In the past weeks, I’ve been going over some of the key words in our covenant relationship with God.  Perhaps one of the most important words we use is grace.

Most of us have learned and maybe we even remember

  • God’s
  • Riches
  • At
  • Christ’s
  • Expense

This is great explanation of grace and the first one I could readily remember.  However, it is a bit churchy sounding for many people.

Then there is the wonderful explanation:  Unmerited favor.  I love this simple explanation that encapsulates this amazing concept in two words.

However, trying to explain grace seemed harder than I had imagined.  They didn’t grasp the whole acrostic idea.  And while unmerited favor seems simple enough, even the members who remember the two-word definition could not explain what it meant.

Therefore, we worked our way into another definition that they understood and fully appreciated.  Grace is receiving a gift we don’t deserve.

Receiving a gift we don’t deserve is not as catchy at the acrostic or as short as “unmerited favor” but our members understand it and have grasped its meaning.

jesus walks on waterRemember the story of Jesus walking on the water taken from the Gospels?  In Mark’s account of the story, Jesus doesn’t invite Peter to come out on to the water but rather he intends to walk past the disciples who are in the boat.

I often puzzle over the entire incident.  This story reeks of magic, an illusion, a trick.  Of course, I know that this was a miracle but what was the purpose?  In recent months I’ve seen there are several explanations.  First, water walking was the quickest way to get across the lake.

The second was that Jesus wanted to get the attention of the disciples to teach them a lesson.  That is pretty reasonable to me.  After all, at The Special Gathering which is a ministry within the mentally challenged community, the presenter will use an attention-getting device before the devotional actually begins.  If you’ve taken any preaching courses or courses regarding public speaking, you know that attention-getting is a time-honored technique used by successful preachers and other presenters.  However, Jesus had already gotten the attention of his disciples.  That afternoon he had fed about 20,000 people with almost no food.  They were already impressed.

The third reason kind of coincides with and combines the first two reasons.  Perhaps Jesus wanted to his followers to understand in a concrete way that they could depend on God to do miracles in even the simplest areas of their lives.  He knew they were straining to row the boat in the storm.  He came the quickest and shortest way possible.  He got on the boat and calmed the storm.

jesus calms stormA few weeks earlier, he had calmed a storm and rebuked the disciples because he was asleep on the boat.  “Didn’t you know I was in the boat?” he had asked them.  This time there was no rebuking.  There was calmness.

Within the intellectually disabled community, there is a woeful lack of self-esteem.  Most of our members carry with them the stigma of their disability.  While professionals and parents do a wonderful job of helping them to understand their worth as a human being, only God can give a holy understanding of who we are to him, without the lousy side effects of self-pride.  The disciples experienced a miracle in the middle of a common storm in the life of a fisherman.  Even if our only disability is stubbornness, God wants us to understand that we can also experience miracles in our lives. During the daily storms of life,  He loves us enough to come along side our vessel and calm the storm.

Have you seen God work miracles in the lives the people to whom you minister?  Has God done a miracle for you?

350px-GW_BridgeAs a Special Gathering member sat on the George Washington Bridge that links New Jersey to New York City, she and her parents were irritated.   A terrible traffic jam was delaying their tour of the World Trade Center.  They had planned to be in the building before 9AM so that they could avoid the people coming to work.  Instead the three of them sat on the bridge like many of the employees who worked in the famous building.

The date was September 11, 2001 and that traffic jam saved their lives.

There are occasions that miracles appear as negative influences or occasions interrupting our lives and plans.  Later, we realize that God was working out these things for our good by allowing us to be caught in a traffic jam, to miss a plane or to forget an important appointment.

I’ve lost several “dream jobs” by a whisper because of one unavoidable circumstance or another. Yet, my true dream job was planned in the future when the Lord introduced me to The Special Gathering and our amazing members.

