Bible studyIn studying the life of Jesus, it is impossible to ignore miracles.  This quarter as we delve into the ministry of Jesus, the members of Special Gathering–a ministry within the intellectually disabled community– have asked lots of questions.  Their questions have led me to think again about miracles and how God uses them in the lives of the believer.

From my study of the Scripture, I found that miracles an interesting phenomena.  There are many misconceptions regarding miracles.  Here are a few of them.

Miracles are not magic.  Magic is not a miracle.  A miracle is when God breaks his own laws for a purpose.  Magic is an illusion or trick used to make it seem as though God’s laws have been broken.

Miracles happen instantaneously. 

A miracle is not healing.  Healings happen over a period of time.  Often people pray for healings, expecting a miracle and without understanding there is a difference.  If a healing happens instantly, then it is a miracle.  A healing may take a matter of minutes, hours or years.  Healing is a process.  Miracles are instantaneous activity from the hand of God.  This may seem like a matter of somatic.  However, it has caused a lot of people to doubt their healing because it did not happen instantly.

sunsetMost miracles involve inanimate objects. Even thought, miracles may happen within our bodies or outside our bodies.  On that rainy day when the car in front of me slammed on its brakes, I knew that there was no way our car could miss the stopping automobile.  I called out, “Jesus, help us” and slammed on my brakes.  Our car stopped instantaneously which is impossible.  My teenage son asked in wonder, “Mom, did you see what just happened?”  It was a miracle.

People don’t perform miracles.  God is the miracle-worker, not humans.  We may speak the word but the work is done by our Heavenly Father.

Miracles demonstrate God’s power and glory, not the faith of the individual. While the individual may have faith for a miracle, there is never a guarantee that God will perform a miracle.  The Lord has knowledge and understanding that is beyond our depth.  God may know that this supernatural act would harm the person and withhold the miracle.

Of course, this isn’t an exhaustive list.  Yet, these are things which too often cause problems within the church regarding the miracle-working power of the Lord.

courage

Who are the helpers at church?

When we have the opportunity to help anyone, we should do it (Gal 6:10)

In 2006, the entire nation was glued to our TV’s because two boys had been found in Missouri. Ben had been missing for four days and Shawn had been missing for 4 ½ years.  The two boys were kidnapped by a man and the police found them. Everyone is saying that a young teenager named Mitchell is the key to what happened because he was willing to help his friend in identifying a truck. We are all to be helpers for others. Have a member read, Galatians 6:10.

widowsI.  The Bible records the story of the first men who were chosen to be helpers in the church (Acts 6:1-7).

  1. The church would come together, bring their food and eat their meals together. The Jewish men were helping their older family members who were women to have food.
  2. The non-Jewish women did not have a family member to help them so they were not getting food.
  3. They complained and the Apostles decided they could not wait on the table; but they would choose men who could help these women get the food they needed.

II.  This was a severe need.  The Greek women were not being fed.  We all have concerns and problems.  God gave them men who would help the women who were not being given food to eat.

III.  What we must  understand is that God wants us to win every battle and to have the victory every time 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.  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 involved with a problem and seen God turn that problem around for your good.
  4. I have a person in my life that has tried to hurt me and my family. This person has only made us stronger people.

IV.  I had a person one time who wanted to really hurt me and for a while it seemed to work and 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

Justina-pelletier_2Justina-pelletier_2Perhaps you have heard or read about a young woman named Justina Pelletier.  She is still a teenager. She is not intellectually disabled though the young woman was diagnosed in 2011 with mitochondrial disease.  This is a disease in which the mitochondria (the energy-producing organelle in cells) does not function properly.  The symptoms of the disease include pain, fatigue and gastrointestinal issues.

Through a complicated series of events, Ms. Pelletier became a ward of the State of Massachusetts primarily because of a clause in the Boston Children’s Hospitals Policies and Procedures.

The hospital’s clinical investigations policy states (emphasis added):

Children who are Wards of the state may be included in research that presents greater than minimal risk with no prospect of direct benefit (46.406 (50.53) or 46.407 ( 50.54) only if the [institutional review board] determines and documents that such research is

Related to their status as wards; or

Conducted in schools, camps, hospital, institutions, or similar settings in which the majority of children involved as participant.

Pelletier_1While no charges of neglect have ever been charged against Jennifer’s parents, after she was transferred to Boston Children’s Hospital, she became a ward of the State of Massachusetts.  The parents no longer have any say in her treatment or where she is placed.  The parents do not know if she is part of any research projects.  For a time, they were not given visitation rights.

Jennifer was taken off of her medications.  When the parents saw her decline after being taken off the meds, the parents asked that she be put back on the medications that were helping her.  They reported that they were told that if they put Jennifer back on her medication, they would be charged with child abuse for giving her an excess of drugs.

