Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 23 August 2017

By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned.  Hebrews 11, verse 29.

If pop culture wrote the Bible, this verse might say, “by faith they all survived the eclipse of 2017.”  Did you see the eclipse in America this week?  From all the media hype, one might have thought the world was ending.   From what really happened, it was a cool astrophysical yawn.  As are all such things, in fact.  They’re predicted by mathematics (itself a wondrously baffling knowledge gift from God).  Any astronomer who didn’t want to be on TV could have told you that, barring a miracle, the moon would pass between the Sun and the Earth without incident.   Animals (like reporters) would get a little freaked out by the mid-day darkness, but most everything would hum along just fine, which is what happened.  Eclipses happen about every 18 months or so someplace across the Earth.   This one was unique because it would be visible by the easily sensitive US media.  Unusual but, in reality, no big deal.

Unlike crossing the Red Sea, which wasn’t witnessed by the network news.   Four thousand or more years after it happened, we’re still talking about it (but the media isn’t).   We’re still talking about it because Moses, who wrote the book of Exodus, recorded for us what happened.

You know the account.   Pharaoh finally obeyed God’s command to free Israel from slavery.   Yet Pharaoh also soon developed a royal case of buyer’s remorse.   He summoned his army and they set out to chase the departing Israelites.   When the Israelites found themselves bounded on one side by the approaching Egyptian host and on the other by the unmovable Red Sea, God delivered a miracle.   He moved the Sea, cleared a path, and dried up the ground.   Israel quickly hurried through, followed in close pursuit by the Egyptians.   When the last Israelite was clear of the ocean, God closed up the Sea over the Egyptian Army and drowned them.

All because of faith.

Faith?   I thought it was because of God!   Of course it was because of God, but the reason the Israelites made it through and the Egyptians died was that Israel had faith in God.  They believed God would deliver them and He did.   The Egyptians, despite four hundred years of exposure to the faith of the Israelites, had no faith in God.   So God turned them over to the consequences of their unbelief and they drowned.   Would they have lived if they had faith?   Who knows; ask the Lord.   I like to think that, if God saved Israel because of its faith, He would have saved anyone else who believed.

Can you imagine hurrying through the walled up Red Sea?   Walls of sheer, rushing water held back by, it would have seemed, nothing.   The noise, the spray, the terror of walking through such power on display:  if you didn’t believe in God when you stepped down onto that path, you would have definitely believed on the other side.   Perhaps there never was before or never has been since such a muscular display of God’s raw power.  Perhaps, that is, until that first Easter Sunday.  But that wouldn’t come for most of another two millennia.  We know about Jesus’ resurrection and the power of God displayed in it, the power of God over death.   All Israel got to see His power on display over war, specifically that army which designed to bring war and death upon them had death brought on itself instead.  The best made plans of the unbelieving Pharaoh were, once again, made to not be so.

Just like it wasn’t to be this week that the world would end because the moon traveled between us and the Sun.   Out here in East Texas, it got dark during the peak time.   I made a pinhole viewer and saw the obscured sun through that pinhole.   I also saw the crescent shapes outlined in tree leaf shadows on the ground.   Stupid me, I forgot to look through a welding helmet.   But I and so many others had faith that this was just a natural phenomena, a display of God’s power of astronomy, gravity, and interplanetary motion.  Come to Texas in 2024 for the next one.   I hope we don’t have to view it while on the run from armed charioteers.

For further reading:  Exodus 14:21-31.

Lord God, thank You for the miracle You did in saving the Israelites at the Red Sea.   Thank You for preserving this story of faith for us here today.

 

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Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 2 August 2017

And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise.  And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.  Hebrews 11, verses 11-12.

The story of Abraham, Sarah, and Isaac is a miracle.   If you aren’t familiar with it, the 50000 foot synopsis is that God tells an 80 year old Abraham that he will have a son from his similarly elderly wife, Sarah.  Abraham believes it…and God then waits another generation before making the promise come true.  Sarah initially laughs at God’s messenger when said messenger delivers the news.   Yet nine months later, Isaac is born.   Eventually, Isaac has children, and their children and children’s children become the nation of Israel.   In time, they are as numerous as stars in the sky.   In time, Abraham also blesses all people after him because one of his descendants is Jesus of Nazareth.

