my running days are over, walking is one of my favorite pass times — especially when I can stroll outside the city limits. The truth is, however, these frail bodies have a propensity to wear out and fail us. We all face varying degrees of personal limitation.

Yet, God gives His people a capacity to exceed any natural boundaries. He gave Elijah the ability to outrun a horse and chariot (1Kings 18:46). Moses endured two back-to-back forty day fasts — something humanly impossible. Samson with supernatural strength wrestled a stone palace to the ground with one mighty push. The feats of David’s top warriors (2 Samuel 23) remain unparalleled in history.

But even in our mundane day-to-day activities, for “those who hope” in their God, He grants us the capability of exceeding normal limits. Though my personal examples don’t compare with these biblical counterparts, I have experienced times when beyond a doubt, God, and God alone, carried me through.

Faith to Faith

After Jesus had established His ministry in the surrounding territory, He returned to His hometown.

“And he did not do many miracles there
because of their lack of faith.”
Matthew 13:58

On another occasion, He was astonished by a centurion’s “great faith” — a faith greater than anyone else in Israel! (Matthew 8:10) The disciples asked Jesus to “increase our faith!” (Luke 17:5)

“For in it (the Gospel) the righteousness of God
is revealed from faith to faith,
as it is written,
‘The righteous shall live by faith.'”
Romans 1:17

The Good News of the Gospel awakens within believers an increasing progression of faith. The kind of faith that expands and deepens to even greater faith. Paul commended both the Corinthians and the Thessalonians for their faith that was “growing and growing.” (2 Thessalonians 1:3). Their ever increasing faith became evident in the increase of love displayed toward each other.

Latter Is Better

I enjoy reading about the great revivals that have awakened and transformed the church over the generations. Faith sparking reading to be sure! However, even these remarkable revivalist were aware that what they experienced did not yet measure up to what is yet to come.

Whatever supernatural God encounters mankind has witnessed in the past pales in comparison to what is ahead!

“This is what the LORD Almighty says:
‘In a little while … I will fill this house with glory,’
says the LORD Almighty.
‘The silver and the gold is mine,’
declares the LORD Almighty.
‘The glory of this present house
will be greater than the glory of the former house,’
says the LORD Almighty.’…”
Haggai 2:6-9

The Lord God Almighty continues to be the God of greater and greater things. Our difficulty is

visualizing beyond former paradigms.
believing past the natural,
receiving God’s truth as infallible,
and responding to Holy Spirit incentives.

Isaiah declares

“Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it…”
Isaiah 43:18-19

“For I will pour water on the thirsty land,
and streams on the dry ground;
I will pour my Spirit on your offspring,
and my blessing on your descendants.”
Isaiah 44:3-4

As much as I am inspired by past revivals, they are but a foreshadow of what is ahead — a taste test of the main course to come. God promises such a mighty outpouring of His Spirit that the world cannot fathom. All things are possible for the “LORD Almighty!” 

Greater Things

I pray for an increased, faith-filled expectation for more. The world, my own flesh and the devil creates a gravitational pull that attempts to ground all such heavenly vision. As God begins to pour out Holy Spirit in greater measure, these counter forces work to diminish the effects of God’s live giving flow.

“Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God.”
William Carey

God is prepared to pour out far more than even our greatest expectation. This greater glory will require even greater faith to lay hold of the promised out-pouring. Greater strength, wisdom and sensitivity will be needed to steward well what God is about to do.

“I also pray that you will understand
the incredible greatness of God’s power
for us who believe him.
This is the same mighty power
that raised Christ from the dead and
seated him in the place of honor
at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.”
Ephesians 1:19-20

Let’s get ready! Greater things are coming!

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Your Promise is Waiting – Do Something!

Earth’s resources may be diminishing, but heaven’s never do. Your promise is waiting, but you may have to do something illogical to receive it. However, these God opportunities sometimes have expiration dates.

I read the other day that over $800 million remains in unclaimed bank accounts in Canada alone. A $60 million lottery ticket currently sits unclaimed in Alberta. That sounds ridiculous to me. Somebody do something!

How many even more valuable promises sit in God’s hand waiting for somebody — anybody — to do something? God’s prompting to motivate us may hit a road block in my over-rationalizing mind or carry a risk I’m unprepared to take. Possessing our promise may take courage.

“And without faith living within us,
it would be impossible to please God.
For we come to God in faith knowing
that he is real and that he rewards the faith
of those who give all their
passion and strength into seeking him.”
Hebrews 11:6 TPT

Courage requires faith. Faith demands courage.

Risky Faith

Peter had given up everything to follow Jesus, including his family, business and security. So when the tax collectors came knocking Peter’s pockets were empty. Jesus instructed,

“…go to the lake and throw out your line.
Take the first fish you catch;
open its mouth and you will find
a four-drachma coin.
Take it and give it to them for my tax and your.”
Matthew 17:27
 

Sounds little “fishy” to me! (That’s Canadian for unbelievable.) I like fishing, but the most unusal thing I have found in a fish’s mouth is another fish. Peter trusted Jesus’ words and took a risk. He did something perhaps no one else would have done. He obeyed.

