miracles


bulliesFighting Fair

The Philistine also said, “Today I stand and make fun of the army of Israel! Let me have one of your men to fight!”  I Sam 17:10

Introduction–A few years ago, two young men tried to steal my purse from me by grabbing it and driving off in their car.  They weren’t able to get my purse or really hurt me.  You see, even through they were driving a Honda and there were two of them and only one of me, it was not a fair fight because God was on my side.  As we look at the story of David and Goliath, I want us to think about what makes a fair fight.  Have a member read I Samuel 17:10.

  1.  The story of David and Goliath.  Goliath was taunting the Army of Israel and making fun of them.  He said to send one man to fight.  (I Samuel 17)
    1. What Goliath didn’t know was that this was not a fair fight.
    2. He thought he had the advantage but God had the advantage
    3. God sent David to the camp to be able to fight Goliath and to win.
    4. What we need to understand is that God wants us to win every battle and to have the victory everytime and in every way.
  1. God gives victory to his children because he loves us.
  2. Last week we had a funeral for my brother-in-law and it was sad but wonderful because we were able to spend time together and be with the family that does not know Jesus as their Savior and we saw the young people ministering to each other.
  3. Have you ever been in a problem and seen God turn that problem around for your good?
  1. I have a person in my life that has tried to hurt me and my family.  This person has only made us stronger people.
  2. I had a person one time who wanted to really hurt me; and for a while it seemed to work. Then in my hurt, I found SpG and God gave me all you folks to love me and for me to love.

Conclusion:   God doesn’t fight fair when it comes to his children.  There will be people who will try to hurt you; but they cannot because God is on your side and he always gives us victory.

praying on her kneesPrayer is an eternal mystery that haunts even the most devote warrior in God’s kingdom.  For Frances, prayer was her bread and drink.  She spent her days and nights in supplication to the Lord.  I earnestly believe that it was the prayers of Frances that turned our nation back to the Lord in a great way in the late 1950’s and 1960’s.

Of course there were many others who also prayed and sought God but I experienced first-hand the result of Frances’ ministry.  I sat under her teaching and walked hand in hand with her during her times of struggle.  I also saw her confidence in prayer.  I rejoiced in what God was accomplishing through the hours spend listening, speaking, loving and even wrestling with a holy God.

tent meetingsWhile TV pundents often proclaim that everyone was stoned during those decades, there was an underground movement that consisted of late teens and young adults whose hearts pled for God to change them and our nation.  My husband and I were part that movement–the Jesus Movement.  We led a vibrant and holy group of teenagers whose sole ambition was to find a deep relationship with Jesus.  They gathered under tents and in churches.  They fasted and held all night prayer meetings.

While the focus beamed on the teens and the other young men and women who led this army of teenagers, it was the matrons and masters of prayer–such as Frances–who had plowed the ground, planted the seed and rejoiced in the harvest.  Their battle was hard-fought.  They struggled and wrestled with the enemy of our souls on their knees, weeping, laughing and facing that dreaded enemy with grace, courage and valor. The power of the Holy Spirit never failed them.  The Father’s love always embraced them and assured them that his great destiny would save even the most horrible reprobate.

These prayer warriors didn’t possess the advantages of social media, blogs or the Internet but their prayers had world-wide and lasting effects.  Somehow, Christian leaders from around the world heard about Frances and came to her humble home for prayer.  They delighted in staying in the home of Frances and her husband. eating her food, laughing and enjoying fellowship long into the night.  But they came for prayer–recognizing her vital connection to God that brought success in ministry.

joanFew of us have been given the grace Frances possessed in determined, steadfast prayer.  Yet, all of us can seek God with the grace God has given to us.  Frances died stubbornly, without fanfare.  She resisted death even after her strength and vigor had been long spent.  I asked her oldest daughter, “Why does she struggle, resisting death so strongly?”  She believed that Frances clung to a desire to be on earth when the Lord returned.

Was this woman of God perfect?  No! Was she a warrior who helped to change the world for Christ?  Yes!

Often, those of us who minister to people who are intellectually disabled romanticize our population.  It is the most wonderful group of people with which I’ve worked.  However, like the rest of the population, there can be glaring bumps, blemishes and distractions.

