Are miracles rare by God’s design?
An old ministry friend (who shall be anonymous here) called last night. He and I used to be on a counter-cult/apologetics mailing list together. We got the boot around the same time for asking hard questions (a story for another time, but amounting to asking the countercult guys, “When was the last time you witnessed to anyone, let alone actually helped them get out?” Didn’t go over so well ).
Please excuse my rambling style and any typos – I got to bed late because of the call and had to get up early and just haven’t had enough coffee yet. But as I’ve got church work to do today, and need to carry my brother to the doctor’s, I need to get computer work done this morning!
Per “John’s” request (see comments), I’m noting here that this is a paraphrase of our conversation. Quotes and italics are for illustrative purposes only – it’s largely not word for word. Just a paraphrase. Some of what appears below was never discussed (starting at the green text, on the “scarcity” of miracles) but is me, elaborating on the conversation and making a few points which were not discussed on the phone.
I’d also like to clarify that the first cult we discussed really is a cult and a matter of concern (and also public record, not just opinion… the leader’s been in trouble before for some absolutely hideous things). As the crow flies, they’re a couple hundred miles from here. There’s probably not a lot we can do in the natural to help the folks there, but we can, and should, all be praying for them.
So, “John” and I talked a good while about the reason he called (a cult that’s semi-local to me), conversation turned to other things and eventually to Lakeland and the revival. I hate to say it, but “John” has turned into a heresy hunter. I think he quoted the HH’s as much as he did Scripture.
I thought my poor friend would chew his telephone to bits when I told him that Ken and I had been to Lakeland. When I added that we’d seen miracles and healings, come back on fire for God, and were seeing fruit from the experience, he got somewhat irate – especially when I told him that we personally know a BUNCH of other people with the same testimony. (Clarification – see comments – “John” says that he was not irate. I felt that he was, as he immediately began to challenge me in an incredulous, are-you-an-idiot, and often angry tone. If I wasn’t a grownup 😉 I might’ve felt like I’d been treated like a little kid. ::shrugs:: In “John’s” defense, I don’t know him in person and even on the telephone things like tone can be misinterpreted. If I have done so, I’m sorry.)
First he tried to blame our car wreck on having been to Lakeland. (Ummmmmm. Yeah.) He tried to say that there’s been bunches of them, but all he actually had documentation of was one shortly following the meetings, involving a person he doesn’t like very much. My response was that if a person’s caught the fire of revival, the devil’s going to do his best to stop them. Unfortunately that didn’t make him very happy.
He really had issues about TB seeing angels. He made strangled noises when I told him that I’ve seen angels, too. Even seen them at Bentley’s meetings. And <gasp> I even believe in angels that appear as females. (I’m still waiting for scriptural proof against them )
“You’re not supposed to take direction from an angel! Mormons and Bentleys and weevils!”
Oh really? Ummmmm. Shall we look at Scripture for that? How many people in the Bible, both Old and New testament, took direction from angels?
So, after that, he went to the predictable places – TB is a drunk, TB had an affair, TB did this, TB did that. Mmmm-hmmm. True. Unfortunate. Shouldn’t have happened. TB should’ve been walking in holiness. Absolutely. (been there enough on this blog that we don’t need to re-hash it… but if you’re a newcomer and want to re-hash do a search on old posts and read and comment on them.)
TB’s fall doesn’t change the things God did at Lakeland. (we should also remember that TB was not the only person ministering at the revival…most people forget that)
We personally experienced healing and saw countless people saved, healed, delivered, set free and set afire for the Lord. We’re still seeing fruit in our lives and the lives of others. “John’s” reply: Oh, it’s only been six months. The Bible says, “fruit that remains”. Um. Yeah. I guess salvations healings & deliverances don’t remain? Please.)
Next came the weevils of Branham and AA Allen and company, Oneness doctrine, and serpent seeds… I’m definitely a heretic in John’s book. I think Oneness folks are wrong regarding God’s nature, but I don’t think they’re hell-bound. And I know someone who knew both Branham and Allen, and there’s more than one side to those stories. That’s all I’ll say.
Then he started in about “Lying signs and wonders!”
My reply: “OK, “John”, let me ask you something. If you call upon God (the God of the Bible) and you ask Him to do something miraculous, like heal someone, and that healing happens, should you then give credit to the devil for it?”
I didn’t ask him what the devil’s purpose would be in God getting all the glory for miracles. Should’ve.
He said,”But miracles are supposed to be rare today! They’re really not needed any more!”
Ummmmm. OK. What did he base this on, BTW? Not much Scripture, other than the lying signs and wonders bit, and “a wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign”.(Neither of which apply to God’s signs and miracles and wonders).
