What Miracles Accomplish

This Sunday’s sermon at Holston View UMC in Weber City, Va., will be “Demons and Deafness.” It will be based on Mark 7:24-37. If you want to view the sermon but cannot be present, the entire worship service will be available through Holston View UMC’s web page.

Today’s preparatory text: Luke 18:27

[Jesus] replied, “What is impossible for mortals is possible for God.”


By Chuck Griffin

Why might we seek a miracle?

We do pray for miracles, particularly when lives seem to be in jeopardy. As we move toward Sunday, however, we need to consider the purpose of miracles.

If we seek miracles strictly to bypass suffering or impending grief, we likely are missing their larger point. Certainly, when we are praying over an immediate, very personal crisis, our minds might not be processing broad theological concepts. But that is simply an argument for thinking about such matters in calmer moments, so we can better understand what it is we are seeking when times of crisis come.

An important fact to remember: As far as we know, every person Jesus healed from illness, brought out of a tomb or raised from a deathbed or funeral bier died later. If we look at these miracles simply as stories of what these people escaped, then Jesus’ work had temporary effects.

Miracles do so much more, however. First, they are evidence of God’s presence in a world where we otherwise see things as if “in a mirror, dimly,” to quote Paul. (1 Corinthians 13:12.) For just a moment, divine possibilities shine through, and the presence of the dawning Kingdom of God is easily, if briefly, seen.

Miracles were signs of God’s presence in Jesus. Miracles are signs of God’s presence in the church, by way of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

We also should understand that miracles come with responsibilities, both for their recipients and their witnesses. Someone needs to testify as to what has happened!

Belief also should naturally spread in the wake of miracles. It is a response we see throughout the Bible. God is seen, and therefore, people change their lives dramatically as they begin to believe.

Lord, we are not afraid to pray for miracles, and we pledge to testify to what we have seen as we receive them. May lives be changed! Amen.

The Emboldening Truth

This Sunday’s sermon at Holston View UMC in Weber City, Va., will be “Investing In the Future.” It will be based on Jeremiah 32:6-9. If you want to view the sermon but cannot be present, the entire worship service will be available through Holston View UMC’s web page.

Today’s preparatory text: 1 Corinthians 15:12-20 (NLT)

But tell me this—since we preach that Christ rose from the dead, why are some of you saying there will be no resurrection of the dead? For if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless. And we apostles would all be lying about God—for we have said that God raised Christ from the grave. But that can’t be true if there is no resurrection of the dead. And if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins. In that case, all who have died believing in Christ are lost! And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world.

But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died.


By Chuck Griffin

When we fully understand what it means to follow Christ, Christians should, in theory, stop thinking of our interests as existing solely within the nine decades or so we hope to live.

We look back to Jesus hanging on a cross and then exiting a tomb nearly 2,000 years ago, and we see how our lives are changed now. We understand salvation because earlier Christians made great sacrifices to ensure the message of Jesus Christ spread from one generation to the next.

We also look forward to a day when the Redeemer will restore us from death in the resurrection.

Job expressed it well centuries before Christ was born:

“But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and he will stand upon the earth at last. And after my body has decayed, yet in my body I will see God! I will see him for myself. Yes, I will see him with my own eyes. I am overwhelmed at the thought!” (Job 19:25-27.)

We should stay overwhelmed at the thought. And if others are to share that thought, then we may need to chase objectives that might seem irrational to the secular world.

When we reach that thought’s fulfillment, I wonder what we will regret more as we stand before the holy Savior. Will it be the wrong things we did, or the right things we failed to do? Sometimes we are so focused on sins of commission that we’re not thinking about sins of omission.

Often, I think, sins of omission are simply failures to be bold, to live bravely as citizens of a dawning kingdom.

I don’t know what your bold move might be. It may involve your time or your money. It may involve the direction of your life.

All we can do is ask God to reveal what seemingly irrational steps he may ask us to take, and then pray for the courage to take them.

Lord, once again root our souls in the truth of Jesus Christ, and let us see what you would have us do now as people who will live forever. Amen.

