Real Miracles

Earlier this year, my husband and I were blessed with an opportunity to do something kind for someone anonymously. It wasn’t one of those things we do on a regular basis, like try to be friendly, give someone a lift, babysit for a neighbor or loan someone a tool. No, it was one of those things that never occurs to me in the scope of my daily life. So, when the impetus came out of the blue, I knew God was urging us to do something new.

Afterward, I started wondering how this person must have felt about their, “miracle” when the gift mysteriously appeared. I’m confident that they knelt in worship and gratitude to the God from whom all blessing flow.

I chuckled, if they only knew, it wasn’t a real miracle, it was just a couple of Jesus followers who listened to His voice and (though this isn’t always the case) obeyed. Almost instantly, God put His hand on my heart.

“What do you mean, ‘Not a real miracle?'”

“Well God, it’s just that it was only us. They must feel like it’s manna from heaven, or multiplied loaves, but really, it was just another human!”

“Dear One,” I heard Him clearly say. “Just because I choose to use one common means or another does not make my goodness any less of a miracle.
Remember Elijah’s crows in 1 Kings 17? He could have claimed it wasn’t a real miracle, just a bunch of crows dropping food to him out of the sky.
Humans often relegate goodness to the ethereal; alternately, they try to explain it by means of coincidence.
Apart from me there is no good thing. (Ps. 16:2)
Therefore, Beloved, all good acted upon, all good things given, the very fact that you are capable of kindness is part of the supernatural miracle that I AM.”

After that personal didactic, it was interesting and affirming to read C.S. Lewis’ description of this thought process in the final pages of his book, The Screwtape Letters.

You will notice that we have got them completely fogged about the meaning of the world, ‘real’. They tell each other, of some great spiritual experience, ‘All that really happened was that you heard some music in a lighted building’; here ‘Real’ means the bare physical facts, separated from the other elements in the experience they actually had.

The general rule which we have now pretty well established among them is that in all experiences which can make them happier or better only the physical facts are ‘Real’ while the spiritual elements are ‘subjective’; in all experiences which can discourage or corrupt them the spiritual elements are the main reality and to ignore them is to be an escapist.

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What Does He have to do with You?

“When the humans disbelieve our existence we lose all the pleasing results of direct terrorism and we make no magicians. On the other hand, when they believe in us we cannot make the materialists and skeptics.” C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

To the most reasonable mind, if there exists a God, there must necessarily exist a supernatural source of evil. And vice-versea. To believe in Satan, by consequence, and observation of the natural world, one must believe in a supernatural source of good. The war between these forces is evident in every waking moment.

  • a normally comforting mother screaming at her child
  • murder and law enforcement
  • generosity and desperate poverty

Humans only know one, good or evil, by its contrast to the other. So, for Satan to convince man that he has no Creator, no Advocate, no moral directive, no eternity, no Savior, no God, then he must simultaneously insinuate that he, himself, is a figment of a weak mind.

“I have great hope that we shall learn in due time how to emotionalize and mythologize their science to such an extent that what is, in effect, belief in us, (though not under that name) will creep in while the human mind remains closed to belief in the Enemy [God].”

This morning in my quiet time, I digested a passage that I have read more than 100 times. Jesus entered the synagogue in Nazareth, his own home town and read from the book of Isaiah. There, He declared Himself to be the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy about the Messiah. The Jews were furious at this blasphemy and tried to push Jesus over a cliff. But, without a dramatic show, He simply passed through the crowd and left.

In Capernaum, He entered the synagogue again. Immediately, He was confronted by a man with an evil spirit. “Go away! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” (Luke 4:34)

The phrase, “What have you to do with us,” is a Greek idiom, similar to, “I will have nothing to do with you,” or, “Have nothing to do with us.”

In this tantrum, the demon screamed through the man, “I know who you are. You are the Holy One of God!” Wow. Talk about proof! You would think that in such a cosmic display of good and evil, everyone would have collapsed on their faces in worship of the Deliverer. However wonderful that would have been, it would also be insufficient, that would not accomplish salvation. Jesus doesn’t want mere acknowledgement, and Satan knows it.

Yes, salvation is found in believing in Jesus, the only begotten Son of God (John 3:16). But, Christ came for so much more than that. Jesus wants us to love Him with all our heart, souls, minds and strength. Jesus wants everything to do with us. So Satan’s most vicious tactic is not to convince us that God does not exist, or that Jesus is not the Son of God, but to persuade us that God wants nothing to do with us, that relationship is impossible.

Jesus had to die and rise again in order to pay for our sins and restore our right relationship with God. Our God is personal and has everything to do with us! Praise the Lord!

Who Do You Believe In?

Recently, I was at the mall with a friend. We peered down from the second floor at the the Christmas bustle. There was a monstrous tree dangling from the ceiling. Fake snow flounced around life-sized toy trains, comical elves and of course, Jolly Old Saint Nick. I almost pitied the poor guy in costume when I heard them announce that he will be at the mall every single day from 9-6 until Christmas Eve. Especially since I’m sure not all the visiting kiddos made the “nice” list, December is going to be a long month!images

Then, I was running this morning, past decorations and lights, yard-sized nativity scenes and plastic reindeer on roofs. My mind flickered back to the mall, something seemed similar. Do you remember the story in Mark 10:13-16, when crowds of children were brought to see Jesus?