In a meeting in October of 2013, ministry leaders from all over the country and Canada came for a day to sharing and prayer.  To a person, every leader came with one concern. What is going to happen to the people within the mentally challenged community when financial collapse happens in the US? Our members are financially and professionally tied to the state and federal governments.

I’ve never been  a prophet of despair.  However, this was a warning signal that even I could not ignore.  It may be time to prepare for the future of our friends and members who are intellectually disabled by storing up massive containers of prayer in the deposits of heaven.  The promises of God are that he will help the weak and take care of the wounded.  However, even recent history tells us that this vulnerable population has been a prime target for abuse.

The Lord uses men and women to do his work here on earth.  We are his hands and feet.  We need godly wisdom to know what our part will be in the future; and what our action should be today.

jesus movementRecently, I’ve heard a great deal about the things the Holy Spirit was doing in the 1960′s and 1970′s.  It is interesting to me because those were days through which we lived.  There were times that it seemed that the Lord was tangible enough to reach out and touch.  Even though I was very young–bearly out of my teenage years–I had been a Christian long enough to realize that this kind of mysterious, glorious revelation would not last forever.

It is part of the curse that we live under.  We leak.  There are some things that we need to understand when we are faced with our leaky humanity.  Here are a few that I’ve learned over the years

leaking bucket

  1. Though we leak, God has not moved away from us.
  2. Neither has He removed His love and compassion.
  3. Miracles don’t grow faith.
  4. Day-to-day living grows faith.
  5. Living out the Word of God when you feel nothing makes our faith strong and resilient.
  6. Leaking isn’t a sin.
  7. Leaking is simply a reality and part of our Adamic nature.
  8. Leaking doesn’t mean that we love God less than we did when there was almost a tangible presence of the Holy Spirit.
  9. Abundant faith and abundant faithfulness are different.
  10. Adundant faith is a gift from God.
  11. Abundant faithfulness is our gift to God.

A wonderful Christian Mentor–my mother–often quietly mused, “Will the Lord find a faithful people when He returns?”  It seems like a simple question; but she repeated it so often that I came to understand that Mother was expressing the plaintive cry of God’s heart.  Ministering within the mentally challenged community for many years has helped me to see the fruit of a faithful people.  Most of my members will never write a book, sonnet or poem.  About half of them cannot read.  Some cannot talk.  But they are faithful.  I’ve had several members who did not miss a week in 20 years.

Mighty deeds and amazing miracles are wonderful.  They attract crowds and bring great joy into our lives.  But I’ve become more and more convinced that God is looking for a faithful people who will love Him no matter what the circumstances, delights, hardship, joy or trials.

Read more: http://www.beliefnet.com/columnists/simplelife/2014/02/when-we-leak.html#ixzz2tvJZA8JO

Stack of BooksI’ve just had a prayer answered.  I mean immediately my prayer was answered.  Years ago, I learned from reading the wonderful book, Practice of the Presence of the Lord, by Brother Lawrance, the importance of having constant communication with the Lord.

Therefore, much of my thought life has become prayer.  Monday is my day off.  As I sat on my couch about an hour ago, I thought/prayed, “Lord, I’d love to have a book to read.”  I especially love children’s books.

Within a few minutes, I got a text from my daughter.  “Did you get the gift book we sent to you?”  After a few texts, I downloaded my new book on my iPad.  Needless to say, I was thrilled–not only with my new book but also with the Lord’s immediate answer to my prayer.  In fact, He had set the answer into motion even before I had prayed.

formulaI wish there were a “supernatural formula” that I could pass on to you that would make these kinds of wonderful miracles happen every time we pray.  If there is such a formula, I don’t know it.  I believe there are simply times when God’s miraculous grace is poured out into our lives.

I had a discussion with a dear friend yesterday.  I said that all miracles are big because they are supernatural interventions into our lives orchestrated by God.  He laughed and said, “No!  It’s exactly the opposite.  All miracles are small because our God is much more mighty than mere miracles.  They are simply like breathing in and out to God.”

Both explanations could be absolutely true.   From the perspective of humankind, every miracle–no  matter  how small–is enormous because we are able to see the  intervention of God in our lives.  To imagine that God cares enough about us that he will break his own rules is a breath-taking concept.

Yet, viewed from the perspective of God–healing, deliverance, parting the sea, feeding 5,000 people–all miracles are child’s play.

Nevertheless, when I view into the looking-glass of the history of humankind regarding what price was paid by the Lord Jesus to give me total access to a loving and gracious God, I cannot but stand in awe of the salvation Jesus’ sacrifice provided for me.  I sit dumbfounded at the big miracles from an amazing, loving God who will answer a prayer desiring a new book to read.