Ready to Eat

1 Corinthians 11:17-22

Now in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. For, to begin with, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you; and to some extent I believe it. Indeed, there have to be factions among you, for only so will it become clear who among you are genuine. When you come together, it is not really to eat the Lord’s supper. For when the time comes to eat, each of you goes ahead with your own supper, and one goes hungry and another becomes drunk. What! Do you not have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you show contempt for the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What should I say to you? Should I commend you? In this matter I do not commend you!


By John Grimm

Over the years as a pastor, I have witnessed individuals refuse to receive Holy Communion.  I know there have been individuals and churches that taught we are not worthy to receive Holy Communion.  However, as we learn from John Wesley, what Jesus commands, we do.

Why do we need Holy Communion?  We need to receive forgiveness from God and be reminded that we have forgiveness from God.  Receiving Holy Communion often helps us to live a forgiven life.  Receiving the broken bread and the poured-out wine also helps us to forgive.  That is why some individuals refuse to receive the bread and the wine.

On occasion, it takes time to forgive someone.  We know we need to forgive.  We know we will be better for it when we do forgive.  Refraining from Holy Communion until we forgive another disciple of Jesus Christ is appropriate.  We need not delay in giving forgiveness, for we know not what tomorrow holds.  Knowing our forgiving another person affects our receiving forgiveness from God changes our understanding of Holy Communion. 

Both forgiving one another and receiving the Lord’s Supper are commands from Jesus.  We can do both.  Receiving the Lord’s Supper without forgiving one another is like eating at home.  We overcome divisions in our local churches when we recognize we are members of the church of God.  We re-member ourselves to the body of Christ when we forgive one another.  Let our love for one another be genuine as we live as the body of Christ, faithfully receiving Holy Communion and forgiving one another.

Jesus, thank you for dying for us.  You have shown us how to forgive one another.  As we forgive one another we can eat the Lord’s Supper.  Thank you for your commands which give us life.  Heal the divisions in our local churches so the world can see the Body of Christ living in our local churches.  Amen.

Critical Growth

Ephesians 3:17-19 (NLT)

Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.


By Chuck Griffin

At this point in Ephesians, Paul has been talking about salvation given to us through Jesus Christ and God’s follow-up to salvation, the provision of the Holy Spirit to believers.

This text takes me back to when I first began to explore “holiness,” that old Methodist concept that to some sounds really demanding, and maybe even highfalutin. It took me a while to figure out how simple and down-to-earth holiness really is.

An old Nazarene preacher helped. I never met him in person, but someone gave me a copy of an obscure book he wrote, and in it I read that holiness simply is a matter of growing in our ability to love as Jesus loves.

It didn’t take long to connect that thought to Paul’s “love is” verses in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8: “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

“Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever!”

Love is very positive, of course, and we also see love is more than a fuzzy feeling. Love colors our response to all kinds of worldly events, and most importantly, love keeps us rooted in truth. We do have to search for truth, but Christians should know truth is found in what God consistently reveals to each generation regarding the divine plan for humanity, laid out for us in the Holy Bible.

Traditional Methodists find themselves living with a kind of spiritual tension, offering God’s love to all people but never shrinking from our duty to declare what God has first said via Scripture, regardless of how people may respond. We of course hope and pray for a very good response.

We know it actually is a very unloving act to ignore our basic mission. We declare salvation has come; we declare a pressing need to conform to God’s will in every aspect of our lives, trusting the Holy Spirit to lead and empower us.

Let’s keep moving toward completeness.

Lord, may the work of the Spirit be something we allow to happen within us every day, and may our love be evidence of your presence. Amen.

More than Human

1 Corinthians 15:42-49 (NRSV)

So, it is with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a physical body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body. Thus, it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual that is first, but the physical, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so are those who are of the dust; and as is the man of heaven, so are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we will also bear the image of the man of heaven.


By John Grimm

We are accustomed to hearing and saying, “I am only human.” This statement is like the least common denominator when it comes to living. We know every human makes mistakes, gets hurt and hurts others, and that we are not perfect. We almost take pride in this statement.

Yet, “I am only human” does not cut it for us. Our physical life is good. We yearn for something more. We do not want to be known by the type of human we are. We do not want our mistakes, our sins and our foibles to define us. On Pentecost, Peter preached that Jesus rose from the dead. Here, Paul lays out the plan for us to understand: Because of our belief in Jesus, we bear the image of the man of heaven. Since Jesus is resurrected from the dead, we who believe in Jesus will also be resurrected from the dead.

