Signs and wonders

I love signs and wonders! I love it when people are healed supernaturally; delivered from cancer, wheelchairs or addictions. I love dreams and visions when people experience a revelation of God so strong, it changes everything.

Sometimes, the kingdom of God enters a person’s life in power.

Over the years, I’ve prayed for a lot of people. I’ve seen more than a few miracles and celebrated each and every one, but I don’t always see the miracles.

For months, my friends and I prayed for a friend who was struggling with cancer. In the end, the cancer took her life and we were all heartbroken.

Did I believe God could heal her? Absolutely.

Did he heal her? Well, I suppose in a different way. I mean, he took her home and I’m sure she doesn’t have cancer in heaven. Still, it’s not the healing I wanted.

So was I stupid to pray for her healing? Of course not.

You have not because you ask not. So we asked. Why wouldn’t we? We wanted our friend to be healed. What’s wrong with asking?

Did we believe? Doesn’t everyone?

Really, don’t we all believe that the great God of the universe has the power to heal someone of cancer? If we believe in God, then we must believe he has such power.

Are we sure he’ll do it just because we pray?

No, of course not. He’s God, we’re not.

So does that mean we shouldn’t pray?

I really don’t think so. I think God invites us to pray for the things we desire and to trust him for the outcomes.

I’m going to keep praying for sick people to be healed and for people who are struggling to experience a revelation of God. I’m going to keep asking for dreams and visions, signs and wonders, miracles. Why wouldn’t I?

And along with those prayers, I’m going to keep asking for comfort for those who mourn, freedom for those who are in bondage, vision for those who are blind – and me, in all of those places where I mourn, am in bondage and am blind. I hope someone’s praying for me, too.

Sometimes, the kingdom of God comes in power. And in some mystery we can’t understand, our prayers matter.

What are you praying for?

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When is it sin?

I was listening to a friend. “Ucht! I was so mad. I know God hates it when I’m mad. Now I just feel guilty. I wish I didn’t get mad so easily!”

I’m with you. I hate getting mad. I’d rather be happy but I’m not happy all the time. Sometimes I do get mad. But does God hate that? Is that sin?

That got me thinking…

So here’s my hypothetical situation, extreme, of course:

  1. A guy rips me off.
  2. I get mad.
  3. I think; I want to kill that guy.
  4. I decide; I’m so going to kill him.
  5. I take my gun and drive to his workplace.
  6. He comes out, and I shoot him.

Clearly, I sinned. But where, in my journey, did I actually move into sin?

Ok, by the end, I’d certainly sinned. I killed someone.

Before that, I took my gun and I drove to the guy’s workplace. Maybe, instead, I got halfway there and turned right instead of left. At that point, I’ve repented. I drive home and put my gun away.

So, ok, I was in sin when I drove off to kill him. I’m sure, actually, because I was able to repent.

Before that, while I was still at home, I decided I was “so going to kill him”. I think that’s where the sin really began. I made a decision. Any time between the decision and the action, I could repent. The fact that I could repent seems a clear indication that I was in sin.

What about when I thought about killing the guy? Is that a sin? Let’s say I thought about it and then said, no. That’s stupid. That’s wrong. I’m so not going to do that.

I heard a thought fly through my mind and I rejected it. I didn’t repent. There was nothing to repent of. Instead, I made a decision to reject a temptation.

And the anger? Well of course I felt anger, the guy ripped me off. I can’t repent of the anger. So no, I don’t think that was sin.

I think sin is an act of the will and comes into play the moment I make a decision to do something wrong.

What you think?

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Looking for the Kingdom

The kingdom of God is not always obvious. It doesn’t have geographic boundaries, flags, a police force, or taxation.

It’s full of mystery.

It’s shrouded, but real.

And here I am, 2000 years from Jesus, looking for the kingdom.

When Jesus walked the earth, he pulled the veil aside and showed people the kingdom. So perhaps, if I want to see the kingdom, the best way to do it might be to look at Jesus.

I guess that’s where it starts. So I look and I see him; a child in his mother’s arms, a boy, working beside his father, a man walking into the Jordan, a saint battling the devil, a preacher by the shore, a healer on the road, a prisoner, a sufferer, a man who died, a gardener and a fish cooker, and more.

