Miracles Are Over, Right?

Some Christians have chosen to believe that God no longer works in our lives the way he did in the early church. The New Testament is filled with examples of God's healing power, miracles, and supernatural spiritual gifts. It would appear that God intended for us to learn something about him from all those reports, and maybe expect that the God who is "the same yesterday, today, and forever" might continue them.

"That was for then," Dr. Lofty growls over his reading glasses. "We no longer need such displays and anyone who claims to have experienced them is delusional."

Well, put me in that category.

Last night, at a very small gathering of those seeking to deepen our missionary zeal and knowledge, my young friend Jeff hobbled in on his crutches. He had torn his ACL in a soccer game and his heavily bandaged knee was swollen and could hold no weight. He was looking at surgery and weeks on crutches.

Another friend, Warren, intervened. "I think God wants to heal you, brother," he said. Gathering my son Sam, Jeff's girlfriend Linsdsey, and my nephew Tim, Warren laid hands on Jeff and they prayed for God to heal Jeff.

A few moments later, Jeff walked back into the meeting, bandage gone, putting full weight on his bad leg! He was crying as he told us what had happened minutes ago. Having watched Jeff struggle for the past week with his injured leg, I could hardly believe my eyes.

"God heals! I have no pain, zero!" he exclaimed. With radiant face, he carried his crutches out of the building.

We rejoiced together and I watched as the faith of those young leaders-of-tomorrow grew. Each of them has a call of God on their lives and He wanted to demonstrate to them in an intensely personal way his power and love. As he did in the early church, God wanted to seal in their hearts a demonstration of his "very present help in trouble."

I don't know what they face as they follow God, but I do know that no one will ever be able to reason away their solid foundation of faith in a God who listens. No doctoral degree or list of misconstrued scripture will ever strip from them the memory of crippled Jeff walking back into that meeting with no crutches.

The man with an argument is no match for the man with an experience.

Have you experienced the power of God?

Count the Cost

My dear old hometown has an eyesore. Over the past several years, what was once a wooded wilderness has become a dirt pile that is moved regularly by various powerful machines.

But it never becomes anything. There are roads, trenches, and high mounds of red dirt. But it all adds up to a big expensive pile of nothing. Millions have been spent so far with nothing to show for it. It is our local joke. Somebody messed up. Somebody did not count the cost before they started this fiasco.

Jesus had our dirt pile in mind when he warned the crowds following him that they needed to count the cost before signing up with him. Everybody loved the food, the healings, and the "get-out-of-hell-free" card he offered. They came in droves for more of the best show in town. But he knew their hearts. It wasn't HIM they wanted. It was what he could give them to make their selfish lives better. And that was not what he came to do.

So he pointed to a massive dirt pile like ours and warned them that no builder starts building a tower without first calculating the cost. Otherwise, he runs out of funding, stops halfway, and becomes the laughingstock of the county. Then he pointed out that the kingdom of heaven worked the same way.

Have you thought of it that way? If you came to Jesus for the free stuff, grabbed your ticket, and headed back to your regular life, then you've missed it. You didn't count the cost and in the end, you will be the laughingstock of hell.

So, what is that cost?

Jesus spells it out in terms no one can misunderstand. It's a puzzle why so many do.
  • "If anyone does not take up his cross and follow me, he is not worthy of me."
  • "If anyone does not hate his family by comparison, he is not worthy of me."
  • "If you want to be my disciple, then do what I command you."
There are so many "if's" in scripture, we really ought to pay more attention to them. But "if" is a word we easily overlook, pretending we can claim the promise after it in spite of ignoring it. That is not true.

Have you counted the cost of following Christ? Or did some greasy-smiling preacher convince you that you could have "all this and God too!" The outright lie passing for Christianity these days is appalling. Jesus wouldn't recognize it. It's certainly not the message he brought.

Salvation is a work of the Holy Spirit. Not a thing you can contribute. But true salvation results in true repentance, true dedication, and a true change of heart.

Salvation is the only free gift that requires everything you have.

And it is the only one that is worth more than you can ever give up. Be sure you've counted the cost, and have not bought into a cheap counterfeit.

The real thing is worth it.


Family Resemblance

They've grown up together. Each guy is 8 months apart in age, the youngest in the middle. Sam and Luke and Tim. Cousins. They don't get to see each other very often now, so when we all get together we moms compare and analyze which family members they look like.

My sister's son Luke has the Davis eyes and Tim looks like his dad, my brother. My son Sam is all McCombs, but there is something about the eyebrows that looks like both Luke and Tim.

Family resemblance. We all look for it. We like finding similarities in those of our blood and find a sense of belonging when we see it in ourselves. It's part of what makes us family. We look alike.

God's family is no different. When we are bought into the family of God through His Son, we start to take on His family resemblance. We can't help it. It's part of what Jesus meant by being born again. We are born into a new bloodline and we start to look like our Father.

Jesus said, "If you've seen me, you've seen my Father." He was that confident in his identity because he knew that his life and actions were the same as His Father's would be.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if all of God's adopted children could say the same thing? What if you could say with humble confidence, "If you've seen me, you've seen my big Brother."

That is God's plan for us. He loves to see Himself in us. He delights in finding a family resemblance. That should delight us too.


