The #2 Reason We Don’t See Miracles

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Answer: WE MAKE EXCUSES

Benjamin Franklin said, “He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.”

The writer of Proverbs wrote, “The lazy man is full of excuses. “I can’t go to work!” he says. “If I go outside, I might meet a lion in the street and be killed!”

Try that one with your boss.

Soren Kierkegaard talks seriously how excuses damage our world when he says, “For like a poisonous breath over the fields, like a mass of locusts over Egypt, so the swarm of excuses is a general plaque, a ruinous infection among men, that eats off the sprouts of the Eternal.”

Excuses, we have all have them and make them.

There are 3 that stop miracles.

Excuse #1: What difference can I make?

The statistics seem overwhelming.
The problems seem insurmountable.
The odds seem to be against us.

There are more people in slavery today than in the 18th century:

Trafficking is the third largest illegal trade behind illegal weapon trade and drugs.

Every fourteen seconds a child is orphaned by AIDS.

500,000 children are in foster care in the United States; 118,000 are eligible for adoption.

Over 70% of sex trafficking in U.S. comes from kids who have aged out of the foster system.

Seemingly overwhelming statistics paralyze us and influence us to ask the question, “What difference can I make”, which ultimately then turns into an excuse to do nothing.

When Jesus told us to follow him for the sake of the hurting, the poor and those who are facing horrific injustice, he didn’t say to do it if it looks like you can make a difference.

He just said, “Follow Me.”

And when he did, people made excuses about why they couldn’t.

And his response to them was, “No procrastination. No backward looks. You can’t put God’s kingdom off till tomorrow. Seize the day.”

Miracles happen when we seize the day and act in obedience to a need, against all odds, simply because it is the right thing to do.

We can and are making a much bigger difference than we think.

Dr. Scott Todd writes, “We can end extreme poverty in our lifetime and see God get the credit and we can do it engaging and practical ways of putting our faith into action to impact our world.”

In the last 30 years, extreme poverty has been cut in half from 52% to 26%. (Miracle)

Between 1990 and 2010, maternal mortality worldwide dropped by almost 50%. (Miracle)

AIDS related deaths are down 24%. (Miracle)

But more miracles can happen if everyone of faith will change the question from “What difference can I make?”  to “How many miracles will happen if I choose to be obedient with what I’ve been given?”

The potential miracles are mind-blowing!

If 1 out of every 3 churches in America would find one family to adopt one kid there would be no orphans in America:

If the 138 million American Christians who attend church at least twice per month were to tithe, their income is 2.5 trillion, it would result in 250 billion dollars per year in philanthropy.

World renown economist Jeffrey Sachs says that we could eradicate stupid, preventable poverty with just 78 billion dollars a year.

Imagines the miracles, which seem insurmountable, if we are just simply obedient!

“No procrastination. No backward looks. You can’t put God’s kingdom off till tomorrow. Seize the day.”

Excuse #2: It’s too hard

Helen Keller became deaf & blind at the age of 19 months, but grew up and became the first deaf and blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree.

Sydney J. Harris says, “When I hear somebody sigh, ‘Life is hard,’ I am always tempted to ask, ‘Compared to what?’”

Most things worth doing in this life are hard.
Most things that change the world are hard.

Miracles are God intervening when we are willing to do the hard work.

Dr. Troy Dickson and his wife Kim, she has a degree in global health, moved with their two daughters from their comfortable home and lifestyle in California, to the intense and difficult streets of New Delhi, India to help start, against all odds, a home for girls who can be rescued from the horrors of sex trafficking.

With so much government bureaucracy, red tape and a culture of ignoring this horrific injustice, Troy and Kim decided that no matter how hard and seemingly impossible this might be, they said yes to the challenge and within a year, Courage Homes opened and the miracles have begun.

This email came from the directors when the home had just opened: “Just wanted to rejoice and share with you, and beg for your prayers! Courage Homes in India just got EIGHT girls from a brothel raid on GB Road (big red light district in Delhi) yesterday! That puts us at 12 girls, which is our bed capacity right now. We have a high profile case right now, which has resulted in a lot of arrests of people in the trafficking rings and awakened the whole nation to the issues of trafficking – laws are even being changed because of it. God is definitely in the middle of what we are doing! Our licensing procedures are being sped up because the government is really recognizing the value of a home devoted to the healing of these girls, and only because the home has been so safe and nurturing have the girls been willing to testify against the perpetrators and tell their stories. It’s amazing!”

