Gold Coast Bereans

Out of Ghana, West Africa; Christian hearts and critical minds seeking, speaking and writing the truth with love. This is a conversation of a group of friends, now living in the USA and the UK, who have known each other for more than 20 years.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

MIRACLES IN OUR DAY, a recap. Part I

by Gaius Columbus

I have been thinking quite frequently about everything that has been said so far. This link provides an enumerated list of miracles performed in the Bible and helps us to obtain a picture of the average frequency/clustering of these acts. I do not know the time interval over which these miracles were recorded, but the average rate does not appear to be particularly high until the extreme explosion of miracles recorded during the life of our Lord and His apostles.

One obvious caveat is that this list cannot be seen to be exhaustive. John suggests at the end of his gospel that what is recorded of Jesus' miracles is but a small proportion of all that our Lord performed. John 21 v 25: Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written. Likewise in the early days of the church, Luke records in Acts 2:42-43, They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the Apostles.

Now, leaving aside the issue of the absolute frequency of miracles (which can be guessed, but is unknowable), does anyone see a unifying theme or pattern to this list or do you feel that these acts are completely random? Is there a key to understanding their distribution over time? An easy pattern for me is what I see when I, in a sense, plot the frequency of recorded miraculous activity as a function of time. Immediately evident, is the rush of miraculous activity that suddenly interrupts the sedate baseline of sporadic signs recorded in the OT. It is plain to see on this time-ordered chart that something curious, but according to the Apostles not unexpected, has occurred.

This impression is strengthened even more by the observation that following this rush of miracles, we again witness a return to a baseline level of sporadic signs from the post-first century church until present. The pre-gospel and post-gospel eras are, in a way, analogous to the random static one hears on an untuned older radio or, to pick another analogy, the background trade volatility recorded daily on the Dow Jones. The miraculous activity recorded during the time of our Lord and His disciples, seen this way, is similar to the sudden transition from static to music or clear speech as one turns the radio dial, or to the sudden unexpected change from the steady small-scale ups and downs of the market to a sudden catastrophic market crash or market boost.

Any analyst of such time-ordered data, whether scientific or financial, would conclude without hesitation that such activity was unusual, curious, and strange, marking a significant event. The rush of miracles reported in the Gospels has the same import; it means something special has occurred--specifically, that on the radio of time or the ticker tape of history, a signal worthy of our urgent attention and exposition has appeared.

What does all of this mean? What can we discern about how God generally deals with man without putting Him in a box? For me the above observation, alone, simple as it is but added to other interesting patterns, incites thoughts in my mind regarding the overarching role that Grace is to play in our lives, a theme alluded previously by my brothers on this blog. I will return to this theme in my follow-up posts. – G. Columbus

Related posts
Authenticating a miracle
Miracles and faith
The Perception of a Miracle
What is a miracle?
Where have all the miracles gone?


