Tag Archives | miracles

God at Work Within the Unchangeable

If you are faithful, expect enemies. The sixth chapter of Daniel opens with this in-your-face truth. If you’re a child of the King, you are a threat to the kingdom of darkness. Daniel’s enemies were accusers, and so is ours.

We’ve been studying the book of Daniel at church all summer long. Week after week, every story narrated, every vision revealed, every dream interpreted points to the rising conflict between the kingdom of God and the kingdoms of this world. This tension will reach a fever pitch at Christ’s first coming, and again at His second coming.

We live in the space between. 

King Darius, desiring power and position, made a rule that all must bow and worship him for thirty days. Daniel continued praying, worshipping, believing and trusting the living God. Daniel did what he’d always done, and the story reaches its climax as he stands accused and gets tossed into a den full of hungry lions.

I tend to read through this story and forget it really happened. These were real lions, real hungry lions that had their mouths shut by God. Scripture doesn’t say God filled their stomachs and satisfied their appetites. It only says He shut their mouths. These weren’t sweet cats purring all night long. They were angry and frustrated and confused. And still very, very hungry.

We live in a metaphorical lion’s den.

Daniel, prompted by prayer, exhibited gratitude in the middle of a horrible life-or-death situation. King Darius, stressed out and anxiety-ridden, decided in his own strength to try and rescue Daniel himself.

Before you get all tender-hearted for this hero-wanna-be, I’m pretty sure Darius’ rescue mission had to do with losing his best man, a key figure in his administration. The chapter opens with his great plans to promote Daniel to an even higher position. So, this had nothing to do with Daniel; this was about Darius and all he stood to lose if Daniel became dinner for some lions.

Darius could not deliver Daniel. In the meantime, Darius began spinning out of control. He was not only sleepless and peaceless, he was flat-out hopeless.

Daniel exhibited hope and peace. Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 4:13, “We do not grieve as those without hope.” We still grieve, but we have living hope. Faith helps us recognize the character of God when the all the world can see are the circumstances.

Our response is evidence of our faith.

When Daniel received bad news, he gave thanks. Daniel wasn’t thanking God for the bad news; he just knew there were plenty of reasons to give thanks based on God’s character rather than his circumstances. Gratitude prompted peace in his heart.

But if we walk away only hearing a try-harder, have-more-faith pep talk, we’ve missed the point entirely. These things—hope, peace, gratitude, faithfulness—aren’t ingredients for the perfect recipe for righteousness or a remedy for sin.

The recipe for righteousness and the remedy for sin has always been and will always be Jesus. Just Jesus.

These characteristics represent the visible fruit that comes from an invisible but thriving faith in a God who is greater than our circumstances. They depict how deeply our character changes when we put on the righteousness of Christ. Hope and peace and joy point to Christ within us.

It’s not about the size or the quality of our faith; it’s about the object of our faith. Mustard seed faith is all we need, Jesus says, as long as that faith is fixed on Him. As long as long He is the object of our faith.

As a young man Daniel relied on God not his circumstances. He is an old man at this point in his life, and this chapter reminds my heart that fruit takes time. Transformation is a gradual process.

Faith in God may not change every set of circumstances, but our faith in Christ over time changes us.

I remember when we got pregnant for the first time. We had tried for over three years at that point to conceive and infertility had left battle wounds all over my heart. My faith felt shaky, but we celebrated our hearts out, clueless that more heartbreak was right around the corner. We told everyone our news.

And then I miscarried.

Sitting in our living room, surrounded by devastation, my husband and I discussed how we would un-tell all these people. I remember so vividly this conversation with my husband, because God used him to speak truth into my life. I asked him, “What are we going to tell people?”

He looked right at me and said, “We’ll tell them God is good.”

My husband’s words to me were evidence of God at work within his heart, at work within our heart-breaking circumstances. His response was evidence of his faith. What will we tell them? We will tell them that God is good, because He is.

Even when circumstances aren’t good, God is still good. God’s goodness does not fluctuate because He does not change; He cannot change. God is constant.

Daruis’ signature on the decree meant Daniel’s situation could not be altered. Irrevocable. The stone at the mouth of the lion’s den and the king’s seal also indicated an unchangeable situation.

Daniel recognized His unchangeable God in the middle of his unchangeable circumstances.

Daniel knew nothing could change God. Nothing.  Not persecution or slander or oppression or rejection or accusation or life in a hostile culture. Not even a den full of lions. This incredible story highlights three aspects of God’s character that will never change.

