When God Surprises: Our God Is An Awesome God

Prayer is important, right? We say this, but do we believe it. Do we live it and breathe it?

I know I struggle with this. Let me share a recent story.

andyclassroomI teach at Life Pacific College. In the class we have 40 bright-eyed, curious students ready to learn. Now, before we get into the academics of the class, I start the class with prayer. I want to model the value of prayer not to mention that if we do not know how to pray in missions, we will get beat up spiritually rather easily.

In my last class, I started the three-hour, afternoon block according to our routine of devotion and prayer. But let me share a little secret, I was going through the exercise for the sake of the principle of prayer. My faith was not exercised in the slightest as I knew we had a lot of material to get through. My mind was on the material, and the material was on my mind to quote Snoop Dogg.

As the students began to share their requests, I started to think this is different. I wondered what is going on. The first few weeks, we had one or two requests, maybe three at the most. Today, the requests just kept coming. One of the half-dozen requests stood out to me. A student in the back of the class, Josh, asked for us to pray for his friend, whose dad had a skin disease causing him to no longer be able to walk. I thought, whoa, this is big, but my faith was little.

I hoped the students who prayed might have big faith as all I could think about was a lecture that was running out of time. But pray we would. If we didn’t get to all the fun extra facts and stories in the lecture, so be it. Prayer would happen, even if my praying heart was distracted. So internally, I mustered up the fortitude to pray. I started off the prayer, touching on unreached peoples (the topic of the day) and handed the rest of the prayer requests to the students.

To begin praying, my passion to see all peoples reached with the love of Jesus shined through. However, as the other prayers began to be lifted up by the students, my mind wandered. I couldn’t help but think this will take a long time, and we have too much material (*lecture notes) for the time we have. It was like we were trying to pack three weeks’ worth of clothes into a bag that could only fit a few days’ of outfits.

I went to my computer to check our time, maybe that would calm me down. Perhaps we hadn’t gone as far into the hour as I feared. Hopefully, time was moving slowly, and it was just my mind racing. But no.

We were 22 minutes into the class. I was so tempted to use the time of their prayers to prepare for the next thoughts I had to give in the lecture. My mind was elsewhere, but I fought myself internally, saying: this time is valuable, I have said this, I must model it. So, we prayed, and I joined my heart to the prayers being lifted up. Sometimes, you are not the perfect professor you aim to be.

And sometimes God surprises you anyway.

After the lecture and the break, we reconvened in the library to learn how to research for the research project they would have. While sitting along the wall next to my students, listening to the lecture on research from the librarian, Josh turned to me and whispered this story.

He texted his friend to say we prayed. His friend texted back to say her dad began walking this afternoon (within the hour of our prayer) and has been healed.

Whaaaaaat!!? That is incredible I thought. This is like the Centurion’s servant who was healed within the hour of Jesus’ authoritative prayer. This is Biblical stuff happening in our midst. Happening in America. Flabbergasted, I was.

I responded, amazing out loud, while inside I felt so much awe and shame at the same time. I had no faith to see this happen, and our awesome God did it anyway. Now, the students exercised faith, so faith was in the equation, but the biggest part of this healing is a healing God who loves to show how he is on mission.

A little background: This friend’s dad is a total unbeliever. He came down with psoriasis which progressed so badly that he couldn’t walk. When his daughter prayed for him, he tried limping around, saying I am healed in a mocking tone.

The next day when we prayed, there is no doubt in his mind he was healed by a God on mission, a God desiring to show himself real.

I am simply blown away. Mind blown. This is awe-inspiring stuff. When I think about this, I know I will not minimize the time we have to pray next week.

It is great to be surprised by God every now and again. Has there been a time you were surprised by God?