References. (from http://mb-soft.com/believe/txo/miracle.htm)
Miracles and signs recorded in the Old Testament
1. The flood Gen. 7, 8
2. Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah Gen. 19:24
3. Lot's wife turned into a "pillar of salt" Gen. 19:26
4. Birth of Isaac at Gerar Gen. 21:1
5. The burning bush not consumed Ex. 3:3
6. Aaron's rod changed into a serpent Ex. 7:10-12
7. The ten plagues of Egypt--(1) waters become blood, (2) frogs, (3) lice, (4) flies, (5) murrain, (6) boils, (7) thunder and hail, (8) locusts, (9) darkness, (10) death of the first-born Ex. 7:20-12:30
8. The Red Sea divided; Israel passes through Ex. 14:21-31
9. The waters of Marah sweetened Ex. 15:23-25
10. Manna sent daily, except on Sabbath Ex. 16:14-35
11. Water from the rock at Rephidim Ex. 17:5-7
12. Nadab and Abihu consumed for offering "strange fire" Lev. 10:1, 2
13. Some of the people consumed by fire at Taberah Num. 11:1-3
14. The earth opens and swallows up Korah and his company; fire and plague follow at Kadesh Num. 16:32
15. Aaron's rod budding at Kadesh Num. 17:8
16. Water from the rock, smitten twice by Moses, Desert of Zin Num. 20:7-11
17. The brazen serpent in the Desert of Zin Num. 21:8, 9
18. Balaam's ass speaks Num. 22:21-35
19. The Jordan divided, so that Israel passed over dryshod Josh. 3:14-17
20. The walls of Jericho fall down Josh. 6:6-20
21. The sun and moon stayed. Hailstorm Josh. 10:12-14
22. The strength of Samson Judg. 14-16
23. Water from a hollow place "that is in Lehi" Judg. 15:19
24. Dagon falls twice before the ark. Emerods on the Philistines 1 Sam. 5:1-12
25. Men of Beth-shemesh smitten for looking into the ark 1 Sam. 6:19
26. Thunderstorm causes a panic among the Philistines at Eben-ezer 1 Sam. 7:10-12
27. Thunder and rain in harvest at Gilgal 1 Sam. 12:18
28. Sound in the mulberry trees at Rephaim 2 Sam. 5:23-25
29. Uzzah smitten for touching the ark at Perez-uzzah 2 Sam. 6:6, 7
30. Jeroboam's hand withered. His new altar destroyed at Bethel 1 Kings 13:4-6
31. Widow of Zarephath's meal and oil increased 1 Kings 17:14-16
32. Widow's son raised from the dead 1 Kings 17:17-24
33. Drought, fire, and rain at Elijah's prayers, and Elijah fed by ravens 1 Kings 17, 18
34. Ahaziah's captains consumed by fire near Samaria 2 Kings 1:10-12
35. Jordan divided by Elijah and Elisha near Jericho 2 Kings 2:7, 8, 14
36. Elijah carried up into heaven 2 Kings 2:11
37. Waters of Jericho healed by Elisha's casting salt into them 2 Kings 2:21, 22
38. Bears out of the wood destroy forty-two "young men" 2 Kings 2:24
39. Water provided for Jehoshaphat and the allied army 2 Kings 3:16-20
40. The widow's oil multiplied 2 Kings 4:2-7
41. The Shunammite's son given, and raised from the dead at Shunem 2 Kings 4:32-37
42. The deadly pottage cured with meal at Gilgal 2 Kings 4:38-41
43. An hundred men fed with twenty loaves at Gilgal 2 Kings 4:42-44
44. Naaman cured of leprosy, Gehazi afflicted with it 2 Kings 5:10-27
45. The iron axe-head made to swim, river Jordan 2 Kings 6:5-7
46. Ben hadad's plans discovered. Hazael's thoughts, etc. 2 Kings 6:12
47. The Syrian army smitten with blindness at Dothan 2 Kings 6:18
48. The Syrian army cured of blindness at Samaria 2 Kings 6:20
49. Elisha's bones revive the dead 2 Kings 13:21
50. Sennacherib's army destroyed, Jerusalem 2 Kings 19:35
51. Shadow of sun goes back ten degrees on the sun-dial of Ahaz, Jerusalem 2 Kings 20:9-11
52. Uzziah struck with leprosy, Jerusalem 2 Chr. 26:16-21
53. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego delivered from the fiery furnace, Babylon Dan. 3:10-27
54. Daniel saved in the lions' den Dan. 6:16-23
55. Jonah in the whale's belly. Safely landed Jonah 2:1-10

Miracles Recorded in the Gospels
Peculiar to Matthew
1. Cure of two blind men Matt 9:27-31
2. Piece of money in the fish's mouth Matt 17:24-27
Peculiar to Mark
1. The deaf and dumb man Mark 7:31-37
2. The blind man of Bethsaida Mark 8:22-26
Peculiar to Luke
1. Jesus passes unseen through the crowd Luke 4:28-30
2. The miraculous draught of fishes Luke 5:4-11
3. The raising of the widow's son at Nain Luke 7:11-18
4. The woman with the spirit of infirmity Luke 13:11-17
5. The man with the dropsy Luke 14:1-6
6. The ten lepers Luke 17:11-19
7. The healing of Malchus Luke 22:50, 51
Peculiar to John
1. Water made wine John 2:1-11
2. Cure of nobleman's son, Capernaum John 4:46-54
3. Impotent man at Bethsaida cured John 5:1-9
4. Man born blind cured John 9:1-7
5. Lazarus raised from the dead John 11:38-44
6. Draught of fishes John 21:1-14

