Do You Believe In Miracles?

On December 15, 2009, healing evangelist Oral Roberts died at age 91 from complications related to his pneumonia. Some were grieved by his death–and others were relieved. But everyone who knew anything about him could agree on this: Roberts was a lightening rod of controversy.

For years, every Sunday morning on his nationally televised program, he proclaimed, “Something good is going to happen to you.” Roberts believed that God can enter our everyday lives and change them.

He later founded a university that drew thousands of students who agreed with him. And etched on the floor of the basketball court in his university arena was this phrase: “I believe in miracles.”

Do you believe in miracles? And if so, what role do they—or should they—play in our lives?

Yesterday, our guest blogger Mike Mullin, began a discussion on miracles and our faith. This morning, we’re going to continue where he left off.

TODAY’S READING

Exodus 15:19-17:7
Matthew 22:1-33
Psalm 27:1-6
Proverbs 6:20-26

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

Exodus 15:25. Immediately after crossing the Red Sea, we read that God tested the Israelites. After the thrill of watching God inflict plagues on Egypt, then securing their release, and then parting the Red Sea, God wanted to determine their commitment to him. Remember, Israel had spent 430 years of bondage in Egypt with little or no instruction on following Yahweh. The rest of Exodus reveals the deep roots of Egypt that still existed in Israel.

Exodus 16:1-3. One month into the wilderness, Israel was already grumbling and ready to return to Egypt. Apparently, they suffered from short memories because in Egypt they lived as slaves, barely eking out an existence—and they certainly didn’t sit around pots of meat, eating all the food they wanted. This tells me that miraculous signs and wonders aren’t enough to win our devotion to God—which yesterday’s guest blogger, Rev. Mike Mullin, explored.

Exodus 16:16. An omer is equivalent to about 2 quarts in volume.

Exodus 16:34. The “Testimony” is a reference to the Ark of the Covenant.

Exodus 16:35. Jesus referred to himself as Israel’s daily manna in John 6:48-58.

Matthew 22:1-14. Jesus was referring to himself in this parable (as the king’s son), and the resulting destruction of Jerusalem which occurred in 70 A.D.

A few other thoughts hit me about Jesus’ parable: First, in this parable, Jesus was referring to religious people. Second, many of the people who turned down the king’s invitation weren’t opposed to the son, they were just too busy to squeeze his invitation into their plans. We live according to our priorities. Some, however, responded much more violently. Thirdly, I’ve always wondered why Jesus concluded this parable by kicking out a man who wasn’t properly dressed for the occasion. This tells me that being invited to the banquet doesn’t mean I can attend under my own terms. Following Jesus means following him–not expecting him to follow us.

Matthew 22:15-16. The Pharisees were religious conservatives and the Herodians were Roman Empire supporting “liberals.” To get them to work together required extreme measures.

Matthew 22:17. The Bible Background Commentary explains Jesus’ dilemma: “If he publicly takes the view characterized by those later called Zealots (no king but God), the Herodians can have him arrested; if he rejects that view (which he does), he may compromise his following.”

Matthew 22:18-21. I love this. By asking his detractors to show him a coin—which included Caesar’s image—Jesus exposed their hypocrisy, since any “good” Jew would refuse to use Roman currency.

Matthew 22:30. People who romantically assume that they’ll be married “forever” are sadly mistaken. Marriage only lasts as long as both parties are alive.

Psalm 27:1-6. What a great passage on perspective. In the midst of life-threatening stress, David understands where to revive his hope and his strength: by dwelling the house of the Lord.

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THE WORD MADE FRESH

I grew up in a religious culture that placed a high value on miracles. Oral Roberts was an icon for many of us. Although some of the miracles I saw were merely the product of hype, and really not miracles at all, others were legitimate. Some even happened to me.

True story: in high school, some friends and I prayed for a girl who broke her pelvis in seven places due to a car accident. She walked with crutches and was told that she would never be able to have children. But by the grace of God, she was healed. The next day she and I ran through the school hallways, praising God. Her friends were utterly astonished. But a year later, she had no interest in following Jesus.

Most of my life I sought that one miracle that would take me over the top in my walk with God. Something that would deliver me once-and-for-all from my sinful tendencies. But it never happened.

Israel witnessed some pretty amazing miracles. Imagine walking through the Red Sea on dry ground. Yet in today’s reading, they complained and grumbled incessantly, longing to return to their lives of bondage. This was only 6 weeks into their journey!

As much as we want God to miraculously change our lives, those miracles he may graciously give us will never be enough.

Miracles are good. Asking for them is good. They’re like glimpses into God’s heart and his extravagant love for us.

But our faith must rest on more than miracles. Our faith must rest on a relationship with God through his son Jesus and a commitment to follow him.

At times, I get frustrated reading about Israel’s grumbling and irritability in the desert. They loved Moses’ miracles…in the moment. But learning to follow him? That took a lifetime.

Just like us.

CONVERSATION STARTERS

  1. What spoke to your heart in today’s reading?
  2. Have you ever experienced a miracle? What happened? How were you changed? What difference does it make in your life today?
  3. What does “dwelling in the house of the Lord” look like for you? Share a time when it made a difference in your life.

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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.

2 Comments

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2 responses to “Do You Believe In Miracles?

  1. Mike

    I have always been facinated by how the Egyptian magicians were able to do miraculous things. Obviously there is power in evil, only inferior to the power of God (the snake from Aaron’s staff ate the Egyptian serpents).
    A talented musician from my church suffered from lupus. She had deteriorated to the place they were going to remove her kidneys. Death was only a matter of time. Our small group prayed for her and we all firmly believed God wanted to heal her but something was unconfessed. Whatever it was blocked the healing.
    Then we read Leviticus 18 to her, the detestable practices of the Canaanites, and ask if she had ever done any of these. Yes, she talked to the dead. She began at age 14 (the year her illness began).
    We asked her to confess the sin in talking to the dead – actually talking to a demon pretending to be a deceased loved one. We weren’t done. She had a spirit named Mary, her mother’s name, that had to be ordered out. (Yes, I know this is a very strange story and I hope not to open a can of worms)
    10 years went by before I had contact with this lady again. At age 55 she was completing seminary and has no traces of lupus. Her doctor was amazed but being a Christian said that a miraculous healing was the best explanation.
    I learned not to mess around with the occult!!!

  2. Eugene

    I find it amazing that on one level the more miracles God did for Israel, the more calloused they became to God, like your friend who was healed and then a year later seemingly not even remembering.

    I wonder if that is in part because, though miracles are beautiful and amazing, they are not God himself and when we chase after them we can come up empty just as we do when we chase after other beautiful and amazing gifts from God.

    What does it take for us–me–to love God just for himself not for what he might do for me?

    I also wonder why so many people who talk of miracles today, talk mainly of healing as if there are not other ways God works. I don’t believe miracles are restricted to healing.

    Leif Enger, in his novel “Peace Like a River” writes, “Real miracles bother people, like strange sudden pains unknown in medical literature. It’s true. They rebut every rule all we good citizens take comfort in. Lazarus obeying orders and climbing up out of the grave–now there’s a miracle, and you can bet it upset a lot of folks who were standing around at the time. When a person dies, the earth is generally unwilling to cough him back up. A miracle contradicts the will of the earth.”

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