MIRACLES TODAY

Craig Keener’s new book: Miracles Today: The supernatural work of God in the modern world. is not about miracles that took place in the first century (see his outstanding two-volume tome Miracles for that); this book is about miracles that occur today.

Miracles Today: The Supernatural Work of God in the Modern World. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2021

Keener is not one to throw ideas against walls to see if they’ll stick. Keener is one of the best-known scholars of the Bible and early Christianity in the world today. He is careful with his research and documents everything. The point of the book, as the back-cover states, is to demonstrate via examples “that miraculous works of God, which have been part of the experience of the church around the world since Christianity began, continue into the present.”

This stated goal is admirably accomplished by Dr. Keener. He commences the book by addressing a few preliminary questions. What is a miracle, anyway? Why do some people assume that miracles don’t happen? Do many people witness miracles? Do only Christians report Christian healings?

He then launches into the main portion of the book in which he briefly relates the details of hundreds of well-attested miracles, but especially healings. This middle section comprises about 75% of the book proper. At the end of the book, Keener addresses a few more key questions people often wonder about miracles. Why don’t we see more miracles in the West? What is the role of faith? What about when healing is temporary? What does the Bible say about non-healing?

Let us not be tardy in praying for the sick but be on time in step with the Holy Spirit.

I appreciate Keener’s candid honesty in acknowledging that most blind people who have received prayer are still blind, and most dead people prayed for are still dead (pp. 137, 202). He comments, “What we call miracles are still the exception rather than the rule,” (p. 221). But his main point is that whether you or I have personally witnessed a dramatic miracle or not, many significant and verifiable miracles have occurred and still occur in answer to the prayers of God’s people all around the globe.

One other thing I appreciate about this book is Keener’s acknowledgment that more dramatic miracles occur more frequently on the frontlines of Christian evangelism than they do where the church is well-established (pp. 31, 33 135, 183, 201, 203). He still affirms, however, that such dramatic miracles sometimes happen in the West, too (pp. 151, 203).

Practically, this book reminded me to stay expectant when I pray. In any way He chooses, and at any time He chooses, God may do something momentous to display His glory and help those who witness His mighty acts of mercy to trust Him more fully.

POWERLESS PRAYER

‘‘Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. James 5:14-15

The clearly expected outcome –the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up.’ In verses 17-18, James continues to assert the miraculous power of prayers, offered in faith:

‘Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.’ James 5:17-18

Clearly, James believed that prayers offered in faith would result in the physical, miraculous intervention of God. When we look at the life of Jesus, and the amount of time and energy he devoted to healing the sick, which was an expression of his deep compassion for the suffering, it is easy to see that James was closer to the truth than most Christians are today.

Jesus relied on miracles to confirm his words, moreover, He told us that those that believe in Him will do even greater works than He did. Do we really believe Him?

I assure you: The one who believes in Me will also do the works that I do. And he will do even greater works than these because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in My name, I will do it so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.John 14:12-14

Powerless prayers have been rendered as such by the long, slow erosion of faith among God’s people, and that erosion has been made possible by the embracing of false traditions. For example, the kind of prayers that close with ‘not my will but yours, be done’. This is not stated in faith, in expectation of an outcome, but more as a catch-all – ‘please ignore everything I just asked for, if it doesn’t suit you.’

This is not the model of discipleship we are to follow and teach, where we are completely unaware of the will of God, and our prayers are at best guesswork. Paul urges us to walk ever more closely with God, and increasingly understand his will.

‘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. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.’ Romans 12:1-2

As we yield to God’s mercy and walk closely with him, our ideas are changed. We jettison old ways of thinking, as healthier, more life-giving inspiration arises in His company, and as our minds are renewed, we become more attuned to Him and to His will. Only then, in our closeness with God, where His good, pleasing and perfect will is known, can we pray effectively.

In the early church, the lived experience of the Christian faith was far greater than it is today. There is much we have lost and must seek to restore. Back to the church as God intended as revealed in the Book of Acts.

Praying effectively: James sums it up well:

But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.’ James 1:6-8

 Adapted from the excellent article "The Prayer God Can’t Answer" by Duncan Edward Pile Patheos Nov. 23rd 2021

PRAY EXPECTANTLY

Do you pray expecting God to answer? In this prayer, note what David says after pleading his case; he watches expectantly. David expects God to respond.

Listen to my words, Lord; consider my sighing. Pay attention to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for I pray to You. At daybreak, Lord, You hear my voice; at daybreak I plead my case to You and watch expectantly. Psalms 5:1-3

Notice how specific David’s prayers were and how specific God’s replies.

