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Amaze Us, O God!
The life we start with comes from others but the life we live is molded by our own hands. God is a remarkable sculptor—He wants to help you.
Allow Him to remove your sharp edges and excess burdens by asking Him to “Amaze Us, O God!”
Over thirty years ago, Alex Haley wrote the best seller Roots, tracing the ancestral struggle of his family from Africa to America. In so doing, he reintroduced an entire generation to the plight of slavery and perhaps as an unintended consequence, stirred many thousands from all races to search out their own genealogical histories. We each have a spiritual genealogy that is every bit as interesting and formative as our natural lineage.
Life itself is amazing and provides remarkable material for each one of us to tell our unique chapter of His-story. Those who came before us, for better or worse, have left us with the foundation upon which our lives are built. Regardless of whether or not we value or appreciate the particular groundwork that was laid for us by others, our life is the result of how we have built upon that foundation.
You’ve heard the expression “He was born with a silver spoon in his mouth,” meaning someone was given many material advantages. Well, maybe you realize, as I do, that far more than material blessings, the greatest advantage any of us can have are ancestors, and parents in particular, who instill in us a thirst for God and the miraculous. But even if they did not, through our roots we can trace amazing events, whether we perceive them to be good or bad, that have the potential to unlock understanding in our lives.
We have a divine heritage given by God. We also have a heritage that comes from our ancestors. A heritage is literally the things that we inherit from our ancestors. This heritage is composed less of material things and more of the experiences, culture, values, and especially the faith that we inherit from those who have gone before us.
I grew up in a family that believed in a God who was near. He was a God who was willing, and indeed even eager, to participate in our lives in a very present and active way. My parents had no problem believing in and receiving the miraculous.
I was just a young boy when I started hearing incredible stories and seeing irrefutable miraculous occurrences. These events caused me to ask questions and search for answers. I would ask myself questions like “Why do supernatural events occur at one place or time and not in another?” “Do these things just happen, or are they released by something we do or by some understanding we have?” “Are there keys to understanding and utilizing the amazing power of God that, if we understood them, would give us continual access between the natural and spiritual worlds?”
I was just a young boy when I started seeing irrefutable miraculous occurrences.
At a very young age I began learning about the amazing workings of the Spirit from stories my parents told me from firsthand accounts of miraculous testimonies and from my own personal witness. As a young boy I remember sitting in small clap-siding churches, in our farmhouse and neighborhood houses, and around smoky campfires and seeing God touch people in unbelievable ways. The following event is as clear to me now as it was the day I first witnessed it . . .
I watched my aunt Ruth closely as she scurried around my grandmother’s kitchen helping finish preparations for Thanksgiving dinner. She was a phenomenal cook and was always chipper and happy. Her back was as straight as an arrow, and her gait strong and aggressive.
My mother and grandmother took turns shooing me into the other room. We had come for a visit, and my curiosity about the things I had heard compelled me to seek further evidence. There were lots of cousins to play with whom I hadn’t seen in a while, but I was determined to see if Aunt Ruth limped when no one was watching.
The family story had been told over and over again about how Ruth, my daddy’s sister, had been in a terrible buggy accident when she was fifteen years old. The horses became spooked by a thrashing machine and ran away, dragging her helpless body hundreds of yards under the overturned buggy as it scraped and bounced against the stony ground.
My grandfather Benjamin Hanby would often tearfully describe how his daughter’s body was grossly twisted and her back terribly deformed. So serious was her accident that her right leg withered to the point that only the ball of her foot could reach the floor.
In a grotesque fashion, she would limp along as she did her daily chores. The incessant pain from that accident remained with her as she took care of my ailing grandmother and two younger brothers, one of whom would one day become my father.
On top of my aunt’s accident, Grandma had been sent home from the hospital with six months to live after having two-thirds of her stomach removed because of chronic bleeding ulcers. With few material resources, the family was struggling and leaned heavily on their neighbors and the church community of the little Methodist church in Bruno, Ohio, where my grandfather was a steward.
This comfort was short-lived, however, because the family was asked to leave the church due to Ruth’s “activities” during the worship services. In this case at least, the adage “trouble comes in threes” seems to have held true.
