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Miracles or Signs?

During His stay on earth Jesus did many things we call miracles. John, in his account of Jesus’ life here, called them signs. Which term is correct? Both!

To us they seem to be impossible. Our knowledge is so limited we cannot explain or understand them. They remain a source of confusion for those who seek scientific explanations of Jesus’ accomplishments. And they were miraculous.

Jesus intended to ease the pain and suffering of those who were sick, hungry, frightened and demon-possessed. He cared about their conditions and He had a desire to help.

However, each of his actions had a larger, more eternal purpose. They were signs to show his followers, then and now, that He was God incarnate. Only the same God who had created the universe and instituted the laws that govern it could alter those laws whenever He chose. Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of Mary and Joseph, was Jehovah. The miracles were signs of that truth.

When we read the gospels if we understand no more than the earthly results of his actions, we miss the message He intends for us. The outward, physical results were temporary. Each of the people He healed eventually died. But the larger ramifications lead us to eternal issues.

If we are not born-again children of God we have a spiritual sickness as real as the physical ailments of those Jesus healed. He offers to heal us of that sin-sickness and welcome us into his family for eternity. And that is the most wonderful miracle of all.

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God wants my life to be a miracle that shows his power and love to the world.

THE SCARED CHURCH

On the evening of the first Easter the disciples huddled in a closed room and bolted the door to keep out the world. They were so frightened of the people outside they had to use doors and walls to separate themselves from outsiders.

Today our churches still seem afraid of the world. We hide behind our stained-glass windows, choir robes and Sunday School literature and preach about the evils of homosexuality, drugs and pornography.

The message of such behavior is “We are scared of Satan and his world of evil.”  We meet to share time with other frightened Christians and have a few hours each week of “holy huddle,” fervently hoping the world will not physically or emotionally intrude.

We say “Our church doors are open. All are invited to worship with us.” We even send out visitation teams to persuade people to come to our church next Sunday. But are our hearts as open as our doors? Are we careful to invite only the “right kind” of people from “correct neighborhoods” to join us in our sanctimonious ceremonies?

If new-comers do not dress correctly or wash frequently do we secretly hope they will search for God somewhere else? The world that many people face every day is dirty, mean and dangerous. Many of the people that live in that world tend to be unkempt and rough, with an unpleasant odor. Do we as long-time members really want them to be a part of our worship.

The addicted and abused, the frightened and confused are not urged to attend the 11:00 Sunday morning, suit and tie, heels and hats, upper room gathering of the faithful. They frighten us. We do not want them to disrupt our services, offend our sensibilities and upset our routine. My goodness, one of them might actually sit in my pew.

Even worse, some of these down-and-outers might require some of our own personal time and assistance. They might become a bodily, practical expression of God’s message “unto the least of one of these.”  After all, if we don’t intend to individually go “into all the world” we for sure don’t want the world coming to us!

GOD’S WILL NOW OR LATER

God’s will is often time specific…that is some of the things He intends for us to do must be done within a specific time period.  He has a “do it NOW” will for each of us. If I want to know that will and if I search for it correctly and consistently, He will reveal it.

However, a delay in carrying out that will often becomes disobedience, because it can not be done at all if it is not done on  his time schedule.

As his servant my task is always to do exactly what He wants as soon as I understand what that is.  Often when I delay and miss his schedule I lose out on a chance to help someone else and I don’t hear “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Such disobedience can be harmful to me and others.

I can also be disobedient by doing something before He tells me to do it. He may be intending to further prepare me for the task He is planning for me to do later. Or other people involved in the assignment may not be ready. Certain circumstances may need to be further prepared. Only He has the knowledge to know exactly when the time is right.

When He says  “Now” I must act immediately. When He says “Later” I must patiently wait.

Numbers 14:40-45

 

 

SHEEP FOOD

In John 21:17 we have the record of Jesus telling Peter to “Feed my sheep.” The sheep belonged to Jesus, but Peter was to become the shepherd of that flock, protecting them and teaching them.