Common to Matthew and Mark
1. Syrophoenician woman's daughter cured Matt 15:28 Mark 7:24
2. Four thousand fed Matt 15:32 Mark 8:1
3. Fig tree blasted Matt 21:18 Mark 11:12

Common to Matthew and Luke
1. Centurion's servant healed Matt 8:5 Luke 7:1
2. Blind and dumb demoniac cured Matt 12:22 Luke 11:14

Common to Mark and Luke
1. Demoniac cured in synagogue at Capernaum Mark 1:23 Luke 4:33

Common to Matthew, Mark and Luke
1. Peter's wife's mother cured Matt 8:14 Mark 1:30 Luke 4:38
2. The tempest stilled Matt 8:23 Mark 4:37 Luke 8:22
3. Demoniacs of Gadara cured Matt 8:28 Mark 5:1 Luke 8:26
4. Leper healed Matt 8:2 Mark 1:40 Luke 5:12
5. Jairus's daughter raised Matt 9:23 Mark 5:23 Luke 8:41
6. Woman's issue of blood cured Matt 9:20 Mark 5:25 Luke 8:43
7. Man sick of the palsy cured Matt 9:2 Mark 2:3 Luke 5:18
8. Man's withered hand cured Matt 12:10 Mark 3:1 Luke 6:6
9. A lunatic child cured Matt 17:14 Mark 9:14 Luke 9:37
10. Two blind men cured Matt 20:29 Mark 10:46 Luke 18:35

Common to Matthew, Mark and John
Jesus walks on the sea Matt 14:25 Mark 6:48 John 6:15

Common to all the evangelists
Jesus feeds 5,000 "in a desert place" Matt 14:15 Mark 6:30 Luke 9:10 John 6:1-14
In addition to the above miracles wrought by Christ, there are four miraculous events connected with his life -
1. The conception by the Holy Ghost Luke 1:35
2. The transfiguration Matt 17:1-8
3. The resurrection John 21:1-14
4. The ascension Luke 2:42-51

Miracles pertaining to the ministry of the Apostles from http://biblia.com/miracles/new.htm.
Again, I don't think this list is exhaustive because "many wonders and signs [miracles] were done by the apostles" (Acts 2:43)
· 26 miracles of the Disciples of Jesus
· By the seventy Lk.10:17-20
· By other disciples Mr.9:39; Jn.14:12
· By the apostles Act.3:6, 12, 13, 16; 4:10, 30; 9:34, 35; 16:18
· Stephen, Act.6:8
· Philip, Act.8:4-13.
· Philip carried away by the Spirit Act.8:39

9 Miracles of Peter
· Peter and John cure a lame man Act.3:2-11
·Cures all the sick Act.5:15-16
· Heals Aeneas Act.9:34
· Raises Dorcas from the dead Act.9:40
· Causes the death of Ananias and Sapphira Ac 5:5, 10
· Peter delivered from prison Act.5:19-23
· Second Peter's Miraculous Escape From Prison, Acts 12
· Visions of Peter and Cornelius, Acts 10

11 Miracles of Paul
· Paul cured of blindness, vision of Ananias Act.9:1-18
· Strikes Elymas (Bar-Jesus) with blindness Act.13:11
· Heals a cripple Act.14:10
· Throws out an evil spirit Act.16:18; ,
· Paul and Silas delivered from jail, Acts 16
· Paul cures sick people, even touching his handkerchiefs, 19:11-12; 28:8, 9
· Raises Eutychius to life Act.20:9-12
· Shakes a viper off his hand and is unharmed Act.28:5
· Paul heals the father of Publius of Dysentery, Acts 28
· Paul heals the sick of Malta, Acts 28

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Monday, January 28, 2008

MIRACLES, SIGNS, etc. Part V

Authenticating a miracle. by Calorius

In an earlier post, Robbo asked the question What constitutes a miracle? I think it is necessary to consider an important and related question i.e. when is a certain occurrence miraculous? This is something that Roman Catholic Church often grapples with, and our friend Robbo being a former member of that institution can identify with what I am about to say. There are fundamental questions to be answered without which we cannot determine if miracles are indeed rare nowadays.