It was not that the church was being intentionally hurtful or inconsiderate; they just didn’t understand what was happening—nor did my relatives, for that matter. My grandparents held no animosity over their removal, for they knew how fear and lack of understanding can cause people to do things they later regret.
It happened mostly when the congregation sang, and always when they sang “Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me.” Ruth would fall out of her pew and begin babbling in a rather incoherent language. Everyone blamed the accident, and some diagnosed her as having epilepsy.
Often the amazing power of God tests our understanding and our will to adjust to the voice of God. Aunt Ruth, however, vowed that during those “spells” her body would become pain-free. No one really understood what was happening, but the entire family continued to pray for my grandmother and Ruth and to trust God.
It was during those lonely days that my grandfather’s brother, Great-uncle Clint, rode up to the old farmhouse and announced that a makeshift shelter called a brush arbor had been set up in his front yard. A traveling minister had come to the area and was preaching that Jesus was still healing sick folks and filling them with His Spirit—“just like in the Bible.” Then he added, “And I think we know what’s wrong with Ruth!”
My desperate grandfather loaded the whole family, including my dying grandmother, into a wagon and drove the team of horses seventeen miles over the rutted dusty road to Uncle Clint’s farm. There was a real excitement and anticipation from what they had been told.
They lifted Ruth out of the wagon, and when her feet touched the ground, her back instantly became straight and her right leg lengthened and became normal. She immediately had one of her “spells,” which witnesses claimed to be the baptism of the Holy Ghost!
When her feet touched the ground, her back instantly became straight and her right leg lengthened and became normal.
My grandmother was also instantly healed and lived for another sixty-two years—she was ninety-nine when she died. These amazing miracles introduced our family to the wonderful world of the supernatural.
Now, forty-five years later, I kept sneaking into the kitchen with an eye on Aunt Ruth because I wanted to make sure it was real, and it was: she never limped or had pain from her accident since the day she was healed at that meeting on my great-uncle Clint’s farm.
And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people.—Acts 5:12
God is a God of signs and wonders. In fact, many of the things He does fit under one of these two areas. Though many do not see because they no longer look, God is always speaking through an abundance of signs and wonders.
Signs are God’s pointing device. Like a road sign pointing out the direction to a destination or providing information about the trip, so are God’s signs. They give us information about how to connect to God and His manifold blessings.
God’s wonders cause us to wonder. Some miraculous event occurs or some, as yet unclear, occurrence takes place, and we wonder what it means. Like the Virgin Mary when the angel pronounced, “Hail, thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee” (Luke 1:28), this miraculous occurrence caused Mary to wonder what all this meant.
God did great, notable miracles for my aunt and grandmother, but His purpose was not just to heal them but also to give direction to their lives and understanding to their purpose, and to set in motion an order of events that was to affect the entire family and the life of those, like myself, yet unborn.
God not only did these things for my relatives but wants to do similar things for you as well. He is in the business of blessing you with the intent that you may know Him and gain understanding of who He is and how He acts. I asked myself, Why did this happen at my uncle’s house and not at my grandparents’ farm? Why were they healed when they touched the ground? Why at that time and in that place?
This miraculous incident got me wondering about how and why and in what manner the God of the universe interacts with His creation. Is it possible that there are spiritual keys that, if understood, would unlock the amazing power of God for each of us? I believe there are. But before we proceed to look at those, let’s talk for a moment about the nature of signs and wonders.
This miraculous incident got me wondering about how the God of the universe interacts with His creation.
Insights into Spiritual Portals: Signs and Wonders
Most of us, from time to time, look for signs. We want some external indication or confirmation of what we are to do, or that we are on track with some aspect of life. In and of itself there is nothing wrong with this as long as our ultimate goal is not the sign itself. If the sign becomes our ultimate goal, then we become lost in the sign and lose sight of what it was meant to confirm or what instruction it was to provide. We are not meant to live our life as sign-seekers. To do this is contrary to spirituality, and people who engage in sign-seeking open themselves up to the bondage of doubt and fear.