I look at Jesus and I know that when I see him, I see the kingdom of God. I know the kingdom is a mystery but one that God desires to reveal to me and so I keep looking. I stay in the Gospels. I get to know Jesus. I watch him and listen to him and as I do, I fall deeper and deeper in love with him.

This is why love the Gospels, because Jesus is there.

And along the journey, I notice other people, too; A woman, sick for years. A girl, dead in her parent’s house. A widow, grieving the death of her only son. I watch Jesus turn and with such astonishing compassion; heal, teach, feed, silence storms and comfort frightened people.

And I see myself….

Leaning into the manger, standing before a carpenter’s stall, sitting on a riverbank – me, following along with Jesus, getting to know the one who is, in himself, the kingdom of God.

And the more I see of the kingdom, the more the kingdom fills me.

That’s a mystery. My words break down. The kingdom of God is in Christ, is in me, is in the world, and I am in the kingdom.

Yeah, I don’t get it either, but I’m going to keep looking at Jesus, because I know, he’s the only one who really understands the kingdom and he’s the one inviting us in.

How are you finding the kingdom?

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Can you tell me who you are?

When my kid sister was in preschool, she came home and told me that Jesus was a girl.

“Really? How do you know that?”

“Because she wears a dress.”

I laughed.

When we’re children, we’re concrete in our thinking. Jesus wears a dress, so he’s a girl. Grandma says the church is God’s house, so the child knocks on the door and ask if he’s home.

In our teen years, it’s all about black and white, truth and lie, fair and unfair. There’s nothing quite so fierce as a teenager’s judgmentalism. My kid sister came home from school and said, “My friend tried to tell me about Jesus, but I wouldn’t listen to her.”

“Why not?”

“Because she smokes.”

It’s all or nothing. Saved or unsaved. A glorious journey in black and white. If we’re Christians, we read the Bible as literally as we can. We grab verses spoken 2000 years ago in a culture we can’t even begin to imagine, rip them out of their chapter context, and apply them to, I don’t know, Facebook.

Somewhere in adulthood, we step into the gray and our foundations tremble. Some of us throw away everything we’ve ever believed in, cursing the churches, youth leaders and parents who we hold responsible for our concrete childhood perceptions and our black and white adolescent thinking.

We miss the invitation.

What’s the invitation?

It’s the invitation to grow, to step straight into the gray, open our hands and get to know God in Christ all over again.

Here I am Lord, twenty-four. I knew you when I was a kid. I knew you when I was a teenager. But I’m not a kid or a teenager anymore and now, I want to know you as an adult. So, who are you?

What a beautiful question!

Hi God, it’s me. Could you tell me who you are?

Maybe it’s something we need to ask over and over again; as a young married, a new parent, an empty-nester, a retiree, an old person.

Hi God, it’s me. Me in a different place in my life. Me with different understandings and perceptions. Me with different needs.

Excuse me, but I’m not sure I know you anymore. Could you tell me who you are?

Wow. I’ll bet God loves that question!

Posted in Intimacy with God | Tagged , | 6 Comments

Ah, The “Shoulds”

“You should read this book.” “You should talk to this person.” “You should do this.”

My little red flags fly. I don’t want to read that book. I can’t see why I should talk to that person. And I should do what?

I offer my objections or at least think them. I have too many books to read right now. I’m not actually interested in that subject. I’m sure that’s a great person, but… And why should I do that?

By now, my companion moves into persuasion. Our conversation has spun off the rails; A train wreck. I walk away feeling a bit coerced.

The “shoulds” say; I know what’s right for you. I know what’s best.

Okay, maybe that’s fine when the “should” relates to a clearly right or wrong, or a danger or safety. You shouldn’t rob your neighbor. You shouldn’t drive drunk.

Those “shoulds” don’t bother me. It’s the other ones, the ones that relate to my choice, my freedom, my agency, that leave me a little dismayed.

Wait, what are you saying? You loved this book and you think I would too? Oh, I can go with that. Tell me why you love the book. That’s so much different than; “you should read this…”

In some contexts, ‘shoulds’ are just disrespectful of the other person.