Small or big miracles?  Small for God.  But a huge act of graciousness that demonstrates to me his love for me.  That’s a big miracle.

tonyMy friend, Tony Piantine of Camp Daniel in Wisconsin, wrote on his Facebook wall, “It is better to have enough ideas for some of them to be wrong, than to be always right by having no ideas at all.”  That is a quote from Edward DeBono.  Not sure who Ed DeBono is but he must be important.

(You see, Piantine writes lofty things on his Facebook wall.  He doesn’t know that Facebook is for more important stuff, such as, “I just finished a whole bag of potato chips.  I don’t even feel fat yet.  Searching the cabinet for another bag.”  Or,  “I haven’t brushed my teeth in four days.  Hope you read this because no one has come close to me in 48 hours.”)

In her later years, my mother–who was important in my life–often instructed me, “It’s amazing.  When I was actively doing ministry, there was always someone angry with me.  Now that I’m doing nothing, everyone loves me.” Then she would say with a whimzical smile.  ”If you are busy doing work for the Lord, you are bound to do something that someone doesn’t like.  If you do nothing, no one has a complaint.”

Working with Special Gathering, I’ve also found Mother’s advice to be true.  We are a ministry within the mentally challenged community.  Our mission is evangelism and discipleship.  That is what we do and that is all we do.

dont do itInteresting, there are people who don’t like us because of what we do.  These are usually wonderful people who deeply believe in a more  inclusive ministry for this sub-culture.  We applaud the work they are doing.  However, we also strongly believe that a specialized, community-based ministry is better able to reach the population with the dynamic, life-changing gospel.

There are equally adament folks who don’t like us because of what we do not do.  Often, these are people who believe that we should be more aggressive in our approach.  There are several areas, including funding and social work, that seem to get caught in their cross-hairs.  Several years ago, I sat in a meeting with a pychiatrist, well-known in our area.  I was surprised at how angry he became with our stand against taking federal funding.  “You are just lazy,” he concluded.  “There is money out there.  You simply need to access it for your ministry.”  After I questioned him about compromise, he said, “Of course, you’ll have to do a bit of compromising but the extra funding is worth it.  And you can find ways to work around the restrictions.”

We left the meeting without his agreeing with our principle.  In addition, he hadn’t convinced me that working around restrictions and additional funding was worth the compromise.  However, that is okay.  He had found ways with which he was enthusiastic in helping a children’s home obtain federal and state funding.  He only wanted us to tap into this supply of cash.  He was genuinely concerned and he sincerely felt we were wrong.

Other people believe that we are too aggressive in our advocacy for the population.  Our exec, Richard Stimson, loves to tell about a time that he argued before a day program staff in the same week.  He was representing two different people.  They wanted to different things in regard to the same issue.  Stimson first argued for the issue.  Later in the week, he argued again the same issue.

One of the staff members came out of the meeting and confronted Stimson.  “How can you argue for and against the same issue?”

Stimson smiled, “Because each consumer wanted something different.  I try to obtain what they need and want, not what I need or want.”

Without compromising our basic principles, we will argue for or against an issue, depending on what the people we represent desire.  This doesn’t always make the professional community happy with us.

We aren’t saying that our critics are right or wrong.  We are just different.   We value our supporting churches and the way we must depend on them for our existance.  And we desire to keep their contributions valuable to us.

What are some of the things that make people angry with you?  Would changing these methods go against your principles.  Or would they enhance your ministry?

fishermenI’ve been intrigued the past few weeks with Jesus and his disciples.  When Jesus approached his disciples for the first time, he didn’t see humble fishermen or a tax collector.  Jesus saw world changers.  Men who would carry the message of salvation and God’s grace turning the world upside down.

When I took Western Civilization in college, the professor (who was not a Christian) spoke of Paul as the man who drastically and dramatically changed world history.  Except for Paul, the apostles were simple men bred in simple communities from what was considered a backward Middle Eastern country which is scarcely a dot on the world globe.  Yet, from Russia to the America’s and enveloping Europe, the influence of these Christ-like pioneers swept the heart and minds of people–kings and peasant alike.

globeAs I study the passage of scripture in Mark where Jesus called the fishermen who would become fishers of men, I felt the Lord spoke to me.  “Don’t look at your members as broken people with debilitating disabilities.  Look at them as world changers.”

There are many things that the members within the disability community cannot do.  However, Jesus proves from the nativity of his ministry that he can transform anyone into a world changer.  Liabilities don’t matter.  Hurts and pains become platforms for life-altering testimonies of God’s wonder-working grace and mercy.

Each of us stand before people who are broken.  I’m beginning to ask the Lord to help me to see the people who are the world changers.  People who are willing to be used by the mighty God of the universe to bring his message in simple ways and godly actions.