Posted 04/18/2019. The teenager whose supernatural recovery is at the center of the new film Breakthrough says he hopes his story helps moviegoers understand that miracles do happen and God does exist.
John Smith, now 18, fell through an icy pond in 2015 and was thought dead until his mother began praying for him at the hospital. Only then did his heart start beating.
Incredibly, 45 minutes had passed between the time he plunged through the ice and the moment he regained his pulse. CPR and shock treatments had failed. The doctor called it a “bonafide miracle.”
Chrissy Metz of This Is Us plays the mom in the film.
The real-life John Smith says he wants the film to be a “beacon of hope” for moviegoers.
“There's 300-plus pages of medical documents of why I should be dead. But I'm alive,” Smith told a panel of Christian media members. “And so unbelievers see that and go, 'Oh, it can't just be another God-based film.' We have doctors that are on our side to pull more unbelievers in to get them to believe that this is a bonafide miracle and the only person that can do this is God.”
Smith says he’s been amazed by the responses he’s received from atheists and unbelievers about his story.
“This has sparked curiosity regarding faith,” he said. “... And I think also the science part of it [has helped attract attention].”
Acknowledging he shouldn’t be alive, Smith said: “There's no answer for me.”
Breakthrough follows Smith’s miraculous recovery but also tackles the often-asked unanswerable question: Why did God heal Smith but not others?
Smith says he gets asked that question a lot.
“The one thing I always say to them is, ‘I'm sorry but respectfully, I don't know, but I'll be praying for you and your situation.’ … You can ask probably the number one pastor in the world and he may not even not know the answer,” he said. “But I always remind them that God is definitely alive and that God definitely loves them and their family.”
Posted April 25, 2019
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”
- COLOSSIANS 3:12
Every day I ask myself the question, “What should I wear?” I have my favorite clothes that I choose based on color (my favorite is blue) or comfort (stretchy pants) or a need to “dress for success.” What we wear says a lot about us, and I think the same is true of what we “clothe ourselves in” as Christians.
Clothing reflects our personality and tends to make a statement to the world around us, either that “I am a well-dressed, confident person who likes herself,” or “I don’t really care what others think of what I’m wearing, because I like it!” For Christians, we may dress to please ourselves, but perhaps we need to think about how what we are wearing affects those around us.
Imagine going to your closet tomorrow morning, and having a choice between anger or compassion, critical spirit or kindness, pride or humility, legalism or gentleness, frustration or patience. Whether you realize it or not, you choose from this list every day by deciding either to live for yourself or to invite the Spirit to manifest his fruit through you. Some of these clothes look really good on you, but some definitely do not! Some make you feel more secure about yourself, but if you are honest, as a Spirit-filled Christian, some just don’t seem to be “fitting” anymore.
We might question why some of these garments would even be found in a Christian’s closet. Perhaps it is time that we started getting rid of some of these old clothes and do a bit of “spring cleaning.”
Holy Spirit, please help me to do some honest closet cleaning and to choose to wear spiritual clothes that honor God and are a witness to the world of my transformed life in Christ. Amen.
Go Deeper — As you stand at your wardrobe or closet today deciding what to wear, also decide what attitude you are going to put on, especially if you are concerned about something that will happen that day.
Posted on 05/11/2018 - Last year the film “Wonder Woman” was released. But the Bible talks about a real wonder woman: the woman of Proverbs 31.
The woman described in this passage is the longest description of any family member in the Bible. That should tell us a lot about what God thinks of mothers and how important they are.
The chapter is an acrostic, which means that each verse begins with the succeeding letter of the Hebrew alphabet. What we’re given is an A-to-Z description of what a wonder woman – a woman of virtue – is like.
Verse 1 introduces this proverb as “the sayings of King Lemuel – an inspired utterance his mother taught him” (NIV). We don’t know a lot about this king, but we do know that he had a mother who gave him some great wisdom, which he wrote down.
