Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Expect a Miracle!

An Amish boy and his mother were visiting a mall. They had never been off the farm before and they were amazed by almost everything they saw, but especially by two shiny, silver walls that could move apart and back together again. The boy asked his mother, "What is this, Mother?" The mother responded, "Son, I have never seen anything like this in my life, I don't know what it is."

While the boy and his mother were watching wide-eyed an elderly man in a wheel chair rolled up to the moving walls and pressed a button. The walls opened and the man rolled between them into a small room. The walls closed and the boy and his mother watched small circles of lights w/numbers above the walls light up. They continued to watch the circles light up in the reverse direction. The walls opened up again and a handsome and buff 24 year old man stepped out.

The mother said to his son, "Go get your Father.”

The Amish mother and boy thought they had witnesses a miracle, didn’t they?

In our New testament reading today we see Jesus performing one of the most famous miracles in the Bible, the feeding of the 5,000.  When Jesus heard that John the Baptist had been killed, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place near Bethsaida.
The crowds followed Jesus on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick. Matthew, Mark and Luke report that As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, "This is a remote place, and it's already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food."
Jesus replied, "They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat."
"We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish," they answered.
"Bring them here to me," he said.
Jesus directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Again in the other Gospels it specifies that Jesus hen he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. Notice too that the exact number fed is not given. They fed 5,000 men not counting the women and children. Some estimate that there must have been at least 10,000 people there. All fed by five loaves and two fish. Have you ever been at the Tulio arena when it is full? Imagine that doubled. All fed by five loaves and two fish.

A lot of people are put off by miracles like this. It is beyond their belief that God can actually interceded in man’s life in this way. Even some Biblical commentators have proposed that Jesus actually had an enormous amount of fish and loaves hidden behind some trees and preformed some sort of magic trick on the crowd.

But I like to believe in miracles. Christianity is after all a supernatural religion, isn’t it? Just look at the Apostle’s Creed. It is nothing but the belief in a supernatural world, “I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.
And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; he descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Ghost; the one Holy universal Christian Church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting.
If we really believe the Apostle’s Creed then we should have no problem with miracles like the feeding of the 5 thousand.  In fact I think we should expect to see miracles. Even today! Why not? Has God changed?
God is still on the throne and Jesus is on His right hand still bearing the scars of our redemption, is He not?

But you know if we do hear of someone who might have experienced a miracle, we tend to doubt it.  We have all heard of the person who had grilled a cheese sandwich and they see the face of Jesus on it and called it a miracle. And then we have either experienced or heard of con men who claim to have miraculous gifts only to fleece the flock of all their money.
It’s like the old story of when George Burns was having his weekly lunch with Jack Benny when he suggested a way to get a free lunch.

"You know what Jack, we've been coming here for so many years, this place must have made a fortune from us. Not only do we spend a lot of money, we bring in a lot of business!"
"You're probably right George."
"So how about, when the bill comes, you insist on paying it!"
"How does that get us a free lunch?" Jack asked
"Well, then I will insist on paying it. we get into a big fight and eventually you say "That is it! If you don't let me pay, I will never have lunch with you again." The restaurant will be so scared of losing out business, they'll have to give us the meal for free to shut us up!"

"I love it!"Jack said.
So, at the end of the meal, the waiter comes over with the bill and place it on the table. Jack, will a big grin on his face, takes out his wallet and says;
"I'M paying for the lunch today, George!"
"Thank's Jack, that is very nice of you."
We have seen so many cons or people who see miracles when there is none, we tend to doubt.

But God still is the same as in Biblical times, God still does miracles. God is still working and so are His angels. The magazine Guideposts is full of modern day miracles. I’d like to share one with you that happened this past winter:
The snow often fell hard and heavy during the winters I lived in Colorado. It was coming down like crazy one afternoon when my boss closed the office and sent us home. I hurried to my car. I had to stop at the sitter’s house to pick up my two baby boys.

I made it the sitter’s house without too much trouble. “Be careful,” she said, as I strapped Nick, six months old, and Jon, 22 months old, into the backseat of the car.

“You know I will,” I said.

But almost as soon as her house was out of sight, the wind picked up and the snow began to swirl. My wipers fought to keep the windshield clear. I was tempted to pull over, but didn’t dare. With the babies aboard, I couldn’t afford to get stuck.

I kept moving, going slower and slower, trying to peer through the blinding snow. Without any help from me, the car came to a stop. “Don’t worry,” I told the children. “Mommy’s just going out to take a look, to see where we are.”
I opened the door. The wind almost knocked me off my feet. I fought my way around to the front of the car. I’ve driven into a snowdrift, I realized.