He based it on history. According to his research, the early church fathers in the 1st and 2nd centuries reported that miracles declined. I don’t know about in the early church, but without a doubt miracles became rare, even unheard of, over the centuries. “John” concluded that God just wasn’t doing them much any more. No need to – His word was confirmed, His church was established, so why do we need miracles any longer?
Is it any wonder, that as the church became more institutionalized (and hidebound), that signs and wonders and miracles and gifts ceased?
As God’s power was taken from the PEOPLE and the only folks “authorized” to use the power of God and to KNOW the Word became the priests, guess what? The church stopped seeing God’s power in action.
Hmm, surprise. Imagine that.
Conversely is it any wonder that as people and churches again begin to walk in “priesthood” (1 Peter 2:4,9) that God’s power is being restored to the church?
With the exception of small pockets of believers throughout the centuries who decided to trust God and do what the Bible says, the church remained largely powerless until the Asuza Street revival hit and people were again filled by the Holy Spirit in large numbers. Since then, miracles have been becoming more and more common… again, starting in small pockets of believers but in our generation the church is starting to rise up and do what it’s supposed to be doing. We’re starting to take the gospel of the Kingdom to the streets, where it belongs. May we continue…
You know, I’ve personally received several out-and-out miracles from God. Salvation, healing, deliverance. These are not things that could possibly be circumstances or a sudden spontaneous natural recovery or remission (the genetic disease I had, and the birth defect Ken had, do not simply “disappear” – it’s unheard of!) I know that lots of folks get healed at revivals and church services, but much of what God’s done in our lives has happened outside of the church and even out of the view of people. They have, of course, seen and heard of the transformation and after-effects (which confirms the gospel) – but the onus has been on us to tell them about it.
Why did God do these miracles in us (or in anyone)? Why does He do any miracles? His church is established, right? His Word doesn’t need confirming any more.
I didn’t say this last night, but if this line of thinking were true (the church is established/the Word needs no confirmation) then God would be doing NO miracles. None. Not “rarely” as “John” maintained. Why would He?
But even in defense of this “established/confirmed” theory… Go ask Joe Everyman down the street about the church. Ask him about the Word of God. I’m not so sure he’ll say anything good about the church and the Word. The church and Word are not “established” or “confirmed” in our culture.
That said, the Bible does not say anything about signs and wonders and miracles ceasing (until we’re face to face with the Lord, at which point we won’t “need” them anymore because we’ll be in a living miracle for eternity).
To the best of my biblical knowledge, God NEVER said that once the church is established, He’s going to go off and leave us alone to “do our thing.” In fact, Jesus said that He was sending the Holy Spirit, and called Him the “Helper”… how much help is there from a God who is silent?
Hah – I just thought of something. Throughout Scripture, God makes reference to idols of stone and wood and even imagination. What does He say about them? They’re silent and powerless. And so (part of) the church wants to make God silent and powerless? To me, that’s heresy on wheels.
- If healing really is provided in the atonement
- If we’re sons of God and joint heirs with Jesus
- If Jesus really said we’d do greater works than He did
- If “these signs shall follow those who believe”
- If God loves us
- If God calls us “friend” and “sons” but He never even talks with us
- If we’re obedient to the Word and exercising our God-given authority
Then we should be seeing an awful lot of signs and wonders and healings and miracles and yes, even angels. No, God is not a puppet on our string and there are times when He won’t move the way we want Him to (and also times when we render Him unable to). I don’t believe that by faithfully naming something, I can claim it (if I could, there’d be a Starbucks built in the field across the street! Among other things). But I do believe that what we ask according to His will, He will do – and that the closer we get to Him, the more we know how to pray accordingly.
I prayed for six years for healing of EDS before I received it, and I know others who prayed and God said, “Not Yet.” or even “No.” A friend went home to be with the Lord recently… suddenly, after fairly routine surgery, and in spite of literally thousands of people praying and believing God for healing. Why did God not heal her when they prayed, if all of the above is true? In part because there IS a time when our earthly bodies must die and in part because God IS sovereign and there is much we don’t know or understand. God said it was time for Mak Ye to go home.
What are healings and signs and wonders and miracles? They’re often simply this: answered prayers. Somebody prayed for something big, and God did it.
If the church is praying to a god who is silent and is expected to do nothing in response to their prayers, they’re not praying to the God of the Bible and they’re wasting their time.
I’m so glad that the God I serve is wonderfully alive!! I’m glad that He and I talk on a regular basis. I’m glad that He shows me how to pray and gives me information that I need. I’m glad that we’re friends and He shares His heart with me. I’m glad that I sometimes get a glimpse of, or hear from, some of His other servants. I’m glad that when I talk to Him, He responds – sometimes subtly, sometimes dramatically. I’m glad that He’s still in the signs and wonders and healings and miracles business. I’m glad that He has entrusted me with power and authority. Glory to God!
Wooooo! I’m plenty fired up for my day! Time for more coffee. Lord, put people in my path today who need You!