According to verse 10, a real wonder woman is priceless and quite rare: “A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies” (NIV). We live in a time in which worth, especially for a woman, is determined by outward appearance. The more beautiful she is, the more valuable she is in the estimation of modern culture. The less beautiful or older she is, the less valuable she is. But that is the exact opposite of the way God sees things. In fact, pretty girls are a dime a dozen, but a woman of virtue, honor and character is priceless.
In Proverbs 31, we have a description of a woman of character and integrity. I can say, without any doubt, that my wife, Cathe, fits this description of the woman of virtue. A word to single guys: This is the kind of woman you need to be looking for. Start with Proverbs 31 and look for a woman who fits this category … or is at least is seeking to live this way. This is your standard, because the most important decisions of your life are: 1) the Lord you serve; and 2) the woman you marry. The first decision will determine whether you have heaven or hell in the afterlife. And the second decision will determine which one you’ll have in this life.
And a word to single women: This is the woman you want to be. Forget the magazines, their articles and their emphasis. They are so out of sync with what the Word of God says. Forget what you see on television and in commercials and instead look at what the Bible says about the real wonder woman, because this is God’s plan – and it’s better than any other plan. This is the perfect balance of beauty, brains, and spirituality. The woman who lives this way will be a happy woman because she’s a godly woman.
The wonder woman of Proverbs 31 is also trustworthy: “Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value” (verse 11 NIV). Trust is so important in a marriage. So is communication. You need to be honest with your mate. You need to tell the truth to your mate. If you have a trustworthy wife, then you have a wife of such great value.
Also, the wonder woman loves her husband: “She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life” (verse 12 NIV). She is his greatest cheerleader. She encourages him. She doesn’t tear him down in public. She doesn’t tell an embarrassing story about him in front of their friends. (And to the point, a husband should not do that to his wife, either.) Build up your spouse in public. If you have something critical to say, then say it privately.
The wonder woman of Proverbs 31 also loves her family. We see from this proverb that she finds wool and flax and busily spins it. She is like a merchant ship, bringing her food from afar. She gets up before dawn to prepare breakfast for her household and plans the day with her servants. Wool would speak of clothing for the winter, and flax would refer to clothing for the summer. In this day, they wouldn’t buy clothes; they made them.
I think the emphasis here is not that a woman has to start making all the clothes for her family (though some do that very well). Rather, verse 13 says that “she works with eager hands” (NIV). It speaks of a delightful willingness. She enjoys this calling God has given to her. She is also a shrewd investor. She goes to inspect a field and buys it with her earnings. This woman is an entrepreneur, a businesswoman.
Another thing we see about the wonder woman of Proverbs 31 is that she’s wise: “She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue” (verse 26 NIV). The words of a mother are so powerful, and they will stay with her child throughout his or her life. My wife taught our sons the Word of God and helped them with everything from manners to being tidy and so forth. If we were to look back over our lives, we would realize there are a lot of things our mothers taught us.
For example, our mothers taught us about anticipation when they said, “Just wait until your father gets home.” Our mothers also taught us about genetics when they said, “You’re just like your father.” They taught us about justice when they said, “One day you’re going to have kids, and I hope they turn out just like you. Then you’ll see what it’s like.”
There’s something about the bond of a child with his or her mother that is so special. When little children fall down, who do they call out for? Mom. Now if mom is not around, then dad is distant second. But they really want mom. When a football player scores a touchdown, he turns to the camera and says, “Love you, Mom!” And stories have been told of young men who, as they lay dying on the battlefield, they were calling out to their mothers.
We thank God for mothers, and we bless them. Let your mother know today that she is appreciated. Yes, a gift is fine. A card is good, especially if you write something in it. But she needs to know that you love her and notice all the things she has done. The best thing you could say to your mother or your wife who’s a mom, “You’re doing a great job.” If you thought of giving her some flowers on top of that, it’s even better. Verbally say to her, “I love you. I appreciate you. Thank you for all that you do.” It’s an important thing to do for the wonder woman in your life.
Posted on 04/19/2019 - Sometimes people get angry with God and say they’re never going to talk to Him again. They’re never going to go to church again. And they’re never going to read the Bible again.
