Tag Archives: miracles

Relationship Over Wonders

When I hear some preachers, I only hear about what God is going to do for me. The interesting thing I find in Scriptures is that while there are a lot of promises where God is going to bless me, but I also find a lot of Scriptures about the fact that I am made for God’s glory. That second part, where we are created for God’s glory, seems to be forgotten by these preachers. I don’t know why they skip over this second truth. I won’t speculate. I just know it’s important. It is the chief end of man, after all.

Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man. – John 2:23-25, ESV

During that first Passover after Jesus had begun His ministry, He performed many miracles. The Bible says that many believed because of those miracles. However, it then says that Jesus did not entrust Himself to these people. Why not?

Perhaps it’s because they only believed because of the miracles and they only followed out of of a desire for more miracles. The “believed” here is shallow belief, something superficial; we would describe this as head knowledge. In other words, there was no relationship. Jesus did not bring these folk into his trust. He could see why they followed. They didn’t follow Him for Him, but for what He could do for them.

God has always been clear that He desires a relationship with us, His creation. We see it from the opening stages of Genesis, when He walked in the Garden of Eden with the first man and woman. We see this in Revelation when we are restored to the New Jerusalem. These folks weren’t interested in a real relationship.

What about us? Are we looking to God for what He could do for us? Or are we looking to God for the relationship He desires to have with us? Are we waiting for wonders and miracles? Or are we waiting for Him? There is a distinct difference between the two. Which of these is most important to you


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Living Generously, Part IV

Giving up the last you have of something for someone else can take a lot of love. I know examples where this isn’t true can easily be created. For instance, when you’ve eaten all but two slices of that large pizza, allowing your spouse to have those two final pieces isn’t a sacrifice (no, it’s not). It probably doesn’t require much love. Those aren’t the cases I’m talking about. I’m talking the situations where you’re hungry, when all you have is enough food for you, and when it will be a long time before you eat again. When you give up your food willingly then, that’s a sacrifice. Those are the situations God can use to show His love, both to you and to the one(s) you are giving up for. And that’s exactly what He did through a boy.

  “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?” Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in number. Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted. And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten.  – John 6:9-13, ESV

Five thousand people had gathered to hear Jesus and have Him heal them. We know from Matthew 14 that it was evening. The crowd was far from any place where they could get a meal. No one had planned for a crowd that large and there wasn’t food readily available. This was a tough spot. Philip did the math. Not only was there no place nearby to buy enough to feed the folks, but the cost was too high. Then Andrew shows up with a boy. The boy’s haul is five loaves of bread and two fish. That’s it? That won’t make a dent in anything. Yet Jesus has the folks sit down, He asks for a blessing on the food, and the food is distributed. Everybody was fed and there were plenty of leftovers.

How could five loaves of bread and two fish feed five thousand people? Was this kid competing for a world record like we sometimes where a town gets together to build the world’s largest pizza? No. They were simply five loaves of bread and two fish. Yet enough was had for everybody. From little came much. From the sacrifice of a boy came the meal for five thousand. This is what God is prepared to do. This is why He says trust Him. We might not have much. That’s not the point. Truth be told, He doesn’t require anything from us. He can do it without us. However, He is interested in our development. He loves us and wants what is best for us. That means He wants us to learn how to trust Him and to put our faith in what He promises, not in what we can see and touch. For one boy, his sacrifice proved to be an unthinkable miracle. The Bible doesn’t tell us, but I hope he went away a believer that day.

That’s why the BIble says to live generously. God wants us to put our faith in Him. He wants to show us He can deliver when no one else can. He wants to prove to us that He is involved in our lives and is watching over us. If we put our trust in Him and we respond according to His call, He promises to take care of us and the person we are helping. He’s not promising enormous wealth, at least not here. He is promising that He’s going to step in when we need Him, but first we must step in to help others. We must treat our money and possessions for they are: tools, opportunities, and instruments of love to share the Gospel. It doesn’t matter what kind of financial or emotional or any other type of condition we find ourselves in. What’s stopping you? Don’t know if you can make it? If you’re following God’s lead, you will. He tells us not to worry about tomorrow. That’s because He is beside us today. Do you enjoy the trappings of having money too much? That can keep you from where you want to be. Ask the rich, young ruler. He had it all, but when he couldn’t follow Jesus, it all amounted to zero. What stopped him? Money and possessions did. Let us not be like the rich young ruler. Let’s be like the boy who helped feed the five thousand. Let’s take God at His Word, make a difference to those around us, and then watch as God blesses us and them.

