it don’t come easy

I don’t ask for much, I only want your trust
And you know it don’t come easy
And this love of mine keeps growing all the time
And you know it don’t come easy
—Ringo Starr, “It Don’t Come Easy”

Valentine’s Day we think about love: we dream about it, we throw money at it with flowers and cards and candy and romantic dinners. Love has become a consumer holiday. And yes, it is a lot of fun.

Love, as our culture defines it, is giddy feelings, starry-eyed gazing and soft music, walking arm-in-arm, experiencing exciting physical intimacy, laughing and enjoying life, building memories and building a life together. These are all aspects of love, and they are all beautiful.

But true love is even more. Love that lasts “don’t come easy.” Love that lasts is not just dreamy walks and candlelight dinners with beautiful people. It is also arguments and dirty diapers and financial stress and sinning against your beloved (sometimes dreadfully) and being forgiven and getting wrinkles and a pot-belly and, sometimes, losing touch with the “feelings” that started the whole relationship in the first place.

I quote an old chestnut that is still singular and unconquerable truth: real love is commitment. Despite the dreadful pressures of life in a broken world, choosing faithfulness and humility causes love to flourish and widen into something deeper, purer, more confident, and more exquisite than quick and easy “butterflies,” pleasant though they may be.

Real love is action (John 3:16). Real love is messy; it steps into the filth and the bitterness of life (John 1:9-12, Isaiah 52:13-53:12, Romans 5:20). It embraces darkness, and by doing so dispels it (Isaiah 59, Ezekiel 16, 2 Corinthians 4:6). Love is shamelessly romantic (Isaiah 62:5, Song of Songs 1:2-4, Hosea 2:19, John 3:29). Love is not concerned with its own reputation (Jeremiah 31, Micah 6:3, Philippians 2:7-9). Love gives reward when all that is owed is the harshest punishment (Hosea 11:7-11, Jeremiah 31:32). Love pursues even when the pursuit is unwanted (Isaiah 65:1-2, Ezekiel 18:31-32). Love shines its light into every dark corner, reaches without hesitation into the most wretched sewer, freely offers mercy to the hardest heart, responds with tender love to the cruelest hatred. Love does not tire or fail in its relentless quest to restore the beauty originally intended for all humanity and all creation.

We do not understand love like this, because we are finite and because we are fickle. We fear that if we “love too much” we will not have enough for who and what is truly important. But love is not an object of limited quantity that must be divided up and parceled out piecemeal; it doesn’t grow thinner the more it is spread around. The more we love, the larger becomes our capacity to love.

So, Jesus has shown us what love truly is by the way he came, the way he lived, the way he died, and the way he rose again. Love is incredible and eternal, but it “don’t come easy.” Just ask the Son of God.

When all we know of this world has ceased; when history has wrapped up and “all things new” has begun (Revelation 21:5), love will exist unhindered and unchallenged. Anything that fights against love or raises its twisted head against goodness will be stripped of influence and power. For endless reaches of time (and, I think, space), love will reign unchallenged.

When all else fails, love prevails. Both now, and for eternity.

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the new elite

Behold, a new paradigm of devotion has come, and the faithful have made themselves ready!

Occasionally, I engage in “discussions”—through social media and other formats—with people who talk about the efficacy of “pulling out” of regular interaction with other Christians. You know who I mean: “those people” who don’t think or believe the way I do; the ones who really are halfhearted or who abuse authority or really only care about themselves or who are in it for the money or who don’t believe God is really love or who are selfish, egotistical monsters out to fleece the sheep.

In such interactions, I have been told that God has brought these individuals into a new revelation of transcendence, that Holy Spirit has made available his authority and glory and power to be experienced in the lives and hearts of the “few” who are truly seeking the face of Jesus and who want to experience all the fullness of God. They have come to understand that regular “church”—the institution and the cultural expression—is corrupted, and individual members (leaders, mainly) are corrupt. Therefore, it is up to a remnant to do what is right and worship in spirit and in truth, the way God originally intended. If most Christians want to stay in their fellowships, that is fine; but the truly enlightened are the vanguard of a new breed, and are not required to be part of the chaotic mess that constitutes most regular gatherings of believers.