God has given us some profound freedoms; the freedom to perceive, to think and interpret, to feel, to want and choose, and to imagine.

I may perceive things in all the wrong ways, think and interpret incorrectly, feel from my brokenness, want and choose from constructive or destructive desires and imagine what can never be, yet God allows me to do so.

That level of freedom is astonishing and I’m grateful for it. It’s integral to what makes a person human.

So when I engage with another, can I keep my “shoulds” in my pocket and still offer my ideas with respect? And if I do, does that mean I bite my tongue, swallow my thoughts and retreat into silence?

I don’t think so.

Perhaps we could offer our thoughts and ideas like gifts wrapped in grace; “you might like this book”, “you might find it helpful to talk to this person”, “you might enjoy doing this”.

There’s a difference, isn’t there?

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Crowding and agitation

A friend of mine said, “I realized that I have to turn off the news because it just makes me crazy.”


She explained. “I usually leave the news on all the time. It’s just in the background. But I realized that it was filling me with such negative thoughts. Now, I turn on the news, watch the main reports, and turn it off. I don’t keep it on in the background.”

“And that helped you?”

“Yeah. I’m more relaxed. I still know what’s going on, but now it’s easier for me to see God’s presence in my day. It’s like now there’s space to notice him. Funny thing is, I didn’t even realize how having the news on all the time affected me. It just made me so agitated.”

“Ah….more relaxed, easier to see God’s presence.” That’s definitely something I want.

I would follow my friend’s example to the letter except that I don’t leave the news on in the background, so I can’t. Or maybe I can.

Maybe the news isn’t the point at all. Maybe the real question is; “what am I doing that crowds God out of my life or pushes me into chaos, stress or negativity?”

Hah! My own list unfolds. If I don’t give myself enough time to reach a destination, I feel frazzled by the time I get there. If I try to pay my bills while I’m having a chat over Facebook, I get frustrated. If I don’t stop my own thoughts and listen to the person who interrupts me, I just feel annoyed.

Small things, sure, but not so small when they’re happening.

Is it possible that the things that crowd my life or drive me into chaos actually lead me away from God? Or perhaps they just lead me away from an awareness of God’s presence with me.

Yeah, maybe that’s it. After all, God is with me all the time, but I don’t always notice him and I’m definitely not always in tune with him.

So maybe, if I change some of my habits; leave earlier for meetings, turn off chat when I’m paying the bills, and actually stop and listen to the person in front of me, I might see God more clearly, experience his grace more fully, and share his love more generously.

What crowds God out of your life?

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Sharing what we’ve received

Here’s the thing, we can only give away what we’ve received. If I know Christ loves me, then I can share his love with someone else. If I’m not really sure in my heart of hearts, then all I can offer is an idea, a thought or perhaps something secondhand.

We know the difference, don’t we?

“I read this great book. It talked about…” And it’s not just my words that communicate. It’s my excitement, my conviction, too.

It’s that powerful combination of thought and emotion.

We know it when we see it.

I remember meeting a woman who was working at a shelter for lost girls. She talked about the girls with such love and compassion that I could not only hear her words, but I sensed her emotions, as well. I knew she was for real. So when she talked to me about God, with that same sense of love, peace and joy, I listened.

You’d better believe I listened.

She gave to me what she had already received; God’s love for her, personally, and God’s love for the girls she cared for. Her experience of love touched me.

Yeah, that’s more than just words.

Maybe that’s part of what Paul meant when he said, “I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom… but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.”

Maybe the demonstration of the Spirit had something to do with the Spirit within him, the Spirit he knew so personally, not just in his mind, but in his heart, too – the Spirit he had received into the deepest part of himself.

I don’t know, but I’m sure I know it when I see it. We all do.

We can only give away what we’ve received ourselves.

But how?

I think the first thing we can do is recognize what we’ve actually received. In this place in my life, how am I experiencing God?

Ah, experience. That’s scary.

Is it?

A friend says; “I’m having a rough time right now. I’m not walking very well, but I know Christ is with me. I can’t see him, but I’m holding onto that. I just know he’s near me.”

And I listen.

Of course I do, because she’s sharing what she’s received, nothing more and nothing less.

What have you received? What are you giving away?

Posted in Loving the Stranger | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments