Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Signs and Wonders.

Coming to terms with the miraculous.

I woke up this morning thinking about miracles. It probably had to do with the fact that I saw Batman Vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice yesterday, but I'll get to that in a minute. I've seen God do some amazing things. Somethings that I've seen Him do just seem weird to me, and I don't really get them.

As I do most mornings, I rolled over in my bed and started checking email, Facebook, etc., while I listened for the sounds of my daughter rumbling in her room. It was then that I saw the blog post from Kris Vallotton entitled "RAISING THE DEAD, GOLD DUST AND FEATHERS," invoking three of the weirdest miraculous phenomena people talk about.

Kris is okay.

Now, before you attack the fact that I read Vallotton because you disagree with him on something, let's stop. He's wrong about some stuff, I'm pretty sure. His book Fashioned To Reign is more of a work of pop feminism with only a cursory glance at what God said, and much of that to "reinterpret" it than a faithful teaching of God's Word. He messed up there, but I think he really believes what he said. And he recently published a blog on Ecclesiastes that I believe invokes a really bad hermeneutic and misses the point, God's point, entirely. Those are just things I know right off the top of my head. I bet if I peruse his prolific work more thoroughly, I can find more places where I'm pretty sure he's wrong. If we throw out every Christian because he's wrong sometimes, well, I'm gonna miss you folks.

There are areas where I really think he's right too. His book Basic Training for the Prophetic Ministry is the only thing I've read that really makes sense of how the gift of prophesy functions in the Church in a New Testament context, when we have the whole Bible already at our disposal. If you haven't read it, I can almost guarantee that you don't understand.

I also appreciate Vallotton's genuineness and humility, which might just be a choice of rhetorical delivery, but I like it. The man realizes he is not perfect.

So, back to what I was writing.

I saw Mr. Vallotton's blogpost on a morning where I was already thinking about miracles. I've never seen the feathers thing nor have I witnessed the raising of the dead. I have seen the gold-dust though. It happened at a retreat for a campus group I was part of as an undergraduate student. The group was "nondenominational" but it was affiliated with the more theologically conservative branch Restoration Movement, There were charismatics and Pentecostals in attendance, but they were by no means the majority. We were praising God and we were covered in gold dust. It was NOT glitter. glitter is much more course. We were sparkly though. Then it went away. It wasn't even the best worship service I've been a part of, but this thing happened.

I've seen other miracles too. I don't really think we get a "share" of miracles, but I've probably seen more than my share. I grew up in a preacher's house. In our tradition (and Dad hates that terminology, but too bad), we don't have people come forward for healing or other Divine intervention at the end of services, other than salvation. Those things are done more privately. The pastor, and sometimes the other elders of the church, will gather at other times with people privately and pray for them. Because of my unique situation, I got to see some of this. Other people didn't get to, because it was done privately. I get why and I won't break confidentiality by talking about it much. So, I'll only talk about these things if the beneficiaries have also talked publicly. They don't want people chasing signs and wonders. They want them chasing God. Still, I like where I am now where everyone gets upfront seats when God moves miraculously.

I see one miracle every day. See, my wife and I are medically incapable of having children. I've dealt with this before in the blog, but I don't feel like explaining in detail right now. Just suffice it to say, it can't happen. Except, it did; plain and simple. We don't exactly know the day our daughter was conceived, but we know when we were made fertile. There was a prayer line at our church. That's kind of a weird thing if your church doesn't do it, but basically, we all line up and pray for everyone who goes through. In that moment, the infertility broke, just long enough for my daughter to be conceived. It is medically and biologically impossible, but here she is. She's a pretty normal two-year-old with every good and bad thing about that.

I also know this boy, Josh, who was born without nerves to his ears. That's a kind of deafness that cannot be fixed. We just can't grow nerves once we're out of utero. I wasn't there when it happened, but I knew Josh when he was deaf and knew him when he wasn't. My parents and I think at least one of my brothers were there, however. Hands were laid on him. Prayers were made. Josh could hear. It wasn't all roses, sounds scared him at first. He had to go to speech therapy because he hadn't heard words really until he was past the age most of us learn language. I was working where he went for therapy when his mom brought him in. That was the first I'd heard that the miracle had something besides just coolness to it.