On the surface this could possibly bear semblance of good and noble intent.

Except.

Except that throughout history, throughout the long and winding road that has been the spread of Christianity around the world, among every tribe and tongue and region and nation, there has always been a people of God, there have always been those whose hearts beat true with love and passion for Jesus. There has always been a people ADONAI has reserved for himself that have not, who will not “bow the knee to Baal.” Maybe some self-appointed Elijahs could take a bit more  time to hear God’s voice and gain clearer insight into his perspective.

Have leaders misused power? Yes. Does systemic wickedness seem to thrive in hierarchy? Yes. We have all experienced unconscionable ugliness and anger masquerading as righteous indignation; seen selfish and shameless self-promotion camouflaging itself as full-throttled faith in God’s call; watched hucksters fleecing the trusting flock of God to weave their own coat of many colors; shuddered to discover cold-hearted cynics who live lives of preening hypocrisy to gain approval of others (and maybe get their money or have sex with them).  

But what about the innumerable company of humble leaders who pour their lives out to nurture those whom God has placed before them to love and serve? What about the millions of faithful, trusting believers who look daily up to their Father in gratitude and trust—and sometimes with gratitude tinged with despair—who hope against hope and who try to believe that all things work together for good? What about the lonely ones who press in to trust, the faithful ones who pray and fast, the kind ones who do good to everyone around them as much as they are able, the gentle ones who touch and love outcasts, the humble ones who serve not looking for perks or commendation?

And how about this: Jesus loves his bride; he is creating a people who intertwine their lives in breathtaking beauty and staggering love for their bridegroom and for each other. He is forming a people who become a bride conforming so completely to his image that she understands his very heartbeat, his every thought, his intense desire for the flourishing of creation.

God created because he loves. God created because he is creative, and because his love is so immense, so incalculably beautiful, he wants to share and to expand that love to encompass everything that exists.

Why does Jesus want an eternal companion to share in his glory for eternity? This is a mystery that none of us completely comprehends. But we bow in worship and adoration that such a breathtaking destiny and purpose exists. We humble ourselves before his mighty hand and his awesome and glorious wisdom.

To take a posture that claims we don’t have to be part of the process, that hides from the messy and humbling experience of allowing others into our lives and refuses to take part in corporate manifestation of the kingdom, is to dishonor and disobey the very One we have sworn to worship and serve.

Harshly condemning the people of God is anti-Christ. To speak against his bride is to speak against Jesus.

Lord, have mercy on us.

faith and aliens

We had a fascinating and mysterious guest in October 2017.

When I say “we,” I am referring to all of us on planet earth. Space object 1I / 2017 U1 (proper name: Oumuamua, meaning “a messenger from afar”) was discovered by Robert Weryk at Haleakala Observatory on October 19. At the time, it had already made its closest approach to the Sun and was heading away from it at a relative velocity of about 54 kilometers per second.  

It was the first such visitor scientists have ever observed, and excitement and speculation about its composition and origins was widespread. It was weird and interesting and fit no categories we had devised so far to explain objects running through our cosmic neighborhood. Oumuamua is still shrouded in mystery, although recently, an interesting and plausible hypothesis has been proposed by an astronomer at NASA’s JPL regarding this interstellar fly-by.

But a Harvard astronomy professor named Avi Loeb begs to differ. He thinks it could be an artifact from an alien civilization.

Now, if that is even a remote possibility, it is not some sort of probe, because it isn’t functioning—at least not in any way astronomers can determine (yes, they looked). But perhaps there are other things it could be: a light sail, interstellar flotsam, a huge cigar; we still really don’t know, because it is small and it is mysterious and it is gone (at least, beyond where we can see it; as I write it is somewhere near Saturn).

Apparently, though, it is not mysterious enough to warrant any hypothesis. Dr.  Loeb’s ideas have been met with hoots of derision and disgusted refutation. I recently read this comment from a scientist and found it interesting and informative. Astrophysicist Paul M. Sutter from Ohio State University tweeted, “Oumuamua is not an alien spaceship, and the authors of the paper insult honest scientific inquiry to even suggest it.”

You got that, Avi? Are we clear? “We don’t know what this thing is, but we damn sure know it isn’t of alien construction, and you insult us by even asking about it!”

