Mark Batterson is the New York Times bestselling author of The Circle Maker. He is the lead pastor of National Community Church, one church with seven campuses in Washington, DC. Mark has a Doctor of Ministry degree from Regent University and lives on Capitol Hill with his wife, Lora, and their three children.
Find out more at www.MarkBatterson.com.
|Publisher:||Baker Publishing Group|
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About the Author
Mark Batterson is the New York Times bestselling author of The Circle Maker. The lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, DC, Mark has a doctor of ministry degree from Regent University and lives on Capitol Hill with his wife, Lora, and their three children.
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The Grave Robber
How Jesus Can Make Your Impossible Possible
By Mark Batterson
Bethany HouseCopyright © 2014 Mark Batterson
All rights reserved.
THE DAY WATER BLUSHED
For nearly thirty years, the One who had crafted the universe with His voice crafted furniture with His hands. And He was good at what He did—no crooked table legs ever came out of the carpenter's shop in Nazareth.1 But Jesus was more than a master carpenter. He was also God incognito. His miraculous powers rank as history's best-kept secret for nearly three decades, but all that changed the day water blushed in the face of its Creator.
That was the day the woodbender became a waterbender. Jesus manipulated the molecular structure of water and turned it into wine—757 bottles, no less. And nothing but the best. This wasn't just wine, it was fine wine.
Sometimes God shows up. Sometimes God shows off.
That's what Jesus did on the third day of a wedding feast in Cana, and that was just the beginning. Thirty-four distinct miracles are recorded in the Gospels, while countless more went unrecorded. John's Gospel spotlights seven miracles, unveiling seven dimensions of Jesus' miraculous power. Like the sun rising in the east, each miracle reveals another ray of God's glory until Lazarus steps out of the shadow of his tomb and into the light of the Grave Robber.
The seven miracles are seven signs, and each sign points straight to Jesus. You may be reading this book because you need a miracle. Don't we all at some point in our lives? And God wants to do now what He did then. But this is more than a course in miracles. It's a book about the only One who can perform them. So let me offer a word of caution at the outset:
Don't seek miracles.
And if you follow Jesus long enough and far enough, you'll eventually find yourself in the middle of some miracles.
Everyone wants a miracle. But here's the catch: no one wants to be in a situation that necessitates one! Of course, you can't have one without the other.
The prerequisite for a miracle is a problem, and the bigger the problem, the greater the potential miracle. If the wedding party in Cana hadn't run out of wine, there would have been no need for the Wine Maker to do what He did. What the bride and groom perceived as a problem was really a perfect opportunity for God to reveal His glory. And nothing has changed since Jesus turned water into wine, healed a man born blind, or called Lazarus out of his tomb four days after his funeral.
He is the God who can make your impossible possible!CHAPTER 2
On a January morning in 2007, a world-class violinist played six of Johann Sebastian Bach's most stirring concertos for the solo violin on a three-hundred-year-old Stradivarius worth $3.5 million. Two nights before, Joshua Bell had performed a sold-out concert where patrons gladly paid $200 for nosebleed seats, but this time the performance was free.
Bell ditched his tux with coattails, donned a Washington Nationals baseball cap, and played incognito outside the L'Enfant Plaza Metro station. Street musicians are not an uncommon sight or sound for Washingtonians. In fact, my son Parker has played his guitar outside Metro stations a time or two, trying to make a little extra spending cash. Amazingly, his tip jar fared about as well as that of virtuoso Joshua Bell.
The experiment was originally conceived by Washington Post columnist Gene Weingarten and filmed by hidden camera. Of the 1,097 people who passed by, only seven stopped to listen. The forty-five-minute performance ended without applause or acknowledgment. Joshua Bell netted $32.17 in tips, which included a $20 spot from the one person who recognized the Grammy Award-winning musician.
On an average workday nearly a million passengers ride Washington's Metro system, and L'Enfant Plaza is one of the busiest stops. A stampede of tourists and government employees hustle and bustle through turnstiles, trying to get where they're going as quickly as possible. But those circumstances don't discredit or disqualify the question raised by this social experiment: If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the greatest musicians in the world, playing some of the finest music ever written, on one of the most beautiful instruments ever made, how many similarly sublime moments do we miss out on during a normal day?
Remember the old adage? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It's true of everything, isn't it? But it's especially true of miracles. Miracles are happening all around us all the time, but you won't see them if you don't know how to look for them.
The Invisible Gorilla
Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons conducted an experiment at Harvard University more than a decade ago that became infamous in psychology circles. Their book The Invisible Gorilla popularized it. And you may be one of the millions of viewers who made their Selective Attention Test one of YouTube's most-watched videos.
The two researchers filmed students passing basketballs while moving in a circular fashion. In the middle of the short film, a woman dressed in a gorilla suit walks into the frame, beats her chest, and walks out of the frame. The sequence takes nine seconds in the minute-long video. Viewers are given specific instructions: "Count the number of passes by players wearing white shirts." Of course, the researchers were not interested in their pass-counting ability. They wanted to see if the viewers would notice something they weren't looking for, something as obvious as a gorilla. Amazingly, half of the test group did not.
How is that even possible?
How do you miss the gorilla in the room?
The short answer is inattentional blindness.
Inattentional blindness is the failure to notice something in your field of vision because you are focused on something else, in this case people in white shirts passing basketballs. But the first-century Pharisees make an even better case study. They were so focused on Sabbath law that they couldn't see the miracles happening right in front of their eyes. Jesus healed an invalid who hadn't walked in thirty-eight years, gave sight to a man born blind, and restored a man's withered arm. But the Pharisees missed the miracle, and missed the Messiah, because they were blinded by their legalism. They couldn't see past their religious assumptions.