I climbed back into the car. What to do? I was half a mile from home, on a little-traveled road, without a cell phone. No way could we sit and wait for help. The babies would freeze half to death. No way could I carry them home. I closed my eyes and silently prayed, Lord, please help us.

I heard tapping at my window and opened my eyes. A big man was standing outside, dressed in denim overalls and a green plaid shirt. “Do you need help?” he asked.

“I have to get my babies home,” I said.

“Good thing I have a truck,” he said. He hoofed back to his old, green pickup, tied one end of a yellow tow rope to my car and the other end to his truck. Then he climbed behind the wheel and started his engine.

He pulled us several streets, even turned down my block and parked right in front of our house! So nice of him to go out of his way, I thought. While he untied the rope, I checked on Nick and Jon. Both were fast asleep. I turned back to thank the man … but he was gone. I looked down the street. Not a tire track in the virgin snow.

It was then that it struck me—I never even told the man where I lived.
How could he have known?

God still works miracles today. Not all the time, and sometimes the miracles are subtle and have to be seen through the eyes of faith. But God is still working in the lives of His children. God answers prayer.

So, have faith. Expect a miracle. God is full of suprises.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Reacher of the Tossed Ark

Scripture of the day 2 Samuel 6:1-19

There was a blond and a brunette that both lost their jobs because of the economy. So they both found the same job in the newspaper. The brunette went and applied for the job and the boss had her fill out a bunch of papers then he asks "Before you go how many D's are there in Indiana Jones?" shes thinks for a sec then she says “Um 1.” The boss says "ok thanks I'll call you."

Then the blond applies for the job. She fills out the paperwork and then the boss says “Before you go how many D's are there in Indiana Jones?” She starts counting with her fingers and then she says “Do you have a pencil and paper and a calculator?” The boss replies “Yes, but why do you need that?” She says“Just give it to me.” So she starts writing down numbers and using the calculator. Finally she tells the boss “510,002.” The boss is perplexed. “How did you get that?” 
The blonde replies, “Well you know da da da daaaa da da daaa da da da daaaa da da da daa daa daaaa.”

When you think of the Ark of the Covenant, many of us think of how it was portrayed in the movies.  Especially in the Indiana Jones Movie Raiders of the Lost Ark.  In this movie the Ark is depicted as shooting a lazer beam in a picture, and one professor claims "the Bible speaks of the Ark leveling mountains and laying waste to entire regions". In the movie it burns a crate and contains angels of death that destroys an entire squad of Nazi’s. Indiana Jones and his girlfriend Marian escape only by not looking at the angels of death as they fly about.

Now the real Ark of the Covenant was a piece of Holy furniture that was supposed to dwell in the holiest part of the tabernacle. God dwelt between the wings of the angels that adorned the top of the Ark. It didn’t have lasers or hold angels of death. But it was built by the direct command of God and held the original ten commandments a pot of manna, the miraculous food that God provided to the Hebrews during their journey through the desert and the staff of Aaron the first high priest of Israel.

And it was supernatural.

The army of Israel had the ark lead them into battle. At the battle of Jericho the ark was carried around the city for 7 days and the walls fell by just the blast of a horn. When the ark was captured by the Philistines, the cities that held the ark were beset by plagues so much that the Philistines gave the ark back to Israel. They just left it on a cart in the open and told the Israelites to come and get it. But it never had lasers or leveled mountains like it was claimed in the movies.

In today’s Old Testament scripture we see another supernatural manifestation of the ark. Let’s look again at the first part of today’s Old Testament Scripture: “Again David gathered all the choice men of Israel, thirty thousand.  And David arose and went with all the people who were with him from Baale Judah to bring up from there the ark of God, whose name is called by the Name,the Lord of Hosts, who dwells between the cherubim. So they set the ark of God on a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill; and Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, drove the new cart. And they brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill, accompanying the ark of God; and Ahio went before the ark. Then David and all the house of Israel played music before the Lord on all kinds of instruments of fir wood, on harps, on stringed instruments, on tambourines, on sistrums, and on cymbals.

 And when they came to Nachon’s threshing floor, Uzzah put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen stumbled.  Then the anger of the Lord was aroused against Uzzah, and God struck him there for his error; and he died there by the ark of God.  And David became angry because of the Lord’s outbreak against Uzzah; and he called the name of the place Perez Uzzah to this day. 2 Samuel 6:1-19

this is one of those scriptures that just do not seem to make sense. It doesn’t seem fair. All Uzzah did was prevent the Holy Ark from falling off the cart to the ground. Most people would think this is a good thing, why in the world did god strike him dead for something that we would consider good?

