The Christmas story is filled with all kinds of miraculous signs. There were angelic visitations, dreams sent directly from God, and the large and bright star that drew the attention of Wise Men from hundreds of miles away just to name a few. So much of the Christmas story hinged on the willingness of Joseph, the Wise Men, and the Shepherds, to follow the supernatural signs that were presented to them. We’ll look at those in just a moment, but for now, listen to these incredible stories of people who shared with me this week that God is still using signs and wonders to lead those who are willing to follow.
Mike Kessler, at friend from Canton, OH was asked to fill the pulpit a few months back at his church and knew the message should be about unconditional love, but was struggling to put it together. He went to run an errand the Saturday before and saw a homeless gentleman sleeping on a bench. He immediately felt that he should get him some food. There just “happened” to be a McDonald’s ahead, so Mike bought him breakfast and spent a few minutes with him. As soon as he got back in his car the whole message he was to preach came straight to him. He went home and started typing and was done in no time. He said God was prompting him to show unconditional love before he spoke about it and that he had never felt anything so strong before as he did when he was prompted to buy the man breakfast. The homeless man actually became the sign, that when followed, became the message Mike was to deliver.
Terri Parker, a friend who lives in S. Carolina shared that she experienced a sign from God when she was choosing colleges. Her heart was set on one a long distance away. She had another option closer to where she was living, but she felt strongly she needed to be at the one far away. She filled out the application for both. Later in a conversation with the close college, admissions claimed she hadn’t signed the application, but she knew she had. The admissions office faxed the paperwork back, and sure enough, there was no signature. She signed it and faxed it back, and when admissions received it, there was still NO signature on it. Terri pursued the other school, the long distance once, even though it would create more financial hurdles. She got a call from the long distance school, and a lady referenced a scholarship that Terri had never heard of. Terri said, “I didn’t apply for that scholarship” to which the lady replied, “Of course you did, I’m looking at your signature on the scholarship application.” Terri had no doubt that God was definitely leading her to the long distance school. Did you hear that? There was no signature for the school she was sure she had given her signature to not once but twice, and there was a signature for a scholarship to the other school that she had no knowledge of.
Pastor Brenda told me about when she and Kelly were contemplating buying a used Toyota truck but didn’t know if it was the right move. They left the dealership and went to lunch. When they prayed for their meal they asked God to make it clear if we were supposed to buy the truck. When they opened their eyes they looked out the window and there was an airplane pulling a sign that said, “Buy Toyota!” They went back to the dealership and bought the truck.
Debbie Birt Vickers, who used to be the worship pastor at this church, shared that in the 1990s she was in-between churches and was seeking God’s will for where to serve. She had 2 churches who were interested in having her come. One was in Washington State and the other was in Tampa, FL. She had Tampa in her heart, but wanted to follow where the Lord was truly leading. She candidated in both places and received a 100% vote in both places! The lead pastor in Washington was very persistent and assured her she was supposed to serve there, but Debbie wasn’t sure. She pursued the Lord through fasting and prayer, and she said, “Please God, show me a sign so I’ll know Your will.” She went to a state park to pray. She had never been to this part of the park before but saw a shelter house in the distance. As she got nearer, she could see there was a plaque near the shelter house. It read “Oak Grove Pavilion.” She couldn’t believe her eyes. The church in FL that she had her heart set on was called Oak Grove Church of God. She prayed for a sign, and God literally gave her the exact name of the FL church to which she should say “yes.”
Dorothy Chapman, a member of TVCOG, was driving home from the doctor when the Lord laid it on her heart to drive through McDonalds and get a hamburger and milkshake to take to a lady in her subdivision. She got herself the same and shared lunch with this woman on the woman’s porch. It was a woman whose memory was failing and she needed some TLC. Well, some neighbors saw the two of them eating on the woman’s porch, and they were prompted to start taking the woman food as well. It became a neighborhood ministry as the neighbors saw Dorothy’s act of kindness as a sign to do the same.
Sister Sara Hammett, our resident “hat lady” told me about when Michael and Bobbi needed a handicapped accessible van with all-wheel drive to be able to transport their son, Michael Joseph. When Sara and Pastor Larry were on a trip to Greenbrier County, she felt God say that “He owned the cattle on a thousand hills!” She took that as a sign He was going to somehow provide that van! Later that evening He confirmed it to her by showing her a brilliant cross in the sky in the midst of storm clouds. A few weeks later, a van for sale that was just what they needed showed up at the place where they went to get their old van repaired and finances were worked out!