And there's this lady I know, Grace. She's manages a fast food restaurant. Her husband is a police officer. She got this horrible brain tumor. It was one of the saddest things, because she's such a sweet-heart. The MRI clearly showed the tumor and showed that it was in a really bad place. She'd die if they took it out. It was large and advanced. I think they were giving her just a few months if I remember right.

I admit, that while we were praying for her, I was praying that her family would be comforted in their loss. What happened wasn't even on my radar. She was not there when we were praying. She left New Mexico for a Chicago, I think, to go to a doctor that specializes in such things, to see if there were any options at all since surgery was out. They did another MRI there. The brain tumor was gone. I watch her every Sunday now, holding her newborn grandson and think, "wow!"

One time, on a mission trip, we only had this little ball of spackling paste, smaller than my fist. We spackled an entire house with it. One time, I went over 300 miles in under half-an-hour, closer to 25 minutes, to get to someone who needed my help (I might have been speeding, but not going THAT fast, you do the math). I've had entire conversations only to learn later that I was speaking Spanish; I don't speak Spanish. I've had weird events that have basically herded me into the right place at the right time to talk to someone. This stuff happens.The more I think about it, the more instances I remember.

But that miracles happen is not the issue. 

What bugs most people about miracles is not that they happen. Only a few strident atheists, I'd argue, people who deny their own senses because they are so married to atheism, deny that they happen. Even most of these shrug their shoulders and start making statements about "probabilities" and "instances" that are fairly ridiculous. A simpler explanation, that it's a miracle, just doesn't fit into their worldview.

What people wonder is why they happen. Why does God step out into time itself and alter the rules of biology so that I, of all people, can have a daughter? Why does the all-powerful King of the universe make spackling paste? Worse yet, gold dust or olive oil (There was one time, I was praying for people, and my hands were all slimy, and it smelled like olive oil, and I tasted it, and it was olive oil, because olive oil was dripping onto my hands from this spot on my wrist, kind of like webs came out from Spiderman's wrists in the Toby Maguire version . . . so weird . . . why would God do that?).

That's why I appreciated Kris Vallotton's blog post today:
Why does God do these things, you ask? I really don’t know. I have often been among different groups of leaders who speculate about the purpose of these signs. I have heard many ideas that sound good and make me feel better about the things I have experienced. But the truth is, I really don’t know why these things happen. 
He recognizes that he doesn't know. I don't know either. To me, that is the pest answer that anyone can give. He's God. He does want He wants. You're not the boss of Him.

But that really leads to the real issue that people have, not why do miracles happen, but why do they do not?

My grandma died of colon cancer. God could have healed her, but He didn't. How come? That left my grandpa, who I believe already suffered from pretty serious un-diagnosed (because who would diagnose such things then?) depression, a very sad man for a couple of years until he followed. Why?

I have been watching the situation in the Sudans for almost two decades now. It is a mess, especially for the Christian minorities. They sure could use some Divine intervention there, more than they need more feathers in Redding, CA. It feels like God's priorities are messed up.

When we were emotionally struggling with infertility, my wife joined a lot of groups for Christians struggling with infertility. Most of those people are still struggling. Why did God choose for us to have a wonderful daughter and not them? I don't get it.

In the Superman vs. Batman movie I watched yesterday, Lex Luther postulates that God cannot be fully good and all powerful because bad things happen. It's not the first time that theory has been put forward. Kushner's exceptionally well-known book, When Bad Things Happen to Good People puts forward the same theology as Lex Luther, arguing that God isn't really "all poweful." There are just some things he can't do. Kushner's argument is extremely problematic from the point of view of any serious theologian, but it does solve the problem put forward when we ask "why 9/11" or "Why Katrina" or "Why did my friend miscarry?"

I know that the only way that we can choose to love God is if we can choose not to love Him if we want. I know that the way we choose not to love Him is by doing things that are evil. I know that what makes things evil is at least in part the fact that it does harm to others. So, if God made a world without harm, He'd be making a world without consequences, and thus a world without real good since no one could choose evil. I know that. But sometimes he does intervene in the world. And that makes us wonder why he doesn't other times. The answer, I think is still, "I don't really know why," but it doesn't feel quite as good when we wonder "why not miracles?"

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