Tag Archives: Miracles

The How and Why of Miracles

David Blaine blows your mind by doing things that seem impossible.  But if you knew how he did his tricks, they would not have the same effect.  When God performs a miracle, He deliberately hides how He did it, in order to preserve the full effect.  Because it’s the why that’s important with miracles, not the how.  I know people who declare, “There’s no such thing as a miracle.”  What they mean is there must be some physical explanation for how God pulled off His tricks.  Perhaps they are right.  But in getting all focused on the how, they’ve probably missed the why.  And that is a shame.

Miracles are often called “signs.”  Signs point to something.  When you see a sign for a hospital, you don’t stop there to get medical attention; you head in the direction it points to.  In the New Testament, most of the miracles, or signs, point to the validity of the identity, message and work of Jesus Christ.  They are designed to work like starter fluid for faith.  You don’t run your engine on starter fluid; you just squirt some in the intake when you are having trouble getting it started.  God uses miracles to help people get their faith started.  When you read about or experience a miracle of God, don’t get so distracted wondering about the how that you miss out on why it happened.

1 We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. 2 For since the message spoken through angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, 3 how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. 4 God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will. (Hebrews 2:1-4)


Nothing Will Be Impossible?

It was their big chance but not their best moment.  Jesus was up the mountain with Peter, James and John and, in His absence, a man brings his son to the other disciples for a healing.   You can imagine how they might have felt.  Perhaps they wanted to show they were just as important and effective as the three that went with Jesus.  They undoubtedly remembered that Jesus had previously given them authority to do this kind of thing (Matthew 10:1).  But when they tried to heal the boy, nothing happened.  When Jesus came back, He drove out a demon and healed him.

Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” He replied, “Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”” (Matthew 17:19-20)

Puzzling: Jesus said their faith was too “little” and then said if they had faith like a tiny mustard seed, “nothing will be impossible for you.”  If their faith wasn’t big enough, why did Jesus use a tiny seed to show them what they needed?

It wasn’t the size of their faith that was the issue, but the object of it.  “Why can’t we drive it out,” they asked?  We.  They had faith that they could drive out the spirit, which meant their faith was too little on God.  This is an important distinction, because you frequently hear people say, “If you had more faith,” or, “if you simply had stronger faith” you would be healed.  Perhaps they mean well, but for them to imply it is your fault you are suffering (or worse) is cruel.  It is not about you, trying hard to work up more faith.  Because, as Jesus pointed out, if your faith is truly in God, in His power and sovereignty, even tiny faith, as small as a mustard seed would be enough.

A friend of mine seems to be able to fix any machine, no matter what is wrong with it.  If I had such a problem, I would trust him to fix it.  I might watch him do it, but probably wouldn’t say things like, “Don’t you think we ought to replace the Jimmy-ca-whatsis?”  I’d trust him to know what to do.  Trusting God is like that.  Our prayer of faith lays out the problem before Him and acknowledges His supremacy to deal with it.

Like this:

“Heavenly Father, this little boy has such terrible seizures and we don’t know if it is a medical problem or perhaps demonic possession.  But You do, Lord.  And we know You know what will be best.  We thank You, Lord, that You have invited us to bring this situation to You.  If there is any way in which You want us to serve in response to this, please show us and use us as You see fit.”  

Jesus said, “…if you have faith… nothing will be impossible for you.”  He also said,

I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

I’m guessing you may have questions about this – I certainly do.  If you would like to send me some as a reply, I’ll try to address them.  Until then, keep chewing on this “fresh bread.”  It’s worth it…


Want proof that Jesus is God’s Son?  Tangible proof?  You are not alone.  Trouble is, tangible proof never seems to be enough.  Back in Jesus’ day, He was healing people, calming storms and feeding thousands, but that wasn’t enough for the religious experts.  They wanted more.

” The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven.” (Matthew 16:1)

By the way, in today’s terminology, these two groups represented the extremely conservative and the extremely liberal religious groups.  But they shared a human trait in common:  The things He was doing right there in front of everybody were not enough.  “Show us something from Heaven,” they asked.

“He replied, “When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a miraculous sign, ….” (Matthew 16:2-4a)

The wickedness Jesus referred to, at its core, is the human desire to be god, to be in charge and control.  We want to say what is right and wrong.  We like to think we are in control over everything (even the temperature of the planet!).  The adultery Jesus pointed to is the human tendency to chase after new and different gods.  We want to go off and study under some spiritual mystic or medium, to change our names and adopt another religion that catches our fancy.

“Wait a minute,” you ask, “didn’t you just say that we wanted to be god? Isn’t it logically inconsistent to want that and also chase after new and different gods?”  Yes it is.  But then again, I said these were “human” tendencies!  Since when have humans been entirely logical and consistent?

