i believe in miracles

do you? why not add your miracles too?


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Bummed out by Bethesda: John 5:1-15 (how I would say it)

Jerusalem Bethesda BW 1 (Pool of Bethesda today. Not much to look at…)

Later on, Jesus went to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. Near the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem, there’s a pool called Bethesda (an Aramaic word). The pool is encircled with five rows of columns, which are shaded. A lot of people with various disabilities—blindness, mobility challenges, paralysis—hung out there. One of them was a man who had been disabled for 38 years. Jesus saw him lying there and struck up a conversation. When he found out how long he had been disabled, Jesus asked him, “Do you want to be free of your disability?”

“Sir,” the man replied, “When the water starts to bubble, I try to get in the pool, but I never make it in time because I don’t have anyone to help me. Other people always beat me to it.”

Then Jesus said, “Just get up already! Take that mat you’re lying on and get going.” Immediately, the man stood up, picked up his things and off he went.

It was a Saturday, the Jewish holy day, and the Jewish religious leaders busted the guy for walking with a mat, saying, “Hey, you can’t carry that today! It’s a holy day and it’s against the law to carry anything.”

But he replied, “Listen, I just got healed and the man who made it happen told me to pick up my mat and get going, so that’s just what I’m going to do.”

They asked, “Who was this guy who told you to pick up your mat and get going?”

The man looked around but couldn’t spot Jesus because he had slipped away in the crowd, and he hadn’t bothered to ask his name.

Later Jesus ran into him at the temple and said, “Look at you, you’re all better! Now you better start living right or you’ll be worse off than before.”

The man went off and found the Jewish leaders and reported to them that Jesus was the one who had restored his abilities.

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A Celebrity in Diapers: Luke 2:21-38 (how I would say it)

When baby Jesus was 8 days old, it was time to circumcise him. On that day, he was officially given the name Jesus, just like the angel had instructed before he was born.

The Jewish religion required a ritual of purification after childbirth. When it was time, Joseph and Mary took Jesus to Jerusalem to ceremonially present him to God in the temple. Their law stated that, “Every firstborn male is to be set apart as special for God,” and a special offering of a pair of doves or two young pigeons was to be made.

One particularly upright and dedicated man in Jerusalem, Simeon, had been waiting for some divine intervention [from the Roman occupation] for the nation of Israel. Simeon was fully possessed by the Holy Spirit of God, who had revealed to him that he would not die before seeing the one God had appointed to bring relief to the nation of Israel. On this particular day, the Spirit prompted Simeon to visit the temple. When Mary and Joseph brought baby Jesus to the temple, Simeon went to them, picked the baby up and started praising God, saying: “God, ruler of everything, just like you promised! Ok, I’m ready to die in peace now that my eyes have seen how you’re going to preserve your own people. The whole world will be witness to it. This will be a game-changer for non-Jews and bring honor to the nation of Israel.”

Mary and Joseph just stood there agape. Then Simeon turned to them and said to Mary, “This child is destined to shake up the social order in our country. He’s an omen—and a lot of people won’t like it because it’s going to reveal their duplicity. And that’s not all; he’s going to cause you great heartache as well.”

Also at the temple that day was an elderly lady named Anna Penuelson, of the Asher family. She had married young, but been widowed after just seven years. She had never remarried and now was 84 years old. She spent all her time at the temple, praying constantly and often missing meals, such was her devotion. Just as Simeon was concluding, she approached them and started thanking God. From them on, she couldn’t stop talking about the baby to anyone who was interested and anticipating the liberation of Jerusalem.


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Can’t Touch This: Psalm 91 (how I would say it)

Fort in Agra, India

Fort in Agra, India

Just came back from a month on the road – one week in Russia and three in India. I committed this psalm in NIV to memory during the trip and it was a source of peace throughout.

For the person who will remain in close relationship with the Most High, there is rest and comfort in the protection of the Almighty.

What can I say about my God? He’s my escape, my safe place, my rest and I have full confidence in him.

God tucks you in snugly under his protective wing; your defense is found in his care.

That’s where there is no fear of your house being burglarized while you sleep or drive-by shootings during the day; nor the boogie man at night; nor the malaria-carrying mosquito during the day.

A thousand people may die, ten thousand people in close proximity, but you come out unscathed. You’re just an eye witnesses to the consequences of degenerate human nature.

If you will admit that your comfort and protection are solely in God and you remain in harmonious relationship with him, no harm will overtake you; no disaster will come near the place where you lay your head.