The way I understand it and I may be wrong, in the Catholic Church only the Pope can declare someone a saint. Before the Church can do that, however, the person must have lived at a certain level of purity, died in a certain way, and thirdly, have some miracles attributed to them.

It is like a points system so, for example, someone who is beatified by having lived a very "saintly" life and then dies as a martyr because of the faith, needs only one miracle in order to be declared a saint. Another person, who died as a righteous person but who was not martyred “because of” the faith may need two or three miracles, etc. I might add here that if we follow this system, Robbo has little chance of becoming a “saint” because he starts off with too many negative points and it is a good thing he claims he is no longer a Catholic.

When they go to make the final determination of a miracle in the case for the sainthood of someone, they have witnesses who argue that some event was a miracle and on the other side is an appointed person, the devil's advocate, advocatus diaboli in Latin, who argues that the event was not. I am informed that these sessions are very interesting.

When I lived in Baltimore, I came across the story of one Nun, who was actually one of the founders of the "Daughters of Charity" which owned my hospital. It would seem that she was generally thought of as a good person; she had provided for the poor, washed the feet of the saints, served the community greatly and all that kind of thing. She didn't quite die a martyr's death, but died in a quiet righteous way. The big issue was whether she had performed any miracles.

Years later in the early sixties a little kid developed acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), at that time a fatal, untreatable disease. The kid's family went to the grotto and asked the (now dead for many decades) Nun to, you know, say a word to Jesus on their behalf. Well, this story has a happy ending. The kid gets well, grows up to be an adult, and has a family of her own, who are still around. Is this a miracle? Those in favor argued that the disease ALL was incurable and the fact that the little kid was cured was not in doubt, because she was alive.

One of hematology-oncology giants from Johns Hopkins who had personally made the diagnosis, was summoned to Rome, and gave testimony about the veracity of the diagnosis and the recovery of the patient. Then the advocatus diaboli stood up to speak and outlined his counter arguments. It turns out the kid had been given some folic acid by one of the doctors. Could it be that she really didn't have ALL but instead megaloblastic anemia? The two conditions have a similar histologic appearance. In addition, folic acid has some structural similarities with methotrexate, the chemotherapy agent. Could it have been that what they thought was folic acid was really a dose of methotrexate?

I think the case was settled in favor of it being a miracle. Sorry about the long story, but I just wanted to point out one approach to the problem regarding those miracles for which there is some element of subjectivity in interpretation. Because it's so important in Catholicism whether someone is a saint or not (their personal items can become "relics", their hometown and family can profit from pilgrimages; people can sell their image, etc) the Catholic Church has designed a formal test for miracles in this context. This helped to weed out the multiple fraudulent cases in the dark ages. As someone had said, "We have too many saints and not enough sanctity in the church"

If Benny Hinn or any other person wants me to recognize him as a miracle worker, I need to see some doctors' testimonies, before-and-after photographs, etc., and I want him to answer some "devil's advocate" type questions. I will be happy to give expert medical testimony in oncology cases. Otherwise the healings remain similar to the ones we hear about at the Tigari shrine in Larteh; curious events of doubtful veracity and questionable impact.

Yet, I myself believe in those miracles that I have encountered; although again that is based largely on my faith. In this, I am inconsistent and subjective, not scientific. Very long rambling, but all I’m trying to say is that it is not just the performance of a miracle that is based on faith; it is also the receipt of a miracle. The interpretation and attribution of a miracle is based on faith. Even if God were to part the Red Sea again today, there would be different ways of receiving it, and it would only benefit certain people, mostly people who already have faith in God. - Calorius

Related posts
Miracles and faith
The Perception of a Miracle
What is a miracle?
Where have all the miracles gone?

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Friday, January 25, 2008

SAD STORY revisited II

There are several issues raised by this poor woman's deportation, and I could write a term paper. For whatever it is worth, I will just make a few points.

- She is an illegal immigrant and the law must take its course. Like Calorius said, the law has no emotion and some times can be wicked and unjust. DNA evidence is now releasing multiples of men who have been in prison up to 20 years for rapes they did not commit. Only God know how many may have been executed for murders they did not commit.