Now, in a day of invitro fertilization, advanced medicine, and modern sanitation, American women having children at advanced age seems like no big deal.   Janet Jackson, who is a few months older than me, just had a baby…and she and I are both in our fifties.  That simply wasn’t the case in Abraham’s day.   Thousands of years ago (in fact, only a few decades ago), if a woman was beyond her mid-thirties, it was unlikely she would even conceive let alone have a viable, healthy baby.   The risk to both child and woman was too high.   In the Third World today, that’s still very much the case, though even this is improving.

Can you imagine a woman in her eighties having a baby to a man who is 100 years old?   You might read about it in a tabloid…or in the book of Genesis.   I found a story online about a woman in her seventies in India who recently had a baby.   But she had the baby in a modern hospital and benefitted from modern practices.   Sarah bore Isaac in a tent in the desert when she was in her seventies, maybe eighties or older.

It’s a miracle.  What’s the miracle, though?  That God created life out of lifelessness?   That old people had kids?   That a nation of believers was created from a barren couple?   That the Messiah would eventually be born to this couple’s descendants?

Or was the miracle that they believed?

If you think about it, that miracle still happens every day.   In the face of a world that is still hostile to the idea of God (let alone the physical being of Him), that’s miraculous.   People in Abraham’s day rejected God en masse.  After all, Sodom and Gomorrah happened in Abraham’s day.  Of the 7 billion people here on the Third Rock today, most still reject God.   Most people reject this story of Abraham as just a fable.   Most of those 7 billion people reject Jesus as Savior, or even as a fact.

Face it:  if you believe, and if you hold onto that belief despite a world marching in lockstep to vigorously oppose that, then it’s a miracle.  It’s the Spirit of the living God taking hold of your soul.   It’s the Great I AM joining with you to help you live your life for others.   It’s the Savior demonstrating His endless love for you by redeeming you from that world hostile to Him.  Whether or not God will use you to produce a nation of His chosen people remains to be seen.   It did for many years in Abraham’s life, and then it all came true.

For further reading:  Genesis 17:17 – 18:14, Genesis 21:2, 1 Corinthians 1:9, Romans 4:19.

Lord, I praise You for the life of Abraham and the miracles You worked through Him.

 

Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 5 October 2015

“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.” “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.  Mark 10, verses 51-52.

There is so much to unpack in just these two verses; we could spend a week just talking about desire, honesty, faith, promises, gifts, receiving, graciousness or following.   Let’s confine this to what Jesus does instead of what we want.

Notice that Jesus doesn’t do a magic trick.   He doesn’t waive a magic wand, or say “all about me, guys.” Jesus doesn’t go ahead and simply do the miracle and walk away without helping the man.   And Jesus isn’t Allah, demanding servile fealty of humiliated subjects.   Instead, Jesus ASKS the man what He, the Son of God – God With Us, Immanuel – can do for him.

What do you want me to do for you?   Can you imagine if God in the flesh came up and asked you that question?   Would you ask for something?   Would you be Solomon and ask for wisdom?   Would you be a media hog and ask for TV time?   Or would you just ask Jesus for a hug (which might be what I’d ask for)?   Jesus asked this question of the blind man, Bartimaeus, even though He already knew what was on Bartimaeus’ heart. Jesus didn’t ask the question for Himself:   He asked it for Bartimaeus.

So Bartimaeus responded and then Jesus acted.   Yet notice what Jesus says:   your FAITH has healed you.   Bartimaeus knew in his heart that Jesus was God Immanuel, that Jesus could help him.   He believed it, and when Jesus posed the question to him, Bartimaeus responded honestly.   To me, that’s a profound thing.   The power of faith and the unmeasurable depth of real faith are profound matters of a loving heart.

