Miracles of Transformation

Do you believe in miracles?  A miracle is an event in which, man cannot of themselves produce – therefore, referred to a supernatural agency.  It cannot be explained.  In the Bible, miracles performed by Jesus always happened in front of creditable witnesses.  In other words, I believe that Jesus performed miracles so that others would run and tell others about what they had seen.  It was His way of getting the message out there to the rest of the community that He was the Son of God!

In this story in John 2:1-11, Jesus turns the water into wine at the wedding in Cana.  Wedding parties in those days would last about a week, if not longer.  They would drink a lot of wine!  Jesus’ disciples were there and witnessed this miracle of the water turned into wine. When Jesus revealed His glory, the disciples believed in Him (John 2:11).  You and I did not have the opportunity to walk with Jesus on earth. Miracles were difficult for the disciples to comprehend and they witnessed them!  How about us?  How much harder then, for us to believe when we only read about it, but not actually witness the miracle?

In all reality, it is “Faith” that we must rely upon.  There are no explanations how miracles happen.  There is no way that we can prove they happened.  I wish I could prove that Jesus was resurrected from the grave!  But, I cannot!  However, here is what I know for sure…Just as Jesus transformed the water into wine, Jesus has the power to transform our hearts!  This I have witnessed over- and -over again!

Whether, or not you are able to wrap your mind around the miracles of the Bible, ask Jesus to transform you into the person He wants you to be for the sake of the glory of God!  Jesus will reveal Himself through you, just as Jesus revealed Himself through the water and wine!  Miracles do happen every single day as non-believers are transformed into believers of Jesus Christ, witnessing their experience for the sake of the Gospel!

Thanks be to God!

Power to Become a Child of God

Power – the possession of control or command over others(dictionary.com).  Power can obviously be used in different ways – for the good of human kind or for evil. When I think of the word, “power” I think about our president of the United States, our government system, teachers, and city officials.  They have the power to decide what is right and what is wrong.  They also have the power as to how one might be punished for breaking the law. However, for Christians, we know that God holds the power over the world, all who are in the world, and for Creation.

In John 1:1-18is the story of the Incarnate Word.  Jesus is the Incarnate Word, meaning that Jesus is God embodied in the flesh – a human body. In other words, God has spoken to us in the most human way possible, giving us his innermost thoughts and heart. I probably have read this text a hundred times, but as I read it again today, I saw something I had never noticed before. Jesus is in the world…”But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power (NRSV)to become children of God, who were born, not of blood, or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:13).

Did you know that you have that kind of power?  It is the kind of power giving you the ability to receive the promised gift of eternal life!  You have the powerand the privilege of becoming the very children of God!  This is the promise of the Gospel!  As a Child of God, you are a member of the beloved family of our Great God!  For me, this is an unspeakable and unbelievable privilege.  I have done so little, but yet the Incarnate Word did everything so that this is an option for me – to simple believe and receive Him. For Christ – the Incarnate Word, took my sin, was separated from His Father, and died a death that you and I will never have to experience.

You see, because of the Incarnate Word, you have received, grace upon grace (John 1:17), not deserving of any of it, but yet God grants you and credits you perfect righteousness and holiness. You did not fulfill the commandments – Jesus Christ did on the cross on your behalf.  Through this sheer divine gift, God will work everything else out for the rest of your life!

I opt for God to control my life, dream my dreams for me, and accept the privilege as a child of God.  This is unspeakable and unbelievable!  But yet, so exciting!

Trusting God in Trying Times

We are a blessed nation because we have freedom.  We can say what we want; we can do what we want; we can live where we want; we can be who we want, and we can worship who and what we want.  No one dictates to us how to live our lives.  We have free will.  This is not the case in most other countries.  In the United States, people practice all kinds of religion and have the freedom to do so.  However, in other countries Christians, especially face persecution and are often killed for their faith.

We really haven’t changed that much from 2000 years ago.  One would think that religion would bring peace; however, it is quite the opposite. Religion and the practice of religion often causes war and persecution of one’s faith.  In Daniel 6:6-23 is an example of how one is persecuted for practicing their faith.  The king wants to be worshipped.  He told his kingdom that they could have no other gods – the king was to be their god. And, there were deadly consequences if one was found praying to God.  If caught, you were thrown into a den of lions.  Daniel heard about the interdict – “that anyone who prays to anyone, divine or human, within thirty days except to you [the king], shall be thrown into a den of lions” (Daniel 6:12).  Even though Daniel knew the consequences of praying to his God, he did so anyway.  For Daniel, not praying and being in a relationship with God was not an option!

So, Daniel was indeed caught, persecuted for his faith, and thrown into the den to be devoured by the lions.  The next morning when the king came to see if he was dead, Daniel says, “My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths so that they would not hurt me, because I was found blameless” (Daniel 6:22).  Daniel trusted God to deliver him from harm! 