I heard a former FBI agent and now an employee of International Justice Mission who is on the front lines of rescuing girls from sex trafficking in some of the most dangerous places in the world say, “Find out the hard things God is asking you to do and do them. It will be the greatest thing you will ever do.”

Watch this 2 minute video before we get to the last excuse that stops us from seeing miracles.

Excuse #3: I’m too old or I’m too young to make a difference

The video you just watched ends this argument.

Throughout the history of the world, God has used the young and the old alike to bring about change and progress.

Anne Frank was 12 when she wrote the diary of Anne Frank.

God spoke through a little boy named Samuel in order to correct the evil religious leaders who were ignoring justice.

Nelson Mandela was 76 when he became president of South Africa.

Abraham and Sarah had been collecting social security for years when she gave birth to Isaac.

Albert Einstein was only 26 when he wrote the theory of relativity

Josiah became the king of Israel when he was only 8 years old, eventually purging Israel of idols and leading a spiritual revival.

Dr. Seuss was 54 when he wrote “The Cat in the Hat”

JRR Tolkien was 62 when the “The Lord of the Rings” books came out.

My friend, Eldon Bough, at the age of 86, serves 75 meals weekly with “Meals on Wheels” to the elderly and sponsors 22 children through Compassion International, helping to create a huge dent in eradicating child poverty.

Martin Luther King Jr. was only 34 when he gave the speech “I have a dream”

Jesus of Nazareth was only 33 when he saved the world.

It is never too soon and it is never too late to be a part of a miracle. It just takes eliminating the excuses.

What are some of the excuses in your life that are keeping you from being a part of a miracle?

“I am only one. But still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something: Yet, just because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something I can.” Helen Keller

The #1 Reason We Don’t See Miracles

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Simple answer: WE JUDGE.

Even though Jesus stated very succinctly, “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others and the standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.”

Yet we still judge.
What kind of lifestyle do they have?
What political party do they belong to?
What kind of responsibility have they taken in their life?
What kind of faith do they cling to?
What theology do they hold?

WE JUDGE and often times, very subtly and smugly, we decide who should receive a miracle.

The prophets never said, “Love, serve and defend if you approve of the way they are living”, or “Love, serve and defend if you think they deserve it”, or “Love, serve and defend if you think they will appreciate it.”

They just declared, “LOVE, SERVE, DEFEND!”

Judging might help justify not getting involved.

In the ninth chapter of John, the disciples ask Jesus whose fault was it that a man was born blind.

They inquired, “Was it his fault or his parents?”

2000 years later we could ask, “Jesus, why was this little boy born HIV positive? Whose fault is it? Why was this young girl born in a dangerous, drug infested no hope neighborhood? Whose fault is it? Why have these kids, on the border of Mexico, been orphaned? Whose fault is it anyway? Why are people addicted? Why are people homeless? Why are people lonely? Whose fault is it?”

Nothing wrong with asking why, but we can get stuck on the why and justify our lack of involvement by judging.
They were promiscuous.
They were lazy.
They were sinful.

We can get so theologically convoluted, we can miss the whole point and more tragically we can miss the miracle.

Jesus answered his disciples, “It was not anyone’s fault. This man was born blind, so that God’s mercy could be demonstrated.”
And a miracle happened. The blind man’s eyes were opened.

I don’t know the answers to all the “whys” of this world but I do know this:

When a baby born HIV positive is offered God’s mercy by being given an antiretroviral drug, a miracle happens.

When a prostitute is offered God’s mercy by being loved by a local church and given support, resources and life skills to change her life, a miracle happens.

When a homeless person is offered God’s mercy by being given shelter, food and transportation, a miracle happens.

When a foster child is offered God’s mercy by being given a healthy home and support system, a miracle happens.

When a person far from faith is offered God’s mercy in a grace-filled church service, a miracle happens.

There are a lot of dark places of judging in our world today.
There are a lot of hopeless people who have been judged.
There are a lot of people who don’t know where to turn for help and the church has too often judged “who” they are and “why” they are where they are at, to decide if they are worthy of being offered God’s mercies and miracles.

Jesus asks people of faith to not judge. It’s that simple.
The book of James in the New Testament reminds us, “There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?”

It is important to remember what the scriptures DO NOT say:

Treat those that work for you fairly and give them what they earn…if the economy is good.

Share your food with the hungry…if they are thankful.

Shelter those who are helpless, poor and destitute…if it wasn’t their fault.

Clothe those who are cold…if they are working on their issues.

Don’t hide from relatives who need your help…if they will pay you back.

