Monday, August 20, 2012

Believing in Miracles: Part V; Doubt and Danger

If only I had a Christian writing cabin in Colorado....When I decided to write a brief "summary," as mentioned in part IV, I bit off more than I could write to do the miracle topic justice. I want to encourage Christians that miracles happen more frequently than we realize and to be able to recognize them at work in our lives, regardless of the doctrinal quagmire created by religious folk.  Jesus spoke about them in John 10 when He told of the works that He did in His Father's name, and still they didn't believe.  Let's not allow our faith to be held captive by those who attempt to take the Word of God, the promises of Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit and grind it down to deceptive philosophy, human tradition, and worldly principles (Colossians 2:7,8).  Recognizing miracles at work in our lives can be a faith-booster, a comfort knowing that God is intimately involved in our daily struggles, and, now that we've entered the end-times, a necessity.

As awesome as miracles can be, for many they are a temporary inducement of faith-building. Scriptures admonishes us to "remember" them, because we are so easily sidetracked with daily woes after they occur (I Chronicles 16:12, Nehemiah 9:17, Psalm 105:5, 106:7). Although, it's paramount that our faith needs to be rooted in Christ - not the miracle itself. One example of miracle amnesia is in the two stories of feeding the multitudes. In Matthew 14, the disciples witness the provision of food for over 5,000 people from only five loaves of bread and two fish. The following chapter finds the apostles wondering how they could possibly feed a crowd of 4,000 plus. WHAT? How does one forget the first time that happens, even if it occurred months or years previously, and not understand that Christ can provide again? Or even worse, where were the throngs of healed and delivered souls while Christ was being crucified for them?

Does a person need to be a Christian to receive a miracle from Christ? No! The Lord gladly turns His blessings to the unbeliever, especially when Christians lack faith or believe the miracle-worker doesn't fit their doctrinal image. In Luke 4, Jesus rebukes the doubting Thomases when He reminds them about Elijah and Elisha's miracle ministries to the widow in Zarephath and Naaman the Syrian. Perhaps the Nazarenes expected Jesus to ride in with a fleet of donkeys and staff of workers, carrying a to-go cup of wine, and sporting a goatee.  How dare the carpenter's boy come back home, plain of face, and poor, rebuking them by insinuating that the unwashed were more deserving to receive a miracle than they! The nerve.

When Jesus healed the paralytic (John 5:6-5), the religious people could only focus on the fact that the man was carrying his mat while WALKING on the Sabbath, and when confronted, the healed man passed the buck saying, "The man who made me well" told me to do it. Lets step back: He's been crippled, possibly since infancy, and one day a Man walks up to him, asks if he wants to be made well, and heals him instantly. Instead of shouting and running for joy, grateful that this Man took the time to change his life, he becomes fearful, defensive, and downplays the healing to his legalistic friends. Yikes. No wonder Jesus later said to him, "Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you." Interesting: We can experience an incredible miracle, but later reap a severe punishment, if we don't repent in response to God's mercy.

Miracles do not guarantee faith in Christ. John 11 describes a human condition that is especially relevant in America today - the idols of power and money. The Lord was performing miracles that the ├╝bber pious clearly acknowledged, but they were trying to stop Him because of the repercussions. They realized that all attempts to squelch the situation only perpetuated in making more converts. The concern wasn't so much losing Jewish believers to Christ, but losing their political and financial standing in the city. They saw the power of Christ, but their hearts remained hardened. Matthew 11 and Luke 10 both warn about the severity of exercising such unbelief in light of the miraculous.

Here's a scary thought: A "Christian" who is prominent in the ministry, possibly a successful author, public speaker, and gifted with great power and miracles, is told by the Lord, "I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoer" (Matthew 7:23)! Wouldn't it seem that if they were operating from an evil place, perhaps keeping big chunks of the offering for personal toys and vacations, philandering, or puffed up with pride, that God would remove the gift of miracles from those people?  The sorcerer, Simon, (Acts 8:9-24) saw a great opportunity for power and potential income when he asked for the gift of the laying hands of people to receive the Holy Spirit. He tricked some, who believed his witchcraft was from God, but wanted to add this new skill to his repertoire - he was soundly rebuked by Peter. Why did God save Simon from operating in the gifts sinfully, but not those in Matthew 7:23?