Inattentional blindness can be as intentional as turning a blind eye to something you don't want to see, like the Pharisees did. It can also be as unintentional as fading awareness of the constants in your life that you take for granted over time. Either way, it's one of the greatest threats to spiritual vitality. One of the truest tests of spiritual maturity is seeing the miraculous in the monotonous.
Thomas Carlyle, the nineteenth-century Scottish essayist, likened it to a man living his entire life in a cave and then stepping outside to witness the sunrise for the very first time. Carlyle hypothesized that the caveman would watch with rapt astonishment the sight we daily witness with indifference. In the words of G. K. Chesterton:
Grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. Is it possible God says every morning, "Do it again" to the sun; and every evening, "Do it again" to the moon? The repetition in nature may not be a mere recurrence; it may be a theatrical encore.
A few years ago an exchange student from India attended National Community Church. When meteorologists issued a winter storm warning for the DC area, he set his alarm clock for three o'clock in the morning so he wouldn't miss his first snowfall. Then he went outside, all by himself, and made snow angels in the freshly fallen snow. He almost got frostbite because he didn't wear a jacket, a hat, or gloves. He told me he had no idea snow was that cold and that wet. At first I simply chuckled at the thought. But the more I thought about it, the more convicted I felt. I completely ignored something he thoroughly celebrated.
When was the last time you made snow angels in the freshly fallen snow? Or watched the sunrise as an act of worship? Or marveled over a sleeping child? Or stared into the starry night sky? Or relished the laugh of a loved one?
There is nothing like experiencing something for the first time, whether it's your first snow or first kiss. The first time is unforgettable. There is a miraculous quality to new experiences that makes time stand still—a sneak peek of what eternity will be like.
God has wired us in such a way that we're hypersensitive to new stimuli, but over time the cataracts of the customary cloud our vision. We lose our awareness of the miraculous, and with it, the awe of God.
A Celestial 360
You may feel as if you are sitting still right now, but it's an illusion of miraculous proportions. Planet Earth is spinning around its axis at a speed of 1,000 miles per hour. Every 24 hours, planet Earth pulls off a celestial 360. We're also hurtling through space at an average velocity of 67,108 miles per hour. That's not just faster than a speeding bullet. It's 87 times faster than the speed of sound. So even on a day when you feel like you didn't get much done, don't forget that you did travel 1,599,793 miles through space! To top things off, the Milky Way is spinning like a galactic pinwheel at the dizzying rate of 483,000 mph.
If that isn't miraculous, I don't know what is.
Yet when was the last time you thanked God for keeping us in orbit? I'm guessing never! "Lord, I wasn't sure we'd make the full rotation today, but You did it again!" We just don't pray that way. And that is the ultimate irony: we already believe God for the big miracles like they're no big deal. The trick is trusting Him for the little ones like healing an incurable illness, finding Ms. Right, opening a deadbolt door of opportunity, or getting us out of what seems like insurmountable debt.
Compared to keeping the planets in orbit, how big is your biggest dream? How bad is your worst problem? How difficult is your greatest challenge?
You don't have to look through a telescope to spy the miraculous. You can put it under a microscope too. Trillions of chemical reactions are taking place in your body every second of every day—you are inhaling oxygen, metabolizing energy, managing equilibrium, manufacturing hormones, fighting antigens, filtering stimuli, mending tissue, purifying toxins, digesting food, and circulating blood. All the while your brain is performing up to ten quadrillion calculations per second using only ten watts of power. A computer would require a gigawatt of power produced by a nuclear power plant to pull off the same performance.
Yet I know people, and you do too, who say they have never experienced a miracle. Nothing could be further from the truth. You have never not! You aren't just surrounded by miracles. You are one.
Keep looking under that microscope; things are about to get even more interesting.
If your personal genome sequence was written out longhand, it would be a three-billion-word book. The King James Version of the Bible has 783,137 words, so your genetic code is the equivalent of nearly four thousand Bibles. And if your personal genome sequence were an audio book and you were read at a rate of one double helix per second, it would take nearly a century to put you into words!
Psalm 139:13–14 reads:
You knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Those are some of the most poetic and prophetic words in the Bible. They may be some of the oldest too. While most scholars attribute Psalm 139 to David, one rabbinic tradition says it goes all the way back to Adam. If that is true, these are some of the oldest and truest words in the history of humankind.
Every moment of every day, we experience the miraculous on both a microscopic and macroscopic scale. Miracles are happening all around us all the time. But the greatest miracle is the one you see in the mirror. There never has been and never will be anyone like you. Of course, that isn't a testament to you. It's a testament to the God who created you.
Excerpted from The Grave Robber by Mark Batterson. Copyright © 2014 Mark Batterson. Excerpted by permission of Bethany House.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Don't Miss the Miracle
1 The Day Water Blushed 13
2 Miraculous 15
3 The Lost Miracles 22
The First Sign
4 The Wine Maker 33
5 Six Stone Jars 43
6 One Nudge 54
The Second Sign
7 Supernatural Synchronicity 65
8 God Speed 81
9 The Seventh Hour 90
The Third Sign
10 Very Superstitious 101
11 Self-Fulfilling Prophecies 112
12 The Rule Breaker 122
The Fourth Sign
13 Two Fish 135
14 Lord Algebra 145
15 Count the Fish 156
The Fifth Sign
16 The Water Walker 169
17 Dare the Devil 179
18 Cut the Cable 189
The Sixth Sign
19 Never Say Never 201
20 The Miracle League 211
21 Spit on It 223
The Seventh Sign
22 The Grave Robber 233
23 Even Now 240
24 Risk Your Reputation 252
25 One Little Yes 262