Pastor's Blog

I was always told that spiritual rebirth was an amazing miracle.  Well, it may be a work of God – but when born-again people are vindictive and cruel, you start asking yourself what happened to the miracle that God supposedly did in their lives.  At least I wondered that.  It made me question whether there was a God who worked at all (as I’ve recounted in previous blogs).  When I returned from my flirtation with atheism I decided to remove the word “miracle” from my vocabulary.  Not because I don’t believe in the biblical miracles (I do) and not because I believe God can’t do miracles (He can).  I see “miracle” as a very technical term for a very extraordinary occurrence that cannot be too easily explained by an appeal to nature.  I don’t know that I’ve ever seen anything in that category.

That doesn’t mean God doesn’t work in the world.  There is a whole other category of divine working that seems overlooked and forgotten, called “providence”, and I sing its praises.  Evangelicals seem to think that unless a thing is miraculous, God can’t be in it or behind it.  But God is constantly working in, through, and behind completely ordinary circumstances.  Why wouldn’t He be?  He is involved in our lives and our world every day.  He just doesn’t do miracles every day.

Years ago, a three-month-old boy from our church was afflicted with two different types of leukemia.  The doctors at Children’s Hospital called it a death sentence.  The little boy endured numerous chemotherapy treatments, but the cancer kept returning.  As a last-ditch effort, the child received a bone-marrow transplant from his father.  We laid hands on the child, anointed him with oil, and prayed for God to intervene.  The bone marrow transplant was successful and that boy is now a young man.

This was a wonderful divine providence.  A miracle would have been an instantaneous recovery when we prayed so that the bone marrow transplant would have been unnecessary.  But God providentially worked in and through the transplant.  Without it, the boy probably would have died. 

The transplant didn’t negate or demean the work of God.  It does if you only find God in the miraculous.  But does God only work in miracles?  I rejoice that He sees fit to use ordinary means and encourage people to use them, and to then thank God AND THE DOCTORS when they work!

Some providences are ordinary.  You pray “Give us this day our daily bread” and then the prayer is answered with a trip to the grocery store – although finding bread or toilet paper during this coronavirus panic may verge on the miraculous!

Some providences are coincidences that seem too coincidental.  My wife and I attended a Bible conference at our alma mater one year.  It just happened to be the same time that I was wrestling through the hurt and anger of betrayal by a friend.  In the first session we attended, the speaker (whom we did not know) spoke on “Washing Judas’ Feet”.  The sermon was about loving those that betray you.  I couldn’t believe it.  If no one else had been in that room, the message would have been for me.  God was at work in an amazing providence in my life.  But there was no miracle there.

When the church was small and we were trying to raise money (either for the purchase of the 13 acre plot or for the down payment on the building;  I don’t remember which) I challenged our small congregation to raise, in one offering, over $10,000.  There was a visitor there that Sunday who heard my challenge.  He returned the next week and before the service handed me an envelope.  With a stern face he said, “This is for you to read after the service.”  I opened the envelope after the service and found a check for over $10,000.  I saw that as a providential work of God, but not a miracle.  I’d have thought differently if the envelope contained a letter telling me to go catch a fish and use the money I found in its mouth as a down payment, and then had a successful fishing expedition. 

I’m big on providence – God working in ordinary ways.  I look for him there and am happy to find Him.  Of course, any time He’s willing to do a miracle, He’s sovereign.  He can do what He likes.  I’d rejoice to see it, but my faith doesn’t need Him to do so.  Raising Jesus from the dead is the only miracle I need.

I’ll probably talk about this a little more next time…

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