It's easy to lose sight of the miraculous in a world in which some really cool things are happening every day - things like the blind seeing, the lame walking, the single mother toughing it out.
It's easy to lose sight of because when we see these things like happened in the Gospels, it's always because they are attached to some machine made by man. When we see a widow giving her last two mites, then still having enough, we say it's because she gave, not because God gave back to her. When we pour out the oil and it keeps coming, we say what a wonderful thing we have done, creating an ever-flowing fountain. And so it's easy to say that that God must be doing the miraculous these days through us.
But that is a dangerous and empty theology. It cheapens our faith and lessens our God if we simply believe that every good thing that happens in this world is a "miracle."
There are a couple of reasons for this. First, God told us from the very beginning that this world is good. He's never given up on that. Yet we say that anything good must be miraculous. That just can't be the case. Everything good is as God intended it to be. The more we say that good must be a miracle, the more we deny that creation is inherently good. And we forget what God created it to be.
Second, we simply cannot confuse the "pretty cool" with the "miraculous." Both have their place in Scripture, but they are vastly different places. "Miraculous" things happen because of a divine act of God that breaks through the metaphysical barriers of the created world and reorders something on the spot. "Miraculous" things happen because God decides that they should happen, and then God does them.
"Pretty cool" things happen because of the faith of men (and women) who are obedient to God's calling on their lives. "Pretty cool" things happen because we decide that we're going to buy into what God is doing, and we jump on board His plan.
It is in this second category that we must put the marvels of modern medicine and the other "pretty cool" things that we see every day in our world.
We don't have robotic legs to help the paralyzed walk because of some miracle, because God miraculously put it into some guy's mind and poof! There it was. We know because when God sets the lame to walking, they jump right up and pick up their mats. No robotic legs necessary. But we have robotic legs because God endowed some created creative mind to develop them, and that mind, in obedience, did what God had created it to do and offered this gift back to humanity. It's pretty cool, but it's not a miracle.
The blind are not walking around seeing because God miraculously healed them through advanced science. When God miraculously heals a blind man, the scales fall off His eyes. We...have to go in and cut those scales away. It's pretty cool, but it's not a miracle. It's made possible not because God broke through the metaphysical barriers of creation and made it possible, but because He inspired one of His created creatives to figure it out. And that created creative did, and then gave it back to humanity.
Look through the Scriptures. The Scriptures are full of both the miraculous and the pretty cool, but these are fundamentally different things. Pretty cool things are happening all the time because men and women choose to obey God, to follow His calling, and to participate in His plan. Miraculous things also happen, but these are because God chooses to burst onto the scene and make them happen.
Sometimes, of course, the miraculous happens because of the pretty cool. Take, for example, the opening of Paul's eyes. Paul, in obedience, goes to Ananias; Ananias, in obedience, places his hands on Paul. Both men are part of this really cool moment in which God is on full display. Then God, on full display, does the miraculous - restores sight to the blind. Ananias didn't give Paul his sight back; both men would tell you that plainly.
On the contrary, look at the way we respond to some of the headlines, even those of us who live by faith in this world. A man is in a terrible car accident and is paralyzed, begins to walk again with the help of artificial legs, and then he declares to the world that God miraculously gave him these incredible artificial legs in order to heal him.
Since when has God ever given anyone an artificial anything? That's not a miracle. It's pretty cool, but it's not a miracle. If it were a miracle, the man would have jumped up out of his hospital bed, tossed that little backless gown on the bed, and danced on out the door, proclaiming, "Byeeeeeee!"
See, the real danger here is not that we might fail to credit God for the pretty cool things that are happening. The real danger is that we eventually fail to require Him for the miraculous.
If the things that men are doing are "miracles," then it's just a matter of time before we no longer even need to acknowledge that men have done them by the power and gift of God. Men become our gods, since they are the ones doing the miracles.
And God? Well, God doesn't have to be anything special at all if we are satisfied to say that what men do is miraculous, even if it is so by the power of God. God is required only to be the God of men, not the God of creation. And once we make Him merely the God of men, we have lost something fundamental about Him.
More on that tomorrow.