Part II – A Brief Study II
In the first post of this series, we began diving into my word for 2017 – MIRACLES and some things the Lord spoke to my heart over the course of the year as I paid closer attention to his activity in and around me. We established the foundation that everything God does and does not do is solely for His glory and our good and from there began breaking down the different kinds of miracles that we read about in Scripture and experience today. I suggested that there are two main “categories” of miracles – Unexpected and Expected – and from there stem five sub-categories – Nature, Healing, Protection, Provision, and Salvation/Spiritual. We then unpacked Unexpected Miracles, “those events that occur with little to no warning, and perhaps even without your knowledge, that you may or may not have ever even prayed for” and from there discussed some examples.
So, now let’s dive into the realm of Expected Miracles. What sets these apart from the stories we discussed in the first post is that these, I believe, are God’s answer to that long-suffering, enduring hope of believers. Whether it’s a few hours or many years, asking God for a miracle and fully expecting Him to act will always lead to a supercharge of faith when that answer does finally come. So let’s walk through some examples of these special moves of God.
Part I – A Brief Study I
Like many of you I’m sure, I go into each new year with a special word to serve as a sort of theme for the next 365 days. The hope is that these words will help guide our decisions, define our steps, and set some intentionality behind everything we do that year. Going into 2017, the word I felt God put on my heart was MIRACLES. At the very end of 2016, our little family made a giant move, literally, from Texas to Tennessee and in the months leading up to our transition we saw God do a number of miraculous things both in our own personal situation as well as in the lives of several people around us. I had tasted a new level of the “supernatural” and I wanted more!
What I wasn’t ready for was the testing and stretching that would come with this request to see more of the signs and wonders we read about in the Bible. So the further I got into the year, the more I began studying a little more about those moments of divine activity that occur all around us whether we choose to see it or not.
Now, I’ve never been a proponent for putting God in a box or thinking that we can somehow figure Him out this side of heaven. But I do believe that in studying His character and then correlating that with His handiwork, we can and will pick up on different patterns that might help us know how better to look for the miraculous in the everyday and even position ourselves to experience the unexplainable first-hand.
Do you ever have those seasons where you feel like God has just gone completely dark and left you to fend for yourself? Perhaps that’s a little overdramatic, but I would venture to say that some of you know exactly what I’m talking about.
To catch you up (since I haven’t had much to say in the last couple months – really sorry about that) . . . our family relocated to the Nashville area of Tennessee to follow what we strongly believed was a prompting from the Lord. It was not an easy process, but we made the move at the very end of 2016. Now, 3 months in, the boys are thriving in their new school, Stephen is cranking away working his job from home, we are making new friends and getting embedded in a great church community, AND we are getting to watch what will be our new permanent home go up in the lot right next to our rent house. Lots of exciting things going on, and yet there still seems to be some pretty substantial gaps that, quite frankly, throw me into a spiritual, mental, and emotional battle every day.
I fully expected to be settled into a new job well before now and I definitely did NOT expect to be looking at almost 6 months since the last time I was behind a microphone. And yet, here I am. Still without a steady income and still waiting to get to do the thing I love doing the most. The two pieces of my world that I thought were the main reasons the Lord was relocating our family are the only two pieces of this puzzle that are still missing.
Please don’t hear me say that I’ve somehow convinced myself that the Lord has uprooted our lives only to abandon us in the desert. There are plenty of good things happening for us that are exciting. But as it goes sometimes with God-sized plans, all the things that make sense have gone out the window, which for personalities like mine creates a deep sense of unrest and leads to feelings of doubt.
And then the other day as I was processing some of this with my husband, Stephen, it dawned on me that this place is somewhere I’ve been before and had just tucked away in those dark corners of my memory.
We all have our thorns, right? Some are more obvious than others. Some lead to tougher earthly circumstances than others. Some feel debilitating while some are just plain annoying. Nevertheless, they are unwelcome interruptions that hold the potential of affecting our relationship with the Lord and with those around us.
And one of the very unfortunate tendencies among believers is to play the comparison game, and I am just as guilty as the next guy. It happens in a number of ways, but I would like to focus on one particular avenue the enemy takes in order to cripple Christians when it comes to comparing our thorns.
Who can relate to this scenario?
You’re sitting in a Bible study, church service, or even a big worship event. The speaker or facilitator starts to share what they’re setting up as a deep, dark secret or huge confession. They proceed to spill the beans on this devastating stronghold they just HAD to get off their chest and you’re left sitting there dumbfounded thinking, “Seriously? That’s it? That’s the big, ugly, dark sin you’ve been carrying?”
Please tell me I’m not the only one with both hands in the air right now?
But it’s true, right? It feels a little bit like when a spoiled, rich kid starts complaining about having to settle for Gucci instead of Louboutin. “I mean, how do you even cope with life?”
So there you are, squirming in your seat because your wretchedness is glaring at you in the face harder than ever, and not just because you’re that much more aware of your “real” sin but because now you’ve also managed to trivialize the sin of another believer.
Followers of Christ are instructed in Romans 12:1, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.”
This is the only time in the Bible that the words living and sacrifice are used together. I’ve been a church-going, Bible-reading Christian for over 30 years now but only recently did these two words jump off the page at me in a way that awakened me to a fresh view of God’s grace and mercy.
What comes to mind when you hear or read the word sacrifice? For me, it’s death. Something must die, usually a pretty gruesome death, for a sacrifice to be complete and effective. When I study the Old Testament and all the sacrificial practices, I am overwhelmed with gratitude that we no longer have to go through the rituals they had to before Jesus. The smells, the sights, the sounds, all of it. I’m sure at a point the Israelites had grown almost numb to the process involved, but I can’t believe for one second that there wasn’t some level of emotional pain felt by those performing and watching the sacrifices take place. If for no other reason than they were keenly aware that this animal was brutally stripped of its life for their sake. That has to leave a mark.
The man who left glory to come put up with humanity for a time – to walk in our shoes, breathe our air, break our bread, experience our joy, and endure our pain, only to be scorned, beaten, and killed. But His death and glorious resurrection turned the tables completely, didn’t it? It didn’t necessarily eradicate the need for sacrifices completely, but it did redefine what sacrifice would look like for the rest of time.
Hear me out.