And David inquired of the Lord, “Shall I pursue after this band? Shall I overtake them?” He answered him, “Pursue, for you shall surely overtake and shall surely rescue.” 1 Samuel 30:8

After this David inquired of the Lord, “Shall I go up into any of the cities of Judah?” And the Lord said to him, “Go up.” David said, “To which shall I go up?” And he said, “To Hebron.2 Samuel 2:1

God always prepares His servants, His people to do the job He calls them to do. Note, how God prepared the people to follow Joshua just as they did Moses. Likewise God will prepare you and all those that are to work with you, to do the job He has called you to do.

The Lord said to Joshua, “Today I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with you.Joshua 3:7

Just as God had Moses part the Red Sea to allow the Israelites to cross, he also had Joshua part the Jordan River to allow the Israelites to enter the Promised Land.

Then Joshua told the Israelites, “Come closer and listen to the words of the Lord your God.” He said: “You will know that the living God is among you and that He will certainly dispossess before you the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites, and Jebusites when the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth goes ahead of you into the Jordan... When the feet of the priests who carry the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, come to rest in the Jordan’s waters, its waters will be cut off. The water flowing downstream will stand up in a mass.” Joshua 3:9-13

There is power in prayer. When men work they work but when men pray, God works,

Just as David is a great example of how to pray correctly, sadly he also shows us what happens to our relationship with God when we sin as grievously as David did. First, we notice it separates us from God. God uses Nathan to tell David about the extensive consequences of his sin of killing Uriah and taking his wife Bathsheba.

Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’ Thus says the Lord, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house. And I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbour, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun.David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” And Nathan said to David, “The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die. Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord, the child who is born to you shall die.” 2 Samuel 12:10-14

Note this prayer of thanksgiving by David well after the grievous sin involving Uriah and Bathsheba. He had learnt an important lesson: “kept myself from sinning“.

He (Lord) rescued me from my powerful enemy and from those who hated me, for they were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my distress, but the Lord was my support. He brought me out to a spacious place; He rescued me because He delighted in me. The Lord rewarded me according to my righteousness; He repaid me according to the cleanness of my hands. For I have kept the ways of the Lord and have not turned from my God to wickedness. Indeed, I have kept all His ordinances in mind and have not disregarded His statutes. I was blameless before Him and kept myself from sinning. So the Lord repaid me according to my righteousness, according to my cleanness in His sight.” 2 Samuel 22:18-25

THE POSTSCRIPT TO ALL PRAYERS

Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.Luke 22:42-44

This is the most challenging prayer of all. Here we have Jesus asking His Heavenly Father to remove the coming experience of suffering and death on The Cross. Thank goodness Jesus added the postscript, “not My will but Your will be done” otherwise all of us would be consigned to Hell on Judgement Day.

When the German Christian mystic Meister Eckhart would pray he would qualify whatever he brought before God with the following words. “Lord, give me nothing but what you will and do Lord whatever and however you will in every way”.

I was reluctant to quote Eckhart as much of what he had to say has been picked up and misquoted by New Age thinkers but this quote is Biblical.

According to Eckhart therefore, none of our prayers can insist that God give us this virtue, or this thing, or this way of life but rather “Lord give me nothing but your will, and do Lord whatever and however in every way..”

We truly have learnt how to live the Christian life when we come to the knowledge that we are not in control and that God is working out His plans and purposes on His earth. Moreover, in the Bible, His written Word, He has given us a history of His world from its beginning and with prophecy, what He is doing now and will do right up to its end. Our prayers need to get in step with what He is doing on this earth, particularly in our sphere of influence. All prayers need to have the postscript “Not my will but yours be done” and probably our greatest prayer is a simple “Thank You“.

GOD ANSWERED PRAYER FOR OUR NATION – REPORT FROM CANBERRA DECLARATION

Last Friday, the Canberra Declaration (Protecting our Australian Values) launched the October Month of Prayer and Fasting for Family and Nation. The same day, Gladys Berejiklian resigned as NSW Premier. This was not an outcome we had specifically prayed for or foreseen. As far as Australia’s premiers go, we would have said that Berejiklian was one of the better ones.
Nevertheless, Berejiklian chose not to use her voice for the voiceless when it needed most. Almost exactly two years before her resignation, she had waved through horrendous abortion legislation that made abortion-to-birth legal in NSW. As Silvana Nile this week wrote, “It is a sobering reminder that we serve a God of Justice. He hears the cries of our hearts and He hears the cries of the blood on our land.”

