Monday, February 9, 2009

seen and unseen

Yesterday I preached about stuff "you have seen with your own eyes". In other words, the things that God has done in the lives of believers that are undeniably Him and His work. Of course, Moses had a litany of miracles to recount for the Israelites from Egypt to the edge of the Promised Land; but as we illustrated yesterday...so do we. I was overwhelmed (in a cool kind of way) when I asked for people who had seen God visibly work in their lives to see literally hundreds respond in each service.

This means that my faith is made up of three distinct parts. There is a part of my faith that is unseen or at least seen through a glass dimly. There are parts of God that I will never get until i experience eternity and come into His presence. This is the, "we walk by faith and not by sight" part of Scripture's teaching. Then there's this part of my faith built on what I've actually seen God do in my life. Cynics would call it coincidence, but there have been too many "coincidences" in my life directly associated with prayer or God's church for me not to believe God's hand is in it. I can say without a doubt that I have seen God move (maybe not plagues and Red Sea crossing, but just as miraculous I assure you). So those real (saw it with my own eyes) experiences make up what I believe moving forward. This is the "we are witnesses" part of the Bible. Finally, my faith is built on the testimony of others who have gone before me and currently surround me who have their own stories of God in their lives. I have two options when someone tells me an "out there" God story: Deny their experience, or believe God does that stuff. Well, since God does that stuff in the Bible and he's done that stuff in my life; I must believe he does it in other's lives as well. This is the "surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses" part of the Bible.

For believers, we can say we have faith in God because: we trust what is unseen, we have experienced of stuff and seen with our eyes what only God could do, and we have the testimony of those who have also seen God stuff.

I said it best in my sermon yesterday: "I don't have to see God to believe, but I've seen enough to know that my believing is not just wishful thinking." If you have one of those stories feel free to leave it here.

8 comments:

LynnC said...

Hi, Mike! I have seen so many miracles in my life. Maegan was not supposed to be able to walk, talk or have the mentality of more than a 5 year old. Not only does she walk, talk and is very smart, she has lived on her own since she was 17, holds down a full-time job and has been married for almost 10 years!!!! Then there are my grandsons, Noah and Riley. Both born premature and things didn't look good. Noah only weighed 2 lbs, 1 oz and Riley - 2 lbs, 8 1/2 ozs. God breathed life and strength into these two and they are thriving and happy. We have miracles in our lives everyday - sometimes, we just have to look a little harder to see them.

Audrey said...

Just last Thursday, Craig was praying for encouragement and for people around us that love us to reiterate what we are thinking--so we don't feel like we're alone in the boat. You and Sara have been so encouraging, but sometimes after weeks of waiting, it's just nice to hear someone reaffirm your thoughts. I didn't know he had prayed this, but Sunday I felt that we should have this older couple (who attend his Sunday School class) over for lunch. I've thought this lots of times about this particular couple, but today it was a more urgent feeling--even though the house was a mess and I had to get lunch in the oven once we got home, I had Craig invite them over. What had to be picked up for us to eat comfortably was taken care of and we enjoyed a huge salad and great conversation while dinner cooked. Afterwards, Craig was just pondering what the gentleman had said and how he had been encouraged--WOW--I didn't even know he'd prayed that, but it was totally God answering his prayer!
As a sidenote, someone from our previous church had attended our church this Sunday and we visited with him for a few minutes afterwards (almost being late for our invited visitors!). Ezekiel is so sweet and always wants to invite people over to our house, so even though he and Isaiah didn't remember this man at all, he wanted me to see if he could join us for lunch. I was hesitant, because I didn't think the company would mesh well, and didn't know if we had enough food, but decided to ask anyway--there's no reason to diminish a little boy's hunger for hospitality and God would take care of the details if we did have an extra guest. Well, I asked and he did have plans, but it was a step of faith even to consider another guest.
On a lighter note, a few weeks ago we had prayed (in a family bedtime prayer) and asked God to send us some money so we could go do something fun with the boys--it was almost sent up in jest, figuring it wouldn't happen, but it's worth a try. We prayed on Monday. On Friday, Craig's day off, we got a voicemail from a friend who needed computer help. Craig went to help, and the husband was so thankful that Craig had come to help on "his day off." Craig told him multiple times that we are friends, that he's helped us so much, and it was just nice to be able to help them out. Craig and the boys came home about an hour later. About 10 minutes later the doorbell rang, and here was the husband with an envelope for me to give to Craig, then he left. Craig opened it and he had given him a $50 bill--so unnecessary (especially considering what little Craig had to do)--but I immediately said, "God answered our prayers!" God is a God of love, and hope, and grace, but He is also a God of joy and He loves to see His children enjoying His gifts! We had so much fun--and 'Hotel for Dogs' was a perfect choice--all about second chances, just like Him :)

wannabe said...

Mike-
Many people at Eastview remember Jennifer's auto accident. Just one of the miracles was this one.

In the afternoon, she was scheduled for brain surgery to eliminate pressure from a brain hemorrhage. The people of Eastview prayed. "Coincidentally", the doctor postponed surgery to the following morning. The people of Eastview prayed. "Coincidentally" the doctor ordered just one more scan to see how it was going before the surgery. Miraculously, it was gone. No surgery was necessary. God is GOOD!