Okay, first of all, I think Dr. Loeb’s theory is whack-a-doodle, too. (See what I did there?) There has been no evidence gathered to this point that could begin to point to such an idea. It’s outlandish, but also kinda fun. When this visiting whatever-it-is first showed up, the scenario reminded me of Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama—a fascinating novel about a visit from an uninhabited alien spacecraft. I read several articles that referred to that story as well.

But despite my personal opinion, I have an issue with Dr. Sutter’s remark. He is far more educated than I, so maybe I’m missing something, but I wonder: Why are Avi Loeb’s ideas so much detritus; an “insult” to scientific inquiry? Don’t we make amazing discoveries when we are willing to ask questions? As I understand it, here are the basic steps in any scientific inquiry:

  1. Identify the problem. A scientific observation must be objective and verifiable by others through experimentation and continued observation.
  2. Ask a question, and research the question. Determine what information and resources are available and evaluate them to help “fine tune” the question.
  3. Create a hypothesis and make a prediction. Determine, through deductive reasoning, what result(s) are expected if the hypothesis is true.
  4. Conduct experiments; collect and analyze data. Data is reviewed and analyzed to see if the results prove or disprove the hypothesis, and if the date is statistically significant, and if it can be attributed to a specific cause rather than random chance.
  5. Draw conclusions.
  6. Share results.

I am not a scientist, but it seems pretty clear to me that Dr. Loeb is identifying a problem and asking a question. His ideas are weird–really weird–but so are black holes and dark matter. At our current state of understanding and ability to monitor Oumuaua, it does not appear likely that any kind of experiment can be conducted to prove or disprove Loeb’s ideas.

That isn’t really my point, though. I am trying to understand how another scientist can mock him and reject his potential hypothesis out of hand. Sounds like rigid fundamentalism to me–a worship of scientism, not respect for science. We don’t actually know that this is not an alien artifact; at least, not by purely empirical evidence. Oumuamu is certainly “alien” in origin, in that it came from outside our solar system. However, has anyone put forward evidence that Oumuamua could not possibly be manufactured by some other race of beings?

Before dismissing his thoughts as an “insult,” perhaps rational minds could put forth clear, compelling evidence as to why they are wrong.

I constantly see the same dismissive attitude regarding the existence of God. If you are a believer in any sort of higher power, you must be uneducated or gullible–or worse. However, in the question of God’s existence, despite a prevailing western view of materialism, there are well-thought-out and clear expositions of the rationality of Christian faith. The honest inquirer will at least listen and consider, rather than assume the matter is closed.

Humans do not, and cannot know with certainty that God doesn’t exist. Of course, the skeptic will answer “You can’t know that he does exist either.” And of course the skeptic would be correct. But consider this: Men, women, and children from every tribe, tongue, and nation, in diverse and sometimes uncharted regions, for uncounted millennia, have experienced God’s love and presence in a myriad of mysterious and majestic manifestations.Throughout the world today, millions of people will proclaim that their life has been radically changed because of an encounter with a Jewish rabbi named Yeshua, who these people claim is the living Son of God. In many cases, these same people are beaten, tortured, and even killed because they refuse to renounce their trust in him.

I, too, have had this encounter, and have experienced God’s loving goodness and care in my life, and have known his guidance, and have grown to realize the authority and power of the Scriptures, and have “heard” the voice of the Holy Spirit leading me, and have felt his comfort. Not only that, over decades I have met and known people whose lives have been thoroughly, miraculously changed by submitting themselves to God.

Maybe some people reading this would discount everything I’m writing as fantasy. I would counter that of course, you can choose not to believe, but there is a lot of evidence that is pretty darned overwhelming, if you will honestly consider it. Unless you decide you know better, and your attitude is the same as the previously mentioned astrophysicist: To even consider such an idea is an insult. I know there is no God, no supernatural world.