We can want almost anything.   In this old world, many things we want aren’t worth wanting; let’s be real.   Yet there are things we can want for honest reasons.   To stop a hurt, to help someone (even ourselves), for God’s reasons and not ours:   even in a world of sin there are healthy reasons to want something.   It’s even ok to want things that are healthy, especially if something about our situation isn’t healthy.   Yet God does indeed know what’s best for us and can respond to us rightly and personally in ways we don’t always recognize when our wants become our wishes.   Sometimes, whether we want it or not, God gives us things or allows things into our lives because He knows that we need them.   My question becomes “is what I want about me or God?”   That’s the nub of it all.

No matter whether this is your situation or not, I hope and pray that you’re like Bartimaeus.   He got to pray to Jesus in person, to extend his deepest desire to his God standing in front of him.   He was blind but then he got to see and it was a fruit of a deep faith from which we can learn all these centuries later.   The key is having faith in Jesus and bringing our deepest loves, thoughts and desires to Him, then waiting on the answer He always gives.

Lord, I want so many things, but what I really want most is You.   I want Your love and peace in my life.   I don’t deserve it but I ask for You anyway.

Read Mark 10, verses 46-52.

Practical Proverbial, from Mark, 30 September 2014

Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.  And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” – Mark 1, verses 10-11

That’s something you don’t see every day.   Let’s say 100 people were standing at the Jordan River when this man walks down to the water and is baptized by John the Baptist just like everyone else waiting there.   It’s what happened next that was unusual. Heaven opened up. A dove descends and comes to rest on Jesus.   A voice speaks from the sky and everyone looks at Jesus in amazement.   Then He leaves. Matthew corroborates Mark’s version.   While Luke doesn’t mention it, John’s version adds a bit more about how John the Baptist knew Jesus was indeed the Son of God.

A miracle, not something you see every day.

Note something about this unusual episode.   God the Father speaks in an understandable voice. This is, perhaps, the first time He has spoken like this since the time of Moses, nearly a thousand years before.   He speaks directly to Jesus and the people around Jesus hear the voice.   It isn’t a thunderclap, or babbling, or something only for the chief priests to hear (though perhaps they would have preferred it be so).   It was God’s own voice telling Jesus that He had pleased Him.   It was God Himself affirming His Son, letting the world know that someone special was in their midst, and that they should listen to Him.

Do you believe that?   It’s a real miracle.   This Sunday, our minister preached an excellent sermon on miracles. These past weeks he has preached on mission, message and method, and to close out the series he talked about miracles.   Do you believe miracles happen today?   There are hundreds of them mentioned in the Bible, but that was then and this is now, right?   I mean, really?   Miracles? Here in the post-modern twenty-first century?

You bet they happen.

I’ve never heard God speak out of a cloud, but that’s not to say others haven’t, or that He wouldn’t, or couldn’t. Yet I believe miracles happen all around us every single day, perhaps hundreds of them in each of our lives.   Maybe even more. Sure, a skeptic could chalk them up to systems, chance, or human interaction but, sometimes, that seems so hopelessly insufficient.

At six in the morning, my wife and I drive to the gym when, perhaps, there are five hundred cars on the road in our town.   A thousand tired, pre-caffeinated drivers fumbling in the dark with their dashboards, coffee cups, and cell phones.   Do you think it’s simply wide roads and street signs that keep us all from smashing into each other?   Maybe there’s more.

Your baby sleeping.   Trees that lose their leaves in the fall only to grow new ones next spring.   A heart that beats millions of times in the life of a centenarian. Gravity.   That ethereal quality worth living and dying for that we call “love.”   Do you simply explain them away, or have you considered that maybe they are God touching you with His power in a thousand ways every day even when we don’t notice it?   Friend, that’s a miracle.

It may not be Jesus-by-the-Jordan level, but it’s real all the same and happening to you here and now.

Lord, thank You for Your miracles in my life.

Read the descriptions again of Jesus’ baptism in Mark 1 and Matthew 3

Daily Proverbial, from James, 20 January 2014

And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven.  James 5, verse 15.

Let’s get something on the table right now.   This verse is not saying that, if you’re sick, it’s because you’ve sinned, or that it’s always your fault.   Let’s also discuss another truth:   sickness is due to sin, and sin is a kind of sickness.   And we are sinful.   We’re sinful, and because sin is a sickness, we’re sick.

