Miracles or Wonders?

He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted.” – Job 9:10

To some people everything’s a miracle: sunrises, finding extra money in their pocket, bumping into an old friend, and birds hatching in the tree outside their window. For others, miracles are phenomena of a time long past, but don’t happen today. Which is right?

The verse from Job, cited above, has helped me sort this out. Many of the things we see around us might be classified as wonders. Colorful flowers, the awe-inspiring Grand Canyon, or a wound that heals – these are wonders, part of God’s natural world. He made the world to work this way and we are the benefactors of his love of beauty, order, and regeneration.

But, sometimes there are miracles, too – yes, even today. They are events that occur contrary to the natural course of things. For example, someone being unexplainably healed or a prodigal returning home with a changed heart. These miracles are God’s intervention in the normal course of a disease, affliction, or direction. I believe these miracles are his way of giving us a glimpse of how it will be when the world is eventually restored to its original perfection.

Miracles are miracles, not because they are part of the natural order, but because they interrupt it. But that interruption is not guaranteed. God loves having us trust him enough to ask, but only he decides when and how he will respond to our prayer.

So, while we pray for the miracle we so desparately desire, we can continue to enjoy the wonders of God that surround us every day. They are his gifts to us, too!

“Believe in miracles, but don’t put your faith in miracles. Put your faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.” – Adrian Rogers

Trouble with trusting?

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” – Psalm 37:4

I recently read Paul’s recitation of his immaculate pedigree as a passionate follower of God through Judaism. When he became a Christian, his new understanding made him realize he’d been trusting in his own goodness and zeal to earn God’s favor. After his encounter with Jesus, he understood that none of his efforts earned him any gold stars from God. Instead, God’s favor was gained by putting his trust in Christ, not himself. A commentator on Paul said, “It takes humility to trust.”

I began to think about ways in which pride can block our ability to trust God. Maybe it’s because humility means . . .

  •  acknowledging our own helplessness to change a situation.
  •  realizing that only God can see the future so knows best what to do for us and others.
  •  giving up control.
  •  accepting that what God chooses might hurt us for a time, but a greater purpose will be accomplished, even in our pain.
  •  believing, even when we can’t understand, that God is who he says he is and all his words are true.

You can imagine with me why it’s hard for a proud person to do the things listed above. Our pride doesn’t like helplessness, submission, accepting the truths in God’s word without argument. If there is any pride in us, we’ll find it hard to trust God.

Are you having trouble with trust? We all do, sometimes. When that happens, we should examine ourselves and root out whatever may be prideful or self-serving. Every time we do that with sincerity, we find it easier to trust God – our faith grows and his ability to use us grows.

“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” – Anonymous

Need some soul work?

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.

Psalm 23:1-3

Yesterday, I had been far busier than I intended and felt frazzled. So, near the end of the day, I sat in my comfortable chair and thought about how my Good Shepherd leads me beside still waters and makes me lie down in green pastures. The stress began to leave my body and I felt comforted and calmed.

My mind moved to the next statement, “He refreshes my soul”. What does that mean? Christian scholar J.P. Moreland has spent years studying and writing about the soul and he believes it contains five faculties:

  • senses (touch, taste, smell, seeing, hearing)
  • will (capacities to choose)
  • emotions (ability to experience joy, love, anger, etc.)
  • mind (thoughts, beliefs, ability to reason)
  • spirit (means by which we relate to God). *

In sum, our souls encompass our entire internal being. And that’s what needs to be refreshed – our whole selves, not just our bodies. 

It’s important to pay attention when our soul cries out for refreshment. When it does, we are invited to connect with the only one who can provide what we need. As God restores our souls, he renews our desire to have him near, cleans up the sinful smudges gained from the day, and draws us close. We begin to feel whole, complete, spiritually healthy. That’s refreshment!

This can happen only when we stay close to the Shepherd, asking him to make the changes and restoration we crave. Then we wait. He will not leave us helpless. Soul work is what he does!

The greater perfection a soul aspires after, the more dependent it is upon Divine Grace.” – Brother Lawrence

*From Finding Quiet by J.P. Moreland

Longer Prayers

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. – Mark 1:35

Don’t you wonder how Jesus spent all night in prayer with the Father? All night?

Years ago, when I had a severely depressed friend, I promised to spend an hour in prayer for her, pleading with God to meet the deepest needs of her heart. In about ten minutes, I had said all I had to say. But I had committed to an hour, so I expanded my prayer, repeated some things, and paused more often. It felt like a very long hour!

So, praying all night seems impossible to me! And the gospel writers indicate that it was Jesus’ habit to spend long hours in prayer.

