Category Archives: Miracles

Trust in God from Genesis 12

In Genesis 12 we have the story Abram.  In my series Walking with God, I spoke about Genesis 12:1-9 because of the great promises made to Abram for following God by faith.  After all, Abram left everything he was comfortable with to follow Yahweh to a place that was still not clarified to him when he began to literally walk.  In fact, he was even able to get some people to go with him!

Genesis 12:1-9 is a great look into what it means to place all of your faith (hope, security, control, physical well-being, trust, and etc.) in an invisible God.  This is a great story since Abram lived in a time of great idolatry.  Yet, he heard God!  He heard God in contrast to those idols who cannot speak.

In Genesis 12:10-20 Abram doesn’t do so well.  In fact, all of that faith that he placed in God seems to be for a fleeting moment.  In fact, this is where the rubber meets the road when it comes to actual faith.  A famine broke out where Abram was.  Here is one of life’s circumstances that simply occurs beyond our control.  However, Abram’s stomach begins to control him because he decided to move on to Egypt so that he, and those who were with him, could find food.

In contrast to the earlier part of this chapter, where I bragged on Abram’s faith, Abram was not told by God to go to Egypt.  Let’s think about this for a moment.  Abram left to go to the land that God would show him and for incentive God made great promises to him and those who were to come behind him.  In my mind, to leave in the first place, I would have to literally trust God to take care of me and my crew.  Yet, that is not what we are seeing here; at least from my vantage point.

Listen, if God was going to do all that He said He would do, then why didn’t Abram simply stay put?  Abram’s earlier trust should have come across his mind.  God had assumed responsibility for him.  He should have stuck it out, but he didn’t.  In fact, he told his wife to tell a half-truth that she was simply his sister.  Abram told her that since she was beautiful, he would be treated well and spared his life because of her.  Wow!  Where did the trust in God go?  He now seems to think that between the abilities of Pharaoh and Sarai that will be saved.

Even more troubling is that he allowed Pharaoh to take his wife to be his wife.  It is good to remember that God is Holy.  John Oswalt once said, “God is Holy! He is Holy for our good and our ill.”  Even though Pharaoh seems innocent, God is just and afflicted he and his people.  This seems to be God’s Holiness that brought ill on Pharaoh.  Further more, Abram is accumulating wealth at the expense of his wife being wife of Pharaoh!  So now we have innocent people being hurt since Sarai was born too soon for women’s rights to help her.  Likely, she didn’t have a choice in Abram’s decision; not to mention what was happening to the Egyptians people for not fault of their own in this situation.

Remember the promises God made Abram?  Since we know the story Abram, who later became Abraham, we know that God promised him and Sarai a son.  Yet, later since God seemed to be taking so long in fulfilling that promise Sarai she offered to Abram her servant Hagar.  So Abram impregnated Hagar and had Ishmael.  Nevertheless, this was not the Promised Son.  The Promised Son was to be born 14 years after Ishmael.

We have to consider how Abram’s decision to go to Egypt impacted this.  Is it possible that Isaac, The Child of Promise, could have been born sooner?  There is no way to know for sure, but consider that God would not want any connection possible between Pharaoh and Sarai.  After all, Pharaohs generally thought of themselves as gods on earth.  And for sure, I can imagine the talk among those in the camp with Abram and Sarai.

If this assessment is possible, then how much impact does a lack of faith have on God’s people?  It seems that we can prolong the good that God has in store for us by not following Him by faith.  In fact, it seems best to remain in the situation that brings you struggle until you hear from God.  Famines that drive us to make decisions irregardless of God are meant to be a time of testing our faith.  We may find that when we continually try to escape uncomfortable situations that we are demonstrating a lack of trust in God’s ability to maintain us in spite of what we face.  How much sooner would those in the camp with Abram have seen God’s power if he remained where he was?  And how much sooner would Abram and Sarai have received Isaac?  Thoughts to ponder.

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Filed under Faith, God, Holiness, Leadership, Miracles

Thoughts on faith

Luke gave a great insight to what faith is supposed to look like in his gospel.  Luke was great at creating contrast between people and groups.  He contrasted human emotions many times which help to reveal character someone either in a positive or negative light to those who read his account.  With this in mind, I want to share a thought, or two, about the faith that Christians should have. 

Here is a definition of faith, Hebrews 11:1 (NIV) Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.  Many times Christians use this verse as a biblical promise to be healed from a disease or something tragic.  But what if I use the word faith to describe someone who is devout?  You know, someone who gets it.  If I can use this word in that manner, then I am free to look at the context of a passage that uses the same word.  I’m gonna do it just for kicks.