Bunches (the Bible doesn’t say how many) of parents brought their children to see Jesus. And not just to see Him, they wanted Jesus to touch them, to bless them. I imagine moms waiting impatiently in line while their rowdy children pressed forward, oblivious to any sense of order. Doubtless, they had heard about this man. Maybe they thought he was magical – he healed people, walked on water, turned water into wine!

Every single year, in the crowded center of the mall, hundreds of children cluster around a smiling old man, whom they are told is magical and can fill their every wish – if they are good.

Hmmm…that’s not so like Jesus.

Remember the disciples trying to protect Jesus from the crush? I’m sure they were irritated by snotty-nosed youngsters. They probably noted a few who should be on the “naughty” list and decided it was best to keep them out of Jesus’ way. They gently pushed the children backward and told their parents not to bother Jesus.

But Jesus stopped them. 

“Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children.” Mark 10:14

Jesus pulled the children onto His lap, put his hands on them and blessed them. Did you notice what was left out? Jesus didn’t ask them, “Were you a good boy?” Instead, His love was accepting, unconditional and extravagant.

jesus-shares-time-with-the-children-GoodSalt-dmtas0089Now, let me take some literary license. Children are told that in order to get presents, they must believe in Santa Clause and be good. Obviously, if they don’t believe, coal will be their Christmas reward.

We don’t know if these children were of the decision making age, or if even their parents believed or cared that Jesus was the Messiah. But Jesus didn’t question them. He simply opened His arms and blessed them. He explained to the thicker-headed adults that a child-like faith is the key to the kingdom of God. All we must do to inherit eternal life is to believe that: JESUS IS THE CHRIST, THE SON OF THE LIVING GOD. THAT HE DIED FOR OUR SINS, ACCORDING TO THE SCRIPTURES. THAT HE WAS BURIED AND ROSE AGAIN IN THREE DAYS, ACCORDING TO THE SCRIPTURES. 

I urge you, make some noise about the truth of Christmas this year. There are thousands of adults who don’t believe – in the only hope for their souls. And Jesus invites them.

Not Looking for Miracles

Wonders of wonder, miracles of miracles! That’s what we’re talking about this week. I would love to hear your miracles – please send them to me via comments here or feel free to email me personally. Also, if you need a miracle, please let me know. I promise to pray for you.

Let me share the miracle that I mentioned at the beginning of this month:

It was a drizzly, cold Monday morning. We’re still in the fledgling stages of Moms Who TRI. Kristen and I keep reminding each other that God is sovereign over our business’ success – and over the weather. Right now, we’re still training in her backyard, so rainy days effectively cancel our bootcamps.

The bum deal is that I am not omniscient, so I had no idea what the weather would do. I got up early, hustled through my quiet time with the Lord and then at the last minute, Kristen and I agreed, there was no way we could hold Moms Who TRI. So there I was with a whole free morning ahead of me. If you know me at all, you know that’s very disconcerting.

I’m from the Seattle area. I don’t melt. Brave was pacing around my ankles. So, we loaded up in the car and drove to the trails behind South Run RECenter. There’s nothing like a walk in the rain to clear your head. I was actually looking forward to the solitude, but noticed another woman heading toward the trailhead with her dog. Politely, we exchanged greetings and I expected to go our separate ways. God had other plans.

“How are you? How did you come to be walking in the rain this morning?”
“My husband is working out in the gym, but the dog needed to get out.  My husband’s health isn’t such that he should be walking in the rain.”

Then.

“Oh well. I’m going to bear my soul.” Tears filled her eyes and out of the blue, this virtual stranger poured out her heart. “Until the day before yesterday we believed that my husband’s cancer was in remission. He’s been on an experimental drug that made him miserable, but we thought it was working. Then, two days ago, the doctor told us that the cancer has gotten into his cerebrospinal fluid. He may have only a few months to live.”

Oh how my heart broke as this lady continued. I never even got her name as she continued to spill her sorrows. She had already been widowed once. Her children had moved away and her dog was old. “I’m afraid I’m going to be all alone, again.” They had both recently retired at a young age. Looking forward they had dreamed up plans to visit Bulgaria.

I am as uncomfortable as anyone else in these situations. I’ve always thought that I lived a charmed life by most standards. But then… I’ve watched loved ones die of cancer. I’ve been completely alone. I teetered on the edge of divorce. I’ve been suicidal. So perhaps my life hasn’t been so rosy. So where does one find the capacity for empathy and sympathy at the same time? How does one identify and comfort and most importantly, what does one say to another?

“You guide me with your counsel, leading me to a glorious destiny.” Psalm 73:24

“But don’t worry about what you should say. Say the things God gives you to say at that time. It will not really be you speaking. It will be the Holy Spirit speaking.” Mark 13:11b

Honestly, I said very little. I do know that we talked about Jesus. And at the end of our walk, we still never exchanged names, but this sweet woman pulled me into a hug and whispered, “Thank you. Thank you for being here today.”

I had never planned to be.

I’m only slowly learning that God’s destruction of my plans is for the construction of a miracle.