Miracles: Raised from the Dead

When I was in seminary, I told one of my professors how I was interested in doing a book that compiled stories of answered prayers, miracles if you will. He loved my idea, and like most good ideas, someone had thought of it before.

So he referred to me, The Wonders of Prayer, an 1885 compilation of answered prayers narrated by several people including the likes of like D.L. Moody, Charles Spurgeon and George Muller as a guide for my idea. (Needless to say, I haven’t done anything with this idea as of yet.) But it’s a splendid little book that I most definitely recommend!

Most recently a friend of my husband’s, Dr. Craig Keener, has written a two-volume book called Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts. This work includes accounts of modern day miracles, including the story of his sister-in-law being raised from the dead where she lived in the Congo.

This first video is of Craig’s wife Medine talking about this account, and the second video is of Craig recalling hearing the story first-hand from his mother-in-law and others who were present.

Whether it is accounts of miracles and answered prayers from 1885 or from last year, in my opinion I wanted to share these with you because 1) we are reminded how God has been working in the past and is at work presently and 2) it encourages us who are going through trials of many kinds to never stop trusting in God or the power of prayer.

A Jar Full of Honey

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Today, I dropped my special jar of honey that I bought back in March at a little store in south Florida. I quickly texted this picture and the comment, “Needless to say, things haven’t been going my way lately…” to close friends and family.

This past week I had destroyed one of my best friend’s mailbox with the side mirror of my car and had become sick on Sunday after working two days at a state fair.

The honey jar incident happened right in the middle of me working on a writing assignment while my son was at Mother’s Day Out. I didn’t have time for this! I grumbled. It would — and it did — take me an hour just to clean the mess up; a precious hour that I needed to spend in writing.

Because of where the honey spilt, I had to pull out this attachment at the bottom of the refrigerator to mop up the honey (perhaps you can see what I am talking about in the above picture). When I pulled it off the refrigerator, I was in shock; I was sick. The dust and dirt I found there was enough to make anyone living in our house sick. This nice little plastic piece had been hiding all of this trash that ashamedly I had not even known was there since living in our house these past three years.

My grumbling quickly turned to thankfulness. If I had not dropped a glass jar full of honey right at the bottom of my refrigerator, I would never have known of the filth living behind this plastic piece.

Isn’t that true with other things in life? When bad things happen, we grumble maybe because of its effect on us or the inconvenience of it or the unfairness of it. But sometimes it is these unfortunate incidents that God uses to take down that plastic piece in our lives that is hiding that which is unholy, such as pride, bitterness, unbelief, arrogance, hatred, ungratefulness, unforgivingness, etc.

When my apartment building burned down, God used it to reveal to me my deep rooted attachment to things of this world.

When I was turned down a job, God used it to show me my pride and arrogance.

When I knocked down my friend’s mailbox, God used it to show me how I long for grace when I mess up but how I often don’t show grace to others when they mess up.

Can you make a list like this? Ask God to use the bad incidents or the unfortunate accidents in your life to reveal that part of you which is not holy and pleasing to God that may be hiding somewhere behind a “plastic piece.” Perhaps, you haven’t even thought to look there but it’s there making you sick spiritually and the only way you’ll notice it is through those unfortunate incidents. And, even if things have not been going your way (as I texted my friends and family today), “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God (1 Thess. 5:18).”

Let this be our prayer: “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Ps. 139:23-24) Amen.

The selfish one

It was Tuesday and I was in the kitchen washing dishes when a thought suddenly hit me. It was one of those thoughts that you can’t seem to let go or it can’t seem to let go of you.

Later that day, when my husband Osvaldo was home, I shared it with him.

“Honey, I had this thought today that what if the only way (our friend) Don* is going to accept Jesus is for one of us to die. And I thought about it and the thought makes me angry. How selfish of Don to not just come to Jesus now but wait for one of us to die!”

Osvaldo looked at me and said, “I’ve had that same thought before. And I prayed that if it took me dying for Don to come to Jesus, then I would do it. But I have asked the Lord that Don would come to faith without that needing to happen.”

The conversation ended there but the thought didn’t. It still lingered in my mind for the rest of the night. When I woke up the next day it was still there. I carried it with me into the shower and from the shower to the bathroom counter. Then it hit me. So clearly, so vividly, that I was brought to my knees, literally. I was humbled. Broken. Ashamed.

Prior to this moment, I was angry at the thought of me dying in order for Don to come to salvation. I was angry with his selfishness and his hardness of heart. But that’s when the Holy Spirit reminded me that someone died for me. I was selfish, hard-hearted, blind, but still Jesus gave his life on a cross in order that I might be saved! Whereas if I were to die my death could not save Don (or anyone) but only point to my salvation in Jesus, Jesus’ death has saving power! And he did it for me. This is what Romans 5:6-8 is talking about:

“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die – but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

And, if it was really my choice and if it was really God’s plan, I would rather save my life for a few more years on this earth even if it meant that Don would lose his for all eternity? Seriously? By Wednesday morning I wasn’t upset or angry at Don anymore. God changed my heart. The window from which I had been looking out at Don became a mirror from which I could only see myself for who I really was. I was the selfish one! I was broken. Ashamed. Humbled. For I was acting as one who accepts the love of God freely yet refuses to love others like Christ loves her.

A second humbling thought was that it wasn’t that I necessarily had a problem with love but choosing the recipients of my love or of God’s love for that matter. For if God were to say to me, “Kristen, you must die in order for your son Philip to know me, to come to me.” I feel certain that I’d say, “Take me!” Why? Because I love my son deeply. But we don’t get to pick and choose who we love as Christians. No, we get the privilege of loving others because He first loved us.

