Wednesday, July 29, 2015

the anatomy of a miracle

 (C. Church  07/28/2015)

Whenever the name of 'Jesus Christ of Nazareth' is mentioned,
one thing that comes to mind is: miracles!  During the three years
of His public ministry, he performed miracles wherever He went.

John recorded that Jesus said,
"Verily, verily I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works
that I do shall he do also; because I go unto my Father."
"And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the
Father may be glorified in the Son."  ~ John 14:12-13

I believe in Jesus. I believe that He is the only begotten Son of God.
In fact, I believe everything that the Bible says about Him.
And yet...
Sometimes, even though I am praying fervently, I do not always see
the results that I was seeking.  But, Jesus said that "whatsoever we ask
in His name..."

And that got me to thinking...asking, "What are we doing wrong, Lord?"

When we are having difficulty understanding a set of circumstances, I
have discovered that the answer is ALWAYS in God's Word. 

The Word of God is eternal. It is a nail-in-a-sure-place.  It is never wrong.
It never fails.  In fact, we are assured that,
"Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away."
` Matthew 24:35

That reminds me of a saying spoken by the great evangelist, Smith Wigglesworth,
He said, "God said it. I believe it. That settles it!"
He believed so strongly in the authority of God's Word, that as far as he was
concerned, there was nothing else that could be considered in an argument.
Needless to say, his belief was so strong that actual, documented miracles
followed his ministry, everywhere he went.  Now that was about one hundred
years ago.

I often read about and hear reports from field missionaries concerning miracles
in their meetings.  I have to ask myself why we aren't seeing those things here,
in our own country.  We could debate that subject until Jesus returns, but I
wanted to know if there was something I was missing.  So, I went to the Word.

And what better place to begin than with the first recorded miracle in Jesus' life?

And that is where I discovered...the anatomy of a miracle.  It actually has parts.
I began to dissect and study each of the separate parts, and seeing how all were
necessary for the 'whole' to be strongest.  In other words, one or even two of
the parts was not enough, we need all of them, working together to reach the
desired outcome.

The story is commonly known as the Marriage at Cana, and I'm studying the
account found in:

John 2:1-11 (KJV)

1  "And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee;
   and the mother of Jesus was there:

2 And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage.

3 And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him,
  They have no wine.

4 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee?
   mine hour is not yet come.

5 His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.

6 And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the
   purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece.

7 Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water.
  And they filled them up to the brim.

8 And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor
  of the feast. And they bare it.

9 When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine,
   and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;)
   the governor of the feast called the bridegroom,

10 And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine;
    and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast
    kept the good wine until now.

11 This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth
    his glory; and his disciples believed on him."

We know the story well.  We've heard it many times.  Perhaps it is time to take
a closer look at it.

First, we see that Mary is in attendance at a wedding in Cana.  Cana is probably
only about 10-12 miles north of Nazareth, so it is likely that the bride and groom
were family members or very close friends.  Did you notice that Jesus and his friends
(his disciples) were also there, as invited guests.  They were 'called' to the wedding.
This means that they were invited beforehand, not merely summoned because there
was a problem.  Keep that in mind:  Jesus was already in the house!  No one had
to run out and find Him; He was there all the time.

Then, a problem arises.  The host has run out of wine.  We don't need to know how
Mary found out about this, but she did, and look what happens next.  She tells Jesus,
her son, "They have no wine."  Now, from His response to her flat statement, we can
rightfully discern that she intended for Him to do something about it.  Because, He
said to her, "Woman, what have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come."
Basically, He said, "What's that to me, Mom? What do you expect me to do about it?
I didn't come here to show off."

So, the second part of a miracle in the making is that there is a need, a genuine need!

As a mother myself, I know that look.  I recognize the authority in her tone of voice.
She never hesitated, even when he mildly rebuked her.  She simply spoke the need,
and she spoke with the certainty that He would respond to her wishes.  It probably
never even occurred to her that He might not do what she asked of Him.

Her sincerity is unmistakable. There was a problem and she believed that He could
fix it.  So, the third part that we need is: a holy boldness!

And look what happened!  Her faith was so secure that she didn't even reply to His
response. Instead, she looked at the servants, and said, "Do whatever He tells you to do!"

And that's the fourth part...she activated her faith.  She believed that she would receive
what she had asked for, so she went right ahead, expecting things to change...and they did!