While her mother remained as part of  her life, Windy was raised by a doting father.  His greatest compliment to her was “good enough for a girl.”  When she turned 21, she was placed in a group home about a 100 miles from her father.  Extremely withdrawn because of her inability to speak clearly, Windy was basically nonverbal.  After several years, the family learned that she was being sexually molested on the back row of the church by a “normal” man who was her own age.  This abuse has marred her personality and outlook in a multitude of ways.

Merrianne’s mother has spent much of Merrianne’s life in jail.  Merrianne has seen and heard things that I cannot even imagine.  Her perspective on life is much different from many of our Special Gathering members who were raised in stable households.  When I first met her, I was put off by her brash manners.  Yet, as I’ve gotten to know Merrianne, I have known very few people who have a heart for God like Merrianne.  She wants to grow in the Lord and every painful inch is time of celebration for her.

Yesterday, as we sat in a Bible study, I saw another inch achieved.  The teacher was speaking to another member.  “You have lived on your own for years; and you don’t like people interfering in your life.  Christians seem bossy and meddling to you.”  Merrianne leaned her chin against her fists that were resting on the table and whispered, “That’s me.”  Later, as we drove home, she commented on the class and indicated that she needed to be studying the Bible more.

In reality, these are not isolated cases within the disability community.  Again and again, as we learn about the lives of people with intellectual disabilities, we find that their lives have been filled with abuse and insecurity.  But they survive and most of them thrive when they continue to live in an environment of love and acceptance that a Church family provides.

How different are Windy and Merrianne from me?  I must admit, there is more than a few IQ point; but they are people with real needs and real desires.  They are men and women who respond to the Gospel with joyful acceptance and expectation.  Perhaps Windy and Merrianne are more like you and me than we assume.  Because like every other peson who have ever lived,  they deserve to hear the good news of Jesus’ sacrifice and the joy provided by a loving Savior who died that they might have life.

What is real Power?

Acts 3:6

Central Theme:  The power to effect lives is real power.

Introduction–I called up a young couple with a new baby and we had a baby dedication.

I.     Have a member Read Act 3:6.

A. Tell the story of Peter and the man who was sitting at the temple gate and he could not walk.  Through the power of the Holy Spirit, Peter prayed and God healed the man at the gate of the temple.

              B. God wants us to effect and change lives in the same way that Peter was able to effect the man who was healed.

C. Peter said, “I don’t have any money but what I have I can give.  In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.  Peter gave what he had.  In the same way, God wants us to give what we have.

II.     Not many of us will do this kind of miracle.

A. But we can do a miracle that is just is great.

B.  We can effect the lives of other people.  Baby Liz will grow up needing people who love her.  We can do that.

C. Love has the power to change lives.

III.     Don’t spend your lives looking for something big to do.

A. Spend your lives looking for someone to love.

B.  We can love the unlovely–not just the people who are pleasing, like this little baby.

C. We can reach out as Peter did and touch others.

Conclusion–Reach out to the little ones, the hurting people and do a miracle through your love.

God Gives Us what we Need

Philippians 4:19

Central Theme:   God gives us what we need.

Introduction–I have an adding machine that can add up numbers and do all kinds of complicated math.  I sometimes use the adding machine to add up all the money I have.  But I cannot always know what I need.  God knows and God knows that he will provide for all our needs. Have a member read Philippians 4:19.

I.     I will show the book that I found with a letter in it that I had written to God about 20 years before.

1.  It had a list of all our bills and a letter asking for God to help.

2.  I don‘t remember how that prayer/letter was answered but I do know that it was.

3.  I learned during those hard years when our finances were short that God provides for us what we need.

4.  We had to do our part–turn off A/C, live on rice and beans, no movies, I went to work.

II.     Tell the story of Elijah and the widow (I Kings 17:1-16)

A. Elijah had told the King that there would not be any rain for three years.  And there was not.

B.  God provided for Elijah by sending birds to feed him and he lived by a small brook.

C. Then God sent him to a widow with a little boy and told her to make him a cake with the last of the oil and flour.  She obeyed and made the cake for Elijah and they all lived until the drought and famine was over.