I’m reminded of a scene from the movie “Men in Black.” A New York City police officer, played by Will Smith, has just discovered that alien beings are alive on the earth, and that their existence is a secret unknown to most of humanity, a secret closely guarded by an unofficial government organization. One of the agents for this organization is played by Tommy Lee Jones, and he sits down to talk to Smith about what Smith has just discovered. At one point in their conversation, Jones says:

Fifteen hundred years ago, everybody ‘knew’ the earth was the center of the universe. Five hundred years ago everybody ‘knew’ the earth was flat; and fifteen minutes ago, you ‘knew’ that people were alone on this planet. [Sigh.] Imagine what you’ll ‘know’ tomorrow.

When we rely on our own understanding, we truncate our imagination and shrink our world. There is so much still to be explored and understood. There is so much mystery in the cosmos. And I have found that surrounding it all, and transcending it all, is a Mystery beyond mysteries, a being of perfect love and perfect justice and unimaginable mercy. Millions of my brothers and sisters have discovered him as well.

We have come this far by faith, and we have come to know our Father’s goodness. Imagine how much more we will know tomorrow.

land of the free, home of the brave

Except in the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota.

Today I read the story about Ramin Parsa, a former Muslim who fled his native Iran after he became a Christian. Parsa now lives and works as a pastor in Los Angeles. Last August, while visiting in Minnesota, his hosts took him to see “the biggest mall in North America.” While there, the pastor randomly encountered a couple of Somalis and as their conversation progressed, Parsa was asked if he was Muslim. At that point he shared his Christian convictions with them, but was promptly ordered by mall security guards to cease talking about that, and shortly thereafter he was arrested and treated abusively. 

You see, the Mall of America is a private, not public space, and it has rules against “solicitation.” So, along with not being able to pester people for money, or offer your services as a prostitute, at the Mall of America you also cannot have a private, polite conversation about anyone’s spiritual welfare. 

Surprise, surprise: Mr. Parsa’s story has been conveniently overlooked by many media outlets, including even some in Minnesota. 

Now, I am not a legal expert or a Constitutional scholar, but in my understanding–and I’m sure in the understanding of most rational-thinking Americans–First Amendment free speech INCLUDES the right to freely explain one’s religious or political beliefs or opinions. 

Except, apparently, in the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota.

Through my life, both professionally and privately, I have known and worked with thousands of different types of persons and personalities. They all had their own beliefs and opinions and likes and dislikes and food cravings and sexual desires. Some people have been utterly fascinating; others I found mind-numbingly boring. With some individuals I have been able to establish immediate rapport and even friendship, while other people so thoroughly “rubbed me the wrong way” that  I found myself wishing for the power of invisibility so I could disappear  whenever I caught sight of them.

But always, as a Christian, I have attempted to respect each person as an image-bearer of God. And always, as an American, I have attempted to respect each person as someone with a right to their opinion (no matter how repellant or stupid). Because in the United States of America, we celebrate the right to freedom of religion and freedom of speech.

Except, apparently, in the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota.

I like malls and I like shopping, although I get burned out rather quickly (unless, of course I discover a bookstore–or a cool hardware store). I have always enjoyed the bustle and interaction of people and the general hum of activity and fun, especially this holiday time of year, despite the excess of rampant materialism. In general, malls have historically been places for people to hang out and enjoy themselves and possibly even sometimes find out something new.

Except, apparently, in the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota.

That place needs to have “America” stripped from its name. Maybe change it to “Mall of Totalitarianism.”

red noses and revival

I don’t often read anything on HuffPost (unless for some reason I’m in the mood to be agitated). However, today the site had an article that caught my interest.

Apparently, a batch of newly-minted adults have been discovering some ugly truths underlying the holiday favorite “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”

One of their main findings? Santa is really a jerk.

Many of us who are older noticed this quite some time ago. Think back on the cartoon. Santa, along with the rest of his deer crew, mocks Rudolph for his non-conformity; just minutes after the poor little guy is born, Santa tells him he had better get it together if he wants to be part of the “sleigh-pulling” band. Later, during reindeer games, he tells Donner–Rudolph’s dad–that he ought to be ashamed and is saddened that Rudolph had shown such promise; but alas! If only he didn’t have that red nose! Because, of course, being different disqualifies you.

And late in the show, when Donner is away looking for his lost son, Santa laments that he is worried about the deer being lost out in the big blizzard. Why is he so concerned? Is it because Donner could be in danger, freezing to death in the wilderness? No; Santa’s frantic because Christmas is only two days away, and he needs Donner to work Christmas Eve!