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Living Generously, Part III

You know you should help somebody else out. However, as you look at your own condition, you need help yourself. Helping the other person means doing without for you and/or your family. And we’re not just talking about something frivolous. We aren’t meaning you have to postpone buying that new HD TV for your bedroom. We’re talking about real hardship… doing without a car or not replacing a coat that really should have been traded in two years ago or even not having enough food for everyone to eat properly. Wait, that last one is especially harsh, so would God ask it? What if it was the last bit of food you had in the refrigerator and you had no ability to get any more? Could God ask you to give that up, too? Well, we say our God is unchanging. He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. And if that’s the case, then, yes, based on previous history, He could ask you to do just that.

  Then the word of the LORD came to him, “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. Behold, I have commanded a widow there to feed you.” So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, behold, a widow was there gathering sticks. And he called to her and said, “Bring me a little water in a vessel, that I may drink.” And as she was going to bring it, he called to her and said, “Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.” And she said, “As the LORD your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. And now I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it and die.” And Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go and do as you have said. But first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterward make something for yourself and your son. For thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘The jar of flour shall not be spent, and the jug of oil shall not be empty, until the day that the LORD sends rain upon the earth.’” And she went and did as Elijah said. And she and he and her household ate for many days. The jar of flour was not spent, neither did the jug of oil become empty, according to the word of the LORD that he spoke by Elijah.  – 1 Kings 17:8-16, ESV

The setup is simple: God wants Elijah to go hang out with a widow and her son, because it will be the widow’s responsibility to ensure Elijah is fed. When Elijah gets there, he immediately obeys what God said and asks for something to eat. She then tells Elijah the stark truth: she only has enough supplies for one more meal for her and her son. She was collecting the sticks for the fire to bake that last meal. Then they were signing off. They had no other hope. After all, Israel was wracked in famine because there had been no rain. Then Elijah reveals some news that many of us would have been dubious about hearing. Elijah basically said, “Even though the food should run out, it’s not going to. At least, not until there’s rain and additional food is readily available again.”

The widow had to take what her eyes, mind, and stomach were telling her and put those observations to the side. She had to trust the message from God’s prophet that God would provide a miraculous supply. She had no physical evidence, nothing the world would consider as proof, to justify her listening to Elijah. If she just kept the food for herself and her son, they would make it another day. Though the situation looked impossible, one more day gave another day to find a way. A lot of us would have politely declined, thought Elijah crazy, and taken that one more day. And if we had, we wouldn’t have lasted. The only way the widow and her son were going to survive was to trust God.

She did that. The food didn’t run out. And the Lord had another reason for Elijah to be there. We learn in later verses there was still uncertainty. She wasn’t sure Elijah was a prophet of God. God performs yet another miracle through Elijah, thus solidifying her faith. But until that bigger miracle, she didn’t have perfect assurance. Sure, he looked and sounded the part, but how could she be certain? Still, something must have spurred her to obey. As a result, both her and her son lived. If anyone gave generously in the Bible, this widow did. She gave up her last meal for another, one who was a total stranger to her. Then God fulfilled His promise from Deuteronomy 15. This is God delivering enough to cover the giver and the receiver. And this is God doing it in a way that shows that it was Him and only Him.

When we are willing to give generously as we are led by the Holy Spirit, we embrace the same promise. We may not see a great miracle like Elijah, the widow, and her son witnessed. God may have another way of meeting our needs. But the bottom line is He will meet them. He won’t let us down. We must be prepared for Him to ask whatever He may of us. He might ask us to give up our last morsel of food for a total stranger. Or He might ask for something even more personal and important to us. But He won’t ask it without cause, and He won’t ask it without a support system to go with it. Therefore, we need to trust Him as we listen to Him and give generously to those around us who are in need.

