Tag Archives: miracles

Today’s Scripture – June 8, 2017

Luke 1:34-38 (NIV) “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.”
“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her.

Some point to a similarity between Mary’s question of Gabriel and that of Zechariah (1:18). They then try to explain the disparate treatment that the two of them received. But the questions are not actually that similar. Zechariah wanted proof, some sign that would overpower his doubts that God could accomplish what He was promising to do, while Mary was simply asking about the “how”: How was God going to accomplish this pregnancy, since she was a virgin.

That was a reasonable question. In the history of the world it had always taken the union of a man and a woman to produce another human being. Even in miraculous births like Isaac, Samson, Samuel, and even John, the miracle was that God enable the natural methods of conception to work for those who were sterile, past the age of child bearing, or both. Mary was expecting Gabriel to tell her that either she needed to move her marriage to Joseph up – awkward and suspicious-looking to the rest of the village, or that the Messiah would be conceived later, after the marriage took place. The latter seemed less likely based on the urgency and immediacy of the angel’s announcement.

But there was a third option that no one would ever have considered. God was doing a completely new thing. The child to be born, Jesus, the Messiah, would be a real human being, hence the need for a human mother. But He would also be fully divine. Therefore, Mary’s pregnancy would be initiated supernaturally, through the power of the Holy Spirit, not by the uniting of sperm and egg.

Even though Mary said nothing at first, Gabriel knew that her mind had been thrown into confusion by this whole scenario. It seemed to impossible, even for God to do (and it had never been done that way before!). So he laid out the evidence of Elizabeth’s miraculously enabled pregnancy, something that no one would have believed possible at her advanced age. For Mary, this was like a Bible story come to life and, even though Elizabeth’s pregnancy had not been initiated like her own would be, it settled in her heart an assurance that it really could be done as Gabriel was promising.

As said before, Mary was a righteous devout young woman, completely devoted to God. As such, she would never consider saying no to something that was so clearly His will for her. Even though she knew that this whole thing would undoubtedly cause complications for her, even in her relationship with Joseph, she trusted that God would protect her, and the He would be able to make everything work out right.

So she said yes. And, at that moment, Gabriel vanished, and the work was done in her body. The reality of the Messiah had begun!

Father, it is much easier to trust and believe Your promises, and even Your callings on our lives, when we can see or reason out how You could make it happen. It’s harder to trust when Your promise or calling seems impossible to our finite minds, when the way ahead seems dark. Help me to take Mary as my model in those times – to be someone who cannot ever imagine saying no to Your will, so who simply says yes, trusting You implicitly to work out all of the details and to provide every necessary thing on the way. Amen.

Leave a comment

Filed under Scripture Meditations

Today’s Scripture – June 6, 2017

Luke 1:18-25 (NIV) Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” The angel answered, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their proper time.” Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak. When his time of service was completed, he returned home. After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.”

The fact that Zechariah and Elizabeth were going to have a son was amazing news – unbelievable, since they were both well advanced in years. So, despite his years of praying, and his years of hope that his prayers would be answered, Zechariah’s faith was sorely lacking. Even with an angel making him the promise, he was unwilling to simply believe and receive.

Faith, action spurred by belief in God’s promise is essential for those who would receive any promised blessings. God had selected Zechariah and Elizabeth, and He could foresee that they could both be brought to a place where they would believe and act, but Zechariah was going to need a strong push in the right direction. The silencing of his voice was not as much punishment as it was a form of the proof that he was asking for – albeit an inconvenient form of proof. But it had the benefit that it was something that he could not deny or explain away. One moment he could speak, and the next, no sound came out, no matter how hard he tried.

Faith is vital for those who would participate with God in what He is doing, as well as for those who are simply looking for blessing, because in both cases, there is always a part for the participant or seeker to play, even if it is simply going and washing in a pool (John 9:7), or holding out one’s hand (Mark 3:5), or taking up a mat and walking home (Luke 5:24), and without faith people simply will not act. They will always be second-guessing what God tells them to do, acting timidly, or completely refusing to act out of fear that God won’t hold up His end of the deal.

When Zechariah came out of the temple, he wanted so badly to share what he had seen and heard, but he couldn’t make a sound, and waving his arms around didn’t communicate anything more than the fact that he had experienced something amazing while he was in the temple.