The final take-away is that everyone was prejudiced and wrong. Rudolph comes in handy because–lo and behold–his unusual nose is actually useful sometimes! He even talks Santa into visiting the Isle of Misfit Toys. (Although, people also noticed that during the credits, one of the elves throws the misfit bird–who can’t fly–out of the sleigh without an umbrella parachute. Kind of like the “turkey drop” in the famous WKRP episode. Happy landings, Tweey!)

Now, I’m not trying to be deliberately sarcastic or cruel. I really do have fond memories of those stop-motion puppets and their adventure. I loved the show as a small boy, and I still like to watch it every year. But while reading the HuffPost article, I started thinking that a lot of people perceive God as being just like that Santa: distracted with His own concerns and generally frustrated with our weaknesses. Also, a lot of churches function like the reindeer gang. If you are too weird, you really can’t be a part of our group; unless it turns out you have something we can use.

This was never the Lord’s intent. He is gracious and merciful and patient with our weakness and foolishness, and He gently, but firmly, draws us into His presence so we can be changed by His mercy and purity. As the church, we should likewise be gracious, bearing each other’s burdens and “…stir(ring) up one another to love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24).

The Holy Spirit is continually drawing people to Jesus. And in this season, when He is breathing His fresh wind into the body of Christ worldwide, we can and should expect the Lord of the harvest to add daily to His church. But remember, a lot of those people will not look or act or think like us. People who don’t know Jesus act like people who don’t know Jesus. This is to be expected.

Yes, God is holy, and He gives grace to His people to be holy. But let us remember that there is huge diversity in His body, and we may even find some “Rudolphs” among us. We will need them for our foggy days ahead.

Santa and Rudolph

where are your accusers?

It is no secret that western society is seething with a culture of outrage; and part-and-parcel with outrage comes accusation. Every day we hear or read about another person or group incensed over some injustice, screaming and frothing and gnashing teeth as they accuse others of a litany of abominations.

Now, nobody likes to be accused of anything, whether it is true or not. Accusation is a battering ram of blame and incrimination, stopping our breath and rendering our insides a hot, churning stew of fear and defensiveness. When confronted with evidence of our misdeed(s), we may feel like a kid who wets the bed and has their sheets hung out our bedroom windows to dry, our shame in plain view of all our friends.

And if we are falsely accused, it is worse. We are aware of our failures, both seen and unseen; but to be accused of something we didn’t do causes us to bristle with appalled anger against the unjust charge leveled at us. False accusations can throw us into defensiveness and anger, and despite our protests, we realize that others probably find our claims of innocence to be further evidence of real guilt.

Accusation has the power to render us depressed, even despairing. If we are innocent, the blast of injustice against us is nauseating. If we are guilty, we are forced to face our weakness and wickedness. But rather than respond with humility and sorrow, human nature wants to excuse–or at least justify–our behavior.

Then ADONAI Elohim called to the man and He said to him “Where are you?”

Then he said, “Your sound–I heard it in the garden and I was afraid. Because I am naked, I hid myself.” Then He said, “Who told you that you are naked? Have you eaten from the Tree from which I commanded you not to eat?” Then the man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me–she gave me of the Tree, and I ate.”

ADONAI Elohim said to the woman, “What did you do?”

The woman said, “The serpent deceived me and I ate.” (Genesis 3:9-13, TLV)

It is common to hear people mention (disparagingly) how “Eve ate the fruit”; but at least she put the blame on the serpent, unlike Adam who had the ridiculous arrogance to blame God Himself! This is the kind of panic that occurs when we sin and are caught. Ringing throughout our being is the cry But you just don’t understand what I’ve been through or I don’t know what happened to me. And right on the heels of that excuse is It’s not really my fault!

So often, we do not understand our own actions, and we try to console ourselves that we should receive, if not pardon, at least a level of kind understanding. But unfortunately, accusation generally carries a dose of contempt. We perceive the thoughts of others: How could someone do such a thing? Condemnation builds, until every veneer of self-respect and self-protection is stripped in the flood of remorse, regret, and shame. Now I’ve been found out! Most of us will do anything to “cover our tracks” to keep this from happening; or at least, we begin to set up excuses to minimize the damage to our ego.