How does this happen? Like Adam, we sin and tarnish the image of God, separating ourselves from God. Like Jesus, we have life from heaven, now and after death. Along the way, we realize that we are not “only human,” but that we are humans who are bearing the image of Jesus. Continuing to believe in Jesus leads us to know that we will be resurrected like Jesus. Otherwise, we will not be able to be with Jesus in the kingdom of God.

God, you are great! You do not give us up to be “only human.” You gave us your Son so that we may have life with you. Help us to live the life that shows Jesus is the man of heaven. Fit us with Jesus’ image so we may be fit for life with you for all time. May we be found, even today, to be an image bearer of Christ. Amen.

In Death, Victory

1 Corinthians 15:35-49 (NRSV)

But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” Fool! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. And as for what you sow, you do not sow the body that is to be, but a bare seed, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. Not all flesh is alike, but there is one flesh for human beings, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. There are both heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is one thing, and that of the earthly is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; indeed, star differs from star in glory.

So it is with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body. Thus it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual that is first, but the physical, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so are those who are of the dust; and as is the man of heaven, so are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we will also bear the image of the man of heaven.


Dead as a doornail. Dead as a dodo. Not only merely dead, but really most sincerely dead.

English writers have done a good job of describing death as an irreversible end, be it in a Shakespearean play or “The Wizard of Oz.” But even before there was an English language, there was the idea that death could be undone.

Actual reversals of death were rare events, of course, but where they are recorded, it is clear they occurred to signal the presence of God.

Take 1 Kings 17:8-24, for example. In the midst of drought and famine, God sent the prophet Elijah to find a widow and her son, locating them as the woman prepared to bake the last handful of flour and oil she had into bread. She planned that she and her son would share in this tiny meal and then die.

Once the widow showed Elijah a little hospitality, however, the jar of meal and the jug of oil always had enough in them to sustain the three, even though there was no food in the land for such a poor collection of people. By the hand of God, death had been delayed.

Death still came, however. In a perplexing turn of events, the boy became ill, and “there was no breath left in him.” The mother was convinced that in the presence of a prophet, her sins had somehow become more glaring, causing the death of her boy.

Elijah took the boy upstairs, however, and through intense prayer convinced God to restore him to life. When he carried the boy down to his mother, she said, “Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth.”

God is revealed in life, not death.

Centuries later, Jesus performed a similar miracle for a similar widow, raising her son from his funeral bier. There was one major difference in Jesus’ approach, though. Elijah prayed fervently to God; Jesus spoke as God, saying, “Young man, I say to you, rise!”

In this and other death-reversing miracles, Jesus gave a preview of coming attractions. In dying on the cross, he atoned for our sins, that root cause of death.

And in his resurrection—his defeat of death—he made it clear that when we follow him, we have nothing to fear. Not even our own temporary, transitory deaths.

Death is not final. We all shall rise from it, look at our renewed bodies, see our risen loved ones, and see the one who makes the miracle possible. Our joy will be greater than that of a widow finding her only son restored to life.

As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:55, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”

Lord, may the resurrection to come exist firmly in our minds, shaping how we live until such time as we experience this holy transformation. Amen.

One Life to Live

Hebrews 9:23-28 (NRSV)

Thus it was necessary for the sketches of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves need better sacrifices than these. For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made by human hands, a mere copy of the true one, but he entered into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself again and again, as the high priest enters the Holy Place year after year with blood that is not his own; for then he would have had to suffer again and again since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the age to remove sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for mortals to die once, and after that the judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.


You may think “One Life to Live” is a long-running soap opera. It’s been around a lot longer as a biblical concept, though.

Christianity, unlike a lot of religions, is about singular moments. Cyclical sacrifices were an important part of Jewish ritual, of course, but they merely foreshadowed the only sacrifice that would matter. Jesus Christ died on the cross to give us the gift of eternal life.

These verses from Hebrews also remind us of how singular each of our lives is. We are not caught up in endless cycles of misery, moving from lifetime to lifetime with little memory of what we have learned. We have one life, one death, and one hope for eternal life in Jesus.