God works through medicine.   Personally, I think the restorative therapeutic power of modern medicine is a gift from God.   When someone is healed by medicine, I truly believe that it is God, working through the doctors or the drugs or the treatments, that does the healing.   Do I have any empirical proof of that?   No, I don’t.   It’s simply what I believe because Scripture says God can and does heal.

But that’s the beautiful thing about faith in Christ.   When you’re very, very sick, faith is more important than ever.   One of my friends here in Texas has an inoperable brain tumor.   We’ve been friends for several years now and I’ve gotten to know him better in this time of illness.  I won’t tell you anything he wouldn’t:  the doctors don’t know whether or not the tumor will eventually claim him.   He has had surgery, is taking various treatments, has had regression and progress both, and has had the emotional, physical and spiritual up’s and down’s you’d expect with fighting cancer.

Yet even in those spiritual downs, I know that my friend knows God is healing him.   The tumor is irrelevant.   The healing is from the inside out, in the chance to connect people with Jesus through this condition nobody would ever want.   We talk more.   We attend a men’s Bible study together.  And we’ve gotten to know each other better.   In my friend, I see a man of God.   A frail, faulted, sometimes frivolous man like me or you or any other, but also a man of God because he’s sharing how every day is a gift and how every good gift is from God.   When I think of God healing through medicine, I think of my friend now.  I hope we get to do Vegas one day, or open that bottle of Jack Daniels I brought him in the hospital.   But if we don’t, some day in a place where days and time no longer matter, we’ll look back and laugh and be glad, saying “Glory to God, wasn’t all that a kick in the head?”

I pray for my friend regularly.   If you have a sick loved one, pray earnestly for them   Whether the sickness stays or flees, God is at work in them from your prayers.  He is healing them in many different ways

Lord, I’m sick.   Heal me and use my life to heal others for Your glory.

 

Do you believe in the healing power of prayer?

Have you ever seen someone healed, or read about it, or heard about it?

Daily Proverbial, from James, 16 January 2014

Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord.  James 5, verse 14.

A few months ago, my wife told me of praying over people in Romania who were healed.   Just this Sunday, my pastor (at church) talked about being in a group that prayed over a man whose back injury was instantly healed.  A good friend of mine is constantly talking about how, at her church, they pray over disease and command it to be gone…and it is.  Several friends of mine have participated in exorcisms that, miraculously, completely healed those who had been previously tortured by evil spirits.

Call me skeptical, but I’ve been tainted by pop culture enough to suspect that, when I see Benny Hinn on the tube, when he ‘heals’ someone on stage, a cash exchange has recently taken place.  No offense to you if you follow Mr. Hinn, but it looks phony to me.   I’m jaded in how I think.   When someone presents me with sickness, my reaction is “what pill can you take?”   Or to immediately resort to medical treatment, or go to the doctor, or (the bane of physicians everywhere) WebMD.

Could I be any more wrong?

To paraphrase the Lord, it is not the well who need a doctor, it is the sick.   And He is the original doctor from eternity.   We are ALL sick in one way or another.  Sin is sickness, and I know I’m thick with it.   I’m guilty as can be even only a few minutes after I wake up each morning.  But you know what?   I get a miracle healing for every one of them.   Lusting after the pretty woman at the gym?  Forgiven.  Angry with my son?   Forgiven.  Grudge from years ago?  Forgiven.   You get the picture.   All of my sordid sins are forgiven even before I bring them to Jesus.   The relief of knowing that is a miracle in itself.   Other people can forgive me the consequences of the wrongs I’ve done to them, but only Jesus can forgive the eternal damnation I earned with every thought of disobedience.   That’s a miracle.

So is it any wonder that the power of this same Jesus can heal us of physical conditions?   We are amazed that human medicine can cure sickness.   Is it so amazing, really, that Jesus’ divine medicine can do the same thing?  I look at these things skeptically but, perhaps, my skepticism is misplaced.  Maybe I should be skeptical of the human medicine and accepting, as common-place, the medicinal power of divinity.

Healing Savior, heal my sickness, strengthen my spirit, and make me an agent of Your healing to others.

 

Do you have any experience with faith healing?

What does the power of prayer do for you?

Have you ever tried to heal in prayer?