God’s plan to rescue and redeem and restore cannot be altered.

King Darius was a powerful king, but he was powerless to change Daniel’s situation. The king’s plan involved keeping Daniel from the lion’s den altogether, but God’s rescue mission involved entering the lion’s den Himself.

God’s pursuit of us will never diminish.

God’s love fuels His plan. We are pursued and lavishly loved by God. Love prompted Jesus to willingly enter the dark, sin-infested pit of this world to suffer and serve and confront the lion. It was for love—so that we might live with God in an ongoing relationship forever and ever. Moved by a love that’s unchanging, God paid the price that we never could.

The power of the Holy Spirit within us cannot be revoked.

God promises the gift of His Spirit to all who believes in Jesus as an irrevocable deposit. His Spirit within us is proof of His promise. No matter how hard life gets, no matter how far we fall, God has promised He will never remove His Spirit.  This same Spirit was strong enough to shut the mouths of hungry lions and raise Jesus from the dead.  That’s the power at work within us!

God didn’t remove the threat from Daniel’s life; He rendered the threat powerless over Daniels’ life. The lions remained a part of Daniel’s story, but the lions could never overpower God.

We live in a metaphorical lion’s den. 1 Peter 5:8 says that our “enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” Our enemy will try to scare us into compromise, or get us to settle, back down, or stay in bondage, but he can’t touch our souls. He cannot harm us.

The lion is part of our story, but God has revealed how the story will end.

The conclusion of Daniel’s experience in the lion’s den mirrors Paul’s description of the very, very end for all who have claimed their salvation in Christ:

So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no harm was found on him, because he had trusted in his God. Daniel 6:23 (emphasis mine)

Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 1 Thessalonians 4:17

Jesus will return, and when He does, we will be lifted out of the lion’s den. Until then, God’s unchanging plan, pursuit, and power remind us that He is with present, working all things together for our good and His glory.

May we embrace the promises of a God who never changes even as we are dealt heartbreaking disappointments. Let us give thanks, in all circumstances, especially the unfavorable ones.

May we cling to the One who holds in His hand the whole mess of our lives and every broken way we take, the only One able to rescue and deliver us. May we rest in the companionship of Jesus, knowing that no matter what unfolds in the here and now, His love will usher us into eternity blameless and unscathed.

Jesus loves you,

Kelly

2

Threads of Impossibility

I hate folding laundry. Especially socks. I guess it’s more like pairing than folding. Inevitably, every time I do laundry, one sock always seems to lose its mate. Today, I reach into the laundry basket and retrieve—as expected—one tiny white sock, its matching partner nowhere to be found.

Hours later, as I climb scattered into my car to chase errands on my to-do list, I find the missing sock . . . underneath my seat.

A million different scenarios race through my mind as to how the lonesome sock wound up here, but I have neither the time nor mental stamina to narrow it down. I stash it next to me in the front seat and let the mundane inconveniences of daily life fling my eyes wide open.

I remember a time not too long ago when the thought of teeny tiny socks stuck underneath my seat seemed not only unlikely, but impossible. This sock represents so much more than my dreaded laundry day experience; it represents God’s promise to me kept; it represents miraculous healing I can’t quite explain; it represents the building up of my fragile faith, one baby step at a time.

This sock represents delicately thin threads of impossibility.

There are other threads of impossibility in my life: my parents’ marriage that should have never survived, but is now thriving… a childhood friendship that endured fourteen long years of silence before God redeemed it in the most gorgeous way… destructive habits I considered too deeply engrained within me that are today no longer a tethered part of me… You have your own, I’m sure.

Today, I realize something about each and every one of these that I’ve never considered before:

Someone had to reach out in faith.

Last month I gathered with a tiny group of women to pray. A girl I don’t know shared scripture from her own worn bible. She talked about creation and how everything we see—from the stars at night to the Grand Canyon to the beauty in a sunrise—are just the fringe of all God is.

She went on to talk about a woman who risked everything to reach out and touch the fringe of Jesus’ robe. Because she believed there was more. More for her life, more of His plan to discover, more of His power, more of His love.

When she touched those threads of impossibility, her entire life was altered.

The woman’s story is found in Chapter 5 of Mark’s gospel. She had been bleeding for twelve years, and after spending all she had trying to get better, wound up much worse than when she started out.

A brave thought skirted through her mind the day Jesus came to her town: “If only I touch his clothes, I will be healed.” (Mark 5:28 NET)

If only… If only I reach for the fringe of Him, for threads of the impossible.

