Divine Appointments

miracles“You go nowhere by accident.” Do you believe that statement? And what, exactly, does it mean? In my case it means that the past two and a half years that I’ve been living in hotels while trying to find low income housing on a Social Security income has been no mistake. It also means that losing that job eight years ago in Houston that has lead to the greatest and most challenging adventure in my life going through years of unemployment and now hotel living was no mistake, either. And, it also means that accepting that job in Houston in the first place was, also, no mistake. In God’s economy, there are no mistakes. Absolutely none. . . .

As Mark Batterson states in his book, The Grave Robber: How Jesus Can Make Your Impossible Possible (2014), regarding that statement above:

Accident? Or divine appointment?

It depends on your reaction. (Quote source: “The Grave Robber,” p. 69)

Mark Batterson is the lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, DC,  which also owns and operates the largest coffeehouse on Capitol Hill [as an aside, I must visit it the next time I’m in DC!]. He holds a Doctor of Ministry degree from Regent University and is a New York Times bestselling author of several books, including The Grave Robber.” Batterson continues with the following (pp. 69-70):

When I first moved to Washington D.C., I had the privilege of sharing a meal with Senate Chaplain Dr. Richard Halverson. (Part of what made it unforgettable is that the former heavyweight champion of the world, Muhammad Ali, was eating at the table right next to us in the Senate dining room.) Prior to serving the Senate, Dr. Halverson pastored Fourth Presbyterian Church in Bethesda, Maryland, for twenty-three years. He did what pastors do–everything from preaching and counseling to marrying and burying. But he believed his most important function was pronouncing his carefully crafted benediction at the end of every service:

You go nowhere by accident.

Wherever you go, God is sending you.

Wherever you are, God has put you there; He has a purpose for you being there.

Christ who indwells you has something He wants to do through you where you are.

Believe this and go in His grace and love and power.

Dr. Halverson reminded his congregation of that simple truth week in and week out until his death on December 1, 1995. Then he reminded them one last time. At the conclusion of his funeral service, Dr. Halverson himself gave the benediction via recording. There wasn’t a dry eye in the place!

You go nowhere by accident.

You may not be right where you want to be, but God can use you right there. In fact, God may have you right where He wants you. Whether you’re taking a mission trip halfway around the world or a trip to the local grocery store, God is setting up divine appointments along the way. The challenge, of course, is that they are harder to recognize closer to home because we operate on autopilot. Don’t be in such a hurry to get where you’re going that you miss the miracles along the way–or the miracles that may be out of your way! (Quote source: “The Grave Robber,” p. 69-70.)

The Grave Robber is a book about miracles past and present. Amazon.com‘s page for the book states the following:

Do we believe that God still does miracles? Do we expect him to move in miraculous ways in our day-in, day-out lives? Maybe we’d like to see miracles, but it’s hard to see past our problems. All that is about to change, like changing water into wine.

“There are miracles all around us all the time,” says Mark Batterson, “but you won’t see them if you don’t know how to look for them.”

Now the bestselling author ofThe Circle Makerreveals the incredible power of the seven miraculous signs of Jesus found in the Gospel of John. Batterson shows how they were not simply something Jesus did in the past, but something he wants to do now, in the present. He shares true stories of people today who are experiencing miracles in their lives. And he brings to light countless miracles, big and small, that we take for granted every day that point us toward the One who healed the sick, calmed the storm, and yes, even raised the dead.

But this is more than a book about miracles. It’s a book about the only One who can perform them. Batterson cautions readers, “Don’t just seek miracles. Seek Jesus. And if you seek Jesus, miracles will find you.”

Nothing has changed since Jesus called Lazarus out of his tomb four days after his funeral. Our impossible situations still double as God’s greatest opportunity to reveal his glory. No matter how big the problem is, God is bigger still. Anyone who longs to see God work in miraculous ways today will love Batterson’s faith-building, life-giving message. (Quote source here.)

I love how Batterson opens his book in Chapter 1 titled, “The Day Water Blushed”:

For nearly thirty years, the One who had crafted the universe with His voice crafted furniture with His hands. And He was good at what He did–no crooked table legs ever came out of the carpenter’s shop in Nazareth. But Jesus was more than a master carpenter. He was also God incognito. His miraculous powers rank as history’s best-kept secret for nearly three decades, but all that changed the day water blushed in the face of its Creator.

That was the day the woodbender became a waterbender. Jesus manipulated the molecular structure of water and turned it into wine–757 bottles, no less. And nothing but the best. This wasn’t just wine, it was fine wine (see John 2:1-11).

Sometimes God shows up. Sometimes God shows off.

That’s what Jesus did on the third day of a wedding feast in Cana, and that was just the beginning. Thirty-four distinct miracles are recorded in the Gospels, while countless more went unrecorded. John’s Gospel spotlights seven miracles, unveiling seven dimensions of Jesus’ miraculous power. Like the sun rising in the east, each miracle reveals another ray of God’s glory until Lazarus steps out of the shadow of his tomb and into the light of the Grave Robber (see John 11).