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The Miracles of Jesus (35/35)

Ever feel like you’ve messed up so badly God can’t forgive you? Or maybe you’re at a point where you’d like a “do over” with God. The great news is God meets His own where they are. He knows our limitations. He is fully aware of our flaws. And He has a track record of seeing us at our worst and being the first one to offer a hand up. That’s what today’s miracle is all about. It is fitting that His last miracle is the one that tells us we can start over with Him:

Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. – John 21:4-7, ESV

The disciples had gone back to Galilee. We have no indication that Jesus and Peter had addressed Peter’s betrayal. Verses 1-2 tell us that Jesus did appear to Peter in Galilee, but we’re not given any details. And that’s what makes it very interesting that in verse 3 Peter says, “I’m going fishing.” The others join him. In a sense, the disciples are going back to where it all started. Peter likely wanted a “do over.” And he got one.

After Peter gets to shore and they eat, Peter and Jesus talk and Jesus restores Peter. He restores Peter’s confidence. He restores Peter’s understanding that Peter is still one of His. He restores Peter’s authority to serve and lead in the Kingdom. There wasn’t a dwelling or flogging about what Peter had done. That was in the past and Jesus was looking to the future. He was seeing what Peter would become, not what Peter was. The past was addressed. It was dealt with. The future remained. And Jesus helped Peter turn his eyes from his past to his future. Jesus offers to do the same with each one of us.

As C.J. Mahaney points out in The Cross-Centered Life, the Gospel means that our sins are dealt with and forgiven. We’re justified the moment we’re saved. Yes, we must deal with our sins and seek repentance and forgiveness for them, but once that’s done, it’s done in God’s eyes. We’re the ones who hold on. We’re the ones who won’t let go of the guilt and the shame. It’s as if we believe that beating ourselves up more will make us holier before God or something. But we have no personal holiness. Our holiness is imputed to us by Jesus Christ. We are holy only because we are His. So once we’ve taken our sins before God, we need to let them go. We’ve gotten our “do over” with God. And He will forgive us. He doesn’t go back on His word (pun intended).

Are you struggling with something you’ve already confessed to Him? Is it still weighing you down? That’s not God doing that to you. That weight hurts you and makes you less effective for the Kingdom. That runs contrary to what God wants to accomplish with you. He has offered to take the burden off your shoulders. And if you’ve confessed it, He will, as soon as you let go of it. If you’re struggling with something and you’ve not confessed it and dealt with it before God, why hold on to something that is just hurting you? He offered you His burden, which is light, and He’ll take yours. If you’re reading this and you’ve never come to Jesus Christ, never accepted His proper place as Lord and Master over your life, by doing so with your heart, by answering His call to be one of His for eternity, He will take all those past burdens from you. While this world might not let you start over, in His eyes you will. And His eyes are the only eyes that matter. Let us not be so weighed down by the burdens He has offered to carry that we cannot joyously love and serve Him. Let us not be encumbered by sins we’ve confessed and turned over that we are ineffective for the growth of His Kingdom. Let us instead feel the freedom He has offered us, freedom from the burden of sin and the freedom to obey and serve Him fully out of true love and devotion for Him!

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The Miracles of Jesus (34/35)

There’s a saying that I’ve used before, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” It’s often used to refer to convenient alliances between two traditional foes against a third foe common to both whom neither can handle alone. In other words, “I know we are enemies, but let’s team up, because that guy is going to take us both down unless we work together.” Now no one is too big for Jesus to take on. But if He is setting the example for us, if He is being true to everything He told us to do, then the next miracle makes sense:

And when those who were around him saw what would follow, they said, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” And one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him. – Luke 22:49-51, ESV

We know from other passages that the man struck was a servant of the high priest and one of the mob who had come to “arrest” Jesus. It was Peter who struck with one of the swords Jesus approved of them carrying. Yet even though Peter was defending Jesus, Jesus not only calls for the hostilities to stop, but He then reaches out and heals the injured man who had come for Him. What?

