NOAA-Storm from space

Magic vs Miracles: Storms

Continued from Magic: Part 1 and Part 2.  Now I can finally get to the exact question I was asked on facebook!  “Can [non-Christian powers] cause storms?”

Giant waves on the seafront at Seaham, County ...

But the Lord brought a great storm on the sea. The wind made the sea very rough. The storm was very strong, and the boat was ready to break apart…The sailors were very afraid. Each man began praying to his god.

The captain of the boat saw Jonah and said, “Wake up! Why are you sleeping? Pray to your god! Maybe your god will hear your prayer and save us!”

Then the men said to each other, “We should throw lots to find out why this is happening to us.”

morro-rock-big-waves_mg_2346So the men threw lots. The lots showed that the troubles came to them because of Jonah. Then the men said to Jonah, “It is your fault that this terrible thing is happening to us. Tell us, what have you done? What is your job? Where do you come from? What is your country? Who are your people?”

Jonah said to them, “I am a Hebrew. I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the land and the sea.”

Jonah told the men he was running away from the Lord. The men became very afraid when they learned this. They asked Jonah, “What terrible thing did you do against your God?” Jonah 1 Easy-to-read Version

English: Four coloured 6 sided dice arranged i...Here we have magic and God’s power face to face.  The men knew that the gods could cause storms, especial out of season (the Mediterranean has a storm season just like the monsoon and hurricane seasons).  They knew the gods would show them who was the “guilty one” by using lots (something like short straws, dice or other “chance” objects).

Look at how they reacted when they realized it was the “God of heaven who made the land and the sea” who did this.  I would have been “very afraid,” too!

If you continue reading, you will see that as soon as they sacrificed Jonah to God by tossing him in the water (It is nice to see they hated to do this, they were honorable men), the storm stopped immediately.

North Pacific storm waves as seen from the M/V...This reminds us of someone else who could do the same thing: Jesus (Mk 4:39; Matthew 14:32).  In Mark’s story of Jesus’ nap, He just spoke, “peace, be still,” and the winds and water obeyed (the water had to obey, or the  waves would have continued for some time).  In Matthew’s account of Jesus foot-surfing to the disciples, Jesus didn’t even have to talk; it just calmed down as He climbed into the boat.

I’m sure there are a bunch of other stories about people groups who are familiar with demonic power (we call them animists), but this one will have to do for today.

BTW, Praise God, He doesn’t insist that we get our act all together before He helps us.  None of God’s earthly children are perfect, but He cares for us anyway!

Here are some quotes from the Plymouth Pilgrims during their first Summer in New England:

Bradford wrote, “the Lord seemed to blast… and threaten… sore famine unto them, by a great drought which continued from the 3. week in May, till about the middle of July, without any rain and with great heat…  the corn began to wither away.”

Its raining in my backyard-Hooray

Its raining in my backyard-Hooray (Photo credit: aussiegall)

“they set a part a solemn day of humiliation to seek the Lord by humble & fervent prayer, in this great distress. And he was pleased to give them a gracious & speedy answer, both to their own & the Indians admiration, that lived amongst them…. toward evening it began to overcast, and shortly after to rain, with such sweet and gentle showers, as gave them cause of rejoicing, & blessing God. It came, without either wind, or thunder, or any violence,…  the earth was thoroughly wet and soaked therewith. Which did so apparently revive & quicken the decayed corn & other fruits, as was wonderful to see, and made the Indians astonished to behold.”

An Indian named Hobamak who witnessed this event said to a Pilgrim: “Now I see that the Englishman’s God is a good God, for he hath heard you, and sent you rain, and that without storms and tempests and thunder, which usually we have with our rain, which breaks down our corn, but yours stands whole and good still; surely your God is a good God.

The Indians could get their gods to send rain, too.  But when it came, it was as bad as the drought.

Sing unto the LORD with thanksgiving; sing praise upon the harp unto our God:
Who covers the heaven with clouds, who prepares rain for the earth, who makes grass to grow upon the mountains.
He gives to the beast his food, and to the young ravens which cry.
The LORD takes pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy.  Psalm 147:7-9,10

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Science in the Bible: Magic Part 1

Magic Hat and BatonA repost, but the Bible hasn’t changed since 2012!

Someone asked what I thought about magic on facebook last week.  There was no way to fit a  response into 2 or 3 sentences, so I saved my answer for today.

The KJV Bible doesn’t even use the word “magic” or “magical.”  It does call certain people “magicians” in the Egyptian and Babylonian culture (more on them next time).  But the Bible does have a lot to say about this type of thing.

Magic, n.: 1. the art of producing illusions as entertainment by the use of sleight of hand, deceptive devices, etc.; legerdemain; conjuring: to pull a rabbit out of a hat by magic.

2. the art of producing a desired effect or result through the use of incantation or various other techniques that presumably assure human control of supernatural agencies or the forces of nature.

We’ll start with God’s power:Man doing a Card Trick

 

Can you tell me any place in the Bible where God Himself, or one of His servants did “sleight of hand” or “deceptive devices”?  The Scriptures tell us over and over that such things are completely opposed to God’s character.