What a powerful testimony of His love for his mother!  Even though He had not planned
to reveal himself on that particular day, He could find no reason to not respond to her
heartfelt request.  That's powerful. That's how much God's heart is turned toward us.
When He sees our faith, and the boldness of our approach, He can't help himself, He
simply must respond to our needs. ("Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of
grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace [unmerited favor] in time of need."
`Hebrews 4:16

Let's review what happened to bring about the miracle.
First, Jesus was in the house!  That is so important.  When we have a serious need, we don't
have time to get 'prayed up.'  Jesus must be present, all the time, God with us!
Second, there has to be a need.  And from this story, we can realize that no need is too
frivolous to Him.  He cares about the things that we care about!  And don't worry, when
Jesus is in the house, our thoughts will be right!
Third, we must come boldly, we must believe that He is going to make things different.
Fourth, we must activate our faith...immediately!  No hesitation.  Just do whatever He
tells you to do, no matter what it sounds like. After all, there is nothing ordinary about
a miracle from God. 

I believe that the Church should be experiencing God's best, right now, just the same as
it did when Jesus departed and filled us all with His presence, His own Spirit. 
He told us that we would be doing/seeing great things happen.  And they did...for awhile.

I believe that as long as He is still with us, He expects us to do the same things that He did
for people, and that involves miracles! Look at verse 10. Did you see it?!  The governor
of the feast said to the bridegroom, "You saved the best for NOW!"  You see, he didn't say,
"you saved the best for the last."  He said, NOW!!!  And that's where we are: right here, right now!

Monday, June 15, 2015

drifting farther away

It sounds like a wonderful idea...drifting along a slow current, on a lazy day...not too hot outside, with just a gentle breeze...until you realize just how far you have drifted from the shore. That moment when it becomes clear that you've got to row all the way back, suddenly snaps you into reality.  The daydreaming is over; it wasn't so much fun after all.  There have been times in my life that I have been caught-up in this "drift-along" effect, only to be startled into the real world again.  There is one particular area that disturbs me greatly.  It's an epidemic that is sweeping Christ's universal church.  We are losing sight of the shoreline while we casually drift along, "merrily, merrily, merrily, is but a dream."  Our focus has dimmed and our determination has clouded.

I am talking about how far we have drifted from worshiping our great God.  From the early days, thousands of years ago, when He revealed Himself to His chosen people, He has demanded worship from us.  And reasonably so, for a god ceases to be a god when he is not worshiped and revered.  To explain it another way:  Buddha is not a god to me, personally, because I choose to not worship him.  Without worship, he will never attain the status of a god figure at any level on my part.

Since I have chosen Jesus Christ, God incarnate, to be the object of my affection, it is easy to worship and adore Him.  He is my God.  I remember well, how exciting it was to go into "big" church and take part in the worship service.  Even as a young child, I knew there was something very special about what went on in the sanctuary.  But, as I got older, I also realized that we were locked into the "order of worship."  I even remember the first time that I had an occasion to actually stand in the pulpit and look out over the sea of faces in the pews.  The first thing that I noticed was that there was a big clock on the opposite wall, facing the pulpit, ticking down the minutes...hurry, hurry, must not run over.  I have even seen the minister actually remove his own watch and set it up on the pulpit so he could monitor the time he was taking.  Mustn't run over...people are getting restless...short altar call.  The Order of Worship is more sacred than our resolve to bring a true offering of thanksgiving.  How far we are drifting away...

Think about it.  When was the last time you were invited to sing the third verse of any hymn?  It's usually the first, second, and last.  Shaving off a minute or two...keeping the order of worship on schedule.
Or, when was the last time, you were encouraged to remain still for a few moments and just allow the Holy Spirit to wash over you with His great power of regeneration?  How far we are drifting away...

Now I am not saying that we should throw caution to the wind, and become reckless with anything so holy as adoration and praise of our loving God.  I am just suggesting that maybe, because the powers that be insist on getting out on time, just maybe we should be spending a lot more time at home, in our secret place communing with God on a personal level.  Such a practice will never be time-wasted.  In fact, I have discovered that the more time I offer Him in the morning, the slower the clock runs.  It is as if time stands still for those minutes.  I am always refreshed and renewed and ready for the day.  There is a song in my heart, and even when it gets stuck in my brain and plays over and over again, all day long, I know that the Father is well-pleased, for He is jealous of my affection.

"Thou shalt worship no other God, for the Lord is a jealous God."  Exodus 20:14.

As we begin another work-week, plunging headlong into the abyss of the rat-race, may we pause and purposefully take inventory of our personal worship habits and strategies.  Whenever we make the time to "enter His gates with thanksgiving in my heart, and His courts with praise..." we immediately step into a higher place...far from the madding crowd, as it were.

