How to experience miracles

This week’s blog post follows up on last week’s passage about Jesus and Peter walking on water. You may want to read last week’s post at

http://hweehweetan.com/taking-risks-jesus-and-peter-walking-on-water/

We’ve talked in last week’s post about how we need to take risks if we want to see God’s miraculous power in our lives. We need to step out of the comfort of our boat and walk on stormy waters.

Peter took a risk and got out of the boat, stepping into the turbulent sea. Something amazing happened – he walked on water like Jesus did. He experienced God’s miraculous might.

But then he started looking at the violent waves around him. He took his eyes off Jesus and started focusing on the things around him. That’s when he started to sink.

He cried out to Jesus and the Lord grabbed hold of Him. Then our Master walked Peter safely back to the boat.

This passage teaches an important lesson about what we have to do if we want to live a miraculous life.

We have to keep our eyes on Jesus and not our circumstances.

Some writers have called this a “concentrating faith” – the only way to rise above the crisis-times of life is by keeping our focus on the One who is above it all.

The passage teaches us not to focus on our difficult circumstances. If you look at what is worrying you, the stormy waters, then you will sink. But if you keep your eyes on Jesus, trust in Him, then you will experience the miracle. You will walk on water.

What are the stormy waters in your life?

For me, it’s pursuing my dream job of being a full-time Christian writer. My dream is to touch millions of people around the world with my Christian works. If I look at the circumstance, at how difficult it is to get published and to reach such a large audience, it’s easy for me to get discouraged and want to give up. But I always remind myself to focus on God’s power and not my weakness and the challenging circumstances, and this gives me the encouragement and strength I need to follow God’s call.

The Bible is full of stories of believers who refused to be intimidated by their circumstances, focused on God’s strength and experienced the miraculous in their lives.

David defeated the giant Goliath, an opponent much larger and stronger than him, with a single stone. Abraham didn’t focus on his old age, and believed that he could have a child and God blessed him with Isaac. Daniel refused to compromise his principles and when he was thrown into the den of lions, he wasn’t scared by the violent beasts and his faith lead God to shut the mouths of the lions.

Do you have a dream that God has put in your heart? Do you feel that the dream is impossible to achieve, that you need a miracle in order for your dream to come to pass?

Like Peter, don’t look at the stormy circumstance, but fix your eyes on Jesus, on the Lord who can achieve the impossible.

Be courageous, and take the steps you need in order to pursue your dream. And as you are working towards making your dream happen, and when obstacles come up, keep focusing on the power of God to help you overcome your challenges.

Turn your eyes away from your storm and reach out to Jesus, and you’ll find yourself walking on water!

 

Taking risks – Jesus and Peter walking on water

This week’s blog is about Jesus walking on water.

The context of this story begins with an astounding miracle – Jesus feeding 5000 people with just five loaves and two fish.

The miracle made Jesus super popular, he was like a rock star, the crowd couldn’t get enough of him and his amazing feats. Jesus might have found this attention from the crowd rather overwhelming and wanted some quiet time alone with God. So He sent the crowd away, told his disciples to cross the lake in a boat and withdrew to a private place in the mountains where He could pray.

By the time Jesus had finished praying, the disciples in the boat were already far from the shore. The boat was being buffeted to-and-fro like a roller-coaster as the wind blew the waves against the vessel, smashing wave after wave of violent water against the vessel.

The disciples must have been pretty terrified already, scared that the boat was going to capsize and worried that they were in danger of drowning. Though their situation was frightening enough already, what happened next scared them even more.

The disciples saw a figure walking on the water towards the boat, a moon-lit silhouette sliding across the water.

“It’s a ghost!” they cried out in fear.

Then the ethereal figure spoke to them – “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

However, all they could see was a dim outline, with waves crashing against the ghostly figure. Was the figure really Jesus or could it be a trick – could the figure be a demonic apparition out to harm them?

It was then that Peter had an inspired thought. If the figure was really Jesus walking miraculously then surely the Lord could empower Peter to perform the same miracle? “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter said, “Tell me to come to you on the water.”

The ghostly figure simply said one word – “Come”.

Peter lifted his right foot and tentatively dipped it into the water. The foot didn’t sink but when it hit the water, the water was like firm concrete. So Peter took a deep breath and made that leap of faith, he lifted his left foot, getting out of the boat and plunged his left foot into the stormy water. Again – bang! – his foot didn’t sink but hit a wet but solid surface.

Peter started walking on water, but not without fear. He slowly put one foot in front of the other, expecting disaster to strike any moment. The sea was stormy, and wave after wave of water struck his body as he made his way towards Jesus.

Peter was only a few feet away from Jesus when what he feared the most happened. He started sinking, the surface of the water seemed to be getting less and less solid, the water’s firmness was turning soft. First the water came up to his ankles, then to his shins, then to his knees and as Peter approached Jesus, he was going further down and down into the sea.

Peter was sure that he was going to be swallowed up by the strong windy waves any moment and cried out to Jesus, “Lord, save me!”

Immediately, Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

Peter clung on to Jesus like his life depended on him and Jesus guided the terrified Peter back to the boat.

