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Thursday, March 09, 2006

Why Don't We See the Miraculous?

I will get back to the preaching and teaching topic in my next post, but I started to reply to a question that Larry Who asked in the comments of my last post, and my reply got so lengthy that I decided to just post it here. Somehow, the comments section of the last post took a turn from talking about preaching and teaching to talking about revival. And in that context, Larry wrote: In other parts of the world, these types of miracles are happening. Why not here?

I can't say for certain, Larry. However, lately, I have been intrigued by the comment that the Scripture makes that Jesus could not do many miracles in a certain region because of the lack of faith there. (Forgive me for not looking it up right now)

My question is: Is there faith in America to the same extent that faith is being exhibited in China, certain nations of Africa, etc.? I believe, and very sadly so, that American Christianity is largely faithless.

I tend to listen to a lot of Christian music (or, to be more accurate, music produced by labels who use the term "Christian"!) and Christian preaching on the radio -- I'm not sure why, because it invariably ends up frustrating me! But one thing that I continue to notice is that we really don't believe God wants to move in our lives in that way. The common thread is that God is probably going to just allow lots of tragedies in our lives, when in reality, we know nothing of true suffering for Christ. When the New Testament talks about suffering for Christ, it's talking about persecution, not getting cancer.

No offense to a well-respected preacher, but when John Piper comes out with the revelation that he has prostate cancer and then tells people that this is God's design (not just that God allowed it, but that God designed it) for his life, who wants to interfere with God's design by praying for miraculous healing?

Update 3/16/06: A very astute reader emailed me privately and pointed to the fact that Piper does say in the italics at the top of the article to which I linked that he believes praying for healing is the correct approach. While he doesn't believe that it is always God's will to heal, I do stand corrected on my implication that it would be hard to pray for healing for someone of the belief that God designed this cancer. My sincerest apologies for misrepresenting Piper's words in that way.

The New Testament is clear that we can expect to suffer persecution (even from religious leaders) if we take a stand for our faith in Christ. This happens daily in China. And they "get it" there. They understand that it's their privilege to suffer that persecution for Christ. But here in America, we define "suffering" as any kind of hardship in our lives. And we just tell people to ride it out and not to try to thwart God's "design" for our lives.

Sorry for the rant here, but that is really how I respond to Larry's question. I'm not upset at you, Larry, so don't misread the tone of this response. But I do believe that as long as a large percentage of Christians in America continue to hold such a strange view of God (reference the way people explained Hurricane Katrina, or the devastating tsunami in Asia as a direct act of God), we should not then expect to see the miraculous events that other countries see.

I sincerely hope I'm not stepping on too many toes with this. I once wrote a post called "Quit Blaming God!" which garnered a bit of disagreement in the comments section. I realize in retrospect that I probably didn't articulate my point as well as I should have (and probably am not here, either!!), but I still believe that there is a difference in the way we will handle things in our lives between trusting God through any circumstance and believing that God actually designed/caused/wanted this circumstance to happen. Back then, frequent commenter "ded" responded with some very thoughtful replies, basically questioning why it needed to be defined the way I defined it. And I certainly respect my brother's disagreement with me on that. But I guess I'm still pretty convinced that ultimately it does matter. I just can't seem to convince people why ;) hehe

I better quit now! ;) I may be getting myself in too deep.

Until next time,

steve :)

14 comment(s):

Maybe we believers have a lazy faith, a faith that has not been allowed to be built up properly. Sort of like my muscles that have grown weak from my sitting down all the time.

Smith Wigglesworth said before he died (middle 1940's) that in the future Americans would have a hard time receiving miracles because there were too many other options for them to first turn to.

Well, great post and I am looking forward to seeing what others think, but a real estating I must go.

By Blogger Larry Who, at Thursday, March 09, 2006 9:51:00 AM  

hmmmm....first of all, Steve, I am very glad we do not always say or think the same things. I find some comfort there, even as I feel reinforced and validated in things we see similarly.