Love those who are hurting…as long as you approve of their lifestyle.

Make sure those who are in prison know they are not alone…as long as they say they are sorry.

The scriptures are very clear:
Care for the orphan.
Defend the widow.
Rescue the girl that has been sex-trafficked.
Love the foreigner.
Invite into your home the alien.
Visit the prisoner.
Accept the rejected.
Lift off the burdens of people who have been crushed by religion.

No caveats. Just do it.
Offer mercy so miracles can happen.

We have all been created equal so I have a question for you. What race, socioeconomic, political, religious, lifestyle or age group do you struggle with judging?

A gay person?
A democrat?
A homeless person?
A drunk?
A republican?
A Muslim?
A relative?
A neighbor?
A co-worker?

I challenge you to offer them mercy, let God break your heart and prepare for a miracle.

Sometimes the greatest way we can start to offer mercy is to pray!

One of the most powerful prayers I have read was uncovered from the horrors of Ravensbruck concentration camp.
Ravensbruck was a concentration camp built in 1939 for women.
Over 90,000 women and children perished in Ravensbruck, murdered by the Nazis.
Corrie Ten Boom, who wrote “The Hiding Place”, was imprisoned there too.

The prayer, found in the clothing of a dead child, says: “Lord, remember not only the men and woman of good will, but also those of ill will. But do not remember all of the suffering they have inflicted upon us: Instead remember the fruits we have borne because of this suffering, our fellowship, our loyalty to one another, our humility, our courage, our generosity, the greatness of heart that has grown from this trouble. When our persecutors come to be judged by you, let all of these fruits that we have borne be their forgiveness.”

Wow! That last line gives me chills and brings with it a deep conviction to my heart.

I really do believe the #1 reason we do not see miracles is because we judge instead of offer mercy.

Luckily, God did not let the “who” or the “why” get in the way of his mercy.

The words of Brennan Manning share with us the gracious mercy of God that led to the ultimate miracle that reverberates throughout the infinity of time.

“Because salvation is by grace through faith, I believe that among the countless number of people standing in front of the throne and in front of the Lamb, dressed in white robes and holding palms in their hands. (see Revelation 7:9)

I shall see the prostitute from the Kit-Kat Ranch in Carson City, Nevada, who tearfully told me that she could find no other employment to support her two-year-old son.

I shall see the woman who had an abortion and is haunted by guilt and remorse but did the best she could faced with grueling alternatives.

I shall see the businessman besieged with debt who sold his integrity in a series of desperate transactions.

I shall see the insecure clergyman addicted to being liked, who never challenged his people from the pulpit and longed for unconditional love.

I shall see the sexually abused teen molested by his father and now selling his body on the street, who, as he falls asleep each night after his last ‘trick’, whispers the name of the unknown God he learned about in Sunday school.

‘But how?’ we ask. Then the voice says, ‘They have washed their robes and have made them white in the blood of the Lamb.’

There they are. There ‘we’ are – the multitude who so wanted to be faithful, who at times got defeated, soiled by life, and bested by trials, wearing the bloodied garments of life’s tribulations, but through it all clung to faith.

My friends, if this is not good news to you, you have never understood the gospel of grace.”

5 Things Every Church Should Do (Part 4)

Vanessa was born into a broken world on November 3rd, 1989.

She was loved, but she didn’t love herself.

When she was 2, her father died in a motorcycle accident in Southern California.

Her mother was 21 years old with 2 small children, no job, no education and life became chaotic.

Sadness, anger and regret filled their lives, though no one ever talked about it.

Vanessa learned at a very early age to stuff deep hurts and play the part of a happy kid.

She played a lot of make believe, numbing herself to the reality of sadness, loneliness, pain and guilt.

Her other coping skills were eating too much and hurting herself.

Vanessa and her family went to church occasionally but her perception of God was that “He had a lot of rules that, if broken, would send me straight to Hell. The whole thing just wasn’t appealing.”

Her mother met a man and the family moved to Colorado and Vanessa felt like she was starting a new life with a new dad.

Everything seemed perfect until at the age of 10, she was molested by a 40-something-year-old neighbor, but she never told anyone about it, not realizing that anything out of the ordinary happened.

Vanessa’s mom got engaged, Vanessa’s mom got cancer, Vanessa’s mom’s new fiancé could not face the storm and he left.

Once again, Vanessa faced abandonment.

While her mom was getting medical treatment, Vanessa and her sister would stay up all night and began to drink alcohol and smoke marijuana.

They moved back to California and the partying intensified.