We are a blessed nation in which, we can practice any religion without severe consequences.  We do not have to worry about persecution to the extent of death.  What might you be going through that you need to place your trust in God?  As Christians, we have a God that will never leave you or forsake you – Even in the most dangerous and worst of circumstances.  Like Daniel, trust that God will see you through.  

 

The Fiery Furnace

I once had a parishioner who was suffering greatly.  He was trying to hang on with all his might, but his pain and ability to breath was overwhelming.  I visited him frequently.  In one of my visits, he told me he had a dream about three men.  He said their names were “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.” He asked me if their names meant anything.  “Yes,” I said.  They were thrown into a fiery furnace because they would not worship the king’s god!  The king’s punishment was to have those who would not worship his gold idol was to burn them in this furnace – much like when someone is cremated.  These three Jewish men refused to worship any other god than God Himself.  So, the King had them thrown into the furnace.

These three men were not afraid.  They tell the King, “Your threat means nothing to us.  If you throw in the fire, the God we serve can rescue us from your roaring furnace and anything else you might cook up…We still wouldn’t serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up.” (Daniel 3:16-18) The king is furious and has the men thrown into the fiery furnace.  My parishioner asked me, “Is this what is going to happen to me?”  I told him, “You have to know the rest of the story…”

These three men are in the furnace – bound and foot – and the king suddenly becomes alarmed!  There’s not three men, but four!  When the king orders them out of the furnace, “there is not a hair singed, not a scorch mark on their clothes, and not even the smell of fire on them!” (Daniel 3:27).  Their God – our God protected them and kept them from harm!  I told my parishioner, “I believe that your dream about these three men was to reassure you that you have nothing to fear!  God is with you – right here beside you!”

No doubt, there is so much temptation all around us every single day.  It would be so easy to worship so many other things – careers, money, sports, technology, and the list goes on.  But, in the end, there is only one God who can save us from the fiery furnace. Live today for the only God who loves you so much and will protect you and keep you from harm!

The Kingdom of God

Rock-Paper-Scissors is a hand game usually played between two people, in which each player simultaneously forms one of three shapes with an outstretched hand.  A ‘rock’ is a closed fist, ‘paper’ a flat hand, and ‘scissors’ with two fingers forming a ‘V.’  A rock crushes scissors, paper covers the rock, and scissors cut the paper.  While this game is usually played as a fair choosing method between two people, it also reminds me of power and how power can overcome what is the weaker of the two.

For example, in Daniel 2:25-48, Daniel is asked to go to the king and interpret his dream.  He tells the king that the kingdom has been given to him and he is the ruler.  In the King’s dream, there is a statue.  The king is the head of gold.  Another kingdom will rise and be even bigger than the king’s kingdom.  Then a third kingdom of bronze will rise that will rule the whole earth.  Finally, a kingdom of iron will rise and crush and smash everything.  Eventually everything mixes together.  It’s almost like they are playing ‘rock-paper-scissors’ to see who has the most power and strength.

Then Daniel tells the king, “The God of Heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to other people. This kingdom will crush and smash all kingdoms and bring all the rest of the kingdoms to an end” (Daniel 2:44-45).  No doubt, Daniel is interpreting for the king saying that you, “Mr. King, may rule here on earth, but there is a much greater Kingdom that will be the ‘Rock.’”  This kingdom will last forever and will be the kingdoms above all kingdoms.  This kingdom will never be destroyed.  This kingdom is the Kingdom of God!

This Kingdom that Daniel speaks of can be our dream!  It is a place where there will be no more hurt and pain.  It is a place where divine love is a power that overcomes and “crushes” all our fears, giving us a peace that we will never be able to comprehend.

Experiencing the Peace of God

There is plenty in this world for us to be discouraged, concerned, and worried.  In fact, I have gotten to the point, in which I do not enjoy listening to the news on the television.  It feels like every time I turn around, something horrific has happened – church and school shootings, terrorist’s attacks, and government issues.  And, then on a personal level, I think most of us get up in the morning worried about something.  We may have loved ones who are sick.  We may be struggling to pay our bills.  Our children may be bullied at school.  Or, we may be in a situation of conflict that drives our emotions out of control.  So many things in this world to be discouraged, concerned, and worried.

St. Paul writes a letter to the Philippians, telling them to “Rejoice in the Lord! (Philippians 4:4).  Seriously Paul!  How do we ‘Rejoice in the Lord’ when everything feels so hard in this life?  But, then Paul goes on to say, “The Lord is near.  Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be known to God” (Philippians 4:5-6).  While it is difficult to “rejoice” when we are hurting or feel out of control with life issues, these words of Paul can give us comfort in the worst of storms.  The Lord is near!  We are not alone when life feels so overwhelming!

