Miracles

I had to travel for work this week, which gave me the opportunity to listen to several sermons, while I drove.  There was one, in particular, by Francis Chan that really resonated and has become the topic for today’s discussion.

He was delivering a sermon at a conference for pastors.  In this sermon he was talking about what he believes to be the most valuable asset for a pastor to possess for the health of their particular congregation.  I would add, that it would apply to the church outside our walls as well.  That asset was how the pastor prayed.  Specifically, does he pray for members of the church by name and does he fall to his knees and pray as Paul did in Ephesians 3?

Ephesians 3:14-19 (NASB) ‘For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. ‘ 

His point, is to mirror Paul, not just in deed but in heart.  Paul so loved his brothers and sisters, he so desired for all the world to be saved and to know the love of the Father and the Son, that he would pray for them in a way that was calling on the Father to bless them with the in-dwelling of the immeasurable power of the Holy Spirit.

As I thought about this prayer, I honestly could not recall a time when I prayed like that for someone with that depth of love and determination.

I often pray that God will see a particular person through a difficult time.  I pray often for Him to grant them peace, wisdom, joy, strength and especially healing.  These are important prayers, for sure… prayers I will continue to bring to Him.  I do believe that the prayers of the righteous are heard and answered.  I believe He does work miracles, unbelievable miracles that can only be attributed to His power and doing.  When those miracles are witnessed they serve as a powerful testimony to His ultimate supremacy.

However, what about when those prayers aren’t answered in the way we ask?  What happens when He doesn’t grant the person with miraculous healing?  Does that diminish Him in the eyes of those who prayed for it or those who heard or knew of the prayer.  It shouldn’t, but perhaps it might.  Does that make Him any less God, because He didn’t do what we asked?  

That’s where this prayer in Ephesian 3 comes into play.  We all know that God is not always going to provide what we want or need in the way that we want.  We all know, that despite our prayers, people we know, people we care about will go through difficult times.  We ourselves, despite our prayers and the prayers of the righteous will still experience struggles, illness, and death.  This prayer in Ephesians 3 is a gift we ask for to strengthen ourselves and others, so that when those times come, illness, pain and death, how we handle it and how others see us handle it is a direct reflection of the endless power and authority of our Father.  It is a prayer that we be so filled up with the power of the Holy Spirit that no matter what is happening, good our bad, what the world sees from us is Jesus Christ, His power and His glory.  It’s a prayer that we be so filled up that all we can focus on is doing the same for others so that they may experience it and do the same in turn.  

Miracles are glorious, no doubt.  They are powerful witness to God’s immeasurable power, love and devotion.  My contention, so is how we reflect Jesus by the working of the Holy Spirit within us when things aren’t as we would like them to be, when “our” miracle isn’t provided.  Have a blessed weekend.

In full pursuit of the greatest Trophy,

Scott Pace

Present

What’s the best present you have ever received?  Was it an unexpected gift someone surprised you with that you continue to cherish today?  Was it some teaching or advice that you continue to use and live by years later?  Maybe even more than any material thing, the best present was just the presence of someone in your life.  Weather it was a special moment with someone you care about deeply, or just the influence they have had on you over time.  Maybe there are several people who fit this description for whom you are grateful.  Maybe this person is even God the Father, the Son, the Spirit, who guides and directs you each day.  Whatever that present means to you, maybe you can continue to give the same gift to others, so that it continues to have influence in the world, going forward. 

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 6:23

One morning earlier this week, I was rushing to get things ready for my work day and eventually got on the road and it was about 20 minutes into my drive when I noticed that everything was frosted like it was about to be put out on the shelf as a Christmas decoration.  I kind of wondered if I had just driven into an area where this was the case, but then realized, probably not.  I had just been so focused and thinking about other things, that I didn’t see the beauty all around me.  Some nay-sayers might comment that there is nothing nice about Winter, but they are blind to the truth as well.  We have seen much snow lately, and this past week, one day had some big flakes falling softly to the ground.  It was as mesmerizing as gazing into a fire and you just get lost in the powerful gentleness of what it is.  Each season of the year and of life has something marvelous for us to see if we just stop for a moment to witness the miracles all around us. 

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.  Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.  Psalm 19:1-2

It seems I often get so caught up in what I have to get done, or do next, that I can miss opportunities and moments where I should stop and be more fully involved and present.  I don’t fully realize this until I do stop and engage with someone longer, or just sit and enjoy the company of others without feeling the need to rush off soon.  A month ago, I thought I would just stop to say hi to some old friends, when I had about 200 miles to travel yet.  We ended up visiting for 3 hours, and it flew by like it was 20 minutes.  I then wonder if I even desire to spend time like this talking to and praying with my God and my Lord, or whether I would be willing to carve out a portion of my day or night to do so, because more often than not, I do not seem to have any prolonged time to spend in His presence.  It is when I consider where I am spending my time and energy that helps me better see when my priorities are out of place.