After he returned home to Elizabeth, he was eventually able to communicate to her what had happened. It took her a short time to really allow her heart to believe – she had often been disappointed in the past. But soon she was convinced, and was willing to give it one more shot. And, through their faith, their actions spurred by belief in God’s promise, she was enabled to finally become pregnant. She stayed out of the public eye for five months, long enough to convince her that the pregnancy would not miscarry, but the whole time she knew that she was at last being blessed with her heart’s desire.

Father, when I pray, help me never to do so with even the smallest doubt that you will actually accomplish what I am praying for – even more so when You give me the assurance that You will do what I am asking. Instead, keep my heart always hopeful and optimistic so that I will immediately act in faith to do any part of Your plan that You allot to me, without any fear or doubt.

Leave a comment

Filed under Scripture Meditations

Today’s Scripture – May 27, 2017

Matthew 27:62-66 (NIV) The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.”
“Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.

The chief priests and Pharisees had two big problems. First, they refused to accept Jesus for who He claimed to be, in spite of His mighty and inexplicable miracles, including such things as healing a man born blind (John 9), and resurrecting a man who had been dead for four days (John 11). They fully believed that when God did send the Messiah, He would do things their way, and would fully agree with their own ideologies. Since Jesus didn’t do those things, they rejected Him as the Messiah, despite all of the other signs that He performed.

Their second problem was that they had no idea of what God was actually able to do. The miracles in their Scriptures had become for them more like a mythology since, as far as they could tell, He didn’t do mighty miracles any more. (The miracles of Jesus they attributed to another source entirely – see Matthew 12:24.) Their religion was not a walk with God in power, but had degraded to dry forms, without any power at all.

Therefore, when it came time to deal with Jesus’ prophesied resurrection, the only means that they could think of that something like that could be pulled off in the “real world” was deception. His students could break into the tomb and steal the body, then show people the empty tomb and claim that He had been raised. It never entered their closed minds or hard hearts that Jesus could actually rise from the dead for real.

So they determined to use the best “real world” solution that they could think of: an imperial guard. When the soldiers of Rome were assigned to guard something, they guarded it with their lives. Pilate was easily persuaded to assign a guard. To be honest, he simply wanted all of this to go away. If guarding the tomb for seventy-two hours would stop all of the lunacy surrounding Jesus, then so be it.

Of course, God is not intimidated by earthly guards, or even whole armies or nations. Despite the fact that these Jewish leaders slept well that night, believing that they had done all that was necessary to prevent Jesus’ “resurrection,” before they woke the next morning, Jesus would be alive, the seal on the stone would be smashed by angelic power, and the imperial guard would be running to the city in complete terror.

Father, You are the Sovereign God, and what You determine to do will be done, no matter who tries to stand in Your way! The mightiest force on earth at the time couldn’t stop Your plan, and the mightiest forces on earth now or in the future can’t stop it either. Thank You for Your mighty power, and for Your ultimate unstoppable plan, which includes eternal life for all of Your people. Amen.

Leave a comment

Filed under Scripture Meditations

Today’s Scripture – January 27, 2017

Matthew 16:1-4 (NIV) The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven.
He replied, “When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.  A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.” Jesus then left them and went away.

Despite Jesus’ long record of miracles, some of which they themselves saw (and objected to because they were done on the Sabbath), these religious leaders came to Jesus and demanded a miraculous sign from Him on the spot to prove Himself to them.

Jesus could easily have done anything these men requested of Him.  But that wasn’t really the point being pushed.  They refused to believe in Jesus, refused to hear His teachings, and refused to give Him any credibility, because all of that would have the potential to undermine their own authority.  They didn’t want Him to actually perform a miraculous sign; they wanted Him to fail to do a sign so that they could write Him off.  Or they wanted Him to refuse to do a sign so that they could spin it to mean that He wouldn’t because He couldn’t.

But Jesus wasn’t into playing games with these men, or allowing them to control the agenda by making Him jump to their tune.  He had His agenda straight from God Himself, and it was both important and urgent.  He would not allow Himself to be distracted by His enemies.  Besides, if they wouldn’t believe on the basis of the miracles He had already done, one more wouldn’t convince them.