My only other comment involves my future daught-in-law. She recently spent 6 months in Africa. On her return reflection, she summarized it something like this: In the West, we rationalize everything. We have minutely dissected the natural world and believe everything to be understood from the natural perspective. In Africa, even before conversion to Christianity everyone is raised to believe in the supernatural. They think "supernaturally", not rationally. To learn there is a supernatural Father who loves them, and whose power is greater than all the spirits they have had to contend with makes incredible sense to their world view and once they enter in "by faith" to Christian spirituality, they experience a complete faith in the miraculous...or at least more so that we know.

I do not think we are precluded from seeing this way, but as Larry suggested, something in us has to be built up.

Oh, my son's fiancee feels Africans could be benefit from a little more rationalization! I found that an interesting observation of hers.

By Anonymous ded, at Thursday, March 09, 2006 4:42:00 PM  

I am a grace believer to the nth degree and I have a deep revelation of the Father's love.

Now that this has been said, I have no problem with believing that Hurricane Katrina and the Tsunami were direct acts of God. And scripture backs up my point of view on this.

Do I know exactly what sin God was judging with this calaminty? No, I don't. My guess would be that it was a sin of the Church which we believers are all a part of. But I can't say for sure.

I've looked at John Piper's statements about his prostrate cancer and I think that we need to pray for the eyes of his understanding to be opened. Yipes!

Does God use sickness?Unfortunately, He does. Revelation 2: 21 -22 backs up that statement, along with many other ones throughout scripture.

But first and foremost, God is a Redeemer. His judgments (hurricanes, tsunamis, sickness and whatever else) are designed to draw us back to Him and His ways.

Whether we like it or not, God is known by His judgments.

By Blogger Larry Who, at Thursday, March 09, 2006 7:37:00 PM  

I guess we'll have to disagree on this one, then. I can't believe that my amazing logic and handling of Scripture can't convince you guys! ;) (I am TOTALLY kidding there!!!)

No, seriously, I'm still not sure why that topic seems so important to me, but I guess I'll need to let it go here on this blog and return to the other subjects at hand.

Ded, I remember your son's fianceƩ sharing those thoughts here during our time of fellowship, and I think that she is right in the sense that there probably is a needed balance between the rational and the expectant. It's the lack of expectancy in our American culture that I was addressing in my reply to Larry's question. Maybe I should have just left it at that! ;)

I'm glad you get some comfort from the areas in which we disagree. I'm still struggling with that, to be brutally honest. I don't want to disagree with you, and yet I know that we likely do and will (as this topic shows). Perhaps you can help me find the comfort in it, too.

Or perhaps I do know what you mean, because I don't feel rejected by you over areas of disagreement like this. Is that what you mean by comfort?

steve :)

By Blogger Steve Sensenig, at Thursday, March 09, 2006 8:26:00 PM  

One of the greatest blessings of my life was when I realized that God did not measure me by whether or not my theology was correct or not. So, how did I come up with that profound revelation?

I saw the love in Sister Teresa. She was the real deal! I read stories about her and I wanted to cry over my hard-heartedness.

Love never fails.

By Blogger Larry Who, at Thursday, March 09, 2006 11:39:00 PM  

Larry hit the nail on the head. The comfort is in knowing we have hit the disagreement bar and continue to love one another. That didn't happen in the group I was in! That was totally uncomfortable!

By Anonymous ded, at Friday, March 10, 2006 6:45:00 AM  

Steve you bring out an interesting point. I think that most Christians find comfort in the idea that God is involved in their lives, but are fearful of the upheaval that the fact of his involvement may cause.

I enjoyed this post.

On a side note, I have some old friends in Boone, Howard and Lucy Hayes. Perhaps you know them? They are Christian musicians as well.