Apparently, certain religious miscreants are empowered by the Beast. They can deceive (Revelation 13:14, 19:20), but Jesus himself said, "no one who will perform a miracle in My name can in the next moment say anything bad about me for whoever is not against us is for us" (Mark 9:39,40). I've suspected that a few "Men of Faith" are charlatans, although, I haven't followed non-Christians who perform miracles, like Pharaoh's magicians. Perhaps we should always look for the "tag" (such as those attached to the inside of a shirt), "Miracle: By Jesus Christ." Further, if we're not living right and dabble in deliverances without the right heart - beware! Imagine being beaten up and having our clothes torn off because we were seeking the thrill of power and not edifying the brethren or glorifying God (Acts 19:15,16)!

Lastly, there are miracles that will happen in the future. Revelation 11 speaks of a people who are not killable, can control nature, and able to strike the earth with plagues. What horrible future awaits us when our own must send plagues throughout the earth? And those who try to harm them must die! Folders, those of us who write and talk about the end time persecution, especially from our Lazy-Boys, need to pray against deception. Matthew 24:24 tells us the false messiahs and prophets will appear so genuine that even the elect will be susceptible to deception.  Twice in Revelations the Lord tells us our survival will require "patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints" (13:10); and "patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God's commandments and remain faithful to Jesus" (14:12). To be part of this company of miracle workers in Revelation 11, or even support them, will mean alienation from society and possible death (Revelation 11:7-10).  Revelation 13 speaks of the anti-Christ spirit, which will enable an evil person or company to perform "great and miraculous signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to earth in full view of men...(and)...he (or they) deceived the inhabitants of the earth (v.13,14).

Not wanting to step on anyone's doctrinal toes, I think we can all agree that the end time miracles are going to be spectacular and dangerous. The ability for the saints to endure, remain faithful and obedient, will be a miracle in itself. My e-friend, Dave Wagner, briefly addresses the "why" of the Holocaust, as in, how it could possibly happen. Simple, I believe it's the love of self - not relinquishing our will to God. Too easy? Sorry, but the prescription for preparing and enduring during horrendous times is to not, "love (our) lives so much as to shrink from death" (Revelations 12:11). That means we remain faithful and obedient regardless of the loss of our family, money, possessions, and lives - starting today. The end-time persecution will be like the Holocaust on steroids, today is the day of preparation.

As always, Fellow Folders, I encourage you to study the scriptures for your own understanding, but I'll attempt to summarize what I have learned. Miracles are not an end unto themselves, but they act as a conduit for the Spirit to provide the following: Salvation, belief in Christ, Glory to the Father, manifesting the Kingdom to the world, exhibiting God's kindness and goodness, for the common good, repentance, healing, deliverance, igniting faith, aid, help, repentance, punishment, and the testing of our hearts. We will have to be rock-solid in our relationship with Christ to discern between the miracles wrought in  Christ's name and those performed by Satan.  Remember, Matthew 7:21-22 tells of those who performed miracles in Jesus' name but were considered evildoers. The test is that the person or group cannot speak evil of Jesus after performing a miracle in His name (Marks 9:39), so the key then is to discern what "speaking evil" looks like. Could it include what is happening today - the doctrine that grace allows us to sin freely, disregarding the commandments of God, and still be saved and ministering? That doctrine opposes the the remedy for surviving the end-times, which clearly includes obeying God's commands (Revelation 14:12). If, after just reading the previous sentence, you have just deduced that I come from a works-based religion, and don't understand the grace of God, I tell you in Christian love and Jesus' name - you are already in great danger, based upon what the scriptures say.

Let's pray. Lord, we repent for the times we've desired the miraculous more than relationship with You. We know that none of us are immune to deception and we ask that you open our eyes to the areas that the enemy has a toe-hold in our lives, and so we don't become like those who turned a blind eye to the sufferings of the Jews during the Holocaust.  Lord, in the future, during the Christian Holocaust, we may need to be fed by ravens, or require other miracles to survive and run our race, we ask that You gift us accordingly. Above all else, we ask that Your will be done in each of our lives.  Amen.

Are you ready?                                          

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