Barbara Crim who is a church member online, watching from Indianapolis each Sunday and Wednesday shared about a time that she made a comment about wanting a horse and believing that God could simply bring one and put it in her yard. In a few seconds she looked out the front door, and there was a beautiful lone Palomino horse standing in her yard. After a moment or two he turned and slowly walked across the road and went up through the woods. None of her neighbors had horses, and she had never seen one near her property. She did not receive a horse, and it would have been quite impractical at that time for her to have one. But God was letting her know through this sign that He absolutely could do anything-that nothing is impossible with Him. And she added, “There was a kind sweetness in that response from Him. He seemed to be saying, ‘Yes, I could give you a horse, but it isn’t my will for you to have it’” to which she concluded, “Even a ‘No’ from God, the fact that He speaks, is a sweet thing.”
Or how about Crystal Colp, a pastor’s wife from Michigan, who shared about when she and her husband were trying to buy a home in Middletown, OH. They had put an offer in on a house but couldn’t shake an uneasy feeling. They prayed and asked the Lord to just make clear what they were supposed to do. Their biggest issues was the price of the house as it would put them to the edge of their budget, but they also REALLY wanted that house, it just felt like home. But, Crystal opened her Bible that morning and this was the scripture she was directed to read: Luke 14:28-29, “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him…” She immediately called her husband and they called their Realtor and put a stop to the offer. Long story short, the owner of the house really wanted them to buy it, so they dropped the price and then God provided an additional financial gift from a surprise source that put the house safely into their budget and they ended up getting the house. She said, “Sometimes the sign that comes is hard, it feels unfair, it calls for sacrifice, it calls for us to wait, BUT GOD…His timing is perfect, His plan is perfect and the gift He has for us is on the other side of His Word…the other side of the sign!” Do we understand that God’s Word for us is filled with signs for us to live by?
Church member, Newt Graham talked about a time in 2006 when their daughter, Jamie, was having issues breathing, especially at night. They took her to Cincinnati Children’s. After several tests the Dr. told them that Jamie’s air passages were narrowing and without major surgery Jamie would slowly die. The Dr. informed them the surgery was very dangerous and that Jamie would have a 50 percent chance at best of surviving the surgery,and he told them that he really didn’t want to do the operation.
After a lot of prayer, they scheduled the surgery and a lot of people were praying for her. They decided to go a day early and take Jamie to a Cincinnati Reds ball game thinking this might be the last time they might have to have a good time with her. Newt was scared to death because of Jamie’s surgery and was trying to be brave. During the game, Bev took Jamie to the bathroom, and a man approached Newt and said that he felt God was telling him to pray for their daughter. Newt told him about Jamie’s surgery scheduled for the next day and he felt that God had sent the man to tell him everything was going to be alright. By the way the man lived in Georgia and was there to watch his son pitch for the Atlanta Braves. The next day Jamie made it through her surgery, and even though she was in a coma for 7 days she’s a beautiful young lady who loves life and loves to worship the Lord and is with us today.
Gary Bohm, Pastor Mandy’s husband, shared with me about how God gave him the same vision 7-10 times, each time happening while he was mowing the lawn, about preaching his grandfather’s eulogy, even though his grandfather wasn’t sick. Gary was raised in a Jewish home and shared that funerals aren’t celebrations of life in the Jewish tradition. They are all very somber, sad, and people are very stoic during the ceremonies. God enabled Gary to do his grandfather’s eulogy when he passed and gave Gary the opportunity to help those gathered, including the Rabbi, to see the joy of the Lord and the joy of life. Many were touched and many positive conversations were born out of that encounter.
“Well, Pastor Melissa, you are on page three of your manuscript. When are you going to start preaching? When are you going to start saying what you came to say?” I have been, from the first word because what I have come to say is that God is still active, powerful, miraculous, and is still speaking to those who are willing to be led by Him. To those who were willing to humble themselves and seek signs, to those who were willing to listen when God prompted them with a thought, to those who were willing to act on what was revealed to them which also required humility, to those who were willing to wait on God’s timing or to even receive the word, “No” or “Wait,” the goodness and power of God was made known. Listen, when you are willing to be led by God, you will be the catalyst for the plan of God to go forward and for others to get on board.
The same God of the first Christmas is the God each of these people described to me. He is still talking. He is still working. He is still showing up in unexpected places. He is still sending smoke signals and signs that if we will follow them, we will become players in this story of God’s great love and salvation that continues to unfold.