III.     Jesus knows that we have needs.

A. He personally promised to give to us what we need.

B.  As I have loved him over the years, I have seen he does that for us.

Conclusion:  God gives to us what we need and sometimes he does it in supernatural ways.  Sometimes he does it supernatural ways that seem very normal and natural.

Prayer Reveals God’s Power

Psalm 77:12

Central Theme:  God‘s power works in our lives through prayer.

Introduction–One Sunday night my son said, “Mama, God just healed me.”  He had a really bad hernia and while we were in church it disappeared.  God did a miracle for him.  My daughter, broke her arm and the bone was sticking out.  I came home; she was at the neighbor’s.  I casually prayed for her arm because she was in so much pain.  We all saw, including our neighbor, God move that bone back in place.  Miracle.  I could tell you many times I saw God’s power move in my life.  I know he is a powerful God and it is good for me to think about the things God has done for me.

                  Have a member read Psalm 77:12.

I.     Tell the story of Elijah and the fire from heaven from I Kings 18:22-39.

A. There had been a drought for three years.

B.  Elijah built an altar and invited the priest of Baal to call fire from heaven.  They prayed all day.  They cut themselves.  Elijah made fun of them and their antics.

C. Then it was Elijah’s turn.  Elijah poured water on the altar until the water filled the place for the wood and the water was pouring out. Then he asked God to send fire.  The fire came, consumed the sacrifice and lapped up the water.

II.     Prayer releases God’s power to do miracles in our lives and the lives of others.

A. God does not ever do tricks but miracles.

1.  His purpose is to change lives and to help people come to him as lord and savior.

2.  His purpose is to strengthen your faith and your growth in him.

3.  No one ever denied Jesus did miracles, they just said that those miracles were from the devil.

Conclusion  The miracles of God are to help people know God‘s power so that they can know God.

The mentally challenged community is hungry to hear the Gospel.  If we can get people to our chapel services, they will almost always accept the wonderful grace of Christ into their lives.  Yet, discipleship is a struggle.  One day at a weekly pastors’ prayer meeting that I attend, I explained this dilemma.  Of course, in explaining the situation, I blamed my members’ inabilities to cognitively evaluate what the best choices are for their lives.

All the pastors laughed.  “We have the same problem.  Your folks aren’t any different from ours.”

Yet, as I view our members from the prism of years of discipleship, I am able to see alterations in the lives of our members.

Tim’s fits of anger have completely stopped.  Bill is a life-long smoker.  He struggles to quit.  Recently, he was able to go more than a month without smoking.  Though he has relapsed, he believes that if he can go for a month without cigarettes, next time he will be able to quit for good.

Hallie struggles with paralyzing fears.  She is high functioning and lives in her own apartment.  She is constantly moving in order to abate her fears.  She has been in her current apartment for more than a year.  These and other examples are great victories that amplify the growing grace in the lives of our members.

There is nothing more gratifying than to see people who have struggled with anger or addiction or lived in fear break free from detrimental bondage.  How does this happen?  Perhaps part of the answer is simply learning to listen and obey.

This week as I studied the Matthew 17 passage regarding the miracle of Jesus’ transfiguration, I was reminded that miracles don’t often radically change lives.  Peter, James and John saw the miracle of Jesus, Moses and Elijah standing together on top of the mountain  shining as white as light.  Rather than humbling himself, Peter took charge and he was ready to build three tents to honor the event (and himself because he was there to witness the miracle).

As Peter was speaking, God, the Father spoke from heaven saying, “This is my Son and I love him.  I am very pleased with him.  Obey him!”  Now that God had their attention, they were ready to listen.  In fact, they were terrified.  They humbled themselves and fell to the ground.  They had been forced to hear.  As a result, they were ready to obey.

It is often not the miraculous in our lives that changes us but the times we listen to God and obey him.  Within our cloistered, sub-culture, it is the same formula that works to change lives.  Slowly, methodically transformations are accomplished as they are discipled in the ways of Christ.

What are some of the changes that you have seen within your community that make you know that God is working in your member’s lives?  What are some of the changes that you have seen in your life?

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