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.

GOD AT WORK IN UKRAINE (PART 2)

Christians are living out Jesus’ teachings as Ukrainians flee invasion. A movement of love, generosity sweeps Poland as it opens arms to Ukrainians 

 More than 60% of the 110 Poland Baptist churches are responding to the needs of Ukrainian refugees.

CHELM, Poland — With little more than the clothes on their back, hundreds of Ukrainian women and children wait hours in line to cross into Poland as part of the largest movement of people in Europe since World War II. They shuffle their feet quietly, even apprehensively, toward an unknown future in an unfamiliar country.

They’re stunned when they arrive. Volunteers have taped Ukrainian flags in their car windows and signs in Ukrainian reading, “free rides to shelter.” The drivers take the refugees to the Baptist church in Chelm, only a few kilometers up the road where people from around the world — Poland, Latvia, England, the United States, to name a few — are offering a place of safety and security for a few hours, few days or as long as they need it.

Families sit in stunned silence in an impromptu reception area where church volunteers tell the refugees the church has free food, drinks, showers, and places to sleep. The congregation even has a set-up children’s area where they can play with bubbles or watch educational videos projected on a screen.

“What we’re seeing is a movement of love and generosity across this nation. Poles are opening their doors and arms to Ukrainians. They are taking them into their churches. They are taking them into their homes. They are feeding them. They are caring for them,” said Marek Glodek, president of the Baptist Union of Poland.

“This is what Jesus calls His believers to do all the time. Polish Christians are taking the teachings of Jesus seriously and living them out each day during this situation.”

More than 60% of the 110 Poland Baptist churches are responding to the needs of Ukrainian refugees, many of them in dramatic and radical ways.

At a warehouse in Chelm, donations for Ukrainians are coming in as fast as they are going out to Ukraine and to shelters across Poland. The deliveries continue even after Russia intensifies attacks on the western portion of Ukraine.

In north Poland, church members installed new insulation, air conditioning, heating, electrical lines and beds in an old summer camp to revitalize it to house refugees.

Near the Belarus border, a church is providing shelter for about 50 people and sending supplies into Ukraine despite increased Russian aggression. 

“More than 1.5 million Ukrainians have sought safety in Poland,” said Mickey Lenamon, TBM executive director and CEO. “Baptists worldwide have joined together to meet their needs. TBM is honored to be part of that, whether it is through funding, sorting and loading donations in-country, setting up beds, or even doing the little things that are needed like cleaning floors and toilets. We see what believers throughout the region are doing and are seeking to do likewise: follow Christ daily and share His love.”

GOD AT WORK IN THE UKRAINE (PART 1)

Miracles are taking place in Ukraine, despite the horror of war, according to the Deputy General Secretary of the Ukrainian Bible Society. Anatoliy Raychynets, who is based in the capital Kyiv, says more and more people are turning to Christianity to find light in the darkness since the Russian invasion began, and he says the power of God is preventing even worse devastation.

Day by day, women with small kids are running here outside our office in the streets to find the basement bombing room to hide themselves there. Many people are crying out to help them to get out of Kyiv.

Bibles bring comfort in the midst of devastation

“Many people haven’t eaten for 3 or 4 days. There are many elderly people living in apartments around my office who cannot go outside because of illness. They just sit inside waiting for a miracle that someone will come to them. They call us “Angels!” when we find they need medical help and bring medicine and bread.” Despite the risks, Raychynets and his team help distribute food and medical supplies to local people, along with Bibles and resources. He says that many people ask for the Bibles, even if they haven’t previously had a faith. “Yesterday we were in a park to deliver bread to elderly people who were coming together and waiting for us so that they could have fresh bread. I always have Bibles in my car so that children can have Bibles for the bomb shelters and I can distribute to basements where people, ladies and children are hiding themselves. But one lady saw the Bibles in the car and asked to have one.

“There were about 80 or 90 people there and they just came to the car and asked for the Bibles.  One man stood there with bread in one hand and the Bible in the other. He said ‘I think the Bible is more important than the bread. I have never prayed before. I have never been to church.’ He was about 70 years old and had never read the Bible. But he said he knew now was the time to come to God and be closer to God. “We meet so many people like that. Over the last two weeks here in Kyiv we are seeing people who had never had a Bible before, never prayed before, but who are now asking for us to pray for them on the streets, at homes, everywhere. “People are searching for their faith because they know a miracle has to happen to resolve this situation. We don’t see any diplomatic or other solutions, we just know and understand deep inside only God can make some changes and stop this horrible war.”