- I agree with Calorius that it is simply a case of ko fie na ko wu. She is terminal and the multiple myeloma has not responded to treatment. Her kidneys have shut down and dialysis will keep her alive until the disease kills her. The UK Government could have quietly tempered justice with mercy and treated her for the next one or two years that her prognosis allows her but as has been hinted you can imagine the headlines in the Sun, and the Daily hateMail and the Daily hateExpress like Illegal immigrant costs Welsh Health Trust billions of pounds!.

- Gordon Brown and the Labour party are down in the polls and they have to do the "right" thing by their people. Interesting that it is usually the Conservatives (right leaning and "Christian" leaning) who will say "tough, but that is the law" while the left-leaning "godless" liberals, Lancet included, lead the charge for compassion. The true evangelicals are often silent in matters like this, just as they are largely silent about "Immigration" here. I think the best testimony would have been if a Christian Church in the UK, possibly one of the big immigrant Churches had taken up her cause and offered to pay for her dialysis.

As it is now, a good Dutch/Welsh woman, anonymous, is doing it for her in Ghana and I know more British people will donate to the cause. Do not be surprised if out of this sad story, more money is raised for the care of Kidney disease in Ghana. Funny thing, when the British people complain about something, they will always put their money where their mouth is. We have a lot to learn from that.

- The Ghana High Commissioner in London is behaving moron-like . I did not call him a moron; I said he is behaving moron-like. Why is he begging the British government to take her back? The Ambassador should have stepped in before deportation and given the assurance that the Ghana government would pay the costs of the final care. He could even have negotiated her care. If one of our honourable President Kuffuor’s ministers develops terminal pancreatic cancer with renal shutdown, they will send him at taxpayers’ expense, together with family and hangers on, to die at Cromwell Hospital in London. Our government does that all the time.

- When Eyadema of Togo fell terminally ill he got into a plane and headed for France but he died in the air before arrival. We are turning the Korle-Bu Hospital and its cash-na-hand system into an execution chamber. If we sit quietly, shrug our shoulders and just talk about it, sooner or later it affects us all.

- Finally, we have to find a way of effectively giving back and influencing our general society for the better; it is not just a matter of sending remittances of cash to relatives and friends. I hope the oil price goes up to 159 dollars a barrel; not sure how this is related to the issue being discussed though. - Robbo

Related posts:
SAD STORY revisited
A SAD SITUATION

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

SAD STORY revisited

Ko fie na ko wu. (Go and die at home). by Calorius.

I am sure the British officials know very well that dialysis is not easily available in Ghana. It's a case of ko fie na ko wu and this is not the first time such a thing is coming up.

Last year, there was the very famous story of a Nepalese gentleman who had fought very bravely in the world war in Burma as a member of her majesty's forces. This guy had risked his life, doing things like charging a Japanese machine gun post singlehandedly, and had saved the lives of several of her majesty's subjects, Britons. After the war, they decorated him like nothing- several medals, that kind of thing.

Well, in his 80's or 90's he developed complications of diabetes and applied for a visa to enter Britain so he could have treatment which was not available in his part of Nepal. They turned him down, over and over again. Even the descendants of the British soldiers whose lives he had saved, made several appeals for him, and a lot of money was raised for his upkeep so there was no question about his becoming a taxpayer's burden. Interestingly, he had visited Britain earlier on a visitor’s visa to receive his medals and special awards.

It became a big story, with lots of famous politicians weighing in with their opinions. Eventually the British Asylum & Immigration Minister stepped in and he was let into the country. I believe they know very well what the consequences are when leniency is not granted on medical grounds for such cases. Of course, there are the other arguments about if you make one exception the floodgates will open.

I think one needs a heart of steel to be an immigration official, and also to be on medical insurance determination panel, prison parole board, etc. These are “tough” jobs; I couldn't do it, because as Pat Thomas would put it, I have a heart in my belly.

One criterion for waiving section 212b of the J-visa to allow an exchange visitor to remain in the USA after his training is extreme hardship, including medical problems. However, it only applies if the extreme hardship would be suffered by a US citizen, not the visa holder. I know someone with renal failure and a kidney transplant who was turned down and had to earn his waiver another way. They explained to him that the fact that he would likely die if he returned to Ghana was not the issue.