BJA

Anonymous said...

As many others are experiencing, we found my husband "under" employed in 2008. The year ended with him not having work in IL.

We prayed for options/solutions/a way to make the ends meet. He had been pursuing a career opportunity in town; however in early Nov we found out that was not going to happen due to staffing restrictions.

We continued to pray, and request prayers from family and friends.

He called his former employer in Nebraska, who just happened to have a large project going on. He welcomed my husband back with joy.

So he headed to NE for 6 weeks.
While this was a strain on our family we knew it was a HUGE blessing from God. There were so many lessons that came from this experience. A potential job opportunity locally - the interviews were progressing while he was in NE. Peace about the possible career shift, confidence about where we were living as a family, realization from both of us that all that really matters is our family being together and not where we live. Self confidence about what we can handle when we need to. A larger appreciation for those who are serving our country - away from family for a lot longer as well as for those single parents who manage a house and family on their own 100% of the time.

We continued to pray for the career opportunity here to come through. There were 3 interviews and a significant amount of waiting. Which gave us time to pray and pray some more. I kept friends and family informed via email. I even shared with co-workers - I knew we needed everyone.

The best part was (even if it doesn't sound like it) my husband's desperation. I knew he was really scared, upset, depressed, anxious..etc. This caused him to lean on God like I've never seen before. He prayed with gusto and deep love for and to the Lord God Almighty. He began to journal. I know my text is not doing it justice - but if you could feel the joy and peace inside me you would get it. I am truly in AWE.

On a side note, I mentioned 6 weeks - it was 42 days -- I know 40+ days is not a coincidence...it's God.

On Dec 30th he received the job offer for the position here! Praise God. It is by His grace we were given this blessing. The test was not over as he stayed in NE a couple more weeks to bridge the gap until the new job started. I am so excited to see the journey God leads us through. I just know God has it all planned and He doesn't intend for us to fail.

While we have had our share of hurdles and distractions - we needed this event to bring it all together, to set us in the right direction to totally trust God.

I shared our news with a group of "generic" friends and intentionally kept the comments fairly generic - then I received the best note back...which essentially said, "Thank you for witnessing to us. You have helped me trust God more completely."

Ok - sorry for the long response - but it is all God at work and I love and trust Him.

Mike Baker said...

awesome stories. God really is amazing. BJ, I remember praying for Jennifer - very cool miracle. Keep sharing, it strengthens our faith.

Nancy said...

Too many miracles in my life to really recount them all! Small ones, big ones, I'm actually alive today is pretty big (I certainly don't deserve that one!). Here's a little list of wonderful miracles:

1. Nikki (child #1)
2. Logan (child #2)
3. Lizzie (child #3)
4. Jim - a husband who loves me and loves our kids (2 of which are not biologically his... he loves them all just the same).

If you are looking for a cool story, here's an interesting one of which I have no explanation for:

Before I became a family member at ECC, I attended a little church called Faith Evangelical Mennonite. We didn't even have a church house but met at a local business here in town. During one of our Christmas Eve services, our very talented pianist (Claire) was playing the piano during communion. I was praying, eyes closed, head bowed. Quite surprisingly, I began to hear the most beautiful sound I have ever heard. I might describe it as tinkling bells (we had no sound system... just the piano) but it was more like singing, just more lyrical and musical (so hard to describe with just words)... to this day I believe it was the voice of God's angels singing praises to Him. I'll never forget that sound and look forward to hearing it again and joining in!

amy nicole said...

My head instantly floods with thoughts and memories of seeing God's hand at work in my life. 1) My rich family heritage of generations of faithful servants 2) Financial provisions where God provided just enough in just the right time. 3)God allowing me to serve on this staff 4) Forming small groups that only God can put together 5)Friends calling on me with encouragment at the perfect moment. I can go on and on. God's faithfulness is overwelming to me. ANG

Paul said...

I lived in Russia for 2 years as a missionary serving with The CoMission. I saw God do a lot of things that only He can do, but some stick with me more than most. I remember the day that Slava, the director of the Bashkir American Intercollege in Ufa, Russia, came up to Heather, Jill and I after we had finished teaching our English class for the day. With his very British accent (which is funny since he's very Russian), Slava said, "My dear American friends, I would love it if you would use the Bible to teach your English class! Use some of the more famous stories, like the birth of Jesus, the prodigal son, or others and try to incorporate those stories into you English lessons." We were sort of in shock to say the least. I soon recalled the prayer team that came to visit us just a few months earlier. The group came from Bloomington, many from Eastview, to prayer walk in our city and to encourage us while they were visiting. I was with a three from the group that was walking and praying in one part of the city when we stopped to pray in front of the college where we were teaching English. Nancy from the prayer team prayed specifically that day that the Lord would open an opportunity for us to teach the Bible to the students at the school and that it would be by the schools request! I don't know about you, but I know God answers prayer! God moves in the hearts of men and does miraculous things today just like He did thousands of years ago. There are too many amazing deeds that I've seen Him do to list them all here, but thought I'd share this one.