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Anyone reading these posts will quickly realize that there are some themes I continue to return to. The Gospels, Jesus’ life and ministry, life in the Spirit, the presence of God in our lives, prayer. These themes resurface not, primarily, because I have a particular agenda that I feel the need to champion, but because these are the things that I wrestle with in making sense of my own journey with Jesus and because I find these themes to be at the heart of most of the conversations I have with other followers of Jesus with whom I rub shoulders.

There seems to be a wide-spread longing, in the circles in which I traffic, for a vibrant and demonstratively real life with Jesus. There is a dissatisfaction with just doing “religious stuff,” a disappointment with well-managed Christian living that is substantially devoid of the life-changing power evident in the lives of the earliest followers of Jesus.

What I mean by that is that as I read the New Testament, there was something that followed in the wake of the lives of those early followers that gave evidence to the reality of the message that they were proclaiming and that testified to the presence of God in their lives. The Gospel was not merely words to be mouthed–however sincerely–but a proclamation about reality that was confirmed through that reality impacting this world. And I long for that.

When marriages are crumbling, what is needed is real heart-change and not merely better techniques for communicating. When souls are weighed down with fear and sorrow, what is needed is a work of soul revival and not merely a pat on the arm and a kind word. When sin has snared someone, what is needed is transformative power and not simply a program for managing the temptations. When bodies are broken, what is needed is gracious healing power and not simply support to manage the pain and suffering better. There will be times for better techniques and kind words and managing life and handling suffering, but if that is what we settle for it will be legitimate for others to ask: Where is the power of the Gospel? Is God really present, in this world, in the preaching of that message? The heart change and the soul revival and the transformative power and the bodily healing are all part of the reality of the good news that Jesus has (and still does) minister and heal and deliver and transform those who come to him. There is something supernatural about this life with Jesus . . . but that supernatural something seems to be elusive in the lives of many.

Toward the close of his letter to the Romans, Paul mentions his own life and ministry. Although we all don’t share the identical personal ministry that Paul had, the way that he thought about his own life is provocative and helpful

But I have written very boldly to you on some points so as to remind you again, because of the grace that was given me from God, to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, ministering as a priest the gospel of God, so that my offering of the Gentiles may become acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. Therefore in Christ Jesus I have found reason for boasting in things pertaining to God. For I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me, resulting in the obedience of the Gentiles by word and deed, in the power of signs and wonders, in the power of the Spirit; so that from Jerusalem and round about as far as Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ. (Romans 15:15-19)

Paul recognized that grace had reached him from God. Paul insisted that such grace enabled him to be a servant of the Gospel. Paul was clear that his serving as a minister of the Gospel resulted in things happening that he could “boast” in. Paul’s boasting was not self-lauding but was a celebration of the reality that Jesus was alive and real and, by the Spirit and in grace, that Jesus was working in and through his life in a demonstrative and evident way. Paul could say that what followed in his wake was Gentiles turning to faith, signs and wonders occurring in the course of his ministry, and an evidential power from the Spirit.

Paul could see in the wake of his life the evidence that the Gospel was not merely a nice tale told but a message that transformed lives and impacted this world with a supernatural reality that came through the Spirit, because of Jesus, for the glory of God. And that causes me to wonder: What do I see in the wake of my own life?

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