On the 2nd of October, our 25-hour prayer event concluded. On the same day, the media began reporting that the most likely successor to Berejiklian would be Dominic Perrottet. Though the corporate press sought to smear him for his Catholic faith and large family, that is not God’s assessment.

Dominic and Helen Perrottet with five of their six children

Perrottet has an excellent track record on Christian values: he voted against the abortion bill and is a strong opponent of the euthanasia law that members of his party are seeking to push. New South Wales can only benefit from having a man of faith, a loving husband, and a father of six children at the helm.
Over the following two days, the Deputy Premier John Barilaro and senior cabinet minister Andrew Constance also resigned from the NSW parliament. Both of these men had been strong proponents of both abortion and euthanasia. As leader of the NSW Nationals, Barilaro oversaw an egregious erosion of values in what was once a Christian country party. We’re not sure how to summarise these events but to say that God has been cleaning house.
Early this week, Dominic Perrottet won his party’s ballot 39-5 to be confirmed as the 46th Premier of NSW. Normally we don’t comment in such detail on state politics, but it is hard not to see the hand of God as we have fasted and prayed for breakthrough in Australia and for Australia’s families.

Surely, this is enough evidence to encourage all Prayer Groups to persevere in prayer for their nation. I am confident that Kurt and Warwick of Canberra Declaration (www.canberradeclaration.org.au) are, as are their growing number of prayer warriors.

GOD’S NOT DEAD: WE THE PEOPLE

“We feel honoured to provide our faithful audience another instalment in the God’s Not Dead series that provides a compelling, timely, and convicting message,” Pinnacle Peak Pictures founding partner Michael Scott shared in a statement with The Christian Post. “The themes in this film reflect news headlines and encourage believers to remain strong in their fight to protect their spiritual rights and God-given freedoms.

God’s Not Dead : We The People is the next chapter in the faith-based film phenomena that began in 2014 with “God’s Not Dead” which starred Kevin Sorbo. Becoming one of the most profitable faith films of all time, the movie grossed over $65 million at the box office.

The film is a reflection of recent years’ headlines regarding the threats to “freedom of speech and religious liberties as the fundamental right to educate children.” Actors in this film include David A.R. White (“God’s Not Dead”), Isaiah Washington (“Grey’s Anatomy”), Antonio Sabato. Jr (“General Hospital”), and Grammy-winning Christian artist Francesca Battistelli.

“Reverend Dave (from the other GND films) is called to defend a group of Christian home-schooling families. He finds himself taken aback by the interference of the government, and believing that their right to educate their own children is a freedom worth fighting for,” the film synopsis reads. “Reverend Dave is called to Washington, D.C., to testify in a landmark congressional hearing that will determine the future of religious freedom in our country for years to come.”

This is an important and timely film make sure you watch for it and get the message out to your friends and family.

YOU TOO CAN ENCOUNTER GOD

What it takes to encounter God is complete surrender, nothing less will do. Glennys Hyland a single mum (mom) from Honduras discovered this critical truth. Like all of us Glennys struggled with the questions “Is God Real?”, “Can He, Will He help me?”

Struggling with these questions Glennys Hyland risked everything leaving her home country of Honduras. A single mom with two children immigrating to a new land, Glennys heard God say to her on the plane to America, “tell everyone that you get in contact with that I AM real”.

Sharing the real and vulnerable experiences of a woman’s daily walk with the Lord, Glennys shares in her book, “I AM REAL” how real God can be in life’s most challenging times. Through detailed recollections of the unexpected and disappointing seasons of life, Glennys tells of her struggles dealing with a spirit of fear, the sudden loss of loved ones, scars of rejection, the weight of homelessness, and overcoming sickness.

Encountering God and the practical instructions He gave her to live life in complete surrender to Him, Glennys discovered obedience resulted in constant interventions of God’s supernatural provision.

From healing for her soul, to a strong and healthy marriage, and experiencing countless souls converted to Christ Glennys shows us God is real and He wants to be real to you too.

Testimonies are powerful, make sure you use yours to good effect in the place God has put you.

GOD ANSWERS PRAYER

God is behind a massive wave of Muslims coming to Christ in the past 30 years according to David Garrison, executive director of the evangelical missions group Global Gates and author of A Wind in the House of Islam. Garrison has described his three years traveling the Islamic world and interviewing more than 1,000 Muslim-background believers. What I discovered was this remarkable surge and movement towards Jesus Christ coincided with the beginning of 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim world, 28 years ago this year,” Garrison said. He travelled 250,000 miles investigating movements where at least 1,000 Muslims in a community had been baptized into the Christian faith, but he never made the prayer link until he shared his findings with Paul Filidis of World Christian Concern, who helped launch the 30-Days of Prayer for the Muslim World in 1993.