By Blogger Gordon Cloud, at Friday, March 10, 2006 3:58:00 PM  

Gordon, thanks for stopping by. I am not personally familiar with Howard and Lucy Hayes, but my wife thought they might be part of, or associated with, the Hayes Family gospel singers. Is that who you're referring to?

Thanks again for visiting and commenting. Always nice to see new "faces" here!

steve :)

By Blogger Steve Sensenig, at Saturday, March 11, 2006 10:29:00 PM  

Steve, thanks for the visit to my blog. I do have the live DVD of PCD, that's cool that you are a part of that.

Howard and Lucy are indeed a part of the Hayes Family. Good folks. I have to confess that I envy you for living in Boone. That is God's country up there. I used to live in Maiden, just below Hickory.

God Bless.

By Blogger Gordon Cloud, at Saturday, March 11, 2006 10:40:00 PM  

Just popping in with my first thoughts after reading this post:

I just think we don't want to give up control. We don't want to surrender to God and if we don't want to see Him, we won't find Him. We live in a culture where, when we have a problem, we can find instant gratification by popping a pill, overeating, having an affair. The world offers us a thousand ways to escape. It's only when we're ready to be real and face our issues that prayer and Bible reading make sense. When we realize we really don't have control, but God does, when we truly seek Him, we will see miracles happen.

By Blogger Maria del Carmen, at Sunday, March 12, 2006 4:48:00 PM  

maria and gordon- great thougths, and i agree. we don't want to give up our control of our lives. we want to say the words that God is in control, but we want to be the "doers" of the control. I still struggle with that one. We too often have the head knowledge and not the heart knowledge.

By Blogger flutemom, at Thursday, March 16, 2006 12:26:00 PM  

Is this separation between our minds and our hearts not at the very core of all Christian issues (not just the miraculous)?

What does it mean when Jesus says, "There will come a day when those who worship will worship in spirit and in truth."? hmmmm....
worship with the spirit birthed by God in the spirit within us through a heart knowledge and with full knowledge intellectually of the Truth...maybe.

In recognizing the divide, what can we do to make ourselves come together as a whole?


Only learning to truly abide in Jesus and His whole perfection will we be made whole in heart and mind.

We must not trust our intellect, even as we use it to function day to day. We must not be turned aside by our feelings...even in our failures...

When abiding becomes more than words but a constant functioning of our faith, we are where He intends us to be... and He is

As Ray says, "There's my .02 worth."

By Anonymous ded, at Friday, March 17, 2006 6:52:00 AM  

In case anyone hasn't noticed, I did insert an update paragraph about my comments with regard to John Piper. Not a huge correction, or retraction, but I do feel it was necessary to point out a detail that I had unnecessarily (and unintentionally) overlooked in his writing about cancer.

always open to correction,
steve :)

By Blogger Steve Sensenig, at Friday, March 17, 2006 11:01:00 AM  

I'm pretty late commenting on this post but it's my first time to this site....

I believe I am a miracle. Everday God is still working on me is a miracle. Everday I wake up and know that Jesus still loves me despite the old man banging in my flesh and wicked thoughts jumping to and fro in my brain....Jesus is still working on me.

Everday I wake up with my wife beside me and think about all we have been through.....It's a miracle.

When I stood in the pulpit the first time and babbled my first sermon and realized where I was from where I came......It's a miracle.

My wife has an uncanny ability to find miracles in the smallest of things.

One day we were driving down the road. I had just cleaned the car and believe me, when I clean the car it is detailed all out completely.

She was thirsty....just complaining away about how she was dying of thirst. It was almost getting anoying.

I had to hit the brakes hard since I wasn't paying attention and a light changed. Out from under her seat shot a can of soda. It hit her in the feet. She was instantly, "It's a miracle!". She went to pick it up and explaimed with a shout, "It's Cold!".

Yep, God is still in the miracle business.

By Blogger Michael Pendleton, at Saturday, April 08, 2006 6:29:00 AM  

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