Remember the movie The Fugitive when the Tommy Lee Jones character meets Harrison Ford in the tunnel, mano a mano, the fugitive Ford, who has the gun, says to Jones "I didn't kill my wife". It's obvious he is telling the truth; after all he's just spared Jones' life. Jones looks him in the eye and says "I don't care." Their job is not to care; they are there to enforce “the law”. And as you and I know every well, the Law is incapable of saving anyone. Redemption requires something better, grace. - Calorius

Related post: A SAD SITUATION

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A SAD SITUATION

What do you make of this sad situation? From the BBC website,

A terminally-ill Ghanaian woman who was forced to return home after her UK visa expired is struggling to receive the medical treatment she needs.
Ama Sumani, 39, who has cancer and requires kidney dialysis, was removed from a Cardiff hospital and flown back to her home country on Wednesday. But she says she is unable to get care because she cannot pay hospital fees. UK officials said they had checked medical treatment was available in Ghana before she was flown home.
Read the complete story here


You really can't fault the British; they felt the lady could get dialysis in Ghana. What I don't understand about our governments in Africa is that these facilities are paid for with money from national resources and taxes so why should people be denied treatment for life threatening conditions? I remember when we were in medical school, the doctor just had to certify that you were indigent and you got treatment.

We have the most privatized healthcare here in America, yet almost everyone needing emergency treatment will get it regardless of whether they can afford it and they are careful to build community facilities like Cook County and Dallas Parkland.

Our attitude to our own people is so terrible. The value we place on ourselves is the value others give to us. Do we have the right to expect a foreigner to treat any Ghanaian better when they hear this? The Christian is the voice of the society and I believe our churches need to take the government to task on this one. I also personally feel guilty because I do not do enough for my own. - Alien Warrior

Here is an update on the story from the BBC Correspondent in Accra.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

MIRACLES, SIGNS, etc. Part IV

Miracles and faith.

I would like to point out that some of the assumptions made by Gaius Columbus when he laid out his questions , specifically the apparent scarcity of miracles today versus their abundance in them Bible era are not entirely valid.

Firstly, the Bible is a condensation of years of ministry by individuals into a few hundred pages and at a casual glance you get the sense that Jesus, Paul, Peter and company were awash with a daily repertoire of miracles, but this is clearly not the case. The time periods between some of the chapters in the Bible involve weeks, months or years. The Bible is silent on what went on during those black out periods and you cannot assume that there were miracles going on then.

So there is a POSSIBILITY that they also had "lean" periods where there were no miracles. The Gospel is now spread out across a world of 6 billion people and not just concentrated in Jerusalem, Judea and the Roman world. We may be very oblivious of the cumulative number of miracles today and indeed there may be more miracles occurring today than there were in the Bible period.

Secondly, God clearly has the prerogative to perform the miracle and not us. We cannot hold Him to anything since it is not our power. This is where faith has to be defined very clearly. Faith is not just the fact that we pray and therefore God will answer because it is in line with our general knowledge of the Bible. Faith is a very specific standing on a promise that God reveals by His indwelling Holy Spirit to our spirits and minds by His Word. So it becomes very difficult in individual cases to know if there was a promise of healing in that specific instance that was not fulfilled. Also, there are many variables involved in the promises being fulfilled.

Sometimes we violate the physical, moral and spiritual conditions of those promises and I do not expect God to just overlook that- example when someone who has recklessly smoked all their life goes on to develop lung cancer and comes for prayer for healing I usually expect and have always seen them die subsequently. Some Christians have probably died prematurely in mission fields that they were never sent to and we may mistakenly be calling it martyrdom. Notice how Satan tried to get Jesus to jump off the temple roof by trying to convince Him it was the right spiritual move to make. I am very therefore careful in making conclusions based on an individual case

It does seem that miracles occur to confirm the Word of God and faith in it. See Matt13:58. Jesus did not do a lot of miracles in His hometown because of a lack of faith in Him. I always was taught that the folks did not have the faith to make the miracles happen, but actually the verse should be interpreted differently. Jesus DID perform some miracles; just that He did not perform many because the folks had already made up their minds to reject Him. He still had the power to perform the miracles but chose not to. This goes back to my earlier point; faith is planted well before the miracle occurs and with or without the miracle the faith remains. This is the mystery of our faith and is definitely the power of God and is a miracle in itself.

