We spoke with Lead Pastor Luke Uran about the “Miracles” sermon series that just concluded and our new series, “Recalibrate.”
What are some things that you learned or observed during the Miracles series?
People in our congregation who have either personally experienced or witnessed miracles themselves really came out of the woodwork. It’s something you don’t really hear people talk about a lot. But once you give them the freedom, and assure them that they have a pastor who believes that miracles happen today, then people feel like this is something they can talk about. This is something they can give credit to God about.
Without violating anyone’s confidence, what kinds of miracles were you hearing about?
A lot of healing. There were people who shared about going to the doctor for an appointment, the doctor finding something, and then they went back weeks later for a follow-up and the doctor said there was nothing there. In the time between, the only thing that changed was prayer. For us, of course, we know that changes everything.
Then Katie’s story and Robert’s story. Robert knows what lies ahead for him unless God heals him miraculously. He is looking at eternity. And I see the healing that has taken place in Katie’s life, after she had prayed this cancer would never return and yet it did. The Lord carried her through the worry and the doubt.
Whatever the outcomes, the starting point for all of this is the miracle of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. That’s where the commonality and true life is found.
What went into your choice of ending the series by talking about prayers for a miracle that don’t seem to get answered? Rather than more of a pep-rally kind of ending?
I know there have been people in our congregation who have been praying for years, maybe even decades, for healing. Or for a son or daughter who doesn’t know Jesus and who walked away from the faith. They’ve been praying and nothing’s happened. A lot of times the enemy is going to whisper in our ears and say, “See? I told you so. I told you this wouldn’t work. I told you that God is distant, that he doesn’t listen and doesn’t care.”
But the focus of that last message was how God teaches us through transformation, not necessarily substitution. He’s not just coming in and taking that one thing out and replacing it with a good thing. Instead, what he’s saying is, “I want to walk with you through this and transform you more and more into the person that I created you to be, and allow you to live according to the Holy Spirit. It’s not going to be easy. The road is narrow. But I want you to walk that road and know that I’m walking it with you. The substitution that you need to be worried about in your life is the substitution that Christ has gone to the Cross instead of you, and died the death that you were meant to die.”
So my heart for that final message in the series was that it would give people hope — knowing that God is still at work, so we’re going to continue to pray. But then also to step back and ask, “God, what are you teaching me through this process? Even though you may not answer in my timing or in my way, I know that you are still good and I know that you are still God.” We don’t often take the time to ask that question because we are so focused on the destination rather than the journey.
We could say that’s been true of all of us in the pandemic, right? Those thoughts of “When will this be over? We have to get back to normal.” But God is teaching us so much in the meantime.
Oh, my goodness, yes. I’ve shared with the church multiple times what the Lord has been teaching me these past months about myself. Namely, that he is in perfect control and that those things that I want to control, I need to surrender those to him and allow him to work. For me to be an active participant, but not to feel like I am the one who has to take the reins and play God.
What prompted the new series, Recalibrate?
Given everything that has taken place around our world today, and given the current state of the Church, there are so many different things vying for attention. But those aren’t the most important things. I believe the Lord led us to this series, and I hope he recalibrates us — helps us to take time as we head into the summer, to hit that pause button and ask, what are the most important things we ought to be focusing on? As a church, as followers of Jesus?
Last Sunday in Revelation Chapter 2, we saw the Paul Harvey “Rest of the Story” with the church in Ephesus. And I want to use that as a warning to us today. We are going to hit that recalibrate button to make sure that we understand what our first love ought to be — loving God, loving others and making sure that we are fulfilling that mission and vision that the Lord has given us.
How do you think this happens to a church like the Ephesian Church, to go from the place of being on fire for the Lord to a place where Jesus rebukes them?
The fancy word for it is syncretism. They allow other things to come in and muddy the water. Even when we see things that look potentially helpful, sometimes they are hindrances. You might call it mission drift. When it starts to creep in, no longer is the main thing the main thing.
I have been praying for us as a church: Lord, remind us of those things, that is what we are about — loving God and loving others. It was the same way with the Ephesian church. That was their first love. But in Revelation, Jesus is saying they were only looking at all these good things around them — things that were works.
For us, it would be if something like the Big Day of Serving became our mission rather than bringing people into relationship with Jesus. He is saying, these works that you’re doing are good. But that’s not your first love. That’s not why you are here. You are here to glorify God, to love him and to love those he has created in his image as well.
Do you have to be careful with the series like this so that it isn’t misunderstood as, we have to be more insular, looking inward all the time rather than looking at the community and its needs? How do you balance that kind of a conversation?
As we continue to look at what it means to love God and to love others, I go back to the Great Commandments — to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus says that the entire law is summarized in these two commands. As we recalibrate and get back to that point, I am loving others and I am loving and glorifying God when I’m sharing the good news with others. If I truly love others, it means that I would love them enough to do that — to share about this life they could have. I know that is pleasing to God. But when other things take the place of that, that’s when I become more concerned about the work and less concerned about loving others and about loving God.
This is what it’s about. It’s not about the size of our building or the size of our land. It’s not about all these ministries that we do, because if we are not accomplishing loving God and loving others in those things, they don’t matter. That is essentially what we see in Revelation, that warning to the church in Ephesus. It’s something that I think every church ought to visit from time to time.
Ultimately as First Free Rockford, with the legacy of faith that this church has, my prayer is that we continue to keep the main thing the main thing. I think we are, but it’s also important that we keep this in front of us. This is our target. So I want to be sure we recalibrate our hearts and minds to those things rather than allowing circumstances around us to dictate what the target is.
What else about this series should we know?
This Sunday, Clayton is going to be talking about repentance and whether there are things we need to repent of. In weeks three and four I’m going to talk about loving God and loving others. And then finally on Father’s Day, it’s about the Father’s love for us. I’m really excited about that week. We’re going to have a combined service out at Summerwood, with baptisms following the message.