Grumble, Rumble, Roar

There are times when it seems God has taken a vacation. As far as you know, you're doing what He wants you to do and then--WHAM! You get fired. Your house burns down. Your child is diagnosed with cancer. All in the same week.

Friends appear on the sidelines, feigning concern, but you know that they are secretly wondering what you did wrong. And secretly praying it doesn't happen to them.

What is your usual response? I know what mine used to be.

I got angry at God. Ever been there?

Of course, we don't call it that. We cloak our outrage in more acceptable terms, even joking lightly to soften the seriousness of our accusations: "I have a few questions for God one of these days!" "Is He paying attention?"

I never realized during my years of unholy outrage that my attitude was sin. But when I study the Old Testament's account of the Israelites heading for the Promised Land, one theme leaps from the pages: they "murmured against the Lord." (Num. 14:29; Ps. 106:25)

God pays attention when we murmur against him and He does not like it. But he also notices those who refuse to give in to whining. One of my favorite passages is in Malachi 3:16. God was angry at his people who were once again grumbling about him, but he also called attention to the few who did not. These people "spoke to one another about the Lord", and the Lord heard and had a special book of remembrance written with their names in it. "They will be mine," he said. "I will spare them when I bring judgment on the others."

The Chuck Norris of hard-times is Job who "did not sin by charging the Lord with wrongdoing." If anyone had a right to, it was Job, which proves that no one has a right to.

Have you considered that your grumbling about your situation is sin against the God who chose it for you? If you did nothing to put yourself in this pickle, then it was chosen for you by a loving God for His reasons. And you have no right to grumble. He notices.

If guilt is pricking your conscience as you read this, do what I did. Start now by repenting of your murmuring in the past. Then purpose never to do it again. The proper response is what Job did: he fell down and worshiped. "The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord."

When you do that, you can be sure God is writing your name in his special book of remembrance. I would much rather he remember me that way than as one who grumbled against him. Wouldn't you?


Think Like A Champion

Have you watched some of the Olympic athletes warm up before competition? Almost all of them have ear-buds plugged securely in their ears. They are jogging, flipping, stretching, and preparing physically and mentally to go out and win.

So what are they listening to?

Winning is as much about mental preparation as it is about being physically in shape. The most athletic body in the world is not enough to earn a championship. The real work starts and ends in the mind. And the experienced competitor prepares his or her mind before competition as well. Each athlete has a favorite song or group of songs that inspires, challenges, and encourages. As the body is being stretched and prepared, the spirit is being recharged as well. Uplifting lyrics, adrenaline-inducing melodies, or peaceful strings prepare the heart of the future champion.

As followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, we are also engaged in a battle to win. Our enemy is prepared and we must be too.

What are you using to pump up your spirit? What are you listening to that challenges you to stand strong in your faith? What lyrics, melodies, and ideas are coursing through your brain? Do they inspire you to press on for the Lord?

Think about it. Are you preparing yourself to be a champion?


Hey, Wha'cha got?

Imagine standing outside in your pajamas, a spatula in your hand, phone to your ear, listening as the President tells you he's chosen YOU as the one who will bring an end to the Iraqi conflict. Right away. Today.

After you convince yourself you are not sleepwalking, your next thought is: "What? ME? Are you kidding? I...I...c-can't do that. What do I know?"

That's exactly what Moses thought when God told him he'd been chosen to defy the most powerful ruler in the world, Egypt's Pharaoh. Moses had run out to the desert just to escape this guy, and now God was telling him to go back? And sass the man, too!

Imagine glancing down at your spatula, then at your pajamas, and wondering why you'd bothered to get up this morning.

If anyone ever felt too small for the job, it was Moses. But God wasn't the least bit concerned about Moses' opinion of himself. When God decides something, that's how it is and he makes sure all the components are in exactly the right spot---whether we think they look right or not.

"What's in your hand, Moses?"

Moses looked at the smooth stick he was holding and wondered where this was headed.

"Throw down your rod," God told him and it became a snake.

When he picked it up again, it turned back into a rod. But not just any rod. From then on, Moses referred to it as "the rod of God."

I love that phrase. It symbolizes what happens when God gets hold of something. He wants to accomplish much more in our lives than we could ever do by ourselves, but he can't do it while we're still holding on to our spatulas.

What do you have in your hand? Is it a passion? A dream? A talent? A skill that you've worked to develop and want to enjoy?

Maybe you don't feel you have anything in your hand. Maybe you're "just a mom," "just a janitor," "just a____." Fill in the blank. You've looked around at your life and you're pretty sure you don't have anything God could use to do great things.

Neither did Moses. How could God use an 80-year-old murderer-turned-shepherd with a walking stick?

Yet, when God gets hold of something, it becomes anything he wants it to become. That simple rod was the tool God used to defeat the greatest empire in the world at that time. With it God baffled the greatest minds and stumped the harshest critics.

Whatever you hold in your hand will never be all it can be
until you throw it down.

So what are you clinging to? What private dream, talent, skill, or goal are you afraid to throw down, afraid God won't know what to do with it?
Do you really want it to be limited by what you're capable of doing with it?

Wouldn't you rather be holding "the rod of God?"