1st 30 Days prayer guide
THE VERY FIRST EDITION OF THE 30 DAYS PRAYER GUIDE, FROM 1993

“I’d come back home and sit down with my friend Paul and I told him about these movements that we’re seeing probably 84% of all the movements that have ever happened in history have happened in the last 30 years, and that’s when Paul looked at me and said, ‘David that’s when we began 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim world.‘” While Muslims might not know that Christians are praying for them, God knows and He’s listening, Garrison said. “And as He promised our prayers are tearing down strongholds, they’re opening up hearts and they’re aligning us as Christians with God’s desire for the Muslim world to know His Son, Jesus Christ.”

All About 30 Days of Prayer

The purpose of 30 Days is to call Christians to pray with love and respect for Muslims around the world. In doing so, we hope to see:

+ Christians gain a better understanding about Muslim people, their faith and their various, diverse cultures.
+ An increase in efforts to respond with love and compassion to the needs of Muslims around the world.
+ A greater interest in Jesus among Muslim peoples.

We do this by hosting an annual prayer event coinciding with Ramadan each year, and creating prayer guide that enable Christians to pray regularly.

GETTING IN STEP WITH GOD

Teach Me Your Paths – Psalm of David (Psalm 25)

David understood the truth of God’s Word. “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened; but God has surely listened and heard my voice in prayer.” Psalm 66:18-19

What about us? Do we know God has heard our prayers as David did? Read what David had to say in this Psalm and then let us consider what we now have in Jesus and how we pray.

Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.Psalm 25:4-5

Good and upright is the LORD; therefore He instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble His way. All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep His covenant and His testimonies.” Psalm 25: 8-10

For your name’s sake, O LORD, pardon my guilt, for it is great. Who is the man who fears the LORD? Him will He instruct in the way that he should choose. His soul shall abide in well-being, and his offspring shall inherit the land. The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear Him, and He makes known to them His covenant. My eyes are ever toward the LORD, for He will pluck my feet out of the net.Psalm 25:11-15

We know David was a sinner (Bathsheba and Uriah) but he understood repentance and God’s forgiveness. He was a man who feared the Lord. God even said He was a man after God’s own heart. What does this mean? I think it means David knew and trusted God and was doing His best to live that out. What we need is humility in relation to ourselves and confidence in relation to God.

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Consider now what Jesus has provided for all who believe in Him as Lord and Saviour. Through His sacrifice, Jesus made it possible for our Heavenly Father to send the Holy Spirit to indwell our Spirit, to be our counsellor, teacher and comforter.

The Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And He who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” Romans 8:26-27

For us the Spirit is there revealing God’s will to us in the Scriptures and bringing God’s prayer concerns to life within us. He is searching our hearts and trying our ways so He can bring us to true repentance. He reveals the glory and goodness of God so that our prayers will be filled with praise and thanks.

We can be confident that God will hear when we come to Him. God answers every prayer that starts in heaven, every prayer born in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, every prayer based on a sure promise from His Word. As we pray to our Heavenly Father we need to acknowledge the Spirit and ask Him to help us to pray aright and to recognise His promptings that our prayers may be pleasing to our Heavenly Father and accomplish His purposes.

GOD ANSWERS THE GOVERNOR’S PRAYER IN WEST VIRGINIA

In West Virginia, not only are the number of COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations coming down, they’ve vaccinated more people per capita than almost any other state.  

West Virginia Governor Jim Justice credits God and common sense as the State leads U.S. in vaccine rollout.

Jim Justice realises God exists and that He loves to respond to the heartfelt, repentant prayers of His children. Their success was due in large part because Jim prayed on behalf of the State of West Virginia. The governor proclaimed March 25th of last year as a statewide day of prayer. He urged West Virginians to pray for God’s mercy and intervention with the coronavirus during a virtual prayer service at the state capitol.

“But Father, I pray for all of us in our great state that You will intervene now and hear our words as I know You will, and someway, somehow intervene to stop this terrible virus,” Justice prayed. 
 
The governor says although they’ve seen their share of tragedy and loss of life, he knows God has been with them through it all. He has surely guided the boat since that day, (that we prayed) I can promise you that. This State is blessed because they have a Governor who believes in God’s goodness and His promises and acts accordingly.