Thursday, November 15, 2012

Miracles and Holes: A Review


I recently finished reading two books.  Thankfully, they were both easy to read.  The first was one I had put off reading because I didn’t need another guilt trip.  The second I had put off reading because I didn’t need another guilt trip.  What do these two books have in common?  By their titles and premises I expected them to speak to my failure.  One is titled Miracles Are For Real.

  Miracles Are for Real: What Happens When Heaven Touches Earth

One is surtitled What Does God Expect of Us? 
The Hole in Our Gospel: What Does God Expect of Us? The Answer That Changed My Life and Might Just Change the World

Perhaps I’ve grown too old and cynical to believe that the world can change or that miracles can happen.   The Hole in the Gospel was written by the president of World Vision, an excellent non-profit that I donated to when I was young.  When I was in college and shortly thereafter, I sponsored a child in Brazil and learned enough Portuguese to correspond with her, but she never wrote back, so I soon gave up.  Maybe that has led to my cynicism.

I have experienced miracles (or maybe not) although that word is so tainted in my mind that I would prefer to call them supernatural acts of God.  The authors of Miracles Are For Real give a more complete definition of a miracle: 

a phenomenon performed or prompted by God, which science cannot explain, at a special time when God is making his will or his love known to an individual or many individuals.

That is a comforting definition because it encompasses the whole of the book which is replete with stories of phenomena with no scientific explanation.  The book also emphasizes God’s love for those who experience these phenomena and the change in their lives when he acts.  The examples all evidence a loving God caring for his children.  My own miracle happened after I had cut my finger so severely that it throbbed in pain.  I was driving near Mansfield, Ohio on a job with waves of pain so severe that I pleaded with God, not to heal my finger, no I wouldn’t ask that much, but to take away my pain.  And just as suddenly as the slip of the knife slicing through my finger, the pain was gone.  No more throbbing.  Nothing but sweet relief.  The blood still seeped into the bandage but I felt nothing more than God’s love for me at that moment.

Miracles Are For Real is a well-balanced, simply written, easy to read book, that covers every aspect from what miracles look like, their timing and effect, to people who do miracles, to how to respond to frauds and skeptics, and what we should do when there is no miracle.  James Garlow, one of the authors, comes to the subject as a pastor and husband of a woman with late stage ovarian cancer, so this book is personal to him and I can appreciate that, although when my mother was dying, I felt that the timing was right and simply could not pray for her healing.  I did pray for her to die quickly and without pain and God had mercy on her. 

Miracles Are For Real cut through my cynicism and restored my faith that God will act today for his purposes and for our good.  Miracles Are For Real is a book for those who never expect a miracle, for those who would like to see a miracle, and for those who have experienced miracles.  I find it easy to believe that God does miracles in third world countries where people have more trust in the supernatural than in science as we do in the US.  This book helped me believe that God is still working in the US, because most of the miracle stories take place in the United States.

The Hole In the Gospel is a much different book.  It points out that if we all do our part, hunger, poor health and various other ills can be made right.  That’s a nice thought but I’m afraid that greed is the hallmark of our society, so that will never happen.  And now the cynic in me pops up again.  The author encourages the church to tithe, but I have heard that preached for years without result.  I have tithed for most of my life, but I can’t make others follow me as I follow Jesus, but perhaps statistics will help, 

According to the author, there would be extra money available to help the poor in the amount of (drum rol-l-l-l-l-l-l-l!) $168 billion dollars if every churchgoer tithed.  And it would take only $65 billion from that amount to eliminate extreme poverty for the world’s poorest billion people.  Wow.  There’s a statistic that makes a difference.  And there are more:  it would cost only $9 billion to give clean water to everyone, $13 billion for basic health and nutrition for everyone, and $6 billion for primary education for every child.  After all that there would still be $37 billion left over for whatever other needs arose, but only if all church goers tithe.  So why don’t you give your 10% and encourage others to do so also?  Do it, I say, and we won’t need inefficient, poorly run government programs.  Do it, and we won’t need to watch a burgeoning national debt.  Do it, and you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you directly contributed to someone else’s betterment.

These books are very different, but also similar.  Miracles Are For Real gives me courage to pray that God will work in impossible situations.  The Hole in the Gospel has shown me that the enormous ills of our world can be alleviated if only people gave their 10%.  I pray that God will move peoples’ hearts as he moved mine so long ago and that people would listen.  I believe that God still works both through and outside of known science because God works in the now for our good and for his will.  I know that money is not only for my good, but for the good of others and together we have the means to wipe out much of the planetary social ills.  Jesus said if we have the faith of a mustard seed, that faith could move a mountain.  And if we give the equivalent of that mustard seed (10%) the tide of our world can change.  It only takes a little bit of faith and a little bit of money to trust God for ourselves and others.

I don’t quite know how to say it better.  Any ideas?  How have you seen God work in your life or in the life of a friend?  Share some miracle stories and encourage us all!



Just a note:  Both books were freely given to me.  The Hole in the Gospel was provided by the author when he came to speak at our church.  Miracles are for Real was provided to me by the publisher, Bethany House, for purposes of review.  I was not required to write a favorable review.


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