He will command his angels to take care of you wherever you go—even to the extent of giving you a little boost to keep you from stubbing your toe on a rock.

You can walk right by a lion or a cobra; for that matter, you could step on a lion or snake.

“Because she loves me,” God says, “That’s why I watch out for her. I will protect her because she gives me the credit I deserve. When she calls, I’ll answer. I’ll be right there with her when things get scary, and I’ll see her through it, and honor her with my protection. I’ll give her a long and satisfying life, and she will see how I preserve my own.”


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Our Body, Ourselves: 1 Cor 12: 12-14; 4-11; 15-26; Eph 4:11-13; I Cor 12:27 (how I would say it)

head

A human body has a lot of different parts, but all of them form one body. It’s just the same with God’s children in Christ. Whether we’re Jewish or American or Mexican or Mongolian, we have all been washed clean by the same Holy Spirit, and that same Holy Spirit has nourished us all and formed us into one corporation—a body.

But we’re not a huge, single cell amoeba. This body, like our own, has a vast number of individual components. We all have unique functions to play in the body of Christ, and every single function was assigned by the Holy Spirit. We may do different kinds of work, but we all work for the same company and have the same CEO.

We have each been assigned a function that contributes to the overall good of this company. For example, the Spirit may have assigned you to counsel others, or maybe the Spirit assigned you the function of teaching others, or maybe the Spirit assigned you the ability to readily believe in things that seem impossible, or maybe the Spirit assigned you to play a role in supernatural healing. Others got the abilities to do supernatural works, still others to be God’s mouthpieces to the present generation by applying his Word to our lives today. Maybe the Spirit assigned you the ability to figure out when people are being sincere, and when they aren’t. Maybe the Spirit assigned you to be a linguist of natural or supernatural languages. Regardless, it is the Spirit who assigns every ability to each person as He determines to be correct.

Think about your own body for a second and imagine if your foot copped an attitude and said, “I’m on strike because I wanted to be a hand, not a foot.” Or what if your ear piped up and said, “I think I should have been the one with vision, and if I can’t have it, I’m out of here!” They may have a valid point, but could they possibly opt out of being part of your body because they’re not pleased with their assignments?

If your body parts were to choose their own jobs, they might all choose to have vision, and then you’d be mute and deaf. Or if the whole body wanted the ability to hear, you’d starve to death. But our body parts can’t choose their jobs, and so it is with the spiritual body we’re a part of. God has assigned us our function exactly how He wants it. And we’re not a huge eye or ear, we’re a huge multi-faceted body.

So you who have the ability of vision, you can’t disown your hands who put your vision into action. And you who are the brains behind it all, you can’t say you don’t need feet. You’d go nowhere! The fact is that the parts of the body that we don’t often acknowledge are indispensable. If we think a part of the body is ordinary, we ought to treat it as extraordinary. And if there are parts of the body that we’re embarrassed to show just anyone, we need to give those particularly special care, while those we are generally comfortable showing to the outside world—they really don’t need any special treatment. And keep in mind that if a body part needs special treatment, that’s exactly how God designed it—so that the parts that we tend to neglect are assured their significance—so that all of the parts of this body will be concerned for each other. We will all suffer when the pinky gets a paper cut, and when we get an awesome hair cut, the whole body feels good about it.

Now we’re not talking about a human body, so this is where the analogy ends. Rather, each of us is a part of Christ’s body. And Christ himself orders some parts to communicate with other parts, and some parts to communicate with the outside world. Some he has given the assignment to care for the body, and some he assigns to train the body, to get it ready to act effectively, so that the body can grow stronger and mature in our knowledge of the Son of God until we reach the point where we work harmoniously and believe harmoniously and become exactly what we are meant to be as the body of Christ.

YOU are the body of Christ, and EACH ONE OF YOU is a part of it.

I had the privilege of delivering this message to First Church of God in Port Arthur, Texas, last Sunday.


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The Trick is to Believe without Seeing: John 20:24-31 (how I would say it)

100_0459

One of the 12 main followers, a man named Thomas, a.k.a. the Twin, wasn’t with us when Jesus came that first time. The other followers told him, “Our boss was here!”

But he replied, “Unless I see and touch the nail marks in his hands and his side, I will never believe.”

Eight days later, his followers were all together again in one place, and this time Thomas was with us. The doors were locked, but again somehow Jesus was all of a sudden standing there with us.