We are transported into His presence where the light of His holiness drives away all the darkness and shadows that are pursuing us. And that light becomes our beacon for the day. Nothing, nothing at all can separate us from His powerful love. We are born anew, refreshed and encouraged from His nearness.

Yes, as we begin a new week of work...take time to work on your personal relationship with your heavenly Father.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

once is never enough

These cold days in the bleak midwinter are perfect to reflect on the Word, spend more time in prayer, and really listen to the Holy Spirit as He reveals areas that He is concerned about.

As an intercessor, I am always striving to keep my hand on the Lord's pulse, so to speak, in order to be able to detect even the slightest "disturbance in the force."

In recent weeks, there has been an avalanche of warnings in the Spirit regarding a particular area in the lives of all believers.  It is an area that we don't really want to talk about because we might have to admit that we've been missing the mark.  But, it is crucial to our own well-being to make sure, absolutely sure, that we are conducting ourselves according to God's Word and His will.

This mysterious area is: forgiveness.  The Lord has reminded me of something that I have been guilty of in the past, and the Church, in general, is in serious denial today.  Case in point: we say things like, "Well, I'll forgive them, BUT..."  My dear friends, there is no BUT in forgiveness.  It must be absolute, and completely from the heart.  Personally, I have had many occasions in my life when I needed to project forgiveness strictly by faith, because my flesh was not wanting to give up the injury so fast or so easily.  But, thank God that His Spirit will continue to strive with us until we get it right.

I have also learned, again from personal experience, that oftentimes the very same person will do the very same thing that hurt me in the first place, and I am confronted with the need to forgive yet again.  I want to scream, "That's not fair. I'm never going to put myself in this position again."  Really?!  The Father comes gently then, holds me while I rant and rave, waits patiently for me to calm down, and then He says,
"seventy-times-seven."  I realize that this expression is the hard-fast proof that sometimes I am going to be faced with the decision as to whether or not I will truly forgive AGAIN.  He reminds me that true forgiveness is not keeping a tally anyway, just like He has never kept a tally on all the times I have messed up AGAIN in the same area as before. 

Never do I ever feel more like my blessed Savior than when I am able to truly forgive, and FORGET the matter (even when I know it is bound to happen again).  Just like the way He regards my repetitious shortcomings with mercy and grace, and love that simply cannot be explained, I want to be enough like Him that I can do that, too.  Why does He take me back?   Why does He keep giving me another chance?  Why doesn't He just kick me to the curb and say, "I am so done with her!"  Why?!  Because, LOVE will not allow Him to cut me out of the herd that easily.

He paid much too dearly for my life, my very soul, and He has been faithful to prove to me that I can never remove myself from His unfailing grasp.  He would prefer that I walk along, quietly beside Him daily, but He is always prepared for the event that I won't.  His forgiveness outweighs my rebellion.  He just keeps showing me His love, over and over again.

Did you know that there is a reward for keeping a right spirit before God?  When we forgive others with the same compassion and love that He has shown us, things start going in the right direction again.  Our health improves, our finances improve, stress is reduced, and most importantly, our prayers are not hindered.

It is high-time that we call a spade a spade.  When we are wronged, there is never a lingering clause or condition that allows us to treat the offender with anything except God-given mercy and grace.  We are not even entitled to an apology.  That's how faith strings attached.  One of the things that the children of God are marked with is His love. "You will know them by their love."

The Church needs to wake up and get far away from this whole notion of entitlement.  We are not entitled to withhold forgiveness for any reason, we are not entitled to make conditions on the forgiveness, we are not entitled to keep a record of wrongs...unless of course, that is how we want the Father to respond to us.

After all, didn't Jesus teach us to pray, "Father, forgive us our debts as (just the same way that) we forgive our debtors."  There is a saying that goes like this: Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.  But, God says, even if it takes seventy-times-seven attempts, I will still forgive you.