God may or may not take my life in order for Don to be saved. But just as Christ laid down His life for me out of this pure, abounding, selfless love, I pray with fervor that I will follow the example of my Lord and love Don in the same manner. I also pray that God will use whatever means necessary to save Don from sin, from hell, from eternity without Him – even if it means my life.

“For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” 2 Cor. 5:14-15

“Lord, help me to love Don and others like him who are not easy to love and who turn a blind eye to you because you first loved us. Amen.”

*Don’s name was changed out of respect for this person. Please pray for Don to find faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Challenge in the waiting

Whether or not you know the name John Newton, you probably have heard or sung his song, “Amazing Grace.” Ahhh…can you hear the tune playing softly in your head? “Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me…” Newton left a legacy, and his works are still witnessing to the work of Christ and ministering to people 200 years after his death!

But what is remarkable to me is that this same man who left such a legacy also had a lot of disappointments, failures and rejection in his pursuit of ministry. The first time Newton ever preached a sermon was at the invitation of John Edwards, and as Newton later described it, it was a disaster!

“My ideas forsook me; darkness and confusion filled up their place. I stood on a precipice and could not advance a step forward. I stared at the people and they at me. Not a word more could I speak but was forced to come down and leave the people, some smiling, some weeping. My pride and self-sufficiency were sorely mortified.”

Also, the first time he sought ordination in the Church of England he was refused because he was too evangelical and too connected to the Methodists. I can only imagine how frustrated, sad and disappointed Newton might have felt. And, just maybe, at the time did not see how his call to ministry would flesh out.

Newton is just one example of many people who had setbacks, rejections and frustrations in their pursuit of God’s call on their life. One of my college mentors who has a PhD and teaches at my alma mater was a stay-at-home mom until her youngest of three boys was a teenager — then she went back to school. Another mentor in seminary worked at a department store for many years before his ministry of preaching and teaching really took off.

Some days, like today, I feel so lost in a world that seems overcrowded with laundry, cleaning, cooking, bills, being a mom and being a wife. I long for a ministry of teaching and speaking so that I can use my calling and my gifts to encourage Christ’s church — His Body, but I encounter rejection by publishers and by churches. I want to be out doing missions but because of certain circumstances I don’t have the opportunity to serve like I would like to serve internationally and nationally at present. Do you have similar struggles?

If so, I am glad to know we are not alone as I know we definitely are not. But what does God’s Word say to us to help us with these struggles?

1. He is Faithful; Be Faithful

One of my favorite verses is Psalm 138:8, “The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.” And 1 Thess. 5:24, “He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” I don’t need to worry about God’s call on my life because He is faithful to see it through. Instead of measuring my worth and my call quantitatively or by someone else’s standard, my call must be measured in faithfulness. In a parable Jesus said to his disciples he said, “One who is faithful in very little is also faithful in much” (Lk. 16:10). Instead of focusing on the have-nots, I believe Scripture teaches us to focus on being faithful in the present. Do well at being faithful to God and to Scripture in all areas of life and then you will see Him giving you the desires of your heart and fulfilling His purpose for you.

2. Be grateful and thankful

Isn’t it our human nature to just want to be negative? I know it is for me! Instead of negativity, the Psalmist says, “Enter his gates with thanksgiving,” and “Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving.” 1 Thess. 5:16-18 says, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” It is so tempting to want to compare our lives with those around us (and social media makes it all that much easier!). I’ve personally experienced when I constantly compare my life to others I diminish my value and worth and become ungrateful and jealous. Instead, replace the act of comparing with the act of thanksgiving and see how your outlook on life changes! It puts focus from self to God.

3. Don’t count time.

I have noticed a certain mentality among my generation and younger that you must have it all by age 30: be married, have children, own a four-bedroom home and two new cars, and be independently wealthy. (Well I can say I did 1 1/2 of those things by the time I reached 30 but they are on the front end of the list! Ha!) Given that I am doing life in this culture means that often times I feel rushed to have the ministry I feel called to now or it won’t happen at all. And, if I don’t, I am a failure to God, unable to do what He has called me to do. Well that’s absolutely ridiculous, but it’s a lie that Satan likes to use constantly with me. But the truth is is that Time Is In God’s Hands. This truth goes back to the truth that God is faithful. It is good to wait upon the Lord, David writes in the Psalms. Isaiah 40:31 says, “but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” Whether it is waiting for the return of the Lord, for vindication, for healing, for provisions, for an answer or even for a calling to come to fruition, it is good to wait. God holds time in His hands; therefore, do not worry about the time you have. He has it under control.

Newton had to wait many years before he was finally ordained and given a pastorate. While he waited he wrote this letter to one of his spiritual mentors.

“I agree with you that my call has not been clear because I think no one’s call is complete till the Lord has confirmed their desire by his providence and placed them in the work. But I believe I have in some degree that inward call — that desire and preference to the service and a little measure of that experience and those whole gifts that would justify my embracing a proper invitation or opening whenever it should happen. Till then I shall wait.”

And like Newton, I shall wait. I shall try to wait with grace, a grateful heart, faithfulness in the small, mundane things of life, and with trust in God that He is faithful to see through those plans He has for me. And you? What about you?

(My information about John Newton and quotes came from a book written by Jonathan Aitken called John Newton: From Disgrace to Amazing Grace.)