The seven miracles are seven signs, and each sign points straight to Jesus. You may be reading this book because you need a miracle. Don’t we all at some point in our lives? And God wants to do now what He did then. But this is more than a course in miracles. It’s a book about the only One who can perform them. So let me offer a word of caution at the outset:

Don’t seek miracles.

Follow Jesus.

And if you follow Jesus long enough and far enough you’ll eventually find yourself in the middle of some miracles.

Everyone wants a miracle. But here’s the catch: no one wants to be in a situation that necessitates one! Of course, you can’t have one without the other. . . . 

He is the God who can make your impossible possible! (Quote source: “The Grave Robber,” p. 13-14.)

As I stated in my blog post titled, What If,” published one week ago regarding another book by Mark Batterson, there is much in this book that I can’t begin to touch on in a blog post, and I’m not going to try. But I want to whet your appetite. But first, let’s tackle, as Batterson puts it, “the invisible gorilla” in the room found in Chapter 2 titled, “Miraculous”:

Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons conducted an experiment at Harvard University more than a decade ago that became infamous in psychology circles. Their book,The Invisible Gorilla,” popularized it. And you may be one of the millions of viewers who made their Selective Attention Test one of YouTube’s most watched videos. [An video explaining the test and results is available here.]

The two researchers filmed students passing basketballs while moving in a circular fashion. In the middle of the short film, a woman dressed in a gorilla suit walks into the frame, beats her chest, and walks out of the frame. The sequence takes nine seconds in the minute-long video. Viewers are given specific instructions: “Count the number of passes by players wearing white shirts.” Of course, the researchers were not interested in their pass-counting ability. They wanted to see if the viewers would notice something they weren’t looking for, something as obvious as a gorilla. Amazingly, half of the test group did not.

How is that even possible?

How do you miss the gorilla in the room?

The short answer is “inattentional blindness.”

“Inattentional blindness” is the failure to notice something in your field of vision because you are focused on something else; in this case people in white shirts passing basketballs. But the first-century Pharisees make an even better case study. They were so focused on Sabbath law that they couldn’t see that miracles happening right in front of their eyes. Jesus healed an invalid who hadn’t walked in thirty-eight years, gave sight to a man born blind, and restored a man’s withered arm. But the Pharisees missed the miracle, and missed the Messiah, because they were blinded by their legalism. They couldn’t see past their religious assumptions.

Inattentional blindness can be as intentional as turning a blind eye to something you don’t want to see, like the Pharisees did. It can also be as unintentional as fading awareness of the constants in your life that you take for granted over time. Either way, it’s one of the greatest threats to spiritual vitality. One of the truest tests of spiritual maturity is seeing the miraculous in the monotonous. (Quote source: “The Grave Robber,” p. 13-14.)

faith-hope-loveIn Chapter 4 titled, “The Lost Miracles,” Batterson tells the story of how Thomas Jefferson, as a 16-year-old college student during the Enlightenment when reason and logic were king, Jefferson took scissors to his Bible and cut out all of the miracles that Jesus performed. He also deleted the virgin birth, the resurrection, and every supernatural event in between. He was, however, devoted to the teachings of Jesus. As Batterson states (p. 24), “In the words of historian Edwin Gaustad, ‘If a moral lesson was embedded in a miracle, the lesson survived in the Jeffersonian scripture, but the miracle did not’ . . . Jefferson’s version of the Gospels ends with the stone rolled in front of the tomb. Jesus died on the cross but never rose from the dead.”

As Batterson continues (p. 24):

Hard to imagine, isn’t it–taking scissors to the sacred text of Scripture? But don’t we do the very same thing? We wouldn’t dare use a razor, but we cut and paste nonetheless. We pick and choose our favorite verses while ignoring the texts we cannot comprehend or don’t’ particularly like. We rationalize the verses that are too radical. We scrub down the verses that are too supernatural. We put Scripture on the chopping block of human logic and end up with a neutered gospel. We commit intellectual idolatry, creating God in our image. So instead of living a life that resembles the supernatural standard set in Scripture, we follow an abridged version of the Bible that looks an awful lot like us.

When you subtract the miracles like Thomas Jefferson did, you’re left with a very wise yet weak Jesus. I’m afraid this is the Jesus many people follow. He’s kind and compassionate, but the raw power is missing in action. So we follow His teachings but never experience His miracles. And that doesn’t just fall short of the standard He set–it misses the point altogether.

One of the boldest statements in the Bible is found in John 14:12:

Whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these.

Greater things? It would sound like heresy if it didn’t come from the lips of Jesus. It’s one of those verses that we tend to rationalize, so let me tell you exactly what it means. If you follow Jesus, you’ll do what He did. You’ll seek to please the heavenly Father first and foremost. You’ll care for the poor, you’ll wash feet, and you’ll offend some Pharisees along the way. You’ll also traffic in the miraculous. And it won’t just be as an eyewitness. It’ll be as a catalyst. Please believe me when I say, you are someone else’s miracle!