When is once enough?  Maybe never, maybe seventy-times-seven is a much more realistic number!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Advent - week four

The Time of PEACE

The final week of Advent leaves us thinking about the very reason that our Savior came; He came that we might have peace with God.  Begin your celebration by relighting the first three candles and pausing a moment to think about what each one means.
When our hope is rekindled, faith rises up anew, the darkness (of our condition) is scattered and joy is restored.  What a loving Father we have.  He always leads us step-by-step until we are exactly where we can receive the fullness of His love toward us.
Lighting the final purple candle, we invite “the peace of God which passes understanding,” (Phil. 4:7)
to envelope us and comfort us, even through times of great uncertainty, sorrow, and stress.  This candle is referred to as the “Angel’s” candle.  We are told that the angels in heaven rejoiced when earth received her King.  “Glory to God in the highest,” they sang.  Two thousand years later, their carol is the same!
Why is that?  Because every day another person is born, God comes anew into this world to unite us with Him.  Every day that “morning has broken” we are presented with new opportunities to bless Him with our love and faithfulness, quietly carrying out His will in our lives…touching others, one at a time, just as Jesus did.  And likewise, each new day brings opportunities for Him to bless us.  As with any doting Father, He loves to surprise us with gifts of love and mercy and grace.  He loves to hear our songs of praise and hear the joy in our voices when we sing.  He yearns for us to find Him early, each and every day, so that His peace may accompany us no matter what happens as the minutes tick away.  What better way to stir His heart, than to sing joyful Christmas carols as we go through the day?!

To be at peace with God is everything.  When there is a bond of peace between us, nothing, absolutely nothing can dim our Hope.  It is that hope that renews our faith, and faith realized…brings JOY.  When joy is present, peace cannot be far behind.

This week, as the days glide into that glorious of days, Christmas, look for opportunities to slow down and allow peace to prevail.  There is no reason that the weeks leading up to Christmas should be harried and stressful.  I believe that allowing unrest to prevail in our hearts and lives, causes the Father great sadness.  After all, He sent His beloved Son in order that we might be reunited with Him once again.
When you think about it, there is no possible way to truly honor God and celebrate His Son if we are not fully engaged in an active pursuit of His love and peace.

This week, consider these scriptures:
Psalm 34:14, Psalm 119:165, Prov. 16:7 (one of my favorites), John 14:27, Gal. 5:22, James 3:18
And there are so many others.  Make a list of your own favorites.

Psalm 85:10 is probably my favorite passage regarding PEACE.
Listen to what the psalmist revealed to us:
“Mercy and truth are met together;
Righteousness and peace have kissed each other.”
In Jesus, we have been given a door that brings us directly into the presence of our Father.
Here’s how we open it:
When the Truth of our woeful condition and the very state of our lost condition collides with the extravagant Mercy of our great God, then His Righteousness becomes our righteousness, and we have Peace with God.  Hallelujah!  Righteousness and Peace have kissed each other!!!
No need for mistletoe; the Father has made a way for us through Jesus, the beloved.

Enjoy these and other special Christmas songs:
“Silent Night, Holy Night”   “Still, Still, Still” 

And whatever else you find to do…take time for peaceful moments!  A moment here and a moment there could make all the difference.  Peace be unto you!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Advent - week three

The Time of JOY

The third week of Advent celebrates the good news that was first delivered to shepherds in the field. Appropriately then, the third candle is called the Shepherd's candle.

This week we will re-light the first candle, the Prophecy candle, and the second purple candle, the Bethlehem candle, followed by the one pink candle, the Shepherd's candle. We celebrate the great joy of our living Lord. (some scholars say that the shepherd's candle is pink to symbolize the humanity of the mortals)

"But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you GOOD NEWS of great JOY which will come to all the people." (Luke 2:10 AMP)

""So they went with haste..." (Luke 2:16)

"And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen..."

(Luke 2:20)


I salute you! There is nothing I can give you which you have not; but there is much, that, which I cannot give, you can take.

No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in it today.

Take heaven.

No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this present instant.

Take peace.

The gloom of the world is but a shadow; behind it, yet, within our reach, is joy.

Take joy.

And so, at this Christmas time, I greet you, with the prayer that for you, now and forever, the day breaks and the shadows flee away.

~~Fra Giovanni

A.D. 1513

The message is clear---JOY is for the taking. It is the fruit (Gal. 5:22) of the Spirit of our Living Lord. We choose to be joyful. We are NOT intimidated by the circumstances. (See Deut. 30:19 and Deut. 28: 1-14)

"But let all those that put their trust in thee rejoice: let them ever shout for joy, because thou defendest them: let them also that love thy name be joyful in thee.  12) For thou, Lord, will bless the righteous; with favour wilt thou compass him as with a shield." (Psalm 5:11,12)

Many examples of joy can be found throughout the Word of God. Two stand out mightily. The account of Job, and the chronicled life of Paul, the Apostle.