I will stop here and revisit this later after I get some other comments from you guys. Suffice to say, I still see miracles today. - Alien Warrior

Related posts
The Perception of a Miracle
What is a miracle?
Where have all the miracles gone?

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Monday, January 14, 2008

MIRACLES, SIGNS, etc. Part III.

The Perception of a Miracle. by Calorius

The perception of a miracle is partly based on who the observer is. Even when a voice spoke from heaven identifying Jesus as the Son of God, some of the people who heard it said it had merely thundered. Many skeptics rationalize a genuine miracle, in the face of incontrovertible facts. On the other hand, we as Christians often commit the opposite mistake by attributing a natural event to God's miraculous intervention. This includes of the very ridiculous and easily seen-through "how God told me whom to marry" and "how God chose me for this ministry" ones.

Personally, I am quite sure of many occasions when something happened or didn't happen because I prayed. I am convinced they would not have happened except for Divine intervention, but whether I can call that a miracle or not is largely subjective and based on my faith. Some of Jesus' miracles fall into the same category, although not all. Lepers who became clean (maybe it was a temporary rash) and people who were "sick nigh unto death" and became well at the same time as a conversation with Jesus are hardly events that are beyond the possibility of chance. Peter's mother's illness could have been healed by a placebo effect; hysteria is even more powerful than the placebo effect. Then someone can ask this question; was the snake that bit Paul really poisonous, and was it really an envenomation bite?

Then, there is Gideon's fleece in the Old Testament- a good "scientific" method, but very observer dependent. He was his own observer, and it is not impossible to convince oneself that there is or there is no dew on a fleece. Temperature changes could easily cause condensation on something like that and do the opposite the next day. After all it was the same fleece, and maybe it didn't dry well and so attracted dew the next time.

What about Daniel in the lion's den? That's an example of something that still happens, like the people who walked unscathed through battlefields in war, etc. There are several of such stories from Liberia and Sierra Leone. Were the warlords just bad shots?

There is a school of Biblical interpretation which actually admits that these miraculous events did occur, but then rationalizes them. For example, people teach that the Red Sea parted because of an earthquake; and Jericho fell because of sound resonance etc. I actually find such explanations more illogical than the views of outright doubters who deny that the reported events occurred. I also have more to say on this subject and will leave it for another post. – Calorius

See also
What is a miracle?
Where have all the miracles gone?

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

MIRACLES, SIGNS, etc. Part II.

What is a miracle?

A long time ago, Calorius preached once at the Christian Medical Fellowship in Ghana; we never allowed him back again but he made the point accurately that when John the Baptist send emissaries to the Lord Jesus to ask if He is the Christ or should they expect another, the response from our Lord was enlightening. Jesus Christ sent a reply to this effect; the sick are being healed, the dead are being raised and the Good News is being preached to the poor. To Calorius, the order in which the miraculous phenomena are listed is important and the preaching of the Gospel and the conversion of sinners is the ultimate miracle. I agree.

I am not side-stepping the question and rationalizing my inability to move even a small hill in my backyard with my faith. I believe and have said this elsewhere that miraculous healing and wondrous signs have a different purpose for the unbeliever and the believer. For the unbeliever, it is a demonstration of God’s power and to confirm the preaching of the Gospel. For the believer however, it is primarily an act of God’s mercy in this fallen world. So Paul pleaded for mercy from God for the ill Epaphras, though Paul on other occasions healed the sick and raised a dead young man. When a believer falls ill, we have to lean on God’s grace and mercy and trust Him, otherwise I would have lost my faith by now- if it were possible.

You and I know that we are experiencing God’s great mercy each day we wake up. It is a miracle that we do not rupture a small blood vessel as we sleep peacefully or engage in other activity at night, as the case may be. Every arrival back home after my daily 36 mile commute is an act of mercy that a careless or drunken driver did not take me out. Every new word that my daughter speaks and every new sentence she reads…the list is endless. The direct absence of evil or misfortune in our daily lives should not be taken for granted.

