Browsing Tag

miracles

Christian Life, Spiritual Warfare

Embrace Greater Things

October 28, 2016

 

 

Would it ever enter your mind that you could come to the end of your life, look back, and say truthfully that you have done greater works in your life than Jesus did in his? Apparently it should.

This morning I was reading John 14-17 in preparation for a session that I’m leading at Verge Ministry’s Leader Advance that starts tonight and this statement by Jesus jumped out at me in a fresh way;

“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” (14:12)

Apparently Jesus wants us to live with the belief that our lives would be full of works even greater than his. That’s a pretty huge challenge to a body of believers the majority of whom’s greatest works are being nice people and going to church a couple times a week.

In my experience we have an incredible propensity to tame down and over-qualify Jesus’ words when he says things like this. Let’s resist that temptation. Let’s press into the difficulty of statements like “whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do,” and, “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do”. Let’s earnestly desire and labor to experience the reality of those promises rather than bending them to fit our current experience.

I for one want to come to the end of my life and have Jesus say, “See! I told you you would.” That, my friends, would be amazing, and if our God has anything to say about it every Christ-follower’s life is meant to be exactly amazing.

 

 

 

Christian Life, Commentary, Faith

Expectations and Miracles

February 29, 2016

 

 

A week or two ago at Salem, Kelly and I’s home church here in Fargo, Pastor Glenn preached a powerful sermon from 2 Kings 5:1-14 – the story of Naaman’s healing from leprosy. You can watch or listen to the sermon here. I wanted to delve further into one of the points that Glen made during his sermon and apply it to our day-to-day relationship with God.

To set the scene, Naaman, a powerful, influential, and strong commander of the Syrian army discovers he has leprosy. He’s on the road to ostracism, slow and painful decay, and ultimately and inevitably death. Leprosy, in his day, has no cure and is highly contagious. No cure, that is, except for the miraculous healing that the God of Israel is able to do, as Naaman’s wife’s Israelite servant girl points out. Naaman heads to Israel with gifts from the Syrian king to demand that he be healed, ultimately meeting with a messenger from Elisha who tells him to go and wash in the Jordan river. Here’s the point in the story that I want us to zoom in on. It’s incredibly applicable to us today. In 2 Kings 5 we read,

And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean.” But Naaman was angry and went away, saying, “Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call upon the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper. Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage. (5:10-12)

Naaman needs healing. He needs God’s intervention or he’ll die. But there’s a problem. Naaman has expectations of how God should do his intervening. If God’s actions don’t fit in Naaman’s box, he’s going to walk on, leprosy or not. God, however, wants to directly address Naaman’s issues and use his leprosy as a magnifying glass to reveal errors in his thinking. There are at least two issues that Naaman has with God’s method of healing as outlined by Elisha’s servant;

Issue 1: The person bringing the gift

Naaman is someone in a high position. He’s the commander of the army of one of the world’s superpowers. He’s expecting the top dog, Elisha himself, to come and speak to him face to face. Elisha, however, insults Naaman by sending a servant in his place, and Naaman doesn’t like the person bringing the gift. He doesn’t want to receive his healing from some second-rate servant. He wants it from the prophet himself. None of this second-hand crap.

How often we operate this way! We judge the quality of the gift based on the person who’s bringing it. We set our expectations for the quality of a sermon based on the appearance of the preacher. We expect the greatest financial support from those who are well dressed and clean cut. God, however, tends to use the most unlikely of candidates to do the greatest of things. He sends his greatest gifts through the most unexpected of sources.

Don’t prevent yourself from receiving a gift from God because you’ve discounted the person who is bringing it.

Issue 2: The method

Naaman wanted some show – some special treatment. He expected God’s healing to align with what he’d seen Syrian priests and magicians do. God, however, wants to knock down Naaman’s barriers. Wash in dirty water and be clean, Naaman. This isn’t going to be a magic show or the result of some mystical incantation.