Paul and King AgrippaThe Bible shares many times that God works miracles through negative circumstances.  Paul was arrested and stayed in prison for several years paving his passage to Rome. Through the rough years when he remained behind bars, he encountered kings and governors who would have been out of his reach as a missionary.

While it’s hard to sit patiently in stalled traffic and even harder to imagine lost opportunities for advancement and promotion, we can be sure that if we have placed our lives in the hands of a faithful and loving Father, He can turn these negative experiences into megative miracles.

calming story

In the fourth chapter, Mark records a miracle that astounds the followers of Jesus.  In fact, their perplex reaction makes this encounter noteworthy to many observers and critics.

The men were traveling by boat across the unpredictable and often tempestuous Sea of Galilee when a terrible storm blew over the waters.  The men were concerned for their lives; but Jesus slept in the front of the boat.  They woke Jesus and rebuked him, “Is it nothing to you that we are going to die?”

Once awake, Jesus spoke to the wind and waves and told them to be calm.  The weather obeyed his command immediately.  The wind stopped and the sea became as smooth as glass.

Recording their reaction, Mark writes the disciples were terrified by Jesus and asked each other, “Who is this?  Even the wind and waves obey him.”

When Jesus slept in the front of the boat, the men felt apprehension.  In fact, Jesus uses the word that means timid, cowardly  or fearful to describe their fear.

However, after Jesus calms the storm, Mark describes their emotions.  He says they were “greatly terrified.”  The two Greek words used in the manuscript could be translated “had a holy reverence to the point of terror.”

After seeing the strength of Jesus’ power to mold circumstances and events to his will, the Son of God’s companions were more afraid of their Master than of losing their lives.  There will be miracles in our lives that will demonstrate God’s awesome power in such a magnificent way that we will mutely stand more terrified of God than the circumstance that lead to the revelation of His might.

At that moment in time, we stand in amazed wonder acutely aware of our own finite existence contrasted with God’s magnificent ability to bend time, space and nature.

on kneesWhen was the last time, you knew of anyone who was terrified by the awesomeness and power of  God? Too often, we trivialize the work and omnipotence of God.  Yet, there is a transforming, supernatural authority which can throw us instantly to our knees in holy terror.

 

photo by michaelwalden.com

Paul arrestedA Good Man’s Faith

Central Theme:  God uses faith to accomplish his will in our lives.

You know about Jesus from Nazareth, that God gave him the Holy Spirit and power.  You know how Jesus went everywhere doing good and healing those who were ruled by the Devil, because God was with him. (Acts 10:38)

 Introduction—There are many things in our lives that we think we cannot control.  As I first typed this message on Microsoft Word, I worked on the format for almost 2 hours.  It’s an upgraded program and it does lots of things I don’t want it to do.  I seems to have no control.  But I can learn how to use the new program and then I’ll be able to make it do what I need.  There is one key to living a good life—that is faith in God.  Have a member read Acts 10:38

I.    Paul came to Jerusalem to tell the elders of the church the great things God was doing wherever the gospel was taught.   (Acts 21:15-36; 22:30-23:10).

A.    The elders were happy but they wanted Paul to do something to prove that he was not teaching Jewish people to forget about following the law.  They told Paul to take four other men and perform a seven-day cleansing ceremony with them.

B.    At the end of the seven days, some people from Asia recognized Paul and they started a riot.  It was terrible.  The Jews were trying to kill Paul.

C. The Romans came to stop the riot.  They had no idea what had happened. So the arrested Paul.  But Paul said that he did the things he were prescribed in the Bible and they were right to do them.

II.    Paul had done the right thing.  He had obeyed the people God put over him. But he STILL got in trouble.  Now he was in jail and all he did was obey.

A.    We expect to get in trouble when we do wrong.  But there have been times that we do the right thing and we still get in trouble.

B.    I was the president of an organization once.  My board made a decision I didn’t agree with but it was my job to carry it out their decision.  The right thing to do was to do what my board said.  But it was an unpopular decision and many people got angry with me.  The odd part was that my board who were the people who made the decision were the main people who got angry with me.