Then I realized that for Jesus and God it was, very likely, a two-way conversation. Jesus talked and God responded, like a loving father and son would do. If you’re with someone you love, there are times when you talk and talk, then wonder where the time went.

That’s probably what it was like between Jesus and God. Intimate conversation. And God, with his heavenly perspective, giving direction, guiding Jesus’ ministry, telling him what to do next.

Jesus showed us how we humans can relate to our Father in heaven. Prayer is a big part of that: Asking for and then receiving direction, comfort, hope, empowerment, and provision. If it’s lovingly intimate and involves both speaking and listening, our short prayers tend to get longer. Jesus showed us what to do. It’s up to us to figure out how – through relationship with the One to whom we pray.

O, let the place of secret prayer become to me the most beloved spot on earth.” – Andrew Murray

Do whatever you want.

“Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. “ – John 14:23

Samuel had just privately annointed Saul to be the first king of Israel. Then Samuel told Saul that God’s Spirit would come powerfully upon him and change him from the inside out. When that happens, he said, “. . . do whatever your hand finds to do because God is with you” (1 Samuel 10:7). Can you imagine having God’s presence so control us that whatever we chose to do would be pleasing to him? What would it take for that to happen?

  • Being so filled with God’s Spirit that everything we decide would originate with him
  • Loving God so much we would never do anything we think might displease him or hurt him
  • Following an irresistible desire to live out what Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount and in his parables
  • Having the inner capacity to forgive easily, give generously, and never, never worry

I think that’s exactly what God intends for us: to be transformed to be so much like Jesus that we never have to ask, “What would Jesus do?” – instead, we would just do it. We will never be perfectly like him until we see him face-to-face, but it should be our desire to have transformed minds and Holy Spirit control to the extent that we are growing closer and closer to that goal each day!

As you think about that, have a great day doing what God wants you to do and praying, as you do, that he makes it what you want to do, too!

“Love God and do whatever you please: for the soul trained in love to God will do nothing to offend the One who is Beloved.” – Augustine

Power Hungry

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being. . . ” – Ephesians 3:16

Sometimes we feel helpless as we look at power in the world today. Nations testing other nations, each claiming superior force. Politicians exchanging influence for favors. Bosses barking out orders or withholding increases in pay. Authority, glory, and power are evident – but not for us it seems.

We don’t have to feel helpless because the Bible promises us power, Paul prayed for it for the Ephesian church, and Jesus promised it to his disciples. We can assume though, the kind of power Jesus and Paul were talking about isn’t very much like what we see in the world around us.

What does Christian, God-given power look like? I think Frank Laubach (missionary to India and Africa in the 1930’s, 40’s, and 50’s) had it right when he prayed for power this way:

“. . . power to see souls behind faces, power to pray for those I see outside this car window, power to ooze into or push into the inner souls of others with my prayer and carry Thee with me all the way to the center.”

I’m hungry for that kind of power, aren’t you? Power to have understanding of the hidden needs of those we meet, power to pray constantly, power to reach people at a heart level with the truth of God’s love and provision for them, power to change them for eternity.

Please, Lord, may my life be lived under the powerful influence of the Holy Spirit within me, for the good of those I touch, and for your great pleasure.

“If you want that splendid power in prayer, you must remain in loving, living, lasting, conscious, practical, abiding union with the Lord Jesus Christ.” – Charles Spurgeon

Around the Bend

“A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how.” – Mark 4:26b-27

When C. S. Lewis lost his wife to cancer and was struggling through emotions and questions in his grief, he wrote, “Grief is like a long valley, a winding valley where any bend may reveal a totally new landscape.”

We’re all on a journey. For Lewis, it was through grief. For many of us, it’s through another of life’s challenges. And, while we struggle, we get discouraged. That’s when God renews us with whispers:

  • Don’t quit because you feel like you’re failing. You’re making progress.
  • Don’t quit becuse you’re tired. You’re getting stronger.
  • Don’t quit because it’s hard. The rewards for perseverance are great.

That’s when we realize we just need to keep walking. God is at work even when we can’t see it. Strength comes. Spiritual growth occurs, and he‘s doing it, not you or me.

Eventually, we do go around the bend Lewis mentions and, when we do, we see something new and beautiful. Something we didn’t know, or some gift of joy or relationship or insight. At that point, we realize staying on the path is worth the effort and we keep going, wondering what different and inspiring landscape will appear just a little further down the road.

The gifts of success, strength, growth, and joy include the struggle. Let’s not quit! There’re no shortcuts to becoming.

“I long to put the experience of fifty years at once into your young lives, to give you at once the key to that treasure chamber every gem of which has cost me tears and struggles and prayers, but you must work for these inward treasures yourselves.” – Harriet Beecher Stowe