We, like Naaman, have our expectations set for what God’s methods should be when he answers our prayers or fulfills our needs. The financial provision should come as a surprise generous gift from an anonymous donor rather than an extra side job. The beautiful romance that leads to a lasting marriage should come before we’re X years old. The healing or deliverance should be the product of one powerful explosion of the Spirit’s power rather than months or years of slow growth and restoration work.

Set aside your expectations for God’s methods. Jesus never heals the same thing the same way twice. Our God loves to do new and unexpected things. Open your eyes and be on the lookout for God’s miraculous intervention in the places where you previously least expected it.

Thankfully for Naaman his servants prevail upon him and he obeys, dipping himself in the Jordan river. He sets aside his expectations, obeys, and receiving the healing that he needed.

We serve a God who is more than able to meet every one of our needs – from miraculous bodily healing to spiritual freedom to financial and relational provision. He’s not only able, he is willing and eager to do so, as Jesus demonstrates when he responds to the beggar’s statement “If you are willing, Lord…” with the declaration, “I am willing. Be healed.” (Matthew 8:1-3)

The real question is whether or not we’re willing to receive what God is giving. Are we ready to set aside our expectations and receive God’s gift regardless of the deliverer or the method of delivery?

I certainly hope we are. Like Naaman we each are desperately in need of a miracle. Let’s be willing to receive, regardless of how our good God gives.

 

 

 

Christian Life, Spiritual Warfare

Weird Stuff God Does

July 23, 2015

1. You’re driving your way to church, going about 30 miles an hour and singing along with the latest Hillsong album. A movement to your left catches your eye. You glance over and are amazed to see your pastor running next to the car, looking as if it’s the easiest thing in the world. He smiles, waves, and surges ahead of you. A few minutes later you pull into the church parking lot, walk in, and your pastor greets you, telling you a story about how his car had broken down and God had given him supernatural power to run the 15 miles to the church at an amazing speed. He doesn’t look like he even sweated at all.

Do you believe him? Do you scoff? Did you actually see him running?

 

2. Your small group gets a letter from the pastor of the church you attend. He’s been on a six month sabbatical and promised to write if he felt like God had anything that he should communicate. He writes, saying he’s had a vision of heaven and that Jesus told him to write it down. Your group reads the letter and discovers a wild mix of bug-monsters, dragons, plagues, very specific naming of your (and other) small group’s sins, and detailed descriptions of what heaven will look like. There’s even seems to be specific numbers for how many people will get into that heaven.

Do you take the letter seriously? Does your group discuss it and write it off as a prank?

 

3. You and a few co-workers are biking like you usually do on nice Saturdays when all of a sudden a bright light shines on you, totally freaking you out and surprising you so much that you fall off your bike. You hear a voice, telling you to go to a specific house in the next city over and wait for instructions. None of the people with you hear it, but they see the light.

Do you respond by obeying? Do you ignore the whole situation?

 

4. A friend tells you about how he was in Minneapolis and stopped to talk to a guy who was reading his Bible and looking puzzled. Through their conversation, the guy became a believer and was baptized right there in a pond in the park since he was too excited to wait. Your friend says that as soon as he finished baptizing the guy, God teleported him back to his home in Fargo.

Do you believe him and rejoice in the power of God? Do you question and doubt?

 

 

How would you react if one of these things happened to you? Would you believe it was from God, or would you reason it away to be imagination or something more sinister?

We’ve got a problem in the evangelical culture, and it’s keeping us from encountering God in ways that could radically expand the reach of the Gospel in our world. We’ve started assuming that if something is weird or makes us feel uncomfortable, it can’t be from God. The church has set implicit limits on what is acceptable and what is not.