Well we have to look at this incident in its context.

David was trying to bring the Ark to Jerusalem. That was a noble thing.
It was a good thing. The Ark represented God’s presence and David wanted to establish a permanent home for the Ark in Jerusalem.
So they had to get the Ark to Jerusalem. So they put it on a cart to haul it to Jerusalem. That is the major problem. You see according to Exodus 25 and 37 God gave the children of Israel very specific instructions on how the Ark was to be transported. It was to be covered so no one could see it and carried by priests using the two poles on each of its side.  This was to show that the ark was not just apiece of religious furniture, it was where the children of Israel were to meet God. God dwelt between the cherubim. It was a Holy object.

But David had the Ark transported on a cart. Now 20 years earlier the ark was given back to Israel after the Philistines took it. It was left in a field on a cart. The Ark was then placed in house owned by a man named Abinadab, who was Uzzah’s father and it stayed there for 20 years. Probably on the same cart that the Philistines had used. So they were used to having the Ark on a cart.

Problem is Abinadab and Uzzah were from the tribe of Levi. The tribe of Levi was priestly tribe. Abinidab and Uzzah were basically priests. These were the people who were trained in God’s law from youth. And they had to have known how they were supposed to transport the ark. In fact they were the ones who were supposed to carry it! We do not know why they chose to ignore God’s word. Perhaps they didn’t think it was all that important, after all the Philistines got away with it. Or perhaps they did not want to carry the Ark all those miles to Jerusalem. We do not know. But they ignored God’s commands and used a cart. Even the Nazis in Indiana Jones knew that they should use the poles. Next time you watch the movie, you can see the Nazis are using the poles to take the ark to the ceremony at the end of the movie.

But they hauled the ark on the cart. Over bump roads toward Jerusalem. And only when they came to Nachon’s threshing floor did the cart tip and Uzzah reached out to steady the Ark.
Now the funny thing is threshing floors, are purposefully made very level and flat. It was hard solid flat ground, like a cement floor. And the cart never tipped on the bumpy roads, it tipped on the flattest and smoothest piece of land it had crossed. And as the cart tipped, Uzzah who was trained since childhood about the holiness of the ark and had it in his home for over 20 years, so he knew better…reached out to steady the Ark. And he died.
Notice, we are not told how he died. A lot of us think BAM God just killed him dead, or as some people claim he was zapped by the power of the ark. But it could be that it just fell on him and crushed him. Scripture doesn’t say. So it didn’t have to be dramatic. It just happened.
David and the men of Israel ignored god’s law and Uzzah paid for it with his life. David and the people knew what God had commanded, but they ignored it.  Their intentions were good. David wanted to bring the symbol of God’s presence into his city. The people came out in mass to honor God. Uzzah just wanted to keep the Ark from falling.

So what does this all mean for us today?

A good samaritan was walking home late one night when he came upon a drunk on the sidewalk. Wanting to help, he asked the drunk, "Do you live here?" "Yep." "Would you like me to help you upstairs?" "Yep." When they got up on the second floor, the good person asked "Is this your floor?" "Yep."
Then the good samaritan got to thinking that maybe he didn't want to face the man's irate wife because she may think he was the one who got the man drunk. So, he opened the first door he came to and shoved him through it then went back downstairs. However, when he went back outside, there was another drunk. So he asked that drunk "Do you live here?" "Yep." "Would you like me to help you upstairs?" "Yep." So he did and put him in the same door with the first drunk.
Then he went back downstairs where, to his surprise, there was another drunk. So he started over to him. But before he got to him, the drunk called out to a nearby policeman and said, "Please officer, protect me from this man. He's been doing nothing all night long but taking me upstairs and throwing me down the elevator shaft!"

There are many people who feel that the intentions of their hearts will justify them before God.  It doesn’t matter what you do so long as you have good intentions in your heart. Right?

We often hear the old saying, “the Road to Hell is paved with good intentions” 
Writer Aldous Huxley once said, “Hell isn't merely paved with good intentions; it's walled and roofed with them. Yes, and furnished too.”

How about you today? 
Is there something that you are involved in that you know is wrong, but you have rationalized that it is ok because you have god intentions? 

Don’t be an Uzzah. 

Because some day the cart may tip and you might end up on the wrong end of a fall.