Make no mistake about it: only God can perform miracles. So God gets all of the glory. But as you’ll see in the pages to follow, nearly every miracle has a human element. Sometimes you need to step into the Jordan River, like the priests of Israel, before God will part the waters [see Joshua 3]. And sometimes you need to wade into the Jordan seven times, like Naaman [see 2 Kings 5:14]. Only God could miraculously heal Naaman’s leprosy, but he would have forfeited the miracle if he hadn’t positioned himself for it by repeated obedience. So while some miracles take only a single step of faith, other require multiple attempts! But whether it’s ankle deep or waist deep, you’ve got to wade into the Jordan River. Sometimes you’ve got to do the natural before God will do the supernatural. (Quote source: “The Grave Robber,” p. 24-25.)

As Christians, we simply cannot choose what we want to believe and toss out the rest because it is inconvenient to our lifestyles or even our logic. And if we are looking for miracles we have to believe what we say and claim to believe regardless of our circumstances or what we want. Faith requires that we believe what we say we believe and not just when everything is going the way we want it to go.

In Chapter 12 titled, “The Rule Breaker,” the chapter opens with a verse from John 5:10 which was the Pharisees’ response when Jesus healed the invalid of his thirty-eight year ailment on the Sabbath, and told him to pick up his mat and walk (which the man did). The Pharisees then said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.”  Batterson states (pp. 123-125):

Jesus could have healed the invalid on any day of the week [see John 5 for the story], but He chose to perform this miracle on the Sabbath. He knew it would rile up the religious establishment, and I wonder if that’s why He did it. Jesus offended the Pharisees with great intentionality and consistency. . . .

If you follow in the footsteps of Jesus, you will offend some Pharisees along the way. In fact, there are situations where you need to go out of your way to do so. That is not a license to break the law. It is permission to break man-made rules the don’t honor God. . . .

While Jesus told the invalid to take up his mat and walk, He didn’t tell him to hike to Timbuktu. So while the invalid probably hopped, skipped, and jumped all over Jerusalem that day, he did not go outside the parameters established by the mitzvot [a comprehensive list of  do and don’t rules the Pharisees came up with]. Of course, it wasn’t the invalid walking that caused the offense. It was the fact that he was carrying his mat–an activity strictly forbidden [on the Sabbath] by Pharisaical law. Of course, there was nothing in Scripture to substantiate that regulation. And Jesus knew it since He wrote it. The prohibition against carrying a mat was not divinely ordained law. It was nothing more than a man-made rule–and, I might add, an awfully silly rule if someone had just been healed of a thirty-eight-year-old ailment.

The great irony of this story is that while the Pharisees accused Jesus of breaking the law, they were the ones breaking the spirit of the law by trying to keep what they thought was the letter of the law. And while they thought Jesus was breaking the letter of the law, He was keeping the spirit of the law by healing the invalid.

There is a world of difference between following Jesus and following rules. If you follow Jesus, you won’t break the law of God, but you will break the rules of man. And you’ll offend some Pharisees by doing so.

The Pharisees couldn’t see the forest through the trees. They wanted to kill Jesus because He challenged their man-made rules. . . . The Pharisees missed the miracle that was right in front of their eyes because they couldn’t see past their human traditions and man-made rules. And that is precisely what keeps us from experiencing the miraculous as well. To experience the miraculous, sometimes you have to break the rules. (Quote source: “The Grave Robber,” p. 123-125.)

In the final chapter of the book, Chapter 25 titled, “One Little Yes,” it opens in the middle of the story about the death and resurrection of Lazarus by Jesus (see John 11):

After asserting His identity as the resurrection and the life (see John 11:25-27), Jesus pops a point-blank question that punctuates Martha’s life [Martha was one of the sisters of Lazarus]: “Do you believe this?” Remember: Jesus hadn’t called Lazarus out of the tomb quite yet, so Martha was still in the depths of despair. Hope was four days dead [when Lazarus died]. Yet Martha response with her simple profession of faith:

“Yes, Lord.”

One little yes can change your life.

One little yes can change your eternity.

The litmus test is the same now as it was then. The only question on God’s final exam is: “Do you believe this?” It’s not a multiple-choice question. It’s true or false. Ant it’s most important question you’ll ever answer. That one decision will determine your eternal destiny. The good news is that it’s an open-book exam, and God reveals the right answer in Romans 10:9:

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (ESV)

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the axis around which our faith revolves. When Jesus rose from the dead, it radically redefined reality. When He walked out of the tomb under His own power, the word “impossible” was removed from our vocabulary. The resurrection is the history-changer, the game-changer. But the trick is learning to live as if Jesus was crucified yesterday, rose from the dead today, and is come back tomorrow!” (Quote source:The Grave Robber, p. 24-25.)

Jesus Christ can make the impossible possible. . . .

Do you believe this? . . .

It requires one faith-filled yes . . .

YouTube Video: “Til The Day I Die (Live)” by TobyMac:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here