Each of the events listed above are modernized version of things that happened by the command and power of God. Elijah outran the king’s chariot (King 18:46), John wrote the book of Revelation to the small house churches on the inspiration of visions he had, Paul was converted after seeing a bright light and hearing a voice (Acts 9), Philip baptized the Ethiopian eunuch and was transported by the Spirit to a nearby town (Acts 8:26-40).

My question is this; Do we have a framework that can encompass a God who sometimes does – and even calls us to do – things that are weird? God isn’t limited by our perspectives. He’s not constrained to function in ways that make sense to us. In fact, judging by Scripture’s records, God tends to do things in very weird ways just so that people realize there’s something beyond the natural at work.

Don’t limit God. Don’t say it’s not God just because it’s weird. Evaluate, prayerfully consider, and be wise, yes. But don’t rule something out just because it doesn’t fit what you think of as normal Christianity. You might be surprised at the glorious things you encounter when you open yourself up to some of the weird stuff God does.

Book Highlights, Quotations

Quotes: Mike Breen – Leading Kingdom Movements

September 24, 2013

I recently finished reading Mike Breen‘s book Leading Kingdom Movements. I can’t recommend it highly enough for anyone who has a passion for seeing Jesus do amazing things in and through them. Check out the 3DM store to buy a copy of the book. You won’t regret it.

Below are some of my highlights from the book. May they inspire and help you in your kingdom work.

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“Follow Jesus. And then teach others how to follow Jesus. He’s the compass we can all follow.”

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“Kingdom movement is a community that functions as a portal to the new world that God wants for all his children. Put another way, a Kingdom movement is a community of disciples who passionately seek the expansion of God’s reign here on earth through the reproduction of disciples, seeking the transformation of the places they inhabit.”

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“The more time I spent listening to God, and the more time I spent asking him to show me where he was already at work, the more spiritual breakthrough I saw in my life and in the life of our community. The closer I was to God, the more breakthrough I saw. It was absolutely amazing. By simply paying more attention to where God’s Kingdom was already breaking in, and by resting in him, I spent far less energy and produced far more fruit.”

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“Things like Missional Communities are a fantastic vehicle for mission. They really are. But without the embracing of the Holy Spirit, it’s just another thing you’re doing on your own.”

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“The Father’s gift to you is Kingdom breakthrough. It’s not yours; it’s his.”

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“Living in faith and grace needs to be the warp and weft of your life. Leaders create culture. If you want a culture that looks for the grace in Battle and responds to Frustration with faith, you have to model that for them.”

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“Movement leaders won’t care if their salary is coming from a church or somewhere else. Why? Because of two words that I think define Kingdom movement leaders above and beyond leaders of Christian institutions: disciplined and entrepreneurial.”

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“The higher the challenge, and the more difficult your purpose on the missional frontier, the more you need time playing together. Movies. Dinners. Baseball games. Times to laugh, enjoy each other, and just be team apart from any higher purpose you have.”

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“What Jesus tells us over and over again is to follow the fruit. Ruthlessly find the places where there is fruit (and as we just covered, when Jesus refers to fruit, he means disciples) and put every ounce of yourself in going after it. Having a big tree doesn’t necessarily mean lots of disciples.”

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“We need to be disciples before we become a missionary. You simply can’t be a missionary if you’re not a disciple, first and foremost. It’s impossible. But the natural outgrowth for any disciple of Jesus is the life of a missionary.”

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“I believe the miraculous will happen if you depend on the miraculous power of God, embrace your weakness, and say, “The cracks of my life are the places where the power of God is able to seep through.”

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“Massive conferences with amazing, charismatic leaders aren’t sustainable or scalable.64 History has shown us this time and time again. On the other hand, having people who know how to invest their lives in others, people who disciple others to disciple others, and who create lightweight and low maintenance vehicles for discipleship and mission have always been the principal way the Holy Spirit has created movemental change.”

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“I cannot say it long enough or loud enough: You must lead from your own brokenness so that, as the Lord achieves breakthrough in your life and those you are close to, he will use the overflow of that in the wider community.”