She believed she would be healed, and she was . . . but Jesus gave her so much more. He not only healed her, but He saw her, listened to her, and spoke to her. This is the only time in scripture where Jesus uses the term “Daughter.”

Each time God heals me physically, emotionally, relationally, or spiritually, He never leaves it at that. He reminds me that He sees me, hears me, knows me.

There is a difference between brushing up against Jesus and reaching out to touch Him in faith.

The disciples questioned Jesus when He asked the crowd who touched Him. “You see the crowd pressing against you,” they said. (see Mark 5:31) But Jesus searched for the woman whose faith compelled her to touch the hem of his robe, mere threads of impossibility.

Fully God. Fully man. How is that even possible?

Maybe you’ve been there, too, wanting more than anything to reach out to Jesus. I cherish the threads of impossibility in my life, because each one reminds me that He reached out in love first.

All my reaching for Him is really just receiving Him.

Reaching requires courage, because it comes at a cost. The woman in this story recognized this as she fell at Jesus’ feet and told Him everything. Scripture says, “She told him the whole truth.” (see Mark 5:33) Jesus wants all of us. Every part. And He wants to give us more than we ask. He wants to give us the gift of an encounter with Him.

Go ahead and risk it all for the sake of knowing Him. He’s inviting you to give everything—the whole of it—over to Him and trust that He can accomplish the impossible in you.

Don’t settle for casual contact with Jesus here and there. You’ll never be content just gazing from a far. Reach out and touch Him.

Just the hem of His love changes everything.

Reach for what feels relationally impossible.

Reach for real answers to the same prayer you’ve prayed over and over and over.

Reach for the adventure just around the corner you’d never have the guts to dream up on your own.

Reach for the call to serve that will force you out of your comfort zone.

Reach for God’s power, unleashed in your small, daily moments.

Reach for your part in the family of God.

Reach for Jesus, the One who sees all of you, the One who knows you. Daughter, reach out. Let His touch transform you. An encounter with Jesus leaves every one of us radically changed.

Jesus loves you,

Kelly

4

The Miracle I Almost Missed

“I never wanted to walk that road again.” Tears well up in my eyes as I listen to my own shaky voice recount the story about the struggle and the miracle. It’s been quite some time since I’ve watched this four-minute version of my story. I close my eyes and remember the waiting parts, the longing parts, the heart-wrenching grieving parts.

“But, we trusted Him and took a step of faith.” My own words transport me back to a time when two people, hand in hand, took scared steps because He said so.

Watching yourself tell your own story helps you realize what you left out. I love that my story includes an unexpected miracle. But today, I want to talk about the part I’ve never shared.

I want to tell you about the other miracle I almost missed.

When God whispered to me, “I’m not finished here,” I never thought He would ask me to walk the same path I swore I’d never set foot on again. I couldn’t understand why He would ask me to return to a place that had been so painful and devastating.  He could have grown our family another way.

I never, ever wanted to be pregnant again.

It was too risky. I never wanted to experience the grief again. I didn’t think I could endure the weight of the fear caused by all the what-ifs. My husband felt the exact same way. But, God asked us to trust Him. So we went.

Something happened as we went, and I knew I’d never be the same again.

My heart’s response was “I trust you, Jesus.” It made no sense. I knew that I had little to do with what was happening on the inside. Whatever this was about, it had to be bigger than a baby. It had to be about more than just our family.

An entire year later, after many setbacks and failures, we found out that God really wasn’t finished yet. He reached down and handed us an unexpected gift that caught our entire family by surprise: a baby no one thought was possible. Not even me.

The road to pregnancy wasn’t paved with certainty. God didn’t remove all the hurt, but He guarded my heart and used each and every step to change my heart in miraculous ways. He wasn’t asking me to take a step to test my faith; He was asking me to take a step to grow my faith.

Those scared steps I took in faith led me to the sacred ground of transformation.

Our sweet baby girl is eighteen months old now. She’s the miracle everybody sees. She’s the miracle we photograph and measure each month as she grows right in front of our eyes. Every child is a miracle that points us to the Giver.

But a subtle, hidden miracle was taking place simultaneously. This miracle grew out of my absolute and undivided trust in the One who was leading us. It’s the miracle every single one of us who have trusted in Jesus will experience over and over again throughout our lifetime.

Jesus saves us once and for all, but He is never finished rescuing our hearts.

These miracles are so easy to miss. They aren’t measurable, and they’re often complicated, yet they happen every single day in the hearts of believers. These miracles happen as we walk towards Jesus.