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That Was So Worth It

godofthepossible

Sometimes we ask, “was all that effort worth it?” Well, since you asked, here is a story that highlights my feelings on our six years in Thailand. The short version is: Yes, It was so worth it! The long version follows. “I am too old to change” she told him. One of our best friends in Thailand from the very beginning, Simon, repeated this story to us time and again. He told us more than once how he desperately wanted his family to know God. As a teenager, Simon came to know Jesus and began following him. When he shared his story with his parents, they agreed that God is real. They intellectually assented that God was the way to go and even supported him in his faith—something rare among Thai families. The social norm in Thailand dictates that families shun Christian converts. Our friend’s parents just couldn’t fully come to know God. For them, they said they were too old to change. In Thailand, like much of the world, the culture and religion are inextricably linked. The Buddhist worldview shapes every aspect of how people live. So to be nearing retirement, a Thai person looking at Christianity as the way to go has to weigh completely changing all of who they are. They are not simply adding Jesus to their life and gaining a positive outlook. They are taking on a new understanding of how to live. For Simon’s parents, the thought of changing at this point in their life was daunting. No, for them, it was impossible to change. Fast forward five years. Ovarian cancer struck Simon’s mom, and our friend carried a heavy heart for his mom’s health and her soul. The diagnosis was bleak as cancer hits hard in the villages of Thailand. What could Simon do? The church we led quickly came around him in prayer and emotional support. Simon’s anguish doubled as he lived in Bangkok far from his hometown and parents in the north of Thailand. We joined him in the prayer that his family would come to know God and soon. But the distance made us feel more than helpless. Coincidently, at the same time of her illness, Our Home Chapel had a team of leaders and youth going north for a youth camp. I hoped we might have an opportunity to visit Simon’s mom while in the same province. We did, because she came to the hospital in the provincial capital, Chiang Mai (only three hours from their village) where the national youth camp was held. The day before camp began; Simon went up early to visit with his family. Once again, he gave his heartfelt plea that his mom know God. In all of this God was working on her heart. Incredibly, what seemed impossible for years became reality that night. His mom, through many tears decided to give her heart to Jesus. Her future was more uncertain than ever, but now her life was in Jesus’ hands. The next evening, our team went over for a visit with Simon and his mom. We sat around doing what friends do in Thailand, eating snacks and shooting the breeze. We teased Simon about girls, talked about life in Thailand. Oh, and his mom loved getting to see pictures of Ellie. What Thai person didn’t want to see our cute tow head—a small minority in their country. Before we left, the OHC team asked to pray with Simon’s mom. We gathered around her to lay hands on her and pray. At this, one of the mom’s (what we called the older ladies) in the church put her hands on Simon’s mom’s abdomen and began to pray with fervor. As I listened to her pray in Thai, I felt God stirring. But we wouldn’t know if anything happened for some time as Simon’s mom had just come from the hospital that morning. The doctors gave her an updated diagnosis and treatment plan. She would not come back for another month. The next time she showed up to the hospital four weeks later, the doctors decided to run the blood work one more time before beginning treatment. To their shock and disbelief, the cancer was gone. There was not even a trace that the cancer had been there. Simon’s mom was released with a clean bill of health that day. God did the impossible. Jesus intersected her life far after the point in which she thought she could change. As I reflected over the past few days, I had this one thought. This is why Jesus gave his life—that people could be made whole in body and soul. Furthermore, this is why we gave our life to go to Thailand. Stories like this make it all worth it to leave behind the comforts of our home, family and friends to invest in the lives of people who do not know God. God is the God of the possible—even when we are convinced it is impossible.

Do you have any stories of God doing the impossible?

New Life From a Dream

In my trip to Malaysia in March, I met many amazing people. Sometimes you unexpectedly meet someone that is just a gem, a story worth sharing everywhere. It is all about being ready and open to hear people’s stories. This wonderful, humble man’s name is Luke, and his life was changed by a dream.

Luke, a Nepali man, works as a security guard 7 days-a-week, 12 hours-a-day to support his family back in Nepal. My Malaysians friends couldn’t stop talking about what hard workers the Nepali people are. Yeah, that is quite hard working I would say. And they clarify by saying these security guards don’t fall asleep. That should go without saying, but I know some that routinely fell asleep at our apartment building in Bangkok. Luke, the dedicated guard, is also preparing to begin a Nepali church here in KL. Why? Because he has been impacted by Jesus in a real way.

He came to know Jesus nearly 30 years ago when his mother was deathly ill with TB. Luke’s family spent 9 months and the family’s life savings working to find help. After all of that time in the hospital and money spent, his mom was sicker than ever. At this point, she began to prepare for Luke and his siblings to be taken care of by other people after she left. Luke’s mom began having dreams that caused her to think death was coming to get her. She saw a man in white reaching out to grab her. To her, this certainly meant her time was short.

Luke did not know what to do. When Luke told his teacher, the only Christian in the village, what was happening, the teacher asked more about this dream. Luke’s mom said the man was reaching out to take her hand and calling her to come with. The man in white said, “Come with me and you will never die”.

The teacher immediately knew the man in the dream was Jesus. The teacher explained to Luke that Jesus wanted her to live. The teacher went to find her pastor and an elder in the church from another village away. The three of them went with Luke to visit his mom. When they talked to Luke’s mom, she said she wanted Jesus. And more than that, Jesus fulfilled the message in that dream as he healed Luke’s mom completely.  . The TB was gone with no side effects. She is still living today in her 80s. I love these stories where God shows himself real. In a place like Nepal where the Buddhism has prevented people from knowing Jesus, he is still reaching down and intersecting their world.

I am reminded of the More Than Dreams series and love that God speaks to people in dreams, including people in the Buddhist world.

What dreams have you had that you know came from or maybe wonder if they came from God?

God Answers Prayers

One of the challenges or goals I gave the students at the start of the Acts class centered on the theme of the book, the kingdom of God. We are inviting God’s rule and reign into our world with his power and authority.

The goal of the church rests in continuing what Jesus began to do and teach, Acts 1:1.

At the beginning of each class, I ask students if they want to share an experience they had in praying for someone or being prompted by the Holy Spirit to pray for someone in the last week. One of the bolder students spoke up in the second class.

She is a leader in the church and has a gift for evangelism with some of the college students that come through the church. One of the new believers that this leader has been discipling came down with a cold, so the leader decided to pray for her. As she told the story in class, she was shaking inside and quite nervous. She went for it anyway. She then called the girl the next day to see if she was feeling better. Her friend was healed.

I was thrilled for this story to start our second class learning about the power of God and his kingdom principles through the book of Acts. How can we ever be bold enough to pray for someone with a big problem, if we cannot pray something minor? This student is catching the heart and presence of God and will grow in her faith each time she exercises faith in God to move with signs and wonders.

I see the prayer in Acts 4:29-30 relevant for her and the class. We all need to connect with the prayer the disciples made early on in their leadership of the church. Paraphrasing, “God move with signs and wonders through the power of the name of Jesus and give us boldness to proclaim your story.”