So we have an innate, knee-jerk reaction to confrontation. We hate to be the recipient of another person telling us we have done wrong. We want to be the “good guys,” the people who have it together in their lives and who live by some sort of moral code–whatever it might be. But since that breakdown in Eden, we have all been engaged in the struggle to write our own laws and set our own standards for a life well-lived. We seek to rule our kingdom, even if it is a kingdom of one. The currency in this realm is I’m not really that bad; I’m not like those people!

Self-justification comes easy when I console myself by looking at the foul misdeeds of those outside my camp. It’s easy to preen and pat myself on the back with the congratulatory phrase At least I’ve never done _________ (fill in the blank). I run into a genuine problem, though, when I revisit the scene of Adam and Eve before the Almighty in the garden. God asks the first couple a legitimate question, familiar to anyone who has been a parent: Did you do what I told you not to do?”

How do you answer that with anything but the truth? Standing before the Creator–who knows everything in entirety, who knows every person intimately–none of us find stability standing on the platforms of rationalization we have constructed. Our foundations are rotting timbers and crumbling concrete. Our excuses, mist in sunlight, whisk away from the breath of His mouth. Truly, before His eyes of fire, all garments are incinerated.

And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account (Hebrews 4:13).

The LORD God does not judge unrighteously or from self-interest or self-protection. He will not accept even our best excuses, clever though we may think they are. His holy standards and desires for all His creation are pure and good and noble, and we have fallen short. We have all eaten that which He told us not to eat. And so, we are without excuse.

Mea culpa. Guilty as charged. I really don’t need anyone to accuse me, because my actions and my conscience already do a fine job. Adding to the mix, I have an enemy that also relentlessly seeks every opportunity to remind God and man how truly dreadful I am.

But into my mess, and into yours, steps the Son of God. He became one of us. He was–and is–fully human, while still fully God. I don’t understand it and neither do you, but that doesn’t make it untrue. Because Jesus bore our sin and took our deserved punishment upon Himself, we are freed from the stupidity of manufacturing excuses or trying to shift blame.

Our Messiah, the King of the universe, is the only person worthy to accuse and condemn. Yet, He doesn’t. Scripture teaches us that there is “no condemnation” for anyone who trusts in Him for salvation. Like the unnamed adulteress who stood torn and shamed before Jesus (John 8), we tremble with fear at the questions we are sure He will ask: “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten that which I commanded you not to eat?”

 And wonder of wonders, instead our Lord asks, “Where are your accusers?” And we look around and realize that there are none. At the foot of the cross, anger and outrage are subsumed in the violent beauty of sacrificial love and outrageous forgiveness. At the foot of the cross, all power of sin and accusation vanishes.

And we hear Him say, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.”

And because of grace, that is possible.

what happened before will happen again (with kathi pelton)

The children of Israel stood before the waters of the Red Sea, frozen in fear because the mighty army of Egypt, under the command of a vicious and cruel Pharaoh, had pursued them and were about to overtake them, bringing destruction. The LORD told Moses to stretch out his staff over the waters. Moses did and the waters parted, allowing Israel to cross over on dry land. God Himself protected His people; Scripture says He “looked at the army of the Egyptians through the fire and cloud and caused the army of the Egyptians to panic” (Exodus 14:24, TLV). Israel was delivered from bondage to what was the strongest nation on earth at that time.

David was a shepherd boy, young, “ruddy and handsome”; a lad who was consigned to the outlying grasslands to oversee his father’s sheep. When a fearsome giant named Goliath, champion of the Philistines, challenged Israel and Israel’s God to fight, young David took up the challenge. Goliath taunted and mocked him, despising the diminutive youth before him. But David, filled with trust in the Almighty, bellowed in response,

“You are coming to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I am
coming to you in the Name of ADONAI-Tzva’ot, God of the armies of
Israel, whom you have defied. This very day ADONAI will deliver you into
my hand, and I will strike you down and take your head off….Then all the
earth will know that there is a God in Israel, and so all this assembly will
know that ADONAI delivers not with sword and spear—for the battle belongs
to ADONAI, and He will give you into our hands” (1 Samuel 17:45-47, TLV).