In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began; Titus 1:2

God doesn’t need to do anything fake to prove He’s powerful.  He IS powerful.

Colorful Ice Cream ConesAs for definition #2, I’ve heard of people who think saying “in Jesus’ name” works like a magic spell, but does it really?  If you say, “God, give me 200 ice cream cones right now, in Jesus’ name!”  Is there any hope that He will answer such a demand?  Not a chance.

God isn’t a genie in a lamp who has to give us three wishes.  There’s no way He’s going to bow to anyone and jump to obey.

There’s also the idea of using some sort of magical object to get power.  Although the church in the middle ages was obsessed with relics (bits of stone, bone, or wood) did they really help? Does God listen better when you clutch a cross or pray in front of a saint’s tomb than He does otherwise?

There is one odd thing in the Old Testament that seems like magic: the Urim and Thumim.Clickr Question Mark Graphic

And [Joshua] shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall ask counsel for him after the judgment of Urim before the LORD:  Numbers 27:21

David used this unknown way of asking God questions several times.  You can see how this worked for yourself in I Samuel 23:6-12.  But all it seemed to do was say yes or no when God felt like answering.  When God was fed up with King Saul, He refused to answer with this system (I Samuel 28:6).

But this was so rare you probably never heard about it in Sunday School.  But what do we learn about God doing?  Miracles, wonders, and signs.

Yesterday, I read II Kings chapter 4.  This one chapter includes a lot of the types of miracles God does:

English: Wedding at Cana (top), Resurrecting t...

Wedding at Cana (top), Resurrecting the son of the Widow of Nain (bottom)

  • stretched existing food to meet the need (both the oil jug and the barley bread)
  • gave a woman a baby when it was naturally impossible
  • raised the dead (be sure to notice it was not any special action that made God decide to bring the boy back, it was Elisha’s passionate begging)
  • removed poison so people weren’t harmed

Other ways God showed His power:

  • Told people what cannot be known naturally (who Saul would be and where his dad’s donkeys were I Samuel 9:15,20; plus hundreds (thousands?) of future predictions throughout the Bible)
  • Hide/protected people from their enemies (Judges 7:10-15; I Samuel 26:11; II Kings 12:14-19; Acts 12:7-9)
  • Gave fire from the sky to establish God’s reality and approval (Leviticus 9:24; I Chronicles 21:26; II Chronicles 7:1; I Kings 18:38)
  • Sent plagues to punish and show His power over God’s enemies (Exodus chapters 5-12; Numbers 12:10, 16:49; I Samuel 6:19; Isaiah 37:36; Acts 5:5,10)
  • Made water do unnatural things (split: Exodus 14, Joshua 3:16, II Kings 2:8; hold people up while not frozen: Matthew 14:29)
  • Healed diseases (Numbers 12:14-16; II Kings 5:13,14; II Kings 20:7; all thru the Gospels and Acts)Whirl-fire
  • Burnt up people who were disobedient, rebellious, or servants of the wicked (Leviticus 10:2; Numbers 16:35, 26:10; II Kings 1:10,12 [note that the 3rd captain humbled himself and was spared])
  • Protected His own people from being burnt/eaten (Daniel 3, 6)
  • Rained “stones from heaven” Joshua 10:11.  This isn’t the word for hail, it’s the word for rocks.  God seems to have sent meteorites to help Joshua’s army.  But that was small compared to…
  • Made the earth stop spinning or go backwards a little (Joshua 10:12-14; Isaiah 38:8)

Oh, boy, I’m getting long.  Do you see a pattern here?  God cares about people’s needs and can supernaturally meet them, but He uses real things.  He knows the future as well as He knows the past.  He occasionally does dramatic things to prove He really is powerful, usually at the beginning of some new era.

He never does pointless, useless things just to make people’s jaws drop.

God is not under any person’s control, but He does listen when we beg Him for help.

Fear not, neither be afraid: didn’t I tell you back then, and announce it? You are my witnesses. Is there a God beside me? yes, there is no other god; I don’t know of any. Isaiah 44:8 

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Men as Trees Walking: Jesus’ Double Miracle

Stained glass, All Saints, Nazeing

Stained glass, All Saints, Nazeing (Photo credit: TheRevSteve)

Jesus and his followers came to Bethsaida. Some people brought a blind man to him and begged him to touch the man. So Jesus held the blind man’s hand and led him out of the village. Then he spit on the man’s eyes. He laid his hands on him and asked, “Can you see now?”

The man looked up and said, “Yes, I see people. They look like trees walking around.”

Again Jesus laid his hands on the man’s eyes, and the man opened them wide. His eyes were healed, and he was able to see everything clearly. Mark 8:22-25 Easy-to-read Version

What’s going on here? Why did Jesus have to lay His hands on this man twice to restore his vision? At first glance, it seems like Jesus had to double the amount of power before the miracle could be finished. But that doesn’t match the limitless power of God!

When I was growing up, I only thought how fun it would be to see “trees walking.” The story is part of the 6% of the book by Mark not repeated by the other gospels so it’s easy to miss. But, there is so much we can learn from it!