He said, “How’s it going?” Then to Thomas: “Ok, Thomas, here’s the proof you need. See and feel the nail prints in my hands and my side. You need to stop doubting and start believing.”

Thomas replied, “Boss! Rather, God!”

 Jesus said, “Oh, so now that you’ve seen me you believe? Well, amazing things await for people who can believe sight unseen.”

There’s so much more to this story—so many more things Jesus did, supernatural things, right before our eyes. I couldn’t possibly put them all in one book, but I went to the effort of writing this much down so that you, the reader, might be one of those who believes in Jesus as the representative and Son of God—sight unseen—and that the belief might cause you to live the way He instructed us.


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What’s the Matter, Miss? John 20:1-18 (how I would say it)

dawn lo

We ’bout to have a dawn like we ain’t never seen the likes of!

Before the sun came up on Sunday morning, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she ran to find Simon Peter and me, and reported, “Jesus is gone! Someone took him and now we have no idea where he is!”

So Peter and I took off running for the tomb, but I outran Peter and got there first. I bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but I didn’t go into the tomb. Peter ran up behind me and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen too, as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. I finally went inside too and saw that the body was gone. We knew now that Mary was telling the truth, but we still didn’t understand what the ancient texts had instructed: that Jesus had to come back from the dead.

We went back to our lodging. But Mary stayed at the tomb, crying. As she cried, she bent over and peered into the tomb and saw two angels dressed in white, sitting where Jesus’ body had been, one where the feet had been, one where the head had been.

They asked her, “What’s the matter, Miss?”

“Someone took our leader and now we have no idea where he is.” Then she turned and saw someone standing near her. It was Jesus, but she didn’t recognize him at first.

He asked her, “What’s the matter, Miss? Who are you looking for?”

Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you took him somewhere, please tell me where, so I can go get him.”

Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

She turned to look right at him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).

Jesus said, “Wait, Mary, you can’t touch me, I haven’t gone up to the Father yet. Why don’t you go tell my brothers I said, ‘I’m going to see my Father and your Father, my God and your God.’”

Mary hurried off to find the other followers and tell them the news: “I saw Jesus!” And she told them everything he said.


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How Did a Lily-Livered Man like you Rise to Prefect? John 18:38b – 19:16 (how I would say it)

Pilate went back out to the crowd of Jews and said, “I don’t see any reason to press charges here. But there is that Passover custom where I release a prisoner. Do you want me to release your ‘king of the Jews’?”

“No!” They shouted. “Don’t release him. Release Barabbas!” Barabbas was a rebel who had been arrested for taking part in an uprising against Rome.

So Pilate took Jesus and had him beaten. The soldiers who beat him also wove together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They hung a purple robe around him and mocked him, saying, “All hail the king of the Jews!” And they slapped him in the face.

Then Pilate went back out to the crowd and said, “Look, I don’t find any reason to press charges, so I’m turning him back over to you.” Jesus came out at that moment dressed in the crown of thorns and purple robe, and Pilate announced, “Here you go, all yours.”

But the Jewish leaders started shouting, “Execute him! Hang him on a cross!”

Pilate answered back, “You hang him on a cross. I already told you I don’t have any reason to press charges.”

The Jewish leaders pressed him: “There is a reason! He’s broken our law by claiming to be the Son of God. And that’s punishable by death.”

This news shook Pilate up and he went back inside the palace. He questioned Jesus again: “Where are you from?” Jesus didn’t answer. “Are you refusing to speak to me? Don’t you realize it’s in my power to free you or to execute you?”

Jesus answered, “Any power you have over me has been granted you from a higher authority. It’s those guys outside who turned me in who bear the greater guilt.”

From that point on, Pilate really wanted to release Jesus, but the Jewish leaders kept shouting, “He’s claiming to be king and that makes him an enemy to Caesar. If you let him go, then you’re an enemy to Caesar too.”

Finally Pilate brought Jesus out to the crowd and then he sat down on the judge’s seat, which was called the Stone Pavement (Gabbatha in Aramaic). It was about noon of the Preparation Day of the Passover. “Here’s your king,” Pilate announced.

The Jews shouted back, “We don’t want him! You take him! Hang him on cross!

“You want me to execute your king by hanging him on a cross?” Pilate asked.

“Caesar is our only king,” the priests called back.

Finally Pilate gave the OK to have him executed by hanging on a cross.