Jesus told us to forgive. He demonstrates it here. Jesus told us to pray for our enemies. Jesus told us to be kind to our enemies. He does so here. Jesus told us He came for the sick (the sinful) and obviously, if this man was coming to arrest Jesus, he certainly fits the profile. Here He demonstrates through His actions that He was true to His words, even though He was in the worst of situations. So Jesus doesn’t just tell us to love our enemies and pray for them and seek to repay evil with good without having been put in the same situation. He has been there. And He can say, “Because I’ve been there, I know how hard it is. Yet I did it, and I expect you to do so, too.” Now we could say, “But you’re God and you’ve got power that we don’t have.” To which He could reply, “Why do you think I sent you My Spirit?” It’s not an argument we can win. He has provided us with the means to respond just as He did.

But it goes beyond that. Satan wants us all destroyed. Even those who unknowingly serve his purposes are his enemies and he seeks to destroy them just like he seeks to destroy us. While we cannot stand against Satan and his demons without the help of God, the point here is that we are all Satan’s enemies and it doesn’t make sense to fight against someone who doesn’t even realize he is in a bigger fight. As a matter of fact, that’s one of the reasons we’re suppose to be gentle and to lift them up in prayer:

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will. – 2 Timothy 2:24-26, ESV

If Christ can stand to heal one who sought to harm Him, we can stand to pray and be kind to those who seek ill will towards us. Yes, this is completely contrary to what the world teaches. Yes, it means sometimes taking a blow and doing nothing in return while we grit our teeth and stop ourselves from hitting back. But our Lord was led as a lamb to the slaughter and never called on the angels waiting in heaven to join the fray. He couldn’t if we were to be saved. Perhaps our Christlike response is what God wants to use to call another child to Him. Wouldn’t that be worth it?

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The Miracles of Jesus (33/35)

If we showed up to work and didn’t do anything our boss told us, but instead frequently did the exact opposite of what we were told, how long would we last? In a lot of jobs, not very long. We wouldn’t expect to be retained. Or at least, we shouldn’t expect it. That’s really the message behind today’s miracle.

In the morning, as he was returning to the city, he became hungry. And seeing a fig tree by the wayside, he went to it and found nothing on it but only leaves. And he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once.

When the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither at once?” And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”
– Matthew 21:18-22, ESV

In the Church we talk a lot about bearing fruit. And preachers ask the question about what kind of fruit do people see in our lives. We probably have heard this question so many times that we’ve become inoculated to it. That’s why I went with the job perspective. The fig tree wasn’t producing fruit. It wasn’t doing its job. So Jesus “fired” it. It would never produce fruit any more. It was withered at Jesus’ command. I don’t like the sound of that. The implications are to us as His Church that if we don’t individually and corporately step up and bear fruit, He reserves the right to wither us whenever He deems the time is right. In other words, we will be “fired.” I’m not saying that one can lose one’s salvation. But what I am saying is that one can lose his or her effectiveness for ministry and the growth of the Kingdom, something we are all mandated to do. Don’t believe me? Take a peek at Eli. David stands out, too. Then there is Hezekiah. And let’s not forget Josiah. In our era we’ve seen great leaders fall. I don’t want to be one of those. I want to be faithful and effective until God chooses to call me home. However, this requires diligence on my part as well as a reliance by faith on the Holy Spirit. And if you think about it, the Holy Spirit will be doing most of the heavy lifting. I just need to listen to and obey Him.

But there’s a second part to this miracle and it’s a statement of what can be accomplished by faith. If we are acting in accordance with the will of our Father and something that requires a miracle to solve stands in our way, a miracle is possible. It’s possible if we have genuine faith. It will be delivered when we go to God and ask for what needs to be done. We don’t have to rely on our own efforts. If we’re serious about working for the Kingdom we’re going to run out of our own power very, very quickly. And then we’re in the situation where faith and prayer are the answers to the problems we will face. We won’t deliver, but God will. How easy it is to forget this. But we must not forget, because this is the only real way to see great things happen.

Let us be effective in our walk with Christ. Let us continually bear fruit so we won’t be “fired” by our Savior. And let us remember that part of that effectiveness is a dependence on God to do that which we cannot. When we run into something that is beyond our abilities and we are within the will of God, we have not come to a wall we cannot scale. Rather, we have come to a point where we must call up to God for the rope to scale it. He has already prepared the way. He has already seen to it that we’ll have what we need. We just have to believe in His ability to provide it and be humble enough to ask His help to receive it. Then we will be the fig trees that continually produce a sweet fruit, pleasing to the Lord.