III.    Paul did not blame anyone.  He saw it as part of God’s plan for him.

A.    God’s plan may be different from our plan but God is always right.

1.   Think about Jesus’ life and death.

2.   People still don’t understand why God chose to have Jesus born and die the way he did.  But it was God’s plan and God was right.

Conclusion—There will be bad things that will happen in your life.  You may be asked to do something by a person who is over you.  Then you could get in trouble for doing it.  Remember God’s plan isn’t our plan and we should do what we think is right.

photo by freebibleimages.org

stormIn the life of a Christian, it is often at a time of crisis that God lifts his hand from the natural order he ordained to do a miracle.  As we remember, a miracle is when God intercedes to do something supernatural.

While riding from a prayer breakfast with a group of Christians yesterday, the conversation turned to a young mother who received many miracles during the birth of her child.  The baby’s head came quickly but the shoulder became stuck on the mother’s pelvis.  While shoulder dystocia is rare, the shoulder can usually be dislodged by repositioning the mother.  The child’s shoulder could not be dislodged.

However, miraculously, the baby suddenly was dislodged but he was stillborn.  The medical personnel worked feverishly to enable the baby to breathe.  Nothing worked.  After they declared the little one stillborn, the child suddenly breathed with no help from any medical staff.  The nurses and midwife believed that his revival was a miracle.

tornadoMost of us can point to a time in our history when a miracle occurred.  Messy times of emergencies, God breaks his own rules to bless his children.

Miners survive for weeks after a coal mine explosion.  There is a plane wreck and no one is killed.  An explosion occurs and everyone dies except one man.  There is no explanation except that God interrupts his laws and gave a miracle.

Each of us can point to a time when we experienced a miracle.  Nevertheless, can we expect God to do miracles in our lives as a matter of routine?  Perhaps that smacks of presumption.  However, the Lord has promised the believer that God works all things for our good.  Prayer is asking God to break his own rules and do miracles in our lives, families, our nation and the church.  It should not be assumed it is presumption but a matter of routine.

 

Family Cafe logo

Dear Friends,

It’s official, the 2014 Florida Legislative Session has begun! Our elected representatives will be in session until May 2nd, working on a state budget, and tackling issues like Medicaid expansion, changes to the education system and efforts to reduce waitlists for state services.

While all sessions are political, the practice of the politics of the 2014 Session will be intensified, as the Governor, the entire Cabinet, all 120 members of the House, and half of the Senate (20 members) are up for election in November. So, this is the perfect time for advocates in the community to get involved. Let’s talk . . . let’s get informed and let’s get engaged!

 


 

Let’s talk . . . The Family Café is built around the idea that better informed families make better decisions for themselves and their loved ones.

Let’s talk . . . During the 2014 Regular Legislative Session, which beganTuesday, March 4, 2014 and lasts for 60 days, The Family Cafe is providing an opportunity to meet weekly via conference call to discuss the outcomes of Session. Please call in!

Let’s talk . . . During the conference call we will host various speakers, including community leaders, legislative leadership and local activists to share ideas/comments regarding the agencies and programs funded by the state.

Let’s talk . . . This is your call!  We will offer this conference call option every Friday for starting Friday, March 14th  at 4:00 p.m. The call is open to everyone! 

Let’s talk . . . Our  vision of meaningful family engagement in the legislative process can only be successful with the your participation!  Simply call the number below on Friday afternoon at 4:00 p.m. (EST). Sharing our various, unique perspectives is how we effect change, and how we learn from each other. At such a crucial time, we need to concentrate our strength, power and wisdom in order to insure an improved quality of life for all Floridians. Your input, suggestions and sharing of resources will ultimately make this community as powerful and productive as it should be.

But we can’t do it without you!

Let’s Talk!

Friday, March 14th

4:00 p.m. EST

Dial-in Number:  1-888-670-3525 

 Conference Code 2424632211 followed by the # Key.