When she entered high school her life was spinning out of control though on the surface you would not know.

She was in honor classes with high grades, involved in water polo, swimming, school plays, dance class, journalism, a statistician for wrestling and assisting with school rallies.

Yet getting wasted, smoking weed and stealing prescription drugs became an everyday occurrence.

Vanessa began to sell marijuana and was arrested and had to do community service.

Her sophomore year she got pregnant and had a miscarriage, yet, this was not her bottom.

She began to get into heavier things and then she discovered the drug of her choice, meth.

While still putting on a pretty good show on the outside, her mom caught her doing meth and she revealed that her dad had completely lost himself in the meth pipe.

The night he died, her mom caught him smoking and kicked him out of the house and that is when he crashed his motorcycle.

Vanessa felt lied to and ran away and did not finish the last 2 months of school.

Her mother reported her missing, thus violating her parole, and she was arrested and spent 2 ½ months in jail and sober.

When she got out, she got accepted to college and had great intentions of being a good student but quickly got involved with alcohol and weed.

“My disease was much stronger than my ambition.”

Vanessa jumped around from one high to another and ended up in Las Vegas where her dad’s friend Ryan lived.

She moved in with Ryan and “I found my usual low-life crowd and began selling weed, coke and x. I was then introduced to the pimp and prostitution game.”

“They appeared to have it all; little did I know they were just great actresses. I got myself a pimp, who was also a drug dealer.”

“That day, I sold my soul.”

Things went from bad to violent to worse and Vanessa eventually left her pimp but she kept selling drugs and was re-introduced to meth.

6 months later, smoking meth daily, she lost everything, cut off her long beautiful hair and went into seclusion.

He mom called the morgue often to find out if she was alive.

“The toxins of the drugs were seeping out of my pores. I would pick at my skin all over my body. My once flawless complexion was constantly covered in sores. I spent my 21st birthday getting high in a closet.”

On the night of November 17th, 2010, someone turned Vanessa in on a $10,000 bounty.

It saved her life.

She got lost in the system, a blessing in disguise, and for 21 days she reflected on her life and her choices.

“I looked into the foggy jail mirror and saw a grimy creature I didn’t recognize. God told me in a faint, gentle whisper, ‘This is not what I want for you. This is not who you are.’”

That night she wrote a poem titled, “Surrender”, begging God to deliver her from this insanity.

Under house arrest she immersed herself into recovery and followed the rules like her life depended on it. And it did.

“One day, as I was contemplating what the God of my understanding was to me, Jesus appeared. I have always been a cloud watcher. There He was wearing the crown of thorns, like an image I’d had on a postcard as a child. He was smiling at me and I could see that He was so proud. I had more hope that evening than any other moment of my entire life!”

Vanessa learned that the root of disease lies in obsession, compulsion, self-centeredness and lack of faith.

She moved to California and arrived in Placerville with a new ankle monitor.

Her mom mentioned that her church offered several recovery groups.

Vanessa thought, “Oh great! They are going to shove religion down my throat.”

A recovery meeting called “Celebrate Recovery” was meeting that night and so they came to the church and Vanessa experienced something she had not experienced before.

“That first night at Celebrate Recovery, I felt warmth and a hope I didn’t recognize. Everyone was so welcoming and loving. I began to attend church services and I started volunteering. I soon realized that Green Valley Community Church was not a religious church about judgment or being better than, but it was a Jesus church about relationships and acceptance.”

”One thing I knew, I had finally found home.”

“I learned that God is a father to the fatherless. He offers grace and forgiveness and peace. I began to like myself.”

”I got off house arrest, I got to flip a sign at Easter reading ‘Road to Hell” as my old life and “Road to Recovery” as my new life.”

Vanessa is an inspiration and a miracle and now helps young people recover from their hurts, hang-ups and habits.

Celebrate Recovery and my church’s commitment to help those dealing with hurts, hang-ups and habits has once again drawn us very close to the heart of God.

Jesus stated that he clearly came to “Heal the broken-hearted and set captives free.”

When people say that God doesn’t do miracles anymore, then they have never been a part of Celebrate Recovery.

Our Celebrate Recovery program was started by a couple who was rejected by another church when they wanted to start the program.

The church told them that they weren’t sure they wanted people with serious issues and addictions coming into their church.

Their sad loss was our gain.

Celebrate started small and as the leadership grew, so did the program.

7 years later, hundreds have overcome, healed, found God and been baptized.

When you go to a Celebrate Recovery service, ours is on Thursday nights, what you experience is what real church should be.