What was Peter supposed to use as food? Where was he expected to get the fodder the sheep needed?

Of course Jesus was not talking about physical food. Earlier He had taught the disciples the relative importance of physical needs when He said “Don’t worry about having something to eat, drink or wear” (Matthew 6:25 CEV). Jesus was referring to spiritual food. He was telling Peter to give people all that was necessary to meet their spiritual needs.

But what spiritual food was available for Peter to use? The only Scripture he had was the Old Testament. What did Jesus intend for Peter to use to accomplish his assigned task?

Peter was expected to use the same thing we should employ as our primary source for feeding sheep today – JESUS.  Earlier the Master had said “…if I be lifted up…I will draw all men unto me” (John 12:32). For his sheep to fully understand and appreciate Jesus as the sinless, crucified, resurrected Son of God, they needed a daily dose of Him.

As children of God we are to be in a constant teaching mode, always alert to opportunities to tell people about Jesus. But we are also to be in a learning mode, eager to learn more about Him for ourselves. (Acts 10 tells of one such learning experience Peter had after the ascension of Jesus.)

How do we feed his sheep? The ways are limited only by our ability to hear and follow the Holy Spirit’s guidance. We can openly praise God for daily blessings. We must refuse the socially acceptable sins that surround us. We are to serve others, while exhibiting the inner joy that circumstances cannot erase and fellowship with other Christians.

The list of “how” will continue to unfold in our minds when our response to Jesus’ command is “Yes, Lord, I will gladly feed your sheep.”

WHO AM I?

As a born again, covered-by-the-blood Christian, just exactly who am I?

Am I a child of the King, a prince of kingdom? Am I a servant of the most high? Could I perhaps be a soldier in God’s army or maybe an ambassador to foreign kingdoms?

YES! YES! YES! YES! I am all of those, but it is easier to announce that answer than to fully understand and explain it.

My position in God’s kingdom is that of a son, a privileged prince who can claim all the blessings and perks available to one of such high status. Yet I am His servant, standing ready to eagerly fulfill His every wish. As a fully-armed soldier in His army I am ready to do battle, clothed in the armor He has provided for me. And my position as an ambassador sends me into the streets and alleys inviting the needy of this world to his banquet.

It seems impossible to successfully fill any one of these roles, let alone all four at the same time. And it is impossible – totally and completely impossible – if I try it within my own power and wisdom. Only the Holy Spirit, working through me can successfully perform this balancing act.

CHRISTLIKE… “DO” AND “DON’T”

Becoming more like Christ is a worthy goal, one that every Christian should work to achieve. But there is disagreement concerning which characteristics compose Christlikeness. Exactly how would a person feel and act if he was fully like Christ?

Many of us have a limited view of Christ. We believe that if we avoid sin we will be  like Him. Therefore we concentrate on identifying sin and obeying the details of scriptural and man-made rules. We become absorbed with the “don’ts” of Christianity.

Certainly Jesus was sinless. No attempt to model a life after Him will be successful unless sin is avoided. But unless our Christlikeness includes more we will become dangerously like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day. Their morality included little more than “Don’t.”

Jesus’ life was marked by more than sinlessness. His was a life of service to others. On more than one occasion when He wanted to get away from the crowds and go to a quiet place with the disciples the needs of the people were so urgent and great that they intruded into His life. Then He would put aside His own needs and minister to those who were hurting.

His ability to do this was based on His personal, intimate relationship with His Father. His consistent, intensive devotional life enabled Him to be a servant to all. Because of that intimacy He was always aware that His power to serve came from God. This allowed Him to remain humble, even when others were urging Him to become their earthly ruler.

What then is Christlike? It is a life of service to others that comes from a humble spirit. It is always giving God the glory while doing the work of a good Samaritan. It is praising God while helping the needy. It is telling others the message of salvation based on the Father’s mercy and grace. It is loving everyone, even the unlovely.

If we are not increasingly willing to love and serve, we are not becoming like Christ.