As Jesus hung on the cross, he cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34 NKJV). I don’t think these were the words of someone in doubt. Jesus asked why, but he also cried out to the Father.
People have asked me if it is wrong to ask God why. Some would say it is, claiming it indicates a lack of faith. But Jesus asked God “Why?”
So go ahead and ask away. Just don’t expect an answer. And even if God were to answer, I don’t think you would be happy with what He said.
When the prophet Habakkuk didn’t understand why something was happening, he asked God about it. In effect God said, “I’ll tell you,” and then He gave Habakkuk the answer. But Habakkuk didn’t understand. It made no sense to him.
When we cry out to God and ask Him why, here is God’s basic answer: “I’ll tell you later, when you’re ready for it.”
It’s like explaining something complex to children. You could try to explain it now, but if you wait until they’re a little older, they will be able to understand it. In the same way, God could explain things to you now, but as you listen, you’ll say, “I don’t like that at all. I disagree.”
So God effectively says, “Let’s wait until you get to heaven, and then I’ll tell you. Then you’ll get it. Until that day, just trust me.”
When Jesus cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?” he was dying as a substitute for us. The guilt of our sins was imputed to Him, and He was suffering the punishment for those sins on our behalf. In the very essence of that punishment was the outpouring of God’s wrath against sinners.
Last year, a terrorist who identified with ISIS killed four people in southern France. Among them was Lieutenant Colonel Arnaud Beltrame of the national police. Beltrame was the first to respond when the terrorist stormed a market, killed one person, and took hostages. As police negotiated with the terrorist, Beltrame offered himself in the place of a hostage, and the terrorist agreed. In the end, the terrorist mortally wounded Beltrame. Beltrame gave his life for others. He saved a life by giving his own.
Jesus died because we were the hostages of the devil, and Jesus took our place on the cross. In some mysterious way that we can never fully understand, during those awful hours on the cross, God the Father was pouring out the full measure of His wrath against sin. And the recipient of that wrath was Jesus.
God was punishing Jesus as though He had personally committed every wicked deed of every wicked sinner. In doing so, God could treat and forgive the redeemed ones as though they had lived Christ’s perfect life of righteousness.
I think for Jesus to bear the sins of the world was worse than the scourging, worse than the mockery, worse than the blows to his face, and worse than the crucifixion itself. He who had never had even a single thought out of harmony with the Father was having all the horrific sins of humanity placed upon him as He died for each of us.
It was God’s most painful moment, and He went through that in our place. Jesus did all of this for us.
From the cross Jesus uttered, “It is finished!” (John 19:30 NKJV). In the original language, this statement was composed of a single Greek word, tetelestai. It was a commonly used term in that day. After you finished a job, you would say, “Tetelestai!” It’s completed. It’s accomplished. It’s done.
Jesus opened the way to Heaven for us.
One day we will die. We will give our last statement and breathe our last breath. We will face death. But when Christians die, they don’t cease to exist; they simply move from one place to another. And, by the way, they move to a much better place. If you’re a Christian, you don’t have to be afraid to die.
In the book of Acts we find the account of a young man named Stephen who preached the gospel to the religious leaders. As a result they decided to execute him. As Stephen was being stoned to death, he said, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” (Acts 7:56 NKJV).
God gave Stephen a glimpse to the other side. Then Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” and “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” The Bible tells us that “when he had said this, he fell asleep” (verses 59–60 NKJV).
The word “sleep” in the Bible is a metaphor for death used only in connection with Christians. It is never used to describe the death of a nonbeliever. If you’re a Christian, one day you’ll fall asleep and go to Heaven, directly into the presence of God.
If you’re not a Christian, however, you should be scared to death of death. It should terrify you. It should mortify you.
Jesus died and rose from the dead so we could know that we would live forever in Heaven. He did all of this for us, but we must come to him and say, “Lord, I’m sorry for my sin. I thank you for dying on the cross for me and rising again. Now I want to know You in a personal way.”
Death is different for a Christian because Jesus rose from the dead after he died on the cross. Death died when Christ rose.