Each service includes true celebration, safe relationships, honest assessment, humbling confession and gut wrenching transparency and a sense of freedom and purpose that is contagious.

It is about as pure of a church as you will find!

We have now started “The Landing” which is Celebrate Recovery for teenage and college students.

It is a safe landing place for students to come and heal, build healthy relationships and start good habits.

Every church should help people overcome.

The 4th thing every church should and must do is be fully committed to “Celebrate Recovery.”

 

Vanessa’s life scripture is from the book of Lamentations where the prophet Jeremiah says, “I’ll never forget the trouble, the utter lostness, the taste of ashes, the poison I’ve swallowed. I remember it all—oh, how well I remember—the feeling of hitting the bottom. But there’s one other thing I remember, and remembering, I keep a grip on hope: God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out, his merciful love couldn’t have dried up. They’re created new every morning. How great Your faithfulness! I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over). He’s all I’ve got left.”

For more information about “Celebrate Recovery” go to… http://www.celebraterecovery.com/

Or respond on this post
Or email me and we can talk burkeyk@gvcconline.net

Who is My Neighbor?

Let me tell you one of the most powerful and clear stories Jesus told about how we are to love.
Jesus’ story will be in quotes.
My comments will be in parenthesis.

“One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?”
The man answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
“Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!”

(Give the man a gold star on his forehead!)

“The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

(Paraphrased: Life is busy. There is a lot to do. It is very important to know who our neighbor is so we do not, by accident, love someone who is not our neighbor. That would be a waste of time.) Sarcasm noted.

“Jesus replied with a story: “A Jewish man was traveling on a trip from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road. By chance a priest came along…”

(Well thank God! This Jewish man is very fortunate, actually blessed to have a priest from his religion come along. This is going to be exciting to see how he helps.)

“But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by…”

(What?)

“A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there…”

(Well, thank God again! Maybe the priest knew that the assistant was coming along and had better gifts to help this half-dead beaten up fellow Jew)

“…but he also passed by on the other side.”

(Double what!?)

“Then a despised Samaritan came along…”

(Oh, this is not going to be good. The Samaritans and Jews did not get along. There was a lot of prejudice between them. You could even call them enemies. Jews would take longer trips just so they didn’t have to through a Samaritan village. Jews and Samaritans didn’t touch each other. If this half dead guy didn’t get help from his Jewish brothers, well, I don’t know if he is going to live.)

“…and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him.”

(What in the world is going on!!?)

“The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’

(Wow! The man who asked Jesus “who is my neighbor” is probably regretting ever asking the question.)

“Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked.
The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.”
Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”

The Good Samaritan, as this story has come to be known, loved his enemy, loved a stranger, and loved a broken person.

These are our neighbors.

At Ashley Wyrick’s high school graduation, she received the normal kind of gifts that graduates get: an iPhone, a digital camera and some clothes.

But Ashley received something else that day that didn’t seem much to those watching, but to her, it was a gift that brought her to tears of thankfulness and joy.

It was a big white box from her godfather, Steve Gibbons, where she received from him his old patrolman’s uniform jacket, size 42.

When she opened it up, she couldn’t hold back her emotions, for that jacket, 18 years earlier had been her first baby blanket.

In 1987, in Redwood City, California, in the cold month of December, 30 year old Highway Patrol officer Steve Gibbons pulled to the side of the road to stretch his legs when he noticed a brown paper bag that was whimpering.

He walked over to the bag and opened it and there was little newborn Ashley, all 6lb., 4oz. of her. Officer Gibbons wrapped this precious, abandoned girl in his patrolman’s jacket and rushed her to the hospital.

18 years later, Ashley, holding that jacket, was reminded of her miracle rescue.

The scriptures teach us that Jesus is watching how we treat and rescue those beaten, broken and abandoned by the side of the road.

For many of us, God has come and rescued us while we were beaten and robbed on the road of life.

He has helped us overcome addictions, grow in character, understand faith, heal our emotional wounds, forgive those who have hurt us and remove the shame of bad decisions.

If God has done those things for you, THAT’S CALLED A MIRACLE.

It’s a miracle that we should never take for granted and it’s a miracle that we are now responsible to pay forward.

With the same comfort God has given you, comfort others.

The writer of Proverbs reminds us “To be a voice for the voiceless.”

There is a sign in the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. that says, “Thou shall not be a victim. Thou shall not be a perpetrator. Above all, thou shall not be a bystander.”

If God has rescued you from the side of the road, then Jesus says to you, “Go now and do the same.”