How rare we are! How precious our lives are, each as unique as a snowflake. The eternal nature of God’s mind means our maker never has to repeat an action.

People may seem similar, but even twins are never truly identical. They can never inhabit the exact same point in space and time, and therefore, the universe God has placed them in will give them at least slightly different perspectives and thoughts, making each twin unique.

We move toward a unique moment, too, when Jesus Christ returns to make the relationship with those who have accepted his grace into something full, complete and eternal.

We will be judged as individuals, and the moment will be like no other, in that we will finally know ourselves and value ourselves as fully as God knows and values us.

Lord, help us to better appreciate the gift of life. No matter how broken, every human has the potential to be in relationship with you through Jesus Christ, and therefore every human is at least a smoldering ember ready to burst into a holy, eternal flame. Let us treat each other as such. Amen.

You Are That Temple

1 Corinthians 3:16-17 (NRSV): Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.


Some ideas we considered in last week’s devotionals (and Sunday, if you worshiped with my church, Holston View UMC) come together in a personal way for us in today’s verses from 1 Corinthians.

Last Thursday, we heard the Apostle Peter tell us to behave like “living stones,” joining together to build a spiritual house, with Christ as our foundation. If you heard Sunday the story in the Gospel of John about Jesus cleansing the temple, you should have been reminded of the holiness of that place, and a need for zeal now in regard to the holiness of God.

Today’s reading in this season of Lent tells us that just as Jesus’ body became the new temple, destroyed but rebuilt in three days, the Christian church now acts as God’s temple on earth. The collection of people calling themselves Christian is where God’s Spirit resides and can be met by those seeking God.

The metaphor easily operates on both the corporate and individual levels. If something is holy, every part of it is holy. If it is God’s intent for the church to be holy, it is God’s intent for each individual in the church to be holy.

We of course cannot achieve holiness on our own; that is the purpose of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, to make us holy despite our sin. We believe, and it is so. We need to cling to that belief, however, and live in awe of God so that we are making every effort to avoid sin, asking God to give us the power through his Holy Spirit to do so.

There is no doubt sin creeps into our lives and into the church. Satan is relentless. Some of the stones resting on the foundation of Christ become fractured. Let’s go back to the concept of “living stones,” however—those fractures can be healed.

The trick, it seems, is to not crumble in a way where we threaten the holy structure. Church leaders, we who are preachers, teachers and administrators, take special note!

We are trying to use these Monday LifeTalk articles as an opportunity to establish a spiritual practice for the week. This week, let’s do a very Lenten thing. Asking God to guide us, let’s search our souls thoroughly for the sins we need to surrender, making new space for God to be at work.

Not only will we strengthen ourselves, we will strengthen the church as a whole, the temple in which we play an active role.

Lord, we surrender to you. Make us whole and holy so that we may better work with the living stones around us. Amen.

Going It Alone

1 Corinthians 7:32-40 (NLT)

I want you to be free from the concerns of this life. An unmarried man can spend his time doing the Lord’s work and thinking how to please him. But a married man has to think about his earthly responsibilities and how to please his wife. His interests are divided. In the same way, a woman who is no longer married or has never been married can be devoted to the Lord and holy in body and in spirit. But a married woman has to think about her earthly responsibilities and how to please her husband. I am saying this for your benefit, not to place restrictions on you. I want you to do whatever will help you serve the Lord best, with as few distractions as possible.

But if a man thinks that he’s treating his fiancée improperly and will inevitably give in to his passion, let him marry her as he wishes. It is not a sin. But if he has decided firmly not to marry and there is no urgency and he can control his passion, he does well not to marry. So the person who marries his fiancée does well, and the person who doesn’t marry does even better.

A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. If her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but only if he loves the Lord. But in my opinion it would be better for her to stay single, and I think I am giving you counsel from God’s Spirit when I say this.


You may have heard jokes about unmarried marriage counselors not being particularly useful. As a man married for more than three decades, I similarly may not be of much use as I try to explore what Paul has to say about celibacy. I’ll do my best, though.