Signs on the highway don’t help those who are too distracted to see them.  They don’t work for those who think they already know the way.  Jesus had been performing many signs, the things He called the “signs of the times.”  But they wanted more.  God gives signs, but they are of value only to those who are humble and open, to those who are ready to receive them and respond to them.  God’s signs sail right past the “adulterous” and “wicked.”  That’s why Jesus said,

““Be careful,” … “Be on your guard against the yeast [the teaching and attitudes] of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”” (Matthew 16:6 excerpts – with my explanation)

If you understand this blindness of the religious experts, you can see the contrast in what happens when the disciples begin to “have eyes to see.”  It’s pretty cool and we’ll take it up next time.

Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Where Credit is Due

Jesus said every sin could be forgiven – except one!  He freely associated with people who were caught up in sinful behavior that shocked the religious leaders.  He was accused, Himself, of being a drunkard and a glutton.  He told a woman who had committed several serial acts of adultery that He did not condemn her.  Jesus was a compassionate and forgiving and taught that God the Father was also forgiving.  And yet, He said, “Watch out!  There is one sin that cannot be forgiven – ever.”

“And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.” (Matthew 12:31-32)

What was He talking about?  What did He mean?  We don’t have to look far to see.

” Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see. All the people were astonished and said, “Could this be the Son of David?” But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “It is only by Beelzebub, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.” (Matthew 12:22-24, NIV)

Jesus demonstrated the compassion and power of God in a healing of spiritual and physical dimensions.  It was clear to “all the people” that He had done so by God’s power.  Indeed, “all the people” began to suggest that He was the “Son of David,” the Messiah King, promised by God.  But the Pharisees told the people that Jesus was acting on behalf of Satan (“Beelzebub, the prince of demons”), not because of what they saw Him do, but in response to what they heard the people saying about Jesus.

Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is the act of publicly attributing the work of the Holy Spirit to the influence of Satan, when you know it is not true.  Those guys had deliberately tried to diminish what God was doing, so they could control the people and protect their own reputations.  They said, “That’s not God doing that, it is Satan.”  Jesus said, “Watch out; doing that is unforgivable!”

Now, maybe you are thinking, “I don’t have to worry about that; I’m certainly no religious authority and nobody is going to be influenced by what I say.”  Maybe so.  But in the light of the severity of what Jesus taught, perhaps it is appropriate for us to be cautious about what we think whenever we see something that God does.  For example, during the last several months, The River Church in Lyons, CO has experienced several astonishing acts of rescue and relief, as they were recovering from a devastating flood.  Their well went completely dry.  The experts determined that the ground water had shifted and that the only thing to do was to drill another well – something the church had no money to do.  But a volunteer work crew, assembled from churches all around the country, gathered around the well house, joined hands and prayed that God would restore it.  That afternoon the water began to flow – pure water that passed the county’s stringent health standards.

How do you understand that event?  Who did that?  How did it happen?   There are many physical explanations you could use.  Most of them would need to include the word, coincidence.  Or, you could shake your head with awe and humility and give the credit to God.  I’m pretty sure that is the safest course.  And ultimately, it matters little how God pulled it off.  The main thing is to understand why He did it.  And to give credit where it is due.

Bible quotes:  The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Pay Attention

When was the last time you saw a miracle?  Jesus performed many miracles during His time on earth, to make people aware of God’s presence and power.  He used miracles as “signs” to validate His own identity and message while pointing people to God.  He said,

“Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.” (John 14:11)

He still performs miracles today and it is for the same purpose.  But some people are so distracted by the substance of the miracle – whether it is something as amazing as physical healing or something as simple as providing bread – that they miss the sign contained in it.  After miraculously feeding a huge gathering, Jesus warned them not to follow Him around to get more bread.  Miracles are done to open our eyes to the power of God!  Even physical healing, as wonderful as it is and as grateful as we are to receive it, is merely temporary.  You get healed of one thing only to die later on of something else!    Miracles are signs that point us to the presence and power of God.

Trouble is, many people cannot see miracles.  Perhaps miracles make them uneasy.  Their first response is to explain away what happened by trying to understand the physical explanation of how it occurred.  But the point in a miracle is not how it was done but rather, why it was done!  I am convinced that the reason we in the United States don’t see more miracles is because we have blinded ourselves to them.  We are so fixated on the  how that we miss the why.  Jesus reflected on that kind of blindness:

” At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.” (Matthew 11:25)

Jesus didn’t want us to be childish, but childlike.  He wasn’t telling people to park their brains at the door but, rather, to open their eyes!  To recover their natural capacity for wonder and awe when confronted by the presence and power of God.  To look for why instead of smugly dismissing the miraculous with explanations of how.  Open your eyes!  Pay attention!

This is more important than you may realize.  Faced with the stony faced blindness of the “wise and learned,”  Jesus warned them:

“And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths. If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.” (Matthew 11:23-24)

More bearable for the people of Sodom, because they would have paid attention, they would have gotten the point.  They would have turned away from their arrogant, “know-it-all” attitudes, and responded to the power and majesty of God with humility and reverence.