Those scared steps I took in faith led me to the sacred ground of transformation.

There is a story about a missed miracle in the seventeenth chapter of Luke’s gospel. Ten lepers met Jesus on His way to Jerusalem. They stood at a distance and cried out to Him by name.

Leprosy was an incurable disease and was regarded as an awful punishment from God. The disease would gradually spread, taking over the entire body little by little. These ten men were begging for a miracle.

Maybe they had heard about all Jesus had done. Maybe someone had told them about another man whose leprosy immediately left when Jesus touched him. (See Luke 5:12-14)

I would have been expecting the exact same miracle that Jesus performed on that guy. For Him to touch me and heal me exactly like He had done before. My request would’ve involved something predictable and controllable.

I would’ve wanted a miracle I could measure.

When Jesus saw them, He spoke words that must have made their hearts sink. I can tell you I would not have known what to do with these six words: “Go, show yourselves to the priests.”

The priest’s role was to inspect the leper in order to determine if he was clean or unclean. If he was unclean, he had to live outside the city. A leper couldn’t communicate with anyone inside the city, and he couldn’t be touched. To be pronounced unclean was a horrible thing. (See Leviticus 13 and 14)

Jesus told these ten men to go back and stand where they once stood when a priest had pronounced an impossible verdict. He asked them to return to the same place where their reputations were painfully marred. He asked them to return to the origin of their isolation, the place where shame and hopelessness intersected.

Jesus said, “Go there.”

I wonder if they felt like I did when God asked me to return to the place I vowed I’d never again go. Did they weigh the risks involved with putting feet to that path? Did they rehearse their past heartbreak or relive the devastation?

I wonder what made them decide that this Jesus could be trusted.

These ten men went where Jesus told them to go. We don’t when or how or where exactly on that road it happened, but Scripture tells it beautifully: “And as they went, they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan.” Luke 17:14-16 (emphasis added) 

Cleansed. Healed. Two different words that might seem like synonyms, but to the Greek ear, they would have sounded very different. These words were chosen carefully to communicate a bigger story.

The Greek word for cleansed is katharizō. It means “cure, purify,” indicating that the man’s skin was no longer covered with leprosy. The word translated as healed is the Greek word iaomai, which means “made whole.”

Somewhere on that path, one man recognized that his skin as well as his heart had been transformed.

Jesus said to the man, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” Luke 17:19 (emphasis added) He could have used the word cleansed or the word healed, but Jesus used a completely different word, sōzō, which means “saved.” Jesus was saying, “Faith in me is your salvation.”

The fact that this man was a Samaritan was a big deal. Jesus was declaring that salvation was not only for the Jews but for Gentiles as well. Jesus came to save the entire world.

Many Jewish people in Jesus’ day were obsessed with asking for a sign. They were wrapped up with what God could do for them. Like me, they wanted miracles they could measure. The people in Jesus’ day missed that God had given them the greatest miracle of all time. They didn’t understand that nothing else could ever compare to all we’ve been given in Jesus Christ. Sometimes, we act just like them.

That day He met the lepers, Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem. He would ride into the city on a donkey and crowds of people would hail Him King. Many of those same people would cry, “Crucify Him,” by the end of the week. He was on the way to the cross to make an impossible situation right. He was on His way to restore broken hearts and pave the way for us to be made new.

The miracle begins when a heart plagued with mistrust makes the choice to trust Him.

If a leper’s condition improved and he was pronounced clean by the priest, a sacrifice was needed to restore him to the community. When Jesus spoke to the man who returned, He was revealing His authority. Jesus is the Great High Priest as well as the sacrifice. His blood is the only thing that can cure our leprous soul.

But Jesus doesn’t stop with cleansing us. He walks along the muddy path with us. He never, ever stops miraculously healing us from the inside out.

Only one out of ten recognized the miracle. Nine missed it entirely. I don’t want to be part of this statistic. I love to share how God grew our family and did the impossible, but what I cherish most about that path He led us down is how it changed me.

Trusting Jesus changed me and will continue to change me until the day I meet Him face to face.

When I think back to those words God whispered to me more than three years ago, I sense a whole new message. “I’m not finished here,” meant He would grow our family, and He has been so faithful.  But as I stare at the words on my screen today, I realize that He also meant He wasn’t finished with me.

Let it be said of all us: They trusted Jesus, and a miracle happened as they went.

Jesus loves you,
Kelly

 

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