So He refused.  Or, more correctly, He used a parable to show them their own obtuseness.  They had learned over the years to know what the weather would be by the signs in the sky, because they had seen numerous red skies at night and experienced a pleasant day the next day.  They had seen red, angry looking skies in the morning, and had slogged through storms before the day was over.  Past performance assured them of future results.

But they refused to apply the same standards to Jesus.  They knew from direct observation, as well as the testimonies of others, that Jesus was able to do astounding miracles, many of them every day.  There was no illness or disability that He had not been able to heal, no demon he had been unable to cast out, no crowd he was unable to feed.  He even calmed storms with a word, and walked on water!  But they always demanded one more sign, in the hopes that He might fail THIS time.  They were unwilling to accept any of His past performance.

The sign of Jonah, which Jesus promised them that they WOULD see, was His rising from the dead on the third day (cf. Matthew 12:40).  There is also a sense in which Jonah himself was a sign to the Ninevites after his “resurrection” from the belly of the great fish.  He came from that experience in the power of God with a demand for repentance, and a threat of destruction for those who refused (cf. Luke 11:29-32).  Jesus was warning that if these men refused to believe His message, especially after His resurrection, the same kind of destruction awaited them (and was actually delivered in AD 70!).

Father, help us to always give ourselves to You and to Your agenda fully, with no reservations, and without demanding any “signs” before we will take You at Your word.  You have already done more than enough for us in our past to enable us to rely on You for our future.  Help us instead to be a testimony to others as each day we trust in You, and allow You to work through us.  Amen.

Leave a comment

Filed under Scripture Meditations

Today’s Scripture – January 26, 2017

Matthew 15:32-39 (NIV) Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.”
His disciples answered, “Where could we get enough bread in this remote place to feed such a crowd?”
“How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked.
“Seven,” they replied, “and a few small fish.”
He told the crowd to sit down on the ground.  Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, and when he had given thanks, he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and they in turn to the people.  They all ate and were satisfied.  Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.  The number of those who ate was four thousand, besides women and children.  After Jesus had sent the crowd away, he got into the boat and went to the vicinity of Magadan.

The whole situation should have seemed familiar to the disciples:  a large, hungry crowd, almost no resources, and Jesus’ insistence that they solve the problem.  Jesus’ motive in using this situation was to test His key followers to see if they could follow His previous example in this extremely similar situation. (Matthew 14:15-21)

But, again, the disciples proved to be slow learners.  All they could see was the size of the crowd and what they DIDN’T have.

With a sigh of frustration, Jesus turned their attention to what they DID have:  seven loaves, and a few small fish – almost half again what they had had just a few weeks earlier.  But the disciples still didn’t get it.  They just kept shifting their attention from the sparse supplies to the huge crowd and back again.

So, once again, Jesus took control of the situation.  His procedure was intentionally identical to what He had done before; a model for the disciples to follow.  He instructed the people to sit down.  He gave thanks for the available resources, and then broke the food and gave it to the disciples to distribute.  And after everyone had eaten all that they wanted, He sent them to pick up the leftovers:  7 large baskets full.

A big part of the disciples’ reluctance was that, even though they had seen Jesus do this before, they did not see themselves as having that same kind of power in themselves.  Even though they themselves had cast out demons and healed diseases with Jesus’ authority, this kind of thing seemed different; more like magic.  And they saw themselves as being without that kind of magical power.

But Jesus was trying to show them that it was not magical power, but a direct connection to the Father that enabled these amazing miraculous signs.  He was trying to teach them that they had the same opportunity to have a direct connection to God.  They had the same ability, in Jesus’ name, to have the same power of God flow through them (cf. John16:23-27).  But they didn’t get it.  Yet.

Father, even today we are slow to believe all that Jesus taught was available to us as His followers.  We know that Jesus could do amazing things, but we somehow believe that the power Jesus had was qualitatively and quantitatively different than the power we can access.  We fail to see that the power is exactly the same, because the source of the power is exactly the same:  You.  We don’t do miracles, not because we can’t, but because we don’t believe that we can.  We lead powerless lives, because we believe that the wonder working power that Jesus demonstrated was for Him and not for us.  We make fun of the lack of faith of these disciples, and shake our heads in wonder at their slowness to catch on.  But we are exactly as slow as they were!  Forgive us this hypocrisy, and help us to learn this lesson well, so that we can operate in Your power, at Your direction, every day.  Amen.