But even in the amidst of the horrors of war, Raychynets says God is at work and miracles are happening. “We are very grateful to all of you who are standing with us in prayer and solidarity. I want to tell you that with prayer we see so many miracles. I have seen personally many miracles over the last 16 days – when bombs or rockets have fallen but not exploded and lots of lives have been saved because of that. Russian tanks have been left because they were empty of fuel and soldiers have run off. “In Odessa, in the Black Sea, there has been a storm for four days and ships couldn’t come closer to the city to shoot rockets. So prayers are already bringing results and miracles are saving a lot of lives.” Even as a Pastor, Raychynets says it is difficult to see so much pain and suffering.

This difficult situation is already changing our nation and changing our attitude to life. People are standing together, people are helping each other. I see so much of God’s love, in spite of war here. I think that Ukraine will come out of this situation like a real Christian nation that believes in God. It’s very evident that God does use catastrophes for His purposes and sadly they are needed to bring people to understand what is truly important in life. God is in control of His world and only His eternal purposes are of real significance.

WHEN GOD’S DISCIPLES GO MIRACLES FOLLOW

Missionaries working with Southern Baptist Convention (IMB) reported baptisms were up 81% from 2019 to 2020 (the most recent year for which data is available), and salvation testimonies continue to pour in.

The increases are particularly significant in a denomination where many cite missions as their reason for joining and staying.

Typical Testimony: A 53-year-old Thai man with chest pain went to see an IMB medical missionary outside Bangkok. The man collapsed in the clinic and regained consciousness only after the IMB missionary, a physician, performed emergency medical procedures.

As they waited for an ambulance, the man prayed to receive Christ, prompting the doctor to ask, “When did you start to become interested in God ’s story?”

National IMB missionary preaching to Thai congregation

The man pointed to the place on the floor where he collapsed and said, “Right there. Before that, I had never been interested at all. But when I collapsed, I heard God call my name three times, and I knew he was warning me.”

That wasn’t an isolated incident, according to IMB reports. The evangelistic surge, missiologists say, is attributable to the fact we are there (obedient to God’s call), the pandemic, and the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit. Several years ago under David Platt, IMB transferred ministries from missionaries to national partners.

“We have seen the Holy Spirit working across the globe in mighty ways,” said Wilson Geisler, IMB director of global research. One missionary team “saw the first believers among an incredibly tough-to-reach people group.” Another “saw more people coming to faith in 2020 than in the previous three years combined.

Jesus promised that in the last days before His return the GOSPEL, the GOOD NEWS, the only good news in a time of tribulation will be proclaimed throughout the whole world. Do you want to be part of the team proclaiming the GOOD NEWS? You can be like David (“I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.” Acts 13:22), just obey the indwelling Holy Spirit.

And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.Matthew 24: 14

BEING OBEDIENT TO THE HOLY SPIRIT PROMPTINGS

Faithwire screenshot
Tim talks about the importance of being obedient to the prompting of the indwelling Holy Spirit

Tim Halfin, a regional director for a pharmacy in Magnolia, Texas, is giving God all the glory after he miraculously found a little boy who had been lost in the woods for three days.

Halfin, who is a Christian, explained to Faithwire he was sitting in a Bible study on Friday when he learned about 3-year-old Christopher Ramirez, who went missing two days earlier after he chased a dog into the woods.

During our prayer for this little boy,” he said, “the Holy Spirit just popped in me, ‘Tomorrow morning, you’ll go look for him,’ and I did. There’s been a few times in my life that the Holy Spirit has really spoken to me and I’ve obeyed and, of course, the outcome is always great.

Christopher had been missing since around 1:30 p.m. Wednesday. Local law enforcement officials, community members, and the little boy’s mother had been searching for the toddler to no avail. Halfin joined the search just before noon Saturday.

As he was looking, Halfin recalled hearing noises in the woods, though he wasn’t sure if it was Christopher. He nevertheless called sheriff’s deputies, who arrived on ATVs, clearly discouraged by the lack of success they’d had in finding the lost little boy.

It wasn’t too long after that Halfin found Christopher, who had shed all his clothing, even his shoes. He had no protection whatsoever.

GMA/YouTube sceenshot

When I saw him, it was immediately, ‘Praise God! This is answered prayer!’” Halfin said, adding that the look on the child’s face when he picked him up was, “I’ve been waiting for you, where have you been?”

“I think God had been protecting this little boy all along,” he continued. “I think Jesus had been talking to him for three nights and now going on four days.”

As a believer, Halfin said he always knew God could perform miracles; he’d read about them all throughout Scripture. But now he has been part of one.