I do not have much of a problem with misfortune, illness or death of a believer; I have no difficulty praying for an ill friend/relative and I fully expect God to answer and He does answer. We can all attest to it. Sometimes He does not answer (the way we expect) and I don’t know why but I will wait till I can see completely, no longer in a mirror…..

The other part of your question is why, if what I say is right, do we not see the miraculous being performed to convince the scoffing unbeliever, i.e., as a sign of God’s power. I have some thoughts on that too and may write further about that unless one of you says it better for me. Assuming that your premise is accurate, I will just for the moment paraphrase what Jesus said in the parable: “… if they did not believe Moses and the Prophets, then they will not believe even if someone is raised from the dead and goes back to tell them…” Consider that there were people who were direct witnesses to Jesus’ miracles, including some of the Pharisees and Chief Priests and yet would not believe; some even to the extent of suggesting that He did his miracles by the power of Beelzebub!

Here then is the ultimate miracle; Christ in you, the hope of glory. - Robbo

See also Where have all the miracles gone?

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Tuesday, January 08, 2008

MIRACLES, SIGNS, etc. Part 1.

Where have all the miracles gone? by Gaius Columbus

A few weeks ago, my Pastor died after a long illness and despite much prayer by all of us. In my initial distress, I decided to search the internet to see what has been published on the topic of miracles. I googled the words, "where have all the miracles gone”. One of the earlier hits on the list, underscoring its popularity, perhaps, was this blog posting by an atheist

Ignoring for a moment the taunting tone of that piece, does the question posed by this blogger resonate at all? It reminds me of the contest between Elijah and the prophets of Baal, except that, this time, we Christians are the objects of the taunts. Is the core question a valid one? Remember that our Lord too was challenged to perform miracles by scoffers like the Pharisees and even by the thief crucified on the adjacent cross. While He refused to perform miracles on these occasions, there was at least the compelling testimony of His miracles performed among reliable witnesses of the same period.

You and I may rightfully say that most of the Lord's miracles were performed not for spectacle but to satisfy real human needs even though some miracles, like walking on the water, were more utilitarian in nature--the Lord needed to join the disciples, so walked on water--are harder to categorize this way. The point remains though, that miracles were performed fairly often.

In contrast, the modern era seems to be almost totally devoid of the miraculous both within the church and as a testimony to unbelievers. I am not claiming that they are not occurring in parts of the world--perhaps they are--but surely, you will agree that we are no longer seeing miracles at the same rate or of the same order of "unnaturalness" as those performed by Jesus and the Apostles? We all have our own stories of prayers uttered in faith, left unanswered? Can we honestly say that we are seeing today, miraculous intervention to the same degree as recorded by the early Church?

When does the inconvenient truth force a search for new explanations--even explanations as intellectually unsatisfying as, "we simply do not know why?" Like what some in the markets have called "almost trends", there is an "almost trend" towards a complete lack of the truly miraculous.

Increasingly, I am not sure whether I am being fully honest--both to myself and to others--when in a time of need, I urge myself or others to "have faith", to believe a miracle will occur if only I/they get down on knees, seize the promises of scripture and pray. To make such claims despite the overwhelming personal/corporate evidence of divine "silence" in recent times, at times seems self-deceiving or willfully naive. It does not square with the data at hand. Something has changed, folks--we are not now, nor have we for centuries been anything like the church of the first century. Isn't it far better to acknowledge that a "problem" exists so we can honestly start to seek answers to why our experience is at odds with the narratives that we read about in the gospels and Acts?

Now, before you send off some emotional knee-jerk response that satisfies a need to defend "the team", remember you will only be preaching to the choir. I am asking these questions very carefully. I still believe in God's grace to believers and unbelievers, but I ask that you remove your "Chrife” or conventional Christian lenses to look at this question with fresh eyes. Perhaps it might help to think about how you would answer this question if rather than a taunting skeptic, you had to grapple with an unbeliever or perhaps even a believer who was truly and honestly seeking a straight answer.

Where have all the miracles gone, and if you accept the proposition that the frequency and the "wowness" of miracles has diminished, I ask, why? And please don't side-step the issue by telling me how pondering these matters can or will make one go mad. Again, I will be satisfied with a mere, "I don't know" if that is the best (honest) answer you guys can come up with. - Gaius Columbus

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