Leave a comment

Filed under Scripture Meditations

Today’s Scripture – January 25, 2017

Matthew 15:29-31 (NIV) Jesus left there and went along the Sea of Galilee. Then he went up on a mountainside and sat down.  Great crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them.  The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel.

The people, great crowds of them, brought their sick and infirm to Jesus.  But these were not people of great faith, only people of hope.  They had heard that Jesus could heal any disease and disability, even things like demon possession and leprosy.  So they brought their friends and family members to Him to see what He could do.

Jesus could have looked at these people, saw their lack of strong faith in Him, and written them off as mere seekers after miracles.  This event could have had the same ending as His trip back to Nazareth:  “And He did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.” (Matthew 13:58)  But Jesus saw past their lack of faith to their hope.  That was an adequate place to start.  Some of them would have faith spring to life in their hearts when their loved ones were healed.

And so He spoke, He touched, He commanded, and the healings happened.  The blind could suddenly see, and faith replace mere hope in a heart.  A lame man stood and walked, and another spot of faith flamed to life.  A mute began to speak clearly, and faith lit a fire in once dull eyes.  All were amazed at what Jesus could do, but many were filled with a restored faith, not just in Jesus, but in the God of Israel for what He was accomplishing through Him.

The excitement of the crowd was palpable and contagious.  No one wanted to miss what Jesus would do next.  And when he taught them about the kingdom of God (which He ALWAYS did), they hung on His every word.  Hours turned into days, and three days later, many were still there, excited to see what Jesus would do next, and to hear what He would teach.

Father, theology and Bible teaching are not boring, but exciting when the one teaching them embodies the power depicted in them.  People really do hang on the words of someone that Your power is working through.  Help me to be one of those people, today and every day.  Amen.

Leave a comment

Filed under Scripture Meditations

Today’s Scripture – January 24, 2017

Matthew 15:25-28 (NIV) The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.
He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.”
Yes, Lord,” she said, “but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”
Then Jesus answered, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour.

The woman heard Jesus’ reason for refusing to help her with her demon-possessed daughter:  “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”  But her situation was so desperate that she couldn’t let it go.  She cried out again for help.

Jesus’ answer sounds unbelievably harsh to our ears, accustomed as they are to listening predominantly to Jesus’ gentle words, and filtering out those we deem too strong based our prejudiced view that our kind and loving Jesus couldn’t possibly say anything so strong and harsh.  But Matthew captured His exact words for us:  “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.”

Dogs were considered unclean animals, and the New Testament used the imagery of dogs on occasion to refer to those who were outside of the kingdom of God.  (E.g., Matthew 7:6; 2 Peter 2:22.)  But in those other instances, the Greek word used is the generic word for dog, “kyon”  In this case, however, Jesus, who was speaking Greek to this Phoenician woman who wouldn’t speak much if any Aramaic, specifically chose a different word with a specific shade of meaning.  That word was “kymarion,” which has more the flavor of a pet dog.

That slight shift in meaning, away from the word that often depicted wild dogs that roamed in packs and attacked sheep, to a more gentle word with shades of affection, gave the woman exactly the opening that she needed.  “Yes, Lord, but even the (pet) dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”

This woman knew that she had no claim on Jesus, neither tie of religion nor nationality.  But she played her last card on the basis of that one word, and on something that she saw in Jesus, something in His eyes that convinced her that He really did care about weak and helpless things, as she surely was in the face of the demons besetting her daughter.

With a quiet chuckle, Jesus assured her that her faith and perseverance had won Him over.  He daughter had already been set free.  And, when the woman arrived at her house, she found it to be so.

Father, sometimes we give up far too easily.  We make our requests once, and if they are not granted immediately, we shrug our spiritual shoulders, and go off to find an answer elsewhere.  We can learn a lesson from this woman.  She cared so deeply about what she brought to Jesus that she would not let go of Him until she received the blessing she so needed.  She kept on asking, seeking, and knocking, looking for the key to Jesus’ heart, until her prayers were answered (cf. Matthew 7:7-11).  Thank You for this lesson.  Amen.

Leave a comment

Filed under Scripture Meditations