 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,  because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  James 1:2-4

How about when you encounter any trials or struggles in your life?  Do you ever see these as a gift from God?  More often than not, it is something that you pray to God to help you get through and overcome, instead of something to learn or grow from.  Maybe when you look back on some of the things you have gone through, at that point you can see it as something that was good for you, but it is very seldom we realize this in the midst of that struggle.  Not everything bad that happens to us always turns out to be good, but there is usually something we can learn from it to help us grow or teach others.  If there is something frustrating you are dealing with now, it doesn’t hurt to talk to God and even ask Him to show you what if any good may result from it, or how to redeem something of value from the messes we deal with in life.  If there is anything that our God is in the business of doing, it is redeeming good from a bad situation.  As you move forward each day, may you see beyond the current crisis to a new joy which lies beyond!

Yours in Christ,
Clark

Smite Thy Enemy

Have you ever had someone go out of their way to make your life miserable?  Like they have an agenda to embarrass and shame you infront of people. Then we play out what we wish we could do to them or we have these fake conversations in out head with them.  We tear them apart in our heads.  Some of us actually do those things.  We get even with them!

Then you come across the words of Jesus:

Matthew 5:43 “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. 44 But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! 45 In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. 

Most of the time we are like “He is Jesus. He can do that. I can not.”  Or we think ok I will pray for them… “God get them, smite them, destroy them, expose them.” I do not think that is the kind of pray Jesus was encouraging.  Love your enemies.  Love those that go out of their way to make you miserable.  Love those who intentionally hurt you. 

Then if you actually do, something deep in you happens.  The pain of what they did hurts less. The hatred toward them goes away.  Here we feel like they are getting away with it.  What if God telling us to love our enemies was actually about us too.  What if He knew holding on to the pain and resentment would steal life from us? What if we would just let Him have our hurt we walk away free?

Then what about them? What if when they see you responding in love instead of anger, they see who the Father really is?  

So loving your enemies heals you and shows the offender the nature of the God.  So who do you need to forgive?  Who would God have you pray for?  Who do you not want to pray blessing over?  Go do it!

Helping People Live a Better Story

Brandon Sereg
@brandonsereg
@thevibrantchurch
www.thevibrant.church

Managing Dynamite and Faith

Alfred Nobel was a rare breed of genius. Despite only attending school 18 months during his lifetime he held over 350 different patents, the most famous of which was for dynamite. While we think of dynamite as an element of war and violence, Nobel set about creating it for one reason: safety. The leading explosive of the day, nitroglycerin, was notoriously unpredictable. It caused a serious explosion at Nobel’s own factory that killed five people, including his own brother. In creating dynamite Nobel was creating a tool that would have substantial explosive power for the mining industry, as well as prevent future deaths like his brother’s. Indeed, dynamite would come to play a key role in many industries up to the present day, but its use in war and terrorism tends to receive all the focus. In fact, an erroneously published obituary referring to Nobel as the “merchant of death” for the creating dynamite led Nobel to leave the vast majority of his fortune to promoting peace through the Nobel Peace Prize. 

Dynamite, and the various other useful explosives developed from it, can be extremely positive. Without it many important mining projects, road projects, and development projects could have never safely happened. Unfortunately, dynamite can also be used for nefarious purposes as well. It is obviously a double-edged sword that has to be used with wisdom and care. Believe it or not, being a Chrisitan is quite similar to this. We have the potential to do so many good things: lead people to Christ, improve the lives of the poor, love the downtrodden, equip future leaders, grow the faith of others, and so much more.

There is so much positive that can come out of our Chrisitan life. But, if we are not careful, we can also do harm. We can be overly judgemental, hypocritical, self-centered instead of others-centered, focused on our wants rather than other’s needs, and more. There is an old DC Talk song that opens with the prophetic line: “the biggest single cause of atheism today is Christians.” Honestly, from my experiences, I’d say that’s pretty accurate. I’ve talked to so many people who are open to God, but because of how they’ve been treated by Christians they have no desire to get close to God or His church. Look at Paul’s teaching in James 4:11-12:

Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?

It is not our role to judge or condemn, but to make others better. We’ve been given a powerful responsibility as followers of Christ, one even more powerful than dynamite. May we always use it to improve others and not to inflict harm. 

Men and Their Beards

Psalm 133:2 New International Version (NIV)

It is like precious oil poured on the head,
    running down on the beard,
running down on Aaron’s beard,
    down on the collar of his robe.

Are beards necessary? Does having facial hair make you a man of God? No, having a beard is not a salvation issue. We are not under Old Testament Law. We are under grace. So, why the fuss?

This is a tough place, but I think it is important for us to know what it means to be a man as to being a woman. Satan is in full strength being the author of confusion into what being a man is. We see men, today, dressing like women, showing feminine mannerisms, and even having women’s hair styles. Some will even go to the length of having ‘gender reassignment surgery’. This is a growing confusion that is developing in society and with men.

God created men and women differently for a purpose. They were created unique and were to populate the earth. In Genesis 3:16, the woman was designed for child bearing, and the man in vs 19 would be a tiller of the soil and work with his hands. Men and women have defined gender designs and responsibilities.

In Ephesians 5:21-33, it shows God’s design for men and women. Both need to show care for each other, and it tells how a man should love his wife like Christ loves the church and gave himself for her.

Having a beard is not essential. Having facial hair is not required, but being a godly man is. Yes, the Bible makes a story case for a beard, and it is an honor for a man and glory to God. Not all men can grow beards or want to have a beard, but I do believe that men are called by God to be men of God on the inside and outside. 

Be the man God has called you to be.

Strength and Courage

Michael

 

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