Perhaps the biggest problem any of us will face when processing this text is that our culture sees little value in celibacy, which is the voluntary decision to forgo a sexual relationship. As a people so deeply immersed in the idea that sexuality defines our very being, we see celibacy as a negative state rather than something positive.

Paul clearly was taking early Christians in the other direction. He certainly affirmed marriage and the sexual relationship naturally occurring within a marriage, but he also saw high value in the decision to put aside the sexual aspect of life in order to better serve God. This assumed, of course, that people choosing celibacy were convinced of their ability to live without this powerful drive taking them down the path of sin.

I wonder if that kind of certainty was more easily achieved in a time when sex was not so heavily a part of daily experience, when the world had no advertising or other media so determined to draw our attention through an appeal to our most basic drives.

That is mere speculation. I don’t know the answer. The story that Thomas Aquinas needed a special waist cord brought to him by angels so he could avoid sexual temptation might argue otherwise.

I do know this. People who find themselves drawn to celibate lives because of their love for Jesus Christ have much to offer the kingdom, and should be highly valued in any church setting. They have received a special gift from God, and they may astonish us with their works.

Lord, we thank you for the gifts you pour out on our church, especially the ones we sometimes have a hard time recognizing. Amen.

Toward Solid Food

By Chuck Griffin
LifeTalk Editor

1 Corinthians 3:1-3

Hebrews 5:12-14

1 Peter 2:1-3

Yes, we are saved by simple faith, but yes, Christianity also calls us to a lifetime of learning. Peter, Paul and the author of Hebrews give us similar clues about what progress should look like.

Much like when we are learning to eat, our faith journey begins with “spiritual milk.” Literally, these apostolic fathers mean we have to begin with the basic core truth of Christianity, the idea that “Jesus Christ is Lord.”

To grasp that earliest of Christian creeds, you have to understand what the name Jesus means historically—how Jesus’ existence was the fulfillment of promises made over thousands of years to the people of Israel. You understand that calling him “Christ” roots Jesus in promises of a messiah to come, that this little creed is in present tense for a reason, and that the term “Lord” places Jesus over all creation.

As all three of our Scripture selections affirm, some people cannot get past their reliance on milk, or even learn to handle milk in a sustained way. That’s sad, because there is so much more for Christians to consume, a lifetime of ever-increasing richness.

In my mind, this all translates into a structured system of learning in the church, something to sustain us from cradle to grave, assuming we are so blessed as to be born into a Christian family.

Our educational programs are suffering mightily right now. The pandemic has shut down many of our traditional means of Christian learning. But this is a good time to consider which efforts were working before the pandemic, and which weren’t working so well.

I like to think about Christian education in three tiers, which are age-related for people carried into church as babies. Adult converts have to go through similar steps, although obviously they would be guided through them in a different setting using adult education techniques.

Tier 1 (from birth through about age 12): Learn the stories! Not only that, learn them in a way where they become beloved stories.

The broad themes in these stories teach us about the nature of God, how humans become broken by sin, and what God wants to do in love to restore creation to a holy state. The story of Jesus Christ is the climax of the great story told in the books of the Bible.

Tier 2 (from adolescence to young adulthood): Consider in a deeper way how those stories apply to life, in particular, life’s difficulties. Any teacher of this group should welcome questions, and be mature enough to handle the challenging ones.

It’s important at this stage to acknowledge that we sometimes do not have easy answers before us—occasional debate, rooted in Scripture, should be encouraged. This can be an exciting phase as students discover that salvation is initially easy to grasp, but becomes an intriguing mystery to explore as we go deeper.

Tier 3 (adulthood): Here, we should enter a stage I call “relational learning.” Small groups and mentoring arrangements become important in the life of the Christian. Someone who has grown up in the church should, by this point, have a scripturally inspired sense of right and wrong.

Such a person also should be ready to humbly submit to God’s calling, which easily can lead to a servant leadership role based on the gifts God has placed in that person.

In all three tiers, a lot of detailed planning is required, of course. But here’s a simple question for any church: Are we moving a significant number of people into mature Christian leadership roles?

I have no doubt that churches answering “yes” are doing great work for the kingdom.

Lord, may your Spirit guide us toward an honest assessment of what’s happening in our churches. Where we need to adjust, may we have the courage to do so. Amen.


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