After Jesus climbed into the boat, the wind died down and the lake became as calm as a mirror, the water was as flat and shiny as a sheet of glass.

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This account of Peter walking on water should inspire us to take risks.

Too often we are content to live a safe life, one that is less than perfect but which is secure. Our lives might be mediocre, we might be unhappy, but we’re too scared to change things because we’re afraid that change might make things worse.

Certainly the disciples might have felt that way. Sure, it would be totally awesome, utterly mind-blowing to be able to walk on water, but what was the point of that? They might have thought – “this walking on water thing sure looks impressive, but I’m not going to take a risk and copy Jesus by trying to walk on water too. What if I try to walk on water and fail? Then I would have drowned trying to do something that wasn’t even very useful or beneficial but that just looked spectacular.”

But Peter was different from the other disciples. He didn’t want just a normal, ordinary, routine life that was mired in mediocrity. He wanted a life that was extraordinary, amazing, jaw-dropping, one that made your spirit soar like the eagle. He wanted to live a life full of miracles. He wanted to walk on water when his fellow disciples were all perfectly content to sit safely in the boat.

Peter’s example teaches us about our need to take risks so we can live a life that’s extraordinary. God wants us to give us a life that’s more than what we can even ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20) but in order for that to happen, God’s miraculous path for us often demands that we leave safety behind and take risks.

You won’t ever experience walking on water if you never get out of your boat. Answering the voice of Christ to join him in the stormy waters means you have to be courageous. You need to have a faith that is brave enough to put your life in Christ’s hands. You need the faith to believe that Christ wants you to live a miraculous, astounding life. Often, to answer the call to live a life that is miraculous involves taking a path where you have to leave security behind. For me, it’s the path of being a writer, a path which is financially unstable and could well lead to chronic poverty, but since God has blessed me with the gift of writing, I continue to pursue His calling to be a writer and trust that He will provide for my material needs. For others, walking on water might involve taking on a job which is less lucrative but more fulfilling or leaving a long-term relationship which is not working out. In order to walk on water, we need that brave faith. The faith that involves our venturing out, doing things we had never dreamed of, trusting that God will take care of us.

 

Wrestling with God

Today’s blog entry is from Genesis, about Jacob wrestling with God.

Genesis 32:22-32

22 That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. 24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”

But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

27 The man asked him, “What is your name?”

“Jacob,” he answered.

28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”

29 Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.”

But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.

30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”

31 The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip. 32 Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the tendon attached to the socket of the hip, because the socket of Jacob’s hip was touched near the tendon.

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One problem that we might face in our prayer life is that it’s too easy. We don’t put enough effort in our prayers. We see God as a vending machine, just drop in a prayer request like a coin and expect his answer to pop out to us like a drink dispensed by the machine.

When we pray for something and God does not give us what we want, we give up almost immediately.

But God wants us to persevere. He wants us to keep praying in accordance to His will, being patient and persevering, until we receive what we want. He wants us to wrestle with Him, like Jacob did.

God wants to exert great effort in our prayers, seeking him with all our heart and all our strength. He wants us to wrestle with Him like Jacob, all through the night until we get the blessing we desire. God wants us to engage with Him passionately.

Christ also set the example of intense prayer in Gethsemane, when He asked God to spare Him the pain of going to the Cross. He prayed so fervently that He started sweating drops of blood.

Let’s learn to cling to God fervently, holding onto Him until He grants us His blessing.

 

God hungers for sinners

Often, we are told as Christians to hunger after God, but do you know the opposite is true as well?

God hungers for us.

Even more amazingly, God hungers for sinners. He has an immense love for those who have drifted away from Him. God longs to woo them back into His loving arms, cleansing them of their sins. This is supported by Romans 2:4, which tells us that God’s kindness leads us to repentance.

In Luke 15, Jesus tells us of the parable of the prodigal son. It’s a story of a young man who asked his father for his inheritance. Then he set off with his wealth to a distant country where he squandered all his money in wild living. Now he had no money and to make things worse, the country was stricken by famine. Penniless and hungry, the young man took on a job feeding pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ So he got up and went to his father.

The young man expected his father to be angry at him, so he was prepared to grovel.

What he didn’t expect was his father was sitting by the window, looking out for his son’s return. The father hungered for his son’s return. Instead of scolding his son, when he saw his son coming back, he threw his arms around him and kissed him.

The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.  Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate.  For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

The son expected punishment, what he got instead was a party. The father’s love and mercy was an astounding surprise, far greater than anything the son could ever hope for or imagine.

That’s how much God loves us.

We’re all sinners, we all make mistakes. Maybe you feel you’ve messed up too much in life so you’ll never be able to do great things for God. What you have to realize is that God hungers for sinners just like you, and He is longing to forgive you, as long as you come running back into his open arms.

What’s key is that you have a humble and repentant heart. In Luke 1:53, it says “He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.”

Likewise, in Mark 2, we read about how Jesus was spending intimate fellowship time, eating with tax collectors and other sinners. When he was criticized by the religious leaders for befriending sinners, he replied, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

So today, if you fall into sin, instead of being burdened by guilt and avoiding God, know that God loves you just as you are. Run into his forgiving arms. He hungers for you.