Paul continues to share with the Philippians that there really isn’t much that he has not experienced.  He talks about the times when he has little and times when he has plenty.  In other words, Paul is just like us!  I have a feeling his life was not any easier than ours.  He worried about what he was going to have for dinner; where he would sleep at night, and was even persecuted and thrown in jail for proclaiming Christ.  However, he had a secret as to how he got through the difficult times in his life.  He states, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me!” (v.13) Paul learned that if he was doing what was pleasing to God that he had nothing to worry about.  The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus!  (v.7)

There is plenty in this world for to be discouraged, concerned, and worried.  However, I believe that God knew our lives would be difficult.  God knew that we would have times when we struggled.  God knew our hearts would hurt.  God knew we would suffer unjustly.  But, the Good News is that God loves us and sends God’s son to demonstrate that love.  Jesus’ life, by no means, was ever easy, yet suffered unjustly for our sake.  The ‘even’ better news is that we don’t have to wait to have that life free from worry, or be discouraged, or concerned.  We can have it right now!  Through prayer and supplication, God will give us what we need to get through our days and difficult times.  I believe it is worth a try.

After all, who wouldn’t want a life filled with peace that surpasses all understanding?

EASTER!

You have heard it said, “Things are not always they seem.”  It is called, “Perception” – the way we see things or “perceive” them is not always accurate. Our perception of a situation can cause us then to “Jump to Conclusions.”

For example: I was watching one of my hallmark movies the other day.  There was this scene when the girl sees her fiancé coming out of a hotel.  Her first thought was that she perceived him to have been with another woman. She “Jumped to the conclusion” that he was cheating on her. However, her perception was wrong.  She later finds out that he went to the hotel to set up a special wedding night – massages, nice dinner, champaign, the whole thing.

I feel like this is what happened to Mary Magdalene that Easter morning when she went to the tomb. She leaves early in the morning, before it is even light outsight to go check on Jesus. Here is where her perception caused her to JUMP to conclusions…She saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb.  She didn’t look into the tomb, but immediately assumed that someone had taken Jesus. We know this because she runs to tell the disciples that’s what has happened.  He’s not there because someone has taken him. What she perceived to be true was not accurate.

But, I love this story about Peter and the other disciple.  They are both running as fast as they can…but the other disciple outruns Peter and gets to the tomb first…He peeks in but doesn’t go in. And, there is our Peter…Like Bull in a China Shop, I envision Peter pushing the other disciple aside and jumps into the tomb. Peter wants all the facts.  He is almost like a detective trying to understand what has happened. And, he and the other disciple come to the correct conclusion…

Everything is there that they had wrapped Jesus up in – all the linen cloths, neatly folded and rolled up…And, while they still didn’t quite understand everything…It seemed as if Jesus’ words of his resurrection rang in their heads…He has Risen!

And, then there is Mary still standing outside of the tomb…crying and wondering what happened to Jesus…It’s as if she gets up the nerve to look into the tomb, but when she does…she sees two angels and they ask her why is she crying?  Still thinking someone has taken Jesus, she turns around only to see him standing there.

Mary’s perception of this man is that he is the gardener.  This ‘so called’ gardener asked Mary, “Why are crying?  Whom are you looking for?” She doesn’t recognize Jesus until he calls her by name. “Mary,” Jesus says.  At that moment she sees Jesus.  When she runs to tell others, she says, “I have seen the Lord!”

I think that death is a perception. Can you imagine how people perceived death before Christ’s death and resurrection?  There was no hope of life.  You were just buried in the ground and that was that –

I can’t help but to think about Steve Jobs, founder of Apple.  He was not a particular religious man.  He said that he perceived death like an “on and off” switch.  When we are ON – we are alive.  When we are OFF, we are dead.  It was that simple.  In fact, that was why, he said that he didn’t want there to be an “ON and OFF” on his computer.

But, we do know that just before he took his last breaths, he said, “Oh wow, Oh wow!” Whatever, Steve Jobs saw – must have been glorious and beyond even HIS or our Imagination!

On that Easter morning, Jesus changed Mary perception of death! He blew away anything that she could have possibly imagined.  She was so sure that someone had taken her Lord, but yet, only to find him standing right in front of her!  He had RISEN from the dead!  He was ALIVE and IS ALIVE today!

Through Jesus Christ we can have the hope that we too will have a resurrection like his –We do not have to perceive death as the end – but just the beginning to our everlasting LIFE!  Jesus will one day call each one of us by name and we will claim, “I have seen the Lord!” This will not be a perception that we jump to some conclusion –

But, TRUTH, GLORY, and MERCY will fill us with the LORD’s AMAZING GRACE!

Amen.