"While he was yet speaking..."BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! Everything gone, in a moment of time. We cannot even imagine such devastating events. However, consider Job's response: "Then Job...fell down upon the ground, and worshipped,  21) And said, 'Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.'  22) In all this, Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly." (Job 1: 20-22)

"Thou he slay me, yet will I trust Him..." (Job 13:15)

"And the Lord turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends: also the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before." (Job 42:10)

"So the Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning..." (Job 42:12)

And what about Paul?

[while they were in prison] "And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.  26) And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone's bands were loosed." (Acts 16: 25-26)

Paul walked the talk!

"Rejoice evermore.  17) Pray without ceasing.  18) In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.  19) Quench not the Spirit." (I Thes. 5:16-19)

The Shepherd's Path (a life of JOY)

J          Jesus first         Deut. 6:4-7          Matt. 7:12          Matt. 22: 36-40

O         others next       John 13:34           John 15:12

Y         yourself last      Romans 12:1

Remember, there are 366 instances in the Bible where we are told, "Fear not!" So, instead, let's take JOY and choose LIFE!

When you listen to the Christmas music this week, pay attention to the words in "The First Noel," "Angels From the Realms of Glory," and "Joy to the World."   Be joyful, today and always!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Advent - week two


You may recall that the second purple candle is called the Bethlehem candle. Now we have a "what" and a "where" in the divine mystery. What: the prophecy concerning Jesus Christ, the long-awaited Messiah. Where: Bethlehem.

This week we will re-light the first candle, the Prophecy candle, and we will then light the second purple candle, the Bethlehem candle, as we continue to prepare our hearts for the anticipated Light of the world.

"Prepare ye the way of the Lord." (John 1:23)

The prophets foretold the special place that Bethlehem would have in history. (see Micah 5:2)

Now, listen to this! "Bethlehem" literally means House of Bread. How fitting that the Bread of Life would first appear on earth there! He has prepared a feast; He has called us to come and dine; what hinders us, then?

"Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." (Revelation 3:20)

Room for Jesus

"Have you any room for Jesus?

He who bore your load of sin...

As He knocks and asks admittance,

Sinner, won't you let Him in?"

"Room for Jesus, King of Glory...

Hasten now, His Word obey,

Swing your heart's door widely open-

Bid Him enter, while you may."

"And the Lord said, 'My Spirit shall not always strive with man...'" (Genesis 6:3)

"Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come buy wine and milk without money and without price." (Isaiah 55:1)

"And Jesus said unto them, "I am the bread of Life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst." (John 6:35)

Oh, yes! Celebrate with all your heart! Celebrate with great anticipation as you truly prepare a place within your hear for the King of Kings!

As you listen to your Christmas music this week, pay attention to the words of "O Come, All Ye Faithful" and "O Little Town of Bethlehem." The Bread of Life came to the House of Bread; why should anyone, anywhere ever go hungry again!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Advent - week one


This week we'll light the first purple candle, the Prophecy candle, and celebrate Christ with anticipation and hope.

Just as a child waits expectantly for the "big" day, so our hearts yearn for His Coming.

The scriptures reveal to us that this has been the plan, all along. God would become flesh and dwell among us!

Just as those of long ago waited in anticipation for the coming of the Christ Child, we celebrate His birth while looking beyond it to His glorious reappearing. And we prepare our hearts and minds for His return.

"Take heed, watch; for you do not know when the time will come." (Mark 13:33)

From the Old Testament to the New Testament and back again, the great event was recorded.

"O house of Jacob, come ye, and let us walk in the light of the Lord." (Isaiah 2:5)

"The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined." (Isaiah 9:2)

"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder; and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." (Isaiah 9:6-7)

"Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, 'I am the light of the world: He that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.'" (John 8:12)

"Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee." (Isaiah 60:1)

"Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. 2) In my Father's house are many mansions: (if it were not so, I would have told you). I go to prepare a place for you. 3) And if I go and prepare a place for you; I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also." (John 14:1-3)

"...'Surely I come quickly'...Even so, come, Lord Jesus. (Revelation 22:20)

There are many other passages that you might enjoy studying this week:

Matthew 24:37-44, I Thessalonians  4:14-18, John 1:1-14, and I Thessalonians 5:1-6.

Now is the time to dig out your Christmas CDs. Listen to "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" and think about the exciting times that we live in today, knowing that Christ could return at any moment! Are you ready?

Think about the little things you do for a long overdue visit with a precious friend. When you learn that they are coming, you clear the calendar and make time for them. You savor every moment, and sigh when they must leave. The best part of His return is, even though we have waited a long time, this time He's not leaving us behind. No teary goodbyes for us. We're going with HIM!