Saturday, September 09, 2006

[subversive underground] WONDERS

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WONDERS by Keith Giles

Even as a former Southern Baptist pastor, I am one who believes in the miraculous. I have seen and experienced the touch of God in my life and I know that God is still in the business of healing the sick and raising the dead.

For example, when I was in High School, my father fell off our house and crushed three of his vertebrae. One was cracked, one was crushed, and one was powdered. The Doctors took X-Rays and showed him the damage. He was told that, even if they could find the best surgeon in the world to do the operation, he would have only a fifty-fifty chance of being paralyzed from the neck down.

A few days later, just before he was to have a CAT Scan on the injury, our pastor and one of our deacons dropped by to pray for my Dad. The next day the Doctor apologized to my Dad because he said he was holding an X-Ray in one hand, showing the damage, and a CAT Scan in the other, showing that everything was fully healed.

To this day my father is alive and has no problems with his neck. God healed him miraculously.

I have also seen my oldest son, who couldn’t keep any food down for hours, healed instantly when we prayed for him. His fever left, his appetite returned and he ate like a horse.

Time and again I have been a first-hand witness to the power of God to heal.

Having said that, I am compelled to address the tendency some have to pursue signs and wonders more than they pursue following Jesus in humility and obedience.

There is a verse of scripture that is often misused when the discussion of signs and wonders comes up. In John 14:12, Jesus tells his followers, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name and I will do it. If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever- the Spirit of truth.”

Most who quote this passage usually stop at the part where Jesus says, “He will do even greater things...” because that’s what they want to hear. However, when you read this entire chapter in context, the overall sense of what Jesus is trying to say is tied to obedience and submission to Him and to His teaching. As He continues on in this same chapter, Jesus says, “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me.” And later on in the same chapter Jesus says again, “..If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching…He who does not love me will not obey my teaching.”

Jesus obviously is concerned here that His disciples take Him seriously and obey what He commands. That much is clear. The Lord Jesus wants us to devote ourselves to His teaching and allow Him to lead our lives.

Jesus does say that those who have faith in Him will also do what Jesus has done. But does that necessarily mean “work miracles”? Most usually do assume that he means “Signs and Wonders” exclusively, however an honest look at the ministry and life of Jesus reveals that, aside from the miracles, Jesus also did a few other things too.

What are the things that Jesus did? Jesus was one who loved the unlovable, he showed compassion to the broken and lonely, he confronted the religious teachers of the day regarding hypocrisy and he preached the Good News of the Kingdom to the most sinful people in the society around him.

What I wish people would see is that Jesus is inviting His followers, you and I included, to live their lives exactly as He did.

Just one chapter previous to this, (in chapter 15, verse 12), Jesus washes His disciples feet. Then he says, “Do you understand what I have done for you?...Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”

Why can’t we get excited about this verse the way we get excited about the verse one page over where Jesus seems to suggest we get to have a healing ministry where the dead are raised to life?

Again, I know that God does raise the dead. I’m not arguing this point. I am concerned that we play favorites with the commands and promises of Jesus. I am concerned that we only want to follow the parts of the Gospel that we like best and we want to forget the parts that are inconvenient.

In context, Jesus is saying that, if we have faith in him, we will both follow him obediently, doing whatever He commands, and in so doing He will bring glory to the Father whenever the miraculous is necessary to advance the Kingdom.

The verse in John chapter 14 is teaching us to follow the example of Jesus, to wash people’s feet, to love the least and the lost, to have compassion on the blind and the deaf, and to love them as He loved them. In this same attitude of compassion for people, Jesus urges us to pray and ask for God to heal them, so that the Father might be glorified.

The testimony of the early church, as seen in the book of Acts, and in the first 300 years of church history, is that those who heard Jesus say this took it to heart. They did continue the compassionate ministry of Jesus to the poor. They did sell their homes and land in order to buy food and support widows and orphans. They did have compassion on the leper and the blind. They did heal many of them miraculously in the power of the name of Jesus.

My point is that the early Christians did both. They showed compassion to the poor and the sick, and they also prayed for them in faith so that they might be healed.

What they didn’t do was to ignore the part about serving the poor (because who wants to do that?) and jump straight to the part where Jesus tells us we get to do “even greater things” than He did.

First, we must begin with the simple obedience to Jesus that compels us to wash the feet of others, as He did. Jesus urged His disciples that just knowing this wasn’t enough. “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” (John 13:17)

The problem is, we have it in our heads that, if we know the words of Jesus we will be blessed. Jesus emphatically says, “No!” here. Instead, Jesus promises that, once we know these things, the blessing only comes “if you do them.”

The question is, when are we going to start? If we don’t begin by doing the things that Jesus was doing, I believe we will never get to the place where we can do even greater things than He did.

One chapter later, Jesus is reminding His disciples that “without me you can do nothing.” - (John 15:5)

My hope is that, as we begin to embrace all of what Jesus taught us, walking as He walked, serving as He served, loving as He loved, we might find that we’re not so uptight about whether or not God works a miraculous healing in our midst or not.

I am convinced that the greatest miracle any of us will ever experience is the transformation of our weak, empty lives into the glorious image of Jesus Himself.

This miracle begins when we surrender to Jesus. It begins when we realize that He is the Lord of Glory and we lay down our lives in obedience to Him, taking up our own cross daily to follow Him, one day at a time.

What more can we ask for than this? How could we ever truly understand the miracle of knowing the Creator of the Universe as a friend, as an adoptive Father, and still audaciously cry out “More, Lord, More!”?

On that day, two thousand years ago, when the Father allowed His perfect Son to suffer and die in our place, enduring shame, humiliation and torment; taking our place on a rugged cross outside Jerusalem; the power of God was revealed in all of its unspeakable Glory.

There can never be any greater sign or wonder given to any of us than this.

STILL LOOKING: I'm still on the job trail after over two months of searching. Please keep me in your prayers as I seek for God's direction and guidance for a new fulltime job.

PRAY: Things are moving forward with a possible Sunday Morning gathering where we can go out into the community and "be the church", possibly in a park nearby. More details later...

NEW ARTICLES: If you've not been by the main site recently, there are a lot of new articles to check out. Such as...

INSTEAD: Send any responses to me directly at:
"elysiansky" (at) "HOTMAIL" (dot) "com"


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