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The Miracles of Jesus (32/35)

One of the things we must always remember about God’s miracles are they aren’t so much for us as they are to bring glory to Him. A lot of times when I hear people asking about why God acted in a certain situation and not another, it’s usually along the lines, “Why couldn’t He do this for me?” That question shows the focus right there. The miracle wasn’t a desire to glorify God. It was a desire to make life easier. Sometimes that’s not in our best interests. What are we going to do once we receive that miracle? What are we going to do when God answers that prayer? Is it about Him or is it about us? For at least one of the two blind men Jesus healed, it was about Him once the healing was performed:

As he drew near to Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. And hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what this meant. They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” And he cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” And those who were in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” And Jesus stopped and commanded him to be brought to him. And when he came near, he asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, let me recover my sight.” And Jesus said to him, “Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God. – Luke 18:35-43, ESV

Matthew tells us there were two men, but Mark and Luke decide to concentrate on just one. Mark even tells us his name, Bartimaeus, son of Timaeus. But the reason I focused in on the Luke passage is what we find in the last two sentences. The blind man, now healed, followed Jesus and glorified God. In turn, the people who saw the miracle did so, too. When God answers our prayer, this should be our reaction. We should be immediately about glorifying God. Our glorifying God should provide some of the impetus for those who know of the answering of prayer to do the same. This is why God usually performs miracles. Now don’t get me wrong. The passage in Matthew tells us that Jesus reached out in pity. He had compassion upon these two blind men. Our God is a compassionate God. But sometimes answering our prayer the way we want it answered hurts us instead of helps us.

Think through your life thus far. Has there been times that have been hard that have really grown you? What happened when times became easy again (relatively speaking)? Did your faith waiver? Did you vision start to drift to things other than God? It happens to all of us. I remember my days at The Citadel. When the pressure was on us the most as freshmen is when we were at our best. We had to be. But during those periods when things slacked off, whether due to exams, due to a weariness due to Regimental Band’s heavy performance schedule, or what have you, we didn’t use that “extra” time and freedom to be even better. Truth be told, we slacked off. Now you could argue that you can’t keep up that intensity all the time. That may be true. But the fact of the matter is that when life got good, relatively speaking, our attention to those things which mattered most for us as cadets at The Citadel were among the first to slide. And I have seen similar things in my life and in the lives of those around me as I’ve gotten older.

So maybe the real miracle is that God keeps the situation as it is, where you and I are forced to rely on Him. Maybe that’s what’s best for us, though we don’t see it that way. We don’t often think like that, but think about how many times in the New Testament God’s apostles talk about being counted worthy to suffer for Him. How many times do they talk about keeping focus on Him? What about when Paul talks about being content in Philippians, regardless of the situation? Do we think like that in our normal lives? We should, but we often don’t. And that may be why God is answering our prayers, but in a way completely opposite of what we desire. He knows if He gives it to us our way, we will waiver and lose focus. We will get caught up in things we ought not. And thus He keeps the pressure on.

That says a lot about us. And it says a lot about these men, especially Bartimaeus. God is blessing us all the time. There are multitudes of passages which reveal God blesses the righteous and unrighteous at the same time. But often those who are righteous due to the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross forget about these blessings. Or we don’t see them as blessings. For instance, my years at The Citadel weren’t easy. However, at this point in my life I count them as an enormous blessing. I learned a lot. I was stretched a lot. God used circumstances at The Citadel to bring to a head not only my salvation but His calling on my life. Without the hard times of The Citadel I don’t know if either would have come to pass. He has used setbacks and losses in other situations to help me realize His magnificence in my life and His blessings in the small things we usually don’t give a second thought. For instance, I loved to cradle my three oldest children when they were babies, but cradling my newborn daughter took on greater significance due to the loss of the twins. To me that’s a miracle now. And I will glorify God for it. What in your life have you not paid much attention to, that upon closer inspection, is something you can truly glorify God for? Lift it up to Him today with thanksgiving and praise.

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