In Luke 7:1-10, though we should look at the passages before and after, there is a snapshot of the word faith being used by Jesus about a centurion.  In this passage, Jesus heals the centurion’s servant.  Luke contrasted some people in this passage.  By the way, this passage comes after Luke’s Sermon on the Mount.  Jesus dealt with judging others in that passage. 

 Here are some contrasts in these 10 verses to look at from Luke himself.  The Centurion cares about his servant.  The Jews care about the Centurion, who has authority and who loved the Jewish nation and built their synagogue.  The Centurion had been good; at least a good tither.  Israel was a nation of priests devoted to God and had The 10 Commandments and Law.  The Gentiles, as depicted with the centurion who was considered to be unclean as a Gentile.  The rich and the poor.  The rich elders who cared about their nation and building and the man who had money, because they judged that he “deserved” for his servant to be healed.  The servant, who only had 2 people worried about him, Jesus and the centurion.  People with pride and those who are humble.  I might be missing some other things to look at but you get the picture.  And, all of this was taking place before a fickle crowd.

The Jews were supposed to care about the widows and the orphans, the poor, and the alien.  It was written throughout the Law to them.  In the way of this type of love, they were to be distinct from the world.  They did not do well with this.  Yet, the centurion cared about his servant.  Most of the time we Christians just want to talk about the centurion’s faith because healing took place on account of his faith.  The problem with this is that we have it backwards, we look for the miracle because we want to see someone who is important to us to be healed.  All the while Jesus is looking at us to see if we have the faith of the centurion. 

Simply, the faith of the centurion was the picture of someone who got it.  The elders did not get it according to Luke.  There care was for the money man.  Maybe they thought, “Hope Jesus can do this so that the centurion will continue to be good to us; otherwise he may give up on our God.”  Of course we know that if he gave up on God, that would mean that the money would stop.  Therefore, they did not get it.  The very Law they taught was not within their hearts.  Too many Christians today focus on the same things that the elders did.  Respectable people who can help the church.  Heaven forgive us!

The Centurion, who ironically I assume learned the Law from the Jews, cared for the poor much.  He lived out what he heard.  He cared about the same thing that Jesus did, the poor.  If only, elders in churches today would focus on the same things that Christ is focused on.  I believe people would see a dramatic move of God instead a manufactured move of social justice.  The centurion was humble, he was not bragging about his authority, because was under authority.  He simply recognized Christ as the Authority in contrast with the elders.  All the while the crowd is watching. 

So if you were in the crowd watching Christ, and you heard Him say that He has “not found such great faith even in Israel,” how would you respond?  Would you say to yourself that Jesus’ point was that we should try real hard to believe so that by faith people could be healed?  Or, do you think that He meant that the Jews, who were supposed to know God, were not living their faith out in regard to love for others?  I think Jesus would say this to the Church today.

In my view, Jesus pointed out plainly that the centurion was living by the Law.  His heart was different from the Jews.  This meant that the centurion would enter Heaven before the elders and the Jews.  Shocking!  Because we Christians teach about believing God for our healing from this passage instead of teaching about the humility and love that God desires from us. 

Does your relationship with Christ resemble the elders or the centurion?  What does your heart care about?  The nation and the church building, or those who are “the least of these?”  Christians, it is time to stop placing hope in politics, money, and people.  It is time to quit associating with Jesus because He has power.  Instead, it is time to allow Him to live through us because He loves us.  And if He lives through us, this means that we will care more about those in need than building facilities.  So what is faith to you?

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Filed under Christianity, compassion, Faith, Holiness, Living it, Miracles, Missional Resources

Missional Small Church

How does a small church become missional?  This is a question many small church pastors might ask.  This is also a question that many witnesses for Christ might ask also.  While at New Life Wesleyan Church, we were missional in the late 90’s, and they still are.  This is where we focused on a ministry called the ROCK, Reclaiming Our Community’s Kids.  Our goal was to be Jesus, otherwise known as be Incarnational, to children. 

What each church should know is that each church is different.  We are different because God sets every mission up.  In other words, he creates the opportunities while preparing the church that already exists and while sending new lay people in to take part in the mission.  God goes before because He prepares the way, and God’s people must respond to His lead.  Duh!  We have heard that before.  Yet, what does it look like when God is leading you to a specific mission?