Do we have eyes to see the signs that are everywhere and do we have the guts to follow them? In case you were wondering, I’m now on page four!
Here’s what I know: If you aren’t looking for anything you will be sure not to find it. I’m preaching truth, friends. The Word of God says, “Seek and you will find.” (Matthew 7:7) If you haven’t seen the signs of God at work in your life, I guess I want you to ask yourself how hard you’ve been looking? Ask yourself, “Am I willing to be led by signs if God wants to work that way in my life?” I have four points to make and Scripture to back it up. Are you ready for a seven-minute sermon?
Matthew 1:18-25 18 This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, HE HAD IN MIND TO DIVORCE HER QUIETLY. 20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”–which means, “God with us.” 24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
Joseph had a plan in mind. He was going to call things off, but when a sign came from God, when the angel appeared to him in a dream and he woke up, he stood down. He surrendered his plan and embraced God’s plan. Here is point one:
To to be led by God you have to be willing to let go of your plans.
God tells us in that His ways are always higher than our ways. Is. 55:8-9 God’s plans are always bigger than yours.
It would have been easy for Joseph wake up and say, “That was just a dream. That was just a figment of my imagination.” He could have shook it off as something strange instead of something supernatural. Too many people try to explain away the workings of God instead of being willing to consider what God is attempting to communicate.
Well, after Jesus was born, and King Herod had heard of the birth of the King of the Jews, he attempted to have Jesus killed. So, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream again and said in Matthew 2:13, “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” 14 So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15 where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”
That’s a big ask, isn’t it? To have God tell you to leave your friends and family after you have had a baby, to move to another country where you don’t know anyone? I mean, the nursery was ready. They had already made plans to welcome their baby into their home. They couldn’t swing back by their place and pick up the gifts from the baby shower. They just had to run. Hadn’t God disrupted his and Mary’s lives enough at this point? Was this just the start of a series of requests? How different would their lives be? Would there ever be a normal day for Joseph, Mary and Jesus? The second conclusion I draw from this scene in the Holy Family’s life is this:
To to be led by God you have to be willing to move beyond your comfort zone.
Maybe God took Joseph and Mary to Egypt not only to protect Jesus, but also to teach them how to lean on and trust Him completely to meet their needs as they would raise the Messiah. Maybe those early years were years spent taking them deep in their faith and deep in their relationship as a couple. They weren’t going to be able to run to their parents and their families for help. They would have to lean on the Lord and each other. Perhaps their relationship got off to the very best start because there was no interference from family.
Joseph obeyed, and he and Mary learned that God will take you beyond where you imagine you can go on your own.
Life with Jesus is so risky and so dangerous and so adventurous, but is completely safe at the same time. It is fun to take a dare with Jesus. Egypt wouldn’t have been their choice, but it was God’s choice for that time, and they were better for having obeyed.
Let’s skip quickly to the Magi. We talked about them some last week. They were wise and learned men. They could have been on the special addition of Jeopardy with the three “know-it-all” guys that are set to appear for some reunion of the minds week. But led by a star, they were in search of truth. They wanted to pursue what they had not yet experienced. They made a tireless journey to see the infant-king for themselves. There are some things that can be learned from reading or watching a Youtube tutorial, but there are others that can only be learned by experiencing them firsthand. To have true understanding about the birth of the Messiah, they were going to have to see Him for themselves. Point three is simply this:
To be led by God you have to be willing to admit there is more to know.
Perhaps we would simply take a huge and dazzling star as intriguing or beautiful, but they saw it as a sign. Here were grown men, willing to be led by a star. The wise men’s journey helps us understand that God will teach you what cannot be learned through human methods if you will be open to the reality that there is still more to know.
Finally, we race to the shepherds. They saw a few signs, didn’t they? Luke 2:8-18 8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Verse 15:
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” 16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.
The shepherds remind us that God gives signs to us in the midst of an ordinary day. They were just doing their thing. They were at work watching the sheep, and God broke in. Do we believe God still wants to break into our daily, everyday, ordinary lives?
The last point for the message is this:
To be led you have to be open to Divine Disruptions.
Notice that verse 16 of Luke 2 tells us the shepherds hurried off to find the Christ-child. We’re going to miss the miracle of the Divine if we delay, if we keep putting off following the signs we have been given. God wants our immediate obedience.
So that’s it. Are you open to God’s work in your lives? Are the characteristics of those who are willing to be led on display in your life? God is speaking. God is working. Is He speaking to you? Is He working through you? Is He prompting you to come and see or to go and tell? Are you willing to follow the signs?