Then David, trusting fully in the faithfulness of Israel’s God, ran toward his huge opponent and felled him with one smooth stone flung from his sling.

Daniel was a faithful servant of God who dwelt in Babylon, and distinguished himself serving in the courts of various pagan rulers. At one point, various other governors plotted against Daniel, due to their jealousy at his impeccable performance of his official duties, and succeeded in having Daniel sentenced to be thrown into a lion’s den. But God preserved Daniel’s life, and he was able to stand in the midst of the dangerous beasts, and declare to Darius, the ruler who sentenced him, My God sent His angel and shut the lions’ mouths, so that they have not hurt me, because I was found innocent before Him….”  (Daniel 6:22).

Esther was a young woman, taken from her people to become one of the wives of Xerxes I, king of the world-dominating Persian Empire. When she learned of a plot to destroy her people that had been hatched by one of the king’s high-level officials, she took heed of her uncle Mordecai’s counsel when he told her she must do something, because she had risen to her position “…for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14). Esther, risking her own life, devised a plan to approach the king and reveal her identity as well as the plot against her people. The king was enraged that one of his own advisors would do such a thing, and had him executed. Esther’s bravery saved her life and delivered the lives of all the Jews who had been threatened. To this day, Esther’s story is remembered and celebrated each year with the joyous festival of Purim.

Jesus walked among the people of Israel, bringing hope and life, truth and mercy—delivering God’s message of light for those who dwelled in darkness. He healed all those with diseases, opened blind eyes, delivered the oppressed from demons, and raised the dead to life.

And like the writer of Hebrews, time would fail us if we were to begin to attempt to describe the many other epic miracles listed in Scripture. We have also read or heard about the miracles that have followed the prayers of believing saints for two thousand years since Jesus’ death and resurrection.

We know that God is blowing a fresh wind of His Spirit through His people, and there have been promises of a great outpouring as we draw nearer to the time of the end. So we wonder: Will feats of this magnitude happen again?

We have the promise—spoken by Jesus Himself—that we can expect to do even more than the exploits we have known about from the past.

I tell you the truth, whoever believes in me will do the same works I have
done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father”
(John 14:22).

The Son of God desires to glorify the Father, and we are His chosen and beloved who desire to respond to His love and glorify Him because He is worthy. The oneness that is created as God’s people yield to the desire of the Son is releasing a convergence of the ages. God’s faithful remnant has aligned with the works and ways of Jesus, revealed to all mankind as He walked among us.

The Holy Spirit has graciously moved through His people, gently and firmly leading us into lives of submission and dependency. We no longer dwell in the land of shadows, living in partnership with an independent spirit that seeks primarily our own good, that advances our own goals and agendas, that clings to comfort and safety.  While He was on earth, Jesus showed us how to live a life fully committed to advancing the kingdom of God. He displayed a life of obedience that fully pleased and glorified the Father; this is the kind of life we were all meant for. He explained this to the rigid religious leaders who accosted Him after He performed the miracle of healing at the pool of Bethesda. When they criticized Him, He responded,

“Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel (John 5:19-20).

So, we are not consumed with false identities we have created for ourselves, keeping to foolish and rigid rules of behavior that we think will make us more acceptable to God. Instead, our Lord calls us out of the religious edifices we have constructed and woos us into deeper communion with Him, creating in our spirits a unity with Jesus that calls out, just as He cried out in Gethsemane, “…not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42).

From our posture of humility, in oneness with the heart of our King, we have the joy of experiencing miracles once again. Our relationship creates a platform where heaven and earth come into a holy alignment; our agreement with the plans and purposes of God creates a womb where miracles are conceived; they are enabled in us and through us as the fruit of oneness. Just as a husband and wife become one flesh in intimacy, which leads to the miracle of new life, so does new birth spring forth from the union of the bride of Christ as we function in oneness with the desire of our beloved Jesus.

Then the greater works cascade from God’s people; a crystal flow of the living water of the presence of the Lord, breathtaking in purity and glorifying the Father, the Son, and the Spirit.