Posted On 12/22/2017 - Awhile back my grandson, Christopher, found some ants in the family room. “Papa, come look at the ants!” he called. We got down on our hands and knees and looked at them. He said, “The ants are going to get me, Papa!”
“No, they aren’t,” I told him. “I’m going to get the ants.” I took a little paper towel, wiped them up and flushed them down the toilet.
Would you be willing to become an ant to reach the ants? I don’t think so. Yet God was willing to become a man to reach us. Jesus didn’t have a rags-to-riches story. Rather, he had a riches-to-rags story. He went from being a sovereign to being a servant. He went from the glory of heaven to a stable for animals. He went from a throne to a manger, and then to a cross. He gave up his place in heaven so we could have a place in heaven.
Jesus came at the appointed time, the perfect time. The Bible says, “But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law” (Galatians 4:4 NLT).
When Mary and Joseph arrived in Bethlehem, she was ready to give birth at any moment. Every place was full, and when they came to an inn, they were turned away. Can you imagine? Talk about opportunity knocking. Here was a woman who carried in her womb God in human form, yet she and Joseph were turned away.
The Bible never identifies an innkeeper; we simply read there was no room for them in the inn. We assume there was an innkeeper. It would seem to me that this person was simply preoccupied. He had other things to do and was just too busy to make time in his schedule.
That is like so many of us today, especially at Christmastime. You could write three words on American tombstones: Hurried. Worried. Buried. We are the only nation on Earth with a mountain called Rushmore. We’re always rushing about. We’re bombarded with information on our smartphones, tablets and other devices that beep messages to us constantly. We wonder why we never hear from God. Sometimes it’s a good idea to unplug from all of it and turn it off.
I think in all of the busyness and clutter of this time of year, we might be overwhelmed. Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28–30 NIV).
These are the words of Jesus to any person who is stressed out, any person who is under pressure, any person who is carrying a burden of any kind. Another version puts it this way: “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest” (MSG).
To burned-out people Jesus says, “Come and find rest.” To stressed-out people Jesus says, “Come and find rest.” To people carrying the weight of their own sin, Jesus says, “Unload those burdens and come and find rest.” He offers that to all of us.
People say one of the problems with Christmas is that it’s commercialized. I get that. That is one of the problems, but I also think we have made Christmas too beautiful. What happened was beautiful, of course, but we have romanticized Christmas with our images of sleighs and snow and hot cocoa in front of the fire. We have romanticized images of Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the animals in the stable and the wise men in coordinating colors, presenting their gifts.
Actually, the real story was raw. The real story was quite sad in some ways. Jesus was not born in a manger; he was born in a barn or a cave. It was cold and damp. He was not wrapped in clean sheets; he was wrapped in cheap rags. The stall where He was born would have smelled of straw and, quite honestly, feces. God incarnate was born on the dirt floor of a filthy cave.
For me that doesn’t diminish the story. It enhances it to understand the great sacrifice God made to come to us. Commentator R. Kent Hughes wrote, “It was clearly a leap down – as if the Son of God rose from His splendor, stood poised on the rim of the universe irradiating light, and dove headlong, speeding through the stars over the Milky Way to earth’s galaxy … where He plunged into a huddle of animals. Nothing could be lower.”
God became a little baby. He who sustains the world with a word chose to be dependent on a young girl. As G.K. Chesterton wrote, “The hands that had made the sun and stars were too small to reach the huge heads of the cattle.”
God often comes to us in unexpected ways. He came to Moses in a burning bush. He came to the wise men through a radiant star. And he came to this Earth as a baby.
The Bible tells us, “Though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9 NKJV).
God has come into our world. He sent a baby to save the world.
The innkeeper missed the greatest opportunity of all. Standing before him were Mary and Joseph. He should have welcomed them in. He would have had the privilege of having the Son of God born in his inn. Instead he dispatched them to a place where animals were kept.
Today God is knocking on the door of our lives. Jesus said, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me” (Revelation 3:20 NKJV). He won’t force his way into our lives. We have to open the door and invite him in.