Seems like the only explanation I ever heard from a pastor or Sunday school teacher was that maybe the man didn’t have much faith, so it was his fault Jesus had to do it twice. But there are no signs of this in the passage. In fact, you see Jesus expecting the man not to see properly.

Years later, I read an article on doctors restoring sight to the blind. The more I read the more I recognized what Jesus was doing.

Baby Colt 3

Baby Colt 3 (Photo credit: xopherlance)

When a baby is born, they spend the first year building brain connections like crazy. Even a newborn who seems to do nothing but sleep, eat, and fill their diaper is developing nerves they will use their whole life. The more interactions they have with people and objects, the more brain connections they make.

These connections don’t have a chance to form when a baby is born blind; the part of their brain designed to help them understand what they see has nothing to do. We’ve found they start using this area to help them understand language and even to read Braille. But their brain never practices figuring out what their eyes see.

Jesus designed our eyes and brains. He knew how big a task it was to heal this man and apparently decided to use him to prove He knew. When He first spit on the man (I wonder if this means Jesus didn’t have any bad germs in His mouth?) and put His hands on him, He healed him perfectly. The man’s eyes were able to instantly see 20/20 or better.

But Jesus didn’t heal the man’s brain and He made sure the disciples and everyone who read the Bible would know it by asking what the man could see. Then, He touched him again and instantly gave the man all the brain connections he needed to perfectly interpret what his eyes were telling him.

Blind children and teachers at work!.

Blind children and teachers at work!. (Photo credit: Community Eye Health)

Jesus was way ahead of His time. In 1688, a man named William Molyneux wondered what would happen if something like this occurred. He realized sight is a complex thing. It took over 300 years before doctors could answer his question.

No, it isn’t an automatic thing for the brain to interpret images, but the younger a person is when they gain vision, the better their chances.

At least one adult has learned to get around pretty well with her new vision, but it will never match what a person who has seen since infancy can understand. This is why doctors are extra careful to screen babies for vision problems. If there is something wrong which can be corrected, like cataracts at birth, they usually try to take care of them within 3 months.

Since the world began was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind. If this man were not of God, he could do nothing.  John 9:32,33

This is still true. These men not only had eyes to see but a brain to understand!

For more, check out Phys.org: Out of darkness, sight: How the Brain learns to see

Creation Ministries International:  Walking trees … Modern science helps us understand a puzzling miracle

 

Lacy Ferns

Is the Bible Reliable: Faithful witnesses

For Jr. High and up:

English: A small courtroom in the Supreme Cour...

A small courtroom in the Supreme Court of the Canton of Berne, Switzerland.

One of the reasons some people refuse to admit the Bible is true is the “lack of evidence.” We don’t have physical objects to prove Jesus really rose from the dead or did any of the other miracles the Bible records, but does this mean the Bible has to be taken by blind faith?

If it does, than the judicial systems of the world take a lot of things by blind faith too.

The other day I ran into an article written by a retired Australian Chief Magistrate (judge) called Can we believe the Gospels? Hearing what a judge looks for in a witness or group of witnesses is exciting and teaches you a lot. The article is long, but laid out so well, I think you can handle reading it. Just try to learn the section headings and you’ll be able to remember his main points easily.

When you’re done, see how the Mark account I covered yesterday ties in. If you were inventing a “perfect” savior and making up stories to “prove” he was all that, would you have mentioned this sputtering miracle? Considering how few Christians through the years have known what to do with it, you would have to really want to believe Mark and Peter (the one who told the stories to Mark) had such a wild imagination.

English: visual cortex

visual cortex

It makes a lot more sense and unravels a big snarl if Jesus really is the Creator God who understood our brains and bodies! We have a faithful God and a rock solid foundation for our faith. The more we learn, the more we find Him true.

Jehovah, the LORD is God, merciful and compassionate, slow to anger, rich in grace and truth; Exodus 34:6

 

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Denying the Obvious

My pastor husband was preaching on Peter today and read from this passage about the Day of Pentecost:

Telstra Tower and world flags

“Some of us were born Jews, and others have changed their religion to worship God like Jews. We are from these different countries, but we can hear these men in our own languages! We can all understand the great things they are saying about God.”

The people were all amazed and confused. They asked each other, “What is happening?” But others were laughing at the apostles, saying they were drunk from too much wine.  Acts 2:11-13 Easy-to-read Version

Some time ago I wrote in my Bible under the last verse, “about as smart as the Evolutionists.”

Here these people were.  They couldn’t deny what was happening because everyone witnessed for themselves the believers speaking their native tongues.  So, they explained it all away.

The problem was, real life doesn’t happen that way.  If drinking a bunch of liquor could make you multilingual, we wouldn’t have foreign language classes, we would have more bars!

The amazing thing is, the idea of order, sense, and logic coming out of a bunch of alcohol makes more sense than what we are told about life.  It is way easier to talk intelligently (on a special topic) in a foreign language for a few minutes than it is to develop an eyeball.  It isn’t even worth comparing with the breath of life to transform dirt into a living soul.

But that is what you are stuck with if you reject the Creator God.  And in the end, when we are all eye witnesses of His glory, who will be shown crazier?