I once knew a married couple who would do nothing unless they saw a sign. If, for example, they thought they should take a trip to Kentucky, they would not go until the name of the state was given to them at least three times. It might be by hearing Kentucky on the radio or having someone mention the name to them in casual conversation. Their ability to hear the voice of God became lost in their reliance upon signs. Their entire life became dependent upon discovering some sign, and this fostered great fear and doubt in understanding or sensing God absent of signs, many of which were fabrications of their own mind. They of course are not alone in this. In fact many religions use external evidences of perceived blessing, financial success, number of members, notoriety, or social influence as signs that they are in the will of God. Sign-seekers will always find some sign, imagined or otherwise, that will support their desired results. But if we seek God above signs, we will have signs that bring confirmation and witness of God.
Many, as in the example above, look for signs from God. “I want a sign to know if I should take a job,” or “I want a sign to know if I should marry this person.” There is nothing wrong in desiring confirmation from God about important decisions in our lives. We can think of most miraculous signs, however, not so much as signs from God as signs of God. By that I mean that they reveal some aspect of God that should make us wonder and desire Him as opposed to being merely excited about something we’ve experienced. God is always manifesting Himself in our world to those who are able to see that these manifestations are signs of His love, His nature, His intention, His wisdom, and so forth—in short, signs of God. They give us instruction as to who and what He is and attest to or confirm His presence in our lives.
Jesus in Matthew 16:4 said, “A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign.” Literally, they seek one sign upon another. Yet God does provide many signs throughout Scripture, as in Mark 16:20, where it states, “And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following.”
God will confirm Himself and His word to each of us with signs.
In the story of my ancestors, the portal to their need was also a sign and a confirmation of God’s word. My aunt and grandmother were not seeking a sign. They believed in God and had great physical needs. My Aunt Ruth’s episodes in church and her and my grandmother’s instant healing upon touching the ground on my uncle Clint’s farm were signs of God’s presence and confirmation of God’s activity in their day.
Often things happen to us that we don’t instantly understand. This is where wonder comes in. We need to see our lives in relation to God’s purpose for us. Events that happen to us should spur us into contemplating God’s love for us. My aunt and grandmother suffered some very difficult trials, but the end result was that God delivered them. This was not only a sign to them of His love and power but to the entire family and to myself, who was yet unborn at the time of these events. Having confidence in God through difficult circumstances will open for you a portal of deliverance as it did for them. They could have refused to get into the wagon. They could have said, “We’ve prayed enough, and we never get an answer.” Yet regardless of their circumstances, they stayed true to what they knew of God. They were not seeking a sign and would have stayed true to their belief regardless of whether or not they were healed, but their belief and the timing of God’s purpose did open an amazing portal for them, and it can for you as well.
Having confidence in God through difficult circumstances will open for you a portal of deliverance.
If God’s desire is to amaze you so that you may gain knowledge of Him and grow in relationship, then you and not He must make the adjustment to encourage these things to happen. A few simple thoughts provided at the end of each chapter can open you to the amazement of God.
At one time I remember thinking, I’d like to return to that place in central Ohio where these and many other mighty things took place. Maybe there was something about that place. Don’t we all at times desire to relive especially happy or significant moments?
This thought was not unlike those of the woman at the well in the Gospel of John who had an encounter with Jesus that changed her life. She also was wondering about the place where God could be found. Jesus, in essence, said that it is not in a physical location but from a spiritual position that God can be accessed.
Think about a significant occurrence from the life of your parents or one of your ancestors. Recount it as fully as possible with as much detail as you can. Then ask yourself some questions:
Why did this happen to them?
How did they deal with the event and its aftermath?
In what ways did this event change them?
In what ways did this event eventually influence your life, even if you were not alive when it took place?
How was God in the event?
Then pray this simple four-word prayer: Amaze me, O God.
It is hard to know where you are going if you don’t understand where you’ve come from. In your past you possess significant insights for your future. Amazing things happen when you ask to see the hand of God in everything, even the smallest things.
Amaze us, O God, by the power of heritage!
Posted March 19, 2014