God uses frustration over injustices.  He breaks hearts.  Here is what frustrated our church and broke our hearts which brought us to action and this is what our mission looked like. 

Our community’s kids were not recieving proper love from the adults in their lives.  These kids were struggling with school, social skills, and having adequate clothing and a home.  Our kids did not have any adult in their life to create the sense of being valued.  They were not being heard.  Some were staying in multiple houses and where they stayed depended on where the party was the night before.  Some kids’ parents were working multiple jobs which meant they were too worn out to do things with them, or even cook supper at night.  In other words, our kids were too worried about what they needed to live in this life to learn another Vacation Bible School story about Jesus in the next. 

Notice that I said, “Our kids.”  You have to look at God’s children that way.  You have to own or take responsibility for the mission.  Plus, our goal was to let them know that Jesus wants to be part of their lives in this life.  Lordship now is what they needed too, on top of the sinner’s prayer to escape hell when they die.  Jesus wants to  be known now as the God who is with us. 

To other churches, mission may start to take root from frustration that some in the church might feel about any type of injustice that they see in the community.  This becomes the seed of something great.  Think about it.  If Christ’s people are frustrated about any type of injustice, then there is a huge chance that the Spirit of God is spurring that frustration so that we will get burdened enough to move. 

Next, someone needs to talk about a practical Jesus way of dealing with the injustice.  Practical means finding a way to be the hands and feet of Christ while sharing the Gospel.  One without the other won’t do.  They must be happen jointly.  This ministry must not be one that is duplicated from what someone else is doing.  A better way to say that is the ministry or mission should not be developed because someone else, who seems successful from doing that type of ministry, is doing it.  It is a ministry that should meet two requirements.  One is that the ministry fits the community, or situation, like a glove.  Two is that the ministry will have to be accomplished by faith.  This is important for God to demonstrate His awesome power to individuals.  Why?  He wants to show those who are lost that Jesus Christ is the answer.  But . . . He also wants to demonstrate His power to the individuals in the church too!  This is faith education 101. 

You will know that you are on the right track when the needs to run this ministry are being met continuously, by those outside of the church, those who did not know that there was a need, and from people inside the church who are willing to do without luxuries, like never before, and give their money or time.   This is when you are able to see God working.  This is when the church is supposed to join Him.  Joining God in His work is the only way to success.  God is missional and this is why His Church is led to be missional. 

Finally, for small churches, the mission might consume the entire focus of the church.  It may be all that the church will do.  Being missional is not necessarily a way to achieve growth.  Instead, it is how we introduce others to Christ.  When we expect to grow numerically from this mission or ministry, this is when we begin to get discouraged.  Pastors and lay people listen to me, “It is not about receiving, it is about sacrificing.”  Being missional will have a heavy work load for pastors and the men and women who attend church with a light pay off.  In other words, the pay off may be something different than what one might expect.  There will be a huge pay off in Heaven because people will receive Christ as their Savior, but it may not have anything to do with building a mega-church here on earth.

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Filed under Discouragement, Faith, Giving, Miracles, Missional Resources, Sacrifice, Unity?, Vision

I am a witness

I traveled to Indiana this last weekend to see my grandma for the last time.  What made the trip worse was that she did not have a relationship with Jesus Christ.  After a 9 hour trip with my cousin back home we walked into the room and saw that she was close to death. 

When we walked in my grandmother, instead of saying hi, asked me to pray for her immediately.  I imagine this was a result of a lack of energy which caused her to only speak what was most important to her.  I asked the Lord to heal her.  I confess that I was really asking the Lord for her comfort and really did not think anymore than that. 

After that hard prayer in front of my whole family Hospice came in and began to go over all of her options. What a depressing time it was when Hospice cam in; although it is a good organization.  Then the door opened for me to lead my grandmother to the Lord.  Praise the Lord!  It was interesting that she did not know how to be assured of where she was going. 

What was amazing after praying to recieve Christ she began to look better.  I told her so.  We went to her house to stay.  Then we got a call that the doctors wanted to double check her diagnosis, and some thought that Hospice was called in too soon.  So, to make a long story short, she is now up out of bed and the doctors are wondering how their first tests were so wrong.  I am waiting for a confirmation, but I beleive that God has healed her! 

The doctors, as you may guess, cannot explain what happened.  My family can.  By the way, most in my family do not know Christ.  What a witness!  They saw how it all happened, and they cannot deny that there is a God who takes part in our lives.  Jesus did not just save grandma from hell, but He saved her from physical death too. 

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