Tim went on to say there is “no explanation” for the rescue, noting he believes God performed three miracles for Christopher.

No. 1, he was protected against all these elements. There are a lot of predators in those wood, wild animals.

No. 2, he would survive for as long as he did without water.

No. 3, he would be found really miles away from where they were even looking for him.

Halfin said, “My prayer is for those who don’t see this as a miracle, that they would come to know Jesus and then they would know that it only had to be a miracle.”

At the centre of the story, Halfin said, is God. He told Faithwire he’s “regretful” so many have focused on him in the story, saying the miraculous outcome for Christopher is truly about “what the Lord has done here.”

The little boy’s mother, Araceli Nunez, is a “strong woman of faith,” Halfin said.

“She knew from the beginning that God was gonna bring her son back to her,” he added. “In between that point, there was a lot of prayers lifted up … and then, at the end, the Lord led me to him and just answered everybody’s prayer right there.”

WHAT IS GOD’S CALL ON YOUR LIFE?

“You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. These things I command you, that you love one another.” John 15:16-17

The following testimony from Joseph Kazembe from Malawi shows he is a chosen one, who has obeyed God’s command to go and bear fruit. Joseph is part of a new youth ministry, yOUT that has reached over 1,400 young people already in one year! yOUT leads them to not only the best gift of all — Jesus Christ— but also helps them discover His call on each of their lives.

Pastor Jeff Daly explains: “YOUT sprung up under our repentance ministry, national day of repentance (http://www.dayofrepentance1.org). We focus on teaching Matthew 4:17 and then John 15:16 giving each young person the unique calling on their life. All Christian denominations are included:  we give each participant a banner bearing simply “JEHOVAH NISSI”
We believe this new “wine skin” is directly from Him in these end times and He started in the very impoverished nation of Malawi to show that it is from HIM alone!”

Joseph Kazembe has left a significant position and salary in a major denomination to travel, sometimes on foot, to deliver the Gospel message all throughout Malawi. Here is his most recent email.
“Today is July 31st, we are believing God for great testimonies from young people this coming month. God continues to show us the importance of this ministry. Young people need hope, just a few minutes ago l received a message from Mathew, one of our translators, that his brother killed himself this morning by suicide. Apart from that many young people are catching Covid 19 and dying. This third wave is killing many young people. Let’s pray for Mathew too in his time of trouble. I am writing to remind the team to pray for our budget for Mchisi. We have only 6 days to go and we still need to book accomodation in Chikondi ,Hamidah and Henderson. Prayer moves the hearts of people to do something l thank you all for your prayers. Printing of additional repentance route booklets is needed as many pastors needs the booklet in Mchisi.”
Joseph Kazembe

As many of you know I support the Kenya House Church Movement in Kenya and have been seeking donations to fund new Missional trips and for Bibles for the new House Churches that are being established in these new regions. Here is another request for funds this time for repentance route booklets for Malawi. If you would like to help you can use the Donations icon on the Home Page. I would also appreciate an email to ron@bakb.com.au to let me know how you would like to be involved, e.g. I connect with the KHC leaders every 3 months by Zoom. It would be good to have other supporters join the Zoom meetings.

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.

AMAZING TESTIMONIES OF WHAT GOD IS DOING IN IRAN

This amazing article by Daniel Pipes (DanielPipes.org@DanielPipes) President of the Middle East Forum appeared in Newsweek magazine Friday, July 9th 2021.

Something religiously astonishing is taking place in Iran, where an Islamist government has ruled since 1979: Christianity is flourishing. The implications are potentially profound.

Consider some testimonials: 

David Yeghnazar of Elam Ministries stated in 2018 that “Iranians have become the most open people to the gospel.”

The Christian Broadcast Network found, also in 2018, that “Christianity is growing faster in the Islamic Republic of Iran than in any other country.” 

Shay Khatiri of Johns Hopkins University wrote last year about Iran that “Islam is the fastest shrinking religion there, while Christianity is growing the fastest.”

This trend results from the extreme form of Shi’ite Islam imposed by the theocratic regime. An Iranian church leader explained in 2019: “What if I told you the mosques are empty inside Iran? What if I told you no one follows Islam inside of Iran? …What if I told you the best evangelist for Jesus was the Ayatollah Khomeini[, the founder of the Islamic Republic]?” An evangelical pastor, formerly an Iranian Muslim, concurred as far back as 2008: “We find ourselves facing what is more than a conversion to the Christian faith. It’s a mass exodus from Islam.”