You would think everyone who saw the day’s catch would go fishing. But they knew God gives a specific word to a seeking heart that is unique to that time and situation. 

What if Peter chose not to listen? What if he failed to respond? Frankly, I don’t know why God often relies on the obedience of people. 

It’s Absurd

Familiarity gives the absurd directives within bible stories almost a “normal” appearance. The way of us earth-walking humans and our infinitely minded God present distinct and contradictory opposites

God recruits Moses, Egypt’s most wanted criminal and fugitive. When an entire nation cries out in panic as a fierce army corners them against the Red Sea, God tells Moses to point a stick at the water. Seriously?

“Why are you crying out to me?
Tell the Israelites to move on.
Raise your staff and stretch out your hand
over the sea to divide the water
so that the Israelites can go through
the sea on dry ground.”
Exodus 14:15-16

Who would you rather be? Moses or the first person stepping into the ominous depths? As absurd as the instructions appeared, victory came as everyone moved forward in obedience. Moses knew the voice of God. His confidence rested not in himself, but in the faithfulness of the One speaking.

A promise is waiting for all who will obey.

Hearing Well

Rebellion blocked Israel’s ability to hear God. Twisted attitudes and calloused hearts continue to affect our ability to hear clearly and respond fully to God’s leading.

“Whether you turn to the right or to the left,
your ears will hear
a voice behind you, saying,
‘This is the way; walk in it.'”
Isaiah 30:21

Responding bridges hearing with receiving:

  • Wash seven times in the dirty Jordan River and the leprosy will disappear. (2 Kings 5:10)
  • Step out of the boat and you will walk on water. (Matt 14:29)
  • After we make mud from spit and put it into blind eyes, go wash for healing. (John 9:6-7)
  • Feed the starving crowd of thousands with a boy’s bag lunch. (Luke 9:13)
  • Throw your nets on the other side. A great catch was waiting! (Luke 5:4)

If we ignore the prompting of the Lord, insisting on doing things like we have always done them, we will miss many miracles and divine encounters. Perhaps a promise is waiting today. Is anyone willing to move in a radical way to find out? Will we hold back looking for a risk-free formula to claim the blessing?

Obeying

Though the bible is filled with such illustrations, none of these men or women moved in presumption. A sure word from God preceded each miracle.

“I will instruct you and teach you
in the way you should go;
I will counsel you
with my loving eye on you.”
Psalms 32:8

Biblical examples abound of those who “presumed” they heard God and missed the mark. Others hesitated and decided too late to respond, with disastrous results. 

Maintaining close relationship with God (through prayer and bible reading), while being in authentic relationships with mature Christians, creates a safe guard helping us discern God’s voice and respond appropriately. Having a mentor, coach or accountability partner will help us access God’s best for our lives.

But ultimately, the choice is ours. Will we trust God and risk?

Trust in the Lord
with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.”
Proverbs 3:5-6
 

I have this verse etched on the wall at the foot of my bed. I need a constant reminder to resist the tendency to trust in my own strength, ability or wisdom. 

Promise

When my husband and I took over the family farm, my father responded, “What a relief! I never liked farmer.”

It was sobering to think that my father continued, for over 50 years, to do a job that he didn’t find fulfilling. As I questioned him further, I discovered that he kept doing what he always did because he lacked the confidence to risk change. His creative ingenuity remained largely untapped.

It can be the same with us. It isn’t easy to trust God in the unknown. Fear held my father back. Fear paralyzes many.

The psalmist declared, 

“I will hurry, without delay,
to obey your commands.”
Psalm 119:60

Those who accessed the promises and miracles of God hurried “without delay.”  Those who say “Yes!” to God, continually and radically create pathways for the supernatural. They may leave families, businesses, securities and predictable lives in their obedience. These aren’t absent minded decisions. They have

sought God with all their hearts,
listened intently to His voice,
tested and weighed the word against scripture,
and listened to the counsel of others,
before moving toward God in obedience,
knowing a promise is waiting.

Who Knows

God alone knows the result. Will we shake cultural norms? Will we allow His Kingdom to come to earth in surprising ways?

“But when he,
the Spirit of truth, comes,
he will guide you into all the truth.
He will not speak on his own;
but he will speak only what he hears,
and he will tell you what is yet to come.”
John 16:13

So if you ask me what I’m doing these days, don’t be surprised if I answer, “I’m walking with a stick.” “Going fishing.”  or “Making mud with spit.” God alone knows the outcome. I don’t intend on holding back. A promise is waiting! Hopefully, there will be no unclaimed balances left in any of my spiritual bank account.

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