As a clandestine phenomenon, the practice of what are sometimes called Muslim Background Believers (MBBs) lacks clergy and church buildings, but instead consists of self-starting disciples and tiny house churches of four to five members each, with either hushed singing or none at all. Its lay leadership, in striking contrast to the mullahs who rule Iran, consists mainly of women.

In another contrast to the government, Iranian MBBs tend to be fervently pro-Israel. They are, explains a documentary, “bowing their knees to the Jewish Messiah—with kindled affection toward the Jewish people.” Converts have even expressed a hope to build a “resistance church” in Iran to counter regime threats to Israel.

Given the Iranian house church movement’s underground nature, estimates of its size are necessarily vague. Open Doors found 370,000 Muslim Background Believers in 2013 and 720,000 in 2020Duane Alexander Miller approximates as many as 500,000, Hormoz Shariat at least one million and GAMAAN even more than that.

The mullahs have usually responded with predictable repression that includes prohibiting Christian missionaries and Gospel preaching. The U.S. State Department reported in 2012 that “government officials frequently confiscate Christian Bibles and pressure publishing houses printing Bibles…to cease operations.” Also, Christians “reported the presence of security cameras outside their churches.”

Iranian authorities routinely arrest and jail MBBs, often for extended periods; for example, the United Nations reported in 2013 on “more than 300 Christians” who were arrested in the prior three years, mostly for vague security-related offenses. An inquiry found that “those arrested have been subjected to intensive and often abusive interrogation.”

The punishment can be severe: In 1990, for example, the Rev. Hossein Soodmand was executed for apostasy. In 2008, the government advanced legislation to impose the death penalty on anyone born to Muslim parents who converts to another faith. Indeed, “as more Iranians convert,” Khatiri notes, “their situation is getting worse.”

“You’re creating problems in the country,” an Iranian convert reported being told during a 2018 police interrogation. In this spirit, Iran’s Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi in 2019 spoke of his ministry’s research into conversions to Christianity, its questioning of ordinary people to explain their motives and its efforts to “counter the advocates of Christianity.” Iran’s leading Islamic seminary sees the domestic fight against Christianity as one of its top priorities, and former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reportedly once vowed to “stop Christianity in this country.” The supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, blames house churches on “Zionists and other enemies.”

Indeed Lela Gilbert and Arielle Del Turco argue that the regime considers Christianity “an existential threat.” And it should, notes Reza Safa, the Iranian-born founder of Nejat TV (“ministering to Muslims living in Farsi-speaking nations”), who titled a book The Coming Fall of Islam in Iran. He sees Iran’s Christians as “an army of God” who are bringing Iran to “the brink of another revolution, this time orchestrated” by a Christian spirit.

If this analysis is even partially correct, the consequences are enormous. The collapse of Khomeini’s regime would not only fundamentally alter the balance of power in the Middle East; it would also likely terminate the region-wide Islamist surge that Iranian revolutionaries forwarded in 1978-79, ending the malign historical cycle that largely began in Iran.

COVID 19 WILL BE GOOD FOR THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST

God’s word reminds believers that “for those who love God all things work together for good” (Romans 8:28, ESV). Meaning, ultimately, COVID-19 will be good for the church of Jesus Christ. Of all the things believers are promised in scripture, bodily safety is not one of them. In fact, it says the opposite!

We are told by the Apostle Paul that “all who desire to live godly lives shall suffer” (2 Timothy 3:12).

Aside from whatever physical and emotional scars the coronavirus might leave upon the body of Christ, we can be sure that, in time, this event will produce wonderful fruit. As backwards as it may sound, Let’s welcome this reality. It is as Charles Spurgeon once said, “I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages”.

Remember most viruses play a useful role in the design of God’s universe

The ugly idol of personal safety has plunged its jagged thorns deep inside the hearts of not only American Christians bot those in most affluent nations. Decades of excessive comforts and conveniences have created lazy, self-serving, inward-looking Christians. Many have forgotten how to trust God for provision. Instead, we have looked to ourselves, our stocked supermarkets, our full refrigerators, and our 401ks (pension plan) to provide the assurance that our future’s are secure. Throughout history, God has often allowed outside forces and tragedies to remind His people to look only to Him for comfort and assurance. We should remember this as we wander into the unknown of the Coronavirus pandemic. Lest we forget, the Israelites wandered the desert 40 years as they learned to trust God for daily provisions.

Whatever trials the days ahead may bring, it seems certain our faith will be tested. How will you choose to respond?

Extracted from a great article Christians, COVID-19, and the Dangerous Idol of Personal Safety by Jack Wells, www. patheos .com